Lightning Lit & Comp (Early-Mid American Lit) ~ Review

AJ still struggles with some skills in both reading and writing. While she has grown leaps and bounds over the last few years, she is not quite on grade level. Because of that, she is a slower reader and sometimes takes longer with writing assignments. One issue we have noticed is that we often feel like we are behind in our English curriculum. A little over a year ago we were able to review a Lightning Lit set from, Hewitt Homeschooling Resources. We enjoyed it, but she was doing a combined literature, Bible, and history course at the time, so she never finished it.

This year we are studying American History, and I was looking for a good literature program to go with it. I had planed to finish the old Lightning Lit set we had, and then find something new. But then we were given the chance to review another lightning lit set! We decided to go with, American Early-Mid 19th Century, because it would fit in perfectly with our study of US History. We have been working on it for the last few weeks.

What is Lightning Lit & Comp?

The idea behind Lightning Lit & Comp is to have the student read and respond to great literature. Along the way the student will gain college level composition skills. In the younger grades the program is divided into grade levels. Once the student is in high school the program switches to different topics. There are a variety of choices from American History, British Literature, and even different genres of Shakespeare.

The sets come with a Student Guide that is designed so that the student can do the program themselves, and a teacher guide. Depending on the needs of your student, each Lightning Lit guide can be used over a semester, or an entire school year. Each guide has the student read four novels and at least four other works of literature. Those may include poetry, short stories, or other material. You will need to obtain the novels, but everything else is in the Student Guide.

American Early – Mid 19th Century

Out of the four novels that are in this guide, I had only read one before. This guide has the student read:

  • Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave Written by Himself
  • The Scarlet Letter and
  • Moby-Dick

They will also read poetry and short stories from:

  • Washington Irving
  • William Cullen Bryant
  • Edgar Allan Poe and
  • Henry Longfellow

The Student Guide

Lightning Lit & Comp (Early to Mid American History) Student Guide

The Student Guide is a 178 page soft covered book. It begins with a long introduction. The introduction talks about why the student should use the course. It then it goes on to give lessons on how to read literature, how to read poetry, and how to write well. It contains a lot of useful information. The student isn’t expected to remember all of the information. Instead it is right at their fingertips when they need it.

Finally, there is an explanation on how to use the Student Guide. The program is simple to follow, but this part makes it fool proof! The back of the book includes three appendix sections. They include optional discussion questions and project ideas, additional reading, and both the semester and year long schedule.

Lightning Lit & Comp ~ (Early to Mid American History) Schedule from Student Guide

The Student Guide is broken up into four units. They all follow the same basic outline.

Unit at a Glance

Each unit contains two lessons. They include:

Introduction – This is a short (page or two) biography about the author.

The Selection – This is the reading that the student will complete. Sometimes the student will not need to read the entire novel. In those cases the student is told what to read.

While You Read – This is a short list of things to look for or to think about while you read. It varies with each book. For The Scarlet Letter , one thing the student is asked to look for conflicts in the book and how they are solved.

Comprehension Questions – These questions are broken down by chapter, or by page number if the book is not broken up into chapters. The questions focus mainly on facts in the story, but there are some about different literary elements. Most of the questions are short answer, but there are also some multiple choice options.

Literary Lessons – These are lessons that cover one main topic that was in the reading. For example, after reading Franklin’s autobiography the lesson is on writing about yourself. Examples are taken from the reading to help show different ways to write about yourself. After reading Moby-Dick the lesson is on character development. Examples are given that show how in the book the author uses different ways to develop the character over time. These lessons are around five pages long. They are broken into sub topics and go into a lot of details.

Writing Exercises – After each reading selection there is a list of at least five different writing exercises. The student picks two of them to complete. There are a variety of options. Some include researching and writing a report, some are short stories, others have you analyze the reading. Sometimes, like after reading The Scarlet Letter, there will be an option to practice a new skill you learned while writing about a previous book. One option for the writing exercise is:

Write an analysis of at least one conflict in either Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography or Frederick Douglass’s Narrative.

Perspectives – This section is not included after every reading selection. When it is included it gives valuable information about the time period. One of the sections talked about Transcendentalism and how it effected writing at the time.

The Teacher Guide

Lightning Lit & Comp ~ Review (Early to Mid American History) Teacher Guide

The Teacher guide is simply a stack of papers stapled together and hole-punched. I like that it can easily be placed in a notebook, and that I don’t have another book to worry about.

The guide includes tips on grading. Grading writing is so subjective, that it can be difficult. This breaks everything down for you. There are even checklists for different types of papers. There are instructions for how to calculate grades for the comprehension questions and for final grades. The only thing it doesn’t explain is how to grade the vocabulary. There aren’t exactly any vocabulary assignments. The student is told to create a vocabulary notebook where they write down words they don’t understand, but grading this is not explained. Since vocabulary is only worth 10% of the grade, I plan to give AJ credit as long as she creates a decent notebook.

The Teacher guide also includes both schedule options and answers to the comprehension questions. The only suggestion I would make is that it would be more helpful to the parent/teacher if more than the letter was included for multiple choice questions. Just the letter “d” isn’t always enough. I found myself needing to look at the student guide to see what she was answering. This is just a personal preference.

The guide also includes the writing exercises and the optional project ideas.

How We Used It

AJ holding Student Book Lightning Lit & Comp (Early to Mid American History)

Since AJ is a slow reader, we decided to follow the year long schedule. The main difference between the two schedules is the pace of the reading. The schedules are broken up into weekly assignments. I like this because she can break the reading and writing up however she likes, as long as she finishes it by the end of the week.

