Saturday, March 28, 2015

Rescued Book #36: Tales from Shakespeare

It’s safe to say that in order to be considered well educated or well cultured, one should be familiar with the works of Shakespeare.  I still remember being assigned the role of Nurse as my ninth grade English class tackled Romeo and Juliet. One year our school musical was Kiss Me Kate where the play within the play is The Taming of the Shrew. Macbeth, Hamlet, and Othello all fell in my high school career as well.  And I know I need to at least expose my son to these great works.  That’s why I was thrilled to find my latest rescued book at a recent YMCA sale.

My particular copy was discarded by St. Mary’s Grade School, can you believe at one time kids were exposed to Shakespeare in grade school?  That reminds me of that test on the internet from the 1800’s in order to graduate 8th grade.  The authors however wrote their adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays in 1807 specifically for young readers.

Rather than being written as a script, the stories come in narrative form.  They are not dumbed down in any way…wherever possible his own words are used.  Often when a character sings, his or her words have been copied verbatim. 

The plays turned into stories in this volume (the Lambs actually wrote two) are:

  • The Tempest
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • The Winter’s Tale
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • As You Like It
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona
  • Cymbeline
  • King Lear
  • Macbeth
  • All’s Well That Ends Well
  • The Taming of the Shrew
  • The Comedy of Errors
  • Measure for Measure
  • Twelfth Night, or What You Will
  • Timon of Athens
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
  • Pericles, Prince of Tyre
  • Othello

Each play has been summarized in 15-25 pages.  You don’t need to find your on copy of Tales From Shakespeare to rescue, this book has been in the public domain for some time and is available from sites like Project Gutenberg.  Still it would be nice to save some more of these old classics and help out your local library or other charitable cause at the same time.

In the meantime have you thought about how many commonly used phrases originated in Shakespeare’s plays? Here are a few:

  • Neither a borrower nor a lender be (Hamlet)
  • Brave new world (The Tempest)
  • Break the ice (The Taming of the Shrew)Refuse to budge an inch (Measure for Measure / Taming of the Shrew)
  • Dead as a doornail (2 Henry VI)
  • Eaten me out of house and home (2 Henry IV)
  • The game is afoot (I Henry IV)
  • Good riddance (Troilus and Cressida)
  • In a pickle (The Tempest)
  • Knock knock! Who's there? (Macbeth)
  •  Melted into thin air (The Tempest)
  • Play fast and loose (King John)

You can see all my rescued books by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Headed to Homeschool Expo

Spring is just around the corner and that can mean a lot of different things to different people.  My neighbor has already rototilled his garden plat in anticipation for getting his hands in the dirt.  A lot of the country is just ready for the temperatures to rise and the snow to melt.  For me spring means I get to go to Homeschool Expo. 

Homeschool conventions or expos have a special place in my heart.  It’s where I first learned about and made the decision to home educate my child if I ever had one.  You read that right, I attended my first expo before I even had kids.  I was manning a table for a youth services organization just outside the main lecture hall in a large convention center.  The children of the attendees had learned a few songs in their own program and were waiting to enter the hall to perform for the closing ceremony.  Their leaders simply instructed them to stand in line patiently and quietly….and the kids did!  There was no teasing or rough-housing, no testing the limits of how far one could step out of line without getting caught, conversations were done in whispers.  Now I’d stood in my fair share of lines in public school and never experienced this.  If homeschooling could make my own children behave this way then I wanted to learn more about it.  The following year I went back, but not to sit at a table—I went to the workshops and talked to the vendors.  I did this for four more years before my son was born.  You should have seen some of the looks I got when answering the question “so how many kids do you have?”  But after they had thought about it, most said what a good idea it was to get well informed before making the homeschool commitment.

There’s still days before Expo, but I want to share with you now because pre-planning can make everything go smoother.

