We recently received for review a pretty cool new book. It’s from a company called Wizzy Gizmo, which gets its name from the main character of the book series. We received Book One: Who Created Everything? by Chris del Aguila and Justin Cummins. The book is a 58-page, full color paperback. There are seven chapters, most of which are very short. It was easy for us to read multiple chapters in a sitting, even when it was close to (or past!) bedtime. The illustrations, which were drawn by one of the authors, are beautiful. I know that word is tossed around pretty liberally these days in regards to children’s book illustrations, but I truly believe it’s fitting here. The layout of the book was really nicely done as well. There is a lot of interest from page to page, beyond just text and pictures. They did a nice job of incorporating their text into their pictures. Who Created Everything? is written with kids ages 4-12 in mind, and I think that’s pretty accurate. My kids are 2, 7, and 10, and they all enjoyed our read aloud time with this book. Small Fry, being only 2, didn’t really fully understand the book, of course, but he sat quietly and listened and looked at the pictures (for the most part) while we read. Retail price is $12.99, which is very reasonable for the quality of the book. [Read more…]
I mentioned in a previous post, the one where I talked about what we’d accomplished in the 2013-14 school year, that I wanted my kids to take the summer “easy” rather than “off” in order to keep their skills sharp. When the option for reviewing items from Hewitt Homeschooling came up, I thought this was just the ticket for the writing portion of our “summer school.” I chose My First Report: Sports (retail price $8.95) for us to work on because both boys enjoy sports (although Seahawk more so than Munchkin). I knew they’d be interested in learning more about a variety of sports and games. After all, knowing the hows, whys, and rules of games will make them more fulfilling to play. The age range for the My First Reports were perfect for both of my kids, too – grades 1-4. Seahawk just finished up 4th grade, but he can use a bit of remedial work in a few subjects (including writing), so I had him use this product, even though he was on the very edge of the age range. Munchkin was right in the middle of the age range, and this was a good product for him. [Read more…]
Do you love books? Do you love teaching your children about all sorts of subjects using “real” books instead of textbooks? Are unit studies your cup of tea? Then Moving Beyond the Page might be right up your alley! We recently received for review two of their unit studies in the 7-9 age range. The first was the Language Arts Package – The Whipping Boy, which included an online teacher guide and a physical copy of the novel. The second was the Science Package – Sound. This included a physical teacher guide and a life-size model of the human ear.
Let’s dive into the literature package first. I remember having read The Whipping Boy as a child, and I thought my boys would enjoy it. They typically love books set in the middle ages. They love anything to do with “knights in shining armor times,” actually. Had we made this book a read-aloud like we normally do with our school literature, I’m convinced they would have loved this one too. But part of the focus of Moving Beyond the Page is building kids’ reading skills, not just “getting it done,” so I did the program the way it was designed and made the boys do their own reading. They weren’t thrilled with that, but it was good for them.
Because the literature unit was an online guide, I didn’t have an actual book to teach from. But that was okay because the guide was mobile-device friendly, so I was able to use our Kindle Fire and wi-fi to get the job done. The online guide includes everything you need to teach the unit. You get the online teacher manual (this resource is completely online, not a downloadable PDF), a physical copy of the novel, and a 3-month license to print the downloadable student pages, all for $18.92.
The teacher guide has comprehension questions and several different activities to choose from. These range from worksheets to discussion topics to doing research related to what was read and more. Normally I create the boys’ worksheets by hand (no printer at home), but this coincided with my tendinitis, so we ended up getting them printed this time.
Execution of the program was very straightforward each day. The boys would read the book – sometimes together, but usually one would read and then the other. The chapters in The Whipping Boy are very short, so they were assigned three per day. We would go over the questions very briefly (more on that, and why we did them only briefly each day, later) and then do as many of the activities from the guide as worked for us. The boys’ favorite was when they got to design a crest (coat of arms) for each of the main characters. Most of the activities in the literature unit were worksheet-based, so I bought them each a folder (the kind with metal clasps in the middle) to hold all of their papers in. This worked really well for us; it’s a lot more budget-friendly and space-friendly than binders.
Each unit in the Moving Beyond the Page curriculum package concludes with a final project. For The Whipping Boy, this was a monologue. The boys each planned out what they would say and then recited them for Will and me. They were instructed to include all the different kinds of speech patterns they’d learned about during the study in their monologue – idioms, similes, metaphors, and hyperboles.
Remember before when I mentioned that we did the comprehension questions only briefly? That’s because I saved them for the end of the unit study and we played a Jeopardy! style game with them. I split the questions into five categories (Vocabulary, Chapters 1-5, Chapters 6-10, Chapters 11-15, and Chapters 16-20), and chose five questions – or words, in the case of the vocabulary category – for each category. I wrote one question on the lined side of an index card, along with its answer (the kids never saw this part, so having the answer there was just fine). Once the questions were all written out, I mixed them up within their own categories, and then assigned each card a number, 1-5. With the cards all laid out, we played the game just like Jeopardy! except that we did questions and answers instead of answers and questions. At the end of the game, we surprised the winner with the ability to add his points to his “good behavior point chart.” (Seahawk won, 27-25.)
