Thursday, April 30, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Memoria Press

This school year I have had a crash course in Classical Education. There are some ideas I freely embrace, some I don't, and still some I just don't understand. However, I always feel as a homeschool mom to always be learning, always "perfecting," and changing to meet the needs of the individual student - which I call more eclectic.

I was introduced to Memoria Press a little over a month ago. On their website they have many great articles on the classical method of education. To visit this list click here. There are many articles there to get a taste or a full course meal, depending on what you are looking for.

Memoria Press puts out some great history products. They have reprinted the Famous Men series by John Haaren and A.B. Poland. They have occasionally clarified pronunciations and added beautiful color pictures. Otherwise they are the same as the originals. I was very impressed with the colored pictures. Many are full page and double spread pages. My only disappointment was that they don't have a hard cover. This might be because this would significantly increase the cost.

The Famous Men series is biographical stories of different people during the time period covered. These give young children a foundation in world history before going on to a more thorough study in high school. You could complete one or two guides a year depending on how fast you want to study, and how in depth you want to go, maybe supplementing with other real books. From my perspective, I felt that the books were better understood by second or third grade levels and up.

Also available to accompany the Famous Men series are student workbooks and teacher guides. The student workbooks contain lessons for each reading in the Famous Men series. They include: Facts to know, vocabulary, comprehension questions, timeline work, who said what worksheets, activities to accompany the lessons, drawing pages, tests, and map work. The teacher books are basically answer keys with some additional information and explanations, which I found helpful. The student books are more suited to middle school grades.

The Famous Men of Greece books combines myths (Greek allegory) with truth to tell the history and stories of ancient Greeks:"Apparently ancients did not think like we do, that things are natural facts and some things are untrue. The classical myths are allegories. The ancients saw these stories as true - not in the natural fact, but true in a different way." "An allegory is a story about real things told in terms of mythical persons and events. The meaning of an allegory is true, or intended to be true although the persons or events may not be factual." (From the Teacher guide book that accompanies Famous Men of Greece; page 11.) This explanation really helped me to better understand where the Greeks are coming from and how to explain it to my children. There is also an excellent article on: Why Study the Pagans? Click Here.

Some topics/ biographies covered in Famous Men of Greece:

The first half covers the myths:

The God's of Greece

Deucalion and the Flood




The adventures of Odysseus

Then the book goes onto a more biographical history of Greece:

Draco and Solon



Alexander the Great


The Fall of Greece

(and many more)

You can see a copy of the table of contents by Clicking HERE.

Famous Men of Modern Times is similar in lay out as the Famous Men of Greece except that the teacher guide contains copy work passages and writing prompts for the activity section, which I thought was a great addition to the program.

The Famous Men of Modern Times covers famous and not so famous people such as Columbus, Chevalier Bayard, Cardinal Wolsey, Sir Francis Drake, Galileo, Peter the Great, George Washington, Napoleon, and many more. My children did enjoy sitting and listening to these great stories. I do wish the stories had more "meat" in them, but overall were very good. The student guide helps the child to remember important dates and map the paths of the explorers to help cement this all in their memory and give a great foundation.

One of the great things about this series is the price. You can save 25% buy purchasing the complete set (teacher and student guides and Famous Men book) for only $39.95. To see all the Famous Men books available visit: Memoria Press by clicking here.

Memoria Press also offers Latin curriculum at several levels. We looked at the first level available: Prima Latina. This is for grades K-3, however they have to be reading before they can begin. Some say this level is optional and you can skip to the Latina Christiana program if you would like. All of their Latin books can be used and taught by the non-Latin teacher/parent.

Absolute essentials to the programs are:

The student book

The teacher manual

and the Pronunciation Guide, songs, and prayer CD

Optional, but highly recommended by me, the DVD's to accompany the program.

This program uses Christian Pronunciation.

You can do the program without the DVDs, however, they were such a blessing to me, I don't think I would want to do it without it. The DVDs contain the entire lesson taught by the author of the book. She makes it so much fun and is very encouraging to the student. She gives explanations that I just don't know.

Having done a few lessons, the lessons are appropriate for the young reading child. They are not overwhelming, learning just 5 new words each lesson. Grammar is gently integrated into the lessons, helping to understand grammar better. There is pronunciation practice, memory work, and writing practice to help build the Latin foundation. There is review built in and the program bridges the way into the next level: Latina Christiana.

