Sunday, October 27, 2013

Review: Overextended....and loving most of it!

Overextended.  Yep.  That about sums up my life these days.  Homeschooling, running the boys here and there and back again, and church commitments leave me feeling spent.  Because of this, I was excited to get the book Overextended...and loving most of it! by Lisa Harper to review.

Lisa Harper is a Christian speaker, and the tone of this book is very conversational.  Lisa gives us a glimpse into her life, including a glimpse of a failed adoption and the death of a parent.  After the failed adoption, she stuck her neck out again to try and adopt a little girl with HIV from Haiti (as of now, the adoption still isn't finalized)  She talks about being on the road for weeks at a time, which is enough to make this homebody twitch.

Yet through it all, she points to glorifying Jesus Christ.  She uses anecdotes from her life to show how placing priority on people is never wrong.  Over the past several weeks, I've really been feeling like God wants me to invest more in people.  I battle with myself; my life is busy enough with the boys and Craig and the lifestyle we've chosen and I look at my exploding calendar and wonder where the time will come from. While Lisa & I are overextended in different ways, I came away from reading this book feeling even more strongly that I need to listen to God and place people over projects.

Overextended....and loving most if it! is a quick and easy read, which is great if you're feeling overextended yourself.  Take a weekend and enjoy this book; you won't regret it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Review: Bridgeway English

Bridgway Academy is an accredited homeschool academy with many different options.  They can help you put together a full year's worth of studies complete with an advisor, or if you'd like, you can purchase individual items as well.  For this review, I received:

Bridgeway English is meant for students in grades 7-12.  It is described as a remedial English course, but I think it can be used with any student as a review and refresher course.

There are two books that make up the English course.  Book 1 Focus on Grammar and Book 2 Focus on Writing each focus on what the titles suggest.  The Answer Key contains reduced copies of the student worktexts with the answers filled in.

Book 1 Focus on Grammar covers:
  • Subjects & Predicates
  • Four Types of Sentences
  • Sentence Fragments
  • Run On Sentences
  • Compound Sentences
  • Noun Functions
  • Pronouns
  • Adjectives
  • Adverbs
  • Prepositions & Prepositional Phrases
  • Conjuctions
  • Interjections

Book 2 Focus on Writing covers:
  • Clauses
  • Sentence Variety
  • Subject/Verb Agreement
  • Grammar & Mechanics
  • Writing Skills
  • Rules of Capitalization
  • Rules of Punctuation
  • Proofreading
  • Editing
  • Letter Writing
  • Business Writing
  • Study Skills
  • Critical Thinking & Reasoning
  • Fact vs. Fiction 

Bridgeway English is a mastery program, and the worktexts are similar in format.  They're broken down into 12 units, or PAKs.  Book 1 contains PAKs 1-6, while PAKs 7-12 can be found in Book 2.  Each PAK is broken down further into sections,and each section has a review at the end.  Each PAK has a final test, and your student should get an 80% or greater on these tests to show mastery of the material.

All teaching is contained in each of the spiral bound worktexts.  The teaching is set apart in grey colored boxes, with exercises that reinforce what was taught coming immediately after the teaching.  The teaching is short and to the point, yet still thorough.  These teaching boxes are written directly to the student, and by keeping it simple it allows the student to follow along and understand the concepts without any direction from the teacher.  The student is also instructed to use the answer key to check their own work at regular intervals throughout the text (it is suggested that the student uses a pen and is supervised while checking their work).

The exercises vary in type.  Exercise types include underlining parts of speech and labeling.  Fill in the blank, short answer, and matching are really used to show that the student knows a definition and can apply it.  Students are instructed to finish sentences with specific parts of speech.  In addition to these exercise types, in Book 2 students will write letters, proofread and mark errors, and correct sentences and add correct punctuation.

I used Bridgeway English with Luke and Ezekiel.  We've done English grammar over the years, but I tend to think English grammar is one of those things that should be taught and re-taught until it's 100% automatic.  Luke & Ezekiel each had different skill levels coming into the program.  Instead of assigning a certain amount of pages or a certain amount of sections, I told each boy to work on Bridgeway for about 20 minutes a day.  I had them each check their own work as well.

The reinforcement of concepts they were already comfortable with was great.  However, there were concepts that they weren't as comfortable with, and they both told me that they felt more confident with these concepts after working on Bridgeway English.  This was especially nice to hear from the boy who tends to struggle with English grammar a bit more than his brother.

If you're looking for grammar for a struggling student, or if you're just looking for a straightforward review, I think you should check out Bridgeway English.

For more reviews of Bridgeway Academy, visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew.


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Family Read Alouds

Back in 2007, we started consistently reading out loud every night before bed.  There's nothing like sharing stories together, and we all enjoy this time together.  Now that the boys are older and we might not read every night, we sure do try.  Because, as I once infamously said (and the boys won't let me forget) "If you don't read, you don't finish books."

This is a running list of what we've read.  Unfortunately, I haven't kept track of audio books we've listened to on trips, and it doesn't include any of the read alouds we've done during school hours.