Along with our Language Arts study of The Whipping Boy, we learned all about Sound and the Human Ear with our science package. The boys absolutely loved this unit! They asked every single day if we could do our sound unit. This package was a little different because we received the physical teacher manual instead of the online version, as well as the required manipulative. The price for the physical unit on Sound is $37.99. The physical teacher guide is pretty much exactly like the online one, but there is one main difference: the student pages are included right in the teacher guide, and the copyright doesn’t allow you to make photocopies for multiple children. This wasn’t really a problem for the unit we selected, though, because almost all of the activities were hands-on. That’s why my kids loved it so much. We did some really cool things in our quest to learn how sound works and how our ears hear and interpret sounds. On the first day, we built a large-scale model of an ear. This one was made from things around the house and didn’t really look like an ear (compared to the actual model we received as a manipulative), but it was very effective in showing how the ear works. (Don’t mind the messy kitchen behind the boys; this was before the big meltdown that resulted in stricter tidying up policies.)
The baseball glove represents the outer ear, the toilet paper tube is our ear tube, the cottage cheese container is the eardrum, and the hammer, spoon, and bracelet are the bones deep down inside our ears. We used a marble to represent a sound wave, and the boys watched in fascination as the glove “caught” it and sent it through the tube where it hit the drum and caused the bones of the inner ear to vibrate.
Another day we tested different sounds by tying a spoon to the center of a piece of yarn, and the ends of the yarn to the boys’ fingers. With the spoon hanging free and their fingers in their ears, I tapped the spoon with objects of varying hardness – another spoon, a plastic fork, and the skein of yarn. Then I had Seahawk tap the spoon for me so I could see what it was like. Let me tell you, it was fascinating! The sound was the same, but different, simultaneously.
After we spent several days learning about our ears, we spent a few days learning about different sounds and how things make sounds. Then we learned all about different instruments, which led into the final project: designing an instrument. The boys were pretty basic with their instruments. Munchkin made a drum using an old shoebox and some plastic wrap. Seahawk made a guitar using an old shoebox and some rubber bands (which apparently I didn’t get a picture of…).
Overall, I think this was a pretty great curriculum resource. Moving Beyond the Page is designed to be a full homeschool curriculum – they have 12 literature units and six each science and social studies units per age level. Each literature unit corresponds with one science or social studies unit (I chose two that weren’t specifically designed to go together, but it worked well anyway), and they estimate that it should take you roughly 3-4 hours per day to get through it. I found that it didn’t take nearly that long. One and a half to two hours and we were done.
Add a math curriculum (and any “electives” you want your kids to have) and you’re done with the basic education. It can get quite expensive to go that route, though – several hundred dollars for the full year curriculum. That can definitely be a problem for many homeschooling parents; I know it would be a huge deterrent for us. If price isn’t an object for you, I would definitely recommend that you investigate Moving Beyond the Page for your homeschool curriculum. If, however, you can’t afford the full-year package, I would still recommend taking a look at one or two of the individual unit studies to get your feet wet. I’ve listed the prices for the units I received in this review, and there are ways to make it even cheaper – pass on the physical book and get it from your library, for example.
If you make the plunge into getting this curriculum (Moving Beyond the Page has packages for ages 4-14, not just the 7-9 I received, so there’s something for nearly everyone!), the next step is deciding whether you want to get the physical guide or the online version. Both have their pros and cons. The main pro to the physical version is, of course, you don’t have to have a computer or mobile device right with you while you teach. The con is that you can’t make copies of the worksheets for your kids; you have to purchase a second copy of the consumables. The online copy allows you to make copies, but you lose your access after three months. The physical book is yours to keep.
As for which I’d recommend, it’s really a tossup. I don’t feel like there’s a right answer. If the access for the online version didn’t go away, I’d recommend that one. But since it does, that makes the decision a lot harder. You’ll just have to decide which way would work better for you. (And honestly, I’d be a little frustrated as a paying customer to have my access revoked; the price isn’t that much cheaper than the physical version to be so limited, even if it is easy to complete the unit in the time they give you. That’s probably my biggest criticism of the program.)
There are loads of other reviews for this program besides mine. Different members of the Crew got a variety of items for all different age groups. Make sure to click over and check them out!
Have you ever used Moving Beyond the Page? Let me know in the comments!
What is a parent’s job?
The answer will probably vary from person to person, family to family, but they all center around one theme: Training our children to become responsible citizens. How do we do that? By making sure they are equipped with the knowledge and character to make good choices. We Choose Virtues is here to help. For the purposes of review (and to help me train my sons into being better people!), I received a set of Parenting Cards with all the different virtues on them. The Parenting Cards retail for $38.49 and are geared toward kids in the 3-11 age range. The ideal goal of the program is to introduce one Virtue each week, spending about 10-15 minutes learning about it and doing age-appropriate activities (many ideas of which are included on the cards themselves, or in the Download Bundle which I’ll talk about in a minute).
