Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Monday, October 16, 2017

Reading Eggs Review

Reading Eggs*
Reading Eggs is such a fun and interactive complete online reading curriculum full of online learning reading games. This website is appropriate for ages 2-13. I'll be honest, at first I was kind of skeptical about using an online program for reading, but once we got into the website and started poking around and seeing the variety that is available, I am happy to report that there is no need to be skeptical. We used this program in our homeschool with my 2 year old niece and my 12 year old son. What I like about this program is that you have access to virtually every level. So while I did receive access for 2 students, those students could bounce around and work in any of the programs currently available, which include Reading Eggs Junior, Reading Eggs, Reading Eggspress, and Math Seeds. You are welcome to try the ENTIRE program for 4 weeks for free (expires November 30, 2017). This is an awesome offer and will truly let you see how the program works. Reading Eggs can be played on a computer or on a tablet or phone if you download the Reading Eggs app. We used it on a computer so that is what my review will focus on.

Reading Eggs Junior--ages 2-4
First I will talk about using the program with a 2 year old. The biggest thing I noticed is that since this is a computer based learning program, the child will need to know how to operate a mouse. Most 2 year olds don't possess that skill, so as my niece sat on my lap, I moved the mouse around for her while she pointed and watched. As time progressed, she began putting her own hand on the mouse and clicking the buttons. I still had to guide her hand, but she is beginning to get the hang of how to use a mouse to point and click.

The reading games for 2-4 year olds is pretty self explanatory and is appropriately called Reading Eggs Junior. When you log in to this section, the screen slowly scrolls through the different sections available. You can click and move the mouse to scroll more quickly. We definitely found some of our favorites on this site. My niece especially loves the puzzle section where she has to match puzzle pieces to form the letters and then place objects into their correct place. She loves having the nursery rhymes read to her from the screen. She loves the one about Humpty Dumpty. The popcorn movie viewing stop was also fun for her as she was able to see her favorite nursery rhyme in action.

All in all the section for 2-4 year olds is cute and easy to navigate so they can explore. At that age, it is all about introducing the sounds and letters. No pressure here for the kids to take a test, just exposure in a highly interactive and engaging way.

Reading Eggs--ages 3-7
We did not use this program since none of my kids fit into this age group. I did poke around in here a bit though. It appears that this program starts out teaching the very basic phonics beginning with single letter sounds. It does progress into some advanced phonics. I am going to assume that by the end of the program, the child should be reading well and should be able to advance into the next level of learning, Reading Eggspress.

Reading Eggspress--ages 7-13
My son entered the online reading program in the section for ages 7-13 called Reading Eggspress. The first time the student enters this program, they are given the option to take an assessment or start at the beginning. I highly recommend taking the assessment for correct lesson placement to prevent boredom.

This section is also pretty self-explanatory. Students complete one lesson per day. They work through different maps and the material increases in difficulty level. My son enjoys the activities. Some are simple and fairly short. Others require him to really focus on the skill at hand. There is a fair amount of reading done at this level. Sometimes students can opt to have the pages read to them, but we have noticed that not every page in a book has this option, which is good because he needs to be encouraged to read on his own and gather information at the same time--a valuable and challenging skill for many kids today!

Once he finishes his daily lesson, he is able to play in the other areas available to him. During the lesson, the student earns "eggs" which they can spend at the mall. The "golden eggs" they earn as coins so they can purchase decorations for their apartment or pets or new clothes or whatever else they want to include in their living spaces. There are additional games that the students can play and earn extra spending currency. My son enjoys playing in the arcade where he can challenge other players online. All of these arcade games have a skill that is reviewed or practiced.

Math Seeds--ages 3-7
We did play in this area for a little bit with my 2 year old niece. Obviously I didn't have her take the placement test so we just started at lesson 1. That lesson taught her the number one and what it looked like. Then we counted to one: one book, one seed, one tree, one flower. Finally, we learned to recognize the word "one". This was honestly too much for a 2 year old. She enjoyed watching the screen, but I'm not sure anything we did made sense to her. Although she did giggle and say awww that's cute every time she earned a new sticker.

All program levels include worksheets that you can download and print out. They correspond nicely with the computer lessons. You will find these in the family dashboard. Click on the student you want to view. The dashboard is where you also find scores from the lessons your child is working through. This is also the place where you can re-assign levels or have your child take the placement test again.

This company just released a brand new set of program guides perfect for homeschoolers. These colorful guides make it easy for parents to track learning outcomes for students in grades Kindergarten through second grade. Each guide is printable and helps you to plan out your child's learning. We have had a wonderful experience with this online learning program and have really enjoyed it. It has benefited our homeschool by providing enrichment in reading in a fun and engaging way.

