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?

High School Essay Intensive ~ Review

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

Institute for Excellence in Writing

What is the High School Essay Intensive?

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

The course is broken into four sections.

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

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

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

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

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

What We Thought of the High School Essay Intensive

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

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

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

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

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

High School Essay Intensive {Institute for Excellence in Writing Reviews}
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Educeri ~ Review

We are always looking for new ways to help AJ learn, so we were excited to have the chance to review Educeri Lesson Subscription Service from Educeri …….  Educeri a division of DataWORKS .

What is Educeri?

Educeri is an online based program designed to help teachers teach specific learning objectives to their students. There are currently 1108 lessons and resources for kindergarten through high school levels. The majority of the lessons cover math and language arts topics, but there are other lessons available depending on the grade level. When you subscribe to Educeri you are given access to all of the lessons and resources.

Educeri Lesson Subscription Service Reviews
In addition to math and language arts there are, 21 Science lessons which are mainly for middle school students and 26 History lessons mainly for grades five and up. There is also one lesson in Art, Music, PE, and Spanish.

The site is set up so you can search for your desired grade level or subject. You can also search by the concept that you want to teach.

For all of the Math and Language Arts lessons there are downloadable student handouts that you can print off for your student. Your student works on the handout while you are teaching them the lesson. Then they complete some independent work after the lesson is completed.

How We Used Educeri

When I logged onto the site I decided to simply go to the 8th grade section. I found 73 lessons and resources for the 8th grade level. I was surprised to see that the 8th grade section also had a few different history lessons. Since we are not using a complete Language Arts program this year, I decided to check out the Language Arts lessons first.

There were lessons covering:

Analyzing Analogies

Symbolism

Analyzing Themes in Literature

Literary Devices

Analyzing Conflicting Viewpoints

Writing

Grammar and

Vocabulary

One of the lessons AJ worked on was on Idioms. I decided not to print off the student hand outs, instead we discussed the information.

When I clicked to teach the lesson I the first page lists the objective of the lesson and the prior knowledge that students should know about the topic. The following slide went on to explain the difference and give a few examples of literal and figurative language.

educeri-review-1

Then there is guided practice. The answers are all blank and then as you click the mouse answers are revealed. There is a highlighting and pen tool to use so you can interact with the lesson. Once the guided practice is finished there is a section about the relevance of the skill and then a review of how to use the skill. The lesson ends with the independent practice. In this section the answers are again blank, and with each click of the mouse an answer is revealed.

I decided to spread the lessons out over a few days. One day we would introduce the concept and do the guided practice. Then another day we would go over the relevance of the skill and how to use it. At the end of the week I would have her do the independent work.

I feel that she learned some new skills through this review. We mainly used the Language Arts lessons, but she did use a few of the math lessons.

What We Thought About Educeri

While I felt AJ learned a few new skills, I felt that this product was much more than we needed in our homeschool setting. There was a lot of focus on objectives and how each skill would help the student preform better on tests. In a school setting where they have to stick to standard based learning, this would be perfect. I just felt it was a little over kill.

AJ thought that the lessons took too long and didn’t like that a single part of the answer would be revealed at a time. She didn’t like the way that math was taught and felt that there was a lot of unneeded steps when she could easily figure out problems. A lot of this has to do with the fact that the lessons are common core aligned, and it is not at all what she was use to.

I see this product being a better fit in a group setting. Since we do so much one on one learning, the set up of the lessons was just not the right fit for us. In the future I think I will just print of the hand outs for her and teach her off of them.

If you want to ensure that your child is learning all of the skills that their peers in public school are learning, then this might be exactly what you are looking for. The best part is that you can try it out for 30 days risk free! See if it is something that will work for your family.

Click on the graphic below to see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought.

Educeri Lesson Subscription Service
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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.

 

NotebookingPages.com ~ Review

AJ is a reluctant writer, but we found out a few years ago that she writes a lot more when she is making a lapbook or using a notebooking page. As she has gotten older we have started to move past lapbooks and into notebooking for some of her subjects. We were given a Lifetime Membership to NotebookingPages.com and I was anxious to see all of the different notebooking pages that were available.

