Category Archives: Middle School

Pathway to Liberty ~ a Crew review

Pathway To Liberty Review

History can be such an interesting study when approached with enthusiasm but by the same token can be a boring subject when approached from a flat, disinterested viewpoint. Pathway to Liberty Homeschool Curriculum takes more of the first approach and we are enjoying it more each week. We received levels 2, 3, and 4 of Pathway to Liberty’s World History from Pathway to Liberty’s History Curriculum. I asked for this level as it moved us forward in our study of history; we had been recently talking about the American Civil War.

Pathway to Liberty was founded by homeschool mom Jayme MacCullough. She found, while teaching her own students, that the curriculum choices she had did not meet her personal standards and desires. These included biases and what she described as incomplete or revised histories. To combat this, she began studying the principles on which America was founded and true liberty. Out of this study came this curriculum.

 

Pathway to Liberty consists of four years, which cover from creation through the 21st century. The four years, in order, are:

Year 1 – Pathway to Liberty’s Universal History,
Year 2 – Pathway to Liberty’s The Middle Ages,
Year 3 – Pathway to Liberty’s US History,
Year 4 – Pathway to Liberty’s World History

Pathway to Liberty

There are four levels for each of these years. These grade levels are approximate. My 9th grader used level 4 and we found it be not any more difficult than the level 3 materials, though it did use different source materials. The recommended grades per level are:

Level 1 – Kindergarten through 3rd grade
Level 2 – 4th grade through 6th grade
Level 3 – 7th grade through 9th grade
Level 4 – 10th grade through 12th grade

We received World History. This has been an overall good study so far and we are looking forward to continuing with it. I expected a more world-wide centered view from the curriculum. It is very US centered, though it does look around the world some in light of the fact that there are so many wars to cover. We have covered WWI pretty well at this point, and while we did talk about some of the causes of the war and the parties involved in it, the level 2 and 3 books really focused on the US presidents during that time rather than a wider world-view of the war. This is not bad, in any way, just not quite what I was expecting.

Pathway level 2 and 3

We have enjoyed reading the source materials for Pathway to Liberty. For levels 2 and 3, we are using books from the Joy Hakim’s series A History of US. Level 4 is using The Century by Peter Jennings and Todd Brewster. These are well-written materials that are age appropriate, though I wouldn’t mind seeing the level 3 source a bit more challenging as much of the level 2 and level 3 materials are exactly the same.

Pathway level 4

Pathway to Liberty book and video

There are also plenty of videos to watch that come from various sources on YouTube. There is a Pathway to Liberty channel on YouTube that has most of the videos linked there in a playlist. We did have to do searches for several videos and at least one would no longer play from the playlist but it was easy to find what we needed.

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Each week, the teacher guide and the student workbooks have the weekly overview plan. The material is exactly the same in both places, and in the student workbooks.  It gives the scripture for the week, the principle, and the leading idea. There are four lessons of materials for the week and each level has its own column showing what they are to do for each lesson. There are also some additional assignments for writing, expanded history reading, and vocabulary. We utilized the vocabulary but have not yet assigned additional readings or writings.

Pathway to Liberty workbook being used

Each day’s lesson consisted of two or three activities. Most days included a reading and completing some pages in the student workbook. Many days included a video also. Lesson 2 added the word study for levels 2, 3, and 4 each week, though we are skipping it for level 2. My girls added their vocabulary words, either doing a couple of them a day or choosing to do them all in a single day.

Each student workbook had a daily banner that stated which lesson it was, the topic and which level and week. Then it gave the instructions for that day, followed by the questions to answer. The teacher’s guide includes all four levels and the suggested answers for the student workbooks.

The time the daily materials took varied greatly. Some days it was just 30 minutes or so. Others, the videos were an hour or more long by themselves. When you added in the rest, the student could easily spend two hours on just history. This wasn’t a problem as the girls seemed to really be enjoying the study and we had some fabulous discussion. It just isn’t a clear cut amount of time to be spent and day to day can vary greatly.

Pathway girls working

I am now going to let the girls say a little (Or a lot!) about their thoughts on the program. Note please: some of the issues they mention were bothersome early on but we figured out how to work around them. Specifically, the issues that could have been caught by a different editor, we fixed by just handing the girls a highlighter and telling them to highlight any time they found something. This added in a language arts element to our history study! 🙂 I will come back at the end and add a couple more thoughts of my own.

