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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Product Review: Progeny Press

Progeny Press Review
We are a family of readers and we love doing read-a-louds. I am always looking for ways to expand the reading and so when Progeny Press offered me one of their literature guides in exchange for an honest review on this blog, I didn't hesitate to say "Sign me up!"
The literature guides from Progeny Press are more than just the workbook pages you completed as a kid. They include comprehension questions for discussion, vocabulary review, questions for critical thinking (if your child is ready for this) as well as incorporate scripture from the Bible into the exercises.
Progeny Press Review 
The guides are book-specific and range in level from Kindergarten to grade 12. With over a dozen choices per level, you are sure to find a title that fits your current area of studies. I received a PDF of the guide for The Courage of Sarah Noble Study Guide. I only received the e-guide, the user is required to obtain the literature selection on their own. This guide is intended for grades K to 3. It is 39 pages long and is pretty self-explanatory to use. Grab the book, open the guide, recruit your students and you are pretty much ready to go.
I completed this unit as a read-a-loud with Henry and Margaret. The guide begins with some 'Before you read' activities and so we did those in the morning as part of our daily literature work. In the afternoon we began reading. This level offered a suggestion for an 'as you read' activity that we did not complete. I felt that tracking a specific thing throughout the book would distract my listeners from the storyline. Instead I felt they would be listening to be able to complete a certain goal, instead of listening to the story for it's own sake. The program was very agreeable to this change, and adapted easily to our personal style of teaching. This is always a bonus for us, as we don't always school "by the book."
The guide covers the chapters in sets of twos, so we would read two chapters before going over the questions and activities. Problem was, the book is so great that we had a hard time stopping after just two chapters to read the guide. We easily could have read the book in one sitting, but we slowed ourselves down so that we could more easily use the guide.
When doing the vocabulary, I would ask Margaret or Henry what a certain word meant, and have them use it in a sentence. I would then ask then how it was used in the book. I felt that this way they were able to relate unfamiliar words to their own lives, making the book more meaningful.
We completed all the questions orally, although you could easily have them write the answers, allowing for handwriting practice. Some of the questions were quite contemplative, and definitely out of Margaret's grade 1 ability. In addition to completing the activities and suggestions in the guide, I also had the kids draw pictures after each two-chapter section. I thought this was a wonderful addition to all that they were reading and discussing, and offered an appealing visual into what really captured their interest.

Overall I thought this literature guide was insightful, easy to use, and definitely helped expand the learning on an awesome book for younger kids.
I really liked reading that book and answering the questions.

Oh Mama! I loved that story with the little girl and her cloak.
The Courage of Sarah Noble: The E-Guide is available on the Progeny Press website as a download for $11.99. In addition to this e-guide for literature, Progeny Press offers many other titles such as Little House in the Big Woods, The Giver, and The Hunger Games. All are available as e-books and can be purchased through the website.
Many other reviewers over at The Schoolhouse Review Crew took a look at the literature guides as well. I encourage you to head over to read those reviews by clicking here or the banner below.
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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Throw Back Thursday

7 years ago. Days before we moved to PA.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Throw Back Thursday

An oldie, but a goodie. A year before my time.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Product Review: Trident Case

