Learning to Type Methodically (The Typing Coach review)

For the past few weeks, my boys (the older two) have been learning to type using The Typing Coach Online Typing Course. This program works in a very methodical way, teaching students to type just a few letters at a time. The Typing Coach teaches the home row first, then the top row, and finally the bottom row and numbers. Each row is taught independently before being combined, and the course emphasizes absolute mastery before moving on.

The Typing Coach Review

The Typing Coach is very easily adaptable to individual students because it’s “work at your own pace.” The goal is one lesson per week, but it’s definitely not set in stone; we had to move slower in order for the boys to get the mastery that the course requires in order to move on.

There are a few things you need to do the course. One is a reliable internet connection to listen to the audio portions and download the typing practice sheets. The other is a computer with a word processor (I hope that’s obvious, but just in case…). The goal is that by the end of the course, students will be able to type a minimum of 10 words per minute with no more than one mistake per minute.

How It Works

 Once you’ve downloaded the practice sheets, you need to either print it out or have it available some other way for students to look at while they’re typing. (Having it in a different portion on the same screen isn’t ideal.) Our printer is currently out of ink, so I put the document on my iPad and the boys used iBooks to read it and type. Then, log in to your account and find the lesson you need. The very first one is all about posture; then you move on to actually typing. For each lesson, there’s an audio to listen to. The audio works in tandem (and sometimes separately) with the downloaded document. There are a lot of different components to the audio lessons:

  • Making sure you’re sitting properly and the keyboard is positioned correctly to your body.
  • Beginning to type what you see on the document.
  • Typing letters from dictation.
  • Turning off (or hiding) the monitor and typing from the document again.

(There might be other parts that I’ve missed, but this is what I remember based on when the boys did these lessons.)

The student can practice, using the downloaded practice sheet, as many days as is needed to master the assigned keys. When they feel confident, there’s a slightly different website to go to to take a test. On the testing website, students enter their name and a parent’s email address (or your own, if you’re taking the course as an adult). They enter the amount of time allowed for the test and choose the test they’re taking from a drop down menu. After you click “start,” a new screen opens up with a box in it. The time starts when the first key is typed in the box. At the end of the time, a report is automatically sent to the email address specified before the test began. If the student passed (no more than one mistake per minute), then they can move on to the next lesson. If they don’t, they should practice for another day or two and then try again.

How We Used It

The two older boys used the program pretty much as I described in the previous section. The boys would use my laptop (with the “print outs” on the iPad next to them) and follow the audio for the lesson they were on. After a few days of working on the lesson, they attempted the test. If they passed, they could move on. If not, they went back to the practice sheets for a few days before trying again. To date, they’re both still working on the home row, but we went through a bit of time right after we moved where we didn’t have reliable internet access, so we were unable to start the program as soon as I wanted. Additionally, the emphasis on mastery is such that just one week on a lesson hasn’t been enough for them. Now that things are settled down (mostly), they’re doing a lesson or having a 20-minute practice each school day. After two or three days of doing the lesson with the audio, they decided that they prefer to do the audio in the beginning, but just type when they’re gearing up for the test. Just yesterday, they both attempted a test and got 2 mistakes over 1 minute. While not terrible, this is too many for The Typing Coach, so they’ll spend today and tomorrow practicing before attempting the test again to (hopefully) be able to move on to the top row.

Our Thoughts on the Program

My boys love this! Even though they’re not making progress very fast, they are by no means getting discouraged. Every time he finishes a lesson or practice session, Munchkin tells me, “I love typing!” Seahawk hasn’t said anything quite so exuberant, but I can tell that he’s enjoying it as well. Just in a 13-year-old, too cool for school kind of way.

Finally

The Typing Coach Online Typing Course retails for $17 per year per student. If this fits into your homeschool budget, I highly recommend giving it a try. If your student is really motivated, they should be touch-typing by the end of the first quarter.

Blessings,

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The Typing Coach Online Typing Course {The Typing Coach Reviews}
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Kwik Stix are Back and Now They’re Thin! (review)

We’ve been lucky enough to review Kwik Stix a couple of times in the past, and today I feel lucky to share with you their newest product: Thin Stix. From The Pencil Grip, Inc., Kwik Stix are a revolutionary product that allows children to paint with absolutely no mess. The solid tempera paint come in tubes not unlike glue sticks, and once applied to paper, they dry in just 90 seconds. For this review, I received one set of Thin Stix 6pk of Classic Colors.

Kwik Stix review May 2017

So how do Thin Stix differ from traditional Kwik Stix? Well, as the name implies, they’re much thinner. This allows artists young and old to get more detailed with their coloring. The regular sized Kwik Stix are about the size of glue sticks. Thin stix are somewhere between a pen and a glue stick. They’re not as small and detailed as a pen, but they’re considerably smaller than the original Kwik Stix. They also have a clip on the caps (like a pen). Other than that, they work very much the same.

