Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Review: SchoolhouseTeachers.com

We are so thrilled to be part of the 2015 Review Crew.  Our first review is for  SchoolhouseTeachers.com (http://www.SchoolhouseTeachers.com) Yearly Membership!


SchoolhouseTeachers.com is an online resource that includes downloadable and printable items in addition to online classes.  It provides full year, semester long, and supplementary content in a wide array of core and non-core subjects for students age Pre-K through high school.  Teacher and parent resources that are invaluable in running a homeschool household are also included. There truly is something for everyone!

After receiving our login code, it was quite simple to get started.  While we each have our own computers, Amber (7th grade) and I usually prefer to use our iPads for school related work.  However to ensure all went smoothly for the first login on this site I did use my computer. 

The navigation menu for SchoolhouseTeachers.com is located at the top of every page and is straightforward, uncluttered, and easy to access.   All of the features of the site are clearly labeled and found through the menu.  This made it so simple to find the areas that most interested us and to begin using the site.

After perusing the site together, Amber and I found several resources we wanted to try immediately and a few for next semester too.  We did agree to also try using the site on our iPads since we are not fond of being tied to the computers.  I'm happy to report that the site works beautifully on the iPads with no discernible difference from the computer and almost the entirety of our experience with SchoolhouseTeachers.com is via iPads.

Literature discussion time.  Amber used her ebook version of The Door in the Wall while I used SchoolhouseTeachers.com on my iPad to lead our discussion.

Our first selection was from the Middle / High School Literature section. Just last month Amber finished reading The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli as part of our medieval history study.  Unfortunately, we did not have a resource to facilitate our study of the book and had pretty much left it with a cursory plot discussion.  On SchoolhouseTeachers.com we found a complete study of The Door in the Wall that even included questions which correlate to the Socratic List. 

Amber and I enjoyed using the literature study of The Door in the Wall to frame our discussion of the main themes and character development.  We were especially impressed with the study's questions over the literary devices used in the book.  The study is thorough, but does not get hung up on plot details. Only the details that pertain to the progression of character development and understanding of the theme were used in the study.  We were so impressed with this literature study and definitely plan to return to this resource for our future literature guides.


The Dailies section of SchoolhouseTeachers.com includes daily exercises, puzzles, and even quizzes over a variety of topics including grammar lessons for first through seventh grades.  We do have a grammar program that we like and with which Amber has had success.  Still, the daily grammar lessons caught our attention as Amber LOVES language and would happily work on grammar all day.

The grammar lessons for the combined grade levels of sixth and seventh grade contain 16 weeks of daily lessons that are patterned so that every week runs the same way.  Mondays deal with nouns, pronouns, etc, while Thursdays work on capitalization and punctuation, and Fridays include sentence diagramming.  Although Amber used the lessons as a supplement to her current curriculum, they are definitely robust enough to be used as a stand alone grammar curriculum. 

Amber happily working on the Daily Grammar Practice in SchoolhouseTeachers.com

Amber accessed the daily grammar lessons via her iPad after completing her regular grammar assignments.  She found them to be a nice way to review grammar each week regardless of the current topic in her other curriculum.

Personally, I was intrigued by the Creating an Academic Transcript section in High School Helps.  Amber may still only be in seventh grade, but she is already taking a few high school level subjects and I need to ensure they are documented correctly.  The SchoolhouseTeachers.com transcript section includes details on giving credits, final grades, and cumulative grades. There are also downloadable sample transcripts and a video on transcripts.  Here, in one place, I've found all the resources I need to document Amber's high school credits.  What a relief.

(left) Amber checked out the entire SchoolhouseTeachers.com site.  (Right) I was thrilled to find help writing a transcript

We found SchoolhouseTeachers.com to have a wealth of information and resources for homeschooling families. Whether you are looking for a full curriculum or supplemental resources this site definitely has it all and has become our go-to location for new curriculum.

Membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com is only $12.95 a month, or you can save over 10% on a one-year membership at just $139.  This is all inclusive and only one membership is needed for your entire family!

And as a bonus, SchoolhouseTeachers.com is having a huge sale right now and through Christmas Day at 11:59pm ET.   40% off the monthly membership ($7.77/month) or 50% off the Yearly Membership ($64.26/year). Homeschool families who join at this rate will keep it forever as long as they maintain a continuous membership.


Be sure to check out more reviews of SchoolhouseTeachers.com to see how other members of the Review Crew used this great resource. 

SchoolhouseTeachers.com Review

Crew Disclaimer

Friday, December 12, 2014

Bring on Christmas!

We are officially on Christmas break! That feels so good to write. It's been a long semester and we all need an extended vacation to recharge for next semester.

Amber did indeed finish her Analytical Grammar season one lessons. Next semester she will only have one day of grammar review every other week. This is a new schedule for us as we are accustomed to having grammar every week all year long. Instead of grammar we will use that time to focus on poetry, creative writing, and a little expository writing.

According to my homeschool tracking software, Amber has also earned 301 core hours this semester. She made it to the halfway point for the year and we won't start second semester already behind. This is a huge accomplishment and a big weight off my mind. 

