Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

I have heard about Standard Deviants educational resources for quite a few years (They’ve been around for upwards of 20 years)~ so when I was offered the opportunity to review their latest product, Standard Deviants Accelerate Homeschool Courses found at their website Standard Deviants Accelerate, I jumped at the chance. This is an online resource with complete supplementary core classes available for learners aged 8-adult.
The classes offered are: 

  • Arithmetic - Grades 3+
  • Fundamental Math - Grades 4+
  • Earth Science - Grades 6+
  • Nutrition - Grades 6+
  • Algebra - Grades 7+
  • Biology - Grades 7+
  • Chemistry - Grades 9+
  • English Comp. - Grades 9+
  • U.S. History - Grades 9+
  • AP Biolody - Grades 11+
  • AP Chemistry - Grades 11+
  • AP U.S. Government & Politics - Grades 11+
  • AP U.S. History - Grades 11+
  • AP Eng. Composition - Grades 11+
I was interested to see how this worked with my children, as they have enjoyed both online and video courses in the past, and I was curious about Standard Deviants and it’s ability to catch the attention of the student.

Here is a short overview of the program: 

The greatest facet of Standard Deviants Accelerate is the video presentation. It is very fast paced and moves from person to person and venue to venue while presenting the topical information in a steady stream. The student can choose to watch the video full screen, or in a smaller box, with a transcript to the left, and a box below for taking notes as they watch (which can then be saved to their locker).

The video below is a little long, but shows what the program looks like from the student side. You can get a feel for what the screen looks like right around the 45 second mark. 

From the video, the student moves on to other online activities including interactive worksheets and quizzes which are automatically graded. If the student misses a problem, they have the opportunity to click right through to the spot in the video where the information was given.

The teachers desktop includes editable rubrics for assessing any written or group activity work as well, which might eliminate some work for busy educators.

So~ how did this work for us? Well, first off I need to clarify something. Most of the Standard Deviants Accelerate courses cover full year courses, however, the AP courses are really more like test-taking strategy classes each with an emphasis on their specific class. This came as a surprise to us when my daughter started the AP Gov’t class~ she was stumped as to why there wasn’t another lesson to move on to, and wondered what she needed to do to continue~ turns out that the test prep classes are just one lesson. 
If you haven't used any other Test-taking strategy classes, one of these might be a fun way to learn some strategies. 

After figuring that out, she started an actual core class, American History. There were many more lessons to be gone through here, so she could give it a good trial. 

Unfortunately we have learned that She is just *not* a standard deviant (neither is she a nonstandard deviant), the videos just did not suit her personality or learning style. They really do switch from one person and background to another very rapidly, often with only one sentence apiece, which made it seem very broken up and choppy to her. Eldest found it difficult to follow along with the transcript on the left AND watch the video in the tiny box to the right, and forget taking notes. There was just too much going on in one confined space for her. She also found it odd that the quizzes were extremely short (5 or 6 questions) for the amount of material presented.

After I realized that this wasn’t going to work well for Eldest, I pulled Middlest in to try out some of the Biology class. His opinion was somewhat similar to his sisters. He found the videos to be a little young and too goofy for his taste, but with more information in them than he could easily catch with one listen through. They reminded me of the newer (post mid-80s) Sesame Street with the rapid changes and costuming, but with higher level topics. My children didn’t grow up with Sesame Street, and my oldest two don’t tend to go in for ultra silly in most of their media. 

However, if your children are used to Sesame Street-style learning/ Saturday Night Live style skits, and don’t mind odd characters (Like Madame Vocabulaaahr, a medium who goes through the vocabulary on her crystal ball), this might be a good fit for you. If you click the graphic to the left before November 15th 2014, you can apply for a 6 month free trial and check it out yourself. 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
You can find Standard Deviants Accelerate online Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+  

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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Friday, October 17, 2014

Apologia iWitness Review (Eye-Witness? The Bible iWitness)

Biblical history is fascinating, particularly when used as part of your apologetics. And now Apologia Educational Ministries has come out with a new iWitness series of books to help explore the eye-witness facts that support the veracity of the Bible. We were sent three books from the series to review: iWitness Biblical ArchaeologyNew Testament iWitness,  and Old Testament iWitness.

