Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fun in Florida - Journey In Concert!

I confess that this post has nothing to do with homeschooling or books. Just thought I'd let you know up front!

I had the opportunity to accompany my husband, Todd, to Orlando, Florida this week, where he is attending a conference for work. I don't normally come to these things, but this time, Journey was going to be playing at the customer appreciation event, and they are one of my all-time favorite bands. I saw them in concert when Steve Perry was still with them. It was their "Raised On Radio" tour, October 1987, at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. We shall not discuss how old I was, 'kay? I love going to rock concerts; it's one of my favorite things to do. Too bad it's a rather expensive hobby because I'd definitely go more often!

Here are Todd and I with our Cisco Live hats on:

Steve Perry was the original lead singer for Journey. (They didn't start out with a vocalist - they got one because they needed one to get a record deal back in the day.)  He has an amazing voice. Truly, there is no one else who can sing like he does. I have had a hard time accepting new lead singers with the band since he left, and haven't listened to much of their music since then, to be honest. I must confess I was pleasantly surprised tonight. Arnel Pineda is the current lead singer, and has been with the band since 2006. He's from the Phillipines. It is truly amazing how much he sounds like Steve Perry. They were looking for a replacement voice for a long time, and they finally found one. It's really hard to tell it's not Steve Perry, if you're not looking at Arnel. It's kinda funny, actually, how young and energetic he is, next to those "experienced" musicians. Ha!

Arnel Pineda:

Neil Schohn:

They played all old stuff tonight, and I was glad. I did download their latest album today so I would be prepared, but they didn't sing anything from it. That was fine with me, because I love to sing along at concerts and I knew all the words tonight. Here is the set list:

Only the Young
Who's Cryin' Now
Separate Ways
Stone in Love
(Neil Schohn played the National Anthem)
Edge of the Blade
(Jonathan Cain piano solo)
Open Arms
Dead or Alive
(More Neil Schohn)
Wheel in the Sky
Be Good to Yourself
Don't Stop Believin'
Encore: Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'

Sing along with me now: Na na nana na na, nana nana na....

Saturday, June 22, 2013

REVIEW: "Lily" Books from Baker Publishing

By now, you know that I love books - living books. I'm always excited to review books with potential, so I signed up, gleefully I might add, to review Life with Lily (PDF excerpt) and A New Home for Lily (PDF excerpt) by Mary Ann Kinsinger and Suzanne Woods Fisher, from Baker Publishing GroupThey are good-sized paperback books, about 250 pages, with glossy covers.

Mary Ann Kinsinger grew up in an Amish community, and now blogs at A Joyful Chaos about her  journey after leaving the Amish community. Suzanne Woods Fisher has written several books about the Amish, both fiction and non-fiction. Her interest was sparked by her grandfather, who was raised Amish in Pennsylvania.
These are some lovely books about the life of a little Amish girl. They remind me of the Little House on the Prairie books, except in the setting of an Amish community. They are written from the perspective of Lily, who is 6 when the first book begins, so the language is quite simple. They are written for children ages 8-12, and would be great chapter books for younger readers who are ready to take that step. I enjoyed them myself. My girls and I read these individually, although they would have made excellent read-alouds.

Life with Lily begins with Lily's Mama having a new baby. I found it interesting that Lily had no idea her mother was pregnant; her Papa woke her up to take her and her brother to their grandparents, where they had to wait and wonder what was going on. Even the grandparents didn't tell them, and little Lily was sure there was something dreadfully wrong.

Emma and I both enjoyed reading about the cranky neighbor, Mr. Young. He came over when Lily's Papa was building a fence to create a pasture for their new cow, and pitched a fit because he didn't want the cow eating "his" grass. Papa had Mr. Young show him where he thought the property lines were, and then simply moved the fence so there was no way Jenny the cow could possibly eat grass on Mr. Young's property. Lily was quite put out at Mr. Young's behavior, but Papa said whenever they thought of him, they would think good thoughts. There were other instances when Mr. Young was most unkind - including when he refused to take cookies from Lily's friend, Trisha, who happened to be African-American, but when Lily's family needed help, Mr. and Mrs. Young were both available to help. Sometimes "loving your neighbor" is not always easy, but this sweet Amish family refused to take offense at things that would have made me VERY angry and went out of their way to be kind.

