Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Night-O at Greensfelder

Another month means another orienteering race.  Like September’s race this would be a night race with a Score-O format, meaning we could visit the controls in any order during the time limit.  That’s about where the similarities end.   As leaves fall and brush dies back, the races move from city parks to the county and state parks.  So how does that affect the course?

City parks have abundant lighting from street lights, ball fields, and tennis courts.  Once we left the start/finish shelter the only light came from our two headlamps.  There would have been some moonlight but the leaves are really late in falling this year and blocked it on the trails.  It was slightly eerie to pick up the eye shine of critters in the woods.  Did you know you can see the cluster of a spider’s eyes if you look closely?

City parks are mostly level open ground.  There were lots of trails in the county park, but we had to be very cautious of tree roots and rocks in our path.  Both Schnickelfritz and I tripped and fell once.

The scale for the city park map was 1:3750, for the county park it was 1:15,000.  So if the distance between two objects looked the same on both maps it was nearly 5 times further to actually walk to it in the county park.  This frustrated us more than once…we would travel down a path and were sure we’d come far enough to find the control but had never spotted it.  Once we kept going but another time we turned back because we were afraid we’d go too far off course if we proceeded.

The city park race was designed to be family friendly – a white course for the most part, meaning controls are easily spotted, the terrain doesn’t change too much vertically, and the distance is short.  This county park was rated green/red—the toughest we’ve done yet.  We were huffing up and down hills, the controls we often 1/4 to 1/2 mile apart, and they were not located conveniently to any path.  The orange and white windsock did not show up well in the dark so are only hope was that our headlamps would catch the 1/2 X 3 inch strip of reflective tape that had been attached – the woodsy equivalent to a needle in a haystack.

The city park race had a 45 minute time limit.  The county park race had two time limits: you could stop at either 90 minutes or 3 hours--that's double or quadruple the amount of time!  Fritz and I did the 90 minute version.  When he went to bed that night at 9:30 he mentioned that some people were still out racing.  Whew!

I have to say I was a little intimidated to start this race.  For the first time we had a pre-race safety check and we wouldn’t be allowed to compete  if we weren’t carrying: reflective gear for everyone, a headlamp for everyone, a whistle per group, a compass per group, and a cell phone per group.  And then to hear it was a red course … I just wasn’t sure we could make it.  Fritz was the youngest competitor by several years, but I wasn’t the oldest.

We started with a cluster of ROTC students – is that college or high school because they looked very young to me.  The first control was on a hillside between a trail and the main road.  There must have been 15 of us scouring that hill and we couldn’t find anything.  Of course time is of the essence so groups began to abandon the search and move onto the next control.  According to the map two trails would cross our current one and we were to take the second trail (there were named markers in real life but the maps don’t have trail names).  This was the control we gave up on and turned back because I was afraid we’d gone too far.  Once we reached the main trail again we headed toward the third marker we thought we could reach.  We kept going and going and going.  At one point I actually told Fritz we should just quit and ask for our entrance fee back, but he was having fun in spite of our lack of success.  That’s when we spotted the glint of reflective tape.

Once Fritz had stuck his e-punch in the scoring device I figured we we committed to continue.  We doubled back and actually found the first control that the large group had missed earlier.  We would alternate between jogging and brisk walking till we caught our breath again.  We’d look at the map and set a goal for how far we could jog before stopping.  Once before we picked up our pace Fritz insisted on doing a “systems check”  à la Hank the Cowdog.  If I wasn’t so out of breath, I’d have used some air to giggle as he self-diagnosed…”leg thrusters – 75%, arm pistons-- 71%” and so on. 

In the end we had only found 5 controls, but it was good enough for Second place in the 90 minute limit.  On group of ROTC kids had gotten lost, one group had one less control than us.  Only a young woman working alone did better.  Better than second place, I think we boosted our confidence that we wouldn’t get lost in the woods. 

