Thursday, April 30, 2009

Famous Men of the Modern Ages

I received the "Famous Men of the Modern Ages" from Memoria Press. I have other versions of the "Famous Men" series (Greece and Rome) and love how they bring history to life by bringing the people of that time period to life. Memoria Press takes their text even further with beautiful illustrations to compliment the written stories.

Famous Men of the Modern Ages starts after the fall of Constantinople with Lorenzo the Magnificent. Here is a direct link to the table of contents. I love these books because I have many gaps in my own knowledge of history. It was really sad how many of these famous men-- from only the last 500 years-- I knew nothing about. Some I remember memorizing, probably along with a date that I have long since forgotten. This book has interesting details about each person that make history more interesting.

Memoria Press also has student and teacher guides to go along with the text. The guides turn an interesting book into a year long study of the given time period. There are 33 lessons and 6 review lessons. They include quotes, vocabulary, comprehension questions, and activities, like timelines and mapwork. The teacher guide is the same as the student guide, but with the answers filled in. The Famous Men of the Modern Ages text is $16.95 and each of guides are $17.95 or you can buy the set of all 3 books for $39.95. My son is in 3rd grade and dislikes writing, so we did many of the comprehension questions orally. His favorite way to use the book was for both of us to read the text silently, then "have a contest" to see if he knew the answers better than I did.

If you are a classical homeschooler or would like an enjoyable way to fill in the gaps in your own knowledge, The Famous Men books are a great starting point. I think anyone would benefit from the text. I would not consider it a complete history curriculum, but it is far more interesting than any of the history texts I had in school and I expect my son will retain more from this book and study guide than I did from the "complete" curriculums to which I was exposed.

Memoria Press Latin

Salvete, amici Latinae.

I can read that now! And I know what it says! Latin was always something I thought would be good to teach the kids, (because smart people know Latin, right?). However, since I had no background or experience, I was apprehensive and probably never would have gotten around to it. Latina Christiana I by Memoria Press has taken away the fear. I received not only the student and teacher guides, but the Instructional DVD's that go through each lesson in the books. The DVD's are directed to the student and my kids enjoyed watching them. All of the kids sat and watched and I was surprised how much even the little ones picked up. We have taken it slowly, repeating rules and lessons until it is understood.

It has been nice to just sit and learn along with the kids. I did have a little bit of Spanish in college which has helped with understanding the grammar and helped me pick up on some things faster, but I think you would be fine without any foreign language background. The teacher book seems well laid out, and could probably be used without the DVD's, but for me the DVD's have changed Latin from a fearful subject to an enjoyable one. I have used the teacher's guide more as a supplement than as the main resource.

Memoria Press has many other interesting items, and different members of the Crew reviewed different items, so check out what my fellow crewmates had to say here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Noticer by Andy Andrews

This book is A MUST READ!!! It is one of the best books I've ever read, and I read a lot. This book is based on an amazing true story and has the potential to change your life!

The story follows an old man, Jones, not Mr. Jones, just Jones, who manages to show up in Orange Beach, Alabama just when someone's world is falling apart. He gently shares his wisdom and perspective and changes the struggle into a moment of growth. I kept thinking this is how the Three Nephites from the Book of Mormon or the Apostle John would minister while they waited for the Savior's return.

It has the qualities of a classic and I know I will read it over and over again, especially at those times when I'm discouraged or worn down by life's trials. I was immediately drawn into the story and couldn't put it down. There are so many gems of truth and wisdom in the pages of this book. Andy Andrews makes you feel like you are living the story along with him. I have already recommended it to many friends and will be buying more copies as gifts.

Molly's Money-Saving Digest for May

Molly's digest is known for money saving hints and tips, but my favorite part of the May digest are the reflections on mothers. It's the little things that matter most and the examples we set for our children that will be remembered far longer than the academics we teach them. As Mother's Day approaches, it's easy to see the things we don't do "right" and to focus on the mom we wish we were instead of the mom we are. This reminded me that it's who I am that matters more than what I do.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tapestry of Grace

Tapestry of Grace is one of those curriculum's that I have heard mentioned and raved about often. It is a literature-based history (and more) curriculum that cycles through a 4 year rotation with different assignments and books for children of various ages. The advantage, especially for a large family, is that all of your children can be studying the same time periods at the same time, but working at their own levels.

