Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lightning Literature and Composition: American Mid-Late 19th Century By Hewitt Homeschooling: A TOS Crew Review

Hewitt Homeschooling Review
Hewitt Homeschooling Review

For Grades 9-12

Are you ready for High School Literature?  No, well...I'm not either!  But, Lightning Literature and Composition: American Mid-Late 19th Century Student's Guide from Hewitt Homeschooling will make it manageable and enjoyable!

Hewitt Homeschooling  specializes in creating products that truly educate your students.  By reading great, classic literature and responding to it with writing - your students are forced to develop high-level thinking and reasoning skills.

This study covers four units with reading selections focusing on American classics: books, short stories and poetry.  The books are not included, and must be purchased separately (or retrieved from the library :-).  The books included in this edition are:  Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, and The Call of the Wild by Jack London.  Short Stories from Bret Harte, and poetry from Walt Whitman & Emily Dickinson are included in the Student's Guide.  Check out the  Table of Contents and a Sample Chapter.

You can customize your schedule to cover this in a semester, or a full year - handy Semester and Full-Year Schedules will help you plan. 

The Bentz Test Laboratory will be studying American History this coming year, so this could not have been more perfectly timed.  My tester is entering his junior year of high school (how did THAT happen... I swear he was in kindergarten a minute ago)  Back to the review... 

The introduction covers important topics like "Why Read Literature?",  "How to Read Literature", "How to Read Poetry" and "Figurative Language".  The second section is a "Paper Writing 101" with very basic writing instruction.

My tester started with "The little woman who wrote the book that started this great war" - Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.   Each unit begins with an Introduction, which covers basic information about the author and the selection.  "While you Read" questions are included to keep you thinking as you read the book.    This particular unit's literary lesson's focus was on "Theme".  Explanations of the literary term, and examples from the reading were clearly taught.

Comprehension Questions are available to discuss with your student as they read the selection.  Uncle Tom's Cabin is quite a heafty book - so, the questions were an excellent way to keep up with what my tester was reading (without having to read it myself)  One feature I admire about Lightning Lit Guides - they are designed for independent work from your student.

Following the reading, questions and literary lesson, writing exercises are included.  This is where your student moves from "fill-in-the-blank" to higher level processing.  My tester liked that there was a variety of options to pick from - this lesson had 8 writing exercise choices. (don't make them do them all... unless you like torturing your poor child).

 He choose to write his paper by focusing on a character, other than Tom, that the author used to illustrate her argument against slavery. He used George, another slave, to make his point of how slavery was "cruel to even the most talented slaves, and how slave holders tormented their property, even when it produced a tremendous profit". 

The Teacher's Guide offers grading tips and rubrics for evaluating your child's writing, as well as answers to the comprehension questions.   Discussion Questions and Project Suggestions are included for each selection and are excellent ways to expand the learning.  These are more than comprehension questions, these are the deeper questions that challenge ideas and make some amazing dinner table discussions!  An example from Uncle Tom's Cabin - "How does doing evil affect the doer?"  An excellent resource, for only $2.95!

Project Suggestions add art, geography, Biblical references, Science, Health & Nature ideas you can add to the study.

I have been very impressed with Lightning Literature and Composition - it's a comprehensive literature program, at an affordable price.  You will want to give these a try!
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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Beyond the Book Report from Analytical Grammar: A TOS Crew Review

Analytical Grammar Review

Analytical Grammar Review

Beyond the Book Report from Analytical Grammar
For grades 6th-8th (Seasons 1 and 2)
Season 3 - grades 8th-10th

Season 1:
  • The Basic Book Report
  • The Pamphlet Book Report
  • The News Article Book Report

Season 2:
  • The Poetry Book Report
  • The Drama Book Report

Season 3:
  • The Oral Book Report
  • The Essay
  • The Research Paper
Cost: $24.95 per season, or get all 3 Seasons for $69.95 - may be used with multiple children in a family.

One of my favorite language arts curriculums - Beyond the Book Report from Analytical Grammar will breathe new life into your middle/high school student's writing!  

Each Season contains a Teacher Packet and DVD.  The DVD features video instructions from the authors -Robin Finley and Erin Karl  (a mother/daughter team).  In addition to the videos, the DVDs also contain step-by-step schedules, printable PDF student handouts, rubrics, examples and all activities.

This program is ideal for your middle school students, and Robin Finley is a middle school expert, having taught language arts for 34 years.  Her daughter, Erin Karl joins her in teaching this program.  Several different schedules are outlined for you.  If you have a 6th-7th grade student - you can cover this material over 3 years.  8th - 9th grade students can complete in 2 years, and older high school students can complete in a 1 year course. You can see the schedules here.   I love that it is so customizable!

The Bentz Test Laboratory testers are a 8th grader, and a 9th grader.  Both boys ;-)  They jumped right in with Season 1.   

