Category Archives: curriculum

Using SchoolhouseTeachers.com Recently ~ a Crew review

Disclosure: I received this product free through the Homeschool Review Crew.

The Ultimate PreK-12 Annual Membership accessed through SchoolhouseTeachers.com contains a wealth of information, classes, planning tools, helps, and encouragement. From video courses to text courses, from PK classes through courses interesting for adults, you will find just about anything you could want in home education and resources to support all types of learning – home education, virtual learning, blended learning, or others that I don’t even know about.

One of the great things about SchoolhouseTeachers is that you can browse on the site in so many ways. You can search by grade level, subject type, need, keyword, learning style, and more. You come up with lots of options to explore and you can pick and choose what looks like a great fit for your own crew. And if it isn’t? No problem. Search again and pick something different. You have access to it ALL! One free for one year of ALL material on the site.

So, what have we been doing with the site?

The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe Literature Kit

With my 6th grader, we read the book together during December. We used some of the information from the kit to discuss. We talked a bit about C.S. Lewis. We looked at the background for why the children went to the country. We had previously done a WWII study so she was familiar with a lot of but it was good to check in with the history again. She kept a list of all the foods mentioned in the story as we read and we talked about what “tea” meant. At the end of the story, she did a bit of researching of recipes and picked from her list of foods to create a tea party. She cooked and invited her family and we enjoyed a Narnia tea time.

This literature kit is set up for a study to last several weeks. Because we were using it as a one week study during a break from our regular schedule, we adapted by picking a choosing a few of the discussions and activities to do. Activities we didn’t use included making snowflakes and snowflake ornaments, researching beavers, a study on Father Christmas, looking up flowers, how to draw a mouse, and much more. There is a four week lesson plan included.

I also had her pop over to the Literature Lessons for The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. We had some quick discussions about some of the questions there. They covered characters, setting, plot, conflict, and theme. There are suggested answers in a separate file. These questions can also be done using an interactive content tool. It asks the question and has a space to type the response. The responses are emailed to the email address entered by the student when starting the quiz.

Foreign Language – French

We have been hoping for a French class to show up on here and one did. I have just started to explore it a little bit to see how it will work for my 9th grader. It appears that they are 3-4 years worth of high school materials for her so we will likely be taking this up soon. It includes course work from elementary, middle, and high school levels.

Videos

We were excited to see in the Christmas Corner of the Seasonal Resources that there was a video on The Candy Maker’s Christmas. This relates to a favorite holiday book we read every year so we were pleased to watch the short video on it. It also had a worksheet to go along with it if we had chosen to use it.

There are a lot of other video options, from materials to go along with specific classes (one of our favorites is always Drive Thru History) to devotional materials available through RightNow Media. There are over 450 videos available with your membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.

Holidays

There are tons of holiday materials that are written specifically for the holiday or are a part of a larger course that have been separated out to make doing a holiday unit study easy. With Valentine’s Day and President’s Day both coming up next month, there are plenty of materials available to pick something to add a change to the school routine. I was looking at a couple of the printable games to use for Valentine’s Day or perhaps a poetry study. There is a book by Patricia McLaughlin titled “All The Places To Love” that reads like poetry and has a study but there is also a study of Shakepeare’s “Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer’s Day?” Both look like short but strong options for a 6th grader.

Other Resources

I can’t discuss them all but I want to name a few more that are worth checking out:
– School Boxes (grade level curriculum options) – these are full of curriculum choices for a particular level to be able to quickly and easily pull together a full curriculum
– Literacy Center
– Special Needs Center
– Parents eBook Library
– Focused Learning Centers
– High School Help
– Planning: includes printable planners and schedule makers to customize

Much more is included on SchoolhouseTeachers.com. This just barely scratches the surface. Many other reviewers for the Homeschool Review Crew have written about how they have recently been using the Ultimate PreK-12 Annual Membership and some about how it will continue to be used in the coming months for their homeschools. Please pop over to the Crew blog and read more reviews.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Blue Ribbon Awards, 2020 edition

The Blue Ribbon Awards is a tradition with the Homeschool Review Crew and it is a fun one for us as participants. I imagine it is also fun for the vendors. A number of categories are shared and every family in the Crew votes for their favorite in that category. We don’t vote in all categories since we didn’t review something from each of the categories.

Please visit the Crew blog to read about the overall winners from the Crew and to find other families who have shared their individual favorites. Without further ado, here are our family’s choices for the Blue Ribbon Award 2020.

