Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Homeschooling High School - Language Arts (& History!)

When our girls were little, including Language Arts in our day was easy. Read a few picture books, work on printing their names, and watch Grammar Rock! Simple. Easy. Fun.

Now that they're both in High School, including Language Arts is not as simple, and sometimes not as much fun. However, just because it is necessary doesn't mean it has to be boring! 

What do you think about when you hear Language Arts for High School? Diagramming sentences and writing essays? Reading Dickens and Shakespeare? Perhaps even speech? The dictionary definition of language arts is: (noun) the study of grammarcomposition, spelling, and (sometimes) public speaking, typically taught as a single subject in elementary and middle school.

That doesn't really help you plan out High School does it? 

Let's start with where your child is today. Are there areas where they excel? Areas where you think they're falling behind? Just because they're a teen does not automatically guarantee that they can spell correctly or write coherently. High School Language Arts needs to be less focused on what everyone else is doing and more focused on what your child needs to succeed as an adult.

If you've got a student who does well in Language Arts, you might have transcripts with lofty titles like Composition, British Literature, and Advanced Speech. If your student needs more overall basic help, or, you're too busy teaching to care what its called, just list it as English 9, 10, 11, & 12.

Our two daughters are vastly different. Vastly! While they both like to read for fun, that is where their Language Arts similarities end. This has led to a variety of Language Arts curriculum and learning choices in our homeschool. One thing they have both done is take a group Literature class with some local friends. A huge Thank You to my friend Linda who has taught this class! Having the girls do Literature in a group setting with discussions, reading a play, and talking about story charts has freed me up to work with them individually on other areas.

One daughter, who shall remain nameless, is quite wordy. She needs to be challenged to focus those words into positive channels, so she gets to try out almost everything under the sun that the Schoolhouse Review Crew can gather. The other daughter prefers to talk one on one, or write for herself only, and often needs to be reminded that spelling IS important, and it helps if we can read her handwriting. Her options are often what an outsider may see as "easier," yet they stretch and teach her how to overcomes in her struggles.

We have often had years (before High School,) where there was NO formal grammar taught, and the only writing assignments were for history or science. 

During High School we have continued to focus the writing assignments on other subjects, instead of writing simply to write. Both girls have enjoyed using Diana Waring's History Revealed curriculum, and often chose one of the writing assignments or mini-book options to complete the units. As they study science, the girls take notes and are often required to write out what they have learned in their own words. These assignments make sense as a time to correct spelling and work on paragraph structure.

There are certain areas each girl needs to continue to work on improving. For these, we have been blessed to use those multitude of resources we've reviewed. One of the best part of reviewing curriculum is finding out what works best for each student, and then actually continuing to use it.

Homeschooling High School, Language Arts

To make it easy, the links below will take you to our reviews of the various Language Arts programs we've used or are currently still using. From the basics to advanced, you're sure to find something that can help your High School student.

The Logic of English

IEW's Fix-It! Grammar

Analytical Grammar

Writing Fiction in High School

Illuminating Literature

Greek Morphemes

Fortuigence- Essay Rock Star 


Prescripts Cursive Passages

Lightning Literature- American 19th Century

Lightning Literature - British 19th Century  


History - what's not to love? 

We adore Heirloom Audio Productions, and enjoy watching documentaries on various time periods. Often we'll find something on Netflix, or at our local library, that we can watch together for History. Both of our girls volunteer at a living history museum, so there is never a shortage of things to learn. I know there are several quality history curricula out there, you just need to do some searching to decide what would work best for your High Schoolers. Some students want a textbook, other learn best from source documents or G.A. Henty novels. 

The choices about what to study in History are so vast, it helps to have a plan before you begin. 

Many, many homeschooler like to study world history in 3 or 4 year rotating cycles. That has not really been our style. 

The girls have studied Ancient History with Diana Waring's curriculum, but they also love her American Folk Music series. What about the Revolutionary War? WWII? American Indians? They study it all at various times during High School, but not always in order. That's ok. Really! There is no homeschool book that states everyone must start history with the Ancients. Choose as a family what to study, then decide if your High Schooler is going to join in with the rest of the family, or if they're going to be doing independent research for History. Either choice is great - if it fits YOUR student!

Homeschooling High School - History

Reading independently and watching documentaries can be a great way to get through High School history class. Have your student keep a list of each book read and each movie watched. At the end of each semester (or year) you can tally it up and decide where they should focus next. 

