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

Famous Men of Rome ~ Review

  Famous Men of Rome is a great product, even if you aren't a classical homeschooler!

We were given the opportunity to review the Famous Men of Rome Set from Memoria Press. It is classical year long course about Ancient Rome designed for 4th to 8th grade students. The set comes with a 157 page soft covered book, Famous Men of Rome. The book is broken down into 30 different chapters covering the history of Rome from the tale of Romulus and Remus to the end of the Western Empire. It is full of pictures, some black and white and others in color. The back of the book includes a glossary and full color maps of Ancient Rome. The length of each chapter really varies. Some are as short as 2 and a half pages while others are more than six pages long.

Memoria Press Review
 

To go along with the Famous Men of Rome, we also received a Student Guide. The Student Guide is a 120 page soft covered book. It includes a two page lesson for each chapter, 5 different review lessons, drawing pages to complete activities, maps (in black and white), a blank timeline to fill in, European geography lessons, a pronunciation guide, and additional resources.

Famous Men of Rome Review
The final piece of the Famous Men of Rome Set was the Teacher’s Guide. The Teacher’s Guide is a 172 page soft covered book. It includes a short two page section explaining how to use the guide. The first 120 pages are basically another Student Guide that has all of the answers filled in. The rest of the book contains the 7 different tests and answer keys, 5 to be completed after the review lessons, a final test covering the entire book, and a European geography test.

Weekly lessons from Famous Men of Rome

Each lesson is designed to last a week. The lessons are broken up into four sections; Facts to Know, Vocabulary, Comprehension Questions, and Activities. The Facts to Know section lists the most important facts from the lesson. It is also the section of the lesson that is to be used for memory work and copywork if desired. The Vocabulary section takes words from the text. The student is to try and figure out the meaning of the word from the context that it is use in, if they can’t then they are to look up the word. The Comprehension Questions are questions based on the reading. Most of the questions require a short answer or a list from the reading. The Activity section changes each week. They include locating places on the maps, filling out the timeline, drawing part of the reading, looking up information, and questions from the reading. There are some questions marked throughout the book that can be used as essay questions as well.

How we used Famous Men of Rome

While the lessons are intended to last a week, after the first week we decided to speed up the pace. We school 4 days a week and completed two lessons a week. The first day we would go over all of the Facts to Know sections from the previous lessons. Then AJ and I would read the first half of the chapter. She would answer any vocabulary or comprehension questions that she could answer from the first half of the chapter. Then she would choose 2 or 3 activities to complete, usually map work, timeline work, or drawing a picture.

On the second day we would go over all of the Facts to Know sections so far then finish up the reading. When she was finished she would fill out any unanswered vocabulary or comprehension sections. The reading time varied depending on the length of the chapter and her willingness to read, but the book work part never took longer than about 20 minutes.

What we thought about Famous Men of Rome

We are NOT classical homeschoolers. We don’t do memory work and rarely use text books. We enjoy reading great stories and learning in a hands on way. I didn’t know how AJ would take to trying to memorize dates and places, but I was pleasantly surprised. She really enjoyed reading the stories. They were exciting, full of drama, and in her words, crazy. The part she liked the best was the Facts to Know section. She loved trying to learn all of the facts. She remembered way more than I expected, and even took it upon herself to create flashcards for some of the ones she was having trouble with.

We both liked that the book work part of the lessons was short and sweet. The activities were varied enough to keep her interest and there was not too much writing. I love the fact that the vocabulary section came with answers. So many times we struggle with the vocabulary section because all dictionaries are a little different. It was nice to have the correct definitions at my fingertips.

My favorite part of the entire set was the pronunciation guide.  It was written where AJ could easily figure out how to pronounce the different Roman names. I can’t ever seem to get names right, so I found that section very helpful.

Famous Men of Rome includes some European Geography

The geography section was ok. By the looks of the book more geography is introduced in later chapters, but in my opinion you would really need more geography to have a solid grasp.

The major complaint I had was  the lack of instruction for the teacher. As I mentioned before, there is a two page section that tells you how to use the guide, but it isn’t very useful. The book doesn’t tell you how long a lesson should take, or give any suggested schedule. While I appreciate the answers, I prefer a teacher’s guide that has more to it.

The other issue I had was with the tests. The tests are in the Teacher’s Manuel, but they are not perforated for easy removal. They look difficult to remove. Since the answer key is right behind the test, giving the student the book really isn’t an option.

