Thursday, March 31, 2016

Throwback Thursday

It's always bittersweet to look back on some of these older blog posts and see how much things have changed in our lives in just one year.   Such is the case with this particular posting.    Last year, our close friend Ricky had been deployed to Korea for a year and he posted a picture of this recipe asking me to learn to make it for him so that when he returned States side he could have it.  Challenge accepted and I played around with it to make it my own.   
Ricky and the Kids
A year later and Ricky is back in the United States but unfortunately, the Air Force sent him to New Mexico.  Just a few months ago he got married and is now daddy to her two adorable kiddos as well as adopted a puppy. Being a military family can be so heartbreaking at times as you make friends and then watch them leave.   Since we moved here 5 years ago, every friend we have made has moved on to other places - Ricky is in NM, our friend Steve and his wife are now in Florida, and Angelica and Jon are in Massachusetts.  Our friends Laura and Roman moved off to Mexico to go to school to become doctors;  Roman is still there but unfortunately their relationship didn't make it and Laura is now married to another man and living in Georgia.  And still, here we are, 5 years later, we are still here at Edwards, missing our friends and family who are now scattered all over the country.  At times, I'm afraid to even try to make new friends as everyone else seems to get orders but us.  I have a feeling 5 years from now, we will still be sitting at Edwards California. LOL But Ricky.. If you and Leticia ever come back to California, I will make the Meatball Sandwich Casserole for you ;)  Just make sure you bring your baked beans.. lol

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Meatball Sandwich Casserole

My friends love to post various recipes both on Facebook and on Pinterest. Since most of my friends are just as big foodies as I am, this works out great for me as there's always a plethora of dinner ideas streaming to me on a daily basis.   Yesterday, on of my friends (Ricky, here's your shoutout  lol)  posted what was labeled as a Meatball Sandwich Casserole. Well, as soon as I saw it I knew what I was going to cook tonight for dinner. I mean come on - meatballs, pasta sauce, bread and oodles and oodles of cheese.. Enough said - I showed my husband the picture and off he went to the commissary to pick up the required ingredients :)

First thing first, gotta get that oven preheated.. 

While the oven was preheated, I took one jar of pasta sauce and added it to a huge pot and then added two small bags of Armour Italian Turkey Meatballs. I cooked these over low heat in the pot just long enough to heat them up.  While they were heating up, I also sliced up a fresh french bread baguette.

Time for construction.. Pouring the heated meatball and sauce in my trusty casserole dish I then started using the sliced up bread to line the outside of the dish.

Next was covering all this goodness with cheese.. Using a blend of 1 cup Italian cheese and 1 cup Mozzarella cheese I covered up all the meatballs. My family REALLY likes cheese so I might have used slightly more than a cup, my family won't mind.. (Hey, it helps cut down on toilet paper)..

Now all this meaty cheesy goodness gets popped into the preheated oven for 25 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  Let it cool off for a good 10 minutes.

Pair it up with a nice salad and just a bit of garlic salt and you basically have a Subway meatball sub that's alot healthier for you.   Unless you go crazy with the cheese ;)

Next time I made this, I'll probably angle the bread a bit better and put a nice bruchetta on them but overall , this meal was great.. The kids really enjoyed it. 

Winding Down

With all the craziness that homeschooling children as well as running a household entails, it's so easy to get overwhelmed at times.  I know there are days that I wake up later than I would like which puts us behind schedule right out of the gate. Next thing I know, its 5pm by the time we're finishing up our classwork, I need to get dinner going, the house needs to be straightened up, laundry needs to be washed and folded and the kids need a bath.  By the time its all over, I realize that it's going on 2am (now you know why I slept in late in the first place) and I'm still needing to find time to do my nightly Bible study and some time with the Lord before I have to start it all over again.

It's so easy to get lost in what needs to be done for everyone else that we forget that we need to make time for ourselves.

It's so very important to take some time for you, even if its just a small yet tangible sliver of the clock, because without you, nothing else gets done.  This means you need to take care of yourself so that you can continue to care for everyone else.

I know there are times I feel extremely guilty when I even think of doing something nice for myself.  I admit, I'm the type who wears clothes that have holes in them and are probably 10 years old because I feel guilty for spending money on myself that could go towards something for the family.  I feel that it's only natural to sacrifice what I need in order for everyone else to have what they want.  But I'm learning the hard way that this cannot always be the case.