One thing that was not completed was Amber's illuminated page project. You'll understand why in a few paragraphs, but we decided to work on it over our break as a fun family project. 

Yesterday, Amber's teen drama class performed their Christmas pantomime for our homeschool group during the lunch break. It was the first time Amber had been in a pantomime and I thought they all did well. Amber was Mary, of course.  At least this time she didn't have a singing solo like the last time she played Mary. 

Symphony last friday at Powell Symphony Hall.  It was Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

This morning our homeschool group attended a performance of A Christmas Carol at the Fox Theater in St. Louis. We seem to be making quite a few trips to that area lately considering The Fox is across the street from Powell Symphony Hall. At least this week the weather was much nicer than the 24-hour downpour we dealt with to attend the symphony last week. 

Last week, while on our way into Powell, Amber noticed an advertisement up at The Fox for Phantom of the Opera coming in March. Do you see where this is going? Fred and I saw Phantom years ago, even at the Fox Theater, however Amber has only been able to watch it on TV.  Phantom of the Opera is one of the few Broadway productions that Fred is actually willing to see, so of course we all now have tickets for March. 

This week there was also one doctor's appointment scheduled: Amber's neurology follow up. Sadly it didn't end with just that one appointment though. Amber has been feeling quite poorly for over a week now.  Last Sunday she had a pre-syncope episode during music rehearsal for the church Christmas program. It was scary and I was terrified that she was going to collapse prior to us getting her out of the group of kids. Amber was completely unaware of her surroundings and unable to interact with us. Thankfully, we got her straightened out, but the pre-syncope episodes are considered the same, medically, as a syncope episode where she would fully lose consciousness.

(Right) Amber as Mary in the homeschool co-op Christmas pantomime.  It is her drama class.
(Left) Milori and me at the vet.  He's not doing so hot lately.  (Left-bottom) Our family.
The neurologist was not happy with how low Amber's blood pressure has remained despite fluids and a dramatic salt increase. Not to mention the huge drop in blood pressure anytime she is upright. So, the neurologist put her on medication to raise her blood pressure. Unfortunately, she can't take medication to lower her heart rate because the super fast heart rate (160+ when upright) is the only thing keeping her blood pressure from bottoming out all the time. We will see how the medication works.  She may get a second medication if this doesn't help enough.  The neurologist also put her on a medication to reduce the migraines and help her be more comfortable.  I know this medication well; I was on it for 4+ years for chronic daily migraines before weaning from it earlier this year.  

The blood test for AAG still is not back yet, but we didn't honestly expect results this early. The neurologist did discuss how Amber's other autonomic test results all indicate an autoimmune disease as the root cause of her medical problems. All of the results. Every last one. At least we know what kind of beast we are dealing with. Now to determine exactly which one. Oh AAG test results, we need you now.

Unfortunately, the neurologist noticed some additional symptoms of concern while we were in his office. He called Amber's other specialists from the exam room with us present, but didn't get the answers he wanted and thus Amber had a rushed appointment that very afternoon with her endocrinologist. Autoimmune diseases can damage the adrenal glands and Amber shows possible signs of Addison's disease. It would be from damage done by her still-unnamed-autoimmune disease and not the cause of her dysautonomia.  As a result, Wednesday morning we were getting Amber's blood drawn to test her cortisol levels and antiadrenal antibodies.  Of course, that test won't be back for another two weeks.  Because that's what we needed, more secondary conditions.

This weekend Amber is again playing her flute to accompany the Vocal Fusion choir on one song and also playing a solo during a Christmas performance at a retirement community four minutes from our house.  Originally, she had other commitments at church too, but after her pre-syncope episode last Sunday we have removed her from those performances.  She can at least sit while playing the flute and her entire performance time is, at most, 10 minutes compared to the hour long Christmas program at church that is all standing.

(Top-left) Tinkerbell inspired drawing projects. (Top-right) Grammar at the neurologist. (Bottom) Feet up and compression socks on.  Her blood pressure was low and circulation was poor.

I'm so thankful that we have the ability to tailor Amber's education to fit her health. This week, while difficult, also showed us that we are doing a good job balancing Amber's school and activities.  She finished half of her required hours in half of a school year while still having time for favorite activities, friends, doctors, and rest.  This has been a productive semester despite what feels like slow academic weeks.  I'm sure we will tweak her schedule a small amount next semester, but I think we finally have a rhythm that fits Amber's current needs.

Next week we have some fun family Christmas traditions scheduled, a couple of days of rest at home, a party and the last co-op classes for the semester.  Bring it on!

Linking with:

Weekly Wrap-Up   photo purpFFBut_zps970d6cbe.png Homegrown Learners

Friday, December 5, 2014

Relaxed December School

I hope everyone in the United States had a great Thanksgiving last week and everyone else had a good week too. We officially took a vacation from school work all week, however Amber and Fred did work on her illuminated page project a couple of times for fun.  Somehow it's more fun when Daddy helps.

