Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Review of Devonian's GREEMU

When I saw a review coming up for Devonian, I didn't know what to think; I'd never heard of them. BUT, when I saw that Devonian was making GREEMU, AND that GREEMU is distributed by Koru Naturals, I practically jumped for joy. See, in my house we love Koru Naturals. I have previously reviewed them here and here. I was just perusing their site the other day for more Manuka Honey products, since their moisturizer containing that ingredient has been great for my rosacea. But I digress. In the second review I linked, you can see Therese's magnificent frizz-ball hair. Then you can see it tamed by Emu Oil. That's right - Emu Oil. She has loved what that stuff has done for her hair. She has not loved that it's Emu Oil. Enter -- GREEMU! All of the amazing benefits of Emu Oil with none of the Emu!

I had my doubts that GREEMU could live up to its animal-based cousin, but I was wrong. More on that in a minute.

GREEMU comes from Devonian, a company named for that geologic period and committed to replacing animal products with plant-based ones. They are off to an amazing start with this one. GREEMU looks and feels just like Emu Oil. I have no idea how you replicate the feel of animal fat (I know, I know) with plant-based substances, but Devonian did it. 

Now, Therese and I are obsessed with GREEMU for what it does for her hair, but you can use it for other things; namely it's excellent for dry, chapped skin (hello, allergy season!). It can also be used to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles (should such things trouble you - I earned mine; I have no desire to fight them). If you would use any facial oil for it (and facial oils like argan oil are all the rage), you can use GREEMU and it will probably work better (dry cuticles, split ends, chapped lips - really almost anything you can think of). I'm telling you, though, if you have dry, frizzy hair, you NEED GREEMU in your life. Witness Therese's before and after using GREEMU. No time has elapsed in these pictures, apart from the time it took her to smooth GREEMU through her hair. (N.B.,  the first ingredient in GREEMU is Macadamia Seed Oil. If you pay any attention at all to hair products, you know that Macadamia is HUGE with expensive hair products and masks. You're getting it here for a fraction of the price!)

Before GREEMU:

GREEMU in half Therese's hair:

GREEMU in all of Therese's hair (but no styling at all done):

All Therese did in the preceding two pictures was smooth GREEMU through her hair. She didn't scrunch her curls, use gel, or do anything else. The difference really is amazing.

GREEMU is available through Koru Naturals for only $10.80 for a 4 oz. bottle (and through 5/31/16 it is 20% off with coupon code GN395Z1). I strongly encourage you to browse the Koru Naturals website while you're there. They have so many amazing products! 

There are, as I have indicated, many uses for GREEMU, so be sure to see how 84 other Crew members have been using it! Click the banner below to read their reviews!

Greemu Devonian Review

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, April 25, 2016

Review of YWAM's Christian Heroes

Christian Heroes {YWAM Publishing Review}

YWAM Publishing is not a new company to our homeschool, and Corrie Ten Boom is not a new name, but the marriage of the two has turned out to be the perfect way to formally introduce this inspirational figure to my four kids. Christian Heroes - Corrie Ten Boom is part of YWAM Publishing's Christian Heroes series (they also have a Heroes of History series whose books follow the same format). It is a 208 page paperback book recommended for ages 10+. There are 15 chapters and a Bibliography. The book is written by a husband and wife writing team with more than 30 years experience; the authors have also written dozens of other titles for YWAM Publishing. 

Along with the paperback book, we also received a Digital Unit Study.  There is way too much in the unit study to accomplish, which leads to the dreaded picking and choosing (I say dreaded because I, like many homeschool moms, am afflicted with the dread "I must do all of it!!" disorder). It's actually a good thing, though, because the variety allows plenty of choice so that you can select what works for your family. For me, the core of the unit study is the chapter questions section. There are six questions for each chapter of the book, and each chapter's questions follow the same format: a vocabulary question, a factual question, two comprehension questions, and two open-ended more essay-style questions. All of these questions are found in a single section of the study guide, meaning that if chapter questions are the only part of the study guide you're interested in, you don't have to hunt and search for them; that is, the activities are not done by chapter, they are done thematically. I really love that about this study guide. The chapter questions are the one part of the guide we did for every chapter, and I loved being able to find them right away. It would have been frustrating to have to search through "Chapter 1 Activities - Art, Music, Chapter Questions, Drama, Bible, etc." and then do the same thing for Chapter 2. Sorting things thematically makes so much sense, but it's not something I see done in study guides very often.

