Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks


TOS Crew members were given the option to review one of 5 lapbooks from A Journey Through Learning:
  • Amphibians
  • Autumn
  • Desert
  • Parables of a King
  • or Reptiles.
Being that we live in New England, and having fall right around the corner, we decided to complete the Autumn Lapbook/Unit Study. (These units are able to be spread out over a week or a month... your choice!)

I won't bore you with the details of malfunctioning printers, and icky weather(making some of the activities in a fall lapbook difficult).... but the photos of my lapbook will show that even * if * your printer decides that it is no longer using red ink, you can still "make do", and come up with a fun product! (I did have to adjust and print a lot in grayscale, on colorful paper to make the lapbook more colorful.... I mean, come on... it's autumn... red and orange leaves, pumpkins......{sigh})

Autumn  Lapbook with Study Guide

OK.... so on with the nuts and bolts of a Journey Through Learning Lapbook!
Just a quick informational note... the lapbooks are available as:
  • Instantly downloadable pdfs ($13)
  • CD-Rom ($14)
  • and Printed ($21) formats (hmmmm the printed version would have come in handy for me this time... who knew??)
This lapbook/unit study is perfect for a novice to lapbooking! Everything is included and well laid-out, so that you are almost guaranteed to end up with a pleasing product. There are:
  • Study Guide pages with enough information for your children to be able to complete theMini-books(no scouring for extra books, unless you WANT to!)
  • Full color mini-books, ready to be cut out and assembled (each mini book follows the study guide page that goes with it in the pdf~ all nice and easy and in order!)
  • Directions on assembling each mini book~ Very helpful
  • Instructions and visuals (in two places!) for placing the mini-books in each folder~ Excellent! (Your older kids should be able to do this mostly on their own, and if you're helping younger child, having it laid out for you is a huge time saver!)
There are also helpful hints and tricks, suggestions on how to go about the study, options for how to schedule your time, a table of contents, a Bibliography, an "Additional Reading" list, and Enrichment Pages:
  • Book Log- A fun place to keep up with extra reading!
  • Biography Book Report (if included)- Learn more about the people you are studying!
  • NICK Notes-An easier way to organize information
  • Outline Form-A little bit harder way to organize information. (This may not work for all study guides. Some study guides may not be detailed enough to use the Outline Forms. Use only as it works for your child.)
  • What I Have Learned-Pages for narration: There are two versions to choose from: Younger-includes a place to draw a picture. Older-for children who are capable of more writing and narration.
A Journey Through Learning currently offers 48 lapbooks/lapbook templates, and they are mostly intended for the 2nd-7th grade age range. They are available in the following categories:
I found this to be an extremely easy way to add a little seasonal information to our school time. While the Autumn lapbook wasn't as "academic" as a couple of the other choices, it was fun and interesting, and my kids learned a few things. I also appreciated that it was a group effort to put it together, with one child reading while the other cut out the mini-books. Mom helped assemble, and they took turns filling out information. Chalk one up for cooperation!

I am looking forward to checking out one of the more academic titles(science-ish) next... the studies look good, the lapbooking is relatively painless, and the final product makes for a great study/review item.

On another side note.... don't let the two year old get into the lapbook, unless you've chosen to print on card-stock, or another slightly sturdier paper... ;) Brads and flaps are just waaayyyyy too interesting! ;)
Here are some photos of our finished product:

Autumn Lapbook cover by you.
The Cover~
First folder by you.
First folder opening... I printed the
"Study Guides" 1/2 size, 2 to a sheet,
and made a little pocket to hold them
(Big red sqare), which I glued to the
back of the 3rd folder.

first and third folders by you.
First and 3rd Folders open
all three folders by you.
All three folders open

If you are thinking of doing a unit study on a particular topic, and would like to try lapbooking (Or if you want to make your lapbooking easier), I suggest you check out A Journey to Learning, to see if they have something that strikes your fancy!

Visit the TOS Crew Blog to check out some of the JTL lapbook experiences of other Crew members.....


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Nutrition 101: Choose Life!

Nutrition 101: Choose Life! from Growing Healthy Homes LLC is a very thorough nutrition course (or tome~ it's HUGE! 448 pages) that doubles as an anatomy course! The basic text is divided into 6 units, with each unit covering two specific areas of the body and the nutrients required to help those parts of the body function as the healthy, efficient machine that God designed it to be.
  • The Brain and Nervous System
  • Digestion and Elimination
  • Respiration and Olfactory
  • Muscular and Skeletal Systems
  • Cardiovascular and Immune Systems
  • Endocrine System and Emotions
Teaching style: UNIT Study!
The material in Nutrition 101 is intended to be used for K-12, which means that there is a vast amount of information included. If your teaching style adapts material easily, you will probably love Nutrition 101. If you prefer a more "scripted" approach to teaching and have younger children, this text may be more difficult for you to use. The "Text" portion of the course is NOT leveled by age. I found it helpful to highlight the portions that I felt were appropriate for my children when reading through the text. I did find it useful that the activities/discussions following each section were divided into age-appropriate sets.

