LearnBop ~ Review

AJ is at a difficult point in math. She has finished a few different pre algebra courses, but I don’t feel that she is ready for algebra yet. She will be finishing 7th grade is a few weeks and I felt a little lost as to where I should put her for 8th grade. I decided that for her 8th grade year I was going to go through all of the math standards that I could find for first through 8th grade and make sure that she was proficient in all of the standards so that she would really be ready for algebra. That sounded great in theory, but I knew it would be time consuming. Then I learned about LearnBop, and it sounded like exactly what I needed. We were given a 12 month subscription to LearnBop for Families, since I only have one student we were given the Single Student Plan.

LearnBop for Families Review
LearnBop has been around for a while and has been used in public schools, but LearnBop for Families is a new product that can be used by homeschoolers and those who want to help their child catch up or get ahead in math. It is common core aligned, but I didn’t see anything that I found odd or different from the way math was taught when I was in school. The program adapts to where your student needs to be and focuses on mastery. It is geared for kids in grades 3 to 12, but there are some lessons available at the first and second grade level.

Learn Bop Review

When the parent logs on to LearnBop they create an account for their student and decide which Learning Roadmap the student should be placed in. You have three options:

  1. Roadmaps by Grade – These are available for third through eighth grade. Your student is given a number of units to complete based on the concepts they are expected to master in that grade.
  2. Rodemaps by Subject – If your student needs to brush up on a specific topic, or if you want to conquer math a subtopic at a time this is the roadmap you would want to pick. There are ten different options, each one varies on the grade level they cover, but there are concepts covered from first through eighth grade. I love that they offer the roadmaps by topic, they would have been great for AJ last year.
  3. High School Roadmaps- There is the option of; Algebra, Algebra 2, and Geometry. They are the same as the Roadmaps by Grade.

The Roadmap can be changed along the way and you can even switch the order that units are completed it. There is a lot of flexibility and personalization available with LearnBop. I decided to put AJ on the 8th grade roadmap. She worked on math about 30 to 45 minutes a day during this review.

LearnBop for Families Review
When the student first logs in they get to pick an avatar. The avatar doesn’t really serve any purpose, but AJ liked it.

The next step is for the student to do a warm up for the unit they are working on. AJ started with Developing Understanding of Similarity. From the title I had no idea what that was, but it has to do with shapes on a coordinate grid and how to flip them and change them to make the shape move to other places on a coordinate grid. As I have said before, we have had a mastery approach to math in the past and AJ didn’t learn a lot about geometry, so I knew that this would be a difficult unit for her.

The warm up is about ten to twelve questions. Some are multiple choice, some are fill in, some are matching and some had her plotting points. The results are not given from the warm up, but your student may find that they need to complete some Building Blocks before they are ready to work on concepts in the unit.

I normally don’t like warm ups or pretests because AJ gets frustrated when she is expected to answer questions that she doesn’t know how to do. Much to my surprise, we both liked the warm-ups. I think they were very accurate when it came to skills that AJ needed to work on. I wish they would have a button that says I don’t know how to do this problem, or a skip button because a few times when she didn’t know how to do the problem she was able to guess correctly.

Once the student finishes the warm up they are able to start on the first Building Block or Unit Concept that they want to work on.

Each concept has three videos that teach the concept to the student. The videos are like power point presentations with a teacher walking the students through the problems. There are different teachers that explain the concepts so there is a nice variety. There are also optional videos that the student can watch if they need additional help. The student doesn’t have to watch the videos, but they are the main teaching portion of the program.

Once the student watches or skips the videos they move on to the Bop Section. The student needs to complete at least five Bops and gain a mastery of 90% in order to master the concept. The Bops are just the problems that the student needs to work through.

If the student needs help they can be walked through the problem step by step. If they get the problem wrong the problem is broken down into bite size pieces that they need to solve. If there are a lot of mistakes made the student may be assigned additional Building Blocks to help them understand any concepts that then need help with.

LearnBop helps students master concepts.

AJ ended up being assigned more building blocks in the first unit. She was upset that she had to do more work, but after watching more videos on concepts that she needed help with she understood what she was doing wrong and was able to master the concept. She often doesn’t check her work and gets things wrong because she misreads problems. I noticed that she was always checking her work and making sure exactly what the problem was asking her for because it was a lot easier to go down in mastery than to go up.

LearnBop helps students master concepts.

It took her over five hours to master the first unit because there were a lot of concepts that she didn’t understand, but unit three only took her 29 minutes to master. I like that concepts she understands can be finished quickly and that she is given more practice when needed. AJ enjoys watching the mastery graph go up and will often work on a concept until she passes it.

LearnBop helps students master concepts.

As the student moves along they are able to earn badges for mastering concepts, staying focused, being persistent, and other good qualities. AJ is really motivated by these badges. She also likes the fun Growth Mindset section that gives an inspirational quote to her when she logs on.

LearnBop motivates students to master concepts.

