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Tuesday, June 27

Hewitt : Shakespearean Comedies Review

Hewitt Homeschooling Lightning Literature and Composition Pack
Shakespeare Comedies & Sonnets
Thanks to Lego’s ventures into the world of Brick Shakespeare, the boys have been familiar with Shakespearean works for many years now.  This has served us well as we head into the more advanced schooling years!  

Recently, the oldest had the opportunity to try out HewittHomeschooling’s Shakespeare Comedies curriculum.  It is a semester-long program, though with his grade level falling in early high school (rather than the product-recommended 11th – 12th grades), we are stretching it to a full year.  In the Teacher’s Guide, there are lesson plans given for both the semester-long and year-long options.

Lightning Lit Sr. High : Shakespeare Comedies & Sonnets covers four of Shakespeare’s most famous comedies, including As You Like It, Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  It also covers several of his sonnets, interspersed between the plays.  The program has a weekly schedule, rather than a daily one, allowing for some flexibility in the home school.

The beginning of the Student Guide has sections on ‘How and Why to Read Literature and Poetry’ and ‘Paper Writing 101.’  As the mother of a teen who is always asking ‘why’ (they never outgrow that phase, do they?), I appreciated them taking the time to explain that section.  Also, writing is a continuous struggle, and we can never have too much emphasis on the basics of writing a decent essay.  After working through these sections, we read a bit of background on William Shakespeare and hit the plays!  Though it was out of order, our son was so terribly excited to re-read his favorite work, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, that we jumped right into that section of the curriculum.

So what's with the comic book?  In addition to the regular play, we found a few other versions of the same story so that he could better understand what was going on (in addition to the plot summaries) and so that little brother could also participate in the discussions.

The lessons are broken down so that you read the play alongside the plot summaries.  I like this because sometimes it’s easy to get confused by the Elizabethian language, so he could turn to the applicable plot summary and get an accurate, modernized picture of what the scene was about.  There are also comprehension questions, which we discussed together, followed by some writing exercises.  At the very end of the unit on Midsummer, there were reviews of the movie versions of this play – these helped us to pick out a movie version that was appropriate for the whole family to watch as we wrapped up the unit.
The writing exercises explore different themes and literary elements that are included in each play.  For example, for Midsummer, we explored perspective, imagery, and the symbolism of the moon.  This helped him to do in-depth character studies (themes) and get a deeper look into writing skills (literary elements).  He is not a fan of writing, but I feel that this program will help him grow the writing skills that will be expected at the collegiate level.  One thing to note is that the literary lessons build upon each other, so I had to do a bit of catch-up teaching for him, since we started with story number three.

In addition to the two different learning options for lesson plans (semester and year), the Teacher’s Guide also includes answers to the comprehension questions, teaching aids, a grading rubick for writing assignments, and discussion questions.  There are memorization passages (I’m not a stickler for memorization, so we glossed over these) and project suggestions.  Our son is an artist, so he chose to focus most of his efforts on the suggested art projects.

In addition to the Comedies & Sonnets set, there is a Shakespearean Tragedies Lightning Lit set – so you could feasibly do an entire Language Arts credit on Shakespeare.

For more information, you can check out the Table of Contents or view a sample chapter.  To see what others are saying about Hewitt Homeschooling, visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew!
Crew DisclaimerHewitt Homeschooling {Reviews}

Monday, June 26

Novare Science Review : Introduction to Physics

Taking a new approach to the high school sciences sequence, Novare Science & Math  uses Introductory Physics   as a “physics first” text – meaning that it is appropriate for 9th graders as a first year science course.  That’s not to say that it isn’t appropriate beyond that – as it’s perfectly good in 10th – 12th grades, but the math requirements are basic enough (Algebra I) that a 9th grader can take on this course without being in over his head.  This is a full-year science credit.  In addition to the textbook, there is a supplemental CD for teachers to use.  This includes quizzes, tests, test solutions (yay!), and review materials. 

The book is written from a historic Christian perspective, without being overly theological.  They aren’t “young earth creationist,” but accept the ‘old earth theory.”  They present several of the concepts in the context of church history, giving physics, history, and theology lessons all at the same time.  (And I’m a big fan of any curriculum that incorporates several subjects into one)!

I am not the physics guru in this house, so my husband did the lion’s share of teaching out of this textbook.  As a practicing scientist, who works in the technical field every day, these are his observations.  Naturally…they are in bullet format.  J   (I am separating by pros and cons.)

