Friday, February 27, 2009
(Cost: $50 for a sturdy paperback study guide)
Each book in the Little House series is set up to be a month-long unit, with 9 complete units, which is enough material to take one through an entire school year, or two, depending on how quickly one goes through the material. We dug into the first Unit, Little House in the Big Woods, with gusto.
One thing I have to mention right away, is that so often this series is considered a "Girl" series, I think because the main character and author is a female. However, the history and so many of the topics covered can't be pigeon-holed by gender. I find it sad that so many boys miss out on this rich look at our cultural heritage, especially when there are topics covered that typically appeal to boys... Let's see... in the first week we looked at bears, whittling, the history of guns and firearm safety, animal tracking, and one that we didn't cover, but was suggested, discecting owl pellets... all VERY boyish in appeal, I think.
One aspect that the kids and I really enjoyed is one of the main reasons Margie Gray wrote this unit study, mentioned in the introduction: "The Prairie Primer has been devised to help parents impress upon their children the way to walk faithfully with the Lord. It is a tool to encourage the productive exchange between parents and their children in academic subjects and godly development. The "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder provide a springboard for learning Biblical charachter qualities in the setting of American pioneer history...... Above all, the Prairie Primer emphasizes studying the Word of God. There are daily Bible readings with character and word studies. Apart from the Little House books, the Bible will be the main text."
This is what my children have requested that we use for our morning read-aloud/character study next year, regardless of what we choose to use as our main curriculum, which I think speaks volumes about the value of both the books and the study!
Now, regarding the Prairie Primer as a main curriculum, I believe that it is very thorough and full of many rich learning opportunities. You can dowload samples of the first week's planning guide, the first day's study guide, a listing of the topics covered throughout the entire primer, and sample activities and a worksheet to get a glimpse of what is offered.
The first part of each week's planning guide lists books and items that you will want to gather for each week, depending on which activities you choose to use. As with most unit studies, the Prairie Primer includes many more activities than you will be able to go through in each week's time-frame, which enables you to pick and choose, tailoring the study to your specific family's needs and/or interests. It took me awhile to get into my head that I didn't have to do EVERY single activity mentioned, and needed to choose just one or two things to really dig in and research each week. Once I figured that out, it was much more enjoyable from "mom's" perspective.
Again, the Bible readings and character studies, as well as the comprehension questions for each chapter were my favorite portions of the unit, and what I found the most valuable. My kids enjoyed learning about pioneer life, and some of the differences between our culture and the culture of the pioneers. They wish that we made fresh butter more often, we HAVE been having cornmeal "pudding" with maple syrup more often, and they are ever so glad that we don't have to butcher our own meat! ;)
My only "Con" with the whole study is that it isn't set up intuitively for me from an organizational/recording work standpoint(just personality, I think), and that there were many other materials that I felt I needed to gather for each week's unit, which was a little more time-intensive from a teaching standpoint than I have been used to. However, much of that ties in to my trying to do it "All" to begin with. If you like to lapbook, and don't want to reinvent the wheel, or want a shorter version of many of the "suggested reports", I will mention quickly that HomeSchoolShare has free lapbooks that correspond to each of the Little House books. (You can find them here) I didn't find these until recently, but I think that they may really help this unit "Click" for me from that "organization and recording" side of things.
This was the perfect fit age-wise for my two kids this year, in particular, as it is intended to be used during 3rd to 6th grade, which is the precise span of my two "schooled" children this year.
There are two more Unit Studies offered by Cadron Creek which other TOS Crew members reviewed: Further Up, Further In, A Chronicles of Narnia study geared for 4th to 8th grade, and Where the Brook and The River Meet, and Anne of Green Gables study for Jr.High/High School ages.
If you really like to dig into an era, or a series, then I think that you may enjoy checking out all that Cadron Creek has to offer.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Enter Math Tutor DVD
Jason Gibson is "a fully certified space shuttle flight controller and... one of a small cadre of individuals that is in charge of the orbiter's flight computer systems, onboard software, and flight critical avionics during missions. "
And what does this have to do with teaching math, really? In his own words, not much....
