Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Composer Study - Haydn/The Creation

I am still working to catch up on composer studies following the Ambleside Online Composer Study rotation for this year. I should have been working on this one in November. It is called "The Creation".

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A TOS Homeschool Crew Review: Curiosity Quest

This spring I learned for the first time about a company called Curiosity Quest that produces educational DVDs about various natural science topics.
I was selected to review two of their products: DVD Combo Pack - Produce (Mushrooms, Cranberries, Orange Packing) and DVD Combo Pack - Swimmers of the Sea (Sea Turtle Rescue, Penguins, Salmon).

We started our viewing with Produce, which contains Curiosity Quest episodes about oranges, cranberries and mushrooms, watching Oranges first. 
I had had an idea about what it looked like when field workers collected and "dumped" their loads of oranges, but I had never seen it. It was interesting to learn about how they snip to pick, not twist or pull, and also how the oranges are sorted, sorted, and sorted. I was surprised that it was harvest time when it was so cold outside!

The episode about mushrooms was also fun to watch, and I was surprised at how much I didn't know. Mushrooms aren't a vegetable. In cooking, I usually think of them as vegetables. I've never seen a "fungi" listed as a food group, only "Fruits and Vegetables". And I learned that mushrooms do not grow from seeds, but from spores. There is a whole different vocabulary for talking about mushrooms.

The episode about cranberries was interesting. Kids were asked what cranberries taste like, and it was funny that they assumed that cranberries are juicy and sweet. Cranberries are always dried to be, and they are only sweet when they've had sugar added!

Next we watched Swimmers of the Sea.Throughout the viewing Miner periodically commented that he thought the "Fun Facts" blurbs were silly, and that he thought the section where they ask random people questions (like "Why don't penguins fly?" was silly. I think he was overly critical.

I was really enjoying Penguins, and was interested when the penguin keeper told Joel Greene, the host, that she was going to show him how to tell the boy penguins from the girl penguins. Imagine my disappointment when she told him that the girl penguins were the ones with the green tag on their wing/flipper! Well, I guess they can't show us how you tell the difference between the boys and the girls without the green tags...
My sister came in during Turtles and watched Turtles and Salmon episodes. The Turtles covered more than one type of Sea Turtle, so I'm confused about which type this is, but one type of turtles they know the male from the female turtles by their tail. Females have tails, but they are so short that they remain in their shell. Male turtles develop their tails when they are ready to mate; I think Joel said that can take as long as fifteen years. Do you know what turtles eat? Or how long they live? You can learn all these facts by watching Swimmers of the Sea

Watching the episode about salmon, I learned that salmon know where they hatched and get back there to spawn by smell! I had no idea! They know they are there when the smell is right. Their life cycle includes spawning once, and then the die. You can learn all about salmon, where they eat, how and why naturalists are helping them and much more in this episode. And did you know there is one word for animals born in fresh water that live in salt water, and a different word for animals born in salt water that live in fresh water? (I didn't even know there were animals that are born in salt water that then live in fresh water...)

When I asked Miner which episode he liked best, he said, "Cranberries!" That surprised me. I think I liked the Turtles episode best.

If I could wish for one improvement on the DVDs, it would be that they could be CD/DVDs that had a PDF file with vocabulary words and review questions. I don't know if that could be done, but it would improve the product for me.
Curiosity Quest is an informational series that investigates various topics in response to letters that viewers send in. The episodes are geared towards children ages 7-14.The Curiosity Quest Combo Packs cost $24.95 each and each episode runs about 30 minutes. I was given two Curiosity Quest Combo Packs to watch in order to give my honest and unbiased review. I was not required to post a favorable review.

To see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of their Curiosity Quest Combo Packs, click the button below.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Composer Study - Hayden/London Symphony no 104

I'm still catching up on Ambleside Online's Composer Study rotation for the firs term of the year (as in I should have been working on this one in October). So here is my composer study share for this week:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Supercharged Science - A 2014 TOS Homeschool Crew Review

Have you heard about Supercharged Science yet? Well I was delighted to learn that I would get to review the e-Science Premium Membership again this year. We received a six-month family subscription.
I have been having so much fun with Supercharged Science e-Science this time around! Now, just to warn you, there is a lot there, and it can be overwhelming at first! If you look at the e-Science topics page, you'll see 20 different Units, with additional buttons as well for "New to e-Science", "Introduction", Unit 0 (Zero), etc. Take a look this free special introductory offer.

