Category Archives: reviews

Elizabeth Prentiss: More Love ~ a Crew review

Elizabeth Prentiss review

More love to Thee, oh Christ, more love to Thee!
Hear Thou the prayer I make on bended knee,
This is my earnest plea
More love, oh Christ, to Thee
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

This hymn is well known to me and my family and we enjoy singing it. We didn’t realize these were the words of a lady named Elizabeth Prentiss or that it came out of the depth of sorrow in her life, which she kept dedicated to the Lord. Christian Focus allowed us the pleasure of reading the story of Elizabeth in their biography of her titled Elizabeth Prentiss. The subtitle of this book is More Love and how fitting it is once you read of her story.

Christian-Focus-Publications-Logo

First, let me share a bit about the company Christian Focus. They have a singular focus in what they are publishing – the Gospel. Through the literature they print, they strive to remain faithful to the infallible word of God, the Bible. In being focused through their publishing, they are trying to fulfill the command of Christ to share His gospel. This focus and outreach guides their publishing house.

Christian Focus sent the Crew several options of titles for review and they all look so interesting. The age range is varied but the quality looks to be solid across the titles.
Big Bible Science, Read To Me ages 5-7; Read by Myself ages 7-11
Elizabeth Prentiss, Read To Me 8-9; Read by Myself 9-14
God is Better than Princesses,  Read To Me 0-5; Read by Myself 5-6
God is Better than Trucks, Read To Me 0-5; Read by Myself 5-6

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We received Elizabeth Prentiss and used it as a family read aloud. I did read it by myself first and determined that it would make for some wonderful family discussions so I chose to read it aloud. I feel like the above ages are about right for the start of the Read to Me bracket for this book but that the Read by Myself ages are more appropriate at 12 and above due to some of the intensity of emotion from events in Elizabeth’s life (death and illness, not violence). Regardless of the age, it is a wonderful story!

Elizabeth Prentiss is a lady dedicated to God. She knew this from a very young age. We often say this about people who go to foreign mission fields but Elizabeth? She chose to be faithful to God in supporting a loving husband who was a preacher and raising children while serving those around her in many ways. And they did this in America. This is a beautiful picture of a faithful servant of God that we don’t see written down often enough.

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At the age of 6, Elizabeth’s father died and her memories of him were of a man dedicated to God. She remembered finding him on the floor praying to God. She saw her mother doing the same often, especially after her father died. These two godly parents set the standard for Elizabeth and she followed it throughout her life, speaking to God often throughout the days. This early experience of death and the soon after experience of her own severe illness were just the beginning of trials Elizabeth was to have to repeat these over and over in her life. Thus, the example set by her parents was one of how to handle life’s trials by leaning on God. And this is the value of the story of Elizabeth Prentiss.

Elizabeth Prentiss review quote

Elizabeth found her strength in Christ and shared this often with those around her. She was an encourager and a strengthener for those who knew her. She knew suffering but did not let it define or burden her. She poured her thoughts and emotions out to the One who could handle them and she encouraged others to do the same.

 

In living her life as a Christian wife and mother, Elizabeth shows us the beauty of a life dedicated to Christ. Through her own constant illnesses and the deaths of her children and other family, Elizabeth shows us how to stand tall in Christ, how to rely on Him to strengthen when your physical strength is gone. Her life also shows us how to focus on the service that God has given to each of us. Even in her own sorrows, Elizabeth reached out to others. Her children grew in love and strength and dedication to the Lord, just as Elizabeth did. And the submission to her husband is a delight to see, as it shows a beautiful godly marriage where love is freely given by both and strength is gathered through that.

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One of the things Elizabeth did extremely well was write. She enjoyed writing and later in her life, she wrote many stories for children. She also wrote down her prayers. Some of these prayers have been set to music and that is where we know the hymn More Love from. In the midst of her sorrow, Elizabeth focused her emotions on loving Christ. This hymn is lovely.

Each of these aspects of Elizabeth’s character are woven together beautifully in this biography.

