Sep 132012
 

Much research has shown that early childhood is an ideal time to begin learning a foreign language. Because of this, I’ve always tried to expose my children to Spanish at a young age. I chose Spanish mainly because it’s the easiest foreign language to find resources for children. Ideally, I would teach them Spanish by speaking it to them. But unfortunately, I don’t speak Spanish. So we’ve used various computer programs, some television shows, and even a homeschool class to expose the children to Spanish.

Now I still have young children but Lizzie (almost 6) hasn’t really had any exposure to Spanish with the exception of watching Dora. (I hope I’m not the only one who has really high ideals and standards with the older children, but then relaxes them out of necessity with the younger ones!) So I was really excited when I was selected to review Speekee TV.

What (or who) is Speekee?

SpeekeeSpeekee is a lovable, purple, Spanish-speaking puppet. Speekee and his friends speak only Spanish on the 10 episodes of Speekee, so watching Speekee is a total immersion in Spanish. The program is not vocabulary focused, although there is plenty of vocabulary included, but is very conversational in nature. The program also includes many songs which are very catchy. (I catch myself singing them!)

In addition to Speekee TV, there is a free FastTrack curriculum  that adds fun activities, worksheets, and flashcards correlated with specific segments of the Speekee episodes. The FastTrack program provides plans for 40 weeks of instruction. It can be accessed on-line or e-mailed to subscribers weekly.

Although Speekee is available on DVD, I received Speekee TV to review. Speekee TV is a subscription service allowing access to all the episodes on-line. We can hook our computers up to our television, but for ease of use (or maybe my own laziness), I just had Lizzie and Andrew watch Speekee on my laptop. We experienced no difficulties accessing the website or streaming the programs. The interface to select an episode is very intuitive, and Lizzie quickly figured out how to start the desired episode.

I opted to use Speekee in the simplest way possible. I had Lizzie (almost 6 and in the 1st grade) and Andrew (20 months) watch the programs. That’s it. I did receive the FastTrack curriculum e-mails as well, and they look like an excellent way to reinforce the Spanish learned in the program. I will be using some of the activities with Lizzie as she watches the episodes again. The activities are too advanced for Andrew, obviously. Speekee is recommended for children ages 2-10, so he’s a little too young. But he isn’t too young to enjoy the program. He LOVES it. He was sitting beside me when I started writing this review and was very excited to see Speekee on my computer. Then he was very upset that we weren’t going to watch Speekee right now.

Speekee

Andrew and Lizzie watching Speekee

So are my children walking around speaking Spanish after 6 weeks of watching Speekee? Well, no. But Andrew is just barely starting to speak English. And with a program like Speekee, that isn’t the goal. I think Speekee is a fantastic and fun way to get children started on Spanish. They can learn at a young age what Spanish sounds like. They can begin to imitate it and say Spanish words with the correct accent. That can only help them in future study. (By the way, I should mention that Speekee is a UK production, so the Spanish spoken is like the Spanish spoken in Spain, not Latin America. It’s the same language, but there are some differences in some pronunciations I’ve been told.)

The recommended age for Speekee is 2-10. In my house it would never work past about 8 years old. Not because the content is too easy, but because my children would revolt at watching anything so childish after that. But every family is different, and I’m sure there are many who would find it an effective program for 10 year olds.

There are 2 subscription options for Speekee TV -

  • $7.50/month or
  • $60/year

Both options give 2 weeks free at the beginning of the subscription. That allows users to try out the program to make sure it’s a good fit for their family.

If you have little ones, I highly recommend Speekee!

Disclosure: I received a 6 month subscription to Speekee TV in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.


By Kristen H.
Aug 232012
 

Every year I make a list of topics to study with the kids, and every year I include hymn study. And every year I fail to get it done.

That doesn’t mean that my children do not know any hymns. They actually know many, many hymns. In fact, many more than I did as a child. Almost seven years ago, we left the mega-church that we had been members of for 5 years. (Actually my husband had been a member his entire life until he got married and moved away. Then we moved back and joined the same church.) One of the things that we were looking for in a new church was one that used hymns in worship. It didn’t have to be only hymns, but we were looking for a more traditional worship style. The Lord did lead us to a church that, among other things we were looking for, used hymns for congregational singing. This long digression can be summed up with, my children know hymns, but we have failed to learn about the hymns and hymn writers.

