6th Grade

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I have two middle schoolers this year. Two! I can’t believe it. Today’s post is all about Munchkin and what he’ll be studying for his 6th grade year, at least for the foreseeable future. (I’m not always the best at keeping things going, so we might change things up. Also, well add other things in as he finishes some of these curricula/topics.)

Math: I picked up a workbook for him for his math this year. We’ve tried lots of different things over the years, but I wanted to keep it very simple, clean, and no-nonsense this year. A $9 Spectrum workbook fit the bill.

Literature: He’s currently finishing up the Charlotte’s Web study guide we received from Progeny Press  when that’s done, we’re going to go back to Readers in Residence from Apologia.

Grammar: I plan to buy level 3 of Fix It! grammar from IEW soon. The website is a little confusing, but if I’m reading it correctly, the level we need has been on back order. Hopefully I can get it to our house in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, we’re using Daily Grammar from SchoolhouseTeachers.com.

Foreign Language: Rosetta Stone French is the main one we’re using. But he had such a great time when we reviewed Greek ‘n’ Stuff that he’s continuing on with Greek as well.

History: Were doing the unit study route for history this year. I let each of the boys choose their own topic, no limits. Munchkin chose the French Revolution, so I’ve cobbled a few things together, including a lapbook from Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus and a list of books for him to read.

Cooking: Each week, the big kids are each cooking one meal. I’m guiding them through it, and they’ll each learn 3 or 4. We’ll repeat them monthly until they have them mastered and can cook the meals independently, at which point we’ll add in more. Munchkin has has 2 lessons so far: chili with cornbread and … I don’t remember what the other one is right now. But there have been two, I swear! This week he will learn to make pancakes and syrup from scratch and hash browns.

That’s it for now. We’ll add in science before too long, but we haven’t yet.

Blessings,

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Traveling the World (Let’s Go Geography review)

Learning about the place we live can be exciting for a young child, and it’s fairly easy to teach them. But what about teaching about places that are far away? That’s a lot trickier. A good homeschool geography curriculum is vital in that, and I have one to tell you about today.

Let’s Go Geography is a downloadable curriculum that offers a lot of hands-on activities, which is perfect for its target age demographic of grades K-4. Because my two older boys are outside the age range, Small Fry (K) and I have been learning about the world around us for the past few weeks. He’s barely at the point where he can differentiate the city from the state where we live, and definitely doesn’t understand about the countries yet, so his little mind is perfect for starting fresh with something like this.

lets go geographyAfter you purchase the curriculum, you are given access to the site, where you can download the lessons. If you’re like me, you may not want to print the entire year’s worth at a time though. Let’s Go Geography sends you an automated email each week (at roughly the same day and time as when you first signed up – for me, this is on Sunday evenings), reminding you to get the new lesson ready, including direct links to the lesson (just log in to the site to access). I think that’s pretty neat! There’s no excuse for forgetting that way.

The Specifics of Let’s Go Geography

Each lesson covers a specific geographic area, and the first several lessons are all based on North America (Northeastern United States, Hawaii, Canada, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Belize are the first six, which is all I’ve gone through yet.) Each lesson is broken down into “chapters,” making it easy to divide the work up over a single school week. In order to get an idea of how the curriculum works, I’m going to go over the “chapters” in lesson 1 in a bit of detail.

Map It!

This chapter shows children what the country they’re studying looks like. Depending on the map you choose to download and print (there is one suggested and linked in the curriculum download, but it’s just a suggestion; ultimately, you’re responsible for finding your own map), it could also show them where the country is located in relation to the rest of the world also. Children are instructed to color the map. For older children, you could also have them label important parts (individual states, large cities, rivers, etc).

The Flag

flag mapIn this chapter, children learn to identify the flag of the country they’re studying that week. Included in the curriculum is a map of the overarching section of the study (in this case, North America and some of the nearby islands) with places to glue the flags. Students are also asked to draw a line connecting a flag to its country. Another option is to download the “passport” that goes along with the curriculum (an extra fee of $2.99, or go to the website and share about the curriculum on your favorite social media outlet to get it for free). Once you print out the passport and put it together, your child can glue the flags onto the correct pages of that.

The Music

An example of the page for the chapter on music. You can see that includes lyrics for the song as well as a link to hear the song. This is an example of a page that is better on the computer than in print.

The music page in the Hawaii lesson. You can see that includes lyrics for the song as well as a link to hear the song. This is an example of a page that is better on the computer than in print.

