"From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised." Psalm 113:3

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Logic of English Essentials...A Review

It's been a while.  I get that.  But we are in a new season of our lives, and I really, truly can't believe that my sweet Bug is now about to be a big 5th-grader!

Who loves to read.  And talk. And play.

But not to write.  Or spell.  At all.

Enter in our first review in quite a while.

I was invited to take a look at a program from Logic of English--Essentials:  A Multi-Level Reading, Spelling, Grammar, and Vocabulary program all tied up in one.

And, honestly, I'd about used up all of my ideas about helping my little guy start to write and learn how to spell.  This review opportunity came along at just the right time.

What is Logic of English Essentials?

The Logic of English Essentials program is a complete program for learning about the structure of the English language--the "logic", as it were, of the language, sounds, and spelling.  It uses research-based methods to teach reading, spelling, and writing to kiddos ages 8 and up.

What Did We Receive?

Man.  This is a hefty curriculum, ladies and gentlemen.  Here is what we received in our package:

We received the Essentials Complete Set, 2nd Edition (retail $198), which included:

--Essentials Teacher's Guide

--Essentials Student Workbook

--Spelling Journal

--Basic Phonogram Flash Cards

--Spelling Rule Flash Cards

--Advanced Phonogram Flash Cards

--Grammar Flash Cards

--Morpheme Flash Cards

--One deck of Bookface Phonogram Game Cards

--One deck of Manuscript Phonogram Game Cards

--Phonogram Game Tiles

--Phonogram and Spelling Rule Quick Reference Card

--Spelling Analysis Card

This set is meant to be used as a one-semester curriculum, as Volume One.  Volume Two should be ready for release later this year.

The Essentials Teacher's Guide is a 600+, hardcover book that offers quite a bit of information for the parent / teacher before beginning the lessons.  Everything from what the different symbols mean (do you remember the grammar markings from your school days? I didn't!), to specific tips for teaching phonograms, to creating a daily schedule for the curriculum.  It also has placement tests, Pre-Lessons for those kiddos not quite ready to start, and an appendix full of reference materials.

Essentials Volume One contains 15 Lessons, each designed to be done over a week, and split up into Days 1 - 5.  The Teacher's Guide has scripted lessons, and is split into Levels A, B, and C, depending on the level of the learner, and in a way to use the program over three consecutive years.

The Student Workbook is a consumable, paperback book for the students with exercises to complement all of the lessons in the Teacher's Guide.  The pages are perforated so they are easy to remove for portfolios, etc.

The Spelling Journal is a paperback, consumable, 72-page book for the students to keep track of their most challenging words--those with sounds that can be spelled in multiple ways.

The Flash Cards and Game Cards are made to be used throughout the lessons--depending upon Grammar, Spelling, or Phonogram rules learned in that specific lesson, or used for the games introduced at the end of some lessons.

The Phonogram and Spelling Rule Quick Reference Card is a multi-page, laminated chart that offers questions and reminders for students to keep in mind when writing and / or spelling.  Both single-letter and multi-letter phonograms are listed, as well as more Advanced Phonograms.  Common spelling rules learned are listed on the back as well.  It is a sturdy and helpful reminder of what the lessons offer.

The Spelling Analysis Card is a large bookmark-sized cardstock card with a quick reference reminder of the method Logic of English employs in spelling a new word.

How Did We Use This Program?

Well, once again, we continue to use curriculum NOT as the publishers intend.  What was nice was how well this program lent itself to being "adapted".  As I mentioned before, Essentials is designed to be a five-day program, with each section designed to take 30-45 minutes to go through.  However, the curriculum offers scheduling considerations to use with intensive reading remediation, students with dyslexia, younger children, or for use in a classroom setting.  Here in our homeschool, we tried to complete one section per day, but we worked to Bug's attention span, typically spending 20-25 minutes per session, so not always quite finishing a section in a day.

Also, after beginning with the placement test provided in the Teacher's Guide, I discovered that we really needed to start back at the beginning with Bug.  Therefore, we started with the Pre-Lessons provided, and went through Pre-Lesson A- Pre-Lesson J before even getting to start with Lesson One.  Also, although each section does not include a game, we finished each day with a game of Snap, Dragon, or Eraser Race.

What Did I Think?

Well, after I got over the initial shock of realizing maybe my Bug was more "behind" (I know, I know--that's not a thing...) than I thought, and that we had more work ahead of us than I had anticipated, I was grateful that we had this program.  Why?

--It is an open and go curriculum.  For the most part.  And I say that because I would really encourage anyone starting with it to really study the first 40 or so pages of the Teacher's Guide to get a good feel for the journey you are about to start.  Logic of English teaches phonograms--sounds--not necessarily letters.  It is a very--well, logical--system, but wasn't something I was super-comfortable with right away.  But once you have the ideas down, the lessons themselves are completely scripted for you, with all of the needed materials listed as well.