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

Saturday, October 26, 2013

TOS Review: Bridgeway Academy

I have a confession to make: I'd much rather teach math or science--even physics, than English. 
If I knew what a gerund was at some point I've since forgotten, I overuse commas, and don't know where to use a semi-colon.  When I saw one of the products available to review from Bridgeway Academy was a remedial grammar and writing program I was interested in it for myself even though it's geared to 7-12 graders.  After all I need to understand it before I can teach it to my son.  I received three spiral bound books.

Bridgeway English Book 1 Focus on Grammar  ($23.33)
Bridgeway English Book 2 Focus on Writing  ($23.33)
Bridgeway English Key ($23.33)

 Book 1, subtitled Focus on Grammar, is organized into six PAKS, which are further divided into Sections.  There are section reviews, a Self-Test for each PAK and then a Final Test:
  • PAK 1: Parts of a sentence, types of sentences, fragments, run-ons, & compound sentences.
  • PAK 2:  Types of nouns & their functions
  • PAK 3: Types of pronouns & their functions
  •  PAK 4:  Adjectives, adverbs, and the difference between the two
  • PAK 5:  Prepositions, conjunctions & interjections
  • PAK 6: A review of all five previous PAKS

Book 2, subtitled Focus on Writing is a continuation of Book 1 so it starts with PAK 7.  This course is all about mastery and the material builds on itself so you are not supposed jump around to the topics you need to work on.

  • PAK 7: Dependent & Independent clauses, compound and/or complex sentences, subject verb agreement.
  • PAK 8: Action vs. linking verbs, irregular verbs, participles, gerunds, and infinitives, review of the 8 parts of speech
  • PAK 9: Capitalization, punctuation, and proofreading for errors
  • PAK 10: Letter writing for various purposes, envelopes, e-mails & memos, filling out forms
  • PAK 11: Test-taking, critical thinking, and reasoning skills, fact vs. fiction
  • PAK 12:  A review of all five previous PAKS
The Teacher's Answer Key provides reduced copies of the pages from both books with the answers filled-in.  Although it's called the "Teacher's" key, this course is designed for the student to teach himself and if you trust him, he may score his own daily work--just not the Final Tests.  (The textbooks actually say "Check your answers", "Correct your mistakes", and" Recheck your answers" which makes it seem like the student should do it himself).   In some lessons there is a spot for teachers to initial and date as proof that students have done certain tasks or memorized explanations, etc.  There is no syllabus or guidance on how much work to do each day -- you just move forward when the student has demonstrated mastery.

I started this program on my own but  after a week I felt that my son (a fifth-grader) could do this work himself -- tasks like underlining the interrogative sentences  or add the correct punctuation mark to the end of a sentence.  Each day we would work until we reached a page that ended with "Check Your Work" which may mean a single page or as many as three.  There were also some pages or passages labeled Tremendous Tales that covered topics like Gutenberg's press and the Pony Express.  They weren't referenced in the lesson and had nothing to do with grammar so we usually skipped them.

I have to express some concern, at least based on our working through PAK 1, that students who are already struggling with grammar might be more confused after this remedial lesson on verbs vs. predicates and simple vs. complete subjects, etc.  Just look at these examples...

The instructional section just (correctly) taught that the Subject is all the words telling who or what the sentence is about and the predicate is all the words that tell what the subject did.

The exercise that immediately follows asks us to underline the subject once and the predicate twice.  Every word in the sentence is either part of the subject or predicate so every word should be underlined once or twice.  The answer key shows...

 This is actually underlining the simple subject and the verb -- the topics of the next lesson.  A few pages later the lesson is on complete subject and complete predicate  but the sample sentence is labeled ...

 "...jumped through the flaming hoop of fire" is not the verb, a verb is a single word.  This is actually the complete predicate.  I hate to nit-pick, but this product is being marketed as remedial English.  Now I am looking at the teacher's key first and changing the instructions to fit the answers, but like I said grammar is not my best subject and at some point I may not recognize faulty instruction.  For that reason I am leery to recommend this curriculum.


