Tuesday, February 27

Drive Thru History Adventures (review)

Has your family ever watched Drive Thru History Adventures videos?  Do you have boys?  Kids?  Teens?  Adults that act like kids?  😊  Then you’re going to love Dave Stotts and his videos!  While we own all of the Drive Thru History DVD sets, we were surprised to find out that it now has an accompanying curriculum for high school, called Drive Thru History Adventures.

DriveThru History Adventures can be used for any age student, but if you use the full curriculum, with all of its components, it is appropriate for the high schooler.  We watched the videos together as a family, and went through discussion questions with our younger son.  Then, our older son completed all of the other components on his own – including extra readings, question and answer worksheets, side roads (even further off the trail), and some of his own ‘follow the bunny trail’ research.

The curriculum includes video, illustrations, art, readings, worksheets, discussion questions, and opportunities for digging deeper.  There are currently three courses offered : American History, Biblical History, and Ancient History.  Naturally (if you’ve followed our blog for any length of time, this won’t be a surprise), we chose to delve into Ancient History first!
The Ancient History course focuses on Rome, Greece, Turkey, and the eastern world (of the era).  It has twelve different episodes, each which are 45 minutes long.  The first thirty minutes are the same as the DVD collection, so if you have that, you will have seen those.  (My kids, however, enjoy watching them over and over again.)  The last fifteen minutes are extra content that delves into the history a little bit deeper.  Not only is this ‘extra’ content meaty, but it provides several jumping off points for further research.  Every single day, my son was digging through internet research to find out more about something that had piqued his interest in these videos….so much so, that at times, I had to put a stop to it.  When your teen is loving something so much that you have to make them stop going down the bunny trails?  That’s a curriculum worth using!

He typically went down these bunny trails after completing the art history, side roads, and suggested readings (rather than printing those out, I had him read them from the computer), and then he completed the course worksheets.  These worksheets are a way for me to keep track of what he’s learning for future reference. 

In addition to the curriculum itself, Drive Thru History Adventures subscribers also get access to Adventures TV and a Facebook group specifically for curriculum users.  While we spent more time on the curriculum itself, we did find a couple of family favorite episodes on Adventures TV….including an episode about Roman coins and a super-goofy episode about the History of Cheese…complete with about a million ultra-‘cheesy’ puns!  His personality doesn’t just stop at the curriculum, though.  When Facebook group users left feedback about this episode, Dave responded with :
If we were allowed to teach religion in the schools today, this would be the perfect series for middle and high schoolers.  It's informative and engaging, and the narrator is just goofy enough to keep you asking what will happen next!  The cinematography is well-done, and the history is presented at an age-appropriate level for children to understand and adults to want to learn by their side. 

See what others are saying about Drive Thru History Adventures at the Homeschool Review Crew!
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Monday, February 26

Time (Pink Floyd)

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  -Nietzsche (not Kelly Clarkson)

A few months ago, I wrote about our older son, and how the first year of homeschooling is similar to your first year with a newborn.  Today, I want to introduce you to our younger son.

