Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Jammin at Home

I first heard of Winter Jam several years ago. The tour's nearest stop is usually about an hour or so from where we live. The last two years I've considered going because I know Apple in particular would really enjoy it. We haven't made it yet but I did recently receive a DVD titled This is Winter Jam to review for Family Christian.

I expected this to be a recording of part of one of the concerts with maybe some bonus features that gave more information on the concert. This is so much more! It is an hour and a half movie about Winter Jam. It features members of many well known Christian bands telling their experiences with Winter Jam. It also gives behind the scenes information from the crew and even the tour pastor. We learned how the bands come together for worship during the tour and got a history review about the whole thing and how it began.

And there was music! Lots of music and footage from actual concerts from names you'll recognize like King and Country, Francesca Battistelli, and Building 429. I was really impressed with this DVD and totally enjoyed watching it. Of course Apple did too!

Now we REALLY REALLY want to go to Winter Jam! You can find your own copy of This is Winter Jam at FamilyChristian.com.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Learning History in a Fun Story #colonialamerica

If You Were Me and Lived in...Colonial America is by Carole P. Roman, and we recently received it for review. This paperback book contains more than 50 pages. It is illustrated by Sarah Wright. The book tells a story from the perspective of someone born in London in 1620. The story tells common names of the time and discusses the journey to the colonies. It gives detailed information about the historical time period in a way that kids can understand and maybe even relate to! Apple & Speedy both enjoyed this book as well as another in this series that was sent to us.

While this glossy paged book will appeal to younger children, I think older kids will like the story and pick up on the historical facts in it. There is a list of important people in the back along with a glossary of terms. This book is a great addition to our homeschool shelves and would be especially significant when studying early American history.

The combination of fun facts along with serious concerns during from the time period (lack of food, illnesses) makes this a learning book rather than just a story. This was our first experience with the If You Were Me and Lived In...series and we look forward to enjoying more in the future!

This book can be purchased on Amazon.

Homeschool Teacher's Summer

The kids are currently on a summer school schedule. They are working on review items and continuing a few items they really enjoy that will be on their schedules in the fall. Most days have been relatively easy for them, and it's working well so far. Every summer looks different for us. In the past we've completely taken off some summers, worked a full school schedule through some summers, and sometimes we do what we are doing this year.

Typically while they school in the summer, I work on their full fall and spring schedule. If you've been around the blog lately you'll notice I've recently reviewed two homeschool planning tools. I've been busy putting them both to work as I adjust everything for 4th and 7th grade. Prior to joining the Crew, we usually used the same or very similar curricula, and I had quite an easy system for planning it all out. This year as I started to choose their subjects for 2016-2017, I realized I had an abundance of resources already available!

I decided right away that I would take advantage of using as much as I could that we already owned. Not only do my many bookshelves groan under the weight of books and textbooks, but I found my computer FULL of downloads that I've purchased or won over the years. We also have access to several online sources that we don't always utilize to their full extent. So I set about deciding what we could use and what we would really need to buy.

I'm happy to say I've only made a few purchases. The bulk of our homeschool budget for this year will go to ink! Speedy is able to use several books and resources that Apple used for the same grade level. Apple will be taking 2 classes outside the home this fall and the resources for those classes will be covered in her fees. It's taking me quite a bit longer to put it all together this time (by this point I'm usually finished!), but it is taking shape.

Both kids needed some change in their organization methods. Earlier this year we adjusted one from a drawer system to a basket. It has worked well but will be getting tweaked even more. The other student is finally willing to let go of their drawers (I think) and will be using a spiral notebook and binder for each subject. That works particularly well for those that we are printing and using.

Every few years I get the urge to change their seating. Every time I think it will be the last time. You think I'd know better by now! Apple began at the dining room table then moved to a small table. When Speedy joined the "class" they both got little desks and chairs. Soon they outgrew those, and the grandparents found them larger school type desks and chairs. While those still fit them, they aren't perfect for our schoolroom, and they don't offer much storage space. Now I'm dreaming of putting two larger student desks with drawers in the room.

Just like all of life, our homeschool is constantly changing. I tend to resist change but I know that it is necessary for progress. While this summer planning time feels like a lot of work, I'm hopeful about the good it will bring about in the fall and spring. How is your summer going?

