Jonah and Mary (book review)

A few years ago, Munchkin (who turns 12 this week) loved to read. Recently he’s been exploring other ways of expressing himself and finding his interests though. He currently enjoys drawing maps from memory. Through these other explorations, I don’t want him to completely abandon reading, though, so when the opportunity to review a book or two comes up, I always ask him if he’s interested. When it came to Who was Jonah? and Who was Mary, Mother of Jesus? from Barbour Publishing he said that he was definitely interested, so I’m going to leave the rest of this post to him.

Who was Jonah?

This book is about 80 pages and the type is fairly large, so it was easy to read. As you might guess from the title, it is a biography of the Biblical Jonah. It starts right before God tells him to go to Nineveh. It drops you right into the action, and follows the same action as is in the Bible right up until the end. It has Bible verses to help support what the author is saying. 

This book was pretty good. I found it fun to read. I’ve read another book by this author (Matt Koceich) before, and I really liked it, so I thought I would like this one too and I was right. I really like biographies, so this was a good book for me.

Who was Mary, Mother of Jesus?

This book was a very similar length and format to Jonah, but it’s all about Mary. It starts by explaining Mary’s special role in history, including the prophecy from Isaiah 7. The “real” story starts in chapter 2, where Mr. Koceich talks about the census and birth of Jesus. Each chapter takes a memorable Bible story (the wise men, 12 year old Jesus at the temple, the wedding in Cana, Jesus’s crucifixion) and explains Mary’s role in each. Like the Jonah book, it gives Bible verse references throughout to support what is being said.

I liked this book too. It was interesting to read familiar stories from a slightly different point of view. It wasn’t quite as fun as Jonah, but I still enjoyed it a lot. 

What Both Books had in Common 

In each book, there were little bits of extra information sprinkled throughout in gray boxes labeled “Clues.” These were mostly things that show God working in the life of both the subject of the book and how we can apply that today. For example, in Mary, one of the Clues says

Mary’s song reminds us to always praise God, for He is worthy. God gives us grace. He fills our hearts and always keeps His promises.

At the end of the main part of the book are “Power-Ups.” These are short (2 page) devotions based on the life of the person whose book it is. Each one includes a memory verse. 

Other Stuff

These two books are part of a series called Kingdom Files. So far, there are 5 books in the series: the two I reviewed, Jesus, David, and Esther. Each one is $4.99. I would like to read them all at some point.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

 

and Munchkin 

Kingdom Files {Barbour Publishing Reviews}
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Science for Littles (review)

It can be quite difficult to continue homeschooling through the summer months, especially if your kids are used to a “traditional” schedule where they get the time off, like mine. But products like Learning About Science Collection, Level 1 by WriteBonnieRose make it a lot easier. Small Fry (who just turned 6 a few weeks ago) and I have been learning all about plants and animals together using this science curriculum for lower-elementary kids this summer.

The Level 1 collection that we received (there are also levels 2 and 3 available, with level 3 having options for print or cursive) truly is a collection. It includes 7 different lessons, all for one price of $12. These lessons include:

  • Animal Habitats of the World
  • Familiar Plants and How They Grow
  • Fruits and Vegetables Around the World
  • Learning About Life Cycles
  • Our Senses and Systems and How They Work
  • Earth: Layers, Earthquakes, and Volcanoes
  • Exploring States of Matter

Because it’s gardening season, we chose to focus first on Familiar Plants. This e-book is 14 pages long (including a cover and copyright page) and a self-contained lesson. It opens with a basic lesson on what all plants have: stem, leaves, stamen, pistil, flower, fruit, seeds… I read the lesson parts aloud to Small Fry, who soaked up the information like a sponge – or a seed ;). If you print out the pages (I didn’t, just because our printer is in a location that’s not convenient for me to do any printing at this time), there are also words for your child to trace related to the lesson. Instead of working with a printout, I had Small Fry draw his own pictures and label them accordingly. My favorite part of doing this lesson with him were the questions he asked while we worked, most notably “Do plants have to have growing pains too?” This is an especially sore point (pardon the pun) with him right now because his legs have been really achy lately as he’s getting taller.

IMG_1422There are also lots of diagrams for coloring and labeling (also using the tracing method). After the lesson, there’s a little quiz – nothing major, just some simple questions that your child can answer with pictures. For example, “which of the following is not a plant?” This lesson was so interesting for my son that we finished it all in one day, and moved on a few days later to Fruits and Vegetables Around the World.

