Wednesday, July 29, 2015

{Schoolhouse Review} ~ UnLock Math

Math is a hard subject for me to teach. So far, I have brought two students through the world of algebra, and this next year it is Dasher's turn.

This is where UnLock Math  and their UnLock Pre-Algebra program comes to the rescue.

Unlock Math Review

What It Is:

UnLock Math is an online homeschool math curriculum. Now I know there are lots of these types of programs out there, but there are some unique qualities to this one that I really liked.

First I felt it was very well organized.

Each day you do math, the student goes through the same steps.

Unlock Math Review

First up is the Warm Up. There are around 5 basic math questions to answer, which review addition and subtraction facts.

Next is the Video Lesson. These are taught by Alesia Blackwood, an enthusiastic teacher who loves getting your kids excited about math. The lessons are not too long and Alesia does a great job of describing the concepts.

After the video lesson is the Practice Problems. Your student will work through problems that are specific to the concept that was taught in the video. They are checked by the program as your child answers; if they get to many wrong the program will continue to ask them questions.

Next comes Stay Sharp. This part of the lesson reviews previously taught concepts. There are about 10 problems to do in the section.

And finally, Challenge Yourself. This final question is in word problem format and is the most challenging question in the lesson. These questions are also great and show how we use algebra on a daily basis.

Within the lesson is a reference page; this is helpful for reviewing and can be downloaded as a PDF.

 What You Get:

I received a years' access to UnLock Math. There are two different log-ins; one for the student and one for the parent. In the parent's log-in, you can assign work and keep track of your child's progress. One nice feature of this program is that you can very easily plan out the entire year of study, with each day being given specific work to do.

There are also quizzes, reviews, tests, a mid-term, and a final exam. The quizzes and tests all combine to make up the student's grade. You can access the Course Gradebook on the student's homepage, and see exactly where your child is in the program and what their grade is so far.

How We Used This And What We Thought:

Dasher really struggles with math and is an extremely visual learner. This was a good fit for her in that sense; the videos are engaging and have lots of graphs and other visual aides to help teach the concepts. I appreciated Alesia's teaching style; she completely understands that math can be hard for some students, and tried her best to make the learning interesting and fun.

Dasher struggled with some of the concepts, but loved it that the videos were not drawn out, but got right to the meat of the lesson. The pace was good, and even though we moved slowly through the lessons, she was retaining what she was learning. This in part, was due to the Stay Sharp sections. These did a great job of reviewing other algebra concepts. I also really appreciated the Warm Up. Many times we only focus only on algebra, and forget the basic math that still needs to be practiced.

Overall I really liked this math program. I do wish that we could have printed off worksheets; I do feel it is important for the kids to write out their algebra problems with pencil and paper. We will be taking a break from math the month of August, but I do think we will pick back up with UnLock Math in the fall.

Check out what other reviewers thought by clicking below!

UnLock Math Review

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

{Schoolhouse Review} ~ Homeschool Buyers Co-op

Ever wonder how I organize our school schedules?

Well up to this point, I had tried lots of different methods, but none of them worked perfectly. And so when I was offered the opportunity to review Homeschool Planet from Homeschool Buyers Co-op I was thrilled.

This is an online scheduling system that is very user friendly. When I first received my membership, I sat down for an hour or so to familiarize myself with the format and capabilities of the site. This came at the perfect time for us; we had just finished county fair and I still had a month of school left. I had not yet done any scheduling for that last month, so this was a perfect fit.

I first gave each child a profile and began to fill in their information. I loved it that there are thumbnail photos for each of them!

Homeschool Planet Review

 There is a video tutorial that I found very helpful in explaining how to use the schedule. I was able to add daily subjects, or subjects that were only done a couple times a week. As I kept adding subjects, I was pleasantly surprised with the ease of this scheduling. At one point early on, I figured out that I could tell the program how many lessons there were and when I wanted it completed, and it would figure out how many lessons to do each week!

Homeschool Planet Review

And for those days when you get behind? (Oh, I have had those for sure.) You just don't mark the assignment as complete and it adjusts your schedule!  I really appreciated that feature; I can't think of any system I have ever used that was able to re-adjust so easily.

This does not just schedule school. I was able to color code different activities and put them on the schedules. And, with the touch of a button, I can have this be an activity for all four children or just one. All our 4H activities, chores, work schedules, orthodontist appointments, can go on this schedule.

Homeschool Planet Review

After a couple of days I began to experiment. I made up a profile and called her "Menu". Now, I could add my menu to each day of the schedule, so at a glance I could see what I was making each night. I also made up a profile for myself to do my daily chores. I do try to be consistent when I do laundry and clean areas of the house, so the schedule was very helpful in keeping me accountable.