Overall we liked the Famous Men of Rome Set and I would recommend it to those who want to study history in a classical way. It is interesting, doesn’t have too much busy work, and AJ enjoyed it. We are planning on continuing with the books next year, but we will more than likely skip some of the vocabulary and continue with our faster pace. The stories are great and I feel that AJ has already learned so much from them.

Memoria Press Review
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Easy Piano Basics Review

AJ took piano lessons for about six months. During that time, she had to be driven about 25 minutes away for a 30 minute lesson each week. Unfortunately, half of the time she didn’t remember what she was taught and since I have no piano experience at all, I was left trying to makes sense of a piano book that might as well have been written in French! I would try to figure out what she was suppose to do, but often it was different than the way her teacher taught her. She enjoyed the lessons, practiced almost every day, and was learning, but the set up just didn’t work for us. After a while there wasn’t time for the lessons and they were too expensive.

Easy Piano Basics is like having a piano teacher in your living room! Check out our review.

Those lessons were about 2 years ago, but recently AJ has been asking if she could take lessons again. Money is very tight so the answer had to be no. Then, we were given the chance to review Easy Piano Basics from JazzEdge. We jumped at the opportunity, and have been learning to play the piano together ever since!  We were given lifetime access to the video course.

Easy Piano Basics is an online streaming product that is geared for those who are just learning to play the piano or those who need a refresher course. It is a self paced course with 32 different videos which are taught by piano teacher, Willie Myette. Through each video you see the piano close up along with  the instructor in a small area of the screen. While the majority of the lessons are online you also need to print some music sheets for practice. You are encouraged to practice for 5 to 10 minutes 5 days a week.

JazzEdge  Review
 The set up is simple! AJ was able to log in and start watching the videos quite easily. Each video is between about 2 to 10 minutes long. Under the video you are given instructions on what exactly to practice before your next lesson.

The lessons start of easy! I wondered it they would be too easy, but AJ enjoyed the videos. We worked through the very basic videos; the alphabet, high and low notes, how to sit at the piano, ext. in a few days. Most of it was review. We would watch the video, practice the things that needed to be practiced for a few minutes, and then go on to the next video. The lesson difficulty increased with each video, and by lesson 8 we were learning how to read music!

We didn’t practice as often as we should have, and we still learned a lot. The way Willie Myette explains things is simple and effective. AJ appreciated the fact that I was learning with her, so I wouldn’t try to teach her the wrong way. I loved that the videos could be completed at our own pace. Right now we are on lesson 11. We slowed down when we hit lesson 8 because I want to make sure we both really understand how to read music. Our only complaint with the program was that a few times the camera angle was a little odd and made it difficult to see things. This only occurred for a few seconds at a time and we didn’t find it too distracting.

Overall I am thankful for the chance to try out Easy Piano Basics. With our busy schedule it is the perfect fit. It is like having a piano teacher right in the living room. AJ can practice when we have time, she can watch the lessons over as often as she needs to, and I can learn right along side her. I think the best part is that the course covers a lot of technical information in an easy to understand way. This is something that we will be sticking with.

Find out what other members of the School House Review Crew thought!

JazzEdge Review
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Firmly Planted Bible Study Review

I feel the Bible is a very important subject in our day. This year we have made it a priority to study the Bible a lot more often. We have been looking at in in a historical way, but haven’t gotten to the New Testament yet. AJ knows the story of the birth of Jesus and how he died on the cross for our sins, but she has a lot to learn still. When I learned that Heidi St. John had created Bible studies, I was excited to try one out!

A to the point Bible Study that has things for every member of the family.

We were able to review Firmly Planted, Gospels, Part 1 from Real Life Press. We were given a downloadable PDF of both the Family Study Guide and the Student Book.

What is the Firmly Planted, Gospels, Part 1?

The Study Guide is a 127 page PDF that is broken up into ten different lessons about the life of Jesus. Each lesson follows the same basic format. It starts with a passage from the Bible in the ESV version. Then it gives the big idea of the study, memory verses, a section called Watering the Seed where a little story is given to help understand the importance of the main idea, and then the Daily Study.

Real Life Press Review
Each day for the Daily Study you are instructed to read part of the passage then read a few paragraphs that explain the Bible reading and make you think about it. After each daily study there is a digging deeper section that explains even more and gives additional details, and a Taste the Fruit section. The Taste the Fruit section is a place where it shows how the passage is applicable to your daily life. There are 4 Daily Studies for each lesson.

