Tag Archives: reviews

Lightning Literature & Composition Grade 4 ~ a Crew review

Hewitt Homeschooling Lightning Lit 4

While my youngest girl loves stories and being read to, she doesn’t always have the drive to read for herself in a constructive and discerning manner yet. Hewitt Homeschooling Resources has a series of literature and composition curriculum that I have long been interested in. We were actually a part of their grade 3 beta program a few years ago and used it for several books. I liked the way it flowed and so when we were given the opportunity to work with the Grade 4 Lightning Lit Set, I was glad to do so. It came with the Teacher’s Guide and the Student Workbook, both soft cover books.

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While Miss J is often considered 5th grade for this coming school year, I took a good look at the samples for the level on the Hewitt Homeschooling website. It showed me enough to know that since Miss J is a strong reader but is not always able to answer comprehension questions about the reading easily, this might be a really good fit for her. The books are pretty challenging, in my opinion, for a 4th grader who is not a super strong reader with strong comprehension. Take a look at this list.

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There are a total of 12 books on the list. Not included in this picture from the Student Workbook is Tuck Everlasting and The Borrowers. I also felt that the grammar includes so many skills and covers so many concepts that she has not yet dealt with that this would be a very good challenge for her. With a total of 36 weeks of materials, this is easily a full literature, composition, and grammar curriculum.

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I really like the way the Student Notebook is put together. The pages are perforated and set up by week. I can easily take one week’s worth of work out of the book and staple it together. Miss J then only has to deal with those pages and not the whole 400+ pages of the workbook.

Miss J started at the beginning of the workbook and has worked through several of the weeks. She is currently working on the book The One and Only Ivan. She has completed The Earth Dragon Awakes and Morning Girl. Each week is set up with four days. The fifth day is left as an optional day where additional work could be completed on the composition project or maybe completing an optional workbook page. Each week from the Student Workbook has a cover page that indicated the week and the pages of the book that will be read during that time.

Lightning Lit

The second page of the week has a checklist that shows what will be done during the week. It includes the readings, broken up into four parts. There is also the grammar pages to be completed on each of the four days and what they are, such a common and proper nouns. The composition is also included here and broken up into four parts, as well as any extra activities that can be completed if assigned. I did assign the extra worksheet pages, as I felt they were really helpful and Miss J completed them on day 4 of the week.

 

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The readings did a great job of putting the story into smaller chunks for each day. There were daily comprehension questions to go along with the reading. These always asked the student to think deeper than the surface understanding of the story. For example, in The Earth Dragon Awakes, there were questions regarding the understanding one of the characters has of another. In Morning Girl, the student was asked to recognize the emotions of the character and to use examples from the text to support the answer.

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The grammar portion of the work builds slowly upon the work that comes before it. This level started with nouns on the first day. Then it added the recognition of common nouns and proper nouns. The week ended with abstract nouns. Week two dealt with verbs, including linking verbs and helping verbs. Week three added types of sentences and week four added adjectives.

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a simple start to diagramming sentences

Each week, there was also diagramming sentences, beginning in week 3. This is something I have never done formally and so it was a learning experience for both Miss J and myself. The diagramming is handled very well, adding very small chunks each week. It is not overwhelming and the Teacher’s Guide is really helpful for me here.20190613_135255

Speaking of the Teacher’s Guide, let’s take a look at what it offers. It does include the expected – answers for the workbook pages the student completes each day. But there is quite a bit more to it. It is quite a bit more compact that the Student Workbook as it contains only around 250 pages. It begins with the table of contents listing each of the books for the weeks. The information is also listed by week, after the initial “How to Use This Teacher’s Guide” section.

Don’t skip the “How to Use” section. It includes a lot of information about why the curriculum is organized the way it is and why the choices were made to include things. There is information that will help with understanding the best ways to guide your student and suggestions for modifying where needed.

Each of the week’s lessons have additional information for the teacher that will help you be prepared to address concerns with your student or to guide them in discussions. Each section of the student’s workbook pages have a section in the Teacher’s Guide, giving answers or suggestions.

