Thursday, July 31, 2014

Read-Aloud Thursday: Delani's Read-Alouds

Read-Aloud Thursday Pictures, Images and Photos

Normally most of my Read-Aloud Thursday focus on what I've been reading to my older kids, but since they have been busy reading their own books for the library's summer reading program (Chantry is also reading for Exodus Book's summer reading program). Of course, for Delani to be involved in the summer reading program that has required me to do a lot of read-alouds with her.

Here is what we have been reading:

A classic.

Princess books are a big hit in this house. This was a fun read about a prince who has a big nose and a princess who has big feet. We actually had a talk about how it is wrong to judge someone according to their looks.

I discovered these at the library and Delani really likes them. If you like Fancy Nancy books these are very similar.

 I read Ready for Anything! by Keiko Kaska last year, but it didn't make the impression that My Luke Day did. My Lucky Day tells the story about a pig who gets captured by a fox and how the pig outsmarts the fox to get away.  This story was a lot of fun, but it was the ending that just made the book. My Lucky Day, Badger's Fancy Meal, and Silly Goose's BIG Story have been on the re-read list almost everyday.

And lastly:

Delani got interested in this book a few months ago, so I knew a reading a chapter book would help us meet the 20 minutes of reading for the library's summer reading program. Delani enjoyed this story, though she insisted on only one chapter a reading. I think she still prefers picture books, but doing some chapter reading is good practice for starting school.

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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Eternal Argument by R. Robin Finley (TOS Review)

Analytical Grammar Review
As my kids have grown older I have wanted to add more discussions to our literature selections and have looked at several resources to help me do this. Unfortunately, I have yet to find something that gets great discussions going without being overwhelming, until now. I recently had the opportunity to review a book from Analytical Grammar called The Eternal Argument by R. Robin Finley who is also the founder of Analytical Grammar.

Analytical Grammar Review

The Eternal Argument offers "a framework for understanding Western Literature and Culture"and is a book for 8th grade and up. The Table of Contents includes:

1-Why Should We Read All Those Books?
2-How Do We Stuff Stuff Into Our Heads?
3-The Little Stinker
4-What Are the Two Sides Fighting About?
5-Does Someone Have to Be "In Charge"?
6-What is the Western Literature Platform?
7-Should We Quarantine Our Kids?
8-Really Old Guys: Ancients to the Middle Ages
9-Just the Old Guys: The Renaissance to Neo-Classicism
10-Somewhat Old Guys: The American & French Revolution
11-Newer Old Guys: The Romantics to the Realists
12-Newest Guys: The Naturalist to the Modernists
13-Stuff You Need to Know to Teach This Stuff
14-Now Let's Apply All This to the Books We've Discussed
15-Because It's All About Me...What Do I Think?

At the beginning of the book the author sets the premise that Western culture and  literature are one big ongoing dispute.To help the parent or student understand why this is the author takes us back and discusses what sin is and introduces what she terms "The Little Stinker" or the negative tendencies humans have like evil, sin, and nastiness.

After that the reader is introduced to the two sides of the Eternal Argument - Humanists (Man is Perfectable) and Theists (Man is Flawed) along with thorough definitions of what these mean and how they can apply to literature. There is also an excellent depiction of what the author feels is the Western Literature "platform".  This consists of the King James Bible, Greek & Roman Mythology, along with a smaller influence of Arthurian Legend.

After getting a good handle on these topics the reader is taken through a travel of history and throughout these chapters The Eternal Argument is examined and charts are given that show how shifts are taking place between the Humanists and the Theists. To tie everything up the reader is taken through such topics as literary vocabulary, elements of a plot, conflicts in literature, and point of view are given to help the teacher or reader to apply it to the books that being read.

Each chapter uses a book to apply the information that is being taught in the book. There are also discussion questions included at the end of each chapter. At the end of the book a chapter is included that goes through each book and applies how the Eternal Argument looks in each book along with the application of other literary terms. This is more of reference chapter written especially for the teacher to use once you have read one of the books covered in the previous chapter. 