Notebooking is a great way to let your child show what they have learned. The process lets them explain what they really know about a subject with a combination of writing and drawing. Notebooking can be used for kids of all ages. Kids in kindergarten and lower elementary may draw pictures about what they have learned and dictate something for you to write where older kids may draw diagrams to explain things or write full pages of information about a topic. NotebookingPages.com has pages for all ages and offers specialized pages in so many different topics.

Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership Reviews
With a Lifetime Membership to NotebookingPages.com you are given access to all of the notebooking pages that currently exist and any that are added in the future. The site is very organized making it simple to find the perfect page for what ever topic your child is learning about.

When you log on to NotebookingPages.com you will see that there are ten categories that the notebooking pages are divided into.

Any Study – Here you will find pages that are not specifically meant for a certain subject. You will find numerous designs including pages with colorful borders and different set ups. This section also has 3D notebooking pages and mini books. These are wonderful for those who are transitioning from lapbooking to notebooking. It is a fun way to add mini books right onto the notebooking page. These pages were AJ’s favorite, she enjoyed being able to still fill out the mini books because they help her to organize the information that she is writing about.

A to Z – These pages are great for younger kids who are starting to use notebooking pages. It includes coppywork and pages about sports, animals and transportation.

Bible/Character – Here you will find pages about characters and events in the Bible as well as pages dedicated to learning about character traits. There are quite a few different designs with beautiful pictures. There are over 500 different pages to pick from in the Bible category alone!

Famous People – This section has pages about different people. There are pages about presidents, scientists, missionaries, artists, composers, and other famous people throughout history. The artist pages even contain full color pages of art prints from the artist and picture studies. This section could keep you busy, it is well set up so you have what you need right at your fingertips to easily put together a great study.

Fine Arts – This section also includes the artist and picture study section. You will also find pages about composers and musical copywork.

Geography – This was my favorite section! There are maps, country study packets, and USA notebooking pages. There are pages about the different states, monuments, parks, and memorials.

History – These pages include timeline pages and pages to make a Book of Centuries. It also contains pages on; Ancient History, the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation, and Modern Times. There are pages about important people and events in each era of history.

Holidays – This section has holiday themed pages for each major holiday. You can search by month and find pages for that month’s holidays.

Language Arts – This section has Latin and Greek word study pages and 13 different categories of copywork pages.

Science/Nature – This was another one of my favorite sections. There are notebooking pages for science experiments, plants, nature studies, astronomy, animals, and anatomy. But these pages go way past simple notebooking pages. There are diagrams of the body and different body systems for your child to fill out, and pages where they can write about each body system. I really think that the anatomy pages and a few good books would be perfect for a high school Biology course. They are very well done. I see us using quite a few of these pages over the next few years.

As you can see there is a very large variety. Most of the pages come in different line styles so your older and younger children can be working on the same topic with pages that fit their writing needs.

Simplify your homeschool with NotebookingPages.com!

With so many pages available and our school year coming to an end we used pages from a variety of sections. I had AJ pick out some of the basic designs to write summaries about books she was reading. She used a few science themed pages to write about what she learned after watching some Bill Nye the Science Guy episodes, and used some of the experiment pages after doing some quick experiments. It is amazing how fun designs make writing up experiment reports so much easier. She has been learning about Greek and Latin words in vocabulary and used the notebooking pages to keep track of the words she was learning. She also used a few of the 3D pages to create some fun pages about animals. She also used some of the blank copywork pages to practice the poetry she is memorizing. In just a few weeks we got a lot of use out of NotebookingPages.com. But I have even more plans for next year.

I picked up a high school World Geography book at the Good Will and was creating a course for AJ to complete, the problem was that I couldn’t find any good maps to go along with it. But there are hundreds of different maps available on NotebookingPages.com. I found labeled maps for her to color and blank maps for her to label. There are so many different maps that I was able to find exactly what I needed. There are world maps and continent maps. When she is learning the world oceans I can print out a world map and when she is learning about Africa I can print a map of the continent. It has made planning so much easier.

I have also went through and printed out pages to go with topics she is going to learn about in history and science next year. NotebookingPages.com has made planning for the next school year so much easier.

