Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

A favorite family tradition  - our Thankful Tree!   We start in early November, adding leaves with things we are thankful for.  

We are blessed - we pray you are too!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis from Writing with Sharon Watson: A TOS Crew Review

Writing with Sharon Watson
Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis from Writing with Sharon Watson
We have another favorite from Writing with Sharon Watson We are loving Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis from Writing with Sharon WatsonThis literature curriculum is designed for grades 9-12th, and is a full year of study.  Be sure to also check out the first volume - Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide {Crew Reviews} - they can be done in any order.
Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis comes in a 4 book set (3 physical softcovers, and one a reproducible PDF download):

  • Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis Paperback
  • Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis, Teacher’s Guide
  • Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis, Quiz and Answer Manual
  • Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crises Novel Notebook {PDF}
Illuminating Literature: Characters in CrisisIlluminating Literature: Characters in Crisis

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis

This volume covers both short stories and books - 

  • “A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell, in the textbook
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Dover Publications
  • Silas Marner by George Eliot, Dover Publications
  • Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, Dover Publications
  • An Assortment of Short Stories:
  • “A White Heron” by Sarah Orne Jewett, in the textbook
  • “The Garden of Forking Paths” by Jorge Luis Borges, link provided
  • “Haircut” by Ring Lardner, link provided
  • “The Lady, or the Tiger?” by Frank Stockton, in the textbook
  • “Of the Passing of the First-Born” by W. E. B. Du Bois, in the textbook
  • “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by Dylan Thomas, link provided
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, Dover Publications
  • Biography or autobiography of student’s choice
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, Mariner Books

The author recommends using the coordinating versions listed by ISBN number in the Teacher's Guide - the benefit is that all the exercises are keyed to specific page numbers for your student.  The short stories are included in the textbook, or with a provided link.  

I don't even know where to start with telling you how much I adore this curriculum!  Literature is one of our favorite subjects, and we love a focus on the classics with upper level thinking (and no twaddle!) Especially in high school. This curriculum exceeds all of my expectations.

First - The Teacher Guide walks you through step-by-step how to get your children involved in the Great Conversation of literature.  It includes everything you need: from a planning guide with fun ideas for a Book-of-the-Month club (coming soon to Bentz Academy - working out the details now!) to a detailed answer key and guide for each of the literary works covered and grading rubrics and online quizzes (graded for you).

This, I believe, is where most of the homeschool moms I know have the hardest time.  Making the transition from just reading literature with their students to truly studying literature in-depth.  Sharon Watson gives you everything you need - from Facebook posts with interesting facts for you to share with your students, to quality discussion questions/answers, to a full "Choice of Activities" to really bring your student's literature to life - i.e. research, create, rewriting the story, hands on activities, and more!

The Student Text is written directly to the student in a very engaging and interesting manner.  It includes pre-reading activities and a suggested reading schedule and a homework plan to help your student manage their time.  The course is designed for you to spend approx. 3-4 weeks on each novel/story. This course can be done at-home, or it makes a perfect Co-op class (our Co-op is currently offering her other course).  

Literary terms are clearly defined and discussed.  The short stories are all included in the text.  After reading, the text includes passwords for the online quizzes (which are graded for you), questions for discussion, and their choice of activities to bring the literature to life.

The Quiz & Answer Manual is included for those who prefer paper.  Each literature choice includes a "Yes, I Read It" quiz, and a "Literary Terms" quiz.  These are excellent ways to test your student's comprehension and understanding.  The books also include an "Opinion Survey" that allow your student to express themselves and apply lessons from the literature to their own worlds.

The Novel Notebook - this is a 86 page, downloadable PDF in full-color.  You can download as many as you need for your students, or just the pages you want them to complete.  It includes questions and worksheets your student can complete to go along with each piece of literature studied.  Here a just a few examples - 

Now - on to all the ways I love this course!  

  • It's written from a decidedly Christian worldview.  All of the characters in literature may not be Christians, but they can and do reflect our human condition and God's grace.  This course helps our students understand and apply these lessons through literature.
  • The discussions -  What a joy it is to discuss high-quality literature with your students!  We started with "A Jury of Her Peers" first, and we are still discussing it. Having both sons and daughters in my test group - we had some very heated discussions.   Sharing literature with your high schoolers will be one of your greatest homeschooling memories...I promise!  This course gives you all the tools you need to really get to heart issues.
  • The extras.  Sharon Watson has really gone above and beyond to craft a well-rounded literature study. There is something to engage every single learning style.  The variety will keep your students engaged and learning.  The depth of the study will give them the preparation they need for college study.
This is by far, our favorite literature study for high school.  You will want to check this one out!
Find Writing with Sharon Watson on Social Media:

Hashtags:  #hsreviews #highschoolwriting #writingcurriculum

See what other members of the Crew thought here
Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis {Writing with Sharon Watson Reviews}
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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The "Real" Us

For the first time in several years, we got real family pics!  Aside from everyone complaining that they needed to wear sweaters (in 90 degree weather) they turned out wonderful!!  I need a great Christmas card this year... and you can't wear shorts and tanks in Christmas cards, even if you live in South Texas!

So - if you haven't see us for awhile...  we have 4 boys and 4 girls (makes for great, balanced pictures!)  Here they are - from top to bottom:

 While they may pose nice (and some of them are definite posers!)  This is really who they are... 

My greatest JOY!!

Thanks Jenny for the amazing pics!!

