Friday, July 22, 2016

Beric The Briton: A Review (Heirloom Audio Productionsdoes it again!)


If you've been reading my blog for very long, you will have likely run across reviews for
a variety of Heirloom Audio Productions  G.A Henty dramatizations: The Dragon and the Raven, With Lee in Virginia, In Freedom's Cause, in fact, the only one in the series that I have not reviewed is Under Drake's Flag. My teen son has greatly enjoyed listening to these audio dramas (He prefers that to reading them, in part because he loves listening to the fantastic voices of the actors), so he was greatly pleased that we were recently sent Beric The Briton for review.


We were all impressed with the cast line-up for this particular drama, as it includes the following greats:
Brian Blessed (Star Wars, Tarzan, King Lear)
Brian Cox (The Bourne Identity, Braveheart)
Tom Baker (Dr. Who)
Honeysuckle Weeks (Foyle's War)
Cathy Sara (Downton Abbey)
John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones)

Nothing makes a good story come alive so well as amazing actors and voices!
After listening to some of this audio, my son mentioned that he remembered placing specific Minecraft tiles while listening to specific conversations. I love that sort of memory recall, just another benefit to listening to audio presentations. :)

I'm not going to go majorly into the storyline, other than to say that contrary to what the title might suggest, it is mostly set in Rome during the time of Nero. What I will say is that once again, Heirloom Audio Productions has presented an A+ Class production, with quality actors, musicians and recording. Beric the Briton harks back to the times of the radio dramas of yesteryear. Days when children and parents used their imagination to fill in the visuals for what they were listening to.

I also want to briefly mention the bonus study guide. While the study guides tend not to be geared for high school students, they is some additional historical context information included as well as some discussion questions that can be of benefit for the entire family.


I also want to mention the "Family 4-pack" purchase option. This is a great idea for a gift, AND one of the other bonus items included in this pack is a pdf e-book of Beric the Briton, delightfully formatted by Heirloom Audio Productions. This should give you an idea of what it looks like ~ nice, no?


If you spend a lot of time in the car, listening to Heirloom Audio Productions' audio dramas can be a great family bonding experience. It is also a good fit for those who are auditory learners, and an exercise in using imagination for everyone!

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: Heirloom Audio Productions  
  • Product: Beric The Briton
  • Ages: Elementary-Adult (As with all Henty titles, I err on the side of saying 9-11+)
  • Price: Multiple options include
    • $19.97 MP3 Download  Bonuses- 50 page Study Guide, Printable Poster
    • $29.97 Single Pack DVD Bonuses above + Downloadable MP3 Soundtrack AND instant access MP3 download
    • $99.97 Family Four Pack Bonuses above + Unlimited access to The Live Adventure e-newsletter, Beautifully formatted original Henty Beric the Britan ebook, Printable Promo poster, access Behind the Scenes Documentary
You can visit a variety of Heirloom Audio Productions Social Media Pages:
Beric the Briton FaceBook Page
The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty series FaceBook Page
Heirloom Audio Productions Facebook Page, Twitter, Google+, Instagram


Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say about this fantastic production. 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, July 21, 2016

Getting Your Highschooler Ready for Real-World Writing! (Review)


I think one of the hardest subjects to teach is Writing. It is intimidating to the student as well as to the teacher, in part because it is somewhat subjective. As our students get older, it gets even more interesting, particularly as they must begin writing more non-fiction in preparation for real world writing... reports, reviews, grants, etc...

In line with that thinking, TOS Review Crew members were sent Writing with Sharon Watson's The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School, 2nd Edition. 
My 15yo son was the test subject for this review.

First a word about the Teacher's Guide.

This is an excellent resource for the homeschool parent. The bulk of the manual is a well organized "Key" for the lessons in the Student Manual. There is so much thought that has gone into this part of the manual that it is very easy for Mom (or Dad) to be confident in their use, and guiding of their student.

Obviously, in a writing course there won't be simple subjective answers (although there are some of those as well, dealing with the mechanics of writing, and comprehension and evaluation of those mechanics), and that is where the first portion of the Teacher's Guide comes into play. Sharon Watson has created a "Grading Toolbox" for teachers that explains "How to earn a____ (A, B, C, D, F)" by giving real-life examples of papers that earned those letter grades along with an explanation of why those grades are given. In addition to those examples (which I personally found very useful), Sharon Watson includes a grading rubric specific to the content as well as one for Grammar/Mechanics at the end of each chapter.