--It made sense to Bug.  He's really a pretty logical thinker, and I think the set-up of this program appealed to him.  He struggled a bit with some of the vowel phonograms, and those got frustrating for him, but over time and with consistency, he settled into those and then moved through the rest pretty quickly.  He likes memorizing, and so the Grammar Rules and the Spelling Rules worked well for him too.

--It's very thorough.  I am comfortable that we can use this (at our pace), consistently, and it will provide a great, great foundation for my kiddo--and teach him how to spell.  Which he hasn't been able to do to this point.  I've already caught him using the steps Essentials uses to spell new words when writing on his own.

Logic of English Essentials seems to follow a Classical model, which we don't typically follow here in our homeschool.  However, by breaking the lessons down into smaller pieces and really utilizing the games included, as well as working with Bug's strength and enjoyment in memorizing, this has really worked well.

What Did Bug Think?

"I liked the games.  I think they could have explained it better. The sounding out helps with my spelling. The workbook was OK.  The games were a 9 out of 10.  The explaining was a 4.  Sounding out was 8 because sometimes it was confusing because one letter can make different sounds. (Here he proceeded to give me an example with the letter "A".  AND HE GOT THE SOUNDS RIGHT!)  The workbook was a 9."  --Bug, age 10

How Can I Find Out More?

Logic of English has many programs, so be sure to head over to their website to learn more about all they have to offer.  You can find all of their Essentials goodies on their website as well, as well as lots of information on things such as phonograms and phonemic awareness, help with reading comprehension, and the research to back up their methods.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Bible Road Trip...A Review

With our Community Bible Study over for the year, and the question of if we will continue it or not in the fall, I've been hunting for a Bible Study for my family to do, beginning here in the summertime.  Right about the time I was hunting, we were blessed to receive the Bible Road Trip Year Three Curriculum to use and review.

What Is Bible Road Trip?

Bible Road Trip is a three year long curriculum for the entire family.  It allows kiddos ages PreK - Grade 12 to truly study the Bible together, cover to cover, over the length of the curriculum.  The years are broken down like this:

Year One:  The Books of Law and History

Year Two:  The Books of Poetry and Prophecy

Year Three:  The Books of the New Testament

Each year of Bible Road Trip comes with note booking journals specific to certain ages:  Lower Grammar age (Grades 1-3), Upper Grammar (Grades 4-6), and Dialectic (Grades 7-9).  Older children can use the Dialectic notebooks, or create their own.  All of these products come as downloadable files.

What Did We Receive?

We chose to receive Bible Road Trip Year Three:  The Books of the New Testament.  We received the  curriculum and two of the Notebooking Journals:  Lower Grammar for my Bug (age 8), and Upper Grammar for my Firefly (age 12).

The curriculum itself contains a Parent / Teacher Guide, suggested schedules, and then 32 weeks of lessons.  The Parent / Teacher Guide covers a full explanation of the how and why of the curriculum and a resource list (additional resources ARE needed to use the curriculum as it is intended).  Schedules are provided for each of the ages, as well as for using the curriculum with multiple ages.

Each lesson is broken down into three sections:  Dig Deep, Meditate on It, and Explore Further.  Dig Deep typically includes reading and researching on The Word--using and reading the Bible as the basis for the whole week.  Here also, depending upon the ages / grades you are using the curriculum with, you and your children will use some additional resources.  We picked up What The Bible is All About for Young Explorers right off of Amazon.

The Meditate on It section of Bible Road Trip will work in some Scripture Memorization, utilize the Notebooking Journals, and offer opportunities to pray about the Word (again, for this section, you may need some additional resources).  The Explore Further section offers a chance to watch relevant DVD lessons, prepare a craft summarizing that week's lesson, read appropriate selections from other resources, work on a timeline, or create a presentation.

Each Notebooking Journal is customized to each level of the curriculum, offering all children of varying ages / stages to learn together, but create at their own individual ability level.

How Did We Use Bible Road Trip?

I will go ahead and say, right off the bat, that although there were many detailed suggested schedules provided by the author, Danika Cooley, we followed none of them--which makes a point of the flexibility of the curriculum, perhaps!  With my kiddos at the third grade and sixth / seventh grade levels, the suggested schedules would have had us working from forty - sixty minutes a day for my younger one to one hour twenty-five minutes - one hour forty-five minutes a day for my older one.

Listen, it's summertime, people, and between camps, vacations, friends in and out, summer sports, and oh yes, sleep, we were truly hard pressed to find that time in complete chunks to sit down and dedicate.  I realize how shallow that sounds, lol.  However, we were able to find many smaller chunks of time to sit down and work together, and I was pleasantly surprised to still be able to utilize the curriculum well within our time constraints.

