Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review: Latin for Children (Classical Academic Press)

The thought of teaching Latin can be intimidating.  When I decided my oldest should being studying Latin, I slaved over the decision on whether to purchase a curriculum or sign her up for an online class for about...oh, 5 minutes.  With nearly zero background in any foreign language, I simply didn't think I could do it.  Furthermore, it sounded a, dry...and I didn't *want* to teach it. She was registered for a class in no time.

While the online classes have been a good choice for my oldest, my youngest is not ready for the level offered.  Furthermore, my oldest is a language geek and my youngest, well, is not. Having control over pace is important. So once again I'm faced with the thought of teaching Latin.  However, I'm beginning to think it is doable, after having the opportunity to review Latin for Children A, Mastery Bundle by Classical Academic Press.

Latin for Children is a three-year Latin program designed for grades 3-6.  There are three levels in the program, each intended to take a year to complete.  Included in the Mastery Bundle for Primer A, the first of the levels, is:
  • Primer A - the student text and workbook
  • Primer A Answer Key - includes duplicate pages of the student text worksheets with answers in bold
  • DVDs and Chant CD - chapter-by-chapter lessons and audio CD of lesson chants
  • History Reader  - Latin stories geared toward the grammar and vocabulary being taught
  • Activity Book - games and puzzles to supplement what the student learns in each chapter
In addition to the above, there are free resources available at the website, as well as a separate website called Headventure Land where students will find games, videos, and stories to help with Latin studies.

As a busy mom, one of my biggest concerns is the amount of prep work for a lesson, especially one which I'm terrified to teach I have little experience. Latin for Children, which is geared toward the student and is taught with video lessons, has been able to check my rather huge requirement box of something that is pick-up-and-go.  This is not an intimidating program.

Each lesson has a short video presentation, in both classical or ecclesiastical pronunciation.  The video starts with chanting exercises, led by a group of children.  This portion is only a couple of minutes long.  Next, Dr. Christopher Perrin presents a grammar lesson that is anywhere from 6-10 minutes long.  This same material is presented and explained in the text.

The text is nicely laid out and each chapter has the following sections:
  • Memory Page - chapter maxim, new chant, vocabulary
  • Grammar Page - new grammar teaching from the video
  • Worksheet - reinforcement and practice of new material
  • Derivative Worksheet - derivative practice through study, define, and apply 
  • Quiz - test of new material
  • Extra Resources - usually interesting stories or related information, or an extra activity
The vocabulary consists of about 10 words a week to learn.  Over the course of the complete Latin for Children program (A, B, and C), students will have learned 720 vocabulary words and 70% of Latin grammar. There are sample pages of first several chapters of the Primer A and Activity Book available for a more detailed view.

There are a lot of things to like about this program.

-First of all, there is zero prep work.  I can simply watch the DVD with my student and am fully up to speed. Yay!

-Dr. Perrin is an excellent presenter and explains the material well.

-The DVD lessons aren't dull.  The front of the text say, "Classical Latin, Creatively Taught".  I have to agree.  The presentation will certainly appeal to elementary students and the sense of humor is quite quirky. While my 6th grader rolled his eyes during a segment of "How the West was Unus", performed by a princess, cowboy, and an assortment of other toys and action figures, I don't think he can deny he was entertained. Below you'd find a sample DVD lessons from Primer A:

-The supplemental materials are great.  The Activity Book and History Reader help add interest, and the website resources are helpful for reinforcing new material.

-I found the presentation clear and the textbook logical.  The program is very easy to follow. Additionally, it is not assumed that students will have a firm grasp of English grammar yet. The program is also integrated with Shurley Grammar.

-There is a built-in breather with a review every 5 lessons.

Potential cons:

-Kids of the more serious sort may find some of the humor annoying. The home filming fits in with the style of the DVD, but some may feel it is overly casual. I had trouble with the alternating camera shots with cameras (one on Dr. Perrin, one a close-up of the whiteboard) that had a difference in quality. Perhaps a bit picky, but it depends on the tone your student needs. To be honest, I had to get to picky to find any cons.

-It was more difficult than I expected for a 3rd-6th program and I suspect some 3rd and perhaps 4th graders will need some modification.