The site is well organized, easy to use, and full of well made pages. One thing I really enjoyed is that I didn’t need to save anything to my computer. I could simply open the file in Adobe Acrobat and print the pages I needed. I know that NotebookingPages.com will be a resource that we use for years to come. I originally thought that I would find a few good pages, but the site has exceeded my expectations. If you use notebooking in your homeschool, NotebookingPages.com will be a great addition have.

Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership Reviews
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Writers in Residence ~ Review

Writing is the subject that AJ hates the most. We have tried numerous writing programs that seem like they would be a perfect fit, but once we start them AJ dislikes them for one reason or another. We have seen a lot of improvements in her writing recently, but our lessons were taking over our day. On days we had too much going on in other subjects, writing got pushed to the side. I knew we were both ready to try something new. When I heard that Apologia Educational Ministries had a new language arts based writing program, Writers in Residence, I was intrigued. When I heard that it was authored by Debra Bell, I thought it would be a hit.

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
Writers in Residence is a new product that combines a writing curriculum with grammar, sentence structure, capitalization, and punctuation practice. Writers in Residence is perfect for kids in grades four through eight. The student book is huge! At over 550 pages there is plenty of room for instruction.

There are six units that each take about four or five weeks to complete. There is a schedule included that has your student working for four days a week, but that can easily be adjusted to fit your own needs. This curriculum is very flexible!

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
After opening the box we found a small teacher guide and a 2 inch thick Student Text and Workbook. I read through the beginning of the student book and decided we would try to stick to the four day week. The lessons all looked short and to the point. AJ enjoyed the lessons the first week, and by the second week she was reminding me that we needed to work on writing.

AJ worked on Writers in Residence almost every day. One thing that she really enjoyed was the variety. Some days she would write sentences about a favorite memory and other days she would pick out the verbs in the sentence and then practice walking a bunch of ways to help her learn that the more precise her verbs are in her writing the better. I think the variety in the assignments kept AJ guessing what would come next. It also meant that when she saw the writing book, she didn’t automatically assume that the work would be boring and tedious.

Throughout this review AJ has completed a lot of writing and grammar exercises. One thing that is stressed throughout the program is that writing needs to be practiced. AJ was expected to make mistakes in her writing and to fix them. Each unit is broken up into a number of modules. At the end of each module you and your child go through and grade all of the work they did based on their effort and the quality of their work. Even little things like acting out vocabulary words are included. Knowing that she was getting credit for all of those fun tasks as well as the harder ones really seemed to help motivate AJ.

What We Liked

  • We both liked that the book was spiral bound. That made it easy to write on at all times.
  • We liked that so many subjects were covered at once. It made our day go a little faster.
  • AJ liked that there was plenty of room for her to write in the workbook. She writes way too big for most workbooks, so that was a big deal to her.
  • We both like that the instructions were written at a level that she could easily understand. That made assigning writing work easy for me.
  • We both liked the bright and colorful text throughout the book. It was enough to be fun, but not too much that it overwhelmed her.

The only thing AJ didn’t like was that it was so big. I think if this could possibly be broken up into two books it may be easier for a child to handle.

If you are looking for a solid writing curriculum that incorporates other aspects of language arts into it then this is what you are looking for. It is well written, provides plenty of practice, and promotes independent learning. We will be using this for the rest of this year and all of next year. I have already seen a big improvement in her writing and look forward to how her writing will change in the future.

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
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Memoria Press Literature ~ Review

When I was in middle school and high school I really enjoyed literature. We would spend about a month on a book and by the time we were finished we learned so many things. We talked about all kinds of literary terms and often would spend an entire class period marking up passages in the books. Since I loved diving into good books I wanted AJ to have the same kind of experience as I did. Unfortunately, I hadn’t found a great literature curriculum that I could afford, so I decided to make up my own literature guides. I enjoy doing it and she loves them, but they take a long time. I knew I need to find a few well written study guides before next year, but I didn’t know where to look.

 

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review
 

As I began looking for literature curriculum to use with AJ next year, I came across Memoria Press. We enjoyed a history study from them last year, so I thought that AJ would enjoy their literature. A few weeks later I was blessed with the opportunity to review the Eighth Grade Literature Guide Set from Memoria Press. AJ is in 7th grade right now, but the books in the 8th grade set looked like ones that she would really enjoy.

