Thursday, July 14, 2016

ABeCeDarian Company {a Schoolhouse Review Crew review}

ABeCeDarian Interactive Reviews

Years ago, I was struggling to figure out just how to get my severely dyslexic son to get beyond the CVC words like cat and sun.  He had done really well to that point, then stalled out and we made little progress over the next few years.

I eventually found a few things that seemed to click for him.  The materials from ABeCeDarian Company were a part of that.  I was fascinated to learn that they had come out with an online version of their materials.  The Crew has had the opportunity to review their  ABeCeDarian Interactive A Workbook along with the digital version of the Teacher Manual - A.

What I loved the most about ABeCeDarian was that it was fully scripted, which frees me up from thinking too much about how to say something.  That may not be a big deal when you are teaching a child who has an easy time of learning to read, but it definitely is a huge help when working with a child who finds learning to read especially challenging.

Especially when you haven't ever really taught someone to read, so you aren't entirely sure what you are doing.

I know some people feel really constrained by scripts, so if you hate scripts and your child is one of those who finds reading relatively easy, just skip this program.  If you hate scripts, but your child struggles, well... I'd suggest taking a closer look.

ABeCeDarian Interactive Reviews
And this is where I confess that a decade ago, I was in the "I hate scripts" category.  What changed?  A couple of things.  First, with my older three, I discovered that using a script for the teaching really freed my brain up to be watching my child for understanding, or for signs that we had done enough for the day.  I didn't have to think so much about how to teach.

With my younger two, teaching from a script was a really nice thing because it kept me on track in my crazy-busy household.  I could use the script verbatim on days where I needed it, or I could say it my own way at other times.  It was a nice fall-back.

I did see some great results with ABeCeDarian, so even though I no longer have kids in the age range for Level A, I was really interested in seeing the interactive workbook.

First thing to note:  you still absolutely need to sit with your child and to have the Teacher Manual available.  This interactive workbook is exactly that.  A workbook.  The teaching is in the Manual, and you need to do it.

I love that.

For instance, on this workbook page, the letters t, m and a are at the top of the page initially, and the student is to drag them down to form a word.  At this point, you have been doing similar word puzzles for a dozen lessons already.  The TM tells you to inform the student that this puzzle has us making the word mat.  They give you a sentence ("You can do gymnastics on a mat.") and instruct you to have the child say the word.  You then ask the child to tell you "the first sound you hear in mmmmmaaat."  Once they tell you that /m/ is the first sound, you have them drag the m tile down to the line on the workbook page.  That would be where I am in this page when I took the screenshot.  You continue through the next two sounds as well, do some other things with the word mat, and then you move on to the next workbook page.

If you set your child in front of the computer and tell them to work on their ABeCeDarian, they are not going to know what to do.  You do need to be there with them.

Now, some pages are pretty easy to figure out, especially once you have used similar pages before.  Like this one. 

The red is where I used my touchpad to write the correct word into the blank.  And this brings up one of the things I really like about this interactive workbook.  You could have the student write the correct word into a notebook while sitting at the computer, or you could have them "write" the word with their finger on the computer screen.  Since you are right there, you know if they did it correctly.  The computer does not grade or score anything that is done, so you just click through to the next worksheet once the child has done the work to YOUR satisfaction.

I do like the interactive workbook, but you definitely need to know what you are getting into here.  This isn't something you can have your kindergartner do on his own while you are teaching chemistry to your high schooler.  If you have a student who will learn to read with only a little guidance, this may not be the program for them.  This is a great way to do guided one-on-one instruction though, and I know it is effective.

ABeCeDarian Interactive Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

ArtAchieve {a Schoolhouse Review Crew review}

I am thrilled to tell you about ArtAchieve today.  We've been using these art lessons for kids for a few weeks, and I truly love this program.  As a Crew Leader, I received three bundles of art lessons.  I received the Entire Level I, Entire Level II, and Entire Level III.  So far, we have completed five of the Level I lessons, and two Level II lessons.