  1. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
  2. The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog #1
  3. The Further Adventures of Hank the Cowdog #2
  4. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
  5. The BFG
  6. It's a Dog's Life (Hank the Cowdog #3)
  7. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
  8. Murder in the Middle Pasture (Hank the Cowdog #4)
  9. Don Quixote
  10. The Very First Easter
  11. The Castle in the Attic
  12. Faded Love (Hank the Cowdog #5)
  13. Mr. Popper's Penguins
  14. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie (Hank the Cowdog #6)
  15. Johnny Tremain
  16. The Wounded Buzzard on Christmas Eve (Hank the Cowdog #13)
  17. A Christmas Carol
  18. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
  19. The Curse of the Incredible Priceless Corncob (Hank the Cowdog #7)
  20. Charlotte's Web
  21. The Twenty-One Balloons
  22. Stuart Little
  23. The Trumpet of the Swan
  24. Jotham's Journey
  25. The Enormous Egg
  26. The Sign of the Beaver
  27. The Phantom Tollbooth
  28. Fantastic Mr. Fox
  29. The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet
  30. Detectives in Togas
  31. Frindle
  32. Bartholomew's Passage
  33. Nick of Time
  34. The World of Winnie-the-Pooh
  35. Five Children and It
  36. Lost in the Dark Enchanted Forest (Hank the Cowdog #11)
  37. Tabitha's Travels
  38. The Mysterious Benedict Society
  39. The Case of the Fiddle Playing Fox (Hank the Cowdog #12)
  40. Freddy the Pig (Freddy Goes to Florida)
  41. Ben & Me
  42. The Demon in the Teahouse
  43. Ginger Pye
  44. The Wind in the Willows
  45. Si-cology 1

Friday, October 25, 2013

True Confession

I still haven't started our New Loop schedule because I lost my printed copy.  I knew I'd left it on my desk (you know, so I could laminate it, because everything is More Official when it's laminated), but I couldn't find it anytime I made my way down to the school room.  It somehow miraculously appeared on my desk yesterday, though, so we'll start it next week.  After I laminate it, of course.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Review: Chess House

I don't know how to play chess.  I can never remember what all the pieces do.  Craig taught Luke & Ezekiel when they were younger, but Jacob, Micah, & Nicholas have never learned, and I lack the ability to teach them myself.  I was excited when Chess House came up for review with the Schoolhouse Review Crew. They sent the Starter Chess Learning Kit ($39.95), which is recommended for ages 4 and up.
This Starter Chess Learning Kit contains:
  • Elliot's Chess School Pawn Level (Level 1) DVD
  • Vinyl Chess Board (20" x 20")
  • Solid Plastic Chess Pieces
  • Chess Bag
I'm really impressed with the quality of the chess set and bag.  The odor free vinyl chess board is nice and large, and unrolls cleanly for a nice, smooth surface (no wrinkles or curling).  The chess pieces are sturdy, and include a regulation size king.  The bag is well constructed with pockets for the pieces, board, and DVD, and it's available in black or green.  It would be easy to throw in the car to take on the go.

National Master Elliot Neff is the teacher on Chess School DVD.  He's coached chess for over 17 years, and by watching the Chess School DVDs and practicing, you are able to learn chess from a fabulous teacher.

The Pawn Level DVD (49 minutes long) teaches:
  • Intro to Chess
  • Pawns
  • Rooks
  • Bishops
  • Queen
  • King
  • Knights
  • Castling
  • Pawn Shields
  • Development
Learning how to play chess is as easy as watching a DVD segment.  These segments are short, and the instruction by Elliot Neff is engaging and easy to understand.  After watching the DVD segment, there are practice activities for each skill taught in the booklet included in the DVD case.  These activities are fun, and really reinforce what was learned through watching Elliot on the DVD.  Skills are taught logically and sequentially, and this helps retention as well.

Jacob, Micah, & Nicholas really enjoyed Elliot's Chess School.  After mastering one skill through watching the DVD and playing the practice games, they would beg me to be able to watch the next segment on the DVD to learn the next skill.  Through watching the DVDs and practicing with each other, I saw the boys' skill levels increase.  They loved competing against each other, and I loved that they weren't just competing in a game of chance, but having to use logic and exercise their brains.  Best of all, they were having lots of fun doing it!

I firmly believe that chess is a game worthy of learning.  Strategy, logic, and memory are all taught and reinforced when playing this age-old game.  As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, I've struggled with learning chess, but this Starter Chess Learning Kit has even helped me.  If you'd like to introduce your family to the game of chess, I high recommend you check out this kit from Chess House.

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For more reviews of, visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew.


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Saturday, October 12, 2013

A New Loop

Several years ago, I posted about a Loop schedule I was trying out (here and here).  It worked well for a season, but (like most things) it served its purpose and we moved on to another way of scheduling.

We're on day 42 of our school year, and I've yet to find a good teaching schedule.  I'm simply running around too much and we have too many irregular interruptions for me to get us into a good, scheduled groove.  I need to be home from 8-4 to teach everybody everything everyday.  I'm not sure that's happened more than a couple of times this year.

So I'm bringing the Loop back.

I'm a horrible Fly-By-the-Seat-of-My-Pants-er.  Oh, how I've tried to change this about myself, and I'm more flexible than I used to be.  But if I don't have a plan, I become overwhelmed and my brain shuts down.

So, here's my plan.  The boys do Bible everyday, and I'd like to do our Shared Learning everyday (a read aloud, sometimes a Teaching Company video, poetry memorization, etc.).  After that, I'll start with math with Luke, and move through each boy.  I'll move around the circle sequentially.  If I only make it through Latin with Jacob on Monday, then I will simply pick up with Latin with Micah on Tuesday and continue the circle.  The boys can do a lot independently for every subject, but having this structure will make sure nobody is totally going through a subject alone because I can touch base with everyone.  It will also keep me from just focusing on the subjects that are easiest for me to teach.  I figure this method can only help me at this point!