TOSReview Crew: Apologia Educational Ministries’ Writers in Residence

apologia-logo_jpg_zpswpuj9gxgWhen I first decided to educate my children at home, Debra Bell was the first “homeschooling expert” I heard speak during an online conference. She is very humorous and encouraging in her 20160419_185558 (480x640)talks. Naturally, I was excited to have the opportunity to use her new writing curriculum Writers in Residence from Apologia Educational Ministries in my home. Since she successfully home educated her own children, taught high school and university level English, I knew her grammar and writing integrated curriculum would be worth trying out.

Writers in Residence Volume 1 is the first of four in the series and is for grades four through eight. The colorful text is written to the student and is also a workbook. My son was able to use it for all of his rough drafts and for his final writing piece within the first two modules. During our review period we were able to complete the first half of Unit 1. The text is composed of six units  and each unit contains four modules. The workbook, as well as the Answer Key, contained easy to use grading rubrics for his first written assignment (and throughout the curriculum) that was clear and easy for me to use to evaluate his written work.

20160419_185542 (480x640)The first writing assignment was based on the little book “When I Was Young in the Mountains” by Cynthia Rylant. He had several mini assignments to help him free-write his topic and then narrow down to the specific memories he wanted to write about. My favorite revision method of writing the individual sentences on separate strips of paper and then rearranging them into different orders was one of the assignments. The text also guided him in revising his work using specific and descriptive words. My son’s final draft of his memory sentences:

When I Was Young by the Creek

IMG_0968 (521x640)When I was young by the creek, I explored with my family.

When I was young by the creek, I heard and felt the cold, rushing water.

When I was young by the creek, hundreds of kayakers paddled past us in the turbulent water.

When I was young by the creek, we saw water gushing down rock cliffs into little flowing pools.

When I was young by the creek, I climbed upon huge stick piles.

When I was young by the creek, I wrote these verses.

Apologia%20Writers%20in%20Residence_zpsk9klb2vbThis was the only final writing assignment we were able to complete before this review was due. I flipped through the book and saw the next assignment was to learn to write a memorable letter about his future based on the letters exchanged between the characters in “Sarah, Plain and Tall” by Patricia MacLauchlan. I love that these writing assignments use excellent literature to teach writing techniques.

Writers in Residence is a Christian curriculum and includes interviews with Christian authors who use the writing technique or process described for each assignment. The six writing tasks for volume one include: sentences, creative writing, research writing, opinion essay, autobiography and a short story. Each of these writing tasks is a separate unit and also includes instruction and review of grammar related to the assignment type. The answers for the grammar pages are in the Answer Key.

20160419_185651 (640x480)As a homeschool mom of four kids this integrated writing and grammar curriculum really appeals to me. Everyone could use this text at the same time while writing and learning at their individual levels. I would not have separate grade level grammar workbooks to mark for each child nor separate writing curriculums to evaluate. This curriculum saves my time and allows us to work and share together. At the end of the school year I would also have six lovely pieces of written work from each child for their portfolios. I think this curriculum is ideal for introducing writing in a positive manner to children and for families who love to learn together.

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Sunday Journal: Spring’s Return, Retreats and Boots

watching the rain experiment

watching the rain experiment

The past week was rather lazy for us. Productive but lazy. I slept in every single day. We started school about an hour later than usual each day and even indulged in our read aloud time a bit longer too. The crew still managed to get plenty of work done despite our relaxed approach to education this week. We learned about rainfall in our science experiments. Littlest has started joining us for science time lately and is becoming quite the experiment

Oldest making paper

Oldest making paper

enthusiast. Oldest had a couple of projects from history to work on this weekend. We made a felt sheet from wool roving. We plan to make flowers with our sheet for a poetry tea time centerpiece. We also made paper from one of his used math workbooks. The paper is still drying but we plan to stitch these into a little book of some sort. We also have some wildflower seeds that we could make into paper sheets for planting…might make a nice gift for Grandma.

Oldest with gift from Josh of Beautiful Feet Books

Oldest with gift from Josh of Beautiful Feet Books

My remaining purchases from the convention arrived so I suppose I should start planning soon. Our current school year will wrap up in three or four weeks! We usually take a little break before rolling into our summer session but not this year. I will be going to a homeschool mom’s retreat in July and plan to let my crew take a break then…while I am away.

