Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Writing with Sharon Watson Review

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I have usually stressed fiction writing with my oldest, who is now in ninth grade.  When he was in elementary school, we did thank you letters, business letters, etc., but, once he got old enough to do longer writing, we focused on fiction writing.  Now that he is in high school and has to be thinking about college essays and SAT essays, it is time to buckle down and really learn how to write non-fiction writing well.  This is where Writing with Sharon Watson comes in.  She has an amazing book called The Power in Your Hands: Writing Non-Fiction in High School that teaches persuasive writing, expository writing, descriptive writing, and narration.  

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Sharon Watson homeschooled her children for 18 years and has taught writing in various capacities.  She understands the frustration that some students have with writing and explains things very clearly in this book.  It is 410 pages and is chock-full of lessons, questions, activities, and inspiring quotations.  There are many examples of the writing being taught contained in the book, and the student is asked questions about the examples.

Jacob has been working through the persuasion chapter.  Amazingly, there hasn't been one complaint from him about this book.  (My kids are not afraid to share their dissatisfaction with the curricula we use.)  The lessons are short enough to not be cumbersome, giving the student the feeling of small successes that build upon each other.  The ideas for the essays are interesting, and the student is given the option of choosing something else if he/she doesn't like the topic.

When I asked Jacob what he thought about this writing program, he said, "I liked how it was planned out.  There were definitely some good writing techniques in it.  I can't think of anything negative in it.  I think it teaches the techniques well."

I asked him if he learned from it, and he said, "Yes, I learned different ways of writing reports than I knew before."

The Teacher's Guide was helpful for me.  Ms. Watson provides guidelines for grading.  These pages are entitled, "How to Earn an A", "...B," "...C," and so on.  Explanations for content and grammar grading are given as are scoring rubrics.  A guideline for proofreading marks is provided.  I hadn't thought of this until now, but I think I'd like to have Jacob use the marks.  I have him proofread and fix things, but it might be really helpful for him to use the marks to really look for specific things and be able to label them.  This would, I think, help him to be more aware to avoid the mistakes while writing in the future.

There are do and don't lists for each type of writing.  These are found in the student book but are easily accessible to the teacher in the teacher's guide.  Answers to all of the questions that are in the student book are provided.   Something that is in this guide which we did not have a chance to try is the "14-Minute Power Surge Program."  These are prompts that are divided into four per week from September through May (of course, you can use them according to any calendar).  The student is to take 14 minutes per prompt and choose their favorite one on Friday to proofread, edit, and hand in for a grade.

The student book, The Power In Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School, sells for $39.98.  The Teacher's Guide sells for just $14.98.

I am thrilled with this writing curriculum.  Sharon Watson obviously put a lot of time and effort into putting this together.  She had the student in mind when creating this and did a fabulous job.  Jacob loves to write fiction, not non-fiction; so when he says he likes it, that is a real compliment.  We have a lot we haven't done yet.  I intend to have Jacob finish the book.  He will continue to learn and, hopefully, become an excellent non-fiction writer, as well as fiction.


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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Better Late Than Never...

We had just gotten back from a weekend trip late Monday night, so Tuesday was a blur.  Unfortunately, it was also my best friend's birthday, and he didn't get much acknowledgement.  I have felt bad about that, so I will try to make it up to him here.  My best friend is my husband of almost 19 years, John Bairen.

We met in college during the summer of 1991 while I was playing volleyball with my Christian fellowship group one Wednesday evening.  John had been walking around Pitt's campus looking for something to do.  He saw a group of people playing volleyball and decided to join us.  After a few weeks of playing volleyball and then leaving, he decided to join us in the fellowship hall of the church to hear the message that evening.

In the fall, we went out a couple of times, but I was not looking for a serious relationship at that point. A short time after that, he became a Christian.  During the next two years, we became very good friends.  We had a lot of friends in common and went on fall retreats together and work projects with our group.  In March of 1993, nine of us students went on a work project to Camden, New Jersey.  We stayed in the fellowship hall of a church that week and worked with their kids during the day and did some construction projects.  The day we were scheduled to leave Camden, a blizzard hit.  In a borrowed van, eight of us piled in and decided to risk the drive (one girl went home the night before).  We had no more food where we were staying and needed to try to get home.  We drove as far as old exit 22 on the PA Turnpike (currently exit 298), only 52 miles.  Thankfully, there was a Holiday Inn right off of that exit, and they had one room.

