Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Review of Ready to Teach

Ready to Teach Review
It is not an exaggeration to say that ever since I took Latin in high school (Salve, Magistra Optima!), I have been looking forward to teaching it to my own children. I have a very vivid memory of having the word lachrymose on the SAT and never having seen it before, BUT I knew that lacrimare in Latin was "to cry," and so figuring out the meaning of lachrymose was easy. Now, I know that Ready to Teach's excellent program Greek Morphemes Lessons (It's NOT Greek to Me!) (Student and Teacher books with CD and flash drive) is a Greek roots program, and not a Latin one, but the premise is the same: learn your roots and conquer the world (of vocabulary, that is)!

Ready to Teach Review

Greek Morphemes Lessons (It's NOT Greek to Me!), developed by Alene Harris, Ph.D. is different from any other Greek roots  (or Latin roots) program that I have seen (and I make it a point to see just about all of them). First of all, it is really, really fun. Second, the presentation is very professional and visually appealing. There is nothing remotely amateur about this program (not to denigrate some other programs - but we have all seen programs that sort of scream "homeschool!" This program definitely does not fall into that category.). 

There are several components to these Greek Morphemes Lessons. The most important part (subjectively speaking) is the PowerPoint presentation lessons.

The lessons make teaching the morphemes a no-brainer. You are walked through the process step-by-step. Not only is it easy...it's fun! 

Each of the 12 lesson follows a similar format. First, you learn a series of morphemes and their meanings using the PowerPoint presentation. During the course of the lesson, your student copies down the meaning of each morpheme in her student book. Then, she completes the work for half of the words in the lesson. For each assignment, there is a series of words. For each word, a student completes the following process: write the word, identify each Greek morpheme in the word and its meaning, using knowledge of the morphemes, write a possible definition of the word, and then look up the word in the dictionary to write the actual definition below the possible definition.

On Day 2, the student checks the worked words from the first assignment and completes the second half of the worked words.

On Day 3, the student checks the second half of the worked words and then uses 8 of the assignment words to create sentences using specific kinds of context clues to help identify the meanings of the words. Additionally, the student uses the morphemes from the current and past lessons to create two new words - this is the really fun part!

On Day 4, parents review the sentences and new words with their students and students do review exercises for the lesson. 

On Day 5, students go over the review exercises and study for the test, which follows the short review period.

The Instructor's Manual contains the following:
  • Background, Introduction, and Lesson Plan
  • Greek Morphemes Lessons
  • Transparency Masters
  • Review and Answer Keys
  • Test and Answer Keys
  • Pre-made Study Cards

The Student Book (Consumable) contains all of the lessons with space to write all of the things I enumerate above.

You also receive a CD with the PowerPoint presentations (both instructions and review lessons), but the program is to begin shipping with a flash drive (which I received) that has the same things on it, in recognition of the fact that many computers now come sans CD drives (mine included!). I love that Dr. Harris recognizes this fact and has updated her business model accordingly!

The complete package with Instructor's Manual, Student Book, and CD/flash drive is $69.95 + $12.75 s/h. If you need an additional Student Book, it is available for $9.95 +$12.75 s/h. 

There is slightly more to the program than this (for instance, students create study cards while they are learning the morphemes), but the above is essentially it. If only that recitation could begin to convey how very much meat is in this program! Your student will learn over 200 Greek roots, suffixes and prefixes! Now, sure, we all know words like telegraph and bibliophile, and I always describe myself as a misanthrope, but do you know what a symphobiac is? What about eumania? After a few weeks, your student will know these words cold. I can't imagine not acing the SAT verbal section, if that's your goal. For me, though, it's all about the love of words, and it's that love that makes me completely enamored of this program. So I love it...but what about my kids?

