Friday, August 9, 2019

Memoria Press Literature (A Homeschool Review Crew Review)

Memoria Press has become a go-to company for our family.  Several years ago, I found that our family did well with their classical education model, and we have consistently returned to Memoria Press' curricula, especially for literature. After trying several literature programs, I have determined that Memoria Press programs are the most consistent performers for us; returning to a Memoria Press study feels like a homecoming.  Our family had the opportunity to work with the Seventh Grade Literature Set.  While this is available as part of Memoria Press' seventh-grade program package, the guides are available as a set and rated for students in grades six through eight.  The collection includes student and teacher guides for
The 4-volume set we received contained a Student Guide and a Teacher Guide for each book. (While the literature books are available with the individual sets, the four-title set does not include the novels.) We used this program in a unique way, assigning two books to students now (rising 7th grader Jude and rising 10th grader Celia) and saving the other two for later.

The Trojan War

Allow me a moment for a bit of background information, please. As some readers may recall, when Jude worked on the Second Grade Memoria Press literature program, he really struggled. Although the program was marketed for second graders, his skills at the time were not quite on par with Memoria Press' expectations.  I have long felt that the program's expectations are higher than average. Combined with Jude's early struggles with reading, I have intentionally used levels that are below his chronological grade level. In fact, for his sixth-grade year, we began with literature guide for A Cricket in Times Square, part of Memoria Press' fourth-grade program. To my surprise, he easily completed this study, as well as the one for Homer Price, so we skipped ahead to fifth grade's The Chronicles of Narnia. I felt that if he could manage this book, we'd move on to sixth grade; if not, we'd complete the rest of the "fifth-grade" literature. Jude proved to me that he really was beginning to mature in his thinking process, so this summer, we moved up to sixth-grade literature. There was an added benefit: while these books were still a year behind Jude's chronological grade level, they were high-interest for him. I felt this interest would be the ridge between "want to read" and "hard to read." 

When offered the opportunity to try the 7th-grade package, I was a little hesitant to try anything intended for an even higher level student. However, hope springs eternal and I figured maybe the challenge would be good for him.  If worse came to worst, we could set it aside after the review period and try again later.  When the books arrived, I gave him the choice of reading any of the three options besides Anne... because I knew that set was going to Celia. An avid reader of all things Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology, I was not surprised when he opted for The Trojan War

I think this was a wise decision. Jude usually does better with literature studies when the story is familiar to him. If he already has a grasp of the plotline, he can follow details better, because he's not trying to figure out too many things simultaneously.  And again, high interest became the bridge between desire and ability.
While each chapter follows the elementary school-level framework that his previous literature studies have been patterned in, The Trojan War has a lot of information to absorb.  Jude is simultaneously reading Adam of the Road and completing the 6th-grade workbook, and generally manages a chapter every other day. However, we are finding it is taking us a full week to do each chapter for The Trojan War.

However, I don't think the reason is the material is too hard. I think most of it is a battle of wills. In the past, I've never fussed if Jude's answers weren't precise when compared to the Teacher's guides. As long as I could tell that he had the main idea, I let half-sentences slide. I think part of what is slowing us down is, since he's now officially in "middle school," I am no longer letting three-word ideas pass for answers. Much to his chagrin, I'm marking his book where he only has half-answers, or poorly written thoughts, and making him go back and rework them. This then adds another day to the lesson.  He also wasn't particularly happy when I told him I expected (gasp!) actual paragraphs for answers to the Enrichment questions instead of a few sentence fragments. 

Clearly, his brain is capable, even if his willpower isn't quite as strong.

 If you are familiar with the Memoria Press Classical Studies program, then you know that students begin by studying Greek Myths in the first year of the program, and then continue on to learn about Ancient Rome and Greece. While The Trojan War is included in the literature program, it is also part of the Classics Year 4 Program.  While you might be tempted to skip it, especially if you intend to continue through and have your child study The Iliad and The Odyssey in Year 5, this retelling by Olivia Coolidge is an excellent introduction to the epic.  It provides enough details to draw the reader in, but not so much that he gets lost in the minutiae of them. I think Jude will be well prepared for studying these two epics in depth next year.