The suggested schedule given lists ways to use each section (Dig Deep, Meditate on It, and Explore Further) every day.  We would start by reading a selection offered from the Bible, discussing it, and answering the questions Ms. Cooley offers all together.  From there, we would typically use the Notebooking Journals to record what we had talked about.  Usually, we would cover one passage from the Bible each day and use the corresponding Notebooking page that day as well.  Any crafting or DVD watching was all done on the last day of the lesson, and although the schedule suggests Scripture Memorization each day, we were not *quite* as diligent about that as we perhaps should have been.

Typically, our Bible sessions together lasted about thirty minutes.  On crafting days, my son was done well before that time, and my daughter would usually work on her projects for close to an hour.  If we used the schedule exactly as suggested, I can see that Ms. Cooley's time projections would probably be dead on.

What Did I Think About Bible Road Trip?

I feel like we barely scratched the surface of this curriculum during our review period.  It is a very well-thought out, beautifully put together survey of the entire Bible, which is something that is important for me to have my kiddos learn.  Now, from our Community Bible Study, we are used to covering one or possibly two books of the Bible in one year, so this curriculum definitely moves more quickly, as Year Three covers the entire New Testament over the same time period.  As a survey, though, it is more than adequate.  My experience tells me that the time spent reading, researching, note booking, memorizing, and creating really helps to cement the child's learning of the material.

I liked that this is something that we can all do as a family, regardless of our different learning styles and levels.  The Notebooking Journals ensure that each of my kiddos can work at their own pace, while still learning verses together and reading the same stories.  The crafts, also, surprisingly appealed to both my non-crafty son and my artsy daughter--although both were eager to create, you can see that they did so in very different ways!

The curriculum can be adapted well to be used at different paces.  Although each volume is designed as a one year curriculum, we will probably continue to use it at a slower rate, taking time to fully digest all of the information in it.

The cons I can see from our use of the curriculum were that: (1) it is not complete as purchased.  You will need additional books or materials to use it as designed.  We did purchase additional books, but skipped the DVDs, and did just fine.  (2) it is downloadable.  That's a lot of printing, ladies and gentlemen.  But--you can then print what you need and copy for family use, which can definitely come in handy for additional kiddos coming down the line.

With our decision to stop with our Community Bible Study in the fall, Bible Road Trip definitely fills a void in our homeschool.  We will continue to use this as our Bible curriculum when we begin our schooling in the fall.  

What Did My Kiddos Think?

" I really liked how we went over Bible stories and were able to do some of my favorite ones.  The armor of God was very fun and I learned where salvation, truth, spirit, etc. were on the armor.  My favorite part was the story of the builder."  (Bug, age 8)

"I really, really enjoyed doing this, and I think it is something that I would like to keep doing.  I know that a lot of other kids my age would enjoy it because it's not only a story, but you get to also draw and do activities with it.  My favorite part about it was drawing about the stuff we learned, and I also liked doing the suit of armor."  (Firefly, age 12)

Find Out More About Bible Road Trip:

If you are a subscriber to the Thinking Kids website, you are able to download each individual week of Bible Road Trip for free!  If you would rather have it all at once, you can purchase the curriculum for $20, and each level of Notebooking Journals for $20 each as well.

For any additional questions you may still have about Bible Road Trip, check out their website.

Find Danika Cooley on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google Plus.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Our Winter Wanderings, Part Six...Just in Time for June!

So, in all honesty, I feel a bit silly posting about our snowy, freezing, winter trip now that it's June and a whopping 85 degrees already at ten in the morning.  However, I promised myself that I would get all of these pictures up, and with this final post, I will have done that!  Then, we can move on to more appropriate swimming, sunshine-y pictures.

The last leg of our amazing, wonderful, exhausting trip found us traveling back to Maryland to visit with our extended family and head into Washington, DC for a day.

I love, love, love Washington, DC!  I grew up in that area, and have many fond memories of school field trips to the Smithsonian, Mount Vernon, Arlington National Cemetery, and all of the other amazing historical sites that are free for the exploring.  I try to take the kiddos there whenever we can (read, about once every three years or so!)

Of course, the ONE day we had to go into the city on our trip, the day started with this view from the car...

Ugh.  And not just snow--wet, freezing, slushy snow.  That turned to rain as we waited in the line for the Holocaust Museum.  The long line.  And freezing, wet, cold snow.  

Made for one whiny Mommy.

I'm not proud of the moment.  But let's get real here, people.  It had been eight days of single Momma duty.  Hours upon hours of driving.  Late night after late night.

