Amazing Homeschool Giveaway

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Don’t you just love giveaways? I know I do! We have an AMAZING giveaway for you this week. I am really excited about this one and wish that I could enter it. As homeschoolers we know that learning science in a hands on way not only makes the subject fun, but it also helps build a deeper understanding of the topic. This microscope and camera will make the day of some young scientist.  Enter the Rafflecopter below, but don’t forget to come back each day next week to find great advice from over 50 homeschoolers as part of the back to homeschool blog hop!
Giveaway - HBC and SRC

Welcome to the Back-To-Homeschool Giveaway!

A group of bloggers from Your Homeschool Blogging Connection and the Schoolhouse Review Crew have teamed up to bring you this fun homeschool giveaway. We are so excited to be giving away this awesome Microscope with the special Digital Camera that goes with it!

One winner will receive these two items – valued at $1894.99!!!

Homeschool Giveaway for Awesome Microscope and Camera!!!

OMAX 40X-2000X Lab LED Binocular Compound Microscope with Double Layer Mechanical Stage + 100 Glass Blank Slides & Covers + 100 Lens Cleaning Paper

Here are the specs on this microscope:

Total magnification: 40X-80X-100X-200X-400X-800X-1000X-2000X; Eyepieces: wide field WF10X and WF20X; Objectives: achromatic DIN 4X, 10X, 40X(S), 100X(S, Oil); Viewing head: 45 degrees inclined 360 degrees swiveling binocular; Sliding adjustable interpupillary distance: 2-3/16inch ~ 2-15/16inch(55~75mm); Ocular diopter adjustable on both eyetubes

Nosepiece: revolving quadruple; Stage: double layer X-Y mechanical stage with scales, size: 4-1/2inchx 4-15/16inch (115mm x 125mm), translation range: 2-13/16inch x 1-3/16inch (70mm x 30mm); Stage upward moving lock protects objectives and slides

Condenser: NA1.25 Abbe condenser with iris diaphragm; Illumination: transmitted (lower) LED light, intensity adjustable; Focus: Coaxial coarse and fine knobs on both sides

Full solid metal frame construction with stain resistant enamel finish; Power supply: AC/DC adapter, 7.5V/7.5W (UL approved) – Input: 100-240V; 100-piece blank glass slides with 100-piece cover slips and 50-sheet lens cleaning paper included

5-year warranty against manufacturing defects

Homeschool Giveaway for Awesome Microscope and Camera

OMAX 5.0MP Digital USB Microscope Camera with Advanced Software and Calibration Slide

Here are the specs on this Microscope Camera (It’s made to go with the microscope and hooks up to your computer!)

Image sensor: Aptina 1/2.5inch color CMOS; Resolution: 2592×1944 pixels (5.0M pixels); Pixel size: 2.2um x 2.2 um; SNR: 40.5dB; Dynamic Range 66.5dB

Frame speed: 5fps at 2592×1944, 18fps at 1280×960, 60fps at 640×480

Interface: USB 2.0; Reduction lens: 0.5X, fit to 23.2mm eyepiece tube; 0.01 mm calibration slide: 1mm/100 division; Adapters fit 30mm and 30.5mm eyepiece tubes

Compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Mac OSX, Linux

1-year warranty against manufacturing defects

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Science Unit Studies ~ Review

Science is one of AJ’s favorite subjects. She loves any subject where she can learn new things in a hands on way. We were given the chance to review a great book, Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers from Funtastic Unit Studies. We use unit studies a lot in our homeschool, so I thought this book would be a great fit.

Funtastic Unit Studies Review

What is Science Unit Studies?

Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers is a 201 page soft covered book. It is broken up into 20 chapters. The first 10 chapters are geared for ages 4 to 7 and the last 10 chapters are for ages 8 to 13. It is recommended that you teach the chapters in order, but it isn’t necessary. There are a variety of different topics covered including:

  • Senses
  • Human Body
  • Dinosaurs
  • Animals
  • Insects
  • Plants
  • Health
  • Atoms and Molecules
  • Chemistry
  • Weather
  • Light and Sound
  • and more

Each unit varies, but most will take about two weeks to complete. At the beginning of the chapter you are given a list of supplies that you will need in order to do the experiments. Most of the items needed are easily found around the home, or in a regular grocery store. Some units require you to make copies of pages in the book, but there are not very many worksheets included. Hands on learning is key with this book!

The lessons are written to the teacher and give step by step directions of what to say, do, and explain to your student. It is written in simple language making it easy to teach. At the end of the chapter there is a multiple choice test to help you gage how much your child has learned.

How We Used Science Unit Studies

We were asked to complete any unit in the book. We have studied a lot of different science topics, but she hasn’t learned much about chemistry. We decided to go with Chapter 13: Atoms and Molecules.

The first activity had me explaining what an atom is and introduced the Periodic Table. The activity was to have the student rip a piece of aluminum foil into small pieces and to then find aluminum on the Periodic Table. AJ thought the activity was odd, and I wished that there was more explanation about the Periodic Table. The only explanation given was that it was a list of all the atoms in the world.

