Nature’s Beautiful Order ~ Review

AJ loves science and wants to become a veterinarian, so we were both excited with our recent review. We were given Nature’s Beautiful Order from Memoria Press.

Memoria Press

What is Nature’s Beautiful Order?

Nature’s Beautiful Order is, “An Introduction to the Study of Animals Taught by the Classical Naturalists.” It came with the book, a student guide, and the teacher key.

Nature’s Beautiful Order
The book is a 187 page soft covered book. It is broken down into 18 chapters. The book starts off by explaining what an animal is. Then through various chapters, different types of  animals are examined in more depth. Some of them include; lobsters, bees, turtles, deer, birds, and farm friends. The final two chapters in the book are about man, the upright animal. Each chapter is broken down into smaller sections making it easier to study the book a little at a time. There are black and white diagrams and illustrations sprinkled throughout.

The book is written by Christopher O. Blum and John A. Cuddeback. Throughout the book the authors quote and use works from other famous scientists including; Aristotle, James Audubon, Jean-Henri Fabre, and St-George J. Mivart. Nature’s Beautiful Order is full of fascinating information that is sure to please any animal lover. However, because there is a lot of information in the book written by scientists of a different time, sometimes the wording and vocabulary seem odd. In the beginning AJ had some difficulty in reading those sections. I had to re-explain some of the concepts. As she continued to read, she became more use to the wording. Your student needs to be a strong reader to use this study on their own, even then you may need to help explain a few things.

The student guide is 51 pages. There is a two to three page section for each chapter in the book. All of the questions in the student guide are short answer. Most of the answers can be found in the text, but some require a little more critical thinking. If the book is read and understood, the student shouldn’t have any problem filling in the student guide.

The teacher key is also 51 pages long. It is an exact copy of the student guide, but it has the answers all filled in.

How We Used Nature’s Beautiful Order

There was not a schedule included with the study, so I decided to have AJ work on the study at a pace of about a chapter a week. Since each chapter was broken down into a different number of sections, the amount of work each week varied. Some weeks, like the first one, there were five sections in the chapter. So each day AJ would read the section and then answer any questions in the student guide that went with the reading. Other chapters, like the one on bees, only had three sections. So that week she only worked on the study three days of the week. I decided to have her do it that way so that she would read the entire chapter over the week.

Most of the time we would discuss the reading and I would help to explain anything that she was unsure of. Then I would check her answers with the teacher key to make sure she understood what she was learning.

What We Thought About Nature’s Beautiful Order

Overall AJ really enjoyed the study. She still has more to do and she will continue to use it as a supplement to  her Animal Science course. While the reading level surprised me, it was a good challenge for her. She has read numerous books about animals, but she still learned new things in each section that she read. I like that the study is laid back and isn’t full of activities to complete. It was easy to add to our day.

If you have a student who is interested in animals, Nature’s Beautiful Order may be exactly what you are looking for.

Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew were given the chance to review different products from Memoria Press including; Latin and various Latin programs. Click on the graphic below to see more reviews.

Latin, Nature and Trees {Memoria Press Reviews}
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The Typing Coach ~ Review

When I was in high school we bought our first computer. It was around that time that all of my teachers were requiring reports to be either typed or written in pen, and sense my spelling skills left a lot to be desired, I typed everything. While spell check was wonderful, typing took me forever! Over the years I got a lot faster, but I was still using the hunt and peck method.

I have used numerous typing programs over the years, but never mastered typing correctly. I can type at a decent speed, but I glance at the keyboard too often and use the backspace button a little too frequently. AJ is the same way. She has tried various programs but the skill hasn’t stuck. Over the past few weeks we have been trying out a typing program that is different from anything we have used in the past. We have been using The Typing Coach Online Typing Course from The Typing Coach.

What is The Typing Coach?

The Typing Coach

The Typing Coach is a self paced online typing program. Instead of using animated characters or games, it focuses on typing. Consistent practice is key for this program. It is recommended that you practice for 20 minutes each day and that you work on each lesson until it is mastered with out any errors.

The course starts off with a lesson on Good Posture. There is an audio lesson that explains the proper way to sit along with a few videos that have examples. The videos also show correct keyboard and finger placement. Once you have mastered posture, you move onto the second lesson where you start to type.

Prior to the lesson you will need to print off a student packet and a learning checks packet. The lessons are completed in your own word processing program. We use Open Office, but any program that allows you to type should work.

