Thursday, November 16, 2017

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis ~ A New TOS Review!!

Writing with Sharon Watson
As we are entering the high school years, I have been trying to find a high school writing program that incorporated great classic literature while delving into the process of writing and the actual study of literature which is not like anything they've encountered before now. We were blessed to be on this last review of the year of Writing with Sharon Watson with her second volume of Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis. This is a full year literature curriculum for grades 9 - 12. I said this was the second volume - you can read about the first one here and they can be used in any order.
Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis

My husband and I were very excited to see the list of books that would be studied throughout the year. There are short stories (many included in the textbook) as well as classics. Some of those include:
"A Jury of Her Peers" by Sharon Glaspell
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
"A White Heron" by Sarah Orne Jewett

As you can see these are some great stories! And this is only a third of them. You can see a full listing if you'd like to check out the free samples of the Teacher Guide or the student guide, Grading Guides, the Novel Notebook (a great add on to the literature course that has questions and worksheets for your student to complete), and the quiz and answer manual.

I want to go into a little more detail of all the aspects of the course. So first we have the Teacher Guide. This is where Sharon has clearly explained all that you will be covering over the 39 sections. Each book covered will correspond with 3 to 4 weeks of work. Some of the lessons are done before the book is read and some during the reading.  The Teacher Guide also includes a detailed plan for a Book of the Month Club (including snacks and rewards to hand out to participants), full answer key and guided plan for each book, grading rubrics, and online quizzes.  Writing with Sharon Watson has made it easy to help your student(s) to enter into the Great Discussion by giving you examples, Facebook posts, real life discussion questions and even a choice of activities (create a song, further research, a hands-on activity) that help the student engage in what they read and make it their own - hopefully leading them to become a more discerning reader and able to pick up on the themes that they can then apply to their own lives.

The next resource is the Student Text, which is written directly to the student with easy to understand language with a light humorous tone sprinkled throughout. As I mentioned some of the lessons are pre-reading assignments and then they go on to a reading and homework plan that schedules out the next few weeks and what your student(s) is expected to cover. I was so excited to see that there was so much effort put into explaining literary terms and clearly defined. All the short stories are included in the text. The books are keyed to certain pages based on the coordinating versions of the books that the author suggests to use. All of the short stories are written in the student text or have a link to them.

The Quiz and Answers Manual is the next important resource. One thing that is unique about this curriculum is that the quizzes and surveys are FREE and online for all the novels, play, and short stories. Each one has a new password which is located in the Teacher Guide. There is a "Yes, I Read It" quiz as well as a "Literary Terms" quiz to help ensure your student is retaining information they are reading about. The quizzes are graded simultaneously and you will see a break down of all the questions, their answers, the correct answer, and the score. These can be printed out and will be emailed to you or the student whomever's email was used to go into the quiz. (If you don't have access to the Internet you can purchase a printed manual for $9.)

The last portion of the resources is this wonderful accompaniment called the Novel Notebook. This is a pdf document that can be printed in whole, section by section or only what you'd like. This is a required part of the curriculum and is FREE. This is where students will be able to answer some additional questions while they are reading creating an active readers rather then passive readers. They can also write down their favorite or not so favorite parts of the books and stories they are reading.
Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis

One big thing for me is approaching literature study from a Chrisitian and biblical worldview and Writing with Sharon Watson has done just that with this course on Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis. Finding the deeper themes in these writings and being able to recognize and apply them to their own lives will help build strong, verbal young adults able to help the students to apply the lessons they are learning to their life. I am also so happy that the novels are completely read and parsed through. This builds a great foundation for later learning at the college level.

Going through the first story, "A Jury of Her Peers" was at first, like pulling teeth. My eldest daughter is slightly in between 8th and 9th grade, but her ability to read and understand is outstanding and I knew that we needed to start challenging her so that she could really hit her potential. She was hesitant and resistant to even starting to read the story because after reading the first paragraph she thought it was going to be on a subject matter that she was scared or concerned about. However, after both my husband and I read it and then gave her full confidence that it wasn't going the route she thought she finally read it and admitted that she liked the story.  It also allowed us to enter into some great discussion on how the world views things, how culture was in the past versus how it is now, etc. She also got to chose an activity that went along with the story. She chose to learn some hand stitching and researched different stitches and then recreated them.
She has now entered the reading of the second book, Frankenstein, which is one of my husband's favorite classic novels. I personally have never read or watched anything about this, so I will be reading it along with her so that I can be able to also engage with her and my husband in the discussions. I am also so encouraged that I found a literature curriculum that is well-rounded and Biblically-based while they learn fun facts, read bio info on the authors, and learn about the background of where the stories come out of to help the student be drawn into these classic literary works.  I can't wait to continue on in this curriculum and planning to use the first volume -- Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide.

