Monday, June 26, 2017

Southern Trees Bear Strange Fruit

I don't know why this poem/song is so much on my mind these days, but I can't get it out of my mind. I first learned about this incredibly haunting poem/song by Abel Meeropol on a podcast. It's making me absolutely crazy that I can't remember what podcast. My father used to admire the fact that I could remember anything about what I had read or heard, but those days are gone. I don't know what happened, but I can't remember anything anymore. I kind of feel that 42 is a little young to be this forgetful, but maybe it's all the migraine drugs. If I remember the podcast, I'll come back and link it. It was stellar.

In any case, this NPR piece is fascinating about the life of Abel Meeropol, one-time Communist teacher in New York in the 1940s. I won't retell the article here, but I would encourage you to read it, because the man led an interesting life. Oh, and if you want to know why that song (with his lyrics) haunts me, just listen to Billie Holiday sing it:

Review of Novare Science & Math's Earth Science

Novare Science & Math
I have two friends (well, one is my best friend - my older sister!) who teach science. When I asked each of them for their recommendation for high school science for Nicholas (14), they told me Novare Science & Math was the way to go. On that recommendation, I bought him General Chemistry earlier this year. He has been begging to take Chemistry for years, so I didn't feel I could hold him back anymore, as he has the requisite math now. At first I was chagrined when I saw that the awesome Homeschool Review Crew was going to be reviewing Novare (after all, I had just spent a lot of money on their science curriculum!). Then I realized that it was actually a terrific opportunity to try out another great science product for the twins, so Earth Science: God's World, Our Home found its way into our homeschool curriculum!
Novare Earth Science: God’s World Our Home
This textbook is perfect for my twins (12 - 7th grade), as it is designed for middle school students. It is perfect for our homeschool because, according to Novare, it unites "the historic Christian faith with up-to-date geological science" making it "the textbook that many Christian educators have longed for." I can't agree with this statement more. One reason that we have had significant problems finding Earth science texts that work for us is that we have never, until now, found one that is both Christian and recognizes a geologically mature (how is that for an Old Earth euphemism?) world. I can't teach my kids something that I believe to be factually and scientifically wrong, but I obviously would love to teach them from the perspective of everything being a reflection of God's greatness and largesse. In the past, I have put the God-spin on the teaching myself. With Novare, I don't have to. I have the best of both worlds. If you're worried about evolution (as separate from the Old Earth/Young Earth debate), don't be. As Novare explains in the Preface, evolution is not discussed (nor is it even mentioned) in this textbook.
But is it good science you might be asking? Does it teach a lot? Oh, boy, does it ever! In this course, your student will learn the following:
  1. Earth in Space
  2. Visualizing Earth
  3. Thinking About Earth
  4. Matter and Minerals
  5. Rocks and the Rock Cycle
  6. Plate Tectonics and Mountain Building
  7. Volcanoes and Earthquakes
  8. Weathering, Erosion, and Soils
  9. Surface Water and Groundwater
  10. Landforms
  11. Unraveling Earth History
  12. Oceanography
  13. The Atmosphere
  14. Weather
  15. Climate and Air Pollution
The text is 501 pages long, including Afterword, Glossary, Appendix, Biblical Citations, References, Image Credits, and Index. 

Each chapter, as listed out above, is further broken down into sections:

The pages, while packed with text, are broken up with beautiful color photographs and illustrations:

Further, after every section (as seen above in the Table of Contents), there are a few questions for students to check their comprehension. While answers are not provided in the book itself, Novare does provide the answers in a supplement available for download on its website. This is what the questions and answers look like:

Along with the answers to these "check yourself" questions, Novare offers additional resources on the website. For each chapter, Novare provides supplements which may be YouTube videos, websites, maps, or something else. In many cases, they provide pages of these. It really helps to round out the curriculum, so if you have concerns that this is *just* a textbook -- banish them! Further, experiments are included in the text, so this *is* a lab science. Weekly cumulative quizzes are available on a separate (not included with purchase of the text, but which I received as a download for this review) Resource CD, but chapter questions at the end of each chapter could be used in lieu of those quizzes if you prefer (N.B., I purchased the Resource CD for Chemistry for Nicholas and consider it a very worthy investment). One thing that makes the Resource CD quizzes nice (apart from the fact that they are a built-in part of the curriculum) is that they tell you how many points each question is worth, making grading a cinch. Another excellent feature of the Resource CD is Weekly Review Guides. Each week, your student is told several tasks he needs to do as review of the week's work. Tasks may include drawing sketches, reciting or listing things aloud, and/or cumulatively reviewing all quizzes thus far. If you're worried about making the Earth Science book into a complete science course, I strongly encourage the purchase of Resource CD!

The Twins and Earth Science

I am sure that we will get to the point where I don't do the twins' "group subjects" as read-alouds, but we are not there yet. I enjoy reading to them, and they enjoy hearing me read. So, for now, that is how we have been handling Earth Science. Each chapter begins with a listing of vocabulary words. The number of words varies quite a bit by chapter. For example, Chapter 1 has 44 words to be defined; Chapter 2 has 25. The book states that a student should be able to define those words in a sentence or a paragraph. Now, my twins are very different. Mary-Catherine love to write her assignments. She's like me. Michael has dysgraphia. He doesn't like to write things down. So, for Michael, he can tell me the meaning of the vocabulary words orally, while Mary-Catherine writes them in her notebook. Homeschooling flexibility for the win! Similarly, the Learning Checks that follow each section can be done either orally or in written form. If you divide your work by doing one section of the text per day (so, for example, 11.1, 11.2, etc. in the picture of the TOC above), those Learning Checks make for a nice daily summary of your science work! 

At this point in the curriculum, we are almost to the first lab, and I'm really excited about it, because it is on topographical maps! Because we love to visit the Rocky Mountains (from flatter-than-flat Houston, TX!), my kids have some experience reading topographical maps. What they don't have experience with is constructing a topographical profile! This activity is one that I didn't do for the first time until college geology. I love that my twins will get to do it as rising 7th graders! Looking ahead to future labs, they, too, resemble things that I did in college geology, such as identifying rocks and minerals. The labs do not require much at all in the way of specialized materials. For example, when identifying minerals, you don't need minerals: you identify them based on the characteristics listed for you. 

Now for the important part! What do my twins think of Novare's Earth Science? They love it. We have done science (Earth science, even) from many different companies in the past, and one complaint the kids have always had is that the mental gymnastics required to meld geology, plate tectonics, mountain building, and other Earth science topics with a Young Earth mindset renders the curriculum, well, less than credible to them. From my scientist-husband's point-of-view, such curriculum has no place in our homeschool at all. To find Novare, then, is like the answer to a prayer. A company that recognizes a God-created and ordained universe that is 13.77 billion years old is like meeting a kindred spirit. I know that many of my blog readers will disagree, and that's okay. I have always thought that the most important thing is recognizing that God created everything. Novare absolutely does that. 

As I mentioned at the outset, Novare has more than just Earth Science! I have been planning for Nicholas to do General Chemistry next year (like I said, I've already purchased it), but after reading a lot on the Novare website, I'm wondering if he should actually be taking Introductory Physics instead. Novare suggests that there is a great advantage to a "Physics first" approach to high school science. I love Novare so much, and I'm so confident in their approach to science, that I will likely just go ahead and buy Introductory Physics and then decide in what order to have Nicholas do the courses. 

The great news is that you don't have to have a high schooler to delve into Novare Science & Math! Their Science for Every Teacher was written especially for K-8 teachers and homeschooling parents to explain scientific concepts. Fortunately, the Crew got to review every Novare text I've linked in this review, so by clicking here or on the banner below, you can read reviews of any of the products that interest you the most. I'll definitely be reading all of the reviews on Introductory Physics! 