In this season there are 3 main assignments.  The Basic Book Report teaches:  following a rubic, literary terms of conflict, point of view, climax, protagonist, antagonist as well as, paraphrasing and summarizing. 
My testers are both Analytical Grammar students, so the author is a familiar figure for them, and Beyond the Book Report combines perfectly to provide a complete language arts program. The videos are very simply done - just one of the authors on their laptop at the kitchen table.  (feels like home!)  The DVD includes printable slides for them to follow along and have plenty of space for note taking, a focus of this program.  I love how active listening is included throughout these Seasons. The rubrics make it easy for you to objectively grade your students writing.   

In the Pamphlet Book Report, new literary terms of elements of the plot, mood and tone, setting,genre are introduced. My testers created a pamphlet from their chosen book. One of the best features of this program is that your student can choose their book. My testers appreciated the freedom to pick the book they wanted to read and write with, and had much more enthusiasm toward writing as a result.

The News Article Book Report introduces concepts of headline, byline, dateline, inverted pyramid, lead, objectivity, bias, objective point of view. Definitely my testers favorite! Their final assignment was to create their own news article on favorite scene from their book, and then to also write opposite bias news article from that same scene.

This program is much more than your run-of-the-mill, fill-in-the-blank type of program.  It will challenge your student to think critically about what they have read, and then write clearly in response.  

Season 2 features the Poetry Book Report and the Drama Book Report. Concepts covered in Poetry Book Report section include: Figures of speech: alliteration, metaphor, hyperbole, simile, personification, etc.Terms: stanza, rhyme scheme, verse, etc. and Types: sonnet, haiku, limerick, etc. I hate to admit this, but poetry is not my middle school tester's favorite topic! Writing their own limerick was quite the patience trying experience... but, we managed. Middle school boys have a sense of humor - how many words can you think of to rhyme with "Bart"? See what I mean! :-) The author doesn't try to push them into the deep end of poetry - but, gives them the encouragement to give it a try.

The Drama Book Report introduces literary terms: dialogue, monologue, 4th wall, cast,props, staging, aside, blocking, etc and Genres: comedy, drama, farce, melodrama. Yeah - after the poetry melt-down, this subject hit a home run. One of my tester's is a HUGE Shakespeare fan (I don't know where he got it, he just is...) The final project of dramatizing a scene from  A Midsummer Night’s Dream definitely took the learning way beyond the average book report!  

Season 3 dives into important concepts from giving an oral presentation, writing personal, literary, and
“issues” (SAT) essays, and the basics of writing a research paper on a famous author.  I'm looking forward to slowing down and really digging deep into this season as we progress into high school.

I feel like this program is perfectly paced.  The videos are short enough to hold attention spans, but are filled with proven instruction.  It's very important  to engage your children in language arts learning.  Learning is much more than just completing a page and moving on.  I believe that Analytical Grammar does one of the best jobs making it both memorable and fun that I've seen. 

Be sure to check out the other great products the Crew took a look at: Analytical GrammarJunior Analytical Grammar, & The Eternal Argument.

Find Analytical Grammar on Facebook and Twitter

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Responsibility – Really, You Gotta Teach this Stuff?

 I recently had one of those “A Ha!” moments – my children were not born with a responsibility gene in place.   Yes, I will actually have to teach & train responsibility into my children! (as well as all those other school-y type subjects...)  First let's start with the "whys" we have to:
  • Responsibility builds character qualities and attitudes that we want them to have as adults.   How does it look when you see an adult with a bad attitude at their job?  Co-workers that constantly complain when asked to do a task?  Grown- ups that never take responsibility?  We all know examples of these types – you don’t want to raise your children to be one do you?  If our child has been handling responsibility and chores with a good attitude since they were young children, I think we have a much greater chance of having teenagers with a good attitudes as well.  When my firstborn was just a little guy, I remember telling him – “We don’t whine in the house”, to which he replied “Can we go outside and whine, then?”   I am beginning to see the fruit of having trained my young children’s good attitudes showing up in the character of my teenagers!

  • Responsibility teaches good stewardship.  A steward is someone who takes care of something that doesn’t belong to them.  We don’t really own anything, God does.  You don’t want to have to explain to God what you did (or didn’t do) with the blessings entrusted to you, do you – nope – neither do I.  Teaching our children how to manage responsibility teaches them to be good stewards of what they have been blessed with.

  • Responsibility gives your children value as part of your family team.    If we do everything for them, we send a subtle message that they are not capable of doing it for themselves.  We handicap them for their futures.   When we had our first child, we made all the rookie mistakes – we did everything for him – feeding, dressing, cleaning up his toys.  We just were so in love with this amazing creature – we wanted to make his life wonderful and easy.  Well – that worked well for the first year, or two… But, a three year old that can’t feed himself or lays on the floor waiting for you to get him dressed – isn’t quite so attractive!  How about a five year old that can’t (or won’t) pick up their own toys…do YOU really want to keep working that hard for that long?  Don’t miss the opportunity to catch their enthusiasm while they’re little – it’ll pay off later.  In 401 Ways to get your Child to Work at Home by Bonnie McCullough and Susan Monson - they say –“By the time your child is 18 – they have spent 32,234 hours with you.”    A little perspective here – a bachelor’s degree only takes 2,000 hours – you get 16x more teachable time with your children!

