Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Characters in Crisis ~ Review

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis
If you have ever used any curriculum from Writing with Sharon Watson then you KNOW how amazing her stuff is! Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis does not disappoint. Last year my oldest daughter studied Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide. It was a fantastic study for her. Naturally, I was looking forward to reviewing this volume when it came up for review.

One thing that I do want to mention is that both of these titles are able to be used independently. One does not build on the other. Feel free to use them in any order. That's why I didn't hesitate to grab this title for my 14 and 15 year olds. They will finish this curriculum this year and then continue their literature studies in future years with the other curriculum.

For this review, we received physical copies the teacher's guide, the student book, and the quiz and answer manual. We also received the novel notebook as a PDF download that you can print for your student. I really think this notebook is beneficial to the students as it helps them to organize their thoughts as they read excellent literature. The pages are not the same throughout the novel notebook. Students interact with the literature in a variety of ways, which helps to keep the literature new and exciting.

Extensive samples of each of these titles as well as the quiz format are available for you to view. All of the quizzes are available online. When a student complete the quiz, an email is sent to the email address that the student specifies. I have my students send the email to me so I can keep track of how they are doing. The quiz and answer manual includes printed copies of the quizzes that you are allowed to copy for your family, not your entire class. The answers to these quizzes are in the back of this book. My oldest daughter much preferred to take these quizzes online, but this is available for your convenience as well. The quizzes are the same whether they are taken online or as a printed version. Each title studied has three corresponding quizzes: the yes I read it quiz, the literary terms quiz, and the opinion survey.

The reason this curriculum appealed to me in the first place is the selection of novels and short stories that the author uses to teach literary concepts. It is worthy of noting that students do need to have specific copies of each one of the novels, which aids in the student discussions so that all students can easily find their place within the novel and the entire class period is not spent finding a passage to discuss. Page numbers are given in the guide and, boom, move right on with the discussion once you have found the page.
  • "A Jury of Her Peers" by Susan Glaspell
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Silas Marner by George Eliot
  • Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
  • "A White Heron" by Sarah Orne Jewett
  • "The Garden of the Forking Paths" by Jorge Luis Borges
  • "Haircut" by Ring Lardner
  • "The Lady, or the Tiger?" by Frank Stockton
  • "Of the Passing of the First-Born" by W. E. B. Du Bois
  • "A Child's Christmas in Wales" by Dylan Thomas
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • Biography/Autobiography of the student's choosing
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
I really enjoy teaching about literature. I love discussing it with teens because they all have such incredible insight and provide a fresh lens through which to view literature. What I love most about Illuminating Literature is the ability to host a once a month book club. The instructions for this once a month book club are included in the teacher's guide. They are extremely thorough and actually sound like a ton of fun. I am completely inspired by these instructions and am considering hosting our own book clubs in the future. Using this curriculum as a book club is not the requirement. It is a series of instructions if you wish to facilitate one with a small group of teens. The teacher's guide also includes answers to the discussion questions as well as tips for how to teach the information.

This curriculum can be used by a single homeschool student if you prefer. The student book is written to the student so they can easily complete the lessons on their own. Before even beginning to read any of the assigned literature, a chapter is dedicated to learning about different types of characters. She also lists convincing reasons for why a student should study, not just read, literature.

"A Jury of Her Peers" is the first selection that students read. This short story puts the students in the jury seat. The story is printed directly in the student book. As students work through the lessons, they answer questions and complete assignments that correlate to the story and that help them digest the lessons. We really enjoyed this title. It isn't hard to read, but there are some very sophisticated literary concepts. Questions at the end of the lesson chapter get students thinking and responding to literature.

Probably the most appealing part of this literature curriculum to me is that students are able to choose an activity to complete in response to the literature they have just studied. There is an activity for every type of learner, which allows students to present the connections that they made with the literature. And if none of those activities appeal to the student, they have the freedom to create their own response activity. This curriculum doesn't put all students in the same box. It frees them to respond in a way that is unique to them.

