Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Dig It! Games: Roman Town iOS App and Mayan Mysteries Online (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

My kids used to say "History is boring!" until we started going out on the road and seeing history in person.  Unfortunately, that isn't going to work for the Roman Empire or Mayan Mexico.  I'm not opposed to a long road trip (last summer we drove from NJ to San Antonio, Texas!), but when you start needing passports and to involve the TSA, I cry uncle.  But how do you immerse a student in an "I'm there!" experience for these civilizations? That's a job for Roman Town iOS app and Mayan Mysteries Online Game from Dig It! Games.

Roman Town

Roman Town is an iPad app game that transports the player back to Pompeii. (You will need to keep some modern cash in your iTunes account though, though though - the app is free, but in order to advance through the game, there are in-app purchases.)   It's not just a "video game," but true video learning.  For those who have a set of mandate requirements to check off, it does fulfill several core standards, including World History, Math, and Reading.   Officially, it's for students in middle elementary school, but that didn't stop rising 9th grader Matthew from loving it! It actually was perfect timing for him to play this, because he's studying World History and just finished a trimester that included ancient Rome.  He found himself...not bored!

Dig It! Games Review

Even though it wasn't something that he was "supposed to" enjoy, he did.  He didn't feel it was for "little kids."  He admitted that he actually did learn some new things about Roman culture.  Egads!

Celia also played Roman Town. She's in the target age bracket for the program, and found that it wasn't too hard to play.  She loved all the new things she learned, but she especially liked the games.

Something I really liked about this program was it wasn't all about facts and dates.  Sure, they're important, but history gets really, really dry and boring when all you're learning is who did what, and when he did it.  This program does provide a fair amount of nitty-gritty facts, but it also provides a glimpse into the culture of the Roman world.  Two of the games, Knucklebones and Calculi, are based on real games the ancient Romans played.  I think it's really important to study people of history in context with not just what happened, but how they lived as well, and this helped them see that ancient Rome wasn't all just all about chariot races and gladiators.

Mayan Mysteries

Mayan Mysteries is a sleuthing game that takes you through the ancient Mayan civilization on and near the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico.  We reviewed the iPad version of Mayan Mysteries two years ago, and ever since then, both Matthew and Celia keep asking me, "Has Mayan Mysteries 2 come out yet?  Are they ever going to release another version?"  This time, we reviewed the online game version (works on any computer, but requires Flash capability), and they worked together to get through the game.  Their take on it:

"There were more things to do than the iPad version, at least as far as we can remember.  We don't think it was a "new" game, because there was stuff we had already done,  but there were a lot of new things to do."

One thing they both were certain they didn't remember was searching for the King and Priest's possessions to unlock a level. Another novel section was where they had to plant crops and then allocate water to both the crops and the king. 

This online game version is geared to older students (5th - 9th grade).  I wouldn't say that Celia needed Matthew to figure out the puzzles; even though she's just finished 5th grade, there often were times where she'd be the first to figure something out and Matthew would still be processing a few minutes later.  I think for Celia, as a middle schooler, it could be a standalone unit for an overview course.  However, for Matthew, it's not detailed enough to count as a "section on Mayans" (or "a unit on Roman history" when studying ancient civilizations.  What I'd categorize it as a way to say "Ok, fine, take a break.  You can play this game for  a bit..." and he thinks he's winning because he's not doing official schoolwork, but he's still not totally off the clock.

What I appreciated about this version of Mayan Mysteries is it could be restarted.  You can't go back and re-do a section that you may not have earned all the rewards from, but you could go back to the beginning of the game and replay it.   Upon replay, I found that there wasn't a lot of "Oh, I remember those answers!" to get ahead. The game seems to have sufficient random puzzles/questions/etc. to allow you to play again at least two or three times.  Again, we had lots of learning, and not a single, "But this is boring!" 

Dig It! Games was founded by a former archeologist and middle school teacher ten years ago, and their goal is to blend entertainment and learning by providing historically accurate and educational content in a way that appeals to students.  Roman Town and Mayan Mysteries are well-rounded academic but fun programs that will make your student want to learn.  We may not be able to go to the areas in person, but these virtual visits are definitely not boring!

