Monday, August 18, 2014

Mid-August Homeschooling Nuggets of Gold ($5.99 T-Shirt Sale, Literary Printables, and more)

Hey friends~

Summer is flying by much too quickly for my taste. I can always tell when the sales start pouring into my email inbox.

I do have a few of my favorite things that I want to make sure that you know about.
Great Homeschool Products is running their annual T-shirt sale again. It started on August 15th, and runs through September 15th, but some designs are limited runs, so if there is something you have your heart set on, order sooner rather than later. If you remember, my "1st Day of School"  post last year highlighted a number of their t-shirts. I am not an affiliate, have nothing to gain, but the joy of spotting fellow homeschool families when they are out and about, sporting clever or cute shirts.

When looking for a coloring page to go with our CD of Mike Mulligan by Maestro Classics eldest stumbled on this page: Scholastic Storybook Treasures which has coloring pages and activity sheets to coordinate with a great list of picture books.

Christian Liberty Press' Free e-book of the month is a 5th grade history resource: Building a New NationThis exciting collection of short stories, American folk tales, and poetry will take readers through many important historical events of America, from the westward expansion through the mid-20th century. Students will not only learn about Davy Crockett, Clara Barton, Abraham Lincoln, Booker T. Washington, and others; they will increase their reading comprehension and vocabulary through questions, activities, and word lists located at the end of most selections. Separate student exercises booklet, test packet, and teacher's manual are also available for those who desire to get the maximum benefit from this text.

I would be remiss not to mention, an amazing resource by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. You can sign up for a free welcome basket and 30 day free trial to decide whether it is worth $12.95/month. In addition to over 91 courses covering a variety of subjects (and including some of my favorite teachers... Adam Andrews from the Center for Literary Education, and Brenda Ellis from Artistic Pursuits, Kim Kautzer from WriteShop)

While you're still planning, don't forget to check out my Free Homeschool Resources Online page~ I add to it as I come across great resources, many of which allow you to homeschool for free, or close to free! There are links covering many topics, from the basic R's to Art, Science, and more.


Monday, August 4, 2014

3P Learning ~ Mathletics (TOS Review Crew)

It's summer-time, and the living is easy~ but the Homeschool Review Crew Kids are not totally lazing their days away. ;) We were given the opportunity to review Mathletics, an online math program offered by 3P Learning I reviewed Mathletics back in 2009 with a 12 and 9 yo, so it was a little different feel this time, reviewing with an almost 14 and 7 year old. 

Here are some of the basics that you should know about the program: 

Live Mathletics ~ this was a highlight for my children the first time around. The basic concept is that there are children all around the world who are logged in to Mathletics at almost any given time, and your child can compete in a live atmosphere with them. On the off-chance that there are no others, your child can also compete against the computer. 
  • Your child can choose the level of difficulty for their questions (Generally, I would dissuade my eldest from competing at the lower levels, as it becomes discouraging for younger kids if there is an older "whiz" playing against them). Level 1 starts with simple addition, Level 2 adds subtraction, and the levels continue to get progressively more difficult from there~ adding percents, ratios and simple algebraic equations an on. 
    • The benefit to this sort of practice is working on mastery and speed. The mastery part is beneficial to all. The "timed" aspect can be discouraging for some, so this wasn't a regular piece of my youngest's time on Mathletics (Read my previous review, and you will hear that this was a favorite aspect of my Eldest and Middlest when they reviewed before). 
    • Middlest still enjoys this portion of the program~ he uses it to "get his brain going."
Beginning screen        During the competition (3 children~ US, Canada and Australia)       After the competition
Activities~ The main "learning" portion of the program. It is set up in basic topics with subtopics. The activities are "Adaptive" meaning that they increase or decrease in difficulty based on the student's mastery of the topic. This can be changed at any time to easier or harder, if you feel that the automated level is not correct. I appreciate having that ability. 

Completing the Gold Bars (left column in the above graphic) helps to fill out a pie chart, and each gold bar also gains the child "points." The points can be used to open up problem solving games and activities.

If that's not an incentive for your child, perhaps they would rather try to earn a Bronze, Silver or Gold Certificate for their work each week. This can be accomplished by steady work in the "Activity" section of the site. 