All have been wonderful.

Art Lessons for Children ArtAchieve Review

I don't even know where to begin in telling you what I like about these courses, so let me give you a short list, and then I can expand on some of them.
  • Video lessons (or PowerPoint), so I don't have to do the teaching.
  • Most of the supplies are inexpensive.  Copy paper, sharpies, and colored markers are enough to do a big percentage of the projects, especially for Levels I and II.
  • John (the instructor) is wonderful at encouraging the students to make decisions, to work with their mistakes, and to not be comparing their work to others.
  • The folk art aspect brings in some fabulous opportunities for learning about other countries, cultures, and many other cross-curricular activities.
These three cats?  This was the very first project, and I ended up with my 10, 15 and 17 year olds doing it.  The only supplies needed were paper (we did use glossy paper), a black sharpie, and colored markers.  You can see that they each did their own thing with it, and all of them are interesting to view.

One child wanted to really go for a background, another liked it without any background at all.

The toes on the cat are interesting.  There was a sample given, but in the video, John makes his toes go a different way.  It's one of many places where you get the subtle message that "messing up" is okay.

This lesson is available for free if you register for an account.

Our most recent lesson was inspired by this little nightlight.  Made from recycled glass, this is something I'd love to have in my home.  This was found in Ecuador, and the cross-curricular activities are really interesting.  One is to read a book about Jim Elliot and other missionaries, when they tried to contact the Auca tribe.  We were already listening to a biography of Elizabeth Elliot, so we chose this particular project because of how it tied into our studies.

There are also activities including a link to a video about Ecuador, music from Ecuador, a lesson on geographical aspect, and a page showing dragonflies and damselflies that are native to Ecuador.

In the art lesson, you start off with some rules, such as the idea that you cannot judge whether you like your piece or not until you are finished, and that professional artists don't like everything they do either.  There is also a warmup for each lesson, such as the completed one pictured here -- the first and third columns were printed, the students were to copy the basic lines into the empty boxes below next to them.

Each warmup is unique to the piece being worked on, so the students get some practice with the basic shapes and lines of this specific work.

Then you work through drawing the dragonfly onto watercolor paper (this is the first project that called for something other than copy or glossy paper).

Thomas came up me and told me that if I was using this photo, I needed to include this:

"In this program, they highly encourage you to not just redo your work, but to use what marks you made and do something with it.  Instead of it being a mistake and me throwing away the art piece, he encourages me to work with the lines I have and still end up with a completed piece of art."

Thomas messed up one of his body circles, so it was too skinny, and he really hated it.  Eventually, he realized that he could make that circle more circular, and then put a stripe down the other body segments.

Once the sharpie drawing is done, this project involved using oil pastels to color in the dragonfly, and some background, if they wished to do that.

We watched the rest of the video at this point, through the watercolor painting, so that we all knew where we were going with the entire project.

I didn't get a photo of him with the oil pastels, but I was able to snap this, right as he was about to start on the next step, which is the watercolors.

The video explained that if he wanted things to be white, he would need to do a white oil pastel in that space, as the oil will resist the watercolor.

This was his final result.  There was an optional step to add glitter glaze, and Thomas hasn't yet decided if he wants to do that or not.

I think it looks really great, and he ended up liking the end result.

Then we were able to dig into some of the other suggested activities, like learning more about dragonflies and listening to a poem about dragonflies. 

We've done a whole lot of different projects, including working on some with a group of friends.  Yes, that is a total of ten kids, ages 3 to 15, all drawing fish.

We plan to continue through all of the lessons for Levels I-III, and then we are planning to purchase Level IV (and Level V eventually as well).

When you purchase either an individual lesson, or a bundle of lessons, you have access to that lesson for a year. 

Go check out what other Crew Members thought!  As for my household, we love this program and are so grateful we had the chance to use it!

