Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review of Apologia's Who Am I?

Apologia's Who Am I curriculum includes a gorgeous and glossy hardcover textbook, a coil-bound 250 page notebooking journal, a beautiful 64 page coloring book, and an audio CD, all of which I received free in exchange for my review.   In essence, the Who Am I curriculum gives students a biblical framework for understanding their purpose in this world.  From my Catholic perspective, this curriculum fleshes out the Baltimore Catechism question of "Why did God make me?" "To know, love, and serve him this world and be happy with him in the next." Who Am I tells children how to know, love, and serve God on a very personal level - through a correct understanding of their own self-image in the eyes of God.

Specifically, each chapter asks a question (such as "What are we doing here?", "What will you make today?", How will you run the race?", and "What kind of fruit are you growing?", among others. Each lesson is then further broken down into these categories:

  • The Big Idea
  • What You Will Need
  • Short Story
  • Think About It
  • Words You Need to Know
  • Hide it in Your Heart
  • Integrated Learning
  • What Should I Do?
  • Prayer
  • Worldviews in Focus
  • What's the Difference?
  • House of Truth
A sample lesson plan idea is also included in the text, allowing each lesson to take three days at two days a week of study. 

I'll admit that I walked into this curriculum unsure as to whether it would work for my kids, given that we are Catholic and Apologia is, obviously, a noted Protestant publisher.  However, just as with Apologia's science curriculum, there is nothing in this program that is hostile to Catholicism.  In fact, in one of the stories used to illustrate the points, a Catholic church is visited by a non-religious boy, causing him to question his upbringing.  While this curriculum is not appropriate as an all-inclusive Bible or Religion curriculum for a Catholic homeschooler (because of the Catholic Church's inclusion of Tradition with Scripture as a means for understanding theology), it can absolutely be used as a supplement.  

The curriculum allows children to understand the difference between Christianity and other major worldviews, including Mormanism, Buddhism, Humanism, Judaism, Hinduism, New Age, and Communism. This is a great way for kids to learn about other beliefs in a context that allows them to see how those beliefs are contrary to their own.  Even the youngest children can begin to learn apologetics in this format.

The notebooking journal is the same high quality as Apologia's science notebooking journals, and it includes a 48-day lesson plan for completing the curriculum.  Whether parents choose to use it once, twice, or three times a week (or more!), the lessons are planned 100%.  Each lesson includes pages that correspond directly with the parts noted in the bulleted list above, along with games and blank pages.  There are minibooks in the back for those people who have more of a lapbooking/notebooking approach.  As with Apologia's science journals, I have to say that these journals are worth the price.  Could you replicate much of this on notebook paper just following the text? Sure, but why would you when the notebooking journal has taken every bit of work out of lesson planning and teaching. It also provides a great archival record of the course.

The Who Am I curriculum is available from Apologia, and they retail for the following prices:
  1. Textbook - $39.00  (See Sample HERE)
  2. Notebooking Journal - $24.00
  3. Coloring Book - $8.00 (See Sample HERE)
  4. MP3 CD - $19.00
I have to admit that I was surprised by how much I loved this curriculum.  For other views, see the Crew blog!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Review of Beeyoutiful

One of the neatest products I have received free for the purposes of review came for a company with a great name: Beeyoutiful.   For the past month, I have been happily using the Beeyoutiful All Natural Lip Moisturizer (B.A.L.M.) and the Winter Breeze Vapor Rub.  Beeyoutiful is a company that makes all-natural health and beauty products, including products for joint health, circulatory support, digestion, hormone support, and more.  While I haven't tried any of Beeyoutiful's other products yet, I can enthusiastically recommend the B.A.L.M. and Vapor Rub - two essentials to have on hand during winter.

One of my (many) OCD quirks is the need to put on chapstick before I go to bed at night.  I can't go to sleep unless I do.  As soon as I received the B.A.L.M. in the mail, though, it took the place of the chapstick -- and I love it! Lightly scented with peppermint, the B.A.L.M. feels very light and smooth on your lips, but it lasts and lasts.  The B.A.L.M. is also available in orange, and they each sell for $3.00.  That's about the same price as another popular brand, and I definitely like the B.A.L.M. better!

Ordinarily, I would not have been able to give the Vapor Rub a fair trial, as my children are ridiculously healthy.  For the last week, though, we have all been battling what feels like the plague, so the Vapor Rub got a thorough test drive.

The Vapor Rub comes in a 4 oz. jar and has coconut oil, olive oil, and beeswax, along with camphor, eucalyptus, menthol, wintergreen, and tea tree oils.  It's like that other rub, but so much nicer! Like the B.A.L.M., the Vapor Rub is light and fragrant and, most importantly, it works! There is no decongestant like a natural decongestant.  With a consistency that is far less goopy than the other rub, Winter Breeze is something you don't mind slathering on your chest or under your nose.  At $18.00, it is kind of pricey for a rub, but if you're going to spend extra money on anything, then a product that makes you feel better when you are sick is a good way to spend it.

