Sunday, March 24, 2013

Review: The Discovery of Deduction

About a year ago, I had the opportunity to review The Art of Argument, an informal logic program from Classical Academic Press.  Needless to say, I was very happy to have the opportunity to review their formal logic program, The Discovery of Deduction.  For this review, I was sent The Discovery of Deduction:  An Introduction to Formal Logic ($26.95) and  The Discovery of Deduction Teacher's Edition ($29.95).  This program can be used to teach formal logic to students as young as 8th grade.


You might be wondering about the difference between formal and informal logic.  Informal logic deals with evaluating the content of an argument (fallacies such as ad hominem attacks), while formal logic deals with the form of the argument (symbols can be used to represent an argument).  The content doesn't matter; instead it's focused on the logical steps that are taken and whether they are valid or invalid.

The Discovery of Deduction can be used in a single semester or over the course of a year.  Classical Academic Press has a suggested schedule for each option.

There are four units in this program:
  • Unit I:  Introduction
  • Unit II:  Propositions and Their Relationships
  • Unit III:  Categorical Syllogisms
  • Unit IV:  Terms and Definitions

To use the program, I would have Luke and Ezekiel each read through the assigned lesson for the day (download a sample packet here). After the reading was completed, we would come together and discuss what we'd read and answer the questions.  I was thankful that I had the Teacher's Edition (download a sample packet here), because there is a lot of information to remember.  We spent 30-45 minutes on each lesson.  Like other Classical Academic Press products, The Discovery of Deduction makes formal logic as engaging as it can be made.  There are dialogues between Nate and Socrates, some humor, and some cartoon drawings.  The quality of the books are what I've come to expect from Classical Academic Press.  

While we enjoyed this program, we struggled with it.  Formal logic is very technical, and as I mentioned, there is a lot to remember.  I don't think it helped matters that Luke (8th) and Ezekiel (7th) are both on the younger side for their grades (and remember it's recommended for grades 8 & up, so Ezekiel isn't part of the recommended audience).  I knew this going into the program, but we've completed informal logic programs together without issue, so I thought we'd be able to handle this one as well.  We could continue to struggle through it, but I think we'll be best served waiting another year or two to complete this program.

That said, if you have a student who is ready for formal logic, I would definitely give this program a good, long look.  It does a great job of presenting the material, and formal logic is a great tool for training the mind.


For more reviews of Discovery of Deduction (and The Art of Poetry), visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew.


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Monday, March 18, 2013

Essentials in Writing Grade 7

I really thought that after homeschooling for for 9 years, I had at least heard of (even if I hadn't obsessively researched) every homeschool friendly writing program.  But boy, did I miss a great option. At $40 per grade level, Essentials in Writing is an affordable writing program that includes DVD instruction for the student.

There are levels available for grades 1-12, and I received the Essentials in Writing Seventh Grade program to review.  I used this program with Luke (13/8th grade) and Ezekiel (12/7th grade).  Luke doesn't mind writing; Ezekiel isn't a huge fan of the process.

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The 7th grade level includes (download the course syllabus):
  • Review of sentence types and structure
  • Grammar review
  • Writing personal letters and business letters
  • Parts of a paragraph and writing a paragraph
  • Compare and contrast essay
  • Expository essay
  • Revision process
  • Research project
  • and much more!

This course should take 120-130 days, or up to 150 if you do the grammar review.  At the 7th grade level, the program moves grammar instruction to an  optional review (grades 1-6 begin with grammar instruction).  There are 53 video lessons, and 143 workbook pages.  The video lessons are included on DVD, and the workbook pages (sample workbook page) are provided in PDF format for printing (or you can buy a preprinted workbook for $20).   The first lessons cover clauses, compound and complex sentences, prepositional phrases, and appositives, and then the student moves into learning paragraph structure, mechanics, and figurative language.  Following these lessons, the student transitions into longer writing assignments.

We spent about 30 minutes a day on the program.  If there was a DVD lesson for the day, we watched the lesson together.  Lessons are not long at all, and the teaching is clear.  Luke & Ezekiel would then do the corresponding worksheet for the lesson.  Sometimes there is more than one worksheet per DVD lesson, and we would complete those over the following days.  The lessons are broken down into bite sized chunks, so no one day or project is overwhelming. 

