Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A TOS Review: Beyond the Book Report

Josiah is entering 7th grade this year. Boo! Hiss! What happened to my chubby cheeked little boy who used to play for hours with his Action Figures?

Actually he still likes to play with Action Figures, but don’t tell him I told you so. 

Along with this grown-up sounding promotion (7th grade!) comes all kinds of new scholastic adventures. 

Primarily…the Book Report. (Da Da Dum)

A real honest to goodness Book Report. Now we have a few issues in our house. I will share more in a minute. Thankfully, I just had the opportunity to review a product from Analytical Grammar that will help navigate the Book Report waters. 

Beyond the Book Report is brand spankin’ new language arts curriculum.  It is intended for middle schoolers as well as early-high schoolers. The recommendation is that the student starts Beyond the Book Report after he or she has completed Analytical Grammar. I am assuming that you can use Beyond the Book Report with any grammar program.  


What I Received

I received 3 seasons of Beyond the Book Report. I received a DVD for each season, which include printables and Video clips of the lectures. I also received a teaching guide, examples and a glossary of each terms which can be placed in a binder.


Season One teaches the basics of research and essay writing. The student will learn to write 3 different types of book reports: a basic book report, a pamphlet book report, and a journalism book report. The student will learn about paraphrasing and summary writing in this Season. 

Season Two teaches poetry and drama. The student will write 4 different kinds of poems based on a book they read. There is also a drama book report that teaches with A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Season Three expands on research and essay writing and includes public speaking. There is also a section on writing an SAT essay. This Season was sent to us just a blessing. This will certainly be a help on down the road! 

Beyond the Book Report is available for $24.95 per season, or, you can bundle all three seasons together for $69.95.  

How We Used It

Season One is all about the basic book report. It is divided into three parts: the basic book report, Pamphlet, and Journalism. 

The first assignment to watch a few of the lectures. We were encouraged to print off the lecture notes so that the student can practice those notetaking skills. Notetaking is a hard one for Josiah. He is dyslexic and dysgraphic and needs a little more time than a typical middle school lecture allows. It helped that we could stop and start the lecture. 

Josiah was given the assignment to choose a book. This was an easy task considering that I have a handy dandy book list we are working through. Moby Dick was the choice and the next day we started to incorporate his reading log and went over his rubric. He also learned more about literary terms from the lecture video. 

The reading log is very helpful. It is not simply a way to record time read, but it helped us plan out his the reading schedule so that he would have an assignment completed on time.

All in all, the assignments for this portion of Season One were easy to understand. Josiah knew exactly what was expected of him thanks to the Rubric. I’m thinking I need a Rubric for life! That is another story!

Our unique challenge with this product was, of course, dyslexia. I had a young reader’s version of Moby Dick, but it still took longer than anticipated. Initially Josiah figured out he would need to read 18 pages a day to get through his book before assignment time. I eventually took over and made it our Read aloud book. This isn’t an issue with us. I still read aloud every day. And I certainly don’t want him to miss out on all the good stuff. He would have been able to do at a slower pace, but I needed to review the product! It did require more of my involvement than perhaps it would for a kiddo doesn’t have any reading issues. It just made the whole process a bit more complicated.'

This is the finished product of Josiah's Pamphlet project. We utilized the computer. I also have to say a word about some advice the authors of Beyond the Book Report gave us. Sparknotes! Where have you been all my life (specifically when I was in college).

He was excited to find a whole page of sea life stickers in the sticker box. There weren't any white whales. He tried to tell me that perhaps we could change Moby Dick into a shark. I think someone already did that (Steven Spielberg!).

You will notice the spelling error. He didn't get very many points taken off for that one. Especially since he asked me to proof read it before he printed it off (she says as she shamefully moves to the next picture).

We had a hard time with this one. Captain Ahab is crazy (Josiah's words).

I love this. Exciting adventure! Everybody dies (except poor Ishmael)!

Season 2 is a whole different kettle of fish.  I love reading good (and pretty) poetry. I don’t especially care to know what most of it means…analyzing someone else’s morbid thoughts doesn’t sound like a good time. And I really can’t write poetry. I’m just too wordy! Imagine that. 

We obviously kept our Book Selection from Season 1 for Season 2.  It just made it easier for review purposes. 

Here is Josiah’s Haiku contribution.
Big whale in the sea
Crazy man without a leg
Just stay home in bed

Yep. He gets straight to the heart of the matter. 

