Thursday, March 31, 2016

Logic of English~ Essentials 2nd Edition ~ Review

A couple of years ago I reviewed the Logic of English Essentials Complete Set. In the intervening time, Logic of English  has published  Essentials 2nd Edition. The new edition has been expanded, and there is so much new material included that it has been split into 2 volumes. It looks like there is double the information, as the books are the same size. WOW!  Volume 2 has yet to be published, but Volume 1 has enough material to cover a full semester if following a general schedule of one lesson a week.

Members of the TOS Review Crew received a mix of totally new complete Essentials sets ( as well as the Foundations sets, which are for the younger learner) for those who have never reviewed it before, and an upgrade set that includes the new Teacher Manual, Student Workbook. Because we had previously reviewed, we were sent the Upgrade set.

The new Teacher's manual isn't just colorful on the outside, it's colorful on the inside. There are now three levels of teaching, and they are color coded, so that you can easily skip the information that isn't necessary for the level at which your student is learning.

Note: the student workbook is not "fun and games" colorful, and remains basic black and white. I didn't see too many changes, other than added and expanded material to coordinate with the extra material in the teacher's manual. No reason to change something that is working just fine. It also helps to ensure that an older student doesn't feel that they are being given material that is too young for them. :) However, this doesn't mean that there aren't fun and games included. Each week's lesson incorporates games using the various card sets included, as well as a number of games printed in the workbook.

Back to the Teacher's Manual...
Each Lesson starts with an "index card" on the printed page with an overview of what is included in the lesson for each level, which makes it easy to pull together all the materials required.  If you'll notice from the image of the Complete Set (up above), and as I mentioned, there *are* a number of card sets used with this program, so having the information laid out at the beginning of the chapter is very helpful. :)

One of the new features in the second edition is the inclusion of more vocabulary, and leveled spelling lists. Level Band C vocabulary include Greek and Latin roots, which interestingly enough seems to be one of my 8 year old's favorite parts of the program. He has enjoyed decoding the different parts of words, seeing how suffixes and prefixes can change the root meaning.

The lessons are also now broken down into "Days" which makes it easier to follow. I appreciate the new format, which solved one of my problems in the first edition of simpler phonograms being initially "introduced" but not reinforced before giving a "spelling test." With the new format, the test doesn't come until Day 5, while the spelling words are introduced on Day 2 with a "Spelling Analysis."  The Spelling Analysis goes over each word, with the teacher introducing the word, using it in a contextual sentence, and having the student repeat the word. They then break it down into its separate sounds, with the teacher giving clues when there are ambiguous sounds (which could be spelled a number of ways). Throughout the week all of the phonograms are reviewed (often in game or flashcard format), with special emphasis given to those that are trickier, but now the student doesn't go into the test as "blind" as before.

The manual is still very scripted, with precise directions on how to teach the various phonograms and spelling rules, as well as how to give the above-mentioned clues. The worksheets in the students book are also clearly labeled to help make sure that each one is completed at the correct time.

A couple more "notes"
The program does seem a little complex, and it most definitely isn't "grab-and-go" material. It is most certainly teacher-led, and not "independent" learning. Because of the volume of material, and the multiple levels included, the information may seem a little overwhelming to begin with, but it gets easier after the first week or two.

Because my son is a prolific reader, and apparently a natural speller like his siblings, we used a bit of a mash-up of levels for him. Some of the more complex words include some discussion that is a little long for him to follow, so I simplify that, but keep to the lists, making it work for us.

I did run into something else that gave me pause. There are some unusual words used for simple grammar. For example, at the beginning, on the level C list, "abstract" was listed as a noun, even though it is more commonly used as an adjective. This seemed odd to me, and is an example of where I chose to simplify for my 8 year old, but makes perfect sense for an older student, who might hear the term in their science or math class.

All in all, this revamped edition is very thorough and methodical, structured to help the instructor cover the material on a specific schedule, for a variety of ages and abilities. Although I don't have children who face difficulty with spelling, I imagine that this method would be one that would help those with difficulties gain solid success reading, writing, and understanding the written word.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Nuggets of Gold ~For the End of March

Welcome to "the day in-between"

Here are some golden nuggets to help fill any quiet time today and beyond, 
as well as some science resources, and some music to check out 

Juvenile Fiction~ Currently free for Kindle on Amazon 
(Click the photos to go to the books)

          Timekeepers is recommended                                      My 8 year is enjoying                              for children ages 12+                                        this book with animal characters
Science resources for you: 
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine is offering their entire Curiosity Files Series 
(18 science unit studies) for Free ($125 value) through March 31!