The Munchkins and the Morphemes

I initially wanted this review for Nicholas (11) because I have noticed that, of all my kids, his vocabulary is the most wanting. My other three kids (10, 10, and 13) are all voracious readers. Their love of reading, coupled with my propensity to sesquipedalianism, has ensured their expansive vocabularies and love of language. Nicholas...not so much - on all fronts. I thought a program like this would spark his interest in language. Dissecting words to analyze their meaning sounded like something he would like. It turns out that of all my kids, he was the one who was least taken with the program. My plan of having him be the primary consumer (i.e., the one who actually got to write in the book - you know, the fun part!) fell through in a hurry. Little did I know that Therese (who has had plenty of "roots" programs, who has actually taken the SAT and scored very well on the verbal section, and who has the biggest school work load), would be the one to insist on "doing" this program. She absolutely loves it. All of the kids watch and enjoy the PowerPoints and I verbally quiz all of them on the morphemes, but Therese is the one who formally does the curriculum (according to the schedule above). It is, unfortunately, not very challenging for her (for the reasons I state above), but she really enjoys it, and she does benefit tremendously from certain aspects of it. Even if she knows many of the morphemes, learning to write sentences with context clues inherent in them has been a great exercise for her.

Essentially, if you have any inkling toward a Greek roots/morphemes program I can't recommend this one highly enough (I just saw that Dr. Harris also has a Latin morphemes program for a similar price! I am really excited about that!). The presentation is flawless and the execution is thorough and easy to follow. Don't take my word for it, though. Click the banner below to read all of the Crew reviews!

Koru Naturals Review
Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Review of Circle C Milestones

Thick as Thieves Book Review

Circle C Milestones has published two previous series of books about the horse-loving Andi Carter. Now, Susan K. Marlow is back with a new series for kids 12+ about a teenage Andi in the book Thick as Thieves. In this book, Andi is 14 years old and experiences many new things, chief among them her horse's first foaling. Taffy doesn't just have a baby, though - she has twins (something my twins were, of course, delighted to read about!)! Andi has to deal not only with this exciting and perilous feat, though, she has to deal with other new experiences in this book. The new girl at school turns out to be much less friendly than Andi's other classmates, and Andi has her first experiences with a difficult peer. The evolution of their relationship is one of the most enjoyable aspects of this book. The most exciting part of the book, though, has to be the cattle rustlers at Circle C Ranch!

Thick as Thieves has much to recommend it. Any horse loving girl will adore it, but its appeal is not limited to horse lovers alone. Its themes are universal and, surprisingly, even though the book takes place in late 19th century California, resonate today. Every child, even homeschooled ones, has to deal with problematic classmates (whether at home in the form of siblings, at co-op, at extracurriculars, or in sports leagues). All children look forward to their animals giving birth for the first time. Finally, while all of us may not live on ranches and experience cattle rustlers, all children do experience times when their families have to pull together to make it through a crisis or a tough time.

Whether or not you look at this book as an educational opportunity, it is definitely a great read. My 10 year-old twins flew through it and are looking forward to the next book in the series, due out in July. If you do choose to use this for school, there is an accompanying 40-page downloadable Study Guide which contains not only vocabulary and comprehension questions, but also further explorations of the themes in the book, including the care of horses and a closer look at some of the places that Andi would have been exposed to in her late 19th century lifetime. It's a great way to incorporate the study of history, animal science, and geography into a novel!

Andi is such a (please forgive the trite phrase) plucky heroine. She is a modern girl in that she is bold and daring and unafraid of anything, but she is also of her time in her modesty and obedience. Essentially, she is the perfect role model for girls today. I have found that I quite like her. I have read several of the Circle C books for younger children, and while they are great books (and wonderful for young kids), I think I am really going to enjoy this series a lot! Reading about Andi makes me wish that I were young again (and living over 100 years ago - so many things that just aren't going to happen...)!

You can find out more about the book and its author by checking them out on social media:


Other Crew members had the opportunity to read Thick as Thieves and had a lot to say about it, so be sure to click the banner below to read all of their reviews!

Koru Naturals Review
Crew Disclaimer

Roman Roads GIVEAWAY! Win a copy of THE AENEID!

Last year I had the privilege of reviewing Roman Roads Media. Their program, Old Western Culture, has been a highlight of our homeschooling journey, and as they work on completing Year 3 (Christendom), they are giving away the first DVD in Year 2 (The Romans) - The Aeneid! The best way to learn about Old Western Culture is by visiting Roman Roads website and by reading my review linked above. In essence, though, Old Western Culture is the best classical education approach to learning that I have yet encountered in over 7 years of homeschooling. I am so excited about the opportunity to share it!