One thing that bugs me a lot is when I hear or read about homeschoolers who feel the need to separate EVERY SINGLE SUBJECT. How about some integration here? If your son is really into science, let his history be focused on inventions over the centuries. Then let him write a report about it, or draw pictures for Art. History and science credit for the same study, maybe even Language Arts - it's allowed people!!! If your daughter falls in love with medieval history, let her study the food, medicine, tapestries, and politics of those years all at the same time. Some people call this a Unit Study - I call it smart planning. Plan to let your children enjoy High School. We need to stop thinking that our children's High School experience needs to mirror our own. It won't. And if you went to Public School - it shouldn't! If you want your High Schooler to receive the same education you did -send them to school. If you want to offer them something different? Educate them at home - or on the road, at the battlefield, in the catacombs, at a pow-wow.

High School is so much fun when you think outside the box! Life is a Field Trip, let's enjoy it together!

Want to find out how others include Language Arts in their High School Homeschool?

Tess from Circling Through This Life shares Teaching High School Language Arts: Resources
Michele from Family, Faith and Fridays shares Language Arts
Wendy from Life at Rossmont shares Highschool Language Arts
Erica from Be the One shares Language Arts Resources
Kym s from Homeschool Coffee Break shares History in the Form of Stories
Debbie from Debbie’s Homeschool Corner shares Teaching High School English
Laura from Day by Day in Our World shares How to Teach High School Language Arts Without Tears

Friday, September 25, 2015

TAPPLE and WONKY from USAopoly ~ A Crew Review

Anyone who likes to play games with their family, friends, or classroom should be introduced to USAopoly! We have been blessed to review two of their quality games, Tapple: Fast Word Fun For Everyone and Wonky: The Crazy Cubes Card Game. Both of these games produce a lot of laughs, and have been a big hit at our house.

Tapple is a fast-paced but fun word game. The game starts with the person who has the first alphabetical middle name, who draws the first card. Each card has four possible categories. Two are easier, two more difficult. The first player choose the category, then says an appropriate word and taps the lever for that letter, then pushes the timer button. The next player has 10 seconds to say another word for that category, push another letter lever, and push the timer. There are 20 letter levers. No Q, U, V, X, Y, or Z. Each letter can only be used once per round. If you don’t think of a word from the available letters fast enough, the timer buzzes and then you’re out. 

The game continues with the remaining players until all the levers have been used, then a new category card is chosen. Play continues until there is only one person left. If you get to the second category card, each remaining player has to supply two words each time before the timer dings to complete their turn.

We liked Tapple because it is fun for almost all ages (although it is recommended for ages 8+.) Since you only need to know the first letter of the word, good spelling skills are not required. The categories vary widely, and since there are 36 cards with 4 choices each to choose from, the play can last for hours. When you play multiple rounds, the last person standing each time gets to keep the category card, and the person with the most cards wins. 

Tapple requires two double A batteries, and can be adapted for use with a lot of various groups. You can use the wheel as an ice-breaker by choosing your own categories, or turn off the timer if playing with younger kids who need more time to think of their words. Tapple provides a lot of fun, with no set up time. You can explain the game in 10 seconds and bring the party to life. This has been a hit with the girls and their friends. Some of the other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew and I played an online game of Tapple using our favorite vendors or products as the category.

Wonky is probably the easiest to learn, yet hardest to master game we have played in a while. This card game comes with 9 painted wood ‘cubes’ that are flat on three sides and rounded on the other three. The goal is to build a stack using all nine cubes. We’ve only made it to seven. To play the game, you shuffle the cards and deal seven to each player. The tallest person goes first. They choose one of their cards, which shows them which cube to build with. Some card are specific, requiring you to use the smallest blue cube, while others have options, such as any colored large cube. There are a few doozie cards that reverse play, skip your turn, or cause the next player to draw an extra card. 

To win the game of Wonky, you need to use up all of your cards. This is harder than you would think! If your cube is the one that makes the stack fall over, you have to draw three more cards. Sometimes the other players start the stack with little cubes on the bottom, and all you have left are big ones to balance on top of the pile. Sometimes none of the cards in your hand match the cubes still available (after all, there are only nine,) and you have to draw a card until you get one you CAN play.