We as parents need to make time to center ourselves.  Even if it's something as simple as a bubble bath after the kids go to bed, 20 minutes with a trashy romance novel, or 5 minutes of bliss eating a piece of cheesecake.  these simple pleasures work wonders in restoring our spirit and relaxing us after a long day.

Just as important is spending quality time with your spouse.   If you spend any time on any of the homeschooling social media groups, you've probably seen plenty of horror stories of couples disconnecting and growing apart.  It's so easy to get so wrapped up in homeschooling the kids, cleaning house, writing lesson plans, and playing Fruit Ninja or whatever game on your phone is taking up your time that we completely forget that there's another adult in the house with whom you use to have a sizzling romantic relationship with.

We tend to put our kids before everything else, including our spouse and this shouldn't be the case..

Instead, we should put God first, followed by ourselves, our spouse, and our children.  The reason I say that order is because 1.) God Should ALWAYS come first in everything that we do.  2.) You need to be happy with yourself before you can make anyone else happy, including your spouse and kids.  3.) Your children need to see a happy mom and dad who interact and show love towards each other, who do not fight and bicker and who are not just roommates.  Once these things are met, THEN we can provide a loving environment for our kids to thrive in.

So be sure to take time for yourself and to take time to make your spouse feel loved, appreciated and needed.

This post is part of the 5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents sponsored by the Schoolhouse Review Crew..  All this week, more than 50 members of the crew have been sharing tips on a large variety of topics.  Be sure to Click the banner below and discover all the wonderful tips they have to offer :)    Here's a few suggestions to help get you started.

Jeniffer @ Thou Shall Not Whine 
Jennifer @ A Peace of Mind 
Jennifer @ Faithful Homestead 
Joesette @ Learning Curve 
Latonya @ Joy in the Ordinary 

5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents

What Am I Reading - March

Another month is just about over and done with.  It's hard to believe we're already heading into the month of April and that a 1/4 of the year is over with already.  I would say "Where has the time gone" but I guess I've spent a good portion of it with my nose in a book ;)

Burning Proof by Janice Cantore

After months of investigating the brutal homicide of a young girl, Detective Abby Hart finally has the evidence she needs. But when the arrest goes terribly wrong, Abby begins to doubt her future as a police officer. As she wrestles with conflicting emotions, old questions about the fire that took her parents’ lives come back to haunt her.

“There is proof.” PI Luke Murphy can’t stop thinking about what Abby’s former partner, Asa Foster, mumbled just before he died. When he uncovers a clue to the murder of Abby’s parents and his uncle, he’s reluctant to tell Abby, despite his growing feelings for the beautiful detective.

This book was a real treat for me, as I just happened to coincidentally live in the area where this book takes place.   The second book in the Cold Case Justice series written by Janice Cantore, this book follows the story of Long Beach Detective Abby Hart and Investigator Luke Murphy. This was the first time I have read anything written by Cantore and I really did enjoy this offering.   While this is the 2nd book of the series and I had not read the first book (Drawing Fire), I was able to follow the story without the prior knowledge of what the first book contains.   I did find that some areas were a bit confusing, like at one point a character was being called by his first name (Bill) and then by his last name and then switched back to his first name, without warning, which made me go "Who is Roper?" until I figured out what was going on, but this didn't distract too much from the story other than being just a minor inconvenience.    Cantore does a great job with character development as well as with setting descriptions (she hit the nail on the head while discussion how unreal the wind is here on a regular basis.   Without a doubt, I will be finding the first of this series soon and will purchase the third book when it becomes available.

A Gift For All People by Max Lucado

The Gift for All People is a celebration of God's gift of salvation wrapped in a collection of inspirational
stories. These stories will help Christians comprehend and treasure the assurance of their salvation and will help non-Christians realize and embrace the gift of abundant, eternal life in Jesus Christ. The concluding story, written especially for this book, urges readers to give their lives to Jesus Christ and shows them how to do so. This book will provide Christians with a unique, warm, and attractive presentation of the gospel to give to non-Christian family or friends.More than anything, God wants you to be with Him. The God who designed your world, the God who placed you on the planet, simply wants you home with Him. And to bring you home, He offers you a gift...the gift of eternal salvation. 

