Tag Archives: reviews

Paragraph Writing Program From The Crafty Classroom ~ a Crew review

types of paragraphs

Miss J loves to tell stories but writing them down is not her favorite thing. When we were offered the opportunity to use How to Write a Paragraph from The Crafty Classroom, I felt like it would be a very good thing for us to do. The product is cheerful (colorful if you can print in color) and fun looking, drawing us in right away.

How To Write A ParagraphThe Crafty Classroom is a resource for tons of ideas, printables, and crafts. Visit the site and you immediately see plenty to go exploring. Looking for Bible information? Perhaps the Bible ABC Curriculum Notebook will work for you. Geography needed? Check out USA Activity Bundle. Have a preschooler? Alphabet Curriculum Notebook might work but if you have one a tad bit older check out Learn to R.E.A.D. Curriculum Notebook and R.E.A.D. Review Pack. And these are just the things the Homeschool Review Crew is reviewing right now. There are tons more. (I have my list to check out!)

But, on to what we worked with: How to Write a Paragraph. I have let Miss J (8 years old and entering 3rd) skip over a lot of her writing because the physical part was getting in the way of her actually being able to express what she wanted to say. When I saw the samples of the paragraph writing curriculum, I thought it looked really doable, something that would be thorough yet easy enough that she wouldn’t get too frustrated. It works gradually up to the whole paragraph thing and I really liked how it gently moved the student forward. This program is a 12 week, day-by-day curriculum that includes little prep. (I hate saying no prep because you do have to print it and know what you need poster-wise for that week.) It is very easy to follow.

writing

It arrived as a PDF, which was easy to download and save. I read the introductory materials and began printing the first week’s materials. The overall program is simple: there is a page of discussion ideas and activity suggestions for the teacher, a daily work page for the student four days a week, and a “poster” to print that has the week’s topic or theme. For example, in week one, I printed off the poster that reviews what a sentence needs, the teacher page and four work pages for Miss J. In week 3, the posters (there were two) were about types of paragraphs and the other printed pages were about that.

Each day, I would start by reviewing the posters from previous lessons. Then we would do the activity from the teacher’s page for that day. It might be writing example sentences or having the student find what was wrong with an example. It is always interactive with the student. Next we worked on that day’s work page. There is a little box in the top left corner reminding the student of important things to remember about her writing and a list of directions in the top right corner for completing the page.  This generally took only about 15 minutes (unless she took a long time with her drawings). Quick and easy.

By the time the student gets to week 5, it is time to begin writing complete paragraphs. The program walks the student through brainstorming on the topic and has gentle reminders to create a topic sentence and good supporting sentences. The posters help the student remember what kind of paragraph they are working on and how to write a good paragraph. There is also an editing checklist for older students who are ready to begin editing and writing final drafts of their work.

weekly schedule

part of the week 1 visual schedule – I like this.

The PDF contained a visual schedule of each week, showing exactly what to print for each week. (I think week 3 should have shown both pages of the types of paragraphs, though. I had to make a quick computer run once we got started because I had not looked ahead to make sure I had it all and had only printed the first poster.) This visual schedule was easy to use, which makes this program appealing to the teacher who has limited prep time. All I needed was the printed pages and I was ready to go. If I wanted to be on top of it, I could print the whole file all at once and then not have to worry about whether I had printed everything I needed for that week’s lessons.

opinion paragraphI am pleased to continue on with this curriculum as we are beginning to build more complex sentences and complete paragraphs. I like that Miss J is writing, reviewing the things she needs to write well, and getting more skilled at putting her thoughts on paper. Miss J likes that there are a variety of activities – we have written on the white board, drawn pictures, cut and pasted, colored, and more – while she is working on something she isn’t crazy about. She doesn’t balk at doing this program because she knows it is not going to be too hard and she can take baby steps to get it done. Win-win.

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Read more reviews from the Homeschool Review Crew about the other products we are reviewing, as well as other families who have been using How to Write a Paragraph.

