Saturday, November 18, 2017

Mitten craziness...again

It's mitten-making season! It's funny, I can look back through the blog and find mitten-making posts from past years ( here from 2012!) (Here from last year)

Each year I do one craft sale--making mittens out of felted wool sweaters that I purchase all year long at rummage sales and such. It's a lot of work, but kind of my one big way to earn money -- usually our Christmas $$ for the year :) This year, however, it will be going toward a downpayment for braces... :/ can you see my frowny-face from here?? Ah well, it's a great way that God provides for us and I am thankful!


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis -- my REVIEW

We are a family of readers. . .but formal learning in literature is not my forte. Some appreciation of classics (for things like societal references and etc) have been discussed, but I am always kind of torn as to how much time and effort we should put on literature, "great authors," classics, and historic writing. We have tried a few different literature curricula, with differing degrees of learning and enjoyment. My attitude toward literature may be a bit lax, but I do realize that for several purposes (college prep, social understanding, appreciation of great art/writing) we ought to study literature and authors.

My son had begun a literature course this schoolyear, the type of course that is a textbook with samples of many, many authors--and then quizzes/tests. This didn't seem to be a thing that stuck in his mind, doing it independently. Maybe with a teacher teaching, it would have been more learn-able, but as an independent learning thing, it wasn't great. ENTER Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis which is produced by Writing With Sharon Watson.   When the opportunity to review this literature course came up, I thought that it would be a good chance to check out another curriculum--and boy am I glad we got to use this!!!

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis

My 10th grade (15 year old) son is the student that is using this course, and from the very first day that he flipped through the course he was excited to switch to this one away from his other literature (okay, seeing that one of his favorite books, The Hobbit,  was "required reading" may have played a part in that happiness as well:) ) but he jumped right in. 

The book begins with chapter zero (haha!!) and the lessons focus on an introduction to "literature" and why you should read it/study it, different important terminologies, descriptions of antagonists/protagonists, etc. along with a concrete exercise to reference these in one of their favorite
books or movies. 

from the student text

Once the student has begun with relating these to something they chose, they move on to chapter 1, which begins with a short story ("A Jury of Her Peers").  Different literary terms and concepts are taught, as well as historical context, followed by the reading of the story and then questions to answer and discuss.  There is also a Novel Notebook (a pdf download) which the student can utilize to answer more questions/thinking exercises. 
from the novel notebook

Between the textbook and the novel notebook, there is an abundance (overabundance?) of questions for the student, to provoke thought and for them to write in answers for.  There is also a large list of activities ("Your choice of activities") which relate to the topic/study...for instance, for the "A Jury of Her Peers" short story, some of the options are: research (research the history of women on juries), create (draw, paint, or sculpt an event or character from the story), can (learn how to can fruit), write a procedure (write the procedure for police coming to the scene of this story), conduct a trial (Conduct Minnie's trial), and more.  These activities will cement this story into the minds of the learner.

There are also quizzes.  There is a quiz book, the quizzes are also available online.  There is a "Yes I read it" quiz (covering the story itself) as well as a "Literary Terms Quiz".  My son enjoyed doing the quizzes online, though they could be done on paper as well.  (the online ones are self-scored, if you utilize a paper quiz, the answers are provided in the Quiz and Answer Manual.  

Once the book-reading begins, specific publications are recommended (the ISBN's are in the book, so you can purchase the corresponding one) so that the student can follow line references referred to in the textbook.  Thankfully these are not really super-pricey versions ;) We haven't tried using a non-recommended version, so I don't know if that makes it more difficult.  

