Monday, March 25, 2013

Review of Adventus MusIQ

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Every so often a review opportunity comes along that is truly too good to believe.  MusIQ Homeschool from Adventus is one such product.

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What is MusIQ?

There is so much to this program that it almost defies description. In this case, a bullet list would best serve:

  • Children's Music Journey, Volumes 1, 2, and 3 is for children ages 4-10. $69.95 each volume.                                                                                                                     This major component of the program is comprised of 95 interactive lessons taught by famous musicians (or their cartoonized caricatures - see below), including Beethoven, Chopin, and Mozart.  There is a corresponding practice session for each interactive lesson.  There are 150 songs to learn to play, along with games and tons of opportunity to composing and playing with other instruments.  Make no mistake - these are full blown piano and theory lessons.  

  • Piano Suite Premier is for ages 8-Adult. $89.95

Piano Suite will teach anyone how to play the piano. It starts at the beginning with note reading and music theory, making it perfect for beginning piano players, but it also includes a library of 500 songs, making it wonderful for experienced piano players.  There are 5 skill levels to accommodate those who have had some piano lessons before, and there are 150 biographies of composers, making it perfect for homeschoolers looking to round out their music curriculum.  This video provides a short, but complete, overview of how Piano Suite works:

  • Ear Training Coach Ages 8-Adult. $34.95 per volume

Ear Training Coach develops both ear training and sight reading abilities.  It develops skills specifically in rhythm, melody, intervals, and sight reading.  The program follows the Royal Conservatory of Music Syllabus.  

How We Used MusIQ in Our Family

The Twins (8)

Music lessons are one of those things that I want all of my children to have, but they just aren't in the budget.  My father is generous enough to provide my two eldest children with piano lessons, but my youngest two haven't had any formal instruction yet.  For that reason alone, I was very excited about receiving this product!

It is necessary to have a MIDI capable keyboard in order to use MusIQ software.  You can either purchase a MIDI keyboard from Adventus (they are very reasonable, especially when purchased as part of a bundle), or you can check the keyboard you already have.  It is possible it is MIDI compatible, as mine was.  If so, all you need to do is plug it into the USB port on your computer.

I decided to have my 8 year-old twins start with Children's Music Journey, Volume 1.  I hooked my laptop up to the TV so that they could both see the lesson with no problem.  After watching it, they both took turns in the practice room with Miss Melody.  CMJ starts off very gently.  Probably too gently for 8 year-olds, but I didn't want them to miss anything! Children don't have to know any notes to start learning music.  Notes above middle C are described as bird notes; notes below middle C are whale notes.  That concept would be very cute for 4 year-olds, but my 8 year-olds were definitely ready to learn something meatier!

Fortunately, meatier things were just around the corner.  Very quickly, my twins started learning about sharps, flats, quarter notes, and intervals.  They were hooked because they were playing music! I think I was a little more entranced with their famous instructors (I loved Beethoven!), but they didn't think the concept was strange, and they didn't resist practicing with Miss Melody.  What kid doesn't resist practicing the piano? My twins are using CMJ 2-3 times per week for about 1/2 an hour at a time, and they will continue to do so.  They are really enjoying it.

(Therese - 11)

Therese was *very* excited about using Piano Suite. She has had piano lessons for a couple of years, but I still made her start at the beginning.  She was able to move quite quickly through the first part of the program, as it really does start at the beginning.  She didn't mind, though, because I let her have access to the library of 500 songs to play, and she really enjoyed watching the notes turn green as she played them.  She experienced some frustration figuring out how hard she had to touch the keyboard keys to get the notes to register with the software.  If she didn't press hard enough on the keyboard, the program didn't register that she pressed the note correctly, hence, it would "go red" and not count.  

The format of the lessons is easy to follow, and individual lessons are not too long.  Therese usually chose to do more than one lesson at a time (primarily because she has not yet hit new material for her - I am a stickler for laying the foundation in a new program), and I love the flexibility of this program for allowing you to do as much or as little as you want to each day.  The lessons look like the screenshot below:

You can always go forward or backward as necessary.

