Friday, October 28, 2016

CrossTimber Name Meaning Gifts (Review)

I always enjoy it when the TOS Homeschool Review Crew gets to review something out of the ordinary, especially when it is a homeschooling family's business! CrossTimber is the family business of John and Katie Dehnart and their children. They offer name meaning gifts in a variety of formats: Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse in 7x9 and 8x10 sizes, Name Meaning Mugs, and Music boxes. They also offer special discounts and bookmarks with multi-item orders.

So, now that you know what they offer, let me tell you a little bit about our experience. One of the first things that you will want to do is find out what they will be using for a name meaning. Although I already knew the "traditional" meanings of the names in my family, I wanted to know what they would come up with. Over the course of discussion with John I found out that they do indeed pull from many resources to put together their name meanings... a bookshelf full of babyname books, linguistic translations for some names, Bible dictionaries for others, and for most names, prayer. A family after my own heart, researching the details.

So, the toughest part for me was choosing which family member to make a plaque for. I finally settled on a plaque for my husband, as he had nothing similar, and the name meaning the Denharts used truly does reflect his heart and personality.

Name Meaning Plaque

One of the additions that make CrossTimber's name meaning plaques unique is that they also incorporate a Scripture verse that coordinates with the name. I especially love that the verse chosen incorporates music and singing for my musician husband~ and that's where the prayer on the part of the Dehnarts comes in, as I didn't mention anything about that at all!
Name Meaning Plaque with complimentary bookmark close up detail
The ordering process was fairly simple once I made up my mind on whose name to use, and which background to choose. Oh yes... the backgrounds~ There are SO MANY beautiful backgrounds, photos and designs... If you are ordering for a special occasion, make sure you allow enough time to make your choice~ It took me a few days to decide!
There are many designs for each of these categories:

Although I was quite happy with the name meaning and Scripture chosen for the plaque I ordered, I am fairly confident that the Dehnarts will work with you if you have a specific meaning or verse you would like to use. In fact, they have a personalization option that allows for something other than a Bible Verse to be included on the plaque if you are ordering for a special occasion. 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: CrossTimber
  • Product: Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse
  • Ages: Gift product for all ages
  • Price: $25 and up
Visit their social media pages on Facebook and Pinterest. Be sure to enter their drawing for a free gift (choice of 2 name plaques or a mug) before it ends (don't worry, you have a month left yet..., just don't forget! :D ).

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say. I took a peek at a few of the reviews, and Wow! There are some really amazing pieces out there! As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Middlebury Interactive Languages~ High School German (Review)

We were fortunate this fall to receive the offer to re-review  High School German I  for Middlebury Interactive Languages. You may recall that I reviewed it last fall, but due to various constraints we were not able to continue it for the 2nd semester, so my son was not able to receive a full language credit for the course. With a second chance to check it out, I am hopeful that he will be able to complete the full course so that I can give him credit this time around. :)

As a refresher, the course *is* interactive, and hits a number of learning styles, with exercises in listening to native speakers, recording auditory answers, and watching videos. Not entirely immersive, but close. Each unit has a similar layout in that they introduce new vocabulary, grammar patterns, culture videos, speaking and writing activities, reading and listening activities. The units have a variety of interactive exercises to help reinforce the vocabulary and grammar concepts.  There are also pop quizzes and tests which are automatically graded.

Here is a look at the first semester objectives. you can see the pop out where I clicked on Unit 3 to show what would be learned that week:

The lessons are accessed a couple of ways.
Via a calendar (which still doesn't have the ability to be adjusted to accommodate personal homeschool schedules, as we weren't able to access the program until after the lessons had "started" on the calendar, so started out "behind." I'd also like the ability to move lessons over a day to account for field trips and holidays ~ homeschool teacher access to the calendar is still on my wishlist,)

You see that you can click on the calendar date, from there click on the Unit Lesson, and the list with checkboxes and lesson slides show up. If the lesson hasn't been done, the student simply clicks on the slide and it begins. The green checkmarks are for the activities that have been completed.
The other way that the lessons can be accessed is through the table of contents. Here you can see the "Tips to Become a Successful Online Learner" slide from the introduction. As with the calendar view,  the checkmarks on the left of the screen show which activities have been completed. The bold letters show the current slide. You can also see that I randomly clicked on Lesson 2 to open up the menu and check to see which activities were done.

