Monday, March 30, 2015

Ready to Teach: Greek Morphemes Lessons - It's NOT All Greek to Me! (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

"I dunno what it means. It's Greek to me!" 

How many times have you repeated that when you didn't understand something? In reality, over 40% of English words have Greek roots, so odds are pretty good the word really is Greek.  The premise of Greek Morphemes Lessons (It's NOT Greek to Me) from Ready to Teach is to teach middle and upper grade students how to decode words derived from Greek into roots, prefixes and suffixes.  This way, rather than having to memorize thousands of vocabulary words, a student can quickly look at a word, break it down, and define it.  We reviewed this program from the Crew in the hopes of helping the big boys' vocabulary studies - with SATs coming up quickly, anything to help with the unending vocabulary it demands is helpful!

We received two softcover books - a Student Book (single student consumable) and an Instructor's Manual -  along with Power Point presentation lessons.   These lessons were housed on both a CD in the back of the Instructor's Manual and on thumb drive.  I know we live in a digital age, but can I just say how fantastic the idea of a thumb drive is?  None of our computers have built-in CD drives, so using a CD means hunting down the external CD player that invariably goes on walkabout just when we need it.  I slid the thumb drive from its case, popped it into the USB drive on my laptop, and poof! Instant lessons!  (Note: my understanding is the flash drive will replace the CD after March 2015.) There are 12 units of lessons in the program, and each lesson follows the same pattern.

The first section of a lesson, is titled "Notes - Figuring out what you already know..." It takes a group of words that the student is likely to know and breaking them down in to their Greek morphemes. Each unit breaks down the different sections of words.




Next, the program has you make study cards.  There are pre-printed study cards in the back of the student book for easy, pre-made ones. We chose to write the morphmes and their meanings on index cards and make our own.  I don't care for pre-made study cards, because I think writing something helps make it "stick" in the brain more easily than simply reading and re-reading can.

Following the first "learn these roots" section are Assignments A through E that focus on the student working with the words -- putting the roots, prefixes, and suffixes into words and breaking them down into approximate definitions.

Assignments A and B break the assigned "Words to Work" list into more easily managed chunks (Matthew's hand appreciated not having to write out more than 10 each day.) There isn't a focus on precision, but rather knowing the morpheme well enough to apply it in different circumstances.  Remember, the goal isn't to memorize a dictionary, but have a working knowledge of what the word sections mean.  If the definition isn't dictionary-perfect, it's not a big deal, as long as the student understands in practical terms what the words mean.

For Assignment C, Context Clues, the student was to create sentences that included the definition, synonym, antonyms, and/or examples to help learn the word.  About half of the words for each unit are used for this assignment.  After practicing contexts, the student then created his own word using the morphemes.   I wasn't overly concerned that the word be "real" - after all, nonsense words can be fun, too - as long as it was something that could be used in a sentence properly.  One example:

bibliophonic - adjective for "uses an audiobook"

sentence: "I used a bibliophonic version of The Great Gatsby for my assignment."

Assignment D was two parts again: analyzing new words for meanings based on the morphemes, and trying to "define" the word. These not-from-the-dictionary definitions required some thought -- a cacobiblio ("bad book") was something not acceptable to read and use for a book report!

 We liked the interactive Power Point slide quizzes.

If the student was correct, the above card turned over.  If wrong, the "Oops" card appeared.

The Instructor's Manual was a bit different from most I'm used to.  Instead of being self-contained units (ie, all of Lesson 1 was together, followed by Lesson 2, etc.) the book was divided by Assignment.  All of the answers for "what does this word mean" were together, the answers for "what's the new word/funny definition" assignments together, all of the unit tests were together, etc.  The book wasn't too difficult to use, but there was a bit of a learning curve at the beginning because I kept having to find the correct section, not just a single lesson.  In addition, the Manual contains transparency masters.  These would be good if you were teaching in a regular school/in co-op situation, but we didn't use them because we don't have an overhead projector.

While there are review units (after Lessons 2, 6 and 12) within the program, I found it easy to make sure they weren't studying "for the test" by using the card rings and picking a morpheme at random and saying "what does this mean" or "use this <made-up-word> in a sentence." I think frequent review is key to getting the definitions cemented into their brains so that they become automatic.  When the SATs come, there is only a finite time allotted for each section, and it's important that they have the morpheme definitions down cold so they are spending the time decoding the new word on the test, not its roots.

I thought this was a really solid program.  It's straightforward, with few frills, and that's not bad.  The boys didn't care for it as much as some other programs we have tried, I think because it was so stark.  (Our last program was video based with a lot of visual mnemonics, so I see their reasoning.)  At a rate of three days/week, the program will take about half a year (a full semester) to complete.  If you wanted to complete sooner, then you could  bump it up to one activity daily, but I think that's a lot of work to do in one day and would take well over an hour.  If you needed to go at an accelerated rate, I would focus on the lesson's morphemes and prioritize Assignments A and B, leaving C and D as something to "go back to" when you had more time.  By the time a student gets to the end of this program, he will have a strong command of the Greek roots that make up so much of our vocabulary!

Koru Naturals Review

©2012- 2015 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Circle C Milestones: Thick as Thieves (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

A while back, Matthew and I read and reviewed another book by Susan K. Marlow, Badge of Honor.  We thoroughly enjoyed it, and were excited to review another of Susan's books, Thick as Thieves, from from the newest Circle C Series, Circle C Milestones. This addition to Kregel Publication's Circle C stable is for young adult readers (approx. ages 12 and up) and follows Andi as she comes of age on her family's ranch in 1880s California.

Note: Andi's story starts with Circle C Beginnings, for readers aged 6-9 years old.  As the readers grow into the 9-12 category, they can continue with Circle C Adventures. We've never read any of the prior books in the Circle C Series, but didn't feel at all like we were missing any back story. There are some references to past events that likely tie the Milestones series to the prior series, but they're nothing that affects the plot of Thick as Thieves.

At the start of the novel, fourteen-year-old Andrea Carter anxiously awaits the birth of a foal from her beloved horse, Taffy.  When Taffy struggles to give birth, Andi wakes one of her older brothers to come help, and to their astonishment, Taffy is in trouble because she's trying to give birth to not one, but two foals!  She would so much rather stay home and train them, but her mother insists she go back to school after the fall harvest break.  As if leaving her beloved babies, Sunny and Shasta, at the ranch wasn't bad enough, she was assigned a new seatmate -- one who wants to be there even less than Andi does.

Macy is a girl who is clearly hurting.  Abused by her fugitive brothers, she's created a hard shell that belies the hurt underneath. It takes a lot of convincing for Andi to give Macy a second - and third, and fourth - chance and truly befriend her.  By the end of the story, the girls are "thick as thieves," having bonded over caring for the foals, and after experiencing the love of Andi and the Carter family, Macy puts her best friend ahead of her brothers when the Circle C is attacked.  Through Andi's perseverance and example, Macy realizes that the boys' wrongdoings can't be overlooked just because they're kin.

Something I absolutely love about Susan's books is they are filled with Christian principles and Bible references without becoming "preachy."  The book is peppered with Scripture teachings, but they are absolutely in context, and not trotted out to show the author's mastery of memorization.   When things are hard, Andi automatically turns to God in prayer.  When things go well, Andi prays.  Her prayers are never forced - it's a natural response for her to a situation.  When Andi struggles with accepting Macy, however, the author shows it's not about merely knowing your prayers or Bible verses; she writes:
"No matter how many Bible verses she memorized about loving your enemy or not returning evil for evil, Andi knew her own heart.  She always struggled to keep her temper reined in..."
 I think this is important to acknowledge in a book for young adults.  They're at an age where they have been taught Bible lessons and what to do, but life is getting less "black and white" during the teen years. It can be a struggle not to let their tempers overtake them and do what they know is right, and it's important to have strong yet human role models that struggle along with them. Life is never as easy as it seems it should be, and I think that reading about characters that are too perfect discourages rather than inspires.

In addition to the book itself, we had a chance to read through an accompanying 40 page study guide.  We didn't delve too much into it because Celia was reading this book "for fun," but with the guide, it could easily be turned into a literature unit for a homeschooler, or even expanded into a full unit study exploring the horsemanship, geography and history.  There is a fleeting reference to the US Civil War, where Macy refers to Andi's family as "You Yankees."  While not a Civil War story at all, it provides a little insight into the post-war tensions that remained long after the war ended; if you're studying California history, or willing to take a detour from the "traditional" standard Civil War history, there are some fascinating stories about California's role in the war and would help explain Macy's family's attitudes toward others.

Celia and I both enjoyed this book, and are looking forward to the next book in the series, Heartbreak Trail.  While we wait for its Summer 2015 release, we are going to go back and read the stories from the Circle C Adventures series.  (Having read two different series from Susan K. Marlow and loving every page, I'm seriously considering going to the beginning of Andi's story and using the Circle C Beginnings series for Jude!  I want to know more of Andi's story!) At 170 or so pages, it's fairly short for a YA novel - I started and finished pre-reading it on a 2 1/2 hour plane ride. (Celia read it over the course of a few days.)  However, don't think that because it's short, it's fluff. I was a little hesitant because it's geared for readers 12 and up, while Celia is still only 10.  While there is a hint of a romance that may be brewing between buddies Andi and Cory, and a passing reference to Andi's friend Rosa leaving the schoolroom behind and declaring herself "old enough to date" after her recently celebrated quinceañera, this teen-level topic is presented so fleeting as to be easily overlooked; the main story is the change of hearts and enduring friendship between Andi and Macy that grows from it. (We hope that updates to Macy's story appears in future volumes.)   Andi's struggles set in the late 1800s are little different than those of a young girl today. The themes found in Thick as Thieves - "the new girl," not-so-great family situations, and the struggle to welcome the stranger even when it's hard - are timeless.

Read other Crew reviews by clicking the banner below, or follow Susan K. Marlow on social media:  

Koru Naturals Review

©2012- 2015 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Nation of Immigrants: E Pluribus Unum

 A Nation of Immigrants: E Pluribus Unum

What is your cultural heritage? Do you know how you came to be an American? Almost all of us are either immigrants or descendants of immigrants. While the nation can trace her immigrant roots all the way back to the settlements at Jamestown and Plymouth Rock, most of us are relative newcomers. A large number of Irish immigrants came during the 1850s to escape the Potato Famine, while Chinese immigrants came in droves to help build the Transcontinental Railroad. However, many Americans can trace their roots to the “Great American Migration” that occurred at the turn of the twentieth century.

During the depression of the 1890s, immigration plummeted to a low of 3.5 million immigrants, but rebounded to a high of 9 million in the first decade of the new century! In the past, the majority of newcomers were from northern and western Europe, but most of these new immigrants came from Eastern and Southern European countries, as well as Canada and Latin America. By 1910, Eastern and Southern Europeans made up 70 percent of the immigrants entering the country. Why did these people leave their native countries? The reasons these new immigrants made the journey to America differed little from those of their predecessors. Many came escaping religious, racial, and political persecution. Other were seeking relief from economic hardships, such as a lack of opportunity or famine. Many, especially Italian and Greek immigrants, came with contract labor agreements offered by recruiting agents, while railroad companies distributed pamphlets in many languages and countries, advertizing the availability of free or cheap farmland in America.

Ellis Island
Ellis Island
Nearly every port saw waves of immigrants coming ashore. However, the vast majority of immigrants had barely enough money to enter the country. Immigrants who could not afford first or second-class passage to other ports came through the processing center at Ellis Island, New York. Built in 1892, the center admitted some 12 million European immigrants, including my great-great grandparents, before it closed in 1954. During the peak years for screening, thousands of immigrants filed through the barn-like structure each day. Intimidating government inspectors asked a list of twenty-nine probing questions, such as: “Have you money, relatives or a job in the United States? Are you a polygamist? An anarchist?” Next, the doctors and nurses poked and prodded them, looking for signs of disease or debilitating handicaps. An experienced physician could tell if an immigrant had one of 50 or more diagnoses just by looking at an immigrant during this six second physical! Most immigrants were only detained 3 or 4 hours, and then free to leave, striking out to their new life here in America. However, many heartbroken immigrants were given a stamp of disapproval and sent back to their place of origin at the expense of the shipping line.

Being deemed well enough for admittance was not the end of the new American’s troubles; often, it was only the beginning. Once approved for entry, immigrants looked for work. There never seemed to be enough jobs, and employers often took advantage of the immigrants. While the railroads’ pamphlets did bring a handful of agricultural workers to western farmlands, most did not go west. By and large, Hungarians, Poles, Slovaks, Bohemians, and Italians flocked to the coal mines or steel mills, while Greeks preferred the textile mills. Many Russian and Polish Jews worked in the needle trades or pushcart markets of New York. While different cultures took up different occupations, the vast majority of immigrants crowded into the growing cities, searching for their chance to make a better life for themselves. Men were generally paid less than other workers, and women less than men. In order to survive, many settled together, creating the ethnic pockets like “Little Italy” or “Chinatown” etc. that still exist today in many cities.

Irish Brigade Memorial at Antietam National Battlefield
Irish Brigade Memorial at Antietam National Battlefield
As more immigrants came, more competition rose. Many Americans feared their livelihood was at risk, as these newer immigrants would do the work for increasingly lower wages. During the huge influx of Irish In the 1860s, it was not uncommon to see signs saying “No Irish Need Apply.” By the American Civil War, there were entire brigades of soldiers made up of Irish men willing to fight for the Union in exchange for a few dollars and a guaranteed meal. By the turn of the 20th century, working conditions and hours were deplorable. The 1906 novel The Jungle by journalist turned muckraker Upton Sinclair exposed the deplorable working conditions and even more squalid living conditions. As more immigrants came, waste was being formed faster than could be properly disposed, but blind eyes were turned again and again. An old Italian adage can sum up the disillusionment felt by many: "I came to America because I heard the streets were paved with gold. When I got here, found out three things: First, the streets weren't paved with gold; second, they weren't paved at all: and third, I was expected to pave them." Little changed until New York City’s Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in 1911. Five hundred women were working in a piecemeal sweatshop when the building caught fire. Between the locked doors (only one guarded door was left unlocked to ensure none of the workers stole anything) and the too-short ladders of the New York Fire Department, nearly 150 women were killed. However, in spite of the difficulties, few gave up and returned home. Pride and the hope for success fueled them, knowing return to their homeland was impossible.

The United States is often considered a “melting pot”, with immigrants from every nation. From the first settlers in the 1600s to the thousands immigrants that still knock at the “Golden Door” of the New Colossus, most of our ancestors, mine included, came to America seeking refuge from persecution and hardships. While large-scale immigration made life seem like an urban jungle, it also produced a new vitality in the cities and states in which the immigrants settled. The newcomers helped transform American society and culture, demonstrating that diversity, as well as unity, is a source of the United States’ national strength. This great influx of immigrants proved once again the country's motto: E Pluribus Unum, or "out of many, one" great nation.

The New Colossus Emma Lazarus
"The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus

Cover Image: The Apotheosis of Washington, Constiantine Brumidi, US Capitol Building

©2012- 2015 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Critical Thinking Co.: Pattern Explorer (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

I'm not exactly sure how I wound up on the mailing list for The Critical Thinking Co..  I've received their catalogs since long before we started homeschooling, and always had considered trying their products for "over the summer" skill practice, but never got as far as actually ordering anything, because I was so overwhelmed by the choices! Choosing from the Crew review list was easier, because the choices had been narrowed down for me!  The Crew had the opportunity to review

Alphabet Song Gam  (Windows software download) (Gr. Toddler - 1)
Math Analogies Beginning (Windows software download) (Gr. K-1)
Math Analogies Level 1 (Windows software download) (Gr. 2-3)
Math Analogies Level 2 (Windows software download) (Gr. 4-5)
Editor in Chief Level 1 (physical book) (Gr. 4-5)
Editor in Chief Level 2 (physical book) (Gr. 6-8)
Pattern Explorer (physical book) (Gr. 5-7)
World History Detective Book 1 (physical book) (Gr.6-12+)

and it was easy for us to choose which program we wanted.  We have Mac computers, so that ruled out the software programs, and the math supplement Pattern Explorer was appropriate for the most grades here.  Conundrum resolved! Fifth grader Celia was accepted into the Advanced Math program in her school, so is currently an early 6th Grade level equivalent.  Matthew, in 8th grade/studying Algebra I, is officially "older" than the program's Grade 5-7 recommendation, but because I know from bouncing ideas around with other homeschool families that Critical Thinking Co. programs tend to run "advanced," I thought it might still challenge him.

Let me start with the very first page.  The copyright privileges outlined right at the start allow the initial purchaser to "reproduce...up to 35 copies of each page...per year for use within one home or one classroom."  This is definitely a big deal for families with multiple children.  Homeschool materials can get expensive quickly. Though this workbook is "only" $14.99, multiply repurchases if you have several children, and it adds up!

There are five activities in each of 8 units:
  • Pattern Predictor
  • Equality Explorer
  • Sequence Sleuth
  • Number Ninja
  • Function Finder
Yes, the English Lit minor in me smiled at the titles being all alliterations.

The units start out fairly easily.  In fact, this English student was able to figure out the patterns on the first page of work.  For the moment, I'm as smart as a fifth grader.  Smarter, actually, because I got the answer to one that Celia missed.

I really appreciated the Solutions section in the back of the workbook.  It's not just an answer key.  It explains how to get to the answers.  I really appreciate that because there were some problems I could look at and find the answer, but I couldn't explain to Celia or Matthew how to get the answer.  Having it explained to me made it easier to show them the path to the answer.

Celia had a harder time with the sections where you had to find the equations and patterns, even from the beginning.  When it was a more straightforward "math" type problem, she was able to figure out the answers, but her skills weren't quite up to finding more complex patterns. I think she's going to take a break from working on this, and come back to it in the summer.

As we got further into the book, Matthew was generally able to keep up.  It also helped that he was working on finding equations for patterns in Algebra.  That helped him to find things a little more easily.  It wasn't too easy, though -- it took several mistakes to realize that he needed to pay attention and not just go with his first thought.  For example, here he looked at the first two and decided the pattern, plowed through, and got half of the page wrong.

Going back and slowing down, he realized the equations for the pattern(s), and just trying to mark out the extra squares wasn't going to work.

 Matthew preferred problems that were a little more algebraic and concrete, such as these sequencing pages.

 And he liked the idea of the Function Finders.    The hard part again was staying focused enough to keep all of the steps of the equation in his head.  (Yes, he could have just written down the equation in the margin, but hey...that would be too easy, wouldn't it?)

 As the book progresses, the problems do become harder.  What started out as 5 minutes of concentrated effort for Matthew turned into 10, then 20 minutes of frustration.  I think some is his ability to focus -- requiring a kiddo with Combined Type ADHD to sit and really pay attention to find patterns from solutions (rather than having the equations handed to him and the work them out) is difficult.  It's necessary, but still difficult.  Between frustration with the problem and frustration with how long it was taking (far longer than he had anticipated), it was not pretty.  Originally, I had assigned one page to be done each day,  in addition to his "regular" math assignment for the day.  By the middle of the second unit, however, we cut back to one or two pages each week, and spread it out to a problem or so each day.  This is definitely a good program for problem solving, but it just was too much of a good thing at once to be able to work any faster.

I wish I had gone ahead and gotten math workbooks from Critical Thinking Co. sooner! I really think this is an easy way to do a few problems each day to work on honing thinking skills.  However,  now that I've had the chance to experience the program, I do agree that it tends to run ahead of grade level, even for advanced students.  While the Solutions section is great for explaining where a student may have gone astray while in sorting out a pattern, I think Pattern Explorers is not very suited to teaching how to find patterns.  This program is better suited for the student who has a pretty good grasp on strategy and just needs his skills polished or kept up.  I would not use it with a student who is struggling with the concepts.  I think I will look again at the programs this summer, but make sure to choose ones that my children are at the "older" end of so that they will be a skill upkeep/review exercise. 

To read other reviews of Pattern Explorer, or to find out more about the other Critical Thinking Co. programs, either click the banner below or follow them Critical Thinking Co. on social media.


Critical Thinking Company Review

©2012- 2015 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The National Park Service: More Than Just a Nature Hike

National Park Service More Than Just A Nature Hike

During the 19th century, most Americans saw nature as something to be subdued. Men came west in order to trap, hunt, and otherwise exploit the land. Later, as wagon trains began to cross the continent in mass numbers, the fragile land was feeling the effects. However, as the wilderness receded and portions of prehistoric civilization were lost, some began to see the need to protect examples of the nation's heritage. As time went on, appreciation for unspoiled nature grew; spectacular natural areas in the American West were publicized, and the thought of preserving such places began to take effect. Though the actual National Park Service was formed under the National Park Service Organic Act of 1916, it’s ideals of preserving history for future generations have been around for almost 200 years.

George Catlin
George Catlin
US Public Domain
The national park idea - the concept of large-scale natural preservation for public enjoyment - has been credited to the artist George Catlin, known for his paintings of American Indians in the early part of the 19th century. In 1832, while on a trip to the Dakota region, he was disturbed by the thought of the inevitable destructive effects of America's westward expansion on Indian civilization, wildlife, and wilderness. He thought they might be preserved "by some great protecting policy of government. . .A nation's park, containing man and beast, in all the wildness and freshness of their nature's beauty!"

One such beauty was Yosemite Valley. There, the "national park idea" came to partial fruition in 1864, when legislation was passed to transfer the federally owned valley, as well as the nearby Mariposa Big Tree Grove, to the state so they might "be used and preserved for the benefit of mankind." The Act of Congress was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on June 30, which gave the state of California the lands, on condition that they would "be held for public use, resort, and recreation... inalienable for all time." While Yosemite became a National Park on October 1, 1890, it wasn’t the only natural wonder in the country. The geological wonders of the Yellowstone region, in the Montana and Wyoming territories, remained almost unknown until expeditions traversing the area between 1868 and 1871 published their findings. Expedition members suggested reserving Yellowstone for public use, rather than allowing it to fall under private control. Wyoming and Montana had no state governments yet to whom Yellowstone could be entrusted. Therefore, Yellowstone remained in the custody of the federal Department of Interior, becoming the world's first national park.

The late 19th century also saw growing interest in preserving prehistoric Indian ruins and artifacts on public lands. While the early national parks were being established, a separate movement to protect the prehistoric cliff dwellings, pueblo ruins, and early missions found on public lands in the Southwest arose. Efforts to secure protective legislation began among scientists and leaders in the 1880s and 1890s. The Antiquities Act of 1906 was a general authority for presidents to set aside "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest" on lands owned or controlled by the United States as "national monuments." President Theodore Roosevelt took advantage of the act and proclaimed 18 national monuments by the end of his term.  By the turn of the 21st century, presidents had proclaimed more than 100 national monuments!

National Park Service Logo
U.S. National Park Service Logo
US Public Domain
By 1916, the Department of the Interior itself was responsible for for more 14 national parks and 21 national monuments, but had no organization to manage them. To remedy this, President Woodrow Wilson approved legislation creating the National Park Service on August 25, 1916. Through the 1920s, the National Park System mostly preserved natural areas west of the Mississippi. This was due to the fact that the West was home to America's most spectacular natural scenery, and most of the land there was federally owned and subject to NPS governance without purchase. In order for the system to benefit more people, however, it became imperative that expansion move eastward as well. In 1926, Congress authorized Shenandoah, Mammoth Cave, and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks in the Appalachian region. The system also established many new historical parks in the East, which held a great number of battlefields, forts, and memorials originally preserved through the auspices of the War Department.

 A young man's opportunity for work, play, study & health
A young man's opportunity for work, play, study & health
Library of Congress/US Public Domain
Later presidents added to the National Parks’ Service oversight. President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered all military parks transferred to the Park Service, bequeathing 15 national monuments, the National Capital parks, including the Lincoln Memorial and White House, and nearly 40 historical areas in the eastern half of the country. In addition, as a way to help combat poverty in the Great Depression, FDR also created the Civilian Conservation Corps(CCC). Established in 1933, it originally employed young men ages 18–23 “for the relief of unemployment through the performance of useful public work, and for other purposes.” It was eventually expanded to adults ages 17–28, and was responsible for the employment of more than three million young men and adults. It is actually ironic that the first "C" in the CCC refers to the "Civilian" Conservation Corps as the program was actually run by the U.S. Army. While one of the most successful New Deal programs of the Great Depression, the CCC was eventually shuttered as soldiers were needed for fighting in WWII. Though it lasted less than 10 years, the CCC left a legacy of roads, bridges, and buildings throughout the United States. Today, the Junior Ranger program exists for young Americans to experience the parks in a unique way. Today all 50 states and four of the 15 US Territories contain areas that are protected by the National Parks Service.

Everglades National Park
Everglades NP/Gulf Coast Visitor Center
Everglades, FL
A National Preserve is a natural area used mainly for conservation purposes, but also allows hunting, fishing, or scientific research. Big Cypress Preserve, adjacent to Everglades NP in southern Florida, is a preserve where wildlife is protected but scientists use the area to research ways to protect the parks in the area. Since 1933, National Seashores, National Recreation Areas, and National Lakeshores have added countless square miles to the NPS’ holdings. During the 1960s, several new types of parks joined the system. Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Missouri, which was authorized by Congress in 1964, foreshadowed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. The first national lakeshores were also introduced, as well as the National Trails Systems Act of 1968, which made the Park Service responsible for the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The trail runs more than 2,100 miles from Maine to Georgia, traversing 14 states. 

Appalachian National Scenic Trail
Approx. Midpoint of Appalachian National Scenic Trail
Harpers Ferry NHP
Harpers Ferry, WV

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site
Hopewell Furnace
Hopewell Furnace NHS
Elverson, PA
More recently, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 more than doubled the size of the national park system, by adding more than 47 million wilderness acres. The Wrangell-St. Elias National Park comprises more than 8,300,000 acres, while the Wrangell-St. Elias National Preserve consists of nearly 4,900,000.

While the Parks service strives to protect these American lands, at its core is, of course, its historic preservation program. A National Historic Site (NHS) is a single place of national historic significance to the United States. An example would be Hopewell Furnace in southeastern Pennsylvania. A National Historical Park (NHP) is an area that generally extends beyond single properties or buildings, and its resources include a mix of historic and sometimes significant natural features; Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia is a 55-acre urban area that contains Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Benjamin Franklin’s Court, and other sites significant to the American Revolution. Military sites are preserved under one of four designations: National Battlefield (ie Fort Necessity), National Battlefield Park (Manassas), National Military Park (Gettysburg) and a single National Battlefield Site (Brice’s Cross Roads). All of these require Congressional approval to create.

Fort Necessity
Fort Necessity
Fort Necessity National Battlefield
Fayette County, PA

Liberty Enlightening the World, Statue of Liberty NM
Liberty Enlightening the World
Statue of Liberty NM
New York, NY

Despite current attempts at legislative changes to the Antiquities Act, National Monuments remain areas preserved by presidential action authorized by the 1906 Antiquities Act. Included in the registry of National Monuments is the Statue of Liberty NM. President Lyndon B. Johnson added Ellis Island in 1965 while President Calvin Coolidge invoked the Antiquities Act in 1924 when he designated the glorious statue “Liberty Enlightening the World” that welcomed thousands of immigrant to be a national treasure. The San Gabriel Mountains NM is the newest national monument, established in October 2014 by President Barack Obama.

The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 authorized the bureau to maintain a comprehensive National Register of Historic Places, which has become America's official list of cultural properties worthy of preservation. Those properties receive special consideration in federal project planning, federal grants, and technical assistance.

Since 1872, the United States National Park System has grown from a single public reservation called Yellowstone National Park to embrace over 450 natural, historical, recreational, and cultural areas throughout the United States, its territories, and island possessions. While each carries its own significance, each and every site embodies the National Park Service’s mission of preserving the “unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”

©2012- 2015 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Friday, March 13, 2015

FreedomProject Education: Mother Should I Trust the Government? (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

FreedomProject Education is an online classical-style academy with a philosophy firmly based on Judeo-Christian values.  They offer regular Common Core Free courses for students of all ages, as well as "special event" courses for families of students 13 and up to take together.  Their 2015 course offerings include Mother, Should I Trust the Government? presented by Jake Jacobs, PhD, which Luke and I were chosen to participate in. This course especially appealed to Luke because there were mandatory papers or exams; it appealed to me because of the cost.  Although there is no tuition charged for these family courses, FreedomProject Education suggests a $50 donation per family to offset costs.

The textbook for the course, Mother, Should I Trust the Government? is a book written by Dr. Jacobs.  In it, he explores the history of American government.  Dr. Jacobs challenges students to reject political correctness in favor of historical correctness, and to consider the establishment of our nation in the context of the then-current world views, not through our 21st century perspective.  Beginning with understanding the perspective and intent of the Founding Fathers, and then later American Presidents, Senators, Governors, etc. is crucial for interpreting the role that government plays in society.  Dr. Jacobs points out how a Christian worldview played in the founding of America.  While our forefathers were of different denominational traditions, each was a product of his upbringing; it's impossible to conceive that the founding of our nation was based on atheistic principles.  If anything, it was their belief in God as the ultimate King, as opposed to the king who ruled America from across the ocean, that played a pivotal role in text of the Declaration of Independence.

As the class progressed through the sessions, we also progressed through American government history.  Luke has been taking a US Government course, and this was a fantastic companion to it.  What I especially appreciated was this wasn't just a "lecture" based on the book.  The class was interactive, with the online students able to communicate in real time with Dr. Jacobs, and able to discuss concepts with him and the in-class students.  (My only wish was that the audio from the in-person class was stronger, so that we could hear those students better.  Some students remarked they could hear better with earbuds/phones rather than through their computer's speakers, but this wasn't an option for us because there were two of us taking the course.) Luke's other course is purely lecture-based, and of course he's learned how the government works - three branches of government with checks and balances, the text of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Amendments, etc.  However, it has a slightly "stale" feel, because it is a "just the facts, ma'am" program.  Being part of a class with an instructor who has a passionate political view brought government to life for him.

Dr. Jacobs never shied away from discussing political views - both of past and present politicians and his own; participant opinions were welcome as well.  I admit that our family's political views tend to be a bit all over (generally conservative, with some more centrist and even *gasp* liberal views on specific topics), and I was a bit nervous that it was going to be too conservative for our family.   I had read the first several chapters of the book before the class began and and feared it might be a little too passionate and conservative, but felt that it was important for Luke to experience these views as he formed his own.  Luke and I discussed how the views discussed might NOT be what our family believed, but it was important to respect others' views.  I couldn't have asked for more deft handling than the way Dr. Jacobs set ground rules, right from the very beginning.  Dr. Jacobs acknowledged the elephant (pun intended) in the room immediately.  I asked Luke to keep notes for the course - while the course itself is not graded, I wanted him to get experience in taking notes from a live lecture - and he wrote the following about Dr. Jacobs:

I think Luke summed up Dr. Jacobs well.  He was honest and confident in his beliefs, but was adamant that in order for any progress to be made in this country, people had to be willing to at least respectfully listen to others' views, and see any merit there could be found in an opposing viewpoint.  He readily identified himself as a republican (small r) - a person who believes in and supports a republican government.  Luke liked that while Dr. Jacobs mentioned that he could identify with a "platform Republican," he also was very quick to point out when even his political opposite had a valid point to make.  I think for Luke this was very eye-opening.  Two of his co-workers are VERY vocal about how "their" party is the only "right" one, and this has helped give him a little more confidence to say "Ok, they've got a point, but..." and realize that politics isn't black and white.  At sixteen, he's starting to develop his own political views, and is beginning to realize that he needs to start to pay attention to government in a way that isn't simply "learning who wrote the Constitution" but "how and why and what does it mean today."  The first election Luke will be eligible to participate in will be the next Presidential race, and he's realizing there is more to responsible voting than just watching TV commercials.  Dr. Jacobs recommended a LOT of extra reading and video watching to more deeply explore themes presented in the course, so as he listed things, Luke added them to a Pinterest board.

Follow Meg @ Adventures with Jude's board Homeschooling US Government / Freedom Project Education on Pinterest.

He'll be busy studying political science for a while!

This particular class is offered once a year, but there are plenty of other exciting courses on the 2015 roster. Upcoming classes for FreedomProject Education include How to Think: A Crash Course in Critical Thinking, presented by Dr. Juan Valdes.  The course description includes the statements:
We live in a world where people are spoon-fed WHAT to think, but are seldom taught HOW to think.  It is easier and far less demanding to be told what to think than to have to engage in the rational exercises of critical thinking and analysis.
After being inspired by Dr. Jacob's call to action that he look deeper into the context of government, Luke is very interested in this class as well.  Critical thinking skills are really going to be necessary to wade through the history of governments past and the politics of governments future.

Mother, Should I Trust the Government? is a tongue-in-cheek reference to a Pink Floyd song, but in reality is a valid question.  When Dr. Jacobs wrote the book, he showed the manuscript to his mother, who in turn took it as a real question and responded "NO!"  After this course, Luke has learned that the government is only as trustworthy as those who are involved, and trust should never be given blindly. 

Click the banner below for more reviews of the course, or follow FreedomProject Education on Social Media:

Freedom Project Education Review




©2012- 2015 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Visual Learning Systems (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Digital Science Online Lessons and Labs for all ages Schoolhouse Crew Review

Digital Science Online is a program offered by Visual Learning Systems.   Annual subscriptions for either Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition or Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition students offer a multi-sensory way to discover the scientific world.  We received subscriptions to both levels consisting of both student programs and teacher guides, so all of the boys had an opportunity to explore the program.

Elementary Edition

The elementary program is divided into two sections: Primary (approx. grades K-2) and Elementary (3-5).  This is a good idea because while younger children can grasp many scientific concepts, an older student is better prepared for a deeper study. Videos lasted approximately 10-12 minutes (including title/end credits and a short review/Q&A) in the primary level, while elementary videos are closer to 15 minutes in length.  In the Primary sections, concepts are introduced in a very basic level, and then expanded upon in the Elementary program with multiple videos on similar topics.

