Friday, May 30, 2008

Why We Chose Teaching Textbooks for Math

The big brown truck pulled up in front of our house the other day with our first shipment of 2008-2009 school materials. Teaching Textbooks for 7th grade and Algebra I arrived! 

This is a major change for us.  We had been using A Beka since the beginning.  Grades K-3 math pages were cute and colorful and fun. That's important for enduring the tediousness of math.  Grades 4-6 lost the color on the tests and quizzes.  That was heartbreaking to dd and I.  Then Grade 7 was a shocker.  I was so confused. The entire layout changed.  It was difficult to determine where one lesson began and another ended.  Also I had to buy yet a separate book for the in depth answers to word problems.  They used to be at the back of the 1-3 level books.  Then I noticed I had no in depth answers to the tests.  We were fine with the mere answers in the separately purchased teacher's key, but if we were stuck, there was no explanation to how to get the answer.  Grade 8 was no better.  I could see the writing on the wall.  I started listening in to all the high school math banter at one of my yahoo groups.  I had learned about the wonder of Math U See but my dc were never fans of using manipulatives.  I did order a free sample of Math U See about 2 years ago and have yet to recieve it and in my search forgot all about it.  

Next year dd starts Algebra I and I was deeply concerned.  I felt this was a matter of prayer to consider all the options.  DH is good at math, but does not enjoy teaching.  I took honors math classes in high school but am no math whiz. 

I've heard of Video Text, the mother of all high school math programs.  Well, the dc do not enjoy math nor do they plan to major in it in college.  It didn't seem to be a good fit for us.  I went through each curriculum and only one seemed to offer hope:  Teaching Textbooks.

Teaching Textbooks has a reputation for the reluctant math learner, engaging them in a simplified way so that they grasp the math concept.  The huge selling point for me was that through all the CDs, I'd have a math tutor whenever he was needed.  The student pops a CD into the computer to learn the lesson.  One of the Sabouri brothers explains the lesson while a cartoon pencil is seen moving across the cartoon page. Fun! I chose a lesson I had vague memories from in Alegebra I.  (There are samples on their site.)  Wow!  By the time it was done, I felt as if I understood it better now than I did before.  The student does the work in the book, then she checks her work against the answer key.  Any she gets wrong she needs to correct.  If she can't figure it out, she can pop a solutions CD in the computer and select the problem she missed.  Then one of the Sabouri brothers explains how that is to be correctly done.  

Then we went to our homeschool bookfair, we went to the Teaching Textbooks booth and got to interact with everything as well as talk to some of the moms.  One mom said they used to use Math U See and loved it!  Then they got to Algebra I and she was going nuts trying to figure out the concepts.  That's when they discovered Teaching Textbooks.  Her oldest has whizzed through math and has not needed to use all the CDs.  He did well on the SAT and his friend, who used TT, maxed the SAT.  The younger dds of this lady have not enjoyed math until they got TT.  It's been a wonderful fit for the family. 

Although my primary concern was dd entering Algebra I, in the back of my mind I was concerned about ds entering Math 7.  He does an excellent job with math but detests it so much that he will spend hours day dreaming and has a negative attitude about it.  But if we are playing board games and he's keeping score he can beat any of us.  I have minimized his math work in A Beka but it doesn't matter how little I give him, he tediously labors over it.  So I had thoughts of getting TT for him too. 

TT has a different approach to Math 7 and below.  All the work is done on the computer. The student pops in the CD, listens to the lesson and is then given sample problems to practice.  The student then does these on a sheet of paper and enters the answer.  After 3 errors it will explain the concept.  There are also selectable characters to interact with the student.  One was a robot and another was an animal.  DS played with this while I talked to the ladies.  I watched him at one point.  He was given two numbers to subtract, both 6 digits long.  There were several numbers to carry.  I watched ds compute everything in his head and get the correct answer!  Why can't he do this on a sheet of A Beka paper????  Boys and their toys!  There was also a record keeper built in for the teacher to keep check with the student's progress. This might be what we need to get over the hump.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Memories

This year we managed to hand crank ice cream for Memorial Day.  Last year it rained for all the major summer holidays.  Although we desperately need the rain this year, we cheerfully made the most of our sunshine. 

