The Gift that Made Alzheimer’s Easier

This Post Contains Affiliate LinksAlzheimer’s is a terrible disease. My grandma was in a very bad car accident back in 1999 and has had memory problems ever since. When you already have a bad memory it is hard to figure out when exactly Alzheimer’s starts. I would say she had the beginning stages about ten to twelve years ago. About six years ago her disease progressed and while she lived alone, we checked on her a lot. Often we would be at her house three or four times a week because she couldn’t turn the TV on or she lost her purse. About three years ago it became apparent that she needed someone with her at all times. She is now at the point where she doesn’t know any of us. Part of the time she doesn’t know her own name and she thinks she is between 5 and 18 years old.

She requires constant care. We cook for her, clean for her, do her laundry, shop, pay bills, change her diapers, and really do just about everything for her. The hard part is that sometimes she doesn’t realize that she needs help. She thinks she can do things by herself, but forgets what she is doing before she is done.

After figuring out the correct medications for her, her temper has gotten better for he most part. She still hits, kicks, and bites if she doesn’t get her way, but it is more controlled. In a way it is like dealing with a toddler who is a lot bigger. She constantly wants her mother and daddy and feels alone. Her puppy has made a big difference. She holds the puppy, loves on her, and talks to her. Even though the puppy had helped her mood, we needed something else to help keep her occupied. We tried to get her interested in puzzles and books, but she didn’t want anything to do with them. We also tried to have her keep her hands busy by folding washcloths. She didn’t like that either. Finally we found something that worked.

How a Doll Made Dealing With Alzheimer's Easier

We got her a doll.

She loved the baby doll. She holds it and kisses it. When it is cold she makes sure it has a blanket. The doll gave her something to do. She wasn’t constantly thinking about her parents and worrying, because she had a doll. That one doll has turned into four over the last two years. She also has a teddy bear and a stuffed lamb. We find her playing with them in her room. Sometimes she will make the bed and organize them all neatly. Other times she will take them all to bed with her.

The funny thing is that she knows they are hers. She asks for her little girl and the brother. It is amazing that something as simple as a doll could bring so much joy to an 87 year old woman. Grandma doesn’t remember much so our goal is to keep her as happy and healthy as possible. That $10 doll has made a big difference and I wish that we would have tried it sooner.

If you have a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s a doll might help. Do you have any tips?

High School Essay Intensive ~ Review

AJ has a love hate relationship with writing. She loves making up stories and telling them, but hates writing them down. About two years ago we were blessed to be able to try out a writing program from the Institute for Excellence in Writing. IEW changed how AJ viewed writing and changed how I viewed teaching it. Her writing has improved so much over the last few years, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. We were recently given the chance to review the revised version of the High School Essay Intensive   , and I knew it was something that AJ needed.

Institute for Excellence in Writing

What is the High School Essay Intensive?

Institute for Excellence in Writing High School Essay Intensive
The High School Essay Intensive is a course that is available streaming and on DVD that walks the student through the process of writing an essay. The course is taught by Andrew Pudewa. Mr. Pudewa has a way of teaching that keeps your interest and makes you want to watch him. While watching the course you feel as if you are in one of his live classes. There are students in the film and the majority of his time is spent at the front of the room writing on a whiteboard.

The course is broken into four sections.

Part 1: General Strategies for Essay Writing – This section takes up two DVDs. Mr. Pudewa goes through everything you need to know about writing an essay. He covers; different types of essays, how to organize an essay and what each paragraph should contain, how to determine the structure of an essay, how to determine what to write, ideas to improve the style of your writing, and so much more. He doesn’t just tell you to write an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Instead, he breaks each part down and explains what to write and how to write it. Even if you have a basic idea about how to write an essay, you will learn numerous ways to improve your writing skills.

Part 2: Understanding and Preparing for the New ACT Essay – This section has a DVD devoted to it. Mr. Pudewa explains the requirements for the New ACT. He goes into the time limit, grading scale, and gives tips for what the evaluators are looking for. He also provides writing strategies that will help you on the day you take the test.

Part 3: Understanding and Preparing for the Redesigned SAT Essay – This section also has a DVD devoted to it. This section is set up very similarly to part 2. Mr. Pudewa goes over the new requirements for the SAT while giving tips and tricks to help you write the best essay possible.

Part 4: Strategies for the “Personal Essay” – This section is on the final DVD. Writing about yourself is often a difficult task. In this section Mr. Pudewa gives examples of essay prompts from a few different colleges. He gives strategies for what to write and how to organize your personal Essay.

