Aug 032016

Compass Classroom recently released a new modern history class entitled Modernity, and they gave me the opportunity to preview the course. Covering a wide range of topics from modern history including the Enlightenment, Napoleon, the Industrial Revolution, and the World Wars, the high school level class consists of 27 weekly lessons. Each lesson includes 5 video segments with instructor Dave Raymond that are approximately 20 minutes long.

Along with the video, there are accompanying reading assignments available in Kindle, pdf, and epub formats. In addition to the lecture and reading, the student works on a portfolio and several projects over the course of the school year. The modern history projects include a Reformation Imitation Project, a Speech on Tradition, a Research Paper, and the Hour Project.

The Hour Project is an open-ended final project of the student’s choosing. It should be something that takes a substantial number of hours to complete (they recommend 30-40) and can showcase the talents and interests of the student. Some examples in the teacher guide include copying a famous paintings, making a reproduction of a piece of Victorian furniture, or creating an illustrated children’s book.


4 things to love about Modernity

  1. Easy to teach – The course is well-laid out and teacher friendly. It’s divided into daily lessons so it’s very open and go with little to no planning required.
  2. Interesting presentation –  Dave Raymond is excited about history and it shows in his presentation. He’s interesting to listen to. While much of the video is lecture, there is a nice blend of related images mixed with the video of the speaker.
  3. Christian Worldview – There is plenty of opportunity to study history from the politically correct, secular worldview. This class not only teaches history from a Christian perspective, but also provides the Christian perspective of why history is important to study.
  4. Variety – While the format is predictable with 5 daily videos and corresponding readings, the projects and portfolio pages add the opportunity for students to be creative and truly own the content.

If you’re looking for an American History course you can read my review.

Discloser: I received a free download of 8 lessons of Modernity in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own. This post includes affiliate links.

May 102014

Whew. Did you hear that big sigh of relief?

Outside Classes

We finished up the last of our outside classes on April 30. It was a great experience for David (10th) and Anna (8th), but it did make for hectic Mondays. A level of hectic that I’m not used to since we’ve always homeschooled.

I’m glad they’re over for this year, but I am a firm believer in giving older homeschooled students a chance to be involved in a classroom setting – especially if they’re college bound. I thought it was important before I signed my kids up, and now I have seen the benefits.

Benefits of Outside Classes

1. Accountability

I’ve had trouble motivating David in subjects that he’s not that interested in. It’s been a constant battle. This year, I enrolled him in a literature class, and the difference was amazing. No, he didn’t love the class, but since he’s competitive (and a perfectionist), he worked hard. There is no way that I could have gotten him to do the amount of work at home reading books that he doesn’t like. That class was such a success, he’s taking American Literature next year with the same teacher.

2. Deadlines

This is related to accountability, but as homeschoolers we often have trouble finishing things. Sure we can set deadlines, but we all know that they’re arbitrary. With outside classes, David and Anna dealt with meeting deadlines. They learned a lot about time management in the process. Meeting deadlines is a real world skill. It’s not just something needed to do well in school. (Though it is also an essential skill for success in school.)

3. Different Perspective

Most everything that my children have studied up to this point has been from my perspective. I’ve chosen the curriculum, I’ve guided them through it. I’ve answered their questions. I’ve chosen the activities that I’ve thought were important. And that’s one of the great things about homeschooling. I do get to pick out what I think are the best resources for my children. However, sometimes the best resource is someone else. Hearing someone else’s interpretation of a work of fiction, doing the writing assignments she thinks is important, and watching someone else work math problems all provide a more well-rounded education. Some things might not be the very best way that my student learns, but when you have a job, you don’t always get to only do things in the way that fits you best. Sometimes you have to do things just because they have to be done. The pre-calculus curriculum was NOT the one I would have chosen for David. But having a teacher who checked his assignments and taught the material made up for the curriculum choice.

4. Socializing

Notice I didn’t say socialization. Socializing is really what most people mean when they ask the dreaded “What about socialization?” question. One of the benefits of outside classes is the opportunity to meet other homeschoolers (or students if the class is not specifically for homeschoolers). Class time itself is not for socializing, but kids meet new people in their classes and that can provide the opportunity to build friendships. We do other activities like cross country and church where my kids can meet other people, but this was another opportunity to meet more people with common interests.

What about you? Have your students taken outside classes? What benefits have you seen?