The Parenting Cards are a lovely set of 12 full-color, double sided, 8.5 x 5.5 inch cards. Each one has a different virtue on it: Content, Self-Control, Obedient, Perseverant, Patient, Kind, Honest, Helpful, Gentle, Forgiving, Diligent, and Attentive. Each virtue is taught as an affirmative statement: I am Obedient. There’s no room for “I will try to be obedient” or “I wish I was obedient” in this program. The idea is to give kids the self-confidence to be virtuous, right from the beginning.
Each virtue taught in the program has its own character, and that character is essentially the virtue personified. For example, the card for “I am Content” introduces us to “Cake Jake.”
Jake is a boy who loves to eat cake. His parents own a bakery, so he’s able to eat lots of it. But sometimes Jake wants more choices – he isn’t content with the current options. Kids are reminded through Jake’s story that it’s important to not want too much. We should be happy with what we have. Each card has a character and story like this.
Additionally, there are activities on the backs of the cards to help parents with ideas for putting the concept behind the virtue into practice. These include things like games and discussion points. The cards also have Bible verses on their fronts. You can choose from the NIrV (New International Reader’s Version), which includes both Old and New Testament verses, or the KJV (King James Version), which is only Old Testament. The KJV includes only OT verses because it was designed with Jewish customers in mind, but you definitely don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate the product. They’re also available in Spanish.
In addition to the Parenting Cards, I was blessed with the WCV Download Bundle. There’s all kinds of cool stuff in there, and it sells for $7.99. This includes all sorts of neat printables including a Teacher’s Handbook, Family Character Assessment, Coloring Pages, Awards, and Sing-Along Sheets. Because we don’t do much printing, we didn’t utilize these too much, but I still think they’re great resources. (Also, my kids aren’t huge fans of coloring, so that would’ve been a waste of money to have the coloring sheets printed. But if your kids enjoy coloring, these would be awesome! They’re absolutely adorable.) We did, however, do a handwritten version of the Character Assessment, and that was very eye-opening. But mostly we just used the Parenting Cards for our Virtue lessons.
There are two specific instances that were memorable during our time reviewing We Choose Virtues which I would like to share with you guys today. The first is when we were working on Obedience. I chose that one first because it’s the area my kids need the most help in. I’m not saying they’re bad kids, but the focal point on the obedience card is more than just “I do what I’m told.” It is “I obey exactly what you say right away.” The difference is subtle, but it’s there, and it’s important. Did you catch it? The part my kids had trouble with was “right away.” On the back of the Obedience card is a game to help kids practice their obedience. The basic gist is that you whisper an instruction to one child, and everyone else is supposed to guess what you told them while they’re doing it. It was a good for my boys to put this into action in such a simple, fun way. (And it had them do my living room tidying that day!)
The second one is a bit more “real life.” We were studying Perseverance (I do what needs to be done, even when it’s tough; I don’t give up) the same week we did our soap whittling project while we read Little House in the Big Woods, and Munchkin was getting incredibly frustrated. He was nearly to the point of tears when I took him aside and reminded him of our “Virtue of the Week.” He was able to go over the meaning of perseverance with me and recite the catchphrase. Once we’d done that, he took a deep breath and finished his carving. He even liked it in the end! To me, that’s a beautiful example of what We Choose Virtues is all about. The idea is not simply to teach your children (or students) what a virtue is, but to help them apply them to their everyday lives.
The long and the short of it is this: We Choose Virtues is a great product for helping parents raising upright, virtuous children. And that’s what we want in the next generation.
Interested in trying We Choose Virtues? From now through the end of August 2014, use code BTS20 and you can take an additional 20% off anything from their online store.
I have a positively superb product to share with you guys today. In the few weeks we’ve had it, it has become hands down one of our favorite school manipulatives. What is it? Well, it’s more than an “it.” I received for review from Learning Wrap ups all of this great stuff:
- 4th Grade Math Learning Palette 1 Base Center Kit ($71.99)
- 3rd Grade Reading 1 Base Center Kit ($61.99)
- Learning Wrap up Basic Math Intro Kit w/o CDs ($44.99)
- Learning Wrap up Vocabulary Intro Kit ($35.99)
- 10 Days to Multiplication Mastery Wrap up and Book Combo ($12.99)
- 10 Steps to Addition Mastery Wrap up and Book Combo ($12.99)
These products, which are ideal for children in all elementary grades – Kindergarten through 5th – became high use products in our homeschool, especially the math wrap ups. You see, the boys have been struggling with their facts for a long time. They still counted fingers for adding and subtracting and barely knew the multiplication tables at all (past the 3s, that is). Their inability to master these was weighing heavy on me; I knew that they should have known them by now (at least Seahawk should have, since he’s nearing the end of 4th grade), but worksheets and flashcards just weren’t working, no matter how often we did them. Will had Learning Wrap ups when he was a kid and thought they would be the right answer (pardon the pun) for the boys, but he couldn’t remember what they were called. When our package arrived, he was happy to have these in the house! (And that’s really saying something since we strive for minimalism.)
