Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Review of Logic of English Essentials 2nd Edition

Logic of English Review
Logic of English is the first Crew review that cost me a lot of money. Let me explain: I read the Crew reviews just like everyone else, and while I am *extremely* fortunate in that I get nearly all of the products for review that I request, I don't get all of them. At some point in the past (a year or two ago), Logic of English Essentials came up for review. I knew that it would be a great fit for Michael. It seemed tailor made for someone like him (I'm almost certain he's dysgraphic, although I have never had him diagnosed). Although I requested the product for review, I didn't get it. However, after reading the Crew reviews, I knew I had to have it for Michael. Because the entire Essentials package is expensive, though, I only bought part of it. We used it for quite a while and Michael LOVED it. He begged to do it. He learned really well with it. I got discouraged trying to compensate for the fact that I didn't have all of the pieces of the program, though, because you really do need all of it in order for it to work most effectively. 

Long story short, when Logic of English retooled its Essentials program to create Essentials 2nd Edition, I was ecstatic to be chosen to review it for the Crew. Even better, Michael (11) was thrilled, too! If I liked the first version a lot (what I read in the Crew reviews, and the pieces I bought based off of those reviews), I LOVE this edition! There is a lot to this program, so let's just go down what's included.

The main part of the program is comprised of the Student Workbook and the Teacher's Guide. Both are absolutely critical to using the program. The Teacher's Guide is full-color and (even better) color-coded by level, making it easy to keep on track to see what your particular student is supposed to be doing on a given day. You see, you can use these products with multiple students, or (as with Michael) with one student who may be ready for certain things at certain levels but not others at all levels (clear as mud?). There are Levels A, B, and C. If you are using this with the lowest recommended age of 7, your child is likely Level A. Each lesson teaches the same concept, but uses, for example, different spelling words to illustrate that lesson. Further, the higher levels often teach one extra sound of a morpheme (such as a lesser-used sound of "qu," things you encounter at higher levels of reading that the youngest children don't likely need to know yet. Of course, you as a parent can always use your discretion to decide what to teach your children. The Teacher's Guide just makes it so easy to see what you are supposed to teach them each day. 

The Student Workbook is very clearly labeled to correlate with each lesson. Thus, it is easy to see when a student is supposed to write something down. There is also a lot of blank space, which I appreciate, as it lets me tell Michael if there is something extra I want him to do (i.e., more dictation).

Logic of English Review

In addition to these core components, though, there are also so many excellent supplements to make teaching much easier. They include:

  • Spelling Journal - a great reference tool where kids can organize all of the words that they tend to misspell the most
  • Basic Phonogram Flash Cards - 74 *heavy* coated cardstock flash cards containing phonograms that have sample words on the back for the convenience of the teacher. These cards are an absolute MUST for the program. They are also awesome even if you use any other program.
  • Spelling Rule Flash Cards - Exactly what they sound like! 41 flash cards containing spelling rules to memorize and drill.
  • Advanced Phonogram Flash Cards - 46 advanced phonograms following the same layout as the basic phonogram cards described above.
  • Grammar Flash Cards - 83 flash cards containing parts of speech, spelling and capitalization rules, etc. Again, like the phonogram cards, they can also be used as a standalone product.
  • Morpheme Flash Cards, Set 1 - 109 color-coded flash cards containing roots, suffixes, and prefixes.
  • Phonogram Game Cards - used to play games as outlined in the curriculum.
  • Phonogram Game Tiles - 130 tiles containing the 74 phonograms, all color-coded according to phonogram type - used to play games as outlined in the curriculum.
  • Phonogram and Spelling Rule Quick Reference - a full-color, six-page foldout reference summarizing just about everything Logic of English teaches. Essential. Awesome. 
  • Spelling Analysis Card - What I use as my bookmark in my Teacher's Guide. Explains how to break down the spelling of a word for a student. A great tool for any student.

