Category Archives: TOS

Code For Teens ~ a Crew review

learning coding with Code for Teens

A while back, Miss E had opportunity to do some computer coding. She realized that she really enjoyed it. Code for Teens then asked for the Crew to review their new book on writing JavaScript – Code For Teens: The Awesome Beginner’s Guide to Programming (Volume 1). This has been a great book to get to use and learn some new skills.

Code For Teens is the brainchild of Jeremy Moritz. Mr. Moritz and his wife (the illustrator) have extensive home education knowledge, as they educate their own six children. Mr. Moritz has been a software engineer and developer for over a decade. Thus, this book comes straight from his knowledge and background. And, with his experience of working with children (he also coaches chess and has directed lots of musicals), he knows exactly what will catch the student’s attention.

Code for Teens

Written in a conversational and humorous style, the information is clear and easy to follow. It is written directly to the student so that she is teaching herself. Each chapter has plenty of explanation and exercises to help gain experience and understanding. The student is encouraged to type the exercises right along with the book, being given the exact information to input and the exact expected outputs. Sometimes, the book encourages wrong inputs so that the student can experience how to problem solve the situation. (That’s fantastic since they won’t always have a step-by-step guide telling them where the problems are in the code.) By the time the end of the chapter is reached, the student will have worked with the code quite a bit through exercises and drills, helping cement the concept. There is a quiz, an overview of the key concepts for the chapter, drills, an aggregate review, and a DIY project at the end of each chapter.

If for some reason, you reach the end of the chapter and still don’t quite understand it, you can go back and do it again. The concepts and skills build on each other throughout the book so it is important to understand one chapter before moving on to the next. But with the variety of exercises, and being encouraged to change bits of the code to see what happens, the student should be able to get it figured out. There is no expected pace, so take the time you need to learn it right.

The ten chapters cover all you need to learn JavaScript and you finish with programming a game. The back of the book contains an answer key to help the student if they get stuck. There is also a glossary of terms back there with the definitions for some words that the student might need, as well as the symbol.

Code for Teens - working on the chapter

My Thoughts:

I like this book. It is a nice weight and high quality printing. The glossy pages are not going to tear easily and the print is easy to read on them. The humorous style makes it a pleasant read and easy to follow. The instructions are extremely clear and well written. A lay-flat binding would be a fantastic addition to the next printing of this book, though it worked well with the book stand that Miss E has.

I have a friend who is a graduate student working on a doctorate degree in mathematics. She has quite a bit of programming experience. One day while over at the house, she saw this book and picked it up. She was immediately interested and spent some time reading through the book. She commented quite a bit about how well written this was, how easy to follow, and how much clearer it was than many programming books she has worked with. She was very impressed with this book and hopes that this company will continue to come out with more programming books because there are a couple of language she wants to learn.

Miss E’s Thoughts:

It was really good so far. I like that they had the exact things you are supposed to type highlighted and colored and the responses highlighted and colored differently. At the very beginning, it gave instructions for more than just using Chrome and it is nice to know that those instructions are there for others who might need them.

It is very funny and I like the way it is written. It feels less like a lesson and more like someone is actually talking to me. Some texts are just “blah-blah-blah” and this is written more like a conversation. This makes it easier to understand and also to feel less boring and classroom-ish.

One thing that I didn’t like was that in the first chapter they had me do things wrong that were obviously wrong. I could tell it was going to be wrong before I did it so I didn’t see why I should do it wrong on purpose. There was one thing that I couldn’t find how to do in the chapter, though it was in the quiz, but I had someone here who could help me with that so I was okay. (Mom edit: On the quiz p 24, question 11 – had to do with the single = implies what?)

When a student wants to use a book and they don’t have to that day, you know it is a good product. Miss E picked this up more than once late in the evening just to work some more on learning to use JavaScript. Code for Teens really hit home with her and she has enjoyed it quite a bit.

Blessings,
At Home.

Be sure to visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read what other families thought about Code for Teens and find out how they used this program.

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The Master and His Apprentices ~ a Crew review

themasterandhisapprentices

Art history is something that I am not well versed in but something that I can see the benefit of. Being able to relate history and art can bring an understanding of past cultures, religions, and world events. That is what was sought by The Master and His Apprentices when creating this curriculum.

