Category Archives: Elementary

Homeschool Complete Unit Studies ~ a Crew review

Homeschool Complete post image for unit studies

Unit studies are these wonderful packages of study that combine several different core areas of study under one topic. Homeschool Complete offers a number of different
Unit Studies that are packed full of learning and fun. We have just finished up two unit studies, having used John Adams (a one-week study) and Pioneers (a three-week study).

Homeschool Complete is a curriculum choice that has seen success. Created by Debra Arbuthnot, these studies are what she used to homeschool her own children. Her children have now graduated college and she is sharing her successful curriculum with others. In addition to her family education, Mrs. Arbuthnot has 27 years in public and private education.

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Homeschool Complete offers stand alone unit studies, complete year-long curriculum options, reading curriculum, and bundles of these products. Visit the website to take a look at all that is offered.

During this review period, we used two of her unit studies – John Adams and Pioneers. These studies are set up on a four-day per week schedule but you can adjust it for five-day weeks if that is what you do in your home. Alternatively, there are some suggested activities and reading that would allow to you go further with the study if you would rather do that on day five of your week.

Each study includes all of your core materials – reading, writing, math, science, history, fine arts, and PE. Every day does not include all of these areas but most are covered every day. To complete everything on each day’s activity list take around 2 -3 hours, depending on how much you adjust and your own children. We skipped the math in both of the studies because our daughter is at a different place in her math skills than these studies include. Even with that, we often spent an hour and a half – 2 hours on the study each day.

If you are a bit intimidated by the thought of covering everything with one study, have no fear. There are pages at the beginning of the study on how to use the study and the guide, how to approach teaching new skills, and tackling calender time if you use it in you home (it is included in the study). There is a complete skills list and a complete materials list, including having it broken down by lesson, at the beginning of the PDF.

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John Adams is a one week long 54-page unit study covering, you guessed it, John Adams. In this 3rd-4th grade level study, there were picture books to read and discuss, writing activities, historical adventures to learn, biographies to read, weather to talk about, and so much more. From singing patriotic songs and doing some physical activity to working on workbook pages (included in the download of the study), there is a variety of activity for each day.

Homeschool Complete Adams study and worksheet

We did have to make a trip to the library for this study to get the picture books, but, hey, we love trips to the library! We found the main picture books for the study, as well as couple of additional ones to keep around. We also substituted the chapter book for out-loud reading because it did not correspond to the study and was a character my daughter did not like. We gathered a few supplies, like crayons and pencils and the printed worksheet, and started off.

Homeschool Complete Adams study

Each day we would work through a picture book. Then we would work through the activities for the day. These included working on contractions, recalling information from the book, reading a non-fiction passage and writing answers to questions over it, creating art work to go with an event, creating a Venn diagram to compare two people, writing paragraphs and poetry, and movement activities.

 

By the time the week was out, we had a pretty good grasp of the life of John Adams, his wife Abigail, and the work he did as President. It was a good study.

Homeschool Complete Pioneers

Pioneers is a 3-week study for grades 3 through 6. At over 150 pages, it is packed with all your core materials and a bundle of activities to help your student experience life on the prairie. This study has a main book – Little House on the Prairie – that you will need to obtain separately. With the addition of a few materials for activities such as baking vanity cakes or making ice cream or growing crystals, you’ll have three weeks of fun reading and activity to learn about life during the pioneer times.

 

I did much of the reading out loud for Little House and then we used it as the jumping off point for the lessons after that. There are comprehension and discussion questions to go along with each reading of three to four chapters. Then there are worksheets, included in the PDF download, to further thought and practice writing. Each worksheet has some cursive practice and some words to work with in reading, spelling, and/or alphabetizing. Most have a short passage to read and then answer questions about, practicing full sentences. In these, we discussed weather, grasshoppers, and temperatures, to name a few. Miss J created graphs, mapped travel, labeled parts of grasshoppers, practiced reading charts, and worked on the long jump. She also work on music rhythms and time signatures.

Each day was a new variety of things to do and ways to do them. It was a good variety and kept things fun and interesting for her. We were able to take a couple of the activities and modify it to be able to go outside and work when the weather was nice. We found this study to be very adaptable and easy to use. With everything included for you, you can use just this study and feel confident that you are covering plenty of material with your child.

