Monday, October 18, 2021

October Authors: Books and Stories to Read During the Fall

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo: October Authors: Books and Stories to Read During the Fall; bat background; black pumpkin

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

For many, the month of October means that they will be getting out their scary books to read but not so much for this homeschool mom anymore. At one time, I really enjoyed reading scary books like those written by popular, mainstream authors. Today, I find that I shy away from those authors and books more and more. But it is nice to be able to read a few books and stories that fit the typical theme of October. 

What Would You Consider a Classic Scary Story? 

What scares people today seems to be very different from years past. Maybe it is because of the technology we have at our fingertips. Or perhaps people are too jaded. Maybe it is the chronological snobbery where people believe that what came before them is no longer relevant. Personally, I think there is still much horror to be found in the works of Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Oscar Wilde, H.P. Lovecraft, Gaston Leroux, Robert Louis Stevenson, and others. 

The common themes in many of these works include: 

  • Premature death
  • Loss of loved ones
  • Loss of freedom
  • Loss of control
  • Revenge 
  • Defying natural order 
  • Insignificance of man 
  • Current events 
Some of these authors base their works on historical events like The Phantom of the Opera and The Pit and the Pendulum, while others – like Lovecraft – created their own pseudo-mythology named "Cthulhu Mythos" (named after Lovecraft's death). We may find in these stories traditional horror or supernatural tropes such as vampires, ghosts, and werewolves, or we read of scientists, handsome men, or orangutans. There is no right or wrong when it comes to the character at the heart of these tales. Each theme and character offers something different to scare us.

How Does Science Connect Scary Stories? 

One final thread between many of these authors and stories is that of science. It is very obvious in both Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde how scientific discoveries and events of the day inspired the authors. Other works might need to be examined more closely as they may be less familiar, but we do see science impact Poe in The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar. This work was even published in a medical journal. At the time, people were fascinated with mesmerism. Many horror or supernatural stories walk the line with science fiction. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach: October Authors: Books and Stories to Read During the Fall; Edgar Allan Poe Books on bat background

Making Movies 

Many are familiar with these classic books and stories because of the movies. I would argue that many of these classic stories will continue to hold their importance in pop culture – even if with lesser and lesser numbers – because many have been turned into movies. Previously, I shared a number of posts that examine the works of Edgar Allan Poe on the silver screen, including those featuring Vincent Price. But he isn't the only author who inspired Hollywood. In fact, I have three versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sitting next to me as I prepare this post. (I am currently watching the 1941 one with Spencer Tracy at present.) 

But just as Poe's work was very popular, Frankenstein continues to be a popular source of inspiration for movies from the Universal 1931 classic with Boris Karloff to more recent ones with Kenneth Branagh, Sting, and the creature's appearance in Van Helsing with Hugh Jackman. Some are more accurate and stick to the original plotline of Mary Shelley's book more than others, but that goes for any movie based upon a novel or story. At the heart of all of them, though, we do see a scientist who has gone too far. 

Another tale that has inspired movies, books written years later as sequels, and a musical is The Phantom of the Opera. Whether you want to focus upon the crimes of the Phantom or see him as a sad, lost soul seeking love, the story is intriguing. A young and upcoming opera singer disappears to the depths of the Paris Opera House, and her fiancĂ©e and a mysterious man known as the Persian must find her. They must rescue her from the Phantom. Whether the role is played by Lon ChaneyClaude Rains, Charles Dance, Michael Crawford, Gerard Butler, or Ben Lewis, he loses his love – Christine – and becomes a horror figure in pop culture.

two Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde DVDs with A Mom's Quest to Teach logo

What Books or Stories to Read? 

I would challenge you to find time in October each year to read the classic scary stories. You can pick one or two novels or read a handful of short stories if that fits your schedule better. I'll list them here plus share the list as a graphic, so you can save it for future reference. Have fun reading! 

