Apologia Zoology 2 (Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day)
One of the best things about this program? I am very pleasantly surprised at how easy science has been for him to learn this time around! I only wish we had tried this sooner. Jude remembers what he has learned, and is excited to share it. Every night, he races to tell Daddy what he learned that day. He yells over the other kids, trying to get a word in sideways at the dinner table; he wants to share his day, too. When I tuck him in at night, we often have a little bit of silly time before prayers. If I call out "Lobtail!!" he flaps his legs onto the mattress; when I tease "Good night, my little herp!" he giggles "I'm not a turtle! I'm a HUMAN!" And really, is there anything quite like "fishy kisses" at bedtime?
Flowering Baby, Program for Ages 2 to 3 Years
I do believe that the program's spiral presentation is good for mastery. Damien definitely has learned and solidified many concepts: counting (up to nearly 20, backwards from 10), eight colors, and fourteen 2- and 3-dimensional shapes. I'm not certain if all he has accomplished is developmentally appropriate for a two and a half year old or not, but I'm his mom, so I get to think he's a genius, right? Unfortunately, the program relies very heavily on food for activities. If you have a few food allergies (or even several from the "Top 8 allergens" list) it is possible to easily adjust it, but for a few foods/tubey kid, it was too much revamping and therefore not a good fit for our family.
A+ Tutorsoft Interactive Math (Grade 3)
Celia was thrilled to finally be part of a Crew Review. She enjoyed being able to practice what she already knew (and get lots of 100% papers!) but was very glad for the extra help when it came time to read clocks and she was having difficulty. An afternoon at home with the program, and she was ready for school the next day, confident in her abilities. Sometimes she struggled when trying to learn something new, so I don't think I would use this as a main source of teaching, but it was is a very good supplemental program.
Going to College and Paying for it Online Video and Workbook
This is a program for parents of all school-aged children. The goal of the program is for parents to help their children to find ways to fund college. If you prefer to start planning early, this program will help you stay on track over time. If you want practical advice for working through the financial aid process with your high school student, this program will be beneficial to you as well. While geared to all students, I think would be most beneficial for students in their sophomore or junior years of high school while they are focusing their searches on a more concrete list of college choices and the accompanying price tags.
Abraham's Journey: Inspiring the American Dream
I have always loved Abraham Lincoln. Seeing President Lincoln on the cover, I was excited to read a new story that involved him. I wish I had been as excited at the end as I was at the beginning, and that the book had held to that promise that only the protagonist could make his dream come true, just like guide Abraham Lincoln and the other historical persons featured in the story rose to greatness through their own vision, dedication, and leadership. Unfortunately, the feeling that it was simply luck and a random group of people who made the protagonist a success overshadowed the message for us.
Lonestar Learning: Greek and Latin Roots
Lonestar Learning's Greek and Latin Roots cards are a set of oversized flashcards (measuring almost 6" x 8") with pictograms of common Greek and Latin-derived vocabulary bases. They are intended for students in grades 3 through 7. This meant Matthew and Celia were "officially" part of the review team this round, but Luke (grade 9) also found them helpful. Celia found breaking words into their roots helpful for both school work (especially language arts) and in real life (understanding what the doctors are talking about with endoscopies and dermatographism). Matthew found that he better understood why things were called what they are when he broke the words down to their roots. Luke found the cards useful for cross-curricular study (especially Latin cards for Spanish vocabulary) and SAT prep. We think they are a great asset for both a homeschool family and a traditional classroom.
TouchMath's Homeschool Curriculum (Pre-K)
This tactile math program is a developmentally appropriate program that prepares the child for Kindergarten, using a downloadable curriculum and (optional) manipulatives. Students are expected to be able work daily for up to 2 1/2 times their age -- for 2 year old Damien, this was about 5 minutes, and the program does hold his attention and provide a natural division. After happily using the Pre-K program for the review period, we are planning to continue with it for Damien and considering switching to this program for Jude (Kindergarten/First grade), as TouchMath provides programs for ages PreK through 2nd grade.