My biggest challenge was having a steady enough hand to place the big cubes on top of a small or medium one with the round side up. You only get to use one hand to place your cube, and you can’t touch any of the rest of the stack when you’re placing it. I still loved this game! It comes with a carrying pouch for easy portability, so we’re taking it along on vacation to play with our friends.

We really enjoyed both of these games from USAopoly! Take a look at their website because there are dozens of great games to choose from: traditional board games done in new themes, and original games that are fun for various ages. Several require learning some basic strategy skills, like Wonky does. The descriptions on the website of each game will let you know the recommended ages.

Please go visit USAopoly, you'll be glad you did! They offer games that can be fun at home or in the classroom. Click the banner below to read all the other Crew reviews!

 USAopoly Review

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Monday, September 21, 2015

C.S. Lewis from YWAM Publishing ~ A Crew Review

Do you like to read biographies? We do! Our girls have always had a special interest in reading biographies about their favorite writers. Sometimes it can be difficult to find biographies that are age appropriate to share with the whole family. Enter YWAM Publishing. Arlene and I have been reviewing C.S.Lewis: Master Storyteller from YWAM’s Christian Heroes: Then & Now Series, along with using the available Unit Study Curriculum Guide. Arlene and I have read many of Lewis’ books, so we were ready to see how his life was portrayed.

Christian Heroes, biographies
Many people are familiar with YWAM Publishing and their biographies, although they may not know about the Unit Studies that can accompany most of their titles. We received the Unit Study Curriculum Guide on a CD. This allows you to print as many copies of the pages (maps, questions, etc.) as you’ll need for every child in your family that is participating. The helpful folks at YWAM told me they are working to convert all of the Unit Studies over to downloadable PDF’s. So if you’re international, take a peek at their page because the one you want may already be available as a download!

The Unit Study for the C.S. Lewis biography has several parts and includes ideas to adapt it for either classroom or home use. This gives you the flexibility to use it in a school, a co-op, or at home with your own family. There are a couple reminders in the beginning that you shouldn’t expect any student to do all the activities, but to choose the ones that best fit their learning styles and your available resources. In the guide you will find six questions for each chapter of the book, plus oodles of activity suggestions. The book and unit study are geared for ages 10 and up, but could be adapted for use with younger members of your family.

I had Arlene pick out several activities to complete. The first one she did was to read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, then watch the movie version and compare how closely the movie stayed to the original book. Your students will find something for every style in the essay questions, creative writing exercises, hands-on projects, audio-visual projects, or arts and crafts suggestions.

You as the teacher/ parent may find inspiration in the Community Links, Social Studies, or Related Themes to Explore sections. I found it fun that the last section of the study guide encourages you to work with your students to plan a culminating event to end the Unit Study. How fun to brainstorm with your kids and plan together, instead of doing all the planning yourself!

C S Lewis Unit Study

Arlene, being 15, read through the C.S. Lewis book the first time in just a couple days. If you have independent readers, they may enjoy reading the book by themselves before you begin the Unit Study. I appreciated that the book is all-age appropriate. If you are using it with mixed ages it can be a read-aloud where you simply start and read through, no editing for content required. Why is this so important? Because most people do not live saintly lives before coming to know Christ. YWAM has worked to keep their biographies informative, yet still family-friendly.

Lewis’s life is covered thoroughly in the book, including not just what he did, but the thoughts and feelings that accompanied his actions. That’s a great thing about authors, they tend to write everything down… no guessing required!

From Arlene: 
After having recently read a college level book that dives deep into the lives of four specific Inklings (including J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis,) I want to say that I think this book from YWAM does a good job at telling Lewis’ life in a way a First grader up to a Sixth or Seventh grader should understand. Let me put it this way: this is an all around good, family-friendly, G-rated book. It starts when Lewis is a boy and ends with his death. It covers his childhood, early school years, later school years, WW1 experience, and College life both as a student and as a teacher. Also his personal life including the death of his mother, his relationships with his Father and Brother, his Wife and stepsons, and others including J. R. R. Tolkien and other Inklings. It also covers the many books that he wrote over his life from ones everyone knows like The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (and the Six following books)to the Space Trilogy, The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, and Surprised by Joy. 

Find out about more of the wonderful biographies from YWAM Publishing by clicking on the Crew banner below!

