For the last couple of years, The Old Schoolhouse magazine has offered a free digital download of their Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays issue for anyone and everyone to enjoy.
This year's free download is full of 176 pages of beautiful photos, articles, and recipes. Most of you probably know this already, but this is the magazine for which I work, as a member of the TOS Crew, a group of parents who educate their children at home and use and review curricula and home education products on their own personal blogs and websites.
The link for the FREE download for the TOS 2010 Holiday Supplement is HERE.
While I can't place the articles and recipes here for you on my website, I can provide you with a list of articles and recipes. I think you will be very pleased with this beautiful magazine issue this autumn!
Holiday Ideas and Crafts
Home Education Articles
I hope you will be able to take advantage of this beautiful Christmas and Thanksgiving issue and download it for yourself. I know that you will not be disappointed!
The number one academic concern I hear among other homeschooling parents is the frustration in teaching writing skills to their children. Sure, they can teach their children to read and spell and have nice handwriting, but how does a person go about teaching writing?
SAT Essays, job applications, scholarship essays, and more are on the minds of parents who educate their children at home.
I used to be a public school teacher, back in my pre-parenting days. I'm ashamed to admit that in my school district, at least for the elementary school, we didn't have a writing curriculum for our students. There were occasional bits and pieces woven in amongst our language arts curriculum, but a systematic methodology of teaching writing wasn't present.
Since writing came easier to me than some other academic subjects, and I hadn't been trained as a teacher how to teach writing skills, I felt lacking in this academic pursuit as well. Fortunately, I have had a number of years' experience in assisting with grading state writing assessments for the public schools, and the guidelines that are provided for that assessment can actually be used as a curriculum for teachers.
Even with that, however, I have felt inadequate to teach writing to my children. I've looked at a couple of writing programs, and one seemed far too complicated, too "structural" or formulaic, or too expensive. Another writing program appeals to me but is also expensive (for my own personal budget).
When I received The Write Foundation's curriculum to use with my children and review as a part of the TOS Crew, I was excited to see what TWF had to offer.
First, I corresponded with the author, Rebecca Celsor, at www.TheWriteFoundation.org. She helped me determine at which level to place my daughters, based on some writing samples of theirs which I emailed to her.
Even though my children could write in paragraph form, and they were capable of getting mostly correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar, she recommended that we use and review Level 2: Paragraphs.
Here are The Write Foundation's recommended age levels based on their own curriculum, with some additional information from their website:
*Suggested Age Levels
Level 1: Sentence to Paragraph Writing Ages 11 – 13
Level 2: Paragraph Writing Ages 12 – 15
Level 3: Essay Writing Ages 14 – 17
*Proper placement depends on the student’s maturity, writing experience, and interest in writing.
Start at the Sentence to Paragraph Writing Level 1:
*A common mistake is to assume that your child is a more accomplished writer than he really is, since he can write a paragraph(s) without run ons or incomplete sentences. Just because she can write a multi paragraph paper does not mean that she is a good writer.
The result is choosing a level of curriculum that is too difficult. Mastering the fundamental writing skills and techniques results in a more competent, confident writer who enjoys composition and does not shrink from later, more difficult assignments.
*Each level can easily be adapted to a 2 year format.
I want to share with you how this curriculum worked for our family, and then I'll provide some additional links for you if you would like to learn more about this curriculum.
First, The Write Foundation's curriculum has been used in a variety of home schooling co-ops, taught by the author, her daughter, and several other homeschooling parents. Thus, the wording and formatting of this is based more on a co-op setting rather than from a home educating family's point of view. This isn't a negative concern of mine, but there were a few aspects of the wording of the directions and setting up of a child's 3-ring binder that were more appropriate for a co-op or classroom setting than for an individual homeschooling family.