Now~ on to the Student Book
I love the fact that this isn't called a manual or a guide. Sharon Watson uses Construction Industry/Power Tool imagery with the title The Power in Your Hands. She writes in a very conversational tone, which kept my son's attention very well. He really appreciated that he didn't feel like he was reading a text book, but rather was actually being taught by Sharon Watson herself. Here is what he had to say:

I like how they start you off with a topic and you then build on it implementing the rules and techniques that you learn. I also like how it seems less like a "textbook" and more like a conversation.

Using relevant topics to teens is of course a good idea (gun control, global warming, teens owning credit cards, global warming etc.),but I really like how they break the techniques and orders and rules that you learn down and let you build on what you've already started. 

It really does seem to keep my attention more than some other writing courses have... Feels like a teacher is instructing you not like you're reading a book. The "puns" and relevant topics really help keep your attention and just make it more interesting in general. Easier to read and less bland I guess?

My son really appreciated that he was given a topic to consider and that topic carried through for more than just one lesson, so he didn't have to start from scratch each time a new technique or rule was learned. 

As I mentioned before, there ARE some work-book style exercises integrated into the text. These are some of the POWER TOOLS being put in the hands of my teen, so that he can construct quality papers. I look forward to using this throughout the school year, as he learns to construct:

  • Persuasive Essays using 
    • Logic
    • Compare and Contrast
    • Moral/Ethical
    • Emotional appeals
  • ExpositoryWriting in the form of 
    • Letters and Emails
    • Position Papers
    • Devotionals
    • Newspaper Writing
    • Biographies
    • Compare and Contrast again with a different emphasis
    • Literary Analysis
    • Definition Essays
    • Descriptive Essays
    • Narration
    • Interview Narrative
    • Personal Narrative
  • Tools
    • Proofreading (This actually comes fairly early on in the book, but I'm including it here for ease)
    • Reference lists for a variety of editing helps including do/don't lists and general definitions
I am really a book in the hand, notebook for the student work sort of person, but I do want to mention that there is also a downloadable version of this book, which might be a great option for larger homeschooling families, especially if your kids like to fill out exercises more "workbook style" or if you have more than one student taking this course at the same time. 

I think this is going to be an invaluable resource for my son as he continues through high school and on into college life. I also expect that my graduated daughter may find it useful as well, as she enters into the college world of writing. 




Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Visit Writing with Sharon Watson Social Media Pages: Facebook and Pinterest

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS 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, July 13, 2016

ArtAchieve ~ Entire Level II

I am always interested in new art curriculum offerings, so was very pleased to be able to review the Entire Level II art lessons for children from ArtAchieve. These lessons are accessed online, and are available for a variety of levels, ages, and abilities. Because Eldest is very busy with life, and has officially graduated, and Middlest's time is mostly filled with baseball and fishing these days, I didn't consider any of the more advanced levels, and chose to do lessons with my Youngest.

The ArtAchieve lessons are "world-culture" oriented, and cover a projects from a variety of cultures, which makes it easy to add in some social studies lessons (there are also social studies, science and language arts suggestions included in the lessons).

As I mentioned, the lessons are accessed online. You can purchase an entire level, or each lesson individually, and your purchase gives you access to the lesson/level for an entire year. Each lesson comes with downloadable pdf "warm-up" sheets, sometimes some additional printables,  a video lesson and a powerpoint presentation that covers the same information. I like the fact that they offer both the video lesson and the powerpoint, as kids learn differently, and what works for one may not be as helpful for another.

OK, how did this work for us? Funny you should ask.

When I first knew about the opportunity to review, I had my son check out all of the lessons, and he chose the level which had the most projects he was interested in. When we were finally ready to start... the reaction was: "I don't want to do this... this is too hard... too much work..." (sigh) However, I reminded him that he had *chosen* to do this, and we needed to get started.

First we went through the warm up in lesson 1-1a (This is available free... you can give it a go yourself!). He complained and whipped through it, and the results were predictably not so wonderful. I reminded him that he needed to *think* about the lines and shapes he was drawing, and concentrate on them and the improvement was marked! So much so that he did the advanced warm up as well! Keep in mind that these were done over the course of more than one day.

