Review: Language Smarts™ Level E from The Critical Thinking Co.™

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Grammar and all of the rules of writing seem to be a tricky thing to grasp for my boys.  I don’t understand why.  I’ve drilled some of these concepts like tomorrow isn’t coming unless they get it.  Nope! A week later I’m still hollering at them to make sure they use upper case letters and periods.  Go figure.  When we got the chance to review Language Smarts™ Level E Grade: 4 from The Critical Thinking Co.™ I was rather excited! (My 9 year old son might not have been ha!) I figured this might the ticket to help fill in some gaps I’ve noticed we are missing.

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Language Smarts starts with Level A, for kindergartners, and has a stand alone book for each grade level through 4th grade.  Language Smarts™ Level E is geared for fourth grade and contains about 400 full color pages.  It is a full curriculum intended to teach reading, writing, grammar, and punctuation.  Also included are critical thinking skills and vocabulary.

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This program is about as straight forward as you can get.  The lessons are easy to follow with all of the information and directions provided right on the page.  NO PREP WORK FOR MOM! It is so easy that there isn’t a need for an extra teacher’s book.  If you need the answers you’ll find them in the back of the book.

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Activities are fun and include lots of puzzles like word-searches and word jumbles or fill-in-the-blank type activities.  There is plenty of color and interest on the page to hold most children’s attention.

The book begins with lessons on syllables and moves into word parts like prefixes, suffixes, and roots.  Next you’ll learn about synonyms, antonyms, anagrams, analogies, palindromes, and jumbles… many concepts I myself could brush up on.  There is also spelling and proofreading, a unit on reference materials, using a dictionary and a thesaurus and of course an encyclopedia.  Near the end you’ll cover things like nouns, verbs and all of the like. Before you are finished there will even be lessons on publishing.

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This book could be fantastic all on its own.  Simply start at the beginning and work your way through. To finish it in a typical school year you’d want to cover about two pages per day.  You child will come out with a vast knowledge of reading/writing/grammar. Or use it to supplement other course work.  Should your child need a little extra practice in some area you can just look up the topic in Language Smarts E and assign the pages.

How We Used It

This book has taken up permanent residence in our daily curriculum line up.  We skipped the section on syllables and jumped right in on word parts and we’ve been moving through it ever since, about 2 pages 3-4 days a week.  My 4th grades is able to mostly complete the pages on his own 15 or so minutes.  I check the work after.  Easy Peasy! He enjoys the work as he finds it makes sense and expectations are clear.  He is learning new material yet he isn’t strained to complete the work.

This is a simple and comprehensive program.  If you want something easy on you and your child than this program could be a very good choice.

I want to mention something else about the company. The Critical Thinking Co.™ now hows a range of software programs for the preschool level.  I wasn’t eligible to review these since I don’t have a child in that age range at the moment but other members of the Review Crew did.  They now offer:

These programs are designed to help you teacher your preschooler the full range of letter sounds and early phonics.  If you have a preschooler you really should check this out.

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Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}
 

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Review: Homeschool Legacy Cooking Up History

Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}

My homeschooling kiddos are big fans of unit studies.  This homeschooling mom is a big fan of Homeschool Legacy unit studies like the one we recently reviewed called Cooking up History with the Founding Presidents which is a Once-a-Week Micro-Study.  This particularly study happens to be what Homeschool Legacy refers to as a “microstudy” which means you learn a lot, in a short time, with ease.  What on earth could be better?  Oh… and this is cooking… cooking/learning projects/eating all rolled into one? I’m came out looking like a hero in this house!

Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}
Homeschool Legacy is a sweet little company created by veteran homeschooling mom Sharon Gibson.  You can see here that I’ve written about her unit studies before… actually my family has completed quite a few of them.  Did I tell you I was a fan? I once had the pleasure of meeting Sharon when she traveled to the MassHOPE conference near me in Massachusetts a few years back.  We had a fabulous time chatting about her work and how much my children enjoy her studies.   Sharon has been in the trenches, she knows exactly what a homeschooling family needs in a great unit study.

 

What are Micro-Studies?

Micro-studies are the best.  The best way to describe them are… short unit studies.  I know it sounds so complicated! Ha!  No worries though, these studies are jam packed with valuable information about whatever the topic may be.  And you, the homeschooling mom, are free to expand or shorten them in any way you wish.  These studies are PERFECT on their own or you can use them as add-ons to whatever your favorite curriculum happens to be.