This program is overwhelming at first. There is just SO much there. I found it to be VERY mom-intensive, at least at first, but there are quite a few supporting resources and groups to help figure it out. I would recommend that you download and try one of the samples programs on the Tapestry of Grace website. You can try the first 3 weeks of Eygpt or Journey to the New World for free. I think in 3 weeks you will be able to get a feel of the program and if it will work for your family. Be prepared to spend some time figuring it out before you present it to your children.

My oldest child is 8, and the program didn't work very well for us at this time. He was the only one who could really do the curriculum. However, I will put this program on the back burner to reconsider down the road when I have several different ages to homeschool, I can see how beneficial it could be then. I would recommend this program for large families, especially those who homeschool using Classical methods. I would wait to start until your oldest child is 11 or 12.

I received the DE (digital edition) to review, and I would consider buying the print version as well unless you have an inexpensive printing option at home. I am a hands on person and had some trouble navigating to where I wanted to be in the DE. I also didn't like feeling chained to the computer and ended up printing out quite a bit on my own. I liked most of the recommended books and my son thought they were interesting, although some were hard to find through interlibrary loan. You can look over the recommended books for each level before buying the curriculum. Buying all of the books does increase the cost of the curriculum, but if you are using it with multiple children and repeating the cycle later with the younger ones, the cost is reduced.

The DE curriculum itself costs $45 per nine-week unit, or $170 for one year. You can buy printed versions as well for an additional printing charge. One big negative for me is that the curriculum cannot be resold. The policy stated on the website is as follows:

"When you buy Tapestry of Grace DE, you are not buying a copy of the curriculum. You are buying software which grants you the permanent right to use (and print) copies of the curriculum for your family's personal use. LockLizard is controlled by a computer-specific license that you purchase.

Thus, DE products are non-resalable and non-returnable, so it's important for you to read the EULA and play with our Samples before you buy. For no additional charge, network licenses are also available should you desire to have Tapestry DE running on several computers in your home."

I also recieved the lapbook for the Unit I reviewed and it seemed well put together and was easy to use. I see it as a way to better involve your younger children in what they are learning.

If you are LDS, I have written a separate post on Tapestry of Grace presents LDS doctrines here.

You can read reviews by other TOS Homeschool Crew members here.

Tapestry of Grace and LDS doctrine

I have previously considered Tapestry of Grace as an option for my family, but could not find any information about how it dealt with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), my religion. When I was given the option of choosing a unit to review, I deliberately chose Year 3, Unit 3, which covers 1825-1850, the time when the LDS church was restored. I went carefully through this unit and asked other reviewers to check theirs, and found nothing that prevent me from using this curriculum with my family. The LDS church is only covered in a 3 week study of the Mormons at the Rhetoric, or oldest, level of the curriculum. I would probably substitute LDS written church history books for one lesson is this unit and possibly expand it to cover LDS history more completely during this time period, although most LDS youth will probably already be quite familiar with those events by that age.

While the LDS church is presented fairly, Tapestry of Grace does include phrases like "Joseph Smith CLAIMED he saw" and discussions about polygomy with typical misconceptions. One activity has the student basically go through the Articles of Faith and evaluate each statement based on what the Bible says. I feel this would be a valuable activity for Rhetoric aged students to examine how other churches perceive our beliefs and to learn how to defend them.

My complete review of Tapestry of Grace as a curriculum can be found here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

His Name is Jesus by Max Lucado

Max Lucado has a gift for bringing the gospel to life! "His Name is Jesus" takes you on a stroll through the Saviors life, with stories taken from the scriptures, poetry, and commentary. My first reaction when opening this book was WOW!!! It is a beautiful, gift quality book, with a hard-cover slipcase for protection. The artwork and images of nature are a wonderful compliment to the text and bring a peaceful feel to the book. The text is inspiring and thought-provoking, a compilation of Lucado's past writings and new reflections on the Savior's life. There were several times I was tempted to reach for a highlighter or add notes in the margin, but felt the book was too nice to "mark up."