We are still working towards his final Poetry Book Report. It involves poster board and I’m hoping sparkly pens and stickers. The other kinds of poetry for the project are a limerick, a sonnet and a narrative poem. It should be interesting. 

All three seasons feature a handy glossary.

What I enjoyed about Season 2 was that they supplied plenty of practice for Josiah to work through the sometimes confusing world of metaphors, similes, hyperboles and all the rest of it. I have had to help him with his time management and reading, but I think we’ll get through it. 

The Drama Book Report is yet to come. I have watched the videos and it looks like something that is going to be a lot of fun. Josiah loves to go to the theatre with me. I think he will really enjoy it.  Stay tuned for a drama staring Josiah as Captain Ahab in our living room.

My Final Thoughts

Here is the nitty gritty. Literature reviews are just plain hard for me to do. Josiah needs so much more time than we are often given. I want to be able to give my full time and attention to the product, yet his needs are paramount. 

That being said this is one of those products than can be adapted for Josiah. We just had to adjust the pace. The expectations were the same…but perhaps I had to be more involved. If you are facing the same issues I will tell you that it is possible. Just be prepared to take it slower and adapt where you need to adapt. 

One of the big advantages of Beyond the Book Report is that it can be done with any book. The concepts and skills learned are those learned are really needed. I love that the student knows what is to be expected with every assignment. I tend to do that with Josiah anyway. I might him an example (even of our notebooking pages) so he can see what it “looks” like. 

The Beyond the Book Report page has all sorts of samples for your viewing pleasure. I really think it is a good, step by step literature program. I love the lectures. They are short and yet the authors, mother and daughter duo, Robin Finley and Erin Karl, do a fantastic job. The audio quality could be improved, but overall they kept Josiah’s attention. 

You can connect with Analytical Grammar or click on the Banner below to read more reviews. 



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Monday, July 28, 2014

My "End of Summer" Bucket List

I was assaulted by Christmas trees this morning at Hobby Lobby. It was terrifying.

I picked up 2 packages of summery scrapbook notions just to calm myself. (At least this is what I'm telling The Studly Muffin).

Don't get me wrong. I love, love, love the Holidays.

I just love them more in their proper place. I have also been reminded that our local public school kids return to their respective halls in just a few weeks.

What happened to summer?

I realize I've been kinda busy (complaining about the heat and all), but I am not finished with summer yet!

So today (after my unfortunate encounter with aisles of Holiday fare) I am making a summer bucket list.

I realize I am late to the party, but making my list helped me recognize that we have already had a memorable summer.

I'm just adding a few more memories to the mix.

I decided to get all Junior High and pulled out the butcher paper (which I promptly cut in a crooked line) and the markers. I spent about an hour coloring and then hung it up in the hall.

Josiah contributed a few ideas. He and The Muffin have talked about going golfing. They haven't been yet this summer and it's been a favorite father/son activity since Josiah was 2 years old.

My contributions are much more self-serving. Though I will probably share this spectacular blackberry cobbler, maybe.

As I type, however, I am wondering how this whole "take a nap under a tree" is going to work out. I haven't laid on the ground on purpose in almost 20 years. It just sounds restful. Stay tuned. It might turn out to be a really bad idea.

So how are you planning to end your summer? With a bang? Or a wimper? Or maybe sipping on a homemade rootbeer float?  Let me know!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Frugal Fixins: Crockpot Green Beans & Potatoes

The Polar Vortex was nice while it lasted. Very nice.

Now we are back to the "Good Ole Summertime." Which means my face melts everytime I step outdoors. I was visiting with one of my upstairs neighbors. We are both fair complected. Our hair drooping around our faces...we wither.

The last thing I feel like doing on a hot steamy day in the Ozarks is heat up my kitchen. I try and plan a few meals that take minimal heat. Which happens to be a bit more complicated because my microwave went on to greener pastures this week (I know).

My Crockpot is my friend. And one of my favorite Crockpot meals in the summertime incorporates some of the goodies I am bringing home from my Dad's garden.

This is one my Mom made. She would serve it just with a side of freshly harvested garden tomatoes and maybe some sauteed summer squash (depending on if we were at that point of leaving squash in unlocked cars...squash does that some years). Troy's Mom makes it too.