The introduction to the curriculum was lengthy, with a lot of details and information presented all at once. There weren't any visuals or diagrams to explain some of the concepts, so it was necessary for me to take extra time to read through this slowly to begin to gain a grasp on how the program worked. I finally chose to just dive in and start with it, even though I wasn't sure I understood everything in the directions. I've had more than one curriculum over the years that has been like this, and I find that it's just easier for me to jump in and begin, and then ask the author or others for advice if needed later on. The interesting thing is that with some of these curricula which have taken a little bit more brain power for me to learn, they have had the best results for my children! Because of that, I don't mind spending a bit more time learning a curriculum and working through its nuances.
Now that I've used this curriculum for a few weeks, any slowness I had with the introduction has disappeared (it may not have helped that I was fairly tired when initially reading through the Introduction late at night.) The author is merely providing the teacher or parent with a variety of excellent suggestions and resources all at once, to help the parent become a more thorough writing teacher to his or her children.
A helpful 5-day or 10-day schedule per lesson is provided, depending on the pace the parent wishes to work through the writing lessons. I found this to be very helpful.
The first lesson has children organizing their notebooks. A few of the notebook divider headings weren't absolutely necessary for home educating families, but the blessing of homeschooling is that we, as parents who know our children well, can adapt all curriculum to meet our own needs.
Level 2: Paragraphs encourages the use of an additional resource called Mind Benders, by Critical Thinking Company. I chose not to purchase Mind Benders for this review, because I already owned some Critical Thinking resources that are similar in nature.
The Write Foundation provides helpful checklists for the students. I liked these. Some examples of checklists I gave to my girls to use so far have been the "Paragraph Writing Checklist", which they add to week by week with each lesson, and the "No List", which contains a list of items they are not allowed to place in their writing during particular lessons. Children don't usually like "No Lists", but we found this to work well. My girls knew exactly what was expected; in the early lessons of Level 2: Paragraphs, they weren't to use quotations, exclamation points, colons, and a few other things. While my children are adequately able to use those items in their writing, not all children at their ages are, so this made sense to me.
We haven't been able to work through the entire book yet this year, as I've only had this curriculum for about six weeks. However, my girls have been enthusiastic about the lessons. They have enjoyed using a variety of colored highlighter pens to highlight different concepts and sentences on worksheets and in their own double-spaced, typed writing assignments. This has helped cement the main concepts into their framework of thinking about writing.
Brittany, my active, hands-on learner, told me this week, "Mom, do you know what I like best about The Write Foundation? It has some boring sentences and paragraphs, and we get to dress them up and make them sound really great!" Keep in mind that the "boring" sentences and paragraphs have been selected on purpose, so the students can embellish them.
While some of the beginning lessons in the material seemed like it would be too easy for my daughters, they still enjoyed them very much. Sure, they were already familiar with selecting descriptive adjectives when writing thank you notes or other writing, but they appreciated the lesson notes on writing poetry using descriptive adjectives, and they have enjoyed every piece of each lesson. I have been pleasantly surprised!
Though I won't be able to know for certain whether my children's writing will become formulaic until we work through this entire level of curriculum, I am hopeful that it won't. There seems to be quite the variety of lesson assignments and work to provide practice with the new concepts, and so far, my children's creativity hasn't been stifled. I also like the way that poetry and other writing forms are included and woven into The Write Foundation.
There has been one concern of mine in using Level 2: Paragraphs. Some of the directions aren't as clear to me with the lessons. Sometimes, I find that I am having difficulty figuring out which worksheet or teacher page to use with the girls, or where their finished pages should go in the divisions of their three-ringed binder. At other times, the girls haven't done an assignment exactly as it should have been done, because I couldn't easily tell from the directions exactly what the author meant.
To provide you with an example, in one assignment the girls were to write a block outline of how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The author was teaching the children how to write step-by-step directions in paragraph form. However, the worksheet used for this (at least the worksheet I thought we were supposed to use) didn't mention writing in block outline form, and it also assumed that I knew exactly what a block outline was. Since any instruction I had on writing block outlines goes back almost thirty years, and no example was provided, my girls wrote out complete and descriptive sentences for each line on the page. It turns out that they were supposed to write out very simple statements that were basic outlines. This would lead to teaching them about how to write something in outline form. However, I couldn't tell this from the directions until after the girls had completed this assignment. When I turned the page of the teacher's guide, it was there that I noticed that the girls had provided far too much information on their worksheet. Ah! Now I saw what they were supposed to do!
