Friday, August 28, 2015

Back to Co-op Classes Week

This week has been a crazy busy one where we've been away from the house for one or more appointments / activities per day. Even today I was awake and ready freakishly early (for me) waiting on the swing set movers. Just call me The Little Mommy That Could (or could not... check back at 3:00pm).

Our craziness started at a simple dinner with my mom, sister, and nephews on Saturday. The four year old had taken off his shoe, but his helpful brother picked it up. Only the 8 year old got distracted and forgot to put the shoe back on his brother. Amber reached across the 4 year old to the 8 year old for the shoe, and subluxated her shoulder.  (Subluxation is a dislocation that pops back in on its own). It's her loose joints and EDS making subluxations easy.

Sunday Amber had some pain and stiffness, but the shoulder was feeling much improved after dinner. So much improved, Amber forgot to be careful with the arm and re-injured it. So, Monday we were off to the pediatrician before Amber's echo-cardiogram. Thankfully, the shoulder is still structured well, but Amber was in a sling for several days.  The echo went okay, after a 45 minute delay.  Amber found it very unpleasant because the pressure of the ultrasound wand caused a couple of ribs to subluxate. Fun times.  But all's well that ends well; no mitro-valve prolapse!!

(Left)After the pediatrician visit. She's not happy at all about the sling, but happy it didn't require more assistance. (Right) A couple of days later, dinner before the Confirmation meeting, and her painting project this week.
Thankfully the therapy needed for Amber's joints has been scheduled and begins on Monday. We don't even have to drive all the way down the Children's Hospital, we can utilize the brand new specialty building about half the distance away. That's where we've been going for all the Children's hospital doctors the last couple of months.  It's a satellite building where some specialties are there daily, but others like rheumatology are only there once a week. 

Besides the medical issues this week, Amber met a friend for art fun at the Painted Pot again. She continued to practice flute despite the injury, and had her flute lesson. We also attended the new school year Confirmation meeting. How is it possible I have an 8th grade confirmation student. This means in less than a year she will be taking first communion (on Maundy Thursday)! She won't be confirmed until October of next year though, since our congregation has moved to Reformation Sunday (it's a Lutheran thing) confirmations as opposed to Spring confirmation. 

All week long Fred and I took turns out in the yard staining Amber's swingset in preparation for the move. For a while there my hands and knees were semi-permanently barn red. Now they are new-skin pink.  The swingset was all pretty and ready to go in time, and has now left a swingset sized dead spot in my yard. We're considering adding a 4 season room to the back of the house, so I'm not worrying about that dead spot right now.

I even managed to be prepared for my German 1 and German 2 classes yesterday. Oddly, I was more prepared for the new class (German 2) than the one I've already taught.  I think it's because I already knew the students and the class is small. I felt uneasy with the German 1 class, but we will become more comfortable in the next few weeks.

Amber is still sailing ahead in her German and making huge strides in her study habits. I had been a little frustrated with her German vocabulary knowledge and instituted a few new rules for German homework. We also restarted creative writing this week and continued in IEW.

One final swing, movers disassembling, waving goodbye, and our poor empty yard. Then re-assembled and waiting for two little boys.
English literature was another big topic this week, between all the other activities. If you missed it, we had a review of our very favorite literature course, Illuminating Literature. It's a new curriculum from Writing with Sharon Watson. Normally, Amber makes her opinion known about our curriculum choices, but with this one she can't stop gushing. Every day she discovers another new facet about her current novel and MUST share it with me. According to Amber, the Novel Notebook is the best idea since sliced bread. She believes it is the number one reason she is comprehending the underlying themes of her literature books. I believe it is the whole process, nevertheless we are both immensely enjoying literature this year.

All the other subjects made some progress too, but with so many out of the house events this week, they were somewhat secondary to our days.  Amber has managed to almost finish her explorers study in history while also preparing for the upcoming topics by reading historical novels I've assigned.

The big event of the week, however, was homeschool co-op classes! Amber has been anticipating them for weeks already and had her outfit picked out in advance. She was so bummed about the sling, but managed to get herself healed up enough to skip the sling on co-op day. Amber loved every single one of her four classes. I feared the Greek and Roman Technology class might be a little dry - it's for middle school and high schoolers, and uses video lessons with hands on projects. Instead, Amber spent an hour at bedtime last night telling me ALL about the class.  I'm not sure how her description took an hour, since the class is only 50 minutes! Still, I know more than I ever wanted to know about Greek and Persian ships. I'm just giddy this class was offered.

Ready for her first day of the new co-op classes, and hanging out in our church's youth room, where two of her classes happen to be held.  Plus proof she did work on school this week - a new IEW lesson.
Of course, Amber loved her embroidery and knitting classes.  A couple of her very best friends are in those classes and she said it is a nice relaxing time to learn more needlework and chat. Then, there was Playdoh Economics. I was kinda nervous about this one. It could really have gone either way with Amber. Thankfully, she met some new friends in the class, the teacher is one of her favorites, and Amber adored making "stuff" with the Playdoh. It was a win all the way around. Whew!

