Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday---Spring Has Sprung!

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Come Back, y'all!

Classical Academic Press is a Classic

Recently, we were asked if we would consider reviewing a Latin language program published by Classical Academic Press. Latin is not actually at the top of my list for formal language instruction, as I am more eclectic than classical in methodology, but I have taught vocabulary using classical Latin and Greek roots before. I think understanding Latin as the root of much of our language is very important, but envisioning studying Latin in a classroom setting still terrifies me the way it did in high school (don't only really smart people take Latin?) However, the more I thought about it, the more I started thinking that maybe Latin would go well with our studies of Ancient World History next year, so I volunteered to be in the review group.

Latin Alive! Book 1 is the product we were chosen to review. It is intended for use by high school students, and perhaps upper middle school students who like a challenge. Tex is in 7th grade, but we will be using this next year for the most part, so I was comfortable with the level. And of course, there is the fact that Tex is brilliant (really, I think he is...and sweet, too!), so I knew he could handle it.

We planned to do a mini-unit on Rome at the same time as we needed to try out the Latin curriculum. We figured that by integrating materials the way we will integrate them next year, we will have a good idea if this curriculum works well in that sort of situation. I can't imagine why it wouldn't, but you never know.

We planned to complete the first unit (seven lessons) during the course of our mini-unit. I figured this would give us a good taste of the product, without spoiling it for next August, when we'd actually start using it if it worked out well for us.

Here is what arrived in our kit:

The Latin Alive! Book 1 Bundle, which includes Teacher's Manual, Student Manual, complete DVD set and audio cd, is available for $139.95. You can also purchase the components separately, though you really need all of them for the learning to be complete.

The dvds include over 18 hours of Karen Moore (one of the authors) teaching the lessons in the book. She will tell you the background of each lesson (it's mostly printed in the book, too) and go over examples of some of the work you will have to do. The bundle also includes an audio cd, the student workbook, and the answer keys.  

The first thing we did was to familiarize ourselves with the materials by thoroughly persusing them, and by watching the introductory video. By the time we started our first lesson, we were both pretty excited. Only one thing came up during the introductory lesson that confused us, and that is that the instructor mentioned that you could choose whether you wanted to pronounce "V" with the "v" sound (as in van) or with the "w" sound (as in walk). She indicated that Classical Latin is what she teaches, and it uses the "w" sound (so "victoria" is said "wiktoria"...weird), but that it is also said the other way, so we could choose.


Of course, I wanted to understand what she meant...I mean, who gets to just choose how they say something in another language? So I researched it and what I found is that there is a debate on whether Classical Latin (most often encountered in university and high school settings) or Ecclesiastical Latin (used in the Catholic Church, to read poetry in Latin, etc...said to be more pleasing to the ear) is THE correct form of Latin. Well, I read about both views and I see both points, so since Ms. Moore is teaching Classical Latin, we chose to go with her pronunciation. That is until we had to start saying, "wiktoria" instead of "victoria" and I felt like I was impersonating a Russian, so we are doing everything the way she says EXCEPT for the "w/v" shift. After all, she said we could choose what we prefered, so we did.

That said, we started working through several lessons and here is what Tex and I learned:
  • You cannot do Latin in a room full of active (and likely, noisy) children. You must make other arrangements for the littles while you are studying Latin (seatwork they won't jump up from every two minutes, a movie, computer learning, a babysitter?)
  • Latin is NOT a class I can expect Tex to learn on his own. It is too complex. I already have experience learning both French and Spanish and so I am used to conjugating verb forms, plus I am an English major, so I understand terminology like infinitive and dipthong. Yet, I still find it a challenge to deconstruct this language that is so close to our own; simpler, yet still confusing at times.
  • Latin is best learned if you consistently and persistently work on it on a daily basis. You will retain more, and learn more by practicing regularly.
  • In my opinion, it is best learned with a partner...someone you can practice with, check homework with, and give oral pop quizzes to. It's more fun, also, if you can use Latin as your "secret" language with a friend. There is more motivation to learn.
  • Also, in my opinion, Latin (and any other language) is best learned NOT in a vacuum. By this I mean that both of us were much more highly motivated to complete the lessons with excitement when we integrated other materials into the core Latin lessons that revealed to us more about the culture of Rome and the history of Latin. The Latin Alive! Book 1 lends itself to this purpose as it incorporates history readings, Latin sayings we encounter in our daily lives, and other tidbits of interesting Latin usage information to keep the student interested in the topic. I like that.

