Saturday, October 31, 2015

Mother's Journal - End of October

HMJ horizontal image
Fast end of October entry, call it an Urban Outdoor Hour. Thought I would show some autumn color in my neighborhood.

The Great Pumpkin

Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up
Battling distraction all week in our home. Better week than last.
  • Regular Bible readings;
  • Regular Algebra work;
  • Regular Chemistry work;
  • Regular Spanish work;
  • Regular History and Biography readings;
  • Literature not as regular as preferred; no grammar; we'll see about writing assignment;
  • student got some driving time in;
  • student is resisting time that should be devoted to Phys Ed.
The "Regular"s weren't perfect, but acceptable. Signs of improvement. And mom made review blog post deadlines on time. Dinner was on the table every night, 

even if one night it was pizza instead of the planned meal. Boy Scouts; Civil Air Patrol; 

Company. The laundry was washed; the floor was swept; the dishes maintained, some leaves got raked.
(All these seem to undo themselves in mere minutes.) Give-away bags got out in time for the charity pick up. Some general house cleaning is needed, tho.

So how did your week go? 

Standard Deviants Accelerate - A Schoolhouse Crew Review

Review Crew
In September I learned that I had selected to review Standard Deviants Accelerate (SDA). I reviewed Standard Deviants Accelerate last year and liked it, so I was happy to be able to review it again. SDA gave us access to all of their Homeschool Courses, and I felt like a kid in a candy shop! They offer so many courses!

SDA kindly gave us access to all their courses for an entire year. SDA offers classes for students grades 3 through 12. My student is in 10th Grade, so there were courses were not really able to benefit from, but during the review period I looked at the following courses:
Nutrition (grades 6+)
Algebra (grades 7+)
Chemistry (grades 9+)
English Comp (grades 9+)
U. S. History (grades 9+)
AP Chemistry (grades 11+)
AP U. S. Gov. & Politics (grades 11+)
AP Eng. Composition (grades 11+)
I didn't end up using the Nutrition. We are theoretically supposed to study one semester of "Health" in high school (it is in the public school "graduation requirements" in our state), and I haven't yet figured out what my state wants a high school health course to include. Since I don't know if "Nutrition" would be sufficient, I didn't focus on that right now.

I also looked at all the available links for AP links, even though my son is not 11th yet. They do not seem to be courses. They seem to be sample AP tests for the indicated subjects. Basically, I don't know how that works either, so that eliminated more possible choices from the ones we would use.

My son is taking Chemistry this year, so I viewed some of the Chemistry materials.
The materials seemed very good, so I made note of that in my mind and moved on to look at English Composition.
English Composition looked really good, too! Next I took a look at American History.
American History looked pretty good, too. I also wanted to look at Algebra.
So after narrowing down the subjects I wanted to use with my son, it was time to get him started using the program. 

Our Chemistry studies had recently gotten bumpy, so I started there. The material covered was very relevant to his other studies, so these video sessions were a very good supplement.
After working one's way through a video...
The student is given additional choices.
First the student reviews vocabulary from the video segment.
Next the student takes a fill-in-the-blank quiz.
When the quiz, if any questions are answered incorrectly, the answer page gives a link for the student to see the video explaining the concept to the student again.

Another option for the student is "Written Answer" --  an opportunity to respond in essay format.

I like the fact that the program is accessible by tablet or iPad! I did not use this feature but might in the future.

 There is an Admin Toolbox for the parent to go to where you need to turn on grading. I didn't remember to do this on all our subjects. When grading is turned on, the parent can get a grade report on each subject. (I cut the graded section to hide our names.)

So far I haven't figured out how to access all the various aspects of SDA. I've looked at the grading, but am not yet sure how to decipher its content. The layers of this program are like an onion -- it always seems like there are more layers to explore, particularly in the Admin area.

I really like SDA as a supplement for our homeschool program. I like having it in my arsenal. The high school subjects are not complete, comprehensive plans, but are an excellent addition to your program. The videos are well made and seem very professional.

Upon finishing his first video, my son's question was, "Is this for kids with ADHD?" The format of each video is pow, pow, pow! There is constant change, music, bright colors, change, change. He has a valid point. This style of format makes it easier for some kids to pay attention, but some others might wonder why the format can't just settle down and be calm.

In our core materials, we already have good materials for Algebra, a program (two) for  Chemistry, a program for history and a program for composition. The SDA materials make an excellent addition to our available resources to supplement the instruction any time the student isn't quite getting something.