If you are wondering why we should teach Latin. You can visit the article page listed above and read different reasons. One of the reasons is that most of our words are derived from the Latin language and helps build vocabulary. The one reason I appreciated the most was the fact that it helps the child learn critical thinking skills. You can read an article about how it helps build critical thinking skills in the PDF file: An Apologia For Latin Centered Classical Curriculum (Click Here.)

Memoria Press has other great products to supplement a great classical curriculum. You can visit their website to explore and learn more about their other great products.

Memoria Press Website - Click Here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

TOS Crew Review: WriteShop StoryBuilders

Here is a fun way to get your children to write! StoryBuilders is great for the reluctant writer. Get the ideas flowing either orally or on paper and see an improvement in your children's writing. These downloadable games act as a spring board for writing practice.

First, you need to print out the deck of StoryBuilder cards. There are four types of cards: Character Cards, Character Trait Cards, Setting Cards, and Plot Cards. You have the option of printing out either colored cards on white card stock, or black and white cards on colored card stock paper. There are approximately 27 pages to print out to use this game. When this is done, you are really ready to go!

There are several variation of games you can play with these cards. You can decide for the child what they will write, roll a die, or even do a blind pick. You can vary the activity from day to day to keep interest. Then you have several game options. You can do it orally or have your child write their story on paper. You can even do a group game/project. You can then pick new cards throughout the exercise to help change the plot, setting, or whatever, to boost creativity.

Examples of Cards:
Character: astronaut; mad scientist
Character Trait: eccentric; flustered
Setting: desert; fishing boat
Plot: cannot move; finds a time machine

StoryBuilders is such a fun way for your children write, they won't realize they are learning. There are currently 4 of these available: World of People (where the examples come from above,) World of Sports, World of Animals, and StoryBuilders Christmas Mini Builder. You are almost guaranteed to laugh and have fun with this resource!
WriteShop also has other writing products and curriculum available from early grades on up. You can see more if you visit their website by clicking here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art and Culture - Review

Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art and Culture by Makoto Fujimura, a contemporary Christian artist shares his art, thoughts, and faith in this journal of poignant essays. Influenced by 9/11, since he lives 3 blocks from ground zero, has largely shaped him and it comes out in his writings.

This work is written in journal form going from one topic to the next, without any clear connection to other chapters. The only underlying theme mentioned throughout are his thoughts and experiences with 9/11. In one chapter he shares about meeting the architect of the Freedom Towers. Included are a couple drawings / pictures of the proposed "Freedom Towers."

He does share some influences in his life, including his faith in Christ; new experiences, such as visiting colleges with his son; his experiences teaching troubled students and how art made a difference; he talks of his travels, his awards, and other life experiences that have shaped him.

According to Webster’s dictionary, "Refractions" are looking at something through a (art) medium. I guess you can say we get to see into the heart of Mr. Fujimura through his art, faith, and his writings.

This book has mostly colored pictures of his art and other photos, that embellish each chapter. This would make a great gift book, for your contemporary art loving friends.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Modern Day "Faith Movement" Exposed!

In Christianity in Crisis – 21st Century, Hank Hanegraaff (AKA: The Bible Answer Man,) writes an exposé of the modern day “faith movement.” Clearly citing his work in over 75 pages of footnotes, he makes an excellent case of how faith doctrine attacks the deity of God. His research is outstanding and very carefully footnoted. Hanegraaff has even attended crusades to get the information for himself. He also uses interviews, recordings, and books the faith teachers produce to get his information. He clearly is making some strong statements in this book that have often brought opposition to him.

In the first section of the book, Hanegraaff clearly states the history behind and the names of those “evangelist and “televangelist” in the faith doctrine movement and their heretical teachings. Many of these teachings have roots in “metaphysics.” The teachings date back to mid to late 1800’s. Like he says, some teachings are clearly silly, while others are out right wrong and attack the central teaching of Christ, often taking verses out of context or embellishing them. However he has been careful to state he is not attacking the sincerely held beliefs of the faith teachers’ followers, but the actual false teachings.

He continues through the parts 2 to 6 taking each heretical teaching, exposing the author and history, and then counters the teaching with biblical truth. Some examples of false teachings include: that we are made in the image of God, so we are little gods; having faith in faith and that God has faith; that Jesus went to hell to take our punishment in hell for us; that Christ was the first person born again; and the common prosperity teachings of “the health and wealth gospel.”

The last section of the book he takes us back to basics. Hanegraaff reminds us that when things are going wrong, we must return to our foundations. He brings us back around to the basic fundamental teachings of the bible to remind us of the truth. He reminds us to go back to the bible, read, study, memorize, and search the scriptures like the Bereans did. He gives us the foundational teachings of the diety of Christ, original sin, the resurrection, the Trinity and many more foundational teachings that all Christian should have unity in.

