Freshman Curriculum Choices

We school through the summer and take Thanksgiving through New Year’s off. We started our new school year about three weeks ago. AJ has officially started high school! Time has gone by so fast. I still remember making the decision to pull her out of public school like it was yesterday.  Picking out her high school courses wasn’t easy, but we are both happy with the final decisions. Here are the core subjects that she will be working on for her freshmen year.

Math

UnLock Math
She will be taking Geometry this year. A few years ago we were blessed with the chance to review Pre Algebra from UnLock Math, and it was amazing. When I found out that UnLock Math had a new Geometry program, I knew that I wanted to have AJ try it out. I was ecstatic when we were blessed with the opportunity to review it. My formal review will be in a few weeks, but we love it. Everything is explained in a step by step manner and there is plenty of review built in. She will be sticking with UnLock Math for the year.

In addition to UnLock math she will continue to work on Khan Academy for 15 minutes twice a week. UnLock Math is more than enough, but I want her to continue to work on skills other than geometry so that she doesn’t forget those algebraic skills. I figure mastering a few new skills a week will make Algebra 2 easier when she takes it next year.

History

This year she will be taking World Geography. We had planned on her taking this course last year, but she didn’t get very far. Instead of using just a textbook approach, she will be using an online course with the book as a supplement. She will be using the World Geography course from Easy Peasy High School. So far we both really like it. She is using the book we have to help her with map work and to do research.

English

This was the hardest subject to decide on. I decided I really wanted something that was put together for me. For middle school I made most of her book studies and pieced things together. It worked out and she learned quite a bit, but it was a lot of work for me. Reading novels is not something that AJ really enjoys. So I wanted a program that had her reading, but that didn’t require her to read so many books that she would feel overwhelmed. I had my options narrowed down to a few programs, and then we were given the chance to review Lightning Literature. It was one of the programs I wanted to try out! We have been using it for a few weeks now and will use it for the rest of the year. Our review will be posting in a few weeks.

 Lightning Literature and Composition Pack American: Mid to Late 19th Century
She will be using their American Literature: Mid – Late 19th Century. There are a few ways to use the program. I decided to have her use the course over an entire school year. She will read four books during that time; Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Red Badge of Courage, and The Call of the Wild. There are also short stories and poetry that she will be reading.

In addition to literature, she will also continue with Analytical Grammar. Even though Lightning Literature has writing assignments for each novel, short story, and poetry selection, there isn’t really writing instruction. Since writing is the subject she struggles with the most we decided she needed something that would provide more instruction. She did very well with IEW’s Writing Intensive level B so we decided to try out another one of their products – US History Based Writing Lessons. It has the instruction she needs but isn’t overwhelming so it can easily be added to her workload.

Vocabulary will be taken from her literature books and from her writing lessons.

Science

This year AJ will be taking two science courses. She would take more if I let her. AJ loves science and anything that has to do with animals. She will be taking Biology and Animal Science from SchoolhouseTeachers.com

Biology is offered at schoolhouseteachers.com!

Biology is a great introductory biology course. It has a lot of flexibility and lets you go as in-depth as you want with the course. There are optional microscope experiments and dissections that we will be doing to make sure AJ gets a lab science.

Animal Science is one of the many science courses available from Schoolhouseteachers.com

Animal Science can be either a half credit or full credit class depending on the activities you decide to complete. There are 27 weekly lessons that will teach your child all about animals.

Nature’s Beautiful Order
There are a few activities that I don’t plan to have AJ complete, but I wanted to make sure it was a full credit course. She has been working on Nature’s Beautiful Order from Memoria Press and between the two there will be more than enough work to award her a full credit of Animal Science. So far AJ loves this course.

Those are the core subjects that AJ is taking this year. She is also taking a few different electives that I will share later on this week. Have you decided what courses your child will be taking this year?

Internship for High School Credit ~ Review

If you have a high school student then the product that AJ and I were recently able to review will interest you. AJ just finished her 8th grade year. While I thought long and hard if homeschooling her through high school was the right decision, for us there really wasn’t another option. One of the amazing opportunities that we are presented with when we homeschool through high school is the ability to tailor their education to fit them and their future goals. One way we can do that is to offer them electives that will give them the skills they need to succeed in the future.

