Friday, May 30, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: Progeny Press

Reading is certainly Gess' strong point. In fact we are at the point in our schooling where she is starting to learn about the literature itself instead of just focusing on did she remember what she read. While that is still very important to me, we are also trying to discover what we can learn from it. With Gess having Down syndrome that is sometimes a bit tricky, but products like Progeny Press make it easier for me.

We had our first experience with Progeny Press last year when we reviewed their Hall of Door's Book and Study Guide. This year we reviewed The Courage of Sarah Noble E-Guide.

What I love about the Progeny Press study guides is that they help you look at what you read with a biblical perspective. Taking a look at literature, whether Christian or secular, they examine the values and lessons in accordance with biblical teachings. It helps your child not only learn to examine what they read to gain a better understanding of it, but truly think and reason about whether that lesson is compatible with God's Word.

To properly go through the study you will need to have a dictionary, thesaurus, a bible, and a few other tools handy. For the guide they quote the NIV version of the bible but you may use whatever version you choose. The student then begins by reading through the entire book in the first week or so. They do have some pre-reading activities you can do before or as they start.

The Courage of Sarah Noble E-Guide is for grades K-3 but I would put the reading skill level closer to 3. I did have Gess read the book on her own first but I also had her read the chapter sections again before doing the questions. While reading through material twice isn't required, with Gess' special needs it helps her to read it more than once. Students are allowed to use their book while they answer the questions, in fact sometimes it is necessary.

The guide was divided up into segments which ranged from covering 2 to 3 chapters at time.  They always began with vocabulary words which is where the dictionary comes in handy. They were good about changing up how you studied the words each time. Sometimes you looked up and wrote the definition while other times you might have multiple choice options. Each week it was done differently which was nice. My favorite was where it had you try define it in your own words based upon the context in the story. Then you looked it up in the dictionary to see how you did. I was impressed that Gess guessed solemn fairly accurately as that was a new word to her. She must have liked it because she uses that word a lot now. Just the other day she told her dad he looked solemn.  Here are examples of how some of the vocabulary pages looked.

After the vocabulary section you answer questions in regard to the story. Some are trying to get the student to think about why the characters are reacting the way they do. You ponder what made them say a certain thing or think about how they might actually feel. Then you examine some of their thoughts and actions based upon Scripture.

For example in the book Sarah noble wants to go visit the Indian houses. Her father takes awhile to answer and finally says she can go to one house only. They point out how Sarah waited patiently for an answer and then ask what you think her reaction would have been if her father had said no. They use Scripture that tells us to honor our parents and ask in what ways Sarah had honored her father in this situation.

Due to Gess' special needs we would discuss these types of questions verbally. She still struggles with why questions. She thinks concretely and always wants to answer the question in that way. If the question was about what happened in the story, she could tell you.  Why it happened she did not know. Thats why I think these study guides are good for her, they are helping her to learn to start thinking about it.

The Courage of Sarah Noble E-Guide was not interactive like the unit I reviewed last time. I really thought the interactive guides were great, but both seem to have their benefits. Gess prefers typing her answers as you can do in the interactive one but it was easier doing the vocabulary sections without the computer.

At the end of the study there are extra activities to do and other suggested reading. In the story The Courage of Sarah Noble her father is building a log cabin for her family so one of the activities was making one out of pretzels and graham crackers. This was lots of fun. They recommended using icing or cheese spread to hold the pretzels in place. I chose a honey nut cream cheese spread for this. It turns out to have become a favorite snack around here. You will find both Gess and her daddy spreading this on a graham cracker and then top it with pretzels, not to make anything, but just to eat it! Here is the actual log cabin that Gess made.

The Courage of Sarah Noble E-Guide sells for $11.99 and since it is electronically delivered you have no shipping costs. They offer study guides for many books in all grades including high school. To learn more about this and their other great selections visit the Progeny Press website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about them by visiting on the banner below.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Clouds and Rainbows

My Gess loves science, but mostly she loves studying the weather.  Every time spring arrives she is fascinated with the storms that come with.  In April we had the opportunity to go to a storm spotter class. This information helps you be able to spot various types of storms, how to do so safely, and how to share that information with others.  It was a two hour class and Gess sat through it all.  Of course much of it was visual as there were tons of images and video clips used as examples.  Still, I was very proud of how well she did.

This last week we had a chance to spot one of those storms.  Thankfully, we haven't had any huge super cells pass by, but we have had a few small storms which has given us some much needed rain.  We managed to get some pictures the other day.  Here is the storm that passed by as we were heading into the store.

