Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Imagine...The Great Flood (Homeschool Review Crew)

Jude is making up for his later start in reading by devouring nearly any book he can find. When I researched the story of Imagine...The Great Flood from Barbour Publishing, I found a book that fit right into his preferred genre: kids who time-traveled into history. Jude was very happy for the package man to arrive with something new to read.

 Imagine...The Great Flood is the first of a series by Matt Kochich. The series brings stories of the Bible to life for children in the 8 to 12 years range, traveling back and imagining what life would have been like during the event. (The next book, Imagine...The Ten Plagues is slated for a March 2018 release.)

The story begins with the Max family preparing to move from Texas to Florida, and ten-year-old Corey is most definitely not excited about the move. To say he's "disappointed to have to leave everything familiar behind" is like saying the Great Flood was "a little bit of rain." His mom tries to reassure him that sometimes living requires blind trust, like their faith in God. As they're talking, thunder rumbles and Corey's dog, Molly, disappears into the woods. When Corey goes after her, he falls and is knocked unconscious.  His subconscious transports us to ancient Mesopotamia; the talk with his mother and the fledgling storm have reminded him of the Great Flood.  Corey "arrives" just in time to help load animals onto the ark. The story isn't, however, about the flood itself, but rather coming to trust in a plan you may not agree with, or even understand.

Jude seemed to enjoy the book. At only 110 pages, it was a fairly quick read over the course of a couple of days. Chapters averaged about six pages each, making it an easy book to pick up and put back down again. As I said, time-travel is one of his favorite book genres, but he was clear this was not truly a "time travel" book; he pointed out, "It was just a dream sequence." Ok, then, kid. I agree - it was a "dream sequence." I'd liken it to Dorothy's unconscious dreaming in The Wizard of Oz. Corey imagines he is helping Shem, then being lured by the "power" of a wizard, and then finding himself realizing that maybe his parent's were right and he should have just believed it would all work out.

However, Jude also got confused at the time jump back to present day. When Corey fell, he was still living in Texas. He appears to begin regaining consciousness (hearing a voice that he thought sounded almost like his mother) at the end of Chapter 14, and Jude figured they were still in Texas. However, while Chapter 15 jumps to back to the present day, the setting is Clearwater, Florida. It is three months later, and Corey has adjusted to the change and made a new friend, named Noah. I agree that there was a disconnect there. It could have used a transition chapter, of him waking up and realizing that everything was going to work out and setting off to Florida, followed by the final chapter where it all was OK. Imagine a literary plot diagram.  The book follows it fairly well, but jumps from the climax to the resolution, with no falling action.

I felt that the "God is in control" message was not really conveyed well.  As an adult, I understand the idea of sometimes you just have to do things, make the best of it, and know God will sort it out all in the end. As a parent, that's sometimes a difficult thing to explain.  We have had many situations where we've had to say, "The only answer is that it's time to 'Let go and let God,' and trust in His plan."  In the story, Mom says to Corey, "I think it's time you try to understand where your father is coming from," but never says where he actually is coming from. The book says that his father "dropped the bomb" announcement of the move, and Corey doesn't "understand why Dad can't find another job here," (p. 8), but it doesn't really explain why they were moving. Saying, "It's a new path for our life," or "A new career," or something that a 10-year-old can relate to would help identify with Corey's uncertainty.  Her "But we're going to live at the beach and go to Disney World!" comes across as more of a Pollyanna-esque bribe to make it all OK, as if the parents are in control and kiddo is along for the ride.   Telling a 10-year-old, "You're moving across the country," and then giving (the reader) no explanation why makes it hard to decide if Corey's being overdramatic or not. As Jude said, he didn't know whether to feel bad for Corey, or just say "Look, dude, move on and deal."  It became less about Corey giving himself over to what was beyond human understanding, and more about trying to find a logical reason for something very human.