Favorite Complete Curriculum – My Father’s World

Favorite Reading Supplement – Reading Eggs

Favorite Language Arts Resource – IEW

Favorite History/Social Studies Resource – Home School in the Woods Time Line Collection

Favorite History/Social Studies Book – YWAM – Jacob Deshazer

Favorite Science Resource – Journey Homeschool Academy – Upper Level Biology

Favorite Math Curriculu – CTCMath

Favorite Math Supplement – Critical Thinking Co: Mastering Logic & Math Problem Solving

Favorite Fine Arts Resource – Beyond the Stick Figure

Favorite Bible Resource – Drive Thru History Adventures – Bible Unearthed

Favorite Elementary Product – Let’s Go Geography

Favorite Middle School Product – Byron’s Games Continent Race

Favorite High School Product – Journey Homeschool Academy

Favorite Mom/Teacher Product – Fermentools Starter Kit

Best Resource I Didn’t Know I Needed – Fermentools Starter Kit

Favorite Fun Resource – Byron’s Games Continent Race

Kid’s Choice (Miss J chose this one) – Beyond the Stick Figure

Teen’s Choice #1 (Miss L chose this one) – My Father’s World

Teen’s Choice #2 (Miss E chose this one) – Journey Homeschool Academy

My Favorite – Sonrise Stables/History on Horseback

So, there you have it. Our favorites for the year. We got to review a some new products this year and we got to know some new vendors. We also got to use some old favorites that we know work well with the girls. We are continually blessed by the Crew and are looking forward to another year with them.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Learning Math Online ~ a Crew review

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

Math learning can be challenging. Math teaching can be challenging. MathandAlgebra.com is an online subscription that can take the challenge out of it all.

Presented in a combo online/offline format, the goal of MathandAlgebra.com is to help student learns math in a fun and accessible way. This increases not only skill but also confidence. The instructor is Rick Fisher, a math teacher with over 30 years of experience. He has been able to help many students increase their math skills by using his classes for 20 minutes a day.

MathandAlgebra.com has four available classes – Basic Math, Advanced Math, Pre-algebra, and Algebra. A subscription provides access to all four of these courses to work through at your pace.

Each lesson is composed of just a couple of steps. First, Miss L would watch the video. Each video is fairly short; most of the videos we watched were less than 5 minutes. These videos have Mr. Fisher’s voice teaching the concept while you see him writing on the white board. Students are encouraged to copy the exercises as he teaches. Miss L wrote them in her notebook with each page dates and the lesson number included.

showing work complete on left and the video for the current concept
at the bottom of the page you have access to the worksheet and answer key, as well as the place to mark your lesson complete

Next, access the worksheet. It can be viewed online or printed. We did some of both. Work through each of the questions. Again, Miss L wrote them into her notebook.

Once the student has answered all of the questions, the answer key can be accessed. Grade the worksheet at this point. Miss L had to correct any missed questions. Unfortunately, if a question is not understood, there is not an annotated explanation of the answer. Hopefully, the parent assisting can figure out what was missed. So far, in the algebra class, we did not hit any that I could not understand.

Miss L worked through the first few weeks of the algebra course. It came along right after she finished her pre-algebra work. There was not a placement test of any sort, so she had to begin at the start of the course. If you know your student well, you could probably have them skip over parts at the beginning of the class, especially if they are just coming off a course that covered those exact same concepts.

The interface is fairly easy to use. You can see what lessons have been completed in working on the course by the green checked circles. Also, if you have completed the lesson, than the “mark complete” at the bottom is grayed out. The student can easily know where to start each day by remembering to click that “mark complete” when they finish checking each worksheet.

The simplicity of this course is appealing. It doesn’t have lots of bells and whistles and jumps straight into what is needed to be learned for that lesson. Watch the video, do the worksheet. After completing the unit, take the quiz. Move on to the next one. Straight-forward.

The teacher/parent does have access to a simple report listing what quiz the student took on what dates and the grade received. The daily work is not graded online. That is graded by the student or the parent/teacher. If you want to include it in the overall grade, you will do that on your own.

If you are looking for a straight-forward, online math program with a video component, this might be a good fit for you. It is just that. Math taught without bells and whistles to confuse things.

Want to see what other families thought? Visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read additional reviews.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Learning Tech and Coding Skills with Simply Coding ~ a Crew review

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

Simply Coding is a company that has created a huge number of classes over topics related to learning to write code for computers and learning technology skills that will benefit everyone. Coding for Kids Annual Membership gives access to everything on the website for one year. They have a 10 day free trial to find out more. But let me tell you about the company, what they offer, and our experience.

Simply Coding is a company that was born out of the understanding from the founders that everyone needs to have a background in technology and some basic code writing skills. Computer science is growing and changing before our eyes and these guys recognized it. Setting up a “summer camp” for their nieces and nephews, they tested their idea and curriculum. Thus, Simply Coding was born and it continues to grow and thrive through summer camps, in school and after school programs, and with online pathways.

The mission of Simply Coding is this: to prepare youth with the core principles of how all software is created so they can feel confident and able to contribute to technology of the future.” – on the About page from the website

In order to fulfill the mission, Simply Coding has over 40 courses that members can access. The site says it is for ages 11 – 18 but there is a lot on there that adults could benefit from, also. There are four areas these courses fit under:

1 – Simply Coding – how to work with various code languages, building websites, using Java, creating games and apps, and more.

2 – Simply Media – classes on photography, videography, different Adobe programs, and more.

3 – Simply Tech Essentials – different application programs, particularly Microsoft but also Google applications and Prezi, plus some general introductions to computers

4 – Simply Tech4Kids has a number of options that will help younger students get into some different technology areas that might be more interesting than the programming websites and such. This includes electronics, blogging, photography, and keyboarding skills, in addition to creating a YouTube channel. Lots of interesting things that I wish we had found earlier! This seems to be materials directed more towards the younger end of the age range for the Simply Coding site.