This section provides links to listen to musical selections from the country. There are also lyrics for the national anthem.

Let’s Explore

In this chapter, there’s lots of information specific to the area you’re studying. In the Northeast U.S. lesson, students are taught about the geographical features specific to the region. This includes photographs of the region and short descriptions of what you might find there or things the area is famous for.

Create

This is a fun chapter – it provides a craft for the children that relates to the region. For the first lesson, children use a red Solo cup and printable flames (included in the curriculum) to make a lighthouse.

The final pages include a coloring page of the region and a notebooking page for older students to make a written record of what they learned during the week. (Due to the age of my student, we didn’t use the notebooking page, but he loves to color, so we did use the coloring pages.)

How We Used It

As I mentioned before, I used this curriculum with my Kindergartner. It was a bit intense for him to go at the rate of even one chapter per day, so we took it nice and slow, getting through one region approximately every two weeks. At this rate, it will take us 2 years (kindergarten and 1st grade) to get all the way through this curriculum, but that’s okay – I was blessed with lifetime access to the product (I’m not sure if this is the way it works for everyone, or if your purchase of the full year is good only for one year). I had him glue his flags onto the map I described earlier rather than into the passport, simply because the passport gave me a lot of grief in the printing process (which is not a problem with the file itself, just in that reloading paper into my printer and getting it to print correctly was a bit of a hassle). Also, I didn’t have any cardstock to make a good passport cover.

Right now, all of his papers are just kind of loose all around the school shelf, which isn’t ideal. I think I’m going to help my 5 year old to turn all of this great info into a lapbook pretty soon. This will keep it all very organized, but also make it much more interesting to look at, and will give him a keepsake to look back on when he’s older. The curriculum download includes several notebook cover options, one of which we will put on the cover of the lapbook. If you have an older student who would do better to keep his papers in a binder, you can use the cover printout in that way instead.

Final Thoughts

We’ve enjoyed working with Let’s Go Geography. I didn’t realize when I blindly printed out the first lesson that a lot of it is better used on the computer because it includes live links to things (the printable map, a YouTube video of the national anthem, etc). But some of it works just fine printed – in fact, some of the pieces have to be printed. So my advice is to spend the time on your computer going through each lesson in advance and printing just the pages that actually need to be printed.

You can get a full year of Let’s Go Geography for $21.99. If that’s a bit difficult for you to swing all at once, they also have a payment plan, wherein you agree to the whole year but make two equal payments of $12.99, one for the first semester and one for the second. If you’d prefer to buy just one semester at a time, the first semester is available for $14.99 (I didn’t see anything on the site about the second semester individually). There are also coupon codes available from time to time – currently there is a 25% off special going, but I don’t know how long that will last.

Blessings,

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Let’s Go Geography {Reviews}
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Reading a Favorite Book with Fresh Eyes (Progeny Press review)

progeny press review

One thing that the Homeschool Review Crew is amazing at is introducing me to products and companies I’d never heard of. Such was the case four years ago with Progeny Press. Every year that I’ve been on the Crew (this is my 4th), Progeny Press has offered literature study guides to members of the Crew. And every year, I’ve been blessed to review one. This year, Munchkin has the Charlotte’s Web E-Guide to work through.

Charlotte’s Web has a special place in our hearts because it was the first novel Munchkin ever read when he was just 6 years old. I thought it would be a fun one for him to study deeper even though he’s read it before and is very familiar with the story. It’s neat to take books you know and love and look at them through a more critical lens, and that’s just what I’d hoped Munchkin would accomplish through his review of this study guide.

IMG_0666[1]Progeny Press offers study guides for literature of all genres and age ranges from lower elementary (roughly grades K-3, including novels such as Frog and Toad Together) clear up to high school with selections like The Hunger Games. The study guides are available as instant downloads or you can purchase a physical CD-ROM. The guides are interactive PDFs, meaning that you don’t even have to print it out if you don’t want to – the student can type their answers right into the PDF reader. That doesn’t mean that you have to do it that way, though. Printing is allowed by the copyright, so long as it’s all for students in the same family. For our use, I received a downloadable study guide, which I’ve saved to my computer (and backup drive) for use with future kids, and I printed one copy for Munchkin. To save on paper – and make it feel more “legit” – I printed front and back, then punched holes in the pages and added them to his school binder.