If you've been thinking you would like to find something you could use to supplement your home schooling materials, Standard Deviants Accelerate would be worth considering.

Other members of the Review Crew also reviewed this product. To see other product reviews, please click the button below.
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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Peter and the Wolf - A Schoolhouse Crew Review

Review Crew
In September the Schoolhouse Review Crew learned there was an upcoming review with Maestro ClassicsI previously got to review their The Story of Swan Lake, which I loved (but my student did not). However, this time one of the choices was Peter and the Wolf, which I really wanted. So, not knowing how it would go with my son, I requested the review and was included in the group doing reviews.
I received the CD in an nice jewel case, which included a nice little study guide. Peter and the Wolf is designed to be used with students aged 4 and up. (See my dilemma? My student is almost 16. He thought the last CD too juvenile.)
Peter and the Wolf contains 8 tracks:
  1. Introduction;
  2. Peter and the Wolf (with narration);
  3. About the Composer: Sergei Prokofiev;
  4. A Russian Peter;
  5. About the Music;
  6. Peter and the Wolf (Instrumental) (my favorite!);
  7. Invitation to Grandfather's Party;
  8. Kalinka
The Introduction explains the character represented by each instrument: Peter -- violins; the bird -- flute; the duck -- oboe; the cat -- clarinet; grandfather -- bassoon; the wolf -- three French horns; the hunters -- woodwinds; and the shooting of their guns -- timpany (kettle drums). The goal is to introduce children to instruments in the orchestra, working to help the students be able to identify which instrument they hear in any musical piece.

When the 3rd track started, I kept waiting for the narrator to talk about Tchaikovsky and how he was related to Prokofiev and the story. This never happened because Tchaikovsky is not related to Prokofiev or the story -- I have just had an adjustment to my own (bad public school) education. This also shows I still have more to learn even after 24 years of home schooling, even though we've studied orchestra since 1992 and have done composer studies since 2006. So, I listened to track 3 again, this time paying better attention (not saying in my head, "What about Tchaikovsky?").

It was interesting learning about the Russian Peter and the different instruments used in the Russian version -- the study guide had great information on this.

I wished, in the information given about Prokofiev, the narrator had told us if all went well with Prokofiev after he returned to Russia in the 1930s, and if his wife and child stayed there all their life (the wife was from Spain, and they had lived some time in the US).

I mentioned the study guide that comes with the Peter and the Wolf CD. It is very cute -- a consumable, geared toward students younger that mine. It is 24 pages long. It includes a "Match the Instruments" to the appropriate character.

It has information about the composer, Sergei Prokofiev, and teaches some Russian script.
It has the children identify some of the instrument mouthpieces,
and has a Dot-to-Dot.
There is information about the Trio Voronezh (pictured above with their Russian instruments, as well as information about their instruments: the balalaika, the banyan (like an accordion, but not), and the domra. There is a musical score for Peter's Tune that I need to try to play on my recorder!

There is a "Crack the Code!" page a Word Search,
and a Musical Question. There is a crossword puzzle (sorry my photo is blurry!).
The last page introduces Stephen Simon, Yadu, and Bonnie Ward Simon, who all worked on the CD. Ms. Simon also has a video about Peter and the Wolf on YouTube that I am embedding below.

The booklet also highlights other CDs available from Maestro Classics.
Our Experience:
In light of my son's previous experience and reaction with The Story of Swan Lake, I made a specific plan for how to use Peter and the Wolf.  Taking the CD out to the van, I made a point, first, of listening through the entire CD during moments when I was out, alone, doing errands. Then, at an opportune time, I played the orchestral track for my son to hear, and began explaining to him that the music tells a story, the violins represent Peter, etc.

My son did enjoy that orchestral version, as I knew he would. I could not remember what each of the instruments represented, so he was then interested enough to listen as Yadu (a.k.a. Dr. Konrad Cynski) explained the correlation. (I didn't like the way Yadu seemed to talk "down" to the children the way one would never speak to an adult. I know that is one think my children have also never been tolerant of.)

One day, on the way to Civil Air Patrol, we were giving another cadet a ride. I put the music in for us to listen to on the way to the meeting. Richie (the other cadet) was so funny! He said, "I feel like I'm getting smarter just listening to this!" Great comment! I loved it.

Late into our review period I learned the Maestro Classics CDs also (often) come with a curriculum guide. I got the link and downloaded my guide, but I did not use it or even look at it yet, so I can't tell you about it. It's free.