In our family, Small Fry was the main beneficiary of the “paint sticks,” as he calls them. They arrived the day Will was in the hospital having surgery, and we were out until very late that night because of that. For this reason, he didn’t actually get to paint anything until the next day, but he was very excited about that the morning after surgery. While we waited for the phone call saying that Will was ready to be picked up and brought home, I let Small Fry paint. He chose to make a get well card for his dad.

He’s at a stage in his artistic life where he draws the same thing over and over again, and this project was no exception. He used the Thin Stix to draw a Mr. Potato Head and his name. (He’s so cute about writing his name, too. He always writes his first name and last initial in capital and lowercase – he thinks the one letter twice is how to write our surname. He’s not totally wrong, either – we have that letter in two of the three syllables of our last name. But still . . . cute.)

The other thing that these got used for (and unfortunately, I don’t have a picture) was to make tiger stripes on the cardboard “armor” that Munchkin has been making for himself lately. He really likes to create things out of paperboard, and for the past several months he’s been working on a whole suit of armor. To date, he has a helmet, one shoulder guard, a breastplate, and wrist guards. During the review period for Thin Stix, he created the wrist guards. After getting them the right size, he covered the paperboard with regular white paper and used the black paint stick to draw the tiger stripes.

So, what do we think of Thin Stix? Just like their “fat” counterparts, we adore them! I can’t recommend Thin Stix enough. If your kids like doing art projects, you definitely need Kwik Stix in your life. You can purchase them from Amazon or the Toys R Us website. Even better is winning a set, though! The Pencil Grip, Inc. has graciously offered to provide a set of Thin Stix to one lucky reader of this post. Enter using the Giveaway Tools widget below. The giveaway runs from now through Sunday, May 28, 2017 at 11:59 pm PST. Good luck!

Blessings,

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No Mess Art with Thin Stix Classic Colors {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}
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A Christian Superhero? {Captain} Absolutely! (book review)

Comic books and graphic novels are all the rage for kids these days, and for good reason. They help take reluctant readers and turn them into voracious readers (often). They give already voracious readers something “easy” to read. If the comic includes a superhero and a lot of action, then it’s even better, especially for the 8-13 year old boys (of which I have two). But what do you do if you (the parent) aren’t really “into” mainstream superheroes? Is there an option for you and your kids? Yes!

Book Review Captain Absolutely #hsreviews #faith #captainabsolutely #comicbook #character

Captain Absolutely originally appeared in the Focus on the Family magazine, Clubhouse. It was published there, two pages at a time, over the course of five years. Now it’s available on its own as a paperback book. The comics were written by Stephen O’Rear and Christopher P.N. Maselli, and based on the character created by Paul McCusker. There’s an introduction before the story starts by “Wooten Z. Bassett, Mailman, Licorice Enthusiast, and Creator of Captain Absolutely.” It doesn’t give any specifics about Wooten, but because his name isn’t in the copyright page, I assume he’s made up. That doesn’t make what he has to say any less deep, though. He summarizes Hebrews 12:2 for us, reminding us to keep our eyes and minds on Jesus. Doing this allows us to be shaped by the absolute truth, hence the name of the book’s main character. The villains in the story were designed to teach children how to combat the lies that may come up as we “defend” our Christian faith and evangelize to others.

captain absolutely interiorKnowing this is the goal of the book, I was really pleased that my 10-year-old son, Munchkin, got the chance to read it. Because of the format (lots of pictures, few words), it took him only one afternoon to read the whole thing. My 13-year-old isn’t as into books as his younger brother, but he typically enjoys graphic novels, so I’ll probably have him read it soon too.

From Munchkin:

The story is about a guy, Josiah King, who works at the library. His friend accidentally blows up the computer, and Josiah is trapped in a room full of Bibles. He starts reading God’s word and becomes a superhero called Captain Absolutely. He fights a bunch of bad guys and puts them in a bunch of prisons, which they escape from a lot. He fights them again, they escape again. It’s a vicious cycle.

captain absolutely cover 2He eventually gets the main bad guy, Dr. Relative, to believe in the Bible and join his team.

I thought this book was interesting. Usually I like “regular” books better, but Captain Absolutely was really fun to read. This was only the third graphic novel I’ve ever read, and I liked it.

Overall, I’m glad we had a chance to review this book. It was a fun read for Munchkin, and anything with a good message is a win as far as I’m concerned.

Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew are talking about Captain Absolutely this week, too. Be sure to head over to the Crew blog to find out more.