I've had several helpful conversations with the author of this program, and she didn't realize that the directions in a few places might not be as clear to the parent. She is very open to taking suggestions and answering people's questions.
In fact, to assist with this, she has recently started a brand new Yahoo group for her curriculum. While it is a young group, she is the moderator, and she is willing to answer people's questions. If you would like to chat with her via that group, to find out if this curriculum would be a good fit for your family, or to ask questions if you already own this curriculum, you may find the Yahoo group and join it at:
The Write Foundation Yahoo Group
or at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/thewritefoundation/
Overall, I do like this curriculum. I enjoy hearing and seeing my children's reactions from the assignments; enthusiasm is always a great thing when it comes to teaching writing skills! We are planning to work through the remainder of the lessons in Level 2 this school year. If I like the results I see at the end of the level, which I suspect that I will, we'll go ahead and order Level 3: Essays for either next year or in a couple of years.
Below, you will find some links to helpful information on The Write Foundation's website:
PDF Introduction to The Write Foundation
Samples of The Write Foundation lessons
If you need to order additional worksheet packets for a co-op situation, they can be ordered separately here.
Order or preview prices for Level 1: Sentences here.
Order or preview prices for Level 2: Paragraphs here.
Order or preview prices for Level 3: Essays here.
You may also want to read other reviews about The Write Foundation's curriculum at the TOS Crew website. Click on the "TOS Homeschool Crew" button, below, for the specific link to this curriculum review:
Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, The Write Foundation provided me with Level 2: Paragraphs free of charge for the purpose of using this in our home and providing them with a review. No other compensation was provided.
I'll be the first to admit that I don't know everything, but I was surprised to learn this week about a fruit that was brand new to me, that can grow in our area, although it isn't native to my state: the Pawpaw.
Have you heard of the Pawpaw?
I had taken the girls down to a friend's home, about 40 minutes south of us, to ride horses. While the girls were out and about with their older friend, she introduced Kelsi and Brittany to the Pawpaw fruit tree in their yard or field.
The girls came in and told me that their friend had given them a bag to bring home several more Pawpaw fruits. I asked what they tasted like, as I had never heard of this fruit. The girls told me it tasted like vanilla custard. Well, that sounded appealing to me!
Of course, I wanted to taste this special fruit, but I wasn't hungry earlier this evening when Kelsi cut up the fruit and served it into little dishes for us. I tried mine a few minutes ago, after it had been chilled, and guess what? It does taste very similar to vanilla pudding! It was delicious. Yum!
Then, of course, I wanted to learn a little bit more about the Pawpaw fruit. Here's what I learned, thanks to the internet and Wikipedia:
Even though some people may think the Pawpaw is related to the papaya, it is not.
The Pawpaw is native to North America, and it is the largest indiginous fruit on the continent.
Northern species of the Pawpaw are deciduous, while southern species are often evergreen.
The Pawpaw has more protein than most fruits.
The Pawpaw ripens quickly after being picked, so it's best to freeze, dehydrate it, or turn it into jam if you have an abundance of this fruit that you cannot eat before it spoils.
The pawpaw bears its fruit in September and October, in general.
The pawpaw is becoming more popular among organic growers, because it has few to no pests, so no pesticides are required; also, it is a low maintenance plant.
The pulp is used primarily in baked dessert recipes and for juicing for fresh pawpaw drink or drink mixtures (pawpaw, pineapple, banana, lime, lemon and orange tea mix). The pulp can also be made into a country wine. In many recipes calling for bananas, pawpaw can be used instead.
Chilled pawpaw fruit was a favorite dessert of George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson planted it at Monticello.
Have you ever eaten pawpaw fruit? What did you think of it?
