Thursday, April 26, 2012

Critical Thinking - Mathematical Reasoning

Don't you just love companies that produce solid curriculum choices over and over? The Critical Thinking Company does just that. The TOS Homeschool Crew was pleased to review four different curriculum choices from this company, and you can read more about those HERE. Today, I am taking a look at Mathemathical Reasoning, by Carolyn Anderson.

Mathematical Reasoning, Level F for grade 5, is a part of The Critical Thinking Company's Core Curriculum Series. This series offers "Complete Grade Level Solutions in Math, Language Arts, Science and Reasoning." There is a Core Curriculum Series in at least one of those subjects for every level through grade 12. Most people know about The Critical Thinking Company because of their logic and thinking skills books--and they do these very well. In recent years they have opened up new avenues of learning for students in the various subjects listed above. This note, from their website, details how their Core Curriculum Series is different:

We design critical thinking into ALL of our core curriculum products. This not only helps students transfer critical thinking skills to other areas of their lives, it improves the effectiveness of the lessons. Critical thinking requires deeper analysis of the lesson. Deeper analysis produces deeper understanding, resulting in greater engagement and retention of the lesson.

I don't know about you, but I really like the idea that my child might learn how to think critically while also doing her math or language arts!

The author, Carolyn Anderson, holds graduate degrees in mathematics and education. "She taught for more than 20 years in the North Kansas City School District and is currently an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Park University. (...) She spent nearly ten years as managing editor of Math Magic, a national math magazine and math-enrichment developer."

I thought that last bit was remarkable and would be of interest to homeschool moms that are less inclined towards textbooks. This is not your normal 5th grade math book!

Printed in muted colors, this 8.5"x11" softcover has 413 actual pages for your student. The answer key is in the back of the book and is easily removed. This is an all-in-one resource with no extra teacher book needed. The list price is $42.99, but is currently on sale for $37.99.

The list of topics/skills covered in Mathematical Reasoning is thorough:

Table of Contents/Skills
Capacity - customary, metric
Concept - addition, subtraction, multiplication, division
Coordinate System
Critical Thinking
Data Analysis - bar graph, line graph, survey, table, picture
Data Collection
Decimals - concept, add, subtract, multiple, divide
Draw - parallel, perpendicular, by definition
Equations Expression, Vocabulary
Estimation - addition, subtraction, multiplication, division
Fractions - form/vocabulary, add, subtract, multiply, divide
Graph, Table, Chart, Figure - analyze, represent
Length - customary, metric
Likelihood, Probability
Mean, Median, Mode
Money - add, subtract, multiply, divide
Negative Numbers
Order of Operations
Patterns - geometric, numeric
Place Value - expanded notation, number form, word form
Reflection, Translation, Rotation
Shapes - 2D, 3D
Signed Numbers
Temperature - customary, metric
Variable as Unknown - in addition, in subtraction, in multiplication, in division
Weight - customary, metric
Whole Numbers - addition, subtraction, multiplication, division
Word Problems

The NCTM Standards covered are:
Number and Operations
Data Analysis and Probability
Mathematical Reasoning is intended to be used with your child; not handed to them with page numbers marked off for them. (Something I am all too guilty of doing with math!) These activities are meant to be done together to foster real understanding. The Critical Thinking Company doesn't just want your children to walk away with math knowledge, they want to help your child think critically about what they have learned.

If these are goals you have for your child then I highly recommend you investigate The Critical Thinking Company's website. There is something for every family and every homeschool to be found there.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me,
in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are mine.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The fullness...

Most of you know that I lead a life that is really very full. Sometimes so full that one area overflows into another and well...it is a mess all around. There is not a lot of margin in a busy homeschooling mom's life, and my life, as a work-from-home mom in addition to our homeschooling life pushes that margin to really really thin.

Here is my honest heart: I frequently feel like a failure. I don't really know a homeschool mom that does NOT feel like a failure on a regular basis. We struggle with this a lot.

This past Monday, I was not a good example. I did not handle a personal situation very well at all and lots of proverbial feathers flew around the house. People's hearts got hurt, and well, it just stunk all around for everyone. Sometimes life is so very hard.


God sends us friends that speak the truth to us in love. "Out of the blue" (as they say when really we mean, Providentially) a dear friend called me. "You have been on my mind a lot today. What is going on?" I just opened up and sobbed. I feel like a failure all the time, at everything. Nothing I do is right. I am so tired of fighting for everything that's important. I am so tired of feeling like I cannot do anything right.

Did she tell me I was a failure? No. She told me it was a lie. She encouraged me by telling me the truth that life is hard, but that the way I was viewing the situation was not the truth. Christ has equipped me with all I need for life and godliness. His Spirit dwells within me and directs my path.

Psalm 16:11
"You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore."

Life will be full of hard things, and I will sometimes do things the wrong way. I will sometimes really disappoint my children, my husband, my Crew team, and pretty much anyone that knows me.

John 16:33
"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

But I am more than a conqueror through Christ--because of what He has done for me.

