Thursday, May 11, 2017

Algebra for Breakfast (Elementary Age Review)

Youngest has just about finished his math program for the year, so the timing of our latest review, an algebraic math supplement from Algebra For Breakfast was pretty good. Let me tell you a little bit about it.

Bob Hazen has produced a number of video lessons for grades 3/4 and 5/6 to introduce them to algebraic concepts and help them to work comfortably with the unknown. Each lesson includes the video (sometimes as short as a minute or two, other times closer to 10 minutes in length), and more often than not a worksheet as well. You can see what the dashboard (where lessons are accessed) looks like below, and further down are some screenshots which also show where worksheets can be downloaded in each lesson.

There are 45 lessons that can be accessed in the 3/4 level (Which is the one we received to review). The lessons cover basic concepts such as identifying (or naming) known and unknown numbers and end with trinomial factoring and polynomial addition using the manipulative blocks included in the full membership pack. The blocks enable young children to experience the symbolic work of algebra in a concrete manner.  You can learn more about the topics included  and how it works directly at the AFB (Algebra For Breakfast) website. 

There are some definite plusses to this program~ *I* actually learned how to utilize skip counting songs (Which have baffled me from the very beginning of my homeschooling career~ I had never seen the value in them until using this program! What I missed all those years! :) ). 

The concrete expression of these algebraic functions using blocks should make doing algebra later on more accessible and successful. The progress in the 3/4 lessons is fairly incremental (slow).

A couple of cons to this particular program, which are more superficial, but I feel they should be mentioned. One of the benefits to homeschooling is the ability to complete lessons swiftly without "crowd control" and the negativity that tends to bring to the classroom. Unfortunately, because these are videos of a "live" class, much of that comes through. Bob repeats his instructions three times for almost everything he says in every lesson (Which is wearying to *me* although I admit that it could be helpful for a child who processes more slowly), and he often calls out kids in the class (who aren't even really misbehaving that I can tell) which makes all of us watching uncomfortable. This could easily be remedied if the same material were taught simply to the video audience, and not to an actual live class. I believe that would greatly enhance my overall impression of the program. However, another option is to watch the videos yourself and teach your student the material. 

An additional thing that might be an problem for some of those children with auditory processing disorders is that the classroom of children using manipulative blocks on plastic desk surfaces creates a noisy, squeaky background which could be more than simply annoying, if your student has a sensitivity to sound. Again, this can be solved by simply watching the videos yourself and teaching the material to your child. 

Other than the matter of the live class video negative, based on the lessons we used (and some that I skipped ahead to check out before teaching the concepts to my son), this seems to be a very solid program that has the potential of showing great benefit in later math studies.  

Oh, and one of the fun things that is part of the program is the inclusion of math games utilizing math dice. The games are fairly simple, but are a great way to practice moving numbers around in a variety of combinations while having fun. 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 

  • Company: Algebra For Breakfast
  • Product: Algebra For Breakfast
  • Ages: 3rd-4th grade (5th-6th also available)
  • Price: 
    • Complete Member Package $122 first month (For materials included below), $22/month thereafter
      • 164 piece Math Manipulatives
      • Skip Count CD 
      • Math Dice
    • Reduced Membership Package $42 first month (For materials included below. This package assumes that you already own the Mortensen Math Manipulatives) $22/month thereafter
      • Skip Count CD 
      • Math Dice
    • Content only package $22/month (This package assumes that you own a skip count music of some sort, the math dice, and the Mortensen Math Manipulatives, as they are all required to use and complete this course) 
You can visit Algebra For Breakfast on Facebook.

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say about this as well as the 5th-6th grade package. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Peggy Consolver - Author Shepherd, Potter, Spy--and the Star Namer

Being a Bibliophile who enjoys Historical Fiction, I am always appreciative of  new, well written stories, so I am delighted to write this review of Peggy Consolver - Author's Shepherd, Potter, Spy, and the Star Namer. This is the story (mainly) of Keshub, a young  (13 year old) Gibeonite shepherd boy during the time of Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land. In addition to following his activities, there are short segues into the Hebrew perspective as seen through the eyes of young Hosiah,  a nephew of the infamous Joshua. 

It is quite interesting to read the story as told from such a different viewpoint than that of the conquering Hebrew people of the Bible. Although in many ways, I am sure Keshub’s life is very similar to that of a young Israelite shepherd~ he has to train to protect his flock, and do many other chores as part of his family responsibilities. 

There is a fair amount of "quiet"action (I appreciate that this isn't a gory story!), and some subjects such as sibling rivalry and bullying are lightly touched upon in the course of the story, as the main character grows and matures. 

