09 10

24 June 2017

Aviation Learning and Play

Hero(10) loves airplanes. He has for a while now. So he's really enjoying the assignments that I'm giving him from the Doctor Aviation program that we're working on for one of next month's reviews. I love that he's extending the learning into his free time, and so are the younger kids. The boys are having such a good time that they're going beyond what I've asked for, and they're building stuff in their freetime that's based on what they're learning. I love it when that happens. Hero's was very specifically modeled on one of the real airplanes that he's been learning about; Dragon(6) modeled his on Hero's. Gotta love the intersection of learning and play.

19 June 2017

Rush Revere {Crew Review}

Adventures of Rush Revere

I follow politics the best I can, and care deeply about the Constitution, but I don't enjoy talk radio at all. So, to be honest, I wasn't overly excited about the Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series by Rush Limbaugh. However, I've been very pleasantly surprised by the Adventures of Rush Revere #1 New York Times Bestselling Book Series by Rush and Kathryn Adams Limbaugh. They've been fun to read myself, and I feel like they're a great way to introduce kids to some of the key events in American history. There are five volumes in the series:

  • Brave Pilgrims
  • First Patriots
  • American Revolution
  • Star-Spangled Banner
  • The Presidency
Adventures of Rush Revere

Diagram of the Mayflower;
Brave Pilgrims
I'm not one that sniffs pages of old books because they smell a little like vanilla, but I do enjoy beautiful books -- and these books are beautiful. They're hardcover, with dust jackets, and they arrived tied up in a blue ribbon. The paper is a delight. Just the right weight. The drawings are colored brightly without being garish. The layout is lovely. My office supplies loving heart was unexpectedly delighted by handling these books. I opened up the first one -Brave Pilgrims- and the first thing I found was an amazingly detailed diagram of a ship, with cut-aways, so you can see into the interior, and labels for all the ship terms that I usually just gloss over. It's the clearest ship diagram I've seen in a while, and I spent several minutes just exploring it, reading through all the various labeled parts before I started reading the story. Typically, I just flip to the story and dive in, but the diagram was so inviting and I lingered over it a little.

I read the introduction, and it really resonated:

I want to try to help you understand what "American Exceptionalism" and greatness is all about. It does not mean that we Americans are better than anyone else. It does not mean that there is something uniquely different about us as human beings compared to other people in the world. It does not mean that we as a country have never faced problems of our own. 

American Exceptionalism and greatness means that America is special because it is different from all other countries in history. It is a land built on true freedom and individual liberty... In most parts of the world, dreams never become more than dreams. In the United States, they come true every day. There are so many stories of Americans who started with very little, yet dreamed big, worked very hard, and became extremely successful. 

The sad reality is that since the beginning of time, most citizens of the world have not been free. For hundreds and thousands of years, many people in other civilizations  and countries were servants to their kings, leaders, and government... The United States of America is unique because it is the exception to all this. Our country is the first country ever to be founded on the principle that all human beings are created free people. The Founders of this phenomenal country believed all people were born to be free as individuals. And so, they established a government and leadership that recognized and established this for the first time ever in the world! ... America is a place where you can think, believe, and express yourself as you want. You can dream as big as you can and nothing is holding you back.

It was dinner time; I was supposed to be cooking, but by this point, I was curious, so I flipped to the introduction. I was also skeptical: the main character is named after a radio personality. How good can they be? A page and a half later, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself hooked, suddenly annoyed by the fact that I needed to cook dinner, rather than sit down and read.

Rush Revere and students;
Star-Spangled Banner.
It's a fun premise: Rush Revere is a substitute history teacher, and the stories are the tales of his shenanigans, taking some of his students back in time to be eye-witnesses to history. As an adult reader, I found that I had to actively choose to suspend disbelief: the Pilgrims didn't seem at all bothered by a history teacher accompanied by modern-reference dropping kids who pops in, is absent for months at a time, and then stops by again just in time for another major event. Knowing that less than 100 years from the Mayflower Compact, that same colony would experience the Salem witch trials, I found it hard to believe that they would be so calm about modern strangers showing up at random intervals with flimsy cover stories. However. I think that it's worth the effort suspending disbelief for these books. They do a couple of things really well:

Painting of the Pilgrims;
Brave Pilgrims.
  • These books clearly distinguish between historical figure and modern additions. This distinction is clear in the text and in the illustrations, where all modern characters are cartoonish, but the pictures of the historical figures are real art. The difference is obvious. The time travel device makes clear who is made up and who is real: all fictional characters are modern observers. One of the weakness of historical fiction is the way that it can be hard to pick the real from the make-believe, but that's not the case here.
  • They show the role of God in history. So many times He is excluded, but these books really do a beautiful job of shedding light on how the participants in our history were very aware of God in their lives, and that this was a thing that they very much wanted. Their awareness of their need for God, and their gratitude for His assistance is included, but not in an overdone kind of way: it's just a natural part of the story. For example, from the story of how John Howland, who later became the 13th signer of the Mayflower Compact, nearly went overboard: 

    After several more minutes, the man was hauled back into the boat. He rolled to his side and coughed up seawater.
    "Take him to my cabin!" the captain ordered.
    Two sailors pulled the man to his feet. They helped him up the ladder to the quarterdeck and into the captain's cabin. 
    "He's lucky to be alive," I said as I patted William on the back.
    "Not luck," William said. "It's a miracle. Surely, this is a divine sign. We will ask Elder Brewster. Whenever there is doubt or fear among the passengers we can always turn to him for guidance and strength. He has great wisdom and spiritual strength."
    -Brave Pilgrims, p76

A little about Brave Pilgrims from Hero(10): "It was a time-jumping horse that Revere had, named Liberty, and he and Liberty traveled back in time for the history lessons. He recorded the history lessons while he was there on his phone, and it transmitted back to a receiver in the classroom. And talked with some Pilgrims that were going to the new world. I learned that some of them traveled aboard the Mayflower, and I had no idea about the Mayflower Compact, which happened later on. The Mayflower Compact was important because it set the building blocks for the new colony. It was an agreement that the people there would help each other in times of need, as well as other things. One surprising part was when the Billington boys snuck down between decks and fired off a musket. William Bradford, one of the colony's leaders, was rather unhappy when he discovered that the Billington boys had fired off the musket because it was extremely dangerous! I bet it was possible that they could have sunk the ship!"  

