Friday, June 28, 2013

{Crew Review} Moving Beyond the Page Unit Studies

Over the past month, Luke and Levi and I have had the pleasure of reviewing two unit studies Moving Beyond the Page. This was a company I had not heard of before, and I was curious to see how they worked.
According to their website, Moving Beyond the Page (MBtP):

If this is intriguing to you, I encourage you to delve into their informative website to learn more about their program. Moving Beyond the Page sells complete curriculum designed to show interconnectedness of our world. However, these units can also be used individually for language arts, science, and social studies.  

$29.13 (online guide)
$33.18 (hard copy guide)

$20.92 (online guide)
$24.95 (hard copy guide)
Age 8-10 (reading level 4-5th grade)
Age 7-9 (reading level 3rd to early 4th grade)

Each of these units lasts approximately 10 lessons and conclude in a final project.  The final project helps the students synthesize all the information they learned about in a fun way.  Levi created an island based on information he learned about mapping and geography.  Luke’s project was to create an interview of Ben Franklin or to have a party for his birthday. The assignments definitely integrate creativity into the assimilation process.  {I’ll be honest and say that Luke didn’t get to his final project;  I had to leave for a funeral out of state and we got off track on the final project, but it definitely would have stretched Luke’s creativity and writing skills.}
Since we reviewed two different programs for two different age brackets, I thought I’d discuss each separately.

Product 1: The Land Science unit (click for sample)

This  was for Levi, who loves  learning geography and having another atlas/ geography book in the house.  I’m not sure what it is about maps that enchants him, but I’m not complaining (said this mama who used to poor over the road atlas for fun as a child and adult).

The package included a coil-bound study guide and the book Maps and Mapping. Our study guide was very comprehensive and included:

•General information on how to use a MBtP guide
•List of required books and materials (very well organized list, I might add, with materials needed divided up by each lesson)
•Vocabulary your child will encounter during the unit
•Lesson goals and targeted learning objectives
•Lesson by lesson  guide which includes information about what you and your child will cover, teaching information, and activity directions.

How We Used This Unit:  This unit really went beyond typical geography that we’ve covered before and delved into land use, resources, and farming.  Since we’ve never done typical social studies units, this information was helpful, and we definitely extended our studies by using other books we had lying around as well as the internet.  MBtP says each lesson should take about 30-45 minutes or so, but some days seemed to take a little longer, depending on the number of activities or worksheets that were supposed to be finished. Although there were only 8 lessons, we did take longer to complete this, mostly because we had a bunch of other end-of-the-year stuff going on. But sometimes, the sheer number of worksheets Levi had to do in a lesson made me insert a rest  day in between lessons. 

Whenever I told Levi it was time for geography, he grabbed the MBtP guide, our US road map, a world atlas and the Maps and Mapping book.  All this, just to be sure we had the basic resources we might need!  Although the Maps and Mapping book was not assigned page-by-page in the guide, it is expected that you read this throughout the lessons with your child.  I sort of forgot about this (until Levi just reminded me of it), so I know there there is much more we could’ve gotten out of this reference.

Here’s some pictures of what Levi and I worked on:
Tracking our state’s high and low average monthly temperatures in lesson 8’s topic: “My Environment”

We adapted a rather simple cut and paste activity and made a Natural Resources booklet instead – way more fun!

The final project was to create a travel brochure and draw a map of your ideal island.  After using a worksheet to plan all about  the natural resources, activities, and landforms, Levi made a brochure about his island (you can see a portion of it below) and then he needed to draw a map.  Honestly, when Levi saw another worksheet, he was not excited.  Instead, we added some hands-on to this unit and made a salt dough map (which still needs to be painted):

The creatively named “Levi’s Island” where you can entertain yourself at a lake, two rivers, a volcano, mountain, amusement park and ropes course. And lots of yummy fruit to eat!

My thoughts on The Land unit for ages 7-9: I was a little surprised at the number of worksheets for this unit.  Some days, this didn’t bother Levi, but other times, he really needed an opportunity to jazz up the work and do more than cut-paste-color. I’m not the most creative person in the world, but after home educating all these 10+ years, I have a few tools in my belt to help jazz up an activity, and these tools seemed to do the trick to keep Levi engaged.  Even with some of these adaptations he has collected an impressive mini-notebook of information about geography and natural resources. 

Product 2:  Ben and Me Literature Unit with online guide image

I was ecstatic when Luke practically begged me to review the novel  and literature study Ben and Me from the Language Arts section at MBtP (click for sample).  I was even more ecstatic when Luke had trouble stopping at two chapters a day.