We might even take a good chunk of July off this year from formal work and begin in August. I haven’t decided yet. I am currently in

making felt

making felt

a homeschool coaching community and the month of July is spent developing a customized plan with veteran homeschoolers. So I may take complete advantage of this learning opportunity with women who have walked this path successfully and extend our light summer schedule throughout July.

I mentioned the retreat earlier…something that I am excited and nervous about attending (they mentioned line dancing!). All of us attending received a gift box with essential oils, teas, a lovely glass charm, a coaster and

lunch out today

lunch out today

two empty fabric squares. I am supposed to decorate on the cloth square what it means “to be good to myself”. I seriously thought about just dunking my cloth into red wine! Just for a lark I googled “painting with red wine” and did you know there really is such a thing?!?!?! Ha! Crazy…but now I am thinking about painting an image on my cloth with red wine. Of course…I still need to figure out what it means to “be good to me”. Hmm…now I have a Tina Turner song in my head…The organizers of the retreat are going to make everyone’s squares into a quilt. I’ve no idea what I am going to create…

pause in the hike

pause in the hike

Today we went for a lovely hike. The weather has been cool and rainy for a while but the past few days were delightful. The park was covered in beautiful wildflowers along the hiking path. I enjoyed our outing this morning. Beautiful spring this year…finally. Is it just me or has this past winter lasted an eternity? I spent the rest of the day working on the monstrous laundry pile and sweeping. I had planned to get my next review written this weekend but I did not… really lacking the motivation for this one.

Boots resting for the day

Boots resting for the day

Our kitty Boots endured an injury on one of her front legs. It looks like a puncture wound and I can only assume she encountered a snake. She laid around most of today but still gets up to eat and drink. We’ve all stopped to visit with her today and let her know how much we love her. Even Littlest who will usually stay far away from her has stopped to encourage her to feel better. While I was putting laundry away I heard him tell her “get better real soon…okay Bootsie or people will cry.” As pathetic as she has been all day she did decide to go outside this evening. She still will not put any weight on her swollen leg but feels well enough for some night-time exploring. Despite her injury she still gets up the stairs faster than I possibly ever can manage. Old knees are such a bother.

Linking up with: Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

 

Medieval Study: Joan of Arc to the Philosopher’s Stone

the catapult

the catapult

After our delightful study of the Canterbury Tales with Beautiful Feet Books we started studying Joan of Arc and The One Hundred Years’ War between France and England. The story of St. Joan is so very sad. My children were not familiar with her at all and so had no idea of the amazing and heartbreaking story they were about to embark. As we read her story the kids bombarded me with questions…hard questions too! I had to explain the veneration of relics, asking saints for prayers and the nature of visions. As we continued to read her story the kids struggled to understand why she was abandoned by her king, condemned by the church and burned alive.

cats and catapults...

cats and catapults…

Of course, the kids really wanted to know if I believed the Maid of Orleans. Did she really have visions? Did God send her to save France from the English? I cannot have an answer for every question and someday they will make up their own minds on such mysteries. I choose to simply accept Joan of Arc at her word.

“Joan was a being so uplifted from the ordinary run of mankind that she finds no equal in a thousand years.”  –Winston Churchill

“She is the Wonder of the Ages. And when we consider her origin, her early circumstances, her sex, and that she did all the things upon which her renown rests while she was still a young girl, we recognize that while our race continues she will be also the Riddle of the Ages.” –Mark Twain 

required books from the study

required books from the study

While we studied about Joan we built a catapult and looked through a picture book (from the library and I forgot to note the title or take a picture of it!) of medieval warfare tactics and siege engines. The boys built some Lego models (I didn’t take pictures again) and we watched several documentaries on YouTube and Netflix about castles and medieval warfare. Currently Netflix has a series called “Secrets of Great British Castles” that the family enjoys watching together.

We moved on to the study of the printing press, movable type and Johannes Gutenberg. We enjoyed both the book for this section and the recommended Stephen Fry documentary from the guide. We spent time discussing the importance of this moment in history. This invention laid the corner-stone of the Reformation, Renaissance, the scientific revolution and the spread of learning to nearly all people. For this part of the study I bought a paper making kit. We plan to make paper later this week and try our hands at making a homemade book.