Romans 8:37-39
"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

There will be days of heartache in the future, I know that. However, I am a child of the King and I am forgiven through Christ because it is He that has paid it all.

1 John 4:4
"...Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world."

I am not a failure. You are not a failure. He is all sufficient.

Jude 1:24-25
"Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,  to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

I is for Irresistible

I had to use this as my letter "I" in Blogging Through the Alphabet.

It was an irresistible day today--full of sun and garden plants and growth. Now that the sun has come out here in full force, everything is growing and I knew I had to carve out time to plant. I took my youngest two with me to the backyard, and they were my water carriers and seed planters. (Really, they spent most of the time in a giant water fight. LOL)

This is my chicken pen/raised bed area:

In the box on the right, we have heirloom bush beans planted and the box in the middle has two rows each of turnip, beet, and radish seeds. The black tubs next to the chicken pen have zucchini and crook neck and there is rosemary there and my son's snap pea plant he grew as an experiment. These beds did such a good job last year with beans and the root veggies that we did them again with the same things.

This raised bed/chicken pen should also prove very fruitful. (tee hee)

The bed on the left is arugula and cilantro. It looks like this up close:

I planted some more arugula seeds today because the chickens got into this bed and scratched it all together when I planted so the cilantro and arugula is growing together. It is growing well so I can't complain! I am really looking forward to eating the arugula in a salad and making fresh salsa with the cilantro! 

The middle bed looks like this:

This is my herb bed. The back row is sage and tarragon, the middle is oregano and mint, and the front I just planted with sweet basil. I cannot WAIT to eat the basil! Summer is a comin'!

The final bed on the right is entirely flowers and is my youngest girl's bed. 

This has cosmos, California poppies, godetia, and along the wire we planted morning glories in white, purple, and pink. We hope they grow up and over this:

If it does it, I will share the results here. I am very hopeful. :) (I always am about anything garden this time of year! LOL)

I am trying something new that my neighbor does this year with the big black tubs. We did the two squash ones a few pictures above, and I have filled two more with cherry tomatoes. I tried a new way to fertilize this year. They look like tea bags, and you put them by the root base in the pot, and surround with soil. So we  shall see how well they do. They better rocket my tomatoes to Mars, that's what I have to say about it. I always try an experiment when I garden and that is it this year. I have also filled an EarthBox with Early Girl tomatoes, one with cucumbers, two more zucchini, and one with sweet banana peppers. This is the one with the peppers:

I still have two EarthBoxes to fill too! We have a lot of good stuff planted and I am truly entirely exhausted. Working in the sun, even with a sunhat, just does my brain in. :D

Other things growing in our small suburban yard:

Peaches! This is the start of our Backyard Orchard

And this is the front yard orchard (apple, cherry, plum): 

And I just had to share these two. This is our mint--growing wildly throughout the backyard. I love it and use it for fresh mint and black tea. The kids just eat it by the leaf. :) Even today..."Here, Mama, do you want one?" Um....no. I am so glad you like it, but it is fuzzy and wigs me out. I prefer it in tea form!

And this is just lovely to me. The colors are so vibrant and the flower so elegant. It is a snap pea flower. Hard to believe that this sort of loveliness is made for us by God just to be fertilized by a bee or butterfly so we can enjoy the snap pea. :) If you click on any of these, they will enlarge. This one is worth doing that for. :) My little artist took this photo. 

So all in all, today was an excellent productive day. I still have two EarthBoxes to plant, but I got everything else done! I still don't even know how I will fill them. :)

And these ladies, after sunning themselves outside of their garden pen, are living large under the veggies. :D

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

H is for History

H is for History. I LOVE history. How could I not use the H in Blogging Through the Alphabet to write about all my favorites, old and new? This is, perhaps, my favorite subject in the world. :) I thought I would share some of the history resources we have used, are using, and love. I don't get any money for any of these posts--I genuinely love these products! :D

The Mystery of History is one of the best resources we have ever found as we genuinely LOVE it. All three of the volumes completed have been rich with stories and people and the author strives to glorify God through it all. A particular favorite was the third book, The Renaissance, Reformation, and the Growth of Nations. The author, Linda Lacour Hobar, has a real love of history, that is quite clear. From the website:

Covering people and events from 1455 to 1707, Volume III contains more than I imagined it would.  The Medici’s, the Inquisition, and Christopher Columbus.  Michelangelo, Martin Luther, and Henry VIII.  Copernicus, Shakespeare, and Pocahontas.  These are but glimpses of great power, great minds, and great passion.  I’m in awe over each and every one of the geniuses that graced this rich time period.

As is true with the other books in this series, The Mystery of History Volume III will look at what was going on all over the world in the order that it happened. So, while the Renaissance and Reformation were taking shape in Europe, we’ll look at the rise of wealthy empires in West Africa; the Mogul dynasty of India; and the peaceful lives of the Aboriginals of Australia.  We will also visit Ivan the Terrible in Russia and the Tokugawa family in Japan. 

