Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Wise Woman with Literary Analysis Journal Questions- TOS Crew Review

Call me behind the times, but I was not familiar with the story of The Wise Woman written by George MacDonald.  Maybe because it also goes by the names The Lost Princess, A Double Story and Princess Rosemond.  Both of my girls said they read it at some point, but could not remember many details.  So when the Home School Adventure Co. offered us a chance to review their The Wise Woman with Literary Analysis Journal Questions I jumped at the chance.

Written by George MacDonald, The Wise Woman is a 14 chapter tale about two very different little girls and their interaction with a wise woman. One child is a princess whom is spoiled by her parents and has turned into a modern day brat.  The second child is raised by a poor family, but has come to think of herself as the center of the world. Once introduced to the wise woman, their lives take a drastic change and true transformation begins. Written for both girls and boys, The Wise Woman is a tale of the condition of one's heart and adreeses issues of pride, selfishness and conceit.  Like many Christian fables of its time, it does often contain very flowery language that my children found  hard to understand at times.

The Home School Adventure Co. has found a solution for that in their Literary Guide!  At the end of each chapter of this reprinted book, they offer a 16- 24 questions to help guide you as a parent in the teaching of this classic.  By using not only basic "give me  the details" questions like "what happened when..".or "what did she do..."  but also deep, open ended questions like "why do you think.." and "what does it mean...", the Homeschool Adventure Co. helps you delve past the obvious things in the story to the more intended meanings.  By opening the door to the book with many open ended and though provoking questions, this guide is a very through literary investigation for high schoolers especially.

How did we use this?
Because we gather together as a family nightly for devotions we started reading The Wise Woman one chapter a night as a read aloud.  After each chapter I would ask the questions given and we would discuss the answers.  There is a wonderful section of vocabulary at the end of the guide that I wished we had known of before completing the book.  (Yes, I was taught not to peek at the end of the book and yes, Vocabulary is listed in the table of contents which I obviously did not see) Each word is identified by chapter and page, and if doing it again, I would have my older children split up the words and write out their definitions and then teach them to our family prior to reading that particular chapter.  There were more than several times that our youngest two stopped me in the middle of reading to asked what something meant, and I think going over the vocabulary prior would have helped us.

What did we think?
Home School Adventure Co.Thank goodness for The Home School Adventure Co.  Quite frankly, I think this is a hard book to get through and without the guidance of the literary guide, I would have floundered with not only what questions I should ask, but how to understand half of what was said.  I remember in high school wondering how my literature teacher got all those "things" out of reading the same book she had assigned to me and yet I could not even understand one paragraph.  I felt  the same way a few times while reading this book and was thankful for someone who had better insight than I do.  I would love to see an answer key included for some of the harder questions, if not just for the obvious answers but some ideas to use as a spring board for discussion.

When we first started the book my immediate thought was there is no way we are going to get through this.  I was confused after the first two long paragraphs so you can imagine how my 6 year old felt.  I also noticed the 12 year olds eyes glazing over from confusion!  Luckily, the story does pick up the pace and the language become more understandable as you move on, so we managed to finish up that first night without completely losing my audience and had a pretty good discussion while answering the questions.

Funny thing was- it was the 6 year olds that asked VERY SINGLE NIGHT- are we reading The Wise Woman tonight?  We got into a habit of allowing him to answer the basic questions and allowed his older siblings, ages 12, 16 and 20 to discuss the more involved ones.  It worked for us, but  there were a few pretty lofty questions that I skipped completely on order to hold everyone together.

I cannot say that I would tackle such a hefty fable as a family again, especially one with younger kids,  anytime soon, but I can tell you that if I did I would certainly not do so without a guide such as this one!  The Homeschool Adventure Co. has done an outstanding job of covering all sides of the story- from the obvious to the not so obvious details and themes. I cannot imagine doing that any justice without them.

You can buy The Wise Woman with Literary Analysis Journal Questions from The Home School Adventure Co. for $28.95 for the spiral book or $14.95 for the ebook download.  It is recommended as a read aloud for ages 9-11, as well as an independent study for 12 years olds through high school.

AS a special treat to our readers, Stacy is offering a 10% discount code for any downlaod purchases.

