Latin’s Not So Tough!

Latin’s Not So Tough is a series of books published by Greek N Stuff, the same people who created the series Hey Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek. I received the Level 3 workbook and answer key to use with my 4th grade son. My son has NOT had a lot of experience with Latin, but it is recommended that upper elementary students begin in Level 3, and in using it, I would say this was a good starting point for him.

Latin’s Not So Tough takes a gentle, gradual approach to teaching the language, and this book started with a review of the Latin alphabet and basic vocabulary, so even if your student hasn’t seen Latin before, if they are older, they should be able to pick up the basics pretty quickly. I love the fact that the set came with a pronunciation CD (with all the tracks labled by lesson i.e. “Lesson 2, track 58”) because I have no working knowledge of Latin either, and I needed the support!

After the review, the workbook moves into declensions and conjugations, and also new vocabulary. This pattern continues with different cases (i.e. nominative case, dative case etc.) and the student moves into sentence practice before the final review at the end of the book. The workbook also has flashcards you can cut out so you can continue quick practice with vocabulary throughout the year.

There are two answer keys available for this series. The first is strictly an answer key, and costs about $4.00. I received the full text answer key (which costs $21.95) and it contains the full pages from the student workbook with answers, as well as teaching tips and a “schedule” you can use if you want. I would say the extra money is definitely worth it, unless you are very experienced in Latin yourself.

As far as using this with my son, we usually did about 1-2 pages per day, with some vocabulary practice using the flashcards. At first he was like, “Why do I have to learn Latin, I’ve never even heard of it!” However, after we got started, he found it pretty easy and thought it was fun. I was impressed with how much vocabulary he actually learned just from practicing about 20 minutes a day. We’ve used this program almost a full year now, and are close to the part where we will be writing sentences, and I think he’ll do pretty well!

A bonus I’ve seen with this program is how he has made connections (all by himself no less 🙂 ) between Latin and English! When he learned “agricola” means farmer, he made the connection to “agriculture”. Likewise with “femina” (woman) and “feminine”, “navigo” (I sail) and “navigate” etc. etc. That in itself has made this program worthwhile.

I have to admit, I have read many books on classical style homeschooling, and I know that learning Latin is emphasized in that approach, but I was always skeptical about teaching it (and about my kids ability to learn it!) However, having done it this year, I can truly see the benefits go beyond simply learning this language. It is true that knowledge of Latin can improve vocabulary in all areas!

The cost of Latin’s Not So Tough varies by what parts of it you want to buy. If you are experienced with Latin, you may just want to buy the workbook ($21.95). If not, you may want to purchase the supportive materials (the pronunciation CD costs $10.00). They also have a “full set” of materials available for $58.40, which includes the student workbook, full text answer key, quizzes/exams, and flashcards on a ring. Other packages, and sample pages, are available on the Greek N Stuff website here:

http://www.greeknstuff.com/index.html

Check it out!

** Note: I received this program for free for the purpose of writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Writing Tales

Writing Tales is a classical writing program designed for use with students in the 3rd-5th grades (although you could probably use it with struggling older writers as well). Some background on my particular 4th grade boy: HE HATES WRITING! I mean that. He hates everything from actual handwriting, to written narrations, to writing stories, paragraphs etc. Writing is a real battle in my house with this child. Therefore, I was VERY pleased to find a gentle writing program that we could use that was thorough, but did not push him to the point of tears!!

I received both Level 1 (designed for 3rd-4th grades) and Level 2 (designed for 4th-5th grades) of Writing Tales for this review. Because my son struggles so much with writing, I decided to start with Level 1, and I am very glad I did. The curriculum comes with both a student workbook, and a teachers guide. I got really excited when I saw how well laid-out the lessons were!

