Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thankful Thursdays - 4/24/2014 - Spring Flowers!

Today I am thankful to look around our yard and see lots of Spring flowers! That means at least the average temperature is on the rise. It also means there are more hours of daylight each day. 

I'm also thankful to be taking the rest of the week off... so to keep you occupied, I've taken a quick photo of some flowers that kick off Spring in our butterfly garden. No, these aren't all for the butterflies - after all, they need it to be 70 degrees and we're not there yet.

So- this is a hidden picture game for you. Come back tomorrow and see if you found all of the flowers (5 are blooming, and the other 4 you'll have to find by their foliage,) and correctly identified them. 

Tomorrow I'll post the answer picture.

Happy Hunting!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Mere Christianity Journal - a Crew Review

Many of you may be familiar with Home School Adventure Company because of their Philosophy Adventure curriculum. Arlene and I had the chance to review one of their other great products, the Mere Christianity Journal. This journal is full of questions to help you process and discuss the various parts of C.S.Lewis' Mere Christianity book. In case you haven't read Mere Christianity I want to give you a little background about the book, and tell you why I think this Critical Analysis Journal is such an asset.

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Lewis' book is a compilation of talks he gave on the BBC during WWII. He was asked (as a recent convert to Christianity) to speak to the British people and help them understand the basic tenants of Christianity. While these talks were geared towards offering understanding and hope in a time of war, they still ring true for Christians today.

Neither Arlene nor I had read Mere Christianity before the review, but we had both read several other books of Lewis' (Chronicles of Narnia.) I downloaded the Journal and printed several sections to get us started. The book form of Mere Christianity is divided into four sections (Book 1, 2, 3 & 4) and the journal follows along with questions for each chapter in each book section. We read two chapters in Mere Christianity, and then discussed and answered the questions in the journal. After that first day, we decided we should stop after each chapter and discuss and answer the questions one chapter at a time. None of the chapters in Mere Christianity are long, but because they cause you to think, and the journal wants you to put into words your answers, it's best to not rush ahead.

Mere Christianity Critical Analysis Journal
Arlene is almost 14, and could have done the journal all on her own, but I wanted to work through it with her. After just a couple days she said "Mom, you know I can do it on my own right?" Yes, yes, I know...I just wanted to spend time with my little girl. Then, Kurt became ill and I was glad it was something Arlene could do on her own. I still want to go back through the rest of Mere Christianity and the questions in the journal myself, but for right now, Arlene is moving along on her own.

While the journal is recommended for ages 12 and up with help, your High School student can probably do it on their own. For the 12-15 yr old group, you'll need to evaluate two things: first- whether or not they understand WHAT Lewis is talking about, and second-are they understanding the questions in the journal. I would recommend working on this together with your teen, especially if they are a new Christian. Lewis does a good job of explaining each topic, but we've found the information is retained better if Arlene and I discuss each chapter along with her writing down her answers.

When it comes to a journal, I prefer to print out the pages from the PDF and write with a pencil or pen, however, if you love to type your answers, you'll be glad to know that this Journal is an interactive PDF and allows you to type and save your answers right on your computer. The digital download PDF retails for $18.95. At 185 pages you'll be printing a while, so consider your options. Print it all, print a section at a time, or choose to enter your answers on the computer. If this seems daunting, print editions are available for $28.95 each.

You might want to consider using this journal for your small group, Sunday School class or co-op. The number of questions for each chapter varies, but it averages about a dozen question per chapter. I can see this being a great tool for a 'what we believe' type of study, either in a group of individually. If you use this Journal on your own, you will probably find yourself seeking out someone to discuss it with. It is though provoking and challenges you to look around you to see examples in your own life (& job) that relate to the examples Lewis gave in his talks.

The four books in Mere Christianity include: Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe, What Christians Believe, Christian Behaviour, and The Doctrine of the Trinity. Because these each build upon basic principles of the Christian faith (and become more advanced) I would suggest you check in with your teen at least weekly as they use this resource. Even if they don't have questions they need help with in the first part, they may well want help later on.