An internship is something I had never thought to look into for AJ. But when we were given the chance to review Internship for High School Credit from Apologia Educational Ministries I began to discover all kinds of opportunities that AJ can take advantage of in the future. She wants to be a veterinarian, so an internship might be the perfect thing for her.

What is Internship for High School Credit

Internship for High School Credit is a 99 page spiral bound book written by Sherri Seligson. It is a workbook that is jammed full of information that will help you in every step to getting and completing an internship. It is broken into five sections. Some are for the parent and others are designed to be used by the students.

Internship for High School Credit

Part I: Getting Started

This section of the book is basically an overview about internships. You learn types of places that you can intern, how to get high school credit, and things to do to prepare for an internship. Resumes are explained and a sample is provided to help you create your own. You are also given a sample letter of introduction, the letter you would send to prospective job opportunities. It also includes interview tips and what to do once you get the position. This section while great for internships, would be great for anyone looking for a job. It includes practical advice and things your student might not think about – like not wearing too much perfume to the interview.

Part II: Information for Parents

This section is for the parents, but the student should read through it as well. It is a short section that has some great advice. It talks about child labor laws. This section also focuses on how to name the course and how you should assign grades for an internship.

Part III: First Semester

This section is for once your student has secured their internship. There is a worksheet where the student lists skills that they hope to obtain during the internship.  At the end of the first semester they list both office skills and career related skills that they have learned.

It also contains 16 weeks worth of worksheets that the student is to complete while they are completing their internship.  In the beginning the worksheets ask the student simple things like; their position, a description of their duties, and their workplace attire. As the weeks go on their are questions that require the student to ask their supervisor for things they need to improve. They are also asked to list areas of specialty in their chosen career and how the internship has affected their career goals. Each weekly worksheet is only a few questions and should be able to be completed in less than 30 minutes.

There are also work performance sheets for both midterm and the end of the semester. These are worksheets that the student has their supervisor fill out and rate them regarding their performance. I like that this is all set up so that the parent doesn’t have to come up with something. And the student knows what they will be evaluated on in the beginning.

Part IV: Second Semester

For the second semester things are changed up a little. Instead of filling in worksheets there are writing assignments every two weeks. Some of the assignments include comparing your first weeks of the second semester to the responsibilities you had at the beginning of the first semester. There are also questions based on what the student thought the day to day experience in the job would be like compared to what it really was. Each assignment is a little different, but they all require the student to take a greater look at the job and themselves. Since these are all one to two page writing assignments they will take longer to complete, but the student is given two weeks to complete them.

This section also includes two more work performance sheets for your supervisor.

Part V: Course Wrap-Up

This section is for once the internship is complete. It includes a final writing assignment and a sample thank you letter to send to your supervisor.

What We Thought of Internship for High School Credit

AJ is a little too young to use this book right now. She isn’t old enough to complete an internship in our area and isn’t mature enough to handle the responsibility. That said, we are both extremely grateful for the chance to review it and will be using it in a few years. It has everything broken down and organized to make the process on completing an internship easier. I like how everything is open and go. As a parent I don’t need to do very much other than help her make choices regarding the internship and grade her work.

I really like the idea of the performance evaluations. They will help to keep the student on track and teach them how to take criticism and improve themselves. I also like that the worksheets help to keep the student focused on their goals. Throughout the book tips are included that will help the student to become a model employee. As someone who was responsible for hiring and evaluating employees in the past, I feel that some of the tips would help the majority of new employees, even if they are not completing an internship.

If you have a high school student who is interested in learning more about their chosen career then an internship is a great idea. Internship for High School Credit would make a great addition to your high school resources. Do you think your student would enjoy an internship?

Apologia Educational Ministries

The people at Apologia Educational Ministries  also gave the choice to review a different product, How to HOMESCHOOL with Stunning Confidence, Contagious Joy, and Amazing Focus (DVD & Coursebook). We didn’t try it out, but other members of the Homeschool Review Crew did, and it looks like a great resource for beginning homeschoolers. Check out the reviews for both products by clicking on the graphic below.

