Thursday, November 16, 2017

Characters in Crisis ~ High School Lit


We have enjoyed Writing with Sharon Watson's approach to writing and literature (see my reviews of Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide, and The Power In Your Hands), so I appreciated the opportunity to use and review the second volume in her Illuminating Literature series, Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis with my Middlest.

We received the physical components (Textbook, Teacher's Guide, and Quiz and Answer Manual) of this set in the mail.  I love it when companies offer free samples, as those nearly always help me to form a more complete opinion before I purchase a product, so be sure to check the product page to see what's available.

There are also some online components:
  • Novel Notebook: A full color downloadable pdf, intended to be printed and 3-hole punched. This is where the student is prompted to write reflections that correlate to the stories. Sometimes they are asked to write about the story directly, and other times they are asked to tell personal anecdotes that relate to the theme. 
  • Online Quizzes: For those who appreciate a lightening of the teacher's load, graded online quizzes are offered to take the place of the paper Quiz and Answer Manual. These are password protected, with the passwords being found in the text, at the end of each chapter.   
Screenshots of a couple of the full color Novel Notebook pages~ because they are much prettier than our black and white printouts... don't forget, you can download the entire pdf if you want to see what every page looks like. 


So, now a little bit more about the actual curriculum.
Sharon Watson writes engaging curriculum geared towards her audience. This can make all the difference in the world when your high school student is NOT a prolific reader (yes, I have one of those...). I love that she includes as an objective "To avoid sucking the life out of the class due to beating each novel until it begs for mercy."
She also has this to say...

The Textbook is written directly to the student and is a combination of formal and informal direction. The first week of lessons give an introduction to the course and what to expect. Sharon Watson talks about opinions, grading, course philosophy, the value of reading literature, character labels, forces of antagonism (conflict), and a quick exercise involving a book or movie of the student's choice. From here she moves directly into the literature choices for this year's worth of study (more about those a little down the page). Remember those samples I mentioned? This first chapter (0) is included in the free download, as well as the first two lessons from the first literary selection. 

In addition to the Novel Notebook, the Questions in the textbook, and the Quizzes (online or physical book), the are a number of optional activities that expand on the student's understanding of the the story. These are very diverse in order to give all learning styles an opportunity to complete something to suit their personal strengths. They include writing (of course), acting, illustrating, and creating physical objects. While not integral to the course, they can be a highlight when completed. 

Both the Teacher's Guide and the Student Text offer schedules for completing the course, whether done alone or in a co-op or once-a-month book club. The Teacher's Guide also includes grading rubrics specific to the chapter. Headings coordinate with the student text, making it easy to know what is going on in the textbook without having it directly in front of you. As a nod to the ever-increasing online nature of our world, the teacher's guide also includes pre-written Facebook posts that can be used to create/maintain interest if you are teaching to a group. The questions in the textbook are included in the Teacher's Guide, with specific answers or notification if answers may vary. 

*Note: this curriculum is written from a decidedly Christian Worldview. However, that does not mean that the authors chosen promote that world view. There may be language or events included in these stories are offensive to some. But isn't that true of life in general? This is a chance for your student to acknowledge that bad choices and evil exist, and to discuss and learn how to deal with those real-life negatives from a safe distance (this is a level up from the concept presented by G. K. Chesterton commonly paraphrased thus: “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.” ― G.K. Chesterton )

I will freely admit that sometimes I have been known to err on the side of staying away from the dragons and the poor life choices, but it is definitely worthwhile to open up these discussions, particularly as the darkness of the world seems to encroach closer with each passing day. Another stated objective of the course is "To recognize what the author does to influence their (the reader's) hearts and minds." This allows your young men and women to more readily discern truth and the distortion of truth in their daily lives. 