Document reproduction;
First Patriots.
I also read First Patriots, which is set just prior to the American Revolution. Readers are introduced to Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, King George III, and other figures from the time, as well as several of the key events in the pre-Revolution period. Rush Revere and his students even participate in the Boston Tea Party, which gives readers ringside seats to events, and it does a good job of explaining why things happened the way they did. One thing that was brought out that had never occurred to me was that the Patriots did the Tea Party with eyes wide open to the likely reaction of the Crown to their actions: they knew they were kicking the hornets' nest, and they thought the principle of the matter was worth the trouble it was going to cause them. I had never really considered that aspect of the event before. The Tea Party scene contained one of my favorite quotes from the book, attributed to Samuel Adams:

I believe God wants men to be free. I choose to believe that there is a force greater than our own here tonight. I can feel it in the air and see it in the stars. God willing, we will accomplish this mission. It is only the beginning of what we will need to do. Fear will try to stop us, but we will not let it. People who live with fear will never be free. Remember this, Tommy and Cam: We are the fear chasers. We are the hope givers. We are the freedom builders. We are the Sons of Liberty!"
-First Patriots, p195

Samuel Adams is, after reading this book, somebody that I'd like to read more about. I've seen him spoken of as being a blunt and sometimes abrasive person, but this story depicts him as being quite hard to get along with, and now I'm curious and want to learn more. That, I think, is a sign of a good introductory work: it leaves you hungry for more, wanting to go deeper.

Cannon from Ft. Ticonderoga
American Revolution

Cannon transport.
American Revolution
After he read Brave Pilgrims, Hero chose to read American Revolution. He said: "It covered the three battles, Bunker Hill, Lexington and Concord, and the Fort Ticonderoga, where they got all those cannons from. They brought back 59 cannons. A cool part was that they used flat-bellied boats to haul the cannons back. There was pictures of that. And then, when they got back, pretty soon after that they declared their Independence."

Hero and I both enjoyed the books, and I think that they are a valuable addition to our family library, and would happily recommend them to others.

If you want to read more reviews of the Rush Revere books, click the banner below.


Crew Disclaimer

13 June 2017

Poor in Spirit

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven.

But what is it to be "poor in spirit"?

Poor is from the Greek ptochos, which suggests not the one who labors for his meager daily bread, but the one who only obtains his living by begging, the one who is powerless to change his circumstances (see Strong's G4434). Spirit is from the Greek pneuma, which means a breath or breeze. It's the vital principle, the human spirit. This word is rarely used of wind, but when so used it is known for its strength, vigor, and force (see Strong's G4151).

To put them together suggests to me that this verse is speaking of those who are depleted, worn down and spent, not to poverty (of their energies or force) but to penury: those who have no hope of refreshment, no light at the end of the tunnel, no strength left to give, and no rest in sight.

Christ told us that this life will stretch us, He said, "In the world ye shall have tribulation," but in the very next breath He said not to let it defeat us, to bury us, because the tribulation is not the end of the story: "In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)" It is in His strength that our depletion is filled up, and we can be made strong.

Blessed [fortunate, happy, and blessed] are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. -3 Nephi 12:3 (emphasis added)

It is coming to Christ that makes all the difference.

09 June 2017

64 Scriptures for LDS Children to Memorize

These memory work suggestions for a scripture memory system come from the entire cannon embraced by Mormons, including the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.

Our family has greatly benefited from the Scripture Memory System that Simply Charlotte Mason has explained so well on their site. The original system calls for working on this 7 days a week, but the reality is that we do better planning to do it only 5 at our house. We have slowly, verse by verse, hidden the word of the Lord in our hearts, starting with a single verse, and adding one more as the kids are ready. We've learned doctrine together, addressed behavior issues, and leaned on the Lord to solve problems that our children face. My kids love it when they hear "their" verses in church meetings and General Conference -- and however little attention it looks like they are paying, they seldom miss it when a speaker uses on of their special verses. We've started with the shortest, simplest verses spoken in baby lisps as soon as they can speak the words, and day by day worked our way to longer passages. We're now returning to some of those very short verses to learn them in Japanese. I don't remember how I found this Scripture Memory System, but I am eternally grateful that I did; it has blessed our whole family over the past 10 years.

In telling people about it, one of the most frequent questions has been, "How do you know what verses to put in the box?" I want to share how I decide what we work on learning, and then share a collection of verses that my kids have learned. Each of my kids has their own box, and while there is so overlap, each collection of verses is also unique.

As I am deciding what to put in the boxes, here are some of the things that I consider:

1. Plain and simple truths of the Gospel.
I look for verses that teach the principles of the gospel in straight-forward language that young children will be able to understand. It's ok if they don't understand every word at the beginning; the process of memorizing and reviewing it gives us plenty of opportunity to discuss it again and again. Because I started my children as soon as they could talk, some of the first verses were very short.

2. Verses that the Holy Ghost directs us to include.
Romans 1:16 has a permanent place in the daily section of all the kids' boxes, because the Holy Ghost directed that it should stay there. Though they have long since learned it, this verse they repeat every time we do the boxes. This is the most dramatic example of direction from the Holy Ghost regarding our boxes, but there are other verses that it has seemed important to include.

