Thursday, August 17, 2017

Pop Final!

For the last few weeks, Celia has come out of the karate dojo saying, "I'm almost ready for my belt test. We're just waiting on (one of the other orange belt kids) to be ready so we will do it together." This week, Celia was the only orange belt in class, and there were only five other kids present; everyone else was on vacation. The Shihan (master instructor) decided not to wait any longer.  Usually students have a week's notice to prepare for a belt test, but he asked her if she'd mind taking the test that evening.   Since she's been anxiously waiting to take the test, she agreed.  After class, I asked how she felt about the short notice - about two and a half minutes! She said at least she didn't have time to worry and be nervous.  When I said she looked pretty calm, her response was, "Yeah, but in my head I was freaking out!"

Shihan started calling out stances and katas, and Celia dove in. I was proud watching her slide into each one without stopping to think -- lots of practice gave her lots of muscle memory.  If she was nervous, it didn't show.  (I also think it's amazing she can follow respond automatically to commands given in Japanese, but when I say "Clean your room!" in her native English, I get a blank stare.) 

When she was done, she smiled, tossed me her orange belt, and went to stand at the edge of the floor to be re-belted.

At the end of class, she rejoined the line.  (If you recognize the back of another head, it's because Matthew is the third student to her right.  He's two levels ahead of Celia.)

Praise is not given lightly in their dojo.  Everything - good or bad - is earned, so for Shihan to compliment her performance as "outstanding," that's pretty awesome.  She now gets until the next class to "bask in the glory," as he says.  Students are expected to practice daily at home, so she has a week to enjoy the time off between passing the test and beginning work on the next level.

Way to go, kid! 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Cape Cod Beach "Photo Shoot"

My in-laws have a vacation home at the beach, and like to put up pictures of the grandkids.  My mother-in-law has asked me if I'd give her more recent ones, and I always plan to take some but never quite get that far.  This year I realized that the most recent ones are from when Damien was not quite a year old...and he just turned seven.  I figured maybe I better actually get some pictures this summer.

Last week we went to Massachusetts for a few days to visit National Parks.  One of our destinations was Cape Cod National Seashore.   I brought the "good" camera to the beach with us, and we got some pretty good pictures.  I took a few action shots at Race Point Beach, but didn't get any good portraits -- it was just past noon and the sun was far too bright.  We headed back to the Visitor Center for a Ranger Talk, and then moved on to Herring Cove Beach.  Again the light wasn't ideal -- it was late afternoon but just that little bit too early, and most of the portrait-style pictures had squinting kids and harsh shadows.  Most of the "good" pictures were of the kids playing.

We were all amazed how different the sand was here.  It's very pebbly, compared to the soft and fine-grained sand we are used to here in New Jersey.  We did like that it brushes off much more easily!

I did get a couple of good "for-Mimie Pictures," mostly by chance. One is of Damien playing in the sand.

He though this was a great "Winter Summer" beach -- he could use the rocks to make a Sand Man, just like a snow man in winter.

The other was a random "aim and fire off the camera" shot at Luke that worked.

Holy cow, how did he get to look like a real grown up?

After climbing Pilgrim Tower in Provincetown, we headed down to Nauset Light Beach.  It was perfect timing -- in that "golden hour" around sunset.  I took about 300 photos (thank goodness for digital cameras!),  and actually had about 70 turn out well enough to consider editing in Lightroom.  Not too shabby.  We even managed a couple of crazy out-takes, including this one.

 I'll let the grandmothers pick their favorites, but these are some of mine.

Keep an eye out for some of the others...I'll be using them to update our "About Us" and Facebook pages!

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©2012- 2017 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, August 9, 2017

Math Essentials: No-Nonsense Algebra (Homeschool Review Crew)

Last winter, Celia found herself struggling in math, and was moved from the advanced placement Algebra I class to the "regular track" Pre-algebra program at her school.  At the time, there was a concern that she didn't have a good grasp of fundamentals, which would have been a definite problem going forward because so much builds upon these. While going from grades in the 60s and 70s to high 90s was great for her self-esteem, I was concerned that now she wasn't being challenged enough.  In going over her work, I began to think that it wasn't her aptitude but rather her processing speed that was holding her back -- the AP class was moving very quickly, and I think she was just always a step or two behind.  She had a school assigned math review packet to work on for the summer, but even only working an hour or two a day, she had it completed in about a week.  When we had the opportunity to review No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials, the timing was perfect - now she had more math to both keep her skills sharp and to challenge them.