Back to the Curriculum... ;) 
The titles included are: 
  • "A Jury of Her Peers" by Susan Glaspell
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Silas Marner by George Eliot
  • Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
  • Short stories
    • "A White Heron" by Sarah Orne Jewett
    • "The Garden of Forking Paths" by Jorge Luis Borges
    • "Haircut" by Ring Lardner
    • "The Lady, or the Tiger?" by Frank Stockton
    • "Of the Passing of the First-Born" by W. E. B. Du Bois
    • "A Child's Christmas in Wales" by Dylan Thomas
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • Biography/Autobiography of the student's choice
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein
For the time of this review, once the introductory chapter was finished, we opted to jump ahead and use the chapter containing the Short Stories. This was partially because both time and funds are short at the moment, so it was nice to have the full texts available IN the textbook, instead of having to purchase or borrow one of the full length works right away. I also tend to skip about most full-year Literature Curriculum, choosing the units that I think will be in each of my children's best interest to read, and it was time for Middlest to enjoy some short stories. ;)

A note about the Text~ it is, in and of itself a workbook, if you only have one student using it~ there is plenty of space given to answer questions. However, because I have one more up and coming, I chose to have Middlest write his answers in a notebook, just like public school...

He appreciates the layout of the curriculum~ It starts with the literary terms being introduced, then moves into reading the story so that you can be thinking about the terms while reading. That way, when you reach the end of the lesson, you can easily answer the questions about those terms. He also appreciated the variety of extra activity choices, as creative writing isn't necessarily his gift.



Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 

You can visit Writing with Sharon Watson on Facebook and Pinterest.

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Blessings~
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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Pencil Grip, Inc. (review and giveaway) Thin Stix Creativity Pack




I have blogged about the The Pencil Grip, Inc. products in the past, reviewing their basic Kwik Stix (set of 12) fast drying paint stix, and their basic Thin Stix (set of 6) paint stix. This time I am happy to have the opportunity to review the Thin Stix Creativity Pack, which includes not only the 12 basic colors, but 6 metallic, and 6 neon paint stix.

In the event that you don't end up clicking through to my previous reviews, let me give you a quick rundown on the Kwik Stix. They are a pretty much mess free, quick drying tempera paint. They come in a tube that is similar to a glue stick (so the same precautions apply, when used by young'ns... don't let them twist the paint too high). They really do dry quickly, so they are PERFECT for co-op and Sunday School classes when you have a limited amount of time for crafty projects. That being said, they are also a lot of fun to use on your own at home.

We were excited to have the thin metallic Kwik Stix to test out, as my youngest is often about all things "precious" ~ he loves to use gold and silver crayons and pencils when he draws. Boy howdy, are these a far cry from those other drawing tools! The paint really is shiny, brilliant metallic! I can imagine that those who have little girls would LOVE to use these for princess regalia~ coloring paper crowns, making shiny bracelets, etc...

One of the first projects we tried with the original Kwik stix were some paper "ornament" cards for Christmas. I thought that we might revisit that idea using the metallics on black paper to dress them up a little...

I really like the shine of the metallics, and I took pictures both in the sunlight and the shadow so you could get a feel for what they look like

We tried a couple of different things~

Free hand drawing


And taping out a star shape

And taping scattered triangles

Then using the tape itself on another "ornament" ...

*Note: the tape is painter's tape that comes off fairly easily, but you have to be fairly careful when removing it from the construction paper.

I also played with them a little to see how they would work for a pointillism project~ This one hasn't been fleshed out totally yet, but here is a look at the dots (slightly larger than a pencil eraser tip, or q-tip, if you've seen pointillism projects using those...):

One more thing I played with, but haven't figured out exactly how I want to incorporate... using colored pencil UNDERNEATH the Kwik Stix. The first pic has a white crayon scribble that doesn't really show up, and then a white pencil scribble that DOES. ;)

The next two pics are just fiddling... I think there could be a cool multi-media project somewhere here...

I should also mention here as in previous reviews that the Kwik Stix paints adhere not only to paper, but also to cardboard, poster board, wood and more. Great for decorating some of those picture frames or boxes that you can pick up at your local craft store.

If you want to give these a try you can pick up this Creativity Pack at your local BJ's, or order them at the link below.

In the meantime, The Pencil Grip has been so kind to offer one of my readers a free set through this giveaway...
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
You can visit The Pencil Grip on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to see what else they have to offer, as well as to get some project ideas. 