DH and I got this hand crank ice cream maker as a wedding gift from a friend from his side of the family.  His family has a tradition of making only hand crank ice cream.  It was very important to them that we have one of our own.  This friend searched high and low and found one in an antique shop.  DH found that it easily came apart so he dismantled it, sanded it, varnished it and glued it together in order to improve it.  Then a few months later we visited the cooper at Colonial Williamsburg and learned that these types of containers are supposed to easily come apart.  However, they are strong enough to remain put unless you purposely take a supporting ring off. The slats are absolutely not meant to be glued together.  Oh well.  It still makes great ice cream!

DS takes a turn...

DD took a turn...

Success!  We got Almond Fudge Ice Cream! The only ice cream as good as Blue Bell is home made hand cranked ice cream!

We grilled fajitas with a spice rub and hickory smoked them.  Then I squeezed lemon juice on top and let it sit while the tortillas, peppers and onions grilled. Yum! Can't you just smell it?

A summer holiday grilled dinner must be enjoyed outdoors.  Ah, my favorite kitchen table!

The garden lizards entertained us...

Then we devoured homemade ice cream! That's how we cool off in Texas!

It doesn't take a patriotic holiday for us to fly our American flag. We always fly our American flag in front of the house and we have a Texas flag that always flies in the back yard.

Monday, May 19, 2008

History Notebooks for our Projects

We have a three step technique that works well for us in organizing our history work at the dialectic level.

The first step is for weekly use.  I purchased clipboards in the dc's favorite colors at the office supply store.  At a glance,  we can tell whose is whose.  On the top for easy and frequent reference throughout the day is their weekly assignment sheet that they can check off as they go.

Behind their weekly schedules, they keep their discussion questions for the week and map of the week for handy reference and ease of use.

The second step is the collection of a year's worth of work.  At the end of the week these go into their history notebooks.  I bought each of them cool notebooks with little pockets.  They can insert little pictures of their studies as they like.  Here is dd's of ancient history. She drew and colored pictures of pyramids and the ark. Can you tell?

The old schedules go in the front.

They have a section for their discussion questions.

There is a section for their maps.

There is a section for their history writing assignments.

The third step is binding everything into a portfolio at the end of the year.  The dc take everything out of their notebooks and group everything according to date/culture studied. They also take all the flat stuff from the past history presentations to add to the portfolio. Those go into a decorated 3 ring notebook.  Here is dd's Ancient History.

We covered a plain notebook in burlap. They stamped the title with gold ink onto dark brown cardstock, cut out with fancy scissors and glued on.  The gold thing was a project from their study of Ancient Egypt.  (We can't remember what it's called!  A cartouche?)  It was made of clay and engraved with their name in hieroglyphics, then painted.  Then they used raffia to decorate as they wished.  We covered the inside covers with black cardstock.  Here is ds'.

I printed out on cardstock all the wonderful comments family members sent when I e-mailed pictures and descriptions of our unit celebrations.   These are on the yellow cardstock.  At the final history presentation last year, the grandmas each gave the children notecards with a lovely note and money!  The notecards are pasted in the inside cover.  (The money has been spent!)

Then the dc took cardstock to decorate dividers for each culture/time period studied.  DD liked to research the types of food each of the ancient cultures ate.  Those menus were pasted on the fronts of her cardstock.  Then she designed borders using designs known to that culture.  She also tried to use colors known for the cultures.  Here's one for Mesopotamia.

Here's her Mayan menu.

Inside the dividers the dc put all their work from that culture, including maps, questions, papers, and art projects.  Many items seen in the unit celebration can be seen here.  This summer I hope to make copies of photos of the unit celebrations for them to add to these sections.  Here's a paragraph that dd wrote and turned into a pop-up on Egypt.

Here's her Creation book.

Here's her Phoenician dye project.

Here's her string art using Greek mathematics.

Here's her tortoise mask from her play, "The Tortoise and the Hare."

DS did original artwork for his dividers.  Here are the Inuits.

The Phoenicians...

For the Persians he designed a rug.

Here is part of his Egyptian costume that went inside the dividers.

Here are some of his overlay maps.

Here is one of his early paragraphs on how the Mesopotamians observed comets.  He designed this little book to display his little paragraph.  (Since we were beginning to learn to write well with IEW, we started with simple paragraphs.  Those were easy to display as pop-ups.  We haven't done pop-ups in a long time, because now their papers are much longer.)

When you open it, you see a pop up of a comet, which moves (he designed this himself)....


