Thursday, June 23, 2016

LearnBop ~ LearnBop for Families (K-12 Math Review)

This has been an interesting math year for my Middlest (who has not gotten as far in Algebra as we might have hoped), so I looked forward to checking out LearnBop for Families, a new offering from LearnBop. We reviewed the family plan, which allows for up to 4 students, so I had space for Youngest to check out the third grade level as well.

LearnBop is designed to be an adaptive, self-paced, learn-as-you-go program for students from 3rd to 12th grade. The main benefit I see in a program of this type is to free up time for mom (or dad) to focus on another student and give them one less thing to teach/grade, or to help parent/teachers out if they aren't confident in teaching math. The program assesses, teaches, and shows the progress of each student.

The LearnBop Program:

First a learning roadmap is chosen (we went for the graded roadmaps vs the mathematical concept roadmaps, but either is an option).
From here you go to the student dashboard. There is a widget showing activity for the past 7 days on the left. The main body of the page shows where the student is in the current unit as well as the current concept to master, and recent progress is seen at the bottom.




The current concept can also be accessed through the Learning Roadmap link at the top of the page. This brings you to a page that shows the entire roadmap (ALL of the Units for the grade are listed on the left~ Those with green circles have been mastered, and you can see the current unit being worked on)

The main portion of the page shows the student exactly where they are in the unit, what they have completed (green again),  and what they have to work on.

Most of the concepts have a number of explanatory videos, and then  a set of "Bops" which refers to the actual working of the lesson problems. Each concept requires 5 completed Bops, and at least 90% accuracy to move on. If the student gets the problems correct, he can move on to another concept in the unit. If he makes an error, his mastery percentage goes down, and  he has the opportunity to try the problem again (with or without "hints" to help him along).  After successfully completing the problem, the percentage goes back up, with additional correct answers being required, until he reaches a 90% mastery.

Youngest had a kind of love/hate relationship with LearnBop. He was frustrated on numerous occasions (often with just cause), and his score would plummet~ however, he was gratified with how quickly the score returned to a high level once he started to get correct answers. When he ran into trouble, he liked the hints that were included that showed him how to work the problem step by step. He really felt that those helped him (as long as the program wasn't in error~ then it was simply discouraging)

Now... on to our frustrations with the program:

This was our first time running into Common Core (?) , and wouldn't you know it, we had difficulties:
Youngest was given this problem to solve:



Youngest was baffled~ Because Janine knows her 5's, and the problem employs a 5 fact, (any math program I have ever seen teaches facts up to ten, and sometimes up to 12), it just didn't make sense to him.  If Janine knows her 5's, she already knows what 5x7 is...

It seems the answer the program was looking for was  to split the rug into 5x5 and 2x5 (I sent an email to check, and this was the answer I received). This was clearly a case of making a child who already knew the answer to the problem feel totally confused by being asked to break it down in an illogical manner, using the given the information. Unfortunately a similar problem showed up in another bop, using a rug that was 5x6, and Janine still knows her 1's, 2's, 5's, and 10's, and therefore, one assumes she knows 5x6... argh!

This has become a program for youngest that requires either myself or oldest sitting next to him (even though he mostly seems to enjoy it), to help figure out what the program is looking for when it isn't a straightforward problem. So hard (and a bit of a time-waster) sometimes to have to break something down into numerous little steps, when one already knows and understands the answer.

Beyond that, there were other answer errors which we reported. This became somewhat exasperating,  both for my child, who couldn't figure out why he was getting things wrong (because, in fact he wasn't), and for me, because I had to check each incorrect problem, and figure out whether he was truly wrong, or if the program was erroneous, so that I could send in that information to the company.

Middlest also had issues with the Algebra program, running into errors in the very first concept. There were other problems, and I began to feel that it would be ever so much easier to hand him a text book, pencil, and paper, and do things the old-fashioned way, where we know that the correct answers are correct, and the incorrect answers really are incorrect.

