Musik at Home (review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.

I’m not much of a music person. I know that’s probably not a popular thing to say, but it’s true. Given the choice, I’d sit in silence before I turned on music any day of the week. I (usually) find it oppressive and aggravating. I would never choose to do a music class in our homeschool because I wouldn’t enjoy teaching it, and that disdain would simply push the thought from my mind. But I know that I’m the anomaly, and I know in my heart of hearts that it’s not fair to the people around me to push that view. So I signed up to review Musik at Home. Using the Musik at Home Membership, I have been able to introduce my younger kids to some very basic music education, and it’s been lovely.

The courses in Musik at Home are divided up by age range. You can choose a course for Babies and Toddlers (birth to 24 months); Mixed Ages (1-5), Preschoolers (3-5), and Family Music for ages 4-7. Each level has 6-9 video lessons which each last under half an hour (perfect for younger kids and their short attention spans!). Some of the lessons ask you to use super basic musical instruments like shakers or drumsticks as well as a scarf or large piece of fabric. You can easily substitute things around the house for these (a plastic container filled with rice for the shaker, sticks from outside or wooden spoons for the drumsticks…). There are also dancing and singing activities. It’s really easy to navigate the website and find the best category, and then lesson, for your child(ren).

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Even though the classes are quite short, they incorporate a lot of different activities within each one – again perfect for keeping young children engaged. My kids (2, 4, and 8) really enjoyed the Mixed Ages class. Even the baby was able to mimic what he saw on the screen during these lessons, and it was super fun to watch him get so excited about the classes. The older kids really liked using the sticks to bang on stuff the most, but Bumblebee (the baby) loved to dance and twirl.

If (on the off chance) you’re like me and aren’t that into music but you still want to give your young children a gentle introduction to the topic, I recommend giving Musik at Home a chance. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Make sure to head over to the Review Crew blog for more information and additional reviews.

Blessings,

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NatureGlo’s eScience (review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review,  nor was I compensated in any other way.

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Science has the possibility to be tricky, especially as your kids get older. We use a textbook for Ballet Boy (16), but Scorpion (14) isn’t quite ready for that particular text. So when I saw that there were review slots open for NatureGlo’s eScience MathArt & Science Course Bundle, I applied. The course is completely digital, and there are 25 different unit studies for ages 10 and up. I let Scorpion look over the lesson options when we first got access and choose which one he wanted to work on first. He chose the one on Komodo Dragons.

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IMG-6383The Komodo Dragon study in NatureGlo’s eScience includes 7 lessons:

  • Main lesson slideshow with study guide (this is sort of like the syllabus for the course)
  • 10 amazing facts about Komodo Dragons
  • History connection (a short video with questions about Joan Beauchamp Procter – fascinating lady)
  • Geography connection (a lesson on the Indonesian islands)
  • Art connection (how to draw a Komodo Dragon)
  • Literature connection (read an Indonesian folk tale)
  • Creative writing (write your own version of that folk tale)

Some of these lessons take a little longer than others (the writing one, particularly), and for that reason some of them would spill over into multiple days for us. Generally speaking, though, Scorpion was able to work through one lesson each time he sat down. I had him work an average of twice a week, so he was able to finish this unit study in under a month. He liked it so much that when he finished, he chose to continue in the Herps Explorers series and moved into Frogs, Geckos, Chameleons, and More.

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This second unit study is much longer than the first one. The Komodo Dragons study is considered to be a “one lesson” unit, while the Frogs (etc) study is classified as a 6-week study. It wasn’t until I got into that study with Scorpion that I realized we probably moved a bit too slowly in the Komodo Dragons study. Comparing the “one lesson” to the “6 week course,” I could see that each of the 6 components in the latter have the same number of lessons, so I’ve had him start logging in each day to work on science instead of just a couple times a week.

The lessons in the Frogs study are not the same as in the Komodo Dragons study. The Frogs, because it’s broken down into six individual lessons each with its own focus animal or group of animals, pulls different “connections” (art, literature, etc) in throughout the six weeks (and therefore during a different animal focus) rather than all being present in each animal’s lessons. This keeps things from becoming predictable, monotonous, and overwhelming. Over the course of the six lessons, though, all of the components are there – as well as much more, as you could probably guess based on the longer length of the study.

Animals covered in this study are: Frogs and Toads; Dwarf Geckos and Chameleons; Geckos; Giant Salamanders; Turtles; and Marine Turtles. At the end of the six lesson course, there is a review and a certificate of completion.