The second activity had AJ a little more interested. She was learning about molecules. The only way to learn about molecules is with marshmallows! She made quite a few molecules including water, carbon dioxide, methane, and carbon tetrachloride. This activity helped her to understand how atoms can come together to make molecules.

Science Unit Studies~ Learning about Molecules

The third activity had her take the molecules she had made and combine them to make crystals. They didn’t turn out too well, but I think she understood the concept. There were a few other activities to learn about crystals including looking at salt with a magnifying glass and seeing Epsom Salt dried on dark paper. Her favorite activity was growing sugar crystals.

Science Unit Studies - learn about crystals.

We have had this experiment in other science courses, but it never works. The recipe for this one worked very well. Over night we had a large piece of sugar crystal (rock candy). AJ enjoyed eating it.

The best part of science is eating your experiments!

The fourth set of activities had her learning about the characteristics of molecules. It involved putting food coloring in water to see how molecules move, putting food coloring in different temperatures of  water to see how fast molecules move based on temperature, spraying perfume to see how molecules move through the air, watching water evaporate into steam, and a few other activities.  We both felt these activities would have been great if she were younger, but that they were boring and too babyish for  7th grade.

Learning about molecules with hands on activities

The last activity was to draw different atoms. The book gave very basic information about protons, neutrons, and electrons and explained how they made up an atom. Using the sample in the book AJ drew the different atoms. She thought it was fun.

Drawing atoms

But then as I was flipping through the book I came to chapter 15 where the book explains all about electron shells. It says, “Tell your students that electrons don’t just randomly move around the nucleus of an atom, there is a pattern to their movement.” That would have been helpful to know before she drew all of those atoms! She redid the drawings and then we read a little more about atoms in chapter 15.

Learning about atoms and electrons

What We Thought About Science Unit Studies

There were a lot of hands on ideas in this book, but I really don’t feel that there is enough information to say that it would work for kids up to age 13. I think it would work well for elementary students but that middle school students would need more. Some of the activities felt redundant and at times the information in the book needed a lot more explanation.

I think it would be a great resource for those with younger kids, and those looking for basic information. AJ had fun with the study, but I don’t feel that she really learned much. It is great resource to get kids interested in science, but it needs some supplements.

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

Funtastic Unit Studies Review
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UnLock Math ~ Review

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AJ recently had the chance to review an amazing online math program from UnLock Math, UnLock Pre-Algebra. We were given year long access to the course.

Unlock Math Review
UnLock Pre-Algebra is a full pre-algebra course that is taught by an energetic math teacher, Alesia Blackwood. Utilizing interesting videos, lessons that break concepts into bite sized pieces, and constant review, your child can gain a better understanding of math!

UnLock Pre-Algebra is broken up into 16 units. It begins with a few review units that cover topics your child may already know, and gets progressively harder as the units go on.

When your child logs on to the program they are taken to their home page. This page has all of the units available so your child can jump to a section that they need extra practice in, or do the course in order. The home page has their course average and their progress in the course in a colorful graphic. If a unit is clicked on then there will be a graph on the bottom of the home page that shows the progress for that unit. There is also a downloadable pacing guide to help you through the course and a welcome letter that explains more about the course and how grades are configured.

Unlock Math Review
Once a unit has been launched there is a screen with all of the lessons, quizzes and tests for the unit. There is a short quiz (less than 10 questions so far) after every two lessons. The units each end with a review and a final test. Your student has access to all of the lessons and tests and can do them in any order, but I would recommend doing them in order.

How UnLock Math Works

The lesson format is the same for each lesson. It is set up where you follow a path to complete the lesson. Each lesson starts with a Warm Up. The Warm Up is usually about 5 questions long and covers topics previously covered, and basic math skills.

Following the Warm Up is the main part of the lesson, the Video. The videos vary by length, but I would say they range from about 5 to 10 minutes each. The videos are humorous and teach math the way I remember being taught. I love how the teacher starts with a simple topic and then takes it to a new level. She has an amazing way of explaining math topics! She works out problems and shows step by step how to solve them.

After watching the Video the student completes the Practice Problems. The student answers 10 questions that are directly related the lesson they just finished. Following the Practice Problems is a Stay Sharp section. In this part of the lesson, the student answers about 15 questions about anything that has been covered in the course up to that point.

For extra credit there is a Challenge Yourself problem. These really vary, some AJ was able to answer with out any problem, and others I walked her through. She really enjoyed this section.

Each lesson also has a Reference Notes section that has a printable page of the information that was presented in the video.

For each section the student is only shown one problem at a time so they are not overwhelmed by an entire page of problems. At the end of each section the student is given their score and they can see each problem worked out.

What We Thought About UnLock Math

AJ was able to log in to UnLock Math each day and complete her lesson with little assistance from me. It is easy to navigate and was really self explanatory. The first two units were fairly easy for her and she had lessons finished in about 30 minutes. When she got to the third unit it started taking her about 45 minutes for each lesson because she had to work out harder problems.

