Category Archives: Middle School

Greg Landry’s Homeschool Science (4th grade & up) ~ a Crew review

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

After math, science may be the most intimidating courses to teach high schoolers. Online classes are a great way to access someone else’s expertise in this area and Greg Landry’s Homeschool Science is one place to begin. There are a variety of course set ups to choose from and courses to pick, all presented from a Biblical worldview. The Crew families have been working with one of these three options:

1 – Virtual, interactive homeschool laboratory courses such as biology, chemisty, and physics. These are self-paced and you start at any time.

2 – Self-paced 4th-7th grade one-semester classes that include anatomy and physiology, biology, chemistry, physics, and earth/space science.

3 – Self-paced 7th-12th grade half-semester classes are generally seven weeks of lessons and include a wide range of topics, including Exercise & Sports Physiology, Biochemistry / Microbiology, Embryology / Endocrinology, Earth & Space Science, and Study Skills / Measurement / Lab Reports / Graphing.

For this review, we recieved the self-paced half semester class in Embryology/Endocrinology. My 12th grader thought it sounded sort of interesting and would add some unique study to her time in the summer break when she worked on whatever she desired. So, this was picked up as a choice to be used in the few days and weeks when she was home and not busy. I have also been watching these videos myself. These are fairly flexible in how they are used, though the videos suggest one lesson per week, making this a 7 week course.

Each lesson includes a video presentation (for which you need a free Canvas account – instruction on this come with the course instructions) and a PDF download of the study guide/worksheets for the lessons. The actual course work is fairly straight-forward. Watch the video, take notes (lesson 1 is on how to take notes and study), complete the study guide for the lesson, and you’re done for the lesson. This does not include reviews or tests, so if you are desiring those, you’ll need to create those yourself.

Most lesson run between about 25 and 30 minutes. The screen is basically a split screen. 2/3 of the screen is the slides that are being discussed in the prerecorded lecture. The other 1/3 of the screen is split between the recorded video of the instructor giving the lesson and a chat box that is used to type in words that he wants the students to see the spelling of. (I found the chat box helpful since I did not know or understand some of the words that he used. This was a very helpful way to be able to follow and take accurate notes.)

The PDF downloads included a graphic in color that was labeled according to what was being discussed in the lesson. This was followed by a black and white graphic that was not labeled. Then a page of questions for the student to answer after watching the video. The final part was a blank page where the student is encouraged to be creative and draw/write/design/doodle something that helps them think through the information for the lesson.

What I found most helpful was to watch the video with the labeled PDF graphic in front of me and a piece of paper to take notes on. Then, I would label the black and white graphic after the video was over. (It was recommended that the student try to label everything without looking and then go back and use the labeled graphic to check it and add in anything that was forgotten. Then it was recommended that the student color it to help cement the graphic in memory.) Following the graphic, I would answer the relevant questions for the lesson. I did not personally do the creative page of the PDF worksheets but I would definitely be encouraging my student to do so.

The Embryology/Endocrinology course is 7 videos, 6 of them on topic and the first one on taking notes. The specific topics include female reproductive anatomy and fertilization, fertilization through birth, fetal circulation & changes at birth, endocrinology, the pancreas, and endocrine responses to physical activity.

Accessing the program itself and maneuvering inside the program is simple. This was my first experience with a course on Canvas and I like it. Very simple. As you can see above, the dashboard is clean and simple with everything you need right there and clearly marked.

The video contains interesting information. The instructor’s voice is not very animated and that does make the videos a tad harder to watch. In addition, there is a very busy background for the instructor in the video with several lights and moving things. That is a distraction. Overall, though, I found the videos to be solid. I especially enjoyed the lesson on the heart/lung circulatory system, covering the heart blood flow before birth and after birth. I had no idea that the heart circulation changed so dramatically at birth. It was really quite interesting.

These half-semester courses are well done and would serve as great lessons for those student who need somewhat shorter courses or perhaps niche topics that are of interest to them.

Visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog and linkup to read about the experiences of other families using the different types of courses for upper elementary, middle school and high school from Greg Landry’s Homeschool Science.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

CTCMath is still our go-to ~ a Crew review

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

We have been using CTCMath for our main math curriculum for several years now. It has been enough years that I would have to go back and count them. It fits our needs so well that we have used it for elementary, middle school, and high school math classes. One subscription is good for a year for your whole family at all levels. Can’t beat that deal!

CTCMath is a full online math curriculum for kinder-12th grade, including calculus. They are so confident in their teaching processes and curriculum that there is a money back guarantee on the program. CTCMath believes in teaching and learning through traditional methods and thus is not aligned with common core. They are based our of Australia and so a few of their processes are a bit different than I know. But that just provides additional teaching points, right? More than one way to solve a problem is not a bad thing.

The website does take a bit of maneuvering but it is not burdensome. It is fairly intuitive and easy for kids to learn how to access their own lessons. It does not immediately open up to the next lesson for each student. Each student has their own login information (remember it is all in one price for the whole family). Once the student logs in and gets to the lesson, it is open and go.