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These micro-studies, if done are their own, are perfect to fill out a whole week’s worth of work or they can be completely in just one day a week over a month.  (or twice a week over two weeks) They are so flexible.

Cooking up History with the Founding Presidents was the PERFECT study for my history adoring children.  Oh, and cooking!  If anyone knows anything about my family they know that my 9 year old son is a truly talented and budding chef.  Let’s add American History and cooking together and oh my goodness the heavens have parted.  The most exciting thing? Even though my children have read just about every biography and text on every president they can find… (especially the early ones) they still learned so much.  I mean, First Lady’s are included… come on now!

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This Micro-Study is broken into 4 lessons and with each lesson you learn all about another president.  Then you cook up one of their favorite dishes!  Yahoo!

  • Lesson 1 – George Washington and cherry pie
  • Lesson 2 – John Adams and Apple Pan Dowdy
  • Lesson 3 – Thomas Jefferson and  macaroni and cheese
  • Lesson 4 – James Adams and vanilla flavored ice cream

This study was so simple to do.  We hit the library and took out our favorite books on each of the presidents in order to help us round things out.  We didn’t have to though and don’t feel like you should either.  The beginning of every study covers some great facts about each President and it is really all you need.

There is a complete supplies list provided so you can be super prepared.  The recipes and directions are all provided in easy to follow language.  This is such a no brainer.  You can’t loose.

This study comes as a downloadable PDF which you can print out for your own use (and destroying while cooking).  However, following along on the computer has advantages since you can easily access the links she’s provided.  With just a click you’ll find yourself watching some great videos and digging into some very helpful information about the president you are studying.

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The recipes themselves are simple.  I’m not much a chef myself and I’ve only sort of conquered my fear of the kitchen (sort of) in the last year or two.  Of course with my chef son on my side I wasn’t really needed.  I do want to point out that we didn’t follow the recipes exactly.  My family is dairy, egg, and oil free.  No, we don’t even use butter or margarine, not even the dairy free kinds.  That wasn’t a problem.  We are fairly experienced with recreating recipes or outright swapping things to fit the way we eat.  For example, with the cherry pie (pictured here) we used our own favorite crust recipe and a crumble for the topping.  When we made the vanilla ice cream we used our own favorite frozen banana ice cream.  We know how to make things work!

If you are interested in any of her unit studies she also offers:

Be sure and follow Homeschool Legacy on social media!

Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}
 

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Review: Elementary Chinese 1 from Middlebury Interactive Languages

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I’ve got another foreign language curriculum to review for all of you!  I’m excited because too many of us moms sadly grew up in the American school system where we might have gotten a few years of Spanish or French and then promptly forgot it all 10 minutes after we walked out of high school.  How do we tackle teaching our children a new language?  This makes me sweat far more than the idea of teaching upper level math (and that’s saying something considering I was a pre-calculus dropout).  I’ve actually had the chance to review for Middlebury Interactive Languages in the past.  That time we took up the opportunity to their German class  but this time we took on what, in my mind at least, was a much bigger challenge… Elementary Chinese 1: Grades 3-5.

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Why would I choose Chinese?  Of course we love to stretch ourselves and experience new things.  We are also studying the Eastern Hemisphere this year and we started with China.  So this review felt like a great fit.

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I used this program with my 8 year old son Ezra but his older brother Noah often looked on.  He couldn’t help it as it sort of draws you in.  But now I’m getting ahead of myself.

Middlebury Interactive Languages uses an immersion approach to teaching children foreign languages.  I LOVE this approach.  I despised my experiences with learning foreign languages because for me it was always very dry, memorizing long lists of on sort of related terms or phrases.  Then we tried to apply those terms to stilted made up “conversations” within the classroom.  Middlebury takes an entire different approach by introducing children to the language within the context of every day life or through memorable stories and this makes it all… well… memorable.

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All of Middlebury’s courses are completed online.  You choose your course based not only on the language but by both the grade of the student and their level in the language.  Elementary levels are broken down by grades k-2, 3rd-5th, and then you enter the Middle School and the High School levels.  It is easy for children to start early with a language and work their way up until the gain fluency.  All of this is done through the use of cultural stories, songs, art, and more.  If you are diligent your child will learn to read, write, and speak the language of your choice.