On a typical day (wait, our life is never typical...) ok, on most days, Arlene would read a chapter and then answer the questions in her journal. We would then talk about the section while making dinner, or while in the car running errands. I found this journal from Homeschool Adventure Company to be an excellent tool to use alongside Lewis' writings to help the student understand the differences between world views. Just in the second chapter, Lewis gives examples that you can picture in your minds' eye that distinguish between Biblical and non-biblical world views. As your students learn to distinguish between the two world views, they can start to see where logical fallacies creep into many people's thinking.

I appreciated Lewis' description of progress - not just changing, but changing for the better. Using this journal is bringing progress, it is helping us learn to be discerning, it is helping Arlene dig deeper into understanding what sets our world view apart. If you are wanting to work on your own critical thinking skills, this Journal could be a great tool for you to use.

If you'd like to purchase one of the PDF downloads from Home School Adventure Company, they are offering a special 10% off through May 15, 2014.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thankful Thursdays - 4/17/14 - My printer!

It's a palindrome Thursday 4-17-14!

Today I want to mention how thankful I am for our printer/copier/scanner all-in-one! I have been making oodles of copies recently...(ok, really it was Arlene who was copying, I was sorting out what needed copied!) 

It amazes me that we have the technology to scan, print, or make copies at home. I remember as a kid thinking it was a big deal to get to see a Xerox machine! In school our teachers used the purple "Ditto" machines. Who remembers those?!

Another thing I'm thankful for? Printing over the Wi-Fi! I just sent a Dewey Decimal list to the printer for Arlene to take to the library with her, and I didn't have to get out of my chair. That is awesome!

Spring is slowly creeping into the area. That's another reason to give thanks!

Have a lovely weekend - go plant something!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Curiosity Quest - DVD Combo Packs - a Review

Curiosity Quest ReviewHow many time this week have your kids asked you "Why?" That happens a lot around here, but I have a new solution, DVD's from Curiosity Quest. For this review we received two of Curiosity Quest's DVD Combo Packs: Swimmers of the Sea, about Penguins, Sea Turtles, and Salmon, and Produce, about Mushrooms, Cranberries and Orange Packing. Either of these DVD Combo packs can be purchased for $24.95 each. These DVD's are geared for ages 7-14, but you and your older children will probably enjoy them too!

Arlene and I watched the DVD's together over a couple of days. After we were done, Arlene summed up Curiosity Quest as "Dirty Jobs for Kids!" We both learned a lot while watching the episodes. We began the Swimmers of the Sea DVD with Salmon.  Each episode is about 30 minutes, giving you about 90 minutes of viewing on this DVD. Joel Greene is the host of the Curiosity Quest series, and each episode's adventure begins with a question from a viewer, or several viewers who write in with questions about what they're curious about.

Curiosity Quest Review
In the Salmon episode, Joel and his crew travel to Alaska to learn about the 5 types of salmon that breed in Alaska. The episode takes Joel to several locations around Juneau where the Alaska Division of Fish & Wildlife have hatcheries. The hatchery system exists to make sure there are always enough salmon available for commercial fishing. This ensures that we can go to the grocery store or a restaurant and always have salmon available.

Curiosity Quest ReviewJoel learns a lot about the salmon that live in and around Alaska, including a mnemonic to remember all 5 types of salmon. Along the way, viewers learn about each step from when (and why) salmon spawn in the freshwater streams of Alaska, through their birth, growth, and release into the ocean until they come back to spawn and finish their lives. I learned a lot about salmon, and really appreciate being able to visit my local supermarket and purchase salmon for dinner. After all the salmon go through in their life cycle, it makes me thankful to just purchase the end product ready to grill for dinner.

In the next episode we watched, Joel went to the Aquarium of the Pacific to learn about Magellanic Penguins that normally live in a temperate climate. First thing in the morning, Joel learns about Penguin vitamins and the types of fish penguins eat. Joel and the viewers get introduced to the penguins that live at the Aquarium and Joel gets to help with the morning feeding. Along the way there are "Fun Facts," definitions of terms, and "Man on the street" type questioning of people of various ages. You'll earn what a molt is, what penguins eat, and how they are social birds that live in groups. Joel also learns that penguins can swim up to 5 miles per hour, and that they have solid bones, unlike flying birds that have hollow bones.