Short Stories by Edgar Allan Poe 

  • The Fall of the House of Usher 
  • The Murders in the Rue Morgue 
  • The Masque of the Red Death 
  • The Pit and the Pendulum
  • The Tell-Tale Heart 
  • The Black Cat 
  • The Cask of Amontillado 
  • Hop-Frog 

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; short stories list of Edgar Allan Poe

Novels and Stories 

  • The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux 
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson 
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker 
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving 

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; classic scary stories list

Friday, October 8, 2021

Building Spelling Confidence: A Review of Spelling You See - Level D

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  Building Spelling Confidence: A Review of Spelling You See - Level D with faded photo of the materials

I received Spelling You See - Level D at a 50% discount from Timberdoodle in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

We have tried a few different approaches to helping our younger son master spelling, from creating our own spelling lists using his current literature assignments or science units to picking words he is consistently spelling wrong in homeschool and outside homeschool assignments. Nothing seemed to be sticking with him. 

Over the summer, I researched several different options and looked at Spelling You See again. I had passed over the earlier levels because our son learned how to read and write at an early age. So even with the Readiness Guidelines that Spelling You See provides, I was unsure if I should start with levels A, B, or C. This year Level D seemed to be the perfect fit. We are studying American History. And Level D - Americana seemed to provide a challenge but also allow our son to build his spelling confidence.  

When Timberdoodle offered us the opportunity to purchase the Spelling You See - Level D curriculum at a 50% discount in exchange for a review, it seemed like the perfect time to try this spelling curriculum. And as it is part of the 2021 Third Grade Curriculum Kit at Timberdoodle, it also seemed like a great idea to pick this level for our son. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  Building Spelling Confidence: A Review of Spelling You See - Level D - Spelling books

What Is Spelling You See? 

Spelling You See takes a multi-sensory approach to teaching spelling through writing, reading, speaking, and listening. It was invited by Dr. Karen Holinga, a former teacher, to allow students to build confidence and develop spelling skills at their own pace. There are no spelling lists. Instead, there are reading passages with everyday words for your child to practice their spelling skills. 

What Is Part of the Curriculum from Timberdoodle? 

If you purchase Spelling You See - Level D, you will receive the following items: 

  • Instructor's Handbook 
  • Student Workbook, Part 1 
  • Student Workbook, Part 2
  • Colored Pencils 

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  Building Spelling Confidence: A Review of Spelling You See - Level D  - Instructor's Manual with pen

Instructor's Handbook 

The slim 52-page Instructor's Handbook provides all the information you need to smoothly run the lessons with Spelling You See. In it, you can read about the philosophy behind Spelling You See, the five developmental stages of spelling, the sequence for Spelling You See, and general information about the level you purchased. 

After the general introduction, the Instructor's Handbook provides instructions for the lessons, which are grouped together based upon chunks: 
  • Vowels 
  • Consonants 
  • Bossy r 
  • Tricky y 
  • Endings 
  • Silent Letters 
The weekly activity guide is explained, which consists of guided reading, chunking, copywork, and two levels of dictation. The material needed for the dictation is printed separately from the answer key for the chunking. If you want to learn more, there is a glossary and bibliography, as well as access to online videos. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  Building Spelling Confidence: A Review of Spelling You See - Level D  - Student Workbook with student working

Student Workbooks 

The lessons for your child are split into two workbooks – Part 1 and Part 2. Each part contains 18 lessons for a total of 36 lessons for your homeschool year. The pages are thick and colorful. Each of the paperback books has over 180 pages. Each daily lesson has two pages dedicated to it. The story is on the left-hand side, while the page for your child to write the passage is on the right. For those days when you are doing dictation, you merely cover the left-hand side.

Some of the stories included in Spelling You See - Level D are: 
  • Pilgrims arriving in the New World 
  • The story of Lewis and Clark 
  • Information about the Liberty Bell 
  • Explanation of Poor Richard's Almanac 
  • The usefulness of the buffalo 
  • The gift of the Statue of Liberty 
  • Information about the American Civil War 
  • Biographical information about Paul Revere, Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Boone, Martin Luther King, Jr., Johnny Appleseed, and more 

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  Building Spelling Confidence: A Review of Spelling You See - Level D - student workbook showing chunking

How We Use Spelling You See - Level D in Our Homeschool Day 

We work on completing our spelling assignments during the week. So, Monday through Friday, our son completes lessons A through E. If we miss a day, we sometimes complete it during the weekend even though the book does say if you don't finish, you may go ahead to the next set of lessons the next week. So if we didn't finish 9E, we could jump to 10A on Monday. I usually only skip one day of dictation as I feel it is important to practice spelling the words without seeing them at least once. 