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How We Used It

About three days a week Ezra would log onto the website and begin his lessons.  Elementary Chinese 1: Grades 3-5 is broken down into 16 units and each unit contains 6 lessons.  Through these units your child will learn the Chinese words for things like, food, places, animals, etc.  It begins with numbers.  All of the units contain a variety of activities including a speaking lab (where children record themselves saying the words and then play them back – microphone required), matching the Chinese words to English words, learning Chinese characters, and lots of review.  Most new materials is presented through cultural stories (like legends or folktales) and songs.

The language the children hear and copy is all taught by native Chinese speakers.  At this level it is assumed that the child has no previous experience with the language and they begin with the basics.  Included are some printables for use as well.

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Ezra loves this program.  He finds it a challenging yet fun.  He retains the information he’s learned well enough but the built in review is essential and he appreciates it.  The program itself functions well. Navigating to lessons or through lessons is pretty intuitive and we didn’t experience any technical issues.

I love this program because it is so easy on me! I have nothing to plan or prep or research.  My son is learning a language that I don’t otherwise have the resources for him to learn.  He is also learning more about a great culture of the world.  Everything is self-graded and I, as the parent, can log in and review his progress whenever I’d like.  Can there be anything better?

If there is one thing I’d change about this program I’d ask for more time with it.  You are given just 6 months to complete the course and with a language this difficult I’d really like a 9-12 months.

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Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}
 

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Review: The Familyman’s Christmas Treasury Audio Collection

thefamilyman_weblogo-1_zpsizxfdqitChristmas is coming!  Did you hear my sing song voice when you read that?  I’ll be honest, I’ve had many Scroogey years where I just about dreaded the holiday season.  For some reason this year my heart is singing when I think about Christmas.  First, it is the time that we remember Jesus’s birth and that alone is filling me with Joy.  How great is our God that He would send us a savior to take the punishment for my sins?  Beyond that though I am also really looking for to the festivities.  We’ll have Christmas carols, and lights, and foods, and classic movies, and STORIES.  Yes!  I love stories with a Christmas theme to them.  It is with great joy that I get to tell you about some fantastic audio Christmas stories that my family has recently been blessed to review (yep, Christmas spirit has come early around here).

Over the last several weeks my family has been listening to The Familyman’s Christmas Treasury – Audio Collection from The Familyman.  These are also available as Digital Downloads.  I’ve been a follower of Todd Wilson (creator of these stories) from The Familyman for several years now.  He brings a unique brand of fun humor to the homeschooling parenting life through his books, comics, and podcasts.  Now he’s used his talents to write these very fun stories.the-familymans-christmas-treasury_zps2dtu8hat

On top of it all The Familyman chose possibly the best person to record and narrate the stories. Jim Hodges is a voice well known in my household as we’ve enjoyed many of his audio book records.  Finding out it would be his voice we would be listening was like the cherry on top of this very fun review.

For this review we were sent digital downloads of the six stories from the collection PLUS two additional stories that are only available in digital format.

The Collection of Six Stories Include:

  • Captain Chaos and The Manger Blaster
  • Cootie McKay’s Nativity
  • The Stranger
  • The Bishop’s Dream
  • Harold Grubbs and the Christmas Vest
  • Gladys Remembers Christmas

Let me tell you a little bit about a few of the stories.  I’ll start with Cootie McKay’s Nativity as I think this was our absolute hands down favorite of them all.  This story features a man by the name of Cootie McKay who is a bit of an outcast in his own town.  He is a creative man whose eccentric ways have ostracized him from those who live around him.  When he is called upon to fix the town’s Nativity scene he not only comes through in a spectacular way but he also finds Jesus in the process.  The entire town is blessed.

The Stranger… It is so like us to turn away from those who are different, dirty, or even smelly.  We might not even invite them into our church or our home if they arrived asking for help.  Oh how this story provided for so much conversation… and perhaps conviction on this momma’s heart.

Captain Chaos … this one has a bit more of a superhero theme running through and what fun that is.  A bit unexpected in a collection of Christmas stories.  As Captain Chaos actually erases the entire birth of Jesus from the history of the world and we, the listeners, are left to see what the world would might have been like without Him.

The Bishops Dream… I personally was quite interested in this story.  We are a Santa believing family however I’ve always approached the idea of Santa from the history of Saint Nicholas.  What would Saint Nicholas think of the Christmas we celebrate today?  Hmm… lots to think about.