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I do wish that the Teacher’s Guide has a listing of all of the aspects of grammar and composition that are specifically addressed. This information would be really helpful if you are coming to this from a different curriculum or need to go to a different one for next year. (Grade 5 is in progress for Lighting Lit. See their website for the listing of books and outline of what is coming in Grade 5.)

The grammar and composition pretty well go hand-in-hand throughout the study. What is being worked on in grammar is often part of what they are being assigned to include in the composition. The concepts covered include:

  • nouns
  • verbs – from basic verbs to linking and helping verbs to the different tenses of verbs
  • adjectives
  • pronouns
  • conjunctions
  • articles
  • homophones
  • poetry – terms, types, rhyme, stress
  • punctuation – commas, quotations marks, ellipses, etc.
  • capitalization – sentences, in poetry, in letters, names and titles, etc.
  • figures of speech – onomatopoeia, simile, metaphor, personification
  • writing techniques – alliteration, assonance

Through the lessons, the grammar portion circles back to review concepts and ideas that had been previously taught and to take the student a little bit deeper. This is done through intentional reviews or by including the more complex form of the concept, such as specific types of clauses or different tenses of the verbs.

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Yes – this is my handwriting instead of Miss J’s. It was a hard day but she walked me through what to do and I did the writing for her. She learned the diagramming information, regardless of who did the writing.

And almost always, this is tied into the skill of diagramming a sentence. Teach the idea; practice the idea; diagram a sentence with that included. This is the process and I feel like it is a strong model for continued growth and learning.

We chose this for Miss J and I feel like the material covered, and the way in which it is covered, will more than challenge her this coming year as we continue on with this program. Hewitt Homeschooling Resources seems to have an advanced program so definitely take a look at the samples when you are getting ready to order materials.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Click on the banner below to read the reviews of others who were reviewing materials from Hewitt Homeschooling Resources. These materials included:

Grade 1 Lightning Lit Set
Grade 2 Lightning Lit Set
Grade 3 Lightning Lit Set
Grade 4 Lightning Lit Set 
My First Report: Solar System, Grades 1-4
Chronicles of __ State History Notebook, Grades 3-8
Joy of Discovery w Learning Objectives Adult/Teacher
Gr 7 Lightning Lit Set  
Gr 8 Lightning Lit Set 
American Early-Mid 19th Century Gr 9-10
American Mid-Late 19th Century Gr 9-12
Speech  Gr 9-12.
British Early-Mid 19th Century Gr 10-12
British Mid-Late 19th Century Gr 10-12
British Medieval Gr 10-12
Shakespeare Comedies Gr 11-12
Shakespeare Tragedies Gr 11-12
British Christian Gr 11-12
American Christian Gr 11-12  

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The Wars of the Jews (Memoria Press) ~ a Crew review

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Memoria Press is a classical education company that publishes high quality materials. We recently received The Wars of the Jews set to review and it was the perfect finish to Miss E’s 9th grade literature for the year. This is a ten lesson course that takes a look at the historical fulfillment of the prophesies regarding the fall of Jerusalem, which happened in AD 70 at the hands of the Roman empire.

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The Wars of the Jews is recommended for grades 9 and up, which seems to be a solid recommendation. The set includes three books:

There are samples on the website for each of these books.

The text The Wars of the Jews: The Fall of Jerusalem is an English translation (by William Whiston) of the writing of historian Josephus. Josephus was a Jew who was captured and became a Roman advisor and citizen. He is considered to be a leading historian of the times and was present with the Roman army at the siege and fall of Jerusalem.

The 141 page long soft cover text is Book V, chapters 6-13 and Book VI, chapters 1-10 of Josephus’ writings. There are also endnotes in the text. This is an historical text and as such, it presents some challenges. The language or phrasing can sound different to our ear and that means that it is sometimes beneficial to read a passage out loud to help understand it. Also, there are many people presented that had a role in this event and it takes some effort to keep them straight.