Once your word processing program is open you click on the audio lesson online and follow the directions. What makes this program different from anything we have tried in the past is the audio learning. You are not looking at a picture of a keyboard on the screen or constantly looking down at the keyboard. Instead you are given directions like, “using your right hand type the L with your ring finger.”

There are also times during the lesson where you are instructed to practice typing the text in the student packet. While you are typing music is played. You are instructed not to use the backspace and to retype each line until you can do so with out any mistakes. I like that this forces you to practice typing something from paper, like you would normally do when typing something that you had written. The lessons seem to last about twenty minutes each.

The Typing Coach
When you think you have mastered the lesson you log into the testing and practice center. There you decide which test to take and you type a selection from the learning checks packet. Once you are finished you are told your score and how fast you typed. If you make any mistakes you are suppose to redo the lesson. If you master the section then you can move on to the next lesson.

What We Thought

AJ wasn’t too excited to try this program out. She likes to play games and enjoys fun colors. But obviously those programs haven’t helped her in the past. She doesn’t like to practice things she thinks she already knows, so the idea that she would have to redo a lesson if she made even one mistake didn’t sit well with her. But once she started it her attitude changed. The lessons are a simple part of our day. We still have a long way to go in the program, but I am already seeing her speed and accuracy improve.

I like the set up of the program, but it did take me a little bit to get use to. The biggest challenges were not using the backspace key and learning to practice typing each letter instead of looking at a word and typing the word. For example, looking and typing l e a r n instead of looking at the word learn, remembering it and trying to type it. This was different from any other program I tried, so it was hard for me at first. My speed has improve.  I am still working through the program but, I have noticed that I don’t look down near as often.

Overall, it is a good program that has helped both AJ and myself and I plan to continue practicing so that we continue to improve.

If you are looking for a no nonsense approach to learning how to type, that is affordable, and easy to use, then The Typing Coach may be exactly what you are looking for. There is the option to try a lesson before you purchase, so try it out and see if it will be a good fit for your family.

See what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought by clicking on the graphic below.

The Typing Coach Online Typing Course {The Typing Coach Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Captain Absolutely ~ Review

When I was younger we didn’t watch many videos in children’s church. But every few months we would watch a video that taught a Bible story. If we were really lucky we would get to watch a video from Adventures in Odyssey. Those were always my favorite. They were full of action, taught a lesson, and were entertaining. Now there are so many great choices when you are looking for a movie or video that helps to teach God’s word, but Adventures in Odyssey will always hold a special place in my heart.

AJ has had the chance to watch a few different videos from Adventures in Odyssey and listen to some of their audio dramas. She has also willingly read a few of their chapter books. That’s saying something, because she doesn’t like to read. She has enjoyed everything that she has tried from Adventures in Odyssey. When I learned about an exciting comic book based on the characters from Adventures in Odyssey, I knew AJ would love it. We were blessed to receive Captain Absolutely from Focus On The Family, the creators of Adventures in Odyssey.

Focus On The Family

What is Captain Absolutely?

 Captain Absolutely
Captain Absolutely is a 108 page soft cover comic book. It starts off in Metroplitanville, a city that has no sense of right and wrong. Two friends, Darren and Josiah, are working in the library. When all of a sudden, there is a powerful nuclear explosion. Josiah is suddenly in a section of the library that he had never been to before. The area had a bunch of copies of the same book, the Bible. While Josiah was waiting to be rescued he read the Bible and learned God’s truths. That is when he is transformed into Captain Absolutely. His new mission is to share God’s truth with the people of Metroplitanville. He soon realizes that he wasn’t the only one who was transformed by the nuclear explosion. His friend Darren is now his arch-nemesis, Dr. Relative. Darren had been thrown into the philosophy section of the library and discovered relative truth – where there is no right or wrong, everything is relative.

While Dr. Relative and a handful of other villains try to further corrupt the city of Metroplitanville, Captain Absolutely uses God’s Word to help save them. Like most comic books it is filled with battles, problems, and super powers, but this book doesn’t glorify violence. The bad guys are put in jail and there isn’t any blood or gore. Captain Absolutely even tries to help the bad guys learn about God’s truth.

Throughout the book you will run into familiar characters. The back of the book gives a list of all of the characters and a little information about them. It also tells the story of the real Josiah in the Bible, a person who changed his life after finding God’s Truth.

What We Thought About Captain Absolutely

AJ loves this book. The pictures are amazing! They are full of vivid detail and the characters seem very life like. Often the pictures seem as though they are going to pop off of the page. I like that the book teaches morals and values in a fun way. There is a scene where all of the clothes in the mall are replaced with very short shorts and skimpy tops. The scene points the child to look up 1Timothy 2: 9-10 which says:

likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

There are many other examples throughout the book that teach important lessons.

