Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Bessie's Pillow (Book Review)

My history lover was thrilled when she opened the package containing Bessie's Pillow from Strong Learning, Inc.  I love receiving review products that instantly grab my children's attention, and this is definitely one of those products.  
The book is written in first person, and is similar to a diary format.  Young Boshka, or Bessie as she's renamed in America, is an endearing young lady with great courage and a strong resolve.   Reader's get to have a first hand glimpse of her transformation from a young, unsure immigrant into a strong woman who is able to rise above circumstance and cultural boundaries to impact her family and her town.

Like I said, Olivia loves history and so she grabbed the book as soon as it was delivered and sat down to read the first 15 chapters without interruption.   She finished the reading it the following day, and I could tell she really enjoyed reading it because I'd hear little "awww, that's so sad" and other comments as she read.   When asked what she like the most, Olivia replied that she enjoyed reading about how real people lived (and sadly died) during the early 1900's, and being able to tie that into the facts she knows.  She like that this book added a personal, human reality to those facts.   Knowing real people, and what they went through impacts her greatly, and she will remember this book for a great while.

I also read the entire book, and it took me about 3 hours to read it one night after everyone else was in bed.   It's an easy read format and it just seems to come alive as you press on page after page.   The author did a wonderful job of bringing each character to life, and showing their unique personalities throughout the book.  I also loved that there are photos of the actual people in the back of the book.  Personally, I love seeing the faces of who I'm reading about, and seeing if I've imagined them at all like they really were.   There is also ample information in the back for you to be able to research and learn a great deal about the time period and the people and places mentioned in the book.

One thing that both Olivia and I loved is the online resources that are available with this book.   By using these resources, you can turn this book into a unit study rather easily.  Olivia loved being able to see the correlation between the storyline and the other things that were going on in the same time frame.

The only thing that we both disliked was the ending, it just didn't seem to fit, or do the story justice.  If you read the Afterword, there is enough information there to understand the overall picture of what happened later in the lives of the characters.
To read other Homeschool Review Crew thoughts on this product, click here.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Weekly Wrap Up - Blizzard Failure and Pi

With the threat of a "blizzard" barrelling down on us, I prepared Monday by taking down the spring like flag on my front porch and replacing it with a blizzard appropriate flag.  I was worried that I'd jinx the entire east coast, but all the "models" were in agreement that this was going to happen, so I was pretty confident.
Monday evening around 6:15pm the snow began to fall.  A fine powdery snow, not at all like the "heavy wet snow" that was in the forecast.   With the promise of 2 inches of snow per hour, I'd told the girls they could stay up late and we'd get in some after dark sledding.  By about 9:00pm we all agreed that the snow wasn't doing much and that we'd wait for daytime sledding and the kids went to bed.

Yeah...so our blizzard was a fizzle.   By Tuesday morning, when we should have been under 18" of snow, there wasn't even enough snow to cover all the clumps of grass.  Epic meteorological failure ya'll.
Thankfully Tuesday was also Pi day (3.14) so I was able to quell our disappointed with homemade chocolate pudding pie. 
Spring volleyball was scheduled to start Tuesday, but was cancelled because of the weather (ahem).  So we had our first official practice on Thursday night.  We have 88 girls for the season, so we've had to divide up into 8 teams of 11, with two different time frames for practice on each night.   I'm coaching in both, the girls are playing in the late evening time frame.   Thankfully, this is a skills based season so there won't be any games until the final week and then we'll have an all day tournament on the first Saturday in May.

I do have some exciting news.  First of all, remember back in February when I showed you a drawing/water color that Olivia created for an art contest?   SHE WON!!  They called this week and said she took first place and her painting will be on all the posters/publicity for the upcoming event!  For those who don't remember, here's a look at her rainbow trout.
The other exciting thing is that our tax return came this week and we were able to pay off 2 bills, which means the only thing we owe on now is our mortgage!   Thank the Lord!  This is HUGE!    Also, since the tax return is in it means I'll be ordering curriculum, so be looking for a couple of posts coming soon about our 7th and 10th grade choices.

