Friday, April 18, 2014

The Homeschool Mother's Journal: This and That

April 18 Collage

1. & 9. While practicing french knots for Destini's cross-stitch picture we opened up my embroidery box. Delani got so excited that there was extra fabric and thread that she wanted to try her hand at sewing.

2. The microwave has been put in! Yeah, now the kids can get their own lunches. I went with a very basic model but the we are all amazed at how quiet it is from the one that was in our old house.

3. Catching up on laundry. I am going to hate to see my water bill!

4. & 7. We have had some nice weather and the kids are enjoying how private our driveway is. In fact, I haven't had to nag any of them about going outside. They are wanting to head out on their own. In picture 7 you can see that our driveway goes down quite a ways. They have been riding their bikes and scooters up and down and using the front of the driveway for basketball (that is why our vehicles are sitting so far from the house.) Their favorite thing is the privacy they are afforded and not having to worry about traffic.

5. The teens at our co-op had ice cream sundaes on Thursday and I came home with a lot of topping left over so we went and bought ice cream and whipped cream and have been enjoying our own sundaes. Usually it is just ice cream so all the extra toppings are something special.

6. I have a shoe shopping diva in the form of a 6 year old girl. Here are Delani's new shoes for Easter. They had to have a heel on them and they had to click when she walked. Nothing less would do.

8. Destini is busy working on quilting her quilt. She has a little less than two weeks to get it finished so last week and next week she will spend a lot of time sewing!

In our homeschool world:

I had the kids pull out their math and start working on that. We also have been working on the TOS Review Crew items. Since the ACTS Student Convention that the kids are competing in will be at the end of April and beginning of May we have been focusing on their projects. We will get back to all our books in May.

My big goal this week is to figure out where I am going to keep all the homeschool books. In our old house we had them in the dining room by our table, but in our new house we don't have room there. My options are the living room (I don't think I'll like how it looks since it tends to get messy) or in the playroom (that means I have to walk to a different part of the house every time I need a book). Choices, ugh!

One more random photo which I found on my phone. I have no clue what my kids (along with Hannah, who I claim) were doing but it made me smile.

Homegrown Learners
So You Call Yourself A Homeschooler?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Homeschool Mother's Journal - Happy 6th Birthday, Delani!

Delani B'day Collage
On Wednesday, Delani celebrated her 6th birthday. Things are still very hectic as we were still in the process of cleaning out our old house (a rental) and getting everything into our new home.
1. On Tuesday we went to Famous Dave's for her birthday dinner.
2. Enjoying her ice cream.
3. On Wednesday we celebrated her birthday in shifts. I cleaned our old house most of the day and then came home and made a quick dinner and she opened her presents.
4. Shade and I headed out again to clean some more. We finished the day off with her birthday cake--Strawberry Shortcake. (She likes her candles to be in the cake before adding the strawberries to it.)

April 12 Collage
As I mentioned in a previous post that we have bought a house. We spent the last weekend moving and all of this week getting odds and ends out of our old rental home and getting it cleaned up. The old house felt like I had a black cloud hanging over me all week. It seemed liked I kept finding one more thing to clean.

Not much has been happening in the way of school work. A lot of real life has happened though. I'm not sure what will happen this week since I don't know if I can lay hands on everything. I will not be writing any posts on how to move, since I have to be the poster child of the world's worst mover. Anyhow, here is a collection of pictures I have collected over the past week.

6. I discovered this on the white board after we had signed papers on our new home. 
7. The evening we got the keys to our house we ripped out flooring that had some water damage and the following day new carpet was laid down. 
8. Our new refrigerator.
9. Our only decent meal we have had since we moved in. Needless to say I am failing completely in the dinner department. To top it off I have had to be pretty creative for lunch time too since we are operating without a microwave. I also know I am missing at least one box of food which no one seems to know anything about. Am I the only one this happens to?
10. In the midst of all this craziness baseball started this week. Oh, and to make life even better the pollen count has been high which makes me feel miserable.
11. As you can see my living room is still a mess. I spared you the horror of the kitchen!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Victus Study Skills System (TOS Review)

Victus Study Skills Review

Learning study skills can be a real challenge. I faced it myself when I was in school and at times I have faced it in our own homeschool. I recently had an opportunity to review Teacher's Edition and Student Workbook for the Victus Study Skills System.

