Miss J had been working on a middle school level chemistry course using several books I located for her. After completing that, I found a series of 4 books from Usborne that I purchased for her to go through. She has really been enjoying them. She is currently on the 3rd one and will finish the 4th by the end of May pretty easily.
The series is Kitchen Science: The Complete Collection published by Kane Miller. It is a set of four books: The Math of a Milkshake, The Chemistry of Cola, The Biology of a Banana, and The Physics of Popcorn. Each of the books, as is indicated by the titles, handles a branch of science or math. The books have been a lot of fun, with tons of unique tidbits of information that were interesting. They have presented a lot of ideas, some in depth, some fairly simply. They have been a great exploration of each of the branches of education they address. They all have lots of experiments, some of which we had already done and some we had not. The books had a good balance of reading, quizzing, and doing.
I found these books to be fantastic for middle school, as they push the envelope of known information in a way that has generally resulted in Miss J wanting to find out more about it. We have pulled additional books to complement the learning because she wanted more. Rabbit trails that produced more in depth learning.
The depth of information definitely requires a parent to be around to help with some of it but they are manageable for student led learning. If you have a middle school student and are looking for an overview course that will help students really learn about the different parts of science and math, these are great. There is plenty of material for a year-long course in my opinion, especially if you are doing all of the experiments, quizzes, and tests. This is a recommend from me.
I was not asked to write this and I purchased these materials myself. I am not a Usborne consultant but will happily connect you with Leslie (who I purchased these through) if you would like to order these or something else.
Last year of high school! Some days, she is ready to go on and others she is not. That’s okay. She is not excited about being on her own and responsible for everything all the time. That’s okay. Her goals have changed in the last few months, in large part due to a very poor dual credit teacher. Maybe they would have changed regardless but they changed quite quickly last spring while she was in that class. Dual credit, though, has made this school year a bit easier for her.
Miss E is not taking dual credit classes this year since her goals have changed. She no longer plans to attend college and wants to get multiple income streams working for her after high school. She has talked to the dance studio already about teaching there in the fall of 2022. She is working on photography and is excited about starting a photography business. Setting that up will be part of her coursework in the spring. She also wants to be a published author. These goals directly impact her coursework for this school year.
First off, she is working on the Lenspiration website. This is a photography program that is designed to help students become better photographers. It is not aimed at only teens but also at adults. There are some pretty cool opportunities on the site and she is still exploring there and learning. She is working on photography daily, getting to know the camera and figure out how to better use it. She will be adding in some learning about photo editing in a couple of months. And, as I said previously, setting up her business will be part of her photography course in the spring.
In dance, she is taking every class she can and assisting as much as she can. She is assisting about 9 hours a week. She is taking ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, contemporary, acro/leaps/turns/tricks, pointe, and is part of the company. This takes about 10 hours a week in the studio.
She is completing the last few lessons in geometry using CTCMath. After that, she will begin working on a personal finance class from Crown Financial Ministries.
For her language arts/literature, she is working on a novel. She is dedicating a specific number of hours each week to the writing and editing of the book. The goal is to get it written, have it read by others, then get it edited, and then work on the publishing aspect by the end of the school year. She also has a number of other writing projects in the queue that she is interested in so she may also work on some of those. I would like her to spend some time in the spring looking into some free lance writing and see where that takes her. She is expected to keep reading (never been a problem for this girl!) a variety of materials.
She has 3 credits of science and 4 credits of history so she has completed those requirements and does not have any on the schedule this year.
She has a one hour per week paid job in child care, as well, that she is responsible for.
It is not an intense program but it fits into her goals well, driving forward what she wants to do. That is the goal of education, right? Again, this benefit of home education means she will be prepared for her goals, ready to take on the world.
You’ll remember, perhaps, the review we did for My Father’s World 9th grade curriculum. I like the curriculum but it is packed. It doesn’t leave much space for personal choice, courses working toward a life goal, or electives. The coursework is interesting, though the Bible leaves a lot of information out there that must be discussed with a Bible open in front of you. This adds a lot of time to the curriculum. I treasure these discussions but you have to acknowledge that time addition. There are no electives in the curriculum so when you add those in, you are again adding in time commitments. All of this impacted the fact that Miss L did not complete the MFW 9th grade curriculum, though she worked a minimum or 4 hours on book work each school day last year. That time did not include dance, violin, or time spent in other situations working on electives such as a Bible study titled Pearls that she did through the church or debate. When you count in these other things, she would spend about 6-8 hours per day on her education. She generally worked on art work and dance on Saturday and had Bible class, worship, dance, and other church activities on Sundays. So, she worked hard. Yet, there was still a lot to be done in the MFW curriculum.
