Friday, May 20, 2016

Memoria Press ~ Book of Astronomy Set (Review)

Having grown up in Montana, with a father who is a life-long-learner, I have an affinity for the night sky. Montana skies offer a much clearer view of stars, planets and the Milky Way at large, thanks to less light pollution than my current locale. I grew up knowing how to identify the Big Dipper and Orion's Belt, but did not become familiar with many of the other constellations until I was no longer living in the pristine environs of Montana.

I've tried to instill some sense of identifying certain constellations as "signs and seasons," and have been somewhat successful. With the opportunity to review Memoria Press's Book of Astronomy Set, I am learning right along with my Youngest, who is the main student on this review.

The Book of Astronomy Set includes a consumable Student Book and a Teacher Guide.

The course includes 4 Units:
Unit 1 covers some of the basics of Astronomy, introducing the concept/history of the constellations, the science of Earth's movement and how that relates to the night sky, the names of the 15 brightest visible stars and an explanation of Star Magnitude. It then moves into the constellations themselves, discussing those seen in the Summer-Fall sky, along with the summer zodiac constellations. *Note: discussion of the "zodiac" may make you think of astrology, but this study has nothing to do with that. As defined in the book, "The zodiac constellations are those constellations through which the sun, moon and planets appear to move."

Unit 2 covers the Winter constellations and zodiac, as well as a section on using the stars for navigation.

Unit 3 introduces the Spring constellations and zodiac.

Unit 4 covers the Solar System, Dwarf Planets, Moons and Comets.

Throughout the book, when a constellation is introduced, a regular format is followed:

  • The history of the name (which may or may not include suggestions for reading some of the Greek Myths~ I was less inclined to do incorporate full myth stories, and instead gave my own abbreviated versions of why the constellation may have been named for certain characters (like Hercules, for instance) and it's Latin and English form.
  • The names of the stars of 1st magnitude, and any other relevant information.
  • Instruction in completing a dot-to-dot (or star-to-star, if you will) of the constellation, with a couple of opportunities to do the work.
  • A chart that is filled out incrementally (as new constellations and stars are learned), of the English and Latin names for the constellations, and the stars of 1st magnitude. This was a little tricky, in that I didn't notice right off the bat that there was only one "white" row in the constellation chart to start with.. and that was the only information required to be filled in... not all 15 stars/constellations at once. Actually, it *is* possible that the 15 stars of 1st magnitude are supposed to be memorized and filled out first, but since I'm doing this with an 8 year old, we're taking is slow... One Constellation/Star combo at a time. What a relief, when I figured that out! :) 
  • There are other exercises that include filling in the blanks with information gleaned from the text, as well as from outside sources (ie D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths)
Example of Student page, with the 3 brightest stars from the 3 constellations covered thus far.
A glossary and pronunciation guide can be found at the back of the book, which is especially useful if you haven't recently brushed up on your Latin. ;)

When working on the names of the 15 Stars of 1st Magnitude, I had my youngest use some hand/arm motions to help him remember which one comes next, which was kind of fun. Every now and again the motion actually related to the name, and others it was just something different to help stir his memory.

The Teacher's Guide includes all of the pages of the Student Book with completed work, as well as Unit and Final Test masters and Answer Keys, and "overhead" masters. The only things I really wish were included would be a "Schedule" for instruction (I like to get a feel for what others do, and then do my own thing. :)), and possibly notes for things like the chart that had me confused. It really is a no-frills teacher guide, with very little hand-holding, most simply resembling an answer key, vs an actual guide.
Student page on left, Teacher page on right
I am looking forward to spending some time in Montana this summer, where the stars can be seen so much more clearly, and I have great hopes that my Youngest and I will be able to identify a few more constellations than before, thanks to Memoria Press' Book of Astronomy!

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Institute for Excellence in Writing/ Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization (Review)

As you may have noticed over the years (if you've been reading my blog for years...) that I am a fan of Andrew Pudewa, and the Institute for Excellence in Writing. We have been blessed to review many of IEW's products over the years, and have purchased a few besides, so I was very excited to be on the review for the newly revised, 2nd edition of Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization. The Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization set includes a teacher's manual, a folio of audio cds, and one of Andrew Pudewa's conference talk Nurturing Competent Communicators on DVD.

