Review of E-Book: "Embracing the E-Book Revolution"  

Posted by: Laura Delgado in

I have a confession to make: like the contributors to the E-Book “Embracing the E-book Revolution”, I, too, am an E-Book junkie. While I would never permanently trade the delicious experience of a “real” book, I recognize the immense value of E-Books – both the financial and educational value. Due to the fact that I consider myself something of an E-Book connoisseur, I was skeptical as to whether I would learn anything from this new 42 page offering from The Old Schoolhouse’s storefront. What a pleasant surprise I had in store for me as I delved into the E-pages!
Once again, as is often the case with offerings from The Old Schoolhouse, about half of the nine chapters are written by names that should be quite familiar to many homeschoolers. All of the chapters end with brief biographies, demonstrating that each author is eminently qualified to comment on the subject of E-Books in particular, and homeschooling in general, which I find to be quite a nice touch. In two separate cases, I found myself navigating to the Internet in order to find out more about these particular, less familiar (at least to me) authors.
One of the best features of this E-Book is that there truly is something for everyone. Whether you, like me, are already a fan and a user of E-Books, or whether, like many of the homeschooling moms I know, you are just slightly intimidated or put-off by the whole idea of electronic media, you will find something helpful in this E-Book. The chapter entitled “E-Books: How am I supposed to Read Them?” is a great primer for someone very new to the genre. If you have never downloaded an E-Book, you might want to start here. Kim Kargbo walks you step-by-step through the process of reading, printing, binding, and storing E-Books.
For someone more familiar with this type of media, though, chapters five and six on the topic of storing E-Books will be particularly delightful. Isabelle Lussier and Michelle Amos have so many great ideas for organizing and storing E-Books. After all, E-Books are useless if, once downloaded, you can’t find them on your computer! Whether you prefer a more micro or macro approach to your organizational technique, both of these chapters include some impressive ideas guaranteed to help you find your E-Books more efficiently.
While all of the information contained in this E-Book is well worth reading, it is the other features of the E-Book that make it truly exceptional. The glossary at the end of the book is a huge a bonus for those people unfamiliar with E-Books, as it defines key terms used throughout the book. Best of all, these terms are hyperlinked in the text. Perhaps you’re reading along, mesmerized by the possibilities of these things called E-Books, when you come to p. 31, and find that your E-Books can be stored on a flash drive. The only problem is, you have never heard of a flash drive. No problem. Merely clicking on the words will take you immediately to a definition of the term at the end of the E-Book. Problem solved, with almost no interruption in your reading.
In addition to the glossary, though, all of the companies mentioned in the E-Book, including many homeschool favorites such as Homeschool in the Woods and The Mystery of History, are hyperlinked as well. Effectively, if you click on the company’s name, you are directed to that company’s website on the Internet. Thus, the E-Book “Embracing the E-Book Revolution” demonstrates one of the very best features of E-Books in general: the ability to navigate the Internet directly from a book! Thus, the activities of reading and research are truly integrated in a unique and amazingly advantageous way! Everything from lesson planning to writing your own E-Book (another topic quite ably covered in this E-Book) is now so much easier than ever!
Finally, since you will now certainly want to delve even further into the universe of E-Books, “Embracing the E-Book Revolution” provides several sites for you to explore. I can personally vouch for the treasure trove of material to be found at all of them. The one thing that this E-Book does not mention is that you can actually be a part of making even more E-Books available to the general public! Both The Baldwin Project and Project Gutenberg, two of the sites mentioned in “Embracing the E-Book Revolution”, rely on volunteer proofreaders to bring even more E-Books to their sites. Anyone can be a volunteer proofreader for these sites (I volunteer for both!). It is one more way to bring more E-Books to more people – an idea that I feel certain the authors responsible for “Embracing the E-Book Revolution” would endorse!

Ambitious Plans and Time Constraints!  

Posted by: Laura Delgado

This week I truly feel like I am falling behind my life. Yes - my life is finally getting ahead of me. We made the mistake of starting to clean out the playroom. Now my wonderful friend P is coming to stay the night before we go to an icon writing presentation and Divine Liturgy at my other wonderful friend Pe's Byzantine church, and all of the playroom cleaning has to get "swept" back into the playroom. I hate starting something I can't finish. I hate doing something halfway, or really doing anything that I can't do perfectly. Of course, since my initials aren't JC, I tend to live a very frustrated life. Anyway, I have what I loathe: a busy week. I'm taking T to the library today for a knitting club with her friend S. Tomorrow is AMC movie club for $1 movie. Thursday is Byzantine day. Friday is T-ball party day with the boys. Somewhere in there I have to find the time to finish my work for (work I really enjoy - I just have to find the time!). I was also fortunate enough to be asked to write another review for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine - an ebook on ebooks! It's right up my alley (look for the review here), but I need time! Time! Time! Tempus fugit...