Crafty Classroom {Reviews}Crew Disclaimer 

Paper Mache Help from ACTÍVA Products ~ a Crew review

Activa crafting kit review

Crafting seems to be a constant around here and the idea of having some new ideas and products to work with is always exciting. When we heard about ACTÍVA Products and their Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit, we were excited. Miss L loves to create all sorts of things and these materials would be just right. And to make it even more exciting, Activa is offering everyone a copy of their free ebook ACTÍVA Products’ Favorite Sculpture KIDS CRAFTS, which has full-color pictures and directions for creating a number of projects with the kit.

ACTÍVA Products is a company that specializes in crafting materials. They offer paper mache products as well as other several other clay products, colored sand, casting materials, and even a few flower arranging materials. Their site also offers a huge number of ideas and instructions for creating projects with their offered materials. I got a lot of inspiration and have lots of ideas that I want to create.

The Kit

Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit
We received the Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit for this review. When they arrived, there was a lot of excitement and we immediately pulled out the packages to look things over. In the box, were unlabeled packages and a photocopied instruction sheet. I’ll admit – these kind of dampened the excitement because I had to tell the kids that I had no clue what any of it was or how to use it. Labels would have been good and instructions on each product of how to use it would have been good.kit contents

After some research, I figured out that we had two rolls of 4 inch wide Rigid Wrap and one 8 oz package of CelluClay. But I still had to do some reading and researching to figure out how to use them. There was, on the copied sheets, instructions on the Rigid Wrap but I had to go to the website to find a sheet of instructions for the CelluClay. (I found it by searching for CelluClay. There is a link to the sheet on the page for the 1 lb package towards the bottom of the page on the right hand side.)

We did finally jump into projects but it was a bit intimidating. It was also very messy. I was very glad I had covered the table with a plastic cloth. And the kitchen floor had needed mopped anyway. These products create a lot of dust and very fine particles.

Rigid Wrap

Rigid Wrap

Miss L chose to use the Rigid Wrap and created an angel and a rose. Sculpting those from the Rigid Wrap took some patience.

Miss L working

To create the angel, she had to build up the biggest part and add the details slowly, The White Angelallowing a bit of drying time in between. The wings took some finesse but she just patiently molded and shaped until they were as desired. Then she held them in place and I fanned until they would hold their shape. After she got it how she wanted it, she set it aside to air dry. This took about 5 days to fully dry and it dried to a matte finish white. She has a collection of angels that she loves that are minimally colored and for now, she will leave this one white, as it fits fairly well into the collection.

For the rose, she cut each individual petal and one strip about 6 inches long. Dipping the roselong one into warm water, she then rolled it up for the center of the rose. Dipping each petal into the water, she would add it to the center, adjusting each petal to the shape and placement she wanted. She would then hold it in place while I fanned it to help it set and dry a bit. With so many pieces all on top of each other, it has taken a long time to dry. She had to leave for camp before it was dry so it will be painted when she returns.

I wasn’t as brave but I did want to try the snowman starproduct myself so I took on the star and snowman ornament from the ebook. Using a cardboard star cut from a box, I cut strips of Rigid Wrap and placed them over the star. Using my fingers to smooth it out and down over the edge, I covered the cardboard. After letting it dry for a bit, I took some of the scraps we had from other projects and used them to scrunch and fashion a snowman. I got the strips a bit wetter so they would stick better to the flat form. I was able to create some definition and depth by twisting and scrunching up the strips as I placed them. After it was fully dry, I painted it. While the yellow paint was wet, I shook some gold glitter down over it to add some sparkle. I hot glued the ribbon onto the back. I kind of like this little snowman. He brought some cool to the hot summer!

CelluClay

CelluClay

The CelluClay, a recycled paper product for instant paper mache, I was a bit leery of. I didn’t feel like I had good instructions. But knowing I needed to at least try it out, I dove in. This product feels like the lint from a dryer. It is just as dusty, too. Please take precaution; inhaling this is awful, causing a lot of coughing. I guessed at how much I would need to make three ice cream shaped pieces from a candy mold I have. I put it into a plastic ziplocking bag and added a bit of water. I added just a bit of water at a time, zipping it closed, and then mashing it around through the plastic to mix it up. Once I felt like it was well mixed, I tried to use it. It was like pulling soggy paper apart and I had to add additional water. I was finally able to get it to a consistency I could use.

