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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Eternal Argument Review #hsreviews

Analytical Grammar Review
So you read a book, maybe take a quiz or two, perhaps write a book report…..
Is that it?
Do we just check that box and move on?
If so, why?
~R. Robin Finley
This is a quote off the back of the book It’s…. The Eternal Argument. It is what intrigued me to want to read this book by R. Robin Finley from Analytical Grammar.

Analytical Grammar Review
It’s The Eternal Argument is a 286 page softcover book that is a framework for understanding Western Literature and Culture. It is $24.95 and is recommended for grade 8 and up or it may be used as a family read aloud and discussion. The Eternal Argument will make reading and teaching literature, as well as understanding history and culture more meaningful. There are 15 chapters with a few discussion questions at the end.
  1. Why Should We Read All Those Books?
  2. How Do We Stuff Stuff Into Our Heads?
  3. The Little Stinker
  4. What Are the Two Sides Fighting About?
  5. Does Someone Have To Be “In Charge”?
  6. What Is the Western Literature Platform?
  7. Should We Quarantine Our Kids?
  8. Really Old Guys: Ancients to the Middle Ages
  9. Just Old Guys: The Renaissance to Neo-Classicism
  10. Somewhat Old Guys: The American & French Revolutions
  11. Newer Old Guys: The Romantics o the Realists
  12. Newest Guys: The Naturalists to the Modernists
  13. Stuff You Need to Know to Teach This Stuff
  14. Now Let’s Apply All This to the Books We’ve Discussed
  15. Because It’s All About Me…. What Do I Think
R. Robin Finley, author of The Eternal Argument,  taught 8th grade language arts for 34 years. She is also the author of Analytical Grammar, a grammar, punctuation, and usage program for schools and homeschools.

When I received my copy of It’s The Eternal Argument my older two girls were at church camp. I was originally going to read this aloud to them, but I wanted to start it myself & well I will be rereading it to them when we start school again in the fall.

I really like the way Robin writes, she includes some humor and a lot of examples throughout this book. There is so much information in this little book and I find myself wanting to include so many quotes in my review.

The title The Eternal Argument comes from two questions: Is there a God or is there not? and Are we humans basically flawed and therefore need God to run things, or are we alone in the universe and therefore must decide for ourselves what’s right ans what’s wrong? This would basically be Theism against Humanism.
In the beginning of the book Robin explains that as early as 5th grade we need to have a framework in order to learn.  This framework will help us to see the big picture and learn from it. Literature is basically a reflection of what goes on in a given time and place. Once we understand this and have a framework in place we can learn a lot from what we read.

The book continues to tell us what a story needs to include to be a good one, points of view, the five conflicts in literature, and so much more. The discussion questions at the end of each chapter really get you to thinking about what was in the chapter. The questions ask things like the importance of thinking or feeling, discuss conflicts and more. 

I learned a lot from this book and can't wait to read and discuss it with my girls. I'm glad I read it first because I have a better understanding of how to look at good literature and I am excited to share that with them while we read this and the literature we read for school and fun. 

R. Robin Finley offers a grammar program called Analytical Grammar and Jr. Analytical Grammar. Some Members of the SchoolHouse Review Crew received those and you can click the banner below to read those reviews.
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July 4th 2014 Reunion T-Shirts

 On the 4th of July my dad likes to have a big family reunion at his farm. A few years ago when my sisters and I were all going to be there we decided to get matching t-shirts. This has become a tradition and they have gotten better through the years. This year I ordered them from Accurate Screen Printing and they turned out great. They were very easy to work with and very reasonably priced. 
For my dad we decided to get him black. My sisters and I got a dark grey. 
 My girls picked out the color for all the grand kids. The bright yellow was a big hit. 

 We always take a lot of pictures!!