The author is unabashedly a Christian and doesn't hesitate to address that fact. On the other hand she also feels that that students shouldn't be quarantined from books that present an opposite point of view from what a family has. She encourages parents to present books with an opposite viewpoint and to discuss them with your students to help them learn to defend their viewpoint better when these ideas are presented to them in the real world.

I read this aloud to my two oldest children, Caleb (18) and Destini (14). This book gave us A LOT to discuss. It was interesting, funny, and thought provoking. At times I felt like I had found a kindred spirit with the author (shhh, don't tell my kids they would put it down to "mom weirdness"). The way she presented her ideas that form the Eternal Argument made so much sense to me and were very eye-opening to my kids.

I think we would all have to admit that the history chapters were some of our favorite and the ideas presented really helped to connect some dots. The chapter, "What is the Western Platform?" was also helpful since it really helped my kids see how pivotal mythology is to our literature. I can't say the mythology will be a favorite in our house, but this has helped my kids understand why we read it. The charts included that showed the swings between humanism and theism were also helpful in helping us "see" how history affected literature.

Even though The Eternal Argument could be read by a student, I found it very beneficial as a read-aloud. This is a book that needs to be discussed. I can't begin to say how helpful I found The Eternal Argument and how much I look forward to implementing this into our literature studies this year. One thing that I believe would helpful is a chart that walked the teacher or the student through the literary elements and the process of determining where a book falls on the pendulum swing of the Eternal Argument.

If you have been looking for a way to discuss literature with your students I highly recommended The Eternal Argument by R. Robin Finley which is available in paperback from Analytical Grammar for $24.95. This book should be on every homeschool mom's resource shelf!

You can also learn more about at The Eternal Argument.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

M is for Meeting (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

Ben and Me 
M is for Meeting

Every since I can remember I have always gone to church camp meeting. It has been a part of my life growing up, it was a part of my husband's life growing up, and now it is a part of my children's life.

A few years ago here in Oregon our camp meeting was moved from a campgrounds to a convention center and renamed Family Conference. We are blessed it is held in our city and we don't have travel very far (plus I get to sleep in my own bed). While having it a convention center is still as enjoyable I do have to admit that freezing from air conditioning really isn't doing much for me.

This week we have been busy attending Family Conference. My kids are enjoying their classes, we have been blessed from the Bible teaching and preaching, and it is always great to fellowship with friends that we haven't seen for awhile.

So we are off to enjoy our last day!

 2014-07-25 10.02.37-1

Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms by Mary Jo Tate (TOS Review)

Flourish Book Review
About a month ago I was doing trying to keep my head above water in this thing called life. I felt like I was drowning in just day-to-day living let alone trying to look ahead and attempt to plan for the upcoming school year. About that time along came the opportunity to review new book published by Apologia Educational Ministries called Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms by Mary Jo Tate.

Flourish Book Review

Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms is a book written specifically written to homeschool moms and gets right to the heart of the matter and address issues that I think can be overlooked by many homeschool moms. Many of the topics that are covered include things like:
  • Time management
  • Finding balance
  • Finding peace with the ideal and reality
  • The FREEDOM Toolbox
  • Keeping a time log
  • Establishing a schedule or routine
  • Setting goals in three major categories
  • Seven Essential Planning Tools
  • Establishing boundaries
  • Letting go of fear and perfectionism
  • Nourishing your spiritual life and physical body
  • Training children along with making memories with them
  • Managing your home
  • A life of learning
  • Flourishing as a single mom
  • Having a home business
  • How to move ahead and apply the principles talked about
As you can see there is a plethora of topics covered and these only touch the tips of the iceberg. Each chapter has many helpful and doable tips to help a homeschool mom to find that place where they can flourish. At the end of each chapter is a "Take Action!" section with a list of questions answer and actions to do to help apply the chapter. Included in the appendixes is a recommended resources list and a nice selection of planning forms. These forms are available as a download and can be customizable.