Of course the stories will be told of the master painters and sculptors who made the Renaissance famous as well as the scientists and philosophers who dissected it.  And the time period wouldn’t be complete without boarding a ship or two to circumnavigate the globe for spices and riches in the East.  Many more explorers will touch the soil of North America and start a new chapter in the history of the world.  We’ll bow with the Pilgrims who will give thanks for their survival and welcome the Native Americans to their feast. 

This one is her only hardback so far, full-color, and absolutely gorgeous. I highly recommend it!

We have just started using, and the Crew just finished reviewing, some of the amazing guides from TruthQuest. The guide I am using, TruthQuest History: Age of Revolution III (America/Europe, 1865-2000+), Grades 5-12, is particularly rich with detail. Today I used the whole section discussing Charles Darwin and the immense ramifications from his positions. It was so important to discuss the Christian worldview versus Social Darwinism. I loved sharing these things and discussing them in our science/history co-op today.

I really love what she says about history in her Mission Statement:

Parents, think back on your years as a student in history class. There was one focus: human actions... so we assumed history was the "story of humankind." Though we eschew humanism, we can unknowingly teach history to our children as we were taught. We look only at the people of yesteryear. Is it any wonder history seems so futile and fruitless, so past-oriented, insignificant, and weak? 

Since nothing began without the Lord God, history is actually the mighty story of what He has initiated, revealed about Himself, and said to be true. People are not the makers of history, He is. God initiates and people respond... thus history happens. 

This huge difference transforms the deepest nature of your history study. It impresses your children with the involvement and impact of God above that of people. History becomes a convincing demonstration of His nature, power, and love. Truth-revealing history is no mere recitation of the past, but prepares for the present and future! It is the mission of TruthQuest History to provide deep daily support and freeing direction in that great endeavor!

God initiates > People respond > History happens.

Her heart for God and for His Story throughout the whole of her curriculum really shines through. There are so many good resources recommended here within her books and so much rich information. These are the guides she has so far:

TruthQuest History: American History for Young Students I (Exploration–1800), Gr. 1-5 
TruthQuest History: American History for Young Students II (1800-1865), Gr. 1-5 
TruthQuest History: American History for Young Students III (1865-2000+), Gr. 1-5 
TruthQuest History: Beginnings (Creation/Old Testament/Ancients/Egypt), Gr. 5-12 
TruthQuest History: Ancient Greece, Gr. 5-12
TruthQuest History: Ancient Rome, Gr. 5-12 
TruthQuest History: Middle Ages (AD 500-1400), Gr. 5-12
TruthQuest History: Renaissance/Reformation/Exploration (1400-1600), Gr. 5-12
TruthQuest History: Age of Revolution I (America/Europe, 1600-1800), Gr. 5-12  
TruthQuest History: Age of Revolution II (America/Europe, 1800-1865), Gr. 5-12 
TruthQuest History: Age of Revolution III (America/Europe, 1865-2000+), Gr. 5-12

I also highly recommend these guides!

Home School in the Woods is one of my absolute favorite "extras" for history. Their timeline materials are top-of-the-line and the timeline book is utterly gorgeous. I had the privilege of reviewing the whole set for TOS and I still love them after all these years!

I also really like their Time Travelers CDs. They have so many to choose from, all on American History. This is the list:

New World Explorers
Colonial Life
The American Revolution
The Early 19th Century
The Civil War
The Industrial Revolution through the Great Depression
World War II

I would LOVE it if they would do some ancient history ones! They also offer the neatest Activity Paks on these neat subjects!

The New Testament
The Old Testament

If you go to their site right now, you can get a free project pak called, "A Timeline of the English Bible." These people are just wonderful and Amy Pak is one of the sweetest nicest talented Homeschool Mamas I have ever had the privilege of working with. :)

One of the neatest things I have seen come on the history market is Heritage History. Have you checked this company out?! They offer such neat compilations of history resources--all on one CD. They call them the Heritage Classical Curriculum and they have these choices:

Young Readers
The Young Readers collection is the introductory unit of the Heritage Classical Curriculum. It includes easy-to-read, introductory selections from many historical periods and provides a broad introduction to Western Culture suitable for grammar school age students. Specially featured are short stories from American, European, Ancient, and Biblical history. Includes 86 books, Recommendations, and a Teacher's Guide

Ancient Greece
The Ancient Greece collection covers Greek history from the earliest days of myth and legend, through the Golden age of Athens, to the Greco-Roman Era. Of special interest to older students is a selection of simplified classics based on the works of renowned poets, historians and playwrights. Includes 46 books, 50+ maps, teaching aids, and a Study Guide

Ancient Rome
The Ancient Rome collection includes romantic stories for students of all abilities, from legends of early Roman heroes that fascinate youngsters to stories of political turmoil in the imperial era that provide food for thought to older students. Stories from Gothic, Carthaginian, and Byzantine history are also included. Includes 45 books, 60+ maps, teaching aids, and a Study Guide

British Middle Ages
The British Middle Ages collection features books that cover the 5th through 17th centuries in Europe and the British Isles. Topics include barbarian invasions, Christian conversion, feudalism, mediaeval war-craft, church-state conflicts, and the Reformation, all covered with a special focus on British history. Includes 55 books, 60+ maps, teaching aids, and a Study Guide

British Empire
The British Empire collection focuses on 18th and 19th century world history, with a special emphasis on colonial development. Stories that highlight scientific discovery, exploration, invention and industry are featured, along with those that cover regional histories of Ireland, Canada, British Africa, India, and East Asia.  Includes 57 books, 50+ maps, teaching aids, and a Study Guide

All of these books and all these resources are on the CD, and all in one place, for only $24.99. I bought a Kindle Touch just to get to use them all!