Along with the DVDs you also receive a 25 page student handout and the Portable Walls for the Essayist. The student handout includes an initial exercise and a final essay practice. It also has plenty of room for the student to take notes while watching the DVDs. Once your student fills in their student handout, they will have a great reference to look back on when they write an essay in the future. The Portable Walls for the Essayist is a very valuable tool. I think any student who is learning about essay writing would benefit from it. It is a foldable resource that contains all kinds of tips and tricks to help you write an essay. It is available to purchase separately, and I would highly recommend it.

What We Thought of the High School Essay Intensive

When AJ heard we were trying out a writing program she wasn’t too excited, until she found out it was from  the Institute for Excellence in Writing. She understands the way Mr. Pudewa teaches and enjoys watching his DVDs. Since AJ hasn’t written an essay before this course was a little intimidating to her at first. But once she started to understand that an essay isn’t that hard to write, she was more comfortable. Each day I had her watch the DVD and take notes for a while. We finished part 1 and since she has a few years before we have to think about the SAT or ACT we are going to hold off on the other parts of the course for now.

Mr. Pudewa took something that AJ didn’t think she could do, write an essay, and made it something obtainable. By explaining each step he made the task of writing easier. Writing still isn’t her favorite subject, but her skills are continuing to improve.

We only had one complaint about this course. At times the camera would zoom out while Mr. Pudewa was writing something on the whiteboard. AJ found that a little distracting. It didn’t happen too often, but I felt it was worth mentioning. Other than that, the DVDs are very high quality.

If you have a student who is planning on taking the ACT or SAT, or one who needs to improve their essay writing, then the High School Essay Intensive from the Institute for Excellence in Writing may be exactly what you are looking for.

Find out what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought by clicking on the graphic below.

High School Essay Intensive {Institute for Excellence in Writing Reviews}
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Using Khan Academy for High School Math

We have had the opportunity to review quite a few math programs over the years. AJ loves math, but she hates to have to do pages of problems once she understands a concept. I don’t blame her. If she understands a concept, I would rather move on to something new. That lets us spend time on the things she may take a little longer to grasp and speed through the concepts she picks up easily.

We started out using CTC Math for Algebra 1. It worked well in the beginning. AJ liked the video lessons and the worksheets didn’t take her too long to do. As the year progressed and she was coming up on problems that took longer to do, those worksheets started taking way too long. AJ was frustrated and so was I. I couldn’t afford to purchase a new math program, so I decided to go back to a program we had used in the past, Khan Academy.

There were some changes from when AJ used it as a supplement a few years ago, but everything we liked about it was the same.

What We Like About Khan Academy

  • Short lessons. – AJ can watch a video lesson on a topic and then work a few problems. Depending on the type of problem, she has to get 3 to 5 questions correct in a row. So if she understands the concept she can prove it and be on her way. If she is having some trouble the program makes her practice longer. It even has her do similar problems to the ones she missed just changing little things to ensure she really knows the concept.Khan Academy - A great option for high school math!
  • Mastery Challenges. – Once you get the 3 to 5 problems correct in a row your status in a concept changes from not practiced to practiced. In order to master the concept you complete mastery challenges. The levels are: not practiced, practiced, level 1, level 2, and mastered. The mastery challenge can be on anything you have already learned, and if you miss the question then you go down a level. When you get a question correct you go up one or more levels. I like that old concepts are thrown in, this makes sure she really learned a concept, and that she didn’t just temporarily understand it. There have been a few times that she has had to remaster a concept because she forgot how to solve a problem.
  • Step by step hints.- When working on a new concept, you are forced to enter the correct answer. If you get the problem wrong you can not go to the next one until the correct answer is entered. If you need help you are given step by step hints to help you solve the problem. This is great because often you don’t know where you messed up on a problem, this lets you know so that you can fix it.Khan Academy - A great option for high school math!
  • Flexibility.- As her learning coach I can assign lessons for AJ to complete. She can also work on any topic in a specific mission. Or she can stick with one concept like functions until she masters it. This is great because if she is having trouble with functions she can leave it and work on something else for a few days and then come back.Khan Academy - A great option for high school math!
  • Badges and Patches. – You earn points for each activity you complete. Badges can be earned for having so many points, answering so many questions correctly, working so many days in a row, and other things. Challenge patches are earned every time you master a section of concepts, like third grade multiplication. Earning the badges and patches motivates AJ. She will some times say she needs to practice another concept so that she can earn a badge for the week.