  •  Responsibility for them -  helps make YOU more productive.  Sure it takes longer to teach them – at first.    But, it’s an investment that pays off.  You can get more done with their help.  My kiddos were helping carry in groceries the other day, and I heard one of them say “I feel sorry for those families with just a couple of kids, it must take them forever to get all the groceries in the house!”  But, seriously – you can accomplish much more with your team. 

  On to the nuts and bolts – I bet you’re thinking…I know I should be teaching them but, how?!

  •  Start with your own attitude first!  Do you have an overwhelmed feeling all the time – is it too hard, too much, I can’t do it… Memorize  -  Phillipians 4:13 – I can do all thing through Christ who gives me strenth.    Consciously - Make the choice to overcome instead of being overwhelmed. Get the strength you need from God – you can do this!  God chose you as the teacher of your children, he didn’t make a mistake, it wasn’t accidental.  He wanted you for the job!   Next, find some books, resources, friends, mentors to help you.   Learn the skills you need!   I came to motherhood completely unprepared for it –I’m glad that on the job training is the most effective way to learn! 

  •  Imagine your child as a grown up (scary…but – realize – no matter how much you don’t want them to - they are going to grow up, no matter what you think).  Start with your end goal in mind… What do you want them to know how to do?  What character qualities do you want them to have?  What life skills are they going to need to succeed?  Make a list you can to refer back to.  You can find lots of helpful resources to help you.  Life Skills for Kids by Christine Field and Cleaning House by Kay Wyma - are two of my all-time favorites – filled with practical advice and how to’s. 

  • Start early!  Even very young children can do something – make them part of the team!   My house rule, the chore goes to the youngest child that can do it.  If your little one can hold a wipe – they can wipe the table, or the baseboards, or the windowsills (they get really dusty!!).  By 4-5 years old they can help set the table, water plants, help prepare foods, rake the yard, sweep, put away clothes, sort dirty clothes, load the dishwasher, empty small trashcans.  And – it just keeps getting better!   By the time they are teenagers – you really could be sitting around eating those bon-bons…  My husband’s happiest day was when the first born stepped into the responsibility of lawn mowing – “I won’t have to mow again for the next 20 years!” was his exact comment! 
  •   Keep it fun!  You can have fun working together!  Put on music, dance around, act silly!  It’s amazing how much power a positive attitude can have on your children.   Set a timer and everyone works for 15 minutes, it’s encouraging to see how much can get done. Come up with rewards when they accomplish their responsibilities.  Some people use allowances – that’s good – in our case, we don’t make enough money for that!  Create rewards that work for you and your family – be sure to have lots of little incentives along the way – maybe a book or movie they get to pick, a special treat, a trip to the park.  The truth is that when they are young – they really just want to spend time with you! 
  • Find a chore system that works for your family.   I created a master list of chores that the children could do.  Then, I assigned each chore to a specific child, remember – the youngest able to do it – gets the chore.  I like variety – so I made different chores for each day of the week.  A list works for your readers, and pictures for your non-readers (we put ours on cards and laminated them for fun). A piece of advice – make it easy for your children to help…  We keep our kid plates/cups in a lower cupboard – so that they can help unload dishwasher and put dishes away (no glass items!)   Get child friendly cleaning tools – cleaning wipes, spray bottles (my littles just love spray bottles!),  a dustpan and small broom and lots of paper towels.   If you have older children, you can pair them together to teach a younger child the chore.  If your children are all young – let them be chore buddies  -  Encourage them to work together.

  • Be consistent!  Here’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten – you have to INSPECT what you EXPECT.  So, if you want to train them to take responsibility – YOU have to take responsibility to make sure they are completing their chores.  That means following through on what you ask them to do.  Consistency in this early on establishes the routines that work over the long run!  We have a little saying that has helped – “Do it right away, all the way, the happy way”.  
You will need to train them (I looked for the instruction manual in the diaper bag – it wasn’t there!)  Be patient, and retrain them again.  They will eventually catch on, and they may even surprise you.  Come to think of it, isn’t that how God is training us?  Really – this whole topic is more about training our hearts while training their hearts!  In fact, the best  thing you can do to train them responsibility–is to have that very character trait on display in yourself for them see those 32,234 hours you have them around!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms from Apologia Educational Ministries: A TOS Crew Review

Flourish Book Review
Flourish Book Review
Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms from Apologia Educational Ministries - $15.00
This is one for moms. :) 

Flourish Book Review
Yeah - a gem for busy, multi-tasking, almost-to-the-end-of-my-rope mom!  I'm excited to be the tester at Bentz Test Laboratory for Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms from Apologia Educational Ministries.  

