Thursday, July 26, 2012

Math Essentials

Math Essentials is a math program for students working at a 4th grade level in math through algebra.  Books available are:

  • Mastering Essential Math Skills Book 1 (w/DVD)
  • Mastering Essential Math Skills Book 2 (w/DVD)
  • Mastering Essential Math Skills Pre-Algebra Concepts (w/DVD)
  • No-Nonsense Algebra (w/online lessons)
  • Decimals and Percents
  • Fractions
  • Geometry
  • Problem Solving
  • Whole Numbers and Integers

 I received Mastering Essential Math Skills Book 1 and Geometry to review.


Mastering Essential Math Skills Book 1 is the first book in this math series and is for grades 4-5 (table of contents).  Rick Fisher, the author of Math Essentials, is a teacher who developed this math system for use in his classroom to prepare students for algebra.  Lessons are short--20 minutes a day is all that is needed.  A DVD is included, and Mr. Fisher is the tutor.  He asks students to bring paper and pencil when they watch the DVD segment, and the student writes down the problems and works through the problems with Mr. Fisher.  After the DVD segment, the student works the problems in the workbook.  Each page is made up of review exercises, speed drills, helpful hints, problem solving, and problems based on the day's lesson.


In addition to Mastering Essential Math Skills Book 1, I received the Geometry book (table of contents).  This book doesn't come with a teaching DVD, but the lessons are similar to the lessons in Mastering Essential Math Skills.  Daily lessons begin with review exercises, then helpful hints (this is where the teaching occurs), problems based on the day's lesson, and problem solving.  Once again, lessons take only 20 minutes.

I used this program with Jacob, who is going into 5th grade.  I'll admit that I was skeptical about what he would think.  It's a very no-frills program; the DVD teaching isn't exciting, and the workbook pages are very utilitarian.  But he liked the program.  He enjoyed working through the practice problems with Mr. Fisher, and he really liked that the workbook pages took less than 20 minutes.  Priced at only $33.95 for Mastering Math Essentials Book 1 (including the DVD) and $11.95 for the Geometry book, it's an affordable option.


For more reviews of the Math Essentials program, go here.


Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are mine.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Knowledge Quest: TimeMaps

We have used Knowledge Quest's Map Trek since they first came out.  These have simplified geography in our homeschool, so I was excited when the opportunity arose to review TimeMaps.  


There are currently 7 TimeMaps available, and they are priced individually at $9.95, or you can purchase the set for $44.95.  The titles are:
  • Ancient China
  • Rise of Rome
  • Fall of Rome
  • Rise of Islam
  • The Black Death
  • European Exploration
  • Atlantic Slave Trade

TimeMaps are interactive, allowing you to follow how civilizations have changed over time.  The maps run using Adobe Flash.  As you click on the arrows by the date, the map will move forward in time (or you can go backwards as well), showing the changes in the region.  In addition to showing the changes on the map, there are little information buttons that provide a mini history lesson.  When these "i" buttons are clicked, the changes are explained in a little text box.



Since describing TimeMaps don't do them justice, here is a short video you can watch that shows the maps in action.

A teacher's guide is also included with the maps.  It's a pdf file that contains a few activity suggestions, as well as a printed commentary on the maps that you can read with your child.  This gives a great overview of the map and the changes shown.  Also included are timeline pages that you can print for the time period and a printable map of the area.

TimeMaps are another fabulous product from Knowledge Quest.  Being able to see the changes in various regions over time is wonderful, and we look forward to utilizing this resource in our homeschool for many years to come.


To read more reviews of TimeMaps, as well as reviews of MapTrek, go here.


Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are mine.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Who Is My Neighbor?

Who Is My Neighbor? is volume 3 of a four volume Biblical worldview series published by Apologia, in conjunction with Summit Ministries.  Volume 1 is titled  Who Is God?, volume 2 is titled Who Am I?, and volume 4 is titled What On Earth Can I Do? (available 2013).  For this review, I received the Who Is My Neighbor? book ($39), Notebooking Journal ($24), and Coloring Book ($8).  This volume focuses on a Biblical worldview of servanthood.

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I believe that teaching a Biblical worldview is very important.  Everyone has a worldview, or a compass for guiding their thoughts and actions, whether they want to admit it or not.  The choices and decisions we make are filtered through this worldview.  The "What We Believe" series will help you teach your child (ages 6-14) how to view the world and make decisions through the light of Scripture.  

Who Is My Neighbor? is broken down into 8 lessons:
  • Does Anyone Really Need Me?
  • How Can I Make a Difference?
  • Who Is My Neighbor?
  • Why Did God Make Families?
  • What Can I Do For My Country?
  • Why Can't We All Just Get Along?
  • Who Is God's Family?
  • Why Does the Church Need Me?