20160410_131541 (640x480)Our last read aloud for these past six weeks was The Trumpeter of Krakow. Oh wow did we love this book!!! It follows the story of a family in the Ukraine that has to travel to Krakow as refugees (a topic still relevant on the news today) and they just happen to be in possession of the philosopher’s stone. Of course the kids were shocked to discover that JK Rowling didn’t come up with the idea all her own!!! We discussed alchemy and the theory that the whomever possessed the stone could turn other metals into gold. While we were reading about the alchemists in the story I pulled out The Mystery of the Periodic Table (by Benjamin D Wiker) and read the couple of chapters on alchemy to my crew.

We are currently working through a felting project to go along with our studies of the Mongols. Making your very own felt sheets from wool roving is a bit messy! We finally have a nice sunny weekend coming up so that we can work on our paper making and felting projects outside.

We only have four weeks left and our medieval study will be all finished! We’re in the process of making our Robin Hood hats, choosing recipes and other projects for our final feast. We are looking forward to sharing the end of our study celebration with you soon!

 

Review: Memoria Press Fourth Grade Literature Guide Set

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My middle two kiddos are bored with their current reading curriculum. They’ve been begging me to let them abandon their readers and use “real books” instead since the holiday break. They were both thrilled when Memoria Press sent us the entire Fourth Grade Literature Guide Set to review! I was just as delighted as the kids since Memoria Press was on my list of curriculum companies to look into for our next academic year’s literature selections. Sparkles chose to read “The Cricket in Times Square” by George Selden and Middle Boy chose “Homer Price” by Robert McCloskey. The other two selection are “The Blue Fairy Book” edited by Andrew Lang and “Dangerous Journey: The Story of Pilgrim’s Progress” arranged by Oliver Hunkin.

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The literature for fourth grade only includes four books and that didn’t seem like much at first glance. After studying a sample of 20160229_132729 (480x640) (480x640)the online lesson plan (found on the fourth grade complete curriculum page) I noticed that each book should take about six weeks or so. The goal is for the students to really immerse themselves in the books and comprehend the material.

The Teacher’s Guides:

The guide included tips on how to help students read through the books. They encourage reading the book aloud together, taking turns reading aloud or reading independently. Reviewing the comprehension questions before reading is encouraged to help develop focused reading. We also reviewed the vocabulary words 20160222_080152 (480x640)each day and looked for them in the book. I was happy to see the teacher’s guide point out that some of the comprehension questions could just be answered orally, especially for younger students. Further and deeper discussion of the material is pointed out in the “Quotations and Discussion Questions” section and the back of the teacher’s guide has an answer key for these. The guide also has answers printed on full-sized reproductions of the student workbooks pages, as well as reproducible quizzes and tests.

20160328_192103 (480x640)The Student Study Guides:

The student workbooks are all similar in style and format. Each of these books are broken up differently for study by chapters (Dangerous Journey and Cricket), sections by page numbers (Homer Price) or short story title (Blue Fairy). Some have more drawing exercises than others. Even though they are similar they are not exactly the same.

  • Reading Notes–This section may define a few words, point out literary notes or give more information about a character.
  • Characters–this section was only in “The Dangerous Journey”. The teacher’s guide contained no guidelines for this particular book. My guess is this information is provided in the lessons plans from Memoria Press. However, the workbook answers are provided as well as to the discussion questions.
  • Vocabulary–Sometimes the students look up a brief definition or fill in the blank. The vocabulary words show up in the reviews, quizzes and exam so it is helpful to reviews these.
  • Comprehension Questions–These go over the events of the story. The guide encourages you to help the students write their answers in complete sentences. Sometimes we just went over these orally.
  • Quotations–Not all of the books had this section. Usually the student needed to identify the speaker and we usually discussed why the quote was important to the story. Sometimes I used these for copywork.
  • Discussion Questions–The answer key in the back of the teacher’s guide was very helpful. We generally discussed characters, motives, literary elements, plot development, etc.
  • Enrichment–This section provided a variety of assignments. Sometimes copywork, literary device discussion, drawing, character study, mapwork, etc. My kids liked these since they provided variety to the workbook.
  • Occasionally reviews were included as well as supplemental material at the end of the student guide relating to the book to  aid the student’s understanding or historical/cultural context.

20160328_192428 (480x640)Overall, the kids enjoyed this literature program from Memoria Press and have begged to ditch the old reading program and replace it with these guides. The Student Study Guides are quite thorough and I am very happy to continue using Memoria Press’s literature guides in my homeschool.