To enter the giveaway, simply do the Rafflecopter dance below! The giveaway is sponsored by Roman Roads Media, and the winner will receive a copy of The Aeneid directly from them.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review of Lord Heritage HomeSchool Office

HomeSchool Office Review
I have a love/hate relationship with any kind of planning software or program. I love all of them and I hate the fact that I can't make any of them work. Well, that just might be changing thanks to a confluence of factors. First, Therese is (officially) starting high school. Second, I have found a program that is thorough, but not overly complicated. It allows me to use it either online, or by printing out its forms and writing on them longhand. In the best of both worlds (and the way I've been using it thus far), I write on the forms longhand, and then transfer the information to the online version, thus preserving it and allowing reports and transcripts to be generated. What is this game changer? HomeSchool Office from Lord Heritage.

 HomeSchool Office has many, many features, and I will readily admit that I did not use all of them. I also did not use the program for all of my children. I have already found out the hardest way that when I do too much scheduling with the younger kids, I just get discouraged. I am way too prone to rabbit trails and the like to stick to a schedule that is too firm. After more than seven years homeschooling, I have discovered that despite my greatest fears, we do get our work done. We often don't get a day's work done in a day, or even a week's work done in a week, but (probably helped by the fact that we school year-round), by the grace of God, we do end up progressing nicely year-by-year. However, with Therese formally starting high school and my very pressing needs to begin keeping more formal grades and begin to build a transcript for her, I had already come to the conclusion that I was going to have to succumb to scheduling *light* for her from now on. The flexibility allowed by HomeSchool Office is looking to be a perfect fit for us.

The first step was to put in Therese's courses in order to create a schedule. The site tells exactly how to go about that process. It's essentially self-explanatory. My only complaint is that you can't input your own subject names. Because Therese's courses are very specifically named (Old Testament, Greek History, Greek Literature, Astronomy), I would have liked to have written those specific names into the schedule. Instead, I was limited to a (granted, very generous) preset selection of courses. So Therese has "History - Other" and "Literature - Other." It's a small issue, but we would both like to see her actual courses on her schedule.

So, after her courses, with expected hours and credit hours (I scheduled for one semester) are put in,

I was able to then create her schedule. If I had created a schedule for more than one child, their calendars would appear with hers, but in a different color.

This view shows the calendar as a weekly, rather than daily view.

One of the features of HomeSchool Office that I am not planning on using is the actual lesson planning, but that is because Therese has a lesson planner that guides her already (from St. Thomas Aquinas Academy), so to reenter the lessons would be very redundant. However, I have entered one below to show you HomeSchool Office's capability. For all of my other kids (none of whom use a curriculum like Therese is now doing for the first time), this kind of lesson planning feature would definitely be an asset. Most of the lesson entering features are basically automated once you have entered all of the class information.

One of HomeSchool Office's best features is its numerous reporting/tracking features. It automatically counts/accrues classroom hours for you, which if you live in a state that requires such things could be a huge benefit (God bless the great and free state of Texas!). It also allows you to generate quarterly attendance and grade reports, and it has a great transcript building feature (one of the major reasons I am excited about it - it looks so easy!).

Overall, I am very happy with HomeSchool Office. It costs $79 per family, per year. You can start with a 30-day, fully functioning trial. Your information will remain intact and your trial will convert to a full membership at the end of your trial if you decide to continue. This is one product I can see myself keeping and using for years. As my kids continue to get older, and as each of the four uses different programs and different materials, I am struggling to keep up and to keep records. When I think about dealing with four of them in high school at once and keeping up with classes, grades, and transcripts, under $100/year seems like a small price to pay to have everything always in one place. I love that I can print out what I want (since I do like paper), but that it will always be HERE when I need it to be. 

As I indicated, I am more of a minimalist and I didn't do everything with HomeSchool Office that one can do (to be fair, this program does so much that you *can't* do everything with it in six weeks!), so if you're intrigued, be sure to click the banner below to read all of the Crew reviews!

HomeSchool Office Review
Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What Love Looks Like...

...at least in my house...