And I really, really hate being cold.

So I was whiny.  And grumpy.  And it wasn't pretty.  But we finally made it through the line, into the warm and dry museum, and boy, was it worth it!

I had debated this part of the trip.  All of the kiddos had been expressing interest in World War Two and the Holocaust, but I was leery about bringing them into this museum at their ages (well, mostly with Bug, who's 8), and with their sensitivities.

We did it, though, and I'm so glad we did.  It was a truly eye-opening, heart-opening experience.  We learned so very much and talked so very much about the cruelty that so many had to live through.  I don't have many more words to describe the experience, but I encourage you all to try to visit yourselves.  (There was one exhibit that we skipped because it was so graphic, and thanks to our sweet friends that we caught up with in the city, we knew it was coming ahead of time.)

That museum trip has led to further study on that time period of history.  As a matter of fact, we've just finished our last read-aloud about a little boy who is hidden away during the war--two and a half months later, the interest sparked from that visit is still going strong.

I mentioned above about our sweet friends.  It just so happened that one of my very best friends, who lives very far away from where we do, was going to be in DC the VERY SAME FRIDAY we were with her daughter's school field trip.  We were thrilled!!!  We managed to meet up with them at the Holocaust Museum and got to hang out through there, the American History Museum, and the Air and Space Museum.  Above is my oldest and her youngest, who haven't seen each other in about 2 1/2 years and picked right back up, as did her Momma and I.  It was a great, great time!

(And, I'm not going to lie, the unbelievingly long, probably unbelievingly loud bus trip back to Tennessee with middle schoolers that they were getting ready to face kind of made our leisurely car ride back home look a little bit better to me!)

When we got back to Maryland, the kids (finally) got to make good use of the snowfall that had made their Momma so grouchy earlier in the day...

It was perfect packing snow, and they were thrilled!

It was also perfect for snowballs!

Our last full day of our trip included a relaxing visit with my four uncles and their families--numerous cousins and lots of introductions for my kiddos who don't get to see their extended family enough.  It was very special for me, as they are my father's brothers, and my father's Alzheimer's is getting pretty advanced.  Visiting with his brothers was like getting to have a little piece of him back.

On Sunday, it was time to go back home.  Ten days, stops in five states, visits with unlimited amounts of family and friends, field trip upon field trip upon field trip, surprisingly few tantrums, and 2500 miles on the car.

We were so very very happy to be home!  But what an amazing trip we had!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Memoria Press Curriculum...A Review...

I know I've talked a little bit before about Memoria Press and how we have used some of their products in the past (The Book of Insects and Geography I).  I have been very impressed with their curriculum so far, using it in bits and pieces as a supplement to what we were already using.

I was curious to know how their curriculum stacked up when using it as a core for my children, instead of using it only for supplementary subjects.  So, toward the end of this school year, we began using Memoria Press' Classical Core Curriculum for Grade 3 with my Bug, who is eight years old.

What Is Memoria Press?

Memoria Press is a family-run company that produces classical Christian materials for homeschoolers and private schools.  Cheryl Lowe, the founder, is the author of many of the Latin programs used in the curriculum, is the Headmistress of the Highlands Latin School, where many of the Memoria Press programs are field tested, AND is a homeschooling Momma.

Memoria Press products are very recognizable at homeschooling curriculum fairs and conventions, with their simple, easily laid-out formats and workbook-style activities.

What Did We Receive?

We received the motherload of third grade curriculum--everything we needed to carry out what was in the "Accelerated" Lesson Plans for one full year of third grade!

Here's what that looked like:

Third Grade Lesson Plans (Accelerated)

The Student and Teacher Guides for all of the Literature:  A Bear Called Paddington, Farmer Boy, Mr. Popper's Penguins, and Charlotte's Web

English Grammar Recitation, Student Book, and Teacher Guide

New American Cursive 3 Workbook and Lesson Plans

Christian Studies I Teacher Manual and Student Book

D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths Teacher Manual, Student Book, and Flashcards

States and Capitals Teacher Manual and Student Book

Latina Christiana Program, including DVDs, Pronunciation CD, Review Worksheets, Review Worksheets Key, Student Book, Teacher Manual, and Ludere Latinae 1:  Latin Word Games

Poetry for the Grammar Stage Teacher Manual and Student Book

Timeline Composition and Sketchbook, Handbook, Flashcards, and Wall Cards

The Book of Astronomy Teacher Manual and Student Book

Introduction to Composition Teacher Manual and Student Book

Although Spelling (Spelling Workout), and Math (Rod and Staff) are traditionally included in the Core Curriculum, and the lesson plans reflect those choices, we chose to use our own spelling and math programs during the review period.  Also, when purchasing the Core Curriculum Package, you will also receive the readers (such as Farmer Boy and D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths), as well as a book used for the States and Capitals study (Don't Know Much About the 50 States) and for Christian Studies (The Golden Children's Bible).  Again, we chose to use books about the states that we already owned, as well as our own Bible.

