Monday, June 17, 2019

Father's Day 2019

Father's Day is a special time.

Our society thinks it's funny to bash dads--to mock them, belittle them, ridicule them. I know there are many men who shirk their responsibilities, but we shouldn't let those men be the standard. My life is filled with strong, family-men--men who are hardworking, who love unconditionally, who remain faithful. We need to spend more time praising those who are good examples of what a father should be.

I want my kids to know how blessed they are to have the daddy they do. Leighton is our provider, our stability, our leader, our handyman, our resident tech geek, our protector. And he does all these jobs well. He is giving, intelligent, and honestly good at everything. He is forgiving and disciplines our children in love. 

He is well-deserving of our respect and honor, not only on Father's Day, but throughout the entire year. I could not ask for a better man to be the daddy of my babies.

Every year, I sit down with the kids one-on-one to complete these questionnaires. It's one of our favorite things. You can tell how important family is by reading their answers. 

By Jake, 13 yr
My dad is 36 years old.
My dad weighs 150 lbs.
My dad is 5’11”.
My dad's favorite color is green.
My dad's favorite food is banana pudding.
My dad is really strong. He could lift a lot.
My dad always says we better be good for Mom.
My dad is the best at making Mom happy.
My dad's job is taking care of us.
My dad laughs when Nicky mispronounces words.
My dad and I like to go to the store and play video games.
My dad really loves when we behave.
I love my dad because he loves me.
It makes my dad happy when Mom makes him rib and banana pudding.

Alyssa 11 yr
My dad is 36 years old.
My dad weighs 103 lbs.
My dad is 6’10” tall.
My dad's favorite color is green.
My dad's favorite food is ribs.
My dad is really strong. He could lift the van.
My dad always says “why is there another needle on the floor?”
My dad is the best at being a dad.
My dad's job is a safety guy.
My dad laughs when at half the jokes Jake says.
My dad and I like to read.
My dad really loves me.
I love my dad because he loves me.
It makes my dad happy when I’m good.

Zac, 9 yr

My dad is 36 years old.
My dad weighs 110 lbs.
My dad is 5'10” tall.
My dad's favorite color is green.

My dad's favorite food is steak.
My dad is really strong. He could lift 50 lbs.
My dad always says "I love you."
My dad is the best at fixing machines.
My dad's job is a safety guard.
My dad laughs when he reads these (questionnaires).
My dad and I like to play board games.
My dad really loves his family.
I love my dad because he’s my dad and we’re supposed to love our family.
It makes my dad happy when he’s around our family.

By Tyler, 7 yr
My dad is 36 years old.
My dad weighs 35 lbs.
My dad is 25 inches tall.
My dad's favorite color is green.
My dad's favorite food is everything Mommy makes.
My dad is really strong. He could lift a small table.
My dad always says "clean up your room."
My dad is the best at working.
My dad's job is to fix stuff.
My dad laughs at funny jokes.
My dad and I like to play with Legos.
My dad really loves Mommy!
I love my dad because he’s my dad.
It makes my dad happy when Mommy is making dinner.

By Nicholas, 4 yr
My dad is 4 years old.
My dad weighs 60 lbs.
My dad is 17 feet tall.
My dad's favorite color is blue.
My dad's favorite food is banana pudding.
My dad is really strong. He could lift a horse.
My dad is the best at lifting a pig.
My dad's job is to work.
My dad laughs when smelling flowers.
My dad and I like tackle.
My dad really loves Mommy!
I love my dad because.
It makes my dad happy when loving Mommy.

P.S. "And tell Daddy that I love marshmallows and hot dogs roasting on the fire!"

Happy Father's Day, Leighton! I hope you know how very much you are loved and appreciated. I love raising these kids with you. Thank you for being an amazing example to them.

