Wednesday, June 13, 2018

ARTistic Pursuits Art Instruction Books with DVD and Blu-Ray(GradesK-3~ Review)

I have been a fan of ARTistic Pursuits Inc. for quite some time, both reviewing and purchasing seperately, various titles for use. Although I no longer have a K-3rd grader, which is the target age for their new series, ARTistic Pursuits Art Instruction Books with DVD and Blu-Ray, I requested the title Art of the Middle Ages to review, so that I could compare/contrast with their previous books, and give an educated opinion if anyone in my local support group (or online) asked.

The entire series (Which replaces the three 2013 editions) :

  • K-3 Vol.1 ART FOR CHILDREN, Building a Visual Vocabulary
One of the major differences with this book is that it includes video instruction via DVD or Blue Ray. (Side note~ your mileage may vary, but our smart TV did NOT like the disc that was sent, but thankfully my computer DVD drive behaved itself, so we were able to view them. I usually prefer physical DVD's, but as my technology is aging, I am beginning to see the value in streaming/download options, which might be something for ARTistic Pursuits to consider.)

Lessons in this book. (Projects in Parenthesis)

  • Paper Loom Weave (Mat, and Paper Crown, which is one of the projects we did, pictured above)
  • People on the Move ~ Brooch in the Shape of a Bird (Paper Woven Beast)
  • Art in Monasteries ~ Medieval Illumination ~ (Initial Page)
  • Art in Basilicas ~ Byzantine Mosaics (Construction Paper Mosaic)
  • Art to Instruct ~ 
    • Gothic Panel Painting (Tissue Paper Panel Drawing~ This is one I want to try at some point, because it's really pretty!) 
    • Saint Francis with Scenes from his Life (Panel Relief)
  • Art in Churches~ Romanesque Altarpiece (Paper Collage)
  • Stitching
  • Art on Fabric~ Medieval Textiles 
    • (Burlap drawn and stiched panel)
    • Straw Loom Weave
  • Art in Castles ~ Medieval Tapestry (Outdoor Picture using weaving and stitching)
  • Book Binding
  • Art in the Bestiary ~ English Bestiary (Bestiary Picture)
  • Low-Relief ~
    • (Coat of Arms/Shield)
    • Art on Book Covers ~ Treasure Binding (Treasure Bound Book~ The other project we did ~ Very involved, but cool ~ Pictured Below)
  • The Icon ~ Eastern Orthodox Iconography
    • Raised PIcture
  • Art in Windows ~ Gothic Glass (Contruction Paper Stained Glass Window)
  • Art on Buildings ~ Gothic Architecture (Make a chipboard/cardboard statue)

Here are some Pros and Cons that I noticed with this dual delivery of instruction: 
  • Pros: 
    • The video portion is directed to the children. It makes for a nice change of pace. 
    • Sometimes it is very helpful to see a technique in action. 
    • Step-by-step instructions, followed by a quick recap.
    • Nice to have the ability to page through and choose projects. 
  • Cons: 
    • Because the instruction is included in the videos, it was left out of the book. I personally would love to see the basic parts of the instruction from the videos included as stills in the book. This would also be helpful if you have technical difficulties. 
    • If you have anyone with auditory issues, they might find some of the background music a little distracting (The first video on weaving I turned way down so that we could just barely hear Brenda Ellis' voice giving instruction). 
    • A little confusion in that the videos and the books appear to be written to the students, but K-3 are mostly too young to do this entirely on their own, so it's very much a "do-alongside-Mom" sort of instruction. 
I'll link you to my previous reviews, so that you can see how the 2013 series is set up. The first was from 2009, when I was very new to reviewing, AND I didn't have easy access to digital photography, so it is a strictly text review (Sorry!) of Grade K-3 Book 2: Stories of Artists and Their Art, and Junior High Book 1: The Elements of Art and Composition Featuring World Art.
In 2014 I reviewed a title for older students, Sculpture Technique: Model and
In 2015 I reviewed K-3 Book 3: Modern Painting and Sculpture, which is the most relevant review for contrasting/comparing with this title (and I have pictures!)