And resources that are currently free for Kindle on Amazon:
(again click the photo to go to the book) 


Great Music to Enjoy

A new song "On My Side" from Citizen Way (from their new album 2.0) to download for free from

And another video of an awesome song, Breathe by Jonny Diaz~ We were listening to it before it had radio play, but you may have heard it on the radio lately~ I'm *so glad* he's finally getting airtime, because the man has been given a marvelous gift of song-writing and the voice to sing the songs.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

St. Patricks Day Week... the life of an Irish Dancer... ;)

Just thought I'd share a bit of our whirlwind week... 
from Friday to Friday 
Fourteen dance-outs for my girl and her chauffeur

Like how she prepared? 

For dancing at Libraries...

And Nursing Homes, Shops, Concerts, Eating Establishments and more...

Here's a little dancing~ a 4-hand reel ~ 
The steps to this reel are done the same way 
all over the world, 
and it can be danced by all levels of dancers. 

And to celebrate the end of our March Madness before the beginning of Baseball insanity? Thank you 7-11 for "Bring your own cup" day! 

Looking forward to a slightly mellower week~ 
How about you? 
Happy Spring!!! 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Rainforest Journey by EdTechLens (Online Science Subscription Review)

Because I tend to use unit studies most of the time with my Youngest, we haven't followed any lengthy science programs, so I was very interested in seeing what he thought of one of our latest review items, an online subscription to Rainforest Journey by EdTechLens.  There are 34 lessons of material, which can be completed in a full year, if utilized as an enrichment program (Ed Tech Lens is developing a supplement which will eventually make the program a full curriculum).

Once you sign in and set up your student (with his/her own login and password), they can access the site and go through their lessons on their own. The course is split into 5 Units with a variety of Lessons, Chapters, Assessments and more, which can be seen when they click on their "my classes" tab. This is what youngest's looked like, with the first unit expanded to show the chapters and lessons. The green on the bar, and the checkmarks for each portion show what has been completed. 

The lessons have gorgeous "coffee-table book" photos with a little text, and more text and "enrichment" that can be accessed by clicking on the blue and green circular icons. While my son doesn't have any sensory issues, I do understand that there are those children who are overwhelmed by too much text on a page, so this should be very helpful to them. 

I wanted to illustrate how the lesson opens up, so I chose to use the following 3 specific screen shots of ONE lesson page because we thought this was one of the most amazing animals we have been introduced to so far. Isn't it cool???

 We took turns reading the text, but there is also the option for the text to be read automatically by pressing the audio icon next to it, perfect for delayed readers or those who tend more towards auditory processing. 

The enrichment button sometimes is text (As seen below), or a link to a video or more pictures to expand on the theme. The "lesson review" pdf tends to ask some open-ended questions (List 5 interesting things. What else would you like to know? etc...)

Screen shot of finished assessment

As each chapter is finished you have the option to print up the assessments or have the students take the assessments online. There are three styles of assessment: 
  • Depth of Knowledge
  • Open Ended Assessment 
  • Factual Assessment 
<--- a="" assessment="" finished="" of="" p="" portion="" sample="" screen="" shot=""> My son said he's happy that we are learning about the rainforest because it was the first time that he heard about the capybara (which has produced a desire to move to Pennsylvania, one of the few states to permit pet capybaras... oh boy! ;) ). He also liked the fact that the lessons weren't terribly lengthy or wordy.

Youngest enjoyed the photos and information but there were some disappointments, mostly with the videos... they are of good visual quality, but often don't seem to have as much substantive information. For instance, there was a video of the red howler monkey, and rather than the hoped for and expected sound of the howler monkey (since the text talked about the sound of the howler monkey and how loud it is), nothing but background music was heard. There also seemed to be a number of short (15-20 second) video clips that didn't seem to serve more purpose than to fill a little time.