 The title is Imagine...The Great Flood, and this is definitely an imagining of the time. Though there are some parts based on the biblical story, It's not a "retelling" of the Great Flood, but rather an imagining of what might have happened while the Ark was being loaded up and how the people God was not saving may have acted. The author does use some great descriptive imagery to help the reader feel as if he is just on the sidelines observing what is going on, rather than it being "recounted" by a 3rd person narrator.  However, with all of the added details, I'd call this more of a "character-building" book that happens during the time of the Flood, not a theologic retelling of the story.

 Overall, I think it's an "OK" book. Koecich's strong descriptions help to set the scenes, but the story is skimpy on plot structure in enough places that I felt like it was hard to understand the characters well.

Read about what other Crew members thought of Imagine...The Great Flood by clicking the banner below:

Imagine. . .The Great Flood by Matt Koceich {Barbour Publishing}

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Let's go Geography (Homeschool Review Crew)

Damien is at an awkward stage.  He's only seven, but he has taken to learning like a navigator to the sea.  He's very proud of the fact that he's ready for "not-little-kid" work already (he's working on a 3rd to 4th-grade level) and has decided that since Jude has a geography program, he needs one too. However, he's still only seven, so he has the skills but not necessarily the maturity for programs aimed for older students.  Let's Go Geography is filling that "want" for us.  Because it is aimed at students in Kindergarten through Fourth Grade, it is a nice balance of big kid work without overwhelming a still-little kid.

Because this homeschool geography curriculum is intended for a broad range of abilities, it adapts to how much time your child is willing to invest. We received Year One of a three-year program to review.  The program's plan is to visit one country a week, focusing on a few weeks in each region, and then moving on to another section.  By the end of Year One, you'll have been around the world; if you continue through with the entire three years, you'll have visited nearly all of the countries of the world.

Each lesson in the 36-week, "One Year" program took us under an hour to complete in one sitting. It could easily be broken down into five or ten-minute lessons across the span of a week.  We found that breaking it up too much was actually harder because Damien never found a good rhythm; he'd get everything out, do one activity for five minutes, and have to pack it up.  We decided that it was easier for us to spend an hour (sometimes taking a five-minute break in the middle), and just finish the lesson in one go.

Despite the original plan of "one a week," that wasn't cutting it for Damien. He wanted to do one a day. I can't complain about him wanting to learn -- I'm just hoping that the next year's plans are available by about Christmas! I finally cut him back to a lesson every two or three days by pushing off the day's craft activity, and adding more resources when we were in an area.

We also quickly found ways to add on more opportunities to learn.  For example, Damien is named for St. Damien of Molokai, so our study of Hawaii included a detour to Kamalo' to learn about his namesake's mission.  We also included side trips to virtual tours of Hawaii's National Parks and a quick lesson on Pearl Harbor.

On the maps, we also added in locations of places where our friends live or where we had visited.  When we studied Canada, we looked up where our friends lived outside of Regina, Saskatchewan.  We met up with them on our big 2016 summer trip and visited several National Parks with them.  (This photo is Damien and Miss E. at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.)

A study of the geography of the Caribbean, combined with a map of Irma, helped Damien locate the "big hurricane" that we had recently been talking about.  We added in where our family lives and where Disney World is located to show both "they both are in Florida, and not really close to each other, but you can see the path and how both were in it because the storm was so big."  We also added in the National Parks we visited, to give him an idea of where they were located.  When we visited Dry Tortugas NP a few years ago,  it was a nearly three-hour ferry ride from Key West.  Seeing it on the map made him realize just how far off the mainland and keys we were.

I think this program has helped Damien to learn about where things are "relative" to others.  I even learned something new: the "Greater Antilles" is less a location than the grouping of the larger Caribbean islands, including Hispaniola, while the "Lesser Antilles" are the smaller ones.  I've heard these islands mentioned in the news -- usually when a hurricane is approaching -- but had a rather nebulous idea of them and their locations.

However, as much as Damien loved the lessons, in the end, I wasn't quite as impressed. I think he liked how they followed the same pattern each week.  He knew what was coming next, from the beginning map to the craft at the end of the day.  I liked the routine as well (it sure saved me having to say "We need to find..." because he was ready to go), but I found the execution of the program uneven.