We both loved this math program! The videos were well made and interesting. Having a person who is engaging and full of life work out each problem really made a difference, AJ didn’t lose interest. AJ is a math lover and this program has helped her to love math even more. Normally she hates review problems since she wants to constantly learn new concepts. I wondered how all of the built in review was going to go over with her, but she never complained! I think the fact that there were a few problems at a time made it more manageable.

The only thing that I would change would be the number of review problems before a test, and the number of questions on each test. The last test she took had 50 review questions, and she was getting a little restless after about 30. The great part is that you have the option to save the work and finish it at a later time.

One unexpected benefit we found was that she learned quite a bit of math vocabulary. I have never really made her memorize the different properties of addition or roman numerals, but this course made her. And it wasn’t for just one lesson. She learned about roman numerals in unit 1, and had questions about them in the last few lessons of unit 3.

I have also noticed her being more careful with her math. Some questions are multiple choice, but a large amount of them have the student enter the answer manually. She has to focus and make sure she enters the negative sign, or that she has the numbers entered correctly.

AJ’s favorite part is that there is no offline work! Everything is done online with no writing other than the writing needed to work out the problems. At first I will admit that I was skeptical that there would be enough work, but she has completed 3 units and has a 97%. She is able to do a lot of addition and subtraction of negative numbers in her head, and her multiplication has gotten a lot faster. She is able to answer questions about things she learned a few weeks ago, so that tells me she really learned and understood the topics, she didn’t just momentarily learn the concept and then forget it.

We have tried out a lot of math programs, and when I gave AJ her choice of which math to use for her 7th grade year, she picked UnLock Math. I think this is a great program that will help your child understand math! It really is the answer for homeschoolers who want a math teacher to explain all of the hard topics.

The wonderful people at UnLock Math have offered my readers $100 off of an annual purchase of a course! Click for your discount code. Offer ends August 18th.

UnLock Math Review
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Shape Whiz – Review

I love when I am able to make learning fun! Recently we were given the opportunity to review a game from SimplyFun, Shape Whiz. We had a blast playing and learning geometric topics at the same time!

Simply Fun Review
Shape Whiz is a card game for two to four players where speed and geometry come together. It is recommended for kids ages 10 and up, but I feel an 8 year old would be able to catch on fairly easily. It is a quick game, most of our games lasted about 10 minutes.

The object of the game is to be the first player to play all of their personal shape cards.

Each player is dealt a number of shape cards. The box has 45 blue shape cards and 35 green shape cards. The blue cards have simple shapes where the green cards have complex shapes. You have the option of just using the simple shapes or using both sets of cards. We found that using both sets actually made for an easier game.

The front of the shape cards feature different sized shapes. On the back of the card all of the shape properties are listed. It includes information about the shape’s area, perimeter, lines of symmetry, angles, parallel lines, and number of different length sides.

In the middle of the table you place the stack of 40 double sided whiz cards. The Whiz Cards have a sample shape and then a specific geometry question listed. The card might say “Total Area Less Than Or Equal To 3”, “One Line Of Symmetry”, or “Total Perimeter Greater Than 10”.

Simply Fun Review
To start the game you flip over a Whiz Card. Each player checks the cards in front of them and the cards in front of the other players to see if they can find a card that matches the properties on the Whiz Card. The best part is that if there are any disputes over how many 90 degree angles a shape has, all you have to do is flip over  the card and check.

It is fast paced and once you get going you start to learn how to figure out the approximate area and perimeter of shapes very quickly. AJ would look at the back of her cards constantly in the beginning to help her figure out the properties of her cards, but by the fourth time we played she was able to figure a lot of them out on her own.

There is a booklet included in the box that explains all of the symbols used in the game. AJ was introduced to a few new symbols including the approximate sign. It also includes how to find the area and perimeter of different shapes.

Since it is such a quick game with very little set up, we were able to play this game quite a bit. Most of the time it was just the two of us, but we also had AJ’s grandma play a few hands with us. She said, “Wow! This game sure makes you think, but it’s pretty fun.” It has been AJ’s pick for game night ever since we tried it out.

We ended up making one switch to the game the first few times we played to make it a little less competitive. Instead of being able to play the cards of other players, we decided to only play our own cards. If you are playing with a younger child I would recommend this little change to help them get use to the game.

It has definitely improved AJ’s knowledge of geometric shapes. We both enjoyed playing it and I am planning on using the cards to help teach when we get to the next geometry unit in math.

If you are looking for a fun, fast paced game that will help your child master some geometric principles, I would recommend Shape Whiz!

 

Simply Fun Review
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Home School In The Woods – Review

AJ is a hands on learner who enjoys lapbooks. The more activities involved in a project, the more she learns and remembers the topic. I try to bring as much fun into school as possible, but sometimes putting it all together can be time consuming. When we were given the opportunity to review the Project Passport World History Study: The Middle Ages, from Home School in the Woods we were both excited. History has never been our favorite subject, but if we can bring it to life it makes the subject so much more enjoyable.