Curious what other reviewers had to say about this product? Head on over to the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read all the reviews.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Brinkman Adventures Review

Brinkman Adventures

We are pretty big fans of the Brinkman Adventures at our house. There was a time when it seems like that is literaly all we listened to. These audio adventures are just that interesting! The icing on the cake was that a couple years ago, we actually got to meet the family who creates these inspiring stories. My son got to pal around at a homeschool convention with one of their sons, so that is pretty cool. Naturally, we were so excited to review Brinkman Adventures Season 4 for such an awesome vendor.

The main thing that sets the Brinkman Adventures apart is that the audio adventures are based on missionary stories. They are also based on true stories. The excitement really draws kids, and even teens, into the audio missionary drama. They keep listening because they want to find out what happens. I'd say this season is definitely "binge-worthy".

I also want to clarify that these audio adventures are not audio books. Listening to an audio adventure is so much different than listening to an audio book. Typically audio books have one person simply reading the text of a novel. There isn't very much, if any, background music or sound effects. Audio adventures are completely different. There are different characters, each read by a different person. The sound effects and background music add to the suspense of the story. Listening to an audio adventure is almost like watching a movie, except there are no images. You listen to the drama happening and can usually imagine what the scenes look like. 

I have had people tell me that their kids hate audio books, and they immediately assume that their kids will also hate audio adventures. Personally I think they should give it a try before they simply write it off as another thing their kid will not enjoy. These are perfect for listening to in the car. I like to turn them on if I feel like we need some down time. If the TV has been on for too long, I also like to turn these on. My son especially likes to just sit and listen or build or color while listening. 

What can you expect to hear in this season? I won't spoil the entire season for you, but I will tell you about our favorite episode. My son and I listened to this episode on pins and needles! A missionary preacher was arrested and placed in jail. His wife and family prayed for his release, but the men holding the missionary refused to let him go. They threatened him and told him that they had taken his wife and children. If he didn't make a full confession against his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the family was going to be killed. The missionary went to bed that night upset and thinking that he was going to have to sign the confession in order to save his family. A miracle surely occurred that night and the missionary did not have to sign the confession. The family was saved! There are a couple of extremely intense episodes in this season. Each episode that could be frightening for young children does contain a disclaimer that the parents should listen with their children on these episodes. 

One more thing I want to mention about the Brinkman Adventures. They recently released a curriculum guide to go along with Season 1. I checked out this resource, and it looks amazing! The guide shows you how to use the different episodes in a classroom type setting. They include activities and discussions which enhance the listening experience. Students really dig in and learn about different aspects of the dramas. Teachers have an excellent resource to guide the discussions. This is a product that I would have loved to have when my kids were in elementary. It would be fun to use in a Sunday School setting. 

We definitely love the Brinkman Adventures. We currently own Season 1 and Season 4. Now we just need to add the other seasons to our collection. It's really nice that these don't need to be listened to in order either. We had no trouble going from Season 1 straight to Season 4.

Curious what other reviewers had to say about this product? Head on over to the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read all the reviews.

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Monday, October 9, 2017

CTC Math Review

CTCMath
September marked the beginning of the school year for us in our homeschool. I kept dragging my feet on choosing a math curriculum for my seventh grader. What we had previously been using, just began to feel awkward and wasn't a good fit anymore. When the review popped up for CTC Math, I thought, well, what could it hurt? Let's go ahead and give this a try. We received a one-year subscription for a single membership, as opposed to a family subscription, since my seventh grader would be the only one using this curriculum.

I really had no expectations for this online math curriculum, other than the fact that I wanted my son to be able to have access to video lessons followed by short reviews on the new topic presented. I also knew that it was time to move him onto Pre-Algebra and that he was ready for the switch. We opened the lesson pages for Pre-Algebra and he got started right away.

The lessons are really and truly the kind that I classify as "open and go", except usually that term is associated with curriculum written in a book. But really, he opens the website, and gets started with the new lesson. He typically completes 1-2 lessons per day depending on how simple the topic is for him. When the lessons contain some sort of review, he is able to complete more. But if it's a new concept for him, like making factor trees for example, that was a longer lesson and it took him 2 days to complete. Some of the numbers that he had to break down into prime numbers were super huge so it took him a while to finish all of the practice problems. The computer did save his place. That was really nice because we were both afraid that he was going to have to start at the beginning of the lesson.

This has been my son's first experience with using online math lessons. Even though we had previously used math videos online, this is his first time completing the review questions in the online platform. We both enjoy that the lessons are short, simple, and to the point. Only one concept is presented at a time. There isn't review from lesson to lesson, but each section does include a diagnostic test that can be taken before or after the series of lessons are completed.