Watch the comet move...

That comet zooms across the sky!

That's our 3 step process of storing a years worth of history studies!  I am sure it will look different by the time the dc start rhetoric! 

Thursday, May 15, 2008

How We Use Institute for Excellence in Writing

For years my kids struggled with their writing skills. My daughter couldn’t write cohesively, whereas my son was overly verbose. As a result, their writing did not make sense.

Then I discovered Institute for Excellence in Writing. 

IEW has an excellent reputation for both slow learners, as well as gifted students, and everyone in between. I decided to give it a try.


The beauty of the program is that it teaches structure. Elements that have proven successful to writers for years have been encapsulated into structural models. The entire spectrum of variety of every imaginable type of paragraph in the world (essay of argumentation, mystery writing, essay of experience, essay of definition, story based on memory, problem/solution essay, etc) has been streamlined into the basic parts. Also, all the paragraph structures are put into one of two groups: creative or expository. Suddenly, the overwhelming conglomeration of all the possible paragraph structures made sense to even me. (And I thought I already understood it all.)


While teaching structure, style is added in manageable bits and pieces, which makes it fun. I have heard many critics say that all IEW student writing sounds the same, or that IEW students sound like Andrew Pudewa, who heads the program. I disagree. I have many of Andrew’s papers and not one of my kids' papers sound like his. Furthermore, when my kids have identical writing assignments on the same topic, their products look completely different. By the time they are done assimilating the facts they deem most important and add their unique style, I have 2 completely different papers on my desk. If they forget to put their names on the typed papers, I can easily tell who wrote which one!  Their individual styles are unique and obvious!  

Classical Model

IEW effectively summarizes the best of what good writers do and organizes it so children know what to do and when to do it. That’s the structure part. Then they add their own personal style, which they can manipulate over the homeschool years, until they find their voice by the time they graduate. This is the Classical Model of Education. This is the process of moving from grammar through dialectic to rhetorical skills needed in our world. This is the means by which powerful speakers like Patrick Henry and influential writers like Thomas Jefferson impacted not only a nation, but the world.

TWSS: Teaching Writing Structure and Style

The core of the program, which I purchased, is the TWSS: Teaching Writing Structure and Style. This is a notebook that comes with DVDs of Andrew Pudewa taking a group of teachers step by step through the writing program. 

Builds Confidence

Instead of dumping an entire writing program on a child, IEW builds skills and confidence step by step through a highly logical and successful process. Children who used to protest over writing assignments have been known to proceed without a quiver with IEW. Many even come to love it!  


While I watch the training DVDs, my kids have been known to stop everything to watch, listen, and laugh in great delight in response to Andrew's humor

There are 9 units. In our first year using IEW, I taught one unit for each month of the school year. At the beginning of the program my kids focused on writing a good solid paragraph. By the end of the year, they were able to write a 5 paragraph essay. 

Younger students might not get to the 5 paragraph essay until upper grammar or middle school years. 

The TWSS notebook gives guidelines on how to use each unit with each grade level. It is a wonderful investment for all ages for the entire family!

Another thing I like about IEW is that we can use it to write about the things we are already learning. Time is precious. 

Before IEW, we laboriously struggled to accomplish writing assignments for Awanas. Now that my kids have IEW basics under their belts, they sneakily write their Awana assignments, not showing them to me until after they come home. These sneakily written papers are wonderfully coherent!


1-Which writing model best fits the assignment?
2-Review the steps of that model
4-Rough Draft-handwritten in pen
5-Type paper into computer
6-Email a copy to me
7-I print out
8-We edit together
9-Student edits corrections in computer

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Voice Exercises so I can Read Aloud

I love read aloud time.  I love to sing.  I love to teach.  All three can terribly weaken and injure my voice.  My Sunday School teacher has had two severe  bouts of laryngitis lasting for months to years at a time for straining his voice.  After much medical intervention, voice lessons were the only thing that helped him regain his voice so that he could talk again. However, he can no longer sing.  I feel as though I could be in the same boat if I'm not careful. Always, at the beginning of each school year, I have about a week of near laryngitis.  Reading aloud to my kids leaves my voice weak.  I am hopeless trying to hit my notes when we sing at the Senoir Citizen's Home.  In order to protect my voice, I do vocal warm ups on nearly a daily basis.   Vocal Coach Warm Up is a wonderful product to strengthen and protect the voice of anyone who does a lot of speaking or singing.  Every afternoon, I send my children out for recess while I do the warm ups for about 15 minutes. Then they come in for read aloud time.  Before singing at the nursing home, I try to do the warm up.  Chris and Carole Beatty, who have produced Vocal Coach products, have also coached many professionals like Steve Green!  Disclaimer:  I don't sing as well as him or any other professional.  But my family does enjoy singing and I am having trouble keeping up!   I also have a book by the Beatty's with other tips to help out, including what to drink, posture, etc.  My voice has been strengthened by these products. 