At our current rate of a chapter a week, it will take Jude a full semester to complete this guide. I'm comfortable with this pace for two reasons. First, this work sets the foundation for something he will study again, so I'd rather him understand what is going on well so that when he studies The Iliad, he will again be "adding on" rather than "starting new." Secondly, I want him to begin to have better study habits. Jude only likes change when it is his idea, so I have a feeling it is going to take some time before he realizes that he wants to make the changes.

My only complaint about the set is that the tests and quizzes are only in the Teacher's Guide. I know that some parents do not administer tests, but I find them helpful to assess what Jude is retaining as he transitions to working independently. However, doing so is not a smoothly integrated process.
First, the parent/teacher needs to plan out where the tests need to be taken; it's easy for a student to "forget" that there is one coming at the end of each part of the book.  (We found writing reminders at the bottom of the last page before a test to be helpful.  Not only did it remind Jude to ask for the test, but it also helped me factor in study/review days when writing his daily assignment sheets.)  Secondly, the copyright notes in the guide state that no part may be reproduced.  This means that I either break the rules (and with a very literal rule follower child, that's not a good plan!) so he has his own copy, or Jude is writing in a book that I would otherwise have no need to replace (plus, he has temptation in the form of the Answer Key at his fingertips!). We've compromised by him answering the questions in his literature notebook, with the Answer Key paperclipped closed.

I wish the Student Guide had the Student's tests, either interspersed or in an Appendix at the back of the workbook, or that there was a separate (reproducible or consumable) Test Booklet, and that there was a reminder/test placeholder for to help the newly independent student not to race ahead.

Anne of Green Gables

Ah, Anne-with-an-E...I think Miss Shirley is one of my favorite literary ladies. I was probably in middle school when I found my first kindred spirit (Anne), my first Book Hero (Matthew Cuthbert), and my first Book Boyfriend (Gilbert Blythe).  Anne has been on Celia's reading list for quite some time, so this was a perfect opportunity for her.  While Celia was finishing 9th grade during the review, so technically "older" than the program's intended age, she has had a literature-heavy year. I decided to substitute Anne for Henry V for the last of her 9th-grade reading.  Do I think this made it too "easy" for her? Not at all.

L. M. Montgomery may have only written books on paper, but her character's words bring them to life. I think anyone who has read any of the Anne books knows Anne's grandiose imagination supports her flair for the dramatic while providing a foil for the prosaic Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert.  In addition to Vocabulary, Comprehension, and Enrichment exercises,  each chapter explores Expressions for Discussion. These could easily be done as an oral discussion, but I asked Celia to write her interpretations of what the expressions meant.  
While some might think that the answers are obvious, making it "too easy" for a high schooler, I think L.M. Montgomery was brilliant. How many times has a parent/teacher tried to help their student learn to write "less bland, more exciting" essays? Writing exercises always talk about using more specific words, more detailed words, more descriptive other words, stop saying "very"! Perhaps Anne has a tendency to be a bit over-the-top, but she's a shining example of careful word choices. Which pulls your heartstrings more, "I'm used to being disappointed," or "My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes"?  I think Anne of Green Gables is a book that all students should read so that they can become better writers!  I love how Memoria Press chooses to really dig into the expressions in the book - rather than selecting a quote or two, there are as many as seven or eight to explore. The program does full justice to the book by really allowing Anne (and the Avonlea residents) to have their say.

Classics become classics because they are enduring, but it would be easy for a book published in 1908 and set in the late 1800s, to contain archaic vocabulary.  I can remember doing vocabulary studies myself and wondering, "When am I ever going to use these words?" However, Memoria Press has focused on words that remain pertinent today. 

Comprehension questions include both literal "what happened here" and critical("What did Anne mean...") queries.  In addition to studying the book itself, the program provides writing opportunities for literary interpretation, opinion/persuasive writing, and exploring Anne's interests (Shakespeare) and tribulations (geometry as compared to Waterloo).  

