Monday, October 20, 2014

Review: Middlebury Interactive Languages

As I have mentioned previously, while most of the family is studying Spanish, Melissa continues to desire to learn French. We have been blessed to have the opportunity to allow Melissa to study Middle School French 1 this semester with Middlebury Interactive Languages. 

What is Middlebury Interactive Languages?  This is an online assortment of interactive foreign language courses for grades K-12. There are advanced and AP level courses offered for high school. Middlebury College in Vermont has designed these courses to meet the growing need for virtual learning in schools and home schools. Courses are designed to give a multi-sensory approach to learning a language in a fun way. Instruction is based on an immersion method of learning the language, not only hearing it and speaking it, but also writing, grammar, and cultural experience as well.

What courses are currently offered? This chart shows the current online languages available for each grade level:

Now I would like to write specifically about the program we used: Middle School French 1.

Melissa has had some previous exposure to French vocabulary, but not any solid instruction in grammar and writing. She is in 8th grade, so I chose Middle School French 1 to be sure that it would cover anything she did not already know, and not leave her with gaps in her learning.

How many lessons does Middle School French 1 have?  There are 90 lessons total. If a student completes one lesson per day, four days a week, (the recommended pace for middle school) they will complete this entire course in one semester, and could then move on to Middle School French 2, giving them an entire year of French instruction.

How long is a lesson each day? The lessons took about fifteen to twenty minutes each day, depending on the type of activity that was involved. Some days, Melissa would repeat the listening and speaking activities so it took a little longer.

What makes this multi-sensory?  The lessons are exciting because they are just a little different everyday. Some of the many varied activities include listening to native speakers, answering questions, speaking words and sentences into a microphone and recording themself, fun interactive games, journal writing assignments, and short videos. I was very impressed with the wide variety of presentation in the lessons. The students are seeing, hearing, typing, and speaking throughout the lessons.

What is a lesson like? The middle school student is able to log in and work independently. The home page takes them to their next lesson. The lessons are set up in a "power point" slide show style, with a table of contents on the left side of the screen, and the ability to work through the slides in order, and go back to repeat and review slides as needed. When assignments, games, or quizzes are complete, the student can submit their work by clicking a small button at the top of the screen.

Here are some examples of a few of our favorite activities:

After learning conversational vocabulary, there is a 25 question test where the student listens to the questions in French, then records their answer through a microphone.

 After learning noun gender, the practice activity had Melissa choosing whether the nouns listed were masculine or feminine, and singular or plural.

One of Melissa's favorite activities was the vocabulary matching games set up throughout the lessons as review.

Other key elements to this program are the instruction in French culture, which includes short videos for the student to watch....

...And thorough instruction in grammar, writing, and sentence structure:

Teacher helps: While the student can easily move through the lessons and work independently, there is a wonderful grading report system that allows the parent (or teacher) to track their engagement and proficiency for each assignment given. Not only quiz and test grades are recorded, but all of their completed work can be viewed by the teacher or parent.

This is an example of the gradebook that shows all course work. The teacher or parent can see the grade, how many questions were answered correctly, the date it was completed, and they can also view the completed assignment.

There is also a report card grade given, which shows a lot of details for the course overall, including the percentage of the course that is completed:

How much does the program cost?  The Middle School French course currently costs $119 per semester if the student works independently, and $175 if the student works with a teacher. We worked independently, but my understanding is that if you sign up to work with a teacher, they will listen to the student's recorded language speaking and give them feedback on their speaking and on their other work. Also, to use the high school courses on an official transcript, the program recommends choosing the option to work with a teacher.

What does Melissa think of this program? Melissa has been using it almost daily since we started our review. She really enjoys using the program. She has had a few difficult moments with it, but we have worked through those and overcome them. She really enjoys the wide variety of activities, and her favorite activity so far has been translating an email from an imaginary French penpal.

The only glitch Melissa has mentioned with using the program is that often the native speakers talk too quickly for her to understand what they are saying, and she gets frustrated by that. Her suggestion would be to make a way for the student to adjust the speed of the speaker, so that they could hear it slower when they are first learning, and then quicker once they get the hang of it.