3. Verses that relate to life experiences.
Prior to baptism, I have added verses that relate to that ordinance. My boys are both beginning to learn about what makes a good priesthood holder, and as they get closer to ordination, we will include the duties of the offices they will hold. We have also included verses that help to calm fears, and you could include verses that deal with death, with learning in school, with conflict management, with learning to be a good leader... the list is practically limitless.

4. Passages the kids need to learn for Primary.
This has included the Articles of Faith, as well as verses that my kids chose to learn for talks they were giving in Primary.

5. Verses that address behavior problems.
This is my favorite way to deal with things like lies and contention, and other similar problems. It takes the teaching out and away from the moment of stress, which is never a teachable moment, and into a the context of a pleasant routine. It emphasizes that our family's behavior standards are not arbitrary rules that Mom and Dad made up, but they are standards set by the Lord. The kids know that the Daddy and I are also subject to the law of the gospel. Additionally, it is slow and persistent: they may recognize that a verse has been added because there's been a problem, but that sense of a problem gradually falls away, and there is only the memorization of the verse. Typically, the closest I will come to using our verses in discipline is to quietly move an already learned verse up toward the front of the box (I don't announce it; I just move it), so that it is reviewed more frequently. Because I do not want scripture to be associated with punishment, I seldom if ever ask the kids to repeat or copy a verse as part of the consequences for bad behavior.

6. Longer passages.
While we start with very short single verses, we don't stay there. As they mature, passages naturally become somewhat longer, and when they are ready for a little bit of a challenge, then we have tackled somewhat longer passages such as the 23rd Psalm and the 10 Commandments. Down the road, we may try doing whole chapters, such as the Word of Wisdom, at some point.

7. Verses and passages that my children choose.
It's important to me that my kids' boxes are their own, and so when they tell me that they want a certain passage in the box, I honor that request, though if they already have several verses that they are working on I will ask them if they want to start right away or to wait until one of the existing verses is ready to move back. In the end, though, I've almost always gone with what they wanted to do with it. 

It would be easy to get hung up on the number of verses in the box, or how quickly you can learn your passage, but this comment from Simply Charlotte Mason has always stood out to me:

It doesn’t matter how long the passage is. In fact, your family should memorize longer passages regularly. Simply once or twice each day read the entire passage through until everyone can recite it together. Don’t worry about how many days it takes for everyone to memorize the selected Scripture. Hiding God’s Word in your heart is not a race; it’s a lifelong habit. (emphasis added)

While I have a box for myself, I don't use it regularly right now. I find that, in the process of helping my kids with their verses, I am learning them too, and while I can't always get them word perfect, I can do a very close paraphrase, and sometimes I have them fully learned, just through the constant exposure. For now, this is enough. I'll get my own box out when my kids don't need me to manage theirs anymore. Looking toward that day when the kids will be managing their own scripture boxes and more fluent in the use of their own paper scriptures, I do ask them to remember the "numbers part" -- the verse citations. I'm hoping that will help them to be able to find their verses in their print scriptures when they are adults.

One other thing we do is we are just starting to memorize verses in our second language. We're starting over at the very shortest of verses, and these tend to be learned more slowly than any but the very longest of passages. We talk about what the words mean, but just like we learned the verses when the kids were tiny, before they truly understood them, we are learning them in Japanese now, while we're still "babies", and understanding grows both while we memorize them, and also over time as our fluency grows. 

Between the three kids, here are some of the verses and passages that we have in our boxes right now, plus a few that I would like to add in the near future. Please bear in mind that these were added one or two at a time, as each child was ready, and don't feel like you need to start with them all; this represents nearly 10 years' worth of scripture memory work in our family.

Knowing Christ

1st Article of Faith
We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

Isaiah 9:6
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Mosiah 4:9
Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Luke 2:6-7
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8th Article of Faith
We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

9th Article of Faith
We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

Psalm 19:1
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Plain and Precious Truths

Matthew 22:36-40
Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all they mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

2 Nephi 32:8-9
...the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray. But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always...

7th Article of Faith
We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues and so forth.

Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

1 Nephi 3:7-8
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them. And it came to pass that when my father had heard these words he was exceedingly glad, for he knew that I had been blessed of the Lord.

10th Article of Faith
We believe in the literal gathering of Israel, and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes. That Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth, and that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisaical glory.

John 14:15
If ye love me, keep my commandments.

Romans 8:16
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.

6th Article of Faith
We believe in the same organization that existed in the primitive church namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

Finding Comfort

Matthew 11:28-30
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies, thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Romans 8:28
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.

Ether 6:7
And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto the ark of Noah; therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waves.

Isaiah 41:10
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Alma 60:13
For the Lord suffereth the righteous to be slain that his justice and judgement may come upon the wicked; therefore ye need not suppose that the righteous are lost because they are slain; but behold, they do enter into the rest of the Lord your God.

1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear...

2 Timothy 1:7
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Mormon 5:23
Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God?

1 Nephi 1:20
But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.

How to Treat People

Ephesians 4:32
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

Doctrine and Covenants 42:88-92
And if thy brother or sister offend thee, thou shalt take him or her between him or her and thee alone; and if he or she confess thou shalt be reconciled. And if he or she confess not thou shalt deliver him or her up unto the church, not to the members, but to the elders. And it shall be done in a meeting and not before the world. And if thy brother or sister offend many, he or she shall be chastened before many. And if any one offend openly, he or she shall be rebuked openly, that he or she may be ashamed. And if he or she confess not, he or she shall be delivered up unto the law of God. If any shall offend in secret, he or she shall be rebuked in secret, that he or she may have opportunity to confess in secret to him or her whom he or she has offended, and to God, that the church may not speak reproachfully of him or her.

Matthew 25:40
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Alma 43:36
Inasmuch as ye are not guilty of the first offense, neither the second, ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies.

Proverbs 14:5
A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.

Matthew 18:21-22
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, until seventy times seven.