First, I'd like to let you know up front that this product review is not because Kodak contacted me about promoting or reviewing their video camera, the Kodak PlaySport Digital Video Camera. While I often share product reviews with you after receiving a product from a company, sometimes I just like to share my own experiences with a particular product. This is one of those reviews...where I didn't receive any product from Kodak in order to help write this review.
My younger daughter, Brittany, has wanted to buy a video camera for a long time now, for at least a couple of years. Since my husband and I don't normally buy the girls toys or items on their "wish list" except for a couple of things at Christmas or their birthdays (which are within six weeks of each other), the girls have always had to earn and save their own money for the joyous luxuries of life that they want.
After Brittany held several homemade cookie/lemonade stands in our neighborhood and saved other money that she had earned over a period of six months, she finally had almost enough to purchase the video camera. Because saving money has never been her forté, we rewarded her with the extra $14 she needed for the camera after saving $100 over a long period of time.
For about a year, the video camera she has wanted to purchase has been the Flip Ultra HD. She has used a friend's Flip camera several times in the past, and she liked its ease of use and flexibility, as well as its size.
One night, I stayed up late and researched video cameras. I had taken information from Consumer Reports magazine from our local library as well as several other online sources. I was a bit concerned about spending so much money on the Flip, as it had no optical image stabilization nor optical zoom. I was leaning more toward a bigger video camera that was going to cost considerably more, around $225-$250, but seemed to have much better zooming, focusing, and image stabilization. However, I knew that she would be very unhappy to hear that she might need to wait another year or so to continue saving enough money to purchase a video camera.
Then, I had a grand idea...and stayed up until well past midnight to do some more online research on YouTube. YouTube? Well, it turns out that lots of people have purchased video cameras or received them as a review product, and then have posted videos made with those video cameras on YouTube for everyone to see. All I had to do was do a search for "Flip Ultra HD" cameras or any other video cameras I was interested in seeing their film quality.
This was very eye-opening! I highly recommend that if you are in the market for a video camera, you choose several different video cameras you would like to learn about, and then search YouTube to view actual footage filmed on those cameras. It was apparent after watching 8-10 Flip Ultra HD video clips for the newest releases of video that the Flip had a lot of difficulty focusing quickly from one thing to another. In fact, it seemed like maybe my glasses weren't working well...everything was just ever so slightly blurry all the time and not sharp and clear as I would expect HD video to be.
Of course, I realize that we are talking about video cameras which are under $150, so what can you expect? Well, after looking at some video camera reviews on YouTube where reviewers were doing some great work placing three different small video cameras on one tripod and then comparing the various attributes of the different video cameras, I quickly made a decision on which video camera I thought Brittany should purchase:
...the Kodak PlaySport Zx3 Waterproof Digital Video Camera!
There are several things about the Kodak PlaySport which impress me. First, its case is not slippery for a child to hold. It is easy to grasp and hold well.
Second, its HD picture quality is pretty amazing for a camera at this price range! Seriously. I am still surprised at the excellent footage it takes around the house. We hope to venture outside with it soon! Yes, it will be grainy in low light conditions; even some $500 video cameras experience the same problem. We expected that. But in medium light conditions, inside, it does well enough for our family.
Third, this digital video camera is waterproof, up to 10 feet. While Brittany would love to submerge it into a swimming pool and take some video footage with it that way, just to say she has done it, I'm encouraging her not to do this. However, it is great to know that if she accidentally drops it into water, or it is exposed to the rainy weather, it will still work and function, as long as every cover is firmly closed (battery case, etc.).
I did notice that the Sony Bloggie video camera (in a similar price range) had a better microphone, but it didn't focus as well, nor were its colors as true as it filmed.
One of the drawbacks of the Kodak PlaySport is that it uses ArcSoft software to download the movies to the computer, and this is more of a proprietary software. However, I'm including some YouTube videos here on my website which show how to convert the files to fit with Windows Movie Maker, MP4, or other software, so check that out if you are interested. A quick search of YouTube or the internet will provide you with most of what you would need to know to work with and use ArcSoft. So far, Brittany actually thinks that it is easier to use ArcSoft's software than Windows Movie Maker, but we've only had the video camera for a couple of days now.