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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Middle School Lightning Literature

I am excited every time we get to review things that focus on reading. The foundation of our schooling is literature based, so the kids spend a large portion of their school day lost in a book. While I do appreciate the need for some fluff in their reading, we rely on quality writings most of the time. That's why when the Homeschool Review Crew had the opportunity to choose one of many products offered by Hewitt Homeschooling Resources, I was immediately drawn to the Gr 8 Lightning Lit Set. Not only does their Lightning Literature & Composition series focus on whole books and classical literature, but it also teaches deep reading and writing skills.

Hewitt Homeschooling offers a balanced, flexible, and complete approach to home education. They believe that the best option is home school, not school at home, by providing hands-on activities and great literature. Their goals are to combine excellent academics with character development, to instill a strong work ethic, and to cultivate a spirit of community service.

There is a Lightning Literature & Composition level for every student from grades 1-12. For the elementary and junior high years, the curriculum is grade-specific; for the high school years, it is based on a time, place, topic, or author per semester. The early levels focus on a variety of books to instill a love of reading and gently incorporate grammar skills. By the advanced levels, the students will be introduced to exciting authors, strengthen their comprehension skills, and concentrate on strong writing exercises. 

I chose the Gr 8 Lightning Lit Set by Elizabeth Kamath for our oldest child. Even though he will be starting high school classes in the fall, this is his first experience with the Lightning Lit courses. I knew this would be a good challenge for him, because while he reads a lot, we haven't spent too much time on his writing abilities. 

The course utilizes 6 classic books with an additional collection of short stories and poems.

  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • A Day of Pleasure by Isaac Bashevis Singer
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children (various authors) by Harold Bloom 

The books, written between the early 1800s through the mid 1900s, cover both fiction and nonfiction and take the reader on a journey from a Greek Island to Middle Earth to the high seas to a home in Poland to a small town in Alabama and more. The stories were chosen to combine both fun and enlightening works as they introduce the student to a world beyond his immediate experience. 

The complete set includes the curriculum and all necessary reading materials, but for the purpose of this review, we received only the following curriculum books:
  • Student's Guide
  • Workbook
  • Teacher's Guide

The Student's Guide is the textbook of the course. It contains all the teaching materials as the lessons are written directly to the student. The chapters of the Student's Guide alternate between a classic book from the list and a portion of the Stories and Poems book. Each chapter follows the same format:
  • Introduction -- a brief biography of the author(s) in the lesson; an explanation of the lesson
  • While You Read -- questions or aspects to consider while reading 
  • Vocabulary List -- various words from the story divided by chapters and a brief definition of each
  • Comprehension Questions -- questions to help discern the student's attention to and understand of the reading material 
  • Literary Lesson -- "the heart and soul" of the curriculum; teaches concepts such as figurative language, character, symbolism, imagery, and more
  • Mini-Lesson -- one per chapter; can relate to the reading or introduce a composition skill; most chapters involve writing a research report
  • Writing Exercises -- may pertain to the literary lesson, research paper, or essay; students should complete one or more of the suggestions listed

The Workbook is a 277-page, consumable book that complements the Student's Guide. The pages should be completed after the reading has been done but before the writing assignments. There are 7 types of exercises: relating to the literary lessons, relating to the mini-lessons, thinking skills, grammar and mechanics, literary analysis, puzzles, and extra-challenge. There can be more than one type in a chapter or none of one type at all. The first ones are required, but the last two exercises (puzzles and extra-challenge) are optional. The elective exercises include word searches, crossword puzzles, and various language arts topics. The number of exercises varies per chapter, but there is a total of over 100 exercises throughout the course. 

The Teacher's Guide is a must-have addition to the curriculum. Not only does it contain all of the answers to the workbook pages, but has additional teaching helps and valuable tips to aid struggling students.

The format is identical to the Student's Guide, making it simple to follow along. The beginning of the book gives and explanation of the course and its components, explains the importance of both reading and writing, and lists a weekly schedule for the curriculum with check boxes.