Today (Friday) Olivia and I have much needed trips to the chiropractor.   Then we'll come home to work on school work before heading out this afternoon to go to the girl's writing co-op.  We'll be having fried cabbage and Irish soda bread for dinner in honor of St. Patrick's Day.  Later this evening is the girls archery class.

How was your week?   Did you get snow?

Linking up with the Weekly Wrap Up.
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Monday, March 13, 2017

Creative Freewriting Adventure (Review)

Today I'll be sharing our creative writing experience using Creative Freewriting Adventure by Homeschool Adventure Co.  We received a free, PDF download of this writing program for this review.

The layout and instructions are pretty easy to follow.   There are 10 exercises, and each exercise contains a 1-2 page reading.  The reading segment is then followed by a sample of thought provoking questions, after which the student is given a few writing prompts, such as "what do you hear", or "what do you smell as you walk through the woods?"   The goal is to set the timer for 15 minutes and let your students write for the full 15 minutes without being concerned about spelling, punctuation or grammar.   This product is more of an exercise in theme based, spontaneous, creative writing instead of a "writing curriculum".   The pages also include full color artwork and illustrations to help spark the students creativity and give them a bit of perspective.

What I did, was print out one exercise at a time (and the coordinating coloring page from the Creative Freewriting Coloring Book Edition).  Just an FYI if you want the coloring pages only buy the coloring book edition, it contains all the exact information/lessons as the regular Creative Freewriting Adventure.    I then used the exercises with each child (ages 13 and 11) after they finished their normal school day schedule, I  then compared the two just to see if they were anything remotely alike.

Olivia who is 13, takes her writing a bit more seriously than her sister.   Her stories were much more focused and well done.  She even went over the 15 minute timer on more than one occasion.  Lindsey, bless her heart, just does not get the "creative" part of writing.  Therefore, her stories were a bit more bland, and for her it was torturous to wait for the 15 minute timer to go off.  Both girls enjoyed the coloring sheets and thought that those helped understand the reading and visualize their story line better.

I asked both girls their opinion of the product.   Olivia said she enjoyed the readings as well as the time to be creative in her writing.  She was glad however to learn that there were only 10 sessions, because as she put it "It doesn't really show me how to be a better writer, it just let's me write."    Lindsey was just glad I didn't make her do all 10!   Her writings tended to be more of a regurgitation of what she had gleaned from the story than  a true "creative writing" production.

This would be a great addition to compliment your ancient history studies.   You could also use the information given in the product to build a unit study around the program, either by doing one lesson/topic per week for a fuller study, or by doing one lesson daily for two weeks for a more concise study.    It also makes for a fun boredom buster.   Either way, this is a great way to get young writer's to expand their writing skill set.

Read other Homeschool Review Crew reviews here.

 Crew Disclaimer
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Friday, March 10, 2017

Weekly Wrap Up - The Hectic Week

This was a good week, but more hectic than usual.  Monday was a typical day, with piano in the afternoon.   Tuesday was a typical school day, followed by a volleyball coaches meeting for me; and from this point on the week got busy.

Wednesday morning we had our monthly co-op meeting.  I've mentioned before (I think) that I teach art and a cultures class.  I realized too late in the game last month that most of my students don't understand how to use art products outside of markers and crayons.  Who knew water colors could be so misunderstood, ahem? This month our project will be in chalk pastels, so I ended up doing a separate "this is how you use chalks" class BEFORE  I even start on the art project itself.  This ended up cutting into my "cultures" part of the class, but it alleviated a massive amount of stress on both sides of the teacher/student relationship.

Here is my finished Sri Lankan elephant scene.
I also made a batch of Sri Lankan milk toffee as a snack.  This was easier than I expected it to be (thank goodness I found a recipe I didn't have to convert.)
2 1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup chopped raw cashews
1 tsp. vanilla
small pinch salt
In heavy saucepan heat sugar, water on medium high and bring to a rapid boil for several minutes.   Stir constantly to avoid burning the sugar.

