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Review of Science Shepherd's Biology

Science Shepherd Review

Wow. Everything I've seen from Science Shepherd is amazing, but Science Shepherd Biology is just Wow. There are some Biology texts that wow you with their glossy pages and their pretty pictures, but Science Shepherd Biology wows you with its *text*. One anecdote tells the whole story. Therese (14) was/is my reviewer for this curriculum. Her boyfriend (18) was over while she was doing Biology. He did a double take at her book and said, "*That's* Biology?! That wasn't in my Biology book." He was referring to all of the chemistry at the beginning of this book, presumably, but the point is well-taken. Too many Biology programs begin with cells, etc. and skip right over the chemistry associated with life itself, figuring, I guess, that students will pick that up in (obviously) Chemistry. It really makes more sense, though, to introduce it at the beginning of Biology. Does it make for a harder course? Yes, but does it make for a far more complete one? Also yes.

Science Shepherd Review

I've gotten ahead of myself. I received the following from Science Shepherd:
  • 750 page textbook
  • DVD with all 19 labs explained
  • 48 page test booklet with 15 tests
  • 241 page parent manual and answer key
  • Spiral bound lab manual
Because the parent manual has a day-by-day schedule, you really can jump right in the second you get this curriculum. Because it is a high school level course (really for 10th graders), you really can show the schedule to your student and let them be the master of their own destiny and do the course themselves! (There is even a built-in "catch up day" most weeks, which works great for most homeschooled teens I know who have a ton of extracurricular activities that take a lot of time!).

As you can see from the Scope and Sequence of this course, it really covers a lot of material. In fact, it goes beyond many regular Bio courses and veers into Bio 2 or Anatomy and Physiology territory. My husband, whose degree is in Biology and who TA'd it all through college, was exceptionally impressed with this curriculum and all it covered. I have shown him many Biology curricula over the past few years, and this is the one that has impressed him the most. 


Now, this is a Biology course, so you will need certain lab supplies, like a microscope. Science Shepherd tells you exactly what you need here, and suggests where you can buy your supplies. Because Therese has dabbled in Biology before, we already have a top of the line microscope and all necessary supplies for labs (with the exception of dissectible specimens. We'll get those on an as-needed basis.). As with all things homeschool, shop around for the best prices, but don't skimp on lab equipment! Biology is a lab science, and you'll want to make sure you get the most out of the labs, which, thanks to the DVD, are presented for you Powerpoint-style (as a sort of intro to the lab and an explanation of key points). It's the best way to mimic a school environment where a teacher explains the upcoming lab. In some things, mimicking a school environment is desirable, and this is one of them.

The textbook is no-frills and feels quite dense, but it is written at the level it says it is. I wouldn't give it to a middle schooler, though! There is a lot of writing on each page, so keep that in mind if you have the kind of kid who reacts negatively to that. (You're not going to find a high school Biology curriculum worth its salt that doesn't, though!)


The Parent Manual has the schedule and answers to everything to which you would need answers. That's not so important for my husband, who actually knows all this stuff, but it's HUGELY important to me -- who, well, doesn't!

How We Used It

Therese (14) had started Biology at the beginning of the school year with an online program, but two things happened. First, she got sick (Mycoplasma infection). For months. She lost the entire fall semester. Then she discovered that she really doesn't like online video instruction. She infinitely prefers traditional textbook learning. I actually expected her to protest this curriculum, but she was really excited to see it. She agreed that in order to receive full credit for Biology she needed to start over. It made her feel better that this was technically a 10th grade course since she is a rising 10th grader (with some leftover 9th grade work that she is working to complete). 

Therese reads the chapter while taking notes by hand. She also answers the study questions by hand.


For the end-of-chapter study questions, though, she types out the answers on the computer with the idea that she will end up with a complete study guide at the end of the course that she can refer back to in the future. It also makes an excellent study guide for the tests.


There is no doubt that this material is challenging, but I love that. Because of her illness, Therese will only end up with three years of high school lab science, so I want to make sure that we make all of them count. We are off to a great start with Science Shepherd's Biology. In fact, I have been so impressed with it that I am pretty sure that I will be ordering their Middle School Life Science curriculum for my three younger kids (will be 2 6th graders and an 8th grader) in the fall. It is my devout hope that there is a high school Chemistry curriculum in the works!

Science Shepherd also had the Crew reviewing their Introductory Science curriculum, which looks like a lot of fun, so while I know you'll read other reviews anyway, definitely click that banner if you have kids ages 6-11!