For three days, eight students slept in that room together.  Four in the group wanted to go back to Pitt in the worst way.  The other four of us were making the best of the situation.  We sang songs while sitting by the fireplace in the lobby while John played his guitar.  We walked down the road to the only restaurant that had any food left.  It also only had one employee available, so John actually pitched in and helped her out while we were there.  He still does things like that to this day.  His compassion for people and desire to help others was one of the biggest things that attracted me to him.  He has a really big heart for people.

The week after we got back, I walked up to him after our fellowship group was over.  A short time before that, I had made the decision to never again ask a guy out, but I just couldn't stick to it this time.  I wanted him to ask me, but it didn't seem like he was going to.  When I approached him, he did ask.  I found out later that he had the "once bitten, twice shy syndrome" because I had stopped dating him before.

We dated for two months and then got engaged.  I knew after one week that I was supposed to marry him.  We had become such good friends over the preceding two years, and he had become an amazing man of God.  Some of our friends thought we were crazy for dating only two months before getting engaged, but we knew each other so well.  We were married on June 11, 1994.  We've been together more than 20 years now, and we are still learning about each other.

I loved our wedding!  We did so many things that were different than the norm for weddings.  Our vows were from Ruth 1:16,17: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”  When we exchanged rings, we touched the rings to the thumb, pointer, and middle finger before placing them on our ring fingers.  As we touched each finger, we said, "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen."  I had seen this in the movie, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and loved the idea, so we used it.  We also gave our candles which were used to light the Unity Candle to our in-laws.  It was an awesome day!!

We have moved six times since getting married, the last move putting us in Florida.  He had had a dream to move south.  He waited on God and me to share his dream.  We have three beautiful children.  He had a dream to homeschool them.  Again, he waited on me to share his dream.  We are now ending our tenth year.  As I look back now, I can see how God gives John wisdom about different things but also gives him patience to wait for me to "see the light."

I often take John for granted and for that I am sorry.  Perhaps many married couples get used to each other and too busy with life and don't honor their spouse or give them the accolades they deserve.  I want to do that now.  I want everyone to know how much I love John Bairen and how grateful I am that God put him in my life.  I have learned more about God through him.  I have learned about myself through our marriage.

He encourages me to do things I've not tried before.  He encourages me to do the things I love to do.  He provides for our family by going to work every day.  He has done amazing things in his career since we got married.  He started out doing campus ministry and raising his full support, which amounted to $200 a month.  Neither one of us very much liked asking people for money, so we weren't very good at it.  I did work full time while he did campus ministry for four years.  Once our first child was born, however, I quit my job, and John went to work.  He had taught himself about computers and landed a job in tech support for a local company where a friend of his worked.  Since that time, he has continued to climb the ladder of success, so to speak, by gaining much of his knowledge on his own.  He is so gifted when it comes to computers.  I'm glad I have him to help me when I need it and don't have to call the Geek Squad.

I look forward to many more years with John as we grow in our marriage and we raise our kids together.  I am blessed beyond measure!!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Progeny Press Review

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 photo a64736b1384e26ea12427c_m_zpsd85a8791.jpg photo a64739f13876d7e650edf3_m_zps62f7a3c9.jpg We have been using Progeny Press study guides for years and absolutely love them.  The company was founded by Michael and Rebecca Gilleland who continue to edit and review each new study guide that is created to be sure it adheres to the guidelines and mission of the company.  There are over 100 study guides for all ages but, for the purposes of this review, we were able to use the Golden Goblet Study Guide for middle school and Beowulf Study Guide for high school.  We had Beowulf at home to use with a different study and borrowed The Golden Goblet from the library.

I chose The Golden Goblet because Paige, my 5th grader, loves Egyptian history.  She has not enjoyed this book, however.  Not enjoying the book makes it a little bit more difficult to enjoy the study.  I had been making her read it by herself.  In the past week after discussions with some friends, I am going to be changing the way I do school with Paige, so I will be reading the book along with her.  In an effort to catch up to where she is, I read the book on our trip from Florida to Pennsylvania.  I actually really enjoy the book.  Now, I know this review is not about the book but the study guide.  Since I myself have now read the book, the study guide makes more sense to me.  I have always liked the fact that there is a section on vocabulary for each chapter.  It is presented in different ways so as not to become boring.  Sometimes there is a crossword puzzle.  Sometimes they look at different parts of speech like antonyms and synonyms.  Paige doesn't like looking up the vocabulary words so, when one of her vocabulary words shows up in life when not related to school, I like to remind her that she just learned it in her study guide.  This helps her see the application of these vocabulary words.

