Category Archives: curriculum

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.

2020-Not-Back-to-School-Homeschool-Blog-Hop

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

Understanding Math with CTCMath ~ a Crew review

Understanding Math with CTCMath

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

We have tackled math from so many standpoints over the years! It is always good when a child feels like it is working. CTCMath is a program that we have tried several times. It has become a good fit for all three girls now that they are older. Miss E and Miss L were a part of the review last year and stuck with the program the whole year. Miss J tried it last year but it wasn’t a good fit for her. This year, though, it has been just what she needed!

CTC-Math

Screenshot 2020-07-28 at 9.07.28 AMWe received a subscription to CTCMath with their 12-month Family membership. This gave us a login for each of the girls, plus a separate parent login for management of student accounts. There is a single membership for one student and the family membership covers the whole family. Each student has access to the entire set of lessons, from kindergarten lessons through Calculus.

CTCMath is a full math curriculum on one site. The site itself is very easy to navigate. Miss J is working on 6th grade math. Miss L is finishing up middle school math/pre-algebra and about to dig into algebra 1. Miss E is finishing up algebra II and will be starting geometry very soon.

If you are interested in a placement test to find where to start your student on this program, there is one available. It is a progressive test so it may take a good bit of time to complete. We have always chosen to forego the placement and make the best decision we can based on what the girls are successful with when we start lessons.

Each lesson has a video, a set of questions and/or a worksheet, and a printable lesson summary. These videos run between a couple of minutes, especially at the lower levels, up to 17 or 18 minutes for algebra II and geometry. The online questions are generally a set of 10, though we have seen as few as 8. The worksheet is in addition to the online questions, in our experience, and have a good number more questions to answer. The girls answer these online and have the computer grade it.

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The computer grades the online questions and the input answers from the worksheet. The parent/teacher can set the passing level. Our girls’ are set at 80% correct for passing. The reason for this is if we put it at 90% and they make one silly mistake or click something wrong, it fails them. 80% passing allows 2 mistakes. If the topic is not passed, the student can redo it and the program will average the grades together. This makes it really important for the student to try their hardest, even when they know they will have to do it again.

For the most part, the videos do a very good job of explaining topics. In algebra II, we have found that At Home Dad needs to be around to help with the explanations because there are quite a few that the online video is not enough of an explanation for. The worksheets for middle school and high school math tend to throw a couple of twists into the questions and they are not always twists that make sense to my girls. They often need assistance with this part of their daily lesson.

streamers in the background

For 6th grade math, Miss J can finish her lesson in under 20 minutes. She gets really proud when she does well because at her level, she gets streamers in the background if she gets 100%. Miss L tends to take between 45 minutes and an hour. Miss E has her lessons vary widely. Some days she flies through them in 20 minutes. Other lessons it will take her multiple days to work through.

The parent side of the program allows the parent/teacher to set daily tasks and assign work. You can set up weekly reviews.

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You can create worksheets based on topics that need more work and print those out.

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You can access and print out different types of reports to keep track of your student’s progress.

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Another feature I really like is that I can log into the girls’ site from the parent portal when they are struggling and see the exact lesson they are struggling with. Being able to watch the video and work the questions without messing up their work is a great thing. While most of these actions are intuitive, there are video tutorials available if you need more assistance.

There are weekly reports sent via email that keep the parent/teacher up to date on what the student has done. These can be downloaded and saved. They are also available through the parent portal.

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What the girls thought:

Miss J – I think this is an okay program. I like the teacher. He is pleasant and smart. He makes math concepts that I don’t know easier. Not always because sometimes he makes them more complicated for me but he does make most of them easier for me to understand. I like that it is easy to complete my lessons.

Miss L – It doesn’t have the overwhelming amount of review that other programs have had. The videos themselves are easy to understand and I feel like I grasp the concept. Most of my problems come when I get to the worksheet and they ask a question that was not explained in the videos. It is on the same topic but with a twist or two that I cannot figure out. That is definitely the most frustrating part. But overall, I like it better than other programs.

Miss E – One of the things I like about CTCMath is that it is very straight-forward and it is very easy to use. I feel like I have adjusted well to this program and I understand how things are presented. This simplicity makes it a good program for me. I have noticed that there are some adjustments that I have to make due to the fact that I have not used this program for several years straight. Some of the terms used I need additional help understanding because I know them by a different name or I have learned to work a concept in a different way. I still like the program and am pleased we are keeping it.