Once we had the study guide all situated, I bought the Kindle version of Charlotte’s Web for him to read. We already have two copies of the paper novel, but they’re packed up in storage (read: difficult to access and/or find) and I didn’t want to deal with possible late fines through the library. At just $4.99, buying the e-book was the right answer for us.

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One of the pages of questions (click to enlarge). The red spot is just because he wrote his brother’s name, and we don’t use the kids’ real names here on the blog.

I love Progeny Press Study guides for a lot of reasons. I love how they start with prereading activities to do before you even crack open the book. In the case of Charlotte’s Web, they suggest studying spiders and having the child(ren) do a short report on them; taking children to a working farm to learn about the animals; and starting a vocabulary journal so that they can learn and start using all the “fancy” and “complicated” words that Charlotte uses. In addition to the prereading activities, the study guides always include a synopsis of the book and short biographies of the author and illustrator (when applicable).

Then you dive into the actual studying. Each chapter chunk has comprehension questions, which are superb. They help your child make sure he read the book and understood what he was reading. Comprehension is where a lot of literature guides end, but not Progeny Press. In addition to the comprehension questions are a variety of different activities for making sure students understand the vocabulary of the selection. These activities include multiple choice for figuring out the definition of potentially problematic words, having students come up with their own definition of the words based on context, thinking of synonyms for vocabulary words, and more.

Once your student has finished the vocabulary and comprehension sections for the selected chapters, Progeny Press really shines and stands out from other literature programs. There are “thinking about the story” questions, which go beyond comprehension and push students to think about the way things are in the book rather than just about what happened. For example, one of the questions in the Charlotte’s Web guide is “Why do farmers raise pigs?” This is the kind of question that relates to the story indirectly, forcing students to really think for themselves rather than just flip through the book to fill in a blank. (In case you’re wondering, my almost-11-year-old responded to this question with “To make bacon.”)

And then there my very favorite part of Progeny Press guides: the biblical “digging deeper” section. In these questions, the author of the study guide gives scripture references that relate to a part of the story and asks questions to draw the two together. For example, “Do you believe that human lives and animal lives are equal in value? Read Genesis 1:26, Genesis 9:3, 8-11, and Psalm 8. What do these passages say about the place of humans and animals in God’s creation?” This is the type of question you don’t get with most other literature guides, and it’s what makes Progeny Press one of my absolute favorite curricula for studying literature.

Munchkin, an avid reader anyway, has absolutely loved having the opportunity to reread something “easy” that happens to be one of his favorite books anyway. I love that he’s getting some new perspective on this favorite classic. He’s not too far into it yet (he worked lightly over the past several weeks, and has picked up a lot more steam now that we’re doing school each day in earnest), but he will absolutely be finishing this one. It’s a keeper!

Blessings,

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In case you’re interested, we’ve reviewed for Progeny Press in the past. Click the following links for my past reviews: Little House in the Big Woods, Tuck Everlasting, and Give Me Liberty. For more of this year’s Homeschool Review Crew reviews of Progeny Press, click the banner below. Selected titles include The Bears on Hemlock Mountain, Charlotte’s Web, The Silver Chair, and MacBeth.

Study Guides for Literature {Progeny Press Reviews}
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Eclipse 2017

We are fortunate to live in an area where there was 100% coverage during the solar eclipse yesterday, and we took advantage of that! (We’re right on the very edge of the totality zone; even just 18 miles NW of us, in the town we used to live in, was outside of it. They had over 99% coverage, but not quite the full 100 we got to experience.) Will took the morning off from work (one of the benefits of being self-employed), and all six of us headed outside for some eclipse fun and learning. We had just one pair of protective glasses to share, but it was totally fine. We took turns, and no one felt like they didn’t have enough opportunities to see the sun. It was fascinating to see the sky go dark as the moon got in the way of the sun, and to feel the temperature drop. Being in an area of totality, I loved looking at the eclipse during that one minute of full coverage. It truly felt like the experience of a lifetime!

To help us get a gauge on what was happening, we used a makeshift pinhole camera in the form of a colander we took outside. By aiming it just right, we were able to see the crescent-shaped shadows on the paper we laid out. The paper allowed us better visibility than the sidewalk did. It was also really neat to watch the shadows from the trees go from regular to crescent and back again.

My only regret was being unable to get a photograph of the eclipse itself, at any moment. Even when I put the eclipse glasses over my camera lens, all I could get was a bright circle of sun – never any blockage from the moon. Despite that, I have the memory of seeing it in real life, and that’s pretty awesome.

Here are a few pictures from our time outside.

