Saturday, September 29, 2018

Above and Beyond

One of the great benefits of raising kids has been the opportunity to meet and having the pleasure of  getting to know other wonderful children, teens and young adults. We have crossed paths with so many truly amazing young people coming into their own. So much talent and determination by so many as they pursue their dreams and goals.  We have befriended other families with children involved in the same activities as those of our own children. Baseball participation provided the framework to form many of our local community connections. There we met many young athletes working hard to improve skills and contribute to their team. When my daughter participated in USAG gymnastics we witnessed girls with a work ethic beyond their years. We have seen a similar passionate dedication among her peers in dance.

Whatever the forum, I have consistently seen young ones with a desire to learn and reach beyond their current situation. Those young baseball players practicing well past daylight, gymnasts in the gym doing the routine one more time, musicians pushing their limits trying another instrument. I've watched some change their focus to other pursuits while taking the lessons from the field or the gym into other bigger venues of interest. Others, I've seen continue with their first love.

Seeing a young person stretch their reach with the practice of a skill and taking that skill into new avenues of growth is a joy to watch.  Seeing someone stretch and find a foot hold in a world bigger than the one they were handed is exhilarating. The young ones that inspire me the most are the ones whose desired goals are well beyond the scope of their given obvious environmental, family or financial resources. Those whose families may not be able to have handed them lessons or training, on a silver platter.

Above and beyond is how I see it. It takes tenacity and commitment to keep going when you see that your family has to sacrifice to allow you to pursue your dream. It takes even more when your family asks you to contribute to funding your own training. Sometimes that means asking adults outside of family for resources, researching potential scholarship opportunities or working at a job during off training and school hours. I have seen it happen and I am impressed. It doesn't lessen the accomplishment of those whose families can provide all of the resources for pursuing a course of study or the attainment of a dream but it does add an additional layer of admiration to the equation.

For awhile now I have wanted to start a website to feature and possibly add a way to offer assistance to kids in circumstances beyond their control. Circumstances that limit their access to the teaching, mentoring and/or training they would love to have and would best utilize. I've been pushing the idea back, overwhelmed with the thought of work on another blog or website besides the ones I already have. It recently dawned on me that like with everything else; and like the young ones that inspired this idea, I can begin with what I've got! I can start featuring some of these amazing young people right here on this blog; Run Ran Fam - Family Learning and Adventures.

With excitement for a new feature page here for this purpose, my list of amazing young ones to feature is growing before I even begin.

First up; drum roll please!
Mayshell Morris!

I'll be sharing a post about this wonderful young flute player soon.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Celebrating Not-Back-to-School by Attending a World Class Music Concert

One advantage of living near a big city is the extensive array of public resources, museums and events offered throughout the area. Local recreation departments, libraries and arts organizations all offer opportunities to participate in interesting and educational experiences.

Pritzker Pavillion architecture by Frank Gehry

The Chicago Jazz Philharmonic is an amazing and highly respected organization. With a full piece orchestra, ensembles ranging from the full 60-piece orchestra to a double quartet they contribute in a big way to the city's creative musical offerings. They have a wide repertoire that combines jazz and classical music. With co-founder, Orbert Davis conducting the program "Legends and Lions", The Chicago Jazz Philharmonic opened the 40th annual Chicago Jazz festival at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

On one of the very last days of the Chicago Public Schools summer break, this amazing organization also hosted a wonderful hands on workshop open to students. The educational component of  The Chicago Jazz Philharmonic coupled the Chicago Jazz festival opening performance with a Second Line participatory workshop open to all students. Participants were welcomed by organizers Sarah Pietlicki and Jordan Mandela. The workshop was led by enthusiastic artists Crystal Swenson, Mikel Patrick Avery and Tubad.

The workshop took place prior to the concert, incorporated visual arts, dance and a bit of education about the celebratory musical events that take place in New Orleans, Louisiana. If you know second line parades, you know that the visual art, music, dancing and singing are all interrelated and fluid. The teaching artists managed to convey this through the days activities and creations. Everyone practiced something; art, dance or music making for the day. Workshop participants and the teaching artists opened the festive evening with a fun filled second line parade around the park.