The other bit you need to know about Miss L is that her long-term goal is to dance with a professional ballet company and to teach dance. This drives our education choices for her and impacted some of our choices last year. She dealt with a long-term injury last year that required about 1 to 1 1/2 hours of therapy work daily. This again impacts the amount of time she was spending on her school work. Her recovery needed to take some priority as it impacted her health, her ability to dance, and, most importantly, her attitude. If you have ever worked through pain, you understand how it impacts a lot of your life. So, we prioritized her recovery, sometimes letting the therapy work push the book work to the side. She is much better this fall and so she is driving on with all of this.
That all being said, My Father’s World is the curriculum that she is using for history, Bible, and literature. They utilize a number of different programs within this curriculum so she has the Notgrass World History, some Bible resource books, and a good number of supplemental books for history and literature.
For math, she really struggled to understand concepts last year in Algebra 1. She could not comfortably move on with Algebra II, even though her score from last year using CTCMath showed an 88% pass rate. Yet, she couldn’t use the information. (I believe CTC is a good program; it just didn’t work for her.) We have pulled out No-Nonsense Algebra and are starting from the beginning on it to really solidify some of the basic information and get her comfortable to move on into the Algebra I and II information included in this program. It won’t take her all the way through Algebra II material but it will bring her a long way into it.
She is continuing on with the Apologia Physical Science that was included in the MFW package we reviewed last year. It isn’t a favorite but she is learning the information pretty well. She is working through it at a good pace. We will likely move her into Friendly Chemistry or Friendly Biology when she finishes this program.
She is working as a student assistant at the dance studio again this year. Her is putting in about 5 hours a week for this. She is also taking ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, hip hop, contemporary, private ballet, and is part of the company group. Her personal classes are about 11 hours at the studio per week.
She has decided that she misses violin so she is adding that back to her schedule. We will be looking for a retirement center for her to perform at in a couple of months. I don’t know yet if we are going to get her an instructor (where would we fit it in?) but she would definitely benefit from that.
Not to be forgotten is debate. She will tackle the Lads to Leaders debate topic this year. The debate topic is as follows: Resolved: Because the Bible is God’s authoritative and complete instruction to mankind, no latter-day revelations beyond the first century are valid. It will take, as always, a lot of dedicated Bible reading, study, and preparation. She’ll work on this until Easter weekend 2022. She will also include a number of other L2L events.
She has a plate that is so full but she doesn’t want to let go of any of it. We do modify some of the lesson plans and activities in the MFW curriculum. Some of it is just busy work or something to put a grade on; there is no real synthesis of information occurring. We skip those things.
This is the student that we are really seeing the benefits of home education with. We can tailor her schedule to her needs and allow her education to support her goals, not the other way around. Too often, education comes first and the goals are decided after. Her goals were definitely there first and I constantly remind her that education will help her fulfill those goals. Perfection in physical science is not as important as her time perfecting ballet. It is a joy to be able to help her reach for the stars without the stumbling block of a traditional education.
I enjoy reading about what families have chosen for their student’s curriculum. I assume that others enjoy reading about what we have chosen.
Miss J is 12 to start her 7th grade year. She is extremely social. To say the pandemic has been tough on her is an understatment. She thrives on hugs and talking to others. She loves to read and has spent the past 3 months reading over 40 books that her oldest sister recommended. She enjoys hands on learning and desires to be a chef or baker when she is older. Her desire after high school is to attend culinary school. I share all of this because it drives our choices for her.
Math – We are changing from CTCMath to a book based program this year. We decided this right before Math Skills Rescue Books 1 and 2 came up for review on the Crew. So, this is what she is working through. It is essentially a pre-algebra program. I don’t know for sure but I think this will likely take the better part of 2 school years to get through. I could be wrong and she could fly through some of it. We are still in the early stages of the program. Our full review will be up in a couple of weeks. Until then, you can look at what I have shared about it so far on social media.