A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks
(Letters, Numbers and Shapes)
This was our first attempt at lapbooking. Although Jude already knows shapes, letters, etc., this was a good reinforcement as well as fine motor/spacial planning challenge for him.I think lapbooking is a system of learning we are going to continue with - it's a great way to learn information and keep it in one place, it's a very portable way of learning, and it fulfills Jude's desire for arts-and-crafts based activity.
ABeCeDarian Company, Level A1
Jude's language issues are no longer considered mere "delays," but "disabilities." I really anticipated reading to be a very hard slog, and set a goal for him to be considered an "emerging reader" by spring of 2014. ABeCeDarian is a multisensory learn-to-read program that focuses on phonemic awareness, not just phonics, using letters and words, rather than pictures, to increase phonemic awareness. After just one week, Jude was reading words!!
Supercharged Science's lab-based e-Science program
From first glance, it seemed like it would fit Matthew almost perfectly. This program is all about experiments. Yes, there is plenty of theory to study, but the heart of the program is "lab" work. With lessons and labs (most that use ordinary household items) for grades K-12, e-Science makes learning how the world works fun.
Knowledge Quest Timeline Builder App
When given the opportunity to review the Timeline Builder App, I was intrigued. Knowledge Quest's webpage shows an example arranging (ancient) historical events into chronological order as an example of how to use it. We're not quite up to that sort of thing in our homeschool - Jude is still working on basic "What comes first? Second? Last?" and is not memorizing history. However, the company's marketing tagline for the app is "Build the timeline you want!" I kept coming back to that idea. I could think of a LOT of things I would want to organize into a timeline, from crew reviews to doctors' visits. Luke used it to organize the research paper he is writing this semester. It is intuitive to manipulate and simple to use, but most importantly, it keeps things organized in a way that is useful to us.
This is a computer program that helps students gain accuracy and speed in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Each function contains four levels: Easy, Medium, Advanced, and Master. While the first three can be completed/repeated in any order, the Master level is only unlocked when the student achieves 100% mastery (based on speed and accuracy) in the first three. Math Rider supports up to 8 "riders," making it good for larger families like ours. It is recommended for ages 6-12, or grades 2 through 6. Matthew and Celia fit that target right now (3rd and 6th grades). However, I believe Jude (Kindergarten) can start in soon with the easy levels of addition/subtraction, while Luke (9th grade) wants to give the program a try to help him practice for the math/computation portions of the SATs.
Writing with Sharon Watson
Writing has long been a dreaded assignment for Luke. Despite a very strong writing curriculum and lots of writing experience through middle school, he still has a difficult time writing essays. He understands the concepts of how to write, but finds the mechanics of writing difficult, and struggles with transforming concepts into a cohesive work. While it covers every writing activity from writing a condolence letter to a persuasive speech, Luke used this text to help him write his semester literary analysis paper, "Adaptations of Classic Characters in New Works." Luke found it a helpful program because it not only listed pertinent points of the styles but explained them well. It also provided him with a new perspective on research and pre-writing organization. Writing is still not his favorite activity, but no longer dreads it. It has given him more confidence in himself as a writer.
Note: I posted an Update on how we are continuing to use this program.
Homeschool in the Woods - Hands on History: 20th Century Lap Pak
This lapbook style curriculum for grades 3-8 is very flexible. It can be used "as is," or each section can be used as a springboard to deeper exploration. Since we were doing it as an extra program (3rd grader Celia was the reviewing student), we planned to do it as is. We wound up delving deeper in some subjects covered, especially fashion (apparently my 1980s childhood is so old it's now "retro"). It also led us to exploring our family history, looking at old photos and how clothing evolved. We enjoyed the content, but I did not like printing it - lots of babysitting the printer and changing the paper.
