Monday, February 28, 2011

Parental Rights Documentary

The Child Comes to Television March 7 Next Monday, March 7, Watchman Cinema's parental rights documentary The Child: America's Battle for the Next Generation will be aired on National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) network. The film will air at 8 p.m. Eastern and again four hours later at 12 a.m. Tuesday, March 8. NRB is channel 378 on DirecTV or channel 126 on Sky Angel. If you have friends and family who have not yet seen The Child , please let them know to watch or record the broadcast, then plan to check back with them and ask them what they thought! Together, we can alert America to the pressing need to preserve parental rights in the text of the U.S. Constitution.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Review: Kid Scoop

If we were to debate which of the the R's is most important in education, I would choose reading.  Teach a kid to read and you've given him the tool to learn about any and everything else.  Schnickelfritz can read and very well for his age.  What I haven't been able to teach him is to lovereading.  I'd rather spend time with a book than any other inanimate object --perhaps this comes from growing up an only child or from warm memories of reading time with my mother.   Fritz on the other hand would rather build with blocks,  play basketball, ride bikes, play with model trains, anything but reach for a book--a classic reluctant reader.  I've tried reading aloud and stopping at the cliff-hanger moments hoping he'll want to continue on his own.  Any time I hear "I'm bored" I respond with "pick up a book."  We faithfully check out boy favorites like Hank the Cowdog at the library.

Then along came the opportunity to review a product by Kid Scoop.  As you can see from their own ad, it should "spark you child's OWN interest in reading."  There's even a money back guarentee (of course I receved my copy for free as part of the Homeschool Crew).  The Reluctant Reader Solution($97) is geared towards 4 to 8 year-olds and consists of two E-products:  a year's worth of the monthly Kid Scoop News Online and a download of Kid Scoop Worksheets.

Kid Scoop Online is a full color magazine which allows your child to virtually flip through the pages.   Although it's advertised as a reading tool, there are a lot of pencil pushing ideas so you'll probably want to download it as a PDF file and print some of the pages out.  The January edition we received was 20 pages covering a range of topics:  rainbows, gravity, otters, the circus, interest on money, the January calendar and more.   Activities included word searches, mazes, studying pictures for differences and silly objects,  coloring, practicing penmanship, and unscrambling words.   Most of the articles were kept to two or three short paragraphs.  The colors were eye-catching.

We also received sixty downloaded Kid Scoop Worksheets, each 5 to 7 pages long (365 pages in total).  These are black and write pages with similar length articles and activities.  They also add writing skills like practicing alliteration and writing a persuasive advertisement.  You can follow the recommended chronological order included in the download or pull out themes to tie in with your current studies.  Holidays covered are Valentine's Day, Easter, Columbus Day, Cinco de Mayo, Constitution Day, Father's Day, Halloween, Memorial Day, Martin Luther King's birthday, Mother's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Thanksgiving, and Veteran's Day.   The resurrection aspect of Easter is ignored as are all other religious holidays ( I'm assuming this program was designed for public school use).

Other Themes: baseball, bees, bigfoot, bubble gum, butterflies, allowances, fire safety, frost, germs, gorillas, hockey, immunization, kitchen creativity, miniature golf, nutrition, optical illusions, solar snacks, tad poles, teasing, and more.  Kid Scoop's online shop also has many more worksheets on other themes available for $2.99 each.   You can also sign up for their 30 days of reading activities via emails.

I tried printing out a few pages and leaving them for Fritz to discover on his own with no luck.  He just ignored them as he passed by in search of blocks.  When I forced him to do the activities he did enjoy the word searches, breaking codes, and math problems the best.  Any writing assignment was met with "Do I have to?"  (Read that with the whiny voice with which all parents are familiar).  I can see benefit in these sheets in a classroom setting where some students need busy work while other kids finish up, but in my one room, one student schoolhouse this isn't necessary.  I did, however, appreciate that each activity included  tag words for educational standards.  The word searches cover skills like letter sequencing, skim and scan reading, recalling spelling patterns.  It helped me account for our time in the log of hours I'm required to keep by the state.