IMG_1423Fruits and Vegetables is a much longer lesson at 37 pages, but it’s also much simpler. It is separated into fruits and vegetables; they’re not combined. The first page (after cover and copyright) is a list of the fruits written in bubble letters perfect for coloring. The next 14 pages have pictures and a short paragraph about each of the fruits in alphabetical order. There is also a tracing area for the names of the fruits, and the pictures are line drawings that can be colored. In the middle of the book is the list of vegetables, and then the book repeats using vegetables instead of fruits. The last few pages, like in the Plants book, is a review/quiz and parent answer key.

Even though we didn’t get to them, I looked over a couple of the other lessons so I can be prepared when we hit official “back to school time” later this year. Animal Habitats is a 51-page ebook that runs a very similar format to Fruits and Vegetables, but instead of separating into fruits vs vegetables, it’s organized by type of habitat. For example, the African Savannah animals are listed together (lions, giraffes, elephants, wild African dogs, etc). If I counted correctly (there’s no table of contents), there are 16 different habitats covered, including some that you wouldn’t necessarily think of like Farms and Pets.

Senses and Systems covers exactly what you think it might: the 5 senses in humans and the main systems in our bodies. This one is 19 pages, and a lot of learning (reading) with fewer pictures. There is at least one image for each section, but it’s not quite as graphical as the others I looked into. This doesn’t mean it isn’t as good, though! There’s a lot of information covered, so it’s one that you would want to take a little slower with your child. I think when we do it, I’ll cover just one sense or system each day with plenty of review in between.

We really enjoyed the lessons that we did, and when we start up school again in October (we’re taking an extra month off this summer due to the arrival of our new baby at the end of this month), I can totally see us using more of these lessons. They’re really fun for the early elementary crowd!

For the next 2 weeks, through August 15, 2018, use coupon code REVIEWCREW50 and you can get any of the science ebook bundles (any level) for half price. For Level 1, that’s 7 books for just $6!

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

 

Learning About Science collections {WriteBonnieRose Reviews}
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The Scavengers (Progeny Press review)

Munchkin and I have been blessed to review Progeny Press study guides in the past, and he and I both really love them. For this reason, I always request them when the opportunity arises. This year, we got a new book and study guide for him: The Scavengers – eGuide.

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The Scavengers, a novel for middle grades written by Michael Perry, is described as “a cross between The City of Ember and Holes.” Since Munchkin has read both of those and loved them, I knew he’d like this book, too. I figured that reading and studying this book wouldn’t be too much of a chore for him during summer break, and due to his lack of complaining, I think I was right. Either that, or he’s been happy to stay inside where it’s cool during these especially hot days.

7C6EC262-056D-4A94-911D-16D62EB22C34Set in a sort of apocalyptic future (like so many books are these days), this novel tells the story of Maggie. With the world falling apart around them, the government gives citizens a choice: move into the “bubble cities” or don’t. But if you don’t, all consequences of that decision are on you. Maggie’s family decides to stay out, and everything is okay . . . until they’re not. She needs to find some new friends to help her find and rescue her family, and that’s just what she does.

The timing of this review hit just when we were out of printer ink, so I didn’t get it printed and bound for him as I’d initially intended. Fortunately I was able to easily download the guide to my iPad (despite the company not recommending that, just in case it didn’t work) and save the PDF to my iBooks app. From there, he would go over the questions and other activities directly from the iPad and write the answers down in a notebook. Doing so was a really effective way of getting the job done. It may not have been quite as elegant as a printed and bound booklet, but it worked.

B89C43F0-BB0F-4D89-B546-5D5898E06B9DLike all Progeny Press guides, The Scavengers eGuide has a heavily Christian focus; this is one of the reasons I like them so well. Each chunk of the study guide covers 8 chapters (it sounds like a lot, but the whole book has 59 fairly short chapters, so an 8-chapter chunk isn’t so bad), and a fair number of the questions of each study-guide-chapter (especially in the critical thinking, “digging deeper” section) are directly related to the Bible.

A8DB71C5-CE89-4CE9-A073-37E035104356Besides comprehension and critical thinking questions, each section also includes vocabulary words. I’ve never expanded this very much (Munchkin is naturally good at all things language arts), but you could easily turn these words into a spelling list as well – especially if you wanted to make the whole guide a unit study. There is enough additional material here to help you on your way, including activities to be done before your child reads even one page of the book. In the first chapter of the guide, these activities are to research (and possibly build) hoop houses, and to explore what “eating local” really means – as in, could you even have your favorite foods if all you had available was what grows in your area?

