Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Power in Your Hands, Writing Nonfiction in High School


I received Writing with Sharon Watson’s curriculum to review titled The Power in Your Hands, Writing Nonfiction in High School.  I received one text and a Teacher’s Guide.  The text retails for $39.98 and the teacher's guide retails for $14.98.

In my three years of homeschooling I’ve used many resources for teaching writing and have formed an opinion on what I think it takes to develop good writers.  However, I am always willing to look at another resource to add to my arsenal of writing tools to help my children become great writers. 

I had to first get acquainted with the material by reading the table of contents and reading the first couple of chapters to get a sense of how to implement the curriculum with my high schooler.  I must admit I had a hard time getting a grip on the material. 

The text is divided into six parts:  Before You Write, Persuasion, Exposition, Description, Narration, and Reference.  Each part covers several topics.  Following is what is covered in Part I and Part II:

Part I   Before You Write
Chapter 1 – Planning
Chapter 2 – Opinions

Part II  Persuasion
            Chapter 3 – Persuasion Essentials
            Chapter 4 -  Persuasion-Next Level
            Chapter 5 -  Persuasion- Logical
            Chapter 6 – Persuasion – Compare/Contrast
            Chapter 7 -  Persuasion – Moral/Ethical Appeal
            Chapter 8 – Persuasion – Emotional Appeal
            Chapter 9 – Persuasion – The SAT Essay
            Chapter 10 – Proofreading
A closer look into the chapters reveals several things.  Each chapter covers a lot of ground.  For example, chapter 3 covers all of the following topics and several other topics:
  • the difference between persuasion and opinions
  • a practice activity for choosing a topic you feel strongly about
  • brainstorm the topic you chose (brainstorming is covered in Part I, Chapter 1)
  • a practice exercise of putting the brainstorming ideas in a logical order (logical order is covered in Part I, Chapter 2)
  • a third practice exercise asks you to write a purpose statement using the formula explained in the section immediately preceding the exercise. 
  • a discussion of main ideas and thesis statements
  • a practice exercise to identify the thesis statement in an introduction paragraph and answer questions about that same paragraph 
  • the four things every introduction of a persuasive paper should have including a QSFSQ tool (discussed in Part I chapter 2), the topic, your view, and your thesis statement
  • the greek organization tool of organizing a paper

This is only chapter 3 of Part II.  However, many of the chapters are laid out in this manner.  I became a little discouraged because this text is so unlike many texts I’ve worked with before.  At this point I decided the text would be a better fit for my 8th grader not my 10th grader.  I had my 8th grade student jump right in before I could fully grasp the material.  The student text is very independent so I just needed to look over her answers to the practice exercises and let her continue working from one exercise to the next.  Having my student actually work in the text made me understand the material more. 

My student is using another literature & composition course and was working on a character essay at the time I introduced her to the Writing with Sharon Watson program.  The first few exercises on brainstorming, organizing your ideas, and developing a thesis are great exercises which translated nicely in developing the character essay she was already working on.  Although The Power in Your Hands, Writing Nonfiction in High School is meant to be a stand alone curriculum, I think it can be used alongside another program like we are choosing to do.   You can never have too much writing practice. 

I’m still on the fence regarding my praise for this program.  I was a little harsh in my critique before we actually started using it.  Sometimes you just have to go with it to get it.  I just have a different way of approaching writing that conflicts with the layout of Sharon Watson’s curriculum.  For example, if I want to focus on writing good introductions I want to look at a text and see all the introductions for persuasive writing, narrations, literary analysis, etc.  The author covers introductions at different places within the text so I would have to hunt around to view all the activities that focused on introductions.  As an improvement, I would include an index to help direct the student to every place in the text where a lesson on introductions could be found.  If I wanted to find a particular skill to work on and all of the practice exercises related to that topic, being able to go directly to this content would be helpful. 

Because this is a high school text, it may not make sense to work your way through the text from beginning to end.  A lot of high school students have mastered certain aspects of writing but not all.  This is the reason I started my 8th grader with this text and not my 10th grader.   At this point in my 10th grader's academic career she needs to strengthen certain skills not relearn them all over again. 