You can see the student dashboard here. To access these lessons after she logged in, she clicked on high school, then geometry, the Part 3, then circles. Then she chose the next lesson that wasn’t complete. You can see her completions here. The grade is an average from the number of times it has been completed.

Each lesson is a single new concept and begins with a video. For the younger grades, it is typically just a few minutes (less than 5). As the concepts get a bit more complex, the videos do get longer (some up to 15 minutes for high school). Each lesson includes a PDF summary of the concept and the examples worked. This can be printed off or used directly from the computer. This was extremely helpful when a student was struggling with how an example could be applied to a question being worked.

In this high school geometry lesson, you see that they are viewing the video. The PDF summary is found below the video. There is a questions tab next to the video tab. This lesson does not have a worksheet to complete but that would have a tab next to the questions tab if it were included in the lesson.

After the video, there are online questions to answer. These are automatically graded. The default standard is that the student get 90% correct. This is a tough standard when there are sometimes only 6 or 7 questions. Thus one mistake would fail the student. A reset to 80% worked well for our family. That reset was easy to do from the parent dashboard.

In the middle school and high school courses, there were also worksheets to complete with additional questions on the same concept. Sometimes we have found these to be too burdensome for the student to do on the same day as the video and online questions. (She was taking over 2 hours per math lesson and still struggling with the concept.) Other times, we have found that the worksheet was not needed because the student really understood the concept with just the online video and questions.

Are you catching the vibe here? This is a really solid curriculum with a ton of flexibility. I have only touched the tip of the iceberg on the customization available. The reason I’ve only hit that much is that we don’t use a ton of the features because simplicity works for us. But there is so much more!

  • You can schedule weekly check-ins where the student completes an online set of questions review previous topics.
  • You can create a worksheet that works on a particular topic that you student is struggling with.
  • You can have your student repeat a lesson as often and as many times as needed so that it is well understood before moving on.
  • Your student can work at his/her own pace and never fall behind.
  • You can access this program at any time, on any device.
  • You do not have to be online at a scheduled time. If the student works best at 10:30 PM, that’s okay. (Well, it is fine for the program. If you are like me, you might not work so well at that time if the student starts struggling. Ask me how I know!)
  • You can schedule which lessons are attempted each day by setting a task list for the student.
  • Or, you can simple work through the lessons in the order that they are on the course listing. (This is what we do.)
  • Your student can do a diagnostic test and you can then use that to set the parts of the topic the student needs to work on.
  • Or, you can use the diagnostic test as a final test for the course.
  • Worksheets include an answer key that shows the work for most questions and is only accessible after the student has entered their answers.
Parent dashboard view where you can create worksheets, assign tasks, and keep up with student progress. You can also access the student lessons without affecting their work or scores from here.

I can go on and on. One feature that I really like is having a parent dashboard where I can access the courses to see what the student is working on. When one of my girls struggle, I can go in and get to the exact lesson to watch the video and work the questions without it affecting their scores at all. I can find the struggle and then be better prepared to help the next day.

Weekly email report sample.

I also get a weekly update that shows how many times each student logged in and how they did for the week. (This is a week where the girls were gone to camp so they did not access the program at all.)

I will say that I am thankful to have a husband who understands math because in some of the upper level courses (Algebra II for sure!) our oldest daughter needed additional help outside of the video. He could do that without having to watch the video. It was great that he could help her and he even learned some new ways of doing things. Frustration can definitely creep in with math for this daughter but another bonus of CTCMath was that she could move to a different course or topic for a while when it got too overwhelming. She took right at 2 years to complete Geometry and Algebra II. She went back and forth a bit between the two courses. It was wonderful to have that ability since it helped minimize her frustrations. We could only do this because CTCMath allows us access to everything K-12 with a single subscription.

My youngest daughter? She loves math. She loves that she still gets streamers on the screen with CTCMath when she gets 100% on her lesson. This means she is still striving hard for that perfect score. And she likes the simplicity of the lesson video. She grabs her white board to work each problem and can complete a lesson at the 6th grade level in about 15 minutes. She will often do 2 lessons or complete the questions over and over just because she likes it. A win in my mind.

CTCMath has a mission for the students to be successful and the program is set up to guide the students to that success while truly understanding math concepts. There is so much with CTCMath that it is impossible to touch on it all. So what a wonderful thing that you can try it out for free. Visit the website to learn more.

Want to know more about how other families have utilized this program in their education? CTCMath can act as a supplement or a full curriculum so visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read about how it has worked for other homeschooling families.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Project Passport: Ancient Rome ~ a Crew review

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

Hands-on history is a fabulous way to help students get involved in and bring to life the stories of the past. History is nothing more than a story and how we tell it will make or break a student’s enjoyment of it. Home School in the Woods has created a number of hands-on history programs to help bring to life these stories that our students need to know. We have been blessed over the years of being on the Homeschool Review Crew to get to use a number of these programs and this year, we have been able to use another of the Project Passport World History Studies (Grades 3-8) with Miss J, who just finished up her 6th grade year. Project Passport: Ancient Rome is just one of five different Project Passport programs that bring the ancient world to life for students.