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Recycling Costumes for Awanas

Who'd have thought, all the costumes I've been sewing for history presentations would come in handy for another purpose?!  At the end of each Awana year, they have a leadership banquet.  The teens get a partner to decorate and serve the tables.  DD did this last year with a friend.  This year there was a theme:  Around the World.  They wanted elaborate costumes and table decorations.  I started to panic.  I have no time to make more costumes...I'm already busy with our colonial costumes.  Then I had an idea.  Would my children be willing to partner with each other and wear one of their previous unit celebration costumes?   Yes!  Whew! 

Here they are getting the table ready...

Meanwhile Italian music was playing in the background...

Mexican food was being catered and was already in the kitchen...

My dc's table theme was France...

DD had stamped fleur d'leis on cardstock for placemats...

DD had wanted an Eifel Tower but we couldn't find one.  I let the dc "shop" for things from my stuff at home...

DS wore his Three Musketeer D'Artagnon costume.  DD wore her dress from our Medieval Feast and portrayed Constance from The Three Musketeers.

They had a lot of fun! News filtered back that if prizes had been awarded that night, they'd have won first place for best table and costume!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

How We Use The Bridge to the Latin Road

My friend, Pam, has also been asking me about the The Bridge to the Latin Road

This is a new product that arrived on the market last spring. Because my son had excellent grammar skills, I was considering starting him in LRTEG I this year. He is a brilliant thinker who is easily bored and needs a challenge. Yet he was fearful that Latin would be too challenging for him, even though he wants to study it. My main concern was his ability to do the copy work, which he detests. When we looked at the Bridge last year, we decided to use that this year. It is sold by the same company that sells LRTEG and is the bridge between their phonics program and LRTEG.

Although I do not feel it is essential to do the Bridge before starting LRTEG, I do see some positive results from doing it. The Bridge incorporates lots of dictation into the daily work. DS has learned to hold large chunks of information in his head by copying dictation. At the beginning of the year he struggled to hold a simple sentence in his head. Now he can hold large chunks of information. This ability to hold large chunks of information is a skill rarely used in today’s society. However, our forefathers were able to do this with ease, since they had to rely on auditory skills more than we do today in our visually driven world.

In addition, ds has conquered the copywork issue! It’s still not his favorite thing to do, but he has disciplined himself to copy. This is a kinesthetic aspect to learning that can engage the brain more actively than reading. In addition, he is building an impressive English grammar reference notebook!

The idea behind the Bridge is compared to that of a journeyman, who has learned basic foundational skills as an apprentice in learning phonics, spelling, etc. The word picture used for the journeyman is one of a builder who learns framing codes, scaffolding, framing keys, and design codes. The imagery doesn’t go into detail within the lessons. However, certain "journeyman" terms are used for grammar concepts.

The student gets a notebook, construction pencils (regular, red and blue) and a scaffolding tool (6" ruler).

The notebook is in three parts: Framing Codes, Sentences to Analyze, and Design Codes. The teacher notebook looks the same as the student's, except the pages are the answer keys. Also, the student's pages only have writing on one side, whereas the teacher's pages have writing on both sides.  I think this makes room for the lesson plans and DVDs to be stored.

In front are the lesson plans. In front of that are the DVDs for each week (for the teacher). There are usually only 4 days of lessons in each week. There are 36 weeks of lessons.

The Framing Codes are divided into parts of speech as well as sentences, phrases and clauses. Each day I dictate a definition and then a sentence, which ds copies.

Then he marks and labels, using his red pencil for some special parts. Marking is done differently with different programs. I marked one way in high school, another way with A Beka, and yet a bit differently with the Bridge.  Marking is basically identifying the part of speech of each word, usually with symbols. The value of the marking with the Bridge, is that it is the same marking that will be used in LRTEG when parsing sentences and working on translations. When dd and I started LRTEG some of this marking was new and took a little getting used to, although it was not a problem. It is now second nature to us. Here’s an example of a marked sentence and the diagramming underneath.