Well,  if you've been following my blog and my book selections for any period of time, you know that I absolutely love Max Lucado. This book is no different.  Once again, Max does a wonderful job explaining Christian doctrine in simplified terms that anyone can understand.    However, this book isn't necessarily geared towards the believers of Christ or those who have previously read Max's books. Instead this book is geared towards non believers or new believers who could use a gentle nudge in the right direction .   Using personal stories of grace and forgiveness, Max explains how Christ gave the ultimate gift of Love and Sacrifice to ALL of us.  

This book is an extremely easy read and is a great introduction to Max's style of teaching for those who might not be previously familiar with him.  If your a fan of Max's, like I am, and you've read many of his previous books, many of the stories in this quick read will be familiar to you.  These are the more "feel good" stories of his previous volumes, stories that focus more on Jesus's love and grace to us then on scripture teaching.  This would make a great book to give as a gift following a baptism.

Risen by Angela Hunt 

Epic in scope, yet deeply personal, this novelization offers a unique perspective on the story of the resurrection. Roman Tribune Clavius is assigned by Pilate to keep the radical followers of the recently executed Yeshua from stealing the body and inciting revolution. When the body goes missing despite his precautions, Clavius must hunt it down.

His investigation leads him from the halls of Herod Antipas to the Garden of Gethsemane and brings him in touch with believer and doubter alike. But as the body still remains missing, Clavius commits to a quest for the truth--and answers that will not only shake his life but echo throughout all of history.

I was really excited to get my hands on this book as I had seen the previews for the movie but I know I'll have to wait til it comes out on DVD before I get the opportunity to see it.   In a way, that might spoil the movie for me, since this is a novelization based on the screenplay as opposed to the movie based on the book.  However, I was very pleased with the book, non the less.  This book tells the story of Clavious, the Royal Tribune under Pontius Pilate and of  Rachel, a Jewish Widow.  Through these two characters as well as other Biblical characters that they come in contact with, both come to realized the truth about Jesus (Yeshua) and it forever changes their lives.

Hunt does a great job in really immersing the reader into the Biblical setting of Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion.  While I've never read any of her previous writings, it is very aparent that she is very knowledgeable in Biblical history. This was a great read and I enjoyed it very much.

Undaunted Hope by Jody Hedlund

Running from the mistakes of her past, Tessa Taylor heads to the uppermost reaches of Michigan, planning to serve as the new teacher to the children of miners. She quickly learns the town had requested a male teacher, but Percival Updegraff, superintendent and chief mine clerk, says she can stay through winter since it's too late to replace her. Tessa can't help but thank him and say she is in his debt. 

Determined to make herself irreplaceable once spring thaw arrives, Tessa throws herself into her work, and soon two students have decided Miss Taylor is the right match for their grieving father. At the same time, charming assistant lightkeeper Alex Bjorklund makes his interest known, surprising Tessa, who has never had men fight for her hand before. But not all is well as she feels that someone is tracking her every move, and she may not be able to escape the trap that has been laid for her.

This book caught my attention mainly because of the setting taking place in the Keweenaw Peninsula of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.   My husband and I spent time living just south of Eagle Harbor, in Calumet, and really enjoyed learning about the Copper mining that took place in the late 1800s, so when I saw that this book was a historical set in that time and place, I knew I wanted to read it..

Undaunted Hope is the third book in the Beacons of Hope series by Jody Hedlund.  I was familiar with Jody Hedlund and the Beacons of Hope series already as I had previously read Out of the Story, a novella written as part of this series. However, you can easily read this book independantly from the others of the series.

 The Beacons of Hope serious all center around the various lighthouses found on the Great Lakes of Michigan.  This particular book focuses on Tessa Taylor, a teacher who has made some mistakes in her life and is looking for a clean slate.   Finding herself in rather difficult situation with her employment situation as well as a love triangle between two brothers, Tessa's new start is anything but a clean slate.