Blessings,

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Digital Puzzle Fun (Planet 316 review)

Most of the products I have the privilege of reviewing from the Homeschool Review Crew are things for the boys and their schooling. But every now and then something just for me comes along. Today’s review is one of those.

Daily Bible Jigsaw review1For the past few weeks, I’ve been playing the Daily Bible Jigsaw game, offered for free on Android and iOS platforms by Planet 316. It also works as a Facebook game. As the name suggests, this app is at its core a digital jigsaw puzzle. Each day, a new one is available, absolutely free. The daily puzzles aren’t difficult; each one takes me between 3 and 8 minutes to complete, and I’m not that great at puzzles. If one comes along that I do find difficult for some reason (or I don’t have a lot of time to work on it), no matter. There are “cheats” you can use (separate the edge pieces out, rotate all the pieces to their correct orientation, connect two random pieces, see a picture of what the finished image should look like, and sweep all the pieces not currently attached correctly off of the playing board). Each of these cheats costs “puzzle coins,” which are the currency of the game. One way of acquiring puzzle coins is by purchasing them. There are a wide variety of options to fit almost any budget, and “the more you buy, the more you save.” For example, 20 coins is $1.99 but 780 coins is $59.99, which is a 30% bonus. For this review, I was given a pack of 500 coins to use as I see fit ($39.99 value).

Daily Bible Jigsaw beginningYou can also earn puzzle coins for free. How? You can watch ads (completely optional – the game, unlike a lot of other free apps, never requires you to watch ads) or you can correctly connect the “power piece.” About a minute into the puzzle, one piece starts emitting stars and a task bar appears at the top of the screen. This is the power piece. If you can attach it to any other piece correctly, you earn one free coin. Another way to earn coins is by completing puzzle goals. For example, when you complete 5 “Resurrection Sunday” puzzles, you earn 1 coin. Solve 25 of them, and you get 5 coins. Solve 100, and you earn 10 coins. The same goes for every day of the week. You earn 5 coins when you’ve solved your 100th total puzzle. There are also coin awards for solving a puzzle quickly (under 5, 3, 2, and 1 minute).

Daily Bible Jigsaw 1In addition to cheats, puzzle coins are able to be used for previous puzzles. Remember the name of the app? Daily Bible Jigsaw. This means that the creators issue a new puzzle each day. But the puzzles from previous days are still available right in the app. If you want to do a puzzle from a day besides the current one, it costs 3 puzzle coins.

What sets this puzzle app apart from others I’ve used in the past is the “Bible” part of Daily Bible Jigsaw. When you put the last piece in place, all the lines fade away leaving you with a “smooth” image, and then a Bible verse appears over the image. Oftentimes, it relates to the puzzle in some way. If you have a Facebook account, you’re given the opportunity to share the verse on your wall (is it still called that? I haven’t used Facebook in years…). There are other benefits to connecting with Facebook if you have an account, too. By doing so, you get 10 free coins. Also, you can compare your times to those of your friends who are also playing the game.

Daily Bible Jigsaw completedI’ve used this app on a variety of devices over the past several weeks, and it worked fine and looked great on all of them. When I first got it, I had an inexpensive Android phone, and it was fine. Partway through the review period, Will and I upgraded to iPhones, and the graphics are great on it. With the account creation for our new phones came iPads also, and the app is awesome on it. I love the bigger size, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing it on a phone. Connecting my account to a new device was no problem, either. I just had to download the app, open it, and sign in using the email address and password I’d chosen in the very beginning. All my progress shows up every device. Easy peasy.

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed playing Daily Bible Jigsaw each day. I haven’t missed one yet, and I don’t plan to – at least not in the near future. I highly recommend this app!

Blessings,

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Daily Bible Jigsaw {Planet 316 Reviews}
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A Biblical History Novel (Peggy Consolver Review)

Over the past few weeks, Munchkin has been reading a new book from Peggy Consolver – Author. It’s called Shepherd, Potter, Spy–and the Star Namer, and it’s written in one of my personal favorite genres: biblical historical fiction. I’ve read quite a few books in this genre over the years, and when I saw this one come up for review, I immediately thought of my son. He and I looked at the website and book synopsis together, and he decided that he really wanted to read this book, so we requested it for review.

Shepherd, Potter, Spy, and the Star Namer review

The book tells the story of Keshub, a 13-year-old shepherd boy who wonders whether he’ll ever be good enough for his father. Set over the backdrop of the Old Testament battle of the Promised Land, this book provides a lot of action, intrigue, and adventure – perfect for a pre-teen or teen boy (or girl) to read about!