How We Are Using Khan Academy for High School

My goal is for AJ to master concepts. Khan Academy is perfect for mastery! Our goal for Algebra was to have AJ complete both the Algebra Basics and the Algebra 1 missions in Khan Academy. I had her sign into her account each day and start by taking four mastery challenges (usually 6 questions each) and then practicing two concepts. I had her do so much because a lot was review. After about a week there were not as many mastery challenges available each day. At that point she would do the one or two available mastery challenges and then work on two or three new concepts. It took her about two months to master Algebra Basics.

When she got to Algebra 1 and the concepts became harder I decided to change things up. She still did any mastery challenges, but then she would work on new concepts for a half an hour. Some days she was able to speed through them and other days she would only get through one new concept. I make her watch the videos and take notes on any new concept that she isn’t able to figure out by herself. She has improved on her note taking and has a good set of notes for future math.

About a month ago I decided to have AJ go back and work on math from previous years. I had her work one day a week on lower level math to master it. There are a few areas that she struggles with, mainly word problems. Having her go back and master Early Math, Arithmetic, an pre algebra helped me to make sure that she didn’t have any gaps in her learning. Since then she decided that she wanted to get 100% mastery in kindergarten through 8th grade math. I figure the more she completes the better.

Khan Academy - A great option for high school math!

Right now she has completed 92% of Algebra 1. The only section she has left to complete is quadratic equations and functions. I am sure in the next few weeks she will be finished with Algebra 1. Once she masters all of the concepts I will be giving her an A. I feel that by mastering all of the concepts she will show that she really understands algebra. Since there is a lot of review with the mastery challenges, I know that she has seen a variety of  problems and has had plenty of review. I am also sent a weekly report with what she has worked on so I have proof that she has done the work even though there isn’t any worksheets or book work.

I feel Khan Academy is a great option for high school math. What are you using for math?

ArtAchieve ~ Review

 

Over the last few weeks AJ has been trying out an easy to use art program called, ArtAchieve. There are five different levels in the program. Based on AJ’s drawing abilities I decided to have her try out the Entire Level II. She might have been able to use a higher level, but since she was new to the program I felt level two would be a good place for her to start.

ArtAchieve - An easy to use online art program.

What is ArtAchieve?

ArtAchieve
ArtAchieve is an online subscription based art program. When you log into the program you see a list of all of the art lessons that you have available. The lessons range in price from $4 to $6 each, or they can be purchased as a bundle. Level two has 14 different projects based on art from around the world. From a Swedish Dala Horse, to a Ukrainian Cat, to a mermaid from Denmark, there are a lot of different things to learn about.

Once you decide on the lesson your student wants to do, you print off a warm up worksheet, and begin the lesson. You have the option of watching a video of the lesson or watching a power point presentation. Both give basically the same information, it just depends on your preference. AJ liked the power point better because she was able to stay on a page as long as she needed. She could pause the video when needed, but felt that the power point was easier for her.

Each lesson begins with a list of standards that are being addressed in the lesson. Then the student is shown a real life picture of what they will be drawing. They are then given information about the item. AJ learned that Korean wedding ducks were given to couples at their wedding and that the ducks had either blue or red on them. Blue for the grooms and red for the brides. We learned a lot of interesting facts.

The next step of the lesson is Preparing to Draw. In this section the student is given a list of supplies and is told the goals of the lesson. They are told to do a relaxation technique to get them ready to draw and then they do the warm up worksheet. The warm up is a sheet of paper that has parts of the drawings in boxes. The student traces the lines to become more familiar with the types of lines they will use in their own drawing. The student is given a list of rules for drawing and then they can begin.

Learn to draw with ArtAchieve

In the lesson, the student is taken step by step through the drawing. They start off by planning the picture, and add a little to it at a time. Once the basic drawing is complete the student is shown options for customizing the project. They finish the project using either paint or markers depending on the project. Again they are shown different ideas but are encouraged to come up with their own ideas. At the end of the lesson there are questions for the student to think about relating to their art work.

Projects from ArtAchieve Level II

Your student will learn some history and art, but there is also the option to take the lessons further. Each lesson has a section with Cross-Curricular Connections where there are ideas to further your child’s learning. You will find book ideas, writing activities, geography activities, and more depending on the project.

What We Thought

AJ and I watched the first lesson together. I had her do the relaxation techniques and the warm up worksheet. We read through the rules and then she started her project. AJ thought the rules for drawing were silly, and she didn’t see the point in the warm up. I think it might be her age, but she thought those parts of the lesson were wasting her time. She wanted to get to the fun part – the drawing.

