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Wordless Wednesday - The Secret of Success


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Review of Doctor Aviation

Doctor Aviation
Doctor Aviation is unlike any program we have ever reviewed. These Aviation Online Training Videos are, quite simply, one of the most unique things on the Internet for homeschoolers (or anyone, but, you know, I'm speaking to my target audience!). Doctor Aviation is a series of 15 videos, each with three different segments: Technical Trivia, Notable Innovators, and Legendary Aircraft/Events. Each video runs about an hour. 


The videos are divided into five main topic areas, under which you will learn the following:

1. Course Overview - The Aviation System

I. The Aircraft

2. The Major Components of an Airplane
3. Axes and Forces
4. Why an Aircraft Flies: The Secret of Airfoils and Lift
5. Why an Aircraft Turns, Pitches, and Flies: The Flight Controls

II. Air Traffic Control

6. How We See an Aircraft Miles Away: The Secrets of Radar
7. The Air Traffic Cops: How Air Traffic Control Works

III. Maintenance

8. Keep 'Em Flying: Aircraft Maintenance - Propeller Engines
9. Keep 'Em Flying: Aircraft Maintenance - Jet Engines

IV. Airfield Operations

10. The City in and of Itself: Running a Large Airport
11. The Small Airport and Running an FBO

V. The Aircraft II

12. Flying in the Clear and Not so Clear Air: VMC and IMC
13. Important Pilot Instruments: Attitude Indicator
14. Important Pilot Instruments: Airspeed Indicator
15. Other Aviation Ships: Gliders, Helicopters, Airships

Daryl Smith, Doctor Aviation, is a former Air Force Command Pilot (for part of which he worked on SDI - you know, Star Wars!) and instructor at the Air Force Academy. He is currently a college professor. In other words, this man knows aviation. Because he wanted to bring aviation to high schoolers, he created this virtual classroom. In my opinion, he succeeded.

In addition to the videos, there are two other components to Doctor Aviation. There are downloadable Guided Notes for each video, which I love. I printed these ahead of time for Nicholas to fill out as he was watching the video. I'll be honest: the videos could get to feeling a bit long. Doctor Aviation (Mr. Smith) tends to stand by his plane for most of the video talking. Now, my husband and I didn't mind that at all. I was fascinated. It seems that no matter how many times someone explains to me how planes fly (Video #4), it is a mystery revealed anew each time. Nicholas (14) got bored, though. Having the guided notes for him to fill in along the way was a stroke of brilliance. It kept him alert throughout the whole video.

Obviously the notes aren't fancy, but they don't have to be. They get the job done just fine. If you were taking this course for some kind of credit (because there is absolutely enough material here to be doing this for high school credit), they would make amazing study material.

The final component to each lesson is the "To Learn More" section that accompanies each video. This is the real meat of the lesson if you are doing Doctor Aviation for credit (which Nicholas isn't - I just know that my husband has always loved planes and I thought that he and Nicholas would enjoy learning more about them together). In these pages, Doctor Aviation gives you a *ton* of extra resources to peruse that pertain to the material he just covered in the video. The resources are all very neatly categorized by type and by topic.


I chose this particular screenshot because of that last article. I *love* that Doctor Aviation included an article from a scholarly journal. It's the kind of resource that "the rest of us" just wouldn't normally stumble upon. It's like me citing something from the American Political Science Quarterly. Plus, don't you just kind of wonder if he's 4th author? 

If you're taking this class for credit, you won't have to do any extra work in pulling together outside resources. Doctor Aviation has done all of the work for you. I mean, you'll have to put in the time, but it's not like when you're writing a unit study and you have to hunt and search for the best materials: they are already all in one place for you. 

For example, in Lesson 4, there are links to videos showing you how to build your own wind tunnel and airfoil. This is just an example of the kind of neat projects you can expect to find.

Finally, although we didn't delve into them, there are tests available from Doctor Aviation, should you so desire. He tells you on the website at what point you should be taking which test.