"Now, I am the first to admit that none of this amounts to a hill of beans when teaching a lesson. What really matters is if the instructor takes a complex topic and assumes the student knows absolutely nothing about the task at hand and takes him/her from zero knowledge to expert in step-by-step chunks.I personally get a thrill out of making seemingly complex topics suddenly easy to students."
I have to tell you, there is nothing "thrilling" about the production of these DVDs, there is no "Flash", no goofy cartoons, no splashy color. Jason Gibson is a pleasant instructor, ("A Regular Joe", even if he *is* a rocket scientist... ;) ) in front of a white board. He walks the student through the problems slowly and steadily, truly assuming very little knowledge. This will be annoying to those who have even a slight working knowledge of the topic at hand, because there is a fair amount of repetition. However, if the student sincerely needs some extra "help" or "Tutoring", the pace makes complete sense.
As part of the TOS Crew, I received 2 Math Tutor DVD's to review.
The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor~An 8 hour video course, covering word problems of varying types, all the basic operations with whole numbers, decimals, and fractions, as well as covering percents and ratio and proportion.
This course is great for the beginning math student who has the basic operations down, and is just having trouble with figuring out those pesky word problems. Mr. Gibson points out useful words to recognize for most operations, and helps the student to analyze the problems to figure out exactly which operation is required.
This was useful for my 3rd grader, even though he has a decent handle on many word problems, he sometimes gets tripped up with the language used. My 6th grader was.... less than enthusiastic, but that is because she doesn't require any "tutoring" in this subject. Fair enough!
One thing I *wish* had been done was to "mix it up" a little every 4 lessons or so, so that the student would have some practice in determining which type of problem they were looking at, instead of having only addition, only subtraction, only multiplication, and so on. That would have added to the "interest" of the lessons later on, I think, but then again, that's something that we can easily add at the end of a lesson.
Here is a sample from the basic addition of whole numbers lesson and another from Subtraction of decimals lesson, so that you can get an idea of what these videos are like.
The Algebra 2 Tutor~ A 6 hour DVD course, with optional worksheet CD available.
Now, this was where the proof was in the pudding, so to speak. I don't have an Algebra 2 student by normal accounting for "age" and "grade", but I thought I'd pop this course in for my 6th grader, who is finishing up her Saxon 6/5, and getting ready to plow on into 7/6 soon.
We sat down and started the first lesson on graphing equations. She gave me kind of funny "What is all this x and y stuff? I don't get it..." look, but she continued to watch, and to do the problems along with Mr. Gibson on some scratch paper. Pretty soon, she decided that even if she didn't understand "why one would need to know this stuff", she DID understand the "how" to do it, and enjoyed figuring out the "puzzles". COOL! See... Math CAN be fun, and you don't have to have a crazy, goofy, colorful bit of "Entertainment posing as instruction" to figure it out!
Here is a sample video on The Slope of a Line and one on Simplifying Radical Expressions.
I like Mr. Gibson, and his down to earth manner, his patient teaching of the problems and how to solve them. I don't even mind when he sometimes falters looking for a word, because he's a human, just like me, and heaven knows I find myself searching for words on a regular basis these days (just ask my daughter...;) ). Again, this is not polished flash, but basic, good, down to earth, solid teaching of math concepts. I think that these courses would be a help to anyone that is having difficulty with their math.
You can find sample videos from each of the 16 courses currently available if you scroll down the Math Tutor site, on the left hand side. They are very reasonably priced (especially considering the cost of an "In Real Life" tutor), with most complete courses priced at $26.99.
* Bundles are available that will save you between 5% and 10%
*Limited Time Free Bonus: Each new Math Tutor DVD customer receives 60 minutes of FREE live online tutoring available 24/7 through Tutor.com! A $35.00 Value.
*$10 coupon off any single DVD if you become a Facebook fan!