While we were in Frisco, Henry went to Ikea and bought and built this Alex drawer unit for my makeup. He also bought everything on top of it. This is the before picture, of course (after pics forthcoming). Not only does he fund my obsession hobby, but he organizes it, too! 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Review of GPA LEARN

Critical Thinking Company Review
Computerized math programs are a big hit around here for two reasons: I don't have to teach the kids math and the kids have a blast doing them. To that end, we were delighted when we received a subscription to GPA LEARN's GPALOVEMATH program. GPALOVEMATH is a math practice subscription-based website populated by animated characters who lead a student through various "missions" as they solve math (obviously!) problems. Within each grade level (K-5), there are over 150 lessons and over 10,000 problems. What differentiates this program from many of its Internet counterparts is its unique system of rewards!

When your child begins GPALOVEMATH, he has a choice of three different color paths he can work down. Michael (10) has been working on 5th grade math. When he signs on, he sees a green path, a purple path, and a blue path.

The only lesson he can work on (unless I sign on to my parent account and manually unlock future lessons) is the current one in each path. Until he passes it at a certain level (getting 2/3 of the problems correct), the subsequent levels remain locked.

This is the Green Path:

Its focus is on order of operations. At a glance, you can see where you are, where you've been, and what's coming next.

The Blue Path focuses on graphing:

The Purple Path begins with place value:

Realize that these paths are only in 5th grade, but they are exemplary of what is available in other grades. Students can work one path at a time, or they can work multiple paths simultaneously. It's nice to have the option to move around if you get stuck or bored. It's also nice to be able to look at the locked boxes to see what's in the future! This program excels at showing students things graphically in a snapshot!

So how do those rewards figure in to the whole thing?

When you as a parent are setting up your child's account, you have the chance to populate the program with rewards. You can chose GPA LEARN's rewards, or create your own. They can be as simple as choosing an extra book to read at bedtime to having mom do the child's chores. Really, your imagination is the limit. Then, when the student has accumulated a certain number of points, their rewards become visible in their backpack. Parents can alter the rewards structure at any time. Some rewards appear automatically, while some need to be approved by the parent first.  

Michael (10) and GPALOVEMATH
Michael has not loved this program as much as I had hoped he would. Nicholas (11) is my video game fiend, and he probably would have enjoyed the whole concept of video game scenario and work-for-reward more than Michael. Unfortunately, GPALEARN does not go through Algebra! Michael is a bit simpler when it comes to math. Too many extras distract him. The introduction of a mission/scenario at the beginning of each lesson was, for him, a bit tedious. Additionally, he is not motivated very much by rewards (which is definitely our fault - we have always stressed that knowledge and academic success are their own rewards. We have never done a "reward for work or grades" type system.), so that entire aspect of the program was kind of wasted on him. Another aspect of the program that is a bit frustrating is its inability to save a lesson half-completed. In other words, if you stop a lesson anywhere but the end, you must start it over from the beginning. Having said that, you can "fast-forward" through slides, as it were, so it's not really that big of a deal.

So, GPALOVEMATH was not a great match for us, but that doesn't mean it won't be for you! If you have a child who loves video games, loves to work on the computer, and is highly motivated by rewards, I have a definite feeling that s/he will love this program! I know that were he younger, Nicky would have really enjoyed it! I also suspect that many younger children in general will love it; we are just getting to the upper limit of its targeted age level. 

Boring, but Important
GPALEARN works on a variety of platforms, including both Windows and Apple computers, iPad, and Galaxy tablets.A subscription usually costs $149/year per child, but the promo code GPAINTRO15 will lower the price to $129/year! If you don't want to commit to the full year, monthly subscriptions are available at $12.99/month per child.

Many Crew members with children of different ages got to experience GPALOVEMATH, so click the banner below to read their opinions.

GPA Learn Review
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, March 16, 2015

Review of Critical Thinking Co.'s World History Detective

Critical Thinking Company Review

The Critical Thinking Co. is one of those curriculum companies that you are sure to know about once you've been homeschooling for, oh, about a month or so! Their distinctive logo and their unique products cause them to standout in bookstores and online. Having homeschooled for more than seven years, I thought that I was familiar with most of The Critical Thinking Co.'s products, but it turns out that I was wrong! World History Detective Book 1 was new to me! It also happens to be one of my favorites yet!