The Student Book is a 225 page PDF. It is full of activities for a variety of ages to help with the main idea of the Bible Study. Some of the activities included are; mazes, word searches, crossword puzzles, fill in the blank passages, nature studies, journaling pages, copywork, mapping, and more. Each lesson has between 20 and 26 pages worth of activities.

While the two products go together and complement each other, there is not a set schedule given to use them together.

How did we use it?

The first week I printed off the study guide for the week and about ten different activities that I thought AJ would enjoy. We read through the passage, went over the main idea, and then went on to the first daily study. When we were done reading and discussing she did a few of the activities.

It seemed like a lot of printing, so after the first week we would read through the lesson on my computer and then have her do some of the activities. Some days she would look up the vocabulary for the section and then da a maze. Another day she would look up the passage and do a fill in the blank puzzle. Other days she would look up verses in the Old Testament that showed how events from the New Testament had been prophesized. Each day was a little different.

She enjoyed the mazes, word searches, crosswords, and fill it in puzzles. She also liked the vocabulary. The nature studies didn’t seem like a good fit for us, so we skipped them. We also decided to skip the coloring pages and copywork sections that seemed to young for AJ. Each day she did between two and three pages of activities. The daily work seemed to take about 15 minutes.

What did we think?

The Firmly Planted Gospels, Part 1 has a lot of great features!

Pros

  • The lessons are short enough to keep kids attention.
  • The student workbook has activities for a variety of ages, making a family study very easy.
  • It is broken up into 4 daily study sections giving those who school with a four day schedule an easy way to fit it in.
  • The print quality is nice in both black and white and color.

There were a few things that we didn’t enjoy.

Cons

  • There was a lot of printing. Even with only printing out the desired pages from the student workbook, I was printing between 8 to 12 pages a week and that was with one student.
  • There were a few theological differences in beliefs between the author and myself. This may or may not be a con for you. There was nothing outlandish or wrong, but a few small things that I didn’t agree with. It was easy to leave those points out of our lessons.
  • Our biggest complaint was that the study was just not enough. Each day we went over a few verses, I thought that there should have been more Bible reading each day. While the short lessons do provide a quick study with the family, I would have liked to see more. Maybe it is because we are use to studies where we study a few chapters a day, that this just didn’t seem like enough.

Overall I think that it is a good study, and if AJ was younger or I had more kids it would have been a really good fit. Right now I feel AJ was too old for a lot of the activities and that she needed more from a Bible study. There are a few activities that help an older child did deeper into the study, but they just didn’t seem to fit with AJ’s hands on learning style.

I would recommend this study for those with younger kids who would like a variety of activities to pick from. If you are looking for a short to the point Bible study, this may be what you are looking for. I was one of many who reviewed products from Real Life Press, click the graphic below to read what others had to say!

Real Life Press Review

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A+ Math Review

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A+ Math is fun, engaging, and helped my child to master new topics!

AJ’s favorite subject is math, so when I was given the opportunity to review the Family Math Package from A+ Interactive Math I thought it would be a hit. I didn’t expect AJ to grow leaps and bounds with the program, but she did! We received a six month subscription to the Family Math Package.

What is the A+ Family Math Package?

Family Math Package
A+ math is a complete online math program that offers a few different options. The one AJ and I reviewed was the Family Math Package. With that package we had access to math from grades K1 to Algebra. Depending on how you choose to use the program it can be completed completely online, or you can print off worksheets and exams. Multimedia lessons, an interactive quiz, and worksheets, ensure that your child understands the topic. There is also a PDF math book available if you want to read through the lessons, or use it for extra study practice.

You can switch grade levels at any times, and packages are available for use with up to ten children! Since it is an online program you will need high speed internet access to use the program. It works with most browsers on both PC and MAC.

How did we use it?

Since we haven’t been following a typical course of study for math, I wasn’t sure where to place AJ. She is in 6th grade, but is ahead in a lot of areas and behind in others. I decided to try her in the Pre Algebra section, knowing that we may have to go down a level if she found it too difficult. That is one of the amazing things about the Family Math Package, you aren’t stuck in one grade level.

There is both a student account and a parent account. I signed into my account, looked around, watched a few lessons, and was ready to start. Everything was very self explanatory, and there was even a big red button on the sign in page that tells you how to get started.

