Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Random Thoughts: The Summer Bug Edition

It's late. I am stretched out in my bed. I have been here the majority of the day.

Yep. I've been struck down by some sort of plague. It's not as bad as it could be, but it's kept the fizzle out my fa-shizzle.

So in honor of all summer borne illnesses....I thought I would treat you to a few random thoughts. It's been a while.

1. So I started our heavy duty school schedule this week. At least for one day. Then life happened. You know how that goes. Life happened on Tuesday when I got up and realized my computer wasn't charging. What? Things like that never happen to me! (she says with as much snark as she can muster). I have a theory that the many screws and pins I have floating around my body interfere with the electronics in my life. This happens to be my second computer this year. And I believe we have had to replace a printer once a year for the last 5. Anyhoo. We wound up taking just the cord down to Best Buy (because of all things I need in my life it's this computer). The lovely boy from the Geek Squad told me that the charger is working, but it is probably my computer. Of course, it is! We went home and low and behold my computer is charging again. But I don't trust it. I can play nice for right now, but I've got my eye on this crafty piece of computer hardware. I expect a return trip to Best Buy any day now.

2. This morning when I got up (and realized someone had been building a high rise in my head overnight) I got around some work for Josiah to do on his own. Which is kinda like saying to the boy, "Free Day!"

Instead of working on his math worksheets and cursive handwriting page he created this in his bedroom. 

The pic is a little blurry. He took it himself. I believe it is some sort of scene from Star Wars. I imagine we can count it as some sort of school work, but that math is going to be waiting for him tomorrow.

3. This is for all you mamas out there. Have you ever noticed than when you are sick that you might as well extend your recovery time to include at least a day and a half of housework...all those dirty dishes and piles of stuff seem to take on a life of their own. I did send some very unpleasant looking tacos with The Studly Muffin tonight to work. He didn't complain. He's good like that. As long as it's enough. As for Josiah and myself, we made do with PB&J. I know! Not very diet friendly (especially with that mushy white bread I got on special). But sometimes you just have to do what you just have to do. It was either that or ramen. And you know how I feel about ramen.

4. Any big Labor Day plans out there? We used to be a bit more fun. But I've reached that stage in my life when fun consists of a sink void of dirty dishes and a clean bathroom. And maybe just a few minutes of alone time at Hobby Lobby. Who knew I would become so practical in my 40's?

5. Next week Josiah starts some of his activities again after the summer break. I'm looking forward to seeing some friends again. However, I'm also dreading the juggling act we seem to perform every year. He started swim team again a few weeks ago after a few months off. At least, that gave me a reason to go workout. It was easy to find an excuse when he wasn't swimming. I have a few. I'd give you my best ones (just in case you need to use one), but I can't have that hanging over my head as well.

6. Tomorrow is a new day. Hopefully, my summer plague will be just a slight bug and I'll bounce back with a spring in my step (or at least a pop...I'd settle for a pop). I will prepare a healthy and filling meal for my family and there will be no easy temptation of Apple Jacks and PB&J as my go-to snacks. Josiah will finish all the school work I have planned for him. Any recreation of scenes from Star Wars will be put off until after Spanish (at least). I will take him to Swim Team and tackle my workout with renewed vigor...

7. Or I will sleep a little more and dream of a clean kitchen.

Night all!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

TOS Review: Because You Are Strong (Doorposts)

It is such a privilege for me to be able to have God’s Word as the center of our Homeschool Curriculum. To be honest with you, that was not the primary reason we started homeschooling. I firmly believe that the study of God’s Word needs to be a part of every Christian’s life regardless of where you go to school or where you work. The fact that I can now incorporate our Bible Study into our school day is just an added blessing. The Bible study habits that Josiah is developing now will only benefit him all his life. 

I had an opportunity to review Because You Are Strong, a Bible study especially for boys. It was written by Daniel Forster who with his family has a wonderful company called Doorposts.  Doorposts provides Bible-based parenting and character training materials.  

What I Received

Because You Are Strong (a workbook style soft bound book) is especially written for young men ages 10 and up. The goals of the study are to help young men gain a Biblical understanding of strength and to learn and practice Bible study skills.
This study runs 14.00 (it is currently on sale through 8/31/13 for 12.00!) and is available as an ebook as well.  Other recommended materials to use with Because You are Strong are a Nave’s Topical Bible and Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. It is also recommended that you use a Bible that you are not afraid of marking in. Some of the studies require some underlining and highlighting. The translation of the Bible used in this study is primarily the King James Version, but there are recommendations given on how to use other translations if you prefer. 