This works well as an instructional program and not just a practice program. If the student has trouble with a particular problem, they can click a question mark that is on every screen in the activity section, and a "help board" is displayed with step-by-step instructions showing how to solve that type of problem. This was most useful for my rising ninth grader, my rising 2nd grader didn't use the help board much. 

There are other Enrichment tools on the website with creative "Rainforest Maths" games and the previously mentioned "Problem Solving" games as well as printable workbooks (Available in the parent center of the site)
A recent report from the parent center~ love how it shows weaknesses and strengths. :) 

The Parent center is also the place where you can keep track of just how much and how well each of your students is doing, like the portion of a report shown above listing strengths and weaknesses based on recent work. In addition to being able to check any time you want, Mathletics sends out a weekly report for each student. This gives them accountability to you, without having to hang over their shoulders making sure the work is being done. I like that. 

If your children enjoy computerized math programs (mine do!) ... 
you might want to try Mathletics.
If your children are enticed to do their work with virtual rewards ... 
you might want to try Mathletics.
If your children like to challenge themselves and compete ... 
you might want to try Mathletics. 

Even if your children aren't impressed with bells and whistles in their programs 
(they can ignore a bunch of the fancy stuff, 
and get on with the work of learning mathematics with an adaptive program) ... 
you might want to try Mathletics.

The good news is that you CAN try Mathletics, free for 10 days, to see if it suits you!

You can visit Mathletics on Facebook and Twitter.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: 3P Learning
  • Product: Mathletics
  • Ages: K-12
  • Price: Regularly $99 for 1 child/1 year access, Currently $59/student
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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Homeschooling ABC's a Great sale for a Great Resource!!!

are you

I have a great resource that is on sale for a few days, and I want to be sure to get this information out to you ASAP!

Five years ago I wrote a review for Homeschooling ABC's by Terri Johnson of Knowledgequest, when it was brand new. Well, it's been awhile, and Terri has gotten feedback over the years, and requests for more information.

She has put together a 3-part video series that addresses some challenges head-on when it comes to homeschooling and gives help in overcoming them. Terri came up with these challenges through a poll she took a couple of weeks ago to find out what her fans' biggest challenges are when it comes to homeschooling your kids. Here are some of the common themes that kept coming up (out of hundreds of responses):
  • Staying motivated and being consistent in teaching
  • Sticking to a schedule
  • Balancing schoolwork with housework
  • Developing patience and controlling anger
  • Getting organized
  • Dealing with life's interruptions
  • And more!
The first video in the Homeschooling with Joy series: "How to Stay Motivated and Be Consistent in Homeschooling (I'm Sharing My Secret Sauce Recipe)" is up, and available to watch for free for a limited time, so check it out, but don't wait too long...

Along with these new videos, Terri is offering the Homeschooling ABC's course for sale. The price is regularly $67 for the full course, but is being discounted to $47 through August 4th. Be sure to read my review of Homeschooling ABC's, to see all the topics covered. You will receive hundreds of dollars in curriculum to help you get started as you go through this course. I am still very impressed with this course, and think that you will be too!


Friday, August 1, 2014

Shakespeare: Comedies and Sonnets (11th-12th) (Hewitt Homeschool TOS Review Crew)

A couple of years ago I had my first taste of Hewitt Homeschooling's Lightning Literature and Composition, when I reviewed their Early 19th Century Literature guide with my daughter, who was then a rising 10th grader. This summer I was pleased to receive a new Literature Guide for review that tackles one of the trickier topics~ Shakespeare. We received the Shakespeare Comedies and Sonnets Student's Guide and Teacher's Guide.

Note: My fellow TOS Review Crew members received a wide variety of curriculum, covering grades 1-12, so please click on the link at the end of my review to access their reviews if you have younger children. I know that I am intrigued by the early elementary options, and plan to check out some of those reviews myself.

Hewitt Homeschooling Resources Lightning Lit and Comp: 
Shakespeare Comedies and Sonnets by Elizabeth Kamath

The Student Guide is a 174 page paperback book intended to help the student "acquire college-level composition skills by responding to great literature."

