Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Kicking Story Time Up a Notch: A StoryTime Treasures Review

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review
My house is most certainly a reading house.  On a typical morning the kids will drink their smoothies while perusing the closest book pile and my husband is always reading something new.  Since the first of the year he's made it through Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre and currently working on The Count of Monte Cristo (and yes I do realize he's one of a kind!).  We like our books so getting a chance to use and review StoryTime Treasures from Memoria Press was a promising opportunity for us.  
Memoria Press Literature Guides Review
Memoria Press is a family-run publishing company that produces educational materials that align with a classical education, which emphasizes language, mathematics and the cultural Christian West through works of history and literature.  For this review, we received the StoryTime Treasures Student Study Guide and StoryTime & More StoryTime Treasures Answer Key (one answer key for both collections), which is considered to be 1st grade curriculum.  It was very generous of Memoria to include the Study Guide for 5 stories when we might only have time to look at 2, if that. The activities in this study guide use real books (as opposed to books created for reading instruction) to teach and reinforce all kinds of language skills like vocabulary, punctuation, comprehension, and composition.  In college, I ended up studying the beginning of the 20th century in 3 different classes all in one semester.  From then on I have LOVED learning concepts from in the midst of real and varied venues.  This study guide pulls from each story important learning concepts on top of highlighting really great children's literature.  It's a rich combo!

During our review time, we were able to look at 2 stories out of the 5 available, Little Bear's Visit and Caps For Sale, and their corresponding activities.   Each book's activities were divided up into lessons that provided plenty of work for my young first grader.  In these two units of lessons alone, we were introduced to verbs, characters, setting, and verb tense as well as vocabulary, reading comprehension and even some math in Caps for Sale! While there is valuable content surrounding each book, in this collection there is no required order so jumping around - at least in this set - would not hurt one bit. 

We started with Little Bear's Visit and tried to work on a half a lesson to a whole lesson per day a few times a week.  There is quite a bit of writing involved and my son did tire of that pretty quickly (though he is young and activity driven so it wasn't surprising).  If we didn't get to everything some days we would finish it up during our nap or nighttime story time.  Toward the end sometimes I would skip the actual writing of the answers (because it took the longest and resisted the most by my son) and work on the understanding of things orally.  Cutting down or eliminating the handwriting portion would definitely make this collection suitable for engaged kindergarten level students. 

For each book, which included 3 or 4 lessons in the Study Guide, there was Comprehension Questions, Fill-in-the-blanks, Language Lessons (introduction to grammar terms), and Just for Fun sections that involved things like drawing or simple math.  The Answer Key includes a half page on each lesson of all 12 stories in StoryTime Treasures and More StoryTime treasures with corresponding answers for every question or activity. I didn't use the Answer Key very much because of my familiarity with language concepts, but it helped to make sure we weren't missing something intended.  

 When ordering this curriculum you are given the option to buy the literature along with the Study Guide.  They are great books to have in your own library, but it isn't required to purchase them, which is nice because all of them are available at our local library.  On most pages there is a downloadable sample page to view a portion of the actual text before committing to a purchase.

As a literature lover in college, this curriculum reminded me of all the classes in college where we discussed books continually! It provides so many opportunities to discuss matters beyond just an answer on the page. I loved it!  If your student(s) are older, Memoria has a great assortment of curriculum for every grade level that continues and enhances this dynamic with all kinds of literature.

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review
Memoria Press Literature Guides Review
As teachers and learners, we are all in need of differing things so in the younger grade levels if you are looking for work that is predominantly independent, this might not be what you are looking for.  We're still trying to reach reading fluency with my son so this really did take our story time to a new level!  Thankfully, our reading house didn't mind one bit!

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review
Crew Disclaimer

Friday, March 25, 2016

Don't Let the Proverbs 31 Woman Scare You

Whenever we read about the Proverbs 31 woman, most of us come away feeling intimidated and lacking.  She does everything right, she is everything right and all the people around her evidently know it and love her for it.  I'd be happy with just one of these being true about me, much more all three!  My terribly talented cousin just started her own cookie making business and after talking about all the ins and outs of that, I thought of this passage a little differently.  The seasons of being a wife and a mother are constantly changing.  Even if we all began our marriages with all of these skills, it is unlikely that they would all be required at the same time.  What struck me is how creative and resourceful we need to be as woman - just as this Proverbs woman was.  The needs of our family will change, just as our skills and opportunities will change.  This beautiful description of a worthy woman tells me that a worthy woman is resourceful and makes a way to get her family what they need - not a big reminder of where I fail.

Sometimes providing for my family is a 9-5 job.  Sometimes it is a side business or making things myself.  The important thing I read in it is our willingness as woman to utilize what we have to gain what we need.  And in honor of doing just that, check out my cousin's new venture.  If you are local to Oklahoma City area and are in need of some delicious and beautifully decorated cookies, check out the Oklahoma Cookie Jar.  She brought some just for my family to try a couple of weeks ago so I can vouch for them. Delicious! 


Especially in this age of information, a successful - worthy - woman is one who acquires what she needs, not necessarily begins with it all from the start.  