If you want to check on the student grade, you also have that option, via the dashboard:

If you click on the "grade-book" link on the left hand side it opens up a list of the quizzes and tests that have been taken with their grades. You can then click on the "Grade Report" button on the left side to see the student grade average. 

So far my son is still reviewing the lessons he went through last fall, but he definitely has a better handle on the language at this point, and it shows up in daily conversation, which is fun. He enjoys the breadth of the activities, and the fact that they aren't all exactly the same.

I think this is a great way to learn a language, and with a few little tweaks (ie: calendar access for the homeschool teacher), I think it would be fantastic!

The Elementary and Middle School courses look like they would be great also. It is worth noting that they suggest going straight to High School German II if the student has completed Middle School II.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Monday, October 24, 2016

Educeri Lesson Subscription Service (Review)

Members of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew were recently given access to over 1000 lessons (with options for K-12 learning), via  Educeri .......  Educeri a division of DataWORKS  and their  Educeri Lesson Subscription Service.

This is a fairly unique product, in that the powerpoint style lessons aren't really written directly to the student, but prepared for the teacher to use. Obviously this is well suited for a classroom scenario, but it can be used in the homeschool as well.

There are hundreds of lessons in math and language arts, which means multiple lessons for most grades. The science lessons are more for middle/high school, and there is currently just a smattering of art, music, and even a couple for PE. What this means is that this could be a good resource for someone who is running into problems with a particular subject, and would like to see it from another approach. OR it could be used to rabbit trail, following the interests of the child.

Many lessons are correlated with common core (helpful if you live in a highly regulated state that would like to see those correlations), and others are not. Because I'm not overly fond of common core, I mostly to look at other lessons, particularly when it comes to math. ;) Here is a screenshot of a lesson I decided to use with my 4th grader, to help him check his multiplication and division answers:

The slide starts with nothing where the red numbers and text are. As you talk about the problem and walk through step-by-step (by clicking the right arrow at the bottom), the words or numbers in red show up in order. If you want to emphasize something you can use the pen or highlighter to show that. In this slide I circled a few things and drew lines and symbols to help explain what was going on. That's a pretty nice little feature! :) 

Some (but certainly not ALL) of the lessons also include printable student handouts for practice.

One of the other features of the site is the searching ability. If you aren't able to find a lesson that coordinates with what you are looking for, you can send a request for that lesson.  I filled out a request for a lesson multiplying double digit numbers by double digit numbers (copying the style of another lesson title), and although I wasn't able to locate it myself, I received a reply email with a link to the lesson I was searching for. My understanding is that if the lesson doesn't exist, your request will likely go onto a list of possible future lessons.

I am looking forward to using some of the language arts lessons when we get to metaphors and similes. The history lessons look like they are mostly for middle and upper grades. I find it interesting that they include lessons on the origins of the major religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Confusionism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism) as well as lessons on various cultures and the causes of specific wars.

One little rabbit trail that we took included a lesson that was a little over my 9 year old's head: "Trace the Principles of Democracy in Historical documents." We checked that one out because we were talking about Fort Knox, and had learned that there was a copy of the Magna Carta which sparked the question "What's that?" Have to love a lifestyle of learning!

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Learning to Read and Write Beautifully (Review)

In addition to the Handbook for Writers review that I posted last week, members of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew also received digital copies of Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting published by Everyday Education, LLC, and I was given the opportunity to take a brief look at the manual.

The foreward and introduction include suggestions on teaching and scheduling the lessons, as well as some of the different ways the book can be used (From the beginning reading/writing child to the adult who wants to improve or change their handwriting). The scheduling section utilizes short Charlotte Mason inspired segments, which can help eliminate some of the tedium that many feel when learning to write, and avoid tired, cramped hands for small children who are still learning how to use a writing instrument. 

I don't have a beginning reader, but I took a brief look at the reading instruction. For the most part it looks very simple and basic, which is good. The basic method used is to teach/read words in the same family, followed by silly sentences that incorporate the words practiced.
Here is an example of one of the silly sentence pages... 
I did run into a few issues with pronunciation, although they aren't major. I have the feeling that the author may have grown up in a different part of the country, based on some of the sounds for some of the words given. For instance, I was taught (and my dictionary backs my instruction up), that 'care' is pronounced ke(ə)r not kār, so that is an unfortunate example, and I would say that pair, fair, and stair all follow the same e(ə)r sound pattern.