Remember how I said that Ezekiel wasn't a fan of writing?  I noticed early on that he wasn't complaining about this program--not even when he had to write a longer personal narrative.  Not only did he not complain about the program, he gave it a rave review when I asked his opinion before starting this blog post.  He said that the teacher (Matthew Stephens) is the best writing teacher he's ever had.  He also told me that he finally understands how to revise what he's written.  He recommended that I buy the lower levels and use them with his younger brothers, and he wants to keep using the program.  All of this from a kid who does not like to write.  Luke agreed with everything Ezekiel told me--he enjoyed the program as well, so it worked well for him, too.  I liked that it removed me as teacher, that it isn't time consuming, and that I saw real improvement from when we started the program until the writing of this review.

I really don't know how I missed this program over the past several years.  If you haven't yet taken a look at it, you should check it out.

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For more reviews of Essentials in Writing (all levels), visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.


Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Reveiw Crew in exchange for my honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.  All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Loops of Indecision

You might start to notice a theme here, because the looming 9th grade year is taking up my thoughts.

How can it be that one moment, I'm completely confident in my ability to homeschool high school, and the next moment I'm internally freaking out about some silly detail?  I freaked out about going from the grammar to the logic stage, and we've made it through that.  I know from past experience that once I've got our plan developed and our course charted, the freak outs will diminish.  I also know that I won't freak out going from junior high to high school next year with Ezekiel, or when the other three boys make the transition.  But right now?  I go from obsessing about what our next four years will look like to refusing to think about it because it is too much to process.

I'm not the first person to homeschool high school, and I'm not the first person to freak out about it, so it's not like I'm doing anything original here.

I tend to be overly ambitious, and I need to leave room in Luke's schedule for him to follow his passion (currently computer programming).  I want this year to be streamlined; I tend to add things because they are good "it-only-takes-10-minutes" things, but this is how to quickly burn students out.  Those minutes add up into hours.  I've done better this year, but I think I can do better next year.  I'm currently obsessed about whether or not to continue Greek next year.  I think doing Latin, Greek, and Spanish is too much, but I hate the thought of dropping Greek.  I might have the opportunity to get Luke into a Spanish class, though, so that might trump my desire.  But until then, I'm caught in a loop of indecision about the unknown.

Logical, right?

TouchMath Second Grade

TouchMath is a multisensory approach to early elementary math.  It was born out of the desire of an elementary school teacher, Ms. Janet Bullock, to help her students understand elementary math concepts.  There are levels available for Pre-K through Second Grade, and I was sent the Second Grade TouchMath program to review.

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The Second Grade program consists of 4 downloadable units ($59.95 each, or you can purchase all four for $199.95).  Each unit contains 6 modules.
  • Unit A focuses on adding and subtracting withing 50, including regrouping.  
  • Unit B focuses on adding and subtracting within 100, place value, and understanding multiplication.
  • Unit C focuses on adding and subtracting within 1000 along with a review of multiplication.  
  • Unit D focuses on time, money, measurement, data, and geometry.

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In addition to the four units, I also received the following TouchMath manipulatives to use with the program.  These are all optional, and are not required to use the program.

The idea behind TouchMath is that each numeral is assigned a specific dot pattern (TouchPoints) that ties the concrete value of a number to the abstract written number.  For example, the number 2 has two TouchPoints that the student can see and count, and if using the manipulatives, feel.  Since each numeral has a consistent pattern, the student is able to move from the concrete to the abstract.

I used the Second Grade program with Nicholas.  Since this is a downloadable product, each unit needs to be printed (black and white).  Just to give you an idea of what is involved, Unit A is 239 pages long.  Each of the 6 modules in a unit include an overview, objectives, instructional strategies for the student pages, module review and test, and a monitoring record, along with all student activity pages.  You can download sample activity pages on the website.

It is suggested that you do math daily, and that you spend two to two-and-one-half times your chid's age doing math.  So for Nicholas, who is 7, they suggest we spend 14-18 minutes daily.

For a typical lesson, the teacher uses the Instructional Strategies provided to guide the student through the worksheets.  Throughout the lesson, the teacher is instructed to stop and make sure the student has a firm understanding of the concept being taught.  Then there are worksheets that are completed with guidance from the teacher, and finally there is independent practice.  We spent about 15 minutes a day on TouchMath, and we just worked until the time was up (instead of setting a stopping point based on completing a lesson).  Nicholas also spent time using the software a few times a week, which reinforces what is being taught in the program.  