While Memoria Press offers the literature books for sale, the literature sets do not include them. While some of their studies do require specific editions of books, we found this was not the case with this program.  Last Christmas, Celia received a box set of the Anne series and used the edition that was included.  In this case, page numbers did not need to match, as the program is sectioned by book chapter.

Celia has been working at a rate of a chapter every other day.  On Day 1, she does vocabulary, reading, and the expressions for discussion; on Day 2, she finishes the comprehension questions and completes the enrichment. It could easily be done at a slower pace (one workbook section a day over the course of a week), but I'm hesitant to recommend doing a full chapter a day.  It is possible if your child is a fast reader, but it would take close to 90 minutes a day just for literature.  I have done this with Memoria Press literature when we are in a time crunch (trying to get to a logical stopping point before an extended vacation, or when Luke or Matthew was trying to finish a study guide in the countdown to graduation), but it's not necessarily sustainable long term.  At a rate of 5 chapters per week plus review sections and two exams (also only available in the Teacher's Guide), it will take about 8 weeks, or one academic quarter, to finish the book.  I think that's reasonable for a high school student.  ho

The Hobbit and The Bronze Bow

When my students were younger, I was more focused on the "grade level" of the program.  Now that we have entered into the middle and high school years, I've learned to focus less on the grade a program is assigned to and more on its content, because middle school books begin to be less about a numbered grade level and more about the individual's literacy level and abilities.
Knowing that Jude likes to binge on book series, I will likely keep The Hobbit set aside for another year or two until he is ready for the entire The Lord of the Rings series. Like Anne, I think this is a book that transcends grade level.   I think 7th grade is about the youngest age I think a student can truly wring all the finer points out of it, but there is no point where a student "ages out" for exploring the book.  The Bronze Bow is set in 1st Century Israel, so it could be studied as part of the "pre-set" 7th-grade program, or it could be moved to 9th grade and part of an Ancient/World History program. While the lower grade programs involve exposure to literary concepts, the study guides at this level of the program use that familiar framework to explore and apply those ideas to the corresponding novels. I think the studies at the middle school level have the flexibility to help prepare a middle schooler for high school expectations as well as provide a relaxed but not too simple study for secondary level students. Once again, Memoria Press has proven why it has become my favorite literature program.

Crew families with students from first through tenth grades have been reading with Memoria Press. Click the banner below to read their reviews of the books they've been studying!   You can also learn about other Memoria Press programs we have worked with by clicking the links to those reviews.

Memoria Press:

First to Tenth Grade Literature Guides {Memoria Press Reviews}

 Crew Disclaimer

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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Luke, Class of 2019

Luke never expected to be homeschooled, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise once he got to college.  After a gap year, he registered at our local community college. Because he already had three years' worth of experience with online classes, his advisor signed off on him talking online-only courses right from the beginning. He was happy to be able to spend his time working and studying, not commuting to the other side of the county. 

For his first two semesters, he decided to ease into college life, registering for part-time status.  Once he had his feet under him, he just kept going.  Starting with the Spring 2018 Semester, he plowed through the graduation requirements, even taking summer courses during our busy season to be able to graduate within his goal of "on time" and earning his Associates' Degree within two academic years.

I am very proud to say he did reach his goal and graduated this spring with his AS in Business.

Congratulations, Luke!

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Monday, November 26, 2018

Lincoln and the National Parks Services (Luke's American Adventures)

It's been a few years since Luke guest posted here with this history series.  He graduated from high school and has gone on to college, and is majoring in Business Administration. Much to his dismay, one of his required courses is a public speaking class.  This semester, he has been doing several kinds of speeches on defined topics, but the final one was a "Student Choice" assignment.  He first looked at me like a deer in headlights when the entire world was open to him. I suggested he go with something he knew well...what about an informative speech on Abraham Lincoln?  (Every so often, I have a wise idea.  Job security, I guess.)

He decided to combine his love for Lincoln with the National Park Service, exploring how the NPS preserves both Lincoln's life and his legacy to the nation. He agreed I could share it here.

