Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Civil War Adventure You Can't Resist

Heirloom Audio Productions is back with a new amazing audio theater production, and I got a copy to review for the Schoolhouse Crew! With Lee in Virginia is another G.A. Henty adaptation. I also received access to the bonus download materials that included a study guide, MP3, sound track, With Lee in Virgina e-book,  cast poster, access to the Live the Adventure Letter e-newsletter, and printable Robert E. Lee quote. This is two and half hours of Civil War excitement on 2 discs. 
With Lee in Virginia Audio Drama Review
Kirk Cameron and Sean Astin are just 2 of the big names that lent their voices to this war drama. Set in the spring of 1861, you will hear the exciting story of young Vincent as he sets off to war with the Confederate army. Vincent struggles through a feud with a neighbor before ever setting off to war. Vincent is in the war with some of his friends, and he has carried his slave Dan with him. Vincent's faith in God and constant prayer sustain him in such a trying time. You and your children will hear about General Stonewall Jackson and General Robert E. Lee. This dramatic story is sure to keep you intrigued as you wait to hear what will become of Vincent and Dan. 

My kids enjoyed this historical audio drama just as much as In Freedom's Cause. It got them both interested in the Civil War and generals like Lee and Jackson. We listened to the discs in the car on trips back and forth to run errands. Our trips to "town" take at least 20 minutes there and 20 minutes back so we finished the whole thing in short time. When we would get home after listening, I'd print a couple of pages of the study guide. Orally, we'd go through several questions from each page, and we'd talk about the vocabulary words. This wasn't an "official" school assignment for us since it is (was) still summer time, but I wanted them to go through some of the questions to make sure they were really listening and understanding the story. 

This high quality production is better than a movie. The amazing soundtrack keep the excitement high as Vincent goes from one adventure to the next. The cast is amazing, and the story is captivating. The tale of a 15 year old at war kept my kids and me intrigued from beginning to end. I have a feeling they will ask to listen to this story again and again. Lately I've been looking for ways to cut their screentime down and audiobooks are certainly one solution. They can listen and color or draw as they do so. Or in Speedy's case, he can pull out some little plastic toy soldiers and reenact the scenes as he listens. 

Apple says "I love history, and this was great history! The different voices keep the story very interesting."

"I like that they had an adventure, and it included a character for G.A. Henty telling the story. Kirk Cameron is on there and he makes good movies! The guy from Lord of the Rings is on there too!" said Speedy. 

We enjoy reading books together as a family but time restraints can keep us from doing that as often as we'd like. Audio books are a big deal for our family. They provide entertainment for our trips in the car. I love that this production gives an educational twist to the entertainment. My kids both enjoy reading but there's something special about listening to an audio theater production together and the discussions that ensue. 

With Lee in Virginia is available now as a physical CD set or a download. The special bonuses we received are also available with some packages. The price is very affordable, and the materials are well worth the cost. 

See what other Crew members think of With Lee in Virginia:

With Lee in Virginia Audio Drama Review

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Monday, July 27, 2015

UnLocking Pre-Algebra

The beginning of our school year is right around the corner, and Apple will be studying Pre-Algebra this year. She was a little intimidated by it until we got the opportunity to review UnLock Pre-AlgebraUnLock Math is an online math curriculum source with courses for Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, and soon they will be adding Algebra 2.  Pre-Algebra is typically a 7th/ 8th grade course but over time Apple has gotten ahead in math and so this is the level she is tackling.                                          
Unlock Math Review

Honestly, I've worried that Pre-Algebra might be too advanced for my 10 yr old 6th grader. It just sounds so.....grown? Mature? Hard? Apple was nervous about it too. UnLock Pre-Algebra has given her a ton of confidence. She is excited about math and learning all new things. I think she feared that math would never get anymore complicated than addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. UnLock Math has truly unlocked a whole new world of study for her. I'm really glad that this was the curriculum she had to begin Pre-Algebra. 

For this site, you register as a parent and then assign your student to the course you have purchased. You set your student up with a password, and they are generated a number as their login. Then they can access their account through the student login. Once they access their account, they come to a dashboard. This page lists all the units for the course. It also has a link for a formula sheet (notes), a pacing guide, and 2 percentage graphs. One graph marks how much of the course is completed. The other gives them an average grade on all the work they've completed so far. 

There are also links for the gradebook for the course and for a progress report. As the teacher, this is where you will go to see how your student is progressing. If you click on a unit, you will get a big colorful pie graph to show how much work is completed on that particular unit. 