A few moments later, after we were safely inside, we were pounded with wind and hail.  But instead of a horrible aftermath of destruction, we were left with this gorgeous view!

While I am sure that Wal-Mart is NOT the end of the rainbow, the double rainbow view was so spectacular I couldn't help but pull over and take this photo!

Gess shot a few more photos out of our car window on the way home.  The ones below were taken by her.

A few days later we walked outside and the sky was brilliantly lit up, but only near the tree tops.

Then we saw another rainbow.  It was so beautiful.

Studying the weather is so much fun, especially when it turns into understanding and fully enjoying the world around you!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: What on Earth Can I DO?

By now you have to know that I am a huge fan of Apologia Educational Ministries.  I have reviewed several of their products and this time I get to tell you about the the final book in the What We Believe series: What on Earth Can I Do?

This worldview training series helps parents to teach their children how to use Scripture as the lens with which to view the world and the problems all around them. We all have a worldview that we use to make decisions and as Christians it is important that we go through life with a biblical perspective.

I have been quite pleased with the rest of the series so I was anxious to use this last one with my daughter who happens to have special needs.  In spite of having Down syndrome, these books have impacted her spiritual growth and she always looks forward to doing them. You can see how we did with Who Am I? and Who Is My Neighbor? by reading these past reviews.  I purchased Who Is God? separately because I wanted to complete the entire series.

For the purpose of my review I received the following items:

What on Earth Can I Do? Texbook $39.00
What On Earth Can I Do Notebooking Journal $24.00
What on Earth Can I Do? Junior Notebooking Journal $24.00
What on Earth Can I Do? Coloring Book $8.00

What on Earth Can I Do? is an elementary school curriculum for grades 1-6 that tackles the Biblical worldview of stewardship. While these studies do not need to be done in order this unit does build upon some of the previous concepts. It's main emphasis is how we all have a role in God's story. As we recognize His role as creator and owner of both heaven and earth we realize we simply act as managers of what He has given to us. We do not personally own anything. Whether it is our money, our talents, our environment, or our very lives the goal is to use it to bring glory and honor to God who is the One who truly owns it all.

The What on Earth Can I Do? Texbook is visually stunning inside and out which benefits my daughter who has special needs. It was colorful without being too distracting and the size of the book allowed the font to be read easily.

Each chapter is divided into various sections that all tie together to the theme. It begins by explaining the Big Idea which is the main topic of the chapter.  They try to use examples that are familiar to the student to help explain what it is like to be a part of God's story. For instance they may compare it to being an actor in a movie or use a sports analogy. They then share a fictional story that sometimes carries over to other lessons. In between sections you will find pages or areas with other relevant information as they further explain an item, historical event, or person who was mentioned in the lesson.

After the story they take you step by step through a lesson, using Scripture along with real life examples to teach you how to be a good steward.  There are vocabulary words to define, verses to memorize, questions to answer, and activities to complete in your journal. Each chapter ends with a parable of Jesus.  I think those were my favorite part.

The parables are told in a story format with additions made to the text to help the child better understand and relate to what is happening. The characters are given fictional names and more background is given to help explain what and why the characters would do the things explained the parable. For example in the parable of the talents you get to know the characters in the story. The master is given the name Judah and the servants are Shimon, Eliab and Avner. You see them interact with each other and follow them through the story.  You even get to see how they might have invested the money while the master is away. This money is in huge chests and as they begin to invest it you get a feel for just how much the money is worth.  At the end of the story when they hear that Avner hasn't invested his at all but rather buried it in the ground, the other servants are stunned. Shimon can't believe that Avener could be so blind to the master's true nature and how he didn't recognize the master's generosity and reputation for wisdom and integrity. That was something I had never thought of before. I thought the servant was lazy, foolish, and disobedient, but I never really thought of how that implies that he didn't really know his master. He was blind to the master's true character because he didn't know him. That was powerful to me.

I believe that by adding into the story facts and information to better understand the time and events behind the parable improves the lesson. In our adult world we would just explain how much gold that was and how investment of money worked in that time. Our imaginations and thoughts could take over from there. All those facts are likely to bore a young child, but when you wrap them up in a story they enjoy learning it. I do have to say that they did an excellent job of adding that in without taking away from the intent of the passage. It was done with great reverence, respect, and care. You are then directed to read the parable directly from Scripture and then answer questions related to it. I know that Gess learned much more by hearing the lesson in the book before reading it in Scripture because she could now relate to it better.