I have to admit, it's fun to wear my "Mom the Teacher" hat for a few minutes and see what I taught him has stuck with him.  It was really fun to travel to all of the places, so helping him find the right photos was a nice trip together down memory lane.  I hope you'll take the time to explore Lincoln and the National Parks, both with Luke and in person.

It's also really cool to use this identification graphic again.

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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Guitar 360 Method (Homeschool Review Crew)

Most of my readers know that Celia is my instrument player. She has seven years' worth of violin lessons and three years of piano, plus she sang in her grade school choir, but I should consider changing her name to in she can play on her violin "But who cares? No big deal! I want MOOOOORE!!" Several years ago, Matthew took guitar lessons but discovered he is not an instrumentalist, so his guitar has sat in the closet, practically mocking Celia. She's tried a few YouTube lessons but really hadn't gotten very far.  The Crew offered us the opportunity to try more formal, cohesive lessons from Guitar 360 Method...folks, I apologize for the fangirl screaming.

Guitar 360 Method is a new guitar learning program from Krisz Simonfalvi. Mr. Simonfalvi is a musician and teacher who had a circuitous path to his career; he began to play guitar, gave it up because it just did not resonate with him, and then circled back as an adult. He notes that there are two ways to learn to play: one is just by picking at the guitar and learning the technical aspects, and the other is through a theory-based trajectory. The problem is that most theory is based on the piano -- which, while a strong music foundation, doesn't necessarily apply practically to other instruments.  Celia will completely agree with this -- while she can play both violin and piano, it's not like you can interchange music. As she says, "I can play piano music on my violin if I play just the treble clef line, but it may not sound the same or as good as on a piano because I can't play bass clef and treble at the same time on the violin. The melody might sound the same going from violin to piano because you can play just the treble clef." While Guitar 360 Method is actually teaching her a third style of instrument-specific theory, but one that has a practical application to playing guitar.

Have you ever listened to a Billy Joel song? An incredibly strong understanding of how music works is how he could turn what is basically scales into a hit song ("The Longest Time") and morph Mozart's "Pathétique Sonata" into "This Night." Why is theory-based instruction important to me, as a parent? Because theory is what really allows a student to understand what she is doing, why she is doing it, and how to properly play with music. An understanding of theory is critical even just to transpose piano to violin or guitar; without it, you cannot manipulate the music and have it sound right.

Practically speaking, I don't expect her to rise to Mr. Joel's level of renown (if she did, that would be fantastic, but let's face it -- there can only be one Billy Joel), but it's clear to me that the foundation of any musical success is a proper understanding of theory.  Here,  Mr. Simonfalvi shines, because his course is geared toward both the casual student who just wants to learn to play the music in front of him or the student who intends to learn to re-arrange or compose their own music.  He says:

I've taught this content from age 9 and up, however, it is designed for students who want to be creative on the guitar - understanding how music works, rather than JUST learning songs.
This makes it perfect for Celia, because it will teach her both the basics of "how to play" - how to hold the guitar, how to strum, where to put her fingers on the guitar's neck - but also WHY she's holding it where she is and when to use a pick vs. her fingers.  She had an "AHA!" moment right at the start.  Mr. Simonfalvi explains why you press the strings near the frets (better control of the strings and clarity of sound and she looked at me with a dropped jaw. THAT was something she never learned from playing around with other videos; she just thought you stuck your fingers on the strings.  Obviously, in six weeks she's learned more than just where to hold the guitar, but, to me, it's the little things like that - that you don't really know unless you're told - that help make this course worth the tuition.

Guitar 360 Method currently offers two courses. The first is a free introductory level course that will take you from "how to hold a guitar properly" to "I can actually play something, and it sounds like a song" in about three weeks. Obviously, there needs to be a consistent effort on the student's part, but after trying that part out, I can say, "Yes, you will."  While Celia has played around the guitar before, she really was trying to apply what she knew from playing pizzicato on the violin to picking at a guitar. You really don't have the same technique - pizzicato uses a plucking motion, and, of course, there are no frets on a violin neck. Starting at the very beginning helped her realize that playing guitar strings isn't the same at all.

