Tuesday, July 31, 2018

So Many Ideas, So Little Time

It used to be that all I wanted to do was work. I always had my laptop open and I was always working. It annoyed my husband, and rightly so. Just because you work from home doesn't mean that you should always be working. My wonderful husband built me a beautiful desk in our bedroom (yes, I know sleep science says that's a no-no), and since then I usually keep my computer at my desk. The funny thing is, though, I no longer feel like working all that much. I have been self-employed for more than 10 years. In that time, I have had the same job, supplemented by other writing jobs. I have always looked forward to getting on my computer and setting everything down on paper. In the past six months or so, though, I just don't feel like working anymore! There are too many other things I'm interested in.

I have never considered myself a creative person. I'm too "color within the lines" for that. Recently, though, I just have so many creative ideas and things I want to do. I have ideas for businesses that I want to start. I want to play with my boys (the human ones and the canine ones!). My sons just introduced me to Magic the Gathering, and I have rarely had as much fun as I have when playing with them. You get to see your kids in a different light when you do different things with them (I know - so much profundity for a Tuesday morning!). Anyone who knows me at all knows that life has not always (ever) been easy with my 15 year-old. He has personality traits that I am sure God gave him for a greater purpose in life, but it is hard to see that purpose when trying to parent him. However, playing a game with him shows him to me in a new light. He is helpful and compassionate. He is a good sport. He's *hilarious*. I think it's so helpful to take time out from being a parent and just play like I did when my kids were younger. They love it. I love it.

I have always wondered if I have a touch of ADD - my brain just goes so fast all the time. I'm at a point in my life where it's doing so more than ever. I wonder if it's related to something else going on with me. My migraines are worse than ever. I am out of commission almost completely about 50% of the time and I'm compromised another 25% of the time. I'm trying neurology again after taking a long hiatus. There are only so many times you can realize that there is no hope for you before it begins to wear you down. Sometimes I think it's better to suffer resignedly than to always be hoping for some relief.


Baskin-Robbins $1.50 scoops!

Just in case ice cream out is as big a deal in your family as it is in mine...

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Review of Progeny Press

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that we have used and loved Progeny Press almost since we began homeschooling (2007!). As a piece of trivia, Progeny Press began with 18 study guides in 1993 and has 115 guides currently. I have also been lucky to have reviewed it several times before. You can read those six reviews here. This time around, we got to review The Scavengers - eGuide. Like all Progeny Press study guides, this one follows a similar format. The study guide is 73 pages, including an answer key. It contains background information, pre-reading activities, vocabulary, content questions, what I call comprehension questions (so, digging deeper and critical thinking short essay-style questions), and activities. There is a wide enough variety that a student can either complete the whole study guide (which I would think is preferred), or pick and choose which parts suit their style. For instance, I have one child who loves to write, so would eagerly tackle all of the writing/short-essay style questions, but who loathes anything that looks like a hands-on craft or activity. I have another child who is dysgraphic*, so doesn't necessarily embrace writing, but who is very hands-on and loves activities (*note that dysgraphia isn't nearly as big a problem with Progeny Press e-Guides, as students can type directly into a pdf!).

Mary-Catherine (13) was my tester for this study guide. After I bought The Scavengers for her to read, she inhaled the book in one day. Well. That's not usually the best way to go about doing a study guide. It generally works better, from my point of view, to read a section and then do the accompanying study guide section, but I have never once ordered my kids to stop reading, so we dealt with it. Because she had already read the whole book, Mary-Catherine was allowed to complete the study guide at her own pace; no reading before writing necessary!

Mary-Catherine really enjoys words, so it was no surprise to me that she thoroughly enjoyed completing the vocabulary activities. She also liked the short answer questions. Her enjoyment of the study guide was confirmed when the first "Thinking About the Story" activity talked about word play, like alliteration. It's always exciting to see something you know a lot about pop up in your curriculum, so she eagerly went after this section, too. The longer essay-type questions are a bit more challenging, but because the book was below her current reading level, they didn't present as much of a challenge as they otherwise might have. One reason I love these study guides is because they force me to make my kids struggle with literature (by which I mean it forces them to confront issues in books and to wrestle with the meanings and implications). It's something I do naturally, and I take it far too much for granted that my kids do it, too. They don't necessarily, though, so Progeny Press always holds my feet to the fire!

