Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Review of A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks

A Journey Through Learning
I'm sure I'm not alone when I confess that lapbooks intimidate me. I love the end result, and if you have a child who enjoys this creative process, I think it is a great way to learn. There is something about all of those fancy folds, though, that just makes me hesitant to dive into one. Well, with A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks, those folds are not an issue! Here's why:

It may have been love at first sight when I saw An Overview of the 20th Century Lapbook Grades 2-7. The simple folds are only one reason. 
Overview of 20th Century Lapbook with Study Guide
The primary reason is that there is just so much educational material included with this lapbook! First, here's everything your child will learn:

But they just don't create minibooks based on each of these topics - far from it! For every single one of these topics, there is a sheet of study material. This page on Wilbur and Orville Wright is but a small sample:

And the minibooks themselves don't require your child to have a Master's Degree in art to complete them. As I mentioned above, they are simple folds. Simple folds don't mean simple knowledge, though. Mary-Catherine (12) has enjoyed this lapbook so much. She has been able to complete it herself with very little help from me. Only twice did she bring me a minibook and ask me where to find the information she needed to complete something. Otherwise, everything she needed was included in the study guide (the written material sampled above). 

This is a picture of the completed first folder of the lapbook. I literally took it as we were running out the door evacuating for Hurricane Harvey. Mary-Catherine was working on assembling the lapbook when we started trying to pack some things and I told her to leave the lapbook because it wasn't essential. Believe it or not, she argued that point with me! She has really enjoyed this one! Her favorite thing about the lapbook was the fact that it acted as a review of the US History that we did last year. She would be reading through the study guide and I would hear exclamations of, "I remember this!" or "We learned that, but I didn't know this!" That raises a great point. These lapbooks can be used in so many different ways. You can use them to supplement an existing curriculum, or you can use them to review, just as we did. Mary-Catherine never even considered this school. She just got it out to work on in her spare time. I love that about AJTL products. They just don't seem like school - not because they are not scholarly, but because they are not onerous. What more could you ask for from a homeschool product?

A Journey Through Learning has so many different lapbooks, and the Crew was lucky enough to get to review a bunch of them, so be sure to click the banner below to read all of the reviews (and on a personal note - please pray for those of us in Houston. So many have lost so much.).

Lapbooks for Classical Conversations, Apologia, Inventors & 20th Century {A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks Reviews}
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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Review of Everyday Homemaking's The Everyday Family Chore System

Everyday Homemaking

Why are family chores such a sore subject in my household? It's not like there are that many of them! There are dishes and floors. The dog enjoys a meal now and then. Laundry has to be folded. That's about it, though! We are solid suburbanites. No farm. No animals (apart from said dog). Nothing complicated. To hear my kids complain, though, you would swear that we were pioneers having to do everything on our own land. It's disheartening. For that reason, I was intrigued when I saw Everyday Homemaking's The Everyday Family Chore System

The Everyday FAMILY Chore System

More than just a Family Chore System, this ebook is a child training system. In fact, author Vicki Bentley makes the point explicitly that child training is the first step toward home management. That's Part One of her book!  

As you can see, it is only in Part Three that Vicki moves into the actual chore system itself. That's the best thing about this book: it's far more than just a set of chore charts that you can find somewhere on the Internet. You're actually getting great information and help with your purchase. 

Having said that, if you're past the stages of Parts One and Two (and if your kids are as old as mine, those ships have pretty much sailed...mine are 16, 14, 12, and 12), you still get so much bang for your buck with this book! Vicki gives you so many different ideas for how to assign, or divvy up chores. Sometimes what your family really needs is just a new way to refresh the whole process. Sometimes you just need to streamline it. Reading this book made me realize that. 

For Vicki's system (after considering her four basic principles introduced at the beginning of the book), the most important starting point is the non-negotiable chores. I laid those out at the beginning of this post. These get divided up daily and weekly among the children living at home. I was already doing this, but the great thing about reading this book was realizing that I was not doing this in the most efficacious way possible. By utilizing Vicki's simple chore chart rotation method, these chores can be shared more equitably among my children. It sounded so simple once I read it, but for some reason, I had gotten so stuck on having some chores assigned to some children almost in perpetuity. Adding in the extra jobs using the "Job-From-Box" method takes care of the non-negotiables and makes for wonderful disciplinary actions (which my kids far prefer over losing their devices).