Home School in the Woods Review
It is available as a digital download (which is what we received) that is compatible for both Mac and PC or as a CD.

The Project Passport for the Middle Ages is a 25 stop unit study all about the Middle Ages. It is designed to take between six to twelve weeks, but I don’t see how anyone could finish it in six weeks! It is packed full of information. You are touring the Middle Ages learning about different topics as you go. The first three stops on your trip cover background information to bring you up to date on the topic. You also set up your passport and gather your materials. Using the guidebook, audio tours, timelines, crafts, and other hands on activities, it brings the time period to life. Throughout the study your child creates a newspaper, a scrapbook, a lapbook, and many memories all about the Middle Ages.

Hands on learning about the Middle Ages with Home School in the Woods

We received a digital download that included; texts for each stops, itineraries for each stop, masters for all of the projects and worksheets, audio tours, teacher keys, printables for the notebook, and a guide full of tips and additional information.

At first I was a little overwhelmed with everything that was included. But I soon realized that if I took everything step by step it was all broken down and told me exactly what to do. We decided to print the itineraries but to read the text off of the computer.

Each week I would pull up the itinerary for the stop we were working on and follow the directions on what to print. I love that it tells me what to print and how. It tells what to print on cardstock, plain paper, and what needs to be printed on white paper. It even tells when to print a page on the back of another page. If you follow the directions it really is fool proof.

Once everything was printed for the week I would put the papers in her notebook and when we worked on history we had everything we needed.

There are a variety of activities in each stop. Some took longer than others. We started each stop by reading new information from the text. We found the information interesting and well written. There were a lot of facts in the reading, but it wasn’t overwhelming.

After the reading was finished she would cut out timeline figures to add them to her snapshot moments pages. These were neat, and since we were learning about things from different time periods it helped to keep everything in perspective. The directions called for her to color the pictures, but she doesn’t like to color so we decided to leave them plain.

Scrapbook of Sites Middle Ages

When that was finished she often had a post card to read and color. This was one of the activities that helped to bring the Middle Ages to life! The post card came from a famous person from the period and gave their perspective on a subject.

Often she had to add an article or drawing to the newspaper. She had the hardest time with this project because she struggles with creative writing. The assignments are short and should be fun.

Middle Ages Newspaper

Some days there was an audio tour. The audio tours were amazing and by far her favorite part. They are professional quality and introduce you to various people from the Middle Ages. We met a quite a few different people and learned a lot about how they lived.

There are map projects, lapbook pieces, and hands on projects with each stop.

So many hands on projects with Homeschool in the Woods!

One of AJ’s favorite projects so far was the Middle Ages puppets.

Puppets to learn about the Middle Ages

Overall the Project Passport World History Study: The Middle Ages is a solid history program. It is full of learning opportunities and makes a boring topic entertaining. The numerous activities help your child to really remember what they are learning. It doesn’t just focus on dates and places, but the people as well. The author includes lists of books, movies, and audios that can enhance the study. I love that we can take each topic as in depth as we want.

We had planned to use a different history curriculum for the upcoming school year, but AJ is learning so much and enjoying history again so we are going to finish this one and if finances allow, we will do the Renaissance and Reformation one next.

The main downfall to the program is the amount of printing. It uses a lot of ink, paper, and cardstock. It was a little confusing at first with how to get started, and it is more time consuming than other programs. For us, the fun element overrides the downsides. We can’t wait to continue learning about the Middle Ages.

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Home School in the Woods Review

CursiveLogic Review

Cursive writing is all around us, and I feel that it is important for AJ to learn how to read and write in cursive. Whether she decides to use the knowledge or not will be up to her. I NEVER use cursive other than to sign my name, because my cursive writing is horrible. I remember in 6th grade the teacher would only let the class turn in our final drafts in cursive, everyone in the entire class except for me. I was given extra practice to do, but she said she wasn’t going to try and figure out what I had written! It wasn’t until I started to teach AJ cursive in 3rd grade that I realize I was taught incorrectly! Sure I could write each letter, but connecting them was my problem. I don’t know how no one ever realized that I wasn’t being sloppy, but that I was not connecting my letters correctly.

CursiveLogic-A wonderful way to teach cursive!

AJ seemed to have the same issue, she could write the letters, but connecting them to form words was difficult. Now that she is entering 7th grade I knew that we didn’t have time to go through another program that taught a letter at a time, but she wanted to learn to write in cursive better. Enter CursiveLogic. We were given the opportunity to review the CursiveLogic Workbook – An intelligent new way to teach cursive handwriting.

CursiveLogic is not just another workbook, it is a new method for teaching. Instead of teaching the letters one at a time, they have divided up the alphabet into 4 letter strings based on the shape of the letters. Each string of letters is color coded and has a catch phrase that the student says while learning to write the letters.