Still not sure about the 12-month Family membership? There is a free trial available on the website. Or you can visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read more reviews from other families who have been using CTCMath with their students for the past few weeks.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

an online k-12 full math curriculum with video instruction

MaxScholar – online reading software ~ a Crew review

MaxScholar

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.

MaxScholar is a online reading software program set that allows students of all ages and ability levels to get individual instruction and practice with necessary reading skills. This is a bundle of comprehensive instruction for phonics and reading. Based on research and using this research to build a platform that is effective and interesting for students to use, this site works for students from PK – grade 12. MaxScholar Orton-Gillingham Software is a fluent program that works with the knowledge the student has and is a dynamic program that adjusts to the needs of the student as they complete sessions.

MaxScholar-Logo

Based on the research, this program is considered highly successful in helping students with learning differences, particularly dyslexia. It uses a multi-sensory approach to teaching the grapheme/phoneme connection. For students with auditory processing disorders and or student struggling with reading comprehension, this program works well by using highlighting, summarizing, and retelling, among other approaches. Students with ADD and ADHD respond well to the format, variety of games, and speed of activity on MaxScholar.

Due to the variety of materials included, this program is highly adaptable. As a parent, there are plenty of reports and tracking materials to help you follow and document your student’s progress. Whether for at home instruction or as a supplement to learning outside the home, this program has a lot to offer.

There are several parts to the MaxScholar site. The main three are MaxPhonics, MaxReading, and MaxWords.

MaxPhonics includes things basic skills such as:

  • letter recognition
  • sound recognition
  • fluency
  • sight words
  • short vowels
  • blends
  • and more.

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Each lesson includes multisensory approaches. There is a slide-show type lesson, for example, for teaching the letter P. It shows the letter and says its name. It shows a picture of a panda and says the word. It showed a lady saying the sound. It shows a video of the letter being written and describes how to write it. It has the student use the mouse to draw the letter on the screen. There is a matching game, where there are pictures and the student selects the one that starts with the P sound.

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This is just one lesson on teaching a letter. With so many areas, there is a lot of information for the young learner in MaxPhonics. There are reviews built in, as well as testing.

MaxReading is for grades k-12 and includes:

  • reading
  • reading comprehension
  • vocabulary
  • outlines
  • summarizing

In MaxReading, there are books online to read. These can be simple comprehension things or much more involved non-fiction reads. Lessons deal with vocabulary with pops-up from rolling over the word with the mouse, reading, instruction in highlighting important information, and outlining what is read. Next there is a writing exercise and review questions. After completing this, the option for some games comes up.

Since there are a variety of book topics and levels, there is something for all students here.

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MaxWords contains learning for multi-syllabic words and includes:

  • prefixes
  • suffixes
  • root words
  • syllabication
  • spelling rules

Each of the areas in MaxWords builds on the one before. Moving from syllables to spelling rules and on to prefixes and suffixes, the student really learns the building blocks of words in these modules. This section includes a module on Greek roots and Latin roots.

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There are also four game based learning activities: MaxMusic, MaxVocab, MaxPlaces, and MaxBios.

Screenshot 2020-07-08 at 11.44.45 PMMaxMusic uses popular music artists and songs to work on reading and grammar. The student chooses an artist and then clicks on the name of the song. The lyrics appear and instructions are read to tell the student to read the lyrics. After reading, the student is given an instruction to click on all of a certain type of word. Most of what I saw was click on the verbs to identify them. It self checks and gives the student a score when they click done. Then the student can do a fill-in-the-blank type of item with it, trying to complete the blanks with the right word in the right place. The games in MaxMusic include identify the sound and match it or play the guitar to songs.

MaxVocab includes a dictionary that has all of the words from the MaxReading books. You select the level and book. To the right appears all of the vocabulary words from that book. Each word has a definition, is used in a sentence, shows an antonym, and shows a synonym. There are 3 games that can be played. These are hangman, definitions (matching), and word search. These are great ways to get familiar with new words and to work on spelling of the new words. If you are working with MaxReading, this corresponds perfectly.

