Thursday, June 29, 2017

Hewitt Homeschooling~ Lighting Lit ~ British Mid-Late 19th Century

One of *my* favorite things to review are Literature related, and two out of three children agree strongly! My Middlest isn't as fond of reading as his siblings, but I was very interested to see what he thought about Hewitt Homeschooling's British Mid-Late 19th Century Lighting Lit Guide. I chose this (one of 12 high school units being reviewed by the Crew) because I hoped it would offer him some literature, stories and poetry that would be a little more up his alley, with authors like Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Oscar Wilde. Also studied are works by Rudyard Kipling, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lewis Carroll, George Eliot,  and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Other Crew members reviewed Lightning Lit for grades 1, 2, or 3, "My First Report" or Grades 7 or 8 Lighting Lit sets as well as the above-mentioned high school sets. Be sure to click on the linky at the end of the review to see what they had to say. You can also check out my previous reviews for Shakespeare: Comedies and Sonnets (2014), and Early 19th Century American (2012) to see what my impressions were about those titles.

One of the things that my son particularly appreciated about Hewitt's program is that while there are four physical books (See the complete set pictured below) that need to be available to complete the course, all of the shorter works are self contained in the bound Student Guide, which makes it more compact and efficient, with fewer things to be misplaced. ;)

Because my son was just coming off a Novel Study, and it is summer-time, I chose to have him work through some of the portions of this guide that were a little lighter and/or self-contained~ Poetry and Short Story selections from Tennyson, Carroll, and Stevenson, which will give him a head start on his Literature requirements for the coming school year

The High School Lightning Lit courses include a Teacher's Guide (Stapled, 3 hole punched papers that need to be put in a folder) with grading helps and rubrics as well as a couple of well-laid out schedules for Semester or Year-long coursework.

Each Lesson includes an Introduction, Comprehension Questions, a Literary Lesson, and four to six writing exercises to choose from. If following the Hewitt Basic English, English, and English Honors programs, it is suggested that the student submit two written papers for each book-length work, and one for shorter selections. This can obviously be adjusted according to your student's proficiency and exercise choices.

If correcting those written papers seems to be too daunting of a task, even with the included helps,  you may be pleased to know that Hewitt offers a Paper Evaluation service which some Crew members also reviewed (again, click through the link at the end to find those reviews).

I particularly enjoyed going through the Lewis Carroll selections (Jabberwocky is one of my long-standing favorite poems) with my son, and I even learned something about Rhyme Scheme that I didn't know before (Or maybe that I forgot...?): that there are masculine and feminine  rhymes, and an explanation for words in poetry that *almost* rhyme like "again" and "plain" (Slant Rhyme).

Here is a sample of my son's couplet writing
Like Carroll, and possibly Ogden Nash,
he has a droll sense of humor :

The wish of a fish
Was to eat from a dish

While a frog in a bog
Hoped to go for a jog

And the bee's only plea
Was to sip some green tea ...

Once again, I thoroughly appreciate Hewitt's approach to teaching "college-level composition skills by responding to great literature." I will continue to use selections from their guides to flesh out my son's high school literature courses over the next two years.

You can check out samples of the Student Guide and the Teacher Guide on their individual product pages.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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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 and grade levels reviewed. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Summer Reading Program Roundup, 2017

Now that the official "school year" is over in most parts of the country, and Summer has officially arrived, Summer Reading programs are gearing up! I thought I would mention some of the ones that I know about to help you encourage your kiddos to read through the summer.

Youngest a few years ago
Summer reading program for kids in grades 1-6  (May 16 - September 5)
Kids earn a free book when they fill out the B&N Summer reading journal with the 8 books they've read over the summer. Information required is Title, Author, and a sentence describing their favorite part of the story. Research the free titles available to earn to make sure there are books that are appropriate for your child/family situation.

Youngest loves reading
more than ever! 
Feed Your Brain Reading program for kids PreK-High School (June 1-July 31). There aren't any of these stores local to us, but we may have to arrange to swing by one this summer when we go on our road trip to Montana! Kids can earn $5 in BookWorm Bucks for June and July. Those 14 and under just need to read 300 minutes each month, and teens earn BookWorm Bucks by reading and reviewing specific titles.

Eldest ages ago.
Can still be found reading...
It's become a life-long habit for her! 
Local Library Summer Reading Programs~ The reading program at our local public library has been one of the staples of our summer reading~ Make sure you check into yours. This year ours is using a new online log program that incorporates a story line and games. Should be interesting!