I hope something here blesses you as much as it has blessed me and my family. I just love studying God's perfect hand in His Story.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Musings on a Monday

What I'm thinking: That I love being a homeschool mama. I am so glad to be here, day in, day out, with my children. I really feel so grateful that I can be. Sitting at the kitchen table today, going over writing with my son, and the fine points of capitalization with one daughter, I am drinking it in today.

What I'm reading: I just finished the book I mentioned last time, The Swiss Courier: A Novel. I really enjoyed it. The story was detailed and thoroughly researched. I just wish I knew what was true about it and what was fiction. I really appreciate the fine points of things like that.

What I'm listening to: I am listening to my eldest practice her Spanish via Tell Me More. She is doing well. I have my second child using the program too. I love listening to them and trying to figure out what they are talking about. Sometimes I actually know. :D

What we're learning: I am still learning, after so many years of homeschooling, how to be a good homeschool mama. It is an every day, all the time, different every day, sort of thing. Each day has its joys and it struggles, and some days, like today, are really good ones. I had a Wow, this is so awesome that I get to do this! kind of day. I love those!

What I'm watching: While folding my always-grows-never-ends laundry pile last week, I finally, after owning this for at least two years, started watching, Museum Masterpieces: The Louvre, from The Great Courses. Those of you that have read my blog for longer than two minutes, know that I love all things art-related. This course is so good! I bought it on one of their crazy sales for only $30!! It is no longer that price, but I am so tickled to have it. Since I can't visit the real place, well, this will have to do.

What's cooking: On Saturday I made my very favorite crockpot meal, Chalupa. Here is the recipe on my old blog. I am using the leftovers to make Chalupa Casserole. It is just corn tortillas on the bottom, leftover Chalupa filling in the center, cover with Jack cheese, another layer of tortillas, sprinkle with cheese, cover with foil, bake at 350 until warmed through. Top with salsa. Yum!

What I'm buying: I don't think I am buying anything this week except a full meal for a belated Saint Patrick's Day event. My 93 year-old grandma (100% Irish!) is coming with my aunt and we are planning a full meal for her as a surprise because she missed the real gathering we had due to weather. I. Can't. Wait!

What I'm thankful for: So grateful the sun is coming out again. We have had some crazy weather (OK, not crazy by any other state's standards, but crazy for California) and our chicken pen and backyard are mud pits. I am looking forward to that drying out and getting in our garden--finally!

What I'm creating: Something secret for the future. SO exciting! A few folks are in on it...

What I'm praying: For my friend Gena's pregnancy - that the Lord would bless that little one and keep it safe in her womb for the next eight months.

What I'm planning: I am starting to think about the plan for next year's homeschooling. I am planning to think about it. That counts, right?

What we did this last weekend: We attended a fun party for a sweet boy that we adore. Lovely fellowship with some of our church family was the real blessing from it. I love this family, and they know who they are. :)

What I'm looking forward to: Life. I am just so grateful for it and am so glad the Lord gave this family, these friends, my church, His Son to me each day. I look forward to the next.

A Picture to Share:

This is my Great Grandmother when she was young and carefree. I own her 100 year-old engagement ring. It is a treasure to me.

Have a lovely week! What is new on your Monday?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

From Head to Toe

AIMS Education Foundation has a huge selection of homeschool-friendly products available in high quality softcover books as well as downloadable resources. AIMS (Activities Integrating Mathematics and Science) began in 1981 from a grant from the National Science Foundation and their product line as increased as the years have gone by. Here are some of the categories with links directly to the specific resources on their site:

Activity Books
Essential Math
Classroom Sets
Labs, Kits, & Component
Literature Links
Math Resources
Science Resources
State-Specific Science

The Homeschool Crew was able to take a look at several products, and I am going to share about From Head to Toe. This sturdy softcover comes with a CD that has all the book pages in printable format for ease of use in your classroom. Their copyright is a liberal one too:

A person or school purchasing this AIMS publication is hereby granted permission to make up to 200 copies of any portion of it (or the files on the accompanying disc), provided these copies will be used for educational purposes and only at one school site. The files on the accompanying disc may not be altered by any means.

I think that is pretty amazing--and well worth the $24.95 price tag.