Forbrain from Sound for Life LTD: A TOS Crew Review

Forbrain Sound for Life LTD
Forbrain Sound for Life LTD

Forbrain from Sound for Life LTD

Do you have any struggling readers, speech issues, or even memory struggles?  We have been testing a revolutionary new device - Forbrain from Sound for Life LTD.  
Check out this video:

This rechargable headset is designed to help the wearer improve verbal and memory skills. It is designed for ages 3 to adult.  By using your own audio-verbal loop - you can hear your voice accurately - their motto is  use your voice to boost your brain”. 

 Forbrain comes in a sturdy, zippered case for storage and contains the rechargeable headset, USB charging cord, User manual/instructions, and extra microphone covers.
This headset has several components:
  •  Dynamic Filter - which enhances speech frequency and keeps your brain active 
  • Bone Conduction transducers - these sit right next to your ear (not in or on them) and transmits the sound of your voice 10 times faster and with better clarity
  • High quality Microphone

My tester is 10 years old, and has struggled with speech and reading.  She is also my "techie" kid, so I had no problem introducing a new gadget (and she feels super cool wearing it). 

Forbrain recommends wearing the headset for 10-15 minutes twice a day for her age (slightly longer for adults).  The ability to clearly hear your own voice has many benefits including auditory processing, reading fluency, memory and more.  

My tester has really struggled with reading aloud clearly.  She inserts many vocal pauses and odd "em, um, ahh" sounds while she reads.  So, we decided to give Forbrain a test everytime she read aloud, as well as, when she read independently.

 Right away, you notice how loud your voice is.  It takes a bit of getting used to, hearing your voice (and actually "feeling" it too).  I tried it on, and used it while reading aloud as well.

My tester loved using it!  I had her wear it anytime she was reading aloud, or working on reading exercises.  The company recommends 6 weeks of use to see results.  However, after just a few uses - we started noticing improvements!

My tester says it helps her "focus" on what she's reading.  I've noticed a dramatic decrease in her vocal pauses when she reads to me.  Another comment from my tester - "I like reading alone in my room, and I don't feel lonely, because I hear myself". :-)

Forbrain is easy to use, and surprisingly effective.  My tester plans to keep using it.  You will want to check it out!

Forbrain Sound for Life LTD

Find Forbrain on Social Media: 

Hashtags: #hsreviews, #forbrain #ADD #ADHD #sensoryintegration

Forbrain Sound for Life LTD

Forbrain {Sound For Life Ltd Review}

Crew Disclaimer
Note from vendor:

It is a headset which can be used by Children and Adults. Designed for people with Attention difficulties, Speech and language issues, poor memory.  It needs to be used once or twice a day for 15 minutes each and for at least 6 weeks. Minimum age is 4.

Note from me:

From the website, they talk about how this device can improve attention, concentration, verbal working memory, and short-term memory.  


One of the classes I teach at our Co-op is called "Current Events/Worldview".

We have been doing a variety of current event related activities using our World News.  AND, we have been using Sonlight's Worldview curriculum to study the major world religions with the acronym THUMB (tribal, hindu, unreligious, muslim, buddhist)

My students have taken up the challenge to collect all the spare change they can find for our "generous jar".

This week - we discussed the Hindu religion.  I shared my India experiences - including our very own version of henna tattoos (washable markers).  They were challenged to create a henna design they could use to share their faith.  Do you see the crosses?

 Here's my last henna in India - it was truly a work of art.   I miss India...

Friday, November 10, 2017


Here it is, photographic proof that MY cat is the smartest pet in the house!   The others take a nap, while my cat studies 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens (and pets).

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Thin Stix Creativity Pack from The Pencil Grip, Inc.: A TOS Crew Review

Thin Stix Creativity Pack
Thin Stix Creativity Pack from The Pencil Grip, Inc.

We LOVE our new - Thin Stix Creativity Pack from The Pencil Grip, Inc.!  We have been long-time fans of these no-mess paints, and now it's even better with 24 colors in one pack!
Each Thin Stix is a self-contained painting tool.  All you need to do is take off the cap and paint - no brushes, no water and NO MESS.  Can I hear the amen from the moms? 
These handy pens are filled with solid tempera paint that drys in 90 seconds.  They paint on a wide variety of surfaces - like paper, wood and cardboard easily.   The Creativity Pack has 24 colors, the 12 basics, PLUS 6 metallic and 6 neon colors.  This is taking creativity to a whole new level...
Thin Stix Creativity Pack
The Metallic colors are a new family favorite - the little bit of sparkle brings the colors to life.

Thin Stix Creativity Pack

The Neons are bold and bright!
Thin Stix Creativity Pack
Thin Stix are thinner than the Kwik Stix for better control.  They are designed for ages 3+ (but, completely non-toxic, just in case) ALL of my testers love them.  They go on smooth, and are very easy to use. In fact, my testers claim painting has never been more fun.

We couldn't wait to use them!  I love how they are mess-free (see...she's painting on the carpet - it's where we do school most days, excuse the mess)  My testers have even taken these on road trips and painted in the van - check out my review from last summer.

The ways to use them are only as limited as their imagination.  My testers were assigned to create a "coat of arms" that described themselves for our Co-op history class.  All ages - grades 3rd -12th.  Fortunately, this treasure had just arrived -Thin Stix to the rescue.

They really are good for all ages - my SENIOR loved using them just as much as the younger students.  

The end result was something they could be proud of.  The new metallics were the perfect touch.  The colors are vibrant, cover completely, and don't smudge like markers can. 

With the holidays around the corner, these would make an excellent gift or stocking stuffer!  They are truly a must-have in the homeschool supply chest.

Find The Pencil Grip, Inc. on Social Media:

Twitter: @thepencilgrip

Hashtags: #hsreviews #KwikStix, #temperapaint, #kidsartsupplies
Thin Stix Creativity Pack {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}

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