One of the reasons I think I’ve failed at implementing hymn study is that I tend to make it too complicated. This year I received a great resource that is a super simple way to learn more about hymns. The book is Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers by Douglas Bond. The book, published by Christian Liberty Press, is a fictional account of Annie and her brother Drew. While spending the summer in England with their parents (who really aren’t part of the story), they meet an old man affectionately known as Mr. Pipes. Mr. Pipes is an organist in the village and is very knowledgeable about church history and specifically hymn writers.

Annie and Drew quickly become friends with Mr. Pipes as he teaches them to fish, row a boat, and takes them on the train to London. During their visits, Mr. Pipes relates the story of a different hymn writer such as Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, John Newton, or William Cowper. Mr. Pipes is a great story-teller and the children are very interested to hear his tales.

Along with presenting the stories of the hymn writers, Annie and Drew are also growing in their faith. Their priorities and behaviors change from the beginning to the end of the book. There is evidence of spiritual growth in the characters.

I received this book with the intention of having my 12 year old daughter, Anna, read it. But now that I’ve read it, I have changed my mind. I would like to use it as a read-aloud for the whole family. Even though the book is recommended for grades 7-10, the story is engaging enough for younger children especially since they’re familiar with many of the hymns discussed. I like the idea of teaching about the hymn writers using a living book instead of just facts about the hymn writers. And rather than get all strict with it and making a schedule and finding extra things to go along with the study, I am allowing us the freedom to just read the book! (Shocking, huh? If you’re reading this and have never made plans that you didn’t use or purchased curriculum and never opened it, then you probably don’t understand what I’m saying at all. But I am finding it necessary to simplify. And I’m finding that simple is often better anyway!)

Another reason that I am not having Anna read it is that I received the pdf of the book. I own a Kindle (the old style with the keyboard) which I love. However, Anna doesn’t like it very much and much prefers “real” books. To  further complicate matters, this book is not in Kindle format (.mobi) but pdf. That means that one page of the book appears on the Kindle screen (which is smaller than the book). Thankfully, the pages in the book are not 8-1/2 x 11, but the words are just barely large enough for me to read in this format. (I do not need reading glasses yet, but I suspect they may be on the horizon.) Anna suffers from frequent headaches, and I fear that this type size would bring on a headache.

I am really pleased with this book, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a gentle way to study hymns and hymn writers. There are also 3 other titles: Mr. Pipes and Psalms and Hymns of the Reformation, Mr. Pipes Comes to America, and  The Accidental Voyage: Discovering Hymns of the Early Centuries. All the books are available from Christian Liberty Press. I’m personally tempted by this complete set of all 4. The pdf version of Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers is $8.79.

Please visit The Schoolhouse Review Crew to read more reviews of Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers.

 

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Disclosure: I received a pdf copy of Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.


By Kristen H.
Aug 072012
 

Writing is probably the most difficult subject for me to teach. I guess part of that is because it is subjective. There aren’t definite right and wrong answers in writing. Sure there are some things that are definitely wrong, but moving my children from acceptable writing, to good writing, to great writing has been difficult. And I’ve actually spent very little time on writing with my 10 year old. We’ve been focused so much on reading and spelling that the only writing we’ve done so far is dictation. I do have a writing curriculum for the older 2 that I am happy with. However, I am always on the lookout for additional resources for writing. I find it helpful to have multiple approaches in writing instruction.

I recently received How to Teach the Five Paragraph Essay, How to Teach the Paragraph, and The Home School Writing Action Plan from Create Better Writers.com to review.

How to Teach the Five Paragraph Essay is suitable for students as young as 4th grade through 12th grade. It begins with a review of the paragraph, so a student who has good paragraph writing skills can start in the Five Paragraph Essay course.


From Create Better Writers.com

How To Teach The Five Paragraph Essay is for you if your answer is “yes” to any of the questions below.

