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PandaParents MESSYLEARNING ~ a Crew review

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Preschool and kindergarten learning was a few years ago for our family but I am still often asked about programs that are out there. PandaParents is one of those. This company send me three months, or “courses”, in PDF version of their program MESSYLEARNING FOR PRESCHOOLERS AND KINDERGARTNERS.

PandaParents has a few basic ideas that guide their creation of materials. The company wants to promote learning that helps complex brain function. They focus on reading, writing, and STEM activities and building fine motor skills. They do this while working to decrease screen dependent learning and minimize rote memorization.

MESSYLearning is not about creating an area that looks like a tornado has gone through (though it might if your preschooler is anything like mine were at learning times at that age!). Rather MESSY is an acronym.
M – mixed subjects, integrated learning
E – engaging activities
S – simple steps
S – smart designs with creative learning
Y – Yeah! a new way to promote preschool STEM learning

MESSY Learning

Each course of the program has a book, a video, and a workbook. I received PDFs of each of these for three courses: A Jolly Jingling Journey, Mommy’s Baby, and Scotty Skunk Hears a Scary Sound.

A Jolly Jingling Journey – This is the story of Davy and his pets as they travel to the North Pole in search of Santa. After finding Santa, they have to find the reindeer. The story highlights words that begin with the letter J. Each page of the eBook and video have the words of the story at the bottom. There are several sentences per page, which is a bit much and a small font for this age group. Some of the concepts and ideas covered include:

  • letter J
  • migration
  • patterns
  • seek and find/matching
  • science of moving in snow and ice
  • reindeer
  • counting

This story has two videos. The first one focuses on the letter J. It is about 10 minutes. The second is the story to go along with the book. It is mostly the story being read, showing the storybook page and a few animations along the way. It is really quite long for this age at just over 38 minutes.

Jingle workbook pages

The workbook to go along with this is about 40 pages and is full color. It includes activities for

  • story recall
  • counting
  • order, sequences
  • tracing
  • animals and their tracks
  • feelings and emotions
  • fast/slow
  • and much, much more.

Mommy’s Baby – In this story, it is bedtime for Amanda. She doesn’t want to go to sleep but mommy goes through a story with her. The story is made up of the question “Are you mommy’s little ___________________?” and the answer, “I am your little __________________.” At the end of the story there are some “extra credit” questions that have the reader looking for how many of something can be found, looking for shapes, or answering a question about the story. The pages are nice and bright, with a large font that is easy to read and for the preschool student to see. There are just a few words on each page.

Mommy's Baby page

The video for Mommy’s Baby is right about the perfect length at around 5 minutes. It goes through the story and shows the pages of the storybook while reading it out loud.

The workbook for Mommy’s Baby is about 40 pages and is full color. The activities cover letters P, T, X, and B. It covers memory, tracing, patterns, and feelings. In science it talks about living vs non-living and all different kinds of animal tails and their uses. There is some matching, big/small comparisons, and shapes.

Scotty Skunk page

Scotty Skunk Hears a Scary Sound – Scotty Skunk is awoken from his winter sleep when spring arrives by a sound. What sound? The baby birds so he decides he must find a quiet place for his home. As he finds each new home, a new sound startles him and a new season finds him in a new place. This story teaches the letter S and touches on seasons, emotions, and transportation (train, tractor, sailboat, firetruck, etc.). It has bright pages with several sentences per page, written across the bottom of the page.

The video for Scotty Skunk is pretty long at about 32 minutes. It has some introductory material, like introducing the children and going to a classroom, that is about half the video before getting to the story.

The workbook is a 51 page file in full color. It covers

  • S and H
  • colors
  • tracing
  • number sequence
  • seasons
  • story sequences
  • letter mazes
  • animal homes/habitats
  • shapes

There are also some crafts in this workbook such as making a sailboat, painting, and creating a home for Scotty.

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My Thoughts:

This is a bright, whimsical program. It covers a lot of material and has had a lot of thought put into each piece of the program. The integration of various concepts and subject areas helps students transfer information better and learn problem solving. Creating a book, video, and workbook also ties in a few of the different styles of learning. Adding in some physical movement activities would be fantastic.

I think this will appeal to many preschoolers but I feel much of the activity is too easy for kindergartners. At least in the way it is presented here. My girls were all beyond this material by the time they were 5 so I feel like this is a good preschool program but it would definitely bear looking at to see if it would fit your 5 or older student.

Also, consider whether this style of animation is right for your child. I had my girls look at it with me to get their thoughts on the animations and drawings since they help care for preschoolers on a weekly basis. I asked them whether they thought the children they work with would enjoy these. They felt like most of the children would not care for it; they felt the videos were silly and wouldn’t keep the kids’ attention. They thought some of the characters were somewhat scary to look at with their lopsided and unmatched eyes.

The workbooks are my biggest hangup with this program. I would not be able to justify printing these workbooks at a office place and we only have black-and-white here at the house. Many of these activities would not work as a black-and-white. Also, I would have to purchase sticker paper for some of the activities or make it work with a cut-and-paste approach. If I chose to print the workbook. But if I didn’t, I would need to do these at a computer screen which brings me to my next concern.

