The House of Lost Souls by F.G. Cottam is so good that I am sad thinking that many of the people who read it probably miss much of the beauty of the language. This is not a review post. In fact, I checked this book out of the library. I was so stunned by the beauty of the language in the first chapter, though, that for the first time in years, I put my life on hold to finish the book.
I guess you would call this horror, but it is more of a gothic. Fans of Dan Simmons' atmospheric works like Drood, The Terror, and The Abominable would like it. That's all I'll say. If you want a book to get lost in, try this one. Sublime.
Sewing was just one of those things that I assumed I would be able to do when I grew up (that and fixing hair well). As it turns out, you really do need someone to teach you how to sew! Fortunately for Therese (12), there is Rosie and Rosie's Doll Clothes Patterns! For the past two months, Therese has been honing her nascent sewing skills with the amazing Learn How to Make Doll Clothes Video Course with 8 Free Doll Clothes Patterns.
What This Course IsPurchase of the course for $47.44 (the seemingly odd price is because the course is priced in Australian dollars, so this is a currency conversion!) entitles you to 12 months of online access to over 130 instructional videos and eight free bonus patterns. Although you can still greatly benefit from this course if you have sewing experience, the course assumes that you are starting from zero, so you have nothing to fear if you have never touched a pattern before! The videos are great for kids 8 and up, but kids even younger could benefit from them if they had someone to help them with things like scissors and pinning.
The course is divided into six weeks of tutorials, beginning with the most basic topics including the tools you'll need, how to set up your sewing room, and selecting fabric. Week 2 addresses things relating to working with patterns. Rosie really does walk you through everything step-by-step. It's a huge confidence builder! The patterns are pdf files that come in two parts - instructions and the patterns themselves. Therese has been raving about the patterns. Her grandmother gave her a stash of patterns for 18 inch doll clothes awhile back, but after she has been able to use Rosie's very clear and easy patters that print on *regular paper*, I don't think she'll ever want to go back to patterns that she has to cut out on onionskin paper again.
The great thing about the videos is that it's almost like there are two sets: the standard "how-tos" and the "cool tips." So you'll learn all about how to cut pattern and fabric, but then you'll learn cool tips for the same. I love that! It's what sets Rosie apart from other lessons you can find elsewhere. Yes, you can learn to sew other places, but you don't get "the inside scoop." You also don't get the adorable patterns that look so much more complicated than they are. Finally, you don't get a money-back guarantee.
But Rosie is actually the best advertising for Rosie's Doll Clothes Patterns:
I just love her accent :-)
How We Used It
I kind of assumed that she would be working at the schoolroom table, but the allure of the huge island in the kitchen turned out to be too much temptation for her!
How We Liked It
I don't know how many of my readers did speech and debate in high school, but since it is the reason that I am overwhelmed and behind in all my work, I thought I would take a moment to write about it. Really, I have two observations (N.B. Therese is participating in the NCFCA, a Christian homeschool forensics league. Much of it is identical to NFL, but not all of it is): almost everything is exactly the same! Technology isn't.
I give you Prepd. If you extemped backed in the day, you won't believe this! Extemp files are virtual now. You find the article on the web, click the little trophy cup (I think it's a speaker award - at least in my world it is), assign it a folder, and it is in your club's "box." Seriously. You can clip a hundred articles an hour. When you're in the round, you are using the app which is disconnected from the Internet, you can use the timer to time your half-hour prep, you can "pull" your articles, and all proceeds as normal (long aside: in NCFCA, they use a NOTECARD in Extemp! It's hideous. They have, like, technique classes for how to fold your notecard to use it discreetly. I am teaching Therese to extemp without it. I think it looks terrible. All you have to do is Google the NFL national champ vs. the NCFCA national champ in Extemp to see the difference (well, one of many).). Prepd is awesome.
Oh, and flowpads. I assume they still use my flowpad of choice in NFL.
And some of the kids in Therese's club (EnGarde) use legal pads, but many of them (including Therese) use this little number:
If you are a sentient homeschooler, you have most likely used VocabularySpellingCity (which has resources for K-12) at least once. The odds are excellent that you have used it far more often. You have probably also wondered if, given how excellent the free features of the site are, the VocabularySpellingCity Premium Membership is worth the $29.99 price tag (which covers 5 individual kid memberships with 1 parent account). Well, we have been test driving the Premium version for the past six weeks or so, and I can assure you that my kids vote a definite YES!
What Differentiates the Premium Membership?
How We Use VocabularySpellingCity
Finding a balance between exclusively teaching your own child, participating in co-op, taking online classes, taking classes at a junior college, and a myriad of other options is one of those things that all homeschoolers have to do. Most will, at least once, step out of the schoolroom to see what other options exist. For us, that happened in the last couple of months with our experience with the Homeschool Learning Labs from Bridgeway Academy.
