Category Archives: homeschooling

Fun Family Chess from Brain Blox {Review}

I remember playing Chess with my dad when I was just a girl but I’ve forgotten a lot of how to play, so I was very pleased to be given the opportunity to review Fun Family Chess from Brain Blox because now I can re-fresh my own knowledge and help my special needs boys learn this game as well!

While uou certainly can play chess in the standard way with this set, it has been formatted in such a way that anyone, whether they are trying to re-learn the game for themselves or they want to help someone with absolutely no knowledge of how to play to learn.

Fun Family Chess comes with a very sturdy, well made wood box, which is both the chess board and storage for all of the components.

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One of the things I really like is that there are pictures of the different pieces right on the board, so that we know exactly what goes where.

Inside, the other parts of the game are packaged very nicely in the velvet lined inner halves.

You can see that the light and dark pieces each have their own soft (and now I notice, covered Shiloh’s hair) velvet bags, and nestled in with them you can also see a full color instruction book, reference cards, and the chess die. The wood box/game board closes with two metal clasps to keep everything neatly together.

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Each person will roll the chess die during their turn, and it will show them which piece to move. The player then checks the color coded reference card to find out how that piece is allowed to move. Here is a short video from the Brain Blox company which explains the moves each piece can make in chess:

Not only is the storage box/chess board good solid wood, the pieces are as well, plus they are coated on the bottom with felt to keep them from scratching the board.

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A couple of my boys have cognitive issues and have difficulty when it comes to strategy, so this is a very good way for them to learn this game. Here is just one of their games in progress:

They are enjoying learning the game of chess in a no pressure way. They do not have to already know how each piece moves in order to be able to play, because the whole idea is learning while playing. With the die and the reference cards, they can check how each piece moves each time it is their turn. Eventually, they will have the pieces and their moves memorized, and won’t need to refer to the cards anymore! It really is as the box itself says:

“Earth’s Most Dandy and Delightful, Refreshingly Refined, Easy-Peasy Way To Learn Chess!”  

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Fun Family Chess {Brain Blox Reviews}

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Filed under Brain Blox, home education, homeschool products, homeschooling, Homeschooling Chess, Learn Chess the Easy way

Progeny Press Study Guide (Little House On The Prairie) {Review}

 I really like using a good unit study to go along with good books, and Progeny Press has a good number of them! We have been working through the Little House on the Prairie Study Guide.

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This is not our first study guide from Progeny Press. We have done a few others, which you can read about here.

My son chose the study guide he wanted to do. He has always really liked the television show “Little House on the Prairie,” and has been surprised at how different the book is from it, although I personally thought that the pilot episode came fairly close to this book!

“The Puzzler” has been slowly working his way through this one. I say slowly because he has real comprehension problems, and other learning delays. In the past when we have used study guides, we have mostly done them orally with all of the boys. This time, I thought we’d try having “Mr. Puzzler” use the interactive PDF, and type in his own answers.

This has actually been working fairly well! He doesn’t like to do a whole lot of hand writing, and he is very picky about how it looks, so usually it just takes forever with erasing and rewriting. Typing in the answers allows for him to more easily correct his errors (although I did just realize that he spelled griping with two p’s) This also has allowed him to work mostly on his own, which he’s been enjoying.

This study guide suggests reading the entire book and then doing each section of the guide, but since each section covers about five chapters which is an easier bite for “The. Puzzler,” he has been reading the book one section at a time and then answering the questions for that section. Admittedly, this is taking a good bit longer that suggested by Progeny Press, but the beauty of homeschooling is that we don’t HAVE to stay on schedule, we are able to work at the pace my kids can handle, and thus retain what is learned.

There are a variety of activities the student can do throughout this guide. One that I was able to catch in pictures was making Molasses Milk, which we’d never heard of.

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Pretty much all of them said it was definitely not something they’d ever ask for again!

This study guide covers a lot of things, not just language arts. We have looked at history, geography, social studies, Bible, etc. I specifically mention Bible because I so appreciate the Mission Statement of Progeny Press:

“To teach our children to think clearly, to understand literature, and to rely on the scripture for truth and values, and enjoy themselves while they do it!”