One of my favorite parts of Life with Lily is when Mrs. Young gave her a sewing machine. Lily was absolutely delighted, and sat right down after telling her Mama she was ready to start sewing clothes for her doll. Mama gently informed her that she would have to learn to sew nine-patch squares first, and work her way up to doll clothes. Lily was not impressed. When Christmas time comes, Lily wants to make gifts for her parents. This quote makes me giggle:
"Later that day, Lily dug through Mama's bag of fabric scraps to see if she could find anything she liked. She didn't know how to sew anything except dumb nine-patch squares, but at least she could make a pretty nine-patch pot holder for Mama." p. 248
She also made a colorful tool belt for Papa. When her parents opened her gifts, they expressed such love and thanks to Lily!

In the second book, A New Home for Lily, Lily and her family left New York and moved to a new Amish community in Pennsylvania. Lily didn't want to leave her home and her friends, and it made me laugh that one of the things she disliked most was that her new house was painted olive green and it had orange counter tops. I would not have appreciated orange counter tops, either!

Lily gets into some funny scrapes in this book, too, like getting caught up on the billy goat's horns with her coat. It wasn't funny to Lily, but I certainly laughed (and so did Mama). It's interesting to read how her responsibilities grow at home. As she learns to cook, she makes rookie mistakes (just like I did), such as when she put cayenne pepper on the stuffed eggs instead of paprika, and made a bucket full of Jello for dessert. She made me laugh when she got upset about yet another "ugly" baby, when Mama has another little boy - not only did Lily want a sister, but she was really hoping for a prettier baby.

At one point, Lily decided to write different Bible verses to hang on the wall at home, because she has lovely handwriting. Mama thought it was a good idea too. After a visitor leaves in a huff without explanation, and Mama's brother who is visiting from out of town tries to leave after a very short stay, they realized that Lily had copied this verse for the wall:
Withdraw your foot from your neighbor's house; lest he be weary of you, and so hate you." -Proverbs 25:17
Lily's parents laughed and laughed when they saw what had happened (and so did I)! Mama hadn't seen this particular verse before Lily hung it on the wall because she'd been resting after having a baby. She did tell Lily that she'd like to see the verses before Lily put them up, in the future.

Charlotte Mason's first principle of education is that "Children are born persons," meaning they are not blank slates or empty buckets. Any parent with more than one child knows how very different each one is, right from birth. The Amish truly value their children. They have high expectations of them, but nothing unreasonable for their age. They certainly do not coddle their children, and the children don't complain to their parents about much at all. However, the parents are quite aware of what is going on, and when there is a problem, they step in. There was one instance in Lily's school when the teacher, who was not particularly nice, did something over the line - she forced a little boy who had a problem with stuttering to wear a garbage can on his head for the rest of the school day after he had a hard time reading aloud in class. Lily was very upset, but didn't complain at home. Her mother noticed she was upset, though, and when she heard what had happened, she didn't rail aloud against the teacher - but every day after that, one parent or another would show up and spend the day in the classroom, and at the end of the school year, the teacher was not asked to return. This was often the way: that when something happened, nothing was said at that moment, but later on, a parent would make a comment to a child that let you know they were fully aware of a situation and they gently instructed their child how to handle it without lecturing.

I enjoyed these books very much, and so did my girls. They are a wonderful peek into Amish life, which I've always found interesting. They also show good examples of teaching with love and offering grace to those who are less than gracious to us. The Amish are hard workers; I don't think most of us have any idea what it's like to work as hard as they do anymore. There aren't many modern-day books that I recommend, but these are lovely.

Life with Lily and A New Home for Lily are both available from Baker Publishing Group for $12.99 each, and you can choose between paperback and e-book formats.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

You know your children are schooled at home when...

My girls have been taking their end-of-year tests this week. It's been fairly entertaining for me. You can tell we've not done much standardized testing - in the past, they've taken the Woodcock-Johnson test, which is nothing like the fill-in-the-bubble kind they took this year.

Yesterday, I saw Abbie come out and get her iPad. I asked, "Are you done with your test, Sweetie?"

She said, "No, I need to look up what 'perpendicular' means."

I got to explain that if she doesn't know something, that's fine, but she can't look things up while she's taking the test. She was not amused.

Today, I heard the girls talking and went in to tell them they needed to be quiet.

"Emma's just explaining how to factor and cancel," says Abbie.

I tried very hard to keep a straight face, and told them they are not allowed to help each other on their tests, either. The looks they gave me were priceless - they were aghast. Emma informed me that she is against testing. If she only knew, right?

Isaac wants to spend lots of time outdoors, and I'm trying to make sure he can do that as much as possible, which means I get to go, too. This is not my favorite time of year for out-of-doors adventures, but it's not as hot and humid now as it's going to be in July and August, so I go. This morning, he wanted to dig up the dirt where our little pool used to be, because he has a plan to lay a foundation with our friend Jeremy. (Jeremy is an adult friend who mulched our flower beds and has done some other landscaping for us, and he let Isaac help him. He's always amused by the plans Isaac makes for them.)