On the plus side again, on the parent/teacher side of the website (parent login), there are many resources to extend the learning. Each Unit has "Home User Activities" that should take an extra 1 to 1 1/2 hours, once the Unit is completed. Each activity has separate pdfs of the teacher and student guide. The guides promote skills like recording, observing, and analyzing various data, depending on the unit being studied~ from graphing rainfall to observing the lifecycle of a butterfly using a butterfly kit, plant life, and more.

Rainforest Journey really IS something like a fancy coffee-table book (you know, those $25-$45 full color, glossy, unwieldy tomes with gorgeous photography and interesting text), but it is complimented by educational assessments and activities, and can be accessed anywhere you have a browser (yes, it's tablet friendly), with the added benefit of not collecting dust or having the potential to be dropped on someone's toe (OUCH! And yes... this has happened to me before... big, gorgeous books are HEAVY!) :)

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: EdTechLens
  • Product: Rainforest Journey
  • Ages: K-5th Grade
  • Price: 
    • One grade level/one student~ $50/year 
    • One grade level/2-5 students~ $75/year
    • Multiple grade levels must be purchased individually at the above prices (Check their Special Offers Link for current offers and discounts~ currently they are offering a 50% discount celebrating their new site!)
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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Demme Learning~ Math-U-See Digital Packs (Review)

Unless you are very new to the homeschooling scene, you have probably heard of Demme Learning's Math-U-See products. I have heard many people recommend Math-U-See products, and have even had the pleasure of introducing Steve Demme at a homeschool workshop (what a personable gentleman!). However, I've never had the opportunity to use Math-U-See in my homeschool, or peruse it up close and personal until now.

The TOS Review Crew members were sent a variety of levels and variations of the sets available. We received the Delta Universal Set, which includes Physical Instruction Manual with Solutions, Instruction DVD, Student Workbook, Tests Booklet, Integer Block Kit, and 12 months access to the new Delta Digital Pack.
          Delta Universal Set                                      Delta Digital Pack

Having listened to Mr. Demme at the aforementioned workshop a number of years ago, I *was* familiar with the way he teaches, and very interested to see how my eight-year old felt about this concrete way of learning math. After a number of weeks using Delta, I asked him how he liked this math. He queried "The Block Math? I love it!"

Because we hadn't used blocks in math previously, we took a week or so to become familiar with using them and learning how they illustrate math problems... addition, subtraction, and multiplication.
Mr. Demme can travel
with you if you are a "mobile"
homeschool family!

After that we started right in with division (which is the main theme of the Delta level), watching the lesson videos on my computer (Streaming the Digital version, rather than popping in the DVD), typically, and then Youngest would delve right in to the lesson in his student workbook. If we plan to be out out of the house, the Digital Packs make it a simple option to watch the lesson from any browser, in any location. They include a digital manipulative set that can be used on any browser, including phone browsers (I found it was easier to use the manipulatives on the phone, rather than on the computer, and I appreciated not having to bring out and clean up the physical blocks each time, although we have been enjoying using them as well).

I really like the way the workbooks are set up with multiple pages per lesson:

  • 3 Lesson Practice pages which can all be used, or some can be skipped depending on how quickly the topic is grasped.
  • 3 Systematic Review pages to review previous skills and keep them fresh. They include a "Quick Review" reminder of  things that might be tricky, before moving on to problems of that type. If the student flies through the first Systematic Review page with no problems I have no issue with not completing the others, and moving on, but appreciate having them all, in case there are some rough spots that need extra work.
  • 1 Application/Enrichment page. So far they have mostly been age-appropriate math fact coloring pages, which is great for my youngest, as we've done so many online programs that he hasn't run into as many "fun" written math pages. :) 

Back Side of a Systematic Review page, with a Quick Review included.
If you are carrying your schoolwork out of the house, and want/need to travel light, the pages are perforated, so that you can bring just what you need. My son enjoyed having just one double-sided page of math to do each day.

Now, having experienced both the Universal set and the Digital Packs, I thought I would share a little bit about the similarities and differences, and some of the benefits of each

Both sets require the use of the Student Workbooks and Tests~ that doesn't change. 

