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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Devotions For Young Women ~ Review

The new year will be here before we know it. One thing that I try to do each year is find a new devotional for AJ to work through. She doesn’t always finish on time, because sometimes other products come up. But I like to have something new for her to work through under the tree. It can be hard to find products that are good for her age. She is past the little girl devotions, but usually doesn’t find the adult ones interesting. I look for something that is short and to the point and geared for teens.

This year we were given the chance to review a new devotional from ZondervanWe have tried various products from them in the past, and have never been disappointed. We were blessed with a copy of Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women. I was sure that AJ would love this new devotional, and she did!

Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women

About Beloved

Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women is written by Lindsay A. Franklin. This devotional is beautiful hard covered book that is well made. The floral design that is on the front cover is carried over to each page of the book. The maroon, purple, and pink color scheme give it a girly theme. It is about 370 pages long with a devotion for each day of the year. The devotions are numbered, not dated so it is simple to start whenever you want. And if you skip a day, you won’t feel like you need to catch up. There is an attached ribbon that is used as a book mark to help you keep your place.

This devotion focuses on the different women in the Bible. It includes women like; Mary, Ruth, Deborah, Anna, and Ester – along with many others. It focuses on Proverbs 31 along with many other verses in the Bible that are often overlooked in other devotions. You will cover various verses from Genesis to Ester in the first 312 days. The remaining the days you will spend time studying verses from the New Testament.

What A Day Looks Like

Each day you begin by reading a verse or verses from the Bible that is written at the top of the page. The verses are in NIV format, so if you prefer another version you will need to find the verse in your own Bible. Then You read a few paragraphs about verse. At the end there is a question on most days. It might be about the verse, about yourself, or even about how you can apply something to your life.  Sometimes it is just a place to reflect on the verse. On the bottom of the page there is a few lines for you to write your answer.

Reading and answering the question will take less than 15 minutes a day, prayer time not included. The devotions are short and to the point, but they are well written and make you think.

How We Used It

Since it is Christmas time, AJ and I have been reading some of the devotions towards the back of the book. We started on day 313 with Luke 1:5-7. In this verse we were introduced to Elizabeth and Zachariah’s story and how they had not been blessed with a child. The devotion was about trusting God and his timing. It happened to be a verse that I needed to be reminded of.

Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women
We continued reading through some of the devotions that focused on the book of Luke. We normally read through the book of Luke around Christmas, but this has been a different experience. It has been neat to read the same verses but to have more to take away from the story – as if the story wasn’t amazing enough. We see a big emphasis on trusting God, being different, and family. It has also been nice to look at the Bible from a woman’s perspective.

I also read through a few other various devotions to see what they were like. One talked about how God used women in biblical times, and how he uses them now as well. Another talked about how God’s power was bigger than giants. But this wasn’t referring to David and Goliath. It was referring to a verse in Judges where Jael won Israel’s war. I have read through the Bible numerous times, but I didn’t remember that story.

You are introduced to over 60 women throughout this study.

What We Thought

I figured AJ would enjoy it. She has another devotion by the same author called, Adored 365 Devotions For Young Women. She enjoys it as well. The author has a way of writing that is perfect for young women. It is funny at times, interesting, and she makes you think of things differently.

If you are looking for a great devotional for a young woman in your life, I highly recommend, Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women.  It would make a great gift.

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

Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women {Zondervan Review}
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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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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}
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Working It Out ~ Review

One subject that I enjoyed learning about in school was poetry. I enjoyed breaking down poems and trying to figure out what they meant. It was always an enjoyable experience, but something that took some effort. When AJ started to learn about poetry however, she hated it. She was a very literal thinker and the idea of nonsense poems was hard for her to understand. We worked on poetry for a while and eventually she started to enjoy it. She even wrote some decent poems of her own. Now that she is older, I have been trying to incorporate some poetry that has more meaning. It has been a little difficult to find the right balance for her.

We were recently given the chance to review a product from Everyday Education, LLC called Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert. I thought that it would be a great product to help AJ learn more about poetry.

Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}

What is Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert?

Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}

This book (we received an e-book) contains over 50 poems that were all written by George Herbert. He was a poet who was born in 1593. George Herbert lead a rather fascinating life even though he didn’t live to see his 40th birthday. He was a well educated man who ended up becoming an ordained minister.