The first twenty pages are an introduction to the Lightning Lit way, answering questions like "Why Read Literature?" and "Why Learn How to Write?" along with helps on HOW to read Literature and Poetry, Paper Writing 101, and instructions on using the student guide.

The next 18 pages familiarize the student with William Shakespeare by addressing the following topics:

  • Why Read Shakespeare? 
  • Shakespeare's Life
  • Schools of Shakespearean Criticism
  • Introductions to the Plays, Comedy and Sonnets
  • Shakespeare's Language
  • HOW to Read Shakespeare (emphasis mine)
  • How to Approach the Lessons

Because it had been some time since my daughter had used Hewitt, and my Middlest hadn't used Hewitt at all, I used a week for each of these introductory portions, so that they would have a better handle on their study of Shakespeare. This was particularly important for my Middlest, as he is a young rising ninth grader, so this a definitely a stretch for him.

The Study Guide is split into 4 Units with 2 Lessons in each~ the first lesson being a comedy and the second covers 2 sonnets.

  • Unit 1 
    • Twelfth Night
    • Sonnet 27 and Sonnet 28
  • Unit 2 
    • As You Like It
    • Sonnet 130 and Sonnet 136
  • Unit 3 
    • A Midsummer Night's Dream
    • Sonnet 93 and Sonnet 138
  • Unit 4 
    • The Merchant of Venice
    • Sonnet 116 and Sonnet 129
The Comedies include Literary Lessons on Themes, Characters and Language, and occasionally Symbolism. 
The Sonnets include Literary Lessons on Content, Language and Contrast, as well as some Perspectives. NOTE: the Sonnets are included directly in the guide, the plays must be picked up separately.

The Lessons encompass introductions to the specific material, questions to consider while reading, plot summaries, comprehension questions, the afore-mentioned literary lessons, writing exercises, and perspectives.

There are also Appendices with Discussion Questions and Project Suggestions, Additional Reading, Movie and Video Recommendations, and Schedules for either 1 semester or 1 year. 

The Teacher's Guide is a 52 page 3 hole punched set of pages that can be placed in a binder or folder. It includes answers to the Comprehension Questions, a Teaching Schedule, Teaching and Grading Aids, and a copy of the Writing Exercises and Discussion Questions. You can download the Table of Contents, Intro and Grading Tips, and Schedule from the Teacher's Guide purchase page

Because Shakespeare (AKA Elizabethan English) can be more difficult for today's students to follow (particularly with the decline of the use of the KJV Bible, which certainly gave *me* a foundation in understanding the syntax), I went a bit outside of the box, and chose to have my kids watch their first play (Twelfth Night) while following along with their copies of the play, rather than simply reading it first. We attempted a couple of different versions (found on YouTube), before settling on Kenneth Branagh's production (which was not included in the recommendations in the guide). We discovered that there were far too many liberties taken in most of the other versions (swapping scenes, and leaving out dialogue!!! The Horror!!), and Kenneth Branagh's was most true to the script. Here is a sample:

Speaking of Scripts~ we used a regular script, an "authorized graphic novel" and the full script via the computer, available from MIT edu. I used the MIT script, Eldest used the regular paperback script, and Middlest started with the graphic novel, but decided that graphic novels just aren't for him... (hurrah! ;) ).
Scripts used and a page in the Study Guide

After watching/reading, Eldest dug right in and read through the script, following the guide, and answering the comprehension questions. Due to summer-time activities and a Missions Trip, we followed the Full Year Schedule for this unit, and she has not completed her Writing Exercise as of yet, as the rough draft was scheduled to begin this week.

She was the most horrified when we tried watching a couple of other versions and one of her very favorite sections of dialogue was cut! EEK!
It is in this snippet that I took as a screenshot from the MIT page... can you guess the line? This section also contains one of my least favorite lines, but there you have it~ a study in Antithesis...

Middlest is approaching this more as an introduction to Shakespeare, and as such, I am not requiring as much written work from him.