The second, tuition-based course is a 13-week "Semester One." It contains the three-week basics course and then expands beyond "My First Chord" into the major, minor, and pentatonic scales, and then into playing Chords in multiple Keys.  Each week has a clearly defined focus, so the student understands what the goal of the lesson is.

The videos for the lessons total about half an hour, so definitely a reasonable length lesson for beginners - long enough to be worth making an appointment with yourself, but short enough to not be a barrage of information. Celia particularly liked that it's not one long half-hour video, but rather each topic is presented in an individual section.

This meant she could quickly go back over a topic without having to fuss with finding the correct minute mark, or she could break it down into smaller ten or fifteen-minute chunks so that she could learn a concept, ruminate on it a bit, play with it, and then add on the next idea.  Mom liked that there are defined practice exercises assigned for each week. This meant she could go back to the prior week's to work on solidifying those concepts but also had specific activities to reinforce new lessons. There are also quizzes on the ideas, making it ideal for students who need grades for transcripts. While hearing Celia advance in playing skill shows me she is absorbing practical knowledge, the quizzes help me see that she understands the theory behind the playing.

Mr. Simonfalvi promises that students will have enough theory and technique to jump into a band and be able to hold their own by the end of the 13 weeks. Keep in mind, he's not promising to turn your student into Mike DelGiudice and have her be playing in Billy Joel's band in those 13 weeks, but you'll have a competent guitar player that's not only ready to play but also able to understand what she is playing.

Guitar Lessons with Krisz Simonfalvi {Guitar 360 Method Reviews}

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Learning the States and their Capitals

Veritas Press' Self-Paced history is one of our favorite programs, in large part because of their memory song.  The constant re-presentation of it helps Jude remember dates and events in history.  However, we're experimenting with a blended-resource classical program, and this year, Damien is studying Memoria Press' States and Capitals for social studies. To his dismay, it doesn't have an "official" memory song.  However, as he was working on an early assignment, Luke introduced him to the Animaniac's "States and Capitals."

Always my little Showman, Damien decided he was going to learn the song.  The problem was his book divided the states into geographic regions, like any "normal" curriculum.  (Apparently, normal is boring.)

Every day, we'd work with his flashcards, adding another state and capital.  Some were pretty easy - Trenton in New Jersey, our home state. Others...well, good luck figuring out "Des Moines" when you're a phonetic reader!

We'd shuffle them up each day, so he got used to identifying them in different orders, not just the order his book presented them. (After all, when you go to address an envelope, you need to know the abbreviation for Arkansas without having to rattle through sixteen other states first!)  Slowly, he made his way cross-country, from New England to the Pacific states.  Even though the states were studied in geographic order, it seems fitting that the last state to study was our newest state, Hawaii (capital: Honolulu).He still worked on learning the song by heart, but I told him he could not sing it with his flashcards until he had learned all fifty states. Hawaii memorized meant he was ready to sing on his own. 

Mom's job was to put them in song order. Thank goodness for Google - I could find the lyrics written and not have to start/stop a video while I shuffled through all the cards to find the right one to place next.  We recruited Luke to be the cameraman, since I couldn't flip cards AND video at the same time.  (I'm Mom, not a magician.)

Not bad, huh?

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Picture Book Explorers ~ Paddington (Homeschool Review Crew)

Paddington Bear has long been of my favorite children's literature characters. This adorable bear from Darkest Peru find himself in Paddington Station, London, and is adopted by the Bond Family.  I think what I love so much about him is his childlike qualities: his heart is in the right place, but when tries his hardest to do the right thing, it just turns into a disaster. When Jude studied A Bear Called Paddington a few years ago, I fell in love with him all over again, and couldn't wait for Damien's turn.  I was happy with our old study, but we had an opportunity to review a new program. I was intrigued because Paddington is a classic British lit character, and this Paddington Bear study was written by British curriculum developer Branch Out World. I was really curious to see if there were any different cultural interpretations.