Letter strands make learning cursive fun

The 96 page full color workbook includes the teacher’s guide right in the book. It is spiral bound at the top making it easy for both right and left handed children to use. The last three pages of the book are dry erase pages that your child can practice over and over again.

The lessons start off very basic having the student trace the letters with their finger, by the end of the lesson they are writing the letter strings and learning how to connect different types of letters.

The majority of the book focuses on the lowercase letters, but there are lessons on the capital letters at the end of the book.

Capital Letters are practiced at the end of the book

AJ has a tendency to speed through writing practice and not focus on her letters, so I had her work on one page a day and then let her practice on the dry erase pages as much as she wanted. The dry erase pages are perfect for her. I don’t know what it is about dry erase markers, but she really enjoys using them to write with.

CursiveLogic is the first handwriting program that I didn’t have to keep reminding her to work on. Each day she would have it done quickly and neatly in just a few minutes.  She even told me, “This is fun!” She liked learning the different letter strands and was able to remember how to write the letters based on the strand they were in.

Throughout the program AJ’s cursive has improved greatly. She still needs additional practice, but what she writes is legible and written correctly. I saw confidence in her writing while working through CursiveLogic, and can’t wait to see how well she is able to write once she finishes it.

We both liked the method that was used to teach the letters. AJ enjoyed the short lessons and I loved that they focused on how to correctly transition from one letter to the next. The program is short, simple, and worth every penny. If you have a child who is struggling with cursive, or a child who is just learning I would recommend checking out CursiveLogic. It really is the last handwriting book you will ever need to buy.

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CursiveLogic Review

CTC Math Review

Math is AJ’s favorite subject! She loves to work with numbers and figure out problems. We have been working on a mastery approach to math and she is really ready for pre algebra, so I was excited to have to opportunity to review the 12 Month Family Plan from CTC Math.

CTC Math is an online program that uses short videos to teach different math lessons. The pre algebra level has printable worksheets that students work on and then enter the answers online. CTC Math’s 12 Month Family Plan gives you access to math curriculum from Kindergarten to Calculus for up to 10 kids for an entire year.  You can use any level you want working where your student needs to be.

CTCMath Review
The pre algebra section is broken up into 4 different sections.

Part one has lessons on:

  • Basics and Whole Numbers
  • Fractions
  • Decimals
  • Percentages

Part 2 has lessons on:

  • Problem Solving
  • Pre-Algebra 1
  • Pre-Algebra 2
  • Pythagoras’ Theorem

Part 3 has lessons on:

  • Powers, Exponents, and Roots
  • Scientific Notation and Powers of 10
  • Measurement
  • Area
  • The Circles
  • Graphs and Charts

Part 4 has lessons on:

  • Probability
  • Statistics
  • Variables, Expressions, and Equations
  • Equation Extensions
  • Ratios
  • Rates
  • Number Application
  • Volume

AJ was excited to try out the Pre-Algebra unit, she started with the first one, Basics and Whole Numbers. Most of the units begin with an optional  diagnostic test. She completed the test and it showed that she already knew 70% of the material. She had mastered 6 of the lessons. The odd part was that there was no way to simply mark the lessons complete. Even though she had shown mastery in the diagnostic test, if we wanted the lessons to show that they were complete she would have to do the worksheet.

CTC Math is broken into short lessons

Once she was finished with the test I had her skip a few lessons and start on one of the lessons that she didn’t show mastery in, Order of Operations.  She was able to easily navigate the program and started on the lesson. She watched the 10 minute narrated video and then pulled up the worksheet. She liked the video and thought the narrator’s Australian accent cool. Unfortunately, the way they explained the order of operations was different from what she had been taught. Instead of using PEMDAS (parentheses, exponents, multiplication/division, addition/subtraction) they taught BIMDAS (Brackets, Indices, multiplication/division, addition/subtraction.) It is the exact same thing, but using different terminology confused her. After I reassured he that they were just calling it a new name everything was fine.

CTC Math Order of Operations

After the lesson you are suppose to print out a worksheet, complete it, and then enter the answers online. I don’t like to print things that I don’t have to so I had AJ view the worksheet on the computer, work out the problems and then find the letter that matched her answer. Then she would enter the answers online and receive her score. I love the fact that offline work is included. While the number of problems varies, there are enough problems to practice and really master each topic.

A few times I couldn’t have her occupying the computer. On those times I printed out the worksheets for the topics she had mastered and had her work on them. She was able to enter her answers later in the day, and I found that it was a good review for her.

CTC Math Award

At the end of the unit your student can earn a certificate based on how well they did on the worksheets. AJ ended up earning a gold certificate in Basics and Whole Numbers and is on track to earn a platinum certificate in Fractions. The student can redo the videos and the worksheets as much as they need in order to grasp the topic.