Biblical Based Science {Novare Science & Math Reviews}
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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review of UnLock Math's Algebra2

UnLock Math
Because we have reviewed UnLock Math in the past, I was happy to have the chance to review them again. This time it was Nicholas (14 on July 4th) who used UnLock Algebra2. The timing on this product was perfect, as Nicholas was just finishing Geometry (from another company - but don't look too far if you need Geometry, because UnLock Math has just introduced UnLock Geometry!). Although UnLock Algebra2 can be used as a supplement, it stands alone as a complete curriculum, so that is how Nicholas has been using it for the past six weeks. Just what is it all about, though?UnLock Math
UnLock Algebra2 covers the following concepts: 
  • Review of Equations
  • Review of Exponents
  • Systems of Linear Equations & Inequalities
  • Polynomial Functions
  • Functions
  • Complex Numbers
  • Polynomial Functions Solving & Graphing
  • Quadratic Functions
  • Exponential & Logarithmic Functions
  • Rational Functions
  • Radical Functions
  • Conic Sections
  • Statistics & Probability
  • Series & Patterns
  • Trigonometry
  • Matrices
Each of these Units is broken down into 6-13 sections, which you can see illustrated by the helpful Pacing Guide.

While a pacing guide is certainly useful, I hardly need to include the typical homeschool disclaimer that it's just a suggestion. Your child may move more quickly, but he may (as my son did) move more slowly. When Nicholas was younger, he *plowed* through math (the reason he's a rising freshman in Algebra2 (having already completed Geometry). I didn't take Algebra2 until my junior year (N.B. I was *not* a math person). Now he has started to slow down some. Also, it's summer, so I suspect he is not as motivated as he might be. When I challenged him on why he wasn't where the pacing guide said he should be (I have left him alone to work on this program completely independently except when he came to me with issues), he told me that there is a lot to each component of the program and it was just taking him a long time. 
This is what the program looks like when you log on:

He's right that there is much to each lesson. Warm Up, Lesson Video, Practice Problems, and Stay Sharp. The lessons are taught by Alesia Blackwood, who was homeschooled for part of her life and who is married to a homeschooled graduate (Matthew). She wanted to be a teacher from early on and is passionate about math. 

Some key features of UnLock Math are that lessons are taught in bite-sized chunks, students are shown only one problem at a time, and every answer is shown in its entirety so that students can see exactly what they did wrong (or right!). Here is a view from the grade book.

Speaking of the grade book, it is *very* detailed:

You can see how long your child spent on a particular section, how many problems they got right out of how many total, and the name of the section they were working on. There is also a progress report view:

It's more of an overview of the entire course, broken down by section (Warm Up, Practice Problems, etc.). To see where your child is without grades, you can look at this view (the one he would see):

Our Experience with UnLock Math

If you blew up the pictures above, you'll have seen that Nicholas's grade with UnLock Algebra2 is not exactly...good right now. I'm okay with that, and here's why: I have been working with Nicholas closely as he works on this program (although not closely enough, since I see he's been skipping sections!), and I have seen that he *gets* the math. Where he is falling down significantly is in how he is entering the answers on the computer. He'll work through a problem and show it to me. I'll verify the answer. He'll enter it on the computer and it will be marked wrong. The reason, as he'll discover in the excellent and thorough presentation of the answer, is that he did something like input the units of the answer incorrectly. In other words, the answer itself was right, but the label was wrong. 

He's also had an issue with a problem type appearing in the Practice Problems and/or quiz section that was never demonstrated in the video. In other words, he feels like he's seeing something for the very first time. As Matthew Blackwood himself explained to me, the problems in the practice section are adaptive, and the later ones in the section do require you to make some of your own inferences about what to do and how to solve. For Nicholas, likely because of his age and immaturity, this has presented much more of a challenge than it likely would for older students, so that is just one thing to be aware of.