The guides always have questions about the chapter that has been read for reading comprehension.  Paige was able to answer these questions pretty well for the most part.  She fared much better when I allowed her to read the questions before she read the chapter.  That way she could pay attention while she read and look for the answers and write them down right away.

There are many other activities in the study guides besides vocabulary and reading comprehension questions.  The "Dig Deeper" section has the student look up various Scripture references and tie them to something read in the book such as when passages about lying are discussed.
Sections on Egyptian culture allow the student to learn more about the history than just what they learn by reading the fiction book.  There are also notebook projects.  The student is encouraged to make a notebook and include things like extra vocabulary, learning about Egyptian gods and goddesses, the dress, hairstyle, preparations for the dead.  Optional activities include some fun ideas like visiting a jewelry store or an artist's studio to see how they make gold jewelry like Ranofer did in the book.

The CD and instant download are each $16.99.  The printed book is $18.99.  The physical book, The Golden Goblet, is also available for $6.99.  The answer key is included with each study guide.

Jacob, my 9th grader, used the Beowulf study guide.  He actually likes the book and understands it even though it is in the form of poetry.  There is a great deal of information related to the historical context of Beowulf at the beginning of the study guide.  The lessons are broken down by lines.  Vocabulary is included at the beginning of each and is presented in different ways, including word searches and crossword puzzles.  Students are asked questions.  They are given the chance to analyze various literary elements such as alliteration in the reading.  Scripture references are included in the high school study guides as well.  Optional activities include such things as researching Anglo-Saxon "rune markings" and researching dragons.

There are so many different things included in these study guides.  There is no need to do everything, but there are certainly enough activities to keep the student busy and learning.

The high school study guides are a little bit more expensive.  The CD and instant downloads are $18.99, and the printed booklet is $21.99.  The answer key is included as well.

I have used the downloadable forms of these study guides.  In my opinion, paying the few extra dollars would be worth it to not have to use your own ink to print these out.

I have learned that four high school study guides count as 1 credit for high school.  I have already purchased our four study guides for next year.

Not all of the books are Christian in nature.  You need to be aware that some books have swear words and vivid descriptions.  I would be sure to check out the book first before you commit to buying one of the study guides.  The study guides, however, are above reproach and discuss topics with a biblical perspective.

I highly recommend these study guides to anyone looking for a great literature approach to their language arts' program.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Knowledge Quest - Sacagawea Review

 photo 61867_10151551915578243_1408297526_n_zpsc18fa83b.png Knowledge Quest is well known for their outstanding maps that tie into history.  I have used a number of these in the past.  What is not well known, at least not to me, is that they also have a lot of resources for learning about history that don't include maps.  One such resource is The Complete Sacagawea Saga e-Book.  This e-book is actually four books written by Karla Akins combined into one volume.  The four individual volumes are entitled, Stolen, Passage, Survival, and Equal.

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I read this book aloud with my daughter.  Because we have learned quite a bit about Sacagawea during her homeschooling years, she was not thrilled to be learning about her again.  I, however, really liked this book.  It provides a perspective of her life that I'd never heard before.  To me, she was simply the female Native American with a son she carried around with her while she helped Lewis and Clark on their expedition.  Not much else had been taught about her beyond that from the many resources I'd used in the past.

Even though this book was historical fiction (specific conversations couldn't be known), it painted quite a picture of what life was probably like for Sacagawea, from having been kidnapped to work as a slave, to being sold to be a wife, to finding a purpose in helping Lewis and Clark.  This book has helped to make her more of a real person to me than just a character from history.

At just $3.99 for the complete saga, it is an extremely affordable addition to any homeschool library.  I wish I had had this when we first learned about Sacagawea.  It would have added such a depth to the story of Lewis and Clark.  I didn't feel there was anything in the book that needed to be passed over based on my daughter's age.  Ms. Akins tactfully discusses the parts of Sacagawea's life that were (I would think) traumatic to her such as her being sold to Charbonneau to be a wife and then becoming pregnant with her son.  I did not have to explain anything beyond what was in the story, nor did I have to worry that I'd be reading something inappropriate.