11th Article of Faith
We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men, the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

Proverbs 16:32
He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.

Numbers 30:2
If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear and oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.

Missionary Scriptures

Romans 1:16
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.


Alma 13:3
And this is the manner after which they were ordained -- being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore, they having chosen good, and exercising exceeding great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to a preparatory redemption for such.

Doctrine and Covenants 42:12
And again, the elders, priests, and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fullness of the gospel.

5th Article of Faith
We believe that man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

Faith, Repentance, and Grace

3rd Article of Faith
We believe that through the Atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

Ether 12:6
... faith is things hoped for and not seen; wherefore dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.

Alma 60:11
Behold, could ye suppose that ye could sit upon your thrones, and because of the exceeding goodness of God ye could do nothing and he would deliver you? Behold, if ye have supposed this ye have supposed in vain.

Doctrine and Covenants 95:1
Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love, and whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven...

Moroni 7:41
And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.

Ether 12:27
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

Baptism and the Holy Ghost

Doctrine and Covenants 33:11
Yea, repent and be baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.

Alma 7:15
Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth besest you, which doth bind you down to destruction, yea, come and go forth, and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness it unto him this day by going into the waters of baptism.

4th Article of Faith
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Virtuous Character

13th Article of Faith
We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul -- We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

Exodus 20:1-17
And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: "For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal.  Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's.

Ephesians 6:1
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

Doctrine and Covenants 42:42
Thou shalt not be idle; for he that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer.

Proverbs 12:22
Lying lips are abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are his delight.

Leviticus 19:11
Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.

1 Timothy 2:2
...that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

Malachi 3:10
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Doctrine and Covenants 109:7
...seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith.

12th Article of Faith
We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

Alma 46:12-13
And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it -- In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children -- and he fastened it upon the end of a pole. And he fastened on his head-plate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he too a pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto hi God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land --

In Praise

Psalm 119:103
How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth.

Luke 2:14
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Obviously, this is not a complete list of verses and passages that would be great for learning with our children -- no list like this ever is! Family favorites, verses from favorite talks, and verses that the kids themselves want to remember are all great candidates for inclusion. Don't feel bound to any list -- and don't feel like you have to add them all, or all at once. Trust the Holy Ghost; our Heavenly Father will guide you to find the verses that your particularly important for you and your family to know. No time spent learning scripture is ever wasted time!

08 June 2017

Psalm 16: Joy and Hope in Christ

This Psalm has a number of uncommon words that I first had to decipher, so I had to start by learning about these trickier words and phrases. Once I had figured out what all the words mean, then the Psalm became beautiful and very comforting to me.

From verse 2:

Lord, thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee.

I started out looking this up in Strong's Concordance, but it wasn't there, and I'm not sure what that's all about, but the next thing that I did was to look at the collection of parallel translations at the Blue Letter Bible site. The NIV rendering is pretty representative of the collection, and I made note of it in the margins of my Bible:

You are my Lord, apart from you I have no good thing.

The other idea that was repeated several times among the various translations is this, from the New King James:

You are my Lord, my goodness is nothing apart from You.

I love this sense that everything good comes from Christ, and that without Him there is nothing good either from us or for us, both individually (verse 2) and collectively as His saints (verse 3).  David  then follows this idea up with a declaration of the importance and benefits of fidelity, as well as his intention to be true to the Lord.

Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take their names into my lips.
-Psalm 16:4

I was recently reading in Hosea where loathsomeness of chasing other gods brought home through the comparison to a bride who willfully turns to prostitution and whoredom, abandoning a loving husband, though Isaiah assures us that the Bridegroom is anxious to take his bride back when she strays. The vivid imagery from Hosea and Isaiah makes David's declaration of fidelity all the more poignant. The more that I ponder this idea that straying from our covenants to God is offensive to Him in much the same way that straying from the marriage covenant is offensive to a faithful spouse, the more powerful the imagery of faithfulness in the covenant is. Having observed the devastation when marriage covenants are not upheld strictly, the comparative consequence of straying from our covenants to God, while not always immediately obvious, is sobering. David continues with the Psalm, with verses 5 and 6 referencing the security of knowing that the Lord is caring for and providing for His people, in the same way that a faithful husband provides for his wife:

The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.

The "portion of mine inheritance" here references the way that the promised land was divided up by lot when the Israelites. John Taylor referenced these verses several times in addresses to the Saints in his day, always in appreciation for the beautiful lands and homes that the Lord had given them. In many translations of the Bible, this is rendered as property lines given for an inheritance. I have looked around our part of the world many times and thought how lovely it is here, and how blessed I am to enjoy the land the the Lord has given to me. David echoed the same theme as President Taylor in his expression of gratitude and reliance on the Lord:

I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer they Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt sew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.  
-Psalm 16:8-11

I don't know when this was written, if it was before or after David murdered Uriah the Hittite, but I love the confidence that he expresses here: he's not going to be abandoned; and the Lord will not have to tolerate corruption: David anticipates being clean. I'm kind of guessing this is after that incident, given the strength of the imagery that David is drawing on: to me this looks like someone who has had a long look at the ugliness of their own actions, and is extremely grateful to be snatched from hell by the grace of our Savior. This opportunity for complete redemption is something that every prophet has emphasized. One of my favorite examples comes from Isaiah:

Come no, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be a scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
-Isaiah 1:18

The standards are high: the Lord cannot look on any sin with the least degree of allowance. But His mercy and grace are up to the task: nothing is too hard for Him; He is able to redeem us, to cleanse us, and to bring us home.

No wonder David ends his Psalm with an expression of confidence and joy.