My Thoughts:

I think this is a great set of programs.  Piano lessons are tremendously expensive, and yet research shows repeatedly that knowing how to read and play music is extremely beneficial to kids.  On its face, the MusIQ suite of programs seems expensive, but when compared to the cost of piano lessons, especially if one has multiple children, it's really a great deal! It's also a lot of fun.  Finally, the program is very complementary to a homeschool education.  The included biographies make it easy to use it as composer study along with music lessons.  The included games make it easy to use computer game time as extra music reinforcement time (without your kids realizing that they are actually doing more school!).  There is so much to this program that you really need to explore the website to get a real feel for what is included.

The Cost:

Individual prices for MusIQ are provided above.  You can subscribe to the full suite of programs for $10.95 month.  There are also several bundling options available. The Crew was provided with downloads of all of the programs listed above as a bundle, which would retail for $319.70.

The Crew has kids of all ages who have been using this program, so be sure to click on the banner below to read their reviews!


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Laus Deo,

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review of CAP's The Discovery of Deduction

Since I discovered Classical Academic Press through the Schoolhouse Review Crew a few years ago, I have added just about everything CAP to my curriculum, including Latin, Greek, Bible, Spanish, and Logic. Because we were fortunate enough to review The Art of Argument last year, I was thrilled to review The Discovery of Deduction: An Introduction to Formal Logic for the last month or so.  We also received and used The Discovery of Deduction Teacher's Edition.

While The Art of Argument is a course in informal logic, and was therefore a perfect starting point for Therese as she embarked on logic last year, The Discovery of Deduction is a course in formal logic, and has lined up perfectly with her first forays into Geometry this year.  At 11, some people might find her too young for both courses, but as I intend for her to take the PSAT next year in 7th grade (her official grade, if not her actual grade), I have loved the opportunity to introduce her to proofs through both formal logic and Geometry.  Classical Academic Press makes it entirely possible for an 11 year old to take and enjoy this course, although they say that it is geared toward "students as young as 8th grade." Since Therese's curriculum is 8th/9th grade, I would say that estimate is dead-on.

What The Discovery of Deduction Is



The Discovery of Deduction teaches students the art of deductive reasoning.  By using syllogisms, or a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion, formal arguments can be made.  Deductive reasoning focuses on the structure of the argument rather than on the correctness of the conclusion.  If the structure of the argument is sound, the conclusion is, a priori, correct.

The book is structured similarly to The Art of Argument, for those familiar with that book.  Socrates continues to teach his students, and the included dialogues make a great teaching tool, as they break up what could become monotonous (from the point-of-view of the student) reading.  The chapters themselves are broken into manageable "chunks", i.e., 2.1, 2.2, etc.  There is no average number of subdivisions within chapters, though, so you can't just assume that each chapter will take the same number of weeks to cover.  In general, and depending, of course, on the individual student, it seems reasonable to cover one subdivision per day that Logic is done in school.  To see a sample chapter, visit Classical Academic Press.

The Teacher's Edition is a mirror copy of the Student Book, except for the fact that it has the answers typed in (there are questions at the end of each chapter subdivision - see the sample linked above) and occasional sidebar notes to the teacher/parent.  A sample of the Teacher's Edition is also available.

Therese and Formal Logic

I am not shy about admitting that teaching Therese things like Logic is one reason that I relish homeschooling.  I have a minor in Philosophy from a Catholic school.  I know Formal Logic! I also have a PhD in a Social Science.  I know the need for rigorous deductive reasoning and why inductive reasoning can lead to bad science.  Therese has been subjected to my lectures on such things since she was an infant (no, really - in fact, her pediatrician thinks it is likely that one reason that she was preternaturally verbal at a ridiculously young age is that I talked to her all the way through my dissertation.  She was there, and so I talked to her while I worked.  Maybe she just wanted to join the conversation.  Mortimer Adler would have been delighted.).