This book was a nice starting point for my bible study and devotional time each day as I reflected on a few pages and read the associated scriptures and cross-referenced them with my King James version. I plan to read through this book with my children, one story or segment at a time, and would recommend it to others.

I am a part of Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Blogger program. You can get more information here.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

WriteShop Primary Book A

My boys struggle with writing, so I was excited to review WriteShop's new Primary Book, Level A. I reviewed WriteShop StoryBuilder cards here and my boys have continued to enjoy them.

Level A is geared for K-2nd grade with 2 more books coming soon that will extend the program through 3rd grade. It assumes you will be doing much of the physical writing for your child. I found the book to be very adaptable and have been using it with 3 of my children.

Jeanisha is an advanced 4 year old, working at a PreK or Kindergarten level. As written, with mom doing most of the handwriting, the program is great for her. The reproducible worksheets (that you buy separately) are probably closest to her level, but I didn't find them very useful. They are fine as a supplement, but I wouldn't consider them essential to the program, especially if you are using other handwriting or phonics program that involve writing. We are following the three-week schedule per lesson for her.

The 2nd child I used it with is Tyler, who is working at a solid 1st grade level. We would do the activities as outlined and then I would have him copy his story from my handwriting into his. We are following the two-week schedule for him that will cover Book A is 20 weeks.

Ryan is in third grade and is older than the program is geared toward, however, he is not a strong writer and is benefitting from the program as well. We are moving at a faster pace, about one week per lesson. I am requiring him to do all of the handwriting. He is also extending the guided writing activities by adding 2-3 additional sentences that are related to the topic.

WriteShop Primary Book A sells for $26.95. The recommended reproducible worksheets sale for $4.95. Both are also available as an e-book for slightly less, plus no shipping. You can see a full sample lesson which should give you a pretty good idea of how the program works.

You can also read other crew member reviews here.

Apologia Science

I was sent Apologia Science Exploring Creation Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day, an incredible science program for elementary-aged kids. Flying Creatures covers Animal Classification, Birds, Insects, and Bats.

This book is BEAUTIFUL. The book itself is a large, 240 page hardback. The pictures are wonderful, the text is clear, interesting, easy-to-follow, and engaging. When it first arrived my husband picked it up and spent the evening just browsing through it. Flying Creatures doesn't have the dryness that is often found in textbooks. It reads more like an interesting, non-fiction book. It is interspersed with just about the right number of activities and experiments, most of which only require things I have on hand or can collect easily. There are also notebook activities and activities for older students at the end of each chapter.

It is written clearly enough for my 6 year old to understand as we work through it together, or for my 8 year old to "pick-up-and-go" without much mom support. I like how it uses real scientific vocabulary, with pronunciations where needed. Ryan (8) likes all of the specific examples. He loves sharing what he read and learned each day and tends to read much more than I've assigned just because it is interesting. Often when I would read part to Tyler (6), he would say, "I already know that, Ryan told me." In fact, most of the time, Ryan would tell the whole family! This is one that I expect will be read numerous times at our house!

There are wonderful, on-line supports and resources for the Elementary Apologia books as well. There are lapbooks, schedules, and resource additional links. Each book has plenty of material for a full year science curriculum.

This series is one we will be continuing with and I can't wait to order the other books. Each textbook costs $35.00 and is made for independent study, so there is no additional teacher text needed. In addition to Flying Creatures, Apologia has elementary level books for Astronomy, Botany, Swimming Creatures, and Land Animals. Two more books, Anatomy and Physics and Chemistry are due out this summer. You can read more about the author, Jeannie Fulbright on her website here. I think you will be impressed.

If you want to learn more about Apologia's upper level courses, click here to see what the other crew members have to say.