I am not an all-natural mom.  I don't use the naturalness of ingredients as a baseline criteria for purchasing them.   However, if there are all-natural products that out perform others, I will definitely choose to use them.  This is the case with Beeyoutiful.  If you insist on all-natural products, you can't miss this line.  If, like me, you like all-natural, but you value performance more, you can't miss this line!  I'm a see what others thought, read the Crew blog.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Review of Celestial Almanack

For the first time since I began reviewing products, we received a product to review which made my husband say wow.  That's an endorsement! Through the Crew, I received the February edition of Classical Astronomy's Celestial Almanack free in exchange for my review.  I already know that this is a product I will purchase again!

This product is so comprehensive and cool that it is hard to describe but, I'm told, that is my job, so I'll try! The first really neat thing you'll notice about this Almanack is its faithfulness to Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanack.  The 18th century feel of the typeset and the verbiage made my heart warm to this product immediately!  The second really neat thing you'll notice is just how much Jay Ryan has managed to fit into this 21 page study.

The Almanack begins with a discussion of Leap Year and the month of February.  It then gives a brief history of how man has reckoned time and the evolution of the calendar.  The next page of the Almanack is a day-by-day iteration of February with notable events and the phase of the moon noted.  The rest of the Almanack consists of a description of how the night sky appears in February with detailed maps of various constellations and directions on how to identify the various features of the night sky.

Mr. Ryan's love for his subject comes through on every page.  His enthusiasm and excitement are contagious.  Best of all, he doesn't assume that everyone has a high powered telescope.  If you do, consider yourself incredibly lucky! For those who own only a small telescope, though, there are plenty of celestial entities to see.  If you don't own a telescope at all, don't feel dismissed.  Much of what Mr. Ryan describes is visible to the naked eye and, with his excellent tutelage, you will see more than you ever thought possible!

You don't have to be an astronomical devotee to find the things Mr. Ryan talks about.  In fact, he has diagrams of everything he discusses (from the perspective of a February sky) so that anyone can find what he's talking about.  I learned more about astronomy from this jam-packed Almanack than I ever have before.  I will definitely be buying next month's edition!

If I had one complaint about the Almanack, it is that I couldn't print it because of all the diagrams - I think it would have used a whole cartridge of black ink! Having said that, though, I wouldn't change a thing.  Those diagrams are what make the Almanack so special and such a great deal.  For those who don't like reading documents on the computer, though, the printing cost is something to consider.

Because I received a free download of the Almanack, I didn't know at first how much it cost.  I was, quite literally, shocked to find out that it only cost $3.99.  I would place its value at easily three times that amount.  I simply can't describe how much information is in this one little product.  If you wanted to do astronomy as your science you could, with only this one monthly booklet.  (You don't have to rely solely on that, though, since Mr. Ryan also publishes a homeschool astronomy curriculum, available on his website.) The Celestial Almanack is available from CurrClick for $3.99.  January is also available, and March is forthcoming.

My family are huge fans of the Celestial Almanack.  To find out how other Crew members like the Almanack, visit the Crew blog.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Review of Math Rider...again!

I had the great good fortune of reviewing Math Rider last year for the Crew.  My family loved this math facts game so much that I bought it after the review period ended.  I have to confess that, as sometimes happens, my kids eventually stopped using Math Rider.  There is always another cool program to play with! I was so happy, then to get the chance to review Math Rider again for the Crew.  I received the latest version of the software free in exchange for my review and, once again, my kids fell in love with Math Rider.

The premise of Math Rider is simple: a student (or his parent) can choose between addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division, and then further refine the choice by selecting whether to work on easy, medium, or hard facts.  So, for example, a student can practice addition facts from 0-6.  When these facts are mastered, he can move on to the medium difficulty facts.

The genius of Math Rider is in its "quest" format.  Following a story introduction, a student assumes the character of a horse rider.  By riding through the countryside and solving fact problems, students come ever closer to completing their quest.  If a student misses a problem, the answer will be given them and that fact will show up again very soon after.

The best way to experience Math Rider is to watch the preceding video and then navigate to their website for a free trial.  If you have a child who struggles with math facts, then a program like this is essential.  In this digital age, flashcards don't seem to pack the same punch they once did! Math Rider, though, combines a story with fact practice, and students can see the extent of their progress any time.  Best of all, with the newest version, parents can now easily view their child's statistics, progress, and overall mastery, making it simple to keep track of where each of your children is in their quests.

You can download Math Rider for $37.  For that amount, you can use Math Rider with all of your kids in perpetuity.  If you're not sure whether or not Math Rider is the fact practice software for you, fear not! You can enjoy a free trial of the full-featured software before you commit to buying.  You truly have nothing to lose.  One warning: if you let your children begin a quest during your free trial, you can pretty much guarantee that they will insist you buy the full software.  We all like to finish what we start!

To find out about Math Rider and its free trial, surf on over to their website.  To read what other Crew members thought about Math Rider, visit the Crew blog.  Math Rider is once again a favorite in my house - give it a try in yours!