Review: CTC Math Homeschool Membership

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Math is such a funky thing in our homeschool.  I have one son who struggles with it.  He’s the free spirited one. He’d rather be drawing or day dreaming tha figuring out sums so has convinced himself he isn’t any good at math.  That isn’t exactly true however when he watches his brother who has a real knack for math he can’t help but feel that way.  My other son I call my mathy kid.  It just comes naturally to him without much effort.  We were given the opportunity to review the  CTCMath Homeschool Membership from  CTCMath.  We reviewed it a year or two ago.  We got a lot out of it then and I was anxious to see how my 8 year old son who loved it last time would respond to it this time.

What Did We Use It

Once our membership was reactivated I was all set to go.  It remembered my son’s accounts from the last time.

Each person is given access to the complete program from Kindergarten to Calculus.  Hopping around between levels to reinforce older concepts or just for extra practice is a snap.  I’m a big fan of review and practice so I appreciate that there is plenty to be found just by poking around through the levels a bit.

Generally speaking we used this program several times a week and my 8 year old was able to choose his own topics to work on and move at his own pace as he progressed.

How Does It Work?

This is program is web based and lives on the internet.  There is no software to install on your computer.  Therefore every child can use it from any internet computer. A strong connection will ensure smooth running videos.  Our general internet browser of preference is Chrome and the program runs perfectly with it.  I also tested it in Firefox and Internet Explorer and found no issues.

Every level operates pretty much the exact same way.  When you enter a subject you have the opportunity take a “Standard” or “Comprehensive” Test if you so choose.  When we restarted the program I had my son take several Standard Tests in search of the correct level for him to begin work.  As the names imply, the Comprehensive test has more problems and dives deeper in the topic testing for knowledge.

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Each lesson begins with a video followed by practice problems.  The videos are pretty short, usually under 4 minutes.  They work through several problems just like the ones that the child will get try in just a few moments.  The problem sets are often just 10 questions long, sometimes as few as 5.

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Once all of the lessons are completed in one topic, the child is awarded a certificate.  Perfect scores on all problem sets earns you a Platinum Certificate.  90% or above equals Gold Level.  There is also Silver and Bronze.  Children can redo the questions in the problem sets in order to achieve 100% and earn that Platinum.  It may take several rounds to get that perfect score though as the program averages all of the attempts together.

 My Thoughts… Do We Like It?

There are many great things about this program.  The ability to move around between levels is just wonderful.  Every child can move at his/her own pace with ease.  As questions are answered immediate feedback is given.  All scores are recorded and easily accessible in the parent log-in area.

The award certificates are a fantastic motivator.  We have something to print off and show off to Daddy at the end of the day.  My son loves that so much I often had to take cell phone photos and text them to Daddy because he just couldn’t wait for him to get home.

Ezra loves that he can move at his own pace.  I am even generally ok with him picking and choosing what topics to study.  He is mostly working at the 6th grade level though  he is only 8 years old. If he were in public school he would likely just finishing up 3rd grade. It is exciting to be able to cater his ability without having to purchase a whole bunch of different levels to figure out just where he is. To have a whole wide world of math to explore at his fingertips is an absolute Gold mine for this child.  The only hic-up if you will is that he actually has to stop and TRY a bit harder at this level.  It isn’t the automatic cake-walk that he was used to.  So he got a little frustrated… until I calmed him down and showed him he really CAN work at that level.  Then he was off to the races again.

I do wish this program had a hands in element. I do appreciate that children can move through lessons and practice problems repeatedly until they are solid in the skill.

Overall, I really do appreciate this program.  It is really well done and easy to use.  I love that kids can plug in and work at their own pace.  I love that it doesn’t take any preplanning from me.  I love that I can have a family account for all of my children.  Even my non-math loving kid can do very well with this program if I required it of him.  If this format appeals to you I encourage you to give it a try.

CTCmath Review
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Review: Faith Builders Bible from Zonderkidz

Zondervan Logo_zpsaxmkrrcj Our family was recently given the opportunity to review a pretty unique Bible that I’m sure will be very appealing to many young children.  It is called the Faith Builders Bible  from Zonderkidz.  

In case you aren’t familiar with Zonderkidz, is an extension of Zondervan publishing.  Zondervan is responsible for many popular Christian books and Bible study guides.  Zonderkidz is their dedicated children’s books.download (1)

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The Faith Builders Bible is an NIRV, New International Reader’s Version, of the Bible.  The NIRV Bible is based on the very popular NIV Bible.  The publishers have taken the NIV and changed some of the text into shorter words or sentences which make it easier to read, especially for children.  This Bible draws upon the love of building with bricks (or Legos) that is common among young children. From the Bible cover to 24 pages double sided picture pages sprinkled throughout, lovers of brick building will have a feast for their eyes.