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Animals aren’t the only options for lessons on the NatureGlo’s eScience program, though. For example, there’s one on Bubbeology, which is another “one lesson” course. When I opened up that one, I could see easily how that would be done in just one lesson (as opposed to seven, like what we did with the Komodo Dragons). There are only two things in this lesson: the overview and “projects, activities, and videos.” I didn’t see any of the “projects,” but there were some pre-lesson questions/activities listed in the overview lesson. Grasshopper saw me looking over the lessons to write this review and expressed some interest in the Bubbleology one, so even though he’s below the age range I’ll probably find some of the videos listed on YouTube for him to watch.

Beyond the science aspect of NatureGlo’s eScience, there’s the MathArt aspect. We haven’t explored that very much, but the concept strikes me as pretty awesome. As it sounds like, it’s a way of combining math and art in the real world by looking at things like patterns in nature, architecture, plant growth, and more. It also teaches about the Golden Rectangle and Fibonacci Numbers.

So, what did we think overall?

From Scorpion:

I liked the topic of the Komodo Dragons study. It was pretty straightforward and didn’t take me too long per lesson to finish. I liked that it covered a lot of different subjects within one topic. I haven’t done a unit study since I was a little kid, and this reminded me how fun they can be.

From Mom:

The content of the lessons is really good, and well thought out. I had a bit of frustration in the logging in process each time because moving from the log in page to the courses list isn’t very intuitive, and sometimes required me to log in twice. But once we got the hang of exactly where to click to avoid having to do that, I thought the program was awesome!

Click through to the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read more reviews from other families.

Blessings,

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Simply Coding (review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.

If you’re interested in having your kids learn some basic computer coding, the Coding for Kids Annual Membership from Simply Coding might be for you. Designed for kids 11-18, the course includes interactive content, videos, chat help from the staff, and projects. Mentors are available for chat help from 9am-6pm central time M-F, and they offer email support on the evenings and weekends.

Through the course, which costs $149 per year for one student or $229 for a family account for up to 3 students (there’s a 10-day free trial if you’re unsure it’s something your kids will be interested in), youth learn to code their own video games, websites, and apps. The course includes roughly 300 hours of content. While appropriate for beginners (so long as they know how to type – though not required, it does make it easier), Simply Coding goes above and beyond other entry-level coding curricula out there.

Simply Coding aims to give kids real-life coding experience in their younger years. A lot of kids want to (or think they want to) work in IT and coding as adults, but few of them know what that really means in regards to the dedication and training necessary. Simply Coding gives them a taste of the dedication required for a fraction of the price of a college course – or worse, an entire degree that they then don’t want to use. And with Simply Coding, the student has something to actually show for their work at the end – something that, if they were right and they do want to go into IT as a career – just might give them a resume piece for college applications.

The entire course is actually made up of 9 courses, totaling nearly 3 high school credits. You can see the breakdown in the graphic below:

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There is lots more information on Simply Coding on the Homeschool Review Crew Blog today, including other reviews linked up there. I highly encourage you to check that out!

Blessings,

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Reading Eggs (review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.

You might recall that Dragonfly, my 4-year-old has been learning to read this summer. He’s super excited, and I want to encourage that hunger to learn, so I was really interested to have him review Reading Eggs from Blake eLearning Inc. I’d heard of Reading Eggs before (if you’ve homeschooled little kids for any length of time, you probably have too), but never really tried it, so this was an adventure for both of us. 
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When you set up the account, there’s one log-in for your family, but each child has their own “map” within the account. When you get logged in, you choose the student and where you want them to work. There are 4 levels of reading: Reading Eggs Jr (ages 2-4), Reading Eggs (ages 3-7), Fast Phonics (ages 5-10), and Reading Eggspress (ages 7-13). We also got access to Math Seeds. I had Dragonfly start at the beginning of Reading Eggs. I probably could have (maybe even should have) had him start partway up since he’d learned quite a bit previously, but it made sense to me at the time to start at the beginning since the program was an unknown quantity to us. 

Reading Eggs is available as a website (on a phone, tablet, or computer) as well as an app (phone or tablet). I didn’t realize at first that there was an app available, so we used the website. When I learned about the app, though, I downloaded it right away to my iPad. I was able to log in using the same credentials as the site, and all of Dragonfly’s progress was there. That was great, because now we don’t need to log in every single time anymore. Since then, we have used the app exclusively. 

The program itself is really fun. Each lesson consists of about 10 different activities/games, all centered around a specific letter or sight word. The first activity always introduces the sound with a fun song, usually sung by mascot Sam the Ant. Then the letter (or word) pops up in different places on the screen and the student clicks or taps on them. The final activity of each lesson is reading a book that focuses on the letter of the day. This is usually a little 4-8 page booklet that has single words, each beginning with the letter. There is an option to have the book read to you, which you can turn off with a little toggle switch at the top of the screen. We always left it on.