  • LOTS of information
  • Helpful charts, HUGE Appendices
  • Lists of "Good Foods/Bad Foods" for each system's nutritional needs
  • Colorful text
  • Biblical base
  • Recipes that apply to the nutrition/anatomy topic being covered. ie: when learning about the brain and good fats/bad fats, you can emphasize that section with the included recipe for guacamole. (Avocado is a GOOD fat... YUM!)
  • I have to say that I struggled with certain aspects of this course, and the sporadic"tone" that I read in it. I am fairly health conscious, but I tend to be more in the camp of "eat these things because they will help a, b, or c be healthy and function correctly" vs. "if you don't eat these things then you might end up with x, y, or z..." This was what I felt through many of the portions of the study that we went through. I may be more than normally sensitive to this, because I have a child that is going through the "Worry about everything" stage and I was reading through the lens of his current perspective.
  • I also struggle with courses or books that are somewhat dogmatic in their stance. I felt that sometimes the authors were in some measure forcefully stating their opinions on nutrition, which others may or may not totally agree with. *This was not a constant, just something that "nudged" me upon occasion~ Worth mentioning, but not a "deal-breaker" when considering whether or not to use this for a curriculum.
  • In general, I felt it was a little difficult to distill the information for the younger student.
  • $79.95 for an e-book on a CD-ROM (Similar to the e-version I received for review purposes)
  • $99.95 for a hardcopy printed book
  • $129.95 for the book and CD-ROM together

Overall opinion:
I do feel that Nutrition 101: Choose Life! is a profitable and educational book, particularly when being used with an appropriate age. I would consider this a great course for 9-12th grade specifically (Teenagers tend to be past that "worry-wort" stage and are able to discuss their opinions when faced with certain statements). I wouldn't purchase it exclusively for K-4th grade students, but I can see that it's inclusion of activities for the younger children can be a boon to mothers with a wider age-spread than that of my own.

For many other opinions please hop on over to see what other members of the TOS Crew had to
say about this prodigious tome on the physiology of the Nutrition of the human body.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

StudyPod Book Holder

Well, here's a fun item we were given to review~ It isn't a curriculum but it *is* an aid.
The StudyPod is a nifty little gadget with a variety of uses. This neat, compact "book" unfolds into a versatile tool that can hold a book, notebook (like right now, while I am transcribing my notes on this review to the computer), or paper in a vertical "Display Position" . This is ideal for transcription work at the computer, displaying art work, holding cookbooks open (Have you see "The Best Recipe" book? It's HUGE, and the StudyPod worked like a charm, holding it open for me!), and I imagine it would work well for holding a music book open as well, although I didn't have an opportunity to try that yet. Oh, and the "page support arms" that hold the pages open look quite "delicate", and treat your books well, but are sturdy enough to hold the book securely with the pages wide open.


There is a little net pocket which one could use to stash a pen, a small notebook, a usb flashdrive, etc... I will say that this wasn't as useful for OUR use at home, but I could see it coming in handy for those who are schooling "out and about" alot.

In addition to being able to hold my notebook, balanced on a stack of cd's and DVD's by my computer while I am typing this out, this nifty little book-holder has been used to keep my daughter's Saxon math text book up off the table, giving her more elbow room and helping to alleviate "hunched shoulders".

I've used it to hold our Mystery of History Volume II text open on a side table so that I could sit in the nearby rocking chair with my toddler on my lap while reading to the the olders. The StudyPod handled that large text admirably, and kept my toddlers fingers from crumpling pages. Thumbs up all around! (Even entire hands, since they are "Book-free"! :) )

I would say that my favorite benefits of the StudyPod are:
  • The relief of neck/shoulder stress when bending over a text. It is so much better to be able to sit up straight and have easy visual access to the page. On the StudyPod website they mention that fact that when your posture is correct, the oxygen flow to your brain and muscles is improved, which can in turn improve your focus and attention span!
  • There is also the relief of hand/finger stress, particularly when compared with simultaneously trying to hold a large text open with a wiggly child in one's lap.
  • I appreciate the compact folding and storage feature. I have other "Decorative" book-holders, but they don't fold up neatly to sit on a shelf, or throw in a bag. I can see this coming in handy for those who teach in co-ops, and want to have their text open to display a certain page or chart for their students.
The StudyPod is 6.75" x 8.875" x 1.25" ~ The size of a medium paperback book. As I mentioned above, it can handle a rather large book with no problem. It comes in a variety of colors(black, blue and pink), as you can see in the picture above. There is an identical product on the StudyPod website called the BookPod, that offers the additional "neutral" color choices of gray and beige, so if you think you would like more than one, you can keep who owns which one straight by purchasing different colors.

