Introductory Physics from Novare Science & Math ~ Review

AJ plans to go into a scientific field after high school. So I am constantly looking for good quality resources that will really prepare her for college and beyond. I want something that helps her to fully understand the information, beyond just learning to pass a test. When we were given the chance to review Introductory Physics from Novare Science & Math I thought that it would be a great fit for AJ.

What is Introductory Physics?

Introductory Physics is a textbook written by John D. Mays that is almost 400 pages long. Unlike most physic courses, it is designed to be used by freshmen students. The book provides a very solid overview of physics in a way that a student who has taken or is taking Algebra 1 should be able to understand.

Novare Introductory Physics, 2nd Edition
It is smaller than most high school science texts because it is a mastery based program. A student should be able to learn and understand the information in this textbook over the course of a year. That is not often the case with other science textbooks.

Parts of Introductory Physics

The book begins with a Preface for Teachers. In this section the philosophy behind the textbook is explained. The mastery approach is explained as well as information about calculator use and class homework. It also lists optional materials that would be helpful in teaching the course; including the Teacher Resource CD that we received. (We received a download of the CD for review purposes, but if you purchase one you will receive a physical CD.) This section is fairly short, but I felt more comfortable teaching the course after reading it.

There is then a Preface for Students. This section explains what is expected of the student. It also provides study strategies to help them become successful in the course.

The book is then divided into 13 chapters. Two of the chapters are optional, chapters 8 and 13. The author recommends skipping them when used for 9th grade students because the other chapters provide more than enough to cover in a course. The math is also more difficult. These chapters can be used if the student is older or has more math experience.

The 13 chapters are:

1. The Nature of Scientific Knowledge

2. Motion

3. Newton’s Laws of Motion

4. Energy

5. Momentum

6. Atoms, Matter, and Substances

7. Heat and Temperature

8. Pressure and Buoyancy*

9. Waves, Sound, and Light

10. Introduction to Electricity

11. DC Circuits

12. Fields and Magnetism

13. Geometric Optics*

How the Chapters are Set Up

Each chapter begins with a list of objectives that the student should be able to do by the end of the chapter. Throughout the chapter there plenty of examples, diagrams, and color photos to help explain topics. When new formulas are explained there are multiple worked out examples. The author shows all of the steps so that the student can completely understand how and why to use the formula.

One thing that is neat about this science book is that the student learns about more than scientific concepts and formulas. They also learn about famous scientists who changed history. AJ enjoyed learning about the scientists as well as the theories that they came up with.

At the end of each chapter there is a set of exercises for the student to complete. For most chapters the exercises are broken into two sections; mathematical conversions or computations and study questions. The number of questions and question types varies by the chapter. Chapter two has 36 mathematical questions and 16 study questions, where chapter 12 just has 12 study questions.

The answers to the mathematical questions are listed in the textbook after the questions. This way the student can check their answer to make sure they are using the formulas correctly. The only down side is that the problems are not worked out, the answers are just given. So if the student doesn’t know why they got a question wrong, they are forced to figure the answer out on their own. The good news is that you can purchase all of the answers worked out separately. The answers to the study questions are not listed, but they can be easily found in the chapter.

The student should complete five experiments during the course. The directions and helpful information about the experiments are listed in the back of the book.

The last 62 pages of the textbook is devoted to helpful information. It includes a glossary, reference data, formulas and objectives, the laboratory experiments, important scientists, a section on accurate measurements, and an index. I was surprised by how much information the back of the book contained. I especially liked having a list of all the formulas and objectives that AJ needed to master in one place.

You could teach the course using only the textbook, but it would be easier with the Teacher Resource CD.

The Teacher Resource CD contains:

Course Overview and Schedule – This shows how you can teach the course in an average of four days a week. It breaks down each lesson showing what parts of the book the student should read and what problems they should work out. To me, this section was very valuable. It would be hard to figure out how much a student should do each day and how long you should spend on a chapter without the schedule.

Weekly Review Guides – These are for the student to do in addition to the book work. It includes things that the student should reread or study so that they retain the material. It also includes a few problems that the student should be able to work out.

Weekly review assignments help the student master the material.

Weekly Quizzes and Keys – Each answer is worked out so that you can easily grade the quiz. In the course overview there is an explanation on how to grade and what percent each thing is worth.

Semester Exams and Keys – Again everything is worked out for you.

Sample Answers for Verbal Questions – This has answers to the study questions from the textbook as well as the written answers from the quizzes and exams.