Each and every story points back to Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas.  Every story is a true blessing.  We’ll be keeping these on repeat throughout this and probably every Christmas season for years to come.  These stories are short and sweet, just about 15-30 minutes each.  They are perfect as a before bed listen or in the van as we run errands around town.

You can also find more information on this product by visiting the Familyman on: FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterestGoogle Plus or on his Blog

The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {The Familyman} Reviews
 

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Review: Educeri Lesson Subscription Service

educeri-logo_zpsicbcmya1Let me tell you about one of our latest homeschool products we have received…. it is called Educeri Lesson Subscription Service from Educeri …….  Educeri a division of DataWORKS .  It is full of thousands of lessons for grades K-12 for in a wide variety of subjects. What a bountiful resource.

Of course when you first hear of resource with literally thousands of lessons to sort through you can feel a bit overwhelmed.  Have no fear, the website is well laid out and pretty intuitive for its navigation.  You are able to sort through lessons by grade and subject so that you can find just the thing you are looking for.   You will find lessons for Math, Science, History, Art, and more.

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This program was originally designed for use in the traditional classroom but it can be effectively use with just one or a couple of students.  If you are a classroom teacher and you have the proper equipment you can display lessons from you computer onto a wall or smartboard for a roomful of children to see.  They lessons are usually pretty easy to follow as you just click through and follow the step-by-step instructions.

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It is probably important to note that Educeri is not a complete curriculum but a great resource for supplemental resources to reinforce or expand a student’s knowledge.

I used the Educeri Lesson Subscription Service with both of my older boys ages 8 and 10.   My older son needs reinforcement of all of his math skills, constantly.  He is the type of child who will loose a math skill if he isn’t constantly reviewing it.  With him I tended to skip around the math grades and hunt for lessons that had him reviewing math facts at all levels.  I found it fast and easy to find just what he needed and set him to work.

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Since the program does align with Common Core we were unable to really dive into the math lessons beyond the reviewing of facts since Common Core math isn’t something we study in our homeschool I did feel a bit limited in this regard.

The lesson called Memorize Multiplication Facts was a good one for my son.  As all of the lessons from Educeri it was well set up and my 10 year old could work through things pretty independently.  For this lesson we printed off a series of student worksheets to be filled out and then he checked his own work on the computer against charts of multiplication facts that would be filled in automatically as he reviewed a fact.

Both of my boys are major history buffs and they quickly found the history lessons all on their own.  I can’t even tell you honestly everything they looked at since they were able to do this completely independently.  When I looked in on them I was able to determine that a lot of the lessons are mostly reading material from a slide on the screen.  It reminds me a lot of power point presentations.  My boys enjoyed picking through the reading and comparing it to information they’ve learned from books and other studies.

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Overall

My overall thoughts about this program is that is a very nice resource.  I mean how can it not be with over 1000 lessons right?  It is well laid out and it works smoothly.  Finding what you need is easy and that is important when you are looking at what might be a treasure trove of possibilities.

The fact that this program is geared toward a traditional classroom experience is pretty obvious.  How fabulous this might be for a family that is just getting started with homeschooling.  I’ve heard many families tell me they feel they need to use materials that are similar to what their children saw in school in order to ease the transition to the home setting… or even to simply make the homeschool parent FEEL like they are covering all basis.  If this is you you might really enjoy this program.

I think the best way to figure out if this program is right for you is to check out the 30 day free trial.  You will get unlimited access to the 1,000+ lesson plans.  Click here for more information.

Educeri Lesson Subscription Service
 

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Review: Everyday Education, LLC: Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert

eved-logo-2015-making-time-url_zpshhapsosrI want to share with you a review of something that I’ve been using more for myself than with my children… though its totally appropriate for really the entire family.  It is called Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert from Everyday Education, LLC.  I’ve incorporated this into my daily Bible study and devotional time and I am so glad that I did.  It has added a richness that I am very much enjoying.

Working it Out: Poetry Analysis was created by Joseph Womack.  It uses poetry from the 17th century written by George Herbert.  Personally I had never heard of him before but it turns out his works have been well known and studied by many including the likes of C.S. Lewis.  His poetry reflects his own “working out” of his Christian salvation and the themes of the poem reflect that.

Who Was George Herbert?

George Herbet lived during the time of King James I.  He was a priest, a poet, and instructor, and an orator.  King James stopped George Herbert’s attempts to enter the ministry so he went on to become a Public Orator and serve in England’s Parliment.  Finally he was ordained into the Church Of England where he remained until his death.