I even added birthdays of those that are close to me. I am horrible about remembering them, and only think of it when Facebook reminds me. Of course they only remind me the day of their birthday, so it is too late for a card. Not anymore. I scheduled all birthdays for the week before, so that I had time to purchase a card or plan something out.

When you first log into Homeschool Planet, you come to your very own homepage. This page has lots of places for you to make it personal; you can change the theme or colors, and add all sorts of fun widgets. Some of these are a Daily Quote, To Do List, Weather, and Daily Bible Verse. And you can easily move them around the page, to make the layout truly your own.

So how did I like this? I really loved being able, at the touch of a couple of buttons, to fill in math lessons for the entire school year. Now this only works that way if you are using a curriculum that has lessons per day, but it can easily be adapted to whatever the assignment might be. Instead of typing the same thing over and over (read for 20 minutes, 4 pages of grammar, etc.) Homeschool Planet gives you the option to just copy the assignment on each day that you want your student to do that particular subject.

And I really appreciated that you could adjust the schedule when you had sick days or days where all of the subjects were not completed. The schedules are easily printed, which I would do each Monday. Each child's name is at the top of the page, with their weekly work laid out for them. I would also receive an email of our weekly schedule which was very helpful too, especially for appointments.

There is the option to keep track of grades and test scores, and even send message reminders to the kids via text or email.

So take a look at Homeschool Planet; right now you can sign up for a 30 day FREE trial. Check out this video tutorial and then see what other Crew members thought by clicking below.

Homeschool Planet Review

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

This Last Weekend

This Last Weekend.....

These giggly girls.....

 because they are best friends.

These two.....

because their friendship is beautiful.

This combination.....

because wine and Speed Scrabble are lovely together. (Stop stealing my M&M's!)

Joyful faces.....

 because friends bring happiness.

 Night volleyball.....

because it is lots of fun, but a totally different game. (Or, a good excuse for losing.)

A new card game in the morning.....

Because Kemps turned out to be a huge hit with everyone.

{Schoolhouse Review} Prasso Ministries

Bible is the most important subject that I teach my children. It is the reason that I homeschool, so that I can not only teach all subjects from a Christian worldview, but to also ground my children in our faith.

So I am always looking for ways to help me to do this, and this is where Prasso Ministries helps out.

Teen Prasso Review

What It Is:

I received the Teen Prasso Teacher Manual and Homework Manual.

You might think that this is an odd name for a Bible study, but the word prasso is a Greek word that means to repeat, and continually practice. That is definitely what I want my children to be doing with scripture!

The study has 13 lessons. They are meant to take about a week each, so you could complete this in one semester. The lessons cover many things including:

  •  Anger
  • Forgiveness
  • Pride and Selfishness
  • Depression
  • Peer Pressure
  • Staying Focused

And much more. 

There are three essential features to the curriculum:

First is the Student Journal. This book is meant to be filled in daily during the course of the study. Each day there are reading sections, scripture to look up, and thought questions.

Teen Prasso Review

Another component is the Weekly Teaching Lesson. These are found in the Teacher Manual, and are in a fictitious story-like format. The story follows two teenage boys who go on a hiking adventure for a week. Through the story they need to deal with all sorts of trials, settings, and situations, which are then made applicable to each chapter subject.

Teen Prasso Review

The third component is the Weekly Small Group Discussion. These are found after the Teaching Lessons. On this page is a list of questions you can use to ask your student. Although intended for a group study, this program can easily be used with a single student.

How We Used This and What I Thought:

Mr. Lego has officially graduated so I can't really use him too much in my reviews anymore. This is meant for teens so I thought it would be perfect for Bookworm to do. She did it each weekday, and spent about 25-30 minutes per day. She found a few questions easy, and a couple that challenged her. There were many thoughtful questions about what the student is struggling with, and how they should deal with the issue. Some of the questions that were easy for her asked her to either copy or paraphrase a scripture verse. Don't get me wrong, these are great exercises. But for my 15 year old, they were a little below her learning level.

At first I read her the Weekly Teaching Lesson aloud. We did find that it was slightly below her reading and understanding level. After the first lesson I let her read the lesson on her own, but I did ask her the questions off of the Small Group Discussion page. There were not only questions there, but discussion ideas as well, which I really liked. For example, in the third week there is an accident in the story. The student is asked why God would let things happen to people, and guides the teacher in going over God's attributes. 

I had mixed feelings about this program. I thought it was well put together, and while the story at times could get a bit corny, it had many great examples of real struggles that teens have today. It was very well put together for the teacher and had excellent study and discussion questions. At the beginning of the Teacher Manual is a section for teachers to read, that give insight into leading teens and how to best converse with them.