From Head to Toe, for grades 5-9, is as the title suggests, all about the body. It covers the following systems: nervous, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, urinary, and musculoskeletal. In addition, it gives instruction in all the sensory organs: taste, sight, sound, touch, and scent. 

If you like creating mini-books, identifying and coloring diagrams, learning from games, creating small models, doing experiments, and general hands-on type of learning, you will love this curriculum! It is filled with all sorts of activities to make the subject of our bodies come alive.

They also have these neat sections within the books that help you connect the information students are learning through From Head to Toe. These sections are called different things, but they all have "Connecting Learning" above the questions. For example, after the section on the skin, these are two of the several questions asked:

1. Which of the body parts that we tested did you predict would be most sensitive to touch? Why did you think this?
2. How did the results compare to what you expected? Did everyone have the same results?

Throughout the book, they ask good questions that make the student evaluate what they are reading and learning. 

The book is both a student and teacher book. The black and white student pages, to be truly utilized, should be copied from the CD or the book (it is much easier via the CD!) The sections for the teacher are thorough and will not leave you unprepared or in the dark about your subject. 

The teacher section has these subsections: Topic, Key Questions, Learning Goals, Guiding Documents (based on standards and benchmarks for education for this subject), What Type of Science, Integrated Processes, Materials, Background Information, Management (which is how to ultilize the printed materials they give you for the hands-on portion for the students), Procedure, Connecting Learning, Extensions (other information pertaining to the subject matter), Internet Connections (links for more on the subject), and Curriculum Correlation. That is a lot of information--and that is only one small section of the book. All this information is there for each topic you cover so you never feel unprepared. Here is a link to sample pages

From Head to Toe from AIMS Education Foundation is affordable, reusable, and easy to implement. I suggest you check out what the other Crew families had to say about it and see if it is right for your homeschool!  


Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review.  
All opinions are mine. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Write with WORLD

WORLD Magazine, known by many to be the foremost conservative Christian news magazine, both online and in print, is branching out! They have taken what they do best—write—and have built upon it in a brand new curriculum aptly titled, Write with WORLD.

Designed for middle school students, grades 6-9, this full year curriculum set comes with a teacher book and a student book. The HomeschoolCrew reviewed the pilot program that only included the books, but come September, all future programs will include Learn with WORLD website access. 

Howard Brinkman, Publisher of God’s World News (a wonderful publication for students in all age ranges) shares what will be included with the website access:

There will be three primary content sections:
  1. It will complement and freshen the curriculum by providing additional writing subjects/prompts, particularly subjects found in current events or essays published in God's World News or WORLD Magazine during the school year. This goes with the curriculum's goal to train not just writing skills but critical thinking and discernment in reading as well.  (A user does not have to be a subscriber to any of their other publications to use this service. They will provide any excerpts needed for the student.)
  2. It will also be the place where selected student writing will be published based on submissions we receive during the year. We'll provide instructions on the website for how to submit student writing for review.
  3. And, it will provide a forum for homeschoolers and teachers using the curriculum so they'll have a place to network and discuss, as well as a means to provide feedback to us.
And that is all without the books! Let’s talk about those.

I opened up the student book and showed it to my not-so-enthusiastic-about-writing-middle-schooler and it actually drew him in! This was the first “plus” to me. I thought, hmmm, we might have something here…

Written in a Unit/Lesson/Capsule format, we begin with Unit 1, Lesson 1, Capsule 1. There are multiple Lessons within each Unit and multiple Capsules within each Lesson. My student completes a capsule each time he writes.  Unit 1 starts the student off with a focus on images. Our society is pretty inundated with images and this entire unit helps the student to evaluate them and think through what they are seeing--in written format. This is one of the goals of this curriculum—helping students think about what they see,  read, and in turn, what they write.

The distinctives of this curriculum are several:

* Students belong to a community of writers and have an audience.
* Students see the curriculum as a living, up-to-date conversation.
* Students have access to multiple assignments to choose from in many lessons.
* Students who learn to read with critical eyes are more likely to become strong writers.
* Students will examine models—both strong and weak—to improve their writing.
* Students learn style in the context of their own writing.
* Students learn to write with a worldview.
* Writing teachers need ideas and support.

Each of these distinctives are fleshed out in the teacher book. Along with a full copy of the student book, there are notes to the teacher and suggestions for expanding the capsule in use. This Table of Contents gives you a breakdown of the Unit/Lessons, but does not include individual Capsule titles:


Lesson 1: Reading Images and Advertisements
Lesson 2: Comparative Reading: Sentences
Lesson 3: Comparative and Critical Reading: Paragraphs
Lesson 4: Critical Reading: Essays


Lesson 1: The Paragraph
Lesson 2: Composing and Linking Sentences
Lesson 3: Creating Focus and Arranging Ideas
Lesson 4: Linking Paragraphs: Transitions and Logic


Lesson 1: Reporting Facts
Lesson 2: Creating Character
Lesson 3: Developing Ideas with Specificity
Lesson 4: Writing Autobiography


Lesson 1: Developing a Point of View
Lesson 2: Showing vs. Telling
Lesson 3: Narrative with a Purpose
Lesson 4: Writing a Fictional Narrative

By using a journaling method, your student will build upon what they are learning slowly, so writing is not a scary thing to those students that might have a fear or distaste of it. It is a fascinating and profitable way to learn. My son is not hesitant to write (well, any more than a normal 13 year-old boy is anyway!) and his sentences have more form and style. He is not doubtful of his own ability as the expectations of the assignments are clearly indicated. He actually said he would recommend this curriculum to his friends. 