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

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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Lab Reports ~ What to Include & How to Grade

As AJ gets older, I wan her to start writing better lab reports. She wants to go into a scientific field when she gets older, so knowing how to write a proper lab report will be an essential skill. She has been writing simple reports about science experiments for a while. They usually included a hypothesis and the results of the experiment.

For her 8th grade year, I decided she needed something more. I wanted her to get use to following a guideline for the report and to include age appropriate information. After looking all over for a rubric or guideline for middle school science reports, I couldn’t find what I needed. So I made one for her. I wanted to share it with you incase you are searching for a solid lab report guide for your child.

Free Lab Report Grading Sheets!

Parts of the Lab Report

Title Page – The lab title should be centered on the page. Name and date should be in the bottom right hand corner. 2 Points

Objective – One or two sentence statement that outlines the purpose of the experiment. 2 Points

Introduction – Should include detailed information about principles, terms, and techniques used. Must include a clearly stated hypothesis that is underlined. 10 Points

Materials – List all materials that were used in the experiment, including equipment. Include labeled diagram of the experiment set up. 10 Points

Procedure – Describe all of the steps for the experiment in an orderly manner. Write in paragraph form using the past impersonal tense. 10 Points

Qualitative Results – Write a description of your observations. Results should include all of the senses that you used. What did you see, hear, smell, feel, or taste? ONLY TOUCH OR TASTE IF INSTRUCTED! Include a table or sketch if needed. 15 Points

Quantitative Results – Show completed graphs and tables of measured results. Make sure units are included and that all graphs and tables are properly labeled. If any calculations were done, show a sample of each type. Show your work and explain each step.  25 Points

Conclusion – Summarize the results of the experiment. Was the objective met? Was your hypothesis correct? Do the results make sense based on prior knowledge? Was there any chance of error? What would you change if the experiment was repeated? This should be at least a paragraph. 10 Points

Bibliography – Include a works cited page for any sources you used. This should include any textbook, video, book, or website that you used for background information. You must list at least one source. Use MLA format. 6 Points EasyBib is a great website to help you with MLA format. 

Neatness and Formatting – Report should be typed and double spaced. All graphs and drawings should be neat and fit on the page correctly. 5 Points

Spelling and Grammar – Proper spelling and grammar should be used throughout the report. 5 Points

Grading the Lab Report

I started by going over each section of the lab report and what I expected from her. My goal was to help AJ get use to writing lab reports and following directions, so I was fairly lenient in grading. As long as she followed the directions and included what was necessary she received the points.  Points would be taken off for missing information, improperly labeled graphs, or sloppy work.

I had her include a Lab Report Grading Sheet with each report she completed. It lists each section of the report and the points possible. There is a place for her score as well as any notes. I was able to easily grade her report and file it away with the grading sheet.

I found that some experiments didn’t provide measureable results. When those experiments came up I gave her a Lab Report Grading Sheet without the Quantitative Results. Those reports became worth 75 points instead of 100.

I didn’t make her use this format for every lab, but I did make her write one formal report each month. Her reports have improved quite a bit and she enjoys the process.

You can download a copy of the Lab Report Grading Sheet. I also included a printable version of what the student should include in their Lab Report. I hope it helps your young scientist!

It’s Okay if Your Child is Average

Sometimes when people find out that AJ is homeschooled, they expect her to be brilliant. It is almost like there is a stereotype that homeschooled kids are either far behind their public schooled peers or that they are mini geniuses.  It is easy to get caught in a comparison trap, even if you are just comparing to an unrealistic ideal. In the beginning I would feel like I wasn’t doing enough with her because she was just average. She doesn’t know Latin and isn’t going to be on Jeopardy any time soon. She has subjects that she excels in and subjects that she struggles with.  But, that is okay!

Coming to peace with the fact that she doesn’t have to compare to anyone else has made our homeschooling journey go a lot smoother. Part of the reason I brought her home was to give her the best education possible. That means doing what is right for her, not what works for others.