To read more reviews about Dig It! Games' programs, click the banner below or follow them on social media:


Dig-It! Games 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.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Writing with Sharon Watson - Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

High school literature can be a challenge.  You want to make sure you read the "right" books (ie, the ones highlight literary concepts) but don't want to choose ones that your student can't relate to.  Did you know that most of the books that we consider "required reading" for high schoolers were actually written for an adult audience?  It can be hard for teens to relate to many stories because they just don't have the same life experience, and often makes literature seem "stuffy" and "boring".   Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide curriculum from Writing with Sharon Watson is a way for your student to learn literary classics in a relaxed and conversational manner, free from all of the stiffness that the words "great classical literature" can exude.

We are no strangers to Sharon Watson's curricula.  One of Luke's all-time favorite programs is her non-fiction writing course, and two years later, he still refers back to the text every time he has something to write.  His last two years of literature study have been done in tandem with his American history studies, so it's been a bit of a hodgepodge.  He was happy to try out a program with a clearly defined syllabus.   After scrambling to have a good variety of literature to study, I was happy to have a this 70 lesson, two-semester program to simply point to and say "Do the next lesson!"

For the review, we received a full curriculum set, containing three softcover books and one PDF download (the literature books are sold separately):

Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide (Student Book)
Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide: Teacher's Guide
Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide: Quiz and Answer Manual
Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide:Novel Notebook (PDF Download)

We started with the first book in the program, Pudd'nhead Wilson, by Mark Twain.  Luke really liked that this book was included, instead of the usual Huck Finn/Tom Sawyer books.  (In all, the program studies six novels and on one memoir, and they cover a variety of both American and British authors.)  He s struggled with reading the other books because they are in Twain's trademark "spoken dialect" style, but he found that this one's patois was less thick and was much easier to read.

As for the student guide, Luke found Sharon Watson's trademark explanations comfortable.  Instead of being a lot of definitions and ideas to be memorized and applied to a book, he liked the laid-back, conversational style. He felt like he was being "spoken to", rather than "spoken at".  Above all, he liked her explanation of ideas, rather than just defining them.  For example, Luke knew that a pseudonym was a name taken by an author and used instead of his own name, but no one had ever explained to him exactly why someone would do this.  It seems like very minor thing, but the program takes the time to share what an author's reasoning might be.  He has a better appreciation for authors and their reasoning for why they chose a pen name, and it has helped him better understand the perspective of a writer.  For example, when you know the story behind the name "Mark Twain", Samuel Clemen's stories of the antebellum midwest appear far more compelling and authentic than they might if he used his own name.

I liked the work-as-you-go Novel Notebook, a defining feature of the program.   The Novel Notebook allows a student to examine his personal reactions and feelings to the book while he's reading, rather than simply reading and answering questions.  Luke wasn't such a fan of it; he found it disrupted his rhythm.  He also felt like he was no longer reading a story, but was "reading to find answers." He preferred to read the book straight through and then pick apart themes, etc.  He often felt like he was going to have the "wrong" answers because there might be a "better" answer in another chapter.

Two companion books support the program instructor. One is the Teacher's Guide that contains answers to all of the student questions.  This way, the parent/teacher can read the book alongside the student to discuss in a conversational manner.  The second is the Quiz and Answer Manual if the parent/teacher prefers to give and grade test instead of using the online quiz/grading program feature.  I liked both of these.  While I do enjoy reading literature books alongside Luke, sometimes it's hard for both of us to be sharing a single book.  There was enough information in the parent book that I could work ahead of what I had actually read, yet still be able to know if he had paid attention to the book.  In addition, the quiz book provided "Opinion Surveys." These were not necessarily graded - in fact, the program says the grade comes from simply completing them - but we found that the discussion that they sparked actually led to a deeper comprehension of the themes, and showed a greater command of the book than simply knowing where specific themes were demonstrated.

This program is designed to be used in a Christian school classroom, co-op, or individual homeschool setting.  We have often found that it is difficult for a program to be successful for all three types of schooling.  What works for larger group discussions is impossible with a single student; programs geared to a single student becomes unwieldy in a larger group.  However, with this program, there is enough independent work for the student to not need more than general direction, but the discussions can be easily adapted to any number of students simply by changing the methods of discussion (submitted essays vs oral discussion).