Working it Out is a collection of poems that can be used as a devotion. The interesting thing about this book is that it is written in a way to help even those who are not poetically gifted to understand and enjoy the experience of reading poetry.

The poems in Working it Out are broken into 12 main categories.

  • Looking Back, Moving Forward
  • Letting Go
  • Confession
  • Grace
  • Separation
  • Petition
  • Praise
  • Depending on God
  • Grief
  • Prayer
  • Special Blessings of the Church
  • More Insights

The number of poems in each section varies, as does the length of each poem. Some are only a few stanzas long where others are pages long.

After each poem there is a breakdown of the poems meaning. I like how the breakdown lets you see the poem as much more than just words on a page. Each poem has the following explanation:

  • The Big Picture – This section gives an overall meaning of the poem.
  • The Parts of the Picture – This section breaks down the poem by stanza. Literary elements are discussed in this section.
  • The Parts of the Picture Come Together – This section explains the movement throughout the poem. I personally felt this was one of the most helpful sections.
  • Reflections – These are questions about the poem that ask you to reflect about the meaning of the poem.
  • Scriptures for Further Reflection – These are additional scripture verses that relate to the poem.

How to Use Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert.

You can simply read through the book and learn a lot of information. After reading each poem you learn about the meaning of it. Through this process you and your student will be able to grow in the knowledge of poetry while becoming closer to God.

If you want deepen the learning process there are ideas in the book to help take the learning to the next level.

You are encouraged not to rush through this book. It is actually meant to be used over a school year by learning about one poem a week. There is a lot of flexibility to help you make the process of learning about poetry enjoyable.

How We Used Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert.

Learn the meaning behind poetry while growing closer to God!

We started off by reading through a poem at the beginning of the week. Then the next day we would read it again and discuss what she thought the poem could mean. The process was difficult for AJ so we would read through the meaning of the poem a few times.

After learning about a few different poems I could see AJ was just not ready for this book. Instead we have decided to just read through a poem each week and talk about any literary elements she can find. I have also had her color code a few of the poems. She would highlight words that had to do with love red, and words that had a sad connotation grey.

It the poem, “The Flower” I had her mark the words about spring in yellow and the words about winter in a dark color. The poem is about renewal, and while she may not understand that yet, I know that the next time we come to this poem and try to understand its’ meaning it will be a little easier for her.

What We Thought About Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert.

It is a well put together study, but it ended up being too far over her head. She is in 8th grade right now and I think she will be able to get far more out of the study in another year or two. She is able to read the poems fine, but even when I help to explain their meanings, she seems a little lost. I look forward to using it with her in the future though, because it is a neat way to learn about poetry.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to teach their child about poetry. It breaks everything down and makes the process a lot easier. It is also great for personal growth and reading too. I have read through quite a few of the poems and have enjoyed them. The best part is I can see the meaning behind the poem and compare it to what I thought the poem was talking about.

Click on the graphic below to see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew had to say about Working it Out and two other products from Everyday Education, LLC

Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}
Crew Disclaimer
 

If You Were Me And Lived In… Book Review

Post Contains Affiliate Links

While AJ is a reluctant reader, she loves books that teach her things. If she was able to only pick books out of the nonfiction section of the library, she would. But give her a text book and she normally finds it boring because of the lack of pictures. We were asked to review a few books from the, “If You Were Me and Lived in…” series brought to you by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com.  This review came with a fun twist, we were able to pick two books from the series and the company sent us two of their choice. It was a hard decision because there were so many great options. In the end AJ and I decided on, If You Were Me and Lived in…Ancient China: The Han Dynasty and If You Were Me and Lived in… Elizabethan England (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 3). We picked the book about China, because we haven’t learned very much about that country in our history studies. We picked Elizabethan England because AJ will be reading her first Shakespeare play this year (YIKES!) and I wanted her to learn more about that era.

AJ’s first pick was If You Were Me and Lived in…Renaissance Italy (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 2). She fell in love with Italy when she studied the Renaissance in 3rd grade. She was thrilled to see that the company decided to send us the book about the Renaissance! We also received If You Were Me and Lived in…Colonial America (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 4).

About the Books

The books all follow the same format. They begin with a picture of the country today and the country during the time period that the book is covering. The books cover all different things from the food that was eaten, the clothes that were worn, the types of homes, and other interesting information. Then at the end of each book there is a list of important people during the time including dates and detailed information. Following that there is a glossary in each book.