Jody Hedlund is very skilled at character development and in tying this story together, as well as tying previous books into the story..    Overall, it's a great read and I'm looking forward to the fourth book of this series to hit the shelves.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Memoria Press (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Memoria Press is a company many people in the homeschool community are familiar with. Best known probably for their Latin curriculum, they have in recent years expanded beyond to include a more diversified offering such as penmenship (which we previously reviewed),  Christian Studies and English Grammar.  We were recently given the opportunity to review their Third Grade Literature Guide Set and we were really excited to see how this company approached classic children's literature.

What We Received

Memoria Press was generous and gave us complete copy of their Third Grade Literature Guide Set.  This set included the both the Student Guide as well as the Teacher's manual for the books Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Mr Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater, Charlotte's Web by E.B. White and A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond.    Since we already had plans to read Mr Popper's Penguins as part of our literature studies, we decided it would be perfect for our review.

How We Used It:

As the kids and I typically do literature daily and we were already about to start the novel Mr Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater, we decided that this would be the perfect book to try the Literature guides with.  Our typical schedule is to read one chapter out of our literature book 4 days a week (on Fridays we instead read a selection from Hans Christen Andersen) and after reading the chapter we would work on the corresponding chapter in their guides.  The first 5 minutes is typically designated to the Pronounce & Spell words at the top of the page, which are 8 words of varying difficulty for the kids to sound out and read aloud.    Following this is the vocabulary section which contains six to eight passages from the reading with a bold word which the kids were to write the meaning of.  The second page of the chapter contains the Comprehension Questions, typically about 6 questions that correlate to the chapter. Finally, there would be a few activities that could be tied into the reading.  These activities ranged from Map work, looking up biographies of real people,  drawing pictures or researching an event in history.    Also, there were three honors activities in the book that would differ from the regular pattern of coursework.

The kids really enjoyed the various activities suggested at the end of each chapters, especially the mapwork exercises. Unfortunately, however, these literature guides as they are designed to be used were not a good fit for us.  This is not to any fault of Memoria Press or their Literature Guides but because my kids are not use to a Classical style curriculum and are more receptive to a Charlotte Mason style learning.  They found the study guides to be too repetitive and quickly came to resent the format of multiple vocabulary words followed by multiple comprehension questions without much change up.   I'm sure there are many students out there who would really enjoy this type of repetition and who do not like change, unfortunately, that's not my kids.

However, that's not to say that we did not learn much from doing the study guide along with our
reading selection.  We found many of the activities suggested at the end of each chapter to be very enriching and offered things we would not have thought of doing prior. (Example: I contacted Sea World who was happy to give us the address to contact their penguin keepers and the kids wrote letters asking questions about caring for Antarctic penguins to them - we're just waiting for a rely). And while they may have resented the work in the guides, I do believe I have the only 2nd Graders on base who can tell you what "in rotogravure" means.  So while this may have not been the perfect fit for us, it wasn't a complete waste of our time. And while I will not be using the guides as intended with the kids, since we will be reading two of the three remaining books (possibly all three), I will still use the guides to initiate discussion, check comprehension and introduce vocabulary to the kids, I just won't be giving them the workbooks and asking them to work independently.

I should also mention that there seems to be a bit of difference between the guide for Mr Popper's Penguins and the other three guides.  The other guides seem to have much more variety in the activities, offering bookwork, discussion questions, quotations and enrichment exercises designed to allow students to figure out expressions or theories.   The guide to Mr Popper's Penguins did not offer any of these types of activities and maybe my kids would have been a bit more receptive to the other offerings.  As we are still working on the Mr Popper's Penguin book (we finish later this week), I cannot say for sure at the time of this writing.

I would suggest this particular style of curriculum more for students who are use to a classical style approach to education, especially with literature and who like a more "no-nonsense" approach.  This would not be a good fit for someone who teaches with a more of a laid back style or who prefers the narrative approach to literature like with Charlotte Mason.

For more information about Memoria Press and their Classical Christian approach, be sure to visit the on one of the following social media platforms.

Twitter (@MemoriaPress) -
Instagram (@memoriapress) -

Memoria Press was extremely generous and offered 100 members of the crew various levels of their Literature Guide Sets ranging from First Grade to 9th Grade. Be sure to Click the banner and go read what other members of the crew thought.

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Get Your Act Together

I have a secret to share with you.

Are you ready for this??  Come a bit closer, as I don't want everyone to know..

Here it is.

