Friday, April 29, 2011

Latin's Not So Tough--TOS Review

I have been trying to come up with a link between my review of Latin's Not So Tough: A Classical Latin Worktext and the royal wedding today, but I can't think of one at the moment, so I'll just make the awkward jump from last night's wedding post to this afternoon's post on Latin.

According to the Greek 'N' Stuff catalog, "The series introduces Latin to the young student before he or she decides that classical languages are too difficult to learn.  Enjoyable activity pages implant in young minds a love of learning.  Added benefits include improved thinking, reading comprehension, and writing skills.  Latin expands English vocabulary through a better understanding of roots and prepares your student to study modern foreign languages if he or she so chooses."

I received Level 2 of Latin's Not So Tough: A Classical Latin Worktext.  At first I was concerned that we were starting out on Level 2 rather than Level 1, but I soon found that skipping a level was not going to be a problem.  This program mostly focuses on words, and students learn 50 words throughout the course of Level 2's material.  There are also flashcards of each new letter, diphthong, special consonants, and words that can be cut out and used for learning and continual review.  We also received a pronunciation CD, which I highly recommend, because I do not know Latin at all, and I probably would have done my child much more harm than good with my butchered pronunciation.  An Answer Key is available as well, either without fulltext or answers only.  

I liked the simple format of this program.  As an absolute Latin novice, I was intimidated by trying to teach this language course to my daughter.  I found, however, that the program was easy to follow and easy for her to understand.  I wish there were some more teacher's hints, however, to help make the teaching of this program more creative and fun.  After awhile, Amélie got tired of the repetitiveness of each lesson, and I kind of did as well.  She is really not a worksheet kind of a gal, and the whole program is based on the worksheet principle.

I also have a rather shallow critique of this company.  I am, I will admit, a sucker for visuals (you don't need to know the times I chose the prettier bottle of cleaner that was 45 cents more than its uglier counterpart just because it was, well, prettier).  The company's logo and website truly need to be updated.  Honestly, had I not received the product in the mail to review, I would have taken a one-second cursory glance at the site and gone on to another Latin or Greek learning program, without even checking out the program.  If you take the time to open up a copy of their catalog, it is certainly more visually appealing, and the materials themselves are not an eyesore, but I would imagine that they would get considerably more business if the visitor's first glance at their product were a more attractive one. 

If you were not completely turned off by the logo and website and actually took time to look at the catalog, you would certainly be impressed with the price.  Here is a breakdown of Level 2's products:
Latin Level 2 Student Workbook - $18.95
Latin Level 2 Full Text Answer Key - $18.95
Latin Level 2 Answers Only Answer Key - $4.00
Latin Level 2 Quizzes/Exams - $5.50
Latin Level 2 Flashcards on a Ring - $8.00
Pronunciation CD for Latin Levels 1-3 - $10.00

I don't think this program is the right one for us, but I can definitely see how other families with kids who learn well with this type of teaching style would enjoy this program.

Take a peek at what my fellow crewmates are saying about Greek 'N Stuff products here.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a copy of this product for my honest evaluation. I was given no other compensation for this review.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

quit raining on my royal wedding

Tomorrow morning is the royal wedding.
Amélie and I are waking up early and watching it.
There.  I said it.  I've been afraid to post this confession on Facebook, namely because people who aren't watching it are scorning those who apologetically admit that they are.
I understand.  I do.
I remember being obsessed, as a 7-year-old little girl, with the "fairytale wedding" of Charles and Di.
Amélie is that 7-year-old little girl now.
I remember that my grandma and my great-grandma woke up to watch it.
My daughter's grandma and great-grandma are planning on waking up to watch the wedding of the next royal generation tomorrow morning.
I remember finding out that Princess Diana had died late at night from a security guard at the In-'N-Out drive-thru in Inglewood, CA.
I remember my 23-year-old self getting up at 3:30 in the morning a few days later to watch her funeral in my Los Angeles apartment.

Maybe it's crazy to get up early tomorrow morning to watch a wedding.
A wedding that, many say, will end in divorce.
But must we be so freaking cynical?

Amélie will never forget that she and her mom woke up early, cuddled on the couch, ate scones and drank tea, and watched yet another fairytale wedding. 
I don't regret it.
I won't regret it.

