Saturday, July 15, 2017

Fascinating Education~ Fascinating Physics

A couple of years ago we reviewed Fascinating Physics (with my then just barely 15-year-old ~ please do go ahead and check out that review if you are a newer reader, as much of the information is still the same, and I may not go into quite as much detail here). Fascinating Education has given us another opportunity to review their course, which is appreciated now that he has reached a more typical scholastic level to comprehend a physics course.

The 15 Fascinating Physics Lessons/Modules
I mentioned in my first review that my Middlest utilizes the laws of physics when juggling, playing pool, and while playing baseball and fishing without even thinking about it. Fascinating Physics offers examples that use physics in every day life (or maybe even in the less ordinary life led by someone in the C.S.I. field~ which should help to grab the attention of some teens!), which helps to give answers to the question "Why do I need to know anything about physics?"

The course is set up to particularly suit audio and visual learners.  In order to begin the audio/visual lesson the student can click the graphic, or the red "lesson" button (Shown in the graphic on the left). This starts up an audio/visual lecture (approximately 45 minutes long), with a number of slides.
If your student is less "auditory" you'll be happy to know that the blue "script" button contains the text of the lesson, which they can read, but I do recommend watching the presentation as well, since some of the slides are not static, like the photos in the text, and can help comprehension of the topic.

If you want to break the lesson up a little, or time requires you to take a break to get to an activity, no worries, the program remembers where you were, and offers the ability to resume where you left off. This was particularly helpful for us as our summer schedule had us going in many directions at once, and there wasn't always a block of time every day.

You can see that the chapter is broken up into sections, and you can easily click on a title to review anything that wasn't understood. We also appreciated, as mentioned above, the ability to work through this in smaller chunks throughout the day, when necessary, and having the titles of each section made it easier to figure out where a good stopping point might be.

In the Physics course there is a "need help?" button that opens up an audio/visual slide (My son's computer only played the audio for some reason... I love my Mac! :) ) to help them reinforce the information learned in the lesson. I appreciate this help,  particularly when there are so many formulas to remember. Dr. Marguilies believes that testing should be another opportunity to help ensure the student grasps the material and so offers helps to make sure they succeed.

I actually think providing the formulas is more "real world" because today everyone looks everything up. My son felt this was a bit like an open book test, with answers given to him in the "helps." I suspect that we are more likely to use the online test as a "review" and then follow up with the printed version for most units.  I will note that the "help" video only opens the first time the question is attempted, so not entirely "open book" because there is no replay. If they don't grasp the concept after the help, I would suggest going through the "Script" again, and then retaking the test.

If you'd like to learn even more, and check out some samples, visit the FAQ page , where you will find more information that details Dr. Margulies' philosophy, links to course outlines and more.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dragon Seed (A Litfuse Young Adult review)

A couple of years ago I reviewed The Ology by Marty Machowski, so I was pleased to be added to a Litfuse blog tour for Marty Machowski's new book, Dragon Seed. I'm always on the lookout for good young adult fiction, and I appreciate even more when it comes from a Christian Worldview. Teens of all ages tend to read a fair amount of dystopian/fantasy literature these days. Well, you can't get much more dystopian than a plot that includes spiritual warfare, but what a lot of folks may not understand it that it *isn't* fantasy! I suspect that many of them don't have a handle on the reality of the "shadows" in the background of their lives.

Dragon Seed offers a glimpse of what spiritual warfare might look like in both Biblical and Modern times with a story that moves between both eras, touching on the life of a semi-rebellious teen in today's world, and offering a "could-have-happened-this-way" fictional account of the demon-possessed men of the Gadarenes.

I have found myself talking about this story with teens in the past week or two, even though I read it a few weeks ago. It's a story that sticks with you, while creating a memorable "picture" of the principalities and powers with whom we wrestle.

The Bible Study at the back of the book offers the opportunity for some good conversations about pride and desire, how they seldom reap anything but trouble, and that humility and servanthood are the mark of true greatness. Not a message most teens want to hear, but the sooner they realize it is truth, the sooner they have the opportunity to become competent leaders in a world that is seriously lacking, and learn to be on the winning side of good vs. evil.