Let me tell you a little bit about the materials we received:

Third Grade Lesson Plans

Calling this manual simply "lesson plans" is a bit like calling the Grand Canyon a little valley.  This spiral-bound, 230 page manual contains much more than day by day lesson plans.  First of all, there are about 24 pages of teaching guidelines that give specific and helpful information about teaching with both the classical style in general, and with the Memoria Press products specifically.  For example, guidelines for Recitation are given, which is a memory testing method that helps children learn and solidify their learning in many different areas.  Latin study is broken down by day, showing different suggested activities that help children to retain their vocabulary and grammar.  Literature study hints are given for both before the reading and after reading the selection--and so on and so on.

Additional features of the Lesson Plans include a sample daily schedule, sample opening and closing prayers for the school day, 33 weeks of suggested Recitation material, and sample flashcards with "Review Box" instructions.

The Lesson Plans are broken up into 33 weeks, with each week on a two-page spread, broken into a five-day week.  Each subject has instructions on each day, with handy little boxes given for us "check-off-the-box" types.  While Latin, Math, Grammar, Spelling, and Read Alouds are scheduled for all five days, other subjects range from once to four times / week.

Other information given in the Lesson Plans include a suggested read aloud book list, an American Studies suggested book list, 35 weeks of spelling lists, 9 math tests and a final test, a final review and a final test for Christian Studies, a final exam for Latin, and, of course, test keys for those tests.


Most of the materials that we received for each subject were formatted very similarly, and Literature was no exception.  Each Teaching Guide begins with suggestions for teaching, and is then followed with several activities for each chapter of the book.  Reading Notes usually covered some important information that the child would come across in the chapter that they might not be familiar with; for example, what "apple-blossom time" might mean in terms of seasons.  Reading Notes are followed by vocabulary words, usually about five-seven per chapter.  There are also comprehension questions and discussion questions--comprehension questions are usually questions that the child will answer in writing, but discussion questions are the ones that the student and the teacher can dialogue about.  There are quotations to go over with the student to help make sure they are understanding some of the key points of the story.  And, my personal favorite, there are enrichment activities included for each chapter for use when there is time.  The enrichment activities can include copywork, writing a paragraph inspired by something that happened in the story, ordering events, map work, and even making marmalade when reading about that silly bear Paddington!

Some other things you will find in the Teacher's Guides include quizzes and final tests, answers to the discussion questions (just in case you didn't read the books yourself, lol!), and additional background information on some topics specific to the story:  spiders in Charlotte's Web, for example, and a map of London for A Bear Called Paddington.

The Student Guide is set up in the same manner, except, simply, the answers aren't given.  There is ample space provided for the child to write in their answers to the questions.


The English Grammar Recitation program consists of the Recitation Book, the Student Guide, and the Teacher Manual.  Again, the Teacher Manual is set up with teaching guidelines in the beginning, review and recitation tips, and a suggested five day lesson plan, offering memorization exercises, copywork, practice exercises, and review.  The lessons are then broken down into 26 lessons, focusing on things such as capitalization rules, sentence structure, helping verbs, comma rules, and even hyphen use.  Reviews, quizzes, and tests are provided, and grammar recitation exercises are also found in the back of the Teacher's manual.  Again, the Student Guide is set up in exactly the same way--minus the answers.

The English Grammar Recitation Book is designed to be used over a period of five years, and includes questions and answers for the student to memorize and recite during their grammar study.  The questions for each section correspond beautifully to the rest of the student's grammar program, giving the child information they can use throughout their schooling.


The Cursive Writing program lesson plans come with Teaching Guidelines included in the beginning, and very simple lesson planning in order to cover 100 lessons in 33 weeks, with lessons offered three times / week.  The workbook itself is a spiral-bound, (top bound, so that it can be used with either right-handed or left-handed children) soft-cover book.  It has a good deal of introductory information about paper position, spacing, and pencil position, and then it dives right into the beginning pages.  The first few lessons serve as a review, of which there are several built into the curriculum, but then most pages include Bible verse copywork with size 18 font lines.  Later in the lessons, copywork extends to paragraphs, and there is additional instruction in things like keeping margins neat and writing your address.