The Little House on the Prairie Study Guide uses the following as the format:

  • Vocabulary – he has been exploring synonyms, similes and personification.
  • Comprehension Questions
  • Think about the story
  • Dig Deeper – Thinking about the situations in the story with a Biblical perspective, with verses to look up and ponder.
  • Class Debate – We use as discussion questions.
  • Optional Activities

Having the option of doing the study guide orally, print the guide out and write the answers in, or use the interactive function and type the answers in has allowed more flexibility for us as my kids have moved from one to the next with the different guides we’ve used. Progeny Press is a wonderful choice for our family, and maybe it will be for you, as well! You may check out the sample here.

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Study Guides for Literature {Progeny Press Reviews}Crew-Disclaimer

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Filed under History, home education, homeschool unit studies, homeschooling, Language Arts, Literature Study Guides, Liturature Based Unit Study, Progeny Press

Life Schooling

What is “Life Schooling” you ask? Well, it is working “school” around life, instead of the other way around. It is using life as a series of learning opportunities. And, in our case, it is taking time to minister to others, even if doing so happens during conventional school hours.

Today, all 3 boys are at a fellow church member’s home, helping to clear some land so they can put up a large dog pen, and then helping put it together.

Sometimes, it’s helping set up for a big occasion at church, and sometimes, it’s going out on a weekday with the Youth Pastor to visit others.

Sometimes, it’s doing odd jobs for pay, and learning to tithe off their income.

It has been going with me to help carry a meal from the car to someone I’ve cooked for, or just out to help me at the grocery store!

School doesn’t have to be just sitting at a table doing bookwork and paperwork. In fact, that is the smallest part of school for us! We learned a long time ago that while “school in a box” works for many people and their kids thrive on it, our kids do not, so we gradually changed to what works in our family.

If you’ve thought about homeschooling and been afraid you couldn’t, just know there are many ways to homeschool. The only “wrong way” to do it is the way that doesn’t work for YOUR kids and YOUR family. And, there’s nothing wrong with learning alongside your kids, either, I often find myself learning things I was never taught before!

As always, I would just love it if you would join me in all of “My Journeys Through Life.” Just go to the subscription box at the top of the blog and enter your email information. After that, you will always know when there is something new happening. I hope to see you here very soon! -)

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Filed under family, home education, homeschooling, Life-schooling

Music Appreciation for the Middle Grades Book 2 From Zeezok Publishing {Review}

 

I grew up listening to music from classical to bluegrass and beyond, so I was very excited to receive this wonderful homeschool music program, Music Appreciation Book 2: for the Middle Grades from Zeezok Publishing for the purpose of this review!

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For a little while now,  “The Artist” has been learning all about Frederick Chopin, using the main Student Activity Book and biographies of the composer.

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It has been important to me that my children learn to appreciate music from diverse time periods, so this really fits the bill! By the time this course is finished, we will have learned about seven different composers:

  • Frederic Chopin
  • Robert Schumann
  • Richard Wagner
  • Stephen Foster
  • Johannes Brahms
  • Peter Tchaikovsky
  • Edward MacDowell

We will learn about them by using the big Student Activity Book and reading nine biographies. We received physical copies of eight, and we received one of them as an e-book. When you order this package, you will get them all as physical books. Of the books we received, seven are very nice soft cover in a couple of different sizes, and one is a nice, sturdy hard cover.

While this is not a problen for us, I know that there are people who like matching sets so I thought I ought to mention it.

If you follow the table in the workbook exactly this curriculum will take you twenty-nine weeks. Four weeks per composer, with the exception of Frederic Chopin which is a five week section. This could take as long or as short of a time as you wish, but following the schedule is worthwhile if you would like it to be completed within one school year.

This course is cross curricular, covering history, geography, music, social studies and more.

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At some point we will be coming back to this to try the delicious sounding recipe pictured here, but as my husband is on the hunt for a new job he wants to avoid poppy seeds for now. 😉

The components of this curriculum are listed below.

  • Student Activity Book:

This is designed for different kinds of learners (auditory, visual, kinesthetic, “active”) Activities will teach geography, history, instrument study, music vocabulary, timelines, character trait studies, musical facts, and more. This is a consumable book, so while multiple children within your family would be able to share the biographies you will need a separate Student Activity Book for each of them.