Bridgeway Academy offers a host of accredited classes (and even textbooks) for homeschooled students. Easy Essay is one of their high school offerings. The class typically meets for 90 minutes per week over the course of a nine-week period. The class costs $275 and yields a .5 high school English credit. For the purpose of this review, we were offered an eight week class that met for 60 minutes each week.
How It Works
Watching the video is the best way to understand the process. Essentially, Therese's (12) High School Essay class met each Monday at 12:15 Central Time. About ten minutes prior to the class start time, students started logging into class through Jigsaw Meeting Software (basically a Go To Meeting type thing). At 12:15, Kimberly Kulp, the class instructor would begin class. Each class had a set topic, known to the class ahead of time by virtue of the syllabus. Mrs. Kulp would conduct the class with the assistance of a Power Point presentation, allowing for limited student interaction via their microphones. Students would be able to take notes on the whiteboard on screen, chat with the teacher or the class via the chat screen, see Mrs. Kulp, and view the Power Point.
The class required about two hours of homework per week in addition to the hour in class. The homework was due on Friday. Mrs. Kulp typically returned it via email an hour or so before class. For some reason, Therese could not email Mrs. Kulp directly. Her emails were rejected by the server. I had to email for her.
Our Experience with the Class
All of my kids are voracious readers, so any time a book comes up for review, I jump on it! Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story from Barbour Publishing sounded like it was right up Mary-Catherine's (8) alley! Since the age recommendation is 8-12, it seemed like a can't-miss. It turns out, I was right!
EJ (Emma Jean) Payne's diary records her daily life which is anything but boring! EJ lives in Spooner, Wisconsin, a town which sounds like somewhere I would love to live, but is the farthest thing from ideal according to her. EJ's problems are fairly typical for a girl her age (10). Primarily, she wants to get out of her small town! She's not crazy about her little brother (Mary-Catherine's little brother is younger by about 30 seconds, but, according to her, he still counts and she sympathizes!). She doesn't want to be the angel in the Christmas pageant. Pretty basic stuff for a book of this genre...of course, I can't tell you everything about EJ and the things she gets herself into! One look at the cover should let you know that EJ is more than just your average little girl! It is those hilarious situations that she gets herself into, along with the diary format the book is written in, that combine to make this a very charming and quick 192 page read.
"What is impossible to God? Not that which is difficult to His power, but that which is contrary to His nature." 3St. Ambrose of Milan
For a long time, I have been anxious to get a look at World Magazine from God's World News, so I was intrigued to find out that I would have the opportunity to review Trak, God's World News' publication for high school students. Like all of GWN's titles, Trak presents current events from a Biblical worldview. Like its big brother, World, these stories are still hard-hitting news stories that are absolutely worthy of the title "news magazine."
Trak is published ten times per year (there is no issue in December or May), and a subscription costs $28. Each 32-page issue contains several types of stories, including features, editorials, technology, and more. Even better, a subscription to Trak will also gain you access to God's World News' Teen Website. This brand new website is just as impressive as the magazine itself, and it enhances the value of your subscription immeasurably. The following screenshots give just a small sample of what's available online on God's World News Online:
We received the August, September, and October issues of Trak. The magazines came with two pages of cardstock advertising on the front and back covers which, while they protected the magazine, made the it visually very unappealing to me. I love magazines that jump out of the mail pile at me! The colorful covers and great graphics are one of the things that make God's World News' World so wonderful! If I could change one thing about Trak, it would be to lose these ads. In any case, I tore them off before I passed the magazine on to Therese (12).
One reason I wanted to review Trak was because Therese is doing Extemp this year (extemporaneous speaking on current events). I wanted her to start easing her way into current events without having to be confronted by the horror of the nightly news. As it turns out, she loves Trak!
I would love to be able to post and say that I have been consumed by homeschooling blogs lately...but that would not be entirely (or even a little) true. Once upon a time, I was obsessed with nail polish. In fact, I wore black, blue, and green nail polish back when no one else did. Back when you could only get those colors in the super cheap brands. I used to paint my nails for hours every Sunday night. I would do elaborate designs. I would paint faces on my nails. I would do football themed designs (maroon and white on one hand, orange and white on the other - that means something to Texas residents (of course, what it means is that I have no loyalty to either team!)) at Thanksgiving.