Once again, we have been spoiled by a Sharon Watson program.  Luke has really wanted to do a Plays-and-Playwrights program for his senior year, but is reconsidering to use this instead. He likes the way works are studied enough that he has said he may just do a few of the units "just because they are interesting."   (Another specific book in the program that he is looking forward to reading the original Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.)  I think that is probably the highest praise he can give the program; it has made literature more than just a bunch of books and turned reading these classics into something he's excited to do.

You can read the reviews below to find out how Crew families used the program, and follow Writing with Sharon Watson on social media at both Facebook and Pinterest.

Writing with Sharon Watson 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, August 26, 2015

High School Math and Science

(This post contains affiliate links.  Please see here for full disclosures.)

I'm excited to share our math and science programs for this year for the big boys. At first glance, math and science seemed like they would be pretty easy to plan.  While homeschoolers in our state aren't beholden to specific requirements, it made sense to follow a similar plan in order to be competitive for college applications. This meant math involved Algebras I and II plus Geometry, and sciences included a minimum of biology, chemistry, and physics (all with lab).  Sounded easy enough, right?  Um...maybe not.  At first, it didn't seem like there were that many programs out there, and the majority of maths and sciences were for grammar school.  After a bit of digging, suddenly we went from one or two options to twelve!  So how to decide which programs?

First, Math.  I am not a math person.  I passed Algebra I only due to intense tutoring from a friend who now holds a PhD in mathematics, and the margins of my Trig notebook were littered with "don't forget this" flags. Anything literary based? I'm right there!  Math much beyond times tables?  Let's say it's good to recognize your limits as a parent and know when to ask for help.

We definitely needed something that was self-contained.  I could handle grading a test if need be, but I needed something that would teach it all and give me the answer key.  Luke had completed Algebra I in school, so when he came home, he went right to Geometry.  We started with a program from Time 4 Learning.  Luke thought it was OK, and he definitely was learning, but he didn't love it.  He also tried a couple of other programs that we had reviewed, and they just didn't do it for him, either.   He decided he wanted to try something new when it came time for Algebra II.   At the same time, Matthew became a homeschooler and was ready for Algebra I.   I was hopeful we'd hit on something that would be able to take Matthew all the way through high school math, since he agreed that Time 4 Learning wasn't really his thing either.  We finally found Thinkwell's math programs, and signed up for their free trial.  Oh. my. goodness - we found something that was right for everyone!

Let me just say how much I love Thinkwell.  First, for this not-math-inclined Mama, it's a dream come true.  It's completely self-contained, from opening lessons to final exam.  Each lesson has a printable worksheet - with answer key! - so I can check how the boys are doing, but even when there are only "potential answers" given for a question, it is easy to see the pattern and see if a different answer is still correct.

As much as I love the easy-to-grade angle, our favorite part is the video instruction.  I have never, ever, ever heard so much giggling over math.  Dr. Burger has a very dry sense of humor -- I'd describe it as "dry as the Sahara in a drought."   However, math is a pretty dry subject, so the the jokes provide some much needed levity.  He also explains things in a way that is so approachable that even I can understand what he's talking about.  Luke likes that sometimes Dr. Burger makes mistakes.  Sure, he could go back and re-record the lessons, but Luke likes being able to watch the problem and see where things went wrong.  First, it helps him not make the same mistake, because he's aware of where it's easy to go wrong, but second - and maybe more importantly - it shows that even the teacher makes mistakes, and the important thing is to figure out how to go back and fix them. I was happy to find out that Thinkwell is one of the more difficult programs for math available, so when both boys ended the year with A averages, I felt they had truly earned their grades and not gotten lucky with an easy program.   Our experience last year made this year's math choices easy.  Matthew followed Algebra I with Geometry for Matthew, and even though he wasn't required to take a fourth year of Math, Luke readily chose Pre-Calculus as an "elective," based on the skill of the teacher.

It's a good thing Math was easy to decide, because Science wasn't so simple.   Luke doesn't officially need a science course, but most of the colleges "strongly suggest" a fourth year of science (and math).  Since "strongly suggest" is pretty much code for "if you want a fighting chance to get in," he figured he had better do something science related during his senior year.  Since he's interested in a health sciences career, he decided he wanted to do something in the anatomy realm, but he didn't want the stress of an AP-caliber program.  Since science was sort-of-optional, he wanted to do something that would count for a credit but be more "What I really want to study," instead of "You have to study this to tick the requirement box."  We went back to our Great Courses listings, and found they offered an course called  Understanding the Human Body: An Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology.  He figures this will take a little more than a single semester, so he'll add in Physiology and Fitness, to focus on anatomy & physiology of the body during exercise to round out the year. He is definitely excited to be able to do a course that interests him, rather than one that falls under the "must do" list.