First, while the student can make a travel journal, it's a lot of either single page printing, or printing a lot of excess paper.  I can appreciate the cover pages, copyright pages, etc. being part of each lesson because they are available a la carte instead of as a year-long package, but printing the whole lesson left us with a lot of scrap paper.  However, you can't just download the PDF file and call it good -- much of the information/presentation is hyperlinked in the document.  You need to have access to the original and the internet to actually complete the activities.

The first week, the New England region, I was blown away by the variety of resources included in the lessons.  While the YouTube videos linked were obviously older (judging by the peoples' clothing and skylines, I'm estimating around the early 1990s),  much of it was still pertinent information -- whether it's 2017 or 1990, the Pilgrims still landed at Provincetown in 1620.  I was looking forward to the next lesson, Hawaii.

I was a little disappointed when we got to it.  As we worked through later countries, we've learned that the "music" of the country is its national anthem.  I can appreciate that we had already seen a video of the United States National Anthem.  (For the record, it was an excellent rendition from Super Bowl XXXIX.  You can't get more American and Patriotic than choirs from four United States military academies, two presidents (Presidents Bush (41) and Clinton), the USA Herald Trumpets, an excellent sign language interpreter, and a "missing man" flyover. (I'll even forgive that this is from the year where my home team, the Philadelphia Eagles, fell heartbreakingly short of the trophy.)

However, while I appreciate God Bless America is an American patriotic song,  and Hawaii is part of the United States, I would have liked to learn about the music of Hawaii. Truthfully, when I saw "Enjoy the Music" as an activity, I was expecting it to be more "music of that place's culture." Hawaii does have an official state song, Hawai'i Pono'i .  As both the state song and the former anthem of the Kingdom of Hawaii, I think that would have been a better choice.  I also feel some of the linked samples for other countries were poor examples; while it was cute to see young students singing their national anthem in Haiti, the audio quality made tough to understand them.  Adding the music from countries was easy, and did help me bulk it up to accommodate Damien's voraciousness, but it just made me a little disappointed in the core program because I was expecting it as the music link.

We also struggled with opening links.  I was trying to work with the programs online, rather than downloading them to my laptop.  (I am in the process of moving photos around, and my disk space is extremely limited at the moment.)  You have to be really careful to open the links in a new tab/window; if you mis-clicked and then hit the back button in your browser, you got an error page.

 Often it meant logging out and then back into the program, then re-starting the page.  With at least six to eight links per lesson, it quickly became frustrating.

I would also have loved a "You'll need this for the craft activities," cover sheet for the entire program.  The New England craft was a signature of the coast: the lighthouse.  While we had large plastic cups in the garage, we didn't have any smaller ones.  Luke ran to the dollar store and picked up a package (I think it was easier to just go than listen to Damien bug!), but I wouldn't have even presented Damien - my "never met a craft he didn't like and insisted MOM subscribe to Crafty Carol's YouTube channel in case he ever gets accidentally unsubscribed" child - with a potential craft option unless I had every item ready and waiting.  Since I don't know what's coming ahead without opening every single activity, I'm now hoarding plastic cups and paper lunch bags.  (They take up space, but it's cheaper to hold on to them than buying more Oreos to bribe the big brother with the drivers' license.)

He had to wait an extra day to make his Hawaiian lei -- Luke was at school for a meeting, and by the time he got home with the bead kit, it was too late to start that day. This actually worked out well for timing - as I said, doing the craft the "next day" extends the life of the lesson for us - but it didn't make for a happy Damien.

Back on the plus side of the balance sheet, I feel that while geography is the basis for the program, there is enough of an overview of each location's history and culture to count as a minimalist social studies instruction.  There is also a notebooking page provided, for the student to write a bit about what he learned.

While I think, generally speaking, this would be a good supplement to a stronger social studies/history program for a third or fourth grader, I believe that it has sufficient information and activity to be a complete program for the K-2 set.  There is also a review/tie-together every twelfth week, to finish one section of the world, introduce some general concepts, and then move on to another area of the world.  Instead of being just an overview of a lot of places, it reinforces what was learned.