How We Used Introductory Physics

AJ worked through the book a few times a week. Chapter one was really hard for her. It went in-depth about what truth is and how we know something is true. She had a hard time grasping the information. To be honest the section was a little hard for me to understand. It is well written and there isn’t anything wrong with it, but it is something that I was never taught before. I feel the chapter is important as it explains how science can change and that scientific facts are not necessarily true. She was a little frustrated, since science usually comes easy to her, but once we got past chapter one things got a lot better.

Your 9th grade student will understand Physics with this course!

Chapter two was on motion. This section had her start off by converting measurements. She liked how each step was shown. It showed her how to convert gallons per seconds into liters per hour and other similar conversions. It also went into detail about significant digits. She had learned about significant digits in the past, but this was the first time that she really understood why they were important.

Each day she would read through the section that was assigned and we would discuss it. She would try to do the sample problems on her own and would answer any questions as we got to them. She would also complete whatever review activities were assigned.

I decided not to have her do the weekly quizzes at this time. We had already planned to have her do biology this year and will put this course away until next year. At that time I will have her do the quizzes to make sure she remembers everything, and then she will do the quizzes weekly.

What We Thought about Introductory Physics

After the first chapter AJ really enjoyed the course. She liked that there were enough pictures and diagrams to help her understand the topics. She also enjoyed the touches of history throughout the book. Her favorite part was the math. She loves math and liked to see it used in real life situations. The word problems were often set up to model real life. AJ struggles a little bit with word problems, but I can see that doing the problems in the book have helped her to improve already.

She wasn’t a fan of some of the reading. She is a struggling reader, so there were times when I had to re-explain something to her. There is a higher level vocabulary than she is use to and there are a lot of scientific terms used. But I don’t think this would be a problem for a student who is reading solidly at a 9th grade level.

AJ’s only other complaint was the number of experiments. She is use to programs that have experiments almost every week, only having five for the entire course was disappointing to her. What I did was use the objectives in the back of the book to add in a few more experiments to help her. I actually like only having five experiments. Then I can add more if I want, but I am not forced to find materials for twenty or thirty experiments that may not really help her learn anything. If you want to make this a lab course, you can purchase Experiments for Introductory Physics and ASPC it is designed to go along with the course.

What I Thought

I really liked the companion CD. It made teaching the course easy. All I had to do was print the weekly review sheet and follow the schedule. Having the answers to the study questions made grading AJ’s work easy. I didn’t have to read through the chapter to make sure she had the correct answer.

I feel like the lessons were broken down into a good size. The amount of reading and problems to be completed in a day was reasonable. Even my slow reader was able to finish her daily work in under 45 minutes. I also like that the course can be taught in four days a week. This leaves time for additional studying and lets you spend longer on a section if needed without falling behind.

I think the idea of this mastery based science is genius. I know when AJ finishes the course next year that she will have a solid grasp on physics, and that she won’t forget it right away.

If you are looking for a mastery based science textbook that includes scientific history, has great explanations, plenty of examples, and doesn’t include a lot of busy work, then Introductory Science from Novare Science & Math may be exactly what you are looking for.

Introductory Physics is just one of many books from Novare Science & Math

Novare Science & Math also offers other science courses. Other members of the crew received Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home   (a middle school science course) and General Chemistry. Other members of the crew received a neat reference book for teachers called, Science for Every Teacher. Click on the graphic below to see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought about the products from Novare Science & Math!

Biblical Based Science {Novare Science & Math Reviews}
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9th Grade Elective Choices

Last week I shared our core curriculum choices for AJ’s freshman year. Today I will be sharing the electives that she will be taking. My plan was for her to take two electives; Spanish and something of her choice. She didn’t want to pick between the few that I offered her, so she will be taking a total of four electives. She won’t do them all every day and some she won’t get to every week. I told her I would let her take more electives but that her core subjects had to be completed first. Here are the electives that AJ plans on taking.

Bible ~ New Testament Overview

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have Bible listed on her transcript. But after thinking and praying about it, I decided it was the right decision for her. Right now my plan is to let her earn up to two credits for Bible study throughout her high school years. One year she will focus on the Old Testament and one year on the New Testament. This year she will be reading through the New Testament. She will use two main resources; Hands-on History Activity-Pak: The New Testament, from Home School in the Woods, and I Can Study Acts Alone With God. Both are products that we are reviewing. I will link the reviews once they have posted.

Hands-on History Activity-Pak: The New Testament
The New Testament Activity-Pak will have her creating a lap book with a lot of information from the New Testament. She will explore the lineage of Jesus, His birth, works on earth, death, resurrection, and ascension. She will also study the fruit of the Spirit, the Armor of God, and a lot more. In addition to the reading and research activities, she will also be completing a newspaper all about the New Testament. While she could easily finish the lapbook quickly, she will take her time and read through the majority of the New Testament this year.