 

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review

 

I was thrilled when I opened the box from Memoria Press. It included Student Study Guides and Teacher Guides for; The Wind In the Willows, As You Like It, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Treasure Island. Each Study Guide was a little bit different.

Treasure Island

Treasure Island Literature Guide

The Student Study Guide for Treasure Island is 89 pages long. It begins with two pages of directions explaining how to use the literature guide and then a two page introduction about the author, Robert Louis Stevenson. The guide is broken into lessons that cover either one or two chapters. Each lesson follows a similar layout.

  • Reading Notes – This section gives information about unknown characters or terms.
  • Vocabulary – In this section your child gives definitions for an average of eight to ten words. Then they are asked to do additional dictionary work for two of the words.
  • Comprehension Questions – Your students answer five or six questions about the reading in complete sentences.
  • Quotations – A quote from the chapter is given and your student writes which character (or if it was the narrator) said the quote.
  • Discussion Questions – A few questions are listed for your student to discuss orally. Some of the questions are opinion based where others focus on morals or the reasoning behind a characters action.
  • Enrichment – The Enrichment section is not found after every chapter. It includes additional activities to go along with the reading. Some of the activities include; drawing, map work, finding definitions, research, and composition activities.

After about every six chapters there is a Mastery Word Review where your student completes vocabulary activities based on vocabulary that they learned in the previous chapters.

At the end of the book there is an Appendix of Nautical Terms. This section is really neat. It not only has terms, but types of knots, parts of a ship, and sailing directions. I think this section would really come in handy while reading the book.

The Teacher Guide is an exact copy of the student guide with all of the answers filled in. The back of the guide includes answers to some of the discussion questions. There are also six reproducible quizzes, a final exam, and answer keys.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Adventures of Tom Sawyer Literature Guide

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Student Study Guide is 79 pages long. While it is similar to the Treasure Island Guide there are some notable differences. This guide starts with a short one page guide about how to use the book and then it goes into a section about how to mark a book. This section made me smile. It is very basic, but it shows the student how to read closely and mark important things in their book.

After the section about marking the book the student is instructed to read the preface of the book and answer some questions about it in the Study Guide.

There are 36 lessons in this book, one for each chapter in the book. Each lesson follows the same layout.

  • Reading Notes
  • Vocabulary – They are only asked to define about 5 words, there is not any extra dictionary work.
  • Comprehension Questions
  • Quotations – This time they are asked who said the quote and who it was spoken to or about.
  • Discussion Questions
  • Focus Passage – In each Focus Passage the student is asked to find a certain paragraph in the chapter and answer questions about it. The first few have simple comprehension type questions about the paragraph. As they move through the book they are asked to list words that describe mood, or for phrases that show certain things about a character. At times they are asked to paraphrase parts of the paragraph or to describe what was going on.

Like Treasure Island, this Teacher Guide has all of the student pages with the answers filled in. It also has six quizzes and a final exam.

As You Like It

As You Like it Literature Guide

The Student Guide for As You Like It is 42 pages long. Since this is a play by Shakespeare the Student Guide is a little different than the others. It begins with a two page introduction to Shakespeare followed by a two page introduction to the play. Following the introduction is a Character Log with the name of twelve characters from the play. The student has to describe each character and their strengths and weaknesses as they read the play.

The rest of the Student Guide is divided into seven lessons, a question about the Epilogue, and 80 short answer review questions.

Each Lesson has:

  • Vocabulary – Ten to fifteen questions where they are only asked for the definitions.
  • Journal Prompts – Three to five activities including some fun activities like; making the family tree of a character, comparing and contrasting characters, diary entries from different characters, monologues, pictures, and more.
  • Quotes – The student is given three or four quotes. The need to tell who spoke it, who it was spoken to, the situation, the meaning, and the reaction.
  • Comprehension Questions – There are about fifteen questions in each lesson. Many of the questions have multiple parts.