In any case, Classical Academic Press teaches the way I teach, which is why I am willing to cede my teaching authority to them.  Therese had fun with The Art of Argument, a course she was happy to complete, even after our review period was up last year, so she was ready for The Discovery of Deduction.  Because she is younger than the recommended age, and because Formal Logic can be hard, I read the material to/with her.  We did Logic two or three times per week, usually for about 40 minutes each time, depending on how difficult the material was that day. If there was a dialogue, we each took parts.  After reading the material and ascertaining that she understood it, I assigned her the questions at the end of the section.  When she had completed them, we went over the answers together.

I really love this program.  It continues the CAP Logic series perfectly.  Everything about CAP is always laid out so perfectly, allowing plenty of flexibility for a homeschool parent, but giving them everything they need to teach with no prior knowledge of a subject.  I was a little surprised that Therese didn't love it as much as I did.  She liked it, but she didn't run to do it like she did The Art of Argument.  I attribute that not to some inherent flaw in the program (she *does* run to do CAP's Latin, Greek, and Spanish, and she was sad when she finished The Art of Argument), but to the fact that Formal Logic is a difficult subject.  Also, as I am sometimes forcibly reminded, she is 11.  Sometimes when I beg her to act her age, I have to remember that she probably is! 

Having said that, she is still working through the program and will continue to do so.  Although the material is challenging, it is presented in a comprehensible manner (again, recommended for 8th grade and up) and, especially with the Teacher's Edition used, too, it is well within reach of any parent and student.

Final Thoughts

Formal Logic is not one of those classes that only smart kids should take.  It's not one that only college-bound kids should take.  Everyone should take this class.  It teaches you how to think.  It teaches you how to structure arguments.  It teaches you to become a better writer.  I firmly believe that if you can write well, you can write your own ticket in this world.  Therese may not be a huge fan yet, but she'll be amazed when she gets to college (when most kids have their first, if they ever have any at all exposure to this subject) and takes Formal Logic and realizes how far ahead of the game she is. Now, it's a heck of a lot harder in college, given that there are 256 possible forms of syllogisms, but even knowing the terms is a big head start.  Given everything that Formal Logic can do for you, The Discovery of Deduction is a steal at $26.95 for the Student Edition and $29.95 for the Teacher's Edition.  Did I mention that it's *fun*?

The Crew reviewed CAP's The Art of Argument and Poetry this time around as well, so be sure to click the banner below and read all the reviews!

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review of Essentials in Writing Grade 5

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It's funny, isn't it, that even in the subjects that we as homeschool moms are confident in, we still often have trouble teaching them to our kids? Maybe it's because we know so much and we want to give it to them all at once.  Maybe it's because we think they should be able to *get it* since we do.  Whatever the reason, writing is one of those subjects for me.  For that reason, I am always excited to see new writing programs, like Essentials in Writing's Fifth Grade, which I have been using with my children for the last six weeks.
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What is Essentials in Writing Comprised Of?

Essentials in Writing encompasses both grammar and writing.  The course has two components: a pdf downloadable workbook and a DVD of lessons.  The grammar portion of the Essentials in Writing comes first, and makes up the first 33 lessons of the program.  Each lesson has multiple parts, so that one lesson may have parts A-D.  Each part is its own discrete exercise (at least that's how I treated it).  The format of the program leaves a lot of flexibility, something homeschool moms love.  If your kids like grammar and understand quickly, you may consider one lesson (in all of its parts) one day's work.  For my children (and it will be clear why momentarily), I chose to treat each part as one day's work, so Lesson 6A was Monday's assignment, 6B was Tuesday's etc. Either approach is completely legitimate.

The worksheets themselves are not too cluttered with an overload of either writing or pictures.  There is a perfect balance of each.  A small colorful graphic is easy both on the printer and on the eyes.  There is just enough color to break up the black and white writing, but not enough to distract.  