In our daily lesson, after ds marks the sentence, he reviews or learns to scaffold, or diagram that part of speech. Then we’ll usually go to the Sentences to Analyze section for more sentences to dictate, copy, mark and scaffold. I’ll dictate 3-6 sentences a day for him to copy, mark and scaffold, reinforcing the concepts he has learned. When scaffolding, the scaffolding tool (ruler) is used to make straight lines. However, my son prefers not to use this. 

The Design Codes are introduced later in the year and teaches Latin prefixes, bases and suffixes. There are vocabulary cards to move around (kinesthetic) to study these. (My son prefers not to use them. His learning style is to talk about everything he does!) There is a regular pencil for the base word, red pencil to copy the prefix and a blue pencil to copy the suffix. (My son does use the pencils!  Hooray!) A few prefixes, bases and suffixes are taught each time. Many of these he will see again in Latin. All of them he learns to use to form nouns or verbs in our daily language. The flash cards are meant to be manipulated to try to form the words from the prefixes and suffixes. He learns about assimilation, when a word part doesn’t match the flash card. This is usually because something like "ob-pose" was difficult to say so it assimilated into "op-pose." This answers the questions he always used to ask me about some of our English spelling rules not lining up! Then there are the word parts that don’t follow the rules because it changed through the French and got tweaked. Spelling has made a lot more sense studying language of origin!

Included are cute grammar tunes to learn the parts of speech. My son doesn’t enjoy these and prefers to get to real work! There is also a set of flash cards to play a verb memory game to learn irregular verb forms, though he wasn’t interested in that either! (You can see these in the photo above of the teacher book and DVDs)    I don't worry about the parts my son doesn't enjoy to learn with.  I like a curriculum that has lots of options.  What doesn't  work for one child might be the hip thing for a later child.  Also I just take a good solid curriculum and match that to how my dc best work.  I think this is the best flexibility of all.  Curriculums can often be tweaked to match a child!  =)

The Bridge is meant for grades 3-6.  It can be a boost before LRTEG I, but it is not essential.  Yes, wonderful skills are taught like dictation, copy work, parsing and diagramming sentences as well as the study of affixes to build vocabulary.  However, if a junior high or high school student was looking at this before starting LRTEG I, I would highly recommend just starting LRTEG I.  My dd and I started LRTEG I before the Bridge even came out.  However, I do feel that any strong grammar program, and there are many, will adequately prepare a child to begin LRTEG I.  =)

Nevertheless, I feel that the best value of the Bridge, is the dictation.  Although we have previously used an excellent grammar program, it was merely a matter of looking at the sentence and parsing it.  The Bridge takes parsing sentences to a higher level of thinking through dictation.  While holding that information in the mind, the brain has to actively engage and interact with the sentence, and the student becomes more aware of what the sentence is actually saying and doing.  This in itself, is precisely what my son needed to be fully prepared to start LRTEG I next school year! 

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

How We Use Latin Road to English Grammar

I chose Latin Road to English Grammar for our Latin studies. Liking the reputation it had for being clear and through for the teacher, I was sold! Also it had exactly what I wanted my children to do without a lot of extra map work and history readings on ancient Rome. It is a multisensory program for the older child. My children do not like lots of fingerplays, ditties or color sheets. They want the real thing. So this was perfect! LRTEG is so thourough in comparing Latin to English grammar, that no other English grammar study is required. It sounded to me as though this program would effectively and clearly teach Latin while relating it to English grammar. We are now almost done with Book II and we have found all of the above to be exactly what we expected.

For books I and II, I have purchased the Big Fat Latin Special!  It comes with the teacher set (notebook with lesson plans, answer keys and charts, tests, worksheets, textbook, vocabulary cards and audio CD), student set (notebook, colored paper, colored pens, textbook, comprehensive reference guide), DVDs (for the teacher) and Latin dictionary.  This reference guide is full of everything we learn from the three volumes. Yes, there is more information on the back.