I took my time reading through Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms and really spent time dwelling on it. I took a notebook and wrote out the "Take Action!" portions working through the activities, since I tend to print off papers and lay them over the place. I'll admit that some of the topics are ones that I've read a lot about, but I did enjoy reading about them from the author's perspective.

For me the beginning of the book was the heart of the book. The chapters that dealt with changing my mindset, changing my behavior, using my time effectively, setting goals, planning tools (including the Stop-Doing List), adjusting my attitude, and taking care of myself really stood out to me. I really needed to hear this. I know sometimes I let myself go on auto-pilot and forget that I need to stop and set my course again. This book made me realize that I've been on auto-pilot way too long.

2014-07-25 00.44.27

I still have a long ways to get my course straight, but I am slowly working on it. One thing that the author recommended is to keep a time journal, which I plan on attempting once life gets a little more normal. I know this will be very challenging for me especially since I'm pretty sure that I won't like to see what I'm spending my time on. Another thing I have implemented is being more intentional in organizing my monthly and daily plans. I started using an to-do list and task management app that I already had on my phone that wasn't being used.

It is hard as a homeschooling mom to find that key to balance and I think it is something that a homeschool mom will always have to work hard at. Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms is a book that encourages the homeschool mom in finding and maintaining that balance. Highly recommended!

Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms by Mary Jo Tate is available in paperback from Apologia Educational Ministries for $15.00 plus shipping and handling.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

HomeSchoolPiano (TOS Review)

Homeschool Piano Review

Destini is currently taking piano lessons, but we recently had the opportunity to review HomeSchoolPiano - Complete Set of Books from HomeSchoolPiano, a program that offers instant online access to lessons, to help enhance her lessons.

Homeschool Piano Review

HomeSchoolPiano is a piano course for all ages where you can learn to play piano on your own schedule. These lessons are available to watch online which makes it convenient to watch either on your computer, a tablet, or smartphone. Outside of piano or keyboard you don't need anything else to complete these lessons.
Homeschool Piano Review

HomeSchoolPiano has a 6-step cycle to help a student master the piano and to be successful while learning. The cycle includes:
  • Technique - Developing speed and dexterity
  • Rhythm - Using vocalization to learn rhythm accurately
  • Ear Training - Learning to hear rhythm, harmony, and melody for playing and improvising
  • Reading Music - Learning to read music to help with learning and composing songs
  • Song - Learning a song by applying learned techniques
  • Improvisation - Applying techniques in your own way
Homeschool Piano Review

HomeschoolPiano offers their CorePiano along with 3 books or levels. CorePiano includes 33 lessons that cover the basics of piano. Topics like high and low notes, finger numbers, half and whole steps, time signatures, and many other fundamental music terms. These lessons are always available to the student no matter which book they are working in.

After going through CorePiano a beginning student would start Book 1. Books 1-3 are set up with six lessons. Each lesson includes 6 original songs that the student will learn. Book 1 is considered "perfect for beginners". Topics covered in Book 1 included quarter notes and rests, dynamics, 5 finger pattern in C major, minor, and blues scales, creating licks, bass accompianment and more.

Book 2 is recommended for a student who has some piano experience and is considered the "building the foundation" level. It teaches such topics as left hand independence and exercise, C major and minor triads, full C major scale, creating triads, inversions of triads, and more. If a student or adult has

Book 3 focuses on "unlocking the pianist within" and works with the student on creating piano arrangement. It teaches major and minor 5 finger scales in all 12 keys, chord arpeggios, Latin music introduction, using the pedals of the piano, Rock piano style and more.