The games in between the first and last one each time vary somewhat. I never really counted them, but there seemed to be about 10-12 total games on an (approximate) 8-game rotation. This means that the games get repeated a lot, just with different letters. But don’t take that to mean that it was boring or repetitive, because it definitely wasn’t. And even if it was, kids at this age thrive with repetition anyway. But even for me, as the teacher/monitor, it still felt pretty fresh each day. Obviously, there were some games that I liked better than others (and my preferences were usually based on what was easier for him to succeed at!), but all of the games were fun and really pushed the letter sound of the day. Let’s take a quick look at a few of the games.

Listen for the sounds: The child sees two pictures and has to determine which one has the sound of the day in it (for a single letter, the sound should be at the beginning; for another type of sound, it just has to be in the word).

A415D448-DC88-497F-B12F-648B8EBF62A0Picture Match: There are six pictures taking up most of the screen, and six words down below. When you click on a word, it is read to you and you drag the word to the correct pictures. This is done twice with the same words, but they get mixed up between.

Word Blending: Sounds are shown, each in a bubble. The sounds are read, then blended into a word, and the child repeats.

Frog Hop: There are many iterations of this game, but the concept is the same. The sound or a word with the sound is shown amongst two others and your child chooses the correct one. They do this ten times to get the frog all the way across the pond.

A129A32D-FE8E-468D-A2AC-41107506CD7ADot to Dot: Touch the spots in order to create the letter of the day.

Word building: The final sound(s) are shown along with a picture and three possible starting sounds. The child chooses the correct one.

Letter Grid: In a 6×6 grid, there are 6 of the letter of the day (in different fonts). The child finds them all. The game is repeated with the capital version of the letter.

This is just a small sampling of the different games; as I mentioned, they go on something of a rotation from lesson to lesson. With each game, the child is allowed 3 mistakes. If they succeed with fewer than three errors, they can move on. With the third error, they are automatically restarted on the game.

At the end of the lesson, your child is awarded with some sort of creature that hatches from an egg on their map. This creature is based on the letter of the lesson (Pram Lamb for the “am” sound, for example). Each lesson took Dragonfly about 20 minutes to complete.

So what did we think? We love it! Dragonfly is always asking to do Reading Eggs. Seriously, not a single day goes by when he doesn’t ask to do a lesson (even the weekends). That’s a raving review if ever there was one!

Blessings,

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Make sure to hit the Homeschool Review Crew blog for more Reading Eggs reviews!

Homeschool Easy Full Year Curriculum (review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.

We have homeschooled our kids from the very beginning; none of them have ever attended a public (or private) school. For nearly that entire time, I have wanted to try a “everything provided, open and go” curriculum. So when the opportunity to review Homeschool Easy, I practically begged to be chosen. Homeschool Easy provides full curriculum for grades 1-5, so I chose the 3rd Grade Entire School Year Curriculum for Grasshopper (who is 8 now).

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When I first got access to the product, which is digital downloads, I immediately went to my computer and clicked the appropriate link. This took me to a folder which contained all of the worksheets needed for the whole year’s lessons. It was very easy to download them and place each subject in a folder within the “Homeschool” file on my desktop, and then to open and print each week. The 3rd Grade curriculum contains 32 weeks worth of lessons in the subjects of grammar, math, history, science, reading, book reading, and writing. We have been using all of them except math (because our current math curriculum is working so well I didn’t want to mess with it) and book reading (because Grasshopper is still building up to novel reading).

homeschool easy logoEach week, usually on Sunday evening, I get on my laptop and open the files I need. The various subjects are broken down into weeks; some of them are broken down into months and then weeks, but in the end the PDFs are all weekly. I open the weekly PDF and print out the pages. Then I write the dates we’ll be doing each page at the top, hole punch them, and put them into Grasshopper’s binder. After we’d been working on the curriculum for a couple of weeks, I asked him if he wanted me to organize the pages by subject or by date. He chose by date, so that’s how they’re in the binder right now. When we finish the school year, I’ll likely rearrange them into subjects since that’s more standard, but for now I want to keep things working for him as best as they can. It’s one tiny way he can have a bit of control over his school day.

The worksheets are very self-explanatory. It’s not completely hands-off on my end, but there are moments that are, and that frees me up to work with Dragonfly (4) on some of his lessons. Or to fix lunch, or deal with the baby, or assign things to the teenagers… but I digress. Let’s get back to the worksheets, shall we?