She began by reading the introduction to the student guide. Then she went on to read the introduction about Benjamin Franklin. After that we read through the writing exercise options. I had her pick one to work on while she read the book. The schedule has her wait until after she reads the book to write, but that has her then writing two papers in a row. So we changed it up a little.

The first week she just did the  reading and answered the comprehension questions. The second week I had her read through the Literary Lesson and start working on her writing assignment.  She chose the following:

Imagine that you are writing to a pen-pal for the first time. You don’t want to tell them everything at once but you do want to give a reasonable impression of yourself. Choose what parts of yourself and your life to share. Write the letter – taking care to choose aspects of yourself that are telling and important and to describe those things well enough that your pen-pal will find the letter interesting.

As she read the book she worked on the writing a little each day. By the time she is finished with the book she will have one assignment finished and will then start on the second assignment.

We work on literature together. I downloaded the first book to our Kindle’s and we read the book together taking turns reading out loud and discussing the book. Using the Kindle was a little difficult, because the autobiography is not broken into chapters. The reading was assigned by page number, but the page numbers were different on the Kindle. We just read until all of the comprehension questions from the section were answered. But if page numbers not matching bothers you, make sure you buy the version recommended on the website.

I will say though, this first book has a lot of unusual words. It was nice to be able to highlight a word and quickly see its meaning. I think she might have been looking up a lot of words if she was reading a paperback copy.

As we read she wrote down the answers to the comprehension questions in a composition notebook. Then she would work on the writing assignment for a little while. Some days we read for an hour or so other days she only read a few minutes. I like that the weekly schedule makes it possible to be very flexible.

Out Thoughts

While Benjamin Franklin’t Autobiography isn’t our favorite book, we have both been enjoying this literature program. I like that there is the option to take a little longer to complete the course, but that she is able to use something that is challenging and will help her grow. The lessons are very detailed and interesting. There is a great variety of writing assignments. Some are easier like the one she picked for unit one, but others will require more effort.

This book is designed for 9th to 10th grade, while the other guide we used is designed for 9th through 12th grade. I did notice that this guide had some easier writing assignments, and that the comprehension questions were more straight forward. But I think it is challenging enough to be used at any level.

The guide is designed so that the student can use it independently, and I think most students would be able to do that. Even AJ would be able to use this independently. We just like to discuss the reading and spend the time together. I think it is a very solid program. We intend to use it next year for her main English curriculum.

If you are looking for a challenging, but doable English curriculum, that focuses on having the student read great literature, look no further. Lightning Lit & Comp is what you need.

Other members of the Homeschool review Crew reviewed different levels or topics of Lightning Lit. They also reviewed a few other products from Hewitt Homeschooling. Click on the graphic below to rad their reviews!

Lightning Literature, My First Reports, State History Notebook & Joy of Discovery {Hewitt Homeschooling Resources Reviews}
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The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls 3 & 4 ~ Review

About a year ago AJ and I had the chance to review the first two books in a new Christian book series called, The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls . We really enjoyed the books. They were interesting, full of excitement, and taught great values. When we were offered the chance to review books three and four from WorthyKids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group we jumped at the chance. If they were half as good as the first two, we knew we would love them!

About the Series

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls follows a brother and sister team as they go back in time. Peter, Mary, and their dog Hank are staying with their Great – Uncle Solomon for a month. While they are there they find all kinds of mysterious things in his home. Uncle Solomon is an archaeologist and tells them about the Secret of the Hidden Scrolls. When they open one they are transported back in time. In the first book they got to see the creation of the world. In book two they road along on Noah’s Ark. Books three and four will take them on other amazing adventures.

One great thing about this series is that it doesn’t have to be read in order. If you want to pick up book four you can read a short two page prologue and you will know what happened in the other books. That said, I think it would be a little more exciting to read them in order.

Book 3

The third book in the series is, The Great Escape (Book #3) . It takes place directly after book two ends. Peter and Mary find a sarcophagus in one of the rooms in Uncle Solomon’s house. The kids find a scroll with a triangle on it and soon find themselves in the very hot desert of Ancient Egypt. They visit a pyramid and float down the Nile River. They end up meeting a girl who they find out is Princess Shephara. Her father was the Pharaoh of Egypt.

Secret of the Hidd

Along the way the kids meet Aron, Moses, and the Angel Michael. Then they watch as the plagues happen in Egypt. Just as the Red Sea began to was out the Egyptian Army, the kids and Hank were back at Uncle Solomon’s house safe and sound. Throughout the book the kids faced many dangers. But they trusted in God and He kept them safe. At the end of the book the kids listened to the story in the Bible and Uncle Solomon explained that most of the people never made it to the Promised land, but that was a story for another day.

AJ said her favorite part in this book was that the kids got to dress up like Egyptian royalty and stay in Pharaoh’s palace.

Book 4

The fourth book in the series is, Journey to Jericho (Book #4). This book starts with Peter and Mary sneaking around Uncle Solomon’s house. They find a secret room with all kinds of gadgets and learn that before Uncle Solomon was an archaeologist, he was a spy! He gave the kids their own code names. Peter was The Bear and Mary was The Monkey. They found a secret room and a scroll with two angels’ wings on it. After opening the scroll they soon found themselves on the desert in a beautiful tent. They eventually find out the it is the Tabernacle.

Secret of the Hidden Scrolls book 4

On their journey, Peter and Mary meet Joshua.They find out that the Israelites have been wondering in the desert waiting to reach the Promised land. But that they had to get past the walls of Jericho. The kids find themselves in a little bit of trouble after sneaking in to Jericho and being spotted. They, along with a few Israelite spies find a woman named Rahab. She hides the spies and keeps them safe. Eventually the Israelite people cross the Jordan River. Peter and Mary are afraid that they won’t solve the secret of the scroll in time, but they do. Just as the walls of Jericho begin to fall, the kids and Hank are safely back at Uncle Solomon’s home.