No-Nonsense Algebra is a complete algebra course that is just that -- no fluff, no filler.  It's straight up lesson and practice. As Celia flipped through the book, she realized that she already knew much of the beginning.  We decided that if she knew how to do the problems, she would do either odds or evens (her choice) and move on; if she didn't know how to do things right away, we'd slow down, using the included access to the video tutorials presented by author Richard W. Fisher.

While this program is part of the Math Essentials series, it is easy to pick up with Algebra despite never having used the program before.  Celia has decided she prefers the learning style of short lessons and then practice, where concepts are broken down into single-idea sections, rather than teaching and practicing them as a group. For example, rather than being "Arithmetic and Integers" all at once, there is a page for addition, multiplication, and division, so that she can make sure she understands each concept.  She recalls her school program lumping some ideas together in one lesson. (I wonder if this was part of her inability to grasp things quickly -- she was trying to master too many ideas simultaneously.)  Celia liked the way this program presented lessons because she knew that she was practicing one "new" operation until she had a solid grasp of a concept, while the daily reviews allowed her to practice what she had learned before.

The videos are no-frills as well.  There is a voice over in tandem with writing on the screen as problems are shown and solved step-by-step.

Celia has been working on this program three days a week for just about five weeks, and has completed all of the first unit and is partway into the second chapter.  I'm not surprised that she's finished close to thirty lessons in this time because much of Unit 1 is a review of Pre-Algebra concepts.  Only once did she have to stop and watch the video, and once she did, she had an "Oh, duh, I knew that!" moment.

However, I'm glad we didn't just say "You've done pre-algebra basically twice now, so we'll just skip the beginning and jump into new stuff," because of the areas she found she did need a refresher.  (Much to her chagrin, she had assistance from fifth-grader Jude on a basic fraction problem.)  Regardless of what elementary math program your child is coming from, I would highly recommend starting at the beginning.  Given that almost all higher maths and math-based sciences use Algebra as their foundation, it's much better to spend a few weeks reviewing than several years with frustration and backtracking.  Since it's summer break for her, she hasn't had a full course load, making doing one in the morning and one in the afternoon not that onerous.

While a softcover book, No-Nonsense Algebra is a textbook, not a work book.  You'll want a notebook or looseleaf and a binder to go along with it. (I expect we'll also want some graph paper when we get into graphing chapters.) One of the things the book wants you to do is copy the example problems - don't just read through them, but copy and do them so you can get a feel for what you need to do.  Again, we skipped that part for Unit 1, because it was review for Celia, but expect her to copy at least one sample problem as she gets into new things.  (You also can copy from the videos, to work along with them.) When you first open the book, it seems like you can just work right in the book, because you're only adding and subtracting integers. However, as you go farther into the program, problems will become multiple steps, and you just won't have the room.  Go right to the notebook!

After the Unit 1 basics, the program then moves into meatier algebraic concepts: equations, graphing, and polynomials.  In comparing this to two other programs (one that is the Algebra level of the math curriculum that the younger boys use, and the program that Luke and Matthew used for Algebra), I'm confident that it covers a complete Algebra I curriculum.   In fact, Celia and I have made a deal.  She's entering 8th grade and considering homeschooling for high school,  I told her that if she worked through the book and carried an 85+ average, I'd start her right into Geometry next summer.  She's definitely interested in this route because it would put her back on the same timetable she had been with the Advanced Math program. While it would be extra evening work for her, the time involved (about 20-30 minutes per lesson, perhaps), I think is not so overwhelming that she couldn't work on it "part-time, evenings and weekends."