Each lesson is further broken down into 12 parts.  The lessons are very flexible and easily adaptable to your family's schedule, though there is a sample schedule that demonstrates how to do each lesson in three weeks, doing the curriculum two days per week.  Since the lessons are flexible, you could easily do more or less each day, depending on your needs.

The book is written directly to the child.  This means older students can read it to themselves, but younger students might need you to read it to them.  The stories are engaging and the text is thought provoking. Who Is My Neighbor? takes the lessons, verses, and stories from Scripture to the next level by having you and your children engage with the text and apply it to every day life by answering the big questions listed above.

The Notebooking Journal is in full color, and a beautiful place for your child to record their thoughts and ideas as you go through Who Is My Neighbor?.  There are over 200 pages of hands on activities, questions, puzzles, and pages to draw and interact with what is being taught.

The Who Is My Neighbor? coloring book is a great way to keep younger children engaged during the lesson.  I know my boys can focus better when their hands are busy, and coloring is a great way to accomplish that.  

My family thoroughly enjoys the "What We Believe" series.  I love that my boys are being challenged to really think about why we should act and behave in certain ways; not because of a legalistic worldview, but because as children of God we are called to honor Christ in all we say and do.


For more reviews of Who Is My Neighbor?, go here.


Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are mine.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Professor B Math

Like many homeschooling families, we try to keep up with math over the summer.  There's nothing worse than starting a new year, pulling out the new math books, and realizing that your children forgot how to count.  Okay, maybe it's not usually that bad, but it's frustrating.  When the opportunity arose to review Professor B Math, I was happy to have a chance to use a different math with my boys.  I was given a 1 year subscription to review.  While I was given access to all 3 levels, I only used the first level.


Professor B covers three years of math in one year (about 10 months for the average student).  Students can begin as young as 3, but it is stressed that you start your child at the right level instead of going by grade.

Each level begins with a Table of Contents, and you choose the lesson you wish to complete.  The lessons are a series of slides, and the parent is supposed to read what Professor B says on the slide to the child.  There is no sound in the lesson.

Professor B steps the child through the lesson.  Concepts are broken down into very small chunks, and the child is supposed to work to mastery on each skill.  In addition to the online lessons, there is a printable workbook in PDF form for each level.

I had high hopes for this program, but it just didn't work for us.  I found it cumbersome and slow moving.  It was difficult to figure out where to place Nicholas, and the levels we did were a bit too easy.   Having to click through the slides and read each step to him was time consuming.

I do think this program would work well for children who are struggling in math or who need remediation.  The steps are broken down into very small parts, so the child wouldn't be overwhelmed with too much information at once.

Subscriptions can be purchased month to month.  They begin at $20/month, with discounts for each additional level purchased.  You may also purchase a 36 month subscription to each level for $100.  


For more Professor B Math reviews, go here.


Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are mine.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Faith Like a Child

We were recently evacuated due to the Waldo Canyon fire. We had wonderful friends that took us in at 10:00 PM after we received the reverse 911 call, and they graciously housed the 8 of us (yes, they generously allowed us to bring our dog, Jed, along) for 2 days. Before we were evacuated, we watched the flames rush down the hill toward the neighborhood that lost 346 homes, and we stood on our hill and watched these homes burn and listened to small explosions.  We figured out that these explosions must've been propane tanks that belonged to gas grills, and we knew from the amount we heard that the devastation was going to be horrible.  We were fairly certain that our home would be safe due to the terrain, but after the activity on that night (fires simply don't behave the way this one behaved that night), we realized anything could happen.

About 36 hours into our evacuation, Nicholas walked up to me, looking just the tiniest bit down.  He looked at me and said "I'm kind of sad that our house burned down."  I quickly explained that our house was still  standing, gave him a hug, and he went happily on his way.

Since that day, I've been thinking about his reaction.  In his 6.5 year old mind, his house was gone.  His toys were gone, his roller skates were gone, his hamster was gone.  Everything he owned was gone.  Yet, he wasn't distraught.  He wasn't weeping (though at one point the day before he cried when he realized we didn't bring his skates--we'd had plans for going skating for Jacob's 10th birthday).  He was merely a bit sad.  

He never doubted that Craig and I would take care of him.  He never doubted that his needs (and even some of his wants) would be met.  That is faith like a child.  Do I have that much faith in my heavenly Father?
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.  (Matthew 10:29-31 ESV)

Hewitt Homeschooling: Lightning Lit & Comp 8

Over the years, I'd heard about Lighting Lit & Comp by Hewitt Homeschooling, but had never seen it in person.  I was very excited to have the opportunity to review the 8th grade level.  I received the Student Guide ($25), the Student Workbook ($25), and the Teacher's Guide ($20).


In this course, the student will read and write about several novels, along with short story selections and poems.  The novels studied are Treasure Island, A Day of Pleasure, A Christmas Carol, The Hobbit, My Family and Other Animals, and To Kill a Mockingbird.  Short stories and poems by Chesterton, Hawthorne, Whittman, Emerson, Keats, and others are also included.

