Mathematical Reasoning (review)

An educational, easy-to-use, middle school supplement that combines logic and math skills? Yes, please! The Critical Thinking Company manages to do just that with their latest offering, Mathematical Reasoning: Middle School Supplement. Word problems encourage creative, logical thinking and reinforce common 7th-8th grade math concepts. This is a great supplement to whatever math curriculum you’re using and takes just a short time each day.

To be totally honest, I have to say that my middle schooler’s least favorite subjects are math and logic. However, the clean formatting, engaging questions, and included math facts needed for each problem set made these subjects almost bearable for her. The detailed solutions and tips made it almost painless for her equally challenged mom :-). I have yet to be disappointed by a Critical Thinking Company product.

Visit The Critical Thinking Company’s website to purchase your copy today for only $19.99, not a bad price for the 50 activities (2 pages each) it contains.

Disclaimer: The Critical Thinking Company provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review. The opinions expressed, however, are my own.


Louisa, book and reading guide review

Louisa is the story of a young, African-American girl who was taken from her family and native country as a young girl. Her inspiring story includes details of learning to read, write, and speak English in her new Boston home. She eventually became an internationally known poetess and gained her freedom. Louisa is loosely based on the life of African-American poetess Phillis Wheatley.

The novel is inspiring and touching. Written from a first-person point of view, the book enables younger readers to relate to Louisa’s feelings and escapades. Set during the late 18th century, it adds real-life depth to American history and evangelical studies. 

The Resource Book for Louisa: A Guide for Teachers provides everything homeschool or classroom teachers need to make this a full unit study. Included are journal writing prompts, thought questions, worksheets, projects, vocabulary, a test, teaching tips, and background information. Although not stated, the grade range looks to be about 5-8. The resources are thorough enough to pick and choose, yet not too overwhelming. There’s a good variety of projects for writers and those who hate to write.

Hurry on over to Parson Place Press and purchase your set today! The novel would make a great Christmas present.

Disclaimer: Parson Place Press sent me a complimentary copy of Louisa and The Resource Book for Louisa for me to review. The opinions expressed are my own though.


This Year’s Curriculum

We’ve just finished week 4 of our school year, so I figured it was time to catch y’all up on what we’re using and how things are going. Are you ready for another true confessions post? Good, because that’s what’s coming!

The most different aspect of this year is that my older daughter is now a COLLEGE STUDENTS! Crazy, I know, but they tell me that’s what happens after you graduate them from high school. Go figure. Since she is waaaaay too young to be living on campus anywhere, she is attending our local community college (4 courses) and taking 1 course at a new branch (at our church) of a small Christian college. She loves it and is thriving. That makes me happy Smile. Of course, that also makes me crazy because she doesn’t have her driver’s license yet. Oh yeah, I’m also teaching 2 English classes at said community college.

Anyway, let’s focus on  my younger daughter now. She’s working through 8th grade. “That’s the last year of middle school, you know, Mom!” Since I had previously decided not to follow the same academic track as I had used with my older daughter, 8th grade was up in the air. We used Sonlight’s Eastern Hemisphere history curriculum last year and enjoyed it, so I decided to go with their 1-year world history track for this year. I figured it would give Miss Kitten a solid foundation before we hit Veritas Press’s Omnibus next year. For Bible, we’re using The Life of Christ by Positive Action for Christ, and we’re really enjoying it.

For math, we made the switch to Teaching Textbooks for pre-algebra, and so far, it’s getting the stamp of approval from both of us. We stuck with Apologia for science, and we’re scooting right along with Physical Science.

English continues to be a conglomeration of several different curricula, but it’s working fairly well. Vocabulary from Classical Roots B, Fix-It!, and The Lost Tools of Writing (with a few other kids) comprise our English in addition to the literature books from Sonlight.

We’re attempting logic this year. I thought starting with The Fallacy Detectives would make for a smooth transition, but only with my help. Art, again with a few friends, is Artistic Pursuits, Jr. High book 1, while Spanish is from the 10-Minutes a Day series. I now have Spanish labels all over my house, but it sure does help with vocabulary words.

So, that’s what we’re doing for 8th grade this year. What are you all using and how is it working for you?