The end of the book even has a list of Big Questions the reader should discuss with their parents or youth pastor regarding things in the comic book. Some of the questions include; is it okay to steal a Bible, why can’t you scare people into following God, and does God love bad people. It is a great starting point to some in-depth discussions.

If you are looking for an entertaining book for your child to read that is full of God’s Truth and morals this is exactly what you are looking for. It is also great for reluctant readers and those who love comic books. Both AJ and I would highly recommend Captain Absolutely!

See what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought by clicking on the graphic below.

Captain Absolutely {Focus On The Family Review}
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High School Essay Intensive ~ Review

AJ has a love hate relationship with writing. She loves making up stories and telling them, but hates writing them down. About two years ago we were blessed to be able to try out a writing program from the Institute for Excellence in Writing. IEW changed how AJ viewed writing and changed how I viewed teaching it. Her writing has improved so much over the last few years, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. We were recently given the chance to review the revised version of the High School Essay Intensive   , and I knew it was something that AJ needed.

Institute for Excellence in Writing

What is the High School Essay Intensive?

Institute for Excellence in Writing High School Essay Intensive
The High School Essay Intensive is a course that is available streaming and on DVD that walks the student through the process of writing an essay. The course is taught by Andrew Pudewa. Mr. Pudewa has a way of teaching that keeps your interest and makes you want to watch him. While watching the course you feel as if you are in one of his live classes. There are students in the film and the majority of his time is spent at the front of the room writing on a whiteboard.

The course is broken into four sections.

Part 1: General Strategies for Essay Writing – This section takes up two DVDs. Mr. Pudewa goes through everything you need to know about writing an essay. He covers; different types of essays, how to organize an essay and what each paragraph should contain, how to determine the structure of an essay, how to determine what to write, ideas to improve the style of your writing, and so much more. He doesn’t just tell you to write an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Instead, he breaks each part down and explains what to write and how to write it. Even if you have a basic idea about how to write an essay, you will learn numerous ways to improve your writing skills.

Part 2: Understanding and Preparing for the New ACT Essay – This section has a DVD devoted to it. Mr. Pudewa explains the requirements for the New ACT. He goes into the time limit, grading scale, and gives tips for what the evaluators are looking for. He also provides writing strategies that will help you on the day you take the test.

Part 3: Understanding and Preparing for the Redesigned SAT Essay – This section also has a DVD devoted to it. This section is set up very similarly to part 2. Mr. Pudewa goes over the new requirements for the SAT while giving tips and tricks to help you write the best essay possible.

Part 4: Strategies for the “Personal Essay” – This section is on the final DVD. Writing about yourself is often a difficult task. In this section Mr. Pudewa gives examples of essay prompts from a few different colleges. He gives strategies for what to write and how to organize your personal Essay.

Along with the DVDs you also receive a 25 page student handout and the Portable Walls for the Essayist. The student handout includes an initial exercise and a final essay practice. It also has plenty of room for the student to take notes while watching the DVDs. Once your student fills in their student handout, they will have a great reference to look back on when they write an essay in the future. The Portable Walls for the Essayist is a very valuable tool. I think any student who is learning about essay writing would benefit from it. It is a foldable resource that contains all kinds of tips and tricks to help you write an essay. It is available to purchase separately, and I would highly recommend it.

What We Thought of the High School Essay Intensive

When AJ heard we were trying out a writing program she wasn’t too excited, until she found out it was from  the Institute for Excellence in Writing. She understands the way Mr. Pudewa teaches and enjoys watching his DVDs. Since AJ hasn’t written an essay before this course was a little intimidating to her at first. But once she started to understand that an essay isn’t that hard to write, she was more comfortable. Each day I had her watch the DVD and take notes for a while. We finished part 1 and since she has a few years before we have to think about the SAT or ACT we are going to hold off on the other parts of the course for now.

Mr. Pudewa took something that AJ didn’t think she could do, write an essay, and made it something obtainable. By explaining each step he made the task of writing easier. Writing still isn’t her favorite subject, but her skills are continuing to improve.

We only had one complaint about this course. At times the camera would zoom out while Mr. Pudewa was writing something on the whiteboard. AJ found that a little distracting. It didn’t happen too often, but I felt it was worth mentioning. Other than that, the DVDs are very high quality.