It is a classical text and so is not a fast read. The time spent in reading the text helps the reader to really understand why Jerusalem was an important city and why it was one the Romans felt it necessary to overtake. The Jews were fighting a lot amongst themselves and the Romans really benefited from this disunity. The text begins by introducing us to the Jews in the city. It then carries us through the Roman siege, the change in leadership of the Roman army, and the final destruction of the city.

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The text has included helpful maps of Jerusalem so that students can understand the movements of the Romans and the Jews and how the strategy of attack worked. There are photos of historical sites, such as the wall of Jerusalem and the site of Antonia. There are drawings of what the temple looked like and Roman siege weapons such as the catapult. There is also pictures of statues such as the one of Titus and another of a curved trumpet. These all help the student to understand the historical context and importance of this event.

Wars catapult

The endnotes are related to people and places in the text that benefit from further explanation. They are correlated to the text through numbers and are easy to find. They are helpful and interesting.

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The start of the endnotes section in The Wars of the Jews.

The Student Guide for The Wars of the Jews is also a softcover book that is about 8 1/2 x 11 inches. It includes 26 pages of work for the student. It has a Table of Contents, the lessons, and a review. Each lesson covers two pages. The lesson includes Facts to Know, which are important people, places, words, and quotes. It then has several comprehension questions with blanks for the student to write in.  Some of the lessons include vocabulary words. The final review is three pages long and reviews all ten lessons in preparation for a test.

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The Teacher Guide is the same size as the Student Guide and is almost an exact replication of it. The difference is that the Teacher Guide includes the answers to each of the comprehension questions and part of the review. It also includes a reproducible test and test answer key.

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Our Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this text and appreciated that it was a short study to fit nicely at the end of the school year. Miss E was able to complete the study in about three weeks, working on one lesson per school day.

We had listened to an audio drama earlier this year about the fall of Jerusalem so it was good to be able to follow that up with the historical account of the events. That kind of connection is beneficial.Wars of the Jews Teacher Guide

One thing I would love to see included in the Teacher Guide is a page number reference for where the answer is within the text for the comprehension questions. I read through the text and I struggled to help Miss E with some of the questions that she had because I couldn’t find the passage. I could read her the answer from the Teacher Guide but it always makes a lot of sense to be able to go back to the text and read the passage, putting the answer in context.

Miss E’s Thoughts:
The Wars of the Jews was really interesting. I did find some of it hard to understand because of the language. I have read, and really enjoyed, a fiction book that was set right after the fall of Jerusalem. Some of the characters in The Wars of the Jews were mentioned in the book I read. This gave me a little bit more of an insight into everything that had happened before the start of that book. I think that this was a really good “school thing” but I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone for just reading, though I have a friend who would probably enjoy reading it for pleasure. It would be a good fit for probably as young as some 7th graders (my sister could have used this set) and be too easy for some high schoolers.

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We have had the pleasure of reviewing many things from Memoria Press. These include:

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Be sure to visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read the reviews from other families who reviewed The Wars of the Jews, as well as

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Hey, Mama! Planner ~ a Crew review

I am a pen and paper kind of gal. That makes a printed planner a necessity for me. And my very favorite one is published by The Old Schoolhouse®. I have been using it for quite a few years now, except for one year when I couldn’t get it. But the Hey, Mama! Homeschool Planner for 2019/20 Year is just what I needed.

Hey Mama! Planner

The author of this planner, Gena Suarez, has been down this homeschooling road and knows about the hopes and desires and worries and concerns that inundate the life of a homeschooling mama. She wrote this planner with all of that in mind. It seems like that part of the planner – the part that offers encouragement to stay strong and remember why you tackled this homeschooling journey in the first place – actually came before the planning part of the planner. That is what I like most about this planner and why I come back to it year after year. I find great encouragement here.

notes page

You specifically see these encouragement posts each month. Every one starts out with Hey, Mama! Gena is talking to me. And to you. And to whoever is using this beautiful planner. We all have down days and days of struggle. These Hey, Mama! letters are found in the calendar part of the planner (I know getting a bit ahead of myself but I’ll get there). One letter for each month. And I go back to them more than once in the year. Because they are so encouraging!