Project Passport: Ancient Rome is available as a digital download, making it immediately (or almost) available upon purchase. I got my download link and was able to download and save it to the hard drive of the desktop computer with no problems. I then unzipped the file (and renamed it so I could find it again!) and opened up by clicking on the start icon. This opened the program up in a browser window and I was able to easily navigate the program from there. The first time you do this, it will feel a bit overwhelming because there is a lot of wonderful information there. Just start at the top and work your way down through the files and read as you go; things will make sense.

Note: You will need to download on a computer that can open applications. It does not work easily on a Chromebook or a tablet in my experiences. I have gotten my Chromebook to work but it takes a lot of effort and it helps to already know how to access it the easier way.

So, what are you going to find in Project Passport: Ancient Rome? Everything Roman. Seriously! Not just history about people and places and battles and rulers. You’ll also learn about architecture, food, clothing, legends, social systems, law, philosophy, money, the arts, religion, transportation, and more. Using minibooks and other hands-on paper projects, writing, audio, hands-on creative art projects, and reading, the student will learn about all aspects of ancient Roman life. There is something for every learning style and the ability to tailor which projects to use and which to skip to keep the study fresh and inviting.

We started with the set-up. I printed off the binder cover and Miss J colored it and put it in her binder. We keep a 3 ring binder for these studies because there is a lot of information to print off for each lesson, called a stop. The information to be read gets each stop going and we keep those as a sort of textbook. We keep the papers in the binder by stop and put page protectors in to keep the minibooks together. Also, creating a binder allows for some printing to be done in batches ahead of time, instead of needing to print each stop when it is time to start working on it.

Stop 1 was getting everything going and getting familiar with the set-up of the program. If you are familiar with Project Passport, this step is a bit easier. We print off the Guide Book Text and the Travel Itinerary for each stop and put them in the binder. After that, we printed off the Snapshot Moments timeline and assembled it. We got the map of early Italy printed and assembled, adding to it the required elements. We made the Romulus and Remus minibook and read it.

Stop 2 kept it moving as far as history went as we dove into the early kings. We printed off the needed documents and projects. We added to the timeline but skipped the newspaper. We assembled the Seven Kings of Rome booklet, reading and following the recommended suggestions for completion of it.

Stop 3 through Stop 25 are all followed this same way. We pick the items of interest and help and choose those we want to skip. Sometimes I have let the girls choose, sometimes I choose. Regardless, there is so much packed into each stop that learning happens at breakneck speed, it seems.

One of the final items in this study is a game to print and assemble. In the past, Miss E (now 17) was the student using these and she did not love games. However, Miss J (age 12) is the student studying ancient Rome and she loves games. Did I mention that Miss J loves games? We will definitely be creating the game this time around. It is titled “All Roads Lead to Rome.” She will love it!

One of our favorite parts of these Project Passport studies has been the audio tours. These are short audios to listen to that cover a particular topic. In ancient Rome, the audios are labels “Legends,” “Africanus,” “Rubicon,” “The Forum,” “A Day at the Races,” “Actium,” “Pompeii,” and “An Ecclesia.” These are really interesting sounding and I can’t wait to get to them with Miss J.

The other favorite part of the Project Passport studies is actually a part that you can purchase separately as a whole or by part – the timeline. Miss J has adored time lines and we have used several of the timelines from Home School In The Woods as supplements to or the main part of our history curriculum with her. The individual sets of the timelines are:

Individual Timeline Set (Grades K-12)

When we used the timeline as our main curriculum, I would spend some time searching out short videos (1-3 minutes) for each figure we were going to put on the timeline. After finding the piece for the timeline and sticking it in place (we just used a piece of tape), we would watch the video I found and talk about how it related to other pieces we had already placed on the timeline or what would be coming up soon on the timeline. It was a fun way to do our history for the year and it engaged Miss J quite deeply.

Home School in the Woods has so much to offer for history. Hands-on history will always be a more engaging way to learn than just reading from a typical textbook. So, add in some hands-on history, even if you are using a textbook. The combination will be a winning on, bringing new interest and excitement to learning what has impacted our lives, even today.

The Homeschool Review Crew has been utilizing the Individual Timeline Set (Grades K-12), the Project Passport World History Studies (Grades 3-8), the Time Travelers U.S. History Studies (Grades 3- 8 ), Maps Combo-Pak (US & World Maps), Lap-Pak: Wonders of the World, Activity-Pak: The Old Testament, and Activity-Pak: The New Testament. Hop over to the Review Crew’s blog post about Home School In The Woods to read the reviews from different families about how they utilized these hands-on studies in their homeschools.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Please visit our other blog posts about HSITW products.