  1. Would you like to show your students how to write a strong five-paragraph essay to a timed prompt, and have them complete it in about an hour?
  2. Would you like to show your students a simple format that will help them write essays from any writing domain?
  3. Would you like your students to be able to write exciting introductions and conclusions?
  4. Would you like a detailed lesson plan that will show you, step-by-step, how to teach the five-paragraph essay?
This resource really contains what it promises. The instructions are simple but detailed. It does an excellent job of breaking apart the essential parts of an essay. I do not remember ever having such straight-forward instruction in writing an essay.I love how the whole process can be completed in as little as 20 days. It would be a great way to focus on essay writing before taking the SAT or any other test with an essay section.

 

I also reviewed How to Teach the Paragraph. It targets students in the 3rd grade and up who need more instruction in writing paragraphs. Like the Essay program, How to Teach the Paragraph breaks down the process into simple steps. It teaches the teacher how to teach the student. That is just what I need. It has suggested pacing guides for different levels and is very easy to adapt to meet the needs of different students. I predict I’m going to be spending a lot of time with William writing paragraphs this year!

 

In addition to both the writing instruction books, I also received The Home School Writing Action Plan. This plan presents a big picture of all the writing topics that need to be covered in writing instruction. It provides a good general framework and can be a guide with other writing curricula as well. It refers to both the paragraph and essay book, as well as the Complete Writing Program from Create Better Writers.com. I found the action plan a little more difficult to understand since much of it was an outline that referred to other sources. I received all 3 of these resources as e-books, and I think this is one time that a physical copy would have been helpful since I couldn’t physically look at both books at the same time. Also not having the Complete Writing Program made it a little confusing.

 

All these materials are available from Create Better Writers.com.

 

How to Teach the Paragraph is only available as an eBook for $7.99.
How to Teach the Five Paragraph Essay is available as an eBook for $17.95 or a soft-cover book for $19.95.
The Home School Writing Action Plan is available as an eBook for $15.95 or a soft-cover book for $19.95.
There are also several bundle deals available. Please visit Create Better Writers.com for more details.

 

Be sure to visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew to read more reviews of Create Better Writers.com.

 

Disclosure: I received these products for free in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.


By Kristen H.
May 312012
 

As homeschoolers we have the ability to take time out and go down rabbit trails with our children as they discover things that interest them. I want my children to find something they’re passionate about and hopefully be able to convert that into a career. And even if they aren’t able to use their passion in their career, they can still have hobbies and other interests that are exciting to them. I love to meet people who are passionate about any subject, because I’m always inspired to learn new things myself when I’m around them.

Annie Crawley is one of those people. She is passionate about oceans and marine life, and she wants to share that passion with children. She especially wants children to love the sea because she believes that people will try to save what they love. There are many problems that the ocean is facing in the years ahead. When today’s children are adults maybe they will be able to find solutions. Annie specializes in underwater cinematography and uses that to make spectacular underwater views accessible to everyone in their own homes.

I received a copy of the What Makes a Fish a Fish? DVD and corresponding Educator Guides from Dive Into Your Imagination to review.

What Makes a Fish a Fish? contains 8 different segments.

  1. What Makes a Fish a Fish
  2. Sea Anemones and Their Friends
  3. Hide and Seek on the Reef
  4. Frogfish are Funny Looking Fish
  5. Bath Time for Fishes
  6. Don’t Be Afraid of Sharks
  7. Dinner Time for Fish
  8. Fishes, Fishes, More and More Fishes

My thoughts:

The DVD is a high quality, professional video. The images are amazing!This sample will give you a good idea of types of things that you can see in the videos.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/mRYfidXk-S4[/youtube]

The narration is gentle but not babyish. The facts are interesting, but not overly complex for younger children. Both my 5 year old daughter and 17 month old son enjoy watching the DVD. My 10 year old son likes it as well, but he does think he’s a little too old for it. I was happy that there were not references to millions of years in these secular videos. (At least none that I noticed.) It did say that sharks have been around since before the dinosaurs, but I don’t have an argument with that since swimming creatures were created on the 5th day and land animals on the 6th.

