icRKphJXQm-ezth8lntKydifkDg The Loose Screw: October 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Curriculum Review: Excellence in Literature

High School English Literature class.  Some remember it fondly, others with moans and groans.  I loved to read, but disliked writing, so I was happy sometimes and not other times.  I did okay in the class, but really don't remember much about it except a few classic books I read and enjoyed.  Now here I am with my own high-school age daughter, Alyssa (16).  She enjoys reading and is a good writer as well, so I was excited to review Introduction to Literature (English 1) from Everyday Education's Excellence in Literature Curriculum.  This curriculum was created by Janice Campbell, and was created to 'use great literature, studied in its historic and literary contexts, to help you learn to think and write analytically.'   The students are not given extensive instructions, rather they are encouraged to be independent learners and are given a framework of what needs to be done when.  They are provided with many resources to find what information they should need.  The objectives for this course are as follows:

• Introduce students to great literature from the western literary tradition.

• Teach students to read with discernment.

• Train independent, self-motivated learners.

• Provide tools that students can use to strengthen their writing skills.

• Introduce students to sources for high-quality online and offline research.

• Prepare students for college classes by expecting carefully researched, well-thought-out material to be presented in standard format, with preliminary proofreading completed.

Each level of Excellence in Literature: English 1 is broken down into nine units, each suggested to be completed in four weeks. 
Unit 1: Short Stories
Unit 2: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
Unit 3: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain
Unit 4: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Unit 5: Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Unit 6: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Unit 7: Animal Farm by George Orwell
Unit 8: The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Unit 9: Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
Click here to read how/why Janice Campbell chose these works for this curriculum.

The students are given links for reading their novel online, context reading, video available, and each unit even has an honors option.  Alyssa was excited to get to Jane Eyre, but I had her start with Unit 1, the short stories.  She did well with the writing she had to do for the first unit, but it definitely was much deeper than anything she had ever done before.  She is looking forward to continuing on with what she has learned in Unit 1 and applying it to the subsequent units. 

With Excellence in Literature, the students are learning time management and researching skills along with reading the great works of literature and learning the writing process. A rubric is provided to help parents evaluate their student's writing. This curriculum is rich and deep, and I just wish I would have found it a few years ago!  I highly recommend this curriculum for your High School English student! Excellence in Literature would be a memorable course, not like my High School literature experience!

There are five levels in Excellence in Literature, and each level is just $29.00 (plus $4.95 priority mail shipping)! The e-book is also available for only $27.00! That is incredible for an entire year's curriculum!  The suggested grade range is 8-12th. Everyday Education has many products you may be interested in.  Click here to be taken directly to their website. If you're interested in reading more reviews of this product, click here.

Disclaimer: I was provided with this curriculum free of charge in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

~Wordless Wednesday~

1 Boy + imagination + no electronics =

~Game Review: Say Anything Family Edition

Remember back a few days when I posted a review of Wits & Wagers Family Edition? Well, we are still playing games from North Star Games at our house!  This time we had the opportunity to play Say Anything Family Edition, and since we enjoyed Wits & Wagers so much, we knew there was a good chance we'd be having some fun!  Here is an overview from North Star Games:

"Say Anything is a light-hearted game about what you and your loved ones think.  It gives you the chance to settle questions that have been hotly debated for centuries.  For instance, "What magical power would be the coolest to have?" or "What would be the most fun thing to throw off a tall building?"  So dig deep into your heart or just come up with something witty-this is your chance to Say Anything!"

Included in the sturdy box is:
60 question cards (360 topics!)
6 dry erase boards
6 dry erase pens
1 Select-o-matic 6000
12 player tokens
1 dry erase score board
1 full color rules

How it works:
1. One player asks a question from the card drawn.
2.  Everyone else writes an answer on their board and turns it face up on the table.
3.  The player who asked the question chooses their favorite answer and marks it on the Select-o matic 6000.
4. The other players use their tokens to guess which answer was the favorite. 
5.  The answer is revealed, and points are given according to the rules. The game is over after everyone has asked two questions.  The player with the most points wins!

