Thursday, October 1, 2015

High School German - A Schoolhouse Crew Review

Review Crew
In August the Schoolhouse Review Crew was offered the opportunity to review Middlebury Interactive Languages. We had the choice of French, Spanish, German or Chinese. I was given the opportunity to review the high school level German Course.
I've always wanted to study German since my dad, who served in Belgium in World War II, taught me to say "Danke" and Bitte" when I was a little tyke!

I received access to my German Course in August. I was so excited! While it was still summer I hoped to study my German at least five days a week. I don't know if I ever made five days, but I tried, even working on weekends when I could manage it. Our vacation week arrived, and I took my computer and managed to work on German during the vacation, too!

You can access the lessons either through Calendar View (there is a picture below) or Table of Contents view. TOC view is less confusing. You can see exactly where to start because the program clicks off with a green check mark the material that has already been covered.

In the first weeks I was doing fairly with my studies. I had decided that, for my learning style I would do best if I took copious notes. I did score well on tests using this method, but it got old quickly. I really didn't have time to be writing down all the notes I wanted to take.

Then we got home from vacation and I needed to start our new home school year. My son is in 10th grade this year, and even though I knew it was coming, I was suddenly in deep water teaching Algebra 2, Chemistry, Spanish, English, History, Driving and Phys. Ed. I'm teaching some courses I've never taken! I'm having trouble keeping up, as is my son. And it became difficult to study the German as much as I wanted to.

I continued studying, but now I was struggling to get to it three times per week, and I found my scores dropping on my completed assignments. Questions were being asked with words I didn't understand. Some of the work I was understanding, and some not so much. Sometimes I scored well, but felt like I guessed my way through to the right answers. And sometimes I scored really poorly!

I decided I needed to go back through previous lessons and do some review. I found, in this review time, that there are places with the option to print out information for my studies that I had missed the first time through. Wow! This was information I really needed! It contained translations not on the video program that I had needed for some of the quizzes and exercises that I needed earlier and couldn't find. I had planned to mention in my review that I experienced questions that had never been covered -- but the missing translations were here on the "PRINT" and "SCRIPT" printouts. Perfect!

See that word "Print" down in the lower right corner? I was missing that. It gives the translation for all these vocabulary words. See the little blue circle with a speaker in it for each phrase? Clicking on that gives you the audio to learn the vocabulary to listen, repeat, and practice. It is good to find a quiet place to work while you sit "talking to your computer".
It has been a real struggle to retain the information I have studying. I'm not giving up, but my brain is really stretched thin right now (with also the Spanish, Algebra 2 and Chemistry I am teaching right now that is also stretching me), and the going is just going to be slow.

Middlebury has a toll-free number for students to call if they experience difficulty with the program. I called a couple of times and was pleased with the hours the number is attended. There is also a method to contact the company by Internet by creating a "ticket" which they follow up on quite quickly.

I do really love Middlebury Interactive Languages, though, and highly recommend them. The courses that the Schoolhouse Review Crew was offered are all called "Full Course Demo"s, and are slightly different than what you would get if you purchased the course. We received six month's access, but the company kindly gave us access to the full year's course -- in other words, if I could absorb the material I could cover one year of high school German in six months. The student is permitted to take the course at the rate the student is comfortable with, whether a lesson a day, or spread out over two days, or two lessons in a day. 

What I did not have access to was an actual teacher. The course is available with teacher or without teacher (less expensive). I imagine the teacher interacts with the student and checks certain work that is submitted. The student gets feedback on his/her work. Much of the work, with teacher or without, is computer checked with immediate feedback to the student. Some of the work, though, is submitted ("Repeat the phrase given, recording your voice"), and is marked "100% participation". I don't know if a teacher normally follows up on this or not. I took a test at the end of one section and wondered how I would ever know how well I had done, as the quizzes give immediate feedback and the test does not. Then I found a button called "Gradebook" (probably available on the teacher/parent log-in, I'm not sure, since I am both parent and student). This link goes to pages showing all my scores.
Most colleges I have looked at require two years of a foreign language for their incoming Freshman applicants. Middlebury Languages seems to be a great way to get that accomplished. Compared to the price I paid for my son's foreign language course from another vendor, the price for Middlebury seems very reasonable.