Writing can be an intimidating thing and Write with WORLD makes it much less so. Created by “…nationally recognized journalists and writers, award-winning college professors, and the resources of God’s World News and WORLD Magazine…” this is a prime curriculum for homeschool families that want to give their student access to these kinds of people to help their child learn to write.

The price for a student book, teacher book, and annual web access is $95 per year or $165 if you purchase both year one and two together. This would be four books and two years of web access.

I encourage you to check out their website. Look at the sample lessons online, and see if this sounds like it would work for your students. I am thrilled it is working for mine! You can also see what the other members of the TOS Homeschool Crew had to say about it here.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are mine. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

G is for Grotto

A grotto is defined as a cavern, cavity, chamber, den, hollow, rock shelter, subterranean, or underground chamber. Today, in our Blogging Through the Alphabet post, I am going to share about most recent art history lesson on the most wonderful cave art you have ever seen. This was my last Fine Arts Co-op presentation. I hope you enjoy it here. I loved putting it together.

Did you ever wonder when art began? Who were the first artists? We know from Scripture that Jubal was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. That was the beginning of music. We know that Tubal-cain was a forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. That was the beginning of all sorts of metal working and maybe art, but the Bible doesn’t say that specifically. But, we do know that God values a craftsman that makes beautiful things because He calls some of us to that calling. Not too long ago, our family learned about a relatively obscure biblical craftsman, or artist as we might call him today. His name was Bezalel. Now he was not the first artist, but he was one the Lord chose for the building and beautifying of His house, the Temple.

The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. ” I think it is good, and important, to note that God gifts some of us with these special gifts and that we as His people, can enjoy the fruits of these artists’ labors. The worshipers at the Temple surely enjoyed the craftsmanship of Bezalel.

We don’t know who the very first artist was, but we know of some very ancient artwork. Today we are going to take a look at some of it. Maybe these people knew of the saving work of God. Maybe they sat around their campfires and talked of His salvation amongst themselves. Maybe even their grandparents knew those that went through the flood. It is something to think about as you look at these paintings. The Cave at Altamira in Northern Spain gives us some clues about the beginnings of art. It's clear that man has been making art for thousands of years.

The story of the discover of the Cave at Altamira has become a legend. Read about that here. Here is one of the bison close up. 

 On the ceiling of the cave were painted groups of animals in shades of black, brown, red, and yellow. There were bison, deer, horses, and wild boar. The outcroppings of the rock had been skillfully used to give the paintings depth and dimension. Some of the animals were life-size. All were amazingly realistic.

Look at the eye of one of the bison. The detail and the engraving to make the design is very detailed and realistic...

Prehistoric man? I don't think so, do you?

There are scientists that would say the artwork on these walls is 15,000 years old, but the dating methods they use are based on their belief that the earth did not go through a catastrophic global flood. I believe that Scripture teaches a global flood, and I believe that the evidence in the natural world supports this. 

Radiocarbon dating is based on things staying always as they have been from the beginning of the earth until now. The Flood buried massive amounts of carbon from all the creatures and plants that covered the earth’s surface at the time. I believe this changes everything and calls into question all dates that science claims to know for certain. This artwork is very ancient though, and was probably done after the flood during the ice age that followed the global flood. There is a very good book that discusses this and shows how people quite likely lived and I have mentioned it before, Life in the Great Ice Age. (Here are some really good sample pictures from this book!)

Evolutionary belief says these people were the “first modern humans.” From the website linked above...

The Stone Age is also called the Paleolithic period in history. Most Paleolithic people were hunters and gatherers, lived in caves and temporary shelters, made stone tools, and used fire to keep warm and cook food. These people are sometimes called the first modern humans. They are also called Cro-Magnons, after the rock formation where their tools were first discovered. These people had no written language or alphabet, but as Altamira proves, they could communicate through paintings.

Now to me, those paintings don't look like they are from the "first modern humans" as if they have no skills or abilities. I completely disagree with this! The creative minds that made this beautiful artwork were made in the image of God.

This is such a beautiful personal part of this ancient artwork to me. Have you ever put your hand in paint or mud or even just water and made a mark on the sidewalk or on the side of your house? Handprints were created by blowing ochre mixed with water over a hand, leading to the effect shown here. What does it feel like to see this? Were these people all that different from us you think? Did they do this to leave their mark on the wall to be remembered? I wonder who they were.