Curious what other reviewers had to say about this product? Head on over to the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read all the reviews.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Thinking Like an Engineer--Review

This month my son has been blessed to be able to try a new course from the Innovators Tribe. He has enjoyed Thinking Like an Engineer. This online, interactive video curriculum is filled with instruction and creative challenges. Thinking Like an Architect is another course offered by the same company. Be sure to read the reviews written by other bloggers for more info about the architect course.

Thinking Like an Engineer
My son is definitely a hands on learner. He has also been interested in engineering for several years, especially if the engineering information includes working on the computer. He has always enjoyed STEM type learning. This curriculum has been very enjoyable for him and it has encouraged him to think outside the box.

The first activity that he had to complete was to build a five foot tower out of paper. He was given two sheets of printer paper and 12 inches of tape to complete this challenge. It was a bit trickier than he anticipated and didn't quite get his tower to five feet.
The second challenge was to build some sort of structure that would hold hundreds of pounds of heavy books one inch off the floor. For this challenge he could use four sheets of paper and two feet of masking tape. This one was really fun for both of us. We worked together and cut the paper into one inch strips. Then we rolled each strip into several tubes and taped them closed. We stood the little tubes on the ground in groups and then slowly and carefully piled on nearly every book in our bookshelves! The stack ended up being almost as tall as my 12 year old. He later weighed all of the books and it was quite an impressive amount of weight that those little paper tubes held! I did take photos of the entire thing, but sadly they were accidentally deleted them before I was able to upload them to my post.
My son is currently at the part of the curriculum where he is learning about the 3D design tools on the computer. He has downloaded a neat graphic design software and the teacher is showing him the basics of how to use that software.

The lessons on this program are short and engaging. Some lessons will take longer than others, especially if it is a challenge lesson. I don't mind breaking the longer sessions down into smaller sessions so he doesn't get overwhelmed. But typically when he begins a project, he likes to finish it at one time. He was most excited about learning how to use the software because there are some graphic design things he wants to work on for his own YouTube channel.

I appreciate that the supplies needed for the lessons and challenges are basic things that we already have. One of the challenges involved building a water filter. It did involve more than just basic things we already have. We went ahead and watched the video for how to do this, but we didn't build the water filter. It looks very cool, and we will most likely visit this project when we have collected all of the supplies.

These are the basic lessons for this course:

  • Introduction to Engineering (4 lessons, 3 challenges)
  • Introduction to 3D Design Tools (5 lessons, 2 challenges, 1 advanced option)
  • Engineering Roller Coasters (5 lessons, 2 challenges)
  • Engineering Bridges (11 lessons, 2 challenges)
  • Nano Engineering (3 lessons)
  • Thinking Like an Engineer Conclusion (bonus mini-course)
The content in this course is excellent; I can't wait to see where it takes my son!

Innovators Tribe What You Get

Curious what other reviewers had to say about this product? Head on over to the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read all the reviews.

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Kwik Stix-- Review

I'm back today with another great project using the Thin Stix Creativity Pack from The Pencil Grip, Inc. We really love these no mess kids art supplies. They are great for ages 1-101 and so very versatile. And who doesn't love a no mess project? I always used to hesitate at the thought of painting. Getting out water, paints, brushes, covering the table with old newspapers. Ugh. So much work. And so much clean up, which of course was never easy to do with little ones running around. Where were Thin Stix when my kids were little?

The Thin Stix Creativity Pack includes 24 solid tempera paint sticks. We received 12 classic colors, 6 neon colors, and 6 metalix colors. Plenty of options for lots of different art projects.

Try this creative project the next time you pull out your Kwik Stix, and you'll see how simple and truly mess free these kids art supplies really are!

Step 1: You will need two sturdy pieces of paper. I used Bristol board because that is what we had on hand, but poster board will work. You could try card stock or regular paper, but it might curl from the paints.

Step 2: From one piece of the Bristol board, cut out whatever shape you want to be left white on the finished painting. We chose to make a large letter "M" for my niece. (This would be super cute to make each letter of the alphabet as you study it with your child. Use smaller pieces of poster board 4 by 6 and they would be custom flashcards.)

