Thursday, August 2, 2018

Home School in the Woods Hands-on History Lap-Paks

I have been reviewing Home School in the Woods products for close to a decade now (!), and I'm always pleased with the finished product. Amy Pak offers such beautifully illustrated hands-on projects which delight my eye every time I look at them. They are also something that helps make each learning experience memorable for my children. This time around I was chosen to review the 20th Century in America Hands-on History Lap-Pak.

We were interested in this particular Hands-on History Lap-Pak because my Youngest is definitely a history buff (Like his grandfather before him☺), and he was keen to do something that included events like the stock market crash of 1929 and the space race, not to mention the world wars. We definitely chose to focus on some of the projects that were high on his interest scale for the review, but there are MANY other projects involved.

The Lap-Pak is a complete history study that includes files to print the text as a booklet or in binder form, complete instructions for lap-pak assembly, resources for further reading, as well as photos of each completed project within the lap-pak. For our purposes (Running low on ink and funds...), we read the text from the computer screen instead of printing the booklet.

Here is what is covered in this Lap-Pak:

World Wars                                                  Other Conflicts
Political Events                                             Social Movements
Modern Missionaries                                    Disasters
The Stock Market Crash of 1929                 Science and Invention in the 20th Century
Medical Advancements                                The Space Race
Art Movements of the Modern Era               Accomplishments in Architecture
20th Century Authors and their Literature    Music of the Century
Transportation in America                            News and Media of the 20th Century
People of Interest                                         Diner Menu: "Dining through the Decades"
Fashion through the Decades                      Slang Terminology
Timeline of the 20th Century
Sports Figures Who Made Their Mark in History

Disasters project
Illustrating the fact that EVERY education has some holes~ we have a lifetime to fill some of them in, I even learned a few tidbits while going through a few of the lessons with him. When working on the Disasters of the 20th Century project, I realized that I don't recall hearing about the deadly Tri-State tornado of 1925 in school. If reading about it independently I might have thought that it was the inspiration for Frank L. Baum's Wizard of Oz story (not true ;) ). While the book pre-dates the disaster by 25 years, I suspect the massive tornado might have been the inspiration for turning Baum's book into a movie 14 years later as the country climbed out of the Great Depression.

I was also delighted to realize that many facts have stuck with my son, and he sees history as a whole.

When discussing Accomplishments in Architecture project I wanted to see if he could identify the 4th Accomplishment with only the simple hint of "Borglum." He immediately recalled that Borglum was the architect/artist behind Mount Rushmore, which we visited two summers ago on a road trip to Montana for a family reunion. Hands-on History really sticks with kids!

He was also able to give me a little factual information about the Panama Canal that he gleaned from reading the old Tom Swift fiction series. ☺

One of the projects that I am looking forward to completing with Youngest is one of my favorite Amy Pak styled projects, the Science and Invention Pie book. This is such a fun finished project!

As you can see there are a wide variety of projects and booklets that when completed create a memorable experience and something really fun to share with friends and family members that are curious about your homeschooling activities, not to mention something impressive to include in your year-end portfolio.

Some of the projects we completed~ waiting to finish them all to put them in the Lap-Book

I have only one constructive criticism that I have mentioned in previous reviews, that I will mention here again. The pdf files for printing everything (except the text booklet) are provided as individual page files, as seen in the screenshot to the right. I would DEARLY love to see each project as one complete file, which would be a huge time saver. Instead of having to print each page individually, each project could be printed with one click. Additionally, as printers with duplex printing capabilities seem to be the norm rather than the exception these days, for those projects that are printed on both sides of the paper, it would make life soooo much easier to be able to simply print duplex from a complete file, instead of reloading the cassette (Hopefully with the first printed page oriented correctly =p ) and printing each side individually. *My printer is not conveniently located, so the current process isn't nearly as efficient as I would like.

That being said, I really DO love Amy Pak's products, even if I can see some room for improvement in the delivery of the products.

