07 August 2014

Old Western Culture: The Greeks from Roman Roads Media {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

Roman Roads Media Review

We really like learning history chronologically, so we follow the classical cycle in our history studies.  That means we are back to the beginning and the ancients for this new school year.  I am re-using curriculum from our first time through.  Great for my younger children, but I really need things to be more challenging for my middle schooler.  She is ready to dig deeper into history and tie in philosophy and theology, too.  I needed to find something that would meet these requirements and be easy to implement.  We found the perfect thing in Roman Roads Media's Old Western Culture: The Greeks, a video course that calls itself "A Christian Approach to the Great Books".  We received the course on DVD ($224) for the purpose of review.  It is also available online for streaming ($199).

Roman Roads Media Review

It seems that as my daughter is getting older, we are moving towards Classical Christian Education.  This means that the basis of the studies are found in the Great Books - classic works.   This first year in the history cycle covers ancient history which of course means Greece.  Year two of Old Western Culture is The Romans.  Year three is Christendom.  Early Moderns completes the cycle in Year four.  Wesley Callihan is the instructor, author and storyteller of the Old Western Culture courses.  He has a passion for history that is contagious.  It is often just as entertaining as it is educational to watch the lecture videos.  Wes has been a popular contributor to the growing Classical Christian Education movement. 

The organization of The Greeks course is straightforward and easy to fit into our schedule.  There are four units spread over 36 weeks, 9 weeks per unit, 5 days per week requiring 1 to 3 hours per day.  The units are numbered with 1 for The Epics, 2 for Drama and Lyric, 3 for The Histories, and 4 for The Philosophers.  This implies order to these units though I don't see anywhere a reason to not use each unit in the order you desire.  There are 12 video lectures for each unit, roughly 30 minutes in length.  We received these on DVDs, four DVDs per quarter in a nice case.  There are also plenty of reading assignments and a paper for the quarter.  It is clearly indicated in the pdf schedule when the work on this should begin.  If used as scheduled, completing each of the assignments and all of the readings, the course will earn the learner 2 high school credits.  One for literature and the second can be either history, English, philosophy, or doctrine/theology.  The schedule is color-coded so it is easy to see when to watch each video, what sections to read when and which discussion questions (reader vs lecture) are to be completed.  These directions make it easy for the learner to be responsible for their work.

Roman Roads Media Review

We chose to begin with The Epics (which is the first one, and this slightly OCD mama was very happy her daughter decided to do so!).  The Great Books used are The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer.  We purchased a Kindle/Audible version of The Iliad to have the Whispersync option.  This means my daughter could read as she listens or just read or just listen while keeping the same place.  When she was listening, we all listened whether from the computer, iPod or iPad.  There are recommended versions and links to others (most of them free!) on the materials page.  The basic story was familiar to all of us - especially the younger brothers from watching the movie Troy.  Of course, that Hollywood-version only tells a narrow and often distorted take on the classic story.  Because we are listening/reading together, we are getting more out of it than merely reading silently.  Homer wrote these as poems, and there is something to the hearing.  Not to mention, this makes the reading much easier on my dyslexic daughter.

My daughter is also getting much more through the discussion questions found in the student workbook.  The student workbook can be purchased as a printed, spiral-bound book ($12 per quarter), downloaded freely from the materials page or accessed right in the DVD.  We received one of the printed workbooks for the third quarter, The Histories.  It is black and white, which means that color-coded schedule is no more.  The schedule is also available as a separate file to download (in color) if that is important to you (it obviously is to me *grin*).  When viewing the DVD on the computer, we could access the discussion questions also.  This has the added benefit of being able to click and review the relevant portion of the lecture directly as needed.  We also have the Guide to the Art as a booklet included in the DVD case.  The exact same pages are available to download.  The printed guide is on nice paper and conveniently fits right into the DVD case.  Around here, that is a big deal.  It will be less likely to get lost.  But if it is misplaced, we can always print the pdf or view it right on our computer or tablet screen.  The components for this course are so versatile!