AJ’s favorite part of this book was when the Angel saved the kids from the man in black.

How We Read the Books

These books say they are geared for kids grades 1 through 3. I personally think they would be too difficult for first and second graders. I feel they are more on a fourth grade level, but that is my opinion. Even though they are written for younger kids, older kids will enjoy the action and adventure.

AJ is way beyond the reading level. But she really enjoyed them. I found them to be a quick enjoyable read as well. The plan was for me to read them and then have AJ read them. But they came in the mail on a day I was sick. She took the first book and read it in about two hours. Then asked to read the next one. She ended up finishing both books in a day. I read them a few days later, then we talked about them.

At the end of the books it tells you where you can find the stories in the Bible. We read through the stories in the Bible and discussed the differences. While these books are based on the Bible, there are some small differences.

Our Thoughts

We were pleased with both book three and book four. Each of them stuck to the basic story that can be found in the Bible. While AJ and I were both able to guess what the secret scroll would say after only a few chapters, I think younger students will have fun trying to figure out the mystery. These are solid books that are free from bad language and other morally questionable content.

If you are looking for an adventure story that will appeal to both boys and girls and has a strong biblical basis, this is the series for you! Book 5 is now available. We can’t wait to read it!

Find out what other members of the Home School Review Crew thought by clicking on the graphic below!

The Great Escape & Journey To Jericho {WorthyKids Reviews}
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IXL ~ Review

When AJ was in public school she had access to a fun learning site called IXL Learning. She would go on each day for a few minutes and have fun learning new concepts. It was something she enjoyed doing. But when she left public school, her account expired. In the beginning she would still go on and try their free version, but it only lets you answer around ten questions a day. Eventually she was no longer interested in doing the ten questions a day, so we forgot all about IXL. That is until we were offered a chance to review an annual subscription! I didn’t know that IXL had learning opportunities all the way through high school, but once I did I was thrilled for AJ to have a chance to try it out.

What is IXL?

IXL is an online learning site. It can be accessed through some apps or it can be used in a regular browser. There is a Kindle app, but at the time of this review it was unavailable for me. (I found out that while the IXL app didn’t work on my Kindle it will work on most. Mine is very old, we have had it since 2012. After the review I tried it on AJ’s 5th generation Kindle and it worked. I was also told by other reviewers who have 7th generation Kindles, that the App worked fine for them.) AJ ended up accessing IXL through the Silk browser on her Kindle Fire and had no issues.

IXL offers both math and language arts for grades K through 12. It also offers science and social studies for grades 2 through 8, and Spanish for all grades.

When your child logs on each day they can pick the topic they want to practice. Then they are given questions in that topic. Some of the questions are multiple choice, while others require them to input the answer. Once they submit each answer it is graded instantly. If they enter a wrong answer an explanation is given to help the student know what they did wrong. For math they may be reminded of a formula or be shown how to solve the problem. In language arts they may be given a tip or a definition of a word to help them out.

Then they just continue to answer questions. As the student gets more and more questions correct their score goes up and they are able to earn ribbons. When they have truly mastered a topic they can earn a special ribbon for 100%. Earning that ribbon takes answering quite a few questions. When they earn that ribbon, you can be confident that they really understand the concept.

Flexibility

One of the best parts about the program is that it is very flexible. With your parent account you can decide if your student sees the grade level they are working on (6th, 9th, K), or if they just see a level (A, H, C). This would be helpful for those who need to work at a lower level than their grade level. It is also nice in the older grades when not everyone is working on the math that is typical for their grade level. AJ is in Algebra 2, but the 10th grade math is Geometry.

There are also options that let your child see how long they have been working on a problem. It is great to have the option to hide or enable the timer depending on your child’s needs. When AJ was younger a timer would have stressed her out. Now it motivates her to see how many questions she can answer in a time frame.

There is a placement test available if you want to see where your child should be placed. It is optional. I personally find that with older students placement tests can take forever because they have to answer so many questions correctly for each level. We decided to skip the test and just have AJ work on the 10th grade level. There was a topic in language arts that she was struggling with. She was shown a topic in a lower level that would help her in the current topic. She went to that topic, worked on it a little, and then came back to the initial topic and was able to earn a ribbon.

How We Used IXL

Since AJ already has a set math program we decided to use IXL as a supplement to practice skills we already covered this year. She started out in Matrix Vocabulary. There she had to answer questions about types of matrices, dimensions, and more. She earned a 100% ribbon after a day. She didn’t want to stop until she earned the ribbon. Then she went on to work in the matrix category for a while before heading to the section on Radical Functions. Some she was able to earn ribbons in quickly, while others took her a little time.

Right now we are working on complex numbers in math, so today she started on the introduction to complex numbers topic. I don’t think you could use this as a full math program unless you have a very dedicated self learner, but it is great for practice and review. The questions don’t seem to repeat and there are endless practice opportunities.

Spanish

Spanish was one of AJ’s favorite topics. She logged on and worked on a topic each day until she earned a 100% ribbon. Then she would go on to the next topic the following day. I liked that it was more than just vocabulary. The spelling had to be correct and there are sections where the vocabulary is used together. She ended up keeping a notebook with the vocabulary to help her remember it. The Spanish section would be perfect for those who are just learning or those who need a refresher!

Language Arts and Other Sections

AJ was a little less enthusiastic to work on Language Arts. I had her pick a topic, or I picked one for her and had her practice about 10 minutes a day. She spent a lot of time in grammar topics and word usage. She didn’t earn many of ribbons, but she did learn a lot. In this category she liked to skip around and not stick to a specific order.