One of the big parts of PandaParents  is wanting to get kids away from screens. As the program was presented to me, at this point, it does not do that. The book is a PDF, the video is online, and because I would not be able to print large parts of the workbook, I would need to do some of the activities with the child at a screen. This program would definitely work better as a physical product, rather than an online/downloadable program. I understand that is in the works.

There is much to be admired in this program and I think it fits a need. The themed story, video, and workbook is a great combo.

Blessings,
At Home.

Some of the Homeschool Review Crew families had kids in the right age for this program and used it with them. Definitely go check out what they and their kids thought of PandaParents.

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Kids Email ~ a Crew review

Kids Email product

There are many ways to foster independence and we were happy to be a part of this review of a subscription to Kids Email Safe Email for Kids. This program  has allowed each of the girls to have their own email address while At Home Dad and I have control over the safety features of the system. A win-win for all of us.

Kids Email  is a company that has been around since 2009 and provides a safe email system for kids. Through their system, parents can monitor the incoming and outgoing messages but the child still has their own email. There are tons of safety features which the parent can turn on or off.

writing email

The safe email for kids has been a wonderful tool for our family but I really want to share the highlights of the program.

  • Parents choose which email addresses the child can send to and receive from. No spam or unsolicited emails can get through.
  • If an email is received from an unapproved address, it goes directly to the parent account and must be approved. A response is also returned to the sender, telling them that they have emailed a child and that the parent must approve their email before the child will see it. I really appreciate that it specifies that it is an account held by a minor and that it is being monitored. That potentially wards off a lot of unwanted things.
  • In setting up each email account, there are a number of settings. These include things like – can this email receive links for other places on the internet? Can this email receive videos? Can this email receive images? Can this email receive from anyone not on the contact list? Do you want to limit messages that have bad words in them? Can the child edit their approved contact list or who they can send to?
  • There are controls for time restrictions that include days of the week or hours of the day.
  • You can ground your child and they cannot use their email if the account has been “grounded.”
  • There is an activity log. This lists the date, time of login, and the emails that were sent. This could be helpful if you are using sending emails as a typing practice that you need to document.
  • If your teen wants a bit more of a grown-up feel and address, the kmail version will be right up their alley. The system maintains the same safety features yet their email address is a bit more grown-up.

There are a few other features but these are the highlights. The girls will share some of their favorite “features” in their section of the review. This includes tools that they discovered in using the program.

Many Homeschool Review Crew families thought it would be neat for our kids to get a chance to “meet” each other so we set up some pen-pals. My three giggly girls chose some pen-pals based on age and common interests. It has been lots of fun for them to communicate with and get to know some of the other Crew kids. Communicating with kids from across the US and even around the globe (one of the girls they email with most frequently is in the Philippines) has been fun for them and they seem to be enjoying it.

Another great thing we have enjoyed about Kids Email is that the girls can communicate with family on their own. They pop on and write an email about their day or something they thought their aunt, uncle, cousin, or grandparent might want to know or be interested in. It has been fun to see them exchange emails, read articles sent to them by their aunt and discuss the article with her, or find out about places family has visited through pictures they share.

screenshot of email sent

Miss E’s thoughts:

Email. I like that every message goes through my parents. I don’t know exactly why but this is a feature I really like about the program. It is fun to pick your own background and there are some really pretty ones. I chose the wolf and it is really pretty and awesome and cool. You get to change the font style and font color and font size. That is lots of fun!

I have enjoyed getting my birthday and Easter e-cards from my grandparents in my own email instead of having mom call me over after checking her email. My aunt has sent me a link to an article about an elephant at their zoo, talking about the elephant and where he was before. There was a video of the elephant and at the bottom it had a timeline of his life. It was neat getting that article sent directly to me.

I started emailing with a pen-pal. We have decided to read the same book and then we are going to talk about it over email when we both finish.

Miss L’s thoughts:

I know that a lot of kids have emails but I have never had one. This was my first one. I thought that it was a really fantastic program. I like the way that it gave kids freedom but that parents get to monitor each exchange that goes on. I think is something that makes the parents and the children happy. I like that you could do more than just sending text, such as adding pictures take on a phone, draw your own pictures, and send articles through links back and forth. I really like that because I think it will encourage the younger kids because most of the time kids under 10 are going to be looking for ways to exploit their creativeness. This is a program that fits for all ages. I really liked being able to set up pen-pals. I thought it was a really good way to be able to explore the program while letting kids send emails to people beyond their parents and siblings. It let me be able to communicate with more people and still make it interesting.

One of the pen-pals that I have been communicating with is really creative. We both like to read and write. We have been sending ideas back and forth for a book that she is writing. It is really fun to get to be a part of that and get to help her with it. Another of the pen-pals that I have been sending emails back and forth with really likes to draw and make art. I do, too, so we have sent pictures of our artwork to each other.  It is really fun to get to share with people who don’t really know me. It is fun to get to know them, too, especially when we are around the same age and enjoy some of the same things.

