Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Book Club: Book Review of The Bible Recap Study Guide

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo: Book Club: Book Review of The Bible Recap Study Guide

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.

Last year I had the pleasure of reviewing The Bible Recap: A One-Year Guide to Reading and Understanding the Entire Bible by Tara-Leigh Cobble. This year, I have been reviewing two additional books that accompany The Bible Recap

The Bible Recap Study Guide: Daily Questions to Deepen Your Understanding of the Entire Bible is a softcover book of 379 pages that takes readers on a 52-week journey to read the entire Bible. The Study Guide provides information on how to use the guide itself: 

  • Pick a reading plan 
  • Use The Bible Recap Journal
  • Use the study guide 
  • Listen to the podcast or use The Bible Recap book 
  • Visit for weekly discussions and more information

A Mom's Quest to Teach: Book Club: Book Review of The Bible Recap Study Guide book cover

Tara-Leigh Cobble writes that you don't have to use all the resources, but they will complement each other. Personally, I used The Bible Recap book this year and the reading plan on YouVersion but did not venture to the podcast or website. This year I would like to incorporate The Study Guide and the journal into my daily Bible reading. 

The Study Guide is very easy to navigate and to use. Each of the 52 weeks of readings is broken up in the table of contents by days and provides the Bible book and chapter number. So even if you aren't reading the Bible in its entirety using The Bible Recap chronological reading plan, you can find each Bible reading easily. 

When my copy of The Study Guide arrived, I was on about week 49 or 50 using The Bible Recap chronological reading plan. It was very easy to pick up where I was in the study guide. I really like how the two books complement each other so well. I can sit with each and my Bible to answer the questions. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach: questions in The Bible Recap Study Guide

What Are the Questions Like?

There are some questions that require outside research, such as Day 345: Romans 14-16, #2
"Look up the word used for 'keep' (14:22) in a Greek lexicon and write down what you find. How does this help inform our understanding of this verse?" (page 357) 

There are also some questions that are repetitive but not in a bad way. As you start a new book in the Bible, The Study Guide asks: 
  •  Who wrote the book?
  • "To or for whom was it written?" 
  • "When was it written?" 
  • What is the literary style? 
I like that we are asked to think about individual authors as well as put the books of the Bible into context while working our way through the reading plan. 

There is plenty of room to write one's answers in The Study Guide. The pages are of a nice quality, but I can still see my writing showing a bit through on the reverse side. (I don't see this as a distraction, though.) I like that the cover design is the same as The Bible Recap. They all look nice on my shelf. I do find the material of the book covers tends to grab dust if the book sits on the coffee table a day or two untouched. 

What Do I Think? 

I think if you are looking for a study guide to help you deepen your understanding of the Bible, this will be a welcome resource. The questions go beyond just simple identifications and ask you to think critically. You can write your answers in The Study Guide or your own journal or Bible. I think teens to adults would find The Bible Study Guide to be helpful. I look forward to using it as I continue to read through the Bible year after year.  

If you would like to learn more about The Bible Recap, please read my review here: Book Club: Book Review of The Bible Recap.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Book Club: Book Review of The Whole Bible Story

 A Mom's Quest to Teach logo: Book Club: Book Review of The Whole Bible Story on green background

I received a COMPLIMENTARY copy of The Whole Bible Story 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.

While I feel nothing is better than reading the Bible itself, sometimes it is useful to have a lighter version or youth version to read with our children. Once you move away from the storybook Bibles, where can you turn for an edition that is geared towards ages 8 to 12? Bethany House recently released a new book in the category of Young Adult Bible Stories called The Whole Bible Story: Everything That Happens in the Bible

About The Whole Bible Story 

This is a 302-page paperback book where Dr. William H. Marty with Troy Schmidt tells the stories of the Bible with explanations that will help the young readers understand what the stories are actually all about. The nineteen chapters are all set up in a similar fashion. They include: 

  • Who's who?
  • Where are we?
  • Interesting Stuff in the section 
  • Retelling of the Bible Stories of references to the Bible chapters 
  • What's the Point? (a summary) 

Interspersed among those parts are black-and-white illustrations that bring the Bible stories to life. And occasionally, there are other key points pulled out in boxes for the readers to focus upon.

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; The Whole Bible Story book cover and page from book

My Thoughts 

The Whole Bible Story is a great resource for your young children as they navigate the Bible.  I handed our copy of the book to our eight-year-old son to read during the review period. He finished reading it in a few days. I would say the book was a hit based upon that fact alone. 

Our son shared the following when I asked him his thoughts: "The Whole Bible Story has details that can be hard to find in the Bible. I liked how there were funny parts at the beginning of each chapter. For example, 'Isaac - Abraham and Sarah's son born whey they were in their eighties and nineties!' I also liked the pop-ups or inserts where facts were shared. Specifically, I liked the part where Zacchaeus doesn't like big crowds." 