There are 30 lessons in both books, designed to take about 5 days each, so each book is pretty-much a 1-year curriculum. A schedule is included for both homeschoolers and those using the program in a co-op setting. The schedule is easy to follow, and adjust, which I did because we usually spend about two days a week working on writing. I simply did two days worth of lessons in one sitting. Because you spend each day doing different things (grammar, spelling, vocabulary etc.), and it wasn’t JUST writing every day, this was fine for my son.

Writing Tales is based on the Greek approach to writing called Progymnasmata. The idea behind it is that students learn to write best by copying well-written models first. The lessons in Level 1 start out with some of Aesop’s fables, and move into other familiar fables/fairy tales. You actually start out just reading the story and focusing on discussing the main idea/characters/moral etc., so this program even includes some comprehension activities!! 🙂 Students also work on grammar within the context of the story, and spelling as well, so it could be used as a complete language arts program if you wanted to do it that way.

In looking through Level 2 (which we will definitely be using next year!), the fables and fairy tales continue, but the lessons are more advanced, with some longer stories and students doing activities like outlining. Both levels include copywork, and checklists for writing rough and final drafts (I find these very helpful for my son, he needs something concrete to look at to guide his writing). When students write their rough draft, they are encouraged to retell the original story as they heard it. However, in the final draft, students are allowed to add their own “personal” touches to the story by adding in more details, character names, etc. which allows for a little creative writing too! The teachers guide includes an appendix with pages you would need to complete the lessons (i.e. sentence strips to cut out for sequencing, games etc) as well as answers to student lessons.

I cannot tell you how very HAPPY we are with this program. It is, by far, the best writing program I have found for my non-writing-inclined son. I feel that after we finish both levels, he will have a solid foundation in writing coherent sentences, paragraphs etc. and will hopefully have a lot more confidence in his writing. I only wish there were more levels to this program!!

The cost for Writing Tales Level 1 is: $19.95 for the student workbook, and $24.95 for the teachers guide. Level 2 costs $24.95 for the student workbook, and $32.95 for the teachers guide. As you can see, these prices are pretty similar to many language arts programs out there, so if I could tell you to pick only one, Writing Tales would be it. You can get more information, and also check out samples, and the Writing Tales website here:

http://www.olsenbooks.com/index.html

**Note: I was given a free copy of this curriculum for the purpose of writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

See The Light!

  See The Light is an art class that features artist Pat Knepley as your instructor. Each lesson progresses on the next beginning with basic art skills to advanced techniques. Volume 1 (which I received for this review)  includes the basics of art, from line drawing to drawing everyday items. Volume 2 moves on to shape and space, Volume 3 includes value and color, Volume 4, color blending techniques, Volume 5 is composition, Volume 6, texture and form, Volume 7 perspectives and landscape, Volume 8, balance and foreshortening (which means when an object seems “compressed”), and Volume 9 moves on to the “portrait”.

My particular children are not what I would call “art lovers” (beyond drawing sketches of cars and superheroes 🙂 ). However, I feel art instruction is very important. Not being an “artist” myself, I was looking for something easy, that we could all do together, that would introduce various art techniques to my kids.

The videos move in a step-by-step fashion that is very easy to follow, and only require basic art supplies (drawing pencils, crayons, erasers etc….at least for the first 4 DVD’s). Lessons aren’t too long, and Pat is enthusiastic, and very good about explaining things. See The Light is a Christian-based program, with the idea of “Drawing children to Him”, so there is Christian content in the lessons.

My children enjoyed this (as much as they can enjoy art) and by the time they were on the 4th DVD they were producing pretty good drawing of apples and other objects. I liked them because they were clear and easy to understand and not very drawn out. See the Light made art instruction easy to do in my house!!

The DVD’s (which include 36 lessons) cost $99.00.  See the Light also offers an online subscription to their art classes for $10.00 per month. With the subscription, you unlock four lessons a month, while maintaining access to previous lessons. You can find out more about the online option in the store on the See the Light website.  The cost could be a bit much, if you are trying to be frugal in your homeschooling (which I am 😉 ) However, if you are not particularly inclined in this area, and you have a child who is interested in art, I believe they are worth consideration. You can sample some free lessons on the See The Light website here:

http://www.seethelightshine.com/

**Note: I received a free sample of this curriculum for the purpose of writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Nutrition 101: Choose Life!