The Teacher Guide is similar to the others. It has the Student Guide with all of the answers filled in. Well, almost all of the answers were filled in. The Character Log was left blank. I wish that it would have been filled in because Shakespeare is a hard topic to teach. Having those filled in would have helped me explain things to AJ a little easier. At the back of the guide there are answers to the Review Questions along with a Midterm Exam and a Final Exam. The exams both include required essay questions.

I think that this guide will make teaching Shakespeare a lot easier for me. I have not read this play yet so I think it will be helpful to have the basic answers at my finger tips.

The Wind in the Willows

Wind in the Willows Literature Guide

The Student Guide for The Wind in the Willows is 53 pages long. It has twelve lessons, one for each chapter in the book. This guide didn’t have any directions or introduction. It just starts. Out of all of the guides, this one seems a little all over the place. But it provides quite a bit of variety.

Each lesson is a little different and may have:

  • Reading Notes – These are not already filled in like in Treasure Island or The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Instead the name of a character, a place, or an unknown term is listed. During the reading the student is to fill in information that they find. Often the information was not found in the book and we needed to look it up.
  • Vocabulary – The student only writes a short definition.
  • Comprehension Questions – Some lessons only have a few while others have twelve or more.
  • Quotations – The student lists who said it, when they said it, and who they said it about,
  • Discussion Questions
  • Activities– These range from drawings to reports. There is room right in the guide for most of these activities.
  • Focus Passages

The Teacher Guide is similar to the others and has answers to almost every question. It also includes five quizzes and a final exam.

How We Used It

Since there was no way AJ could finish more than one of these during the review period, we had to pick one to start with. AJ decided to start with The Wind in the Willows, after I told her that Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disney Land was based on a character in the book. I ordered two copies of the book from the library and after receiving abridged and junior additions, we were finally on the way home with two copies of the the original version.

When the box arrived AJ was anxious to see what was in it. At that time I didn’t look at the other guides. We opened the guides for The Wind in the Willows and looked over them.

Memoria Press

I was disappointed that there wasn’t a schedule or pacing guide at all. There wasn’t even any instructions. When I tried to find out how long the study would take I couldn’t find information for this guide, only for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. After looking at that I decided that we would take the study slow. AJ has improved a lot in her reading and writing, but I knew it would be too much for her to read the entire chapter and answer all of the questions at one time.

I decided to have AJ look up the vocabulary words and then we would take turns reading for about thirty minutes. After the reading she did any written work (except for the activities) that she was able to based on her reading. Following that schedule she was able to complete about two lessons and the quiz each week. On the day that she took the quiz I would also have her do a few of the activities from the chapters. At first I was a little uncomfortable taking that long on a book, but AJ was learning a great deal. I felt that the questions were well written and on an eight grade level. One thing that I really appreciated is that the Study Guide gave plenty of room for AJ to write.

What We Thought

The one thing that really frustrated me was that the quizzes and tests are all in the Teacher Guides? The only guide that states that the quizzes and tests are reproducible is the guide for Treasure Island. After reading the copyright on the front of the other guides I assumed that they were not reproducible. Since I didn’t want AJ to have the Teacher Guide I ended up giving her the quizzes orally and that was very time consuming. When I read that the quizzes and tests in Treasure Island were reproducible I assumed that the other ones were probably too. Knowing that would have made the quizzes easier for AJ.

At first I thought that reading four novels in a school year was just not enough. This year I planned to have AJ read eight. I quickly realized that these four Study Guides made for a very complete curriculum. The vocabulary in each one is challenging but doable and I think it will stretch AJ’s abilities. For each book the student focuses on a different element. This makes each guide unique and will keep the work interesting.

AJ’s favorite part was the Quotations section. She enjoyed hunting through the chapter to see who said each quote. I found that having her look for the quotes made her read closer. There were even a few times that she asked to do the work by herself. Normally she doesn’t enjoy study guides unless I create them, but she enjoyed working on The Wind in the Willows.

I love that this set has her starting to read closely and having her mark up the books. I think it is a great skill to learn.

While we read through this book together I think that she should be able to complete the guides for Treasure Island and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer with very little help from me. I was very reluctant to teach her Shakespeare already, but the way the guide is written makes me confident that we will be able to read and understand it.