As the drama unfolds around Jericho, Keshub joins in spying on the Israelites and reporting back to his family and neighbors. His desire for adventure must certainly be filled, as God’s amazing miracles take place before his very eyes. 

Peggy Consolver spent time in Israel as a volunteer with the Associates for Biblical Research and it is obvious that her time spent on archaeological digs, handling ancient pottery from the locations written about in Joshua 9 and 10 gave her new insight into Ancient times. Her writing is filled with details that bring one right into the story, and bring those ancient, exciting Bible times to life. 

 Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
I  also want to mention that an interactive 45 page study guide with 13 units is also available. You can find a free sample on her website to get a feel for the content of the study guide. 

Peggy Consolver can be found on Facebook!  Go say "Hi!" :)

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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Monday, May 1, 2017

Apologia Educational Ministries Readers in Residence Volume 1 (Sleuth)

Some of my readers may remember my review of Apologia Educational Ministries' Writers in Residence last spring. This Spring we were given the opportunity to review the next installment in Debra Bells' series, Readers in Residence Volume 1 (Sleuth).

The set-up is very similar to the Writers in Residence curriculum, with a large, ring-bound student text/workbook and teacher manual.

This first volume includes six units, with One, Three, and Five using specific books, with units Two, Four and Six being "On Your Own" units using books of your own choosing. Because this curriculum is appropriate for grades 4-6, there are a variety of suggestions for the On Your Own units, and each is listed with suggested grade levels so that you can choose appropriately for your child. I appreciate this level of detail.

The three main units contain 4 modules each, focusing on the specific book genre and various reading tools, the follow-up on your own units are only one module, typically focusing on the same genre.

Unit 1: Sarah, Plain and Tall              Genre: Historical Fiction
Focus: Character Development, Inferences, Context Clues, Analysis, Theme

Unit 2: On Your Own Historical Fiction (Choose your own, or use one of the suggestions: Adam of the Road, The Bronze Bow, The Door in the Wall, The Golden Goblet, Johnny Tremain, Number the Stars, A Single Shard, The Sword in the Tree).
Focus: Character development, Comparison and Contrast

Unit 3: Charlotte's Web                    Genre: Animal Fantasy

Focus: Plot Development, Denotation, Connotation, Figures of Speech

Unit 4: On Your Own Animal Fantasy (Choose your own, or use one of the suggestions: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Mouse and The Motorcycle, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Perloo the Bold, Redwall, Stuart Little, The Trumpet of the Swan).
Focus: Plot, Comparison and Contrast

Unit 5: Because of Winn-Dixie       Genre: Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Focus: Setting, Figures of Speech, Turning Point, Theme

Unit 6: On Your Own Choice ~Any Fiction title (Choose your own, or use one of the suggestions: Caddie Woodlawn, In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, Kindred Souls, My Side of the Mountain, Pictures of Hollis Woods, The summer of Riley, The Wheel on the School).
Focus: Setting, Comparison and Contrast

Because another curriculum I use included Sarah, Plain and Tall, I decided to do what we homeschoolers do best, and tweak it to work for me. I didn't want youngest to miss out on many of the focus lessons that were covered in the first unit, as they build on one another and reference previous lessons, so we worked through those that weren't exactly title specific first.

I love that this manual/text/workbook includes a suggested schedule ~ it made it very easy for me to keep track of which lessons we had gone over since I wasn't going through the first Unit in order.

Here are some of the workbook pages- a few youngest filled out, others he dictated to me as I didn't mind being his scribe. 

Each Module includes Word Sleuth vocabulary sections, Aha! sections that cover comprehension of the story, Ruminate sections that help the reader learn to connect the story to their own lives, in addition to sections that relate to the focus topics for each module. One other section that sets Readers in Residence apart from many typical reading programs is the Sowing Seeds section. Sowing Seeds looks at the book with a Scriptural worldview and poses discussion questions that relate the book to the reader's life and both of those to passages in the Bible. Love this part! 

A Ruminate section for an On Your Own Historical Fiction Selection
This would be a fantastic curriculum to use in a co-op setting or book club setting, which is actually highly recommended in the manual. There are suggestions for book club party/gathering/get togethers for each of the three assigned books as well as a final gathering when the entire workbook is completed. There are suggestions for themes, food, activities and of course, discussion questions.

I think that any student who completes this Readers in Residence course will come away with tools that will last a lifetime as they learn not only to enjoy "story" but to also appreciate the crafting of the story by the authors and illustrators. They will also learn to relate what they read to their own lives, no matter the era or setting of the story.

For more information, you can visit the Apologia Blog where you can find a free sample download of the first three modules and more FAQs related to the curriculum.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Visit Apologia on their Social Media Pages:
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest 

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