One of the other things I appreciate about Artistic Pursuits is the fact that they also offer bundled supplies that go with each volume, available for purchase~ you can find those on the webpages listed below.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Visit Brenda Ellis and ARTistic Pursuits on Facebook and Twitter

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say about this and other K-3 Titles that were reviewed. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Nuggets of Gold (New music by Chris August, and Jonny Diaz ~ Could June get any better? Keep reading...)

Ay-yi-yi! I wanted to post this earlier!!!

Chris August has a new album out, and New Release Today is offering one of his songs for free download till the 14th. Go download "Worry" from the album "Seasons."
You're welcome. ☺

(And in case you want to listen before you download... )

Probably my favorite song on the album is "Moonlight"~ this is sooooo gorgeous!
The musicality and intricacy is fantastic!

As always, Chris August delivers...  ☺

As I mentioned in my title, Jonny Diaz has new music~ an EP "Sweetness and Sorrow"

He says this is the song that resonates with him the most... 
(Listen all the way through... ☺)

Oh, and Steven Curtis has a new song out also!! WOOT!!!

I missed sharing For King and Country's new song that released in May...

This is a fun, rather retro (MTV-style?) music video~ 
We always have the option to


And if you prefer a less stylized/concept video, and want their live "energy," here is a unique single shot video from a concert in Florida...

One more thing to keep an eye out for...
Unspoken has a new single coming out on Friday! I don't have a link or any further information, but you know it will be good! 
And Francesca Battistelli has a new song coming out on Friday as well... 

So, I hope this gives you some things to listen to, and some new music to pick up, starting with that free Chris August tune.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Memoria Press (Classical Composition I: Fable Set) A Review

When Memoria Press offered us a selection of products to review, I chose to introduce my Youngest to their Classical Composition I: Fable Set. This set includes the Student Book, the Teacher Guide, and Instructional DVD. I appreciate that both the instructional DVD and the Teacher Guide are included, as this opens up options for student work location. Not always tied to electronics (Instructional DVD) to do the work, because the Teacher Guide includes the instructions required, which means that lessons can be taken outside, to the park, or in the car. However, it is also very nice to have the option to have someone other than Mom or Dad "teach" the lesson, particularly if one isn't as familiar with walking through an outline with their kids.

OK, so now that I've given you a little hint to the content, let me tell you how the lessons are set up. As is typical with Memoria Press, each lesson looks pretty much the same, and they basically drill the concept over and over until it becomes natural.

  • Fable ~ The specific fable for the lesson is printed at the beginning of each lesson
  • Three Plot Components (If applicable) of Recognition, Reversal, and Suffering
  • Variations Part 1 ~ Student comes up with synonyms for 3 or 4 words in a given sentence and then rewrites the sentence three different ways. 
  • Narration (Not in the Student Book, but definitely a component of the lesson, and one of my favorite parts! :) )
  • Outline ~ Summarize fable in outline form. This is a very useful skill to work on, so I appreciate that it shows up in each lesson. The Teacher Guide includes suggested outlines, so you can work from that directly, but the walk-through on the DVD is also valuable. 
  • Paraphrases ~ Generally two paraphrases per fable. The first generally adds in specific Figures of Description (using the Latin names for each one*), and the second is usually written "by reduction" in the briefest form possible without any descriptors.
    • *The Appendix includes 18 Figures of Description with examples for each. These words may or may not be familiar to you, depending on your experience with Classical Education. Here are a few: Anemographia, Dendrographia, Dialogismus, Effictio, Prosopographia, Sermocinatio... These are things that I certainly didn't learn in my public school education. ;) 
  • Variations Part 2 ~ Same thing as Part 1, but with different words/sentences
  • Appendix~ I mentioned the Figures of Description above. The Student Book also includes an "Introduction to the Progymnasmata" by James A Selby, that might be interesting for an older student to read. 

The Teacher Guide begins with teaching guidelines and an advanced rubric for grading purposes. The rest of the book has identical pages to the student book, with instructions specific to each lesson, including vocabulary words, and a more general grading rubric geared to that lesson.