If you have a student who is planning on taking the ACT or SAT, or one who needs to improve their essay writing, then the High School Essay Intensive from the Institute for Excellence in Writing may be exactly what you are looking for.

Find out what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought by clicking on the graphic below.

High School Essay Intensive {Institute for Excellence in Writing Reviews}
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ArtAchieve ~ Review

 

Over the last few weeks AJ has been trying out an easy to use art program called, ArtAchieve. There are five different levels in the program. Based on AJ’s drawing abilities I decided to have her try out the Entire Level II. She might have been able to use a higher level, but since she was new to the program I felt level two would be a good place for her to start.

ArtAchieve - An easy to use online art program.

What is ArtAchieve?

ArtAchieve
ArtAchieve is an online subscription based art program. When you log into the program you see a list of all of the art lessons that you have available. The lessons range in price from $4 to $6 each, or they can be purchased as a bundle. Level two has 14 different projects based on art from around the world. From a Swedish Dala Horse, to a Ukrainian Cat, to a mermaid from Denmark, there are a lot of different things to learn about.

Once you decide on the lesson your student wants to do, you print off a warm up worksheet, and begin the lesson. You have the option of watching a video of the lesson or watching a power point presentation. Both give basically the same information, it just depends on your preference. AJ liked the power point better because she was able to stay on a page as long as she needed. She could pause the video when needed, but felt that the power point was easier for her.

Each lesson begins with a list of standards that are being addressed in the lesson. Then the student is shown a real life picture of what they will be drawing. They are then given information about the item. AJ learned that Korean wedding ducks were given to couples at their wedding and that the ducks had either blue or red on them. Blue for the grooms and red for the brides. We learned a lot of interesting facts.

The next step of the lesson is Preparing to Draw. In this section the student is given a list of supplies and is told the goals of the lesson. They are told to do a relaxation technique to get them ready to draw and then they do the warm up worksheet. The warm up is a sheet of paper that has parts of the drawings in boxes. The student traces the lines to become more familiar with the types of lines they will use in their own drawing. The student is given a list of rules for drawing and then they can begin.

Learn to draw with ArtAchieve

In the lesson, the student is taken step by step through the drawing. They start off by planning the picture, and add a little to it at a time. Once the basic drawing is complete the student is shown options for customizing the project. They finish the project using either paint or markers depending on the project. Again they are shown different ideas but are encouraged to come up with their own ideas. At the end of the lesson there are questions for the student to think about relating to their art work.

Projects from ArtAchieve Level II

Your student will learn some history and art, but there is also the option to take the lessons further. Each lesson has a section with Cross-Curricular Connections where there are ideas to further your child’s learning. You will find book ideas, writing activities, geography activities, and more depending on the project.

What We Thought

AJ and I watched the first lesson together. I had her do the relaxation techniques and the warm up worksheet. We read through the rules and then she started her project. AJ thought the rules for drawing were silly, and she didn’t see the point in the warm up. I think it might be her age, but she thought those parts of the lesson were wasting her time. She wanted to get to the fun part – the drawing.

After the first lesson, I let her skip the warm up. She used the program independently. Each day that she did art, she would read through the background information and then do her drawing. She would tell me all kinds of neat things she learned. She would color or paint the picture on a different day.

Overall AJ enjoyed this program and asks if she can work on the next project almost everyday. AJ liked that the drawings were step by step. She didn’t get lost and was able to make her drawings look similar to the one that the instructor drew. This program taught her more about drawing than the projects she made. She has learned how to plan out her picture, and how to use different lines to make a beautiful picture. I have noticed that she has used these new techniques in her sketches and drawings that she has done on her own. Her only complaint was that she didn’t like a few of the pictures that she had to draw.

I liked the simplicity of the program. It was really open and go. She was able to do it all by herself, and she was really learning. I was thankful that we didn’t need any crazy supplies. Everything she needed was in our craft drawer. I also appreciate that the student is learning about culture and history while they draw.

If you are looking for a program that is easy to use, affordable, and will improve your child’s drawing skills, then ArtAchieve may be exactly what you are looking for. See what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought by clicking on the graphic below.

Art Lessons Inspired From Around the World {ArtAchieve Reviews}
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Daily Bible Jigsaw ~ Review

Over the past few weeks I have been trying out a fun game on Facebook called Daily Bible Jigsaw. It is from Planet 316, a company who feels it is important to make the Bible approachable for both young hearts and seasoned souls.

Daily Bible Jigsaw by Planet 316

What is Daily Bible Jigsaw?