While I was blessed with both Notebooking Journals since I only had one student I only used one. For Gess we used the What on Earth Can I Do? Junior Notebooking Journal.

Like the book these are very beautiful and visually appealing. I love how the Junior Notebooking Journal allows for the child to express themselves without having to write too much. This is especially important to me because of my daughter's special needs. They have coloring pages as well as blank pages that they can draw or write on where the regular journal might have questions. The vocabulary words are fill in the blank while the other journal requires you to write the definition. The puzzles are also easier to do. Here is Gess doing one of the crossword puzzles.  Below that you can see the difference between what these are like for both the What On Earth Can I Do Notebooking Journal and the What on Earth Can I Do? Junior Notebooking Journal.

At the end of each chapter they have you make a mini book to help remember the theme of the lesson. These appear to be the same in each book. Here is Gess making the one for chapter three. It was a fan that folds out revealing lessons learned from the life of Joseph. They have you glue these books in your journal for safe keeping. In this instance you glue a holder for the fan so you can keep it there but remove it when you want to use it.

These activities were not just for fun. They really did tie into the lesson. I particularly loved how they encouraged you to give control of your life and all your "stuff" over to God. They even had you sign a document committing to do that. It was not just some activity to accomplish, it was a serious commitment. For us, this beautiful title transfer was not signed lightly. We discussed how important it was to keep this promise and assured Gess that both her father and I are endeavoring to do the same.

The What on Earth Can I Do? Coloring Book is also a nice a nice edition especially if you have younger children or a child who just likes to color.

We used the while I read the stories or information that went with them. Sometimes Gess read along in the book while other times she would color while I read. There is quite a bit of reading to do for younger students so the teacher will really need to read much of the lesson to them. A few of these coloring pages are also found in the Junior Notebooking Journal, but many of them are not. Some of the stories from the lesson were about World War II which we found exciting because we were studying that for history as well. Gess really enjoyed the true story about the Christmas Truce where Allied and German troops left the war for an evening and celebrated the holiday together.

While you can do the What We Believe series in any order What on Earth Can I Do? seemed to be on a higher reading level to me. Gess often asked for further explanation about things.  I had to constantly stop and define terms or explain events. I do realize it is difficult to tackle some issues in terms kids can comprehend, such as evolution verses creation. It might be that Gess is older and therefore more curious or it could be that since they did not have audio for this one and I did all the reading I just noticed it more. I did miss the audio and wished it had been available as we always used them. In either case it is an excellent book and the discussion it creates is extremely important. While Gess asked lots of questions she thoroughly enjoyed doing the study and is learning a lot.

As with any of the Apologia Educational Ministries products I have used, these come highly recommended by me.  They are well worth the price, doctrinally sound, beautifully presented, and enjoyable to use. To learn more about What on Earth Can I Do? visit the Apologia Educational Ministries website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about it by clicking on the banner below.

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Monday, May 26, 2014

The Pipe Organ

We recently reviewed Maestro's Classics again and in our study on Handel we learned about pipe organs.  I mentioned how that after my son's graduation we would be able to see an actual pipe organ. Now that we have returned I wanted to share a bit of the tour with you.  Here are the images I shared of the organ in the Maestro's Classics post.  It really is an amazing instrument.  It is at the bottom and the pipes are up above on the wall.

One of the neatest parts to me is the amount of air needed to play this organ.  Unlike our organ at church that is electric this works like a recorder in that air actually has to flow through the pipes. When they turned it on you could literally hear the air the moving in the other room. It was actually pretty loud.  Next Gess got to see, touch, and play the organ. Her brother is showing it how it is done.

Here she is learning that the pedals can actually play music too.

Then we got to actually hear it in action from someone who knows how to play it. It was wonderful to hear!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Congratulations to my Son!!

I have to take a moment to congratulate my son Timothy for graduation from Fort Hays State University!  I also have to add additional kudos for being accepted into grad school at Kansas State University to earn his masters degree in Drama Therapy.  I am so very proud of Tim having sacrificed and worked so hard to get there.  He is a first generation graduate.  I have an Associates of Art degree, but not a four year degree.  My parents didn't even have that.  It is wonderful to see each generation get just a bit further.  Here are some pictures from the graduation event.

Way to go Tim!! We are so proud of you son! I love you more than words can say!!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Special Olympics Round 2

We had another Special Olympic competition and Gess did much better this time around.  While the races were still full, except for the last one, and the girls pretty much evenly matched, Gess managed to medal in each event! Her first event was the 50 meter dash.  She was so excited to win the silver that she got up on the podium before anyone else!