Overall,  I like this program. I can't say I love it, because there are a number of things that kept it from going smoothly for us, and that I would have liked to be different.  However, I like it enough that we will likely at least finish this year, and possibly continue with the Year Two and Year Three curriculums, at an accelerated pace.  It's a cute program, and it suits Damien's current needs, so that cancels out a bit of the drawbacks for me.  I think it would be a good choice for a family with multiple age students, who wanted a more formal program for older elementary children but also had younger folks who wanted to be "just like the big kids."

Learn about how others use Let's Go Geography by clicking the banner below!

Let’s Go Geography {Reviews}

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Handling Disappointment

This child is a weasel.

He is adorable, sweet, and trying his hardest.

But a weasel nonetheless.

Directions: Andrew Jackson was disappointed when he didn't win the election of 1824. Describe a time when you were disappointed.

When I looked up from reading his paragraph, I saw this face.

Yeah, he's earned* his iPad.

*For the record, the house rule is "No electronics until all schoolwork is done."  I think I'm a reasonable ogre. ;)

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Progeny Press: The Silver Chair (Homeschool Review Crew)

When people ask me about my favorite literature study guides, Progeny Press is one that always is at the top of my list.  Our latest review from them is The Silver Chair E-Guide, and it continues to challenge Jude's comfort zone.

The Silver Chair guide accompanies the same-titled book from C.S. Lewis' Narnia series.  (Note: the book is sold separately, though you can purchase it directly from Progeny Press.) I admit a bit of trepidation jumping into the stories of Narnia rather literally in the middle.  Many will argue whether you should read them in the publisher's order or in the order Lewis ultimately intended, but either way, The Silver Chair jumps in in the middle of either listing.

Table credit: Wikipedia

Each of the Progeny Press guides begins with a "before you read" section, and while there are several other activities suggested, this guide suggests reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader before reading The Silver Chair. (One of the characters in this story visits Narnia for the first time in that volume.) I don't think this is strictly necessary because the book can be read as an independent, self-contained novel, but if I was making longer-term plans, I might consider reading that first.  Guides for most of the Narnia stories are available from Progeny Press, so you could create a literature study of the series and slide this one in in its "proper" place.

This guide is recommended for students in grades five to eight.  Newly minted fifth-grader Jude was the reviewer for this guide.   The Silver Chair has a Lexile score of 840L, which is just about where he's comfortable with me reading and him listening.  (Read more about how I use Lexile levels to determine if a book is going to work for us.)  I think fifth grade is a difficult year; elementary books seem too simple, yet they're not quite ready to make that leap to "middle school" thinking.  When a lesson seems truly on-grade-level, I prefer to work with him and model what I expect of him, providing a little scaffolding and a little cheerleading.  I have him do less challenging books independently, so he gets the "I can do this!" confidence to try harder books on his own.  He did well with understanding the book, especially when it was read with great animation.  Since this book is at the lower end of his true capabilities, I'm not surprised, but the study guide was harder for him than I expected.  We hit a speedbump on the very first page.

I had estimated that it would take him about fifteen minutes to work on the "Context Clues" vocabulary.  Nope.  It was closer to an hour, and at least two teary tantrums.  We're now down to about forty-five minutes, but they are painful.  I'm being "mean" and forcing him to honestly try before getting out his dictionary.  Most of the time he gets them close.  I'm not sure he's ever heard the word moor but blindly guessed it was a "yard" since it was outside.  Other words, like alighted, ultimately needed the dictionary.  Jude gets points for knowing -ed was an ending and the root word was "alight," but he got stuck on light = something you turn on to see.  He has a surprisingly extensive vocabulary (he knew malicious was a synonym for spiteful), so I'm surprised that these were so difficult for him to complete.  On the other hand, he's not used to this format.  He's used to getting a list of words and being told, "Look these up." Learning to read context clues is really important for the early middle school years, and I know he is capable, so I am pushing the issue.

