Random Five on Friday ~ October 2nd Edition

Yes, it’s still Friday!  Let’s just jump in shall we!

1. I am so excited! It’s time to start thinking about the 2016 Schoolhouse Review Crew. Today, the Crew put out a teaser. If you’ve been reading my blog and wanted to know how you could get such fabulous stuff to review you’ll want to check out this post that tells you what you need to know about joining the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Look for an announcement next week about the application process!

2. I have a thing for minions. My favorite app game on my Kindle Fire is Despicable Me: Minion Rush. So my husband had to bring home these:

Minion Twinkies!

3. It was a beautiful clear night on Sunday so we were able to see the moon and the lunar eclipse.

Supermoon Solar Eclipse

4. We did actually get to harvest one small but very cute green bell pepper and one ugly and smaller pepper. We got one small spaghetti squash. A handful of tomatoes and some onions too.  Oh and carrots. The garden just wasn’t doing well this year and I blame the heat and drought.

A tiny fall harvest

5. We enjoyed homemade pizza again this week thanks to Tailorbear! She’s developing her own style and took her father’s recipe to a new level. We enjoyed Bacon Cheeseburger pizzas this time.


Teaching High School Language Arts: Resources

Perhaps it would be better to list it as English Resources or Resources for Teaching Literature and Composition.  As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I’ve had the opportunity to use several different programs including those focused more on literature, those focused more on writing skills, and those that strive to teach one through the other.

Homeschooling High School at Circling Through This Life

These are my most favorite resources for teaching Language Arts or English at the high school level.  They are listed in no particular order.

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW)

I fell in love with IEW’s approach to teaching writing about 5 years ago when I first reviewed Teaching Writing Structure and Style and Student Writing Intensive C. This is a high school level writing program that teaches parents and teachers how to teach writing. The program can be adapted to add grammar and literature for a full English course. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to review the revised brand new updated Teaching Writing Structure and Style.

TWSS and SWI together form a solid foundation to teach writing skils to all students but is easily adapted for special need learners.

I also love and use their High School Essay Intensive.  Both Turtlegirl and Boobear have used this as part of their prep for learning how to write high school level essays and for prepping for the essay portion of the SAT.  The essay portion of the SAT will become optional but Boobear tells me that HS Essay Intensive helped prep her for all the little essays and short papers she has had to write in college.

Learning Language Arts Through Literature

I was first introduced to LLATL at  small homeschool group meeting where moms were doing a kind of show and tell of the curriculum they were using. My oldest wasn’t quite 3 years old at the time and my youngest hadn’t even been conceived yet! I loved that it was a complete language arts program that taught writing through great literature. We even used LLATL for a few years when the girls were, you know, old enough to do school.

Learning Language Arts has at least TWO High School level programs available: The Gold Book which covers British Literature and includes novels such as Emma by Jane Austen and Frankenstein by Mary Shelly and the Silver book which covers American literature.

Writing with Sharon Watson

We’ve had the privilege of using and reviewing two programs from Writing with Sharon Watson. The first is a writing curriculum Writing Fiction [in High School].  I recommend this program for students who want to right fiction especially a full novel. I think it pairs nicely with NaNoWriMo.

Tailorbear works on her Novel Notebook, thinking about the book she is reading for When Worlds Collide literature program.

The other is my current favorite high school Literature program. This is what we are using right now with Tailorbear: Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide. I do have to point out that I love how thoroughly this program teaches literary analysis. This doesn’t use the typical selections found in so many other programs but I found it a refreshing change.

Please go visit these blogging friends of mine from the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Find out what they have to say about Homeschooling Language Art in the High School!

Carol from Home Sweet life shares Homeschooling High School- Language Arts (&History!)

Leah from As We Walk Along the Road shares Teaching Language Arts in High School: Curriculum and Activity Choices

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 from Homeschool Coffee Break shares History in the Form of Stories

Debbie from Debbie’s Homeschool Corner shares Teaching High School English

Gena from I Choose Joy shares Homeschool High School: Using Socratic Discussion for Literature Studies

Laura from Day by Day in Our World shares How to Teach High School Language Arts Without Tears

Come back next month for another installment of the Homeschooling High School Blog Hop!


Middlebury Interactive Languages {Crew Review}

Turtlegirl loves languages. She fell in love with French a year ago when we had the opportunity to review the first semester of High School French I, one of the French Courses from Middlebury Interactive Languages. She is thrilled that she gets to complete the course by using the second semester this year!

Middlebury Interactive Languages offers courses from Kindergarten through High School. They offer these world languages: French, German, Spanish, and Chinese. Courses are classified as Elementary K-2, Elementary 3-5, Middle School, High School, Fluency, and Advanced Placement (AP).

Middlebury Interactive Languages ~ world languages curriculum for homeschoolers

The homeschool world languages curriculum can be taken as a self-paced independent study or families can choose to opt for the guidance of a certified virtual teacher. Some features of the curriculum, such as grading of speaking and writing lessons, are only available with the teacher option. The Schoolhouse Review Crew received six months of access to the self-paced independent study course. Six months is plenty of time to finish one semester if the student completes one unit per week. With 18 weeks of lessons, the student should still be able to take breaks for holidays.

