Wednesday, April 26, 2017

{Review} Drive Thru History® - "The Gospels"

This school year Amber has been taking Bible classes at our homeschool co-op with our church's pastor and loves it. Yet for this reason I haven't really felt the need to provide her with a religion course at home, since the co-op class included homework.  However when we were offered the chance to review Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels”, I decided we definitely had time in our days to include these videos.

The DVD set we received from Drive Thru History® includes 18 30-minute episodes on three discs, as well as a full-color study guide that is part of the book/case with the discs. We thought the packaging was rather ingenious; it looks rather like a pew Bible from the outside with the discs inset into the front and back covers on the inside. The pages are then the study guide that include stunning photographs from the Holy Land along with photos of religious art used in the episodes.  The study guide has a few pages for each episode including a summary, discussion questions, Bible reading passages, "Side Road" information that explains a little more about the topic of the episode.

 Drive Thru History® - "The Gospels"

Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels” uses the four Gospels in the Bible as the factual basis for a history narration of the life of Jesus of Nazareth.  The series looks at who Jesus was and what is known of his life not only using facts found in the Bible but also information corroborated by other documents from the time. Since this is a video series, we are able to not only learn about the detailed history of the time, but get a look at where it all took place!

To understand the history and meaning of many of the details in the Gospels, one must have an understanding of both Hebrew and Roman cultures. Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels” does a fantastic job of providing information on those customs, the background history of various people who appear in the biblical gospels, as well as details of the cities and towns. Overlays of how buildings may have looked are even presented on video of the current ruins to help us not only hear but see how world worked during Jesus' time. All of this helps us to make sense of what would otherwise seem to be insignificant details in the Bible.

 Drive Thru History® - "The Gospels"

Just in case you are a little shaky on your Holy Land geography, the episodes frequently show clear maps to indicate the locations of the various events in the gospels. We very much appreciated being able to see the location, or presumed location, of each city discussed in the episodes.

What I've described might sound very informative, but also somewhat dry. Never fear! The host, Dave Stotts, has a fantastic sense of humor and provides quite a bit of comedy relief through out all of the episodes. He has a pleasant and informative style that makes it easy to retain the information you hear, while keeping just the right amount of humor.

How we used Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels”

I really thought Amber would watch these episodes mostly on her own and I'd join in occasionally to ensure all was going well. Instead we watched every single episode together on the laptop, of all devices, in the guest bedroom relaxing and spending time with our cat Biscotti that is currently sequestered from the other cats.

 Drive Thru History® - "The Gospels"

We finished most at-home school days by watching two or three episodes at a time together. It was a rather relaxing way to end each day. We even occasionally paused the playback to discuss a point or two, especially when Amber noticed an interpretation of a fact she felt was not entirely true. We did not use the study guide, but after reading through the study guide I did find a few of the extra facts interesting and read them out to Amber. We finished the last episode right before Holy Week, which seemed appropriate, given the topic.

Amber and I were both enthralled with all of the detailed information. However we did find a few, not many, discrepancies in the interpretation of the data compared to how it is taught by the LCMS (Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod). As part of Amber's confirmation courses, last school year we attended several presentations by LCMS scholars and seminary professors on some of these very topics. Amber actually caught the differences and made me go back to hear it again. She was a bit displeased with what she viewed as inaccuracies until I explained that some people have different interpretations of the historical data. In the end, all of the information leads to the same conclusions and it is mostly academic. She was placated by this. Still I was pleased she listened closely enough to both the presentations last year and the Drive Thru History® episodes to note the difference.

 Drive Thru History® - "The Gospels"
Timelines are often used to help relate people to the periods. One of the visual representations of an ancient building over a modern ruin.
Given all of the discussions this DVD set instigated, we decided these episodes would be the perfect way to round out Amber's elective credit in Religion. The topic fit perfectly with her two Bible studies at co-op: The Gospels and In the Beginning, since the episodes cover the very topic she studied first semester but related back to the prophesies of the coming Messiah from the second semester course.

Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels” turned out to be one of the best video series we have seen in a long time. We both went into a bit of Drive Thru History® withdraw when the last episode finished and are now eyeing sets from Drive Thru History® as a replacement for our end-of-day relaxation lessons. We both highly recommend this set for both historical and religious information.

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Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew also had the chance to watch Drive Thru History® - "The Gospels". Please follow the link in the graphic below to read their experiences.

The Gospels {Drive Thru History® Reviews}

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Taking Stock of the School Year

This is the time of year when Amber usually begins the slow finish of various subjects and we double up on the ones that have lagged behind. I felt this year like she was going to be down to the wire on more subjects, but when we looked at it on paper everything is significantly better than in my mind.

1. Math - we took a break from math this semester since Amber is so far ahead and had already completed algebra 2. It's been so long that I keep forgetting about it. An easy check mark.

2. Writing - Technically, Amber has completed her writing course for the year and there was only minor celebration. However, we immediately started the IEW Essay Intensive, so that did not free up any additional time nor did I mentally store that writing for her English 1 course was complete. The essay intensive is a very short-term course though and should be finished in a week or two.  Amber also has a creative writing course but we are using what is intended as a single year course over two years, so it won't even come close to finishing.  ✔

3. Science - We are not working on science at home this semester, since I am teaching the forensic science class Amber wanted at our co-op. We have one session left of co-op, thus a few days until science is complete for the semester. Check mark (almost)

4. History - It's been a mess this school year. Tapestry of Grace did not work as well for Amber at the rhetoric level, and there really was just too much reading. She still likes the style, but it is ... not the right fit exactly.  We've adjusted TOG and it is working better, however she was VERY far behind in our year plan. Then to add to that she took a Greek mythology class at co-op while also working on an Ancient Greece study for a review product.  These would have been great had that been the time period she was studying in TOG - it was not.  So, I decided to credit her with a portion of her Ancient History course and a portion of her American history course and we'll just pick up American history next school year wherever we leave off at the end of May. Who said we had to do only one topic per school year? (Yet my little box checking self ✔ really struggles with partial credit tracking even though it's easy in Homeschool Tracker).