In the 6 weeks that my son has been using this curriculum, he has read "A Crazy Tale" from Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children and Treasure Island. He has learned about an author's purpose in writing, taking notes, setting, and rewriting in his own words. He has practiced capitalization and apostrophes; described sights, sound, touch, smell, and taste for various settings in the house; identified bias, analyzed literature; determined fact or opinion; and more. In the coming weeks, he will learn about free verse and ballad, sharing culture through nonfiction, citing sources, character development, narration, figurative language, sentence structure, and much more.

There is a great variety of exercises throughout the book that include short answer, multiple choice, underlining, and markings along with the longer assignments. It's a good combination that teaches the concepts without making my son feel overwhelmed. I've already seen an improvement in not only his writing abilities but his confidence, as well. I'm excited about the possibilities as we progress through the materials.

I have been thoroughly impressed with the Gr 8 Lightning Lit Set. I appreciate the combination of strong, classical literature with a thorough teaching of composition and writing. I feel confident that Hewitt Homeschooling Resources will benefit my son as he enters his high school years.

You can connect with Hewitt Homeschooling Resources on the following social media sites:

My crewmates and I had many options to review including other levels of Lightning Lit, a few My First Reports, and various high school courses. You can read those reviews on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

Lightning Literature, My First Reports, State History Notebook & Joy of Discovery {Hewitt Homeschooling Resources Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer
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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Memoria Press History Sets Review

History was not one of my favorite subjects in school, but as I've gotten older and especially since starting to homeschool my children, I've grown into a love of learning about the past. Learning about people and how they lived, what they did, what circumstances and influences affected their decisions; about events and places and things--it's all fascinating to me. The majority of our historical learning is through the books we read. My kids don't have history textbooks, but instead focus on biographies and historical nonfiction literature.

When we had the opportunity to review materials from Memoria Press, I was intrigued by their American history sets. Designed for grades 5-8, The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & the Great Republic Set and 200 Questions About American History Set highlight key events and people that helped mold our country. I knew these sets would be perfect for our family.

Memoria Press is known for its easy-to-use classical Christian Materials. This family-run company believes in the "cultivation of wisdom and virtue through meditation on the Good, the True, and the Beautiful" by training in the liberal arts and studying great books and great thinkers of the Western Tradition. Their products are characterized by three things: simplicity, quality, and affordability. They are designed to be used by anyone from an inexperienced homeschool parent to a seasoned classroom teacher. We personally have used their products for Latin, literature, reading, and men of Rome at times. Everything has been high quality, so I was excited to get started with these sets.

The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & the Great Republic Set is based on H.A. Guerber's two-volume books with the same name. The text has been heavily edited since many pivotal events have happened in the over 100 years since the original was penned. The book is concise and ideal for a year of American history study for a middle school student.

The set contains the following:

  • The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & The Great Republic 
  • Student Guide
  • Teacher Guide

I appreciate the format of The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & The Great Republic. Instead of feeling like a textbook, this book is an historical reader that is meant to cultivate good men and women for the future and encourage loyalty to our country. Each topic is divided into short, 1-2 page  chapters, starting with the Native American and those who first sailed here and ending with the Spanish-American War in 1896. This soft paperback book is 9 x 6 inches, making it easy to hold. It is filled with photographs, drawings, maps, and paintings from the times which help bring the stories to life.

The Student Guide divides the 85 chapters of the book into 32 lessons. Each lesson follows the same format:

  • Facts to Know -- person, place, or event and its significance
  • Vocabulary -- words from the lesson with space to fill in definitions
  • Comprehension Questions -- questions about important facts and space to fill in answers
  • Enrichment -- hands-on activities that include map skills, timeline, additional research, writing assignments, and more.

The appendix in the back of the book is filled with more information and aides. There are maps; charts; letters; poems; documents like the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution, and more.

The Teacher Guide is identical to the Student Guide, but contains the answers. The back of the book also holds the tests along with the answer keys.