 

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Thinking Further Topic for the chapter Blessings and Sadness and the Challenge for the previous chapter

A feature in the book that I really appreciated is the Thinking Further Topics. For each chapter in Elizabeth’s story, there is a short devotional-like discussion of a related idea. That is followed by a challenge to the reader, something to do that will encourage them to act according to God’s will. The challenge is sometimes as simple as asking you to find more time to pray or to think carefully about how you treat people who are different than you. Other times, it is a bit more difficult such as thinking of a small way to serve God, a bigger way, and a biggest way to serve Him. All of the challenges are within reach of the reader, though, and all of the topics resulted in good discussions for our family. We used these after each day’s readings. They were simple to incorporate.

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There is also a timeline of Elizabeth’s life that could be used in a few different ways. One of the girls just wanted to look at it to see how things lined up since the passing of time in the story was not always clear. There were many times the girls stopped me to ask how much time had passed or how old Elizabeth was at a point in the story. The timeline was helpful for that.

We really enjoyed this story and I know we will be keeping our eyes open for more books by Christian Focus.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Be sure to stop by the Crew blog and read more reviews about this book and the others that were being read by families.

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Pattern Explorer Beginning from The Critical Thinking Co. ~ a Crew review

Pattern Explorer review

Miss J is interested in numbers and seems to find patterns intriguing. She also enjoys logic puzzles. We like to encourage that as much as we can. So, when Pattern Explorer Beginning (Grades 3-4) popped up in the possible reviews,  we knew it would be a good challenge and engage her interests. (I like it when I am not wrong.) This book from The Critical Thinking Co. has been a fun item to add to our weekly work.

For this review, we received a digital copy of the ebook. This is a download that is password protected and can be saved to your computer. You can then print as many copies as you might need. This is par for the course with The Critical Thinking Co. and one of the many reasons I really like them.

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I printed out all of the worksheet pages for Miss J and put them in a folder. Having used several other products from this company, we have found this is the best way to go about it for her. She has all of the pages to work on as needed and she doesn’t need to access the computer any more to do her work.

The solutions are still on the computer so if we can’t figure something out, computer access will be needed again. So far so good, though. The book also has some hints for when the solution is not yet desired but a slight push would be helpful. This will be a great help if we get stuck along the way. These hints are on completely different pages than the solutions so there is no chance of accidentally seeing the answers.

Miss J is completing two to three of these exercises a week. This is quite a good brain challenge, actually. The pacing is left up to the teacher to determine, as students tend to be ready for abstract thinking at different times. These patterns are intended to help students move from concrete to abstract thinking.

The book consists of 84 pages, the last one of which is a sample of another book. There are 40 exercises that work through five pattern themes, so there are 8 of each type in rotation.

pattern explorer number ninja

This is an example of one of the Number Ninja pages. I had her mark the operation needed to solve each problem.

  1. Pattern Predictor – Finding the patterns and determining what is coming up in the pattern
  2. Equality Explorer – Decoding equations to find the value of different symbols
  3. Sequence Sleuth – Determining what comes next in the sequence, whether numbers or symbols
  4. Number Ninja – Solving puzzles to find hidden numbers or functions
  5. Function Finder – Discovering the hidden connection between numbers in patterns

The pages rotate through these five types of puzzles. Miss J has completed two of each type so far. Pattern Predictor has seemed to be her favorite. It is recommended that the student work through these in order since the difficulty level does grow slightly with each new appearance of the rotation.

pattern explorer pattern predictor

Watching her work through each of the types, I see her really struggling with some of the puzzles. The reason? Her multiplication and division skills are still not super strong. So it is a challenge. These pages are definitely helping strengthen the skills, though. Even in the few weeks we have been using Pattern Explorer, her ability has grown.

Does she love it? Not particularly but her pride in having figured things out is apparent. And she is excited when she completes a page. She doesn’t ask for it like she does the Mind Benders books we have used from The Critical Thinking Co. but she doesn’t fight about pulling the pages out. And to me, that is a win.

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Would I recommend this series of Pattern Explorer books? Yes. Without a doubt. Getting in math thinking and reasoning skills in ways that are not the same old problem/solution, equation/solution is a great thing. And these definitely fit the bill.