This game is so much fun!  We were laughing like crazy!  It was fun to learn what your family members thought your answer would be, and to learn each other's answers to the questions.  North Star Games suggests this game for ages 8 and up, but I could see younger kids playing if they write well, or got help with writing their answers down.  One of my personal favorite features of Say Anything Family Edition is that it takes 2 minutes to learn to play and only 30 minutes to play per game!  Perfect for a quick game after dinner!

The Bottom Line
What is it?  Say Anything Family Edition
Who Makes it? North Star Games
Who Can Play? 3-6 players, ages 8 and up
Where Can You Buy It? Online and at various retailers, click here to find one near you.
How much does it cost?  Suggested retail price is $19.99; it is just over $13 right now at Amazon.
What did we think?  Fantastic!
Want to read more reviews of this product? Click here to read more TOS crew reviews!

Disclaimer: I received this product free of charge in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, October 24, 2011

~Game Review: Wits and Wagers Family Edition~

When a new game enters our home, excitement is in the air!  We recently received Wits & Wagers Family Edition from North Star Games to review.  From North Star Games: "A Family edition of the most award-winning party game in history! Wits & Wagers Family simplifies the rules and scoring system of the popular Wits & Wagers. Now families and kids can get into the Wits & Wagers action! First, every player writes down a guess to a fun question. Then players try to score points by choosing which guess is closest to the right answer without going over. That is it!"

Inside the sturdy box you will find:
150 question cards (300 questions)
5 dry erase answer boards
5 dry erase pens
5 large Meeples
5 small Meeples
1 dry erase score board
1 full color rules

You're probably asking, "What in the world is a Meeple?"  They have been used in Europe for game play for years, and they are simply adorable!!  Here is a picture of ours:

Here we are placing our guesses on the boards:

What did our family think of Wits & Wagers Family Edition?  This is definitely going to be one of our most-played, favorite games of all times.  One of our favorite features (besides the cute Meeples) is that it takes only two minutes to learn how to play-two minutes, people!!  How many times have you gone to play a game, everyone sitting and ready, and Mom or Dad has to then spend half an hour figuring out how to play? That is SO frustrating! Well, that won't happen with Wits & Wagers Family edition!  One quick read-through and you're playing!  Mom and Dad also love that it is quick to play-about 20 minutes. Recommended age is 8 and up (although I think younger can participate), and you need 3-10 people to play.  Although we haven't tried it with more than 4 of us, the fact that you can play with 10 people is great for get-togethers. 

The questions asked range in difficulty, and can be both fun and educational. An example of a question we answered was, "How many types of nuts come in a can of Planters Mixed Nuts?"  On the back of the card with the answer is another interesting or fun fact to go along with that question. It was really funny to see the guesses to some questions-sometimes we had a W-I-D-E range of answers! In case you might be worried about learning all the answers to the 300 questions, an expansion pack is available!

 Wits & Wagers Family Edition  is available at a variety of retailers nationwide, and prices may vary.  At the time of this post, Amazon is selling it for just over $15.  To read what other TOS crewmembers thought of this product, click here.

Disclaimer: I received this product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Book Review: The Christmas Singing by Cindy Woodsmall

Three years ago, Mattie Eash quickly left her hometown in Pennsylvania to go live with her brother in Ohio and start a new life.  Her best friend and boyfriend, Gideon Beiler, had broken her heart when he broke their engagement on Christmas Eve.  She has since rebuilt her life, and has a thriving cake shop, Mattie Cakes, as well as a steady boyfriend.  But her heart remains with Gideon.  When Mattie suddenly has to return to Pennsylvania during the Christmas season, she and Gideon cross paths.  There is so much hurt in her heart, she doesn't know if she can ever forgive him. 

Cindy Woodsmall is one of my favorite Amish  authors, and she has written another wonderful love story in The Christmas Singing.  It is not only a love story, it is a story about faith, forgiveness, and trusting God for your future.  There are some yummy-sounding recipes in the back of the book as well, based on cakes that Mattie makes in the story!  This hardback edition would make a lovely gift, and is a quick read. 