Let me remind you though, that the purpose of the product was to "ignite the child's OWN interest in reading."  I would unfortunately have to call them on their money back guarantee.   The books still sit untouched unless I make it a required activity.  So I'll continue to read aloud and hope that something sparks his interest enough for him to read on his own.

You can see what others on the Homeschool Crew think of Kid Scoop's Reluctant Reader Solution by clicking here.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the Reluctant Reader Solution for the purpose of completing this review.  I received no other compensation for my honest opinion.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Adapting IEW for our family

We've been using the Level A of the Student Writing Intensive for two months now.  Writing is still my son's least favorite subject so we have to break things down into small bites to keep him from getting frustrated by the whole process.  One point that stuck in my mind from listening to Mr. Pudewa's lecture "Reaching the Reluctant Writer" is that the skills of spelling, penmanship, and forming sentences all use different parts of the brain.   Schnickelfritz  actually does quite well in spelling (we're working through All About Spelling Level 2) which uses letter tiles as manipulatives.  He's also quite adept at what Charlotte Mason refers to as "narration,"  having a child retell information in his own words.  This is essentially what IEW accomplishes when students form their own paragraphs based on the key word outlines.  By deduction then it must be the penmanship portion that leave such a sour taste in Schnickelfritz's mouth. 

The first two units of IEW are creating Key Word Outlines--choosing 3 words from each sentence to act as memory aids on the content of the sentence.  Unit 2 reviews the Key Word Outlines and the child rewrites the sentence in his own words (it is OK if your child rewrites the sentence exactly like the original--we're not worried about plagiarism at this stage.  He will be learning "dress ups" that will automatically alter the sentence down the road).  For Fritz, we read the paragraph together and he underlines the words he wants to use in his Key Word Outline.  Then he can use the marked up paper to transfer his words to the outline paper, just like copy work.  We don't have to worry about spelling because he's simply copying.  In the videos Mr. Pudewa makes the point that it is more important to be fast than neat on these outlines.  He's working with a class and trying to accomplish a lot in a set time.  I'm only working with one child who is still learning to write legibly (and we've really drawn out the lessons) so neatness counts in our home.

When it comes to writing sentences, I act as Fritz's scribe.  I write just as Mr. Pudewa directs, skipping lines and crossing out rather than erasing.   Before our next writing lesson I will rewrite the paragraph on a sheet of Fritz's Handwriting Without Tears lined paper.  Then it becomes a copywork exercise with him mimicking my capitalization and punctuation.   It's still his least favorite part of writing, but at least we're getting through the learning syntax and sentence structure without it being tainted by his lack of enthusiasm for putting pen to paper.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Biology Of Behavior Week 6

Last week we added Vitamin B drops.  I chose drops to keep pill swallowing to a minimum.  The brand I chose claims to be good-tasting.  Schnickelfritz and I can only say that "go0d-tasting" is in the tongue of the taste tester.  We would each put the drops under our tongues and then Fritz would begin an audible count "Unh,  ooo,  eee..."  At "irr eee" we both got to swallow.  Then we wash away the taste with apple juice (and take our other pills.  The first day we purchased the Vitamin B in the afternoon and Fritz received his dose at dinner.  That night he had a terrible time falling asleep--to the point he was crying and frustrated.  My mother confirmed that B should be given in the morning so we've scheduled this with our breakfast pills.  We take our mineral liquid with lunch.

This week we are adding essential fatty acids.  I'm anxious to see how this improves Fritz's ability to concentrate and study.  According to Ms. Craft, boys need three times the amount of EFA as girls.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Best Persimmon Bread ever

Last week, in preparing for possibly losing our power, I wanted to make several loaves of quick bread we could eat for breakfast. I forgot to get bananas in my "bread, milk, eggs" grocery store run so I had seek an alternative. Fortunately I had a booklet called "Old Fashioned Persimmon Recipes" and a supply of frozen one cup portions of pulp. We have several neighbors on our road with persimmon trees. Funny thing, whenever I ask if I may harvest some they always respond "Take all you want." Their tone of voice implies that they see the trees more as a nuisance than a treasure trove (perhaps they ate an unripened one once).  I always give them a Thank You gift, but it's never a product made with the fruit of their trees. I'm afraid they would stop being so generous with their harvest. I find ripe persimmons have an almost citrus-y flavor, so this recipe combining them with orange juice works really well.