Shepherd Potter Spy reviewHere’s what Munchkin has to say about the book:

Shepherd, Potter, Spy–and the Star Namer is an interesting book. Chapter 6 was my favorite. It’s called “The Son of a King,” and it tells about how Keshub meets someone from the land of his enemies, who turns the prince of that area. The two become friends. I like this chapter because it was the most intriguing to me. I liked how Keshub turned a bad situation (the invading army and palace coming to town) into a new friendship by being kind and tricking the prince into being nice back which led to the friendship.

I also liked how the story of Keshub was laid over the top of the true biblical account of the battle of Jericho. It was interesting to compare the novel to the Bible.

Even though I liked most of this book, there were some things that I found difficult to understand. I think it would be better suited for someone a few years older than me.

In addition to the novel itself, Mrs. Consolver has created a study guide titled Digging Deeper into HIStory to go along with it. This would bring the novel reading to a whole new level, especially if you did it with a group of teens – it would make a great book club selection or youth group unit study. The study guide is available for $2.99 (Kindle) or $12.99 (paperback) and includes questions covering things like map work, reading comprehension, and historical compare/contrast.

Generally speaking, even though Munchkin found the book to be a bit advanced for him, I’m glad he had the opportunity to read it. It gave him a new perspective on the events in Joshua 9-10, and I think he’s a bit better for it. At his own request, we’re going to hang onto this book and he’ll read it again when he’s a couple of years older. We both hope it’s even better for him then than it was this time around.

Make sure to click the banner below for more reviews from Homeschool Review Crew members on this book.

Blessings,

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Shepherd, Potter, Spy--and the Star Namer {Peggy Consolver Reviews}
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Our Great Republic ~ American History Curriculum (Memoria Press Review)

In homeschool circles, there are a few curriculum companies that show up again and again as “the best.” Memoria Press is one of those. I’ve reviewed products from them a few times (I’ll link to my past reviews at the end of this one), and have always been very impressed with the items we’ve received/used. This time, the (older) boys and I have been working through The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & The Great Republic Set ($48). As you might be able to guess from the title (of both the curriculum and this post), this is an American history curriculum. Memoria Press also included the supplemental 200 Questions About American History Set ($27.90).

MP history review

Each of these sets is fairly involved, so I think it will make more sense (at least to me) to take a moment to discuss what is in each of them before I move on to how we used them in our homeschool.

The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & The Great Republic came with three books: a textbook, which feels more like a novel in its size and page count; a consumable student workbook; and a teacher version of the workbook, which looks just like the student book except the answers are filled in and there are reproducible tests in the back. The student workbook is much more than “just” a workbook, though. It includes a wide variety of appendices with such amazing resources as the complete text of the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, lots of maps, and tons of other great stuff that I (unfortunately) can’t remember offhand. (I can’t refer to our copy of the book, either, because it’s packed for moving.) I do remember pointing out a lot of this stuff to Seahawk, who was the main beneficiary of this book, though. It will make a fantastic resource for years to come.

The 200 Questions About American History Set includes two books: a student workbook and a teacher manual; and a set of flashcards. The flashcard set is like four sets in one, and I separated them into recloseable zipper baggies for ease of use. These four sets are: 150 Drill Questions (question on one side, answer on the other), 30 Dates and Events (date on one side, event on the other), 20 Notable Quotes (quote on one side, speaker on the other), and 44 U.S. Presidents (president number and years of presidency on one side, name on the other). The student workbook is rather thin, but it covers a lot of history in those few pages. It is basically a workbook version of the flashcards, which is nice if you want a consolidated place for your student to write down the answers to the questions as they learn them. It would also serve as a great tool for review as they get older. The teacher book is just like I described above, in the 13 Colonies set.

How We Used It

Normally in a curriculum like this, I would read everything aloud to the boys and they would answer the questions. The teacher’s guide suggested having students do at least of of the out-loud reading themselves, though. Because my kids don’t do enough of that (or any of that, really), I decided to go with the suggestion of the writers. Each chapter in the textbook, which is really a compilation of two books written by H.A. Guerber, is quite short (less than 2 pages) so this wasn’t a hardship for my boys.

We covered one lesson per week, working 3 days per week, and with as much great information as there is in each lesson, this was a good pace for us. We’d start on Monday by reading the chapters for the week’s lesson from the textbook. Most of the lessons covered 3 chapters, so that was perfect – we each read one aloud. After doing the reading, we went over the vocabulary and answered half of the comprehension questions from the workbook.

On Wednesday, we’d finish the comprehension questions. I liked taking a break between the reading and the questions because this helped to assure that the boys were retaining what we read. If we’d answered all of the questions within moments of doing the reading, it would be easy to forget what they’d read quickly.