Julia, age 10, using level 2 – 

I liked the reading on the Wright brothers but I did not like the other ones as much. I learned a little in each reading that I didn’t know before. The videos were interesting but many of them were long. Overall, I didn’t like it too much. Spelling mistakes, scriptures marked wrong, and things like the lesson headings being in the wrong place made it hard to tell where the next lesson was or when one ended or what I was supposed to be doing.

Louisa, age 12/almost 13, using level 3 –

I felt like this was a good curriculum, even though I have a balanced opinion on it. There were several inconsistencies within the lesson plans – what they would state in the weekly plan would be different from what was on the day’s work. There were several grammar mistakes and noticeable typographical errors. These were a source of annoyance for me but could potentially cause confusion.

I don’t think anyone in our family found the first required book (Chain of Liberty) helpful or beneficial to the learning. The way the questions were worded made it hard to tell what they were asking for. Many times what they were asking for turned out to be a word-for-word repetition of several sentences or more, which my sister and I found hard to replicate. I feel like this book was not beneficial and could easily have been removed from the curriculum and the curriculum would not have suffered.

I really enjoy the in-depth word studies that are done every week.  Each week we are made to create a paper on a specific word that is relevant or helpful to the lesson or principle we learn about that week. I find these to be helpful and enjoyable at the same time and would not complain if a second word study was added to the curriculum each week. One step in the process of the word study is to record scriptures that are relevant to the word. One thing that makes the word study slightly tricky is when the word you are studying is not included in a Bible’s concordance, but with a little bit of creativity and the use of a synonym, the scriptures are attainable.

Pathway level 3 vocabularyThere is a list of vocabulary word which each study is asked to copy out, define, and review each week. Each week the words are different and the number differs from level to level. Even though the study asks us to do this, there is no designated space for this. Since the rest of the curriculum is clear for this sort of thing, I was disappointed to see that there was not a specific space in which we were supposed to complete this step, and I was confused as to when to do it and where to document them. I enjoyed coming up with definitions for these words.

A bunch of the curriculum had online videos to go along with it. When I watched the videos, they were of a lower quality than I expected (Me being a spoiled 21st century kid!). There were a large quantity of videos, many of them almost an hour long. It was also a bit hard to navigate the website (YouTube) to figure out which videos I was supposed to be watching, since all the levels had videos in the same place. Sometimes it was unclear in the curriculum which video I was supposed to be watching.

I enjoyed the different elements that this curriculum brought to studying history. It had me writing things, which had me working on penmanship. It has a strong Biblical aspect to it. It encourages study of the scriptures. It has online resources and videos, as well as books with quality source material. Overall, I think this is a good curriculum which I enjoyed. I am confident that others would, too.

Elizabeth, age 15, using level 4 –

It was a fantastic program. The videos were interesting and the book “The Century” was interesting. I have learned a lot. I didn’t know much about WWI until I started watching the videos and reading the book. Now I know a whole lot more. I love the word studies. They are fun and I think they are very useful.

I personally did not see a reason to have the week’s scripture, principle, and leading idea. There wasn’t a connection for me to the lessons.

I did not like how the first three videos I had to watch were cut because they were cut in the middle of a word most of the time. There were several spelling mistakes in the workbook, including Corrie Ten Boom’s name. There were also a number of punctuation mistakes. These mistakes bother me, especially when they are on things like Bible verses or important people’s names.

Pathway level 4 written assignment

When I have to write something, there are large spaces between the lines. This makes it hard to write and takes up so much space that there are often not enough lines for the assignment. 

I also did not like the first book that we were assigned to read. It (Chain of Liberty) was biased and opinionated. I personally don’t agree with probably half of the book. I didn’t understand some of what was in there. Both of my younger sisters had to read the book, also.

While I think the word studies are a fantastic thing to do, it didn’t feel like the word studies were well thought out. I have done five of them. Three of these five were not in the Bible and yet I had to find verses for those words. I ended up having to work with synonyms for these words and still I only came up with one verse for one of the words.

Overall, this is a really good program. If you start after the first book that we had to read and edit the workbooks, this would be outstanding. I would enjoy continuing on with this program. The history that I was working on before was really fun but I think this is teaching me a whole lot more. I wasn’t getting very in depth before and now I am learning even little details that I probably would not have learned with the other program I was doing. I think other high schoolers would enjoy the program, as well.