TD Bank offers $10 to be added to a new or existing savings account for your K-5th grade child when they read 10 books over the summer. (Deadline, August 31, 2017)

Have you found any other reading programs that you are planning to have your child participate in?
I'm sure we'd love to hear about them, so feel free to comment! :)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Unlock Math : Online Full Geometry Course

My Middlest will be looking at the PSAT in the fall, and in order to do that he needs to get a bit of geometry under his belt (the path we took with my daughter was the natural progression of Algebra I and then Algebra II, however, that meant that we were not as prepared for the test as we might have liked). In light of that, the timing for our review of UnLock Geometry  for UnLock Math couldn't have come at a much better time. 

Here is a screenshot of the first few units of UnLock Geometry~ there are 15 Units altogether. You can see the rest of this screen at the UnLock Geometry link above. :) 

*Disclaimer~ To be fair, I will say we did have a couple of timing issues, totally unrelated to UnLock Math~ cyberspace has been eating emails that belong in my inbox (So it took me awhile to figure out that I hadn't received my log-in email~ not their issue~ I've had multiple emails not show up in the past month or so), and our internet has been frustratingly slow for almost e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g (we're talking *almost* pre-1990's get up and get a cup of coffee while waiting for one page to load slow...). Due to other commitments he could only look at "loading" wheels/bars for so long before we needed to move on to other things. I think we need a new router, but haven't had time to address that issue just yet because... life. 

Now~ if this were a textbook review, I wouldn't need that disclaimer~ no techie issues to cause trouble there~ However, I also wouldn't have the benefits this program provides. I personally don't feel like geometry is a subject where I could inspire someone to love math. I can puzzle through to help figure out where answers went wrong, but I'm not a higher math teacher. Thankfully, with UnLock Math that doesn't really matter, because THEY provide the teacher, the computer interface (which is neat and clean, and easy to understand when your internet is working properly), and the assessment and grading ~ I really don't have to do anything beyond making sure that assignments are actually being completed.              
UnLock Math provides a way to check and see what day each assignment was finished, how long it took, and how well the student did. There aren't many parental options beyond looking at (downloading and printing if you like) the grade-book that is linked to your student's account. I was actually taken aback at how little there was for *me* to do... 

The one time we did run into a glitch (which again, took far longer than anticipated to get around to dealing with because of the timing of life, combined with agonizing internet speed), Matthew ( the founder of UnLock Math) happened to be  accessible via the online chat button at the same late hour that we were trying to troubleshoot. Amazing customer service, in my book! I understand that he is very quick to reply to messages sent as well, if he doesn't happen to be online at the same time. At any rate, he was able to quickly and easily solve the issue we had, and my son was able to unlock the next section in order to proceed. *Geometry is the newest course available, and as with any new program, I expect a bug or two to show up  for the first bunch or two of users. 

In the screen above you see the basic set-up of the program~ 
  • Warm Up consists of... warm up problems ~ 5 quick, fairly simple problems to get your brain warmed up~ they take about 1 minute to complete. 
  • The big "UnLock" screen is where the video lesson is watched~ about 5 minutes (We decided on the earlier lessons that he could skip the video and continue to the practice problems (Opening them in another window), only returning to watch the video if he ran into something he didn't already know.
  • Practice Problems ~ 10 problems on the current topic ~ with explanations after most of them~ Here's an example where... oops~ made qt plural... (even though the math was right). The good news is that if there are silly mistakes made like this, your student will (hopefully) learn from them, and then have the opportunity to do another set of practice problems if they want to increase their score. 

  • Stay Sharp ~ another 10 questions on the topic ~

  • Challenge Question ~ This is the only section where there are no second chances- 1 question! 
There are quizzes after every two lessons, and a Test at the end of the Unit.

So far my son is doing well and appreciates the way the lessons are set up. I like that he isn't given too much at once. Occasionally the explanations are a little longer and complicated (for the way *my* brain works), but then they are distilled to the simplicity that I understand. (See the bolded sentence at the bottom of this screenshot...)
I think that if he is diligent with this course through some of the summer and early fall he should be well prepped for most geometry questions on the PSAT this year. Time will tell... ;)

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 

  • Company: UnLock Math
  • Product: UnLock Geometry   
  • Ages: High School 
  • Price: $49 monthly or $299 annually (50% sibling discount)
    • Use my referral link to receive $50 off a one year subscription to any of the Algebra programs. Special link expires September 14, 2017
You can visit UnLock Math on the following Social Media Pages:
Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say about Unlock Geometry as well as UnLock Pre-Algebra, UnLock Algebra I, and UnLock Algebra II.  As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Historical American Fiction, Time-Travel~ Great Juvenile Summer Reading set! (Review)

My History-loving Youngest was so excited when a package came from Adventures of Rush Revere #1 New York Times Bestselling Book Series by Rush and Kathryn Adams Limbaugh with this lovely set of books, the Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series.  Many adults are only familiar with Rush Limbaugh as a talk radio host. However, he has also co-authored a great series for the elementary set, intended to foster excitement about our nation's founding, and the amazing people that made it happen. 