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07 June 2017

Marsh Media Health {Crew Review}

Health Education Products for K-8 {MarshMedia }

When we were given the opportunity to review MarshMedia's health and puberty videos, which have been created for and marketed to the public schools in the past, but are now being offered to homeschool audiences through their Homeschool Special. When we were invited to participate I felt interested, but cautious: dealing with materials that teach about health and puberty is an area that we are just beginning to grow into, and it immediately brings up a lot of questions about what kind values the videos include, and if those values are a good match for our family's beliefs. It turned out that they offer a wide variety of videos, covering all kinds of things from nutrition and hygiene, to how various body systems work, and of course, puberty.

As I was setting up the account, the first video I picked to look at was a GO SLOW WHOA: Nutrition video, just to see what it's like. It's set up as a game-show, and is a touch cheesy, but Dragon(6) is the target age (K-3), and he was intrigued enough to come over and watch the whole thing just because he wanted to. Can't argue with that!

The concept was a good one: there are "GO foods" that you can eat almost any time, "SLOW foods" that are less nutritious, but not actually unhealthy, and "WHOA foods" that should only be eaten occasionally, if at all. I really like the way that they made it easy to understand and simple to explain, and the categories make it easy to remember and apply, going forward.

What I was less excited about was their treatment of fats: they're still working from the "all fats are bad" model, which recent research has shown to be problematic, so even natural fats like butter and cheese, which are minimally processed, were placed in in the same category as potato chips and soda, which seems more than a little problematic to me.

The concept of "Go Foods" and "Whoa Foods" proved to be pretty catchy, while the specifics of what was on the lists was much less so, which meant that this was pretty easily tweaked to more closely match our family's understanding of good nutrition, which centers on minimizing processed foods and preservatives, while maintaining a balanced approach (rather than a deprivation approach) to treats, and embraces healthy fats as a part of a good balance. I think that over all, this video will be a positive addition to the kids' understanding of what they ought to eat.  

We also tried a movie about dental hygiene and visiting the dentist. This was very timely, as we're due to for a visit soon, and Peanut especially will benefit from a thorough run-through of what to expect.

It covered some basic anatomy and care of your teeth, and also went over what to expect at a dental cleaning. It was, once again, a bit cheesy... but it's a health video. That's hard to avoid, and they did it in an amusing way.

Dragon(6): It's not the worst movie that I've ever seen, but it's not the best, either. I learned about how your teeth work, and how they're so hard. And I also learned about a few new tools, which it did not say the names of. One was for cleaning your teeth, one was for getting an x-ray of your teeth. That's everything.

Peanut(4): I learned in the tooth movie about the doctor. They telled me about the doctor, that the doctor helps anyone get their teeth clean!

Another movie that I watched was "Just Around the Corner -- For Boys". This is one of their puberty videos. It starts with addressing the obvious physical changes a boy can expect as he becomes a young man: growth in his genitalia, and hair growth on genitalia, arms, legs, and face. I was uncomfortable with the way that this was handled: they showed a naked boy, animated, rather than a diagram, which would have been preferable. And although the explanation of how genitalia grows was quite short and to the point, they stayed with the naked animation through the entire segment as they discussed getting taller, bulking up muscularly, and hair growth. After discussing this with my husband, we decided to not show this video to our son because of this section, feeling that the nudity went beyond what was necessary to explain the biology, and therefore fails to meet our family standards.

The movie covered the way that this growth often makes kids feel extra tired, emphasized that this is normal, and encouraged the boys to respond to their body's demand for more rest. It also went over the importance of exercise and good nutrition.

One thing that I liked was the way that they handled the discussion about the importance of good hygiene. They addressed the fact that little kids don't stink when they play hard, and then explained the biology of why it is that teens and adults do. They did this in terms that encourage thinking positively about the body, and also reminded the boys to drink plenty of water. The section about body oils and odors transitioned seamlessly into discussion of pimples, and how to reduce them by washing your face. They also do a good job here of talking about you may experience various changes either before or after their friends, and that this is normal and not of concern.

Next came a section on reproduction, with additional diagrams of the male system. One thing that I found weird here was they referred to the passage the sperm use to travel from the testicles to the urethra as a "sperm duct", rather than using the proper term of vas deference. This was disappointing; it's always good policy to use correct medical terminology, but this is especially true in educational materials. However, the rest of this section was well done.

The final section of the video talked briefly about emotional changes -mood swings, though it didn't use that term- and encouraged the boys to talk to a trusted adult about these and other things they experience, encouraging them to choose parents, emphasizing parents as the best option, and as someone who has the boy's best interests at heart, but they do also suggest or "a special caregiver". These other caregivers included school teachers and counselors or "someone at home" as potential options. This is one area where the video seems a little awkward for a homeschool student: there are no non-parental options that are not associated with the public schools: no mention of religious or other communities that the kids may be a part of, but this would be easily addressed in the conversation that should take place in conjunction with this kind of material, so I don't think that's a big deal.

One thing that I really like about this video is the way that they minimize the assumption that kids will not like their bodies. Many of the puberty education materials that I have looked at have seemed to operate on the assumption that kids hate their bodies, and I am concerned that materials like that may actually tacitly teach that the body is gross and awkward, rather than supporting the notion that our bodies are gifts, created in the image of God. This video, while acknowledging that there may be some awkwardness, is overall very positive about the body, which I very much appreciate. It also steers clear of the topics of homosexuality and other deviant behavior, only mentioning briefly that, "You might also become a little more interested in girls during puberty."  This is one area that I was concerned about as I previewed this, but it wasn't a problem.