The questions aren't incredibly difficult, provided you've paid attention to the book.  My complaint here is that they are grouped two chapters together.  It's not a huge problem, and a scan ahead shows me where there is a stopping point between chapters.  However, again, if you have a child that thrives on routine, habit, and things not changing unless it's his idea, then this might be a tough sell. When he's done, he is totally chuffed at his accomplishment.   We've negotiated a compromise of reading and doing the workbook only every other day.

I realize this review makes me sound like I didn't like the program, but that's not true at all.  I think that maybe it just was ambitious for Jude right now.  I think we will finish this one, if only because I don't want him to think that I'll let him give up just because something is hard, but I may hold off on introducing more of this level until closer to next summer, when he's approaching sixth grade and more mature.  There are plenty of Upper Elementary choices that will likely provide a less-overwhelming challenge. I'm also considering going back and starting the Narnia series from the beginning, and alternating working with him and letting him try on his own.  If we repeated The Silver Chair in a year or two, I'd be curious to see if his answers were different.

Click the banner below to read other Progeny Press reviews from Crew members; we've also been reading The Bears on Hemlock MountainCharlotte's Web, and Macbeth.  You can also read my prior reviews for the guides Sam the Minuteman and Follow the Drinking Gourd.   

Sam the Minuteman   Follow the Drinking Gourd

Study Guides for Literature {Progeny Press Reviews}

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Apologia: Marine Biology (Homeschool Review Crew)

This is not our first Apologia Educational Ministries science program review, and their high school Marine Biology program is a bit of a homecoming for us. While we've studied with several Apologia curricula, our very first Crew review was of their elementary level Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day.   It was one of Jude's first formal homeschool programs and remains a favorite almost five years later, so I was definitely interested when we had an opportunity to use their upper-level marine biology program with Matthew.

Something that frustrates me about many homeschool companies is their "a la carte" set up.  I always feel like I forgot something -- did I get the student book? The teacher's manual? What about the test book?  While there are still other add-on items for the program, and you'll need to purchase lab materials, the Marine Biology 2nd Edition Advantage Set provides a core program of student and teacher materials - student notebook, textbook, and tests with solutions manual - with one purchase.  Apologia also graciously supplied us with the (optional) Marine Biology 2nd Edition Audio CD, which is a complete audio recording of the course read to the student by Marissa Leinart.  (It and the instructional DVD are included with the Superset purchase option.)

To make this more manageable, I'm going to try to divide it into chunks by learning material. As I tried to write my first attempts at this review, I found myself getting lost in all the information. When I write reviews, I tend to organize my thoughts in my head and let ideas flow from there, but I had to actually break out pen and paper, sort everything out in hard copy, and start over.  There was so much about this program to share that the review overwhelmed itself.

About Apologia's Marine Biology Program

This program, when completed with the labs, is a full high school science credit.  11th grader Matthew is elated to be getting to the "electives phase" of high school, and this is providing a novel elective science for him.  Completion of a biology course is a pre-requisite for the program, and I'd definitely agree with that.  It assumes the student has an understanding of biologic processes, like cell structure and function, photosynthesis, reproduction, etc., and while it does explain some basics in context, it doesn't describe them in detail.  Having a good biology foundation is definitely an asset. However, it doesn't have to be Apologia's biology -- Matthew's course was not, but so far it hasn't been a problem.

While I was very interested in the program because of our prior experience, I was also a bit skittish after Luke and Apologia's high school Chemistry course didn't "gel" well.  However, it's a different class and different kid, so I cautiously approached it with an open mind.  I think that we can call this experience a success!

The Student Notebook

The Student Notebook is a huge, everything-you-need, spiral bound volume.  It's actually as thick as the textbook! Everything a student needs to master the material is included.  It gives the student a solid frame for learning.  I used to think "I never had this, and somehow survived!" but the more education evolves, I begin to wish I had more structure and direction than a blank composition book and the instructions "learn to take good notes." Honestly, I think a large reason why this has been a success for Matthew while Chemistry and Luke didn't get along is the Student Notebook.

At the start of the Notebook is a schedule layout.  I am always so excited when a course lays itself out, and it's not Mama handing out the assignments.  Somehow, when it's "what the book says," there aren't any "But can't I read four pages instead of six?" negotiation attempts.