I confess I was not prepared for what I would find in the educator guides. I knew they were designed for classrooms, so I didn’t expect to find much useful for my family. I was pleasantly surprised. For one thing, these are huge files. There are 298 pages in the PK-K guide! They are well organized with lessons designed for each of the 8 sections of the video. These include activities, printable pages, and extension ideas for additional research. Yes, there is some “teacher-speak” that I’m not used to. The formal lesson plans are different, but for the most part they are adaptable to a homeschool setting. Some activities like doing skits and making bulletin boards require more adaptation than others. But the printable pages from the educator guides could easily be used for notebooking or lapbooking assignments.

I would recommend these DVDs to others, especially families with young children. You can purchase the DVD’s on the AnnieCrawley.com site for $19.95 each. She is offering free shipping on any order placed through the end of June. Also, if you add a comment in the notes that you are a homeschool parent, she will give you a download of the pdf for FREE! This is a tremendous value because they will be $69 when they become available on the site. The printed educator guide are $299! That is not something that a homeschooler can likely take advantage of, so if you’d like the guides, I highly recommend ordering soon.

Be sure to visit HomeschoolCrew.com to read more reviews of Dive into Your Imagination.

Disclosure: I received a DVD and corresponding  educators guides for free in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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By Kristen H.
May 172012
 

Science experiments.

We really don’t get along.

It all started in the 9th grade when I caught the towel on fire in the lab. I seem to have struggled with science labs ever since. And I’ve taken a lot of lab classes. I don’t know what it is about me, maybe I’m just bad luck in the lab. But failed science labs seem to follow me around.

What’s a homeschool mom to do though? I don’t want to skip science! As my kids have gotten older, I have them do more of the experiments. And I’ve learned how to identify the sources of experimental error over the years.

But sometimes it is nice for my kids to see how the experiment is supposed to work.

And now I have found a great resource for doing just that.

Go Science!

Go Science videos include science demonstrations by Ben Roy. He performs these demonstrations with a live audience of students in elementary and middle school. Not only does he perform the demonstrations, but he also explains why they work. And he always points the child back to how science demonstrates God’s power and creativity.

There are 6 titles in the series.

  1. Motion and the Laws of Gravity
  2. Simple Machines, Sound, Weather
  3. Magnetism, Electricity, Engineering, and Design
  4. Chemistry, States of Matter, Life Sciences
  5. Air, Flight
  6. Water, Space, Solar System

I received 2 DVD’s from Library and Educational Services to review.

Volume 3 includes fun demonstrations such as an electromagnet, making a compass, and a Tesla coil. In Volume 5 there are the Egg in the Bottle experiment, Can Crush, Cartesian Diver and many more. Each of these videos is between 45 minutes and 1 hour long.

We own a lot of science videos, but none are like these. Most of the videos we watch are documentaries. Some do include demonstrations, but these are the first I’ve watched that contain just demonstrations.

Ben Roy is very excited about sharing science with children and it shows in these presentations. My 10 year old son really enjoys these videos and will watch demonstration after demonstration. That’s not really the way the videos were designed to be used though, because the segments are a bit repetitive when watched one after another. My 5-1/2 year old daughter insisted that she was NOT going to like these videos, but I noticed that she didn’t leave the room when they were on. Later she admitted that she actually did like them after all. Even my toddler was entertained.

On the other hand, my 14 year old son and 12 year old daughter were not very fond of the videos. The suggested age range is 6 to 14, so they are at the upper end of the target audience. And my older 2 children are very no-nonsense type of kids. They have never liked programs in which they felt they were being talked to like… well, like children. That’s just how they are. I didn’t mind Ben Roy’s enthusiasm myself. I do think that since these are videos of live demonstrations, some of his volume and excitement would be better suited to being in the audience than it is for the video. It’s kind of like the difference between actors on stage and film. Stage actors speak loudly with exaggerated movements, while film actors act like you’re right there, because the camera is.

This sample is a good representation of the rest of the videos.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/0Qbdlc-Q7Nc[/youtube]

I think the demonstrations are excellent and the science is well-explained, but some students may be bothered by Ben Roy’s style.

I received these videos from Library and Educational Services. They are a wholesale distribution company that sells books and media to resellers,  libraries, and schools. Homeschoolers are included in the schools category! I have purchased from them in the past, and their prices and selection are fantastic. The Go Science videos are only $8.97 each, or you can order all 6 for $47.95.