Add can of milk, vanilla and salt.  Continue to cook for 20 minutes.  Once mixture thickens and becomes darker in color, and pulls away from side of pan, stir in cashews.

Line a baking sheet with buttered parchment paper (or wax paper).  Pour toffee mixture onto paper and spread to even out.   Allow to cool 20-30 minutes.   Once cooled, cut into squares.  Store in air tight container.

After co-op we came home and had lunch then worked on our lessons for the day (an abbreviated day).   We had dinner and then went back to church at 7pm for the first of 5 services with Kenneth and Lynnette Hagin.

Thursday we were up early, worked on lessons, went to church from 10:30-12:30 then stopped an used Lindsey's BookIt! coupon from Pizza Hut.  We did another abbreviated day of lessons, had dinner and then back to church at 7pm.

Friday we were up early for lesson, church from 10:30-12:30, quick lunch on the road.  Writing class from 1:30-3pm, home to fix and eat dinner, archery from 6-7:30pm then off to church for the last night of the conference.   We of course missed the first 40 minutes or so because of archery.

I was originally supposed to squeeze in a family members doctor appointment on Friday, but thankfully that got cancelled!

Here's Olivia's carnation from last weeks science lab.  Isn't it lovely?
Oh and we are SUPPOSED TO GET SNOW this weekend!  I'm very excited, and hoping it's not a bust like always.

How was your week?   Linking up with the Weekly Wrap Up.

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Weekly Wrap Up - Long Week

It's been a long week here.  Monday was one of those days where I totally lost my mom composure and had a complete fit of carnality.   This is a classic sign of too many irons in the fire, a poorly written algebra curriculum and a hormonal teen.  Doesn't that paint a lovely picture for you all?  Just keeping it real ya'll, it's not always sunshine and butterflies over here.

As promised, I did take photos of the girls archery class last week.   They are both doing really well, and are starting to use smaller targets (like stickers) on the big target.

As you can see in the photo above, we need to invest in an arm guard for Olivia.

Olivia has been working on a few science labs this week.   We've done the traditional stalk of celery in red water, a white carnation in several colors of water and are starting our sweet potato.

Interestingly enough, we had a terrible time finding a white carnation for this one experiment.   I went to every grocery store in town (they all have floral shops), then to a florist in the middle of town, and they were closed for whatever reason.   Then I took Olivia to a little out of the way shop where she finally found one.   I sent Olivia in to buy the flower, and she came out maybe 10 minutes later (I was starting to worry) with a carnation and her money.   The older lady who was running the store told Olivia that she enjoyed talking to her, and that because she'd been so polite and pleasant she just couldn't charge her for the flower.   I thought that was really sweet on several levels, so if/when we do need to purchase flowers, I know where we'll go to get them.

Lindsey is almost finished with her Middle Ages study.  She made a game board this week, and she and I have been playing "Journey Through the Middle Ages" a couple of afternoons.  It's been really fun, and I've been really happy to see that I've been able to pull a great deal of information out of the dark recesses of my own brain.
The girls and I will spend all day Saturday working a fundraiser/concession stand at a basketball tournament.  Neither of the girls are playing in the tournament, but we've been guaranteed a pretty substantial chunk of change for science equipment for the new co-op we're starting this fall.

We had crazy winds here the end of the week.  Several buildings had the roof ripped off, and lots of downed trees and damaged vehicles from the falling trees.   Tomorrow, snow is in our forecast!   I'll be interested to see if that actually happens.

In case you missed it, I shared my version of Preparing for High School on the blog earlier this week.   I hope you'll find some useful information there.

I hope you all had a good week (hopefully you didn't lose your cool like I did).   Here's to a good weekend for us all and a better week coming up!

Linking up with the Weekly Wrap Up.
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