Daily Bible Jigsaw is a free app that is available on Google Play, Facebook, Facebook Gameroom, and the Apple App Store. Each day a new five piece by six piece jigsaw puzzle is available and ready for you to solve.

Daily Bible Jigsaw - A fun free app

If you do the puzzle on the day it is available you are able to do it for free. Each day you solve a puzzle, you uncover another piece of a monthly picture. At the end of the month if you solve the puzzles every day, the picture will be revealed. If you miss a day and want to complete a puzzle later you are charged 3 coins. The coins are available for purchase, but you can also earn one each day if you can attach the power piece to another piece of the puzzle.

Daily Bible Jigsaw - A fun free app

When you start the puzzle the pieces are all mixed up and you have to figure out what the picture is. It would be like dumping out a regular jigsaw puzzle without knowing what the picture was going to be when it was finished.

To make the puzzle easier to solve there are five different tools that are available. Each tool that you use will cost you coins, but they can come in handy if you are trying to solve the puzzle faster than your friends.

Rotate – This is my favorite tool. It rotates all of the pieces so that they are the right way. If I have a low time on a puzzle, chances are I used this tool. It makes solving the puzzle so much easier. Without it I often have the puzzle upside down or sideways for a while before I figure out that it needs to be changed.

Daily Bible Jigsaw - A Fun Free App

Guide – This tool lets you look at a picture of the completed puzzle. I haven’t used this one very often, but it is helpful if you can’t figure out what the picture is suppose to be.

Daily Bible Jigsaw - A Fun Free App

Sweep – This tool will sweep all of the pieces that are not connected to the sides. This is nice if you want to get the pieces you need to still work on to the side so that you can work on them. It is mainly a time saver.

Daily Bible Jigsaw - A Fun Free App

Magnet – The magnet will randomly connect two pieces together. I didn’t find this tool very helpful, but it is a good option to have.

Daily Bible Jigsaw - A Fun Free App

Edges – This is a helpful tool, it hides all of the pieces that are not edges. It makes it so that you can quickly put the edges together.

Daily Bible Jigsaw - A Fun Free App

When you are finished with the puzzle a scripture verse is added to it and you have the option of sharing the picture on Facebook.

Daily Bible Jigsaw - A Fun Free App

You are also shown your friends times and where you rank among them.

Along with the daily puzzles there are also bonus puzzles that are a little more challenging that you can try. Some of them are free while others cost a few coins.

What We Thought of Daily Bible Jigsaw

I tried to play the game each day, but often found myself using coins to catch up on a few days. Overall this game was a nice addition to my day. It is quick and easy but challenging enough to make you think.  The pictures are beautiful and I have seen a variety of them over the past few weeks. There have been breathtaking landscapes, animals, and other adorable pictures. I like that it is an easy way to share scripture verses. I also enjoy being able to challenge my friends and try to beat their time. The only thing I didn’t care for was that it was not compatible on my kindle. I usually play games on my kindle instead of my computer, but that is just a personal preference.

If you are looking for a fun addition to your day, give Daily Bible Jigsaw a try. The best part is it is free!

Daily Bible Jigsaw {Planet 316 Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Iliad & Odyssey Complete Set ~ Review

Over the past few weeks AJ and I have been reading and studying Homer’s Iliad. We received the Iliad & Odyssey Complete Set from Memoria Press it has made the process of learning about these ancient texts a lot easier. We looked forward to reading these Epics and were excited to get started.

Iliad & Odyssey Complete Set

The Iliad

Iliad & Odyssey Complete Set
We received a copy of the Iliad translated by Samuel Butler. The book is 447 pages long and is broken up into 24 books. The print size in the book is nice. AJ commented that she didn’t have to squint to read the words and that she could actually see them easily.

Along with the book we received a Student Guide and a Teacher Guide. For each book in the Iliad there are two pages in the Student Guide to complete. The first section lists important places and characters and gives more information about them. The next section has comprehension questions. These vary in difficulty. Some are simple answers that are pulled straight from the book while others require a little more thought.

The third section is Quotations. A few quotes from the book are listed. The student is expected to become familiar with these quotes and know them for tests. The final section is Discussion Questions. These questions are mostly opinion based. An example from book 15 is;

 Who is the better warrior- Ajax, son of Telamon, or Hector. There isn’t a correct answer but the questions do force the student to think about the story on a deeper level.

Since The Iliad was written so long ago, it can be a difficult read. The Student Guide tries to make it as simple as possible. In the appendix there are genealogical charts and other helpful information to help your student keep track of who is who and which side different cities are on. We found this section very valuable.