Back to me, now. We have really begun enjoying this curriculum. It took a few weeks to catch our stride with it but have come to like it quite a bit. Is it perfect? No but nothing is. I would highly recommend starting in week 3 and just skipping the first recommended book (Chain of Liberty) and the “links” discussions. We found it to be a highly biased book and we had to have some pretty in-depth, serious discussions with the girls about the reality of the world we live in and the government that is over us.

 

While Pathway to Liberty is intended to make it possible for a family to all study history together, we did not find it to work that way. Students are reading different source materials and watching different videos. They have different vocabulary words and work at different speeds. They are, however, all working on the same ideas and so when one girl asks a question, all of them can pay attention and learn something and contribute to the discussion themselves. For some families, this may work beautifully as a family study.

Overall, I really like this curriculum. The history is solid and uses solid source materials. It has also opened up some fabulous discussions for our family. We definitely can recommend this one.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Be sure to click on the banner below to read what other families thought about Pathway to Liberty and how the curriculum worked for them.

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Stopmotion Explosion ~ a Crew review

Stopmotion kit

We are not a huge technology family. We don’t look for the latest things on the market and we don’t go for expensive cell phones. We are not tech-y, you know? When the opportunity was presented to review the Stop Motion Animation Kit, I just didn’t know whether to even try or not. After all, it felt overwhelming to me. But I presented the idea to Miss L and she was excited to get to try Stopmotion Explosion. It is right up her alley!

The Stop Motion Animation Kit is a set that gets anyone ready to begin creating stop motion videos. Stop motion is when a video is created by taking any number of still images that show minute changes in position, strings them together quickly, and creates a video out of that. Think a digital flip book. Did you ever have one of those? We had one that had a cartoon of the Road Runner in the corner of it and you flipped fast to make Road Runner run. This is like that only done digitally.

Stopmotion Explosion has created a kit to get newbies like us headed in the right direction. The kit includes

  • a 1080p HD video camera with microphone, manual focus and flexible clip;
  • CD with animation software (though you can download it from the website, also, with the book to provide the code word neeeded);
  • a quick start guide; and
  • a 294 page book full of history, tips, ideas, and instruction.

In addition to the kit, access to the internet will be needed if you want to access the step-by-step video tutorials and other materials available on the website or if you need to download the software. There are minimum requirements for the computer operating systems so be sure to check that before purchase.

The recommended age printed on the kit is 13+. This would be a great age for independence with the kit, though an 11 or 12 year old could probably use it if they are fairly tech-savvy. Younger than that and adult assistance will be needed, particularly in getting the software set up or in trouble shooting if issues occur.

Using the Kit20190308_201414

We were able to get started fairly easily with the kit. The Quick Start Guide is enough to help get the software loaded and figure out a few of the troubleshooting things that come up early on (like how to focus the camera or getting an image to show up from the camera – yep, had both of those and found the question right there in the booklet).

Once we had the basics figured out, Miss L just wanted to play with it and see what she could do. She had been thinking about ideas since we had asked for the review so she was ready to at least try. We decided it was best to just start with playing around, rather than try to make this a very formal process. So, she opened the software and starting capturing images. She used the bigger book to answer a couple of more detailed questions and we went to the website for some help, also.stopmotion software

One of the issues we had was that our software quit. (I have not yet figured out why that happens but it didn’t stop the creative process – just slowed it down.) So, I headed over to the Stopmotion website and guess what? Right there was a video showing how to grab those already captured images and move them into the software once it was running again to pick up right where it had left off. The only thing here was that the video showed a different version of the software than we had, as the import feature looked really different. Not a problem, though. It was enough information that I was able to assist Miss L in getting those images back to the software so she could keep going.

She figured out just how wonderful some of the features are, like the onionskin. It allows you to superimpose the previous image over the one you are about to take so you can see how your change looks before capturing the image. This was something she use. A LOT! It allowed her to make those changes as small as she saw them in her head.

Animate ANYTHING and Make MOVIES

20190416_084925This is the title of the 294 page book that comes with the kit. It can also be purchased separately. It is full of information, tips, ideas, and helpful things for stop motion video. It is not really designed as a class but could very easily be made into one. The book starts with a short history lesson. It then takes the reader through “actors”, creating stories, making sets, different cameras, lighting, and more. There are some chapter that address specific video sequences such as flying or fighting.