Description of a Worthy Woman

10 An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
13 She looks for wool and flax
And works with her [h]hands [i]in delight.
14 She is like merchant ships;
She brings her food from afar.
15 She rises also while it is still night
And gives food to her household
And [j]portions to her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
From [k]her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds [l]herself with strength
And makes her arms strong.
18 She senses that her gain is good;
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her [m]hands grasp the spindle.
20 She [n]extends her hand to the poor,
And she stretches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household,
For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
And [o]supplies belts to the [p]tradesmen.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the [q]future.
26 She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the [r]teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
29 “Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who [s]fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
31 Give her the [t]product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Maybe Popularity Is the Last Thing You Need

One of the most universal desires is the need to be well liked.  From elementary school to the senior center, there will always be questions about fitting in or being like everyone else.  Starting around middle school and escalating through adolescence into adulthood, we all battle with cliques and feeling accepted by our peers.  It's natural. Often there is even a need to sacrifice minor preferences to encourage camaraderie and friendship.  The trouble is that fitting in quickly turns into an idol, sweeping away identity, character, and morals if we're not careful.  Parents, in our own insecurities, feel desperate to get the latest whatever for our kids so they might blend in and avoid childish scorn for being different.  And, honestly, I get it.  I have always hated feeling different or left out.  Pick a category in life and I - at some point - felt negatively different than those around me. Unfortunately, my most defining memory from adolescence was the first one.  My first weekend away from my parents with friends and because I decided to 'like' the wrong guy (at least I think that's what I did wrong), I turned into the least preferred person and they fought over who had to sit by me in the car. Talk about trust issues, huh? :)  Believe me when I say that I understand the innate need to be liked and accepted.

Still, when we get caught up in always making sure we or our children are 'flying under the radar', we are losing out on the more important things.

Benefits of Living Different

1) Empathy.  When life doesn't ALWAYS go your way, you learn what it feels like.  Then, you can empathize and help others when life doesn't go their way (because it happens to everyone eventually).

2) Stronger Identity.  Popularity often requires your identity to be shaped by the masses.  Those masses, even the well-meaning ones, aren't usually around for very long and when they are their opinion changes.  When we are forced to decide who we want to be, in spite of the crowd, it really means something and sends out roots for a person of worth.

3) Above Average Results.  Going with the grain here in America, right now, will usually result in being an average American.  Average Americans are sick and out of shape, in a large amount of debt, addicted to something, unfaithful in their marriages, disconnected from their family and entrenched in illegal activity.  Unless we are intentionally working to gain the opposite of these, this is where Americans are naturally arriving. When we learn how to not fit in, we are learning the skills and discipline it takes to succeed where others don't.

Like so many things, a good life is a balanced life.  Is it wrong and awful to be a popular kid in high school?  Or is fitting in - maybe just because you're a likable guy - going to ruin your life? No and no.  There are lessons to be learned and opportunities to be taken on both sides of the cafeteria.  Let's just remember that being a good person far outweighs being an accepted person.  Some days I have to choose between the two.  If I don't recognize many of those days, then I'm probably choosing the latter by default.

Be different.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Lesson From a Tea Party

A few weeks ago, some friends of ours from church hosted a Tea Party for all of the girls at our congregation, complete with a personal makeover, hand-made tutus and yummy snacks!  Miss Z had been struggling to be convinced that she was in fact a girl because she wanted to be called a boy like J and her dad did UNTIL talk of this tea party where the boys wouldn't be allowed.  Only girls.  Since then she seems to have embraced her girl-ness.

If you have known me very long, you know I'm not a girly girl and all the princessy pink fru-fru isn't my idea of a good time.  Miss Z is pretty well-rounded on the matter so it works out pretty well for us.  Still, something very meaningful occurred that is worth noting and repeating many times in the future.  The hostess said a few words about the girls encountering others in the future - for the rest of their lives - that might not appreciate them or care about their feelings.  She told them that this event was to remind them how this group of females were there to support them and love them when difficult things come.  Isn't that what we all need?  I know that there are many women that would help me if I were to need it or ask, but asking is hard for me.  What happened for Miss Z is the beginning of physical reminders that she is not alone.  We need to hear that.  And not just once every few years.  Whether it come in tutus and tiaras or bowling and burgers, we all need to hear and see the ways we are not alone in this life.  Even when we may have to walk alone for a while, there should be others we can glance back at to gain courage and strength.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Stick Figure Through the Bible: A Grapevine Study Review

Birth of John to Jesus' Ministry {Grapevine Studies Review}

Incorporating the Bible into our family's life can never be overemphasized, but finding methods that honor the truth AND engage kids in a productive way is hard to come by.  In February, I was granted the opportunity to explore The Resurrection Study by GrapeVine Studies that proved to be a highly effective method to engage my 5 year old while familiarizing him with parts of scripture.  Considering the energy he brings to the table most days, that is a tall order, if you ask me!  