* Sign up for the monthly newsletter, and be entered every month (Automatically) to win a 14 course bundle worth $435!
Overall, I am very impressed with this program, and since there are so many sample videos available, I am certain that you will be able to get a feel for what the teaching is like, and whether or not this may be a good option for your family.
The only other caveat I would mention here is that the shipping is steep for just one DVD ($9.99), BUT the shipping remains the same, regardless of how many DVDs you purchase, so this might be a great "Group buy" option, if you have other like-minded friends looking at the same level, or if you want to go for a set or bundle option. :)
Sunday, February 22, 2009
The lyrics are for the most part, original (with the exception of an actual Bible verse or two), and the music they are set to ranges from classical compositions to folk tunes, with a smattering of original tunes, all sung by children and young adults. Depending on your musical tastes, these may be a great fit for your family. If you like to hear new lyrics to old tunes(which has been a songwriting tactic for centuries...), then you may enjoy these as well.
Once again, here is my list of Pros and Cons~
*The songs are Bible stories set to music, which means I don't have to worry about the content of the songs.
*There are some interesting rounds which my 11 year old thought were the best part of the CD, as she enjoys singing in "parts" at the moment.
*The accompaniment is primarily piano, which I appreciate ever so much more than over-synthesized music!!
*There were songs that promoted good attitudes and manners, which were probably MY favorite songs on the CD. ;)
*Many of the songs dealt with war (This *is* David we're talking about), but were set to dainty classical pieces that just didn't "jive" with the content of the lyrics.
*There were only a few songs that had a good "hook", and were easily singable. Too many of them "Told a story", but were too "wordy" and/or musically difficult for a child to remember and/or sing easily, in my opinion.
I may be being too picky here(my husband and I are both musicians), and I hate to say this, but I have to be honest. These were not a great fit for our family. We do listen to a wide variety of musical styles and artists(From Phil Keaggy to Casting Crowns and Steven Curtis Chapman, to Alison Krauss, Josh Groban, Joshua Bell and the Newsboys, Albums like "I Hear America Singing", Colin Buchanan's "Aussie Praise" CD's, etc...), but this CD just didn't "catch" any of us.
I will also admit that we are not huge fans of the wildly popular WeeSing compilations, so don't rest on my opinion... listen to a few clips and see what YOU think... :) You can even download a free lyric sheet and get a feel for the content of the songs yourself. Other TOS Crew Mates had very differing opinions, which is to be expected because musical taste is highly subjective. :)
This is definitely a case of "Different Strokes for Different Folks". Check out more reviews and see whose "Style" fits yours before making a decision.
A couple of general additional notes:
The premise of Bible Story Songs is good, to help children learn and remember stories from the Bible more easily, and if you have an auditory learner, this could be a great supplement to a bible program.
If you have a kinesthetic/visual learner, a couple of the Bible Story Song Titles also have Color 'n Sing Song Books and Puzzle Pages available to purchase as PDF downloads for $4.99 each.
I would say, based on my children's reactions that this is best suited for the 4-7 year old crowd.
Check 'em out and see what you think!
Friday, February 20, 2009
From the website:
You CAN teach Latin even if you have never studied it before! Schola Publications introduces The LATIN Road to English Grammar, a comprehensive language curriculum designed for anyone who desires to gain a better knowledge of English through the study of Latin. This curriculum is so complete that you can learn and teach Latin at the same time - you learn along with your students. All the materials you need are included for easy learning and teaching: textbook, worksheets, tests, vocabulary cards, answer keys, lesson plans, verb charts, audio CD’s for pronunciation and teacher training DVDs.
During the course of study each student develops his own Latin-English handbook. All information concerning grammar and vocabulary is presented in a balanced combination of oral and written work. Students will hear, say, see, read, and write Latin and English constantly. In this way all students can learn with their strengths and yet also practice their weaknesses. This multisensory method of learning does far more to instill the information in the student’s mind than a mere workbook method. Everything is clearly defined, and, equipped with the essential components, any student is able to analyze both English and Latin.