Science Shepherd Review
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Dance Pics

Every two years, Henry takes the pictures at the girls' dance studio. The process is both a lot of work and a lot of fun. We get to see all the recital costumes in advance, which is a ton of fun. We get to deal with really grateful parents, which is fun. We get to deal with other parents, which is not. Here is a quick behind-the-scenes look at the process:




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Review of Memoria Press's Traditional Logic Set 1 Complete Set

Logic, Greek Myths and Astronomy Memoria Press Review
I love reviewing products from new companies; undiscovered gems are one of the huge perks of being on the Crew. I must confess, though, that nothing compares to the thrill of seeing homeschool giants like Memoria Press come up for review. They never disappoint, so it's no surprise that Traditional Logic Set 1 Complete Set is another winner.
Logic, Greek Myths and Astronomy Memoria Press Review
Like all sets from Memoria Press, this one comes with everything you'll need to teach this set to your child (really, like all sets from Memoria Press, this course basically teaches itself to your child). Included in the set ($75.00) are the following:
  • DVD (see sample lesson here)
  • 33 page book of Quizzes and Tests (see sample here)
  • 56 page Teacher Key with all Student Book and Quiz/Test answers (see sample here)
  • 146 page Student Book 

Traditional Logic, formal logic (Aristotelian logic), teaches syllogisms, or deductive inference. It is differentiated from informal logic, or fallacies (straw man, ad-hominem, etc.). (N.B., there is also material logic, but few high school students would encounter it, I wouldn't think). Essentially, traditional logic is concerned with training the mind to see how truth conforms to reality. What? There is still such a thing as objective truth? Apparently so. One is immediately tempted to buy this course for every single college student in America who clearly missed the memo. But I digress.

The course is appropriate for a semester or a year's credit, and it is comprised of three parts in 14 chapters:
  1. Simple Apprehension (Term)
  2. Judgment (Proposition)
  3. Deductive Inference (Syllogism)
There is a Review and a Glossary of Terms.


How We Used It

I need to start right off by saying that this course is not easy. It is recommended for 7th grade and up, and that is definitely doable, but it is challenging. Martin Cothran, course presenter and author of the text, recognizes this fact, though, and offers an "out," as it were: by starting the course with Chapter 4, one avoids the more (I'm struggling to find the right word here) difficult/esoteric/abstract portion of the course. For my 7th grader, that was absolutely essential. Nicholas (12) already wasn't sold on the idea of doing logic, but he was my only option for this course. Therese (14) has already done logic, plus she doesn't have room in her schedule for this class. Nicholas (12) *desperately* needs an injection of logic into his world, plus I knew that a course like this would appeal to his overly black and white, completely literalistic approach to the world (broken record here: OCD/ADHD/Tourette's kid). 

When we got the logic class, we put the DVD in the computer and began watching it (almost immediately switching to Chapter 4 when Mr. Cothran made that option available). Nicholas, as is his habit, took notes as he watched. I explained to him that the actual daily work required by the course was not onerous (he was pretty intimidated by the material that was being presented). So this is his Day 1 work:


While Nicholas has continued to use this program for the duration of the review period (although we have gone through the first test together orally, I didn't require that he complete it on his own), he has struggled with it. I am currently debating whether to have him finish it, with the possibility of having him revisit it again when the twins are a bit older, because I definitely want all three of my younger children to do it. As I indicated above, it is definitely doable for a 7th grader, particularly for an advanced 7th grader (and especially if that child has been pursuing a classical education already), but I think that Nicholas will get a lot more out of it in a couple of years. I still need to decide what to do.

Having said all of that, I can say with certainty that this program is a winner. It is an excellent first logic course, well-taught and well-executed. You don't need to have any prior logic knowledge to have your child do it, and your child will come out so far ahead of the game in terms of being able to understand how to engage the (increasingly more ludicrous) world around us with this course under his belt. 

Memoria Press was, as always, super-generous with the Crew and sent products other than Logic as well, so be sure to click the banner below to see reviews on Astronomy and Greek Myths, too!


Logic, Greek Myths and Astronomy Memoria Press Review
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Bathroom Sink Trashcan Hack

The trashcan in my bathroom is, well, all the way across my bathroom. There is no place for it next to the place I put on my makeup, which means that one of two things usually happens. Either I end up with cotton pads, Q-Tips, and Kleenex all over my vanity, or I end up making several trips to the trash over the course of 20 minutes. Neither choice is optimal (I know, I know, first world problems). Then, I was cleaning out my brushes (not cleaning them, cleaning them out - I actually ended up putting about 50 brushes into storage. Yes, I have a problem.). That left a nice big container empty. A container that looks suspiciously like a mini-trash can! Inspiration struck!