Who Is God? (review)

Apologia isn’t just about science anymore. Their new line, Apologia Press, includes a number of resources for parents, a geography curriculum, a writing curriculum, and a “What We Believe” section. Who Is God? is one of four new books designed to help children ages 6-14 to become grounded in the basics of their Christian faith.

The over-250-page hard-back, full-color textbook includes Internet links to free, downloadable notebooking assignment sheets and additional resources. The multi-level format makes it easy to use for the whole family, or an older child may use it alone since it is written to the student herself. The 10 lessons can be complete one every two or three weeks to last through most of the school year. For those familiar with the Apologia Elementary Science series, this book follows that easy-to-use format.

Who Is God? is a non-denominational look at how our ideas of God and the Bible shape our everyday world view. It emphasizes finding out what the Bible says about selected topics, memorizing verses, and applying truths to our everyday lives. It includes engaging stories, thoughtful questions, and fun activities to reinforce the concepts being taught. Lesson titles: 1. Where am I Building My Life? 2. How Can I Know What’s True? 3. & 4. What is God Like? 5. Who Are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? 6. If God Created the World, Why Isn’t It Perfect? 7. Why Did God Create Me? 8. Will God Meet All My Needs? 9. Why Does Sin Keep Me From Knowing God? 10. Is Jesus the Only Way to God?

We love it! My 13-year-old daughter is able to do the lessons completely on her own, although she comes to me with any questions she has. She has a tendency to read tidbits to me (from everything!) that she finds interesting, and I’ve heard quite a bit of this textbook. Our biblical, evangelical world views are being reinforced with this thorough curriculum. My daughter completes the notebooking pages as she reads and enjoys the activities and extra challenges that are in each lesson.
Click here to view a sample lesson, the table of contents, and to order. The $39 is well worth your money.
For more opinions and reviews, check out the official TOS Review Crew blog @ 
Disclosure: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Professor in a Box: Financial Accounting (review)

Professor in a Box is exactly what it sounds like: a professor teaching my teen a subject with which I am not comfortable: “Financial Accounting.” The 4-CD (for the computer) set comes in an oversized CD case with a paper course syllabus and learning objectives by chapter as well as an itemized list of the contents on each disc. The first CD is for the instructor/parent and contains an introduction, a detailed lesson plan, templates for all of the homework problems, demonstrations, quizzes and exams, solutions, and a grading guide.
This is a high school (1 full year, 1 full credit) level math elective aimed specifically towards homeschoolers. Since I have absolutely no business or math thoughts in my head, I was very excited when the package came in the mail. What’s more, my high schooler was also excited (but probably not as much as I was). She reports that “the video lectures, although easy to understand, are a bit on the long side, so it’s a good thing that there aren’t too many of them.” She was thrilled that this particular math program did not come with a hefty textbook and a million problems to solve per lesson. I’m thrilled that all of the answers are on my CD; I might actually be able to handle this math course. Since it is on CDs, it’s reusable. I would definitely recommend this course for high schoolers not wanting to take trigonometry or calculus.
The topics covered include an introduction, financial statements, recording transactions, merchandising, short-term financial assets, inventories, long-term assets, liabilities, stockholders’ equity, cash flows, and financial statement analysis. All of the course content is included in the flash lecture slides and a brief key concepts and terms file for each of the 12 chapters (28 lessons total). These also include demo problems and step-by-step illustrations of how to work through the various types of accounting problems covered.
You can see a sample chapter on the Professor in a Box website as well as FAQs and a link to purchase “Financial Accounting.” The program costs $134.99 and includes free priority shipping via the USPS. That’s not a bad price considering it’s everything you need for a complete high school course.
For more opinions and reviews, check out the official TOS Review Crew blog @ http://homeschoolblogger.com/homeschoolcrew/783255/
Disclosure: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


My Access! (review)