After the first lesson, I let her skip the warm up. She used the program independently. Each day that she did art, she would read through the background information and then do her drawing. She would tell me all kinds of neat things she learned. She would color or paint the picture on a different day.

Overall AJ enjoyed this program and asks if she can work on the next project almost everyday. AJ liked that the drawings were step by step. She didn’t get lost and was able to make her drawings look similar to the one that the instructor drew. This program taught her more about drawing than the projects she made. She has learned how to plan out her picture, and how to use different lines to make a beautiful picture. I have noticed that she has used these new techniques in her sketches and drawings that she has done on her own. Her only complaint was that she didn’t like a few of the pictures that she had to draw.

I liked the simplicity of the program. It was really open and go. She was able to do it all by herself, and she was really learning. I was thankful that we didn’t need any crazy supplies. Everything she needed was in our craft drawer. I also appreciate that the student is learning about culture and history while they draw.

If you are looking for a program that is easy to use, affordable, and will improve your child’s drawing skills, then ArtAchieve may be exactly what you are looking for. See what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought by clicking on the graphic below.

Art Lessons Inspired From Around the World {ArtAchieve Reviews}
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Daily Bible Jigsaw ~ Review

Over the past few weeks I have been trying out a fun game on Facebook called Daily Bible Jigsaw. It is from Planet 316, a company who feels it is important to make the Bible approachable for both young hearts and seasoned souls.

Daily Bible Jigsaw by Planet 316

What is Daily Bible Jigsaw?

Daily Bible Jigsaw is a free app that is available on Google Play, Facebook, Facebook Gameroom, and the Apple App Store. Each day a new five piece by six piece jigsaw puzzle is available and ready for you to solve.

Daily Bible Jigsaw - A fun free app

If you do the puzzle on the day it is available you are able to do it for free. Each day you solve a puzzle, you uncover another piece of a monthly picture. At the end of the month if you solve the puzzles every day, the picture will be revealed. If you miss a day and want to complete a puzzle later you are charged 3 coins. The coins are available for purchase, but you can also earn one each day if you can attach the power piece to another piece of the puzzle.

Daily Bible Jigsaw - A fun free app

When you start the puzzle the pieces are all mixed up and you have to figure out what the picture is. It would be like dumping out a regular jigsaw puzzle without knowing what the picture was going to be when it was finished.

To make the puzzle easier to solve there are five different tools that are available. Each tool that you use will cost you coins, but they can come in handy if you are trying to solve the puzzle faster than your friends.

Rotate – This is my favorite tool. It rotates all of the pieces so that they are the right way. If I have a low time on a puzzle, chances are I used this tool. It makes solving the puzzle so much easier. Without it I often have the puzzle upside down or sideways for a while before I figure out that it needs to be changed.

Daily Bible Jigsaw - A Fun Free App

Guide – This tool lets you look at a picture of the completed puzzle. I haven’t used this one very often, but it is helpful if you can’t figure out what the picture is suppose to be.

Daily Bible Jigsaw - A Fun Free App

Sweep – This tool will sweep all of the pieces that are not connected to the sides. This is nice if you want to get the pieces you need to still work on to the side so that you can work on them. It is mainly a time saver.

Daily Bible Jigsaw - A Fun Free App

Magnet – The magnet will randomly connect two pieces together. I didn’t find this tool very helpful, but it is a good option to have.

Daily Bible Jigsaw - A Fun Free App

Edges – This is a helpful tool, it hides all of the pieces that are not edges. It makes it so that you can quickly put the edges together.

Daily Bible Jigsaw - A Fun Free App

When you are finished with the puzzle a scripture verse is added to it and you have the option of sharing the picture on Facebook.

Daily Bible Jigsaw - A Fun Free App

You are also shown your friends times and where you rank among them.

Along with the daily puzzles there are also bonus puzzles that are a little more challenging that you can try. Some of them are free while others cost a few coins.

What We Thought of Daily Bible Jigsaw

I tried to play the game each day, but often found myself using coins to catch up on a few days. Overall this game was a nice addition to my day. It is quick and easy but challenging enough to make you think.  The pictures are beautiful and I have seen a variety of them over the past few weeks. There have been breathtaking landscapes, animals, and other adorable pictures. I like that it is an easy way to share scripture verses. I also enjoy being able to challenge my friends and try to beat their time. The only thing I didn’t care for was that it was not compatible on my kindle. I usually play games on my kindle instead of my computer, but that is just a personal preference.