Be sure to check out all of the wonderful products available through Knowledge Quest.
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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Leadership Garden Legacy Review

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Leadership Garden Legacy is a company owned by Debra and Terry Slover.  Debra has a unique story which she honestly shares to help empower today's youth to realize their leadership potential.  She does this in a very simple way - comparing a real garden to a leadership garden - in her book, Growing My Leadership Garden.

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There are many different products offered by this company.  We had the opportunity to review all of the products in the Family Empowerment Tool Kit.  The following four products are geared towards kids 5-12 - U.N.I.Q.U.E. Kids: Growing My Leadership Garden, The Leadership Garden Guidebook, U.N.I.Q.U.E. Kids: Growing My Leadership Garden Activity Guide, the MP3 audio book download of Growing My Leadership Garden.  The U.N.I.Q.U.E.: Growing the Leader Within, the MP3 audio download of the book, and The Leadership Garden Guidebook: Cultivating Organic Experiences, actions, and results that will empower you and those around you paperback workbook are geared towards kids 13+ through adults. (U.N.I.Q.U.E. stands for Understanding, Nurturing, Inventive, Quality, Unstoppable, Expression.)

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I read through Growing My Leadership Garden with my 7th and 5th graders (boy and girl).  I was afraid it was going to be a story they'd be too old for, but I was mistaken.  It is such a simple language that my 7th grade son totally understood the deep meaning of what was being discussed even though it was in the setting of talking animals.  The steps to developing leader qualities are explained metaphorically through the idea of a garden.  The negative attitudes and thoughts and bad behaviors are weeds that need to be pulled.  The positive attitudes and correct responses are the plants we want to tend to and cultivate.  As we'd read, Nate would have epiphanies, "Oh, so I should..."  He struggles with "weeds" in his life, so this gave him a different perspective.  I wasn't expecting this book to have as much of an impact on him as it did.

Some of it seemed a bit strange as I read through it.  The conversations the animals would have aren't the typical type you'd find in animals-talking-to-each-other books.  They used words with very deep meaning you wouldn't expect animals to use, if they could talk.  There was one thing that seemed a bit out of place since there didn't seem to be much mention of environmentalism throughout the book.  In chapter 4, there is a point when they talk about protecting bushes and applying an eco-friendly fungicide.  That was probably the thing I disliked most about the book.

The adult version, Growing the Leader Within, seemed to be just like the kid book when I first started reading it, but in each chapter there is a lesson that speaks to the adult.  Debra includes some of her own life experiences.  She is open and honest.  I could relate to a lot of what she was saying because of my own life experiences.  I played the victim for a very long time and developed quite a negative attitude about myself, some of which I am still working to get rid of.

The Leadership Garden Guidebook is a great resource.  There is a lot of beneficial reading in this book that isn't in the Growing My Leadership Garden book.  There are questions to answer and the space in which to answer.  It was helpful for my son to be able to get his thoughts down on paper.  I don't recall that he ever complained about doing the work in the book.  It would be helpful to have a book for each of your children who is going through the program.  I had my daughter answer her questions in a notebook of her own.

Each of the products are available separately and in different forms, as well as being available as a bundle as mentioned above.  They can be found in the Empowerment Store.

U.N.I.Q.U.E. Kids: Growing My Leadership Garden
paperback ... $18.95
audio book MP3 download ... $8.95
audio book on 2 CDs ... $18.95
eBook ... $8.95

U.N.I.Q.U.E. Kids: Growing My Leadership Garden Activity Guide & Journal
PDF download ... $8.95

U.N.I.Q.U.E.: Growing the Leader Within
paperback ... $18.95
hard cover collector edition ... $26.95
audio book CD ... $24.95
audio book MP3 ... $24.95
audio book MP3 download ... $14.95

The Leadership Garden Guidebook
paperback ... $18.95
PDF download ... $8.95

Family Empowerment Took Kit ... $76.25
Adult Empowerment Took Kit ... $47.57
Kid's Empowerment Tool Kit ... $33.17

If interested, you can become a lifetime member for $30.00.  The benefits of membership are free MP3 download of U.N.I.Q.U.E.: Growing the Leader Within, 11% discount on all products and services, your own profile page to share stories and network, among other things.

