Monday, June 30, 2014

How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare {Book Review}

It had not crossed my mind to teach my children Shakespeare.  At least, not yet.  I mean, my kids are 4 and 7!  But, I was given the opportunity to review this book and it looked fascinating.   Author Ken Ludwig insists, "To know some Shakespeare provides a head start in life."  We all know that Shakespeare is numbered among the greatest play writes of all time...or is he, perhaps, THE greatest play write of all time?  In fact, several years ago, I read and article that demonstrated that nearly every single modern day story has its foundation in Shakespeare.  All just rewritten into modern themes and language.

Now, by a show of hands, who is scared of Shakespeare (besides hand is up!)  I recall reading Shakespeare in high school and finding it confusing and beautiful all rolled up into one messy little book.  The language can be both perplexing and lovely.  I wish I had given it more effort.  I mean, think of all the things we say today that came right from Shakespeare!  "In a Pickle"  "The Laughing Stock" "There's a method to my madness" and so much more.

In this book, How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, Ludwig has provided a user-friendly and easy method for teaching children to memorize Shakespeare.  I'm not kidding.  He begins by having a child memorize 1 line, then the next, until the child has mastered full passages from a play.  He walks the reader through time period, what the passages mean, and shares what is to be learned behind the passages.

Why memorize it?  Memory is the key to understanding.  When you can recall something with very little effort, then you can really delve into what it means.  We do this in our homeschool daily with memorizing many things.  Scripture being where we start.  Followed by character catch phrases... and so forth.

Now, what did I really think of this book?  Let me start by saying this.  We are (currently) Classical Homeschoolers.  We believe in the beauty of memorizing.  Lots of stuff.  Poetry being one of those things that we have worked on memorizing...  It did not cross my mind to memorize Shakespeare, but now that this book has been planted in my path I felt excitement with the prospect of introducing this into our homeschool day.  It is simple to implement and fun to use!

This would be a welcome addition to any homeschool shelf!
Learn more about the author, Ken Ludwig and purchase his book by visiting his website at:  
You can read an excerpt here.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Stuck Together by Mary Connealy {Book Review}

Does this sound familiar?
I enjoyed Swept Away but I have to tell you:  In this story, Ruthie and Luke were not my biggest concern after we meet two other characters: Dare and Glynna.  I was a lot more concerned about what would happen to them than I was with Ruthie and Luke.  Hey, guess what?  Of course Mary Connealy leaves you hanging at the end!  LOL.  If you want to know what happens to Dare and Glynna, you will have to hold out (impatiently like me!) for Book 2.

Or how about this??
Fired Up is another fabulous, clean, romantic read from Mary Connealy that....YES...leaves you hanging at the end and makes you want to know what will happen to Tina & Vince?  And what about Jonas?  I think it is possible we will be seeing at another book or 2 coming in this series.  ;)

Well!  Guess what!  Here is book 3 from Mary Connealy's Trouble in Texas series!  And YES!  We get to find out what happens to Tina and Vince AND Jonas!  I'll give you a little bit of details, but just enough to get you interested in reading it for yourself.   Let me tell you about Stuck Together!

Remember Tina Cahill?  She spends most of her time picketing in front of the local saloon.  "Abandon all ye Hope, who enter Here" her sign reads...much to the consternation of those who just want to go in and have a drink.  Well, Vince, the local law man, sure gets frustrated by all the ruckus Tina continues to cause as she marches back and forth in front of the saloon with her picketing signs.  Daily.  From 1-3pm weather permitting.  At the beginning of the story Tina indirectly causes a brawl and she is lucky she doesn't end up locked up.   Well, as Tina & Vince keep having paths cross...(she is a trouble maker after all) they realize that they are pretty much the only 2 single people left in town.  Except for Tina's brother Jonas, a preacher.  It looks like they may be doomed to be "stuck together."

When Vince's estranged parents show up unannounced his father demands that Vince take care of his mother who has dementia.  Oh, and by the way, this is your sister, he adds.   Say what!?  Apparently Vince's father kept another woman for years and this young woman, Melissa, is Vince's half sister who has been caring for Vince's mother for several years.