Branch Out World was founded by "a home educating family" that loves books. They designed their literature-based unit studies to be infinitely tailorable.  They are recommended for students aged 5 to 10 years, with the ability to scale the activities to the child's abilities.  This means you can use any of their 20+ studies from the Picture Book Explorers series for multiple age children simultaneously, or work with the book at the child's current level and revisit it as he grows. Branch Out World also produces lapbooks which allow you to study topics from Christmas in Europe to Volcanoes.

First hurdle: Getting the Book

When we first signed up for this, I had intended to read from the set of Paddington books we already owned. However, this study uses a specific printing of the book and refers to particular pages and illustrations.  Using our other book was not going to work. You certainly could check the library, but we struck out at ours. Amazon to the rescue, but it did take the better part of two weeks to get here. As it turns out, and not surprisingly, most buying options for this specific option are from UK sellers.  If you're looking to do this study, you'll want to allow for enough time to acquire the book.

Second hurdle: Navigating the lingo.

Dear friends of ours are native Australians, and when they come to visit, there's always an adjustment period. Watching the kids try to figure things out is always fun.  Sometimes, they figure it out from context, if Auntie Jo says "Grab your jumper!" as she picks up her own sweater, but sometimes there's a bit of "Wait, what are you talking about?" (Jam, jelly, and Jello are always a "Wait, we're not on the same page." discussion.)  Working with this was no different.  The first directions are "Get a library ticket." Here in the states, we'd say "Get a library card."  Fair enough.  You're also going to be dealing with British spellings of colour instead of the Americanized spelling color.  This turned into one of those "That's just how they do it there, let it go," discussions after Damien pointed out it was spelled wrong for the fifteenth time.  Thankfully, kids are reasonably adaptable.

Third time lucky: Working on the study.

Pros: Content-wise, I think it was quite good. It covered and included maps for the areas studied.  I hate Googling randomly for maps because I invariably select the one that doesn't have something we need.  For example, this map included delineations between England, Scotland, and Wales.  Damien easily found a map that showed him specific city locations.  He also was amazed at all the town names he recognized -- Dover, DE is named for English port town, there's a Plymouth, Massachusetts, and "Old" Jersey, not to be confused with our home state of New Jersey.

It also has given us a field trip destination: the closest zoo with spectacled bears is the National Zoo in Washington DC.  We did some research on their website about the Andean bears, and learned the bears that live at the zoo like sweet potatoes and grapes, just like Damien!

Cons: If you're a family who loves lapbooks, this is going to be right up your alley.  There are tons of mini-projects to assemble into a lapbook.  If you're my kid, this is torture because you have less-than-stellar fine motor skills and it means you spend more time obsessing over having to cut stuff out than you do actually completing the program.  I also really dislike when programs make food a big deal activity.  (I don't mind learning about what foods other cultures eat, but it's hard for a kid who can't eat many foods when the directions are "make tarts and marmalade and have a tea party.") I feel like we didn't get as much out of this as we could have.

Overall, I'd rate this program a 3 out of five for our family.  It was a good unit study, but I found it lacking as a literature study - only one of the five days' activities involved studying the book as a literary work.

To read other Crew reviews of Picture Book Explorers ~ Paddington, click the banner below.

Paddington Bear {Branch Out World Reviews}

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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

WriteBonnieRose: Learning About Science (Homeschool Review Crew)

Finding a good Elementary Science program is something that I have always struggled with. Either it's over-simplified and almost a "throwaway" course, or it's written for a wide age range and fits none well.  Jude is finally getting close to grade-leveled middle school science, but since I need something to stress over, my concern is he's going to be under-prepared because he has limited formal science exposure. Since nature abhors a vacuum (there's a science lesson, for you!), I'm hoping to have something different to stress over by the time Damien reaches middle school.  He's been working with the Learning About Science Collection Level 3 (Cursive) from WriteBonnieRose.