If Classical Education is your style, Memoria Press definitely offers materials that will challenge your child, with ample opportunity to practice the skills that they are being taught.

One minor point that I will mention here~ if you have a student for whom handwriting still isn't smooth and natural, the lines and spacing of the Student book may be a little short. On his best days, his handwriting isn't fabulous, but the more college ruled spacing definitely contributed to a bit of a defeatist attitude. When I suggested that he write his outline on a piece of wide-ruled notebook paper (and do it in cursive), the readability improved drastically. Still not fantastic, but better.

Memoria Press offers sample pages of the Student Book and Teacher Guide as well as a "General Sequence and Outcomes of Program" to download on the product page linked below.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Visit Memoria Press on their Social Media pages on  Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, and  YouTube

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say about this and the other products that were offered for review: Products from the New American Cursive Penmanship series, the Traditional Logic Series, and the Classical Composition Series, of which Fables is the first part.

As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.

New American Cursive & Traditional Logic {Memoria Press Reviews}

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Critical Thinking Co.™ (A Whodunnit Forensic Mystery review)

Generally speaking, I have always enjoyed using materials* from The Critical Thinking Co.™, and I was looking forward to using Something Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha with my Youngest (almost 11) who loves to play cops and robbers/ FBI types of games with his cousins and other family/friends. The description on the website sounded like it might be just up his alley: "Students work individually or in small teams as police detectives to solve this fun and engaging crime mystery. Students begin by learning about different types of forensic evidence such as fingerprints, ballistics, handwriting, and more.

Unfortunately, in our case the "and more" was something of an issue for my family... fingerprints, ballistics, and handwriting are all fairly innocuous sounding and something that my detective-loving kid would enjoy. However, the description on their webpage doesn't really do a good job of describing the actual book, and it was not at all what I expected. I think I was hoping for a little more advanced "Encyclopedia Brown" type of kid-friendly (burglary and theft?) thing in typical Critical Thinking format, not CSI-style (identifying dead bodies and determining time of death) type of thing that makes us ALL rather queasy~ not really something appropriate for 5th-9th grade, in my honest opinion... and my 17-year-old has no interest either... We truly aren't a CSI -type of family, and there was no mention on the website of the actual type of crime that would be investigated in this book.

That being said, if your family appreciates that sort of crime/drama investigation and conversation, then this book might be a perfect fit for you. It really does show how every clue is intertwined with the others and that each area of an investigation is important. There are forensic evidence lessons in Anthropology, Arson, Ballistics, Counterfeit Money, Death Investigation (Entomology/Autopsy), Document and Handwriting Analysis, and Fingerprints. The lessons in Ballistics, Counterfeit Money, Document and Handwriting analysis and Fingerprints are pieces that I was able to read through without getting nauseous (Yeah, EMT/Doctor/Police material I most definitely am not!), and found them quite interesting, but I wasn't able to do much with them, because of how intertwined they were with the rest of the investigation.

By the way, unlike other Critical Thinking Co.™  titles, this book is NOT one to just hand to your kids and let them go. The first 20 pages are intended only for the instructor and contain background information on the suspects, witnesses and missing persons, as well as summaries of police and forensic reports, witness statements, forensic lab reports, timeline of events, and a general overview of the crimes committed. There are also step-by-step instructions and a checklist for handouts (which are numerous), and answer keys for investigation notes and final reports on the cases being investigated.
Copies of all of the handouts may be made directly from the book or printed from a file that is accessed through a link in the book.

*Previous Reviews for 
The Critical Thinking Co.™ products:
2010 Balance Benders (Grades 2-6)
2012 Crypto Mindbenders (Grades 3-12+)
2015 Practical Critical Thinking (Grades 9-12)
2016 Sentence Diagramming (Grades 3-12+)
I have purchased and used many other books from them. This has been my only disappointment with this company, and only because it wasn't a good fit for our particular family~ which could have been avoided by a better description on the website.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 

Visit The Critical Thinking Co.™on their Social Media pages on:
Facebook, Google+,   Twitter, and Pinterest

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say about this and the other Critical Thinking titles reviewed that are pictured below. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.