Curiosity Quest Review
During the Sea turtle episode, Joel takes his viewers to Marathon, FL, to the Sea Turtle Hospital. Once again the morning starts with Joel learning about the various types of turtles and what they eat. At the Turtle Hospital they rehabilitate sea turtles that have been hurt in the wild. Some of the turtle have crazy names because the person who rescues them gets to choose their name. Because all seven species of Sea Turtles are on the endangered species list, Joel doesn't get to touch any of the turtles, but he does get to help feed a couple of them. The Turtle Hospital has a rehabilitator's certificate from the Federal Government which allows them to help the turtles. This episode includes tips on animal husbandry to help you know how to help sea turtles by choosing to turn off your lights during hatching season, or purchasing the correct kind of fish hook. If you pay close attention, you'll learn that the largest sea turtles can swim up to 30 mph!

Curiosity Quest Review
 The second DVD we received was Produce. Joel begins by learning all about cranberries. Cranberries  don't grow in water, but water is essential for harvesting. The fields are flooded to allow the berries to float to the surface for ease in harvesting. Joel learns that cranberries are buoyant because they have 4 hollow chambers. Good quality cranberries bounce in the sorting house. You'll learn the difference between first quality, second quality or small berries, and 'slush berries' that become organic chicken feed. This episode is about 50 minutes, and you'll watch Joel visit two different cranberry farms and learn how cranberries are grown, harvested, cleaned, sorted and packed.

Curiosity Quest Review

The second episode on the Produce DVD is all about oranges and lasts about 30 minutes. Joel begins the day learning how to pick oranges, and the care it takes to clean all 400-500 oranges off of a tree and put them in the bin to send to the sorting house. In the sorting house you'll join Joel as he learns how each orange is cleaned, graded and sorted by size. Although a lot of the work is done by machines, I was surpassed to learn how much of the inspection is done by hand. This insures that a bad orange doesn't get mixed in and damage the good ones on the way to the store. Did you know that the first orange tree seedlings came to America in 1493 with Christopher Columbus? Neither did I.

The final episode on the Produce DVD is about mushrooms. It is an amazing process to see the care that goes into preparing the compost that becomes the growing soil for mushrooms. I never realized they need to sterilize the growing medium so that mushrooms are the ONLY fungus that grows. As the day goes on, you may find yourself laughing along with Joel as he realizes just how slow he is at picking mushrooms and just how skilled the pickers are. Have you ever seen tiny mushrooms? They only take a couple days to grow market size, and you'll learn how they harvest selectively to allow further mushrooms to grow in the same growing area. A funny thing happened right after we watched this episode the first time. I purchased some portabella mushrooms at the store, and in the package with the two large mushrooms was a inky-dinky mushroom. Arlene joked that it must have gotten picked by accident by someone like Joel Greene while they were just learning.

We really enjoyed all of the episodes on both DVD's. These are the type of show where you'll watch them more than once, and you may find your children asking if they can watch them again when their friends come over to visit. These videos answer a lot of "Why" questions, and they're entertaining, so you should feel comfortable with your kids watching them. Remember that they're geared for ages 7-14, but don't let that limit you. Your younger and older children will enjoy them too. I learned a lot from watching the six episodes we received. There are a lot more episodes available from Curiosity Quest, as well as some membership options that will save you money if you're wanting to get several episodes.

Overall, I give the Curiosity Quest episodes an A grade, and I can understand why they have earned awards. While talking to the viewers, Joel never talks above the level the children should be able to understand. Complicated words or terms are either defined and/or explained through actions. Each episode includes the "Fun Facts" and 'kid on the street' interviews. You can visit Curiosity Quest on Facebook or see how the episodes are made by watching their videos on You Tube. Find a reason to get yourself some Curiosity Quest DVD's soon - you'll be glad you did!

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