If You Were Me and Lived in…Renaissance Italy (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 2)

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com}
This book is 55 pages long. It is illustrated by Silvia Brunetti. The pictures in the book varied. Some were lifelike, some looked more like paintings, and others looked like cartoons. We enjoyed the variety. It began by reviewing a little bit about the Middle Ages. It talked about the wealthy Medici family and how the family encouraged changes in architecture and supported many artists.

The book explained that girls were expected to be married by the time they were 16 and were expected to act like adults from a very young age. It also talked about how the clothes that were worn were a symbol of status in the town. In the end of the book there was a short section about art in the Renaissance. AJ was happy to see the Hands of God &Adam by Michelangelo in that section. That was one of the first pictures she ever saw in real life. I still remember when she was 9, we walked into a doctor’s office and a replica of it was hanging on the wall. She was so excited to see it and told everyone in the waiting room what it was and who painted it. Her only complaint about the book was that it needed to have more art in it. She learned a lot of new facts and was thrilled to remember things she had previously learned. This was her favorite of the books.

If You Were Me and Lived in… Elizabethan England (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 3)

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com}
This book is 50 pages long. It is beautifully illustrated by Paula Tabor. The pictures are lifelike and vivid. The book starts off by explaining why the time period was called the Elizabethan Period. Then it went on to explain what your life would be like if you lived in a bakery with your family. One of our favorite parts was learning where the expression, “it’s raining cats and dogs,” came from. We also learned that most people ate with their hands. Then we learned about the acting companies and how the boys had to play girls. The book ended by talking briefly about how the religion you were able to practice depended on who was leading the country.

We simply read through the book and learned quite a few new things. AJ loved that it was simple to read and full of both pictures and information. The important people section in the back of the book was really helpful. It let AJ easily learn more about the time period.

 If You Were Me and Lived in…Colonial America (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 4)

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com}
This book is 61 pages long. It is illustrated by Sarah Wright. While the pictures are colorful and cute to look at, they are cartoonish. Since we have learned about Colonial America a few times, I didn’t think that AJ would learn very much from it. I was wrong! The book starts off where volume 3 ended. It explained in a lot more detail about how the ruler of the country decided the religion in England, and how a lot of people were unhappy. Then it goes on to talk about the Mayflower Compact and how hard the first settlers had it. It explains how corn became a very important crop and how becoming allies with the Indians helped everyone. This book is full of information.

If You Were Me and Lived in…Ancient China: The Han Dynasty

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com}
This is a long book. It is 76 pages long and the writing is quite a bit smaller than any of the other books. It is illustrated by Mateya Arkova. The pictures in this book look like they were painted in muted watercolors. AJ and I both felt that a lot of the pictures seemed blurry.

This book (and the Colonial America one as well) is told from a male perspective. The other two we have were told from the female perspective. It starts off by explaining that the Han Dynasty was a very important dynasty in China’s history. It also explains that it is often called the Golden Age of Ancient China.

We learned that the most important area in the home was the shine and that it was very important to the Confucianism religion. We also learned that clothing was important and that only the Emperor could wear the color yellow. One fact that AJ thought was amazing was that the process of making silk was so secretive that a person could be put to death if they told the secret.

There is so much more for AJ to learn in this book. She still isn’t finished with this one because I want her to take her time and really process the information.

The book covers so much! Some of the things she will be learning about are; the different social levels, the importance of honoring their family, their school life, the process of making paper, the three main religions, calligraphy, and a lot more.

What We Thought

All of the books were full of information. They are well written making an often boring subject interesting and easy to learn about. I feel that these books can be the basis of a period study for a child in elementary grades. You can easily add crafts and activities to make it a very fun study. They would be perfect for older children to review a subject or to go over the basics of a new topic. I admit that I learned a few new facts too.

If you are looking for a great book to learn about history, any of these would be a great pick.

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

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com}
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Ultimate Phonics ~ Review

We have had a difficult time with AJ’s reading. She was reading at four years old and loving to learn. Then when she went to kindergarten we were told that the school was no longer teaching phonics. Instead they wanted the students to simply memorize words. And I am not talking about sight words, I mean she was expected to remember words that could be sounded out. She would even get in trouble for sounding out the words! It was a huge issue and it caused AJ to really hate reading. We have come a long way since then, but I still see her just guess at words she doesn’t know. She also struggles with spelling because she doesn’t know all of the phonetic rules.