If it sounds interesting, The Critical Thinking Co. is offering readers a 15% discount AND free shipping when you use the coupon code: TOSCREW19. It expires 12/31/2019.

And if you want to read about other products we have used, you can check these out:

  • Something’s Fishy At Lake Iwannafisha – an extended project working on forensic sciences (review)
  • Editor In Chief – learning to find and fix errors in passages (review)
  • Mind Benders – a series of puzzles in logical thinking to solve (something we picked up locally)
  • Math Analogies – a series of analogies to work through; not something we reviewed though you can read reviews of it from the year we reviewed Editor In Chief

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Other Homeschool Review Crew members have been using other products from The Critical Thinking Co. They are:

Pattern Explorer Beginning (Grades 3-4)
Elementary Math Games (Grades 3-5)
Critical Thinking Detective – Vocabulary Book 2 (Grades 5-12+)
Dare to Compare: Math Level 2 (Grades 6-7)
Middle School Math Games (Grades 6-8)
Building Writing Skills – Essential Tips & Techniques (Grades 6-12+)
Vocabulary Virtuoso PSAT-SAT Book 1 (Grades 8-12+)
Vocabulary Virtuoso PSAT-SAT Book 2 (Grades 8-12+)

Click on the image below to head over to the Crew blog and read about other families’ experiences with these products.

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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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CrossWired Science ~ a Crew review

There are affiliate links embedded in this review. This is being disclosed in accordance with regulations.

CWS

Linking learning together creates for long-term memory and stronger understanding. This is the goal of CrossWired Science. The name comes from the way in which they cross-link all of the learning into what they call Global Topics. This brand-new company has a subscription program that gives you access to their entire site. The site is growing and changing with new additions all the time.

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At this point, there are two Global Topics up but there are plans for 2 more in the immediate future and multiple others in the more distant future. When the Global Topics are all up, there will be six years of science on the site. The current Global Topics are  Sound, and Fluid Dynamics.

Global Topics

Fluid Dynamics and Sound are the two Global Topics shown here.

What is a Global Topic, you ask? This is a broad science category that has multiple application areas. CrossWired takes a look at as many of those applications as they can for each topic. They do this through targeted videos they have made. They also have a variety of related videos from others (not hot linked on the student pages but copy and paste works simply or you can use a hot link from the teacher’s account), experiments, readings, and drawings. They have cross-wired every related application and use they can think of, it seems. That is where the name comes from – relating everything together and letting the brain wire the knowledge that way. This kind of knowledge transfer is long-lasting and strong.

Our Family’s Use

All three of the giggly girls were using the program. We got access about a month ago and have been using it almost daily during our regular school days. As I mentioned the program is brand-new and so materials are still being added daily to enrich and expand the program. Two of the girls chose to use the Fluid Dynamics topic and one chose the Sound topic.

progress on program.

They log on to their own individual student account. It has marked what they have completed in their topic so they can choose something different. There is not a set schedule, direction, or plan. This is almost a “rabbit trail” curriculum, meaning the student chooses what looks interesting that day and explores it.

  • The exploration may be through the core videos, which are targeted videos that explain and demonstrate the topic. Each video has its own page and has a link to a printable worksheet to go along with it. After watching the video, there is a quick quiz to test the student’s knowledge based on the video. Once the test has been completed, it cannot be retaken. Each video page has a link on the right for helpful information and directions for the teacher who is looking for more on how best to use the core videos. video lesson page
  • It might be through related videos. For Fluid Dynamics this included things like space or underwater animals or waves.
  • It could be through a suggested reading plan. There are several of these to choose from, including the YWAM biographies, science books, Creation magazine, or books of the student’s choosing. There is one reading plan linked at this time but the rest of these reading plans should be linked soon.
  • There are experiments. There are a significant number of experiments and hands-on activities for the topic. Each one is a clickable link that takes you to a printable PDF. It includes information on the project and helps the student understand the points structure, which is helpful for the parent grading each project. The PDF also has hot links for videos, materials, or information that will help complete the experiment. There is also an approximate time frame on each one to assist with planning. There is a printable journal for the experiments that includes all of the project pages.
  • Field trip ideas are also suggested. As is well-known, field trips are a great way to really deepen a student’s understanding of a principle. Thus, it is highly recommended that field trips be taken during the study of each Global Topic to really help reinforce the learning.
  • Gold Dig (Fluid Dynamics) or Digging Deeper (Sound) is a section that is set up differently, with a lot more reading, rather than videos, and diagrams. It is still related to the Global Topic but takes the student on a bit more of an in-depth study of one part of it. For Sound, this was a study of human sounds, animal sounds, sonic booms, and more. It ends with a longer quiz and a short essay question.
  • There are two devotionals at the end of each topic. They are a more reading directed study. Both ask the student to think carefully about the devotional at the end of it. One of them on Sound has just a couple of short essay questions. The other has some multiple choice in addition to short essay.