Be sure to visit HomeschoolCrew.com to read more reviews of Go Science.

Disclosure: I received these videos free for the purposes of this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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By Kristen H.
May 152012
 

I am extremely particular when it comes to choosing a Bible curriculum. In fact, I’m so particular, that we’ve never actually used any Bible curriculum for very long.

There are several things that are absolute musts for me:

I will not use an over-simplified fill-in-the-blank type Bible program. These might be useful for teaching Bible facts, but I’ve found them to be unnecessary busywork in our home. And the very last subject I want my children to associate with boring busywork is the Bible!

It must be doctrinally sound. Obviously there are differences of opinion among Christians about what sound doctrine is. But that’s one of the benefits of homeschooling. We have the freedom to train our children in the Reformed doctrine that we hold to. Other families are free to train their children in their own doctrinal beliefs.

Finally, I want a Bible curriculum that is serious. By serious, I don’t mean it has to somber and boring, but I do not like Bible studies for children that are silly to the point of irreverence. I also don’t want to have much pop culture in our Bible study. My children aren’t very familiar with it anyway so it doesn’t serve the purpose of helping relate the Bible to things that my teens understand.

You can see why our Bible study method has been pretty straightforward. We read, or more often lately, listen to, a passage from the Bible. I often, though not always, ask a question or two, and point out something I noticed from the passage. We are also memorizing (very slowly) the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

When the opportunity to review the Judah Bible Curriculum came up, I knew it was something I wanted to review, even though I am so particular. One of the reasons I wanted to try it is that it uses the Principle Approach. I enjoy learning about the various homeschooling methods and have written articles about Classical, Charlotte Mason, Unit Study, and other methods. But I didn’t know anything about the Principle Approach and wanted to explore it.

Then I read this description on the Judah Bible Curriculum website:

What is the Judah Bible Curriculum?

A Principle Approach curriculum for Bible class.
Develop a comprehensive knowledge of the Bible.
Build strong, Godly character in your children.
Study the Bible together.
Study the hand of God in the lives of individuals and nations.
For homeschool, Christian school, Sunday school.
Teach your children living Biblical principles to guide their lives.
Apply God’s word personally in every area of life.
The Bible is the textbook.

Wow, that even sounds like it might meet even my criteria for a Bible curriculum!

What does the Judah Bible Curriculum include?

  • K-12 Bible Curriculum Manual
  • Elementary Notebook Ideas Booklet
  • Eight lecture teacher-training seminar

So I started where I always start when I get new curriculum – with the manual. But I have to confess, I was confused. Even being the visual learner that I am, I needed the teacher-training seminar to figure this program out. I completely understand why this curriculum comes with the audio training sessions. They are a vital part of the program, not just a nice bonus.

So after listening to the first training videos, the fog began to lift. The basic premise behind the program is that the Bible is divided into 5 chronological themes for study. These themes are:

  1. Creation
  2. The Plan of Redemption Begins
  3. Kingdom of Israel
  4. Kingdom of God
  5. Early Church

Every year, these same 5 themes are covered. In each of those themes the student will study Bible Keys. Those keys include key individuals, key events, key institutions, and key documents. Older students will perform research on each of these Bible keys while younger students will be more directly taught by the teacher. You can read a much better explanation of the process here on their website.

What I like -

The Bible is the textbook for this curriculum.

There is a strong emphasis on character development.

It encourages independent Bible study habits that will last a lifetime.

 

What I have problems with -

Note: I didn’t title this What I don’t like. Truthfully, these are issues for implementation in my own family and are therefore very subjective.

There is a lot of teacher preparation. But shouldn’t there be a lot of teacher preparation for a Bible curriculum? I don’t want to put this down as a negative, because it really isn’t. But yet it is for me. Just figuring out how this program works was a challenge. I fear that implementing this long term just would not happen.