Step 3: You can adhere the chosen shape that you have cut out to the second piece of bristol board. We didn't have any removable adhesive, so we just held the letter in place.

Step 4: Pull out the Kwik Stix and cover the entire page. Paint right over the letter. Be as creative as you want with this. There isn't a right or a wrong way to paint your project!
Step 5: These tempera paints dry super fast, which is part of what makes them mess free and wonderful. About 90 seconds after you finish painting, you can carefully peel off your shape or letter. I love the outcome with the white contrast of the letter against the colorful background. There are so many ways that this could be done. What about using metallic Kwik Stix on a black background?
These tempera paint sticks are extremely versatile. We love them at our house because they appeal to a wide range of ages. Even my teens love to pick these up and paint. In fact, they were so excited to help their cousin with her painting. We all had such fun working together on it.

What else can you use Kwik Stix on? Anything, really! When a project calls for paint, we pull these out. The favorites in our house are the Thin Stix because they offer a bit more control with the thinner tip. The classic size are similar to a glue stick and the Thin Stix more closely resemble a marker. No matter which size you prefer, they are easy to use and FUN!

 Curious what other reviewers had to say about this product? Head on over to the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read all the reviews.

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Friday, November 3, 2017

Monday, October 30, 2017

Children's Tracts Sampler Pack Review

 Let the Little Children Come Gospel Tracks

Let the Little Children Come produce some wonderful child evangelism tools for children. For this review, we received the Gospel Tracts and Evangelism Tools Sampler Pack. I can't wait to share these with the children we meet. They will surely enjoy them!

These tools are an effective way to share the gospel with children. They are beautiful and engaging. Each tract clearly and simply tells God's plan for his children. Each product is unique and colorful to capture their attention. We really enjoyed trying out each tract and my younger kids were thrilled with the motion tracts. There is just something very satisfying about watching those little animations!
These little tracts are called FlipAbouts. They fold and flip around to reveal a new image each time the tract is folded. Each image shows a new part of the gospel story making it easy for a young child to share with others. The images and simple text encourage a child to share in a simple way. A full instruction page is included so you know how the FlipAbouts work as well as talking points and questions to get the kids interacting with the tract as you flip it through all of the graphics.
Animated tracts are truly impressive. The striped plastic sheet is placed over the pages and then moved slowly to the left and right to reveal an animation. Like I said before, these are highly engaging and are sure to be treasured by the recipient. We received three of these style of tracts. One tells the True Story of Christmas and the other one is John 3:16 with a plan of salvation included in the back. The third one asks and answers the question: Where is everybody going? Like the FlipAbouts, these tracts also include a full page of instructions and little talking points to guide your students through the tract.

Also included in our sampler pack were two Pop-up Tracts. These both remind me of storybooks. The Most Amazing House tells about God's house in Heaven and details how to get there. The Lost Easter Egg would be a perfect tract to hand out at Easter. It includes a sweet story about a family hunting for Easter eggs in the park. This also includes a clear and simple plan of salvation.

Three items in our sampler pack are based around the wordless book colors. One is a rubber bracelet. This is perfect for a child to wear to be reminded of the gospel story. They would be able to share what the colors each mean if a friend asks about their bracelet. A sturdy wordless book is also included as well as an individually packaged wordless bracelet kit. Simple instructions are given for how to make the bracelet and what to say as you direct the children in making their very own wordless colors bracelet.

I love that each tract in the kit include instructions and simple ideas to get kids talking and thinking about heaven, God, and salvation. These are unique child evangelism tools that are sure to keep kids engaged. They are sure to be proud of their tracts and want to share them with their friends and family as well. 

Curious what other reviewers had to say about this product? Head on over to the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read all the reviews.

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Life Lately

THIS, my friends, is what I’ve been doing for the past 2 months. Volleyball. Home games. Away games. Practice. I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to support my kids in their activities. I have time freedom to do this now. And that is something I will never take for granted. 