First off, I personally appreciated the attention to detail in the packaging~ a box arrived with the books stacked and beribboned. We were so excited that we took them out before we remembered to take a photo~ they looked so neat in the box!  The presentation made him feel very special! This would be a great gift idea for the history-loving bookworm in your life! 
Now on to the review.
There are five hardcover books in the series:
  • Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims
  • Rush Revere and the First Patriots
  • Rush Revere and the American Revolution
  • Rush Revere and the Presidency
  • Rush Revere and the Star-Spangled Banner
The stories revolve around a substitute teacher (Rush Revere) who dresses up like his hero, Paul Revere, every day, a group of modern-day children (Tommy, Freedom, Cam, Ed, Maddie, and Elizabeth), and Liberty, a time-traveling horse from the Revolution. They end up in a variety of interesting present-day and historical situations, as they rub shoulders with some of the most exceptional Americans of the day.

The books were not only presented beautifully in shipping, but are themselves lovely. The pages are high quality with a parchment look, and include "Rush Revere and the Gang" Illustrations, Original Source Documents, Helpful Information, and Fine Art from the period. These help the stories and history come alive, and both younger readers and middle schoolers should find things of interest in many of the graphics. 

Bottom Left~ Map sketched by John Adams of taverns in Braintree and Weymouth, 1761 

My son read through the series right away (he's a speedy/voracious reader, so he was through the series in 5 days~ one book/day), and has reread them, as he does with many books that he enjoys. Each time through, at various points in the stories he was chuckling to himself over the action and/or conversation. He also still spontaneously offers historical information that he has gleaned from his reading in general conversation with the family, so that is a win in my book!

While the conversations and side-stories are sometimes silly and goofy, and words like "stupid" and "brat" show up (those are kind of considered "bad" words in our house, in that my kids aren't allowed to use them...  so when it *is* appropriate to use them, *I* get called on it... ;) ), juvenile humor *does* tend to catch some kids' attention, and I totally understand it's use in this format.

Living in New England, my son has been steeped in Massachusetts history, so any book that catches his attention on this well-loved, much read topic must offer something new to pique his interest~ The Brave Pilgrims did not disappoint~ and he was annoyed with me that I made him wait till the next day to read the second story, The First Patriots. This book included some of his favorite historical characters "Give me Liberty, or give me Death!" was heard in my home even as I'm writing this review... ;). Having just visited Philadelphia last summer, and stood where the Constitutional Convention took place, and having watched National Treasure (the National Archives are of great interest to my Youngest), The Star-Spangled Banner was another book that was greatly enjoyed.

Patriotic themes show up in the stories that relate to today's young Americans. One I appreciated, that showed up in my son's favorite book of the series (The American Revolution), offered support for the military children of our time. Cam's dad is in the military, and Rush Revere helps him see that he is away FROM his family at times, FOR his family, and the country, just like the original Patriots.
In The Presidency, the concept that those who are seeking election shouldn't be doing so for fame, fortune, careers, and power, but to actually SERVE their country and fellow-citizens is another patriotic theme that I hope these books will help the next generation take more seriously than many have in recent decades. ;)

Beyond reading the books, the Rush Revere website offers a number of resources for educators (home and school), including study guides and a couple of activity pages for each title. The study guides are intended for parent/teacher use, and include an introduction and book summary with a handy synopsis of each chapter, as well as quizzes for each chapter. These could be printed out, or used as discussion questions, depending on how you feel.

    There are also some online word and art activities for your child to check out, and a few online games, for those that like to reinforce their reading with interactive electronic play.

    Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
    My personal take~ This would be a great gift idea for the history-loving bookworm in your life! (And a super summer reading pack!) 
    You can visit Rush Revere on the following Social Media Pages: 

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

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    Monday, June 19, 2017

    Nuggets of Gold (A song for my coffee-drinking friends! + Other Music)

    Are you awake??
    Need a cup of Joe?

    How about an awesome new song by John Waller called "Awakening (the Coffee Song)" that is available for download from Hear it First. (You can preview any of these songs by listening to them on the embedded Spotify links, but if you want to download them yourself, you need to go to the underlined links).

