Thursday, August 29, 2013

2013-2014 Curriculum Choices

I can’t believe how the time has flown.  This Friday we’ll have finished our first month of school and I haven’t even shared what we’ve been studying.


We’re sticking with Kay Arthur’s Discover 4 Yourself  inductive Bible study for kids.  We’ve already done Daniel and Genesis and I’ve been amazed at what he’s been able to pick up—especially the prophecies of Daniel.  We’re starting the year with John (which is divided into 3 books).  Then I’d like to do “Teach Me to Pray” as my Schnickelfritz’s prayers seem to border on repetition of the same phrases every time. 


We’ve only got 4 lessons left in Math U See Zeta.  I’d planned to move on to Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra but we were selected to review an online Algebra program by VideoText Interactive  (we’ve finally left dial-up land and now have high speed internet, hooray!).   So far, I must say I’m impressed with what I see Fritz learning.  We may stick with this after the review period.  Look for my review the last week of September.

Language Arts:

I’ve been devoted to Institute for Excellence in Writing since we were introduced to it several years ago.  I have the Teaching Writing with Structure and Style DVD set and for the first time will be coming up with my own source texts rather than using the Student Writing Intensive materials.  Schnicklfritz has decided he’d like to take over writing Hank the Cowdog books once Mr. Erickson retires so we’ll be focusing on the creative writing units.   We’ll also do several reports on material from his science and history work.

New for us this year is IEW’s grammar program—Fix It.  Everyday we’re editing a sentence or two adapted from Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer.  So far we’ve been learning when to start a new paragraph and looking for faulty homophones.  And of course, he can’t help but be exposed to Tom Sawyer which he’d now like to read.  We’ve got a great Illustrated Junior Library edition.

For spelling, we’re sticking with All About Spelling.   We’re in Level 4 now.  I just heard Marie Rippel at the Schoolhouse Expo and am more convinced than ever that her method is the way to go instead of the traditional spelling lists I grew up on.


I asked Schnickelfritz if he’d like to continue on from the Middle Ages to the Reformation, but he requested American history instead.  I received a set of All American History Vol. 1 in exchange for some accounting work I had done and had always planned on using that.   It is a very tradition textbook, well perhaps not quite as dry as the one’s I remember from school.  It does lack the projects and “this is what it would be like if you were there” feel we got in last years Project Passport: Middle Ages.  So once again I find myself combining curricula.  I’m supplementing each quarter of AAH with a Homeschool in the Wood’s Time Traveler series:  New World Explorers, Colonial Life, The American Revolution, and The Early 19th Century.


We’ve been an Apologia science family from the beginning.  I’d been planning to save Anatomy and Physiology for sixth grade, but now they’ve come out with a Chemistry and Physics text.  So Swimming Creatures got the short shrift over the summer and A & P got moved up (we’d already done Zoology 3 out of sequence the year before to co-op with another family in town).  And it turns out we may be co-oping again this year with one of Fritz’s Upwards Basketball buddies.  It always helps me to stay on track when I know we’ll be meeting up with another family every other week for project days.


Of course we never know what items may come our way for review so I leave some of our 400 hours of non-core subjects open.  We will be using Apologia’s Who Am I worldview course.  We started it during a review, but I wanted to go back to the beginning and do all four in sequence.

I’m also reading aloud and discussing The Asperikid’s Secret Book of Social Rules with Schnickelfritz.  He’s never been specifically diagnosed with Asperger's  and honestly when I review the traits/symptoms online I vacillate between he does and he doesn’t have it.  We’re going through the book anyway to help him cope with the traits he does have.  It’s a weird school subject, but my goal after all is to help him thrive as an adult and that goes far beyond just book learnin’.

And I think it’s time for my son to learn some home ec. – cooking simple dishes, doing his own laundry, etc.  I can still remember a Homeschooling seminar where the speaker described a boy who was smart enough to earn a scholarship to college but couldn’t even make a grilled cheese sandwich for himself and nearly burned the dorm down with a lint fire because he didn’t know how to use the dryer.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

TOS Review: Understanding Child Brain Development

What's one of the first things every mother does with a new baby?  She counts fingers and toes!  Every mom, every parent is looking for clues that their child is "perfect,"  well, at least normal.  So what happens when you start to realize that something is not quite right?   Where do you turn for help and hope?  Enter The  Family Hope Center.   Their DVD,  Understanding Child Brain Development  can provide a starting point.  I watched this by myself, it really is for parents not kids.