So, what is a Learning Wrap up, anyway? Put simply, it is a set of 10 “keys,” connected together with an attached string (not attached with the string, but the string is also attached). The child separates the one they’re working on – they don’t come apart, but you rotate one to work with and hold the others together out of the way – and wraps the string around the key. There’s a list of numbers down each side and the math family (+1, x5, etc) in the middle. The goal is to take the numbers on the left (in top-to-bottom order), add, subtract, multiply, or divide by the family they’re working on, and match them to the correct answer on the right. Each key is self-correcting; there is a raised pattern on the back, and if all the answers are correct, the string will cover those lines. The ultimate goal of the Learning Wrap ups is that the student will learn the facts and be able to complete each “key” in 30 seconds or less.
They come in an incredibly wide variety of topics and problems. The math set that we received includes addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and fractions. The Vocabulary set we got includes synonyms, antonyms, homonyms, and compound words. In addition to all of these, there are Wrap ups for ESL (English as a Second Language), Geography, Spanish, Music Theory, Science, Advanced Math, and Preschool subjects.
To supplement the Learning Wrap ups, we received the addition and multiplication mastery workbooks. These included such exercises as “rapid writing” and “math family fun pages.” They worked very nicely with Wrap ups. Seahawk used the Multiplication Mastery, and Munchkin used Addition Mastery during the review period. I fully intend to purchase one more copy of each (individually, the workbooks are only $4.99 each and are consumable, so you need to buy one per student) and have them switch for further mastery this summer.
We haven’t done a whole lot with the Vocabulary Wrap ups yet (at least not formally – they’ve still gotten lots of use!), but as we continue to study various types of words, they will be great tools. They work exactly the same way as their math counterparts, but you’re matching words instead of numbers.
The Learning Palettes are really cool, too. The basic design is that of a painter’s palette, but instead of paints all around the edge, there are spaces for colored discs. You place a question card in the center of the palette, which has 12 problems to solve. Each problem is assigned a colored disc – there are six colors, and each one has a solid disc and one with a hole. There are a variety of answers along the outside of the card, and the task is simple: place the disc from the question into the spot with the correct answer. Like the Wrap ups, the Learning Palette is self-correcting; after the discs are placed, the card is turned over and the answers are revealed. The method is the same regardless of the grade level you’re using.
The highest grade level for the Reading Learning Palette is 3rd, so it was primarily used by Munchkin during our review period; we did get 4th grade math, though, which Seahawk used. The Learning Palette Kits each come with lots of curriculum cards (which are also available separately in both math and reading). The 4th Grade Math kit comes with 6 packs of curriculum cards, and the 3rd Grade Reading comes with 5 packs. Each pack has 12 cards, and each card has 12 questions. For those of you who aren’t so into math, that adds up to (well, multiplies to) 720 questions in the reading category and 864 in math. Talk about a lot of information!
Let’s talk pros and cons.
The pros are clear and strong. First of all, the programs are fun for kids. Way more fun than flash cards. And when kids are having fun, they learn more. My boys absolutely loved the Wrap ups, and guess what? They’ve very nearly got their multiplication tables memorized, and they only rarely have to use their fingers for adding anymore. That makes me one happy mama! It’s taken us a bit longer than the 10 Days advertised, but you know what? I don’t mind. At least we’re finally making progress, which is way more than I could say two months ago. They really enjoy the Learning Palettes, too. They don’t like them quite as well as the Wrap ups, but I think that’s just because they’re bigger and more cumbersome than the hand-held Wrap up.
The main con with this program is that things are never mixed up; the Wrap up is the same every time. I don’t think that hurts the kids’ ability to master the facts in the short term, though. I’m confident that my boys were learning the facts, not the string pattern. Seeing the facts in a different order than they were on the Wrap up did slow them down a little bit, but not too much. And this is where the combination of the Wrap up and the Mastery workbook are necessary. The workbook (almost) completely counteracts the con of the sameness of the Wrap up.
While the two products (Wrap ups and Palettes) are quite different, the pros and cons are the same for both. The Palettes are super fun – even Small Fry loved playing with them! (They kept him occupied quite nicely while we were working on other lessons.) The questions don’t change, but there are enough of them that it probably doesn’t matter. By the time your child has worked all the way through the cards, the “old” ones will feel fresh again.
Would I recommend this product? In a heartbeat. In fact, I’ve already done so several times. I also plan to buy some of the lower level Wrap ups for my nieces and nephews as they start hitting their “school age” birthdays this year and next – that’s how much I believe in this product. It worked wonders in my boys, and I’m telling anyone who will listen about them!
While not a part of my review, there is an online version of the Learning Palette, too. Make sure to click the banner below for other crew reviews about that aspect of the product.