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MaxPlaces allows the student to choose a city to read about. After reading a few paragraphs about the place, the student can answer a question about it. There are highlighters to mark different items in the text and it directs the student to ask the teacher what to mark.

MaxBios has the student choose a category to read a biography from. Then the student chooses a particular biography to read and highlight information in. The text is a few paragraphs long. After reading and highlighting, the student can answer questions about what was read.

Accessing the program is quite simple. Each student has a unique login so the system can track each individual. When starting, students in grades K-2 will take a phonics placement and students in grades 3+ will take a reading placement. The teacher can modify this setting. The teacher dashboard allows for each access to student lists, adding or changing student settings, monitoring progress, generating reports, and much more. It is very user friendly.

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The student access is called MyMax. It shows the icons for each of the programs that they have access to. If the teacher wants the student to have less access, particularly for older students, icons and access can be hidden. To access the programs, the student just click on the section and follows the prompts. Everything has an auditory prompt to go along with it so the student always knows what to do next.

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This program is built really well and I can see it being a fabulous program for elementary aged students or students who have some struggles with various learning differences. It is worth checking out if you are in the market for an online phonics and reading program. Learn more about MaxScholar from families who used this program for instruction with their students by visiting the Homeschool Review Crew site and picking a few reviews to read.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

MaxScholar program

Math & Spelling practice with Math Shed and Spelling Shed ~ 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 and spelling practice

Practice is something that is so helpful for math and spelling. Both of these areas are skill based so doing something over and over is key. Math Shed  and Spelling Shed can help in these areas. Miss J is at the top end of the skill and age range for these products but we have still seen them help her a good amount.

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Each of these programs are designed for either independent use or for use in a classroom/school setting. Homeschool use has been great for us. Miss J logs in each day to her own hub and can choose either Math Shed or Spelling Shed. We have asked her to use each one for a minimum of 10 minutes per day and told her which lists/skills to work on. We are a bit hit and miss on the daily use due to our stretched out dance schedules at the moment, as we are still working towards a recital at the end of the month. Even so, we have seen improvements in her skills and she enjoys using this program.

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Math Shed allows her to pick skills she needs to work on – addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, powers of 10, and number bonds. She started with a review of powers of 10 and number bonds. Now, she is working in the multiplication and division area.

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She chooses which set she is working on and then a choice of easy, medium, or hard. After choosing those settings, she has 1 minute to answer as many as possible.

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on computerIt is not a stressful minute and she seems to enjoy playing it. We have her do a minimum of 3 games, only 1 of which can be on an easy level.

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Spelling Shed is game based work on spelling. We have Miss J working on stage 4 & 5, which is the most challenging sets of words.

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Once she chooses that, she can then choose the play option. She uses Play, which is sort of like a board game we love where you find letters to create words. This has four levels – easy, medium, hard, and extreme. This requires a student to be working with a particular word list and works on both the spelling a definitions.

When she has completed three rounds of the word list set game, she can go to the bonus games and play with whatever words she can find.

spelling game

Most of the games require a word list for the student to be working on. These can be found in the Teacher Hub. The login for the Teacher Hub is different from the student’s login information.

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In the Teacher Hub, you will find videos to help you get started and learn a bit about the different ways Math Shed and Spelling Shed can be utilized. There is an easy to see reminder of how much longer your subscription is active. There is a visual chart of the student’s days’ logged in. And there is a place to make assignments, among other useful information.

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The assignment feature could be really helpful if you are working diligently on a particular curriculum. You can use the word lists that are built into the spelling side of the site or you can even add your own. We just used what was available. It was good challenges. You can make assignments if your student is one who works better with particular assignments or if you need to record these things for record keeping.

Another thing you can find in the Teacher Hub is the spelling curriculum. This includes teaching help, activities, and printable lists. Phonics based lessons are available and word lists increase in difficult as they progress. It is a wealth of information and activities. There are 36 weeks of lists and activities to use in addition to the website practice games. You can view and download a sample from their site.

avatar creation

And I can’t forget to mention – they get to design their own avatar. Through getting skills completed and growing in their ability, they can even “purchase” items for their avatar. This is a great incentive for many students.