This unit came with the paperback Ben and Me by Robert Lawson, access to an online study guide and a pocket kite kit.    Throughout this unit, students are reading and discussing topics such as fiction/non-fiction, opinion/ fact, the concept of power (as an energy and as a something exerted over people).  

While I’ll speak to the content of the unit itself in a bit, I want to point out the features of the online guide (click here to be taken to MBtP’s online information).

When you activate your unit, you’ll be given a specific time frame in which it can be used – but do not fear, the MBtP people understand life, and if you need more time, just email them and it can be extended (I didn’t need to do this but several other reviewers did, and they had positive comments about their communication with MBtP’s customer service).

Once you have activated your unit, you’ll have access to all the same content as in the hard copy (like I outlined for our The Land unit), but it is all organized for access from any internet connection.  Worksheets can be printed out from the “Get Ready” topic all at once, or they can be printed out lesson by lesson. 
Here is a snip of the contents of introductory material (your students will need the Activity Pages and the Reading and Question Pages):


The next section, called Lessons, is a handy check list of lessons for each unit.  Once you’ve worked through all the material, it is crossed off for you.  All you list makers like this feature, don’t you?!

When you are ready for a lesson, click on it and you’ll be taken to a specific set of pages:  the Intro, Activities, and Conclusion.  

Read through Intro, then move on to Activities, then wrap up your lesson with Conclusion.
When you get to the Activities section, you’ll be passing out directions to your student and engaging in conversations with them.  I think one of the great features of this curriculum is all the great conversations you’ll have with your children.  In the Ben and Me unit, your child’s thinking is going to grow beyond just thinking about the concept of power as electricity to include how people and groups of people exert power over one another.  And, although the material is not written from a Christian perspective, you’ll definitely be able to have great discussions about how these concepts play out from a Biblical perspective.

Some of the language arts concepts covered by this unit include: vocabulary development, fact/ opinion, fiction/ non-fiction, writing sentences with different openers, understanding the genre of historical fiction, and understanding characteristics of literary figures.  A lot of these concepts were new to Luke so we didn’t do all of them, but rather I picked ones so that Luke and I could get the biggest benefit from the study.  There were a lot of activities for this unit, and I found us spending over an hour per lesson on reading activities after Luke had completed his two chapters.  This was a little much for him!

Luke’s reading assignments was generally two chapters per lesson. Sometimes I gave Luke a worksheet I printed from the website to complete and other times we did them all orally. Another option is the ability to let your student type into a text field online; then you can print out the worksheet for their portfolio or literature binder.

The conclusion section wraps up reading an hands-on activities for each lesson:

But let’s be honest, the best part of this unit was making a kite!  Luke, my future Marine, designed a camo kit and had very good luck flying this kite, which was buoyed by air sleeves instead of crossed supports:

My thoughts on Ben and Me unit for ages 8-10: I’m not sure that Luke and I have done much in terms of literature studies since his reading took off this year.  The book itself was very inspiring to Luke, and he enjoyed that it dove-tailed with science as well. {I’ll have to remember to incorporate literature and science for him in the future.} The comprehension materials provided by MBtP were challenging for Luke, in a good way, and I was pleased to see him grow in his ability to take information he had read and apply it to the world.
Final Observations and Notes:
  • I think these are great unit studies, and I would not hesitate to do another one, two or dozen (!) in the future with Luke and Levi. 
  • For our family, the suggested pacing seemed pretty intense most days, especially if I asked the boys do to all their work in writing.  Thankfully as homeschoolers, we can set the pace for our studies and alter assignments to meet our students’ needs.
  • Not being very creative myself, I appreciated that the lessons encouraged my boys to be expressive, artistic and creative with their words.  It stretched all of us – and that is what learning is about.
Reviews with students of all ages had the opportunity try out a wide variety of products from Moving Beyond the PageClick to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Random 5 on Friday Saturday with Link Ups

I was visiting over at Memories by Miranda and saw Miranda's meme. I was on a plane all day yesterday and couldn't get this posted, so although I'm a day late, I thought I'd add to the fun. 

1) Big sky. I am a Midwesterner. As much as I love a mountain vista, I love the rolling hills and wide open expanses of sky. I traveled alone to my hometown this week and breathed deep of blue skies, silos, and knee-high corn. Lovely. 

{this is my nephew practicing his putt}

2) Job security. I came home to four males who showed me that I am indispensable to my family. To be fair, my husband works from home in a business start up and had a bunch if kid activities dumped in him with my sudden departure for my hometown and a funeral. He didn't get my memo that gave him permission to cancel out on a couple activities and tried to do it all. Poor guy. 