Overall, we’ve been really happy with this Progeny Press eGuide. In fact, I’ve never been unhappy with one, but this one strikes me as especially good. I will definitely be keeping my PDF copy in cloud storage for use when my younger crop of kids is old enough to use it.

Blessings,

 ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

 

New Study Guides for Literature From a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press Reviews}
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Math for Adults (Math Essentials review)

When I was in school, I always loved math. In my high school, only two math credits were required for graduation, but I took an extra year of math just for fun – yes, I used up one of my elective classes for math. That’s how much I liked it. Because of this love, I’ve never been one who’s afraid to teach math to my kids. But that doesn’t mean that I remember everything from back then well enough to teach it now. That’s where Math Refresher for Adults from Math Essentials comes in. And if you do have math anxiety (or need to learn/relearn math for a new job or because you’re going back to college or something), this book is for you too.

math refresher

This textbook covers all sorts of math concepts, starting at about a fourth grade level and going all the way through to Algebra I. With over 250 pages, there are a lot of lessons in there! You’ll learn everything from basic addition and subtraction to fractions (including all four operations), geometry, to the more complicated aspects of Algebra. Because I’ve got one student in Pre-Algebra and one in Algebra I, I skipped the first part of the book and dived right into the last third. I’ve been working for a couple of weeks now and am about a third to halfway through the section.

70DDF5A6-4941-40CC-81A2-28614CBA8726You’ll notice in the last paragraph I used the word “textbook.” This is really the best word for the book, which contains a short lesson on each page (usually a paragraph or less) followed by a series of 10-12 problems for you to solve. There is a place on each page to record your answers, but on most of the pages there is not room to “show your work,” as is often required in math (although when you’re both the teacher and the student, you can be a little more lax with yourself).

369073CA-8341-47E0-9324-D9CFC0A140D1The copyright on the book doesn’t allow for copying of the pages, but in the “helpful hints” at the beginning, the author recommends using a separate sheet of paper for your work and answers. This is exactly what I did, and I kept my answers on that sheet of paper rather than writing them in the book itself. This will allow me to keep the book clean and go through it again when I get to points with my third (and subsequent) children where I need another refresher in order to help teach them better. For my “sheet of paper,” I bought a spiral notebook for a quarter from WalMart. This allowed me to keep all the pages together rather than having loose sheets floating all around. This is something I hate when my children do, and I knew I would hate it if I did it as well.

In addition to the short lesson on each page, there are also video lessons for every single lesson available online. The videos are arranged by the book they originally appeared to go with, not for this book in particular. But since the concepts are the same, that’s fine. You can view the videos without having any of the books using the password on the “videos” page on the website. This could be a valuable resource to parents trying to make a decision on math still – try out one of the videos to see if it’s a way your child might learn well, then buy the correct book for your child’s grade level/age.

Overall, I have been very happy working on this book for myself this summer. As I mentioned before, I really like math, so it’s been really rewarding to be able to remember some of the things I learned in high school and have since forgotten. It makes me feel pretty good about myself to be able to go over those lessons again – especially when I realize I might not have forgotten quite as much as I thought I had (which is a real testament to my favorite high school math teacher!). I definitely recommend this book for parents.

For more information on Math Essentials, you can read my review of their No Nonsense Algebra textbook from last year (which Seahawk is still using). You can also visit them on Facebook.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

 

Math Refresher for Adults {Math Essentials}
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A Bible Study for Everyone (review)

Studying the Bible is important for everyone, not just kids and not just adults. As Christian parents, it’s a huge part of our job to raise our children to become God-fearing adults. A huge part of doing so is by studying the Bible. As part of this obligation (and I don’t use that word in a bad way), I almost always choose to review Bible studies when they come up as options through the Homeschool Review Crew. This time, we’ve been studying Genesis using Bible Study Guide for All Ages. Because of the ages of my kids, I’ll be talking about the Beginner (3-K) level and the Advanced (5th and 6th Grade) level.

The timing on receiving this worked out pretty well because we’d just gone back to the beginning of Genesis in our family reading. Each evening, we try to read a few chapters aloud as a family (Will reads, everyone else listens; those who know how to read follow along in their own Bibles). Then the next day, I go over the section again with the children in the mornings while Will is working. This way they get each section twice, which really reinforces what they’re learning during family time and prepares the boys for the next section. My time with the boys is when I pulled out the Bible Study Guide for All Ages.

