Monday, October 15, 2018

{Review} St. Bartholomew's Eve - Heirloom Audio Productions

Heirloom Audio Productions has released yet another wonderful audio drama of a G.A. Henty adventure. This time we have been privileged to review St. Bartholomew's Eve, a story that takes place during the Huguenots’ struggles in France. My eleventh grade daughter, Amber, has looked forward to the release of each new audio drama since our first review of one back in seventh grade, and they never disappoint.

Heirloom Audio Productions:

Heirloom Audio Productions has transformed numerous G.A. Henty adventures into their active listening format. These are not simply audio books with a story being read, nor are they quite the same as audio dramas that you may have heard on the radio or as recordings. Instead, active listening audio adventures take quick paced adventures and bring you into the story through sound only. The effects encourage you to create images in your mind, to where you do not even realize there is not a video component. The experience is unlike any other listening format.

We received St. Bartholomew's Eve as a two CD set, however Heirloom Audio Productions also publishes these adventures as MP3s on their website where you can download or listen online. In addition to digital files, Live the Adventure Club provides bonus content for each story in the form of study guides, e-book versions of the G.A. Henty novel, sound tracks, and more. We have been more than pleased in the past with our access to Live the Adventure Club.

G.A. Henty

G.A. Henty was a late 19th century English novelist who mostly wrote historical adventure novels for children. Being well traveled and having spent time in the British army gave Henty some of the perspective needed to write such detailed stories. He also was known to do extensive research prior to writing his historical novels and all use history to teach moral values. That research is the key which has allowed Henty's stories to remain relevant today as vivid, historically accurate (for the most part) tales for all ages.

Unexpected Homeschool: Review of St. Bartholomew's Eve from Heirloom Audio Productions

St. Bartholomew's Eve

The entire 2-CD set is roughly two and one half hours long and can easily be completed in one session, although our schedule meant Amber needed two different days to complete her listening. The summary of the story below is my synopsis based on the notes Amber took while listening. A common theme in Henty's books is perseverance and staying true to one's beliefs. This retelling is no different.

(Based on Amber's notes)
The story of St. Bartholomew's Eve revolves around the French Wars of Religion and is set about 50 years after Martin Luther began the Reformation. The main character is a 16 year old boy from Canterbury who is visiting his French family. There he is learning to fight and ride along side his older cousin, Francois, and hopes to join the Huguenots (the French Protestants) in their fight for freedom of religion.

The two heroes, Philip and Francois, are involved in subterfuge to arm the tenants of Francois' family to defend their lands while the family travels for the Huguenot cause. The heroes arrive at the chateau of Admiral Coligny, where they learn of plans to capture the king of France and negotiate the dismissal of the anti-Huguenot council. This does not go as planned, and the king escapes.

Philip and Francois then join with another cousin of Francois, Count de la Noue, to take down the Catholic opposition in smaller town before meeting up outside of Paris with Admiral Coligny and Prince Conde, who had the original plan to capture the king. During the ensuing battle, our heroes must defend Prince Conde until the Catholic army is pushed back into Paris.

Unexpected Homeschool: Review of St. Bartholomew's Eve from Heirloom Audio Productions
Amber's notes
Philip, Francois, and Count de la Noue next travel south to inform another group of Huguenots of their reasoning for abandoning the attack on Paris. The journey is fraught with danger since there are many Catholic spies in the homes of those who support the Huguenots. The Count and Francois are captured on the way to meet with a potential supporter, while Philip and their remaining men are forced to hide. A young Huguenot boy helps Philip and his group to capture the Catholic leaders of the town and release their Huguenot captives, including the Count and Francois.

Eventually, our group must return to the home of Francois' family to defend it against the Catholic army. After several rounds the enemy retreats. However, our group of fighters then goes on to help in another battle and are injured. Their recovery takes over a year.

The situation in France grows more desperate for the Huguenots with the French Queen Mother and Duke of Guise plotting to eliminate all leaders of the Huguenots. The French king eventually acquiesces to the pressure. The Catholics carry out the massacre of 70,000 Huguenots, including Admiral Coligny. Our heroes manage to save some Huguenots, but in the end Francois also dies.

How we use audio dramas

After many years of enjoying the Henty stories brought to life by Heirloom Audio Productions, our method of use for these adventures has evolved. Once upon a time, Amber and I listened to them together while utilizing the study guides as discussion points. We then progressed to both of us listening, or me popping in and out, and Amber using the study guide as an outline to keep her focused.

Most recently, in high school, I rarely listen in, because Amber prefers to do her work more independently. The audio dramas now function as a unique history lesson and practice session for note taking. Amber has even moved away from taking notes on her iPad and chooses to listen through her computer while taking notes directly with word processing software. 