With the variety of materials on here, it seems there would be something for everyone. The classes run in different formats, depending on what you are learning. I started the photography course and it is simple. An instruction video runs (a few minutes up to 10 minutes per video) and then there is a short quiz to see if you were paying attention. After a few videos, it was time to upload some projects. I was disappointed that I couldn’t go further without uploading projects because I was wanting to learn more about photography but I don’t have a DSL camera. Since I couldn’t upload the projects, I could not continue. Maybe sometime soon. . .

Miss J is 11 and thought that learning to code a simple website would be fun. She started the Intro To Websites course. It us a fairly straight-forward navigation but you must be on a computer that you can download and save to. Which means this is not a portable program for us but we knew that ahead of time. 🙂

Each section of the lesson lists what it is at the top and you can navigate there through a sidebar to get to where you were working. You read the instructions and the work in the box on the right to complete the task being asked for and see what it does. This clear example is very helpful. If you need a video to teach you what is on the screen, the green button top center will do that for you. This was helpful for Miss J several times as she worked with the program because she just had a difficult time following the instructions. They just didn’t make sense to her. These video reviews really helped.

While this is a great skill to have, it quickly became obvious that Miss J was just not going to enjoy learning to code. This was not a good fit for her. I also struggled with using this program but it had more to do with my time at home on a computer that could work with their coding program.

Simply Coding is a strong company and the way they handle instruction is very good. The variations in styles of instruction varies with instructor and course, which is good. Different courses need different styles of instruction. The video based instruction runs from a video of the actual instructor (photography), to a video of animated instructors (Blogging For Kids), to an audio over a video of the computer screen showing what actions need to be taken for that programming/coding step (Intro to Coding). This variety does a good job of fitting the type of audience the course is aimed at and the type of instruction actually being given/what is needed.

Many students will benefit from Simply Coding and the courses they offer. There is much to be gained from this site and we are going to continue to explore some of the other course options that are not programming. Perhaps one of the girls will want to use the Blogging For Kids course, which is only 5 modules. Or maybe the photography or keyboarding classes.

Any family can gain much with the many different options available on Simply Coding for learning any number of technology-based things.

Be sure to visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read about other families experiences with Simply Coding because a lot of them have had great success with this company and it was a terrific fit for their tech interested students.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

High School Curriculum – 9th Grade

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links.

Miss L has started her high school work as a 9th grader for the 2020-2021 school year. She actually started it back in June because we were working on the review for My Father’s World, which is the curriculum we have settled into for 9th grade. It is working well.

My Father’s World is a Christian based core curriculum for history, Bible, and literature. They had other subjects you can add on to make it a full boxed set curriculum with math, science, and electives. You can read a full review of the program and what we thought about it from our previous review. Today, I just want to talk a bit about how it is working.

We are not following the lesson plans exactly as written. It doesn’t allow for additional interests and passions but the plans are well written and thorough. We have created two sets of curriculum from My Father’s World and the other subjects: a daily set and a looping set.

The daily subjects that Miss L does include math, violin, dance, and foreign language (French). For math, she is using CTCMath (read the review) and working on Algebra I. She finished up her pre-algebra work with CTCMath, also. We are working on finding a violin teach that will do in-person classes but that has proven difficult at this time. She is working in one of her Suzuki books for the time being. She is taking a number of dance classes locally and working as a student assistant, also. She takes ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, contemporary, hip hop, and is part of the company group. She is working with Duolingo for her French class. These are what she does every day and she will likely add debate in a month or so.

The classes that she loops include Ancient History, literature, writing, logic, science, and Bible. Because of the way the lesson plans for My Father’s World are written, she actually does Bible in several ways and places, so she does work on Bible every day. The lesson plans have a place to check off when an assignment is done so she just loops through the work with the assistance of the check boxes.

She is using Notgrass World History, though the plans do not go straight through it; rather they pick and choose the topics that align with their designed schedule. She is using the Ancient History Literature Supplement that goes with the MFW lesson plans for her writing and literature. Logic is a set of books by The Critical Thinking Co and she is loving these. She actually worked ahead a lot during the recent break we took in August. She is using the Apologia Exploring Creation with Physical Science. Bible includes reading through the Old Testament and using several books to go along with it. 

This has given her a lot of independence and she has done well with it. The lesson plans are a big help for her and help show a lot of progress. The lesson plans have the student “checking in” with the teacher in several different ways so I can stay up with her in her learning without being fully involved in each step. Additionally, we have chosen for her to do a discussion of questions for some of her Bible lessons, which has been a good and helpful way to approach the topic and ensure that she is getting truth in the discussion.

This program is definitely a huge benefit for her and we are well pleased with MFW. It is as rigid as you need it to be and we have been able to make it even more flexible to work with our schedule. That’s a win-win for sure.