Leadership Garden Legacy is offering the TOS Community a "Spring Special Discount" of 20% on all of their Empowerment Tools, which is in addition to the already discounted Tool Kit bundles.  Simply enter the code - TOS-SS20D - upon checkout.  This offer expires on May 31, 2013.


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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The God Who Ordered the Universe...

       - planned out every intricate detail of who I am before I was born

       - loves me

       - sent his only Son to earth to die an extremely painful and horrible death so that I could have a relationship with Him, the God who created me.  (Do you get this?  He created us.  We sinned.  We should be begging for a way to be back in his favor, but He provided the way for us.  He died the death we deserve.)

       - thinks about me every day

       - wants to hear from me every day

       - wants the best for me

       - forgives me

       - has given me 3 beautiful children whom He also planned every intricate detail of who they are

       - has given me a wonderful, loving husband
       - has given me wonderful parents

       - promised that He will never leave me nor forsake me

       - has given me super friends from both PA and Florida who love me for me and are always encouraging me

       - is constant

       - has given me a purpose for my life

       - loves you and wants to have a relationship with you as well.  

At Bible study last night, God spoke to me through Psalm 139, verse 16, which says, "...all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."  I allow myself to be held captive by fear.  I cannot control anything, especially not death.  I need to stop living in fear and live the life God planned for me to live.  The God who ordered the universe has got my back.  He is with me always.  How silly it is to fear anything when the great and awesome God knows everything about you, wants the best for you, is always teaching you and growing you, is always blessing you even in ways you can't see, and on and on.  Have faith!!  If there is anything worth putting your faith in in this world, it is God.  He has proven himself time and time again, not that He has to, but He does it for our sake.  That is love.

The list above is definitely not exhaustive.  Try making your own.  Count the blessings!!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Supercharged Science Curriculum Review

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Supercharged Science is a remarkable online science program created by Aurora Lipper, a highly educated scientist who wanted to put together a program to help kids learn science in a fun way.  The program includes thousands of experiments, teleclasses, exercises, and text reading.  It is called e-Science.  If you want your child to truly enjoy science and understand how it applies to everyday life (like baking bread in the unit on chemistry), you should give this program a try.

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There are currently 19 active science topics and one coming soon.  Students can learn about mechanics, motion, matter, energy, sound, astrophysics, chemistry, light, electricity, magnetism, thermodynamics, electronics, life science, and biology. There are also "chapters" on the scientific method, science fair projects, mathematics, parent resources, and science e-camp.

After choosing a topic, there is an overview of the chapter and a link to a teleclass.    These teleclasses are a lot of fun.  We participated in a few of these where the kids sat at the table with the computer so they could watch videos as they listened to Aurora and performed the experiment right along with her.  I remember doing an experiment where the kids made glow-in-the-dark slime using a highlighter.  Aurora creates experiments I would never think of and that are fun for the kids. Most of the supplies needed are objects you'll find around the house or the grocery store. Some experiments require special items, but these items will be used in other units so that you can get your money's worth, but you don't need to buy any specialty items if you choose not to do those experiments. The choice is yours. In the unit on matter, one of the experiments is making moon sand. No need to spend a ton of money on Moon Sand at the toy store; a couple of household items and regular sand and you've got your own inexpensive moon sand. There is also an experiment for making rock candy crystals. I appreciate as well the way Aurora keeps safety in mind all the time.

In the upper right corner of the unit page, there is a table of contents.  Clicking on  "lesson plans" will bring up a PDF that lets the user know which grade the unit is geared towards, the materials which are required for the experiments (broken down by experiment), the objectives of the unit, vocabulary, reading, experiments, and exercises.  Clicking on each individual lesson brings up a video.  The reading for each individual lesson can be done directly from the website or printed out.  Additional reading and exercises for students in grades 9-12 are also included, if this is the subscription you have chosen. These additional pages are amazing to just peruse. I am amazed by the wealth of knowledge within the pages. Aurora is constantly adding to the program to make it better and better.

The K-8 science program is $37 per month.  The K-12 program is $57 per month. There is a 30-day money back guarantee.   Make sure you sign up for the free trial so that you can get a feel for the type of science education your child will be getting and how much fun they will have doing the experiments. We used this program years ago and still share experiments that we did with people to this day, especially the ones where we made plasma in our microwave and microwaved Ivory soap. So cool!