IMG-5561We usually start our day with Grammar. Grammar is my jam, and I love teaching it to my kids, so I’ve always done it first, even when the big kids were little. With many curricula, 3rd grade is the first time they introduce formal grammar (I don’t know for sure if that’s the case with Homeschool Easy because I haven’t seen the other years), so it starts quite basic. The first two weeks are all about different types of sentences (statements, questions, commands, and exclamations). It expands from there into word types, parts of sentences, proper comma usage, and more, but it starts slow. I support this method; the basics are super important, and it’s best not to rush them in something as important as grammar. Grammar is the most teacher-heavy of the subjects we did.

Third Grade history is all about America. The first month teaches Patriotism, and then it moves on to “normal” American history from there. The Patriotism lessons teach all about the flag, the bald eagle, the Statue of Liberty, and more. There’s even a short project assigned in which students research about their own state. In the second month, you dive right into the beginnings of America, starting with a bit of Native American history. The history lessons are each started with a video lesson which can easily be found on YouTube. After watching the video, there are questions to answer. I typically had Grasshopper watch the video on his own and then we worked together on the questions.

IMG-5563Science is much the same as history: watch a YouTube video and answer questions. The first three months are all about the Solar System, and my son has learned quite a lot about things through the videos that have been assigned. He’s gone over the order of the planets (which require a different mnemonic device than the one I was taught in third grade due to the demotion of Pluto), rocky planets vs gas planets, the approximate sizes of the planets, and a whole week on just the sun. When we finish the Solar System unit, there will be a month of Energy and Light, followed by 4 months to finish out the school year with Animals and Habitats.

Writing is done two days a week instead of five, and it consists of a writing prompt question (Did you enjoy your summer break?) and many lines for the child to write on.

Reading is the most diverse of all the subjects in Homeschool Easy. Each week has a list of sight words, and they are used in various activities all week long. There are flash cards to print out and go over each day as well as the worksheets. Worksheet activities include fill in the blank, crossword, word search, and two days of comprehension.

IMG-5562The two subjects we didn’t do are Book Reading and Math. Book reading assigns two chapter books each month. Each day has the child read 1-2 chapters and answer a few comprehension questions.

Math is pretty basic, and honestly, looked more like second grade stuff than third grade stuff to me (with the exception of the multiplication unit). It would have been very easy for Grasshopper to whiz through most of those lessons without even breathing hard.

Overall, I’ve been pretty happy with the Homeschool Easy curriculum. I love not having to worry about what to teach. That, by far, is the most stressful part about homeschooling for me. It’s not the actual teaching – it’s the planning and the worrying about “is it enough?” With a full curriculum like Homeschool Easy, I don’t have to worry anymore!

Make sure to head over to the Homeschool Review Crew blog to learn more about Homeschool Easy. Check out a few of the other reviews while you’re there – my fellow members have been reviewing all five of the grade levels.

Blessings,

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Curriculum Review: CTCMath

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.

What if you could have one math curriculum for all of your children, no matter what age or skill level they were? With a 12-month Family Membership to CTCMath, you can have exactly that! Let’s take a brief walk-through on how it works.

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The first thing you need to do after you sign up is log in to the parent account. From here, you will set up a separate account (with username and password) for each of your children. This is really easy; all it asks for is your child’s first and last name, a username, password, and the score for which you allow your children to move on to the next topic (ours is set for 80%, which is the default). You can even have the program assign you a random username and password if you like. After that, most of the work is done on the student accounts, but of course you can log in to your parent portal at any time to check on your students’ progress. The parent dashboard shows you at a glance which students you have set up under you, their average score for all lessons as well as how many lessons they’ve completed, and the last 30 action items for all of your students (combined, not each). Action items are things like “Ballet Boy logged in,” “Scorpion viewed the counting to 100 lesson,” “Grasshopper scored 82% on the counting to 100 lesson,” etc. You also have the option of receiving a weekly update email which gives you all of this information right to your inbox each Sunday evening.

The student accounts are a bit different. Once you’re logged in as a student, it’s time to choose the lessons. I have 4 kids using the program right now: Ballet Boy (16) is doing Algebra 1; Scorpion (13) is doing Pre-Algebra; Grasshopper (8) is doing 2nd grade; and Dragonfly (4) is doing Kindergarten.

ctc 3You can see from this screenshot that there are many, many lessons. Each lesson belongs to a category, and you move through the categories one at a time. Each category builds on the last one, so it’s recommended to do them in order. This is Dragonfly’s dashboard, and I didn’t start him on the program right away, so he hasn’t completed as many lessons as his brothers.

ctc2Once you choose a grade level and category, the screen changes and you’re shown the list of lessons for that category. Simply click on a title to be taken to that lesson.