The lessons work with signing into HomeschoolPiano and picking the level you are going to begin with. I used this with Destini, who though she is currently taking piano lessons she didn't feel she could start at Book 2 so she started with Book 1. She used the browser on our iPad to access the lessons. After picking Book 1 she then picked Unit 1 and worked her way through each lesson: Technique, Rhythm, Ear Training, Reading Music, Song, and Improvisation. At the end of every lesson there is a bonus lesson which enhances all the techniques she just learned. Also, each level includes a PDF download of all the music and other sheets that will be needed for the lessons. I was able to put them on our iPad, but Destini liked them in a printed format better.

From where Destini started she was able to do all the lessons by herself without much guidance from me. She worked through 3-4 lessons a week and was able to pretty much complete each lesson. I asked her what she thought and she felt that the lessons were useful even though she is already taking lessons. She did feel that if a student was just beginning lessons they may find them challenging and be very faithful in practicing. Her favorite part was doing Improvisation lessons.

Several things that I liked was:
  • The program keeps track of where you left off at. 
  • I loved how rhythm was taught.
  • Piano is taught in a fun way. 
  • You could sit at the piano with the iPad and watch and do the lesson at the same time.
A few things that I wanted to note is that I do feel an adult need to be overlooking these lessons with a student, especially a beginning student. Because of the fun feel to the program I felt it was easy to just let Destini go have fun with it and not treat it as seriously as "real" piano lessons. Many of these lessons were pretty challenging and if a person didn't have any piano background I could see causing frustration. Overall, HomeschoolPiano is a program worth looking into for a beginner or an enhancement for a current piano student.

HomeSchoolPiano has two payment packages and the pricing is as follows:
1. Success Package (One payment of $299) Unlimited life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students.
2. Payment Plan (Payments of $99.97 per month for three months): Unlimited life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

What's On Your Nightstand - July

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What's On Your Nightstand

I had an excellent month this month for reading, but that is because life finally slowed down to a nice pace. Unfortunately, August goes back to being very busy so I have picked a light load for this month. I am secretly hoping to get more read than these, but we will see.

For August:

I read from June's Nightstand:
Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms by Mary Jo Tate - (Review forthcoming)
Say Goodbye to Survival Mode: 9 Simple Strategies to Stress Less, Sleep More, and Restore Your Passion for Life by Crystal Paine - Encouraging read.
Busman's Honeymoon: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery with Harriet Vane by Dorothy Sayers - Lord Peter and Harriet Vane are finally married and of course discover a corpse on their honeymoon. Interesting to see how they adjust to marriage. This was a fun series to read.
Faro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer - I thought this was going to be a ho-hum read, but it got really interesting when the heroine kidnapped the hero. Fun read.
Fired Up (Trouble in Texas Book #2) by Mary Connealy - I always enjoy Mary Connealy.
Hitty Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Fields - On my Classics list. Hoping to get to the review up soon.

I also read:
Plan Your Year: Homeschool Planning for Purpose and Peace by Pam Barnhill - I probably didn't "need" this book, but I did enjoy it. It has helped me get working on the upcoming homeschool year plans. Ties in nicely with the following book.
Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakeable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie - Very uplifting read. I bought this as the ebook, companion journal, audio companion. The audio's are the cream of the bundle. This is a book that I will be revisiting soon.
Setting the Records Straight: How to Craft Homeschool Transcripts and Course Descriptions for College Admission and Scholarships by Lee Binz - Read it--have yet to implement it. On my Reading Goals for 2014 list. This will stay on my resource shelf.
Too Blessed for This Mess: The Frazzled Female's Guide to Overcoming Stress by Cindi Wood - This was a free Kindle book. Nothing earth shattering.
The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary - Edited this post to add this book. This was a read-aloud with my 6 year old daughter. She pulled it off the shelf and said she wanted to read it so we did!
Stuck Together (Trouble in Texas Book #3) by Mary Connealy - Finished the series.

See what others have read over at 5 Minutes for Books.


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