Planner coverA quick note about the quality of this planner – it is fabulous. The cover is beautiful and this combination of my favorite color with flowers just makes me smile. And who doesn’t like something that makes them smile. 🙂 The planner is spiral bound with laminated paper covers. Okay – laminated is probably not the right word but they are thick paper with a nice glossy finish that will allow it to withstand a lot of use, which it will get. The pages inside are a thick and of a high-quality. The slightly rough finish is smooth to write on. All of this adds up to a lovely planner that is a joy to use.

Now, on to the other pages of the planner. As I mentioned, there are calendar pages of several sorts. There is a year-long view set up month by month so you can see all of 2019 by itself, all of 2020, by itself and all of 2021 by itself. The whole year. There is a monthly view, where you get the month in a two-page spread so you can make plans for the month and see it all at once. Then you have the weekly view in undated pages. So you can make those work for you in whatever way is best, week by week.

You get some transcript information, because at some point, every child will need some kind of a record of what has been covered. There is one page on “Creating an Academic Transcript” followed by an academic transcript if you want a pre-made form. There are checklists for skills learned and a page to track other courses. These are all found up front.

After your weekly view planning pages, you have planning pages for up to five children. There is a page for notes, a page for curriculum planning, an attendance chart, a book list page, a page for yearly goals, and pages for semester goals. That allows you to really think through and plan for your children’s education each year. But, it is also really flexible and you don’t have to use any of these forms that don’t work for you.

For me, I have already color coded our schedule for next school year, starting in July.

calendar for the year

I have also started keeping track of the learning and reviews that will happen during July. I use the notes page that comes with each month to write down what videos we watch, what field trips (or camps/mission trips) we take, what books we use as a read aloud, and what reviews are being worked on by which girl. You can see that in the image up above with the example of the encouragement letter.

The monthly view is another way I track the big picture. I tend to write on it our places we go and activities done. As you can see, I color code everything I write down for the girls. I use blue, pink, and purple to make notes on their course work, attendance, book list, activities, etc. I use red and/or green for anything we do as a family. This helps me see at a glance what has been done or what is planned.

July planning

I also plan to use the curriculum planning pages. I like to track which program each girl is using, especially for any high school level courses. So, for two of the girls, I will have some high school level courses to track.

curriculum planning

I also keep track of attendance. I am not required by the state to track that but it is a good measure of the amount of work done and time spent. And if I ever need it, I don’t have to try to figure it out. It is right there.

The Old Schoolhouse® has done such an amazing job with the Hey, Mama! Homeschool Planner for 2019/20 Year that they are about 98% sold out. There are not plans to print more for this year so you might want to grab yours quickly if you are interested.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

There were several families who were able to get a copy of the Hey, Mama! Homeschool Planner for 2019/20 Year for this review. Head over to the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read more reviews.

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Hands-on Science with Supercharged Science ~ a Crew review

Supercharged Science

If your students are anything like my girls, science that can be either really exciting or teeth-pulling stressful. We have been having some really excellent science days lately with Supercharged Science. The online science curriculum we have been working with has options for K-12 (and beyond). I am so glad we are going to have access to the  e-Science Homeschool Science Curriculum for a good bit longer because we are having some good fun with it. Oh, and learning science, too!

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Aurora Lipper is the founder and educator for the online classes. With the tremendous science background Mrs. Lipper has, your students get to say that they are taking science from a rocket scientist. And they are! Mrs. Lipper knows her materials very well and does a great job presenting them in a way that keeps the student’s attention while filling their heads with the knowledge they need for the topic.

The online science space for Supercharged Science can be navigated by grade level or by topic. You can choose either one and you can easily jump back and forth between the two navigation options. You have a single login for your family and so from there, they each will go to where their current work is located.

If you are navigating by grade level, you will see an image for each grade level, K-8. High school level material is found in the topics. Under each grade level is the list of the concepts taught in that level. Some of the concepts are found in multiple levels as the material increases in depth and some of the hands-on activities/experiments are repeated in different levels since the material is appropriate in multiple places. The placement of materials is based upon Mrs. Lipper’s experience as an educator and the national science standards.