    There is also a song by Jai Velasquez, "God Who Moves the Mountains" that is worth a listen... (Same link as above~ where you can find a few other songs I didn't have a chance to listen to before I wrote this post)

    You can also download MercyMe's version of "Come Thou Fount" from FreeCCM

    And Landry Cantrell (New to me artist) has a free download on "Gravity"


    Thursday, June 15, 2017

    Can you use an Internship for High School Credit ? (A Review)

    Apologia Educational Ministries could be considered one of the cornerstone companies in the Christian Homeschool Education Publishing world. They have branched out from their most well known original science curricula to many other homeschooling subjects and helps, including one of their latest offerings, a workbook on Internship for High School Credit.

    Internship for High School Credit is a spiral-bound 99 page workbook intended to introduce the concept of considering internships during the high school years, as well as practical helps in making an internship happen for your student AND offering credit for that internship on a high school transcript.

    The Introduction to the book discusses reasons for internships and helps to assess whether an internship might be a good fit for your child.

    Part 1 is written to the student~ "Getting Started"
    Each one of the sections in Part 1 include discussions about making decisions, and/or practical tips and helps. The contents include:
    • Determining the Type of Internship
    • Choosing a Company
    • Preparation
    • Receiving High School Credit ~ this is a particularly helpful section, as it gives the student information on how to determine what credit(s) they plan to receive, how many, and how to organize their schedule to reflect that. 
    • Writing a Resume'
    • Letter of Introduction
    • Sample Student Resume'
    The Resume' and Letter of Introduction segments offer helpful information on organizing these important documents as well as some samples which can be used to model their own resume's and Letters of Introduction. I always find it easier to figure out something like this when I have a bit of a template to follow! 
    • The Interview
    • After the Interview
    • Gearing Up for the First Day
    Again, these sections offer practical suggestions (for example, try to memorize the interviewer's name, even if you only learn it at the interview itself~ that makes a good impression) and helps as the student moves into the area of actually getting an internship.
    • Part 2 is written to the parents~ "Information for Parents" with discussions about:
    • Choosing an Internship Location ~ gives some practical questions to think about when contemplating a specific company (an example... Do the employees bring their lunches, or eat in restaurants or order out regularly~ these are good things to consider, that I wouldn't have thought of on my own~ is it financially feasible for your child to intern at a specific company/location baed on the practical aspects of the job). 
    • Child Labor Laws 
    • Transcript Documentation
    • Course Title and Number
    • Number of Credits
    • Grades
    All of these sections offer suggestions on the practical side of creating your own course through the internship, and how to go about it. Nothing is laid out precisely, because there are so many variables and options for possible internships, but there are concrete examples of hours required and credits assigned. 

    Parts 3-5 return to the student.
    Parts 3 and 4 are the practical workbook section, one for each semester, and include

    • How to Use the Worksheets
    • Semester Goals
    • (<--- eekly="" example="" li="" nbsp="" worksheets="">
    • Evaluation sheets
    • Midterm and Final Work Performance assessment pages (For work supervisor to complete~ see example below)
    • and Summary pages.

    Part 5 wraps everything up in a neat package by suggesting final writing assignments for the student ~ one to summarize their experience, and a thank you note to the company providing the internship. It also discusses asking for a letter of recommendation and updating your resume'.

    My son isn't able to apply for an internship this summer due to various activities and family commitments, but he definitely appreciated how well the book is laid out~ simple and clear without any confusing elements.

    I appreciate the idea of an internship, as it is a good way to determine what our children are interested in doing for the rest of their lives. So much better to find out waaaaayyyy before college that an accounting office (or a dental office, or a landscaping company) are exactly the sort of atmosphere where your child will either flourish or fade, and will help to make future decisions that much easier (And if they can get high school credit at the same time, so much the better!).

    Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
    You can visit Apologia on their social media pages:
    Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, and  YouTube and you can find sample pages and FAQs if you click the yellow download button on the product page.

    Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say about this book, as well as How to HOMESCHOOL with Stunning Confidence, Contagious Joy, and Amazing Focus (DVD &Coursebook) a help for homeschooling parents. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
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    Monday, June 12, 2017

    SpeedyPrep ~ CLEP test preparation courses (A Review)

    If you have a high school student or college student, you may be interested in this latest review product, CLEP preparation courses by SpeedyPrep. These courses are geared towards students who have already taken high school level classes in a given subject and feel they are probably proficient enough to test out of their basic college level classes (Which is a HUGE cost savings, tuition-wise).