As of right now, my son is working on Frankenstein.  The other books that will be addressed in this program are Silas Marner, Much Ado About Nothing, "A White Heron", "The Garden of Forking Paths," "Haircut," "The Lady or the Tiger," "Of the Passing of the First-Born," "A Child's Christmas in Wales," Sense and Sensibility, Biography (of the student's choice), and (my son's favorite!!!) The Hobbit.  Short stories are either printed in the text or linked to online.  

from the novel notebook download

Okay, so ... I really like this literature curriculum.  I love all the literary terms that are introduced, in a concrete, applied fashion, not just as abstract terms.  My son learns things much more thoroughly when they are applied right away (as do I!)  The website on which  you can find this curriculum mentions that "by the end of this course, your teen will have learned almost 100 literary terms and devices as they occur naturally in the selections. "  This is very valuable.  There are a wide range of pieces that are covered and discussed (and learned about!)  It is also written in a very learner-friendly way.  My kids do much of their high-school work independently, and this book is written in a way that is easily-independently-used.  My son actually has said that he would like to use another book by this author next year, if it's available!  So there, high praise from a 15 year old boy! :) 

The set of books that is included is a Student text, a quiz and answer manual, and a teacher's guide. As a reminder, there are also quizzes available online, as well as a "novel notebook" .pdf to download if you wish.  It's a great value, with all of these together.  Check out this Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis and you'll see what I mean!  

To hear what other reviewers thought of this curriculum, you can click the link below!  

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis {Writing with Sharon Watson Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Braces? :/

Well, my next adventure will be braces on my teeth.  Hmmm.  Not sure how this will be, I'm thinking the worst part will be the cost.  I am waiting to see how the Lord will provide :) 

Thankful for the reminders in the song "Great Is Thy Faithfulness"

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thinking Like an Engineer -- my REVIEW

All of my children have an interest in engineering-type projects, activities, and topics.  Since they are homeschooled, when I see an opportunity that fits within this framework, I like to check it out and get them involved.  They are all on a robotics team, and two of them on a Cyberpatriot (cybersecurity) team, as well as doing other robotic work through 4-H, but they haven't really had any education aimed purely at engineering.  I was very pleased to get to review this enginering program from Innovators Tribe.  It's an online class called Thinking Like an Engineer and my 15-year old son has added this into his curriculum for this year.

Thinking Like an Engineer

This course, Thinking Like an Engineer, is a go-at-your-own-pace class, made up of learning videos as well as hands-on projects. The materials for the class are pretty much items you have around your home alread, so there was no need for expensive equipment.  

I want to copy/paste the "Learning Targets" for this course, because for me, just reading these would emphasize why I want my children to take this course:

·         I can explain and apply the 6 steps of problem-solving.
·         I know how to use techniques like the 5 Why’s problem identity technique and the “What if” technique.
·         I can explain what an idea is and how to have more of them.
·         I can explain the real definition of the word “solution.”
·         I can demonstrate the use of different brain-games to help build my innovative muscle.
·         I can identify the 4 poisons to innovation and their cure.
·         I can explain the importance of engineering and problem-solving using real-world examples.
·         I can explain that there are 14 grand problem-solving challenges that need solutions.
·         I can define the following terms: tension, compression, twisting, bending, shearing, torsion, vortices, vortex shedding, aerodynamics, dead load, live load, structural-engineering, girder, truss, friction, potential and kinetic energies, g-force.
·         I can give an example of how each of these math subjects is used in engineering: Algebra, Geometry, Calculus, Advanced Calculus, Trigonometry, Probability & Statistics, Physics.
·         I can demonstrate the correct use of the following tools: ruler, construction level, 3D design software

The goal being, to help students learn to think like an engineer, yes, but to think like an INNOVATOR!  Aha!  We need this type of thinking in every aspect of our lives, right?

The chapters of the course are broken down into lessons, and each lesson has an estimated time beside it to give the student an idea of the length of time they can expect to need for each lesson.  Many (the videos) are quite short, while the challenges can take much more time.  

What are the challenges like?  Well, the first two are to use very limited resources (as listed in each one) and 1) build a tall self-standing tower, and 2) hold up a stack of books 1" above a surface.  Here are my son's outcomes for these first two:


He was a little unenthused about the course throughout the first chapter, because he felt like he hadn't actually been taught anything.  And then, the next chapter was about 3D modeling, and he's not a big computer guy, so he was kind of dreading that too. . .BUT as he began that chapter, he found that, "Hey!  It's kind of interesting!" :)

So yes, there is a 3D modeling segment of the course, and it's a free download of a CAD Autodesk product.  Awesome, right?  :)  This is something that I believe all children of this generation will need to have at least some exposure and experience with, so I'm happy that it is a part of this course as well.  The explanations are very clear, even as to how to download the product and install it (which was nice, because he could do it himself.)  He has been enjoying these lessons, and has been doing a lot of playing around with this software.