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

Friday, October 25, 2013

Apologia -- Animal Cell Project

We've found someone to co-op science projects with again this year -- two families actually.  Schnickelfritz loves playing with the kids in both families and now I only have to worry about preparing for every third activity.  I played hostess for Chapter 1 of Apologia's Anatomy and Physiology textbook.  The suggestion in the book is to make a cell model with Jell-O and candy.  I really didn't want to try that with six kids -- 5 being boys.  Instead I found another homeschooling mom that used felt to construct a cell.  So I'm giving credit to Applie's Place for this  (she was doing it for Apologia's high school Biology course though so I guess I'll have to hold on to my model for a few years).

Hooray for me!  A new JoAnn Fabrics opened within reasonable driving distance.  They had felt on sale and I had a 20 percent teacher's discount (normally it's only 15 %).  I bought yardage for the cytoplasm and cell membrane and then used felt squares for all the organelles.  I typed up labels for all the parts and even found clip art to match the image reminders e.g. mitochondria = power plant.  I ran the labels and pictures through a laminator.

My son and I worked to have everything ready when our friends arrived today.

Of course when they first saw it, it wasn't labeled.  I let each kid (starting with the youngest) take a turn adding a label to an organelle.  Once it was correctly labeled, we discussed it's function and added the reminder picture. 

Now my motto is to make learning fun when possible so I came up with two games to reinforce our learning. 

First Game:  We removed all the labels, pictures, and felt objects, leaving just the cell membrane and cytoplasm base.  One mom shuffled the labels and called them out one at a time.  Each kid was timed to see how quickly he/she could reconstruct the cell in the order given.  If they made a mistake, the item had to be removed.  I started with the oldest kid this time and worked down so that the youngest would benefit by watching everyone before him--and of course he earned bragging rights for beating his oldest brother.  Everyone wanted to play this again so second round we added the reminder pictures.  If DNA or nucleolus came up randomly before the nucleus, they had to pick those objects up and place them on the nucleus when it was called. 

Second Game:  The felt objects we left, unlabeled, on the cell.  I described the function of the organelle and then the kids had to grab for it.  Sometimes there was enough, or almost enough to go around.  Other times there was only one of the object.  This got a little crazy -- have you ever played spoons?   We had to call a halt to the game because I had family coming over for dinner and didn't have time to clean blood out of the carpet.

This whole activity kept the kids engaged for 45 minutes.  Everyone had fun and learned something for the 13 year old down to his 7 year old brother.

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

Monday, October 21, 2013

TOS Review: Barbour Publishing

Anyone who's been around my son for any length of time will notice that he has an active and vivid imagination.  It's a trait I love and try to protect ---  where would we be if two brothers didn't imagine it was possible to fly?  Imagine how much duller the library would be if there were only non-fiction books?   Speaking of books, our latest review is title by Barbour Publishing.    Its heroine, Emma Jean (she prefers EJ) Payne gives us a glimpse into her fourth grade life,  her imaginary world, and the sometimes hilarious intersections of the two in Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story ($5.99)

The softback book has 15 chapters ( 8-12 pages each) with a substantial diary entry at the beginning to introduce us to EJ and her family.  The recommended age level is 8 to 12, but I got several chuckles reading it on my own -- like when EJ dresses up as Anne of Green Gables only to win a prize for the best fast food costume (they thought she was Wendy of hamburger fame).  My son had no troubles reading this to himself -- especially after I clued him in on the different fonts representing different things:  the child's printing is EJ writing in her diary,  the normal font is a third person narrative of EJ's adventures, the italicized font takes place in EJ's imagination.  In the "real world" EJ shops for school supplies, goes to family camp, gets a role in the Christmas play, and deals with a grumpy, elderly neighbor.  In her imaginary world EJ can be a race car driver, a beautician, a helicopter pilot, an astronaut, and a pioneer who meets Laura Ingalls.  My son didn't have any issues about this being a "girl book" -- EJ is pretty tomboyish.

When my son finished, I asked him to tell me his favorite part(s).  He was drawn to the passages where EJ lets her imagination run wild, but he did pick up that there is a time and a place for such activity and other times when it's better to concentrate on real life.