Sometimes, we complete the spelling lessons first thing in our homeschool day, as our son likes to get it out of the way. Other times, I need to save it for the end of the homeschool day because he needs me to work through the lessons. But no matter what time we complete our spelling lessons, they have become an integral part of our homeschool day.

Day One starts with reading the story and working together to find all the chunks. These can be vowel chunks (aa, ae, ai, ea, oa, etc.), consonant chunks (ch, gh, wr, etc.), bossy r chunks (ar, er, etc.), or others. These are marked in different colors. The chunking provides hands-on experience with irregular letter patterns in English. After the chunking is completed, our son copies the story and chunks it again. 

Day Two and Three follow the same pattern. I usually help him less each day as our son looks for the chunks. He then copies the story again. The copywork should be timed to ten minutes. 

On the last two days of the week, we read the story, mark chunks, and then I dictate the story for our son to write down. On the first dictation day, I assist him with his spelling. I ask him if he is sure about a word or if he wants to try writing it differently to see if that spelling is correct. On the second day, I do not provide much assistance as he writes the story. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  Building Spelling Confidence: A Review of Spelling You See - Level D - student working in student workbook

What We Think 

I have mixed feelings about Spelling You See - Level D. I love the fact that it includes nonfiction stories about American history and culture. The tie-in to our history curriculum is terrific. The stories provide a way to not only focus on vocabulary but also to introduce new facts and review ideas with our son. 

I appreciate the philosophy – that children work through five stages of development and not focus upon memorization of spelling words. We tried that route, and it didn't seem to work for our son. As we are only nine weeks into Spelling You See, it is hard to see how much progress our son has made. There are some weeks where he corrects mistakes from dictation day 1 to the second dictation day, but then there are a few words he continues spelling wrong, like British. 

There is not a lot of prep work required on my part as a parent. I just need to review a few paragraphs for the lessons as we progress through the different chunking lessons. I also like that there is one Instructor's Guide but two Student Workbooks. It makes it easier to keep track of the materials. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  Building Spelling Confidence: A Review of Spelling You See - Level D  - student workbooks

I asked our son his feelings about the curriculum, and here are his thoughts: 

Q. Is it difficult? Too easy? Too hard? 
A. It can get a little difficult once you are starting a new story or part. The first day can be hard as the new words are introduced. The dictation days are also hard. 

Q. Do you think it is helping you with your spelling? 
A. It may not be helping with spelling, but it is helping me find the chunks. (He is finding the vowel, consonant, and other chunks in his other homeschool assignments. Whether he realizes it or not, I think this is helping him with his spelling.)

Q. What is your favorite part about the curriculum? 
A. I like all the different colorful parts where I have to chunk more than one thing. I am looking forward to reading about Thanksgiving because it will remind me of the best food ever – turkey. 

Will we use Spelling You See - Level E next year? I am not sure yet. I don't think I have found anything I want to use instead of Spelling You See, but I think we need to evaluate the curriculum around the 30-week lesson with our son. Would I recommend Spelling You See - Level D? Yes, I would recommend it. I think it might be easier if you were able to start with the lower levels, but I think that our homeschool year will be enriched by the use of this curriculum. 

Looking for More Homeschool Resources from Timberdoodle? 

We've had the opportunity to review several materials from Timberdoodle, including a literature curriculum, fun games like Battle Sheep, and a unique puzzle

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  Building Spelling Confidence: A Review of Spelling You See - Level D  - spelling workbook, Battle Sheep Game, Mosdos Lit books

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

October Movies: Making a Plan for Fall Evenings

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  October Movies: Making a Plan for Fall Evenings with bat background and pumpkin clip art

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Finding something to watch on TV has been a challenge in recent years. During the month of October, I like to turn to my favorite movies from Vincent Price. While I used to enjoy a larger selection of 'horror' movies in the past, I find that, as I get older, I like my scary movies to be less gory and less scary. So, very often, Vincent Price movies make for a great choice. 