  • Register Early~~Often this can be a financial benefit to you with cheaper prices for early bird registration.  My expo even puts early bird names in a drawing for “gift cards” to spend in the vendor hall.  The organizers are not necessarily doing this just to be generous.  Early registrations give them an idea how many chairs need to be set up, how many box lunches to order.  I’ve even filled out an interest form on workshops I planned to attend.  I wasn’t locked into my selections, but it did help organizers plan which speakers would need which size room.
  • Get any information from the Expo’s website~~At the least, you should be able to learn the main speakers and their topics.  Ideally you should be able to find a schedule of all speakers and workshops.  Start culling through the list—which are your can’t-miss topics, what are your back ups in case you can’t find a seat in the room when you arrive?  My Expo only allows 15 minutes between workshops, that may hardly be time to travel from the first to the third flood so I don’t have time to read all the workshop descriptions and decide which one I want to go to.  You’ll also want to check out policies about whether or not you can bring strollers for babies (some are so crowded they don’t allow them).
  • Make lists and stick to them~~It’s just like going to the grocery store, if you want to stay in budget you need to stick to your list.  What will you be teaching next year and what do you need to buy.  Be thorough, right down to graph paper and science supplies because everything you save in shipping costs and convention specials makes your budget go further.  And think beyond school…I often find great gifts for birthdays and Christmas (books, games, puzzles, etc.) 
  • But have a plan for what’s not on your list~~ Two years ago I head a father/son team from Celebrate Calm speaking about issues I have to deal with concerning my son.  I went to every workshop they had that day and was kicking myself for not having sat in their sessions the day before.  And they were having a spectacular “convention only” special on their workshop CD’s—it would literally save me hundreds of dollars.  It cost far more than my Expo splurge allowance so I 1. called my husband to check with him (the purchase also exceeded the threshold we’d agreed upon requiring mutual decisions) and 2. I chose not to my the science lab kit to shift money towards that purchase.  Because I had a plan to deal with unforeseen opportunities I never got that sense of buyers remorse.
  • Pack your bag~~Make sure you have paper and pens for note taking.  I take a highlighted copy of the workshop schedule if I’ve been able to download one, otherwise I take a highlighter to mark the schedule at the Expo.  Take some preprinted address labels if you like signing up for mailing lists, etc. (You may even want to customize some with your email address).

Look for me to share about my Expo experience next month during the 5 Days of Real Homeschool blog hop.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Review: Pattern Explorer

On my list of reasons why I homeschool you’ll find the following item:  I want my son to be able to think for himself and to solve his own problems—I want him to recognize faulty logic in others and be able to defend his own decisions. My go-to vendor for accomplishing that goal has always been The Critical Thinking Co.  They have over 200 titles covering all the core subjects: math, science, social studies, reading, and grammar.  We’ve used their Reading Detective, Editor in Chief, Building Thinking Skills, You Decide and Balance Math.  Now we’ve had the opportunity to use and review Pattern Explorer.

Why study patterns?  Well, suppose you were hiking in the woods and you saw the following on the ground.

Would you assume that the pinecones just happened to fall from the tree and formed this arrow sign?  NO!  The fact that there is a pattern is a sign that intelligent life has passed by the spot before you.  Perhaps it’s a message from a friend you’re trying to meet up with, or perhaps you left this message for yourself so you could find your way OUT of the woods.  We see patterns in the night sky—the constellations and the non-moving North Star help us navigate while the repeating phases of the moon help us track the passage of time.  The planet Neptune was discovered when scientists recognized something out there was causing Uranus to deviate from its predicted pattern of orbiting the sun. All in all, I would say being able to recognized a pattern is fairly important.

In this case the patterns all fall in the area of math.  Pattern Explorer is a softcover book of 92 pages (48 pages are puzzles and the remaining are hints and the answer key). The puzzles can be categorized as follows:

1. Pattern Predictor—These are usually graphic in nature, usually row and columns of shaded and unshaded shapes that grow in number at each stage. Sometimes there was a table to fill out to help Schnickelfritz recognize the growth pattern and then he would be asked questions about higher stages (where no graphic is provided).