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This is just the tip of the iceberg, y’all. There is so much here! It is a fabulously interesting program and the site allows for delight-led learning to reign freely. Two of the girls have absolutely loved having the freedom to get on and see what looks interesting to them that day. One child like structure a whole lot more and prefers check lists and specific assignments, so this was not such a good fit for her. However, it is doable both ways.

For the child who likes structure, we could easily give her a check list of what to do each day. For example, I told her to spend a minimum of 20 minutes on the site and then told her to pick videos one day. Another day I told her to pick from the experiments. Another day, I told her to do the reading plan (which actually was to go find a science book and read). So, while I didn’t have a pre-set curriculum to follow, it was easy enough to give her the checklist her heart desires with classes.

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For the other two, I often ended up having to tell them to get off the site and get busy with their other classes! They would spend hours, literally, watching the videos in the topic. This is the type of learning that resonates with them well and ties many ideas together. It is wonderful to see them really digging in.

20190325_122053Each of the Global Topics can be gone through multiple times. There is a First Timers curriculum and a Second Timers curriculum. At this point, I have not noticed much difference in the two, as they seem to contain the same videos and links and activities. It is nice though, in that when you go back through it with the Second Timers page, you will be marking off the materials again, so you can see what you have done the second time. It is recommended that this second time through happen a year or two later so that your brain can process it differently, cross-wiring the learning to other knowledge you have gained in between times.

A neat feature that we have not used yet is a note taking pop-up box. I can see some great usefulness with this feature. You click the little box down in the bottom right and it pops up a small box to make notes in. It will save those and you can look at all the notes you have taken.

Teacher’s Materials

There is a teacher’s area where you can do many things, including where you add the student accounts. There is access to view the students’ scores on the quizzes, though you have to look them up individually. These scores can even be looked at question by question if you need to pinpoint what to work on more specifically. There is a link to tips for the teacher to help plan or schedule. There is a calendar link that gives you planning information to schedule the topic, including a high school, middle school, and elementary portion. The calendars as scheduled are downloadable but there are also blank calendars for planning six months or a year.

calendar suggestion

Another link you find in the teacher’s area is to the worksheets. When you click through on these, you have access to the answers for all of the worksheets so you can grade the student work. The next link you have in the teacher area is to the links in the General Links area of the student account. Here, they are hot linked so you can play the videos directly in the teacher’s account. The same is true of the Unit Links, which are linked to be able to play directly from the teacher’s area.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

Guys! This is a great site. I find it an appealing site, with the freedom to move around and find the things that are interesting. Curiosity is fed through this kind of freedom and with children who really focus on delight-led learning, this is perfect.

use and age recommendations

Within just a short while, this will be a site that can easily work as a full curriculum for the whole family. But it doesn’t have to. It could also work as a supplement to a different core curriculum or even just a site to explore for fun. There are hours and hours and hours of materials here with just the two Global Topics. When they get all of them up (I think they are aiming for something like 30), watch out! There will be endless hours of materials to learn from.

Take a minute to visit the CrossWired Science site and read up on their educational ideas, as well as through the information under General Info. The General Info is like the FAQ page and will answer many questions you might have.