On Fridays, we did the enrichment section of the workbook. This was sometimes short, sometimes a bit longer, and includes activities such as finding places on the map (related to the reading done), adding a date or dates to the timeline (I had each boy do their own using some of Will’s comic strip-sized art paper), and a writing assignment. The writing assignments were quite interesting, and I’m pretty sure the boys enjoyed them too. An example of one that they seemed to especially enjoy is (and this is not an exact quote): You were a founder of the colony of Roanoke. After some time away, you’ve come back and discovered the entire civilization missing. Write a journal entry describing what you see and how you feel upon your return. I didn’t give the boys a certain amount of time to write; I just let them write until they were done. Some of the assignments took longer than others, but all were quite interesting.

Seahawk did the workbook because he’s more firmly in the age range for this product, which Memoria Press pegs as “middle school years.” I didn’t want Munchkin to miss out on the information, though, so he sat with us (and read a chapter a week out loud) and chipped in with answers when he knew them. He also made his own timeline and did the writing assignments.

The 200 Questions About American History Set, being a supplement, was just that for us. I looked at the workbook each week, and we answered the questions that were relevant to the section we read. We haven’t done much with the flashcards yet, but we might use them more once we’re settled in our new house.

My Opinion

I really like teaching this product. The curriculum goes perfectly with the text, and there’s enough “extra” stuff (like the writing I mentioned above) to keep it from feeling dry and boring. There are also lots of pictures in the textbook to illustrate times and concepts. Having the teacher book and the student books match so closely is really helpful in guiding your children to getting the correct answer – or even expanding their already correct answer to make it more detailed and relevant. Overall, this product is a definite winner for teaching American history thoroughly!

As mentioned previously, I’ve reviewed for Memoria Press before. Check out what I thought of their 5th Grade Literature set and the history curriculum Famous Men of Rome.

Blessings,

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Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew are writing about Memoria Press this week, too. Some are reviewing the same sets that I am, and others are talking about learning Greek or teaching The Iliad and The Odyssey with their older students. Click the banner below for more information.

First Form Greek, Iliad/Odyssey and American History {Memoria Press Reviews}
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Journeying with our Sons into Manhood (Manhood Journey review)

Today’s review is a guest post by my husband, Will. Enjoy reading his thoughts instead of mine for a day 🙂

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For a lot of parents, there’s a big challenge in knowing the right way to pass on your values and beliefs to your children. Manhood Journey & City on a Hill Studio hopes to help bridge that gap with the Manhood Journey Father’s Starter Kit. The concept is straight forward: they’ve built a weekly curriculum that takes the key concepts that are important in spiritual formation, and they focus them down into a form that’s easy to use as conversation-builders and study groups.

I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I was immediately impressed with the packaging. The size of the books was great, and the package looked great and felt great. It made me want to open it immediately.

Inside were five items: A book by Manhood Journey Co-Founder, Kent Evans entitled Wise Guys. Along with this book were the Embarking Group Discussion Guide and The Embarking 1 on 1 Discussion Guide. There was also a DVD of introductory videos and a pack of ten “Maprochures,” which are helpful in recruiting dads to join your group and to help the groups select which modules they’d like to do.  

The Group Guide encourages the leader to use the material as a foundation and then adjust it to fit the specific tone of the group, so I spent quite a bit of time mulling over the content from the first session and working out how I would present it to our boys. The session was built around an analogy of Big Rocks and Small Rocks, paired with a few Bible verses to draw deeper meaning from the “word picture.” This was great. As I presented the concept, the boys’ eyes lit up with understanding. Then I presented the scriptures and challenged them to meditate on how they were all connected.

I let them perk on the ideas overnight and we arranged a time to continue our discussion. Then, I helped guide them through refining their insights.

If you can get a larger group together on a regular basis, this will be a good tool to use as the foundation for that group. I also find that it’s flexible enough that you can make it work on your own with your own children if that’s all you have.

My only critique of the program is that some of the references to pop culture feel dated. I’m sure that some of the parents would get the references, but I’m not sure many of the kids would. I think if you are using this with your own children, you may find that it’s useful to adjust things so that they relate to a younger audience. I’m not referring to the meat of the program (which is excellent) only the supporting examples. For instance, one of the goals of the discussion is to create a “porch moment” like on The Andy Griffith Show when Andy and Opie would talk about the day’s events. If you’re familiar with The Andy Griffith Show, you’ll get it. But you might find that a more modern example (or skipping the pop culture reference altogether) would be better in your specific group.

Based on the Starter Kit, it seems like a great tool for helping fathers open a spiritual dialogue with their sons.

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As always with Homeschool Review Crew reviews, there are several others talking about this product this week. Make sure to click the banner below for more information.