So how does this really work? What are the Pros and the Cons of this program?
Well, I'll tackle the Cons first, because they are not many, in our (my kids' and my own) opinions.
*Much of the teacher's Guide is on the included DVD's. I tend to be a person of the written word vs the visual word, so I would prefer to have all of what is on the DVD to be printed in the teacher's manual. There have been a few instances where things were referenced from the Phonics Road To Spelling and Reading (The K-4 curriculum), that left us feeling a little at a loss.
I also would have preferred to have instructions for a verb game included in the print portion of the manual, rather than being required to watch the DVD to figure it out. However, these are not really major issues, more of a learning/teaching style preference.
*The only other complaint that my children had was that the manual that they are creating is not organized in a way that is intuitive for them, and there is a little more flipping of pages back and forth than they would like... again, not a major issue.
Now for the Pros....
This is truly a program that is "a breeze" for the teacher, as long as the teacher doesn't mind looking at the DVD for help in using the manual. Pretty much everything is done for you. The schedule is set, and the DVD scripts what to say (or you can just choose to listen to it with your children, which is what I did).
All of the tools needed for this program are included, down to the pencils and paper, which is already formatted for each part of speech and ready for diagraming, etc... GREAT!
I'm sure that your mileage may vary, but my kids have enjoyed "Solving the puzzles" of their Bridge To Latin pages. They like the step-by-step process of learning pieces of grammar, and filling in their notebooks. They can hardly wait to begin using their "Scaffolding" tools! :)
Which brings me to the practical of the program. Barbara Beers has used the analogy of a builder in her program.
The Foundation of phonics, spelling, reading and writing is laid, prior to starting the building.
Now the Bridge starts the Rough Framing~ Introducing the various parts of speech and parts of a sentence. Throughout the Rough Framing sentences are dictated, so that the students can get a good grasp of what each type of word or part of sentence really looks like.
After the Rough Framing is strong and sturdy, the Scaffolding begins. This is the process of sentence diagraming, and believe it or not, we are all looking forward to it! My kids really do look at this as a puzzle, and they like to figure out where each piece goes, or fits in.
I will also say that I am using this as their "handwriting" practice, as I haven't found a handwriting program that I'm happy with yet, so they are currently using it to "write their best".
Oh, one more thing to mention as a big plus in my Charlotte Mason-slanted bent for teaching~ The lessons are typically no more than 20 minutes, and often far less, depending on the speed with which my kids write.
I believe that while this is a foundation for a 3 year Latin Program, it is also an interesting Grammar program, packaged in such a way that I believe my children will retain much of what they learn, whether they plan to continue on to Latin or not. My only background in Latin was in learning pronunciation for choral singing, and I have forgotten some of those diagraming skills, so I am enjoying using it with them as well.
The cost is $139 for the Teacher's Package and 1 Complete Student Package. Additional Student packages can be purchased for $39.
A scope and sequence can be downloaded if you scroll down the Bridge to Latin Road page. It looks like there are plans to have a sample from the DVD available soon as well. Check it out, and if you have any questions for me, let me know!
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The First is the Lovely Award, bestowed on me by The Crazy Mom . (I don't know how "Charming" my blog is, but I do consider myself friendly... ;) )
Anyway, thanks a bunch!
You can read about the award and then go check out MY picks...
“These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”
The Second Award that I received came from SisterTipster, and is a TOS Crew-specific Award,
created by Sheri . Thanks, Ladies! Now to pass this one along as well! :) It's been an honor to "Serve" with all of you this year! What a fun, busy, wild and crazy, educational ride it's been!
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Terri has broken down many of the tasks of a new homeschooling parent into less overwhelming "Bites", and added in other topics that might be easily overlooked by an overwhelmed, under-prepared homeschooling "Newbie". (I will likely use the term "Newbie" liberally, as it's quicker to type than "New homeschooling parent"...)