Old Testament for Upper Elementary #onlineBible

We have used some Veritas Press products in the past so Speedy was excited to receive 12 month access to their Self-Paced Bible Old Testament 1: Genesis to Joshua course. Prior to receiving this as a review item, both kids tried a free trial of the new VeritasBible.com option and both enjoyed it. Speedy was happy to be selected to review the full self- paced course for us. I picked him to do the course because he hasn't had as much Bible study as his sister, and I felt like he would benefit more from it.

This is our first experience with a Veritas Self-Paced course. I received a parent login and password, and Speedy received his own account. This course breaks down the events that occur in the Old Testament from the very beginning to Joshua. The lessons are broken into 32 events that are studied through 128 lessons. Each event has 3 days of lessons and then a test. This fits perfectly into our 4 day per week routine. Speedy would start a new event on Monday and do the test on Thursday. 

Each lesson includes a mix of videos and activities to cover the highlighted Bible event. The videos are short and humorous but pack in a lot of information. Speedy has done well with this program, but he has scored all over the scale. His average is a B right now which is perfectly acceptable. He either seems to do really well on the activities and tests or very poorly. It isn't a steady grade that he is receiving. 

Speedy says:
"I like that the characters in the videos are dressed up. Asher is my favorite. I like some of the games I get to play on there. It seems like my lessons are getting longer as I go."

I love that this course is Self-Paced. He logs in alone. He goes through his lesson alone. The website is laid out in a very student friendly manner. Everything is graded instantly. The longer we go on our homeschool journey, the more I have come to appreciate programs like this. I work from home and have 2 students simultaneously doing school each day. Any program that takes all or most of the pressure off of me is a win! Of course that only works if the student is enjoying the program. Speedy likes this Old Testament 1 course, and he often does it without being prompted or asked. He enjoys seeing his own grades and upcoming lessons without needing to ask me for the information. Apple liked the free trial and would have been happy to have done a full course of this herself. 

There are a variety of games that pop up throughout the lessons. He recently enjoyed one where he was able to "plant" seeds and buy supplies. He earned gold coins by answering questions correctly. This type of game has kept him involved and interested in the lessons.

I think this course would appeal to upper elementary to middle school students. Veritas Press actually lists this course as a recommendation for 2nd grade. I'm not sure Speedy would have followed along with this 2 years ago. It's just right for him now though! Veritas also offers other Self-Paced Bible courses as well as some Self-Paced History courses. We've had such a success with this one that I will keep them on my list to research more in the future. As for the parent account, it was an easy way to log in and check his grades. It was just as easy to log into his account and check his scores. I think if I had more than one student doing a course, I would be utilizing the parent account more often.

See what other Crew members have to say about the Veritas Press products they tried:
Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review
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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A World of Books {Review}

Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time by Jamie C. Martin is a catalog of books that can introduce your child to other places and cultures. I was so excited to receive this recently for a review item from BookLook bloggers. I'm always looking for books for my kids. Not only do we often need books to enhance our homeschool studies, but both children really have a love for reading.

It didn't take long for Apple to begin running out of age appropriate books. I'd say she had been reading less than 2 years when I started to feel the strain of finding books that challenged her but included only appropriate material. With much prayer over the years, God has sent us some amazing librarians and friends to make suggestions at just the right times. I've found that blogs, Pinterest, and other social media outlets can also be a treasure when looking for new books for Apple and Speedy. When I begin to read about this new book from Jamie C. Martin, I found myself intrigued.

The author was a world traveler before having children. She does still enjoy taking her family on trips, but she has found that motherhood has a way of keeping us closer to home. She wanted to give her children a view of our world and people so she began compiling a list of books. Thus this book emerged. It includes lists broken into geographical areas and then split by age range. The book is well written and well organized. It's a book that I want to doggy ear and highlight in and write on as I use the list for my family. She poses the question, "How do you give your children the world in your home?" and includes answers from people all over the world. I loved reading these but kept expecting them to be in natural breaks among the list. Instead they are randomly scattered.