Critical Thinking Company Review
World History Detective, Book One is recommended for Grades 6-12+, retails for $34.99, and has 362 pages (which includes the answers). There are 78 total exercises. Each exercise follows a similar format. First, students read a selection of about 8-10 short paragraphs, followed by nine multiple choice questions and one written response question. In many, although not all, cases, the final exercise is a graphic organizer exercise. The reading selections include maps and timelines. All of the topics in this book are related to Ancient or Medieval Civilizations. Some of those studied include Ancient Greece and Rome, India, China, Early Europe, Medieval Japan, India, Korea, and Southeast Asia, and the Maya, Aztecs, and Inca. In other words, there is a great diversity of cultures and geography represented here!

On the face of it, the material would seem kind of simple, right? Read a selection and answer some multiple choice questions with one essay. So very, very wrong. After all, it's Critical Thinking Co.! The questions actually require some pretty intense consideration by the student, which is why I love them. Each of the sentences is numbered and all of the paragraphs are designated by letters. In this way, the questions can ask you to identify the sentence/paragraph in which you found the support for your answer. Some questions ask about fact vs. opinion. Some ask students to make inferences. These multiple choice questions are far more than your typical such questions. They require actual thought. In fact, they required a lot of thought from my 11 year-old 6th grader, which I loved (more on that in a minute).

The short answer question (a paragraph or so) asks students to do a variety of different things. Sometimes they have to answer a fairly typical question (like what kind of contribution a civilization made to history). Sometimes they have to evaluate the accuracy of a given statement. The graphic organizers vary, too (concept maps, Venn diagrams, etc.). 

Nicholas (11) and World History Detective

Nicholas was not super-enthusiastic about this product when he first saw it...until he realized what the topic was. Then, I am happy to report, he was thrilled. It has been our habit to do an exercise every week. On Monday, he reads the selection and does the multiple choice questions, on Tuesday he answers the written portion of the chapter, and on Thursday he does the graphic organizer. On Friday we discuss the entire week's work. So far, it's working great! I will say that he has had some moments of frustration because this work is not easy. He has had the most trouble with the written portion because he is at the very low end of the range for this material, and some of the questions asked are a bit above his level. We talk through them, though, and I am very lenient with how I evaluate his answers. This is not his writing program, after all, so I am much more interested in his thoughts and whether he can support his ideas with the text.

Overall, I love this product. It is such a great way to engage someone like my son who really likes workbook work, but who needs something more than most workbooks can offer. Something that you may not know about The Critical Thinking Co. is their wonderful copyright policy. They will allow you to make up to 35 copies of each page of the book per year for your home or classroom! That is the most generous policy of any company I have ever heard of! It's more than enough for my little homeschool - I will definitely be using this one with my other kids. Therese (13) wants to do it just for fun. I will have the twins (10) do it in a couple of years.

The Critical Thinking Co. very generously gave the Crew many products to review, so to see the Crew's opinions on all of them, be sure to click the banner below.

Critical Thinking Company Review

Crew Disclaimer

Debate Tournaments

There is no way to explain the world of debate tournaments to people who have never lived in that world. I'm not even sure if there is a way to explain them to adults who are now part of them, but who were not part of them when they were kids. It's a very insulated, intense experience. Three days of a 15-16 hour/day debate tournament feels like two weeks. Lifelong friendships form (I can attest to that personally) with people who understand why you do and say the ridiculous things you do and why you value the seemingly pointless things you do. In Therese's league (NCFCA - Christian homeschool league), it's even more personal and intense because everyone there has your values system. Where else can you see whole groups of people praying before events? Yes, there is some dating (which I have absolutely no problem with), but there is none of what I guess would now be called the hook up mentality, but back when I was debating was, well, a slightly more innocent hook up mentality. When I see Therese talking to boys, I'm mentally saying, "Yay! She's completely coming out of her shell!" rather than, "Stay.Away.From.My.Baby." What a great feeling.

From my perspective, though, it's such a weird feeling. Even when I judge debate rounds, I'm still debating them. I flow the Affirmative arguments in one color, the Negative arguments in another color, and my responses in a third color. I really love talking to the debaters (it's so hard not to feel like one of them sometimes. I have to remind myself - you're old, you're old, you're old. It's not that I think I'm a kid; I don't. It's that I am so passionate about it. Sometimes I really envy my friend (okay, former friend - he dumped me when I couldn't celebrate his relationship with a man) who is a high school debate coach. I think I would have been good at that job.)).