2. Equality Explorer—These problems are like the one we solved in our review of Balance Math Teaches Algebra.  At that time I had made laminated/magnetic shapes that we could actually manipulate from side to side.  Now Fritz was able to work more abstractly with just the images on the page.  Each virtual balance beam has shapes and numbers and the student must determine the value of each shape.

3. Sequence Sleuth—These problems are similar to Pattern Predictor in that they come as a series of terms or stages, but rather than growth, the patterns may involved orientation, passage of time (with clock faces), or alternating shading patterns.

4. Number Ninja—These problems took a variety of forms from filling in magic squares (where each row, column, and diagonal add up to the same number) or following a set order of operations and determining what the outcome would be for a given number.

5. Function Finder—These problems are sort of the inverse of Number Ninja.  Here you are given the starting number and the output and it’s up to you to determine the operations (usually 1 or 2) that turn one into the other.  At first they drew a machine giving us a sample, but later we just had tables of “what went in” and “what came out.”

We used the book as an “educational boredom buster.”  If Schnickelfritz asked what he could do I’d say “Have you looked for any patterns lately?  Let’s see how many puzzles you can crack in 15 minutes.”  We also saved them for in between subject activities, especially after I’d been reading long passages, to wake up brain cells.  Sometimes he took the book to his grandparents to work on instead of spending all his time on their high speed internet.  Math is his strong suit so he didn’t have any problems, but if your child is struggling there are hints in the back of the book to get them on track for each puzzle.

I wouldn’t consider this book to be a stand on its own math curriculum, but rather a way to reinforce math you’ve already learned—adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing-- in a different (and I’d say fun) way.  If you have to record hours and subjects for your state’s homeschooling laws you might want to call this logic.  Our only disappointment was the book was too short—Schnickelfritz had worked through all the problems in less than three weeks.

 

Critical Thinking Company Review

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Rescued Book #35: The Second World War

Schnickelfritz and I are preparing to study World War Two to end our American history studies this year.  We’ll be using Home School in the Woods’ Time Travelers unit study for our main text, but I wanted to find some supplemental reading.  My stepfather lent us a book he found at a library book sale so technically this isn’t my rescued book, but it’s so special I had to share it with you.

The Second World War. Churchill, Winston S. & Editors of Life. New York: Golden, 1960. 384pp.

One of the great leader of the time was British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.  A great orator, he used his power with the English language to pen a number of great books as well.  From 1948 to 1953 he wrote a six volume set entitles The Second World War.  In 1960, Life magazine created an abridged version of the massive work especially for young readers.  Imagine the eloquence of Churchill combined with the award winning photojournalism of Life!  It’s all here!  To be fair, not all the images were taken by Life photographers, some are paintings of famous events, and many pictures were taken by the military from both sides (which frankly is even more impressive because these were the days before journalists were embedded with the troops).

The eloquence of Churchill can’t be surpassed and yet it is still easily understandable to my 12 year old son.  Where applicable, the narrative is in first person with the Prime Minister sharing where he was and what he was doing.  Talk about adding a “you were there” feeling to the reading. Take this passage in the chapter on the Battle of Britain.

One evening—October 17—stands out in my mind. We were dining in the garden-room of No. 10 [Downing Street]  when the usual night raid began. The steel shutters had been closed. Several loud explosions occurred around us at no great distance, and presently a bomb fell, perhaps a hundred yards away…Suddenly I had a providential impulse. The kitchen at No. 10 is lofty and spacious, and looks out through a large plate-glass window about twenty-five feet high….I became acutely aware of this big window, behind which Mrs. Landemare, the cook, and the kitchenmaid, never turning a hair, were at work. I got up abruptly, went into the kitchen, told the butler to put the dinner on the hot plate in the dining room, and ordered the cook and other[s] into the shelter, such as it was. I had been seated again at the table only about three minutes when a really very loud crash, close at hand, and a violent shock showed that the house had been struck…The big plate-glass window had been hurled in fragments and splinters across the room, and would have cut its occupants, if there were any, to pieces.