The Hall of the Bulls (click to see the amazing huge cave painting) is a stunning place filled with artwork.    Here, however, the animals are on a much larger scale. In the main gallery (...) two white bulls facing each other are over ten feet long! Other animals seen in the main hall at Lascaux are deer, horses, and a mysterious creature with two long horns that is called a unicorn. Like the paintings at Altamira, several colors have been used. Other paintings are outlined just in black. (Source.)

This painting has such a fascinating background. From the same website linked just above...

The mysterious painting, Bird Hunted Man, of the man, the bison, the spear or assegi, and the rhinoceros turning away has stumped art scholars for many years. Many theories about the meaning of the painting have been suggested.

One really interesting and mysterious thing to consider is the location of the painting. It is not in the main galleries, but well hidden, in a very hard-to-reach place. This cave, called the well, could only be reached by climbing down a narrow shaft. Why is this painting hidden in such a heart-to-reach place? What makes this secret location significant? There are other mysteries as well. Why does the man have a bird face? The bison is wounded and appears to be ready to charge. Or, perhaps he has just charged. The man has fallen. Is he dead? On top of the spear is a bird. This painting, unlike the others, seems composed as a story that has a beginning, middle, and end. But what does it mean? No one is sure. One theory is that the picture is symbolic, representing a death scene.

To be killed while hunting was a common event for these Stone Age people who did not have guns or sophisticated weapons. Other experts believe that their painting is part of some ancient ritual - possibly a ceremony to insure good hunting. The secret location of the painting would support this idea of a secret ceremony. As for the significance of the painting, there is no doubt it was important to the artists who created it.

I like the mystery here. I wonder what it really is.

So, cavemen. What about them? Were they what we think of when we think of them at all?

Let’s talk about the dates the historians are giving this cave and what they are saying about these artists.  Some historians give is a date of 30,000 years ago and some say it is "only" 17,000. Though people who live in caves around the time this artwork was created (like those depicted in the book I mention above) are usually considered prehistoric, or before the period of written records, we know this isn’t true from Scripture. Since the sixth day of creation, man has existed with animals. In spite of all that archaeologists and anthropologists contend about these early Stone Age cultures and their long ages, it simply cannot be true that they were unskilled and incapable.

Why? Because the Bible speaks of the very earliest cultures as being highly civilized, with musical instruments, woven tents and clothes, metal working, animal husbandry, etc. (Genesis 4:3–4, 17–22). The fact that we find people in the very earliest times living in caves simply means that they lived in caves instead of houses. We find people around the world doing this very thing today. For instance, some families living along a 40 mile stretch of the Rhone River in France dwell in the caves that are situated there.

In Cappadocia, Turkey, almost every family living there has carved out a cave home from the strange formations. And there appear to have been cave dwellers in every generation since the beginning of time. Even Jesus was born in, lived in (His traditional home in Nazareth was partly a cave), was buried in, and was resurrected from a cave. (Source.)

I love the artistic beauty of this one. What do you think? What about this? This is one of my favorites because there are so many creatures depicted here:

This is a Megaloceros skeleton at the Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.  

This is one on the walls of Lascaux.

I love it. Do you think it is interesting that the artist chose not to draw the whole animal? What does that say about your own artwork? Does everything have to be completed when you draw, paint, or sketch? What do you think of the antlers? My children thought they looked like fingers and I thought this looked like a Dr. Seuss character a little bit. Maybe he was inspired by Lascaux!

Since there are over 2,000 figures on these walls, they caves must be pretty big. I wonder how many years it took for the people to fill it. I wonder too, whether there was a special reason they did it. Don’t you?

This last link is the official Lascaux site. It is in French so it is a bit hard to navigate at first, but I found a full tour of the caves on this site and it is wonderful. 

Enjoy your study of ancient cultures and their art and remember too that these were skilled and talented people. We have much to learn from them.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain

Come, ye faithful, raise the strain of triumphant gladness;
God hath brought forth Israel into joy from sadness;
Loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke Jacob’s sons and daughters,
Led them with unmoistened foot through the Red Sea waters.

’Tis the spring of souls today; Christ has burst His prison,
And from three days’ sleep in death as a sun hath risen;
All the winter of our sins, long and dark, is flying
From His light, to Whom we give laud and praise undying.

Now the queen of seasons, bright with the day of splendor,
With the royal feast of feasts, comes its joy to render;
Comes to glad Jerusalem, who with true affection
Welcomes in unwearied strains Jesus’ resurrection.

Neither might the gates of death, nor the tomb’s dark portal,
Nor the watchers, nor the seal hold Thee as a mortal;
But today amidst the twelve Thou didst stand, bestowing
That Thy peace which evermore passeth human knowing.

“Alleluia!” now we cry to our King immortal,
Who, triumphant, burst the bars of the tomb’s dark portal;
“Alleluia!” with the Son, God the Father praising,
“Alleluia!” yet again to the Spirit raising.

"He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. 
Come, see the place where he lay."
Matthew 28:6

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Amazing Animals by Design

"Does God have a special design for us, too?" asked John.

"Of course He does!" said Dad. "God created your body to breathe, to swallow food, and to blink your eyes without you even having to learn how. (...) He created you to think, to make decisions, and to be creative. He made you in His own image."