We make no bones about the fact that our son was born with special needs.  It's changed how we live our lives.  It's changed us as a family.  It's made us a stronger family.
Unlike most babies, you won't find many pictures from his first year of life.  I won't get into specifics, but it was very touch and go, and there were times when we specifically didn't take any pictures because, if he wasn't going to make it, we didn't want pictures around.  It was a crazy time and, with hindsight, I'm not sure that we would have approached it the same way now. 
They say that "with hardship comes intimacy."  Experience tells me that hardship will break you down into itty-bitty bits and spit you out.  Our family fell apart in crisis.  It's true.  For two years, we lived in a constant state of crisis, and it was only through the grace of God and our family support that we stuck together.  However, that intimacy that they speak of (whoever this "they" is) came later.  Now, when we face hardship, we know we can do it together.  Because we have before.
Fast forward four years.....those who didn't know his past would only think that he had some minor difficulties to overcome.  Those who did know the entire story were AMAZED at his progress.  I remember the doctors at the hospital telling us, multiple times, "This little boy is a fighter!  He should not be here.  He is very stubborn!"  We laughed and cried at the time over these statements, but would fully embrace them as a preschooler.  When I approached my wit's end with his stubborn behavior, my husband would remind me of the doctors' statements.  The same behavior that I was eschewing was the very reason he was still with us...how can you be mad at that?
Like every child, he has his "quirks."  For starters, Southwest Airlines.  There's not a person in the world (including the CEO of SWA himself!) that loves those planes more than my son!  For his birthday, my husband made this plane out of Styrofoam.  Three and a half years later, we're still the crazy family with the airplane tied to the trees in the front yard!  Ice storms, tornadoes, heat waves...it still hasn't fallen apart!
 By the age of four, he was an old pro at surgery.  This picture makes me proud, and breaks my heart, all in one movement.  He's so brave about the medical procedures.  He shouldn't have to be...it's not supposed to be like that for children.  Recently, he's begun to notice that other children (like his brother, specifically) don't have to go to the doctor all of the time.  They don't have to get poked, and have surgery, and see a million different specialists.  He wants to know why he has to...and I don't have a good answer.  Again with the heart-breaking...
I know that God has a plan for him.  He brought him back from death, the night he was born.  He gave us the strength we needed as a family.  Our son is the most compassionate, caring, joyful little boy, and I can't help but attribute part of that to the struggles that he's overcome.  I have no idea what the future holds, but I can't wait to see!
School IS very difficult for him.  He's very intelligent, but his brain works differently.  He's a few years behind, but making steady progress, and he definitely forces me to stretch my brain to come up with new and creative ways to teach!  It's not always easy, that's for sure.  Luckily, a couple of years ago, fate found me a partner-in-time.....she has children the same age, and is going through similar struggles.  We live several states apart, and accidentally bumped into each other on a homeschool facebook group, but the connection has been such a blessing!  We support each other, lift each other up, and kvetch to each other daily.  When you have a special needs child, you HAVE to have support, whether from a group of folks or just one person who really gets it!
Before we decided to homeschool, his "file" had over a dozen different IEP labels on it, half of which were malarkey.  Here's what we know for sure - he has a history of serious health issues, and some lingering ones today (some of which are side effects of NICU drugs......we no longer blindly trust someone just because they are wearing a white coat!).  He has a pretty good little speech disorder, as well as auditory processing, sensory-motor, and fine-motor disorders.  As his mother, I believe the one accurate label handed to us was Dyspraxia.  ALSO - he is quite the little drummer!  He snuggles better than any child I've ever known.  He finds great joy in helping out around the house, and cannot let a person be until he sees them smile.  He has this innate empathy and compassion that transcends everything else......well, everything except sibling rivalry. 
Some days, it's a hard row to hoe, but we wouldn't have it any other way.  I'm glad to have a front row seat as we see how God brings him forth into this world.

Monday, February 19

Wulf the Saxon (Review & Giveaway)

Heirloom Audio Productions produces wonderful professional audio dramas that bring history to life for the entire family.   As a travelling family, we enjoy listening to audiobooks regularly, and we have been long time Heirloom Audio enthusiasts.  We had the chance to review Wulf the Saxon, along with its study guide and bonuses, and it was an aural delight! 

It’s based on the G.A.Henty book – Wulf the Saxon– in which Wulf, a teenaged Saxon, is learning to be a respected landowner.  When Wulf and his friend, Harold, find themselves shipwrecked on the shores of Normandy in the year 1065, a desperate struggle for the throne of England begins. In a series of events that change the course of history, Wulf finds himself in a bitter war with the Welsh on a battlefield outside the village of Hastings.  The Battle of Hastings comes alive in this story straight from the Middle Ages!

To be honest, this isn't an era of history that I'm in love with, so I wasn't sure what to expect from the book.  There's a lot of history on the unification of England, as well as the Saxons versus the Normans.  The quality, however, is superb!  When the Saxons shipwreck, the audio is so well done that it feels like you're actually in the ocean with them!

The way I see it, there are two real problems with these audio books.  First, if you're the driver, then it's really easy to get caught up in the story and kind of zone out on the driving...or maybe that's just me.  Secondly, unless you have a long car trip ahead of you, you're going to reach your destination and then want to sit in the car until the story ends just to hear the rest of it.  It's kind of like when "American Pie" comes on the radio, and you have to wait through the last two verses before getting out of the car....