Miss J’s thoughts:

I like that I can communicate to my mom and my dad and all my family members. I like to draw and the drawing tool helps me to recreate stuff and change it. I like sending my drawings to people. I like that I can change my background.I like that they have a lot of different choice for the backgrounds.  I like that it tells me how many emails I have.  I enjoyed getting to make new online friends. I like being able to communicate with faraway relatives. I like being able to get and give pictures that I draw and ones that I don’t draw (taken with a phone camera).

My Thoughts:

I have enjoyed seeing the thrill that the girls get when a new email is received through Kids Email Safe Email for Kids. They will spend quite a bit of time typing up an email to send to someone (yay for writing and keyboarding skills!). Each day, they enjoy spending a few minutes at least checking. And when someone sends them something special – an idea or a picture or a gift card (yep – one girl was able to receive an e-gift card for her birthday) – it is just pure joy on their faces. They don’t know that it is a step towards independence but their dad and I do. And we are so happy to see how they are handling it. We are pleased with Kids Email .

Blessings,
At Home.

Check out the other reviews from the Homeschool Review Crew families that received this program.KIDS-Email-Homeschool-Reviews

 

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Reading Kingdom – online language arts instruction ~ a Crew review

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We were asked to take a look at Reading Kingdom  for this review and when we started, I was unsure about how it would benefit Miss J. She was reading well and could express herself well, though she didn’t care too much for writing. She enjoyed typing though. Giving Reading Kingdom a try brought out some interesting things for us.

Reading Kingdom  teaches Phonics Plus Five. In other words, it teaches all of the six main reading and writing skills needed to communicate in the English language. It is immersion based, meaning the skills are not taught by memorization but rather by continued use in context. The six skills are:

  • sequencing
  • writing
  • phonology
  • semantics
  • syntax
  • comprehension

These skills are really well explained in the PDF that is linked at the bottom of the page titled Why It Works. That page and the PDF will give you a really solid understanding of the program and how it is different from others on the market today.

typing activity

Using Reading Kingdom

The program itself is really quite easy to use, though a couple less clicks to get started would be nice. Once in the session, the child just follows the directions for each of the activities in the lesson. The directions are spoken so the child does not have to read to get going.

Miss J was working in level 4 of 5. I think she placed a bit low because the placement test threw her a couple of curve balls she wasn’t expecting. She did not capitalize her sentences in the placement. And there were several times that she clicked faster than the program registered so it counted some things wrong. All in all, though, she has benefited from her placement, even though it is low for her.

The activities have so many different benefits that it is hard to explain, honestly. Some of the activities have the student recognizing the sequencing placement of the letters of the word. Some are looking a placement in a sentence. Another might have the student spelling the word. Another has the student recognizing it next to a similarly spelled word. Activities might have the student typing or clicking to input. Capitalization, punctuation, and sentence structure are all a part of the activities students complete in a reading context, not just an exercise for the one thing.

word identification activity

Each lesson focuses on a particular word. Today’s lesson was rainbow. She has had cold, happen, saw, and small, to name just a few. When a word is focused on, the various ways to use the word are also covered (part of the semantics, syntax, and comprehension). With cold, for example, she also saw colder. With rainbow, she also saw and typed rainbows. With too, she had to identify it in context of a sentence that might have both too and to next to each other; she had to choose the correct one.

The set up of each lesson is game like, without actually being a game. It is brightly colored and has sound effects (annoying to me but right up Miss J’s alley). In the upper right corner of the screen the student can see how many more parts the lesson has. There is also a way to pause the lesson or you can close it out before completely finishing it. The next time you log in, you come back to where you were.

controls, points, and parts of lesson

What Reading Kingdom  Recommends

Reading Kingdom recommends the student complete one lesson a day at least four days per week. If you need to move along a bit faster, they say it is okay to do two lesson a day but recommend not doing any more than that. We have stuck with the one lesson per day, though we have honestly struggled to do four days per week. I think we are showing an average of 3.3 days per week. Yep – that is how detailed you can get with the information available from Reading Kingdom. And there are more reports available.

Reports

I can download and save or print a report that shows me the progress of my class/student. For Miss J, it shows me which day she completed which lesson and her rating for it. The beginning of the report shows me how she did on each part of the assessment and how long it took her. If you have to track time on task, that is in the report as well.

report example

Another way you can see the progress is on the start page. There is a progress bar that is visible to show how much of the level is complete. There is another to show how much of the program is complete. Below that is a table with markers showing similar material.

screenshot of login progress bars

How We Like The Program

Overall, I think Reading Kingdom  is a program that has a lot of benefits to it. I like the integrated approach to the multiple skills and I like that it is not taxing or difficult for Miss J. It is a program she can be independent with, which, as a 9 year old, is a big deal. I do believe that in the long run, we will see that having worked through the levels of the program that it placed her in has been of benefit. But it isn’t as visible as some other programs may be. We may not be able to point to a particular thing and say “That is what Reading Kingdom did for her.” I do believe she is benefiting, though.