E-Science can be used as a stand alone science curriculum or as a supplement to other science curricula.  Conversion charts are supplied that help you to know which lessons in the e-Science program correspond to lessons in other science curricula.  Some of the other curricula for which conversion charts are available are Apologia, Bob Jones, Alpha Omega, Christian Kids Explore Creation, and Saxon Physics.

In my estimation, this is one of the best science programs available.  Aurora Lipper is passionate about science and about your kids learning so that they'll remember what they've studied.  She is always available to answer any questions that you may have and has gone above and beyond in terms of making the website user friendly. There are not many companies out there today that display the same level of commitment and integrity. 


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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Disorders of the Day


1.  Mythomania - I was flipping through the dictionary, Merriam-Webster to be exact, and came across this word.  It made me laugh.  I know people who are mythomaniacs.

Mythomania is an excessive or abnormal propensity for lying and exaggerating.

Can you think of anyone who suffers from this disorder?

2.  Anglomania - I suppose there could be a mania for any country.  This one is an pervasive interest in England or things English.

Are you an anglomaniac if you live in England?

3.  Clinomania - I know way too many people who suffer from this.  I think I do too.  It is an excessive desire to stay in bed.  It is considered a disorder.  Can you imagine?  There is even a website to help people who suffer from clinomania.

4.  Dromomania - I most definitely have this and am satisfying this mania next week.  It is the passion for traveling.

5.  Polkamania - I think wedding DJs have this, a craze for polka dancing.

So, do you have any of these disorders?  There are many more.  I will find you one.  ;-)  Hopefully we can find you some help as well.

I know my mom and dad have Hawaii islomania - obsession for islands.  The only cure for that, though, is actually going there.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Thief

I wake up every day and end every day with pain in my front teeth.  I am taking anti-anxiety medication because of stress and anxiety in my life.  The thief I deal with is fear.  I know I am supposed to trust in the Lord.  I know I am not supposed to worry.  It is easier said than done when you have lived with fear for so long.  I remember as a kid visiting my aunt 2-1/2 hours away and worrying that I left my curling iron on at home when I left.  I often worry that I left something plugged in nowadays when I leave home.  When I have something important in my purse, I have to look 4 or 5 times to make sure I put it in there and it didn't fall out along the way. I know, I sound like I have OCD.

My oldest son is in ninth grade.  We homeschool, so I am afraid that he is not learning what he needs to learn or that I am keeping track the right way so that he can get into the college of his choosing in another 3 years.  I worry that my youngest won't pass her standardized test next week and will have to be educated in a different way.  My middle child has his own issues, so I worry what that will mean for his future.  He is only 13.  Most likely, he will grow out of these issues.

I worry that my kids' faith is strong enough to stand against the onslaught of evil in the world and what may be coming in the future.  I don't want them to do the things I did when I was in high school and college.

I worry about finances.  Will we be able to pay all the bills?  Will we be able to do fun things as a family?  What happens if an unexpected bill comes along?  We've had many of those.

I find that I am more fearful when I drive these days.  We hear more than once a week about somebody dying in an auto accident within 15 miles of us.  There have to be more people who die in auto accidents in Florida than in PA.

What in the world is the cause for all of this fear?  Satan.  He's having a field day?  My God created the universe.  My God created me.  Christ died for me.  I have a relationship with God now because of Christ's sacrifice.  He cares for me and doesn't want me to worry.

I often envision myself being carried in God's arms.  I find that I can relax.  If only I could go through my day not necessarily having to envision that but just being able to remember that God does carry me through the hard times.

I spent so much of my life trying to have control over things.  I had very little control over moving to Florida, and that was the most freeing time of my life.  My teeth didn't hurt for months during and after that whole process.  I left everything to God and trusted that he would provide.  He did without fail.

God is constant.  He never changes.  I am the one who waxes and wanes in my faith.  Amazingly, God still loves me and always will.  How amazing it will be when there will be no more tears and no more fears!