Movies Based Upon Edgar Allan Poe Tales 

Many of the movies in which Vincent Price starred were loosely based upon the works of Edgar Allan Poe. As a fan of the 19th-century author (and being a former volunteer at the Edgar Allan Poe Site), I have always enjoyed watching these movies and comparing and contrasting them to the actual poem or short story. Many of these movies are brought to viewers by Roger Corman (who is known for low-budget movies, which oftentimes had a huge impact).

Part of the reason why Roger Corman made the series of eight movies based upon Edgar Allan Poe stories and poems is because, as Corman stated in How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood, "Poe has a built-in audience. He's read in every high school" (78). If you watch all eight Poe movies by Corman, you may notice similarities as he reused sets and scenes in each film. 

The Tomb of Ligeia 

In the original short story by Edgar Allan Poe published in 1838, the narrator of the story is in love with and marries Ligeia, who eventually falls ill and dies. After a brief period, he moves to England and remarries. His second wife falls ill after a time, and it is with her illness and death that we read of an unusual occurrence.  

According to the Fun Facts of the double feature DVD, "Roger Corman referred to the movie as the biggest and most exciting of his eight Edgar Allan Poe adaptions." To be honest, this one does not rank high on my list, as I do not watch it as often as some of the other movies. 

An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe 

On Side B of the double feature with The Tomb of Ligeia is An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe, where Vincent Price narrates four tales of Edgar Allan Poe: 

  • The Tell-Tale Heart 
  • The Sphinx
  • The Cask of Amontillado 
  • The Pit and the Pendulum 
This is another movie that I do not often watch, but two of the four tales are among my favorite Poe short stories. From the "beating of his hideous heart" to the thousand injuries born by the narrator of The Cask of Amontillado, these are perfect stories of revenge and madness. And both The Tell-Tale Heart and The Cask of Amontillado really do lend themselves for reading aloud. 

The Oblong Box 

The story of The Oblong Box centers around the narration of a voyage from Charleston, South Carolina to New York City. The box of the title is a piece of baggage of Cornelius Wyatt, his wife, and his two sisters. It has a very peculiar shape and emits a strange odor, but no one on board the vessel knows what is in it. Readers will discover the answer to the mystery when reading this short story. 

Two horror legends team up in The Oblong Box directed by Gordon Hessler. Vincent Price stars as a plantation owner, and Christopher Lee plays a doctor. While the movie takes common themes from Poe stories such as premature burial, there is also a voodoo theme woven into this movie. 

The Raven 

The original poem is probably very familiar to many. A man mourns the loss of his love, Lenore, and a raven visits him and taunts him in his sadness. The movie would only loosely use this theme, as it brought together three of the most well-known and popular horror legends of the day – Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, and Peter Lorre.  This particular Roger Corman movie is more of a comedy than a horror movie, as Price and Karloff are two dueling wizards.  For a movie shot in just three weeks, though, it does exhibit a great production for the money and time spent on it. 

It is interesting to note that the three main actors all had very different acting styles. Peter Lorre was more extemporaneous, as Corman noted, and Lorre would improvise. Price was trained classically, so he tended to do scenes exactly as they were scripted, but he was open to changes. Karloff, on the other hand, as Corman shared, "knew his lines and expected to do his scenes as written and no other way" (85). It is also entertaining to see how these three actors, along with Jack Nicholson, came together to make the movie. 

The Haunted Palace 

The original poem was originally released separately but was then incorporated into The Fall of the House of Usher by Poe. The Haunted Palace describes an ideal and exotic setting where art flourishes among the royals. However, there is eventually sorrow, and death finds its way.