How It Works

The Study consists of 10 studies. They are as follows:

    Strength for the Race: Meditating on Hebrews 11-12
    Strength with No Limits A Topical Study on the Omnipotence of God
    Strength and Wisdom: A Topical Study in Proverbs
    Strength and Temptation: A Character Study of Samson
    Strength to be Valiant: A Word Study on “Valor”
    Strength in Our Weakness: A Verse Study on 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
    Strength in the Battle: A Chapter Study of 1 Samuel 17
    Strength Serving Others: A Study of Jesus’ Actions in the Gospel of Mark
    Strength and Gray Heads: A Verse Study of Proverbs 20:29
    Strength in the Faith: A Book Study of 1 John.

When it is all said and done it winds up being 74 days of study (if you use it as suggested). The assignments (which are daily) take between 5-20 minutes each. This, of course, depends on your student and how many rabbit trails you might take :<). In addition, there are 40 additional topics of study which could easily give you enough material for a full year of Bible study. 

One thing I really appreciated was this statement located in the front of the guide. “It is important, however, that we study what God actually says, not what we think God says.” I personally think this is the key. Many of us who grew up in church know what we think the right answer should be. But what does God actually say? Do we have the discipline and the skills necessary to study the Word for ourselves? There are some pretty terrific study skills that are cultivated through the course of Because You Are Strong.  

The book teaches students how to study original Greek and Hebrew words. My Dad has his Master’s in Biblical Languages. The importance of knowing what the Scripture really says (straight from the author’s pen) and what the intent was has been drilled into me all of my life. I so appreciate this being a part of the study.

The student learns how to use a concordance. This is not just a brief “how-to” paragraph. Mr. Forster takes the student step by step though the process. 

As the study moves along the student is introduced to different study aids (such as the topical Bible) and practically given opportunity to truly study. In addition to the more scholarly approach of Bible study, the personal and daily application of the scripture is emphasized and encouraged.  

How We Used It

My husband and I both assisted Josiah with this study. It did this mama’s heart good to see her two “boys” studying the Word together. My husband is a minister and we have plenty of resources around the house for a through Bible Study. But just in case, there are resources available on the Doorpost website. In addition, Mr. Forster gives a lot of online resource links and tips. 

I do think that despite my good opinion about this product the study would be too difficult for Josiah to complete on his own. He is 11 and dyslexic. I’m not sure at this stage of the game if he would be able to truly navigate it by himself. I think it would overwhelm him. And he still might be just a bit immature to grasp some of what is being laid out without some sort of live interaction. 

That being said we both enjoyed learning together. His favorite was the story of Samson. To think that someone with so much strength could lack so much wisdom (and judgment) was fascinating to Josiah. I think this study will allow you to have conversations with your son that every Christian parent needs to have. 

I also love the fact that this study teaches practical Bible study skills. I am not sure if I have seen another one like it. I would recommend it to families with boys of a certain age any day.  Just a little note. For those of you who would like to make this a family study, but have girls in the mix…there are alternate questions just for the little ladies in the book. 

You can see sample pages of Because You Are Strong here. I also loved this FREE resource for Making Relationships With Your Children a Priority. I found it very encouraging.

You can read more reviews about this product and Beauty in the Heart (A study of Godly Beauty for Young Women) here.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Back to School (Table for One)

So technically, we don't stop school (ever). I am one of the mean homeschool moms who go all year along. It's not as bad as it sounds...It's nice to have flexibility.

 This year I am scheduling 6 weeks on...1 week off.

However, that doesn't mean our summers are heavy duty by any means. We have had school. It's mostly been math and reading and we've used anything we might be reviewing at the time.

Today I brought out the big stuff (at least most of it). I unveiled our 6 week schedule and filled Josiah's binder with a brand new calendar and a new attendance chart.

I thought I would show just a glimpse of our school day. And then I'm going to take a nap. For reals. I think there are probably misconceptions about homeschoolers (other than the whole napping thing). This is what happened at our house today.

So what better to start the day than cupcakes for breakfast? Of course, now I'm speaking as someone who had too many cupcakes for breakfast....