Miss J does not beg to do the lessons but she doesn’t complain about them, either. There are a couple of things she would change. The program repeats a lot and much of the work are things she knows. She thus feels she is doing things below her level or having to repeat things. What I am seeing, though, is her working well at words presented in context and being able to spell them easily at the end of the session. She is having to pay attention to what she is doing and her typing skills are definitely improving.

Another complaint that she has had is the speed of the program as it moves through a sentence reading or having her type. But guess what? Tonight I saw that there is a way to speed up the movement from word to word within a sentence. So I am changing that. (I saw it when I was taking a screenshot for this review. That is one of the issues with her being independent – it never donned on me that I could change that. She’ll be happy tomorrow!)

Would I recommend the program? I don’t know. Not because it isn’t good but because I am not sure it is for everyone. My oldest two did fantastic with sight words and moved into independent reading quickly and easily. They would not have done well with this program because it moves carefully through each word. They have never struggled with reading, spelling, context, or any of those skills. This would not have worked with them.

Miss J on the other hand has grown into her own reading enjoyment a bit more slowly and needs a bit more work on her spelling and writing. This is working with her on those skills. She gets context easily and understand much about grammar. But those are helping her with the other parts of this program. So it works for her.

If your student is at the beginning of their reading journey, this would be a fantastic program. If they are farther along and can already read some but are struggling, this might be good for them. I have not found an assessment of any type that you can take prior to signing up with the company but reach out to them if you have questions. I am sure they would be happy to help you make your decision.

Blessings,
At Home.

There were a number of families with students at different levels and needs, including some with ASD, who were reviewing Reading Kingdom . See what some of the other families had to say about Reading Kingdom and ASD Reading by clicking on the banner below.

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CodeWizardsHQ ~ a Crew review

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Writing computer code is not something I really expected Miss E to get interested in but the introductory class she participated in from CodeWizardsHQ created a new interest for her. Reviewing the class gave us a good introduction to their computer programming curriculum, which is a good fit for anyone interested in learning computer programming, whether a homeschool student, a public school student, or a private school student.

CodeWizardsHQ was begun by a dad who saw his daughter struggling to learn to code with the resources that were currently available. So he create the platform and classes that he knew would make it possible for students to really learn how to write computer code, understanding what they were actually doing.

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What Is CodeWizardsHQ?

CodeWizardsHQ is a comprehensive code curriculum. It consists of 9 courses that are 12 weeks each, followed by a capstone project. This curriculum takes the student through real-world programming with project-based learning. The course is a live, on-line course with instructors who have real-world coding experience (read that: a day job in coding) and a heart for teaching others how to write code.

live class slide show

So what makes CodeWizardsHQ different from what is already out there? When taking a course from CodeWizardsHQ the student is working with a small class (8 or fewer students) and an instructor. The instructor can see what the student is doing, as they are doing it and can make real-time corrections when the student is having a problem. 80% of the class time is spend writing code and seeing it work. The real-time interaction between the instructor and students makes this unique in the world of online code education.

CodeWizardsHQ has scheduled classes that you can register for and these classes are beginning in May. If you are looking for classes for a homeschool student, you can register for what they have scheduled or you can get your friends or co-op together and work with the company to find a time that works for you. There is a special homeschool pricing based upon the number of students.

CodeWizardsHQ classes give you a one hour live class per week. The student has access to the code writing platform 24/7, email support (same day), one-to-one assistance when needed, weekly progress updates, and class recordings. In addition to this, the student will have web space to use for their projects, an online student community, and a certificate of completion for each completed course.

There is a Facebook group for parents who are interested in their kids coding.

The Class –

screen with slides and chat

The class Miss E took was a special introductory class. It was only one hour, not a part of their 12 week courses. Her instructor was Ms. Lynn, a front-end web developer who has worked in the field for 20 years. Ms. Lynn talked to Miss E and her classmates about HTML code – what it was and what it did, its value to the internet world. Then she had them look at some code and talked about what each part of it did. After a bit of explanation, she had the students begin to work with the code, writing the parts they needed to, editing where necessary.

The students in the class were creating a comic strip with 9 panels in it. Ms. Lynn walked them through how to manipulate the code. They changed backgrounds, images, and text. Anytime a question arose, the students could use their microphone to talk with Ms. Lynn in real-time, getting a real-time answer, or they could use the chat box on the class to ask the question and get an immediate answer. As they worked, Ms. Lynn could see what they were writing for their code and interact with them on any changes they needed or wanted to make. At one point, Miss E had a question about removing a text box. Ms. Lynn was able to help her make that change quickly and easily. A self-paced or video based course would not be able to do that.

By the end of the one hour class, the students had finished a good part of the comic. If they hadn’t, they could still continue working after the class because they had access to the coding platform. The platform makes it easy to share their finished product as well. It was as easy as clicking a button to share the finished product on Facebook or Twitter. And just copying and pasting the web address meant it could be shared with others.