Papa's Pearls: A Father's Gift of Love and Wisdom to his Children and Grandchildren
Diane Flynn Keith's memoir of her father, Carol Joseph Flynn. It is a beautiful tribute to a clearly beloved man. This was a book I could not put down. The pages flew by, and I kept saying, "I need to get other things done...ok, one more chapter..." and next thing I knew, I had read three. It is written in an easy, flowing style that led me to feel as if I was sitting with the author and having a conversation over coffee. I find it especially wonderful that the author does not write a syrupy, he-was-an-angel-come-to-earth retelling of her father's life. Rather, she brought the whole man to light, including his flaws. The reader learns early on that Mr. Flynn was far from perfect. However, in the next breath he takes responsibility for his missteps and turns his life around. A positive and practical outlook took him far in life, but it was his love for his family that made him a success. After reading this recounting of his life, I feel like Mr. Flynn is my Papa, too. His parting words were always, "I love you, you know that, right?" As I closed the cover, I found myself whispering, "I know, Papa, and I love you, too."
Spanish for You, Estaciones
One thing I liked about this program is the intense focus on a specific topic. The student thorougly learns the vocabulary associated with a specific topic, rather than a few words about this and then some about that. Celia also used these words in sentences/conversation, so that what she recalled wasn't rote memorization but critical thinking. While I liked that the conjugation sections contained all six forms of a conjugated verb, I did not like that there was little explanation of WHY things were the way they are. For starters, the way to conjugate verbs was shown as simply memorizing the conjugations. While this might be fine for learning only a few verbs (the units we studied each introduced a few verbs in each one), it did not explain the patterns and when Celia comes across a verb that hasn't been memorized yet, she is unable to conjugate it. As a supplemental study program, I think this is very good, but I would not use it for a core Spanish curriculum.
Simplified Dinners and Simplified Dinners, Gluten Free/Dairy Free
Both are self-admittedly less of a traditional "cookbook" and more of a guide to help simplify meal planning and grocery shopping. Each focuses more on combinations of flavors and the processes of cooking than providing actual recipes. The goal is to create a number of meals, combining and recombining pantry staples, to keep dinners interesting and fresh without needing to constantly run to the grocery store for specialty ingredients.If you are an experienced cook, these books are pretty good. If you're new to cooking, or are not an "instinctive" cook, you may find them frustrating. I was most hopeful for the allergy-friendly version to become a new favorite, but was disappointed in its execution.
Math Mammoth, Light Blue Series, Grade 1
Math Mammoth Light Blue for Grade 1 is very thorough, and presents concepts in advancing degrees, with each new idea building upon a previous concept. The student can really grasp the idea being taught and solidify it before moving on to the next step. Although I originally had plans to purchase a different curriculum for Jude, I think we will be continuing with this one because it definitely suits his visual learning style but also provides opportunity for him to practice math concepts mentally. I've noticed that he is slowly becoming able (and confident in his ability) to add and subtract in his head, rather than always needing manipulatives. This is definitely a good thing, especially for when we begin adding numbers where the sums and differences are greater than the number of fingers you have!
“Tween a Rock and a Hard Place” Lesson Blueprints
Freedom Ride: 12 Lessons of Faith for Today's Teens
Christianity Cove's numerous Sunday School/Youth Ministry programs include these two programs for older children. “Tween a Rock and a Hard Place” Lesson Blueprints provides guidance on the "12 Most Critical (and Uncomfortable) Subjects for Tweens," ranging from relationship with Jesus to modest behavior, while Freedom Ride: 12 Lessons of Faith for Today's Teens is for high school students, who are faced with greater challenges to their faith amidst the cacophony of life. While I would highly encourage parents to be involved and know what is being discussed, these programs are definitely something better facilitated by a co-op or church-based youth group rather than as an individual family.
The Adventures of Lily Lapp, Books 1 and 2
Life with Lily and A New Home for Lily
Co-written with Suzanne Woods Fisher, The Adventures of Lily Lapp is a fictionalized portrayal of author Mary Ann Kinsinger's life as an Old Order Amish child. The books' title character, Lily, is a young Amish girl. We watch her gain a brother, start school, move to a new state, and make new friends (and some not-so-friends, too!) Celia enjoyed these books very much (they're targeted to the 8-12 year old audience) and is anxiously awaiting the other two books in the series.