From the dashboard, your student can launch the unit they need. Once inside the unit they will see the daily lessons, quizzes, and tests. The number of daily lessons varies for each unit. The pacing guide (found on the dashboard) can give you an estimated number of days each unit should take. I just had Apple do a daily lesson and then the quizzes and tests at our own pace. We followed the pacing guide schedule pretty closely as it gives 1 day for each lesson, 1 day for review, and 1 day for the test. The quizzes are super short and can be tacked on following a daily lesson. 

Each daily lesson consists of 5 parts. The Warm Up is a short set of questions for review. The video is the lesson. The Practice Problems are the worksheet of the lesson. The Stay Sharp questions are a review questions to help the student stay on target. Challenge Yourself is always one question for a bonus. It may or may not be related to that day's lesson. The Reference Notes are notes from the lesson. 

The videos are not long. The ones I checked were all less than 10 minutes. Apple said they were not boring at all and that each video was very easy to understand. Matthew and Alesia Blackwood have created this program. Alesia is the teacher on all the videos. She brings her experience as a math teacher to the homeschool community through UnLock Math. Apple says,"she shows a lot of examples on the video and she covers everything". I think the videos are the key to this curriculum. The instructor is right there in front of the student (just like in a classroom setting), and she is using a touchscreen to show the examples of each lesson. She is very animated and excited about math. There are some subjects that I feel confident that I can teach my children with ease and patience. Math ain't one of them. With UnLock Math, I'm not the teacher. Alesia Blackwood is the teacher and the program even does all the grading. That's a win-win for me!

We've had one issue while using the program. Apple took a unit test and made a score lower than desired. She re-took the unit test and made a slightly higher score but still less than the grade she was capable of making. Now logically two times to take a test should (and would) be enough for most students. I believe the curriculum was thorough and that Apple understood the material based on the scores she had made on the practice problems, quizzes, and unit review. I asked her to take it a third time. She tried and was unable to do so. I went onto the program with her and found there was no way to override and allow her to take it again. I sent an email to customer service and received a very fast response from Matthew Blackwood himself. We were able to talk on the phone about the issue and another question I had. He is so nice y'all! The level of customer service I received is just not found very often these days. By the next day, the whole program was changed to allow students to take the tests more than 2 times. I am so appreciative of the way our issue was handled. Apple and I were both very impressed. 

UnLock Pre-Algebra provides a whole year of Pre-Algebra curriculum. The price is higher than we would normally pay for a year's worth of math, but I've gotta say it looks well worth the cost from the time we've spent with the program. There is a monthly plan available as well. Apple loves that the lessons are broken down into small, easy to learn portions. She likes the format of the videos and practice questions. The 15-20 practice questions for each daily lesson were quick to do, and she never felt like she had busy work with this program. The Stay Sharp portion averaged about 20 questions as well and did a good job of keeping her fresh on all the material. Apple feels very mature as she takes responsibility for using this program and instantly seeing her grades without mom's help. This curriculum has made our transition into middle school math a success!

See what other Crew members thought of UnLock Math:
Unlock Math Review
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Service in the Church

Serving in your church home can be messy business for adults. There are other adults to deal with who have many opinions about everything. Some thrive on tradition. Others are always looking to incorporate the newest, popular thing. Even in your own church, many will hold differing opinions on Biblical and doctrinal issues. However, we are called to serve the Lord and we have to overlook those hard people and hard moments in order to do so.

I firmly believe children who are being raised in the church also need to be taught to serve in the church. Kids learn by example but also by practice. Children watching their parents teach a class or usher during service will not understand their role in the church only by observing. Some churches offer many places for children to serve. Others don't give kids a place to serve at all. If your church doesn't have a place for kids to serve then I would encourage you to find a way to change that. If your church does have places for kids to serve then I think you should take every advantage of that.

I've been so disappointed recently to have many parents tell me their children won't serve in church because "they don't want to" or "it isn't a priority for them". Children are children. They need guidance from their parents to do the right thing (if this statement confuses you please see this post). My heart is so saddened by the thought that parents wouldn't encourage their kids to do service for the Lord during church. If it is lighting a candle or collecting tithes or counting, whatever the service is your child should be involved if they have the opportunity. This prepares them for serving in the church as adults. Especially if your child is resistant, I think you should have them do it. As adults do we only have to do the things we want to do? Do we only do the things that bring us pleasure? Of course not! Allowing your child to think life works that way is setting them up for failure.