I was excited to see some books on the lists that my kids have already read or even have on their bookshelves. I was even happier to see many books and authors that we aren't familiar with. I feel like I have a book to keep in our library bag to help us find new books and exciting places to explore. The organization of this book also makes it perfect for homeschool moms. It will be so easy to enhance unit studies or geography lessons with these books that include some fiction and some non-fiction.

What's your favorite children's/ tween book about another culture?

Online Record Keeping #homeschoolorganization

MySchoolYear.com offers online planning and record keeping for homeschools. I recently received an annual membership to My School Year (Homeschool Record Keeping) for review. This has been a very interesting product, and I've spent quite a bit of time on it during a free trial and the review period. This planning program is all online and has worked well for me using Google Chrome on my desktop.

I started using this program with the intent to use it as a digital planner for our summer work. This digital planner gives you the ability to set up a calendar for your school year and to include holidays and vacations. You can then set up each student and assign them a grade level and classes. After setting up their classes, there are a couple of different ways to add lessons to the classes. You can add lessons one at a time or do "Create-A-Plan" and either do "Quick Split" or "Rapid Repeat" lessons. I struggled in this area a bit because I do very descriptive lesson plans. I like to either give a specific worksheet or lesson such as "10C" or "Week 8, Day 1 video and worksheet" or "Read pages 6-18". I never found an easy way to set up those kind of lessons in succession. I ended up working on nearly every subject one day and lesson at a time. It was a bit time consuming. On some of the subjects, I allowed the program to just assign lesson 1, 2, 3, 4, etc to speed up the process. I did appreciate that it was easy to share lessons between the students. In some classes, Apple and Speedy work together on lessons or they do the same lessons independently. It was nice to only have to enter it once and then share it.

One reason I like to give descriptive lessons is so I can just print out a weekly plan for the kids. This program will email you daily or weekly. When I would get the weekly email, I would print it for the kids straight from my email. It will print but is a small version in order to use less paper if printing.

Even though it wasn't as easy as I wanted it to be, I was able to set up all their summer classes and start using My School Year. It serves as way more than a planner though. With this record keeping website, you can track grades, extra curricular activities, awards, and attendance! The program gives you as the teacher the ability to adjust the grading scales and to enter all the extras for your student. A nifty little Teacher's Aid is available to assist you if you are missing certain information for your students or plans.

I really like the extra curricular activities feature. I was able to input their sports and keep track of their camps for the summer too. While there isn't a feature to add those things to their schedules (that'd be nice though!), it is a great way to track all those additional classes and activities they participate in.

I have to say that my favorite aspect of My School Year is the grade tracking. This is a HUGE plus for me. This past school year I really started putting some emphasis on grades with my kids. They'd fallen into a pattern of not putting forth their best effort with their schoolwork because they knew I'd give them a chance to correct it. We are still working on overcoming that habit so we will continue to focus on grades this year. Last year I made a really simple spreadsheet to keep up with their daily grades. It was so very hard to calculate everything at the end of each semester. It wasn't organized well at all and I paid for it with several hours spent pouring over it trying to calculate final grades. It wasn't a good thing. In the Planbook, you open each lesson to mark it completed. When you do that you have the ability to assign a grade for that day's work or to complete it with no grade assigned. Hallelujah! Just what I needed. Not only that y'all. It calculates it all for you. Every day. The scores are always right there ready to access. I could cry tears of joy. I'm sure there are other programs that do that, but this is a biggie for me! It's also big for my kids because they can access their scores at anytime through my account to see where they stand.

Now that Apple is in 7th grade (GASP & sob), I have been looking ahead to requirements for high school. It can be a little overwhelming just to look over all the lists. One thing I've worried about is tracking her time for each class. My School Year will do that too! In the same screen that you can mark lessons complete and assign a grade, you can also input the number of minutes spent on the lesson. Score! This would make high school record tracking so much easier. You can even download a report card to print at any time!

While My School Year is a planning tool, for me it has worked even better as a record keeping tool. There are loads of other options to keep reading logs, print other types of reports, and add course materials. I am looking forward to utilizing this program over the next year to track our grades and print quarterly report cards for the kids. I'm also going to keep an eye on this program as we get closer to high school.

See how other members of the Crew used MySchoolYear.com:

Homeschool Record Keeping {MySchoolYear.com Review}

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