What I liked the most about this curriculum is Part 6, the Reference section.  This section includes a “Be Your Own Editor” section which reminds students to look at the finer details of a paper to do a proper editing job.  This section also does a nice job of summarizing the text into nice bite-sized chunks.  It is more a less a summary of the skills covered that I mentioned I would have liked to see in the table of contents with page references. 

I will continue through the text with my 8th grader and hopefully in the end have a student  more confident in developing her own ideas.   In future blog entries I plan to do updates on her progress and link them back to this review as a testament of its effectiveness.  

Find out what other TOS crew bloggers thought of Writing with Sharon Watson.  
Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Landry Academy again!

Another great intensive with Landry Academy.  These guys are great!  We did the biology intensive for Princess back in September but this month we had the opportunity to do the physical science intensive for Pumpkin.  As usual she goes to anything that is academic in nature kicking and screaming.  However, when it is all said and done she has a really great time.

What I think is so funny about doing these types of things are the stories my kids tell afterward about working with other kids.  You tend to forget this (working in groups) as a homeschooler and probably take it for granted as a public/private school student.  In every group situation there is the "know it all," "the perfectionist," and "the do nothing."  It is enlightening to find out how my kid navigated the group project.  It is definitely a skill we all must master.

I love the big informative books Landry puts together for the kids.  All the blanks are filled in and the kids come home with a great sense of accomplishment.  They always give the kids lab homework on Day 1 which is graded by the Landry instructor, it all makes for 2 school days well spent.  https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?ui=2&ik=22feda6437&view=att&th=13e4362a94577db3&attid=0.1&disp=inline&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P_9cpAywp3kb0QTxDOZCs-p&sadet=1366974123219&sads=-HoLSlL9Z45fwZJlzJvQtf_w3fA

My kids also enjoy the night away from all the mayhem we have in our home (with 6 kids in all).  They get to stay alone with grandma who so kindly agrees to pick up on Day 1 and drop off on Day 2.  Dinner out and breakfast are always included complements of grandma. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Progeny Press Literature Guides


I was selected to review Progeny Press Guide for Treasure Island.  Progeny Press sells over one hundred titles categorized into Elementary, Middle, and High School grade levels.  Their goal is to teach children to think clearly, to understand literature, and to rely on God's scripture for truth and values, and enjoy themselves while they do it!
 photo a64739513876c78eaae8f5_m_zpsc345c325.jpg 
I received the interactive downloadable guide which is available for $16.99.  The interactive guide allowed my student to key in her answers to questions directly on the computer. I did not have to print out any information but the print option is available for this guide.  A CD of the guide can be purchased for $16.99 as well.  I’ve used the physical Progeny Press guides in the past which are available for $18.99 but this was my first experience using the interactive guide.  Personally, I like flipping through pages and being able to transport work but for a technologically savvy person the interactive guide is great and very convenient. 

The guide for Treasure Island is divided into 6 parts as follows:

Part I   – The Old Buccaneer, chapters 1-6
Part II  -  The Sea Cook, chapters 7-12
Part III -  My Shore Adventure, chapters 13-15
Part IV- The Stockade, chapters 16-21
Part V  - My Sea Adventure, chapters 22-27
Part VI – Captain Silver, chapters 28-34

Each part is comprised of vocabulary that is mentioned in the chapters; questions that flesh out a literary concept that was covered like mood or setting; comprehension questions; “Dig Deeper” questions that apply the text to real life; scripture references; and discussion questions.  I love the structure and organization of the guide.  It is logical and allows the student to get more from his reading than if he had just read straight through from beginning to end.  Progeny Press guides force you to stop, think, and analyze the text. 

Pre-reading activities are included before starting each part of guide.  For the Treasure Island guide some activities include research on different sea vessels, island research and geography to include drawing a map of the setting.   We used a physical Progeny Press guide for The Giver earlier in the school year.  By comparison, the pre-reading activities included in that guide were researching other real-life utopian societies, researching coming-of-age ceremonies in different cultures, and exploring different career options.  My daughter did some of the pre-reading activities in the earlier guide we used as the subject material was new to her but we chose to skip the pre-reading activities for Treasure Island because she has previously done research on ships and has studied geography extensively. 