The back cover categorizes the book as Juvenile Fiction/Religious/Christian/General.  It's true that EJ's father is a pastor,  EJ's neighbor reads her the story of Esther, and the play tells the nativity story, but I don't think any kid is going to feel like you are trying to sneak in a sermon if you hand them this book.  EJ's a normal kid that doesn't get along with her brother and whines about folding laundry,  she's sometimes so distracted by her imaginary world that accidents happen.  But hidden within the pages you'll find themes like obedience, respect for others, and doing good deeds -- and you can't say that about a lot of books marketed to kids these days.  We look forward to the next book, Diary of a Real Payne: Church Camp Chaos coming out next March.



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

Friday, October 11, 2013

Lamplighter Catalog

I always love it when the mail comes, but some days are better than others.  Like today, when I discovered the new Lamplighter Catalog hidden inside.  Of course you can always browse vendor websites, but there's still something about being able to fold down the corners of pages and write "like" or the names of potential gift recipients in the margins -- it hearkens me back to poring over the Sear's Wish Book with my cousins on Thanksgiving afternoons.

Lamplighter is really Lamplighter Publishing --so the catalog is a chance to read about reading!  They carefully choose  books from the 18th and 19th centuries that uplift rather than promote wallowing in: teen-angst, sorcery, victimhood, etc. .  According to founder Mark Hamby:

It is our commitment that each Lamplighter book instills moral values through role models that either demonstrate exemplary behavior or suffer consequences of making wrong choices. A riveting plot, a worthy theme, and endearing characters motivate readers, both young and old, to adopt a similar moral code by emulating the characters that have been etched into their awakened conscience. It is our intent that when a family reads a Lamplighter story together, they will build a lasting memory that will far surpass the fleeting moments of mediocrity.

There must be over a hundred titles in this years catalog and I can't presume to know everyone's taste and interest but here are a few suggestions from our collection (incidentally, most of these were purchased from their "scratch and dent" list but I haven't notices any flaws).

Lamplighter Theatre Audios

You can't go wrong with any of them.  I've got them loaded on my MP3 player to listen to as I walk or in the car.  Sign up for their eMail list because they sometimes have PHENOMINAL sales (on at least two occasions they have offered 7 of them for $7).  It's like radio theater not just reading aloud.  Each story starts with someone with a problem visiting Finnian Jones, collector of books and other oddities.   Rather than offer solutions, he always suggests a book to the troubled individual.  When that person opens the pages we also get transported into the story.

Some of our favorite titles are :  Sir Malcom & the Missing Prince, A Peep Behind the Scenes,   Charlie's Choice, and Teddy's Button.  The radio theater version of this last title has been altered quite a bit from the original book in my point of view, but it's still very good.


The White Knights  This book seems to be one of the few exceptions to the list of  18th & 19th century titles.  It seems to be written during the first World War.  Three boys, with a fascination about King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table find their own quests of righting wrongs and doing good deeds.

That Printer of Udell's  This was supposedly on of Ronald Reagan's favorite books, or at least one that left a lasting impact upon him.  Towards the beginning of the story, a down and out tramp walks into a church meeting.  The parishioners promise  to pray for the man but offer no meaningful assistance.  It's a printer who doesn't attend church at all that provides a meal, a bed, and a job.  Now I've read the parable of the Good Samaritan more times than I can count, but hearing the story told in this fashion really convicted me.

Titus: A Comrade of the Cross   The author of this book submitted it in a contest for stories that would set a child's heart on fire for Jesus Christ.  It begins with a stolen child of a prominent official and you won't believe the irony at the end at Christ's crucifixion (I don't want to spoil the ending too much so I won't say more).   You may need to read this one aloud as the author has put all the dialogue into King James English.

Prisoners of the Sea   Survivors of a shipwreck discover an empty mansion on a deserted island.  This story has plenty of swashbuckling  action for boys.

You owe it to yourself to request a catalog.  In the back are lists ,broken up by age ranges, that include titles and moral themes (laziness, peer pressure, humility, selflessness, etc.) so you can pick books that may help your child in areas they are struggling.

