Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Review: IEW Resource Materials

After years and years of reviewing homeschooling curriculum and products, I can only count on one hand the number of vendors from whom I’d accept any product, just know it’s going to be good.  The Institute for Excellence in Writing is one of those vendors.  Every time we’ve reviewed a product, it has become a permanent part of our schooling. I’ve been using their Structure and Style writing program since my son was in first grade.  A few years later came the Literature Analysis course and most recently was their Grammar program.  This time, the products we received aren’t curriculum themselves, but resources to enhance or supplement homeschool studies—and not just in the area of language arts..

We received a spiral bound book for all three titles. The Teaching with Games set also included two DVD’s and a CD-ROM. 


There are over ninety pages of charts in Timeline of Classics, each giving the Description or Time Period, the Title, the Author, and the appropriate age level of the resources.  I use the word “resources” because you will find much more than books listed.  I’ve also come across audios, movies, magazines, television shows, etc. A lot of listings have “Compact Classics” listed with the title—a little research determined this book provides two page summaries of many “classic” books. 

I would say this book provides a jumping off place if you’d like to add books or movies to your study of a period of history.  There is no synopsis of any title so you’d still need to do some research to see if the title is going to meet your needs.  For example, since we were in the middle of studying ancient Egypt, I went to that section.  There I found listings for Motel of the Mysteries (which I happen to know is a spoof of Howard Carter’s discovery of King Tut’s tomb) and the Cecil B DeMille version of The Ten Commandments.  I wouldn’t consider either resource for a serious study of ancient Egypt, but the might make for some family fun time to celebrate wrapping up our study. Often you’ll find a title in more than one format, for example most of the G.A. Henty books list the original book and the  audio versions available.  

Of the three books I received, this is the on I use the least.  If a book is worthy of being called a classic, then we will read the original (even if I have to read it aloud).  I’m not interested in two-page summaries or film adaptations.  I will keep the book with my other reading list resources because it does have a very thorough chronological list.

This year I’m help to teach a high school level biology co-op class.  We’re alternating labs with review sessions to prepare for tests.  What better tool for making reviews fun than the Teaching with Games Set.   The book gives instructions and often samples of games that require No Prep, versions of Flash Cards, asking Questions, drilling math facts, and games the students build themselves throughout the study.

I happen to learn best by having someone teach me as we actually play the game rather than reading the rules.  If you’re like me then you’ll want to get the DVD which shows a round of each game being played.  The CD-ROM has a PDF version of the book (so you can print your own copies of the sample games) and some bonus grammar games.

For our science co-op I’ve found the Hot Potato card game to be a great way to go through vocabulary terms.  Both the clue giver and the one shouting out the answer have to know the definition of the term so they can pass on the stack of cards before time runs out.  Other times we’d play a simplified version of Jeopardy or a game called The Question Bag when we needed to review information that required more than a one word answer.

The introduction in both the DVD and the book share how students are more likely to be motivated to learn when it’s done through a game.  I totally agree and can share my own story.  My son is the youngest student in science co-op—he’s only 12 but is taking this high school level course because he’s mathematically ready for it.  He has, however, won 4 out of 5 of the study games we’ve played thus far because he’s very, very motivated to win (winners get $5 gift cards to local stores and restaurants)—even if that means spending a lot of time with his nose in a science book. 

If you’re familiar with the structure and style method of writing, you might find A Word Write Now very helpful.  If you’re not familiar, let me give you an example from one of Schnickelfritz’s recent assignments.  He had to write a story based on three pictures, one of which shows a man swinging on a chandelier in a library. When he started revising his rough draft there were several required “dress ups” he needed to include in each sentence: strong verbs, quality adjectives, –ly words (the term used for adverbs), etc. 
The first half of the book is devoted to two-page spreads of various positive and negative character traits (e.g. courage, honor, and pride). Fritz decided the chandelier-swinging man could best be described as “exuberant” so he turned to those pages of the book and found plenty of examples of all three dress ups listed above—he settled on “high-spirited,” “reveled,” and “overzealously.”  The final word was chosen because Fritz decided the chandelier came crashing down when the man swung too hard.  The catastrophe caused the women who’d been watching to get very angry.  Of course Fritz’s next task was to turn to the anger section to find appropriate words to describe her thoughts and actions.  This idea of a thematic thesaurus is so helpful for my struggling writer because even if he looked up “angry” in a regular thesaurus it wouldn’t help him find words to describe how an angry person spoke or moved. 
In addition to words for various character traits, there is a section on descriptive words (color, size, texture, etc.) and a section on movement and the senses.  Fritz referred to this final section to find suitable replacement for words that have been banned (go/went, say/said, think/thought).  I think the descriptive section  will be a great help when we get back to writing essays and research papers.
IEW Review