Another great thing about the study guide is its "Student Explorations" section. The guide allows for many different kinds of learners to shine. From essays to A/V presentations, all students can find something to showcase their understanding of Corrie Ten Boom. Many study guides focus almost exclusively on essay and creative writing exercises (with some cooking or art thrown in because, hey - we're homeschoolers), but this one has drawing, pamphlet design, and TV screenwriting!

How We Used It

I started out reading Corrie Ten Boom to my three youngest children (11, 11, and 12), but quickly realized that I was not going to be able to read fast enough to keep up with their interest. Things like this kept happening:

So I had to turn them loose. All I required was that as they completed a chapter, they told me so that I could have them answer the chapter questions in the study guide. The questions were a great way to check that they had actually read what they thought they read and that they had understood the reading. It turned out to be a great system.

We have read YWAM Publishing's books before, and I anticipate reading more of them. They are well-written and cover some great people that you don't always seem biographies of. Ninety-nine other Crew members read many other books by these great publishers, so be sure to click the banner below to read their thoughts!

Christian Heroes {YWAM Publishing Review}

Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Review of Apologia Educational Ministries' Writers in Residence

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
Apologia Educational Ministries has so many amazing homeschool products, so it really shouldn't be a surprise that they have yet another amazing one for me to talk about, but I have to say that I am really in love with this writing program. Writers in Residence is a Language Arts program with an intensive writing focus. Through the process of writing, students learn about grammar, punctuation, and capitalization. Because it is published by Apologia, you can be sure that your student will be exposed to great Christian content all the way through the curriculum (content that is appropriate for 4th-8th graders). 
Apologia: Writers in Residence Review

Writers in Residence comes as a two-part set with a GINORMOUS 576 page all-in-one, full-color, spiral bound Student Text and Workbook and a much more modest (although still very attractive), green, black, and white print parent answer key (which looks hardbound in the picture above, but is really a very stiff paperbound with nice heavy pages).The parent answer key eliminates all of the instruction portion of the student text, instead focusing only on the questions and answers, providing parents with everything they need to check their student's work.

The Writers in Residence curriculum is designed around a 128 day schedule (yes - a schedule is provided! The whole process of teaching is really made incredibly painless!). Units are divided into easily digested Modules, which are further broken down.

No single day's work is overwhelming at all. One day you might be brainstorming, another day you might be writing a rough draft, and yet another day might see revising. Throughout you will be tackling grammar in the context of what is good writing. Everything flows seamlessly and nothing seems extraneous to the process. After all, why do we want to have good grammar? It makes for more meaningful communication. This curriculum recognizes this fact and teaches grammar in this context. I find it a very effective approach. To get the best idea of how colorful, user-friendly, and *meaty* this program is, I strongly encourage you to check out the sample on this page.

Mary-Catherine (11) and Writers in Residence

To say that Mary-Catherine loves this program is an understatement. When she saw me writing this review, her quote was, "Say that I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this program." Yes, Ma'am! In fact, when I told her I needed her book because I needed to look something up for the review, she protested giving it to me because she was working on writing at the moment and didn't want to stop. Now, *that* is an endorsement!

Mary-Catherine enjoys writing, but her writing lacked structure and discipline (because she's, you know, 11). I was so excited to see that this curriculum allowed her imagination free reign before it called it back to revising and editing....and best of all, it is Mary-Catherine who does the revising and editing! She also scores her writing according to a rubric provided for each exercise:

Talk about taking the tension out of going over writing assignments!

Mary-Catherine began working in the book the day we got it. She didn't wait for instruction and she didn't wait for a schedule. She took it and ran with it:

She's still running with it.

She loves this writing program. She works on it every day. We don't adhere to the schedule. I pretty much just let her do however much she wants. She doesn't do writing as part of her normal school day, because to her it's not school, it's fun. She typically does it at dance class or in her room at night. Don't think that we don't take it seriously, though! She takes it VERY seriously. She always uses her best handwriting and is very careful about how she proceeds in the book. She wants to have the right answers, and she wants her writing assignments to be good (after all, she knows who is going to be evaluating them!). 