I am having my son complete the Pre-Algebra lessons in order. The nice thing about this curriculum though is that we do have access to all of the other lessons, so if we run into something that he really needs to work on, we can back up and go directly to that lesson for review.

These are the topics and lessons included in the Basic Math and Pre-Algebra portion of the website:

  • Part 1
    • Basics and Whole Numbers
    • Fractions
    • Decimals
    • Percentages
  • Part 2
    • Problem Solving
    • Pre-Algebra 1
    • Pre-Algebra 2
    • Pythagoras' Theorem
  • Part 3
    • Powers, Exponents, and Roots
    • Scientific Notation and Powers of 10
    • Measurements
    • Area
    • The Circle
    • Graphs and Charts
  • Part 4
    • Probability
    • Statistics
    • Variables, Expressions, and Equations
    • Equations Extension
    • Ratios
    • Problem Solving
    • Rates
    • Number Applications
    • Volume
Our plan at this point is to work through all of these sections this school year. I will say that Part 1 has been a very thorough review of the math that he has had up until this point. We spent a significant amount of time on fractions in our previous curriculum, so that section is becoming a very solid review of that concept. I'm also pleased that he has retained much of what we had worked so hard on in the past.

Another aspect of this math curriculum that I like is that I receive an email once per week, documenting my sons progress. The report shows what lessons he completed, when he was logged into the site, and his scores on the lessons. I pretty much already know the above information, but the progress report is a nice touch to busy parents, who may not be able to sit with their child during each lesson. This way the parent can go in and help a child review any trouble areas without having to just guess at what the child knows.

Occasionally, there are a few different terms presented in this middle school math curriculum than we are used to in the United States. For instance, instead of calling them parenthesis, the teacher calls them brackets. Instead of saying exponents, he says indices. And instead of the popular PEMDAS mnemonic for order of operations, it is called BIDMAS in this curriculum. Not a deal breaker, but I have clarified to my son that in the future, he might hear these terms called different names, but that it still means the same thing.

Another thing I appreciate about this online curriculum is that the pricing is really fair for what you get. First, you can try a free trial, which is really enough of a sample for you to understand how the curriculum works as well as assess if it is right for your family. Second, homeschoolers are eligible for a 60% homeschool discount. We are really enjoying this new to us math curriculum and plan to continue using it throughout the year. 
CTCMath
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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Monday, September 18, 2017

Imagine...Review

IMAGINE... The Great Flood
Imagine. . .The Great Flood by Matt Koceich is an early, easy to read chapter book published by Barbour Publishing. There are 15 short chapters written in an easy to read font for ages 8-12. An older child could read this book in a short time while a younger child would enjoy listening to this book read out loud. It is entertaining and imaginative with glimpses of the past mixed with the present.

The book begins with Corey complaining to his mother about having to move to Florida. As a young 10 year old, he doesn't want to leave all his friends and the places that he knows so well. On a short walk with his dog, Corey falls, bumps his head, and is transported to the past--to the time of Noah, just before the flood. He is quickly plummeted into the drama of this time period.

Corey meets Noah and his sons. He helps them gather the animals and faces the dreaded giants, called Nephilim, living in that time. Corey has to make quick decisions. Will he trust the cloaked Elizar, who uses dark magic, or will he turn to Jesus in his time of desperation?

At the end of the book, Corey wakes up from his strange dream and knows that he needs to trust Jesus with the fact that he is moving. Three months after his strange experience, "Corey finally understood how much God loved him." And he was able to thank the Lord for these lessons.

Join Corey as he experiences this epic storm that is brewing and as he learns to trust Jesus with his whole heart, not just when it is convenient.

This book is called Imagine... because really we want to imagine what life was like on the earth during this time just before the flood. This title especially brings the Bible to life in a rich and imaginative way. My son and I read this title together. I read much of it out loud, but he finished it on his own. He just couldn't wait for the ending.

I know I can't picture what the world was like before the flood, but this helps to bring the truth to light. There are also some parts of the story that feature super-human strength creatures, making this book fall into the fantasy category.

From my 12 year old son: "I loved this book. My favorite part was when Corey was rescued out of the hole. I would highly recommend this book to my friends. It is an easy to read book, but sometimes there were big words and names that made it hard to pronounce. But overall, I enjoyed reading this because it wasn't very long. I hope this author writes more of these types of books."

Since this book was so well received in our home, I would definitely recommend it to others. 

Curious what other reviewers had to say about this product? Head on over to the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read all the reviews.

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