Authored by Gina Ferguson, The Master and His Apprentices: Art History from a Christian Perspective is a versatile curriculum. When approached as noted in the Teacher’s Guide and the syllabus found there, this program can serve as a full credit for high school. However, it could also serve as a supplemental curriculum for any level, or as a refresher (or first art history) course for adults. The versatility is part of what makes this a nice study, though I might classify this more as a history study than an art study.

chapter 2 start and worksheet

As written, the program consists of a textbook and a teacher’s guide. Included in the teacher’s guide, there is a suggested syllabus or schedule, discussion guides and worksheets for each chapter, and four tests. There are also art history papers to write four times in the course. In addition to these, there are helpful suggestions for teaching the course in different settings (homeschool vs a co-op type setting) and an answer key for the discussion questions/worksheets. The teacher’s guide is available either in a PDF format or a printed softback format.

The textbook for The Master and His Apprentices is where the meat of this program is found. It is a hefty 380 pages of text and full-color images. We received it as a fixed-format PDF that can be printed but it is also available in the printed format. We have been using it directly off the computer and that is really quite difficult, especially with the timelines being so important for understand the relationships of different people, places, and artifacts.

The program goes from an introduction to art history and then into the art of God’s creation. From there, different people and times are addressed.  Included are

  • Ancient Cultures
  • Classical Antiquity
  • Middle Ages
  • Renaissance
  • Baroque Era & Beyond

There is also an appendix containing some articles to further study topics and ideas, a period chart, a timeline, a listing of pieces by location, an index, and a couple of other required elements (like acknowledgements).

Working through the text, the information covered the history of an era or people and then some of the artwork, artifacts, architecture, and other pieces that represent them. The text is arranged chronologically. Each period is begun with an introduction to the history and place. The setting within world history and Christian history is a significant part of this portion. Then, it features works of art that are seen as important, either for secular or Biblical reasons.

cover and questions

Our Use of the Program

We have worked through about the first 3 chapters. What we have found is that, while interesting, it is necessary to skip parts of the text for continuity’s sake. Sometimes, the author’s attempt to keep God at the center really diminishes the ability to understand the information shared. The text often seems preachy and heavy-handed in the attempt to keep the Christian perspective so visible.

The worksheets that are in the teacher’s guide correspond to each chapter. Each culture basically gets its own chapter. The worksheets are simply numbered questions or statements designed to help the student think. These are great if your student is a worksheet oriented thinker but if you child is a discussion oriented thinker, these don’t really do much for the student. The teacher definitely has to get involved, which then makes for some good discussions.

After having using this program for a few weeks, we are going to modify it for continued use. We are going to go to the end and work forward. We have found is that because so much of the study is history based, you have to have something to tie it together with. If you do not have that timeline in your head to place the new cultures and pieces in, it is just random information that doesn’t really go anywhere or connect to anything. So, we are going to start with pieces that are recognizable and artists that we have studied. This will allow Miss E to connect with the material more concretely. Working backward through time will help her understand where things fit together and will help the material make more sense.

Because I am not a fan of the worksheets as they are designed in this program, we are going to create a project for each chapter for her to demonstrate her understanding and grasp of information. It might be a timeline for the chapter or a crossword puzzle with the names of artists and their works. It might be a drawing or a recreation of one of the pieces of artwork.

worksheet

The other thing we are going to do is print the text and print the large timeline from the appendix of the text. Reading online is just not as brain-engaging as reading from a piece of paper. I don’t know why but we have found this to be true over and over. We will keep the PDF file handy for viewing the pieces in color since we only have a black-and-white printer. Having the printed timeline will also allow her to color code to her heart’s content and mark those connections that she finds and understands.

If you are looking for art history or a history program through art, take a look at this program. Because it is a Christian perspective, The Master and His Apprentices does not contain nudity. It is, however, unashamedly Christian. Each chapter has multiple references to God, the Bible, and Biblical history. There are specific paragraphs in each section reminding the reader to praise God and thank Him for so many wonderful creations.

I don’t mind the bold statements of Christianity and belief. However, there are some statements that are leaps of understanding. There are statements that I don’t necessarily agree with, even being Christian. I see these particularly in the second chapter on the creation account from the book of Genesis in the Bible. I think if we have any additional children use this, we will just skip that chapter.

Blessings,
At Home.

Many other families have used this program in various ways. Please click the banner below to see how they used The Master and His Apprentices.