Then, we had to go explore "The Woods." "The Woods" are a small line of trees and brush between our house and the neighbors. We had a dead tree fall across our driveway last week, so he wanted to go look for more dead trees. Then he found a small, gnarled dogwood tree with a really big vine crawling up through it, and discovered he could sort of climb it. This afternoon, we got to go back out and look for more climbing trees. Alas, we don't have any that are good for climbing. Poor boy. He worked hard to climb what we have, though!

WhenI told him it was time to come in, he asked if we could please do "just one more thing." He wanted to go on a nature walk. I agreed. He said, "You know, Mom, part of a nature walk is finding out what things are." Yes, son, I know this. I thought he might want to identify things and was debating running in for an insect book when he said, "Oh, look, this is a stick. And look over here! Another stick!" We spent a few minutes finding interesting sticks and even found one that looks like a gun. He said, "This was the best nature walk, EVER!"

Sunday, June 16, 2013

REVIEW: Prima Latina from Memoria Press

I have wanted to teach Latin to my girls for years, but have felt strangely intimidated by it. I have no idea where my fears came from; I love languages, have a degree in linguistics, and know quite a bit of French and some Spanish. Latin should have been a no-brainer, but for some reason, it wasn't. My girls were resistant to the idea, too, so it was easier to avoid it altogether.

When the opportunity arose to review Prima Latina from Memoria Press, I decided the time had come to give Latin a try. Although the program is geared toward students in grades 2-4, and my girls are in 6th and 7th grades this year, I thought it would be a gentle, low-stress introduction to Latin, and it has proved to be just that.

We received the complete set (priced at $90.90) from Memoria Press, including the teacher's manual, student book, flash cards, DVDs, and pronunciation CD. I was able to obtain a second workbook from a friend so each girl had one to use. The workbook is printed in two colors (see a sample here), and the pages are nice and uncluttered, with plenty of room to write. The teacher's manual (sample here) has the entire student book with answers, as well as teaching tips, a vocabulary drill sheet to copy, tests, and answer keys. The flash cards contain all the vocabulary words in Prima Latina, as well as all the words you would need for the next program in the series, Lingua Latina. The pronunciation CD contains all the words from each lesson, as well as 4 hymns from Lingua Angelica, Memoria Press' Latin reading and translation course.

Prima Latina is an introduction to Christian Latin, which means that students learn ecclesiastical pronunciation. (If you're interested, there is a nice post about the differences between ecclesiastical and classical Latin here.) The program consists of 25 lessons, with a review scheduled after every set of 5 lessons. Students learn 5 vocabulary words in each lesson, along with their English derivatives, as well as a practical Latin phrase, and one line of a prayer. They will have learned an entire prayer by the end of every 5 lessons.

The DVD is truly the pi├Ęce de resistance. It contains 9 hours of instructional videos, done by Leigh Lowe, author of the program. She speaks to the students, and encourages them to interact with her. It was fun for me to listen to the girls repeating things back to her, and having them engage orally made it much easier for them to retain the information they learned.

I was able to assign the girls to watch the DVD and complete the workbook pages for each exercise, and since they are older, they completed 3-4 lessons per week. They would never admit it, but I think they had fun. I loved the vocabulary and the English derivatives—it helped them make great connections with both languages. My favorite part, though, was learning the prayers, particularly the Gloria Patri. I can still hear the Gloria Patri in English in my head, from the years we attended a Lutheran church. I've found myself appreciating hymns and liturgy more and more, and for some reason, learning the Gloria Patri in Latin has been a precious, precious experience.

My goal with using Prima Latina was to introduce my girls to Latin, so they would be ready for a more age-appropriate program in the fall. We've accomplished that, and it's gone very well. We will be continuing with it through the summer, and I look forward to using the program with my son in a couple of years. If you're looking for a Latin program for younger children, or even for older children with some angst about Latin, Prima Latina is a great place to start.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew!

Sunday, June 09, 2013

REVIEW - Logo Adventures from Motherboard Books

Have you ever taken a computer programming class? I did once, in college. I had no idea what I was doing. It was not one of my more stellar moments, I confess.

When the opportunity arose through the Schoolhouse Crew to review Logo Adventures from Motherboard Books, I was intrigued - and a little anxious. I certainly did not feel qualified to teach any kind of programming. However, Phyllis Wheeler, the author of the program, is not only a mechanical engineer with programming experience, she is a fellow homeschool mom. She has developed products to fill a need for homeschoolers looking for computer curriculum. She made sure they were accessible to parents who might not have extensive (or any) background in computers.