About His Poetry

It’s beautiful!  No really!  It is! Let me show you just one poem…

The Altar
A broken ALTAR, Lord, thy servant rears,
Made of a heart and cemented with tears;
Whose parts are as thy hand did frame;
No workman’s tool hath touch’d the same.
A HEART alone
Is such a stone,
As nothing but
Thy pow’r doth cut.
Wherefore each part
Of my hard heart
Meets in this frame
To praise thy name.
That if I chance to hold my peace,
These stones to praise thee may not cease.
Oh, let thy blessed SACRIFICE be mine,
And sanctify this ALTAR to be thine.

As you can see of course anything written in the 17th century will be a bit of a challenge and therefore each time I tackled a new poem I found myself rereading it several times over.  Then I would begin the lesson as laid out in Working it Out.  After a few poems a pattern begins to emerge and you’ll realize you work through every poem in much the same way.

  • The poem
  • The Big Picture-gives which provides the overall discussion of what the poem is about
  • The Parts of the Picture (my favorite part) explains the poem stanza-by-stanza… I love nitty gritty
  • The Parts of the Picture Come Together-this sections helps you discovers the line of thought that carries through the whole poem

After you analyze the poem you’ll carry it further:

  • Reflections (also a favorite part) questions for personal reflection
  • Scriptures for Further Reflection

working-it-out-womack_zpsvp8f6qoiThese Poems coupled with the analysis, reflections, and scriptures so spoke to me.  I found myself copying them down, or parts of them, and displaying them with scripture around my home… on my mirror or near my computer monitor.  Sometimes I even felt led to share them with someone I knew needed to be uplifted.  The study has touched more than just myself. All in all I’m getting through about two poems a week spending maybe 20-30 minutes per poem. There are 51 poems included in this study and it is suggested to do just one a week.  If you are working on this with middle school or high school aged children it could certainly take you a year to complete.

Of course the important thing to note however is that this technique of poetry analysis can be used with virtually any poem!  Once you are done with these you can most certainly apply it all to another. 

You can purchase Working It Out is as either a printed book or as a PDF download. There are over 200 pages and features 51 poems with analysis. There is a sample of this poetry study at Everyday Education so you can check it out for yourself too.

I plan to add this into my oldest son’s studies in the next few months.  I’m looking forward to looking at these poems together.  I think it’ll be as heart transforming for him as it has been for me.

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Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}
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Review: The Cat of Bubastes from Heirloom Audio Productions

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I get to share with you another AMAZING audio adventure!!! This time we had the chance of to review The Cat of Bubastes from Heirloom Audio Productions 
We love these audio dramas so much that we literally stalk all of their social media pages awaiting any tidbit of information about when the next adventure will be released.  The Cat of Bubastes is a G. A. Henty story that takes place in ancient Egypt.  That just so happened to perfectly fit into my 6 year old daughter’s studies this year. That made this even more exciting.

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As you probably know we’ve listened to many audio dramas from Heirloom Audio Productions.  They base all of their work on the book series The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty. If you aren’t familiar with the stories you should make it a priority to learn everything you can about them.  Every story is filled with the ideas and themes we want our children to emulate.  Throughout the stories you meet characters who are brave, loyal, courageous, and honest.  They persevere through particularly tough circumstances.  These company’s mission is “to engage the listerner’s imagination by taking them back in time and immersing them in a great Christian story.”  They do just that in the most (dare I say it) Extraordinary way.

Every Heriloom Audio Adventure features the voices of well known Hollywood actors and actresses and a musical soundtrack that will rival the most elite Hollywood production.  These stories are exciting and engaging.  They are breathtaking and heart stopping.  These audios have become a part of the fabric of our family culture.  They are played again and again and again and again and yes…. again.  I’ll be replacing some of our first CDs before long as my kids are just wearing them out.

 

As I said before, The Cat of Bubastes is set during ancient Egypt.  The main characters include Amuba, who is a young prince and his protector and mentor, Jethro.  They are enslaved by the Egyptians and set to work in the city of Thebes.  Here they must decides if they will become like the Egyptians and follow their gods or turn to the true One True God and follow His will.  I would love to share with you more of the story but I don’t want to spoil even a minute of it for you. Trust me when I say it is excellent!