 

The Master and His Apprentices: Art History from a Christian Perspective {The Master and His Apprentices Reviews}

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Silverdale Press White House Holidays Unit Studies ~ a Crew review

Silverdale Press White House Holidays

Over the past few weeks, we have spent some time working through some unit studies on holidays. Silverdale Press LLC has a unique set of unit studies available – White House Holidays Unit Studies. These are a set of studies on various holidays and their connections to the White House, particularly when the President set them aside as national holidays.

There are six holidays covered in this unit study set:

  • Labor Day
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Valentine’s Day

Each holiday unit delves into the history of the holiday, including important background events or occurrances that influenced the creation of the holiday. The history, the political settings and background, the presidential influences, and traditions all play an important role in how each of the national holidays came to be. Within each holiday, the White House and those in it played an important role.

One of the richest parts of these unit studies is the inclusion of primary sources. From the inclusion of speeches to photographs to letters, these primary sources are an important part of understanding history. Their inclusion here really strengthens the understanding of the background and history of these holidays that are celebrated and remembered nation-wide.

Each study has three to five lessons. Each lesson includes an overview, a materials list, learning outcomes, and a lesson plan. An answer key is also provided in a separate document. With each lesson there is a number of activities to accompany the lesson. Some unit studies have separate lessons for K-6 and 7-12 while other studies have the same lesson for all of them with different activities for the two levels.

White-House-Holidays-Unit-Study-Veterens-Day

Veterans Day

We started with Veterans Day and worked with a K-6 student and a 7-12 student. This is one of the studies that has different lessons for the two different age groups. That actually made it a bit difficult to do these lesson together because the readings for the older group were much more detailed and included much more information. So, I ended up working with Miss J on the K-6 lessons and Miss E worked on the 7-12 lessons by herself.

There are 3 lessons in this study and it begins back at Armistice Day (November 11, 1918) and World War I. The history of that day, how the world responded, and what the aftermath of WWI was like were all a part of this discussion. The poem in Flanders Field was discussed and the symbolism of the poppy. The lessons talked about the effects on the economy of entering the Great War. We learn more about President Wilson and future President Hoover. The taxes and loans system was also a part of the discussion. We also covered President Eisenhower’s childhood, service, and presidency while moving through WWII and into the Korean War history. President Eisenhower changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954 so that all veterans of military wars and service would be honored, not just those from WWI.

We did several activities related to these lessons. We created poppies (K-6), talked about the poem In Flanders Field (included in the study for K-6)), and completed a crossword puzzle (7-12). We talked about our own military history and family and friends we know who have served in the US military. Miss J created food conservation posters while Miss E studied the 14 points from Wilson’s speech on lasting peace and then wrote her own 14 points (we ended up with 12, I think) in response to Wilson’s Fourteen Point Speech (a primary source included in the study). The discussion about the 14 points was really quite interesting and thought provoking. For our final activities, we listened to the girls’ dad play Taps on his trumpet and talked about the significance of that. We looked at how to display and store the American flag properly. We looked up online the various monuments to veterans in Washington, D.C., and talked about some of the ones we know of closer to us, as well.

This was a fun and interesting study to cover. It tied in really well with the study of WWII that Miss J did not too long ago and the timeline she has for that was very helpful in studying this holiday. The presidents that were influential in the history of this holiday were interesting to learn about and seeing history come together is fascinating.

White-House-Holidays-Unit-Study-Labor-Day

Labor Day

The Labor Day unit study includes three lessons. There are separate lessons for the two age groups, allowing for independent study or group study within age groups.

The Labor Day study delves into child and immigrant labor and the poor conditions that were experienced by workers 100 years ago. From tenements to factor work, the life was hard. Studying photographs of the time helped us understand a bit more about children working and how families struggled to survive. Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the people that tried to make things better. This study covers her life and work for the children and immigrants. Looking back on others who tried to bring light to the conditions of workers, we saw folks back in the 1880s organizing “labor day” parades to bring some hope and light to the workers. The lessons also talk about unions and strikes, including the Pullman strike and President Cleveland’s response to it. A discussion of economics and how a strike can affect much more than just the single company was part of the lesson for us.

labor day parade

We analyzed photographs as primary source documents and discussed what it showed about child labor and tenement conditions. We looked up the life of Eleanor Roosevelt and read an article she wrote. Miss J studied the picture of the first Labor Day parade and then created her own placards to carry in a parade. She and her sisters then had their own Labor Day parade. We visited the Library of Congress and looked up images related to Labor Day. We read parts of speeches from presidents related to labor.