WriteBonnieRose is an aggregation of curricula written by Bonnie Rose Hudson.  I've been a fan of hers for some time now.  If you're familiar with the "Build Your Own Bundle" program, she is frequently featured there, which is how I first learned of her writing and history programs. They are generally short and to the point, which is good for younger students.  (I'm not sure I'd call them a "Charlotte Mason" program, but perhaps "CM flavor" -- there is little "twaddle" added.  Let's go with "Enough material to learn, but not so much that you lose a student with ADHD mid-stream.")  The Science collections are leveled one through three; Levels One and Two are print (manuscript) based, while Level Three has both print and cursive options.  Since Damien is already proficient in cursive, we opted for that version.

We received the Complete Collection, which includes seven downloadable PDF unit studies.  (Each unit is also available for individual purchase.) Topics fell under both earth and life science, and across several sub-genres.

  • What's Going on Inside Plants? 
  • Life in the Ocean's Hidden Zones  
  • Kinds of Animals and How They Live
  • Forecasting and Understanding the Weather 
  • Exploring the Earth's Landforms 
  • Energy and Its Many Forms 
  • Discovering Rocks, Minerals, & Crystals
For our review, Damien specifically worked on the plant, ocean, and energy studies.

The studies are about fifteen to twenty pages long, and each took us about two weeks to complete.  As I looked to break them down into assignments, it was a little tricky at first, because there is no visual cue of "stop here for today." The thoughts from one page flow smoothly into the next.

I found I needed to go in and delineate where we needed to stop for the day.  Sometimes, one page was sufficient. For example, the page pictured above right was enough information for Damien for one day.  (The next page began a sub-section of vascular vs. non-vascular plants and their properties.) However, the page above left was actually page three of the section on photosynthesis. One page wasn't enough information for one day -- stopping after page one or two of the section gave him only part of the information, so he was left with an incomplete picture.

This isn't a dealbreaker for the program for me; I include this opinion because if you're a mama reading this and wanting to try it, you'll know to read the study first and figure out what you'll want to cover in a session. If you are only "doing science" once or twice a week, you don't want that many days go by with just half an idea of how photosynthesis works.  I found we were able to divide the lesson into seven sessions (including the review across two days).  He worked three or four days a week, so the entire program took two school weeks.  The same held true for the oceanography unit (nine work days), while the energy unit took three school weeks (twelve work days).   If you're planning across a school year, I would expect the entire Level Three program to take 14-18 weeks at a 4-ish days/week pace, at 2-3 days per week, closer to a full semester.

Black and white graphics accompany most of the concepts. At first, I was kind of unimpressed, and thought "He's going to hate this -- the only way to make a lesson take more than three minutes is by coloring!"  However, Damien really enjoyed this part. It wasn't necessarily the "coloring task" that he liked, but being able to look up and further explore a topic. He particularly liked this with the oceanography unit -- after all, there's only so much excitement that a leave can incite, but a Portugues man-of-war is pretty cool!

My only complaint is there isn't a "blank line" option for any of the studies.  For Damien, tracing is something that becomes more about "staying in the lines" than "writing the word neatly."  I would prefer an open space option, where he could write in the vocabulary words (they're easily identified by bold print in the text) freehand. I think this would help cement ideas better for him (plus allow him to work on his penmanship skills.)

I don't have any personal experience with the lower levels, but in looking at some of the other Crew Reviews for them, they look reasonably appropriate for Damien as well.  While some topics have some overlap (i.e., Level 1 and 3 both have zoology units), there seems to be enough diversity that if I went back to the Level 1 programs, there would be sufficient new information for Damien to do those as well.  I think a slower pace (1-2  lessons per week) might be good for a younger child, but since Damien is in third grade and beginning the "late" elementary phase, I think the three levels combined might make an appropriate full-year program for him.  I'll definitely be checking the Level One and Two reviews carefully (clicking the banner below, of course) to see if the complete Learning About Science program combines to create the science curriculum I'm looking for.

If you're interested in using these for your student, save 50% on the bundled Learning About Science, Levels 1, 2, and 3 with coupon code REVIEWCREW50 through August 15.  This brings the Complete Sets to $6 each! 

Learning About Science collections {WriteBonnieRose Reviews}

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