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  • Optional Journal Notebook:

While working through the Student Activity Book, the student will find directions for creating their own journaling notebook using a 3-ring binder, a regular notebook, or even a sketchbook, helping him or her to connect with the musicians and their musical creations through writing.

  • The Great Musician Series (nine biographies by Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher.
  • Music Appreciation for the Middle Grades App:

This is a new feature as of this curriculum. There are QR codes sprinkled throughout the Student Activity Book which give your student easy access to all of the songs in the biographies, interactive quizzes and additional website links.

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I have covered the website link to the App page because it’s reserved for consumers of this curriculum only.

There are optional components available for purchase:

I feel that this is an excellent tool for introducing my children to the appreciation of music! With this set we are not simply listening to music, we are learning about the places from which the composers came, how they lived their lives, along with much more from each time period. I very much recommend this set to you!

To read what fifty-nine other families think about Music Appreciation Book 2: for the Middle Grades from Zeezok Publishing, please click on the banner just below.


Music Appreciation Book 2: for the Middle Grades {Zeezok Publishing Reviews}
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Filed under home education, homeschool products, homeschooling, Music Appreciation, Zeezok publishing

Learning About Science From WriteBonnieRose {Review}

We like to add fun subjects like science to our summer studies so I was excited to receive Learning About Science Collection, Level 3 (Cursive) from  WriteBonnieRose!

I have done one other review of a WriteBonnieRose publication, you can read it here.

“The Artist” is my most enthusiastic science kid, so I was certain he would enjoy doing Level 3 of the Learning About Science Collection. I let him look over the options once we received our download for the purpose of this review, and he decided he wanted to begin with Life Science: “What’s Going On Inside Plants?’

Other topics in this series include:

  • Earth Science, Discovering Rocks, Minerals & Crystals
  • Physical Science, Energy And It’s Many Forms
  • Earth Science, Exploring The Earth’s Land forms
  • Earth Science, forecasting & understanding the Weather
  • Life Science, Kinds of Animals & How They Live
  • Life Science, Life in the Oceans Hidden Zones

Also included in our download is a four page pdf with a goodly amount of categorized web links to add in when we want to find out more in a given topic.

Each one of the “workbooks” from WriteBonnieRose is around 20 pages in length. They can be printed out and used as worksheets, bound together as a book, or simple stapled in a top corner, as we did. Eventually, we will remove the staples, and then either 3-hole punch to put all together in a notebook or maybe I will take them to be spiral bound as a complete book.

As I said above, “The Artist” was interested in starting with “What’s Going On Inside Plants?” workbook. I am very impressed at what he was able to learn that he didn’t already know from it! A few evenings ago, for some reason the topic of fungi came up at supper (you just never know what you will be discussing at supper when you have a bunch of boys! 🙂 ) I said that i thought maybe moss was a fungus, and “The Artist” immediately said no, moss is a non-vascular plant. When I asked him how he knew this, he said “I learned it from WriteBonnieRose! Here is the page that he was referring to:

Bonnie Rose 3

Here is the cover of the workbook “The Artist” has been focusing on:

Bonnie Rose Cover

I did manage to get one picture when he was actually working on, and coloring the workbook pages:

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One thing we really appreciate is that these are labeled as “levels,” as opposed to grades. My kids are age-wise older than the third grade, but they have different levels of abilities depending on their individual delays. This was perfect for “The Artist,” because he loves science, and he absolutely prefers to learn in bite sized chunks.

Write Bonnie Rose

Bonnie Rose is a writer. She was never homeschooled, and never had any children. She ended up writing for the homeschool community because she loves children, and is a supporter of homeschooling. Another author suggested that she go to a homeschool convention, where she picked up a free copy of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. She ended up volunteering to write for Schoolteachers.com, an educational website developed by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.

Bonnie Rose is an excellent writer of educational materials, and I very much recommend her!

To read about what my fellow crew members think about this and other levels of Learning About Science Collection, please click on the banner just below!