My friend, Pam, was asking me how I use LRTEG. I try to begin my preparations for each chapter by first reading through the chapter in the textbook. Then I read the lesson plans. Then I watch the DVD. The DVDs are only for the teacher. Here the author further explains the lessons to be taught. Then she translates several sentences. This has been the most beneficial to me. I get to see how she analyzes a sentence and makes choices. If there is more than one correct answer, she discusses that and explains why both work. If one is better than the other, she explains why. Wow, this has been the most phenomenal part of the teaching package!

Then I cut out the vocabulary cards for the chapter and start studying them. Ideally, I would have cut all of them out at the beginning of the year, then had them laminated. I store the cards in a pretty box I purchased for half off at Hobby Lobby.  Looks like I'll need a bigger box to add next year's cards from Book III.

These vocabulary cards are wonderful! They are color coded for part of speech, stimulating the brain’s visual areas. The nouns come in three different colors, depending on whether they are masculine, feminine or neutral. The color coding definitely helps cue the memory in the brain. On the front is the Latin. On the back is the English, a derivative (to expand vocabulary), and the chapter number when the word is introduced.

I try to review all vocabulary daily. When I can’t do that, I do the new vocabulary daily and the rest at least weekly. Memorization is essential to quickly completing the translations. I also make use of the charts and vocabulary cards when doing the translations.   All of the charts are stored in the teacher's notebook in page protectors.

I paste the verb charts onto foam board. These portable bulletin boards are easily pulled out when needed, then easily slipped between the wall and cabinet when we’re done! It is so cool to look at these charts and see the patterns and relationships of each of the verb forms.  Seeing the charts in this arrangement helps us to see the patterns and that helps our memory.

My dd uses the audio CD daily to drill new vocabulary and information, which targets the audio portion of the brain. Then she starts her lesson. Usually on day 2 of the chapter she learns her new vocabulary. She copies these on color coded paper with color coded pens for her Latin notebook. There is also a way to fold the paper after copying, to allow for ease of studying derivative forms and from Latin to English or English to Latin.

When learning new Latin syntax, LRTEG compares it to the English first. This makes a terrific review of English, and forms a bridge to learning the Latin. In the end we realize we understand the English grammar better than before!

There is copy work for the first few days of each chapter, which targets the kinesthetic portion of the brain. Each day dd is building her Latin notebook more and more. This will be a wonderful reference tool while studying more Latin, digging into English, or learning other foreign languages.

Translations start in the second half of the chapter in small bites. Instead of translating a complex sentence, we usually start with phrases, or decline nouns or conjugate verbs. We eventually work towards translating Latin sentences to English which is pretty easy. The most challenging is translating English sentences to Latin, yet doable!

In Book I the student follows a reading on the CD. This might be "Adeste Fideles" at Christmas, the Pledge of Allegiance, Scripture, or something from ancient Roman writings. In Book II we start actually translating these. We are always surprised at how much easier these are than we first feared!  DD did one of the readings, The Lord's Prayer in Latin, at our TOG Year 1 Unit 4 celebration of Ancient Rome. 

Then we do a worksheet for each chapter. This does a terrific job of reviewing every concept taught in the chapter. Every other chapter has a test.

I have my own copies of the textbook, notebook, worksheets and tests. I do my own work and I follow along with dd.

LRTEG is so well laid out, that if we ever forget how to use a part of speech in the Latin, we can easily look it up in the table of contents from our textbooks.  

Here is my Latin, all spread out.  DD has everything memorized so she doesn't need to spread out! I have the answer key to my left, the textbook in front of me and the vocabulary cards to my right.  I do this a couple of times a week, while I am popping up and down doing other things like cleaning house, helping the dc, answering e-mails, etc. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Why Latin?

     My friend, Pam, has requested some information on our Latin studies. Four years ago I never dreamed that something like this would happen. I never expected to learn Latin much less tell anyone else about it. I knew homeschoolers who actually studied Latin, but I never understood why. Then I started learning about the benefits of classical education and I was sold! My 15yod began her Latin studies 2 years ago. I’ve been studying to keep up with her and I am convinced that Latin, indeed, has many benefits, including preparing a student for the SAT exam and even impacting our world. Here are some of the reasons why.  

     Latin study increases vocabulary skills. Because much of our language is derived from Latin, it makes sense to study our roots. After all, the ancient Romans did conquer the known world, including the European continent and the British Isles. They left more than architectural monuments that can be visited today; they also left behind their language which seeped into the cultures they left behind. From simply knowing one Latin root, such as nauta, nautae meaning sailor…a host of other words can easily be understood like nautical, aeronautics, nautical mile, and nautilus. Obviously this is a big help with SAT study preparations!