The second part of the program is the writing portion.  It occupies lessons 34-64, and covers topics ranging from writing a narrative to writing a compare/contrast essay, to using figurative language.  The best part about the writing exercises is the continuity from the grammar program.  Because the components are part of a cohesive whole, the entire program flows naturally.  When you are doing the writing portion, you can't help but call to mind the grammar portion.  Nothing seems pointless in the grammar portion.  Since many kids do see grammar as pointless, it is very helpful to be able to reach back just a few weeks and say, "See! *That's* why there was such a focus on that particular concept!"

A student will spend several days (or weeks - it really depends on how many hours per week you spend on writing) on each assignment going through the entire writing process from pre-writing, to rough draft, to revision, to final copy.   

The second component to the program is the DVD lessons.  Depending on how comfortable you are teaching the subject, I would not say that they are essential (which is a tribute to the quality of the worksheets and program themselves).  My kids tried watching the videos, but decided that they preferred me to teach them.  A sample video lesson is below.  The lessons are short and do a great job of teaching the concept without any unnecessary filler.

How We Used EIW

Ideally, one would use this program as intended, by following sequentially from the grammar through to the writing portion.  I think the curriculum would be a solid grammar/writing program when followed this way.  However, because I am a grammar fiend and introduce my kids to hard core grammar at a very young age, we ended up using it a little differently.  Happily, it has still ended up being a terrific curriculum for us and one that I intend to keep using.

My son, Nicholas, is my 5th grader, and the writing portion of this program was perfect for him.  It was exactly at his level.  However, the grammar portion of the program was too easy for him.  His current grammar program is at the 8th grade level.  Because we definitely wanted to be able to review the grammar portion, I had my 3rd grade twins use it.  Starting at the beginning, it was perfect for them! They loved the format of the lessons, they loved that they weren't too long (which was key, as they were technically not the age for which this level was written), and they really liked the worksheet format.  As I said, we started out by watching the lessons, but probably because they are so used to me teaching them, they preferred to do the worksheets without first watching the DVD (again, though, I need to emphasize that the DVD lessons are excellent - definitely watch the sample above).  I would introduce the topic to my twins, we would talk about the first sentence/example, and they would complete the worksheet independently.  Then we would check the worksheet together.

Actually, they completed their grammar so quickly that I almost felt like I was cheating.  The fact is, though, that this curriculum is quite complete.  It is not dumbed down just because the lessons are concise.  Rather, you're not doing repetitious work.  For example, when the concept of complex sentences is introduced, an example is given and then the student identifies whether 10 or so sentences are complex (do they fit the definition). Finally, the student writes her own complex sentence.  Honestly, most students probably should get the idea by now.  I really appreciate that the program doesn't overdo needless practice.

My 5th grader, to be honest, didn't really love the writing portion of the program, but that is because he is lazy.  He wouldn't like any writing program that required structure of him.  He loves to write, but he wants to write what he wants to write when he wants to write it.  The important thing is that *I* liked it.  Essentials in Writing is perfect for a kid like Nicholas.  I take writing so seriously that I want all of my kids to be well versed in the progymnasmata.  That's fine for someone like my eldest daughter.  She was born to write.  Nicholas is every bit as gifted as she, but not nearly as amenable.  He still needs to learn the writing process, though, and Essentials in Writing is teaching him that process in an easygoing, yet still thorough, way.  The writing process is broken into bite-sized chunks.  

On the first day, Nicholas learned the relevant terms in the writing process.  Then he learned to organize his thoughts using a graphic organizer (something that is so familiar to public schoolers but sometimes such an oddity to homeschoolers).  He wrote a rough draft (he was writing about a favorite day - he chose a friend's birthday party at a trampoline venue) and learned about using a "hook" to draw the reader in.  I was so pleased to see that he really took that lesson to heart.  His topic sentence changed to reflect the tactic of the "hook."  Being Nicholas, he didn't read (or listen to) directions, so he didn't skip lines on the rough draft which made revisions difficult.  His revisions were minimal, but he did correct some errors, and he did produce a reasonable final draft.  I was actually delighted that my difficult-to-teach 9 year-old son had written a decent personal narrative that had required almost no coaxing and no teaching from me.  Essentials in Writing can take the credit for this one.