Home School Adventure Co.

You can find The Homeschool Adventure Company here-

The TOS Crew had the opportunity to review three additional title from The Home School Adventure Co.  You can click on the banner below to see them!

Click to read Crew Reviews

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Excelerate Spanish- Review

Ok, you all know by now that I love Spanish, right?  I mean, I only mention it a lot.  That has not always been the case.  For the record, I did take three years of Spanish in High School and two semesters in college.  Off the record, I did not pay a lot of attention.  My excuse, there was this really cute blond boy in my high school classes.  (I married him, for the record!)

But since God saw fit to bring this other really cute dark haired boy into our lives 5 years ago, I have been on a mission to learn as much Spanish as possible.  I promise I am paying more attention this time.  CJ came home at 21 months old.  He had heard mostly Spanish and probably knew more than we were actually aware of.  You know, toddlers sound like toddlers in any language.   And he picked up English fast!  Like in days!  But, I was determined to do my best to keep him bi-lingual.  Hence, my obsession with Spanish.

And now, I have found another great Spanish program!  Great!  And it has videos and lots of action, which is a perfect fit for my almost 7 year old, always-moving Guatemalan prince.

Let me tell you about it!

Excelerate Spanish is the brain child of Caryn Powell Hommel.  By using the TPR method (Total Physical Response), which is essentially actions paired with fun stories, Caryn introduces vocabulary in a way that kids will learn and REMEMBER.  Each video lesson is a new mini stand-alone session with a new theme.  When Caryn graciously offered to let us try out this program, we might have done a happy dance.  OK, we DID do a happy dance! ;)

First vocabulary is introduced and the actions for that vocabulary are shown.  Then the student practices by putting different series of those words together.  Several groups of words are introduced that way, and your children will see the kids in Caryn's class acting out the words as well.  Then a short story is told while Caryn acts it out.  Afterwards several of her students take turns acting out the same story.   Next, Caryn leads the students in answering questions and identifying words in the student workbook and encourages them to practice after class.  Each lesson averages about 45 minutes and is action packed.  You can watch it all at once, or break it down into smaller chunks if needed.  Included in the teacher's guide is a suggested schedule for a five days a week program.

In addition to the videos, you can also purchase the lesson book and the student workbook.  While you could get by with just the videos, I would not recommend it.  We did the first few lessons without them, and I was so relieved to have them once they came for a little more guidance.  The program does not require the teacher to be fluent in Spanish - Caryn has you covered!

What we thought -
Well, are there many Spanish programs out there we do not like?  Not many!  But this one, well, this one far exceeded my expectations!  The workbook, vocabulary and organization are good.  It covers a lot of territory and could fill your days and weeks with a lot of information.  But what make Excelerate SPANISH stand out are the videos.  While the quality is pretty basic, the information is not!  There is so much in each lesson, that I admit, a few times my head felt like it was going to spin off.  Caryn goes fast sometimes but what I found was that she also repeats herself often.  And with every time she repeated herself, I found the boys and I understood a little more.

From my personal experience, anyone can learn vocabulary.  Understanding a native speaker - now that takes time and practice.  The more you get used to hearing the language, the faster you pick it up.  It is like you stop trying to translate every word and start understanding phrases and concepts.  I saw that happening more and more with each new lesson we did.  In my opinion, that is just not something you are going to get from just a book.  In five weeks, my boys already know more phrases than they have learned in the past year.

In addition, the actions being taught kept my sons' attention, especially our youngest.  He is an in-motion kid. You know, the one that learns by movement.  Most call it kinesthetic.  I call it exhausting.  But, it is how he learns.  So when Mrs. Caryn had kids come to the front of the room to act out the stories, CJ was right there with them.  My oldest was a little more hesitant, chalk that up to being a 12 year old boy, but both learned and retained much more when they actively participated in the stories.  So while the kids on the videos acted things out, we did so too.

Five weeks into the program and all is well.  We watch a video lesson at the beginning of the week, spend one or two days going over the workbook pages and several days just reviewing the vocabulary.  Lesson learned, writing the vocabulary on a whiteboard to have in view all week will help you and keep you from having to go back and look constantly when you cannot remember a word or phrase. Having those in full view also allows you to try to incorporate them into your daily conversations as well.

