Category Archives: reviews

Timeline Collection ~ a Crew review

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

hands-on history with timelines

Home School in the Woods is a hands-on history company that you will likely have heard of, especially if you have been following this blog for long at all. We were introduced to HSITW early on in our homeschool journey and quickly knew it was a company whose products we were going to enjoy using. We have reviewed a number of their products but there was one that we just hadn’t gotten yet – Timeline Collection: A Collection of Historical Timeline Figures .

HSITW Timeline Figures

Timelines are included in many of the products from Home School in the Woods, especially their Time Travelers U.S. History Studies series and their Project Passport series. So we have many dedicated timelines but every one in a while, we have a need to create a timeline or have the thought that a timeline would go really well with what we are working on. Enter the Timeline Collection. This will be just what we need to be able to create a timeline for any study we are doing, regardless of the subject or time period.

The Timeline Collection is just that – a collection of timeline figures. This downloadable file (comes as a zip file that you will need to extract the files from) gives you more than 1300 figures to pick and choose from for your convenience. This collection supplements any history work you are doing with figures representing people, places, and events. Each figure is available in two sizes and two formats. There is a with text or without text option, as well as the option to print for a notebook size timeline or for a wall size timeline. You can see below the size of a figure with text when printed for a notebook.

Timeline Figures for notebook

The collections are grouped in a few different ways to make searching for the figure you need easier. The following categories are used:

  • Creation to Christ,
  • Resurrection to Revolution,
  • Napoleon to Now,
  • America’s History, and
  • 80 Bonus Figures

HSITW Timeline Figures CD 1 start

There is also a file that contains all of the figures as individual, high-quality GIFs. This allows you to enlarge or reduce the figure as needed. These can then be used for making notecards, games, coloring pages, books, and more. Additionally this file contains the listing of images both alphabetically and chronologically and by different classifications. These classifications include large categories such as World War I and narrower categories such as US Statehood or artists. A few of these are shown in the screenshot below.

HSITW Timeline Figures category examples

We have been using the notebook sized figures from the Creation to Christ section to supplement our history text for Miss J, in 6th grade. While her curriculum does have a timeline, it is very limited in scope. This has allowed us to supplement that timeline with a more in-depth, comprehensive one that pulls a lot of history together visually. I am printing out the pages one sheet at a time and coloring them since she isn’t in a coloring mood right now and that isn’t the focus. She then is cutting them apart, reading the text, asking any questions (leads to some additional research and rabbit trails which are always a good thing!), and then placing it a timeline notebook that we have had laying around the house for years. We are not worrying about the date spacing and just keeping figures in order for this timeline.

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Timelines have been how we have studied a couple of different time periods in history and for Miss J they have been just what she needed. We would look up a short video of the person, place, or event to watch. We would related it to what came before, since we were working in chronological order. Then she would place the figure on the timeline in the correct place. We would spend about 30 minutes a day doing this and it was a pretty enjoyable and thorough history program for upper elementary for her. Home School in the Woods timelines were perfect for that and it is what we used. The Timeline Collection will make that even easier the next time we decide to do that type of a survey study.

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While timelines are an amazing way to study history, there is even more to it. This being an election year,the study from HSITW on elections is a great addition. We have used it previously and I plan to pull it out again when we start back to school in September. (We started our “summer break” this week.) Miss J will use that to take a look at the elections process and our system for government. Take a look at the blog post from HSITW about this study they created and also the product itself.

Please visit our other blog posts about HSITW products. Other than the U.S. Elections Lap-Pak, we have reviewed

Any history study will likely find a supplement product or a full-on unit study product from Home School in the Woods. Do check them out. Their hands-on history studies cannot be beat. Also, head over to the Homeschool Review Crew to read more reviews on the Timeline Collection: A Collection of Historical Timeline Figures  and the other products families were using over the past few weeks. These include
U.S. Elections Lap-Pak
Benjamin Franklin K-2 Lap-Pak
Time Travelers U.S. History Studies
Make-A-State Activity-Pak

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

HSITW Timelines

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

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

Ancient History and Literature - a 9th grade_high school curriculum

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

The Consultation:

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

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

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

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

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The Curriculum:

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

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

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

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

You can view the unboxing video over on Instagram.