I initially went back to Unit 0 again, this year, and focused on the 18 key scientific principles, many of which kids need to know before they head to college. I was thinking I was going to park there with "Miner", but as I got into the material I could tell it wasn't going to interest him to sit through it. He's almost to high school, but he really doesn't want to learn about what he needs to learn about. He just wants to get in there, get his hands dirty, make it pop, fizzle, and overflow, bang it with a hammer, dunk it in a bucket, etc. So, in my house right now, Unit 0 is for mom. 
So after I refamiliarized myself with the program, I studied my child Then I studied the Units, and I concluded that he would want to do the Earth Science unit right now (Unit 20). So I clicked on it and was informed by the program that I did not have access to that Unit. But I've been around e-Science long enough to know that if I want a Unit that has not yet been revealed to me, all I need to do is ask. The reason new subscribers receive certain units at the beginning, and are then granted additional units each month, is so that they won't become overwhelmed. But if you want something that is there, just ask. So I did, and there it was!

So I opened up the Earth Science unit and began to look at it. It starts with a section on weather. I showed it to Miner, but he started snoring. He and I both knew what he wanted to start with -- Gems and Minerals. Lesson 2 of Unit 20 focuses on Geology, which is what you need to focus on to work with gems and minerals. We watched the introduction to the Geology section, but then I hopped back to a section about creating a science notebook.

Miner will be in 9th grade next year, and after I had listened to Aurora's videos about the importance of the Science Journal, I decided now was the time for me to have Miner learn about using one and require that he use one. So we spent some time watching the video teaching him all about the Science Journal. He wasn't happy about it, but I consider it a necessary "evil" to get him started on this, which is something I will want him to be doing throughout his high school years.

So, now that he knew what to do with his Science Journal and why, I gave him a red spiral (his favorite color), and we got started. Now, I myself was starting this unit not knowing the difference between a rock and a mineral, and not knowing the exact significance of the items on a Periodic Table of Elements, nor the difference between an element and a mineral. So forgive me for mistakes I may make in what I say, as I'm still a new "geologist" myself.

We actually listened to the introduction again, and this time Miner took notes. I'm real pleased with how well he did. He doesn't have much experience with taking notes. I was also happy to be getting many of my own questions about elements and minerals answered as well. Aurora goes so fast! But there is a pause button, and also most of the video is reiterated in the reading material. 

So we watched videos, I read the reading assignments aloud for the both of us, and we started watching videos on experiments.

What quickly became clear to me was that my son was going to get bored and frustrated if I didn't take the time to prepare before pulling out the science. Each Unit has a shopping list, and each experiment needs certain items, but to look at the shopping list for an entire unit can be overwhelming. What Aurora recommends is that you peruse the experiments and start with ones for which you have the materials on hand. So that's what we did. For my son, also, it worked better for me to watch the experiment video in advance, and then just tell my son what the experiment was without having him watch the video. It depended upon the video. So sometimes I had him watch the videos, and sometimes I just had him do the experiment. We worked out a balance that worked well for us.

So I worked really hard (felt like I was chasing my tail) rounding up materials I knew we had in our house to run experiments on the topic of my son's delight. It was discouraging at times because I took so long that my son was starting to make comments about not wanting to do a bunch of "lame" experiments. He just wanted to go out hunting for more specimens.  Fortunately for me, though, most of this review period the weather was really fowl, so we were stuck inside anyway.

We started with a scratch experiment, after learning about Moh's hardness scale. We have a specimen of talc, and that's the only specimen we have that was affected by a fingernail. Miner really wasn't interested in doing the full experiment, so I quickly moved on. (The rest of the experiment involves testing hardness by scraping a plate of glass and scraping with a steel nail. As I was driving, later, I had to request Miner please take his specimen off the car window. We may have to go back and finish this experiment!)

We moved on to a color streak test, using the back-side of a tile from our patio table. One way of identifying minerals is that a certain mineral always leaves a streak of a certain color.