I highly recommend Excelerate SPANISH if you have a child elementary age and up learning Spanish.  For the price, $139.00 for the complete package, it is a steal; not only in the hours of instruction it provides, but the level of learning as well.  Four videos with 6 lessons each are included, as well as the workbook, answer key and lesson book.

As for us, we will continue to use this program to completion - one step closer to CJ becoming bi-lingual and a visit trip to Guatemala!


Monday, April 21, 2014

Sewing to summer in April

Sewing to summer - OK, I might as well rename this - Ashton is sewing to summer!  Me, well, I am a little behind.  My quilt has added a few rows.  A few!  Count them - six!

On the other hand that girl is BUSY!

A few tailoring projects for a client-

A few little girl outfits for a cousin-

A jean skirt out of old jeans for herself-

Another skirt for herself- (see how those seams match up?!)

Embroidery for a summer shirt-

Oh, and a few alterations for me and my oldest son!

Yep, someone has been busy sewing.  Just not me!

How about you?  What sewing projects have you been doing?  Or wish you were doing?


If you are looking for modest skirts, a GREAT place to check out is Deborah &Co., run by Caroline at The Modest Mom!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Happy Easter- 52 Weeks of Family Scripture Memorization

I love Easter.  

When I was a child, it was a fun holiday. We got new dresses and pretty corsages to wear.  We celebrated with family we did not get to see very often.  We ate special meals of ham and deviled eggs and mashed potatoes.  And we had egg hunts and got Easter baskets. BIG Easter baskets.

Then I grew up.  And let go of of some of those things. And started new traditions for my own kids.

But most importantly, somewhere along my journey I realized just why Easter was so important.  It is not about the eggs, baskets, and food.  (I know, shocking, huh?!)

It is about Jesus.  And that He rose from the dead.


Wow.  That takes my breathe away just to type.

He did not remain in a grave but rose.

How is that for some GOOD NEWS?

Happy Easter, friends!  Enjoy celebrating the Good News!


Missional Women

For the Display of His Splendor

Too Many Books?

Some sweet friends asked me last week how to organize and declutter the books.  Like I know.  haha

"Michele - do you have a blog post about purging books... I have a major book problem. Especially children's books. And with kids ages 9, 8, 5, and 2, nothing's really outgrown yet so I don't know what criteria to use to get rid of anything!"

Yep, it is hard.  Which is why you have not seen a post around here about it until now.  They kind of put me on the spot. ;)  It is also why I am going to turn this post over to my wise daughter in a moment and let her guide you.  She is a minimalist, remember - but she LOVES books and could have books problem like the rest of us if she was not very careful.  She also guilts shames helps me hold my book problem to only a minor problem.  Mostly.

Before she gets you all straightened out let me say this -

I love books.  Biographies, fiction, children's books, antique books, it doesn't really matter.  In the past I have not been too picky.  Now I am trying to be more so.  I also do own an iPad on which I download books to read.  Many of them are still sitting there to read because I forget about them.  It is a concept that I embrace, but not one I am real good at implementing.  Yet.  I am trying.  We also are trying to utilize the library more.  Don't get me wrong, we have always loved libraries.  But in the past we have just added those books to the dozens a month we bought.  Now we are trying to let the library buy the books and just borrow them instead.   Keep in mind, that I also have kids in four very distinct age groups so I understand that problem.  I am also a military wife and we move.  Often.  And my husband is sure that most of our weight is in books.  He may be right.  SO that being said - here's Ashton!

As mom mentioned, I am pretty minimalistic in many ways, but my biggest weakness is books.  I love books. I actually own a NOOK and have the NOOK and Kindle apps on my phone but still, I have this need to hold a real book.  I have, however, been thinking about ways to cut back on books. It started when we moved and almost all of my books were packed up in boxes and then re-packed in tubs because there simply isn't space in my room for them. So I've been without most of my books for almost a year now. And while I have missed many of my books, but there are others that I had forgotten I had. Clearly those need to go.