I packed it into the mold until it was level on the back and I felt I would get good definition on the front detailing. I then removed it from the mold and added a red bead to be the cherry and to put a cord through. Then, I let it dry. It took about three times as long as I expected for it to dry. I even tried to speed it up, as they recommended, by using a hair dryer. I did that for about 15 minutes and felt like it did not really make much difference. So I left it to dry overnight at that point. When they were dry, I painted them and added the string.

ice cream necklaces

I can see several possibilities for CelluClay now that I have used it. I would love to see the company add good instructions to the kit’s box, either printed on the box or a sheet inside that addresses both products and is easier to read. The project ideas are fantastic and I would love to see more product ideas for CelluClay come with the kit, as well.

ACTÍVA Products has some interesting products and ideas. The  Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit is a great way to introduce your kids to the opportunities that abound with these products.

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Others have been creating some amazing projects with this kit, as well. Head over to the Homeschool Review Crew blog by clicking on the banner below to find other projects.

Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit {ACTÍVA Products Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Doctor Aviation ~ a Crew review

A life of learning. That is what we want to teach our children and one of the best ways to do that is to always be learning ourselves. I took this to heart for the Doctor Aviation review and decided it was something I wanted to learn about, for me. Not because I needed to for one of the girls’ lessons but because I was interested.

Doctor Aviation
Doctor Aviation is an aviation education and history course run by Daryl Smith, aka Doctor Aviation. An Air Force Command Pilot with 24 years of experience flying aircraft and teaching about it, Doctor Aviation knows his stuff. From being an instructor pilot and a research pilot to being an United States Air Force Academy instructor and a published author, Doctor Aviation has dedicated his career to flight and shares his love of flight through this course.lesson dashboard

The course is an online course, intended for ages 16 and up, with instruction done by video through the Doctor Aviation site. There are printable Guided Notes for each lesson that are accessible through the website. Each lesson also includes a printable listing of additional resources to help extend the lesson beyond the video presentation.

Lessons –

Each lesson includes a video presentation. To access it, you log in to your account. You will see a dashboard that shows your next lesson. All you have to do is click on it to launch the lesson. You are then taken to a page that shows the next video, action steps that might be needed, and the printable resources (Guided Notes and To Learn More pages).

video and resources on dashboard

Clicking on the video will launch the next presentation. Doctor Aviation presents each lesson in an aircraft hangar with nothing fancy to cause distraction. Using a clipboard for his notes (boy does this show how well he knows his materials!), he talks the students through all the details of the lesson.

Each lesson is between 45 minutes and an hour long and includes three parts:

  1. Technical Trivia
  2. Notable Innovators
  3. Legendary Events or Aircraft

Technical Trivia is not trivial. It is the meat of the lesson and is kept to around 15-20 minutes. Those minutes are packed, though! Doctor Aviation covers all you need to know in an introduction to aviation. The aviation systems is the very first video. It is followed by section 2, which is four lessons on aircraft, from the major components to why an aircraft flies and how lift works. Also included in these four lessons is information on how an aircraft’s systems are manipulated to cause the movement  on the axes. Section 3 covers air traffic control and Section 4 discusses aircraft maintenance. Section 5 takes on the topics related to airfield operations and the last section is more about aircraft themselves. Aviation education is found in the technical trivia part of the course.

Notable Innovators is second part of the video and it is where Doctor Aviation highlights some of the men and women in the aviation field that have made discoveries or completed feats that allowed for significant advancements in aviation. People like Chuck Yeager, the Wright brothers, and Amelia Earhart are discussed in this section. Many other aviators and scientists are also covered.

Legendary Events or Aircraft is a fascinating section. It takes a look at important moments in time, such as the breaking of the sound barrier, the first powered flight, or aircraft that significantly changed the path that aviation history took.flight education

The Guided Notes are intended to be downloaded prior to the start of the video and completed as the video proceeds. It is an easy to follow, fill-in-the-blank sort of note page and I found it helpful in retaining information. These are links that are clicked on from the website and open in a PDF reader. I just hit print from that and never had an issue.

The To Learn More page is printed the same way and is a valuable resource for extending the video lesson. If you have a student taking this for credit, these pages will be where the additional activities are found for making it a solid credit. There are books to read, videos to watch, and hands-on, creative activities to complete. Many of the videos and websites are hyperlinked, making it simple easy to use; just click on the hyperlink and it will open the page you need. The document is broken down by activity and then with a subcategory on the topics from the lesson. Additional research and hands-on activities are suggested at the end of the document.

