Friday, August 17, 2018

God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn from Julie Polanco: A TOS Crew Review

Julie Polanco Books
God Schooling book

God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn from Julie Polanco

Julie Polanco BooksIt's good to take some time and remind yourself of the importance of this homeschooling journey!  I've just finished reading God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn from Julie Polanco.  

The author, Julie Polanco, is a veteran homeschooling mom of four, graduating her first child in 2016 (my first graduated in 2016!).  She writes for the  The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Home Education Magazine, many trade publications, and has developed a high school botany course for

This 9 chapter book is divided into 2 parts:  Dispelling Myths and Practice.

 In the first part, Julie outlines the Biblical support for natural learning, and talks about motivation and excellence.  I was drawn in right away.  I have homeschooled for 16 years, and have seen many different approaches, and used many of them myself.  I've never actually followed an "unschooling" style schedule like the author, so I was fascinated to read her descriptions.  I found my self agreeing with many of her points!  The freedom vs. enslavement to curriculum and programming, the reliance on the Lord to direct our path, and a reminder to avoid the world's deceptive philosophies all resonated with my heart.  I didn't always agree with her points, but I find it helps me better define my beliefs when I get a chance to read a different opinion.

In the chapter - Motivation & Excellence, she describes the difference between external and internal motivation.  She makes many valid points about encouraging the internal motivation of our children to learn without external rewards, she calls them "bribes".  I may tend to disagree with her here... I have used external motivators very successfully to help train my children into developing internal motivation.  Especially in the area of instrument practice!  However, I really enjoyed reading this chapter and picking up new ideas along the way.

The second part of the book focuses on the "Practice" part of walking a path of natural learning.

Julie includes chapters for each age group - children under Eight,  ages 8-12, and teens.  No matter where you are on this journey, it is refreshing to read from someone who has "been there, done that".  She makes many statements which sound like facts, but should be taken more as generalizations from her own experience.  I have taught many children, including my own, during our co-op years.  It has taught me that there are very few hard "facts" about how children learn! Nevertheless, there are many gems of encouragement in these chapters.

The final chapters discuss how to get started, what record keeping looks like, and some common questions and answers.  

Each chapter includes a page of Study Questions you can use to discuss the book together.  This would make a great homeschool mom style book club read.  

The Bibliography is a tool for you as well!  Julie has done her research, and the book is filled with quotes from well known and respected leaders in the home education field.

I enjoyed reading this book, even if I found that I didn't always agree with every point. If you are needing some encouragement, contemplating making a change to your approach, or struggling to find the joy - you may want to pick up your own copy!  Through August 22, 2018 you can purchase the e-book for 1/2 the price on Amazon.

God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn {Julie Polanco Reviews}

Find Julie Polanco on Social Media: 

Facebook: @juliepolancobooks

#hsreviews, #GodSchooling, #ChristianUnschooling, #RelaxedHomeschooling
See what other members of the Crew thought here
God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn {Julie Polanco Reviews}
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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Paddington Bear Literature Study from Branch Out World: A TOS Crew Review

Branch Out World
Picture Book Explorers - Paddington
Paddington Bear Literature Study from Branch Out World

We had time for one last adventure before we get back to school... Paddington Bear Literature Study from Branch Out World was our choice!

This literature study is designed for ages 5-10.  My testers are on the older side of the range, but they loved it!   It is based on the picture book - Paddington Bear by Michael Bond. You can find this book at the library easily.  We found a Youtube video that is narrated to enjoy together.  Since my testers are older, we also brought out my beloved 1958 copy of the novel to read aloud together as well.

The study is a 69 page downloadable PDF in the Picture Book Explorer series by Branch Out World.  They have 23 studies available in a variety of topics, so you're sure to find one for you!

The study is very versatile.  You can print only what you need.  I like a hard copy, so I printed it all and put it in a handy binder, it makes it easier for me to plan out our activities.

 Branch Out World's mission is to encourage family times and learning by sharing books together, exactly my mission!  The core of the study is to share the book together with the aim of truly loving learning.  The study includes over 20 activities you can pick and choose from to explore together further.  It is organized into 5 days, but you can take as long as you'd like.

Day 1- Explore the Setting - this is the when and where of the story as well as the theme.  For this story, we focused on England and Peru.  The study includes outline maps, flags, timelines, fact sheets and minibooks you can create.  Since we love geography, we took time to camp out in this day and explore both countries more in-depth.

The Fact Sheets are filled with information.  Since the study is produced in Britain, my testers loved getting to see the metric system really is used by the rest of the world!

Day 2- Exploring the Words - This section works with the literary devices and grammar. Activities included comparing the picture book with the chapter book to see any differences.  My testers really enjoyed listening and discussing how the illustrations in the picture book made the story come more alive.

Day 3- Exploring the Pictures - Works with illustrations and gives them the opportunity to create their own art work.  A discussion of architectural features had them noticing new things!  My testers told me the "balusters & balustrade" on our stairs needed dusting... I helped her find the dust cloth ;-)

Day 4- Exploring Science - Uses the themes in the book, for example- bears, to explore science further.  Experiments with shaving cream and steam are easy to implement and great sensory activities.  My testers were fascinated by bears.  We're planning a trip to the zoo to check them out!