For the first two years of my homeschooling, I didn't keep a single record!!

Now, before you clutch your hands to your chest and have a coronary, keep in mind that I live in California, a state where I'm not required to keep any real records.   

However, being a military family, I know that at any time, my husband can call me up from his work without warning and let me know that we are moving and the likelihood that we will move to a state that is as lax in regards to record keeping is pretty slim.  Because of this reason, I knew I needed to get into the habit of keeping records and keeping a schedule that I can access at any time showing what we have worked on, what we are currently working on, and what we plan to work on in the course of our school year.

Here's the problem with that... I didn't have the first clue as to how to get my classroom scheduled organized and to what extent I needed to keep records.

I don't want to admit how many times I have written out a lesson plan and a schedule, only to have it all go out the window within a few days.   Maybe you've done the same:  started out with good intentions of following a plan, writing it all down only to realize that on Wednesday Lil Bubba is going to have a meltdown and refuses to do anything you've got written in that pretty lil planner of yours..  I've had this happen to me more times than I can count and it can get rather frustrating.  Maybe part of me is OCD, although, obviously, it's not a very big part, but that part of me absolutely hated scratching out entries in my planner.

Here's how I keep everything organized without driving myself nuts.

My Three Planner System

After trial and error, I have come up with a three planner system that uses both a digital planner as well physical planners.. Any planner will work for this system, however right now I use a combination of the Homeschool Planet Digital Planner, the Hey Mama Schoolhouse Planner from the Old Schoolhouse and the Ultimate Homeschool Planner from Apologia.   I have what I call my "Ugly planner" and my "Pretty planner" which is not any indication on the design of any of the planners, only in how I use them.

Part 1:  Ugly Planner

My Ugly planner is basically my rough draft version of my planner.. I jot down what I want to accomplish each week as well as  make notes to any videos I might be interested in or activities I might want to include in a lesson if time permits.  As this is my "Ugly" planner, I give myself full permission to make scratches through entries if our plans change or if we do not finish a lesson for that day.   This is also the planner I pull out each day during class and try to follow what I have written down.  As we complete each entry, I make a check mark on that item knowing that I have completed it.  I use various different shorthand notations in this planner.  This is NOT the planner I would give someone if they wanted to see what we have been doing in school and it is basically for me personally.

Work Kept In The Binder Til End of the Week
On Sunday night, all the handouts and work that I expect the kids to do for the week are printed out
or ripped out of consumable workbooks, stapled into packets for each kid by subject, hole punched and placed at the front of the binder.  This way, as I go through the schedule, I have everything I could possible need for the week at my fingertips and I am not running trying to find a book or workbook while the kids are waiting.  Each assignment is kept in the front of this binder until the end of the week, when I stamp them and put them away for my records.  (More about that in a few).

Part 2:  The Pretty Planner

The Pretty Planner is where I painstakingly put the assignments that are accomplished each day.  This is what we actually did, as opposed to what I had hoped we would be able to do.  I fill this out after the completion of each day, so that there are no scratch outs, mistakes or false information.   This planner is entirely just my assignment listings as well as attendance records and grades - I do not keep any other paperwork or records in this particular planner.   This planner does not show any plans for future assignments, which could possibly change, but is only filled out after the fact.  This is the planner that if I were asked to prove what we have been working on during the school year, I would pull this planner out and would be able to provide the work on each of these days if I were asked to do so.  So long as I keep all the assignments that we work on each week organized and put away, if I am ever asked to provide something that is marked in this planner, I would just go to that weeks stack of work and quickly locate the assignments for both children, I would never be off guard and not be able to provide the assignment if needed, so long as it is documented in this planner.  This is also the planner that I keep all attendance records in: if we had class that day, it's marked and again, any assignment for that day can be provided.

Part 3:  Digital Planning

My third planner is my digital planner. I absolutely have come to LOVE this planner and it is really helped me pull everything together.    This planner is a combination of the first two planners.  This is the planner that if I were to be asked what I plan on teaching for the month of May, I could quickly print out the pages for May from the program and provide those. I keep that part of the planner filled out form what I plan in the Ugly Planner..  However, everything from the current date and backwards is a mirror copy of the Pretty Planner, but with detailed notes about the assignments.   This is also the place where I keep detailed records on the grades that the kids make on their assignments as well as with my grading scale for each class.