I love the little bit of finger in there. I am pretty sure he washed his hands.  You understand that this is not a normal breakfast. This was a special day. A normal breakfast would have at least included ice cream!

I set out a little special plate and a sign (just in case Josiah forgot) and we were off! It's a rough commute.

I'm telling you. Cupcakes for breakfast were a hit! I'm not doing this every day. Too much of a good well...Too much! Josiah has decided, however, that cupcakes for breakfast is going to be a tradition.

Josiah marked his attendance page. There is a place for 180 days. Josiah told me to remember to ask him how he feels on the 179th day. Cheeky. 

 Bible Study. We are reading in Judges. Kind of wild goings on in Judges.
 Pretty interesting stuff for a boy.

A rousing game of "Go Fish." Actually, this is a game we played to review some math facts. See. And you thought we didn't have any fun.  I'm not going to tell you who won. That would be humiliating.

Language on the computer. By this point he was sipping Sprite from a bottle and wearing his shirt on his head. We don't keep pop (soda) in the house. This was a treat also. Not the best idea, I understand. The shirt on the head might as well be our school uniform.

Writing. Josiah made an  outline. I'm not sure where the shirt went. On second thought. This might be his school uniform. The boy has no decorum.

Handwriting. He worked on his cursive. I guess it's works better without a shirt. 

History (with a little geography thrown in). This school stuff is hard work. Sometimes I let him lie in the living room floor. I just didn't want you to think we weren't serious enough.

 Spanish. We are actually reviewing a Spanish curriculum we just got.  I, too, find it easier to recall when I put the cards on my forehead. 

Ah! You caught us! Despite some opinions this is not what most homeschooled kids do all day. Josiah had to earn his time today on the Wii by finishing his schoolwork. And yes. Those are his pajama pants. Details!

We also did some science today. We watched a video on the different kinds of clouds. Josiah is starting a unit on Extreme Weather. He's all about it. I think he might be a weather man in training. That is if he can find his shirt. 

I'm linking up to the Back To School Traditions TOS Crew Blog Hop! 


Thursday, August 22, 2013

TOS Review: In the Hands of a Child (Natural Wonders)

I love Lapbooking. It’s one of my favorite homeschooling tools. It’s a little like scrapbooking. I don’t know if Josiah shares my deep affection for lapbooking, but then again he is at the age that his deep affection is seldom given to anything resembling “schoolwork.” 

Some of my favorite lapbooks I’ve used over the years have been created by  In the Hands of a Child. They have a huge selection of  Project Packs (which give you enough information and material to create a lapbook).  So, I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to review Natural Wonders. I was given an enormous list to choose from, but I decided that studying about the great natural wonders of the world would be fun for both Josiah and I. 

What I received

I received the (PDF) downloadable version of the Natural Wonders Project Pack.  The “Wonder” included are Angel Falls, the Aurora Borealis, Grand Canyon, Great Barrier Reef, Harbor of Rio de Janeiro, Mount Everest, Paricutin and Victoria Falls. This particular version is available with a “type it in” option. This allows the student to type in their answers before printing off the different elements of the Project Pack. The Project Pack includes a suggested schedule for completing the lapbook, recommended literature on all of the natural wonders, a research guide, 20+ interactive activities and the instructions for completing the activities. The schedule is laid out to give the student 6 days to complete the lapbook. You can certainly extend that time according to your needs. We stuck to it pretty faithfully. We like to keep things moving in our house!

Natural Wonders is intended for grades 4-8. It is regularly $12.00, but right now you can purchase it for only $5.00. That is a terrific price!! I’m not sure how long it will be such a terrific deal so act fast!

If you are unfamiliar to lapbooking let me give you a brief description. A Lapbook is simply a wonderful hands-on tool. It is made up of a collection mini-books or other folded materials. It is truly interactive. A student can add any number of things to a lapbook. Minibooks, creative folds, drawings, graphs…The options are endless. They are very easy to make especially with the assistance of a great company like Hands of a Child. They do all of the heavy lifting for you. All you need is a printer, paper, a few file folders and stick glue. We also added some color with some scrapbook paper and colored pencils.  There is also a suggestion to use colored paper and maybe some cardstock when you print out certain of the minibooks or folds. I kept it simple. Plain paper all the way. If it wasn’t at my house I didn’t use it.