Each lesson consists of video instruction and an interactive worksheet of questions. The videos range from about 2-6 minutes long, and include narration from company owner and math teacher Pat Murray (a dad of 10 from Australia). The lessons use a sort of digital white board to show the concepts; Mr. Murray’s face never appears. He speaks the instruction and the images change as necessary to help with the explanation.

ctc 4For example, in this screenshot from the Kindergarten lesson “Counting and Colors,” he goes over the different colors for the children. The lesson then moves on to the “counting” portion, and he explains how sometimes you need to count only parts of a group. How many blue cars are in this picture? for instance. Once the child has finished the video (and feels like they understand the material), then they can move onto the questions portion of the lesson. As I mentioned before, this is mostly just a digital, interactive worksheet. There are questions related to the material just taught, and the child answers them. They’re told right away whether they got the answer right or wrong, and at the end of the lesson are given a score out of 100 (straight percentage system). If they get above the designated “pass” score, they’re given the option to move on to the next lesson. If they don’t, then they need to try again (and possibly go over the video once more too). When all of the lessons for a specific category are complete, students are awarded a certificate with a “medal.” There are four levels of medal: Platinum (if they get 100% on every lesson), Gold, Silver, and Bronze. I don’t remember the exact breakdown for when each medal is awarded, but it’s either at 5% or 10% marks.

ctc 5So what did we think of the program? Everyone but Scorpion has loved it. Ballet Boy has done a lot of hodge-podge curriculum when it comes to Algebra I, but I think (hope) we’ve found one that will finally get him to the end of the subject so he can move on to other math. Grasshopper and Dragonfly like it so well that they’re both doing multiple lessons per day, always hoping to earn a “gold medal.” I have full confidence that they will each get 2 school years done in the 12-months of our subscription. But Scorpion… Math has never been his strong suit; he’s more a literature guy through and through. And his scores in this program prove that. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad program or that he’s not learning – I absolutely know that he is because his scores are slowly improving. I’m sure that with continued diligence working through the program, he will absolutely learn the material needed to get him through his 8th grade year and be ready to start high school next fall (2021).

I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of what CTCMath has to offer (which by the way, is a full, traditional [non-common-core] math curriculum from Kindergarten through Calculus), so please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read more reviews and get more information.

Blessings,

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High School Literature (Progeny Press review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.

Every year that I’ve been a part of the Homeschool Review Crew, we’ve been able to review a Progeny Press study guide. Because I’ve done reviews for this company before, I knew what I was getting into and that made it easier to choose titles for a review this year. There were several options available, for kids from early elementary all the way up through high school. I’m not super concerned about my younger set getting good literature in at this time; they listen to loads of audiobooks all the time. When they’re a little older, we’ll dive into studying the books more, but for now, they’re being exposed to lots of different stories, and that’s good enough for me. One thing that was different this year is that reviewers were allowed to choose TWO study guides instead of just one. So for this review, I chose the Animal Farm Study Guide for Ballet Boy and the Little Women Study Guide for Scorpion.

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Progeny Press, which is owned by Michael and Rachel Gilleland, creates study guides for popular novels, both classic and modern, from a Christian perspective. Their goal is to help parents teach their children to read with a critical eye… to dig deeper into their reading assignments and find things they might not otherwise notice, especially seeing Biblical aspects in mainstream books.

They sell their study guides as printed workbooks, CDs that are mailed to you, or digital downloads, which are available instantly for up to one year after purchase. The digital versions are editable PDFs, which means you can have your student type their answers right into the file (but they’re also printable if you prefer that).

Animal Farm Study Guide (Ballet Boy, age 16)

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In case you’re unfamiliar, Animal Farm is listed as one of Time Magazine’s Top 100 Novels of All Time. Written by George Orwell and first published in August 1945, the allegory tells the story of a group of farm animals who rebel against their human farmer. Their goal is to create a society where all animals can be equal, free, and happy. The idea is contrived by Old Major, a boar, but he dies just three days after bringing the idea to the rest of the animals. This allows the other pigs to take the lead from him, and before long, the pigs have decided that Animal Farm (formerly Manor Farm) is no longer a democracy. Napoleon, the main pig, immediately begins acting like a human, including working out trade deals with other farmers. This was expressly forbidden at the founding of Animal Farm, but he always has some excuse for why he’s justified in doing so. As time goes on, all the pigs become more and more human-like, wearing clothes and walking upright, and generally oppressing the other animals. The original seven principles that Animal Farm was founded on get boiled down to just one: Every animal is equal, but some are more equal than others. Napoleon eventually changes the name of the farm back to Manor Farm, and the “common” animals, as they look in at the party of elites through the farmhouse window, can no longer tell the difference between the pigs and the humans.