Moving Beyond the Page
"Light and the Eye"
Moving Beyond the Page is an interdisciplinary homeschooling curriculum. While they offer reading and math programs designed by other companies, the core of their program is their own language arts, social studies, and science programs. Rather than being traditional-grade-based, concepts and topics are divided by age. Their program begins with Preschool/Kindergarten (ages 4-5) and continues through middle school (ages 12-14, equivalent to grade 8/9), although specific units may be appropriate for high school students. We used these as a learning-style-finding transition to homeschooling for Luke, and are looking forward to continuing with it for both him and his brothers.
Dig It: Mayan Mysteries
This game is filled with information on the Mayans. The premise is a young yet renowned archaeologist is called to help combat looting. His niece and nephew are spending the summer with him, so he brings them (and you, the human player) along with him to help protect these ruins. He is teaching them (and the player) about the Mayans as the detective work progresses. To me, the mark of a good educational tool is it is so much fun, you lose track of time and just keep on going. Matthew parked himself on the couch, and that was it. Three hours after he sat down, I was about to drag him back into reality and to dinner table, when I heard a triumphant, "Yes!" I said, "What did you do?" His response: "I beat the game."
Science for High School: Chemistry
This program is NOT a read-the-text, answer-the-questions. It's a "discovery" method, not a traditional textbook. Each unit lists approximately ten questions concerning the topic, and then two pre-lab questions that help you prepare for the lab experiment. The student's task is to look up the answers to the questions. Though any source that has the answers (a textbook, a student encyclopedia, etc.) is fine to use, Luke has been getting a lot of experience with Google. It's thorough (which I like), doesn't have a lot of superfluous reading (which Luke likes), and has great labs (which we both enjoy).
Susan Marlow Books Badge of Honor
I liked this book because it's during the time after the Gold Rush, but there is still gold to be found. Jem and his sister's dad became the sheriff of the town. I think Jem is happy for his dad to be the sheriff, because he was a better and more protective father. He was more involved in their upbringing, and seemed like he wasn't as sad about Jem's mother's death.
Ed Douglas Publications: 25 Truths
Something I really appreciate is that while this book did include Bible passages as reinforcement (Truth Seven includes Matthew 5:43-44), including other quotes, compiled from sources ranging from Shakespeare's Richard II to Abraham Lincoln's addresses to a line from the 80's hit song, "Never Surrender," kept the book from ever becoming preachy. I am particularly drawn to listen to Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the current Archbishop of New York, because he is a man who takes his faith and the Church very seriously, but he doesn't take himself seriously. He's quick with a joke, to acknowledge his own humanity, to show that God isn't something to joke about but sometimes the life He gives us needs a little levity. I think one reason why I enjoyed this book is because Mr. Douglas takes a similar attitude - this book takes its message seriously, but recognizes that the meaning of life can be found anywhere and shared by anyone.
This yearbook program allows homeschools and groups to create their own yearbook. From a technical angle, your yearbook is easy to create - the hardest part for me was deciding what to cut! It's a great program for co-ops or families with older students - you can allow multiple people to be part of the editorial team and still keep one person "in charge" to make sure thing run smoothly. It makes a great keepsake for your family to remember your school year.
I wanted this to be our "silver bullet." I think the concept is fantastic. Starting your school day as a family is a wonderful plan, and certainly makes learning common ideas easier to coordinate. I didn't expect getting everyone on the same plan to be easy, but I didn't think it would be quite so near to impossible. I had hoped I would read the book, get some tie-together ideas, and implement them. Trying it has made me realize that the "everyone working in harmony on the same thing" just isn't our family. I think we are hamstrung by having such a big gap in ages and activities, so the program just didn't work for us.
Gryphon House: The Homegrown Preschooler
I think if you're looking for a basic "how to start homeschooling" book, this could be valuable. However, it doesn't stand out to me as a "must read" because between Pinterest and Google I could have found most of what the book contains. If you have experience homeschooling a preschool child, the book seems to repeat much of what you already have figured out.