It's the perfect receptacle for my vanity detritus. Plus, because it's so big, I only have to empty it once every two days or so. I've been unreasonably pleased with myself since I figured this out. Maybe it's one of those things that everyone else figured out eons ago, but my vanity has been *much* neater since I joined this party.

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Review of IEW's Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization  IEW Review
We have never used a product from Institute for Excellence in Writing that we didn't love, so it's no surprise at all that we are all infatuated with Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization
Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization  IEW Review'
This poetry memorization course is, on one level, just that, but like all things IEW, it is in reality so much more! The course itself comes with the following materials (cost is $65.00):
  • A Teacher's Manual with 96 poems and speeches, including biographies of the poets/speech makers, certificates and memory charts, and instructions
  • All of the poems and speeches read on 5 CDs ("It's Mr. Pudewa!" was the cry raised in my house...)
  • A bonus DVD of Andrew Pudewa's talk "Nurturing Competent Communicators"
  • A super convenient and handsome leather-look CD case to keep it all together
  • A free downloadable student e-book with all of the poems for easy reference (you can also buy a hard copy of the Student Book, which IEW was generous enough to send me!)
  • Downloads of seven mp3 talks for Mr. Pudewa's
    • Nurturing Competent Communicators
    • Master Learning, Ability Development, and Individualized Education
    • Ten Thousand Times and then Begins Understanding
    • On Listening
    • On Speaking
    • On Reading
    • On Writing
There are five different levels of poems in this course. It is recommended that all students, regardless of age, start with Level 1. At first, I was a bit skeptical of this recommendation, as my kids have been doing poetry memorization for years (what homeschooler hasn't?). Of course, I deferred to IEW, though. For one thing, I was having all four of my kids do this course together (how wonderful to have the 11, 11, 12, and 14 together again!), so I had to have them working on the same level. The thing is, apart from the first couple, it's not like the Level 1 poems are "easy." There's nothing wrong with starting at the beginning. 


What We Did with It

The first thing I did was to watch the DVD on "Nurturing Competent Communicators." I always think it's funny when different parts of my world collide. Many people have met Andrew Pudewa at homeschool conferences, but I met him at my daughter's debate tournament (where she debated his son, so when he talks about communicators, I know that on some level, he and I really do speak the very same language (as I was a debater in high school and I am raising a slew of them now)). All that aside, though, this really is an excellent talk. Mr. Pudewa nails so many things squarely on the head, including why we memorize at all. Having this DVD included in the set makes it a huge value add. 

I had already heard several of the mp3 talks, so I didn't think it was necessary to listen to all of them before getting started.

Really this is quite possibly the easiest IEW course we have ever used in terms of hitting the ground running. It's all done for you - even the reading of the poems. Now, I like reading poetry to my kids; I always have. To that end, I did the initial reading of each poem with my children. We did, however, definitely listen to Mr. Pudewa's interpretation. My kids love it when we use anything IEW; they react like they are hearing an old friend when they hear him speak! 

As with all things IEW, the books are laid out so well!




Because we have been memorizing things since the kids were little, we already have a system of memorizing one stanza at a time, then adding the previous stanza, etc. For the early poems, which are very short, this basically meant memorizing the entire poem right off the bat. Because my kids are veteran memorizers, they had the first 5 poems down after just over one week. After learning a new poem, they would add the previous poem(s) to make sure they didn't lose anything. Fear not if you're not sure how best to accomplish this accretion: Mr. Pudewa tells you how in the Teacher's Manual!


There is just so much to love about this course. Although we used it as straight-up memorization, the Teacher's Manual has enrichment activities that would enable you to expand it to so much more (such as looking at worms while memorizing Ooey-Gooey (the first poem in Level One). You can be as flexible as you want. And if you're working with younger kids, you'll surely appreciate the coloring that accompanies every poem!

Mr. Pudewa discusses the fact that poems have to engage their audiences with their subject matter, and you'll find that these poems do just that. When we discovered Hillaire Belloc early in the book, I immediately grabbed one of my poetry books and raced to find "Matilda Who Told Lies and Was Burned to Death," one of my all-time favorite poems (and one that I have been reading to my kids since they were little - we are huge Belloc fans in my house; it might be a Catholic thing). Imagine my joy when I found that poem later on in the IEW book! They really do care about subject matter and don't shy away from, er, more gruesome poems! 