You can read about the 11th grade curriculum and, soon, the 6th grade curriculum choices for the 2020-2021 school year.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

If you are looking for more options and want an afforadable option for the entire family, check out SchoolhouseTeachers.com. This is a full curriculum with over 400 classes for all levels. The Mama Bear Sale is currently going on.
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High School Curriculum – 11th Grade

(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links for SchoolhouseTeachers.com. If you visit the site through these links and choose to purchase, I will receive a commission.)

I realized the other day that I haven’t yet shared our curriculum for the current 2020-2021 school year, even though we are in week 7 of it. We actually started it back in July, took a chunk of August off, and restarted the day after Labor Day. So, I will fill you in. This post is for 11th grade. 9th grade and 6th grade will come in separate posts.

Miss E is 11th grade this year and busy as ever. I enjoy seeing her grow and mature. She worked hard to get herself set up for Dual Credit classes at our local community college and she is working as a student assistant at the dance studio. These are two very large amounts of time and commitment she has added to her curriculum and she is handling it all really well. Her organization is strong and her determination is even stronger.

Dual Credit – US History – This is the first part of US history and is an online class with a tough text by Eric Foner. She is finding it super interesting and enjoying it but the text is a high level of writing and comprehending.

Dual Credit – Music Appreciation – This music appreciation class is a joy for her and she is thriving with it. She is have a great time, love the discussion boards and getting to listen to music. It is also an online class.

Math – CTCMath – Miss E is finishing up Algebra II with this program. She had started in geometry last year but switched to Algebra II after about 6 weeks. So she should finish Algebra II up here in the next couple of weeks and move back to Geometry, also with CTCMath. You can read our review of it here. We may head over to a geometry class on SchoolhouseTeachers.com if she struggles again with it because there is a pretty highly recommended geometry class on there.

Literature/Writing – When Worlds Collide by Sharon Watson – We have used a course from Sharon Watson before and it included a lot of excellent literature, good writing, and interesting discussions and projects. That led us to purchase the other high school literature program from her. It has been enjoyable for Miss E so far and she just finished Pudd’nhead Wilson today, with just the project to go with the book to complete for that unit.

Science: Biology – Experience Biology from Journey Homeschool Academy is the course she is using for this class. Experience Biology does include labs so it is a bit more intense than previous science classes. In addition, she is having labs and some of the work checked by the company and they are requiring a different style of work from Miss E. It is good challenge for her.

World History – Before she chose to do a dual credit history class, Miss E had started the world history course from Notgrass. She thoroughly enjoys it so even though she is doing another history class right now, she didn’t want to give this one up. That is the mark of a truly interesting class, isn’t it? Because she is enjoying it so much, it isn’t a trial for her to complete both classes.

Spanish – Spanish 1 on SchoolhouseTeachers.com is the course she is using for this foreign language credit. She is still highly proficient with ASL but since some colleges will not accept that as a foreign language, she decided she would enjoy learning Spanish. She is working through this class at a decent pace to date.

PE – Dance – She is studying several styles of dance at JSOD, where the girls have danced for 10 years now. She enjoys dance a lot and was able to begin pointe class this year, which is very exciting.

So, that is a high school class run down for 11th grade. Quite a bit but she is working hard and responsibly at it all.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

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Use code: MAMABEAR to pay only $159 for an Ultimate Annual SchoolhouseTeachers.com membership. Plus, receive a beautiful tote for Mama and an inspirational copy of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine with your purchase (US only)!

Writing Class for Middle School – IEW ~ a Crew review

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

One of those companies that I have heard about for a very long time is Institute for Excellence in Writing® (IEW). Their reputations as a strong writing instruction program is just a given in most circles of home education. But I was intimidated! The program was overwhelming to me to look at and think about the required prep for. That has definitely changed! Structure and Style® for Students is their new, redesigned writing program and it is so easy to implement! I am sold.

We received the middle school level of this program for this review. Structure and Style® for Students Year 1 Level B is where we began with our 6th grader and while it took a bit to get into (due to the student, not the program), it has been a good fit. We received everything we needed to get started except for a pen/pencil and some blank notebook paper. The program comes with:

  • student pages and binder
  • teacher’s manual, and
  • access to the streaming video with “forever” access

This is a video based teaching structure with Andrew Pudewa. Mr. Pudewa teaches a class on the video. This is a class with live students that has been recorded for our benefit, to see real students using this material and for our students to get the benefit of a live class setting. Each video is about an hour and a half but is set up in the lesson plans to viewed over 2 class periods.

During each class period, Mr. Pudewa has the students interacting, writing, and taking notes. From there, he gives some specific writing assignments to be completed throughout the remainder of the week. The lesson plan runs for 4 days but can be stretched to 5 easily enough. We have even had to stretch it longer, which I’ll explain in just a bit.

Each week, the instruction is based on well-researched source texts, such as the example below, that IEW has put together. They have done their own research and writing so that parents can know that these source texts are quality materials. There are printed copies of this in the student pages and each week the student is given organization tips to help them learn to keep materials in order and easy to find.