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
Blessings~
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Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Magic Stories (Reading Supplement Review and Giveaway)

The ability to read is probably the most valuable scholarly skill that can be taught, as virtually all other instruction builds on that capacity. It is also one of those skills that can cause a great deal of anxiety and frustration for both parent/teacher and young child. Supplemental materials that offer learning opportunities in an engaging manner, like The Magic Stories can be a huge blessing to those teaching early reading, or helping those who struggle with reading.


The Magic Stories is a new product put out by Allsaid & Dunn, LLC,  publishers of the highly acclaimed "Wordly Wise" vocabulary series, and also a product I reviewed a number of years ago, The Reading Game. This time, instead of a workbook (like Wordly Wise), or a matching game (like the Reading Game), the chosen format is a set of six stories optimized for reading on iPad or computer screen, or they can be printed out in booklet form. I just read them on my computer screen, as my ipad has limited capacity at the moment. If your child loves to read and color, printing them would be a good option, as there are nice, black and white illustrations suitable for coloring in (probably with colored pencil).

   


The purpose behind this particular series is to help children move from the simpler, early beginning reader words to some that are more complex, but not easily decoded through basic phonetic skills and word family association. This is done by incorporating "40 Naughty Words" that don't follow the rules, and need to be learned somewhat more individually. Each Story includes its own set of 40 Naughty Words in a deck of cards that can be printed for flashcard use, or game play (Print twice on cardstock and use it to play a concentration/matching game, or Go Fish or Old Maid, or anything similar your child enjoys. :). These cards are the main method of learning the vocabulary for these books.



In addition to the stories, you can download  worksheets which include a pre/post word assessment (highly recommended to use this prior to reading the story). There are also reading comprehension worksheets, as well as instructions on how to best use the stories with your children. All of these can be found on the Parent Guide section of the website.

  • Finish the Sentence (comprehension exercise that requires the student to finish a sentence about the story, with information gleaned from the story.)
  • Imagine (Open-ended type questions)
  • Finish the Story 
        
  • And my personal favorite, a True/False comprehension "Maze" that I think is fun and creative! :) 

          
Now, a word about the stories. The stories are engaging and most of them end up with some sort of moral application, as all good stories do. Here is my quick take away from each story.

The Magic Hole is set in China ~ sometimes the silver lining can actually be the treasure in the end.
The Magic Ax is in an ambiguous forest setting~ having secrets (that might normally be considered good news) can change you (usually not for the best).
The Magic Joke is set in a kingdom ~ in which a foolish king is saved from "war for war's sake" by the quick thinking of his daughter.
The Magic Hotdog is more of a cautionary tale~ in which we learn that an obsession with anything (even something as simple as hot dogs) is not good for your health.
The Magic Boots didn't actually have as much of a take-away, in my opinion. Just a little story about a mix-up between pixies and goblins.
The Magic Box is a different take on Rumplestiltskin, a cautionary tale of the dangers of greed, to some extent. (side note~ I don't particularly love cautionary tales, because they generally don't have a happy ending... :/ However, others love them, so this is just an FYI).

The stories as a whole remind me of some of the fairy tales I read as a child, and the fact that they have specific words woven through them so seamlessly is pretty impressive. If you appreciate the qualities of fairy tales, you might want to give the Magic Stories a try with your intermediate/reluctant/struggling reader.

Allsaid & Dunn are offering my readers a 25% discount on your purchase if  you input the code   raisingreaders   into the coupon box at checkout.

They are also providing a free set of Magic Stories for one reader of my blog... see the giveaway below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: Allsaid & Dunn, LLC, Publishers 
  • Product: The Magic Stories
  • Ages: 2nd and 3rd grade (regular readers, older for struggling readers) 
  • Price: $16.95
You can visit The Magic Stories on the Reading Game's Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube pages.

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
Blessings~
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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Weave Your Word In Me (Prayer/Bible Study Curriculum Review)

I was very pleased to be included on this latest review of   Weave Your Word in Me -- Part 1 a 36 week curriculum focusing on The Lord's Prayer. Kid Niche Christian Books is truly filling an empty niche with this 2 part series for tweens. I don't know if you've noticed, but there really aren't that many books on prayer for this age group. Search "prayer" in the children's book category, and you'll find MANY wonderful books for the earliest listener/reader, but only a smattering are available for this age group that can be often overlooked. 

bible study/prayer curriculumWeave Your Word in Me is a full year curriculum centered around The Lord's Prayer. It comes three-hole-punched, and ready to insert in a binder. The weekly lessons are short, generally taking 1-3 sides of a sheet of paper.