Using The Curriculum

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

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

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

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

Our Modification

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

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

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

Thoughts

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

My Father's World 9th grade curriculum guide

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

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

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

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

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

My Fathers World Ancient History and Literature

Experience Biology with Journey Homeschool Academy ~ a Crew review

high school biology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

JHA Experience Biology

Understanding Math with CTCMath ~ a Crew review

Understanding Math with CTCMath

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

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

CTC-Math

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

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

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

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

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

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

streamers in the background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What the girls thought:

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

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

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

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

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

an online k-12 full math curriculum with video instruction

Creator Kit from Pitsco Education ~ a Crew review (& giveaway)

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

a Crew review by At Home_ where life happens

Hands-on learning engages the mind like nothing else can. It turns it on. Maybe that is why Pitsco Education uses the hashtag of #handsonmindson . I really like that! We have been using the Middle School STEM Creator Pack (46204), which is designed for grades 6-8. It has been a great fit and we have enjoyed it tremendously.

Pitsco Education is a company that has products designed for hands-on learning and  problem solving that engage the brain in discovery learning. The company is striving to provide real-life learning and training that does more than boost their scientific knowledge. Rather, they are trying to build the relevant skills to help the academic skills thrive alongside. This includes social interaction, working with others, observing and testing ideas, and guiding open-ended projects. Pitsco has worked to make sure their products meet national standards and guidelines, as well. The core mission is student success.

Pitsco-Education-Logo

Pitsco Education works to meet this core mission of student success through products and activities they offer. There are products available for all ages. Whether you are looking for a STEM kit of activities, a set of family challenges, or a programming activity, there are several choices for you. The Crew has been reviewing these products:

Elementary STEM Explorer Pack (46198) – Grades K-5
Middle School STEM Creator Pack (46204) – Grades 6-8
High School STEM Innovator Pack (46210) – Grades 9-12
Family Design Challenges Kit (TRG kit 46235) – Grades 3-8
Code Cube Single Kit (45843) – Grades 3-5
Smart Buddies at Home  – Grades 3-5
Arduino Education Student Kit (46239) – Grades 6-12

(You can read more about each one and see more information on the giveaway by visiting the Homeschool Review Crew blog.)

Creator Pack

STEM Creator Pack for Middle School (grades 6-8)

We received this fully-packed box in the mail and had a joy opening it to see what we were going to get to do.

The kit included the following activities:

  • Creating a Friction Climber
  • Creating da Vinci bridges
  • Creating Rolling Vehicles
  • Creating Catapults
  • Creating My Invention

Each package had the materials needed to complete the activity and an instruction booklet (the Creator’s Guide) with additional activities and interesting facts. We did have to provide a couple of things from home like scissors and a ruler.

Most of the Creator’s Guide instructions were easy to follow and Miss J was able to complete them on her own. She did need an extra pair of hands for several things but she was able to tell me what to do in order to help her. We had a couple of times where we had to modify the plans because we could not make them work as written, such as when working on getting the catapult set up, the o ring would not hold the sides in place so we added a piece of tape to hold the sides together. Another time was in trying to put wheels on the car. The holes in the plastic wheels were not wide enough so we had to widen them a bit with a knife. While it would have been nice for these to work without needing modification of any type, it was fine to have to problem solve how to fix these minor issues.

Let’s look at each kit just a bit.

rolling vehicle

We started with Creating Rolling Vehicles. The templates were included so Miss J picked one and colored it, then cut it out. She followed the instructions for adding the axles. She got it together and had a good time sending the car back and forth across the floor. The Creator’s Guide asked her to work with push power first and had her use an elevated plane to evaluate some of the ways in which it worked. There were questions for her to consider, such as “Where does the energy come from for it to roll down the ramp?” The guide included charts to fill out when comparing things in an activity, which was nice. After a few activities, she added a balloon on a straw to the vehicle to make it powered differently. This was fun and it allowed them to talk a bit about jet engines and increasing speed.