Once AJ signed in we decided to start with the tutorial to make sure she understood how to use the program. Then she started in with the first unit, Number Review. The lessons were short, to the point, and very well explained. The Number Review unit was all about different types of numbers; whole numbers, integers, real numbers, and others. We tried learning the difference between the number types in a different math program and she just didn’t understand the concept. I was a little apprehensive on how she would do, but she really seemed to grasp the concepts. At the end of the lesson she took an interactive quiz and got a perfect score.

Since the lesson was so short I had her do two to three lessons a day. She has a tendency to space out and not pay attention, so in order to make sure she was paying attention to the lessons I had her take notes. I found that having her take notes was very helpful to her retaining the information.

A+ Math is fun, engaging, and helped my child to master new topics

After about a week of using the program, I realized that we weren’t doing the worksheets. I don’t know how we missed them, but we did.  She went back and did the online worksheets for the lessons she had already completed and then it was time for the unit test.

There are two options for the test, online or printed out. I decided to have her do the online test. It is a timed test to stimulate a regular testing environment. She doesn’t do well with tests, or being timed, but she aced the test!

She was so proud of herself after the test and couldn’t wait to start the next unit. Then she found out it was fractions. We have studied fractions for a big part of last year and the first part of this year. She tested out of fractions, so I could understand why she wouldn’t want to go back over them again. We skipped over units two and three and went straight to unit 4, Powers and Roots. She loved the unit and learned so much! Being able to pick which unit to work on really excited her. She watched a few lessons on basic trigonometry and a few on polynomials because she wanted to learn new things.

Each day was a little different and as the lessons became more difficult she went down t one lesson a day.

What did we think?

There were a lot of things that we love about the Family Math Package.

Pros

  • It is a complete program, not just a supplement.
  • There are detailed reports to let you know how your child is doing.
  • Instant feedback is given if your child makes a mistake on the interactive quiz. They are taken back to the section in the lesson that explains that topic.
  • It is full of flexibility! From lesson order, to grade level, to printing things out or doing them online, you decide what works best for you.
  • It is affordable.
  • Lessons are presented in a way that makes sense.

While it is a great program, there were a few things that we didn’t care for.

Cons

  • Answers had to be put in a specific way. On the online worksheets, and the tests, the answers had to match exactly or they were marked wrong. In one lesson she was asked how much percent of something would be left. She answered 32% and was marked incorrect because they were just looking for 32. In another lesson she put .02 for the answer and was marked incorrect because the answer was 0.02. Once we knew that the computer wanted the answers a certain way, it was fine but it would have been nice to know from the beginning that they had to be entered that way. I also wish that there was a way for the parent to override the poor score for instances like I explained above. The good news is that they are working on a way to fix both of those issues.
  • The difficulty level in the interactive quiz and the worksheets often didn’t match. On a few lessons she was able to answer all of the interactive quiz questions very easily, but then the questions on the worksheets were way more difficult. This was AJ’s main complaint.

Overall, we both loved the program! I loved that it is so flexible. AJ loved that the lessons were short and to the point. For now we will be sticking with A+ Math.

Right now A+ Math is having a 40% to 50% off sale on their “Family Math Packages” and “Adaptive Placement Testing w/ Lessons” program from 5/4/2015 to  5/18/2015. We are really enjoying this program, if it sounds like it may be a good fit for your family check it out. I would highly recommend it!
A+ Interactive Math - Building a Foundation You can COUNT on!

Find out what other members of the Review Crew thought by clicking the graphic below!

A+ Interactive Math Review
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Spelling You See – Review

I am a bad speller. There is no easy way to explain how spelling and the millions of rules frustrate me. I could pass most spelling tests with out a problem, but a week later I wouldn’t be able to spell any of the words. I still struggle horribly as an adult. Unfortunately, AJ is just as bad of a speller as I am. We have tried quite a few different ways of working on spelling. We tried memorizing lists, playing games, and copy work. Each thing helped a little bit, but she needed more.

Spelling You See - A program my child enjoys and is learning from!

Thankfully we were given the chance to review a new product from Spelling You See, Spelling You See: Ancient Achievements Level F. We received the Student Workbook Part 1, Student Workbook Part 2, the Instructor’s Handbook, and a package of erasable colored pencils. We were excited to get started.

What is Spelling You See: Ancient Achievements?