We started our study of Treasure Island by reading the novel aloud.  I would read one day and my daughter the next.  We abandoned this method in favor of an audio version of the book from the library.  She listened and gave me an oral summary every few chapters or so.  We did the exercises together in the interactive guide. 

After completing the novel and finishing the study of each part in the guide, a final overview explores character, symbolism, the major conflicts in the novel, and theme.  Students are taken through the dramatic structure of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement.  They are given the opportunity to identify each section of this dramatic structure for full understanding of specific events that drive the plot forward. 

Finally, there are several essay topics to choose from for a final writing assignment. The assignments give the student an opportunity to condense all of his learning into one last culminating event.  The choices include character analysis, compare and contrast essays, research topics, informative writing, and creative writing.
Additional resources are listed that include other books written by the author and books of similar interest.  Other classics listed as additional resources for Treasure Island include Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver’s Travels.    

I love, love Progeny Press Guides.  They suggest 8-12 weeks to complete a guide. If I could spend an unlimited amount of time reading novels, I would use these guides for reading all the Classics.  I have purchased other guides and by far consider Progeny Press guides the best.  

 Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Monday, April 15, 2013

College For A Weekend

Boy was this a week!  I decided at the last minute to register my daughter for College For a Weekend (CFAW) at Liberty University.  I dropped her off with a friend on Thursday and picked them up on Saturday.  Princess is usually all work with very little play so I really wanted her to enjoy this experience.  She had a ball.

Liberty University is the friendliest campus I’ve ever been on.  The students share a similar spirit – everyone seems so happy to be there.  They are helpful and accommodating.  Each person we came in contact with was this way.  Princess felt right at home. 

We texted several times throughout the weekend.  I knew if I waited until the end of the weekend she would forget many of the details of the weekend.  One text from her read “I feel so inspired right now.”  I was very encouraged by that.  She attended a few classes in her desired major and took copious notes (check the box that says teach your homeschool kid how to take notes from a lecture).  She said she learned a lot.  The studio & digital art program at Liberty is fairly new.  I hope they add more courses to the program by the time my daughter would be a freshman in 2015.  Quite honestly, there are a lot of Universities with phenomenal art schools and foundation programs but it is so hard to dismiss what Liberty brings to the table.  I’m glad we have 2 years to figure it all out.

She is ready to go to college but I remind her that one must qualify for college by doing well in their high school program.  Perhaps this experience will refocus her efforts in her academics because now she can really see what she is working toward.

I excitedly shared the CFAW experience with several people.  They are amazed that we are doing all of these sorts of things so early in high school.  After reviewing College Commonsense, I realized that senior and junior year is so busy with challenging academics, SAT prep, scholarship essays, college essays, and all that volunteer work that now is the time for visits and giving my highschooler a vision for her future.  If I may say so myself, that future looks very bright indeed.


Demoss Academic Building

Studio Art

Dining Room

Convocation Center

Indoor Ice Skating
Enjoying the Experience
Final Goodbye

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring has Sprung!

This week all the public school kids have been out on spring break.  The weather has been perfect for time off.  It was not my plan to have my girls off but it was kind of difficult to stay on schedule with our public school students home.

The girls discovered a creek which I believe is part of our waste storm management down hill from the neighborhood playground.  They've made several trips down there.  They are fascinated with the algae and other finds in the "creek".....homeschoolers.

The girls managed to get some math and grammar done and the high schooler is making progress on Moby Dick.  The highlight of our week was having my niece visit for the weekend.  My girls enjoy the company of their cousins and have so much fun together.  I wish she could've stayed longer but we hope to host her for a week in the summer.

Well its back to work next week.  Since April has arrived, I feel a sense of urgency to stay on track.  Before I know it summer will be here with all of its obligations (graduations, out of town trips, etc.) and I feel like we are behind.  This is one reason why I try not to take scheduled time off.  It is a race to the finish so that we can truly relax later. 


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