Anyway, enough about me. On to Therese. I am so proud of the debater she is becoming. When she gets the right partner, she will be unstoppable. For this year, though, she is killing it in Impromptu. Impromptu is very hard to succeed in when you are young, primarily because the older, more experienced kids are just so good at it! They have been competing in it for upwards of 5-6 years. Many of them excel at canned impromptu speeches (a pet peeve of mine, and not a great move if I'm your judge). They tend to come across as more mature and more poised (duh). At the last tournament, Therese qualified for regionals, though. At this tournament she placed 7th. She is like the little engine that could. Last year she qualified for regionals in debate. At the age of 12. At her second tournament ever. Doesn't happen. This year she qualified in impromptu. At 13. Fairly atypical. To get to finals, you have to get 1st or 2nd in your room in semis (out of 8), so just getting to finals is ridiculous. Then, not to get last in finals was amazing!

Forgive the rather stream-of-consciousness post. Call it a download of sorts. For now, I'm just glad there is a month until the next tournament!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Review of Visual Learning Systems

There are some subjects that I am more comfortable doing the way I was taught in school, and despite reading The Well-Trained Mind and being very impressed at the methodology employed, science is one of those subjects. It can be hard finding a curriculum that "does science" the way I had it in elementary and jr. high back in the olden days (the 80s), though. Imagine my delight when the Crew got to review Visual Learning Systems! Making allowances for modern technology, because of course, the program is technologically sophisticated, the basic methodology is what I grew up with! Films, slides (of a sort), worksheets. It's probably not for everyone, but it worked for me, and it's how I want to be able to teach my kids. I just never knew it existed until now.
With both Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) and Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12) to choose from, you are sure to find the right match for your family.
Visual Learning Systems Review
Visual Learning Systems Review

Digital Science Online (both editions) is a content subscription website service. You pay one price ($99 for the homeschool version - that buys you *either* the elementary or the secondary edition, not both), and you have access to everything. There are five parts to each unit: videos, animations, images, student content, and teacher content.

Visual Learning Systems Review

The meat of the program is in the video portion. Here, you will find video segments averaging (in my limited experience comprised of using the program for the last six weeks) about 20-30 minutes, each covering a single topic within a larger subject. The animations and images complement the videos, often coming directly from them. The student activities (embedded within the teachers guide) consists of a pretest, a video review (which covers the material in the video and is actually completed after the video as *part* of the video, if that makes sense. In other words, the questions are asked at the end of the video segment), and a post test. Other activities are included according to the topic. My children recently completed the topic "Circulation and Respiration" at the Secondary level. Here is a look at all of the student activities:

So, after watching the video, my kids did an activity on blood groups, took a journey through the heart, learned how to monitor their pulse, and did a vocabulary exercise (that is some hard vocab!). Not bad for a day's work in science!

The teacher content includes EVERYTHING. I mean it - everything. It even includes the video script! First, there is a segment telling you how to introduce the video (because this is structured for a "real" classroom, things may not always apply quite as well as to homeschool, but you can absolutely make it work). In the case of the Circulation and Respiration segment, you are told to introduce the section by having students press on their necks to feel their pulse and then explaining how the heart pumps blood through the body. I have been skipping these intros (but I generally skip all such formalities). You are provided learning objectives. I can see cases where this may be significant. The student activities are given. Finally, as I said, you actually have the entire video script. This can be a lifesaver if you are not sure if a video is going to be appropriate, but you have no desire to sit through it to find out - just skim the script!

Visual Learning Systems Review

What Kinds of Topics are Included?

You are getting a lot of options with Visual Learning Systems! At the Elementary Level, you can choose among physical, earth, and life science. Within each "course," there are approximately 20-30 topics. Each topic has all of the components I discussed above (videos, animations, images, student, and teacher content). I originally thought we would be using Elementary science for some of my kids, but it turned out that the Secondary level was more appropriate for all of my children (hooray when everyone can do a subject together!). 
At the Secondary Level, you can choose among physical, earth, life, integrated, health, and biology. Integrated, in case you're curious, deals with subjects like the metric system, observations and data, the microscope, and science fair projects. It has (by far) the fewest topics. 