Psalm 100:2(KJV) Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

Do your children serve in church? 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Turn Off The Screens

Do your kids spend too much time looking at screens? Mine certainly do. We limit their screen consumption quite a bit, but it still seems as though they are looking at electronics for a good portion of each day. I've wanted them to try some of the online programming games but I didn't want to give them another reason to indulge in more screentime. ThinkFun has just the solution we need! They sent me their newest game, Code Master, to review (for free!). 

Code Master is a programming logic game that will be available beginning August 2, 2015 exclusively at Target. This new game by ThinkFun gives your child (or yourself!) the ability to use logic to work through 60 video game type levels. The levels run the scale from beginner to expert. The game is recommended for ages 8 and up and is made for one player.

It comes with the map book that is spiral bound and includes the 10 maps that make up the game. To the left of each map is a set of symbols to indicate what is used for each level. The game also includes a set of guide scrolls. These scrolls show the player how many moves they can make for the level. You also received a the red plastic avatar piece and the gray plastic portal. Then there are 12 action tokens, 8 conditional tokens, and 6 crystals. 

My kids started on level one and took turns playing. Each level only has one solution so they went up a level on each turn. Once they find the map for the level they are playing, they turn to the correct guide scroll, place the avatar and portal, and then pull out the playing pieces (crystals and/ or tokens) for that level. 

After that the logic portion of the game is on. They must figure out how to make take their avatar to the crystals and portal using a limited number of specific moves. It only took my kids a few minutes to figure out how to play. 

They were both very interested in the game and had fun figuring out each sequence. As the levels got harder, they began helping one another. They have never played a game quite like this. Since the first time they played, they've pulled it out several more times. They even pulled it out for a neighbor to play yesterday. The solution to each level is in the back of the instruction booklet but we haven't needed to use it! 

Logic is an important skill and this fun game is a great way to incorporate it. I really like that they were both interested in the game enough to work together and help one another. If you are looking for a fun game for your kids that doesn't involve a screen, check out Code Master. This would also make a wonderful Christmas gift! It's never too early to start planning....

I received a free game in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sausage & Veggie Frittata

I cook all the time, and usually the minute we finish eating, I realize I should have taken a picture so I could share the recipe with you. This is a simple, versatile recipe that we use often. It is a great recipe for using whatever you have on hand.

This particular night I used....

1 lb sausage
1 T oil
1 diced tomato
1 diced onion
2 diced potatoes
10 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded cheddar.

Preheat the oven to 350. If you have an oven safe skillet, that is what you will want to use. First cook and drain the sausage. Sit it aside and put the skillet back on the stove on med low. Use the oil to coat the skillet and then put in the potatoes and onion. Saute until the potatoes are soft. Return the sausage to the same pan. In a large bowl, crack the eggs and whisk. Add salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the veggies. Add the tomatoes to the skillet and cook on med low until the edges of the eggs are set (5-7 minutes). Add cheese on top and put the skillet in the preheated oven. Cook until the middle is set (15-20 mins). Remove from the oven, slice into triangles and serve. We enjoy it for dinner with toast and then eat the leftovers for breakfast.

Try it meatless or with other veggies you have in the kitchen.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Take Your Kids on a Journey Through the Middle Ages

My latest Schoolhouse Review Crew item is from Home School in the Woods. I've heard of their curriculum in the past, but I've never tried it until I received Project Passport World History Study: The Middle Ages to review. There are three time periods to choose from (with more to come) in this series. The Middle Ages seemed like a good fit for my kids based on the history we've studied so far.

Home School in the Woods Review

When you buy one of these products, you choose a digital download or a CD. We received the digital download. Either one will take you on a fun adventure with your kids that involves reading, listening, and loads of activities and hands on projects! When you open the program, it can feel a little overwhelming! I definitely recommend reading the introduction. This is a program that the teacher needs to spend some time working on before the students are involved. 

This study is divided into stops. There are 25 stops and this is recommended to be done in 8-12 weeks. I can see where you could easily take longer and meander through this study. I can also see how easy it would be to finish quicker....if your kids insist on more than 1 stop a day.....because they love it all so much! Each stop is broken down in the Travel Itinerary. That's where you want to start to see what needs to be printed, what the activities are for that stop, and basically to figure out what you are doing. The Guide Book Text is the information you will read at each stop. This curriculum is designed to be done with multiple children at a time. It works great for children of different ages too. My 8 and 10 year old have both found it very interesting. The suggestion is to print a copy of everything for each child. I'm going to confess right here that I did not do that. We tend to work as a team on these types of things anyway and this curriculum involves a LOT of printing. I can see where kids would enjoy having their own, but my kids were just fine sharing the workload (maybe that's why we could accomplish more than 1 stop at a time....). 