What We Thought

Well, our household was kind of divided in opinion on this review, but take Nicholas's opinion cum grano salis. The adults really enjoyed Doctor Aviation. The material is so interesting and, I'll confess, I'm a little starstruck by the credentials of the presenter (I mean, I remember debating Star Wars in high school). Is Mr. Smith the most fascinating communicator of all time? No. But he doesn't have to be. He knows his subject, and his passion for his subject is evident. That's enough for me. But Nicholas was raised in a different generation. He is used to far more flash and excitement with his video presentations. Sad but true. He loves informative presentations and he loves learning new things, but he will inevitably compare something like Doctor Aviation to The Science Channel. Still, the videos did hold his attention, and he was completely able to talk about what he learned at the end of each one. One comment - "Wow! That guy really really likes Chuck Yeager!" Also, the courses are designed for ages 16+, and Nicholas is a brand new 14 (and an immature 14 at that), so take those things into consideration when deciding whether or not this product is for you. If you have a child who is at all into aviation, maybe one who is in Civil Air Patrol or who is considering it, I would definitely not hesitate with this one. Or if you yourself are interested in aviation, give the samples online a try. I am *really* enjoying Doctor Aviation and can't wait to see how Air Traffic Control works (my hat is off to anyone who does that job; it looks like a heart attack in waiting to me!). 

Many different crew members got a chance to try out Doctor Aviation, so be sure to click the banner below to see what they thought!

Aviation Course {Doctor Aviation Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

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Review of Mapelle Films' Trust Fund

Mapelle Films

Mapelle Films' Trust Fund is a movie for those 12+ (or younger if viewed with the family) whose theme will seem familiar, although it is presented in a fresh new way. There is also a downloadable study guide to give more depth to the movie watching experience if you so desire. It has scriptures and questions that correspond to the different parts of the movie. The cinematographer/producer of Trust Fund, Isaac Alonghi, was homeschooled back when homeschooling just wasn't done (his parents started in 1982! I was seven years old!), and, as many homeschooling parents can attest, that flexibility and free time can really help when it comes to cultivating and pursuing life's passions. You can read more about Isaac in this article.

Trust Fund Movie


Trust Fund is the story of Reese Donahue, a young woman whose mother has, unbeknownst to her, left her and her sister a 10 million dollar inheritance. Her father, the owner of a profitable company, has never mentioned the inheritance. Reese hacks into the bank on her sister's computer, transfers her half of the inheritance to her own bank account, and takes her money to Italy to a man with whom she had previously engaged in a romantic relationship. When he runs into financial difficulties, she offers him money, and, well, does the story of the prodigal son sound familiar? This movie is a modern take on the age old story of the prodigal. Also, although I didn't review it, there is also a book, Love Was Near, which further explores the story behind the movie. 

Now, don't make the mistake that I was tempted to make. This is *not* a homeschool movie. Yes, it's made by a homeschool graduate, and, yes, there is a Christian message, but this is a thoroughly enjoyable movie in its own right. Need more? It co-stars Willie Garson. That's Stanford Blatch! As in Carrie Bradshaw's best friend. If I'm speaking a foreign language right now, don't even worry about it, but if those names mean anything to you, I've just given you an independent reason to watch this movie (if you Google those names and feel the need to judge me, that's okay. I can take it. Ironically, I can no longer take the vapidity of that show, but I fell in love with shoes because of it.).

Back to our regularly scheduled review. If, like me, the story of the prodigal son troubles you, I encourage you to give this movie a try. See, as a parent, I have no trouble with the prodigal at all. I would welcome Reese back with wide open arms and no questions asked. Unconditional love, right? Just like Jesus. As a sibling, though? Oh, I feel Audrey (Reese's sister)! I have a prodigal brother. Now, he didn't spend the family fortune (there are six kids in my family - there is no fortune to spend), but he did consume quite a bit of resources, emotional and financial when we were kids and young adults. He was...a handful. He had his brushes with drugs, alcohol, and truancy. He put a strain on our family and he put a strain on me personally that I don't think I am over even now. As an adult, though, he is extremely successful both in his career and with his own family. I am so proud of him and I am so happy for him. I am happy and grateful that there are no rifts in our family - that my father doesn't hold any of his past against him and that they have a close relationship. But there is still something inside me that screams out - "But I did everything right! What about me? I never strayed from the right path. I never even stopped going to church! I've always been steady Betty, old reliable - why can't anyone see me?" Seeing a movie like this brings me back to Earth and reminds me that my Father always sees me; that I've never been forgotten.

