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Review of Planet 316

Planet 316

I have a confession to make: I don't have games on my phone. I have gone through phases where I would enjoy a certain game and play it for a little while, but if I have a spare moment with my phone, I'm usually obsessively catching up on seeing what new podcasts have launched. I would certainly never play a jigsaw puzzle game. Those require, gulp, spatial skills! Until now, that is. It's not just review talk (N.B., I don't do that. Ever.) to say that I have really been loving Planet 316's Daily Bible Jigsaw

Daily Bible Jigsaw by Planet 316

Daily Bible Jigsaw is available on just about any platform you can think of: Google Play (which I use for my Galaxy Note 4, an Android device), the Apple App Store (for iOS devices), Facebook (on Mac or PC browsers - Firefox and Chrome work best), and Facebook Gameroom (for PC's - think of it as Facebook's answer to Steam). The app itself is free, but like most apps, there are in-app purchases for coins, which allow you to purchase "helps." These helps do things like rotate all the puzzle pieces to their proper orientation (*so* helpful for the spatially challenged like me!), sweep all the pieces to the sides to get them out of the way, peek at the completed puzzle, and more.

 Daily Bible Jigsaw by Planet 316

The daily puzzle is free if you play it on the day it launches. Otherwise, it costs three coins to play previous days' puzzles. If you, like me, thought you didn't like puzzle apps, this is one that I really encourage you to try - especially with the purchase of a few coins. It's amazing how much more I like doing these puzzles when 1) there is a really encouraging Bible verse at the end and 2) I can get all those darn pieces facing the correct direction from the outset! Yes, I know that it's just a "phone game," and spending money on it is a bit frivolous, but I look at it as a very inexpensive way to relax for five (did I say five? I mean three. Surely it has never taken me more than three minutes to solve one of those puzzles! Ahem.) minutes with a productive end (a Bible verse that I can reflect on for a couple of minutes. You can even share the finished puzzle on Facebook and challenge your friends to beat your time!


 Daily Bible Jigsaw by Planet 316

This has been one of the most enjoyable reviews I have ever gotten to do for the Homeschool Review Crew! 89 other fortunate Crew members also got to review the Daily Bible Jigsaw, so be sure to click the banner below to read all of their reviews!

Daily Bible Jigsaw {Planet 316 Reviews}
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Everyone's Favorite Topic - Therese

Okay, so she's not everyone's favorite topic. My other kids get pretty darn sick of hearing about her. I can't blame them. Of course they worry about her, but they are 13 and 12 (two of those). They naturally think that the family tends to revolve around Therese much of the time, and they naturally resent that at times. I completely understand their feelings, and someday (if not now - they might now) they will understand that there is no choice. This week I took Therese to the pedi she started seeing when she was three days old (jaundice that sent her to the doctor pretty much when she came home from the hospital - if you know her liver/bili stories from a few years ago, you'll just sigh and roll your eyes knowing that that actually started when she was three days old!). Her stomach pain has just been so bad over the past three weeks that both she and I couldn't take it any more. Her middle of the night agony texts greeted me every morning. Things that "normal" kids would wake their parents up for are things that she just texts me about. He referred her back to the gastroenterologist that did her liver biopsy when she was 12. I called the next day to get an appointment. It's been more than three years since she saw him, so she is back to being a new patient. Miracle of miracles - we got in the *same day*. His first comment to her - "You got tall." No lie!

After being at his office for OVER TWO HOURS (most of that with the doctor or his nurse - these people are *thorough*) the same day debate club meets (so I'm already getting nervous about time, especially since I'm not home to see what my younger three are up to), Dr. V. tells us that along with all of the blood work, etc. he is ordering, he wants an abdominal X-ray. I tell him that I can get that tomorrow (that would have been Friday). He says, "Today." I tell him, "Well, actually, we have an activity that starts in a couple of hours, and I..." He interrupts me to say, "TODAY." I say, "okay." So we went to get an abdominal X-ray. And now we are waiting to find out what he's looking for and if he finds it. (For those who don't follow Therese's health obsessively, she has, among other things, Crohn's).

On Friday, she was supposed to go to a Spring formal that is, for homeschoolers around here, the equivalent of prom. We had bought her two dresses for her two formals this year. This one is short and looks like something you would see at the ballet. It is beautiful. We went everywhere looking for the perfect shoes and jewelry. She was so excited. She woke up Friday just exhausted and so, so weak. She couldn't lift her arms and she couldn't push the "on" button her phone. If you're not familiar with the spoon theory of living with chronic illness, do everyone with chronic illness a favor and read the article I linked. I think Therese just used all her spoons on Thursday. Half a day at the doctor and then all evening at debate. She woke up on Friday with nothing left. She told me she couldn't go to the dance. I was so sad for her, but one wonderful thing about her personality is that she doesn't mope or sulk. She is very practical. I know she was sad and I saw her tear up a couple of times, but she didn't make the whole family miserable because she had to give up something she very much wanted. Instead, we watched Sing and ate Chinese food.