High School French 1 (Second Semester)

High School French 1 has no prerequisites for beginning the first semester but the student should have completed semester 1 or the equivalent before beginning the second semester. The second semester picks up right after the Semester One Final. There is no review of semester one materials before beginning the second semester. This makes sense logically as a traditional school year would begin with semester one in the fall and continue with semester two in the spring. Turtlegirl did things a little differently, having completed the semester one course a year ago and did not immediately come back to French for the second semester.

Because the second semester immediately follows the first, unit numbers begin at 19. There are a total of 18 units. Each unit has 5 lessons. The course pace requires students to complete one lesson each school day in order to finish in 18 weeks for one semester or 36 weeks for the full course.

Each lesson has several different parts. Not every lesson contains all the activities but throughout each week’s unit you’ll find activities covering:

  • Vocabulary ~ Lesson one of every unit begins with unit objects and then gives an overview of all the new vocabulary for that unit. Lessons 2 and 3 continue to explore that new vocabulary in specific activity sets such as warm up and matching.
  • Speaking ~ Speaking skills are practiced throughout the unit including vocabulary activities. There are also specific pronunciation practices.
  • Listening ~ Listening activities target listening comprehension. In one activity, students listen to a conversation and then fill in the blanks. In another activity, students listen for particular vocabulary words and select which ones they heard. Turtlegirl tells me she usually misses at least one but she can repeat the activity if she needs more practice.
  • Writing ~ There are grammar activities as well as dictation activities. Some writing activities involve real life type situations such as responding to an email from a pen pal.

Online Language Learning with Middlebury Interactive Langauges includes grammar!

  • Reading ~ The primary activity for reading is to read a passage and take a quiz about it.
  • French Speaking Culture ~ There is a video about some aspect of the culture and then a quiz. The culture explorations are not limited to just France. Students are introduced to the foods, sports, holidays, geography, history, and climate of other French speaking locales.
  • Life Long Learner Goals ~ The student sets her own goals for these types of activities. Some of the suggestions include incorporating French into your speaking day, listening to music in French, and finding a native speaker and talking with them. Turtlegirl mostly listens to music in French.

Each unit builds on the previous units, so units do need to be completed in order. Students can repeat activities if they need more practice. Simply click the reset button and try again. Turtlegirl finds that very helpful when she is working with a difficult concept.

Although the speaking exercises are not automatically graded, the activities are still important and Turtlegirl uses headphones and a microphone to practice speaking. She is able to compare her recording to the program. The exception is the “Conversation Station” exercise. She must understand what is being said to her and respond verbally. These responses are recorded and credit is given for participation but with the self-paced option there is no teacher feedback.

Some things to know about the Self-Paced Independent Study Option

1. The calendar feature is for the  Virtual Teacher option. It comes prepopulated with lessons assigned to dates. It is not necessary to follow these dates at all. We choose to bypass the calendar and access the lessons through the Table of Contents.

The Table of Contents helps you keep track of where you are in the program!

2. Most of the activities are graded automatically by the program, however, there are some writing and speaking assignments that require teacher grading.

Turtlegirl's Thoughts:

I really love Middlebury. I especially love the built-in reviews. During the 2nd and 3rd lessons of a unit, before learning a new grammar concept or a new word, you review the ones you've already learned. I really appreciated that. I also appreciate that in lesson 1 of each unit, there is a list of all the vocabulary that will be learned in the unit. I like that in each quarter, one before the mid-term and one after the mid-term, there is a French-speaking culture that we explore. I really enjoy learning French with this program.

For more on Turtlegirl’s thoughts and a description of the program from her point of view you can read my review of the first semester of HS French I. 

 Middlebury Interactive Langauges ~ homeschool langauge curriculum


The Details:

 Middlebury Interactive Languages Review ~ Language Learning for Homschoolers

  This Graphic contains the FTC Regulations statement for Reviews.

All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews to find more great products.


Random Five September 25 Edition (on September 26)

I know.  Last week I posted on Saturday.  That was not planned.  This week however it is planned because I wanted to post my USAopoly Review on Friday.  Did you see it? Fun games for the whole family.  This has been a busy week!

1.  Sunday was the post feast of the Elevation of the Venerable and Life-Giving Cross.  I love this service. Maybe I love it because it’s the very first Orthodox Service that I ever attended.  This is from the vespers service:

As the Cross is lifted up, it urges all of creation to praise the immaculate Passion of the One Who was lifted up thereon. For by means of the Cross, He slew him that slew us; and He made the dead to live again, making them beautiful, granting them the Heavens as dwelling-place, because He is compassionate, in the unsurpassed and unspeakable excess of His goodness. With joy, then, let us all exalt His Name, while magnifying His infinite condescension toward our race.