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Vantage Learning recently provided our family with an online account at My Access! (Home Edition), a completely web-based writing curriculum supplement.
The Home Edition does not provide lessons in how to write, nor does it focus solely on the mechanics of writing. It is to supplement your current writing curriculum and to help you, as the teacher. “At the center of MY Access! ® is IntelliMetric™, an artificial intelligence scoring tool. This tool instantly evaluates student writing against a standard rubric and provides students with suggestions to improve their writing. Around this intelligent core, MY Access!® incorporates instructional courses for each genre at each age range (8–10, 11–14, and 15–18), an in-depth writing manual, organizational resources, and a host of word-processing tools.” You receive a report of your students’ progress and scores, and your children can keep track of their own progress in an individualized writing portfolio.
You can choose which features to use. You can specify either pre-loaded writing assignments (there are 96) or topics that you enter to go along with your other academic subjects. You can give as much or as little hands-on guidance as necessary. The word processing program, editing and writing tools, and self-paced, interactive lessons guide students through the writing and revision processes. “Graphic organizers and other printable resources help students plan and build successful informative, persuasive, and narrative essays.” Included are many samples of actual students’ work for your children’s reference.
My oldest child thought their recommended topics were on the childish side (age 15, grade 11/12). My youngest daughter (age 12, grade 7) struggled with the actual program, since she’s not very technically literate, but did figure it out. I assigned her a topic from her history lesson, which was as easy as choosing one of the pre-loaded subjects. I liked the ease of assigning topics and allowing my kids to choose which one they wanted to write about and when they wanted to do them (the pre-planned ones). I also liked the autonomy and the tutor-suggested revisions it provided (although it might be overwhelming to ingest all at once). This product would be especially beneficial for parents who lack confidence in their own essay-grading skills.
Check out more features and benefits on the MY Access! Website @ http://www.vantagelearning.com/home/products/mahome/. It costs $99.95 for 3 students for 12-month subscription. Other products that are available from this vendor include the following: Home version, college version, professional version, Lexipedia, iSeek, and additional add-on packs.
Check out the TOS Review Crew’s blog for more opinions & reviews @ http://homeschoolblogger.com/homeschoolcrew/782910/
Disclosure: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


This Year’s All-New Curricula Choices

Our 11th year of homeschooling has begun! We are in 11th grade and 7th grade. While not in my original plan, both girls have almost completely new curricula for this year.

Sissy, my junior, is still using Auralog’s Tell Me More for French. For Bible and English, she’s using guides from Hewitt Homeschooling. The “I Dare You” syllabus is for Bible and “World Literature 1 & 2” are for English. Both use real books instead of textbooks and require more papers and journaling than answering comprehension questions. She is also taking 2 dual-enrollment classes via the Internet from our local community college. They are “College Algebra,” which will fulfill her Algebra 2 requirement, and Astronomy 1, which will fulfill her last required science slot. So far, she thinks it’s “easy-peasy.” We’ll see how long that attitude lasts. She’s hoping to add a few more subjects to her load so she can finish early, but that’s still under discussion.

Kitty, my 7th grader, has had a bit of a shock to her system. Turns out 7th grade is a lot harder than 6th grade and takes a lot more time! She is using Sonlight’s Core 5, “Eastern Hemisphere,” for Bible, History, and Literature. I think she will enjoy it more as she gets into the groove of using the new curriculum. I think it’s great exposure to different cultures and different history than she’s had before. For English, she’s using Vocabulary from Classical Roots Book A, Fix It! Grammar, and WriteShop 1 (that will start in a few weeks when I teach a co-op class using it). For math, she’s still using Math-U-See, and has progressed to the Zeta stage. Kitty is thrilled that this year I’ve allowed her to do Spanish using Auralog’s Tell Me More series instead of Latin. A “Building Thinking Skills” workbook rounds out her curricula for the year.

As for me, I’m starting my first master’s class next week. I’ll be working towards an MA in English from ECU (East Carolina University) online. My first class is entitled “Research Methods in Technical and Professional Writing.” Yep, that title alone is almost enough to send me running for the woods! Really, I’m looking forward to it, although I’m nervous about being a student for the first time in a long time.

Q4U: What’s on your curricula shelves for this year? Same old stuff or new stuff? Let us know!


What’s Your Style?

What’s your homeschooling style? If you’re not sure, or if you’re curious about some of other styles out there, I thought I’d detail some of the highlights here for you. Of course, there are many variations, but I think these are the main styles.