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If you are navigating by topic, you click that at the top of the screen and it will take you to a list of all possible topics. There are total of 26 units. If you are new to science, or formal science, there is an overview of science and an introduction to the scientific method. There is also a unit on science fair projects, one on math activities, and one on teaching resources. Add in all the units on electricity, chemistry, physics, and other expected science topics and that’s a ton of materials!

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The units, whether accessed by level or topic, contain basically the same materials:

  • written introduction
  • video introduction
  • shopping list for hands-on activities/experiments
  • reading downloads
  • experiments with a video for each one
  • downloadable student worksheet and exercises for each experiment (often one for younger students and one for older students)
  • exercises for each part of the unit to check understanding

reading and exercises

How We Have Been Using Supercharged Science

When we received access to the program, I logged in and became familiar with how to navigate the program. (We reviewed this program previously and the navigation is the same at this point. However, see my note at the end of the review on the soon-to-be-released new site with better navigation.)

Screenshot 2019-05-27 at 5.52.42 PMThen Miss J and I sat down together and I let her just explore the options. We looked at grade level and then at topics. I let her watch some of the videos and look at the possible experiments. After looking at the grade five level, she decided that she wanted to do some things with gravity and magnetism. So, she started working on Unit 1: Mechanics through the topics menu. I bookmarked the main page of this for her, with her name next to Supercharged Science, so that she could easily find where she was.

Miss L sat down on her own and explored the options. She chose to work with Unit 10: Electricity. She really wants to tackle Unit 14: Electronics but realized that it would be good to have the background of electricity first. So, she has been working through that unit first. She also has the unit bookmarked with her name on it so that she doesn’t have to click through many pages to get to where she is in the unit. We have updated the pages a couple of times as she works through the unit so there is less clicking needed. (It looks like the number of clicks that will be needed is going to be a bit less on the new site.)

Miss E has been watching the videos on the high school level Unit 15: Chemistry 2. She did a chemistry class this year and so seeing some of that chemistry put into use has been a great extension of her course. She watches probably two experiments per day. Since this is “bonus” work for the chemistry class she took, she is not doing the worksheets.

Mechanics: 

This unit covers force, gravity and friction. There are 9 experiments to go with force. There are two teleclasses and three experiments to go with gravity. There are seven experiements to go with friction. We work on science 4 days per week and we generally do one video and experiment per day. We are in the friction section now and it has been a blast getting here.

Miss J enjoys hands-on and so this is obviously just right for her. She likes to see things done for her (the video to go along with each experiment is perfect for this) and then she likes to do them. She has found most of the experiments are able to be replicated, though not as easily as the video makes them look. (But isn’t that a great lesson – try, try again?)

hovercraft

Some of her favorite lessons have been the barrel roof, the paper airplanes, and the simple hovercraft. She has also done several experiments with balls (dropping them, throwing them, comparing them).

 

While those demonstrated concepts well, the real fun comes when you make something. We made a simple compass, made a paper clip fly, and registered the minute movements of the earth’s electromagnetic field with a machine we made.

 

She even used static electricity to move objects.

Each of these lessons varies widely in the amount of time required. If you are viewing a teleclass, the video can be close to 50 minutes. If you are doing a simple experiment, like the one we did about force using a rope, it can be just a couple of minutes for the video and five more for the experiment. Some days, you can easily get in more than one experiment and that is why the shopping list is great. You can use it to gather all the materials you need for the unit before even starting the unit. That saves time in the long run because no one likes to spend time gathering materials for the experiment when the student is ready RIGHT NOW for the experiment.

Electricity:

Miss L has been able to do most of this unit on her own, though some of the experiments she has skipped because I couldn’t find the right materials (that I KNOW we have some where). *See note above about the shopping list and gathering materials prior to the unit.* She works very independently so I am not exactly sure just how far she has gotten in the unit. She does one video and experiment each day. electricity experiment 1

This unit has two lessons: circuits and components, and robotics. In the circuits and components sections, there are 13 experiments. In the robotics section, there are 15 experiments. Miss L has made some interesting looking contraptions with her experiments, some of which have worked well and some which have not. For one that did not work we were able to determine that it was probably due to the humidity levels (over 90% that day) so she plans to try it again soon. It is a good lesson for the student to have to figure out why something isn’t working like Mrs. Lipper says it should. Lots of lessons are learned that way.