Each module contains pages to take notes.  I think it's essential for high school students to learn how to take notes -- now is the time to figure out what method(s) are more intuitive for them to both write and recall. The book features a new style of note taking for Matthew (he's used to an  I/A/1/a outline format), but I actually think it's one that might work better for him.  My only complaint is I think there aren't enough note-taking pages for us.  (Though adding more would make the book even larger. I think we'll just use loose leaf paper and staple the pages in.)

The "On Your Own" questions that are at the end of each textbook section are included, as well as a fill-in-the-blanks study guide.  Matthew struggles to write "complete" answers, and I think having a clearly defined space helps him.  He has enough space to write several lines of text, and I've pointed out if they're giving him that much space, the answer needs to be more than four words.

There are actually two study guide options included.  Matthew has been doing both, at different paces.  The first one is more of a traditional question-and-answer format, with definitions and short answer questions.

Many of them are not direct "what is this, find it in the text" questions, and involve using critical thinking skills.  Matthew has been filling that one in as he goes through the Module (chapter), at the end of each day's lessons.

The second one is a fill-in-the-blank that uses vocabulary words from the text.  It's a bit more literal, with some leading and hand-holding. (You can see a sample of it in the next section.) Matthew completes that at the end of the unit, doing a first "what do I remember" pass, followed by one last read-through of notes to prep for his test.  After taking the first test, I can say that it is not terribly hard to do well on the tests if you really put forth a good effort on reading and completing the review questions.  The constant repetition worked well for the "classical style learner" in Matthew.

The Textbook

Have you ever tried to look at a text book and your eyes just start to glaze over? These are not your average textbook.  If you're a Charlotte Mason-style learner, you'll recognize the "living book" approach of a textbook written by a passionate author and not a committee.  While they are chock-full of information, they aren't just pages and pages of text.  Larger chunks of information are broken up visually with headings, pictures, and key terms.  The writing and layout pull the student through the chapter, inciting them to keep reading, rather than leaving them thinking "Is it the end yet?"   These breaks help clue a student into "This is important, write it down!"

The text is also studded with lab opportunities.  (There are five in the first module alone!) There are some that require extra materials (like a small shark for dissection -- the former biology major in me is looking forward to that!), but some use basic household items.  After reading through the materials needed for the "Mountain Formation from Plate Movement" experiment, I realized that the equal parts of salt and brown sugar it used didn't necessarily need to be wasted.  He used a sealable container and extra-clean hands; when we were done, it became part of a tasty brine for that night's pork ribs.

The first module focuses on oceanography basics, and most of our experiments involved household/kitchen items.  This one used salt and water to help demonstrate the ocean's salinity and evaporation/concentration.

We did have two (relatively minor) issues with the textbook.  First, the glossary is really skimpy. While some of the key terms are clearly defined separately from the rest of the text in the chapters themselves, some require a bit of discernment.  While it's good to practice learning to pull definitions from context, having the words defined in the glossary reinforces a specific definition (and gives confidence with a "Yeah, you got that one right!").  Matthew has learned to have a dictionary handy for words that he can understand the concept of but doesn't really have a clear idea of a concise explanation.  We also wished there had been a Periodic Table printed in the book. On the one hand, I recognize it's not a chemistry book. However, Matthew found that when taking notes, writing "Na" instead of "salt" or "P" instead of "phosphorus" saved space.  (It's only a few letters, but when space is finite, it's a logical abbreviation.)  Even having completed chemistry, sometimes Matthew just needed help remembering something. It was an easy fix to print one and glue it onto the inside cover, but it's the sort of simple, basic scientific tool that I think all higher level science books ought to include.

The textbook is available as part of the basic program set.  Each chapter contains the question-and-answer Study Guide, and the fill-in Module Studies are compiled into an index at the back.  This means you don't need the Student Notebook to complete the program -- you could answer the questions onto paper.  However, I would really recommend using the Notebook if you have a student who benefits from having questions with the answers (versus just answers written separately).

Also, just writing the one or two-word answers to fill in the Module Summaries blanks doesn't provide a coherent review - and it's a lot of copying to keep them in context.