There is obviously far more to Vicki's system (see the length of Part Three in the TOC above), but the nuts-and-bolts are pretty simple (which is not to say the book isn't worth it - I am so glad I had the chance to read it. I *needed* it for my teens, and I would have gotten even more out of it had my kids been much younger!), meaning anyone can implement the method and see nearly instantaneous results. This is not a system that will take you eons to set up. This is not some Japanese life simplification process. This is a chore system that will probably have you hearing less of, "Why do I have to do all the work around here? It's not fair!" That makes The Everyday Family Chore System a winner in my world.

If you'd like to check out The Everyday Family Chore System (or Vicki's other book, Everyday Cooking) either in print or ebook format, for yourself, she is currently offering Homeschool Review Crew blog readers a coupon code! Using the code TOS10books will get you 10% off either or both of her books until 9/5/17! If you need to do more research first, be sure to click the banner below to read more great reviews.

Everyday Cooking and Chores Systems for your Family {Everyday Homemaking Reviews}
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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Spiritual Works of Mercy

There are so many things that I love about being Catholic. It would take so much more room than I have here to enumerate them. The elucidation of the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy is just one of them. The Corporal Works of Mercy are, I think, fairly well understood, but it is the Spiritual Works of Mercy that have always resonated with me, especially the call to bear wrongs patiently.

Image Credit:

How hard that one is! How often we are presented with the opportunity to do it, though. I feel that I have been wronged so often lately, and it has been so acutely painful. It is a characteristic of my personality type (melancholic, obviously) that I am overly sensitive regarding injustice (as it applies both to myself and to others). It is so comforting to know that we are called (we are *obligated*) to perform the Spiritual Works of Mercy just as much as we are the Corporal - so I better get to the business of bearing those wrongs -- and patiently. 

As with everything about Catholicism, it brings me so much comfort. If you'd like to read more about this very old practice (going back at least to St. Thomas Aquinas - the Angelic Doctor), this article is quite good: Are The Works of Mercy Ever Obligatory? 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Tell That Stranger What You're Thinking

A few years ago, a hotel front desk clerk just spontaneously said (as I was headed out for the day), "You're so pretty, Mrs. Delgado!" Needless to say, it made my day (okay, my week). It was the kind of thing that I saw my dad doing while I was growing up. He was king of the random compliment. He made sure to tell waitresses (the one or so times a year we went out to eat!) what a great job they were doing, before the advent of PC, he always complimented women on their clothes or their hair, etc. Since that day, I decided to follow in his footsteps. If the girl checking me out at the grocery store has great hair, I tell her. If the guy sacking the groceries has a killer smile, I tell him (advantage of being old - there's no chance it looks like I'm coming on to him). A few months ago, I was driving through a neighborhood and there were two teen girls walking along (like I used to do with my best friend Josh all the time) and one of them had very bold purple hair. I loved it. If I weren't older than cheese, I would totally color my hair purple. Because my own teen daughter was in the front seat and I figured I wouldn't terrify her by slowing down and rolling down the window, I told her she had killer hair. She beamed.

Which leads me to my present story. There is a woman that we have seen for years at the Saturday 5:30 Mass. She is older, but far too elegant to be called elderly. In fact, she is the most stylish and elegant woman that I have ever seen. Unless I am completely ignorant (and I'm not), her suits are Chanel. Her hair is always perfection. Her jewelry and accessories are beautiful. Her makeup is (as the kids say) goals. She always smiles at us and winks at my kids. Part of me has been a little, well, afraid to approach her because she is so perfect I'm so me. However, while I assume that people must tell her how beautiful and elegant she is every day, maybe that don't. She comes to Mass alone. I don't know her life circumstances. So a couple of weeks ago, I didn't stay after Mass praying like I usually do. I basically chased her down and told her what I thought about her - how she was so beautiful and so stylish and how I admired her. I told her that I wanted to be like her when I grew up.

It turned out that she had so many wonderful stories to tell and that she so wanted to talk! First of all, she told us how lovely our family was and how she had watched our children grow up - how good they had always been in church. Her (second? third?) husband had very recently just died. His end of life stay at a home (Memorial area if you're from Houston, so you know what that had to cost) had depleted their savings to nothing and she had had to sell everything in their home - furnishings, treasures, everything. She was now trying so hard to sell the house itself. It turned out that she had also spent seven years at the Dominican convent in Houston. As the last of her parents' children, she felt honor-bound to enter religious life, given how badly they wanted a vocation among their children. At the same time, she didn't feel that she was called to be a sister. She showed us a picture of herself in her habit, a picture she still carries all these decades later. She left the convent before her final vows and then got married. She told us all about how her husband worked for the oil industry and how they lived in Europe and how she traveled with the American Wives Club. It was fascinating. I loved listening to her! I didn't want to ask, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if she had been Junior League back in the day.