The book itself has a sturdy hard cover that should hold up to wear pretty well.  The cover prominently features the brick building theme and gives a sample of some of what will be found inside the pages.  I measured it to be 8.5 inches tall, 5.5 inches wide, and about an inch thick.

Within the first few pages of the book you’ll find “Building With The Books Of The Bible” where they have a picture a tower of Lego blocks, with each book of the Bible listed on a block. I thought this was a clever way to visually show all the books of the Bible.  I can see a family creating their own towers in a similar fashion to help with memorization.

Throughout the Bible you’ll find beautifully done photographs of brick creations depicting the most well known scenes from the Bible.  The photographs are fantastic.  They are printed on a thicker paper than the rest of the pages of the Bible making them pretty durable.  Care and detail went into the creation of these scenes as well as to the printing of the photographs within the pages of this Bible.  Some of these scenes include Noah building his ark, men building the Tower of Babel, Moses with the 10 Commandments, Solomon Builds God’s Temple, the Nativity, Jesus Walks and the Cross, and lots more.TMH_0539

On these pages you’ll also find  a “Building Block Verse” which is something like a memory verse that relates to that story.

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The rest of the Bible is actually pretty standard as far as Bibles go.  In actuality I was a bit surprised by that.  All of the pages that do not contain brick pictures are printed on the standard thin and delicate paper that you find in just about any Bible.  The font is standard sized for most Bibles and younger children may find that more difficult to read.  I had hoped for something a bit more fun, whimsical, or child centered for the entire Bible in addition to the pages that contain the photographs of the brick creations.

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How Our Family Used this Bible

Bible study is a regular part of the day around here.  The boys and I start our homeschool day by reading scripture and using a Bible dictionary to look up keywords in the passages for the day.  At night my husband will do something more of a devotional with them aimed at character development.  In addition to our usual Bible study we used this Bible as sort of “key highlights of the Bible” refresher.  We enjoyed flipping to a photograph, discussing what we saw in the brick creation that was on display, and reading through the memory verse.  My Ezra has  knack for memorizing and as usual quickly memorized every verse.  He seems have something a photographic memory.  He was able to more easily recall the Building Block Verse since it is placed separately on the page and it stands out with the colored background.

I often challenged my boys to try and recreate or even elaborate on the brick creations in the photographs.  They loved the challenge.  While the were building I could hear them discussing the details of the story too.  That’s a win in my book! You can see one of their creations (Jesus and Peter walking on water) in the picture below.

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Overall

I think this could be a great Bible for children in the 9-13 year old range.  Those kids generally still adore brick building and often their maturity level and reading skills make them more ready for what really is a mostly traditional Bible.  This might make a great gift for the right occasion or perhaps a reward for some hard work well done. Make sure you visit the Faith Builders Bible webpage to order one for the brick builder in your family.

Faith Builders Bible {Zonderkidz Review}
 

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2015 Schoolhouse Review Crew Blue Ribbon Awards!

The 2015 Schoolhouse Review Crew year has come to a close!  No worries, as we are already gearing up for 2016.  I’m excited to say that I’ve been asked to return for another great year of reviewing.  While we are blessed to work almost exclusively with the best homeschooling vendors, us reviewers can’t help but have our favorites!  We got together and chose the cream of the crop to be awarded our 2015 Blue Ribbon Award.  So who is the absolutely best of the best in every category, keep reading to find out!

1 Meet the Schoolhouse Review Crew Favourites_zps6st7l9sp
Favorite Reading Curriculum: Reading Kingdom
Favorite Writing Curriculum: Institute for Excellence in Writing
Favorite Vocabulary Program: Dynamic Literacy
Favorite Spelling Program: Institute for Excellence in Writing: Phonetic Zoo
Favorite Grammar Program: Institute for Excellence in Writing: Fix-It! Grammar
Favorite Penmanship Program: CursiveLogic
Favorite Literature Curriculum: Progeny Press
Favorite History Curriculum: Home School in the Woods
Favorite History Supplement: Heirloom Audio Productions: In Freedom’s Cause
Favorite Science Curriculum: Visual Learning Systems
Favorite Science Supplement: Ann McCallum Books: Eat Your Science Homework
Favorite Math Curriculum: CTC Math
Favorite Math Supplement: SimplyFun
Favorite Christian Education Curriculum: Grapevine Studies
Favorite Christian Education Supplement: Brinkman Adventures
Favorite Foreign Language Curriculum: Middlebury Interactive Language
Favorite Fine Arts Product: Maestro Classics
Favorite Elective Curriculum: Apologia Educational Ministries: Field Trip Journal
Favorite Audio Drama: Brinkman Adventures
Favorite Video: FishFlix.com