Learning About Science collections {WriteBonnieRose Reviews} 

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Filed under Bonnie Rose, home education, Homeschool Science Curriculum, homeschooling, Homeschooling Science

Digital Science Online: Visual Learning Systems (My Review)

My four boys and I have been having lots of fun using Visual Learning Systems as a group for a little over a month. We received a subscription to both the Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) and the Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12)

The Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5), is divided into two sections. One is primary, which would be the grade K through 2 collection. This included well over 50 units of study, contained within the following subjects: physical, earth, life, and health. This is a great section if your children are in that age/grade range, there are tons of beautiful videos, animations, photos, and activity sheets, etc.

WE did not use this section, because my kids were beyond it, for the most part, but I really wanted you to know that it is there, and that it’s GOOD.

We HAVE been using the elementary a lot, because, frankly, I thought it was the best way for us to work as a group, something which many of my readers know that we enjoy doing. The elementary section of Digital Science Online has subjects like physical, earth, and life, with subtopics or units within them. As with the Primary section, there are lovely, well made videos, animations, photos, worksheets, and hands on activities in some areas. It’s meant for grades 3 through 5.

We have, for the most part, enjoyed this, except for having to crowd around one computer (something I will also address a little later). It was very impressive how, when we would choose a subject, there would then be a list of sub-topics within that subject, effectively giving us a unit study, already all organized for us! The reason I like this aspect so much is that all four of my boys really, really enjoy watching science and nature programs on television. The problem with that though, is it’s hard to put together a group of programs at the same time which would work together as a topical unit.

Eventually, though, with the exception of “The Puzzler”, the boys really wanted to have a go at the higher level, which I’ll talk about in a bit, because truthfully, I thought only “The Artist” would be able to handle the Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12).

How wrong I was!

As I mentioned back at the beginning of this review, we were also given access to the Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12).

The Secondary Edition has considerably more units of study, with a great number of sub-topics. My kids liked the longer videos, which, once again, I must complement. They are quite beautiful.

I have asked them to stay away from some sections of the biology units, after they pointed them out and said they didn’t think they should look at them. I was very proud of them for this actually, as it shows they have been listening to us and to their teachers at church when we discuss what is or is not appropriate for them.

There are also areas in which evolution is used as a given, where we believe, and teach, from a Creation world view. It was very interesting, however, to listen to everyone of our boys, at different times while watching different sections, saying things like “That’s not true, there’s no millions of years” or “Evolution isn’t real, we know that”. 🙂

The Secondary Edition also has worksheets and such, but these are really beyond any of my boys other than “The Artist”. I DO find that “The Batman” and “Mr. Loquacious” can do a lot of them orally, though.

AS I told you above, I really thought it would be better to use this program as a group, because as often as possible, I prefer it when we can do that. This DID work, for a while, but lo and behold, just today, they asked me two questions:

Will this work on our tablets?
Can we do it separately so we can choose our own topics?

Well, guess what, it works on the tablets! I hadn’t even tried, because I’m used to things like this being mostly for iPads, which we do not have. WE have Android Tablets. SO, I told them I would try it on mine first to check, and if so, we’d see if it would work on theirs. It did! 🙂 Since I had never actually set up separate student accounts because *I* wanted this to be a group learning thing I thought my kids would love to do this together, I chose to call customer support, given that I had forgotten how to set up separate log ins. Guess what found out? Well, while yes, I CAN do that, I don’t HAVE to! They can all log in using the information I used for the one log in, and they can all do it at the same time, on their own tablets or a computer. YAY! The customer service is wonderful. The first person I spoke with was named Louise, and the second was Emily, because they handle different aspects within the company.

One of the reasons I was so pleased to discover that this could be used on their tablets, all at the same time, and that they could be doing different subjects at the same time, as well, is that now, we don’t have to have a “discussion” about what we will learn about “today”. Being able to use the tablets in this way is a definite plus as well for the family who travels, because their children will be able to take this beautiful program along, and learn science their way. It would be great if you’re staying somewhere with provided wifi, and much better than spending all your in room time just watching television.

ALL in all, we really, really like this program. I even had one child come back inside from playing to ask if he could do some more science on his tablet! What better rating is there than that, right?

Want to see what my fellow Crew members think of Digital SCience Online? Just click on the banner right below!