My point is that her need to talk just reinforced my conviction that if I am moved to compliment someone, I need to do it. There is a reason that that idea has been planted in my head. This woman needed to hear that. She was so pleased when I told her what I thought of her. I'm sure she knew it on some level, but who doesn't like to hear kind words spoken about them, especially when they are going through rough times? And I certainly had no way of knowing just how rough were the times she was going through. In my mind, this woman had Nordstrom calling her seasonally to let her know that Chanel and Dior had just sent over their newest collections, did she want them sent over to her house? Maybe at one time that had been true - who knows? But not now.

It's so easy to be negative. It should be even easier to be positive. If you're not already doing this, give it a try. It may feel a little strange, but I bet you'll find it slightly addictive very, very quickly!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Review of Math Essentials' No-Nonsense Algebra

Math Essentials
Math. I know it's not one of *those* four letter words, but I'll be darned if it doesn't feel like it most of the time in my house. Therese (16) is sort of consumed with math right now, as she is staring down the barrel of the PSAT in a few months. Because of the fact that math is not her strongest subject, I was happy when I saw the opportunity to review Math Essentials from No-Nonsense Algebra. These math lessons are short, but thorough, and they provide just the right amount of review if you've already done algebra (which is how we used this program).
No-Nonsense Algebra
No-Nonsense Algebra is a complete algebra program, and it can be used that way. It covers the following topics:
  • Necessary Tools for Algebra
  • Solving Equations
  • Graphing and Analyzing Linear Equations
  • Solving and Graphing Inequalities
  • Systems of Linear Equations and Inequalities
  • Polynomials
  • Rational Expressions
  • Radical Expressions and Geometry
  • Quadratic Equations
  • Algebra Word Problems
Each of the ten chapters concludes with a review, and there is a final review. There are also chapter tests and a final exam. Solutions to all of the problems are found at the back of the book. The book itself, though, is only half of the No-Nonsense Algebra program. Each lesson is accompanied by a free online video lesson. Purchase of the book entitles you to free access to all of the online video lessons, which correspond perfectly to the chapters in the book:

The videos are done "whiteboard style" as below:

Therese only watched them when she needed something clarified that she didn't understand in the text, but if you are learning this material for the first time (rather than going through it for purposes of review), the material is presented clearly and concisely by Richard W. Fisher, winner of the Intel Innovations in Teaching Award. Mr. Fisher really is an excellent teacher. He makes these concepts easy to understand. I don't find Algebra intuitive at all, but he makes it so much more comprehensible. I asked Therese more than once, "Why aren't you watching the videos?!" "Because I don't need to!" she answered. That's for two reasons. First, Mr. Fisher's written explanations are also excellent, and that's how Therese has been learning math her whole life - from a book. Second, Therese is reviewing most of these concepts, and not learning them for the first time. I have a feeling that when I use this book with my twins (12) in a couple of years (because I will be using this book with my twins!), they will welcome the excellent videos.

Therese's Assessment of No-Nonsense Algebra
"I really liked the fact that there were short explanations, but they still told me exactly what I needed to do, and it was nice knowing that I had the videos as back up if I couldn't figure it out just based off of the text lesson. I thought it had just the right amount of problems and problems at different difficulties because it never got boring or repetitive. It had just enough to be able to figure out the problems and then move on. The parts that I have covered so far have resulted in dramatic improvements in my SAT math score (according to my test prep materials), and since that is why I wanted to use this book, I would consider it a huge success. I am definitely going to finish the entire book."
We have been loving this program. To see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought, be sure to click the banner below.
No-Nonsense Algebra {Math Essentials Reviews}
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Monday, August 7, 2017

Therese Writes About Scholarship Application Process!

It's true! I have a guest writer on my blog today for the first time ever! Therese has been applying for scholarships for a few weeks now (she's a rising Junior), and her process is so methodical that I thought it might help other people. Hence, I asked her to write a post for my blog! Without further ado, please welcome my eldest child, my daughter Therese (16)!


If you were to see my room, you would never guess that I prefer to be an organized person. But, that is the truth.  I like to be organized whenever possible. This being the case, I wanted to approach the matter of applying for scholarships in a neat and orderly fashion. Within this blog post, I’ll walk you through the methods I’ve employed for choosing, applying for, and keeping track of scholarships.

The Book

I started my scholarship process with the 800 paged Ultimate Scholarship Book (2018). It’s a very daunting book, due mostly to its size. The book sorts scholarships into different categories: Generic scholarships, Humanities and Art/Social Sciences/Science/State of Residence/Membership/Ethnicity, Race, Gender, and Family Situation/and Disability and Illness. It contained a total of 2715 scholarships. I went through every category (and every scholarship). I would advise everyone to do so with the possible exception of disability and illness. You never know what will apply to you. For instance, I don’t have much interest in science, nor do I plan on studying anything in that field. And yet, I found multiple scholarships in that section that applied to me.