If anybody has any tried and true method of reducing fear and anxiety, please pass it along.  I will continue praying and trying to remember God's promises to me.  Maybe that's what I should do: Find them and write them down and then repeat them over and over again throughout the day.  That would certainly keep the devil out of my head.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Computer Science for Kids Review

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My son, Nate, loves to be on the computer and has often said he'd like to program video games in the future, specifically, Bible games.  When given the opportunity to review programming curriculum from Computer Science for Kids, I was thrilled.  We were given two choices, Computer Bible Games for Microsoft Small Basic and Beginning Microsoft Small Basic.  He chose to work through the Computer Bible Games program.  When he works on this, I have trouble getting him off the computer to do his other schoolwork.  I count that as a success.  My older son who hasn't been working through it wants to use it because he says, "It looks like fun."

 photo Computer-Bible-Games-for-Microsoft-Small-Basic-193716103X-By-Philip-Conrod-and-Lou-Tylee-Small-Cover_zps301bcf0a.jpgSome time ago my boys had tried to learn programming through another course, but it was difficult for them to understand.  This one is so much easier to follow.  Nate is using the single-user license digital e-book download which is currently on sale now for $34.95.  The sale will be going on until July 4th.  The price will then go back to 59.95.  Beginning Microsoft Small Basic is the same price for the single-user download e-book version.  The Bible Games program covers the same information as is contained in the first ten chapters of the Beginning Small Basic program but then gives the student the opportunity to program Bible games instead of secular games.

Computer Bible Games is geared toward middle-school students (kids 10+) and helps them gain a beginning understanding of computer programming so that they can move on to more advanced languages later.  Nate was able to make it through the first five chapters of this program.  The chapters are long but have a lot of practice exercises in them which are done through Microsoft Small Basic that is downloadable for free from http://smallbasic.com/.

The first chapter details Small Basic as a programming language and how to use the Microsoft Small Basic program.  The second chapter discusses rules of small basic and creating and saving programs.  In chapter three, the student learns how to create their first program.  They learn about variables, arithmetic operators, strings, etc.  Mathematical functions, input methods, and program design and development are the topics in chapter four.  Chapter five deals with things such as debugging, logical expressions, and the "if" statement.  Nate created a "guess the number" game which we all enjoyed playing when he was finished.  He had learned so much during the first five chapters that he was able to add code to the game so it did more than just have one person guess a number.  He made it so that three of us could guess during the same game, but we couldn't guess the same number.  He showed a lot of creativity and ingenuity.

I watched him create code for these games.  I found it very interesting.  The image below shows what is used when programming.  When a command needs to be placed into the code, this box pops up, and it allows the user to choose the correct command.  I haven't programmed anything since I was in 8th grade, and it certainly didn't look this interesting.  I can see why kids would think this was fun now and want to learn and create.

Chapters six through nine deal with loops and subroutines, "shuffle" method, graphics, incorporating the mouse into the program, animation, and other topics.  Each chapter allows the student to create a game.  The last chapters teach the user how to create a Noah's Ark project, a Daniel and the Lions project, and an Elijah and the Ravens project.  I am hoping that he will want to complete the course even though the review period is over.  He has already learned so much; it will only benefit him in the long run to finish it.  I can see how much joy it brings him when he creates something and sees it working.

This is a product I would highly recommend for your children if they are interested in learning how to program.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Journey Through Learning Review

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A Journey Through Learning is a company that was formed by two best friends who were looking for quality hands-on curriculum for the six children they were raising between them.  Since they didn't like the choices that were available to them at the time, they decided to create their own.  This company 's main approach is lapbook learning.  They say it is like scrapbooking with an educational twist.  They have also put together unit studies on various topics and what they call Binder-Builders which are lapbooks using binders and card stock instead of folders (a very interesting idea).

We have used lapbooks at various times during our homeschooling.  They lend themselves more, I think, to elementary-age children rather than older children as there is a lot of cutting out and coloring.  There is a great variety of learning lapbooks with study guides and unit studies that have been created by A Journey Through Learning. There are some for early learning (ages 3-5) and some for early elementary (grades 1-4).  There are some that are for grades 2-7 and some that are created for various grade ranges and go along with a particular curriculum (e.g. TruthQuest History, VeggieTales, Apologia).