How I used it

Upon receiving my download of Natural Wonders I first checked out the book list. The nice thing about the book list is that they are just suggestions. My library didn’t have all the books recommended, but I was able to use others. The Research Guide located in the Natural Wonders in the Project Pack itself is really all your child needs to complete all of the minibook activities. 

After I had gathered my lapooking supplies I printed the descriptions section and the directions for assembling the lapbook.

We read and talked about each of the Natural Wonders, following the recommended schedule. 

I did take advantage of the “type-it-in” feature. Josiah enjoyed that part of it. That is a great option for some of your students who might get frustrated with so much writing. The jury is still out for me about the “type-it-in” feature. One thing I appreciate about the lapbook method is that I can prepare lapbooks way ahead of time. I generally don’t bother with letting Josiah cut out his own pieces. I’m sure somewhere there is a good reason for me to do so, but at this stage of the game I don’t want him to get side tracked with creating the Death Star with his scissors and the lapbook I’ve printed off for him. It happens at my house. 

One thing I did in addition to including the extra literature recommended was that I found pictures online of each Natural Wonder. Josiah really enjoyed that. So much that he wanted to print off a few pictures and create a collage for the front of his lapbook.
I want to show you how it all worked out. I did stay fairly close to Josiah while he was assembling his book. Some of you have a boy like Josiah. You understand. 

The Project Pack really has some nice activities in it.  However, there were a few that (somehow) didn’t make it into Josiah’s lapbook. We aren’t quite sure where they went. Some of Josiah’s favorite activities included a survey about everyone’s favorite Natural Wonder (there were only 3 of us, but he still enjoyed it). He loved learning about Angel Falls. He is convinced that it kind of looks like an Angel from far away. Not that he has had much experience with that. 

He was also fascinated with Ayers Rock. I think perhaps because it was a Wonder he had never heard about before. The same applies to Paricutin, a volcano located in Mexico. Apparently, this volcano just appeared in a farmer’s corn field one day. 

Fascinating! I can guarantee you that any boy will find the Natural Wonders Project Pack really cool. I am glad we got to do this Project. I can’t even imagine seeing some of these sights in person. I vote for The Great Barrier Reef in Australia! How about you! Road Trip!

This is a view of the insides of the Lapbook. I think Josiah was supposed to make a shutterfold out of the survey in the top box.
This is a close up view of one of the little books. The first picture is the front. The second picture shows you what you will find when you open up the flaps.
These 2 pictures show you what it looks like when the flaps are closed. I am sure Josiah didn't follow the recommendations for placing everything in his book. But he had fun!

Here is the front of Josiah's lapbook. I think he did a pretty good job! He was pretty proud of himself.

A few more thoughts.

Z I really think that the Project Packs are ideal for families with multiple children. I understand that there is the added cost with printer ink and paper (or other printing cost), but you don’t have to by multiple copies and you can adjust them to a variety of ages. While I only have Josiah, I have used them when teaching a group of children. It works. Hands of a Child has lots of options. Even though this particular project is listed as appropriate for grades 4-8, they give you a list of recommendations to adjust it to a variety of age groups.
Z There were a couple of craft options included in the Natural Wonders Project Pack as well. We didn’t have a chance to complete them, but I like having that option. I think the beauty of a Project Pack of this kind is that it allows you to integrate so many different subjects into one lesson.
Z As I mentioned before I am still undecided about the type-it-in feature. Perhaps this is a better option for those students who can complete the lapbook entirely on their own. And I wish there could have been a way to adjust the size of the font when necessary. I understand that the folks at Hands of a Child probably have no control over this little option. I also wish the graphics would have been a little crisper.
Z One great thing about using Hands of a Child Project Packs are that they are very versatile. They are short enough that you can complete them in between things or around holidays or they can be made into longer projects….especially if you are using one as a supplement to let’s say a History curriculum.
Z While lapbooking is certainly not rocket science there is a little technique involved sometimes when figuring out the folds. I like that with a PDF Download I can go back and reprint a project...Just in case we’ve really messed it up. Or it’s disappeared into the Death Star. 

We had a lot of fun with this project. I fully recommend the Natural Wonders Project Pack to any and all homeschoolers who enjoy teaching and learning “hands on.”

Members of the TOS Crew reviewed this Project Pack and Tons more! You should really go take a look at all the great lapbooks.

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