The Facts:
The 2 Hr. 10 Min. DVD is available in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Russian audios.  There are no subtitles for the hearing impaired.

The lecture is done in front of an audience in a classroom setting.  It's been divided into 15 chapters that can be selected directly.  The presentation on the screen behind the speaker is a little too light, but important graphics are shown directly on the video (cutting away from the speaker).   Sometimes the speak holds up visuals (like a cutaway of a brain) and they are a little harder to see.

The DVD is available for $19 from the Institute for Excellence in Writing online or by calling the Family Hope Center at 610-397-1737.

The Positives:

The Family Hope Center seems devoted to helping parents help their kids get the best that life has to offer.  They're not about labeling.  They treat kids, not diseases, syndromes, or handicaps.  Each child is evaluated as an individual and a team works with the parents to develop a treatment program to specifically meet that child's needs and help them achieve an optimum level of function.

The center doesn't treat symptoms but digs to the root of the problem.  Yes, Johnny doesn't sit still for long but that doesn't mean he needs Ritalin. That might make life simpler for the teacher but how does it help the child.  Maybe he's reacting to a food allergy.  Maybe he's hypersensitive to the noises and light levels around him.

The video gave me 7 simple (no cost) ideas to help my son today.  Simple, not easy:  like removing electromagnetic fields from our home -- the microwave, the TV, the video games, anything with a remote control.  We'll probably start with the easier ones like drinking more water (the brain is mostly water, after all).

The Negatives:

This 2 hour video is really just an introduction to the program.  There are many times Mr. Newell says "We'll get into that" but he can't cover it all in the time allotted.  If you truly wish to help you child you'll have to invest more -- the Thriving Child program with DVD, workbooks, nutrition guides, etc.  is at an introductory price now of $379 but will be $595.  Of course, if you have a special child you're probably willing to pay anything for answers and help.  There is also an opportunity to win a free program on the website.

The center also uses what would be described as "alternative" therapies.  I've heard of things like making older kids go back to crawling and "crossing the midline" behaviors.  Frankly, I'm open to trying nutrition and physical therapies to treat issues of the mind but some people won't be interested in anything but traditional therapies (read that as drugs).


Don't miss a thing! Subscribe to Ozark Ramblings and get my posts in your inbox.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Schoolhouse Expo Day 1

Normally, it's my Schnickelfritz who is always checking the clock and the stack of remaining subjects in our homeschool.  Today it was my turn.  You see, the Schoolhouse Expo started today and the sooner we finished, the sooner I could plop down in front of the computer and start soaking in the good stuff.  I'd missed the introduction and first speaker, but that's all right.  I'll get access to all the recordings a few weeks after the seminar--as will any ticket holder.

I began by download the seminar handbook --a whole 99 pages of workshop notes, speaker bios, and the daily schedules.  Some speakers included their Power Point slides, others just had space for taking notes.  They all had websites and contact information so I could follow up when I heard something interesting.

It was great!  Unlike attending a workshop in person, I could work on other tasks while I listened--I updated our coursework in my computerized school planner, I cut out timeline figures,  I even worked out with my SpinGym!  In fact, even as I post this I'm listening to attorney Antony Kolenc speak on Five Common Legal Mistakes Homeschoolers Make.

Screenshot from Barbara Beer's Spelling, Grammar, and Latin, Oh My!

My favorite speaker of the day was Evonne Mandella.  By the end of her workshop I had a long list of websites offering free multi-media tools that my son and I can use in school from  PicMonkey to Weebly.  I can use it to make lessons more visually interesting, but my son can also use them for projects and pick up skills he'll be able to use in the marketplace someday.  Evonne shared how she had submitted a homemade video to a Christian TV network and now she gets paid by them for her submissions!

It's not too late to get a ticket.  And remember you'll get access to the recordings for today's workshops when the Expo is over.

Don't miss a thing! Subscribe to Ozark Ramblings and get my posts in your inbox.

You Can’t Take the Heat and You Can't Get Out of the Kitchen

I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining – we really have had a much cooler summer than last year during our drought.  Still there have been days when the last thing I wanted to do was turn on the oven – especially pizza nights when I crank it up to 425 and need to let the pizza stone preheat.  So last month I asked for suggestions on putting dinner on the table without heating up my kitchen.  Here are some of the responses.

