Friday, June 27, 2014

Commonplace Book...R.C. Sproul, Jr.

As I'm knee deep in planning the upcoming school year, I just came across this and wanted to share....

"Insofar as I am driven by a fear that my child might not measure up to some arbitrary academic standard I become a slave, no matter how well they do. Insofar as I instill in them a passion to serve our King, I encourage them to be free indeed (John 8:36)." - R. C. Sproul, Jr. 

There is great wisdom here!...and just what I needed as I'm once again sweating over math decisions :(    

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Trouble at Otter Creek....

Trouble at Otter Creek by Wilma Pitchford Hays takes place in 1775 during the American Revolutionary War.  It is based on the true experiences of Ann Story and her five children, who settled near the town of Salisbury when Vermont was still part of the New Hampshire Grants. 

The year prior, Amos Story, "Papa", and fourteen-year old Solomon went twenty miles north through the wilderness to 100 acres of land Papa purchased on Otter Creek. They were intent on clearing the land and preparing a homestead.  After the cabin was built, Papa said he'd return to get the rest of the family.  However, Papa died and Solomon returns to the family alone.  Against everyone's wishes, Ann Story, "Mama", decides that she and the five young children must go to the cabin in the wilderness and farm the land her husband worked so hard to get. 

Life is difficult on this new frontier and the Indians are fierce.  Trouble at Otter Creek tells the tale of how Ethan Allen, leader of the Green Mountain Boys, helped Ann Story and her five children who were burned out by the Indians.  This 44 page reader is packed with high adventure and is bound to keep readers young and old sitting on the edge of their seat. 

Wilma Pitchford Hays is another of our favorite authors.  She wrote dozens of books for children including stories of animals and a holiday series.  Though, our family knows her best for her historical fiction.  Many of Hays' titles are out of print.  We've rescued several from discard sales.  They have come to be known as treasures here on Drywood Creek :)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Playing with Math...

I was recently sent a manuscript copy of Playing with Math: Stories from Math Circles, Homeschoolers & Passionate Teachers edited by Sue VanHattum.  Playing with Math is definitely not a math textbook.  It's a conglomeration of helpful stories and examples of how people who love math are sharing that love with others. 

The book is divided into four sections including: 1. Math Circles and More: Celebrating Math; 2. Homeschoolers Do Math; 3. Passionate Teachers: In The Classroom; and 4. Resources.  Each section starts with a brief introduction followed by stories from a variety of authors.  Each story is followed by an example of various math games, puzzles and problems for you to try. 

In Math Circles and More, I learned that groups of people gather to work on math problems together.  There are math circles, math clubs, and math festivals.  Math lovers even put together math trails where they map out an area and provide math questions that can be answered by observing that surrounding area.  Go figure!  ( pun intended :)  I had no idea that people actually gather to solve math problems for fun.  Math Circles and More provides unique stories by people who have started or participated in these groups.  I was inspired at the possibility of gathering in a math club. 

Homeschoolers Do Math starts off with stories from bloggers you may recognize, Julie Brennan of  Living Math! and Jimmie Lanley from Jimmie's Collage and the Notebooking Fairy.  Both ladies, among others, share anecdotes about doing math while homeschooling.  Each mom shares her journey on helping their child become successful with math, from overcoming personal fears, to turning math haters into math lovers. 

The stories of Passionate Teachers are shared in section three.  These teachers rise above standardized tests, government mandates, and misc. grading policies to help children succeed with math both in the classroom and for life.  The introduction states, "Good teachers have always worked valiantly to provide a rich learning environment for the children in their care, and to overcome the limitations imposed by the structure of schooling. In this section, you’ll get a peek at a few teachers who discuss their work and their struggles online. One of the themes is how textbooks get in the way. We’ve ceded much of our power to textbook publishers, and finding ways to move beyond the textbook can be very powerful."  As a homeschooler, I can personally say that I've let textbooks rule my way for teaching math because of insecurity.  I think homeschoolers and classroom teachers alike can glean from the wisdom here. 

Finally, the Resource section is packed with a plethora of ideas to support you whether you are a novice or math aficionado.  There are online resources and living math book lists.  I enjoyed perusing the Meet the Author section. 