That is the biggest message behind this lovely child's book, Amazing Animals by Design, by Debra Haagen. Currently available in PDF ($7.99) as well as physical format ($8.99) from Tate Publishing, this is one of the nicest child's books I have seen in a long time with the right message and delightful artwork.

Your family can join John...
... and his sister, Sarah...

... as they visit the zoo with their parents. There they learn all sorts of amazing facts about how God designed the animals they see. Things like strategies for eating as well as for survival. How do zebras like these protect themselves?

“The zebras have a different strategy,” said a man who worked at the zoo. “They do not have to blend into their surroundings. They blend into the other zebras in the herd. Look at that big group of zebras standing together. With all their stripes, it is hard to see how many zebras there are or how big an individual zebra is. A hungry lion will have a hard time seeing just one zebra, so he will think twice before attacking.”

So not only are your children enjoying a good story, they are also learning interesting information about all sorts of creatures!

Are your children the type of children that love to ask questions? (Mine sure are!) Why is a giraffe's neck so tall? Are there any animals that don't drink water? Are there animals that look like rocks to hide themselves? Find out in this charming book, Amazing Animals by Design. You can read more about this book and the author, a military homeschool mama, at the blog for her book here. Debra Haagen has a lovely creative mind and I am so glad she shared her book with us! You can "Like" her book on Facebook too!

Find out what the other Crew had to say by going here.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me,
in exchange for my honest review.  
All opinions are mine.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Monday's Musings

What I'm thinking: How very grateful I am for my two incredible team mates that make my Crew life so complete. Thank you, Debra, and Marcy, for being who you are. Jesus lives in you both.

What I'm reading: I am reading a really neat novel. I love World War II novels and there is a lot of rich history interwoven in this one. It is called The Swiss Courier: A Novel and I am enjoying it quite a bit. What are you reading? Share in the comments!

What I'm listening to: I have been listening to some of Shinedown's music. It is an interesting group. Some of the music is completely inappropriate and we don't listen to that, but some of the music, and the lead singer's voice, is really good. www.Mog.com is our online listening place. For $25 for six months, we can listen to anything. We have a wide variety of musical preferences here and it makes for a good investment! :)

What we're learning: Today, we learned what teeth look like after years of braces. This is the beautiful glorious result of years of work and a really wonderful dentist. I am so proud of my girl for doing what needed to be done. Her smile here is genuine and beautiful. :) God is so good!

What I'm watching: We have been watching Grimm. It is a little gruesome at times, but the fact that is it loosely based on Grimm's fairy tales makes it fun. I really like fantasy fiction and they do a pretty decent job on this show. :)

What's cooking: I have been making some pretty good turkey burgers. I don't know that I could believe that I would ever put "good" and "turkey burgers" in the same sentence, but I have been managing it! We mix a few founds of turkey with 2 T of Bragg's Liquid Aminos, a 1/4 cup of onion flakes, and a good dousing of garlic powder. Mix well, bake at 400 for 30 minutes or so, and eat! They are quite delicious. Who knew?

What I'm buying: A Kindle Touch. Probably tonight. It is for the kiddos schooling to use with our new resources from Heritage History. There are some really neat things at this site, folks. Check it out.

What I'm thankful for: The people that the Lord brings into my life, both in person, and those I have yet to meet face to face. God is so faithful to bring us those who He knows we need. I am very very grateful!! I am also thankful my "baby" girl's haircut turnout so darn cute! I just adore this little one. :)

What I'm creating: I am hosting our very last art history co-op on Wednesday and I spent literally all day Saturday preparing for the day by creating my last official art history presentation. I will share it here after I have done it in person. I am so happy with what the Lord brought about. It was He that did it, and may He be glorified.

What I'm praying: For the future that God has planned. I am so grateful for the hand of the Lord in my life. I would not walk this life without Him.

What I'm planning: Next year's history co-op. There is so much to cover in the last hundred years of history, isn't there?? I have so many wonderful resources at my fingertips. I can't wait to get there, but I don't want to rush where we are either!

What we did this last weekend: We had the company of two small elvish friends early Saturday morning so their father could spend some time educating the masses on the radio. It got me up much earlier than my normal Saturday morning, but wow, I got so much more done! It was lovely to spend some chat time with their father when he came to pick them up. We treasure these friends. God is good to bless us with them. :) I was able to spend some really lovely funny time with two dear and precious friends during the fellowship meal after church on Sunday. Laughter and conversation are indeed gifts of God. :)

What I'm looking forward to: We are going to visit my aunt and uncle in Isleton tomorrow. Can't wait! We will come back tired, but so happy to have gone. :) It will be our new dog's first foray into open space and water. Should prove interesting and fun for all!

A picture to share: For those of you that saw my mention of ladybugs on Facebook, here is the picture we took of the ladybug and her eggs. They were so tiny! Click to see it larger.

I hope you have a beautiful God-glorifying week. I am grateful you are reading!