Tex is doing his practice lessons after watching the video...Ms. Moore explains the meaning of ANNUIT COEPTIS ("He has favored our undertakings") on the Great Seal of the United States (shown here on a one dollar bill).

Here's What We Thought About the Specific Product:
  • Both Tex and I like the teacher. She is easy to understand and pleasant to listen to. There were a few times when she did not explain as thoroughly as I needed, but the magic of dvd allows you to go back and play that part again, and again, and again until you get it.
  • Both of us like the printed materials. The student workbook is easy to use. The Teacher's Manual is basically the student workbook (so you can follow along) with the addition of the answers and some extra information to share with the students.
  • The class sessions on the dvds are thorough and help you visualize what she is telling you (she writes on a marker board).
  • The audio cd is a nice bonus and another way for auditory learners to practice what they are taught...especially useful when it comes to mastering the pronunciation.
  • Each lesson has these consistent sections: Vocabulary, Grammar, Practice Exercises, Chapter Reading, Culture Corner, Derivative Detective, and Let's Talk.
  • I think by the end of Unit One you will feel pretty comfortable with your studies. We do. Just remember, you can take as long as you want to complete each unit. Whatever works best for you and your student.
  • There are some great bonus FREEBIES on the Classical Academic Press site to help you study, and a few extra purchases I think I want to make for next year, like the Latin Crossword Puzzles and the Latin Word Quest poster. There are also Latin term coloring pages that I can print for the littles to color, if they need something to do while we are learning our lessons, and they seem to want to join in.
  •  As we reviewed the product, we wished there was an electronic drill program offered on our computer to supplement it. Guess what? There is! Check out Headventure Land for Classical Academic Flashcard Drills for ALL of their award winning programs. We did the drills for the first six lessons and while they are simplistic, they do help you learn the words. Just one more way to get the knowledge in your brain...awesome!

Here are a few of the things we did to supplement our Latin studies and pique our interest during our mini-unit Latin trial:

I had Tex read the first five chapters in Famous Men of Rome and complete the questions in the workbook. The Latin Alive! Book 1 Unit One concludes with infomation on Romulus and Remus. A more detailed version of the story is in FMOR and Tex loves reading that sort of thing.

We also found several videos about Rome on instant download from Netflix. There were even more if you wanted to plan ahead and have them mailed to you. Our two favorite instant movies were Colosseum: A Gladiator's Story (really good) and Pompeii: The Last Day (Tex said it was a bit creepy, though). The Lost Ships of Rome was interesting about excavations on five ships, but they didn't tell you what they discovered about the amphoras once they got them back to the labs! We were thrilled that all of this tied in so well to the Roman Town game we reviewed earlier in the year. Isn't it nice when a unit just sort of falls together?

Here are a few more resources I own that we did not take the time to use, but plan to use next year. You can see how easily you could make a RICH unit study with the Latin study as the core, adding the rest around it (history, art, culture, archaeology, mythology, literature, architechture, science, etc.), without a whole lot of effort. One trip to the library would gain me more picture books than we could read in a year, and just a bit of creative thinking and we can come up with field trips, costumes to make, meals to eat...Oh, and a trip to Busch Gardens The Old Country to ride the Roman Rapids and Escape from Pompeii is a must! How come my High School language classes were never this much fun?

Don't forget to download a free copy of the Kindle version of Beric the Briton: A Story of the Roman Invasion by GA Henty. How's that for a read-aloud wrap up?


I hope I have given you a few ideas and some encouragement about consdering using Latin in your curriculm, even if you are not a follower of the Classical Method of homeschooling. Of course, you do not have to teach Latin only when you are doing World History. Because it is so tied to our English language, which we use everyday, and because many high schoolers will one day take the SATs and Latin studies are a great help with the Vocabulary section of those standardized tests, there is a use for Latin in almost any curriculum.

This Latin program is a good, solid choice.
 Check out their site and give it a try!