Like every Progeny Press study guide we have ever used, beginning with the paper versions in 2007 and right to the pdfs today, this one was excellent. I would recommend any of their study guides to anyone.

If you have kids younger or older than Mary-Catherine, be sure to click the graphic below to read more reviews, including reviews of study guides for the youngest readers through high school.

New Study Guides for Literature From a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press Reviews}

Monday, July 16, 2018

Review of Code for Teens

One subject that can pass homeschoolers by if they are not careful is programming. From what I see from the public schoolers I know, programming is just a core part of the curriculum in multiple classes. For homeschoolers, especially those embracing classical or Charlotte Mason education, programming can easily fall by the wayside. Fortunately, Code for Teens' awesome book Code For Teens: The Awesome Beginner's Guide to Programming (Volume 1) is available to remedy that problem (see, I told you it was awesome - it even says so in the title!).

Code for Teens is a 219 page paperback book. It's the kind that you can open without breaking the spine, if that makes sense, which makes it ideal for reading and working simultaneously. The goal of the book's author was to create a programming instruction book that students could do by themselves with no teacher or parent involvement. Yes! Sign me up! There are ten chapters in the book, beginning with writing your first line of code and ending with making a hangman game. The book is written in a very informal style, just as if the author were sitting next to your child and guiding all of his coding efforts. When he introduces a new term, he defines it. His tone is encouraging and helpful without being at all condescending. All code is set apart in gray highlighting so it is obvious. Wonderful illustrations are contributed by the author's, Jeremy Moritz, wife Christine. The illustrations always add something to the page and don't come off as distracting or extraneous. In short, I love the style of this book. If you would like to see for yourself what I mean, check out the sample available from the author.

Further, as stated by the author, he wanted to create a programming course that followed the pace of a core school course, like math. All the programs for kids/teens he had seen went way too fast and expected too much knowledge in too short a period of time. Hence, this course moves much more slowly and gives students plenty of time to absorb all that they are learning. I love that. In order to learn and retain, some subjects must be marinated in. I definitely think programming falls under that category. Learning what to do is of no use if you have not practiced enough to retain the knowledge. In accordance with valuing actual learning and retention, the author includes a review drill at the end of each chapter. Also, in accordance with the stated purpose of creating a course that is entirely self-taught, he tells the students that they can find all the answers right at the end of the book! Again, I love that. My 13 year-old son is perfectly capable of self-checking, but that often isn't an option in homeschool-friendly programs.

Michael (13) and Code for Teens

I initially thought of  Nicholas (15) for this review, but he is not really a beginning programmer. He has actually done quite a lot with Java before, so even though Michael has not expressed interest in learning programming, I handed him this book and told him to go nuts. Here are some of his first efforts:

He has really been enjoying working through this book! I haven't had to browbeat him into doing it (although it is summer, so I have had to remind him) at all. I am sure that the author's casual no-pressure approach (all while teaching so much!) has a lot to do with that. I am excited that Michael is learning to program in Java, and I am very excited that this book is labeled Volume 1 - I will definitely be looking into Volume 2.

Michael will continue to work through this book at his own pace (another suggestion of the author's). I have no doubt that he will complete it and be looking to extend his knowledge. It's obvious that I really like this program, but if you want to check out other opinions, be sure to click the awesome graphic below!

Code For Teens: The Awesome Beginner's Guide to Programming {Code for Teens Reviews}

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Seasons of Life

I think everyone probably does this, but I look at my life in chunks of time. There was high school, college, Henry before we were married (which dovetails with the first half of college), Henry after we were married, but before we had kids (last half of college and first half of grad school), babies (four in forty months), toddlers, Cardinal Newman (Therese's K and half of 1st grade), early homeschooling, and teenagers. Guess where we are now? Four teenagers is hard. Teenagers with health and emotional issues is harder. I know from experience, because every other stage of my life (with the exception of high school) has taught me, that these years will fly by. All of my kids will probably be out of the house in five years. Five years is nothing. Five years is the number of years that Henry and I were together before we had kids. They went by so fast!

Right now the time is not flying. Right now life is challenging. I will get back to more regular posting on the blog, but for now I don't feel that my posts would be all that fun to read.