Knights and Castles photo knightsandcastles_zps3e1f0ab1.jpegSince we became part of the review late in the review period, we have only gotten part way through one of the lapbook/study guides - Knights and Castles.  At first glance, this looked like it would be well below my daughter's ability even though it said it was for grades 2-7 (she is in 5th grade).  I was pleasantly surprised, however.  There is a great deal of information contained in these study guides.  I am learning quite a bit myself.  There is not too much work for the student, so it doesn't become overwhelming.  There is cutting and some drawing.  There are times when they are supposed to write down some information they have learned.  They then glue these items into their 3-folder lapbook that is created from manila, or colored, folders.  The 3-folder lapbooks are able to hold a lot of information about the subject being learned.

We have been learning about knights through the first half of this lapbook/study guide.  The information goes in depth into what the knight and even his horse wears into battle.  It talks about the roles of knights, squires, and pages.  Other topics are heraldry, castles, lifestyle, house, and Christianity.  There are definite references to God throughout the books but not so much that a person who didn't want to read about God would feel bombarded by it.  A discussion of the Middle Ages, however, certainly does lend itself to talking about Christianity and the role it played at the time.

The Knights and Castles lapbook with study guide can be downloaded for $13.00, sent as a CD for $14.00, or printed for $21.00.

Astronomy and Space photo astronomylapbook_zps68bf09d3.jpegThe Astronomy and Space unit study covers Genesis 1, the solar system, each of the planets, the moon, constellations, meteors, rockets, asteroids, comets, etc.  The student has copy work to practice handwriting, questions to answer throughout, some drawing, recipes, crafts, recommended reading with a book report that follows, and vocabulary.  The age range seems appropriate for this book as there are some activities that seem suited to a younger crowd, but I could see older kids enjoying "craft time."  There is some information that is probably beyond the ability of a younger elementary student to understand, but the parent can decide how to present it.  Having this information in the unit study would, I think, help to keep the older student engaged.

The Astronomy and Space unit study can be downloaded for $5.00, sent to you in the form of a CD for $14.00, printed for $21.00, or assembled for $30.00.

There are so many wonderful resources on this site.  You have to check it out.  They have $1.00 Express lapbooks which use just one folder on such things as the Olmec Civilization, the orchestra, the American Revolution, weather, and the Great Depression.  There are way too many to list here, so take a look at what they have to offer.  They are for any ages.

They list ideas they sell that can be used the corresponding month.  So, for example, they sell a St. Patrick's Day lapbook/study guide that can be used during the month of March.

There are supplements to the Classical Conversations curriculum.

There are lapbooks to use with the Apologia series of science books.

There is a lapbook of the month which is only $5.00.

As far as unit studies go, there are some for history, science, and holidays/seasons.  There are overviews of the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.  Historical landmarks, American government and the election process, and American Indians are some history studies.  The desert, the body, and amphibians are the other unit studies that are available for science.

Notebooking pages are available for a variety of topics.  Pre-folded folders and templates can be purchased as well.  There are also a few freebies on their site.

So long as my youngest is willing to do lapbooks, this will be a go-to company for me.  When lapbooks are not appealing anymore, I will still remember that they have unit studies that are put together very well and can make my life a bit easier since all of the information is right there.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Happy Birthday, Dad!!!!

When I was almost six years old, my mom got remarried.  My biological father had disappeared, and my mom raised me and my brother for five years on her own.  I didn't know this person she was marrying as they had only dated for a short time before they were married.  During the reception at our house, my mom told me they were going away for a short time (on their honeymoon).  What?  Going away?  My mom had always been there, and now she was going away with this guy?

I gave my stepdad a lot of grief as I was growing up and going through the teenage years.  I gave him the whole you're-not-my-dad routine.  I never felt close to him while I was young.  I changed my tune at some point during my college career.  I'm not sure when or why exactly; I just remember starting to really enjoy sitting and talking with him on the deck at our house when I'd be home from college.  I grew up and realized he was the best dad I could have asked for.  Granted he had issues to deal with as do we all, but I sure didn't make it easy on him.

My biological father was not father material from what I understand.  I mean, come on, he abandoned his wife and two very young children.  I am glad he left.  I'm sure I would be in a different place right now if he had stayed.  What I got instead was a man who chose to become a father to two children who weren't his own.  He raised us from the time we were 6 and 7 years old.  He is just as much of a dad as he would be if we were blood related.

Today is his birthday, and I want everybody to know how special he is, how blessed I feel to have him in my life and in the lives of my children.

Happy Birthday, Dad!!!!