I'm the first one to tell anyone that I'm not a math person.  I passed high school Algebra thanks in substantial part to a dear friend who patiently re-explained things to me until I finally got it (why he holds a Ph.D. in mathematics and is a successful college math professor and department chair and I was an arts major).  While Celia and the boys are much stronger mathematicians than I am (they totally inherited that from their daddy!), if I go slowly, even I can understand the concepts shown.  This is isn't a program that is only for advanced students. With the single-concept lessons and videos to explain things carefully, this program makes Algebra accessible to all students.

This mama is pleased that the answer key is included, for both exercises and the review. Even clear graphs for graph-related units are included. This makes it very easy for me to check that she understands what she's doing.

The key doesn't explain how to get to the answer, but I'm not so worried about that.  I'm hopeful that by my fourth time through Algebra I have enough of an understanding to be able to help her figure out where she may have gone wrong, but if not...that's when we either refer back to the book and videos.  I have really come to appreciate video-based learning because you can rewind the video and try over and over without feeling stupid or as if you're imposing on a teacher.  If worse comes to worse and we just need a new way of looking at things, we can always call in the big gun reinforcements named Luke and Matthew!

In the book are also a few pages of encouragement, like this one.

First, I like that it gives a listing of frequent error sources. If I had a nickel for every time I said, "You didn't reduce the fraction!" or even "Did you read the directions?" when checking math answers over the last 14 years, I could probably be wealthier than Bill Gates! I've noticed that often Celia's mistakes are made because she's rushing and either skipped a step or subtracted instead of adding, etc. but of course, if Mom suggests slowing down and paying attention, well...what could she possibly know? This is a page that I think we are going to book mark with a sticky note to refer back to for when things just aren't working.

I like this program.  I believe that it's suitable for the advanced student who wants to work faster - short lessons means two or three at a time don't take up an entire day.  It's also appropriate for the average, who needs to go at a more moderate, or even the slow-but-steady Team Turtle mathematicians who need to rewatch the lesson videos and retry problems to really grasp things.  No-Nonsense Algebra is a book that I definitely see becoming well-used in our home.

For other reviews of No-Nonsense Algebra, click the banner below!

No-Nonsense Algebra {Math Essentials Reviews}

©2012- 2017 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, August 8, 2017

Teach Me Greek (Homeschool Review Crew)

"Learning a language that doesn't use the Latin alphabet" has been on my bucket list for years.  When I was in college, I had a friend who spoke fluent Ukranian, and she taught me how to transliterate my name using the Cyrillic alphabet.  However, that's all I ever was able to learn, so "learn a non-Latin language" remained on the list.  Recently, members of the Crew were given the opportunity to try out programs from Greek 'n' Stuff, including a program that taught elementary Greek.  Since my working knowledge of the Greek alphabet comes from letters I've seen in math or science, I requested the Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! - Level 2 set, which included a Worktext, a corresponding Answer Key, and a pronunciation CD.  Forget the kids -- this one was for me!

While this is listed as a "Level 2" set, don't be fooled. The company produces a Level 1 set, but if you wanted to compare the progression to an elementary English learn-to-read program, the Level 1 is akin to a Pre-K/K level, where learning your letters is the goal.  Level 2 is closer to K/1/2 level, beginning with a review of the Greek letters (but still enough for me to learn the letters I didn't already know) and then starting to work on basic Greek words. The first seven lessons (36 pages) are dedicated to the Greek alphabet.  If you had a very young child that wanted to be "just like big brother," then I'd start with Level 1, but for the average new student, I think Level 2 is worth starting at.

I'm going to be honest -- this was hard! I think if I were a child, it probably wouldn't be nearly as difficult.  I think having seventeen billion other things in my head while I was trying to take the time to learn Greek didn't help. That's not to say it's impossible for a more...erm...mature student to learn Greek, just that it takes far more effort than I expected it would. I have a new appreciation for preschoolers learning to form their letters! I eventually decided to work in pencil in my workbook, because while some of the letters came very naturally, others didn't flow so smoothly (I'm looking at you, Gamma!).