Favorite Preschool Product: La La Logic
Favorite Elementary Product: Star Toaster
Favorite Middle School Product: The Critical Thinking Co
Favorite High School Product: Writing with Sharon Watson
Favorite College or College-Prep Product: Freedom Project Education
Favorite Parent Product: Koru Naturals
Favorite Planning Product: Apologia Educational Ministries: The Ultimate Homeschool Planner

Best Resource I Didn’t Know I Needed: Homeschool Planet
Best Online Resource: Super Teacher Worksheets
Best e-Product: Home School in the Woods
Just for Fun: USAopoly
Kids’ Choice: La La Logic
Teens’ Choice: YWAM Publishing
All Around Crew Favorite: Institute for Excellence in Writing

Review: Brinkman Adventures Season 3

brinkman logo small_zps9e4fmspfDid the whole world hear my family squeal at the top of their lungs with delight when we got news of one of our latest reviews?  That’s right our family was privileged and blessed to have our request to review The Brinkman Adventures: Season 3 from Brinkman Adventures.  If you haven’t heard of the Brinkman Adventures before then you’ll want to pay attention because these audio adventures could breath a lot of life into your family.  

The Brinkman Adventures are missionary audio dramas.  They combine the adventure of one oversized family with true stories of Christian Missionaries from around the world.  This series will encourage, excite, and challenge your family’s faith.  It will also inspire a new generation into the missionary field.

This time we were given Season 3 which includes episodes 25 to 36.  You may recall we were blessed to review Season 2 last year.  We have since become HUGE fans of Brinkman Adventures.  Season 3 came to us as an audio download in 24 mp3 files that I unzipped and then burned to my own CDs.  It require 5 CDs.  I had intended to put the files onto my phone for listening with that then I had some phone issues so this method ended working well for us.  You can of course purchase CDs already made for you and in that case you would receive 4 cds.  Either way it is a total of 5 hours of listening time.

We listened mostly in our van on our way to and from our usual activities.  I was not surprised to find ourselves sitting in the driveway after we arrived home as we just could not stop listening at times.  My boys were even hunting down excuses to go out just so we could listen some more!  These stories are just so captivating.

There are 12 stories in total and you can find even more background information about the stories if you go to the Stories Behind the Stories page on the Brinkman Adventures Website.

Cover Art_12-8 Front cover only_zps5oj49mzwEpisodes include…

  1. God’s Mule
  2. Mountain Mover
  3. The Silent Ambassador
  4. Translating Trouble
  5. Man-Up
  6. Acorns & Oaks
  7. A Saint’s Story, Pt. 1
  8. A Saint’s Story, Pt. 2
  9. Untouched Busy Bees and a Bullhorn
  10. Missionary Tourist, Pt. 1
  11. Missionary Tourist Pt. 2

I fail to find the words to adequately describe just what a treasure these stories are.  The voice acting (done by the family that creates these stories) is fantastic.  The music and sound effects are wonderful.  In fact, the bump music that leads into each new adventure has become something of a theme song for our family.  We quite literally bop along in our seats while cruising down the highway to our own adventures.  I know that perhaps in 10 years from now when I come across these stories and that music again I will be transported back in my mind to these days and this time with my family.  It may sound sappy but it is very meaningful to me.

The stories are faith challenging, moving and inspiring.  These stories will impact your entire family, yes even Mom and Dad.  Maybe especially Mom and Dad.  I was listening to the 9th story in this season called Untouched Busy Bees and a Bullhorn.  It is the story mostly of Mrs. Brinkman (the mother) and how she basically takes on way to many tasks and her life spins a bit out of control (literally, in a car).  As she sobbed on the phone to her mother I cried too.  I could just so relate.  I do think God had a message specifically for me in that story.

A Saints Story pt 1 and pt 2 was a huge deal for my children.  We have studied all of the missionaries who were killed serving the Auca Indians including Nate Saint, the pilot who landed at Palm Beach with the other missionary men.  These two episodes gave us a peek at what has happened to the tribe and the Saint family in the years since that fateful day in the jungle. It is such a powerful story of God’s grace and forgiveness.  My children were so excited to hear about the good things God continues to do in that area of Ecuador.

All of the stories give my family so many talking points about what God is doing in our world even today.  They give us hope and they inspire to get involved in His Kingdom.  If you’d like to listen to a sample story click here for The Provider.