Other videos that we watched included Blood vs. Germs and The Immune System: Doing Its Part. My six year old is fascinated by how the body works, and I thought these would be interesting to him, so we watched them together. These included more information about the risks of using illegal drugs and promiscuous sex than I had anticipated from the descriptions, which was ok, just surprising. I did have to do some reassuring that HIV is not something that you can catch by casual contact: the video talked about HIV, but did not really say that it's transmitted differently from colds and other ordinary illnesses, which left my kids with concerns that needed to be addressed, and I had to explain about the differences between germs that pass by casual contact and those that are passed by bodily fluids. This was not something that I had anticipated needing to discuss in quite such depth at this point with my younger children. However, we've had some conversations about what pornography is and what to do if they should (in spite of the protections we have in place) find some, and this video ended up continuing and building upon that foundation, so while I was surprised, and although I might not have shown him the video had I previewed it first, I felt that it turned out well anyway.

We found that several of the videos were useful, and that there were some things that conflicted with our family values. Additionally, the video descriptions cannot always be relied upon to cue you in to what topics may come up, so I do recommend previewing all the videos prior to showing them to your kids.

If you want to use the MarshMedia curriculum in your homeschool, click here for details. To read more reviews on Marsh Media, and to see how other families used it in their homeschool, please click the graphic below:

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06 June 2017

K5 Learning {Crew Review}

K5 Learning

K5 Learning is a supplementary program, intended to help kids build their reading, math, and spelling skills, whether they are homeschooled or attending a public school. We don't do a lot of computer-based instruction like this, but tried it out when we were given a six month subscription to the K5 online program for this review. You can have up to 4 kids on a single account; enrolling in the program and setting things up was easy. Not only do they have a log-in for me, but once I enroll them, each of the kids has their own log-in (and I can make the password easy) which was great. The dashboard is easy to use and very clear; everything I wanted to find, I was able to find quickly.

The program started with a pretest. They'd broken things up with cute little games after each set of questions, but the test is multiple guess and about thirty minutes long. That is a long time to sit at a computer and answer questions, many of which are deliberately too hard. I understand why they would need to include questions that are harder than the child is expected to know: some kids will need that material in order to be placed correctly. They need the incorrect answers to be certain of the child's placement. However. Peanut(4) is on the very youngest end of the intended age range, and she's not reading yet - but the reading test never seemed to realize that she got everything wrong except letter sounds. It just kept asking her questions that she had no idea about, and often no way of knowing, since she'd have to read to get the answer correct. It did not feel very responsive at all, which was frustrating, and made it hard not to skew the results by coaching and helping. Dragon(6)'s test was easier: he was aware that he was getting lots of questions wrong which was hard on him, but got through it with a lot of reassurance that it's ok not to know everything - the test is made that way on purpose, and it helps the test to know what kind of questions to give him in the lessons, which was an ok explanation. 

However. The test did not accurately assess where Dragon is at, at all. The program we use isn't strong on geometry at his age, and it uses only basic terms for the geometry he has had, so he didn't know the word "congruent". As a result he missed a number of questions on the test - the test looked at a very narrow selection of skills dealing with geometry, and often used advanced vocabulary with no explanations, which seems odd for a program that intends to supplement a wide variety of math curricula: there should be room for the different ways that different curricula teach. It placed my boy that's just finishing up 1st grade math into an early Kindergarten level: a full two years behind his actual level. He ended up with a lot of color and shape matching, and questions like this:

His reaction: "This math is pathetically easy."

He flew through four lessons the first day, with perfect or near-perfect scores, and after a single sitting his enthusiasm for the course was greatly diminished. Getting the level of the work adjusted is possible, but you can't just take care if it yourself: you have to send a message to K5, and they adjust it for you. Without being able to look at the material that you're moving your child into. They do have a one-page document that briefly summarizes what the various grades cover, which I used that to guess where he ought to be. Unfortunately, when I emailed support, they were also frustrating to deal with: it was not as simple as a quick email to say, "Would you please adjust the level." Although I had given them the user name for the student that needed to have their math level adjusted, they started out  looking at Peanut's account, rather than Dragon's, and the process of getting that figured out and then fixing things was a pain. However, we did get it adjusted, and once it was taken care of, Dragon's math activities went much more smoothly.

After that, one of the things that they had him doing was working on some addition using this cute 100s chart. Afterwards, I asked him how it was going, and he told me about it, including telling me about patterns that he'd been noticing in the work. Noticing patterns is what real mathematics is all about, and we spend a lot of time talking about patterns in our numbers, so I like that this is supporting that kind of thinking. For whatever reason, place value has been tough for him to wrap his head around completely. We haven't used a 100s chart in a while, and in addition to the work in the lesson, it also sparked some conversations about how the problems move around on the chart, and he was able to verbalize how it works, which I liked, and would probably not have thought to teach in this way without K5.

Peanut's reading test put her much closer to where she really belongs, but the questions were not structured very well for someone who is still learning letter sounds and first blends: rather than giving her simple words (I would have preferred individual CVC words to start) they gave her whole sentences, and asked her to find the I-sound, which appeared sometimes at the beginning and sometimes in the middle, with no cues as to which she should expect. They only introduced a lowercase i, but sometimes she needed to pick out a word that started with a capital I. And there was no hint function at all, which she would have really benefited from, which all means that she can't do these lessons at all independently, and that defeats the purpose of having her do practice on the computer: I like to use computer games primarily for practice and review, so that she can use it relatively independently.

There was a sight words section, which could have been pretty valuable, but I didn't end up being very excited about it. The concept is nice, and the dinosaur delighted my kids -she's even purple, which is Peanut's favorite- but in the end, I felt the learning wasn't really happening. They'd introduce the sight word, and then there would be a sentence down there in the grass at the bottom of the screen, and the idea is for the child to pick the sight word out of the three or four words in the sentence. But they don't vary the sentences enough, and the sight words often ended up being in the same position in the sentence every time in a set of exercises. I thought she was doing great at first, until we had a set where the sentences did vary the position of the target word in the sentence. She got every one of them wrong: she'd been just clicking the same position, not really looking at the words. Given the age of the kids, it's a pretty predictable problem, and it's disappointing that the programmers and content designers didn't foresee it, or notice it in beta testing. Again, there was no hint function, and no help if she seems to be taking a long time: it just repeats the question a couple of times (and the repeat locks her out from giving a response, which caused some frustration), and then eventually it just tells her the answer.