Classical homeschooling is based on the classics, with three basic stages that correlate with how children learn at different ages: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. It’s methodical, rigorous, and the style that my family and I have embraced for many more reasons that I don’t have space to detail here. The Charlotte Mason method is more flexible, emphasizes nature and artistic studies, and uses a lot of narration. A pre-packed curriculum is just what it sounds like: everything you need in a box from one publisher, including lesson plans. Some of the more well-known publishers of pre-packaged curriculum include A Beka, Bob Jones, and Alpha & Omega. Unit studies focus on one key topic at a time—say, butterflies or moon landings—and encompass most of the required academic subjects. Homeschoolers who use some of this and some of that are classified as eclectic. They take what they see as the best of several different methods and/or publishers and craft a more custom educational experience. Relaxed or unschooling families are more child-centric and use real-life experiences to teach their children. They take each day as it comes and include more play and games than worksheets and grades.

I encourage you to take the time to explore each of these approaches and to think about your family’s current lifestyle. A number of books are available that detail each of these methods. Other books are available that will help you to figure out your children’s learning style. Knowing your children’s learning styles will enable you to tailor your homeschool teaching to your children, which will enable them to thrive.

So, what do styles have to do with organization? I’m so glad you asked! Your style will determine what kinds of materials you need, how you want to organize your space, and how your children learn best.

Q4U: What’s YOUR style?

P.S. – Please notice my new signature & my new blog button (feel free to use it to link back to my blog from your blog). Yes, it took me most of a day (plus a few emails from Jodi Wisenhunt), but I’m very proud of myself for figuring it all out!


SpellQuizzer Review

Do your kids want to practice spelling without writing the words over and over again? Are you tired of saying the same spelling words repeatedly? The innovative SpellQuizzer spelling program solves these problems and more.

Simply record vocally each week’s spelling words and a clue phrase, then type in the correct spelling of each word once and you’re done. Your child can select the appropriate lesson and practice her spelling words as many times as needed. If a word is typed incorrectly, the correct spelling is shown and at the end of the list, your child is prompted to redo the wrong words again. My fifth grader gave SpellQuizzer two thumbs up—cool, interesting, and fun!
A single license for the SpellQuizzer spelling software is only $29.95. You just download it onto the computer your child uses and it’s ready to go. It can be used by multiple children for multiple years. SpellQuizzer is not just a spelling program; it can also be used to quiz children on vocabulary words. It’s totally customizable. SpellQuizzer works with any spelling program. Try it FREE for thirty days. What a novel idea and a great bargain!

Calling All Frustrated Writing Teachers

Calling all frustrated teachers of reluctant writers: WriteShop has the solution to your child’s “I don’t know what to write about” dilemma! WriteShop has created StoryBuilders to jumpstart your child’s creative juices. They’ve solved the “Oops, I forgot to put the setting (or plot, or character trait, or character) into my story” excuse, too. StoryBuilders are FUN, creative, nonthreatening helps that will have your reluctant writer asking to do more. They’ll also have your creative writer begging to use them. My 10-year-old reluctant writer actually got excited about her writing assignments from StoryBuilders and requested to use more than one card from each element to spice up her stories.

The WriteShop StoryBuilders are e-books that you print out onto cardstock (either a different color of cardstock for each element with black ink, or white cardstock with colored ink) and cut apart to make a deck of cards for each basic story element: characters, character traits, settings, and plots. Each StoryBuilder set is theme-based, so you can choose just one that fits your child’s interests or buy all three—they’re only $7.95 each. WriteShop StoryBuilder e-books come with a teacher’s guide to help you utilize them to their best advantage for your children. Each story element has forty or more cards, enough to last for a loooong time without having repeats. Since I have neither colored paper nor a colored-ink printer, I printed mine on white cardstock with black ink and then colored them to indicate which element they were. Check out the box in which I store all my StoryBuilder card decks. This method makes it easy for my daughter to choose which theme and which cards for each element she wants to use for each story.

Want to try a StoryBuilder for FREE? The World of Animals StoryBuilders is being offered for FREE (for limited time only) at The Old Schoolhouse Store: http://www.theoldschoolhousestore.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=62_128&products_id=2530