Everything is easy to understand. The lessons don't tell the student the exact pages to read in The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & The Great Republic or even the chapter numbers, but they do list out the titles. Also, the enrichment activities require the student to add events to a timeline. The finished chart is included in the Teacher Guide, but there is no page in the Student Guide or even directions to make it. The first mention of the timeline to the student is "Add the arrival of Leif the Lucky in North America."

The 200 Questions About American History Set is a supplement to H.A. Guerber's book through the Spanish-American War and The Story of the World Volume 4 covering WWI through the Cold War. Between these 2 books, students will learn 200 facts that everyone should know about American History. This set will give middle school students a solid foundation for deeper study in the high school years.

The set comes with the following components:

  • Student Book
  • Teacher Guide
  • Flashcards

The bulk of the Student Book is the drill questions. The questions are numbered through 150, give a brief description, list which chapter of the book it is found in, and leave a space to write in the fact. There are additional pages for a timeline, notable quotes, the list of U.S. presidents and a brief fact about each, and patriotic poems.

Just like the other set, the Teacher Guide looks identical to the student's book page for page, but with the answers. There are also tests and keys in the back. Both teacher and student books include a recommended schedule to get through the material in a year.

The Flashcards cover everything found in the Student Book including the drill questions, timeline, quotes, and presidents. The cards are approximately 3.5 x 2.5 inches on cardstock. The type of question and its number is listed on the top left corner with the description on the front and the answer or fact on the back. The top left corner of each card is rounded, so it's easy to keep track of the fronts and backs should the cards get mixed up.

Again, the materials are simple to use. The set requires The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & The Great Republic and The Story of the World Volume 4 but does not include them. We have the first book from the other set, but in order to finish the course, we will need to purchase the second book.

These two sets cover the same material but at different levels. While The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & the Great Republic Set depends on deeper learning with vocabulary, questions that require a more complex understanding, and further study, the 200 Questions About American History Set focuses on straight facts.

The two can be used together or independently. I had originally had my 5th grade daughter in mind for these courses, but once I started looking at the schedules for them, I noticed that they don't line up. For instance, we are working on week 6 right now. The first set covers through chapter 16, while the second is testing through chapter 28. It makes sense given the purpose of each course and that the second set also teaches about the last 100 years or so.

I determined that it would be better for our family to split the sets. My 5th grader is working through the more detailed set, while my 8th grader is briefly covering the facts for a strong introduction to high school next year.

Because of our style of learning, my kids aren't used to writing answers for historical learning. Even though they were apprehensive at first, they are enjoying these materials more than they expected to, ha. The best part is all the fun we've been having using the flashcards from the 200 Questions set. One kid will randomly grab a stack of cards and start asking questions. The other child and I (and even their dad if he's home) race to answer first. Lots of laughs and lots of fun. But more than that, my middle schoolers are retaining these facts and even my younger children are learning simply by hearing the information.

I am pleased to know my kids will have a strong foundation in American History because of these sets from Memoria Press. Whether you're looking for a deep study of the past with The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & the Great Republic Set or just a highlight of facts from the 200 Questions About American History Set, you're sure to find something to meet your needs.

You can connect with Memoria Press on the following social media sites:

My crewmates and I had multiple choices of products to review from Memoria Press spanning grade levels 1-12. You can read those reviews on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

Classical Writing & Spelling, American History & Jewish Wars {Memoria Press Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer
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Saturday, June 1, 2019

30 Days of Playing

I participated in a challenge years ago to play with my kids every day in the month of June. Since I just shared that my Word of the Year for 2019 is play, I knew that revisiting this challenge would be perfect! 

I explained that even though my kids are with me all the time, I don't always participate in their playtime. Even with our experiments and activities, I'm always right there snapping pictures and relishing in their joy, but I don't always join in on the fun myself.

This year I'm working to change that!

I've been making quality playtime with my kids a priority this year, but the month of June I'm making it a daily fundamental.   