So far, math seems to come naturally to Nicholas and TouchMath wasn't a great fit for him.  He didn't want to take the time to do math using the TouchPoints; at this point it was just an extra step slowing him down.  He did love the TouchNumerals with Base 10, and really enjoyed making up equations using the brightly colored foam numbers.  

However, I think TouchMath would be a great program for children who are struggling, or for a standard math student if you start from the beginning.  I think jumping in at the end with a student who has a firm grasp of numbers and how they work is why it didn't work for us.

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For more reviews of TouchMath (all levels), visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.


Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Reveiw Crew in exchange for my honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.  All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Snack Time

We've always had a fairly strict meal/snack schedule here at the Academy.  After seeing this, though, I wonder if I should add an additional snack....

Saturday, March 09, 2013

READS Parent/Child Reading Comprehension System

EGM Educational Systems, LLC recently sent their READS Parent/Child Reading Comprehension System for me to review.  This system was developed by a certified reading specialist, Elaine Meyers.  READS stands for "Really Easy and Dynamic Strategy", and this is what Ms. Meyers aimed for when she developed this reading comprehension system.

READS targets children in grades 1-4.  It works with anything your child is reading to help you gauge whether or not they understood what they've read.  The kit is $19.95, and includes:

  • READS Parent's Manual
  • Question Cards & Ring
  • Rewards Chart & Stickers
  • Magic Finger & Reading Guide Strip
  • Speedy Speller
  • Reusable Storage Pouch

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The 16 page Parent's Manual explains how to use this program with your child.  The reward chart & stickers can be useful for children who are motivated by goals and rewards.  The Speedy Speller includes 1400 words and abbreviations, and includes spaces for children to write in words they need help remembering how to spell.  The reading guide strip and magic finger help children keep track of where they are on a page.

The 30 question cards are the meat of the program, though.  Sample questions are:

  • "Summarize the important events in the story."
  • "Tell one way the main character is similar to you and one way the main character is different form you."
  • "What surprised you when you were reading?"
  • "Would you recommend this book to a friend?  Give a reason."

I used this program with Nicholas, my 7 year old.  His reading has taken off, and this has given me an easy way to know if he's actually understanding what he's reading.  I would read him the question before he started reading his book for the day, and after a couple of days of questions, he started coming to me asking me what his question for the day was.  He would also often randomly answer previous questions throughout the day.  I was surprised that he enjoyed the questions so much, but he did.  He's an eager reader, so we didn't utilize the reward system, and he's not writing compositions yet, so he didn't need the Speedy Speller.  He was very tickled by the magic finger.

I like that READS doesn't require any prep work from me, and the questions allow me to keep track of his understanding of the books he's reading.  The materials are high quality, and the little bunny mascot is adorable and inviting.  If you have a student in early elementary, I'd recommend taking a look at the READS program.

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For more reviews of READS Parent/Child Reading Comprehension System, visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.


Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Reveiw Crew in exchange for my honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.  All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Thursday, March 07, 2013


I can't believe it's already time to start planning next year.  Normally I love the planning process.  After all, what we're doing next year is full of untapped potential and unmarred expectations.  Next year, I'll be the best teacher, my health will be great, and my students will be willing, right?

Luke will be 9th grade.  High School.  My emotions and thoughts run from "I've got this under control" to complete denial.  My complete denial, though, isn't that I'm not equipped or prepared to teach and guide him through high school.  Sure, there's a bit of panic when I think of messing something up when it comes to his transcript, but mostly my denial comes in when I think about the fact we've only got 4 years of schooling left.


He was four when I started teaching him to read.  He's the boy that first made me realize that little boys could either sit still or they could listen, but they could not do both simultaneously.  He's born the brunt of my mistakes as a Mom and teacher, and he's somehow still turning into a fine young man.

I know that I'm going to blink, and these next four years will be gone.  I know there will be unexpected joys as he grows into a man--just like when he was four I couldn't imagine how much I would love watching him be a fabulous big brother at 13 or how in awe I'd feel when he came to me telling me the success he's had with some aspect of computer programming.

I just wish there was a way to slow time down.  Right now, I'm going back into denial that I need to plan for high school.