Christian Studies

Memoria Press' Christian Studies I course focuses on the stories of the Old Testament, from Creation to the death of Moses, through a series of 25 lessons.  As with other curriculum products, review lessons, tests, vocabulary, and some worksheets are included in the books, as well as teaching guidelines to read before beginning.  These lessons are set up with some beginning background summary given for the teacher / parent, and then a Bible story is introduced and suggested.  The Golden Children's Bible is recommended; however, we simply used the Bible my son uses on a regular basis.  After reading the Bible story, the child is given facts to know (important people, places, or events talked about in the story), comprehension questions, activities (usually mapping), and a memory verse.  The child is encouraged to memorize the verse, and different techniques for helping the child are included in the teaching guidelines.  There are five tests and an answer key also provided in the Teacher Guide.  The Student Guide mirrors the Teacher Guide, without the answers given.

Classical Studies

Classical Studies for Third Grade include the studying of Greek Mythology, primarily through use of the book: D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths.  The Teacher and Student Guides follow the text through the use of 25 lessons (and additional review lessons).  Each lesson offers facts to know at the beginning, followed by vocabulary words.  Page selections from the text are given to read, and then comprehension questions and activities are offered.  Many times the activities include going back through the text and identifying items / persons in the pictures, comparing and contrasting the Greek Myths and Bible stories, deeper discussions questions, and art activities.  Review lessons, review questions, maps, a pronunciation guide, and tests and answer keys are found in the back of the Teacher Guide, and the Student Guide again mirrors the Teacher Guide, with blanks to fill in rather than answers given.  There are also flashcards available for this study, which offer a helpful way to help the student work on their memory facts.


The focus for Geography this year is States and Capitals, primarily using the book, Don't Know Much About the 50 States.  Using this book, after the first two lessons, the student will study 2-3 states a week and fill out the corresponding page in the Student Study Guide, identifying the state's abbreviation, capital, nickname, and fun fact, as well as completing some map work.  After each region of the United States is studied, there is a review of that region, a quiz for each region, and of course, a final review and exam.


Poetry for the Grammar Stage is designed to be used over a period of time from third grade to sixth grade, and many of the poems correspond to literature or science selections already included in the core curriculum.  There are 34 poems included, and they vary from simple to incredibly complex.  The beginning poems, designed for use with the third grade curriculum, and scheduled into the lesson plans, come complete with an area to copy the poem and draw a scene from it.  There is added vocabulary the child may be seeing for the first time in the poem, a section for analyzing the poem (rhyming structure, use of tools such as alliteration), and comprehension questions.  The child is also encouraged to memorize and recite lines of the poem.  For some of the later poems, additional historical context is provided as well.  The Student Guide is set up much the same way, except suggested answers are not provided.

The Tower of Babel, of course!


The Timeline program is another, like Poetry, that is designed to be used with the student over several years.  By completion, the student will have a beautiful record of sixty events from Creation through the Third Millennium.  The Timeline Handbook offers, again, teaching guidelines, as well as brief overviews of each event, including the key participants, location, and event description.  The Timeline Composition and Sketchbook is where the student records that information, as well as offering a full-page illustration of the event.  Each event, then, covers a two-page spread.

The Student Flashcards offer a way for the student to practice putting events in historical order or memorizing dates of important historical significance, while the Wall Cards offer an opportunity for history to come alive in the schoolroom.  Each event offered in the timeline has a student flashcard and a wall card created for it, that can be used as valuable visual tools in the study of history.


The Book of Astronomy Student Book and Teacher Guide offer a year or two-long course covering constellations and the Solar System.  Both guides offer text lessons, with workbook-style questions, including fill-in-the-blanks, filling out charts, and drawing the constellations the student is learning. One of the first items the student learns are the 15 brightest stars.   Again, unit tests and final tests are included, with answers given in the Teacher Guide.


The goal of the Introduction to Composition program for the third grader is to teach correct and expressive writing to students through modeling.  So the format of the Composition lessons encourages modeling and talking the student through forming their writing.  Each lesson begins with a reading passage from the literature they are currently working on, followed by some guided questions to get the student thinking.  At that point, the parent helps the student form an outline with the main points they wish to write about, followed by the three-sentence summary.  There is also a dictation sentence for the child from the same literature selection as another modeling tool for the student.

How Did We Use Memoria Press?

Probably not exactly the way it was intended.  Of course, right?  First of all, let me remind you that much of this year we have been loosely "unschooling".  To move from that mindset right into a workbook-style, structured Classical type of learning made me very nervous.  I wasn't sure how my son would react to it.

Because of my reservations, we moved very slowly through the first week of lessons.  As in, it probably took us three weeks to complete what was in Week One of the Lesson Plans.  We simply went subject by subject, allowing my Bug to choose which subject to do next, with a lot of slow downs with Momma re-reading teaching guidelines as we went.  However, that plan seemed to work, and by the end of the review period, we were able to stick much more to the suggested plan, completing the whole day's work in a day (or, maybe more like a day and a half).