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Math Shed and Spelling Shed are great additions to a spine curriculum in either subject and will add fun practice and challenge. Spelling Shed can also be that main curriculum for spelling and vocabulary if you are looking for that for either a home education setting or a classroom setting. Interested? They do have free trials available without having to enter credit card information. There is also an app available for those who prefer that format.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read additional reviews from other homeschooling families who have been using Math Shed and Spelling Shed with their students.

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_Math Shed and Spelling Shed

Who likes gifts? 19 of them? from SchoolhouseTeachers

 

Disclaimers: In return for this post, I will receive the same 19 gifts that are included in this promotion from SchoolhouseTeachers.com. Additionally, this post contains affiliate links. If you click through on one and choose to purchase, our family will receive a small commission. Thank you for your support.  

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If you don’t already know, we have been using SchoolhouseTeachers.com since almost the beginning of our homeschooling journey. We go there often for a supplement, a partial lesson, a full class, helps, recipes, tips, encouragement, and more. It is a site that is jamb packed with helpful information. Membership gives your ENTIRE family access to a complete PreK-12 curriculum with over 400+ courses, videos, World Book content, TOS Print subscription, and so much more. Sign up NOW to receive your tote filled with goodies before they run out!

They have a special going on right now for new subscribers that would be really beneficial for you, especially if you are new on this home educating thing yourself. With gifts from high quality vendors that will introduce you to their company plus the access to SchoolhouseTeachers.com, you will be well on your way to success. (And remember – you define success for your own family!)

Languages are something that have recently become of great interest to the girls. One of the girls has been watching a Spanish series on a streaming service and wants to learn more. Guess what is included in these gifts? Yes! A Spanish class! There are 2 months of access to an online beginning Spanish curriculum through Spanish Education Solutions. And it is taught by a certified Spanish teacher. Going for this one!!!

One of the other girls wants to learn French. Guess what else is included? Nallenart is one of the vendors for the 19 gifts! They are offering L’Art de LIRE which combines beginning conversational French with phonics to get students started. With workpages, teacher key, flashcards, and audio, this looks like a great start to French!

There is also a chess game being offered! Yes! The youngest giggly girl really enjoys playing chess. This pocket sized chess game from Chess House will be able to go with us in the car during the many hours each week we have to wait on sisters to get done with dance classes. (The social distancing thing has stretched our schedule quite thin now!)

There are so many more – art, guitar (another we’ll use!), writing, literature, Brinkman Adventures audios (the girls LOVE these!!), a sturdy tote (I use the one I have ALL THE TIME), music and more and more and more!!! This is a fabulous steal!

About the 19 Gifts Promo –

SchoolhouseTeachers.com and The Old Schoolhouse® have teamed up with over a dozen homeschooling and family-friendly companies to provide a tote bag filled with gifts (visit the site to see the list) when you sign up for an Ultimate (PreK-12) Annual Membership during May for only $139 (reg. $224.97). Use coupon code: 19GIFTS to lock in your rate and receive your goodies! Only available through June 1, 2020.

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How to redeem your gifts:

After checking out with coupon code: 19GIFTS, you’ll have immediate access to your Ultimate Annual Membership and all that SchoolhouseTeachers.com has to offer. Your beautiful, sturdy tote bag from The Old Schoolhouse® filled with gift cards for the additional 18 gifts will arrive in 6-8 weeks. No credit cards or purchases are required to redeem your items. Just follow the instructions on the gift cards. Supplies are limited, so sign up today. Questions? Hit the CHAT box during business hours on the home page of SchoolhouseTeachers.com to reach a live rep.

I’d be pleased to answer any question you have. We could not go without our SchoolhouseTeachers.com subscription. The gifts are a definite bonus!

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

 

Art School with Beyond the Stick Figure ~ 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.

art class

One thing I used to think was that art was only for the talented people, those who could do something magical with any medium they picked up. I have recently discovered that doesn’t have to stand true if it brings pleasure. Even more importantly, experience with has shown me that growth can happen in unexpected ways and I am not nearly as “bad” as I thought I was. Beyond the Stick Figure Art School is a program that has helped me see the joy in just creating, regardless of the outcome. And anyone can do it!

beyond the stick figure

We have been using Beyond the Stick Figure Complete Drawing Course PLUS 3 Bonus Courses for a few weeks now and I have found it a uniquely interesting experience. Beyond the Stick Figure Art School is taught by an art teacher with art teaching experience AND homeschooling experience. Sally is familiar with the challenges to teaching in both arenas and combines them together in a video subscription class for all ages that really is quite a bit of fun. The class includes the drawing course, pen and ink instruction, a watercolor course, an acrylics course, and a 3D sculpting course. These are definitely beginner level classes but I wouldn’t be surprised to see more advanced courses arrive on the website at some point.