Blessings,

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Manhood Journey Father's Starter Kit {Manhood Journey & City on a Hill Studio Reviews}
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From Boy to Man (Celebrating Manhood review)

Celebrating Manhood Review at Ladybug Daydreams

In case you don’t know, I have sons. Four of them. And no daughters. I sometimes feel “incomplete” because of this. I often feel sad at not having a girl to raise (to be clear: I’m not sad about having sons. I’m sad about not having a daughter). I was going through an exceptionally difficult time with my emotions a few weeks ago, when I first learned of the book Celebrating Manhood: a rite of passage guide from Home School Adventure Co. There were several e-books being offered for review, and some of them looked really neat. But at that time, I knew that I was supposed to review Celebrating Manhood. I can’t tell you why, but there was something about this book that I felt would be a salve to my soul and help to heal the pain I felt at the time. I knew that I needed to embrace my boys and love my life for what it is (a boy mom) rather than what mourn what I wished I had (children of both genders).

So even though I was quite interested in Creative Freewriting Adventure (a book full of writing prompts), I’d Rather Be Your Mommy (a storybook for moms and young children), and Walking with the Waodani (a unit study on missions in Ecuador), I had to choose Celebrating Manhood instead. (In case you’re interested, all of these books are being reviewed by members of the Homeschool Review Crew. When you’re done reading here, head over to that blog for links to other reviews. I’ll provide a link at the end of this post.)

After all that blither-blather, let me move on to what Celebrating Manhood is all about. Author Stacy Farrell opens the book with this statement:

Extensive research asserts the importance of acknowledging a young man’s entry into adulthood. However, most of Western culture does not mark the transition from boyhood to manhood in any meaningful way. Consequently, an important opportunity is often lost.

celebrating manhood coverBecause Seahwak, my eldest (13 years old), is basically through puberty at this point, I thought this book would be a provide us a good opportunity to celebrate that with him. I want him to know that we (Will and I) understand that he’s getting older, he’s changing, and we want to bestow some additional responsibility on him. As much as I wish it wasn’t true, he’s not my little boy anymore. He’s rapidly becoming a man, and it’s time to acknowledge that. Celebrating Manhood is a book designed to help parents plan a “party” with just that goal in mind.

The book (I received a PDF version) is 37 pages, but really only about half of that is “usable content.” The first bit is the stuff found in most books: positive statements about the book, copyright, about the author, etc. Once you get to the meat of the book, half the pages are blank. I imagine this is because it was a print book first, and it’s designed to have the pages cut out and written on during your son’s rite of passage party. Even though you don’t need those blank pages with a PDF (your home printer will only print on one page at a time), they were left in for the e-book version anyway.

The first thing you’ll find (once you get to the main part of the book) is a timeline of events for your party. It’s designed to be planned by Mom but actually attended and implemented by Dad. The suggested timeline is four hours or so, but that’s easily adaptable depending on your situation. The first thing you have to do is work together with your husband (or son’s father or other father-figure) to decide who to invite to the party. The guests should be men who have a strong influence over your son – grandfathers, pastors, neighbors… Once you send out the invitations (which are included as a printable in the book), then Mom works on planning the main portion of the party, including preparing a meal for the men to share. The reason it’s suggested that Mom be the one to prepare this is to show your son and his guests an attitude of nurture and love by serving them.

All of my young men

All of my young men

Once the party starts, the suggested order of events is: sharing appetizers together, a physical activity lasting roughly an hour or less, having the men eat a meal together, allowing the men to share things they appreciate about your son (blessing him with their words), and ending the evening with dessert (not cake or whatever you normally serve at birthdays – it’s important that this party is nothing like a birthday party) and questions. There are question cards included in the book that you can print and pass out to the men during this portion for them to write on. These would then become keepsakes for your son.

The final thing you’ll find in the book is a printable poster stating “Welcome to the World of Men” with 1 Corinthians 13:11 on it.

Will and I talked, and we decided that before we have this party for him, we want to have something in mind that “being a man” means for after the party. We don’t want it to be a meaningless ceremony, and until we know what that will mean for our family, we’re putting off having a party for Seahawk. I fully intend for us to have one (and will write about it when it happens), but for now it hasn’t yet. But every time I reread this book, I’m reminded of just how important this ceremony will be for my boys – I’ll get to have the privilege of planning this at least four times! What a blessing! But I want to do it right, and for now, that means waiting. Despite not actually having been able to “use” this resource yet, I’m so glad to have been able to review it today.

As I mentioned earlier, the Homeschool Review Crew is reviewing lots of different products from Home School Adventure Co. today. Click the banner below to find out more!