Can you believe everything you get with this package? It's unreal. What's equally unreal is that you'll use it all and you'll love it all. It makes teaching this program so, so easy. I have heard other people say that they found this program confusing and overwhelming at first, but I have to say that I did not. Everything, literally everything, is laid out for you (in color, no less!). You are told what to do each day (you can even see the schedule on the website if you're curious), and you can see at a glance what your child (based on his level will be doing). You find your rhythm very quickly. If the pace is too fast, just take two days per lesson - no biggie!

Logic of English Review
Here is what Michael (11) has to say about Logic of English Essentials: I like it a lot. It's fun. I like the syllabication (me - I prompted him with this word when he said "syllables") with the spelling. I like how there is not a lot of work with one lesson, but more than just one page. It has helped me tremendously with spelling. It's helped me a bit in grammar, too. I like how you learn a good amount in one day, and then how, over a long period of time, you learn a lot! It's a good program. 

I think it's pretty obvious that Michael and I love this program. Even though he reads at a high school level, he spells below level, but his spelling is already improving. Better still, he looks forward to doing Logic of English every day. He doesn't feel it's beneath him - he loves that he is learning to overcome his spelling deficiencies. What's funny is that his twin sister, a natural speller, likes to sit in on our lessons just because she thinks the program is fun. What better endorsement could there be?
Logic of English was so generous and provided Crew members with many different products, so be sure to click the banner below to see what all of them had to say - remember, that's how I found out about this great product in the first place!

Logic of English Review

Crew Disclaimer

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Beauty Product Repurchases

Are there any beauty products that you buy over and over again? Things that you make sure to have backups of before you run out because you can't face the idea of not having them on hand? I have a few such Holy Grail (HG) products, two of which I repurchased this week (which is why this post is on my mind, I'm sure).

The first of these is Clinique's Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm.

Image Credit: Sephora

Nothing, and I mean nothing, takes off makeup like this stuff. It is a solid balm that, when you apply it to your face, takes off every bit of everything, including one of my other HG products (below). There is a bit of a trick, though. You have to first massage this all over your dry face, then wet your fingertips and continue to massage it. The oil will emulsify and the real magic will happen. Take your time before you rinse thoroughly, and everything will come off (including super-stubborn eye makeup). Now, this is kind of expensive ($29), but I only have to buy it 2-3 times per year, and considering how much time I end up saving by not having to wash my face three times, it's so worth it to me. It's also really kind to my dry skin. Obviously, buy it under special circumstances! (That is, when a department store is doing a Clinique bonus, when Sephora is doing 20% off (for VIB Rouge, or 15% off for VIB), etc.) I follow it up with a quick cotton pad's worth of Garnier's Micellar Water just to make sure I've left no residue. I have about 1/3 of my current jar left, and I already have a backup in my backups drawer (everyone has one of those, right?).

My other HG product that I bought a backup of this week is my Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup in Fresco (2C3). This is my 3rd or 4th bottle of this stuff. Nothing covers my rosacea so well, and nothing matches me this perfectly. Now, I have Kat Von D's Lock-It Tatoo Foundation, and that stuff is like *paint*. It even smells like it. I like it, but it is a completely flat, matte finish. It requires some -- finessing. The Double Wear is perfection right out of the bottle. On a normal day, I just set it with RCMA no-color powder. On a day when it has to last 18 hours (I'm looking at you, debate tournaments), I set it with MAC Studio Fix Powder Foundation (N4). Set that way, it really does last 18 hours. While this foundation is not cheap ($38), it is so, so worth it. I don't wear it every day (no makeup junkie wears the same foundation every day! There are far, far too many choices! And actually, my go-to is Covergirl + Olay Simply Ageless (still not cheap at almost $15!) in 105. It is the easiest to blend and go, so if I don't need my makeup to last more than six or so hours, I just wear this and call it good!

Image Credit: Sephora

I have other HG products (MAC lipsticks in Brave and Modesty come to mind), but the preceding two and Urban Decay's 24/7 eyeliner in Rockstar (a blackened purple) are the three that I can think of right now that I have to have backups of at all times. I have tried so many purple eyeliners, but I can't find an exact (or even near enough) dupe of Rockstar to make me happy. I am on the verge of buying two or three to make free shipping on the UD website, but a year or so ago, they did BOGO on their eyeliners, so I'm holding out and hoping!