While the book is written for young readers, I’m not necessarily encouraging you to let you kids peruse without parental supervision.  This is a book about war—there are pictures of injured children and dead bodies.  On the other hand, there are some amusing photos as well.  One picture shows an idyllic field turned into a junkyard with old cars and jalopies.  They were scattered about to prevent German planes from having adequate landing space.  The caption says the Brits also dug trenches across racetracks and golf courses for the same reason.

The book covers everything from the World War I peace treaty (which Churchill refers to as The Follies of the Victors) and Hitler’s rise to power through the dropping of the atomic bomb and Churchill's address to the nation after tendering his resignation at the end of the war.  My one disappointment is most of the maps throughout the book are only about the size of a baseball trading card.  There are maps of the European and Pacific theaters in the front and back covers of the book though.

I happened to check WorldCat.org and this fine volume is still available in many libraries.  I will be scouring used book sales hoping to rescue my own copy.

You can see all my rescued books by clicking here.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Review: Visual Learning Science

Science is one of the required core subjects here in Missouri, but teaching it to my son has become something of an issue.  Whether I allow him to read it to himself or I read the text to him, he has trouble repeating back to me the information just covered.  I jumped at the opportunity to try Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12) hoping that hearing and seeing the information would help it stick in his head better.  The creators, Visual Learning Systems, also have a digital subscription for Elementary Students--Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5).

According to Digital Science’s website, the subscription based learning program works best with up-to-date versions of Chrome, Firefox, and Safari but we were able to access everything just fine with Internet Explorer.  We received two username/password combos—one for me as the teach and one for my son the student.  Both of us had access to the 20 minute lesson videos, shorter videos animating key concepts, still images from the lesson, and teacher guides.  The title “teachers guides” is a little misleading because from the student side, he could only access the student activity pages (which he had to select one at a time for printing).  When I chose the teachers guide from the teacher’s side I could access a quick introduction to the video lesson, the student activity pages, the learning objectives, and a transcript of the video.  Usually I would download the full teachers guide (which seems to be the only way to access the answers to the student activities and quizzes) and just print out the pages that we needed.

 

When my son logged in he could choose which of six science subjects he wanted to study:

  • Physical: covering chemistry and physics concepts
  • Earth: covering geology, astronomy, weather and more
  • Life: Classifying plants and animals, ecosystems, genetics, botany
  • Integrated: Covering the metric system, taking measurements, microscopes, and observation
  • Health: Covering body systems, and nutrition
  • Biology: amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and more botany

Sometimes the choice of lessons within a subject seemed a little unorganized—why was the immune system under biology and not health?  If you’re interested in plants you need to look in both Life and Biology.

Generally, we would start the week with a preliminary assessment.  I’m usually not big on pre-tests; why make my son stress out over something he’s not supposed to know yet anyway.  In this case though, a lot of the lessons were covering material we had learned in a regular science curriculum so why not.  There are ten fill in the blank questions with the word choices listed at the bottom of the page and ten true/false questions.

Next came the video lessons which my son actually watched over at his grandparent’s house when I went to my part time job.  The videos are 20 minutes long so we wanted to take advantage of their high speed internet and unlimited downloads. If you choose not to watch the whole video at once, it is possible to select specific chapters within the lesson.  My parents were impressed on the whole with the material covered, but said in one lesson there was some rather distracting background music.  That may seem like a little thing, but one of my son’s quirks is when he listens to radio theater or audiobooks he really focuses in on the music rather than the words.  At the end of the lesson is a video review quiz.  You can do it through the video—someone speaks the question and there is a pause between questions for the student to answer, or you may print out the review from the student activity pages.