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lightning Lit & Comp Review #hsreviews

Hewitt Homeschooling Review
We read a lot of books in our house. Some of them for pleasure, some of them for school, some out loud and other we enjoy all to ourselves. In order for my girls to get the most out of what they read we like to use a literature study and lately we have been using Lightning Literature & Composition from Hewitt Homeschooling. We received the Lightning Literature & Composition: Grade 8 Teacher's Guide, the Lightning Literature & Composition: Grade 8 Student's Guide, and the Lightning Literature & Composition: Grade 8 Workbook
The 8th grade course is recommended for student's in the 8th or 9th grade and should cover one school year. It is available to purchase individually or in a set with some or all the required reading books. It is divided into 12 chapters and uses the books Stories & Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children, Treasure Island, A Day of Pleasure, A Christmas Carol, The Hobbit, My Family and Other Animals, and To Kill a Mockingbird.
Hewitt Homeschooling Review
The Lightning Literature & Composition: Grade 8 Teacher's Guide is an 168 page softcover book available for $20.00. There is an introduction on how to use Lightning Lit & Comp that tells you how the course is set up, covers the importance of writing, and includes a weekly planning schedule with a check list for each week. All 12 chapters are set up the same way:
  • Answers to Comprehension Questions
  • Literary Lesson ~ This section covers things like character development, symbolism, vivid imagery in poetry, humor, meter, and more. There are things your student may have trouble with listed or things to look for as your student works on this section.
  • Mini-Lesson ~ These are also different with each chapter. Some of the topics covered are the narrator, fun poems, citing sources in a paper, and more. 
  • Writing Exercises
  • Discussion Questions
  • Workbook Answers
The Lightning Literature & Composition: Grade 8 Student's Guide is a 280 page softcover book available for $25.00. This is divided into 12 chapters just like the Teacher's Guide. Each of these chapters are set up the same way also:
  • Introduction ~ The introduction is about the author of the selected title for the chapter. 
  • While You Read ~ Here the student is given things that they can think about or notice while they are reading the story. 
  • Vocabulary List ~ Is a list of vocabulary words, but may not include all vocabulary that the students needs to work on. Some vocabulary are divided into chapters or the entire selection.
  • Comprehension Questions ~ Some of the questions are multiple choice, short answer, or long answers. 
  • Literary Lesson ~ The lessons are explained in detail to help the student really understand what they are learning. 
  • Mini-Lesson ~ These lessons have the student rewriting selections, citing sources, some grammar, genre, bibliography, and so much more. 
  • Writing Exercises ~ the writing exercises have the students describing, analyzing, symbolizing, and more. 
The Lightning Literature & Composition: Grade 8 Workbook is 288 pages and is available for $25.00. There are several worksheets that go with each chapter. It includes writing, grammar, note taking, crossword puzzles, word searches, writing acrostics, multiple choice, fill in the blank, and more.  
This Literature course starts with a short story called A Crazy Tale from the book Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages. I really like the book selection for this literature guide. We already owned a couple of them either the actual book or we found some digital books free online or you could check your local library. I did have to purchase a couple of them including the Stories and Poems, but they were very reasonably priced.  
I really like that they start off with a short story. I think it helps the student get into the routine of the guide sooner than if they read a long book right off. We actually worked through this first one together so Amber (age 13) and I could both get a feel for how this would work and then she was on her own. Each chapter takes different amounts of time to complete depending on how long the book is.  I like that Amber is learning and being challenged. She sometimes gets in a hurry when she reads to see how the story ends and this forces her to pay attention to things while she is reading. For example the While You Read section for Treasure Island suggests enjoying the book, but pay close attention to the description of the island and the ship. She did actually stop to think about them and then she would share with us. There is a lot of writing and answering questions, so we chose to answer some of the questions aloud. This also gave us the opportunity to discuss the book in more detail because I could draw more in depth answers from her. 
Lightning Literature & Composition is very thorough, but easy to understand and would make a great addition to any homeschool.   
Hewitt Homeschooling offers literature resources for Elementary, Junior High, and High School students. We had the opportunity to review Lightning Literature & Composition Grade 7 a couple of years ago, so I knew we wanted to review another level from them. Members of the HomeSchool Reveiw Crew reviewed different levels this time and you can check those out by clicking the banner below. 
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Friday, July 25, 2014

Garfield and Odie Cake

My girls like to be in the kitchen as much as I do, and every once in awhile they want to decorate a cake. This time it was Alaina, she wanted to make a Garfield and Odie cake. 
She baked her white cake in a 10" square cake pan. I drew her characters on her cake with a toothpick, but she did all the decorating. She used a round tip #4 to outline them and a #16 star tip to fill them in. She just used a cookie sheet to put her cake on and she wrote Garfield, Odie, and Alaina with the star tip. 