Bible Study Guide for All Ages
We enjoyed this Bible curriculum that allowed students at multiple levels to study the same stories simultaneously. My top three favorite things about the program: It works with any translation, making it suitable for any Christian denomination; it does not start with "In the beginning..." and go through to "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all," at the end of Revelation, but goes between the Old and New testaments so that the story of Salvation can be seen in context and the Bible is not just perceived as a "history" book. Third, there is a music CD component that really helps cement concepts learned by providing a multi-sensory program.
Notgrass Publications America the Beautiful
This nation was founded on the idea of "We The People." This comprehensive curriculum delves into not just the dates and events, but the people who created this country, from the great explorers to the Presidents to the people like Jackie Robinson, who changed the country by simply playing a game he was good at. Intended as a middle school curriculum, it provides a good spine for a high school level study as well.
Reading Kingdom uses a unique approach to teaching reading. It starts with the very basic step of making sure a child recognizes letters, but then doesn't just jump to sounds and combining into words but spends time teaching sequencing, making sure the student understands the left-to-right movement of reading. It is a very text-based program, showing accompanying pictures AFTER the correct word is sequenced/written.
MacPhail Center for Music Online Program
This program was so much more than I expected. I had hoped for Celia to be able to keep up with her music skills over the summer, and she's racing ahead. We never had to leave the house to go to a lesson - and her 1 pm EDT lesson didn't even mess with naptime - Damien laid down for a rest just before the lessons began so that he wasn't underfoot. I hoped we would get a good teacher, and we got not just a great teacher, but a phenomenal teacher. I can't stress enough how important that part is. Celia has thoroughly enjoyed her summer lessons and can hardly wait until the Fall Semester begins after Labor Day.
Homeschool Spanish Academy
Luke needs to complete a minimum of two years of a foreign language in order to receive a high school diploma in New Jersey (though realistically, having three or four would make him more attractive to colleges). With HSA and their 1-on-1 immersion learning model, I think he's going to become very proficient by the end of the high school program - he thinks more so than if he was in a regular group class.
Greene Bark Press, Inc.: Look Left. Look Right. Look Left Again.
This board book is geared for children ages 3-8, and costs $8.50. I would rate it more for the preschool/kindergarten crowd, unless it was a"big kid and a younger sibling" reading it. Celia just turned 9, but I can totally see her rolling her eyes at reading this book for herself. However, she was happy to read it to Damien. (Luke finally said "I'll read it at bedtime, but you're on your own the rest of the day, kid!") I think this is a great addition to any preschooler's library, whether he's a city or a country duckling!
Time 4 Learning
Do you have a big cup of coffee? Maybe a snack? You're going to need it to get through this review. This program is huge y'all. Like "I'm from New Jersey and still saying 'Y'all' 'cause it's bigger than Texas!" huge. While we used it for summer/supplemental use, I do think it's strong enough to be an academic spine for a homeschooler. Best of all, Celia loved it, and that's half the battle with anything. She never felt bored or talked down to, and was consistently challenged. When working on the Vocabulary, she was definitely stretching her mind - she got some very good dictionary skills as well! Math goes well beyond the minimums, and Social Studies, Science and Art help round out the student's education by allowing them to practice reading, comprehension, critical thinking and other skills learned in the "core" classes.
Fundanoodle Muscle Movers Gross Motor Cards
Fundanoodle believes that learning basic skills should be fun, and their programs attempt to bring a bit of whimsy to learning. They have several levels of programs. The youngest level, with the offerings color-coded Orange, are geared toward three-year-olds; Blue level programs are for PK/K students, and elementary levels Green (first grade) and Purple (second and up). As much as we really enjoyed the activities, they didn't work for our particular developmental needs "as directed." We will probably continue to use them, but in our own way, not how the company intended.
YWAM Publishing - George Washington, True Patriot
George Washington has the nickname "First in war, First in peace, and First in the hearts of his countrymen." I'll admit that my lifelong admiration of pulled-up-by-his-bootstraps Abraham Lincoln has put the first President just behind Number 16. After working with Luke on YWAM Publishing's George Washington: True Patriot and George Washington: Unit Study Curriculum Guide, I may just have changed my mind. The booki is well written; it describes the details of George's life without the reader feeling bogged down in the minutiae. The companion Curriculum Guide & Unit Study provide a strong program for exploring not just George's life but also the era he lived in.
