Thursday, June 28, 2018

A Day in Traffic Court

Back in May, I got a ticket for speeding in a school zone.  All three kids were in the car and we were on the way to the store.  It was a route I had taken many times before so I had no excuse other than I was in a hurry and not paying attention.  The officer was very nice and even knocked the offence down so it wouldn't go on my record.  The kids were a little freaked out at first because they had never witnessed that before, but it was a wonderful real-life teachable moment about consequences and following rules.  A couple of weeks later I sat down to pay the fine online, printed off what I thought to be a confirmation page and moved on with life.

As it turns out, what I printed was just the submit payment page and my payment never went through.  There was no official record that I even tried to pay it, except for that printout and browser history.  But until last week when I received a letter from the city court informing me I have a warrant out for my arrest, I didn't know that.  Not only was there a warrant, but my $170 something fee turned into $590. Mr. Butler made a few calls, but facts were facts.  I either had to pay the larger amount or go stand before a judge and request part of the fee to waived.

So, let's just start this part off by saying this is one of my worst legit nightmares.  I've always had a reoccurring dream about being accused of something and not either getting to defend myself or not being believed when I do.  So standing before a judge telling him I really did try to pay my ticket and it was merely an oversight doesn't have much chance for success in my dreams.  Not to mention it's highly unlikely I'll even be able to put coherent sentences together fast enough to explain it in the first place.  So, seriously out of my comfort zone.

Mr. Butler was gracious enough to stay home with the kids (because can you imagine taking my circus in with me?) so I could try to get there early and over with quick.  Traffic was fine.  Parking was fine. My first stop was a customer service window in the courthouse.  The attendant listened kindly to my situation and confirmed what we had been told, "Only the judge can reduce fees."  His recommendation - no joke - was "Talk clear and quickly.  Maybe the judge will look at your papers (I brought my browser history and the printout).  Good luck!"  Good luck? Talk about sending more panic through me!

I found the room and the anxiety instantly started spiraling out of control.  I walked in and felt like I was on Judge Judy.  It was a courtroom, after all.  There were pews for the audience and waiting 'cases' and then a swinging door into the lawyers seating area.  In the middle was a microphone and podium where you were to plead your case.  The judge was an older man (60's probably) who mumbled a bit and was a little hard of hearing.  Something ELSE not in my favor.  The more nervous I get the more I'll mumble and speak quietly.  What I wouldn't have given for a "Beam me up, Scotty" opportunity right about then.

There were about a dozen people who went before me with various situations.  I certainly wasn't the worst dressed person in the room, but I felt like I was the most terrified one.  Thankfully, as each person was addressed, the judge was fair but kind.  He was interested in efficiency and didn't mince words, but never demonstrated harshness or disdain.  By the time I got up there I had witnessed him dismiss partial fees on over half of the complaints.  I had hope at least.

By the grace of God and the Holy Spirit calming my mind and giving me appropriate words, when I was called I did what needed to be done.  He didn't ask/need to see my papers either.  He waived all of the extra fees save $20 worth and even extended the payment  due date until October.  He was nice, the entire time spent in his presence wasn't more than 3 minutes, and I didn't shed a tear.  The waiving of fees and extension of due dates may be customary as long as you show up, but I had no way of knowing that going in.  So, the end result was a huge blessing to me.

Later that day, I went and voted too.  It was a very civic duty kind of day.  I'm not big into politics and I pray I (and my family) will always live a life that avoids legal conflicts as much as possible.  So, it's really not my thing, BUT I am so thankful for a political system (while not perfect) that often provides a safe and protected society for those that seek to do good.  This day certainly enhances my appreciation for what we celebrate on the 4th.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Grammar and Writing 3: A Hake Publishing Review

Hake Publishing
As we all know, how we speak and write effects so many things in our life.  Poor grammar at best suggests ignorance.  Weak writing skills implies that you don't care enough to do better.  Those may not be truths, but they are stereotypes our children may fall into.  That's why, if you will have a 3rd grader in the next few years, you might be interested in this review of Hake/Saxon Grammar and Writing 3 from Hake Publishing.  Starting around 2nd and 3rd grade, it can be really important to lay the groundwork for good language skills through reading and writing.  Finding the best curriculum for your child in this subject is so important which is why I'm thankful we're able to try this one out.
Hake Publishing Writing and Grammar
What We Received:
  • Grammar and Writing 3 with Daily Review Teacher Guide - Answer Keys and Tests - This includes a complete schedule for entire curriculum, a script of instruction for every lesson, tests (for reproducing) and answer keys.
  • Grammar and Writing 3 with Daily Review Consumable Textbook - This student book includes grammar meetings, daily lessons, and review sets that cover punctuation, parts of speech, spelling rules, dictionary skills and diagramming sentences.
  • Grammar and Writing 3 Writing Workbook - This includes corresponding lessons that highlight sentence composing and reinforces journal writing.