If you go through your books, you will probably find you own different books for different reasons. The first step is to decide why you own a book. Is it because...
1. You love it - This is a great reason to keep a book. If you plan to read it over and over again, by all means, keep it.
2. It is helpful/a frequently used reference book - If you garden, keep the gardening books you use the most. But if you never garden, don't keep books on gardening.  With the internet, you might be able to do without owning a dictionary, or more than one dictionary.  Do you use that book often enough to warrant keeping it, or it is good enough that you can check it out at the library?
3. Someone gave it to you - Sometimes this is a good reason to keep a book. Most of the time it is not. If it was a gift and you are never going to read it or you didn't love it, pass it on to someone who will read it and love it. And let us all pledge to stop giving coffee table-type books as gifts. Thank you.
4. It makes you look intelligent - This is not a good reason to keep a book. You are going to look downright un-intelligent when you have to confess that you haven't actually read War and Peace, but you keep it on a prominent shelf to make people think you have read it.
5. You might need it someday - How likely is it that you are really going to need that book on...whatever obscure topic? Give it to the library and you can borrow it if you do end up needing it.
6. You needed it...once - But do you need it now? Yes, you needed that text book in college, but do you need it or reference it now?

If you are overwhelmed, start with a shelf. Pull out a book. Do you love it? Yes? Great, put it back on a shelf. No? Ok, so why do you own it? If you haven't read it, do you honestly plan to? If you have read it but don't like it, why are you holding on to it?
Bottom line, if you wouldn't read it or reference it again, don't keep it. It is pretty much that simple (or not).

Antiques. I love antiques, and I used to own a lot of antique books. But I realized that they were a problem, for several reasons. First of all, few of them were books I would actually read. Second, few of them were in good enough condition to actually be read. Third, I have serious allergies, and dust and mildew and mold create huge problems for me. Guess what old books usually contain? Right. So now I don't keep an antique book unless it is a book I actually want to read (and love) and it is actually readable. (I now only own the Bible Dictionary in the picture up there.) It does you no good to have an antique Dick and Jane if it is falling apart and you can't let your kids actually hold it and read it. Let a museum or library or decorator have it (and antique books usually sell pretty well).

Collecting. I hereby confess to owning every one of the 50 original Nancy Drew books. But I am absolutely head-over-heels in love with them. They are special because some of them were mom's, others I found and family found for me, and I just love reading them. I am a total Nancy Drew nerd. And before they were packed away, I read them all the time (they are the perfect length to read during lunch, just saying). So if you love a series, keep them. But don't keep a series if you don't love it or just to keep it. And books are meant to be read, not looked at. Oh, and no multiple editions. Trust me, you can only read one copy at a time.

Children's books can be harder, but there are ways to manage them.

1. Only keep books your children like (within reason). Don't hold onto books just because you like them, especially if your children do not like them. Of course, there will be exceptions to this one.
2. Stick to favorites and classics. When choosing which books to keep for the next child or even their children, stick to the favorites and classics. Choose books that mean something and skip the Tonka truck and Barbie books (unless those are the ones that mean something to you). Also, skip the ones you can easily find at the library.
3. Be careful with "classics." Ok, I am about to tell you a dark secret. Many books that are considered "classics" are actually terrible books. There. I said it. Don't keep a book because it is a classic, keep it because it is good. This goes for any "classic" book.
Example. I can't stand The Scarlet Letter. (Please don't come after me.) I know there is great symbolism, history, etc. etc. etc. in that book, but I thought it was terrible. So I don't own a copy. If I ever hit my head really hard on something and want to read it again, it is easily found at the library and is not taking up space on my shelf in the meantime.
4. Focus on books for all ages. I am always amazed at what little ones pick up by just listening. And while it is great to have books at their level for them to enjoy, they are also capable of listening to and enjoying many books meant for older kids. They may not catch every detail, but someday they will.

I am sure there are more ideas that I'll think of later, so this post might have a part 2, but I am not promising anything...And while my books are packed away right now, I will definitely be donating a bunch when I unpack them someday soon!
What did I miss? Are there tips you would add? Do you hoard books like mom? =)

Linking up with the Frugal Homeschool Family Link up and Loving the Weekend Blog Hop!