I think I expected more accuracy for a program that has been in use in the public schools for some time, and that the errata would have been taken care of by now. 


Other constructive criticism from my Algebra boy:
He felt that the Videos could use some work. The instructors are fairly blase' and gave him the impression that math is simply to be done... no interest or excitement in the topic at all. Meh...

He also had a very good point about the beginning assessment for each concept~ there is no option to say "I don't know" for any of the problems~ so if you guess correctly, the program assumes you understand more than you really do, and might dump you into a more complex concept than you are ready to deal with just yet. Better to have the option to leave the answer blank.

My suspicion is that at this point, LearnBop is more useful for the younger ages, particularly for those who might be distracted by some of the more flashy programs, as their problems are easier to check up on.  However, I do like the ability to monitor the older ages, and see exactly how much work they have been getting done, and how much time has been spent~ accountability!

If LearnBop can debug their software, and if they can tone down or remove the confusing and illogical Common Core pieces (like the Janine and the rug problems), as well as add an "I don't know" option (which would be useful for assessments, and can go directly to hints in the lesson), this could be a solid program that encourages students with step-by-step hints, and fairly rapid advancement on to the next topic.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: LearnBop
  • Product:  LearnBop for Families
  • Ages: 3rd -12th grade
  • Price: Family Plan (up to four students) $19.95 monthly or $199.95 for one year
Visit LearnBop on Social Media:  Facebook and Twitter 

It is possible that we were using levels that haven't gotten as much use, and therefore the bugs haven't all been worked out just yet. Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say, as their experiences may have been very different than ours, in different levels.  As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.

Blessings~



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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Almost Wordless Wednesday

It has been a busy week! 
For some folks the beginning of summer is a slowing down.
For us, it is one of the busiest times of the year! 


~ Father's Day fell in there as well, 
but in the "living" of the day, didn't get any great photos ~

Blessings~ 


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Progeny Press ~ The Scarlet Pimpernel E-Guide (Review)

Invariably, whenever anyone asks me for recommendations for high school literature, Progeny Press is one of the first names out of my mouth, so I was very pleased to be able to add The Scarlet Pimpernel E-Guide to our review line up. I was introduced to Progeny Press in 2012 when I reviewed the High School Pride and Prejudice E-guide and Middle School The Bronze Bow E-guide. In 2013 we reviewed Treasure Island and The Hobbit E-guides, 2014 brought The Hunger Games and The Giver. This past fall I got my first look at the elementary E-Guides when I reviewed Sam the Minuteman. I also reviewed another High School Title, To Kill A Mockingbird. In addition to those guides received for review, I have independently purchased guides for Jane Eyre, A Wrinkle in Time, and Amos Fortune, Free Man. I suppose you could say I'm a Progeny Press Junkie when it comes to Middle and High School Literature guides. :)

So, what's all the hoopla about? WHY do I love these guides?

  • Thorough vocabulary lists and a variety of exercises ~ sometimes matching definitions and writing sentences, others listing synonyms and antonyms. Writing their own definitions, then looking up dictionary definitions and comparing the two. The variety of exercises keeps the study from getting dull, which is great. I also appreciate that sometimes the exercises are fairly time consuming, and others they are rather quickly done. To a teen's mind there are few things more time-consuming and dreary than knowing that you have to write the dictionary definition for 20 words in EVERY single unit~ SOOO grateful that Progeny Press shakes things up a bit. ;) 
  • Comprehension questions are actual comprehension questions and not just "Who? What? When? Where?" questions, but  also "How? and Why?" questions, which I often find missing in other studies. 
First and foremost however, in addition to the above, I greatly appreciate the Christian Worldview presented throughout the guide. Although the authors aren't necessarily Christian writers, their works are discussed through a Christian lens. When something doesn't line up with the Bible, it's pointed out. Character qualities are discussed, and moral dilemmas may be considered. The Christian Worldview *may* come through during the Literary Analysis questions which encompass Literary form, technique, and style questions, but it definitely comes into play in the Dig Deeper section. 
Here is an example of a couple of questions in a Dig Deeper section from The Scarlet Pimpernel:


9. A moral dilemma is defined as having to make a choice between two things that are either both right (something one should do) or both bad (something one should not do). The result being that no matter what one does, the consequence is either painful or morally unacceptable. This is often referred to as being “between a rock and a hard place,” because both options are hard and painful. In Chapter 10, Chauvelin confronts Marguerite with a moral dilemma: should she act to save her brother, or should she refuse to act and save the Scarlet Pimpernel and French aristocrats. She should save both her brother and protect the Scarlet Pimpernel; however she cannot do both.
What appears to be Marguerite’s choice at the end of these chapters? Do you think she chooses wisely? What would you have done? Why?

10. Each of us has faced or will face moral dilemmas in our lives. For example, perhaps someone is being bullied in school or the neighborhood, but he or she has asked you not to tell. Do you keep their secret and allow the bullying to continue or do you betray their trust and do you tell someone in an effort to stop the bullying? Two friends are going on a mission trip and both need support, but you can afford to help only one. A family member or good friend is broke and needs a place to live for awhile, but you know that any money they get will go toward alco- hol or drugs and they will bring that lifestyle into the home. Do you help them and let them stay with you, or do you protect your family (and possibly your friend) by refusing them shelter?
Have you ever faced a moral dilemma in your life? What was it and how did you decide what to do? How do you decide what to do when you are faced with a moral dilemma?

Pretty good stuff, yes? ;)

The guide includes "optional activities" that are often opportunities for further discussion. It ends with an "overview" that could be used as a "Final" test, and a list of Essays or Projects that can be assigned.

One of the other things I appreciate is that each Progeny Press Unit (at the high school level) can be counted as 1/4 credit on a high school transcript. That is very useful information for the homeschool teacher! :)

A couple of notes on our specific time with The Scarlet Pimpernel:
Middlest had computer issues, so was not able to take advantage of the interactive qualities of the study guide. (Apparently some computers don't come with Adobe Acrobat Reader, and the program may crash repeatedly when downloaded). This was a little dismaying to my more techie kid, as he would prefer to type directly into the document, but such is life (when his sister had done Progeny Press E-guides, she has simply used a spiral bound notebook for her work, and she's quite happy with that option. :)
Middlest is taking a middle ground approach, and typing his answers into a document, which he can then email to me.

Middlest's thoughts on The Scarlet Pimpernel:
The book started out very slowly, and was difficult to get into, due to lack of action, and getting used to the language. The first chapter was written from a different perspective, so that was also a little confusing. After that it picked up, and was more exciting and action/adventure filled. His favorite part of the E-guide is the vocabulary section, as it has helped him understand more clearly what was being said in the book. He also likes the Comprehension questions because they are more straightforward. Mom's note: The Analysis and Digging Deeper questions are more difficult to answer, and often require an opinion, which is often not forthcoming with him, so they are NOT his favorite part, but they ARE one of the things *I* appreciate the most. ;)

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Social Media Links: 

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say about The Scarlet Pimpernel E-Guide, as well as the following titles:
K-3 titles ~ The Minstrel in the Tower and The Drinking Gourd
4-6 titles ~ Mr. Popper's Penguins and The Sword in the Tree
6-8 titles ~ Give Me Liberty and The Indian in the Cupboard
9-12 titles ~ The Scarlet Pimpernel and Great Expectations
As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
Blessings~



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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Forbrain – Sound For Life Ltd (Auditory Processing Tool for Speech andLanguage therapy and more)


There are so many children and adults these days with learning issues, whether they have delayed or unclear speech, or poor memory and focus skills. My Middlest has some focus issues, and my youngest has had some speech issues, so we were interested in being on the review for a new product by Forbrain – Sound For Life Ltd that uses an auditory feedback loop to improve attention and speech. I was particularly interested as I know that there are a number of families in my local homeschool group who deal with a variety of disabilities and delays that might be helped by a product like this. Nothing beats having personal experience with a product in order to offer a beneficial recommendation. 