Periodically throughout the course, there are also tests available. You receive these by contacting Doctor Aviation; they are not found on the website. If you are using this for a high school credit, these will be needed. It is listed in the action steps when there is a test coming up and then again when you need to take it. For example, the first one appears in Lesson 4 and it says to contact Doctor Aviation for the test, to be taken after Lesson 5. On the Lesson 5 page, it shows in the actions steps that the test is to be taken after watching the video and completing any extension activities.

flight education Doctor Aviation

My Thoughts –

Until I had watched the introductory video and first lesson, I would have told you that I had no desire to learn about aviation or aviation history. But then I watched the video and found myself wanting to learn more. I was drawn to the stories told and the revealing of the “mystery” behind flight. I have thoroughly enjoyed having this course to enrich my own learning and I enjoyed watching the videos at night, after the girls had hit the hay, when it was quiet. I found that I truly enjoyed learning all that Doctor Aviation had to share.

The presentation of the video is simple. I mentioned this before. It is one of the things that drew me to the course. When needed, there are drawings, images, or photos to help illustrate the point. But when they aren’t needed, they aren’t there, causing distraction. Doctor Aviation spoke from the heart about the facts, the people, the places, and the aircraft he was talking about. You could tell that this is something he is passionate about and it comes through clearly.

This simplicity of presentation is one reason this course is definitely better suited to a high school course or adult education course. If you have a younger student (probably as young as about 10) that is just fascinated by aviation, I can see them being able to use the video portions of the course successfully, though there are a number of advanced concepts covered; the Guided Notes might be a bit difficult due to the speed with which the information comes at times.

Recommendation?

Absolutely. This is a wonderful and surprising course that will “take you to flight.” And what a wonderful, exciting place that is.

At Home.

Be sure to read the other Crew reviews on Doctor Aviation. The course used was the same but different families used it different ways. So check out the reviews by clicking on the banner below.

Aviation Course {Doctor Aviation Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

We Stood Upon Stars ~ a book review

We Stood Upon Stars review

Travel is such a unique, inspiring opportunity. It is different for each person travelling the road, even following the same directions. And, when you approach it from the aspect of looking for God and meaning no matter where you are heading, it becomes something that shapes your life.

We Stood Upon Stars by Roger W. Thompson will take you on the adventures you dream of, finding peace and life and hope in the wilds of the continent. From a secluded fishing spot to the highest peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park and back down to the lowest lows of Death Valley, Mr. Thompson explores life at its fullest. Because in those adventures, life happens and meaning, purpose is found.

Full of tidbits of life learning, I found myself smiling along with the adventures filled with beauty and biting my nails when there was tenseness. From a family outing with his children to remembering the outings from his own childhood, there is much wisdom to be found by looking at nature and what God has placed all around us.

While the presence of God is found throughout the many stops in the book, Mr. Thompson’s observations are right in line with a peaceful, pleasant outlook. The magnificence of God’s handiwork is just part of life and it is treated that way in these memories. It is there and there is no denying it. This was so pleasant and encouraging to read.

Not to be ignored are the wonder-full maps that express some of the beauty and special places along the road. These hand-drawn, personalized maps show not just the main stops along the book’s discussion but they highlight many other moments that can help you find yourself and connect with friends, family, and more importantly, God.

Read about Roger W. Thompson or read the first chapter or just look up more information on We Stood Upon Stars.

I have had a desire for a while to take my girls to many of the natural wonders of our nation and this book just solidifies that desire within me. Finding these peaceful, hopeful, and inspiring outlooks from nature, seeing God through his world, that is what We Stood Upon Stars shares with the reader and what I want to take my girls to do. And this book? It just might be a guidebook to take along.

At Home.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Novare Science & Math ~ a Crew review

Novare Earth Science

As our girls get a bit older, we are beginning to look at science courses that are a bit more advanced. Novare Science & Math has science courses for middle school that look appealing. They sent us a copy of Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home for this review.