Day 5- Exploring Maths, Crafts & More - Plenty of interesting activities to choose from in this section!  From shaving cream art to packing to cooking together.  This is where the love of learning is truly born. My testers loved creating their own English tea party with their favorite bears.

I love the variety of this study, with plenty of suggestions to inspire you and your children.  I think it would make an excellent addition to our Coop literature classes as well.  Go ahead, you have time for another adventure!

Paddington Bear {Branch Out World Reviews}
Find Branch Out World on Social Media: 

Facebook: @BranchOutWorld
Pinterest: @belzibow
Instagram: @belzibow
Twitter: @belzibow

#hsreviews, #BOWresources, #projectfuntolearn, #PictureBookExplorers

Paddington Bear {Branch Out World Reviews}
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Monday, August 13, 2018

Date Night - San Antonio Style!

It's been a long year fighting cancer.  Recently we took time for a much needed date night.

Dinner at La Fogata - complete with our own mariachi band, and song.

The Wizard of Oz at the Woodlawn Theater.  One of Matt's former employees stole the show as the Lion!

Grateful for the chance to spend time together!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Byline from Clear Water Press: A Bentz Bunch Review

 Byline  from Clear Water Press

Byline is an exciting new writing curriculum from Clear Water Press for students in 8-12th grades.  This video-taught curriculum will have your students exploring history and journalism by becoming "chronojournalists" for a 1930's era newspaper and "Giving yesterday's news today".

Along their journey they will learn the art of essay writing, journalism, note-taking, history and plenty of critical thinking skills while earning a full high school English credit, and a .5 History credit (with a few extra assignments)!

The program contains 72 video lessons that are available on DVD or can be streamed from your internet ready device. Each lesson is about 15-20 minutes long, and you can complete the program in a school year by watching 3 lessons per week. You can Watch Sample Lessons » to see for yourself.

The video lessons work together with The Training Manual.  The Training Manual contains lessons and 22 writing projects that correspond with the videos plus additional articles for the student to read to expand their knowledge.  Your student will learn the art of essay writing in • Expository• Descriptive • Persuasive , & • Narrative styles.

The Reporter's Notebook and 2 printed newspapers round out the student portion of the program.

  •  The Reporter's Notebook is a spiral bound notebook that is designed to be used by the student.  It helps reinforce the lessons, and encourages them to hone their observation skills.

  • The Newspapers - The Retro Metro and The Metropolitan World are included to inspire your students and provide examples of journalism.   

The Teacher's Guide contains everything you need to help your student.  Grading and evaluation, assigned readings, weekly lesson guides, and unit tests and answer keys.

The entire program is broken down into 4-week units that focus on teaching the "six serving men" of Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.

During the year, they will get a chance to explore both journalism and history.  This was our favorite part of the program!  Here a several of the famous personalities we were introduced to:

• Rudyard Kipling
• Mark Twain
• Nellie Bly
• Ernest Hemingway
• Jacob Riis
• James Connolly
• H. L. Mencken
• Jack London
• Joseph Pulitzer
• Damon Runyon
• Lincoln Steffens
• Ida Tarbell
• Ray Stannard Baker
• Grantland Rice
• Russell B. Porter
• Mary Ann Shadd
• William Allen White
• Richard Harding Davis

We used Byline with our high school Co-op.  We had 12 students, grades 9-12th.  It was a great fit for our various ages and grades. If your are looking for a writing program that will inspire your students to want to write, Byline is it.  Our students were ready to be challenged, but not by another checklist.

While this program can be used independently, it works very well in a group setting.  Our students occasionally watched the teaching videos together with the DVD, and occasionally streamed them during outside class time. Coop licenses are available from Clear Water Press.  One benefit of using Byline in our Coop was the opportunity for our students to peer review each other's writing.  We even created our very own "PEACE Pulitzer" prize.

The students loved the historical material included in Byline.  Some of the writing projects included essays on Irena Sendler, the Hindenburg, and Nelly Bly.  Our students really enjoyed exploring the lesser-known events in history. A friend, who is a college journalism professor, was impressed as I told him about Byline.  He told me he, "never gets freshman who knows who Nellie Bly was!"

Many writing assignments were more journalism-themed with various writing projects like scenic leads,  hyberbolic warnings (a class favorite to share),  orchestra reviews, and muckraking.  Our students learned to spot biases and propaganda, a very useful skill for everyday life.

By the time your student completes the program, they will have written over 9,000 words!  If you have a younger student, flex-assignments are included that you can customize to their level.

The videos were very professionally done.  Daniel Schwabauer teaches in a relaxed, easy-to-understand way as their "editor-in-chief".  Along the way, the students get the chance to meet Madge Whitherspoon, the "owner" of the newspaper they are writing for.  Mr. S has put care into creating videos that are not only educational, but also entertaining with attention to every detail!

