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Wordless Wednesday My Way - Reading


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Kindle Oasis

I had already received amazing Christmas presents (I'm looking at you, beautiful pink Coach purse), and many of my family had chosen to buy Kindle Paperwhites with Christmas money, when Henry told me to order myself a Kindle Oasis for my birthday, but to open it now.


Photo from Amazon.com

I have been eyeing the Oasis since its first incarnation, but couldn't imagine spending so much on a Kindle (which is actually kind of ironic, since I was an early adopter of the Kindle and spent more than half the cost of the Oasis on my first Kindle Keyboard!). I have owned just about every Kindle since then, including the Fire (multiple Fires, in fact). Now, I love my Paperwhite, but as a left hander, I have to make certain adjustments when reading it (actually, I'm largely ambidextrous, but when you read anything for hours, your hands get tired!), namely, if I want to hold it in my left hand, I have to stretch my hand a bit further over to hit the screen for a page turn. Then there's the fact that I read so fast that those page turns can get awkward and annoying. Still, it's a wonderful, wonderful device. The Oasis, however (I'm speaking specifically of the 2017 version), is reversible! In other words, if you flip it upside down, the whole screen flips and you can just hold it in your other hand! Left handers rejoice! Also, while you still have the choice of a screen tap to change the page, the Oasis has actual buttons (under the dude's thumb in the picture) to change the page - no more manipulating hands in the right position to change the page! Again, when you're a very fast reader, the little things make a huge difference. Also, see how this Kindle is wider where you hold it? It's also (how do I say this?) raised in the back there, making holding it a very natural feeling thing. I can't read on the Paperwhite without a case. It doesn't feel right just holding it. The Oasis feels very natural just holding it. Oh, and the 32 gb storage? Awesome. Don't ever ask me how much I spend on books. There are some facts of life I just can't face: that's one of them.

So, is the Kindle Oasis worth its luxury price tag, especially given that during the holidays you could get a Kindle Fire for something like $29? I would say that if you are an inveterate, passionate reader, yes. If you read for hours a day - definitely yes. If you buy the majority of your books on Kindle (or Nook - I don't discriminate - I just go for the lower price and then run it through Calibre to convert it to the proper format), you might want to consider it. For me, it's definitely worth every penny. If you are a casual reader, but still want a back lit Kindle, I think you'll absolutely love the Paperwhite - mind was well-loved for years.

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Long Time, No Blog


Wow. I don't think I've ever been away so long since I started this blog around eight years ago (I think!). I don't know about you, but when things aren't going particularly well in my life, I don't have the heart to blog. I really don't have the heart to do anything I normally enjoy, and writing in any form is something I really enjoy. 

I am always grateful for everything in my life. I always start and end every day by thanking God for giving me life, health, and my Catholic faith (to be honest, I also thank him for my bed - I have an unreasonable fear of being homeless, so I never, ever take my warm, comfortable bed for granted. Also, given that my parents' home was flooded in Harvey and they're still out of it, and my heart absolutely aches for my mother who is as much of a homebody as I am, I am even more grateful for my home and my bed. If you're wondering about my obsession with my bed, I spend far, far too much time in it given my chronic and unrelenting migraines. Some weeks I see it more than I see my children -- and I homeschool! - end of parenthetical explanation). Having said that, 2017 was a bit of a challenge for our family and for me. The majority of it is too personal to post about, but prayers are always appreciated. Like everyone else in Houston, I was affected by Harvey personally, but I continue to be affected as I watch my parents deal with the aftermath of their home loss. I have bad dreams about it at least once a week (I mean, I have nightmares every night, but they haven't typically involved my parents until recently). I *still* feel like I haven't gotten our homeschool year off to the proper start. Thankfully, my high schoolers are self-sufficient and on track.

2017 also brought scary health news for a very close family member. The diagnosis came on the twins' 13th birthday. Again, prayers would be appreciated.

For obvious reasons, I can't speak as candidly about my children's lives on this blog as I once did. Suffice it to say that raising four teenagers is, as I know many of you know, heartbreaking. Watching them make questionable choices and having to deal with the natural consequences of their actions is harder than having made many of the same mistakes myself. I have been telling them since they were very young that every decision matters, and that sometimes you don't get another chance because some decisions are just that consequential. Turns out I'm right.

As for me, I wish I could tell everyone what I tell my own kids every day - extend grace. Know the heart of the person you're dealing with. If they screw up, judge them by their heart and their intentions. Look past their mistake to the person that they are. There have been so many instances this year where I have been judged, not by my heart or by my intentions, but by my mistakes. It seems like, as with every aspect of American culture these days, people have lost the forest for the trees. I'm losing heart in so many aspects of my life. Am I the only fallible person out there? It feels like it. 

And now we see why I don't blog when I am bogged down like this! It devolves into a pity party. I dislike pity parties. I'm an introvert: I dislike all parties. However, it's a new year and a new semester. I firmly believe in yesterday's Wordless Wednesday post. I'm ready to jump back on the wagon of my life and begin blogging again (sans pity).

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Wordless Wednesday - My 2018 Goal


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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}
Crew Disclaimer

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