Novare Science & Math is not a new company but they are new to the homeschooling market. They have a line of science texts and teacher resources. These include (among some other titles):

Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home
Introductory Physics
General Chemistry
Science for Every Teacher

This company is working to bring high quality texts to students in order to help them understand their world. Hand in hand with this understanding, there is a goal to help the students recognize and understand God’s role in the design and creation of the world we live in.

Novare Science & Math 

Their mission is found in three key words: mastery, integration, and kingdom. (Read more about this on the Novare website.)

MASTERY:

The textbook is designed to help the student completely understand the concepts and master them. Each chapter begins with stated learning expectations that are measurable. The chapter is then broken into sections that are numbered. (If your students get help from outlining, this is an awesome feature.) Each section has a few learning check questions that revisit the main points. By answering these in writing with full sentences, the students really absorb the information.

If the accompanying CD is purchased, there are additional materials that really help in the mastery phase. There is a planning schedule to help keep on track and moving forward, as it can be easy to get bogged down. There are weekly quizzes, reviews, and tests. These come with answer keys and are printable so that you can print them as needed. There are also maps for the topography sections, additional links and resource lists, and more. There is a lot on the CD.

INTEGRATION:

This refers to including in the text and accompanying activities, questions, and labs materials that bring other disciplines into the discussion.  One the example would be the inclusion of history by writing about notable inventions or people of influence within the text rather than delegating that information to a separate page or a sidebar. Another would be requiring the student to write complete sentence answers and to verbally express answers in a large or small group setting to incorporate language arts. Math is even included in the science text by having computations for students to do when it is textually appropriate.

Due to the mission of Novare Science & Math, you will find theology throughout the text of  Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home  .

KINGDOM:

The texts present and confirm God’s mastery design for the earth and its inhabitants. This is found throughout all of their texts. While the focus is intended to be on God, the mainstream science laws, theories, and ideas are addressed and included. Novare wants students to be prepared to face the world as it is and to have in hand the information necessary to be a well-spoken advocate for God’s place in nature. With an intentional purpose, the science texts are intended to have the students working towards understanding, conservation, and sustainability.

The Text: Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home

As the title of this text suggests, it covers earth science. Looking at the student introduction gives us a pretty good idea of where it is going: Psalm 24 is quoted. Introducing the students to God’s World is perhaps the main goal of the text. Understanding of the balances in nature, how they work, and how to be good stewards of the earth and its processes are all underlying purposes of having a Novare Earth Science textstudent use this text. The topics include:

  • Earth in Space
  • Maps/topography
  • Science topics (facts, theories, hypotheses, research, Christianity and science, stewardship, and more)
  • Matter and Minerals
  • Rocks and the Rock Cycle
  • Plate Tectonics
  • Volcanoes and Earthquakes
  • Weathering, Erosion, Soils
  • Water
  • Landforms
  • Earth History
  • Oceanography
  • Atmosphere
  • Weather
  • Climate

HOW WE USED IT

Honestly, we struggled. When the text for Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home  first arrived, I was thrilled. It is a lovely, well-constructed book full of beautiful, engaging images. It has a study, hard-back cover that is comfortable to hold. But it is intimidating. The print size is fairly small and there is a lot of it on each page.

After taking a couple of days to kind of absorb the text and how it was set up, I got the CD information (I received it via download). I began going through that download systematically and attempting to put it all into order in my brain about how it was to be used and applied to the text. I finally found a PDF titled Recommendations for Teaching Earth Science and, while it was a long document, it had a lot of helpful tips.

chapter objectives and vocabulary_schedule

Using the tips from that document and the document with the suggested schedule, we got started. The plan, since we were basically in summer school mode, was for Miss E, age 13, to read one section a day and write the answers for the learning check questions. This was about 2-3 pages of reading and 3 questions. After a few days, we realized that this was not going to work. She was struggling with the questions.

We revised our plan. We attempted the same reading schedule with her working through the questions orally with me. That worked better, as I was able to point out within the text what she needed for answering the questions. After answering orally, she wrote the answers in her notebook. This worked for a bit but as we neared the end of the first chapter, I found that she was not retaining the information; she could not remember the details of what she had read. So, we revised again.

This time, she would read one day and work on vocabulary words. The next day, she would read the same text again and work on the questions with me. After trying this for a while, something was still not clicking with her.