413B9715-37EF-4D00-A338-19C0F33BD2E3Ballet Boy has never been a huge reader, so for this review, I had him listen to the audiobook, which we got from Overdrive (the online library app that works in conjunction with your regular library card). He was able to listen to the book while working on other things, which works really well for his learning type – he’s always been an audio learner. When he’d made reasonable progress in the book, I asked him if he’d rather work on the study guide digitally or if he wanted me to print him a copy. He asked for a printed copy, so I printed the pages for a few chapters at a time, front and back. He worked entirely independently, with just a few questions here and there for me.

When I asked him about his experience with this study guide, he expressed to me that he enjoyed the book and didn’t mind the study guide. I think it was a bit better than that simple assessment, though. One of the times we had a bit of a conversation, he told me that he’d done some independent research (without being “asked to” by the study guide) about the history of Russia and the major players at the time the novella was written. Having him take that kind of initiative is really good, and a very big step in creating lifelong learners, not just students. And that, after all, is the point of school – and a major goal of most homeschoolers.

Little Women Study Guide (Scorpion, age 13)

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Scorpion was always a big reader when he was a little kid, but he’s found other interests lately. So for this review, I had him do a combination of audio book and Kindle book reading. Because Little Women is such a long novel, I had him do a few chapters of reading, then a section of the study guide. Progeny Press officially recommends that students read the entire book and then do the study guide, but with something as long as Little Women, that had the potential to be counterproductive. It wouldn’t be very helpful to be trying to work through parts of the study guide from the beginning of the book if you’d read a mammoth novel and couldn’t remember the details from the beginning by the time it was time to study.

PP little women worksheetI gave Scorpion the same option for working through the study guide – on the computer or a printout – and he chose to work on the computer. Like his older brother, he also worked on his own with only a few questions for me here and there. The study guide includes lots of vocabulary lessons, comprehension questions, and deeper thinking exercises – everything I expect and love about Progeny Press. Scorpion has traditionally really enjoyed these study guides, too, but he didn’t love this one as much as those that he’s used in the past. I think that because he’s a boy, he wasn’t that into the story of Little Women. I will probably have him do the Animal Farm study guide later this summer, and I expect to have a better attitude with that one.

Make sure to visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog for more Progeny Press reviews. This year, options were A New Coat for Anna (grades K-3); In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson (grades 4-6); My Side of the Mountain (grades 5-8); and of course, Animal Farm (grades 9-12) and Little Women (grades 8-12).

Blessings,

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Maximizing Reading Potential (MaxScholar review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.

For the past few weeks, Grasshopper has been using MaxScholar Orton-Gillingham Software from MaxScholar. I’ve written before about his reluctance to learn to read, and while he’s doing a lot better than he was before, I feel like he could still use loads of instruction and practice, so we signed up for this review.

When you first sign up for MaxScholar, there is a placement test you can have students take. If you’re confident in where your student needs to start learning, you can override that, though, and adjust their account (parent/teacher account and student accounts are separate, each with their own login information). Then when the student logs in, they can start the program straightaway. I had Grasshopper work through the placement test, even though it took a few sessions – it was really long!

Once the placement test is complete, it’s time to learn! Based on Grasshopper’s test results, he was given three options to pick from each time he logs in: Max Phonics, Max Reading, and Max Words.

maxscholar 1We have spent the most time in Max Phonics, just to cement the things he’s already learned. Each letter group in Max Phonics is taught and reinforced several ways, so that it’s a good fit no matter what kind of learner your child is (auditory, visual, or kinesthetic). There are different activities depending on what portion of the lesson your child is in. In auditory, they listen to the sounds and then have to choose the right “speaker” for the sounds they’re learning. In visual, they look at a grid full of different letters and choose the right ones for the lesson. Also in visual, there’s a game in which the student is shown a variety of pictures and they have to choose the ones that start with the letter/sound/blend they’re working on in that lesson. In the kinesthetic portion, children trace the letters using either the mouse (if on a computer) or their finger (if on a touch screen device). Once your student knows what they’re doing, these lessons can be done independently. After each sound or blend, there’s a little quiz that the student does to demonstrate mastery before being allowed to move on.