While there may be a few different regional pronunciations that may be coming through in this manual, given that the author's specialty is handwriting, this isn't a huge deal, just something to look out for. 

I also perused the handwriting portion, which was of the most interest to me specifically, as handwriting is always an issue in our home. The manual uses actual handwriting for the examples and not a computer generated font, which makes it easier to copy. There is an informative discussion about the history of italics and styles of writing. After the basics are learned (in the second chapter), the handwriting section covers joining letters, and ornamentation, as well as instruction in using an edged or calligraphy pen.   

I have finally come to terms with my own handwriting, but thought I would give the italics a whirl myself, and this is what I came up with after a few days' practice: 

The reproducible practice sheets throughout the book are useful, and the practice sheets at the end of the book include guides for correct angling of a calligraphy pen, which is often one of the most difficult things to master. Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting is something that I may look at further for my own use (Working on "beautiful" handwriting, with flourishes and joins) and also for that of my youngest child, as we begin to address his handwriting sometime in the future. 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
You can visit Everyday Education, LLC on Twitter

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Nuggets from our October Homeschool Meeting (Methods, History, and more)

Every once in awhile I like to post some of the notes from our local homeschool support group meetings, in the event that they might offer some helpful information to the general public. ;)

Our October meeting started off with Sally Clarkson and a devotion on the importance of prayer~ how praying for our children is important for both them and us! It's a very good read, if you happen to have time to click on over.

Next we discussed some of the different styles of homeschooling. This was particularly helpful for those who have only been acquainted with traditional schooling.

I found a fabulous blog post by Pam Barnhill that discusses many styles of homeschooling, listing pros and cons, as well as offering resources to further explore each one. One of my favorite resources for each style was a link to an interview with a family that utilizes that method. I was delighted to see my  Five In A Row friend Heather Woodie listed for the Unit Study method.
Pam's post covers the following methods:
  • Unit Studies
  • Charlotte Mason
  • School-in-a-Box (Or "School-at-Home") 
  • Classical
  • Unschooling
She doesn't discuss the "Eclectic" homeschooler, which is more where I fall, so I'll discuss that a little bit here. As you might guess from the description "Eclectic" I don't fall 100% into any of the other categories. Part of that is because of my role for the past 8 years as a reviewer of homeschool curriculum for The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew... which means that I receive a variety of things to review that fall into many different categories.

I am, at heart, a Unit study homeschooler. I love the concept of using a specific topic or piece of literature as the base, and pulling in Science, History, Geography, Literature Arts, Writing tools and Art that relate to the topic or book. My very favorite elementary curriculum, Five In A Row, is a Literature Based Unit study. I love the simplicity of the manual, and the conversational style of learning.

If you like to add more bells and whistles you can get lost in the world of Pinterest. However, Pinterest and Facebook pose the danger of becoming overwhelmed with all you *could* do, as well as potentially losing the accessible ease that is the core of this curriculum. Whenever I hear "It's too much work!" in relation to Five In A Row, I know that the person has been looking at resources beyond the manuals, and my advice is to KISS (Keep It Simple, Sweetie).
Examples of some FIAR-inspired activities

Whenever I hear "It's not enough!" I *might* recommend checking out a few of the Pinterest ideas, but by and large, just reading and talking about the concepts, and doing the activities recommended in the manual is more than enough, and trust me~ your children will retain what they learn with Five In A Row... I have a graduated child who recalls her years with Five In A Row, and the lessons learned with great fondness.

OK, so now you know I love Unit Studies~ what else works for me, and my children? I tend to go for the Charlotte Mason "Nature Study" approach as well. The members of my family all tend to be fairly appreciative of and notice the small things that make this world so beautiful, and declare the Glory of God in such amazing ways, both big and small, so a focus on "nature" is a natural fit for us. If you search "Charlotte Mason Inspiration" on my blog you will find a set of posts A-Y (I haven't come up with a "Z" just yet) that are photos with Charlotte Mason Quotes on them. Hopefully you'll take a look, and be inspired! :) Here's an example: 

Ambleside Online is a good place to check for Charlotte Mason resources...