Chemistry:

chemistry video

This unit includes 2 lessons. The first has one teleclass and nine videos. The second has one teleclass and 38 (yes! 38!) experiment videos. Many of the videos in this unit are for things we cannot do at the house so it is amazing to have good videos of the chemical reactions and excellent explanations of the results that are being seen.

Miss E spends about 20 – 30 minutes on this each day. Because we are using this as an extension of her previous chemistry class, I am not requiring the worksheets or exercises from her.

Overall Thoughts

This is an exciting online science program with solid explanations and clear examples. With all of the visual examples of the concepts being show in the experiments and then being able to do most of the experiments, this truly is a science program that teaches and shows the concepts. The students are truly able to see and understand better because of this.

When we reviewed this previously, it was just as good of a program but it didn’t fit us as well. The girls were younger and so it took a lot more preparation on my part (gathering materials and deciding what videos to watch, etc). I had to do all of the navigating and they didn’t always want to work on the same materials. With them older and more independent, this is a much better fit. I don’t know that this program will peter out of use as it did before since the girls are each working on something that is of interest to them. They all seem to be getting much more out of it this time around.

Note on New Site

There will be a new Supercharged Science site introduced soon. The content is all going to remain the same. There will still be all the same parts of each unit and the worksheets and videos will all still be available as they are on the current site. The new site will have easier navigation and is easier on the eyes. There is less of the stark white and more soothing blue, which makes it a pleasant experience. The girls and I have been given a sneak-peek at the new site and I really do like the way it is going to be set up. It will make navigation easier. We will still bookmark each girls’ part of the site in a different bookmark so they can get to their own unit easily but overall, it is much easier to go from place to place and to get to the worksheets or videos or whatever you need within the unit. Be looking for this new site to roll out soon.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

A number of families from the Homeschool Review Crew were given the opportunity to try out Supercharged Science.

Head over to the Crew blog to read about their experiences.

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Elizabeth Prentiss: More Love ~ a Crew review

Elizabeth Prentiss review

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

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

Christian-Focus-Publications-Logo

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

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth Prentiss review quote

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

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

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

Pattern Explorer review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pattern explorer pattern predictor

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

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

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

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

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Pathway to Liberty ~ a Crew review

Pathway To Liberty Review

History can be such an interesting study when approached with enthusiasm but by the same token can be a boring subject when approached from a flat, disinterested viewpoint. Pathway to Liberty Homeschool Curriculum takes more of the first approach and we are enjoying it more each week. We received levels 2, 3, and 4 of Pathway to Liberty’s World History from Pathway to Liberty’s History Curriculum. I asked for this level as it moved us forward in our study of history; we had been recently talking about the American Civil War.

Pathway to Liberty was founded by homeschool mom Jayme MacCullough. She found, while teaching her own students, that the curriculum choices she had did not meet her personal standards and desires. These included biases and what she described as incomplete or revised histories. To combat this, she began studying the principles on which America was founded and true liberty. Out of this study came this curriculum.

 

Pathway to Liberty consists of four years, which cover from creation through the 21st century. The four years, in order, are:

Year 1 – Pathway to Liberty’s Universal History,
Year 2 – Pathway to Liberty’s The Middle Ages,
Year 3 – Pathway to Liberty’s US History,
Year 4 – Pathway to Liberty’s World History

Pathway to Liberty

There are four levels for each of these years. These grade levels are approximate. My 9th grader used level 4 and we found it be not any more difficult than the level 3 materials, though it did use different source materials. The recommended grades per level are:

Level 1 – Kindergarten through 3rd grade
Level 2 – 4th grade through 6th grade
Level 3 – 7th grade through 9th grade
Level 4 – 10th grade through 12th grade

We received World History. This has been an overall good study so far and we are looking forward to continuing with it. I expected a more world-wide centered view from the curriculum. It is very US centered, though it does look around the world some in light of the fact that there are so many wars to cover. We have covered WWI pretty well at this point, and while we did talk about some of the causes of the war and the parties involved in it, the level 2 and 3 books really focused on the US presidents during that time rather than a wider world-view of the war. This is not bad, in any way, just not quite what I was expecting.