We love books in my house. (Well, most of us do; Seahawk might be the exception.) We especially love reading books together, and if we can make it a school lesson, all the better. When the option for a review of a Progeny Press study guide was offered, I was super excited. When I found out one of the options for my kids’ age range was Little House in the Big Woods, I was even more excited. Will had read this book to the boys a couple of years ago, but I had never read it. Ever. As a child or as an adult. Can you believe that? Me neither. So I expressed high interest in getting my hands on this guide.
What is Progeny Press? I’m glad you asked! The short answer is that they are a company that provides “study guides for literature, from a Christian perspective” (quoted from their website). They have study guides for over 100 books available on their website, ranging from classics like Little House in the Big Woods and Charlotte’s Web to current popular novels like The Hunger Games.The guides cover a wide age range, starting in lower elementary (grades K-3) and going all the way up through high school guides (grades 9-12). Because of the age of my kids, I obviously chose one in the “Upper Elementary” range – grades 3-5.
Their prices are quite reasonable – most of the guides are between $11.99 and $21.99. Little House in the Big Woods, the one I am reviewing today, costs $16.99. What you get for that price is a digital download, available immediately. You have two choices of what to do with your download. You can print it off and bind it, which is what I did, or you can have your student(s) type right into the PDF. That’s right – it’s fully interactive! (This option is available for many of the guides, but not all of them.) For older students or families who aren’t worried about their kids’ computer time, this would be a wonderful option to save the cost of printing. I went ahead and printed ours for two reasons: first, because we want our kids to limit their screen time, and second because I was having both boys work on it. Printing multiple copies is allowed within a single family, so this was the perfect solution for us. After printing, I used comb-binding to hold them together (this was done for free at my church) into “official” workbooks. For an extra dollar, you can have a pre-printed workbook instead of the digital download that you print yourself. For the same price as the interactive PDF, you can get a CD with the study guide on it mailed to you for printing on your own. The benefit to the PDF or CD is, of course, that you can use it with multiple students within the same home. A pre-printed workbook would require one per student.
Progeny Press study guides take between 4-10 weeks to complete, depending on the complexity of the book. It took us about six weeks to work through our study. They recommend that you have your student read the book in its entirety during the first week of the literature unit and then work through the study guide for the remainder of the weeks until it’s done. We didn’t do this. We chose to do the book as a read-aloud (remember when I said I hadn’t read it before?), and I knew that it would work better with my kids if we did the questions and activities as we read instead of bulking up on one and then the other. The study guide is split up into two-chapter chunks, except the very last section which covers the final three chapters of the memoir. So we would read one chapter a day (occasionally two, if the boys were “feeling” it and my voice wasn’t too tired) and then spend three or four days working through the questions, vocabulary words, and activities in the guide.
I really liked the questions they asked because they pushed the kids to not only be able to regurgitate what they’d heard, but also to think through why certain things happened in the book the way they did. Additionally, there were Bible tie-in questions included in each section, hence the “from a Christian perspective” tagline that Progeny boasts. After the questions that deal strictly with the text, there’s a Bible verse or two (printed right in the study guide) and questions about how the kids think that section of Scripture applies to the chapters read. For example, in the chapter that shows us Laura being jealous of Mary’s golden curls, the study guide reminds us of 1 Peter 3:3-4 (Your beauty should not come from outward adornment…) and 1 Samuel 16:7 (The Lord does not look at things man looks at…). Then students are asked to ponder what beauty is.
So, you read a book and answer a bunch of questions. That’s it, right?
Progeny Press study guides also offer several activity options to go along with each section. Our favorite thing to do with our study guide went along with the chapter that describes Pa whittling a shelf out of wood for Ma. The boys got to try their hand at whittling! Instead of wood and a sharp knife, they used soap and a butter knife. They absolutely loved this activity!
Their grandfather (Will’s dad) is big into whittling, and they’ve seen him do it loads of times, so they were pumped to try it themselves, especially Seahawk. In the end, Seahawk made a boat and Munchkin made a car.
Other activities that corresponded with the book included going sledding (we never get enough snow for that, and besides, it’s spring!), making butter (ours never got firm enough to “wash”), watching a video about cheese making and honey collecting (thank goodness for YouTube!), and making Johnny cake (still on our to-do list).
The long and the short of it is this: this study guide was absolutely amazing. If the others are as good as this one – and I have no reason to doubt that they are – they are definitely worth getting, especially if you try to run a literature-rich homeschool like I do. My recommendation would be to get either the PDF download or the CD over the printed workbook, though, especially if you have kids in varying age ranges. This way, one purchase covers you for all your kids; you can keep the files and print new ones as younger kids “grow into” the books. Oh, and one other thing you need to be aware of: these guides do not come with the literature. You have to provide that yourself. But most of the titles are easily found in a well-stocked public library.
Now, what are you still doing here? Head on over to Progeny Press and find yourself a study guide to do with your kids!