If you are looking for a fun addition to your day, give Daily Bible Jigsaw a try. The best part is it is free!

Daily Bible Jigsaw {Planet 316 Reviews}
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Iliad & Odyssey Complete Set ~ Review

Over the past few weeks AJ and I have been reading and studying Homer’s Iliad. We received the Iliad & Odyssey Complete Set from Memoria Press it has made the process of learning about these ancient texts a lot easier. We looked forward to reading these Epics and were excited to get started.

Iliad & Odyssey Complete Set

The Iliad

Iliad & Odyssey Complete Set
We received a copy of the Iliad translated by Samuel Butler. The book is 447 pages long and is broken up into 24 books. The print size in the book is nice. AJ commented that she didn’t have to squint to read the words and that she could actually see them easily.

Along with the book we received a Student Guide and a Teacher Guide. For each book in the Iliad there are two pages in the Student Guide to complete. The first section lists important places and characters and gives more information about them. The next section has comprehension questions. These vary in difficulty. Some are simple answers that are pulled straight from the book while others require a little more thought.

The third section is Quotations. A few quotes from the book are listed. The student is expected to become familiar with these quotes and know them for tests. The final section is Discussion Questions. These questions are mostly opinion based. An example from book 15 is;

 Who is the better warrior- Ajax, son of Telamon, or Hector. There isn’t a correct answer but the questions do force the student to think about the story on a deeper level.

Since The Iliad was written so long ago, it can be a difficult read. The Student Guide tries to make it as simple as possible. In the appendix there are genealogical charts and other helpful information to help your student keep track of who is who and which side different cities are on. We found this section very valuable.

The Teacher Guide for The Iliad is different from other Memoria Press guides we have used in the past. While the Teacher Guide has all of the information contained in the Student Guide, it has so much more.

Each book begins with Background and Drill. This section gives more in depth information about important topics. There are also sections on Discussion Help, questions the students should mark for tests, Teacher Notes, and additional assignments for the student to complete. There are writing assignments for almost every book. These include memory work, summaries, compare and contrast, opinion, and more.

There are three tests included in the Teacher Guide. These tests are not easy! When your student is able to pass the tests they will have a great understanding of The Iliad.

The best part of the package was the Instructional DVDs. Sean Brooks gives a video lecture for each book in The Iliad. The lectures were not boring, in fact AJ enjoyed watching the lectures. Mr. Brooks is excellent at explaining what is going on in each book and why it is important. I felt the DVDs were what made me feel confident to teach these books. They really took the study to the next level.

The Odyssey

Iliad & Odyssey Complete Set
Our copy of The Odyssey is also translated by Samuel Butler. It is 358 pages long and broken up into 24 books. Like The Iliad, the text size is nice and the book is well made.

The Student Guide and Teacher Guides are set up very similarly to the guides for The Iliad. I appreciate that because when we get to The Odyssey AJ will already be familiar with the set up.

There looks like a lot of fun assignments to go along with The Odyssey. One that I think AJ will like is from book 7. It asks the student to choose a location for Scheria and defend it geographically. They have to describe how to get back to Ithaca from that point. I like that they are forced to think deeper.

I watched a few of the DVD lectures, and they did not disappoint. I am sure that AJ will like them as much as she likes the lectures on The Iliad.

How We Use It

At first we tried to use the program as it is designed in the Teacher Guide. The student reads a book each day and completes the work. Together both books should take around 18 weeks to complete. The study really seems to be written for more of a classroom student with classwork and homework, than for a homeschooled student. It was just too much for AJ. This book is not an easy read and requires a lot of concentration. We are not classical homeschoolers and she had never heard of the Trojan War. I think a student who is use to Memoria Press would be able to catch on a lot faster.

After a few days I decided to change things up. We are currently not using the Student Guide at all. We are reading a book out loud over a day or two depending on the length and then on the following day watching the lecture and discussing the discussion questions.

My plan is to have her read through both books and watch all of the lectures. When she is done and is more familiar with all of the characters and what is happening in the story she will read them again. At that point I will have her fill out the study guides, take quizzes, do the memory work, and dig deeper. I plan to give AJ a high school English credit when she is completely finished.

What We Thought

If you are looking for a way to teach your child these difficult texts, this is hands down the way to go. I don’t think you will find a better study. Between the Teacher Guide and the Instructional DVDs you will have everything you need right at your finger tips.