On the next day, back at home, my son and I would go through some of the activities found in the student activity pages.  There would always be a vocabulary activity:unscrambling words and matching them with their definitions.  Other “paperwork” activities included looking at drawings of vertebrates and writing what class they belonged to, other animals in that class, what environment it could be found in and what its physical feature were. Another time we diagrammed covalent bonds.  In other cases we would find instructions for an experiment—in the simple machines lesson we made a lever with a ruler, some dimes, and a pen for the fulcrum. In the compounds in chemistry lesson we tested the pH of a variety of common liquids.  We didn’t explore every lesson, but the ones we did only required common materials—no need to place an order with a scientific supply company.

The lesson ended with a post assessment quiz made up of the same fill-in-the-blank and true/false questions from the preliminary assessment, just listed in a different order.

On the whole, my son enjoyed being able to watch and listen to the lesson rather than read it out of a book.  He also enjoyed the variety of topics to choose from – I allowed him to follow his interests, but if you were using this as your regular curriculum you might want to follow some sort of order to the lessons.  The suggested grades for this online curriculum are sixth through twelfth.  I think this program may be fine for middle school students where science is usually a broad overview of many topics. However, for high school students I’m afraid this may not be “meaty” enough.  I’m concerned about the lack of serious lab work.  In the lesson about reptiles and amphibians your asked to make up your own animal and draw a picture—I would think most  serious students would have to dissect a frog.  Visual Learning systems may be enough for kids without a scientific bent, but those with an interest (and perhaps those intending to go to college) may need a more rigorous program.

If you check out the program, be sure and look at the homeschooling option to get the correct pricing.  The regular cost ($300 minimum) applies to school settings, but homeschoolers can use the same material with up to 8 students for $99 per year.

 

Visual Learning Systems Review

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Review: Time Travelers Industrial Revolution

Whenever I get into a conversation about homeschooling with a non-homeschooler for some reason they feel the need to share with me why they’ve chosen the more traditional path. “I could never do that because….” they say, and the reason more often than not is they don’t feel qualified.  Let me be candid that I’m not an expert in everything I teach my son.  And that’s okay!  You’d be amazed at the bonding that can occur when we learn something TOGETHER.  Take history for instance…now I’m sure somewhere in my past I learned about the period between the American Civil War and World War II.  I took an honors course that combined history with literature and I can remember reading The Jungle, The Great Gatsby, and All Quiet on the Western Front.  My memory of the literature is clear, but what happened to the historical facts? The names and places and battles and other events?  They were all packed in some dry, dull textbook like sardines and I only held onto them long enough to pass the test and then they were flushed to make way for new material.

That’s not the way I want history to be for my son.  I want him to know that these were real people and real times, not just a file of data to be memorized and spit out by rote.  That’s why I’ve chosen to use the Time Travelers series by Home School in the Woods.  Yes it covers all the key events and people, but it also gives you real insight into what life may have been like for those people—how they dressed, how they ate, what songs they sang.

This quarter we’ve been using The Industrial Revolution through the Great Depression unit study. It covers everything from western expansion and the Indian wars through the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression.  We’ve learned about Native American leaders, American authors, business tycoons, and presidents.  While key events are covered chronologically (i.e. the Great Depression has to follow the stock market build up of the Roaring Twenties), many of the lessons followed themes (inventors, the arts, social reform) and we’d be covering around sixty years each time.  Being able to put all the information on one timeline was extremely helpful.

The timeline is the first item in our notebook, one of three review tools we build throughout the study.  The other two are a homemade “newspaper” and a lapbook.  Actually, I prefer to keep all our work in the notebook (easier to keep track of one thing instead of three).  I just hole-punch the newspaper pages and glue the lapbook mini-books onto cardstock pages.  Have I told you how much my son appreciates all the notebook pages and mini-book pages that have all the details already printed and he only needs to assemble them?  He’s a boy and he HATES writing, but he has no problem with reading/reviewing facts.   This is true for the page of business tycoons notebook page or the mini-books on leading suffragettes.