I went through every scholarship in the book. Those that didn’t apply to me I struck through with a highlighter. Those that did apply, I color coded. The flags are no longer in the book (you’ll find out why in a minute), but here is the color key:
Purple: Absolutely Must Enter (Usually due to the amount)
Green: Essay
Pink: Simple Application
Orange: Video
Red: Other Form of Entry (poetry etc.)
Blue: Uncertain Whether I Can Apply

Once I had “processed” the entire book, I started at the beginning again. I cut out every flagged scholarship. Then I moved on to step two.

The Planner
I took a planner that I had (one that didn’t already have dates pre-written in it) and used that for my organizer. I wanted something that had the setup of a calendar in it in order to track deadlines. This meant that a blank notebook wouldn’t do, but a planner worked perfectly. I sorted all the scholarships I’d cut out by the month the deadline was in. Then, starting with the January pile, I put all of the scholarships into my book. Using the calendar page, I wrote out the name of each scholarship in the appropriate date box. Then, turning the page, I filled in the details of each on the pages meant for planning out your day. The details of each scholarship I included were:
Short description of what you had to do to enter (i.e. “Register with X, write 700 word essay on X)
Amount awarded to the winners
Number of Awards
Code from The Ultimate Scholarship Book
All fairly straightforward. My color coding continued on into the planner. If I had had a purple flag on a scholarship, I wrote all the details of said scholarship in purple. This way I could tell at a glance which ones had been flagged what color. I also included the paper copies of all the details for the scholarships that I’d cut out of the book.

The Applications
I next created a separate email account for all college related email. I started applying to the scholarships with the fastest approaching deadlines. Every time I applied to one, I checked it off my list in my planner. When I found a new scholarship online, I’d write it down in my book. I’ll keep repeating this process until I reach the end of the planner.

Me Again...
Now you see why I wanted Therese to share her process. It's pretty awesome, huh? She doesn't have a high school guidance counselor to walk her through this process or bring scholarships to her attention. She's doing it all on her own. I have always said, though, that the money is out there and it's going to someone. Might as well go to her!

I hope you've enjoyed this guest post. I'm thinking of having her write more of them as she goes through her (notoriously difficult and stressful) Junior year. Hopefully there is some interest in that.

Review of Greek 'n' Stuff's Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek!

Greek 'n' Stuff

Greek 'n' Stuff is one of the first vendors I ever learned about when I started homeschooling, so they will always have a special place in my heart. I have used their Bible studies and their Latin before, but somehow, their awesomely named Greek has never come home from the homeschool store with me. Fortunately, we were given the opportunity to review Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! - Level 3 Set. 

Hey, Andrew!Teach Me Some Greek!

Therese (16) has had some Greek before, and Nicholas' (14) curriculum didn't have room for another class right now, but the twins (12) were itching to learn Greek, so I requested this product for them. Although they are Greek neophytes, Greek 'n' Stuff recommends Level 3 as the starting place for beginners 4th grade and up. It assumes no prior knowledge of Greek, as it begins at the beginning with the alphabet. After receiving it in the mail and showing it to the twins to gauge their interest, I decided that Michael would be my Greek student this summer! He really loves languages. A couple of summers ago, he took on Hebrew for a few weeks. Last summer, he studied beginning Japanese. After seeing how he has done with Greek, I may bring Mary-Catherine on board with her own student book later this fall, but for now, Michael has been my Greek guinea pig!

We received the Level 3 Student Worktext and Answer Key of Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! along with the Pronunciation CD for Levels 3 and 4. The Answer Key is an exact replica of the Student Worktext with the answers filled in. For some courses I would say that you don't need the Answer Key, but for this course, I say that it is an absolute necessity (unless, of course, you are fluent in Greek)! The Answer Key also has a note to the Parent/Teacher that makes a few suggestions, such as buying a Greek Interlinear New Testament in order to practice reading orally. There is also Bible Copy Work in the Appendix. The last thing that the Answer Key contains that is not present in the worktext, but is a very nice thing to have, is the Schedule of Lessons. It calls for doing one page per day, and that's been a very nice pace for us. Can you do more than one page per day? Obviously, yes, and with ease. Why the Schedule of Lessons is nice to have, though, is because it contains teaching tips throughout, and the tips are not short one sentence throwaways. They are like a second Greek course for adults. I wouldn't want to be walking Michael through this course without them.
The pronunciation CD is also a must-have. Michael was really excited to start digging into his workbook (worktext), but the first thing he said when he began flipping through it and saw the Greek words was, "How do you say these words?" I was very glad to be able to answer him by pulling out the CD!