The books are thin volumes of 64 pages each, with glossy, full-color (Somewhat busy) pages. This is a two page spread from the Old Testament iWitness book~ you can see that there is a LOT going on here! 
The books present a considerable amount of very interesting information that may answer many questions before they are even asked. How were the books included in the Canon of Scripture chosen? Why weren’t the Apocryphal and other historical Jewish books included? How are the texts for translation chosen? Do we have any degree of certainty that Noah’s Ark was real, and if so, where it may have landed? There are some bits about other things like the Shroud of Turin that I found fascinating.
Middlest on Old Testament iWitness: He was struck by how meticulously the Hebrew Scribes copied the Bible, not even one word at a time, but one letter at a time, counting the words, counting the letters, and counting to the middle of each book to be certain that they didn’t forget anything.  He was amazed to learn how the “change over time” argument doesn’t hold water based on studies of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the accuracy of manuscripts from 1000’s of years later.
Eldest~ on iWitness Biblical Archaeology: She has been enjoying how well this book ties in with her current study on Bibilical Archaeology. She was particularly intrigued with the portion on the flood and the search for Noah’s Ark. There were facts and photos that she had never read before that opened up more interest in those topics.
I found New Testament iWitness to contain a lot of information on the process of translation, and how decisions are made on which texts were more likely to be the most reliable. In the final analysis, given the evidence, we can be certain that 99.5% of the Bible we read today is true to the original text, with any variations being minor and not of any major doctrinal concern.

Pros~ Very interesting information that answers a lot of questions before they are even asked. How did we get the Bible? How can we conclude that the books included in the Bible are the Word of God, and that others *not* included in the Canon of Scripture are not. 
Our only con: the Graphic layout
While the fonts used are very interesting, they are somewhat difficult to read, even for those with young eyes... Both of my older children found the text type to be more than they wanted to deal with, and they preferred that I read the text to them!

With all of the background busyness, this could be a difficult book for someone who prefers a clean page to look at. There are those who can’t process information with that much distraction, so I wouldn’t recommend it in that case.

On the other hand, my youngest was engaged in looking at all the background graphics as I read to his siblings, although he was somewhat disappointed that the text was too fuzzy OR in a language that he couldn’t understand… ;)

If you or someone you know is interested in learning how we can be sure the Bible contains eye-witness accounts, you may find that the iWitness books are just what you are looking for. 

Side note: the author, Doug Powell graduated suma cum laude with a Masters in Apologetics from Biola University in 2007.

You can visit Apologia online: Facebook, Twitter, Google+ , and Pinterest
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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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Hummers~ (Just a little photo)

My camera/computer combo haven't been playing nice with one another off and on, so this has taken a little bit of time to get this up~ Hope you enjoy! :)


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fortuigence Review (Personal Essay Writing Program)

I don't know about you, but sometimes having a senior in high-school and looking ahead to college can be a little bit intimidating. So many thing to prepare for, not the least of which is writing a personal essay for college admissions. This is why I was very pleased to be asked to review the Essay Rock Star Personal Statement Writing Course, one of 4 courses in the Essay Rockstar series by Fortuigence.  Other TOS Review Crew families received one of the other three courses in the Rock Star Writing Course~ Persuasive Essay, Expository Essay, and Textual Analysis, so be sure to click the link at the end of my review to read their experiences.

The Essay Rockstar series is a unique program with an online classroom and assignments, followed up with personal email feedback from a professional teacher, Lily Iatridis, founder of Fortuigence. This is the first time that my daughter has received formal writing instruction and feedback from anyone other than myself, so it was very much something new for us both.

This particular course has 7 lessons and assignments.
  1. Intro/Pre-assessment
  2. Brainstorming
  3. Organizing Ideas
  4. Free Writing
  5. Revision
  6. Editing
  7. Wrap-up
The lessons are video segments with Lily, who is very pleasant and professional to listen to. The assignments are submitted online in the "classroom" with feedback provided by email within 24 hours. The student can also "Ask a question" of the teacher from the classroom. All of the communication goes directly to the student, very much like in a typical classroom. In order for me to keep up with what was happening, my daughter forwarded the feedback emails to me, and I logged into her "classroom" to see her assignments and submitted work.

Here is an example of something of Lily's video lesson style:

My daughter enjoyed this new-to-us concept, and was very pleased to be given some very positive feedback on her assignments, as she has been a reluctant writer in the past. She was pleasantly surprised to find out that "good readers make good writers" really does hold true (at least in her case). As a matter of fact, the feedback was the source of big smiles a couple of times... "Wow! Mom! I didn't expect all those adjectives!" was her immediate reaction when reading the assessment of some of her submitted work.

While Eldest really doesn't enjoy doing things step-by-step (Because she wants to be done now... economy of motion morphed into economy of brainwork?), she felt that it was very helpful to break things down, so that she had a better handle on what to do when, and how.

We are both looking forward to her finished essay (She is currently in the final draft/editing lesson), and will be able to give a sigh of relief to have that item more or less checked off from her college application "To Do" list. She had a bit of "writer's block"(I added a color overlay to her notebook page to preserve her privacy), and all those flower doodles... those would be the creative person's response to writer's block... :)
Her instructor never saw this sheet~ it is all transcribed to the computer for submission, but I thought it was fun. :)

For those who have never done an online/teacher directed course, or outsourced their writing, this might be something very interesting to try out! It is sometimes good to get an outside opinion, especially on something that can be subjective, like writing.