Victus Study Skills Review
Victus Study Skills System aim is "to equip the student for success in academics and in life." It gives parents and students the know how so they can learn and perform the important task of learning to study.

Victus Study Skills applies three foundational cornerstones with questions that a student can learn to apply to their schooling and life. These foundational cornerstones ask the student:
  • "Where are you now?'
  • "Where do you want to be?"
  • "How do you get there?"
I received the Teacher's Edition and Student Workbook for review. The Teacher's Edition lays out the aims, foundational cornerstones, and objectives in the first few pages of the book. It then shares how to use the Teacher's Edition, offers effective techniques to use while teaching the material, and gives a lays out a sample course plan.

The Student Workbook is to be used while the teacher is teaching the material. It is not a stand along book. It included checklists, fill-in-the-blank sheets, charts to fill out to practice new skills, and more. These worksheets and forms take the student through the three Foundational Cornerstones.

For maximum effectiveness they recommend using the program in 5, one-hour sessions and completing all 10 lessons in that period of time. Of course, they advise to use the program to your student's ability and the available time that you have.

Lesson covered include such topics as:
  • Study Habits
  • Learning Strengths
  • Time Management
  • Organization
  • PQRST (Preview, Question, Read, State, Test)
  • Study Environment
  • Note Taking
  • Rest Taking
  • Review and more
I was undecided which one of my kids to use this with. Since Caleb is a senior I decided to use it with him and I had Destine sit in on the lessons. We averaged one lesson per day and it took us almost two weeks to complete.

Caleb enjoyed working through this. Since he is very detailed oriented this program really "spoke" to him. He hasn't had much opportunity to apply what he has learned since we just moved and are still in the midst of getting settled. Destini listened in, but whereas Caleb loved all the detail, she found it bothersome. Both would admit that their favorite section was when they learned what their "learning strength" was and the things they could do to help them learn according to their learning style.

I understand the idea behind the Victus Study Skills System, but really struggled to apply this to our homeschool. Much of the information given is for a traditional school setting. We don't run our homeschool like a traditional school and thus my kids found it hard to apply to how we do academics.

I found the Teacher's Edition hard to use. It is written toward the classroom teacher and many lessons required preparation, which as a homeschool mom isn't the easiest the find. I would have much preferred a scripted lessons. I also found the directions confusing at times.

I also found it hard to get the Student Manual to correspond with the Teacher's Edition. The lessons are marked in the Teacher's Edition, but not marked in the Student Manual. I spent quite a bit of time trying to make sure that we had covered every page for every lesson.

I think the thing that stood out to me the most is that though it teaches about learning strengths it doesn't really address personality differences. If your child thrives on a lot of detail they will love this program, but a more relaxed child will probably find it overwhelming and too detail oriented. 

I guess I can say I really struggled with the presentation of the whole program. There was a lot of good things that were taught and since finishing the program I have though a lot on how I could apply it more effectively with my children and in our learning atmosphere. Though recommended to be used at a fast pace for our homeschool I can see it being more beneficial to apply these ideas slowly.

Spending a few weeks on making goals and priorities, or working on note-taking, or learning test-taking skills, or applying PQRST would help my daughter to not be so overwhelmed and also help my son learn how apply all these ideas and not just get caught up in a method rather than learning valuable life and academic skills.

Victus Study Skill System is suggested for 5th grade-12th grade. The Teacher's Edition is available for $40.00 and the Student Workbook is available for $20.00.

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Friday, April 4, 2014


No, not a baby...but we have bought a house!

Needless to say things are very hectic. Not a lot of schoolwork getting done around here, but a lot of real life is happening.

Some of my helpers.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Captivated DVD from Media Talk 101 (TOS Review)

Captivated Movie Review
Do you find yourself concerned about how much screen time your kids have? Do you find your self concerned about how much time you are spending online? Do you find yourself or your children constantly checking your smart phone?  Recently I was sent for review a new documentary produced by Media Talk 101 called Captivated: Finding Freedom in a Media Captivated Culture which deals with many of these questions.
  Captivated Movie Review
Captivated talks about how today's media technology is affecting our world. Our culture today is surrounded by screens. What is amazing is that our infatuation with new media technology didn't start with the advent of the TV, Internet, or smart phones. This fascination began with the first telegraph in 1844. It then led to the telephone, radio, television, and the Internet. Now today's media technology offers us an "all you can" eat media buffet.