I've been homeschooling a long while now (heading into year number 13...) and I have yet to be disappointed by any product from Apologia Educational Ministries!  
Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms  is written by Mary Jo Tate.  She is another veteran homeschooler, educating her four sons since 1997.  After reading this book, I feel like we sat down together over a cup of coffee (usually next to me as I read) and she shared from the wealth of her years of experience.  Her easy-to-read, conversational tone makes you feel like you have a trusted mentor by your side.

This 289 page, softcover book features the following chapters:

  • An Invitation to Flourish 
  • Change Your Mind to Change Your Time 
  • The FREEDOM Toolbox 
  • Where Did My Time Go? 
  • Aim High: Setting Goals What Do I Do Next? 
  • Seven Essential Planning Tools 
  • We Interrupt This Program It’s Time for an Attitude Adjustment
  •  Oxygen Masks and Monkey Bread Days 
  • Training Your Children
  •  Making Memories
  •  Managing Your Home 
  • All of Life is Learning 
  • Solo Act: Flourishing as a Single Mom 
  • Home Business
  •  Moving Ahead

Right off, Mary Jo Tate shares her story - a "typical homeschooling mom, married with four sons". But, her story just begins there - her life took an unexpected turn, and she found herself a single, homeschooling mom, who also had to earn a living while educating her boys.  If all I had read was her story, I would have been encouraged!

However, her story is just the beginning of this encouraging book.  After being asked numerous times "How Do You Do It All?" - Mary Jo Tate turned her life experiences into a practical, hands-on approach to help moms find strategies to help them Flourish - whatever life may throw at them.

Each chapter is short enough to read and digest in one sitting.  In fact, she encourages you to "Take Action" at the end of each chapter by evaluating and planning before moving forward.  Several thought-provoking questions will help you pause to reflect.
One of my favorite take-aways from this book came from the "Change Your Mind to Change Your Time" chapter.  After evaluating where my time is going, using the handy "Time Log" in the appendix, I discovered many areas I could improve on.  The appendix has many useful planning forms, and you can even download them to print out.   But, for me, the "A-ha!" moment came with her statement - "find peace in the space between the ideal and reality."  So often, I am focused on the ideal, overwhelmed by how far the reality is from it, that I am almost paralyzed into doing nothing.  Her gentle reminders to accept a compromise, make time for the important things and focus on life management to find a real balance, were just the wisdom I needed to hear most! 
Flourish is just the kind of book every mom should read this summer.  It is filled with the practical suggestions we need.  Many of these ideas I have heard before - and you may have too, but - this book is a great reminder of the importance of our days and making them count. 
Another great idea - the "Stop Doing List".  I am a compulsive list maker, and the idea of making a list with what we are going to eliminate from our schedule was a very freeing concept!  Editing my life to make space for what is truly important. (seems to be a reoccurring message... God must be up to something big!)
I love that this book is filled with inspirational quotes, and plenty of testimonials from other moms, just like me.  A new favorite I need to share:
"How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the rule of three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe?  How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone?  No.  A woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute." -- G.K. Chesterton
In addition to chapters helping you Flourish with your time, Mary Jo offers plenty of useful and practical suggestions to help you get control of your home, homeschooling, and even child rearing advice. 
It's really like getting to sit down with someone who has successfully navigated this path, and have them answer your honest questions.  From - "Why homeschool?", to "How do I teach responsibility?", to "How to I start my own business?"   I can truly say, this is a book I'll open over and over.
So, if you're tired of just getting by, and ready to Flourish - you'll want to pick up your own copy, brew that coffee, and enjoy sharing the journey with Mary Jo!
One more quote (I love them so...):
"You as a homemaker essentially create original artwork.  Your family has never existed before and will never exist again.  Every day you paint another memory in their lives" - Dr. Mary Ann Froehlich

Find Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms on Facebook & Twitter 
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Thursday, July 10, 2014

WriteShop Junior: Book E Set by WriteShop: A TOS Crew Review

WriteShop Review
WriteShop Review
WriteShop Review
WriteShop Review
WriteShop ReviewWriteShop Review