2.  Boobear dyed her hair with henna. We called it Weasley hair as she definitely would have fit into the Weasley family with this carrot top look. Over the course of several days the orange color deepened to a beautiful shade of red. She explained that the color deepens and changes because the henna was still oxidizing. She also dyed my hair with henna. The gray in my hair was a carrot orange and the rest was a lovely auburn. I wasn’t too happy with the streaks of orange but decided they were better than gray.  After a few days those have turned more red and look like highlights.  I love it now! Red and not gray!

3.  I took Turtlegirl to her first concert. Well she came with me to a concert I wanted to go to:  Duran Duran. We went with some friends of mine. (sigh, just typing that puts Friends of Mine running through my head.) This is the second time that I have seen them in concert the day before my birthday. Seeing Duran Duran in concert with my newly henna’d hair made me almost forgot that I was an old married woman with adult children. I screamed just as much, if not more than, I did at the concert I saw when I was 21. I had so much fun singing, dancing, and yes, screaming with my friends and Turtlegirl!


4.  My birthday was this week. (um you couldn’t tell right?) Instead of a traditional birthday cake we had Birthday Cheesecake!

Birthday Cheesecake

5.  I am entering a new chapter or season in my life. I want to talk about that separately later.  Just say things are changing around here and life is getting more crazy!


Family Fun with USAopoly Games {Crew Review}

If you are a regular reader of my blog, then you might already know that my family loves board games. We often schedule days just for playing games and our family plans holidays around game playing. It isn’t Thanksgiving if we don’t play a game. The girls know that there is going to be at least one new game to open and play at Christmas. Knowing that we love games, I was excited to see USAopoly on the list for Crew Reviews. They generously provided two games for us to enjoy: Tapple: Fast Word Fun for Everyone and Wonky: The Crazy Cubes Card Game.

Two great games for family game night~ read Tess's reviw at Circling Through This Life


I thought that I had never heard of USAopoly before seeing them listed as an upcoming vendor for the crew. Then I started poking around the website. I may not have recognized the name but my family actually had at least one game created by them! USAopoly has been publishing board games since 1994. Some of their games are themed games licensed from other companies. Really like Harry Potter? Firefly? Maybe you’re a family of Whovians like us. They publish themed versions of popular games. But, they also publish original games such as Wonky and Tapple.

Tapple: Fast Word Fun for Everyone

Tapple is a fast paced family friendly word game that requires no spelling! This would be a great game to play at parties as I think the more people playing it the more fun it would be. It is listed for 2-8 players and I think 6-8 would be ideal! And you can play as teams.

The Tapple wheel is made of sturdy plastic. The timer is a large red button at the center and the category cards are conveniently stored in the bottom. There are 36 cards with a combined total of 144 categories.  Categories are divided into easier cards on side and more challenging topics on the other.

Family Fun!

I thought we would be able to adapt this game so that all 6 of us could play but Supergirl’s disabilities made it more complicated that I first thought. We started by allowing her to have twice the amount of time. If the buzzer went off, which it did frequently for her, she got to tap it again for another 10 seconds.  We also found that we had to be more fuzzy with the words because she didn’t quite grasp the concept of listing items in the same category but with different things. I think the more we play it, the more she’ll grasp the concept and then we will be able to just use the time adaptation and be able to play the game as a whole family.

Tapple isn’t just fun entertainment. The Tapple wheel can be used for school time too! I decided that since Supergirl wasn’t really able to enjoy playing the game with us we would use it make school a little more fun. USAopoly lists some suggestions for learning time with Tapple. I used it primarily to help her with thinking and processing. We turned the timer off and I would pick a category and encourage her to think of as many things as could with different letters. This helped her solidify the first letter/first sound connection. USAopoly also suggests using Tapple for spelling practice.  That is on my list to try!

Wonky: The Crazy Cubes Card Game

This is a card game, but with a twist. The object of the game, like many card games, is to get rid of all your cards. Unlike other card games, this one requires you to build a tower. The tower is going to be wobbly because you are using odd shaped blocks. The object then is to get rid of your cards without toppling the tower. If the tower falls over, you must take three cards and play continues with building a new tower.

This game is very portable. The deck of cards, instructions and all nine blocks fit perfectly into the purple drawstring bag making this a great option to take on the go. I can see my family bringing this along to play while on a picnic. It would be great to bring along camping for those rainy days. 

Dad takes his turn! Wonky  from USAopoly

This is the game that I wasn’t too sure that Supergirl would be able to play. I was afraid her fine motor skills would not be up to the challenge of trying to balance the odd shaped cubes to create a tower.  But she surprised me.   We did have to adapt it by making sure we started the tower close to her but she was able to play the game independently.

Our Thoughts

As a family we are divided as to who prefers which game over the other. Supergirl loves Wonky while Tailorbear surprised herself and said Tapple was her favorite of the two. She said it was fun and she liked how she could take time to think of other words. Turtlegirl is divided and can’t make up her mind. I love the educational aspect of Tapple and found that I really loved Wonky. I do believe that these games will become a regular part of our holiday game marathons at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

 USAopoloy ~ Review of Tapple and Wonky

The Details:

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read the USAoploy reviews!

 This Graphic contains the FTC Regulations statement for Reviews.

All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews to find more great products.