As I mentioned before.  All of the Heirloom Audio Productions feature a star studded cast.  Take a look at the voices features in The Cat of Bubastes! 

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Along with 2-CD copy of the audio we received some other great bonus features which you can get as well if you purchase the premium buying option:

  • an MP3 copy of the audio drama
  • a copy of the E-Book
  • Official MP3 Soundtrack
  • Printable Cast Poster
  • A Study Guide with discussion points
  • Printable Inspirational Verse Poster
  • Unlimited access to the Live the Adventure Website
  • Behind the Scenes Video

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Can I tell you just how fantastic these bonuses are?  The study guide is such a treasure as it is filled with details, and questions, vocabulary, deeper thinking questions, historical background, and even Bible study information.  As I am studying Ancient Egypt with my daughter this study guide became an instant resource for us.  We used it to learn about Hieroglyphs.  I liked the deep thinking questions for my older boys.  While I am confident they listen and comprehend well it is always nice to check in and see just how deep their understanding is.

Some of our best conversations have revolved around what it was really like to follow the One True God back in the time of story.  We’ve discussed what it meant for the characters to make the decision to believe what others don’t.  I’ve drawn similarities and differences to our world today to the world then which has helped us talk about what faith means today.

 

My boys have already listened to this drama two or three times through.  They love to pop it into their CD player and listen while playing Legos or completing chores.  This has entered their rotation of Heirloom Audio Adventures.  My husband is eager to hear this one himself.  We’ll be popping it in the van’s CD player on our next long drive.   Obviously we are a huge fan of these audio cds and I think every Christian home should own them.  Stay tuned… I hear there are more to be released soon!

 

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes
 

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Review: Help Teaching Pro Subscription from HelpTeaching.com

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Help Teaching Pro Subscription  from HelpTeaching.comHelp Teaching Pro Subscriptions offers homeschooling families access to thousands of printables, online tests, worksheets, activities, lessons and games.  There is a tremendous amount of material here for Grades: Kindergarten through grade 12.

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As a homeschool mom I’m always on the hunt for the perfect resources for add just the right thing to our homeschool.  HelpTeaching.com.  I could spend hours hunting the web for something useful.  But websites like HelpTeaching.com eliminate that need.  Included in this website is the ability to even create your own tests, quizzes, or worksheets right on the site.  So even if you can’t zero in on the perfect thing then you can just make it yourself!

For this review I worked with material geared primarily for the younger grades as I used it with my 6 year old daughter who is doing mostly 1st grade work.  Signing up for a subscription is easy.  Once that is done you can create a sub account for each of your children.  If they have an email account you can link that too and then send them assignments at will.  How neat is that? But if email isn’t a thing in your family no worries as it is not required.  However, if you do go this route then your child will receive a link that will take them straight to the lesson or test. Later the parent can log onto his/her account to see how the child did.

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HelpTeaching.com offers more than just prinatables.  There are also lessons and videos for a child to watch in and learn from in several subject acreas.  They provide lessons like these in Language Arts, Math, and Science.

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At each level they offer quite the range of lessons and materials.  Preschoolers can learn letters, colors, shapes, and more.  In Physical education you’ll cover nutrition, how to play various games like basketball or soccer.  Of course as I stated they cover the major subjects like math, language arts, history and more.  Older students can enjoy content on drawing, theater, architecture, and life skills link banking and safety.

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HelpTeaching.com has many of lessons aligned to the Common Core standards which is something I typically try to avoid for many reasons that aren’t relevant to this review.  I mention it because this is information I’d like to have up front and I do realize others feel differently and may even be required to use materials that are Common Core friendly.  If so than this could be a very good fit for you.  I have to say though that I didn’t come across any materials that seemed much different from any non-Common Core homeschooling materials.  If the website didn’t tell me so and I could only see the materials I might not have even realized they were aligned.

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How We Used It

With my 1st grader I tended to stick with the predone lessons, especially in math.  We’d watch a video and then complete the practice problems.  We skipped around quite a bit and looked at the kindergarten lessons as well as the 1st and 2nd grade lessons.  This let me hone in on activities that would support the math curriculum we typically use.  The extra practice was very beneficial for her. I liked creating a variety of math sheets that really helped her work her addition problems.  We also did a number of self-paced lessons in reading.  She’d watch a video to learn about some word family (an, at, etc) and then do the practice questions after.  I liked how it reinforced her skills.

