31 October 2014

A Knight of the White Cross by G.A.Henty from Jim Hodges Productions {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

Jim Hodges Productions Review

We all enjoy a good living history book here.  A tale almost always full of adventure and definitely rich in historic details, what's not to love?  It's no secret that we love audio books.  So, obviously, our favorite audio books are living history books.  Those authored by G. A. Henty are at the top of our list.  Jim Hodges Productions offers wonderful family friendly audiobooks, many of them Henty titles.  You can listen to a recording by Jim Hodges on the benefits of Henty books in many subject areas.  We chose to review A Knight of the White Cross: A Tale of the Siege of Rhodes (mp3 CD $25 or mp3 download $18).  We also received and used a coordinating study guide download ($12 pdf).   

Jim Hodges Productions Review

Living history books are my favorite way to include all ages in our history studies.  They usually follow a fictional character that interacts with historical figures and events or, follow a historical figure in a storyline outside of known history.  Living history books are great to explore history in-depth and outside of boring text.  The books are excellent examples of strong grammar and vocabulary.  Because most living history books were written long ago, the characters exhibit great character (or are learning how to) - yet another facet of the story to learn from.  From our youngest to our oldest (and even mom & dad), we are drawn into the story and the history.  

New to living history?  An audiobook of a Henty title is a great introduction.  Adventure. Character. History. A read-aloud read by someone else - in my world that is a wonderful thing!  We often do "listening lunches" and listen to a segment or chapter during lunch.  We have to set a timer to stop, because we want to keep going.  Audiobooks are also great for roadtrips, mama's migraine days, or sick days.  You can choose titles to correspond with your current history studies or anything that sounds interesting.  We selected A Knight of the White Cross simply because it sounded fun.

A Knight of the White Cross: A Tale of the Siege of Rhodes is set in the mid-1400s, during the War of the Roses.  The young man we follow throughout the story, Gervaise Tresham, leaves England and joins the Order of the Knights of St. John.  He quickly attains knighthood and is made a Knight of the White Cross for his bravery.  Many skirmishes with the pirates in the Mediterranean make this a book full of action.  Our young knight is even captured and sold into slavery, but of course escapes.  Throughout the 23 chapters (nearly 13 hours of listening) we experience much follow our young knight - including winning the hand of his wife (very mild, sweet bit of romance). 

You can check out Chapter 15 to listen to as a sample.  All of the selections reviewed by the Schoolhouse Review Crew are recommended for ages 10 and up.  With the battle action involved, it may not be appropriate for some younger listeners.  We are not opposed to this for our family, so we all listened together.  The reading level of the Henty books is especially appealing to middle schoolers.  The study guide can be used as a family, though for independent work, that ages 10 and up applies here as well. 

The King-Maker36:25
The Battle of Tewekesbury33:34
The Grand Master’s Page32:44
A Professed Knight32:53
Scourges of the Sea30:37
A First Command33:25
An Evening of Rhodes32:59
With the Galley-Slaves31:19
A Plot Discovered30:12
In Command of a Galley31:07
The Boy-Galley29:31
The First Prizes39:46
The Corsair Fleet30:55
A Splendid Exploit27:43
A Kind Master40:51
21:The Fort of St. Nicholas32:19
The Struggle at the Breach43:35
23:The Reward of Valor26:00
Total Time: 12 Hours, 49 Minutes

Even though this was a "just for fun" listen, we made use of the coordinating study guide.  We did much of it orally while sitting around the table after lunch.  As a game (well, the younger ones bought it), I printed out the page with the vocabulary so that they could "listen for their words".  The older girls would write their understanding of the definition of the word as used.  The younger ones checked off when they heard their word.  We also listened while on the road (easy to import the CD and add to my iPad).  With the pdf of the study guide loaded on the iPad, I or an older sister could read the questions (5 per chapter) and we discussed them.  The questions ranged from comprehension questions - especially when things were said differently than we would say them today - to thought provoking questions on someone's character or actions to "who am I?" questions.  There were also activities (3 to choose from each chapter) involving map work and art.  All in all this is a well rounded study guide bringing in more than just the typical language arts questions.  It would work well in a group or individually.  

The study guide for A Knight of the White Cross is divided by chapter just like the audio files, making it easy to work through as you listen.  There are also 4 quizzes and answers for both the chapter questions and the quizzes.  Each chapter also includes a vocabulary section with lines for writing out the definitions.  There could be more room for writing or you could write them in a separate "word notebook".  The words are great examples of the vocabulary found in these great older books.  They are listed in the order in which they are heard throughout the chapter - working well for my "game" for my younger listeners.  The study guide makes a great addition to the story.

We reviewed many of these great Henty titles from Jim Hodges Productions.  Be sure to read the reviews and decide which one(s) to add to your own listening library.

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Thank you Jim Hodges Productions!

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29 October 2014

Warriors of Honor from New Liberty Videos {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