Language Arts: Creative Writing – We are using the book we reviewed a few months ago, Sparkling Bits of Writing Book 1, because it was a fun writing process without stress for this girl. She struggles with her writing, not because she doesn’t have ideas but the process of taking thoughts and turning them into something on paper is hard. This book was so fun that it eased that process for her. We are continuing it. She will be working on this two times each week.
Language Arts: Literature – She will be reading literature that goes along with the period of history that we are in. I really like the books from Memoria Press on people from history periods. So, if I can get my hands on them for each time period, this is what she’ll read. Right now she is reading Famous Men of Rome. (This review was the whole package; we are just using the student text.) I like these books because they are story based while still being a solid biography. They provide interest for the person and it backs up her history program. I will also pick and choose a few other books to do as a read aloud with her because she enjoys that.
Language Arts: Grammar/Spelling – It’s NOT Greek To Me. We were supposed to be on a review for this program and I was disappointed when that option dissipated. We are still using the program, though we do not have the digital teaching slides to do with it. (The teaching slides came on a thumb drive that we could not use on the technology we had. We do not have brand new computers and it wouldn’t work on the Chromebook, a desktop running Windows 7, and a new computer running Windows 10. The teaching slides were on PowerPoint and they would not work with Google slides. So….) It works the students through 12 lesson of Greek morphemes (roots, prefixes, and suffixes) that are common in English. It is a lot of writing so we are taking it slow – at least 2 weeks per lesson. She is working on this 2 times in a week.
History – Miss J will be working through the studies for the ancient civilizations from Home School In The Woods. She will do them out of order since she was already working on Project Passport: Ancient Rome for a review. She will continue on that and when she is done with it, she’ll pick one of the others. This hands-on history program is a good fit for her. She can skip the parts that are heavy on the writing and do the other parts and still get the information. Picking and choosing parts is good. We will also utilize other books or videos, including Drive Thru History. (We are watching Ancient Rome lesson 1 now through SchoolhouseTeachers.com.)
History – Some of the time periods will have people for which we have a person in the Figures In Motion books. When we find those, she will cut the person out and assemble the flexible figure to add to her folder of people.
Science – The Critical Thinking Co. has sent us a book of science crossword puzzles. Miss J is doing one of these puzzles a day for now. In a couple of weeks, we will go back to the kitchen chemistry and science program I designed for her. We will add a few books around mid-school year to the experiments part. The kitchen chemistry is a lot of fun for her. She does get to choose which experiments to do but she has to do some reading as well. The books I chose for it cover a lot of chemistry ideas in a way that Miss J really relates to since she loves to cook and bake and be in the kitchen. You can see some of our activities by visiting these links: ice cream, can experiment, burning a nut, or a freezing experiment among many others.
Thinking/Logic – Miss J is working through The Fallacy Detective. You can read our review of it to learn more. She only works on it once a week and does one lesson each time.
Guitar – She really wants to learn to play the guitar. We have tried a couple of things but we are working with a video course from The Great Courses this year. We’ll see how it goes.
Dance – She is dancing quite a bit this year – 4-5 days per week. She is studying multiple styles and participating in Junior Company.
That’s about it. I am sure we’ll do some other things that will really impact her learning but this is the start and the outline. It is a good solid bit of learning.
Disclosure: I received this product free through the Homeschool Review Crew.
The Ultimate PreK-12 Annual Membership accessed through SchoolhouseTeachers.com contains a wealth of information, classes, planning tools, helps, and encouragement. From video courses to text courses, from PK classes through courses interesting for adults, you will find just about anything you could want in home education and resources to support all types of learning – home education, virtual learning, blended learning, or others that I don’t even know about.
One of the great things about SchoolhouseTeachers is that you can browse on the site in so many ways. You can search by grade level, subject type, need, keyword, learning style, and more. You come up with lots of options to explore and you can pick and choose what looks like a great fit for your own crew. And if it isn’t? No problem. Search again and pick something different. You have access to it ALL! One free for one year of ALL material on the site.
So, what have we been doing with the site?
The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe Literature Kit
With my 6th grader, we read the book together during December. We used some of the information from the kit to discuss. We talked a bit about C.S. Lewis. We looked at the background for why the children went to the country. We had previously done a WWII study so she was familiar with a lot of but it was good to check in with the history again. She kept a list of all the foods mentioned in the story as we read and we talked about what “tea” meant. At the end of the story, she did a bit of researching of recipes and picked from her list of foods to create a tea party. She cooked and invited her family and we enjoyed a Narnia tea time.