My thoughts on that? This text is designed for middle-school students. So, with Miss E heading into 8th grade, it seems as though it ought to fit. While having the objectives and full vocabulary list at the beginning of the chapters is helpful from a teaching perspective, I can see it being frightening from a student perspective. (I have to know ALL of THAT?!?) I am certain that some of it also has to do with the jump in font size and text density per page from her previous science text to this one. This one is also written at a much higher, more academic reading level that takes more effort to understand.learning checks example

OVERALL

I think Novare Science & Math is a great addition to the homeschool market and I am excited to see more of their products. I do believe that this is a text we will use but I don’t know if it will be this coming year. We may need to add an in-between text that doesn’t create such a gap between the way her previous text was written and this one. But, I do like this one a lot and hope we can revisit it before too long.

I think any science loving student will be able to jump into this text easily, perhaps even as early as sixth grade, and absorb the information. Some of the material may be a bit too advanced but it really does depend on the student. Novare Science & Math is a company that I will be keeping in mind as we move forward in our homeschooling journey.

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Be certain to read more about Novare Science & Math and their other products that have been reviewed by the Homeschool Review Crew by clicking the banner below.

Biblical Based Science {Novare Science & Math Reviews} 

Crew Disclaimer

UnLock Math ~ a Crew review

UnLock pre-algebra

I admit – I had super high hopes for this review of UnLock Pre-Algebra, an online math program from UnLock Math. Perhaps my hopes were too high (this was not, after all, the magical class I had dreamed of) but regardless, this is a fantastic program that has shown my daughter that she CAN understand math and that she can actually do well at math.

UnLock Math pre-algebraUnLock Math was dreamed up and created by Alesia Blackwood, a high school math teacher, and her husband Matthew. They were both home educated and so knew the curriculum choices that existed and what a solid curriculum would need. They envisioned a program that did everything the parent needed, including fantastic customer service.

UnLock Math is online math education featuring small segments of material and reviews of already learned material. Focused engagement is found by the student only viewing a single question at a time and all of the questions have a fully-worked out solution for the student to view. Combine this with video presentation that utilizes technology (the smart-board interaction is engaging!) and an interesting and excited presenter, you find yourself with a math curriculum that is different than other things on the market.

We have been using UnLock Pre-Algebra with our rising 8th grader. She is not a student UnLock Math video imagethat has just jumped for joy at math classes. She has struggled since she was in public schools and they pressured her with tests and timed requirements. She has not recovered her confidence yet. However, and this is HUGE, we have seen a bit of a change since starting this program. She still does not love math but she also does not balk at every single mention of it. In fact, we have seen her whoop and holler when she gets things right and challenge herself to repeat a question set for a better score. Voluntarily repeating questions? That’s big! Any excitement about math? That’s big! Excitement about doing well in math? That is GIGANTIC!

So, what does is the program like? What do we see? How do you navigate it? Easy!

DASHBOARD

The student goes to the student login page and logs in. This is what the student sees:

student dashboard

Looking at the left side, the student can see what they have completed by the lock next to the Unit. In this image, Miss E had completed two units. She is ready to move on to unit 3. You can also see the dial which indicates your current overall score (this changes after the first unit; until then it seemed to stay at the same place and not be accurate). At the bottom (out of the range of this screenshot) is a pie chart that shows the completion of the unit – how much is done and how much still needs to be done in each area (warm up, practice problems, stay sharp, and quizzes).

Two other places can be accessed on this page that are helpful. One is the gradebook and the other is a progress report. I’ll cover those in a bit.

To launch the next unit, the student clicks on the rocket ship on the right side of the unit title. This takes you to a page where you see the lessons, quizzes, and tests. It looks like this:

daily lesson selection

Again, you can tell what is completed because it is unlocked. If it is still locked, that is the next lesson that needs to be completed. This page was so well set up that it was easy for Miss E to see what lessons she needed to complete before she could take a quiz (or the test at the end). Lessons and reviews are on the left; quizzes and tests are on the right. We also really liked that each quiz tells you which lessons are being covered in the quiz.