But the real problem is that something just doesn’t seem right to me about the underlying assumptions of the program. At first I really didn’t get it at all. The emphasis on the Philosophy of Government is very confusing to me. However, as I listened to the teacher training, I did gain some understanding of what they meant by self-government, and I can sort of understand it now. But something doesn’t seem quite right with the choice of themes and how they relate to government. It seems that they focus more on that than on Christ and his redemptive work.

I’m still undecided about this curriculum. I want to like it, because I want the things that it promises to develop in my children. I want those things in myself! I’m going to listen to the training again and see if I gain more understanding. One thing I want to emphasize is that Judah Bible Curriculum is really more of a Bible method than a Bible curriculum. What it looks like in one home will look very different from another.

The Judah Bible Curriculum is available for purchase from their website. It includes the manual, audio training, and note booking ideas. It is available in both a hard copy version ($74.00 including shipping) and a downloadable version ($44.00).

Disclosure: I received a downloadable version to review as a member of the Homeschool Crew. All opinions expressed are my own.

Be sure to visit HomeschoolCrew.com to read more reviews of the Judah Bible Curriculum.


By Kristen H.
Apr 122012
 

Have you heard of WORLD magazine? It’s a Christian news magazine, published every other week. I’m not a subscriber, but I have read a few articles, and it is a high quality magazine.

WORLD magazine is entering the curriculum business, and what could be more fitting than with a writing curriculum? This paragraph from the introduction is a great summary of why. Read the complete introduction here.

Write with WORLD aims to produce young writers who love writing, can write effectively, and intelligently share ideas, beliefs, and their worldview. We hope to support a generation of young believers who aspire to use their writing skills in the service of God’s Kingdom and explain effectively the reasons for their beliefs.

Write with WORLDWrite with WORLD is written for middle school students. It comes with both a Parent/Teacher manual and a Student text. The entire student text is included in the Parent/Teacher manual along with introductions and teaching tips throughout. The curriculum is divided into 4 units. Each of these units is divided into 4 lessons, which are further divided into 5 capsules. If one capsule were completed every week day, the entire curriculum could be completed in 16 weeks, though this is recommended as a full-year curriculum. There is a wide variety of writing assignments used in the text with journaling playing a major role. Many lessons require the use of either WORLD magazine or God’s World News, though you could probably substitute if necessary. Basic grammar lessons on common writing errors (like its and it’s) are also included in the program.

Our thoughts:

The organized structure and layout of this program is fantastic. It is easy to plan (i.e. takes next to no planning time) for a busy homeschool mom. I love the broad scope. I also like that it could be completed in 1 semester if you wanted to a focus on writing, or used for an entire school year. I agree with the overall vision of the program, and what the authors hope to accomplish.

But it is not a very good fit for my 8th grade son. He is a very literal thinker. He needs very concrete instruction. The journaling is something that he is completely uncomfortable with. I knew we were in trouble when the very first lesson has the student write what questions a picture (in the text) brings to your mind. He does not do well with those types of assignments. He simply cannot come up with legitimate questions. I personally find the process of guiding him through the questions exasperating. He also has a very strong grasp of English grammar and found the grammar assignments too easy.

These issues may be ones that we should just push through. Obviously, I can’t let the fact that I am frustrated trying to teach my son be the deciding factor on whether or not I use a curriculum, because it’s not really an issue with the curriculum. It’s an issue with me and my son. I have been thinking about how I should make curriculum choices. I am not of the mind to let my children be completely self-directed. And sometimes (often) we don’t like things because they are hard. (I have found this to be especially true for bright, perfectionist students like my son, and myself.)

The basic point I’m trying to make is that even though we may not continue to use this curriculum, I would still recommend it to others. It is definitely one to be considered when choosing a middle school writing curriculum, especially if you have a student who is not a reluctant writer and is eager to write about his thoughts. And this may be just the thing to teach a student who is not comfortable writing about his thoughts to become comfortable. I just can’t say that at this point, because we haven’t made it far enough into the program to make that determination. I think that when the time comes, this might be perfect for my 5 year old daughter. She is very eager to express herself and doesn’t let a thought go by without sharing it. (Literally, the child talks to herself all the time!)

The curriculum will begin shipping this summer. The course includes the student text, the teacher guide, plus on-line access for $95. You can place your order on the website.