Art Lessons for Children ArtAchieve Review

Crew Disclaimer

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Veritas Press Bible {a Schoolhouse Review Crew review}

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

My two elementary-aged children absolutely fell in love with the Veritas Press Self-Paced History program a couple of years ago.  We had the chance to review the first year (Old Testament and Ancient Egypt), and have since gone on to complete New Testament, Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.  We are now working through Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation.  They love the program.

So when Veritas Press decided to have the Schoolhouse Review Crew take a look at their  Self-Paced Bible and their one-year family subscription to, you have to believe that my children were excited. 
We chose to work with the family subscription, and this is something I can absolutely recommend to others.  Currently, you have access to the following Homeschool Bible Curriculum choices:
  • Old Testament 1: Genesis to Joshua
  • Old Testament 2: Judges to Kings
  • New Testament 1: The Gospels
There are plans to add a third Old Testament level, plus a second New Testament level, but you can see the current choices at right.

What is really wonderful about this is that you can have children working in different courses, all for one subscription price.

Each child gets to create an avatar, and that is how they get into their section of the program.

This is set up in a rather game-like environment.  You progress across a map, and you get the little blue flags as you complete a "stop" or lesson.  The plain blue flag signifies a completed lesson.

Each lesson ends with either a worksheet or a game to review or test how the student is doing.  The flags with stars on them are from lessons where there was some sort of a test, and the stars indicate how well the student did.  This is the only "score" that is kept.

That is one difference between the subscription and the self-paced program.  The self-paced gives you as the teacher the opportunity to go back to see how the student has done.  I don't keep grades in elementary school, and I don't keep grades for bible courses at all, so the subscription is a better option for me.

Each section (like the "Call of Abraham" above) consists of four lessons.  The first lesson gives the big picture of that particular event, with the brother and sister team pictured at middle left being the ones who move the story along.

Lessons two and three go more in-depth with additional details.  The final lesson is a quiz.  The student is expected to learn dates, scripture references, and details from the story.  I love that the dates given are all similar in this case, anyway.  2019, 2091, 2190, and 2910 all use the same numbers.  I'm not necessarily a huge fan of memorizing dates in history, but this program does make that fairly easy to do.

The top photo in this image is from the memory song that plays in most lessons.  The bottom two are from a review game.

Of course, this is the screen my children love to see:

Go check out other reviews from members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, June 27, 2016

Secrets of Ancient Man {a Master Books review}

If you've read my blog over the last couple of years, it is no secret that we really, truly love the gorgeous books put out by Master Books.

Some we love far more than others.  Secrets of Ancient Man definitely falls into that 'more' category.  Even though I no longer have children who tell me that they want to be archaeologists when they grow up, this is an area that fascinates us all.

This book is a stunning hardcover with lots of great information, much like The Genius of Ancient Man, which we also loved.

From the publisher:
  • More details about the most advanced ancient technology we've ever seen, including Roman nanotechnology
  • Identify the counterfeit religion of Babel mirrored in every pagan religion through time
  • Why the Tower of Babel incident was about a rebellion that has continued throughout history into the present day!
Knowledge. Wisdom. Understanding. Mankind yearns for these. We find ourselves enthralled with secrets, mysteries, and riddles. Man is seduced by the unknown and enticed by the offer of revelation. Perhaps this is why we pursue science so passionately and we seek desperately to unearth the remnants of our ancestors. We have this innate impression that there is something we don’t know, something important that we must discover.
The Ancient Man research team of Jackson Hole Bible College has been hard at work over the past two years since publishing their first book, The Genius of Ancient Man. Dedicated to bringing you more of the fascinating details, commentary, and the Bible affirming truths you loved about ancient man, the team now invites you to think critically about both history and the forces at work in our world today.
I cannot say enough great things about this book.  We've been sitting down -- and by "we" I am referring to my non-adult children, who are 10, 12, 15 and 17 -- and reading a chapter most weeks.  We pass the book around to get a good look at the photos (which are beautiful, or have I mentioned that?) and then we discuss the concepts being presented. 