What does Mom think of this program?  I have been thoroughly pleased with the quality of this French instruction. I appreciate how grammar and sentence structure is incorporated into the lessons, giving the student a solid foundation on which to learn a foreign language. They are learning more than just conversational French. The cultural French instruction is interesting, and it has been great to hear Melissa excitedly sharing French facts with the family. (Last week we learned about the structure of schools in France).  I am impressed with how much she has retained using the program for only 15-20 minutes per day. This program has been easy to incorporate into our home school day, and it is effectively teaching French better than any other method we have used.  It is extremely user friendly, both to the student and the teacher. I am considering purchasing the second semester for Melissa to continue using, and am also considering trying out the elementary Spanish program for Kelly!

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Obscure Bible Heroes {Blogging Through The Alphabet - Y}

Y is for Young Timothy

1Timothy 1:2- "Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord."

The Apostle Paul ministered to many people and wrote many very specific letters that are included in the New Testament, but some of his most prominent personal writings were directed to young Timothy, Paul's "son in the faith".

We can learn some interesting things about Timothy by searching through the Scriptures. We know that he had an interesting spiritual background, in that his mother was a Jewish believer and his father was Greek.

Acts 16:1-3 "Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek:  Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.
Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek"

Timothy's spiritual heritage can be traced back to his mother and grandmother, godly women who instilled faith in young Timothy.

2 Timothy 1:5- "When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also"

Throughout the New Testament, we see how Timothy accompanied Paul on various missionary journeys to the churches, and had a wonderful testimony of faithfulness and dedication to the cause of Christ. He was "well reported of" and had a good reputation among the believers. Paul encouraged Timothy to be a godly example, and assured him that by doing so, people would not disregard him just because he was young.

1Timothy 4:12- "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity."

By reading through the New Testament, we are able to see how Timothy overcame many difficult circumstances in his youth, and was a godly example of a faithful soldier of Jesus Christ. He leaves a wonderful example to young people all throughout history that they too, can be a faithful servant and follow Christ with their whole hearts, and that young people can be some of the greatest examples of Christianity in action. They don't have to wait until they are 'all grown up'.

Like Timothy, I want to serve God by giving Him the best years of my life - my youth. When I grow old, I want to encourage the young people in my life and pass on my faith to them, like the mother and grandmother of Timothy did.

Ben and Me

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Portable Salads {So Many Ways To Eat A Rainbow}

I have been really enjoying all the fresh vegetables and fruits this time of year - the fall harvest has been so blessed and bountiful. In looking for ways to incorporate more of these veggies into our everyday eating, I have come across several great ideas to share.

Like most people, I am a busy person who has great intentions to eat right, but often fail in the practice due to not taking time to prepare.

These canning jar salads are a great way to prepare healthy lunches or meals ahead of time, and they are also portable! With the method shown here, you can also prepare several days' worth of salads ahead of time, and keep them in the refrigerator so they are readily available when needed.

First thing to start off with is quart sized wide mouth canning jars. It is important to use wide mouth jars, as they make packing and eating the salads much easier!

In the bottom of the jar, pour your salad dressing. I typically use about 1 tablespoon of dressing for a salad this size, but you can adjust it to your own tastes. Vinegar based dressings work especially well, but as you can see from the picture above, I have also used cream based dressings with success.

On top of the dressings, layer chopped veggies - whatever suits your fancy. I like to use crispy veggies and let them marinate in the dressings. I have found that carrots, celery, and broccoli work well here. I also use tomatoes, peppers, and onions. 

Other toppings that can be used are shredded cheeses or small cuts of meat such as chicken or turkey. On the top, pack your lettuce leaves in. 

It is important to pack the layers into the jar tightly so they stay put while transporting. The most important consideration is to pack the salads in such a way that the dressing and lettuce leaves do not mix until you are ready to eat it. Once the lettuce leaves touch the dressing, they begin to wilt, and if not packed carefully ahead of time, the salad will be a soggy mess by lunchtime.

When you are ready to eat your salad, you can shake the contents of the jar to mix first, or just stir with your fork (another reason that a wide mouth jar is handy). The plastic screw-on lids come in very handy for these salads, although sometimes if they are not leaving the house, I will just use a plastic bag and rubber band over the top to keep it covered and fresh while it is sitting in the fridge.