Additionally, not all of the words are actually sight words -- words such as "am" and "at" are not only highly phonetic, but also great candidates for teaching as first blended words, since there's only two letters to manage, but they were both in the first set of five "sight" words that Peanut was given. With so many real sight words that do need to be memorized, I cannot understand why they are including basic phonetic words in the sight words section.

The kids loved this cool little dinosaur that would bounce onto the screen every so often and hatch. Lots of giggles when he was around. They only got to see him if the question was answered correctly, otherwise the dinosaur sings a little ditty. Which was another thing: I felt like the feedback was  unclear: there was nearly as much song and dance for the wrong answers as there was for the right ones. How is my child supposed to know that she got it wrong if there is as big a prize for wrong answers as there is if she's correct? One of the strengths of the video game format is the ability to give clear feedback that unambiguously differentiates between correct and incorrect answers, with bells and whistles for only correct answers, which ends up resulting in kids being highly motivated to figure it out -- but this program seems to be afraid to mark a wrong answer wrong, and that doesn't do anybody any favors, least of all the child who is trying to learn to read. These games might work better for an older child that is already more skilled at reading, but they were not a good fit for Peanut.

K5 Learning also has a spelling section. Neither of my kids have started spelling, so they didn't use it, but I had a look using my 1st grader's account. You can add custom words, but I just took a look at the ones they generate automatically. There is a spelling word section, and a vocabulary builder. In the spelling section the words are spoken, sometimes by a male voice, sometimes a female; the student then types the word. Most of the audio was clear, but some were very hard to understand, particularly the male voice. One of the words (be) I could not understand, even after the program showed me how to spell it -- it just didn't sound like anything, and was so quick that it was impossible to make out. This would have been very frustrating for my children. The vocabulary tutor gives the definition, and asks the student to type the word. Unfortunately, the definitions are not always distinct enough to know the exact word they want: the correct answer for "pronoun. - Belonging to a female" is "her" -- "hers" is marked incorrect, even though it also answers that definition. Dragon was given this clue, which I have copied and pasted just as they wrote it for the 6-year-olds; there was no visual cue:

Airtight sealed metal container for food or drink or paint etc..  Also:  To know how to; To have the ability to.

The word was "can". I posed this question to him verbally, as a "what's my secret word" question (he loves that kind of game), and he had no idea. Expecting that 6-year-olds will be able to divine what word they're looking for here doesn't seem very age-appropriate to me, particularly considering that at this age many kids are still emerging readers, and will struggle to even decipher this clue, which includes an abbreviation and several items of advanced punctuation.

K5 offers several reports to summarize how your child is doing. They are nice, as far as they go, but the math reports do not show you the types of problems that your child is missing: to know that he missed a couple of questions in "algebra" is less than useful, when, as I looked at the work he was doing, I would have said that he was learning place value and two-digit addition. Headings that relate to 1st grade work and samples of problems missed would have been more useful.

If you click "View Math Progress Report" there is a little more information, but the headings do not match up between the two sections of reports. There is no indication of how they deal with work that is not mastered: I don't know if it's brought back for him to work on in a different session. And there is no way to manually assign him a certain type of problem that I'd like to see him practice. Looking at the lessons completed/lessons mastered, I'm not sure how they come up with 6 of 7 lessons mastered: when we do our math at the kitchen table, all but one of the lessons under numbers and operations I would consider not mastered, and ask him to do some more of that type of question, but they have marked him as having mastered all but one of these sections. This appears to mean that one of the sections that he scored 30% on has been counted as "mastered"?? That seems... odd. And why did they move him from Addition Level 1 Volume 1 into Volume 2, when he was only scoring 73% in Volume 1? That low of a score indicates a need for more practice, not harder work, and the scores on Volume 2 are predictably low, reflecting the lack of mastery of the previous level.

The spelling reports are better. They give a pretty detailed break down of what the student has been working, how often, and how well they've been doing. The headings on the bottom section are all clickable, which allows you to organize the data from a number of different learning sessions in a variety of different ways, and if you click "details" on the lower right of the screen,  you can see the word list used in that set, which words they spelled correctly, and which ones they got wrong. The spelling section has nice reports.

I feel like this program has a lot of potential to be a fun way to practice and review important skills, but as it is now it misses the mark in some important ways.

To read about how other families used K-5 Learning in their homes, and see how it worked for them, please click on the banner below:

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05 June 2017

Latina Christiana {Crew Review}

Memoria Press

Latina Christiana Complete Set
I've had my eye on the Memoria Press Latin materials for quite some time (they have a number of interesting offerings), but hadn't bought it yet, so when we were given the opportunity to review the Latina Christiana Complete Set I was really excited. The plan is to make Latin a long-term part of our schedule.

The best approach to Latin grammar is to consider it a basic subject, like arithmetic, that is to be mastered by consistent effort over a period of years. If Latin is presented to students as a fun enrichment course, they will want to drop it when the novelty wears off and it becomes routine and hard. 
-Teachers' Manual: Preface

Before we started trying to do the Latin with Hero(10), I sat down and spent some time looking over the materials and orienting myself to the course; there's quite a bit of material to look over, and I wanted to have a pretty clear idea of what a lesson would look like before I started. In reading the introductory materials in the Teachers' Manual, I found this:

There is much to memorize in the first few years of Latin, and because group recitation is a pleasant and effective way to accomplish this task, I strongly recommend the formation of a "class" for Latin study. You may have a ready-made class in your homeschooling family, or you may want to recruit some children from a neighboring family. Even preschoolers will want to chime in and merrily chant: amo, amas, amat...
-Teachers' Manual: Preface

I spent some time mulling this over and praying, and decided to order a second workbook for my younger son. At almost 7, he's a little bit younger than the recommended ages for the course, but looking at the materials, I think that we can support him so that he can handle it, and the benefit of having a "class" to do the work with looks like it's going to be significant. I also took a day or two to adjust my lesson plans to reflect that we'll be doing a little bit of Latin most days for the foreseeable future.