Even though this Corman film is entitled after the Poe poem – and even uses some of the stanzas within the movie – The Haunted Palace is actually based upon the H.P. Lovecraft novella, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. The back of my VHS tape describes the plot of the movie as showing a grandson whose ancestor was kidnapping young girls and was eventually burned alive. This grandson, Charles Dexter Ward, returns to the village and is suspected by the villagers of doing evil himself. "Will Charles Dexter Ward, and the villagers, survive the evil that lurks in the darkness of that Haunted Palace?" 

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  October Movies: Making a Plan for Fall Evenings - background bat clip art and photo of The Last Man on Earth DVD

Other Horror Films 

Scream and Scream Again 

This 1969 movie brings together Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing in a movie where madmen are attempting to take over the world. This is another Price movie that I do not watch every year as it does cross a bit more into the horror side than I prefer now. 

Theater of Blood 

This black comedy inspired me to read many William Shakespeare plays that I had not read yet in school or after college. In 1973, Vincent Price and Diana Rigg star as a father and daughter team who seek revenge upon the "nine London critics who denied him the Best Actor of the Year Award."  Price, as Edward Lionheart, uses the murders in Shakespearean plays as models for the murders of the critics.

Movies That Have Had Remakes 

House on Haunted Hill 

Another film director who brought many B-movies to the screen is William Castle, who directed House on Haunted Hill. In this story, Price stars as an eccentric millionaire who wishes to do away with his greedy, gold-digging wife. He invites several supposedly random individuals to a birthday party for his wife in which they are all locked in the haunted house. The guest who survives the night will win $10,000. Plot twists make for an interesting movie. 

William Castle also directed another Vincent Price movie that employed a different gimmick from House on Haunted Hill (which had a skeleton fly through the theater on a wire). The Tingler was a movie in which a creature attached itself to the spine of a human. It came alive when the person was scared and destroyed with screaming. In locations where The Tingler played, technicians attached objects to the bottom of some theater seats that would vibrate to scare the viewers. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  October Movies: Making a Plan for Fall Evenings - House on Haunted Hill DVD and skeleton clipart

The Last Man on Earth 

This is such an interesting look at vampires. Price stars at scientist Robert Morgan who is immune to the plague that has swept across the world. The victims of the plague are transformed into vampires who seek out the blood of Morgan. As The Last Man on Earth, Morgan wanders around empty streets and fortifies his home against the nightly attacks while also trying to destroy those who might wake as vampires. 

The movie was based upon the 1954 novel by Richard Matheson, I am Legend, which was adapted two other times and inspired many of the popular television series and movies in the zombie/vampire genre. 

House of Wax 

This is one of my favorites starring Vincent Price. Even with all the hokey 3D parts – the man playing with a paddle ball or throwing popcorn at the audience – the movie is still a wonderful production, mixing horror and sadness. The movie was based upon the 1933 movie, Mystery of the Wax Museum, and has been remade since (which I refuse to watch due to its focus on gore). 

More and More Movies 

There are many more movies starring Vincent Price that are part of my collection. From my old VHS tapes that I am slowly trying to replace to the classic releases of the more popular movies, there are many good ones such as The House of the Seven Gables, The Bat, and The Masque of the Red Death. And if you are interested in just some of Price's smaller roles, don't forget to check out Edward Scissorhands and Michael Jackson's Thriller. Do you have any favorite Vincent Price movies?

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  October Movies: Making a Plan for Fall Evenings - Vincent Price DVD boxes

Friday, September 17, 2021

Building Reading Comprehension and Fluency Skills: A Review of Mosdos Press Literature - Opal

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  Building Reading Comprehension and Fluency Skills: A Review of Mosdos Press Literature - Opal with background photo of the curriculum.

I received a copy of this curriculum from Timberdoodle for a 50% discount in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

For our younger son's third grade year, I did a lot of research into what type of language arts program or materials I wanted to use with him. I knew I did not want to piece together something myself from books we read together or use solely unit studies. These are both valid ways to improve reading comprehension and fluency skills, but I wanted something different for his third grade homeschool year.