After our son finished reading the book, I handed The Whole Bible Story to our six-year-old daughter, so she could read it, too. She is working through the book more slowly but loves to talk about what she has already read with me. 

Our daughter told me, "I like the little gray parts (these are the facts pulled out for focus in each chapter)." One of the stories that stayed with her was the story of Jacob and Esau. "The story of Jacob and Esau shows us how to forgive others because Esau forgave Jacob," she said when I asked her what she learned from the book. "I think it is very interesting."  

A Mom's Quest to Teach: Book Club: Book Review of The Whole Bible Story book cover on green background

Personally, I begin reading any book that retells the Bible very thoughtfully. The written Word of God is best read in the Bible, but I do believe there are occasions when we can look elsewhere for assistance in bringing the Bible to life for our children. I will admit that, when I began reading The Whole Bible Story, I was unsure if I would share it with our children. In the Who's Who section, Adam and Eve are identified as "the first couple ever created; they run around naked," and Mesopotamia was identified as "some country that is hard to spell" (7). This caused me to pause and read through the first several chapters thoughtfully and carefully. It wasn't till after I had read chapter seven or eight, where we read about the judges and the kingdom under David, that I felt comfortable passing the book to our son. 

If you are looking for a way to talk to your children about the stories in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, I would recommend you check out The Whole Bible Story. As with any book, you should preview it before you share The Whole Bible Story with your children, but I do feel the book will open up many discussions about the Bible and its events with your children. I can see this book being a useful part of our homeschooling journey for years to come.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Book Club: Book Review of 3-Minute Devotions to Laugh and Reflect

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo:  Book Club: Book Review of 3-Minute Devotions to Laugh and Reflect with colorful leaf 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.

In this busy world where we live, it is nice to be able to step away and find solace in the Bible. Sometimes, we don't have time to sit down and read long passages for inspiration. So, it was wonderful to read 3-Minute Devotions to Laugh and Reflect: Lighten Your Load and Brighten Your Day by Christopher D. Hudson and Stan Campbell. 

About the Book 

There are 90 devotions in this 192-page paperback book from Bethany House Publishers. Each devotion written by Christopher D. Hudson and Stan Campbell is accompanied by a black-and-white illustrated cartoon by Dennis Fletcher. The devotions each begin with a Bible quote and then a reflection upon one topic, such as self-denial, wants and needs, church membership, being welcoming in the church, participating in the church, reading the Bible, and more. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  Book Club: Book Review of 3-Minute Devotions to Laugh and Reflect with cover of book

My Thoughts 

3-Minute Devotions to Laugh and Reflect is not like other devotions where you can use the chapter titles or skim them to pick out topics you wish to read. The devotions are written in such a way that I found I had to read and reread them to reflect upon their messages. The cartoons provide a laugh, but the book is full of wisdom and deep thoughts. 

As each devotion opens with a Bible quote, I liked to have my own Bible with me as I read 3-Minute Devotions to Laugh and Reflect. It was nice to read the quote in context after reading the devotion. As I was reading the book, I found many devotions I wanted to share with my family, friends, and co-workers. The devotions made me think and reflect upon the word of God and my relationship with Him, my church, and others. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  Book Club: Book Review of 3-Minute Devotions to Laugh and Reflect Cover of book and cartoon

Some of my favorite devotions include: 

  • Something in Your Eye? – A look at how social media, restaurants, televised talent shows, and more ask us our opinion and for our judgment. 
  • Future Shock Absorbers – Clinging to God's love instead of being afraid. 
  • What's Your Number? – Examining our obsession with popularity. 
  • What Would Jesus Tweet? – Keeping the personal connection and touch. 
  • Welcome to the Priesthood – Doing our part for the church. 
  • Joyful Noisemakers – Making all welcome in our church, including noisy children. 
I would recommend 3-Minute Devotions to Laugh and Reflect to those who are seeking to reflect upon the teachings of Jesus once a day. This book would be a welcome addition to most coffee tables, bookshelves, and libraries. 

I previously reviewed The Most Important Stories of the Bible by Christopher D. Hudson and Stan Campbell. Please check out my review here: Book Club: Book Review of The Most Important Stories of the Bible.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Critical Thinking and Supporting History: A Review of U.S. History Detective® Book Two

Critical Thinking and Supporting History: A Review of U.S. History Detective® Book Two with cover of book and A Mom's Quest to Teach logo

I received a COMPLIMENTARY copy of this book 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.

While I am not one to find studying history boring, I realize that many do not share the same love of the past that I do. Bringing the subject alive and making it memorable while helping students build critical thinking skills is an important part of education. When teaching history in our homeschools, we also have to keep in mind that there are so many different areas of history that we can teach. How can we expect our children to remember all the details?