To read more reviews of Write with WORLD, please visit HomeschoolCrew.com.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the student text and teacher guide in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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By Kristen H.
Apr 092012
 

Warning.

I’m going to begin this review in an unconventional way. I’m going to begin by telling you who should not use TruthQuest Homeschool History curriculum.

You should not use TruthQuest History if:

  • You want a daily schedule with exact pages to read.
  • You want a weekly plan with a list of suggested books.
  • Your student does not enjoy reading.
  • You are looking for lots of hands-on-projects.
  • You are looking for worksheets or discussion questions to accompany your reading.
  • You are easily overwhelmed by an excess of resources and feel obligated to use them all.
  • You do not wish to teach history from a Christian perspective.
Now you may be wondering what exactly you will find in Truthquest history programs.
The short answer is books.
Lots and lots of lists of books. All nicely ordered and categorized.
But it’s not just a booklist. At the beginning of each section, the author, Michelle Miller, has written a general overview of what the student will be reading about in each section. This is not just a factual summary, but looks at history through the lens of a Biblical Worldview. This overview sets the stage for what is coming up. It’s a very small part of the program if you just compare the total number of pages of commentary to pages of lists, but it’s a key component.
I warned you at the beginning of this review that this was going to be an unconventional review. Now I’m going to get really personal.
I received Age of Revolution III to review. This program is designed for students in grades 5-12 and covers the years 1865-2000. This really could not have come at a better time for us. We were just finishing up our study of the Civil War in our current history program. Truthfully, we have been limping through history for some time. I just can’t seem to make our current curriculum work for our family. My 8th grade son hates history and doesn’t want to do much reading, while my 6th grade daughter loves history and spends her free time reading historical fiction. And my other 2 students… Well, big confession. I haven’t even been doing any history with them. So my “family” history program is just not happening here. I knew I needed to look for a different option for next year, but as it turns out, I didn’t have to wait for next year.
TruthQuest History is ideal for my daughter. It gives us a thorough outline for her studies and provides book suggestions. So all I have to do it stay on top of ordering books from the library to make sure she has several books to choose from. She’s a very self-directed learner and I’m excited about the freedom from a schedule that TruthQuest provides. I’ve felt the need to move towards a more relaxed homeschool for years now, but my perfectionist tendency to push through a schedule hadn’t allowed it. TruthQuest History is helping me to relax and let my daughter enjoy her studies. It allows her time to dig deeper into some topics. We can add in projects that she wants to pursue.
Now I know I’m gushing. That’s why I started this review with the limitations of this program. I am not going to be using it with my older son. But I am really excited about the rest of this year and next year for my daughter. If this sounds like a good program for your family, take a look at their website. You can view the Table of Contents and Sample sections for any of the 11 books they offer. There are 3 American History manuals for younger children and 8 World History manuals for 5-12 grade. Prices vary depending on the size of the manual, but Age of Revolution III is $34.95 for a printed version or $29.95 for the pdf.

Visit HomeschoolCrew.com to read more reviews of TruthQuest history.

Disclosure: I received a pdf copy of Age of Revolution III in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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By Kristen H.
Mar 182012
 

I’ve always loved to read, but the study of literature has never been easy for me. I think a lot of that is because I was never really taught how to analyze literature in school. I remember studying the basics like characters and plot, but finding the theme is still a difficult task for me.

That puts me in a somewhat unusual position as a homeschool mom. I do not fear teaching advanced math and science to my children, but literature and other liberal arts studies frighten me! Thankfully, I do not have to design a literature program myself. Nor do I have to determine what questions to ask my students. There are people who do understand literature and how to teach it who have written curricula for parents just like me. Two of those people are Michael and Rebecca Gilleland, the founders of Progeny Press. The Gillelands began homeschooling in the early 1990′s and immediately discovered the lack of quality literature studies available to homeschoolers. So they decided to write them. The rest, as they say, is history, or in this case literature.

Today Progeny Press offers over 100 literature guides for students in elementary through high school. Each of these guides includes not only the basic nuts and bolts literature questions, but goes further, challenging the student to think deeply. They also emphasize Christian principles throughout the studies.