Final Thoughts

I like Essentials in Writing.  It's not fancy, but at only $40 for the DVD and pdf worksheets, it doesn't have to be.  It gets the job done.  This is not a curriculum I would have heard of without the Crew, but it is one I think deserves notice.  The approach is simple, but solid, and the price is unreal, given that teacher comes right into your living room! If you have a child who is difficult to teach (like my son), you know that $40 for a year of grammar and writing is a gift! What's better is that the curriculum goes all the way through 12th grade.

Ours is only one opinion; you'll want to see what everyone else had to say about Essentials in Writing, so click the banner below!


Disclaimer: I received Essentials in Writing free through the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  I was not required to write a positive review.  I received no other compensation.  I am disclosing this in compliance with FTC regulations.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Habemus Papam!

A day on which I am so blessed to be:

Pope Benedict, our beloved German Shepherd, has tossed the bouquet (so to speak).

St. Francis says, "Here you go...the pope you need for the times we are in.  He is under my patronage.  I join my prayers with yours."

Meanwhile...God enjoys a little chuckle as he looks back a few years:

It's a great time to be Catholic.  If you're not, please don't believe what you've been told about Catholicism unless you've been taught it by a Catholic who knows her faith.  Very good and holy and well-meaning Protestants are usually quite incorrect in what they think they know about Catholicism and many Protestants are surprised when they find out what Catholics actually believe.  If you want to find out for yourself, go to the forums at and ASK! Alternatively, read the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Pray for Christian unity - it's what Jesus wants for all of us.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Review of ARTistic Pursuits' Elementary 4-5 Book One


Art is one of those subjects that causes a lot of homeschool moms to feel very, very nervous.  I am one of them.  I dreaded it in school.  I still dread it.  My stick people are crooked and I can't cut in straight lines.  I love art history, but the actual "arting" part of art -- please don't make me draw, paint, sculpt, or anything remotely like it! I'm not good at it! Fortunately, ARTistic Pursuits is.

What is ARTistic Pursuits?

ARTistic Pursuits is, quite likely, the first art curriculum that comes to mind when you consider homeschool art programs, and for good reason.  Never content to rest on its laurels, ARTistic Pursuits just keeps getting better and better.  Now in its 3rd edition since 1999, ARTistic Pursuits teaches art in a unique way.  My children got to experience this approach in Elementary 4-5 Book One: The Elements of Art and Composition, recommended for ages 9 and up.


Rather than focusing exclusively on artists, periods of art history, elements of composition, or picture study, ARTistic Pursuits addresses all aspects of the study of art, each at an age appropriate level, such that when a child has completed the ARTistic Pursuits curriculum, she will truly be able to say that she has studied art.  At the elementary, middle, and high school levels, Book One focuses on the Elements of Art and Composition and Book Two focuses on Color and Composition, but Book One is not a prerequisite for Book Two.  None of the books is consumable, so when you purchase one book, you are getting an art curriculum for the whole family.

Elementary 4-5 Book One: The Elements of Art and Composition 

92 Pages, 68 Lessons, Comb Bound, 230 Illustrations, $47.95

This book is described on the website as the answer for the child who wants to draw more realistically but doesn't know how.  Clearly, Brenda Ellis, the brain behind ARTistic Pursuits, knows artistic children.  There are some children who are naturally gifted artists without instruction, but there are far more children who need some help translating their talent onto the page.  That is what ARTistic Pursuits excels at.  Best of all, with 16 units and four assignments within each (64 lessons) unit, if you do art twice a week (which is pretty standard for homeschoolers), this one ARTistic Pursuits book will last for an entire year! Given that my 8 year-old son (who has a twin and a 9 year-old brother!) wants to draw more realistically and has a mother that can't draw her way out of a paper bag, a year of art for $47.95 (a wonderful price, even had I not gotten the book free for review - see disclaimer below) from a company as respected as ARTistic Pursuits is nothing less than a dream come true!