My recipe calls for: Green Beans, Potatoes, Onion, Smoked Sausage,  chicken or vegetable bullion and salt to taste (plus water).

These beans are freshly harvested and snapped. You can see the one I need to snap a little further. I did so shortly before dumping the green beans in the crockpot. You can use any kind of green bean...even canned green beans. I think it works a bit better with frozen beans if you don't have any of the fresh kind.  Aldi generally has their fresh green beans at a good price. I even like to roast them.

The potatoes are small gold potatoes. You really can use any type. I left mine whole. You can cut them in half, quarter them..the larger your potato the more attention you need to give to it. I love the potato. I can't enjoy the potato as often as I would like, so I want to pay proper homage to it when I can. You should see the picture I painted these potatoes (kidding!)

 The onions came from Dad's garden as well. They really have a good taste. The Muffin likes his onions to be onions so I just give them a rough chunk. That Muffin would eat an onion as is. That's why he's The Muffin.

This did not come from my Dad's garden. He isn't that good. This is smoked turkey sausage. You can use bacon (bacon!) or ham. You really don't even need to add meat, but I married a carnivore. I paid just a little over $2 for this pound of meat. Which makes pretty cheap eating. I chunk it up so he feels like he's getting a little more meat. I have used bits of ham I found lurking in my freezer. Not that it lurks as often as I would like.

My secret ingredient to this dish is always the bullion. My favorite is a chicken bullion I get at an Amish store, but I was out of that. I am sensitive to MSG so I look for those that are MSG free. This is not quite as concentrated as what I generally use, but it gave it a nice full flavor. I believe I used 2 for about 4 cups of water.

You really don't need as much water as I put in my crockpot. Crockpots make additional liquid as they cook.  It was still tasty...it just resembled  more of a stew. 

I just turned my crockpot on low and let it cook! Easy Peasy. I think it probably takes between 6-8 hours. Because I left my potatoes whole it took the 8 hours.  Which caused a bit of a problem for The Muffin about hour 4. I got this call while I was at the Y. "I just checked supper and the potatoes are still hard!" I assured him that I had it under control. It was about 1:00ish...he thought he was going to have a sneak bite!

You can serve this alone or make up a pan of cornbread. I sliced up a tomato or two and served it with some corn on the cob (also from Dad's garden). I love these easy summer suppers.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A TOS Review: Flourish: Balance For Homeschool Moms

If I were to describe my life at this moment in time I would probably use words like… dilapidated, drooping and stale.

I know!

I’m just a ray of sunshine.

And I’m breaking on my own rules. No Whining! This rule also happens to be found in the latest book I’m reviewing, Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms from Apologia Educational Ministries

I’m telling you sistas. This book couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

Here is a brief snippet of an average day.

I get up (I suppose you could see that one coming). However, I have to drag myself out of bed. I’m dragging because I spent too much time on the computer the night before checking out things like how to tile my new bathroom with seashells. Wait! I don’t have a new bathroom! Or how to make a necklace with pistachio shells. Would I even wear something like that?

My to-do list for the day is more like a suggestion list. I do realize that if I don’t get out the door now I will be late taking Josiah to his PE class. What happened to that book report we needed to work on this morning? I also remember that I meant to take out a pork loin out of the freezer. I’ve got to fix The Studly Muffin his supper before he leaves for work at 3:00pm. Do you think he will mind taking Ramen again? I was supposed to go the Y this afternoon to work out with a friend. Right now I feel like I just need to go home and sleep the afternoon away. What happened to my day?

So maybe you have similar issues. Or maybe you just have a different set of issues.

Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms is an encouraging read for Moms. The author, Mary Jo Tate, is a homeschooler of 4 boys. She is a published author, international editor and book coach.

Flourish speaks to those the issues that a lot of mamas face. Take a look at these Chapter Titles.

1. An Invitation to Flourish
2. Change Your Mind to Change Your Time
3. The FREEDOM Toolbox
4. Where Did My Time Go?
5. Aim High: Setting Goals
6. What Do I Do Next?: Seven Essential Planning Tools
7. We Interrupt This Program
8. It's Time for an Attitude Adjustment
9. Oxygen Masks and Monkey Bread Days
10. Training Your Children
11. Making Memories
12. Managing Your Home
13. All of Life is Learning
14. Solo Act: Flourishing as a Single Mom
15. Home Business
16. Moving Ahead

Each chapter gives the reader not only much needed inspiration, but supplies step-by-step plans of action. We are encouraged to be proactive during the course of reading the book. There are plans to make, tough questions to ask ourselves. The book also includes an appendix with a list of resources and an appendix with worksheets and forms. The forms are available to those who purchase the book online.
The book costs just $15.

