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Wordless Wednesday - Kind of...


Oh, and lest you think I don't have a lot of friends, these girls have 300 or so sisters :-)

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Wordless Wednesday


And just like that, with Round Robin on Saturday, debate season kicks off...

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Review of Writing with Sharon Watson

Writing with Sharon Watson
Two years ago, we were fortunate enough to review Writing with Sharon Watson's first in the Illuminating Literature series (When Worlds Collide - N.B., you don't have to do this course first in sequence, though). Since completing that course (you can read the review here), my twins (13) have been *begging* for another literature course like that one. I can't overemphasize how much they loved literature that year. They were overjoyed when I told them that Sharon Watson had another literature course for them (just for them! I jest of course): Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis. If you liked the previous course, you'll love this one. If you have never tried Writing with Sharon Watson, or if you've never tried this series, you are in for a serious treat!
Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis
This literature course covers two full semesters and counts for a full credit in high school literature. It is designed for students in grades 9-12, but I successfully used its predecessor with kids much younger. I worked closely with my then 11 year-olds. We did the books as read-alouds and talked through many of the questions. So if you have children younger than high school but you're still interested in Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis, I would definitely check out the generous samples either on the course page I linked above or here.

What Does the Course Encompass/Include?

When you purchase this course, you will receive three physical books, plus access to a PDF download (the Novel Notebook) and online quizzes. The books you receive are as follows:
  • Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis - Student Textbook - 302 page softcover consumable book with 38 lessons for 13 novels, short stories, and an auto/biography.
  • Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis - Teacher's Guide - 180 page softcover book with grading grids, lesson plans, and so many kinds of teacher helps to introduce you to the works your student will read and help you guide the discussions you can have with your student. I would say that the Teacher's Guide is not optional with this curriculum.
  • Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis - Quiz and Answer Manual - 62 page softcover consumable book with all "Yes, I Read It" quizzes, literary terms quizzes, and opinion surveys for every piece of literature read during the year. This book is optional! All of these quizzes are available for free online when you purchase the curriculum. Some people just prefer paper and pencil learning. This manual is perfect for those people.
  • The Novel Notebook - a free PDF download, the Novel Notebook coordinates with the textbook and is the kind of thing that many of us probably kept in high school. In it, students will note favorite passages, draw conclusions about what they read, and keep track of various other aspects of the course. It is a required element of the course. You can print it and hole punch if for a three-ring binder, or you can take it to an office supply store and have it coil-bound (our preference).
Although you are always free to use any editions of any books, it is highly recommended that you use the editions that Sharon Watson uses, as she will reference specific pages and passages. This shouldn't present any kind of a hardship, as she selects Dover Thrift Editions where possible, and as far as I know, these are the cheapest editions of any books out there. 

How We Used It

Although I plan for Michael to do this course, too, it was Mary-Catherine (13) to whom I gave it for review. I need to order another student book before Michael can begin, and his course load is rather full anyway, so it worked out well that Mary-Catherine began it first. The thing that I love most about Writing with Sharon Watson literature is the way she uses an organizing principle to bring order to her literature selections. Because of the organizing principle, it also helps students to be able to read literature more effectively and efficiently in the future. Her last course's theme centered around conflict. This course centers around crisis. Students are taught to identify the crisis in the work of literature and to understand how it shapes everything that happens. 

The first piece of literature considered in the course is a short story, "A Jury of Her Peers," that is included in the textbook. It was a good way for Mary-Catherine to get her feet wet with this course. One wonderful thing that Sharon Watson does is establish her "cred" with her audience immediately. In the first lesson, she quotes both Dean Koontz and Orson Scott Card when discussing establishing empathy with the audience. When I teach my own kids, I often bring out Stephen King to illustrate a concept related to characterization or personification, so I appreciate that Sharon Watson doesn't shy away from quoting real authors - that she doesn't believe that a course can't both articulate a Christian worldview and quote secular material. And Mary-Catherine may not have read Koontz and Card, but her older sister has, so she has respect for the names.

Like every work in this course, "A Jury of Her Peers," includes information about the background and setting of the story. The student does lessons before ever reading the story. I actually had to hold Mary-Catherine back from doing more than the lesson plans suggested she do in a week (the suggested pace is roughly four weeks per selection), because I really wanted her to marinate in the material. I was very pleasantly surprised by how well she "got" the point of the story (there is irony in this one...) and by how thoughtful her answers to the questions in the text were! 