Pathway level 2 and 3

We have enjoyed reading the source materials for Pathway to Liberty. For levels 2 and 3, we are using books from the Joy Hakim’s series A History of US. Level 4 is using The Century by Peter Jennings and Todd Brewster. These are well-written materials that are age appropriate, though I wouldn’t mind seeing the level 3 source a bit more challenging as much of the level 2 and level 3 materials are exactly the same.

Pathway level 4

Pathway to Liberty book and video

There are also plenty of videos to watch that come from various sources on YouTube. There is a Pathway to Liberty channel on YouTube that has most of the videos linked there in a playlist. We did have to do searches for several videos and at least one would no longer play from the playlist but it was easy to find what we needed.

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Each week, the teacher guide and the student workbooks have the weekly overview plan. The material is exactly the same in both places, and in the student workbooks.  It gives the scripture for the week, the principle, and the leading idea. There are four lessons of materials for the week and each level has its own column showing what they are to do for each lesson. There are also some additional assignments for writing, expanded history reading, and vocabulary. We utilized the vocabulary but have not yet assigned additional readings or writings.

Pathway to Liberty workbook being used

Each day’s lesson consisted of two or three activities. Most days included a reading and completing some pages in the student workbook. Many days included a video also. Lesson 2 added the word study for levels 2, 3, and 4 each week, though we are skipping it for level 2. My girls added their vocabulary words, either doing a couple of them a day or choosing to do them all in a single day.

Each student workbook had a daily banner that stated which lesson it was, the topic and which level and week. Then it gave the instructions for that day, followed by the questions to answer. The teacher’s guide includes all four levels and the suggested answers for the student workbooks.

The time the daily materials took varied greatly. Some days it was just 30 minutes or so. Others, the videos were an hour or more long by themselves. When you added in the rest, the student could easily spend two hours on just history. This wasn’t a problem as the girls seemed to really be enjoying the study and we had some fabulous discussion. It just isn’t a clear cut amount of time to be spent and day to day can vary greatly.

Pathway girls working

I am now going to let the girls say a little (Or a lot!) about their thoughts on the program. Note please: some of the issues they mention were bothersome early on but we figured out how to work around them. Specifically, the issues that could have been caught by a different editor, we fixed by just handing the girls a highlighter and telling them to highlight any time they found something. This added in a language arts element to our history study! 🙂 I will come back at the end and add a couple more thoughts of my own.

Julia, age 10, using level 2 – 

I liked the reading on the Wright brothers but I did not like the other ones as much. I learned a little in each reading that I didn’t know before. The videos were interesting but many of them were long. Overall, I didn’t like it too much. Spelling mistakes, scriptures marked wrong, and things like the lesson headings being in the wrong place made it hard to tell where the next lesson was or when one ended or what I was supposed to be doing.

Louisa, age 12/almost 13, using level 3 –

I felt like this was a good curriculum, even though I have a balanced opinion on it. There were several inconsistencies within the lesson plans – what they would state in the weekly plan would be different from what was on the day’s work. There were several grammar mistakes and noticeable typographical errors. These were a source of annoyance for me but could potentially cause confusion.

I don’t think anyone in our family found the first required book (Chain of Liberty) helpful or beneficial to the learning. The way the questions were worded made it hard to tell what they were asking for. Many times what they were asking for turned out to be a word-for-word repetition of several sentences or more, which my sister and I found hard to replicate. I feel like this book was not beneficial and could easily have been removed from the curriculum and the curriculum would not have suffered.