 

Review Addendum:

I just returned from the GHC Convention in Cincinnati. While I was there I stopped by the Memoria Press booth to ask a few questions about “The Dangerous Journey” study guide. In my review above I did not understand the Characters section of the guide. I learned the characters are listed because there are many of them in the story and it is important to understand the meaning of the person’s name. For example, knowing the 20160403_170814 (480x640)meaning of the word pliable aids in comprehending the role of the character with the same name the protagonist encounters. Had I been familiar with the original Pilgrim’s Progress I probably would have figured that out…alas, my education is sorely lacking. Also, the omission of the teacher tips at the beginning of the Teacher’s Guide was simply an omission and will be included in future printings.

I was so impressed by our discussion of the book that I decided to do the study with all of my children and bought additional student study guides and the book. I am looking forward to learning all about Christian’s journey.

 

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Review: Logic of English Essentials 2nd Edition

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20160208_120011 (640x480) (480x640)The kids and I have been using Essentials 2nd Edition (Volume 1) from Logic of English for the past six weeks or so in place of our usual language arts curriculum. When I first opened the box from the company I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of material. However, after spending just a few minutes with the teacher’s guide I was pleased to see the curriculum is clearly laid out and easy to follow. I liked the curriculum so much that I purchased the Rhythm of Handwriting to accompany the curriculum as well as a PDF of the workbook so my other children could participate in the review.

20160216_101758 (480x640)Essentials is an intense and integrated language arts curriculum. It is also multi-level and can be used for several years and with varying age/grade levels at one time. Volume one is meant to be done five days a week for fifteen weeks followed by volume two for the rest of the school year (scheduled to be published in January of 2017). We did the daily schedule for the first three weeks we used the curriculum and afterward I rotated it into our loop schedule. Realistically it would likely take us twenty-five weeks or so to get through the first volume. The teacher’s guide Logic%20of%20English%20second%20edition_zpsintob9uuhas a helpful article on setting up your schedule. Once we got accustomed to the flow of the curriculum we spent about half an hour on each lesson.

The manual begins with a placement exam and several pre-lessons that review phonograms, phonemic awareness, blending, and handwriting. Essentials begins with Level A at about the second grade level. My crew placed into Level C (the final level) of the program which is about fifth grade. The lessons are scripted and 20160216_102014 (480x640)easy to follow in the teacher’s guide. For the most part it is “open and go” but I did find it helpful to prepare the flash cards the night before each lesson which took less than five minutes of my time.

The lessons follow a repeated cycle each week. The first day spelling rules and sounds (phonograms and mouth movements for the sounds) are introduced (or reviewed). On the second day we worked on leveled spelling words in the Spelling Journal and with their Spelling Analysis practice (which includes hand movements!). The following days included more work on the 20160216_101813 (480x640)spelling words, grammar, dictation, vocabulary and review of the material sometimes through games. The last day served as a review and assessment of their understanding of the material.

My kids really enjoyed the level C vocabulary work. It was their favorite day with the curriculum. They found learning about the roots of words and their meanings very interesting. Occasionally one of them would point out a related word during our read aloud time. My oldest son referred to these roots as “key words” since they opened up the meanings of many related words.

Some things I love about Logic of English:

  • Provides a strong integrated foundation in phonics, spelling, grammar, reading, and vocabulary…no other language arts curriculum needs to be purchased.
  • Some of the work is done orally and some in a workbook…so no excessive busy work for busy children.
  • Only one workbook is needed for all three levels…your child can use the same workbook through for three years (I would expect there to be another workbook to go with volume two).
  • There is a separate reading supplement for those who need the extra help. I have strong readers so I did not request the supplement. A few on the team did get the supplement so check out their reviews if you are interested.
  • Consistent review woven throughout the material.
  • The lessons are systematic and flow from previous lessons. It may seem slow but it builds up a very strong foundation and understanding.
  • Considering all it teachers I thought the lessons were short and met various learning styles.

Overall, I think this curriculum is fantastic. I wish I had used it with my older children all along. My youngest will definitely go through the Logic of English program. He is ready to begin learning to read and I am looking forward to reading the Crew’s reviews of the Logic of English Foundations designed for children ages four through seven.

