Friday, April 25, 2014

Nuggets of Gold (3 year Bible Curriculum, Grades 1-12, and more)

Hey there! I'm back with another batch of nuggets for you to check out.
Some are free, and some are just good deals! :)

Bible Road Trip I'll be adding this to my Free Homeschool Resources Online page.
Bible Road Trip is a 3 year Bible survey for grades PreK-12 in the Classical Style. There is a schedule, a list of resources to be used for each grade level, note-booking pages, and discussion questions. I've downloaded everything for the first week, and so far I'm impressed!

Something for the kitchen~ just saw these as I was poking around on Amazon:
not free, but a good deal (I think)

Anchor Hocking 4-Piece Palladian Cherry Window Cylinder Set Don't these look great for keeping grains, nuts, granola, etc? And such a fun color that will *pop* in your kitchen! :) Currently listed for $20.13 at Amazon (with a list price of $49.95), although prices on Amazon can change at any time.

I am reminded that I should mention Educents to you more often. I am an affiliate AND a customer of Educents~ where they offer deals of interest to homeschool families in a manner similar to groupon or living social. *Check the deals carefully, to see whether the $5.99 shipping is worth it or not for items that are shipped~ There is a set of 3 science kits currently on sale, and even with the shipping it beats purchasing from Amazon with Prime.

There are online resources where shipping doesn't even come into the picture, like the PetraLingua Online Language Courses for children 3-10 years of age~ the current deal is $11.99 which is 75% off a one year subscription. Languages included are English, Spanish, French, Russian, German, and Chinese. Not a bad way to try out a new language! :)

They also *almost always* offer some free printables to explore:
April Printables for Kids which is a neat little unit for Prek-2nd grade. It includes a lot of activities, and focuses on poetry and creative writing. I'm pretty impressed with it!

There is also a Spring Coloring Book for Kids  with 10 outline pictures~ handy if your child is begging for something to color...

During this convention season, Educents is offering a "Goodie Bag"  with some great deals from a variety of curriculum providers. One of them is CTC Math, which I reviewed today~ Educents is trying to make sure that every homeschooler knows about the 60% offer for homeschoolers!

OK, I think that will about wrap it up! Have a beautiful "springy" weekend!


CTC Math~ Online Math Tutor with a family plan! (TOS Review Crew)

This next review is for the 12 Month Family Plan from CTC Math. CTC Math is an online math program for K-12th grade. Over 1300 animated (whiteboard), narrated lessons covering the most basic numbers and patterns for kindergarten and going on up through calculus. 

A Few Basics
One of the main selling points of this program is that it is good for children who learn at different speeds~ if you've got the concept, jump straight to the questions, if you need more time, or something repeated you can rewind the video and listen again... as many times as you like. This is good in my household as I have had children who have done both things at different times. 

CTC also addresses the various learning styles with the audio/visual presentations, and then the manual entering of the answers by the student, whether via keyboard or on a printed worksheet. 

My 6 year old was the main user of this program, with my 8th grader doing some Algebra work. The program is set up so that you can access any lesson for any grade at any time. 

I'll start with my Middlest child's experience, but some things will hold true for every level, so I will try not to repeat myself. :) 

Here you can see that the course is Algebra 1, part 1, Number Review 1. The gold bar shows how much of the topic has been covered. 

Clicking on the topic opens up this page, which shows the specific lessons in the topic and the progress in each one.

When a lesson is chosen by clicking on it a new screen opens with a video lesson. *Every single lesson is voiced by the same instructor, Pat Murray, who has a pleasant Aussie accent which makes listening to the lessons that much more pleasant. :)
Below you can see a screen shot of a lesson in progress:

True to Charlotte Mason fashion, each lesson is less than 10 minutes in length. You can see that the video portion of this particular lesson is just barely over 4 minutes. After going through his information and examples Pat leaves the student with a pleasant "That concludes the lesson. Good luck with your questions." At that point the student moves on to the work portion of the lesson, which is then recorded and graded by percent.

Middlest appreciated that the lessons were short and concise, without a lot of busy work. He did find the process of printing the worksheets, doing the work, and then translating the work back to the page on the computer was a little more "fussy" than he would have liked.

This was his main con to the program, and he felt that having more space on the worksheets to work the problems would have worked better for him than having to use scratch paper (just one less step). If you watch the demo video on the CTC site you will see the process in a sample lesson, and probably come to realize that this is really a minor inconvenience for him, and probably a blessing to other students whose brains organize differently from my sons.

I wasn't sure how to approach this with my youngest son, so I did what I have done with other programs and just started having him "test out" of each topic in 1st grade to see where there were holes, or where he belonged. During our review period he tested out of every single topic in every stream in the 1st grade course with the exception of the time category. I realized that we had been slack in our calendar work, and that it was time for him to get a handle on the months of the year.

