Greatly Blessed

Greatly Blessed

Monday, March 31, 2014

Captivated DVD


As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I was asked to watch Captivated, a documentary from Media Talk 101 about media in our lives.  The DVD sells for $16.95, and is intended for adult viewers, but is safe for all audiences.  I have to confess, it was with some trepidation that I finally sat down to view it.  My family already teases me about my iPad usage.  

The beginning of the film shares some interesting information about the history of the telegraph, and pinpoints that as the beginning of this new era.  

Some of the statistics that surprised me were the fact that there are more TVs than humans in most homes (not ours!), and that kids spend 53 hours a week in front of screens, and that most high school graduates accumulate more television time than SCHOOL time during their academic career.  

Almost every parent knows that TV is not good for kids under 2.  This movie goes into why that is, as it talks about how flashy television trains kids to have shorter attention spans.  It's not any better for older kids, whose media addictions cause them to suffer from lower IQ, weight problems, eye strain, hearing loss, carpel tunnel, sleep disturbances, and even car crashes for the texting teen.  

An eye opening anecdote was when a handful of parents were able to reverse ADD like behaviors without medication, simply by proper nutrition, adequate sleep, outdoor play, and a strictly limited media diet.

Researchers talked about how media is like smoking crack, in terms of the effect on the brain, making us think we've done something good, when we have not.  

Something I am guilty of is "multitasking."  We joke that multitasking means screwing up several things all at the same time, and the movie tells viewers that multitasking hinders learning, and you lose speed, efficiency and accuracy when your focus is divided.  

Now, I have to say, that a couple of the featured "experts" are authors of books on this topic, and you can easily tell what their bias is.  But I think this DVD could be a wake up call for families who have not considered the impact of television, computers, internet, video games, and even music on themselves and their children.  The inclusion of music on the firing range surprised me at first, but the more I watched, the more it made sense.  I remember being horrified by the words to a song in a clothing store, when Annaliese was trying on clothes once.  

Personally speaking, my parents were divorced, so I grew up with one house that had TV, and one that didn't.  Paul and I have never subscribed to cable.  However, we do have a Netflix membership, which presents it's own challenges.  We have one television, which is used to play DVDs, and no gaming system.  One of my teens remarked that comparatively speaking, we're already pretty "media free" since the kids don't have cable TV and gaming systems in their rooms.  

And yet, we're not.  Both the computers in the school room are in use most of the day, by various members of the family.  Some of that usage is schoolwork, or homework related, of course.  Some of that usage is blog-related.  But some of that usage is things like Facebook, which is not only a colossal time suck, but also "amplifies the trivia of youth" according to the film.  Facebook speaks to our need to feel connected, but produces shallow relationships.  You think you know someone, because you see what's going on in their timeline, but it's only what they choose to present.  We are exhorted to enhance, but not replace real relationships.  

The time suck factor is important to consider.  God speaks to us in the silence.  If we're constantly plugged in, in some form or another, we cannot hear Him.  

Residents at a youth facility talked about how it was hard at first to do away with ALL media for an entire year, but as the cravings go away, they're able to replace media addiction with relationships, experiences, and new skills.  They spoke of being real in a phony world.  

No one wants to hear that they're a lazy parent.  But I know I've been guilty of taking the "easy way out" and allowing too much media to creep into my kids' and my own life.  While I think many people don't want to hear what this movie has to say, I think it's a good thing to think about.  All 3 of my teenagers migrated to the front room to watch with me while I was viewing it.  Hopefully, some of the information presented will make an impression on them.  

For the families who do consider taking a media fast, it's important to replace media with other things, not just take something away.  Many fasters found they had more time to read the Bible.  Families spend more time playing games together.  Viewers are encouraged to spend time outdoors, read books, learn new things, absorb history.  Make the focus about choosing the good, not about being deprived of the evil.

If you can get past the irony, here is the Facebook fan page and Twitter link for the movie.  All in all, I'd say this documentary was thought provoking, and would be a good discussion starter for couples and families.  Plus, there's a great shot of a llama flaring it's nostrils, which totally made me grin.  

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Weekly Wrap Up #28 --The one with the Snake


Welcome to another Weekly Wrap Up!  


The kids found another snake in the back yard.