After they’ve gone through many different lessons (I had Grasshopper do 2-4 per day, 3-5 days a week), they hit a new type of lesson, and in this lesson they’re given a story to read. The program reads it aloud to the student, and then the student is instructed to read it themselves. I sat with Grasshopper during these lessons so he could read aloud to me.

maxscholar 2These “special” lessons also include some sight words, blending, and fluency sections. Because they were a bit more intense, when these lessons popped up, it was the only one we did in a day.

We didn’t spend a whole lot of time in the Max Reading section; after trying that first, it was quickly apparent that even the first story was a little beyond what Grasshopper was ready for. It was for that reason that I bumped him back to Max Phonics. You can see the different things covered (as well as a snippet of the story) in this screenshot:

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Max Words is another section we used a little, but not much. In the lesson we did, Grasshopper learned about different types of syllables. This was done near the beginning of our time with MaxScholar, so I don’t remember enough to speak intelligently about it, unfortunately.

 

maxscholar 5In addition to the student account, I also received a teacher account so that I could monitor progress. I didn’t use it a whole lot, because I was always nearby when my son worked on his lessons. I looked a bit at the progress report, but it didn’t mean much to me as far as deciphering the information there. I found it easier to just keep an ear out during the actual lessons to monitor his progression myself, and to be on hand in case he needed help. I can see how the teacher dashboard would be really useful in a public or private school setting where the teacher is not the same as the parent, though.

I also received an account for Dragonfly (4 1/2), but after seeing Grasshopper go through it in the beginning, I opted not to use it with him. I decided it would be better to just continue with our other reading program instead, since he’s so young. What I was seeing with Grasshopper wouldn’t have been a good fit for Dragonfly.

Overall, we’ve been pretty happy with our experience using MaxScholar. Grasshopper likes using the computer/iPad, so he was always willing to work on lessons. I’m happy that he’s getting a firm foundation in regards to reading. It’s a win/win, and we will definitely continue using the program until our subscription expires in six months (yes, even through the summer this year).

Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew are talking about their experiences with MaxScholar this week. Make sure to click through to learn more!

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

History of the US Life Saving Service (review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.

Today’s review is a guest post from Ballet Boy (my 16-year-old son), so I’m going to let him take it away.

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The last few weeks, my friends and I have been talking over the idea of getting a boat and going on a grand adventure to the ends of the Earth. About a week after we started joking about this, the opportunity came up to review Exploring the U.S. Life-Saving Service 1878-1915: 17 Student Workshops with 120 Activities by Rebecca Locklear. Me being the boat lover that I am, I thought it sounded intriguing to say the least.

USLSS coverExploring the U.S. Life-Saving Service is a 117-page ebook and has a variety of different sections/topics (called workshops in the book) which cover different aspects of what the Life Saving Service did. The workshops are categorized by the amount of critical thinking required to succeed in the section. The ones that require more problem-solving are geared for higher age groups, but there are tasks for everybody (grades 4-12). Topics include things like

  • Hunting, fishing, and eating
  • Beach patrol
  • Rescues with boats
  • And even solving scenarios for yourself

IMG_20200616_232848_639My favorite of the topics given is Rescue Scenarios: Live or Die. The concept behind this assignment is you are given a card (which is a printable within the book) and on it is a limited amount of information about a given situation (the amount you would likely have if you were a real USLSS agent in that situation). You might be given the position of the boat to the shore, the weather conditions, whether your boat is on fire or not, or how many crewman you have. Your objective as the student is to use the information you’re given to solve the situation as best you can and try to save the lives of as many crewmen as possible using random items (around the house) to set up a sort of game board and reenact it and see if your boat would roll, how the waves would effect, how difficult it is to get to the boat in the first place, etc. And then, once you have developed a strategy that you’re comfortable with (through trial and error) you present to your teacher/parent and he/she will decide if your solution is acceptable, and then give you the historical situation and if you got the “answer” right.

Sounds like a piece of cake, right? I can tell you from personal experience that it is not as easy as it seems. My first inclination was “Well, if I was in a situation with a flaming ship, I’d want to use divers and cables and hoses.” But in the 1880s, where a lot of these situations came from, those technologies were not yet at their disposal. So solving with today’s technology may not be so hard (but it still is). But with their technology, it becomes near impossible, and for anyone with an analytical mind, this sort of problem solving simulation is fascinating – especially if you love boats too.

3862A415-7BDC-4F76-8C87-CB1E06F717A6For the lesson I chose in this section, I found one where the scenario was what to do when your boat is on fire. To simulate this, I made a few origami boats and then filled our kitchen sink with water. Once the boats were in the water, I lit them on fire. I figured, and Mom agreed, that I was old enough to use real fire instead of orange crayon. Doing this experiment really gave me a respect for the captains of the boats back then. It was more stressful than I thought it would be dealing with the fire.