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Over all this is a rich resource that is perfect for helping you really customize a child’s education.  I appreciate the amount of material found here.  We particularly like the pre done lessons.

Several members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew were given the opportunity to try out the Pro Plan from HelpTeaching.com  You can see how they used this in their homes by visiting the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

Help Teaching Pro Subscription {HelpTeaching.com}
 

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Review: CHSH Download Club from CHSH-Teach.com

chsh-teach-com-2016-logo-350x350_zpscacxdhnnIs there a homeschooling family out there that isn’t living on a tight budget?  I haven’t met one.  Hunting down just the right materials to meet the needs of each and everyone of our child, on a budget no less, can be quite the challenge.  I was recently given the opportunity to review a website that can help us all meet these challenges.  It is the ChristianHomeschoolHub.com site, also known as CHSH-Teach.com. My familiy received a one year Subscription to their CHSH Download Club .

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CHSH-Teach.com is an amazing subscriber based website brimming over with over 50,000 downloadable pages of educational goodies!  This website was created by a homeschooling mom and former school teacher named Lynda Ackert.  Amazingly she’s created most of the materials the fill the site.  You’ll find so many treasures for your children from the preschool age all the way through high school in a wide variety of subjects.  There really is something for everyone! Truly my description here is going to fall very short of the true value and richness this site can offer your family.  Check this out too, I think this is pretty unique, of course content is regularly added but those who are members of the  Download Club can also upload their own creations to share.

Let me show you few screen shots of just a sample of the subjects they offer.  And let me tell you, even these screen shots do this website an injustice because everything you see is a clickable link that brings you pages and pages of more options and more links to click that bring you to even more content.  I’m not even scratching the surface here.

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They also have the website sorted out by grade, by months of the year, and they have sections of content that will you get organized.

How we used this website!

The uses for this website are pretty limitless and I struggled at first with where to start.  What I decided to do was find something that met my family’s most pressing need first.  My 6 year old Joyanna is in need of some site word practice and I was able to find just the thing.  It only took a few minutes for me to locate some Dolch site word flashcards… here is a little sample.

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We reviewed her site words with the help of these flashcards for several days and her reading fluency was greatly improved.  I loved that I didn’t have to take the time to make them up myself.  I just printed them on some cardstock, cut them down, and away we went.  Some people might have laminated them.

Next I thought of my son who is in constant need of reviewing his multiplication facts.  I found several fantastic games to help us do just that but I settled on one.  It is a fun and quick game that brings about quite a few giggles while the children have to quickly work through the answer.  A definite hit!

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While researching the math fact game I found this great wall poster on fractions.  My other son is studying fractions soon.  I printed that baby out and I WILL be laminating that one!

Next I found these things called Monthly Learning Packets!  My 6 year old does have her own full curriculum but some days she finishes so quickly compared to her older brothers that she just wishes she has more.  I downloaded the first day packet and put it in a binder for her.  Problem solved! Here is a little preview. There are over 200 pages in each of these packets!  Now my daughter pulls out her bind and flips to a page that looks interesting to her.  I might read the directions so she understands what to do.

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One thing my family loves to do is literature studies.  I was delighted to find so many… take a peek at just a few in the elementary age rang.

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We happened to be finishing up rereading Little House in the Big Woods so I downloaded that one.  It is 18 pages of reading comprehension and discussion questions. Some questions are quick multiple choice while others are more long form.  It was a great little companion to our reading.

Each and every time I log into the site I think, “Oh, we should do that and we should do this and I wonder if I can make time for that.”  This website could be ALL you need to homeschool.  It is that good!  This website currently only costs $25 annually or $99 for a lifetime subscription.  This site could save you hundreds if not thousands on homeschool curriculum.  It is an amazing value.

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}
 

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Review: Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition from Apologia Educational Ministries

apologia-logo-jpg_zpswpuj9gxgMy family has had the blessed opportunity to study science with the help of various Apologia Educational Ministries elementary science curriculum over the years.  My two older boys discovered the wonders of God’s creation while they (at least in their minds) zoomed through space, dug in the dirt and observed plant life, swam the seas, and so much more.  The Exploring Creation series has a reputation for being rich, full, and deep with learning.  My daughter has now come to an age where she is ready to begin her own journey through creation.

We couldn’t have times things more perfectly since our beloved Astronomy curriculum was just revamped.  For several weeks now my six year old has been soaring through space with Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition from Apologia Educational Ministries.