These salads can be made ahead of time, and kept for up to several days in the fridge. Line up your jars, chop up your veggies, and pack your salads for the week! You'll be eating healthy and saving time and money.

Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Linked up with Lisa Boyle at "Try A New Recipe Tuesday"

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Obscure Bible Heroes {Blogging Through The Alphabet - X}

X is for "EX"amples of Christianity

Acts 11:24-26:  "For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.
25 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:
26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch."

Not long after Saul's miraculous conversion, he was looking to join in fellowship with the other believers. Since he recently had been the chief persecutor of the church, not all the brethren were eager to embrace him and bring him in to the fold without some serious doubts and considerations.

In Acts chapter 11 we read of Barnabas, a good man and spiritual leader, who was sent out to teach and minister to the saints from the church at Jerusalem all the way to Antioch, a city in the Turkish region just north of Syria. Barnabas faced the dilemma of what to do with Saul. I'm sure there were plenty of opinions about the matter, but as a leader, Barnabas was responsible for making the right decision.

He took Saul under his wing, brought him to Antioch, and spent the next year there teaching and discipling both Saul and the young believers. I find it fascinating that the term "Christian" was first used to describe this group of people. They did not call themselves this, but rather those who were watching came up with the descriptive name. Why were they called 'Christians'? What is the significance of that name?

The word 'Christian' means "Christ-like". Perhaps those who were watching these believers recognized the same spirit and mannerisms as they remembered from listening to and following Jesus Christ. Whether they meant it as a compliment or insult, we cannot tell, but we do know that this group of believers lived out their Christianity in such a way that they earned the nickname "Christian".

I would like to think that this name and reputation had something to do with their forgiveness and care for Saul. Where else in this world will you find someone who will love and care for their former enemy in such a way, but in true Christianity?

Their tremendous spirit and attitude are a great example. The fact that others took note and compared them to Jesus Christ is the highest compliment they could have been given. And to think that they had the privilege to train and disciple the man who would become the great Apostle Paul and be responsible for the conversion of thousands, as well as the earthly pen to nearly a third of the New Testament! What a great blessing and special privilege these Antioch Christians had! They are certainly a fine example of true Christianity.

May I, like the Antioch believers, live a life that is worthy to be called "Christian" and may I always have a Christ-like spirit and attitude to those that God places in my life. May I always remember that there are no hopeless cases, and no lives that are too difficult for God to touch, and may I look for ways to be an instrument that God can use to train and influence others for Jesus Christ. May my life be an example of true Christianity!

Ben and Me

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Review: Fortuigence

Of all my children, Laura, my senior, has always had the least struggle with writing. She really enjoys it, and has assembled a nice portfolio of high school essays over the last few years. One area where Laura really struggled though, was writing personal essays about herself. This has recently come to light especially since she is starting the college application process, and most colleges require a personal essay.

When we were given the opportunity to review the Personal Statement Writing Course from Fortuigence, I had really high hopes that this course would help her overcome this difficulty and prepare her for the college application writing process. I am happy to say that I was not disappointed!

Fortuigence Founder & Instructor Lily Iatridis
What is Fortuigence? This company was founded by a veteran teacher, Lily Iatridis. It is an online course allowing students to master skills at their own pace, working one-on-one with a teacher/mentor. At this time, classes are focused on various writing skills, and most of the students are homeschoolers.

What is the Personal Statement Writing Course? This course is designed to help high school students write a specific essay telling about themselves. Most college applications ask for a personal statement type of essay, and by writing one, students are given the opportunity to showcase their unique personality and talents, and share their background. Many college decisions are based upon these essays, so they become extremely important. This course teaches a student how to list their strengths and weaknesses, explore what makes them unique as an individual, and share their background in an interesting essay.

How does this course work? After signing up, students submit a sample writing assignment (could even be a copy of something already written in the past) to the online program. The entire process is one-on-one between the student and the online teacher. The course contains seven lessons, in both video and written format. Once the student has submitted their sample and received feedback, they are allowed to move on to the next lesson. They can work at their own pace, completing a lesson in one sitting, or over several days. The video at the start of the lesson is short and informative, and helps the student know exactly what the assignment is all about.