Part 4:   Assignment Box

An Assignment that's Dated for Filing
The last part of my organization occurs at the end of the week, prior to organizing the next weeks assignments.  All assignments that the kids have worked on throughout the week are removed from by binder.  Using a date stamp, I go through and ink the date each assignment was worked on on each page.  For each month, I place these completed assignment in a drawer in case I need them for the kids to refer to. At the end of the month, all those assignments are placed into a cardboard box assigned to their grade where they will be stored. All assignments are stored in order, by month and date so that if I need a particular assignment, I can quickly find what date it was completed in my planner, go straight to the box and find the corresponding months work and go straight to the date.

A Monthly Stack of Work

This is how I organize everything and it works for me. But here's the best tip I can give you...

It Might Not Work For You!!!

What works for me might not be the right system for you.  I found this system on my own and it fits perfectly to my needs - the need to have a "pretty planner" and the need to be able to have a scratched out planner as things change.

This post is part of the 5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents sponsored by the Schoolhouse Review Crew..  Click the banner below and discover all the wonderful tips other members of the crew have to offer :)    Here's a few suggestions to help get you started.
Dawn @ Double O Farms 
Elyse @ Oiralinde: Eternal Song Emilee 

5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents

Monday, March 28, 2016

Opening The Window To The World

Our family loves being out in nature. Whether it's a day hiking in the canyon or a 4 day weekend camping in a tent in the forest, our family is perfectly fine being away from Facebook and the Playstation and instead immersing ourselves in the great outdoors.  Spending time in the outdoors is a great way to get exercise, enjoy a change of scenery, spend quality time with your family and truly reflect on the magnificence of God's handiwork.  

However, it's not always feasible to take the classroom out to nature, especially during the week. How can you still incorporate nature study into your everyday classroom routine without having to make a trip to a national forest?  

Open The Window

Garrett Observing Out The Window
Fortunately, regardless to where you life, nature is as close as your window.   Students are able to observe so much just from taking about a minute to look out the window each day.  As part of our morning work, Ashleigh and Garrett keep a page where they document the weather outside such as if it's sunny (we live in the desert so it's almost always sunny), cloudy, windy or rainy (very rarely).  If there are clouds in the sky, they can quickly make a sketch of the type of clouds they are able to observe.

 Through these observations, students are able to learn weather patterns and to recognize various cloud formations.  These are great ways to introduce topics such as meteorology. .  All of these types of observations can be quickly jotted down at the beginning of the class day and add roughly 2 minutes worth of time.  From these pages, monthly averages of temperatures and rainfall can be made or graphed to show trending patterns.

Other things can that be observed from that same window each morning is seasonal patterns.  These are observations that are made over longer periods of time instead of through daily observations.  For example, if there is a tree in prominent view from the window, students can make their observations every few weeks as to changes they are able to observe. If starting observations at the beginning of a school year, students might note that the tree is in full foliage in August, that the leaves begin to turn to autumn colors in October and begin to fall in November. By December the tree might be completely bare and then begin to have new growth in March. 

Two months ago, we were able to observe that two of the three trees in our front yard were complete bare of leaves.  The third three, a pine tree,  did not have any pine cones on it.  Over the course of the last few weeks, the children have been able to observe the budding and growth of new foliage on the two trees and the progress of the growth of new pine cones growing on the evergreen.    These types of observations are easy to make and to record in a small notebook or journal every few weeks to keep a log to changes occurring.

The View from my Window Today  compared to a few weeks ago. 

My family is very fortunate to live in an community with lots of wildlife and having critters such as
Birds at the Feeder and New Growth on the Trees
rabbits, squirrels, bobcats, coyotes and hawks in our yard is nothing new.  While you might not have these types of animals visiting your yard,  a few simple additions added to your property and in view of your window will invite visitors for your children to observe.   We have a couple of seed feeders as well as a few hummingbird feeders in view of our front window.   These feeders draw a huge array of various birds which feed and perch within just a few feet from the window where the kids are able to observe them.

Another tip is to always have your camera read.  By keeping a digital camera handy, children can take photographs of the changes they observe or a quick snapshot of a new bird visitor to the feed so that they can have a reference to compare to in their bird field guide.  We also bring our camera with us for any actual nature walks or hikes that we go on so that we can live by the motto " Take nothing by pictures.  Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time."