I have been looking for something to help reinforce and improve AJ’s reading, but most of the programs I have come across seem too young for AJ. When we were given the chance to review the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program from Spencer Learning I was a little hesitant. I had AJ take their reading test and she missed seven words. The test stated if the child missed ten or more words they were missing advanced phonics decoding skills. I decided that using the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program could probably help AJ’s reading.

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}

What is the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program?

This program is quite different from any other phonics program we have used. It is computer based, but it is downloaded to your computer so you don’t need internet to use the program on a daily basis. It is not gamed based and it doesn’t have animated characters or bright colors. Instead it focusses only on phonics. The program is simple to use and can be used for the entire family. It has 262 lessons that teach different sounds and blends to help your child become a better reader.

The first lesson covers the alphabet and the basic sounds of the consonants. After the initial lesson, the rest of the lessons follow a pattern. Since AJ knows a lot of the basics we jumped to level 150 to start. It is recommended that everyone start at the beginning to make sure they don’t miss a concept, but I felt comfortable skipping ahead. We may go over some of the beginning lessons in the future.

Each lesson begins with  an Idea or Pattern. In this section of the lesson your child is introduced to a sound, a letter pattern (eigh, oll, ue, exc.), or a phonetic rule or idea. This is simply a page where the idea or pattern is explained. The child can read this information to their self or have the computer read it to them.

Ultimate Phonics can help your struggling reader.

The next part of the lesson is the Word List. In this section words that follow the pattern are listed. The number of words varies depending on the lesson. Your child can hear each word read to them by hovering over the word with the mouse. The child should read each word at this time.

Ultimate Phonics can help your struggling reader.

The third part of the lesson is the Words. There is a slide for each word on the word list. The child can hear the word, see it broken into syllables, and hear how each letter comes together to form the sound of the word.

spencer3

The final part of the lesson is the Sentence. There are a few sentences that the child should be able to read. The sentences are made up of words that the child has learned up to that point.

Ultimate Phonics can help your struggling reader.

Once the child has finished listening and reading each section they can move to the next lesson or repeat the lesson if needed.

How We Used the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program

When I started to show AJ the program she didn’t like it. She thought that going over phonics was boring and for younger kids. Then I showed her how easy it was and she willingly gave it a try. The first lessons I had her do took five or ten minutes each. She went through each word quickly and then hurried to read the sentences. I made her slow down and not only read but spell each word so that she would remember what she was learning. I haven’t noticed an improvement in AJ’s reading yet, but I have noticed her looking at the words and thinking about them before guessing. I think we will continue with this program because it is well done. I think AJ would have liked to read if she had used a program like this.

What We Thought About the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program

This program goes over so many different sound combinations. I think that anyone who goes through the program would become a strong reader. I like that it is easy to use. A child should easily be able to use the program with little assistance. I also appreciated the fact that the program is off line. When AJ was learning to read I would have been a lot more comfortable with her using an offline program than an online one. While the program is phonetically sound, there were a few things we didn’t care for.

  • No Interaction – The student could hover over a word or sound, but they weren’t required to do anything. AJ could easily skip to the end of a lesson without doing anything, and I wouldn’t know. I think this also gives the child a chance to just zone out.
  • Computerized Voice – AJ didn’t like the voice that read the words. She said it made her want to fall asleep. I didn’t think it was that bad, but I did think it was a little monotone.
  • Didn’t Know Where to Start – After taking the test to see if AJ could benefit from the test, I expected to be told a place where she should start. She thought the first lessons were way below her level, and they were, but I didn’t want to skip too much. It would be great if there was a way to know where to start older children.
  • Lack of Fun – With so many fun games and activities available, this program seems boring. I like that it focuses on learning, but if your child needs fun and excitement while they are learning, they may find this lacking.

Overall it is a great program. I learned a few things by clicking through the patterns. If you want a no nonsense way for your child to learn to read, this would be perfect. Even though it is computer based, parental involvement would be needed to make sure your child is staying on task and really reading the words correctly. The best part of this program is that there is a FREE trial. Try it out and see if it would be a good fit for your child.