Does anyone else have any such HG products, either high end or drugstore?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Review of Review

First, can we talk about that name? Probably the first Greek word I ever learned was "ichthys," (Dad was an ex-Seminarian who had studied to be a Catholic priest, plus he was a former Catholic schoolboy, so he had Greek and Latin to spare and wasn't stingy with his knowledge) and it's a word I like to roll around on my tongue to this day. So using the ichthys as your logo and naming your company Genius. I love it when the names of companies just make sense! This one, obviously, does. stocks numerous Christian movies to suit every different family. From kid flicks to movies meant for teens and adults, they have something for everyone. My family was fortunate enough to receive Woodlawn, the true story of a desegregating high school football team in the Deep South in the early 1970s, to review. Review

I was excited for my children to watch this movie for a couple of reasons. First, we are currently reading Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Patillo Beals, the memoir of one of the Little Rock Nine (the nine teenagers who integrated Central High School in Little Rock, AR in 1957). A film about another integration experience thus fit seamlessly into our curriculum. Plus, I'll confess that overtly "this is a Christian movie" movies don't go over all that well with my kids. It's not that they are not good Christians - they are. Tell them that we are going to watch a documentary on the Vatican and they are all over it. It's just that conflating the movie-watching experience with a Christian-teaching experience is irritating to them (and, I'll confess, to me). Let's just pick one. Let's learn about our faith or watch a movie (one that doesn't conflict with our faith naturally!). This movie seemed like a great choice. While it has an overtly Christian message, it's still a great movie -- and it watches like a great movie!

Although it's hard to believe, desegregation was still not completely accomplished in this country, even into the 1970s. As a one-time aspiring political scientist (Ph.D., 2004) who studied with one of the top Deep South political scientist practitioners in the country (Dr. Earl Black), I know better than many how unbelievably entrenched racism was in this part of the country. What is so hard to explain to my children was so easy for them to see in this movie, though. When Woodlawn High School was finally desegregated in 1973 by, among others, African-American football player Tony Nathan, tensions ran extremely high. It was a huge challenge for the football team not only to play with black football players, but to accept that some of them were the equal and better of the white players. That realization challenged the absolute core of deeply held white beliefs of racial supremacy.

It takes the intervention of the Colonel's chaplain sharing his conversion story to turn the team away from their long-held and deeply rooted suspicions of each other to the unity that leads to their true integration as a team. Actually, what happens is so much more dramatic (although played out on such a subtle level) that you really do have to watch it to believe it!

What saves Woodlawn from being another schlocky Christian message movie is two things: first, the setting is high school football in the South. Even if you don't live here (and I do), you must have seen enough about it on TV and in movies to realize what a unifying (almost mystical) thing that is. Second, the cast is mainstream and top-notch (which probably has much to do with production value also being mainstream and top-notch). Sean Astin, Sherri Shepherd, Jon Voight, and C. Thomas Howell all star in this movie. Honestly, it's probably one I would have chosen myself on Netflix. has so many Christian movies from which to choose that if high school football isn't your thing, you're sure to find something that is! 99 other Crew members reviewed Woodlawn and nine other films, so be sure to click the banner below to read all of the reviews!

FishFlix Review
Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Random OK Observations

1. There is a stoplight in the middle of the highway in a town just north of Dennison, TX. I find that fascinating.

2. NCFCA is in desperate need of an adult parody      Twitter account. There is only so much the children can do. Just sayin'.

3. The longer the tournament days, the lower the Laura-filter. Thank heaven most of those I talk to in the people-group of children are 17+. I think my style can best be described as NC-17.

4. OK has very nice roads but Brahms get the thumbs-down from Therese.

5. I missed Region 4 hospitality like crazy this tournament.

6. Now that I know how JO works, I wish I could go back to my first year when I was JOed as a judge (yes, contrary to instructions, it is a verb) and redo my encounter with a certain homeschool writing celebrity. It would go very differently. #couldashouldawoulda

7. As per the above, I now write down my judging philosophy! I will never be misquoted by resentful teams again!! Always put it in writing (unless you want plausible deniability, of course).