3 cups flour                                  1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar                               1/2 cup milk
1 Tbs. baking powder                  1 cup persimmon pulp
1 tsp. salt                                      1 Tbs. grated orange rind
1/4 tsp. baking soda                     2/3 cup orange juice
3 eggs                                           1/2  cup chopped nuts

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and soda. In separate bowl beat together eggs, butter, milk and pulp. Stir in orange rind and juice. Stir pulp mixture into flour until moistened. Fold in nuts. Pour into two greased loaf pans and bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until tests done.

I've substituted dried lemon peel for the orange rind and I'd say the nuts are optional. We don't usually drink orange juice, but I keep a can of frozen concentrate on hand and can scoop out small amounts for recipes like this.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Review: VocabAhead

Schnickelfritz and I have been enjoying a DVD-Rom sent to us by VocabAhead.  Why would I be re reviewing a product designed for high-schoolers preparing for the SAT?  Well, first let me tell you about the product and then I 'll tell you how we use it.

Our DVD  contains one thousand words that may appear on the SAT test.  The words are pronounced, defined, and used (usually twice) in a short paragraph.  You may download the word files onto an mp3 player for listening or watch them as videos on your computer,  Ipad, Ipod or Iphone.  The word "video" is misleading--there is only a still picture, not animation,  to accompany the definition.   I found the paragraph much more helpful than just a single sentence using the word.

 The paragraph for "mawkish" is:  Oliver thought the song he wrote for his girlfriend was brilliant, but she actually found it to be mawkish and ridiculous.  Oliver enjoyed writing romantic songs but everybody thought they were too mawkish.  His mawkish displays of affection really grossed his girlfriend out."   The definition is repeated again at the end.  The VocabAhead system certainly offers many options for getting the words to stick in the mind--as a visual person I could recall the pictures and the written definitions.  Others learners may find the auditory definitions and sentence usage more beneficial.

At first I tried using the DVD-rom as a dictionary.  I have been reading The Hidden Hand, written in the 1859, and was frequently coming across unfamiliar words.   Unfortunately, I wasn't very successful at finding the words with VocabAhead.  The disk has only 1000 words and they've been chosen because they are likely to appear on the SAT.  The words in my book were archaic and have fallen out of use. 

I had much more success in using VocabAhead to supplement Fritz's writing curriculum which stresses the importance of a strong vocabulary.  In each paragraph he is instructed to include quality adjectives, strong verbs, and alternatives to overused verbs like "went" and "said."   He must also use an adverb  to "dress up" his sentences.  I used a thesaurus to find alternative words and then checked to see if the alternatives were included on the disk.  Now instead of writing "he said," Fritz can write that the character "blurted" or "slandered."    The file names on the disk include an abbreviation for the type of word--N for noun, V for verb, ADJ for adjective.  There aren't a lot of adverbs, but we've learned from Schoolhouse Rock that it's easy to change an adjective to an adverb by adding "ly" to the end.  I'll grant you that right now these SAT words seem out of place in Fritz's simplistic paragraphs, but better way to learn them and become more comfortable in their use.  

My one frustration is the lack of a way to "interact" with the DVD-ROM.  All I could do is put the disk in the drive and then try and read through the list of 1000 files for a specific word with My Computer.   I couldn't sort the words by type or filter for words starting with a specific letter.   I couldn't assign 5 random words to be learned this week.   Some of these things can be done through the VocabAhead website.   The Word List tab let's you access the words by starting letter.  Registered users can create vocabulary lists to share with others.  There's even information about Iphone apps and adding a "word of the day" widget to your blog. 

The VocabAhead DVD retails for $24.99.  There is also a paperback book of 300 vocabulary words available for $12.95. 

You can read what others on the Homeschool Crew thought about the VocabAhead products by clicking here.
Disclaimer: I received a free Vocabahead DVD-ROM for the purposes of completing this review.  I received no other compensation for my honest opinion.