This documentary shares many sobering statistics. Did you know the national average home has more TVs than people per household,  or that people spend more than half their day consuming media, and teens send and receive 3,339 text per month?  Also, interspersed throughout the documentary are interviews with Dr. Jeff Myers, Ray Comfort, Dr. David Murray, Kevin Swanson, and Phillip Telfer, who wrote, produced, and co-directed Captivated.

The DVD also address how screen time affects our brains. When small children are allowed to play with games and watch TV they are equipping themselves for a high pace life and then when they experience real life they find it is boring.  Children will suffer with shorter attention spans. But the harm to the brain is not limited to just babies and small children. It also affects older children, teens, and adults. When we work hard at a project it affects the pleasure part of our brain. We can get this same feeling by watching something, but the problem is we haven't done anything.  Another problem is that it keeps us from having focused attention. We think we can multi-task by watching something and helping our child do their school work when in fact it is causing us harm. The human brain wasn't made to multi-task when using the thinking part of our brain.

Captivated also talks about how media technology is affecting our health and our relationships with one another. Physically it is taking a toll on hearing loss, eye strain, lack of exercise, sleep deprivation, and many other ways. One of the most sober aspects of media technology is how it is robotizing relationships. Never has the younger generation been able to screen out adults as well as they can today. Their lives are focus on themselves. They are only interested in what concerns them. They are not interested in politics, current events, great literature.

Another focus of Captivated is how Christians are willingly turning a blind eye to content. Many are addicted to violent video games and even to games that seem harmless offered at sites like Facebook.  The media is focusing on changing our worldview. Empty philosophies and false worldviews are consistently being thrust on our culture and slowly desensitizing Christians.

I know all this information may sound depressing, The DVD also provides many ways to fight being captivated by today's media technology. First off, is to make sure that our framework is based on God's word. "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;" - II Corinthians 10:5. This can be done in many ways--having a media fast, being selective, and having discernment. Also, they give encouraging words to parents who they have failed in this area with their children.

Captivated is produced for adults, but can by viewed by anyone of any age. We watched it several times along with our oldest son, Caleb. Many of the things that were discussed and pointed out in this documentary have always been implemented in our home, but after watching this I can say that we have room for improvement. We have always had a strong stand on content and yet we struggle with how much time is spent using media technology. It has given us a lot to think about and also encouraged us to learn to use media technology for what is it--a tool.

Captivated: Finding Freedom in a Media Captivated Culture is truly a captivating DVD and definitely worth watching.

Captivated is available in DVD format for $16.95 (free shipping). Right now they are offering a special sale price of 2 DVDs for $21.95 (free shipping).

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Spelling You See - Level D: Americana (TOS Review)

Spelling You See Review

When I heard that Math-U-See had a new sister company called Spelling You See, you can bet that I was all ears. We are huge fans of Math-U-See and since spelling is an issue in this house I knew that Spelling You See was something that I needed to check out. I was very excited to have the opportunity to review Level D: Americana.

Spelling You See Review
Spelling You See was developed by Dr. Karen Holinga, a former elementary school teacher, college professor, and reading specialist. Rather than using spelling word lists and tests the student does a daily activity that has a student integrate listening, reading, speaking, and writing. Spelling You See will guide your child through the natural stages of how we learn to spell.
Spelling You See Review
Chantry has been using Level D: Americana, which is recommended for students who are 8 years old and established readers. Americana has short, daily lessons. The readings and dictation are short non-fiction stories about American history and culture. These lessons are based around three core activities--copywork, chunking, and dictation.


Chunking is finding and marking all the designated letter patterns in the passage. In Americana students learn to chunk vowel chunks, consonant chunks, Bossy R chunks, Tricky Y Guy, endings, and silent letters.

This is how a weekly lesson is broke down:
  1. The parent reads the story followed by the student and parent reading the passage together.
  2. The student chunks the letter patterns with colored pencils or highlighters.
  3. After that for days 1-3 the student copies the passage. Set the timer for 10 minutes and when it goes off they are finished for the day.
  4. On the fourth day the parent dictates the passage for only 10 minutes. On this day the parent provides punctuation, capitalization, and helps with hard words.
  5. Day 5 finds the students writing out the dictation, again for only 10 minutes. The parent can help with punctuation and capitalization, but should encourage the student to try to spell the difficult words.
The Instructor's Handbook includes a detailed description of the philosophy of the program. Explicit directions are given for Lessons 1-14, while Lessons 15-36 along with Book 2 are review of all the letter patterns that are taught. All the dictation passages are included along with answer keys.