Nutrition 101 is a book all about nutrition, health, and the human body! It is biblically-based and is offered to you by the Growing Healthy Homes website, a site dedicated to assisting families in achieving healthy lives!

The book contains 6 units, which include information on the body’s major systems, discussion questions, activities and some great recipes! (My kids and I REALLY enjoyed making them together 🙂 ). In the introduction, there is a “suggestion” as to how to schedule the activities in the book. I found this helpful, not because I always follow the set schedule that comes with a curriculum, but because I find it helpful to see where the author thinks good “stopping” points are, so I know how to break things up.

Nutrition 101 contains a LOT of really great factual information about the human body. It’s not JUST a nutrition book. I was honestly surprised when I received it, because I thought it was just going to be about “healthy living”. I was very pleased with the amount of scientific detail included.  I received a copy of the ebook, which I downloaded to my laptop and read out loud to my 4th and 7th grade boys. I’m thinking now, I would have liked to get a hard copy of the book for my 7th grader to read on his own, and I probably would have summarized some of the info for my 4th grader, because it does use some advanced vocabulary!However, we read it in “chunks” and just stopped to discuss/define things we didn’t understand as we went.

I really liked the discussion questions, because I thought they were very well thought out (example: Do you think playing video games exercises your brain? why or why not? Boy did my kids and I have some lively discussion about that one ;)). I also liked that the activities were divided into both elementary and secondary levels. This made it easier for me to differentiate between my boys. When we did the brain chapter, both of my boys did the “brush your teeth with the non-dominant hand” activity, but then I had my younger son play 20 questions and my older did a more research-based activity appropriate for his age. (However, he even found these activities enjoyable..particularly the cognitive quiz).

But now, I have to get to what I really loved about this book! The recipes! I am always on the lookout for new, healthy foods to add to our menu, and we had a lot of fun shopping for ingredients and cooking together. I think our favorites were the guacamole and the Greek Salad (yes, my kids LIKE salad, strange, I know!) but so far, all of the ones we’ve tried have been good. My boys have also had a lot of discussion with their dad about what they are learning during dinner, so that’s good too.

The appendix of Nutrition 101 is extensive, with information on everything from the food pyramid, to asthma, to mold, to how to select fresh produce (something I will admit I have trouble with!).  You can get a copy on CD-ROM for $79.95, or get a hard copy of the book for $99.95, or a combo of both for $129.95. I know this is expensive, but if you really want a fun way to introduce a healthy lifestyle to your family, this is it! I would definitely consider paying for the hard copy, only because I don’t have a great printer, and I find reading off the computer difficult at times! However, you could easily buy the CD-ROM and just print off the recipes/activities if you wanted to!

The Growing Healthy Homes website will be offering a free webinar about Nutrition 101 on their website tomorrow, from 4:00-5:30 EDT. There will also be a discount code for 10% off their products on their ad page in the spring issue of The Old Schoolhouse magazine.

Check out the website here:

http://growinghealthyhomes.com/

**Note: I was given a FREE copy of this material for the purpose of writing a review for the TOS Crew. The views and opinions expressed are my own.

Great books for boys: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

I distinctly remember the first time I read this book when I was in 5th grade. I remember getting so caught up in the story of Mrs. Frisby and her family, that I went on reading well into the night. The book was filled with so much adventure I felt like I was a part of it!! Robert O’Brien so skillfully weaves a story of love, risk, heartache, and unlikely friendships, that it’s impossible not to get hooked!

I have used this as a read-aloud in the past, and while at first, I would get a few eye rolls (” a story about rats? really Mrs. Brandy”) usually, after the first couple of chapters the kids really got into it. I am finding the same with my oldest son. When I first told him this was the book he would be reading, he looked skeptical. When he started reading however, I saw that he quickly became interested. After the first four chapters he said “Okay, you were right mom, this IS a good book.” 🙂 (Of course, now, he keeps asking “what’s the secret? what’s the secret?” and I tell him he will have to read on to find out!)