We were ready to do an experiment that called for seeing if the rocks float (I can't find it right now, so I'm sorry, but I don't remember what we were testing for). Miner said, "That's lame. None of them are going to float." So I immediately picked up the mica sample and floated it. He said, "Well any of them can float on the water tension." So I tried it, and I could only float two out of the eight specimens on the water tension. But seriously, we don't have any specimens that float on their own, like lava rock. So I don't think floating the mica on the water tension was really what the experiment was asking for. It might have been an experiment to see if the rocks were porous.

We did an experiment to test the minerals' reactivity to acid. Miner started to get concerned when he saw the little container of acid, the gloves, and I told him to wear his sun glasses (since the only pair of goggles I could find was broken). So I eased his concerns and let him know that the diluted hydrochloric acid was just distilled white vinegar. We only got one specimen to fizz.

I was going to list the experiments in this unit for you, but there are just too many! We still have many that we haven't done yet.

During our time in the Geology unit we were also able to weave in a field trip to the Smithsonian Institute's Natural History Museum's Gem and Mineral exhibit.  It was really awe-inspiring to see samples right in front of us of minerals we had seen on the eScience website.

We were able to really see crystal structure, fracture, and cleavage. (This word makes Miner laugh every time I say it!)
We saw how some of the least-assuming minerals, when cut in certain ways, become beautiful gems for jewelry. We saw really amazing specimens of sedimentary rock.

We also went to a gem and mineral show, and I let Miner purchase some new specimens. And finally, I think his favorite field trip might have been when the weather finally warmed up and we went, bag and hammer in hand, hunting for new specimens in the "wild".

Now, did I find any negatives about this product? Well, yes.
  • It can be a negative that mom needs to chase down supplies. You are going to have to do this with any science program, though, or else spend lots of money and have a company send you everything you will need. Supercharged Science offers this option as well.
  • Unit 20 is probably the newest unit. While we were in it, there was one point where I was very confused because it seemed like every time I changed links for where we were (introduction, reading, experiments), it seemed like the video I started with was the same as the video we had just seen on the previous link. Miner kept saying, "We just watched this!" And I would reply, "No, it should be different. We're on a different page." But it wasn't. This was part of why I had to start pre-watching the videos and taking more and more time preparing. I'm sure they are always looking for glitches like this to repair, so I'm sure they will catch it.
  • It was frustrating when, in the video, Aurora said, "If you haven't already, print out this chart" which was showing in the video, but we couldn't find the chart on the site anywhere. Maybe the site could have a link for "forms".
  • Also in unit 20 I found one page that needed some serious editing - like an incomplete sentence, a noun/verb disagreement or tense disagreement, ...stuff that made Miner snort when I finally just read it as it was written so he would understand why I was reading so slowly (as I tried to figure out exactly what they were trying to say). Maybe they want to hire me to help edit their site...
In my opinion, the good way out-weighs the bad. I love Supercharged Science.

If you have never been to Supercharged Science, you will do well by looking at the User Guide.  After that you will want to go through those three first, in that order. There is a lot of information there to help you get started and not feel overwhelmed. Even if you are returning to the program, you might want to start there. To access the first three units, though, you will have to sign up for the $1 Trial month that is available to you.  You can get a free taste, first, though by doing some free experiments, and then go sign up!

The e-Science Premium Membership is geared toward all grades, K - 12.  The normal price for the Supercharged Science e-Science Premium Membership is $37 per month for K through 8th grade and $57 per month for the expanded 9-12th grade material (good for advanced 5-8 graders too), with a full money-back guarantee! If you try it for one month and don't like it, you can even have your $1 from the trial price back at your request. But I know you're going to love it!

More images from the Smithsonian:

Monday, April 7, 2014

Artist Study - Monet

The artist of focus for Ambleside Online Term 2 is Edouard Manet (man-AY; 1832-1883; French Impressionism). The paintings of focus are below:

 Concert in the Tuileries, 1860-62 (Notes at Artchive) OR Luncheon on the Grass, 1863 (some nudity; but arguably his most famous painting. Noteshere) .