This literature kit is set up for a study to last several weeks. Because we were using it as a one week study during a break from our regular schedule, we adapted by picking a choosing a few of the discussions and activities to do. Activities we didn’t use included making snowflakes and snowflake ornaments, researching beavers, a study on Father Christmas, looking up flowers, how to draw a mouse, and much more. There is a four week lesson plan included.
I also had her pop over to the Literature Lessons for The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. We had some quick discussions about some of the questions there. They covered characters, setting, plot, conflict, and theme. There are suggested answers in a separate file. These questions can also be done using an interactive content tool. It asks the question and has a space to type the response. The responses are emailed to the email address entered by the student when starting the quiz.
Foreign Language – French
We have been hoping for a French class to show up on here and one did. I have just started to explore it a little bit to see how it will work for my 9th grader. It appears that they are 3-4 years worth of high school materials for her so we will likely be taking this up soon. It includes course work from elementary, middle, and high school levels.
We were excited to see in the Christmas Corner of the Seasonal Resources that there was a video on The Candy Maker’s Christmas. This relates to a favorite holiday book we read every year so we were pleased to watch the short video on it. It also had a worksheet to go along with it if we had chosen to use it.
There are a lot of other video options, from materials to go along with specific classes (one of our favorites is always Drive Thru History) to devotional materials available through RightNow Media. There are over 450 videos available with your membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.
There are tons of holiday materials that are written specifically for the holiday or are a part of a larger course that have been separated out to make doing a holiday unit study easy. With Valentine’s Day and President’s Day both coming up next month, there are plenty of materials available to pick something to add a change to the school routine. I was looking at a couple of the printable games to use for Valentine’s Day or perhaps a poetry study. There is a book by Patricia McLaughlin titled “All The Places To Love” that reads like poetry and has a study but there is also a study of Shakepeare’s “Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer’s Day?” Both look like short but strong options for a 6th grader.
I can’t discuss them all but I want to name a few more that are worth checking out: – School Boxes (grade level curriculum options) – these are full of curriculum choices for a particular level to be able to quickly and easily pull together a full curriculum – Literacy Center – Special Needs Center – Parents eBook Library – Focused Learning Centers – High School Help – Planning: includes printable planners and schedule makers to customize
Much more is included on SchoolhouseTeachers.com. This just barely scratches the surface. Many other reviewers for the Homeschool Review Crew have written about how they have recently been using the Ultimate PreK-12 Annual Membership and some about how it will continue to be used in the coming months for their homeschools. Please pop over to the Crew blog and read more reviews.
The Blue Ribbon Awards is a tradition with the Homeschool Review Crew and it is a fun one for us as participants. I imagine it is also fun for the vendors. A number of categories are shared and every family in the Crew votes for their favorite in that category. We don’t vote in all categories since we didn’t review something from each of the categories.
Please visit the Crew blog to read about the overall winners from the Crew and to find other families who have shared their individual favorites. Without further ado, here are our family’s choices for the Blue Ribbon Award 2020.
So, there you have it. Our favorites for the year. We got to review a some new products this year and we got to know some new vendors. We also got to use some old favorites that we know work well with the girls. We are continually blessed by the Crew and are looking forward to another year with them.
Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.
Math learning can be challenging. Math teaching can be challenging. MathandAlgebra.com is an online subscription that can take the challenge out of it all.
Presented in a combo online/offline format, the goal of MathandAlgebra.com is to help student learns math in a fun and accessible way. This increases not only skill but also confidence. The instructor is Rick Fisher, a math teacher with over 30 years of experience. He has been able to help many students increase their math skills by using his classes for 20 minutes a day.
MathandAlgebra.com has four available classes – Basic Math, Advanced Math, Pre-algebra, and Algebra. A subscription provides access to all four of these courses to work through at your pace.
Each lesson is composed of just a couple of steps. First, Miss L would watch the video. Each video is fairly short; most of the videos we watched were less than 5 minutes. These videos have Mr. Fisher’s voice teaching the concept while you see him writing on the white board. Students are encouraged to copy the exercises as he teaches. Miss L wrote them in her notebook with each page dates and the lesson number included.
Next, access the worksheet. It can be viewed online or printed. We did some of both. Work through each of the questions. Again, Miss L wrote them into her notebook.