We didn’t try out the social studies section because it was for 8th grade and lower, but we did try out science. AJ loves science and I figured it couldn’t hurt to try it out. She spent time labeling cells and learning about their functions and labeling different diagrams. I found her copping the diagrams into her notebook so she would have the information later. She enjoyed the science section and I think it would be great to use after learning about a topic.

What We Thought About IXL

I was very pleased with our experience with IXL. Setting up an account was simple, I could easily check on her progress, and I was sent emails weekly about her activity and any awards she earned.

The ribbons kept her motivated to work on the topics, while the instant feedback helped if she felt discouraged. I liked the fact that she could move to different topics when she wanted and that she could visit both lower and higher levels when she wanted. I felt the feedback she received when she entered an incorrect answer was solid. It helped to explain and teach the concepts. I feel she has learned a lot using IXL and I plan to have her continue with it.

Click on the graphic below to find out what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought about IXL. There were reviewers using several different levels.

Immersive, Adaptive Learning Online {IXL Learning Reviews}
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Progeny Press eGuide ~ Review

Over the years AJ and I have tried out quite a few different book studies. Some I have found free online, others I have paid for, and a majority of them I have just made myself. The problem with making them myself is that it is time consuming. I have to read through the books, find literary elements, and figure out activities. My own book studies are always fun, but now that she is in high school I find it hard to keep up. Often the free book studies I find just have questions about the plot, and I want more. I had heard about Progeny Press before, and read that their studies were very well done. So when we were given the chance to review their Perelandra – eGuide, I was interested give them a try.

Perelandra
Perelandra is the second book in a trilogy written by C. S. Lewis. The book can be read as a stand alone book, but like most series the reader will have a better understanding if the books are read in order. AJ and I both enjoyed the Narnia series, so I figured we would enjoy this series from C. S. Lewis as well. We went into the study not reading the first book. The study guide did provide a synopsis of what happened in the first book. But I would recommend reading the books in order. Progeny Press has a study for the first book, and I wish we would have done that study first.

Study Guide Basics

We received both the study guide and the answer key. The study guide is 58 pages long. It begins with a note to the instructor that explains how to use the guide. Then it has a synopsis of the book and the previous book along with background information about the author.

The study guide is interactive. You can click on the table of contents and you are taken to that section. You are also able to type your answers directly into the study guide. This is perfect for those who don’t enjoy writing. It also works wonders to save on ink. You don’t need to print the guide off. Simply let your student type their answers in and save it to your computer. Of course if you prefer to have a written copy you can print it once your student finishes it.

The Answer Key is six pages long. The writing is very small, but it has all of the questions answered. I found the answer key helpful especially with some of the dig deeper questions. Looking at it let me help AJ when she got stuck. It also was a great discussion starter when her answers varied from the key.

More Details About the Study Guide

The study guide is designed to be used over an eight to ten week period and can count as a quarter credit for high school. During the first week the student reads the book and completes some pre- reading activities. There are a lot of different options. Some include:

  • Researching the different accounts of creation from different religions and comparing them with the Biblical account.
  • Imagining they are in the Garden of Eden and writing a description of it.
  • Researching the origins of Mars and Venus and comparing the god’s character traits in Greek, Roman, and Norse Mythology.

Once the book is read, the student comes back and does the book work. The chapters are broken up, usually two at a time. Each section follows the same format.

Vocabulary

This is one of my favorite parts of the study guide. Each section has an activity to do with vocabulary. It isn’t just a simple write the definition of a word activity though. The activities make the student look at how the word was used and what it means. Sometimes the student will need to fill the word into the blank of a sentence, and then write a definition. Other times they may need to read a passage and write their own definition before looking up the dictionary definition.  They even have to look at the context of a passage to decide which definition of the word the author meant.

There are about two pages of vocabulary for each section. One of AJ’s biggest struggles is seeing how words can mean different things in different contexts. These activities have been difficult for her, but they have helped. One thing that we liked was that there were different activities, she didn’t have to do the same activity every time.

Questions

For each section there are about four questions about the reading. These are questions that can be answered about the plot of the story. As long as the student read the book they should be able to answer the questions. But they can go back and read through the chapters again if they need to.

Analysis

Each section has about three to six analysis questions. These questions require the student to think beyond the plot of the book. Sometimes they are asked to think about what a character is thinking, sometimes they are asked to look at a character’s actions and then told to read a Bible passage. They are also asked about different uses of literary devises in the story. These are the types of questions I often find missing from other book studies. They require the student to look beyond the basic story.

Dig Deeper

Each section has a few dig deeper questions. The amount varies due to what was going on in each section. These questions go further than the analysis questions. They require the student to look at symbolism in the book, and to look at statements made by the characters. One question asks the student to go into a dark room and wait for a while. Then they are asked if they felt the way a character felt.

There is a lot of Biblical symbolism and that is explored in this section. The student is instructed to read passages from Genesis, Revelations, Hebrews, and other books of the Bible to see the parallels between the accounts in the Bible and the story.

After the questions are answered for each section then there are additional activities for the student to complete. There are options that explore point of view, the author’s use of color, the similarities between the tempting of Eve and the tempting of a character in the novel, and other activities that explore the parallels between the Bible and the novel.

How We Used It

We tried to use the study guide as written. But it just didn’t work. AJ is a slow reader and finishing the book in a week wasn’t going to happen with this book. The language in the book was difficult and at times she was getting lost in the story. I think reading the book and then doing the work would have been perfect for her while we were reading the Narnia series. At that time she hated to stop after a few chapter and answer questions. But this book was harder for her. So after two weeks of her not wanting to read and her having a hard time with the book, we decided to make a change.