This trailer video of The Genius of Ancient Man does a great job of hinting at some of what to expect in this book:

I'm not sure my 10-year-old would enjoy this book on her own, but doing it alongside her big brothers most certainly works well.  She is easily able to be an active participant in our conversations.

Personally, I really loved the section on the Tower of Babel.  I've read a lot of material on this time, and wasn't really looking forward to covering it again, but Landis and his team do a great job of putting this in terms I really hadn't heard.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from Master Books.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Core Christianity {a Booklook Blogger review}

Over the past couple of months, I've been reading through Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God's Story by Michael Horton.

The description of the book talks about how terms like theology cause most people to just glaze over, not being able to follow the discussion and not having any idea as to why they ought to put for the mental energy to do so.

Core Christianity covers theology with a minimum of specialized vocabulary, and it really is a work that those of us who aren't Bible majors can understand.

From the publisher:
What do all Christians believe?

For many people, words like “doctrine” and “theology” cause their eyes to glaze over, or they find them difficult to understand and struggle to see how they are relevant to their daily lives. Author, pastor, and theologian Michael Horton proves that the study of theology is far from boring.

Core Christianity tackles the essential and basic beliefs that all Christians share. In addition to unpacking these beliefs in a way that is easy to understand, Horton shows readers why they matter to their lives today.

This introduction to the basic doctrines of Christianity is a helpful guide by a respected theologian and a popular author, and it includes discussion questions for individual or group use. Core Christianity is perfect for those who are new to the faith, as well as those who have an interest in deepening in their understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
I'm not sure that I consider this to be my favorite book on theology, but it is easy to read, and easy to understand. This is a book I am comfortable handing to my 17-year-old, who this evening, out of the blue, told me that he would like to read something that helps him understand theology.

I think this book will be perfect for him.  It is especially nice that it isn't a thick book. Non-intimidating. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Medical Judgment {a Litfuse Blog Tour review}

I have read a few books by Richard L. Mabry, M.D., so I jumped at the chance to review Medical Judgment.   That was definitely the right decision.

Like everything Dr. Mabry writes, there is a pretty strong medical connection -- this has been called a medical drama after all.  In this case, the main character is an emergency room doctor.  A fair amount of the story takes place in the ER, but certainly not everything.

One of the things I love the most in this book is that while there is a bit of romantic tension, this is absolutely not a "medical romance" book.  It involves people who feel real.  People who go to work, which sometimes is drudgery.  People who go to church.  People who have made some big mistakes in life.  People who you can imagine going grocery shopping, or standing in line at the post office. 

Of course, there are some pretty major things going on.  I don't know about you, but I can't think of anyone in my circle of friends and acquaintances who has someone trying to kill them.  That's not exactly normal.

I can think of quite a few people who have faced some big losses though, and that is a pretty big topic in this book.  Sarah's husband and baby daughter were killed a year or so ago.  Another character lost his wife to cancer not too long ago.  Yet another lost his fiancée, though I can't recall how.  All three grieve differently, and there is some great discussion about how grief is going to be different for everyone.  That was something I really appreciated in this story. 

That sounds pretty depressing, but this book is definitely not that.  I loved it, and it kept me turning the pages.  I felt a lot like Sarah, unsure of just who I could trust.

Just what the doctor ordered: heart-thumping suspense and intrigue, courtesy of Richard Mabry’s new medical drama, Medical Judgment. Someone is after Dr. Sarah Gordon. They’ve stalked her and set a fire at her home. Trying to recover from the traumatic deaths of her husband and infant daughter is tough enough, but she has no idea what will come next. As the threats on her life continue to escalate, so do the questions: Who is doing this? Why are they after her? And with her only help being unreliable suitors in competition with each other, whom can she really trust?

Join Richard in celebrating the release of Medical Judgment by entering to win an e-reader!

medical judgment - 400 

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of Medical Judgment
  • A Kindle Fire HD 6
Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on June 21st. The winner will be announced June 22nd on the Litfuse blog.

medical judgment - enterbanner

You can see what others had to say about the book at the Litfuse Blog Tour page!