 She did a great job, but we will probably only eat a little bit of it. We may have to find someone to share with.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

If You Were Me And Lived In...... Review #kidsbooks

We are always on the lookout for new children's books. We have a huge collection now, but I love to have a large selection for my kids to read. We have been reading some really great books from Carole P. Roman. Not only are they fun, but we are learning about other countries.

If You Were Me And Lived In ... is a educational series of children's books that gives them a glimpse of how children live in other countries. They are perfect for children ages Pre-K to eight that exposes children to the joy of cultures around the world. My girls have been enjoying three books from this series.

 If You Were Me And Lived In... Russia

 If You Were Me And Lived In... Australia

 If You Were Me And Lived In...Portugal

All of the books in this series is set up the same way. We learn geographically where the country is located, about its capital city & population. There are names for boys and girls that are popular there, along with things they may buy and with what currency. Favorite foods, toys, sports, celebrations and vacation destinations are also included. A few words from their language are scattered throughout the book with a list of definitions in the back of the book.

Even though my girls are older than the suggested age range for these books, they still love them. They like learning new words in other languages and getting a glimpse of other cultures. My 9 year old loves them mostly for the story. My 12 year old loves names. She researches meanings & origins of names all the time, and after reading about these countries she researched other popular names from these countries. My 13 year old loves geography. After she read the books, she researches more about the country itself and more foods they eat.

Captain No Beard is another series written by Carole P. Roman. We have been reading a couple of these books.

The Crew Goes Coconuts is an adventure on the ship, the Flying Dragon. When they run out of juice and they can't find any water on a deserted island they try to blame Matty the Goat. They are all ready for a fight when Captain No Beard teaches them it is wrong to bully. Through this storm the crew learns what a true friend really is.

The Treasure of Snake Island takes the crew through a real storm. Everyone has to help bail out & they were able to weather the storm in ship-shape. Once they reach Snake Island they can look for the treasure. What does the crew discover?

Carole P. Roman is a former teacher who has run a successful business with her husband. She is now an award winning author after her first book, "Captain No Beard - An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life" was named to Kirkus Reviews' best of 2012 as well as the Pinnacle Award for 2013. "If You Were Me and Lived in... Mexico" was given the Pinnacle Award for Best in Children's Non-Fiction 2013.

Disclaimer: I received these books free of charge in order to write this review. All opinions are my own and no other compensation was received. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Homeschool Piano Review #hsreivews

Homeschool Piano Review
Piano lessons have always been a part of our homeschool. We have provided piano lessons for all 5 of our kids throughout the years. Some of them enjoy it and for some of them it was pure torture, but it has been good for all of them. The past several weeks my girls have been using HomeSchoolPiano.
Homeschool Piano Review
HomeSchoolPiano ~ A Complete Set of Books is a subscription program for all ages that gives you access to 4 levels of piano lesson videos. The four levels are:
  • CorePiano ~ Beginning students will learn the basics of the piano by learning the notes, finger numbers, half & whole notes, time signatures, ties repeats, basic rhythms, and more.  There are 33 lessons and a 46 page Core Piano PDF. 
  • Book 1, Perfect for Beginners~ This beginning level features 6 fun original pieces, and you will learn how to read music, improvise, and create your own music. There are 6 Units with 7 ten minute lessons covering technique, rhythm, ear training, reading music, song, improvisation, and a bonus. The PDF contains 52 pages to go with the lessons.
  • Book 2, Building a Foundation ~ There are 6 Units with 7 ten minute lessons in this level also, and the PDF is 30 pages long. These lessons also cover technique, rhythm, ear training, reading music, song, improvisation, and a bonus. 
  • Book 3, Unlocking the Pianist Within ~ Technique, rhythm, ear training, reading music, song, improvisation, and a bonus are covered in the 10 minute lessons. There are 7 lessons for each of the 6 Units. The lessons along with the 33 page PDF teach 5 finger scales, chord arpeggios, broken triads, syncopation, voice leading and more advanced scales for improvisation. 
Homeschool Piano Review
The HomeSchoolPiano subscription can be used for up to 5 students, you will have unlimited life-time access along with all downloads, jam track, sheet music for $299. You also have the option of making 3 monthly payments of $99.97 per month. 
Homeschool Piano Review
I have been using HomeSchoolPiano with all three of my girls ages 9, 12, & 13. They have all taken piano lessons for years and are at three different skill levels. I downloaded all the PDF files onto my computer to make it easier to print out what we needed. The girls used their iPad mini for each lesson, so they could take it to the piano with them. Each student has their own login and after logging in there is a box on the right side that will take you to where you left off. Each girl watched their short lesson and then they would practice what they had learned. The time between lessons varied according to how fast they caught on to what was being taught. All three of my girls love sheet music, so they went through the PDF files to look at all the songs that are taught and picked out some that they wanted to play right away. 
Amber is 13 and plays piano really well. She loves to play and she has been giving beginner lessons for a couple of months. I had her look at HomeSchoolPiano and see where she thought was a good place for her to start. Her response was the same as mine, she needed more lessons on ear training and improvisation. She has worked on both in the past, but she just hasn't focused on them a lot. She watched a couple of the videos on ear training and improvisation from the beginning of Book 2, but then she thought she should move ahead in Book 2. Amber is the type of person that when she sets her mind on something, she will do it. She has had several piano teachers in the past and we even quit going to one because she wouldn't let Amber choose music that would challange herself, and another because she thought the teacher wasn't really helping her to improve. Amber is liking the lessons from HomeSchoolPiano very much. She loves having access to all the lessons, so she can skip around and only work on what she needs to instead of sitting through parts of lessons she already knows. She likes the pace of these lessons & thinks the instructor does a great job. 