If you have a child who is in at least 4th grade, I would strongly encourage you to take a look at this program. The fact that it is all-inclusive is so wonderful, and the fact that it is so attractive is a huge bonus. I'm all for the inexpensive, bare-bones, merely photocopied curriculum, but it just doesn't draw kids in the way something this beautiful does, and let's face it - a kid's *wanting* to work on a class is worth its weight in gold. This is one beautiful curriculum.

Don't take my word for it - click the banner below to read dozens of other Crew members' experiences with Writers in Residence; I bet you'll be convinced!

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, April 18, 2016

Flooding in Houston...

15" flooding in the house! Flood insurance just in case. Somehow, it seems like there's a haiku there waiting for me.

Review of A+ Interactive Math

A+ Interactive Math is a company with which we are very familiar. In fact, I think we have probably used just about every program they offer! From their Online Family Packages to their CD Software, my twins (11) love A+ Interactive. I was very intrigued, then, when I saw that the company had a new product to offer: Math Mini-Courses! There are so many Mini-Courses from which to choose that any family is sure to find something to fit their needs. My twins have been using Advanced Fractions and Elementary and Middle School Division, and like all things A+ Interactive, they love those courses!

Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}

Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}

If you have previously used a product from A+ Interactive, the format of these Mini-Courses will be very familiar. In fact, as far as I can discern, the material is essentially a compilation of existing A+ Interactive Courses - which from my perspective is great! It makes it easy for me to focus my kids' time on a topic they need review and drill on. Let me show you what I mean.

See how the designation at the top center of the screen says Chapter 5.7? There is no real reason for there to be that designation in this course. If you look at the Table of Contents along the side, you can see that it is all designated 1.1-1.15, so the only place the Chapter 5.7 could have come from is the original course. The only reason I mention this is because if you own some A+ Interactive courses already, you may be duplicating by purchasing the Mini-Courses (you would, of course, want to verify this with the company - don't take my word for it. I'm just going on what I have learned by using the company's materials for several years). 

The above screenshot does give you a good idea of what the course looks like. After a short lesson, the student is presented with a Q&A in the above format. The student gets immediate feedback so they know if they got the answer right as soon as they answer the question. That lets them know right away whether or not they understood the lesson presentation. They can go back and re-watch the lesson at any time, and they can go back and do the Q&A at any time if they want to improve their score. 

At any time, students can look at their dashboards and see their progress:

Speaking of the dashboard, the student version looks like this (note that you can create online and printable worksheets and tests):

The parent dashboard looks like this:

That Parent controls section looks like this:

So, essentially parents and children have access to most of the same things, which I love because I like for my kids to be able to handle as much of their own schoolwork as they can, but parents can decide how much information their kids can access.

The Mini-Courses I Received

The Division course I received is incredibly comprehensive. It begins at the very beginning with division in relation to subtraction. The last lesson is four digits divided by two digits. In essence, then, you really cover every aspect of division, meaning that this course is great for a range of ages. Because my twins are not division novices, at the beginning of the course, I had them skip the instruction part of the lesson and go straight to the Interactive Q&A. In this way, they didn't "waste" time relearning what they already knew, BUT they did have the check of finding out if they actually knew the material before moving on. The courses work really well that way. If you (or your child) think you know the material, that's great - go ahead and skip the lesson, but don't skip the Q&A. You'll find out quite quickly if you do, in fact, know the material!

The Fractions course I received (Advanced Fractions) begins with identifying fractions and moves quickly into equivalent fractions and GCF, LCM, and LCD. It covers adding, subtracting, converting, reducing, and everything you would expect in a fractions course. The format is exactly the same as the Division course. Here's a screenshot:

I should point out, since the screenshots are not, sadly, audible, that the lessons *are* audible. That makes these courses perfect for so many different types of learners. Everything is reinforced in multiple ways.

A+ Interactive continues to develop its product line to meet the needs of many different kinds of families. To see how 79 other Crew families have been using their awesome new Mini-Courses, click the banner below.

Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Review of Homeschool Copywork

Homeschool Copywork Review
Copywork. Homeschooling moms typically love that word. Some homeschooling kids love it, but others...well, not so much. Personally, I don't care if you like it or loathe it (talking to my kids here!) - there is something so satisfying about copywork! It probably helps that I am a pen junkie - copywork is one of the best ways to play with beautiful pens (because who says copywork is just for kids?). How happy was I, then, to receive a Lifetime Membership to Homeschool Copywork? Here's a hint: I was pretty dang excited! The best news is, though, that my kids were excited, too!