Ancient Achievements is level F in the series and is the last book for kids who are in the “skill development stage” of spelling. Spelling You See takes a completely different approach than most spelling programs. There are no lists of words to memorize, and there are no tests. Spelling You See isn’t based on grade or age level, it is based on spelling ability. I highly recommend reading all about Spelling You See’s Spelling Philosophy. I found it very eye opening and thought that it explained exactly why both AJ and I have such difficulty with spelling.

If there are no spelling lists, how does it work?

On the first day of the week your student reads a passage. Ancient Achievements has selections about all kinds of different things from Ancient History. Some of the passages AJ has worked on include; cave paintings, cuneiform, and mummies.

After reading the passage the student goes through and chunks parts of the words by boxing them in with an assigned color. AJ used the colored pencils that came with the program, but you could also use highlighters.  On each page the types of chunks they need to look for are listed. In the beginning of the book it starts with just vowel chunks, then it goes onto consonant chunks. Further into the book they are introduced to bossy r chunks, ending chunks, silent letters, and the tricky Y guy.

By chunking the words, kids can see how they are spelled. Spelling You See.

This is one of the pages where she was working on vowel and constant chunks.

After reading and chunking the passage your student then copies a portion of the passage and chunks it. The copying portion is limited to 10 minutes.

They continue with the same routine on the same passage for the first three days of the week. Day three has an additional feature called Spotlight. In this section a little bit more about words is explained. In the teacher’s guide there are optional activities to practice the topic that the Spotlight is focusing on. Some of the topics we have come across so far are; rhyming words, root words, and different Latin root meanings.

On day 4 they read and chunk the passage, but instead of copying it, they write it from dictation. On day four you are able to help them if needed. After 10 minutes the dictation is stopped and they count how many words they got right.

Spelling You See - The perfect program for my struggling speller!

Dictation from Spelling You See

Day 5 is similar to day 4 except this time you don’t help at all with the dictation. The next week they move onto a different passage and the process begins again.

The teacher’s guide is necessary for the program. It has the passages for dictation, the correct chunking patterns, and ideas for the Spotlight section.

How did we use it?

We do school four days a week, so I was a little bit unsure of how to work the program. We decided to start in the middle of the week and just did the next day’s work each day. It worked out really well.

On the first day I read the passage to AJ and then she read it to me. We took it line by line and she chunked the passage as we went. I had the teacher’s guide open so that I could make sure she found all of the words that needed to be chunked. Then I set the timer and had her copy the passage. I was expecting a fight since she hates to write, but it went very well. Our biggest issue was that after the 10 minutes was up, she wasn’t finished writing. She didn’t like leaving the page partway unfinished so she finished it anyways.

Chunking with Spelling You See - Helpful for the visual learner!

After the first week we decided to get rid of the timer and just let her work until she was finished. Most days it took her about fifteen minutes to finish copying everything.

The second and third day she did mainly on her own other than reading the passage to me. The first day of dictation was the most difficult for AJ, because of one rule, no erasing. The student isn’t aloud to erase during the dictation, instead they are to cross off the word that is spelled wrong. It took a little bit to get use to, but now she knows she can’t erase. On the 5th day I would dictate the passage to her again and she would see if she could get more words correct on the second dictation.

What do we think?

When the books came in the mail I was sure that I would love the program. I wasn’t expecting AJ to love it too! She completes the spelling each day without an issue, but the best part is that I am seeing the skills transfer over to her other writing. When she is writing a word and needs me to spell it she often asks if it has any chunks in it. I have also noticed that she is remembering the words she is working on each week . The other day she was working on history and remembered how to spell archeologist, and that was a word she wrote a few weeks ago!

The only thing we didn’t like was the amount of room given to copy the passage. AJ has large handwriting and found it difficult to fit all of the words on the line. Surprisingly, after the first week, she started writing smaller and was able to fit everything in.

Overall she enjoys it, she is learning from it, and it is helping her to become more confidant. She enjoys the passages, and most of all enjoys the chunking. To her trying to find all of the chunks was like a puzzle. This is a program that I plan to stick with. I would recommend Spelling You See to anyone who has a child who is struggling with spelling, for us it is the perfect fit!

Spelling You See Review
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Orphs of the Woodlands – Review

AJ has a great dislike for reading. She loves math, science, and history, but don’t ask her to read. On the other hand, she loves games, if those games can have an element of math and science, then we usually have a winner. I love getting lost in a story and could get stuck in a good book for hours at a time, so I have been looking for a way to help AJ gain the love of reading that I have. Enter the latest product that we were blessed to review as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, Orphs of the Woodlands. Orphs of the Woodlands is an amazing product created by Star Toaster.