In this screen shot you can see a little 1 or 2 next to an icon on the very left of the topic lessons. That means that he took a diagnostic test in that category, and the complete gold bar indicates that he did every lesson in the "time" category (three times in fact, as I'll discuss later).

If he "passed" the diagnostic test then we moved on to the next category, until we ran into something difficult, then we would do the lesson that pertained to the problem, and take the test again. He generally received a 90%-100%, with only a couple of topics causing him any trouble at all.

My only con at this point was that when Youngest had to actually review a lesson and do the work before retaking the test, he would see a little banner announcing what level he was working at. He would then be told that he needed to complete each lesson three times in order to earn a certificate. What? There are certificates? How come I don't have any? How do I get them?  I had to break the news that he would have to complete each lesson a minimum of three times to be awarded a certificate, regardless of the fact that he had just passed the comprehensive test with a score of 100%. Minor complaint, I know, but when you're dealing with a 6.5 year old temperament, it can become a little more of a big deal (to him, at any rate~ your mileage may vary, as kids are all different).

In absence of an assessment that puts a student in at the correct level, it would be nice (especially for the younger students, but really all of them would appreciate the positive feedback), if there were some acknowledgement of completing the comprehensive tests at a certain level, as they work through their own "assessment" to get to the level at which they will be learning new material.

Now that I have that out of the way...
At the bottom of the main screen there is an icon for awards and reports.
You can get a quick summary report

or a more detailed report

and here is the coveted "PLATINUM CERTIFICATE" in the topic that was causing woe 

We have started our way through the 2nd grade topics, and now I am more likely to have him go through the lessons (3x each) in order to earn the certificates instead of testing out, because I am sure that we will be running into concepts that haven't been covered yet. 

Are you ready for a little joke on me? I just assumed that CTC wouldn't work on my ipad until right before I was getting ready to pull my review together. I saw this graphic:
and searched the CTC website high and low~ didn't find any mention of an app anywhere. Then I had the bright idea to go online on my ipad to the CTC website and see what I could find there. Turns out that CTC has managed to write the program in html5, so that it can be used in any modern browser on almost any device!

Hurrah! So we are using this option for my Littlest for sure, and my Middlest is able to do some of his work on his ipod, in a pinch, if we are computer challenged on any particular day. :) Here's a look at a screenshot from the ipod. 
In case I wasn't clear, so far I am impressed with this program, with a very few tiny exceptions. If you are looking for an online program to use with your children, CTC definitely deserves a look. You can sign up for a free trial and check it out before you purchase, and if you decide to purchase, be sure to click through the links below to access the special sale that is currently being made available to homeschoolers.

 Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Please click the banner below to visit the TOS 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, April 24, 2014

Home School Adventure Co.: Philosophy Adventure (TOS Review Crew)

Why study Philosophy? 
What is Philosophy? 
Who is Pythagorus? Wasn't he some math guy? 

These are some of the questions that Home School Adventure Co. helps to answer with their homeschool philosophy curriculum, Philosophy Adventure, which is one of our latest review items. *We received the digital download version, which came with a digital copy of the Reader, the student workbook, and teacher resources. 

The Reader is well written and very accessible. I will say that while I enjoyed the convenience of being able to have my children read the material on their ipods, If I were purchasing this for my homeschool, I probably would prefer the spiral bound version of the Reader, as the pages are so colorful and pleasing to the eye (which is easier to appreciate in letter size than in 2.5x5 inch size. ;) ). 

We discovered that the Reader was much more than a nicely written text on philosophy~ it also encompasses a writing program with instruction in critical thinking, speech writing and creative writing, as well as journaling. Definitely more of an adventure than if it were strictly philosophy. 

Each chapter focuses on a different philosopher:

  • Thales
  • Pythagoras
  • Xenophanes
  • Heraclitus
  • Parmenides
  • Empedocles
  • Protagoras
  • Democritus

with the following outline:
  • The Philosopher's Story ~ This is the "story" text where we learn about the philosopher~ his biography, which is 
    • Meet the Philosopher
    • His Story Unfolds
    • Impact of Ideas
    • The Story Ends
  • The Critical Thinking, Writing and Speaking articles and assignments (side bars) are added in on the right side of each two page spread, or if you're reading a digital document, every other page within the Philosopher's Story
  • Explore His World (Geography)
  • School of Thought 
  • Contrast
    • Source materials by the philosopher (primary when available, otherwise secondary)
    • Biblical Worldview
After the philosophy chapters the Reader includes: Writer's Checklists (which I have printed up for my teens to add to their general writing resources), Creative Writing Assignments for each philosopher, and all of the Writing Sidebars in one location for ease (I'm not sure if this is true in the print version).