You can click here to learn more about Playing with Math.  There is a brief video by Vanhattum and information for purchasing the book.  I can see Playing with Math being very popular amongst math lovers and not so much math lovers looking for a survival resource.  It appears to have something for everyone. 

Disclaimer - Though I did receive a free manuscript copy of Playing with Math, I did not receive compensation for my review.  All opinions stated here are a result of my personal research of the book. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Birthday Baby...

I can't believe our baby is two years old today!!  It seems like only yesterday we were anticipating his birth...

...and now he's here walking and talking, running, jumping, and toddling around.   At times, he still seems so small and wee.  He loves to snuggle and sing songs.  Other times, he's way too big for his breeches.  Like a couple of weeks ago, when I asked him if I could cut his hair and he said, "No, beautiful hairs!". 

Ah, our days are numbered as the grains of time slip, slip away....but for today, here are a few of the many faces of Levi......

It's pouring rain here on Drywood Creek this morning.  We've had daily thunderstorms that, according to the forecast, will continue throughout the week.  It's the same as two years ago, the week Levi was born.  You can read more about his birth story here....

Thursday, June 12, 2014

America's Ethan Allen....

I found America's Ethan Allen by Stewart Holbrook at a public school library discard sale and I'm so glad I bought it!!  Ethan Allen was a patriot and soldier who led the Green Mountain Boys in the capture of Fort Ticonderoga from the British in 1775.

This 1949 illustrated biography is told in story form.  It portrays Ethan Allen as larger than life, legendary, with fierceness and vigor, yet it's fast pace and simple enough for elementary children. I would recommend it for grades 3-8, although I believe high school students through adult would also glean from America's Ethan Allen.  I know I sure did. 

Lynd Ward's amazing illustrations are like icing on the cake.  These illustrations alter between color and black and white.  Ward's vivid images give the reader a sense of reality in picture book form.  We are huge fans of his work.

I highly recommend America's Ethan Allen by Stewart Holbrook.  I don't know how I missed these characters during my youth, but I'm very grateful I've come to know them now!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Bible Study....

I'm looking ahead to next fall.  It seems strange, only planning an education for two kiddos but, I'm looking forward to spending more time with Riley and Ruben, focusing on a few key areas.  One of these is Bible Study.  I think it's time to dig deeper into scripture.

In the past, I've used the Egermeier Story Bible and The Child's Story Book by Catherine Vos.  Two years ago, we studied Proverbs and this past year we used Notgrass Draw to Learn Psalms.  Both the kids and I are ready for a more in depth study using a full edition Bible.  So far, I've narrowed it down to two choices...

1. Bible Study Guide for All Ages - This four year comprehensive Bible study offers 416 lessons for age 3 to adult.  The study is broke down into four units with different parts including Teacher's Guide, Student Pages, Wall Map & Timeline, and Bible Book Summary Cards.  I was fortunate to pick up Unit 1 at a used book sale.

You can find more details on choosing the materials to work best for your family here.    There is also an Order of Study hereBible Study Guide for All Ages covers a combination of Old and New Testament each year.  At the end of Year 4, the study has brought you through the entire Bible.  I love the idea that we can study the Bible together with different ages and abilities.  At this point, I don't think I'm going to order the Student Pages.  We looked at them at a sale and Riley was a bit turned off by the cartoon characters.  The kids prefer to draw their own illustrations.  I would add scripture memory and copywork. 

Bible Road Trip is a free 3 year Bible curriculum for grades PreK-12

2. Bible Road Trip - This is a FREE online Bible Study offered by homeschool mom and author Danika Cooley.  Bible Road Trip is a three year study that also covers the entire Bible.   The study is aimed at youth PreK to 12th grade with notebooking pages available in four levels; Lower Grammar (Grades 1-3), Upper Grammar (Grades 4-6), Dialectic (Grades 7-9), and Rhetoric level (Grades 10-12).  Each year consists of a 32 week schedule.  Click here for an overview of what's covered in each of the three years as well as the books/resources used in each of the "grade" levels. 

