I have been waiting to try the high school products from Writing with Sharon Watson for years! Jahnna is finally old enough for the Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis and I was thrilled to find we out we were on the review list. I’ve mentioned before that Jahnna enjoys writing and she has used a curriculum the last two years to write a novel of her own. It’s still a work in progress so I was hoping that adding in an additional curriculum would help her see where she could make some improvements to her story.
Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis is a curriculum for grades 9-12 and is written with a Christian worldview. I was intrigued by the claim that teens will learn almost 100 literary terms and devices by the time they complete this course. I didn’t know there were that many to learn! The course is designed to be completed over a traditional school year and can serve as one full high school credit. Split into two semesters containing 38 lessons this is student directed learning, meaning everything is done for you! If your student needs more parental involvement that works also. The coursework also includes suggestions for teaching this in a co-op setting for those who might be interested in that.
A textbook, teacher’s guide and free download of the companion Novel Notebook make up the foundation of the class. If the quizzes are taken online, then they are graded for you for free! How nice is that? If your student prefers printed quizzes, then you will want the Quiz and Answer Manual for them. We received the textbook, teacher’s guide and the physical copy of the quiz and answer manual. You can check out some free chapter samples, quizzes and grade grids on the course page.
There are books you will need to have available as your student goes through the program. Here is a list of the books required.
You will want to note that it lists the publisher and be sure that your copy is the same. The ISBN numbers are listed to the right of what is shown so you can match them up exactly. Why is that important? Won’t any version work? No, it won’t! There are passages and page numbers that are mentioned in the student text. Different publishers and even print runs might have different page numbers, and your student won’t be able to find the correct passage using the wrong book. You can see at the bottom of the picture below that it talks about page 38 of Frankenstein and a particular paragraph. It will save a lot of frustration and time if you have your own copies or if you can find them at your local library.
Using the same picture you can see that the Frankenstein section is laid out with a four-week plan. You can see that students are encouraged to use the Novel Notebook while they are reading the literature. This is a downloadable pdf, and while you don’t have to have it, I recommend using it! At the end of each reading selection, there are activities that can be completed. Jahnna loved Frankenstein, so that’s why all the examples are from that text. This picture shows the 13 different activity choices in addition to a compare and contrast assignment between Frankenstein and Adam. That’s not something I would have even thought of having Jahnna do so I was thrilled to see opportunities that challenged me to expand my viewpoint as well as hers.
I could go on and on about just the student textbook, but I’m already running long so let’s move to the Teacher’s Guide. All of the answers are provided for the questions in the student text. There are grading rubrics, so you have an idea of what to look for in your students writing and at the end of each literature selection, there is a way to total all of the points and assign a grade for that section.
Rubrics are an excellent tool for someone who might not be confident in their ability to assign grades for high school credit. I have to say that having taught high school the teacher’s guide is phenomenal in guiding you as a parent. It’s very detailed and sets a high bar for the type of work your student should be producing at this grade level. The same can be said of the tests and quizzes provided. Sharon Watson expects your student to learn a lot during this course and if you follow it, they will! We used the paper quizzes but I wanted to check out the online option, and we might just have to switch over to that. First off, everything is graded for you. Nice! Second, they are password protected. The passwords are provided in the student text, and they are different for each one. I like that because it keeps the students involved and accountable. They can’t lose them unless they lose their book.
Our Sharon Watson Experience
Jahnna saw the book list for this course and was immediately drawn to Frankenstein. I don’t think she realized that she would be introduced to different types of writing styles, so I was thrilled that she enjoyed it as much as she did. Using the curriculum, she has been working with, and Illuminating Literature did exactly what I hoped it would do. Jahnna was able to see different techniques and see how she could include them in her writing toolbox. Jahnna is excited to continue learning with Characters in Crisis, and I can’t think of a better recommendation then having a high school student willingly add an additional curriculum to their studies because they enjoyed it so much.
My Sharon Watson Experience
I have learned so much just flipping through the lessons and having discussions with Jahnna about what she is learning. The content and depth of the questions concerning the literature are amazing! I have been challenged in some of my thoughts while reading different sections with Jahnna and pondering topics like the creation of “designer pets and children.” I did not expect to explore science, ethics, art, and history using this course, yet we did! I was highly impressed with the breadth of topics and subject matter.
If you have a high school student, co-op or are looking ahead to high school curriculum, please consider using Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis. It’s affordable, and the quality far exceeds the price it’s being provided for. I am so impressed with the program that we will be using Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide after Jahnna finishes Characters in Crisis.
This is the last review of the 2017 Homeschool Review Crew review year. You will want to see what the other 39 reviewers had to say about finishing our review year with such a fantastic product! Click on the banner below to see what they had to say about it.
Innovators Tribe has one of the coolest products I’ve seen in awhile. Riley thrives on STEM products and curriculum and this is right up her alley. We were chosen to review the Thinking Like an Engineer program. Others on the Crew were selected to review the Thinking Like an Architect program. I have to admit that I’m a little jealous of those reviewers and will be reading their reviews when I’m finished with mine!
The course is easy to get started. You sign in and there is a dashboard that will show your course or courses if you purchase both. Once you open up the course the units are on the left side of the screen. When you complete a lesson in the unit there will be a green checkmark indicating it has been completed. Lesson lengths vary depending on the video instruction and the challenges that need to be completed.