The Kodak PlaySport comes in three colors: purple, blue, and black. As you can see from the photo at the top of this page, the PlaySport's viewing side is white and black, as it is on all three color choices of this camera. If you purchase this video camera, it will come with the following in the box:
I recommend the following accessories for your video camera:
1. Neck strap. Remove the wrist strap and immediately place a neck strap onto this camera. It is lightweight as are all of the pocket video cameras, and it can easily be dropped. A neck strap will prevent damage from easily occurring.
2. Class 6 High Speed SDHC Memory Card. While you can use a Class 4 card, it is recommended that you use a Class 6. An 8 GB card will allow longer video footage storage. And, well, we needed two of these because my older daughter decided to use some of her saved money to buy a video camera, too!
3. Extra rechargeable battery and battery charger. Because the battery life on the Kodak PlaySport is only about one hour at its highest resolution and maybe 90 minutes at its lowest resolution, we decided to take the plunge and purchase an extra rechargeable battery and charger. This way, we could more easily record a lengthier event without running out of batteries.
4. Heavy-duty video camera storage case. We decided to wait to purchase cases for the girls' cameras until they arrived and we could try them out in stores to make certain they have the right fit.
5. Tripod. I can't recommend any one tripod yet, as we haven't purchased one, but you can find tripods in many stores in your local area for as little as $10. We hope to purchase one soon.
6. Remote. We aren't sure if we will purchase a remote or not. We don't really see a need for it right now, but it may be something we'll consider in the future.
I am pleased with the HD quality of the video footage, especially for a pocket camera.
What kind of video camera do you use? Have you been happy with yours? This is our first video camera...ever!
Spread a layer of tortilla rounds or chips on an oven-proof platter or a baking pan with sides. In a separate bowl, combine cheese sauce, chiles, and chicken together. Spoon chicken mixture onto chips. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes or until hot but barely golden brown. Mix tomatoes and salsa together. Spoon tomato mixture onto hot chips and sprinkle with onions, if desired. Serve immediately onto warmed plates as this cools down very quickly. This is a much-requested dinner that we have at least once a month!
Our cultural focus this week in the Latin classes that I teach was on trade and commerce during the height of the Roman Empire. While preparing for the class ahead of time, I learned that one of the keys to Rome's success was in managing the storage, pricing, shipment, and growth of grains throughout the empire.
If one particular region of the Roman Empire didn't have the best of growing conditions for grains, then the grains would be shipped in from regions which had better farmland. After all, soldiers and government officials must still be fed, correct?
Often, grains would be shipped hundreds, if not thousands, of miles depending on where the needs were greatest. In order to stave off riots of the lower class, the Roman Empire provided free grain rations to the poorest in society, thus making certain that even the poorest would have the most humble and basic of foods for themselves.
The harvest, storage, and shipment of grains was a huge responsibility. I began to gain a sense of why Joseph in the Old Testament had such a huge responsibility when the Jews came to live in Egypt during the long drought. No wonder he was named the #2 man in the kingdom!
In order to make this lesson a bit more "hands on", I got out 10 containers of grains and basic ingredients from my pantry to display. I hid their true names and numbered them #1 - #10.
I displayed them in one line on a table, along with a sign that indicated the 10 ingredients at which they were looking, although the list was not in order.
Here is the list of ingredients. See if you can match the correct ingredient with its jar in the photo. Some of them are easier than others!
Okay, now. No peeking at the answers until you've made your guesses!
Click on the small jars for the answers:
How many of these did you guess correctly?
Some of my students thought that this would be very easy, but no one guessed them all correctly, and most of them missed more than a few!