Barbour Publishing - Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story Celia and I each read this book. She thought it was good, but not her favorite. What she liked was it was easy to pick up and put down. I felt it seemed too formulaic - it felt like a too-obvious mash-up of Anne of Green Gables and Beverly Cleary's Ramona series (both of which I love) that just didn't meld correctly.
Bridgeway Academy - Easy Essay Writing
I am very glad that we did this as part of the Crew review, so that as parents we were able to support each other through the several frustrating situations that arose during the course. Luke and I both appreciated the "online group meeting" setting that that made it more like "regular" school. One of the things we are grateful for with homeschooling is flexibility; after with having had the technical issues we did, I would only consider doing another Learning Lab if we were able to fully commit to being home for every class session. Despite the many bumps, I think this was a good experience for Luke - he has learned to write to entirely new audience. He feels that while Easy Essay Writing was ultimately academically worthwhile, though the lack of specifics in course description and the difficult technical process make him hesitant to try another Learning Lab program.
Rosie's Doll Clothes Patterns
A well organized, clear program for teaching beginning sewing. Perfect for beginning seamstresses (and tailors!), but also a great refresher for an experienced seamstress who want to transition from people-sized clothes to doll clothes.
A nice balance of "traditional" word-and-definition learning and classic games, it has provided all of the students in our family - from PK through High School - a multisensory way to learn and reinforce learning vocabulary and spelling. The Premium membership has been worthwhile for the homeschoolers in our family, providing individualized programs and recordkeeping, while the "regular" schoolers have been able to work on their own teacher-assigned lists as well. This program is Fun ("With a Capital F," says Matthew), far more engaging than another worksheet, and provides instant feedback and a second chance if a wrong answer is given. Having the iPad App option really came in handy - one child could work on a computer while the other was on an iPad. This is a program I look forward to continuing to use for a long time to come.
Away We Go Media: If You Were Me and Lived in...
These four books While they are available individually, I think they would make a great addition as a set to any young student's library. Rather than spouting dry facts about each country, each books shares information that shows how children from from around the world really aren't all that different after all. They each go to school, celebrate special holidays, and have favorite foods and sports. Whether you call her Mamá, Omma, Maman, or Mama, your mother is still a special lady.
IXL K-12 Online Math and Language Arts
I was happy to get the opportunity to review it using multiple users, including a higher level student. For our purposes -- being able to do schoolwork with a minimum of things to cart around -- it is perfect. I can teach on "home" days and use IXL for practice and review while we're on the road, and feel confident that despite our crazy days the boys are learning everything they need to be successful at math.
Apologia Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics
Even though it is written as a program for young students, Apologia's Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics is not a lightweight course. The explanations and examples in the text are simple enough for a younger student begin to grasp the fundamentals of chemistry and physics, but expansive enough for an older student to be well prepared to move on to higher level courses. Even after having read entire chapters aloud, I believe we will be able to return to each one as each boy gets older, and revisit concepts and lab experiments as their understanding grows. What we liked most was it made chemistry and physics FUN, which is what science should be all about!
At Home in Dogwood Mudhole Volume One: Nothing that Eats
As I began reading, I was pulled right in to the story. However, as it went on, I felt like I was reading two different books. The first quarter of the book was written in a humorous, light-hearted manner. I loved it. It then turned heavy and political over Sanders' issues with the IRS. I thought maybe the book was a purposeful dichotomy; the initial near banter was going to turn more introspective. However, it then turns back to the light memoir within two more chapters, then some more political opinion, and then back to the memoir style. While each chapter was well-written, the book lacked transitions and cohesiveness for me, and I began to wonder which book I was going to get when a new chapter started. While the narrative of memoir was expository yet lighthearted, the political content felt snarky and rant-like, like the author found a soapbox and was determined to use it, rather than just a continuation of the story from before. I understand how these experiences affected the family's decisions, but the almost belligerent tone made it difficult for me to want to continue reading. I often found myself skimming through to read more of his farming stories, which were hysterical.