The  one response we’ll skip over was to make ….reservations!  Funny, but let’s assume that’s not an option.  After all, if you can afford to eat out through a long hot spell you can afford to crank the air conditioning. 

Salads and cold sandwiches came up frequently.  If you do buy cold cuts for sandwiches (my husband takes a sandwich to lunch daily) try this money saving tip.  I buy a half ham from the meat dept. and take it to the deli for slicing.  I wait until it’s on sale (last week I got 7 pounds for $2.29/lb.  The same meat in the deli case was $6.98!  I divide up the sliced meat, vacuum seal and freeze what we won’t get to for a while.

Grilling and cooking out is another option.  Yes it involves heat but the heat stays outdoors.  Someday I’m going to learn to make a pizza on the grill, but I’ve read that you shouldn’t use those Pampered Chef pizza stones over an open flame.  We also enjoy Dutch oven cooking (there may be a series coming this fall as my son works on his cooking merit).  Baking in a Dutch oven does have its drawbacks as you have to rotate the oven over the coals and rotate the lid every 15 minutes to keep the heat even.  That means you have to stay close by the fire pit in the outdoor heat.  I’d much rather save campfire cooking for the fall.

By far the most popular answer was using the crock pot.  Everyone knows you can use cheaper cuts of meat in a slow cooker and they still come out moist and tender.   It has the added benefit of being a hands-off cooking method.  I can go about my day—teaching, cleaning, running errands,  and my automated sous-chef takes care of everything.  The one drawback is that if you’ve forgotten to start your meal early enough in the day dinner may be too late or not worth starting at all (then you back to making reservations).

Today,  I’m going to share a recipe I made in my pressure cooker.   Like it’s slow cooking cousin, it’s not going to heat up the kitchen.  I LOVE  my pressure cooker for last minute dinner prep.  In fact you can start out with frozen meat and dry pasta and still put supper on the table in about 15 minutes.  My PC is electric, but nothing fancy—just a pot with a temperature control on the cord.  There a two lines on the pop-up gauge for me to judge high and low pressure (I almost never use the latter).  And there is a quick release valve.  Those are all the features I need.  I figure those models with all the fancy buttons just have that much more that can go wrong with them.  Now on to the recipe, based on one found in Bob Warden’s Great Food Fast.

2 Tbs. oil 3 1/2 C. beef broth
2 lbs. stew meat, cubed 1 Tbs. fresh chopped cilantro or 1 tsp. dried
1 red onion, chopped 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained
3 cloves garlic, minced 1 C whole kernel corn
1-2 Tbs. chili powder 2 Tbs. cornmeal
1 tsp. cumin 6-8 oz. can refrigerated biscuits
2 bell peppers, chopped salt and pepper to taste
15 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chilies shredded Mexican cheese blend (optional)

Brown the meat in oil over high heat.  Season it to taste with salt and pepper.

Add onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin, bell pepper, tomatoes, beef broth, and cilantro.  My family prefers red bell peppers but for presentation you may wish to substitute green or any other color available.  Securely lock the pressure cooker lid and cook for 20 minutes on high.

Quick release the pressure.  With the lid off add the beans and corn.  Bring to a simmer over high heat.  Stir in the cornmeal and simmer till thickened ( I make my own cornmeal grinding the grains in my Magic Bullet).

Separate the biscuits and drop in the pot to simmer 10-15 minutes before serving.  Serve in a bowl topped with shredded cheese.

Need some more recipe ideas?  Check out what my Homeschool Review crewmates have to share here (on Aug 20.) 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Making Shaped Books with PSE

Last week we spent five days introducing you to the idea of using Photoshop Elements in your homeschool.  If you missed any of those topics, here they are:

Quick Pages for Journaling/Notebooking

Multi-Layered Templates for Recordkeeping

The Type Tool for Flashcards and Labels

PDF Templates for Lapbooking

Extracting Images for Posters

When we last discussed lapbooking, we were relying on someone else to provide us with the shape of the mini-book and just adding our our text and images.  What if you want to make your own mini-book and what if you’re bored with simply squares or rectangles.  Let’s learn how to make a shape book next.  For our example I’m going to make an apple book for Johnny Appleseed.  I start by Googling an apple clip art image.

Here’s a good one and I can tell from the checkerboard pattern that the background is already transparent so I won’t have to extract the image.