On Saturday she woke up even weaker and with no color at all. She sat up in bed to tell me goodbye when I took the other kids to shooting, and she just get on going and ended up rolling to the other end of her bed and whacked her head on her foot board. Her blood sugar was normal, but when she took her blood pressure, it was 74/62. No wonder she was so weak and looked like crap. The hideous blood pressure is part of dysautonomia, another of her lovely illnesses, an underlying cause of which is EDS, yet another one of her problems! Therese is the gift which keeps on giving. Of course, with all of these illnesses, most of the time, she just doesn't look sick! If you know her in real life, and you don't really know her, you would have no idea she is sick. That's one reason, by the way, that she is so heavy-handed with the makeup. She doesn't want to look sick and she doesn't want to be treated differently for being sick. Paradoxically, it doesn't matter what she does: she suffered a huge blow in dance at the beginning of this year because of the label (only the label) "sick," but she gets bullied for having mad makeup skills. She's learning a lesson not all homeschooled girls get - there's no winning with teenage girls.

So, yes, my precious other children. Sometimes our family life revolves around Therese. I worry about her so much it makes me feel sick, and I thank God every day for your (relative) health. It's one of those things you'll understand when you have children of your own. To everyone who prays for Therese, thank you.


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Review of SpeedyPrep

SpeedyPrep
Whenever I think about college prep "stuff," I have to mentally shake myself. Therese *can't* be that old! But somehow she is. So when we had the opportunity to review SpeedyPrep and their CLEP (College Level Examination Program) study guides, I jumped at the chance, not because I expected Therese to take a CLEP test, but because it is such awesome review for her in light of her missed days (weeks, months) of school due to illness. I'll elaborate below.
 
SpeedyPrep
What is SpeedyPrep? A website that offers CLEP prep material in the form of fill-in-the-blank flashcard questions. Question explanations and short videos complement the flashcards.
A progress bar monitors your overall movement through your course (N.B., the progress bar moves slooowly. This is by design, since SpeedyPrep is a mastery program. You actually have to answer a SpeedyPrep question correctly multiple times in order to get credit for knowing it. That's really good news for CLEP test takers! What it means is, when you know the material on SpeedyPrep, you really know the material!). 
There are 24 courses in total:
  • Science: Biology and Natural Sciences
  • Business - Introductory Business Law, Information Systems, Principles of Management, Principles of Marketing, Principles of Microeconomics, Principles of Macroeconomics
  • Foreign Language - Spanish
  • History and Social Sciences - American Government, US History I and II, Western Civilization I and II, Humanities
  • Literature - Analyzing and Interpreting Literature, American Literature, English Literature, College Composition
  • Mathematics - College Algebra, College Mathematics
  • Psychology and Human Development - Introductory Psychology, Introductory Sociology, Human Growth and Development
By passing a CLEP test, you demonstrate that you have mastered at least the fundamentals of that college-level subject. That's why you can get college credit for the courses you "CLEP." For our purposes, though, I don't know if I plan for Therese to CLEP any courses yet. I'm not sure. I am ecstatic about SpeedyPrep, though, for another reason - filling out her high school transcript for her freshman year (she is currently finishing her sophomore year).

I don't want to take a ton of time here to go into Therese's chronic illnesses, but because of them, she basically lost her freshman year of high school. In brief, she has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS-Type 3), Crohn's disease, a chronic Mycoplasma infection, and more! We were still looking for diagnoses her freshman year, and there days (weeks, months) that she really couldn't get out of bed. Now, she was ahead in most of her subjects (years ahead in some), and she has always been a massively gifted auto-didact. But you just can't get around the fact that US History is a required course in high school! It doesn't matter if your child has read historical fiction since she was five and can tell you stories upon stories about everything historical under the sun. She needs US History. *That's* why I love SpeedyPrep.