This was an interesting study to do as it tied in with some of the stories and movies the girls have seen regarding child labor and working conditions in factories. It was a good discussion about why things needed to change and to see how the change came about.

Martin-Luther-Kind-Jr-Unit-Study

Martin Luther King, Jr. 

The MLK, Jr. study has five lessons. The materials for these lessons are the same for both grade levels, with the differentiation coming in the activities. The written materials were a big long for the K-6 level in my opinion, so I ended up not have Miss J complete very much of this one. We read together some of the relevant bits of the text and we watched the videos that were relevant to the lesson. She worked with Miss E on the timeline and map some. Miss E did most of this study on her own. She read each lesson and completed the activities for them. I always pre-read the lesson and knew what discussions we would need to have, so we did take time to sit down together for those discussions.

The study covers the history of the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s own personal history. From the bus boycotts to the Ruby Bridges case to the relevant court rulings, from President Eisenhower to President Kennedy to President Obama, there is a huge amount of information in this unit. Most of it is written text or video links, with inclusion of court verdicts and speeches as primary source documents.

video on MLK Jr

Many of the activities in this study are responses to information and call for answering questions, particularly for the older students. We did these as interactive discussions because that really opens up the discussion for understanding rather than just a response to a question with a text to look back on for an answer.working on MLK Jr study

This study, as written, is really too much for the K-3 or K-4 levels. There is just too much information. Had we spread it out over three or four weeks, it might have worked fine but there is just so much text and the information is very difficult to process for that age. They are so trusting and don’t understand much of prejudice and treating others badly. That makes this study, as written, something that just doesn’t fit well.

Other Studies

There are three other studies that we have not used yet.

The Thanksgiving study has five lessons. It begins at the search for freedom in the New World and includes primary source documents of two men who experienced life in the New World in the 1620 at Plymouth Plantation. The study looks at the history of harvest festivals and moves all the way through having students look up the current president’s Thanksgiving proclamation. Many presidents have had a prominent role in Thanksgiving over the years and those roles are covered in this study. There are a number of activities to go along with this unit and quite a bit of information. I can see this one easily taking at least a couple of weeks to work through with younger students. The text is the same for both age levels but there are different activities, including more in depth readings and analysis of primary source documents for the older group.

The Christmas study has four lessons. It covers Mrs. Kennedy and The Nutcracker tradition, Mrs. Ford and gingerbread houses, and Mrs. Bush with her story books, to name just a few things covered. From baking to reading presidential Christmas addresses, there are quite a few activities to choose from for each of the lessons. The text is the same for both age levels with differentiated activities. The activities will be a lot of fun and for many families will co-ordinate with their own holiday traditions. Once again, there is quite a bit of text and when you add the activities that include a written text, there is a lot here for younger students. It would be best to break the text up over a few days for each lesson, making the unit take a few weeks to work through. After adding in the activities, this unit could easily occupy a month.

Valentines Day is one that doesn’t really interest me much. I have only glanced at the history of it here. The overview in this study includes a page of possible credits for high schoolers, something I didn’t see in any of the other studies.  There are many love letters between presidents and their loved ones included in this unit study.

reading from computer

Final Thoughts

These are fine studies that really address the history of holidays, something we don’t see a lot. I am looking forward to seeing any additional holidays that are to be added in the future, as they are planning more.

Blessings,
At Home.

Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read what other families thought of the White House Holidays Unit Studies. Some of the families worked with a writing program instead that is titled Persuasive Writing & Classical Rhetoric: Practicing the Habits of Great Writers, aimed at ages 14-18. Both programs are from Silverdale Press LLC. Click the banner below to read reviews.

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ARTistic Pursuits: Art for Children, Building a Visual Vocabulary ~ a Crew review

K-3 art book cover

Creating is always a welcome activity and when I heard about the new video lessons from ARTistic Pursuits Inc. for their K-3 level books, I was very intrigued. The series is ARTistic Pursuits Art Instruction Books with DVD and Blu-Ray; we received Volume 1 of the series – Art for Children, Building a Visual Vocabulary. When all of the books are released, there will be a total of eight (8) books.

instructional discs for K-3 art

Art for Children works with the student to teach them variety of words related to art creation. The book is a hardback book that is printed in full color. There are 18 lessons total. Six (6) of the lessons are video only lessons and 12 of them are text only lessons. The book comes with two discs for the video lessons – one is a DVD only disc and one is a Blu-ray. Both discs contain the exact same information and the video quality is the same.