My current project is the composition of my own history curriculum. I love Tapestry of Grace, but I have felt quite strongly that Catholic children deserve a Catholic curriculum, especially given that the history of the Western world *was* a Catholic history, prior to the Protestant Revolution (okay, okay, you might know it better as the Reformation). It would be nice if it was presented in an unbiased light (and maybe, someday, someone can do that ;-) ). Seriously, though, there are so many amazing Catholic resources out there that are just not tapped in Protestant curricula. Also, there is a tendency to gloss over, for example, Egypt because "it was pagan, and, therefore, did not have much to contribute to Christianity". That's pretty close to a direct quote from one popular homeschooling curriculum. Egypt may not have contributed much to Christianity, but we're still studying it because of its amazing early insights into farming, medicine, engineering, and other fields. Plus, kids love learning about Egypt. What better way to engage them in history early on in their education? Mummies, pyramids, the Nile, rituals, gods, myths, etc...We're going to start reading G.A. Henty's The Cat of Bubastes as a read-aloud this week, as a matter of fact...

The spine, if you will, of our history program will be Warren Carroll's five volume A History of Christendom (the fifth volume of which is not yet written). It is the only comprehensive Catholic history of civilization of which I am aware. T has studied Old Testament history until she is blue in the face. Both she and I are so ready to stop wandering in the wilderness that we consider ourselves honorary Jews, but the younger kids haven't studied it at all. Hence, although I run the risk of them not understanding the parallel track of history, we will not study OT history right now. With T, though, I will continue Religion, using Fr. Laux primarily, although now supplementing with Peter Kreeft as we start talking about the compilation of the canon. When I start actually to write the history curriculum, I will write in a big section on the compilation of the canon. It's something about which I suspect a lot of Catholic parents don't know much themselves, but which I have studied and enjoy. It is almost mini-apologetics to know why the books in the Bible are there, while others are not. It's also great Church history.

My mind is running so fast that my fingers can't keep up. It's funny. There are two kinds of homeschooling parents (okay, there are many more than two, but there are definitely at least these two): my type is looking every day at curriculum, wondering what is out there, and how I can fit more into our day, or how I can adapt it to what we do.

To be honest, what I am usually thinking is "how can I write something better than this that is ideally suited to Catholic classical homeschoolers?" The other type wants her curriculum simple and uncomplicated. If it works for her, she's happy. She likes her lesson plans to tell her what she needs to accomplish each day, and she likes to know that in May she is done for the summer, and that in September her children will begin a new grade. In no way do I mean to suggest that Mom B is inferior to Mom A. In fact, I sometimes envy her. The fact is, though, that I am the polar opposite of she, and I wonder sometimes if my kids suffer. I can point to their Math and Language/Reading curricula and tell you that 5 year old N (6 in a couple of weeks) will solidly be a 2nd grader by September, and that 7 year old T (8 in a few weeks) will unquestionably be a 5th grader by September, but their Science is somewhat sporadic and informal (they both know a ton of Science, though). Their art instruction has yet to begin (although I can tell you about every single great and not-so-great art curriculum out there, and I own three of them!). They are both way above level readers and are great spellers thanks to a very solid phonics foundation, and they both seek out non-fiction above fiction at least 50% of the time. I have been (usually obliquely) questioned for allowing/encouraging them to get ahead of their grade level, but why on earth not? There is no shortage of knowledge out there, and I plan to homeschool them through high school. You get to a point when you can afford to spend a whole semester studying Shakespeare in high school if that is what you choose to do, right? I digress and I ramble. I cease.

School Updates  

Posted by: Laura Delgado in ,

Since I posted a review, I guess I should post an actual school update. The official (read: public) school year is coming to a close this week, and here is where we stand:

  • T is finishing up Saxon Math 5/4 and will start Saxon Math 6/5 immediately thereafter. We will skip the first 20 or 30 lessons which constitute an insulting review. She's doing quite well in math, so I'm not worried about doing so at all. She is halfway through FLL 4, and I'm probably going to buy Rod and Staff grade 5 for her tomorrow at The Homeschool Store. I wish so much that FLL had a level 5, but no luck. Maybe by the time N is ready. T is doing Latina Christiana now, but that will probably cease when she starts Grammar I through the CLAA (, as she will begin learning Latin and Greek almost simultaneously, and I expect that her progress in Latin will begin to pick up. That covers core subjects (aside from History, about which I am kind of ambivalent right now). Her favorite subject is Religion, for which we are using Fr. Laux's 1930s high school course (whose name escapes me at the moment). It's Baltimore based, it's thorough, and it's wonderful!
  • N is in the middle of Saxon Math 2, and is finding it so easy that I am resisting the urge to skip him to 3. I don't know why I'm resisting the urge when I skipped T...but I am. He is also about 1/3 of the way through FLL 2, and he doesn't really love it. He does just fine, though, and it's funny to hear the twins chant the "be" verbs and the helping verbs along with him. I'm thinking about how to start him on Latin, but given that he is so close in age to the twins, I really may hold him off until they are ready so that I can lessen my work load. We'll see. He'll join us for History in the Fall when we dive in full force again. He does, of course, do copywork (camping phrases right now), and his handwriting is surprisingly good! He is doing Explode the Code 3, but it is so easy that it's kind of silly. ETC 4 should provide a little more challenge.
  • M-C and M are doing Saxon Math K and It's a really neat and fun approach to Phonics, and so far we like it. At four, they are too young for much else.

All of the kids are about to begin Mark Kistler's, about which I'm really excited. Commander Mark taught my brother how to draw even better than he already did! I think they'll really enjoy it, and it will make a nice change this summer (as we continue to do school full time). We're doing a couple of unit studies for Science as I decide which Apologia book to do next, so that, too, will be a little change for them.

On a private note, T made her First Holy Communion a couple of weeks ago, and I was so proud of her. She was the only child who looked like she had a clue. She made a beautifully reverent genuflection, and then received on the tongue. It was textbook. I have to say, she is my daughter. It seems that I still struggle with pridefulness.

The 2009 Schoolhouse Planner from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine  

Posted by: Laura Delgado in

I am coming out of hibernation for a worthy cause: to review the 2009 Schoolhouse Planner from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. This year's planner is even bigger than last year's version, while still retaining all of the features that made last year's such a valuable and eye-popping resource. Checking in at 374 pages, it is almost a misnomer to refer to this all-inclusive resource as a planner. It is, in fact, a collection of educational resources, combined with planning forms which can easily replace your current day planner. It is further a cookbook, a reference guide, and a compendium of all of the homeschool forms that you are likely to need, whether you homeschool pre-schoolers or high-schoolers, and whether your style is unit study or unschooling. Best of all, the planner is delivered as a writable .pdf download, meaning that you can begin exploring it and filling in dates on the calendar immediately.

With almost 400 pages, and not a single one wasted, it is literally impossible to discuss each and every feature of this amazing resource, so in an effort to convey the reasons for my excitement, I will instead elaborate upon my favorite features.

First, the Schoolhouse Planner replaces all of your existing planners, both personal and homeschooling. It perfectly merges both of your roles as homeschooling mom (or dad!) and head (or co-head) of household. The search for the perfect system of recordkeeping is over! At first, the sheer number of forms may seem overwhelming, but it need not be! Simply peruse the planner, and make note of the pages that you want to print (if you're the kind of person that needs to see it all in pen and paper, like I am). Print only the forms that you need, and rest assured that the others are there for you if you change your mind. Personal financial inventory? Check. Grocery lists and menu planners? Check. Garden planning? It's there, too. The homeschooling section includes all of the forms that you would expect, from full planners (including twelve year plans!), to library reminders, to an extracurricular activities log. There is even a section for handwriting practice for the little ones! Once you print and organize the forms according to your specific needs, you truly can fit your life into one binder!

Second, for each month of the year, The Schoolhouse Planner focuses on a single topic and covers that topic in depth. Articles by many familiar authors lead off the month, followed both by actual resources included in the planner, and by lists of additional resources available through The Old Schoolhouse Store (as a nice touch, these items are hyperlinked, making purchase temptingly easy!). The month concludes with recipes that are both appealing and practical.

Finally, the section entitled "Miscellaneous Educational Information" is a goldmine of possibilities. Everything from lists of famous composers and artists and their associated works, to lists of inventions, to states and countries and their captials, to various conversion tables is included in this section. While it is true that all of this information is available elsewhere, it is wonderful to have it consolidated in one place: in my planner! I see mini-lessons galore as we wait in doctors' offices, during "adult swim" at the pool, and on those days when school is just not happening the way I want it to. There is more than a year's worth of educational joy just waiting to be explored in these pages!

I generally dislike reviews that don't suggest ways in which the resources could be improved, but I would be disingenuous if I tried merely to "come up"with some suggestions. My only hesitation is that some users might be chagrined by the sheer size/length of The Schoolhouse Planner. 374 pages is a lot of material. To any such user, I would simply urge patience. Spend some time looking through it, and getting to know the forms. Make use of the excellent table of contents, which is linked to the document itself (meaning that if you click on a form in the table of contents, you will be taken there in the document - a HUGE timesaver!). There *is* something in this planner for everyone!