A full piece of writing is completed each week of this 24 week course. This creates quite a strong set of writing by the end of the course. It begins with learning about a key word outline and creating this. Some of the outline is done during the class video and the rest is completed without the video. By the end of the course, the student is writing formal critiques. The entire set of styles that will be addressed in the 9 units includes:

  • Note Making and Outlines
  • Writing from Notes
  • Retelling Narrative Stories
  • Summarizing a Reference
  • Writing From Pictures
  • Summarizing Multiple References
  • Inventive Writing
  • Formal Essay Models, and
  • Formal Critique

In addition to writing, vocabulary is a strong component of this course and is integrated well into the teaching class. No need to separate it out. Additionally, grammar is discussed creating a seamless inclusion of these parts of good writing. If you need more, they recommend adding Fix It! Grammar, another IEW product, to your class day.

Student Pages and Binder –

The student sets up the binder on the first day of the course, following the guidance given. Instructions are written to the student and are clear. Once the binder is set up to start, new organization instructions follow throughout the video lessons and at the end, as needed, to help the student learn to stay organized.

Teacher’s Guide

The Teacher’s Guide is spiral bound and contains all the information the parent/teacher needs to support the student through the video based class. There are clear reproductions of the student pages in the Teacher’s Guide, as well as gray boxes that provide additional information for the teacher. Some of these boxes include complete information on what Mr. Pudewa writes on the white board during the video and I have found these very helpful. I don’t sit down with Miss J for this class without my copy.

example of gray box in the Teacher’s Guide next to the student page reproduction

Streaming Videos

The videos will be found in your online portal through the IEW website. When you purchase the program, you create an account with them. You then have lifetime, 24/7/365 access to the videos through your account. You visit their website, login, and click the tab that includes you SSS videos.

tabs on my IEW account

Mine says SSS-1B Video since we are in Year 1 of Level B. Click that, select the lesson you are on, and off you go. There is a white mark partway through that shows you where to break between day 1 and day 2. You cannot see it in the screenshot below. Each part of the lesson run 30-45 minutes.

Video for lesson 4

Our Use and Thoughts

I have been very pleased. It takes a long while for Miss J to work through the lessons but she has come to enjoy them. Mr. Pudewa cracks a lot of jokes and that is something that Miss J doesn’t love. She calls it “misuse of jokage” but she laughs just the same. 🙂

The Teacher’s Guide claims that it takes between 30 and 45 minutes to work through each day’s materials but we have found it take a lot longer, especially since there is often a bit more to do after the videos are finished and they are often 45 minutes. Our solution is to have her work at completing the day’s materials on day 1 and day 2. We minimize other things if need be and she takes a couple of breaks since writing (the physical process AND getting words out of her head onto paper) has always been a challenge for her. She doesn’t necessarily have a problem, it has just not come easy to her. For the other two days on the lesson plans, she can take a day or two longer if needed. Since there are checklists on her weekly outlines, it is easy to see what she still needs to do for the lesson at any given point.

This is especially important to give her time since she has finally decided that her writing (the physical putting words to paper) is important and she wants to have good cursive. This last writing assignment took her 6 pages to write out. So, I gave her plenty of time to do her best. And it provided good, solid, high-quality writing.

I am very pleased with this IEW product and so glad they have come out with this new version of their writing program. As I said, with the old program, I was intimidated by it all as an adult. I couldn’t bear to share that intimidation with my girls but Structure and Style® for Students is a VERY accessible program that the student can enjoy being a part of. It has been a great fit for Miss J and I am pleased to recommend it to others.

The Homeschool Review Crew has been using this program at all three levels – A, B, and C – with their students for the past few weeks. Those who used Levels A and B are sharing their thoughts about it this week. Level C is going to be delayed just a bit but they should be joining the linkup before too terribly long. Click over to the Crew blog to read more.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

5 Tips on How to Pick a Curriculum ~ 2020 Not Back To School Blog Hop

How to pick a curriculum

One of the many common questions about home education is “How do you pick a curriculum?” This is not an unexpected question because there are soooooo many options out there. And they all fit a need somewhere in the home education community. So, how do you go about picking a curriculum when there are so many choices?

1 – Consider Your Comfort With Teaching

If you are comfortable teaching and creating, you don’t need a big box curriculum. You might do better piecing together your own curriculum for your children. If you are not comfortable and want it all planned out for you or all of the pieces of it chosen for you, a box just might be the best choice. If you are somewhere in between, you could pick a company that does the language arts and you find your own combo for history and science. Or pick a company that has a good history base that incorporates language arts, literature, or more. Many of the big name companies have lesson plans you can purchase to go along with their books so you may choose to go that way.

This year we are using both a big box curriculum (9th grade), piecing our own (11th grade), and a history spine with language arts, literature and Bible built in to which we will add math, writing, and science. The reason? Our girls are all different, which leads to the next thing to consider.

2 – Consider Your Child

Some children need a huge amount of structure. Some need a huge amount of creativity. Some need the freedom of rabbit trail following. These will help direct you to whether you can pick a big box curriculum and just change it around to fit the flexibility needed or whether you would be better off piecing your own curriculum together.