Even behind the glass, children can learn so much just from using their eyes to observe nature around them.  By incorporating a few of these simple steps, you can easily add a very quick nature lesson to your school day without adding a bulk of work to their course load.

This post is part of the 5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents sponsored by the Schoolhouse Review Crew..  Click the banner below and discover all the wonderful tips other members of the crew have to offer :)    Here's a few suggestions to help get you started.

5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents

Logic of English (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

English is a subject that I enjoy teaching the kids, mostly because it's a subject I always did well in both at the grade school level as well as in college.  However, I was honestly having a very difficult time finding a curriculum that covered grammar and spelling that I felt was complete enough without being too advanced and over the heads of a pair of 2nd graders.  English is complicated to begin with and can be very confusing.

I had never heard of Logic of English prior to this review opportunity but I was pretty impressed with what I could tell of the Essentials 2nd Edition curriculum on their website so I was pretty excited to try it with my kid.  For the past seven weeks, I have been teaching the Essentials program five days a week to both Garrett and Ashleigh as our Grammar and Spelling curriculum.

What Is Essentials?

Designed by Logic of English and in a newly updated 2nd Edition, Essentials Volume 1 is an all in one multi-level reading, spelling, grammar and vocabulary curriculum designed for ages 7+ or roughly 2nd grade all the way to adults who are in need of grammar instruction.  Offering three different levels of instruction (A, B, or C) in 15 lessons, the Essentials Volume 1 curriculum offers a systematic program that uses games, activities, and repetition to create a fun learning approach to a typically boring subject. 

What We Received:

For the purpose of this review, Logic of English was very generous and provided us with the Essentials 2nd Edition (Vol 1) Complete Set.  This set included the following: 

One other optional purchase which I made on my own for this review is the Single Student/Family License PDF downloadable version of the Student Workbook so that both Ashleigh and Garrett could both participate in the curriculum.  This additional license was very reasonably priced at $9.60 per license through the website. 

Upon opening the box that this curriculum comes in, the first thing that you will notice is the sheer magnitude of all the components that are included.    Organization is an absolute must or you will quickly get completely overwhelmed with all the cards that are included with the Essentials curriculum.  I highly recommend a box, metal clips and ziplock baggies to keep everything neatly organized and secure so that when going through the lessons, you can quickly find the cards that are needed for the lesson. 
Each of the components are used together for the various activities and lessons to help teach various spelling rules, morphemes, and grammar rules that are covered throughout the book.

The 632 page Teachers Manual is the real Meat and Potatoes of the curriculum.   If you are not an English teacher, that is okay  as each lesson is completely scripted out and easy to follow.  Sections of the lessons are marked either ALL, A, B or C to indicate which student level each activity and included placement tests allow you to determine which level your student should be working at.   Each of the 15 lessons are broken down into daily assignments and the activities and workbook pages found in the Essentials Student Workbook are all labeled clearly for planning ahead of time.   

As mentioned already, I had been having a difficult time finding a grammar curriculum that I felt covered what I felt was a necessary core understanding of grammar. Many grammar curriculum focused too much on writing and structure rather than actual grammar but since we already had a writing curriculum, I wanted something that concentrated more adjectives, verbs, nouns and adverbs.   Upon receiving this curriculum and taking a weekend to familiarize myself with some of the lessons, I had a feeling that Essentials was exactly what I was hoping for.  I knew I wanted both kids to be included in these lessons and was thrilled to find that Logic of English offers a PDF version of the student workbook with a single student/family license which was exactly what I needed for Ashleigh. 

The Essentials Student Workbook is a 320 page workbook that includes many of the games and worksheets required in the course of the various lessons and is required for the Essentials curriculum.   Activities included in the workbook range from sentence diagramming, phonics games,  word building exercises and lesson recollection pages.   Pages are very simple and to the point with no graphics which is very helpful for easily distracted students like my own.  Each page is clearly marked with a page number as well as as with the Lesson and Level that it corresponds to, making it very easy to match it along with the Teachers Manual. 