I had a difficult time reading this book because I know so many who are following those in the “faith movement.” I knew when watching these faith preachers on TV, I did not have peace in my spirit and could not watch them. Hanegraaff makes some strong statements in this book which will offend some. I am so glad that Hanegraaff has taken the time to expose these false teachings and teach the truth.

This book is somewhat long, and sometimes repetitious. I do feel it could have been done in a more organize manner, in less words. I would love to have seen a chart of some kind that lists the false teachings and who teaches what. However, I will give it 5 stars for the boldness to teach the truth that is so lacking.

I feel bad for all the people who are being deceived by the faith movement/doctrine teachings. Where are the others sounding the horn, exposing the truth? I highly recommend buying this book and sharing it with your friends. We, as Christians, must get back to the basics and expose the truth, in love.
Thomas Nelson Product Page - Click Here.
To purchase the book at Amazon - Click Here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Tapestry of Grace DE

"Tapestry of Grace is a homeschool curriculum: a plan of study that helps parents provide a Christian, classical education using a guided unit study approach, with the history of the world as the core organizational theme. From Grades K–12, all students cycle through world history every four years, with all ages studying the same slice of history each week, each at their own learning level. "

"Tapestry covers the humanities: history, church history, literature, geography, fine arts, government, philosophy, and writing & composition. Tapestry does not include a phonics program, science, math, grammar, spelling, or foreign language. Lampstand Press does, however, recommend and sell complementary logic, spelling, and grammar programs." Click here to read more about "What is Tapestry of Grace?"

We were given the opportunity to try the new download digital edition of Tapestry of Grace (TOG). I had heard of TOG from a friend who knew someone who used it. When I looked at it years ago, I thought it looked overwhelming so my explorations ended there. Given the opportunity to review it now, has changed my opinion of it. Here is part of my journey and some info I found helpful. I apologize from the start for all the links to other places. TOG takes some research to appreciate, and it would be too much to put all that info here. If you want to begin exploring on the TOG for yourself, start by clicking here.

The download process was a little complicated, requiring a few steps to complete. Even so, I did not have any difficulty downloading. However, TOG assures me that this process has been shortened into a one step process with instant access.

Some of benefits of the digital version:

  • It is available for Macs and Microsoft operating systems.

  • You can't lose it, because you can always go to your account and re-download if something happens to your hard drive.

  • You can just print out the pages you need or want, or make multiple copies of student pages as needed for your family.

  • Can buy as you go. When you finish up one unit, you can download the next, making it more affordable.

    • To see the TOG DE interface:

      To read more specifics about TOG DE version visit:

      Tapestry of Grace uses a 4 year cycle. This covers all human history over a 4 year period. The idea is that your child would cycle through the curriculum 3 times at a different level throughout his homeschool career. This helps keep the cost down and keeps your family all studying the same topic on their own level. You can also place your child by ability rather then grade level.

      Lower Grammar: Non-fluent reader, Approximately grades K-3, Enjoys learning basic facts
      Upper Grammar: Independent reader, Approximately grades 3-6, Enjoys memorizing concrete, sequential facts
      Dialectic: Reads to learn, Approximately grades 6-9, Enjoys making connections and learning to debate
      Rhetoric: Reads the Great Books, Approximately grades 9-12, Enjoys analyzing and synthesizing ideas and arguments

      Tapestry Year 1 covers the history of the world from the Creation to the Fall of Rome in 450 AD.

      Tapestry Year 2 covers the history of the world from the Fall of Rome in A.D. 450 to the signing of the US Constitution.

      Tapestry Year 3 covers the history of the world during the 1800's.

      Tapestry Year 4 covers the history of the world during the Twentieth Century and into the present.

      Looking over the DE is amazing how much information is provided on it. In fact, to this day every time I open it I find something new. You get access to the LOOM which contains updates, articles, helps, student worksheets and more to go along with the program. To read more about the LOOM and get additional updates visit or What is the Loom? The unit I have - Year 1 Unit 3 - has 470 pages in 9 units plus the Loom. That is a lot of information.

      TOG has an excellent support system with online forums, yahoo groups, and virtual co-ops. My questions have always been answered quickly and completely. To find out more about support available go to:

      TOG is considered a classical curriculum. I asked what that meant to TOG and got a 10 page response. You can read about what they define classical curriculum as by clicking here. This article gives an excellent overview as well, as to what to teach at each level of development. For more about the "Philosophy of TOG" Click Here.