Biology of Behavior Week 5

We're still going strong on our regimen of supplements.  Schnickelfritz is often coming to me and asking for his next pills.  I think the last update I gave was when we were trying to cut back on sugar.   We did cut back on apple juice, but Fritz said it was hard to swallow pills with the raw milk we drink.  Now he does get a diluted cup of apple juice with his pills (perhaps that's why he's always reminding me of his next dose).   Last week we added a dose of liquid minerals.  I can almost detect the tang of vinegar in the liquid, but so far Fritz hasn't objected to the taste.  I'm being a little on the cautious side with the dosage so we don't run into diarrhea (that's why parent's are encouraged to take the regimen with their kids--so we know what their going through).  I'm being purposely vague here on amounts and specific brands so that you will seek out and purchase Dianne Craft's cd set if you are interested in trying this regimen yourself.   The cd set includes a detailed list of supplements to add each week and recommended brands to use.  This week we're adding a sub-lingual vitamin B.  I've chose an alternative to a capsule as Fritz will have plenty more to swallow in the upcoming weeks.

The weekly changes have been subtle, but I can know see some definite improvement in Fritz's behavior.  He used to be terribly self-critical, especially when I've been correcting his schoolwork.  If I found a mistake he would blurt out "I Failed!" or "I'm a terrible learner."  Now he simply accepts the constructive criticism and we move on.  There has been less pouting and angry outbursts.   He hasn't been reduced to tears at basketball practice since the second week.  Even when we started something new (tae kwon do classes), he hasn't become frustrated with his awkwardness in learning the skills and movements.   As for me, well I had two warts fall of this week--a beneficial side effect from the good nutrition (others have experienced the same thing according to Ms. Craft's CD).

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Review: Dig-It!Games

This year we've been studying world history up to the time of Christ. Although we haven't reached the Roman empire yet, we've whet our whistle through a new game --Roman Town by Dig-It! Games.   Normally, we don't go for computer games in our house, at least not the kind that exercise your thumbs more than your mind, but that's not the case here.  Your child gets to play the part of an archaeologist--the real kind, not Indiana Jones.  There are no chases or gun fights-- only stick figures scraping the earth, pieces of pottery to reassemble, a historical mystery to solve and (whispered tones) your kids just might learn something as well.

After reading a few comic book-like panels to set up the story that you've been hired to help a professor oversee diggers  near Pompeii,  you arrive at the dig site.

Each flag represents a potential artifact.  Your job is to assign diggers and their digging tools to each site.  I was a little concerned when we read the instructions -- you start with six diggers and receive more as you progress, when a green bubble appears over the digger it means they've uncovered something and you have so many seconds to respond before that object is lost (balloons turn brown as a warning), different tools allow for different digging speeds and the faster diggers may damage object.  I was afraid this would be too much strategy and multi-tasking for my 8 year old to handle.   My advice to him was to use the slowest tools, thinking this would keep things from getting out of hand.  It turns out not to be anything like a beat the clock kind of game.  We had plenty of time to respond to each digger, even when two green balloons popped up at once we could get to each in turn.  Clicking on the balloon gives you a close up of the ground and you control a trowel with your mouse to clear off the artifact.


As each object is uncovered,  it is identified by the professor or by two young Roman children who have traveled from the past (I don't remember how they explained that one, but it's their house we're excavating).  You have the opportunity to click and Learn More or return to the dig site.   Of course, this is an educational game and you would be wise to take them up on their offer--the information will come in handy when the game moves on to the lab.  Some of the material is repetitious--after you've read about "fineware" once, the information doesn't change.

 When all the flagged sites have been excavated (and you have to wait for your diggers to finish, even if they've already found the object), the uncovered objects have to be sorted by material.  You click on each object and drag it to the appropriately labeled box.  If you're not sure you can get a hint (this is true with most of the learning games).  Once this is done you head to the field lab.  Now the learning games really begin.  On the lab table are three activities using the objects you just found.  You may be asked to reassemble a mosaic tile floor or a pottery jar.

It took Schnickelfritz to get used to using both mouse buttons at once to rotate and place pieces of the puzzle and the 3-d objects required Mama to step in and help.  In other games like remembering where the object appeared in a room and returning them to their place it was Mama who needed help from her boy.