And, yes, I used the term "playing around," because that's how I term it with him. . .but truthfully he's familiarizing himself with the tool and gaining confidence in this computer modeling.  I think this is very valuable, so I've been encouraging him to do more and more of that "playing around" before he proceeds much further.  

SO, I've told you about the intro and the 3D modeling, but you'd probably like to know the other topics, right?  The other chapter titles are Engineering Rollercoasters, Engineering Bridges, Nano Engineering, and Thinking Like an Engineer (course conclusion).  

He's enjoying it, and I think I'll have my 13 year old daughter take the course after him. Of course she'll have seen his solutions to the challenges, and I'd bet she'll probably try to come up with her own unique solutions.  It's not a course just geared toward high schoolers, it's actually listed for grades 6-12.  

This screenshot shows the video lecture, the chapater/progress section (on the left) and the 3D program behind
To accompany the lessons, there are worksheets/guided notes such as pictured below:

I do like this course.  I think it is very valuable to most students, not just those interested in a engineering career, remember it is learning to think like an INNOVATOR, and that is definitely something we should want all the members of the next generation to be proficient in.  I would suggest this course as an addition to your homeschool curriculum.

Innovators Tribe What You Get

If you have a high schooler, or if you are in transcript-credit mode, you'll be interested in the estimate that this is around 30 hours of work, and will work out to about 1/4 of a credit.

So, to sum up, this is a great hands-on, online learning tool to help your student develop his or her innovative thinking skills (as well as 3D modeling!).  Go check out their site (Thinking Like an Engineer) .  While you are there, you might see that there is another course which I have not viewed yet, called Thinking Like an Architect, which looks really neat too!  To read reviews by other folks of this engineering course as well as of the architect course, please click on the link below.

Thinking Like an Architect or Engineer {Innovators Tribe Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, November 6, 2017

Thin Stix Creativity Pack -- my REVIEW

These days, it seems our busy schedules don't allow for much art or craft work.  When we have projects, the quicker the better it seems!  My girls were thrilled when we received our next product for review, the Thin Stix Creativity Pack by The Pencil Grip, Inc.  The big pack of colorful marker-looking things attracted the instant attention of my two girls, who are 13 and 17 years old :) 

Thin Stix Creativity Pack

Doesn't that just make you want to design something beautiful? 

They jumped right in, trying out the paint sticks.  Oh, did you catch that? PAINT STICKS, not markers!  They have a really smooth feel going on, and dry very quickly (90 seconds, according to the box!)  They are not a water-based marker, not even a marker, just solid tempera paint!  

The colors are great, this box contains 24 colors, twelve classic, six neon, and six "metalix"!  My girls set out right away, grabbing paper and doing some coloring and talking about what they like about these.  Statements such as this:

"The colors are nice, but some of them are a lot lighter than I'd think they would be."
"It feels so nice going onto the paper!"
"Oohhh my arm got smeared in it!"
"I forgot these are paint!"
"Oh, they dry so fast!"
"Look at this gold one!!"
"Oh hey, try this!"

Even my husband was intrigued, he looked them over and thought it was great that there is a white paint stick too! 

Ummmm, did you get the idea that these were a lot of fun for us?  :)  Okay, my 15-year old son wasn't too excited, but he's not really into craftish stuff :) 

Here are some of their favorites . . .


The box that the Thin Stix Creativity Pack comes in looks pretty childish, it's obvious that they're meant for younger kids (I think!).  The more the girls worked with them, they DID say that they thought they are meant for kids younger than themselves (they were coming up with lots of ideas of children we know who would love them!)  They found it difficult to do distinct edges, it was much easier to do broad filling strokes, perhaps that is a function of them being paint sticks -- it kind of wears down like lipstick does, if that makes sense.