I read and watched several reviews of Mosdos Press Literature before I made the decision that I wanted to try their Opal edition this year with our son. As part of the Timberdoodle Blog Team, I was fortunate enough to receive a 50% discount in exchange for my honest review of these language arts materials. 

Description of Product 

  • 2 Teacher's Editions – spiralbound
  • 2 Student Textbooks – hardcover
  • 1 Student Activity Workbook – softcover

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  Building Reading Comprehension and Fluency Skills: A Review of Mosdos Press Literature - Opal with photograph of the curriculum

Teacher's Editions 

While the Teacher's Edition has a classroom feel to it – describing the steps the manual takes to help you teach the same thing next year – and discusses possible classroom activities, a homeschooling family can easily adapt the lessons. I really appreciate that it is also homeschool-friendly, too. 

The Teacher's Edition has 12 parts: 

  • Scope and Sequence 
  • Lessons in Literature 
  • Reviewing Vocabulary 
  • Getting Started 
  • Selection Summary 
  • Blueprint for Reading 
  • Guiding the Reading 
  • Literacy Components 
  • Tie-In Poems 
  • Studying the Selection 
  • Jill's Journal 
  • Teacher's Answer Guide for the Workbook Activities 

The lessons are split between six units which are organized between the two Teacher's Editions and the Student Textbooks. The Student Activity Workbook is used for both units. Your student only has to flip the book over the second unit. 

  • Unit One: All About the Story! 
  • Unit Two: All About the Plot! 
  • Unit Three: All About the Characters! 
  • Unit Four: All About Setting! 
  • Unit Five: All About Theme! 
  • Unit Six: The Grand Finale! 

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  Building Reading Comprehension and Fluency Skills: A Review of Mosdos Press Literature - Opal with teacher's edition open

My Thoughts on the Teacher's Edition 

We are about halfway through Unit One after using the language arts curriculum for several weeks. I am finding it very easy to prepare for each reading selection. The largest amount of prep time on my part is reading the selection summary, getting started portion, and the eyes on focus each week. After this initial prep, I can easily assist our son as he completes vocabulary exercises in his workbook, answers the literal and analytical guided reading questions, and answers the closing questions in his notebook. 

I love the fact that the Student Textbook is part of the Teacher's Edition. I am easily able to point out key details in his text without having to look over our son's shoulder. The quality of the paper of the Teacher's Edition is thick, which reinforces the idea that these books are meant to last for a classroom teacher or a homeschooling teacher using them through the years to teach reading comprehension and fluency skills. 

A key component to the Teacher's Edition that helps me ensure that our son understands and comprehends what he has read is the Guiding the Reading questions. For each reading selection, there is a series of questions on each page that check for understanding. Questions might ask for a specific detail such as "What did the plane have to fly over in order to reach America?" Other questions require our son to think deeper about the story and sometimes make predictions when asked, "Can you guess where the ship was headed?" 

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  Building Reading Comprehension and Fluency Skills: A Review of Mosdos Press Literature - Opal - previewing the material in the Teacher's Edition
Previewing the material for the next reading selection

Student Textbooks 

Our Student Textbooks have that wonderful new book smell! The pages are colorful, and the text is easy to read. Each unit follows a similar setup, so children who enjoy consistency will find the textbooks easy to navigate and use while working on reading comprehension and fluency skills. 

With the Lesson in Literature, our son has learned about the elements of a story, plot, characters, and setting so far as he reads his textbook. This is done using short selections and key questions. Next comes the Blueprint for Reading in his book and a description of the focus of the reading selection. For example, in A Cane in Her Hand, the focus was on characters. We talked about the main character of the story, Valerie, and how she felt and reacted to events in her life. After the reading selection closes, there is a brief description of the author. This is followed by a prose piece before the final set of questions on the reading selection in the textbook. 