Unlike many of my peers (I'm 41), I did memorize poetry in school. Maybe it was just the G/T program in my school that did so - I don't know. I do know that I have "Little Orphant Annie" by James Whitcomb Riley memorized to this day. My husband (who went to Catholic school) also memorized poetry. Because this is an experience I want my children to have, they have memorized poetry from a very young age. How wonderful to have such a great resource all in one place for doing so. No more my haphazard pulling together just of poems I happen to love!

I really can't recommend this resource enough. You are getting so much! A great DVD, which is like your own personal workshop with Andrew Pudewa, seven mp3 talks, a comprehensive Teacher's Manual, and even a downloadable Student Book! Don't take my word for it, though. Click the banner below to read about many other Crew families who are in love with IEW's Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization!

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization  IEW Review
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Review of ARTistic Pursuits Inc.

ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review
ARTistic Pursuits Inc. has done it again. Their Sculpture Technique Model book makes teaching art in the homeschool a breeze. There are three units in this book:
  • Unit 1: Creating Mass with putty
  • Unit 2: Creating Scale with clay
  • Unit 3: Creating Surface with Fiber
Within each unit, there are several projects, so at the end of the book, assuming one did every project, he would have completed 12 projects. 

It is easy to see what you need for each project, as the art supplies are listed by unit at the front of the book.

ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review
ARTistic Pursuits Inc. even provides suggestions on where to purchase the necessary supplies as it lists them, but I found that everything I needed could be purchased at places where I normally purchase all of my school supplies (with quick shipping, too!), so that made everything so easy to order and get started!
How We Used It

At first I had planned to use this program with Therese (14), but I had underestimated her schedule at this time of year with dance and debate (as I often do). I wasn't worried, though, because all of my kids LOVE ARTistic Pursuits Inc., and they were thrilled that they got to step in and learn sculpture. Michael (11) especially is my artist in the family. He is always begging to learn more about art technique, and he has inhaled every ARTistic Pursuits Inc. book we have ever used. After looking through the book, we first thought we would begin with the unit on Creating Surface with Fiber, because the kids are already familiar with the idea of felting wool through my knitting projects, but (being kids), they decided they really wanted to work with clay and putty. So it was decided! Unit 1 on Creating Mass with Putty and Unit 2 on Creating Scale with Clay is where the kids would focus their efforts.
Michael and Mary-Catherine (both 11) studied Unit 2 and decided that they would enjoy working with clay. Michael first made pinch pots with the clay. He thoroughly enjoyed putting to use the techniques he had read about in the chapter, especially "slip," or working with water to fit pieces together.

Then, he and Mary-Catherine worked together to use the coil method to create a figure - they made a dachshund! 





Meanwhile, after looking through the book himself, Nicholas (12) had decided that he preferred Unit 1 (Creating Mass with Putty), so he began working on the first project in that unit.






While waiting for these guys to dry so he could paint them, Nicholas actually began working on creating a sculpture with the water putty, but he became very frustrated with trying to shape the newspaper and he quit. If any of you have kids with OCD or Tourette's, you'll understand why I didn't insist that he finish what he started. That battle wasn't worth fighting. He had read the entire Unit on mass, and he had experienced the water putty, so I was happy with his participation in this project. As a perfectionist myself, I understand the extreme frustration of not being able to make it just right. Given his other issues, I don't expect him to be able to cope with that frustration entirely just yet. There is plenty of "meat" in the ARTistic Pursuits Inc. book, even without taking into consideration the art projects (of course, for many kids they are what make the curriculum so much fun!).


ARTistic Pursuits Inc. gave Crew members the opportunity to review several different books, so be sure to click the banner below to see all of the reviews!


ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review
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Review of Zeezok Publishing LLC

Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}
Music appreciation is something that always seems to fall through the cracks in our homeschool, so I was beyond thrilled to receive for review this amazing homeschool music program, Music Appreciation: Book 1 for the Elementary Grades, from Zeezok Publishing LLC. With so many wonderful composers to choose from, it was hard to pick a favorite, but we ended up starting our study with the inimitable Beethoven.
Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}
There is so much to this comprehensive music appreciation study that the only way to do it justice is to begin by listing everything that's included, so here goes!
  • Individual biographies of seven different composers (Paganini, Bach, Beethoven, Hayden, Mozart, Handel, and Schubert) containing both pictures and the composers' compositions.
  • 5 compact discs of music
  • a 354 page softcover, three-hole punched workbook
  • a CD containing lapbook masters for each of the composers

Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}

Each composer study is designed to last four weeks. A schedule is provided at the beginning of each study (in the workbook) to tell you exactly what you should accomplish that week. There is always a diverse mix of reading (from the biography), answering comprehension questions (from the workbook), lapbook activities, character qualities (as noted from the biography), Tidbits of Interest (also from the reading), and sundry other activities that vary by week (it could be an oral report, a recipe, or a music lesson. The activities are always interesting, and the work load for any one week is not overwhelming. There is enough variety to keep different ages engaged, and the materials, from the biographies, to the workbook, to the lapbook, are all of the highest quality. When combined with the music selections, you truly do have a complete music appreciation program that any child would feel lucky to be able to complete.
How We Used It
As I indicated previously, we began with Beethoven. Ever since Nicholas (12) learned to play "Ode to Joy" on the piano, and then had the chance to play it on a famous organ here in Houston (the organ at the Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral Downtown), Beethoven has been a favorite. It was decided that everyone (the three youngest, that is, so the 11 year-old twins and Nicholas) would read the chapter to themselves, Michael would complete the workbook pages, Mary-Catherine would complete the lapbook, and we would do a group discussion of all of the material and listen to the musical selections together. Whew!



For the most part, we followed the weekly plan. Because it has been high debate season here, it actually took us six weeks to complete Beethoven, instead of the suggested four, but that's the beauty and flexibility of homeschooling! Beethoven was completed just in time for the kids to grab Paganini's biography on their way out the door as we drove to debate regionals last week! The best part is, they were excited to continue on to a new composer. Now *that* is a successful program. The other best part is (two best parts? We're going to go with it.) that because the music selections are all provided on CD, we could take the CD to listen to in the car. It means we're a little out of order (because we have listened to all of the Paganini), but I can't really see that as being any kind of a negative. It just means that we all have a little familiarity as we begin the "book study" part of his life. The balance in this program between scheduling and flexibility is one of its great assets. For example, it doesn't tell you to do this on Monday, this on Tuesday, etc. It just tells you what to do in one week. That means that for families who like a schedule, but don't adhere to a strict M-F (because of co-op or some other reason), they can still follow a schedule, but not have to feel like they are tinkering with it too much.

So for us, composer study looked like this: the day we got the box from Zeezok, the three youngest kids all read the Beethoven book (it's less than 150 illustrated pages - I would classify it as a beginner's chapter book - except it also includes many pages of sheet music). (I forgot to tell them they only had to read part of it, but I doubt they would have stopped anyway - the kids are all fast readers, and they all read well above grade level). Then, Michael did the questions for Week 1 and Mary-Catherine began cutting out the pieces for the lapbook. We did the rest of the activities for Week 1 over the next couple of days. Weeks 3-4 evolved in much the same way (with the exception that the reading had already been done, so when Michael did the comprehension questions in the book, he only needed sometimes to refresh his memory with the book).

In reality, the composer study of Beethoven has looked more like a unit study for us. For example, right off the bat in Week 1, we were able to tie in our study of Beethoven with our normal geography work, as the awesome student workbook has a Geography Oral Report to assign. Listing nine cities Beethoven visited in his lifetime (in Germany, Austria, Holland, and the Czech Republic), students are asked to write a short essay on one of the cities to present to the rest of the class. My kids were delighted! They have very recently studied all of those countries! Being able to relate them to Beethoven, and then being able to research one of them again in light of his life added a new layer to both studies.

Later on in Week 4, the kids got to do something they have done before, but really enjoyed: make Attribute Acronyms! They got to take the first letters of their first names and make acronyms of virtues they associate with themselves after looking at one of Beethoven's. They did so after reviewing examples Beethoven's character qualities from the biography they read.

To think that there are seven different composer unit studies within this one workbook is truly amazing. To think that we still have 5 1/2 to go is truly exciting!

What We Thought

The kids are really enjoying this program! They all love the biographies, which are quick and very interesting and engaging reads. Mary-Catherine has loved how well-done the lapbooks are. The pieces are colorful and the folds are simple and easy to understand (we are not hugely clever lapbooking people). She keeps commenting on how much extra she is learning through the lapbooking phase of the program (Beethoven is done and she is now working on Paganini).



The extra activities provided in the workbook are varied and not overly demanding (we have not had to sew any costumes or anything so far!). As I said at the outset, music appreciation is something that I just never seem to find time for. Zeezok Publishing LLC makes it easy to find the time. They do everything for you. Be sure to click the banner below to read all the reviews, because different Crew members began their studies with different composers!
Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}
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