I've gotten to the point where I kind of feel sorry for snakes that venture onto our property.  If the cat misses them (and he's getting old, so it's more likely these days), the kids find them.


Picture this:  I holler out the school room window, when I see the kids out front with a box.  "What are you doing?"  They answer, "We're taking the snake for a walk."  Oh.  Okay.  It's not like you can put a snake on a leash...


We've started a new art curriculum that I'm really excited about.  We're getting into some mediums we haven't tried before.  Bri just divvied up some self hardening clay for us to work with.


These are new, even to me.  Watercolor crayons!  I'm anxious to show you the fun we had with these, but it will have to wait until our review post next month.


We'll call this free reading time to make it sound educational, okay?  See my Honest Company treelings in the pots beside her?  Those were freebies at Christmas.  I do hope we don't kill them.


Hard to believe we went from nice and sunny to rain this week.  Crazy weather.


I just love this picture.  Sam floating mid-air, and Eli out to get him.


Yes, she's singing, "I can ride my bike with no handlebars," thanks to big brother Zach fixing her tire.  It's been so wonderful for the kids to be able to ride again.


This week, we read the book of Jonah in the Bible.  So we made Big Fish projects.


Eli's on top and Brianna's on bottom.


I think I was more into this project than the kids were.  I told them they could glue beads on for air bubbles, or use googly eyes or add undersea stickers or put craft sand along the bottom....  and got bare minimum in response.  Ah well, they come up with enough creative projects on their own, I guess.


Like these bracelets, for example.  I had the beads out for Katie recently, and Brianna and Eli swooped in and started beading like crazy folk.  I'm now the proud owner of a bead pencil, a bead tree, and a bead ballerina hanging onto my water bottle for dear life.


The kids were sent outside (in the COLD--you know, 58*) to find 5 leaves to study "shape."


I have to say, this wasn't a favorite with them, either.


The idea was to trace the leaves onto construction paper, cut them out, and affix them to a different color construction paper.


I love watching them concentrate.


Brianna decided to use both the leaves and the cutouts.  She stuck them on with packing tape.


Cute picture of Katie has NOTHING to do with homeschooling, but she's so blasted happy about the Hello Kitty dress, I finally got pictures of her smiling.  Usually, she does the 3 year old grimace when she sees the camera.


On Friday, we met up with some friends from our old homeschool co op.  We're trying to get something new off the ground.  The talk was about the digestive system, and the kids traced each other and drew in their organs.


It was a little weird to have one of the kids say to me, "Hey mom, what do you want me to do with the bodies?" when they brought them in from the van.


Zachary hung out here with us on Saturday.  He's got quite a fan club around here, and everything turns into a group activity.

Next week, it looks like we'll be learning about Hezekiah, Josiah, and Jeremiah, as well as finishing up Assyria and moving on to Babylon.  Watch for a couple of exciting reviews coming up, as well!  Speaking of reviews, I hope you had a chance to read about new Spelling You See, and also enter our open giveaways.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Spelling You See


When I heard that the folks at Demme Learning, who brought us Math U See, a favorite of mine and many other homeschoolers, had a new spelling program coming out, I was very interested in being on the review team.  Spelling You See is brand new, debuting March 2014.

Spelling You See Review

I love the way there are no grade levels on these books!  When signing up, I gave both Jack and Eli the placement test.  Jack is 9 and Eli is 12.  The program is intended for elementary students and can be used as remedial work for older students.

Spelling You See Review

Eli tested into Level E, so we were sent Spelling You See: American Spirit (Level E).  The Instructor’s Handbook sells for $14, and the two book Student Pack is $30.  The set also comes with a package of colored pencils.

Spelling You See turned the way I think about spelling on it's ear!  It's totally different from other spelling programs.  There are no word lists.  Let me say that again:  no list of spelling words.

The way it works is, there's a passage each week.  Each day, you and your student read the passage together, then the student is assigned circling certain letter patterns, for example, vowel chunks, blends, etc, with the included colored pencils.  The first 3 days of the week, they copy a portion of the passage you read.  On Thursday and Friday, you dictate the passage to your student while they write it down.


We use a blank sheet of colored paper to block out the passage in the student book during dictation.  Then, I have Eli remove the paper and check his work for errors.  After he's looked it over, I check for spelling, capitalization, and punctuation mistakes, which I have him fix.