YWAM Publishing Review

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Friday, September 18, 2015

Fascinating Physics ~ A Crew Review

Let’s face it, some High School classes are more difficult to teach than others. That’s why Homeschooling parents enjoy having options. Emily and I have been reviewing the Fascinating Physics course taught by Dr. Margulies from Fascinating Education. We have found it to be a satisfactory option for tackling this often-difficult subject.

Online Science, Physics

This High School level Physics course includes all the topics you would expect to find in a traditional textbook, but it is divided into small, bite-sized portions. We have found this really helpful as there is so much to cover, and a lot of Algebra required in solving the examples. Your student should be at least started in Algebra 2 before they begin this course, although it would be ideal if they had already completed Algebra 2.

Fascinating Physics is an online course consisting of 15 lessons covering:
Circular Motion
Fluids and Gases
Light (3 lessons)
Electrical Charges
Electrical Currents
The Atom
The Nucleus

Each lesson is made up of several sections, and many have slides included for ‘catching our breath.’ Dr. Margulies understands that review is important, and each lesson ends with a review of ‘what we know so far.’ We have found these lessons quite challenging. This is a solid Physics course, and the tests for each lesson help you synthesize what was covered, so you don’t miss something important. If you get stuck, there is a blue “Need help?” button for each problem on the test. When you click it, that section of the lesson is reviewed, allowing you to refresh your memory before selecting your answer. Several of the problems require you to solve the algebraic equations to get the correct answer.

On the website, each lesson is available as both a narrated lesson on slides (powerpoint style,) or in a Script format. The script for Lesson 1 is 30 pages, and the length of each one varies. Most are around 25-30 pages. While that seems like a monster to print out, it would be beneficial for many students to have the text to review. We have been dividing each lesson up into several days, simply because Emily was getting a little overwhelmed at first. The very first lesson jumps head-first into Movement and has you figuring acceleration and deceleration problems early on.

Online Science, Physics

Because it is an online course, each student can go at their own pace. We are trying to cover a lesson every two weeks. This should have Emily completing the course in 30 weeks. I have been watching the lessons alongside of Emily, and we pause frequently to make sure we are both understanding the concepts and how to work the problems. It has been more than 20 years since I took Physics in High School. I feel this course takes the uncertainty out of having your High Schooler take Physics, because of how Dr. Margulies presents each concept in thin slices that are easier to digest than a traditional textbook course.

Emily may not realize she is using Physics often in her adult life, but after completing this course I feel she will be well prepared for those future encounters. The graphics used in the program are clear and well labelled. The text is thorough. The tests are really challenging, but necessary. The staff at Fascinating Education is quick to respond by email if you have a question.

Here is Emily’s review:
I am really enjoying the Fascinating Physics course. While the lessons may seem long, they're in short segments that make sure to cover all the questions that are on the tests. Like any of the other Fascinating Education courses it also has the lessons in text format if that’s easier for you. You really want to have studied Algebra before you begin, though, or you’re going to be really lost. This course thoroughly explains how all the formulas are related to each other and how they are used to solve the problems.

Fascinating Physics assumes your student knows virtually nothing about physics, and starts at the beginning with movement. The website is mobile friendly, so your independent learners could use their tablet (or phone) to watch the lessons if the home computer is already occupied. The $79 course fee gives you access for one full year. If you’re ready to learn more, click on over and visit the Fascinating Education website

Last year Emily and I reviewed Fascinating Chemistry. If you’d like to read all the Crew reviews of Fascinating Educations's Biology, Chemistry, and Physics courses from this go-round, click the banner below.

Fascinating Education Review

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Are you an Apothecary?

I recently read a book where one of the main characters was the village apothecary. Besides being an enjoyable book, it got me thinking. How many of my friends work as a home apothecary? Although you're not selling remedies to your families, I know several of you Moms work as part time nurses-in-residence for your families.

There is a historic drug store at our State Fairgrounds. When you look in the cabinets, there are many, many solutions, compounds, and simples that the local druggist used to mix together. As a Mom, I often try to find the least invasive option when treating bumps, bruises and mild illnesses. There is definitely a time to go to the Doctor, but for minor things, we try to treat them at home.

We try our best to stay healthy by eating right and getting some exercise. When things go awry, you'll find us pulling out the digestive enzymes for upset tummies or some salve for the scratches.

So, are you a home apothecary? What are your favorite remedies? Leave a comment and let us know!