The da Vinci bridges Creator Guide was difficult to follow. The instructions, I can imagine, were really difficult to write. We ended up having to look for a video on building a da Vinci bridge and still struggled. We did get one that could hold weight but we could not build it very big.

That was a bit disappointing and we hope to try it with larger pieces of wood. We felt like the craft sticks were just too short to use effectively. That would be a nice change for the company to make to this particular kit.

catapult

Creating Catapults was a kit that Miss J loved. She had a great time with the catapult. It was fairly easy to make using the die cut pieces in the kit. The questions guided her to consider how to increase the accuracy, precision, and distance. The Think About It sections really had her evaluating what was going on and creating and testing hypotheses. She worked hard to learn how to aim and be precise with her throws. The one thing this kit did not include that may or may not be lying around the house is a pair of safety glasses.

designing an invention

Creating My Invention was a fun kit that even had Miss J doing a bit of research. It discussed elevators a bit and then asked some questions. She had me look some things up for her and we talked about it. She then drew a picture of how she was going to build an elevator. Well, as is always true of inventions, the first incarnation did not work so she had to reevaluate and redesign. She eventually came up with an elevator that could lift a small doll. She was super proud of that and played with it for several days. There are plenty more materials left for her to design more inventions.

The final kit was Creating a Friction Climber. This one was super disappointing for us. Even with me reconsidering all of her work and making sure she followed all of the directions in the Creator’s Guide, we could not get this to work. We have made friction climbers before and we still could not figure out why this one will not work. Just the same, it was good for her to experience that not everything works perfectly the first (or second or third, etc.) time and sometimes you have to abandon what you are doing and just move on. We will revisit this one with a fresh attitude in a bit.

Final Thoughts

We have really loved this Middle School STEM Creator Pack (46204) for Grades 6-8. It has provided quite a few hours worth of interest and activity. She has learned a lot, worked independently and with someone else, approached some things she thought she could not do, and failed at some thing that she thought were simple. All of these are great outcomes and don’t even touch the STEM learning that occurred. Hands-on, minds-on learning is wonderful. Interested?

Pitsco Education is giving away one of each of the kits being reviewed by the Homeschool Review Crew, including one of the Middle School STEM Creator Pack. Head to their website to enter the giveaway for the Middle School Creator Pack. Want to know about some of the other kits and enter those giveaways? Visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read about them and find the links for the other kits being given away.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Pitsco ed pin

Progeny Press Literature Studies ~ a Crew review

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

High School Literature Study Guides

Great literature enhances understanding and can broaden views of life. Progeny Press sees this and has created a large line of literature study guides for all ages to help guide students into deeper understanding of ideas found in many great books. We were given study guides for the older end of the spectrum this time, though we have explored some of the younger guides in the past. This review will cover the Little Women Study Guide for High School, Grades 8-12 and the Animal Farm  Study Guide for High School, Grades 9-12.

When you purchase a study guide from Progeny Press, you can choose either an ebook format or a CD for most titles. If you choose the ebook format, you get a link with which to download the guide. The purchase is for the guide only and you will need to obtain the book yourself. Progeny Press does have most of the titles available for purchase on their site. Downloading the guide is very easy and once it is downloaded you can decide how to use it. Both of the guides we received could be used in print or in interactive PDF format.

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Miss L used the Little Women Study Guide. I chose this one for her since she enjoys this book so much. She chose to have the guide printed and to write her answers. It worked well for her this way. I printed the guide in sections and these includes about 5 chapters in each section. Starting out with a short biography of Louisa May Alcott and background information gets the student started in the right directions. There are several choices for pre-reading activities, including looking into Pilgrim’s Progress which plays an important role in the story. There are also some while-you-read activities that can help a student stay focused on the story while reading. These include things like keeping an on-going word list or keeping track of other books mentioned.

For each group of chapters, there are several common sections. These include vocabulary, questions, thinking about the story, dig deeper, and optional activities. The style of questions or activities for each set of chapters varies and the optional activities vary, as well, though there always seems to be a baking choice.