In any case, when I had kids, I stopped caring quite so much. I didn't have time! For some reason, though, I recently started caring again...and nails have come a long way! People are doing things with their nails that I was doing 25 years ago - but the polishes are so much better :-D
So check out my Nail Polish Pintrest Board to see some of the styles I've been trying. The pics aren't mine (I just can't get good pics!), but many of the styles are not hard to copy (like the Glitter French!). With many polishes costing only $1.50, changing your nails frequently is a super-easy and cheap way to express yourself and try new things. Tomorrow, I'll post a picture of all of my recent nail polish acquisitions. My camera is on the fritz today :-(
Chess has been called the game of kings, and I have four kids that think it's pretty grand. Hence, when the opportunity to review the Starter Chess Learning Kit from Chess House came up, I jumped on it. This set is very impressive. It comes with the following:
- 20" by 20" roll up chess board
- plastic chess pieces with a 3 3/4" regulation size king (these are *not* flimsy plastic pieces!)
- 49 minute DVD divided into segments explaining each chess piece and how it moves
- a duffle bag to carry it all
How My Kids Used Chess House's Set
George Washington: True Patriot is 224 pages long and is intended for ages 10 and up. I think the age recommendation is just fine for most kids. I used this book as a read aloud, but I know that my 8 year-old twins would have done just fine with it reading it by themselves, while my 12 year-old would have found it a bit childish (her typical reading fare is on the adult level, though). My 10 year-old is absolutely the target audience for this book, though, and he is the one I will have in mind when I make my next selection from this series! We read the book in three days. It doesn't read like "school." Rather, it reads like an adventure story, which Washington's life certainly is. Because we just finished studying this time in American history, my kids weren't learning anything new - instead they were visiting an old friend. The style of the book is very conducive to that mindset, though, and it never took on the flavor of, "Not *this* again!"
The accompanying study guide has many great activities including chapter questions for each chapter (four for each of 19 chapters). We did these orally at the end of each chapter. At the outset, the study guide suggests setting up a Display Corner to set the "George Washington" mood. Because we were already in this mindset in history, we chose not to do this, but it's a great idea if you're in a co-op. The study guide offers many ways for different types of learners to take advantage of extended activities:
- Student Explorations - these activities consist of Essay Questions, Creative Writing, Hands-On Projects, A/V Projects, and Arts and Crafts
- Community Links - field trip ideas
- Social Studies - map ideas divided into places, terms/vocabulary, geographical characteristics, timeline, and conceptual questions
- Related Themes to Explore - this is the part that people may think of when they think "unit study": the part that brings in related parts of other subjects
- Culminating Event - ideas to wrap up the unit study (there are some great ideas here, like displays and oral presentations)
What We Liked
From the first time I saw VideoText Interactive (which was years before I knew about the Crew), I was intrigued. Then I saw the price and I was saddened. For three years of math, the price was very fair; I just knew that I would never have that much money at one time. Then when the Crew got the opportunity to review this awesome program and I saw that it had gone online (and, hence, had gotten more affordable), I was ecstatic! Not only was I going to get to review Geometry: A Complete Course with Therese: I was going to be able to recommend it without reservations about the price if it worked out (here's a preview of the verdict: I recommend it without reservations!).
Math. If there is one thing I don't need to write reams about to a homeschooling mom audience, it is math. For those of you that get it and love to teach it - you're awesome. For the rest of us - welcome to VideoText Interactive and my new best friend Tom Clark. Mr. Clark is the best math teacher I have ever seen. I knew when Therese started the Geometry lessons that everything would hinge on the teacher. If he was annoying, condescending, too difficult, too easy, had a funny accent, or any one of a number of other impediments, she would not want to do the class. I held my breath as Mr. Clark started to speak, and let it out gratefully when this very nice, very earnest, super-knowledgeable man began to teach. It's not that Therese is a diva - she's not. She is just very, very particular about who teaches her (in Kindergarten, the only grade she attended school (a private, Catholic school), she actually pretended she was sick when she had a substitute. She was so offended and horrified that the sub a) wanted to be called Auntie Sarah and b) was teaching them to count to 10 when they could count backwards by 2s from 100 that she felt she had no recourse but to go the secretary's office and call me to come get her. I choose to think of this as a side-effect of being too smart for her barely 5 year-old self. She was an exemplary child in all other respects).
Back to Mr. Clark: watch some Sample videos to see how perfect his teaching style is. I dare you not to get sucked in to the math lesson even if you would rather have a root canal without anesthesia than do math.
How it WorksVideoText Interactive's Geometry online allows you three years of access for $299. After completing all modules A-F (a total of 176 video lessons with module F currently still in production), your student will be able to claim transcript credits for Geometry, Trigonometry, and Pre-Calculus. In essence, then, for $299, you could sew up most of your child's high school math transcript. To me, that is one heck of a deal. The best part of that deal, though, is it is virtually painless.
Each Geometry lesson follows the same format. The lesson menu looks like this: