Wednesday, April 27, 2016

YWAM Publishing: Ronald Reagan (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Ronald Reagan: Destiny at His Side A Schoolhouse Crew Review

People talk about "Where I was when ... happened."  Until a month or so ago, I'd have said that my first "I remember..." was the Challenger Disaster in January 1986.  Most of my generation remembers counting down with Mission Control and watching the shuttle lift off, only to see explode moments later, and American watched dumbfounded as President Reagan spoke that night to comfort a mourning nation, including a unique address made directly to the millions of children who witnessed the horror.  However, as I read the opening chapter of YWAM Publishing's Heroes of History Ronald Reagan: Destiny at His Side I began to recall a fuzzy, yet earlier memory, and the stunned whisper that echoed through every home: "The President has been shot!"

Reagan waves to the crowd; seconds later, John Hinkley, Jr shot Reagan in an assassination attempt.
Reagan waves to the crowd; seconds later, John Hinkley, Jr shot Reagan in an assassination attempt.
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

In the two years Luke has been studying American History, we have read several of YWAM's Heroes of History biographies.  Each time we have enjoyed the well-researched stories, and this volume (and accompanying Digital Unit Studyis no different.  This recounting of the life of President Ronald Reagan presents in the same format, beginning with a defining moment in the subject's life and then returning to the subject's early days.  Here the opening chapter is entitled "Get us to GW!" and recounts the frantic moments following the attempted assassination of President Reagan, a mere 69 days into his administration.  The chapter ends as Reagan slips into unconsciousness in the entrance to George Washington University Hospital and the reader is launched back to 1916 where a precocious five-year-old boy nicknamed Dutch is astounding his parents by reading the newspaper aloud.

Ronald Reagan, Host for General Electric Theater
Host, General Electric Theater
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
As the book progresses back to early 1981 and beyond, we learn about Reagan's impoverished and almost vagrant childhood, and his intense desire to pulls his family out of poverty.  However, his desire to no longer be poor is not purely a desire to be rich, but to also provide for others.  Reagan negotiates a plan for his brother to join him at Eureka College, and his motivation for wanting to do well as an actor and later television emcee is to provide for his family. Proof of this success was not the Malibu houses he once owned but the Rancho del Cielo he ran with his second wife, Nancy.
Authors Janet and Geoff Benges provide a detailed progression of Reagan's political ideals. This man grew up in an era where President Franklin D. Roosevelt was considered little short of a miracle worker, shepherding the nation out of the Great Depression.  As Reagan grew older, though, he began to feel that the ideals of the Democratic Party no longer represented his philosophies.  In 1964, he publicly crossed over to the Republican party. However, though he was aware that while the Democratic party no longer represented him, he recognized that staunch idealism - on either side - was going to leave the country in a quagmire.  He openly brokered a cross-party agreement with the California Welfare Reform Act during his tenure as California's governor.  While he may have eventually become the face of the Republican Party by the time he campaigned for the White House in 1980, the Benges show how Reagan never left behind the idea that the government didn't belong to the political parties but instead to the people.

Reagan returns to the White House, 1981
Reagan returns to the White House, 1981
At Nancy's insistence,
he wears bullet-resistant vests at all times while in public.
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
The book doesn't shy away from the more controversial topics, either.  It addresses the air traffic controller's strike, and Reagan's use of law, not emotion, to handle it.  The Iran-Contra affair is discussed.  Through this retelling, one can also understand that Nancy Reagan's seemingly lavish refurbishment of the White House was not only a First Lady's pride in America's house but a wife's attempt to create a place where her husband and visiting dignitaries not need to leave the building.  After nearly losing her beloved Ronnie twice in the span of three days, she was understandably desperate to keep her husband and his visitors safe.

In addition to the paperback copy of Ronald Reagan: Destiny at His Side, we received the Digital Unit Study.  This 82-page study guide contains chapter review questions, essay prompts, and suggestions for hands-on activities.  There is also an extensive list of recommendations for supplemental books and websites, as well as videos about the life of Ronald Reagan.  Reagan has an extensive movie career, and two of his most successful films are included, providing the release year, leading actors, and synopses for Knute Rockne All American and Bedtime for Bonzo.  Luke has been using one of essay topics to craft an addition to his Luke's American Adventures series; look for that in the next few weeks!

Ronald Reagan: Destiny at His Side is a biography of a man that many argue is among the greatest American Presidents. Authors Janet and Geoff Benge bring to the forefront Reagan's tenacity and resultant successes, yet deftly balance these high peaks with the equally deep valleys he experienced.  They discuss how his father's alcoholism exacerbated the Depression-era poverty the family lived in, and how in an era where the dissolution of marriage was almost unheard of, his glittering Hollywood marriage to Jane Wyman ended in divorce, with the relationship torpedoed by war, work, and the death of a premature daughter.   Through the books pages, we see the rise of a brilliant man that read at an early age, negotiated keenly, and spoke resoundingly.  As old then as my daughter is now, I clearly remember when Reagan uttered his iconic statement, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"  The book doesn't shy away from Reagan's final days: a man whose brilliance sadly became ravaged by Alzheimers' Disease, yet to the end was determined to control his destiny like the cowboy he came to be.

For more about the Heroes of History Series, follow YWAM Publishing on Social Media, or click the banner below to read other reviews.  For reviews of some of the other books from the series that we've used, click on the title graphic.

Social Media: 

The YWAM Publishing Blog:

YWAM Reviews from Adventures with Jude:

 George Washington: True Patriot review  Douglas MacArthur: What Greater Honor review

Christian Heroes {YWAM Publishing Review}

Additional photography credits:

Reagan on Horseback, By White House photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

©2012- 2016 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.

America's Game: The Bambino

America's Game: The Bambino

Baseball began as an informal game of rounders, and gained popularity during the Civil War era. By the turn of the 20th century, the game had become more organized, with official leagues and teams forming. However, baseball as we remember it now really began in the 1920s when Babe Ruth came to the plate.

George Herman Ruth Jr. on February 6, 1895, in Baltimore, Maryland, and was raised in a poor waterfront neighborhood in Baltimore, A troublemaker as a child, his parents decided 7-year-old Ruth needed more discipline than they could give him. They sent him to St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys, a Catholic orphanage and reformatory that became Ruth's home for the next 12 years. Ruth particularly looked up to a monk named Brother Matthias, who became a father figure to the young Ruth. Mathias introduced Ruth to baseball, a game at which the boy began to excel.

Babe Ruth at St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys, Maryland - 1913
Babe Ruth (top row, center) at St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys, Maryland - 1913
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons  

By the time he was 15, Ruth had shown exceptional skill both as a strong hitter and pitcher. It was his pitching that initially caught the attention of Jack Dunn, the owner of the minor league Baltimore Orioles. At the time, the Orioles groomed players for the Boston Red Sox, and Dunn saw promise in Ruth's athletic performance. Only 19, the law at the time stated that Ruth had to have a legal guardian sign his baseball contract for him to play professionally. As a result, Dunn became Ruth's legal guardian, leading teammates to jokingly call Ruth "Dunn's new babe." The joke stuck, and Ruth quickly earned the nickname "Babe" Ruth.

Babe Ruth, publicity photo, 1919, Boston Red Sox
Babe Ruth, publicity photo, 1919, Boston Red Sox
By National Photo Company [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
Ruth was only with the club for a short time before he was called up to the majors in Boston. The left-handed pitcher proved immediately to be a valuable member of the team. Over the next five years, Ruth led the Red Sox to three championships, including the 1916 title which saw him pitch a still-record 13 scoreless innings in one game. With its titles and "the Babe," Boston was clearly the class act of the major leagues. All that would change in 1919, however, with a single stroke of a pen. Faced with financial hardships, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee needed cash to pay off his debts. He found help in the New York Yankees, which agreed in December of 1919 to buy the rights to Ruth for the then-impressive sum of $100,000.

The deal came to shape both franchises in unforeseen ways. For Boston, Ruth's departure spelled the end of the team's winning streak. It wouldn't be until 2004 that the club would win another World Series, a championship drought that later sportswriters dubbed "The Curse of the Bambino." For the New York Yankees, it was a different matter. With Ruth leading the way, New York turned into a dominant force, winning four World Series titles over the next 15 seasons and racking up home runs. Ruth, who became a full-time outfielder, was at the heart of all the success, unleashing a level of power that had never been seen before in the game.

Yankee Stadium, New York, main entrance
Yankee Stadium, New York, main entrancePublic Domain, via Wikipedia Commons 
In 1919, while with the Red Sox, Ruth set a single-season home run record of 29. This turned out to be just the beginning of a series of record-breaking performances by Ruth. In 1920, his first year in New York, he knocked 54 home runs. In his second season, he broke his record by hitting 59 home runs and, in less than ten seasons, Ruth had made his mark as baseball's all-time home run leader. However, the athlete seemed determined to continue breaking his own records. In 1927, he outdid himself again by hitting 60 home runs in a season's time—a record that stood for 34 years. By this time, his presence was so great in New York that the new Yankee Stadium (built in 1923)
became known as "the house that Ruth built." Over the course of his career, Ruth went on to break baseball's most important slugging records, including most years leading a league in home runs (12); most total bases in a season (457), and highest slugging percentage for a season (.847). He hit 714 home runs in his career, a mark that stood until 1974 when Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves surpassed him. Ruth's success on the field was matched by conduct that catered perfectly to a pre-Depression America hungry for a fast lifestyle. Rumors of his conspicuous appetite for food, alcohol, and women, as well as his tendency toward extravagant spending and high living, were as legendary as his exploits at the plate. This reputation, whether true or imagined, hurt Ruth's chances of becoming a team manager in later life. Ball clubs, wary of his lifestyle, didn't want to take a chance on the seemingly irresponsible Ruth. In 1935, he was lured back to Boston to play for the Braves and the opportunity, so he thought, to manage the club the following season. The job never materialized. On May 25, 1935, an overweight and seemingly diminished Babe Ruth reminded fans of his greatness one last time when hit three home runs in a single game at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The following week, Ruth officially retired. He was one of the first five players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.

Babe Ruth Hall of Fame Plaque
Babe Ruth Hall of Fame Plaque
Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

While he eventually earned the title of coach for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1938, Ruth never achieved his goal of managing a major league team. Known throughout his life as a generous man, he gave much of his time in his last years to charitable events instead. On June 13, 1948, he made one final appearance at Yankee Stadium to celebrate the building's 25th anniversary. Sick with cancer, Ruth had become a shadow of his former, gregarious self. Two months later, on August 16, 1948, Babe Ruth died, leaving much of his estate to the Babe Ruth Foundation for underprivileged children.

Click here to read other posts in the series!

©2012- 2016 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, April 25, 2016

Blogging Through the Alphabet - Y

Welcome to Blogging Through the Alphabet! 

This is Week 25 of this series, so everyone is sharing posts themed about the letter "Y".  We can't wait to see what everyone has written about!

Only one more week to go! Don't forget that any bloggers who link up for all 26 weeks will be eligible for a Mystery Gift Giveaway at the end of the series!

This is a few- rules link up!  Our requests?

1.  Follow your hosts.

Through the Calm and Through the Storm

Adventures with Jude

2.  Please link back to this page in your post, so others can find the party!

3.  Visit others linked up -- what's a party without mingling?

©2012- 2016 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.

Classic Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting (Y is for Yellow)

I don't think there's a much more classic dessert than yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  Delicate cake topped with creamy icing...mmmm.  Turn it into cupcakes and I might have enough self-control not to eat the whole recipe at once.

What makes a yellow cake so yellow? Two things: butter and eggs.   This cake uses dairy-free margarine, so that it's dairy free and Matthew-friendly, and organic, Omega-3 eggs. Do the eggs need to be organic? No, not necessarily. However, I've found that they have a more intense yellow-orange yolk, which helps color the cake.  Omega-3 eggs have more going for them, nutritionally, but for our purposes, it's pure aesthetics.  (And yes, if you can have butter, go ahead and substitute it for the margarine.)

The frosting has plain shortening as the base.  You could use butter for a true "buttercream" frosting, but 1) that's not dairy-free and 2) shortening has a neutral flavor.  With a neutral fat, the chocolate is extra intense, making this frosting fudgier.

Classic Vanilla Cake 

6 Tbsp margarine
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 c. gluten free flour mix (I used King Arthur)
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I like So Delicious unsweetened coconut milk)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake papers.  (For a single layer cake, grease and flour an 8 or 9" cake pan.)

Ideally, you'll have remembered to take the margarine out to soften before you start baking.  In my life, it's fridge-to-mixing bowl or I wander off and forget I'm baking to start with.  I cut my margarine into small cubes, stick it in the mixer, and let it go.  It takes a total of about 20 extra seconds to cut and soften enough to start incorporating with the sugar.  I can live with that.

Cream together your margarine and sugar until fluffy and light yellow.

Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until incorporated.  Add vanilla, stir to combine, and set aside.

Measure into a second bowl: flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt.  Gently whisk to combine.

Turn your mixer back on to a low speed.  Add about half of the flour mix, and allow to combine.  Slowly add the milk, and mix until incorporated.  Add the rest of the flour mix and allow to mix until it comes together. Turn off your mixer.

Using a spatula, gently fold the batter on itself once or twice.  This gets any lumps from the bottom incorporated, as well as any loose flour that was on the beater.

Portion the batter into the cupcake pan.  I like using a small ice cream scoop.  (My disher is a #40 and holds about a tablespoon and a half of batter.)  If there's any leftover after portioning, divide it among the ones that look a little skimpy.

Place in oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a skewer/toothpick comes out clean PLUS one minute.  (The extra minute helps the cake be more like cake and less gummy in the center.)

Turn out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.  You could eat them like this, but then you'd be eating muffins, not cupcakes.  Cupcakes need frosting.

Chocolate Fudge Frosting

1 c. vegetable shortening
1/2 cup cocoa powder
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
about 1/3 cup non-dairy milk
     (make sure to use something unsweetened; I use So Delicious coconut milk)

Sift the cocoa powder. No, it's not a critical step, but I find my cocoa powder tends to clump, so it makes a smoother frosting.

Beat shortening and cocoa powder together until smooth.  Add the powdered sugar and vanilla, and mix until smooth.  Add milk - a tablespoon or so at a time, allowing it to totally mix in before adding more - until the frosting is spreadable.   (If you add too much milk, add extra powdered sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, until it's the correct consistency.)

Frost the cupcakes.  This actually makes more frosting than you NEED for this amount of cake, but this is also delicious as a fruit dip.  Or just bake more cupcakes. Or get a spoon. Whatever.  I won't judge.

Also sharing with:

©2012- 2016 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, April 22, 2016

Apologia Writers In Residence (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Over the past years, we've used several of Apologia Educational Ministries' homeschool curriculum offerings. Their newest language arts course, Writers in Residence, is an innovative program combining grammar, writing, and editorial skills into an integrated learning experience.  Authored by Debra Bell, a highly experienced language arts and literature teacher, this new writing curriculum is directed at individual homeschoolers or co-op and classroom students in approximately fourth through eighth grades.  Although Matthew is in 9th grade, his writing skills lag behind his grade level, so this became the core of his writing program for the last few weeks.

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review

The Writers in Residence student book is an all-in-one volume that contains both textbook and workbook activities.  An accompanying Answer Key for the parent/teacher contains both defined answers (ie, for grammar/editing questions) and suggested answers (for writing exercises), but no teaching guides/materials. We received the full curriculum bundle that contained both books, but each is also available for individual purchase.

Traditional writing programs generally divide instruction units by style (expository, persuasive, personal, etc.) and teach writing from that genre's singular viewpoint.  However, most writing that adults do doesn't cleave along these tidy lines.  For example, this review spans multiple genres and is both expository and narrative in its presentation; a good editorial will be both expository and persuasive.  Writers in Residence prepares writers for this "real world" style of writing by presenting writing in topical contexts instead of stylistic.  It allows young writers to find a single, encompassing writing voice that will shine through all of their pieces, rather than having many individual style-driven personalities.

The spiral bound student book is fully consumable.  I appreciated that this was a single integrated book, but the combination of text and writing makes this book approach 600 pages!

The thickness also often made it difficult to write in; either it was too thick under Matthew's hand or the huge spiral was in the way. Matthew liked the idea of a mixed text and workbook but thought it might be better if it was split into two "semester-long" books.  However, I was frustrated at not having a separate text to refer to. If he had a question, either he had to come to me with the book, or I would have to stop what I was doing to come read the instructional texts over his shoulder. It just felt awkward to use simultaneously as both instructional and practice.

Included towards the beginning of the student book is a suggested daily schedule, and the entire program is intended to take 32 weeks (a full school year).

 Matthew and I liked the schedule inclusion, even if we disagreed on how to implement it. Generally, assignments were kept to one or two activities per day, while four-day weeks allowed flexibility for scheduling.  For the purposes of this review, Matthew followed the suggested schedule for his first essay. However, none of the individual lessons was particularly long; some were under five minutes for him! For a fourth grade student, the suggested schedule is steady yet not overwhelming, but an older student could easily complete two or three lessons each day.

Each module includes a clear, points-based grading system for activities, along with a reasonably objective scale.

While whether an activity merits  "exemplary" vs. "acceptable" scores is subjective on my part, it did show Matthew a clear line for creating an essay.  Because it showed each task, I could where in the process he lost his way before the essay was irretrievable. Here had only six sentences instead of the required ten. Neither did he follow the activity's direction to write individual sentences; instead he wrote a short draft paragraph. 

Using this step-by-step checklist, we were able to back up immediately so that he only had one "needs improvement" instead of amassing six.  Units also include a clear rubric to guide both writing and grading the completed essay.

I liked the concept of the program and its clearly defined guidelines for both writing and grading. However, the execution just didn't work for us.  Although Matthew was only just above the suggested age for content, he felt like much of the grammar activity was a waste of his time.  He could appreciate how a fourth grader might need extra help in identifying proper noun; however, he found correcting entire passages just for the sake of finding single elements tedious.  I handed sixth grader Celia the book and she felt the same.  Her thought was, "It's supposed to teach me how to write, but it seems like it's spending a lot of time teaching me how to capitalize."  I think the writing content is written on an upper elementary level, but the actual content is activities that younger students generally learn.

We completed the first module completely.  I was underwhelmed by his progress.  I understand the program's initial directions to simply write sentences as they come to you, and then physically move them around into the final order.  I think that makes a lot of sense for a kinesthetic learner.  I remember writing a term paper in college where I had post-its lined up above my dorm bed and physically rearranged them to organize my thoughts.  However, rather than writing a paragraph with a defined topic and supporting sentences, it seemed like Matthew simply wrote a bunch of topical sentences and arranged them in paragraph form. Given that this curriculum is for middle elementary students, I can't be shocked that what he wrote WAS a fourth-grade paragraph.  However, that's not acceptable when your academic grade level is much higher.

One assignment was to write a paragraph that focused on using strong verbs.  While still not the best of paragraphs, focusing on it as a single paragraph and not a conglomerate of sentences led to a higher scoring level.

Thinking the concept and content of the program is better for younger students, I considered getting the program for Jude (3rd grade) but ultimately have decided not to.  Practically speaking, the thickness of the book is difficult for him to write.  I considered breaking the book down and having it rebound, but the program book already is $80, and rebinding would push the cost further up. The student book also does not grant any reproduction rights (even within the same household), so the program can't be used with multiple students in a family to amortize the costs.  I would rather see program materials modeled after Apologia's science reusable text plus consumable workbook programs.  I had hoped that this would help Matthew become a better writer.  It has shown me some specific areas of weakness that he needs more assistance with, but, unfortunately, the program itself it didn't work out to be right for him.

To learn more about Apologia's programs or to read other reviews of Writers In Residence, follow Apologia on social media or clck the banner below.


Apologia: Writers in Residence Review

©2012- 2016 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, April 20, 2016

America's Game: The First Pitches

America's Game: The First Pitches

The history of baseball in the United States can be traced to the 18th century when amateurs played a baseball-like game by their own informal rules using improvised equipment. The popularity of the sport inspired the semi-pro national baseball clubs in the 1860s. During the Civil War, General Abner Doubleday ordered bats and balls for his men and got credited with starting the game, but in reality baseball as we know it probably was first documented by Alexander Cartwright. The definitive answer to the question of who started baseball is still unanswered, and will likely remain that way. This does not change the fact that baseball evokes more nostalgia among Americans more so than any other sport, and so many people play the game as children that it has become known as "America’s Game."

Alexander Joy Cartwright, Jr.
Alexander Joy Cartwright, Jr.
"Father of Baseball"  I. W. Taber [Public Domain],
Via Wikimedia Commons
In the Antebellum era, the precursor game to baseball was known as “rounders.” This simple game was often played on any open lot, and early champions fine-tuned it to include the same kind of skills and mental judgment that made cricket respectable in England. In particular, scoring and record-keeping gave baseball gravity. The first team to play baseball under modern rules were the New York Knickerbockers. The club was founded on September 23, 1845 as a social club for the upper middle classes of New York City, and was strictly for amateur players. The club members, led by Alexander Cartwright, formulated the "Knickerbocker Rules", which included rules for both team organization and on-field play. One of the most significant rules was the prohibition of "soaking" or "plugging" the runner. Under the old traditions, a fielder could put a runner out by throwing the ball at a runner and hitting him with it. Knickerbocker Rules required fielders to tag the runner, as is done today. In 1857, sixteen New York area clubs, including the Knickerbockers, formed the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP). The NABBP was the first organization to govern the sport and to establish a championship.

New York Knickerbockers
New York Knickerbockers, 1862
Public Domain, Via Wikimedia Commons 
Before the Civil War, “New York” baseball competed for national attention against cricket and diverse regional variants of baseball. The most prominent variations were “Town Ball” played in Philadelphia and the “Massachusetts Game” played throughout New England. During the Civil War, there were long periods of encampments waiting for the next battle. With nothing to do but drill, soldiers became bored. To help keep spirits high, the New Yorkers started teaching other soldiers about baseball, using “their” rules. The men loved it and played as often as they could. Aided by soldiers returning home after their conscriptions, a more unified and national version of the sport. Membership in the NABBP grew rapidly; there were almost 100 clubs by 1865 and over 400 by 1867. Towns from New York to California had home teams to root for.

Cincinnati Red Stockings
Cincinnati Red Stockings, 1869
Public Domain, Via Wikimedia Commons
Beginning in 1869, the NABBP permitted professional play. The first and most prominent professional club of the NABBP era was the Cincinnati Red Stockings. In 1870, a schism formed between professional and amateur ballplayers, and the association split into two groups. The National Association of Professional Base Ball Players operated from 1871 through 1875 and is considered by some to have been baseball’s first major league. Its amateur counterpart disappeared after only a few years. The professional National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs was established in 1876 after the fractured National Association proved ineffective and remains today.

A major change with the formation of this professional league was the emphasis was now on "clubs" rather than individual "players". Clubs now had the ability to enforce player contracts, preventing higher-paying clubs from poaching a team’s ace pitcher or star batter. Clubs, in turn, were required to play their full schedule of games. Often, teams would forfeit scheduled games if they were out of the running for the league championship. A concerted effort was made to reduce the amount of gambling on games. Wagering on winners and losers was leaving the validity of results in question because sometimes there was more to win if a game was thrown.

Moses Fleetwood Walker
Moses Fleetwood Walker, circa 1884
National Baseball Hall of Fame
Public Domain, Via Wikimedia Commons
At the same time, a "gentlemen's agreement" was struck between the clubs which endeavored to bar non-white players from professional baseball, a ban which was in existence until 1947. It is a common misconception that Jackie Robinson was the first African-American major-league ballplayer; he was actually only the first after a long gap. Moses Fleetwood Walker and his brother Weldy Walker were unceremoniously dropped from major and minor-league rosters in the 1880s, as were other African-Americans in baseball. An unknown number of African-Americans remained in the major leagues with their race categorized as “American Indian” or “South/Central American”, with a still larger number playing in the minor leagues and on amateur teams as well. In the majors, however, it was not until Robinson (in the National League) and Larry Doby (in the American League) emerged that Major League Baseball would begin to remove its color bar.

By the beginning of the 20th century, most large cities in the eastern United States had a professional baseball team. The teams were divided into two leagues, the National and the American.  Although inter-league play has been introduced recently, during the regular season, a team played only against other teams within its league. The most victorious team in each league was said to have "won the pennant." The two pennant winners met after the end of the regular season in the World Series; the first team to win four games (out of a possible seven to play) was the champion for that year.  Although the leagues are now subdivided into regional groupings and pennants are decided in post-season playoff series between the winners of each division, being part of a World Series-winning team is every little leaguer's dream.

Click here to read other posts in the series!

©2012- 2016 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.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A+ Interactive Math: Math Mini-Units (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

A+ Interactive Math offers full-program math curricula for first graders through Algebra 1 students. Their goal is to provide comprehensive programs at an affordable cost, and the core premise of their program is a multisensory, interactive test-grade-review cycle. Recently, they've expanded online curriculum offerings to include Math Mini-Courses. These twenty supplemental mini-courses are designed to assist those students who may have gaps in specific areas. These courses are generally intended for a wide range of grade levels, providing an extra boost to foundational skills. We recently received one-year subscriptions to the Money and Measurements and Conversions Mini-Courses.


Jude began with the Money Mini-Course, aimed at first through fifth graders. While I am the first to admit that we don't often use cash for purchases (I find it easier to budget using my credit card for payment), knowing the value of coins and bills is important. Bills are fairly easy -- Jude is very aware that a $20 bill is worth more than a $5. However, get into coins, and he's lost. For the last year or so, he hasn't even managed to identify the coins by name, and he arranges them in groups according to the president engraved on the front, and still struggled to recall how much each coin was worth. When given the opportunity to work on a unit on money, I was ready to be first in line!

This was a mixed experience. The good news is that Jude DOES finally understand that a "Thomas Jefferson" is more commonly called a nickel, and it's worth five cents. He's grasped the idea that one hundred cents is equal to a dollar, and that's the same as four quarters. He also can count by 25's - a feat he's rightly proud of. However, while it seems like he finally cracked the code in being able to count change, I'm not convinced that it was the program's skill any more than it was him simply being "ready," and things clicking with the practice he was getting.

The first hurdle we had in working with the program is that it's not very friendly to iOS products. Jude tried to use the program on an iPad, and while the lessons themselves were viewable, we there were a lot of practice things he couldn't do. The short lessons are followed by interactive and printable worksheets. The interactive worksheets were difficult to read because of the size of the coins.We decided to try the printable ones. Unfortunately, we were unable to get the printable sheets to print from his iPad, despite several methods. The Air Print only prints what's on the screen, and we couldn't figure out a way to get the device to acknowledge the program's print button.

This meant we had to work on a regular computer. The program did work on a Mac and a netbook and printed easily from my Mac. (I'm not sure how it prints from a netbook; I'm assuming similarly well, but he was borrowing Celia's school-issued computer and it is set to print to the school printer.) We originally planned to do the lesson and online worksheet on one day, followed by the paper worksheet the second day as reinforcement, before moving to the next lesson. After a few days, it seemed like there was a sense of deja vu...the questions on each are the same. There went that theory. (The questions were presented in a different order, but if your child isn't quite grasping an idea, just changing around the question order is a bit like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.)

The online worksheets did present a variety of coin arrangements, but there was no way to count the coins easily. Jude would often skip over coins, and I'd have to say, "No, go back and count again." Once he picked up *all* of the coins (or didn't double count some), he would correctly calculate the answers. However, it's a lot of "hopscotching" around. If you make a mistake, the program will stop and demonstrate how to count the coins shown, and will rearrange them into groups (all the quarters, all the dimes, etc.) to count, but there's no option for the student to do this during the worksheet.

Yes, these are different -though consecutive- problems.  Question 3 on the left was a bit of hopping, but not too bad.  Jude got that problem right the first time.  I wish I had known in advance Jude was going to get the next one wrong to get a better side-by-side, but you can see the layout of the coins in the problem to be answered at the top, with the ordered and counted coins labeled in the explanation.  At that point, Jude had finally figured out how much each coin was worth, but in skipping around missed a dime.

To solve this dilemma, I dug out some change so he could lay out the coins and re-group, but it's not always easy to come up with the exact change needed (even the change bucket above the washer didn't the right coins for some problems, so we were scrounging through pockets) and made doing this program while we were between hospital appointments impractical.

We haven't gotten to the final lessons because I don't think Jude is ready for them. The last lessons in the unit cover calculating percentage-based things like commission and interest, but third-grader Jude is concurrently working on two- and three-digit multiplication. The first half of the program is a good idea for students at the younger end of the recommended age brackets, but the latter half is geared toward the older ones who are either ready to learn the higher concepts or who need more practice. Even with having access for a full year, I don't think Jude will be ready for the second half of the course by next spring.

Measurements and Conversions

The Measurements program is designed for students in approximately second through sixth grades. My original plan was to use this unit in a similar manner as the money one. Because of our experience with the topics covered in Money, I looked at course overview, as well as the PDF "textbook" - screenshots of the lessons loaded into an overview document - before we began the Measurements program. 

 The first half of the program includes information about standard and metric measurements and the types of things we use them for (feet and inches for length, ounces and kilograms for weight, etc.) The second part is more technical, introducing formulas for calculating area and perimeter for shapes. This is a program that I think also would be better divided into two smaller units. Jude is doing reasonably well with individual measurements but hasn't gotten into larger-scale formulas. (He can calculate area as of quadrilaterals as "length times width," and perimeter of polygons by "adding all the sides". Formulae like P = 2l +2 w and A(triangle) = 1/2bh are beyond his skills at the moment.) This rendered the first half viable for review, but the second half was useless for him.

I was disappointed in these programs. Ultimately, Jude now is pretty good at counting money, but I don't feel like we would have gotten our money's worth from the Money mini-course if we had purchased it; and mastery for coin values really just needed practice, and it was more "offline" work than "program" work to make that efficient for him. The first half of the Measurements mini-course was a good review of concepts, but the second half was beyond the scope of a typical early elementary program. I would not choose these for early elementary students, but think they are better suited as fill-in-the-gap programs for middle schoolers who need extra review.

For more about these and other Mini-Courses that A+ Interactive Math offers, either follow A+ Interactive Math on social media, or click the banner below to read Crew Reviews.


Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}

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