Fortuigence also offers some free resources that you might want to check out~
End Blank Page Terror ebook: a really great set of graphic organizers that include instructions on when to use them along with how to use them. That's a handy tool to have tucked up your sleeve!

Top Teach: a course for YOU, the teacher, so that you can become your children's "Top Teach" when it comes to writing instruction. This is normally a paid course, but at the time of this review is being offered for free.

Grammar Baseball ebook: by Dr. Ellen Weber ~ offered here for free~ 300+ grammar "trivia" questions and a "Cheat Sheet" for parents, with all the rules needed to play the game.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Fortuigence can be found online: 
Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say about this as well as the other three courses in the Rock Star Series. 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, September 22, 2014

Autumn has Arrived! Pumpkin Muffins, Acorns,


In honor of Autumn and seasonal changes...

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip muffins (mini sized), from a recipe shared by my friend Celia on the Five In A Row Forums YEARS ago, and check out the size of those Acorns! WOW!

Celia's Recipe Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins (With a couple of changes)

This is a "Tripled Recipe" which used a whole can of pumpkin
I'll list the regular recipe and in parentheses I will place the tripled recipe. The tripled recipe uses one whole can of pumpkin mix.

In a large bowl combine:

5 cups Flour
2 1/4 cup Sugar 
1 bag Chocolate Chips 
3 tsp. Cinnamon 
3/4 tsp. Salt 
3 tsp. Baking Soda

In a medium bowl combine and whisk until smooth:

6 large eggs 
1 can Pumpkin Mix ( I used plain canned pumpkin~ next time I'll add Pumpkin Pie Spice to the dry ingredients) 
1 1/2 cup MELTED butter
3/4 cup Milk
2 tsp. Vanilla 

Fold liquid ingredients into flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just blended.
*Note~ I mixed the liquid ingredients in my Kitchen Aid and then added the dry ingredients 1 cup at a time until incorporated

Place liners in muffin pan cups and spray to make easier to remove, then fill each cup 2/3 to 3/4 full. Bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees.


If baking without liners, let them cool on a rack for 5 minutes before attempting to remove them from the pan, so that they come out in one piece. :) 

A tripled batch makes about 8 dozen mini sized muffins (I baked 2 pans-worth today, and put the rest of the batter in the fridge to bake later).

What is one of your favorite things to do to "welcome Fall" ? 

Greek and Latin Roots with Dwane Thomas~ FUN times (and learning, too)!

Word Up! The Vocab Show from Compass Classroom

Compass Classroom offering a new course in Greek and Latin Roots
With one of our favorite instructors, Dwane Thomas of Visual Latin 
Download 2 free lessons now and/or order with the special introductory price of $9.99

These look like so much fun! :) 


Friday, September 19, 2014

Nuggets of Gold for Talk Like A Pirate Day

Ahoy thar, and all me duty to ye matey's! 
Today be Talk like a Pirate Day. 
If ye'd care to join the carousin', read on.

(Quick disclaimer~ I am not in love with the concept of pirates, but it is a part of history, and the old Sea Salt vernacular could apply to many ship's captains, and adventurers, pirate or not. In light of that, and in honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day...)

FREE Kindle version of Treasure Island offers a resource page for teachers! Loads of things to check out here, for the youngest student to high-school!

Here's a page with some coloring pages, mazes, dot-to-dots and more Busy Bee Kids Pirate Printables

DLTK  pirates has a nice selection of coloring pages and pirate related word tracing pages

Disney has some Jake and the Neverland Pirates coloring pages, crafts and activity books (including a backyard leaf treasure hunt... cute!)

Lucy Learns has a bunch of printables~ mazes, spot the difference, ship and flag coloring pages, Pirate history, and more!

1+1+1=1 has a great list of links has lesson plans that focus on pirates (Venn Diagram ideas and more)

Talk like a Pirate Tips from Mango Languages*:

Make sure to add extra Rs onto lots of words when speaking like a pirate. This will happen a lot at the end of words ending in a vowel, like when to turns to ter. Just remember, a pirate's favorite letter is ARRR!

Keep in mind that a pirate usually doesn't change the form of, or conjugate, the verb to be. If you want to sound like a true buccaneer, avoid using am, is or are! (The ship be founderin'!)

Pirate Cultural Note: The phrase Shiver me timbers! is thought to come from the feeling of shock from a ship running aground or being blasted by a cannon.

Pirate joke: Why does it take pirates so long to learn the alphabet? Because they can spend years at C!

Side note: The Schoolhouse TOS Review Crew reviewed the homeschool edition of Mango Languages this spring. I was not on that review, but you can check it out here. TOS Mango Reviews
*these tips were taken from the Mango Languages app that my Library offers

I be hopin' this add ter yer carousin and


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