Seahawk aiming the colander at the paper.

 

 

 

The crescent shaped shadows due to the eclipse.

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Seeing a full solar eclipse was an absolutely amazing experience, and I’m really glad we got to have it.

Blessings,

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Visiting the Phonics Museum (Veritas Press review)

When my oldest son was small, I made a mistake in teaching him to read. I used a book which said to tell the child that “reading is hard, but it’s very important.” As soon as he heard that it was going to be difficult to learn to read, he essentially gave up in that moment. (Now, at age 13, he’s a competent reader, but he doesn’t enjoy it and definitely doesn’t do it unless he has to.) Seeing that happen made me vow to never use those words with another child again. And I haven’t. My second child (now almost 11) practically taught himself to read and was reading novels by age 6. My third child, Small Fry (5 years old), is at that magical age now where he’s excited to learn to read. We’ve been working on it here and there for several months now, and with the help of a new iPad app from Veritas Press, he’s having fun in the process.

Phonics Museum review

The Phonics Museum App is a fun, homeschool phonics app for kids in preschool or kindergarten. It teaches letter names and sounds, how to write them, listening for the sounds, and more… all in the super fun setting of an art museum. The teacher in the Phonics Museum is Miss Biddle, and she’s a delight. The actress playing her is full of energy, and you can’t help but enjoy watching her.

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phonics museumEach letter is represented by a famous work of art (the “museum” part of the Phonics Museum), and children move through the museum just like they would a real museum: on the elevator and through hallways. The elevator takes children to different “floors,” and each floor focuses on a single set of letters. Floor 1 teaches the letters A, M, and B. When your character gets off the elevator, you find yourself in a hallway with paintings of apples on the wall. By tapping on the first painting (they’re all the same for a particular letter, but the lessons that you don’t qualify for are grayed out until you complete all the previous ones). Tapping on the painting pulls your character into the painting where a set of easels sit. Each easel represents a short piece of the lesson. There are between 9 and 13 easels per lesson (that I’ve noticed – those numbers might be a little off). The easels alternate between videos of Miss Biddle and activities for the child to do, making this a multi-sensory learning experience.

phonics museum collageIn the early lessons, there are three types of easels in the Phonics Museum: videos, songs, and games. Later on, a fourth is added: books. (Small Fry is on the fourth floor of the museum so far, and just added his first book. I’m not sure if more types of easels are added past this point or not). The videos are Miss Biddle explaining about the letter, interacting with other characters, etc. The songs are variations of the alphabet song (so far, we’ve come across three different versions). The games are the most fun. They include drawing the letter, listening for the sound at the beginning of words and tapping the painting if you hear it, locating the letter in a group of other letters, matching up a picture with the correct word, and more.

After we got through the initial “how does this work?” period, Small Fry was able to do a lot of these lessons on his own. I would sit with him here and there to make sure he wasn’t skipping over stuff that was “hard.” Imagine my surprise when I worked with him during one of these times and he was able to quickly and easily match up the picture of a father and child with the word “dad,” a flying mammal with the word “bat,” and a diagram of roads with the word “map.” I was so excited for and proud of him!

veritas pressWhen the opportunity to review this app first came up, I had a hope for it: that it would become something he requested more than his other favorite iPad activities of nonsense games and movies. This was borne out beyond my expectations. He absolutely loves it, and asks to “play Phonics Museum” several times a day. He will happily do several lessons at once – I have to make sure he doesn’t move too fast and miss out on full comprehension. But so far, that’s not been an issue. I’m so glad we got the opportunity to review this app, and highly recommend it for students who are ready and excited to learn to read.

Just for fun, here’s a video of Small Fry singing along with the ABC song on Phonics Museum.

 

The Phonics Museum is available in the iTunes store for $9.99 per month or $99 annually.

Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing Phonics Museum this week too; click the banner below for more information.

Blessings,

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Phonics Museum App {Veritas Press Reviews}
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Learning Greek with “Andrew” (Greek ‘n’ Stuff Review)

Greek n Stuff review

A couple of months ago, my two oldest kids created their own secret code using the “Ancient Greek” alphabet as their guide. They practiced and practiced their handwriting, assigned each Greek letter an English equivalent, and then started writing messages to each other. I thought this was both interesting and clever of them. Not long after that, we were given the opportunity to review “real” Greek from Greek ‘n’ Stuff, so I asked them if they’d be interested, and (not surprisingly) they said yes.