What a mess.  Vince has a mother to care for who is very confused, a full grown sister (who Jonas notices is very lovely), and Tina...who causes trouble every time he turns around.

Ah!  I'm not going to tell you any more.  You should read book 3 from the Trouble in Texas series, Stuck Together.  It is fun and romantic.  Another clean read from Mary Connealy!

Disclaimer:  I received Stuck Together free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed here are my very own.

Monday, June 23, 2014

13 Articles of Faith!

Congrats to Kayley who signed off on memorizing 
all 13 Articles of Faith in Sunday School!  

Way to Go!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Discovery Center

I get pretty spoiled having my parents come to visit me the grandkids quite often.  Since they were here again pretty recently, and we needed something fun to do, we headed downtown to the discovery center to spend an afternoon...  If you haven't had a chance to visit I recommend it.  We had a great time and it is a lot of fun for all ages.  Here are several pictures from our visit!

Hurricane simulator...

Maggie laying on a bed of nails!

Generating electricity by running on the big "hamster wheel."

Talking through the whisper tube.

Water play, learning about currents and Archimedes screw.



Blowing huge soap bubbles.

Have a refreshing drink out of the toilet.

Kayley convinced Gramma to go into the science lab with her...



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

2014-2015 Homeschool Curriculum Choices {Link Up!}

I have to admit that one of the things that appealed to me most about homeschooling was the ability to learn as a family by choosing the curriculum that would best fit our needs and keep us interested in learning every day.  In order to do this I have "test driven" a LOT of curriculum.  A lot of things I have loved, some we have not enjoyed and we have had to make changes.  But!  Isn't that great about homeschooling?  The flexibility we have to make those changes when something is not working.

Over the course of 3 years I have swung from School-in-the-box to a more Charlotte Mason approach to a Classical approach to an eclectic style of homeschooling...  I am still working to find a good fit for our family!  (But that is a blog posting in itself).

Thanks to Tristan at Our Busy Homeschool for the opportunity to link up what we are doing for our 2014-2015 school year!  So, without further ado, here is our lineup:

For Kayley:

Math is one of her favorite subjects and I pick carefully because I do not want to do anything that will ruin a love of any subject...  Math was always my worst subject and I hated it in school.  We have tried a couple of math options over the last 3 years including Kindergarten and First Grade BJU Math K5 and 1, then a switch to Singapore 1A through 2B in 1st and 2nd grade, with a sample of Math Mammoth.  We have come full circle and we just really like BJU Math and Kayley completed BJU Math 3 and is moving into BJU Math 4.

What we love about it?  It has a running story-line throughout that makes it a little bit more interesting that just a workbook.

What we don't love:  The price.  Luckily teachers guides and tests/answer keys can be reused leaving us only purchasing a workbook if we recycle this program for Maggie.

Language Arts:
Language Arts is one of those subjects that we have tried on several different programs to find a good fit.  We are just not at the place where Kayley wants to do a lot of writing or can without melting down.  She is still very young even though she is academically advanced.  Now, I do ask her to do some, but it is not worth the frustration of asking her to do a lot.  We started with BJU English for 2nd grade and quickly burned out on the overkill of the writing.  So last year, based on a recommendation, I decided to try First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind.  I am already a big fan of Susan Wise Bauer and I was so thrilled that this was a good fit!  We backed up to the 1st grade book and started there since SWB's classical approach to learning required quite a bit of memorization and we didn't want to miss anything.  We completed it and about 1/3 of Level 2 last year.  We will be finishing up Level 2 this year and then we may dabble with Level 3 but I'm still undecided as we have found that we really like the "all in one" English like we have found in Rod & Staff.

What we love:  These books are done 90% orally...not a lot of writing required.  Poetry memorization is a big plus!  Books are completely reusable.

What we don't love:  Nothing!

Rod & Staff is something we have done a little bit of this year as we started Level 2 of First Language Lessons.  We have completed several chapters as a supplement and Kayley likes the bite-sized lessons and the fact that a large portion of the work is done orally.  The textbook look to them and the black and white pages were something that made me hesitate at first.  Seriously at initial glance they look very boring but Kayley finds them to be a good fit so far.  We will be starting Beginning Wisely, grade 3 this year.