This book has many themes, including loyalty, perseverance, family, courage etc.  And of course, the lesson that sometimes one very small person can accomplish very great things! There is also a plethora of materials printed to go along with the book (teacher guides, unit studies etc). I prefer to make my own questions, but you can easily find things on the internet to use with the book if you like.

Of course, we do plan to watch the movie The Secret Of Nimh, after we finish reading the book. I saw the movie when I was a kid, and I can tell you that I remember thinking the book was better (although I find that to usually be the case…because I just love books! 😉 ) I would suggest using this book as a read-aloud for grades 3 and up, and depending on their reading ability, a student from 5th grade up could read it on their own.

Science Weekly

Science Weekly is an online/print publication that allows you to bring science topics to your children at their level! It includes reading, math, writing and critical thinking, all focused on a science topic you can include at your child’s level!

For this review, I received different levels of the Science Weekly publication on composting.  The levels go from K-6 and all of them feature different activities you can do based on the “topic”. My boys are in 4th and 7th grades, so we did levels C and E for them. The “magazine” (it reminds me of those Scholastic magazines we used to get in school) included an experiment, word searches, math puzzles etc. on the topic of composting.

We did the “experiment” together, which involved putting materials into a bag to watch them compost. Since this is spring, and we’ve been talking about planting a garden, this was a timely topic! But you should know, you also have access to an “online” version of the magazine, which includes different topics you can download and print!

Here is an example of some of the things that Science Weekly covers:

And here are some of their topics for this year:

I used this mainly as a supplement to our science program. We are already using a regular science  (Exploration Education) which is a lot of fun, however, sometimes we need a break, and sometimes our weeks are too “busy” to get into regular science. With Science Weekly, I feel I can still cover some basic science topics (my boys really like the online version on the pyramids) while also addressing other areas (like reading and math). I think that if you wanted to build a science program around this, you could, you would just have to add in some books from the library.

The cost of Science Weekly is $19.95 per student, per year, (for less than 20 subscriptions). You can order different levels that match your student’s grade level. To check out samples, look at the website:

http://www.scienceweekly.com/index.html

There are also Teacher’s Notes available for an additional cost!

*I received a free sample of Science Weekly for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

AAAhhhh…a break

Just when I’m about at the end of my rope, I find we have a break scheduled in that allows me some time to breathe and renew my focus. We took our spring break this week (the same time as our local public schools) and I am so glad we did!

One of the benefits of being a homeschooler is being able to set our own schedule. One thing I used to notice as a classroom teacher is how, at certain times of the year, teachers and students would become frustrated! I always thought that thoughtfully scheduled breaks would help with this, and as I was building my schedule this year, I made sure to include them!

This week off has given me (and my kids) time to catch our breath before beginning that long end-of-the-school-year stretch. I’ve also had some time to assess what (and how) we are doing, and think about what I would like to do (or change) for next year. I am currently in serious “research” mode for next year’s curriculum, and am making plans to attend our state homeschool conference in May. On the one hand, I LOVE looking into curriculum. On the other hand, I find it soooo hard to decide what I want 🙂 If I could have a little bit of everything, I would! (but my budget won’t allow that 😉 ) Right now, my biggest issues are math, science, and reading. I have been spending a LOT of time in prayer over these subjects, and now I’m just waiting for God’s guidance!

I am so very thankful for this opportunity I have to homeschool my children. As frustrated as I can get sometimes, I wouldn’t trade my time with them for ANYTHING! This break has been really good for us, and we have a couple of  “long weekends” scheduled before we finish our school year on June 3. I believe it’s important that we all take time to rest and rejuvenate, so we can go back into our schooling with some enthusiasm! I am looking forward to finishing out this year, and planning for next year!