Teach me some GreekFor this review, we were sent the Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! – Level 3 Set student worktext and full answer key, as well as the pronunciation CD. Once we got started with it, it became very clear that Munchkin was much more interested than Seahawk, so after the first few lessons, he continued alone.

Even though this was our very first exposure to Greek (not counting the boys’ Google searches to find out what the letters looked like), after looking at the website, I learned that it was best to start at Level 3. This is where it’s suggested kids in upper-elementary and older begin, even with no previous experience. The first several lessons are all about the alphabet, which technically should be review for this level (and in fact, that’s how it’s treated). But it was easy enough to slow it down and make 6 lessons (plus tons of flashcard practice) instead of just two. Because we got Level 3, the flashcards that are included start with vocabulary, so I had to find some alphabet ones online. This wasn’t a big deal, though.

Greek Alphabet reviewOnce he’d mastered the alphabet, Munchkin moved on to the vocabulary lessons, which start out slow and steady. Greek ‘n’ Stuff uses a translation method, so at the beginning of each lesson, the Greek word is written big at the top of the page, along with a phonetic transcription and the meaning of the word in English. Then there are a few activities using the word (write the word in Greek, draw a picture of the word, match all the words you’ve learned so far with their English translations, and more). There are definitely enough different types of activities to keep the learning from getting dry or boring. Each day is a little different.

Greek worksheet 2We had another advantage while working through this, too – the kids’ grandfather (Will’s dad) is fluent in Greek due to all his time going through pastoral training, so he was able to help out with the extra tricky pronunciations, and he offered up random pop quizzes occasionally. These usually looked like a Greek word written down, and Munchkin had to give the correct pronunciation and translation.

So far, Munchkin has really enjoyed his Greek lessons. They’re a nice change from our regular foreign language study (Rosetta Stone French), and because it was his idea to learn it, he does it mostly on his own without ever having to be asked. He has learned about a dozen words so far, and his Greek handwriting is quite good. I’m glad he’s taken the initiative to learn Greek; it will definitely come in handy as he gets older and becomes a man of God to be able to (eventually) read the Bible in its original language.

Greek worksheet 1Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing several different products from Greek ‘n’ Stuff this week:

Make sure to click the banner below for more information on all of these products.

Blessings,

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Teach Me Some Greek {Greek 'n' Stuff Reviews}
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A New Audio Drama from Heirloom Audio Productions (review)

“This one was really good!” ~ Seahawk

Review of In the Reign of Terror

We were blessed once again to get to review an audio drama from Heirloom Audio Productions. This time it was In the Reign of Terror, a story that takes place during the French Revolution. Because I didn’t actually listen to the CD (I’m more of a visual person), I’m going to turn the review of the actual audio production over to Seahawk…

From Seahawk:

When the story starts, the main character (Harry) is a young kid. He is headed to France to live with noble family so that he can learn more about French culture. As he’s living with them, the heat starts building in Paris over the French Revolution. Chaos breaks loose. Harry and the family he’s staying with find themselves victims of the revolution. Their family is split up, and many of them end up imprisoned or worse. Harry is trying to get the family reunited and safe from all over France.

I think that this gives a very accurate depiction of what the French Revolution was like if you were a nobleman. I enjoyed this one very much, and I think they just keep getting better and better.

Back to Mom:

in the reign of terror coverIn addition to the physical CDs, we also received a membership to the Live the Adventure Club website, a new thing from Heirloom Audio. The site has so much to offer! There is a forum where you can connect with other members over all sorts of things (homeschool, the audio dramas, family life, and more). Live the Adventure Club is also where you’ll find the study guides for all of Heirloom’s productions. In the past, they’ve been available as a download with purchase of the CD, but now they live on the new website. (You can still download them from there.) Also under the “Education” tab is a whole series of lectures giving a biblical perspective on the U.S. Constitution. I haven’t had a chance to go over that yet, but I can imagine it would make a great government/civics course for a middle or high schooler. Also on the Adventure site, you can stream mp3s of any of the audio dramas you’ve purchased. This would be good if you’re somewhere with internet access but no CD player (it’s not available to download).

study guide snippetBefore I wrap up, I want to talk about the study guide itself for a few minutes. It starts as any study guide should – with biographies of the important players (in this case, G.A. Henty, the author of the story, as well as important French Revolution figures Robespierre and Marie Antoinette). From there, it moves on to specific things from each track of the CD: comprehension questions, critical thinking questions, and vocabulary. Sprinkled throughout are some paintings from the time period and “Expand Your Learning” boxes, which include extra information that’s more about the time period than the audio drama itself. For example, one of these is all about French fashion at the time. As you near the end of the study guide, there are several pages that are meant to be done after listening to the whole production. These are the spiritual learning pages, and they’re mostly a guide for a parent (or pastor) to work through with the student(s). They offer specific points that can be learned from the audio drama and have an outline with Scripture references to back them all up. The study guide closes with a brief timeline (all written out with tons of information) about the French Revolution.

