Monday, August 21, 2017

Phonics Museum Review

Veritas Press Phonics Museum
Veritas Press has recently released the Phonics Museum App available for purchase in iTunes. The target age for this interactive learn to read app says it is appropriate for ages 3-7. Honestly I have been helping my 2 year old niece work through these lessons. Obviously she is on the younger end of the age spectrum, but she really love the app and asks to play the "phonics game" whenever she is at my house. Sometimes she is able to sit through 2 entire lessons.
Veritas Press Phonics Museum
The lessons are super engaging. In a given lesson, the student will watch a short video clip and then play a game. The alternating between games and videos keeps the students engaged and learning. The video clips are fairly short and keep the attention of even a two year old. She absolutely loves Miss Biddle and listens and follows along well.
Veritas Press Phonics Museum
The games are all simple and provide all instruction verbally. Now, because I am using this with a two year old, I obviously provide lots of support for her. For example, when a game asks her to find all the bricks with the beginning sound of "b", I point to each brick and emphasize the beginning sound. like this: "b...b...b...baby, m...m...m...man, a...a...a...apple." This helps her at such a young age to be able to distinguish which picture she needs to choose.

There are lots of different games that really do help the child learn the phonics sounds and rules. It's fun, of course, but it's not a lot of fluff. Some games are designed to help students pick out the middle sounds, choose upper and lower case letters, and even learn how to form the letters.
Veritas Press Phonics Museum
As students complete each section of the lesson, that part of the lesson earns them a star. At the end of the lesson, they earn a star for the trophy room. Each lesson in the beginning focuses on teaching a new letter sound. Each letter sound is represented by a famous artwork, and the entire game takes place in an art museum. The students work their way up the museum levels. The letter "A", for example, has a famous painting of apples, and during this lesson, students learn that "A" says the short sound of "a". Students learn how to form the upper and lower case letters. I appreciate that the written AND the printed versions of each letter are shown to help alleviate confusion. In as little as four weeks, students will be able to read easy reader phonics controlled books.
Veritas Press Phonics Museum
Each new lesson, there is also a song that is played. So far we have learned two different songs, the alphabet song, which sings the ABC's, and the museum song, which sings the sounds of the letters. Both of these are catchy and most importantly, not annoying. We have had a great time learning these songs. It's so cute to hear her sing along to the tunes.
Veritas Press Phonics Museum
At one point, my 12 year old was helping my niece work through a lesson. He did not know the app was by Veritas Press. After working with her for a few minutes, he commented, "Is this app by Veritas Press?" I told him that yes it was. He said that he could tell because last year we were able to review the Bible self paced course by Veritas Press. He said they always do a great job with their graphics, and that's how he knew the app was made by them.
Veritas Press Phonics Museum
This app can be purchased in iTunes. You can choose to pay for one year of access or pay monthly. Three students are able to be registered in the Phonics Museum so that each one can work at their own pace. You are also allowed to install the app on more than one device. It is suggested that you use an iPad for this app, but we have been using an iPhone 6+ successfully without any trouble. You will want to check for system requirements before subscribing to the app.

I really enjoy this app, and so does my niece. I do however wish that instead of a subscription, we were able to purchase access to the app outright. I am very sure this little one will want to continue using the app for a while. Since she is so young, I would love to have access to this app in the future without needing to "rent" it monthly or yearly. Having a purchase option would be the best for us. 

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, August 14, 2017

Monday Motivation

I do appreciate many of the graphics that Toby Mac posts. They are inspiring and full of truth. This one has become my reminder lately. And one that I think lots of people can apply to their lives.

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

No-Nonsense Algebra Review

No-Nonsense Algebra
Math Essentials
I have been very impressed with this new to us math program by Math Essentials called No-Nonsense Algebra. I'm not going to go into great detail here with our love/hate relationship with math. But this is one program that I think I can finally get behind because it truly is no-nonsense.

The cover of the book as seen in the graphic above says there is no fluff and no distractions. And that is very true. The pages are black and white. There are no graphics unless necessary for explanation. No cute cartoons. Just the instructions, examples, and exercises. This works well for students, like my 14 year old, who simply want to know the information, process it, and then finish the lesson.

The lessons are not long and drawn out with zillions of practice problems. Don't worry, there are plenty of practice and review problems, just not zillions. My 14 year old is usually pretty quick at grasping new math concepts. She has not studied Algebra yet, and so far this is going at an excellent pace for her and will continue to be used for math credit during her freshman year. She isn't overwhelmed with lots of options. One skill is taught at a time. That skill will also be reviewed in subsequent lessons.