Let The Art Begin! What The Munchkins Thought

My kids were really excited to begin ARTistic Pursuits.  While I bought supplies for all four of them, only two of them left their supplies intact for this picture.  The others got a hold of the book early.  Impetuous homeschoolers.

Although ARTistic Pursuits is written at the child's level (and it really is - that's not an empty claim), we chose to have my husband work with the kids on this curriculum.  First, it's rare that he gets to work with a review product, and second, he really enjoys art.  He sketches very well and he really loved the look of this product! To that end, he worked with the kids instead of them working alone or under my direction.

Ordinarily, we would probably only do art once or twice a week, but the kids were so excited both about working with Daddy and about doing art (not that I've neglected this subject, ahem, cough) that they actually did art every day.  They completed the ARTistic Pursuits unit over the weekend and then practiced what they had learned all week.  In fact, it was all I could do to get their sketch pads out of their hands sometimes -- which is a good thing!

 This is an example of my 9 year-old son's completion of the above exercise - a drawing of fruit.  Nicky is not my natural artist.  In fact, he doesn't even really like to draw all that much.  He would rather write.  At first I will admit that I was a little ho-hum about his work...until I realized that he had done exactly what he was supposed to regarding using lines - which was the whole point of the exercise! The bananas on the far left of the picture really do look like curvy bananas!

My 11 year-old daughter really enjoyed playing with the shading lessons she learned in Unit 6.  In fact, she is shading everything and everywhere now! She also employed what she learned about space, even if she didn't realize it at the time (which is when you really know that your child learned something!).

Ironically, the child I really had in mind when we started ARTistic Pursuits is not the one who has enjoyed it the most, perhaps because he was the one who needed it the least.  My two least confident (artwise) kids were the ones who really took to this program the most.  As an art-challenged mom, that makes it a super-successful program.  If you love art, you will probably love just about any art program, but an art program that can engage a kid who doesn't really love art is a gem.

To give you a better idea of what is covered in this book, a list of the topics covered, along with the necessary supplies, is shown here:

My family loves ARTistic Pursuits.  To see how other Crew families liked other BRAND NEW 3rd edition levels, make sure to click the banner below!

Disclaimer: I received ARTistic Pursuits Elementary Book One free through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review.  I received no other compensation. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Laus Deo,

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue

Today would have been my grandparents 70th wedding anniversary.  I missed their birthdays earlier this month, for which I feel profoundly sorry.  Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue was not written by Fulton Sheen, but who can hear it without hearing it in his voice, and so here it is in his voice, dedicated to my grandmother, a 3rd order Carmelite.  She knew the way, and I loved her very much.

Review of Lone Star Learning's Vocab Cards


Every so often you come across a product that is so neat that you just sit back and say, "That is so cool!" Lone Star Learning's Greek and Latin Roots Vocabulary Cards are such a product.  When you see them on the website, you immediately think what a great idea they are.  When you see them in person, you realize that you are holding in your hands works of art.

What are Greek and Latin Roots Vocabulary Cards?

These great cards, consisting of 30 Latin roots and 30 Greek roots, illustrate the roots they teach visually.  The "answer" is not on the back of the card because it doesn't need to be! With a modicum of imagination, kids can guess the root without knowing anything about it.  Mine were right the majority of the time (N.B.: while my oldest daughter has had several years of Latin and half a year of Greek, my three youngest kids have only had one year of Latin).  Don't worry, though, if you can't guess the root of if you want to, understandably, verify that you are right: the first card in the group is a master list of all the roots and their meanings!