We first became aware of the event due to the featured performance of a homeschool family friend, an accomplished young flute player, Mayshell Morris. Mayshell, home for the summer from her studies at Berklee School of Music in Boston, played that evening with her long time teachers, mentors, friends and colleagues at the beautiful Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago. Seeing young people strive for and reach their dreams is a moving experience. In this case, seeing Mayshell's performance and knowing her and her family so well, made this performance an especially moving one for me. It was one of those unforgettable, happy tears, goose bump moments.
August 29, 2018 - "Chicago Legends and Lions" -
opening the 40th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival

Watching videos of New Orleans jazz parades the night before with our teen daughter, my husband and I reminiscing about the days we lived in Louisiana, my daughter participating in an arts workshop with homeschool friends, all of us enjoying Mayshell's performance, on the same stage with jazz legends, on a beautiful late summer evening in the context of a stunningly designed facility, it all became the delightful kick off of our not-back-to school season.

Most of the participants have headed back to classrooms but, for them, back to school or not, it must have been a memorable event. It certainly was for me!

Face paint by Kat Archer
Group photo at "the bean".
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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Review of a Product by Roman Roads Media

Roman Roads Media is a curriculum publishing company specializing in online classical education. As a Homeschool Review Crew member, I was given access to one of their online vocabulary building subscriptions. My teen daughter and I have both been working our way through basic Latin vocabulary words of the natural world using the subscription called Picta Dicta Natural World.

Picta Dicta Natural World

Picta Dicta teaches natural world Latin words.

Picta Dicta Natural World takes the student through a series of vocabulary lessons, first introducing the Latin word with pictures. The English terms for the objects aren't presented in the early lessons. The presentation of the Latin terms directly eliminates a student's tendency to translate from one language to the other. Instead it develops an associating of the Latin term directly with the item pictured. English terms are reviewed later in the lessons but not in the early first lessons.

Systematically presented, the lessons incorporate the use of several different learning modalities, including visual, auditory and story with information about word origin. The lessons also include the expectation that a student will pronounce and also spell the Latin terms themselves to move on to increased vocabulary. The lessons are user responsive and repetition of terms not yet memorized is presented until the student gets it. The vocabulary units described as "campaigns" are presented in related categories. Large animals, fruits, plants, anatomy and geographical land forms are all topics that are covered incrementally through the course.

Through the family account each teacher/parent has access to monitor each student's progress. The parent/teacher is also able to have a seat as a student for their own Latin vocabulary learning. With short sessions three to four times per week my daughter and I have both been able to move through the categories fairly quickly with sufficient retention of the terms. The program saves any progress even if interrupted in the middle of a lesson.

My interest in having my daughter use this subscription came from my understanding of how much even some basic understanding of Latin terms can be applied to the study of other subjects and pertinent to her current plans, in providing information and clues in test taking for completing high school requirements and SAT/ACT testing. Many years ago, my own ACT test scores, especially in science, were enhanced by a weekly Latin spelling test given in a high school physiology class. By exposure to the basics in this course, I expect her learning of  Latin vocabulary through the Picta Dicta Natural World program will do the same for her.

Classical curriculum materials beginning through advanced are available.

Malum, anyone?
Roman Roads Media has several of these Latin vocabulary courses but they are only the beginning of what Roman Roads Media has to offer. They are a publishing company that provides an extensive line of resources for classical study for use in home education. Their stated goals include making high quality classical Christian education accessible to homeschooling families to inspire students and impart wisdom. Their resources cover the humanities, logic, rhetoric and history from a classical Christian perspective. A family wanting their high school age students to have a classically based education would do well to use Roman Roads Media teaching materials. They offer many hard copy and online materials. Live lectures are also a part of the teaching curriculum available. The live classes presented by expert teachers are closed for the 2018/2019 school year but definitely worth considering in your future homeschooling curriculum. However, in the meantime, the resources offered by Roman Roads Media are extensive and could easily cover much of a high school course load.