We both found LearnBop to be a great program. I am assured that she is learning the same things as her friends in public school, I can instantly see where she needs extra help, and she isn’t stuck working on concepts that she has already mastered. The parent can easily see the student’s progress and detailed feedback on problems that they got wrong. I think that LearnBop is a solid program. We plan to continue with the 8th grade plan over the summer and then work through the subject roadmaps before moving her on to the Algebra level. I think this will be a big blessing to us.

Find out what other members of the crew thought by clicking on the graphic below.

LearnBop for Families Review
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The Glass Castle ~ Review

AJ is quite particular about the types of books that she enjoys reading or listening to. She has broadened the types of genres that she enjoys over the past few years, but if it isn’t about animals or an exciting adventure then she most likely isn’t going to enjoy it. According to her a book is only good if she can see the story in her head and really feel like she is on an adventure with the characters. When we were asked to review The Glass Castle by Trisha White Priebe and Jerry B. Jenkins from Shiloh Run Press I was a little hesitant. I didn’t think she would want to read another book when we were so close to the end of the school year. Then I read a phrase about the book, “The setting of Chronicles of Narnia meets the adventure of Alice in Wonderland.” After reading that, I thought it would be something that AJ would enjoy.

The Glass Castle, an exciting adventure story perfect for middle grade kids!

The Glass Castle is a 251 page hard-covered book that is broken into 41 chapters. It is an action and adventure book for middle grade students. There are quite a few moral lessons woven through the book along with a few Bible verses. Even though prayer and God are mentioned a few times throughout the book I personally would not consider it a faith based book. I think that most kids with a fifth grade reading level or above would be able to read it independently.

It was a great book and AJ would give it 5 out of 5 stars. That is a big complement coming from her.

The Glass Castle {Shiloh Run Press Review}
(There are some spoilers below)

The Glass Castle follows the story of 13 year old Avery. She is walking with her brother and feels like she is being followed, and it turned out she was. She ends up being kidnapped and is later told that her brother was taken as well, but that she wouldn’t be able to see him. Avery ends up in a room with a bunch of thirteen year old orphans. The only problem is that Avery isn’t an orphan, or is she?

After some exploring Avery realizes that she knows where she is, not because she had been there before, but because her mother had told her all about it in stories when she was little. Avery thought those stories were just fairy tales, but it turns out that they weren’t. Avery realizes that they are all in the castle of an evil King. For some reason the King had ordered all 13 year old orphans to be destroyed and the kids were all being held in the castle for their own protection. She soon learns that the kids all do work in the castle, and really they almost run it. From dress making to baking, they do it all. These 13 year olds are much wiser than their years. She becomes friends with a girl, Kate, who seems to know much more than any one else.

Avery wants to escape and return home, but she is told her brother will be harmed if she leaves. Just when she is about to try and escape the kids decide to elect a child king to be in charge. A kind boy named Tuck ends up being elected King, and surprising everyone he appoints Avery as the new queen.

She needs to find out more about the castle and why they are all there. Upon exploring the castle she learns that the King is sick and needs an heir to his thrown. But that isn’t all she finds out. Who was the first Queen, and why did her mother know so much about the castle? Who can she trust, and are her feelings for a boy clouding her judgment? Will the kids escape?

Unfortunately, by the end of the book you won’t have the answers to most of those questions. I am all for series of books and cliffhanger endings, but I hate when a book ends and the majority of the problems haven’t been solved. Especially when the next book won’t be available for a few months! I really felt this book needed at least one more chapter to tie in some loose ends and I hope that the next book is able to answer those questions. I look forward to reading the next one, I am sure it will be as good as this one.

I wanted to read a few chapters a day to AJ, but we got busy with school and doctors and just didn’t seem to find to sit down and read the book. I sat aside an entire school day where we did nothing but read the book. It turned out to be a good thing, because we wouldn’t have wanted to put it down after a few chapters. I expected some complaining from AJ, but she didn’t want me to stop reading. I read the book to her in a little more than five hours, and it was a very thrilling experience. From the first chapter to the end we were learning new details, making discoveries, and attempting to figure things out. I’ll admit that I kept reading ahead because the story was so intriguing.

One thing that I really liked about the book was that it was clean. There wasn’t any magic or witches, and while there was some obvious chemistry between a few characters there wasn’t as much as a kiss between them. There is mention of a drunk man and a few people die, but there were no details. I really think that most parents would be comfortable with their child reading The Glass Castle.

If you have a kid who enjoys adventure and mystery, then The Glass Castle may be just the book for them. Mom will probably like it too.

Find out what other reviewers had to say about The Glass Castle by clicking the graphic below.

The Glass Castle {Shiloh Run Press Review}
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Hey Mama! Planner ~ Review

It’s that time of year, the time when the majority of homeschooling families are planning for the next school year. I love planning and deciding what topics we will be studying and figuring out the skills that I think AJ is ready to learn. Normally I would be making lists and would have at least partially planned the first few months of school. Unfortunately, due to me having a few surgeries and trying to switch AJ to more independent work, we are behind and still have about a month of school left. Even though I am not ready to sit down and make a detailed plan, I have been doing some planning. I have tried quite a few different planners on the computer over the past few years, but I never end up sticking with them. I need to be able to grab my planner write in it and be on my way. That’s why I was happy to have the chance to review the Hey Mama! Print Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 from The Old Schoolhouse.

Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 Review
The Hey Mama! Planner arrived at my house on one of those days when nothing was going right. I started flipping through the pages to see what it had to offer and I landed on a page that said:

Hey Mama,

What does the IDEAL Mama look like? Easy – look in the mirror and smile big. There she is!

It made me smile and brightened my day. I instantly knew that I was going to enjoy this planner.

The Hey Mama! Planner is soft covered, spiral bound, and 192 pages long. It has plenty of room to help you plan out your school year and is full of forms to help make your year run as smoothly as possible.

The beginning of the planner has calendars for 2016, 2017, and 2018 each on a single page. It is nice to be able to quickly glance at the entire year and see where birthdays, holidays, and other important dates fall during the year. After those calendars there are monthly calendars from July 2016 through June 2017. Each monthly calendar is spread out over two adjacent pages. For each month there is also a page for notes, and a Hey Mama! Letter. Each letter is inspiring, uplifting, and heartfelt. I look forward to reading those letters throughout the year. I know that they will come in handy when I am dealing with those difficult days.

Following the monthly calendars you will find the weekly planners. The top of each one has a blank line where you can fill in the date for the week. I was so glad that they are not dated! The weekly planner pages each have five columns and seven rows. It is completely blank so you are able to use them in whatever way you feel will work the best for your family.

Sprinkled between the pages you will find some more Hey Mama! Letters and pages with information about different items shown on the front cover. I found those pages very interesting and learned a few new things. I plan on sharing those pages with AJ when we come to them throughout the year.

Next up you will find the Goal sheets. There are pages for yearly goals, semester goals, and monthly goals. On each one there is a place to write down goals for different aspects of life. I never thought about writing down goals in that manner before, but after seeing the pages, I am sold. As I said before, we are still finishing up our school year, but I have already added a few things to the yearly goal page for next year.

There are also attendance charts. On one page there are 180 boxes to check so that you can easily keep track of how many days of school your child has completed. There are five copies of the attendance chart. Since I only need one, I am planning on having AJ use the others to keep track of some of her independent work. Once she completes the work for that day she will check it off, that way she won’t have to remember where she left off if she gets ahead or behind for some reason.

There are a few other forms that I think will come in handy over the next school year. From book logs to curriculum planning sheets, and skill check lists, I can’t think of anything that this Hey Mama! Planner is missing.

All of the pages to help you plan and keep track of things are great. But there is even more! In the back of the planner you will find a lot of fun extras including:

  • Writing Prompts
  • Story Starters
  • The 13 Colonies by date
  • Timeline of Inventions
  • U.S. Presidents and their wives
  • Branches of the Government
  • States and Capitals

I know that these pages will help me throughout the year.

I thought I was getting a planner, but really this is so much more. I am looking forward to planning out AJ’s 8th grade year with the Hey Mama! Planner. It is pretty, full of encouragement, and has every form I could ever think of needing. The pages have plenty of room to write on. If you are looking for a planner to plan out the next school year, I highly recommend the Hey Mama! Print Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 from The Old Schoolhouse.

If you purchase the print planner by July 15th 2016 and use the code CREWCODE you can get $10 off the purchase price.

Coupon Code Hey Mama Planner 2016 2017

125 members of the Crew reviewed the Hey Mama! Planner, see what they had to say.

Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 Review
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Poetry Memorization ~ Review

AJ can memorize any song or commercial, but she has a hard time remembering math facts and dates that she needs to remember for her school work. When I heard about a new poetry memorization product from Institute for Excellence in Writing, I was a little torn. AJ made great progress with their writing curriculum, but I didn’t know if I wanted to add extra work to our already busy schedule. After reading through the samples on the website, I decided that having AJ memorize poetry would be beneficial to her.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization IEW Review
We were given Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization. It includes; five CDs that have all of the poems the student is to memorize, a DVD of the seminar “Nurturing Competent Communicators“, and a Teacher’s Manual. Inside of the Teacher’s Manual there is a page that tells you how to download the 170 page student book, and seven audio MP3’s of wonderful workshops. We were given a physical copy of the Student Book, but it is sold separately.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization IEW Review
I don’t know what it is about Andrew Pudewa, but his seminars and workshops are always enjoyable to listen to and watch. It often seems like he is talking about AJ! I haven’t listened to all seven of the seminars, but the ones that I have really changed my thoughts on teaching and language arts in general. I had a few light bulb moments when I was watching the DVD about Nurturing Competent Communicators. If you have a struggling student at all, I recommend listening to any seminar or workshops of his.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization IEW Review
There are five different levels of poetry that your child will memorize over the years with this program. Everyone starts at level one and moves on at their own pace memorizing nineteen provided poems and a personal selection for each of the first four levels. The fifth level has twenty different speeches for your child to memorize.

The poems in level one are fun and silly most of them are between one and five stanzas long with short sentences. AJ’s favorite poem that she has memorized so far is called Celery by Ogden Nash.