Beginner (3-K)

bible study guide 3For anyone who’s read much on my blog at all, you know that I have two kids this age (well, one is 2 1/2, but close enough). We received one workbook in this level (the Unit 1 workbook) plus one copy of the Beginner Timeline. These materials are designed for “non reading children ages 3 and up.” The workbook is larger than a normal workbook, about legal size and bound on the short side so it’s long. It includes lessons for one quarter of the year, assuming you work at a pace of 2 lessons per week. We didn’t move quite that fast because we used it to supplement the reading we were already doing rather than as a standalone curriculum. Instead, I had Small Fry (6 years old this week, just finished Kindergarten) do the pages that corresponded with the section we had just read.

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bible study guide 1Each lesson is broken down right in the student workbook with instructions for the teacher/parent. It starts with showing a timeline card and asking the question on the card. The cards are in the order that the events occurred in the Bible (of course, since it’s a timeline). Each one is 8.5 x 11 and printed on cardstock in full color. They’re quite durable. This makes it a good resource for a group of small children – not only are they durable enough to stand up to reasonable use, but they’re also big enough to see without being right up on the card.

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After working through the flashcard, there are a few activities to help children learn the basics of the Bible: reciting books of the Bible in order, singing songs, answering questions, etc. Then there’s a short lesson including an “apply it” section. On the backside of the page is an age-appropriate paper activity.

Advanced (5th and 6th grade)

bible study guide 4For this level, I received one copy of the student workbook and a teacher guide, plus a set of Small Bible Book Summary Cards.

The workbook is the same size as the beginner version, but the activities are much more difficult (as suggested by the level). It starts with several memory activities to help students remember what they’d learned and read previously (it starts in Genesis 35, so there’s a lot of stuff that’s not specifically covered but is “reviewed” in the lessons so it’s not totally ignored). Activities include things like putting Abraham and his descendants in order from oldest to youngest, memorizing the book summary from the card, answering questions about the timeline of events, and then reading the Bible section and answering questions.

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bible study guide 2The summary cards are just what they sound like. Each one has color images on one side and a lot of black and white text on the other. There are also questions on each one to help make sure children are understanding what they read. The pictures represent the main events that happen in that book, and the writing on the back contains more details. It also explains the title of the book (Genesis means “beginning,” for example) and what type of book it is (history, poetry, prophecy, etc).

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This has been a really positive experience for our family. We’ve enjoyed exploring the Bible more thoroughly than “just” reading it. I’m not suggesting that simply reading the Bible isn’t enough, but it’s nice for children to be able to have some supplements to help them remember what’s been read more readily. I’m glad I’ve been able to work through this with them.

Blessings,

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Bible Study Guide For All Ages {Reviews}
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Art History for Upper Grades (review)

My kids love art. That’s not surprising, considering their dad does art for a living (he draws comics and does graphic design). But they don’t get a whole lot in the way of classical art or art history – not to say they don’t get that at all, just not as much as we’d like. So when the option of reviewing The Master and His Apprentices: Art History from a Christian Perspective was presented, I talked it over with my artist husband, and we decided it would be a good choice for Seahawk, who is 14 years old and entering his first year of homeschool high school in the fall.

The Master and His Apprentices is written by Gina Ferguson, and her story is quite fascinating. I’m not going to fully recount it here, but you can read it on the About the Author page on the company’s website. Suffice it to say that she never intended to write this textbook, but God had different plans for her life. Luckily for all art history lovers, she followed those directions and created this curriculum!

The Master and His Apprentices
There are two main components to this curriculum: the textbook ($34.99 digital, $149.99 hardback) and the teacher manual ($19.99 digital, $24.99 softcover). We received digital copies of both in order to complete this review. Because we have digital copies, the first thing I did was download both to my iPad, and a second copy of the teacher manual (which contains all the questions and answers for the course) to Will’s computer. I then printed the teacher manual from the computer and used the comb-binding machine at our church to make a book. The textbook is roughly triple the length of the teacher manual (380+ pages vs 120), so I opted to leave that one digital and have Seahawk read it on the iPad. (I try to remember to dim the screen when he’ll be reading for a reasonable amount of time to save his eyes a bit.) 

In the teacher manual, you can easily see a schedule, which is roughly one chapter per week. There is also a grading chart with space to record notes about your student’s participation, grades on their papers and exams, and final points in order to calculate a grade.

6EFAA187-B52E-4DC1-9C24-747BB5457D64The curriculum is mostly reading and answering questions, which I didn’t necessarily realize when I requested this review. That’s not Seahawk’s favorite way to learn, but it’s good for him to stretch his wings and do things that might be a bit uncomfortable, especially as he enters high school. In addition to all the reading and questions, there are also 4 term papers to complete, as well as 4 exams. Each of these projects/tests is worth 100 points, and there are an additional 200 points allocated for participation for a total of 1000 points possible in the course.