These guides look like they will make a great literature curriculum. We are going to set the other three novels aside for now and use them next year. I am sure that with just one or two more books added AJ will have a very full year of learning.

If you are looking for a solid curriculum, that is easy for the parent, and has plenty of variety, then I think Memoria Press is something you should check out.

Other Members of the Crew reviewed different levels of the Literature Guides. Find out what they had to say by clicking on the graphic below.

 

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review
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Mr. Popper’s Penguins (Book Study)

The middle of last year Home & School Mosaics, a website that I reviewed and wrote for, decided to shut down. One post that I wrote was part of the monthly book club. Since it is no longer available  on Home & School Mosaics, I’m sharing it here.

This month we are focusing on the book, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, by Richard and Florence Atwater.  I will be sharing my thoughts on the book as well as activities to do for each chapter. There is also a downloadable study guide for the book.

Post Contains Affiliate Links

What was the book about?

The book was about a family man who was very unhappy with his job as a painter and decorator. His true passion would be exploring the world. One day he gets a surprise in the mail, a penguin from Antarctica. The penguin causes some minor funny issues but becomes a member of the family. Unfortunately, after a while, the penguin starts to get sick because he needs companionship. After another penguin arrives at the Popper’s home the first penguin starts to feel better, but then the family has to figure out how to keep two penguins happy. Trouble and craziness continue when Greta, the female penguin, lays 10 eggs. After a while, they are able to train the penguins and they become known as Popper’s Performing Penguins. Fun and excitement follow as the penguins go on the road to perform.

Mr. Popper's Penguins book study and study guide

Did the book fulfill your expectations?

Having watched the movie, I was expecting a totally different story. The movie was over the top and had us laughing all of the time. The book and movies share a few similarities, but overall the main storylines are very different. That being said, I think I liked the book a lot more than the movie. It was funny, exciting, and a great story. I really liked that it wasn’t a book that I could easily tell what was going to happen next.

Did the book end the way you expected?

No, the ending was totally unexpected. It was fitting of Mr. Popper’s character, but I was definitely surprised by his decision at the end.

 

How realistic was the characterization?

The characters themselves, and the way they interact with each other, are very realistic. The situation they were put in was obviously unrealistic, but their handling of the problems was realistic. My favorite – and least favorite – character was Mr. Popper. He loves his family, but has his heads in the clouds and doesn’t seem to take bills and responsibility seriously. He is kind of selfish and likes to keep to himself. His wife on the other hand was down to earth and a worry wart. She was very practical throughout most of the book. I could definitely relate to Mrs. Popper.

Would you recommend the book?

Absolutely! The book was full of comedy, with a few unexpected surprises thrown in. It is a simple read that I am sure would be enjoyed by all ages.

Activities

There are so many fun activities that you can do with this book! Doing a unit study on penguins would be a great idea. Embracing Home has an amazing penguin unit study. There are dozens of activities, games, videos, and printables to help you learn about penguins.

Below are a few ideas I have come up with that go with the book..

Chapters 1 and 2

  • Write a letter to Admiral Drake
  • On a map label the North and South Pole
  • Find Antarctica on the map and color it. You can find free printable maps at  Your Child Learns.com

Chapters 3 and 4

  • Label the parts of a penguin
  • Make a Penguin Fact bookmark

Chapters 5 and 6

  • Study penguin habitats
  • How many words can you make out of the word “PENGUIN”? ( downloadable worksheet) There are 40 possible words.

Chapters 7 and 8

  • Make a bird nest
  • Write a newspaper article about Captain Cook

Chapters 9 and 10

  • Draw a penguin

Chapters 11 and 12

Making fake snow is just one of the fun activities in the Mr. Popper's Penguins book study.

  • Make fake snow
  • Build a house out of ice cubes or sugar cubes

Chapters 13 and 14

  • Penguin money math (downloadable worksheet)

Chapters 15 and 16

  • Make a comic strip showing the penguin’s act

Chapters 17 and 18

  • On a map, color all of the states that the penguins visited
  • Research what seals eat

Chapters 19 and 20

  • Write a book report
  • Compare and contrast the book and the movie

We were able to find an instant snow kit at the store; we just added water. AJ had a blast playing with it. It isn’t quite like real snow, but it was close enough. If you don’t want to buy fake snow, you could also make one of the numerous recipes on Pinterest.