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The vocabulary is a strong part of this particular guide because the words used in Little Women are strong and rich. As with all questions, some of them are stronger than others. Between the questions section and the thinking about the story, the questions move deeper into the application and evaluation end of the question taxonomy, asking more thought from the student. Dig Deeper involves evaluation and use of understanding to consider how ideas from the story impact us. It often includes verses and ideas from the Bible to really drive home the concepts and allow the student to see application in their own lives.

The Progeny Press website has a huge list of the specifics that the student will cover by completing the Little Women Study Guide. It lists the literary techniques discussed, the moral lessons and character values explored, and writing assignments and activities included. Please visit their site to see these specifics.

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Miss L is literal minded (as you can see above), very advanced in her thinking, and wants very clear wording in questions. These guides are a challenge for her because what she sees the questions asking is often not what they are going for. Her extreme out-of-the-box thinking makes them frustrating for her to use. However, I see it as a good challenge for her to stretch her thinking and to try to see even more sides of the story, so to speak. For her, I would not use these exclusively but I see some good coming out of using one a year or so.

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Miss E utilized the Animal Farm  Study Guide for the past few weeks. She chose to utilize the ebook version of the guide instead of printing it. This has been a smooth process for her. Each day, she just opens the PDF on her computer and enters the answers for the activities and questions directly into the PDF. She then saves it before closing each time so that her work is retained.

The Animal Farm guide is a bit different from the Little Women guide, though the purpose is the same – take a look at the story and glean deeper understanding of life from it. It also begins with a synopsis of the story and a biography of the author. It also includes some background information on different governing systems and economic systems, since this book is an allegory of these. The prereading activities for this book are quite large projects, including doing research on Russia, Stalin, and socialism. There also is a list of books and movies that are recommended reading/viewing to get a handle on the ideas that will be explored. Miss E did a short bit of research and reading on Joseph Stalin, including his politics, government, and the state of the people during his time. We discussed what she found rather than having her write or type it up.

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From there each set of chapters includes vocabulary work, a look a different characters or events and what they represent, general questions, analysis questions, dig deeper questions, and optional projects and activities.

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The vocabulary work varies from section to sections but includes words that are not every-day words for us. The student might define something, choose the right word for a given definition, write a sentence with the word, have a multiple choice section, or work with synonyms and antonyms. The questions sections covers knowledge level questions such as why or where. They help focus in on the story. The analysis questions really delve into what the author of Animal Farm was driving at, what he wanted his readers to get and understand. These are designed to challenge the student to understand the story.

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The Dig Deeper questions really look at people, their beliefs and how they act. The Bible is brought into the discussion here and the student is challenged to really consider what goes on and what it might mean beyond the simple view. Optional projects and activities vary from section to section and might include writing a comparison paper, researching a topic or idea, or leading a class discussion. These are designed to really push the student. Due to the other projects that Miss E was working on during using this study guide, she did not tackle any of the optional activities.

The Progeny Press site includes a list of the specific literary techniques, moral lessons, character values, activities, and writing assignments that are covered in Animal Farm. Visit their site to read these lists.

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I really like the depth to which these high school level study guides push the students. Animal Farm is definitely much more of a challenge than Little Women. While I would not want to personally use these one right after the other of these study guides to create a year’s worth of literature study, I do like the idea of using one a year to take a different look at literature.

If you like looking at books with this analytical approach, these would be a great fit for your family. They will certainly challenge the high school student to consider things on a deeper level and, if the optional activies are utilized, I can see this building a really strong literature study for the year using 4-6 of these.