Next was the softball throw.  She got the silver for this event as well.

She was anxious to get a gold and her dream came true as she came in first for the standing long jump.

I thought getting the gold would make her relax but my Gess has a huge competitive streak.  Even so, she really shocked me during the 100 meter dash when she just laid down on the track and quit because she noticed she was coming in last!  For this event there were only 3 girls remaining.  It was late and the day and some of the entries had left for home.  I had my camera all ready to start taking pictures and the next the thing I know she is lying down on the track upset!  I ditched the camera and tried to get her up, but she seemed determined to quit.  She even tried to go back to the beginning to "start over." Some gentleman finally came along and encouraged her to finish by following him.  I was so grateful for that.  She managed to calm down by the time they awarded the medals and did accept it with dignity.  To me it was her greatest moment.  Finishing when it was hard, knowing there was no hope of winning, that was the most important lesson of the day.  I hope that moment sticks with her!  Due to the emotion involved I have no photos of that.

I do, however, have some of her enjoying some down time!  She definitely has the beat!

We will not be going to state this year.  I just have too much going on to spend the time near.  We will get to it again someday.  For now, she gets these two events a year and I think they are enough for now.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

School's Out for the Summer...Or Not

Things are starting to slow down for our schooling now that May is here.  Because I am a part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew we will be continuing some lessons over the summer, but we will not be on a full day lesson plan.  I will only be working on review material as well as math.  Gess really needs help with math.  Our participation in the summer reading program really seems to be enough to keep her reviewed in all of her reading and English skills.

This weekend Gess' brother will be graduating from College.  We are so proud of him and we are all anxious to see him receive his Bachelor's degree.  The highest degree we have in our household is an Associates of Art so that is exciting.  He has two plans for continuing on with graduate school.  We should hear any day if he gets the one he most wants.  I am praying God will direct Him in all of that.

Gess' piano recital will be the following week.  This will be her second year.  I am told she will get to play three songs and even sing along with one of them! It's her favorite one titled "Party Cat."

This summer Gess will be going off to camp by herself for the first time ever.  If you have kept up with my blog you know that I usually accompany her to church camp as her sponsor.  This year, she has the opportunity to go to a camp that is strictly for people with special needs.  I am very excited, and a bit anxious but I have heard nothing but great things about it and know people who have relatives that absolutely love it!  There will be a one-to-one counselor and camper ratio which has also eased my nerves somewhat.  Gesserine however, is very excited about going without her parents!

One thing is for sure, while I will worry while Gess is away at camp, my husband and I will enjoy having the house all to ourselves for an entire week!!  Since Gess has been born that hasn't happened, EVER!   The most we were without kids was for a couple of days.  This will be relaxing, if I can get past the fact that my baby girl is somewhere in the world without anyone she knows!!

At church we will be holding a Sports Camp instead of Vacation Bible School.  I may have mentioned it last year but it happened the same week my new grand-baby was born so I missed most of it myself.  This time I should be there helping and hopefully will get a few pictures to share.  It will be a sad time for me as it will be Gess' last year to participate.  These things are for kids 4-12 years old and Gess will be 13 in October!  We have many milestones ahead!

Of course the rest of the summer will consist of lots of time spent at the pool among other fun outdoor adventures.  I will share those plus any educational activities we encounter.  It's a great time for field trips!

When school begins in the fall we will begin a new educational experience by participating in our local homeschool co-op.  I had been interested before but wasn't sure how much of a time investment it would take or how Gess would do.  We went to the open house last month and loved it.  I can't wait to begin. They meet twice a month which suits me just right.  I think weekly is way too much for me right now.

Well, that is what will be happening with us this summer.  What about you?  Will you be doing school?  Taking a break?  What trips and adventures do you have planned?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: Golden Prairie Press - History

History seems to be the hardest subject for Gess to understand.  Because she has Down syndrome she is very much a hands on learner and she just has trouble grasping things she hasn't seen or experienced.  While she is a great reader she only seems to enjoy books that talk about familiar things. In order to teach her history, I have to get really creative. Thankfully I was able to review a product that has done the creative work for me. Heroes & Heroines of the Past: American History Curriculum from Golden Prairie Press was written by homeschool graduate Amy Puetz.  She absolutely loves history and has presented history in a way that requires the use of all of your senses helping students to not only read about history but experience it as they see, hear, touch, smell, and taste it.