What we liked

We both loved the short, to the point lessons. Aside from the different terminology that I mentioned above, I didn’t find anything confusing or different than how I would present a topic. I love that she can work on it by herself and that I don’t have to do anything. The email updates were helpful and let me see her progress. I think the amount of work is great, and I think the variety of questions required her to really understand the topics. Most of all I think the price is great. For only one child the price may be a little high, but if you have two or more students it is a fantastic deal! The best part is that AJ enjoyed it, and learned quite a bit.

What we didn’t care for

AJ liked that the lessons were all multiple choice, but I didn’t. I would have liked to have her enter the answers instead. That is of course a personal preference. The order that the lessons are presented in is a little different than other programs we have looked at, and once we get past part 1 I see us rearranging the order. I think it is great that you are able to jump around through the program to suite your needs the best. The other issue I had is that there aren’t any tests after the unit is complete and the diagnostic test doesn’t allow you to mark lessons complete. While the small issues don’t hinder the program, I felt them worth mentioning.

Overall AJ enjoyed the program. As of right now we are planning on using this for AJ’s 7th grade year.

CTCmath Review
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WordBuildOnline – A Great Way to Practice Vocabulary! {Review}

It seems that most people either love numbers or they love words. AJ, my 6th grader loves numbers. She likes to figure things out and solve puzzles, words on the other hand are not her friend. Math makes sense, but vocabulary is difficult for her. If you have read my blog for a while, you probably know how many tears have been shed over vocabulary. We really needed something new!

JazzEdge  Review
 

We were recently given the chance to review a neat product from Dynamic Literacy, WordBuildOnline. WordBuildOnline is a vocabulary program unlike anything we have tried before. Instead of studying and learning thousands of different words, the program focuses on learning prefixes, suffixes, and roots. In just 15 minutes a day your student will practice Greek and Latin roots using different game like activities. Since it is online, you will need a good internet connection to use the program. We have used it in both Internet Explorer, and Google Chrome with great results.

There are two different levels; Foundations is geared for 2nd through 5th grade and Elements is geared for 6th through 10th grade. We reviewed the Element level. The program will last a school year if students do 1 lesson a day, but the pace can be changed to fit your needs.

The site is very easy to use, each day AJ would log into the program and click to start her lesson. Other than making sure she stayed on the site, I didn’t have to do anything! The first lessons were review of prefixes and suffixes. During the review period AJ had to practice working with prefixes and suffixes by finding the meaning to three different words. The activities were quick, but AJ found them a little boring and redundant. I had her do more than the 1 lesson a day so that we could get to the fun part of the program.

While she found the first part of the program boring, I found it necessary and a great review. She went into the program knowing some prefixes and suffixes, but she had a lot to learn! I think if there would have been different activities to practice the prefixes and suffixes that AJ would have enjoyed that section a little bit more.

Once the prefix and suffix review was over she was able to do her first lesson. The lessons are broken up into 5 days, and last no longer than 15 minutes. There is even a timer that stops the activity when the 15 minutes is up.

On the first day of each week  AJ watched a video that was less than 5 minutes long. During the video she was introduced to a new root word. She learned different ways that the root could be spelled and the root’s different meanings.

After the video she went on to the practice. In the first activity there was a box with 9 squares. The middle box has the root word and the other boxes have prefixes or suffixes. In this activity AJ had to make as many words as she could with the prefixes, suffixes, and root. Once she made each word she had to type in the definition.

The first activity was both of our least favorite. It was her least favorite because she had to try and spell all of the words correctly and type a lot of definitions. I liked the fact that she had to think of the different words, but I didn’t like how the activity was scored. It seemed like as long as she spelled the word correctly and typed in some definition that the question was marked correct. When I looked at her progress after the lesson, I could tell that she didn’t really understand the meanings of some of the words, or that she didn’t try.

I really think that once she figured out that her definition wasn’t really being checked, she became lazy and entered whatever she wanted! I took that as an opportunity to remind her how to figure out the definitions by using the prefixes and suffixes. (And to remind her that she needed to try her best!)

JazzEdge  Review
The second day was her favorite activity, the Magic Square. There was a list of 9 different words using the root and 9 different definitions. She had to match them, but there was a fun twist. Each word was assigned a letter and put in a 3 by 3 grid. The definitions were each given a number 1 to 9. She had to make all of the rows and columns add up to the same number.

This activity made her think, used math, and helped her use deduction skills even when she wasn’t sure of an answer.

 

JazzEdge  Review
The third day was another puzzle, it reminded me of a crossword puzzle. You are given a list of different definitions using the root word, and a set rows of boxes. Each row has the right number of boxes for the word that matched its definition. Some of these puzzles she was able to figure out right away, and others took more time.

On the fourth day she was given a set of sentences with words missing and a word bank. She simply had to pick the word that best completed the sentence.

The final day of the word study had her take a 10 question quiz on the words that were made by the root word. She earned 100% on each quiz, so I know that she is learning! It has been a LONG time since she had a 100% on a vocabulary quiz!

I get an email every time she completes an activity and I can check her progress at any time by logging into my parent account.