We have just moved on to Frankenstein, which I am doing as a read aloud for a couple of reasons. First, Michael will eventually be doing the course anyway. Second, as a freshman in high school, Nicholas (14) should be familiar with Frankenstein, too, and I don't know if he will ever end up reading it, so now is as good a time as any.

I hope it's obvious that we really love Writing with Sharon Watson's Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis. If you want to see how other Crew Members felt about the program, please, for the last time in 2017, click on the banner below!

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis {Writing with Sharon Watson Reviews}
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Please Pray

I'm not going to post this one to any of my social media, so if you just happen to stumble across it, would you please say a prayer for my family? We are going through a lot right now (I know, who isn't?), and I could really use your prayers. Thank you!


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My Favorite View

As I sit in my room, there are certain things that I like to look at that just make me happy (isn't that they way your bedroom, your retreat, should make you feel?). This view is my favorite one:


The candles are all Yankee (and all bought on ridiculously good sales). I have dozens more candles (both Yankee and BBW) in my closet, but these are the ones that ended up on display. The yarn is all a JoAnn brand called Sweet Roll. I think its regular price is $5.99, but it's always on sale (right now, as of this writing, I actually think it's $2.99!). One skein makes a super cute scarf. 

Now, the majority of my yarn stash is lace yarn, but for the last couple of months I've been knitting worsted, something I haven't done since I first taught myself to knit. I think the reason is twofold: I was getting a little bored with the same-old/same-old of lace shawls, and I wanted to see some quick results. Oh, plus I think I'm starting to go even more blind, to the tune of needing reading glasses when I knit with lace. To forestall that need, I'm using big yarn with big needles. I still love lace (I'd better, with hundreds of skeins of lace yarn in my stash!), but I am enjoying knitting scarves and blankets for the time being.

My other favorite view is my desk. As I sit here, I am looking at dozens of super-fine tip gel pens in cute pen holders, cute erasers, pads of paper, a planner, bars of chocolate from Germany that my husband brought me from his last trip there, a stack of books waiting to be read, a stack of crossword puzzle books waiting to be solved, and a beautiful desk lamp that doubles as an Ott light. Oh, and a cute row of six miniature Yankee candles, one of which (Pumpkin Buttercream) is lit right now. It's the best feeling in the world when your desk makes you want to work!

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Review of Kid Niche Christian Books

Kid Niche Christian Books
Bible studies are always a very personal thing, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect when we were chosen to review Kid Niche Christian Book's Weave Your Word in Me -- Part 1. One thing that did have me excited right off the top was the fact that this Bible curriculum, which is 36 lessons long, is designed for tweens, and is based on The Lord's Prayer, includes an answer key for six translations, one of which is the NABRE, or the New American Bible, Revised Edition - that would be a Catholic translation. The other translations included are KJV, ESV, NKJV, NIV, and NASB. I think it's safe to say that if you're a Christian, there will be a translation with which you'll be comfortable.
*******
This Bible study comes hole-punched on nice heavy paper, ready to put in a binder. There are 72 color-printed pages. It really is an attractive presentation. As for the Bible study exercises themselves, there are several different kinds of activities, including fill-in-the-blanks, matching, multiple choice, and true/false (all of which you might expect), along with more unexpected activities like cartoons and dramas. There is enough variety to keep even the pickiest tween entertained and interested. 

The Bible study that we reviewed consists of 36 lessons, as I mentioned above. The good news is that there is a Weave Your Word in Me - Part 2, consisting of 44 lessons. It is called "What God Wants, God the Holy Spirit. So if you find that you like the format and content of the Bible study, there's more!

Mary-Catherine and Kid Niche

Mary-Catherine (12) was the child I used this study with. The target age for this is 4th-6th grade, and Mary-Catherine is in 7th. Because Mary-Catherine has been doing Bible studies for years, and because we have four readings from the Bible every Sunday in Mass, Mary-Catherine was very familiar with the stories and passages covered in this Bible Study. Of course, she had to look up things in the Bible (there probably aren't many kids who know the answers to such questions as "How many sheep were mentioned in the passage?" by heart, but Mary-Catherine isn't one of them), to get specifics, but, by and large, she could answer many of the questions without doing so. I found myself wishing that she had had this product when she was in 3rd or 4th grade. I think it is perfect for that age range.



There is no doubt that this product is extremely well thought out and put together. It is very high quality and I have no reservations about recommending it. For our family, it was just a little too late in Mary-Catherine's Bible study life to be as useful as it would have been a few years ago. Sadly, I don't have any younger kids to use it, because I would definitely repurchase it for them. It is straight-up Bible study, so it is Catholic-friendly. 