Through the book, students will explore several different areas of art and discover how artists see the world. They will experience composition, imagination, oberservation,  and communication. They will work with shape, form, and texture while studying landscapes, still life, animals, and portraits.

The book begins with a page letting you know what materials you will need for all of the projects. There is also a short explanation of the teaching philosophy for ARTistic Pursuits.

video and book

Each of the video lessons have a single page in the book so that you know where they belong. There is materials information and a couple of steps to follow but there is no instruction written for these lessons. I think this is a shortcoming of this book. You must watch the video in order to complete the video lessons so if you don’t have access to a video player or your disc gets broken, you no longer can complete this lesson.

The video starts with an introduction by hostess Ariel Holcomb. The introduction is followed by instruction and examples by art teacher Brenda Ellis. All you see of the instruction is a video of the artist’s hands with a voice over for the instruction. It is very good instruction on how to use the materials for the lesson and the steps to follow for the project in the lesson. It is concluded with a review of the information and steps to take. Then you are to go create the project on your own. This is where having written instructions would be really helpful. For the paper folding lesson, I had to stand there with the remote control in my hand, pausing every few seconds after each instruction on how to fold the animal’s head. It worked but it was not simple.

working on a special day painting

The text lessons are fantastic. Each text lesson includes an introduction to the idea covered and is then followed by a reproduction of a work of art by a master. For example, in the texture lesson the work is The Sunflower 1906-07 by Klimt. This master work is studied and some questions are asked to help the student really focus on the art. Then the student’s project is set out for them to complete with images to help guide the student.

Each text lesson includes some preparation notes for the teacher/parent. The materials tend to be found in the midst of the lesson, rather than clearly at the front, but they are there.

Each lesson, whether video or text, can be done in about 30 minutes, depending on how much effort the student desires to put into the project creation. The lessons are designed to do approximately one lesson per week. We were able to make it through most of this book, as it was a joy to do more than one lesson a week. We often did one lesson a day and I had to stop her to get other work done.

Miss J just finished up her 3rd grade year; she is 9 years old. I chose this book for her in order to get the instructional videos of the use of materials. It was good to have some instruction on how to use the specific materials. Sometimes Miss J felt they were fine and other times she felt as though she were too old for the instruction.

 

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We have used ARTistic Pursuits Inc. in the past and I like the instruction that is included. I like the fact that master works are included and that students have freedom in how they apply the concept to their own work. This is not a program where they study line and then everyone draws the same thing. They might study line but then the student is encouraged to find a new place where they see the ideas of line used and create their art from that new thing. This is great for solidifying the concepts for the students.

working on her artwork

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this ARTistic Pursuits Inc. program. I like the format but it could use some tweaking. I don’t know that I would purchase the program because to get the entire series would take a commitment, though I am interested in the idea behind the focus on culture in the other volumes of the series.

Blessings,
At Home.

Read more about ARTistic Pursuits and their K-3 art program by clicking the banner below. Other families used volumes 2-4.

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Traditional Logic I from Memoria Press ~ a Crew review

Logic I set

As high school approaches (wait! it is here!), additional thoughts crowd my mind about classes that would be beneficial to my daughter to experience. Public speaking and critical and logical thinking are a couple of those classes. Memoria Press has a Traditional Logic course that we have been working with, using Traditional Logic I Complete Set, and I can already see her reasoning skills getting stronger, coming up in discussions at times.

Memoria Press is a classical Christian education company that publishes high quality materials. The company was founded in 1994. They are a family run company.