Matthew, however, is pretty much stuck with a choice of "bio, chem, or physics?"  (We've told him 12th grade choices are your reward for getting to Senior year.)  He's opted to begin with Biology, but it's been a rough start.  I originally had planned on Shepherd Science, but then we had the opportunity to review a different program.  Since the price was right (no cost in exchange for the review), so we decided to give it a shot.  We've been pretty lucky at finding programs right off that suit Matthew's learning style, but this one just isn't cutting it.  I'll be honest -- I love science, and even began my college career as a biology major, but this particular program is slow-paced, and the only interaction is clicking to the next screen.  I'm glad we tried it, but it's proven to us that this particular style of program isn't going to work. Live and learn, right?  Once we are through with our review, we are going to go back to Plan A.  I'm hopeful that its lab-heavy syllabus will suit him better.  If anything else, the dissections will be fun for everyone.  Even kindergartener Damien is interested in being an observer to find out what the insides of animals look like.  Next year he'll do Chemistry, followed by Physics in his junior year.  I'm taking suggestions for those already!  

Thanks for visiting this installment of the Homeschooling High School blog hop.  This month's theme was Math, Science, and History.  I'm holding off on history this month, and will discuss it next month alongside Language Arts, since we have a cross-curricular, unit-study approach to these subjects.  In the meantime, check in with the other blogs participating in the hop: 

©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, August 21, 2015

We Have New Neighbors!

Luke teases, "How do you know you're Italian? Your entire family lives on the same street!"  Well, it must be mostly true, because now, my parents live on our street!  YAY!!!  Instead of a good hour through city traffic, they are now less than two minutes away by car, and under 20 on foot.  We're at that in-between time where they're still independent but not as young as they were, so having them be able to move nearby is such a blessing.  We can enjoy each other's company now, and then I will be able to help them if they need assistance in the future.

Let me back up.  When I married Neal, I had no idea that this part of New Jersey existed.  I was a city girl from Philadelphia, and what I knew about Jersey geography could fit on a postage stamp-sized map. I did know that there were some pretty rural parts, but I didn't realize quite how rural.  I went from having this "giant" yard...

to this.

And yes, it was an adjustment.  Not just the yard, but the whole city vs. rural thing.  Our address was determined by Neal's job -- since he's in agriculture and has to be in the office by 6 am all summer, he won the commute war.  There were two things I missed about my childhood home:  12 am pizza delivery and my parents.  (Note: not necessarily in that order.)

Fast forward eighteen years, and we finally have a place that delivers pizza until about 10 pm.  However, I still was forever on the wrong side of rush hour from my parents.  Now that my parents live so close, we can have delivery pizza again, as long as it's a reasonable dinner hour.

Last weekend, we had a "last supper" in the old house.  It was a bittersweet day.  Growing up left me with many memories of that house, and I will miss it.  We laughed between pictures in that living room on the day I got married that there was no turning back, and I was going out the door for good.  It's funny to realize that the day has come when I truly can't "go back home."

Yes, there were tears.  It's been exciting yet overwhelming for all of us.

We crowded around the kitchen table for dinner, but didn't all fit.  Damien took his dessert into the dining room and had a picnic on the floor, since the table had already been taken out.

After dinner, my best childhood friend came over, husband with camera in tow .  She also came to be with my parents on moving day.  She was among the first to welcome us to the neighborhood - her mom brought her over to say hello. We were only three years old, and we've been friends ever since.  It seems fitting that she was there to help them pack up the moving truck, too.

It seems strange to take pictures with us as adults.

(The guy is one of my brothers.)

But even stranger was this picture -- our children on the same front step we played on.

When my parents moved here, I was 3 - the same age as my nephew (in the blue shirt). They had three children, ages 3, 2 and newborn.  They now have extra children by marriage and 10.5 grandchildren, ranging in age from 17-year-old Luke to a coming-this-November baby.  (Yes, a few of us are missing from the picture.)