BONUS: to help your budget along a little more, The Critical Thinking Co.™ is offering a deal to my readers:
Free Shipping + 15% Off Any Size Order!
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Expires 12/31/2018

Critical Thinking, Understanding Math & Vocabulary {The Critical Thinking Co.™ Reviews}

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Home School Navigator (Reading/Language Arts Curriculum Review)

We've been checking out the interactive notebooks by Home School Navigator for the past few weeks. They are part of the overall Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Curriculum which offers 6 different levels of instruction which are indicated by color, with Red, Orange, and Yellow indicating earlier learning, and Green, Blue and Indigo more advanced. The interactive notebooks are included in the upper levels, and are what my review will focus on, although I will also give an overview of the whole program.

So, what is an interactive notebook? Well, it's a notebook with shapes and flaps that provide a more interesting and interactive way for your child to record their answers to comprehension and discussion questions about a particular chapter book instead of simply filling in blanks or writing on a plain sheet of paper.

Home School Navigator has placed their discussion questions, vocabulary words and comprehension questions into simple graphic formats that are then glued onto a notebook page and filled out. When you become a Home School Navigator subscriber, part of the monthly handouts includes the graphics for the Interactive notebook. You can see below a screenshot of some of the pages we used for the Because of Winn Dixie Interactive Notebook, which is found in the handouts for Month 6 of the Blue Level.

As your child reads through the book, there are items to fill out for every 4-5 chapters.
I recommend printing on colored paper if you have it, as it helps to add interest for most kids. :) Here is what our printed pages looked like before they were put into the notebook.
You don't need anything crazy~ I chose to use a wide rule, spiral bound notebook for my son's work.
A note: Know your children, and even if you think they know what they are doing, check in on them... ;)  Because my son is on the upper end of the age range, I figured he could take ownership of this activity more or less on his own. I handed him the pages, instructed him to cut out each piece and showed him how to glue them down. The pieces are flat with a dotted line where you fold the page up to write the answer beneath. I showed my son that you only glue down the part that is above the dotted line, but he got a little confused a couple of times~ you can see the orange pieces were folded the other way and glued down the wrong way... oops... These pieces are a little different from others we've used before with a similar idea. :) Another thing that wasn't in the instructions, but that I added was to draw around the edge of the shape so that when the flap was lifted he would know his boundaries for writing.

This set of pages shows vocabulary and discussion/comprehension questions with flaps up (kind of) and down.

And here you can see that there are a few pieces included that are informational (middle blue strip), and another that requested an illustration rather than an answer.

If your children are hands-on and enjoy cutting and pasting, this would probably be a hit for them. My son, sadly, is not in that camp. However, this was very good for him to continue practicing his cutting skills, which he generally avoids like the plague (no worries about important papers being turned into snowflakes by HIM! ;), and we had a few discussions that were interesting.
I will say that I do wish that the Master Book List was readily available to the public, as I am very picky about book choices in my home, and want to know up-front what the focus will be. I am sure there are other families with a similar wish. There were definitely chapter books in the upper levels that were not as good a fit for our family, so it was a little difficult for me to find one to use with my son at the appropriate level.  We had a false start with "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" which I thought he would enjoy, but freaked him out instead... (he has a bit of a phobia about robots which translated to the automaton in the story, which I didn't expect), and we ended up with "Because of Winn Dixie" as you could tell.

OK, that being said let me give you a quick glimpse of the rest of the program, even though it wasn't the focus of our particular review (I contemplated switching our focus, but chose not to as many of the books used were books that we had already read/studied/discussed, and that would not have been a good use of our school time~ another reason to make that book list public...),

Each level is broken down into 9 months of work. Each month focuses on a different genre of writing, including:

  • Author Studies (Usually two or three in each year)
  • Biography/Autobiography/Memoir
  • Fables/ Tall Tales
  • Folk tales/ Fairy tales
  • Historical Fiction
  • Mythology
  • Nonfiction Texts/Persuasive Texts
  • Poetry
  • Procedural Texts
  • Realistic Fiction
  • Traditional Stories
Here is a look at the basic scope and sequence which can be found on the FAQ page 

You can see that there is a lot more to this program with a focus on many reading and writing skills. The monthly handout download I mentioned above is a good thing to skim through to give you a bit of an idea of what the month will hold.