Tests and Solutions Manual

There's not a whole lot to go into about these.  They're kind of self-explanatory.   I like that all of the answers are in one book, and I'm not hunting different manuals all the time. It also makes the book slightly thicker -- thicker is harder for me to lose!  The tests are separate from the answer key, and I can hand Matthew the test booklet without worrying about any temptations.  He wrote his answers on loose leaf; after seeing the space allotted in the course notebook, he had a good idea of what was expected, so I wasn't so concerned about a stack of blank lines staring back at him.

Audio CD

This is a resource that we actually didn't find useful for us, for a few reasons. First, it's an MP3 CD, not a "regular" audio CD.  Honestly, I'm not sure of the difference, beyond it only worked in the CD/DV drive for our (Mac) computers. Apparently, not all CD players can play MP3 CDs, so if you have a computer that doesn't have CD capability (like a Chromebook), make sure whatever you do have to play CDs can handle this kind.

I thought that it might be useful for Matthew because sometimes he struggles to simultaneously silently read and process/comprehend text.  He will often read things aloud, which forces him to slow down and focus on what he's reading, rather than racing through to the end.  I liked that the recording reads all of the text, including the information boxes and illustrations.  However, I found that often he'd lose focus and stop listening actively/following along, and the narration would devolve into background noise.  We found it was better to go back to him reading sections aloud (stopping to take notes helped create natural breaks) rather than having it read to him.  While it wasn't a good fit for us, I think if you have a student who does well with audiobooks or remains focused when listening/reading along, it is an excellent addition to the program.

Final Thoughts

This is a keeper of a program!  When we first were chosen, Matthew wasn't sure he wanted to do marine biology.  He's not sure what he does want to do for a career, but "stuff with fish" isn't it.  However, having completed a Geology course, the first module that discussed plate tectonics and ocean movement piqued his interest.  A strong academic program combined with of opportunities for hands-on learning with experiments helped make this program come to life.  Revisiting some of the concepts he learned in biology and chemistry triggered thoughts of "Huh...maybe that wasn't all useless gibberish."  Anatomy and Physiology or Advance Biology are typical science elective offerings, but not many high schoolers get to study marine biology. This program, both in topic and presentation, truly supports the uniqueness of homeschooling high school.

Note: If you have a K-6 student looking to study marine biology, check out our review of Apologia's Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day

55 Crew families have spent the last six weeks exploring under the sea. Click the Crew banner below to surf the web to their reviews.

Marine Biology 2nd Edition Advantage Set {Apologia Educational Ministries Review}

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Journey Through Learning: Inventors (Homeschool Review Crew)

We've used a lot of lapbooks in our homeschool, from a wide variety of sources.  However, one company I always come back to is A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks.  Their directions for use and assembly are clear, the designs are simple for less-steady hands to cut out (or for Mom to cut out in bulk), and they leave lots of space for filling in what kiddo has learned.  Ever a history buff, Jude was excited to work on AJTL's The Greatest Inventors Lapbook with Study Guide.

I love how simple it is to get started with this lapbook.  We've done some lapbooks where just getting started took an entire afternoon!  One we did required six colors, four weights of paper, printing on two sides...what a chore! All I needed to do was shove plain cheapie copy paper in the printer, hit "print," and we were ready to go in about six minutes.  Sweet!

Despite having made several lapbooks, I always have to stop and re-figure how to put them together.  It's not difficult...but I guess my brain is too full of other useless information to retain it.  Every lapbook comes with printed instructions and photos.  YAY!!  I appreciate the step-by-step directions because often I don't really "get" written directions.  I can't always "see" things in my mind,  so I appreciate when directions don't assume you know to line things in the center.  However, AJTL has gone even further....they've produced a how-to video!  On behalf of all the over-filled brain Mamas, thank you!

Once you have your folders created, the lapbook packet includes a "where to put things" diagram.  They don't always go "top left to bottom right" -- it depends on the shape of the activity. Having this to refer to always helps in our house.  I have a bunch of rule-followers, and if the directions say "put it <here>," then there it must go!