I had her do the vocabulary work for the chapters and then read them again. When she was done reading the section she answered the questions. She answered some of the analysis and dig deeper questions, but most of them we are saving until she is finished with the book. Normally we rush through a book. The idea of spending ten weeks on one book seemed like a lot. But I see now that she is really understanding beyond the book. It may take her longer to get through the reading, but when she is done she will have a great understanding of symbolism among other literary elements.

What We Thought

Progeny Press
This was the first guide that we have used from Progeny Press. And I am very impressed. The study guides are very well made. The questions make the student think, the vocabulary activities make the student understand word usage, and the work isn’t rushed. The guides are affordable, and I see us using a few more in our future.

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

New Study Guides for Literature From a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press Reviews}
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Classical Composition Sets ~ Review

Writing is a subject that AJ struggles with. We have tried quite a few different writing programs over the years, and while her writing has improved, she still struggles. I recently learned about a writing program from Memoria Press and I thought it would be a good fit for AJ. We were sent the first two levels of their program, Classical Composition I: Fable Set and Classical Composition II: Narrative Set.

Both Sets

The sets each include a Teacher Guide and a Student Guide that are both soft covered and spiral bound. They also include a set of DVDs that has a teacher who teaches the lessons to your student. Each set is color coded so it is simple to see which books and DVD set go together.

The program is designed for students in grades 4-12. Everyone who uses the program starts with the Fable level. Depending on the grade level your student is in when they start, they should complete either one or two books in a school year. We were given a set of lesson plans to follow so that AJ could finish the first two levels in one school year.

The Fable Level

Classical Composition I: Fable Set

In the Fable level there are 20 lessons. Each lesson is broken down into 8 parts.

The Fable

In this part of the lesson the student reads the fable and goes over any difficult vocabulary. Then they give examples of Recognition, Reversal, and Suffering in the fable. Each of those plot components are explained to the student in the beginning of the book, and on the DVD.

Variations Part I

This section has the student list synonyms for some of the words in the fable. Then they have to rewrite sentences changing either the word choice, word order, or both.

Outline

The student creates an outline that summarizes the fable.

Narration

The student narrates the fable either verbally or in writing with out looking at the fable or their outline.

Paraphrase I

In this section the student rewrites the fable and makes changes according to the directions. They may need to describe a character in more detail, or describe the setting. Each fable they will have a little different instructions.

Paraphrase II

This section has the student paraphrase the story again. But this time they change the sequence of events.

Variations II

The students do the same exercise from variations I, but they use two new sentences.

Final Draft

The students pick either of the paraphrases that they wrote and they correct them and write a final draft.

Narrative Set

Classical Composition II: Narrative Set

This set is set up very similarly to the fable set. It also has 20 lessons that are broken into 8 steps. The main difference between the two is that the students are looking for 9 components in each narrative instead of three. Each of the other sections has the student doing the same type of exercise as the fable level.

The Teacher Guides

The Teacher Guides are extremely helpful. They give step by step instructions, vocabulary definitions, and completed student pages. They have everything you need if you want to teach the lessons without the DVD or if your student isn’t understanding something.

The DVD Lessons

With the DVD you don’t need to teach. The teacher on the DVD reads the selection to your student, explains vocabulary, and tells them what they need to do. They just pop the DVD in and follow the directions. This was very helpful for AJ. She didn’t need to wait for me and the teacher was interesting to watch. She was able to work more independently with the DVD. The only thing I didn’t like was that when she went back on the third or fourth day, she would have to fast forward to be at the correct place on the DVD. I wish that there was a separate part on the menu for each section of the lesson, not just each lesson. But it was something that we just made work.

How We Used It

Some days AJ would use the program independently and other times I would sit and watch it with her. Aside from the paraphrase lessons and the final draft, each lesson section took about 20 minutes for her to finish. The others took longer depending on her attitude about writing for the day. This is something I am having her stick with for next school year. I am excited to see her improvements in writing.

What We Thought

The DVD was the perfect fit for AJ. So far she has enjoyed this program. The lessons are short but meaningful, and she is learning different writing techniques. We have tried a few products from Memoria Press in the past. Some have been a hit and others were not a good fit for us because we are not classical homeschoolers. But this seems like a great fit. AJ is engaged, and producing a better quality of writing.

If you want to improve your student’s writing, check out the Classical Composition Sets! See what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought by clicking the graphic below.

New American Cursive & Traditional Logic {Memoria Press Reviews}
 

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Home School Navigator ~ Review

For the past few weeks AJ has been working on the Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Curriculum. The curriculum is divided into levels based on the colors of the rainbow with red being the easiest and indigo being the most difficult. AJ used the indigo level from Home School Navigator. The program is a little below her skill level since she is in high school, but we focused on the interactive notebooks portion of their program.

Home School Navigator

What is Home School Navigator?

The Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Curriculum takes the guess work out of planning. It is an online program that has everything your child should be doing each day all planned out for you. It uses online videos, worksheets, and more to ensure your child practices a variety of skills. While each level is a little different, they cover basically the same topics.

In the indigo level your student will have work in the following areas:

Read Aloud

Listening to books being read aloud is an important skill even for older students. Each day there is a book listed that the student should listen to. Most of the books can be easily found at the library, but we found all three of the books (Each book is used for a few days) on YouTube. AJ was able to listen to someone read the book to her each day, and I didn’t have to search for it at the library. It worked well.

Reading Skills Practice

This usually involves a short video where the student learns a new skill and is then instructed to practice that skill in a book that they are reading on their own.

Literature / Comprehension

In this section the student completes different activities based on the book they are reading. There are numerous activities ranging form finding the name of the author and publisher on the book, to discussing the story with their parent, to completing character sketches on different characters.