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Progeny Press: The Minstrel in the Tower E-Guide

I've reviewed a couple of literature guides from Progeny Press in the past, and used many more. Every time I have the opportunity to work through a book study, such as the Minstrel in the Tower E-Guide, I am reminded again how much I love this faith-based product.

I think some literature study is important at pretty much all ages.  Even the youngest schoolchild is capable of doing some lit-related work, and all of that will pave the way to more easily grasping literary analysis when they hit high school and college. Learning about some basic concepts, such as similes and personification, and learning to think more critically about some of the material you are reading -- that is something that they can do in elementary school.  Not for every book a child reads, but I think it is great to do it for some of them.

Literature Study Guides from a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press  Review}
Minstrel in the Tower is a book that was suggested to read alongside our current history program, so when I had the opportunity to work with the Progeny Press E-Guide, I certainly went for it.

This study is intended for 1st-3rd grade, and my two are older than that (4th and 6th), but it was still worthwhile, especially for a summer study.

Like all Progeny Press Guides, this starts off with some background information and some pre-reading suggestions. We waited for our book to arrive, and then dug in. For this study, we ended up getting caught up in the Before-you-read Activities. She has suggestions that didn’t take a lot of time (learn about the difference between a minstrel and a jester, and find some locations on a map). Then there were some more complex suggestions. We ended up spending a few days looking into medieval legends, such as the story of Robin Hood. We watched the 1952 Disney movie and read a couple fairly easy versions of that legend. We also read a book about St. Francis. Bottom line was that the Before-you-read ended up taking us over a week!

At that point, we were anxious to get started with the story. The book contains eight chapters, and the E-Guide has a section for each of those chapters. Because my children are older, we could easily read a chapter and do all of the study guide exercises in a single day. Some days we did more than one chapter. For children closer to 1st grade, I would definitely take it a bit slower.

For each chapter, the study guide would start with vocabulary. There were a variety of methods used for studying vocabulary. In some cases, the student is to tell what he thinks the word means and then look it up to see what the dictionary says. Sometimes there are matching exercises, or fill in the blanks. There are sixty vocabulary words in total. In many cases, my kids did already know the words, but there were quite a few that they did not know, such as stead, wimple, tatterdemalions, palfrey, etc.

The other component of each chapter’s guide is comprehension questions, which include some basic questions and a couple of “Dig Deeper” questions. Most of the questions are fairly straight-forward. “What changed his mind?” is something that is fairly obvious in the story, if you are paying attention. Others do make the child speculate a bit, like one regarding an illustration in the book, “How do you think Alice felt in this picture?”

The Dig Deeper questions tend to be related to Bible verses. The child reads a verse or two, and then relates that back to the story. In chapter 5, for instance, there are three verses (Psalm 118:14, Isaiah 41:10, and Psalm 23:4). The student is asked to summarize the verses, and to address where we get the strength to do what is right.

Once you are through the book, there are some After-you-read Activities. We did not choose to do any of these, but there are art suggestions, writing assignments, oral reports, and more. In addition, there is a list of additional resources, mostly books, that you could use to follow up on this study.
As far as actual lit study, as would be expected, that is pretty light at this level. Most of the traditional lit study aspects in this study include understanding the background and context for the story, and a few questions that address things like predicting what might happen next. Looking at titles for the 4th-6th grade level, such as The Sword in the Tree and Mr. Popper’s Penguins (both of which are being reviewed by other Crew Members right now!), these are definitely at a level that is completely appropriate for my upper elementary kids.

I’m glad we used Minstrel in the Tower, since the timing was so perfect, and my children did learn from it. However, I need to accept that they are definitely too old for the lower elementary materials now.

A sad day indeed.

However, there are guides for a number of Little House books, and that sounds perfect.

Go check out some of the other reviews, as they are talking about different levels and more titles!

Literature Study Guides from a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press  Review}

Crew Disclaimer