2DF503EC-C89B-4F8B-8972-53F728233D0CThe chapters are based around historical time periods, starting (after an introductory chapter) with Creation. The book moves forward in time from there, covering such time periods as Ancient Civilizations (biblical and non-biblical), the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, and ending with “modern.” I put that in quotes because that chapter covers from the 1600s and forward. Not many people would consider the 1600s to be modern, but the chapter does move all the way to current day.

Even though this course wasn’t exactly what I expected when I requested it, I do think I’ll have Seahawk pick it back up in the fall. Since he’s entering high school, we have to start keeping track of things like credits earned, and this one qualifies as a full credit for an “art history elective.” I think that’s a pretty reasonable place to start his high school career (besides the things that are easier to define, like math and language arts).

Read more reviews on this curriculum from fellow members of the Homeschool Review Crew by clicking the banner below.

Blessings,

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The Master and His Apprentices: Art History from a Christian Perspective {The Master and His Apprentices Reviews}
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White House Holidays (review)

Unit studies are a really fun way to learn, but it can be difficult to find those that work for a) older kids and b) a large age range of kids. Silverdale Press LLC has done just that with their White House Holidays Unit Studies. Each of the unit studies has activities for kids in elementary school and a separate section with middle and high school level activities. Holidays available for study are Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Martin Luther King Jr Day, and Valentine’s Day. Each unit study has between 3 and 5 lessons, and it’s easy to move through quickly (a whole study in a week) or take your time and get really in depth (one lesson per week). We split the difference and kept it fairly simple but still just one lesson per week.

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We focused on the Labor Day study, and even though it only had three lessons, it was the only one we were able to do. Allow me to explain… even though these PDFs arrived in my email as “attachments,” the link opened up a Google doc rather than a download. Because of this Google doc format, I was unable to download any of them to my iBooks app, and since I’ve had very limited internet access until recently (last week, to be precise), I couldn’t spend the time I needed to be able to get the download figured out. And as soon as I left Starbucks (read: internet), I no longer had digital access to the files. I was finally able to get the file printed (long story, but basically I had to have access to 3 things all together that I rarely do: computer rather than iPad, internet, and our printer). A real PDF would have eliminated this problem for me, but it’s okay; it all worked out in the end.

Back to the Labor Day study. It opens with a note from the author, explaining why she chose to write these studies (as a homeschool mom, she wanted a rich study if the holidays for her kids; as a presidential scholar, it made sense to wrap the studies in that blanket to do so). This note also gives a basic overview of how the studies are laid out. Up next is the table of contents, followed immediately by the first lesson for grades K-6. 

The lessons are well written, with an overview on the first page on each one so you can easily see the required materials, things you can expect your student to learn during the lesson, estimated time, and lesson plan. 

A073EE27-8D97-4155-9F98-AA687316E837For the younger kids, lessons consist mostly of talking, reading, and a simple craft – for Labor Day, recreating a poster for the first ever Labor Day in lesson 2 and a story in pictures in lesson 3. I talked over the lessons and read the information to Small Fry, my 5-year-old. There are quite a few pictures of child labor to look over and discuss with children as well, and each has questions to guide you through the discussion. For children at the upper end of this age range, you could also have them write their answers down report-style. We didn’t do much in the way of the crafts because my kids prefer to use their own ideas when they’re being creative rather than something that’s been assigned. I felt that they got a good understanding of the material using just the read-aloud lessons and questions and answers, anyway.

Lessons for older kids follow the same format, with the overview and lesson plan on the first page followed by the text and images for the lesson itself. Older kids can – and are encouraged in the lesson plan – to do the reading independently. Discussions should happen with a parent though. Their activities in lessons 2 and 3 are more involved than just making a craft; they get to analyze past and current Labor Day speeches given by presidents and learn how to get involved by choosing a workers rights issue and writing a letter to their local congressman. 

All three lessons for the younger kids are together, and the lessons for middle and high school follow. This makes it easier to print just what you need if you have kids in just one of the age ranges.