I said it before and I’ll say it again.  Brinkman Adventures are a treasure.  You just will not be dissapointed.  All of the proceeds from your purchase go to support the recording of future adventures and to support missionaries throughout the world.

Brinkman Adventures Season 3 Review

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Review: The Nutcracker from Maestro Classics

Maestro Classics_zps27pnhxwlMy boys love to listen to classical music!  They tell me it is pretty, often relaxing, sometimes exciting, and just something different that they enjoy.  An amazing company called Maestro Classics just gave my family that very opportunity when they offered to let us review the The Nutcracker. I knew this was a review I had to be a part of after reviewing Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel and Handel last year.  We loved those titles so much that I went ahead and purchased a few more since.  Maestro Classics has become an integral part of our musical curriculum. 

Maestro Classics is just one of those companies that provides a special product that can add a sweet richness to your family’s learning.  They make life simple for me as a Homeschooling mom as they do all of the work for me.  Their CDs are fantastic and so enriching plus they provide the supplemental materials to dive deeper into your study of music. The show you the history connections, teach you the stories of the composers, they explain the musical instruments and so much more.   These are studies your whole family, young and old, will enjoy doing together.  

The Nutcracker may be just the perfect musical learning experience for your family this upcoming holiday season.

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The Nutcracker is a full hour long adaptation of the ballet story of the Nutcracker I grew up enjoying every Christmas season.  Whether the story came to me on video or through some illustrated children’s book I’ve always found the story and the dance to be magical.  I introduced my children to a version of the ballet on video a few years ago and revisiting in has become a holiday tradition for us.  Adding Maestro Classics brings a new element to our tradition. 

In this condensed version of the Nutcracker story about Clara and the Nutcracker Prince plus the Sugar Plum Fairy the scenes come to life your imagination as it is narrated by Jim Weiss and the wonderful music performed by the New York Philharmonic.  The story and classical music seamlessly flow together and the result is exquisite and so much fun to hear.  You will listen to a total of 21 tracks as you move through music from all sections of the ballet.

Along with the CD there is a little activity booklet. Inside you will find the following:

  • an outline of the Nutcracker story
  • a history of ballet
  • some music for the nutcracker
  • the history of the harp
  • some biographical information about Tchaikovsky
  • word scrambles and crossword puzzles

To bring the study even further Maestro Classics even offers a free curriculum to accompany The Nutcracker right on their website.  You can download, print and go. In fact they offer curriculum guides for all of their music CD offerings.  

What Did We Think?

If I haven’t made it clear by now we absolutely adored it.  This one, just like all of our Maestro Classic audio CDs, will be listened again and again and absolutely treasured.  If you are looking for a great educational music experience that ties into the Christmas Season, if you are studying great classical works of music, if you are interested in ballet, or if you are studying Russia then you can get so much use of The Nutcracker.

My family is looking forward to December.  We have plans to cut back on some of our typical homeschooling in order to dive into the unit study guide I spoke of earlier.  It’ll be the perfect time of year for it.

There aren’t enough words to describe just how wonderful any of the Maestro Classics CDs are.  I’ll never regret investing in the ones I’ve purchased and I’m very grateful for the ones, like The Nutcracker that I’ve been given to review. 

Maestro Classics Review
 

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Review: The Ultimate Homeschool Planner from Apologia

apologialogo_zpsb033acf0I’m really excited to tell you about something I have had the privilege to review these last few weeks.  It is something that has added a lot of focus to our homeschool plans and my record keeping.  This product has filled a void in how I capture our week to week schooling.  It is The Ultimate Homeschool Planner – Yellow Cover from Apologia Educational Ministries.

When the opportunity to review this planner first came along I really didn’t think I was interested.  I have a planning system.  This is a spiral bound physical plan book for the homeschooling parent.  I was already using an electronic system that records what pages and topics and lessons my children complete each day.  I still use that system.  Now let me be clear…  The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is ABSOLUTELY fantastic to use for this purpose too. But I’m using it a different way and I want to tell you all about it.  I think I may be getting a bit ahead of myself though.  Let me back up and tell you some more details about this planner.

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This planner comes in three different colors including orange, blue, and yellow.  I was blessed with the yellow cover one.  It has a lot of purple on it and I just love purple.  It is a very pretty planner.  The cover is made for a nice durable laminated/plastic material with inside pockets that has held up well and wipes off easily should I ever get a coffee ring or something like that on it.

 

There is room to record information for up to six children.  They have thought about just about everything when they put this thing together and yet it is so incredibly flexibly that any homeschool mom should be able to really make this their own.