Homeschool Copywork has so many great things on their website that it is hard to overemphasize just what a great site it is for both boys *and* girls. Quotes from Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte? Yes. "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"? Check. Quotes from Mozart? That, too. If you're looking for more "curriculum content," though, that's there, too! How about Human Body notebooking pages? A hymn study of "All Creatures of Our God and King"? They are all included in the Lifetime Membership, along with anything that creator Amy Blevins adds in the future. And these aren't just *any* notebooking/copywork pages. They are top-quality. Not all of the pages are done in the exact same way - there are choices for every age and every need. From coloring pages that coordinate with the copywork/notebooking pages, to pages that include both cursive and print, to pages that include different kinds of lines for writers at different stages, there are different pages for all different kinds of notebookers and copyworkers.

In our family, I knew right away what each of my children would want to work on. Michael (11) is drawn to the work of Mozart, so I gave him Mozart's quotes. This book of copywork features dotted lines, full black lines, D'Nealian script, and cursive. Michael is working hard to perfect his cursive, so that was the copywork he worked on. This is one of his pages in progress:

Mary-Catherine (11) loves Jane Austen, so she wanted to start with her book of copywork, but then she decided that she wanted to save Jane Austen and start with Charlotte Bronte instead. So that's exactly what she's done. She has plowed through the Charlotte Bronte copywork and is ready to move onto Jane Austen!

For Nicky (12) it had to be Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade" - a great poem and great writing for him to hopefully emulate! He has very much enjoyed copying the poem.

With Homeschool Copywork there really is something for everyone. Each of my kids has made it either all the way through or almost all the way through a copybook, but we haven't even begun to scratch the surface of the offerings on the site. The variety is tremendous, the site is easy to navigate, and the copywork pages are attractive and fun to work on. What more could you ask? My kids are really enjoying using these pages. To see how other Crew members' kids have been using them, be sure to click the banner below!

Homeschool Copywork Review

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, April 11, 2016

Team Policy Debate Judging Philosophies I Can't Ever Say

One of the only things you as a judge are allowed to say to the teams debating in front of you in NCFCA is your judging philosophy (or relevant background, experience, and what the teams can do to make the round more enjoyable for you), that only if the Affirmative team remembers to ask you for it. I have actually begun writing mine down to make sure that it is succinct and will stand up to potential scrutiny from the powers that be. That powers that be really don't like you to deviate from "I'm a stock issues judge" and "I like impacts." I found that out to my sorrow at my second tournament ever when my judging philosophy landed me in hot water (to be fair, the debate team that took me to task over my judging philosophy, um, misrepresented it QUITE A BIT to the fraud squad, but whatever).

So, a few of the judging philosophies I would love to share:

1. I really don't care for all of that evidence y'all read. I am much more interested in your thoughts and ideas, so let's keep those canned speeches to a minimum, especially that first one, okay?

2. I don't buy fiat power. If neg runs a fiat kritik, I'm likely to buy it.

3. I'm old school. Speed and spread go a long way toward winning my heart, so show me what you got, people! 

I'll continue to brainstorm. Whenever I'm giving a "judging philosophy," I always think of things I want to say (and mentally urge myself to shut up), so I know there are many more marinating in my brain...

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Review of Stopmotion Explosion

Stopmotion Explosion Review
Every so often a product comes up for review on the Crew that is just all kinds of awesome fun! Can it be considered school? Sure. Do the kids see it that way? Absolutely not! Stopmotion Explosion has one such product with their Stopmotion Explosion Animation Kit. This kit is terrific. It includes the following:
  • 720p HD video camera with internal microphone and manual focus
  • 290 page Stopmotion Explosion book
  • Animation software
  • Requirements - Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10, or OS X 5.1+
In other words, everything your child needs to make great stopmotion animation movies! 
Stopmotion Explosion Review
My kids discovered the making of stopmotion animation films using my cell phone a few years ago, so when I described this product to them, they were super pumped to get it. They immediately had all kinds of ideas for how they would use it. See, they love making stopmotion animation films, but they get tired of setting things up and dealing with the cell phone camera. It gets onerous. With *this* camera, though, all you have to do is set your frames per second. Once you've done that, you click the button on the camera and it takes the frame for you, making sure it is the correct duration. It basically does all of the work for you! Using the software, you have a live feed on the computer. You feel like a true filmmaker. It's really amazing and my kids love it! It makes the whole creation of stopmotion animation so incredibly easy.