As we dived in, the prediction that preschoolers would happily chant along proved to be true: Peanut loves it. She is blissfully unaware that, officially, she is not taking Latin yet, and participates in every lesson. The one that needed some persuasion was Dragon: he thought that once he'd said it once, it was done, and resisted doing it again, until I explained to him that when he learns something new, there are new connections made in his brain, but they start out small. It's through repetition that the brain realizes, "Hey! This is important stuff -- I'd better remember this," and builds up the connections so they get strong. After that, he was all in: who doesn't want to grow their brain? His new-found enthusiasm was pretty cute, and I caught him saying parts of the Table Blessing on his own.

By the end of the first week we'd completed the first lesson, and both boys had a reasonable grasp on the things we'd been introduced to. As I had expected, Hero was very comfortable with the materials and presentation, and Dragon needed a little bit of scaffolding, but with the proper help he was successful, too. I felt like the amount of work the lesson entailed was really very do-able, even with our already busy schedule. The hardest part the first week was making sure that everyone understood the grammar involved - verbs and pronouns - since Dragon had not run into those concepts before; Hero has, through his English grammar and a little prior dabbling with Latin, but it was all new territory for Dragon.

When we started the second lesson, it became apparent that, while we'd done well with learning the grammar, we had skimped on our work with the vocabulary. So we broke out the flash cards (I'd been slow to find a container for them). There's only 15 words in the first two lessons, so this is not a big deal. It looks like time spent drilling the vocabulary now should pay rich dividends later -- which is true in any language, really.

Lesson two introduced the concept of conjugation, and so we also started practicing chanting our conjugations. This works really well in the car, which was where we first tried it: I brought the boys' workbooks, so they could reference the vocabulary lists, and then told them that it was their job to keep me doing it right, since I'm learning too, but I can't look at the lists while I drive. It was hard at first, for all of us. Hero was quickly able to start looking at the verb we were working with and then closing the book, to work from memory. Dragon had to work harder to figure out what to do, but he was also able to be successful in figuring out how to conjugate the verbs and even lead our chant near the end. I thought it was cool how quickly we all improved; chanting really did help.

I am really appreciating the very clear instructions in the Teacher Manual. This course is for the teacher who does not know Latin, and the instructions are clear and informative, but do it without talking down to the teacher, and without resorting to scripting every single sentence that you say, and they've just struck a very nice balance. Things like **Before you teach this lesson, re-read the Grammar Overview, page x.** are really helpful to keep me a step ahead of the kids in learning how this language is put together, and there are clear instructions about what to do and how to be prepared throughout the lessons. It makes it easy to present the material.

Looking ahead, there are review lessons built in, and the first one includes some encouragement for the teacher:

The oral work in Latin is to aid the memory in retaining vocabulary and grammar forms. It is not to develop speaking fluency as in modern languages. Oral recitation work is extremely important in learning Latin. There is too much to learn in Latin to rely on visual memory alone. Do not be overly concerned about whether your pronunciation is exactly right. Say Latin with confidence. Act like you know what you're doing. If you find out later that you are saying some words or sounds wrong, great! Correct yourself and go on. Remember, there are no Romans around to correct.

This philosophy is really nice to have emphasized. In our work with Japanese, I work hard to minimize my accent, and encourage my kids to do the same. I put in a lot of effort trying to create a semi-immersive environment to assist in learning that language, but those things are not possible with Latin. It's a good reminder to not worry so much about pronunciation. This is encouraging all by itself, but they're not done:

Teaching Latin is a real art. As your skills as a teacher grow, then the progress of your students will accelerate. The progress of my students was very slow the first year. As my experience and confidence increased, the rate of student learning increased also. Be content with a slow pace at the beginning, and lay a good foundation. Be grateful for what God has allowed you to learn and teach, and do not be dissatisfied with your rate of progress. Rome was not built in a day, and your knowledge of Latin won't be either.

Being content with a slow pace is hard for me, so this is a great reminder. I'd hoped to be able to do a lesson every week, but with supporting Dragon, we're just a little slower than that, at least for now. However, he's building a good foundation, and I am comfortable with where we're at. Hero could probably do faster, if I was going at his pace: he's really taking to this course.

By the third lesson, things were beginning to be more routine. The first concepts were much more familiar, the conjugations came much more readily, and everybody knows what to expect in a lesson. There is a lot of new material in each lesson, but I feel we are doing well with learning it. Each lesson has a video portion, which goes over new vocabulary and grammar. We end up pausing this a lot, and in lesson three, we even split it into two sessions, as I wanted to be sure that the boys understood what a direct object is: that was new to them both, and the video goes over it very quickly. There are breaks in the video intended for student responses, but they're a little short for our family's needs. What ends up happening is that I pause in those breaks, which works out nicely. After we watch the video, we work with flashcards, do the worksheet, and practice until I feel that they boys are pretty solid in what they're doing, and ready to add on. Then we move to the next lesson.

I really like the way it's easy to regulate the pace with these materials. It's tidy to plan to do a lesson a week, but with summer coming on, the pace we keep for school is slowing down, and book work gives way somewhat to more time outside, which we don't get a lot of in winter. These lessons are easy to adjust to that sort of thing, which is great. Overall, I think that this is a program that I can see is working for our family, and I'm looking forward to continuing and eventually completing it.

If you want to read more reviews of this and other Memoria Press products, click the banner below. There's other Latin materials, as well as two different science/nature study packages that Crew members have been looking at so they can share their thoughts with you.

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