What is hard to discern about these awesome cards just from their picture is how big they are! The cards are 5.5" by 8.5" and are printed on very heavy card stock.  These cards are meant to be used and are meant to last.  This is one time that I wish a review could convey show-and-tell.  There is a tactile element to these cards that should be experienced in order for one to understand the price (see below).  These are not index cards.

How We Used Greek and Latin Roots Vocabulary Cards

Originally, I anticipated that my oldest two children would simply memorize ten roots per week (five Latin and five Greek) by laying out the appropriate roots, studying the picture, writing the root  and the translation, and then writing them out for me at the end of the week (either the Latin/Greek or the English depending on the word I gave them).  I figured that my 8 year-old twins would simply look at the cards and assimilate the roots through the pictures.  I assumed that my 8 year-old son, Michael, would want to draw the cards, as he is my artistic child. As always, though, the best laid plans of mice and men go oft astray!

Clearly, my other kids were taken by Michael's idea.  They, too, wanted to draw the roots.  The cards are so well-done and the roots are so evident by the illustrations that you almost want to copy them.  Of course, as every good teacher knows, when you write something down, you retain it.  By the time my children were done copying a card onto their own index card, they had learned the meaning of the root.  I don't think they are likely ever to forget them.

Honestly, I had intended to display the roots around the schoolroom, and I would still love to do that, as each card is its own little work of art, but I can't do that any time soon: my kids keep removing them to draw them! I think the cards are like the best possible combination of multi-sensory activity, perhaps without even meaning to be.

  1. They are over-sized and smoothly glossy, making them a pleasure to handle.
  2. They are brightly colored when they need to be and monochromatic when it makes sense.
  3. They almost invite you to imitate them by copying them.
  4. They require you, as all good language study does, to say them out loud.
Actually, when I saw the way my kids chose to use the cards, I thought of other homeschool products that combine handwriting, history, and drawing, thus integrating multiple subjects in a reinforcing manner.  That's how I think of these cards.  For that and for all of the other reasons listed, I just love them!

How You Can Get Them!

Lone Star Learning offers a variety of amazingly cool products, including these Greek and Latin Root Cards.  You can also get Science and Math vocabulary cards, as well as a wide variety of other computer and even iPad based products.  The Greek and Latin Root Cards that I reviewed are available for $39.99, which I know is expensive. Again, I have to emphasize the high quality of these cards.  They are not going to fall apart on you.  

My kids and I love these cards (which are intended for grades 3-8, but are certainly adaptable for younger or older kids), but don't just take our word for it; be sure to read all of the Crew reviews of Lone Star Learning's creative offerings!

Disclaimer: I received this set of cards free through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review.  I received no other compensation.  I am disclosing this is accordance with FTC regulations.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Fr. Troy's Response to the College Philosopher

I think we have all had to deal with talking to people (drunk or sober) who love to rhapsodize about not being able to believe in a God who would allow pain, suffering, and evil in the world.  Perhaps some of you are even like me and have earnestly tried to explain to such people the salvific aspects of suffering and the consequences of both original sin and free will.  Well, as usual, Fr. Troy cuts through the crap to the best answer of all: "What do you know about God?"

How could I have overlooked this one all these years? When the atheists I know and love start spouting off about God, why do I get so offended and hurt? They are not talking about my God.  They don't know my God from Zeus.  As the good Fr. pointed out, thousands of years of the best minds have been contemplating God and haven't come close to understanding His ways and His majesty, and now Joe and Jane Atheist think they can say something about Him? Please.

I always say (and have usually gotten pilloried for it) that I feel so very sorry for those in my family who have apostasized themselves, but now that is even more true.  They turned away from a God they didn't even really take the time to get to know.  How terribly sad to have the fullness of Truth in the palm of your hand and then to throw it all away, and for what? I *do* feel sorry for them.  In fact, I ache for them, and, even more, I fear for them. There's no invincible ignorance there.