I mentioned at the beginning of the review that I have had personal experience with many other Home School in the Woods products. Here  is a list of the other reviews that I have done over the years, for a variety of their products (At the end of my review there is a link that will bring you to the Crew Reviews, so that you can see the products through someone else's eyes):
2009 New Testament Activity Pak *Note: my introduction to Home School In the Woods is still one of my favorite products~ the Fruit of the Spirit and Armor of God projects are so very beautifully done.
2010 Olde World Style Maps
2013 Hands-on History Activity Study: Great Empires
**2015 Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Egypt
2016 Hands-on History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections
**2017 Project Passport World History Study: Renaissance and Reformation
2017 Hands-on History Activity-Pak: Make-A-State
2018 Home School in the Woods À La Carte Projects *We reviewed the games Westward Ho and The Fight for Freedom (WWII) 

** The newest Project Passport World History Study, which completes the Project Passport collection, ANCIENT ROME is now available and then entire Project Passport World History Studies Collection is now available as a downloadable bundle.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Visit Amy Pak and Home School in the Woods on FacebookTwitter,  Google+,  and  Pinterest.

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.

Hands-on-History, Project Passport, À La Carte Timelines and Time Travelers {Home School in the Woods Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer
#hsreviews #historystudies #worldhistory
#americanhistory #historytimelines #historycurriculum

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Northwest Treasures ~ Dinosaurs and the Bible (An online Geology classreview)

Northwest Treasures is a nifty little niche company (based in Washington state) that offers online and live classes in geology, as well as field trips and educational kits, all with a Biblical Worldview. We were offered two of the online classes to choose from for the purposes of this review: Dinosaurs and the Bible, and Geology and Apologetics, as well as Taking the Mystery Out of Geology. I chose Dinosaurs and the Bible, as I figured it would have the broadest appeal for our family, although we are all interested in Geology, rockhounding and such. (I seem to have passed on my interest which was definitely nurtured by growing up in the fossil and rock rich state of Montana, with a history buff for a father, and a rockhound for a grandfather. ;) )

Here is a trailer to give you a feel for this particular class:

Trailer of the Dinosaurs and the Bible class from Patrick Nurre on Vimeo.

Each lesson runs around 20 minutes, and comes with a worksheet (Set of 8-13 questions) to check comprehension and retention of the information found in the lesson. These worksheets are a little tricky to locate, so here are some instructions (that I think could be included on the course page).
When you are logged in (on a computer), there is a list of lessons with a "watch" button following each one. It isn't clearly obvious that the lessons themselves are clickable links that bring you to an overview of the lesson and links to the worksheet, and answer key (the answer key only needs to be downloaded one time, as it covers all 6 lessons). 

The final lesson also includes a 15 question multiple choice exam that covers information from the entire course.

The lessons are pretty much Vimeo powerpoint slide presentations (We watched on our TV via the Vimeo Roku channel, but you can also watch in a browser on your computer or tablet), with narration/instruction by Patrick Nurre. Through each of the videos, Patrick discusses the differences between Secular Paleontology and Christian Geology, always bringing it back to the framework of the Bible, as well as pointing out inconsistencies promoted by Evolutionary theorists and noting when Science becomes confused with Philosophy...

One of the things I particularly appreciated was the placement of the scientists in historical and geographical context, which helped to explain some of their philosophy and personal opinion/conjecture. The lessons progress from general discussions of the modern secular view of dinosaurs (and how it came about), their classification, to discussions of the catastrophic events that would have caused their demise and fossilization. All very interesting and intriguing for both my 11-year-old and myself. The lessons are:

  • How We Got Our Modern View of the Dinosaurs 
  • The Classification of Dinosaurs
  • The Great Dinosaur Rush
The first three segments are more historical/technical aspects of the discussion, the terms, and classification. The last three highlight the Biblical answer of "how" the extinction occurred, and the fossils were created... something that eludes those who hold a secular view, but so simply explained in the Bible. 
  • The Extinction of the Dinosaurs
  • Dinosaurs and the Ice Age
  • Fossils, Age, and Soft Tissue
I particularly enjoyed the last two lessons, as they referenced my home state, Yellowstone National Park, the Gallatin Valley, and other National Parks we visited last year as a family including Devil's Tower and the Petrified Forest. I grew up hunting for fossils (Although sadly I don't know what happened to the trilobites and others that were discovered on hikes and outings as a kid) and petrified wood. Thankfully I still have the chunks of petrified wood that I found as a kid in the Gallatin Valley. 

my petrified wood, crystals, and a piece of jewelry created by my rockhounding grandfather

I mentioned the worksheets at the beginning of this review, and I would suggest that if you are using them with kids on the younger age that they are printed up and used as a note-taking exercise while watching the video. Older students could use them as quizzes...

Taking the Mystery Out of Geology clarifies 13 terms that are frequently used in the field of Paleontology and Geology and shows how Science, History, and the Bible really do go together. 

As mentioned at the end of each of the video lessons, Northwest Treasures offers kits and hands-on material to enhance the lessons, and they also offer field trips to those fortunate enough to live in the Northwest, and/or those who have funds to travel for school. My father had moved out to the Glendive area where the Dinosaur and Agate Expedition tour takes place, and I would highly recommend anyone able to participate to do so. The Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum doesn't get the press of the Creation Museum, but it is actually a larger facility and extremely close to the dinosaur site digs. We found it fascinating when we were there in 2016, and would have loved the opportunity to go to the fossil fields (weather and time constraints did not permit...). 

Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum

I understand that they offer some classes on, and while I haven't personally used/checked those out, if you have a membership and are interested in Geology, I expect they are well worth checking out. ;) 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Visit Northwest Treasures on their Social Media Channels on Facebook and Pinterest 

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say about this and the other two courses. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.

Online Geology Classes{Northwest Treasures Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer
#hsreviews  #geology #dinosaurs #apologetics

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Progeny Press ~ The Green Book - eGuide (Upper Elementary Literature guide review)

Over the years I have been blessed to review a number of Progeny Press Literature Guides, for a variety of ages. The vast majority of them (as you will see when I list links to them towards the end of my review) have been for the High School crowd, and then the Middle School ages, but Progeny Press also caters to the elementary ages (I've reviewed one title from Lower Elementary), and my latest review is from the Upper Elementary level, The Green Book - eGuide.

I probably would not have known about The Green Book by Jill Paton Walsh if it were not for this review, and we would have been missing out! My Youngest LOVES to read and may have been put off by the slimness of this volume (he goes for books in the 300-page realm) if left to his own devices. However, good things come in small packages is not true simply for girls and little boxes. This is a gem of a story with many good themes to be pulled out, with the help of Progeny Press and Rebecca Gilleland.

One of my favorite things about Progeny Press (that you will find repeated in each of my reviews) is the lens through which each work of literature is viewed. In addition to learning vocabulary and completing comprehension questions, students are challenged to "Dig Deeper" and discuss the story and the characters through a Christian Worldview. To see how choices and consequences of the characters line up (or not) with the Bible, and how they might apply to our lives today.

So, what exactly will you find in Progeny Press' The Green Book - eGuide?
You will receive two files to download. The actual study guide is an interactive adobe file in which your student can type their answers (or you can print the pages up). Note~ if you have a Mac, you need to open the file in Adobe, not Preview, or it won't work... at least with my old, un-updated Mac... I have no idea how it performs on a non-apple product.