The gradebook is a line-item gradebook, showing a grade for each item completed. In preparing for the course, UnLock Math tells you how much each item is weighted in the grade calculations. This is an example of what the gradebook looks like:

grade book

You can show more lines by searching at the bottom left. That was an important feature that I wish were more prominently placed and a bit easier to use. I have to guess at how many lines I need it to show in order to look at how she did on any given assignment.

The progress report is another piece that might be useful, especially if you have to show periodic progress. It is easy to use. Once you are on the screen, you have an overall view of the program. If you want a report on the progress of just one unit, click that unit at the bottom of the page and it will update the scores shown. You can then print what is needed.progress report

LESSONS

Now for the specifics of how the lessons work. After the student launches the current lesson, here is what they see:

Lesson example

There are five parts to the lesson plus reference notes:

  • warm up
  • video
  • practice problems
  • stay sharp
  • challenge yourself
  • reference notes

Each lesson runs approximately 30 minutes, depending on the speed at which the student completes the questions.

Warm up: This is designed to help the student “turn on” their math brain. These have generally been easy to answer questions that just help get started.

Video: This video is Mrs. Blackwood presenting and teaching the concept for the lesson. She talks about it, gives examples, and uses a smart-board to help her illustrate the concept. These have been, generally, less than 10 minutes.

Practice Problems: This is a set of problems using the concept presented in the video. There are not a lot of these. I think they have run between 10 and 20 of them. These can be done more than once if the student struggles. The highest score will be kept. Each time, a new set of questions is generated; there is no repetition of questions and solutions.

Stay Sharp: These are review questions over things previously covered so that concepts will not be forgotten. There are perhaps 5 to 10 of these. Again, these can be repeated.

Challenge Yourself: This is a critical thinking exercise in which the solution requires the student to really think and analyze the material presented. If this is missed, it is not counted against the student. This is one of Miss E’s favorite parts!

Reference Notes: This is printed materials for those who process things better if they can also see it written down. We have not utilized this yet but it is a wonderful addition that I can see being really helpful.

The input of solutions on this program is decent. Math solutions can be difficult to enter via a keyboard. It is not intuitive but it is not terribly difficult in Pre-Algebra so far. The student will need to get used to it, based on how each student thinks through a problem. Miss E tends to enter solutions from the right to the left so she will enter a digit for the ones column and then hit the left arrow key to go to the tens column. She figured it out easily but she does have to pay attention to how solutions are entered.

SUMMING IT UP

I know this is a pretty long review. This is one I wanted to be thorough on. I am hesitant about online math programs. We have seen a number of them and while they look pretty good, they do not turn out to be what we needed. I am pleased with the setup of UnLock Math and think that it is a worthwhile program to spend some time looking into for your family. If you would like to see a demo video of a lesson, please visit the UnLock Math site.

While one of my biggest complaints about online instruction is not fixed in this program (that being that the instruction is on video and thus the instructor cannot address the individual student and what is being misunderstood in the presentation; honestly, I don’t know how you would fix it online), UnLock Math seems to have explanations and video that do a very good job of explanation. Thus, there is not quite so much still out there that I have to figure out how to explain. I am pleased with that.

UPDATE: It was brought to my attention that there is actually a chat option on the site that the student my access during the session. This chat is monitored by licensed teachers Monday-Friday from 9-4 EST. I had totally missed that option. This is a wonderful thing to know about and basically eliminates the concern I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Teachers on-call? Now this program really does seem like the ideal. I hope it continues to be what Miss E needs!

UnLock Pre-Algebra  I think is going to stick. As we approach some of the concepts that are more difficult, we will see but it looks so much more promising than other programs. And anytime that I can get Miss E working on math and finding success, well, that is a quality program in my eyes.

At Home.

Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read more reviews. We were reviewing

UnLock Pre-Algebra 

UnLock Algebra1

UnLock Algebra2

UnLock Geometry
(this is the newest addition to UnLock Math!)

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Pre-Algebra, Algebra and Geometry {UnLock Math Reviews}

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How To Homeschool ~ a Crew review

How to Homeschool is for everyone

No, I am not brand-new to homeschooling but after watching the introduction to How to HOMESCHOOL with Stunning Confidence, Contagious Joy, and Amazing Focus (DVD & Coursebook) I was very interested in reviewing the program. You see, we all struggle with confidence and the daily parts of home education and this program from Apologia Educational Ministries has really helped me with that.