Unexpected Homeschool: Review of St. Bartholomew's Eve from Heirloom Audio Productions

Amber appreciates the change in lesson style that the audio drama provides, and the opportunity to work on tasks that can be difficult for a student who is not even remotely an auditory learner. She struggles with comprehension when there is only an auditory component, and we are always looking for ways to incorporate practice time of the tools taught in Amber's occupational therapy sessions. A definite plus to the Heirloom Audio active listening stories are their compelling action and feeling of complete submersion into the drama.

Amber was able to complete the entire audio drama in two sessions, each at the end of her regular school day, which made for a refreshing last subject. Amber no longer has a high school history course left to complete for which the Henty dramas can be included, however we were able to put the time toward her general practical arts credits for the practice of her OT goals.

We have thoroughly enjoyed every single audio drama from Heirloom Audio Productions, and are a little sad that this may have been our last one given Amber's grade and time commitments.

Take a look at the other Heirloom Audio Productions adventures we have reviewed:



Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew also reviewed St. Bartholomew's Eve. Please follow the link in the graphic below to read their thoughts.

St. Bartholomew's Eve {Heirloom Audio Reviews}

Friday, October 12, 2018

Weekly Update: Being Responsible

These past couple of weeks I have been in a flare of basically every one of my chronic conditions, which I am not going to list out here. Suffice it to say, calming Sjogren's has been my primary goal. That generally requires following all of my doctors' recommendations perfectly, and resting. Lots of resting.

I'm not good at resting. 

Milori and Rosetta aren't good at resting either. 
I had great plans to spend days at home lounging around while Amber worked on school. I had planned to go over lessons with her and simply rest. Yet my brain can't be calm or inactive, so we ended up leaving the house for something every single day the past two weeks except for today. It was utterly ridiculous and at the same time so needed. I wasn't quite sick enough to lounge about during the school days.

I have been eating an assortment of bland food and avoiding all liquids except water and a little bit of stevia sweetened tea. I'm currently thankful for potatoes that I tolerate well. Is it actually possible to live on potatoes, and bananas?

While I was trying to be restful and contemplating what needed to be done, I finally was able to discern why our schedule felt so hectic. I even came upon a solution, which should have been perfectly obvious, yet I had been too rushed and focused elsewhere to see the situation properly.

You shall not pass. (That's actually what he was doing too. I was not to leave the room)
The issue was in my enforcement of Amber's game time, bedtime, and morning wake time. I was so busy with all that I needed to do, that I let her just game when her school day was over. So she did. Unfortunately, that left almost no time for things she should be doing outside of school time. Additionally, I did not enforce usage of her planner, so she honestly didn't remember her extended assignments. She was going to bed too late, getting up late in the morning and then short on time for even her regular school day. Not to mention, I was then equally tired and short on time for my errands. 

We spent most of last Wednesday relearning how to use the planner, then scheduling out when she could possibly work on her assignments and other daily activities, like flute practice and cardio exercise. The crux of our problem though has been our schedule or lack there of. We discussed why I have been having problems enforcing the game time and a good way to help us both keep to our agreed time frame. Amber now has an alarm for school nights that tells her when to stop gaming (or any other activity) and begin her bedtime routine. This also means I need to begin my night routine too, because we both have alarms for a reasonable time in the morning.

Since all good intentions often get forgotten if we don't put them into practice immediately, we began with the new schedule that evening. It was rather an adjustment, however we all survived and Thursday was an impressively productive day. She simply needed an earlier start to the day, and an outline of what needs to be done before she is free to do as she pleases each day. She has kept up with her co-op assignments, but home assignments were getting missed as well as a few other random activities, because she was looking to me to tell her when school was over for the day instead of tracking her assignments.

I will work with Amber still on Sundays to create her schedule for the coming week, just as I do for myself. She will need to remember to add to this schedule during the week or to move tasks that were not completed as planned. I have promised Amber and myself that I will be a stickler for seeing the planner used in order to assist her in being more organized and to make better use of her time. 

Amber will now be taking even more responsibility for her schedule and tasks, and I took responsibility for my part in the problems we had in that area. Unfortunately, this past week was a hard one to stick to the schedule. We both have had terrible headaches from the abrupt change in seasons, and very little motivation as a result. Thankfully, it's Friday and we can start afresh next week.