However, if you don't want to create a file-folder lapbook, you don't have to! While it does make sense that you could just glue the projects to cardstock and store in a binder, sometimes when you get so focused on "It's a lapbook!" you lose sight of any adaptability.  (I can't be the only person who gets stuck on an idea and needs the obvious pointed out to me, right?) This option works well if your kiddo really wants to DIY the layout. You can just add an extra page if you need more space, rather than trying to jigsaw-puzzle into a finite space.  Since this leads to less stress for Jude, we opted for this method.

AJTL lapbooks are meant to be started at the beginning and worked to the end. There's no skipping around, no hunting for pages.  The start-up instructions are at the front of the packet, and then the directions you need as you go are in where you need them.  Once you start, the only "backtracking" you ever need to do is looking to see where your current project goes -- but you can avoid that by just bringing the page forward with every completed project and leaving it on top of the next one.

The Greatest Inventors is probably one of the most versatile lapbooks I have ever seen.  It's intended for students in grades 2 through 8, and my experience with the wide-age-ranging curriculum is that when it tries to be for all ages, it's really for none.  This lapbook is the rare gem that actually delivers across the entire elementary spectrum.

First, it is a combination lapbook and study guide, so it's entirely self-contained, if you choose for it to be.  Start with the first pages, "What is an Invention?" and keep on going.  You could do one inventor a day, and complete the activities in about a month.  The information in the study guide gives a glimpse into the life of the inventor, providing a highlight of their "claims to fame." There's  wide variety of people studied, from the original Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci to the 20th Century hero Jonas Salk.  It creates an excellent self-contained history/science study for students at the early end of the age range.

However, it's almost effortless to turn this into the spine of a semester (or longer) program for older students.  Jude and I have been working on this, adding in books and YouTube videos to delve deeper into the background of many of these inventors.  The Magic Tree House and Who Was (Is)? series are some of his favorites, and they make a great add-on for kids in the mid-elementary range.  We worked on the lapbook part for a particular inventor, and then switched to books and videos for the rest of a week's time, to create a larger study-within-a-study.

I actually think this could even extend beyond 8th grade into high school with adding age-appropriate biographies.  Some of our favorite books that I'd recommend to expand the program are The Bishop's Boys (Tom Crouch) and/or The Wright Brothers (David McCullough) for the Wright Brothers, and The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson: Man on a Mountain (Natalie S. Bober) for our Founding Fathers that were also renowned inventors.  While the almost twenty inventors in the program do not create an exhaustive list, there is still enough variety of era and contribution to create a great semester-long program that explores some of the world's greatest inventors.

On the one hand, the list doesn't seem to have any rhyme or reason.  It's not grouped by type of invention, nor by the epoch each man lived in.  At first, it seemed to be, with a fair number of inventors overlapping in time, but then Leonardo DaVinci is tossed in the middle.

However, this seeming lack of cohesiveness actually can be an advantage! It's simple to rearrange the order of study if you wish to, making it a project you can do not just as an independent assignment but as an addition to any other history curriculum.  As he read the list, Jude realized that his hero Ben Franklin was at the beginning, but then wanted to jump over to a name he recognized -- Guglielmo Marconi.

We recently visited Cape Cod National Seashore and learned about this Nobel-Prize winning inventor who erected towers on the Massachusetts coastline. Strike while the iron is hot, right? Jude was excited to recount about how work here and in England allowed the first trans-Atlantic wireless telegram.  (He even remembered a little bit of the transmission between President Roosevelt and King Edward!) It was easy for us to skip over to Marconi because each subject was contained within his pages.

Once again, A Journey Through Learning has reminded us why it is one of our favorite homeschool resources.  The variety of programs, both stand-alone and supplemental to other curricula (i.e., Apologia, Classical Conversations, etc.) makes this a company I'm happy to use and recommend!

The Crew has been working on many lapbooks from A Journey Through Learning. Click the banner below to read their reviews.

Lapbooks for Classical Conversations, Apologia, Inventors & 20th Century {A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks Reviews}

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©2012- 2017 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.
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