8. Voting against teams you really like sucks. #unbiasedjudging

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Review of EdTechLens' Rainforest Journey

Rainforest Journey EdTechLens Review
Science is one of those subjects that we do sort of haphazardly on the fly in the moment here at Salve Regina. We watch a lot of science-y stuff on TV (hey! It counts!) We read science-y stuff. We definitely do delight-directed learning science (as in, Nicholas (12) is on a huge chemistry kick at the moment, so his curriculum is heavily chemistry-oriented right now. Oh, and Therese is in 9th grade so she's doing biology, no arguments there. For the twins, though, science just happens. I was so happy, then, that it recently happened in the form of EdTechLens and their beautiful Rainforest Journey.

I used this gorgeous online supplemental science curriculum with my 5th grade twins, and they really enjoyed it. Did I mention how visually appealing Rainforest Journey is? I probably will say that a dozen more times in this review. It is impossible not to be blown away by the beauty of this program. You know how you walk into a Best Buy and see the "wall o' televisions" with the unbelievably bright and beautiful nature images on them? That's what this science program looks like. If you like that kind of thing, you'll love Rainforest Journey.

What Is It?

Rainforest Journey is like many traditional school science programs in that it covers the same concepts at each level (it has K-5), but with increasing complexity as the grade levels progress. That's great news if you want to use it with multiple children, but still want to teach the same things to all of your kids. Like its name implies, Rainforest Journey examines life science concepts using the rainforest as its classroom.

The core of the program is 34 short lessons, accompanied by assessments consisting of multiple choice questions and open-ended discussion questions. There are also review activities and expert interviews interspersed throughout. 

Again, because the program teaches life science concepts using the rainforest, your child will learn the kinds of things you would expect him to learn in a life science class - things like adaptation, the ecosystem, mammals, reptiles, plants, etc. It's just that the rainforest is the unifying theme that ties all of the lessons together. It's actually rather a neat concept! It feels like you're learning something more cohesive than you would in a standard science textbook, for example. The things you are learning can be extrapolated to other environments, but you are learning a *lot* about the rainforest as you learn about life science in general. What a neat idea!

The broadest course outline looks like this:

If you expand a unit (here Unit 2), you see this view:

Clicking on Chapter 1 yields this view:

Finally, clicking on Lesson 1 leads to this:

It is within this section that you experience the curriculum as I describe above (although the amazing pictures are shown throughout - I haven't included them in the screenshots for space reasons, but you can see examples in the collage at the top of the review).

How We Used Rainforest Journey

Essentially, Michael and Mary-Catherine (both 11) and I have just been making our way through this curriculum 20 or so minutes a day. It is the last thing we do before lunch, kind of like a treat. They really look forward to it. I let the curriculum read itself to us (you'll see the "sound" button on the screenshot above) and then we just follow through each of the steps in the lessons. At the end of a chapter, I print out the assessment so that they can each have a copy, but I have not been treating this like a graded course. Really, it's so enjoyable just to learn our way through the rainforest!

If you like doing science "gently," or if you are not sure what to do for science in the waning months of this school year, you might really enjoy this offering from EdTechLens! There is a lot of wonderful, solid information here, and the visuals are so stunning.

I have shared with you our 5th grade experience, but Crew members with younger children have also been exploring the rainforest, so be sure to click the banner below to see what they have to say!

Rainforest Journey EdTechLens Review
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, March 14, 2016

Review of Demme Learning's Math-U-See

Demme Learning Math U See Review
One of the best things about being on the Crew is that sometimes you get the opportunity to review things that you have always wanted to use, but have never (for whatever reason) gotten around to trying before. I had that experience recently when I got the chance to review Demme Learning's Math-U-See. I don't think there is a homeschooler worth her salt who has not heard of Math-U-See before. They are almost always discussed among the most elite math programs. What I had not previously heard of were their new Digital Packs! The Digital Packs give you a year's worth of access to the same instructional videos that you could previously only access through Math-U-See's DVDs. The Digital Packs also offer instruction manual PDFs and digital manipulatives (where applicable). What they don't include are the student workbooks. Buying these separately is a very cost-effective and easy option, though.