If you are looking for a great, full 1 credit literature curriculum for your high schooler I implore you to explore and investigate this wonderful homeschool writing program by Writing with Sharon Watson. You can also reach her on Facebook and Pinterest. You can read how my other Crew members also used this curriculum by clicking the link below.
Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis {Writing with Sharon Watson Reviews}

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Forbrain - Hearing Yourself to Help you Learn ~ A New TOS Review!!

Struggling to read has been an issue in our home for two of my children. We also have some attention issues, spelling issues, and some problems with memorization of things like Bible verses and poetry. So when we had the opportunity to use and review this unique product to help with all types of reading difficulties, we thought we'd give it a try. This product is called Forbrain from Sound for Life LTD.
Forbrain Sound for Life LTD

I know you are asking, what is Forbrain? Well it is a headset that one wears that uses bone conduction to create a audio-verbal loop to help with memory and verbal skills. It can be used by age 3 through adult. The audio-verbal loop allows the wearer to use their own voice in order to help promote stronger memory skills because you are able to clearly hear your voice.

You are intended to wear the headset for at 15-20 minutes per day and after 6 weeks of continued use you should see improvements. When you place the headset on you speak into a microphone that allows the sound to be directly transmitted to the cochlea vestibule nerve that lies in your inner ear. This happens when you turn on the headset and then amplifies your speech.

The headset comes in a zippered, soft-shelled, protective case. On the interior there is foam insert to stabilize and keep the headset from banging around. You also get a USB charge cable, extra mic covers, and a small set of instructions. The headset is rechargeable. As I mentioned earlier the headset includes a microphone (that you speak into to hear yourself), bone conductor transmitters (these sit on your cochlea vestibule nerve and allow the sound of your voice to be transmitted to your brain faster and more clearly), and then a dynamic filter (which enhances the frequency of your voice.)

By speaking into the headset Forbrain is intended to help the wearer hear their own voice which will help one to have better speech and memory by feeling the vibrations of our voice through the bones in our skull. This unique experience is definitely one that takes some getting used to. I had my son try it since he is still a struggling reader and has trouble memorizing. He could only wear the headset for short periods of time, sometimes less then the 10 minutes. He complained that it 'hurt'. He also gives me some push back when I tell him he needs to wear the headset. He doesn't like it, but he can't tell me a why.  However, he is a VERY LOUD speaker naturally. So even on a very low speaker setting (the headset has a volume adjuster) it was too loud for him. I did have him wear it while he was going through the memorization process of his poems.

I also had my eldest use it with the words she STILL has trouble remembering how to spell ... like said. She hasn't used as much as my other two, but I have not seen as much of a difference in how she spells any of her 'trouble' words. She does have some times where she's written them properly, but then still spells them incorrectly at times. I will have her continue to use it for this particular issue.

My other daughter also has some reading difficulties so I was having her wear the headset while she was reading aloud. She also complained that it was too loud so we had to make sure the headset was lowered. She would use it for about 10 minutes and then she'd have to stop. The size of it is also a little annoying to her ... it slides around on the back of her head.  But if she stays still and can place it then she can concentrate on her reading and not on the headset.
See the blue light?

The microphone can be placed pretty much anywhere, but should be about an inch from your mouth. If it's too close you can get a little feedback. And at first you will feel like you are yelling, but really you are not (unless you are a generally loud person.) When you turn the headset on you will see a bright blue light that lets you know that it is on.

All in all I'm not sure whether this unique device has done much for the ones using it in my family. I can see some differences in some areas, but we also have not had the product for the full 6 weeks. I plan on continuing to use the headset and see if I can clearly see improvement in reading for my two younger ones and then spelling for my older one and then I'll post an update again in the new year.
Forbrain Sound for Life LTD

If you, or one of your children have memory issues, reading struggles, or speech difficulties this is a product you will want to fully investigate. You can read all about how others on the Crew used the headset in their homes by clicking the link below. You can also find Forbrain from Sound for Life LTD on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. There's also a video showing you all about their product. You can check it out below!
Forbrain {Sound For Life Ltd Review}

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Making Pies for the Fund

Recently I've been trying to think of ways we could raise some money for our #MissionEvansville fund. (If you have NO IDEA what I'm talking about you can search my posts for all the information and here's the first post about our step of faith into the 'mission field'. And then I saw a post on Facebook from a friend.

For the last several years, she's been making pecan pies (and some other lovely treats) to sell and all the profits go to a project for this season. One year it was for a single mom and her family. The proceeds were used to purchase needed items and some fun stuff so they could enjoy Christmas that year. This year she's doing it again, but the funds this year are going to a teacher at a local school.