The phrase 'stick figuring through the Bible' reveals the genius of this study method and curriculum.  It is a known fact that taking notes or the act of writing down things as you listen to them helps to encourage recall and comprehension.  It is also known that a doodling mind is an imaginative one.  These studies begin with a stick figure timeline, break down scripture into small, easily illustrated chunks,  and provide the tools for parents/teachers to expand the ideas however is needed while using the Bible as its base.  When you have decided on a topic, you have several options depending on your needs:

Traceable Book
Traceable Family License eBook
Traceable Class License eBook
Student Book (Non-traceable)
Student Family License eBook
Student Class License eBook
Teacher Book
Teacher License eBook
Schedule - Daily PDF
Schedule - Weekly PDF

This is a nice assortment that will cover any age group as well as any setting like a large classroom or just your own children.  What I received for this review was a digital copy of The Resurrection Study for Multi-level Students - the Traceable version and Teacher's Book 

The traceable version has stick figure illustrations lightly drawn in for tracing, where the non-traceable version leaves everything blank.   The Teacher's Book provide lesson plans, the suggested stick figure illustrations with the intention of being drawn on a board and students copying it on their own paper and a great amount of bullet points to ensure main ideas are brought out.  While my circumstance was just one student and largely directed by his needs, in a classroom setting full of multiple kids, this Teacher's Book would be especially useful to engage from many angles.

 How we used it: For each lesson I would begin by reading the main verse(s).  Since my son is learning to read, I would have him read the title of each box (to be illustrated) and then have him trace each box as I read the corresponding verses, followed by discussion of the details.  For those of us who need to do something with our hands to better pay attention, this works beautifully!   At the end of each lesson are several review questions, memory verses and the opportunity to illustrate your favorite part however you would like. The resurrection event is discussed every Sunday to some extent during communion so he has been exposed to the subject regularly, but we haven't ever gone through the entire series of events together with him quite like this.  This was a great way to do it!  It wasn't some fancy orchestration or extensive prep work required.  Just reading the Bible and drawing.

If you're looking to energize Bible study and reading in your home - this is a great tool!  Any age, any skill level - this can be used to spark learning and creativity.  Large group? Classroom? GrapeVine is prepared with schedules, lesson plans, and great ideas for deeper learning!

Birth of John to Jesus' Ministry {Grapevine Studies Review}

Crew Disclaimer

Friday, March 4, 2016

Be Compassionate. Life is Hard.

Before you enter into a circumstance of life, it is common and easy to judge - rather harshly - those who have.  Outside looking in, they shouldn't do this and if they had a clue they would do that, right?  I've done it all - dating, marriage, pregnancy, children, etc.  Kids are the easiest to evaluate because their actions directly affect anyone in it's path, whether we like it or not.  One of the most common conversations I had for a while was with people without kids about parents (specifically moms) complaining about how hard their job was or always desperate to get away from their kids.  "You chose to have children, in most cases, so you don't get the right to just complain about them.  You picked this role so deal with it."  Some people are more compassionate to the circumstance than others, but it stood to reason in my mind that obviously this complaining was a lazy man's coping mechanism and well I would just be better than that when it was my turn.  Right? ;)

Yesterday, I think I read something about how complaining isn't good for your health and it is likely to be true.  Complaining about your boss or your kids or anything else isn't a healthy practice to have.  What I do believe is that this adult/marriage/parenting thing is waaay harder than any of us bargained for.  Most things seem doable on the showroom floor, outside real life where there aren't 7 other things happening simultaneously.  But suddenly here we are with reality punching us in the gut and so we start talking about it.  And then I start sounding exactly like that person I rolled my eyes at many moons ago that obviously was just doing life wrong because life isn't supposed to be that hard.

Real life

Grocery shopping day is a beating.

Be compassionate.  In our culture, we want it all and right now.  We expect things to be isolated and distinct, with clear expectations and no detours.  But living life with people doesn't usually work that way.  Tragedies strike to change a perfect setup.  Getting what you need in life often takes a good amount of time and sacrifice.  And even then, you would be surprised at the things that absolutely control life (rather than you).  Once this adulting is kicked into high gear, you learn things about yourself that inconvenience the daylights out of you.  Like how foggy your brain is if you don't exercise, but feel like you only have time to shower or exercise - not both! Or being a fabulous parent comes naturally to you until money gets tight or your spouse has to work late several nights in a row and then you just want to hide.  My favorite (because it is so true sometimes) is how perfect my marriage is until my spouse stops doing life my way!

Life is hard sometimes.

Life is just more complicated than we can ever imagine at first.  Be compassionate.  It's like deciding to ride the scariest, most loop-dee-loop roller coaster, ready for the wild adventure only to find out that on roller coasters like this, you get totally motion sick and throw up.  Be compassionate because life is a lot of trial and error.  Be compassionate when the complaining starts.  Be compassionate when the failing starts.  Despite all of the proper warning signs, sometimes in life we just didn't expect it and are now in shock.  Be compassionate.  Compassion should never justify wrong-doing or validate bad choices, but compassion demonstrates friendship and support.  Especially when we have completely made a mess of our life, we need (not necessarily deserve) compassion.

Adulting is hard.  Be compassionate.