This was during Amber's lesson, without practicing.  
Delaney is 12 and she is not as advanced on piano as Amber is. She started in Book 2 and she has been going through the entire lesson each time. She said she doesn't mind having a piano lesson on the iPad, but she prefers having an actual teacher. She is my child that doesn't like to be on the computer, she would rather do something else than even play games on one. 
Alaina is 9 and her piano level is behind Delaney. She doesn't mind playing the piano, but it isn't something she loves to do. I had her start in Unit 4 of Book 1. Alaina was a little frustrated at first, because she thinks the lesson is too fast. She would like to have more time to implement what was taught during the video. She did start pausing the video several times during the lesson, so she could do exactly what the instructor had done. 
I think HomeSchoolPiano is awesome. I just keep thinking I wish I would have had this program years ago when my two older children started piano lessons. I don't even want to add up how much money we have spent over the years on lessons. My adult son is currently looking for a nice keyboard because he misses playing piano, but my adult daughter has no desire to play at all. Even though I don't think music lessons are ever a waste of money, but I could have saved a lot over the years with HomeSchoolPiano. I can read music, but I do not know how to play piano. I have also sat through many piano lessons with my kids and I feel this program is far superior to some of the teachers we have had through the years. I love that the ear training and improvisation is included even in the lower lessons. And now when Alaina tells me she can't remember what the piano teacher said, I can make her more responsible and have her rewatch the lesson instead of relying on me to remember. 
Homeschool Piano Review

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Bridal Shower Dessert #dessert #yum

My daughter's friend is getting married soon & they just had a bridal shower for her. She didn't really want cake, so I suggested some individual parfaits and panna cotta. The bride to be was thrilled with her individual desserts and everyone loved them. 
I chose to make chocolate brownie parfaits. I used brownies, chocolate pudding, a special whipped cream, and homemade toffee pieces. I layered them into individual serving cups.  
The panna cotta was white chocolate with a raspberry gelee. On the top I place a Florentine with a couple of blueberries. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