Trident Case Review
When I was gifted an iPad 4 last November (thanks big bro!), everyone said I should get a certain case. Since I was an iPad rookie, I followed their advice and got the case everyone said was the best. Since the day I got it, I have regretted that choice. But good iPad cases are expensive, and I needed one that would withstand the abuse of five kids and one careless mama. I didn't have the funds or the knowledge to get another one that would help my iPad survive this household. So when Trident Case offered me the chance to receive their iPad case for free in exchange for a review on this blog, I definitely said yes!
First off, right on their website Trident Case has a video of a guy hitting an iPad protected in their case with a baseball bat.  You can view that video yourself here. That's pretty impressive, and exactly the type of coverage my iPad 4 needs. Although no one is pulling out a baseball bat around here, that kind of abuse is what I am talking about.
Trident Case Review
I received the Kraken A.M.S. Case for Apple iPad 2/3/4 in green and black. It easily snapped onto my iPad in under a minute. Right away I loved the slick and slim design. My old case was bulky and rubbery. This case is smooth and sturdy. The rubber covers for the volume control and the charging port are held on with thick rubber holders. My old case had thin wispy connectors and the covers broke off almost immediately. The case was a lot lighter as well and this makes huge difference when you are reading or watching a movie. It's not waterproof, just water resistant. That was completely fine by me, because if my kids even think about bringing the iPad near water they have another thing coming!
Right away I looked for screen clarity while watching a movie. Since we don't have TV access, all my shows are watched through streaming. My old case had a horrible screen. It warped almost immediately, and had a terrible glare to it. No matter how many times I repositioned the iPad or cleaned the protective cover it never helped.
I have used this case for almost two months and the screen is crystal clear. It is almost like there is no cover on it. It gets dirty from fingers and general use, but that dirt easily wipes off with a damp cloth or mild cleaner. Once the screen cover is clean, the original clarity is restored. It also seems to have less glare to it. I always sit in the same light conditions at night and I have not noticed needing to shift my iPad or tilt my head to a certain position to see my shows.
Another bonus about this case is the sound. With my older case I always had to plug speakers into the headphone jack to get the sound loud enough to watch a show without headphones. I always just assumed it was the iPad. It wasn't until I received the Trident case that I realized the sound of the iPad is fine. It was the case that was faulty. The design of this great case does not mute the sound at all. And if I want to use headphones that port is so much easier to manage with the headphone jack.
The Kraken A.M.S Trident Case for Apple IPad 2/3/4 is designed for all ages and can be purchased for $69.99 on the Trident Website. In addition to cases for iPads, the Trident Case Company offers protective cases for other Apple products as well as Samsung, and Amazon Kindle.
Lots of other crew members over on The Schoolhouse Review Crew got to check out cases for their devices. You can read their reviews here or by clicking the banner below.
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Review of Our Life Lately

Peter and the Starcatchers with my older boys. 
Rummage sale madness for LMCA fundraiser. 
Rollar Skating Party

New Haircut for Little Man

Family Pictures

By Margaret

Thursday, May 15, 2014

TBT 1977

My beautiful Mama and me, about a month before my arrival.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

LMCA Presentation Day

The boys both recited poems and Margaret performed a bunch of cute songs with part of her class.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Product Reivew: Logic Of English ~Cursive