Be sure to read more about other families’ experiences with Progeny Press study guides, from early elementary through high school by visiting the Homeschool Review Crew. You can also read about our other uses of these guides for the following books:

The Bears on Hemlock Mountain
The Sword In The Tree
Sarah, Plain and Tall
The Courage of Sarah Noble
Little House in the Big Woods

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Progeny PressHigh School Literature

 

MaxScholar – online reading software ~ a Crew review

MaxScholar

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

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

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

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

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

MaxPhonics includes things basic skills such as:

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

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

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

MaxReading is for grades k-12 and includes:

  • reading
  • reading comprehension
  • vocabulary
  • outlines
  • summarizing

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

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

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MaxWords contains learning for multi-syllabic words and includes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

MaxScholar program

U.S. Life-Saving Service: a unit study ~ a Crew review

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

Exploring the U.S. Lif-Safing Service

A time from the past can be interesting, fascinating even, when approached through story and activities to help get the full “feel” of the time. Rebecca Locklear enjoys history and sharing that history through activity and story. She has a background in several levels of teaching and writing materials for teachers. Knowing the strength of integrating hands-on with other aspects of learning, Rebecca Locklear has created two unit studies. We have used Exploring the U.S. Life-Saving Service 1878-1915: 17 Student Workshops with 120 Activities with our family. She also has one titled The Mayflower at Cape Cod – Stories, activities, and research that connect 1620 with life today that other families on the Crew worked with.

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Exploring the U.S. Life-Saving Service 1878-1915: 17 Student Workshops with 120 Activities is for teachers with students in grades 4-12. It is 120 pages and we received it in PDF format. There is a purchase option for both digital and print on her website. The book covers everything from how the US Life-Saving Service came about to what daily life was like to how and what they cooked, medicine to survival skills. There is a lot of information packed into these pages.

There are 17 lessons, or workshops. Each is set up very well for teachers, with the objectives of each workshop and activity clearly stated. It also includes a list of materials needed for each workshop. In addition to the 17 workshops, there is a section on “Expanding the Life-Saving Vision Through the Arts” which includes visual art and musical art. There is also a list of topics that might be of interest for further study with a short summary of the information. Appendix 1 covers the topic of why ships would sink. Appendix 2 is recipes. A glossary and a list of sources closes out the study.

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We found the story and information part of this study most interesting. As a family, we read the Introductory Workshop. It discusses much of what the purpose of the U.S. Life-Saving Service was about, how you became part of it, and what life was like. This was a great introduction to service, which my girls knew nothing about.

We really enjoyed looking at the many authentic photographs included and the explanation of them. A few of the pictures included things in the description that we didn’t understand so we did some quick research to answer those questions that we had. One thing that we looked up was a map of Massachusetts, especially finding one that focused in on Chatham, which is the station that is referenced quite a bit. We also looked up the other stations mentioned, including some in MI, CA, and WA.

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After our initial gathering together as a family, each of the girls chose something to read and work on. One of the girls wanted to know more about the music, as violin is a instrument dear to her. So we pulled up the Perform Music section. We read about the instruments that might have been around and we sang the song Buffalo Gals, which is included in the book. Other songs were listed and we sang some that we knew and pulled up some others to listen to.

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Our youngest enjoys learning through video and in the workshop Molasses and Gingerbread, she learned a lot. There is a short discussion on molasses and a link to a video on how it is made. We watched a couple of other videos as well because it piqued her interest.

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It led us to read the included story about the wife of a captain who watched men in Louisiana stomping on something, probably sugar cane, and causing her to never eat molasses again because she didn’t want to eat something anyone had stomped on with their bare feet. We had a fun chat about that and also a quick review about the timing of this (it was in the 1860 but the specific date is unknown so these could have been either freed men or slaves working the sugar cane) and a review of the Civil War.

Jumping off points can happen all over the place with a unit study like this. It is rich and full.

We were unprepared for this approach to the U.S. Life-Saving Service. This is promoted as a book and so we were expecting a lot of reading and longer stories, with a few activities to bring it to life. This is more accurately a unit study, in my opinion, as it is a lot of activities with short quotes or readings from primary source material as the jumping off point.