Comic screenshot

When we first heard about the class, I will be honest – we were not excited. It did not appeal and we did not really want to have to figure out how to manage a live class. But, we did. When the time for class arrived, Miss E had just gotten home from the dentist (not a “fun” cleaning visit – one of those others where fillings had to be done) and so she was already feeling less than energetic. However, we got her logged on and she was ready to participate. What we found was that she enjoyed it. A lot. As the one-hour class time ticked by, she giggled more and was more energetic and excited about what she was doing. She understood more about the process behind the code and how it worked. As she figured out how to place figures or to eliminate lines of code she didn’t need, things clicked and her smile grew (even with half of it being numb). She truly enjoyed it and by the time we finished, she was asking if this was something we could afford to enroll her in and if so, could Ms. Lynn be her instructor (I have not explored the answer to that). Now we are considering this new interest seriously.

back end - or written code - for the comic

The back end – written code – for Miss E’s comic. This is what the class taught her how to do.

Miss E’s thoughts:
It was cool! We could talk to her (Ms. Lynn – instructor) and she could talk to us like a real class. Or we could use the chat box. I didn’t have to rely on you (Mom) to maybe fix my problem or maybe make it worse. It was fun and I’d like to learn more.

My thoughts:
This is not going to be an inexpensive new interest but it is one that would serve her really well in the future. This set-up – the live class with a qualified instructor – is of great value and benefit in the process of learning how to write computer code. The personal interaction will make all the difference between struggling to figure it out on your own (and likely giving up when it doesn’t work) and truly learning to understand how those lines fit together to make something work. CodeWizardsHQ is a company that I will be keeping in mind.

Blessings,
At Home.

Want to learn more about the program or find out the thoughts of other parents? Want to know what other students who took the class thought? Visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read more reviews by clicking the banner below.

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Weigl Publishers – interactive electronic books ~ a Crew review

Weigl Publishing books review

Sometimes, we look for electronic resources and books that provide a way for the girls to learn to navigate the electronic world. Weigl Publishers  is a company that publishes innovative, high-quality electronic books and other resources. These are available in the US and around the world. Their media enhanced materials are fairly unique.

Our review for Weigl Publishers  included three interactive, electronic books.

  • There Once Was a Cowpoke Who Swallowed an Ant,
  • A Lion’s World, and
  • Glaciers.

Each book must be purchased and contains a unique code to input on the website that will unlock the interactive features. There is no subscription or site fees.

Cowpoke Who Swallowed An AntThere Once Was a Cowpoke Who Swallowed an Ant by Helen Ketteman, illustrated by Will Terry. This is published under their AV2 imprint (subgroup). The AV2 imprint has both fiction and non-fiction, as well as Spanish language titles. They began releasing titles under this imprint in 2010.

This is an interactive book read by professional voice actors with additional sound effects and fun audio additions. The digital version of the book can be read to the student or the student can read by himself. Each sentence is brought to life. If the student is being read to, the text sentences are highlighted as they are read and the pages turn at the appropriate time. If the student is read by himself, then the student will have to click next to turn the page. If the student gets stuck on a sentence, or just wants to hear it read, then placing the pointer over the sentence will cause it to be read out loud.

The story line is what you probably imagine – A cowpoke eats an ant. It stings his stomach so he has to each a spider to get the ant. The spider causes problems so he has to eat a roadrunner to get the spider. And so on. Each is more ridiculous and funny than the last. Just wait until you get to the end to see what he eats last and how it turns out in the end.

This book is best suited for K-2nd but I can definitely see pre-schoolers enjoying the antics of the cowpoke.

A Lion's World bookA Lion’s World is a non-fiction title from the EyeDiscover imprint. Weigl launched EyeDiscover in 2016. The titles in this imprint have interactive online content directed at 4-7 year olds, or K-2nd grades. When you access the digital version of the books the student sees full-screen videos and the text is read aloud.

This non-fiction titles is about a lion and the world he lives in. It includes such things as the word for the family unit, the loudness of the roar, and what actions you might find a lion doing. Each page has a short video that is looped to repeat and a short text. The text is read aloud but it is also printed on a banner at the bottom of the page. You can turn the text reading on or off, according to the desire of the student. The back of the book includes two pages of very visual facts (infographic) and a page of key words and their location within the book.

While this book is listed as a K-2 level, it would also be interesting for younger children due to the videos and the text being read. As a single viewing, it might also be interesting for a slightly older student, though I would not expect them to learn anything new from it.

watching video from glaciers bookGlaciers is a book from the Lightbox imprint by Weigl. This type of book combines the digital book with online content, interactive pages, and printable resources. It is extremely interactive and takes a multimedia approach to content. Combining the multimedia approach with audio, video, and text, students are more actively engaged in the content. Using interactive content such as layered charts and graphs, embedded web-links, and pop-up vocabulary definitions, students are engaged in learning with this full digital product. There are titles for both elementary and secondary levels.

Glaciers by Christine Webster is a non-fiction title and explores the science of glaciers. The digital book is easy to navigate even though there are quite a few buttons to click on each of the pages. The right and left arrow keys move the reader forward and backward in the book. If there is a bolded word, click it and the definition pops up. Videos are embedded and play right in the window being used. The controls for all of this are on the sides of the book. If there is a printable, it does pop up in another window as a PDF. This all makes it so easy. There is a play button to have the text read.

printable from the glacier book

The science of the glaciers covers definitions and how they study glaciers. It lists the parts of the glacier body and includes a transparency interaction where clicking the different parts of the glacier brings in its label and description. Glaciers sizes, definitions, and locations are all covered and includes an interactive Google Earth section where you can view the images of the glaciers and paths to them. (This was probably Miss J’s favorite part!) The embedded videos, such as the one of the polar bear or the one of the crevasse and cave in the glacier, are fascinating and really help build understanding of the glacier.