Jude knew my parents were sending out "We've moved!" postcards.  He wanted to send them a letter, too.  On Tuesday, he wrote them a note saying "Welcome to the neighborhood!" and mailed it, hoping it would be waiting for them when they moved in on Wednesday. It didn't get there before my parents, but they received his welcome on their very first morning here.  Not too bad.

Moving day finally came.  The movers came, and loaded the furniture onto their truck.  I was going to handle this end of things, opening the house so someone was here in case the movers got here before my parents.  My dad texted me when they were leaving.

Finally both my parents and the moving truck arrived, and the unloading began.

As comedic relief during all of this, we gifted my parents their very own No Drama Llama.  Drama is forbidden in his presence.  He stayed in the old house until my parents left, and Mom brought him in with her from the car first thing, taking no chances.

There's nothing quite like hopping and pointing around furniture. Why does getting it out of one doorway involve sticking it in another?

Finally, one room organized enough to sit down.

But not for long.  We needed to shift the refrigerator around, and behind it needed a good sweeping.  Where was the broom? Who knows!  Packed somewhere.  I called my house and asked Celia to bring ours. I laughed as I watched her ride up to the rescue, looking like she couldn't decide which section of the Wizard of Oz she wanted to be in! 

Can't you hear the theme music?

Once we had things fairly organized several hours later, we discussed dinner.  Since everything was still packed, I invited my parents to my house for dinner. 

 The kids were so excited, and are already talking about walking there when the weather cools a bit.  Jude can't wait to bake cookies and take them over, because "That's what neighbors do."  I never would have dreamed that my parents would live on our street, but I'm so excited that they are here.  After 18 years, this Irish girl has become Italian at heart...her family is all on one street.

©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.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Alpha Omega Publications: Horizons PK-2 Physical Education (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

I have never worried about doing a formal physical education class for any of the boys.  After all, when you're in Physical Therapy one or two days a week for months on end, that pretty much covers learning new skills, and the home program to work on those new skills provides plenty of activity for the rest of the week.  However, this year, we'll be working on different plan for their therapy.  Since they all are cared for by the same physical therapist, we've decided to do one boy + 12 weeks of intensive therapy, and then switch to a different brother.  This makes scheduling my life a little easier because it will be only one, maybe two trips to the hospital a week for therapy instead of daily.  However, it means that while one boy has Miss Nicole all to himself, the others are at a loose end.  She will give the big boys "off time" assignments to build on their skills, but prefers the little boys to have less structured yet developmentally suitable play programs.  We recently tried using the  Horizons PreK-2nd Physical Education program from Alpha Omega Publications, and found that it is an excellent play-style program not only for them, but also high schooler Luke.

 Luke has long wanted to do something in the pediatric physical therapy field.  One career path he has been considering is becoming "bridge" caregiver.  The problem with many therapy programs is patients are only allowed a specific number of visits with a Physical Therapist, but the patients often aren't quite ready to be out on their own just because their insurance company thinks they have had enough.  He has been in that situation himself, and found himself frustrated because he's not sure he's doing things "correctly," but there really isn't anyone to ask.  Since he's wondering if he could make a career of filling this gap, he became our gym teacher for the year.  He has developed a credit-worthy "Practicum in Pediatric/Elementary Sports Medicine" elective course, putting this curriculum into action as the program's core.

First, the curriculum outlines its goals.  As the parent who has sat in on more PT evals than I can count, the sign of a great therapist is one who realizes skills do not exist in a vacuum.  This program looks to layer intellectual goals with physical goals; it's not just about being able to acquire skills but understanding what they lead to.   A child who is frustrated from inability often makes poor decisions; a child who has the proficiency to throw a ball can then engage in a game with another child.  The goal of this program is to provide a physical education for the whole child, not just provide an outlet for a wiggly kindergartener.

This is a Christian-based program, so it integrates not just individual physical skills to the activities, but also development of the core Christian values of each student taking care of himself and others in a manner that honors God.  However, this book focuses more on scientific principles than Biblical ones, so I think it could be used by anyone, regardless of religious background.  A non-Christian family may feel differently in how these character skills are presented, but "play fair," "make healthy choices," "don't break the equipment," "listen to the teacher," "try your hardest," etc. are all core standards that all children should be held accountable to, regardless of faith.