The structure follows the nine verses of a rythmic poem/prayer My Whole Self Before You that is fashioned after the Lord's Prayer. Two of the verses focus on God the Father, two of the verses focus on God the Son, three of the verses focus on what God wants from us (how we should live), and the last two verses focus on the God the Spirit. This first part in the series covers the God the Father and God the Son. The second part of the series finishes with What God Wants from us, and God the Spirit (in 44 lessons).

detail of study format pageThe lessons that follow each verse of the poem include the verse in a text box that runs the length of the page. You can choose to have your child memorize the verse intentionally, but there is also the possibility that just with weekly repetition on the page it will be internalized.

details of lesson pageAs I mentioned, the lessons are short, and follow a little bit of a format, but with enough variety to keep things interesting. There will always be at least one Scripture passage to look up, and each lesson always ends with a fill-in-the-blank model prayer, to show your child how they can pray (have you ever heard "I don't know what to say!" when you ask your child to pray?). I am not fond of "rote prayer" personally, but a little guidance is a good thing, and sometimes not coming from Mom and Dad is a nice thing.

detail of lesson page
What changes in each lesson is the way the verses are approached. Sometimes it's a basic question/answer format, others there are fill-in-the-blank sections, draw your answer, underline, match, circle, etc...  The pages are illustrated, but not so much that a tween will feel babied, just the right amount so that they aren't overwhelmed with only text on the page.

Because we participate in AWANA and have Sunday School, I don't like to add a huge amount of extra Bible work to my son's days (Because he's already doing daily work), but the lessons in Weave Your Word In Me add just enough to our day.

Compatible with the following Bible translations: KJV, ESV, NKJV, NIV, NASB and NABRE
You can find samples from the book on the product page linked below.

Kid Niche Weave Your Word in Me Graphic Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
You can visit Kid Niche Christian Books on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
Blessings~
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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Musical Nuggets of Gold (Free Downloads for a limited time)

Time for a few Nuggets of Gold! It's been FARRRRR too long since I've written one of these posts!

New Music for the weary soul is available for download!

First up, from Free CCM

The latest is Micah Tyler's Directions from his Different album. If you listen to Christian Radio, you've probably heard his song Never Been A Moment, which was nominated for a Dove Award. He was one of our favorite sounds of the summer of 2017. ;)

The other two songs available on FreeCCM are pretty diverse~
Stones by rapper/rocker Manafest

and collective Pyramid Park's Born to be Brave 
Confession~ 
Even if I didn't like the concept/lyric much, I might listen to it for the accents... ;) 


Another of my favorite places to check out new music is Hear It First, although it's difficult to know exactly what track they are offering for download until you actually download it from the link they send in your email... :p

Personally I wasn't a huge fan of James Gardin's Right Now~ seemed a little too ... needy... made bad choices, now he wants his girl back. :p If he's actually talking about God, well, this is one of those ambiguous songs that I like even less... (just so you know what you'll be getting before you hit the submit button~ you can look it up on Spotify if you want to check it out yourself. )

Fans of Audrey Assad may enjoy the very mellow
Wood and Nails on Work Songs: The Porter's Gate Worship Project~

Sandra McCracken Live can also be found on Spotify~ I don't know which song is offered as the free download on Hear It First as she wasn't exactly our cup of tea...

Won't Let Me Go by John Tibbs is a high energy tune...
You won't let me go
And I will not fear, when the earth gives way
And the lightning strikes, and the oceans rage
You'll stand by me, I'll never walk alone
You won't let me go



The Legacy Live PlanetShakers song Prophecy wasn't exactly what I'd listen to, but some might enjoy it, so I suggest looking it up on Spotify. :)

Armond Wakeup is a rapper/spoken word artist.
His mellow song Sweeter might be worth a listen if you're into that genre


OK, that's about it for now~ grab them while they are still around!!! And if you pick any of them up, let me know your favorites in the comments~ I'd love to hear from you! 

Blessings~



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