      I started with a little research and decided to dive in for my review. We did a few weeks at the Upper grammar / lower grammar levels. I wish I had seen this article (CLICK HERE) on getting started with TOG before I started, because it would have been a big help. Also available is the Simple Start Guide PDF which is similar to the website information.

      Because my husband is unemployed, I decided to use what we had on hand to complete the readings. I did get several books from the library as well. TOG does not publish a list of books used in the curriculum. You must find them by reading each weeks lesson. You can also visit Bookshelf Central and see what books are used at different levels and for how long. Most books you can substitute what you have at home. However, for the literature selections you generally have to use the book recommended or you will have trouble with the discussion questions. This really only becomes a problem in the Dialectic and Rhetoric levels. They also include an alternate list, with suggestions as well.

      With TOG you are given a weekly plan which you are to use as a "buffet" of items to choose from. You would not do all of them, you couldn't in a week. In the "LOOM" you will find assignment sheets to help with your weekly planning for each level. We picked read alouds, independent readings, and activities to do for the week. There is an excellent article on setting up your week here:

      TOG also offers some optional supplemental materials that go along with the curriculum (click on names to read more or see samples):
      Writing Aids: is a rich writing guide for your homeschool family. This one-time purchase may be used as a standalone, or as a guide through teaching and evaluating all writing assignments in Tapestry on all levels for your student's entire K-12 education! A great review of this product is available from Cathy Duffy's website.
      MapAids: all of your outline maps are in one place. Print as many custom-drawn, learning-level specific outline maps as you need each week, and check your answers with the included teacher's maps.
      Evaluations: A CD containing additional or alternate student evaluations. It can be used as a tool to cement what your student has learned, or as a study resource to prompt more focused learning.
      Pop Quiz: is Tapestry's way of bringing working dads into the fun of multi-level learning: each week, the Pop Quiz audio CD provides a brief summary of your students' weekly topics, and provides age-appropriate questions so that Dad can be a part of your family's educational conversation!
      Lapbooks :are great for your hands-on learner! Flaps, tabs, mini-books and so much more make a regular set of folders and paper burst with historical life. Geared toward lower levels.

      There is a learning curve with this curriculum. You must spend time learning how to implement it. However the excellent teaching notes included in the curriculum make you an "expert" even if you can't keep up with your child's readings. After doing 3 to 4 weeks with this curriculum, I was sold on it. I knew I wanted my children to learn this way. I want them to have a strong grounded in their faith and why they believe. One of the goals of this curriculum is to discuss the events - good and bad - and what the biblical response is. I want my children to be able to learn why the believe what they do and not because their parents believe a certain way. We have always enjoyed learning through real books, but did not feel equipped to teach them unguided. I feel Tapestry of Grace will fill that need with our family.

      My children were equally blessed by this curriculum and agreed they wanted to use it too. After family discussion we decided not finish the current unit we were on (Year 1 Unit 3) and go back to beginning and start from there. We are setting up now and slowing working our way into the program. We are going to spend the rest of the school year an some of the summer working on the first unit and getting into a routine with it. So that we can go full stream ahead next fall with unit 2, Lord willing.

      There are samples available on the website that you can download for 3 weeks of Year 1 Unit 1 and 3 weeks of Year 2 Unit 3.
      You can also order a free kit (plus postage) by clicking here.
      This Humanities map can be downloaded for free from the website. It is an overview of the program following "HIS" highway. Very nicely done. This is only a section of year one. All years can be found on the website.

      Click map to see bigger picture...

      Visit Tapestry of Grace at:

      Sunday, April 5, 2009

      TOS Crew Review: Apologia Science

      "But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you..." 1 Peter 3:15

      "Apologia Ministries exists to give the home-schooled student a scientific education that will help him or her make a reasoned defense of the Christian Faith." *From the Apologia website.

      Apologia is a Christian homeschool science curriculum from a literal creationist prospective. They have material for elementary to high school level with some AP science type courses. All of there material is meant to be college prep (in high school to meet college requirements for college entrance.) Their material is written by a former university professor and homeschool dad. One significant benefit of using this curriculum is the FREE helpline, should a question you can't seem to answer arise.

      All the material is very homeschool friendly with lists of materials needed at the beginning of the textbooks. Most of the material are every day items, you can easily find, while the more advanced sciences may take some extra effort to find. The text books have full color photos that are appealing to children and parents. I could not help but think that the elementary level texts have that sit down and snuggle on the couch feel about them. Very homeschool friendly.