WriteShop Junior: Book E Set by WriteShop
WriteShop Junior: Book E Set by WriteShop - is great for fourth and fifth graders (and sixth and seventh graders who have had little or no formal writing instruction). WriteShop offers an full writing curriculum for K-12 in various levels: WriteShop Primary for grades K-3, WriteShop Junior for grades 3-5, WriteShop for grades 6-10, Write Shop II for grades 8-12.  This program is designed to be a full year program with approx. 3 lessons per week.  It's variety appeals to all learning styles, and it can be easily used with multiple children at the same time.
 The Bentz Test Laboratory tester is just entering 4th grade and was eager to start with the Book E set (Download a Book E sample lesson)
The topics covered are:
  • Fables
  • Humor
  • Adventure
  • Science Fiction
  • Mystery
  • Poetry/Shape Poems
  • Personal Narrative
  • Descriptive Narrative
  • Book Report/Responding to Literature
  • Expository Writing: Nonfiction Report
Skills learned are:
  • Writing in different fiction genres
  • Writing nonfiction and book reports
  • Answering journal prompts
  • Planning and organizing each writing project
  • Choosing strong words and synonyms
  • Developing voice and emotion
  • Writing sentences of different lengths
  • Learning to write using 5 paragraphs
  • Creatively publishing final drafts
  • Using references
  • Using a variety of self-editing tools
Let's start with the Book E Teacher's Guide -  I got the Ebook version, and loved it.  It's a huge 279 page PDF file with everything you need to know to succeed.  It takes the pain out of how to teach writing to your children! 
It is very complete and comprehensive, but very easy to use.  Recommended schedules, how to create your own writing center, literature suggestions, and so much more.  Lesson by lesson, the Teacher's Guide will walk you through the supplies, hands-on activities, advance prep (if any) and the objectives for each lesson.  Helpful tips and encouragement are in sidebars throughout this must-have guide.  If you feel intimidated by teaching writing, or even if you don't - this guide is worth every penny!  Guided scripts will help you "Model & Teach" the concepts with stories, games and plenty of hands-on activities.  You will feel empowered.
The Activity Pack: is an 88 page, printable PDF with all the activity sheets to correspond to each lesson.  My tester loved the variety of activities - charts, prompts, book making, and even a mad-scientist game!  If you have a child that thrives with something other than just a blank piece of paper to inspire them to write, you will appreciate this program.  My tester seems to have "writer's block", unless I can capture her imagination and make it look more like having fun.  WriteShop was just the ticket!  
My tester started with writing Fables.  This is exactly the type of story she enjoys the most, so it was an easy concept to introduce, if your child isn't familiar with this genre - the Teacher's Guide has excellent additional reading selections to help.
  We used the brainstorming sheets in the Activity Pack to choose her characters.  She choose the characters from "Belling the Cat", a familiar tale to her.   The graphic organizers helped her develop her fable with a beginning - middle - end, and adding the moral of the story.   After learning about how fables are usually written with animal characters, and contain a moral,  I let her loose to write her first draft.  I can't resist sharing her "fable" -  she titled it "Die or Put the Bell On"  Are you getting a glimpse into her personality?  :-)
Die or Put the Bell On
By Lydia Bentz

    A family of door mice lived in a enormous house.   Every night they would venture out and
steal some food.  One day the family brought home a vicious cat with big, sharp claws.  Every
time the mice snuck out, the cat would pounce on some of them and gobble them up. 

Inside the hole, one of the mice bemoaned, “What will we do about that wily cat?”. 

     “I know”, suggested the youngest mouse, who all the girls loved.

     “We can tie a bell to the cat’s neck, then we’ll be able to hear when it’s lurching for us.” 

     "Hurray!  Hurray! Hurray!” the other mice chorused.  

    “Hey”, declared the oldest and wisest mouse, “Who’s gonna do it?”  No one squeaked a word.

The moral of this story is: “Die or put the bell on.”

After she finished writing, we worked through the 4 steps of "All Star Editing" to make her story even better. Checking for spelling, punctuation, capital letters, and for this assignment - interesting words, really helped her carefully evaluate her writing.   At this stage in writing, it's important for you to be working with your child.  WriteShop encourages this to be an interactive subject, not completely independent.

The Fold -N-Go Grammar Pack is a vital part of the program, included in the package.  It contains 10 grammar Lessons, in a file folder format - that you and your student assemble together, covering: 
Lesson 1 Sentences
Lesson 2 Four Kinds of Sentences
Lesson 3 Compound Sentences
Lesson 4 Parts of Speech: Review
Lesson 5 Dialogue
Lesson 6 Homophones, Homonyms, and Homographs
Lesson 7 Five Paragraphs
Lesson 8 Prefixes and Suffixes
Lesson 9 Compound Words
Lesson 10 Synonyms and Antonyms
This is a great way for your hands-on learners to get involved with the grammar needed to improve their writing, not to mention - a great review tool!
If you're a busy mom (HA!), you may want to get the Timesaver Pack - it's a 26 page ready to print PDF of spinners, game cards, and other activities that go with this program. I appreciated this time saver very much.

The Optional Junior Writer's Notebook 1 is another valuable tool to add to your writing toolbox (it actually can be used with any writing program).  This is a 23 page PDF that contains 12 printable worksheets to help your budding author plan and write.  It's their very own "seed bed" of writing ideas.  Characters, settings, plots, word banks, and even a title toolbox will get their creative juices flowing.  
This gem is the component my tester liked the most.  Having her very own Writer's Notebook, that was filled with her ideas and writing was a confidence booster for her.  
As a busy mom of many, I really appreciate WriteShop's programs.
  • They are very comprehensive, but completely affordable, not to mention, large family friendly!  
  • You don't need to learn a complex program to start teaching your child to write - and enjoy writing. 
  • WriteShop makes it easy to teach, and keeps writing an engaging and exciting time for you and your child. 
Find WriteShop on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+ 

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Lemonade and Multiplication!