The other units follow the same format of 12 lectures with readings and discussions over the course of 9 weeks each.  At the end of each unit are two exams or tests.  You can use both or one in the manner that fits your learner.  Two of the suggestions are to use the first as an open book test for review and prep the second.  You could also offer the second if the grade was less than expected on the first.  The tests (and an answer key as a separate file) are available to download as pdf files.  It would be nice to have those exams as "type-it-in" files.  The questions are essay questions and my girl, at least, is more apt to write more when she can type it versus write it out by hand.

Once we finish The Epics, we will move right in to Drama and Lyric.  In this unit, we will study tragedies, comedies and minor poems.  There is a text for this one that contains much of the readings made available by Roman Roads Media - as a pdf to download free, Kindle for $2.99 or in print for $22.00.  I remember reading Sophocles: Oedipus the King in a drama class while in college.  This course is definitely at the Classical Education high school level (which is more academically challenging than typical high school class).  The recommend age for students is 8th -12th grades or 14 years and older.  Mature themes such as paganism, nudity in the artwork, sexual immorality and of course, those battle scenes (Homer paints quite the word pictures!) are not suitable for younger learners.  Even though all of us have been listening to the audios of The Iliad, I will not be allowing the youngers to tag-along for much of the rest of the course.  They may be included by other books at their own level so discussions could be interesting, but this is strictly a high school course. 

The Histories will be our third quarter.  Herodotus will be covered in addition to Thucydides and Xenophon.  This might be another we all enjoy listening to the audio version of the readings, we'll just have to see.  Lastly, we will cover The Philosophers in the fourth quarter.  The works of Plato and Aristotle will be studied in-depth.  Throughout each of these units, the art that has been created depicting the people and events we will be learning about is featured throughout the lectures.  The Guide to the Art booklet can be utilized to spark further art history studies.  We will probably add in some external resources for this as time allows.  I love any opportunity to include art!

This is such a full, rich course.  I hope this has given you a glimpse at just how thorough the course is.  There are samples for your own perusal.  Not studying this age in your history cycle?  Year Two Romans is in the process of being released.  Roman Roads Media also offers The Grammar of Poetry - on my wish list!  Other Crew members also reviewed some of the Compass Classroom products that are offered through Roman Roads Media.  We have used - and loved Visual Latin.  Great program for the reluctant learner (or mom!). 
      
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Thank you Roman Roads Media!

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01 August 2014

Lightning Literature: Shakespeare Comedies from Hewitt Homeschooling {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

Hewitt Homeschooling Review
My daughter thoroughly enjoyed Lightning Literature 7 when we used it a couple of years ago.  When Hewitt Homeschooling came up as new review opportunity, we knew we wanted to be picked. But what would we pick?  After having dabbled a bit with Shakespeare, I thought she was ready for a deeper look at it.  Lightning Literature and Composition: Shakespeare Comedies & Sonnets Student's Guide and Lightning Literature and Composition: Shakespeare Comedies & Sonnets Teacher's Guide is what we chose.  It has been a great fit to challenge her without being too hard.
Hewitt Homeschooling Review

There are four comedies covered for which you will need text to read from.  You can find this readily online in digital or print forms.  For the greatest ease, you can purchase the pack ($55.72) and have the student guide, teacher guide and all four plays.  The Student Guide ($29.95)is a bound book, written to the student and includes the full text of the sonnets covered (I love not having to search those out in random books!).  The Teacher Guide ($2.95) is not bound (easy to slip into a binder with all your other teacher-y things) and only has what is necessary.  Perfect for the age of the learner.  You are not so much teaching at this stage of the game as you are directing, grading and being a listening ear for discussions.  You might be thinking the teacher guide is not necessary, but it is.  It has all the answers - well, maybe not those answers. *grin*

There are two schedules available.  It is typical for the high school level Lightning Literature and Composition courses to be a semester in length.  An alternative schedule to last two semesters is included as well.  For the most part, this is the schedule we are following.  One of the goals of Lightning Lit. courses is to learn to read deeper.  This is accomplished by multiple readings.  The student is guided through this with comprehension questions for the first read through and deeper thinking questions and activities for the second.  My daughter is often tempted to not read that second time.  She is usually reminded though, when she begins those more challenging activities that it really is in her best interest to do so.  