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From the moment the box of goodies arrived I was taken.  The new books are so colorful and full of life.  Everything about them has been updated with our young learners in mind.  But I might be getting ahead of myself here.  Let me tell you all about it, step by step.

About Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition

The Exploring Creation series of science curriculum from Apologia Educational Ministries is  a must have, in my opinion, for every Christian homeschool.  This series is geared toward the elementary student and it engrosses children deep into the science of God’s creation.  This latest edition of Exploring Creation with Astronomy takes an already fantastic curriculum up a notch.  It has been expanded with even more beautiful photographs, illustrations, infographics, a wonderful layout, and a fantastic schedule.

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All of the Apologia Science curriculums, including this Astronomy series, use a combination of reading aloud with a student notebooking journal.  As a six year old I had my daughter use the Jr. Notebooking Journal which includes lapbook like projects such as minibooks, word search puzzles, scripture copywork, and other hands-on activities.  One of the beautiful things about this curriculum is that you can combine children of many ages into one study since older elementary children can use the Notebooking Journal meant for their age.  It is a delight in our home to study together whenever possible.

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The Audio CD is a beautiful edition to this program.  It is a clear and enjoyable reading of the text aloud.  We do a tremendous amount of reading aloud in our family and it is something I treasure. However, the opportunity to let someone else take that over from time to time is a blessing for this poor momma and my tired voice.  It can also help children be more independent with their studying since they can listen and read along in the book at the same time. The brand new  Astronomy 2nd Edition Science Kit looks really exciting with a wide variety of activities to take your family’s study of Astronomy even further.

How We Used Exploring Creation with Astronomy

My daughter Joyanna who is six was just so excited to be given the opportunity to review this curriculum.  She’s aware that her brothers have used other science studies from Apologia before and this made her feel like such a big girl.  I decided right off the bat that we’d be using the Mp3 Audiobook most days.  As I said, we already read aloud in this family for hours every day, I am grateful for break.  However I did sit right along side her so I could listen to every word with her.

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This program is certainly open and go.  There is a brand new Daily Lesson schedule near the beginning of the Notebooking Journals complete with little check boxes for you to check off as you complete an activity. I’m enjoying this schedule.  It’s pretty easy going.  I remember the schedule in the previous edition was a bit intense and I found myself breaking up the reading and assignments into smaller chunks over more days.  This schedule is more relaxed and easier for my family to keep up with.

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At first I was a bit confused by this schedule because it does include all of the activities in the new science kit.  I didn’t realize the directions for those activities are mostly in the kit.  I assumed the kit was just the supplies for those activities.  I was hunting around trying to figure out how to do these activities and the information isn’t there.  HOWEVER, there are directions for plenty of other activities and we found the curriculum to be plenty rich without the extra kit. There are links and information for downloading all kinds of interesting activities to expand your studies. In fact, as a busy mom of four I’m not 100% sure I want to do all of the extra activitieswith the activity kit.  This curriculum is incredibly in dept on its own.  So no pressure to buy that kit.  I simply didn’t understand how it all worked at first.

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We work on this curriculum just about 3 days per week.  We listen to the audio CD and then complete the assignment notebook activities. I often pause the audio just to put emphasis on some point or thought or to ask my own question.  Sometimes I just like to bring awe and wonder to what we just heard.  “Can you believe God thought to….!!”  My daughter so enjoys this time in her science curriculum.

The Jr. Notebooking Journal is a good fit for her in general.  It is meant for children who are early writers. There isn’t a tremendous amount of writing involved but this is still an emerging skill for her.  So I help her.  I will sometimes fill in the blanks with her answers or maybe write a bit down on another piece of paper for her to copy.  In this instance my goal isn’t to develop her writing but for her to learn science.  So we learn science and I make it easy.

The Notebooking Journal for the older elementary student is designed to make the children think more about what they’ve learned.  The responses are longer and children draw conclusions about their reading.  There are fewer puzzles and minibooks and more longish answer type activities. If my 10 year old wasn’t already deep into Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy it’d be perfect for him.

Overall

Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition from Apologia Educational Ministries is fantastic!  The science is so rich.  The biblical world view is refreshing.  The text is engaging.  The notebooking activities are fun.  The learning is fantastic.  If you are looking for a rich science curriculum, one that dives deep and immerses your children in learning and God’s worldview than you really can’t go wrong with this study.

Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition Review
 

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