In this game the Hint would give you a general location, but you had to place the object exactly.  Another game we played several times was comparing artifacts with their modern-day counter parts.

Looking back at the field lab picture,  at ground level are options to to play calculi--like tic-tac-toe but you must get 5 in a row playing against the computer.  The Room Tour let's you explore the room you've just excavated with furniture and artifacts in place.  You can click the side arrows to rotate around the room.  As you move your mouse around, different objects and areas will be highlighted.   Clicking on them brings up the professor and the kids to teach you about the object--information you may have already read when the object was excavated.   The L.E.A.R.N. quiz isn't necessarily a quiz at all, it maybe a chance to play wordsearch or hangman games with some of the new vocabulary words.  The final task is the Report.  This will remain locked until you at least finish all the tasks on the lab table. 

You can complete this journal entry by clicking and dragging words from the list at the bottom of the page.  If your selection is not correct, the words won't stick in place.   This "test" is not timed and there doesn't appear to be a penalty for too many wrong guesses so your child should get it eventually.  Even if I hadn't been sitting with him during the excavating and lab games, I could often figure out most words from the context of the sentence.  When the report is complete and correct, you can start the whole process over by selecting another digging site--six in all.

Some other key info for Roman Town:

System Requirements
• Windows Vista/XP/2000
• CPU 800 Mhz; RAM 412MB; Hard Drive 350MB

Target Age:  8 to 88  (eight year olds may need some help reading all the text)

Price  $39.95   This reflects a recent price increase.  But have I got a deal for you!   Homeschool Crew has been given a discount code TOS2011 good through February 21st.   This will entitle you to a 20% discount off of  last year's price of $24.95.  This would make your final cost $19.96 plus shipping.  There is a multi-user version available for classrooms ($299) and an Educator's Manual ($19.95).   And they have new games in the works so check bact at their website from time to time.

If you want to see what other Homeschool Crew members think of Dig-It! games click here.
Disclaimer: I downloaded a free copy of Dig-It! Games Roman Town for the purposes of completing this review.  I received no other compensation.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

IEW -- the Yahoo Group

Last time I mentioned the resources available to you through the Institute for Excellence in Writing's website.   Another source you'll want to be familiar with is the Yahoo Group  (actually three groups are available) .  IEWFamilies  (the biggest and busiest loop with over 8100 members and 629 posts for January) isfor teachers and families looking for support using any of IEW's materials .   IEW_Co_op(800+ members, 50-100 posts per month) is for homeschool co-ops and small group leaders using the IEW materials.    The final group, IEWTeachers, is for conventional school teachers using IEW materials.  It has only 145 members and very little activity.  All three groups require membership and moderate the postings.

I've joined the IEWFamilies, so that's what I'll be sharing with you.  Here is an opportunity to communicate with others going through what you are, or better yet, those who have already gone through it and can share some advice or insight.  Ask a question and you'll get plenty of answers and encouragement.   Don't just stop at the message board.  Under "Links" you can find access to online stories, lesson plans,  a dictionary, a thesaurus, and other vocabulary and grammar help.

Under"Files" you can find downloadable resources organized by the 9 units of the Teaching Writing: Structure & Style (TWSS).   The teacher's book has examples of signs and posters for your walls and you can make them yourself, but if you check the file section, you may find it's already been done for you (leaving you moretime for the 837 other things on you TO-DO list).  You can also find additional paragraphs for students who need more practice with key word outlines--one resourceful person made 20 paragraphs based on The Magic Schoolbus programs.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

It's my birthday (I don't have to say which one, but I am comparing today to the blizzrd of 1982 which I can remember quite well).  Kids get off for Washington's birthday and Martin Luther King's birthday so why not mine? God is doing all the decorating and he's picked an all white theme--icicles on the trees, sleet and snow everywhere else.  I don't even have to blow out my own candle--20-30 mph winds will do that.  I'm saving the candles.  There's enough to provide a lot of light and maybe generate a little heat if the power goes out.  My birthday presents were cartridges for my Cricut so I'm playing with them now (we can do school when the electricity goes out).   I know you didn't have enough notice to send me a card, so how about signing up under my Google friends in the right column?
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