Here is a great thing: when I received my copy of Logo Adventures, I found that it is written so students can work independently! Also, I have a computer-savvy husband, so he has been the teacher for the material these past few weeks. Here is what he had to say:

I was excited to have the opportunity to work with my girls on learning the basic skills of computer programming. I learned BASIC long ago on an Apple ][+, and have used those skills many times over in school and my job. I had never heard or used Logo before, so I was learning too!

Installing the included MicroWorlds EX Logo environment was smooth, and we were up and running quickly. It runs on Mac or Windows so everyone can enjoy the fun.

Logo Adventures does a great job of introducing Logo to new users. Logo is a neat first programming language due to the instant graphical feedback. It takes the concepts of programming, including sub-routines and if/then statements, and brings them to a graphical media that is fun to observe. The Logo interpreter provides instant feedback to the issued commands, making the language easy to learn and use.

The first few lessons went quickly, as the girls easily picked up the basics of Logo. The mix of graphics with the programming really kept the interest of both girls through the introduction. Also, the some of the well-placed questions in the lessons would lead them to some really cool patterns, which would then lead them to experiment further.

Here are some screen shots of the work they did:  

Abbie's practice drawing a triangle, with some variations:

My eldest likes to be colorful:

Each lesson was progressively more difficult. There are a couple of projects, each a couple of chapters long, completing the book. We did not finish the projects before this review, but I will certainly be continuing this until we do get through them.

Logo Adventures teaches the basics of computer programming, and introduces the logic needed to be successful at it. I have found the lessons enjoyable myself, and the girls have found them fun and challenging. There were days where the "Logo Laptop" was very heavily used at the expense of other subjects, to the dismay of my wife, who would have liked to see a little more work in some of their other subjects.


Well, there you have it - a review from someone who knows about computer programming! My girls really do enjoy working in Logo. It was hard to get them off the computer sometimes, and on to other things. My older girl is somewhat averse to anything that makes her think through things carefully, which Logo did - but she kept with it. I know what a difficult time I had with a very basic computer programming experience when I was in college, so I am thrilled that the girls have had this introduction. I believe it will ease their way into any other programming skills they decide to learn later on, because now they know they CAN do it and it's not excessively difficult. Also, they enjoyed it, which is not something I can say about my own programming experience. They were excited to share their work with their dad and me, and that means a lot.

The details:

Logo Adventures come as a spiral-bound book with the answer key in the back. We were instructed to tear out the answer before giving the book to the girls. Obviously, Ms. Wheeler has met my oldest child. :-) The book also comes with the MicroWorlds EX installation CD, which installed easily onto the little Apple laptop the girls used, as Todd mentioned above. The system requirements are Windows XP/Vista/7/8, and Mac OS X Version 10.4 or higher. 

This program is available from Motherboard Books for $129.99. It's intended for children ages 8-12, and works well for younger children because there are no variables used; however, my 13 year old daughter was engaged and challenged by the lessons, so if you have older children who've never been exposed to programming, I think it's a nice intro for them too. It's also an excellent introduction to reasoning, and is another reason I was excited to review the product. I didn't tell the girls they were going to learn good reasoning skills; they were excited to be doing something fun and connecting with their dad.

My family really enjoyed using Logo Adventures. If you're looking for computer programming curriculum that's easy to teach and fun for the students, look no further!

Click here to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew!

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Shower the People You Love with Love

News of a tragedy has left me heartbroken this week. I'm sorry to be vague, but I can't share the details.

Take time to tell those you love how much they mean to you. When someone makes this world a better place, makes the sun shine a little more brightly, be sure to let them know. Truly, you never know when your last chance to do so will be.

I saw this quote on Facebook yesterday:
Encourage someone today. Be an angel to somebody today. Be a blessing to those who deserve it and those who do not, because you may never know whose life you are turning around. Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.  
I know you've seen those "pay it forward" things - how one act of kindness can grow into something so beautiful it takes your breath away; and how one person reacting badly can start a spiral of ugliness that is also breathtaking in its tragedy.

So. Make an effort to bless someone--with a smile, with a word of thanks, with a helping hand. Perhaps you can forgive, let go of a grudge, restore a relationship. You will never regret reaching out in love.

Monday, June 03, 2013

New from TOS - Schoolhouse Library!

The folks at The Old Schoolhouse Magazine have put together a great library of digital resources for homeschoolers! There are more than 175 items available, including audio books, blackline maps, ebooks, lapbooks, video, and more. It's a fantastic price, too! Check it out!