She addresses ALL Newbies, whether just "Researching" and in the preschool/kindergarten stage, or the abrupt "pulled my child out of public/private school mid-school-year because it isn't working for our family" stage. I will say that she doesn't jump into choosing curriculum right away(Terri doesn't address it thoroughly until the 6th week, but for a good reason!), which won't help with the mid-year jump in the short term(Letters of Intent, etc...) but will save a lot of time, stress, and money in the long run. I would also say that some of the first lessons may look at first glance like much of what is being shared applies mostly to those beginning their journey with the K/1st grade type ages, but no fear, there is a great deal of good, solid information and help here for the Jr High and High School Newbie as well. After all, most of scheduling, teaching and running a homeschool is the same, whether you have a young child or an older child, 1 child or many children. Learning and Education are .... Learning and Education! :)
So, what does this course "look" like?
Terri walks the Newbie through, from 10 simple steps to take in the first week, tackling the Basics(Bible/Character training and the 3 R's), to determining your teaching style(Educational Philosophy... Traditional, Classical, Charlotte Mason, Eclectic, Unschooling, Unit Study, etc...), and your child's/children's learning style(s) (there are three... do you know them?), as well as how to choose your curriculum, and then she delves into specific topics.
The timing and spacing of these lessons will help you make wise curriculum choices that fit YOUR family without overwhelming you right away with multiple books to buy, read, and research. She's done a LOT of that work for you! The number of resources and topics linked (in such an orderly and timely fashion) is fantastic. It would take ever so much more of your time, energy, and yes, almost certainly money, to come up with all of this information on your own.
While some people might prefer to get this information all at once, I really like Terri's concept of the weekly lesson for the parent. Each week she sends out an email with a link to that week's lesson (going from A-Z) She explores the topic, includes those links to resources that I just mentioned, gives an assignment for the week(just the right amount to keep you moving in the right direction without getting overwhelmed), and often includes a free "Bonus" gift (typically a download) that various companies have made available for those who take the Homeschooling ABC's course. In fact there are over $250 worth of materials that are included. That is a lot of bang for your buck!
Here is the "Syllabus" for this course, from A to Z
A Great Start in Homeschooling (10 first steps to take)
Begin with the Basics
Copy the Classroom (Not!) (organizing you space and schedule)
Dare to Differentiate (Learning Styles)
Establish Your Philosophy of Education
Finding the Best Curriculum for Your Family
Get Together~ Networking with Other Homeschooling Families
Hands-On Learning for Greater Retention
Internet and Library Research Skills
Just Say "No!"~ Staying Focused and On-Track (and when to say "Yes!")
Keeping Up with Kindergarteners and Preschoolers (and other little ones)
Living and Learning At Home(Keeping Up With Life)
Math Can Be Fun
Nature Study and Science Exploration
Out the Door~ Time for a Field-Trip
Phonics, Reading and Spelling
The Quintessential Expression of Art and Music
Review and FAQ
The "S" Question~ What About Socialization?
Teaching the Multi-Age Homeschool
Used Curriculum - What To Do With It
Writing's not so Tough!
EXplore His Earth through History & Geography
Yes, You Can Homeschool High School
Encouragement & Direction for the Months/Years Ahead(OK, so there isn't really a "Z".... but 25 out of 26 isn't bad!)
As someone who has been homeschooling for 7 years, I can say that it was a great "refresher" course for me, and I wish that it had been available when I was starting out. I can also see that I will be pulling it out again as a resource down the road.
As a support group leader, I can say that it is a unique resource which answers a lot of the "How do I....?" questions, that I will be pleased to recommend to new homeschooling families.
Terri gives you the encouragement, the tools, and the confidence to get your homeschool up and running. The cost of her course is $10/ month for the duration of 6 months(billed monthly). It's hard to beat that kind and quality of help for $2.30/week!
You can check out Homeschooling ABC's free 5-day mini course, to get a taste of what Knowledgequest and Terri Johnson have to offer the newbie homeschooler, and if you like what you see, sign up for the full course!