Writing /Grammar

This section is fairly laid back in the beginning. The student is instructed to write for 20 minutes most days. Sometimes they will have a topic other times it is up to them. Some days they may be asked to find all of a specific part of speech in the book they are reading and list the words. Other times they are told to look at their previous writing and to make adjustments to it. Later in the level they write stories and have more structured writing.

Word Study / Vocabulary

In the indigo level the student works on different word roots. In month 4 week 1 the root work is “cent” the student has vocabulary words that all use that root word. Each day they do a different activity with the words. Some of the activities include matching the definitions, writing sentences, playing games, and taking quizzes.

Computer Skills

The student is instructed to practice some type of skill. The indigo level seems to focus on typing skills and using various programs on the computer. They may be instructed to practice their keyboarding skills, or type their vocabulary sentences.

Poetry

This section introduces your student to different poets and types of poems. Often they will be asked to find the rhyme scheme of a poem or to try to decide what a poem is about.

Independent Reading

This section either has your student reading a book of their own choosing, a recommended book, or has them complete an interactive notebook. There are four interactive notebooks in the indigo level; Holes, Number the Stars, A Single Shard, and Tuck Everlasting.

Each day the student will have assignments in some of the areas listed above. Sometimes they will have just four or five assignments while other days they have eight. The best part is that you decide what you want your student to do.

What We Thought

The program is planned out very well, and aside from the books, paper, scissors and glue, it includes almost everything you need to give your student a solid year of learning. It is perfect for the homeschooler who wants things planned out for them, but wants some wiggle room as well. The lessons are short and to the point and lets the student learn at a nice pace. It is well organized and easy to find what you need. There is even the option to scan you child’s work into the system for easy record keeping. I would highly recommend this program!

The Interactive Notebooks

While the interactive notebooks are part of the program, they are also available to purchase separately. Since AJ has already read Holes, we decided to start with the second book available in the indigo level, Number the Stars.

An interactive notebook is basically like a lapbook for older students that is done in a spiral notebook. Once you download the file, you print it out. Your student cuts out the different pieces and glues them into their spiral notebook. Then as they read they answer questions about the book.

The interactive notebook for Number the Stars is 20 pages long. The student starts with some pre-reading activities where they find and color Denmark on a map and fill out a char with some basic information on the Holocaust and World War 2.

Then there are some vocabulary words for the student to define. Up next is the reading. For this book the student is assigned about four chapters at a time to read, then they have questions to answer. Questions range from simple comprehension questions, to opinions, to more advanced things like foreshadowing and themes in the book.

The more advanced literary terms are defined for the student and explained very well. The student also puts the definitions in their notebooks.

At the end there is a detailed answer key.

Since this book covers a difficult topic I read it along side of AJ. She was able to complete the interactive notebook on her own. It lead to some good discussions. Aside from the cutting and gluing, each section took about an hour to complete including the reading.

What We Thought

I love when learning can be hands on. The interactive notebooks add an element of fun that a simple book report or worksheet can’t. I was very surprised by the content in the interactive notebooks. I was expecting simple comprehension questions, but these go way further. By the time the students get to the final book they are looking at symbolism and metaphors in the book. These interactive notebooks are very well thought out and AJ will be finishing the other two that are available in the level. I wish that Home School Navigator made interactive notebooks for more advanced books. I would buy them in a heartbeat.

If you are looking for a solid language arts program, check out the Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Curriculum and their Interactive Notebooks. I was very impressed with how well done the program is.

Find out what other members of the homeschool review crew thought by clicking on the graphic below!

Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Curriculum {Home School Navigator Reviews}
 

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Carole P. Roman Book Review

We have had the chance to review a few Carole P. Roman books in the past. They are great resources to learn more about other cultures and different parts of the world. I was excited to have a chance to check out four more books. We picked, If You Were Me and Lived in… the Mayan Empire and If You Were Me and Lived in… the Ancient Mali Empire. We were also blessed with two mystery books. The books we received were, If You Were Me and Lived in… Scotland and Being A Captain is Hard Work.

If You Were Me and Lived in… the Mayan Empire

Books by Carole P Roman
If You Were Me and Lived in… the Mayan Empire is a 64 page book that is packed full of information. There is information about almost every aspect of Mayan life. It even includes maps of the area. The book talks about daily life of the Mayan people, how they built their homes, what they wore, what they ate, and their religious beliefs. It also talks about the Mayan definition of beauty and how parents would shape their baby’s heads and make them cross eyed.

The end of the book talks about the contributions that the Mayan people made to the world. Did you know that they invented the concept of zero? This book gives a great overview of the Mayan Civilization!

If You Were Me and Lived in… the Ancient Mali Empire

Books by Carole P Roman
If You Were Me and Lived in… the Ancient Mali Empire is a 77 page book. This book has smaller writing than the others and contains quite a bit more detail. It is set up the same way as the Mayan book, but this one talks more about the history of Mali and the king. It gives a great overview of the country and the history.

If You Were Me and Lived in… Scotland

Books by Carole P Roman
If You Were Me and Lived in… Scotland is part of a series that introduces kids to different cultures around the world. It is a 30 page soft covered book. Each page is full of color and there are plenty of illustrations. The back of the book has a section on pronunciation and definitions for unfamiliar words. The book is written in a friendly tone and introduces kids to what life in Scotland would really be like.

The book gives basic information about family life, food, and clothing. There are quite a few interesting facts thrown in as well. Did you know the unicorn is the official animal of Scotland? This book is a great starting point to help your child become more familiar with other parts of the world, but it doesn’t contain near as much information as the first two books.