Lemonade and multiplication... sounds like a summer math lesson.

I can't resist sharing this.  Summer afternoons can stretch into hours of "nothing to do", right?  Well, not at our house.

Lydia and her friend Sarah, came to ask if they could make a lemonade stand.  Of course, I was busy writing a review - and was about to say "not right now", when that Holy Spirit whisper answered... "Why not?"

So, I told them they should get to work on making signs - figuring that would take awhile.  Of course, we do have an abundance of cardboard around here from the move.  Off they ran.

Several minutes later, they returned - 5 signs ready to go.  Ok, not exactly ready - since all of them had misspelled "lemonad"  (note to self, move spelling up the priority list this coming year) :-)   After a quick addition to the sign,  I couldn't stall them any longer and I set off to find the lemonade mix, cups and card table.

 These sweet girls know how to work a lemonade stand - pageant waves, big smiles and complete adorableness.  But best of all was their hearts.  They decided the reason they wanted to sit out in the heat and sell lemonade was for our church's mission program!

I couldn't resist... couldn't help but wonder, would they get any customers?  I even tried my best to help them out with a Facebook post. "It's Hot and I know you're thirsty!"...

No need, God came through. In just 2 hours, they had $26!  Sarah's huge smile said it all..."This has always been a dream of mine, to have a lemonade stand!"  

I love how God takes whatever little we have to offer and multiplies it for his kingdom.

We all had a front row seat to watch him at work.  5 little girls saw how they could do something - and it matters - and I saw how often I get in the way... and how I should say "yes" much more than I say "no".

So, if your sweet children need a project to occupy a hot afternoon and ask to sell "lemonade for God" - just say YES!

Moving Beyond the Page: A TOS Crew Review

Moving Beyond the Page Review

Moving Beyond the Page - "All children can benefit from our unique approach to education. This is especially true for hands-on, creative, and gifted learners. A traditional or classical approach will often leave these children bored and uninspired."   I'm already inspired - I'm sure you will be too!

Literature Unit:  American Tall Tales and Legends - Online edition (print copies available as well)
Ages 9-11
Cost: $29.41 
Online access to American Tall Tales & Legends Guide
Physical books: American Tall Tales by Adrien Stoutenberg and Cut from the Same Cloth, American Women of Myth, Legend, and Tall Tale by Robert D. San Souci  
Plus - a  Dream Catcher Craft Kit
Social Studies Unit:  Your State Guide  - Print book
Ages 9-11
Cost:  $16.99
  • Lesson 1: Geography of Your State
  • Lesson 2: State Symbols (2 Days)
  • Lesson 3: State History (2 Days)
  • Lesson 4: Famous People
  • Lesson 5: Places to See
  • Lesson 6: State Field Trips
  • Lesson 7: State Statistics
  • Lesson 8: State Maps
  • Final Project: State Book (2 Days) 
Bentz Test Laboratory loves diving into a good book, even better is when the learning can move off the page and into their experiences.   This is what Moving Beyond the Page specializes in!  With an impressive selection of titles in Literature, Science and Social Studies, for all ages - you will find that learning becomes more than just reading, it becomes a true experience they will never forget. Check out some samples here.

We were elated to get our hands on the two selections above - Literature Unit:  American Tall Tales and Legends  and Social Studies Unit:  Your State Guide.  My 11 year old tester was the first to win the wrestling match when the package arrived, and couldn't wait to dig in!
I'll start with Literature Unit:  American Tall Tales and Legends.    This is an online unit,  meaning that guide is accessible online.  It's very easy to use - just log in and the program will pick up wherever you left off.  Physical books are included in the unit -  American Tall Tales by Adrien Stoutenberg and Cut from the Same Cloth, American Women of Myth, Legend, and Tall Tale by Robert D. San Souci  
Plus - a  Dream Catcher Craft Kit. 

The physical books are both excellent choices!  My tester thoroughly enjoyed reading about old favorites like Pecos Bill, Johnny Appleseed, and Davy Crockett.  In addition, a whole new group of American women were introduced like Drop Star, Molly Cottontail and Hekeke!  

The Online Program Guide consists 6 Lessons and a Final Project.  Moving Beyond the Page units are comprehensive curriculum covering literature, science and social studies, all you need to add is your choice for math and physical activities!  For the ages 9-11,  Moving Beyond the Page requires that children are independently reading at a 5-6th grade level

These lessons explore the geographical regions of the United States by introducing the Tall Tales, Myths, Legends and Heroes/Heroines of that region.