I think that this product would be a great fun product for children of many different ages.  Just beware!  It DOES rub off on you if you accidentally drag your arm or hand through it before it has dried.  

My kids, who are in an older range, thought that these would be great for making things like posters or tabletops, like they do for some 4-H presentations.  The colors were a little light, but if you layer them, they darken up more.  They give a great quick end result.  (My youngest decided that if she were running for class president, she'd make a sign like this:
ummm, as a homeschooler, and therefore the only one in her
class, I'd hope she would win! :) :)

So--they're pretty cool, we liked them, not really a serious art product for my age of kids, but great fun for younger ones!  If you'd like to hear what other people thought about this Thin Stix Creativity Pack, please click on the link below!

Thin Stix Creativity Pack {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Saturday, November 4, 2017

When Did Everyboy Else Get So Old? by Jennifer Grant -- my REVIEW

I seem to be reading a lot of  books lately, which is good!  This book, by Jennifer Grant, is DEFINITELY one of those that grab the reader's attention!  Oh my goodness, from the title When Did Everybody Else Get So Old? (which is something I've said before!!) to the subtitle, "Indignities, Compromises, and the Unexpected Grace of Midlife" -- this book sounded too good to be true!!  Even the cover--HILARIOUS!!! It's hard to tell in this picture below, but the text on the front of the cover is slightly fuzzed/blurred, but just so slightly that you think it's your eyes, until you read the author name (shown inside a pair of glasses), which is completely clear.  SO so funny!!!

And oh boy, throughout the reading of is so reflective of many of my thoughts and experiences!  Okay, so to be clear, I'm 46 years old, so I think I am probably the demographic this book was written for, and she hit it dead center.  There are topics on body things, kid things, mind things, spiritual things, and more.  It's kind of like a collection of essays all related to our lives at this stage, but don't get me wrong, it's not choppy -- it just flows from topic to topic.  

This book made me feel good to read.  I understood and empathized and heard advice. 

Until the second to last chapter.  Sadly the author holds a completely different view of God and the Bible than I do, and this really makes it a book that I would hesitate to recommend ... unless I could recommend it without that chapter.  Seriously, I really like this book...but seriously, that one part, not in my belief system.  I believe in the Biblical account of God and Jesus and the way to salvation through Christ alone.  This is not the view put forth by this author.  SO. . .I guess I won't be buying this book for a bunch of gifts.  I kind of wished that the author hadn't put this part in there, but it's her story.  

I'm still glad I read it.  It still made me laugh and reminisce and feel kind of normal-ish :) I just can't give a blanket recommendation on it.  

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Too Far Down by Mary Connealy -- my REVIEW

Too Far Down by Mary Connealy is a third book in The Cimarron Legacy series, a book about a western family in the 1880's.  I have read the first two books in the series, so I wanted to read this one as well to kind of wrap up the series.  

The Boden family is still being plagued by some unknown enemy (the same that has been after them before?  They don't know.)  This time it is the mining operations owned by the family.  The parents are far far away, waiting for the father's leg to heal, and the (grown) children are living at the ranch in response to a requirement by their father.  

The book begins with a series of explosions at the mine, which is a part of the family properties, and is managed by the oldest son, Cole. Several men are injured, and some killed.  Cole and his brother, sister, and other family connections begin trying to figure out who/what/why of this tragedy--while trying to keep safe and alive. 

Mel, the daughter of the nearby rancher (who essentially grew up with the Boden family) takes an active role in the investigation.  

Basically it's a story of their trying to find out who/what is the threat . . .and meanwhile a love story comes about as well.  

I had read the previous two books, and that made it easier to follow the story.  For whatever reason, however, I kind of felt like, alright all ready--- enough.  I can't quite put my finger on it, I usually really love series, but this one just. . .not.  

It IS a clean book, a bit of romance and a bit of battle, so there's that going for it.  It's just not a favorite of mine.  Funny, I went back and read my review of book two (here) and I guess I didn't love that one either :)  Well, that should teach me...if I don't like book #2, I might not like #3!  Who knows, though, maybe you'll love it!  It has a lot of great reviews from others!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”