I appreciate poetry, but sometimes haven't made as much time for it in our daily life as I would like. This program helps, but addresses so much more than simply "poetry."

So, how exactly does linguistic development through poetry memorization make a difference, you ask? Good question! :) Here are some of the basic premises:

  • Poetry offers extensive vocabulary
  • Poetry is highly organized and patterned which means that 
  • Poetry is somewhat easier to memorize, because of the rhythm and rhyme, as well as the typically interesting subject matter
  • Poems are "highly concentrated," filled with snippets of rich, colorful language, which often has the effect of distilling a large concept into a smaller, thought-provoking package. 
  • Poetry memorization is, scientifically, a boon to the neurological health of the brain (The more you memorize, the more neurons make connections, the healthier and stronger your brain)! 
The poems in this program are split into 4 levels of 19 poems with a spot for a "personal selection" bringing the total of poems learned in each level to 20. The poems vary widely in length, content, author, and style throughout each level, which adds to the interest level for the student.

The fifth and final level encompasses excerpts (mostly) from 20 speeches, spanning works from Plato all the way to a selection from modern day Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese founder of the National League for Democracy.
The Teacher's Manual and CD's come in this lovely folio box...
I put the optional printed/ bound Student book in the bottom so you could see everything we received! 
A closer look:

Teacher's Manual
The Teacher's Manual includes 21 pages of Introduction which cover the concept behind the program, and instructions on how to go about using it. Following that, it includes the text of all 96 poems and speeches with occasional literary notes, Author Biographies, and Lesson Enhancements. It also comes with access to download a Student e-book and six more Andrew Pudewa audio mp3s:
  • Mastery Learning, Ability Development, and Individualized Education
  • Ten Thousand Times and Then Begins Understanding
  • On Listening
  • On Speaking
  • On Reading
  • On Writing
The accompanying CD's are recordings of Andrew Pudewa's excellent recitations of the poems, which can be used to introduce the poem, as an aide to learning the poem (For those who memorize better through auditory channels), and as an example of recitation with feeling rather than rote recitation. If you have used any of IEW's writing materials that make use of Andrew Pudewa's recorded classes, your children will definitely recognize his distinctive voice! :)

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization uses the same methodology that is used in the Suzuki method of music, and if you've ever used the Navigators Scripture Memory system, it is also similar ~ mastery through repetition and review. Research shows that the more you memorize and review, the easier it will become to memorize and retain information. To this end, each section comes with a plan and a chart to record daily progress in memorization and review. By the time you reach the 4th level your child will daily be reciting each poem learned in the current level, with a "maintenance" schedule of 3 additional poems from the previous levels. Although this might sound like it will take up a ton of time, it really isn't bad (if you have a number of children, you could have them alternate their recitations, starting with a different child each day, expecting that they will be saying the words silently in their heads when their siblings are reciting the other poems).

Student Book
The student book comes as a printable ebook, as I mentioned above, or as an optional purchased, spiral bound workbook. As a bonus the Crew were sent this as well. The book comes with forms to keep track of where your child is, as well as pictures to color, which can be fun, and/or helpful if you have a kinesthetic learner. 
You can see that I took advantage of my printer's extra capabilities and printed my kids' copies in booklet form. None of my kids are particularly kinesthetic learners, so the coloring page aspect of the Student Book wasn't a huge draw for them (although they did enjoy the illustrations... just didn't want to color them), so the smaller, booklet form was fine for them, and was also a "different" shape, which made it easier to locate amongst school paraphernalia.  

Andrew Pudewa never disappoints, and always has something to catch my attention in his talks. You can check out samples of his talks on the IEW website, as well as samples from this entire program.

My youngest has greatly enjoyed using this, and we will be continuing it beyond the review period, for sure! He is has a great aptitude for Scripture memory, but this is something different and he looks forward to learning new poems. In fact, he will randomly start reciting his poems throughout the day/week. What fun! Two Thumbs up from our family!!