What We Did for Science

In order to get a feel for the program, I initially let my children (10, 10, and 11) choose what they wanted to work on. Color me unsurprised that they chose Earth science. They watched the first video and really, really liked it. Once they figured out that questions were going to be asked at the end of the video, they asked me if they could do the video review *during* the video. What can I say? I'm nice - I let them from there on out. There was also a really good geologic time line activity among the student activities. 
Once we all saw what Visual Learning Systems was like, I told my kids that we would not be doing Earth science for the umpteen millionth time. There was sadness. Rather, I told them, we would be doing life science! I would love to say there was cheering...but I would be prevaricating. Regardless, we jumped right in to Secondary life science, whose first few topics look like this:

I chose life science because my kids have never had a full course in it. We've danced around it. Too, like I said above I really like the way this program does science. Even the "table of contents" shown here is so complete and perfect for the topic (N.B. this is a fraction of the course I'm showing).

We do science an average of 3 times a week. The first day the kids watch the video for the day and do the video review (I have eschewed the pre-test - why embarrass everyone and make me feel bad?). The next day they do the rest of the student activities. The final day they watch the video again and take the post-test. Yes, I realize that watching the video twice may seem excessive, but this is the Secondary level, and they are, technically, only 4th/5th (the twins) and 6th grades. I know their chances of retention are much better if they see the videos twice. I may have to pick up the pace when our subscription time runs short, but for now, I'm happy with what we're doing.

Visual Learning Systems is a great program that fills a much needed niche for homeschoolers like me who prefer a more traditional "public school" approach to science. As always, the Crew will have a variety of opinions, so be sure to read their opinions by clicking the banner below.

Visual Learning Systems Review
Crew Disclaimer

Review of Egglo Entertainment

If you're looking for something a little different to do with your kids for Easter this year, Egglo Entertainment has just what you need! From Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs to The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Book to the The Egglo Glow in the Dark Egg Hunt Event Curriculum, Egglo has a full range of products that can take your Easter activities from "more of the same" to a whole new level of celebration!

At its most basic, Egglo is a glow-in-the-dark Easter egg hunt designed to really bring home the fact that Jesus is the light of the world. For $9.99, you can purchase a dozen beautiful blue, green, yellow, and pink Easter eggs (I tried to take a picture of the eggs, but I found it impossible to capture their glow-in-the-darkness! Hence, the only picture I am showing is Egglo's own picture. The eggs are so much prettier in real life!). If all you want is the eggs, then you really can do something special with only them. If, however, you want to take your Easter activities to a new level, Egglo has some other special products.

Egglo Entertainment Review

Egglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls actually *are* little scrolls that you can unroll, each one containing a Bible verse. They are small enough to fit inside an Easter egg (either one of Egglo's or one you already have). For $4.50, you get 12 scrolls. The scrolls are reusable.

Egglo Bible Verse Stickers are the same as the Scripture scrolls, but they are in sticker format. Thus, they contain the same Scripture verses, just in another format. You can hide these in the eggs, but you can also use them to decorate the outside of the eggs. They cost $3.29 for a dozen.

Egglo Easter Egg Stickers are 12 colorful cross stickers that you can either use to decorate the egg or to hide inside them as a reward during the hunt! They also cost $3.29 a dozen.

The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Character Stickers are another set of 12 stickers, this time of various characters from the book described below. Again, they cost $3.29 a dozen.

There are many things you can do with the Egglo eggs (hunting them on Easter morning is an obvious choice!), but if you're looking to stretch you imagination and find a new way to remember Jesus during the Easter season, The Egglo Glow in the Dark Egg Hunt Event Curriculum has some wonderful ideas! This $9.99 60-page downloadable curriculum is full of things to take your basic egg hunt from the every day to a whole new level! Although it is designed for larger groups (Sunday school classes, for example), it is easily adaptable to smaller groups (families). You may not be using the invitations that are included, but what family is going to turn down coloring activity pages and themed snack ideas? The curriculum also includes Bible verse scroll and cross cut-outs that you can put in your eggs, which is a real money saver if you don't want to buy them separately (although the ones you buy separately are wonderful - I can't get over how adorable the little roll-up scrolls are!). 