One of the benefits from Byline was that our students starting reading and evaluating news differently.  My students starting to notice propaganda in new ways.  Not only did they improve their writing skills, they improved their thinking skills!

Daniel Schwabauer is an entertaining and knowledgeable teacher. He varies his approaches in the video lessons, and keeps their interest captured throughout the program.

Byline is so much fun, they don't even realize it's a writing program....shhh - don't tell them!  I guarantee your students will learn a lot and have fun doing it with Byline.

Be sure to check out other products from Clear Water Press:

One Year Adventure Novel - 9-12th grades.  We've done this one too!  Your students write their own adventure novel.

Cover Story - 6-8th grades.  We're doing this one this year!  Students create their own magazine.

I was given a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest and personal opinion.  

Monday, August 6, 2018

My July Birthdays!

It seems like we are always celebrating someone's birthday around here.

July was Sam's big 21 and Lydia's 14  - I'm starting to feel old when I can have a drink with my child... I love being a mom!

21 Candles!!

She's a beautiful young lady now!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Babylon Fun!

My sweet girls just spent several days transported to ancient Babylon at Oak Hills Church! Everyone came in costume, so glad I can sew.  Aren't they adorable??

They were in the tribe of's their "tent".

  They had a wonderful time - baking bread, making pottery, chariot racing and dancing!  The church was transformed... for hundreds of children!

Way to go Oak Hills!!

Project Passport World History Studies: Renaissance & Reformation from Homeschool in the Woods: A TOS Crew Review

Home School in the Woods

Project Passport World History Studies: Renaissance & Reformation from Home School in the Woods

I love history that transports you back in time!  We have been taken on an adventure with Project Passport World History Studies: Renaissance & Reformation from Home School in the Woods.

This downloadable program, designed for grades 3-8,  contains 25 "stops" that will take you to experience the Renaissance & Reformation.  It's one in a series of world history studies - you can purchase each era, or the Complete Project Passport Collection. (the newest Project Passport: Ancient Rome is now available!)

This study is packed with activities!  It contains everything you'll need for a full unit study of history - all you add is the printer, and basic supplies. The entire study is approx. 8-12 weeks of study.  The planning has all been done for you. In the edition we explored, the Renaissance & Reformation we had stops that covered:

  • Italy & Da Vinci
  • Everyday Life
  • Renaissance Art
  • Famous Artists of the Renaissance
  • Music of the Renaissance
  • Literature, Drama, & Shakespeare
  • Science, Math and Astronomy
  • Inventions
  • Exploration: The Americas
  • Exploration:Africa, Asia, and Around the World
  • The Early Reformers
  • Martin Luther
  • The Thirty Years' War
  • Zwingli and Switzerland
  • John Calvin
  • France & Wars of Religion
  • Henry VIII
  • Henry's Children
  • Civil War
  • Knox and Scotland
  • The Counter-Reformation

 Let me show you...

Each stop begins with a "Travel Iternerary" which will outline exactly what you need for this lesson.  Each stop contains a variety of options that you can customize to your family.  Over 50 activities like timelines, creative writing, lapbooking, notebooking, mapping, cooking, games and fun hands-on projects are all included.

The "Guide Book" on each stop is a well-researched and comprehensive summary of the particular topic.  This is the "meat" of this program, it's much more than just the projects!  In addition, many stops also include audio tours that you can listen to as well.

To begin, I like to sit down and spend time printing out everything I need.  The study walks you through exactly what you need, it's very easy (but, you do want to have an extra ink cartridge handy).  Several ongoing projects are included - the Scrapbook of Sights and a Lapbook.

We really love lapbooking around here.  It creates a project that my students are really proud to show off, and we use them over as review tools.  Here is our lapbook we created with this study:

 Let me show you some of our favorite hands on projects:

 My sweet testers love a chance to create!  In this study, we made our very own tiaras while learning about France's Wars of Religion.  The hands on projects really make the learning come off the page and memorable.    They took an idea for masquerade masks from the lesson on Everyday life and have been wearing them ever since!  This is my test of great they personalize it and play with it?

The Renaissance is a time of art, so of course - we tried our hands at making frescos!

One of our favorite activities included was the game "Mercenary Madness" - you can read an entire review about the games.  They were learning and laughing the whole time.  Shhh...don't tell them they are doing school!

Additional Resources are recommended that you can add to the study.  You will be completely impressed with the depth of this study - and you will never want boring history textbooks again!  I promise.

Be sure to check out this series:
Project Passport Ancient Rome

Project Passport World History Studies

Check out some of the other amazing products from Home School in the Woods that the Crew has been enjoying:

Hands-on-History, Project Passport, À La Carte Timelines and Time Travelers {Home School in the Woods Reviews}
Find Home School in the Woods on Social Media:

Hashtags: #hsreviews #historystudies #worldhistory #americanhistory #historytimelines #historycurriculum

 Hands-on-History, Project Passport, À La Carte Timelines and Time Travelers {Home School in the Woods Reviews}
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