Just like the Teacher's Edition, the Student Textbook is divided into two parts with the Sunflower book having units 1 to 3 and the Daisy book having units 4 to 6. I found having the material split between two textbooks is helpful because the book is more manageable for our son to carry around and read away from the dining room table. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  Building Reading Comprehension and Fluency Skills: A Review of Mosdos Press Literature - Opal - Life on Mars in the Student Textbook
Reviewing setting

I really like that the selections chosen are varied. We have read and will read works of literature that include: 
  • The tale of a Pueblo Indian girl 
  • The story of two young boys in Mexico 
  • A story of a young blind girl 
  • A Goldrush story 
  • A tale about a young Korean girl who moves to America 
  • A story taking place during the American Revolution 
  • A story taking place on the journey of the Mayflower 
  • Children searching for frogs 
  • And more! 

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  Building Reading Comprehension and Fluency Skills: A Review of Mosdos Press Literature - Opal - Working in the Student Activity Workbook

Student Activity Workbook 

The Mosdos Literature Opal Student Activity Workbook is two-sided. For 99 pages, our son will use the Sunflower side and then flip it for the remaining 97 pages to use the Daisy side. While I like having the two textbooks, I am glad that the workbook is combined into one book. 

Just like the other two books, the Student Activity Workbook has thick pages which allow for erasures of mistakes without tearing the page. The pages are primarily green (Sunflower side) or blue (Daisy side) with some color illustrations scattered throughout. There is a glossary of vocabulary words at the end which I recently discovered. I can't wait to point that out to our son! This will help as he works on his reading fluency and learns new vocabulary with each reading selection.

Each story selection has several worksheets associated with it, including: 
  • Two vocabulary activities 
  • More About the Story 
  • Language Arts Activity 
  • Graphic Organizer 

Another helpful part of the workbook is the reference to the accompanying textbook page at the bottom of the workbook page. If our son has difficulty with a question, he can easily look back in his textbook for an answer or idea. Being able to go back to the textbook helps provide a way for our son to check how accurately he understands the story. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  Building Reading Comprehension and Fluency Skills: A Review of Mosdos Press Literature - Opal - the workbook references the textbook

Our Son's Thoughts 

When asking our son his thoughts, here is what he shared: "It helps me learn words I do not know yet." (Can you tell we were discussing vocabulary words today?) 

His favorite story so far is A Cane in Her Hand. He liked the story of Valerie. He really likes the ending, "Seeing with your eyes is important, but it isn't everything." He quoted that to me without the use of the book. 

He enjoyed completing one page in particular in the Student Activity Workbook: A Conversation. In this activity, he needed to fill in the missing parts of the conversation that was happening at a support group for the visually impaired. Valerie was a new member of that group and he needed to write down two things she would say in response to the other members. For example, when he had to write what Valerie would share as an introduction he wrote, "Well, when I got up, I couldn't find my new clothes. Everything was coming out of a dark fog." 

And, finally, when I asked him to flip through his Sunflower Textbook to look for what story he was excited about reading next, he picked the one we will start this week – Boom Town. It was either the bright colors of the illustrations that got his attention or the apple pie. Or maybe the fact that a lot of the vocabulary are words that we could relate back to Minecraft. For whatever reason, he can't wait to start reading it. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  Building Reading Comprehension and Fluency Skills: A Review of Mosdos Press Literature - Opal - I love the questions

In Conclusion 

While the main focus of this curriculum is building reading comprehension, fluency skills, vocabulary, and more skills connected to the language arts, there are also a number of unique assignments included with each reading selection that go beyond just reading and writing. For example, in the first selection, The Jar of Tassai, one of the two final questions said to "find an empty jar. Clean it well and decorate it. Fill it with something you like, such as candy or small pieces of a game." Another Creating and Writing question asks students to design an ad for a business that would have been in existence during the Gold Rush. Our son appreciates the opportunity to go beyond reading and writing to do something he considers fun and not like homeschool work at all. 

I know our son enjoys reading, but sometimes when asked to share about the book he is reading, he would not remember or be able to retell the story. I strongly feel that by working through the activities presented in the Opal edition, our son will build his ability to comprehend and remember what he has read. The fact that he can quote some of the stories already demonstrates that he remembers what he has read. 