Prices quoted in this post are current as of Monday, June 2, 2014
A few weeks ago, the boys and I finished reading the New Testament and were slated to dive into the Old Testament when I was offered for review What on Earth Can I Do? from Apologia Educational Ministries. Because of this offer, we’ve been working on this instead of strictly reading the Bible; the program allows us to use and think of the Bible in “real life” ways, which has been really helpful.
As part of this curriculum, I received four books: the What on Earth Can I Do? hardcover textbook ($39); the What on Earth Can I Do? Notebooking Journal ($24); the What on Earth Can I Do? Junior Notebooking Journal ($24); and the What on Earth Can I Do? Coloring Book ($8). (Everything but the textbook is softcover.) What on Earth Can I Do? is the fourth part of Apologia’s biblical worldview training program “What We Believe.” We haven’t done the first three parts, but that wasn’t a problem; they don’t build on each other. What on Earth Can I Do? focuses on having a biblical worldview of stewardship and is geared toward kids in elementary school – roughly grades 1-6.
The Bible is a very important book to our family, but it’s one that I struggle to teach. Reading and teaching are two very different things, and the latter is difficult. Because of that, and the fact that we’d just finished the New Testament (as I mentioned earlier), the timing of this program was perfect for us. I love it when that happens! And having this be “open and go” curriculum was frosting on the cake.
Use of this product is really easy. There are 8 lessons, and each is designed to take about two weeks with three lessons per week (we went a little slower and used it 4-5 days per week, but still finished each lesson in a two-week span). There’s a suggested schedule in the front of the two Notebooking Journals, which we followed loosely. Each session starts with some sort of read-aloud. Some days it’s pretty short – a couple of pages of introduction to the lesson. Other days it’s quite long – 10-12 pages of story (some fictional, some retellings of Jesus’ parables) that demonstrates the heart of the lesson. The long days didn’t feel long, though, thanks to the great writing of John Hay and David Webb. I found this to be a good time for some read-aloud time with the boys, but you could easily have older children do the reading on their own, so long as you’ve also read the material so you can discuss it with them. Discussion is very important to this curriculum.
Once the reading and subsequent discussion is done, there are activities in the Journals for the kids. These range from coloring pages to note-taking pages to crosswords and more. Because we were blessed with both the regular Journal and the Junior version, Seahawk and Munchkin each got their own. Seahawk got the regular one since he’s older. This one has a lot of required writing. There are questions for both comprehension and critical thinking for both of the longer stories of the lesson (the fiction and the parable). There are complex crossword puzzles and word searches. And there are lots and lots of blank pages for taking notes. You may recall from an earlier review I wrote that Seahawk isn’t a strong speller (and dislikes writing because of that – we’re still working on him), so I did a lot of the writing for him. But rest assured, all of the answers were his!
The Junior Notebooking Journal is very similar to the regular one, but everything is easier. There are coloring pages instead of questions (but the questions are also in the text book, so if you have only younger kids, you won’t miss out on the discussion possibilities by using only the Junior Notebooking Journal). The crosswords and word searches are only a fraction the difficulty. The mini-book activity is the same in both. Because Munchkin’s Journal had coloring pages already, Seahawk was the main beneficiary of the Coloring Book, although both Small Fry and Munchkin helped him on occasion, as you can see from my photo at the beginning of the post.
The lessons we’ve finished so far have followed the fictional Edwards family, who live in England during World War II. I like this because we get some “recent” history in with our Bible lesson. This series of stories has opened up quite a bit of discussion about that time in history. Each lesson also includes several one-page articles about relevant people and places. We’ve had mini-lessons on Maria von Trapp, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Lou Gehrig, and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, to name just a few.
But our favorite part of every lesson is the retelling of Jesus’ parables. These are much longer than their biblical counterparts, offering a few made-up details that don’t appear in Scripture (primarily giving names the characters). They are so well done, though. I look forward to reading those each time. Part of the discussion/written questions (depending on how you choose to do them) includes having you go back to the Bible and read the real parable that the story was based on and doing a compare/contrast. I loved that. It’s fabulous that they don’t just give you “their version” of a piece of the Bible without making sure you go back to the source. It’s clear that the folks at Apologia are “Bible first” kind of people.
I can say without a doubt that I recommend this series. The books are very well put together, both in content and workmanship. The activities go well with the lessons, and the lessons are a good length (we spent between 30 and 60 minutes per session). If you’re looking for a great way to implement the Bible in your homeschool, this is definitely something worth taking a look at. Still not sure? You can access the first lesson in its entirety (two weeks worth of curriculum!) for free on the Apologia website. You do this by clicking “What on Earth Sample” from the page I just linked to. It’s available as a PDF download. Additionally, you connect with the Apologia people on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and Pinterest.