Other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed Middlebury language courses (German, Spanish, French, Chinese) at various learner levels (Grammar, Middle School, High School). To see more Middlebury Language reviews click on the button below.
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October 2015 Hymn Study - Ambleside Online

The Ambleside Online selection for Hymn Study for October, 2015 is O Thou In Whose Presence. This was/is a totally new song for me personally.

I found this beautiful arrangement by Fernando Ortega, but lyrics are not embedded:

I didn't like this one nearly as well, but it is the best one I could find with the lyrics embedded in the video:

Monday, September 28, 2015

Menu Monday for 9/28/15

Menu Plan Monday for the week of Sept 28/15. Recipe links and menu planning inspiration!!
Here is my dinner meal plan for this week. Not strong on vegan suggestions; reality is that I'm busy with school right now, and my carnivore training makes carni meals easier to come up with quickly. I ate the beef chili last night, but tonight's corn chowder will be made with almond milk. Other nights I often just don't eat the meat but don't focus on my day's protein intake, which isn't good either. ::sigh:: Just a busy time for me, and vegan cooking is very time-consuming (as is parallel cooking - vegan AND carnivore on any given night).

Sunday (9/27) (afternoon youth group):  
Chili, corn bread

Monday (9/28)(Evening adult & youth Mtgs.):
Corn chowder, pumpkin muffins, salad

Tuesday (9/29)(Evening adult appointment):

Wednesday (9/30):
Stove top barbecue chicken, noodles, broccoli

Thursday 10/1(Evening youth meeting):
Corned Beef & Cabbage, potatoes

Friday (10/2) (Evening adult meeting):
Leftovers (or hot dogs, rolls, beans, potato chips)

Saturday (10/3):  
Date night: dinner out


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Friday Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up
The week began with "Miner" working with his Civil Air Patrol squadron serving at the Joint Base Andrews Open House. 

My son got to don the Eagle mascot costume.
 Mom and dad did not go, but some fabulous photos were taken.

The long day took its toll, though, and "Miner" was feeling poorly when he got home, which developed into a bad cold  by morning. In spite of my school plans, he took sick days Monday and Tuesday (did minimal school). Wednesday was a public school holiday, and he took yet again a minimal day. So M-W he did Literature, History (biography) and some grammar.

Thursday he was doing much better, and got his morning run in, as well as Chemistry and Algebra 2. Thursday night "Miner" got promoted to Senior Airman at the Civil Air Patrol meeting.

Friday was a replay of Thursday minus PE and CAP, adding in some merit badge work.

Short report for a short week. Even though it was "short", we were happy when Friday arrived.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Heroes of History: George Washington - A TOS Crew Review

Review Crew
We were recently offered the opportunity to review our choice (out of many) of biography by YWAM Publishing.

It was difficult to decide which biography to request, because there were so many great ones available that corresponded with the historical period we are studying, but I finally decided to request Heroes of History George Washington: True Patriot. We received not only the biography, but also the Unit Study Curriculum Guide.

George Washington lived from February 22, 1732 to December 14, 1799, and while most of us will remember that he was the first President of the United States, there are so many other things about his life that I wanted my son to know. So, even though we wrapped up our studies of the 1700's in June, I decided I wanted my son to learn about George Washington's life.

My son began reading George Washington: True Patriot in August. I began looking through the Unit Study Curriculum Guide so I could pick and choose what ideas I would use. Whenever I got a chance (when I could find the biography at a time when he was not reading it), I worked on reading it as well.

This is an easy book for a 15 year old. It is a book easily enjoyed as a read-aloud by young grammar students. Upper grammar and middle school students can handle this book on their own. So why have a high school student read it? Well, when a student reads a book that is "below their 'grade level'," it is easier for them to glean more, understand all, and generally just enjoy the book.

My son was reading this while we were driving to a distant appointment, and he said to me, "This is good information! I want to remember this." It is unusual to get an unsolicited comment of praise of any type from my son regarding a school assignment, so I consider his comment to be significant.

I appreciate the nature of the information one can glean from a well-written biography. The content goes so much deeper than what is touched on in the typical textbook. Here are some of the salient points I read in this book that helped make it so interesting to my student:
  • Information about Washington's childhood and the make-up of his family: siblings, half-brothers, etc.
  • Information about his education and influences that helped develop his personal character;
  • That he taught himself how to be a land surveyor and then moved into the career;
  • That he became a British officer not because of his education (which was lacking) but because of his contacts and his personal incentive;
  • How he increased in rank, again, because of his incentive, and also because of the nature of his previous service;
  • How he survived a horrific trip through the winter to complete an assignment to go to the French and discuss a hot topic (leading up to the French Indian War); nearly froze to death after getting dumped into a river that had to be crossed to get home;
  • How he represented the British in the French Indian War....
I don't want to continue, because I want you to get the book and read it yourself with your student(s).
The accompanying study guide has lots of 'meat' in it as well to help enrich your student's studies of the life of George Washington. The (paperback) book is about 5"X8" and contains 64 pages. It contains an Introduction, eight chapters and two Appendices.