     Since Latin has pervaded many languages from ancient times, the study of Latin enhances other foreign language studies. Recently we read a literature book about the French voyageurs in Canada. Despite the numerous French words in the book, dd and I were able to understand some of the words merely from our Latin studies. We are surrounded by much Spanish influence here in San Antonio. Without any previous Spanish studies, dd correctly translates some of the Spanish vocabulary because of her Latin knowledge. Even my previous Spanish studies have been clarified by Latin.

     Logic skills are also enhanced while studying Latin. Because there can be more than one correct answer when doing translations, one must analyze the sentence to see if the chosen translation is clear or if there is ambiguity. Latin is like a verbal puzzle, moving the pieces around until there is clarity. Through much practice in Latin, my dd now understands the importance in applying this to her papers. She is learning how to scrutinize the word order in her sentences to find the best meaning which she is trying to articulate.

     English verb tenses that we have chanted for years in our English grammar books have given us pause in Latin. We have had to carefully analyze their precise function before doing translations. Little studied concepts like indirect objects and passive verb tense are magnified in Latin usage. It wasn’t until our recent study of passive verb tenses that I finally understood how to strengthen verbs in writing assignments. My dd now has clear understanding of passive verbs versus strong verbs and is learning to apply this. In her weekly papers I am challenging her to replace unnecessary passive verbs with strong verbs and she has been delighted with the results. Language comes alive when lifted from a workbook page and applied to writing skills. Latin has been the bridge to make this connection easier for us.

     Of course one could simply learn English grammar by listening and speaking the language itself. After all, that is how toddlers first learn their language. Like looking through a window and viewing the wonders of the outdoors, English grammar is practically learned through experience. Discovering and interacting with a living language gleans as much wonder and joy as in sitting on a window seat and observing clouds drifting through a summer sky, lightening flashing from a storm cloud and leaves rustling in a tree.  

     The next level of learning grammar is with an actual curriculum, learning parts of speech and their proper use and order in a sentence. Training our use of words to have strength and power, one can engage more effectively in communicating with the world. This could be likened to lenses that allow us to see things from afar. Powerful lenses such as field glasses allow one to see the precise coloring of a bird in the distance and amazing rock formations in glacial valleys viewed from across a gorge. Further studies in formal grammar continue to solidify the power of language to more effectively communicate difficult ideas in the same way telescopes allow us to see distant planets and stars in the night sky. One of our Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, had little formal schooling. Apprenticed as a printer, he became skilled with his hands by using a trade. Yet, a deep desire for learning drove him to study on his own. "I fell far short in elegance of expression…I…thence grew more attentive to the manner in writing, and determined to endeavor at improvement." (From The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin) We remember him today with a smile as we recall his experience with lightening, wise and witty sayings, and his contributions to society and our country. He encouraged the signers of the Declaration of Independence when they committed treason in signing the document by declaring, "We must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."

     Studying Latin fine tunes the study of English grammar. Like using a microscope that proves the existence of microbes, germs, and the amazing complexity of the human cell, so Latin scrutinizes concepts easily taken for granted in a familiar language. Understanding subtle nuances of word choice, part of speech and verb tense allows us to strike a chord in the human breast when conveying matters of importance. Many of our Founding Fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, used their Latin and other classical studies to influence the world and shape a nation historically unique from any other. They are remembered today for their understanding, power, clarity, and eloquence. In fact, Thomas Jefferson himself, as a 17 year old law student was spell-bound, along with other members of the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1765, when Patrick Henry condemned King George for his treatment of the colonies. Ablaze with passion, Patrick Henry challenged the House, "If this be treason, make the most of it."

Jefferson later described Henry’s speech as "torrents of sublime eloquence" which he had "never heard from any other man."

    As microscopes have proven new worlds in drops of pond water and onion roottips, so has Latin proven the rhetorical skills of famed speakers of the past who helped to form a new nation. 

     Read more about the benefit of Latin.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Awana's Scholarship!

Last Friday night, my children had their Awanas award ceremony.  They are on target, having finished each book for each year.  DS has completed four handbooks, so he got the Timothy Award.  He'll advance into the junior high group in the autumn.

DD has completed 6 handbooks, so she got the Meritorious Award.