Youngest (7 years old) is receiving an earlier introduction to full Shakespeare plays than either of my two eldest, as he tagged along on the viewing end of things. Although much went over his head, he enjoyed watching, and listening to Twelfth Night, and I expect that this may create a thirst for good literature and stage presentation in him later on (I recall going to "Shakespeare in the Park" when I was close to his age, and have fond memories of such).

I am still very impressed with Hewitt Homeschooling's Lightning Literature Guides, and hope that you will give them a peek. You can download the 1st Lesson (That we used) on Twelfth Night directly from the Student Guide page linked below, so that you can get a good feel for how it is set up.

You can visit Hewitt Homeschooling on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, and at the Hewitt Blog.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say about this and other Hewitt Homeschooling resources. 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, July 25, 2014

Apologia's "Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms" TOS Review Crew

Confession: I often wish there were more hours in the day, and sometimes I wish that someone would come and help me figure out how to reinvent my life (my physical space AND my schedule) so that I wouldn't feel like I am fighting a battle against entropy (is that a common feeling amongst homeschool moms, or even moms in general? I suspect possibly so). This is one reason why I was intrigued by a new offering for homeschool moms from Apologia Educational Ministries, the new book by Mary Jo Tate, Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms

Mary Jo has penned a book filled with exercises and examples intended to help stop the juggling of too many balls (Because will inevitably fall), and instead assist in finding balance, with the tools to fine-tune that balance when something pushes(or pulls) away from that equilibrium. Mary Jo is also transparent and down-to-earth, sharing many of her been there and done that stories. I always appreciate seeing the real side of an author, as I find it inspirational when dealing with similar matters in my own life. 

Flourish is written to both a broad and a narrow audience~ It is a useful book for any homeschool mom, but especially one who is struggling with a sense of inadequacy, the feeling that they are facing an overwhelming task, or dealing with general chaos. It is also written particularly towards those moms who not only school at home, but are working, or hoping to start working a home business alongside their schooling, and a final even more pinpointed category, suggestions to support the single/work-at-home/homeschooling/mom. 

The first chapter is a bit of an introduction to the book, and then Mary Jo jumps right in with great ideas on prioritizing your life. She starts with a few categories, and then gives a plan that begins with the big "Life Time Goals" and then narrows down to the focused weekly and daily plans, offering many tools to help get the job done. 
Chapters in the book: 
  1. An Invitation to Flourish
  2. Change Your Mind to Change Your Time
  3. The FREEDOM Toolbox
  4. Where Did My Time Go?
  5. Aim High: Setting Goals
  6. What Do I Do Next?: Seven Essential Planning Tools
  7. We Interrupt This Program
  8. It's Time for an Attitude Adjustment
  9. Oxygen Masks and Monkey Bread Days
  10. Training Your Children
  11. Making Memories
  12. Managing Your Home
  13. All of Life is Learning
  14. Solo-Act: Flourishing as a Single Mom
  15. Home Business
  16. Moving Ahead
I feel this book could useful for any homeschooling mom. Even if a specific situation doesn't currently apply to us, chances are it might at some point in the future, and in the meantime, if we have the tools, the resources and the information, we can be a help and a support to our friends when they may not be feeling very balanced or that they are flourishing
One of my favorite things in this sort of support/encouragement book is when there are inspirational tidbits scattered throughout, and Mary Jo has come up with quite a number of motivating quotes. The following isn't from one of her quote boxes, but something Mary Jo says in her book that sums up the basic intent of Flourish

This book is not primarily about what boxes to put things in, 
but figuring out what things to put into boxes. 

As I have read through the book, I have gained more perspective on things that I can do to change the way my home and homeschool look and work, so that they can flourish and thrive, along with some step-by-step directions to get there.

Visit Flourish #flourishathome and Mary Jo Tate on Facebook  and Twitter

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Please click the banner below to visit the TOS 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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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Homeschool Piano ~ piano lessons at home! (TOS Review Crew)

It has long been a regret of mine that I have not taught any of my children to play piano. I play the piano (classically trained), and my husband plays by ear, and none of our children have really played to this point in time. Of course, a major part of that regret is the fact that we don't own a piano, and our keyboard hasn't always been available. However, when the opportunity came up to review Homeschool Piano Complete Set of Books lifetime access to Homeschool Piano with the TOS Review Crew, I determined that we would make sure our keyboard was accessible. So... it's on the dining room table~ it's been on the back porch during the day... it's portable (kind of...).