Blessings,

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Resources with a Biblical Worldview{Home School Adventure Co. Reviews}ladybug-disclaimer-review-crew-copy

Learning Basic Language Arts with Eclectic Foundations (Review)

Eclectic Foundations Review

I’m at an interesting place in my homeschooling career. My two older boys are in 7th and 5th grades – one in middle school, and one nearly there. And then I have the two little boys. Small Fry is 4 years old (nearing readiness for Kindergarten), and Dragonfly is just 15 months old. Because of the age gap between Munchkin (5th grade, 10 years old) and Small Fry (age 4), it’s easy to automatically dismiss review opportunities that fall between them as “not a fit based on my kids’ ages.” I almost did just that with Eclectic Foundations. I saw the information provided by the leadership team at the Homeschool Review Crew and immediately thought that my boys were beyond needing something like this. And the older two are.

But then I looked at the website and got to thinking, “You know, Small Fry is wanting to learn to read. Maybe a lower level would work for him.” Once I allowed myself to think about him instead of just the older boys, I realized that Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level A would probably be a good fit for us. And I was absolutely right.

There are 4 components to this program, and you need them all to run it successfully: the Student Workbook ($24), the Teacher Manual ($12), the Appendix booklet and word cards ($20) and the McGuffey reader (public domain book that’s available in numerous places for cheap or free). You can also purchase a PDF download of the entire program for $30. The thing you can’t do is try to get away with skipping any of the components. Some programs allow you to suffice with just the student book or just the teacher book, but this is not one of those.

Filling in the letter M/m with Play-Doh.

Filling in the letter M/m with Play-Doh.

Each of the books is a softcover, 8.5×11, spiral bound book. The Student Workbook is consumable, so you’d need one for each student, but all the other components are reusable in the event you have multiple students (whether at the same time or one a few years after the other). The Appendix workbook was something unique to this program – I’d never seen anything quite like it with any other language arts curriculum. It is a workbook very similar to the others (8.5×11, softcover, spiral bound), but every single page in it is laminated. These pages are used for some of the games in the program, and are designed to be written on in dry erase or Vis a Vis markers (when playing Tic Tac Toe or filling in letters around vowels, which happens in later lessons), or in some cases, just to have your child point to the correct image (during the “Starts with” and “Beginning, Middle, End” games – details on all of this later). We’re not at a point yet where we’ve needed the word cards (they start at about lesson 65, and we’re only at 21), so I can’t really tell how they work yet.

Because Small Fry is just starting to show interest in learning letters and reading, we started at the very beginning – Level A (there are A, B, and C), lesson 1. So far, each week follows the same routine, which is nice. It allows him to anticipate what’s coming next.

Thanks to its "open and go" style, even older siblings are able to help teach this curriculum.

Thanks to its “open and go” style, even older siblings are able to help teach this curriculum.

This is an open-and-go curriculum, which is very nice. There’s virtually no preparation required. It’s based on a 4-day school week, and each lesson takes under 20 minutes – perfect for new learners. Each day starts with a recitation of the alphabet, and then moves on to the student workbook pages. The workbook has a wide variety of activities to keep young minds interested. On the first day, they get to fill in the “letter of the week” with Play-Doh (or pipe cleaners for a mess-free experience). This day we also play the “Starts With” game. For this, there’s a list of words that you read to your child (in the teacher’s manual), and the child determines whether or not the word starts with the letter/sound of the week. The appendix book is used for this – there’s a page with smiley faces on it, and a happy face means the word does start with the sound, and sad face means it does not. The student points to the correct image.

Eclectic Foundations review | Ladybug Daydreams

A portion of one of the letter mazes. Click to enlarge.

Other days have other activities, including but not limited to determining whether the sound of the week is found at the beginning, middle, or end of a list of words, finding all occurrences of the letter in a faith-based poem, writing the letter and simple words that include it, and reading simple words using sounds that have already been introduced (so far, we’re up to “man,” “Nan,” “fan,” “ran,” and “Sam”). And then there’s Small Fry’s absolute favorite activity: the maze. This happens on the third lesson of the week (depending on our week, usually Wednesday or Thursday). The maze looks a lot like a word search, but instead of finding words, students are instructed to follow the path of whatever the letter of the week is, from a smiley face at the top to a smiley face at the bottom.

Using this curriculum was a breeze. The teacher manual spells everything out for you, and the student book is full of fun activities. We’ve been using it for just over a month now, and Small Fry (who’s not even 5 years old yet) is already able to read simple words. And he’s gone from being able to copy his name down to writing it all by himself. On top of being effective, it’s really fun. It’s not at all stressful, and my son absolutely adores having his own school to do. Every morning when he wakes up, he asks if he can “do school today.” And the days that have the maze are even better!