**Do you have a question I didn't answer or need more support? Not only does the author invite you to email her personally with any questions you might not find answers for in the textand/or dvds, but there is also a Yahoo! Group you can join HERE.

**You can stay up-to-date by following the Latin Alive! blog, which is maintained by the book's authors.

**Still not sure if you should teach Latin? Check out this essay on the benefits of Latin language study by the author of Latin Alive!

**Have you made the decision to teach Latin, but not sure how to go about it? Here's another essay by Karen Moore that tells you how to go about getting started on your road to Latin proficiency. This essay is intended for users of the Latin for Children program, but applies to the program we reviewed, as well.

**To see what others on the Crew had to say about various Classical Academic Latin resources, click HERE.

**Here are a few more links for you to check out before deciding if this is the best Latin program for you:

Tex enjoying his Latin studies. He can't wait until next year to really dive in!



I received the Latin Alive! Book 1 bundle in return for trying it out in my homeschool classroom and then sharing our experiences here on this blog. I have tried to remain objective, but what you read here will naturally reflect my opinions on the product. I cannot guarantee or predict if your experiences will be the same as mine. I hope you found something useful in this review, and if there is anything you were wondering about that I did not answer, please feel free to contact me.

National Library Week Bookmark Entries

Over the last month the kids worked on designing, drawing a rough draft, and finalizing their entries for the annual library bookmark contest in celebration of National Library Week April 10th-16th. Last year, Ladybug received first prize for her age division and Tex received second for his. You can read about how proud of a mom I was, and see their winning entries, at my post HERE

I have heard that there were more entries this year than last (last year there were about five hundred), so maybe their chances of placing will not be as good, but win or not, I think they all did a great job and produced something of which they can really be proud.

The kids turning their bookmarks in to the very sweet librarian.

They also learned several things:
First, we did brainstorming. We talked about what the theme of National Library Week is this year: Create Your Own Story @ the Library. We thought about what sort of things they like to do at the library that make it special to them, and then decided on something that would be the focal point of each bookmark. I folded printer paper in thirds for each child, so they had up to six spaces to do rough sketches and play with ideas in. My mom came over that day to help supervise and we had a grand time sketching and laughing and coming up with many fun and creative ideas.

After that, they looked at their ideas
and chose their favorite. Then I printed up a practice copy of the entry form using regular copier paper, and each child did a rough draft. (This was not all done on the same day.) I went around the table and discussed with each child what parts of their drawings could be improved, such as the very simple, "Do you need to add more color?" to the more complex, "Maybe you could work a bit on showing perspective." I did not do the drawings for the kids, I just pointed out areas they could add something to, if they liked. Sometimes they did want to, and other times they were happy with what they had.

A few days before the bookmarks were due,
I printed up a final copy of the entry form for each student on card stock, and they all sat down at the table for an art marathon. I was so impressed with the hard work each child offered that day, and at their attention to detail, and their determination to do their best. I am very satisfied with the many lessons they learned during this project.

Win or lose, they have gained valuable knowledge of how to plan a project, how to execute it, how to always try to do our best work, and how to double-check our work before turning it in. It was definitely time well spent.

Firefly and her entry...She drew a picture of herself all excited
because it is Storytime at the library. Hooray!
Ladybug and her entry...She drew herself playing with her favorite toy
at the library...the castle and princess doll...
and she is telling what kinds of books she likes to read.

Cowboy and his entry...He drew himself building a tower out of blocks
and saying, "I love my library!" He does.

Tex and his entry...he drew a scene with three individuals doing different
things in the is writing a story, another is on the computer,
and a last one is reading. They are all imagining their own stories.

Hey kids, I am proud of you!!

Win or not, you are all winners in my book, and when the contest is over, I will take you all out to eat at Pizza Hut (using our Book-it coupons!) to celebrate a job well done. Hooray for you!!



Monday, March 28, 2011

The Christian Mother Series

A Wise Women Builds Her Home

I happened across this blog over the weekend and wanted to share this link with you. It is a link to a blog series about mothering. I plan to read more of it this week. Let me know if you have read it before, or if you read it along with me, and share your thoughts.



Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sermon Sunday---Modesty

My two oldest children are boys. One is nineteen, the other is thirteen. It concerns me that young ladies today often display no sense of modesty, or at least, not much sense. Many of them would say that they have a good sense of fashion, but you know where the "fashionable" get their sense from...from the world. The Bible says to live in the world, but not to be of it. That definitely applies to how we dress each day. When I was growing up, I was taught that you NEVER wore workout clothes outside the home. Those were for the gym, or for your basement workout station. A few years ago, the most fashionable outfits were rhinestone-studded sweat suits made out of velour. Okay, maybe that was more than a few years ago...But seriously, the first time I ever wore sweats outside of my home (and probably the last), other than during Cross Country team practices and races, was when I had out-patient surgery on both of my feet, and the bandaging prevented me from putting on my jeans to go home.

These days, I see girls and guys schlumping (my favorite word lately) around WalMart wearing their favorite...pajamas. And their slippers, too. Are you kidding me? Wearing our pajamas out of our houses to go shopping? The sad thing is that the kids (and adults!) wearing pajamas to the store might possibly be the more conservatively dressed folks there.

If you turn to your left you might see a young man with his pants dragging the floor, hanging down, showing off his designer you-know-whats (I seriously thought THAT fashion statement would be gone by now...I remember sending kids to the principal's office to get a belt when I was teaching the eighth-grade about fifteen years ago) and if you look to the right you will see a young lady wearing a very low cut short top that fails to pass the belly-button test (if you lift up your arms, can we see your belly-button?) paired with a pair of the recently (and sadly) re-emerging "skinny" jeans. Yikes!

If you are lucky (or rather, unlucky), one or both of them will be displaying a rude or catty phrase blazing across whatever they are wearing that passes for a shirt. Possibly complete with vulgar language or symbols. Definitely nothing you want your emerging readers to ask you about..."Mommy, what does #!@*! spell?" To top off the display, you will likely see a sneer or a leer on their faces, instead of an open-faced, welcoming smile. So sad. I guess it's hard to smile when you have so much poor attitude to convey to the world. What would the world be like if we all dressed with a mind towards respecting ourselves and OTHERS? Better, I am sure.

I was over at A Wise Woman Builds Her Home today, checking out her Wise Woman Link Up!, and I followed a link-er (okay, if there is a term for this, I don't know it, but you know what I mean) to an excellent post about modesty on her blog, Somewhere in the Middle. I was impressed by the notes MissyLou gleaned from listening to a sermon by C.J. Mahaney of Sovereign Grace Ministries on modesty (I love to listen to online sermons, too...and to find someone else who actually takes notes from them means that I am not alone in doing this!).

Here is a teaser sample of her notes, but I'd love if you'd head to her blog and check out the rest of them:

                •Any biblical discussion of modesty begins by addressing 
                      the heart, not the hemline. We must start with the attitude 
                      of the modest woman.   
               •Modesty means propriety. It means avoiding clothes and 
                      adornment that are extravagant or sexually enticing. 
                     Modesty is humility expressed in dress. It’s a desire to 
                     serve others, particularly men, by not promoting or 
                    provoking sensuality. 

                •Immodesty, then, is much more than wearing a short skirt 

                 or low-cut top it’s the act of drawing undue attention to 
                 yourself. It’s pride, on display, by what you wear.

You can listen to the sermon by CJ Mahaney from which MissyLou took these notes HERE. It is called The Soul of Modesty. To read a series of blog posts by CJ Mahaney about modesty, you can go HERE. Make sure you print up a copy of the questions from the blog to go with the series and have your daughters (and yourself) do some deep thinking about the subject, then settle in for a deep, but amicable, discussion about modesty and what are your family's opinions about the topic, and why.

You can also go HERE to print up a copy of an excellent modesty checklist from Mrs. Mahaney and others that you and your daughters can use to evaluate wardrobe choices.

Most of what is in this modesty checklist is what I was taught, as a young lady, equated with good taste. Sadly, these days you hear folks crying "Oppression, sexism, radical right crazy homeschooling ultra-religious conservatives!" if you think that your daughter's skirts ought to fall below her knees and that she ought to sit like a lady with her knees together and her ankles crossed. I may be a homeschooler, I may be conservative, and I may be a Christian, but personally, I see these rules as simply good manners that used to be taught in almost every home. Yes, they are a reflection of my Christian ideals perhaps. No, you don't have to be a Christian to respect yourself and others enough to follow them.