The next lesson chosen, 1:2 Czech Cat we had more of the same~ "I don't want to do this... this is too hard" but he persevered through the warm-ups, started the video and then switched to the powerpoint slides because he wasn't in the mood to listen to someone else. The initial result wasn't too shabby, and by the time Youngest completed his first Czech Cat he was hooked... he wanted to draw more.
This particular project is drawn on glossy photo paper, so after the first one at regular size, when he wanted to make many to give away (and possibly sell some as note cards... haven't gotten that part figured out yet, but maybe...), I suggested moving down to 4x6 photo paper. The results were great, and he continued doing these for another week!

He chose to do the Swedish Dala Horse, with a little less complaining this time around... :) The results were fantastic.


He ended up using the 4x6 photo paper to make more of these as well. Nice!


We had a crazy busy week, so didn't get anything done school/art-wise, and with the missed week the crabby attitude came back when we started work on the Korean Wedding Duck project. Once again I heard "I don't want to do this... It's too hard!" Sigh!

For this lesson we made some adjustments (in typical homeschool style), because drawing with marker that can't be erased doesn't suit his personality most of the time, we didn't follow that suggestion for this particular project, even though the program recommends that. It would lead to great frustration on his part. Know your child and proceed accordingly. We moved to pencil drawn and watercolors instead of acrylics. Sadly, I couldn't locate the watercolor paper that I know lives in my house, so he did this project on paper from a nice drawing pad that we could locate.


Pencil lines that were made with a bad attitude got erased and redrawn the next day at HIS request~ love the bits of character training that can come into play here. There is a reason to listen and follow directions, and when they figure that out on their own, that is the BEST lesson! :)

The duck took awhile to draw, and awhile to paint, but he was very pleased with the final product, which will be taking its place on our living room walls.

It is so funny to me how my Youngest will dig in his heels and be negative about something, but once he gets into it I can't get him to stop. And as we continue, I just remind him that he felt the same way (didn't want to do it) about previous projects, but look how they turned out. I also remind his perfectionist little self that he probably won't get it perfect, or even great the first time through, and it is good to do things more than once. He has even realized and vocalized that when he concentrates the projects turn out better. That is a really simple concept, but not one that is always grasped. :)

A little side note: the videos and instructions in the powerpoints recommend some "Focusing" exercises, not speaking, and playing music while doing the projects. We found those to be take-it-or-leave-it recommendations, based on personality. :)

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: ArtAchieve
  • Product: Entire Level II
  • Ages: Middle Elementary (my recommendation)
  • Price: $53 for Entire Level II 
Visit art Achieve's social Media pages:
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and Instagram

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say about this and other levels of ArtAchieve. 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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Friday, July 8, 2016

Laurelwood Books Once Upon a Time in Latin (Reader and Workbook) Review





I was recently given the opportunity to use Laurelwood Books' first set in their series of Fairytale based Latin Readers, Olim, Once upon a Time in Latin, Reader I and 
Olim, Once Upon a time in Latin, Workbook I for review. Each set in the series covers one or more fables, parables, or Bible Story in English and Latin. 

Reader 1 includes The Three Little Pigs, The Tortoise and the Hare, and The Crow and the Pitcher. 
Reader 2 includes The Good Samaritan, The Ant and the Chrysalis, and The Lost Sheep
Reader 3 includes The Feeding of the 500 and The Lion and the Mouse. 
Reader 4 includes The History of Creating the World
Reader 5 includes We Know a Tree by it's Fruit, and Daniel part 1
Reader 6 includes The Prodigal Son

     

The reader has a Latin pronunciation guide in the front, along with general instructions on how the Reader can be used. The suggestion is to do a page per day, along with the associated workbook page. I will admit that we took it a little slower, in part because it is summer, but more because my Youngest was having a hard time memorizing the words in Latin. He could give me the English translation, but coming up with the Latin words was much harder (as is to be expected). As a result, I tended to read the page with him, then read it again the next day before attempting the workbook page.

So how does it work? The reader tells the story in English, and then tells it in Latin. To assist with learning the meaning of the Latin phrases, the Latin vocabulary for each page is printed down the side bar.


We started with the story of the Tortoise and the Hare (because, while I love the story of the Three Little Pigs, I personally prefer the version where the wolf *doesn't* get eaten...whoops!).

The bottom of each Latin story page has a STOP symbol and the accompanying Workbook Exercise listed. This is very helpful. :)

The workbook includes a variety of exercises using the vocabulary from each page:
Translate words or phrases from Latin to English
Translate words or phrases from English to Latin
Fill in the blank with the English word(s), then translate the word(s) into Latin
Match the Latin word to the English Translation



Digging Deeper~ My son wasn't ready for Latin verb tense (or Nominative, Accusative, Genitive, Dative, or Ablative), so after reading through the first Digging Deeper with him, I decided that these sections would be better saved for a much later date.