  • Note to the Instructor on how to use the guide
  • Synopsis of the Story
  • Background information on the Author of the Story/Novel
  • Prereading Activities
  • Chapter-by-Chapter guide broken down into
    • Vocabulary work~ (Which takes a number of forms from defining words to matching words and definitions to crossword puzzles and wordsearches~ not the same thing for each chapter. I appreciate the variety!)
    • Questions~ covering content
    • Think About the Story~ comprehension questions, and literary elements (simile, metaphor, foreshadowing, etc...)
    • Dig Deeper~ Worldview questions, discussions, and application
    • Optional Projects and Activities~ these range from discussions to writing assignments, related science experiments, hands-on projects (including art and cooking to name a couple), field trip suggestions, etc...   
  • Overview (Discussing the plot, conflict, themes, etc..) This particular guide also includes a Venn Diagram and a crossword puzzle. 
  • After You Read Projects that include science, art, cooking, research and writing, performances, etc... 
  • Additional Resources ~ lists of books and links to extension activities
Answer Key
The second file is the Answer Key for the Instructor, pictured above. 

As I mentioned above, The Green Book is a slender volume (69 pages), but you can get at least six or seven weeks of in-depth Literature study out of it, and I suspect your student will adopt the story as a favorite (this has happened with almost every story for which we have used Progeny Press guides)! Although all the extras (science, cooking, art, and other hands-on activities) are great, I feel that this affinity for the books often comes about possibly as a result of the application of the story to our lives from a Christian perspective, in addition to the selections being quality stories on their own.

In this particular instance, many of the activities included for The Green Book were things that we have already explored~ making a journal (from an art review), visiting the aquarium (Jellyfish!), spinning fibers, cooking, learning about maple syrup, making an oil lamp... so I thought I would include some photos of those aactivities that we were able to relate back to, even if we didn't actually do them this time around. It's always nice to be able to connect past activities to a current read. :)

If you would like to check out some of my other reviews they are listed below...

2012 Pride and Prejudice and the Bronze Bow High School and Middle School
2013 The Hobbit and Treasure Island High School and Middle School
2014 The Hunger Games and The Giver  High School and Middle School
2015 Sam the Minute Man Lower Elementary
2015 To Kill a Mockingbird High School
2016 The Scarlet Pimpernel  High School

My son really enjoyed reading The Green Book, and I feel that this is a very valuable literature unit, that would be a good addition to any upper elementary homeschool study.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Visit Progeny Press on Social Media: 

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say about this and the other titles reviewed (One from each level, Early Elementary reviewed The Josephina Story Quilt, more Upper Elementary reviews of The Green Book, Middle School reviews of The Scavengers, and the High School selection of Perelandra. Other than The Josephina Story Quilt the rest of the titles were new to me!
As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.


New Study Guides for Literature From a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer
#hsreviews #Literature #StudyGuides #UnitStudies #ReadingComprehension

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Master and His Apprentices (An Art History Curriculum Review)

Having an interest in Art myself, and Eldest currently being an Art Education major in college, I would have loved to have had a resource like The Master and His Apprentices: Art History from a Christian Perspective for her to have used before she entered college. Because she had never taken formal art classes, when her classes in Visual Literacy and Methods and Theories of Art History rolled around having the solid background offered by The Master and His Apprentices would have been handy. Side note: she instantly recognized the piece used for the cover, as it had been included in a lecture about Beauty and Quality, and was used as an example of the Sublime, while it was a work with which I was not acquainted.

Because I personally have historically appreciated more art from the 1700's and beyond, I found The Master and His Apprentices to be very informative, as the bulk of the material covers Art from the Ancients through the Baroque Era, around the 17th Century, with only one chapter addressing art from the 1600's and beyond. While I was already familiar with some artists, I really enjoyed learning more through Gina Ferguson's text. It is well written, in a conversational style that fairly easily captures the reader's interest. It is NOT dry or dull and is intended for a high school student to be able to complete in a more or less self-directed manner, although it is also appropriate for classroom instruction. 