Timeline Collection

U.S. Elections Lap-Pak

Project Passport: Ancient Greece,

Project Passport: Ancient Egypt,

Project Passport: the Middle Ages,

Time Travelers: US History Studies – The Industrial Revolution Through The Great Depression

 Á La Carte Erie Canal,

 Á La Carte WWII timeline,

 Á La Carte quilling,

Lap-Pak: The Wonders of the World, and

Make-A-State.

Wise Up: Wisdom In Proverbs ~ a Crew review

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

I had been looking for a Bible study to do with my middle schooler daughter. We went through a Hebrews study last year and she enjoyed it a lot. So, when Wise Up from Positive Action Bible Curriculum came up for review, I took a really good look at it. It is a study of the wisdom found in the book of Proverbs in the Bible and is recommended for middle school and up. Themes run the gamut of wisdom, from home life and honoring parents to freedoms, responsibility, and attitudes. It covers submission and obedience, learning and serving God’s will, and what is truly success.

Wise Up: Wisdom In Proverbs came as a set with a student manual and a teacher manual. It includes 35 lessons (enough material for a school year) and sample schedules for 3, 4, or 5 day a week studies. The student manual is a softback book and the teacher manual is a large 3 ring binder.

The student manual is intended to be used by a single student and is a consumable resource. You will need one for each student involved in the study. Each lesson has its own set of pages in the student manual with questions of all levels for the student to answer. There are suggested days for assigning the student work in the sample schedules but the student can complete the student manual at whatever point in the lesson the teacher determines it is best suited.

The teacher manual contains information on the purpose of the study, as well as scripted lessons, target truths for each lesson, strategies for teaching, notes to help, and testing materials. There is also a page for logging the suggested memory work. This is a large, heavy 3 ring binder with almost 400 pages in it. I found myself taking the pages out that I needed for the current lesson so I didn’t have to move the binder around too much.

The teacher manual has a lot of information for the teacher to read through before beginning the study. I found it a bit overwhelming and it took me a couple of weeks to figure out how I wanted to approach this study with my middle school student. The answer key in the teacher manual is helpful but it also caused me a good bit of confusion. The answers are designed to work with all translations, which means it doesn’t really work with any translation well. Several of the suggested answers didn’t make sense with the NIV1985 translation that we were using. Even pulling up side by side translations online was unhelpful.

Inside the teacher guide showing the strategies and some of the teaching materials.
Inside the teacher guide showing answer keys for the exercise, corresponding to the student guide.

So, what did we do with this study? We used it, and will use it this fall, completely different than the suggestions in the teachers manual. As set up, it was too slow and shallow of a study for my daughter. Instead, we are focusing on a single lesson in a single day. We are not doing the memorization recommendations and we are working through the student manual together in discussion. (See the previous paragraph for information on the translation, which is why we are doing it together in discussion.)

We used the Bible app on the Kindle a couple of times in trying to match some of the answers to a version of the Bible.

We really enjoy studying the book of Proverbs and talking about the wisdom to be found there. We snuggle up together on the couch or side-by-side at the table with the Bible, the student book, and the teacher pages for the lesson. I paraphrase the scripted teacher lesson (so that it makes sense for my daughter) and we talk about it and the target truths for the lesson. Then we open up the student manual and tackle what is there. I found it common to skip some of the questions each lesson as it was often repetitive.

I believe that this is a program best suited to a full classroom situation, rather than a homeschool. It doesn’t flow well for a single student and the scripting/strategies/testing from the teacher manual seem burdensome for a single student. There is a lot of review time built into each lesson, especially in the 5 day week schedule. This type of review and pacing is necessary when you have a large number of students but with just one student, I have seldom found it was needed.

I can see a lot of benefit in this study and we will continue using it with the modifications we have made. If you are looking for a program that is all laid out for you, that includes written work and testing, and you would like something spread out over a few days or a week, this is for you. It is written for just that.

Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read additional reviews on curriculum from Positive Action Bible Curriculum. Other families were using either Wise Up or 5th Grade – Possessing the Land.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Baggin’ The Dragon Online Math Supplement ~ a Crew review

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

Many times there is a need for additional support with math and a game would be just the thing. Enter EdAlive and their online app Baggin’ the Dragon Maths Online. The program is available for ages 5+.

EdAlive is a company that has launched online programs that are research based and contain adaptive learning to really focus the content the student is working with. All of their newest programs include real-time, automated, and adaptive learning, multi-player content, and built-in reports. Research has found these elements to be instrumental in best practices for learning. They also know, however, that there is a need for specific content to be addressed. Baggin’ The Dragon has this option available as well.

Baggin’ The Dragon Maths Online has four different options, actually, for presenting content.
1) Using the adaptive learning content with all content
2) Using adaptive learning with specific content
3) Manually selecting questions with specific content
4) Playing the game with adaptive learning

So, what is the game that adapts to student’s understanding?