What we love:  Bite sized lessons, much of which can be done orally, make English a snap.  It's inexpensive and other than the worksheet and test packets (which are super cheap too) it is all reusable.

What we don't love:  These are old-fashioned textbooks so anything you write, you write on a separate piece of paper.

For writing we used Level 2 of Writing With Ease (also a Susan Wise Bauer program) this past year.  It is very effective but does get very repetitive.  Kayley enjoyed it fine for the most part but by the middle of the book burned out.  It is a great program for learning how to summarize a passage that you have read but it is the same thing over and over and over.  We have decided to take a break from that this year by starting on Classical Academic Press's Writing & Rhetoric.  This looks like a fun break from Writing With Ease.

When we complete this program (which looks like it will take about 6 months) we will be moving into Institute for Excellence in Writing - Student Writing Intensive A.  We saw this program at our homeschool conference and we listed to a seminar on how this program works and we were sold on it.  We had already purchased Writing & Rhetoric before the conference and I really want to enjoy a relaxing writing semester before we start on IEW-SWIA so we will do first one, then the other.

For Spelling in the past we've done BJU, A Reason for Spelling, and Spelling Workout.  Kayley is a natural speller and doesn't require a lot of help in this area but it was important for me that she learn the rules so we have switched to a program called All About Spelling.  So far we have LOVED it.  Marie Rippel recommends that all kids start with Level 1 regardless of age so Kayley completed level 1 and 2 in about 2 months and we are currently in level 3 and will continue to level 4 when we are done.

What we love:  Very hands-on using magnetic letter tiles and a white board for the majority of activities.  I love the fact that it drills rules and requires mastery of rules before moving on.  It is very motivating too using charts and stickers.

What we don't love:  Those magnets and all the little cards can get kind of annoying sometimes, causing a distraction when they are supposed to be helping.

We used Memoria Press' Prima Latina last year and it was simple and effective.  We prefer to learn things that have jingles, chants, songs, memory sentences, etc so we are going to try out Classical Academic Press' Latin for Children A.  I have no idea if we will like it better (or if we will wish we had stuck with Memoria Press and just moved into Latina Christiana I).  Time will tell.

For Maggie

Kindergarten is so much fun!  Maggie will be completing the exact same program Kayley did for Kindergarten using BJU K5 Beginnings and Math.  This was such a fun program and I am excited for Maggie to enjoy it.  We will not be using the video based course as Kayley did ($$$) so I will be teaching it myself.  Luckily I still remember most of the fun songs and activities and I saved a LOT of the cut outs and such from Kayley's time through the program so it makes implementing it super easy.

I also have started Maggie several months ago in this book I used with Kayley called the Reading Lesson.  Similar in style to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and An Ordinary Parents Guide to Reading this book is step-by-step teaching your child the basic phonics of reading.  Instant gratification has your child reading simple stories almost immediately.  I'm pretty amazed at how quickly and easily this works.  Maggie is my 2nd child now I've taught to read using this program.

Family Style Learning
(Subjects where we all learn together)

Even though my kids are far apart in age (relatively speaking) and we are not a large family, I still like to try to combine subjects if humanely possible.  Maggie being a preK-Kinder is basically along for the ride in most things but I try to get as many picture books as I can that tell the same story.

For history we are using BiblioPlan Year 3. This will be our second year using BiblioPlan and I am pretty happy with it.  Honestly it broke my heart to move away from Sonlight but there was just no way to combine the girls in Cores so that sent me shopping last year to find an alternative.  I was torn between Tapestry of Grace and BiblioPlan but finally decided that BP is the way to go.

What we love:  Classical with a charlotte mason living books approach.  Very much Sonlight-ish only you can combine all ages.

What we don't love:  Some of the family readers are, well, just boring.  I just replace them with something else....

Previously we have used Jeannie Fulbrights Exploring Creation series for science completing (so far) Astronomy, Botany, and Flying Creature.  (We really love these!)  Just for fun we decided to just try a different approach to science this year and give Dr. Jay Wiles Science in the Beginning a try.  It looks very hands on and it is recommended for Kindergarten and up so Maggie can tag along and at least watch the experiments.