We still aren't done for the week even now, and have a teen group activity today. I have no clue what I plan to do this weekend other than sleep. Next week we start at it all again! It's wonderful to be busy and happy.

Happy Weekend!

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Weekly Wrap-Up   photo purpFFBut_zps970d6cbe.png Homegrown Learners

{Review} Dig-It! Games: Roman Town & Mayan Mysteries

Ever have those moments when you wonder how your child can be so different from you in some respects? Amber loves puzzles and logic games. She actually seeks out these types of online and video games, while I have never found enjoyment in logic puzzles. Still, when the chance came up to review two problem solving games from Dig-It! Games, I took the opportunity for my girl. The first game, Roman Town (iOS App) is only for Apple iOS devices. The second game, Mayan Mysteries (Online Game) is designed for the computer in addition to working on most tablets, except Apple iOS devices. However, there is an iOS app version of Mayan Mysteries which was not part of this review.

Unexpected Homeschool: Mayan Mysteries and Roman Town learning games from Dig It!

Mayan Mysteries:
This is a fully loaded online educational game based in seven different real-life Mayan excavation sites  The game is designed for roughly grades 5 through 9, or ages 11 years and up. The game is playable for younger ages, but the puzzles used may be too frustrating for a child younger than 11 years old.

Comic strip type graphics are used to tell the story portion of the game and introduce the player to the characters in the story. The game follows an archeologist uncle along with his niece and nephew as they try to save the mythical city of Ich'aak from looters. By completing puzzles, the player collects clues from each of the excavation sites that have been already looted. In all there are 25 different puzzles throughout the game.

Through the puzzles and clues the player will learn details of the Mayan people and culture, about the excavation sites, how the Mayan calendars worked, and even Mayan math. The puzzles require logic and clear thinking to complete and further the story line, yet are not so difficult as to completely stump the user indefinitely.

The interface for the game is impressive and autosaves progress, which is a huge bonus for us. It is easy to go back re-read clues, view achievements earned and artifacts found, and even replay puzzles to gain a higher score. The story strips are also re-playable.

Unexpected Homeschool: Mayan Mysteries and Roman Town learning games from Dig It!
Mayan Mysteries online game
Roman Town:
This app is a free download available in the Apple App store, but to complete the majority of the game in-app purchases are required. For the purpose of the review, we were given the in-app purchases at no cost. It does require iOS 8.0 or later and is listed as compatible with iPad only.

The game starts with our friends from Mayan Mysteries in Pompeii now and tracking Ladrone again.  Using the game characters, the player talks to tourists in Pompeii to receive clues in finding the elusive Ladrone. Some tourists provide the clues without additional work, while others require the player to complete a mini-game puzzle.

Through the clues and games the user learns about Roman culture, history, architecture / city design, word roots, and even Roman numerals.  The puzzles require strategic thinking and help train the mind to think logically. 

Unexpected Homeschool: Mayan Mysteries and Roman Town learning games from Dig It!
Roman Town iPad game
Our Experience:
Amber could not get enough of Mayan Mysteries and rapidly progressed through the game, completing it in just 3 sessions of approximately two hours each.  She did not have a lot of exposure to Mayan history or culture prior to playing the game, and thus was eager to learn more. Amber did find a few of the puzzles to be on the simple side, but had to concentrate for many of the others. However, she is in 8th grade and not at the low end of the recommended age range.

I was impressed with the amount of information Amber learned from the game.  She gave me a complete description of the history of Mayan math and how it worked. She even replayed a few of the puzzles to demonstrate the math. I must admit to looking up this information to verify it was all correct and not fabricated for the game. I am pleased to confirm everything I checked is just as it should be.

Unexpected Homeschool: Mayan Mysteries and Roman Town learning games from Dig It!
(Top) Mayan Mysteries: Comic strip story line, and finishing the game!
(Bottom) Roman Town: On the go and at home.
Roman Town was the first of the two games Amber tried, since she couldn't wait for a new iPad app. After playing both games, we realized she really needed to have played Mayan Mysteries first. While independent games, the characters and story line with the antagonist Ladrone make a good deal more sense after playing Mayan Mysteries. Amber did feel the story in Roman Town wasn't as detailed or interesting as in Mayan Mysteries, still she enjoyed the puzzle games in Roman Town equally as well as the Mayan Mysteries puzzles.

Since the puzzles are related to the topic, either Roman or Mayan, they are not your run-of-the-mill logic games found in learning games. Each are tailored to fit the theme while challenging and entertaining the player. This was the first feature Amber noticed and she was especially pleased to have a new selection of problem solving games.  Overall, we definitely recommended either of these educational games for encouraging and enhancing critical thinking skills through game play.

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Dig-It! Games Review

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

First Day of Co-op - Eighth Grade

Today was our first day of co-op classes for eighth grade. Amber says, "It was the best possible first day of classes." 

With every minute detail she describes from each of her four classes, she also declares that class to have the potential to be her favorite class this semester. I'd say she completely enjoyed the day.

The long awaited first day of 8th grade co-op classes!