The student clicks New Game. The player then selects an option for a quick game (I didn’t find it any quicker than other options), hosting a game, joining another player’s game, or going against the computer. These all seemed to be about the same to me as I played. After selecting the game, the game board appears with the character piece shown. The character piece can be changed with a click of the mouse over the image prior to selecting which type of game is going to be played.

The game board appears and the die starts rolling. The student clicks on the die for their move. Then the other player(s) rolls and moves. A box telling the student which adaptive level the math question is selected from appears with the value of the correct answer shown. The question then appears and the student answers it.

A correct answer will grant the student additional points that can be beneficial for shopping (in the forms of the game other than quick game) for things that can help them win against other players or the computer. An example is this shield. As you can see, it costs 60 strength points but it is always on and it protects you against things like the hunting dog your opponent my have or choose to buy with thier points.

These points also go towards rewarding the student with hero cards. You do not get to choose which hero cards you earn.

These are the hero cards I had earned after 2 games. One game was the quick game and one was against the computer.

At the end of the game, 21 turns or rolls and questions, a report will pop up showing what content questions were attempted and whether they were rightly or wrongly answered.

You can also access additional reports from the parent dashboard. Also available on the parent dashboard are certificates to print as they are earned and options to set or lock content.

So, what are the benefits of this game supplement for math?

  • You can choose which curriculum to align it with. Depending on where you are, you get a different set of options for curriculum correlation. In the US it is Common Core State Standards and the EdAlive Curriculum. The range of curricula covered is: The Australian Curriculum, NAPLAN, NSW Syllabus 2014, The Victoria Curriculum, NZ TKI, UK National Curriculum, and US Common Core State Standards.
  • The game format will appeal to a large number of students.
  • The variety of questions keeps things interesting and students will not tire of the same type of question over and over.
  • Hero cards can be motivating to earn.
  • Being able to play with others online is exciting for some students.
  • Swords, dragons, courage, knights – these appeal to many students and will make the math practice fun.
  • Mixing the difficult questions with simpler questions allows success when a student is struggling.
  • Over 10,000 questions of all levels of difficulty
  • Adaptive learning allows students to concurrently experience difficulty mixed with simpler topics in Addition • Subtraction • Multiplication • Division • Fractions • Percentages • Ratio & Proportion • Numeration • Shape • Space • Measurement • Geometry • Data • Statistics • Graphs • Probability • Patterns • Algebra
  • Incorrect answers are handled gently with a second chance at the solution.
  • Younger players who are on lower levels can play against older players with higher math levels since each plays their own level on the same game board.

Why this might not be for you –

  • It does require internet access and screen time.
  • It is a bit slower than I would like to work through each player’s turn and the game. But I could just be impatient. (Been known to happen.)
  • The jumping back and forth between question types can be a challenge for a student to stay engaged with, especially when one needs scratch paper to work and the next is a question that can be done almost without thought.
  • You like to have interaction with your student as they are learning or practicing. You would have to sit beside the student while they answered questions or played the game.
  • It might not be right for your student if this student is distractable, likes to talk to others while playing games, or doesn’t like slow moving games. My 6th grader did not enjoy this game. She fits all of the above statements. While she does like to play online games some, she likes it to be with someone else she can talk to.

Baggin’ The Dragon is compatible with all major browsers. It can be used on Windows PCs, Apple Macs, Surface Tablets, iPads, Chromebooks and other Android tablets. It is an app that is fully delivered via the web so there is no need to download anything. It is available 24/7 wherever you have an internet connection.

Homeschoolers, there is even a special page for you to read more about how EdAlive works to support you with your student’s instruction. It includes information on curriculum, all programs, and discounts and special group buys to get a great price.

Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read about what other families experiences have been like with EdAlive. There were reviewers for Baggin’ the Dragon Maths Online, for Volcanic Panic Reading Success Online, and for Words Rock Online.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Fun Writing with Creative Word Studio ~ a Crew review

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

Writing – it can either bring excitement or dread, depending on experience and enjoyment. Dread used to be where Miss J lived on this one. She wanted to write but she didn’t enjoy the processes that we had been working through. We have tried several programs but this one just may stick longer than a semester. Creative Word Studio is just that – a way to deal with words creatively. Their creative writing program is simple yet productive and Miss J has been enjoying using Sparkling Bits of Writing Book 1.

Sparkling Bits of Writing Book 1 is aimed towards 5th and 6th graders. Sparkling Bits of Writing Book 2 is aimed at 7th and 8th graders. Miss J just completed 6th grade and, even if she won’t admit it, has been really enjoying Sparkling Bits of Writing Book 1. It is the first thing she chooses to do every day in her school work AND I don’t have to tell her to start her school. Now part of that is likely maturity but I attribute a good deal of it to the fact that she has found something she looks forward to doing.

Creative Word Studio is a family business. Andrew and Jennifer Yoder founded the company to develop a creative writing curriculum that they saw a significant need for. With an education background, there is a fresh approach to the writing processes found with the company. You can also find tips and ideas for all sorts of writing on their blog, such as this post about poetry.