I’ll be in Cincinnati at the end of the week for the homeschool convention. Betcha I come home with Foundations…

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Review: Demme Learning’s Math-U-See

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For the past month and a half my oldest has been using Demme Learning’s Math-U-See Pre-Algebra student texts and Digital Packs. I felt fortunate when we received the opportunity for this 20160204_130242 (480x640) (480x640)review since Oldest needed a new math curriculum for his middle and high school years. The two of us began researching various math curriculums together a couple of months ago for his upcoming seventh grade year and Math-U-See was at the top of his list. Now that he is moving into the upper levels of his education I am giving him an opportunity to help choose his own courses.

Math-U-See’s Pre-Algebra is very easy to use and except for a word problem or two has been mostly hands off for me. For the preA-universal_zps7axhc8n4review we received the student text and test book and a full year’s access to the Pre-Algebra Digital Pack. The Digital Pack includes access to the instructional videos, tests and solutions manuals, instructional manual, a digital version of the manipulatives (on Chrome or Safari) and a few other resources. Honestly, I wasn’t too excited about the digital pack…at first. I prefer to hold books in my hands. Digital just doesn’t seem real to me. However, having access to the instructional videos online has been really nice. I am the sort of person who absent mindedly misplaces DVD’s and teacher’s manuals all the time (glasses, Pre-Algebra_zpsko8oc4brphone, car keys too!). The nice thing about the Digital Packs is you just can’t lose them. I suppose, I should have some profound and meaningful reason for why digital is better but I do not. The fact that I cannot lose these resources (for a year) is my favorite feature. The videos and pdf’s also pull up easily on my phone so he doesn’t have to wait for someone to finish up on the computer before working on his math.

20160310_103555 (480x640)We did play around with the digital manipulatives a bit. They work great on the computer but Oldest prefers the physical blocks and decimal inserts when he is working on his math.

On Monday Oldest logs in at the Math-U-See website and clinks on “View Digital Packs”. This brings him to the digital product page and he first selects the level or course title from a drop down box. He then has the option to select the lesson number from another drop down box. Once he chooses the lesson the video is shown as well as access to the teacher’s manual and all solutions for the lesson. He usually only watches the lesson once or twice a week, 20160310_102819 (480x640)reads the teacher’s manual and completes all of the worksheets. We go over any problems he missed together using the manipulatives. By the end of the week he is ready for the exam.

Oldest really enjoys his math with Math-U-See and has decided to stick with them for the remainder of his home education years. I like the Digital Packs as well and plan to continue using them. During the time of this review my youngest was ready to begin his math education. He is having a blast with Primer!

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Rave: Brave Writer Online

logoRave means an extremely enthusiastic recommendation or appraisal of someone or something. Other words for rave include very enthusiastic, highly favorable, rapturous, glowing and ecstatic. I’m writing to rave about our recent online class from Brave Writer and our compassionate and insightful instructor Ms. April.

We spent the month of January in the Just So Stories online family class. The goal of the course was for each child to write a little tale based on Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. Ms. April gave us assignments and guided the kids in crafting their very own Kiplingesque short story. Our instructor proved not only to be a writing instructor to my kids but also a coach for me. Observing her interactions with my crew I learned how to walk my own children through the writing process.

thumb-just-so-storiesThe first week of the course I worked with the kids to help them pick the animal they would write about. We gathered encyclopedias and books to read. We watched documentaries and BBC Earth snippets on YouTube to learn all about each of their chosen creatures. We discussed various ideas together and the kids spent a few days just freewriting on their animals. We played with words and really enjoyed our time together. Taking cues from Ms. April and The Writer’s Jungle I stepped away from my usual role as critic and grammar nut and embraced being their supportive coach. My Children responded to the Brave Writer way with enthusiasm and surprised me with their creative, funny and sweet stories. We turned in a few rough drafts and Ms. April gave gentle suggestions and lots of enthusiastic encouragement.

So here are their stories along with a few of Ms. April’s comments:

Oldest needed very little help writing his story. He knew exactly what he wanted to write about and the basic events of his story from the first week. To my astonishment he even spent time as Sparkles’ scribe when she got frustrated and tearful. Below is Oldest’s story.