Cursive handwriting is something I learned in the third grade. As a parent who didn’t really know anything about homeschooling or what it should look like, I assumed that that was when kids were mentally and physically able to handle the task of writing in cursive. So color me surprised when I was assigned the Rhythm of Handwriting Cursive – Complete Set by Logic of English to review. The folks over there recommend teaching kids cursive before teaching them manuscript. There are several reasons for this, most of which are based around the idea that “it’s just easier.” (For example, all the lowercase letters begin at the same place and spacing within and between words is more easily controlled.) The one that stuck with me the most, though – and the one that made me wish we’d had this program for Seahawk two years ago – was that when writing in cursive, it’s hard to mix up the B and the D. Think about it: what does a cursive lowercase B look like? Nothing like a lowercase D, unlike their manuscript counterparts.
But Seahawk did learn cursive as a third-grader, and he (rarely) mixes up his Bs and Ds anymore. So we used this program with Munchkin, who has been desperately begging me to teach him cursive for about a year. He was positively thrilled when the package arrived, and even now that it’s been several weeks, still loves his cursive handwriting lessons.
The complete set includes everything you need to get started teaching your child (recommended age for Rhythm of Handwriting is 4 to adult) cursive handwriting. You get a softcover workbook ($15), a white board for practicing ($12), cursive tactile cards which are like flash cards, but the letters on the front are a sandpaper-like texture for the child to feel how the letter goes ($28), and a cursive handwriting chart which details each letter along with the steps for forming that letter ($10). You can purchase the items separately at the prices listed above or as a complete set for $65. The only things you need to provide are a dry erase marker, a pencil, and a student.
Inside the workbook are several suggested schedules for teaching the letters. It all depends on the age and enthusiasm of your student. Because Munchkin is a solid reader and writer, we moved pretty quickly through the workbook; he learned 4 new letters a day on the “learning” days and moved even faster through on the “review/word” days.
We started the program using it exactly as prescribed. This involved going over the letter names and sounds on the flash cards, having him trace the texture of the letter on the card with his finger, having me describe exactly how to form the letters to him, and then finally having him write the letters in the workbook.
He quickly grew tired of this.
He’s the strongest reader of the two boys, so he already knew the letter sounds; that made that portion of the lesson unnecessary. The workbook includes large versions of the letters that he traced with his finger when he felt it was necessary to “figure it out,” so we didn’t end up using the cards all that often – the book alone was enough. The same was true for the white board. He was competent enough to just dive right into the workbook, using a pencil. I’m not saying this to diminish the necessity/quality of those products – they’re fabulous. They just weren’t necessary in our situation. For a younger child, or one who isn’t a super strong reader/writer, they would be invaluable assets.
I think this program was great. It was easy to teach, and I felt like it was easy for Munchkin to learn the letters. And he’s so excited to be able to read and write in cursive now.
I really like it. My favorite part was learning the capital letters because they’re more complicated. I liked the challenge. Learning to combine letters into words was exciting too. It’s awesome because you can clearly read cursive when you learn to write it.
Logic of English has loads of other products, too – not just the handwriting program we used. Make sure to click the banner at the end of this post to read reviews of all the different products Crew members were blessed with! Additionally, you can find them on Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and Twitter.
Ever wanted to be a missionary? That’s something that our family is interested in, and finding out what it’s really like in the trenches, so to speak, is fascinating for us. That’s why I was excited to get a copy of The Brinkman Adventures Season 2: Episodes 13-24 from The Brinkman Adventures.
This is a cool product, because it’s essentially a radio show, like they had back before there was TV. While the program is very entertaining, it also has spiritual value, too. You see, the Brinkman Adventures takes real-life stories from missionaries (current and retired) and builds them into the family-friendly drama program. Due to its family-friendly nature, the program is suitable for all ages.
When we first join the Brinkman family in Episode 13 (I’ve not heard season 1), they’re driving through Texas on their way to Belize. They meet up with former missionaries to Hong Kong, John Benty and his wife, who give them shelter for a couple of days as well as sharing stories from their time in Hong Kong. It’s during this time that my personal favorite of the episodes is heard.
We travel with John Benty (through his memory and retelling of his story) to Hong Kong where he meets a woman on the streets who immediately pegs him as a missionary. She asks – nay, begs – him for a Bible. Because of the laws in Hong Kong at the time, he was unable to bring any Bibles with him when he traveled there, so he doesn’t have one to give to her. She continues to beg him for the Word of God. He promises to get her a copy, even though he has no idea or plan on how to keep that promise. With their meeting time and place scheduled, they depart from one another.
A little later in the day, he bumps into a missionary friend of his (they’d come to Hong Kong separately) and asks him for a Bible. The friend tells him that he only has five Bibles, and because of the laws, he must leave Hong Kong with all five of them. You see, missionaries were allowed to bring Bibles into the country; they just weren’t allowed to leave them there. John tells his friend about this woman, and the friend acknowledges that she “deserves” a Bible, but feels that his hands are tied. They brainstorm for a long time, and finally John comes up with a solution.