The Teacher Guide for The Iliad is different from other Memoria Press guides we have used in the past. While the Teacher Guide has all of the information contained in the Student Guide, it has so much more.

Each book begins with Background and Drill. This section gives more in depth information about important topics. There are also sections on Discussion Help, questions the students should mark for tests, Teacher Notes, and additional assignments for the student to complete. There are writing assignments for almost every book. These include memory work, summaries, compare and contrast, opinion, and more.

There are three tests included in the Teacher Guide. These tests are not easy! When your student is able to pass the tests they will have a great understanding of The Iliad.

The best part of the package was the Instructional DVDs. Sean Brooks gives a video lecture for each book in The Iliad. The lectures were not boring, in fact AJ enjoyed watching the lectures. Mr. Brooks is excellent at explaining what is going on in each book and why it is important. I felt the DVDs were what made me feel confident to teach these books. They really took the study to the next level.

The Odyssey

Iliad & Odyssey Complete Set
Our copy of The Odyssey is also translated by Samuel Butler. It is 358 pages long and broken up into 24 books. Like The Iliad, the text size is nice and the book is well made.

The Student Guide and Teacher Guides are set up very similarly to the guides for The Iliad. I appreciate that because when we get to The Odyssey AJ will already be familiar with the set up.

There looks like a lot of fun assignments to go along with The Odyssey. One that I think AJ will like is from book 7. It asks the student to choose a location for Scheria and defend it geographically. They have to describe how to get back to Ithaca from that point. I like that they are forced to think deeper.

I watched a few of the DVD lectures, and they did not disappoint. I am sure that AJ will like them as much as she likes the lectures on The Iliad.

How We Use It

At first we tried to use the program as it is designed in the Teacher Guide. The student reads a book each day and completes the work. Together both books should take around 18 weeks to complete. The study really seems to be written for more of a classroom student with classwork and homework, than for a homeschooled student. It was just too much for AJ. This book is not an easy read and requires a lot of concentration. We are not classical homeschoolers and she had never heard of the Trojan War. I think a student who is use to Memoria Press would be able to catch on a lot faster.

After a few days I decided to change things up. We are currently not using the Student Guide at all. We are reading a book out loud over a day or two depending on the length and then on the following day watching the lecture and discussing the discussion questions.

My plan is to have her read through both books and watch all of the lectures. When she is done and is more familiar with all of the characters and what is happening in the story she will read them again. At that point I will have her fill out the study guides, take quizzes, do the memory work, and dig deeper. I plan to give AJ a high school English credit when she is completely finished.

What We Thought

If you are looking for a way to teach your child these difficult texts, this is hands down the way to go. I don’t think you will find a better study. Between the Teacher Guide and the Instructional DVDs you will have everything you need right at your finger tips.

First Form Greek, Iliad/Odyssey and American History {Memoria Press Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Bessie’s Pillow ~ Review

This year AJ has been learning all about modern history. Learning about things that happened only decades ago instead of hundreds of years ago has been really interesting to her. It is amazing how far our world has come in such a short time. Most of the topics we are learning about happened after my grandma was born. Knowing someone who was actually alive when wars and other things happened really puts things into perspective.  One topic that AJ has really enjoyed learning about is the American Dream. And how that dream wasn’t easy for a lot of people.

We were recently given the chance to review the book, Bessie’s Pillow by Linda Bress Silbert. It is an amazing book from Strong Learning, Inc. that is based on a true story of a young immigrant’s journey to America. I thought that the book would be a great way for AJ to get a better understanding of the personal side of history. It is easy to learn facts, but it is nice to get a look into how people felt and handled what was going on. AJ seems to enjoy books that are based on a strong female character, so I thought that she would enjoy this book.

Bessie's Pillow 

What is Bessie’s Pillow?

Bessie’s Pillow is a 276 page soft covered historical fiction book. It is broken into 40 chapters and includes a section called Bessie’s America. This section is full of historical information about the things going on in Eastern Europe that drove hundreds of thousands of people to immigrate to America in the 19th and 20th century. It also includes information about what America was like in that time period.

The book is told in first person point of view. It starts off with 18 year old Boshka Markman waiting to leave her family and everything she knew to come to America. It was 1906 and Lithuania was no longer a safe place for her to live. At such a young age she would leave her family and make the long difficult journey to America on her own.

Just getting to America was a challenge. There are numerous health checks and inspections to make sure she was healthy enough to enter America. Once she finally reached America she was told that her name would have to be changed to make it more American. From that day on she was known as Bessie.