It would be very easy to make this into a high school elective credit but creating assignments to go with each chapter. For the one on different actor options, have the student come up with a certain number or to create an armature using the instructions in the book. The student could write a story script in the chapter teaching about that. Backdrops, lighting options, and more – each of these could have several assignments that build on each other and create a good solid film credit for high school electives. This book is so full of hands-on options that it could easily keep the student working creatively for quite a while. This is a great book!

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While Miss L has not read the book all the way through, it is something she has picked up a few times and read interesting parts of. It gave her some good ideas and spurred her on when she got stuck. We are planning for Miss L to go back through the book and actually read it later on this summer, when we are doing “fun school” stuff and have some extra down time. She has some ideas and would like to work on it.

Capturing images and Creating videos

Miss L has created two videos at this point. She figured out that she had to have a stabilizing element for the camera. Using a suggestion from the book, she created a stand for it from blocks.

camera

After getting it sturdy, she started capturing and has created two videos at this point. Check out her work so far.

I am sure there will be much more use of the kit in the future. End of study projects can take on a whole new meaning. Creating a literature summary or filming a science video – all options have a new possibility now. I can’t wait to see what she and her sisters come up with.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

There have been some pretty amazing videos created by other students using the Stop Motion Animation Kit from Stopmotion Explosion. Visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog by clicking the banner below to find other videos to view.

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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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My Family For The War ~ book review

My daughter found this book at our library book sale the other day. In going through her pile and deciding what to purchase, she chose not to get this one. So I picked it up and looked at it. I knew immediately that I would need to read this book so I bought it. 

Warning: I’m putting this here so it doesn’t get missed. There is some language in chapter 3 of this book. It is a scene where the Germans storm a Jewish home in the middle of the night and the language the Germans use is rough. It is only a short amount but there are several strong words used. Additionally, in the first few chapters, there are some scenes where some violence occurs – a group of children beating up another child severely and the Jewish father being beaten when the German invade their home.

Summary: This is the story of young girl, she is 10 at the start of the story in 1939, living in Germany. Franziska Mangold is of Jewish heritage. Her family has been Protestant for over two generations. She knows who she is and doesn’t quite understand why she is suddenly being considered a Jew. The times get rough and she has to endure many things. When she is beaten up, her Jewish friend takes her to his house. While there, she experiences some of the Jewish religious customs that she doesn’t know. Her friend questions her about who she really is but she doesn’t know how to answer.

After her father is arrested, her family struggles. In talking with a Jewish friend, Franziska finds out about the kindertransports that are being arranged by others in Europe to help save the German children. She excitedly tells her mother about that and how her friend will be saved. Her mother then gets her on one of the transports, to her dismay. She ends up in England and living with a Jewish family who takes very good care of her.

The problem is that she is now experiencing very deep dismay and confusion about who she is and how she should be living. She begins to question her beliefs, her understanding, and who she is at the very core. She comes to care deeply for the family she is living with yet still aching for her own family. She is torn and feels like she is betraying those she loves. Then she is ripped from that family and sent to live with yet another that is farther inland. That is yet another difficulty. Eventually she is able to be reunited with the original Jewish family from London. The war goes on and she stays with them for the remainder of the war. All in all, she is with this family for 8 years, almost half her life. She loves them and feels strongly attached. When the war ends, she has more struggles ahead of her to figure out who her family is and where she belongs.

Thoughts:
This is a tragic story that is probably more accurate than I can imagine. This story shows the blessing and tragedy of humanitarian efforts like the kindertransport. Children’s lives are preserved but their beings are ripped and torn with no understanding about where they belong. What difficulty!

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and have already recommended it to a number of people. It is probably appropriate for middle school and up, especially for those doing any kind of a WWII study. It is not a true story but I can imagine that it pretty well reflects the growing up and coming-of-age of many children from Germany and other countries so badly affected by the German war movements in the 1930s and 1940s. 

It gives a unique perspective on how the children would have been affected, hurt, and struggled. It is a difficult but wonderful story.

Blessings,
At Home.

The Critical Thinking Co.™ ~ a review

Over the past few years, we have had the privilege to review a few different products from The Critical Thinking Co.™ We have truly enjoyed them but I think the product we received this time around has been the trump card. Something Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha was a blast to work through.