I’m very glad I was able to request this for Seahawk to review. He’s listened to several Heirloom productions in the past (see our reviews for Beric the Briton and The Cat of Bubastes; he also has In Freedom’s Cause), and he always loves them. I’m glad to have something that keeps him busy and engaged that I don’t have to worry about. I know that there will be nothing questionable in an Heirloom Audio Productions drama. (Some of the content can be a bit intense, especially for the under-6 crowd, but intense is not the same as questionable.) I love that he’s learning bits of history through these dramas, as well as developing a taste for older literature. Maybe someday he’ll feel inclined to read a Henty novel. Probably not, but a mom can dream!

Blessings,

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In the Reign of Terror {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}
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The Crafty Classroom (Preschool curriculum review)

Preschool and Kindergarten is a magical time for children. They’re excited to learn, and there’s so much to teach them. The main things they need at this age are letters and letter sounds (to prepare for reading) and basic counting and patterns, shapes and colors (math). Small Fry and I have been working on all of these things together over the past couple of months, and today I want to focus on a product that helps make letter learning fun – the Bible ABC Curriculum Notebook from The Crafty Classroom.

The Crafty Classroom Review

As an early 5 (his birthday was about two weeks ago), Small Fry is just beginning to learn to read. We’ve been working on things for a few months now, and he’s getting a bit more maturity each day. To this end, I’m working with him frequently (not every day, but often), and having lots of options keeps things interesting for both of us.

Rough weekly outline

Rough weekly outline

The Bible ABC Curriculum Notebook is a PDF that contains over 650 pages (!) of printable activities for your preschooler. It’s designed to be kind of a combination letters and Bible curriculum; the way it’s set up, you introduce one letter per week (in alphabetical order), and each letter corresponds with lots of Biblical vocabulary (C is for Commandments) as well as teaching young children the attributes of God. The first 8 pages offers a general overview of what’s included and a sample schedule for the different activities. The following 649 pages are all the different printable pages (and a specific guide for the week), and the final page gives options for further study with your preschooler when you’ve finished this pack.

IMG_0415While this would be really good to use as an introduction to the different letters for your child, we already had a reading/phonics program that Small Fry is doing really well with, so I opted instead to use these printouts as a supplement to that. Instead of printing out the entire 658 page PDF and putting it in a binder (even though we have an “INKvestment” high yield printer, that would be pretty extreme in terms of paper and ink), I looked at the PDF at the beginning of each week (roughly – I’m not pushing him too hard yet since he’s not quite Kindergarten age until this fall) and printed out just the pages that I thought Small Fry would enjoy that also went with the letter of the week from his other reading program. This allowed us to have some fun with the worksheets without getting overwhelmed.

Using just the pages we wanted made this a really great thing for us. We didn’t feel a lot of pressure by the program, and I didn’t feel overwhelmed by all the printouts. We used just a few of them here and there, and it was a really nice way to reinforce what he was already learning. For a kid who really likes worksheets, this was great! Some of his favorite pages were:

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Chart the different items that start with the letter of the week.

Basic Math

Basic Math

Find the letter within the letter and then count how many there were.

Find the letter within the letter and then count how many there were.

Race to the Top game

Race to the Top game

Overall, we’ve really enjoyed having this to work with his other letter program. I like that he’s enjoying the learning process (and that I can give him a couple of pages to work on while I need to do something else for a few minutes and he works his brain during those times), and he likes having fun “coloring pages.” Overall, this is a definite win, and something we’ll keep using for the next few months as he pushes on in his journey to learn to read.

Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing lots of different things from The Crafty Classroom this week, including a non-Bible version of the ABC pack, the Learn to R.E.A.D. Curriculum Notebook, and for the older crowd, the USA Activity Bundle and How to Write a Paragraph curriculum. Click the banner below for more information on all of those.