 From the publisher~
An angry teen, a desperate mother, a missing father, and a shadow lurking in the background.
Machowski pin1Things were going from bad to worse for Nick and his family. Tempted to run away after yet another argument with his mom, Nick receives a handwritten, leather-bound copy of an old book-a family legend passed down to him from his great grandfather. The book, called Dragon Seed, leads Nick deep into his family's history and introduces him to another angry young man who lived in the shadows (the shadows of the tombs). Like Nick, you'll be shocked to discover where he fits in this story of epic proportions!
This page-turning, young adult fiction story invites older children and teens into the real-life struggles of Nick. But it also ushers them into an imaginative exploration of the life of the young man Jesus saved as he wandered through the tombs. Best-selling author Marty Machowski uses both stories to introduce the reality of spiritual warfare and how its shadows affect and change us.
Machowski, a trusted teacher for children of all ages, presents a thoroughly biblical view of spiritual warfare that emphasizes the importance of humility and dangers of pride. Teens will be drawn to the story of Nick and his struggles and will learn, as they read, to also identify the shadows in their own life and turn from them. While the biblical teaching is evident throughout the narrative of Dragon Seed, Machowski also includes a twelve-lesson Bible study at the end of the book to help teens ground their understanding of spiritual warfare on biblical principles.
Youth pastors, leaders, and parents will also want to explore with teens the small group study at the end of the book with its unique take on spiritual warfare that emphasizes the biblical theme of humility. This is a perfect book to read with a group and discuss together the implications of Nick's struggles for their lives.

Marty Machowski is the Family Life Pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, where he has served on the pastoral staff for over 25 years. Marty leads Promise Kingdom, the children's ministry of Covenant Fellowship. He is the author of a systematic theology for children entitled "The Ology," "Long Story Short," "Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God," "The Gospel Story Sunday School Curriculum" and the companion "Gospel Story Children's Bible." He and his wife, Lois, and their six children reside in West Chester, Pennsylvania area.
Find out more about Marty at and connect with him on Twitter, as well as visit his page on Litfuse Publicity's site to learn more and read other reviews. 
If you're looking for a gripping read for your teen this summer, or you are looking for an interesting book/Bible study for your teen group or book club, take a look at Dragon Seed.

Home School in the Woods Make-A-State Activity Pak

Home School in the Woods has once again generously provided a variety of hands on history products to the Homeschool Review Crew for review. This time my youngest and I took a look at the Make-A-State Activity Pak, part of the Activity-Paks series. Crew members received other titles in the Activity-Paks series, as well as titles from the Time Travelers American History Series, the Lap-Paks, and others received the Timeline Trio, so if you've been wondering about any of these products, make sure you click through the link at the end of my post to read those reviews.
You can also check out my previous reviews for Home School in the Woods:
Activity Pak: New Testament (2009), Olde World Style Maps (2010), Great Empires Unit (2013), Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Egypt (2015), Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections (2016) Project Passport World History Study: Renaissance & Reformation (2017)

My first experience with Home School in the Woods was using their New Testament Activity Pak, which is still one of my very favorite resources (I love the Armor of God project!), so I was looking forward to using the new Make-A-State Activity Pak. It is a little different than the New Testament Pak in that it allows your child to make a Lap Book for each state in the union! Shew! That's a lot of bang for your buck right there! :)

Each State Lapbook will have some similarities and some differences. Some activities use the same template for each state that just need to be filled in with the pertinent information, and others are state-specific.

Topics covered (With printing hints)
  • State/Generic Template (print multiple copies at once to save time) 
    • Key State Facts
    • Origin of State Names
    • State Song
    • State Wildlife
    • Regions
    • Sports Teams
    • State Timeline
    • State Government
    • Famous People From... 
    • Native Tribes
    • State Industry/Agriculture/Climate
    • State History

    • Combination~ some components are Generic and can be printed in multiples, others are Specific and only need to be printed once
      • State Symbols
      • State Quarter
      • State Seal and Flag
    • State/Specific (Print one of each page) 
      • State Motto
      • State Landmarks
      • Recipes
      • State Vocabulary
      • State Geography
    We chose to start with the state I was born in, and will move on to the state we live in, and the state where my Eldest is going to go to college, OR possibly one of the Dakota's per Youngest's interest. We're also going on a cross country road trip this summer, so he may add some states to his interest pile. ;)There are a number of ways that the Make-A-State Activity Pak can be approached. You could study them in the order they entered the Union? By Region? Alphabetically?  You could simply study them as they come up in core subjects, or study them as you visit them if you are a homeschooling family on the go, or if you have relatives spread all over the place, you could start with the states of their residence.