I generally have many pumpkins as decorations and then what we do is cook them down to have fresh pumpkin for the season. I always make the pumpkin pies that will appear for the Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts. I even make them gluten free since we have some that deal with those allergies.

But this year we have a HUGE pumpkin ... and some regular sized ones as well. This one will definitely make a ton of pies! So I thought, why not make my own homemade, family pies and sell them for $10. I'm hoping we can raise a bit so we can put it toward our Mission fund.  We are also doing homemade apple pies and they can be made in a variety of ways - traditional, as crumbles, and even this beauty - Caramel Dutch Apple pie.

The job situation is still up in the air. Stephen hasn't gotten an offer from any place that he has applied for, but we still feel called to Evansville, IN.  We know that in time the Lord will provide HIS path for us to follow and until then we are walking forward in faith. We are continuing to purge and pack. We are divesting ourselves of excess and making adjustments here for what may come. We continue to pray for the people of Evansville, specifically the Jacobsville area, for the Lord to prepare their hearts.

So if you would like a pie, please contact me - especially if you are local. And if you would like to help support us you can give donations (one time or monthly) on our funding page. You can also keep up to date with all of what's going on at our Facebook page and by subscribing to the blog (on the right hand sidebar.) And we'd love if you'd join our prayer team by filling out this form.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Thin Stix Creativity Pack ~ A New TOS Review!!

Earlier this year we were introduced to these wonderful no mess kids art tempera paint sticks and so they were quickly put on our Christmas lists for my children. But then, something greater happened! We were thrilled to receive the Thin Stix Creativity Pack from The Pencil Grip, Inc. ! When my son opened up the package (which he did so fast I couldn't even take a picture!) he couldn't wait to try them out. I wish I could have waited to Christmas to give them, but who doesn't like an EARLY gift!
Thin Stix Creativity Pack
Straight away the kids went to creating pictures with them. The pack includes 24 colors, with 12 regular colors, 6 neon colors, and 6 metallic colors. As soon as you get the pack and pick your color you can pop off the top and start painting! That easy. No mess. No clean up. And the fascinating thing is it only takes 90 seconds to dry (sometimes even faster)! You can use them on tons of different media - paper (of course), cardboard, poster board, and canvas.

Thin Stix Creativity Pack
Thin Stix Creativity Pack

They come in a nice plastic storage container that is great way to keep them organized and together. I think after a while we might end up having to put them into some kind of case or container eventually. My son isn't great at keeping plastic cases "whole" for a long period of time ... he is just 8. 😁 My favorite thing about them is the no dry time! They are also gluten, egg, and nut free as well as non-toxic. And if you get them on yourself or anything they are also washable.

So since we had these new "colors" (neon and Metallix) we decided to give them a try on exactly what they would and would not work on. My kiddos made a fake plate of food and colored 'glass' stones to make them into grapes and blueberries.
Then they colored some popsicle sticks to look like green beans.

And even a plastic fork!
My daughter evened wanted to decorate her plate - which was tin foil. The Thin Sticks worked on all of the items.
Except for Play-Doh - well it worked, takes WAY longer to dry and kind of messed up the tip pf the tempera paint. But another cool thing is that you can just wipe it off with a paper towel and they are basically back to normal.
They also made some faux stained glass so we could decorate their great grandmother's house windows since she's been stuck inside for weeks with a broken leg!

I even decided to decorate my white pumpkin on my porch. I had a few more on my porch, but I had to throw one out because a bug got it so then my porch wasn't "right". So I thought if I made the white one 'special' it might make the porch better ... I think I did. All I need now is still some hay to complete the look.
The only thing we didn't do was use them on some wood, which I know they will work on perfectly. I couldn't seem to find the little wooden plaques and gifts I had bought for them to make gifts for family for Christmas. They must have gotten packed up ... but when we find them we will certainly be using them!
The Pencil Grip, Inc.
Now these are paint sticks and are reminiscent of glue sticks with their rounded flat ends. That has thwarted some "creative" moments because they can't really get into small areas, like on a detailed coloring page. My son also thinks that the caps should be slightly tapered so that they can pop on the back of the stick similar to the way marker caps do. But they can be layered and blended together (if you work fast) which has been fun to experiment with as well.

Be sure and check out these awesome no mess tempera paint sticks in the Thin Sticks Creativity Pack by The Pencil Grip, Inc., ... you won't regret it!  And you can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  And do check out all the other reviews from my fellow Crew members - I'm sure they have tried many more uses to help your creative juices!!

As an added bonus The Pencil Grip, Inc., is offering one of my readers a chance at their very own set!  All you have to do to enter the Giveaway is leave a comment telling me one way you would use these remarkable no mess kids art supplies! I'll be drawing a winner this Sunday (November 12th) at 5p! Be sure to leave a way that I can contact you!!
Thin Stix Creativity Pack {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}
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