Click the graphic below to see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew had to say!

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}
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CHSH Download Club ~ Review

AJ is a kid that enjoys doing worksheets, so I am often on the look out for things to supplement the topics we are learning about.  The problem is that since she is in 8th grade, a lot of  worksheets and unit studies that I find are too easy for her. Sometimes I make up my own worksheets for her to complete, but most of the time I just don’t have the time. We were recently given the opportunity to review the CHSH Download Club  from CHSH-Teach.com. When I first looked at the Christian HomeSchool Hub, I knew that it would be a resource that I would use frequently over the next year.

What is the CHSH Download Club?

I  had never heard of the CHSH Download Club before this review, but I wish I had. The CHSH Download Club is an online resource that gives you access to thousands of pages of educational materials. It includes worksheets, literature studies, full curriculum, supplemental materials, flash cards, puzzles, coloring pages, and more. For one small price of just $25 a year (or $99 for a lifetime membership) you have access to everything on the site. There are materials for grades preschool through high school.

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}
The site makes it easy to find exactly what you need. The materials are organized by; subject, grade, and month. I have to say that I was amazed at all of the different things available, and I was thrilled to see that there is an entire section for high school. It includes:

  • Literature Studies – Including Shakespeare
  • English Composition and Language Arts – 4 Years of High School English
  • Social Studies – Including a full World History and American History course
  • Math – Including a Collage Level Algebra Book and Answer Key
  • Science – Including Biology and Physics

AJ won’t be in high school until next year, but I looked over a lot of the high school resources and think we will probably use the World History and Biology courses next year.

How We Used the CHSH Download Club

We are studying modern history this year. We have been learning about different important people throughout history. I looked through our history curriculum and saw that AJ would soon be learning about Amelia Earhart and the Wright Brothers. So I looked to see if there was any information on either of the two topics. There was!

I quickly found three resources for Amelia Earhart under the Social Studies topic of “People throughout History.” There is a unit geared for 3rd through 6th grade and a unit geared for 4th through 8th grade. There is also an Amelia Earhart shape book. I decided to use both of the units about Amelia Earhart. The first one she did was the one geared for kids in 3rd through 6th grade. That one basically had her read about Amelia Earhart and then fill in charts and answer questions about the reading. I felt that study would have been perfect for the 3rd through 6th grade age range. After she finished with that unit she was going to start on the 4th through 8th grade unit. Unfortunately, when I clicked on that unit it said that the file was not found. I was a little disappointed about that.

This is just one of the many products from the CHSH Download Club!

 

The next unit study I had AJ work on was Wright Brothers: Bicycles to Airplane. It is an 85 page unit study that has 17 different tasks for the student to complete while learning about the Wright Brothers. It begins with pages of information about the Wright Brothers. There are a variety of different tasks including; creating a magazine cover about the Wright Brothers’ flight, making an anemometer, researching aviation, locating important places on a map, art projects, poems, giving a speech and more. AJ didn’t complete all of the tasks (we still have another week left) but, this unit study is great. It includes so many hands on activities to help students learn about flight. I was excited to see a study that was geared towards older students, and look forward to other studies in the future.

These graphic organizers make learning new concepts fun!

We also used various worksheets throughout the review period. AJ enjoyed the blank periodic table that she could fill in. She also liked the different charts and venn diagrams that were available in the Graphic Organizer download. There are 80 different ones to choose from.

We planned on using one of the literature studies for the novels that AJ is reading. There is a study for almost all of the books she is reading this year.  Even though the literature studies are for grades 4 through 8, I found them to be too simple and easy for AJ. They were mainly simple questions about the plot of the novel and didn’t ask any thought provoking questions. I think it may have been perfect for younger students, but not for the 8th grade level.

What We Thought About the CHSH Download Club

After trying out various products from the CHSH Download Club I think it is well worth the cost. There really is something for everyone. Almost all of the resources I looked at were well made and well thought out. I enjoyed how easy it was to use the site and how quickly the downloads came up. Other than the one file about Amelia Earhart, there were no glitches on the site.

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}
If you are looking for a way to supplement your child’s learning then the CHSH Download Club may be exactly what you are looking for. This would be perfect for those who enjoy unit studies or those who want to dig deeper into a concept. We have tried a few different sites over the years that have downloadable resources, and I think so far that this one is the best, especially if you have older students.