    We received the downloadable file for this Pak, so when I want to get started on a state, I head to that folder, and click the Start.htm file which opens a browser window with a welcome and instructions on how to proceed. If you haven't ever used an Activity Pak before you will definitely want to go through the Introduction.


    From there, my habit has  been to print the papers needed for each activity. This can be a lengthy process (think an hour and a half for the entire project), but I like to get it done all in one fell swoop if possible. I enlisted the help of my eldest to load the printer with the colored and white paper and/or cardstocks required for each activity as they came up in the Project directions. Nice thing those directions! They tell you exactly what you'll need to complete each project. You'll see in my screen shot below that I had the project directions open. I also had the window you see on above on the left open on my computer that has all the pdf files. I find it easiest to work this way, because the directions tell me (how many) of which kind of paper to load for each activity. 

    I will mention that I took this printing opportunity to print a bunch of the pages that had multiple state information on them (ie: I printed ALL of the motto pages, so that next time I go to do a state, that will already be printed), and I printed 3 copies of all the generic project templates so that I would be ready to go with the next states that we decide to study. You can see that I ended up with a pretty hefty stack of printed pages!                                                    *Note~ one thing that I would appreciate, if any of these projects are revamped at all: Currently the pdfs for printing are all separate files, which is helpful at times. However, with the advent of smarter printers that can handle printing front and back, I would appreciate the ability to have a single pdf file with ALL the pages~ the few that require front and back printing took me sooooo much longer than they would have if I could have simply printed them "duplex." 

    Once the pages were printed... 
    I created the lapbook. The first project was to color the Montana postcard for the cover page, so we put that on right away, and then began to work through the activities. Our pace because it is summer-time was one or two projects/week, but if doing this during the school year, I would anticipate completing one/day. At that rate, you could complete one state in four weeks, as there are 20 activities for each one. 

    A generalized note about boys and girls and different ages~ it has been my experience that girls tend to be more interested in the crafty side of things~ cutting and pasting and coloring in, while boys tend to be more about getting the task done.

     My son enjoys doing some of the coloring, but he's not big on cutting and pasting, so I pre-assembled the majority of the projects that required a little bit of fancy work (to avoid frustration on his part), and just let him fill things in. (The Industry and State Gov't booklets are cool, with pop-up pieces! ~ not a terrible rendition of the Montana State House! :) ) 

    All this to say that if you have crafty kids, they are going to LOVE these paks, and mom will only be minimally involved~ but if not, plan to do a fair amount of cutting, gluing, and taping yourself (this isn't a problem for me, because I enjoy it!). If you have older kids (And yes, I do think this can be a valuable resource to supplement history or geography for an older student), you probably won't have to do anything beyond purchasing the paper and ink to complete it! :) 

    A bonus project is included~ Name that State!  ~ a file folder game. I haven't created this just yet, because I want to laminate portions of it, and I just haven't had time to get that done, but I hope to do so before we head out on our road trip~ because everyone can use a little help brushing up on their US Geography! :) You can see it in the bottom right of this sample graphic... 

    Really, for the amount of material included in this Pak, I think it is a HUGE deal. If you are planning to cover any states in detail, I highly recommend checking out Amy Pak's Make-A-State Activity Pak! 

    If you'd like to check out a mini project, Home School in the Woods now has an A' La Carte page with (currently) about 50 component projects/activities from larger packets available individually (fantastic for adding a little pizzaz to your current studies!). They are offering the Erie Canal project on that page for free if you use the code alacarte at checkout. It was specifically chosen because it is the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the canal this past week!

    Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
    You can visit Home School in the Woods on their social media pages ~ I'm sure Amy Pak would be delighted to hear from you! :)
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    Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
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    Thursday, June 29, 2017

    Hewitt Homeschooling~ Lighting Lit ~ British Mid-Late 19th Century

    One of *my* favorite things to review are Literature related, and two out of three children agree strongly! My Middlest isn't as fond of reading as his siblings, but I was very interested to see what he thought about Hewitt Homeschooling's British Mid-Late 19th Century Lighting Lit Guide. I chose this (one of 12 high school units being reviewed by the Crew) because I hoped it would offer him some literature, stories and poetry that would be a little more up his alley, with authors like Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Oscar Wilde. Also studied are works by Rudyard Kipling, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lewis Carroll, George Eliot,  and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

    Other Crew members reviewed Lightning Lit for grades 1, 2, or 3, "My First Report" or Grades 7 or 8 Lighting Lit sets as well as the above-mentioned high school sets. Be sure to click on the linky at the end of the review to see what they had to say. You can also check out my previous reviews for Shakespeare: Comedies and Sonnets (2014), and Early 19th Century American (2012) to see what my impressions were about those titles.