As I prepared for her freshman year of high school I knew I needed to keep her strengths and weaknesses in mind. She struggles with writing and vocabulary so I knew that a College Prep English class was out of the question. She needed something that would push her and help her grow, but not set her up for failure. On the other hand, for math she needed something that moved quickly because she finds the subject easy.

As we picked courses for AJ one thing we kept in mind was her end goals. After high school she wants to become a veterinarian technician and then go to school to be come a veterinarian while working in the field. Of course we know that this dream can change, but it has been her goal for a while now. She will need a lot of math and science courses to fulfil her goal. Thankfully those are her two favorite subjects. She will need to be able to read and write well, but analyzing books and poetry probably isn’t something that she will find very useful.

It's Okay if Your Child is Average

Our plan is to expose her to the subjects her peers in public school take so that she knows the basics. She will write some essays and analyze a few books each year. But we plan to really dig deeper into the topics that she enjoys and the topics that will get her closer to her end goal of working with animals. Instead of pushing creative writing, which she really dislikes, we will work on reports and basic writing. Instead of using only fiction books for English, we will add in plenty of non fiction ones.

That is the beauty of homeschooling. You get to tailor your child’s education to their needs. Don’t stress out about what everyone else is doing. If you are raising the next Einstein, that is great. If your child is average and struggles with some things, that is okay too! As long as your child is growing and learning, that is what matters. Don’t get caught in a comparison trap.

I will be sharing our choices for the 2017 school year soon. I think AJ and I will both learn a lot.

Have you decided what courses your child will be studying next year?

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}
Crew Disclaimer

The Gift that Made Alzheimer’s Easier

This Post Contains Affiliate LinksAlzheimer’s is a terrible disease. My grandma was in a very bad car accident back in 1999 and has had memory problems ever since. When you already have a bad memory it is hard to figure out when exactly Alzheimer’s starts. I would say she had the beginning stages about ten to twelve years ago. About six years ago her disease progressed and while she lived alone, we checked on her a lot. Often we would be at her house three or four times a week because she couldn’t turn the TV on or she lost her purse. About three years ago it became apparent that she needed someone with her at all times. She is now at the point where she doesn’t know any of us. Part of the time she doesn’t know her own name and she thinks she is between 5 and 18 years old.

She requires constant care. We cook for her, clean for her, do her laundry, shop, pay bills, change her diapers, and really do just about everything for her. The hard part is that sometimes she doesn’t realize that she needs help. She thinks she can do things by herself, but forgets what she is doing before she is done.

After figuring out the correct medications for her, her temper has gotten better for he most part. She still hits, kicks, and bites if she doesn’t get her way, but it is more controlled. In a way it is like dealing with a toddler who is a lot bigger. She constantly wants her mother and daddy and feels alone. Her puppy has made a big difference. She holds the puppy, loves on her, and talks to her. Even though the puppy had helped her mood, we needed something else to help keep her occupied. We tried to get her interested in puzzles and books, but she didn’t want anything to do with them. We also tried to have her keep her hands busy by folding washcloths. She didn’t like that either. Finally we found something that worked.

How a Doll Made Dealing With Alzheimer's Easier

We got her a doll.

She loved the baby doll. She holds it and kisses it. When it is cold she makes sure it has a blanket. The doll gave her something to do. She wasn’t constantly thinking about her parents and worrying, because she had a doll. That one doll has turned into four over the last two years. She also has a teddy bear and a stuffed lamb. We find her playing with them in her room. Sometimes she will make the bed and organize them all neatly. Other times she will take them all to bed with her.

The funny thing is that she knows they are hers. She asks for her little girl and the brother. It is amazing that something as simple as a doll could bring so much joy to an 87 year old woman. Grandma doesn’t remember much so our goal is to keep her as happy and healthy as possible. That $10 doll has made a big difference and I wish that we would have tried it sooner.

If you have a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s a doll might help. Do you have any tips?

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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Using Khan Academy for High School Math

We have had the opportunity to review quite a few math programs over the years. AJ loves math, but she hates to have to do pages of problems once she understands a concept. I don’t blame her. If she understands a concept, I would rather move on to something new. That lets us spend time on the things she may take a little longer to grasp and speed through the concepts she picks up easily.