Glaciers is intended for students ages 8-12 or grades 3-6. I found this to be a pretty accurate range, though I think it is so rich that students up through 8th grade could easily find much to learn from this book.

The interactive ability of the Glaciers book created a desire to keep learning more. This subject would not have been interesting to Miss J but with all of the interactivity it was fascinating for her. This book took quite a while for us to work through because there were so many activities and printables and videos. It was basically a full unit study, all on its own. We probably took a week during our science time to work through this book.

Weigl Publishers  has a lot of wonderful resources to offer and we were pleased to be introduced to them. I am particularly interested in learning more about the middle school and high school books available through the Lightbox imprint. There is so much there!

Blessings,
At Home.

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YWAM – Amy Carmichael ~ a Crew review

YWAM Amy Carmichael review

We are thrilled each time we are selected to review any of the YWAM Publishing  titles, whether Christian Heroes: Then & Now  or Heroes of History . This time around we were given the title Christian Heroes- Amy Carmichael: Rescuer of Precious Gems and its corresponding study guide.

These titles are loved. When a new titles comes into our home, or appears on the shelf at the library, it immediately ends up in a bedroom being read. I don’t even see the book until the oldest giggly girls has finished it. This book on Amy Carmichael was no different.

YWAM Publishing is a company that is committed to publishing materials that encourage Christians to make a difference in this world. The focus of their materials is prayer, mercy ministry, homeschooling, evangelism, and discipleship. When you purchase from YWAM, you are also sending money to help the needy around the world as a portion of every dollar spent is directed towards YWAM’s ministries.

Amy Carmichael book from YWAM

Amy Carmichael: Rescuer of Precious Gems

This is the story of Amy’s life. From a young age, Amy knew God was calling her to a life of serving him. She began serving him simply, by helping others carry hard loads and listening to his word. She then began serving the shawlies, those who worked harder than most to provide for their families and we looked down upon by many Christians at the time. In helping the shawlies, Amy began to face some of the backlash that she would face all of her life – the Christians who were supposed to love everyone and help them cause problems for Amy because they did not want those “dirty” people in their buildings for worship.

Amy trusted God and he got her through a lot – buildings that needed built, ill health, and many, many other things. Amy knew that God was calling her to go to a foreign mission field and she just knew that it was in Asia. Even after being turned down by mission groups situated there, Amy decided to just get there and leave it to God to figure out where she would be and who she would work with. God did. And Amy spent time serving others in Japan, until she got ill. Again. She returned to the UK to recover.

After a time, Amy ended up in India. It turned out to be the place God had been preparing her for. Amy saw the great need in India and began her work there with diligence. She took in those whose family abandoned or disowned them, which was not unusual for Indians who chose to become Christians, if they were not killed by their families. Amy continued to teach and trust. Through her trust in God, many came to her to be loved and to learn of God.

After going to India, Amy never left. She served those in India until she died. Amy became Amma (mother) to hundreds in India, rescuing temple children from a life of horror or loving those who were unloved by their families.

Tamil language sign

Downloadable Unit Studies/Curriculum Guides

The YWAM biographies make fantastic unit studies. The curriculum guide that you can purchase for download to go along with book features a format that gives plenty of suggestion for you to pick and choose those parts and activities that benefit your students. I did not print the entire guide; rather, I printed those pages that we were going to use for our study.

We chose to use Key Bible Verses, Chapter Questions, Student Explorations, and Social Studies. There are also sections on Display Corner, Community Links, Related Themes to Explore, and Culminating Event.  There are appendixes for books and resources and answers to chapter questions.

For Key Bible Verses, the girls each chose at least one verse from those that were important to Amy Carmichael and illustrated it. I also asked them to memorize it. Chapter Questions was a section we actually did out loud. We had a book conversation one day and used these questions to guide the discussion. These can be used a variety of ways and the answers are in one of the appendices.

India Fact Sheet

For Student Explorations, there are a large number of possible activities for the student to choose from. There is no way a student could tackle all of these hands-on projects. The options include essays, creative writing, charts, graphs, audio or visual projects, arts and crafts projects, or language examples. Miss E chose to illustrate a couple of the language examples and also chose to work on some needle work. Miss L chose to make a birdbath out of materials we had in the yard. Miss J looked up information on some of the jewels and precious gems that Amy named her children after. We also visited a gem show and looked at some of the gems from the book.

In tackling the social studies section, we used the printouts that came with the study guide, printing out a sheet to fill out on India and three maps. The girls each researched information on India and completed that sheet. They also used an atlas and online searches, plus a map in the book, to mark the maps with places that were important in the story of Amy Carmichael. It is good to know where places are in the world and, since we had studied India last November, it was a good way for us to relate the story to places we had talked about during that study.