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Because we are likely to participate in the program again, my 11 year old daughter showed great interest in learning some more Japanese before our next hosting experience. What a wonderful blessing, then, to have the opportunity to review the Bilingual Books program, Japanese in 10 Minutes a Day~ Book with CD-Rom, for the TOS crew. As you can tell by our choice, Bilingual Books offers more than the standard French, German, Italian, and Spanish. (Yay!) They also offer Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Vietnemese, Greek, Hawaiian, Polish, and English for the Spanish Speaking. (WOW! I wonder if Gaelic is on the horizon...???)
So, what are our thoughts on this program? Well, for starters, I can tell you that my daughter plans to finish the book (She's almost half-way through right now...), AND I seldom have to ask that she do her Japanese work, she picks it up independently most of the time. Thumbs up!
I'm going to list our Pros and Cons, and then give you the rest of the "particulars".
*I have to like any "class" that is promoted as a short lesson~ 10 minutes a day! I tried to keep my daughter to that, but she would sometimes end up doing 15-20 minutes.
*The pronuciation helps in this course are very good, and quite convenient. The phonetic spelling is written above the Japanese words, eliminating the need to constantly turn to a glossary in the back of the book to see "How do I say that again???" (Although there IS a glossary in the back for those quick vocabulary "Look-ups".
*There are sticky labels and flash cards included for use beyond your 10 minutes a day. Hey, if I SEE ohayo gozaimasu (good morning) on the bathroom mirror each morning, and oyasumi nasai (good night) near my nightstand at night, eventually I, too, will pick up those phrases without too much effort. (I understand that the sticky labels are removeable. I'm sorry, I haven't tried to "Remove" any yet, so I can't comment on "how" removeable they are. If I decide to take any down, I will update my post to let you know how it went.)
*"Free" words can be found across the bottom of many pages. These are words that are similar in sound to English, so "easy" to recognize, thus "Free". Nice touch!
Examples: otomiru (oh-toh-mee-roo) is oatmeal and korekushon (koh-reh-koo-shohn) is collection. Any guesses on what kukki is??? :)
*My daughter's favorite part of the program has been having fun with things like crossword puzzles and other word games.
*She also enjoyed using the included interactive CD-Rom, which had varying levels of difficulty, so I think it works well as a fun quiz. I should mention that on my MAC, the CD required installation on my machine, and is now a stand-alone product, ie... it runs without the cd-rom in the drive.
*The CD-Rom incorporates (I believe) native Japanese speakers, so that it is much easier to hear how to actually pronounce all the words. There are many syllables that are "shortened" when spoken, which would be hard to figure out using strictly phonetic spelling. Now I understand why we received so many "quizzical" looks from our exchange student last summer. We couldn't even pronounce the numeral 7 correctly, even tho it was spelled phonetically for us! (I recommend buying the book/CD set vs just the book, if available for the language of your choice.)
There were a couple of "cons" that I should mention as well.
*From a homeschool student perspective vs business traveler use, my 11 year old was not interested in learning the words for Beer and Rice Wine which were in the text.. other alcoholic beverages are included in the beverage/menu guide... :\ minor complaint....
*From a teaching/student perspective, there were some pages with blank lines that looked like they should be filled in with "something", but it wasn't clear with what, if anything. However, MOST of the book is very clear and detailed in what to do next, so I didn't find those few areas to be much of an issue.
OK.... those are my lists... so, it's obvious that over-all we have been quite happy with the program, and will be making further use of the tools given.
Book and Cd-Rom~ $24.95
Book alone ~ $19.95
CD only~ $14.95
It looks like there's a nifty little foldable "Cheat sheet" for $7.95, but I really can't comment on that as I haven't seen it in person.
There is also an "Audio CD Series" ($59.95) that includes Audio classes that coordinate with the book. Currently these are only available in French, German Italian and Spanish. Check out some of the other TOS reviews to get input on the CD Series
If you are looking for a "taste" of Foreign Language without the "commitment" to a huge, year-long course, Bilingual Books, 10 Minutes a Day might be just the thing... short, sweet, and thrifty!