2. The Old Musician, 1862

   3. The Races at Longchamp, 1864
File:Edouard Manet 053.jpg

   4. The Fifer, 1866
The Fifer

   5. The Railway, 1872; NGA Lecture about this painting

   6. Le Bar aux Folies-Bergère 1881-82; (Audio from Artchives; or YouTube video; not previewed).
         Additional notes for further study here. More paintings here.
File:Edouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère.jpg

Victus Study Skills System - A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

As a home schooling parent, one area I have had difficulty with teaching my kids actual study skills. So when I learned, in February, that had been selected to review the Victus Study Skills System products, I was very pleased.

I received in the mail the Victus Study Skills System Student Workbook and the Victus Study Skills System Teacher Edition.

I initially took time to familiarize myself with the System by looking through the Teacher Edition. I worked my way first through an Introduction that included a "Reflection by the Founder", The Course Aim, a Preview of the Foundational Cornerstones, Objectives and  Assumptions. Then Section 1 begins with an explanation of the "Organization of Teacher Edition" which explains that the manual is divided into three sections. Section One includes information to help you understand the course. Section Two provides the lessons you will use with the student. Each lesson includes the "purpose", "preparation", and "procedure" to be used in the lesson, with at "Student View" pages. Section Three provides an Appendix with supplemental materials. I found it very helpful that the "Student View" pages literally say "Student View" right on them, so I know what my student is able to see, as opposed to information which I have that my student ("Miner") does not have.

The Student Workbook begins with the Table of Contents and then The Course Aim. The student fills out a "Study Skills Personal Objective" sheet and then jumps into Lesson 1. The Course, as the student sees it, is divided into three "Foundational Cornerstone"s (which is kinda funny, since a building would have four corners -- but maybe that's just me...). The first cornerstone has the student evaluate "Where am I now?", looking at his study skills, learning style (called "Learning Strengths"), and techniques to help the student learn best with his learning style, as well as suggested aids for his particular learning style.

The Student's second section, Cornerstone Two, focuses on "Where I want to be". It works to get the student to create a mission statement, and to set goals and priorities. 

The section called Foundational Cornerstone Three focuses on "How do I get there?". This section teaches time management, helping the student learn how to break time down to a weekly schedule and a monthly schedule. (Seriously, I needed but did not have these skills when I attended college!) The Victus Study Skills System teaches the student organization,  preparation before beginning to study, where to study, how to study, with instruction on how to be an active listener, taking hints, personal shorthand, and test preparation. It contains little stories to help explain various aspects of the program, and is just a great system.

I am currently home schooling my third student. My first student (graduated 2004) had to learn study skills as best she could on her own -- I didn't teach them to her. My 2nd student (graduated 2007) had a learning disability, and in a special program to help her cope with her learning disability she was taught many of these skills. Nevertheless, I personally have never integrated these skills into my teaching methods. I'm sure it is related to the fact that I didn't come by these skills easily myself, and I still struggle to implement them in my own life let alone impart them to someone else.

The word  Victus comes from Latin, and it means "a way of life". So the aim of the Victuss. There is a lot of information in this package. To accomplish this program well in only five da Study Skills System is to teach the students a way of accomplishing success in their academics, and in life. The course can be taught over a five day period, in one hour sessionys requires a lot of focus and a motivated student. 

This program can also be taught over ten days in one-half hour sessions. The lessons are not clearly marked so that you have a sense that you stop at "this" place and begin next time at "that" place. In my opinion, the program could easily be spread out over the course of a year even. The goal for us, as homeschoolers, is to help our students learn these skills. We don't often have the mindset that our goal is to get a certain program done in a certain amount of time, but rather a mindset of sticking to a certain subject until we know the student owns the skill before moving on.

In using the Victus Study Skills System in my own home I found my student unenthusiastic. (If you have been following my blog recently, you know this is an issue I've been having in all subjects recently, so please don't interpret this as an issue with this program.) To teach the material I had to literally sit beside my student and read it out loud to him, read him the questions, and write the answers down for him. (He was resistant.) He finally began cooperating, at least mentally, and we began to cruise along (...oh, like sap in the winter, maybe...).

We confirmed what we had suspected about his learning "strength", auditory (note above paragraph that I am reading the program aloud to him... Hmmm...). We discussed methods and techniques that can help him learn, and ways for him to study and test that will best help him.

I tried to get him focused to discuss goals, but his mind was just not really looking forward well into his future. He was finally able to agree that he wants to go to college, get a good job, marry, raise a family, own a house and a car or two. These are still such general goals that I decided it would help him better for now if we focused on something closer, that would seem more immediate to him.