Lesson 1: Story Genres introduces the types of literature being presented. 
Lesson 2: Tales and Legends of the Northeast  
Lesson 3: Tales and Legends of the South
Lesson 4: Tales and Legends of the Midwest
Lesson 5: Tales and Legends of the Southwest
Lesson 6: Tales and Legends of the West
Final Project: Your Own Tall Tale or Legend

Each lesson takes about 2 days to complete and includes - reading, comprehension questions, hands-on activities, worksheets, research and more. Printable activity sheets are easy to download and print. Spelling and vocabulary words to correspond to the unit are also included. 

This particular unit introduces several story genres - trickster tales, tall tales and myths.  By comparing and contrasting, my tester worked with literary terms like hyperbole, protagonists, antagonists and transition words. She loved how everything is integrated together - science, social studies and language arts.  Best of all, absolutely no boring textbook reading! 

Creating  your own folk tale that reflects the region in which you live is the final project.  

One feature we appreciated about the Online version is the "Idea Share" area.  You can add your own idea, link or activity, make a book or video recommendation or even share pictures of your child's activities. And, you can easily access the ideas shared by other users.  This is wonderful!  We found great links, extra crafts and recipes and helpful tips throughout the unit.  A definite plus to purchasing the online unit.

The Online version is also licensed for multiple children in your family - making it a less expensive option.  You can even take it on the go with you, the online versions are compatible with most mobile devices.

A couple of drawbacks,  the online unit requires you to print your own worksheets.  This may be a blessing, or not - I would rather have everything printed and ready to go, than to print as we go along.  But, I'm sure there are those that prefer to print as they need it.  You'll have to decide for yourself.  

 Also, the online unit is only available for a limited time. Once you activate it, you have only 3 months to complete it.   Since each unit is designed to take about 3 weeks to complete, you should have plenty of time to finish.  If you have issues, just contact customer service - they were very easy to work with!

You can also access the their Community Forum - a great place to connect with other families using Moving Beyond the Page. 

Our second selection was Social Studies Unit:  Your State Guide.  This is a printed 95 page guide for ages 9-11.   The concepts covered by this unit are Relationships and Your State. 

This guide contains 8 lessons and a Final Project.  You choose the state you wish to study.  There are no "required" books for this unit - but, you are encouraged to explore on your own. We found some great resources on our new state - TEXAS!

 This unit can be used independently, but works very well alongside the Literature Unit:  American Tall Tales and Legends.   It covers:

Lesson 1: Geography
Lesson 2: State Symbols
Lesson 3: State History
Lesson 4: Famous People
Lesson 5: Places to See
Lesson 6: State Field Trips
Lesson 7: State Statistics
Lesson 8: State Maps
Final Project: State Book

Each lesson clearly outlines "Stuff you need" - supplies and worksheets, give "Ideas to think about" - discussion questions, "Things to Know" - what you need to learn in this lesson, "Reading & Questions" - based on your reading and independent research, and "Activities" - here's where the fun begins!  

Each lesson offers suggestions for activities you can do as you get to know your state better.  From creating a postcard, charting monthly temperatures, creating topographic maps to even visiting historic sites.  This units blends social studies, science and your own literature seamlessly.  It becomes a complete unit study of your state as you work through the guide together.

You know, we could not pass up the opportunity...  since we are living in San Antonio, we visited the Alamo and the Riverwalk during our field trips lesson! 

This guide recommends two state-related field trips - we love taking our learning out and about!  
I love the easy-to-use format of this guide.  You could use this with any state, or even over and over to study EVERY state - if you wanted to.  
Moving Beyond the Page offers many units to choose from in six different age levels (4-14).  You can create a one-of-a-kind custom education for your child.  Moving Beyond the Page is affordable, easy-to-use and comprehensive.  I know you will be impressed with each and every unit, we have been!

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Experience History through Music: A Review

Diana Waring introduces her Experience History Through Music book and CD combos, and I get to be among the first to tell you about them!

America The Heart of a New Nation
Westward Ho! Heart of the Old West
Musical Memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Each book/CD combo costs $18.99 each. If you buy all three in July you can get the set for $50!

Check out this video to get a taste of  history songs you won't be able to forget!  

This is John Standefer on YouTube. He was one of the main studio musicians on the recordings (and one of the four partners who produced the original books/tapes).