Blessings,

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Crafty Classroom {Reviews}
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Fascinating Chemistry (Review)

Not unlike a lot of parents (homeschooling and otherwise), science is not a subject I love. I never have. Despite the fact that I took several advanced level science classes in high school (forever ago!), I never felt like I really got it. My grades would suggest otherwise, but that’s beside the point. When it comes time to teach your kids, your own confidence matters much more than the grades you earned years and years ago. For this reason, I wanted to give Fascinating Education a try with Seahawk.

When I was in school, biology came before chemistry, but with Fascinating Education, it’s the opposite. Besides that, Seahawk has already had loads of earth and life science classes (I like those better than physical sciences, so I tend to gravitate toward them when I feel like we’ve been avoiding science for too long). For these two reasons, I asked for us to review Fascinating Chemistry.

About Fascinating Education

The firs three lessons. You can see the lesson name as well as the sections for each lesson - video, script, and test.

The firs three lessons. You can see the lesson name as well as the sections for each lesson – video, script, and test.

Fascinating Education was developed by Dr. Sheldon Margulies, a retired neurologist. His background in neurology means he really understands how the brain works, and using this knowledge he developed a system of teaching science that really works. The system consists of video lessons, which are narrated with lots of images including charts and graphs, as well as a downloadable version of the narration for students who are more visual. Accompanying each video lesson is a test to make sure students grasped the information from the lesson. Fascinating Chemistry also has some labs available (though we haven’t gotten to those yet in our time with the program).

Our Experience with Fascinating Education

A sample from the script. The script is broken down into the different slides from the video.

A sample from the script. The script is broken down into the different slides from the video.

Seahawk used this curriculum pretty much all on his own. Outside of logging him in and telling him what to expect, it was completely hands-off on my end. I got the video set up for him on the iPad and left him to it.

Because this was Seahawk’s very first exposure to chemistry, he didn’t do so hot the first time through the test. This wasn’t surprising or upsetting to me at all, although I did have to ask others who had used the program before what to do from there. Obviously I couldn’t have him move on, but it seemed counter intuitive to just have him watch the video again and again and again, expecting him to eventually to pass the test. This is where the downloadable narration comes in. Even though Seahawk is an audio learner, I printed out the narration packet for the first lesson so that he could study it before watching the video again and attempting the test. Thus far, he’s still working on the first lesson – despite regular work over the past few weeks. It’s a lot of information there, and this is just the first lesson! I can totally see how (regardless of our limited exposure) this is a high school level chemistry course.

What we think of Fascinating Education

A sample from the Lesson 1 test. The blue button at the top, "Need help?" takes you to a page that offers a clue to help you figure out the answer in case you're unsure.

A sample from the Lesson 1 test. The blue button at the top, “Need help?” takes you to a page that offers a clue to help you figure out the answer in case you’re unsure.

Our (Seahawk’s and mine) opinions on this curriculum differ a bit.

He doesn’t love it – which makes sense, considering he’s been working on the same lesson for a very long time. He doesn’t hate it either, though. He does well with the video lesson; he just needs to learn to focus himself in order to absorb the information better. This would be a great curriculum to learn note-taking with. If he could figure out how to watch the videos and write down pertinent information rather than just watch and listen, I think he’d do a lot better at it.

My opinion is that this is a really good, solid product for older kids. They need to learn to work independently – this teaches them that. They need to learn science (beyond the “fun” stuff of space and life) – this takes care of that, too. With this review posting, we’re not required to keep using the program, but I’m going to have Seahawk continue doing so anyway, even if that makes me a bit unpopular with him. He needs this program, and for more than just the science aspect. He needs to practice being an independent learner who can figure things out on his own, and Fascinating Education is a good tool for that. (I’m always there to help him through things, of course, but like it or not he’s getting older. The most important thing I can teach him at this point is to take charge of his own life, which right now means his education. I set the expectations, and it’s his job to follow through with them.)

Final Musings

Fascinating Education offers Biology and Physics courses as well as the Chemistry one. Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are writing about various levels this week. Make sure to click the banner below for more information on all three levels.

Blessings,

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Biology, Chemistry & Physics {Fascinating Education Reviews}
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Unlocking the Secrets to Upper Level Math (UnLock Math review)

For the past few weeks, Seahawk (13 years old) has been working on his first real foray into upper-level math: Pre-Algebra. To do this, we asked to review UnLock Pre-Algebra from UnLock Math. This program has been an absolute blessing to us! Let me tell you more about it.