Homeschool Complete worksheet modification eboard

Thoughts On Homeschool Complete Unit Studies

The unit studies are so full of activity and learning! You won’t be disappointed. Do recognize that your child may fall at a different understanding level for some of these. For example, the Pioneers study is listed for 4 different grade levels. There is no way the math in that study can work for all 4 levels so be prepared to adjust for your own students. But that is the beauty of these unit studies. They are so full of activities, that skipping a few things or modifying them doesn’t diminish the quality of the study. It still is full of core study activities centered around a theme.

Some of the activities don’t quite fit clearly into the theme but that is to be expected when you are trying to create a truly comprehensive unit study. An example is that for PE one day, there was a discussion of flexibility. Not a bad item to discuss and the activity was kind of fun for my girl but it didn’t really fit into the theme. Doesn’t matter – we covered PE that day!

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All in all, I really like these unit studies. They are packed full of materials, ideas, and activities to keep the students engaged and interested. They material is flexible and can be adjust easily as needed to fit your family. There is enough material included in the downloadable PDF files that you wouldn’t miss it. You can even choose to pay for the unit study to be printed and shipped to you if you would prefer that route.

COUPON AVAILABLE: Use the code CREW2019 and can get 10% off your order until 3/31/2019.

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A while back, we also used the unit study on Soccer. I did not write a review here on my blog for it but you can find it on the The Old Schoolhouse Product Review page.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Homeschool Review Crew families have used a number of the unit studies as well as different grade levels of the All-Inclusive Curriculum. Please click through the banner below to visit the main post to read more reviews of Homeschool Complete.

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IXL for online, individualized learning ~ a Crew review

When it comes to online learning, a personalized fit is key. IXL Learning has that personalization and came to us for review at a time when we were looking for some fresh ideas.

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IXL is an online program that requires a subscription, a computer, and internet access. We are using the full annual membership and that gives us access to all grade levels and all subjects. This is a really good thing for us since we have a student in late elementary, one in middle school and one in high school. There truly is something for each of them with IXL.

IXL is a comprehensive curriculum for the elementary levels in math, language arts, science, and social studies. What this means is that the subject and skill areas covered is comprehensive – everything you would need for those levels. It is comprehensive in math and language arts all the way through high school. Science and social studies are available through 8th grade. There is also a Spanish class to take that covered many areas of the language.

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IXL is not a complete curriculum in that it does not include the teaching necessary for students to understand the concepts/skills if they don’t already know them. A parent/teacher would need to be available to preteach or teach when questions are missed. In a previous review, this is how we used IXL and it worked well. We used it to teach the skills the girls needed help with as they went along. They also used it to practice those things they already knew or could pick up easily.

HOW IT WORKS

When a student is ready to work in IXL, they log in. Each student has their own profile but it is under a central login. The student then chooses which subject area they are going to work in. After clicking, say, language arts, the student then chooses the grade level to work on and the specific skill area within that subject. So, Miss J might choose math, grade 4, and patterns. It will then begin her work.

She will read and answer questions. As she answers correctly, the questions get progressively more challenging, requiring the students to think harder to get all the way through the question set. This dynamic system keeps the questions fresh and the student working hard at mastery. When a questions is answered incorrectly, the program gives them an explanation page. It gives the correct answer, the answer the student gave, and a step-by-step explanation of the correct answer. The student must read through that or have someone read and explain it to them. There is not a “read to me” option and there are no video explanations with additional examples to help grasp the concept.

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Each question set has a goal. For many it is to reach 100. For others it is to answer a certain number of questions correctly. As they near the goal, it becomes a challenge zone, which is a key to the student that the questions are getting more difficult and they will have to work harder.

Alternatively, there is a second way to approach using IXL. When a student first begins, they can take a diagnostic test. Each question on the test is designed to narrow down the skills the student needs to work on, honing in on specific areas. The more questions the student answers, the better the program can identify needs. This is very good. However, you need to know that ahead of time because it otherwise becomes the never-ending test. It doesn’t stop, as far as I can tell. It just keeps honing. You can just have your student stop after a certain period of time you choose or answer a chosen number of questions.

Once the diagnostic test is stopped, there are recommendations made for the student. These recommendations do change when a different child clicks into their account. If the child has not taken the diagnostic test, they will still receive recommendations based on what they have worked on. The child can choose to tackle the recommendations or just go on to what they want to work on. The recommendations include all subject areas.