The Daily/Weekly Routine

Each lesson is intended to be done in order because everything builds on and reinforces what has already been taught.  Every lesson begins with a Grammar Meeting question that students are encouraged to discuss and answer in their journals (2-3 minutes).  Next is a Vocabulary discussion usually involving the Latin root and definition(2-3 minutes).  The Lesson portion of the day introduces a new concept and then works through several examples and practice questions (10-15 minutes). Finally, students are expected to work through a Review Set which includes sentence completion, fill in the blank and punctuation correction (20-30 minutes).  Tests are given every 5 lessons or so and instead of a lesson that day, students are to do a lesson out of the Writing Workbook. 

What We Thought

My only experience with Saxon products was from seeing the books my brother brought home from (public) school.  Up until this point I had not used them in a homeschool capacity.  The way the teacher's guide and schedule lines out the lessons, it really takes the prep time right out of this subject.  That is a nice bonus especially when you are teaching multiple ages.  The one thing that doesn't generally fit for homeschool students is the Grammar Meeting's expectation to listen to other students and their answers.  The guide doesn't make any reference to the possibility of their only being one or two students when this is being taught.  It is easily adapted, but the system they suggest doesn't acknowledge anything of that sort.  The Review Sets are really important and useful especially for those students who just want to get things over with.  It varies enough and provides adequate practice opportunities so that it isn't easily dismissed and keeps them challenged. 

Overall, the curriculum is very well put together and everything is synchronized. I love the writing element that is interwoven, especially with the grammar meeting questions and time spent in the journals.  If you're in the market, add Hake Publishing to your list of companies to consider!

Hake/Saxon Grammar and Writing 3 {Hake Publishing Reviews}
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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Art Instruction Books with DVD and BluRay: An ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review

 ARTistic Pursuits
Art is often so neglected in our education.  For some, it doesn't seem like real learning and for others it is just so daunting a subject to teach.  The truth is, it should be neither!  Exploring the arts and having fun is so important to brain development and learning.  A good way to make that happen is to find good resources.  We are reviewing a standard in homeschool art curriculum, ARTistic Pursuits Inc. again and this time they have added a video feature!  The Artistic Pursuits Art Instruction Books with DVD and BluRay series includes: 
  • Art for Children, Building a Visual Vocabulary
  • Art of the Ancients
  • Art of the Middle Ages
  • Artists that Shaped the Italian Renaissance
For this review we received Art for Children, Building a Visual Vocabulary, the first in the series. It sets the framework for the other books by solidifying the student in the terms and ideas works of art are built on.  It includes 12 lessons in the book and 6 corresponding video lessons on DVD and BluRay. The materials required are listed in the front, but also individually as needed in each lesson.  The videos lessons introduce the new materials or mediums used and demonstrates how students are to use them.  Each non-video lesson takes about 10 minutes to complete.

 ARTistic Pursuits

What We Thought

My kids love art so they are probably going to like anything related to art.  They indeed did enjoy working in through these lessons, especially the video ones.  The landscape picture below was made by my 7 year old simply from watching the #3 video lesson and without any help from me.  One of the goals of ARTistic Pursuits Inc. is to teach children to make works of art, not just imitations.  I was really impressed by this particular picture of my son's because of the detail in the background that, knowing him, doesn't usually get noticed.

The interesting thing about the video lessons combined with the regular lessons is the varying ways this resource can be used in a day.  There is regular opportunities for different kinds of feedback.  With the videos I could have the kids watch one, but they had the opportunity to pause or go back to see exactly how something was done or just work on their own.  The regular lessons required my involvement at least to introduce and set up the project, before they work on their own for a while.  Each video and non-video lesson are simple enough that I can do it beforehand or with them.

The video lessons are also nice when the kids just want to go on an art binge.  The photo above (lesson #6) was from one such day when they watched all the videos and did parts of all the projects in one day. I'm pretty sure it would be different if I assigned them several different projects, but this way was somehow really appealing.  

ARTistic Pursuits Inc. is a wonderful resource for art education and makes the process so accessible.  If you are interested in finding out more about them or other books available, check out the Crew Members reviews below!

Keep Up With ARTistic Pursuits, Inc. on Social Media: 

Facebook:     @ArtisticPursuitsInc.
Twitter:  @ARTistic Pursui1
Artistic Pursuits Full Video Lesson Grades K-3 {ARTistic Pursuits Reviews}
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