UnLock Math was created by Alesia and Matthew Blackwood. Both were homeschooled as children, and Alesia went on to become a school teacher, holding certification from Georgia Professional Standards Commission to teach upper level mathematics (grades 7-12). She and Matthew met in 2001 and married in 2002, and as they started having children they decided they wanted to work together, doing their own business. They recognized a need for quality math curriculum in the homeschool community, so they worked to develop a revolutionary complete, online math curriculum that does everything for you (the teacher/parent): it teaches using entertaining videos; it offers quizzes and tests; and it self-grades. The only thing you as the parent need to do is make sure your child logs on (the site is 100% free from ads and other distractions) regularly, and check in on their progress periodically. The program does absolutely everything else.

Unlock Math homeschool curiculum review

As I said, we’ve been using this with Seahawk. As he’s finishing up 7th grade, looking forward to 8th grade this fall, he’s the same age that I was when I did these maths, so I decided it was time to have him step up and start working on more advanced concepts. I know he’s bright enough to manage, so I eagerly requested this review. For us, it’s become his core math curriculum. Each school day (4-5 days per week), he’s working on one lesson, using my iPad. The program would also work on a computer, of course, but we only have one computer available for school stuff, and since math doesn’t require a real keyboard like, say, typing does, math happens on the iPad. I love that it works there! It’s great to have the computer free for my other son to do different lessons while his older brother is working on math.

This screen shot shows the video lesson and the path to follow afterwards. The warm up is up above (you can see the path leading away on the right side of the video); I just couldn't fit it all on my screen to get a full screen shot.

This screen shot shows the video lesson and the path to follow afterwards. The warm up is up above (you can see the path leading away on the right side of the video); I just couldn’t fit it all on my screen to get a full screen shot.

The lessons each have five parts. First is the “Math Warm Up,” which is a short online worksheet designed to get the student in math mode. Next is the teaching video, which is Alesia explaining a bite-sized math nugget. So far, the videos have been about 7-10 minutes long. I’m not sure if they’ll stay that short throughout the entire program, but I can imagine that they’ll get longer as new and more advanced topics are introduced (so far, the program has been mostly review but with new vocabulary for the concepts for Seahawk). After the video is a worksheet to practice the concepts taught in the video. Then comes the “Challenge,” which is a single difficult problem based on things the student should already know. The final element is Reference Notes, which is a downloadable PDF that shows what a student might have taken notes on during the lesson, if he’s a note-taking type. We haven’t used this section very much because Seahawk is very much an auditory learner; seeing the information written out wouldn’t help him much. The lesson page has all of these elements on it, and there’s a path showing students which order they need to work in. This makes it really easy for kids to do the program completely independently, especially since it’s older kids that the curriculum is geared toward.

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This screen shot shows the progress report. This allows the student to see at a glance how he’s doing at moving through the program.

The icon for each lesson is a padlock, and when the lesson has been completed, it opens up – it UnLocks. This gives the student a clear visual representation of how much they’ve completed and how much they still have to go. It also serves as an easy reminder of where they need to pick up at the beginning of the new day. In addition to the lock icons, there’s a large chart on the same page as the lesson list, and this tells the student how far into the program they are and what their average grade is. At the time of this posting, Seahawk has completed 9% of the class with an average score of 89%.

The lessons with the open lock are those that he's finished; a closed lock indicates that he still needs to do the lesson.

The lessons with the open lock are those that he’s finished; a closed lock indicates that he still needs to do the lesson.

I’ve talked to my son at a few different points during this review period to ask him what he thinks of UnLock Math, and he’s told me that it’s his absolute favorite math program by far. He’s even gone so far as to say that he “really likes it.” He never balks when I tell him it’s time to do his math lesson, and he never asks to be done early. He (usually) does all four parts of the lesson without a fight – and for a strong-minded 13-year-old, that’s really saying something.

UnLock Math is adding more upper-level math, too. They currently have Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and their newest offering is Geometry. Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing all of those levels. They’re also in the process of developing Pre-Calculus (coming in 2018) and Calculus (coming in 2019). This is exciting news for parents of high schoolers who want to homeschool those upper grades but are afraid of what that means in terms of getting a good enough math education.

unlock pre algebraBased on the hands-off nature of the program (from me), and the fact that my student loves it, I can definitely recommend this program, especially if you have multiple children who need your attention. This gives you a few minutes each day where you can focus on another kid while not wasting the time of your older child. Win-win!

Blessings,

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Pre-Algebra, Algebra and Geometry {UnLock Math Reviews}
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