Sunday, March 31, 2019

His Mercy Endureth Forever: Psalm 136 - A Book Review

There is a lot we could complain about when it comes to this information age we are living in, but there are a few things that make me so very grateful.  Access to God's Word and great resources that celebrate His Word are some of my favorites!  Today I am reviewing a beautiful picture book from Reformed Free Publishing called His Mercy Endureth Forever: Psalm 136, Illustrated by Kathleen DeJong that does nothing but bring the Word to life.

This hard bound book is over 30 pages long, contains 15 color illustrations and a glossary at the back.  The book is geared for ages 6-9 and provides really good opportunities to discuss the mean of the scriptures, but can be read to any age.  My (almost) 2 year old will sit still for almost the entire book!  The glossary is a very nice addition that defines words like endureth, low estate and smote.  This can be especially useful for expanding the vocabulary of young kids or just those who are less familiar with Biblical language.  

In addition to skillful way the pictures are illustrated, I found it to be very satisfying how the choice of pictures were all very grounded in timeless concepts.  While we are very much living in a modern society, there are a few things that our forefathers did that we can enjoy as well.  The sailing of a ship on the open water, hiking a trail in the forest, or staring at the stars on a summer night are all testaments to our unique and God-given planet and things we can share with those of the past.  This book helps the reader truly consider the different ideas in Psalm 136, both in the time it was written and also as it applies to us now.  

As you are looking for a gift or enhancing your library, His Mercy Endureth Forever is a beautiful and faith-affirming choice.

- I received a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.  All opinions I have are my own or those of my family.  I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations. - 

Friday, March 29, 2019

Prima Latina: A Memoria Press Latin Program Review

As a parent and a teacher, I vacillate between a bookworm nerd and a tree hugging hippie on a good day.  I want my children to excel in everything, but also be well-rounded enough that they can sit in the woods and never tire of the view.  It's a balance, I suppose.  Before I started homeschooling, the idea of learning Latin seemed too much, even for my nerdy side. However, last year when we reviewed one of  Memoria Press' Spelling programs, I was introduced to their Latin program and how perfectly normal parents were diving headlong into it! With a little digging I found out some interesting information that made me jump at the chance to review Prima Latina: An Introduction Christian Latin.

The idea of learning Latin always seemed like something you do in a boarding school or college, but Memoria Press' approach is designed for any age and begins as young as 1st - 4th grade elementary students.  Proponents of learning Latin are quick to point out the many English words rooted in Latin as well as the many professions where a knowledge of Latin is extremely useful, if not required.  As my kids enter the realms of literature and history, a good appreciation of the Roman Empire and language would be such a blessing.

What We Received:

Prima Latina is the introductory level of Latin.  We received the complete set which includes a Teacher's Manual, a Student Book, DVDs of video lessons, a Pronunciation CD, and a set of flash cards.

There are 25 lessons and each one is divided into the following sections:

  • Review Exercises
  • Lesson-Specific Questions
  • Translate
  • Speaking Latin
  • Write and Learn
  • Fun Practice
  • Latin Songs

The design of the program is for parents/teachers completely new to Latin so there is no prior experience needed.  The video lessons walk student and teacher through each lesson  The Teacher's Manual provides the Student Book view with answers printed in as well as a Vocabulary Index, Teaching Guidelines, reproducible drills, tests and answer keys in the back.

How We Used the Program:

My son (8) is the one who used the workbook, but my daughter (5) tagged along especially for the videos.  At first I attempted to do one lesson at a time or somehow make it consistent, but it quickly became a source of contention.  Some days we could do several pages, other days (depending on where it fell) one page was more than anyone could handle.  So my approach became one of compromise.  Every time we sat down, I would set a goal of getting to a particular page or section and that worked pretty well.

After we got the hang of things, I could turn on the video and go attend other things for a short while.  For my learning and their comprehension it works better if I have heard/seen what they have, but for students who are engaged and able to work independently, it does not mandate full supervision.  Depending on my (almost) 2 year old, I would pop in and out, giving help where needed.  While there is time built in to the videos for writing answers in the Student Book, my son would sometimes miss things so we would sit down afterwards and go over those to complete it.