Finally, Nicholas has told me that the thing he dislikes most about UnLock Algebra2 is that it always shows the easiest scenario in sample problems. Division always works perfectly. Fractions are never complicated. That kind of thing. Then you are thrown into the deep end with the Practice Problems which are never simple. He would love to see complicated examples that show the universe of possibilities in one or two problems so that he feels prepared for what is going to hit him in a few minutes. He always ends up feeling somehow baited and switched by UnLock's approach (but, again, see my point above about how UnLock Math works regarding adaptive problem solving).

There are many things to like about UnLock Algebra2. There are also some frustrating things. For a kid like Nicholas (younger than average for this course, rigid about his learning (OCD/ADHD/Tourette's)), those frustrating things are probably more frustrating than they are for other kids. I'm not sure if we're going to continue with UnLock Algebra2 past this summer, but it's a good math program with some really nice people behind it (and very responsive customer service), and it's definitely worth a look if you're in the market for higher level math. For what it's worth, I really like the program -- after all, they do everything for me!

Of course, the best thing about the Homeschool Review Crew is that you don't ever have to take my word for it! Especially on a review like this, where my recommendation is not 100% glowing, please definitely click the banner below to see what everyone else thought of UnLock Math!

Pre-Algebra, Algebra and Geometry {UnLock Math Reviews}
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Monday, June 19, 2017

Review of Adventures of Rush Revere

Adventures of Rush Revere
My kids were so fortunate to receive Adventures of Rush Revere #1 New York Times Bestselling Book Series by Rush and Kathryn Adams Limbaugh for review!  The Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series consists of five books: 

Adventures of Rush Revere

1. Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims - in which American history teacher Rush Revere (and his horse Liberty) time travels with two of his students to observe life aboard the Mayflower and the Pilgrims' first winter.

2. Rush Revere and the Brave Patriots - in which Rush Revere (and Liberty) takes students to meet Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams and more as the colonies prepare for war.

3. Rush Revere and the American Revolution - in which Rush Revere and crew get front-row seats to the American Revolution!

4. Rush Revere and the Star-Spangled Banner - in which Rush Revere, Liberty, and students go back in time to witness the writing of the National anthem and get to see Dolley Madison in action!

5. Rush Revere and the Presidency - in which Rush Revere and friends learn about American elections firsthand!

These books all follow a similar style. Rush Revere is a substitute American history teacher at Manchester Middle School. In each book, he, talking horse Liberty, and several of his students travel back in time to witness early American history in the making. Each book focuses on a different one of his students, but Liberty is always one of the stars! The books make American history a lot of fun, but they also teach a *lot* of American history without ever making it boring or onerous. They are beautifully put together, have thick, glossy pages, include full-color illustrations, and include primary source documents. These books would make a sublime gift. In fact, that is how they came delivered to our home! They looked like a gift:

What We Thought

I loved these books. I have degrees in both political science and history, so it's not like I needed to be convinced either that history is fascinating or that it is worthy of study, However, if I had been on the fence, I couldn't be after reading these books. Like other time travel history for books, these books make history fun! Unlike other time travel history books for kids, these books showcase the importance and uniqueness of our own American history. When combined with their aesthetic beauty, they beg to be given as a gift to every family you know, homeschooling or not.

When the books came, my twins immediately set upon them like pirhanas. The kids each wanted to read them immediately -- and the books didn't disappoint. They are just great stories! The Limbaughs know how to entertain. Because we studied American history a couple of years ago, these topics were familiar to my kids, but there are still new tidbits to be gained in these books, which I love! 

Mary-Catherine (12) wanted to start the series at the beginning, while Michael (12) was most interested in reading about the presidency. Personally, after having skimmed all the books, I think you can jump in anywhere. The OCD in me always wants to start a series at the beginning, though.