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HOW WE USED IT

IXL patternsMiss J is 10 and working at a 4th/5th grade level. She is using the program mostly for math but also doing some science, social studies, and Spanish. She is using the program almost every day for her math. She works for about 30 minutes on math each day, which takes her through 2 – 3 skill areas. Once a week, I sit down with her to go through Spanish. This is more of a review for her at these early stages, working on letters, numbers, and such. It does eventually become more conversational but she has to learn to spell the Spanish words for things before we move too much further with it. In science, she is exploring the gems and minerals part of the topics about once a week. And she is working on the American History topics once a week with me, also.

Miss J loves that she is getting some little “prizes” when she reaches certain goals – answer 100 questions or spend 2 hours on math. I also receive an emailed certificate for each of those goals. I can print that out or just show it to her online.

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Miss L is in 7th grade. She has had some math topics that she has struggled with. We have used IXL math as a review for her. I have given her a list of topics/skill areas that I want her to practice. She gets on and work through that list. I have seen those skill areas, as well as her general attention to detail in math, grow through using IXL.

IXL Learning for history FBMiss E is in high school. She has been using IXL to work on some of the history topics that relate to the project she is working on. She is creating cards related to the big happenings in American history. She used IXL to see how her retention was and to challenge herself in her memory. She has looked at some of the math topics, as well. They are relating to her math book very clearly and so when she needs some review or extra practice on math skills for algebra, she can log in here.I

WHAT I LIKE

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I like that there are an abundance of topics and skill areas for the girls to work on. I like that there is something for everyone. I like the variety of question styles and answer options, such as the picture choices when working on minerals. And, I like that I can see progress.

There is a parent/teacher side to the site that gives you all sorts of diagnostic information. You can see how long any one student has worked in a given day or week. You can see the exact skills and questions they worked on. You can see if they need additional work. You can also see their progress. I like that this exists and can see how I might use it sometimes but I am not using it a lot. I do, however, see the benefits of this and am thankful it is there for those parents/teachers who want and need to see these for grades and planning.

All in all, there are some great things about IXL. It is a solid program for review or to work alongside an active parent/teacher. It is worth checking out.

If you are looking for a Spanish version of the site, there is one available. If you are in another country, it also possible for you to receive the site with the appropriate math skills for your area. It should redirect you automatically to the IXL site for your country.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

The Homeschool Review Crew had many families using IXL Learning for the past few weeks. Reading several reviews will help you understand more about the benefits and flexibility of this program. Please read more of the reviews by clicking the banner below.

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Riding the Wave of Unexpected Interest

Riding the Wave

Tonight we had a large wave of unexpected interest. (pun intended for those of you who know that we have experienced 48 hours of nonstop rain at this point and it is forecast for the next 7 days at least; also in light of the question we investigated)

In what, you ask? Well, floods. Flash floods in particular.

A friend on social media sent a message to ask if we are okay since there is some serious flooding to our southwest. We are fine but it brought up a discussion with Miss J about flash flooding. At Home Dad and I had very different immediate definitions of flash flooding. I grew up in the mountains and deserts where flash flooding came from rains up in the mountains and swept down through dry arroyos. He grew up in central Texas where the flash flooding he was familiar with had to do with debris jambs on rivers.

Question after question came and was answered as best we could. But it is hard to understand the dangers and damage of flash flooding when you have not seen them. So, At Home Dad went to YouTube. The search brought up some really interesting videos. And we watched. There was some excellent explanations on some of the videos, as well.

(Well – I was going to direct you to some of the videos we watched but it seems YouTube is acting up and won’t show me any videos right now. Maybe later?)

In the course of watching these, there were some videos that brought up sink holes. Of course, we had to go view those and see what sink holes were. Those videos were also interesting, though not grabbing for Miss J.

But guess what?

Yep. Another idea related surfaced that we watched – mega monster waves. Those really big things that I have been blessed to never see except on video. So, we watched several of those.

All in all, it was about an hour spent talking about waves and the power of water and how dangerous it can be. Video can explain when words just won’t do sometimes. It shows power and might and danger from a safe place. Lots of learning happens like this. Ride that wave. Engage in the conversation. Seek out those moments. They occur all the time but we don’t always intentionally deal with them.

In the process of trying engage these kinds of questions and interests, we will be making peanut butter and honey bread soon. You read that right – the question was asked after lunch today if you could make a peanut butter and honey flavored loaf of bread for sandwiches. So, we’ll try that out soon. Miss J had some really good ideas about how to approach it.

Blessings,
At Home.