I was originally going to watch this with Mary-Catherine (12), but she has been sick since we got back from Arkansas, so I ended up watching it alone. I'm glad I did. I'll watch it with her in the near future. I'm pretty sure she'll really enjoy it, and I'm pretty sure she'll recognize a bit of Audrey in her young self, too. I highly recommend this movie.
Trust Fund Movie {Mapelle Films Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

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Review of Home School in the Woods' Make-a-State Activity

Home School in the Woods
Home School in the Woods makes lap booking fun. I don't care if you don't think you like lap books or if you think lap books are hard. I can almost guarantee that Home School in the Woods will convert you. Their products are also the best deal in their space in the homeschool market? Why? Because you buy one product and you can lap book (or notebook) an almost infinite (or, in the case of the cool product we got the review, 50) number of options! We have reviewed for this great company before, but this time around, we got to try a new member of the Activity-Paks family: the Make-a-State Activity! (*real time face palm, y'all - after nine years of homeschooling, I *just* got it! Activity-Pak - Amy Pak (for the one or two of you who don't know, she is the genius behind Home School in the Woods). I'm bemused by my thickheadedness and amused by Amy's cleverness. Sorry I'm so late to that party.) 
Hands-On History Activity-Paks: Make-A-State
This is not the first Activity-Pak we've done, far from it. In our past ten years of homeschooling, we've worked through The Old Testament, Composers, and Artists. In fact, as she started working on this Activity-Pak, Mary-Catherine immediately began talking about doing Mozart for the Composers Activity-Pak. We've also done several of the Time Traveler American series, including New World Explorers and Colonial Life. Homeschool in the Woods really is a hands-on history company! They have something for everyone, whether you like to study history chronologically (the Time Traveler American series is tailor-made for you!), or thematically (the Activity-Paks have you covered!). Spoilers - read to the end of the review to see how Homeschool in the Woods is determined to service your hands-on history needs, even if you don't need an entire unit study from them!
With the Make-a-State Activity-Pak, you have everything you need to make an amazing lap book for any (or all) of the 50 states! You will get mini book templates for each of the following:
  • Key State Facts
  • Origin of State Names
  • State Motto
  • State Symbol
  • State Song
  • State Wildlife
  • Regions
  • State Geography
  • State Wildlife
  • State Seal & Flag
  • State History
  • Famous People From
  • Native Tribes
  • State Industry/Agriculture/Climate
  • State Landmarks
  • Sports Teams
  • State Quarter
  • Recipes
  • State Vocabulary
  • Timeline
Home School in the Woods even goes so far as to include a state facts/information sheet for each state, meaning that you can complete the majority of these mini books without needing to go to any outside sources. *Of course* you can do as much outside research as you want to - you can turn your state study into a semester long unit study if you so choose. If your primary goal is to create a lap book, though, with just the basic information about a state, you will find the vast majority of what you need included right with this Activity-Pak.

Our Experience with Make-a-State Activity

It has been a long time since any of my kids did a lap book. I actually thought they were too old for them. How wrong I was! It turns out that Mary-Catherine (12) was overjoyed that we got this review. "I love lap books!" she enthused. Since I love Home School in the Woods, between the two of us, we had the makings for a great review. Initially, Mary-Catherine was going to use Texas, our home state, as her lap book state of choice, but then she decided to do Arkansas instead. When this review posts, we will have just gotten back from Daisy BB Gun Nationals in Rogers, AR, and she wanted to learn about the state to which we would shortly be traveling. I gamely went about printing off all of the masters that she would need to complete the lap book, and she set up shop at the kitchen table (which is odd, given that we have a schoolroom table, but upon reflection, it's actually a huge compliment to Home School in the Woods - she didn't consider this school!).

Here is a picture of her favorite mini-book. She was delighted to report that she saw plenty of Apple Blossoms and Bauxite while we were in Arkansas!



Even if your ultimate goal is only to complete one state lap book, you can consider the purchase of this study to be money well spent. While I suppose you could just throw together a Home School in the Woods lap book quickly and be done with it, they are *definitely* not designed to be completed this way (and why would you want to?). These mini books are beautifully designed, and each one takes a fair amount of time to complete.



Hands-On History Activity-Paks: Make-A-State

Something New from HSITW!