The book is broken down into 10 chapters. Each chapter is broken into individual lessons. Each lesson also has a video for the student to watch. The videos are not long and drawn out. I find they are concise enough to teach the new concept to the student. The key is that the student follows along with the video. As the example problem is worked in the video, the student should also work the example problem right along with the instructor. Once the video is over, the student turns to the book. I have my 14 year old read the introduction, which actually reviews what she learned in the video. I do not have her work the example problems unless she really is having a hard time with the concept. I then assign her the exercise and review problems in the lesson.

The answer key is in the back of the book, so when she is finished with the problems, I have her check her work and make any corrections or find her mistakes. This is a powerful activity and really helps her to see what she did wrong or figure out why the problem was wrong. She can see what needs to be fixed or done differently and easily fixes the mistake. Each chapter also includes a chapter review that could also be used as a test.

Chapter 1: Necessary Tools for Algebra--Review of Pre-Algebra (22 lessons)
Chapter 2: Solving Equations (9 lessons)
Chapter 3: Graphing and Analyzing Lines (6 lessons)
Chapter 4: Solving and Graphing Inequalities (7 lessons)
Chapter 5: Systems of Linear Equations (4 lessons)
Chapter 6: Polynomials (13 lessons)
Chapter 7: Rational Expressions--Algebraic Fractions (10 lessons)
Chapter 8: Radical Expressions and Geometry (10 lessons)
Chapter 9: Quadratic Equations (6 lessons)
Chapter 10: Algebra Word Problems (8 lessons)

The back of the book includes additional helpful formulas and symbols as well as a multiplication table, commonly used prime numbers, squares and square roots, fraction/decimal equivalents, and a glossary. These are all helpful tools to a student new to Algebra and ones that I find myself reaching for often as I help my high school students with higher level math. It is challenging, but not impossible. Maybe after I have helped all 4 of them get through Algebra, I will finally understand it!

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, August 7, 2017

Dear Homeschool Mom (Who Thinks She's Failing)


Dear homeschool mom (who thinks she's failing),

First off, you're not. Yes, even if the last year has been one of tears and endless frustration. Yes, even if your second grader doesn't know how to multiply. Yes, even if your house is such a wreck that you just want to cry. You're not failing. 

There. I said it. Now that THAT'S out of the way, let's chat. 

You see, I felt compelled to write this letter to you. I know you are so doubting yourself right now. You are second guessing your curriculum choices. You stay up late at night worrying because everything isn't perfect. You wonder how on earth will you ever be able to provide a quality education for each child entrusted to your care. I could go on. And I get it. I've been there. Many days, I am still there. But I've learned one secret that will change your doubts into strength.

First, let me put your mind at ease and help you understand that your self worth, that your success, is not wrapped up in teaching your children. It isn't about the perfect curriculum choices. It isn't about comparing yourself to other moms, who on the outside appear to be more successful than you. It isn't about how clean your house is. 

This is YOUR journey. YOUR family. YOUR legacy. Just as every family is unique; every homeschool is unique as well. Yours will look different than mine. And you know what? That's OK. It's also OK to take a break. Evaluate. Make a change. Breathe.

Being their teacher doesn't mean you have to use the perfect curriculum. It doesn't mean you have to know all the answers. And it definitely doesn't mean that you have the entire year planned out by the first day of school. There are as many ways to homeschool as there are families. There are any number of excellent math programs or reading programs. 

Your children need YOU. You are their best teacher. God gave you these precious arrows to lead and direct in the unique way that only you can. And with God on your side, you cannot fail. That's the cool part! God has a plan for each one of your children. He will accomplish the work that He started when He called you to be not only their mom, but also their teacher.

Take a LONG look down the road. Where do you see your kids? What plans has God revealed to you about each one of your children? Maybe your kids are young. Maybe God hasn't revealed His plan for them yet. That's OK. Keep learning the basics. You will get there. And know that whatever God calls your child to be or to do, He will complete it. Is it going to be hard? Of course it is. Is it going to be worth it? Definitely!

The only ones who don't make it to the finish line are the one who quit. Don't quit. Don't give up. 

Yes. It is hard.

Yes. Some days are challenging. 

Yes. There are times when I want to throw in the towel too.

But don't do it. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep walking. You can't make progress if you are always looking around you, comparing yourself. Just keep going. If you stumble, take a moment to gather your arrows back to you, and keep going. Fix your eyes on your goal and head in that direction. 