5. Grammar / Vocabulary - On schedule. Not behind, not ahead. No worries, for once. It will finish at the end of May.

6. Literature - Had a rocky start because we could not pick a program to use and just floundered at the beginning of the year. We are doing much better and she's enjoying what we landed with: our own book list where some are worked in the method of Teaching the Classics and others come from Lightning Literature. I think the Lightning Literature is her favorite. Again, I'm not rushing to finish anything, she's going to be where she's going to be at the end of the year.

7. Foreign Languages - Yes, plural languages. German fizzled for a good deal of the year. We finally have a curriculum we like and it works well. However, Amber really wanted to study Greek and we had the opportunity to use First Form Greek. She adores it. Now, she wants to refresh her Latin and we have First Form Latin for that purpose. Obviously none of those will finish before the end of May since we just started in March with the Greek and today on the Latin. These subjects will probably continue over the summer because I can't imagine she will do well taking a two month break from languages.

8. Electives - With the last co-op session this week, Amber also completes:
  • 1/2 credit in Bible  ✔
  • 1/2 credit in Health ✔
  • Drama class (which goes towards her Fine Arts credit for the year) ✔

When I look at all of those check marks, school feels more productive than it has in a while. Nothing really needs to be given extra time to finish this school year. Starting next week Amber will only need to work on English (writing, literature, grammar), history, and foreign languages. That's not too shabby for the last month of school.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Week 30 - An Average Week!

Looking ahead to this week it felt like it would be another one of those where we don't have a spare second to breathe. However in reality, this turned out to be a pretty decent week. We accomplished quite a bit of school, had several at home days, and even had our April "Amber and Mom Day".  I was entirely relieved, though, that this wasn't a therapy week for Amber. That might have tipped me over the edge.

Easter basket hunting at our house and at Grandma's. It's a bit more of a race when competing against your cousins than when you're the only child.
Easter was a lovely day with my family at my mother's house and we even were able to attend church with my mom and my sister's family for the first time in a few years. Since we joined our current congregation, one or more of us have had obligations on Easter Sunday that kept us from attending church with the family as we had done in the past. With Amber out of confirmation, we decided to go to my mom's church despite the youth being expected to serve Easter brunch at our congregation. The youth will always be expected to do that and if we put it off, we will never be going to church with the family again until Amber is out of high school.  I just don't think we will be part of our congregation's Easter celebrations. But that's okay. My mom is still at the Lutheran church where I was raised, so it's like going home - and it's only slightly farther away than our own Lutheran congregation.

Easter egg hunting with younger cousins at Grandma's, just for fun and tradition. There was no prizes in the eggs. 
After such a fun and busy Easter, Amber and I felt pretty puny on Monday, yet still managed to complete a goodly amount of school. We didn't do much else though. Tuesday we took the day off for our monthly "Amber and Mom Day" and spent the day shopping for clothes & shoes, eating lunch out, and watching Rogue One at home. Yes, we saw it in the theater last year, but hadn't watched our Bluray copy yet. It was a nice relaxing day.

The rest of the week was either spent in school lessons mostly at home or at our homeschool co-op. There is only one more week left before the end of the co-op semester. We aren't sure where co-op will be held next year and how much space we will have, which also begs the question of how many classes there will be for each age group.  It would be easier to be joyous at the end of the co-op school year if we felt more secure about next year. However, there is not much our leadership can do about it at the moment as they look for a new location. The group may need to resign ourselves to another semester or year at the current location, which normally would not be a problem except we are only being offered about half the current space and fewer hours. This is a weight on my mind, especially as it is our congregation / church that has rolled up the welcome mat for the homeschool group. I am somewhat embarrassed to be a member at the moment.

Yes, that's a stuffed gallbladder! A friend sent it to Amber because she gets to keep hers now that the polyp is gone.
And Greek... always working on Greek.
It seems a bit late in the year to have new curriculum arriving for the current school year, yet we did and were ever so giddy about it. Yesterday we received, much earlier than expected, Amber's First Form Latin. Yes, she is still working on First Form Greek. Yes, I agreed to let her work on both. I might be a bit daffy.

She already spent three years in late elementary and middle school studying Latin, but wanted to refresh it. Somehow I was talked into allowing the child to study three foreign languages along with her English studies. It's a good thing co-op ends soon, I don't think we can keep up that many different subjects, especially when I have to help with the Greek and Latin!

Biscotti, the birthday kitty this week back at his beloved patio door. He spent quite a bit of time out of the guest room and is getting along better with the other cats while on harnesses. It's still slow going. -- Oh, and the essay intensive. She adores this program.
Next week will start off nice and slow, relaxing even. Then the week ends in flurry of activity with our last co-op day, then the next day the dress rehearsal and performance of the play for Amber's drama class, and a flute performance for Amber on Sunday.  Oh, and it's therapy week for Amber - performance day is also therapy day. If we survive intact, I'll have pictures from the play next weekend.

This weekend I'm making alterations to Amber's prom dress that is needed in two weeks (seriously... I'm cutting it short) and thinking about cooking one or even two dinners. No guarantees there.

Happy Weekend!

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