Needless to say, we absolutely love this curriculum. I’m so glad I looked closely at the website before just assuming it wouldn’t be a good fit for us, because it absolutely is the perfect fit for my precocious 4-year-old!

Blessings,

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Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing all three levels of Eclectic Foundations this week. Click the banner below for more information!

Language Arts {Eclectic Foundations Reviews}
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Math Mammoth Review

We’ve tried a lot of different math products over the years. A lot. And there are very few that my kids don’t complain about – usually the ones that are “fun,” meaning game-like. When a review opportunity for Math Mammoth came up earlier this year, I had the older two (7th and 5th graders) take the placement test to figure out whether this would be a good fit for us. Color me surprised when Seahawk (7th grade) barely understood anything in a test below his official grade level. (I don’t remember offhand whether I had him take the 5th or 6th grade placement test.) I decided at that point that perhaps it would be a good idea for us to request this review in order to fill some learning gaps that apparently exist in our homeschool.

Math Mammoth review from Ladybug Daydreams

In order to work with both of the kids, I requested the Blue Series, which is a set of books (available as PDF downloads or physical print books) that focus on specific topics. We received

Seahawk has been working through the “Percent” worktext, and Munchkin has been doing “Multiplication Division 3.” I’m saving “The Four Operations” for later, and they will both do it when they’ve completed the book they’re currently working through.

Math mammoth explanation sample

A sample of an explanation section. This is the very first lesson in the Percent worktext. Click to enlarge.

Each day, I would take turns sitting with the boys in turn, working through the problems. The explanations were clear, and there was very little I needed to explain beyond what was actually in the textbook itself. The boys didn’t have any difficulty understanding what they needed to do, and they required minimal guidance from me. I was mostly there to keep them on task and see how the program worked for the purposes of being able to write the review later.

We’ve been using the texts nearly every school day for several weeks, but they still have plenty of work to do before they finish these. Seahawk is about 1/4 of the way through Percent, and Munchkin is about 1/5 of the way through Multiplication Division 3. Their slow progress isn’t because the concepts are difficult or the program bad, though. Rather, it’s because the concepts are taught and practiced so thoroughly that there are loads of problems in each section so that children can have ample opportunities to practice what they’ve learned.

A sample of problems from one lesson. This is from Multiplication Division 3. Notice that each problem has several problems within it. That's part of why it's taken us a while to work through this program.

A sample of problems from one lesson. This is from Multiplication Division 3. Notice that each problem has several problems within it. That’s part of why it’s taking us a while to work through this program. Click to enlarge.

Whenever I opened the PDF, it would remind me that “This PDF can be completed using the Add Comment tool.” I took that to mean that it was an interactive PDF, meaning that the child using the product would be able to fill in his answers right on the computer. I didn’t find this to be the case at all, and a Google search led me to looking at the settings on the PDF, which told me that it wasn’t an interactive PDF after all. I’m not savvy enough to know about the Add Comment tool or how that’s different from an interactive PDF, so we treated the PDFs like a textbook: the kids would read the information and problems on the screen and write their answers down on notebook paper kept in their binders. I could have printed the pages out for them (and I did one day when I wasn’t available to sit with them individually), but for the big picture, that would have been cost prohibitive to do all the time. In the end, the notebook-paper-approach was the right one for us.

I mentioned earlier that we’ve done a lot of different math curricula over the years. What I didn’t mention was that Math Mammoth is one of the best. Not only is it very thorough with clear explanations, but my kids don’t complain about doing it. In fact, quite the opposite has proven true: every time we finish a lesson, they tell me that they really like this curriculum. With the prices being so reasonable ($2.20 to $7.40, depending on what the book is), I can see us buying more of these. When used together, they make up a full curriculum for grades 1-7. Math Mammoth also offers an “official” full math curriculum for these grades called the Light Blue Series. I haven’t seen this, so I’m not entirely sure how it differs from the Blue Series. The Light Blue curricula costs $37.50 per year, and the final year (grade 7) is a full-fledged Pre-Algebra curriculum. Upon completion of that year, your student is ready to tackle high school level math.

Our official opinion: Math Mammoth is amazing. It teaches the concepts well, is very affordable even for families with multiple children, and is better than a regular textbook (in my kids’ opinion; I’m not sure how it differs other than that they don’t whine and moan when I announce that it’s math time). I definitely foresee us continuing to use this product in the near future.

For more information on different levels, from the Blue Series and the Light Blue series, click the banner below. That will take you to the Homeschool Review Crew blog where you can find 49 other reviews of Math Mammoth from homeschooling families who have actually used it over the past few weeks.

Blessings,

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Affordable Quality Math {Math Mammoth Reviews}
 

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