An amazing Online program that has sparked my child's love of reading!

We were given a year long access to the first book, The Treasure of High Tower. The normal subscription is for 60 days and is good for up to three children. There is also the option to extend the subscription for 30 days if your child hasn’t finished the program within the first 60 days. It is an online program so you will need a good internet connection, but you should be able to use it on any browser. We used both Internet Explorer and Chrome and had no issues at all.

What is Orphs of the Woodlands?

In very simple terms, it is a online book with learning and games intertwined. But it is really so much more! When you sign in to Orphs of the Woodland you are taken to a spy job application.  The WAK underground is looking for trustworthy spies to help save the Woodlands from the Night Creatures who are destroying the Woodlands.

This is where the fun begins! Your child gets to pick an alias for the main character in the book. The main character is male, so AJ decided that her squirrel would be named Tommy. Once your application is submitted you are taken to your journal. In your journal is a 15 chapter book told from your character’s perspective. (The book is over 350 pages)

Throughout the book there are interactive learning opportunities. Vocabulary words are highlighted and when you hover over them you are given the definition, or a list of synonyms. There are quotes and Latin phrases that are highlighted as well. When those are hovered over you are given the meaning of the phrase or more information about the quote. There are portions where sound clips are included and videos as well. It is so much more than a book!

The first chapter lays out the story. It tells all about the Night Creatures, Orphs (orphaned animals), gold stars (the currency of the Woodlands),  Ivythwaite, and High Tower.

After the first chapter, (and each other chapter you read) you have to complete jobs to earn gold stars so that you can take care of your Orphs. Jobs are based off of skills learned throughout the book.

Before each “job” there is a lesson on the topic. Some of the lessons are written pages for your child to read, and others are fun videos where Professor Forp teaches you a lesson. Professor Forp is a fun character who encourages you to seek out, “New Information Daily!”

The jobs you do vary with each chapter but they include:

  • Math– covering topics such as; place value, decimals, basic algebra concepts, lines and angles, mean, median, mode, circles, and more.
  • Science – covering numerous animal facts and a few other topics.
  • Language – covering Latin, basic grammar, homonyms, and more.
  • Vocabulary – covering numerous word families.
  • Thinking Skills – covering comprehension questions and memory skills.
  • Character – covering character skills and inspirational quotes.
  • Life Skills – full of wonderful recipes from the story.
  • The Arts – covering basic art subjects like; color, design, and tessellations.

In the beginning your child earns 6 gold stars for each correct answer on a job. As they get more correct answers they move to the next level and eventually earn more gold stars for each correct answer. The trick is that if you answer a question wrong, you don’t get paid, and you don’t have a way to earn those missed stars back again.

What are the Gold Stars For?

Star Toaster Review
That is where the game part of the program comes in. Using strategy you have to decide how to spend your gold stars to best take care of your Orphs. Which land should you purchase? Should you do projects to lower the cost of taking care of your Orphs, and if so which ones? You have to be careful because if you don’t have enough stars to take care of your Orphs, then they will leave and not come back!

 How did we use it?

This program is geared for kids in grades 4 through 7, but I really think it would be good for grades 4 and up. There isn’t a set way to use it, so I had AJ work on it throughout the week for as long as she wanted. Most days she completed a chapter and the jobs for the chapter, but with some of the longer chapters she only made it halfway through the reading and we would pick it up another day. Since she dislikes reading so much I decided to use the program with her and share the reading. The book was very interesting and I enjoyed it.

If you can’t or don’t want to read with your child that is okay too. There is a parent log in where you can find out how your child is doing on the lessons. You also will receive emails from Star Toaster updating you about what your child will be learning and their progress.

Working on Star Toaster - An Amazing online program for kids in grades 4-7

The program was very easy to navigate. AJ did most of it on her own. Using the menu at the top she was able to get to the book, her job list, and her timeline with ease.  We found everything self-explanatory and easy to understand. The best part is that there are helpful videos that explain every portion of the game if you can’t figure something out.

We also took the learning off line. There was a lesson about how to estimate the height of a tree that we tried and a lesson about PH and acidity that she did. I noticed that the lessons on homonyms helped her in her writing as well.

This is so much more than a book! We took the learning offline and explored some of the fun from the book!

 

What did we think?