Long Term Planning

There are six years of calendars for your to be able to take a the long view in your family and homeschooling.  There is a planning grid for one year.  Student goal setting pages let you record your thoughts on where you want your individual children to head in their learning and faith over the coming year.  There is even a page for family priorities.  I love this.  It helps me to remember to keep only true priorities in our yearly, monthly, and daily plans.

Shorter Term Planning

There is a monthly planning grid that covers two pages.  There there are the weekly planning pages.  These pages provide not only the space to write down the exact agenda for each child for each day but also a place to remember how to keep close to God in your day to day life.  There is space for making a plan for Bible study, important scriptures, prayers, and even a block to write down a plan for outreach.  On another page you are encouraged to record all of the positive things that happened during the week.   Family funny moments, victories, progress, finished projects, evidence of God’s grace, mercy, faith fullness, protection and provision.  These are by far my favorite pages.

Other Wonderful Features
There is resource list for each child.  A place to schedule any hiccups or changes you expect your routine.  Lots of space to jot down just about anything you just want to keep in mind.  For example each week I write down what review products we are working on so that I don’t drop any balls as they say. You can find encouraging scriptures throughout the pages.  Pages to record grades, field trips, and books the children have read. A high school planning grid with a sample plan you might find interesting. Plus year end review pages.

How I’m Using This Planner

When the planner arrived I asked my husband to sit down with me and help me fill in some of the pages.  I wanted his input on things like our family priorities and goals for the children.  It was a wonderful discussion (late at night after the kiddos were in bed).  It made me feel confident that we are on the same page for our family and homeschool and that we have a bit of road map for the year ahead.

At the start of the month I fill in the appropriate pages with calendar details like appointments, events, reviews I have due, activities and field trips I have planned… all of the typical stuff.  Every Sunday night I do the same making sure I have am on top of whatever is waiting for me in the week ahead.  It is also during these Sunday planning sessions that I take the time to reflect on and pray about what God’s plan is for us for the week.  Some of the scriptures and prayers I record come from whatever I feel like God is placing on my heart after church or my daily time in prayer and study.  Either way these pages help me keep God in our family and homeschool and that is vitally important.

Throughout the week I am making it a habit to fill in the page where family funnies, victories, progress and other great events can be recorded.  It is also amazing to take the time to reflect on the evidence of God in our lives.  Taking just five minutes a couple of times a week to fill in these sections makes me view the world with different eyes.  So uplifting.

The daily planning pages are a great place to write down what math pages, or chapters or lessons you want your children to complete.  I don’t use them that way.  I am still using the electronic planner to plan out the nitty gritty of the day.  I use the daily planning pages to record more of how that child did overall that day.  Thins like… Ezra resisted writing today but persevered and did an excellent job.  Or… Joyanna was just not able to concentrate on her spelling today.  Another example would be… Noah is just plowing through his math pages these days.

My husband was flipping through some of these pages the other day.  He was thrilled to see what I had recorded.  With a standard planner I could always show him grades or a checklist of things we finished that day or week.  It has always been much more difficult to help him understand how things flow.  It is the more intangible things that I’ve never successfully recorded before. The things that make our homeschooling life rich.  I had no way to record what makes my kids excited or frustrated. This planner gives me a tool to do it.  When the long winter sets in and I start to wonder if we’ve actually accomplished anything in our homeschool or as a family I’ll be able to flip back through and see that we really have.

Overall

This planner is a fantastic tool that I don’t want to be without.  It has become essential to me because it helps me keep our family life, priorities, schedule, and homeschooling on track.  It helps me keep our family focused on God and the good He is doing in our lives. It helps me focus on the positive things in life and homeschool and I’m enjoying everything so much more.  Finally it gives me a place to record the rich events, reactions, trends, and memories that make our homeschooling lifestyle so rewarding.

Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal Review
 

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Review: IEW’s Phonetic Zoo Spelling A

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Spelling!  I have an love hate relationship with this subject.  I’m not the most spectacular of spellers myself. When I  was in school spelling usually consisted of the tried and true…. write each word five times every day, write a sentence with the word, take a test on Friday.  That worked alright for me except my spelling ability has mostly be limited to the words I learned to spell the words on the tests.  It wasn’t until I became an adult and I started teaching my children to spell that I realized there are actual spelling rules that make spelling the crazy English language easier.  Not perfect of course because there are many exceptions to most rules.

We haven’t done much spelling in my house lately.  I find most programs to be either too easy or too hard and complicated.  I think spelling is an important skill to have.  It will always make a person appear to be smart and well educated.  So when the opportunity to review Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A [Starter Set] from Institute for Excellence in Writing I decided we could give it a try.

Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A_zpsiac4zab5Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A [Starter Set] is intended for grades 3-5 and comes with the following:

  • 5 audio CDs (includes MP3 downloads) or MP3 downloads and no CDs
  • Lesson Cards with all three levels of spelling words and rhymes or poems to help memorize the rules.
  • Personal Spelling Cards which you will use to create personalized lists of spelling words for your child.
  • Zoo Cards which act as a type of reward or visual reference as your child learns the rules
  • Downloadable Phonetic Zoo Teacher’s Notes PDF file (which I personally had printed and bound)
  • Spelling and the Brain video seminar which is a link to a video you can view online

If you visit the IEW website you can find a Spelling Zoo Placement Test.  I love that they offer this opportunity.  It can be very difficult to decide where to start in a new program that you might not be able to see in person and can only purchase online.  It lessened the worry that I might have my children begin at the wrong level and my kids would struggle.

How does it work?

Phonetic Spelling Zoo uses two key components to teach children to spell well.  First, every list of spelling words come with a rule that the children have to memorize.  The rule is written out on a card and in a rhyme or jingle type style. Repeating it a few times a day make these rules easy to remember.  The audio CDs are then used to teach the children the spelling words through auditory sequential practice.

I highly suggestion you take the time to watch Spelling and the Brain.  It is essential if you and your children are going to get the most out of the program. It is just about an hour long and just full of information about how the brain really processes the information needed to learn to spell well.  Andrew Pudewa does a fantastic job of explaining how the brain retains the spelling of words better if they learn the words in auditory sequence instead of a visually remembering what the word looks like.

IEW dedicates an entire webpage FULL of information about how all of this works.  You won’t want to miss reading through it.  It is titled Getting Started with The Phonetic Zoo.

Every day that you and your children will do the following….

  1. Review the rules and rhyme on the flashcards.
  2. Listen to the lesson on the audio CD.  The children use the spelling rhyme to attempt to write the list of spelling words correctly as the audio reads the words for them.
  3. After that the audio correctly spells each of the words and the child corrects his own work as they listen.
  4. After the child is able to get all of the words spelled correctly 2 days in a row they move on to the next lesson.

For this program I purchased each of my boys a simple lined notebook in which to write the spelling words in every day.

Lesson Cards:

The Lesson Cards are large and printed on card stock.  There is a whole punched in the corner so you can add a ring to keep the cards together.  Every card represents 1 spelling rule and includes the three levels.  There is an animal on each card as well as the spelling rule or rhyme.

Teacher Notes:

The teacher notes come in a downloadable pdf.  This book is absolutely filled with information about how to teach spelling.  It is over 70 pages long.  I found myself turning to it so much that I took the file to a print shop and had it printed and bound into a book I keep out on the school table.  There are reference charts, templates, and so much more.  Don’t miss out on the gold mine of this resource.

How we used it:

I am using this program with my two boys ages 8 and 10.  Most of the time they are actually pretty independent with it.  They are moving through it at their individual paces and that is really easy to do.  Each day the boys take out the cards and review the rules.  They quiz each other to see who can remember them.  Then they take turns working on the their own lesson.  One whole lesson just takes maybe 15 minutes to complete.  They enjoy the program and actually look forward to it.  That’s big points in my world!

Overall:

This is a really nicely done program.  My children are easily and pretty effortlessly learning quite a bit about the rules of spelling, the exceptions to those rules, and how to spell many great words.  Over all I really recommend it and we will continue to use it.

IEW Review

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Review: Drawing Around the World: USA from Brookdale House

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My boys have a thing for geography.  I’m not sure what exactly draws them to it but they love learning all about the states, where they are, and interesting facts about them.  They gobble up that information like crazy. Memorizing it all can be a bigger challeng.  When the opportunity to review Drawing Around the World: USA  from Brookdale House came up I thought we could have a lot of fun with it.  I was right! This simple and straightforward geography program presents the states and facts about them all through drawing.  For this review we were provided with a nearly 300 page digital download of the program to print and use.

Brookdale House is a provider of Charlotte Mason homeschool method resources.  They mix fun and learning into every lesson making learning easy.  Repitition is often key. They have programs to help teach children in a variety of subjects including writing, grammar, Bible, history and others.

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The lessons in Drawing Around the World: USA are short and incorporate drawing to help the child learn all about the 50 states plus Washington DC.  This program is designed for grades 4-12.  These lessons take just a few minutes each day and it doesn’t take long before the children can actually draw the states from memory.  This amazed me!  I once watched a show about states and the host challenged adults to draw states as he named them.  Most people couldn’t even begin to do that.  But my kids can now! The method depends on daily repetition and drawing the states many times over.