This online subscription has a simple login and dashboard.

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Just click into the course and find where you are. If you are working through it in order (highly recommended), just go to the next area not marked complete. (The yellow circle with a check shows completed.) If not, you will need to have noted where you left off. Click on the lesson and get started on the next video.

Each video is short – often less than 5 minutes. Sally gives clear instructions on what to do and what materials to use. Each section of instruction includes a video on the specific materials needed for the set of lessons.

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We watched the video and then did the lesson. Sometimes, it was a simple line that needed completed. Sometimes, it was filling in a large space with crosshatches and it took a good bit of time. If needed, it was easy to pause the video to complete an instruction before moving on.

The drawing lessons were quite unique in the start (Drawing Part 1 – 17 topics), when we worked on circles, dots, curved lines, and straight lines. Some of the lessons had downloadable workbooks but we chose not to use those as they didn’t seem to fit the age of my students well. My 16 year old and my 11 year old both enjoyed working on these abstract-style pieces. The practice was helpful and yielded colorful, fun pieces.

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The next set of lessons (Drawing Part 2 – 33 topics) was similar but worked with different sets of lines and spacings. Each one had a template that needed downloaded and printed. Some of these were mixed up, as we found out after saying “this doesn’t quite match up but we can make it work.” The next one we needed to download – BINGO – that was what we had needed in the previous lesson. No worries, though. We did just fine.

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This series is intended to be the prep work for Drawing Part 3, which allows the student to use each of the different shapes from Drawing Part 2 to create a full-sized drawing of a flower. Honestly, we never got there. The lessons in Drawing Part 2 got tedious and we didn’t see a purpose to them as we didn’t know where they were leading. Once I knew that, it made sense but I had lost the girls at that point. So, I continued on without them and jumped to the Pen and Ink lessons.

The Pen and Ink lessons were tons of fun for me. I really enjoyed them. It started with a super small drawing (about 2 x 2 inches), just to get the feel of drawing with the pen. That small drawing had a watercolor wash over it. It was a fun little piece.

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Then, we worked on the tree. I adored this set of lessons and wish there were more like it. I felt like I was accomplishing something and I was fairly pleased with my finished product. I learned how to transfer images, how to use the pen in different ways to get different effects, and how to finish off a piece with a unique colorwash effect. This got the girls interested in the lessons again and we have it scheduled to work on soon.

 

I also started on the acrylics portion. I got the cloud painting done and would like to get a board to do the next part. I might splurge and get some paints, too.

 

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I skipped over the watercolor part because I didn’t love working with the watercolors we had (that I had used for the colorwashes on the pen and ink pieces) and I didn’t have a way to get a better quality. This was the only experience that I had with the quality of materials affecting my enjoyment of learning, where I think it made a difference. While I understand that an artist really feels the difference of the high-quality, expensive materials, it just is not something I am willing to spend the money on when my girls are still trying to figure out what is of long-term interest to them. So, we used the markers we had (often Sharpies), the watercolors we had (from the girls art sets that are not high quality), and the acrylics that we have on hand for craft projects. We used the mixed media pad of paper for some of the projects but the printer paper worked perfectly for the drawing lessons.

Overall, this was a very different style program. It has it’s high points, for sure. If you are looking for a fairly low-prep art class for the home, this is an interesting one to take a look at.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Be sure to visit the Homeschool Review Crew and read what other families thought about Beyond the Stick Figure Art School, viewing their completed projects.

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Beyond the Stick Figure

Travel the World with Let’s Go Geography ~ 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.

Lets Go Geography online class

Geography is often a missing part of study yet it is one I find fascinating. Let’s Go Geography is a company that has created a spell-binding curriculum to help students travel the world without leaving the comfort of their couch. Let’s Go Geography, Year 2 is the second of a three year program that is designed to take the student through most of the countries in the world.