Fine Arts
This is the worst at our house.  I really want to do better at getting art in on a more regular basis.  To do this I thought we would experiment this year with a Home Art Studio DVD.  I went ahead and bought the Kindergarten level which will work for both girls...  (check out some free videos here!)

We also learn about a lot of artists and composers through our history program as well so we do that as we go plus a good friend of mine recently started a homeschool co-op, called Legacy Academy, where we have had several opportunities to do art with them as well.

I think that is about it!  Thanks for the link up Tristan!

Passages: Treasures of the Bible {Field Trip!}

I had heard a lot of talk about this new museum visiting Springfield called Passages.  On a whim Saturday, while we were headed to Sam's Club off of Sunshine, I spied it.  We decided why not?  So we headed there to see what all the buzz was about.  

I figured that it was going to be small.  Maybe kind of lame.  And ultimately a pushy opportunity for a church to try to tell us that we need to convert/repent, etc.  

Well. I was WRONG.  Passages was, quite literally, the history of Christianity and how the Bible came to be published.  We learned about Wycliff, Tyndale,  Martin Luther, Gutenburgs Printing Press and so much more.  It was an amazing, well done exhibit, that was HUGE.  Huge, huge, huge!!!  

The ticket prices were steep but I can see why.  Use of animatronics, iPod touch audio, interactive experiences, crafts to take home, plasma screens that interacted with one another, and pieces of the dead sea scroll....  Not joking pieces of the real, honest to goodness, DEAD SEA SCROLL are on display in this museum.   This museum was a once in a life time opportunity that was worth every penny we spent.

The kids had a chance to complete a scavenger hunt with the help of Louie the Lion.  

 Projects for kids were available throughout.  Here the girls learned how challenging it must've been to write the Bible by hand as the monks did during the Middle Ages. 

Docents were available to demonstrate and answer questions.  This fellow made Kayley his apprentice and she was able to use a replica of Gutenburgs printing press to create a page of the Bible.

Toward the end was a large play zone for kids.  
Maggie is chunking bean bags into the lions den.

You are not allowed to take photos in the areas where the documents are located but you could take photos in several areas though out. 

By the way.  I was so surprised that we were not pressured to accept some "literature" or go through some kind of "come and be saved" process on the way out.  It was a very relaxed experience and I think even a non-religious person who just wanted to take a peak at the Dead Sea Scrolls would feel comfortable with a visit.

It took us over 2 hours to go through it so leave yourself plenty of time.

The museum is so well done!  We really loved it.
  You will not regret your visit!  
Check it out at

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summer Homeschool Plans

As homeschoolers we "school" year round, but luckily because we are homeschoolers it doesn't really look like school on most days.    We have wrapped up what I consider to be our official academic year and have moved on to some other fun subjects that we can do only in summer. 

We planted a tree.  Can you see it?  

We have worked in the yard - check out my awesome new lightweight girly weed eater!

I have challenged Kayley (and the rest of the family) to "read your height."  Kayley is 48" tall and was tasked with reading 48 books.  Yes, you read that right, "was."  She is a voracious reader and has already finished the challenge leaving the rest of us choking on her dust.  Now we move on to the library summer reading program!

We've watched some pretty incredible thunderstorms roll in.

We played in the rain.

Kayley is a nature lover so she is often bringing in friends from the yard. 
Like this frog.

She put this skeeter eater in the refrigerator because she read that they would slow down enough for her to get a good look at them under a magnifying glass when they were cold.

We found a turtle.

And an awesome caterpillar!

We took the girls up to the church to ride bikes (we live on a gravel road and wanted them to get a chance to ride on pavement).

Played in our redneck swimming pool.

Thanks to Gramma and Papa we are the proud owners of a swing set!

Speaking of swing sets...
Kayley fractured her funny bone (humerus) falling off of the new swing set.  She is in a splint and only for about one more week before she can take it off.  It was a bummer though and has thrown a kink in her summer plans...  

There are a lot of fun summer programs that we really pounce on and take advantage of during the summer months.  What makes it even better is that it all counts as "school!"  

We will also go ahead and plow into our next school year.  We do this so that we can take as much time off during the year as we want when we have family visit and we are planning an extended field trip in the fall...  So, there are our summer homeschool plans!
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