    What courses are offered? As you can see in the graphic above, there are 33 college subjects that can be "clepped" or tested out of. SpeedyPrep offers preparation for 24 of those courses:
    • Business
      • Introductory Business Law
      • Information Systems
      • Principles of Management
      • Principles of Marketing
      • Principles of Macroeconomics
      • Principles of Microeconomics
    • Foreign Language
      • Spanish
    • History and Social Sciences
      • American Government
      • US History I
      • US History II
      • Western Civilization I
      • Western Civilization II
      • Humanities
    • Literature
      • Analyzing and Interpreting Literature
      • American Literature
      • English Literature
      • College Composition
    • Mathematics
      • College Algebra
      • College Mathematics
    • Psychology and Human Development
      • Introductory Psychology
      • Introductory Sociology
      • Human Growth and Development
    • Science
      • Biology
      • Natural Sciences

    You can read specifics about each course if you visit the SpeedyPrep website and click on the courses tab. There are details about what is covered and how the CLEP exam is laid out. This is a screenshot of part of the information on Western Civilization I:

    Lots of great information to read on the website to discover if SpeedyPrep is a good option for your student.

    If we had known credits my Eldest's college would accepts while she was still in high school, we might have chosen to use SpeedyPrep in place of the online math course whose credits her college of choice does not accept. I would have been pretty happy with the SpeedyPrep guarantees. It states that if a student masters 90% or more of their course, they are guaranteed to pass the CLEP exam or SpeedyPrep will refund up to three months of the subscription fees used to study for the test. More details can be found on their Guarantee page.

    Subscriptions are for 1 month, 3 months, and yearly, and each subscription is meant for only one student/user, and allow that student to access the materials for every course offered by SpeedyPrep. The materials can be accessed on any device (desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone), anywhere there is wifi capability.

    The program is a mastery program, so material will be covered more than once to ensure that it maintains space in the student's memory bank, with reasonably easy recall. The goal is to fill in the progress bar to the 90-100% range, and then schedule a CLEP exam fairly soon thereafter. Details/information on scheduling exams (not done through SpeedyPrep) can be found on the SpeedyPrep FAQs page.

    My daughter decided to spend some time on the SpeedyPrep site (fitting it in around her works schedule as time permitted), to see what the math courses looked like (since she had been counting on her high school math courses being accepted for credit at her college, she figured this was an option to minimize that disappointment).

    Over the course of 15 study sessions (At the time of the dashboard screenshot below)  she was only able to complete about 2.5% of the course. From this screen, she could access the course by clicking "study now"  on the specific course that she had started (The top two squares, by clicking study now in the "all courses" listing, OR click the course name in the "all courses" listing and specify which section she wanted to study. However, the only way to know which section she should work on (unless she was willing to accept the random study session assigned) would be to see her progress by clicking the "course progress" button.

    One of the things that I think could use some tweaking in this program is the ability to choose which section to study... Here is a screenshot of course progress after those 15 study sessions. You can see that a variety of topics were studied, my impression is somewhat arbitrarily:

    As you can see progress is listed by section, but the only way to choose which section to work on is to remember which topic you want to work on and click "study now" and choose that course. I would like to see the ability to choose to complete "Complex Imaginary Numbers Part 1" for example, before going on to Complex Imaginary Numbers Part 2, and an intuitive way to do that would be to click on the name of the section from the progress page to resume studying.

    Currently there are too many steps to choose your topic rather than taking what is randomly assigned...

    On to the practical~
    This is an example of the SpeedyPrep flashcard method of studying ( I decided to use a course that my daughter was not planning to study to give you screen shot examples to that I wouldn't mess up the logarithm for her courses) :

    Please notice that this study style requires an answer to be typed in, there is no multiple choice like there is in on the CLEP exam. The very good reasoning behind this is that if you have to type in the answer, you obviously know it.

    Now, I came into this with no prior study experience, and thought my choice of word "exertion" wasn't bad, and indeed, it is a synonym for the correct answer of labor. This shows up as incorrect in SpeedyPrep, but I can tell that I would have chosen "labor" out of a multiple choice selection. And next time this question comes up, I'll know which word they are looking for.

    I think this is a great way to study/prepare for a test, and although time has not allowed my daughter to get to that 90% guaranteed pass goal just yet, I think she will keep working on it to see if she can get at least one or two courses out of the way. Of course, there aren't many of them that will apply to her Art Education degree, but Math and Literature should fit right in.

    Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
    • Company: SpeedyPrep 
    • Product: Speedy Prep Courses
    • Ages: High School -> Adult
    • Price: 
      • Monthly Subscription $24.95 with access to all courses
      • Quarterly Subscription $63.62 (10% savings) with access to all courses for 3 months
      • Yearly Subscription $$194.61 (35% savings over the monthly cost) with access to all courses for a full year
    Visit SpeedyPrep on their social media sites: Twitter and Facebook 

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