Celery, raw

Develops the jaw,

But celery, stewed,

Is more quietly chewed.

As the levels progress there are longer poems and some that are more serious, but there are short and funny poems sprinkled throughout as well. I was very happy with all of the different selections. Some of them are poems that I remember reading when I was younger and others are poems that I remember dissecting in English class. There are also quite a few that I have enjoyed reading for the first time.

The program is very simple to use. I decided to learn the poems along with AJ (I don’t know if I will stick to that when she gets to the speeches though, they look hard!) and it has become a fun activity for us to do together. Each day AJ and I both recited all of the poems that we had memorized. If she could recite the newest poem that we were working on, then she would color the picture at the bottom of the student page and highlight the name of the poem on her progress page. Then we would start working on a new poem. If she had any issues or missed any words then we would simply continue to work on the same poem. After reciting the poems we listened to the CD of the poems being read aloud until we came to the poem we were working on. We would listen to the poem we were currently working on a few times and then read through it in the student manual. Then AJ would put a check mark on the progress chart to show that she practiced them that day.

In the back of the teacher’s manual there are optional lesson enhancements. Some of them are poetry and literary elements to talk to the student about while others are activities like learning about worms when she memorized the poem, Ooey Gooey. We talked about different elements of each poem, but we didn’t decide to complete any other enhancements because our days our fairly busy right now. I like that they are there if I need them.

The entire process takes us less than 10 minutes a day, and it is a time that AJ enjoys. When I first told her we were going to memorize some poetry she wasn’t excited, but now if I forget to have her do it, she reminds me.

One of the reasons that this product interested me was that AJ has a very hard time writing poetry. She is a very literal thinker and writing silly verses was a hard concept for her. I hoped that introducing her to different poems would show her that not all poetry had to rhyme and that they were not all suppose to be read in a sing song tone. Having the poems read correctly with the correct pronunciation was wonderful! I am very glad that we had the opportunity to review the Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization , we plan to continue with it for years to come.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization IEW Review
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ARTistic Pursuits ~ Review

I have wanted to find a good art program for AJ for a long time. She enjoys doodling, but her art skills are greatly lacking. We have tried a few different programs, but they just weren’t a good fit. We were given the chance to review Middle School Book One The Elements of Art and Composition from ARTistic Pursuits Inc. and I thought that it would be a good fit for AJ.

Artistic Pursuits Middle School Book 1

The Elements of Art and Composition is a 92 page come-bound book. There are 16 units that are each broken into four lessons. The lessons focus on different elements of art including; space, line, texture, form, depth, balance, proportion, and perspective. The lessons are written to the student making it so that most students can complete the program on their own with little help.

ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review
The first lesson in each unit introduces and explains the concept of that unit. The lesson has your child practice the concept in a creative way. In one unit your child is told to find an object and see how many different ways they can look at it. Another lesson has the student line up small objects and draw them a few times having some of them overlap. Each of these lessons are fairly short, but they explain the concept very well.

The second lesson is in Art Appreciation. The student is shown a piece of art that goes with the unit. There is a brief history of the culture and the piece of art, and then the student is asked to imitate the art in some way.

DSCN4050

The third lesson is the main art lesson, it is on technique. It gives some great tips on how to achieve different looks in your art. Unfortunately, I don’t feel that this section is large enough. It is only one page long in each unit. The information that is given is detailed, it even explains which pencils to use to get different effects.

DSCN4052

The final lesson in each unit is the Application lesson. This is the section where the student is told to use everything that they have learned and to do a project. Some of the projects require a lot of time, but there are some (especially in the beginning) that only take a little while to complete.

In each lesson the student draws something.

There are 64 lessons, so if your student completes two lessons a week, the book will last an entire school year. The books are not consumable, if you have multiple children they can all use it.

I decided to have AJ work on art twice a week. The first two lessons I read to AJ and worked with her. After those two lessons I quickly realized that she would be able to do the work on her own. Each lesson took between 45 minutes and an hour. She understood the lessons, but she had a lot of problems with the drawings.

She did the best on the second lesson in each unit where she was asked to imitate part of a work of art. On the rest of the lessons there were not details of what to draw and she had trouble. On a lot of the lessons there are pictures drawn by other students. Since her drawings were no where near as good as the ones in the book she became discouraged.

I think that this level was just too advanced for her. This book is full of wonderful techniques, but if you have trouble drawing basic items, then that won’t really help.

If your student has basic drawing skills and wants to improve them, then this book would help them a lot. With the different techniques and the art history, this would be a solid course that can be completed with little help from the teacher.

I plan to have AJ draw for fun a lot over the summer and then start AJ over in the book for the next school year. I think that if she improves on her basic drawing skills that she will get more from the book.

Find out what others had to say by clicking on the graphic below.

ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review
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Music Appreciation ~ Review

When I first started homeschooling AJ I wasn’t afraid to teach her algebra or biology, I was worried how I would teach her music or art. I knew that she would need to learn a variety of subjects, but music was one that I didn’t know how I would go about teaching. I have never played an instrument and I couldn’t name more than two famous composers. AJ on the other hand loves music, all kinds of music, and is eager to learn. When we were given the chance to review a Music Appreciation course I was excited to see if it would be a good fit for AJ. I was amazed at the course that Zeezok Publishing LLC had put together. Their Music Appreciation Book 1: for the Elementary Grades is an excellent program.

Music Appreciation

Over the course of a year your child reads and learns about seven of the great composers; Schubert, Mozart, Paganini, Bach, Hayden, Handel, and Beethoven. While learning about each composer your child will read a book about each one, complete activities related to music, create a lapbook about each composer, listen to music, and do hands on activities. While the study of each composer has similar activities, each one touches on different aspects of music. We started our study with George Fredrick Handel.

Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}
We received seven books, one about each composer, a five disk CD set full of wonderful music, a CD with lapbook pieces to print off, and a large workbook that is over 350 pages long. While this curriculum states it is for the elementary grades, there is a lot of work and learning involved.

When we started our journey to learn all about George Handel (a name I had never heard) we turned to his section in the large workbook. On the first page we found a weekly lesson outline that broke the study into four weeks. It also included a few activities that AJ would need to complete outside of the program in order to meet national music standards. Those activities were simple to complete. Each week we needed to read a chapter out of the book, Handel at the Court of Kings, and answer some comprehension questions. She listened to some music from the composer each week as well. Each week also had her complete a section called Character Traits and Tidbits of Interest.

Handel - One of 7 composers to learn about

The biographies are well written and full of interesting details. In Handel at the Court of kings, we learned about his life in great detail, from him getting in trouble when he was six years old for following the singers in the street, to when he was traveling across Europe, and when he started to go blind. The book is broken into four chapters and contains sheet music for many of the songs that Handel composed. The book is fairly easy to read, but it does contain some difficult vocabulary sprinkled throughout. Including the sheet music, the book is over 160 pages long.

The Character Traits section listed good character traits that Handel displayed during the chapter and explained the traits in better detail. Handel was a good man. Some of the traits AJ learned more about were; diligence, humility, leadership, and humor. Reading through the character traits only took a few moments each week, but AJ enjoyed it. I liked the fact that those qualities were being displayed in real life ways throughout the book.

The Tidbits of Interest section was neat. It would list a page number and then give more information about an event that happened on that page. We tried to stop and read the tidbit of interest when that part of the story came up. It helped to put some parts of the story into perspective. When Handel was young his father didn’t want him to pursue a life of music, but we found out in the Tidbits of Interest section that at that time in Germany musicians were regarded as lower than servants. That helped us to see why his father was so against him being a musician.

Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}
Each week AJ completed other fun activities to go along with the story. During week one she learned about Germany and practiced locating different countries in Europe. She learned a little about Bach and Scarlatti, the other composers who were born around the same time as Handel. She copied parts of sentences out of the book and sorted out the adjectives and adverbs and did research on the oboe.

Learn about more than music with Zeezok!

The second week had her learning a little more about Germany. She also started learning about some of the elements of music. She learned about; melody, harmony, dynamics, rhythm, tempo, and timbre. All of those terms were new to me, but AJ remembered some of them from the piano lessons she had taken. She ended the second week by learning about the different types of sound that instruments make and assigning colors to different sounds. She was given adjectives like lonely, warm, sweet, and heavy and had to decide which color reminded her of the word. She had a hard time with that activity because she is a very literal thinker. I think that was the only activity that she didn’t like in the entire study.

Learn about the elements of music

The third week was her favorite. It started with her reading and copying quotes about or by George Handel. Her favorite quote was from Handel, “…I should be sorry if I only entertained them; I wished to make them better.” In the book we learned how amazing Handel was, not only in music, but as a leader. AJ’s favorite part of the week was comparing and contrasting different music. She listened to songs that were opposites and described how they were alike and different. She listened to 10 different songs (not including the ones written by Handel) during the third week, and wished there would have been more.

Compare and Contrast music

The final week had her complete a few different activities. She reviewed the different character qualities that Handel displayed, put together a time line of events, learned about some of Handel’s famous songs, and experienced being blind. The last week took us two weeks to complete because there was so much to learn.

We tried to do the reading on the first two days of the week and the other activities through the rest of the week. We both liked that there were so many different activities. The only problem we had was that the chapters in the book are so long. The second chapter begins on page 43, so that shows how long the chapters are. I also felt that we rushed through some of the lapbook activities in order to try and stay on schedule. Even with rushing, it took us almost six weeks to finish our study on Handel. The next composer we plan to learn about is Bach, there looks like a lot of fun things in that unit.

Reading about composer Handel

I think this is a very well written curriculum. The books are interesting to read and full of factual details, and the CDs align perfectly with the book. When we are reading about a song Handel composed the book tells us which CD and track to go to so we can listen to the song. It is very organized and easy to teach, even if the teacher has no previous knowledge of music. There are hands on elements that make learning fun. Each composer focuses on different musical elements so the student really gains a wide variety of skills once the program is finished. The best part is that AJ really looked forward to music each day. There was a large amount of reading and writing, but she enjoyed it so much that she didn’t mind those things.