  • The book is shorter than most science textbooks.  It’s in-depth, but not overwhelming for the student (and teacher). 
  • It incorporates history into the text itself, rather than in a sidebar.  There are some great primary source quotes featured within the text. 
  • It also incorporates the technical math and  technical communication / technical writing, which is so often missing from science courses.  There are many real-world application opportunities offered in this textbook.
  • The lab instructions are well-written and easy to use.  There are both student instructions (found in the text) and teacher instructions (found in the supplemental materials).  These include a ‘how to’ for writing up lab reports.
  • Visual components, such as well-created diagrams, chapter color coding, and full-color pictures, help to illustrate the concepts being taught.
  • It is written so that the teacher doesn’t need a working knowledge of physics to be able to teach the course.  (On this point, I somewhat disagree with my husband.)
  • The supplemental materials focus on all of the material that has been taught to that point, so that you are continually reviewing and more deeply embedding that knowledge for future application.  There are weekly reviews, quizzes, and a fall and spring semester exam.
    • The weekly reviews include things like making flashcards, reviewing last week’s materials, and work a few review problems.  We did these at the beginning of class, like a teacher might use a pop quiz.
    • The quizzes are essay questions drawn from all material up to that point.  (ie, If you’re on Chapter 4, it covers everything from Chapters 1-4.)
    • The teacher’s supplemental materials includes quiz and exam answers, to make it easy to check quickly.
  • On the flipside of it not being overwhelming, there are places when the text is too simplified, and it would be helpful to have a little bit more detail.
  • The chapters can be confusing.  As an example, on page 20 in Chapter 2, it says D=VT.  However, it doesn’t tell you what D, V, or T even mean until page 34.  It would seem prudent to explain the variables when they are introduced.  (On this point, I would say that it seemed like the original equation was presented in a ‘what you will learn’ context in the book – and that they didn’t get around to teaching it until fourteen pages later.  That is not terribly unusual in classroom textbooks, but not something I see often in homeschool curricula.)
  • Our son is at the young end of the spectrum for this course, and taking Algebra I concurrently.  While the math was do-able for him, some of the concepts were difficult to understand, so we supplemented the lessons quite often with audiovisual materials from YouTube.

Overall, I would say that this is a good curriculum.  We are just stepping our toes into the world of high school curriculum, so I don’t have much to compare it to, but I can only imagine that things are going to be much more structured from here on out – and considerably more like the traditional public school that we typically run our homeschool with the younger ones.  I am not a science person by any stretch, so I struggled to teach the text.  (If you haven’t figured it out yet, history and math are where my strengths lie, but hey – my husband and I complement each other in many ways…homeschooling included!)

Novare Science & Math has been used in the classroom for a while now, and they are new to the homeschool scene.  They have Chemistry, Physics, Earth Science, Physical Science, and more, and I think these are excellent resources for your high school science credits.  The first time I heard of Novare Science & Math was when I was going through the Memoria Press catalog.  You guys know how much we love their stuff!  (See Book of Trees, Iliad & Odyssey, and Ancient Romans reviews...)  Because they recommend Novare for their upper level sciences, I feel confident in recommending this program.

To see what others are saying about Novare Science & Math, visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew!

Crew DisclaimerBiblical Based Science {Novare Science & Math Reviews}

Wednesday, June 21


STEAMworld Learning

Summer is a great time for homeschooling with more flexibility and fun!  We incorporate many games and activities into the school year, but still try to remain true to our curriculum at the same time.  When summer rolls around, we look for ways to continue learning from a different vantage point.

When I stumbled across STEAMworld, and realized that it combined most of the core subjects, plus art, I knew that this was something we wanted to try!  (Quick brush-up:  STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, ART, and Math.)  The box comes with everything you need – and I do mean everything – to complete a series of projects about the featured country.  Not having to hunt up supplies?  Fantastic!

We decided to try out Morocco, based on the art projects featured.  The box came with all of the supplies needed for math, science, art, and engineering, plus an activity book and country scrapbook.  If you’ve wanted to try unit studies, this subscription is a great way to put your feet in the water – and they’ve done all the hard work of pulling everything together for you.

Depending on your personal style, the box could take anywhere from a couple of days to a week or two to complete.  We like to dive into our unit studies, and so completed the box in two school days.

Our school is very history & geography centered, so we began by reading through the scrapbook and watching a few YouTube videos on Morocco.  We also Google-Earthed our way through Morocco.  If you’ve never done this, it’s a fascinating way to vicariously visit a country!

From there, we started on the activity book.  I like that each subject has a hands-on project for applying the concepts once they have been taught.  We supplemented this with spur-of-the-moment YouTube videos that the boys found to explore the concepts – particularly energy – further.  They also looked up some real-world examples of the Moroccan tiles and patterns.

Above : Weaving sticks & making catapults

Science and technology are areas that the boys are very interested in, but mom is simply proficient at, so the STEAMworld boxes are wonderful for giving me a jumping off point.  They provide ideas for hands-on projects in the areas that the boys want to study, but in ways that tie in with the things I am better at teaching.  Because they are engaging, too, they promote further study on the topics.  (And this could go the other way, too, if you are more science-focused, but want to incorporate geography into your units.)

Overall, the box was a hit with the boys.  It’s a little disappointing to find that there are currently only two more countries available, but the company says that they are creating more as we speak, so I foresee greater options in the future.  I like that they offer both one-month and three-month subscription choices.  Finally, I LOVE that they provide the Duo Kit option. 