We started out using CTC Math for Algebra 1. It worked well in the beginning. AJ liked the video lessons and the worksheets didn’t take her too long to do. As the year progressed and she was coming up on problems that took longer to do, those worksheets started taking way too long. AJ was frustrated and so was I. I couldn’t afford to purchase a new math program, so I decided to go back to a program we had used in the past, Khan Academy.

There were some changes from when AJ used it as a supplement a few years ago, but everything we liked about it was the same.

What We Like About Khan Academy

  • Short lessons. – AJ can watch a video lesson on a topic and then work a few problems. Depending on the type of problem, she has to get 3 to 5 questions correct in a row. So if she understands the concept she can prove it and be on her way. If she is having some trouble the program makes her practice longer. It even has her do similar problems to the ones she missed just changing little things to ensure she really knows the concept.Khan Academy - A great option for high school math!
  • Mastery Challenges. – Once you get the 3 to 5 problems correct in a row your status in a concept changes from not practiced to practiced. In order to master the concept you complete mastery challenges. The levels are: not practiced, practiced, level 1, level 2, and mastered. The mastery challenge can be on anything you have already learned, and if you miss the question then you go down a level. When you get a question correct you go up one or more levels. I like that old concepts are thrown in, this makes sure she really learned a concept, and that she didn’t just temporarily understand it. There have been a few times that she has had to remaster a concept because she forgot how to solve a problem.
  • Step by step hints.- When working on a new concept, you are forced to enter the correct answer. If you get the problem wrong you can not go to the next one until the correct answer is entered. If you need help you are given step by step hints to help you solve the problem. This is great because often you don’t know where you messed up on a problem, this lets you know so that you can fix it.Khan Academy - A great option for high school math!
  • Flexibility.- As her learning coach I can assign lessons for AJ to complete. She can also work on any topic in a specific mission. Or she can stick with one concept like functions until she masters it. This is great because if she is having trouble with functions she can leave it and work on something else for a few days and then come back.Khan Academy - A great option for high school math!
  • Badges and Patches. – You earn points for each activity you complete. Badges can be earned for having so many points, answering so many questions correctly, working so many days in a row, and other things. Challenge patches are earned every time you master a section of concepts, like third grade multiplication. Earning the badges and patches motivates AJ. She will some times say she needs to practice another concept so that she can earn a badge for the week.

How We Are Using Khan Academy for High School

My goal is for AJ to master concepts. Khan Academy is perfect for mastery! Our goal for Algebra was to have AJ complete both the Algebra Basics and the Algebra 1 missions in Khan Academy. I had her sign into her account each day and start by taking four mastery challenges (usually 6 questions each) and then practicing two concepts. I had her do so much because a lot was review. After about a week there were not as many mastery challenges available each day. At that point she would do the one or two available mastery challenges and then work on two or three new concepts. It took her about two months to master Algebra Basics.

When she got to Algebra 1 and the concepts became harder I decided to change things up. She still did any mastery challenges, but then she would work on new concepts for a half an hour. Some days she was able to speed through them and other days she would only get through one new concept. I make her watch the videos and take notes on any new concept that she isn’t able to figure out by herself. She has improved on her note taking and has a good set of notes for future math.

About a month ago I decided to have AJ go back and work on math from previous years. I had her work one day a week on lower level math to master it. There are a few areas that she struggles with, mainly word problems. Having her go back and master Early Math, Arithmetic, an pre algebra helped me to make sure that she didn’t have any gaps in her learning. Since then she decided that she wanted to get 100% mastery in kindergarten through 8th grade math. I figure the more she completes the better.

Khan Academy - A great option for high school math!

Right now she has completed 92% of Algebra 1. The only section she has left to complete is quadratic equations and functions. I am sure in the next few weeks she will be finished with Algebra 1. Once she masters all of the concepts I will be giving her an A. I feel that by mastering all of the concepts she will show that she really understands algebra. Since there is a lot of review with the mastery challenges, I know that she has seen a variety of  problems and has had plenty of review. I am also sent a weekly report with what she has worked on so I have proof that she has done the work even though there isn’t any worksheets or book work.

I feel Khan Academy is a great option for high school math. What are you using for math?