      The first text book that we are reviewing is Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day. You can see all sorts of samples, table of contents, course notebook and course flashcards here.

      This book is generally considered a pre-requisite to the Zoology texts 2 & 3. This text covers classification of animals, in some detail, and the "dynamics" of flight. This text is meant for grades K to 6. However, my kindergartner and first grader were lost in the first chapter on classification. Although it got easier once we past that chapter. My third grade thoroughly enjoys the book and has gotten a lot out of it.

      Like I said earlier, this text does have a curl up on the couch feel about it. The text (as are all Apologia books) feel like the author is talking directly to you. This book uses a "Charlotte Mason" type approach to learning. The activities in the book coincide with the (optional - not necessary to use the course) notebooking pages you can download at the website for free. You can build your notebook as you go through the book.

      Since this is about "Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day" topics you would expect to cover are: Birds, bats, insects, and flying reptiles. This has a sturdy hard cover text, 14 modules, and 240 fully indexed pages. You would expect to complete the text in about a year.

      Exploring Creation with General Science 2nd Edition, can be used for grades 7 through 9, depending on ability of the student. This is an overview of science to help prepare for future more in depth study of the sciences.

      This text is similar to the above mentioned book, in that all lab supply list can be found in one place. In this book, it happens to be at the end of the book. There are 16 modules covering topics: history of science, scientific process, analyzing experiments, applied science, history of life (from a creation perspective,) geology, fossil record, life science, and several chapters on specific human body systems.

      The text comes with a solutions manual and tests with answers to both.

      My daughter was using an earlier edition of this text before we received this one. She enthusiastically switched over to the new edition which has updated pictures, and some new clarifications. For the chapters we compared, the questions were the same as the first edition.

      You work through the "On Your Own" questions as you work through the module. These questions generally require some thought, not just rewriting what is in the text. The answers for the "On Your Own" questions are included in the student text in the chapter. The student completes any experiments as they come up. Then goes on to complete a study guide for each module. The study guide includes vocabulary words and study question in preparation for the test. The student must complete this before taking the test or they won't do well. Tests vary and contain matching, defining words, short answer, diagram questions / labeling, making lists, etc.

      My daughter (8th grade) is the none science type, but has found the text easy and fun to use. She has learned a lot about creation science and different theories, which has help cement her faith. My son also used the 1st edition of this curriculum and was able to give him a strong foundation in creation science. My son does admit this was not his favorite subject, because it was his first formal science class he had taken (when he was in 7th grade.) He thought the questions were challenging. However,this course helped cement his future learning in science by giving him an excellent foundation. He went on to do Physical Science, Biology and is completing Chemistry.

      My daughter does happen to be doing a lap book along with hers. That may make it more fun. She says the material is easy to understand and follow along with. Some of the questions, she thinks, are more difficult then others, but overall has not had a problem completing the work. She has been able to do the science projects mostly independently, sometime getting help from her older brother.

      There are some other options available for this class that were not reviewed. You can find out more and see samples, table of contents, etc. by clicking HERE!

      Exploring Creation with Biology, 2nd Edition is recommended for around grade 9. There are no prerequisites for this course. This book also comes with the text and solution and test guide. Other options are available for the course (cd-rom, mp3, etc.)

      I was able to get me son to complete this course as apposed to another publisher, because this course does not include human biology. This is not necessary for the average student. Apologia does offer advanced biology which contains human anatomy and physiology. You would need both biology courses to take the advanced placement (AP) test for biology.

      This biology is all the high school student, without aspirations to the medical field, would need. There is a lot of information and a lot of vocabulary words in each of its 16 modules. That was my son's biggest complaint - the vocabulary. The text is easy to read and like always, makes you feel like the author is sitting down next to you explaining things.

      The format of modules and study guide are the same as the general science. There are some dissection experiments that are recommended. The experiments requiring microscopes are highly recommended, but not required because of the increase cost of having to purchase a microscope. The dissection experiments do include some pictures of what is going on and how to do most of the steps.
      Apologia has done a great job at meeting the needs of the homeschool community by providing an excellent science curriculum. This area is often lacking in homeschools. Apologia makes it easier for homeschoolers meet science requirements without adding a lot of fluff. The upper levels are directed toward the student, so that with limited assistance from the parent/teacher, homeschooled students can get a great science education.
      Samples are available on the Apologia Website.
      To visit The Apologia Science website - CLICK HERE!