First Form Greek, Iliad/Odyssey and American History {Memoria Press Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Bessie’s Pillow ~ Review

This year AJ has been learning all about modern history. Learning about things that happened only decades ago instead of hundreds of years ago has been really interesting to her. It is amazing how far our world has come in such a short time. Most of the topics we are learning about happened after my grandma was born. Knowing someone who was actually alive when wars and other things happened really puts things into perspective.  One topic that AJ has really enjoyed learning about is the American Dream. And how that dream wasn’t easy for a lot of people.

We were recently given the chance to review the book, Bessie’s Pillow by Linda Bress Silbert. It is an amazing book from Strong Learning, Inc. that is based on a true story of a young immigrant’s journey to America. I thought that the book would be a great way for AJ to get a better understanding of the personal side of history. It is easy to learn facts, but it is nice to get a look into how people felt and handled what was going on. AJ seems to enjoy books that are based on a strong female character, so I thought that she would enjoy this book.

Bessie's Pillow 

What is Bessie’s Pillow?

Bessie’s Pillow is a 276 page soft covered historical fiction book. It is broken into 40 chapters and includes a section called Bessie’s America. This section is full of historical information about the things going on in Eastern Europe that drove hundreds of thousands of people to immigrate to America in the 19th and 20th century. It also includes information about what America was like in that time period.

The book is told in first person point of view. It starts off with 18 year old Boshka Markman waiting to leave her family and everything she knew to come to America. It was 1906 and Lithuania was no longer a safe place for her to live. At such a young age she would leave her family and make the long difficult journey to America on her own.

Just getting to America was a challenge. There are numerous health checks and inspections to make sure she was healthy enough to enter America. Once she finally reached America she was told that her name would have to be changed to make it more American. From that day on she was known as Bessie.

Bessie was a strong woman. We see her grow from a young 18 year old child to a strong wife and business woman. She faces struggles and overcomes them. She is kind, compassionate, and has a strong spirit.

Beyond the Book

Just reading the book will teach you a lot about history. But the author has taken it a step further. She has created a site, Bessie’s America that takes learning about the time period to a new level. There are picture from the time period and tons of information about daily life back in the beginning of the 1900’s.

There is also a teacher’s guide. The guide includes; discussion questions, a timeline of events, character analysis, themes, symbolism in the book and more. This book can easily be a jumping point for a full on history and language arts study.

Unfortunately, when we were reading the book there were some issues with the website and the links were not working. Now that it is working, we have enjoyed looking through and learning even more about the time period.

What We Thought

Originally the plan was to read a few chapters a day as a read aloud. After the first few days though, it seemed impossible to stop after a few chapters. The book was exciting and AJ didn’t want to stop reading. We ended up finishing the book in a few days. It was well written and really gave insight into what it was like to be an immigrant in America.

There were a few difficult to read chapters, because lets face it, Americans were not always the most welcoming to immigrants. It is sad that Bessie had to face those difficulties, but I am glad that they were included in the book. I feel it is important to share both the good and bad parts of history. That being said, you may wish to read the book yourself before handing it over to your child. I think a 5th grader could easily read the book, but I know AJ would not have been emotionally ready to read it in 5th grade. She is in 8th grade now and the book brought up a lot of great discussions, especially considering all of the talk about immigration in our political world.

Overall, if you are looking for an exciting, well written, inspiring story of a strong female character who overcomes many difficulties, Bessie’s Pillow may be exactly what you are looking for.

Find out what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought of the book by clicking on the graphic below.

Bessie's Pillow {Strong Learning, Inc. Reviews}
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Creating A Masterpiece ~ Review

Art is a subject that is often neglected in our homeschool. I would rather teach algebra or writing than art. I think it has to do with the fact that I am not artistic. I would have never passed art in school if it wasn’t for the tests and reports. AJ is very critical of her art and often gets upset when it isn’t perfect, so we often just skip it. When we were given the chance to review the Monthly Plan from Creating a Masterpiece, I thought it would be just what we needed to improve on our artistic abilities.

Creating a Masterpiece

What is Creating A Masterpiece?

Creating A Masterpiece is an online collection of step by step art lessons taught by artist Sharon Hofer. Each project has video lessons that are broken up into small sections. It is the next best thing to taking an art lesson in person. There are a variety of different mediums to explore for beginners through more advanced artists.