Bessie was a strong woman. We see her grow from a young 18 year old child to a strong wife and business woman. She faces struggles and overcomes them. She is kind, compassionate, and has a strong spirit.

Beyond the Book

Just reading the book will teach you a lot about history. But the author has taken it a step further. She has created a site, Bessie’s America that takes learning about the time period to a new level. There are picture from the time period and tons of information about daily life back in the beginning of the 1900’s.

There is also a teacher’s guide. The guide includes; discussion questions, a timeline of events, character analysis, themes, symbolism in the book and more. This book can easily be a jumping point for a full on history and language arts study.

Unfortunately, when we were reading the book there were some issues with the website and the links were not working. Now that it is working, we have enjoyed looking through and learning even more about the time period.

What We Thought

Originally the plan was to read a few chapters a day as a read aloud. After the first few days though, it seemed impossible to stop after a few chapters. The book was exciting and AJ didn’t want to stop reading. We ended up finishing the book in a few days. It was well written and really gave insight into what it was like to be an immigrant in America.

There were a few difficult to read chapters, because lets face it, Americans were not always the most welcoming to immigrants. It is sad that Bessie had to face those difficulties, but I am glad that they were included in the book. I feel it is important to share both the good and bad parts of history. That being said, you may wish to read the book yourself before handing it over to your child. I think a 5th grader could easily read the book, but I know AJ would not have been emotionally ready to read it in 5th grade. She is in 8th grade now and the book brought up a lot of great discussions, especially considering all of the talk about immigration in our political world.

Overall, if you are looking for an exciting, well written, inspiring story of a strong female character who overcomes many difficulties, Bessie’s Pillow may be exactly what you are looking for.

Find out what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought of the book by clicking on the graphic below.

Bessie's Pillow {Strong Learning, Inc. Reviews}
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Creating A Masterpiece ~ Review

Art is a subject that is often neglected in our homeschool. I would rather teach algebra or writing than art. I think it has to do with the fact that I am not artistic. I would have never passed art in school if it wasn’t for the tests and reports. AJ is very critical of her art and often gets upset when it isn’t perfect, so we often just skip it. When we were given the chance to review the Monthly Plan from Creating a Masterpiece, I thought it would be just what we needed to improve on our artistic abilities.

Creating a Masterpiece

What is Creating A Masterpiece?

Creating A Masterpiece is an online collection of step by step art lessons taught by artist Sharon Hofer. Each project has video lessons that are broken up into small sections. It is the next best thing to taking an art lesson in person. There are a variety of different mediums to explore for beginners through more advanced artists.

When you purchase a subscription to Creating a Masterpiece you will have access to all of the videos in each level. Some of the mediums covered include:

  • oil painting
  • watercolor
  • pastel
  • charcoal
  • pencil
  • ink
  • carving
  • wood burning
  • acrylic
  • silk painting
  • and more

The idea is that your child will be creating masterpieces, not just crafty projects.

How We Used Creating A Masterpiece

We decided to start at the beginner level with watercolor. Our first project was an African Sunset.

Creating A Masterpiece Projects

We were both amazed with the details that we learned. We were able to finish the project in just a few lessons. The directions were easy to follow, and I think that they turned out nicely.

The next project we completed was Floral Medley. This project was a little harder for both of us.

It had more drying time and was a little more open to interpretation. After trying the project a few times, I think they came out okay. AJ is still working on understanding how art can be abstract.

Creating A Masterpiece Projects

The final project we were able to complete was a lesson from level 1. It was a color pencil project and I expected it to be quick and easy. The Tropical Clown Fish actually took the longest to complete.

Creating A Masterpiece Projects

The directions were very easy to follow, but there were a lot of steps. The fish is suppose to look as though it was painted even though it was done in colored pencils.

Creating A Masterpiece Projects

Throughout this project, AJ thought she was doing a horrible job. But once the finished project was revealed she was quite proud of herself.

In the future we plan to try out more painting projects as well as some pastels and charcoal projects.

What We Thought

I knew that AJ and I would learn a few new techniques while using Creating A Masterpiece, but I was surprised at how much we learned. After completing a few projects AJ is a lot more confident in her abilities and excited to try out the techniques that she has learned in her own paintings.

The directions for the projects really are simple enough that a child can understand. One thing I liked was that although the lessons were simple, the instructor didn’t talk down to artists. I think artists of all ages will get something out of this program.