Since my last student is approaching college in a few years, I will probably hold on to this CD for a couple of years and then pass it along to another home school family. I am happy to have had the opportunity to review it. I love Peter and the Wolf!

Other members of the Review Crew also reviewed Maestro Classics CDs, both Peter and the Wolf and The Nutcracker. To see other product reviews, please click the button below.
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Wordless Wednesday

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner - A Schoolhouse Crew Review

Review Crew
When I saw the first advertisement that Apologia Educational Ministries had published The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, I knew I wanted it! Imagine my reaction when I found out Apologia was letting the Schoolhouse Review Crew review it! Then add to that imagining my reaction when I learned I had been selected to be part of the review!

We did not get to indicate what color we wanted (I would have said "Blue"), but I am very happy with the The Ultimate Homeschool Planner - Yellow Cover that arrived on my doorstep late in September. 

The planner is beautiful! I love its colored spine! It makes it easy to spot among my spiral-bound books when it is put away on the shelf. Can you see it?
The planner is approximately 9" X 12 " and has 280 sturdy pages enclosed between two soft plastic covers. (Can you say "coffee proof"? Well, the cover wipes clean and leaves no coffee cup ring, anyway. We'll call it "coffee resistant".)

When your package arrives you will take out your new planner, "Oooo" and "Ahhhh" all over the place, and then you will open the cover. First you will notice a pocket inside the front cover to stash your daily loose papers. You think, "What a great idea!" and immediately you look to see if there is a pocket in back, too. There is! That means, among other things, that with two students, if you want to you can stick one student's papers in front and the other student's papers in back!

So you turn to the first page; you find a calendar for the current school year and next school year.
Then you find the pages that follow have calendars for school years out to 2023! That's huge! I can look to see when my son will graduate high school! Or, if you buy this and don't use it, leave it on a shelf for five years, pick it up then to use it -- it still will have current calendar information for you to use!
So, flipping past the calendars, you then come to a page for you to enter personal information. (I would have preferred this to be the first page inside the cover -- just sayin'.)
Then comes the copyright page, followed by information about the entire planner set, and a letter from the authors (Debra Bell and Zan Tyler), all of which I would have put before the above-mentioned calendars.
The information about the student planners available made me immediately want the teen planner. I "need" the teen planner! I convinced myself. ::sigh:: The truth is that with only one student, even though it might be short-changing my student's growth in independence as well as short-changing The Ultimate Homeschool Planner system, I will get along without the teen planner.

After the letter from the authors comes the Table of Contents, here for you to see.

Next come several pages sharing the idea behind this Planner and how to use it to your best advantage.

 The directions pages have great illustrations.
The weekly Planner pages are blank, so you can put the student names down the side and the days of the week across the top, with all assignments in one square, thus one big planner for all students. Or you can put subjects across the top and days down the left column, or days across the top and subjects down the left. 

The User's Guide tells of the many features of this Planner and how to use them. This Planner is amazing! The User's Guide is followed by a full calendar year, from July to June, that you fill in with dates and activities, so you can get a full year at one view. I blocked off our September vacation and two of our break weeks, inserted holidays and some of our birthdays. I love it!
This is followed by pages for character goals and academic goals for your various students. (I'm not good at that; haven't done it yet. Visualize my son finding I wrote: "Character Goals: Grow Up! Academic Goals: Graduate!")

There are  pages to record the curriculum materials you plan to use, one column for each student (or six columns to divide among your students). This is followed by calendars for you to create month-at-a-glance. I started these with September.
I like the way these calendars have six rows with space below and a column to the right. You never scrunch dates like "23/30" like some calendars do.

What is your worst fear with this type of planner book? "I might make a mistake!" Well, I worked with correction fluid nearby, but I messed up royally. I skipped pages and completed October with unused months between September and October. My calendar pages now go in this order: September, August 2016, November 2015, December, October, January, etc. Why is August after September? Because when I found I had missed pages, I thought I had missed two months. It wasn't until I did July that I thought it odd that the calendar went from September to July. When I investigated I found another blank page right after September. So, it is what it is. You only use one month at a time, right? Anyway, it is for reference for me, not my main calendar. Maybe I will transition, but I'd be scared to take it with me everywhere I go; what if I lost my Planner! Horrors!