Latin for Children is definitely a program to consider if you will be teaching Latin in your homeschool.  What makes it most unique is the fun and quirky approach.  My son, who really had no interest in learning Latin, seemed to enjoy the program and was quite willing to work on the material, even though he commented that he found some of it difficult.  That is quite telling!

Visit the Classical Academic Press website and review the FAQ to learn more about Latin for Children and other products geared toward a Classical education.  The Latin for Children A, Mastery Bundle sells for $99.95 and the components of the package can all be purchased individually.

Read what other reviewers had to say about products from Classical Academic Press by visiting the official TOS Homeschool Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result in my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew. I was provided the product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I have received no other compensation. I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hard Lessons

I'd like to think that the lessons learned in a class have to do with the subject in the class.  That would make sense, wouldn't it?  Unfortunately, one of my kids is learning the lesson that life isn't always fair, that adults sometimes don't act like adults, and that teachers sometimes aren't focused on students learning.

I've commended teachers for being extra hard on my kids when it was obvious that they were either not doing their best or the work was clearly incorrect. Because you see, I actually want my kids to learn about the subject which I pay the teacher to teach. Furthermore, I expect them to earn their grades.  I try to instill in them that their grade is a reflection of their effort, hard work, and material learned. 

However, how do you explain to a hard-working student a teacher that won't give points for a correctly answered exam question, simply because the student, after pointing out the grading error and the instructor agreeing in class, didn't follow up with an email immediately after class (but did before the next class)? Or, when the student then notifies (immediately this time!) the instructor of another set of points clearly deducted in error on another assignment, only to be told that yes, it was an error, but upon looking at the assignment again, points were now being deducted in a different area for being "inadequate."  When the student then asked the instructor to clarify because the student had never had points taken off for the said infraction in nearly four years of the exact same assignment with this teacher, the student was then told that she was lucky it was never "caught" before now and that is that. I'm sorry, wouldn't that be the teaching that was "inadequate" then, not the student's assignment?

Unfortunately, these aren't isolated incidences of a bad teaching attitude, one that is focused on the instructor being "right", no matter what, as one of authority and power. It hasn't just been about being right either, but a complete lack of encouraging.  One time, my student contact the teacher with two research topics, and inquired about which would lend itself to a better topic for a scientific research paper contest outside of class that she was self-motivated to do.  The reply?  "I have no time." No time to answer "a" or "b" on his opinion, an opinion sought out by a curious and motivated student.  Plenty of time to let the student know that he had no interest in true learning. Shouldn't one share knowledge with the intent of inspiring others to learn and dig deeper, rather than just expecting your listeners to never think, methodically spit out information, and never question anything?  Shouldn't any inkling of desire to learn more be fostered? Otherwise, not only is learning lost, but a passion for learning is completely squashed.

Despite having proven herself with maintaining a solid A for over three years in this instructor's classes and having shown great interest in the topic (until now, that is...SQUASH), what is being learned this year is some very hard lessons about people.  It was bound to happen sooner or later, but it wasn't the course for which I registered her. Unfortunately, she doesn't get a grade for these lessons. If she did, assuming fairness in grading, of course, she would get an A+ for what she has learned.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Power of a Snowman

Spring is definitely in the air this week! We've actually seen the sun for several days in a row and the temperatures have been high enough to melt almost all the snow. Oh, how I've missed the sun!  Its absence makes the whole state of Michigan crabby. That sun has some magical powers on mood. Snow does have its place, though. These pictures are from a few weeks ago, but I thought I'd share before thoughts of snow are long gone.

My kids were coming back from walking a neighbor's dog, when I heard them doing something in the backyard...together...laughing.  It was a nice sound. I much prefer it to bickering. I peered out my bedroom window and couldn't quite tell what they were doing.
But I liked that they were doing it together, and doing so happily.  At a 11 and 14, that is becoming an infrequent occurrence.
They were spending a long time making...something...and trying to find the right materials.
 Then they ran inside to get me and show off their creation...
 It's a snowman taking a bath in the bird bath!  See his leaf shower cap and pine tree scrub brush?
Gotta love creative kids.  And lately, it has been taking some creativity to get along.  I'm glad a little snowman could bridge the gap for a while.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Review: Who is God? (Apologia)

Worldview. Everyone has one. What is yours? Do your kids understand worldview?  Can they explain their worldview?  Have they actually put thought to the tough questions about their own worldview and beliefs?