Once the student has answered all of the questions, the answer key can be accessed. Grade the worksheet at this point. Miss L had to correct any missed questions. Unfortunately, if a question is not understood, there is not an annotated explanation of the answer. Hopefully, the parent assisting can figure out what was missed. So far, in the algebra class, we did not hit any that I could not understand.
Miss L worked through the first few weeks of the algebra course. It came along right after she finished her pre-algebra work. There was not a placement test of any sort, so she had to begin at the start of the course. If you know your student well, you could probably have them skip over parts at the beginning of the class, especially if they are just coming off a course that covered those exact same concepts.
The interface is fairly easy to use. You can see what lessons have been completed in working on the course by the green checked circles. Also, if you have completed the lesson, than the “mark complete” at the bottom is grayed out. The student can easily know where to start each day by remembering to click that “mark complete” when they finish checking each worksheet.
The simplicity of this course is appealing. It doesn’t have lots of bells and whistles and jumps straight into what is needed to be learned for that lesson. Watch the video, do the worksheet. After completing the unit, take the quiz. Move on to the next one. Straight-forward.
The teacher/parent does have access to a simple report listing what quiz the student took on what dates and the grade received. The daily work is not graded online. That is graded by the student or the parent/teacher. If you want to include it in the overall grade, you will do that on your own.
If you are looking for a straight-forward, online math program with a video component, this might be a good fit for you. It is just that. Math taught without bells and whistles to confuse things.
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links.
Miss L has started her high school work as a 9th grader for the 2020-2021 school year. She actually started it back in June because we were working on the review for My Father’s World, which is the curriculum we have settled into for 9th grade. It is working well.
My Father’s World is a Christian based core curriculum for history, Bible, and literature. They had other subjects you can add on to make it a full boxed set curriculum with math, science, and electives. You can read a full review of the program and what we thought about it from our previous review. Today, I just want to talk a bit about how it is working.
We are not following the lesson plans exactly as written. It doesn’t allow for additional interests and passions but the plans are well written and thorough. We have created two sets of curriculum from My Father’s World and the other subjects: a daily set and a looping set.
The daily subjects that Miss L does include math, violin, dance, and foreign language (French). For math, she is using CTCMath (read the review) and working on Algebra I. She finished up her pre-algebra work with CTCMath, also. We are working on finding a violin teach that will do in-person classes but that has proven difficult at this time. She is working in one of her Suzuki books for the time being. She is taking a number of dance classes locally and working as a student assistant, also. She takes ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, contemporary, hip hop, and is part of the company group. She is working with Duolingo for her French class. These are what she does every day and she will likely add debate in a month or so.
The classes that she loops include Ancient History, literature, writing, logic, science, and Bible. Because of the way the lesson plans for My Father’s World are written, she actually does Bible in several ways and places, so she does work on Bible every day. The lesson plans have a place to check off when an assignment is done so she just loops through the work with the assistance of the check boxes.
She is using Notgrass World History, though the plans do not go straight through it; rather they pick and choose the topics that align with their designed schedule. She is using the Ancient History Literature Supplement that goes with the MFW lesson plans for her writing and literature. Logic is a set of books by The Critical Thinking Co and she is loving these. She actually worked ahead a lot during the recent break we took in August. She is using the Apologia Exploring Creation with Physical Science. Bible includes reading through the Old Testament and using several books to go along with it.
This has given her a lot of independence and she has done well with it. The lesson plans are a big help for her and help show a lot of progress. The lesson plans have the student “checking in” with the teacher in several different ways so I can stay up with her in her learning without being fully involved in each step. Additionally, we have chosen for her to do a discussion of questions for some of her Bible lessons, which has been a good and helpful way to approach the topic and ensure that she is getting truth in the discussion.
This program is definitely a huge benefit for her and we are well pleased with MFW. It is as rigid as you need it to be and we have been able to make it even more flexible to work with our schedule. That’s a win-win for sure.
You can read about the 11th grade curriculum and, soon, the 6th grade curriculum choices for the 2020-2021 school year.
Blessings, Lori, At Home.