Sunday evening Amber told me that she was ready for school to start again.  She likes the time off, but felt that her days were too unstructured.  She was also a little bored.  I wasn't going to argue with her at all, but I was feeling pretty lazy and not at all motivated for school to start again. Still, we had a productive school day Monday completing a third of Amber's core hours remaining in the semester.

Most of this week has been interrupted days or days of no school at all.  We only have one more week left on our schedule for the semester and it will be similarly busy.  Monday was our most productive day despite going to the allergist for Amber's weekly shot.  Tuesday we had a lovely day shopping with my mom and sister to celebrate my mom's 75th birthday, but absolutely no school work was accomplished.  Wednesday Amber felt pretty sickly from all the activity on Tuesday, but she pushed through a couple of good hours of school anyway along with attending her flute lesson. Thursday we had co-op elective classes, so while they count for hours they were not the core hours we need to finish the semester.  Today, Friday, Amber and I attended the St. Louis Symphony in the morning, then ran errands on the way home.  This evening Amber and I have Advent by Candlelight at church while Fred is on his own for dinner at home.  I foresee little school happening the rest of today.
(Top-Left) Math at the allergist. (Top-right) LEGO Winter Village. (Bottom-left) Dinner out after a long day. (Bottom-right) Resting and waiting for our other shoppers out in the chilly wind.

To finish the semester, I had set a goal for Amber to complete half of the yearly 600 required core hours.  She has 8.5 hours to go and one week of scheduled time left.  I also would like her to finish our current "season" of Analytical Grammar prior to Christmas break.  She has one week left of grammar, so this should work out. Hopefully.  Finally, I gave her the task of completing her illuminated page project prior to officially declaring Christmas break.  I'm not sure much else will happen this coming week except the 8.5 hours in grammar, history, and maybe German.

Since we are almost done with school for the semester I thought I'd update the status of the other subjects. 

Math (Saxon Algebra 1) still plugging along and most days Amber just reads lesson and does the assignments without my help at all. It is great that she is now at the level where the answers for the odd numbered problems are in the back of the book. Amber checks her odd numbered problems to ensure she is understanding, then the tests are graded by me.  So far this setup is working well for us to reduce math stress and encourage enjoyment of math.

German is still going strong and Amber is able to speak in sentences now.  She is still ahead of the German I class I'm teaching at our co-op, so the poor girl is always my guinea pig with this curriculum. She is conjugating verbs well, understand the accusative case and has a nice little accent going.  If only I could get her to study her vocabulary a little more. 

In Science we are finishing up our weather study and Amber has moved into trying to make her own weather predictions based on knowledge from our resources, patterns learned from reviewing her weather log, and the current conditions.  Amber can come fairly close with predictions, but can't always explain the science to back up her forecast.  We are working on ensuring she doesn't just guess what seems likely, and instead can give a detailed explanation of her forecast.

(Top-left) The finished product for my co-op class, a "coon-skin" cap.  (Top-right) Rough draft / outline of the illuminated page. (Bottom-left) Working on weather predictions.  It's serious work! (Bottom-right) One of her predictions.

For History we are finishing illuminated pages and monasticism. Amber has looked at more examples, researched the history of illuminated works and why mythological creatures were often used.  Amber has been having Fred teach her calligraphy and she's is getting her hang of it now. This week we also had a detailed discussion of A Door in the Wall, which Amber read last month.  She actually quite enjoyed this book and was more than willing to do a miniature literature study on it.

Finally, in literature we have just about finished our study of Beowulf and are ready to move into the Canterbury Tales in January. There is one more little project from Beowulf that we'd like to complete, however it may be pushed off for the high school Beowulf study.

I am so thankful that we are able to reduce our school this month.  Amber has still not quite recovered from Thanksgiving day.  She used every last drop of her energy to keep up with her little cousins on Thanksgiving day.  It took through the Sunday after Thanksgiving for Amber to even function.  Even then on Sunday evening her heart rate was in the 150's and all she did was stand up.  There was no exertion at all.  Then again, her blood pressure at the time was 89/53, so that explains the heart rate but we have no clue why the blood pressure was running so low for a sustained period of time. 

(Left) Amber is ready for Christmas! (Right) Thanksgiving with cousins.

We have so much going on this month that I expect Amber will never quite recover her energy until after Christmas. I'm trying to find ways to provide Amber with complete days of rest between the busy days, but I fear it will mean canceling some events.  Of course, while I'm trying to lessen our commitments, I end up adding appointments for a sick kitty.  Not to mention that Amber is still getting invitations to Christmas parties that she "has to attend".  In regards to the most recent invitation, Amber said of the hostess "She is so nice, but quite shy.  I have to go so she isn't discouraged."  Well, phooey.  How do you turn down that party invitation?

This weekend we plan to help my mom put up her Christmas decorations, Amber is acolyting at church, and she has a birthday party for a friend to attend.  No big deal.

Happy Weekend!

Linking with:

Weekly Wrap-Up   photo purpFFBut_zps970d6cbe.png Homegrown Learners