Find out what other members of the Review Crew had to say by clicking the graphic below.

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}
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8th Grade English

AJ will be starting 8th grade very soon, but it seems like she was just learning to read a few years ago. Reading and writing are the subjects that she struggles with the most. She has never been officially diagnosed with a learning problem, but I think she has a mild form of dysgraphia. She can make up stories and explain almost anything, but when she is asked to put it in writing, she struggles. AJ has improved quite a bit over the past few years.  This year we are taking a lighter approach with science, history, and Spanish. We are going to really dive into English and Math. Here are our curriculum choices for 8th Grade English.

Our 8th Grade English Plan

Reading

AJ doesn’t enjoy reading short stories, so we stick to novels. This year she will read a variety of books. Most of the books that I picked out are books that we already had. I have study guides for some of them and for others she will be working on literary elements using season 1 of Beyond the Book Report. We were blessed to review it last year, and it was a hit. The lessons are short but they force her to really think about the book. As of right now we won’t be studying poetry this year, but things could change.

Writing

Writing is a subject that I need to be involved in, so it often gets pushed to the side. This year we are making writing a priority! If you have a struggling writer, I highly recommend IEW. AJ likes to watch the lessons. I never thought that she would like a writing program, but I am thrilled that she is enjoying it. When Mr. Pudewa explains something she really seems to understand writing. AJ likes having a checklist to make sure her writing is the best that it can be. I have noticed that the more we use the program the more confidence she has in writing.

Spelling

We have tried a few different approaches to spelling the last few years. Spelling You See was a nice change of pace and Phonetic Zoo was a product that I thought AJ would love. This year I was trying to decide what to use for spelling. AJ ended up asking if we could go back to spelling lists and I thought it would be a great idea. I ended up finding a free 8th grade spelling book online. I had it printed and bound at Staples and it is ready to go for the new year.

Vocabulary

Most of the novel study guides have daily or weekly vocabulary work, but I don’t think it is enough for AJ. She needs a lot of practice so we are going to use a few different products for vocabulary. I found a vocabulary workbook at the same time as the spelling workbook. I decided to have it printed and bound at Staples as well.

Wordbuild Online is great but I wanted an option for those times when the computer doesn’t want to cooperate. We were blessed to review Once Upon a Time in Latin, so we will use it through the year.  I think that between all of those resources AJ will be able to vastly improve her vocabulary.

Grammar

We started Analytical Grammar last year. It is designed to be completed over three years. This year we will finish up the last few units from the first section and complete the second session. AJ doesn’t enjoy grammar, but she is learning. I have learned quite a bit as well. It is a very solid program.

I will be very hands on for AJ’s 8th grade English course this year. Most of the days have her working for an hour and a half to two hours, but I think that the skills she will gain this year will really help to prepare her for high school.

 

8th Grade Reading List

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As I sat down to write this post I realized that this will be my fourth year of homeschooling AJ on my own and the sixth year in total of schooling at home. Some days it seems like we just started on this journey, while other times it seems like we have been homeschooling forever. This year we are going to focus on English and Math quite a bit. It is the last year before high school and I want to make sure that she is ready.

When I started thinking about the books I wanted to read I thought of novels that I have book studies for, and novels that I really enjoyed reading as a teenager. I hope that she enjoys reading most of them, but she can be reluctant to read books that aren’t about animals or fascinating adventures. My plan is to help her find additional book series that she enjoys.

Here are the books on AJ’s 8th Grade Reading List.

Our 8th Grade Reading List

The first four will be completed using the Memoria Press Study Guides.

  1. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  2. As You Like It – This will be our first attempt at Shakespeare. To make it easier we purchased a version of the book that has both the original text and a text that is easy to understand.
  3. Treasure Island
  4. The Wind in the Willows – AJ read part of this book last year but we put it aside to finish our study on Narnia.

She will complete a study guide from Classroom Complete Press for the next set of books.

  1. Bridge to Terabithia
  2. The Giver
  3. Holes
  4. The Whipping Boy

She will do book reports on the next set of books.

  1. Alice in Wonderland
  2. Through the Looking Glass
  3. Animal Farm (This is part of her History curriculum.)

It looks like we will have a fun filled year of reading. What books are you planning on reading this year?