Over fifty other Crew members reviewed this product, so be sure to click the banner below to read their opinions!
Weave Your Word in Me {Kid Niche Christian Books Reviews}
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Review of Reading Eggs

Reading Eggs

Reading Eggs is a really great way for kids to learn how to read. Several years ago, Michael and I reviewed Reading Eggs, but I haven't looked at it since. Well, there have been big changes over at Reading Eggs, so if you haven't looked at in awhile, now is the time to check it out again! For one thing, Reading Eggs has just added brand new Homeschool Program Guides! Designed for K-2 grades, these guides provide a 36-week overview and teaching plan for Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies. They are such a value add for Reading Eggs. They can be found under the Bonus Materials section of the program:


Although Michael is too old for Reading Eggs now (we got to review the Reading Eggspress portion of the program), I do want to tell you a little about it. Reading Eggs teaches children to read in 120 lessons broken into groups of ten. Spelling lessons and reading comprehension are part of the program, and a placement test is used to make sure your child starts in the right place. Of course, if you think your child has been placed in the wrong part of the program, you can adjust that placement. I'll remind you again at the end of the review, but if you have a child at the "learning to read" stage, definitely read the other reviews of Reading Eggs to find out much more about how it works.


Reading Eggs*

What I can speak much more authoritatively about is Reading Eggspress, the part of Reading Eggs that Michael (12) used for this review. I'll be honest: when I told Michael that he would be reviewing this program, he was not excited. He told me that he knows how to read (obviously) and that he doesn't need to use a reading program. I told him that Reading Eggspress was much more about reading comprehension and inference and that it was for kids up to 13. He told me he understands what he reads just fine. I told him that was great - he would review it anyway.

I wish I could have recorded Michael's first half hour on Reading Eggspress. He mumbled and grumbled for the first 15 minutes or so as he took the placement test. I was watching over his shoulder. You can miss three questions before the program places you in your level. He complained that the questions that he got wrong were illegitimate and that he should have placed into a higher level, and then he started the program. I watched for a couple of minutes and then got back to my own work. After a few minutes, the grumbling stopped. After a few more minutes, I heard, "Oh, hey! Trading cards! I didn't know they had trading cards! Game changer! Wow! I got a rare one!" So it turns out that you get trading cards as rewards for reading chapters of books and taking quizzes (comprehension, etc.). 

It was all uphill from there, by which I mean Michael began to love Reading Eggspress more and more with every lesson, especially when he realized that he was rewarded with golden eggs with which he could buy things like pets. There are many components to Reading Eggspress. I can see what Michael has done in a snapshot:



It's very true that Michael reads far more advanced books than those found on Reading Eggspress, but it's also clear that his comprehension skills need some work.


I've seen a few times where he doesn't read the whole question before attempting to answer it, and that has hurt him. The arcade game style of Reading Eggspress draws him in, though, and encourages him to keep "playing."


This is what the front  page of the program looks like. Kids have all of these options to choose from. 



Because Michael is dysgraphic, spelling is particularly challenging for him. He has not minded spelling with Reading Eggspress at all, which is great. He can always use more practice.


In this graphic, Michael's avatar is standing in his apartment lobby. Here, he can customize his avatar and view his trading cards. He can also buy furniture, choose paint colors, etc. Since I took this screenshot, Michael has added a sparkly unicorn to an animal family that already included two blue dogs.


This is the library. Here you can read books for which you are rewarded with golden eggs, which can be traded for avatar and apartment accessories.


Here's what Michael has to say about Reading Eggspress in his own words: "I like the incentive to complete lessons to earn eggs and trading cards and such. It's always more fun when you have a goal to accomplish. I've learned to slow down when I'm reading the questions at the end of books so that I see the whole question before I answer it. I think this would be best for younger kids, maybe 2nd through 5th grades, but I'm definitely going to keep using it while we have the subscription because I like getting the golden eggs. A couple of times I know I've had the right answer even though it was marked wrong, which is frustrating. I love the trading cards!!!!"

And there you have it. I think it is safe to say that Reading Eggspress is a hit in our house. As a side note, if you're an Ebates user, there is currently 5% Ebates on the Reading Eggs site! Also, there is a 4-week free trial so you can see if Reading Eggs is right for you! You really have nothing to lose. If you have younger learners and are more interested in the Reading Eggs side of the website, as opposed to Reading Eggspress, please definitely click the banner below to read all of the reviews, since many of them will focus exclusively on Reading Eggs and the "learning to read" aspect of the site.


Reading Eggs


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