Once the student has submitted their assignment, they wait for a return email from the instructor, critiquing their work and giving them feedback on what could be improved. They can edit their work accordingly, and send it back to the instructor. The instructor will let them know when they can move on to the next lesson.  On the home page of their program, a small check mark will appear next to completed lessons, to help the student keep track of their progress.

Finishing the course:  A course can typically be completed in about a month, with a student working through the assignments several days per week. At the end of the course, the student gives feedback to the instructor about the course, and also receives a lovely, professional looking certificate of completion.

How many credits is the course worth?  One writing course is equivalent to .125 credits of High School English. If a student completes all four writing classes currently offered, they would receive one-half a credit of High School English.

What other courses are currently offered? Besides the Personal Statement Writing Course, the other three writing classes available are the Persuasive Essay, the Expository Essay, and Textual Analysis. Not only are these common essay themes that a high school student must master, but they are also helpful instruction for the writing section of the SAT/ACT tests.

How much does it cost? One complete writing course is $57. If all four are ordered together, there is a discount given, bringing the cost to $197. for all four courses.

What ages can use this? The writing instruction is geared towards ages 12-18. I think that students who have a basic grasp of writing fundamentals, grammar, outlines, and editing will have better success with this course, although there definitely is enough instruction and resources included to help a struggling writer.

How did we use this course? As I stated earlier, our goal for this course was to help Laura complete a personal statement essay that she could use this coming month as she fills out college applications. She started in on the assignments immediately, and was able to complete the entire course within a month. For the writing sample, she submitted a short essay she had already written. She worked through the first four lessons rather quickly, then spent the majority of the month writing, editing, and re-writing her final essay. The last lesson was a wrap-up, allowing Laura to give the instructor some feedback about the course, and print out her certificate of completion.

After submitting an assignment, Laura would receive feedback from 'Ms. I' fairly quickly, typically the same day, but always by the next morning. Laura would move on to the next lesson by watching the introductory video then working to complete the assignment. Often she could complete both in one sitting, although several lessons took her several days to complete.

Highlights: During this course, Laura learned of a program that Ms. I had her use, that taught her how to brainstorm and use the ideas to create a "mind map." This was Laura's favorite aspect of using this program. She found the mind map concept an incredible help to writing her essay, and has even incorporated it into other areas of life. The brainstorm/mind map teaching in this course was definitely worth the cost of the course alone! Laura said it was the easiest method she has ever used to write an essay. (And this comes from someone who enjoys writing!)

Brainstorming for an outline

The "Mind Map"  - setting up the essay

Mom's thoughts: Typically, as the home school teacher, I am the one to do all the editing, correcting, and suggestions to the kids' writing assignments. This is a tough position to be in. While I don't want to rob their creativity and make the essay something different than what their original intent was, I also want to make sure their points are clear. I absolutely loved having an outside source take over this duty, and offer some solid instruction for editing and clarity. I was able to completely step out of this writing assignment, and just enjoy the solid finished product at the end. As hard as I try, I know that my edits are not always completely objective, so I really appreciated reading the feedback that Ms. I gave. It was positive and helpful. Laura enjoyed working with an outside source, and having someone else critique her writing, because she felt she was getting accurate feedback similar to what a college professor might say about her writing. Ms. I was a master at drawing out the thoughts Laura was trying to say, mostly by just asking questions or pointing out specific wording that needed clarification. Knowing exactly what to change helped Laura focus on improving the essay efficiently.

What did we think? The area of writing that Laura has struggled the most with is writing about herself. She finds it difficult to write about her own life personally, and has often felt like writing about one's own accomplishments is akin to bragging. This program just really clicked for her. It made writing about herself a mountain that could be conquered. It eliminated the struggle from writing this personal statement, and helped Laura comfortably write about herself in an objective and appealing way. Her completed essay is all ready to be attached to college applications, lifting a huge burden from her shoulders!

This program is one of the best kept secrets in the home school community! 

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