Stretching the Mind

Stretching the Mind

When we were prepping for the school year, we visited a local education supply store. We were looking specifically for some history materials but were enjoying the browsing process. You know – looking at the different curriculum and options and enjoying the “shiny” of it all.

Miss J saw the cover of a book and pulled it out. She sat right down with it and started reading and solving problems. She did not want to put it down. She asked us very nicely if we would buy her the book so she could work all of the puzzles in the book. So we did. (Bonus: it was on sale! So we bought the one for the next level, too.)

The book she wanted: Mind Benders Level 3 from The Critical Thinking Co.

She has consistently worked through the book at two to four puzzles a day. She would spend her complete day on them if I would let her! We have, however, found that more than three or so and they get harder to solve. Not because the puzzles are that much harder but because her brain has been stretched about all it can take for the day. So, we do try to limit her to two.

Each puzzle has a series of boxes to mark up to help you eliminate possibilities and mark the right answer when you find it. The puzzles each have about three or four clues but they aren’t the straight-forward kind. You really have to think about the words used and the hints hidden in them. Then you have to interpret that into the grid you are filling out.

The puzzles vary in topic from grades to professions to positions on sports teams to sibling relationships. They are fun and really encourage brain stretching and growth. What started out as a splurge to encourage her with something she found interesting looking has turned into something much larger and very helpful. I have seen her reasoning skills grow and her ability to think things through grow, as well.

Now if I could find something for impulse training. 🙂

On to level 4 of the series . . .

Blessings,
At Home.

Home School Navigator ~ a Crew review

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Home School Navigator is a company who has created a full curriculum for elementary language arts for the home educator. Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Curriculum encompasses reading, writing, grammar, poetry, and more. At the more advanced levels, there are also interactive notebooks. 

Interactive Notebook Hugo Cabret

I had two students that used this program – Miss J (3rd/rising 4th) and Miss L (6th/rising 7th). Let’s take a look at Miss L’s use first.

Miss L used this program mainly for the interactive notebooks. There were a couple of titles on the Level Indigo novel list that are on our long-term reading list for Miss L so we decided this would be a great way to tackle a couple of them. We knew that the daily language arts and grammar work would be below her ability level so while I did have her take a look at the word study for Level Indigo, we chose not to use the rest of the materials.

The idea of a word study is something I really like. Taking a word down to its main parts and figuring out how that is used across various words is a great way to increase vocabulary and strengthen word usage. In general, across several levels, I felt this was just too simple. We did two weeks worth of the word study in Level Indigo before I decided that it just was not advanced enough for Miss L. We also worked through the first two weeks worth of work, but in the end, I did feel she already knew enough of the information that it did not make sense for her to continue using the entire curriculum.

Level Indigo

She did tackle the interactive notebook for the novel Holes. The interactive notebook is simply a lapbook. It is something that is built into Homeschool Navigator subscriptions or you can purchase them individually. Once you have access to the file, you simply print out the PDF. Each page tells the student which chapter(s) of the story to read to answer the questions for the notebook. Then the student can cut that out, glue it into the notebook, and write their answer. We chose to cut them out and stick them onto blank pieces of paper and staple together for a single novel interactive notebook, rather than putting them into a composition notebook or spiral to put several together.

Interactive Notebook Holes

Miss J used the whole program. I thought she would use the Green Level but found it was too simple. So we decided that she fit better at the Blue Level. The daily lessons took anywhere from 30 minute to an hour and half, depending on how long the videos she was supposed to watch took. The follow screen shot is for month 1, week 2, day 1. (Yep – that is how the lessons are set up and to me, that is cumbersome.)

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You click on Read Aloud and it drops down to show you what the activity for that day for that part of the program is. This is how you access each part of the program. If there is a video to go along with it, there is either a YouTube link (for the books being read aloud) or the video is embedded, as you can see below.

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Each needed worksheet is also linked right there in the program, where you would need it. This is really quite helpful. If you know you are going to use the whole program and will need all of the worksheets and activities, there is also a way to print off all of the work for the entire month at once. That is a great time saving feature if you are using the whole program.

read aloud video

Miss J used the complete weekly lessons for two weeks. At that point, we decided to pick the parts that fit her best, as much of this curriculum was still too simple for her and she needs more hands on activity, rather than worksheet activity. We tended to not use the videos, choosing instead to teach the concept myself. We also did not use a lot of the worksheets, choosing to focus on the idea and talking about the idea.