The Workbook includes notebook pages, maps as well as the creative writing assignments found in the Reader. There are also Journal assignments for each philosopher that reinforce the Think, Write, Speak materials in the Reader. 

A side note~ for those who use the digital versions on their computer, the pdf files are interactive, and the answers can be typed right into the forms. :) 

The Teacher Resources include the following for each philosopher: 
Memory Cards
Timeline Resources
Master Maps and Keys
Quizzes and Keys
A sampling of the memory cards ~ a couple "Pythagoras" front and back and front of the general "Think" cards

How did we use this? 
We started off reading the Philosopher's Story aloud (although not the beginning of the 2nd Lesson~ Jim Jones was a bit of a shock for my Junior, and a little heavy for my young 8th grader). I printed up the sheets from the workbook and arranged them by philosopher in notebooks for the kids and set them loose. 

I checked in on them to see what they were accomplishing with the journal questions and the creative writing, and we had the occasional conversation about the school of thought. Because we are in a very busy time of life right now I didn't make use of the memory cards the way I would like to (as dinner-time conversation), but can see pulling them out this summer when the pace is a little slower. I am enjoying learning right along with the kids, as philosophy was not something that I ever covered in my schooling (or if I did, it was just a little snippet here and there).

I especially appreciate the Contrast sections of the Reader, as we view the philosophers through the world view of the Bible~  a little bit of a twist on the apologetics that my eldest is so fond of right now. 

We are hopefully all philosophers of one sort or another! 
As God tells us in Proverbs 4:7
Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom.
And in all your getting, get understanding.

If you'd like to get a closer look you can download a sample (*note, it begins with 10 pages of endorsements from the homeschool community~ students, moms, "professional" folks, etc... ). Following the endorsements, the sample includes the table of contents, the introduction (which includes information on scheduling and credits for high school), and the first lesson on the philosopher Thales. 

You can visit the The Home School Adventure Co. on the web:

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: Home School Adventure Co.
  • Product: Philosophy Adventure
  • Ages: 6th/7th grade-12th grade
  • Price: 
    • $39.95 Digital Download (includes Reader, Workbook and Teacher Resources) 
    • $49.95 Digital Resources on CD (includes Reader, Workbook and Teacher Resources) 
    • $69.96 Spiral Bound Reader with Workbook/Teacher Resources CD
    • $89.95 Complete Print Set (Reader and Workbook) with Teacher Resource CD
    • $24.95 Extra Student Workbook
The Home School Adventure Co. has offered a coupon code to TOS Review Crew readers~ 10% off with the code CREW-10

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say about this and the other products reviewed: Mere Christianity (Critical Analysis), Philippians in 28 Weeks (Memorization) and The Wise Woman (Literary Analysis). 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, April 17, 2014

A couple of time-sensitive Spring "e-nuggets" for you (Devotions and Beatrix Potter!)

Today I have a couple of quick items for you to check out~ not "free," but certainly inexpensive.

I love Beatrix Potter's stories and artwork. The complete collection, in large hardcover is a little bulky for everyday reading, and I don't own all the stories in individual books at this point. When I saw that there was a collection of her works on sale in the kindle version for $0.99 at Amazon, I decided to SPRING for it (sorry, bad pun, but bear with me). Beatrix Potter Illustrated Collection: 22 Books, 660 Illustrations, Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny and Many More! is a perfectly lovely version, with all of the illustrations and text, and the bonus is that I don't have to find space on my bookshelf for it right now. While nothing will ever take the place of a real book in hand, this is a great option for reading on the go.

There is another nugget I wanted to mention~ this one the price may be good only for today, but for only a penny you don't have much to lose, as possibly a lot to gain. Old Story New: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God is only one cent TODAY!

I haven't used it yet, but I am looking at the "Introduction" and "How to use this book" and so far it looks great. This is the 2nd of two devotional books by Marty Machowski, and it covers the New Testament. In each lesson in this New Testament focus, the question is asked "Where is the Gospel?" with the answer pointing either forward or back to Calvary.

The first book in the series Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God, goes through the Old Testament and asks "How does this passage point forward to Jesus?" Using both books as written will provide your family with 3 years of 10 minute devotions.

Ten minutes isn't a huge investment of time, but is far more than no minutes~ it's a good starting point for today's families who are being pulled in so many different directions, especially if the family has more than one child, who may be involved in extra-curricular activities.