I Can Study Acts is a really neat Bible Study. It only takes about ten minutes a day and has her closely reading through the book of Acts a few verses at a time. The book is set up to last an entire calendar year, so she will need to double up on the work some days to finish by the end of the school year.

I think between the two resources she will be able to earn a full credit of Bible.

Spanish

Living in Southern California, AJ needs to learn Spanish. She has been learning Spanish off and on since fifth grade. Last year she worked through Middlebury High School Spanish 1. She liked it, but it took forever. It also was another program that took up my computer. This year I decided that I wanted an offline program. Let me tell you, it was not easy to find what I was looking for!

Finally after searching for a few months, I found two books that I like. I think they will really help AJ to improve her reading, writing, and vocabulary. She will be using two books from the Practice Makes Perfect Series; Spanish Verb Tenses and Spanish Vocabulary. She won’t finish them both this year, but she will make some good progress. So far I like the variety of activities in the books. She will work through two units of the vocabulary book and then one unit in the verb tense book. She will continue that until the end of the school year. In addition to the book work, she will also continue to use the Duolingo app. (It’s free.)

Photography

This is the class that AJ is the most excited about. She will be taking Photography from SchoolhouseTeachers.com.

Photography - Just one of the amazing courses offered from schoolhouseteachers.com

It has weekly lessons that she will work through. The course is only a half credit course, but we are combining it with Image Editing and Creation to giver her a full credit of Photography.

Just one of the amazing courses offered from schoolhouseteachers.com

This class focuses on editing the pictures once they have been taken. She will learn to use a free photo editing program and will have weekly assignments to complete. She received a digital camera for her birthday and can’t wait to learn better photographing techniques. I may take this class with her, it looks like a lot of fun.

Computer Animation

The last elective she will be taking is from Khan Academy. It has so much more than math! She will be working her way through the computer animation course. She started it at the end of last year and really enjoyed it. It uses Pixar characters to teach about animation. It involves math and science. After learning about a concept then she has to apply the knowledge and animate something. She will probably only work on this a few times a week, so I plan to give her a half credit. Once she is done with the lessons on animation she will go on to learn computer coding. The best part is that theses courses are all free!

It looks like AJ is going to have a fun year that is full of learning! What electives are your students taking this year? Have you used any of the other courses offered from Khan Academy? If so, what did you think?

UnLock Geometry ~ Review

AJ loves math and it comes easy to her. The only thing she doesn’t like is writing everything down and taking forever to work out the problems. It is almost like torcher to her to have to show her work when she can easily figure a problem out in her head. Since it is a subject that she excels in, I want her to enjoy it.

A few years ago we had the chance to review the Pre-Algebra course from UnLock Math. AJ loved the set up. It had video lessons, enough practice and repetition, and didn’t take her all day to complete. When I saw that they were coming out with a new course, UnLock Geometry , I knew we had to try it out. AJ was excited to see how geometry would compare to UnLock Pre-Algebra.

UnLock Math
 

What is  UnLock Geometry?

UnLock Geometry is a full high school geometry course that is completely online. It is taught by Alesia Blackwood, a certified teacher who is engaging and interesting to watch. The course is broken into 15 units with an average of about 8 lessons per unit. The units are:

  1. Prerequisite Skills
  2. Logic & Proofs
  3. Distance & Length
  4. Angles, Lines & Transversals
  5. Triangles
  6. Polygons
  7. Circles
  8. Circles Pt. 2
  9. Perimeter
  10.  Area
  11. Geometry in the Coordinate Plane
  12. Triangles Pt. 2
  13. Transformations
  14. 3D Geometry & Volume
  15. 3D Geometry & Surface Area

When your student logs in to their account they see a list of the units in the course, their grade so far in the course, and how much of the course they have completed. In the beginning all of the units have a purple lock next to them. When the student is working on the unit the lock opens, and when all of the lessons have been completed the lock turns blue.

UnLock Geometry - A full high school level course that is completely online.

When the student clicks on the rocket they are taken to their unit page. There they will see a list of lessons, quizzes, and tests for the unit. There is a quiz after every two to three lessons and a test at the end of each unit.

UnLock Geometry - A full high school level course that is completely online.

When they click on a lesson they are taken to a page where they see their lesson. It is broken into six sections.

UnLock Geometry - A full high school level course that is completely online.