This is a wonderful resource and I am so glad to have access to it! Use this code when you sign up and receive $5 off – gg17.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Be sure to visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog and see what other families thought about this new program presented by CrossWired Science.

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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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Transcripts Made Easy ~ a Crew review

Transcripts Made Easy

Transcripts for high school make so many of us home educators cringe. But they don’t have to! Transcripts Made Easy: The Homeschooler’s Guide to High-School Paperwork is a walk through the transcript options and paperwork requirements, made simple for home educating parents. Janice Campbell from Everyday Education has put together a book that will walk each of us through the nitty gritty of getting it right.

In its 4th edition, this updated version of Transcripts Made Easy includes all that we need to know from one who has walked this path before us. A home educator herself, Janice Campbell helps us to see just what it can look like for the end of the high school years. Whether there is college in the student’s future or a great trade job coming, the encouragement, ideas, and information included here help us guide our students to be prepared with the necessary paperwork for stepping out into the world.

What You Get –

Transcripts Made Easy came to me in an ebook format. It was easy to download right onto a Kindle so that I could easily read it. There is also a paper format available for purchase. The book has almost 140 pages in it, guiding me through all the different aspects of high school planning, record keeping, grading, and transcripts. It also includes a number of reproducible forms so that you don’t have to recreate all the forms to get started.

Transcripts Made Easy and easy to read

There are six sections to the book:

1 – Meet The Transcript: This section is about what a transcript is and what the parts of the transcript include. It also guides where to begin in the book since we need different things at different stages.

Transcripts Made Easy get started

2 – Plan With The End In Mind: This section packs the punch with immediately applicable information for our family. When I look at the end of the high school journey, where does my student need to be? That is what this sections helps with. From choosing classes to ideas of what to do during high school, from how to schedule courses to which tests to take, this section has the nitty gritty of what I found most intimidating about high school.

3 – Keep Simple Records: Here we are guided in putting together a binder to help contain the samples and schedules and course descriptions. This sections also includes special needs records and transcripts from leading educators Judith Munday and Kathy Kuhl.

4 – Grades, Credit, and the GPA: This sections walks through how to grade, how to award credit, and how to calculate a GPA. There is information here that helps when you are awarding credit for things like dual enrollment or advanced education classes. There is information about weighted GPA vs. regular GPA and how a college might view that. There is a lot here.

5 – Creating The Transcript: Here you will find a look at all the different types of transcripts there are and samples of each one. Whether a transcript is needed tomorrow (hello check-off transcript) or planning ahead while the student is still in elementary is the current basis, there is something here for everyone educating a child.

6 – References, Resources, and Reproducibles: This section has the remainder of the information needed to be prepared. This is where the ebook comes in super handy – just print the blank forms directly from the book.

Things to Note –

There are some special needs articles included that will show a family how to create the types of records that they need. There are some additional short articles on things student can do to be successful in college. These are helpful articles that I will be having my daughter read in a few years as she prepares to go off to whatever she chooses after high school.

How Did I Use This?Transcripts Made Easy

I downloaded this onto my Kindle and I found myself reading through the book a couple of times to absorb all that is written here. It was not difficult to read; it just did not stick in my head. The easy-to-read writing style makes it feel like I was sitting with a friend who was sharing her wisdom gained in the struggle and that she didn’t want me to feel the struggle.

I appreciated the knowledge shared about planning and scheduling options. I felt much better after reading that section since we are doing a modified schedule for high school this year with two days focused on science and two days focused on history. This really made the schedule feel more manageable and my student to feel like she really had time to dedicate to the learning.

While we don’t know what the “after high school” time period will bring, having these resources at my fingertips now will allow us to be prepared to create whatever kind of transcript will be needed for her dreams.

I felt like I was doing pretty well with our planning and record keeping. But this book showed me that there were a couple of ways to do this better. One of these is the activity log. Keeping an activity log will allow me to give credit for the activities that my daughter is participating in that don’t truly fit elsewhere. For example, tonight my daughter was scheduled to be the sign interpreter for a little league game. With the activity log form from the book, she can now note her time dedicated to this. When she gets enough, I can give her either an applied sign language credit or volunteer hours or something else entirely that I haven’t thought of yet.