The Pronunciation CD and flashcards are not required to complete the Student Book, but extremely helpful in reinforcing the concepts presented in the videos.  The CD includes a pronunciation guide, prayers, and songs that provide a full picture of the language and is a great refresher anytime.  I like being able to put the CD on - even when we're not focusing on Latin - to get the words and pronunciations into their minds even when they aren't thinking about it. The flashcards are fun to just give the kids and let them test each other. The flashcards contain all the Latin words learned in Prima Latina, but also words in the next level, Latina Christiana so they are a good lasting resource.  Memoria Press does a really good job of teaching through all of the learning styles and engaging multiple senses. 

What We Thought:

As long as we didn't always do a ton of pages, the kids never really complained and were happy to tell Mr. Butler the words they learned at the dinner table.  I appreciate that it introduces/reinforces grammar in the midst of all the vocabulary, in addition to the many opportunities for reinforcement.  There are naysayers out there that consider learning Latin a fool's errand, but I tend to reside somewhere in the middle.  I can see how one can become a productive fruitful human being without it, but I also can see how it can bring a deeper perspective to so many things while exercising mental acuity as well.  Learning it in this manner (in conjunction with grammar and with audio/video elements) while they are young just makes it so easy that I'm definitely a big fan!

Follow Memoria Press on Social Media:

Twitter:    Tag: @MemoriaPress   
Instagram:    Tag: @memoriapress

The Homeschool Review Crew tried out several other products including all levels of their Latin program, First Start Reading, and several Poetry books.  Don't forget to read some of their reviews through the link below to get a well-rounded perspective on Latin or some of these other products!

Phonics, Poetry & Latin {Memoria Press Reviews}
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Monday, March 25, 2019

The Value of Gardening in Education

Whether it is a few pots on back porch or an acre of land carefully planned out in February, having a garden is an incredible asset to your family’s education. Even though I remember a time without cell phones or computers, my children never will. With all the extreme changes our culture continues to experience, it can seem hard to keep from getting caught up in the fast paced, social media dominated lifestyle that is glorified everywhere. Planting and harvesting (and everything in between) is something that we have in common with every generation before us. While your family may not rely on your garden the way my grandparents did theirs, the process is still this incredible hands-on tool for enhancing education.and keeping our hearts grounded – pun fully intended!

By tending a garden of any size together, you are given a zillion teachable moments to share with your kids that have the power to power up their learning experiences and shape the person they will become.
Science. So many of the scientific concepts that we expect our children to learn are demonstrated in some way in the garden. Life cycles, water cycles, photosynthesis, weather patterns and the food chain are just a few things that you will face tending a garden.
Evidence of God’s Creation. Have you ever considered the power of a seed? A complete blueprint for a plant and its fruit is hidden in each little seed. Have you considered the uniqueness of planet earth and the many forces that come together to keep us alive? Even just the faith that is required every time you plant a seed points to our Creator intimately designing all parts of our existence.
Work Ethic. Maintaining a garden is not like a drive-thru window. You can’t just pick the food you want to grow and show up a few months later expecting a harvest. In order to have a successful garden, you have to keep up with a lot of things. Planning, researching, tilling, planting, weeding, watering, praying and repeat! Even after all that work, there is still no assurance of success when the weather gets involved. This process of managing living things teaches so many lessons about life and what our attitudes must be.
Immune Boost. Going outside regularly, getting your hands in the dirt, and any form of exercise (walking, squatting, lifting, etc.) builds up your immune system. It’s good for the body. Healthy bodies produce better learners!

As we walk this path of homeschooling, we are trying to ignite the spark of learning and discovery every day. Incorporating a garden into your rhythm of school is this perfect laboratory in which to do that! We see concepts demonstrated in real time while learning discipline and activating our immune systems at the same time! We can’t keep our culture from continually changing, but we can make choices that root us in what is real and true. Investing in a garden is certainly one of those great choices!