Demme Learning Math U See Review

This review came at a perfect time for us, because both Therese (14, 9th grade) and Nicky (12, 7th grade) were kind of stagnating in their respective Geometry programs. Nicky was almost done with his, but I was getting the feeling that he had stopped paying attention (if you know Nicky that won't really shock you). Therese, because of her ongoing health issues, had never really gotten traction with her Geometry program, so I was very happy for the chance to have her start over with a program that I had always been anxious to try anyway. Thus, both Therese and Nicky began work with Math-U-See's Geometry: Nicky with the Geometry Universal Set, and Therese with the Geometry Digital Pack. Because we are new to Math-U-See, they very generously sent us the Universal Set (which includes access to the Digital Pack), and I then purchased a Student Pack (workbook and tests) for Therese to use in conjunction with the Digital Pack. Demme Learning Math U See Review
The full version of Math-U-See's Geometry (the Universal Set) comes with the following components: an instruction manual with complete solutions, instructional DVD, student and text workbooks, and full 12-month access to the Geometry Digital Pack. Using this set, Nicholas watches the week's DVD lesson and then proceeds to do the corresponding pages in the student workbook. The workbook provides for one lesson each day and includes an extra lesson, requiring more in-depth thinking, that can be completed each week to turn the class into an Honors level course. Because each lesson takes such a short amount of time (N.B., my kids are only in week 4 of Geometry, and both of them have had some Geometry before, as noted above), there is a ton of flexibility in this course - which I love! What I mean by that is my kids can do an entire week's worth of lessons in one day (excluding the Honors lesson - that takes an extra day) if that's what I choose for them to do. In other words, if we are short on time, they can do a lesson (if it's a non-video day) in a fairly short period of time. If we have more time on a given day, they can do several worksheets that day. Therese, in particular, has found that she can do a week's worth of Geometry (including Honors) in about an hour and a half. That's actually critical for her, as she only has until August to do the whole course if she is going to remain/get back on track to finish her freshman year this school year.

So, in general, what does a lesson look like? At the beginning of the week, you watch around a 20 minute video. The video is the same, whether you are using the DVDs in the Universal Set or the streaming videos in the Digital Pack. The lesson gives you all the information you'll need for the lessons for the week. The lessons are found in the student workbook, and are comprised of 20 problems each day (the Honors lesson is different). There are 30 total weeks of lessons.Demme Learning Math U See Review
The Digital Pack
The advantages of Math-U-See's Digital Pack should be immediately obvious. The number one advantage is that you no longer have to sit at your computer to do math. You can do math anywhere (well, anywhere you have Internet access, that is)! If you are short on computer screens, if your computer doesn't have a DVD drive (an increasing phenomenon), if you do a lot of school on the run, or if you depend heavily on devices (like iPads and phones) for school, you will love the Digital Packs. 

When you sign on to your MUS account online and select a lesson, this is what you will see:

Selecting the lesson summary will take you to the same information that was previously found in the Geometry hardback textbook, so if you are trying to pare down your schoolroom (and I *definitely* know what that feels like!), you will appreciate having that information online only. 

The test solutions are also included in the Digital Pack (and are not in any way hidden, which may or may not be a concern for some parents). 

How the Digital Packs Stack Up

Because Demme Learning so generously provided us with the Universal Set, Nicky has been using the DVDs exclusively during the review period, and that has worked fine for him, but after seeing how flexible and easy the Digital Pack is to use (in other words, watching Therese sit on the couch and do math using the online videos - the same videos Nicky has to sit at the computer to view while other kids wait in line to do their schoolwork), I know we will be finishing out the course using the Digital Pack exclusively. DVDs are just so easy to misplace!