Transcripts Made Easy check off transcriptsAnother of the helpful forms was the check-off transcript. We do not have need for this yet but it will allow me to see at-a-glance what is done or being worked on so that the plan can fall into place.

Transcripts Made Easy class pageI also printed out the class profile pages so that I can keep good track of the classes that Miss E has taken in the last year or year and a half that will go on the transcript.

Transcripts Made Easy cover

All-in-all, this is an easy to read ebook that will help guide you through the sometimes scary world of high school record keeping, transcript writing, and creating a special diploma. These things are all part of homeschooling high school and it is an exciting time. This book keeps the focus on the exciting parts and not the difficult things.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Be sure to visit Everyday Education to find their Transcripts Made Easy: The Homeschooler’s Guide to High-School Paperwork. Or click on the banner below to read more of the Crew reviews on this product. You can also find a review of another product from Everyday Education that I have done: Working It Out, featuring the poetry of George Herbert.

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George Washington Carver, a YWAM biography ~ a Crew review

YWAM George Washington Carver

YWAM Publishing  has become a favorite in our home and we are always on the lookout for more of the biographies we don’t own so we can increase our collection. They have two series – Heroes of History  and Christian Heroes: Then & Now 
– that are well-written, well-researched biographies of important people through history. Each of the heroes has made contributions to history and shown courage through their actions and life lived. Each of the lives is focused on serving God. We received a softback copy of the book Heroes of History- George Washington Carver and a digital copy of the study guide to go with this particular book.

The YWAM biographies are easy-to-read books written by Janet and Geoff Benge. They are written for about 4th grade and up, though they are easily used as read alouds with students much younger. The research is evident that has gone into the books, bringing to life the people, places, and events of their lives.

We chose George Washington Carver because we knew of this man but not a lot about his background and life. Additionally, it fit well into the period of history we were studying – from before the Civil War and well into the 20th century. These biographies are perfect for adding into studies, as we did with the G.W. Carver book. They enhance and bring to life the era being discussed and they are always about influential people that deserve our attention.

GWC book

We added the Carver biography to our morning time, reading two to three chapters each day. We would discuss the questions from the study guide aloud and once or twice, we pulled out a map to add to the discussion. There were vocabulary words that we included from the study guide, also. Many of these words we touched on as we came across them in the reading. These discussions and vocabulary words allowed us to talk about important topics such as racism, slavery, education, and advancement. We also talked about some difficult topics, again racism and slavery are part of that, but also words like lynching and what burning at the stake meant. It brought to the forefront a discussion about how people can choose to act certain ways and why it was tolerated by so many.

If you haven’t caught it yet, this book includes some very deep ideas about how to treat others, values, morals, and how all that should come out in the way people live. There are some difficult scenes that Carver experienced. We did not shy away from them and we talked about how those affected his life.

One way I knew that this book was worth the time we were spending on it was when Miss L asked about how long it was going to be before we got to the peanuts. You see, that is what so many people think about with George Washington Carver – peanuts. At this point we were about 3/4 of the way through the book. That allowed us to talk about how history can misrepresent people and their contributions in life. Yes, Carver did amazing things with peanuts. Yet, Carver had many, many contributions that were extremely important that had nothing to do with peanuts. His main goal in life was to help black farmers live better lives and to have better, stronger, healthier farms and families. And he did this in many ways.

George Washington Carver wrote hundreds of leaflets that were distributed to the farmers, telling them how to grow different plants, how to use different medicinal plants, how to preserve food, and how to get more out of their lands. Carver lived alongside his students at Tuskegee Institute and taught them as much about how to live an honorable and frugal life as he did about botany during his 50 years there. He strove to present a life beyond reproach. He lived in the midst of the racial issues but chose to address them with understanding and hope, not arguing or trying to force anything. And he made much headway with his approach, garnering worldwide attention and admiration.

GWC book and bio page

The Book –

The softback book is 190 pages long. It covers the story of George Washington Carver’s life from infancy to death. His actual birthdate is unknown since he was born a slave, though to the caring and kind Carver family. He died in his upper 70s in Tuskegee.