Being A Captain is Hard Work

Books by Carole P Roman
Being A Captain is Hard Work is part of the Captain No Beard Series. The captain and his crew are setting sail for Dew Rite Volcano. The crew thinks that the clouds indicate bad weather, but the captain thinks they are wrong. He is the captain and thinks that he knows everything. The crew sets sail and ends up in trouble. The captain learns that his crew is there to help him and that no one knows everything. It is a simple cute story that teaches a valuable message. One cool thing about this book is that there is a list of different cloud types at the back of the book. This would be a great addition to a study on clouds or weather.

How We Used the Books

AJ is studying world geography this year and these books will make a great addition. Currently she is learning about the Middle East. The book on Mali has been a great supplement. I plan to have her read the other books as she studies those parts of the world. The Captain No Beard book is a just for fun book. She is well above the audience level for the book. She read it, but will be passing it along to a younger reader.

What We Thought

These books did not disappoint. They let your child learn about other countries and cultures in a fun way. The language is easy for kids to understand. There are beautiful illustrations in each book. I would highly recommend them to anyone learning about other areas of the world.

See what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought about the books by clicking on the graphic below.

Oh Susannah, Bedtime Stories, Captain No Beard, If you were Me ... {Carole P. Roman Reviews}
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A Journey Through Learning Lapbook ~ Review

Last year our plan was to have AJ study modern history. Over the years we have focused a lot on the American Revolution, the Western Expansion, and the Civil War. We have also studied the earlier time periods. Our plan started off well, but soon rabbit trails led us in other directions. She started high school this year, so I wanted her to have at least a basic understanding of the history of the 20th century. When we were given the chance to review An Overview of the 20th Century from A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks I knew that it would be a perfect fit. AJ loves creating lapbooks, and the ones from A Journey Through Learning have always been a hit in the past. We have used a quite a few of their lapbooks and other resources. Our favorite was the Prairie Primer Binder Builder.

What Makes A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks Amazing?

A Journey Through Learning
When you purchase a lapbook from A Journey Through Learning you know you are getting quality. They take the time to make the process of putting the lapbook together as simple as possible. They include step by step instructions on how to create the lapbook and all of the mini books that go inside. There are even pictures that show exactly where each mini book needs to be glued.

A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks are fun and easy to use!

The lapbooks are flexible and easy to customize to fit your student. All of the lapbook that we have completed have come with a study guide about the topic. If you are looking for a quick study, your student can simply read through the study guide and complete the mini books. But you can also stretch the study and go deeper in-depth by adding in books, videos, and other information on the topic. There are sheets included so that the student can keep all of their research together. This lapbook also includes optional worksheets that the student can fill out for a biographical book report and a war study.

About the An Overview of the 20th Century lapbook

Overview of 20th Century Lapbook with Study Guide
This lapbook is geared for kids in grades 2 through 7, but older students could use it as well. It is 72 pages and makes a three folder lapbook. The student will complete 23 mini books focusing on people and events from the 20th century. The mini books include a variety of activities like; labeling, answering questions, coloring maps, drawing flags, a word search, a cross word puzzle, copywork, and defining vocabulary.

After completing this lapbook your student will have a basic understanding of the wars, famous inventions, and the people who changed history in the 20th century.

How We Used An Overview of the 20th Century

Since we were just looking for a quick overview, I just printed everything out and gave AJ one topic each day. She would read through the information and complete the mini book. Some days she would look the topic up online to learn a little bit more information. It was a simple addition to her day that didn’t take very long. She is above the recommended age, so a few of the mini books seemed babyish to her, but overall she enjoyed them.

This study could easily be stretched out for at least a semester. If I would have had it last year I would have used the lapbook as a base and I would have added in both fiction and nonfiction books on the topics for her to read. It could be turned into a great unit study. But I also like that I didn’t have to do that. I could simply print and go, knowing she was learning.

What We Thought

We were very pleased with the lapbook. The study guide had enough information that AJ could learn the basics on her own. It was easy to use and the directions make putting the lapbook together simple. We have enjoyed every lapbook that we have tried from A Journey Through Learning. I plan to add in more of their lapbooks as we study other concepts in the future.

If you are looking for a hands on way for your student to learn history, science, Bible, or almost any topic, lapbooks from A Journey Through Learning might be exactly what you are looking for. Find out what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew though by clicking on the graphic below!

Lapbooks for Classical Conversations, Apologia, Inventors & 20th Century {A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks Reviews}
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Lightning Literature ~ Review

Finding a literature curriculum for AJ wasn’t easy. Most of the programs that I looked at wanted her to read ten or twelve books for the course. While that may be a good fit for some students, it isn’t a good fit for AJ. AJ is a reluctant reader who is a little bit below grade level in reading comprehension. She can usually read and understand any book that I assign her, but it takes her a little longer and she may need to read a section a few times to completely grasp it.

When I was about to give up and make my own literature program, I was blessed with an amazing review. We were given the opportunity to review the American Mid-Late 19th Century Lightning Literature book from Hewitt Homeschooling.  It looked exactly like what we needed.

Lightning Literature A High School Literature Course

American Literature: Mid-Late 19th Century

This is a high school literature and composition course. It is designed for students who are new to Lightning Literature. It can be used by a student at any level in high school.

The course is designed to last for one semester, but it can be used for a full year long course if you add in your own grammar program.

The main part of the course is the student guide. The student guide is a 170 page soft covered book. It is written by Elizabeth Kamath. The book starts with an introduction and is then broken into four units. The end of the book has discussion questions, additional reading lists, project ideas, and a course schedule.

Introduction

The course introduction does much more than explain how to use the course. It is full of information on how to properly read and write both poetry and prose. It has basic writing guidelines and is a good place for the student to reference throughout the year.