Michael and Andrew

In keeping with the suggested schedule (although, as the author notes, older children can certainly do more), Michael has been doing the minimum one page per day. It is a good pace for him right now with his current schedule (he is in 7th grade). He enjoys learning Greek, and Mary-Catherine has started saying, "I wouldn't mind learning Greek, too!" I think I'll be picking up a second student workbook (worktext) for her in the near future. This course is highly accessible to kids. It is not hard, and as a parent, you have some control over how much you actually teach them. You can go deeper by incorporating some of what is shared with you in the teaching tips, or you can just let them go with what is in the student worktext. Daily flashcard practice is essential, though, and they should not move forward if they have not mastered the required flashcards. There is certainly not an overwhelming amount of material presented each lesson, and the activities used to introduce and cement the material is varied and fun. This is not a typical workbook course at all, so don't shy away from it just because there is a workbook involved!

Michael has been able to do most of the worktext with little assistance from me, which is where I want him to be at this point in his homeschool journey. Of course, I need to hear his oral work, but the actual putting pencil to paper part has been something he is completely able to do on his own -- and he enjoys it!
I am so glad to have finally been able to try Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! after hearing about it for a full decade! Of course, Greek 'n' Stuff has other great products, too, including Bible studies! Be sure to click on the banner below to read all of the Crew's experiences with them.

Teach Me Some Greek {Greek 'n' Stuff Reviews}
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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review of Heirloom Audio Productions' In the Reign of Terror

Heirloom Audio Productions
Because we have reviewed Heirloom Audio Productions before, I was happy to receive In the Reign of Terror for review. This CD is beautifully presented in a fold-out case on two discs. The total run time is 2 1/2 hours of full-cast audio, and the cast in this production (as with all Heirloom Audio Productions' offerings) is not to be believed. Stars like Brian Blessed, John Rhys-Davies, Jack Farthing, and Cathy Sara make In the Reign of Terror not only come to life - they make it leap full-force into your car or living room. This is not a passive listening experience!
In the Reign of Terror
If you're not yet convinced that this is not a passive listening experience, I encourage you to watch the trailer. It will give you a small taste of the treat your ears are in for.

Heirloom Audio Productions also has a beautiful study guide that has questions, activities, and much more. Designed to help parents make In the Reign of Terror more meaningful to their younger children (the CD is intended for children as young as 6), the study guide has activities that can be enjoyed by multiple ages. The study guide begins with some biographies of important people, including Henty himself (the author of the book), Robespierre, and Marie Antoinette. For each track of the CD, the study guide has "Listening Well" and "Thinking Further" questions, along with "Defining Words." Although not available for every track, there are also "Expand Your Learning" inserts, which have great historical background information, turning this great audio production into a unit study! For example, one of the segments was a recipe for No-Knead French Bread, and there's another one for Brioche- see, I'm not kidding about turning this into a unit study!

The study guide also includes a list of further resources, three Bible studies, and historical background on The Reign of Terror. There is a lot of material there!

As we have with previous Heirloom Audio Productions reviews, we received some amazing bonuses with this review, including:
  • In the Reign of Terror Adventure Playlist (the ability to listen to the audio adventure in playlist format
  • The original eBook of GA Henty's In the Reign of Terror
  • Official Soundtrack
  • Printable Cast Poster
  • Study Guide
  • Inspirational Verse Poster ("What man intends for evil, God intends for good")
  • Desktop Wallpaper Download
  • Official Script Download - by far the *coolest* bonus ever! It is so fun to listen to the story and follow along on the script. Plus, like everything that Heirloom Audio does, the script is simply gorgeous.

My kids love listening to these Heirloom Audio Productions performances. They are absolutely top quality and the stories are riveting. In the Reign of Terror is no exception. The story follows Harry Sandwith, a 16 year-old English boy who goes to live with the Marquis de St. Caux in France in 1790. While he's living there, the French Revolution begins to progress in earnest. Obviously, the Marquis is nobility and therefore is loyal to King Louis XVI. I don't want to give away any key plot points, but all the ingredients are present for a very emotionally intense and exciting book, and the amazing actors at Heirloom Audio Productions 100% bring it to life in a way that just reading it can't.

Heirloom Audio also has something new! Check it out - Live the Adventure Club!

We always love everything that Heirloom Audio Productions puts out, but you don't have to take our word for it. To see what other Crew members thought, click the banner below!

In the Reign of Terror {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}
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