Aside from the few minor issues mentioned above, the only complaint I have with WordBuildOnline is the 15 minute time limit. I wish there was a pause button on the lessons. A few times she got up to use the bathroom or do something and her session ended without her doing anything. I can go in and reset it in my account, but I wish there was a way to stop the clock if she needs to step away.

Days one and three were hard for her, but the rest of the week she really enjoyed. She asks to work on the program and I can see the improvement in spelling and vocabulary. When we are reading I have noticed her trying to pull apart longer words. The prefixes and suffixes that she use to have a problem with are easier for her to figure out and longer words are not as intimidating. The program is solid and I plan to have her continue with it. The best part is that once you purchase it your student can use it until they complete the program even if it takes longer than a year for them to finish.

Overall she has learned a lot. The traditional way of memorizing lists of words didn’t work for her, but this does. It combines learning vocabulary with puzzles and games and takes the boring out! The computer element made it interactive and fun.

If you are interested it trying out this fun vocabulary program, you can use the discount code dailylife for a 25% discount on the book version of the program or 10 % off of the online version.

 

Dynamic Literacy Review
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IEW Review

We have tried a lot of writing programs, this is the first one to really work! Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) is a name that I have heard since I started homeschooling AJ. I was told wonderful things about the program and that it would really help my struggling writer. The first time I visited their website, sticker shock hit me. The program is expensive at first glance, and I couldn’t see how this program could be different enough from every other program that we had tried, to justify the cost. After a while of other programs not working, and AJ still struggling,  I was going to bite the bullet and purchase the program from IEW. Unfortunately, we hit some hard times financially and that wasn’t possible. A few weeks ago we were given the amazing blessing of being able to review two products from IEW –   Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, and Student Writing Intensive Level B.   The Student Writing Intensive Level B is for kids in grades 6 – 8 while the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style is for the teacher.

IEW Review
I stocked the mail box waiting for our package to arrive. AJ struggles with writing, and since writing always came easily for me, I didn’t know how to help her. Why couldn’t she just write? I opened the box and was amazed and a little overwhelmed  by everything I found!

 

IEW Review
Teaching Writing: Structure and Style came with a nice sturdy folder, over 200 pages of printed material, 12 different dividers, and a black DVD case with 12 DVDs in it. This is the newly filmed and updated version, but since I haven’t viewed the previous version I can’t say if it is any better. I also received year long access to monthly webinars, streaming products and more available online included with my Premium Subscription.

I glanced at the getting started page and quickly put together my folder. I love it when products take out the guess work and tell you what to do!

Teaching Writing: Structure and Style is amazing! It is a recorded seminar taught by Andrew Pudewa that teaches parents/teachers how to teach writing. He teaches a successful method of writing that was developed by Anna Ingham, C.C.M., and J.B. Webster, PH.D. There are over 14 hours of instruction on the DVDs. The folder is full of examples and even more information. The first 9 DVDs cover the 9 different units of the writing program. The last three have demonstration lessons and additional information.  Throughout the DVDs Mr. Pudewa teaches each unit and even gives you writing assignments to help you see what your student will be doing. While you could sit and watch all of the videos at once, I decided to stay one unit ahead of AJ. She is working on unit 3 right now and I just watched unit 4.

To say I learned a lot from the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style DVDs would be an understatement! I learned more about teaching writing in the first DVD than I have from every other program we have tried put together. I had quite a few “ah ha” moments while watching the videos. Mr. Pudewa presents things in an easy to understand manner, speaks clearly, and even throws in some humor. The time flew by while I was watching the videos because I enjoyed watching them. He explains why some kids have a hard time writing, but he also explains how to help those who enjoy writing. When I was finished watching the first DVD I actually felt empowered and like I really could get AJ to write. I haven’t watched all of the DVDs yet but I have learned so much already.

This program can be used to teach writing as a stand alone program. Each year your student should cycle through each of the 9 units, learning more and more each year. I could really see this program working well that way. I said how the program is expensive at first glance, but when you think about how much use you can get out of it, the price actually seems very good.  It can also be used with the Student Writing Intensives, or many of the other programs on their website. IEW - Everything you need to teach writing!

The other item in our box was the Student Writing Intensive Level B. It came with a DVD case containing 5 DVDs one introduction for the parent/teacher and 4 DVDs filled with lessons for the student. It also came with a folder, five dividers, some different charts and worksheets to be used during the program, and a printed out Teacher’s Guide that is over 90 pages long. The Teacher’s Guide has the printouts for the lessons as well as a suggested schedule, examples, tips, and more. I stuck the Teacher’s Guide in the front of my Teaching Writing: Structure and Style folder, put AJ’s folder together, and watched the Overview DVD. The Student Writing Intensive Level B is a video recording of Mr. Pudewa teaching a writing class to a group of students. The course was originally taught over 4 days. Additional practice passages were added and the course now covers 30 weeks of writing.

Mr. Pudewa is a great teacher!