He takes one-fifth of each of his friend’s Bibles out and re-binds them into shorter, partial Bibles. He then binds the pieces they cut out into a new Bible and makes a cover out of a T-shirt. He’s now able to keep his promise to the woman he met earlier, but his friend will still be able to leave with “all five” of the Bibles he entered the country with. Amazing, huh?
That’s just one of the amazing stories from the Brinkmans in this season.
They also travel through Mexico, being chased by bandits along the way. They’re stopped by a truckers strike on the interstate, causing them to be late to a performance they were scheduled to be a part of in Belize. And at the end of the season, they travel to France for a Missionaries’ Convention, where we meet another missionary couple who were serving in a made-up middle eastern country (made up in order to protect the innocent).
Our thoughts on this product? We really enjoyed it. A lot. It was a really nice thing to have on while we were eating lunch or having low-key drawing time during Small Fry’s naps. I love that we were able to be entertained and enjoy spiritual edification at the same time.
The Brinkman Adventures operates on a donation basis. You can get the episodes on physical CDs for a suggested donation of $25 or as an mp3 download (that’s what I got) for a suggested donation of $17. If you can’t afford the suggested donation, or if you want to give more than the suggested amount, that’s perfectly okay. They have a “donate” button on their store to accommodate those scenarios.
If you’ve ever wanted to be a missionary – or are just curious about what it’s like – I highly recommend The Brinkman Adventures!
Math is one of those subjects that so many parents dread teaching their children. It can be difficult, that’s for sure. I would never want to do it without help – and I was good at math! Australian company CTC Math is here to be that help for us. For the purposes of this review, I was given a free 12 Month Family Plan subscription.
How it Works
CTC Math is an online math curriculum for all ages, Kindergarten through 12th grade. The program consists of over 1300 video lessons, each one narrated by Pat Murray, a father of ten (who, I might add, has a lovely Australian accent!). The videos are very well done, each one clearly explaining the concept being taught along with animated examples. Once the child has watched the video, they move on to the questions portion of the lesson, which is really just an interactive worksheet.
For the lower grades (K-5), CTC Math qualifies as a full curriculum; for grades 6-12, it should be used as a supplement to something else.
CTC Math is offering a special promotion right now for homeschoolers: you can get their family plan (unlimited access to all grade levels for as many students as you have) for $118.80. The normal price for this program is $297, so this is pretty significant savings. One thing to be aware of is that when you sign up for the program, you’re given 5 student spots. If you have more than five students, just shoot them an email and they’ll open up your account to allow as many as you need. They’re always happy to do that. (Remember when I said that narrator and founder Pat Murray had 10 kids? Yeah. These guys understand big families!)
How Seahawk and Munchkin Used the Program
The best part (at least for our family) was that they have the videos set up to work on a computer with Flash or on a mobile device without it. Because we only have one computer, which Will needs for work most days, it was a nice surprise when I tried CTC on the Kindle Fire and it worked. On days the computer was available, the boys used it, but over 90% of the time, they used the Kindle, so it was really awesome that we had that as an option.
As a rule, we do the “together” schoolwork first, and then I get the boys going on their individual assignments. CTC Math is included in the latter category. I would get one of them going on math and the other on a different subject, and they would switch.
Like I mentioned before, there’s a short video on each topic that the child watches first. These videos range from about 2-7 minutes long. The student can watch the video as many times as (s)he needs to in order to fully comprehend the material. There were times when my boys needed to watch the videos more than once, so it was really nice that there were no limits on the video-watching. Once they’re confident they understand the information, they move on to the questions portion of the lesson.
I had the kids use the program every day – it took the place of our previous math curriculum, which was actually pretty similar to this, just without the video. Being able to add the video in was excellent. Our other workbook didn’t do a very good job of explaining what to do or why things were done that way. CTC Math covered essentially the same topics as that workbook, but Pat explained things much better than I could. The kids really started excelling whereas before, they were just getting by.
I think this product is pretty awesome. It’s most useful if you want a “traditional” math curriculum for your kids. As a public school graduate, “traditional” is all I know. This fit that bill beautifully. My kids . . . well, I hate to say it, but they’re lazy when it comes to schoolwork. They don’t love anything we do. At least not the stuff that feels like “real” school. But they like CTC Math a whole lot better than our old workbooks, so that’s good praise for the program.
My only real critique of the program is that everything is done in the metric system, even though we were on the United States curriculum. That’s a pretty minor thing in my opinion, though. After all, the entire rest of the world uses the metric system, and honestly, the mechanics for measuring are the same whether you’re using centimeters or inches.
They boys’ absolute favorite thing about the program was the certificates they earned by performing well on their questions. If students get 100% on all of their questions in a particular unit, they earn a Platinum certificate, 95% earns a gold, 90% earns a silver, and 85% gets bronze. These certificates are emailed to the parent for optional printing. We don’t have any printer ink right now, so we didn’t print the certificates, but I’ve saved all the emails so we can print them at a later time. Even just seeing the certificates on the screen put huge smiles on my kids’ faces.