The children draw, write, and research information about each state.  There are website suggestions to help you find the needed information and facts that really made this whole study more interesting.  The program takes 27 weeks to finish if you are working at it 4 days per week.  The children draw maps by hand as well.  In the beginning they start with a blank U.S. map and fill in just one state. As the weeks go on they draw more states until the entire map is full.  Afer the first day I explained this to my children.  Neither of my boys believed that they would ever be able to do the whole map.  They can’t yet but we are certainly heading in that direction.  When we finish the program they will be able to draw all of the states and include the capitals.

You can see some sample pages here…. Sample Pages

I love how simply everything is put together.  Every week we followed the same lesson plan:

On Day 1:  Children learn about the new state or states recording basic information and drawing the state and capital on the map.  Previously learned states are also drawn out again.  I thought this might get tedious for them but I haven’t heard ny complaint yet.

On Day 2: On day two the child draws the new state and capital again as well as the previous states.  My guys challenged themselves to complete better more accurate drawings each time. 

On Day 3: Same as Day 2.  This is where the repition comes in.

On Day 4: Write down the names of the states and their capitals from this and other weeks and then draw them all on a U.S. map.  This is done from memory.

That is all there is to it.  The learning happens day by day.  Both of my 3rd and 5th graders used this program with ease.  They worked together and had a lot of fun comparing their drawings and giggling at the differences.

We learned a lot of fun information during this study.  Yes I said WE!  I learned too, as I often do.  The information about the various inventions and discoveries made in each of the states is just fantastic.  A lot of states surprised me.  One of the first things we learned is the fact that 99% of all blueberries in this country are produced in Maine.  I’ve never associated Maine and blueberries before but there you have it.  I just enjoy facts like those and so do my children.

Overall

This program is great!  It’s fun, easy, and the children (and mom) learn a ton!  You can’t go wrong!

 Brookdale House Review
 

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Review: Individual Membership from Super Teacher Worksheets

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Our family was recently given the opportunity to review an Individual Membership from Super Teacher Worksheets.  In our homeschool I’m often looking for fun ways for my children to have a little extra practice in some area.  Or a new way to get their thoughts out on some topic.  Sometimes we just want a break from our regular school routine.  That’s where Super Teacher Worksheets comes in.

c57e3d3b-e8ea-4982-85c4-c45501dddfad_zpscm93mbayWhat Is Super Teacher Worksheets?

Super Teacher Worksheets is a website filled with thousands and thousands of all sorts of printable worksheets and other printable activities.  These worksheets are intended for children in preschool through middle school.  You can even create your won worksheets in some areas.  

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When you log onto the site you’ll see that worksheets are categorized in a few different ways including by subject or grade level.  If you are a teacher you’ll find it handy that you can even look for worksheets according to the Common Core standards.  There are just so many practice sheets, learning tools, and even games for every grade level.  The high level of variety available is just difficult to describe.


Super Teacher Worksheets
 
has worksheets for the following subjects:

  • Math
  • Reading and Writing
  • Phonics and Early Literacy
  • Handwriting
  • Nutrition
  • Grammar
  • Spellings Lists
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Holidays
  • Puzzles Brain Teasers
  • Other Teacher Helpers
  • Pre-K and Kindergarten
  • And the Make Your Own Worksheets sectionc57e3d3b-e8ea-4982-85c4-c45501dddfad_zpscm93mbay

Superteacherworksheets5One part of the site that I find particular valuable is the “My File Cabinet” section.  This is a place where you can collect worksheets you’ve found that you want to get back to quickly at another time.  There is also a section that will show you any recently newly added worksheets.

How We Used Super Teacher Worksheets

The very first thing I went for when I gained access to the site are the math sheets.  My oldest son in particular can always use a little extra math fact practice.  I was also excited to be able to customize some math sheets to meet my 5 year old daughter’s needs just right.  This alone makes this website so valuable.

Later I dug around and found some phonics pages and early reading pages for my daughter. These pages included practice with blending her sounds to read words. She actually hasn’t had much in the way of paperwork in her homeschool.  I think it made her feel like a big girl to get some of her work from the same place I was getting work for her older brothers.  I have seen an improvement in her reading since we started using these resources.

Superteacherworksheets2I also enjoy a good seasonal printable, so we worked on fall word searches, making a scarecrow, math worksheets with mystery pictures and all sorts of fall reading comprehension.

For my boys I found an entire set of worksheets that had them researching and reporting on an early explorer… which was exactly what we are studying in our history.  They LOVED writing up those reports.  We already had a stack of books form the library on the topic so they were ready.