We LOVED this program. It was the perfect fit for AJ! It has it all; an intriguing story where she is part of it, vocabulary words that are explained so she can understand what she is reading, fun bits of math and science sprinkled in, and a game where she gets to help others. She enjoyed trying to figure out who the good guys were and who was working with the Night Creatures. The story had  mystery and comedy while focusing on good character qualities and the value of knowledge.

She loved Professor Forp. He was funny and really explained subjects in an easy to understand way. I loved that the jobs she had to do forced her to really pay attention. At first I didn’t like that she couldn’t redo a problem if she missed it, but she only ended up missing 3 questions in all because she didn’t want to take a chance of not being able to care for her Orphs, so in actuality it was really a good thing!

AJ’s only complaint was that some of the chapters were too long. I agree that a few of the chapters were long, but I don’t think they could really be broken down any further to keep with the story.

After finishing the book AJ was actually upset! She didn’t want the program to end. The next book will be coming out soon and she really wants to read it. This program has sparked AJ’s love of reading. We finished the book, but she is reading it again because it was so much fun. When this kid willingly reads something a second time I think that speaks for its self. Star Toaster has a real winner with this product!

Star Toaster Review
If you have a reluctant reader, or a child who loves to read, you should checkout Orphs of the Woodlands ! The best part is that they are offering a free trial where you will be given access to the first 100 pages and the jobs that go with those pages. This program sparked my child’s love of reading and hope it will do the same for your child.

Star Toaster Review
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Real Life Homeschooling – Finishing Out the Week

I can’t believe that this is the final day of the real life homeschooling Blog Hop. Today I will share how we ended up finishing out the week.

We had a successful week, everything was finished and she ended up with almost an entire extra day of Spring Break.

When I looked at the spreadsheet Tuesday night I was happily surprised. AJ had finished her spelling, math,  and literature for the week. She only had Bible, Science and History left.

Tuesday night was a late one. I didn’t get to go to bed until 5am because Grandma had an accident around 1 in the morning and had to be showered and changed. I threw her sheets in the washer and then she ended up wanting breakfast. After a few hours she was tired and happily went to bed. At that point I crashed! Things like this happen quite often around here and that is one of the main reasons we don’t have a strict schedule. I didn’t end up waking up until about 11 am.

I decided to take a shower before even thinking about school work. That is until AJ walked in the bathroom and read the Bible reading for the day to me. She told me that she already finished the worksheet for it, and she was ready to work on her history next. When I got out of the shower I found her, already showered, dressed, and hair kind of done working on her history. (We are working on how to do her own hair so she will be ready when she goes to camp this summer.)

Working on History flash cards - Real Life Homeschooling

A few minutes later she was finished with her vocabulary and we went over the book of Joshua in the Kids Bible Handbook. I have to say that book has made Bible time so much easier! It breaks down what happened in each section and really helps both of us to understand the Bible.

We finished up the day by re-watching the science videos and looking through the library books on weather. At about 12:30 school was over and she was officially on Spring Break.

We had a very successful week, but it isn’t always that way. Sometimes Grandma is up all night and we don’t get any sleep, on those days school work doesn’t really get done.

You may have also noticed that there was not any art, grammar, or writing on our schedule this week. We aren’t doing a formal art program. Art is done as it fits in with science and literature, and is really focused on one week in every history unit. The history program is actually very hands on and fun, but this was the first week in the new unit where we had a lot of reading and listening to do.

We have been using copy work for grammar for the last few months. Spelling You See has taken the place of copywork for now. If we continue with it after the review period (which I am almost positive we will) then we will probably add back in some additional copy work a few times a week. We also use the daily grammar from schoolhouseteachers.com. Once we get more use to the new schedule I plan to add that back in.

Writing, the dreaded subject, wasn’t on the list because we finished the last unit in composition and I didn’t want to start a new one and then have a week off for Spring Break in the middle. I haven’t found the perfect program for writing and am looking for a way to make it more enjoyable for AJ.

A successful week where everything was accomplished!

So that was our week. She finished everything on the spreadsheet and had almost an entire extra day of Spring Break!Thanks for joining me and I hope you were given a real life look into our homeschool!

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop
Here are a few of the other bloggers who are participating in the blog hop, check them out!
Indy Homeschool
The Open Window-An Autism Blog
Creative Madness Mama
Hopkins Homeschool
Tots and Me…Growing Up Together
Our Journey
Crystal Starr
A Little This … A Little That
For the Display of His Splendor