We reviewed the Digital version of the textbook and teacher guide, which have been formatted to be conveniently and economically available for printing by the home user (Following the copyright license guidelines printed in the front of the book), but the text is generally intended to be viewed on a screen, which can be really nice if you want to zoom in for more detail on the work being discussed. From a practical point of view, while the print is a little small when viewed on a kindle fire (for my older eyes~ my daughter had no problems with it at all), it was easier than zooming and scrolling side to side or up and down on my 13-inch computer screen. 

The Master and His Apprentices is definitely written from a Christian World View, and the Introduction and first chapter make that eminently obvious. After all, who is clearly the Master Artist, but God, Himself? He created the originals of all of the things that artists (His apprentices) attempt to copy in their endeavors ~ light, water, color, clouds, vapor, trees, mountains, flowers... you get the point. Gina uses observations from science, history, archaeology, Scripture, and even math to highlight the greatest works of art and draw our attention to them before she delves into the works of the "apprentices."

My daughter appreciated the organization of the text, which is set up in chronological order, with the artists being highlighted individually within their period. She also loved the fact that there were timelines laying out the placement of major works of art with concurrent major Biblical and World events. 

The main periods covered: 

  • Creation
  • Ancient Cultures
    • Ancient Near East
    • Egyptian
    • Aegean
  • Classical Antiquity
    • Early Greek
    • Etruscan
    • Roman
  • Middle Ages
    • Early Christian and Byzantine
    • Medieval and Islamic
    • Romanesque
    • Gothic
  • Renaissance
    • Proto-Renaissance
    • Early Italian Renaissance
    • High Italian Renaissance
    • Northern Renaissance
  • Baroque Era and Beyond
    • Baroque
    • Rococo to Today
    • Global Highlights
The Appendix is also rich in information including:
  • Six essays relating to Art, Christianity, and Biblical history
  • A complete timeline of all the works mentioned in the book, along with major Biblical/World events
  • A page of terms used to describe art
  • Pieces By Location, which is a nifty little "art travel guide" for the pieces mentioned in the book~ if you are traveling and want to see a piece you read about in person, this list will help you accomplish that! 
If using this for a high school curriculum(Art History/Art Appreciation), the Teacher Guide offers a very complete syllabus/time schedule, discussion questions for each chapter, and quarterly quizzes (that are somewhat cumulative in nature~ the first quiz has about 34 questions, the fourth and final quiz has over 60 questions).

Your student will learn to recognize famous works, the style, medium, and technique used along with information about the artists (when known). With the visuals of the artwork, there is an added hook to help them remember their Biblical and World History events. 

In reading through some chapters fully, and skimming through others again, I was very

pleased with the style of writing, the information imparted, and the overall layout of the book. This is a solid art history text that avoids graphics that many parents may find objectionable while still covering a majority of the major works, how they fit with history and theology.  The screenshot snippet that you can see on the right is a good illustration of some of the history and theology included that takes place during the discussion of particular works of art. 
I greatly appreciate also that it doesn't include any secular humanist ideologies or "subjective expository" so frequently found in secular art history resources. 

If you would like to get a feel for the content and set-up of the pages in the book, Gina has provided a number of sample pages that are much better quality than anything I could provide here, so please do go check them out! 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
You can visit The Master and His Apprentices on Facebook and Pinterest

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.
Click to read Crew Reviews
Crew Disclaimer
#hsreviews  #ArtHistory #ArtAppreciation #ChristianArtHistory #HomeschoolArtHistory

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Review of Persuasive Writing and Classical Rhetoric: Practicing theHabits of Great Writers

Writing is one of the more difficult subjects to tackle, in some respects because it is both subjective and objective, so I always appreciate the chance to check out a new curriculum. This Spring Silverdale Press LLC offered a few of their products to the TOS Review Crew, including a number of Unit Studies for grades K-12 as well as Persuasive Writing & Classical Rhetoric: Practicing the Habits of Great Writers for high school students. We were selected to review the Writing Course.

