Homeschool Posts

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Bessie’s Pillow: A Young Immigrant’s Journey, a book review by a teen

If you love using biographies or historical fiction to help bring your history studies alive in your homeschool, Bessie’s Pillow will be a welcome addition to your early 20th century line-up. Based upon a true story, this book from Strong Learning, Inc. is about a young Lithuanian immigrant’s journey to America and her new life there.

I’ve got a treat for you today: a special guest blogger. My 13-year-old daughter, Mary, recently read this book and has agreed to review it.  

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Kicking Monday to the Curb

So, what do you do when your 16-year-old starts Monday off by pulling out the record player and your 80s 45s, asking you if there’s any more synth pop with a strong drumbeat to add to the stack he’s working his way through?

Maybe you say, “Hey, dude. It’s Monday, time to put away the records for later.”

Kicking Monday to the Curb and resetting our HomeschoolOr maybe you just go with it. Maybe you listen to “True Faith” more than a few times in a row. And maybe when he asks, “what’s up with this album cover?” you say, “it was the 80s.” And maybe you have a discussion about whether Faith No More was an 80s band or a 90s band and whether you prefer the Pet Shop Boys’ cover of “Always on My Mind” to Willie Nelson’s and if you like them both better than the King’s original.

And maybe he makes lunch for everyone and you sit and watch a documentary about the Gospels. Your second son dutifully does his math and piano lessons and continues to write on his book, because he’s freaking a little that the routine has been totally dismantled. Maybe your 1st daughter reads and creates jewelry designs. And your youngest plays a little too long at an educational website you’re reviewing/beta testing.

After the 16-year-old runs a few errands around town, bumping into your pastor and some friends, he comes back with the mail, and you teach him about about annotation while reading literature and give him a fiction exercise to play with.

And then they all play Wii in the afternoon and threaten to have a Nerf battle (while you secretly hope the Nerf battle doesn’t come off, because somehow Nerf battles always end in tears).

And that, my friends, is sometimes how a day goes.

Somehow it started off-track, but instead of fighting to get it back on-track I decided that we weren’t really off-track. We were just on a different track from our regularly scheduled one.

Sometimes you throw away the schedule and it’s still ok. The book lessons and assignments are not all of life, but sometimes we forget that.  When the other things feel like they were being ignored and forgotten, sometimes you need a reset.

We have reset and we are refreshed. Tomorrow is another day. Don’t ever underestimate the need to live and breathe a bit. It will put a lot of things into perspective.

Do you ever flout your homeschool schedule?

Creating a Masterpiece, a review

With a houseful of artists, I find that sometimes I’m not quite up to the challenge of keeping everyone happy in the art department. While I do keep lots of supplies on hand for impromptu creation sessions, sometimes we need a bit of creative inspiration and technical know-how to get us started. We were all excited to try out and review the Monthly Plan from Creating a Masterpiece.

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This video-based instructional program explores a wide variety of media, including: graphite drawing, colored pencils, soft pastels, watercolors, oil pastels, gouache, silk printing…the list goes on.

We are kind of art mad around here. It’s not uncommon…

…for my 16-year-old to pop up out of the blue to ask me what I think of his latest set of gesture drawings,

for my 13-year-old to guiltily appear an hour after “lights out” to show me the oil marker painting she’s not quite happy with,

for the 11-year-old to spend several days creating a detailed map for the adventure story he is writing,

or for the 7-year-old to doodle all over her math page to the  point where I can barely read her answers...

We’ve dabbled in watercolor, oil pastels, soft pastels, charcoal, and more. While there’s a lot of value in experimenting with a new medium to see what it can do or in looking up tutorials online for detailed tips and tricks, sometimes you want someone to take you by the hand and show you, “this is how to do it.”

And this is what Sharon Hofer does with Creating a Masterpiece!

The goal of the program is to give kids (and adults---I’m going to share with you the art I’ve been creating with this program, also) confidence in their artistic abilities and to help them achieve creative success. Anyone, with the right support, can create a masterpiece.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Fun Historical Fiction from Susan K. Marlow, a review

Our whole family has been enjoying the first two books in the brand new Circle C Stepping Stones series from Kregel Publications: Andi Saddles Up and Andi Under the Big Top. While these engaging works of historical fiction are written for kids ages 7-10, even my 16-year-old was chuckling over Andi’s spirited antics. He says that author Susan K. Marlow has perfectly captured how kids think and interact with their siblings.

review of Susan K. Marlow's new Circle C Stepping Stones series

Each Circle C Stepping Stones book is just over 100 pages long and divided into a dozen chapters, making it easy for young readers still working on reading fluency and stamina to take it a little bit at a time. Your child will tag along with 9-year-old Andrea Carter (better known as “Andi”) and her 3-year-old palomino filly, Taffy, as they ride around their family’s cattle ranch. The stories take place in California in the late 1800s and contain plenty of interesting historical tidbits about life in the wild west.