We tend to set aside mostly mornings for school time, and Bug and I were able to easily complete the curriculum in the mornings if we were focused and diligent.  The reality, though, is that he is an 8 year-old boy and I am a Momma easily distracted.  So, if we wanted to stay completely on track, we would double up in a subject one day, or get together for a quick session after lunch, and we would be able to check our boxes off in a timely manner.


What Did I Think of This Curriculum?

Again, let me remind you that we were coming off of several months of an unschooling mindset.  When I first opened the package from Memoria Press and saw all of the workbooks, I may have gotten just a wee bit overwhelmed.  And a little teeny tiny bit terrified.

But I overcame.  I rallied and really read through the Lesson Plans and teaching guidelines and dug into the books for each subject.  And I made up some pretty color-coded flashcards for some of the subjects that didn't come with any, and I crossed my fingers and I prayed.

We loved it.

Truly loved it.

I actually couldn't believe it!  First of all, I may have been a little put off by the workbook-style, and, therefore, to my mind, "school work".  But there is so much beautiful, classic literature and some very good "snuggle up and read" time built into the curriculum itself--not just in the literature selections, which are perennial favorites, but also in the suggested book lists, where we read through books like Mary Poppins, and Leif the Lucky.  I was very pleasantly surprised with how often we got to just sit, and read, and talk over what we read.

Also, we adapted (as all good homeschoolers do, right?).  My son, while a wonderful reader, is a horrible writer.  As in, horrible.  As a result, we completed many of the questions in the student books orally.  I'm sure that contributed to Bug's enjoyment.  See, although he is really, really bad at writing, he loves to talk.  And talk.  So this process worked out well for him.  We also worked through the Introduction to Composition orally, although I would have him work on forming his complete sentences and then do the writing for him.  I was again, pleasantly surprised with how well the curriculum could be adapted.

Noah's Ark...
I thought the lesson plans were set up well, and again, were easy to adapt to a slower speed if we needed.  Although spelling and math were included in the lesson plans, we simply did our own math program in place of the Rod and Staff (and didn't do spelling--shh...)  There was a really well thought out mix of subjects, with some only coming up once in a week, but still providing enough exposure for the student.

I was also surprised at how quickly Bug took to the curriculum.  I think it was perfectly challenging enough for him without completely frustrating him.  He picked up the memorization (and there is quite a bit of it) so very quickly, even though he was often overwhelmed when the material was first introduced to him.  Even some of the material that I found a bit dry (read, astronomy), he was thrilled with.  And how many kiddos can name the fifteen brightest stars in the sky?  In order?  Turns out there is something to this "grammar stage of memorization" thing!  Bug loved all of it.

All in all, while there were a few kinks to work out in learning how to use the curriculum--mostly worked out on my own when I went back to read through it all a second time, this was a curriculum that really worked out well for us.  It is a bit overwhelming at first, probably more for the parent, especially if said parent is not particularly well versed in the Classical method of education.  But once the initial learning curve is over, it is very much open and go in everyday use.  There is a lot of challenging material, and yes, a lot of memorization.  However, there is also a lot of room for adaptation, and still so much relaxing reading time, which is our favorite part of homeschooling.  There are even hands-on projects included here and there, although those with more active learners may want to supplement a bit to add more.

Now, in all fairness, I'm going to tell you that we didn't get past the first page in the cursive book.  Did I mention Bug and his aversion to writing?  To practice his penmanship more, we're moving back to very introductory printing before we try this one again.  And according to Memoria Press, you are welcome to substitute programs like that when buying the core curricula.  Doing it again, we would have simply substituted for an earlier printing product.

I know I didn't cover the Latin.  There was so much to cover specific to Latin, as a new family never having done it before, that I'm going to do another review just on Latina Christiana.

In short, we loved the Third Grade Curriculum from Memoria Press.  We have put it aside for the summer now, but we will be jumping right back into it come August, per Bug's request, and per mine.  This one is a keeper, for sure!

What Did My Bug Think?

"A Bear Called Paddington was funny.  It was easy to see when Paddington would get in trouble, but it was still surprising to see what kind of trouble he got in and to see if he got in trouble or got away easily.  The vocabulary words, some of them were hard, and some of them were easy, but I managed to memorize them all. (Literature)

The capitalization rules are interesting and I think they're going to help me a lot.  It was fun to memorize them all. (Grammar)

For the Bible, some of the cards that I thought I couldn't be able to memorize, I did.  It was a little tough to memorize all the verses. (Christian Studies)

I liked having the cards to be quizzed on it, and even though I knew about some of the stories already, it was fun to go over them. (Greek Mythology)

It was fun to learn about different time zones, and how there's different sections of the United States, like New England.   (States and Capitals)

Poetry was a weird poem, but fun to memorize some of the lines. (Poetry)

The Timeline was fun to learn about the different things that happened during close to the same year. And it was also fun to draw the pictures and put up the cards up where the bigger cards were. (Timeline)

Astronomy was really hard to memorize all of the stars from brightest to darkest. (Astronomy)

I really liked most of it, just sometimes it was a little hard to memorize it all.  I still want to use it."  Bug, age 8

Find Out More About Memoria Press:

The Third Grade Curriculum Complete Package, which we received is $400.00, and includes all of the materials needed for every subject, including Lesson Plans.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wordless Wednesday...Our Winter Wanderings, Part 6...