My Thoughts
Fair Warning. I am one of those kinds of gals who researches everything. If I am confronting a particular problem I will read every article I can find. This being said, I have a number of “self-help” kind of books on my shelf. I am always looking for a good piece of advice. Now whether I take it or not…that might be the issue.
This is not to say that I am particularly “needy.” I am, however, high maintenance.  I have serious chronic health issues, my husband is a pastor (those of you who are also pastors wives will recognize the challenges that come along with the vocation), Josiah has some special learning challenges, we live from pay check to paycheck…
I am also one of those creative personality types who would rather fly by the seat of my stretchy pants. I develop kind of a rash when folks start talking to me about goals and schedules.

However, saying all this, I know firsthand that my life needs structure. I want to
Flourish! Not just survive.  I want to share a few of my favorite nuggets out of the book. There are so many!
In the 2nd chapter of the book (Change Your Mind To Change Your Life), Mary Jo talks about Triage. Now I could tell you a few things about Triage personally. You will know Triage as a medical strategy that is used to treat patients. Ever visit the Triage center in an emergency room? According to Mary Jo, I have been using the Triage strategy to balance my life. Here is a quote. 

Anybody else feeling like they are just addressing the crisis?

Another terrific piece of advice.

There are so many things we have a vision for. That perfectly sea shell tiled bathroom (well, maybe not). What I had planned for my life is much different than what actually happened. I still need to find the beauty and the purpose in that. Mary Jo, herself, has experienced this. Her husband left over 12 years ago. She is a single, homeschool mom. Her advice is so encouraging.

I mentioned that there is some real practical advice in the book. Mary Jo encourages us to keep a Time Log! A what? Do people even do that?

I feel like I am constantly doing something. However, I was really surprised that while I might be doing something…it might not be all that productive. Even when it comes to taking care of myself. (Mary Jo also addresses this in the book). Instead of wandering around Pinterest (looking for other ways to use my Pistachio nut shells), I could be taking that walk, soaking in a tub, or reading. Mommy Guilt (a bonafide condition) also has prevented me from really addressing those things I need to be addressing.

The step-by-step Take Action! Plan in “What Do I Do Next?” (chapter 6) is an valuable tool. I needed someone to take me by the hand and help get me back on track.

It didn't let me down, but it was this portion book that REALLY was the "Aha!" moment.

Let me tell you. I drew great comfort from reading this section and plan on re-reading it again and again. The Take Action! portion was also very helpful.

The Monkey Bread Days (as Mary Jo calls them) are that time in your life when there are so many people pulling at you. If you know Monkey Bread you know that eventually there is nothing left. Tru Dat!

Another chapter that was helpful for me was Housekeeping With a Grateful Heart. I started out the chapter actively grinding my teeth. This is the bane of my existence. I live in a tiny space. The people I live with live exuberantly. I am also one of those kind of gals who like to create and explore. I haven’t quite embraced the concept of “put away after you play.” In this chapter, we are given some practical advice. I love this exercise from the Take Action! Portion.

Make peace with your own homemaking style. Release yourself from the burden of trying to live up to someone else’s standards.

We aren’t left off the hook. She also encourages us to edit our stuff, make hospitality a priority and designate a place for everything.

There are two chapters that are specifically for single moms and working moms. I didn’t spend as much time pouring over those chapters. I still found them to be useful. We all are “sistas.” There is a wonderful list What Single Moms Need. Those are things I can keep in my heart. 

This is a quote from Victor Hugo that Mary Jo uses in the book. I love it. It really spoke to me. 

Isn't that good? 

You can see that
Flourish has a little something for all moms. Not just homeschooling Moms. I think all of us, whether we are schooling at home or not, can benefit from Mary Jo’s advice. She has been there!
My goal is to sit back down with the book and really inhale those parts that spoke to me the most. I was so blessed to be able to review this book. It spoke to many things that God has laid upon my own heart…and has given me some valuable tools to address those things that I need to address.

You can connect with Flourish and Mary Jo through Facebook and Twitter. 

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