What's more -- I don't think I'm ever using another math program over the long haul. In fact, I am sorely tempted to start the twins on MUS Digital Packs, like, yesterday. They can *do* multiplication and division, but I don't know that it's ever really clicked the way it did for my older two. I think it would with Math-U-See. And given the cost-effectiveness of the Digital Packs, I can't think of a good reason not to pursue MUS. I think they would love it. 

If you, like me, have thought about Math-U-See in the past, but didn't really know if you were ready to take that plunge into a different kind of math, I really encourage you to click the banner below to read all of the Crew reviews. I am betting you'll be ready to see why so many parents say that their kids can't wait to do math when that math is Math-U-See.

Demme Learning's Math-U-See Review

Crew Disclaimer

12 Step Advice

Yesterday something in me snapped a little and I wrote a *very* long email to my dad. I just needed to talk. Typically when I get in those moods I end up emailing myself (complete non-sequitur: am I the only person who analyzes her grammar as she writes? As in, looking at that clause I just wrote and thinking there really should be commas around "when I get in those moods" even though I am kind of emotional just remembering writing that email? Does anyone else look at what they are writing, dispassionately critiquing as you go? I'm genuinely curious here...), but yesterday I really needed to know someone was on the other end (yes, of course I pray and I know that God is on the other end, but I needed to hear someone tell me it would be okay. God, being a perfectly pure spirit, doesn't speak by vibrating air over vocal cords. He's a bit more subtle.).

In any case, my dad reminded me of the two things he has been telling me my whole life: Let go and let God and take it day by day. I don't know why I need reminding of those things so often, but I do. The other things he told me, which I was desperate to hear, are that my kids will be okay (I am not breaking them or ruining them with my massive screw-ups) and that I can't be all things to all people and that that's okay. I am not wholly convinced of the first, but I know that the latter is true - in spades.

My dad was not perfect when I was growing up. Things happened that I am still not okay with. However, I knew then and know even more now that he did the best he could with what he had. And (never start a sentence with a conjunction) and I never doubted that he loved me. Now he is one of the only people I can trust - really trust. I am so, so blessed.

I have never been in 12 Step, so I can't speak to the efficacy of the program, but they do offer some very sound advice that I use in my every day life. That letting go thing is very, very hard, but oh-so-necessary. As usual, I wonder how people who don't believe in God cope. I, for one, don't have enough faith to be an atheist.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Did You Mean for That to Sound That Way?

Henry is a huge advocate of asking for clarification, as in, when someone says something that sounds disrespectful or hurtful, before you take offense, ask, "Did you mean that the way it sounded?" I'll admit that I rarely do that. I usually figure I can read people pretty well and I tend to give people (okay, people I care about) the benefit of the doubt. The others I don't really pay much attention to anyway.

Last week, though, I remembered his wisdom. I was putting on makeup and talking to Therese about...something. As often happens, our conversation was deteriorating. She was getting irritated with me and I was getting irritated with her. I was putting on a foundation I have worn many times (Tarte's Amazonian Clay in Fair Sand #makeupnerddetails). For some reason it looked *very pale*. I'm used to looking pretty pale, but I looked DEAD. I looked at myself in the mirror and said, "I look like crap on toast!" Therese, standing behind me, said in a kind of bored/bothered way, "Is that new?"

Truly, I was so flabbergasted that I couldn't even speak. I could feel tears filling my eyes (but we don't cry when we are wearing designer mascara!). I didn't know what she could be thinking. Therese is many things, but she's not usually *mean*. Her attitude usually comes across more as cold and dismissive. After a minute she started frantically saying, "The foundation! I meant is the foundation new? I mean is it the first time you've ever worn it?!" I was so relieved I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Now *that* comment made sense!

Therese told me that she couldn't figure out why I looked the way I did after she asked if that was new. She was initially annoyed by the look on my face, wondering if she had been supposed to know every detail of my makeup situation (no, that would be Mary-Catherine!). Then, when she realized what I must have thought she said, she was so chagrined. In retrospect, it's really, really funny. There is definitely a lesson in this story, though! Henry's policy of seeking clarification is a very good one! And I should have known that Therese would never imply that I have a history of looking like crap on toast...past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. My kids are many things, but nasty isn't one of them.