The literary lessons (and additional mini lessons) covered in the 8th grade level are:

  • Author's Purpose/Taking Notes
  • Setting/Rewriting in Your Own Words
  • Vivid Imagery in Poetry/Free Verse and Ballad
  • Sharing Your Culture/Rewriting Your Own Words
  • Details in Writing/Citing Sources in a Paper
  • Character Development/The Narrator
  • Figurative Language in Poetry/Fun Poesm
  • Conflict/Genre Fiction
  • Symbolism/Sentence Structure
  • Humor/Bibliography
  • Meter/The Sonnet
  • Writing a Literary Analysis/Writing A Conclusion

There is a basic rhythm throughout the program, though the length of time spent on a particular work depends on its length:

  • Read the introductory material
  • Read the assigned book/story/poem
  • Read the corresponding lesson and mini-lesson 
  • Complete the corresponding workbook pages
  • Complete one or two writing assignments
  • Review and revise the compositions

Luke & Ezekiel worked through a portion of this program.  They are entering 8th and 7th grades this year.  Since we only had 6 weeks with this program before I needed to write this review, we began with Chesterton's short story, A Crazy Tale.  This chapter teaches about the author's purpose, and includes a mini lesson on taking notes.  According to the provided schedule in the Teacher's Guide, this unit should take about 3 weeks, and I think that is a reasonable amount of time to complete the chapter.  It took us a little bit longer because we were unable to work on it every day.  I had intended to also complete one of the poetry chapters, but the Waldo Canyon fire caused a disruption to our homeschool.

I broke the lessons down so the boys only had to a little bit each day.  They were able to complete much of the chapter by themselves.  There are several worksheets provided, and these worksheets focus on different skills.  For this chapter, the 8 worksheets focused on discerning the author's purpose (was it to inform, explain/instruct, persuade, describe, or explore), a short writing assignment (writing about the same topic with two different purposes in mind), capitalization and apostrophes, discerning fact and opinion, and taking notes.  At the end of the chapter, there are four different writing assignments to choose from, with different levels of difficulty--the easiest option is writing a paragraph or two describing everyday things as if you're seeing them for the first time, the most difficult is writing a research paper.

I asked Luke and Ezekiel what they thought about the program.  They both enjoyed the story, the Student Guide (sample), and the worksheets (sample), but they didn't like the writing assignments.  I've got to agree with them, though for different reasons.  Not liking writing assignments is their default position, but my issue with the writing assignments is that there isn't enough hand holding for me as the teacher in the Teacher's Guide.  The Teacher's Guide (sample) provides short explanations and some tips about what the student is learning as well as answers for the worksheets.  Even though I wish the Teacher's Guide contained more detailed information and explanations, I still think this is a very well done program that deserves a look.  It takes important literary concepts and explains them well and thoroughly, using a fabulous variety of novels, short stories, and poetry instead of excerpts.  It's not overwhelming in the way it presents the information.  In addition to the 8th grade program, Hewitt also has Lightning Lit available for 7th grade, and several different programs available for 9th-12th grade.  They're also working on elementary levels, beginning with 1st grade.


For more reviews of Hewitt Homeschooling products, go here.


Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are mine.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Homeschool Spanish Academy

Jacob has been itching to learn Spanish.  For various reasons, it always gets pushed to the back burner.  I was so excited when I received a half-semester (7 week) subscription to Homeschool Spanish Academy Early Language program.  Jacob was even more excited than I was.

Homeschool Spanish Academy offers lessons via Skype for all age groups and ability levels.  All of the teachers are native speakers.  They offer 4 different levels:  Early Language, Middle School, High School, and Adult Program.

To begin, you sign up for a free trial.  Homeschool Spanish Acadamy will contact you and help you run some tests to make sure that your internet connection is up to speed and that everything is working.  The next step is to schedule your lesson.  Lessons are offered daily during morning, afternoon, and evening hours.  Finally, at your scheduled class time, the instructor will contact you via Skype to conduct the lesson.  In addition to the lesson, there are review pages and homework emailed to you to work on before your next lesson.

Jacob absolutely loved this program.  He looked forward to his lessons, and when I asked him what he liked about it, he told me that the teachers were very nice and encouraging.  He even asked for homework!  We were recently evacuated for a couple of days due to the Waldo Canyon Fire, and Jacob made sure that I packed his Spanish homework.  

Classes at Homeschool Spanish Academy become less expensive per class the more classes you sign up for at a time.  Here is the pricing structure for the Early Language program (pricing for the other levels can be found at the links above):


There is also an option for two students to take a lesson at the same time:


I think Homeschool Spanish Academy is a wonderful option for learning Spanish.  Having a native speaker is fabulous, and the program is so flexible that classes can be worked around any schedule.  The pricing is reasonable for 1 on 1 (or 2 on 1) tutoring.


For more reviews of Homeschool Spanish Academy, go here.


Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are mine.