I like some Classical ideas like a history rotation, but our unit studies send us off track chronologically on a regular basis, so I haven't ever fully implemented the Classical model. I had one child who loved Latin, so I suppose that leans more on the classical side of things.

Unschooling~ well, we go with "rabbit trails" to some degree, and I suppose you could consider our National Parks visits this summer something along those lines...

We don't do much School-in-a-Box, although my oldest two LOVED their spelling workbooks (even though they are fairly natural spellers). They liked having that weekly "Busy-work" and the challenge of improving their test score from Monday to Friday, but I think that is as close as we get to traditional school, unless you include some of their math and science, which tend to follow a more traditional style of text, quizzes, tests.

As you can tell, we truly are fairly eclectic in our approach. :)

The conversation turned to History (Classical) and "Living Books" a'la Charlotte Mason, and I had some resources to suggest there as well: 

The Mystery of History is something of a Classical Unit Study approach, with a Christian Worldview, and something that we are using this year, along with readings from The Story of the World (Classical). I have a review on my blog from a few years ago that includes the second volume of Mystery of History if you'd like to take a look at that~ We are using the 1st volume for Ancient History this year. 

I mentioned TruthQuest History which uses a "Spine" text, and then has loads of great book recommendations for reading. Love this resource! Truthquest introduces each section and then lists books, film, audio and activities by grade level, along with a very brief summary of the resource (sometimes one sentence, sometimes a paragraph). Check my blog for a review of this curriculum from a few years ago. I get excited just looking at it again myself! :)

Another resource (pretty much just a list of literature with notations as to whether or not they are from a Christian Perspective) is "All Through the Ages" History through Literature Guide by Christine Miller. This is another nice resource to have on hand.

This discussion led to talking about some really good historical fiction books, which may end up being a future series of posts... but I wanted to include a few books that were mentioned specifically~ 

 The Next Fine Day is one of those stories/classics by Elizabeth Yates that hasn't received a lot of press, but is one of my favorites~ I enjoyed the gentle and lovely unfolding of this beautiful story as a young boy, struggling with his worth learns that he *is* important.

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome isn't really about birds and South American Natives. Instead it tells (with very British Flavour) the adventures of the Walker children, Nancy and Peggy Blackett (the Amazons) and a little catboat (The Swallow) with the stories starting in the 1930's or so. This is the first book in the series and any child who dreams of spending their days on their own, outdoors, exploring and solving mysteries will surely enjoy these books. What a great set of books to read on lazy summer afternoons! (Or cozy Autumn or Winter afternoons...)  :)

The Trumpeter of Krakow was one of the Middle Ages books that I recommended, probably for the tween/early teen set. Based on Polish history and legend, it is set in a time an place that doesn't receive nearly as much press as many others.

I think I'll leave my historical book suggestions here, and add them to a future post or two or three...

This week at Apple-Picking I mentioned another series by an author friend of mine that is not historical fiction, but fantasy for the younger set... (Copying from a previous post)

Eisley Jacobs is a great Indy Author who writes sci-fi/fantasy books
Her most recent series  Dragons Forever is currently a trilogy (Hoping there might be additional stories to be told???)  **UPDATE** Book 4, Dragons and the Ruse will be published in the near future. 
 In Born to be a Dragon we are introduced to Meia (the orphan girl) and Deglan (the dragon). The worlds of human and dragon collide, and it is high adventure as Meia and Deglan begin to unravel the tangled web that has woven the two of them together...
Blink of a Dragon is my daughter's favorite in the triology as well as mine. This is the book that we both read and thought "THIS book needs to be made into a movie!" Wow~ so descriptive and action-packed. Super themes of great character and personal development as Meia and Deglan search for the only way that their world(s) can be saved, and send the rising dark dragons away.
 Dragons of the Deep  brings the story to Scotland and the ever-enchanting (?) setting of Loch Ness, as Meia hopes to unlock more of the mystery of her past, and Deglan continues to fight back the forces of evil that would like to destroy both humans and dragons forever.
If you like reading books on an electronic device, 
are available as a set on Amazon...

I hope you enjoyed this peek into our monthly support group meeting, and maybe I'll see you again here (Or in person) again next month! :) 




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