Unit 1

In this unit your student will read Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The literary lesson will focus on theme. Your student will also read selections from the poem, Leaves of Grass. They will learn about sound and imagery in poetry.

Unit 2

This unit has your student learning about humor while reading Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. They will also read a short story, “The Outcast of Poker Flat.” While reading the short story they will learn about local color.

Unit 3

Your student will learn about register (or tone as I was taught) while reading a selection of poetry written by Paul Laurence Dunbar. They will also read through The Red Badge of Courage while learning about description.

Unit 4

The final unit teaches your student about figurative language while they read through poems written by Emily Dickson. They will also study point of view while reading through The call of the wild.

All of the poetry and short stories are included in the Student Guide. You will need to purchase the four novels separately.

How each Unit is Set Up

Each unit begins with an introduction. It includes a short biography about the author and a little bit of information about the selection your student will read. It includes things for the student to think about while they read.

There are comprehension questions for the student to answer as they read. The questions are fairly easy and most of the answers can be found directly in the text. Some questions do require the student to think critically about the selection.

Lightning Literature A High School Literature Course

The student then reads through the literary lesson. In this section the author explains concepts while using examples from the reading selection. The lessons are very well written and self explanatory. I was impressed that after reading through the lesson, AJ was able to understand how the setting of a story can affect the theme.

The final assignment after each reading selection is the writing exercise. The student is given a choice of five or more writing assignments. There is a variety of options including; opinion papers, compare and contrast papers, augmentative papers, short stories, poems, and more. For each novel the student completes two of the writing exercises. They complete one exercise after poems or short stories.

Lightning Literature A High School Literature Course

I also received a teacher guide. It included additional information about the course and scheduling. The main perk of the teacher guide was that it included all of the answers to the comprehension questions.

How We Used American Mid-Late 19th Century

Since AJ struggles with literature, we decided to follow the full year plan. We added in a grammar program and followed the schedule in the back of the book. Most weeks it had her reading five chapters in the book and answering the comprehension questions.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a very long book, so we were not scheduled to get to the literary lesson or writing assignments during the review period. I wanted to provide a full review, so I had AJ read through the literary lesson on theme for Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She hasn’t completed a writing assignment yet, but she thinks that they look interesting. Right now she thinks she will answer the following question.

Write a paper focusing on any character other than Tom in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Discuss the ways Stowe used that character as an argument against slavery.

The year long schedule gives her a week to write and revise each paper.

Lightning Literature A High School Literature Course

What We Thought About American Mid-Late 19th Century

American Mid-Late 19th Century is the literature and composition course that is perfect for AJ. It would be too much for her to complete two student guides in a year, but one guide is very doable. This option is a huge selling point for me! The novels, poems, and short stories offer a good amount of variety. We both enjoy that there isn’t any busy work. The student reads and writes quality material that is related to the lesson.

I like that she is challenged to write in so many different ways, and that she is given enough time to do a good job on her writing. I do wish that there was a bit more writing instruction in the book. The introduction is great, but there are some writing types that it doesn’t cover. That is our only complaint about the program.

I feel the lessons about poetry will really help AJ to finally grasp some of the difficult concepts. Poetry can be difficult to teach, but I think this will make it possible.

If you are looking for a literature and composition course that is flexible, free of busy work, and cost effective, then the American Mid-Late 19th Century Lightning Literature may be exactly what you are looking for. Click on the graphic below to find out what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought about Hewitt Homeschooling.

Hewitt Homeschooling {Reviews}
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It’s Okay if Your Child is Average

Sometimes when people find out that AJ is homeschooled, they expect her to be brilliant. It is almost like there is a stereotype that homeschooled kids are either far behind their public schooled peers or that they are mini geniuses.  It is easy to get caught in a comparison trap, even if you are just comparing to an unrealistic ideal. In the beginning I would feel like I wasn’t doing enough with her because she was just average. She doesn’t know Latin and isn’t going to be on Jeopardy any time soon. She has subjects that she excels in and subjects that she struggles with.  But, that is okay!

Coming to peace with the fact that she doesn’t have to compare to anyone else has made our homeschooling journey go a lot smoother. Part of the reason I brought her home was to give her the best education possible. That means doing what is right for her, not what works for others.

As I prepared for her freshman year of high school I knew I needed to keep her strengths and weaknesses in mind. She struggles with writing and vocabulary so I knew that a College Prep English class was out of the question. She needed something that would push her and help her grow, but not set her up for failure. On the other hand, for math she needed something that moved quickly because she finds the subject easy.

As we picked courses for AJ one thing we kept in mind was her end goals. After high school she wants to become a veterinarian technician and then go to school to be come a veterinarian while working in the field. Of course we know that this dream can change, but it has been her goal for a while now. She will need a lot of math and science courses to fulfil her goal. Thankfully those are her two favorite subjects. She will need to be able to read and write well, but analyzing books and poetry probably isn’t something that she will find very useful.

It's Okay if Your Child is Average

Our plan is to expose her to the subjects her peers in public school take so that she knows the basics. She will write some essays and analyze a few books each year. But we plan to really dig deeper into the topics that she enjoys and the topics that will get her closer to her end goal of working with animals. Instead of pushing creative writing, which she really dislikes, we will work on reports and basic writing. Instead of using only fiction books for English, we will add in plenty of non fiction ones.

That is the beauty of homeschooling. You get to tailor your child’s education to their needs. Don’t stress out about what everyone else is doing. If you are raising the next Einstein, that is great. If your child is average and struggles with some things, that is okay too! As long as your child is growing and learning, that is what matters. Don’t get caught in a comparison trap.

I will be sharing our choices for the 2017 school year soon. I think AJ and I will both learn a lot.

Have you decided what courses your child will be studying next year?