Lesson Summaries:

1. Amber has been practicing diligently for an upcoming flute performance at the King's Faire the local arts group has scheduled in early November. She is playing an array of songs in a specific area, and then performs during the actual show time too.
2. I've spent an inordinate amount of time learning about professional level flutes and Amber has been trying out various mid-level flutes of a few brands. Unfortunately, our local store does not carry the professional level instrument and cannot get them in for Amber to try any of the models. We did find a store in the metro area that has everything Amber could ever want and will even be hosting an expo in November at the community college around the corner from us. At this point we've narrowed down Amber's new flute to a probably brand and model, but it can't hurt to try a few others at the expo. This might actually be more difficult than when we bought the grand piano.

1. Amber is deep into writing her novel in creative writing and it's taking a good part of each day when I give her school time for creative writing.
2. Research writing at co-op (taught by me), is almost boring Amber to tears because she is such a creative writer. It's good for her.
3. Grammar continues on smoothly and on schedule.

1. Not much to say, except she's on schedule and still is fairly uninterested in American history, although at this point in high school she does not have many social studies type classes left to take and simply needs to push through to finish American history.

1. Amber definitely does not like chemistry.
2. Amber definitely does not like math in chemistry.
3. Amber is keeping up with the chemistry homework and actually has an A- in the class.
4. Teaching chemistry weekly from our house to Amber and a few of her friends is the best way we could have attempted this subject. It keeps Amber motivated and she has the benefit of the questions her friends ask. I also really enjoy chemistry and it's kinda fun.

1. Amber definitely does not like geometry.
2. See above.

1. Greek remains Amber's favorite language. It progresses.
2. German is still boring to Amber. It also progresses.

Co-op Classes:
1. Amber likes her art class and has kept up with the assignments.
2. Drama class is more like a fun break for Amber. She chose not to audition for a part, and instead is just taking whatever part is assigned this year, as long as it is not a lead part.
3. She's learning some needful things Home Economics, even if she doesn't realize it. Some of it she knew already, but it's hard to teach a class like this when the kids are all over the place in their practical knowledge.

And that's about it from here for the first part of October.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

September Update: Was I Always this Busy?

High school is an extraordinarily busy and exciting time, or at least the junior year is for my daughter. However, that doesn't necessarily translate into anything interesting to post on here. 

Amber has been spending a lot of her free time with her friends: going to the zoo, a corn maze, fall formal dress shopping, etc. She's also just been hanging out with friends and playing board games. Then there is her near daily video game time. She plays online with many of those same friends when she isn't meeting up with them in person. 

I was getting a little concerned about the quantity of time she spent playing video games online with her friends until she pointed out that she had already been playing equally often in recent years, except she played one-person games on the PS4. Hmm. Well, fair point. 

Art class assignment
Amber balances fairly well her assignments, music lessons and practices, and family time (maybe this one could be better... maybe we aren't making family time easy either with us all doing our own thing). At any rate, she is learning to manage her own commitments and entertainment. One area she needs to still address is long-term assignments. Those sometimes fall by the side until I force the issue. It has nothing to do with the gaming though, since she will sit and read rather than work on those long-term assignments some days. It's another issue all together. 

It's hard to explain, but junior year feels busy. Maybe it is actually the excitement of being 16, turning 17, and knowing that she is well and truly an upper class high school student. Amber's lessons do not feel like they are taking more time than before. In truth, she has completed so many of her credits that we might even be taking less time than before. She does have more after-lesson-time assignments though. This means she has assignments to finish outside of our active school lesson time. It's up to her to find the time to complete the assignments. Still, I don't see that as contributing to the busy feeling.

Biscotti - looking regal
All of Amber's classes are progressing on schedule - nothing is behind. Our weekly chemistry class with her friends is going well and I think Amber enjoys it more than she wants to let on. No, she doesn't enjoy chemistry, but if one has to take the class then this might be the best option. Co-op classes are all moving along smoothly. This coming week is our first break week from co-op, which will make a nice time to catch up on some housework and lesson plan for the rest of the semester. 

Amber still has not decided if she will attempt the ACT this year (or even next year). On one hand, she wants to be courageous enough to take the test. On the other hand, she knows it will be stressful and is not necessary for her college plans. 

Managing stress is one of the important methods Amber uses to keep her EDS and dysautonomia symptoms under control. Perhaps under control is not the correct phrase... she can't honestly control when her joints with dislocate or sublux nor can she control her dysautonomia. She can manage her conditions to keep the symptoms to a minimum while increasing her functional percentages. We're so happy she has remained at this recent higher level of functionality, despite the invasive oral surgery this summer. We still do have to encourage Amber to keep up her exercise, and remind her of her fluids and meds. I'm sure it gets old to be constantly reminded, but so does the pain and exhaustion.

Rosetta - such attitude.
That's pretty much the update from around here. Homeschooling remains to be effective and enjoyable, although it's not that interesting to read about at this point in our lives.