The video quality is great, and it is nice to be able to watch and re-watch the lessons. I was very impressed with Creating A Masterpiece and would recommend it to any artist looking to improve their skills. If AJ and I can create projects that look this nice, I an sure that those with more experience could create something spectacular.

 

Creating Beautiful Art at Home {Creating A Masterpiece Reviews}
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Circle C Stepping Stones ~ Review

AJ is a very reluctant reader. If a book isn’t about animals or scientific in nature, there is a strong chance that she will complain and drag her feet when reading a book. Her reading skills have greatly improved over the last few years but her desire to read hasn’t. Thankfully, I have discovered a few different authors that she enjoys. One of AJ’s favorite authors is Susan K. Marlow. When I found out that we were going to have a chance to review two of her new books, I was thrilled. AJ is older than the recommended age for the books, but I knew she would enjoy them.

We were sent two fun filled adventures from Kregel Publications ; Andi Saddles Up and Andi Under the Big Top. These books are part of a new series called Circle C Stepping Stones. They take place between Circle C Beginnings and Circle C Adventures when Andi is nine years old. It is perfect for 7 to 10 year olds who are not quite ready for longer chapter books and for anyone who is interested in Andi’s story.

If your family hasn’t been introduced to Andi and the Circle C Ranch, you are missing a great series of books. They follow the life of Andrea Carter, a little girl growing up in California in the late 1800’s. Her family lives on a ranch and she finds herself in numerous adventures. She is a spunky girl who tries to do the right thing but learns valuable lessons about growing up, faith, and family along the way.

Andi Saddles Up

This 104 page soft covered book is broken up into 12 chapters and a History Fun section. It starts off with Andi turning nine years old. She gets a brand new saddle for her horse Taffy and wants to learn how to trick ride. Her brother tells her it isn’t safe and instead shows her a special place on the ranch. Andi ends up meeting a new friend in her special spot, but their two families are feuding over land and the girls are told they can’t be friends. Will Andi listen, or will she try to trick ride on her own? Will the girls be able to stay friends, or will the fighting adults keep them apart? You will have to read the book to find out.

Andi Saddles Up
This book is full of lessons. From friendship, to obedience, to compromise. There is also a lot of historical information to learn as well. Your child will learn a lot by reading the book, but they can take their learning a step further by using the free Study Guides that go along with the book. They have reading comprehension questions, vocabulary, poetry, math and science activities, and more. The Study Guide is paced so that your child can finish the book and activities in 28 days, but AJ finished them in a week.

Andi Under the Big Top

This soft covered book is 105 pages is also broken into 12 chapters and a History Fun section. In this book the circus is coming to town. When Andi and her family go to the circus they see all of the fun and excitement. There are acrobats and elephants, and even a bare back rider. Andi meets a young boy who works at the circus, and she thinks that Henry is lucky to be able to be at the circus every day. Andi soon finds out that his life isn’t very easy. He had ran away from home and now wanted to go back but couldn’t. Will Andi find a way to help Henry? What other adventures await? You will have to read the book and find out for your self.

Andi Under the Big Top
This book drives home the importance of helping others and of family. Using the Study Guide will give your child the opportunity to learn more about the circus. They will even have a chance to make their own stilts! They will also learn about trains and telegrams. There is a lot to discover in this Study Guide.

How We Used the Books

When the books came in the mail, AJ grabbed them and started to read. She started with Andi Saddles Up and was thrilled to learn more about Andi’s adventures. I printed off the Study Guide and had her do a weeks worth of work each day. It took her about an hour to read three chapters and do all of the Study Guide activities. If she was younger, I would have probably had her read a chapter a day, but she was easily able to handle the expedited pace. The following week she read Andi Under the Big Top and completed the Study Guide, but she didn’t make the stilts. She had a great time reading and working on the Study Guide.

What We Thought

These books were not a disappointment! They lived up to the fun adventures that we have come to expect from Susan K. Marlow. They are wholesome, exciting, and make for some good discussions. One thing that AJ likes is that while the books can be read as a stand alone, they really go well together.

I can’t believe how well put together the Study Guides are, or that they are free. (You can purchase them pre printed. Downloading them and printing them yourself is free) They are well thought out and a lot of time was put into them. AJ was writing poetry, adding up the cost of circus snacks, doing cross word puzzles of vocabulary, filling in maps, and learning about the historical time period. The activities make the book come more to life.

If you have an Andi fan, you need to check out these books. If you have a younger child who is interested in adventures, horses, or the old west, you need to check these book out. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Andi Series {Kregel Publications and Susan K. Marlow Reviews}

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