The Universal Set includes a hardcopy of the Instruction Manual/Tests, Instructional DVD and the 133 piece Integer Block Set. This is probably a good option if you have multiple students that will be using each level of Math-U-See, as you will only have to purchase the non-consumable portions of the curriculum once. It is also a good plan for those who have slow internet or have data plans that would be more quickly consumed if using the online lessons. 

The Digital Pack includes printable pdfs of the Instruction Manual/Tests, as well as the streaming Instructional Lessons with Mr. Demme. As I mentioned above, this is very useful for families that are on the go. The ability to use the Digital Manipulatives is great too, since they don't take up space, and can't get lost! The Digital Pack is also helpful for those who have some of the newer computers that don't include a DVD drive, have issues with TV DVD players (Yup~ been there, done that...), and have no other option for viewing the lessons other than streaming. 

Whichever set/pack you choose, Mr. Demme will teach your children to SEE how to find mathematical answers, not just to memorize them by rote, in short, easy to handle lessons that teach mastery incrementally. So far, I really like what I see! 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: Demme Learning
  • Product: Digital Packs (we reviewed Delta
  • Ages: K-12
  • Price: 
    • Universal Set (Delta): $153
    • Digital Packs : $31-$61 (depending on level) /year access (Delta is $38)
    • Student Packs :  average  $40 per level(Workbooks and Tests)
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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wordless Wednesday- early March

Wordless Wednesday

2016/2015 Spot the differences

Cocoon~ Keeping Cold Things Cold, and Hot Things Hot! (Review)

A few weeks ago I received a new Stainless Steel Water Bottle, 

My family and I almost never use plastic purchased water bottles, preferring to fill reusable bottles at home and carry them with us. I also try to stay clear of plastsic water bottles of any kind, BPA-free or not. Stainless steel and glass are my typical choices. We are also particularly fond of ICE cold water, and stainless steel and glass tend to sweat, and transfer the outside heat in, so our water doesn't stay as cold as long as we'd like, plus we end up with wet hands, and potential water damage to "dry" items if carrying our bottles in a bag. We tend to cart around an insulated lunch bag with all of our water bottles... not the most convenient thing on earth... 

This Cocoon Water bottle may have taken care of that issue for us! I have to say that the vacuum insulation of the Cocoon water bottle is quite impressive! No sweating or condensation, no heat or cold transfer to the outside of the bottle at all! Because the bottle is very large (40 oz), it is perfect for a back-up refill bottle for our smaller water bottles! We pack it with ice Sunday morning before church (Oh yes, the neck is wide, so using ice cubes is a cinch) and added water. One week we didn't actually require refills all day long, and I didn't open the bottle until we got home... easily 12 hours later, as we were gone all day. Inside: still packed with ice and a little water... did not look like ANYTHING had melted at all! Woohoo!!!  Can't wait to use this in the hot summer weather, and have Ice Cold Water at all times! 

The vacuum insulation also works well to keep hot things hot, so if a toasty cup of coffee or tea is your thing, you might want to check it out! There is no transfer of heat to the outside, and my "keurig hot" water remained hot. I put it in the freezer for a half hour to test it, and when I took it out the water was still piping hot! Note that the manufacturer claims that it will keep iced drinks cold for 24 hours and hot beverages hot for 12 hours. I believe it, although I didn't test the hot for that long. Based on our ice water experiment, I expect the hot water to follow suit. 

I know this will be going on "Beach" outings with us as well as camping/hiking. For those who follow health regimes that require drinking a fair amount of water, I think the 40oz this holds would be a great option to help reach that daily quota! 

I know this will be going on "Beach" outings with us as well as camping/hiking. For those who follow health regimes that require drinking a fair amount of water, I think the 40oz this holds would be a great option to help reach that daily quota! 

Happy Hydrating! 


*Note: I received this product at a greatly 
discounted price, for the purposes of review. 
All other points in my disclaimer remain the same.

Here to Help Learning (Flight 1~ Paragraph Writing) Review

I'm always on the lookout for a good writing program, because while *I* enjoy writing, my children have not found quite the same pleasure in putting pen to paper. Since my era of teaching my Eldest is almost over, and Middlest is well on his way also, it's definitely time to see if I can help promote a different outlook in my youngest. We have gotten a good start with Flight 1 Paragraph Writing, the most basic program provided by Here to Help Learning.