Sparkling Bits of Writing Book 1 is the book that Miss J has been using (and secretly enjoying – just catching that smile she tries to hide when we talk about this is tons of fun for me). The consumable book is softback with laminated paper covers and a spiral binding. Each student needs their own book. The Introduction is written directly to the student and then there is a page of instructions, which are really just a heads-up for what the lessons will look like. The book contains 75 lessons. At about 2 lessons per week, this could take you through an entire school year. We have actually been doing one lesson a day, so four lessons per week. I told you she liked it! 🙂

So, what types of writing will the student do? It generally follows this order of lessons: free writing, mini writing lesson, reading response, mini writing lesson, mini writing lesson. Free writing is just that – writing freely for a period of time about whatever comes to mind. The reading responses are to excerpts from literature such as The Secret Garden, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Man-Eaters Don’t Knock, or poetry such as “Snow” by Lucy A Martin. The mini writing lessons may have them working on wording, paragraphs, onomatopoeia, or using a thesaurus. Lots of variety!

The lessons are unique and different. Many people would likely call them prompts but the format is different and instructive instead of completely open ended, as most prompts are. For example, one of the lessons is about writing a conversation. But it has to be a conversation between 2 inanimate objects. There is an example conversation written by a student and then some ideas of the objects that students might want to choose from. They can always choose their own but this way, they won’t get stuck on what to choose.

Another example was the question “What matters to you?” As with all assignments, there was a student sample to get an idea of the assignment. The student was given the instruction of selecting a shady circle of lawn and taking at least 5 minutes to think before starting to write. Well, it was rainy that day so Miss J chose a comfy place to sit and write. She then wrote about what she felt mattered most to her.

Each assignment page has the lesson number and type. There is a place for the student’s name and the date. The assignment and sample writing are given. This is followed by the page being lined. The back of every page is also lined so there is plenty of space for the student to write.

I love that Jennifer Yoder acknowledges for the students that sometimes you get stuck in your writing and that is okay. In the instructions, she actually tells them that if they get stuck to just keep writing “what shall I write next, what shall I write next . . . ” That is such a practical and helpful suggestions because all too often we tell the kids they can come up with something and maybe, just maybe, they truly can’t at the moment. This gives them permission to struggle a bit but to not quit. And honestly, it is what I do sometimes, so it really resonated with me.

Another bit of Sparkling Bits of Writing Book 1 that I like is the freedom to not finish out to perfection a piece of writing. As a writer, you don’t always love everything you write. Finishing a piece you don’t like is hard. Not every piece in this book is suggested as a “Gold Piece.” A Gold Piece is one that is suggested for editing, revising, and rewriting a final draft for grading. Even this is something that can be modified. But, again, I like the freedom of noting that just completing the first write is sometimes enough. The rubric for grading a Gold Piece is inside the back cover of the spiral.

I found this to be a fresh and unique feeling approach to creative writing. It is appealing to my reluctant writer. And I have already seen growth and change with this. Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read the reviews from other families who have been using Sparkling Bits of Writing Book 1 and Sparkling Bits of Writing Book 2 from Creative Word Studio.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Figures In Motion ~ a Crew review

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

History is one of those subjects that can be absolutely fascinating and come to life in a number of different ways or be as dull as a doorknob. It all depends on how it is handled. Cathy Diez-Luckie has created articulated, historical paper figures for several history eras. These movable figures produced through Figures In Motion bring a hands-on aspect to your history studies and it brings the eras to life.

Famous Figures of the Early Modern Era includes 21 people from the mid-1500s through the mid-1800s. The famous people come from around the world and from many cultures. Catherine the Great to Simon Bolivar, Queen Nzinga to Rembrandt, Ch-ien-Lung to Robert Fulton, this book covers kings, queens, princesses, inventors, arts, revolutionaries, explorers, musicians, and more. Each figure comes printed both in full color to cut and assemble or in black-line to color and then assemble. In addition to the book, you will need a pair of scissors, a hole punch, and brads to assemble the figures. The hole punch and the brads we received with the book are of the mini size but full sized ones work as well. You can order these from Figures In Motion if desired.

We choose to take a break from our current history curriculum to use Famous Figures of the Early Modern Era. We picked up a number of picture books from our local library, scoured our bookshelves for related stories, and borrowed a copy of Story of the World, also. (Figures In Motion has set the series of books up to related to several history curriculums including Story of the World, Sonlight Curriculum, Classical Conversations, Mystery of History, among others.) I allowed Miss J to pick and choose among the names to find some that she was interested in.

She started with Catherine the Great, even before we had any books to read about her. We began with Catherine the Great the very evening we received the book for review because Miss J was so excited to get to do these. I looked up information on the internet and read to her while she cut out and assembled the Catherine the Great figure. She asked a few questions about Catherine and we did some additional research. A few days later when we were working on Peter the Great, we worked on the connection between the two and more questions were asked that weren’t answered in the books we had. More research – a wonderful learning opportunity.

During the time that we were taking a break from our current history to work on these fabulous figures, we were also working on a Lewis and Clark unit. Guess what? There was a figure for this unit – William Clark. It was another connection that helped her see how history is intertwined. There is also a Sacagawea figure that we put together as we studied the expedition.

Even our 11th grader enjoyed working on one of the figures. Here she is working on Sacagawea during our unit on Lewis and Clark.

As we concluded our break and got ready to pick up the history curriculum once more, we found additional connections and have actually continued on with creating a figure every few days. Pocahontas is one of the figures in the Famous Figures of the Early Modern Era book. She also fit in right where we were picking up again. We have also found William Penn in our current curriculum and worked on learning more about him, using the figure as a jumping off point.

The Famous Figures of the Early Modern Era book includes not just the paper figures, but it also includes a few short paragraphs on each figure and a suggested book list with books for various ages. The figures are most recommended for ages 6-12. My 12 year old is highly independent with the creation of the figures but she loves to have me read aloud to her while she is working on them. It suits me just fine to do so. A student on the lower end of that age range will likely need some help as the cutting can be pretty detailed.

If you visit the Figures in Motion website, you will find a place to sign up for their mailing list. Doing so will send a few more figures to your inbox. If you click on the download option, it also takes you to a private page on the website that has additional activities. There are some word searches, a play (for Esther), curriculum guides for each of the books (helping align with different history programs), a crown to make, a mosaic to create, and more.

There are 7 different books for you to explore – 6 history and 1 dinosaur. The Homeschool Review Crew has been reviewing the Famous Figures books. Visit the Crew website to read about the different books and how other families have been using this hands-on history resource.

Famous Figures of Ancient Times

Famous Figures of the Middle Ages & Renaissance

Famous Figures of the Early Modern Era

Famous Figures of the American Revolution

Famous Figures of the Civil War

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

AIM from Math-U-See ~ a Crew review

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

Our 6th grader enjoys math but has struggled with the multiplication facts. I felt fairly confident she understood the concept, since she was able to show that to me with manipulatives when she was 4, but she still counted a good number of the facts on her fingers. Accelerated Individualized Mastery (AIM) for Multiplication with a Bridge to Division is a product from Math-U-See that is designed for students age 10 and up who struggle with multiplication. The struggle can be in the concept or it could be in just some of the memorization. This program helps you find out where the struggle is and gives specific teaching techniques and learning activities to help combat those struggles.

In more formal language, this is considered an intervention program and is designed for students who are struggling that you don’t expect to be doing so. It is instructor guided, meaning it is teacher prepped and teacher guided. The teacher is a part of every bit of this program. AIM for Multiplication comes with everything needed to teach the program. It includes:

  • AIM Multiplication Resource Guide
  • Math-U-See Integer Blocks (amount needed for these lessons)
  • Math Fact Strategy Posters
  • Fact Check Cards
  • Code for online access to the Digital Pack (required internet access)

I was not concerned about Miss J not having all of the facts memorized but we have seen how it is affecting her a small bit as she works on her math program. Mastering these would help her math be more efficient and enjoyable. The program is designed to work with the individual student where that student is and mastering, truly mastering, the facts before moving on. Thus, the 10 lessons may take a few days to a few month, depending on your student’s mastery.

There are 10 lessons for addressing the 2s to 10s and two addition lessons to teach the relationship of multiplication to division (the bridge to division part). We are in lesson 8. We spent about 10-15 minutes a day on the lessons while she continues to use her regular math curriculum. The program combines a hands-on component, a visual component, and an auditory component in the teaching of each fact family. From there, the program has teaching techniques to help the student “fade” the hands-on component into a mastery recall of 3 seconds or less. All of these techniques and lessons are shown step by step in the online Digital Pack and in the Resource Guide.

Each fact family lesson has four parts – A through D. A is the direct teaching with the hands-on component. B is applying the ideas to word problems to really understand the learning. C is working on the memory. D is fading to total recall. You can work on each of these steps as many times as needed before moving on to the next one. It is recommended to not work on these for more than 15 minutes at a time and have a break of at least 2 hours in between sessions.

Included with AIM are several activities that can be used with any of the fact families for practice. Miss J’s favorite of these is rock, paper, scissors. (She wins most of the time!) There are online manipulatives and activities that we have not explored as much since Miss J is a hands-on learner. They are available, as well as the practice activities, in the Digital Pack.

As each fact family is learned, Miss J is coloring those facts on a chart. This is a visual representation of what she has done.

I have been pleased with the simplicity of the program combined with the progress I have seen. After we finish the lessons, we will retake the facts test to see how Miss J does. We did a pre-assessment so we have something to compare it to. I cannot wait to see her improvement. After we get through the bridge to division, we will also use some of the printable worksheets to help her continue to keep those facts solidly in her mind.