If you are looking for more options and want an afforadable option for the entire family, check out SchoolhouseTeachers.com. This is a full curriculum with over 400 classes for all levels. The Mama Bear Sale is currently going on. MAMA BEAR SALE at SchoolhouseTeachers.com – Homeschool all your cubs for one low price! Use code: MAMABEAR to pay only $159 for an Ultimate Annual SchoolhouseTeachers.com membership. Plus, receive a beautiful tote for Mama and an inspirational copy of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine with your purchase (US only)!
(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links for SchoolhouseTeachers.com. If you visit the site through these links and choose to purchase, I will receive a commission.)
I realized the other day that I haven’t yet shared our curriculum for the current 2020-2021 school year, even though we are in week 7 of it. We actually started it back in July, took a chunk of August off, and restarted the day after Labor Day. So, I will fill you in. This post is for 11th grade. 9th grade and 6th grade will come in separate posts.
Miss E is 11th grade this year and busy as ever. I enjoy seeing her grow and mature. She worked hard to get herself set up for Dual Credit classes at our local community college and she is working as a student assistant at the dance studio. These are two very large amounts of time and commitment she has added to her curriculum and she is handling it all really well. Her organization is strong and her determination is even stronger.
Dual Credit – US History – This is the first part of US history and is an online class with a tough text by Eric Foner. She is finding it super interesting and enjoying it but the text is a high level of writing and comprehending.
Dual Credit – Music Appreciation – This music appreciation class is a joy for her and she is thriving with it. She is have a great time, love the discussion boards and getting to listen to music. It is also an online class.
Math – CTCMath – Miss E is finishing up Algebra II with this program. She had started in geometry last year but switched to Algebra II after about 6 weeks. So she should finish Algebra II up here in the next couple of weeks and move back to Geometry, also with CTCMath. You can read our review of it here. We may head over to a geometry class on SchoolhouseTeachers.com if she struggles again with it because there is a pretty highly recommended geometry class on there.
Literature/Writing – When Worlds Collide by Sharon Watson – We have used a course from Sharon Watson before and it included a lot of excellent literature, good writing, and interesting discussions and projects. That led us to purchase the other high school literature program from her. It has been enjoyable for Miss E so far and she just finished Pudd’nhead Wilson today, with just the project to go with the book to complete for that unit.
Science: Biology – Experience Biology from Journey Homeschool Academy is the course she is using for this class. Experience Biology does include labs so it is a bit more intense than previous science classes. In addition, she is having labs and some of the work checked by the company and they are requiring a different style of work from Miss E. It is good challenge for her.
World History – Before she chose to do a dual credit history class, Miss E had started the world history course from Notgrass. She thoroughly enjoys it so even though she is doing another history class right now, she didn’t want to give this one up. That is the mark of a truly interesting class, isn’t it? Because she is enjoying it so much, it isn’t a trial for her to complete both classes.
Spanish – Spanish 1 on SchoolhouseTeachers.com is the course she is using for this foreign language credit. She is still highly proficient with ASL but since some colleges will not accept that as a foreign language, she decided she would enjoy learning Spanish. She is working through this class at a decent pace to date.
PE – Dance – She is studying several styles of dance at JSOD, where the girls have danced for 10 years now. She enjoys dance a lot and was able to begin pointe class this year, which is very exciting.
So, that is a high school class run down for 11th grade. Quite a bit but she is working hard and responsibly at it all.
Blessings, Lori, At Home.
MAMA BEAR SALE at SchoolhouseTeachers.com – Homeschool all your cubs for one low price! Use code: MAMABEAR to pay only $159 for an Ultimate Annual SchoolhouseTeachers.com membership. Plus, receive a beautiful tote for Mama and an inspirational copy of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine with your purchase (US only)!
Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.
One of those companies that I have heard about for a very long time is Institute for Excellence in Writing® (IEW). Their reputations as a strong writing instruction program is just a given in most circles of home education. But I was intimidated! The program was overwhelming to me to look at and think about the required prep for. That has definitely changed! Structure and Style® for Students is their new, redesigned writing program and it is so easy to implement! I am sold.
We received the middle school level of this program for this review. Structure and Style® for Students Year 1 Level B is where we began with our 6th grader and while it took a bit to get into (due to the student, not the program), it has been a good fit. We received everything we needed to get started except for a pen/pencil and some blank notebook paper. The program comes with:
student pages and binder
teacher’s manual, and
access to the streaming video with “forever” access
This is a video based teaching structure with Andrew Pudewa. Mr. Pudewa teaches a class on the video. This is a class with live students that has been recorded for our benefit, to see real students using this material and for our students to get the benefit of a live class setting. Each video is about an hour and a half but is set up in the lesson plans to viewed over 2 class periods.