I really enjoy the in-depth word studies that are done every week.  Each week we are made to create a paper on a specific word that is relevant or helpful to the lesson or principle we learn about that week. I find these to be helpful and enjoyable at the same time and would not complain if a second word study was added to the curriculum each week. One step in the process of the word study is to record scriptures that are relevant to the word. One thing that makes the word study slightly tricky is when the word you are studying is not included in a Bible’s concordance, but with a little bit of creativity and the use of a synonym, the scriptures are attainable.

Pathway level 3 vocabularyThere is a list of vocabulary word which each study is asked to copy out, define, and review each week. Each week the words are different and the number differs from level to level. Even though the study asks us to do this, there is no designated space for this. Since the rest of the curriculum is clear for this sort of thing, I was disappointed to see that there was not a specific space in which we were supposed to complete this step, and I was confused as to when to do it and where to document them. I enjoyed coming up with definitions for these words.

A bunch of the curriculum had online videos to go along with it. When I watched the videos, they were of a lower quality than I expected (Me being a spoiled 21st century kid!). There were a large quantity of videos, many of them almost an hour long. It was also a bit hard to navigate the website (YouTube) to figure out which videos I was supposed to be watching, since all the levels had videos in the same place. Sometimes it was unclear in the curriculum which video I was supposed to be watching.

I enjoyed the different elements that this curriculum brought to studying history. It had me writing things, which had me working on penmanship. It has a strong Biblical aspect to it. It encourages study of the scriptures. It has online resources and videos, as well as books with quality source material. Overall, I think this is a good curriculum which I enjoyed. I am confident that others would, too.

Elizabeth, age 15, using level 4 –

It was a fantastic program. The videos were interesting and the book “The Century” was interesting. I have learned a lot. I didn’t know much about WWI until I started watching the videos and reading the book. Now I know a whole lot more. I love the word studies. They are fun and I think they are very useful.

I personally did not see a reason to have the week’s scripture, principle, and leading idea. There wasn’t a connection for me to the lessons.

I did not like how the first three videos I had to watch were cut because they were cut in the middle of a word most of the time. There were several spelling mistakes in the workbook, including Corrie Ten Boom’s name. There were also a number of punctuation mistakes. These mistakes bother me, especially when they are on things like Bible verses or important people’s names.

Pathway level 4 written assignment

When I have to write something, there are large spaces between the lines. This makes it hard to write and takes up so much space that there are often not enough lines for the assignment. 

I also did not like the first book that we were assigned to read. It (Chain of Liberty) was biased and opinionated. I personally don’t agree with probably half of the book. I didn’t understand some of what was in there. Both of my younger sisters had to read the book, also.

While I think the word studies are a fantastic thing to do, it didn’t feel like the word studies were well thought out. I have done five of them. Three of these five were not in the Bible and yet I had to find verses for those words. I ended up having to work with synonyms for these words and still I only came up with one verse for one of the words.

Overall, this is a really good program. If you start after the first book that we had to read and edit the workbooks, this would be outstanding. I would enjoy continuing on with this program. The history that I was working on before was really fun but I think this is teaching me a whole lot more. I wasn’t getting very in depth before and now I am learning even little details that I probably would not have learned with the other program I was doing. I think other high schoolers would enjoy the program, as well.

Back to me, now. We have really begun enjoying this curriculum. It took a few weeks to catch our stride with it but have come to like it quite a bit. Is it perfect? No but nothing is. I would highly recommend starting in week 3 and just skipping the first recommended book (Chain of Liberty) and the “links” discussions. We found it to be a highly biased book and we had to have some pretty in-depth, serious discussions with the girls about the reality of the world we live in and the government that is over us.

 

While Pathway to Liberty is intended to make it possible for a family to all study history together, we did not find it to work that way. Students are reading different source materials and watching different videos. They have different vocabulary words and work at different speeds. They are, however, all working on the same ideas and so when one girl asks a question, all of them can pay attention and learn something and contribute to the discussion themselves. For some families, this may work beautifully as a family study.

Overall, I really like this curriculum. The history is solid and uses solid source materials. It has also opened up some fabulous discussions for our family. We definitely can recommend this one.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Be sure to click on the banner below to read what other families thought about Pathway to Liberty and how the curriculum worked for them.

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