The next day we were suppose to start the program. I was excited, but AJ wasn’t. She didn’t even want to try another writing program. She woke up “sick” but by the afternoon she was well enough to start school. I gave her the folder and the first printout. We put the DVD in and started to watch it. Mr. Pudewa caught her attention right away, she thought he was funny. He talked about how he didn’t like to write as a child and asked how many kids were dragged to the class and may have even faked sick to get out of it because they don’t like to write. Her hand shot up! The first lesson went well. We had to stop and rewind the video a few times so that she could copy some things, but by the middle of the lesson she was keeping up fairly well. The first lesson had her copy a keyword outline that he had made with the class and then write it into a paragraph. I have never seen her write so quickly and easily. She even said she liked the program! IEW - An Amazing Wriing Program! To really understand how her writing progressed I need to share a paragraph she wrote before the program. Keep in mind she is in 6th grade and that this took over a half hour to get her to write.

Moses lifted his hands and split the Red Sea. The Israelites walked across dry land. Pharaoh’s army chased them into the sea. Then Moses lifted his rod and God closed it. Then the Egyptians drowned and they died.

Here is the paragraph she wrote after the first day of the program. It is not perfect, but it is a big improvement! The best part is that she wrote it in about 15 minutes.

Sea wasps are the most venomous jellyfish. They are poisonous. They are worse than any snake. Sea wasps, which are difficult to see, will sting people and cause the person to die in seconds. They search for shrimp on the beach, which makes them close to the swimmers. There are no sea wasps in America or Europe. They are only in Australia. They can use their neurototin to kill over 50 people. Sea wasps are the deadliest creatures alive!

Each day AJ would either watch the next lesson on the DVD, work on another source text, or edit her paragraph. Each lesson has a check list of things that have to be included in her writing. As the lessons progress more is added to the check list. This is her paragraph from her last assignment she did in unit 3, Retelling Narrative Stories.

Alice was tired of sitting next to her big sister. She was just sitting there doing nothing. Then, Alice saw a white rabbit who was taking to himself yelling, “ I’m late I’m late for a very important date!” The White Rabbit took out a big shinny pocket watch and hurried away quickly. Alice jumped to her feet because she had never seen a rabbit with a pocket watch before. The white rabbit scuffled down the rabbit hole. Alice zoomed down the rabbit hole after him, but how was she going to get out?

I think it is clear to see that her writing has improved. There are still some errors, but I feel like we are going in the right direction. There haven’t been any tears over writing, and she looks forward to the lessons. I have learned how to teach her, and she has learned how to write. I could write an entire post about the things I was doing wrong when I was trying to get her to write. I feel this program really was an answered prayer for both of us!

We loved the short lessons, the fun to watch DVDs, the detailed notes and lessons, and most of all Mr. Pudewa. We are putting this to the side since we only have one more week of school, and will pick it back up when we start school again. When I told AJ we were done reviewing the program, she was upset because she really liked it! Coming from a kid who hates to write, that says a lot! The only downside we have found is that the price may make it unaffordable for some families. You really do get a lot for your money, and I would recommend it any day. IEW is really as good as everyone says, it not only met my expectations, but greatly exceeded them!

IEW Review
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7th Grade Reading List

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I can’t believe AJ is going to be in 7th grade this year! She is going to officially be in middle school. Middle school was when I really fell in love with books and I can’t wait for AJ to have the chance to read some of the amazing books that I did. Most of them will wait until 8th grade because I want to take her 7th grade year to fall in love with the world of Narnia. She hasn’t read any of the books or watched any of the movies so this will be her first visit into the magical world. 7th grade may seem a little old for Narnia, but we will be diving deep into each book, studying different literary elements, comparing and contrasting with different movie versions, and tracking character development over the books. Narnia has a lot to teach. We will also be reading my favorite book from 7th grade.

Here are some of the books I plan on having AJ read during the next school year.

  1. The Magician’s Nephew
  2. The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe
  3. Horse and His Boy
  4. Prince Caspian
  5. Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  6. The Silver Chair
  7. The Last Battle
  8. The Giver – We will read the first book for sure, and possible the others.

Those books will be read with study guides (that I am making)  and really picked apart. The plan is to spend about a month on each book. We will also work on poetry from CS Lewis. I have others I want her to read, but realistically those 8 will probably be all that we get to.

She will be reading for at least 20 minutes a day on her own as well. Usually I let her pick whatever books she wants, but this year we will be changing that. I am sure her choices will be animal or mystery related, and will more than likely be at a lower reading level. I am fine with her reading any chapter book she picks, but this year her choice will be alternating with a book of my choice. Some of the books she will be reading on her own (no reports or anything required) are listed below.

  1. The Westing Game
  2. Bridge to Terabithia
  3. Indian in the Cupboard
  4. In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson
  5. Holes

She may read a few more novels, but I haven’t decided on those yet. I haven’t read 3 of the  books above, but I will read them before she does so that we can talk about them.

What is your Middle School Student reading this year?

FishFlix.com Review