Originally posted at The Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog in March 2019.

Friday, March 22, 2019

STEM Activities: A Tied 2 Teaching Review

As a busy mom who can easily get stressed out, doing projects of any kind is something I have to work myself up for.  I know how fun they usually are for the kids and I also know how beneficial hands-on learning is, but interrupting the normal flow of things with something different is hard for me.  When we were given STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading from Tied 2 Teaching, I was both reluctant and convicted to try them out.  My kids love and need to dig their hands into things for optimum learning and to work on their problem-solving skills so I knew how valuable these activities could be despite my resistance.

What We Received:

The STEM activities come in the form of digital downloads that include monthly/seasonal activities designed for 3rd-6th grade level students that would last you at least a year doing 4 activities a month.  Within each PDF project file is a QR code and link for the close reading passage, various pages for close reading questions, project analysis, and some examples of other kids' completed projects for ideas.  Most projects required normal craft or household supplies that you likely have or could easily get at the store.

How It Works:

For every project or challenge, there is a themed passage for the student to read and then a close-reading worksheet to fill out that asks them questions about the passage that often requires a closer look at the passage.   Then the student is to focus on the project through a series of worksheets that facilitate planning, problem solving and evaluating how it went once they are finished.

Activities We Completed:

What We Thought:

The intended grade level is 3rd-6th grade so my 1st grader is a bit under the age range, but she was actually a great side-kick for my 'tends to give up when the answer isn't readily apparent' 3rd grader.  Due to the large amount of reading and writing involved, I wouldn't recommend this for a younger student without older ones to guide or heavy parental involvement.  

Overall, the kids really enjoyed these projects.  Like I alluded to before, my son had a tendency to give up after his first idea would fail, but luckily his sister is built to keep going no matter what some days so they were a great team.  The reading and writing aspect was sometimes resisted by my son, but once he got going it was clear that the work helped him dig in better to the problem-solving at hand. They were always very proud of their final product which was fun for me to watch.

Since this is a digital product, we would be able to do any of the projects again at a later date.  Considering the open-ended nature of many of these, I think it would interesting and potentially really beneficial to have students do them again weeks or months later to find alternative solutions they hadn't thought of the last time.  This is a great way to work on problem-solving skills.

I really appreciated how the design of these projects mimic real life and real job situations.  Since my husband works as an engineer, he could identify to the kids all the elements of his own work in what they were doing.  It seemed to be one of the first times they seemed to conceptualize what 'real work' could look like beyond a mailman or garbage trucker driver. 

Follow Tied 2 Teaching on Social Media: 


There are a ton of activities so we certainly haven't gotten to them all yet!  Follow the link below to see what different projects some of the other families' tried!

STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading {Tied 2 Teaching Reviews}
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Monday, March 18, 2019

Saving Our Kids

There is a lot of pressure from the outside world to achieve and not mess up.  Even as parents, we feel the pressure to give our kids everything while making sure they don't lose their minds in the process.  And whether we say it or not, the pressure to parent well is far greater simply because their soul is on the line.  That's a lot to carry around.

So, we devise a landscape of opportunity for our kids - sports, lessons, camps, the latest everything so they won't be left out.  The trouble is that in the middle of all the going and doing is usually where the tipping point lies.  But with all the distractions of opportunity, we can miss the signals of a kid who is struggling.

One of the reasons we homeschool is the gift of time and how it allows to stay better connected to the hearts of our children.  If your children attend school somewhere several hours a day away from you, then the time before and after is incredibly important.  And not just to say "How was school?"  For some people (me!) it might take a little bit of digging before you get some authentic feelings about the world from your child, assuming you are looking for it.  The hectic schedule we create between practices and events - all of which may be great in and of themselves - produces a smokescreen of well-roundedness that is actually just busyness.