    One of the things that my son particularly appreciated about Hewitt's program is that while there are four physical books (See the complete set pictured below) that need to be available to complete the course, all of the shorter works are self contained in the bound Student Guide, which makes it more compact and efficient, with fewer things to be misplaced. ;)

    Because my son was just coming off a Novel Study, and it is summer-time, I chose to have him work through some of the portions of this guide that were a little lighter and/or self-contained~ Poetry and Short Story selections from Tennyson, Carroll, and Stevenson, which will give him a head start on his Literature requirements for the coming school year

    The High School Lightning Lit courses include a Teacher's Guide (Stapled, 3 hole punched papers that need to be put in a folder) with grading helps and rubrics as well as a couple of well-laid out schedules for Semester or Year-long coursework.

    Each Lesson includes an Introduction, Comprehension Questions, a Literary Lesson, and four to six writing exercises to choose from. If following the Hewitt Basic English, English, and English Honors programs, it is suggested that the student submit two written papers for each book-length work, and one for shorter selections. This can obviously be adjusted according to your student's proficiency and exercise choices.

    If correcting those written papers seems to be too daunting of a task, even with the included helps,  you may be pleased to know that Hewitt offers a Paper Evaluation service which some Crew members also reviewed (again, click through the link at the end to find those reviews).

    I particularly enjoyed going through the Lewis Carroll selections (Jabberwocky is one of my long-standing favorite poems) with my son, and I even learned something about Rhyme Scheme that I didn't know before (Or maybe that I forgot...?): that there are masculine and feminine  rhymes, and an explanation for words in poetry that *almost* rhyme like "again" and "plain" (Slant Rhyme).

    Here is a sample of my son's couplet writing
    Like Carroll, and possibly Ogden Nash,
    he has a droll sense of humor :

    The wish of a fish
    Was to eat from a dish

    While a frog in a bog
    Hoped to go for a jog

    And the bee's only plea
    Was to sip some green tea ...

    Once again, I thoroughly appreciate Hewitt's approach to teaching "college-level composition skills by responding to great literature." I will continue to use selections from their guides to flesh out my son's high school literature courses over the next two years.

    You can check out samples of the Student Guide and the Teacher Guide on their individual product pages.

    Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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    Wednesday, June 28, 2017

    Summer Reading Program Roundup, 2017

    Now that the official "school year" is over in most parts of the country, and Summer has officially arrived, Summer Reading programs are gearing up! I thought I would mention some of the ones that I know about to help you encourage your kiddos to read through the summer.

    Youngest a few years ago
    Summer reading program for kids in grades 1-6  (May 16 - September 5)
    Kids earn a free book when they fill out the B&N Summer reading journal with the 8 books they've read over the summer. Information required is Title, Author, and a sentence describing their favorite part of the story. Research the free titles available to earn to make sure there are books that are appropriate for your child/family situation.

    Youngest loves reading
    more than ever! 
    Feed Your Brain Reading program for kids PreK-High School (June 1-July 31). There aren't any of these stores local to us, but we may have to arrange to swing by one this summer when we go on our road trip to Montana! Kids can earn $5 in BookWorm Bucks for June and July. Those 14 and under just need to read 300 minutes each month, and teens earn BookWorm Bucks by reading and reviewing specific titles.

    Eldest ages ago.
    Can still be found reading...
    It's become a life-long habit for her! 
    Local Library Summer Reading Programs~ The reading program at our local public library has been one of the staples of our summer reading~ Make sure you check into yours. This year ours is using a new online log program that incorporates a story line and games. Should be interesting!