I'm challenging myself to dedicate time daily to playing with them. Not just watching them. Not just being near them. Not just taking pictures to remember the excitement. I pledge to actively participate in the fun!

Last time. the challenge was to play for 30 minutes a day for 30 days. I'm not focused so much on the length each day, as hitting that half-hour mark is easy to do. I certainly don't want to be distracted by keeping tabs on the countdown. And, honestly, kids will notice that dedication to daily playing even if it is just 15 minutes. 

So, what do you say? Do you want to join me in this challenge of playing with your kids? You don't have to be a slave to their favorite toy day after day. Take the initiative and ask them to play with you! Teach them a game from your childhood or learn a new one together.

Let's make June an opportunity to invest quality times of fun with our kids!

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Thursday, May 30, 2019

Word of the Year: 2019

Choosing a Word of the Year is always an exciting time for me. That one little word becomes my goal for the next 365 days as I strive to weave its importance into my life. It might be something that is specifically directed towards myself like with purge, something that focuses on our family as a whole like with teach, or even something that is based on others like last year's give.  

Along with that excitement though comes a tinge of apprehension. This single word is a reminder of what I need in my life. While there is the thrill of a new challenge, there is also some embarrassment that accompanies it. Just like looking into a mirror shows you all your physical flaws, my word for each year is a reflection of my life. I don't choose this word casually, but instead pray about it for weeks and allow God to show me where He wants me to change.    

The word for this year came as no surprise to me.


play, verb

  1. to use any exercise for pleasure or recreation
  2. to do something not as a task or for profit, but for amusement

When it comes to the story of Mary and Martha in the end of Luke chapter 10, I relate to Martha. That drive to work, to accomplish a task, to serve your family--that speaks to me. I want my kids to have a strong work ethic and understand that work comes before play.

But far too often, I let the constant work of caring for a family overshadow the importance of my personal recreation. Managing a home, nurturing a handful of children, and home educating along with church involvements and other responsibilities fill my days. Clutter is a stress trigger for me. If I'm not careful, I am prone to let my duties keep me from truly playing with my children.

When my first couple kids were born, I spent countless hours playing with them daily. Then another was born. We started homeschooling. Days were filled with teaching and training, Make It Monday, Tasty Tuesday, Theory Thursday, Smiles on Fridays. And then another baby. Now that we have 5 children, they each have plenty of playmates to keep them interested.

And I have much to keep me busy. Blogging, my hobby and record-keeping of sorts, has taken a very distant backseat to my other responsibilities. My days are based around serving, not leisure. I tend to justify my lack of playing because my kids are with me nearly every second of every day. They help while I'm cooking, they're playing next to me while I'm folding laundry, they do school with me, they read with me. We eat meals together always. We go on family outings often. They have my attention all day.

But I need to be intentional in playing with them.

Oh, it's not that I never play with them. It's that I need to make it more of a priority. It's finding the balance of determining which chores need to be done now and which can wait 30 minutes so I can play a game with my kids. It's teaching my children that responsibilities are important and work needs to be completed, but that they also need to make time for quality recreation.

We are halfway through this year, and though I am just now finishing up this post that I started many months ago, I have been applying this word to my actions. In fact, I've tried multiple times to type this but stopped because a child asked me to help him build with Lego or play a game.

I've never liked the saying "It will be there tomorrow" referring to dirty dishes in a sink or a pile of laundry on the couch implying that playing with your kids is of utmost importance. Yes, those dishes will still be there--along with many others. God doesn't want us to ignore responsibility. But he also doesn't want us to be "cumbered about much serving" or "troubled about many things."

The last 6 months I've been more intentional in saying yes to playing.

I've been more deliberate to be like Mary, but instead of sitting at the feet of Jesus, I'm sitting on the floor with my kids. I'm taking more time, not for task or profit, but enjoyment and pleasure.

Play. That's my "good part" and my focus this year.

I initiated a challenge in the month of June to play with my kids! You can read all about it and join in the fun of 30 Days of Playing.

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