IMG_20200616_232814_768Besides all the activities, there is also a lot of reading about the true history behind the shipwrecks (and other catastrophes) that are on the cards. Many of them take place in the Atlantic Ocean near Cape Cod, which I believe is where the USLSS was based. The reading can be done easily by an older student on their own, or in a group setting as a read-aloud. It is broken into sections by the different jobs of people on the ship. In a group setting, it would be easy to assign students to read aloud, and no one student would have to read a lot aloud. Each section is just one or two paragraphs. The reading is really interesting, especially considering my love of boats. But as much as I love boats, I would not want one of their boats! They are so primitive looking based on the photos in the book to look unsafe – definitely not the kind of thing I would want to sail right into a flaming shipwreck with.

My opinion of Exploring the U.S. Life-Saving Service 1878-1915: 17 Student Workshops with 120 Activities is that it is absolutely amazing. I would definitely recommend this to any study group that has even an inkling of interest in boats or the ocean. It’s generally enjoyable to read and every piece of information is refreshing and it’s topic that you see many books on. Who would have thought there was something before the coast guard?! I would also encourage you to check out Ms. Locklear’s email newsletter (click the link and the signup box is in the right hand sidebar). She sends out seasonal messages with blog posts and book news.

I am so excited to own this book and continue reading and learning from it. I will definitely be doing more of the activities in the future.

Make sure to check out more reviews from our fellow Homeschool Review Crew members over the next couple of days too!

Blessings,

Ballet Boy

Critical Comparisons

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.

The Critical Thinking Co.™ is one of my favorite companies for supplemental homeschool curriculum. They offer such fun books that teach kids to think in ways that they might not normally. Over the years, we’ve had the pleasure of reviewing a few of their books with the older kids, and this year, Grasshopper had the opportunity to give their stuff a try with Dare to Compare Math: Beginning.

AF7BD1A2-DB68-4CAA-8C37-8D9076620732Dare to Compare Math: Beginning is a consumable workbook, available in physical or digital formats ($12.99 each). The physical book, which I received, is for a single student’s use; the digital copy can be used for multiple students in the same household. It is designed for kids in second or third grade. Since Grasshopper is finishing up his second grade year, it was perfect for him. The softcover book has 92 pages and is the first in the Dare to Compare Math series (there is also “Level 1” and “Level 2”). It has 150 problems all together; after the problems are sections for hints, answers, and samples of other math books from The Critical Thinking Co.™.

19B973B1-B581-4D7C-AAF8-48388519E0DDEach page (for the first 50 pages) has three problems on it, and Grasshopper and I dived right in at the beginning. And I immediately had reservations. He struggled with understanding what was going on with these problems. But we continued on, and before long he was off and running. By the time he got to problems 125-26, he was saying how “fun and easy” they were.

There are a wide variety of types of problems in the book, but they are all based around the idea of comparisons. For many of the problems, the information given seems unusual, but when you stop and think it through, they’re not difficult to solve. (Of course, that’s coming from me, and I’m a little above the suggested grade level!) For example, you can see the word problem in the middle of the photographed page. It gives you the number of teachers and students for a given field trip, and your job (well, your student’s job) is to separate the information out and determine which school sent more teachers on the field trip. When I had Grasshopper write down how many students (S) and teachers (T) were on the trip from each school, it was easy to see and compare to find the right answer.

Some of the problems are more traditional math problems (Fill in the blank: ___+23=54). Some have multiple parts all using the same basic set of information. Some use charts or graphs for students to read and decipher. Some are supplemented with illustrations, which may or may not be necessary to study in order to solve the problem. And so on.

Overall, once we got over that initial “Oh no, what I have I gotten us into with this review” moment, Grasshopper and I have had a good time working through this book together.

The Critical Thinking Co.™ has a lot of options for students from PreK all the way through high school and beyond. As their name implies, they put a focus on teaching kids how to think rather than how to simply solve problems. I really appreciate this, which is why they’ve been one of my favorite companies over the years. This week, members of the Homeschool Review Crew are talking about a wide variety of their books (though not nearly all of them!), in a wide age range of student levels. I invite you to click through to learn more about this great company!

And if you’re interested in reading my past reviews, you can find those links below.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

 

My past reviews of The Critical Thinking Co.:

Sentence Diagramming: Beginning

Pattern Explorer

Understanding Pre-Algebra