Who is God?, authored by John Hay and David Webb, is an exploration of worldview for kids ages 6-14.  It is the first of four volumes in the new What We Believe series published by Apologia in partnership with Summit Ministries.  I was introduced to Summit Ministries a couple of years ago; I have really enjoyed reading and listening to their materials.  I’ve also used Apologia’s science texts over the last several years. I was excited to see the result of a partnership between Apologia and Summit.

When Who is God? arrived, I was immediately struck by the look and feel of the book.  It is a sizeable hardcover with plenty of interesting illustrations.

This first volume specifically covers the Biblical worldview of God and Truth. This includes the person and attributes of God, His provision, His design for creation, the Fall, and His plan for salvation. It isn’t just the material covered inside; there is a passcode in the book to a complete website with additional resources, including:
  • Supplemental Notebook pages for each chapter
  • House of Truth graphics
  • Links to related websites
  • Online Teacher Helps for each chapter.
I was surprised at the extent of the supplemental resources. For example, each chapter Teacher Help file is about 10-12 pages and includes:
  • key themes
  • lesson objectives
  • vocabulary
  • memory verses
  • suggested activities
  • discussion questions
  • suggested reading
The text is in a conversational tone and written directly to the student.  Older students will be able to work independently through the text. I opted to read it aloud to my 6th grader, which he enjoyed as a break from more independent work. At first I was concerned at the wide age span that is considered appropriate for the text.  While the content is presented in such a way that is very easy to understand, the questions did make my son think.  I think he had gotten into the habit of taking the beliefs he’s grown up with for granted, and I really appreciated the opportunity to make him think about what he believes and why. I think the text did a great job for presenting in such a way to be appropriate for various age levels.

My son isn’t much of a notebooker, and I just went over the notebooking sections verbally with him.  The text details a 6-day lesson plan to take place over two weeks.  With an older student and the lack of notebooking, one week per chapter was sufficient. Even though this is a textbook, it was very easy to use whatever schedule works for your family.

The FAQ on the Apologia website address teaching multiple age groups, as well as general questions and information on the series. For specific material covered in Who is God?, view the Table of Contents.  There is also a PDF sample of Lesson 1 for viewing.

Who is God? is not a Bible study, abundant for this age group, but rather training in the essentials of the Christian faith. For the high school level, there are other sources for this sort of program, but I have not found the same for the younger set until now.  Younger kids are just as capable of asking big questions and understanding the fundamentals upon which to build their faith. If you are looking for a program to help teach your children the essentials of the Christian faith, the What We Believe Series is a very good place to start.  I think you’ll find it both thorough and easy to use, two of my top criteria as a homeschool mom.

Who is God? is available at the Apologia website for $39.00. Volume 2 of the series, Who Am I? is also available with Volume 3 and 4 scheduled to be released in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

Read what other reviewers had to say about Who is God? by visiting the official TOS Homeschool Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result in my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew. I was provided the product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I have received no other compensation. I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Free Medical Science DVDs

Do you have a student interested in medical science? Howard Hughes Medical Institute offers free DVDs and related PDF documents to educators, homeschoolers included.  Check out their online catalog to see if there is a topic that interests your student.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

GOOT Night!

I will not get sick, I will not get sick, I will not get sick...

Three out of our family of four are down with some sort of nasty, hacking, sinus inflaming virus.  I'm the last one standing and I'm determined to remain that way.

My husband went to the clinic in defeat after trying all the natural remedies.  He returned with three different prescriptions.  My son was down with a different virus last week, now he's hacking with something new.  My daughter has been grumbling all day. Her throat hurts, her lungs hurt, her skin hurts...

I will not get sick, I will not get sick, I will not get sick...

I've downed a couple of apple cider vinegar concoctions, have been using the Neti pot, took an Airborne, and tonight I will bring out the Goot! Between that and my determination to not get sick, I'll be spared, right? Surely I'm not doomed just because the whole household has been hacking their virus germs around me for days. Ack!

I will not get sick, I will not get sick, I will not get sick...

I better get to bed so I can add some healthy rest to my list.  Good night! Or should that be Goot night!?