Traditional Logic I Complete Set, for approximately grade 7 through adults, includes:

  • Student Text
  • Student Workbook (compatible with the second and third editions of the Student Text)
  • Teacher Key (for Student Workbook and Quizzes & Final Exam)
  • Quizzes & Final Exam
  • DVD

Instructional DVDs

The DVD is a set of two discs. They are instructional discs, giving the lecture portion of the lesson. The discs follow the same topic structure as the student text and workbook. The presenter is Martin Cothran and he very clearly walks the students through the lesson concepts and examples. The lessons contain no fluff; they are straightforward and high level thinking. The instructor refers to the topics in the text but it is not necessary to try to follow along with the text. We did find that the page numbers he referred to did not match with our workbook but it was very easy to locate the area he was talking about.

student materials

The student text is a softback book of approximately 100 pages. There are 13 lessons plus and introduction. Each lesson is less than 10 pages, averaging about 5. These lessons are well written and easy to read. Sometimes the concepts are a bit difficult to grasp but reading over it a second time and/or using the video definitely helps in the understanding. The concepts are actually described pretty clearly and concisely. The back of the text contains a glossary and a list of important people to know.

The student workbook is a softback book that is about 8 1/2 x 11 inches. It is  92 pages in length and is a consumable product. Each student will need their own book. The book is intended to be the practice and application of the lesson information from the DVD and the text. There are exercises for four days in each lesson. The student will likely need to refer to the text to work some of the exercises.

teacher materials

The Quizzes & Tests book contains a quiz for each chapter and a final exam. These are not simple answer questions; they require thought and writing from the student to truly explore their understanding of the lesson information.

The Teacher Key is the answers for the student workbook and for the quizzes and tests. Each page is an exact replication of the student workbook, the quiz, or the test. It has the correct answers typed into the answer space for that page. This makes it very easy to be certain you are grading the correct question. Having the answer key is really helpful in guiding the students toward the correct answers when they are struggling with the workbook.

workbook and key

Side by side comparison of the workbook and the key

How We Used It:

On the first day of a lesson, Miss E would screen shot and textwatch the video. Then she would read the text. The rest of the week, she would do one set of lesson exercises per day, refreshing the topic through the text as needed. We did not use the weekly lesson quizzes, as we spent quite a bit of time discussing the information as she went along so I knew how she was doing with it. I do plan to administer the final exam at the end of the course.

The first day of a lesson always took about 30 minutes. The other days seldom took that long, as the information was pretty easy for her to understand.

Our Thoughts:

Miss E has actually enjoyed this course more than I thought she would. She has enjoyed the simplicity of the thinking while still noticing that she is getting better at reasoning some things out. This is not a course with a skill that will highly impact daily life but as she is hoping to participate in debate next year, this is a thinking skill that will be beneficial to her.

Miss E has said a couple of times how much she has enjoyed thinking through the processes and learning to understand some of the words used in this course.

text and workbook

I have been very pleased with her progress and her understanding of this style of logic. I will not pretend to understand it easily but I do know that understanding different ways of thinking logically is helpful in the grand scheme of things. This program is easy to use, easy to understand, and has been a pleasant experience. I believe that if we can fit it in, she will be tackling Logic II following this.

I really like Memoria Press and the products that they present. The current Homeschool Review Crew run includes

New American Cursive,
Traditional Logic I Complete Set, 
Traditional Logic II Complete Set
Classical Composition I: Fable Set
Classical Composition II: Narrative Set.

Our past reviews include:

First Form Latin
D’Aulaires’ Greek Myths set
6th Grade Literature set
Famous Men of Rome
New American Cursive

Blessings,
At Home.

Head over to the Homeschool Review Crew to read more reviews on Traditional Logic or any of the other products I listed above that are being used by the Crew families on this Crew run. Just click below.

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The Critical Thinking Co.™ ~ a review

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

Somethings-Fishy-at-Lake-Iwannafisha

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

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

working on Something's Fishy

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

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

lots of evidence to work through

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

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

reports list

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

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

examining the crime scene report

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

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

Blessings,
At Home.

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

Understanding Pre-Algebra

Critical Thinking Detective Book 1 

Something Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha

Critical Thinking Detective: Vocabulary

Dare to Compare Level 1

Vocabulary Riddles Book 1

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

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

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Home School Navigator ~ a Crew review

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

Interactive Notebook Hugo Cabret

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

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

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

Level Indigo

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

Interactive Notebook Holes

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

Screenshot 2018-05-23 at 10.38.01 AM

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

Screenshot 2018-05-23 at 10.39.44 AM

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

read aloud video

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

Level Green

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

 

This is a great curriculum for –

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

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

interactive notebook Hugo

For us –

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

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

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

online language arts

Overall –

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

Blessings,
At Home.

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

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