Luke found that seeing the expected skills for a child's age helped him devise programs for the boys.  Evaluation tests in the back of the book allowed him to pre-test all skills to see where strengths and weaknesses were; having all the skills allowed him test Jude across multiple levels.  At his last formal evaluations, Jude had test scores that placed him in the average range for a PK/K, with a bit of variation, which held true for this checklist as well.  It was good for Luke to see skills that he "should have" based on chronologic age, as compared to his actual skill. For example, dodging someone chasing you is a skill most 2nd/3rd graders should have mastered, but Jude is way back at just trying to run and not land on his face.   Being able to see the big picture of Jude's (and Damien's) skills gave Luke some concrete long-term goals to work toward, while also providing a direction for what to work on now to help get to those larger-scale plans.

Luke really liked that there are lots of suggestions for age-appropriate activities for the actual PE instruction.   I love our physical therapist, because she's been incredibly supportive of Luke.  She's been working with him for about six years now, so she's become a mentor to him.  She's also a bit sneaky -- she knows that by Luke working with the younger boys, he's going to work on skills he needs as well.  Often, his "homework" is to do activities with the younger ones.  She knows if she says "Work on core strength with them," he's working his own core as he demonstrates exercises.  However, to say to Luke, "Work on core stuff," he looks at her and says "Now what?"  In the book, there are suggested activities to work on specific muscle groups.  Activities are also presented sequentially, with the basics of building gross motor awareness, control, and dexterity being the focus of the PK/K level student, and then throwing/catching a ball is not introduced until first grade, by which time that first fundamental skill should be solid.  They are also well described and illustrated, so that he is able to understand what is being recommended and implement them in a home program.

In addition, there were sample lesson plans for instructors.  While he is working on developing his own plans, they have been helpful for him to understand how much should be included in a session.  The biggest challenge he has had has been scaling it down to having only one or two students.  While some things can be easily adapted, especially activities that focus solely on individual skills (running, jumping, muscle building, etc.), or can be played with a very small group (1-on-1 soccer, basketball, etc.), some things are a little more difficult, like relays and circuits.  Luke's first panic attack was when he saw the "equipment and supplies" calling for 30 playground balls, 15 basketballs, 15 soccer balls, 100 tennis balls, etc.  This program is certainly excellent for a homeschool PE class, but some activities may be better suited to use with a co-op or play group.

Luke honed in on the Special Needs section of the book.  After all, his students have special needs, so he wanted to make sure that he could understand their perspective.  It discusses the IDEA categories for special needs students, and Jude probably officially qualifies best under "multiple disabilities" since he could tick off 9 of the 13 individual classifications.   I wish there had been more support/direction beyond the obvious "Students with learning disabilities may find it hard to process instruction."  Luke looked at me and said, "Um...ya think?"  He found that while there wasn't a whole lot addressing implementation with a SN student, it was easy enough to ignore "what grade Jude is in" (3rd, technically) and page back to meet Jude's skill level where it is.  There are resources listed to help direct activity modification, but the book itself doesn't have a whole lot of information.  Luke has found himself both teacher and student, because he is beginning to understand that while Jude may want to throw the ball, just tossing the ball back and forth isn't going to really make anything connect if Jude hasn't worked on strengthening his muscles so he can better control his body. However, one thing he has discovered is that it is far easier to skip group activities and work 1:1 with a student who may be uneven with skills; he's leaning away from being an official PE teacher and working more in an ultra-small group setting (2-3 children).

Overall, I'm impressed with this program.  If you're new to a formal PE program, it's a balanced integration of real-life activities with developmental expectations.  I think for most families, PE is often something that doesn't need "teaching" - kids generally play and gain physical and social skills independent of formal instruction.  However, I can see two specific types of families who would benefit from this program.  First is the family of a developmentally delayed student.  It allowed us to look at the skills Jude had, and work progressively toward increasing them in a developmentally appropriate sequence.  The second family type that this could be a great program for is one that has a high school student who also needs a health/PE credit.  While we have chosen to add additional subject matter to help Luke advance toward his career goals, the pre-printed lesson plans and clear activity descriptions make this something that an older sibling could work on with a younger one.

For more information on the many Alpha Omega Publications programs that the Crew recently reviewed, connect with Alpha Omega Publications on social media, or click the banner below to read other reviews.