Your children need to see that it's OK to fail. It's OK to not have all the answers. It's OK to not even have a complete plan. When you do make a mistake, let them see you correct it, and keep going. No one is perfect, and those who appear perfect are lying. 

Here's a secret that I have learned: include God in your plan. Remember He is there to help carry your burden. Start each day with prayer. Give your school and home to God. Rest in Him. He will guide your path. 

And please know, it is just fine to switch curriculum in the middle of the year. If it doesn't work, throw it out. Find something that does. But don't get so hung up on completing the curriculum that you forget to have fun and enjoy your kids. Make the curriculum work for you. You own the curriculum; don't let the curriculum own you.

No matter their age, show your children that all learning is not found in books. Sure, read the books--there certainly are several worthy ones. But don't forget to explore together. Make messes together (and then teach them how to clean up that mess)! Serve together. Cook together. Create together. Do life together. 

Above all, enjoy the time that you have with them because life moves quickly, and before you know it, that little first grader is a big senior ready to be launched into the world. And THAT is partly because of you, Mama. Because you dared to teach her at home. Because you cared enough to train her in the way she should go. Because God gave this one to you, to raise for His glory. 

I'm praying for you that you have the best year ever. And I'm cheering for you too. Let go, Mama, and let God!



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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

In the Reign of Terror--Review

In the Reign of Terror
Heirloom Audio Productions has released a new audio adventure titled In the Reign of Terror. This particular title takes place during the tumultuous French Revolution. History is expertly woven into this fictional story, taking the imagination on a journey of a lifetime. Young Harry is thrust into the center of all the conflict while attempting to rescue friends from the evil rule at the time. During a daring plot to free these aristocrats, Harry and his friends plan to enter one of the guard's homes and convince him to release the prisoners. Counter-revolutionaries threaten to overtake the city. Harry is caught up in the middle of the conflict when they attempt to seize him and classify him as a noble. Prisoners during this time are considered guilty simply because they belong to a noble family. This is a truly gripping tale, and one that will keep children and adults alike gripping their seat in suspense. Harry witnesses first hand the horrific violence of the French Revolution before returning safely to his own home.

My kids really enjoy listening to audio books and audio dramas. I personally have a hard time because I am a visual learner and not an auditory learner. My mind wanders as I try to focus on doing something with my hands while listening. I am working to improve my auditory learning skills, but I'd much rather read a book. This audio adventure was an exciting one, and my kids, ages 12 through 17 enjoyed hearing it. We were able to interact with several additional activities that are housed in the Live the Adventure Club, and those were enjoyed by all.

Live the Adventure Club is an exclusive club for members who own Heirloom Audio Productions. The club has all kinds of features including the ability for you to stream the titles online. This is really our preferred way of listening because we can access the audio drama anywhere. The club includes an adventure that you can work your way through. Each chapter of the adventure includes the audio portion of the title in addition to a read along script, a chapter quiz, thinking further questions, and vocabulary lists. These questions are also included in the PDF downloadable study guide. I like the adventure club. As we work through a chapter, we can mark it complete. It has the feel of an online type class that guides you through each section of the story. The online access also includes several additional sections and activities. Lots of information that can be found and accessed through this exclusive membership site. From this site, you can download several extras that are included with the title such as the study guide, posters, soundtrack, wallpaper for your desktop computer, and e-book of the original G.A. Henty title.

The Study Guide for this title is a full color PDF file that you can view online or download to your computer. The study guide contains background information for the title as well as questions and other activities. The review questions are broken into two different types--listening well and thinking further. The listening well questions are comprehension questions for each chapter. The thinking further questions ask the students to dig in and make additional connections to the story. These questions may require the students to research historical events or places and discuss how they connect to the main plot of the story. Each chapter also has some vocabulary development opportunities with lists of words to define. The study guide does contain more than just questions though. Recipes and historical background are included in sections titled Expand Your Learning. These are opportunities for further exploration of the time period.

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, July 31, 2017

Have you ever participated in a KickStarter campaign?

I participated in my first KickStarter campaign.
Last year I heard about Chara Games through a homeschool review item.
We really enjoyed the two games we received from that company.
Naturally, when they offered this new game up on KickStarter, we jumped on the opportunity to participate.
 In true Chara Games fashion, everything is high quality and extremely excellent.
I appreciate the game instruction booklet that comes with each game.
Every detail is taken care of, from the high quality box, to the little tabs that are on the shrink wrap around the game cards. Don't you hate trying to open those things without a starter tab?
 We look forward to playing this new game.
More updates soon! 

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