3 year listing

Carol Henderson is the lady behind the label of Let’s Go Geography. She created a simple to use program that works well for students grades K-5, though it would be easily adaptable for both younger or older students. This online homeschool geography curriculum incorporates many different styles of learning and activities that will appeal to all different learners. From mapwork to crafts, from videos to writing, this program has a bit of everything. Well, adding a recipe for each country would be fantastic but there is a bit of everything else.

When you log into the site for your course, you will see all of the years that you have access to. As you can see, we have access to both Year 1 and Year 2, since we reviewed Year 1 a while back. There is also a short teacher’s course that has some helpful tips. Each of the boxes indicates progress. You can see that the teacher’s course shows completed while the Year 2 Semester 1 box shows progress about halfway through. Year 1 was completed but the website has been revamped since then so it doesn’t show that here.

Semester Access Page with arrows

Click on year and semester you want to access and it will take you to a list of all of the lessons. Each lesson is for a different country, except for in the US where it has been broken up into sections of the country. Clicking on the lesson you want take you to a lesson page and you click on the download link. It opens a PDF which includes all of the needed pages and links for the country.

lesson list

We began at the beginning, creating a travel cover for the 3 ring travel binder where we are keeping the lessons and reviewing the continents. From there, we moved into the countries. Each country’s PDF follows the same set-up making it simple for the parent/teacher.

Jamaica lesson

There is information on the country, its map, information and questions such as neighboring countries, bodies of water, and the capital city. The student marks the country on a continent map and has a country map to study and observe. The students can create a flag for the country and add it to a map.

Next the student is given links to music of the country including the national anthem. These links are active and most go to a safe YouTube site. The ones that do not go to a safe YouTube page are noted as such. The student listen to the national anthem and often see images of the country at the same time. There is also another piece of music to listen to. Sometimes it has been students dancing a native piece of music and other times it has been a folk song. These are good representations of the area being studied.

In the fourth part, the students are exploring the country. This includes foods eaten or sold, agriculture, history, landmarks, important people or places, and other unique things about the country. This is done through text, images, and videos. Again, these video links generally take the student to a safe YouTube page.

With my 5th grader, this is an area where we have been modifying the program a bit. When she finds something interesting or has a question about it, we take a break from the program and hit the internet for further information. When she saw the video about making sombreros for Mexico, we had a discussion about it and she looked up more information. She did the same for a bird that she thought was interesting and a volcano she read about and saw video on. This program is ideal for these types of investigations.

The final section is a coloring page and featured craft. The coloring page has some information about why the image for the page was chosen, such as soccer players for countries where that is a common activity to information on the lizard that is on the page. There is also a craft if the student chooses to do it. These include painting mountains for the western US or making a sunset collage for the southwestern US to making a tissue paper hummingbird for Jamaica or a colorful parrot for Honduras.

We are happily flying around the globe with Let’s Go Geography. We can easily cover two to three countries per week working with an older student. When we covered Year 1, we were not moving quite so quickly and covered about one country per week. This is just another benefit of the program – flexibility! You can move at the pace your family needs and you can start at whatever country you might be interested in.

This is a program that we waited eagerly for Year 2 to be released and I hope that when Year 3 is finished, Miss J is still interested because this program teaches to her strengths so well. Let’s Go Geography has such an easy preparation for each lesson that I can’t imagine anything else being such a great fit for both the learner and the teacher. This is one we highly recommend.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read the reviews of other families who have been using Let’s Go Geography, Year 2. You can click on the banner below to visit that post.

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Giveaway from the Homeschool Review Crew – 1 year membership to SchoolhouseTeachers for 3 families

Win a One Year Ultimate Membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com 

Giveaway open January 20, 2020 through January 26, 2020.
Further details on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

I can’t say enough good things about this site and highly recommend it. We watched an apologetics class just yesterday from SchoolhouseTeachers.com.  (affiliate link) It was on how dinosaurs relate to the understanding and timeframe of the Bible. Taught by Patrick Nurre, it was a good class. His geology class is one I am hoping to go through myself this year.

You can read our most recent review of SchoolhouseTeachers.com, published just a couple of weeks ago.

With over 460 classes, SchoolhouseTeachers.com is a complete curriculum for PK-12.

Every Subject – Every Grade – Every Student 

Head over to the Homeschool Review Crew blog by clicking the text link or either of the images to find the entry for the giveaway and plenty of reasons to enter. Good luck!

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

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