Homeschooling the Middle & High School YearsThis post is linked to the Let’s Homeschool High School Blog Hop and Finishing Strong.

Nov 012011

As a classical educator (sort of), I value the study of classic literature. I want my children (and myself) to have an understanding of the themes and messages found in classic books.

I have a problem though. I do not really “get” a lot of literature myself. While other homeschoolers quake at the thought of teaching advanced math and science courses, my biggest fear is literature. In my “former life”, I was an engineer. And engineers don’t have to take a lot of English courses in college. So I had 1 semester of freshman English. I had a reasonably decent high school education, but it always took the class discussions for me to see the themes and draw conclusions from my reading.

My 13 year old son is a very literal kid. So just asking leading questions about a book isn’t going to be enough. Plus, I don’t know what kind of leading questions to even ask. Studying literature with him is not going to be easy. I fear that it’s going to be a painful experience. Yet, we do want him to have at least had the experience of reading the books and making some attempt of analyzing them.

Excellence in LiteratureI admit I didn’t have a plan. It was one of those things that I worried about in my spare time. But I think I have found what we need. It’s a literature program called Excellence in Literature. I received Introduction to Literature by Janice Campbell to review. Excellence in Literature is published by Everyday Education. This initial course is divided into 9 units. Each unit covers one book with the exception of the first unit, which teaches several short stories. The books include classics such as Around the World in Eighty Days, Animal Farm, and Gulliver’s Travels. In each unit are links to background information about the time period, biographical information about the author, and other works by the author. There are specific writing assignments included, as well as instructions to the student and teacher about what should be included in each type of writing. The program is written to the student and puts the responsibility for scheduling on the student. However, it does require parental involvement (or someone else knowledgeable to read the student’s assignments.)

This is not an easy course. It will require thought and a lot of time to complete the assignments. And that is just for the regular assignments. The author gives extra selections to read to increase the difficulty to an honors course. (I frankly can’t imagine that our local high school students are getting anything remotely like this course in a regular English class. But my goal is not to mimic the public high school anyway!) Excellence in Literature is not a fill-in-the-blank literature course. It is too advanced for my 8th grader, who is extremely smart, just not in this area, to complete at the pace that the course is designed to be completed. I am planning on holding onto the course for next year. Before then, I’d like to obtain a copy of Teaching the Classics which the author recommends if you need help with literary analysis. (which we do!)

If you’re looking for a challenging course for high school literature, I recommend that you look at Excellence in Literature. You can download an overview of the entire program and the complete book list on the Everyday Education website. Each course is available in print for $29 plus shipping, or as an e-book for $27.

Please visit the Homeschool Crew Blog to read other reviews of this and other products for your homeschool!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this product to review. I was not compensated for this review and all opinions expressed are my own.




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May 222010

AP US Govt and PoliticsThe Cerebellum Corporation is a leading producer and distributor of educational programming. Their Light Speed Learning collection topics each consist of a fast-paced video production and a digital workbook. I received the U.S. Gov and Politics AP Exam Prep video to review.

The DVD is 73 minutes long and consists of? 3 main sections. The first section, Taking the Test, describes the AP test, providing details like how many questions are on the test and what topics are covered. The actors share test taking strategies including whether guessing on the multiple choice questions is good idea. The second section discusses the free response section of the AP test. There is information provided about what sorts of topics you might be required to write on and strategies for the free response portion. The final chapter of the video is called 30 in 30. During this portion of the video, 30 important U.S. government and politics topics are reviewed for the student in 30 minutes.

In addition to the DVD portion of the program, there is a digital workbook. Included on this CD is a several page summary of the more important information covered in AP US Government. Following this summary there are several different tests that include multiple choice, true/false, matching, and free response questions. Also included are solutions to these tests.

I have never taken an AP exam, nor have I taken a course in U.S. Government and Politics so I cannot make any claims about how adequate this review is. It seems to be a good overview provided in a short time. It would not be adequate preparation for an AP exam without previously covering the material in a class. That is of course, not the intent of the program. I liked the fast pace of the video. No one person talks for very long at a time, and the screen rapidly changes between a person speaking and a related graphic. I think it would be able to hold a student’s interest enough to provide effective review. The practice quizzes also look like they cover a wide range of topics to help review the student. The program is only $14.98 (and is currently on sale for $11.24) at the Cerebellum Corporation website. That seems very reasonable for the amount of content.


Disclosure: This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are our own.