On of the best examples is a notebook page designed to look like a WWI ammo belt—open all the pockets and pouches and you’ll find a map (which we colored in with Photoshop Elements before printing),  a mini-timeline, a biography of Sgt. York, examples of poetry, propaganda posters, instructions on how to display the flag, and more!  Speaking of writing or not writing, you have options to print flashcards with the answers on the back or lines for the students to fill in.  The are also various options for the penmanship pages to fit your child’s abilities: dotted line, ruled line, traceable words,  or just finished samples so they can read the quotes.

As I said before, Time Travelers makes historical people come alive and what better way than to eat the way they ate.  Every  fifth lesson is set aside to catch up on unfinished projects. On those days there is no reading assignment, but you will find two recipes typical of the period.  I love moving the classroom to the kitchen!  Here’s a picture of my Schnickelfritz making our take on Chipped Beef on Toast—no comments please from those who have served in the military.  I say our take because I couldn’t actually find chipped beef in our rural mom & pop grocery store so we used a strip of beef jerky (found near the cash register) and the meat off a ham bone I had in with our pot of beans.  This also gave us the opportunity to discuss how adaptability and ingenuity were important traits to survive the Great Depression.  Have the adventuresome spirit?  There’s a recipe for meatless meatloaf made with rice, peanuts, and cottage cheese.  Ideally, the recipes will be served at an end-of-the-unit celebratory dinner to which you can invite family and friends.

If you’ve got a child with a bent towards arts and crafts, not only will they enjoy coloring in the b/w illustrations but have the chance to make a sample felt penny rug, decoupage a Christmas ornament or memory box, and make a yo-yo quilt.  My son is NOT that into crafts so we only made a stick figure animation book and built a model of the Wright Brother’s “flyer.”  For those inquiring minds that want to know this is a “looking at” model not a flyable one (ask me how I know).

The Industrial Revolution is the sixth and (sniff) next to last of the Time Travelers series that we have used to supplement our history study.  To be honest it could stand on its own and would be great  if you had multi-aged kids you wanted to study history together.  You can also check out my review of The Civil War and look for my review of World War II at the end of the school year.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Hard Boiled Eggs in a Pressure Cooker

It’s no secret I love my pressure cooker.  It makes the best pot roast in the world.  It’s saved my bacon on several occasions when I’ve only got 30 minutes to get dinner on the table.  And I’m always looking for new recipes to try in it.  Just published is The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book with 500 recipe, and what is the first one I choose to try…hard boiled eggs.

I know it’s not the fanciest of dishes, but here’s the thing-I heard you could boil eggs under high pressure or they’d explode (I knew it was possible to do so under low pressure, but my cooker only comes with one setting).  Well, I’m on a diet that allows me two eggs for a protein serving and I thought I’d eggs-periment with with a batch for my snacks.  ( I couldn’t resist the pun)

The instructions specify a 6 quart and I have an 8 quart.  My understanding was it would take my cooker longer to come up to pressure (I guess because the steam has that much more space to fill first) so I added a little more water than what the recipe calls for, but I didn’t reduce the time under pressure.  Here’s the instructions for a 6 quart electric pot.

1. Add about 2 inches of water to the pressure cooker and insert a metal vegetable steamer in the bottom.  The water shouldn’t come through the holes of the steamer.

2. Place up to 12 large eggs in the steamer.

3. Cover with the lid and seal.  Bring the cooker up to pressure and set the cooker’s timer for 3 minutes.

4. When the machine reverts to its warming cycle, unplug it and let it sit for 8 minutes.  Use the quick-release method at the end of this time.

5. Unlock the lid and transfer the eggs to a bowl.  Peel them while still warm.

 I made sure I had the full 2 inches of water in the cooker, but that brought the level up through the steamer holes so I just added a rack to the steamer.  The wires actually kept the eggs from rolling around which might be a good thing.

Bottom line:  no eggs exploded, in fact only one had a crack.  The next step of course is the peeling and I’d heard that pressure cooked eggs were easier to peel.  Unfortunately, this is also a false rumor.  I found the eggs were no easier to peel than traditionally boiled eggs.  Oh well, I guess I’ll save that problem for another eggs-periment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...