Since this was written for elementary aged students, I thought that we would be able to breeze right through it. That was not the case. If I was doing this with an elementary student I would most likely change this into a two year program and complete a book in eight weeks instead of four. I think doing all seven books in one year with an older student would be difficult, I couldn’t imagine trying to do it with a third grader. I think it would be too much when all of the other daily work is included. If you are looking for a quick and easy music program this is not what you are looking for. But if you want a program that will immerse your child in the world of music and make learning really come alive then this is exactly what you want.

Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}
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Kwik Stix ~ Review

Post Contains Affiliate Links

Lately AJ hasn’t been able to do very many arts and crafts. She loves to paint and create things, but she always seems to make a mess. Between spilled water and paint that accidentally gets on the table, I say, “no” way more than I say, “yes” when she wants to get the paints out. When I heard of the new Kwik Stix from The Pencil Grip, Inc.  I was very intrigued. A lot of paints claim to dry fast, but when we try them out, they take forever to dry. I hoped that these would be different.

Kwik Stix The Pencil Grip, Inc. Review
We received a Kwik Stix 12 pk and a surprise gift of a pencil grip. I wish that I would have had that pencil grip when AJ was learning to write! She has a very awkward grip some times, and I know that the pencil grip would have helped. It slides on the pencil and tells you where to place your fingers in order to have a proper grip. AJ has used it a few times, but she finds it a little hard to use because she doesn’t normally hold the pencil correctly. There was also a chart that showed some different grips that were either correct or incorrect. The way AJ holds her pencil was on the incorrect side. I loved that there was something that showed her she was holding the pencil wrong. I am not pushing her to use the pencil grip right now, but when she uses it I do see an improvement in her penmanship.

Kwik Stix Review, A mess free way to paint

The Kwik Stix 12 pk came with a variety of paint colors; red, orange, yellow, two shades of green, two shades of blue, purple, pink, black, brown, and white. Each stick is about three and a half inches long and resembles the shape of a glue stick. They are solid sticks of tempera paint, you simply take the cap off, twist the bottom of the stick if needed, and then use the Kwik Stix to paint something. They are non-toxic and very easy to use.

Kwik Stix The Pencil Grip, Inc. Review
When AJ first saw the Kwik Stix she thought they looked like colored glue sticks. But when she first tried them out, she really liked them. The box claimed that the paint dries in 90 seconds, and they really do. We found that they dry almost instantly. The color goes on smooth and evenly and once it dries, it has a paint like texture. They take painting to a new level. One thing I like about the Kwik Stix is that you don’t need any paint brushes or water to use them. As long as you have the paints and something to paint on, you are all set.

AJ really liked using them, and the only issue we found was that there isn’t a way to mix the colors once they dry. If AJ drew a line of black and then quickly went over it with white the line did turn gray, but it had to be done very quickly. The amazing thing was that even though she mixed colors, the Kwik Stix never had the other paint transfer onto it.

Kwik Stix The Pencil Grip, Inc. Review
 AJ has used the Kwik Stix on regular paper, construction paper, and on a cardboard butterfly. Everything she has used it on has come out great! She is doing more art projects, and I am dealing with less mess. In the video below you will see AJ using the Kwik Stix.

These Kwik Stix would be great to use with young kids. They are virtually mess free. If you are looking for a way to let your kids paint without all the mess, these Kwik Stixs are something you should definitely check out!

Kwik Stix The Pencil Grip, Inc. Review
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Heroes of History ~ Review

I am always looking for a way to change up our school day. Since the next topic we are planning to study is American history after the Civil War, I have been on the look out for books and activities to help AJ learn about that era. When we were given a chance to review a book from YWAM Publishing, I knew that I wanted to pick an influential person to learn about. We were given a physical copy of Heroes of History Theodore Roosevelt: An American Original and a Digital Unit Study to accompany it. Since we reviewed a book from YWAM last year, I knew that we were in for a treat.

Theodore Roosevelt Review

 

Theodore Roosevelt An American Original is a 201 page soft covered book that is broken into 17 chapters. The book starts with a 39 year old Teddy Roosevelt marching up San Juan Hill as part of a Volunteer Cavalry. Then the book goes back in time and starts with him at five years old during the Civil War. His parents were on opposite sides of the war, and that made for a difficult time. His mother was helping out the South while his father was helping the North, even though he wasn’t fighting. The book goes on to tell about how sick Teddy was as a child and how he decided to make his body work by exercising and training. We learn that the Roosevelt family came into a lot of money and that because of that, Teddy and his family went on amazing vacations. He sailed up the Nile River and visited numerous countries in Africa and Europe. We learn about Teddy’s love of animals and his love of taxidermy.

The book then continues to show how he got into politics. It tells the sad way he lost his mother and wife and how he finally came back to society. Then the book talks about his road to the presidency, the obstacles he faced and how he dealt with them.