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Alpha Omega 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.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Writing with Sharon Watson iPad mini + curriculum GIVEAWAY

I'm super excited to share this giveaway with everyone!   Writing with Sharon Watson was one of Luke's favorite programs, and he's really loving Illuminating Literature, too.  (You can read our review of Writing with Sharon Watson here, but make sure you keep an eye out for our upcoming post about Illuminating Literature.)  I hope you'll enter and then join us for the Facebook party!

Writing with Sharon Watson Illuminating Literature iPad Mini Giveaway 

To celebrate the release of Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide, we are joining with Writing with Sharon Watson to bring you an incredible giveaway!  One of you may win ALL of the following prizes, a value of nearly $450:  

Apple iPad Mini 16GB, WiFi Only ($329 value)

  • 7.9-inch LED-backlit Multi-Touch Display; 1024-by-768 Resolution
  • Apple iOS 6; Dual-Core A5 Chip 1GHZ
  • 5 MP iSight Camera; 1080p HD Video Recording
  • Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n); 16 GB Capacity
  • Up to 10 Hours of Battery Life; 0.68 lbs


Illuminating Literature Curriculum Set ($64.47 value)

 Literature in a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere . . .

Your teens will appreciate the unstuffy way Sharon Watson teaches literature. They’ll read some great novels, encounter the hero’s journey, learn literary terms and elements, and gain an appreciation for fine literature. More important, eager and reluctant readers will become more discerning as they learn the secret craft of the writer. Prepare your teens for college literature courses and for the rest of their reading life.
  • Written for Christian high schools, homeschools, and co-ops.
  • Two-semester course earning one credit for language arts or English.
  • 70 lessons.
  • Student-directed, with clear lessons and reading schedules.


Illuminating Literature 8-Book Bundle ($52.84 value)

This book bundle includes the following books used in Illuminating Literature:
  • Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain
  • The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
  • The Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West
  • Peter Pan by Sir James Barrie
  • Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
  Writing with Sharon Watson Illuminating Literature Facebook Party   

To enter the giveaway, use the Rafflecopter below, then  join us for a Facebook Release Party on Thursday, August 27 at 9pm ET when the winner will be announced. 

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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.

Friday, August 14, 2015

When Not Every Student in Your Home Is a Homeschooler

Most families have children all doing the same type of school -- either they're "homeschoolers" or they're "in-schoolers."  Our family is a mix of the two.  When we first started homeschooling, Jude was at home and the big kids still in school.  Luke and Matthew have since become homeschoolers, and Damien is remaining at home, but Celia has chosen to remain in her school.  This is a good decision for her - the teachers fit her style of learning, and she enjoys the extra-curricular activities.  However, it does make things interesting when we plan our calendar.

Officially, the boys' year runs concurrently with hers.  Although the boys started back to work at the beginning of August, her first day of school in September is the "official" start of the year.  Although the boys will move on to the next level of work whenever they're ready, they don't officially "move up to the next grade" on her last day.  Celia was done for the day at 11:15 but Luke's Spanish lesson wasn't until just past 5:00.  The feeling behind this picture after Spanish class was "Whoo, FINALLY!" 

 "Last Day" of 2014-15
Advancing to grades 12, 9, 6, 3 and K

We tend to plan our big breaks around her big ones, just so we don't "waste" her days off being tied down with schoolwork.  This year, we'll probably end our actual "instruction" on the Friday before Christmas, so the last two days she's in school the following week are open to tie up loose ends.  It's hard to convince the boys they need a full school day on the 22nd when they know her day is going to be basically a Nativity Bible service, a Christmas party and be over by 11:15.  

However, we don't take off every time she has off.  She'll have several half days in November, but the boys will have full schedules on that day. 
Not following her schedule too strictly gives us more flexibility when she's in school.  Often, we'll plan a one-day field trip for while she's in school.  Usually we'll pick a day she's already staying after school for a club or rehearsal.  That gives us the ability to go a little farther from home because she doesn't need a ride home until after 4 pm, instead of a 2:40 pm pickup.  (Because of the pick up/drop off times, she does not ride the bus.)