When you purchase a subscription to Creating a Masterpiece you will have access to all of the videos in each level. Some of the mediums covered include:

  • oil painting
  • watercolor
  • pastel
  • charcoal
  • pencil
  • ink
  • carving
  • wood burning
  • acrylic
  • silk painting
  • and more

The idea is that your child will be creating masterpieces, not just crafty projects.

How We Used Creating A Masterpiece

We decided to start at the beginner level with watercolor. Our first project was an African Sunset.

Creating A Masterpiece Projects

We were both amazed with the details that we learned. We were able to finish the project in just a few lessons. The directions were easy to follow, and I think that they turned out nicely.

The next project we completed was Floral Medley. This project was a little harder for both of us.

It had more drying time and was a little more open to interpretation. After trying the project a few times, I think they came out okay. AJ is still working on understanding how art can be abstract.

Creating A Masterpiece Projects

The final project we were able to complete was a lesson from level 1. It was a color pencil project and I expected it to be quick and easy. The Tropical Clown Fish actually took the longest to complete.

Creating A Masterpiece Projects

The directions were very easy to follow, but there were a lot of steps. The fish is suppose to look as though it was painted even though it was done in colored pencils.

Creating A Masterpiece Projects

Throughout this project, AJ thought she was doing a horrible job. But once the finished project was revealed she was quite proud of herself.

In the future we plan to try out more painting projects as well as some pastels and charcoal projects.

What We Thought

I knew that AJ and I would learn a few new techniques while using Creating A Masterpiece, but I was surprised at how much we learned. After completing a few projects AJ is a lot more confident in her abilities and excited to try out the techniques that she has learned in her own paintings.

The directions for the projects really are simple enough that a child can understand. One thing I liked was that although the lessons were simple, the instructor didn’t talk down to artists. I think artists of all ages will get something out of this program.

The video quality is great, and it is nice to be able to watch and re-watch the lessons. I was very impressed with Creating A Masterpiece and would recommend it to any artist looking to improve their skills. If AJ and I can create projects that look this nice, I an sure that those with more experience could create something spectacular.

 

Creating Beautiful Art at Home {Creating A Masterpiece Reviews}
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When You Can’t Have A Set Homeschool Schedule

Schooling when you can't have a homeschool schedule.

As everyone starts to think about the new school year, there will be plenty of beautiful posts about schedules that different families will be following. Some get up early and are able to finish school by noon. Some school from 9 to 2, and others school in the afternoon. The one thing I see among all of these schedules is a sense of consistency for the students. They know what subject will come next and they know about how long a school day will be. The idea is wonderful! But……. What can you do when you CAN’T have a set Homeschool schedule? In the past we couldn’t have a set schedule, because our days are centered around Grandma’s moods. We can’t even have a set bedtime and wake up schedule. Grandma is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s and has what they call Sundowners. Basically as the sun goes down her symptoms get worse. She often walks all night long waking everyone up by turning on lights, or trying to find a way to escape. Even on the days that we try to get to bed early she may decide that no one needs to sleep that night. I don’t function too well without sleep and I know that AJ will not have a successful day of school without sleep either. Top our sleepless nights off with the numerous appointments with kidney specialists, diabetic specialists, workers comp doctors, blood work, tests, and regular check-ups, and the thought of a schedule just goes out the window.

You never know what life is going to throw at you! AJ may spend a few days watching science and history videos, and working on simple things she can do by herself. She will still be learning, but we might not be moving forward with our curriculum plan. The truth is, school work still has to get done and if there isn’t some type of schedule we may be doing work for the same grade way too long. Some subjects may get pushed to the back burner and I end up feeling like we are behind all of the time. Last year I came up with a fairly simple solution, and it is working well for us.

Schedule your year by week numbers instead of dates.

As I was planning our school year I scheduled everything I wanted to get done, and scheduled it by week number. I tried to schedule as much as possible and include those subjects that usually get left behind when we get busy. In the past I would just drop the “fun stuff” when life got crazy, the problem with that is then school becomes dull and boring. We don’t do projects every week, but I found us skipping science experiments (that AJ loves) and putting off art. Instead of doing the fun literature studies, we would just read and answer questions. We were doing the book work but not the hands on learning, and it just wasn’t working for us. This year I have a list of things to complete each week. If we don’t get to the science experiment by the end of the week we just push it to the next week, but we finish everything on the list before we start the next week. Some days we school a lot longer than required to finish up, and other days we don’t get much accomplished. Knowing that we will get to the Egyptian Art project before we move on to our next history subject makes it easier to have a few days full of book work. Morale in our school days has gone up a lot and we are making more progress. When we finish the last week of school we are done for the year, even if that doesn’t happen until August. Numbering the weeks allows me the structure I need to make sure we cover what I think is necessary, and allows the flexibility needed for our unique situation. How do you schedule your school year?