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

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Whole Seed Catalog

This may be the first time in the history of the blog, but I'm going to recommend a product to you sight unseen.  You may recall a few weeks ago Schnickelfritz and I traveled to Mansfield, MO and stopped by the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed farm.  After visiting, I'm committed to using heirloom seeds in my garden next year.  They just sent me an email about a new catalog coming out in November--but it's way more than a catalog!

There's going to be recipes, histories of heirloom seeds,  tips for growing and preserving, as well as listings (many with color pictures) of all the seeds available for purchase -- 324 pages in all.  I always enjoy looking through the seed catalogs during the winter.  Even on the coldest days, it reminds me that Spring will come again.   All I can show you now is a copy of the cover, which is a piece of art by itself.

The catalog is available at a pre-publication price of $7.95 plus shipping.

UPDATE (11/8/13): I just called to check the status of my catalog and apparently now they won't be shipped until mid December -- still plenty of winter left to browse through all the pages.

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

Saturday, October 5, 2013

TOS Review: YWAM Publishing

Full disclosure time:  this review is not my first exposure to YWAM Publishing or it’s missionary biography series Christian Heroes Then and Now and American biography series Heroes of History.  I received my first YWAM book on Gladys Aylward as a free sample at a homeschool conference 15 years ago (I believe they’re still making that same offer today).  Now we have over 25 volumes from both series and I’m sure I’ll be adding to their number.  While I was offered an ebook copy of George Washington: True Patriot for the review, I just pulled our softback edition off the shelves (both versions are $6.99).  This was however our first experience with the corresponding George Washington: True Patriot Unit Study Curriculum Guide ($7.49 available only in paperback).   Here’s a photo of our book shelf – I tried to make it large enough for you to read some of the other titles.

I’ve been reading aloud YWAM titles to my son since he was six.  They’ve got the formula down-- the first chapter is kept short and intense.  Even if your kid isn’t a bibliophile, surely you can get them to read or listen to three to four pages.  The chapter  always ends in a cliff hanger about a specific event in the subject’s life:  Corrie ten Boom is taken into custody by the Gestapo, John Adams is crossing the Atlantic pursued by a British Man-O-War, George Washington becomes Commander In Chief of the Continental army and must defeat the British or hang.  Now you (or your kids) are motivated to keep reading to find out what happens, but  the story turns back to the hero’s childhood and we learn all the background leading up to the cliff hanger.  Usually we get so engrossed in the back story we often forget what that dangling carrot was until the event is revisited during the normal course of the plot.  A quick glance through our books show most are 200-225 pages long with 10-13 page chapters.  There is a map near the front showing countries or cities mentioned in the text but there are no other illustrations.


I assigned a chapter per day for Schnickelfritz to read on his own (reading level ages 10 and up) and we would discuss the material afterwards.  Often Fritz would voluntarily share what he’d read but I did have questions supplied in the Curriculum Guide.  For each chapter there was:

  • A Vocabulary question—one word from the text (with a reference to which page it could be found).  After defining the word, Fritz had to use it in a sentence of his own.
  • A Factual Question –this was a short “who” or “what” answer
  • A Comprehension Question – these were longer “why” and “how” questions, but the Fritz could infer the answer from the text.
  • An Open-Ended Question – Fritz had to supply his own opinion and give evidence from the text to support it. 

The other sections of the Curriculum Guide include:

  • Key Quotes – These could be memorized or assigned for penmanship practice
  • Display Corner – This seemed  designed for a regular classroom setting where students are encouraged to bring in Show and Tell items relating to Washington, Virginia or Washington D.C.
  • Student Explorations – As in a true Unit Study, these ideas would incorporate Language Arts with essays and creative writing assignments or Arts & Craft projects.  Fritz’s only interest was drawing a map of the United States when Washington became president.
  • Community Links – Again this seemed aimed at a regular classroom where they might bring in a guest speaker but there were also some field trip suggestions that a family might do (visit a state capital or military base).
  • Social Studies – Fritz’s favorite area.  We made a timeline of key events in Washington’s life.  We colored in the geological regions of Virginia and noted its rivers, lakes and highest point.  We marked the location of important cities during the Revolution.  The curriculum Guide includes blank outline maps of the Eastern Coast of the United States and a closer view of Virginia & West Virginia.  There’s also a blank timeline.