The material, which is a full 36-week course is offered as a digital download, and comes with four parts:
  • Rhetoric Lesson Book: each Lesson is written directly to the student (Not requiring a parent/teacher for learning), with an overview of the week, a schedule, interesting, instructive text, ending with a "Profile in Rhetoric" featuring some of the greatest writers. 
  • Rhetoric Reader: includes excerpts from the authors featured in the "Profile in Rhetoric" for the lesson. 
  • Rhetoric Workbook: Also written towards the student (obviously), with four parts:
    • Review questions from the lesson 
    • Review questions from the Reader 
    • A Writing Exercise that relates to the lesson
    • A Writing Prompt for a 500-word essay each week, again relating to the lesson.
  • Rhetoric Answer Book: Answers to the review questions from the workbook. 
The authors directly suggest that the students use the workbook to "correct" their own papers, but that it is very important for the parent/teachers to discuss and give feedback on the writing exercises and the weekly essay. A rubric has been included in the front of the answer book to assist with this, and to help the students see what is expected in their writing. 

This is very much a "Classical Education" approach to Rhetoric, based upon three main habits the authors focus on, Writing, Reading, and Thinking on a regular basis.

After two introductory lessons, the students focus on three stages of Classical rhetoric, with 14 lessons covering "Invention" including The Subject, Stasis Theory, The Claim, Inartistic Appeals, Logical Appeals (Deductive and Inductive), Emotional Appeals, and Ethical Appeals. This is followed by 7 lessons in "Arrangement" which include The Introduction, Statement of Facts, Confirmation, Refutation, and Conclusion. The final stage is "Style" and there are 7 lessons here as well, that speak to Correctness in Words and Sentences and also Punctuation, Clarity in Character and Actions, Zapping Clutter, Ornamentation and Propriety. The final 5 lessons discuss "real world" writing including knowing the audience, what real writers today do, pitching your work, and dealing with rejection.

This is a very complete course of instruction, broken down into step-by-step details, which should allow your student to become a successful writer.

The Author Profiles in the Lessons, and the works in the Reader cover a wide variety of people including Patrick Henry and Alexander Hamilton, William Wilberforce and John F. Kennedy, Dorothy Sayers and Jane Austin, Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill, and E.B. White and Augustine, among others. Your student will be introduced to some of the facts of their history, as well as some of the things they were known for in their writing. I found this to be an interesting aspect of this curriculum, and appreciate the personalization of the lesson being taught.

A portion of the lesson book pdf layout.
You can see where the profiles are, with photos of the featured writer, as well as other illustrations.
From a purely aesthetic point of view, the lesson book and reader are set up very well with color illustrations, bold text, bullet points and spacing that make it easy to see the organization of the text/lesson. My son appreciated accessing the text electronically, rather than having one more set of books to keep track of (Which is a little bit of an issue when you live in a "reviewing" homeschool...).

He also thought that the lessons were a very reasonable length, and felt that the daily writing (whether answering questions, doing the exercises, or the longer essay) worked well as a way to improve his skills. The "Great Writers Write" point at the beginning of the book appears to have stuck.

The Workbook was not set up in a way that worked well with my son, however, again from a purely aesthetic point of view (not speaking to the content here at all). As is often the case with workbooks, the lines for the answers often leave too much space, or not enough. I personally would prefer to have the workbook be a streamlined set of questions, that wouldn't take as much ink and paper to print, (Or viewing them on the screen with the questions from each section on a single page) with answers written in a spiral or composition book, but that is purely my opinion.

You can download a sample from the product page linked below.
Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Visit Silverdale Press on their Social Media Pages:
Facebook   Twitter  Pinterest  

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 Unit Studies mentioned at the beginning of the reivew. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
Click to read Crew Reviews
Crew Disclaimer
#hsreviews #HomeschoolWritingCurriculum


I love trading in points(450), earned during normal searches, for ($5) Amazon Gift Cards!


Related Posts with Thumbnails