Chapter 1 contains "Key Quotes". I liked to start each week with a fresh quote on the white board for my son to read as we began our day. I was going to pick my favorite, but I just can't. These are key quotes most of us have heard before, but it is good to remember who made the quote, and I hadn't known who made five out of six quotes.
Chapter 2 suggested creating a display corner. This idea wasn't suited to where my son is right now, but I could imagine he might have enjoyed this activity when he was 11 or 12. There is some discussion in Chapter 2 about maps and studying where George Washington grew up, where he traveled to, where Fort Necessity was. We live right in the thick of "George Washington country". We have visited Mt. Vernon. We went to Boy Scout summer camp scant miles from Ft. Necessity, and I went there with a Boy Scout group working on an archaeology merit badge. (Ft. Necessity had been recreated one way, but an archaeological dig proved the errors in the recreation and the lay of the fort was redone to reflect accuracy. Very interesting information available to the visitors.)
Chapter 3 contains chapter questions. Some were very young for my almost-16-year-old (vocabulary questions like, "What is a 'vessel'?"), but there were enough questions to enhance his studies and to spur relevant conversations.
Chapter 4 is called Student Explorations and offers suggestions for writing assignments, hands-on activities, audio/visual projects and arts and crafts. This chapter is so helpful for me, particularly the essay questions and other writing assignment suggestions. I always need help in those areas.
Chapter 5 contains ideas for enriching field trips. We did not do any of the suggestions at this time -- life was just too busy. We took time, though, to recall our previous trips, including our trips to Philadelphia, which I didn't mention above. I also wondered if some of the other historic locations, ones from Washington's childhood, are available for tourists, such as Pope's Farm.
Chapter 6, Social Studies, among other things includes a pull-out "George Washington Fact Sheet" as well as a timeline to use to plot out events in the history of George Washington and his family (forebears). There is also a concise list of vocabulary terms from the book to use with your student. This list is much more relevant for my son than some of the chapter question vocabulary words.
Chapter 7 and 8 contain "Related Themes to Explore" and "Culminating Event". 

This book, used as a unit study, can very easily be spread out over an eight-week period. I thought we'd be finished with it by now, but we're not. My son, initially, read the pages I assigned him grudgingly, and never more than I assigned. Usually he read less than I assigned, getting a little more behind "my" schedule with each week that went by.

Now, however, the book has gripped him. He doesn't know I am writing the review right now. He's sick, with a cold, but we all know that we make our home schooled kids "do school" when they are sick if we can. He walked by a moment ago and said, "Never have I been so intrigued by a reading assignment you have given me." (Yes, we really talk that way in my house.) To be sure which assignment, I asked him which one and he said, "George Washington!" I love it! It has now gone from, "My mom assigned this." to delight-led study! That's what I want his education to be as much as possible.

So there you have it -- my difficult-to-please son absolutely loves this book! That says a lot. I have other YWAM biographies in my home -- I'll be considering which other ones I can use with my son this year as we work our way through the 1800s.

Other members of the Review Crew also reviewed other YWAM biographies. To see other product reviews, please click the button below. 

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Menu Monday for 9/21/15

Menu Plan Monday for the week of Sept 7/15. Recipe links and menu planning inspiration!!
Here is my vegan-carnivore-blended menu plan for dinners this week. I have some vegan leftovers that I am eating some nights where I only list a non-vegan menu night.

Sunday (9/20):  
Lasagne roll-ups, salad, TX toast (3 in freezer)

Monday (9/21)(Boy Scouts night):
Spinach pie, muffins

Tuesday (9/22):
Baked chicken, stuffing, broccoli (in freezer)

Wednesday (9/23):
Beef Stew, muffins

Thursday (9/24)(CAP night):
sizzleburgers (veggie burger), egg noodles, green beans

Friday (9/25):
fish, green beans, sweet potato

Saturday (9/26):  
Spaghetti, salad, garlic bread