And then there's all the cards!!   Throughout the lessons, you are asked to refer to a particular phonogram card, grammar or a spelling card that is the current focus of the lesson.. Cards are double sided and printed in color in heavy cardstock.  Through the course of the 15 lessons, students are taught 74 various phonograms, 31 spelling rules and an additional 46 Advanced phonograms  and each of these has a corresponding card.  There are also additional cards used for various games and activities throughout the book. 

How Did We Use It?

After taking a full weekend to try to familiarize myself with the format and components of the program, we jumped in. I elected to start the kids at the A Level which has worked really well for us .   

I honestly wasn't sure how this curriculum was going to go over with Ashleigh and Garrett. From the first lesson, I could tell that lessons would be very time intensive, taking up about an hours worth of time between teaching and doing activities.  My kids have very little patience for very intensive lessons and I had a feeling after the first lesson they were going to balk and that there would be lots of tears to go along with the review period. 

Instead, this has turned into one of my kids favorite subjects (maybe second only to Bible Study).  This was especially surprising with Garrett, whom prefers math to anything that involves English or Writing.    Between the fun games and activities or trying to out do one another on a worksheet, they have both really enjoyed doing the lessons daily.

What is most surprising about this is that, in my opinion, much of the material is almost what I would consider college level grammar.  Granted, it has been over 20 years since I was in school, but I never learned the depth of what the Ash and Garrett are currently learning. I asked my husband and he says that he wasn't taught much of what they are learning either and he graduated 10 years after I did.  My oldest daughter, currently a Junior in high school,  also states her English courses did not include much of the material that Ash and Garrett have covered in the last 7 weeks.   The only time I can remember learning about things such as Broad and Schwa sounds, which are covered in Essentials, was during my Pre-Professional English classes in a University setting. 

The Spelling part of the Essential Curriculum indeed requires a bit of a learning curve for the teacher as there is a pretty specific way in which they approach introducing the words to the students.  Each week the kids are given a list of 15 words which uses the spelling rules discussed through the lessons (although some words are introduced before the spelling rule is introduced). Through the unique way Essentials has the teacher to introduce the words, students are taught to sound out the words on their own using the phonograms they have learned.  For example - when spelling the word "Paint", rather than spelling the word out for the kids to copy,  I would instead use sounds as well as spelling rules such as "use the two letter long A sound that can NOT be used at the end of an English Word" instead of saying "A-I".   While this took some getting use to on my own part, I noticed that the kids took to it very quickly and have remembered the various spelling rules with very little problem. 

The games and activities are really what makes this curriculum a hit with my kiddos though.  They know in order to preform well in the games, they have to learn the rules and do the work so that they know what they need to know for the games. Since my two kids are very competitive with each other and many of these review activities bring out the competition in them, they really look forward to them. Whether it's reading words, balling them up and making "baskets" with them in our makeshift "net", playing Rotten Eggs or any of the other wonderful games included in the lessons, the kids have really had a lot of fun with their learning.   Any worries I have had in regards to them rejecting this curriculum based on the intensity and the time required has been completely cancelled by the amount of smiles I have seen while they participate day after day, especially with Garrett, my struggling reader.  The optional Essential Readers have also been a great addition, allowing the kids to focus on a reading selection that uses the words or rules that they have worked with during the week and putting it all together in application. 

I have one very minor peeve with the Essentials Vol 1 curriculum, that being that there is not an actual answer key for many of the activities and would like to see that included later down the line. 

After 7 weeks of using Essentials, it's safe to say that any novelty of the games and such would have already worn off. However, they are still very happy to participate day after day with this curriculum.  Between the Teachers Manual, the Student Workbook (both the physical and the PDF format which are exactly the same) and the downloadable Essential Readers, this is really a well planned, very thought out curriculum that includes all components needed for a solid English curriculum (reading, spelling, grammar and vocabulary).  While the sticker price on this curriculum might come as a shock (currently on sale at the website for $198), when one considers not only the multi-components but also the three levels of study, making it an investment that can be used for a longer period of time.  

For more information, visit the Logic of English website. You can also find Logic of English on the following social media platforms.

Logic of English was very generous and offered 100 members of the Review Crew copies of not only their Essentials Curriculum but also all four levels of their Foundations curriculum.  Be sure to click the banner to find more reviews. 

Logic of English Review


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...