It turns out that Therese can work her way through a SpeedyPrep course and review US History thoroughly enough that a college would be willing to give her credit for the course. If, when she has completed the SpeedyPrep course and knows all of the flashcards cold (in other words, if she could knock the CLEP test out of the park), she could receive college credit, I have no problem at all giving her high school credit. In that way, she can work through a couple of SpeedyPrep courses while she does her regular course work and can fill in some of the gaps on her transcript. Best of all, Therese happens to love SpeedyPrep's methodology! It works really well with how she likes to study. Here are a few of the notes she has taken using SpeedyPrep's flash card system:






This is the way she enjoys learning the most. Deliver the information, quiz on the information, move on to new information. No frills, no furbelows. Just the facts - many, many facts. Currently, Therese is 38% through US History I and is looking forward to US History II next. We have SpeedyPrep for the next 4.5 months, and I definitely envision renewing our subscription for another year (for $179.55). In that way, Therese will be able to SpeedyPrep any classes that interest her, but she will also be able to continue to plug those transcript holes in a relaxed non-"classy" manner (you know what I mean - SpeedyPrep is definitely classy - it's just not "class-roomy"). Therese's curriculum is hardcore classical, so being able to just hit the books in a nuts and bolts way is very refreshing for her. Here's her take on SpeedyPrep in her own words:

"I like how they review through questions and answers and how, if you get it right, you get to move on, and how, if you get it wrong, you get an explanation before you move on. I found the videos helpful and it was nice that they were addressing short isolated events each. The one thing I found frustrating was how even slight deviations from the programmed answers were marked wrong; even when the most commonly acknowledged correct answer was marked wrong. For example, "Stephen F. Austin was marked incorrect, while "Stephen Austin" and even "Austin" were considered correct. Any Texan will tell you, the man is always referred to as Stephen F. Austin! Overall, I am really enjoying SpeedyPrep and I plan to continue to use it to review material that I *know*, but need help bringing to the front of my brain."

Other Homeschool Review Crew members also got to review SpeedyPrep, so be sure to click the banner below to read about their experiences!



College Level Examination Program Preparation {SpeedyPrep Reviews}
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Review of Apologia Educational Ministries' Readers in Residence

Apologia Educational Ministries
Getting a package from Apologia Educational Ministries always feels like getting a Christmas present, and our latest package from them was no exception. Readers in Residence Volume 1 (Sleuth) Full Set will definitely light up more faces than just Mary-Catherine's (12) and mine.
  
Apologia Educational Ministries Readers in Residence
A great companion to a product we reviewed last year, Writers in Residence (see review here), Readers in Residence full set comes with the following products: an all-in-one student text and workbook and a softbound answer key. Purchased separately, they retail for $80 and $15, respectively. The set retails for $89. The set is suggested for students in grades 4-6.
Apologia Educational Ministries Readers in Residence
Readers in Residence is the perfect introduction to teach students how to read a book (as Mortimer Adler would say!). This FAQ explains the program in depth, but, in essence, Readers in Residence teaches reading for understanding (see the landing page here). Students learn things like inference, context clues, literary elements, and figures of speech, but they learn these things while reading really good books (Sarah, Plain and Tall, Charlotte's Web, and Because of Winn-Dixie)! This is learning that doesn't feel like learning - like so much of Apologia's curriculum. Also, like much of Apologia's curriculum, students can work through much of this material on their own, although as with any literature program, discussion is an integral part and does require mom or dad.
The Student Text and Workbook is 562 full-color pages long and is intended to be used by one student only, so if you plan to use this program with more than one child, each will need his own workbook. The book is divided into a 32-week schedule, making the expectations clear and easy to understand right off the top. 

Further, any time there is an activity, a rubric explaining expectations and giving guidelines for evaluation is also provided.



Sections that students must read are in very manageable chunks. Key terms are highlighted in yellow and are defined in the margins. Written work on any given day is limited. None of that should give the impression that students are not learning a lot, though, because the contrary is true. Author Debra Bell gives kids so much information on every page, but she does it in such a non-threatening manner that even the most reading-averse kid won't be put off - and Apologia materials are just so attractive. They make kids want to pick them up and use them. 

In terms of written work, students answer comprehension-type questions (i.e., "Why does Caleb want Anna to remember Mama's songs?"), fill in charts, fill in a reading response journal, define words, and other activities. There is a lot of variety: this is not simply an answer-the-questions workbook-style curriculum. There is something new and different in every module and kids will definitely stay interested - at least Mary-Catherine did.

How We Used It

Here's a secret: Mary-Catherine (12) is really too old for this curriculum. She is finishing 6th grade, and Reading/Literature is one subject in which she excels. She not only reads well above grade level (for example, she read these three books many years ago; these days she thrills to Victorian literature like Jane Austen), but she has excellent insight into what she reads. She understands genres and characterization. She gets context clues and things like foreshadowing. That's because literature is my thing. I have read to my kids since, well, before birth, and I've always, always talked through the things I've read. I learned that from my own excellent elementary school teachers and my dad. So I can say that Mary-Catherine really hasn't learned anything new from this course.