Elementary level subjects

You can see how in the Primary level the program breaks down (for example) animals into individual types - birds, fish, mammals, etc.  In the Elementary level, rather than discussing them individually, the program explains how to classify, and then explores the interaction of the animals in specific habitats/biomes.

Each program has pre/post assessments and worksheets for each unit.  Some also have labs attached to them.  When we worked on a Primary unit on Wind, we explored how wind made water move.

How does wind work?

 I wish there had been more hands-on labs and less worksheets at the Primary level.   Every unit had worksheets, and very few (at least of the ones we studied) had lab-style, hands-on activities.  Second-grader Jude did the worksheets, but because his reading skills are very limited to phoneme sounding, Kindergarten level Damien was almost completely left out once the video ended.  In addition, while I think it's important for students to learn proper vocabulary, I also think it should be age-appropriate.  Some of the words, once on paper, just seemed overwhelming to Jude. This is one of the worksheets Jude worked on.

Weather Crossword

While the words are used in the videos, this is definitely a worksheet that can't be given to a younger/delayed student to see how well he paid attention.  Jude has the reading skills of an average kindergartener.  He knew the answer to 8 Across was adaptation, but there was no way for him to know what the clue was without me reading to him.  For 4 Down (hibernate), he had trouble even with the word bank - he knew that hibernate started with a /h/ sound, but hadn't learned yet about "long i" and was reading it as /hĭb-ĕr-năt-ĕ/.  I think if he had the reading skills of a second grader, then he probably could have done better on his own.  If you have a younger/less skilled student, be prepared for this to be a very teacher-intensive part of the program.  

The quizzes etc. might be more appropriate for a group setting, where you are wanting to test several children's focus on the lesson.  Since it was just Jude and I working on those, we did them orally, with me reading the page and Jude answering.

If you were doing science 2-3 days per week and wanted to stretch it out with the video one day, an activity the next, and a worksheet a third day, you definitely could.  We found that the video + worksheets in one day wasn't too much (still under half an hour's worth of work).  If you were doing unit studies, it would be a good resource for teaching a concept.  For example, we worked on the Fossils section with our unit study on Dinosaurs.   If you wanted, you could actually make your own unit studies from the program by arranging the topics into groups.  For example, we created a science study to coincide with our math calendar lessons:

Day & Night/Sun & Stars
Winter/Spring/Summer/Fall (seasons)
Observing Weather/ Weather Safety

Most of these did not have any real hand-on learning labs.  We created our own, using a flashlight and a globe, to explore how when it is daytime in one part of the world (for example, here in North America), it is night time someplace else (for example, at Aunt Jo and Uncle Brendan's home in Australia).

Globe Flashlight Day

Globe Flashlight Night

Second Edition

Luke and Matthew shared the upper grade section.  Matthew is at the end of middle school (grade 8) and Luke is in 11th grade.  This is still a good program, but I do not feel it is anywhere near the caliber needed to be a full program in each genre for those grades.   For example, the boys worked together on the Physics/Motion unit.  Luke is taking a full high school Physics course, and he felt it left out about half of what his program taught him.  His opinion was it was more like his middle-school course where it was a more overview/general "Physical Science" course.  It was certainly enough to get some basics and whet the appetite, but not enough to really dig in.

Luke also said that he thought they videos felt "old" to him.  I have to agree.  While there is nothing wrong with them - they are well produced and contain good content - they do have an older feel.  On one hand, some scientific information is timeless, but at the same time one particular clip we studied uses Hurricane Hugo as an example.  Hugo made landfall at the start of my freshman year of high school, so I can understand why he felt some of the presentation felt stale. 

We did a few of the units, to get a feel for the upper program, and for all of them Jude sat in and understood the lessons.  Again, content was solid, but if a 2nd grader can understand them, then I don't think they are strong enough to be more than a supplement for a high schooler.  In addition, when Jude did his Primary-level study of wind, one of the vocabulary words was anemometer - a device that measures wind.   In the high school study on motion, the program used the term "wind gauge."  Jude piped up, "That's not a wind gauge! That's an anemometer!" Technically, they're both right, but I don't think the K-2 vocabulary should outshine the high school level.

I did like how the upper grades offered more labs than the lower grades. Three of the boys teamed up for this Physics lab on velocity.

High school physics lab velocity

Ball  velocity ramp

Ball roll ramp start

Final Thoughts

I think overall this is a good adjunct program.  I don't think it's going to replace our current programs for the older boys, but is definitely something we will used to complement them for more background information as well as  hands-on learning.  While we received both levels, if I had to choose one, I would actually consider the upper grade first because they were labs that younger students could do (some independently, some with supervision/an older lab partner), and the video content was not too advanced, and could even be presented into 2-3 minute video chapter (already divided on the site) backgrounds that would go along with other age-appropriate activity. 

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©2012- 2015 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.
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