America: The Heart of a New Nation - "From the French and Indian War to the first transcontinental railroad, America is a chronological tour of American history through its music. Enjoy the songs and stories of our past that have been shared from generation to generation—songs that make you laugh, make you cry, and make your patriotic spirit soar."  The CD includes:

1. Yankee Doodle 
2. Star Spangled Banner
3. Erie Canal 
4. Oh, Susanna 
5. Sweet Betsy From Pike 
6. All Night, All Day 
7. Old Dan Tucker 
8. Wade In The Water 
9. Johnny Has Gone For A Soldier 
10. When Johnny Comes Marching Home 
11. Shenandoah 
12. Git Along L'il Dogies
13. Drill Ye Tarriers 
14. Polly Wolly Doodle 
15. She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain 
16. Old Joe Clark

Westward Ho! "America's westward expansion is amazingly rich in stories and songs. InWestward Ho!, you will find the pioneer spirit that stirred the hearts of thousands of Americans to leave the safety and comfort of home expressed in folk songs of or about that time. Now you can experience the pioneers' adventures, dangers, joys, sorrows and hopes as you join in and sing along"  

The .CD includes:
1. Apple Picker's Reel
2. Boll Weevil
3. Missionary's Farewell
4. Oh, California
5. Ho! For California
6. San Juan Pig War
7. Chisholm Trail
8. Westward Ho!
9. Home On The Range
10. Little Old Sod Shanty
11. Strawberry Roan
12. Old Settler
13. Gooey Duck
14. Little Cabin in the Cascade Mountains

Laura Ingalls Wilder  - "The well-loved stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder will come to life all over again as you listen to the songs that were a part of life for the Ingalls and thousands of other pioneering families. Written by William Anderson, noted Laura Ingalls Wilder biographer, the book also includes beautiful photos by internationally known Little House photographer, Leslie A. Kelly.

The CD includes:
1. Wait for the Wagon
2. Green Grows the Laurel
3. The Old Chariot
4. Buy a Broom
5. Sweet By and By
6. Rock me to Sleep
7. Buffalo Gals
8. A Railroad Man for Me
9. Beware
10. Pop! Goes the Weasel
11. Oft in the Stilly Night
12. The Girl I left Behind Me
13. My Sabbath Home

I am so excited to share this resource with you!  I truly believe the best history lessons are those that we get to EXPERIENCE in some way.  Diana Waring has long been a favorite of mine - her history lessons have breathed life into our studies, over and over.  Now, she's bringing back a NEW (old ) favorite  Experience History Through Music books and CDs - you need to take a minute to read the story of restoration HERE!   

Each book contains short history lessons, pictures, and sheet music for the songs on the accompanying music CD. The CDs feature approximately 40 – 50 minutes of American Folk music.

 Since we love learning on the go (aka - "van school") these CDs were a great way for us to enjoy listening together - plus, everyone is buckled in, a "captive" audience!

With the rabid (that's what the boys call us...) Little House on the Prairie fans in this house, you can guess which one of the books we liked the most... (Of course, we loved all of them)

 The Laura Ingalls Wilder book is filled with beautiful, black and white photographs taken by Leslie A. Kelly. Mr. Kelly traveled to the home sites of Laura Ingalls Wilder to capture these photos while following his family's interest in this amazing American pioneer girl.  My girls were delighted with these stories.  Last summer we made our own trek to visit Laura's home site at Pepin, WI - home to Little House in the Big Woods.  

Diana Waring is not only the author of the books, but also a female vocalists on the CDs.

 Having been a lifelong fan of all things Little House myself,  I was surprised by how many new and interesting facts and stories that Diana Waring included in this book! 

 My girls loved the actual photographs of Laura and her family as well as the pictures of her home sites.

The music is so well done.  Very professional.  And even though the boys would never admit it - they enjoyed it too!!

This is a perfect complement to your Little House on the Prairie studies, or just a way to enjoy our American heritage!  I guarantee you'll find yourself singing along in no time.  For those of you who are musically inclined - Diana Waring has included sheet music for all the songs in the books as well.  Now, I just have to get my son, Sam to fire up his fiddle for us... :-)

With our history focus for the upcoming year being America - I couldn't wait to preview America: The Heart of a New Nation.  Since we usually focus on history from a worldwide standpoint, I have come to realize we are in need of an in-depth year studying our great country.  Recently,  I realized that my sweet children didn't know much about the Star-Spangled Banner... yikes! 

Out came the CD - and now, we not only know the history behind our national anthem, but we can sing, and/or play along.  So, if you are following a classical 4 year world  history cycle, you may want to pick up this book set to have a fun way of introducing a bit more depth to your American history knowledge.

 I actually enjoyed this CD so much, I listened to it ALL BY MYSELF!  Just for fun!  These CDs are something the entire family will enjoy.

Westward Ho!  is the next musical adventure we are enjoying. With our recent move to Texas, our family has become enamored with horses, cowboys, and "Home on the Range". This book and CD have been the perfect complement as we begin to study the history of our state. But, not only Texas - the wide frontier is waiting for you in this book and CD.  Boll Weevils, the Goldrush, the San Juan Pig War, and more - will forever capture the adventure of the American pioneers in your family's imaginations!

Once again, Diana Waring brings history to life, and makes it unforgettable.  These are an excellent resource that belong on every bookshelf and CD player in America.  Thanks Diana!

Don't miss out on the amazing Giveaway - ending July 4th!  Over $700 in prizes from Diana and her friends - you could be the winner!