HOWEVER, she still loves doing it! She loves the books that were chosen (seriously - who doesn't?) and she loves the activities. They make her think about writing as much as they do about reading, so that means that she can appreciate the curriculum on a whole new level. So if you take a cursory look at the sample (like I did the first time I saw this curriculum) and decide that it's not right for your child, give it a closer look (like I did!) and consider it as more of a writing curriculum than a reading curriculum, because it absolutely is also a writing curriculum. Debra Bell goes into such detail even dissecting individual paragraphs and asking students about how rules of paragraphs help one to understand the story. There is so much you can do just with this section of the RIR book (p. 99-100 if you want to jump ahead!). Really, I know that Apologia has Writers in Residence (since I was lucky enough to also review it), but if your child loves reading and writing, especially creative writing, then this curriculum is a gem you really should be aware of.

So, Mary-Catherine definitely had to reread Sarah, Plain and Tall, because when you're reading for specifics, you read differently. Also, students are asked to look at specific pages for specific things. Still, I basically turned Mary-Catherine loose and just checked in on her. She really enjoyed activities like the running character trait charts that she could add to incrementally as she read more and more. Working through this curriculum has just confirmed for her that she really loves literature. I, too, have enjoyed this curriculum and I hope that there will be a higher level forthcoming. If so, I will definitely be checking it out. 

49 other Review Crew members got to check out Readers in Residence, so be sure to click the banner below to read all of the reviews.
Readers in Residence Volume 1 (Sleuth) {Apologia Educational Ministries Review}
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Wordless Wednesday - My Desk is Invaded

Daleks, Weeping Angels, and Cyber Men - Oh, my!


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Cutest Makeup Ever - Wordless Wednesday


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Review of CompuScholar, Inc.

CompuScholar, Inc.
We have used several of CompuScholar, Inc.'s products in the past (most recently Digital Savvy last summer), so I was very happy for the chance to be able to review them again. This time, Nicholas got to try out Web Design. (N.B. in the past, Therese learned Visual Basic with CompuScholar, Inc. back when they were still known as Homeschool Programming. You can that review here. She was 11 back then - she's 15 now!). We have always loved both the process and the result with this company, so I knew that we would not be disappointed with Web Design!
CompuScholar, Inc. Web Design

Recommended for grades 6-12, Web Design covers many elements of basic web design, including web site layout, HTML5 symbols and elements, CSS effects spacing and positioning, graphics and image editing, JavaScript and jQuery, and more. The course syllabus will tell you exactly what is covered.


Nicholas (13) had this to say about Web Design: the lessons go very slowly. They teach you one small thing per lesson. I like that the teacher tells you what to do and then she opens the notepad either on Mac or Windows to demonstrate. I like the quizzes and tests. I think they are a good feature. Overall, I think the course is too little-kiddish for me. 

Nicholas has had the advantage of doing other web design classes before (from Chris Yust of Homeschool Programming (CompuScholar, Inc.), actually), that he feels moved at a much brisker pace than this one, which is where his "constructive criticism" comes from. I think that if he hadn't had any exposure to any kind of web design before, he would have loved this course. It's only because the information in it wasn't new that he felt that it moved too slowly for him. In spite of that feeling, though, he had no problem sitting down to the course every day. In fact, I often found him at his computer with his headphones on during school time. I would be ready to rebuke him for playing games or chatting with his friends only to realize that he was actually working on this course.


So how exactly does the course work? Each lesson proceeds in the same way: the lesson begins with a short video, followed by text. The text is supplemental to the video. It is not a verbatim transcription. You really need both for a complete lesson. After the text, you take a five-question quiz. Each chapter is comprised of multiple lessons and culminates in an exam. All along the way, the student is building a web page! The instructor is building a web page on raptors and birds of prey. Nicholas's web page is on games and gaming.

If you or your child is looking for a beginning course on web design, this one would be perfect. CompuScholar, Inc. always puts out quality computer courses, and this one is no exception. If you're looking for a more general course on computer skills, check out Digital Savvy. I think Java Programming is next up for Nicholas. He has dabbled in various computer programming courses long enough that I think he is ready for a real challenge! Crew members reviewed all three of these courses, so be sure to click the banner below to read all of their reviews!
Digital Savvy, Web Design & Java Programming {CompuScholar,Inc Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

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