Because I am not fluent in Latin myself, I wish that the pronunciation guide for the Latin words was included with the vocabulary on each page (Or even phonetic pronunciation for each word). I find myself turning back to the front of the book with every word (OK, this older brain isn't retaining that knowledge too well...) in order to help my son with his pronunciation. Since he already has a few issues with English pronunciation at times, this is a bit on the tough side.

I suspect that those who subscribe to a Classical Education style will really appreciate this take on teaching elementary Latin, and Charlotte Mason Learners might appreciate it in the sense that the lessons can be short and sweet. However, I felt that it was a lot more than my more relaxed style could maintain for very long, without creating a serious dislike of Latin in my son.

I like the concept, but I feel that it is akin to the idea of whole language reading ~ and I personally prefer the building blocks of phonetics. Please take a few minutes and see what other Crew Reviewers had to say, as we all come from different teaching/learning backgrounds, and others may have a very different view of this curriculum. Besides which, Laurelwood books has many other items that were reviewed including a State Study, Patriotic Penmanship, Latin Derivatives, and the Scripture Scribe Series.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Laurelwood Books can be found on Facebook if you'd like to check them out on Social Media.

Again, please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say about this and other offerings from Laurelwood Books.  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, July 7, 2016

Nortwill Single Hammock with Tree Straps



My appreciation for the newer style of hammocks has been ongoing for the past few years, ever since I purchased a "Double" hammock for camping. I was happy to have the opportunity to add to our family's hammocks by purchasing a Nortwill Single Hammock with Tree Straps at a reduced rate for the purpose of review.

I was curious how it would work compared to the "doubles" that we were used to. The straps work well, quick and easy to wrap around a tree (or branch), and adjust with the built-in loops. We found that it was a little difficult for an adult-sized person to lie in the middle of the hammock, it tended to "roll" us towards the front of the hammock (Where the "pocket" the hammock folds into is located). However, it made a great option for little people, and also to use as a "Hammock Seat."


Since we like to take our hammocks to ball parks whenever there are trees that are hammock-able, to watch the boys play baseball, this will be a great option for that!

I hope that this is a useful review for you~ if you're looking for us, we might be hanging around somewhere... in our town or yours!  ;)



Blessings~


*Product received for a reduced price, not free
#Nortwill

Friday, July 1, 2016

Summer STEM learning in a game!





Everyone once in a while I'm sent a fun game to review, and sometimes those games are even educational! I jumped at the opportunity to receive Circuit Maze from #ThinkFun for review. We've had a couple of weeks to play with it, and my *almost* nine-year old has enjoyed using it.

If you've ever used an electrical circuit "toy" then you'll be somewhat familiar with the concept of how the electrical portion of this game works. If you've ever played any solitaire logic games (Rush Hour and the like), you'll be familiar with the logic portion of the game.  What a great idea to put the two concepts together!

The pieces in this product are tokens (squares with metal contact strips in a variety of configurations), a start token that includes the battery power pack, and a finish token.

The concept of the game is to set up the game grid using the game cards~ each card shows the start and finish tokens, as well as some other tokens in a specific set-up. There are also some missing tokens, and the puzzle part of this game is to put them in the right place in order to complete the circuit and light up the light(s). There are three beacon tokens with one green, one yellow, and one red light.


One of the cards my son worked on appeared to be solved correctly, but the yellow light wasn't lighting up... hmmm... sometimes the tokens don't seat firmly and the lights flicker on/off (my only *con* with this game), but this didn't appear to be the case this time around.


After fiddling around with it for awhile, he decided to put it away for the evening.

The next day I asked him to pull the game out again, and retry the challenge. I also reminded him to make sure that the positive and negative sides were matching up correctly so that the current would flow. Sure enough! That was his trouble the night before. Paying attention to direction of the little + and - signs made a huge difference!




I anticipate this being a good game to bring on trips and to use any time that a brain and hands require something to keep them busy for awhile, without being in front of a screen! 

What a fun way to get some STEM learning in this summer without the kids even realizing that it's something other than a cool logic game! 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: Think Fun
  • Product: Circuit Maze
  • Ages: 8+ 
  • Price: $29.99
I hope this was a useful review as you search out fun and educational games to occupy your children this summer! 

Blessings~



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