Visual Learning Systems Review

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Fix It! Grammar . . . A T.O.S. Review

In all of the years of working on the education of my kids here at home, we have never, ever actually used a formal grammar program. Or, for that matter, ANY written grammar program, to be honest! I have basically practiced an informal method of correcting their spoken grammar as a part of our daily life, something I will continue doing, as I believe it works quite well for SPOKEN grammar. However, “The Artist”, who was the student reviewing a fiction writing course last year, really wants to go back to it, and to learn to be better at writing stories, so I thought that the opportunity to review Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Teacher Manual] (Book 1), along with Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Student Book](Book 1), would perhaps be a good thing for him. I took a look at how it worked and decided to give it a chance.

This grammar program is from the very well known Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW).

IEW is a company I personally have never really taken the opportunity to really check out, because I was afraid it would be too difficult for my special needs guys. However, I am extremely glad we were blessed with the opportunity to review Fix It! Grammar, because it really works, in just minutes a day!

Here is the basic concept . . .
Method: modeling proper grammar within stories. Instead of being taught a grammar rule, and then being forced to practice it with a bunch of exercises, followed by the next grammar rule, over and over (Lather, rinse, repeat, so to speak) in Fix It! Grammar, the grammar rules are taught as they are needed, within the context of a story that builds upon itself until, at the end of the lesson book, the student has written correctly, the entire fairy tale used at that level.

The Process: 15 minutes per day. The level we received is giving us 33 weeks of grammar instruction and practice, in only 15 minutes per day, and 4 days per week.

This program is incredibly easy to set up and to work through! If you have the student book, then your student will need a note book divided into two sections, which are Rewrite and Vocabulary.

On day one of each week, your student will read and correct ONE sentence. Yes, one. He or she will read the sentence, look up the bolded word in a dictionary and write the best definition which fits within the context of the sentence, and write that into the vocabulary section of their note book. This will be built on each day until at the end, they have their own vocabulary dictionary to refer to. Then, he or she will copy the sentence for that day into the rewrite section of their note book, using double spacing.

On days two through four, the student will use the abbreviations at the top of the page, as well as the provided grammar flash cards to help them remember how to mark the section. As with day one, the student does their “rewrite” in the notebook, writing with double spacing. They are to use their best handwriting, so this is also a nice addition to the day in giving them that particular practice!

While we received both the Teacher book and the Student book (both are very nice, spiral bound books), If you prefer, you CAN just purchase the teacher book at the cost of $19.00. The teacher book comes with a license allowing you to download the student book and print as many copies as needed for use within your own homeschool family. The Student book, available for $15.00, is well worth it though, depending on how much it costs for you to print, and whether or not you have more than one child. I happen to have four boys, so knowing that I can print it as needed when each of them is ready for this, makes this a bargain for me.

A placement test is provided if you are unsure where to begin your student, however, like many people, I chose to begin with book one, so as to create a good foundation upon which we can build with the levels which follow. There is also a webinar available to introduce you to Fix It! Grammar, along with how this program differs from traditional methods of teaching grammar.

Fix It! Grammar is intended for 3rd grade and up, but as I said, I personally think that if you, like us, have not done a formal grammar program, it’s best to begin at the beginning.

What did we think of it? Well, I find it incredibly easy to use! “The Artist” really does not enjoy being MADE to write, although he enjoys writing on his own time, so this was the perfect choice for him. I mean, really? One sentence per day? Even my lazy writer who constantly complains about his hand cramping from too much writing, is fine with this! He really doesn’t mind giving up 15 minutes out of his day, and when he is finished, he will have completely written the entire fairy tale himself, with correct grammar! The only real problem we have is keeping him from reading ahead to see the rest of the story, lol!

You will find IEW on the following social media:

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Google+
You Tube
Vimeo

Bottom Line? Not only do I very highly recommend Fix It! Grammar from IEW, I think we will be continuing with it level by level. It is a very painless way to learn written grammar, and frankly, I like that. There is no reason education HAS to be dreary, if there is a better way, and this is definitely a better way, in my opinion.

Other Review Crew members have been reviewing this and other levels of Fix It! Grammar, so please click on the banner below to find out what they thought!
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Filed under education, Fix It! Grammar, Grammar The Easy Way, home education, homeschool products, homeschooling, Institue For Excellence In Writing, Language Arts, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post, special needs education, TOS Review, writing fiction