New Liberty Videos Review

Do you remember watching videos in school as a child?  It was a time to look forward to - you either were able to sneak a nap or sat enrapt.  Your teacher was likely grading papers or in some way making use of this "free" time.  Our children enjoy watching videos in school, too.  I am a bit picky on what we watch.  I want things that support our worldview and studies.  We use videos especially for exploring interests and introducing something new.  My eldest son is interested in anything related to battles and soldiers.  Warriors of Honor, one of the titles available on DVD ($19.95) from New Liberty Videos, grabbed his interest right away.  When it arrived for our review, he wasted no time in putting it on.
The video loaded with a menu from which to select to play, choose chapters (1-20) or bonus segments (3 covering Slavery, Sam Davis and The Palmyra Incident).  He started watching the main selection first.  Soon after hearing it from other parts of the house, his sisters and younger brother were joining him on the sofa.  Even though much of the beginning was old photos, they sat, eyes glued to the screen, not wanting to miss a moment.  And we weren't even to any of the battles yet.  We were learning about Jackson's and Lee's lives prior to the War's beginning.  These were truly men of faith and honor, above what was the norm, in a time when faith and honor were much more common than they are now.
New Liberty Videos Review
It was a nice, quiet eighty minutes.  Well, maybe not so quiet.  In addition to the pleasant music and soothing voice of the narrator, there was some sounds of battle.  Guns, cannons, horses and noisy soldiers were heard.  Out of my children?  Not a peep.  At least that first time.  They were all snuggled together on the couch, warm and cozy, yet not one of them fell asleep.  If I had known the free time I was going to have, I might have planned to cross some things of my to-do list.  I didn't though.  I was just as drawn in to the video.
It begins laying out what the commonalities and differences were between "the North" and "the South".  Presented factually and going beyond slavery [Want a bit of a look at slavery? One of the bonus segments gives a nice overview in 9 minutes, clearing up the common misconceptions presented throughout history.], this southern-girl living in the north really appreciates how this was presented.  The video is covering two well known generals for the South, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee.  We are shown more depth to these men than is commonly covered in history texts.  Learning about the depth of their faith - even on the battlefield - really made an impression on my children.  They were able to see how scripture was part of their communication, a part of who they were.  Their faith was not just in their foundation and something practiced at church but a part of who they were all the time, in all they did.  The more my children see examples of this in all kinds of people, the more they grow in their own faith.
Throughout the video, there are still shots of actual, historic photos.  There are videos of reenactments and of today's views of those legendary battlefields.  Some of the battles covered are the Battle(s) of Manassas (or Bull Run for the Yankees *grin*), the Seven Days Battles, Antietam, the Battle of Cold Harbor and of course, Gettysburg.  When looking at places in history, I think it is very important to see what those places look like now.  It is interesting to see what has changed and what has been preserved.  It helps my children, especially at the younger elementary age, to see that these events really happened.  These aren't just exciting stories of battles and bravery and faith.
When we covered the Civil War, we just did an overview without digging deep into any one person or event.  This would have been wonderful to watch then to add more to our understanding of the times surrounding the battles.  It has also been enjoyable for us to watch just because it is interesting and not because it is tied to a lesson.  I often forget to do these "just because" things.  
There are other topics covered by New Liberty Videos - from Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls to Teaching Origins Objectively to Anthem for a Nation and more.  Consider picking up one or three (there is currently a special to buy 2 and get the 3rd free).  They are presented from a solidly Christian worldview.  You can find one to coordinate with your studies - or not.  Take advantage of the opportunity for your children to be quietly occupied - or join them like I did.

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Thank you New Liberty Videos!

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23 October 2014

Middlebury Interactive Languages {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

Learning a foreign language is important.  When learning a foreign language, it is generally thought the earlier the better.  Because noone in our family is fluent in another language, we have to intentional seek out these opportunities.  When the review for Middlebury Interactive Languages came up, I knew it was time (really past time) to get our children interested in learning a new language.  My second daughter, a 6th grader, agreed to try out the middle school German course ($119/semester - no personal teacher involvement from Middlebury.  There is an option at additional charge to work with an instructor from Middlebury.).
Middlebury College's Foreign Language Schools have been around for decades utilized by many to learn not only the language but the culture of places around the globe.  In today's ever-increasing inter-connectiveness the need for current language skills in foreign countries is necessary and Middlebury has excelled at this.  Taking their methods online in interactive courses has brought their proven, rigorous approach to anyone with internet access.  You no longer need to find local speakers to be immersed.
Middlebury Interactive Languages Review
My daughter is right at the transition of elementary and middle school courses.  After looking at some of the samples available on the website, she opted for the more mature graphics of the middle school program.  The middle school program is also more rigorous and recommended for daily use as opposed to 2-3 days per week of the elementary program.  These paces will ensure the level is completed over the course of a semester.  The course is self-paced, so the learner can do more or less depending upon their understanding and ability.  My daughter worked a bit faster in the beginning and slowed her pace once she made it past a few of the sets.  I require that she utilize it four days a week.  Unlike other subjects where I don't care if they do the whole week's worth of work in one sitting, I think she needs the more frequent practice.  Less time more frequently has been very effective for her.
Middlebury Interactive Languages Review
The work my daughter has been doing has been completely on her own.  Outside of hearing her from the other room and glimpsing the notebook she started keeping for herself (not something directed by the course), I am not involved.  She has been working with her Daddy though.  My husband took German in college, but that has been a few days ago.  She speaks to him, and he is able to keep up, for now.

You may wonder how we non-German speakers can know when she is using correct pronunciations?  Middlebury has a great feature of recording the learner.  A microphone is needed for this feature.  A microphone is *not* needed to utilize the program, just the speaking lab portion.  We do not have a microphone for our computers, so we have not been able to utilize this, but I think it is a wonderful option.  Especially for some of those especially difficult sounds.
Middlebury Interactive Languages Review
There are currently four languages available for K-12 students - Spanish, French, Chinese and German.  Spanish being the only currently offered for the youngest students (K-2).  Other languages will be added to the offerings.  After seeing how much their sister has enjoyed her language learning, the younger siblings are eager to learn too.  Who knows where the Lord will call them in life.  Learning an additional language will only enable them to be more prepared - even if the language learned is not the language needed in the future.  I may even sign up to learn something.  The whole approach seems to be very incremental.  The self-pacing perfect for a busy mama.  If we can all agree to a language, it might even become a fun family project.

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Thank you Middlebury!
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