Egglo Entertainment Review

Finally, my kids and I received (and really enjoyed) The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Book, a full-color 40 page story book that really helps to link the idea of an egg hunt with the gospel of Jesus. The story follows three children and their dog Zeke as they discover a mysterious glowing egg in a treasure chest in the attic. Where the egg leads them is the crux of the story. I would have said that my children were too old for this kind of story book, but they actually really enjoyed it! The idea that each Easter egg leads to a Bible verse that tells another piece of the story is a really satisfying way to think of the egg hunt, plus it ties in so well to the rest of the Egglo family of products. 

Egglo Entertainment Review

Not surprisingly, getting my kids to think about Easter during Lent was a bit of a challenge. For one thing, I typically stress the fact that we don't celebrate the Resurrection before we observe Good Friday: you can't have salvation without the cross. However, when they saw how the Egglo products are designed to really focus every aspect of Easter on Jesus, they were much more willing to participate. In fact, these products are perfect for families who typically eschew egg hunts as being too secular or not having anything to do with the real meaning of Easter. Egglo has demonstrated that you can make Easter relevant for your kids in a very holy way. They will never think of an Easter egg hunt the same way again after doing an Egglo-style hunt. Oh, and if you do the hunt at night, like we did (I tried for pictures, but they were just not happening), you will experience the real excitement of these eggs. Again, I would have said that my kids were too old for an Easter egg hunt. I was wrong: my kids (13, 11, 10, and 10) have never hunted Easter eggs that glow in the dark *at night*. After first reading the story and filling the eggs with the scripture scrolls and stickers (we did decide to save the candy for Easter), they enjoyed the hunt more than they have for several years...and we'll do it again on Easter!

There are so many ways that you can use the Egglo family of products, especially if you purchase the curriculum guide. Even if all you do is purchase the glow-in-the-dark eggs, though, the crosses on the eggs will remind you of the link between Easter and the egg hunt. I would really encourage the paired purchase of the story book and the eggs at a minimum, though. They would make a wonderful addition to a child's Easter basket this year!

To find out more about Egglo Entertainment, check them out at all their social media outlets:
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/eggloeggs/egglo-easter-egg-hunts-about-jesus/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EggloEggs
Twitter: https://twitter.com/EggloEggs
 Instagram: http://instagram.com/eggloeggs
 YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/EggloEggs
 Google +: plus.google.com/113761975581466698158
 Tumblr: http://egglo.tumblr.com

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Egglo Entertainment Review
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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Monday, March 2, 2015


One of these twins is not like the other...oh, my twins! Michael loves his sister so very much! He hugs her all day and tells her that he loves her. He does anything she wants him to. He sleeps on her floor at night because she is scared to be alone...even though much of the time she is telling him to get out because he is annoying her. 

Last night I kind of put my foot down and told Michael that he had to sleep in his own room, in his own bed. Even though he knew it was coming, he was still so sad at bedtime. He started crying and said, "What if there's a fire? How will I be able to get Mary-Catherine out of the house? How can I take care of her if she's in there and I'm in here?" My heart pretty much broke. Part of me would be completely fine just moving him in with her (they're 10). The primary reason I don't is because she is so ugly to him about it (when she is not begging him to sleep in her room to keep her company!).

After putting the kids to bed last night, Henry and I watched a movie. When I went to check on all the kids, the twins were still awake. It turns out that Mary-Catherine had started crying after I tucked her in and Michael had spent a long time with her telling her stories and calming her down before returning to his own room. It was 11 at night by this time. I would sort of expect MC to be awake reading, but Michael usually falls asleep right away. The look on his face when I told him he could move into her room...he was overjoyed. He fell asleep right away.

Today, Michael keeps telling MC that he is sleeping in there again tonight and she keeps yelling, "No, you're not!" And, I? I have no idea what to do. Two kids of our four have to share a room. They make the most sense. They spend the most time together. When she is not being obnoxious, they get along the best. I don't really give a fig about convention. Henry says that she is just a typical girl - she wants to have her cake and eat it, too. She wants to have him sleep in there when she wants his company, not when she doesn't, and she definitely doesn't want to have to share her room. Michael's criterion is simple - he just wants to be with her.

Am I silly for even worrying about this at all? For even giving it a thought? I'm probably using it to avoid thinking about my bigger problem child...sigh.