We chose not to do a Display Corner and the Community Links since we had done that last November with our India study. The Display Corner is just that – a place to put a variety of items that relate to India and the story. Community Links is a section that encourages you to find places and people within your community that might have something to do with your study, in this case it might be an Indian restaurant or a religious group to visit. Related Themes to explore touches on other ideas and topics related to the story and gives a few resources for that. The final section we did not use, again because we had done something like this back in November, is to create a big final event celebrating all that was learned.

The curriculum guides to go along with these books do a great job of broadening the horizons of the students, pulling in ideas to help the reader better relate to all that is happening in the story. These unit study/study guides can be as in depth as you desire for them to be but I would definitely suggestion using them, as they open up the discussion and ideas.

reading Amy Carmichael

Our Thoughts:

Miss J (age 9) – It was really fun and it kind of hung me when we couldn’t read another chapter. I learned a lot about Amy Carmichael. She was a very nice woman and she took care of many children, about 500. I think kids ages 5 and up would like this book.

Miss L (age 11) – I think that one of the reasons I enjoyed reading about Amy Carmichael’s life is because she trusted God so much in everything she did. That is a really admirable quality. It also lead to many unique situations in her life that don’t happen to other missionaries or in other Christian’s lives. Most of the time it is easy to forget how it would be if we did everything for the faith and how different that lifestyle would than what most of use are actually living. I liked reading about her because she always did her best no matter what the situation was and recognized that she needed to be doing all she could all the time. I think this make her really interesting to read about and it put her in a lot of situations that other people would not be willing to enter. You see multiple examples of Amy’s willingness to do whatever it takes, even if it makes her different than everyone else. I like how the book covered a lot of things in her life that might seem insignificant or just straight out different from everyone else but she didn’t care how small it was. One thing I like about these books is that they tell the story to inspire you and I think Amy was a really good role model. Once you read the book about here, you can’t really imagine what the series would have been like without her.

Miss E (age 14) – I really liked how Amy did not give up. I really like reading and learning about other cultures and Japan and India are some of my favorites. I like that the biography is written more from Amy’s point of view. It is more like a story so it is easier for me to read and understand. I like all biographies but it is easier to read when it is written like a story.

My own – I really enjoy reading the YWAM biographies on Christian Heroes. They put before the girls quality role models and people who trusted God to direct their lives and their paths. They are interesting and exciting, keeping the girls’ interest and spurring them on to read and understand more about the world that is much bigger than what we know.

YWAM is coming out with two new biographies shortly: Benjamin Rush (Heroes of History) and John Newton (Christian Heroes). We have reviewed YWAM titles in the past, including Gladys Aylward, Clara Barton, and C.S. Lewis. We also have a large number of these biographies on our shelf. We definitely recommend them!

Blessings,
At Home.

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Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology ~ a Crew review

We have been using Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology
in the past month or so. This is another very good science program from Apologia and we are pleased to review it.

Written by Jeannie K. Fulbright and Brooke Ryan, M.D., this program is a great and easy program to use. I was impressed that Mrs. Fulbright ensured that her information was accurate by having a co-author that was an M.D.

Apologia-Anatomy-Family

We received:

  • Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology Text
  • Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology Junior Notebooking Journal
  • Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology Notebooking Journal
  • Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology MP3 Audio CD

reading text

Let’s start with the text. Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology Text is a hardback text. It is full color textbook and is not too heavy. The pages are sturdy without being too stiff to easily turn. The print is of a good size and is easily read by these “old eyes” of mine. The text is written to the student so it is not difficult for an elementary aged student to understand. It is intended for the student to be reading the text, allowing them to more engaged.

The text is broken up periodically by some blue lettering that is a time for the student to review what was just covered. Whether it be a narration assignment or a written one, it is intended that the student take just a few short minutes to help cement the information better in their understanding. This allows the student to improve their ability to clearly and effectively learn to communicate their learning.

skeletal system activity

Throughout the chapter, you will also come across Try This! These are hands-on activities that go with the reading just finished and allow for the student to participate in the scientific method. For example, when we had read about the purpose of bones, there was a Try This! activity that had the student make a clay figure and try to stand it up. edible cellsThen they added toothpicks in place of some of the bones and tried to stand it up again. This time, with “bones” in place, the figure stood. What a great visual and hands-on activity that shows exactly how bones and the skeletal system benefit the body. The number of activities vary in each chapter and the types of materials needed will vary as well. Some only need things from around the house (such as a tape measure for comparing arm span to height) and others will need quite a few things that you might not have sitting around (such as lemon jello and lots of different candies to make an edible cell). These hands-on activities are what take this program from another good text to one that is over-the-top fantastic.

Each chapter closes with a What Do You Remember? section of questions. These are questions designed to jog the student’s memory and help them recall information. There are answers to these in the back of the book. There is a reminder of the notebooking activities to go along with the chapter or suggestions of some to do if you prefer to make your own notebook. There is also a Personal Person Project. This project is pretty cool. It has the student make their own person shape and overlays to show each of the systems that are studied in the text. The Notebooking Journal has the pieces for this project with the plastic overlays printed in color to glue down on top of the person’s shape. We decided we wanted to be able to see single systems and also to overlay several at once so Miss J created a little pocket on the page next to the person and will leave her different systems pieces there.  

The Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology MP3 Audio CD that is available has been very interesting. It is read by the author so it has purpose and inflection and understanding that a “hired” reader just would not accomplish. Mrs. Fulbright’s voice is calm and pleasant. It is a pleasure to listen to her. This audio book includes the entire text of the course. The CD is best used with the student listening while viewing the text and following along. Mrs. Fulbright explains this early on the CD. It is helpful for most students who are using the audio to also have the visual to reinforce what is being talked about. Also, there are times when Mrs. Fulbright refers to diagrams and images in the text. If the student does not have those to view, the understanding will be hampered.

image of controller for audio book

image of control for CD on the computer

The audio CD would be of great benefit to a student that struggles with reading and comprehension, especially of scientific texts with so many new words and pronunciations. This would be of benefit to a student who is an auditory learner, as well. I can also see this being useful to a visual learner because the student is following along while someone else is reading. Thus, they are getting the visual while not having to struggle with pronunciations. We have had audio books for texts before and they were dry and boring. This is nothing like that. If you have a struggling reader, this might be just the thing.

Note that this is an MP3CD, not a regular CD. It must be played in an MP3CD-compatible CD player or on a computer.

We received two notebooking journals to go along with the study

Generally speaking, the regular journal has more writing than the junior one does and the lines are printed differently. For the junior notebooking journal, there is generally the three-line formation for the student to write on. Not always but for a number of the activities. The junior notebook also has coloring pages for each chapter while the regular notebook does not. Both journals are spiral bound and designed to complement but not replace the text; you must have the text but the journals will provide additional practice with the information.

Each chapter in the text has a corresponding section in the notebooking journals. The beginning of the chapter section in the journals is generally fairly open for the student to write about what was learned or better understood in that chapter. This space also includes boxes for the student to illustrate things of interest or worth remembering. Following this, there are different activities. There are scripture copywork passages that enhance the chapter and each one is generally in both print and cursive so that you can choose which style is best for your learner. The copywork is longer in the regular notebooking journal than it is in the junior notebooking journal. There are sometimes fill in the blanks or perhaps a crossword puzzle. There are matching activities and vocabulary work. There are also miniature books that are pulled out from the back of the notebooking journal, completed, and then placed with the chapter. You will also find project pages, more to explore suggestions, and field trip sheets. There are a lot of different ways to track and reinforce the learning.

working in junior notebooking journal

Each of the notebooking journals have a lot of activities for each chapter. It is definitely a place where you can complete them all but it may not be best for you to do so. I have one daughter who does everything in the regular notebooking journal. My youngest daughter is working in the junior notebooking journal and she does not do everything. It really depends on your student and how they learn.

The front of the notebooking journals is where you will find a suggested schedule for the anatomy and physiology program. Their suggested pace is two lessons per week. At this rate and following their schedule of activities, it will take 28 weeks to complete the program. Each lesson takes approximately 4 days/2 weeks to cover. It is restated here that you do not need to feel compelled to complete every activity. Pick and choose those best suited to your learners.

We have found that the junior notebooking journal actually has more learning for the anatomy and physiology course. If I were going to be purchasing this for my middle school student and my elementary student, I would purchase them both the junior notebooking. Below you can see a comparison of the same “pages” of learning in the two journals.

notebooking journals comparison

We used this two different ways. My 9 year old used it approximately 4 days per week, because we found early on that two days a week was taking too long for my daughter’s attention span. We did every single one of the Try It! activities, mostly as we came to them. Sometimes they had to wait for a different day or until the end of the reading. We read the text together and she did the blue review sections out loud. After doing our planned reading for the day, she would open up her junior notebooking journal and complete her activities in it. We prefer to do a little bit every day so this worked well for us and allowed us some flexibility in our plans. We broke up the schedule that was printed in the notebooking journals into two each and it has worked well. It provides a good bit of reading and activity, without overwhelming, and takes between 30 minutes and an hour. If it weren’t broken up, I think that 1 -2 hours of science work would be too much for my 9 year old.

mummification of apple slices

My 11 year old has been using it, also, though with the regular notebooking journal. She knows that she has to do everything on the week by the end of the week and is a very independent learner. She has generally done her reading all at once and then done the activities and the notebooking journal over the next 3 days. It has worked well for her since she prefers to get up and get her work done early on in the day. If your child is self-directed and an independent learner, this format works well.

We have enjoyed every Apologia review we have been blessed to participate in and we tend to fully complete them. If you would like to read about other product from Apologia that we have used, please visit the following posts –

Exploring Creation with Astronomy
Field Trip Journal
Writers In Residence
Ultimate Homeschool Planner
iWitness books
Flourish
What On Earth Can I Do?

Blessings,
At Home.

Please check out additional reviews and how other families used this program by clicking on the Homeschool Review Crew banner below.

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