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

illumination ministries review

Abby Ludvigson Sex by Design
Abby Ludvigson has truly created this amazing purity curriculum called Sex by Design. As a parent, it can often be overwhelming when it comes time to have "the talk" with your kids. And while there are many purity curriculum out there, I'm glad to recommend this one to my friends and family as one of my top choices. This is a thorough view of all aspects of purity. Abby doesn't simply say, don't have sex. She delves into the topic in a graceful and insightful way and speaks with authority and gains respect from her viewers. Our teens and tweens are exposed to thousands of messages daily--TV programs, popular music, social media, even their peers--all have something to say about sexuality. Which messages do you want your children to believe? Sex by Design has been endorsed by Josh McDowell and three other national authors. You will want to view both of the videos on the Sex by Design website. The resource section of the website contains books, articles, downloads, and videos that help you as the parent to be confident in your discussions with your teens.

There are three parts to this curriculum: the DVD, the parent guide, and the teen guide. I received access to the DVD portion via a private viewing password that allowed me to download or stream each one of the sessions. This is a very convenient way for us to use this curriculum. Simply turn on your phone or computer and watch each session together. We like to stream the media onto our TV. I have four children ranging in age from 12-17; three girls and one boy. This curriculum was recorded live before a mixed group of teens. I'm OK with watching these all together.

Some parents have a hard time talking about these things and that makes these conversations terribly awkward. We have always had open and honest conversations with our kids so this wasn't a brand new topic to us. And honestly, parents, don't wait until your child is a teenager to begin planting seeds of purity. By then it will be too late. Those seeds need to gently be planted during their younger years. It doesn't have to be long and drawn out and awkward. Just have some gentle conversations as they come up. Answer their questions (they have them, believe me). Then when it comes time for these harder conversations, there is trust already established. If you don't teach about this topic to your kids, they will learn from their peers. Don't you want to be the one teaching your view point on this sensitive topic to your kids?

In total there are 7 teaching segments:

  1. Plan Ahead: Living Pure in a Sex-Saturated Culture
  2. Counting the Cost: Every Decision Has a Price Tag
  3. Dating: Doing Relationships God's Way
  4. Sex: God's Purpose and Plan
  5. Modesty: God Cares What I Wear
  6. Pornography: Its Deception and Steps to Get Out or Stay Our
  7. Secondary Virginity: Running Back to God
You can tell just from the titles of each of the sessions that this product covers so much more than just telling teens not to have sex before they are married. This really digs into the WHY of choosing to live a pure life. It covers all aspects that come at teens every day.

The parent edition of the guide is extremely helpful. I consider it an absolutely necessary companion to the DVD sessions. The beginning of the guide contains important and helpful information so that you understand how to use this curriculum. It isn't one that you simply watch quickly and then be finished. Each session lays the foundation for further conversations allowing both the teens and the parents to process the information and have intelligent discussions about it. I think deep down, teens really do want to hear their parent's input. Even if they balk at it or complain about it, they need it, and they do care what you think about this topic, even if they act like they don't. Each segment includes a film script, film outline, and follow up, which includes discussion topics, personalization ideas to make the learning unique to each child, and application suggestions. 

The student edition of the guide is super intuitive and helpful to the teens. They shouldn't need to feel like they need to complete each and every page and activity. Pick and choose the ones that fit their learning styles. Each segment includes a film outline as well as the personalize it, discuss it, and apply it questions that are in the parent guide. What I really love about this student guide is the Bible study for each segment located in the back of the book. Following the Bible study is a unique little section that helps the students prepare to defend their views to their peers. Don't skip this step! It's called the 1st Peter principle: prepare, rehearse, and share.

This is definitely a curriculum that I can be passionate about. It is a message that is important to bring into every Christian home. The best way to protect your teens is to prepare them. Sex by Design does just that. Prepares them. And allows them to form an opinion that defends their views on purity.

Curious what other reviewers had to say about this product? Head on over to the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read all the reviews.

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