If you have kids who love history or time travel books, they would absolutely love these. My twins and I give them six enthusiastic thumbs up! One thing the twins really appreciated about the books was that they didn't talk down to them at all. They don't read like homeschool books (you either know what I'm talking about or you don't when I say this, but in our house, we don't like "homeschooly" fiction), and they don't read like educational books (which we don't mind, but they exist in a separate class from plain old good fiction). They just read like great stories! You don't have to rely on my recommendation alone, though. 99 other Crew members received this series, too, so be sure to click the banner below to see what they had to say.

Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series {Reviews}
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Image Source: EpicPew

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Review of Apologia Educational Ministries' Internship for High School Credit

Apologia Educational Ministries

Apologia Educational Ministries is one of those companies that puts out home run product after home run product. That's not to say that my family has always loved every single Apologia product we have ever used, because we haven't. However, I have never used an Apologia product that was not absolutely topnotch quality, and if it didn't work for our family, I could immediately think of a dozen others I knew who would love it. In fact, an entire shelf in my homeschool room is 100% Apologia material. This time around we were fortunate enough to review something I don't think I would have picked up on my own, but that I am very glad I had the opportunity to look at - Internship for High School Credit

This 99-page spiral-bound workbook is basically a road map to teach high school students and their parents how to earn high school credit for interning! The book is divided into five parts: Getting Started, Information for Parents, First Semester, Second Semester, and Course Wrap-Up (plus and Appendix, About the Author, and Bibliography). Within each part are 6-11 sections. The subtitle of this book is "Practical Help to Explore and Direct Your Career Plans," and that's exactly what this book is: practical help. 

The book first takes you through the process of thinking about the type of internship you are interested in, how to find a relevant company, how to receive high school credit, how to write a letter of introduction and resume, and how to interview. Best of all, it includes samples of the relevant documents you will need to write. From my own perspective, the second part is the most helpful, as it walks parents through exactly what they need to know in this whole process. Parts 3 and 4 are comprised almost entirely of worksheets as the student actually completes the internship, documenting the entire process.Part 5 is very short and instructs students to write a thank you note to their internship provider, as well as asking for a letter of recommendation and updating their resume. These are steps that many students may actually forget, so it's incredibly useful to include them here.

How We Used This Book

When I first requested this product for review, i knew that Therese (15) would not be in the position of embarking on a high school internship in the near future, but I was intrigued at being able to put this idea on the back burner. Now that I have read this book and seen exactly how the process can work, I am actually really excited about the process. I also have numerous internship ideas for her! Your internship possibilities truly are limited primarily by your imagination, and this book really helps you to see that that is the case. Also, if you want to intern for high school credit, this book is a huge help in making that happen, especially if you live in a state that requires significant documentation. Every conceivable worksheet and documentation form you could need is here. Some worksheet examples include: semester goals, weekly worksheets that track dates and hours worked each week, weekly questions and activities (to be completed essay style), midterm work performance evaluation, and so much more. I really recommend this book for every parent of a high school student, homeschooled or not, whether you think your child will intern or not (because I am pretty sure that after reading this book, you will begin to consider interning as a possibility for your child!).
Apologia also sent How to Homeschool with Stunning Confidence, Contagious Joy, and Amazing Focus (DVD & Coursebook) to some other Crew members to review, along with Internship for High School Credit to part of the Crew, so be sure to click the banner below to read all of the reviews!

Homeschool with Confidence & Internship for High School {Apologia Educational Ministries Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, June 12, 2017

It's the Little Things

I've often said (on this blog and elsewhere) that it's the little things that have to keep you going when you feel sad or bogged down. You have to find something to look forward to every day - something to get you out of bed as it were. Well, I have also said before that that something doesn't have to be hugely significant. It can be as simple as a new candle or a new lip balm. Anyone who knows me knows that I am makeup obsessed, but on days that I don't go out, I rarely wear makeup. Fortunately, I also hoard lip balms! It's always fun to know that you have a new flavor (er, scent) to try out. Also, the way I discipline myself to sit and work is by burning a candle - it's always been that way. While I *love* the gigantic ones that burn for over 100 hours (and that number is no joke), I have recently fallen in love with Yankee Candle's smallest (apart from votives, which annoy me) offerings. On sale they are only $5, and they burn for about 25 hours! Long enough to get your money's worth, but short enough that you can change them out before you get scent-fatigue! Cafe Al Fresco is currently burning on my desk as I write this, and it smells good enough to drink it (don't worry - I won't).