Overall, this has been a really good learning experience for my kids. They didn’t know much about Labor Day (other than it means “the end of summer break”), so I’ve been glad to teach them more about this national holiday and why it’s important. It will be a good one to repeat every couple of years to remind them of its importance.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

Persuasive Writing & Classical Rhetoric: Practicing the Habits of Great Writers & White House Holidays Unit Studies {Silverdale Press LLC Reviews}
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Books that are More than “Just” Books (Weigl Publishers review)

Weigl Publishers has lots of really neat books, and I’ve been able to review three of them over the past few weeks. I’ve been reading two of them to my little kids (I have digital copies, so that’s done by having downloaded the books to my iPad and saving them to the iBooks app) and exploring the third one on my own. The books are:

  • Glaciers from the series “Earth’s Water” published under the imprint Lightbox and intended for a grades 3-6 interest range.
  • A Lion’s World, belonging to the“EyeDiscover” series, intended for a K-2 interest range.
  • There Once Was a Cowpoke Who Swallowed an Ant, a fiction title intended for a K-2 interest range.

You can probably tell from the suggested age ranges listed which two we’ve read together: Lion’s World and Cowpoke. Let’s start by talking about Lion’s World.

lion coverA Lion’s World is a simple book with lots of beautiful photographs of the large cats. Each page features a single fact about lions; this way it’s not too much for young children to digest (since it’s a nonfiction title). The facts listed are super easy to read and understand. Small Fry, my kindergartner, had no problem understanding what was going on in the book. Because it’s such an easy book, it would also be good for early readers to practice on their own. The words are big and most of them are easy, though very young children might need some help with a few of the longer ones or those with unusual letter groupings/sounds (“powerful” and “groups,” for example). Generally speaking, though, I think a 2nd grader (the upper range of the suggested age for this book) wouldn’t have any trouble reading it on his/her own.

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cowpoke coverMy little boys have absolutely adored listening to me read There Once Was a Cowpoke Who Swallowed an Ant to them. This story is based on the old nursery rhyme (song?) “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.” It starts with the cowboy swallowing a fire ant, which obviously stings his insides and makes him very uncomfortable. He continues to swallow more and more desert creatures, trying to get rid of that pesky ant.

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This one is great for little kids because of the repetitive factor that is so popular with that group (with each additional animal swallowed, the list back to the ant is repeated). They love things that repeat so they can learn the rhythm and begin to join in on the story very easily. This was absolutely the case with Small Fry, who loved finishing up the stanza for me – he’d learned it before we even finished the very first read through. Unlike the old tale on which the story is based, the ending of this story has a fun little twist which really made my son cackle – the cowboy ends up swallowing himself because “If I want something done right, I have to do it myself!”

glaciers coverGlaciers is much more in-depth, and we honestly haven’t spent much time with it. The age range is higher, and I definitely agree with that recommendation. It would be really overwhelming for a young child because the amount of information presented is way beyond what a little kid could handle. For an older child, though, it might provide a good reference tool for a report or unit study on glaciers. The one thing I caution is that it refers to “glacier movements over time (millions of years).” If you believe in a young Earth – as my family does – this might not be the right book for you. However, if you don’t believe that, or are comfortable explaining the different opinions of Earth’s age to your children and being discerning, then it could work.

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How these books are “more than books”

I mentioned in the title of this post that these books aren’t just books, and yet I’ve described them as just that – (electronic) books. So what’s the “more”? Well, each book has a code at the beginning, and you can plug that code into a website for access to much more content. Let’s take a quick look at what’s available.

Lion and Cowpoke

Because these books are for younger children, the main feature is an audio reading of the book. In fact, this is the only thing in Cowpoke. Lion offers a bit more description at the beginning (“in this book, you will learn about…”) before diving into the reading.

Glaciers

Because this is a book for older students, there’s a lot more to the website than just a reading of the book. There are tons of audio, video, and activity options to do. There’s even a quiz for kids to do after having read the book to check for comprehension.

We didn’t use the websites really at all, except in my research for this review. Because we don’t have internet access at our house, it has been nearly impossible to get the kids to a place where they can use it, so we’ve been using the books on their own – and it’s fine, especially with the little kid books. But if you do have regular, easy internet access (and I know you probably do, since you’re here reading this), then these books and supplemental websites would offer a really neat option for your kids.

Blessings,

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Multimedia Digital Books {Weigl Publishers Reviews}
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Printable Worksheets and Tests for All Grades (HelpTeaching.com review)

Do you have a student who thrives on worksheets? Do you need a resource from which to get tests for your child? Or would you prefer to write your own tests but not have to deal with the formatting in a word processor? Then HelpTeaching.com just might be the right fit for you. For the past few weeks, I’ve been able to review their Help Teaching Pro to do some of the things I just mentioned.

help teaching product image

My older kids have plenty of schoolwork to keep them busy, but for Small Fry (Kindergarten), I felt like we needed something more, which is why I asked to review this product. After looking over the website, I determined that there would be lots of options there for his age, and I was right. It’s been a true blessing to have these premade worksheets the past few weeks so all I have to do is print them out and teach him the concepts. HelpTeaching.com makes it so easy!