This part of our winter trip was dedicated to Bug's intense interest in all things Civil War.  We made a side trip to Gettysburg National Military Park for him to soak up the history.  Which he did.  For a much longer time than either of his sisters were interested in hanging in.  And even longer than I could hang.

This picture sums it up nicely, I think.  I love that little guy.

The girls, humoring me, but ready to crash out.

The monument before we fully explored it...

...on our way up...

...and the view from the tip top.

Bug, four hours in, still all smiles!  The girls?  In the car.  So very, very done with the whole thing.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Firefly Friday...And Again...


I have so many, many feelings swirling through my brain as I sit down to type this.

I'm mad.  Upset.  Jealous.  Mama Bear-Angry.  Hurt.  Frustrated.  Irritated.  Exhausted.  Afraid.

I want to holler at the top of my lungs to anyone who will listen that This. Just. Isn't. Fair!!

And then smack myself for being a whiny, selfish lady.

So, let's just start here and see where we end up, OK?

My daughter is 12.  12.  She is finishing up sixth-grade.  She has a cell phone, has taken a Safe Sitter course, and can stay home by herself for short periods of time.  She can play soccer like nobody's business, and writes beautiful skits for her Community Bible Study class.

She is caring and warm and thoughtful and a champ at giving back massages.

But she STILL has Sensory Processing Disorder.

She STILL is medicated daily for the anxiety that can be so crippling that NONE of us can function to live our daily lives.

And she is STILL losing control.

And so am I.

For all of the occupational therapy, speech therapy, horse therapy, special diets, medication, counseling sessions, holistic healer-people, essential oils, vitamins, and on and on and on that we've tried, SPD continues to be part of our lives.

Every day.

And, true, as she has gotten older, and as her siblings have gotten older, and her parents have gotten better at figuring this all out, SPD has gotten slightly less intrusive in our lives--unless it's just that we've gotten so used to its presence that we have adjusted...


Then we have a day (who am I kidding--it's been like two weeks now) when it all comes screeching back into focus.

A scheduled playdate that never was... (even though I knew better than to set one up with this particular set of friends)

Bedtimes that got away from us because of late soccer practices (and she's so much better settled when she's playing soccer--but not so much when she's tired...)

A typing class that's "hard"  (defined as tough on those fine motor muscles, almost impossible to ace immediately, and forced time to sit and look at a computer screen)...

And math.  Let's not forget math.

And now we have a crabby, bossy, argumentative, and yes, even tantruming Firefly on our hands.


And my mad comes from the fact that:

1.  It's. Not. Fair.  To her, to her brother and sister, to us as her parents.  This sucks.  It sucks that we have to live this life day in and day out and walk on eggshells, like we have for 12 YEARS.  I hate it.

2.  I'm a whiner.  I know, completely get it, that there are SO MANY worse off than we are.  We are very blessed and so very lucky.  I told you I was a whiner.  And it makes me mad at myself.

3.  I know better.  I know this is a fact of life.  I know there is nothing wrong with my daughter that I need to "fix".  I know it is what it is.  So why am I surprised when we have a flare-up or a reaction that I should expect?

4.  I respond to her behavior with anger.  Because I'm angry at myself and at SPD, it looks like I'm angry with her.  I am a grown-up acting like a child.  And it pisses me off.

I'm upset.  I hate to see her struggle like this.  I know she isn't acting out of hate or disobedience.  But still, this is behavior she's going to have to get under control.  Especially as she's growing. But, ugh...it's so...

Exhausting.  For her and me and everyone else who has to be around us.  Did I mention it's been 12 years?  That's a long, long time.

It's so very tiring.

But you know what?

I am a follower of Christ.  I am a believer in God, and God told us that the road would not be easy.  He made sure we knew there would be adversity and rough times and hardship.

Hardship.  Now that's a word that sums it up pretty well.

And through the hardship, God promised He would walk with us, would carry us if we need it.  And God's hands are big enough to carry me, and my Firefly, and her brother and sister, and dad.  We can rest while He carries us, and we can renew our strength.

To fight some more tomorrow.


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