Just in case you don't know anything about stopmotion animation, the included book tells you everything you need to know! Not only does it tell you how to make the films, it tells you the history of them, everything you need to make one, all about avatars, settings, lights, special kinds of tables you can buy that are magnetized for true professional results, script writing, camera positioning, and more! My boys are really getting into the whole idea of film creation in a big way!

Because they had to start somewhere, though, here's a video they made of Doctor Who and a Weeping Angel!

The whole process couldn't have been easier! They installed the software on their laptop themselves. They created the story line. They shot the video. (I guess it would help to mention that they are 11 and 12).

My boys and I have one frustration regarding the program, and it is more than likely our own ignorance. Everything about this software is basically plug and play - as easy as it gets. It is easy to create the stopmotion images, and then a one-touch button to compile the video. What we found frustrating was trying to find the video once it was created! I couldn't find an option to specify the location I wanted the video saved, so I had a heck of a time finding the video once the boys had created it. I would love to see an option as simple as a "save as" so that I could know exactly where to find the video when the boys created had created it. I think, though, having gone through the process the first time, one would know the default save location on one's own computer.

Overall, this camera/software combination is a huge thumbs-up! It's so intuitive and so easy that, well, children can do everything! Everyone in my house recommends it wholeheartedly. To see some other super fun videos, be sure to click on the banner below to read all of the reviews! Also be sure to find Stopmotion Explosion on social media:

Stopmotion Explosion Review
Crew Disclaimer

Wordless Wednesday - Mother Angelica

Monday, April 4, 2016

Review of The Trigger Memory Co.

The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW
The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW

The Trigger Memory Co. has a really nifty product that many homeschoolers have heard of called Times Tales. If you're like me, though, while you may have heard of Times Tales, you may not have yet experienced it for yourself. If you have a child attempting to learn his upper multiplication tables, this is one product you may be very interested in! In the past, Times Tales was available on DVD, but you can now purchase it as a download, which is great news for people like me who don't have a DVD player on their computers. The downloaded version is exactly like the DVD version in content, so you don't have to worry that you're losing something in the translation. Your download will come as five files - two video and three PDF (containing tests, crosswords, flashcards, and cube games).

The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW

So what makes Times Tales different from the myriad of other multiplication memory programs out there? How about everything? If you learn best using mnemonic devices, or you have a child who does, if you have a child who understands multiplication, but just can't seem to master the facts, if you are just getting to the point of beginning to learn multiplication, if you want to teach facts without the dreaded "drill and kill" approach - if any of these statements apply to you, then Times Tales is something that you will definitely want to check out!

Times Tales is comprised of two 30 minute videos that teach the upper times tales, excluding 10 (because, really, what's easier to learn than 10, right?). The facts are not taught as such. Instead, stories are told using numbers, who are all represented as characters. Students learn the stories, and if they are young enough, they don't even realize that they are learning multiplication facts along the way!

The video lessons are reinforced with worksheets and games along the way.

What we Thought

Times Tales was just as adorable as I knew it would be. The stories were cute and the characters were  cuter. From the perspective of someone who knows her multiplication tables, it was fun to see how they were used in the stories to create facts. However, it turns out that my kids are slightly too old for this product. At 11, and with a decent knowledge of facts under their belts (better than I knew, actually), they saw the stories developing into facts immediately, so they didn't get lulled into the mnemonic effect of the program. In fact, at the stage of the program where they were supposed to be remembering the stories, they were getting kind of tripped up trying to remember the stories, which was counterproductive since they already knew the *facts*.

Having said that, for younger kids, or kids who don't know their facts as well as my kids apparently do (although they had me fooled), this product would be awesome. I think Times Tales would allow even really young kids to memorize their facts with ease, assuming they already understood the basic idea behind multiplication. The stories make it so fun!

Fortunately, families with kids at all stages were able to use this program, so be sure to click the banner below to see how Times Tales worked in their families!

Times Tales by the The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW

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