Miner is a Boy Scout, and one of his goals in Boy Scouts is to become an Eagle Scout, the highest rank a Boy Scout can attain. So I was able to help him focus in on the stair-step process to get to Eagle Scout, and we used that as our focus. My son had gotten to a place in his current rank where I had begun to conclude that he wasn't going to reach a rank promotion by the next award ceremony (June). Since the troop is dormant during the summer, except for summer camp, that meant that he might not be able to advance until sometime in September or October. Getting stuck in this way in this program can become like a wheel stuck in a rut, where it becomes difficult to see the way out. The Scout can become discouraged, and then he just doesn't find the motivation to work because he can't see a way out.

Using methods and techniques in the Victus Study Skills System, I helped him isolate where he is, where he is going, and how he can get there. I created a chart for him showing him the merit badges he is working on (he needs six done for his advancement, and four are done). I marked off in highlighter the requirements he has finished on each merit badge, so that it is clear what is still needed. He could instantly see that his Astronomy Merit Badge had only one requirement left. We opened the Merit Badge Book and read that requirement, and he took off to do the required work. He got the counselor to sign off on the requirement, and that badge is finished! And he knows the other things he needs to complete for his advancement, and he is now once again on his way. He has gotten out of his rut.

As I said, this program is packed with great information, things that I want my son to learn, integrate, and own for life. Doing Victus Study Skills System in one or two weeks was, for him, not the best plan. There are so many skills discussed here that I didn't even mention -- skills that are not new to us as adults, but that our kids don't necessarily pick up without instruction: setting goals, being specific; creating an action plan; evaluating their use of time; creating a schedule; considering his study environment; taking notes; creating sudy cards. I'm telling you, this program is packed!  Fortunately, after our first go-through, we can now go back and take it at a slower pace, which will suit Miner better.

The Victus Study Skills System is a product that can be useful for all ages of students, but
more teacher involvement is required with younger students. The books are most appropriate for 5th to 12th graders. Each book is a softbound 8-1/2"x11" spiral. The Teacher Edition has 82 pages and the Student Workbook has 65 pages, several of which are blank pages for the student to take extra notes on. This is not the type of program that you should try to "wing it" with just the student book. Nor do I think the Teacher Edition would be sufficient alone. Just get both. This program can be taught to groups or to individual students.

The  Victus Study Skills System Teacher Edition is priced at $40, and the Victus Study Skills System Student Workbook costs $20. Take a look at the Table of Contents of the Student Workbook and you can see all the topics in this program!  You can also look at a Sample Page from the book.

I received a copy of the Victus Study Skills System Teacher Edition and a copy of the Student Workbook to use with my student in exchange for my honest review. I received no other compensation, and was not required to write a positive review. See full disclosure below. To see more reviews by other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, click the box below.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Menu Monday - 4/6/14


Here are my carnivore/vegan menu plans for this week:

Dinner out (leftovers for the kiddies)

Pan-fried chicken thighs, stuffing, broccoli (faux chicken patty, leftover brown rice)

Crock Beef Vegetable Soup, salad, rolls (confetti bean soup from the freezer)

Herbed pork chops, red potatoes, Brussels sprouts (leftover black-bean chili)

Skillet Hamburger Stroganoff, Noodles, steamed zucchini

Honey roasted chicken, rice, green beans (faux chicken patty, brown rice)

Spaghetti and meat balls, salad, garlic bread (sauce with faux crumblies, wheat noodles)


Friday, April 4, 2014

Friday Five - 4/4/14

The Pebble Pond

I thought I would do my "Friday Wrap-Up" as a "Random 5 for Friday" this week. I'm not sure if I know how to be random, but maybe what I put will seem random enough to you.

1. The week came in with, drumroll, please... SNOW! yet again (Sunday). Fortunately it did not accumulate much.

The week went out with nice weather and flowers.
 2. This week we had our trees trimmed.

3. This week a new, temporary bedroom was created from part of the family room in our house.


4. School went along as well as could be expected, with all these other interruptions.

5. I'm currently carrying seven product reviews, that are beginning to have due dates on a regular basis, so stay posted!