Y'all! Homeschool in the Woods has something brand new! If you have ever wished for just a part of something that this great company offers, you can now order that way. A-La-Carte projects are here! If you're anything like me, when you teach a certain even in history, you may find yourself doing a quick Internet search for a quick activity to cement it (or, you're one who plans way ahead, in which case, what I'm saying will work, too!). These a-la-carte projects are perfect for this purpose! To see if these a-la-carte projects are right for you, use code alacarte at check out to get the Erie Canal project on the page I linked just above for free! I did! It's a great way to try out what Homeschool in the Woods has to offer if you've never tried them before, too.

If you're still not convinced that HSITW is the best hands-on history company out there, click the banner below to read more reviews and see more great projects!

Hands-on History {Home School in the Woods Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

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Wordless Wednesday - Daily Mixes

I love seeing other people's music. In fact, when I met Henry and went to his house for the first time, his CD rack was the first place I went. I was delighted to see how many duplicates we had (and chagrined to see all the country). Here's a tiny snapshot of what Spotify assures me I listen to repeatedly:


As I type, Shaggy is playing. A second ago it was Alaska Thunder**** which, if you happen to follow me on Facebook, would explain why I had to go on Urban Dictionary to look something up! Urban Dictionary is not up on drag slang, though. Sad day.

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Review of Fascinating Education's Fascinating Chemistry

Fascinating Education
Fascinating Education has several wonderful options for high school science. Because Nicholas (14) loves Chemistry, I was very happy to have the opportunity to review Fascinating Chemistry. Now, we reviewed Fascinating Chemistry once before when Nicholas was 11, but he didn't do either the labs or the tests at that time. He *did*, however, really enjoy the material presented in this course. He was just beginning his love affair with chemistry at the time, but he couldn't really handle much sophisticated chemistry work. Now that he is on the verge of high school, and poised to do a rigorous high school chemistry class in the fall, I thought revisiting Dr. Sheldon Margulies' soothing voice and clear explanations (this time with labs and tests) would be just right for Nicholas. He was actually quite happy to see this course again! He remembered the format and the presentation of the material and hasn't objected to doing the work (a relief for me).
Fascinating Chemistry
There are 19 lessons in Fascinating Chemistry. Each lesson takes about 45 minutes to complete, and the pace at which you go is completely up to you. A lesson a week is very doable, but that pace can definitely be increased for students for whom it is on the slow side. Lessons include a slide presentation (accompanied by a pdf script, which includes the slides if you so desire), a test, and, for 12 of the lessons, labs. The topics covered include the following:
  1. The Structure of the Atom
  2. The Ionic Bond
  3. The Covalent Bond
  4. The Polar Covalent Bond
  5. The Metallic Bond - Pt. 1
  6. The Metallic Bond - Pt. 2
  7. Heat 
  8. Air Pressure
  9. Properties of Water
  10. The Mole
  11. Gases
  12. Solutions
  13. Chemical Reactions
  14. Orbitals
  15. Molecular Geometry
  16. Electrochemistry
  17. Polymers
  18. The Nucleus
  19. Final Problems

When you open Fascinating Chemistry, this is what your lessons look like. 


When you select a lesson, this is what it looks like.  


The menu of topics within each lesson is along the side, and the topic progress plays along the bottom (the white progress bar next to the pause button). I am calling them slides, but they are dynamic, not static. They are in motion - very important for watching these atoms and molecules come to life!




Finally, the labs menu looks like this: 



The labs themselves are very concisely written up as PDF documents. The labs don't require anything very fancy. The first one that Nicholas did didn't require anything more elaborate than distilled water.

The tests are composed of multiple choice questions drawn directly from the lesson material. Apparently the tests have undergone revision from past iterations, based in part on feedback from past Crew reviews. Yay! Unfortunately, as I indicated, I didn't have Nicholas do the tests the last time he did this course, so I can't comment on the previous tests. What I can say about the tests this time around is that each question is clear and easy to understand, and each question has a hint that you can click right from the question screen itself. At first Nicholas was indignant - "They tell you the answer right there!" but then he was intrigued. He didn't want to *cheat*, but he absolutely wanted to make sure he was getting the right answer. I could tell by his second test score that he definitely wasn't cheating. He got a 70. I told him he had to do it again. It turned out that he knew the answers. I sat with him as he went through the test explanations. He would say over and over, "I *knew* that, but I thought they were talking about the actual size, not the atomic radius." That's life with a 100% literal kid. He can make those explanations/arguments to me, but what's going to happen to him in college? I'll be honest. It worries me. It also makes me grateful for opportunities like this one for no-stakes tests that I can watch him work through and try to explain to him.