Beginning with basic Latin vocabulary is a great place to start with younger students, any students just being introduced to Latin or like me wanting a review of previously learned terms. Delightedly, in some categories and embarrassingly so in others Picta Dicta Natural World has jogged my learning memory of Latin terms. My teen has progressed as quickly despite this being her first coordinated exposure to Latin vocabulary. I am glad we had the opportunity to use and discover more about this publishing company.

There are parent resources, too. Are you up for a challenge?

An additional  resource directed at parents that looks interesting, extensive (and challenging) to me is their Great Books challenge for parents. Still open, registration is required for the 2018/2019 school year parent's challenge. Parents, grandparents, even great-grandparents completing the challenge will earn a unit of free curriculum. The cost of these materials doesn't look prohibitive, especially given the breadth of what is offered. Clearly, they take their mission to impart wisdom seriously and produce high quality online instruction.

You can find them at:
and also on social media at:
youtube: @romanroadsmediaYouTube
or by clicking the banner below.
Roman Roads Media
To read more reviews from Homeschool Review Crew members, click on the banner below.
Classical Rhetoric and Picta Dicta {Roman Roads Media Reviews}

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Thursday, September 6, 2018

A Review of GrammarPlanet - An Online Grammar Curriculum

As a Homeschool Review Crew participant, I was given access to GrammarPlanet's online curriculum to use with my daughter and to review. It is an comprehensive, interactive online grammar curriculum. GrammarPlanet was created by language arts teachers, Erin Karl and Jerry Bailey. Using their expertise in grammar, they have produced an online program for use by anyone wanting to improve their English skills. The lessons cover all parts of speech and punctuation. The extensive outline of material covered is available here: GrammarPlanet Unit Outline. They offer a paid version and a free version that is supported by advertising. Fortunately, we were able to utilize the paid version but the info regarding the advertising supported access says that there is nothing inappropriate for families in the ad supported version. 

A video lecture begins each lesson. Each lecture presents a part of speech clearly and completely. Lecture notes for printing, to read along and refer to, accompany each lesson. They are easy to understand, useful for learning and helpful preparation before each practice session.

GrammarPlanet lecture presentation shown here on the screen.
Printed lesson notes for reference shown on the green paper.
Printed lessons
accompany lessons.

Each component of speech is presented systematically to build upon the previously presented and understood components.  A student really can't rush through without understanding the material that is meant to help them understand the structure of the English language. There is a significant amount of critical thinking necessary to move through the program with options to review and insure adequate understanding.

The practice series are user friendly and require an understanding of the material to progress through to each new level. A series of practice sessions must be completed with an acceptable score before the student is allowed by the program to move on to the next lesson. This insures that the student has an adequate understanding of each part of speech and is able to build on the knowledge acquired while moving through the program. 

A parent/teacher can reset a unit for the student to redo or unlock for a student to move on to the next set of lessons if needed. Each unit is completed with a test to access comprehension. Test scores are saved in student progress reports available to the parent/teacher through the teacher account.

We had some difficulty in our initial set up for using the program. Due to the separation of student and teacher accounts and my own lack of intuitive use of computers, I found it confusing to login the first times we attempted to view lectures and practice the lessons. However, assistance was readily available. Answers to my emailed questions were answered quickly and patiently. I'd give GrammarPlanet an A+ for their costumer service.

An unexpected and wonderful result of working through this with my daughter is my own newly increased appreciation and excitement about the study of grammar. The lessons are presented clearly and with enthusiasm for the importance of understanding the structure of the English language. The materials are definitely comprehensive. The lessons, practice and testing have added value to my daughter's current study of English. They are providing a review of basic grammar, potential improvements in her writing and practice in preparation for more extensive test taking this year.

You can read more reviews of GrammarPlanet from the Homeschool Review Crew by clicking the image below.
Grammar Program Online {GrammarPlannet Reviews}

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