How To Homeschool

Apologia sent me the How to Homeschool course and it is, like all of their materials, beautiful. The course consists of two DVDs and coursebook. The DVDs come in a plastic case that fully protects them for the journey to your doorstep. The course book is a softback, center stapled book of 72 information-packed pages. These two parts of the course work so easily together.

The course covers topics in the areas of

  • “Designing Your Road Map” (setting goals, support, curriculum)
  • “Finding Your Way” (how-tos, organizing stuff, organizing days)
  • “Navigating The Detours” (family, opposition)
  • “Arriving At Your Destination” (graduation, college, and more)
  • “Beginning Your Journey” (continuing education, opportunities)

There are 15 chapters, each with a corresponding video and text in the course book.

notes pageThe course is designed to encourage a first time homeschooling family to step forward in faith and courage. Rachael Carman and Leslie Nunnery invite you into the living room to sit and chat about what comes next. These conversations are comfortable and easy and they show us that there are many ways to approach the homeschool journey but that all of the journeys share one thing: love of family. That is where they all begin and in these conversations, Mrs. Carman and Mrs. Nunnery encourage you to take the baby steps necessary to equip yourself with confidence and knowledge to educate your loved ones.

I have been so encouraged in my homeschool journey by watching these videos and working through the book. While these are aimed at brand-new homeschooling families, I want to share that there is a lot of information in here to be gleaned by any homeschool family. We are about to begin our 5th year of homeschooling and I have been so uplifted in my dedication and desire to continue on with the girls. I have been reminded that not everything works the way we desire or imagine and that is okay. I have been given so many tidbits and nuggets of wisdom just by listening to the conversation of these two ladies.

So, how did I use this course? Simple, really.watching How To Homeschool

I read the chapter in the text. That was generally about 3 pages. I underlined tidbits that I wanted to remember or that caught my attention as I read. Those pages are followed by a space to complete the assignment for that chapter and then by a page for your notes. After reading, I would put on the DVD and watch and listen to the conversation of the ladies about the topic. While listening, I would take notes: things I needed to do different; statements that encouraged me; ideas to think on; reminders of things I have known. I found this to be a relaxing way to spend a few minutes at the end of my days and I would go to bed encouraged.

Each chapter takes only about 20 minutes to read the text and watch the DVD. The assignment time varies depending on how much of the assignment you might have already done and how much thought and prayer needs to go into it. These included writing down why you chose to educate your children at home, looking at options following high school completion, taking inventory of time commitments, visiting with veteran homeschoolers, or evaluating your strengths and weaknesses. All these are bit and pieces of assignments that will help you become who God is leading you to be in your homeschool journey.

As one who has homeschooled for a short while already, some of these assignments were already done and just needed revisited and touched up. For a brand new homeschooler, some of these will take a lot of thought. That is okay – there is not rush to complete this course in a set amount of time. Work through it. Process it. Absorb the wisdom that is shared. Take your time and get everything out of it you need so that as you walk this journey, you know that you are prepared.

My notes page

An additional resource is found on the Apologia website. When you purchase the course, you are given access to extras that are found only online. You will receive a web address and password code in the book that will give you access to these extras. From resource links to printable pages to lists and Pinterest boards, there are so many additional helps that I have yet to make it through them all. This is a definite bonus!

quote from How to Homeschool

If you would like to see a sample of the first conversation in this DVD series, visit the Apologia website for How to HOMESCHOOL with Stunning Confidence, Contagious Joy, and Amazing Focus (DVD & Coursebook)There is a video on their webpage or you can watch it here.

I cannot recommend this course highly enough. I found this to be such a pleasant way to renew my courage for home education, to find more joy, to brave the daily challenges. I found encouragement and really am moving forward with “stunning confidence, contagious joy, and amazing focus.” Well, at least I hope I am. I feel more confident, courageous, joyful and focused. And that? Well, that’s the whole reason to challenge myself in this way, isn’t it?

At Home.

Read about what other families thought about How to Homeschool as well as Internship for High School Credit by clicking the banner below.

Homeschool with Confidence & Internship for High School {Apologia Educational Ministries Reviews}

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