Laus Deo,

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Review of Abraham's Journey


Mention "The American Dream" today and you're likely to get either eye-rolling or an enthusiastic endorsement of the welfare state.  To our parents and grandparents, though, The American Dream (yes, it needs to be capitalized) meant something quite different. It meant opportunity.  Independence.  Freedom from oppression and economic dependence.  Sometimes in the politically correct world we live in, it is nice to be reminded of that.  Abraham's Journey: A Celebration of the American Dream from Inspiring the American Dream is a creative and unique book designed to remind all of us, but especially our children, just what The American Dream is all about.


Written by Robert and Kathleen Basmadjian, this book is available both as a physical book (for $14.99) and as an eBook (for $9.99). I reviewed the iPad version and the book looks great in iBooks!

Abraham's Journey takes place during the Great Recession (like, today!) and features a boy named, yes, Abraham, whose parents tell him and his siblings that they won't be able to afford Christmas that year.  While texting his friends looking for odd jobs, Abraham's phone is visited by another Abraham -- Lincoln! Through the magic of the smartphone (or imagination!), both Abrahams time/space travel to meet various inspirational entrepreneurs and innovators in American history.  As a result of his interactions with these historical figures, Abraham discovers a hidden talent (this is a spoiler-free review!) and is able to provide a Christmas for his family.  More importantly, he learns to find what he is good at and to go for it! You don't become great by sitting back and waiting for someone to come to you and hand the world to you on a silver platter.  You have to believe in yourself and take risks.

Abraham's Journey and Michael

I wasn't sure which of my kids would end up reading this book, but I wasn't very surprised when Michael (8) was the first one to open it on the iPad.  He read straight through the book.  Overall, he really liked it.  Of course, anything dealing with Abraham Lincoln is great, and time travel is even better.  He needed several things explained, though.  For example, in the picture above left, the two Abrahams meet Bill and Melinda Gates.  Michael didn't know who they were, even though he could follow their conversation.  In the picture above right, Michael knew Amelia Earhart, but had no clue who Mark Zuckerberg was...until I said that magic word: Facebook.  What he couldn't understand, and I had trouble explaining, was how the two of them could be together in history.  Suspension of disbelief! We do it all the time when we read, right? Overall, I don't know how much of The American Dream Michael took away from this book, but he definitely enjoyed reading it.

Abraham's Journey and Me

I'll confess that I was really excited to read this book primarily because the author, Kathleen Basmadjian, got her Ph.D. in Biology from Catholic University in DC.  I have a special love for Catholic U, plus one of my dear friends was also working on her Ph.D. in Bio there.  It was for those completely irrelevant reasons that I was looking forward to this review! Having said that, though, I think there is a lot that is quite good about this book, although I don't think that homeschoolers are the target audience.  I think that those of us who homeschool are already all about The American Dream.  Many (if not most) of us do it on one income.  Many (if not most) of us do it because we want to counter the prevailing cultural currents promulgated by the schools and the state.  I would love, however, to see this book required in schools.  Too many kids are too far removed from the immigrant experience to hear about The American Dream at home (my husband is first generation American, so that's definitely not true for my kids), and those kids that are the sons and daughters of immigrants are often so conflicted about the *politics* surrounding immigration that the idea of The American Dream can get lost in the shuffle.  This concept is one that all of us can use a refresher on.  Frequently.  

Although Abraham's Journey is told in a non-traditional way that may put some people off, it is a clever story that is well worth reading.  It may work best as a read aloud so that some of the more confusing aspects of the tale can be discussed as the story progresses.  As a read aloud, I would say this book would be good for 2nd - 5th grade, but it is certainly appropriate for older kids (or younger, depending on how mature your kids are).  Also, there is an extensive glossary and biographical section in the back, just in case you're not too sure about some of the people or terms in the book! Too see how other Crew members read this book, be sure to check out the other reviews!

Disclaimer: I received this product free through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest opinion.  I received no other compensation.  I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.