This will work well for a classroom setting, a co-op setting, or a family with multiple ages wanting to study together. It could also work as an independant study. There is a lot of flexibility in the use of the study and it would be simple to adapt activities to fit the level and ability of the students involved. Rebecca Locklear has created a wonderful unit study with Exploring the U.S. Life-Saving Service 1878-1915: 17 Student Workshops with 120 Activities . There is a newsletter that she sends out that includes teaching tips and student resources among other information. You can sign up for it from the Contact page on her website.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

The Homeschool Review Crew has been reviewing these two unit studies. You can read about the other families experiences by clicking on the image below.

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Life Saving Service

Logic & Math Skills with The Critical Thinking Co.™ ~ a Crew review

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

Logic & Math Skills

The Critical Thinking Co.™ has so many products that we have used and loved over the years of home education. There is always something to discover that we didn’t know before and this is yet another gem. Mastering Logic & Math Problem Solving (Grades 6-9) is available as either a physical book or a downloadable ebook (Windows only) and is packed full with problem solving.

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In the introduction to the book, problem solving is defined as “any problem or activity that requires a series of thinking skills.” (p. iii) This means that it is a multi-step function in thinking and requires more than just simple arithmetic skills. They can be games, puzzles, brainteasers, and other formats; they just have to engage the brain in a series of steps in problem solving.

Mastering Logic & Math Problem Solving is set up  with some introductory material, ten chapters, an answer key, and two appendices.

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It is rich and full and can be used in a number of different ways. We used it as a fun activity for my 9th grader and my 6th grader. They both have brains that love logic and challenges that require in depth thinking. I wanted to engage them in challenges without it being a “curriculum” piece. I placed the book out on the table and it was not even a full hour before it was picked up and snuck off with. It was placed back on the table a bit later and I found out that my 9th grader had taken it to solve a few puzzles in her closet. (A closet learner! I LOVE it!)

We have been carrying it with us back and forth to dance classes as they prepare for recital and it has been a good fit for this purpose. This was just a good fit when we need something new do during the long hours of sitting in the car (since the social distancing means that no one except students and teachers can be in the dance studio and we are doing about 20 hours of dance a week). We would pull it out and pick a few that look fun.

Mastering Logic & Math Problem Solving

Mastering Logic & Math Problem Solving – standing at the car working on some problems

Often we would choose some that were mental skills. These did not require a copy of the page or a piece of paper and pencil. Just mental considerations for the most part. (The Critical Thinking Co.™ has one of the most generous copyright agreements I have seen. The owner of the book can copy as needed for their family or classroom. The digital owner can print as much as needed for their family or classroom.) We would do a few and then go on to some other activity. This prevented a stressing situation and became something fun and different. The freedom to choose activities meant they were finding something appealing to them and that they wanted to work on. This freedom is part of what has made this use of the book so successful for us. No pressure, no expectation, just fun.

Mastering Logic & Math Problem Solving

Mastering Logic & Math Problem Solving – a “crossing the river” problem

Mastering Logic & Math Problem Solving

Mastering Logic & Math Problem Solving – a classical brain teaser

There were some days when I pulled it out at home, too. I would leave it on the table and just grab it and start looking through it. Often, Miss J would walk up beside me and watch over my shoulder as I worked on one. She did this when I was working out how many rectangles were in this picture. We talked about ways to solve it before reading their tips at the bottom of the page.

Masteric Logic & Math Problem Solving - working on a counting challenge

Mastering Logic & Math Problem Solving – working on a counting challenge

This book will stay close at hand all summer long as enriching and engaging activity for the girls through the hot days. They will pick it up to do on their own or to challenge each other with. Sometimes, just to see what Mom can do, too. 🙂

We have enjoyed having this around and I know it will continue to get use in the weeks to come.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read more reviews on products from Critical Thinking Co.™  Also reviewed were:

Who Is This Kid? Colleges Want to Know! (Grades 9-12+)

Dare to Compare Math: Beginning (Grades 2-3)

Creative Problem Solving Level 1 (Grades PreK-2)

Click on the link below to visit the Crew blog and read more.

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Logic & Math Thinking Skills for grades 6-9

Math & Spelling practice with Math Shed and Spelling Shed ~ a Crew review

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

math and spelling practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

avatar creation

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

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

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

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

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_Math Shed and Spelling Shed

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