Greek and Latin accounts for about 60% of the English language, so once I could sound out words, the program got a little easier for me.  I skimmed ahead in the hopes that something would be less "Greek to me."  Remembering what all the letters were and sounding out the word αδελφός was tough (transliterated: adelphos) but I knew the word meant "brother."  Ok, that one should have been easy...I grew up in Philadelphia, the "City of Brotherly Love."  απόστολος wasn't too hard, either; it's easy to figure out apostolos means "apostle."  However, ανθρωπός sounds out as "anthropos," which doesn't look or sound like the word "man."  Score one for the grown-up -- I knew anthropology is the study of humans, so it made sense to me.  After tripping over my tongue and fingers for three weeks, I felt like I had the potential to actually do something besides haltingly recite the Greek alphabet!

Lesson 8 is where "learning words" begins.  This unit is about six pages long and focuses on the single word - its spelling, its meanings, being able to write it, and to pick it out of a list of words written in Greek.  Don't be tempted to rush through and do more than a few pages at one time - lessons are meant to be paced at approximately one per week.

After that first "word week," lessons begin to lengthen (Lesson 15 is ten pages long) because they include a constant review of previously taught words.  Trying to read in Greek was overwhelming for me at first, but the constant repetition helped me really cement what those words looked like.

By the end of this Level, I should be able to read about eleven words and make four sentences.  That doesn't sound like a lot for 30 lessons, but keeping in mind the general age that this program is geared to, I think it's not too shabby.  It's not a "cram for a vacation" program, but a progressive exposure to Greek for young students. That said, as an adult, I think if I could get the alphabet down fluently, I could probably be able to read enough Greek to navigate street signs and restaurant menus.  Yes, I'd have to consistently translate words back and forth in my head, and probably would get laughed at for speaking "academic ancient" Greek, but we wouldn't starve.

The Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! program teaches Koiné Greek, the dialect used in the Old Testament.  It has eight levels in all, and because it starts out with the absolute basics, I might consider it for a high school student. While this level was the absolute basics and a few words, Level 3 begins by adding simple grammar, and subsequent levels continue to add more advanced topics; by Level 8 the program has a student working on translations.

The student would need to work at an accelerated pace to cover the entire program in a shortened timeframe, but it's a program that I would consider for an academic-minded student that would benefit from learning a Classical language.

Greek 'n' Stuff has several curriculum offerings.  Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek is the "Greek" part of the company, but the "'n' Stuff" side has several programs.  Among them are their "I Can Study ... Alone" Bible studies.  Click the banner below to find out about all of the Greek 'n' Stuff programs the Crew has been working with.

Teach Me Some Greek {Greek 'n' Stuff Reviews}

©2012- 2017 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.

Birthday Day Twins

 The last teen year for Luke, the first year of double digits for Jude. Happy birthday, boys!

©2012- 2017 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, August 1, 2017

Heirloom Audio Productions: In the Reign of Terror (Homeschool Review Crew)

When we last left off our listening to Heirloom Audio Productions, "Henty" hinted at returning to "London on the 14th of July, which is a date that has significance in quite another story..." our guess was it would have something to do with the French Revolution.  We were excited to learn that we were right, and he was hinting at Heirloom Audio's newest offering,  In the Reign of Terror. This adaptation of Henty's retelling of the French Revolution is a 2-disc set plus a study guide that continues to impress. Henty's stories are not just entertainment, but also an engaging way for learning about history. Their commitment to quality production values has made them an excellent choice for "car schooling."  This installment is no different, and when we popped the CD into the car player, we were transported back to late 18th Century France and the chaos that marked the time.

You might think, "Oh...another audiobook."  Nope.  We do enjoy audiobooks - in fact, I often put one on at lunch time, or when my voice can't handle any more but we want to listen to a read-aloud.  However, an audio drama is an entirely different thing. A combination of creative storytelling, gifted voice actors, clever sound effects, and beautifully composed music kept everyone on the edge of their seats. (Well, as close to the edge of his seat as the seatbelts allow.)

It's no surprise that Brian Blessed again reprises his headlining role as G.A. Henty.  His long career as a West End, Shakespeare, film, and voice actor has garnered him numerous awards; in 2016, Mr. Blessed was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his contribution to arts and charity.   John Rhys-Davies, another renowned actor, appears again, this time voicing The Marquis de St Caux.  While each of the stories is a stand-alone volume, I enjoy hearing these gentlemen's voices in the new releases, providing continuity to the series.