I personally do not believe that you HAVE to wear denim skirts or dresses to attend a homeschool convention *smile* (though I do like them), nor do I think that every top I wear must be a crew neck or buttoned all the way up to my ears. But come on ladies, there is good taste and there is...not so good taste. Wearing something that is particularly tempting to the general population of men, and is revealing parts of our forms that should be saved for viewing by only our husbands, is not good taste. Being rude is also not in good taste, and let me tell you, your shirt does not have to have an overtly rude saying on it to be really rude.

Seriously, read the modesty checklist and you will see that it is made up of all the "nice girl" things your grandma used to if your top gapes open when you lean forward, use a pin to hold it closed, and if your skirt is see-through when light is behind it, wear a slip. These motherly bits of advice were good in my grandma's day, and they are still good in ours. I want MY daughters to be "nice girls" who live for Christ and outwardly express their pleasant attidudes and respectful spirits in the way they dress and through their contented countenances. I do want them to be intelligent and spirited, too, but you don't have to look cheap (or dress like a man or be angry) to be able to speak your mind (in the nicest way possible).

Oh, for the old-fashioned days when most mothers taught these rules to their daughters...because I have four sons, and I hate what they have to see when we go to public places. I teach them to avert their eyes, and we pray for their future wives to be brought up in modest homes. What else can I do besides teach them to treat women with respect in spite of their sometimes poor choices ("Perhaps she can't afford something else?" has been said by one of my young ones), and to teach my girls to respect their Lord, themselves, their brothers, and others by dressing modestly.

Thank you, Mom, for raising me with modesty.

Added later: I found this post on modesty at Large Families on Purpose with some excellent links to modesty posts and resources. I plan to explore them later myself, and just in case anyone happens by, I wanted to share them with you. 



Friday, March 25, 2011

Build Bigger Brains with Big IQ Kids!

I love writing reviews when I really like a product. It makes it so much easier, because I have plenty of nice things to say, and I really do prefer being nice. Just so you know, I did like almost everything about this product. It has a lot going for it, and overall, I think it would be a worthwhile addition to almost any homeschooled, or even public schooled, student's day.

Big IQ Kids is an online program for spelling, math, vocabulary, and geography. Much of the site's content is FREE! (and you know how much I love FREE! things) fact, you can go straight over to the Big IQ Kids site right now, and check out the accuracy of my claims about this product, then you can decide for yourself if it is worth it to you to invest in the Upgraded (adds a customizable avatar and full game is a good deal at $9.95/year) or Premium sites' features. You can compare the FREE vs. the paid sites' features HERE.

I mostly used the Spelling program several times a week with the Three Amigos during our trial period, and Tex used the Vocabulary and Geography programs on a twice-weekly basis. We had other options for the math that worked better for us, so we only tried it out a few times.

Here's a little information about what Big IQ Kids has to offer:
  • It quizzes children in four areas: spelling, vocabulary, math, and geography.
  • The program offers varying levels, starting with Kindergarten and going up through Eighth grade.
  • The program is interactive, using avatars as teachers.
  • Your student also gets an avatar (this is customizable with the upgraded and premium versions).
  • The program is systematic, progressive, and customizable.
  • The program not only drills on information, it quizzes on the information.
  • The spelling and vocabulary programs have pre-loaded lists which you can use and/or add to.
  • The program gives a reward for every lesson completed by adding a coin to your student's treasure chest. This coin can be spent on a game off of the games page (you can customize whether the coins can be spent on weekends only with the premium version, and only the premium version allows access to all of the games) or on customizing their avatar (with a premium or upgraded membership)
  • The premium version sends progress reports via email to the parent/teacher.
  • To see more about what the site offers, click HERE.
  • For a list of some of their FREE programs, click HERE.