Wow, look how big the apple was when I dragged it onto my 8.5X11 blank file.  I didn’t notice the image size when I was Googling.  I’m working with it anyway because it’s easy to make a large image smaller.  (If you start with an image that’s too small and try to stretch it out, it can look really pixelated).  I resize the apple by dragging on a corner and place it on the right side of my blank background.  Now I’m going to use Photoshop Elements Stroke feature to make the back page of my mini book.

You’ll see “marching ants” around the apple in the work area.

The new layer will appear above the old one in the layer section and the marching ants will still be around the apple (they’re really around the new copied apple).  Now click on Edit>Stroke (Outline) Selection. A new window will pop open.

We’re making the cutting line for the back of the mini-book so we want it to be several pixels wide and black in color.  I leave it centered so that when I cut down the middle of the line it will match up perfectly with the front side.  With your width and color set, go ahead and click OK.  There’s now a black outline on top of the apple, but we need to reverse the image. Select Image>Rotate>Flip Layer Horizontal.

Now the outline of the apple is a mirror image of the original.  If you try this and can’t tell the apple image from the outline, you’ve probably selected the plain Flip Horizontal instead of the Flip Layer.  Make sure the Move Tool is highlighted on the left hand side but DON”T use your mouse to move the outline shape.  We want to keep it on the same level as our apple so it will match up when we fold the book..  Instead use your left arrow key to nudge the outline over.  There should still be some overlap—this will be the fold of the book where the front and back stay connected. Too small an area and the front will likely tear off with use. 


See how the outline is on the face of our mini-book.  We don’t want that.  It’s easier to deal with than you think.  We just need to change the order of our layers.

Now there’s a portion of the red apple will appear on the back page of our book, but I don’t care since that side will be glued down anyway.  Here’s the image of the finished shape book after I’ve added my text.

Next week I plan to go into more detail about the Magic Extractor feature—using the zoom and changing brush size to get those tiny details.  If there are any projects you’d like to learn to tackle with Photoshop Elements, please leave me a comment.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

TOS Review: Notgrass Company

Every year at a local Homeschool conference I spot a man dressed in a civil war uniform.  This year I followed him back to his booth and I can now identify him as fellow Missourian John Notgrass.   When  I stopped to admire the beautiful  textbooks (really, I’m calling a textbook beautiful) his family’s business the Notgrass Company,  publishes, I couldn’t wait for this review.  The America the Beautiful Curriculum Package  ($99.95) contains  three hardback titles and three softback books. 

This curriculum is designed for grade 5-8.  Since the writing skills can vary so much between these levels, the workbook is purchased separately.  The Lesson Review book is designed for 7-8 grades.  We used the America the Beautiful Student Workbook  ($11.95)  geared towards 5th and 6th graders.  There are also 10 books assigned for reading time: Across Five Aprils, Amos Fortune: Free Man, All-Of-a-Kind Family, and others.  Most are probably available in the library or you may order them for Notgrass Company.  You will most certainly need to order Katy written by Mary Evelyn Notgrass.

The two volumes (one per semester) of the main texts are divided into 15 units of 5 lessons each. Here’s what separates America the Beautiful from other history texts.  Each unit covers a period of American history, but the lessons themselves don’t just present events and people in chronological order.  One or two lessons in the unit may do that (referred to as Our American Story in the book), but other types of lessons are:
  • God’s Wonders – describing an amazing creation God placed in America.  Lessons include: the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, Niagara Falls, and the Mississippi River.
  • An American Landmark—interesting sites, this time manmade.  Lessons include: The Smithsonian Institution,  Route 66 (in volume 2, but since it was close to home we skipped ahead), the Erie Canal, and the Gateway Arch.
  • An American Biography – a focus on one person who lived during the unit era.  Lessons include: James Audubon, George Washington, Noah Webster, and Samuel Morse.
  • Daily Life—learning how people lived an worked in the unit era.  I appreciated these lessons most of all.  The names and places we were learning about became fleshed out.  Lessons include: cattle drives, the Pony Express,  and working on a steamboat.
We read one lesson per day.  The end of the lesson lists the possible activities using the other books in the set, Bible study, or creative writing assignments.  Younger students may only do Bible Study and writing assignments twice a week.  An eighth grader may need to complete all the activities every day. Here is a sample of what we did for lesson 14 about the founding of Plymouth Colony (we are Mayflower descendants so we study Plymouth frequently).
Thinking Biblically:  William Bradford quoted from Psalm 107 so we read that passage and discussed what it meant to the Pilgrims.