I know we don't often think like this, but did you realize that your pantry (and mine) is filled with so many varieties of foods that we eat as well as the top upper class Romans did at the peak of the Roman Empire. We can easily have seafood, beef, pork, chicken, and all sorts of fruits and vegetables in the same week, compared to the middle class in the Roman Empire who still had their basics of bread and grains each day.
A similar activity can be done in your home or your classroom to show the merchant trade of spices. Simply wrap the bottles of spices in your home, and provide an opportunity for students to not only look at the variety of spices, but also smell the spices, and then attempt to choose the correct names for each bottle.
(This also works well for Columbus Day or studies of Christopher Columbus.)
Imagine you are living in a land where you only have the freedom to follow one state religion; where to follow another church or religion would mean death. Imagine that knowing a change in your religious status would end life as you know it, but you are still willing to seek the Truth, even if it means reading a forbidden book: the Bible.
Which None Can Shut is a fascinating look at what is happening in the Muslim world right now as all over the globe, the Lord God is revealing Himself to Muslims, through dreams and visions, through foreign neighbors who may have a Bible with them, and through other sources.
A couple of years ago, our family attended a missions conference that focused on working with the Muslim world. Amazing stories were related from various Christian pastors and missionaries from Muslim countries who were regularly having Muslims come to them, asking to study the Bible, without the Christians having to go seek those who were wanting to know the Truth.
Since that conference, I've wanted to know more about this recent change in some Muslim communities around the world. When I saw that Tyndale had recently published a book that described more about this new trend, I wanted to read and review it and share more about the book with you.
Which None Can Shut is "authored" by Reema Goode, although the author's real name has been changed to protect her life.
Kelsi and I both read this book, and we were fascinated at how easy it has been for this particular family to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with many Muslims. While they don't hand out tracts and go door-to-door or hold large rallies or anything like that, it is obvious that the Lord is at work even behind closed doors in many of these countries.
Which None Can Shut is not a lengthy, scholarly research manual. It is a 164-page narrative of numerous interactions between this missions-minded family and many Muslim families with which they have become acquainted. You will find some humorous stories here, and also many that are almost unbelievable. The Lord is opening many hearts within the Muslim world.
Which None Can Shut is a keeper. I'm not going to give this book away, nor donate to my church library (sorry, church family!). If you are interested in reading this book and you live locally, I might let you borrow it. It's a quick read, and fascinating. I just love reading about the miracles of the Lord, in our day and age!
Which None Can Shut is on my "highly recommended" list!
Disclosure: Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of sharing with you a review of it. No other compensation was provided.
My girls have wanted to learn more about how to play the game of chess, but I'm just not a strategy game type of person, and my husband does well with strategy, but chess is not his favorite game. So...Solitaire Chess has already been played numerous times by our girls in our home!
I really like the fact that Solitaire Chess enables the player to use up to 60 challenge cards to gain skills in the game of chess, without having to play against another player who may be far more experienced. This game can build a child's (or adult's) confidence independently, and I like that.
My girls were both excited to receive this game in the mail, although we did have a bit of a difficult time removing the 30 challenge cards from the nice storage drawer in the game set. The cards slid out after numerous shakes and pushing outward and downward on the cards, and once they were removed from their original packaging, we haven't had any difficulty with that since. Thankfully!
So, what did we think about Solitaire Chess? We loved it! We are enjoying playing this game, on our own, even if no one else in the family has the time right now to play a game with us. The girls are learning more about how to actually play chess, because each move that they make on the board must eliminate one of the other pieces. This is a puzzle that my girls can't resist!
As a mom, I like the fact that everything about this game seems to be sturdy and well-designed. It is compact, and would also work well on road trips or airplane flights. We look forward to playing it over and over again, even as a part of our school hours, because it will continue to build thinking skills.
I do recommend Solitaire Chess for families (or adults like me who admit that they don't do well with strategy games but would like to learn more). This would make an excellent birthday or Christmas gift for anyone from age 8 through adult.
Disclosure: I received a free game of Solitaire Chess in exchange for a frank and unbiased review. No other compensation was provided.
Hi! I'm Julieanne!