You can see in the picture above that there is a course syllabus and then each lesson follows it. The syllabus is downloadable as well as printable. There are also journals that are to be printed out for the different units. I’ll get to that in a minute. If the lessons mark themselves completed how do you share with another student? At the bottom of the video, it gives you a place to mark the lesson incomplete. This is a great feature that is helpful when using with multiple students. The only recommendation I would suggest would be to have something like a “start course over” option on the last lesson that removes the marks on all the lessons. It’s easy for each student to track their progress with their journals though so it’s not that big of a deal.
The video instruction is top notch! There are workable links to YouTube videos and software that comes with the course. Younger students might need their parents help to not get lost down the YouTube rabbit hole like I did! Whoops! The roller coaster video was so fascinating I started watching other ones and then I made myself nauseous watching some of the rides. There is a reason I’m not a huge roller coaster fan anymore!
The scary bridges lesson was fun. I had to include a picture of my bridge above. I’m pretty sure everyone who grows up in the Bay Area considers the Golden Gate Bridge to be their personal bridge. I was always freaked out when we drove over it. I remember trying to hold my breath thinking that if I did that we wouldn’t crash into the ocean. That was a real fear after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989!
I mentioned software earlier. It has been fun learning a new program with Riley. This is a picture of her just messing around with some circles.
She hasn’t done too much with this yet because of her eyesight issues so I’m hoping that we can continue to learn it together after her eye surgery next month. The instructions to install the software were very simple. I’m currently working on the lesson on how to use it.
I wanted to touch a little on the journals. You print them out and your student answers questions as the lesson progresses. It would be very easy to do some of these questions verbally if you have a student who doesn’t like to write. I found that these were a great tool to keep my easily distracted daughter on track. If she didn’t know the answer she could watch the video again or we could discuss it together.
There are also suggestions for activities in the journal.
Each unit has various challenges associated with it. These will definitely make your student learn to think outside the box. One activity involved taking 4 pieces of printer paper and 1 foot of 1″ masking tape to create a free-standing tower.
It’s more challenging then you might think. Another challenge is shown in the next picture.
How fun is that?
My STEM Thoughts
I have really enjoyed this program! I know that as soon as we get Riley’s eye situation figured out she will jump right back into this.I didn’t push it too much because the suggested grade range is 6th grade through 12th grade and she is in 5th grade. For science minded students in 4th or 5th grade I feel that this program is definitely workable. For students who aren’t science and math minded but need help or credits, this is a gentle and fun way to teach those skills.
I highly recommend Innovators Tribe and the Thinking Like an Engineer course. I will be purchasing Thinking Like an Architect today because Innovators Tribe currently has a sale ending on 11/11/17 for 35% off of their course prices. It’s such a great value that I don’t want to miss out on it and I hope you won’t either!
Be sure and click on the banner below to see what the other members of the Homeschool Review Crew had to say about their STEM experiences.
The Pencil Grip, Inc. sent us the Thin Stix Creativity Pack to try this time. We’ve used both Kwik Stix and Thin Stix for several reviews in the past and they are always a favorite at our house. The Creativity Pack contains 24 different colors. There are 12 of the classic colors, 6 neon colors, and 6 metalix colors. I’m loving the neon and metalix colors! In case you haven’t read my past reviews these are actually filled with Tempera paint that really does dry in less than 90 seconds. You don’t need water and they are ready to use right out of the box.
Our Tempera Paint Experience
Unfortunately, I’m a slacker and forgot to take pictures of Riley’s project. Fortunately, I made some new ones this week to give you an idea of how it worked for us. Riley painted a black cat wood piece to give to Jahnna. It worked great because there were no small spaces to try and get paint into. It was fun and cute and Jahnna likes it.
For my second round of projects, I found a small turkey and a piece of wood that had already been painted white with acrylic paint. I forgot to follow my own advice of no small areas that couldn’t be reached with the paint sticks so I let my turkey have unfinished edges. I think it looks like a kid painted it and I’m okay with that. It is Tempera paint after all. You can see in the picture below that I wouldn’t be able to fit the Thin Stix in between the neck and the feathers.
I wanted to try some blending so I added some brown to the turkey’s neck. It worked to an extent. These dry so fast that it is hard to blend them. I used my finger and I still couldn’t make a mess with the Thin Stix. This is what my finger looked liked after smudging the paint while it was still wet. I used my middle finger to smudge it in case you can’t tell which one I used.
Next up is my wood block. I thought the colors would show much better because it was on a white background. I think the different paint types made it not work as well as I had hoped for.
You can probably see that I went over a couple colors with a different color because it wasn’t showing up well. Here’s a close-up.
Again, I’m okay with this because it’s going to decorate a kids table for Thanksgiving. I didn’t put a lot of time into either decoration for that reason.
My overall thoughts on these are that they are meant to be used by kids. If you have more patience and talent then I do, these could be used for more intricate projects. I have neither and so I just have fun with it. I know I’m not a great artist and I knew that I wanted these to look like kids had done them and that’s exactly what I got!
My Tempera Paint Thoughts
I love both the Kwik Stix and the Thin Stix. I’m so excited that there are so many colors now available in the Thin Stix size. I prefer the thinner stix and it is nice to have more variety to work with. Tempera paint is such a fun medium to use for me. It brings back a lot of good memories and makes me happy. That might seem silly but I’ve learned to appreciate the moments that make you smile and using Thin Stix makes me smile. I hope that you will consider these for presents during the upcoming holiday season because I know they will be a big hit with whoever receives them.
Be sure and click on the banner below to see what the other members of the Homeschool Review Crew had to say about their experiences with the Thin Stix Creativity Pack.