When our girls were younger, we did the piecing together because it allowed us the freedom to move at their pace, at their interest level. If we were working on something and their interest level just belly-flopped, we moved on to something else. We are not in a state that requires extensive documentation so we have the freedom to do that. Piecing together our own curriculum allowed us to do a lot of unit studies with things that were interesting or related to some trip we might be about to take. We could allow life to really direct what we were doing in education.

Now that the girls are older, they have to hit some requirements for college entrance so we are being much more deliberate about choices. We are sticking things out, even when we piece together the curriculum. We might have two or three things work together to make a high school credit. (Example: studying videos and pictures on Pinterest to get ideas for bullet journals + using a hand-lettering book to practice new ideas + creating two complete bullet journals = 1 high school art credit) We also have chosen for our 9th grader this year to use a big box curriculum. It fits her personality and her needs at this point so it works for us. Our 6th grader needed a bit more structure this year to foster more independence so the history spine that we picked does that for her.

3 – Consider Interest

Once again, this is a huge factor in choosing curriculum. If you have a student who loves science, you need to start at your science choice so that the interest is fed. From there, the other subjects can fall into place but you spine is science. If you have a student who loves writing, you would want to start by finding a strong language arts/writing program and build from that choice. Some of the big box curriculums have these things and if you know, for example, that you want an IEW program for writing, you can eliminate any curriculum that do not include that. It really helps to narrow down options.

4 – Remember: It Isn’t Permanent

Nothing you choose is etched in stone. Even if you have to stick it out for the entire school year, you can change next year. If you are in a state like I am, you can change as soon as you are certain that what you are using is just not the best choice. Don’t beat yourself up if you have picked something that just isn’t right. Put it aside and try again. We went through probably 8 math programs before we found the ones that we KNEW fit the girls well. And, even then, the math we used for Algebra I did not have an Algebra II program so we had to find something new the next year. So don’t be afraid of change. Change often brings about the best results you can imagine in the long run.

5 – Take A Break If Needed

Sometimes, curriculum choices and planning can be overwhelming. So take a break. Whether that is getting a tall glass of iced tea (hey, it is summer in Texas and 100 degrees!) or taking a quick run (I’ll just walk on the treadmill if that’s okay with you; see previous statement about Texas and temperature). Do what you need to get your thinking refocused because planning the year a bit really does help it to go smoothly. You don’t need everything planned out unless you are just that type of personality. (See number 2 about considering the child; she needed it all planned out for the whole year and it is going great for her!)

Curriculum choices does not have to be overwhelming and it all starts with thinking a few things through to narrow your choices before you even start. And, don’t forget that there are plenty of home educators out there who want to help you succeed so find a place and ask a question. I’ll gladly help you out. Leave a question in the comments or shoot me an email by heading over to the contact me page. I’ll do my best to answer and if I don’t know the answer, I know a slew of homeschool moms and dads on the Crew that will help, too.

Speaking of the Crew, head over to the Crew blog to find the linkup for today’s topic of Curriculum. There are suggestions of curriculum, curriculum favorites, and much, much more being shared in the blog hop today.

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Yesterday was about Resources and Supplies. You can find a few of those below.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

 

My Father’s World – a complete high school (9th) curriculum ~ a Crew review

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

Ancient History and Literature - a 9th grade_high school curriculum

We have been blessed by the opportunity to use My Father’s World and their complete homeschool curriculum for 9th Grade – Ancient History and Literature. This includes the core of history, Bible, and language arts. We were also given math, science, and the elective logic. Let me start at the beginning, though.

The Consultation:

The My Father’s World curriculum for 9th grade/high school starts with a consultation with the high school curriculum coordinator. David called on a Thursday to chat. He caught me early in the morning, which is a good time for me to have a few minutes uninterrupted. He talked to me about what was included in the core of the curriculum and that we would also be deciding about which math and science to include. He also made me very happy telling me that the recommended elective for 9th grade is logic and asked if we would be interested in that. I had a resounding yes for that as Miss L is quite a  debater and really enjoys logical thinking and consideration.

David talked to me about math and let me know that in 9th grade they recommend Saxon math. Since we have not been using that program, we needed to find out where to place Miss L. He directed me to the math placement tests on the My Father’s Word website so I could print them off. He encouraged me to let her work at a comfortable pace on them so she would concentrate and be placed correctly. I planned to call him back at the number he left with me after she finished the tests.

We next discussed science. The recommended company is Apologia and he listed off the options we had. Since we have been doing a less rigorous science, he gave me the option to choose a non-lab science that would still be strong enough for a high school credit. This was encouraging to me because it would be very easy to get overwhelmed for Miss L. So, we chose Apologia Exploring Creation with Physical Science.

After the quick discussion about the logic books, David and I finished the conversation. I got the placement math tests printed off and Miss L started them. She took the better part of 2 days to complete them with a final placement in Algebra I. We will likely have a bit of reteaching to do on some things that she doesn’t remember a completely but overall, I think it is a great fit for her. Before I could call David back and let him know our math choice, he called to check on how the placement tests were going. When I told him that she needed the Algebra I level, he remembered that I had guessed that might be where she ended up. He had the rest of her box of materials ready to go and let me know it would be shipped by UPS on Monday. This was Friday afternoon, only a day and a half after our initial consultation. They are good, y’all!