Map Study:  My Schnickelfritz loves studying maps and creating his own so he was very excited to see the package included a separate softcover book devoted to maps.  His enthusiasm waned as lesson after lesson all he did was color in shapes and circle names.   There was no plotting routes or drawing in regions of Native tribes or mountain ranges.  He didn’t have to label anything, it was already printed in the book.  In his mind the fun part of mapping exercises had been done for him.  

We skipped the Creative Writing assignments.  This review came during summer school and I didn’t press him to do his least favorite activity.  The activity was to write your own compact of ten things everyone must agree to obey.

The Timeline also comes in it’s own softcover book.  The years 1000 to 1499 are arranged by a century per page.  The years 1500 through 2019 are grouped by decade per page.   Every page has a coloring picture –not one of my son’s favorite activities.  A lot of events have been pre-printed, but  there are lined spaces where the student should add something (the number in parentheses refers to the lesson). The text book tells the student exactly what to write.

Literature assignments are done in the hardback We the People Book.  We read a passage from Of Plimouth Plantation.   It had been edited for modern spelling and length.  There were lots of ellipses, but in this case it was not to remove God’s name from our historical documents.  These passages were the most challenging work for my 10 year old son and often I read it aloud to him.

The Student Workbook assignment was to fill in the blanks using the names supplies at the bottom of the page.  Other lessons had crossword puzzles, multiple choice questions, word searches, etc.  The Answer key (another softcover book) had all the solutions for both the Workbook and the Lesson Review for older student. 

This unit did not have a reading assignment but beginning with Unit 4 we read Elizabeth George Speare’s classic, The Sign of the Beaver.  The was also no Vocabulary.  For Lesson 2 Fritz had to look up: descendant, immigrant, confederation, dense, and cache in the dictionary and write it out in a separate notebook we were keeping.

As much as I hoped we would like America the Beautiful, it just didn’t seem to click with us.   We loved the pictures, we enjoyed feeling connected to history when lessons involved things close to our home: the Gateway Arch,  Route 66, and the Mississippi River.  Still, my son felt the text, map study, and timelines were designed for a much younger student, even though he’s at the low end of the recommend grades.  If I were considering this curriculum for an older student, I would definitely have them look at some of the sample lessons online and see if they felt similarly.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Schoolhouse Expo–The Speakers

If I wanted to, I could get all our schooling materials over the internet or from catalogs.  The reason I go to homeschool conferences are the lectures and workshops.  So lets take a look at a few of the speakers with which I’m familiar that will be a part of this month’s Schoolhouse Expo.  Remember, you don’t have to sit in front of your computer the whole week (Aug. 19-23).  Your $24 ticket includes access to the recordings afterwards.

Diana Waring was the keynote speaker at the very first Expo I ever attended.  For her sake and mine I won’t reveal the year, but I’ll say we’re counting back by decades.  Her tape series, History Via the Scenic Route, showed me that the subject didn’t have to be like the boring textbooks I’d known.  We listen to her What In the World is Going on Here and True Tales of the Times in the car.  She will be speaking about Textbook Myths and How to Deal With Them  (Do you mean to say there can be errors in textbooks?  Say it’s not so!)  with another blast from my past…….


Dr. Wile was a fixture every year at the Indiana Association of Home Educators convention held in Indianapolis.  In fact, he lived just 20 minutes up the highway from me.  If he hadn’t been motivated to create a science course for daughter, we might not have the Apologia textbooks  for junior and senior high school loved by homeschoolers around the world.   Although he’s moved on from the company, he still travels to homeschool conferences convincing parents that they too can teach science through high school.  I’m sure he’ll have plenty to share on errors in science textbooks—such as why they still contain evolutionary evidence that was debunked years ago.

There’s no other way to say it—Jessica Hulcy is a hoot to listen to.  Even though we don’t use her Konos unit study curriculum, I’ve kept copies of her three volumes for ideas on projects and activities that fit with our studies.  I’ve heard her speak in person and I’ve got her “Keeping the Balance” lectures on VHS.  I’ve seen her teach co-op lessons in her home – in fact I should get them out for review.  I remember one scene with a raw chicken that had me rolling on the floor (the lesson was on bird anatomy).   On a personal note, I know Mrs. Hulcy was involved in a terrible crash several years back.  I’m glad to see she’s able to share her wisdom with other homeschoolers again.  She’ll be speaking on Multi Level Teaching.