I did feel at times though, that I had a theological conflict with this program. I am Reformed, and believe that in redemption Christ is the one that chose me, and gave me faith. There were a couple of times where I disagreed with the language of the program; where it would encourage a student to 'choose Christ', or mentioning that we have 'the option' to accept or reject God's gift. But the bulk of the program was good, and even though both Bookworm and I found it to be a bit basic, I did feel that it is a good solid study guide for younger teens.

Others reviewed this curriculum; check out what they thought by clicking below.

Prasso Ministries Review

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, July 6, 2015

{Schoolhouse Review} CursiveLogic

Sometimes I think that teaching cursive is a dying art. But there have been so many studies done that show how important this skill is. And one of my daughters has obtrocious printing, but when I taught her cursive years ago, I could finally read her writing. And so now that I felt that Nutsy was ready, I decided to review this new cursive curriculum.

What It Is:

CursiveLogic sent me CursiveLogic Workbook, a spiral soft-cover workbook, which is all you need for the course. This method is different; instead of having your child memorize the form of each letter, they use two features to teach cursive.

First, they group all letters by shape. There are only four shapes for the entire lower case alphabet, and so each lesson focuses on a different shape. And each shape is taught in a specific order, which reinforces the pattern.

Secondly, instead of teaching each individual letter, they teach all of the letter groups in letter strings. From the very first lesson, these strings teach students how to connect letters correctly.

How do they do this?

With a few cues:

Theme colors are used for each string. For example, the first string your child learns is the Orange Oval. There is also emphasis on the verbal cues, as students learn rhythmic chants to help them remember the path of each letter.

How We Used This and What I Thought:

As I said above, I felt it was high time to have Nutsy learn cursive, so about 4 weeks ago we began this course. We found the instructions easy, and the pages self explanatory. There is a section at the beginning of the workbook that explains the technique in detail for parents.

She was excited because very quickly into the book she was writing actual words. Since we weren't doing too much other school this last month we were able to progress through the book faster than normal. We got about two-thirds of the way through the book and I am very happy with how easily she writes in cursive now. I also like it that the workbook is to the point, without any distractions from silly cartoon characters or images.

I looked over the website and read how older children can benefit from this as well. And that is exactly what Dasher needs! She has struggled with connecting the letters in her cursive, which is really alleviated with this method, which teaches the letter connection from the start. And because there aren't any 'youngish' type illustrations, this program could really be used with any age. I am planning on purchasing her a workbook to use beginning in September.

I really encourage you to teach your children cursive. Cursive is so important and helps with language skills, memory, and critical thinking.  I also encourage you to give CursiveLogic a try; it really helped our family and I know it will help yours.

Check out what other reviewers thought by clicking below.

CursiveLogic Review

Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Day Trip

This past Saturday we realized that something unusual was going to happen.

All six of us were going to be home, for the whole day. Both Mr. Lego and Bookworm now work, and usually have different schedules, but this one Saturday we were all home and did not have any plans.

Instead of gaming, reading, being bored, or finding a job to do around the house (and there is always that to do), we decided to take a day trip.

Because with an 18 year old that is making plans for his future, I don't know how many more of these days we have.

We headed to one of our favorite spots, Pope Beach, South Lake Tahoe.

I love being close enough to this beautiful place that we can hop in the car and still get there by mid-morning.

The water was chilly, but we still swam. After all, it was 104 degrees at our house. But here, it was a lovely 87 degrees.

 This beach is great, because you can walk out for quite a ways and it only goes up to our waists. It is hard to believe that the lake is the second deepest in the United States at 1,645 feet.

We made our spot on the beach and just hung out.

For lunch I had made Japanese potato salad, Karage (Japanese fried chicken), and sesame spinach.

Our kids think nothing of sitting on the beach, eating with chopsticks.

Then Dasher decided she wanted to be buried in the sand.

Bookworm and Mr. Lego did a pretty good job of it, and she was trapped. And what do you do when your sister is trapped in the sand? Torture her with nose-tickling and dripping water.

Mr. Lego was next, and his sisters took every advantage of him being incapacitated.

All those years of having a teasing brother.....very slightly paid back.

He definitely need to go for a swim after that.

Here they are trying to get My Sweetie into the water.

They all ended up in the drink.

The guys played football for a bit.

Water play.


Contemplating the view.

We broke out Bocce....I played a game with My Sweetie and lost, of course.

Here Nutsy has a turn.

Cuties in the sand.

Time really flies. We have been coming up to this beach in Tahoe since we moved to our current home over 15 years ago, and love the wonderful memories we have made here.