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The Curriculum:

The base package includes all you need for the ancients time period of history with Bible and literature. As a base, it works through the Old Testament of the Bible and the Notgrass World History program. The literature and reading work with those two bases. There is a large number of books that go with these and it would be really helpful for you to visit MFWBooks.com to read up on those individually. Here is the list of titles, though:

  • Ancient History and Literature curriculum guide and lesson plans
  • Old Testament
  • The Baker Illustrated Guide To The Bible
  • The New Answers Book 1
  • Taking the Old Testament Challenge
  • The Student Bible Atlas
  • Daniel Inductive Bible Study
  • The Tabernacle
  • Eric Liddell
  • What On Earth Am I Here For?
  • Notgrass World History (package)
  • Unwrapping the Pharoahs
  • Ancient History Timeline and figures
  • Encyclopedia of the Ancient World
  • Ancient Literature Supplement
  • The Illiad
  • The Odyssey
  • Bulfinch’s Greek & Roman Mythology: The Age of Fable
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh
  • The Cat of Bubastes

To complete the curriculum, we included math, science, and logic. A foreign language is recommended but they don’t offer the languages. (They do have a foreign language guide if you need some direction or lesson plans for a language program from another provider.) We did received their recommended titles. These titles include:

  • Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Physical Science (text, tests, answer key, and daily lesson plans)
  • Saxon Math Algebra I (text, Dive CD, solutions, and daily lesson plans)
  • Introduction to Logic package (two texts)

You can view the unboxing video over on Instagram.

Using The Curriculum

We have never used a complete boxed curriculum before so I had a lot of reading and looking to do when this box arrived. There were so many books and lesson plans included. It did take me a good while to figure out how everything was supposed to work together. The first thing I needed to look at – The Ancient History and Literature curriculum guide and daily lesson plans.

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The daily lesson plans are quite amazing. They are super detailed and written out day-by-day in one week chunks. The book title, page number, and assignment are clearly noted for each item in the daily plan. This is really helpful and since each item has a check box beside it to mark when completed, it is easy to keep up with where the student is working. Following this daily lesson plan chart, there are lesson plan notes for each of the items in the checklist. These give more specific ideas to pay attention to or more detailed instructions on which questions to answer or paragraphs to read.

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These daily plans are really important to this curriculum because it does not take the student straight through most of the titles being used to teach ancient history. For example, the student is not reading lesson 1 and then lesson 2 and so forth in the World History text. Nor is the student reading Question 1, Question 2, etc. in the New Answers Book. But with the structure of the lesson plans, the student can be independent with their learning and hit the required lessons and reading.

The lesson plans for math and science are more straightforward but still extremely helpful. The daily lesson with page numbers, questions to be answered, experiment to complete (for science), test to take, etc., just makes it a walk in the park to keep moving forward. There is a place to date each lesson, as well as pages to record tests and other grades that might impact the final grade in the class.

Our Modification

After a couple of weeks of trying to tackle these lessons exactly as written, which is absolutely needed the first time out of the box with a new curriculum, we realized that the number of hours required daily was just too much. Adding into the history, literature, writing, and Bible, we had math, science, logic, French (not through MFWBooks.com), violin, and dance. With the attention to detail that my 9th grader takes, she was easily spending 7 hours on the work and not completing it. It was quite challenging for her.

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It definitely got better the 3rd week as she got more familiar with working through the lesson plans, knowing where her books were, knowing which items she needed to write out and which we were doing orally, etc. The hours dropped considerably that week. But it was still too much with her dance schedule. So, we have adapted it to a daily schedule with a looping section. This seems to work really well, so far.

Daily, she tackles math, science, French, violin, and dance. She then loops with history, literature and writing, Bible, and logic. Some days, she is successfully getting through the entire workload in one day’s lesson plan. Other days, she does not and so just picks up there the next school day. With the detail in the daily lesson plans, this is super easy to do. She just dates things as she goes along so I not only know where she is currently working but I know when she did each lesson, also. This is working really well and she is spending about 4 -5 hours on classes a day, not including dance time (which is about 2-3 hours a day for summer).

Thoughts

Honestly, I never thought I would like a boxed curriculum. But, Ancient History and Literature is the perfect fit for my 9th grader. She thrives on checklists and knowing exactly what she has to do. With the high expectations set by the curriculum (stated in letters direct to the student), she is thriving.

My Father's World 9th grade curriculum guide

Reading the information written directly to the student about the curriculum and expectations

She adores the topics covered. I know this because during one of the days where she had spent about 8 hours on classes and still wasn’t done (early on before she knew the ins and outs of how the books and lesson plans worked), we talked about whether we needed to drop some of the topics or books. She was adamant that she did not want to because she found them all interesting. This is why the loop schedule came into effect for us. She is finding her groove with the lesson plans and books and really enjoying her lessons. She has talked a bit about getting the 10th grade curriculum next year, too. That is high praise from this young lady! When she likes something, she is fully on board with it and that is how she feels about My Father’s World.