Chantry had been using a spelling program along with doing dictation. When we started using Spelling You See he immediately renamed it "Spictation." One thing I found out that this is a very easy program to implement, so easy in fact it is easy to let your child do Day 1-3 by himself and only worry about dictation. Don't do it!!

When we were a couple of weeks into the program I noticed that doing the dictation was like pulling hen's teeth. I went back and re-read how the program works. I immediately realized my mistake. In his desire to get his work finished he had been reading the passage by himself. The next week I made sure that I read the passage and then we both read it together. When it came time to do dictation I saw an immediate improvement. In our last lesson he was able to write out several lines of his dictation without having it read to him.

This program makes a lot of sense to me. All of my children have resisted learning phonics and have struggled with spelling. After trying a few phonics based spelling programs with no success, I finally have settled on a spelling program along with dictation. When spelling a word that trips them up I have tried to show them tips and tricks to remember how to spell them. Sometimes I was successful and many times not. Spelling You See has changed that. I now remind my son to recall how he chunked the word. When a word has been chunked with a color which stands for a certain kinds of chunked letters, it is much easier to recall.

I am a big proponent of Charlotte Mason and I think this really lines up with many of her methods by utilizing copywork, visualizing, dictation, and my favorite--short lessons.

I think I can truly say we have found a new spelling program. I asked Chantry if he wanted to go back to his spelling and dictation books and he replied, "No way, I want Spictation!" Yes, I think I heard angels sing.

Level D: Americana is available in:
Student Pack -  $30.00 (Includes 2 student workbooks and a pack of erasable colored pencils)
Instructor's Handbook - $14.00

Also check out the other levels that Spelling You See offers.
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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Read-Aloud Thursday: Oliver Twist & Abraham Lincoln's World

Read-Aloud Thursday Pictures, Images and Photos
Life has been very hectic around here and there hasn't been much reading aloud except that which we read-aloud for school. I have resorted to using quite a few audio books to keep my kids busy. Here's a look of what has been happening lately.


Both Oliver Twist and Abraham Lincoln's World are selections from Ambleside Online Year 5. I have been reading these books over the course of many months and I recently finished reading them to Destini and Chantry.

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens was a literature selection and a very enjoyable read. I have to admit that it wasn't the easiest read-aloud I've ever done. Dickens sure comes up with some extraordinary words! The story also deals with some pretty serious topics which gave us quite a bit to talk about.  I found that Destini was able to follow the plot a little better than Chantry. At times I did have to stop and make sure he was following along. Overall, I felt this was a successful read-aloud and wonderful introduction to Dickens.

Abraham Lincoln's World by Genevieve Foster was their world history book for part of this school year. Last year I read George Washington's World by the same author and it was a big hit. Abraham Lincoln's World did not disappoint either. This is the way to learn history!

I also thought I would share what the kids have been reading and listening to.

King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table - Roger Lancelyn Green
War Inventions by Charles Gibson
 Lad: A Dog by Albert Terhune
Geronimo: Wolf of the Warpath by Ralph Moody
The Story of the Treasure Seekers - E. Nesbit (audio)

Destini (who has listened to a pile of audio books while sewing or doing cross-stitch):
The Story of the Treasure Seekers - E. Nesbit (audio)
The Wouldbegoods - E. Nesbit (audio) Destini has raved so much about these stories that they have been added to my TBR list.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (audio)
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm - Kate Douglas Wiggen (audio)

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
Mr. Standfast by John Buchan
(I'm sure Caleb has a few Louis L'amour that he could add to this list.)

I decided to introduce Caleb to Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse. Destini immediately picked up the audios when he was finished and listened to them and I usually found Chantry hanging around to listening. I can always tell when they are listening to a Wodehouse book from the giggles coming forth out their rooms and oh, the discussions that have taken place over a Christie book!

Here is a sampling of what has been listened to:
And Then There Were None - Christie
Murder on the Orient Express - Christie
The Mystery of the Blue Train - Christie
My Man Jeeves - Wodehouse
The Girl on the Boat - Wodehouse

See what others are reading aloud over at Hope is the Word.


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