During each class period, Mr. Pudewa has the students interacting, writing, and taking notes. From there, he gives some specific writing assignments to be completed throughout the remainder of the week. The lesson plan runs for 4 days but can be stretched to 5 easily enough. We have even had to stretch it longer, which I’ll explain in just a bit.
Each week, the instruction is based on well-researched source texts, such as the example below, that IEW has put together. They have done their own research and writing so that parents can know that these source texts are quality materials. There are printed copies of this in the student pages and each week the student is given organization tips to help them learn to keep materials in order and easy to find.
A full piece of writing is completed each week of this 24 week course. This creates quite a strong set of writing by the end of the course. It begins with learning about a key word outline and creating this. Some of the outline is done during the class video and the rest is completed without the video. By the end of the course, the student is writing formal critiques. The entire set of styles that will be addressed in the 9 units includes:
Note Making and Outlines
Writing from Notes
Retelling Narrative Stories
Summarizing a Reference
Writing From Pictures
Summarizing Multiple References
Formal Essay Models, and
In addition to writing, vocabulary is a strong component of this course and is integrated well into the teaching class. No need to separate it out. Additionally, grammar is discussed creating a seamless inclusion of these parts of good writing. If you need more, they recommend adding Fix It! Grammar, another IEW product, to your class day.
Student Pages and Binder –
The student sets up the binder on the first day of the course, following the guidance given. Instructions are written to the student and are clear. Once the binder is set up to start, new organization instructions follow throughout the video lessons and at the end, as needed, to help the student learn to stay organized.
The Teacher’s Guide is spiral bound and contains all the information the parent/teacher needs to support the student through the video based class. There are clear reproductions of the student pages in the Teacher’s Guide, as well as gray boxes that provide additional information for the teacher. Some of these boxes include complete information on what Mr. Pudewa writes on the white board during the video and I have found these very helpful. I don’t sit down with Miss J for this class without my copy.
The videos will be found in your online portal through the IEW website. When you purchase the program, you create an account with them. You then have lifetime, 24/7/365 access to the videos through your account. You visit their website, login, and click the tab that includes you SSS videos.
Mine says SSS-1B Video since we are in Year 1 of Level B. Click that, select the lesson you are on, and off you go. There is a white mark partway through that shows you where to break between day 1 and day 2. You cannot see it in the screenshot below. Each part of the lesson run 30-45 minutes.
Our Use and Thoughts
I have been very pleased. It takes a long while for Miss J to work through the lessons but she has come to enjoy them. Mr. Pudewa cracks a lot of jokes and that is something that Miss J doesn’t love. She calls it “misuse of jokage” but she laughs just the same. 🙂
The Teacher’s Guide claims that it takes between 30 and 45 minutes to work through each day’s materials but we have found it take a lot longer, especially since there is often a bit more to do after the videos are finished and they are often 45 minutes. Our solution is to have her work at completing the day’s materials on day 1 and day 2. We minimize other things if need be and she takes a couple of breaks since writing (the physical process AND getting words out of her head onto paper) has always been a challenge for her. She doesn’t necessarily have a problem, it has just not come easy to her. For the other two days on the lesson plans, she can take a day or two longer if needed. Since there are checklists on her weekly outlines, it is easy to see what she still needs to do for the lesson at any given point.
This is especially important to give her time since she has finally decided that her writing (the physical putting words to paper) is important and she wants to have good cursive. This last writing assignment took her 6 pages to write out. So, I gave her plenty of time to do her best. And it provided good, solid, high-quality writing.
I am very pleased with this IEW product and so glad they have come out with this new version of their writing program. As I said, with the old program, I was intimidated by it all as an adult. I couldn’t bear to share that intimidation with my girls but Structure and Style® for Students is a VERY accessible program that the student can enjoy being a part of. It has been a great fit for Miss J and I am pleased to recommend it to others.
The Homeschool Review Crew has been using this program at all three levels – A, B, and C – with their students for the past few weeks. Those who used Levels A and B are sharing their thoughts about it this week. Level C is going to be delayed just a bit but they should be joining the linkup before too terribly long. Click over to the Crew blog to read more.