WriteShop Review #hsreivews

WriteShop Review
Writing is not something I have to make my girls do, they are always writing stories or in their journal. Since they like writing I want them to be able to write well. Alaina has been using WriteShop Junior Book D from WriteShop this summer to improve her writing skills. 
WriteShop Review
WriteShop Junior is a writing program recommended for children in grades 3-6. Parents will work closely with their student to guide them toward writing independently. The activities and exercises not only teach the creative process of writing they are fun for the child. There are 3 books in the Junior levels of WriteShop. You can choose a level based on your child's age and skills, you do not have to start with the first one. Skills are repeated in each level, so even if your child is missing something you do not have to start them in a lower level to learn that skill. 
Two years ago Alaina used WriteShop Primary Book B and she loved it. Being the youngest of 5 kids we have a lot of curriculum at our house and this past year I had her use something else we already had. When I told her we were going to review WriteShop again she wanted to know why she didn't use it this past year. When I told her why she said she understood, but she really likes WriteShop better and could she use it every year!
WriteShop Review
I chose WriteShop Junior Book D because it is recommended for children ages 8-11. The WriteShop Junior Book D Teacher's Guide and Student Activity Pack can be purchased as a set for $45.95. I wanted this for Alaina and she is 9 years old. The placement guide suggests starting with Book D if your 8-11 year old needs to learn:
  • Identify and us proper grammar and punctuation.
  • Choose strong words.
  • Brainstorm before writing.
  • Write a paragraph.
  • Write a short, research-based article.
  • Self-edit and revise his work.
I received 4 files to download. The WriteShop Junior Book D Teacher's Guide E-book, Activity Pack E-book, Time Saver Pack E-book, and the Fold-N-Go Grammar Pack E-book. 
WriteShop Review
The Teacher's Guide E-book contains 266 pages and may be purchased alone for $35.50. This curriculum is divided into 10 chapters:
  • Letter of Invitation
  • Humor
  • Adventure
  • Science Fiction
  • Mystery
  • Poetry/Haiku
  • Folktales
  • Historical Fiction
  • Personal Narrative
  • Expository Writing: Factual Article
There are sample lesson plans for completing a chapter in 2 or 3 weeks. There are also suggestions on how to schedule more than one child in different levels of WriteShop. There is a list of required and optional supplies that are used throughout the course in the front of the E-book or there is a list at the beginning of each lesson for exactly what is used then. A list of optional books and reference selections is also included. In the teacher helps you can read about how much help you should be giving your student and how you can help them. 

Each lesson is set up the same way. You have Objectives, Advance Prep, Required and Optional Supplies, and then the Activities. Each lesson has several activities and then a self-editing checklist. 
WriteShop Review
The Book D Student Worksheet Pack comes with the Activity Pack. It contains 66 pages of worksheets used to in the lessons. There are pre-writing activities, skill builders, journal prompts, brainstorming worksheets, reading log forms, self-editing checklists, and Junior Writing Skills Evaluation Charts to keep track of the student's progress. 

The WriteShop Time Saver Pack Book D contains all the games and activities to make it easier to print them all off. It is available for $11.50.
The Level 1 Fold-N-Go Grammar Pack is also included and it makes 10 Grammar Guides out of 72 pages that can be used to teach or review grammar and writing skills. The Fold-N-Go Grammar Guides that are used in Book D are:
  • Lesson 2: Self-Editing
  • Lesson 6: Adjectives
  • Lesson 9: Capitalization
  • Lesson 10: References
I have been using WriteShop Junior Book D with Aliana, age 9. We have been using the 3 week plan over the summer and it seems to be the perfect amount for this time of year. She actually likes all the worksheets and activities. She doesn't look at this as work, she thinks it is fun. After she completes her worksheets she colors all the cute little pictures on the page. 
When I was first introduced to WriteShop it was a little overwhelming, but after using it for awhile we got into a groove and it doesn't take that long and when Alaina begs to work on it every day it is definitely worth it. I love the self-editing checklists. She asks for help while she is going through her checklist, but I know eventually she will get better at it and will improve her writing in the long run. The checklist has made her more aware of the mistakes that she repeats every time she writes.  I think all the activities are very age appropriate and make learning fun. 
I have always had my kids write in a journal. It is never graded and they can write about anything they want. I have them use blank paper because they also use it as an art journal, by including sketches, drawings, doodles, or squiggles of anything they want to add. This course also says that you should not grade journal entries. There are journal pages included that have pictures and prompts to help the student. Alaina has been using them also. She likes the pictures that are on the sheets and she tries really hard to use good penmanship on her pages with pictures. 
Another thing that helps Alaina take pride in her writing is that this series has you actually publish your work when you are finished. Lesson 1 is about writing a Letter of Invitation. One of the activities for this lesson is actually making an invitation. 
The Fold-N-Go Grammar folders were very easy to put together and they make it very easy for Alaina to find what she is looking for. I'm sure they will become a go to resource while writing for any subject. For example the Fold-N-Go Grammar folder for lesson 2 contains charts of proofreading marks, self-editing tool, tips, and a checklist.  
WriteShop is also available in the print version. We received the E-book version for all the books and they were very easy to download and print. I printed all the material at one time and set up a three ring binder for all of the worksheets. 

Members of the SchoolHouse Review Crew received other levels of WriteShop and you can read those reviews on the Crew Blog. 
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