There are times in the year that are just busy no matter how you try to slow down.  When life happens in all forms, there is little you can do to avoid it.  What we can do, is take a few minutes to check in with your kids - really check in - to remind them of who they are, why they matter and how important they are to your family.  There will be struggles - if you don't see them then that's a sign of real trouble.  When you are present to manage the struggles together, you are bridging the gap.  Too many kids are trying to manage relationships, social media, academic pressure, etc. all on their own because of some perception that they are supposed to.  Living with a village mentality is not something that comes naturally anymore.  Instead, we have to create it - yes, even in our own homes.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Art of the Middle Ages: An ARTistic Pursuits, Inc. Review

Art is a subject that I love to incorporate in theory, but resist more than I would like to admit.  It probably has something to do with the mess or my incredibly crafty daughter who never wants to quit!  Despite my hesitation, it is so important for your child's development and extremely satisfying to them when they have created something new.  Today we are talking about one of our favorites, ARTistic Pursuits Inc.  Last year we tried out the first volume, Building a Visual Vocabulary from their series  K-3rd Grade Level, Volumes 1-8. This time we explored Art of the Middle Ages, K-3 Vol. 3 which involved a lot of textile and paper work.  Miss Z is constantly making things out of paper and has a knack for working with her hands so this volume was a good fit for us.

What We Received:

We received 1 book, Art of the Middle Ages, Vol. 3, a DVD and a BluRay disc both containing the video lessons.  Just like in Volume 1, the book and the video lessons are complimentary, but the book does go into greater detail.  The book contains an overview of the Medieval World, tips for lesson prep, notes for a larger (non-home) group, supply lists and lots of visual examples both in history and student projects.  There are 18 lessons in the book and 6 video lessons.  It is not necessary to go in order because each lesson can stand alone. You can purchase a supply kit as well, but most supplies are household or available at Wal-Mart or Target.  

Some of the subjects covered are:

Art in Monasteries
Byzantine Mosaics
Gothic Panel Painting
Romanesque Altarpiece
Art on Fabric
Medieval Textiles & Tapestry
Art on Book Covers
Eastern Orthodox Iconography
Gothic Glass
Gothic Architecture

How We Used It

I introduced the book and the projects with reading some of the information at the beginning of each lesson.  After that we would watch a video of the project we were going to try.  Then we would gather up our supplies and restart the video, stopping when we needed to.  The first project we tried was the Straw Loom Weave, Lesson 10 - Video #4, which involved weaving yarn around straws to create a woven strap.  My daughter enjoyed this one more than my son, but she's very adept at working with her hands and this one required a lot of finger detail.  We also did some things with burlap and stitching with yarn from Lesson 8, Video #3.  

The next lesson we worked through was Paper Loom Weave Lesson 1, Video #1 where we learned to weave paper and then created a paper crown.  The crown had several steps and the kids got a little discourage at first, but we persevered. After this lesson my daughter was inspired to make everyone in the family a crown!

Another lesson we worked on was Panel Drawing, Lesson #5 and Video #2 that utilized Modge Podge, tissue paper and drawing.  This one was supposed to dry over night and then do some drawing, but while I wasn't looking they just couldn't wait and reworked to project to fit their impatience.

What We Thought

Since my kids are 5 and 8, many of these projects required my assistance and guidance.  The only complaint I heard was shock that the demonstrator on the video moved too fast, but I think they were referring to the time lapse more than anything.  It wasn't too fast for me, especially with the option to pause whenever needed.  Otherwise, they loved it and simply want to do art all day every day!  Instructions throughout each lesson were clear and explained or defined new words pertaining to art.

Overall, we enjoyed yet another volume in ARTistic Pursuits, Inc.'s K-3rd Grade Level, Volumes 1-8. One of the great things about these books is the history and context they provide.  You can focus on art by itself, but it certainly lends itself for a more comprehensive learning. Pulling a project out in order to highlight history is a great option to have and an alternative way to use these books..

Follow ARTistic Pursuits, Inc. on Social Media

Twitter: @ARTisticPursui1  
Instagram: @artisticpursuitsinc

As with every homeschool, your needs are different than mine.  Explore the other volumes in the series by reading through other reviews at the link below.  

Kindergarten to Third Grade Art following History in Chronological Order {ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Reviews}
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