Here is a video of youngest reciting the majority of the poems that he has memorized thus far (working on one poem per week on average). He did not include the first poem, because oddly enough, what is hysterical to most kids makes mine go "Ewwwww." ;) They memorized it, but don't tend to recite it (check out the "Ooey Gooey" poem in my photo above ;) ). He also didn't perfectly recite the longest poem learned to date but he's getting closer.
Enjoy! :)

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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ESV Family Devotional Bible (Review and Giveaway)

I was recently sent a neat item for a review, the ESV Family Devotional Bible, published by Crossway. This is a complete Bible in the English Standard Version, with 130 different illustrated devotions, each centered around a passage in the Bible.

There are no center-column references, no concordance, no "Theme Index" beyond the devotional index near the end of the book. Just the Word of God with devotions that are geared towards a family audience, with occasional brief notes on words/word choices.

I appreciated the devotions I scanned (and the one that I planned for a Sunday School lesson), as they don't talk down to children, but they also don't go into more depth than is necessary. For instance, the devotion that centers around the story of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well simply notes that Jesus could tell her all about her sins. It didn't go into detail as to what her sin was, which I am grateful for when reading to younger children (although that is certainly included in the actual Scripture text... they didn't leave anything out).

The Bible includes some nicely detailed maps at the back, and the illustrations that accompany the devotions are pleasant if somewhat Anglo/Saxon in nature. Each devotion includes Questions for the Family (to gauge comprehension and stimulate conversation) and a Key verse that coordinates, but isn't necessarily from the same passage.

This is an easy-to-bring-with-you Bible that may be a helpful tool to incorporate more family devotion time throughout the year, and that can only be a good thing!

You can purchase your own copy of the ESV Family Devotional Bible from Amazon, but you might want to wait and see if you win my giveaway first! :)


Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The League and the Lantern (Middle School Fiction Review and Giveaway)

Happy May! Summer is creeping up on us, and with summer comes the need for some good summer reading, yes? I'll be having a few reviews and posts with ideas in the coming weeks to help keep your kids (and maybe *you*) supplied with good books this summer.

First up is The League and the Lantern, a debut title by Brian Wells. Brian is an executive producer who has worked on many award winning network television movies. He knows what "Interesting" looks like! When he had a difficult time finding current fiction for his children to read that included entertaining and engaging story lines with characters worth emulating, instead of the inappropriately mature and dark plots that are so common today,  he chose to create rather than complain. Great idea that!

The League and the Lantern is an adventurous read for the Middle School ages. There's some mystery, some history, a smidge of sci-fi, and a LOT of pop culture references for kicks (running the gamut from The Princess Bride to Sonic the Hedgehog, To Kill a Mockingbird to all the major Super Hero Characters... my daughter lost count, but it was like a treasure hunt to see what would be mentioned next!).

Mixed in with the story, Brian also promotes rich vocabulary literacy, having woven in 140 of the top middle school vocabulary words. My  daughter wasn't aware of this information when she read the book, and can attest to the fact that their integration is unnoticeable and seamless. I love a book that uses good words! As a bonus, if you sign in to the League and Lantern website, you will find (among other resources and fun things) a vocabulary guide for parents, which documents the words, their context, and offers some vocabulary exercises to help judge comprehension. Pretty nice little bonus if you want to include a little learning in that summer reading! :)

From the publisher (Because I don't want to give anything away, I'll use their synopsis :) )
Jake Herndon’s middle school sleepover takes a shocking turn when a dangerous organization invades. As he and his new friends Lucy and TJ race for their lives on the streets of Chicago they unravel a centuries-old mystery and an incredible secret about Jake’s family. Packed with unforgettable characters, mind-bending twists and laugh-out loud humor, The League and The Lantern is a ride you won’t soon forget.

Don't you love it when one action serves a dual purpose? I have some good news for you! If you purchase a hardcover copy of The League and the Lantern this spring or summer from the League and Lantern website, you will be providing a free book to a needy child as well as your own. Click here to read more about their partnership with local and national organizations.

Action/Adventure with a bit of a National Treasure feel, this is a book that your 5th-8th grader will most likely enjoy reading, and hey, they might even learn something along the way! You can check out a sneak preview of the first six chapters of The League and the Lantern at The League and Lantern website.

