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Wednesday, June 28

June : Juggle Your New Habits

June – Juggle your New Habits

Instead of starting a new habit this month, work on reinforcing the ones you’ve started so far.   Here are some ideas to help you do just that!

Understand your Difficulties
·        If you’ve tried to change habits before, without much success, than you know that there are always underlying factors affecting your progress.  Try to get to the root cause …  maybe you are trying to do too much at once, or being unrealistic with your expectations.  All habits are tied together.  If you habitually sleep in, it’s going to leave you less time to get things done during the day (unless you’re up all night).  If you regularly take an hour to do a ten minute job (ahem, one of our children), then it’s also going to leave you less time to accomplish tasks.
·        Being hungry, being tired, planning to do too much, not planning at all…these are all things that will sabotage your ability to stick with your new, healthy habits.  Take a few moments to reflect upon your past efforts to change.  What sabotaged your success?  What can you learn from that and apply toward maintaining your new, healthy habits as the year progresses?

Plan Ahead
·        Lists, schedules, plans…these are all part of a highly-efficient person’s day.  Having a schedule helps you to stay on track with your new habits.  Feel free to prioritize your plan – what’s the most important thing for you to accomplish?  It is eating a salad for lunch?  Getting in that three mile run?  Relaxing with thirty minutes of meditation? 
·        Pick the one habit that you want to reinforce the most each day, and make sure to accomplish it!!  After that, choose the ones you still need to consciously focus on accomplishing, and schedule those into your day.  Finally, if you have already incorporated habits in to your new lifestyle so much so that you don’t need to actively remind yourself to complete them, CONGRATULATIONS!
·        Beware the time trap!  Be aware of how much time it takes to accomplish a task.  For example, if you want to go to the gym for an hour, be sure to factor in time to change clothes and time to drive to the gym.
·        Not planning is the same as setting yourself up for failure.  You have to make a plan to succeed; otherwise, when things crop up in the day, as they inevitably will, your best intentions will fall to the wayside.  You have to prioritize yourself as much as you do your loved ones.

Track Yourself
·        Grab a notebook, or create a printable tracking chart, to help you stay accountable for your new habits.  It’s just like the star sticker chart you had in elementary school – you know, the one where you got a star for having a great day at school?  In this instance, make a column for each habit that you want to reinforce, and give yourself a star for every day that you do so.  If you want to give yourself a reward for staying on track, feel free to do so, but try to make it something other than food.
·        Another way that tracking can help you is by letting you know where your trouble spots are.  Granted, you probably have an idea, but if you have days where you are not getting stars, make a note about that day.  Did you have meetings?  Did the kids have a meltdown?  Are the relatives in town?  What is different about that day that prevented you from meeting your goal?  You should start to notice patterns, which will help you back at “Understanding your Difficulties.”
·        A note on tracking : it is a myth that you must do something for consecutive days to make it a habit.  Granted, it helps to perform the habit every day, but if you miss a day, or even a few days, just jump back on the train and start again.  After all, if you forgot to floss your teeth for a week, would it be better to do it today, or to just throw in the towel and never do it again?

Phone a Friend
·        Let others know about the changes you’ve made, and how you are feeling.  You might find that you have a friend or family member who wants to make these positive changes, too.  When you work together, keeping each other in check, you’ll find that you both reap the rewards! 

·        Even if they don’t want to adopt your new habits, simply telling others about your changes will let them know what’s new in your life – and you might be surprised at how many people are more than willing to support you!

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 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!

Crew DisclaimerBiblical Based Science {Novare Science & Math Reviews}

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.

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.