Parts of the Lesson

  • Warm Up – This section has 5 questions based on the previous lesson.
  • Video Lesson – This is the main part of the lesson. The teacher introduces new concepts and vocabulary, explains new theorems and equations, and works out sample problems. Each video varies, but most range from 7 to 15 minutes.
  • Practice Problems – This section has 10 problems related to the lesson. The student can complete this section as many times as they need. Each time they will get different problems and only their highest score is saved. After almost every problem the student is shown the solution to the problem and how it was worked out. That way the student is able to learn from any of their mistakes.
  • Stay Sharp – This section has 10 problems from any previous lesson. This is a great way to practice skills from other units. It also forces students to really master the material. If the student gets a problem wrong they are given a similar problem so that they have the opportunity to practice the skills that they need more assistance with.
  • Challenge Yourself – This is a single question that requires the student to think beyond the lesson. Sometimes AJ finds them too difficult to even attempt, but most of the time she can at least try them. She likes these because they make her think. Once the student tries it once they can not attempt it again, but they are given a detailed explanation as to how it was solved. This section doesn’t negatively affect the student’s grade, but correct answers can help them to earn up to 5% extra credit at the end of the course.
  • Reference Notes – This is the lesson in printable form. It has new vocabulary, notes, and worked out examples. The notes are colorful and have a lot of information.

Grading

After each part of the lesson the student is given their grade for the section. They are able to review anything that they got wrong and they can redo the section if they want or need. A passing score isn’t required to move on to the next part of the lesson, but the student should make sure they understand the concept before moving on.

On the main page the student can see their grade. They can view a more detailed grade by clicking on the Progress Report. There they will see a cumulative grade as well as a grade for each unit.UnLock Geometry - A full high school level course that is completely online.When you click on the Gradebook you can see everything that your student has done. It shows each part of the lesson as well as when it was completed and how long it took. You can also click to see the problems that the student worked on and the solutions. Both the Progress Report and the Gradebook have the option to print so you can keep the grades for your record.

How We Used UnLock Geometry

AJ logged into the program most days of the week. She was able to easily navigate the program and use it independently. She completed one lesson a day most days. In the beginning some of the prerequisite skills were very easy for her. On those days she did two lessons a day.

When she logged in she would start with the Warm Up questions and then watch the video. Even though the reference notes are printable, AJ takes notes during the videos. I think it helps her to remember the information a little bit better when she writes it down.

UnLock Geometry - A full high school level course that is completely online.

She works out the problems in her head or on a whiteboard. Since I can print the grade reports I don’t mind not having a written record of the problems that she worked out. If she has any issues while solving the problems I have her read the solution so that she understands why she got it wrong. If she isn’t happy with her score she completes another set of problems. When she is all finished we look over the reference notes and see if she needs to print them out.

Each day the student answers 26 questions, but they vary in difficulty. Most days a lesson takes her 30 to 40 minutes.

Then when she is done with the lesson she takes the quiz if there is one.

What We Thought About UnLock Geometry

AJ loves UnLock Geometry. The lessons are to the point and explained very well. The teacher teaches new concepts a little at a time so that the student is able to really understand how to complete difficult problems. She also explains the why behind math. There are a lot of theorems and properties to learn in geometry. The teacher goes through and explains each one and why they work. She also encourages the students to try and prove the theorems on their own to help improve their logical thinking skills. AJ says the best part is that the teacher is fun to watch and not boring.

If you are looking for a solid math program that will make sure that your student really understands the concepts, You need UnLock Math!

AJ also likes that she doesn’t have to work anything out on paper. There are plenty of problems where she has to show her work on the computer by showing the correct next step of a problem, so she is still getting the practice but she doesn’t need to write it all down.

In the beginning there is a little bit of a learning curve. You have to enter the answers a specific way and have to pay attention to how a problem needs to be submitted. Once your student knows what to do though, it is smooth sailing.

I like that I can easily see everything AJ has done. I can see if she completed a set of practice problems a few times because she didn’t understand something, or if she was able to speed through a section because she really understood it. One thing that I find very useful that I can print out whatever I want for my records.

As with any online program there will possibly be a few glitches along the way. We only ran into one, and customer service was wonderful. I had a reply to my email in a few hours and the problem I had was fixed.

UnLock Math is a wonderful program. In fact we like it so much that AJ will be using it as her main math program this year. If you are looking for a solid math program that will make sure that your student really understands the concepts, I would highly recommend trying out UnLock Math. They currently have courses for; UnLock Pre-Algebra , UnLock Algebra1, UnLock Algebra2, and UnLock Geometry .

Would you like to get $50 off on an annual purchase of UnLock Pre-Algebra, UnLock Algebra1, or UnLock Algebra2? Here is a coupon for you.

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

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

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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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}
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