So if you wake up to a new day and kind of quietly sigh at the thought of getting up, think of something you have to look forward to - even if it's a small something. For some people, it will be looking forward to going out somewhere (for me it's looking forward to staying in!). For others, it will be the release of their favorite podcast (Monday - Once Upon a Crime day!). Maybe it's thinking about what you'll have for lunch (avocado toast!). Anyone can find something, though. You just have to get a little creative. Believe me - it really does help with the blahs.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

D-Day: June 6, 1944

Image Credit: US Army

CBS News reports on the confirmed D-Day invasion

Image Credit:

Monday, June 5, 2017

Review of Memoria Press' Book of Trees

Memoria Press
We have so much Memoria Press curriculum in our house that a visitor might be tempted to suspect that I work for them (#goals). In fact, I just love their curriculum. I have been mightily blessed to receive their curriculum many times for review (no less than seven times, not including this one! Just search my blog if you're interested in seeing the others!), but I have also bought plenty of it myself. In fact, in order to facilitate our review of The Book of Trees, I went on their website to order an extra student book for my other twin. While I was there, I picked up some English curriculum for Nicholas (14 in one month!) for high school in the fall. I just can't help myself!

The Book of Trees Set

This review, however, focuses on a really cool science product centered all around trees! Every so often I realize that my kids have missed out on a few things. One thing I remember very clearly from elementary school science is labeling plant parts. I don't know why that stands out or why I consider it important, but it does and I do. I was very excited, then, when I saw this product available for review. The kids get to label. They get to label many things! Designed for grades 6-8, we received these three great products.
If you buy the complete set online, you will also receive the other two (reference) books pictured above. Because I had to make a Memoria Press order anyway, I went ahead and purchased the Peterson First Guide to Trees. Not only did I think it would be nice to have it for the review, but we take many road trips, and we often look at trees that flourish outside of the South and wonder what they are. I thought it would be great to have a compact reference to keep in the car for research purposes (yes, we could use our phones, but what's the fun in that?).

As with every Memoria Press product, this one was very easy to use. By using the Student Book, it is easy to see where a lesson begins and ends (although I initially used the Reader as my guide, but the chapters got long very quickly, and the twins (12) pointed out to me that we were running over designated lessons in their workbooks). We have done this science curriculum as both a read aloud and as a "work alone" subject. In other words, we have done it where I read the lesson out loud to the twins as they complete the lesson in their workbooks, and where they read the chapter to themselves and fill in the workbook either as they go or afterward. Mary-Catherine prefers the former method, while Michael prefers the latter. It completely depends on the kind of child you have - both methods work equally well with this and most Memoria Press products.

Also, as with all of Memoria Press's products, your student will learn a lot without it feeling onerous. The reading is clear and easy and the workbook follows the reading perfectly. Of course, if you or your student is workbook-averse, this is probably not the curriculum for you. If you're like us, though, and you enjoy this style of learning, my hunch is that this one will be right up your alley! I am always a bit -- empty after reading a good science lesson to my kids when there is no writing follow-up, since both my own experience and research have shown that kids retain things so much better when they write it for themselves. Memoria Press's student books are excellent for that kind of retention!

This time around, Memoria Press offered the Crew *eight* different products (!), including another awesome middle grades science choice, Nature's Beautiful Order, so be sure to click the banner below to read all of the reviews!

Latin, Nature and Trees {Memoria Press Reviews}
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