This is a nifty little program, produced by fellow Christian homeschoolers, which incorporates multimedia writing instruction at an appropriate age and interest level. This is one of the things that my eight year old ASKS to do, so I'd say it's a hit so far. :)

Let me give you an idea of how it works. I should mention first of all that we were given the online membership to review, not the physical product (Although some TOS Review members *did* receive the physical product, so be sure to check out their reviews).

As I mentioned, we were using Flight 1 Paragraph Writing, which is intended for 1st-3rd graders. The first thing to check out are the Teacher resources (Overviews and Teacher's Guides, Master Supply Lists, and more information on using the program). Each "Flight" also directs you to a "Getting Started/FAQs" page, in case you missed something in the overview.

From there, I found it fairly simple to click on each lesson, and use it directly from my computer. The top half of the page is the Student Video section (which can be enlarged to full screen). The bottom half of the page (which can be seen peeking out at the bottom of this image) includes the scripted Teacher's Guide for the lesson, and you can see the big green "Print Worksheets" button in the middle....

I tended to quickly scan the teacher's guide to see what worksheets I needed to print before we got into the lesson. That way we were ready to go when it was time for each page. From there I headed right into the lesson with my young writer.

Note: one of the first things we are asked to do is to set up a notebook. I don't have a ton of room in my house for 3 ring binders, so we decided to think outside the box, and came up with an alternative: An expandable Plastic file envelope, and transparent file folders, one for each different kind of paperwork. Works like a charm for us, and doesn't take up as much space.

Mrs. Mora speaks directly to the student, or to her own little co-op class of children in each section of the flight.

Pre Flight Checklist: Amusing little "Airplane Attendant" video by Beth Mora (who make a very convincing Flight Attendant) with instructions for the  "flight," including "Checking your attitude, because attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference." Oh, I like that one (!), and have added it to my arsenal of catch-phrases.

Flight Check-In: Time to set the stage for today's lesson, which starts by reciting Colossians 3:17: And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (only minor con here... Mrs. Mora is just a little speedy during the Bible Verse, which is intended to be read/recited together~ I wish it was a little bit slower. Same thing for the pause when asking a question~ could be just a tad longer, so the student at home has a few seconds to think before answering. ;) )

Take Off: This is where we play a grammar game before moving on to our Writing Warm-Up which consists of a picture writing prompt on lined paper. The students are prompted to think about whether they will put the picture at the beginning, the middle, or the end of their story. After the writing warm-up the theme for the lesson is introduced, as well as a recap of the entire writing process, and then we move on to...

Full Throttle: Here we have more explanation that expands on the lesson theme, and Mrs. Mora gives examples of what to do next, either on her own, or with her group of co-op children before the final section...

Second page of 1st rough draft, and it wasn't a painful process! YAY!
We're well on our way to our first informational paragraph! 
On Your Own: This is where the student is encouraged to go complete their lesson project. The lesson ends with an announcement from "Captain Knucklehead," Mrs. Mora's hound, which is amusing (particularly to 5-9 year olds), and a final message from Flight Attendant Mora. She is very pleasant and positive, and reminds the writer to look to God for their help and inspiration, as well as their parents, and to "stop, pray, and begin again" if frustration arises.

I really appreciate the way the process is broken down into manageable little chunks and memorable little sayings to help young writers learn to write with success and enjoyment.

Here's a little look into the program:

If this piques your interest as it did mine, when I was looking at it prior to reviewing it, scroll down Here to Help Learning's webpage to find their offer for a one day free trial and free download of their 26 page Quick Reference Language Charts.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: Here to Help Learning  
  • Product: Flight 1 Paragraph Writing
  • Ages: Grades 1-6
  • Price: 
    • $6.99/month for full family access to all levels OR
    • Physical products: 
      • $89.99 for each level "Teacher's Kit" which includes 
        • 1 teacher's Guide
        • 1 Student Notebook
        • 6 DVDs, each with 5-6 lessons
      • $19.99 for each flight/level Student Notebook, if you have more than one student.
You can visit Here To Help Learning at the following Social Media Outlets. Be sure to check out their YouTube channel for more samples! :)

Here to Help Learning Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube

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