I initially expected that my son would be fairly slow going with the worksheets (since this would be his first experience with them), so in my first perusal of the website after getting my access code, I decided to print off 5 language arts worksheets and 5 math worksheets, figuring that would get us through one week of classes. Boy was I wrong! My 5-year-old loved these, and he burned through all of them on the very first day. So that night, I hopped back on the site and found more to get ready for him.

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This screenshot shows a sample section of the website so you can see how the worksheets are organized. Those with the lock icon are available only with a paid membership; those without can be accessed with just the free account from HelpTeaching.com.

The site is very organized, which I appreciated. I was easily able to narrow my search down to exactly what I wanted because all of the worksheets are arranged by both subject and grade. By choosing the “Kindergarten” age level, I was taken to a page with hundreds of choices in all of the major subjects. Because we already had a science curriculum we were working on together, I didn’t pay much attention to those, but I looked at nearly all of the options for both language arts (including things like word building, reading comprehension, and sight words plus many more) and math, and over the past few weeks Small Fry has done many of them.

The worksheets are listed by title, and when you click on the name of the worksheet it opens up a visual of the worksheet right in your web browser. From there, you have options to

  • Have your student complete the worksheet online
  • Print the worksheet straight from the website
  • Download a PDF of the worksheet to print from your PDF reader

worksheet exampleI opted for the last choice, just because I was able to control the print quality (black and white, ink saver mode, double sided when appropriate) better. Once the worksheets were printed, I put them all in a folder for safe keeping. I stored blank worksheets on the left and completed worksheets on the right. It hasn’t been a perfect solution (sometimes the folder gets misplaced, the completed worksheets don’t get put in at the end, and the math and English worksheets are all mixed together), but it’s generally been fine.

It seems that I’ve forgotten to take pictures of the worksheets that Small Fry has completed; I assure you, he’s done many of them. Please forgive this oversight and use the sample image at the left to see what kinds of worksheets are available.

So that’s how I used the site. But what about those tests I mentioned in my opening paragraph? Well, that’s easy too! Just click on the Test Maker button at the top of the page, and you’re taken to a page with lots of options. You can fill it in completely with your own questions, you can populate the test with questions exclusively from the HelpTeaching.com library, or you can mix and match. How cool is that?!

Overall, I’ve been very happy with our Help Teaching Pro membership. I will definitely continue to pull worksheets for my boy for the foreseeable future; it’s too good a resource to not use.

Blessings,

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Help Teaching Pro. {HelpTeaching.com Reviews}
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Learning About Ourselves and God’s Creation (Apologia review)

apologia review

Munchkin, Small Fry, and I have had so much fun the past few weeks working on our new anatomy course – Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology from Apologia. We were blessed to receive the full set, including the text book, the notebooking journal, the junior notebooking journal, and the mp3 CD. I love that we have both of the notebooking journals. The regular journal is perfect for Munchkin (a young 6th grader) and the junior version is just right for Small Fry (a typical kindergartner). Not having any kids in between those two means they can’t often do any lessons together, but this one was one that they both are enjoying immensely.

As many in the homeschool community know, Apologia is one of the biggest providers of faith-based science curricula (besides their other offerings). They have a multitude of options, and their “Exploring Creation” series (of which Anatomy and Physiology is a part of) is geared toward the K-6 crowd. Each title in the series goes in-depth through an aspect of elementary-level science with honoring God and his creation at the forefront of each topic.

How We Used It

In each notebooing journal, there is a suggested schedule to follow, which has you “doing” science twice a week. Being a bit unsure as to how else to run things, I started with this as my baseline.

jr notebookEach day starts with some reading. Older children could easily do this on their own. Because I was also working with a kindergartner (who doesn’t yet read on his own), I decided to read the text aloud to both of my boys. We’d gather up the three books at the dinner table and dive in. The reading is broken up into manageable chunks, which is good for both the reader and the student(s). After reading roughly 2-3 pages, there’s a place (printed in blue in the textbook so it’s hard to miss) to stop and have your student narrate back to you what they just learned. I really liked this aspect because it helped me to make sure that the boys were understanding what was being taught. They both did a very good job of being able to remember the things in each section, which really pleased me. They may not have remembered the exact names of things, but they remembered enough of the basics to satisfy me that they were, in fact, learning the material.