One concern I have about this program is, "Bible Road Trip does not address specific theological or doctrinal arguments. (There are some discussions over the manner in which we approach Scripture in the upper grades.)  For example, though I believe in the literal Creation account, and I was careful to choose materials that did not discount that very valid view of the Bible, you will not find anything here that specifically addresses Creationism. There are many wonderful ministries that you can consult for additional materials.  Rather, weeks 3-5 of Year One of Bible Road Trip will acquaint students with the book of Genesis – its authorship, themes, storyline, and timing in actual history."  I guess this could be a pro or con.  Although, I personally want creationism and I'm thinking in terms of finding/adding yet another resource to accompany the study.  On the other hand, I love the literature that's incorporated at the grade 4-6 level.  I'm also attracted to the notebooking pages. 

I've read several reviews of both programs and overall they both look like solid Bible Studies. Decisions, decisions.....!  

What Bible Study program do you use in your homeschool?  Feel free to comment below, especially if you've used either of these programs.   I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas! 

I do plan to write a follow-up after deciding :)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Jean Fritz Books....

Whenever I pull books off the shelf to decide which to read for a new topic, the kids always pick Jean Fritz titles.  Fritz is an American children's author of history and biographies.  She's been writing for four decades.  We find her books witty and fun while maintaining accuracy to each character's life.  Fritz allows the reader to get a different, more personal perspective on each historical figure she writes. 

I read on a Houghton Mifflin website that,  "In her books about real people of the past, Jean Fritz never makes up dialogue. Instead, she draws on the real letters, diaries, and journals of those people, using only words that they actually wrote or spoke."  This must be challenging as a writer, yet so beneficial to the reader studying each of her historical characters.  I appreciate the time and energy Fritz puts into to each historical biography she writes. 

Many of Fritz's titles are recommended reading through Sonlight, TruthQuest History, and Beautiful Feet.  Some of the Jean Fritz titles we've read so far are....

Will You Sign Here, John Hancock?
And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?
Can't You Make Them Behave, King George?
King George's Head was Made of Lead
The Cabin Faced West
The Lost Colony of Roanoke
What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin?
The Double Life of Pocahontas
Where was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May?
George Washington's Breakfast
The Great Little Madison
Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Beecher Preachers
Brenden the Navigator
George Washington's Mother

Are you a Jean Fritz fan?  If you've never tried one of her books, you should!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Paul Revere....

Pictured above are some must reads if you're studying Paul Revere or the start of the American Revolution...

Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is one of a collection of twenty-one long narrative poems in the Tales of a Wayside Inn, published in 1863.  This particular poem has been retold many times by various children's authors.  The above edition was illustrated by Paul Galdone, who spent a good deal of time in the area of Massachusetts while preparing to illustrate this book.  Another popular edition is illustrated by Ted Rand and recommended as a Five in a Row title.   Whichever you choose, Longfellow's poem is a worthwhile addition to your study.

If you haven't met Esther Forbes, America's Paul Revere illustrated by Lynd Ward is a wonderful way to get acquainted.  "The inspiration for America's Paul Revere occurred to Lynd Ward one day while reading the Pulitzer prize-winning biography Paul Revere and the World He Lived In, by Esther Forbes. Mr. Ward began to wonder if there could not be books for younger children that would, through words and pictures, create for them a sense of the reality of American history and the lives of the men who have helped make this country great." As Ward contemplated Revere's life, illustrations for such a book came to mind.  He approached the publishers of Paul Revere... with his plan for a children's book and it was enthusiastically received.  America's Paul Revere is the result Ward's brainstorm. 

Ward's illustrations are as enjoyable as Forbes words.  Both are rich and give the reader a real sense of Revere's life and times.  Do not miss this book!  It is a Beautiful Feet recommendation.

You can see our review of Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes here

And Then What Happened Paul Revere? is one of Jean Fritz's many works of historical fiction.  Fritz writes in a witty yet knowledgeable way that allows the reader to learn more about the personality of her characters.  In this story of Paul Revere, we learn not only of Revere's famous midnight ride, but also of his life and trade.  He was a skilled silversmith who also made false teeth and drew cartoons.  Our kids enjoy Fritz's books.  And Then What Happened Paul Revere is a Sonlight recommendation.  Consider giving it a try!