After the monthly calendar pages, the weekly Planner pages begin. Each week is a four-page spread. The first two pages have a place to note Bible plan; Battle Plan/Fighter Verse; Prayers; Hospitality/Outreach; The week's memorable moments/achievements; and evidences of grace. I'm not great at using these two pages yet. (I keep my Bible plan on my Academic pages, already.)
The next two-page spread is the academic plan. This is my most-used section.
I like my days of the week, Monday to Saturday, across the top and my subjects down the left column. One student means I have lots of space! I like redundancy. Even though I write "Week of..." I like to write each day's date with the day. I like my subjects to always, always be on the same row. I have used my correction fluid. I am not good at pre-planning; I am not good at checking off what is done. If I write it down, it has been done. I often write it down when we finish it instead of in advance. I already know my basic plan. I plotted it out in advance elsewhere. We are already behind. I don't need to rub that fact in by writing stuff down and whiting it out. I tend to set the bar higher than what we can do, and then we do more than we (he) thought we could.

Best feature (IMHO) of the whole Planner: it has 52 weeks of sets of pages for the weekly planner section! This is what I have always needed/wanted in a planner! I like to have that vacation week written in there so that I can comment that we drove the wildlife loop on Assateague; I like that holiday week written in so that I can comment that the student spent ten hours editing videos on his "time off". 

After the weekly Planner pages, there is a place to record grades. I haven't used it yet. The instructions will probably be helpful, but at first glance it looks confusing. There is one section each for six students, with eight columns (grading period averages?) and one row to list each of six subjects. I would have loved some sort of full-page calendar type page for each subject with a place for a grade each day for each subject for each student. I know; I ask a lot. I'm probably not describing it adequately, either, but I've had such a grade-keeping page in the past. I have to figure out the best way to keep track of my grades with this planner.

There are pages for recording reading lists. This is followed by room to record activities/field trips (Student Service Learning hours?). At the end there are pages of Teaching Tips followed by a very overwhelming high school planning guide ("My Spanish 1 student should already be doing Spanish 3?"). The "suggested" or example has a very aggressive schedule. I am no where near that far along. ("Breathe deeply!") It is only an idea, a glimpse. You create your own plan the page before it. 

The Planner concludes with a place to record "The Year in Review" followed by a "Notes" page (a great place to put your account log-in and password information for all those on-line accounts!) followed by a Bibliography, "About Debra Bell", and information about more Apologia products.

In conclusion: I love this Planner. I've been using a digital planner that sent a daily schedule to the student, but he was ignoring the emails. We were behind and I didn't have time to get on and adjust the schedule. I'm a paper kind of gal. It is helpful to have paper documentation when I go to my state-required home school review.

I love my Apologia Planner.

When I first received my Planner I did not need to immediately take a planning retreat -- I had already done it. My materials were already selected; my plans were already plotted out for completion of each course (best-case scenario being finish each textbook/follow schedule perfectly). We were already behind.
It was fun to work, the first few weeks, to get the Planner set up (using every spare minute I could find). I fell in love with a certain brand's "G-2" pens. They dry quickly on these planner pages (but not on the dried correction fluid). They are dark! They show up nicely in my photos. I can see my notes quickly and easily.

I certainly read through all the directions pages straight-off, but my mind quickly sorted through what I really cared about in the Planner and what I just wasn't ready to be concerned about just yet. My school year began September 8th, although if I think of anything done after school ended in June I'll find a way to note it somewhere (like I noted Boy Scout Camp in July on the full-year calendar spread).

My son is still not independent. I am still not having a Sunday afternoon session to plan out my week, nor am I having a Monday morning session to tell my student what his assignments for the week are. Many days/weeks I feel I am just barely surviving home schooling (and wish he was willing to attend outside classes, college dual enrollment, or even {gasp!} public school!). If I get through the entire year with a daily or weekly record of what we have accomplished, it will be an improvement over last year.

This is an excellent Planner. My "failure" with it shows you that no matter how good the product, if the user doesn't adequately use the product, the best product still can't deliver the hoped result. Personally, I don't see my variances with the product as failure. I have adjusted the method of intended use to meet me where I currently am in my home school. My records are now better than they were thanks to this Planner. Later, if I am able to implement even more changes, maybe I'll order the Teen Planner. My week might include a Sunday planning session and a Monday student session, and my son will/might grow in independence.

No matter which way you look at it, I love my Planner and have benefited from having my new Planner. I wish I had used this Planner for my student last year (9th Grade), and I want to use one next year and for 12th Grade. I love it that much. (I still love blue. Next year I'll buy the blue one.)

Thank you for reading. Take a look at these sample Planner pages. Tell me what you think.

Other members of the Review Crew also reviewed The Ultimate Homeschool Planner. To see other Planner reviews, please click the button below.
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