Their company mission statement provides an excellent description of how the tenets of the Christian faith are intertwined in these studies of great literature.

Our purpose is not to bring you only “safe” fiction, but to teach literature that is well-written and that will help students develop and refine how they deal with man’s philosophies in relation to God’s word. Progeny Press examines literary terminology and technique in good, cultural literature to equip students for understanding the craft of writing and to enhance their joy of reading. With these things in mind, we promise to bring you good literature, provide good literary analysis, and measure it by the light of scripture.

I recently received an interactive pdf copy of the study guide for Across Five Aprils to review. This guide is designed for students in 5th-9th grades. I have had my 6th grade daughter working through the guide. She absolutely loves historical fiction, and I felt that she would be a great tester for this product.

She has very much enjoyed this study guide. She has not completed all the writing assignments that are included in the guide because she had other writing that she was working on, but the questions have helped her to understand the book much better. They have made her read more carefully and critically. There have been very few that she was unable to answer, but thankfully the guide does come with a key. You can view sample pages here.

Ideally, I would read the book too and go through the guide with her. But I just don’t have time in this season of my life to do that. Flexibility is one of the benefits of homeschooling. I love that there are companies like Progeny Press that produce high quality curricula that students can use independently if necessary, or with as much parental involvement as desired. I will definitely consider purchasing more of the Progeny Press guides.

The study guides are available in several formats. I received the e-mail attachment pdf, but they can also be purchased as a booklet, a CD, or both. The e-mail attachment is the least expensive option at $16.99 for the study guide I received.

Visit their website to see their entire selection of literature guides.

Disclosure: I received this product for free in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.


By Kristen H.
Jan 042012
 

As classical educators, we’ve invested a lot of our school-time studying Latin. There are many reasons why we’ve chosen Latin as our primary language to study, but we’ve always planned on adding Spanish to our curriculum later. (We did introduce some Spanish early with programs like Jump Start Spanish. And my younger daughter is completely addicted to Dora at the moment, and she’s picking up some Spanish there.)

Recently my older daughter (6th grade) has expressed an interest in adding another language to her studies. When I got the opportunity to review REAL Homeschool Spanish as a member of the Homeschool Crew, I was excited for her!

Homeschool SpanishHomeschool Spanish is designed specifically for the homeschool family to learn Spanish together! It is suitable for elementary and middle school aged children with a high school supplement to be available soon. The curriculum is divided up into units that focus on specific groups of vocabulary words. For example, Unit 1 covers various greetings and asking and answering the question “How are you?”. Unit 2 introduces colors and numbers. It is very hands-on and filled with ideas to incorporate learning Spanish into every day.

The curriculum includes a book, activity book, answer book, and audio files. There is also a Daily Curriculum Guide available. The materials are currently available as a download for $49.95 without the curriculum guide and $59.95 including the guide. The hardcopy book with CD’s for the activity book, answer key, and audio files is $89.95 without the curriculum guide and $99.95 with the guide. You can see more details about the various purchasing options at RealHomeschoolSpanish.com.

I think this curriculum is well laid out. The Daily Curriculum Guide, although not essential, is extremely helpful for implementation since it suggests activities for every day. It does move fairly slowly though, so if you wish to complete the curriculum at a faster pace, you may not find it as helpful. The audio files are absolutely essential for this Southern, non-Spanish speaking mom. The file names make it easy to locate the correct mp3, and the files are divided into separate folders for the book and activity book. The activity book has a variety of puzzles like crosswords and cryptoquotes to practice the vocabulary words. Younger students may have difficulty with these activities. The curriculum includes a wide variety of ideas for practicing the vocabulary such as puppets, board games, journaling, and drawing comics. These ideas vary enough to appeal to students with different learning styles.

If you’re looking for a Spanish curriculum for your children to work on entirely independently, this is not it. But if you’re looking for a gentle, hands-on, incremental approach to learning Spanish for your entire family, you should definitely consider R.E.A.L Homeschool Spanish. You can download samples to see the layout and hear the audio before you buy.

Disclosure: I received R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish for free in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.
You can read what other members of the Homeschool Crew think of Homeschool Spanish on the Homeschool Crew blog.

 


By Kristen H.