Circle C Stepping Stones ~ Review

AJ is a very reluctant reader. If a book isn’t about animals or scientific in nature, there is a strong chance that she will complain and drag her feet when reading a book. Her reading skills have greatly improved over the last few years but her desire to read hasn’t. Thankfully, I have discovered a few different authors that she enjoys. One of AJ’s favorite authors is Susan K. Marlow. When I found out that we were going to have a chance to review two of her new books, I was thrilled. AJ is older than the recommended age for the books, but I knew she would enjoy them.

We were sent two fun filled adventures from Kregel Publications ; Andi Saddles Up and Andi Under the Big Top. These books are part of a new series called Circle C Stepping Stones. They take place between Circle C Beginnings and Circle C Adventures when Andi is nine years old. It is perfect for 7 to 10 year olds who are not quite ready for longer chapter books and for anyone who is interested in Andi’s story.

If your family hasn’t been introduced to Andi and the Circle C Ranch, you are missing a great series of books. They follow the life of Andrea Carter, a little girl growing up in California in the late 1800’s. Her family lives on a ranch and she finds herself in numerous adventures. She is a spunky girl who tries to do the right thing but learns valuable lessons about growing up, faith, and family along the way.

Andi Saddles Up

This 104 page soft covered book is broken up into 12 chapters and a History Fun section. It starts off with Andi turning nine years old. She gets a brand new saddle for her horse Taffy and wants to learn how to trick ride. Her brother tells her it isn’t safe and instead shows her a special place on the ranch. Andi ends up meeting a new friend in her special spot, but their two families are feuding over land and the girls are told they can’t be friends. Will Andi listen, or will she try to trick ride on her own? Will the girls be able to stay friends, or will the fighting adults keep them apart? You will have to read the book to find out.

Andi Saddles Up
This book is full of lessons. From friendship, to obedience, to compromise. There is also a lot of historical information to learn as well. Your child will learn a lot by reading the book, but they can take their learning a step further by using the free Study Guides that go along with the book. They have reading comprehension questions, vocabulary, poetry, math and science activities, and more. The Study Guide is paced so that your child can finish the book and activities in 28 days, but AJ finished them in a week.

Andi Under the Big Top

This soft covered book is 105 pages is also broken into 12 chapters and a History Fun section. In this book the circus is coming to town. When Andi and her family go to the circus they see all of the fun and excitement. There are acrobats and elephants, and even a bare back rider. Andi meets a young boy who works at the circus, and she thinks that Henry is lucky to be able to be at the circus every day. Andi soon finds out that his life isn’t very easy. He had ran away from home and now wanted to go back but couldn’t. Will Andi find a way to help Henry? What other adventures await? You will have to read the book and find out for your self.

Andi Under the Big Top
This book drives home the importance of helping others and of family. Using the Study Guide will give your child the opportunity to learn more about the circus. They will even have a chance to make their own stilts! They will also learn about trains and telegrams. There is a lot to discover in this Study Guide.

How We Used the Books

When the books came in the mail, AJ grabbed them and started to read. She started with Andi Saddles Up and was thrilled to learn more about Andi’s adventures. I printed off the Study Guide and had her do a weeks worth of work each day. It took her about an hour to read three chapters and do all of the Study Guide activities. If she was younger, I would have probably had her read a chapter a day, but she was easily able to handle the expedited pace. The following week she read Andi Under the Big Top and completed the Study Guide, but she didn’t make the stilts. She had a great time reading and working on the Study Guide.

What We Thought

These books were not a disappointment! They lived up to the fun adventures that we have come to expect from Susan K. Marlow. They are wholesome, exciting, and make for some good discussions. One thing that AJ likes is that while the books can be read as a stand alone, they really go well together.

I can’t believe how well put together the Study Guides are, or that they are free. (You can purchase them pre printed. Downloading them and printing them yourself is free) They are well thought out and a lot of time was put into them. AJ was writing poetry, adding up the cost of circus snacks, doing cross word puzzles of vocabulary, filling in maps, and learning about the historical time period. The activities make the book come more to life.

If you have an Andi fan, you need to check out these books. If you have a younger child who is interested in adventures, horses, or the old west, you need to check these book out. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Andi Series {Kregel Publications and Susan K. Marlow Reviews}

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