  • Related Themes to Explore – Again, if your were interested in making this a true Unit Study there were ideas to incorporate Math, Science, Politics, Geography, and History around the biography of Washington.
  • Culminating Event – I guess a lot of Unit Studies suggest ending with a celebration where children can display their projects or give presentations on what they learned.
  • Appendix A—includes a list of other books, magazine articles, videos, and websites where students can find more information on Washington and other related topics.
  • Appendix B – provides answers to the Vocabulary, Factual, and Comprehension questions.

We’ve tried doing full Unit studies in our homeschool before and they just don’t work for us, but we will continue to read and recommend the YWAM biography series – in fact I did so just last night at a church dinner.  



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

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Walk Back in Time–Mexico, MO


For the second year in a row we piled in the car and headed for Mexico – the city in Missouri, not the country, but our trip was really going to be about spanning time, not distance.  A Walk Back in Time is held on the grounds of the  Audrain County’s Graceland Museum (Ulysses S Grant stayed there, not Elvis).  All the era’s of American history have displays and re-enactors from Colonial times, to the Wild West, and all the wars from the Revolution to present day conflicts.  This year a new campsite opened up dedicated to Vikings and Pirates.

The forecast was iffy, but it was still sunny when we left home.  We merged into a group of Mizzou tailgaters traveling on I-70 (you can spot them by the tiger tails hanging out of their trunks).  When we got to Mexico it was clouding up and looked even grayer to the west but we were assured by two volunteers the “It never rains on Walk Back.”   Famous last words --  remember “This ship is unsinkable.”  We thought we’d err on the side of caution and see the new exhibits first.





The first thing to catch our eye was General George Washington.  Okay, so my son is wearing a Civil War hat with a Revolutionary Way general—you get used to that sort of anachronism as re-enactors visit other eras of the venue.  We’ve been reading a biography of Washington (look for that YWAM Publishing review later this month).   This gentleman lives in Mexico and his son, a police detective in California flies home to spend the weekend with him.  The son had been building a diorama of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse which he brought with him in his luggage.  Dad arranged the costumes this year in honor of the project.  While he portrayed the Father of our County, the son had a less desirable role – Banastre Tarleton of the British Green Dragoons.    You can see a little of his diorama in the photo below.



We moved on to the Pirate and Viking exhibit next.  I have to say I was apprehensive as we approached.  Would this just be glorifying of the swashbuckling and upheaval that both groups are famous for?  Or worse, would if fall to the depths of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and be macabre and totally inaccurate.  I was pleasantly surprised to find both to be very educational.

This re-enactor’s persona was a navigator that had been conscrpted into service aboard a pirate ship.  Apparently men with needed skills would be forced  to use those skills for piracy, but they received a document saying they were under duress and if the ship were captured by authorities these men would be let go.  I haven’t looked into this, but it seems to me then everyone aboard ship would want one of these letters for themselves.   Anyway, the gentleman focused on the tools and skills needed for navigation on the high seas.  We got to see many of the instruments we’d just studied in our New World Explorers by Homeschool in the Woods.

The Vikings also focused less on the ransacking, although this man did have on chainmail and had helmets for guests to try on and see how heavy they were.  At another nearby tent was a Norse woman sharing about home life and a man stamping coins.

We stopped for lunch and were preparing to move on to the Civil War and WWII exhibits when the skies opened and the deluge began.  While we ran to the shelter of an old Schoolhouse on the grounds I was praying the suttlers and exhibiters were getting their precious memorabilia covered and protected.   A quick check of the radar showed this wasn’t just a passing shower so we headed back home.  You can read about some of the exhibits we couldn’t cover this time in last year’s post .   I don’t know if we’ll be back next year because it will be the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Pilot Knob which in the past has fallen on the same weekend. 

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

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...