The book is easy to read and understand, but it does have some advanced vocabulary throughout the chapters. Reading the book alone gives you a great understanding of who Theodore Roosevelt was, but when you combine it with the Digital Unit Study, there is so much to learn.

The Digital Unit Study has options for classroom use, small group use, and for homeschool use. It is broken into two sections. The first section is the real study guide it is 71 pages long and has comprehension questions, social study activities, related themes, and more. The second part of the unit study is the printable pages. It included a fact sheet to fill out about Roosevelt, a world map, map of America, a map of New York, and a time line to fill in. The study guide is full of information to make the book really come to life.

I wanted this book to be our history study. Each week we read through three chapters of the book (except the first chapter that was really short.) and AJ answered the comprehension questions from the study guide. She also looked up different social study terms as we came to them. The Roosevelt family went on a lot of trips. AJ used the maps to chart their journeys. There are dozens of writing prompts, crafts, and ideas for places to visit while reading the book, we haven’t done those yet, but we still have a few chapters left to read.

AJ likes the story and has enjoyed following along with the Roosevelt family’s journeys. I have been reading the book out loud to her and she looks forward to finding out what is coming up next. If she enjoyed reading more, I could see the Heroes of History books being a great spine to our history study next year. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t work for her. I wish it would because the books from YWAM are full of history and bring a person to life. You get to know them so much better than you can in a few pages of a text book.

If you are looking for a book to supplement your history studies, or if you are looking for a good biography, these are great.

Christian Heroes {YWAM Publishing Review}
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Writers in Residence ~ Review

Writing is the subject that AJ hates the most. We have tried numerous writing programs that seem like they would be a perfect fit, but once we start them AJ dislikes them for one reason or another. We have seen a lot of improvements in her writing recently, but our lessons were taking over our day. On days we had too much going on in other subjects, writing got pushed to the side. I knew we were both ready to try something new. When I heard that Apologia Educational Ministries had a new language arts based writing program, Writers in Residence, I was intrigued. When I heard that it was authored by Debra Bell, I thought it would be a hit.

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
Writers in Residence is a new product that combines a writing curriculum with grammar, sentence structure, capitalization, and punctuation practice. Writers in Residence is perfect for kids in grades four through eight. The student book is huge! At over 550 pages there is plenty of room for instruction.

There are six units that each take about four or five weeks to complete. There is a schedule included that has your student working for four days a week, but that can easily be adjusted to fit your own needs. This curriculum is very flexible!

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
After opening the box we found a small teacher guide and a 2 inch thick Student Text and Workbook. I read through the beginning of the student book and decided we would try to stick to the four day week. The lessons all looked short and to the point. AJ enjoyed the lessons the first week, and by the second week she was reminding me that we needed to work on writing.

AJ worked on Writers in Residence almost every day. One thing that she really enjoyed was the variety. Some days she would write sentences about a favorite memory and other days she would pick out the verbs in the sentence and then practice walking a bunch of ways to help her learn that the more precise her verbs are in her writing the better. I think the variety in the assignments kept AJ guessing what would come next. It also meant that when she saw the writing book, she didn’t automatically assume that the work would be boring and tedious.

Throughout this review AJ has completed a lot of writing and grammar exercises. One thing that is stressed throughout the program is that writing needs to be practiced. AJ was expected to make mistakes in her writing and to fix them. Each unit is broken up into a number of modules. At the end of each module you and your child go through and grade all of the work they did based on their effort and the quality of their work. Even little things like acting out vocabulary words are included. Knowing that she was getting credit for all of those fun tasks as well as the harder ones really seemed to help motivate AJ.

What We Liked

  • We both liked that the book was spiral bound. That made it easy to write on at all times.
  • We liked that so many subjects were covered at once. It made our day go a little faster.
  • AJ liked that there was plenty of room for her to write in the workbook. She writes way too big for most workbooks, so that was a big deal to her.
  • We both like that the instructions were written at a level that she could easily understand. That made assigning writing work easy for me.
  • We both liked the bright and colorful text throughout the book. It was enough to be fun, but not too much that it overwhelmed her.

The only thing AJ didn’t like was that it was so big. I think if this could possibly be broken up into two books it may be easier for a child to handle.

If you are looking for a solid writing curriculum that incorporates other aspects of language arts into it then this is what you are looking for. It is well written, provides plenty of practice, and promotes independent learning. We will be using this for the rest of this year and all of next year. I have already seen a big improvement in her writing and look forward to how her writing will change in the future.

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
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Math Mini-Courses ~ Review

One of AJ’s favorite subjects is math. We don’t follow a traditional method for math, instead AJ works on a mastery based program. We have been studying math this way since she was in fourth grade. She likes that she is constantly learning new things and that she can continue to learn about a topic. We started using a mastery based program when she was learning the very basics of fractions for the second or third time. She was tired of having to relearn the basics every year, study a topic for a chapter or two, and then not work on it until the next year.

We both love the mastery approach to math, but there are a few drawbacks. The major one is that it is very easy to miss studying a skill. Last year I noticed that she hadn’t learned much about geometry. I bought a few workbooks, but they all seemed a little babyish. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to use to teach her geometry, but I figured I would find something. When we were given the opportunity to review two of  the Math Mini-Courses from A+ Interactive Math, I thought it would be exactly what we needed. And it was!