Nicholas really does enjoy Fascinating Chemistry. He loves Chemistry in general, and reviewing this material has been good for him. He commented to me, "I've learned this stuff a hundred times!" Yes, dear, but you're still getting the test questions wrong...and his tone wasn't a complaining one. He was just making an observation. Dr. Margulies doesn't ever talk down to students. Ever. He just explains. He teaches. You know how there are some kids who know right away when they are being condescended to and won't stand for it? That's Nicholas. To the contrary, though, he enjoys being taught by Dr. Margulies.
The one thing that I wish were different about this course is having the ability to track Nicholas's progress. Now, when you leave off watching the slides/videos, and then come back, the course does ask if you want to pick up where you left off. If you take a test, though, there is no record of it. So, Nicholas told me that he took the test for lesson one, but there is no record of it. I watched him take the tests for lessons two and three, but when I went back and looked, it just began at the beginning of the test as if everything were fresh and new. I found that a bit frustrating. It's hardly a deal-breaker, but the recording of a score, at the very least, would be helpful.

The Crew was blessed to review this and other courses by Fascinating Education, so if this kind of learning experience sounds like something your children would enjoy, definitely click the banner below to read more reviews.

Biology, Chemistry & Physics {Fascinating Education Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

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Brief Life Recap



When I say brief, I mean brief. I am *so* far behind in work, it's not even funny. It's scary. I thought (foolishly assumed) we would have Internet in Arkansas at the lake house we rented, but no. That didn't happen. I'm very naive. We were in Arkansas for Daisy's National BB Gun Championship. I could write reams about that, but I'll be content to say that Daisy is an amazing organization and they put on an amazing competition. I have been at many competitions put on by other organizations that are overdone in every possible way, including their prayers. At Daisy, they are completely Christian, and it shows. The prayer, though, consisted of "May God continue to bless you and your families, and God bless the USA." I believe that about covers it, regardless of your denominational leanings. People close to me have heard me talk about the problems with Catholic Masses turning into the Father so-and-so show, well events featuring guest "pray-ers" have the same problem. Daisy did that one just right. I loved it. Our team of all first year shooters all shot personal bests and finished in the top third of all teams in the country (many of whose kids have been shooting upwards of five years). So much credit goes to this amazing man - one of the kids' coaches.


He has made them love the sport to the point that Mary-Catherine and Michael have both said that if forced to choose, they would choose shooting over debate and - surprise! I would completely support that choice. Now, I know that there are nasty people in shooting; there are nasty people everywhere. I have met so many more nice people in shooting, though, and the camaraderie of our team is like nothing I have experienced on any debate team I have ever been a part of. I love that they love it, and I credit our amazing coaches for that. It is definitely a top-down phenomenon.

After Nationals, we spent a few days at a lake house so restful that we are thinking about (in the future!) buying our own lake house in Arkansas. What a gorgeous state!


Coming home I was looking forward to getting back into our routine. No shooting practice every day with team meetings twice a week, so more time for swimming and school for the kids and work for me before debate started. It looks like my upcoming year with our debate club will be much more low key since I won't be coaching extemp or debate anymore, so I'll just be working with my own two teams (baby Delgado/Delgado is a thing!). I have been humbled a lot recently, and it has been very painful, but I know that it is all God's will and that He has bigger and better things for me.

Humbling comes in many forms. This morning another car and I backed into each other in the Walmart parking lot (what an ignominious place to have an accident). It has been so long since I had an accident (graduate school) that I am completely unfamiliar with the whole process. It sucks. There has been no getting back to routine today. My mind is so cluttered that I can't work. And I neeeeed to work. My dad talked me off a ledge and reminded me that I am an imperfect person in an imperfect world and that this is really not that big of a deal. He told me to put it out of my mind. I know he's right. If only my mind would pay heed to his words of wisdom.

Now you're caught up to speed. I return you to your regularly scheduled reviews tomorrow.


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