Provide our children with quality and engaging resources to help children learn about the past. 

The Critical Thinking Co.™ publishes U.S. History Detective® Book Two, which is part of the Nonreligious 2021 Ninth-Grade Curriculum Kit from Timberdoodle. This 312-page paperback book is a perfect addition to your homeschool US History course. It starts with the Gilded Age and moves all the way through to the Obama Administration. There are both black-and-white and color illustrations, maps, political cartoons, photographs, and more, which add to the beauty of the homeschool history book.

As our oldest son graduated recently, we used this history resource differently than we might have done in the past. I wanted to continue his education – especially as it relates to U.S. History and developing his critical thinking skills – while he decides upon his future path. Having the opportunity to review U.S. History Detective® Book Two fit perfectly into this plan.

U.S. History Detective® Book Two can be a stand-alone textbook, provide supplemental activities, or act as a review book for your child grades 8 to 12 and up. We used it more as a review book as I let our son pick and choose what he wanted to read about and complete.

Critical Thinking and Supporting History: A Review of U.S. History Detective® Book Two; cover of the book; A Mom's Quest to Teach

About U.S. History Detective® Book Two 

There are two books available for print or eBook form from The Critical Thinking Co.™, and you can find both as paperbacks available from Timberdoodle. In Book Two, there are nine sections which include 56 lessons. These lessons focus upon individual passages where students must provide supporting evidence for their answer choices. The questions about each lesson consist of multiple-choice, short-answer, and short essay questions.

Section 1: The Gilded Age: 1870-1900

Section 2: Imperialism and Progressives: 1890s-1910s

Section 3: The Great War: 1914-1919 

Section 4: The Roaring Twenties: 1920-1929

Section 5: The Great Depression: 1929-1939

Section 6: World War II: 1939-1945

Section 7: The 1950s

Section 8: The 1960s

Section 9: 1970s-2016

In the Introduction to Section 6 and Lesson 30, students will read about World War II, review a timeline of key events, read about the rise of dictatorships, appeasement, the start of World War II, and the third term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and examine a political cartoon by Dr. Seuss. This is followed by nine multiple choice and short answer questions and a written response question: "Use complete sentences to explain why President Roosevelt and Congress were reluctant to involve the U.S. in the war against the Axis Powers in the late 1930s."

text from U.S. History Detective® Book Two about the Populist Party

Questions from  U.S. History Detective® Book Two

Question from  U.S. History Detective® Book Two

How Did We Use U.S. History Detective® Book Two in our Homeschool? 

As our son has graduated, I used the book as a review source for him. At the beginning of the review period, I handed it off to him and asked for it back to complete my review. While he did not complete as many lessons as I would have liked if he was still "in school," I also understand he has many responsibilities as a graduate. If we were using this as a part of our homeschool curriculum, I would assign two to three lessons a week along with primary source and secondary source materials to read. The written response questions would provide homeschool students and parents with excellent starting points for discussions. They could also be developed into essays or research papers with a little bit of work.

My Thoughts 

I have had the pleasure of using several products from The Critical Thinking Co.™ over the years, and they have never disappointed me. They do help our children use critical thinking skills and reinforce key ideas such as fractions, vocabulary, and events in history. U.S. History Detective® Book Two is wonderful because it does not require a lot of parent involvement. While you can easily discuss each lesson and examine the supporting evidence for each question, you can also allow your child to work on it by themselves.

I really like how the U.S. History Detective® Book Two encourages readers to use their critical thinking skills to find evidence to support historical conclusions. The book provides both primary (first-hand accounts) and secondary (materials written by historians or others who were not present at the event) sources to help students reach conclusions about what they have read. Each passage has the sentences numbered so that students can mark their answers with the supporting evidence. A key part of upper-level history courses is also drawing inferences and conclusions based upon historical events and evidence. This book helps students practice and hone those skills which will help them in future essays.

Having taught Advanced Placement U.S. History when I was a high school teacher, I could see this being a very useful resource to assist students in their preparation for the AP Exam. As each lesson is short, they could review the material, complete the questions which require them to critically think about the subject material, and write essay outlines for the written response questions. This homeschool resource can help students on their journey to bring together, compare, and contrast historical information and present clear arguments. 

I would recommend U.S. History Detective® Book Two for any family who is studying U.S. History II. I think the grade recommendation by The Critical Thinking Co.™ is accurate (8-12) and the placement in the 9th Grade Curriculum Kit from Timberdoodle is also good. It provides a compact look at U.S. History while helping your child develop their critical thinking skills.


Cover of U.S. History Detective® Book Two and written response page

Looking for more resources from Timberdoodle? 

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

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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. 

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