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Miss L has recently been reading a science book on forensics. When The Critical Thinking Co.™ review came up, I jumped at the chance to ask for Something Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha because it would follow the book she was reading perfectly, providing a nice and tidy wrap-up project for her forensics study.

Something Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha is designed for students ages 5th grade and up. It is a full criminal case for the student to investigate, studying reports and applying forensics knowledge to solve the crime and make informed decisions about who should be the Person of Interest for the case. It can be done individually or in a group setting.

working on Something's Fishy

Miss L tackled this on her own, with help from her “assistant” – At Home Dad. He has fairly extensive knowledge of crime scene investigation, gathering evidence, and forensic knowledge application. He was a very valuable assistant and made us realize that this would definitely work better in a group setting in order to have others to bounce thoughts and ideas off of, though this individual setting worked fine.

Something Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha
This is about a crime that needs solved. There was a fire that brought to the attention of the authorities a bundle of counterfeit money, a body, bullets and guns. What happened at Lake Iwannafisha? Who is the dead man? Why was there so much cash in the cabin? Where did all the money come from? All these questions and more will be solved by the investigation into the crime(s) committed at the fishing cabin. Or at least that is the goal. However, not all questions will have neat, clear answers.

lots of evidence to work through

Miss L started out by reading the information about different types of forensic evidence and how each type is gathered and used. The forensics evidence part should be focused on pretty well before tackling the actual case, as knowing a good bit about this is helpful in deducing information at times. Miss L read through it but did not ask any questions. In hindsight, it would have been good to spend a bit of time with her, making sure she understood it. We did got back to it often and she needed those pages to reference throughout the investigation.

Miss L, as lead investigator, was given the crime scene report and a page to guide her in taking notes on the report. From there she could ask for any type of report that she thought would help. There were lots of helpful reports for the case, but there were also a couple of “dummy reports” in there – reports that had no true impact on the case. As she noted different names, she would ask for the witness statement for that person. This got her started in thinking through the possibilities and making connections.

reports list

Witness statements were just one of the many types of reports that she could ask for. There were finger print reports and reports on counterfeit money. There were ballistics test, medical reports, anthropological reports, DMV reports, and more.

This does require lots of copies or using your book. The Critical Thinking Co.™ has a generous copyright policy that allows the original purchase to make copies for their home or classroom. The pages are perforated to make them easy to remove from the book if you need to. In order to ease the making of copies of the reports, The Critical Thinking Co has tried to make the PDFs available online. I found in trying to use this resource, though, that only the first page of any of the reports was in the file. So, I still had to make copies from the book. It was easier to do them all from the book, though if the files online were complete that would be such a time saver! Perhaps that can be easily fixed.

examining the crime scene report

It took Miss L approximately 9-10 hours to work through this case on her own with some input from her assistant. This included spending an hour or so on learning about forensic science and the different branches of it. The writing of this forensics case study was very well done and enjoyably challenging.

This is a product that was truly interesting to work through. It was completely different than anything we had ever used and was a perfect final project for the forensics unit.

Blessings,
At Home.

There were multiple products being reviewed during this Crew run from The Critical Thinking Co.™ Check out each of their products that were part of this review series –

Understanding Pre-Algebra

Critical Thinking Detective Book 1 

Something Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha

Critical Thinking Detective: Vocabulary

Dare to Compare Level 1

Vocabulary Riddles Book 1

There is currently a coupon available to the readers of the Homeschool Review Crew. Through 12/31/2018, you can get free shipping PLUS 15% off any size order when you use the coupon code TOSCREW18. You can also get free Critical Thinking Puzzles – a $75 value – delivered weekly to your inbox. Sign Up Now!
https://www.criticalthinking.com/toscrew

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Read the reviews of these products or other families who work on the case file for Something Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha by clicking the banner below.

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CodeWizardsHQ ~ a Crew review

CodeWizardsHQ review

Writing computer code is not something I really expected Miss E to get interested in but the introductory class she participated in from CodeWizardsHQ created a new interest for her. Reviewing the class gave us a good introduction to their computer programming curriculum, which is a good fit for anyone interested in learning computer programming, whether a homeschool student, a public school student, or a private school student.

CodeWizardsHQ was begun by a dad who saw his daughter struggling to learn to code with the resources that were currently available. So he create the platform and classes that he knew would make it possible for students to really learn how to write computer code, understanding what they were actually doing.

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What Is CodeWizardsHQ?

