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!
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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.)

Pros
  • 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.
Cons
  • 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 and Iliad & Odyssey 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!

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Monday, June 19

I Got My Game On (Trace Adkins)

This is part one of a two-part series.  Come back to learn about our favorite printable games and how to store and organize games so that they don't take over the house!

When school gets to be too much, we put it away and spend a day playing board games.  Games are a great way to reinforce what you’re teaching, as well as teach social and life skills.  There are so many options, no matter the age level, and most importantly, the kids won’t realize they’re learning!

Some of the social skills involved in board games include : communication, turn taking, sharing, waiting, encouragement, and healthy competition.  It’s a good way to learn that your luck can change in a roll of the dice, so don’t ever give up and just keep trying your best, because your next turn might be your lucky move!

Some of our favorite board games are :
  • Monopoly.  This classic game teaches about math and finances. Monopoly is also an incredible powerful mechanism for introducing students to the art of negotiation…and, in our house, how not to get taken!  It’s a great game for tailoring to age level, and you can continue to add financial lessons as they progress.  As an added bonus, if you’re really passionate about your alma mater or favorite TV show, it probably has its own version of the game!
  • Clue.  Has there ever been a better murder mystery game for the elementary / middle school set?  It teaches logic, organization, critical thinking, and deductive reasoning.  Plus, it’s a lot of fun!
  • Scrabble.  Another classic, this one works with spelling and vocabulary.  It seems that people are either really good, or really bad, at this game, and in our family it’s about a fifty-fifty split.  Therefore, we usually pair up on evenly matched teams.  Also, when a parental figure plays a word the kids don’t know, they get to practice their dictionary skills!
  • Risk.  It covers world geography, politics, and relationships.  Everyone tries to build an army, protect their territory, and conquer the world – and for my ancient history loving kids, this is their idea of a perfect game.  Not only do you have to conquer the world, but you have to weigh the odds, plan contingency plans, and form alliances to help you pull it all off…
  • Chess.  It’s like a real-life game of war, possibly even more so than Risk…thinking ahead, on multiple courses of action, strategic planning, and competition.  Honestly, it’s not my favorite game, but one of our sons adores playing, and always wins.  We all have our strengths…which is something else we learn as we play!

But what are we really learning???
  • Learning can be FUN.  So, maybe they aren’t consciously learning this one, but they’ll be able to see all of the real-life applications of the lessons they’ve meticulously plucked away at…as they quickly add up the dice in their head, or shuffle out bank notes from the ‘bank.’
  • Turn-taking.  Even littles can practice patience and wait their turn for Chutes & Ladders or Hi-Ho the Cherry-O.  And this is a real world skill….as anyone who’s waited in line at Walmart will attest to…
  • Math skills – particularly arithmetic.  Not every board game requires this, but the vast majority involve rolling dice, adding up those dice (or multiplying), and proceeding with the game based on the answer. 
  • Strategy.  Younger games don’t involve this one as much, but Chess and Risk are good examples of games that require you to develop one or more long-term strategies.  Thinking ahead is a skill that will develop with practice.
  • Decision-making.  Even with a good strategy, sometimes you have to cut your losses.  Learning how to decide when and what to cut, and what criteria help make that decision, are skills that translate to both career and relationships – it’s about risk and benefit.
  • Grace.  This is a skill that most people aren’t born with…we have to be taught, and then have opportunities to practice it.  Both winning and losing should be handled with grace, but human nature doesn’t work that way.  It’s important, as parents, for us to demonstrate this grace and help kids distinguish between healthy competition and a personal attack.

Wednesday, June 7

MarshMedia Review

Health Education Products for K-8 {MarshMedia }

Remember back in school, when they would separate the boys and the girls into different classrooms and you would spend a week on ‘health education?’  The videos that you watched probably came from this company – MarshMedia.  They produce health education videos for elementary and middle schoolers – and now they’re expanding into the homeschool market, so you’ll have access to the same materials that the schools do.

The first thing I want to address is ‘using the same materials as the public schools.’  I realize this goes against the homeschooling grain, but these are well-made, informative, basic videos that, while not being outright religious, are not in any way inappropriate for the Christian household.  They are straightforward with a Joe Friday approach.  (For you younger folks, that’s Dragnet : “Just the facts, ma’am.”)
Their videos cover many relevant topics, including health, puberty, safety, nutrition, hygiene, and more.  There is even a video in their collection about what to do during a school shooting.  Granted, that’s not one most homeschool families would need, but it could be used as a jumping off point for what to do if you’re in the mall / Walmart / Disney World and someone opens fire.  …..and isn’t it just a little sad that we even have to discuss this with our five year olds today?  I digress.

MarshMedia is opening up their video collection to homeschoolers – they will be able to subscribe on a month to month basis to the entire collection of videos.  Each one is only 10 to 15 minutes long, so it would be feasible to watch every single one in a month, if you were inclined to do so. 

There are videos geared specifically toward boys, specifically toward gears, and for both genders.  We opted only to watch the ones geared toward boys during our month.  As a mom who knows little to nothing about actually experiencing boyhood puberty, it was nice to let someone (or the video, in this case) else take the lead on teaching them the things they need to know. 

Here are some of the highlights we found :
  • Meet the New You for Boys – This is an introduction to puberty for younger students who are not ready to learn about reproduction, but who should be aware of changes that may begin to occur soon.  This video is geared toward elementary school, and its visual nature made it easy to understand.  (And by visual, I mean drawings, not real photographs.)  Since children are going through puberty considerably earlier than when we were kids, I like that they’ve made one at this young level.
  • Growing Up : Boys – This video was geared toward 5th-7th graders, but it seemed to be more toward upper elementary school to us.  My husband watched this one with the boys, more to answer any residual questions they may have (there were none, of course), and he agreed that it seemed aimed a bit lower than middle school.  It covers puberty, hygiene, self-esteem, and the basics of reproduction.  This video set off some very interesting conversations about tree and animal reproduction on the farm…
  • I Know How to Act – This video focuses on social behaviors, including friendship, dating, leadership, and other social behaviors.  It features students from a typical classroom alongside students with special needs, and helps each group to better understand the other’s actions.  One thing I would have like to see more emphasis on is the digital world which has swept up our youngsters, and how to navigate it.  However, maybe this is one that is currently in production.  If not, they should definitely make a Part II to this video that focuses on social media.  (hint hint)
  • A Boy’s Guide to Growing Up – This video was designed for the boy with special needs, specifically for children with mild to moderate disabilities.  As a mom of one with special needs, I really appreciate that they’ve made a line of videos for these children.  Students with disabilities still need to learn and understand the nuances of growing up, but it can be difficult to break it down in a way that is clear and developmentally-appropriate.  The videos do just that.  You can see their entire special needs collection here.
Health Education Products for K-8 {MarshMedia }
Just the Facts :
  • Various videos aimed at separate genders and separate age groups, from Kindergarten to 8th grade
  • Videos for special needs children
  • For short attention spans - only 10-15 minutes each
  • Available as a subscription on a month to month basis
  • Streamed directly from online
  • Also available in Spanish
See what others are saying about MarshMedia at the Schoolhouse Review Crew!
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