The next item you will want to download is the weekly guide which shows everything you need for each day, each week as well as a breakdown of the day's activities. *Note: You don't have to do EVERYTHING for every day~ this is a "Buffet" of activities~ pick and choose what will work best for your own situation...

You can print these or just use them from your computer.

The rest of the program is accessed from the student dashboard. Each day has a bunch of buttons, for lack of a better word, that are clicked on in order, with all of the instructions and links required. If you haven't already printed out the month's handouts, they are linked individually here as well.

Almost every section includes a video with your child's guides (Ashley and Beth) showing them what to do, and explaining things along the way. This could be very helpful for the new homeschooling parent.

One other item that may be of interest to some parents is the fact that you can upload your child's work to the website, and they will save it/compile it into an end-of-year portfolio (there are reminders to do just that at the end of the daily teacher's guide).

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say, especially if you are more interested in the actual day-to-day use of the program, because many others focused on that in their reviews. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
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Monday, May 14, 2018

Kids Email (An email provider review)

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you may recall a review in September 2106 for Kids Email. We have once again been provided a one year subscription to Kids Email Safe Email for Kids for review. My Youngest was delighted with the prospect as we do follow internet safety regulations, and will not allow him to have his own email from any of the generic email providers until he reaches their required age (typically 13, I believe).

We also were quite happy that we were offered this review, as it is a good primer for him, and it also allows him to keep in touch with some friends as well as send us emails. It also provides him a way to move some things he's been writing on the ipad (via attachment or even copy/paste) to a computer. He's begun writing stories and a potential chapter book, but he needed a way to get it to a computer, so this was perfect! ;) ).

Some of the features that make Kids Email stand out as a great option for younger children:
There are many settings and features that parents can use to help keep their children safe and still allow them the freedom to communicate with family and friends.

  • Contact Manager~ Add family and friends to a contact list. 
    • Safety Settings 
      • Receive email for contact list only (yes/no)
      • Send email to contact list only (yes/no)
      • Allow child to edit contact list (yes/no)
  • Block Senders~ If there are no contact restrictions in place, you can still block specific senders by blacklisting the emails. 
  • No Ads~ Even if there are no contact restrictions in place, your child will never generic ads generated from Kids Email, because they don't offer advertising on their site. 
  • Spam Filtering ~ Again, if there are no contact restrictions in place, Kids Email filters out spam. 
  • Mail Monitoring ~ exactly what it sounds like 
    • Safety Settings
      • Send parent copy of incoming email (yes/no)
      • Send parent copy of outgoing email (yes/no)
      • Allow images in incoming email (yes/no)
      • Allow links in incoming email (yes/no)
      • Allow attachments (yes/no) 
        • This can be customized to specific attachment types
      • Filter bad words from received email (yes/no)
      • Add Tagline to bottom of message to alert recipients that email was sent by a child (yes/no)
  • Mail Queue ~ intercepts emails that fail safety rules~ notifies parent who can then approve or deny the email
    • Safety Settings
      • Send a notification to sender to let them know their email has been delayed, pending parent approval. 
  • Time Restrictions ~ You can choose to restrict the time of day or day of the week that your child can access their email. 
    • Activity Log shows when your child has logged in, or if they attempt to log in during a restricted time. 
  • Custom Mailbox Folders~ Child can create their own customized email folders~ helping to teach organization skills. 
  • Template Options allow your kids to change the way their email looks, which can be a fun option. There are 36 templates to choose from and there are appropriate templates for all ages, even teens! 

This is my son's current template, with some of the other options available shown
If you child has been begging for thier own email, and you have been hesitant because of all the the junk out there, Kids Email might be something you'd like to look into.