Scroll down to download the Mr. Popper’s Penguins study guide. It includes vocabulary and questions for each chapter. Most of the questions are simply plot based, so if your child is able to read the book I think they would be able to complete the study guide.

Craft

A Penguin Bookmark

Throughout the book there are a lot of penguin facts. Make this book mark to keep your place while reading, and jot down facts when you find them. It is very simple.

Supplies needed for the Penguin Bookmarks

Materials:

  • Card stock, or a file folder
  • 1 sheet of black, white, and yellow construction paper
  • googly eyes
  • glue
  • scissors
  • ruler

Instructions:

This penguin bookmark goes perfectly with the Mr. Popper's Penguins book study!

First, cut out a piece of card stock or file folder into a rectangle the size you want your penguin bookmark.

Then, glue that piece onto the black construction paper.

Glue googly eyes near the top.

Cut out a beak and two feet for your penguin. Glue them into place.

Next, cut a white oval out of the construction paper. Glue it on your penguin.

Finally, round the head of your penguin. It is finished!

Other Penguin Resources

AJ loves the Magic School Bus series, so whenever we do a unit study I search to see if Ms. Frizzle has a book or video related to what AJ is learning about. Thankfully there is a Magic School Bus Chapter Book about Penguins! Penguin Puzzle is the 8th book in the series, and it didn’t disappoint. AJ loves that she can go on an adventure and learn new things at the same time. If you haven’t checked out the chapter books, you need to. They have more details and facts spread throughout the book, but they are presented in an older way. They are about a third to fourth grade reading level, but AJ still loves to read them.

March of the Penguin is a good video that has breath taking shots of the emperor penguin.

Penguins Book for Kids –  This is a fact filled picture book all about penguins.

This American Girl Sew and Stuff Penguin Kit looks like a lot of fun. We haven’t tried the penguin one yet, but AJ enjoyed  a few other ones. Make sure you keep all of the pieces together or you might end up loosing a vital piece.

Mix your love of penguins with even more science. In this crystal growing kit your child can grow a penguin crystal. We have grown quite a few crystal animals and objects and they are always a great learning experiment.

I hope you enjoy this study of Mr. Popper’s Penguins. It is free for my subscribers. If you already are a subscriber you will find this printable study in your email. Haven’t subscribed yet? Enter your email below to get access to this and all of my other subscriber only printables.


 

 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Printable Pack

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an inspirational man who helped to change the world. Throughout our homeschool journey AJ has studied some fascinating people, from biblical characters to kings and queens. Unfortunately, we have only gotten as far as the Civil War and the abolishment of slavery when it comes to recent history. Next year our focus will be on history from the Civil War to the present, but right now we are in the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods.

Since there have been so many influential men and women in the recent years, I have decided to spend a little time having AJ learn about some of those people a few times each month.

Martin Luther King Jr. printable pack - free for subscribers

Since Martin Luther King Jr. Day is coming up, I decided to start our new study with him. AJ has learned a little bit about him over the years and knows that he fought for equal rights for all people. It was hard for her to understand why he had to fight for the equal rights though. It is hard to try and explain how people use to believe when I have a difficult time understanding it myself.

Normally I would go to the library and check out a bunch of books for AJ to look through and research. I still can’t drive for another month at least, so our research was limited to the internet. I am still not comfortable with AJ searching the internet by herself, so I found a few good websites that I knew would be appropriate. I used information from those sites (and a few others) to make a printable pack about Martin Luther King Jr.

The four main websites I had her visit were:

Ducksters

Social Studies for Kids

Kids Play and Create and

National Geographic Kids

Martin Luther King Jr. Printable Pack includes:

Word Search

Fill in the Blank Activity

Quotable Quotes Page

Writing Prompt

and a page to write about Martin Luther King Jr.’s character traits

This printable pack is avaivable for free to all of my subscribers. If you haven’t signed up yet, enter your email address below to subscribe to my newsletter and get access to all of my subscriber only freebies.



 

 

I hope you and your child enjoy learning all about Martin Luther King with this printable pack. Which influential person would you like to learn about next?