What’s the Duo Kit?  It’s a kit of extra consumable supplies for all of the projects in the activity book.  Each box comes with literature and supplies for one student.  If you have more than one student, however, and want each child to have his own supplies, you simply need a Duo Kit for the child – rather than a whole other box.  And it’s affordable.

Above : Art projects from the Morocco box

Just the Facts :
  • Site : STEAMworld
  • Ages : 4th – 8th grade  (flexible enough to tailor to other aged children)
  • Cost :  $39.95 / month – shipped to you 
    • $99 / 3-month subscription
    • $9.95 for Duo Kit

Included in the Morocco Activity Book.....

We received this month of STEAM World in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are our own, and we present both the good and the bad.

Tuesday, June 20

Cultural Cooking : Greek

One place the children have always wanted to visit is Greece!  We spend a lot of time studying Ancient Greece, the philosophers, the arts, and the politicians....and sometimes we even top it off with a Greek meal!  Καλή σας όρεξη (Enjoy!)

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • olive oil (as needed)
  • 1 lb lean ground beef (or can use ground lamb)
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced garlic 
  • 1(8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (or to taste)
  • Cheese Sauce
    • 3 tablespoons butter
    • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
    • 1⁄2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper 
    • 2 tablespoons flour
    • 1 cup half-and-half cream
    • 1 egg
    • 1⁄2 cup grated parmesan cheese 

  1. Grease a 9 x 9-inch baking pan although you could use a 13 x 9 pan using a smaller pan will result in a thicker casserole.
  2. Peel the eggplants then slice 1/4-inch thick (a little thicker won't hurt).
  3. Brush cookie sheet with olive oil.
  4. Coat each side of sliced eggplant with olive oil then season slices with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  5. Place the eggplant slices on cookie sheet; broil under the broiler until brown; turn and broil the other side, brushing with oil if needed; repeat with all eggplant slices.
  6. In the bottom of the prepared baking dish arrange half of the eggplant slices.
  7. In a large skillet, combine beef and onions; cook stirring until the beef is no longer pink and the onions are soft; drain fat.
  8. Add in the garlic, tomato sauce, oregano, 1/2 tsp salt and black pepper to taste; pour mixture over eggplant slices.
  9. Arrange the remaining eggplant slices over the beef mixture.
  10. Melt the butter in a separate saucepan, whisk in flour, 1/2 tsp salt and pepper to taste; gradually stir in half and half or milk, cook and stir over medium heat until thick and bubbly.
  11. In a small bowl, beat egg; stir in some of the hot sauce, then add egg to sauce mixture, mix well; add in Parmesan cheese, and stir again.
  12. Pour the cheese sauce over mixture in baking dish.
  13. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 45 minutes.
  14. Cut into squares.

  • ½ onion, in chunks
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp sea salt

  1. Place the onion in a food processor, and process until finely chopped. Scoop the onions onto the center of a towel, gather up the ends of the towel, and squeeze out the liquid from the onions. Place the onions into a mixing bowl along with the lamb and beef. Season with the garlic, oregano, cumin, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, black pepper, and salt. Mix well with your hands until well combined. Cover, and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours to allow the flavors to blend.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  3. Place the meat mixture into the food processor, and pulse for about a minute until finely chopped and the mixture feels tacky. Pack the meat mixture into a 7x4 inch loaf pan, making sure there are no air pockets. Line a roasting pan with a damp kitchen towel. Place the loaf pan on the towel, inside the roasting pan, and place into the preheated oven. Fill the roasting pan with boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the loaf pan.
  4. Bake until the gyro meat is no longer pink in the center, and the internal temperature registers 165 degrees F (75 degrees C) on a meat thermometer, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Pour off any accumulated fat, and allow to cool slightly before slicing thinly and serving.

  • 1 lb phyllo pastry, thawed if frozen
  • 1 cup butter, melted at room temp
  • 3⁄4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts
  • 1⁄2 cup water
  • 1⁄4 cup lemon juice
  • 1⁄4 cup honey

  1. Preheat oven to 325. Layer half of the sheets of phyllo one sheet at a time, in a greased 11x7x2 baking pan, brushing each sheet evenly with butter and folding ends over if necessary to fit into pan.
  2. Keep unused sheets covered with plastic wrap while assembling baklava to prevent drying.
  3. Mix 1/4 cup of the sugar and cinnamon; stir in walnuts.
  4. Sprinkle nut mixture evenly over buttered phyllo in pan.
  5. Layer remaining phyllo, one sheet at a time, over nut mixture, brushing each sheet evenly with butter.
  6. Cut diagonally into squares, cutting completely through all layers.
  7. Bake in preheated oven until crisp and golden, about one hour.
  8. Combine remaining sugar, the water, lemon juice and honey in small saucepan; cook and stir over low heat until sugar dissolves.
  9. Heat to boiling; pour evenly over hot baklava.
  10. Let stand loosely covered 8 hours or overnight.