And if you hurry, you can enter my giveaway for a free copy of The League and the Lantern, ends Wednesday, May 25.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can also visit The League and the Lantern's Social Media pages for more information and discussion:
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube


Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Zeezok Publishing LLC Music Appreciation: Book 1 for theElementaryGrades (review)

Music is one of my favorite subjects, and I really love it when there are products that encourage music appreciation for those happy learners of elementary school age, to head them in the right direction! :) Enter Zeezok Publishing LLC and their Music Appreciation: Book 1 for the Elementary Grades, which Youngest and I have been enjoying for a number of weeks, as he learned about the composer Joseph Haydn.

I have been a fan of Zeezok's Musician Biographies for a long while, and have managed to pick up a couple of them over the years, but this Music Appreciation Activity Book/Lapbook/Music Discs/Biography SET really steps it up a notch.
 Book 1 includes studies that coordinate with the biographies of:
  • Bach
  • Handel
  • Haydn 
  • Mozart
  • Beethoven
  • Paganini
  • and Schubert

As I mentioned above, for the purposes of this review, we chose to learn about Hadyn, the Merry Little Peasant.

I mentioned to my Youngest that one of the very first tunes I learned to play on the piano when I was young was by "Papa Haydn." Of course, he had to wait to the very end of the book to hear it on the accompanying music disc (because I didn't recall the name of the actual tune...). How apropos that it was from The Surprise Symphony ~ what a surprise!

Composer Biography
Youngest is a huge fan of history/historical fiction, and has been very enthusiastic about doing this study, as he gets to read about the history of the composer. This has been a nice addition to some of the other historical biographies that he devours on a regular basis, and has had the added value of sparking an interest in listening to more Classical Music than he otherwise would.

Music Discs
The music discs coordinate with the text of the biography, and include the most recognizable snippets from various works of the composer. I will note that my ancient MacBook Pro had some issues with reading the discs, but when I had access to my husband's newer laptop, the discs played just fine. I am normally a "physical product" person, not a "cloud" person, but in this instance, I would have appreciated the ability to listen to these snippets online. Perhaps someday Zeezok will include a password protected area on their website with links to each piece, which would allow us to take our study on the go, and listen from any device. ;)

Student Activity Book
This book is a wonderful resource to use alongside of the biographies. It is broken down into Units by composer, and sectioned further into 4 weekly lessons per composer.

As you can see, the edges of the pages are nicely color-coded so that you can easily find where you are each week. Major blocks of color for each composer. The coding at the top has a long line at the beginning of each unit, and the smaller lines are the beginning of each weekly study. Nice detail!

Each Unit includes a weekly lesson plan, with a variety of activities.
  • Composer Biography~ The week begins by assigning the reading one or two chapters from the biography. This was my Youngest's favorite and least favorite part... simply because he LOVES the reading/history, but he HATES to stop! ;) 
  • Comprehension Questions~ followed by worksheet-like pages
Character Qualities
  • Character Qualities discussion~ each chapter pulls out various character qualities that could be seen in the composer's life. Love this! 
  • Tidbits of Interest ~ These are *quite* interesting! I am very impressed with these Tidbits, as they give insight into the time period in which the composer lived... very much a Social Studies reading, with some great, full color illustrations.
    Tidbits of Interest pages
  • From here the activities begin to vary widely, and might include:
  • Composer Lapbook  piece assembly ~ there are pieces to cut out from the student book as well as pieces to print from a pdf file included in on the lapbook CD found bundled with the Music CDs. Some of the pieces are not put together with the larger handwriting of the early elementary student in mind, so I would recommend that they dictate their answers on some of them. ;) 
    Assembled Lapbook
  • Geography/Map work ~ The Haydn unit had mapwork that showed the various cities where Haydn lived, and also where he traveled (these are found in the activity book, and are not part of the lapbook, just in case you were looking. ;) )
  • Science Experiments ~ The Haydn unit did not include a science experiment, but as an example, the first unit in the book on Bach had an oxidation experiment as they talked about the copper patina at the top of St. Michael's church
  • Recipes and/or food suggestions ~ Foods and recipes from the Composer's time period and country. Youngest was amazed to learn that Mac & Cheese became popular during Haydn's lifetime. How fun! 
  • Music Activities ~ These could include listening to tracks from the CD's, learning about instruments (classical/world/band), the makeup of an orchestra, as well as other musical groups.
  • Timeline Activities ~ These are fairly simple, and include information about major world events during the composer's lifetime. 
  • Copywork ~ Again, not something that shows up in the Haydn unit, but is included in other Composer units. 
I am VERY pleased with this entire set, and think it is well worth checking out. Music and Music Appreciation are so undervalued in our world today, but are such a rich component to add to our children's studies. I am delighted that Zeezok Publishing has come out with not only their wonderful biographies, but also this fantastic resource to enrich our children's understanding of the life, music, and times of these Classical Composers.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Nuggets of Gold (End of April... already? How did that happen?)