You will need a very large 3 ring binder to hold many of the projects (if you are doing more than 1 then you will need more than 1 binder). Your child (or children) will also create a "luggage bag" using a pocketed folder with brads. Before beginning you will need to make a list of the types of paper needed (colored, white, cardstock, etc) and any extra supplies needed for some of the projects. There are plans to make a castle, make a hat, etc. It would also be good to decide ahead of time if you will do every activity or project listed for each stop. I think there is definitely benefit in every suggested activity.

Each time we worked on this, I had all the items we needed printed out and ready to go. I would read the Guide Book Text and then give out their assignments for the stop. We split the work as evenly as possible so they were both involved. There are a few audio tours along the way that the kids really enjoyed as well. Every activity really adds to the lesson and makes it memorable for the students.

One of the stops on this journey included making puppets for to represent each class of society during that time. My kids both LOVED doing this. It was simple figures on cardstock that they could color. We put ours on popsicle sticks and they put on several plays for us. I thought it was great that they got such a kick out of being knights, noblemen, and serfs.

Some of the stops include fun games to make and play. The one they are playing below was the Matching Game of Occupations. What a great way for them to learn more about the jobs during this time period! There was another game included along the way called Fox & Geese which was similar to checkers. I was pleasantly surprised that they were so excited to color and "create" the games and play together. Both were excited that the games went into the large scrapbook so they could play in the future.

Apple was our official newspaper editor and she's been providing all the stories, pictures, and ads for "The Medieval Times". Every few stops the itinerary will include an assignment for the newspaper.
Speedy has been our official timeline keeper. Each stop includes several things to add to the timeline which is kept in the scrapbook. He colors them and puts them on the timeline.

I think you can see that the kids have really enjoyed learning about the Middle Ages this way. There are some suggestions for additional resources. Many of them are books we already read or audiobooks they've already heard. I didn't have them specifically use any of the other suggestions because they took it upon themselves to find some other books at the library on this time period. I love their intiative to learn more on their own, and I'm thankful that their interest was piqued by Project Passport.

I have to be honest. This is a curriculum that I would probably never pick on my own. It is digital and not a hard copy, and it involves so much printing. Not only is it a lot of printing but it's time consuming. Because each item needs to be printed on different paper, you have to print each page individually. In a way, I can totally understand why it is set up by stop this way. The more logical, cheap side of me doesn't understand why there isn't a master printing list where many items can be printed at a time based on the type of paper they use. Maybe someday this curriculum will include that.

Even with my reluctance and wish for an easier way, my kids LOVE this curriculum. They have asked to do it many times and they were never satisified with just one stop. They've played with the puppets and games long after our school time was finished. Both have been stirred to learn more about the Middle Ages, and it is hard to argue with those results. I have always been a history buff, and I'm excited that they see the value in learning more about history.

In conclusion, their excitement over a learning activity totally trumps my resistance to this type of curriculum. I would highly recommend this product for homeschooling families with kids in grades 3-8. It is fun. It is hands-on. It is memorable. It is worth all the printing.

See what other Crew members thought of Home School in the Woods:

Home School in the Woods Review

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Build Your Girl's Confidence with this Fun Read

My latest review item is 101 Things Every Girl Should Know: Expert Advice on Stuff Big and Small from the editors of Faithgirlz and Girls' Life Magazine. I thought it would be a fun read for Apple. Some books like this spend too much time on boyfriends and popularity, but I figured with the Faithgirlz label this one would be okay.

I thumbed through it before I gave it to Apple. It does mention boys a little (of course) and periods (so don't give this unless you've had that talk), but the messages are very positive and the tips were very gentle. I wasn't sure I'd agree with the "experts" who wrote this book but for the most part I thought the tips were good.

Apple delved right into the book and even made us a cake from one of the recipes! She loves to read and books like this just stir her interest in new ideas and goals. By the way the signature recipe chocolate cake was pretty good!

I think books like these help girls feel a little older and more mature. I remember reading loads of magazines in the tween stage and most of those I wouldn't allow Apple to have. 101 Things Every Girl Should Know is a great alternative to a tween magazine subscription. I'm sure my girl will thumb through it again and again.

I was given a free copy of this book from BookLook bloggers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.