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Review: Koru Naturals

I’ll confess right up front that you’ll never catch me in the cosmetics aisle of the drug store—make up and hair styling products just aren’t my thing.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t try to look my best, I’d just feel more comfortable with the face and hair that God gave me.  And I want the products I use on that face and hair to come from God’s creation rather than a chemical laboratory. That’s why I’m so thrilled with      Koru Naturals and the latest products I’ve received.

  The company’s name is based on the Maori word for a new, unfurling fern frond (what some may know as a fiddlehead). It symbolizes new life, growth, strength and peace to that New Zealand aboriginal culture.  This single word reflects not only the origin of many of the company’s products, but their purpose as well.  Since 2002, Koru Naturals has been offering products to protect skin and promote good health.  In addition, all the company’s suppliers certify that there is no animal testing with the products.

  The Skin Clear Cream comes in a 4 oz. plastic tub with a screw on lid, about 3 1/2 inches wide and 1 1/2 inches tall.  There is a secondary lid inside that keeps the product from messing up the screw cap and holds a small plastic paddle (so you can remove the product without introducing your own body oils, etc.) The key ingredients are Manuka honey, manuka oil, and kawakawa. Please Note: Manuka oil is not recommended for pregnant women due to its spasmolytic properties.  I applied a dime to nickel-sized dollop of crème to my washed face when I wake up and just before bed. The crème absorbs quickly and has a subtle, refreshing scent (no perfumes, just the ingredients).  I have two competing concerns—my nearly 50 year old skin is drying out and I can see signs of crows feet, and yet my nose, cheeks, and chin still have oily blackheads.  The Skin Clear Creme is really helping both issues.  After a month, my black heads are nearly gone and my nose doesn’t feel as oily, but the rest of my face doesn’t feel dried out either.  I can hardly tell I’ve made a dent in the container so I know it will last a long time.  I’m anxious to see how it keeps my skin moisturized as we head into dry skin season. 

I let my son use the Manuka Honey Propolis Soap for his almost-a-teenager/developing acne face. The roughly 4 oz. cake of soap started out being about 3 inches across and 1 inch high.  Honey and propolis are both produced by bees and a known for their antibacterial properties.  I had my son wash his face with the soap nightly.  It seems to be keeping the small whiteheads that form around his hairline in check.  My son is very fair with sensitive skin, but this soap never bothered him.  The soap itself doesn’t seem to be disintegrating into goo the way some natural soaps do either.
Our final product was Argan Oil and Sandalwood Hair Tonic. It comes in a metal bottle (about 4 inches high, excluding the pump top). The metal is important to keep the bergamot essential oil out of sunlight (it’s probably even wise to stay out of the sunlight for an hour after you apply it).   I have naturally curly hair which can quickly turn frizzy when I step outdoors.  It also get quite tangled and hard to comb through by the end of the day.  Hair Tonic to the rescue! I’ve applied a pump’s worth to my towel-dried hair and kept the frizz in control.  Sometimes at day’s end I’ll get 1 or 2 drops (not even a full pump), rub it on my fingers, and run my fingers through my hair before attempting to comb it—and it seems to help.
While researching this product, I read that Koru Naturals suggests it can be used in aromatherapy.  Both the sandalwood and bergamot have sedative properties and helichrysum is a nervine (meaning it strengthens the nervous system and can help reduce anxiety or stress).  My son has terrible troubles unwinding at the end of the day and falling asleep so I tried applying some tonic on the soles of his feet.  It didn’t seem to make a difference—that may be because the Australian sandalwood in not as beneficial as the Indian variety.  I will keep using the tonic on my hair though.
Koru Naturals Review

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