I could very easily see our family using this same curriculum in a few short years for our daughter. The story selections are interesting, the questions posed are ones that develop critical thinking skills and reading comprehension, and they are attractive materials to use. As Timberdoodle provides you with the option to purchase the entire set - like we did - or just the parts you need, we could pick up the Student Activity Workbook for our daughter and reuse the Teacher's Edition and the Textbook. Being able to reuse materials is always a blessing for larger homeschool families. 

I would recommend Mosdos Press Literature Opal to families who are homeschooling third graders. I feel it has been a perfect fit so far for our son. I look forward to continuing to use it the rest of our homeschool year. 

Interested in more products from Timberdoodle? Check out these posts: 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Book Club: Book Review of The Barrister and the Letter of Marque

A Mom's Quest to Teach: Book Club: Book Review of The Barrister and the Letter of Marque  - logo of A Mom's Quest to Teach on light blue background

I received a COMPLIMENTARY copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

I really did not want The Barrister and the Letter of Marque by Todd M. Johnson to end. I thoroughly enjoyed reading how William Snopes gathered information for the trial of Captain Tuttle so much that I was sad when I approached the end of the story. Did I want to know the outcome of the trial? Yes! But I would have loved to read more about the characters. 

About the Novel 

Set during the Regency era of England (1795 to 1837), The Barrister and the Letter of Marque introduces readers to a range of characters, from the pickpockets of Whitechapel to the Prince Regent himself, and brings them all to life. If you are a fan of British history or Regency novels, there are so many locales you will recognize, including Newgate Prison, Whitechapel, The Old Bailey, and the ports of the Thames.

Lady Madeleine Jameson seeks out representation for her cousin – Captain Harold Tuttle. She needs the barrister, William Snopes, to prove Captain Tuttle innocent to keep him from the gallows as well as rescue her investment in the Padget and its cargo acquired in the Indian Sea. 

Before Snopes even agrees to take the case, he and his associates are met with difficulties at every step. They can't even meet Captain Tuttle for a long while because no prison will admit to holding him captive. The Crew scatters once they are released from the ship, including the important first mate who had seen the Letter of Marque. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach: Book Club: Book Review of The Barrister and the Letter of Marque  - photograph of the book

What Is a Letter of Marque? 

A letter of marque is a document issued by a government (in this case England) that authorized the person carrying the letter to act as a privateer. The private person would be able to attack and capture vessels or seize cargo from the ships of nations with whom the privateer's country is at war. So usually, letters of marque were only issued during times of war to private persons. In The Barrister and the Letter of Marque, the letter was issued to Captain Tuttle of England to enable him to attack and seize the cargo of a French ship, even though England and France were no longer at war. Without this document, Captain Tuttle would have engaged in an act of piracy like he was charged by the British government. So when it goes missing the night he returns from his voyage, things become very difficult. 

In addition to seeing how the rich live – through a ball and a few other scenes involving Lord Brummell – we also read of The Lanyard Pub in the East End and the home of the solicitor, Obadiah Cummings. Finally, we get a peek into the lives of the ruffians of Whitechapel when we read of Lonny McPherson and how he runs his crew.

A Mom's Quest to Teach: Book Club: Book Review of The Barrister and the Letter of Marque - photograph of the book and quote from the book

My Thoughts 

I enjoyed reading The Barrister and the Letter of Marque immensely, from the prologue (where we learn why William Snopes turned his back on his privileged life) to the epilogue (where life appears to return to a happy normal for William Snopes, Edmund Shaw, and Obadiah Cummings), each scene was well written and interesting. 

I found William Snopes to be a most intriguing character. I looked forward to seeing what steps Snopes would take next as he prepared the case. I enjoyed reading the conversations between Snopes and Father Thomas, as well as learning more about Snopes' personal background. Of all the characters, Snopes was definitely the most developed. 

While there is a hint of romance to The Barrister and the Letter of Marque, that is not the focal point of the novel. At the heart of the matter is the trial of Captain Tuttle and the journey to collect evidence to prove his innocence. This work of historical fiction has a heavy mystery novel feel to it, and I think it all ties together very nicely. If you enjoy historical fiction, I would recommend The Barrister and the Letter of Marque.