    TD Bank offers $10 to be added to a new or existing savings account for your K-5th grade child when they read 10 books over the summer. (Deadline, August 31, 2017)

    Have you found any other reading programs that you are planning to have your child participate in?
    I'm sure we'd love to hear about them, so feel free to comment! :)

    Thursday, June 22, 2017

    Unlock Math : Online Full Geometry Course

    My Middlest will be looking at the PSAT in the fall, and in order to do that he needs to get a bit of geometry under his belt (the path we took with my daughter was the natural progression of Algebra I and then Algebra II, however, that meant that we were not as prepared for the test as we might have liked). In light of that, the timing for our review of UnLock Geometry  for UnLock Math couldn't have come at a much better time. 

    Here is a screenshot of the first few units of UnLock Geometry~ there are 15 Units altogether. You can see the rest of this screen at the UnLock Geometry link above. :) 

    *Disclaimer~ To be fair, I will say we did have a couple of timing issues, totally unrelated to UnLock Math~ cyberspace has been eating emails that belong in my inbox (So it took me awhile to figure out that I hadn't received my log-in email~ not their issue~ I've had multiple emails not show up in the past month or so), and our internet has been frustratingly slow for almost e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g (we're talking *almost* pre-1990's get up and get a cup of coffee while waiting for one page to load slow...). Due to other commitments he could only look at "loading" wheels/bars for so long before we needed to move on to other things. I think we need a new router, but haven't had time to address that issue just yet because... life. 

    Now~ if this were a textbook review, I wouldn't need that disclaimer~ no techie issues to cause trouble there~ However, I also wouldn't have the benefits this program provides. I personally don't feel like geometry is a subject where I could inspire someone to love math. I can puzzle through to help figure out where answers went wrong, but I'm not a higher math teacher. Thankfully, with UnLock Math that doesn't really matter, because THEY provide the teacher, the computer interface (which is neat and clean, and easy to understand when your internet is working properly), and the assessment and grading ~ I really don't have to do anything beyond making sure that assignments are actually being completed.              
    UnLock Math provides a way to check and see what day each assignment was finished, how long it took, and how well the student did. There aren't many parental options beyond looking at (downloading and printing if you like) the grade-book that is linked to your student's account. I was actually taken aback at how little there was for *me* to do... 

    The one time we did run into a glitch (which again, took far longer than anticipated to get around to dealing with because of the timing of life, combined with agonizing internet speed), Matthew ( the founder of UnLock Math) happened to be  accessible via the online chat button at the same late hour that we were trying to troubleshoot. Amazing customer service, in my book! I understand that he is very quick to reply to messages sent as well, if he doesn't happen to be online at the same time. At any rate, he was able to quickly and easily solve the issue we had, and my son was able to unlock the next section in order to proceed. *Geometry is the newest course available, and as with any new program, I expect a bug or two to show up  for the first bunch or two of users. 

    In the screen above you see the basic set-up of the program~ 
    • Warm Up consists of... warm up problems ~ 5 quick, fairly simple problems to get your brain warmed up~ they take about 1 minute to complete. 
    • The big "UnLock" screen is where the video lesson is watched~ about 5 minutes (We decided on the earlier lessons that he could skip the video and continue to the practice problems (Opening them in another window), only returning to watch the video if he ran into something he didn't already know.
    • Practice Problems ~ 10 problems on the current topic ~ with explanations after most of them~ Here's an example where... oops~ made qt plural... (even though the math was right). The good news is that if there are silly mistakes made like this, your student will (hopefully) learn from them, and then have the opportunity to do another set of practice problems if they want to increase their score. 

    • Stay Sharp ~ another 10 questions on the topic ~

    • Challenge Question ~ This is the only section where there are no second chances- 1 question! 
    There are quizzes after every two lessons, and a Test at the end of the Unit.

    So far my son is doing well and appreciates the way the lessons are set up. I like that he isn't given too much at once. Occasionally the explanations are a little longer and complicated (for the way *my* brain works), but then they are distilled to the simplicity that I understand. (See the bolded sentence at the bottom of this screenshot...)
    I think that if he is diligent with this course through some of the summer and early fall he should be well prepped for most geometry questions on the PSAT this year. Time will tell... ;)

    Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 

    • Company: UnLock Math
    • Product: UnLock Geometry   
    • Ages: High School 
    • Price: $49 monthly or $299 annually (50% sibling discount)
      • Use my referral link to receive $50 off a one year subscription to any of the Algebra programs. Special link expires September 14, 2017
    You can visit UnLock Math on the following Social Media Pages:
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    Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say about Unlock Geometry as well as UnLock Pre-Algebra, UnLock Algebra I, and UnLock Algebra II.  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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