They all had some fun with the seasonal pages.  There are fall word searches, craft like activities, those math sheets where you have to solve problems to color in squares to see a hidden picture.  We always enjoy these kinds of activities to practice skills.

Superteacherworksheets3What Do We Think?

We really like this website.  It has enhanced our schooling in a lot of fun ways. It has given me a great source for some fresh and actually quite creative ideas that not only help us practice concepts, but learn brand new skills.  I love how easy it is for me to create an activity on the fly.  Sometimes we take our school on the road and this site makes it even easier to do that.  This site is blessing for sure.

Super Teacher Worksheets Review
 

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Review: With Lee in Virginia from Heirloom Audio Productions 

LeeAs a family we enjoy learning in so many different ways. We read a tremendous amount out loud and alone quietly.  We watch great documentaries.  We listen to audio books and audio dramas.  Audio dramas are often put together with the voices of several actors, complete with dramatic sound effects and music. Heirloom Audio Productions is a source of incredibly high quality historic audio adventures.  When the opportunity to review their latest production, With Lee in Virginia we leaped at the chance.  The day it arrived in the mail my children cheered, ripped it from the box, and popped it into the nearest audio player instantly. They knew they were in for a treat.

With Lee in Virginia comes as 2 CD’s.  As you open the case you’ll notice on CD is colored red and the other gray which is fitting as this is a story from the Civil war.  We also received a digital study guide and other fun things to download such as a printable poster and the Mp3 soundtrack. When you place your own order you’ll see a variety of packages offered if you too would like these extra goodies.

The Study Guide

This is a fantastic study guide.  It is a full 52 pages that you can print in full color.  It comes as a PDF download that is separated into three sections.

  1. The Listening Well section is full of great listening comprehension sections.
  2. The Thinking Further section has open ended questions and website links to help you bring your study further.
  3. The Defining Words section is where you’ll find vocabulary to study.

We particularly enjoyed the Bible and the biographical information about Lee and Jackson.  This lead us to the library to find even more biographies about these men of history.  My children of course enjoyed the pictures.  My 7 year old is a geography buff so he really went after the geography study.  This Study Guide is rich with content and adds a great depth to the audio experience.

How We Used This Product

I mentioned earlier how my children dove into this audio the moment it arrived at our home.  It had to somewhat insist that we listen to it together first as a family before I let them take off with it on their own.  Since our first listen I think they boys have listened to it again 2 or 3 times.  They like to take it up to their room and play it while building with their Legos or drawing.  I think they might have much of the dialog memorized word for word.

We devoured the audio in just a couple of days.  Then we set out to dig into the Study Guide.  I supplemented with materials from the library.  Alright let me re-phase that… during our next library trip my children emptied the shelf on the civil war and dragged me to the library computer to see if I could find more books for them via inter-library loan.  We were also blessed to have the opportunity to witness a Civil War reenactment at Mystic Seaport, which is something like a living a history museum that we happen to have a membership to.

Since the audio arrived and we dove into our Civil War studies my boys (ages 7 and 9) have spent countless hour reenacting scenes, dreaming up elaborate ways to create Civil War uniforms from clothing and other items around our home, and endlessly reading about the topic.

What Did We Think

I had no doubt any audio from Heirloom Audio Productions would inspire great learning in my children.  This one in particular took us to great new heights I hadn’t quite expected.  The story itself is about a young southerner named Vincent. He is a slave owner but a man with more character and dignity than most.  He is blessed to have the influence of men of God.  Though he fights for the Confederacy he risks his life to save the lives of some of the black slaves he knows.

 

Interwoven through the story are lessons about Godly character, duty, and honor.  Not hidden from the listener are the horrors, heartache, and sadness that war brings.  The conversations that all of this has sparked with my boys.  I am often given the opportunity to guide their hearts.  For example, Vincent and his friends believed, as many young men did, that going off to war would be a great adventure.  He was unprepared for the carnage, heartache, and suffering that he witnessed.  After Vincent is injured he returns home to recover.  It is there that he feels he has lost his passion for the war and the Southern cause.  Robert E. Lee visits him and he suggests to Vincent that perhaps, if he has lost his passion than perhaps his passion was misdirected in the first place.  Lee reminds Vincent that it is God that determines the outcome and that he is responsible, duty bound, for the job God gave him.

The audio drama is spectacular in every way.  Such high quality acting, music and sound effects!  Such a compelling story.  It is certainly worthy for entertainment value but by digging a bit, and utilizing the extra resources you’ll find an fantastic opportunity for in depth learning.  I really can’t recommend With Lee in Virginia

With Lee in Virginia Audio Drama Review

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