We are history lovers around here, so reviews like this are exciting for our entire family. Listening to the two-CD set in the car was a simple thing for us, and it's ideal for giving a richer understanding of history.  We listened to this audiobook while on a book run for our ministry, The Book Shack.  Book run days are two hours up and two hours back, and we enjoy passing the time by listening to an Heirloom disc.  The boys are really into ancient history, including the medieval times, and listening to this led into a trip down memory lane from when we went to Medieval Times!
When we arrived at home, the boys were still lost back in the middle ages.  They immediately set to work creating weaponry and shields so that they could recreate the Battle of Hastings!

About the Author & Production Company
G. A. Henty was a prolific author in the 1800s who wrote many books in the historical fiction genre. Henty wrote about true historical characters and events, and added a fictional young person to the narrative.  Henty’s books are about men being men, and boys learning to be men. This is stated to be for ages six through adult, but my youngest was still a bit confused on some of the details, so occasionally we’d stop the story and talk about it.
Heirloom Audio Productions are very professionally done - both the acting and the background work - and are a delight to listen to…even the one child that usually steers away from audiobooks was loving it!  As we own every Heirloom book, my boys have figured out their ‘pattern,’ and take great pleasure in being the first to guess what the next release will be.  Our clue at the end of this book was “Battle of Agincourt on St. Crispin's Day…”  Can you guess what the next one will be?  (Scroll down, if you’re just not up to guessing.)
The adventures are available as physical CD sets (which is our preference) or downloadable for easy digital access.  In addition to the CDs, Heirloom offers listeners its Live the Adventure Club. The Live the Adventure Club offers many exclusive extras to augment your listening experience, including a soundtrack, a follow-along e-book, and chapter quizzes and activities.  There are also coloring pages, crossword puzzles, hands-on crafts, and a poster.  The parents’ section of the page offers up daily inspiration, educational supplements, podcasts, movie reviews, and background information on G.A. Henty.   

One of the biggest educational assets of the Live the Adventure Club is the Study Guide & Conversation Starter.  It has forty pages of chapter-by-chapter comprehension questions, discussion starters, and vocabulary words.  Also included is some map work, details of this historical era, and three Bible study guides that focus on the main character morals of the story.  Currently, there is not a study guide available for Wulf the Saxon, but there will eventually be one.  All of the other audio adventures already have study guides available.
Finally, the Club hosts several old textbooks (we're talking 18th and 19th century old) and Old-Timey radio shows.  The radio shows were a wonderful surprise to stumble upon as our family LOVES listening to the Radio Classics channel!  (The image above is all of the shows just under the WWII heading...and there are many more topics!)

Wulf the Saxon is an audiobook we'll listen to many times, and we're excited to see that Heirloom has more productions in the works. Not only are your kids learning to love history, but they're also discovering the strong moral character that drove great men to do extraordinary things.

See what others are saying about Wulf the Saxon at the Homeschool Review Crew!

Our family are Live the Adventure Club members, and therefore we ended up with two copies of this CD.  We want to bless another family with the opportunity to experience an Heirloom Audio Production, and are giving away our second copy.  Enter to win!  (Winner will be drawn March 7th, and will have 48 hours to respond.)

(answer : At Agincourt)
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Monday, February 5

Eye of the Tiger (Survivor)

Re-enacting the Traditional Greek Olympics (with a few extra events!)

At the end of each unit in our Ancient History curriculum, we get to do one big super-fun project!  For Ancient Greece, we got to plan out our own Olympic Day, complete with medals!  

The original Greek Olympics had five events :  javelin, discus, wrestling, foot race, and pentathalon.  We added Jello snarfling and Nerf gun sharp-shooting to round out our competition...  

Want to stage your own Olympics?  You'll want these resources!

Javelin Throw
An old flagpole made a perfect javelin!

Discus Toss
A frisbee...a discus....it's all the same shape!

Obstacle Course & Foot Races
Over the playground and through the woods...

Who had more fun here....Daddy, or the kids?

Jello Snarfling
I'm fairly certain this was the favorite event!

Nerf Gun Sharp-shooting
The cat kept running in front of the target....

If you want an easy way to make medals, we used old canning lids to make our medals.  Poke a hole through it, use some string, and you have a shiny, metal medal!  We made our own Greek scoreboard to keep track of the day's events.  While there was no clear cut winner, we all came out on top and had a fabulous afternoon!