I’ve never seen Adam Andrews at a convention, but he just spent 5+ hours in my home (via DVD) teaching me how to teach literature analysis to my son in a way that is both simple and yet effective.  And you don’t need to wait till you teaching Shakespeare—our first study was Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel.  I keep his list of Socratic method questions and his story chart visual aid nearby whenever we have reading assignments for school.  (You can read my review of Teaching the Classics here) .    His presentation The Art of Reading from Seuss to Socrates appears to be an abbreviated version of that DVD series.


 I have a copy of Mr. Pudewa’s lecture “Teaching Boys & Other Children Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day” on my MP3 player and listen to it OFTEN as I walk the dog.  I have to substitute “Jenga Blocks” for forts, but otherwise his description of my son is spot on.   We reviewed Teaching Writing with Structure and Style and the  Student Writing Intensive programs in 2011. Honestly, both have been a Godsend.  (Need any volunteers to review the Continuation Course, Mr. Pudewa?)  We can avoid the whole writer’s block issue but still learn how to craft a good story. 

Okay, maybe you’ve got you lesson plans for the year done and  your school supplies organized.  You concerns lie with the “home” portion of homeschooling. Don’t worry this Expo is still for you.   I’ve heard podcasts of Malia Russell talk about menu planning, freezer cooking, keeping the house clean, etc.  Even though I’ve been doing all those things myself for years, I always manage to pick up a new idea or two.
Wow, I’ve just brushed the surface with only 1/6 of the speakers at the Schoolhouse Expo.  Some speakers I know through review items.  There’s still Dean Butler with his Little House documentaries,  Marie Rippel and her All about Spelling series,   and Terri Johnson and her Sacajawea ebook.  Other speakers are new to me but I’m interested in their topic,  Davis Stelzl with be talking about Starting a Business in High School (we’re still a few years away), and Tyler Hogan shares Confessions of a Homeschool Graduate (we’re even further away).
Have I convinced you yet?  Wanna know how to get your ticket?  Just click on the button below.

Disclaimer: I am receiving a free ticket to the 2013 Schoolhouse Expo in exchange for promoting the event.

Friday, August 9, 2013

TOS Review: Bible Study Guide for all Ages

I let my son select the order for all our subject in school except one.  Bible study is first every day to remind us who should be first in our lives (and it doesn’t hurt that we pray for our schoolwork and getting along as part of the lesson).  I was very pleased to have the chance to try the  Bible Study Guide For All Ages .   As Schnickelfritz is now a 5th grader, we’d be using the Advanced Student Pages (5th-6th grade).  We also received a set of   Bible Book Summary Cards which can be used with all ages.        

The Advanced Student Pages ($5.95) come in a landscape oriented, legal size format.  The pages are loosely glued in so I’m assuming Mom keeps the booklet and removes the pages for the kids as needed.  Each lesson covers the front and back sides of one page.  There are 26 lessons in a book, representing one quarter.   There are 16 books, all priced the same, so a complete study of the Bible would take four years (doing 2 1/2  lessons per week or one page per day).


This Sample is the front side of the lesson.  The studies alternate between timeline and mapping activities.  The Remember It section is a refresher of all the prior lessons.  I don’t know if the Get Active suggestions are the same for all the levels since I just have one child but it would make sense for the kids to do the activities together since they will be covering the same topics each day (just with different student pages).  There were several activities that called for more than the two people we had available.

The back side of the lesson is always in cartoon format.  My son would fill in blanks, draw pictures, choose the correct dialogue, etc.  He loved the very visual format (and frankly it didn’t seem to him like he had to write much – always a good thing).  The lessons jump around in the Bible.  We started with Joseph, but then jumped to Daniel, and then the life of Christ.  You would need to stick with the lessons for all four years to cover the entire Bible.

Occasionally the lessons would ask us to learn the Bible Book Summary Cards ($24.95 for all 66).   These 8 1/2 X 11 cardstock pages have colorful clip art on one side to remind us of the book’s key points.  The back side has a narrative summary and questions to check retention.  The cards are not required but highly recommended.

Here is the one for Luke.

You can see some of the key points are the genealogy is begun with Adam and  Luke is one of the Gospels (signified by the center clip art).   At first I thought I’d used these cards as a game –guess the book from the picture.  I’ll be the first to admit there were a lot I couldn’t identify (like the minor prophets and Paul’s letters).  Better to study each picture and read the back summaries first.  You may be able to play the game with books you’ve already studied and just want to review.