The beauty of this program is that spelling, which can be a real chore sometimes, is over in 10 minutes.  You are instructed in the teacher's book to allow the child to STOP copywork or dictation after 10 minutes.  I laughed a little when I thought to myself, "It's like the FlyLady approach to spelling!  You can do anything for 10 minutes!"  It's easier to get a child to do something for 10 minutes than to tell them they're going to, "Sit! In that chair!  Until it's done! And I don't have any plans until Tuesday, young man, so you take all the time you need!"  Ahem.  Or, you know, however it goes in your house.  10 minutes we can do.

I like that the passages all relate around a central theme for each level.  For example, our level E book, American Spirit, has fascinating tidbits of American History as the copywork.  Eli actually went through BOTH whole workbooks, reading the passages ahead of time, which tells me they're pretty interesting!  Week 5 talks about Eli Whitney, who invented the cotton gin, and when we looked up more information about him online, my Eli discovered that Eli Whitney was also instrumental in standardizing gun parts.  Obviously, he found this more fascinating than the cotton gin, but he wouldn't have learned it at all without Spelling You See.


Being obsessed with flight, he's most looking forward to the passage about Amelia Earhart, which comes in book 2 of Level E.

Once Eli and I got started with this review, I realized this would be a great product for Jack.  I love the boy, but he's a deplorable speller.  When he does creative writing--it really IS creative!  I have to have him read his work to me because I truly cannot decipher what he's trying to say half the time.  I decided to get him Level C, Wild Tales.

Spelling You See Review

Level C is a little bit different than Level E.  Most noticable is the fact that the Level C student books are landscape bound instead of portrait bound.  Inside, the biggest difference is that Thursdays, instead of doing dictation, Jack is instructed to draw a picture of the rhyme or write his own story.

Spelling You See Review

While we're only a couple weeks in with Jack, I've noticed a difference in his dictation passages already.  The material he's been copying Mon.-Wed. comes out with much more recognizable spelling on Friday's dictation pages than his random journal entries or other free writing that he does.


Since it only takes 10 minutes, it should be easy to convince him to work on spelling through the summer.  I have high hopes that Spelling You See might be the breakthrough we've been looking for that helps him catch up in reading and spelling.


Two more levels are in the works (Level F, Ancient Achievements, sounds interesting!), but I don't know when they'll be released.  I am hoping that Level F comes out by the time Eli completes level E, because I would absolutely have him continue the program.

To read what more review families had to say about the other levels, please check out the rest of the Crew reviews by clicking on the box below:
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Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Mommy MD Guide to the Toddler Years GIVEAWAY


Imagine having more than 60 other moms you can call on, any time, day or night, when you have a parenting question.  Now imagine those moms are all doctors, so you can count on their helpful advice for medical issues, too.  That's what this book is like.

The Mommy MD Guide to the Toddler Years is part of a family of books from Momosa Publishing.


Pregnancy and Birth, Your Baby's First Year, and Your Baby's First Year are the other books in the series.

Unlike another similar book series I've read, The Mommy MD Guides don't present a single opinion or suggestion, but many, varied opinions.  I think this is very beneficial, because parenting styles are different.  Some tips will be helpful to you, and some will not, and that's okay, because there's more than 900 bits of wisdom here, so there's something for everyone.


The Mommy MD Guide to the Toddler Years is a helpful, comprehensive look at typical parenting and health concerns for parents of toddlers.  Growth, feeding, safety, discipline, learning, and sleep are covered in depth.

The one thing I felt it lacked was any information on special needs kids.  There are pages about haircuts, or taking your child to church, or transitioning from crib to bed, but the only mention of autism in the entire book is two sentences under Constipation.  "Special needs" doesn't even have an entry in the index, although speech delays and early intervention are briefly mentioned in passing.

I think this would be a helpful book for a first time parent, or a family that hasn't had a toddler in a few years.  I like that there are specific product recommendations shared.  Many of them, I'd heard of before, but some were new to me, and I'll be keeping an eye out for those.

The Mommy MD Guides is generously allowing me to give away one of their books (your choice!) to one lucky reader.  US residents only, please.

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I received a free copy of The Mommy MD Guide to the Toddler Years in exchange for an honest review.  My opinions are my own, and no other compensation was made.  

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