So what is Forbrain, and how does it work? The basic science (As I understand it~ please visit the website for the technical terms and more thorough and detailed descriptions) behind Forbrain: Forbrain uses a headset with a microphone that sends the soundwaves produced by the wearer through a high frequency filter that then conducts the sound directly through the jaw bone to the brain. 

To some degree the effect is to have a clearer picture of what everyone else around them hears (my youngest said it was like listening to a recording of himself), and more rapid input to the brain (since the soundwaves don't have to travel through the air and through the ear canal).  

It also helps the wearer to focus on the words they are saying, which improves attention. Kind of reminds me of when I need to concentrate on what I'm thinking, reading,  or saying and there is excess noise around me. Sometimes I will plug my ears with my hands so I can focus~ Forbrain does something similar, without blocking out the surrounding sounds. Forbrain is not limited to use with children~ it is appropriate for a number of situations, and all ages. 

How and why did we use Forbrain in our home?
My Youngest has had some slight speech clarity issues. When he was really little he was sometimes referred to as the Hawaiian baby, because although he had the correct number of syllables, he used mostly vowels, and very few consonants in his speech. That has changed, but he still has trouble speaking clearly at times (I have to work to have him use his lips to help form sounds~ he tends to speak like a ventriloquist whenever possible.. ACK!).

You may remember the poetry review we did a few weeks back? After that review was over, I had him use the Forbrain headset while he recited to me, and we also worked on a few things like "r." After some weeks of use there is definitely a difference in the clarity of his speech. Sometimes it is rather subtle, but it is there. Check out this compare/contrast video I made with snippets from some of the poems.




My fifteen year old found some benefit from Forbrain as well. He had been having difficulty paying attention to his science text. He would read and reread the text and still not take in what he was reading, because his mind would wander. I suggested that he wear the Forbrain headset and read the text aloud instead of silently. He found an increased ability to retain what he was reading, which was definitely a positive impact on his learning. 

Because it was difficult to really quantify this effect, we did a little trial. I gave him 3 sections of Bible verses to memorize, and we timed how long it took him to learn them well enough to say them without looking.  The first he memorized strictly by reading silently, the second by reading out loud, and the final section reading out loud using the Forbrain headset.

Here are his results:
Silent memorization: Isaiah 45: 18 (39 words) took 8 minutes
Read aloud:  Ephesians 4:1-3 (47 words) took 6 minutes
Read aloud with Forbrain headset: (41 words) took 3 minutes

I would say that was a fairly significant increase in attention and memory!

Now of course, results may vary, but I think this is a very interesting technology worth checking out, especially if your child struggles with speech and language difficulties, auditory processing disorders, reading difficulties, ADD or ADHD, or even minor attention issues that may be causing major disruptions in learning.

The Forbrain headset comes with downloadable pdf file that includes a number of exercises. The first set are used to improve singing, rhythm, fluency, pronunciation, and diction. These were deemed a little cheesy by my kids, but they gave the idea of how to use the headset for more regular musical and speech improvement. The next section has exercises particularly geared towards teens, and specifically those with ADD/ADHD. Some include speaking positive phrases, and others include some techniques for focusing attention, and dealing with other behaviors. Sort of "The Power of Positive Thinking" concept here. Take it or leave it, as you will. ;)

I realize that my boys don't have the severe issues that others deal with (for which I am very grateful), and this tool was useful for them. I know that there are others on the TOS Review Crew who ARE dealing with more severe issues, so if this is something you are interested in, I highly recommending going through the link at the bottom of this post, and reading more reviews.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
You can visit Forbrain - Sound For Life Ltd on their Social Media pages:
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn

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



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Friday, June 10, 2016

Shiloh Run Press ~ The Glass Castle by Trisha White Priebe and Jerry B. Jenkins



My Eldest (19-ish) and I both enjoy reading middle school fiction, in part because MUCH of the time we can rest assured that it will be clean and interesting, without any of the yuck that is in so much adult fiction these days. For that reason, we were both pleased to have a little light reading to review in the form of The Glass Castle by Trisha White Priebe and Jerry B. Jenkins, published by Shiloh Run Press.
The Glass Castle is a fantasy/fairytale with many elements that make for an exciting read. Mysterious 13 year old orphans hiding in a castle so large that they can avoid discovery while inhabiting a parallel life to the one occupied by the adults. A missing heir, a little romantic element, jealous girls, danger from within and without, treasures, and an old crone. All familiar facets, but fashioned together in an entirely different format, to create a new story with an uncertain ending.

Those who have read and enjoyed Princess Academy and are looking for something with a similar feel for their younger readers might be very happy with the Glass Castle. The action is less intense but the plot is interesting and strong (if perhaps at times a bit confusing).

Avery (the main character) is kidnapped while playing in the woods with her little brother on her 13th birthday. She is brought to a castle by an old woman, to live with a large group of orphans. However, to the best of her knowledge, she isn't an orphan. Avery can't figure out why she is there, and confusion reigns in her heart (and our heads) as we all (Avery and the reader) realize that there are children who know more than they are saying. Cryptic remarks that leave Avery scratching her head, and worrying about finding her little brother and her father. Maybe, just maybe, Avery can help herself, and all the other orphans, but she needs to listen and make wise decisions.

Side note: At first one might be a little surprised to hear 13-year olds talking about marriage. That seems  little young, especially when we have so many children "growing up" too quickly in our day and age. However, once one realizes that the time-period/culture "married young" it will likely become part of the story (at least that was our experience ~ but we aren't precisely the target age group. I'm curious what a tween/early teen will think?).

The beginning of the book starts with a BANG WHALLOP!  The greater portion of the rest of the book is a little slower, as the story-line is laid and expanded with some detail that paints a fascinating picture of this double-lived castle. In the last third of the book the action builds, the story gets exciting, and your heart kind of drops as you realize that there aren't enough pages left, with the size of print used to conclude the tale with any sort of authenticity. Eldest was very disappointed in the cliff-hanger ending. For a book this size (250 pages of fairly large type) she felt that unless there is an amazing plot twist that requires 3/4 of a book to resolve, that the author should have just lengthened the book and completed the story. However, there is an Olympiad to look forward to, and quite a few hanging threads that need to be neatly tied together, so instead we'll anticipate reading the sequel The Ruby Moon when it is published this fall. If you or your children can't stand cliffhangers, you might want to add both books to your autumn or winter reading list! This would be a fantastic read-aloud for the right age group as the air gets crisp and the days get shorter!

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 

Shiloh Run Press can be visited on their Social media pages on Facebook and Twitter.

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.
Blessings~



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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Graduation (!) Photos and some musical nuggets...

So... This happened this weekend.....

Isn't she pretty? (and SMART, too! :D) 

Proud Brothers



Our Parental Charge:
We are very proud of the young lady you are becoming. 
We look forward to seeing the plans God has for your future, 
being confident that He who began a good work in you will continue it. 
March to your creative beat and press on. 
Love, Mom and Dad



"Personalized" graduation cap~ 
all hand-designed hand-cut letters and embellishments 
by Eldest



Songs that have impacted her over the past 4 years:
(note: for fun, read down the titles, you might catch some mash-up phrases) 
~~~~~
Breathe by Jonny Diaz



~~~~~
Backseat Driver by Toby Mac
You Lead by Jamie Grace
I'm Letting Go by Francesca Battistelli
Tomorrow by Unspoken
Morning by Morgan Harper Nichols
(The)Great Adventure by Steven Curtis Chapman
In Your Hands by Unspoken
Giants Fall by Francesca Battistelli
Center of It by Chris August
Joy by Jonny Diaz