Homeschool Piano is the brainchild of Willie Myette, a graduate of my husband's alma mater, Berklee College of Music in Boston. His style of teaching is very different from the way I learned, as it is very jazzy, with a heavy emphasis on improvisation. In the past, when I have brought up the idea of piano lessons, my eldest has been generally resistant, but this time around she thought it might be worth a try. Hurrah!

The lessons are split into a "Core" Beginner book, and Books 1-3. Each book contains 6 Units with 7 Lessons in each. They cover the 6 topics in the circular graphic to the right, with an additional Bonus lesson.  Some of the Lessons include tests, to ensure that the student comprehends the material, and there are accompanying worksheets and sheet music in pdf files that are to be downloaded and printed. *Economic note: I actually printed the manuals up 4 to a page for each unit, and then cut and stapled them together by Unit. I did print the songs and a few of the other sheets out full size so they could be more easily read while playing.

Homeschool Piano lessons are largely video based, with the lessons available via tablet, computer, and presumably mobile phone, if you have a smart phone (which we do not). It's a very unique set-up, with a video of Willie in the lower left corner, and the top 2/3rds of the screen are split into two lengths. The Top portion is a "Virtual Keyboard." The notes are highlighted in red as they are being played and are identified by name. The lower portion is video taken from above the keyboard, showing Willie's hands actually playing the notes, as you can see in the graphic below. I find it a little amusing that my daughter's first reaction to the video set-up was very dubious (She thought it was odd...), but after going through some of the core lessons and 2 units of book 1, she has determined that she enjoys the lessons, and is challenged to complete them. Her take now, after going through a few units, is that Willie knows how to make the lessons fun, while helping his students play successfully right away.

Eldest's favorite part of the lessons is learning the new rhythms (which coordinates with her interest in dance), and learning the improvisational licks that are taught in each Unit. It is very gratifying to be able to play something that sounds a little more complex than the first songs I remember learning to play. This can be important when the student is starting out at an older age.

Keeping in mind that my daughter has not played piano before starting this program (other than a little bit of picking out melodies on her own, 1-finger style and using her very own "number system"), here she is playing the 2nd full song in book one (We're both happy with her headway in a relatively short period of time)

Now some improvisations based on the notes learned so far. (And no, our set-up isn't optimal as far as "sitting at a piano" is concerned, but it is working for us at this point in time) 

The Lessons and Songs that are learned build on one another (for example, the base line in the improv is heard as part of a song later on, which helps to increase the success of the piano student).  
Sadly, my youngest student is being very "seven" and thinks he doesn't currently like music (ha! I know better~ he's singing all the time...). However, in my opinion, music isn't something that should be pushed... he will come around, I'm sure, as his sister continues to progress, and starts playing even more fun and funky music, and Homeschool Piano will be waiting for us when he's ready. 
Middlest~ will be joining his sister in learning piano this fall. Having *not* taught the older two until this point, I'm interested to see how he does, *and* how music affects other areas in his schooling. 

If you would like to get a taste of Homeschool Piano Lessons before purchasing, you can check out 6 free lessons covering Technique, Rhythm, Reading Music, Song, Improvisation, and Bonus. 
I am very impressed with the thorough but engaging manner in which Willie teaches. Having been classically trained, and having been thrown into some more contemporary situations, I am also picking up a few tips and pointers, so maybe one of these days I'll be able to more closely rival my "play-by-ear" husband who also has that Berklee music theory training. Sad to say, I don't think I'll ever be great at "grabbing the keys," which is a much more useful technique in a jazz situation than in my usual Church Musician or Classical environment, but it's fun to play around with a style that is a little looser.
Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: Homeschool Piano
  • Product: Homeschool Piano Complete Set of Books 
  • Ages: All Ages
  • Price Options: 
    • Success Package (One payment of $299) Unlimited life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students. 
    •  Payment Plan (Payments of $99.97 per month for three months):  Unlimited life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students. 
Please click the banner below to visit the TOS 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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