Logic of English Review
Handwriting is not a strong subject around here. Years of various programs have all produced the same result: messy, scratchy writing. The boys did cursive but it didn't really help. I heard if you start cursive first, it'll make all the difference. When Logic of English offered me a cursive program for free in exchange for a review on this blog, I thought I would give it a try with Margaret.
You may remember that last year I reviewed another program by Logic of English: Foundations A. I loved it and it worked wonders for Margaret in advancing her reading ability. You can read my review of that amazing product here.  In addition to Foundations A and cursive, Logic of English offers higher level reading and grammar programs, manuscript handwriting, and a phonogram app for the iPhone/iPad.
Logic of English Review
I received the Rhythm of Handwriting Cursive- Complete Set to use with Margaret. This program is designed to be used with children four years old and up: all the way up to adults. After looking over the materials I decided to use it with the three older boys as well. I mean, they have already done at least two years of cursive instruction, and a little more practice wasn't going to hurt. The Cursive Complete Set includes the Cursive Workbook, Tactile Cards, Reference Guide, and Whiteboard. Right away I was impressed with the quality of the materials. The Tactile Cards were sturdy and designed to withstand use by kids of all ages (at least those over age 4). The Reference Chart was colorful, laminated, and folded neatly to regular paper size.
The Cursive Workbook is very nicely laid out as well. The beginning of the book explains the process of teaching cursive and what the teacher/parent should expect from the process. It was very easy to follow, which is so important for me because if something is difficult for me to understand, I can guarantee that I am not going to teach it well to the kids. The program starts with the lower-case letters, which made sense to me without explanation because for the most part the majority of writing is done using lower-case letters.
We worked on cursive two to three times a week during the review period. During this time, Margaret would learn one letter per lesson, which is what was recommended for students ages 6 and under. Margaret's lessons would generally last 15 to 20 minutes and would consist of introducing the letter and reviewing it's sound, writing the new letter several times on the paper and the whiteboard, and reviewing previously learned letters. As she advanced we would connect letters together for practice and to make silly words (a personal favorite game of hers).
I took a much different approach with the boys. For one thing, they have all already had at least two years of cursive, so much of the program was a review. For another, they fought me tooth and nail over having to do even the simplest of lessons based on handwriting. So much of it was just not worth the fight. I am sure the majority of homeschooling moms can agree to this. So instead of doing formal lessons with them, I adapted the program to fit their needs.
Each handwriting day I would write several letters on the board, following the schedule outlined in the workbook: swing letters, curve letters, baseline connectors, etc. I left it up to the boys to practice these letters and as the progressed, to write or copy passages using these letters. I would check their work and they could either move forward or repeat the same lesson next time. Writing letters to friends and family that I still need to mail seemed to be the favorite way to practice. I allowed them to draw pictures and narrate the pictures in cursive. Again, adapting to their interests to get the lessons in without a fight. Always a bonus and very easy to do with this program.
Isaac was by far the "winner" amongst the boys for using this program, if you can call practicing good handwriting a competition. A quick note about my boys: if there is anything that all three have to do, it immediately turns into a competition. Here's why Isaac took the prize: Isaac is our only kid to attend traditional school. He does really well, and I mean REALLY well, in all subjects except handwriting. No matter what we do, he can't not get above the lowest grade: U for unsatisfactory.
Well, Isaac took to the challenge right away. What if we used Logic of English Cursive to try to improve his handwriting grade for the last quarter? He practiced the most and carried the Reference Chart with him between home and school. He really gave it his all. The last quarter grades are not in yet, but I think this sheet from his teacher says it all:
Overall I was very impressed with this product. It is a little more work for the teacher than some other handwriting programs I've experienced, but I think it really does produce better results than programs where the student works independently. As for the question if Margaret will have better handwriting from learning cursive early: only time will tell.
I like doing my handwriting schoolwork.

Yeah, it was okay as long as we could draw the pictures

I wonder what my handwriting grade will be on my report card!

I kind of liked having to practice cursive again.

Rhythm of Handwriting -Cursive Complete Set is available on the Logic of English website for $65. Many other reviewers on The Schoolhouse Review Crew used products from Logic of English. Click here to read those reviews or click the banner below.

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

To all mothers everywhere.
A future mother is born. February 2008.

Friday, May 9, 2014

7 Quick Takes/ 5 Random

I hate potty-training. I love the end result of course, but I hate that my house smells randomly of urine and that there is always laundry.
Actually, there is always laundry anyways, but now the laundry is wet and smells of urine.
There's something to be said of waiting to potty-train. Malcolm is basically training himself. That is, when Michael is home. Malcolm has zero accidents with Michael. With me he only has accidents.
Not exactly true as yesterday he did go once on the potty for me. Once on the potty and a half-dozen accidents. And the one non-accident was the result of an M&M/movie/money bribe. I call it the 'Four M' bribe.
We are starting our summer read-a-louds this week. I hope. We'll see how the rest of the week pans out. I got the books out and set them on the table. We are starting with 'Little House in the Big Woods,' and we are going to restart 'The Mark of Athena.'
I am totally amazed, but not really surprised, that in some levels we are actually going to a waitlist at LMCA! That's right, as of today, Grade 7 is officially a waitlist. Yeah Us!
We still have a few spots in the other levels, and some teaching spots if you want an incredible discount. Check out our great website and get ready to attend the Open House on May 30.
Check out more cool thoughts over at Conversion Diary or The Pebble Pond.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Brick Build #4

The Theme for this month is:
Movie Scenes
Anthony: 'The Fall of Borimir' from Lord of the Rings
Wesley: Karate Kid
Connor: "Pacific Rim. It's a movie where giant robots fight giant monsters. 'Nough said."

Connor #2

Connor #3
Ryan: World War Z

Ryan #2
Margaret: Frozen, Let it go

Isaac: Titanic

Isaac #2
Henry: Lego Movie. Metal Beard's Ship

Henry #2

Henry #3