Of course, the most wonderful award of all, is hiding God's Word in one's heart.  This they have done.  Numerous times I have looked for a verse and they know it by heart or they know the reference.  There are numerous verses in each book. Awanas usually brags about how quickly most children are able to memorize.  That may be true for most, but not my children.  For them it has been a struggle.   It has taken my children hours of study to learn each one.  Of course, there has been much fruit from the labor.  "The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold."  Psalm 119:72

Next year dd starts the high school program where she will not only learn verses, but will also read the Bible all the way through and write summaries for each book of the Bible.  She will also start the LIT (Leader in Training) program.  She'll help with one of the younger clubs and then attend her own club for high school on a different night.  This will require more sacrifice on our part to drive far to church two nights a week.  However, the fruit will be wonderful.  I am extremely excited about her being an LIT!

The time commitment does not go unnoticed by colleges and universities.   Many recognize and reward such diligence with scholarships.  I was aware of this, but was not aware that dd has already met the requirements for the base Awana scholarship!  That was a huge surprise to me the other night!  The university that she is interested in would award her an $8000 scholarship for earning the Meritorious Award, which she got the other night.  If she perseveres for four more years and earns the Citation Award, that scholarship becomes $12,000!  (I've since learned that varies by college.)

For dd, who has had her share of developmental delays, this has been a significant boost in her thinking that God can use even her!  Praise the Lord!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Colonial Basketweaving

When I was in college, if there was a simple class to take, we used to joke around that it was Basketweaving 101.  I have since been  educated as to the error of that thinking and have changed my mind!

It all began a few years ago when we went to Colonial Williamsburg.  One of the crafts we saw was basketweaving.  My son must have been 8 at the time and was fascinated by the process.  He asked tons of questions.  At the gift shop, I purchased a kit thinking we could all enjoy the project together.  However we never got around to it.  Then last Christmas, a family member gave dd a colonial basket kit from the same company that we got our first kit.  I decided to save these for our colonial studies. 

When we started our studies on the Colonial Era, the first craft we pulled out was the basket kits.  We laid everything out.

We laid out ds's kit and figured out what all the various pieces were.  Good.  I figured ds could get started on his and then tell us how to do ours (because I would help dd).  DS always figures things out and always tells us what we are doing wrong.  ;)  He always knows.  He is very good at this type of thing.  =)  I was very happy to defer to his skills, because I had a lot on my "to do" list.  However, I just knew my ds would save the day!  The next step was to soak  the reeds.  They must remain wet in order to be flexible enough for all of the bending.

While those were soaking, dd and I got her kit set up but we were confused.  Some of the pieces were  different and they weren't as easy to identify as ds' were.  We called ds over to help....and he was  equally confused.  Hmmmm.  Well we soaked hers in the other sink.  Meanwhile ds got started on his...and got stuck.  He was clueless.  He needed my help.  What????  I was depending on him!  Well, I took a look at the two sheets, looked up the web site, which didn't seem to be much help to me or him.

 I was ready to make a momentous decision.  I was ready to throw everything away!  We needed a life!  Who needs basketweaving anyway?  Basketweaving is for the more intelligent genre of people, not for us lowly types who can't read directions.  Of all the crafts I have tackled in my entire life, of all the self taught things I have ever done, I was ready to admit defeat!  I was not ashamed to concede that basketweaving is a highly intelligent skill.  I was prepared to repent of my sins of Basketweaving 101 put-downs in college.  But the look in my children's eyes reduced me to give it the good old college try.  I always tell them to do their best, to not give up...what did we have to lose?  We could just go for it and make something to share at our unit celebration, no matter how pathetically it turned out.  

So we did the next thing; we took one step at a time, not worrying about too many steps ahead.  This is the foundation part of ds' basket.  We used a ruler to measure and set the pace for an even grid.  Who knew math would be involved?????

Getting the foundational grid even on dd's basket...

Does it look like a basket yet?  Hmmm....

DS' basket, turning up the ends...

Meticulously working our way through the weaving.  Believe me, this is not as easy at it looks.  I had to pull out dd's weaving quite often and help her a lot, because it would get confusing.  I even had to pull out my own work more than once.

DD's basket in the home stretch...

DS's basket at this point...

He got a little further than this when we had to put things away to sing at the nursing home.  The next afternoon after church I crashed onto the bed and slept all afternoon.  DH finished the basket with ds.

Ta da....