To learn more about author Cindy Woodsmall, click here.  To read the first chapter of The Christmas Signing, click here.  Disclaimer:  I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, October 21, 2011

I'd LOVE to win this giveaway!!!

Christi from the blog Sweet Tea and Sandy Beaches (isn't that an adorable name?) is a graphic artist.  She is so talented, and is hosting a giveaway for a free Blog Header!!  As you can tell by my blog header above, I could REALLY use this help!  I just have no clue how to do that kind of artistic stuff on the computer.  Here is the button for her blog, so you can get a peek at her work:
Cute, right??  So if you are interested in entering this giveaway, click here.  You will be taken to her blog and the information you need to enter.  The last day to enter is October 28!  Good luck!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Autumn Craft-Another use for the Laminator!!

I love my laminator.  It's awesome.  My family will tell you that I get excited when there is something that needs (or I want) to laminate.  And they're right-I do!  Our backyard is a beautiful mix of greens, yellows, oranges and reds right now, and I wanted Chad to do a craft with the leaves.  So he collected different leaves and placed them in the laminating pouch how he wanted them, and I (very carefully so the leaves wouldn't fall out) laminated it!  Turned out like a mini-placemat, and it looks pretty on a window with the light shining through it.  I tried to take some good pictures, but it was hard to get really good ones that show how pretty it is.  Here is the finished project up against the window:
 and laying on the table:
I'm sure there are tons of variations you could do with this.  I thought it would look pretty just loaded with leaves all mixed up and overlapping, but Chad was feeling rather orderly today apparently and this was what he wanted!!  This activity is also good to get outside and have a nature walk.  Now go use those laminators!!!!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Book Review-The Wonder of Your Love by Beth Wiseman

Katie Ann Stoltzfus is a 40-year-old Amish widow with a new baby to raise alone. She lives in Canaan, Colorado, which has a small Amish community. She has several close friends and family there, but wonders how she will raise Jonas as a single parent.  At her nephew's wedding, she meets Eli Detweiler, an Amish widower who is in town for the wedding. He has already raised six children as a single parent, and now as an empty-nester, is looking forward to this new, slower-paced time in his life.  There is an instant, strong connection between Katie Ann and Eli, yet neither of them can imagine that a relationship would ever work out.  They both question whether their own plans are the same as God's plans for them.

The Wonder of Your Love is the second book in The Land of Canaan series by Beth Wiseman.  I read the first book, Seek Me With All Your Heart, earlier in the year and just loved it.  So I was quite excited to receive The Wonder of Your Love to read and review.  Beth Wiseman is one of my favorite Amish authors, and she did an outstanding job once again with this novel!  I enjoyed reading about the Amish in a different setting than they normally are in back east.  The characters in The Land of Canaan are genuine and well developed, and the story line kept me from wanting to put the book down!  The Wonder of Your Love is an excellent book, and I hope Ms. Wiseman will be coming out with a third book in The Land of Canaan series soon!  Disclaimer:  I received this book from Booksneeze in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review-Forsaking All Others by Allison Pittman

Forsaking All Others is the second book in The Sister Wife Series by Allison Pittman.  I did not realize it was part of a series until I had it in my hands, and was worried it would be hard to jump into not having read the first book.  It turned out to be very easy to read separately.  The story:  Camilla Fox is a married mother with two children living in Utah in the 1800s with her husband Nathan. When Nathan obeys their religious leaders and takes another wife, Camilla flees their home, leaving him and their daughters.  She desperately wants her husband to leave his new wife, but if he won't she dreams of starting a new life with her daughters at her parents home. A snowstorm nearly kills her, and she ends up in the care of the United States Army until the Spring. 

Although this wasn't the type of book I usually read, I did enjoy it.  The story was easy to get into, and the characters had depth.  I would be interested in reading the first book in the series now. Personally I enjoyed the story line as I live in the Salt Lake City area of Utah, so it was fun hearing the referrences to where I live. Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes from Tyndale House.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Book Review: The Harvest of Grace by Cindy Woodsmall

Cindy Woodsmall is one of my favorite Amish authors, so I was definitely excited at the opportunity to review 'The Harvest of Grace', the third of the Ada's House novels.