Level Green

The writing portion sometimes relates to the idea that is being studied and sometimes is a prompt for the student to follow. The computer skills practice is almost always up to the parent to decide how they are going to practice. It does not include a program but rather says “Practice computer skills.” for the daily assignment. We used an email program for this as the girls love to email their family and penpals. Also, the parent will need to assist the child for independent reading, though there is some guidance at the beginning of the program on how to choose a “just right” book.

 

This is a great curriculum for –

Homeschool-Navigation-Product-ImageIf you are looking for a complete language arts program, this is it! This truly has everything you need with very little parent preparation needed. Your student will cover read alouds, study characters and part of the story, poetry, writing, reading, typing, character traits, and other skills. It is all neatly packaged on a single website with links to the materials needed. There is a printable teacher guide to help you know day to day what is needed and it can be printed out or you can access it online as a PDF. There are scope and sequence materials available to help you plan out your year, or at least know what all has been covered. The website will track what your student has completed and you can upload materials they have finished to compile a portfolio. (I used the check off to show completed but did not upload to the portfolio, so I cannot comment on that feature.)

This program begins around late PK/early kindergarten skills and goes through approximately fifth grade skills. The interactive notebooks can go much higher depending on how your student reads and comprehends.

interactive notebook Hugo

For us –

We will not continue using the program. I was disappointed in the novel notebooks, as they did not challenge the girls, though they did cover some things that most lapbooks don’t seem to cover for novels (for example, Holes had her compute how much dirt had to be removed for each hole to be the right size).

Language arts is a difficult area for us to find a single program that fits. With girls that read and comprehend fairly complex ideas, this just wasn’t a solid fit for us. The material needed to be more of a challenge for Miss J, even after we pulled some worksheets from Level Indigo to try her on.

The computer interface was not intuitive for me and took a lot of work to access. The girls could not access it themselves, which made the program less appealing. We also had some issues with sound, though I understand they are fixing this issue as quickly as they can by re-recording the videos that have issues.

online language arts

Overall –

Take a look at Home School Navigator. They have a really good concept and the workings of it are smoothing out daily as they correct some of the interface issues. The material they include is really good if it is a fit for your child. There is a sample lesson for each of the color levels on the site to help you find the right fit for your family. The ladies who created this really want children to succeed and will work with you to find the right fit for your family.

Blessings,
At Home.

Other families from the Homeschool Review Crew have been using this and have shared reviews over the various levels they have used. I highly suggest reading more reviews as I know this program has been a great fit for many of the families. Just click the banner below.

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Making Edible Cells

edible cells

We have been working on a review for Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Anatomy and Physiology. One the appeals of this curriculum is the hands-on learning that is built right into the curriculum.

Recently, we made an edible cell. Cells are the first lesson in anatomy and physiology and this really helped the girls see what all is part of these tiny little building blocks that we cannot see with our eyes.

Using jello as the cytoplasm and various candies to be the different parts of the cells, the girls created an edible cell. After we reviewed what each of the parts was and its job in the cell, the girls ate the cells. I thought they looked too, um, interesting to eat. They, however, thought the candy and jello looked too yummy to not eat. Edible cells, it is then.

This is a don’t miss activity with this curriculum. If you buy the pre-assembled kit that includes everything you need for the hands-on activities, you are good to go and can just open the packet for this lesson. You’ll have the jello and candy you need. It included almost enough to make two complete cells. We had to rummage around the kitchen to find a few bits of candy for a few of the things but overall, it was a simple and fun (and evidently yummy) activity with that pre-assembled kit.

Blessings,
At Home.

Watch for the review coming in just a couple of weeks with the Homeschool Review Crew.

Art with Let’s Go Geography

We are still enjoying working through Let’s Go Geography. We don’t stress over our pacing. Some weeks we do three countries; some weeks, it gets left off. It is always interesting and fun, though, and we are really enjoying it a lot still. I hope Year 2 is out when we are ready for it.

I just thought I would show you some of the art pieces that have been completed in relation to Let’s Go. Miss J absolutely enjoys the art part of this and it is good for her to have this time. I sometimes forget that she is still young and doesn’t need to have all the book time that her older sisters do. Besides the fact that she is a hands-on learner All. The. Way. It sticks with her when it is hands-on so these projects are great for her.

If you are looking for a simple geography program that has lots of skill, take a look at Let’s Go Geography. It is a great curriculum that is simple yet very effective.

Blessings,
At Home.

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