For myself, I am also fully on board with this curriculum. It fits her to a tee now that she has gotten into the groove with it and she is absolutely loving the topics. I know this because she not only enjoys talking about them when she has to (in order to check something off on the lesson plans) but she has brought it up in other conversations, also. For example, we were talking about something about the Garden of Eden I read in a review of a Bible program the other day that I had never heard before. She mentioned that it was covered in one of her reading a couple of weeks ago and proceeded to tell us about what she read in the book and what she read in the Bible. She then talked about where she felt the truth lay after doing her reading. I was really impressed with that.

Would I recommend My Father’s World? Absolutely! My Father’s World is a great resource and I would definitely suggest you check them out. The Homeschool Review Crew also had a few other families using different levels of My Father’s World. You can read about the complete homeschool curriculum packages for preschool, Pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, and 3rd-8th grades by clicking over to the Crew blog and following the links at the bottom for the level you are interested in reading more about.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

My Fathers World Ancient History and Literature

Experience Biology with Journey Homeschool Academy ~ a Crew review

high school biology

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

Upper level high school science courses are necessary if you are looking at pursing education beyond high school. They require more time management, study skills, comprehension, and, often, skills that have not been developed yet. In our case, things like lab writing, microscope use for a specific purpose, and quiz/test taking scored by someone other than mom. It has been a good journey so far with Journey Homeschool Academy and their upper level lab science course of Experience Biology.

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Experience Biology: Upper Level is a college prep level course that is extremely rigorous. Taught by a scientist and a teacher, Luke and Trish Gilkerson, the information coming from Journey Homeschool Academy is solid and challenging. Experience Biology includes the video lessons, a guidebook to complete and take notes in during lectures, quizzes to ensure understanding along the way, lab instruction videos and lab write-ups turned in online (but graded by parent), lab research questions, and quarterly exams. There is also a book for reading assignments; though this book was not included for this review, it is highly recommended by Journey Homeschool Academy. The course covers every topic you would expect in a high school level biology class.

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Experience Biology has sign up periods periodically through the year so that they can help guide students through the course and check off assignments that have been turned in. Once you sign up and begin on the chosen date, you have access to the course for one year. The class has 35 lessons, including the exam days. They are released to the student one lesson at a time. Once a student completes a lesson, the next one should be available shortly. This helps the student pace the class better and not get overwhelmed.

Experience Biology has a parent dashboard that is easy to navigate and find what you need. There is a parent curriculum guide for the course to help you understand your role in the learning process and the role the class will fill. The answer key to the student guidebook and research questions are here. There is also a sample lab report and answers needed for a few of the labs.

The list of lab supplies is included here, also. This list is great because there is a copy both of the overall list of supplies and another that is by lesson. This allows planning ahead to have needed supplies on hand at the right time. Since some of the items have a limited lifespan, this lesson by lesson list is really helpful.

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The student dashboard is also easy to navigate. It includes a welcome video from the instructors. There is a resources tab that has the guidebook to download or order, as well as the lab guidebook with step by step written instructions for each.

Click on a lesson from the list at the left. It brings up the page for it, which includes the checklist with boxes to mark for each item completed. The video lessons are right there on the page and are generally broken into two videos of instruction. The student uses the list on the left to access the quiz page, the research questions page, and the lab instruction, where applicable. Not every lesson has a lab but about half of them do.

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When there is a lab, the student will have additional instruction specific to this lab. There is a video with instructions, and as needed, step by step instruction on how to complete the lab.

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The lab guidebook has additional information to help the student be successful. There is an overview, materials needed, step-by-step instructions, and note taking space.

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It is expected that the student will write up and submit a lab report. This is done online, though the assignments tab in the list on the left of the page. The student can submit some things by typing in the box. They can also submit a link to a place like a Google doc or to a Dropbox. Miss E has done hand-written lab reports so she takes pictures of her report, inserts them into a doc, and turns in the link for that. The online submission is for completion of the course while the parent assigns the actual grade for the lab report. (Instructions for grading are found on the parent dashboard in the Parent Curriculum Guide.)

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Experience Biology has been an excellent challenge for Miss E. She has started getting into the groove of the program, after experiencing a couple of stumbles early on. The Parent Curriculum Guide will tell you that these first few weeks are often the toughest for students so I wasn’t surprised by this.

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As a parent/teacher, I am very pleased with the quality of instruction, the thoroughness of the presentation, and the materials available for my student to learn about biology. If you are looking for a biology course for your high school student, certainly check out Journey Homeschool Academy. There are actually 2 levels of this course that you can choose from – one that does not include the labs and so is not considered a full high school credit (according to their website) and one that includes the labs, videos, and support information and awards a certificate of completion for one high school credit for a lab science. The difference in cost is not significant and there are discounts for multiple students.

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In addition to Experience Biology: Upper Level, you can also purchase other courses from Journey Homeschool Academy. Courses reviewed by other Homeschool Review Crew families include Experience Biology: Elementary and Experience Astronomy: Elementary.

Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read some of these other reviews about the courses offered by Journey Homeschool Academy.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

JHA Experience Biology

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