Celia has also benefited academically from the boys' programs.  Clearly, we have a lot more "school stuff" laying around, which is good because she has an insatiable appetite for learning..   I frequently find novels and biographies missing from my curriculum book stack, and when I ask "Has anybody seen...?" the reply is "I've got it!  Do I have to give it back yet?"  She also participates when we review products.  I'm careful to not overload her, since she already has a full day plus homework, but she's honed her math skills (after working with one program, her grades went up a full letter and landed her on the honor roll), found some new favorite books, and even surprised her teacher when a Bible program review over the summer made her one of a very few students who could name all twelve sons who became the Tribes of Israel.

She's also enjoyed field trip learning.  We have held off on our big trips until summer, so she can come.  (Our trip to Antietam is part of why Luke's book on Clara Barton kept reappearing from her night table, with a book mark not at the page he left it on.)  When we plan trips, we will often dovetail them with the boys' lessons, but we also try to pick things she has been learning about.  She is a proud Junior Ranger - when we plan to go a NPS Site, her first question is "Do they have a Junior Ranger program?"  She has Ranger badges from ten different sites, and even got to wear a Ranger's hat for her "swearing in" at Everglades National Park.

Having her in school also helps us set a routine for getting our day started.  When we're working in the summer, it's a little more laid back, and sometimes it's actually more difficult because our day doesn't have as much structure.  I've always thought the best thing about back-to-school was getting back into a routine.  It's like Mom "always said" - no rules looks like fun, until you're living in chaos. During the school year, our routine looks pretty much like this:

7:00 - I get up and get myself ready for the day, as well as do anything last minute Celia needs help with.   (She sets up her feeding tube for the day herself.) 
7:30 - Luke gets up, and gets himself organized so he can watch the little boys while I run her to school just before 8:00.  Since he can stay with them, I don't have to do coats and shoes for a ten minute car ride.

8:15 - Luke and I usually go over his work while I tank up on caffeine over a cup of coffee.  He's learned that I'm usually game for scheduling and "Can you clarify what you want me to do with this assignment" questions right away, but any deep academic discussions need to wait until I'm at least on my second cup.  Sometimes I get my first cup before I take Celia, but Luke has learned that if he doesn't see an empty cup when I leave, he better not ask me anything too detailed. Matthew usually gets up somewhere in here.
9:00 - Homeschool starts.  The big boys start on their assignments, and Jude starts his.  Damien used to just fit in wherever, because Jude really needed one-on-one instruction all the time because he wasn't able to read.  This year, I'm hoping to adjust him to being able to do at least a few worksheets independently so he and Damien can work simultaneously.

Our afternoons are a little helter-skelter, because the biggest issue is what time to pick Celia up.  Of course, she doesn't have two days in a row with the same pick up time, so the challenge is remembering what day  it is.  Thank goodness I can set alarms in my phone!

I have an alarm set for every day at 2:15 -- that's my warning that we need to either finish what we're doing, or get to a "pause" point.  We often get lost in what we're doing and lose track of time.  If Celia has a half day, I set alarms for 10:30 (to tie things up to a break) and 11:15 (to pick her up).  

I honestly think the hardest part of our day is late afternoon!  Last year, I let the big boys do their work in any order, provided it was all done by the end of the day.  It usually ended up with them and Celia needing help at the same time.  We began purposely setting the Luke's Spanish lessons for late afternoon and early evening. He prefers to have them towards the end of his day, and it guarantees me one hour when I'll only have two kids to run between.   We'll keep that part of the routine when she starts again, but I think we may have to revisit some of their video-based programs, and schedule them so that who needs me "that minute" can rotate, rather than everyone being ready for help simultaneously.

Having students both at home and in school isn't as difficult as I thought it would be.  Scheduling actually a little more streamlined, because we only have one school calendar to work around.  The two styles work together well to provide us enough structure at home to work well, and not so much rigidity that we feel like we are beholden to a clock.  For our family, it's the best of both worlds.  Each of the boys gets an individualized program that he can thrive in, while Celia gets a program that suits her needs well.  A hybrid plan is what works for our family!

Posts in this series:

My Secret for Stress-Free Planning
Tip for Choosing the Right Homeschool Curriculum
Grading When There Are No Tests 
Field Trips: Learning Through Experiencing
When Not Every Student in Your Home is a Homeschooler
Click the image to see a list of all 55 bloggers participating in the Hop. See how they plan for the Back-to-Homeschool season.

©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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