Sylvia Fisher is not your typical old-order Amish young woman.  In her 20s, by now she should be married with babies.  But Sylvia loves her family's dairy farm, and coming from a family of all girls, has helped her father run the farm most of her life.  After the man she loves turns to someone else and gets married, Sylvia throws herself even further into the farm.  She ends up doing something morally unacceptable by her family and faith, and flees to start a new life far from home, helping run another old-order Amish family's dairy farm.  There she devotes her life to saving the debt-ridden farm, and denies herself any chance at finding love again.

'The Harvest of Grace' was my favorite of the three Ada's House novels.  The characters were deep and believable, and I could not put the book down.  I wonder though, if it would be possible to read this book without having read the other two in the series without confusion due to the amount and complexity of the characters.  Easy solution-make sure to read all three, you won't be sorry!  Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Our Curriculum for 2011-2012 School Year!

Better late than never, I'm telling myself :)  Don't get me wrong-we did start school about 1 month ago, it's just this post I've been delayed at getting to!!  So-in case anyone is interested, this is our lineup. Keep in mind this is what we have designed for our own family, not a post on what I think everyone should use! I don't know about you, but I'm always fascinated by other homeschooler's curriculum choices, and I often learn about a product or two I didn't know about!

Alyssa is enrolled in 11th grade at Open High School of Utah (OHSU), which is a virtual High School we are very pleased with so far!! She is attempting to get most core classes taken care of so next year she can take the community college dental hygienist program, which covers 4 electives. So far it's straight As! I'm also considering using the Dave Ramsey Foundations in Personal Finance program for teens. Here is a recent photo of my sweet girl, doing schoolwork while on vacation!!

 Chad is officially a 3rd grader, but is at a 1st-2nd grade level in most areas.  He's consistently stayed about 1-2 years delayed since he became ours at age 2, but this past summer we found out he has numerous learning disabilities, including Dyslexia and Dysgraphia.  You can read that post here.  So, armed with this information, we've tailored a curriculum to really focus on reading and writing much more than anything else.  We are also getting some special education assistance-speech therapy and reading/writing help as needed.

 I decided to go with a school district in Southern Utah (we are northern), for their state-wide K12 program, Washington Online School Utah (WOSU). We are using them for the special ed, Math, History, and Science.  This is a program we used in the past with my oldest two, and were very impressed.  Chad will have lots of opportunities for field trips and fun which he needs having no siblings at all close in age. Plus I get the special support I need to learn how to teach him effectively. They also have awesome online classes and teachers there when you need them.  Some homeschoolers have big issues with what I am doing, as the state school system gets money for our being enrolled.  I believe you do what you feel/know is best for your child, and reassess that each and every year for each and every child.  Even after homeschooling for 14 years, I know when I need help, and the private kind is way too pricey.  I love that I can still involve special ed. assistance and tailor my own curriculum! Our curriculum may change later in the year based on how he is progressing.  This year I decided to try out my own version of a workbox system.  This is getting long, so our workbox system will have to wait for another post.

K12 Math, Science, and History (all 2nd grade) through WOSU.
Reading Horizon's Discover Intensive Phonics (K-3 program on computer, Orton-Gillingham based)
Susan Barton's Reading and Spelling program
Writing With Ease
Handwriting Help for Kids (will be Handwriting without Tears next)
Building Christian Character/60 Day Wonder Devotional

Later in the year: Read, Write, and Type
Occasionally: First Language Lessons, All About Spelling (click button on right sidebar for more info)*

Plus, we have so many wonderful products we get to use and review through the The Old Schoolhouse Crew throughout the year.  And after homeschooling for so many years I have lots of good unit studies and crafts to do at a moment's notice!

*I love the All About Spelling Program, and Chad had completed level 1.  We decided to start back at the beginning, now knowing his diagnosis, with the Barton program and see how that goes.  I would like to eventually get back to AAS. 

Well, that about covers it!!  I really don't have a good enough feel yet for how these products are going to work out for us, so I'll check in again a month or two down the road.  Happy Homeschooling!!