And how great is that? 
Jonny Diaz in concert the same day!?!?!
Guess what we ate on the way there? Chick-fil-A
If you're a Jonny Diaz fan, you'll "get" this. :D 

Many Blessings to you all, and most especially to our Eldest as she embarks on the next leg of life's journey. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Old Schoolhouse Hey Mama! Print Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017(Review)


Although our 2015/2016 school year is still in the process of wrapping up, and my Eldest's Graduation (!) is tomorrow, it's never too early to start planning for next year. This is where the The Old Schoolhouse  comes in to play, with their updated Hey Mama! Print Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017, hot off the presses!


I have discovered over the course of reviewing for The Old Schoolhouse the past 8 years that I definitely have a preference for pencil and paper planners vs electronic planners. My brain just finds it much easier to wrap itself around something I've written than information that has been input on the screen. I also find it simpler to just write plans down, vs trying to figure out the where's and how's of the more techie version... they kind of make my brain hurt. ;)

So... some things have changed from previous Hey Mama! print versions of this planner, and other's have stayed the same.
There are still Monthly Calendars with a page for notes, a double page "Calendar" spread, and an inspirational "Hey, Mama!" note to encourage you in your walk as Mama, Wife, and Teacher.

The undated Weekly Planner pages are also still there (of course... they are the "heart" of the planner), but they have even more "heart" now, as they are bisected every 4 weeks with another quick "Hey, Mama!" note, and an article. The articles in this year's planner give interesting bits of information about some tools that were used by older generations in daily life. Note: some of these tools are still used today, but often more in a hobby-sense than a survival sense (spinning wheel, cast iron pans, horseshoe and farm nippers), others are forerunners of modern inventions (irons, washboards, dolly sticks).

I particularly appreciate that the pages aren't dated. While we do tend to somewhat follow the public school calendar, there are some weeks that they school that we do not, and vice-versa, sometimes we have schooling scheduled during vacation times... with undated planning pages, I can just write in the "Week of" date as we do the work.

Following the basic planning pages are forms for:
Monthly/Semester, and Yearly goals
Attendance Chart
Books Read
Curriculum Planning Sheets
Homeschooling Contact List
Information of Creating an Academic Transcript (with a blank form to fill out)
Checklist and Skills Learned
and a form for Other Courses to be recorded

No Old Schoolhouse Planner would be complete without pages of helpful information including:
U.S. Presidents and their Wives
The Thirteen Colonies by Date
United States and Capitals
36 General Writing Prompts
Story Starters
Timeline of Inventions

I really need to encourage more writing, and look forward to using the writing prompts on a weekly basis.

Digital Schoolhouse Planner
One more thing to mention here~ while, I do love having this bound print planner, and as referred to above, I don't do so very well with electronic versions. But, there is another alternative: the digital versions.
The ability to print multiple copies of various forms as needed, and tailor the planner to what you specifically need is rather nice.
Because it's digital there are many more options including notebooking pages, household forms (Bible, Kitchen/Menu, Financial), and more.

My only problem with these printable pdfs is that I seldom make it to the copy store to have them bound, so I end up with random sheafs of paper that tend to get lost in the stacks in my house. However, I thought that I should mention this as an alternative planner option, as I do make use of this version at times, as well (like when I want to print up planner pages for each child to use, while keeping my own bound print version. :) )


Oh, and one more note is that the planners have been included in membership to The Schoolhouse Teacher website, which is a whole 'nother resource in and of itself!
You can read more about that (and the current special) at this link: Purchase a 2 year membership  to SchoolhouseTeachers.com and receive bonus gifts (including the Schoolhouse Teachers Bag that the crew was sent as a special gift along with our planners... not included in a planner purchase, but included with a SchoolhouseTeachers.com subscription...).

Coupon Code Hey Mama Planner 2016 2017
Click graphic to go directly to TheOldSchoolhouse.com
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.
Blessings~



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