My son did like the very visual nature of the lesson pages and he was able to do the work on his own.  He was definitely covering a lot of Bible facts – placing events on the timeline, finding cities on the maps, memorizing Jacob’s 12 sons,  learning the divisions of the New Testament books, etc.  My only concern was that the lessons were heavy on facts and light on critical thinking and apologetics.   For example, lesson 21 covers the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke.  The requirements ask what man begins the genealogy for both gospels, asks you to circle the king in both pictures, find the names of the 4 women mentioned in a word search, and put names in chronological order. But the genealogies can be a real sticking point for non-believers.  Many people question why the names don’t match up or even use this as their proof that the Bible contains errors.  There is no mention of this controversy or the fact that the genealogy in Matthew is recording Joseph’s family tree and Luke covers Mary’s. 

 I think we will continue to use the Bible Book Summary Cards, but will go with something meatier for our family study.


Day 5: Photoshop Elements for Classroom Posters

Day 5 copy
Welcome the last official day of 5 Days of Photoshop Elements for School (but come back next Thursday for a tutorial on making shape books ).  Ironically, we’re really going back to the beginning of my whole interest in digi-scrapping for school. It started last year when I read the post Faster than a Lapbook, More Fun than a Book Report! at Heart of Wisdom.   There were plenty of student samples to look at as well—covering science concepts, biographies, events in history, Bible stories and more.

Used with permission from Heart of Wisdom

At the time Fritz was studying Mystery of History and had 12 dates to memorize.  I really wanted to make those dates stand out in his mind so rather than just highlight a little timeline figure, I made  page-sized posters to put above our timeline on the wall.  When we were done, we attached the posters as extra flaps in our quarterly lapbooks.

I made the posters 8 1/2 by 11 so I could print them at home (my printer allows for edge to edge printing).  This really isn’t a bad size for a homeschool room – it’s not like I’m trying to show it to 30 kids at once.

MOmama_album's Dates to memorize slideshow album on Photobucket

 If you’ll look at the sample images, you’ll see that instead of framed pictures, I have objects like the scroll and the Vandal warrior appearing to be placed directly on the image background.  I did that through a process called selecting and extracting, which is the focus of today’s tutorial.  There are several ways to accomplish our task so lets start with one of the easiest.

For our first example let’s see if we can extract the Lewis & Clark compass from this image.

We are very fortunate that the background is all one color—there’s not even a shadow from the compass.  We can make PSE do most of the work for us.  After opening the image in the Editor, I’ll make a new blank file but this time I want the background color to be transparent so I click that box in the pop up window.  If I know the size of my image I can make the blank file the same size, if not, I can always crop it down later.  Next I’ll open my file of the compass and drag it from the Project Bin onto my blank file.

Now I’ll verify that the layer with my compass image is active and I’ll choose the Magic Wand tool from the left hand side.  It does look like a wand lit up at one end.  The mouse changes to a sparkly wand as well.  Now I click somewhere in the white background of the compass image. 

Around the outside edges of the white square and around the compass are little marching ants. 

Then it’s just a matter of hitting the Delete key.  I can save the compass with the transparent background for later or drag the thumbnail from the Project Bin onto the Lewis & Clark Poster I’m working on.

Of course, there are a lot of images that aren’t that cut and dried—like this image of Joan of Arc.
I’d like to just use Joan and her banner but leave out the distracting  gold background.  In this case the background isn’t a solid color so the Magic Wand won’t work. I’m still going to let PSE do most of the work, it just needs a little more guidance in what parts should stay and what should go.  I start a new blank file with transparent background and drag my Joan image onto it.

Now I’m going to select Image>Magic Extracter.   Joan’s image appears on a new work surface with it’s own set of tools.  I’m only going to mention the first two tools today.  There's a lot more detail like changing brush size, zooming in, getting back portions you didn't want removed, etc. but I'll save the details for another tutorial.

When I finish coloring over my image I use click on the Preview button and change this …..

 Magic extraction
To this!
Which I can then drag onto my Date to remember poster.

I hope you enjoyed these 5 Days of Photoshop Elements for School and I hope you've learned something!  Come back next Thursday for a tutorial on making lapbooking shape books.

Summer Blog Hop
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...