I hope that you find these nuggets worth your time. :)


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Curiosity Quest TOS Review Crew (DVDs)

The whole family has enjoyed one of our most recent reviews from Curiosity Quest: 2 separate DVD Combo packs. Curiosity Quest host, Joel Greene, has solicited "Curiosity Quests" from his viewers via email and snail mail letters. When a topic is chosen to explore he takes us along on his quest. The Review Crew received DVD Combo Pack - Produce (Mushrooms, Cranberries, Orange Packing) and DVD Combo Pack - Swimmers of the Sea (Sea Turtle Rescue, Penguins, Salmon).

Each segment on the DVD has a basic format~ The actual visit to a specific location, whether it is a farm, a factory, or an aquarium (Or somewhere else). "Fun facts" about the topic are sprinkled throughout. One of our favorite things, also scattered throughout, is something I will call "taking it the streets." This is when Joel asks random people on the street (kids AND grownups) one question that pertains to the show. Some of the answers are hilarious, and *sometimes* they are even correct! :D

The videos are really like a tour that you can go on from the comfort of your own home. Intriguing and informative.

Here is a quick run-down of each combo video and some snippets from each:

Mushrooms~ Follows the process from creating the medium in which the mushrooms grow (Compost bricks~ Wow!  What a lengthy process!), adding the mushroom spawn, growing, "casing," fruiting/harvesting, sorting, packaging and shipping. Watching this actually made me more comfortable with commercially grown mushrooms than I was before.

Cranberries~ Joel Greene goes to Wisconsin to see how cranberries are grown, harvested, cleaned, sorted, and packaged, and shares some of the many products made with cranberries~ And he answers the question "Why do you have to stand in a marsh when you are harvesting Cranberries?"

Oranges~ This segment was inspired by a father who wrote in to suggest a Curiosity Quest revolving around oranges. He was inspired to suggest this after going on a tour of an orange orchard with his family. We found out the approximate # of oranges grown on an individual tree. We also learned the answer to a question about the most efficient way to harvest oranges, and how we can accelerate the ripening process on fruit that has been picked.

Swimmers of the Sea~
Penguins~ In this segment Joel visits The Aquarium of the Pacific, where he finds the answer to the question "Why don't penguins fly?" He goes behind the scenes at the aquarium and helps with food prep and the feeding of the aquarium's magellanic penguins. While we love penguins, this particular segment made it clear that my more squeamish children wouldn't be interested in a career caring for penguins~ with all of the food prep, and "hands on" slimy stuff. ;)

Sea Turtle Rescue~ The Sea Turtle rescue episode is shot at The Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys. The Hospital's main goal is to rehabilitate injured turtles, and release them back into the wild. There is another focus on food prep for, and feeding of, the turtles. Watch out! Turtles have really strong beaks! Keep those fingers out of reach. My youngest was amazed at the size a turtle can reach. Green Sea Turtles can reach 600 lb, and a Leather Back Turtle can weigh a TON (2000 lb). Did you know that a turtle might get "Boiling mad" (turn red when agitated)? Amazing to watch!

Salmon~ Joel Goes to Juneau, Alaska and visits a salmon fishery, with people from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. We find out about 5 different kinds of salmon~ chum, sockeye, king, silver and pink salmon(and an easy way to remember them). We all thought it was fascinating to learn that the salmon "smell" their way back to their original spawning grounds~ that they imprint.

What did the kids think?
Youngest really enjoyed watching the Curiosity Quest Videos. He liked the Orange episode the best in the Produce DVD~ he thought that the process for finding spoiled oranges was fascinating~ black light room that shows spoiled spots, so they know which oranges to get rid of. He likes fishing, so the Salmon episode was his favorite, but he enjoyed learning about Penguins and Sea Turtles as well. Youngest now wants to come up with topics for future "Curiosity Quests" himself, so I think his attention has been captured!

Middlest thought that the topics were interesting, and as the avid fisherman he is, he especially enjoyed the Salmon segment~ one of the things he learned was that the salmon prefer fine gravel to larger rocks when they are spawning, which could be useful if one wanted to find spawning salmon.  He thought Joel was "Entertaining" but appreciated that he's more focused on presenting the information as he experiences it than setting up jokes, etc.

Eldest joined us to watch the videos, and here is her take on them. The topics, and the way that they are approached makes them more enjoyable than many of the programs intended for elementary/middle grade students. Joel isn't "over-the-top" and is very watchable, and believable. The humor is real, not "staged." Anyone could learn something new from these shows, not just younger children.

Here is a little sample video from the Sea Turtle Episode to give you a feel for Curiosity Quests:
The average price for an individual episode runs close to $20, so these combo packs are a great deal!

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Ages: 7-14
  • Price: $24.95 each 
You can visit Curiosity Quest on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube if you'd like to find out more.

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS 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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