Some more Nuggets of Gold for you~

Music to download at New Release Today:

Found a really neat artist there this week~ The Gray Havens title track from their new album Ghost of a King ~ what an interesting sound and song! Hadn't heard of them before, but loving this sample of this husband/wife duo. I've been listening to their album on Spotify, and it is lovely, haunting, and memorable. You can listen to it here, but be sure to head over to New Release Today and download the track to listen to at any time. :)

Interestingly enough I really liked another title track offered (Hurry, it will disappear sometime next week, probably Friday!) by Phil Wickham from his new album Children of God.

and sisters Lauren and Brooke DeLeary together are Love Collide whose song Yahweh from their album Resonate: Ripple to a Wave is a pleasant listen,

You may enjoy some of the other songs being offered, but these are my favorites this week! :)

Noisetrade is offering a free download of a remix by Matthew Parker of Jonathan Thulin's Compass that is an interesting listen...

A couple of books that are "seasonal" and free on Amazon:
One of my favorite "discovered" children's author as an adult is Arthur Ransome of Swallows and Amazons fame. Here are a couple of sweet, shorter books, perfect little introductory reads.

I hope you have a lovely weekend!


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Devonian GREEMU ("Green" Emu Oil alternative ~ A Review)

I don't know if you remember reading a review last spring featuring Emu Oil from Koru Naturals? I reviewed their Emu Oil and their Koolpurrie Balm, and we had very good success (mostly dealing with very dry, cracked, winter hands). This time, we were sent a "Green" alternative to Emu Oil... GREEMU by Devonian, an arm of Koru Naturals.

I have to admit that I prefer using plant-based solutions for skincare whenever possible. It just feels "cleaner" and fresher to me, so I was quite pleased to hear that the scientists at Devonian had come up with a blend of oils that compares with the make-up of the essential compounds found in Emu Oil.

The ingredients for GREEMU include Macadamia Seed Oil, Palm Oil, Shea Butter, Sunflower Seed Oil, and Rice Bran Oil. Obviously, if you have allergies to any of these, you would be wiser to stick with the Emu oil, but if not, you may wish to give GREEMU a try.

Because we had gotten past the "winter skin" issues this year before we received our bottle of GREEMU, I don't have any extreme photos to share like my previous review. I have been using a drop of GREEMU on areas that tend to be dry or rough, and it works similarly to the Emu Oil, although it takes a little bit more time to sink in.

My son (the major "Dry Skin" person in the house) is not enamored with the oil (he prefers a lotion or balm), and is not patient enough to let it sink in before needing to go do something with his hands, but when push comes to shove, next winter, you can be sure I'll be pulling out the bottle of GREEMU to soothe his cracked knuckles. ;)

I used GREEMU as an occasional hair/scalp treatment, and found no significant difference in its performance vs Emu Oil, but again, I prefer the "Green" version vs the "bird" version. ;) I also did an experiment, rubbing in a drop of GREEMU on one side of my face before bed (I am getting to the age when some of those fine lines and "pre-wrinkles" are beginning to show up). The next morning, I asked my daughter if she could tell a difference between the two sides of my face, and she correctly identified the right side, which was less "puffy/fine-lined" and smoother. Sounds like a winner to me! :)

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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