Speaking of purchasing, I should let you know that the list price on the StudyPod/BookPod is $19.95. If you purchase 2 or more, they offer a discounted price of $16.95, and for readers of the TOS Crew Blogs, there is a special offer of $5 off your order when you provide the code TOSBLOG5 . That makes a purchase of 2 studypods run about $28.90 + shipping ($7 for 2, $11 for 4 were a couple of scenarios that I ran).

Do I think this is a MUST HAVE item for every homeschool? Well.... no, but I think that if your budget allows, it may make a difference in the amount of fatigue that is seen at the end of the day. Check it out! (And for more reviews and viewpoints, check out my TOS Crew Mates thoughts.)

Oh, one more note~ There is a fun little circular batch of quotes and tidbits of information inscribed on the StudyPod, from Thomas Edison to Woody Allen.... very eclectic, and a nice little touch that my daughter noticed long before I did!


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

ALEKS Math.... 2nd go-round

Homeschool Banner
Hey~ Remember back in December I reviewed the ALEKS math program? Well, the main portion of my review stands, but there have been some updates that I would like to mention to you~
  • You can more easily personalize your student accounts from the "Master account" by selecting your state standards, changing your student's password, and setting your desired email progress report frequency and student idle time.
  • View the attendance report for a selected time period to review a complete list of the topics your student attempted and mastered.
  • Create a new quiz for your student, and customize the settings to reflect your desired start date/time, duration, grading scale, and more. (This is pretty cool! Great for that portfolio work!)
  • Move your student into a new course - an ALEKS subscription allows access to all course products! (This one I have a little trouble with... if you try to move them into another course, they warn you that all of the work in the current course will be lost... so I didn't try it... didn't want to lose what we were still working on. I suppose it makes sense... if you have "finished" the majority of a course and want to move on, it's just like using a new text book....you don't use the old one for the new course. At any rate, it *is* nice to be able to change the course, if necessary.)
Here are some screen shots to refresh your memory, and/or introduce you to what ALEKS looks like....


Student Account

Student Assessment
Assessment: Students begin in ALEKS by taking an individualized, adaptive assessment to determine what they already know and what they are ready to learn next.

Student MyPie
MyPie: The ALEKS Pie summarizes a student's current knowledge and offers topics that the student is ready to learn next. The darkened portion of each pie slice represents the topics that the student has mastered and the lighter portion represents what the student has yet to learn.

Student Graphing Tool
Input Tools: ALEKS provides a free response environment and sophisticated input tools that avoid multiple choice and require students to demonstrate content mastery.

Student Problem Two
Learning Mode: The Learning Mode provides students with practice problems, and offers explanations of topics and procedures as needed. Once a student has demonstrated mastery in the Learning Mode, the item is added to the ALEKS Pie, and new material that the student is now ready to learn becomes available.

Student Feedback
Feedback: Students receive immediate feedback and, in some cases, suggestions for correcting mistakes.

Students have the ability to print out 16-question worksheets for additional practice or review. These worksheets are uniquely generated based on the student's current knowledge.

Student Problem Two
ALEKS QuickTables: QuickTables is a research-based math fact mastery program for multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.

Student QuickTables Games
Interactive Games: Provide additional review and built-in rewards.

Master Account

Master Homepage
Master Account Homepage: Easily manage all student accounts, monitor student progress, view customized resources, and more.

Master Attendance Report
Attendance Report: Track student time spent in ALEKS per day, the topics attempted, and the topics mastered and added to the ALEKS Pie.

Master Progress Report
Student Progress Report: Track student progress made throughout the course. The blue bar represents the percent of course material that the student has mastered during an ALEKS assessment; the green bar represents the percent of new topics the student has mastered in Learning Mode since the last assessment; and the yellow bar represents the percent of topics the student has yet to learn in order to complete the course.

Master Quiz Results
Quiz Results: Quizzes are automatically graded and the results are available to both the parent and student immediately. View a detailed quiz results sample report (PDF).

While I REALLY like this program, and what it offers, I still find it to be one of the more expensive options for *our* family. However, everyone's circumstances are different, and this may be just what you are looking for, and can afford... GREAT!
Here's the nitty-gritty~
  • Basic cost is $19.95/ month/ student
You can purchase family rate discounts packages also...
  • 6 month subscriptions for a discounted rate of $99 for 1 student-$449.76 for 6 students
  • 12 month subscriptions (Continuous months.. you can't put it on "hold" for vacations) for a discounted rate of $179.95 for 1 student-$809.76 for 6 students.
Homeschool Banner
Try it out and see how you like it!



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