If you have a struggling student, Accelerated Individualized Mastery (AIM) for Multiplication with a Bridge to Division is something I would recommend. You can also visit the Homeschool Review Crew site to read about other families’ experiences using AIM for Multiplication from Math-U-See.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Easter With Older Children

Easter often means cute dresses, egg hunts, and bunny crafts. But when your children get older, that changes. It also looks different when you celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ all the time, not just at what the world has named Easter. Christ’s church celebrates Christ all the time, not just for this one week of the year, and that is what makes Easter so different for us. We spend this time in a special convention with other believers the world over celebrating the work our children have done all year long serving the Lord. This weekend is the Lads to Leaders Annual Convention!

Lads to Leaders is an organization that started some 50 years ago and is dedicated to helping the young men and women of the Lord’s church become his servants, his hands and feet, here on earth. It helps the young men and women find their areas of interest, talent, and growth. Whether it be service, leading songs, reading scripture, teaching, helping, media, or any number of other areas, or all of the areas, the students grow in their abilities to serve. This year, our girls have grown through teaching, serving others, leading songs, reading scripture, studying the Bible for Bible Bowl (Hebrews), studying for the Pearls test (topic: Better Than, actually that’s the whole year’s topic), making power points to be used by teachers, writing blog posts, working on puppet scripts, studying the debate topic (baptism), creating artwork and photos, and so much more. I am certain I have missed some things the girls have worked on. And it is all dedicated to growing in God, knowing God and His will better, and being more dedicated to serving Him.

Here are two of the things the girls did this year – Blog post 1 and Blog post 2. Since I don’t know if they have been finalized in the judging yet, I am not attaching any names to them still. 🙂

Here is post I wrote a while back about what Lads to Leaders is and what the girls worked on that year.

As everyone remembers, last year (2020), Easter looked quite different. Here’s what I wrote about our quarantine Easter.

And here is a recap of our Easter from 2019, complete with Lads to Leaders convention and our own Easter celebration after that.

This weekend, while many are doing egg hunts or have spent the week making palm fronds, we have been and will be focusing on Bible, songs, debate, art work, media presentations, and so much more that directly impacts the Lord’s church. We are blessed to have such a strong church to be a part of and to spend the weekend with so many others who are dedicated to Christ.

Our prayer this week is that you are able to spend your time in something strong and meaningful that strengthens your faith and leads you into a closer relationship with God, through Jesus.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Linking up at the Homeschool Review Crew for the weekly challenge.

Indoor Games for middle and high school

Now that our girls are getting older, our games have changed. We still really like games but what the girls like to play has shifted to some more complicated and/or differently challenging activities. This past two weeks has really given us the opportunity to engage in some fun indoor games, as we were unable to leave our house for 12 days. (Thanking the winter storm and central Texas’ ability to handle it. 🙂 )

One of our newest favorites is from Finders Seekers. This is a subscription company with at-home, escape room style boxes each month. We received a 3 month subscription as a gift at Christmas and I just renewed it on a month to month basis. I don’t know if we’ll keep it very long but we’ll do at least one more. We have explored Toronto, looked into the fabled life of Anastasia Romanov, and dallied in the National Parks. Next one to come is supposed to Machu Pichu. Looking forward to it.

Forbidden Island is a cooperative game that we enjoy playing. It doesn’t take too long and it is fun working together to do gather the four statues and get off the island before we get stranded. It isn’t difficult and we enjoy it.

Haunted Mansion is one that Miss J loves to play but she has to get her dad to play with her because I don’t enjoy it at all. It is based on a choose your own adventure book and follows much the same format, choosing different actions from the cards and going where that choice takes you. It is a cooperative game, also.

Prime Climb is a math game that Miss J likes to get out. It works on math facts and prime numbers up through 101. You can use addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in all sorts of combinations to make your way to 101. We have a good time and I do feel like she is learning a lot each time we play. The strategy combined with working the equations to get the most out of each move can be a lot of fun.

Maestro Mastery is a new one that we have played a couple of times. It is a fun one and the full review is coming up soon.

Mancala is a fun marble game that we were told originated somewhere in Africa. A friend had her dad make us this game board when we got married and it has had a whole lot of use and laughter over the years.

Guess Who – this one came from a fast food restaurant years ago but we have kept them around and the girls enjoy playing with them. They are small and my “getting older” eyes definitely struggle with it sometimes but we still enjoy it.

Another strange one Miss J and I enjoy is a curling game. It’s little stones are plastic with a marble and they glide over a smooth plastic alley. Fun and simple.

We keep a lot of games around and we play them often. Other favorites include Go Fish, War, Slap Jack, Uno, puzzles of all sizes, Dixit, Connect Four Launchers, Scrabble, and Boggle. Miss J also loves to play her Bird Bingo game. There are tons of others, I am sure, but these are the ones that come to mind and we play most often. What are some of your favorite games for middle school and high school? We could always add to our collection. . .

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

This is being linked up at the Homeschool Review Crew as part of the weekly blogging and social media challenge. Head over to read about other families’ favorite indoor games. Find a new favorite!

Visit the Homeschool Review Crew Round Up for more great posts to read.

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