George was a curious young man, always desiring to know and understand the way things worked. From a young age, he collected plants and studied them. When he was eleven, he left home to get an education, which he couldn’t do where he lived as he was not white. So, he went to find what he desired. He found kind families to help and house him, working throughout to earn his stay and keep. He often started his own laundry business to earn money to pay for his books and rent, especially as he got older and was still seeking education. This pursuit of education continued all of his life, though he ended up with a masters degree and a couple of doctorate degrees conferred upon him.

From being refused admission to a university because of the color of his skin to working for more than 50 years at Tuskegee Institute, Carver was a model of a life lived in pursuit of the good things – knowledge, understanding, and living as a Christian. He shared what he knew with others, freely, asking nothing in return except to try to live a good life and help others when they could. His work as a botanist brought him to understand that life had to change for farmers, so he taught them to change. He worked hard to find ways to make new products, such as the peanut, sweet potato, and cowpea, attractive and helpful. With hundreds of ideas of new product options and how it would benefit them, Carver brought about change for the farmers, black and white, in the south.

GWC quote

The Study Guide –

The study guide is a downloaded product, so you must have internet access to download it. After that, it is on the computer and you can access it without internet. There are two parts to the study guide – one is the main part of the study with the activities and ideas, the other is the reproducible worksheets and maps. I accessed the activities and ideas online, choosing to not print any of it, though it would have been easy to do so as it opens in a PDF. I did print the worksheet, maps, and timeline for use.

GWC timeline

There are 8 parts to the study guide.

  1. Key Quotes
  2. Display Corner
  3. Chapter Questions
  4. Student Explorations
  5. Community Links
  6. Social Studies
  7. Related Themes to Explore
  8. Culminating Event

There is also a list of books and resources, as well as the answers to the chapter questions.

As I mentioned earlier, we added the chapter questions in as we read through the book. These included a vocabulary work, a question whose answer comes directly from the text, a comprehension question, and an open-ended question requiring and opinion or interpretation. Most of these came up naturally in the discussion of the chapters as we went along. The answers to these are found at the back of the study guide.

The student explorations allow the students to choose an area of interest to them and do a project in that area. It might be an essay or a creative writing assignment, such as a journal entry (GWC was known for writing every day in his journal) or writing a song or writing a newpaper article as might have featured George. The student might create a crossword puzzle or plant a crop or flower garden.

GWC flower garden

Miss J was interested in planting this year and so we chose some flowers from a local nursery and planted a flower bed to grow. As botanicals were something Carver was well-known for, she also chose another activity related to flowers. She created a botanical picture using sculpting, which came from a link we found in the list of books and resources. (This was from one of the teacher lessons by the National Park Service on the artist George Washington Carver.) She painted a piece of cardboard for a background and then sculpted some flowers for the pictures from air dry clay.

GWC project

We also tackled some of the information from the social studies section, working on the maps related to where Carver lived and worked, as well as maps of the state of Alabama. There was a timeline included to mark important events on, such as the civil war, the Great Depression, the Emancipation Proclamation, and many other events and people, such as WEB de Bois and Booker T Washington. These help us key into other events that are around the same time and built that transferable knowledge that helps make history come to life.

GWC bio page

Overall Thoughts –

We adore YWAM and the study guides they have to go along with the Heroes of History and Christian Heroes of History series. We highly recommend the books to everyone and can’t wait to find more for the girls to read. Miss E often asks for these as gifts so we will be looking at the homeschool convention this week to see if there is a booth to get a few more. We have previously reviewed the following books and study guides:

And on our shelves – well, we have probably 10 or 12 others. These are wonderful stories that are gripping and interesting and encouraging to live lives full of courage and hope and purpose.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Click on the banner below to visit the Homeschool Review Crew and read about how other families used these books and study guides. There are stories on well-known, current people like Heroes of History- Ben Carson and others from that past that I would enjoy reading that go along with the vacation we took last fall, like Heroes of History- Benjamin Franklin and Heroes of History- Thomas Edison. Click below to find more to read!

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