If you have a teen that has problems being responsible you can set them up with a address, so that you can help guide them/monitor them without their worrying about a "kidsemail" address~ because we all know that wouldn't go over too well... ;)

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: Kids Email
  • Product: Kids Email Safe Email for Kids
  • Ages: 
  • Price: 
    • 30 day free trial
    • $2.99/month billed annually ($38.95) for up to 6 email accounts
    • $4.95 monthly for up to 4 email accounts
Visit Kids Email on their social media pages; 

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
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Friday, May 4, 2018

CodeWizardsHQ (Coding Class Review)

My Youngest is somewhat attached to things electronic and likes to spend as much time as possible at the keyboard. As a result, he thinks he may be interested in learning how to code, so he was excited to be given the opportunity to try out a CodeWizardsHQ demo live class with other Review Crew Kids this past week (the class was the first class of the first course).

The basic offerings are 12-week courses, culminating with the opportunity to intern for 6 months with a non-profit partner organization after completing all 4 courses. While not specifically a homeschooling course, CodeWizardsHQ offers special pricing for homeschool groups (or families with more than three children taking the class at the same time).

One of the things that sets this course apart from many other homeschool computer science curriculum I've seen is that it is taught live, by an instructor, real-time via GoToMeeting, not self-paced or via video instructor. Here's a short video that will introduce you to CodeWizardsHQ and explain a little bit about the program.

So how did the class work for us?
Well, it was a little bumpy to begin with, as we were trying to figure out how to go between the "class page" with the instructor in GoToMeeting and the "program page" on the website where youngest was doing his work. Because of our confusion, he got a little behind with the step-by-step directions, but the instructor was very patient with all of the kids in the class (just like in a physical classroom, students needed help at different times). I will mention here that he is also at the earlier end of the age spectrum recommended for this class, as a 5th grader/rising 6th grader, so that played a part in grasping how the process worked, and I'm sure that if we continued to a second class it would have run more smoothly as the bouncing between screens was already ironed out.

The people at CodeWizardsHQ are very prompt in answering questions via email, sometimes even reaching out before anything comes up to make sure that everything is working alright. In the regular class course, the student can get feedback from the instructor during the next class, and the classes are also recorded, so if someone does get a little lost, they would have the opportunity to rewatch the class and find what they missed the first time through.

Here are a few pictures I took as Youngest was getting started in the class:

There is a chat box on the right, with microphone settings (mute when working on the project, and the ability to turn on when the student has a question). This screen is one of the instructor's slides.

Here you can see that my son has a window open on the left which is the webpage where he was doing the work, and a window on the top on the right which is where the instruction was taking place...

In this picture, the page my son was working on was smaller and overlaying the GoToMeeting page with the instructor, which was much larger. 

After the class ended my son was very pleased that he could still work on his comic strip, and decided to redo the entire thing, working for another 45 minutes or so. Here is a picture of his finished little comic strip. He chose the backgrounds, the characters, and added his own words to the text bubbles, all in basic html coding, which you can see to the right... 

All in all he seemed to enjoy the class, and picked up a few things, which is all I can ask from a one-hour class. I do think that it could be helpful to have a bit of a printed manual (pdf download) that covers what will be happening in each class so that the younger kids could have their parents helping out when there is some confusion. It would also be a little more like a traditional classroom with a "textbook" that could be referred back to, particularly for those who might not be as adept at catching things... or for the purposes of reviewing things down the road a bit.

The certification aspect is a very nice bonus, and something worth considering if your child is interested in going down the digital path to their future as it is not a little bit of code here, and a little bit of code there, but a complete course that will be helpful to prepare children for college and career success in the digital world.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 

As might be expected of a digital-based company, CodeWizardsHQ has a definite social media presence:
In addition to regular pages on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube, there is a specific Facebook page for parents interested in their child learning to code. It includes sharing of resources, ideas, tips and support for teaching programming to kids.

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.

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#coding #coding4kids #homeschoolcoding


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