But there has been news coverage ad nauseam about this event, you say?
I can't empathize.
I haven't turned on my TV in weeks. 

Feel free to sleep in tomorrow.  You will, most certainly, be more awake and less cranky than I will be at this time tomorrow night.

But quit raining on my royal wedding.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

"Seven Stanzas at Easter" by John Updike

Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.

Friday, April 22, 2011

See The Light Art Class-TOS Review

I am not an artist.  Not even kind of.  My 7-year-old daughter can draw better than I can, and my 3-year-old son will be drawing better than I do as soon as he no longer combines the head and torso into one bulbous mass and remembers always to add hands and feet. 

I like to think that I create art with my words, but if I had to make a living drawing pictures I would be the personification of the Starving Artist.  It's not pretty.

When I decided to homeschool Amélie the idea of teaching her art was daunting to me.  I often "cheat."  We bake and call that art (well, it is...kind of...).  We have been making a Lent and Easter mobile during this Lenten/Easter season, and I actually enjoyed that a lot, namely because it involved her tying things like a toy donkey, thorns, and a cross to a big stick hanging from my living room ceiling.  There was absolutely no drawing involved.  I have no idea, however, how to teach her any drawing skills.  I wish her father would take over this aspect of our schooling (ahem, Matt, that little dig was pointedly intended for you). 

In the meantime, we now have a video sitting in our DVD cabinet that we can pull out for an art lesson that is much better than anything I could even attempt.  We received a video of 4 lessons plus 1 bonus lesson from Art Class with master artist Pat Knepley.  Pat has a very entertaining personality that is fun to watch.  She does a great job making the material interesting AND educational, which is always a perk (or rather, a necessity) in our household.  Amélie enjoyed watching the video for its educational purposes, but even Jack hung out in the living room just to watch her talk.  

The lessons we received on this DVD were...
1.Tools of the Trade
2. It All Starts with a Line
3.Contours and Compositions
4.Draw What You See
There is also a bonus lesson entitled Chalk-It-Easy Chalk Art Lesson.

I thought that the information presented was well-done and easily accessible for elementary-school students. My only concern with this DVD is that the lessons are quite short, and I wish that there was a bit more detail and maybe even some art history included. Overall, though, I think that this is a great introduction to art for the budding artist in your home.

You can either purchase a year's worth of lessons on DVDs as a set for $99.99, or you can order an online subscription for $10.00 a month

If you would like to receive a FREE copy of Art Class Volume 1, the same DVD we received, check it out here.  You can also check out the first lessons for free here

Take a peek at what my fellow crewmates are saying about Art Class.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a copy of this product for my honest evaluation. I was given no other compensation for this review.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

the books beside my bed

I came up to bed to read or journal, but once I got up here I decided I wanted to blog.  So, I trekked downstairs, lugged my laptop upstairs, and here I am, talking to my computer screen. 

I thought I would first tell you about all the books that are beside my bed, because it's comical, really.  In Jill's ideal world, the one that does not exist, she would read, read, read, read.  And then she would read some more.  Such a reality does not exist, but the lure of the library and the amazing books it contains is too strong, and therefore, a large pile of books sits beside this bed.  Want to know what I am reading (or what I would like to read)?

This list, by the way is in no particular order.  I am just going to write down what I dig up, in order of digging, not importance.

Love Wins by Rob Bell.  I read this one last week.  Lightning did not descend from heaven and fry me on the spot.  Imagine that.

Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright.  I have a sneaking suspicion this might be a life-changing book for me. 

Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology by Eric Brende.  I am supposed to be reading this book to Matt.  But when he isn't looking I read ahead.  Shhhh.  Please don't tell him.  I also don't want you to know how obsessed I am with this book.  Reeeeeeeeeeeeally obsessed.  I could write a whole blog post regarding my thoughts on this book, so maybe I should save it.  Let me just say two things:
First, we went to the Eat Local Expo last weekend and found a CSA.  There were many wonderful CSAs to choose from, but honestly, I went with the one we did because Amélie is obsessed with the Amish, and this family is "kind of Amish" (to quote the oldest daughter).  They wear bonnets, don't have electricity, and drive buggies, so I'm thinking that they are about as Amish as we can get.  Also, they have a 9-year-old daughter, and Amélie desperately wants an Amish pen pal, and I am finding that Amish penpals, in these days of technology, are hard to come by. 
Anyway, the girl that we talked to had something in her eyes I haven't seen in a long, long time: absolute peace.  She had the most beautiful eyes.  I don't even know what color they were.  I don't even know if they would be considered beautiful based on our standards of beauty.  But Matt and I both noted the absolute peace we found in their depths as we were talking to her.  Her eyes haunt me.  I wake up sometimes in the night thinking about those eyes. I want eyes like that. 
Second, last Saturday Matt tilled the compost into the ground and we planted lettuce, beets, broccoli, and peas (today he planted the tomato plants, and if it freezes sometime in the near future, I want it on the books that I said it was too early.  This is an official "I told you so."  If it doesn't freeze and the plants don't die, just pretend I didn't say anything here).  As I dug the holes and planted the seeds and smelled the dirt, I felt something I rarely ever feel on an absolute level: peace.  It was amazing.  It was beautiful.  I was so free.

New and Selected Poems: Volume One by Mary Oliver.  I adore Mary Oliver.  I discovered her poetry several years ago, and I can't quit reading her.  She strikes a harmonic chord in my soul. 

Late Wife by Claudia Emerson.  This is a small collection of poetry that is full of beautiful words, beautiful sentences, beautiful turns of phrases. 

The Echo Maker by Richard Powers.  I wanted to love this book, and I like it, but I wouldn't have given it the National Book Award.

Falling Man by Don DeLillo.  I think that DeLillo is a master at writing amazing sentences that I have to stop and read again.  and again.  and again.  I love that about him. 

Organic God: Lenten Meditations on the Words of Jesus by Kate Moorehead.  This is my 4th year going through this lovely book of Lenten meditations.  I am thankful for the wisdom I find in this book as I journey through Lent. 

Stress Less by an author whose first name I can't read because the library barcode is over his or her name.  The last name, however, is Singer, and I know for a fact that I won't read this book, but I will keep it by my bed until it is due just because I have this insane idea that I could read a book and be cured of anxiety and stress.  This is a crazy idea that I don't believe, apparently, since I already know I won't read the book.

I think there are actually some more books by my bed, but I'm thinking I probably lost you four or five books ago, so I will stop there.  And now I don't have time to write anything else, because I truly must go to bed.... 
...after I read until I can no longer keep my eyes open, of course.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

TOS Review--Kinderbach

I have been considering putting Amélie in piano lessons for quite some time, and when I found out that I would be reviewing an online piano program called Kinderbach, I thought this would be a good opportunity to test her readiness and interest in taking piano.  According to their website, “Research clearly shows Piano is the best instrument with the most benefits to brain development. KinderBach is a unique method of teaching very young children to actually play piano, read notes, and learn intervals, rhythm & music patterns."

Kinderbach offers piano lessons for children ages 3-7 either online or on DVDs.  These music lessons are interspersed with teaching time, fun characters, and practice time in a way that is multi-sensory and entertaining.  If you choose the on-line option, you will have access to over 240 music lessons and can either pay $19.99 a month or $99.95 for an annual fee, or you can also get a daypass for $5.95.  Your child can watch the video lessons online, and then you can download PDF files of worksheets and coloring pages that enhance the video lessons.  You can also purchase the lessons as DVDs.  Check out this link to look at the DVD options. 

We have had access to the online version of Kinderbach for several months now.  As I mentioned previously, I wanted to try out the program to test Amélie's interest in piano, but I found that the program really does seem to be aimed a the younger set (she is right at the top of the age range), and Jack ended up enjoying the program more than she did.  Of course he, as a three-year-old, is on the young end of the age range, so while he greatly enjoyed the program, I am not sure how much he actually learned.  I wish he had been a bit older...or that Amélie had been a bit younger...and then I think that we could have experienced the full benefits of this program. 

Personally, I think that there is no substitute for the one-on-one experience of actual piano lessons.  However, if you want to try a cheaper option than piano lessons, or you want to try out piano to see if your kids are interested, I think that Kinderbach is a great option.  It's a smart, well-designed, fun program that will introduce your kids to the piano in an entertaining and educational way.  If you want to try it out to see if Kinderbach would be a good fit for your family, you can try their free on-line trial.

If you would like to read what my fellow crewmates are saying about Kinderbach, check them out here.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free subscription of this product for my honest evaluation. I was given no other compensation for this review.