In case you’re not really digging the idea of reading an entire textbook aloud, or you student isn’t much of a reader, you can get the companion mp3 CD. The CD opens with an introduction explaining what you’re about to hear and how you should use the audiobook – namely, with the textbook in front of you because while the text itself is presented in the audiobook, things like the experiments are not. Where those show up in the text, the narrator (who happens to be text author Jeannie Fulbright) just tells you that a “Try This” exists there and that you should stop the CD to look over (and hopefully do) the experiment. This intro is given by a man with a pleasant speaking voice.

notebook sampleAfter the introduction is over, the text begins right at the opening page. The author reads her book with great diction and expression. It’s obvious from her reading that she’s very passionate about her work, and that’s a good thing. The thing that surprised me the most about her reading was how young her voice sounded (but that’s not a bad thing!).

The CD is split up into tracks based on the lesson number and topic heading within that lesson (if I was reading the mp3 reader on the computer correctly). That makes it quite easy to navigate right to where you need to go on lessons after the first one, which is a nice feature considering each lesson is broken up into four days of work.

One thing to know about the CD is that it’s not a regular CD; it’s an mp3 CD, which means it won’t play in a traditional CD or DVD player. You need something with mp3 capabilities (in our case, Will’s laptop), which is the main reason we didn’t use it. His computer is rarely available for us to use for school because he needs it for work most days.

After this reading (or listening), there is a page or two in the notebooking journal to work on. In the Junior Notebooking Journal, this is usually coloring pages. I let Small Fry color these pages while he listened to me read – I know I have an easier time focusing if my hands are busy, and he’s proving to be the same (actually, all of my kids are). In the regular Notebooking Journal, it was pages to make note of what was learned (which helps to reinforce concepts beyond just the oral narration).

Then there was more reading and narration (some days).

apple mummySprinkled throughout are also experiments, so even if/when there was a lot of reading, there were some really fun activities to break it all up besides just the “worksheets.” These experiments are described right in the text, so there’s no need to try to find things that correspond with the lesson you’re working on. You will need some supplies for these experiments, but they’re nothing super abnormal. For example, of the first two activities, one required plastic cups, apple slices (one apple’s worth), salt, Epsom salt, and baking soda. Stuff that a lot of people have on hand anyway, and even if you don’t, they’re quite inexpensive in the regular grocery store. The second one only required a zipper-top baggie and a bit of water (to make a magnifying glass of sorts). Easy. If you’re concerned about your ability to get all of the supplies in time for the lesson, you can find kits online for this course that include every single thing you need for each experiment in the book, all sorted out by lesson. We didn’t get one of these this time, but it was definitely something I considered. In the end, we opted to just pick up the stuff as we needed it, which hasn’t been a problem yet. And if you don’t get a kit and do find out that you’re short on supplies for an experiment, it’s not a major deal to skip some and just do the ones that work into your home and family. This is what we ended up doing (though I did make sure we were able to cover as many of them as possible). Included in the front of the textbook was an experiment page that included the basic questions – what is the procedure for the experiment? What do you expect to happen? What actually happened? What did you learn from this experiment? For each experiment, I photocopied this page for each child. I had Munchkin do the page on his own and I let Small Fry dictate to me his answers.

k copyworkWhen you finish up the lesson reading (on day 4), there are a few other pages in the Notebooking Journals that you have the option of having your child work through, including things like mini books, copy work, and crossword puzzles. We did most of these because besides reinforcing what was learned over the past two weeks, they were just fun.

What We Thought

As I’ve mentioned throughout different points in this review, we have really enjoyed this science course. I love that my kids are learning all about their own bodies and how they work, all under the heading of “God made you this way; isn’t it amazing?” The kids, especially Small Fry, have really like learning about human bodies (their favorite so far is the chapter on bones). I think Small Fry really thrives on the consistency of the lessons – knowing that it will happen a couple of days each week is really good for him. He craves a schedule, and has really thrived on having one in these lessons. Munchkin is similar, but at the same time old enough to a) schedule himself what he needs to do each day and b) feel lucky when things work out to where the school day is shorter than expected for one reason or another.

edible cellBottom line: Will we continue to work through this class now that we don’t “have to” (per our obligations as curriculum reviewers)? Yes! I can see how my kids are thriving on these lessons, and I have no desire to take them away from the boys. We will absolutely be continuing this course.

There are lots more reviews of Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology on the Homeschool Review Crew this week. Make sure to click the banner below if you’re interested in reading more thoughts from real-life homeschool moms and kids on the class.

Blessings,

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Apologia - Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology Reviews
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