For the purpose of my review I received the Digital Heroes & Heroines of the Past: American History Curriculum. The digital version included:

Heroes & Heroines of the Past: American History Part 1 ebook
Heroes & Heroines of the Past: American History Part 2 ebook
Additional Materials Downloads
Historical Skits ebook
Sing Some History Downloads
Listen to Some US History Downloads

Digital Heroes & Heroines of the Past is for grades 1-6.  I love the way these books tell history through the men and women who actually lived it.  While not every lesson is strictly about a person, it really enhances the lesson by focusing on specific people that made history happen.  Many of the units are subdivided into a 1-2 grade reading and a 3-6 grade reading.  The first one of course is more of a brief summary of what the older students read.  I would often have Gess read the 1-2 grade page after we were done studying the 3-6 as a way to review.  The other lessons had only one reading for all grade levels.

At the end of each unit there are several assignments and activities to do. The teacher's guide does remind you that not all of them are necessary to complete.  It can be a bit overwhelming if you try to do them all.  I personally love that there were so many to choose from because I was always able to find activities my daughter who has special needs would enjoy doing.

We would always answer the questions following each unit.  Then we could choose from a variety of activities. This is where you really get your hands on the lesson.  Everything you need is included in the set or provided in the textbook with the exception of materials and ingredients needed for crafts and recipes.  The activities would include some of the following: Examining Historical Art, Games of the Past, Cook Up Some History, Sing Some History, Listen to Some History, Crafts, Experiments, Questions, Writing Topics, and Geography.

We started in the second book and jumped to the units on the World Wars. Our first lesson was on World War I which was originally called the Great War, because of course at the time there was not yet another World War from which to number it.  The first lesson explains the cause of the war and how the US ended up entering it.

As I mentioned before, not all the lessons are about the specific men and women of history. There is narration of the events taking place, but then you get to hear lessons about individual men and women or groups of them.  It particularly loved how women were included and how the stories were told in such an engaging and personable fashion.

The heroines of World War I were the Hello Girls.  I had never heard of them before!  These brave women refused to the leave the front lines in order to stay and help relay and translate phone messages from French to English and vice versa.  The heroes were men like Sergeant York who at first didn't want to fight because he thought it went against his Christian faith and then later took 132 German prisoners with only 8 men!  It was neat to not only read about him but listen to the reading of the official history of the eighty-second division. He truly was heroic.

The activities really helped the story come to life for Gess. We enjoyed exploring the art which for this section included many war time posters used to recruit both soldiers and support from civilians.  Gess was introduced to Uncle Sam for the first time exploring this poster.

Then came the hands on activities.  Gess loves baking and the Cook Up Some History had us baking a liberty cake.  Women were encouraged to support the war effort by conserving food for the soldiers.  They did this by cooking with as little wheat and sugar as possible.  A lady named Mary Elizabeth did her part in helping by writing a cookbook full of recipes that didn't use wheat or sugar!  They not only shared this recipe, but helped us modify it to use modern ingredients. Here is Gess making her liberty cake and yet another historic poster encouraging women to help the cause.

We also loved singing our history.  The song Over There was also new to Gess.  While I had heard it before all I remembered was the chorus.  Now we both know all the words.  While this particular song wasn't on the CD they did link to the file.  Some songs even have the sheet music enclosed.

Because Gess is the only child at home we never had the opportunity to do any historical skits.  I think larger families would find this addition a lot of fun.  We did use the time-lines from the Additional Materials Downloads.  I tried having Gess write down the dates for World War I.  Her handwriting is not very good though.  So for World War II I have her gluing the events in place instead.

History has to be one of the things Gess is least interested in.  Because of that I was really surprised when she started requesting it!  Last night as she was going to bed she asked if we would do history tomorrow for school. She really enjoyed the lessons that much.  Even if it was just sitting at the computer reading the stories she loved it.  For her, that speaks wonders.

I did notice that most of the extras were items that were available for free online to anyone.  However, I loved that it was all put together in one place.  They not only did an excellent job presenting the materials but they did all the research and gathered all the materials for you.  There was really not any prep work involved on my account, unless we had a hands on activity to do.  I loved that!

Digital Heroes & Heroines of the Past: American History Curriculum sells for $98.99 and includes everything I listed above. They also have a print edition for the same price as the ebook package but it is only in black and white while the digital pack is in color. There are a total of 150 lessons spanning history from life in America before the Columbus expedition to the presidency of Barack Obama.  This can be enough material for 1 to 2 years worth of learning depending on how quickly you go through material and it can also be used with all your students in grades 1-6. While will you need to supplement some items for the cooking, crafts, and experiments everything else you need is included in the package.

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