Thus far, we have read Twelfth Night and two sonnets.  My daughter is in the process of writing the first paper.  Once this unit is finished, we'll move on to As You Like It, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Merchant of Venice.  We have been reading aloud together for the first reading; covering new vocabulary at this time.  For the second reading, we have been fortunate to have found audio versions.  My daughter is an audio learner so this has worked well for her.  These are plays, so of course we are watching videos of the play as well.  So far, Shakespeare has been quite enjoyable for her (and Mama is quite happy to tag along).

You may be thinking, Shakespeare for an 8th grader?  We chose the comedies over the tragedies for this reason.  She is young (8th grade by age, reading level lower but catching up and comprehension much higher - thank you dyslexia) but for this, she is ready.   Hewitt Homeschooling recommends this for 11th and 12th graders.  They also state that students should have complete two previous Lightning Literature courses, be studying the Renaissance time period and have an interest in Shakespeare.  We have used Lightning Literature, though not high school courses (until this one) and she is quite interested in Shakespeare.  The wittiness and vocabulary are right up her alley.  There are samples and a schedule so you can see if this will be a fit for your learner.

Hewitt Homeschooling offers much, much more than our loved Lightning Literature and Composition courses.  Crew members reviewed a range of these Lightning Lit. courses for older and younger learners as well as the My First Report and Chronicles of ____ State History Notebook resources for younger learners.  If you are looking for literature and composition resources for your homeschool, I highly recommend Hewitt Homeschooling.
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Thank you Hewitt Homeschooling!
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25 July 2014

Flourish ~ Balance for Homeschool Moms by Mary Jo Tate {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

Flourish Book Review

It's almost time to start a new school year here.  But, but, I'm still trying to finish last year.  We school year round, so it can be hard to switch gears and get a break, to be renewed and ready to go again.  I've been reading through (and doing some 'homework' from) Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms by Mary Jo Tate.  It has recently been published by Apologia Educational Ministries - the latest in their lineup of encouraging and helpful books for homeschool moms (they do more than great science curricula, y'all!).  

Flourish Book Review

The timing is perfect!  We're doing a 6-week time of getting into new routine with some fun studies - it is still summer after all (and the weather has been great!).  We'll start our official new school year the week after Labor Day (it may just be me, but it seems wrong to have the first day of school any earlier).  Because our schedule has been lighter and we are working on establishing new routines, this has been wonderful for me to implement what I've been learning from Mary Jo.

Flourish has 16 chapters covering topics from goal setting and planning tools to memory making and taking care of yourself.  I love the chapter title for this one (taking care of yourself): Oxygen Masks and Monkey Bread Days.  There are also chapters to single moms and those families that operate home businesses.  The book is rounded out with recommended resources and planning pages.  There is also a link to download these forms.  The pdf versions have some color to them - pretty! 


One of my favorite aspects of Flourish is that it leads you through steps to make a (realistic) plan and put it into action.  Not just a plan to accomplish school work, but a plan for your dreams and goals in all areas of life.  For many of us, our days are more than homeschooling our children.  Time management is essential.  The time log has been eye-opening to how much time tasks actually take.  I've been underestimating nearly everything.  No wonder I feel like I am accomplishing nothing!  With a pre- and post- book evaluation it will be easy to see improvements - that's encouraging!

Flourish Book Review

Mary Jo Tate is a homeschool mom to her four sons.  They have been a homeschool family since 1997.  She has not only been on this homeschool journey (as a single mom) but also as a work-at-home mom (author, editor and book coach).  She teaches at co-op and blogs at Flourish at Home.  Mary Jo also hosts a show on the Ultimate Homeschool Radio Network - "Flourish at Home".  If anyone has experience with time management and fitting in the big - and little things - it is Mary Jo.  Her words of wisdom come from experience.   

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Thank you Apologia and Mary Jo!

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