CodeWizardsHQ is a comprehensive code curriculum. It consists of 9 courses that are 12 weeks each, followed by a capstone project. This curriculum takes the student through real-world programming with project-based learning. The course is a live, on-line course with instructors who have real-world coding experience (read that: a day job in coding) and a heart for teaching others how to write code.

live class slide show

So what makes CodeWizardsHQ different from what is already out there? When taking a course from CodeWizardsHQ the student is working with a small class (8 or fewer students) and an instructor. The instructor can see what the student is doing, as they are doing it and can make real-time corrections when the student is having a problem. 80% of the class time is spend writing code and seeing it work. The real-time interaction between the instructor and students makes this unique in the world of online code education.

CodeWizardsHQ has scheduled classes that you can register for and these classes are beginning in May. If you are looking for classes for a homeschool student, you can register for what they have scheduled or you can get your friends or co-op together and work with the company to find a time that works for you. There is a special homeschool pricing based upon the number of students.

CodeWizardsHQ classes give you a one hour live class per week. The student has access to the code writing platform 24/7, email support (same day), one-to-one assistance when needed, weekly progress updates, and class recordings. In addition to this, the student will have web space to use for their projects, an online student community, and a certificate of completion for each completed course.

There is a Facebook group for parents who are interested in their kids coding.

The Class –

screen with slides and chat

The class Miss E took was a special introductory class. It was only one hour, not a part of their 12 week courses. Her instructor was Ms. Lynn, a front-end web developer who has worked in the field for 20 years. Ms. Lynn talked to Miss E and her classmates about HTML code – what it was and what it did, its value to the internet world. Then she had them look at some code and talked about what each part of it did. After a bit of explanation, she had the students begin to work with the code, writing the parts they needed to, editing where necessary.

The students in the class were creating a comic strip with 9 panels in it. Ms. Lynn walked them through how to manipulate the code. They changed backgrounds, images, and text. Anytime a question arose, the students could use their microphone to talk with Ms. Lynn in real-time, getting a real-time answer, or they could use the chat box on the class to ask the question and get an immediate answer. As they worked, Ms. Lynn could see what they were writing for their code and interact with them on any changes they needed or wanted to make. At one point, Miss E had a question about removing a text box. Ms. Lynn was able to help her make that change quickly and easily. A self-paced or video based course would not be able to do that.

By the end of the one hour class, the students had finished a good part of the comic. If they hadn’t, they could still continue working after the class because they had access to the coding platform. The platform makes it easy to share their finished product as well. It was as easy as clicking a button to share the finished product on Facebook or Twitter. And just copying and pasting the web address meant it could be shared with others.

Comic screenshot

When we first heard about the class, I will be honest – we were not excited. It did not appeal and we did not really want to have to figure out how to manage a live class. But, we did. When the time for class arrived, Miss E had just gotten home from the dentist (not a “fun” cleaning visit – one of those others where fillings had to be done) and so she was already feeling less than energetic. However, we got her logged on and she was ready to participate. What we found was that she enjoyed it. A lot. As the one-hour class time ticked by, she giggled more and was more energetic and excited about what she was doing. She understood more about the process behind the code and how it worked. As she figured out how to place figures or to eliminate lines of code she didn’t need, things clicked and her smile grew (even with half of it being numb). She truly enjoyed it and by the time we finished, she was asking if this was something we could afford to enroll her in and if so, could Ms. Lynn be her instructor (I have not explored the answer to that). Now we are considering this new interest seriously.

back end - or written code - for the comic

The back end – written code – for Miss E’s comic. This is what the class taught her how to do.

Miss E’s thoughts:
It was cool! We could talk to her (Ms. Lynn – instructor) and she could talk to us like a real class. Or we could use the chat box. I didn’t have to rely on you (Mom) to maybe fix my problem or maybe make it worse. It was fun and I’d like to learn more.

My thoughts:
This is not going to be an inexpensive new interest but it is one that would serve her really well in the future. This set-up – the live class with a qualified instructor – is of great value and benefit in the process of learning how to write computer code. The personal interaction will make all the difference between struggling to figure it out on your own (and likely giving up when it doesn’t work) and truly learning to understand how those lines fit together to make something work. CodeWizardsHQ is a company that I will be keeping in mind.

Blessings,
At Home.

Want to learn more about the program or find out the thoughts of other parents? Want to know what other students who took the class thought? Visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read more reviews by clicking the banner below.

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