Here's what we liked about Big IQ Kids:

  • My Three Amigos especially enjoyed the spelling program. Ladybug and Cowboy worked doggedly at completing their lessons with an excitement I could never drum up, no matter what activities I might plan.
  • Tex enjoyed the geography program. One of his goals for the year has been to learn the states' locations and their capitals. This program has helped him meet his goal. He also liked the vocabulary program. 
  • I liked how the word lists were customizable for the spelling. Some were shorter than others, so I added to them. Having words grouped in Word Families is a method that really works for us.
  • The navigation of the site was simple enough that once I logged in, the Three Amigos could easily do everything themselves. Actually, Ladybug could probably have logged in, too, but I usually go through all of our online learning and do the log ins myself.
  • The set up of the spelling program really kept their interest. It was logical, and progressive. I liked it.
  • The program is thorough. With the spelling program, they offer synonyms, antonyms, and definitions. You do practice with help, practice without help, a spelling bee, a quiz, writing the words in your own book, and a test. It really is good.
  • The Three Amigos liked the geography videos that are available with the premium membership.
  • The program limits access to higher levels until the lower levels are mastered.
  • The words offered by the vocabulary program were challenging, but not too difficult. Tex liked it.
  • All of the kids enjoyed the games. There are three pages of choices with the premium membership.

Here are a few things we didn't like as much:

  • The teaching avatars' computerized voices are kind of off-putting at first, but you do get used to them.
  • There are ads on the site, even with the premium membership. I thought they ought to get rid of those if you invest in the premium membership. My kids know not to click on the ads, but I'd rather they weren't there.
  • The math is a bit hard for your lowest level math students who maybe aren't reading proficiently yet, but it is fully customizable, so you can set it to only ask certain types of problems using certain numbers and answer parameters. That's great.
  • The vocabulary program starts at 3rd grade level, though it wasn't too hard for my Three Amigos to figure out with help. However, to do it alone requires more proficiency with reading than they have at this point. The spelling was so great, we didn't mind that the vocabulary did not work for them.
  • A few of the games available on the games page were not ones I liked. Example: One game involved getting to choose the makeup to put on the face of an animated girl. Not liking that game is just a personal opinion of mine. You might not mind it. I just told my daughter to avoid the ones I did not prefer. There are three pages of choices with the premium membership, after all.
  • I did NOT like the free book AT ALL, so my recommendation is to skip looking at it, and don't even think about doing the reading program they are beginning to offer. I hate to be harsh, but this is truly the only thing I was disappointed in. Read it yourself, if you must, but while the format is a great idea, and they offer embedded, clickable vocabulary words, as well as a game after you are done reading, the main character is rude and sneaky, and the entire tone of the book is not something I want my kids to be exposed to. 

I will let seven year-old Ladybug tell you 
about the Spelling program in her own words 
(really, she says it all!): 

"I think Big IQ Kids Spelling is fun because there is a guy who shows me the words first with the words on the screen so I can learn them. After that there is a spelling game, like Word Scramble, Spelling Bee, or Robot Practice. I like them all because they are fun. 

"Next I get to write in my spelling notebook. This helps me read the words and practice spelling them. Last, there is a test and if I get all my words right, I get to be in the 100% club. I want to give everyone a hug when I get into the 100% club because I am proud of myself! 

"My favorite part is that I can earn coins by doing my lessons and then I get to play games. My favorite game is the bunny game because you get to catch the bunnies to save them from the farmer. 

"Big IQ Kids makes me feel happy, cheerful, and smart. I love it!

A final word from the folks at Big IQ Kids: 

"Our goal is to create an appreciation for hard work and study habits. Structure and learning go hand in hand. Over the years, our members who dedicate 20-40 minutes everyday enjoy the greatest results. These students are more prepared for their tests and classroom activities and are confident in their ability to excel because our programs encourage young learners to take ownership of their preparation and reward the student for a job well done." I like that.

  • If you would like to try out the FREE! stuff at Big IQ Kids, click HERE to find out how to do it.
  • If you would like to check out pricing on a Premium Membership to the site, click HERE.
  • If you would like to see what others on the Crew have to say about this product, click HERE.



I received a membership to the Premium Big IQ Kids site for the purposes of testing and reviewing this product here on my blog. The opinions you see here reflect our individual experiences. If you have any questions I did not answer here, please feel free to contact me.

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