A+ Math 20161

There are 20 Math Mini-Courses. Each course is a way to close learning gaps that your child might have. The courses are set up in a way that they start with the basic information on the topic and then go in very deep ensuring that your child really understands the topic. The courses have different amounts of lessons and range in price from $9.99 to $19.99 for year long access to the course.

Does the mention of fractions make you want to pull your hair out? Have your child try out the Elementary or Advanced Fraction Math Mini-Courses. They will learn all about fractions making math an easier time during your day.

After looking at all of the courses that are available, I decided that the two that would help her the most were; Percentages and Geometry. Unfortunately, I somehow ended up ordering the Elementary Geometry for students in 1st through 4th grade instead of the regular Geometry for grades 4th through 7th. I think we will be ordering the higher level geometry for her to use next year though, because she really enjoyed the elementary level.

AJ enjoyed using A+ Interactive Math last year, so we were familiar with how to use the program. If it is your first time using the program, there is a section that explains how to use it. Once you purchase a Math Mini-Course you will need to create a parent account and then a student account. The student should be able to use the program all by themselves, working in the student account. Any lessons completed under the parent account will not be marked complete.

A+ math has Parent Reports to help you see how your child is doing.

Under the parent account you are able to generate different reports that show how your student did. You can see how they did on the interactive questions, which online worksheets they completed and their score, and any tests that they completed.

How the Lessons Work

Each lesson is set up the same way. The student clicks on the lesson they want to do, then they watch a video lesson. There is also the option to print the lesson in PDF form. The video explains the topic and then goes over a few different examples. At the end of the lesson they complete an interactive question and answer section. The interactive question and answer session begins with a short review of the lesson and then has your student answer some multiple choice and short answer questions. The lesson prevents the student from clicking an answer or inputting one until they have listened to all of the choices. This was great for AJ because one issue she has is that she doesn’t always read all of the options, so she ends up getting the answer wrong. Some lessons only have a few questions while other lessons that she completed had more than ten. (See the photo above.)The thing that is great about the interactive questions is, if your child selects the wrong answer or types one in (Make sure they click on the frog after their answer is imputed, or it won’t register that it is complete.) then they are brought back to the lesson where how to do the problem was explained and then the problem is worked out for the student. I love that they are given instant feedback! When they are done with the questions and answers they mark the lesson complete, and the rest is up to you. Some people stop at that point. But there are both printable and online worksheets for each lesson. After your child submits the online worksheet they are able to review any incorrect answers along with a step by step way to answer the problem that they got wrong.

After your child submits the online worksheet they are able to review any incorrect answers along with a step by step way to answer the problem that they got wrong.

Mistakes are shown, and give you the correct way to solve the problem.

If you want your child to have even more practice on a topic, you can also generate and print off additional worksheets. We didn’t complete this step the last time that we reviewed a course from A+ Interactive Math, because I felt the; online lessons, interactive question and answers, and the online worksheets were more than enough practice. This time though, I had AJ do the printable worksheet if she missed more than three questions on the online worksheet. I think she only had to do one.

Percentages

The Percentage Mini-Course is made up of 13 lessons. It starts with an introduction to percentages, goes through converting percentages from fractions and decimals, and then goes through different word problem lessons. The course covers everything related to percentages and I am certain that when AJ completes this course (she has 4 lessons left) she will have a very solid grasp on how to work with percentages. She struggles with word problems so I am thankful that the last few lessons in this course covers them.

Elementary Geometry

The Elementary Geometry Mini-Course is made up of 19 lessons. It started with the very basics of plain and solid shapes. It went on to cover two and three dimensional shapes and lines of symmetry. It is wrapped up with different types of lines and angles. AJ finished this course, and she did learn a few different things. I think it covers far more than a 4th grade level of geometry. We are both looking forward to having her complete the regular geometry next year. AJ really enjoyed the elementary course and was sad to see that there were only 19 lessons.

How We Used the Math Mini-Courses and What We thought About It

Since the Geometry Lessons were for kids in lower grades, I had AJ do two lessons a day. After the lesson she completed the online worksheets. For the Percentage Lessons she did one a day in the beginning and eventually as the lessons became harder, I had her do the lesson one day and the online worksheet the next day.

We really like A+ math because it is presented in a way that is easy to understand. The lessons are long enough to teach the topic, but short enough to keep her attention. I think these Math Mini-Courses are amazing! They give you a way to help your student fill in the gaps of their learning. The best part for us is that AJ can do it all by herself. The only complaint AJ had was that she never knew how many interactive questions there would be.  She would like it to say something like, “Question 3 of 17” that way she knew what to expect.

Overall we were both very happy with the Math Mini-Courses!

If you are looking for a math program to help fill in the gaps of your child’s learning, then the Math Mini-Courses from A+ Math is something you should look into. Find out what other members of the Crew thought by clicking on the graphic below.

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Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}