How Lawe’s Parotia Got Its Dance

Once upon a time, O Best Beloved, before Papa went to New Guinea in the Tar Lands of Indonesia on an island in the wettest of wet seas where the pretty birds fly there was a bird of glamorous colors unseen.  He possessed feathers of a pinkish greenish sort and a purplish yellowish type which made all gasp at the site of him. And his blueish orange-ish feathers made other beautiful bird look plain beside him. But his splendorous beauty made him vain. He continuously bragged of himself and loved himself so much he gazed at his own reflection at every opportunity. He refused to marry until he found a bird as beautiful as him.

He was very splendid and supremely superior in his looks. Surely, none could be surprised that the lady birds swooned at his feet deeply in love. He never had to do anything for attention and enjoyed ruining other birds’ performances. For instance, one time Mr. Nightingale sang a song of love and the bird of glamorous colors unseen interrupted his melody with a horrifying shriek. Once the females saw him they forgot the beautiful song of love and turned their attention to the bird with glamorous colors unseen.

What could the other birds do that was better than their rival? As anger swelled in their hardy-hearts they planned the downfall of the vain bird with glamorous colors unseen. All of them gathered together to plan how to make the Tar Lands fair.

The extravagant bird was washing his feathers of glamorous colors unseen. He looked at himself and wondered if anyone was a beautiful. He wanted none to be as splendorous as just one of his superior feathers. He failed to hear a rustle in the bushes behind him because he was gazing at his reflection in a mirror-like puddle of water. He turned to see an angry mob of birds running and jumping over tar pits in his direction. They tackled him and dragged him to a tar pit. He pushed and shoved but could not escape. Then he was pushed in and covered in tar. The other birds left him.

The tar was a gloopy disastrous messy mess. It stuck to his feathers of glamorous colors unseen. When he attempted to wipe it off he smeared it over the remaining feathers. Now only a few of his feathers remained clean. Depression struck the bird with glamorous colors unseen because most of his feathers turned a boring grey. Over time he learned to dance for the lady birds and to clean their perches and decorate his dance floor with bright red berries. Finally he found a female bird as pretty as he was but not as he once was.

Note: I changed my children’s name in Ms. April’s comments to the names I use for them on the blog.

Ms. April: My goodness, Oldest. You have crafted a most magnificent piece! Not only did you “complete the assignment” – you embraced it, owned it and nailed it. It’s time for me to do my Happy Dance and (while I’m still your instructor-of-sorts!) give you one final assignment: CELEBRATE all of this Goodness…pop some corn and read your stories aloud for Dad and any lucky friends and neighbors. It’s share-worthy. Be proud. Congratulations! 🙂

Sparkles had the hardest time writing her story. She wanted to write about tiger’s but she loves them so much she just couldn’t write anything bad about them. After obtaining permission from the instructor Sparkles was allowed to write a positive tiger story.

How the Tiger Got Its King Mark

Once upon a time, O Little Friend, when wise dragons walked the earth in the Crystal Mountains of China, kind Tiger waited and waited for Tigress. He remembered running through the leafy green forest nestled between the sparkling crystal mountains with their tops in the clouds. He had hunted his prey, a dear of the forest and drug it back to the cavernous cave. Hungrily he began to eat.

While enjoying his meal he heard Tigress and her mewling cubs. When he heard the hungry kits he knew the hunt had not gone well for Tigress. Stepping back from his meal Tiger dragged the carcass to Tigress and her mewling cubs to and let them eat the deer. The other forest animals in trees and glades nearby watching in amusement asked, “Why did you let Tigress and her cubs have your meal?”

“Because I choose to care for my friends,” answered Tiger kindly.

“Ha, ha, ha!” the animals laughed. “You should take care of yourself first. Or make her hunt for you like the lion.” The animals chuckled to themselves as they left to find their own dinners.

Tiger padded softly away ignoring their jibes. Spotting a weepy baby bunny he asked, “What is wrong?”

“I am lost!” wailed the little bunny.

“Follow me. I know the way to the Burrows,” Tiger said gently. Tiger led the way and soon the baby bunny was reunited with his mother in the Burrows.

Again the other forest animals in trees and glades nearby shouted, “Ha! Ha! Ha! You wasted your time on a snackling! Why would you help the little bunny?”

“Because I choose to care for the lost,” replied Tiger.