As for the "audio drama" perspective, there is plenty of drama.  The actors bring their characters to life, and one really doesn't miss the lack of visual.  Their retelling brings to life the far-left radicalism that many in the Revolution espoused, including the execution of entire families.  For being a British writer, Henty's tale eagerly points out the difference between the American's fight for freedom and the French Revolution.  I admit that I've had a long-standing fascination with the French Revolution, thanks to a passionate high school history teacher, and the older boys' curiosity has been piqued by playing Assasin's Creed (Unity).  We enjoyed listening to this 2-disc set as we drove from New Jersey to Massachusetts - on our agenda was Lexington and Concord, the towns where the American War for Independence began.  I say "War for Independence" because the Revolution truly began long before, with the Boston Tea Party and other refusals to pay taxes levied without Parliamentary representation.  Herein lies a large difference between the American and French revolutions, and this is the base for Henty's story.

The story begins with Mr. George meeting a young man on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery. I admit my skepticism concerning young Harry's long-deceased Revolutionary War-era ancestor buried at Arlington; after all, it didn't become a military cemetery until 1864, and the remains Unknown Soldier representing all the American slain from then is buried at Washington Square in Philadephia.  Thanks to the internet, I've discovered that there really are Revolution vets buried at Arlington!

Back to the story, Henty points out a significant difference between the Americans and the French: in America, violence against the Crown is the last resort, and men are judged by their politics and words, not their bloodlines.  While I'm not naive enough to think there weren't any atrocities committed (by either side),  I would agree that there has never been any reason to consider there ever had been a mass extermination of Tories, with parents and children being cut down because of their genealogy. Henty's story focuses on the right that a few men could accomplish, even in the face of all of this killing.  The author points out that ideals of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" are nothing if poor execution (rather literally) follows.

As we toured Lexington and Concord and viewed a fantastic National Parks-produced film, The Road to Revolution, I couldn't help but consider Henty's teachings.  Yes, shots were fired at Lexington Green, and the first battle was waged at the North Bridge in Concord, but they are arguably defensive fights and come after a several years' of relatively peaceful resistance.  The fighting comes to the colonists; they don't go looking for a battle. While In the Reign of Terror can't possibly present every political activity in two hours, it became clear that there is no rhyme or reason to the almost mob rule.  The French Revolution, while perhaps inspired by the success of the Americans, quickly devolved into a bloodbath, and the Jefferson administration found itself distancing America from her former political ally.

While the focus of the story is on France, it's an excellent tool for promoting critical thinking and discussion, especially with older students.  Luke, Matthew, and I, spurred on by a need to distract ourselves the slow pace of our travels (yes, I'm looking at you, traffic on the Tappan Zee Bridge), found ourselves having some interesting dicussions, especially since we are coming from different levels of study. As Matthew is currently studying the early administrations, he was comparing and discussing from an almost "in real time" perspective, while Luke had the ability to also think forward to later political effects and even similarities in thinking in today's culture.

When I downloaded the Study Guide that was made available to us, I hadn't actually considered using it -- we tend to enjoy just listening to and discussing the presentations.  However, I'm beginning to rethink my plans.  This is probably the best guide that Heirloom Audio has produced!  Not only is it a list of questions for discussion, but there are also plenty of added topics that turn this from just an audio drama with a few questions to see if kiddo was listening into a full study of the French Revolution.

Once again, Heirloom Audio Productions has created a new masterpiece.  They've brought a new historical event to life in a way that engages young children like Jude and Damien in an epic tale and yet nudges young adults to consider the ways that that history leaves an enduring mark on the future.

You can read our reviews of past Heirloom Audio titles:

The Cat of Bubastes
Beric The Briton

The Dragon and the Raven
With Lee in Virginia
In Freedom's Cause
Under Drake's Flag

Read other reviews of In the Reign of Terror from the Crew by clicking the banner below:

In the Reign of Terror {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}

©2012- 2017 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, July 26, 2017

Lucky Number 7 (Wordless Wednesday)

Happy Birthday, Damien! 

©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.
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