Tiger thought and thought and thought with sadness about what the other animals said to him as he fell asleep.  When morning came Tiger went out for another hunt. The wise dragon from ancient times flew down from the Crystal Mountains and said with a thundering voice, “I saw your actions yesterday.” With that statement Tiger received his King Mark.

“Why would you give me this mark?” puzzled Tiger.

“I gave it to you because you watch over those in your care,” proclaimed the wise golden dragon.

Tiger returned to his cave. The other animals noticed his King Mark and bowed to their new king. Tiger, King of the Jungle.

Ms. April: Lovely. Simply lovely. Sparkles, your story is so full of tenderness and compassion. PLEASE keep writing and sharing your writer’s voice with all the world.  I hope you will share your story with a co-op or family or neighbors. It deserves to be heard. You have a kindness about you that others can “hear” through your words. Keep writing. Keep sharing that heart of yours. Beautiful work. 🙂

After reading the first draft Ms. April commented: Sparkles, you are a kind soul. This draft oozes with gentleness and compassion. Thank you for challenging your readers to always choose Kindness. You should be proud. This piece is lovely. Just lovely.

The last comment above made me cry. I was stunned (and a little convicted) by how much of my daughter’s personality our instructor pulled from the first draft. I am with my kids everyday and sometimes I forget just how vulnerable they are to my words…especially Sparkles. She takes everything to heart.

Middle Boy sharing his story

Middle Boy sharing his story

Middle Boy blew me away with his piece. He mostly worked on his own. Mostly, I served as a living thesaurus for him. I didn’t realize just how much this boy loves poetry until I read his opening paragraph.

 How the Octopus Got Its Beak

I’ll tell a tale my Little Buddy when fish were friends, all except one, in the big blue ocean. Octopus is mean, green and he cheats in games calling people names. He’s just so rude he takes all the food. That eight armed pecky party pooper! His name is Wully and he’s a big bully. He inks all over the food. He’s really not that nice. Someday he will pay the price.

“Hey, Fluffer Puffer fish! You are a gassy guy!” laughed Octopus making gassy sounds. Then he went on leaving Fluffer sad and humiliated. Then carelessly he swam away soaring and spinning.

Wully the octopus swam to the fish party where he met a jellyfish and called him “no-brainer.” It is rude to point they have no brain, even though it is true, because it makes them blue. Octopus spoils the rest of the party by stealing the food. Using his eight biting beaks he snatches and snaps the food from the partygoers. Then carelessly he swam away soaring and spinning.

He swam the way to the mazes of coral searching for gleaming glittering gold. He saw many colors of green, blue, orange and yellow. He found a cave in the rocky wreck of massive underwater avalanches and there he discovered gleaming glittering gold. He swam along listening to the bellowing bonging songs of whales soaring above him. He swam deeper into the cave soaring and spinning and found The Giant Magical Squid!

“I see how you have acted,” boomed the Squid when Octopus entered. “You have been bad too long” thundered the Squid.

“Who are you and where are you”, asked Octopus searching the cave.

“Above you.”

Octopus was speechless. The squid was huge…massive like a mountain. His eye was the size of a door and his head like a skyscraper.

“You will go through a change” said the massive squid.

The magic ink came charging at Octopus. In shame he went home. The punishment was so horrible and terrible. His many biting beaks were gone. His only mouth was on his rear end.  Then sorrowfully he swam home out of the maze ignoring the gold. He knew the others would scold. He was so full of spite, he wanted to fight and never picked on anyone again. And, that, my Little Buddy, is how the octopus got its beak.

Ms. April: You are a Kipling King, Middle Boy! This piece has it all…musical language, an animal with an unusual trait, a character flaw and the agent of change. Even better than allll of that, though, is the enthusiastic effort given to your writing. Your willingness to listen and apply feedback, to partner with your mom (and me!), and your flexibility with word play has been a treat to work with. Thank you for sharing your birthday month with us. Congratulations on a job Well Done.

Lulu publishing kits

Lulu publishing kits

As you can tell I am really proud of my kids and the hard work they put into their writing projects. Currently they are using Lulu to produce illustrated books. I can hardly wait for them to finish and get those books in my hands!

Brave Writer is all about supporting young writers and helping them find their own unique voice. I am so happy I gave this curriculum lifestyle a place in our home and school. My kids are finding their voice and the courage to share their individual viewpoints.

Legal note: This review is not sponsored and I received nothing in return. I am just so delighted with the experience and had to share.