3) Natural Consequences. I have a certain student who is not finished with his 8th grade year yet. He's not allowed to go to friends' houses or sleep overs until all work is turned in. I know this is the right thing to do, but I'm really ready to close the books on 8th grade.  This is testing my perseverance in doling out consequences.

4) Geek. I'm learning Latin this summer. I'm taking an online class geared for parents. It is fast paced, but totally doable. I want to give Kathy Sheppard props for a great program that is accessible to moms/ parents who want a firmer foundation for teaching their children. 

5) Nerd. Next up for me to re-learn is Algebra II. I know this sounds tortuous to some, but I can't wait!

Click on over to Miranda to see other ramdom-ness {including cute kittens}.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

{Crew Review} Latin for Young Ones: Prima Latina

Levi is having his cake and eating it too.  He just helped me finish up another foreign language review!  This time we reviewed Memoria PressPrima Latina complete set ($90.90), a gentle Latin program for kindergarten up to 2nd or 3rd grade students.

Really, I can’t think of a resource that you would need to add to your beginning Latin studies outside of this set:
  • Teacher book – this has some additional information for teachers, but includes copies of all the student pages with answers typed in. {click for sample-Teacher Manual and Table of Contents}
  • Student book {click for sample-Sample Lesson I}
  • DVD set of Leigh Lowe teaching this course lesson by lesson to students {see a sample here – Prima Latina DVD}
  • Pronunciation CD for each lesson (which includes some Latin prayers and songs)
  • Flashcards (you won’t use all of them, because they are keyed to Latina Christiana)
The goals of this program are to gently introduce Latin to young learners who will:
  1. learn the Latin alphabet and (ecclesiastical or “church”) pronunciation
  2. pronounce, spell, and speak a vocabulary of 125 words
  3. learn 4 prayers and 25 conversational Latin phrases/ sayings (such as ‘hello,’ ‘how are you?’)
  4. Count to 10
  5. learn the names of popular constellations
  6. begin to understand the concept of derivatives – English words that come from Latin words.
  7. learn grammar principals – identify basic parts of speech, understand that ‘conjugating’ is for verbs while ‘declining’ is for nouns, and memorize the 1st declension for nouns and 1st conjugation for verbs.
Each of the 25 lessons (plus a review after each set of 5 lessons and a test) are designed to be completed in one week.  There are not hard-and-fast suggestions on how to accomplish the lesson, written workbook exercises, DVD lessons, and drill practice, but the teacher’s guide has an appendix with some suggestions on elements to include in each lesson.

How We Used This Program:  Levi is a pretty methodical student {so far}, and he likes working at a steady pace.  We usually finished a lesson in 3-4 sittings, which is a little faster than I expected; but really, at 1st grade, I’m just following his lead.  {Which means sometime we completed a lesson in 1.5 weeks because we needed a day off or had an appointment somewhere.}

As suggested in the study guide, Levi would watch the video to begin his lessons.  He really liked it, and didn’t seem to be bored with them at all. That is good, because they are not the most exciting DVDs, but they certainly do the job well. Ms. Lowe has a gentle demeanor and pleasant voice for early elementary students. There is nothing flash or loud about these lessons.  I would describe the video as being very traditional – Ms. Lowe speaks to the camera and written words are put on the screen to help the child with reading comprehension and pronunciation. I’m grateful that Levi is a good reader and he can use these written word cues to help him recognize and pronounce words. I love watching him repeat and follow Ms. Lowe’s directions; he even corrects me when I don’t do the right thing.

After we listen to the lesson, we would find our flashcards.  Each lesson introduces just 5 vocabulary words:

The top card in the picture above is the Latin side – verbs are presented in the first persona case, present case.  For example, the word “amo” means “I love.”  below it are two derivatives to help students build vocabulary.  Levi and I usually talk about these, but Ms. Lowe does discuss them in the DVD lesson. The second card in the picture shows the English side – the translation + the part of speech.  By the end of the course, your student will have been introduced to seven parts of speech – verbs, nouns, prepositions, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, and conjunctions.

OK, so after we practice our vocabulary (I try to remember to have Levi translate his new words both to and from English), I assign a section or two from the workbook (see Sample Lesson I).  You’ll find that each lesson “spirals” with review of information from previous lessons, questions about new concepts (usually grammar-type questions), translations, and reminders to use the pronunciation CD for speaking Latin practice.  The final two sections have the student write out each vocabulary word and its translation twice and there is often a “Fun Practice” to reinforce a concept:

We haven’t gotten to a review or test yet, but both of them involve quite a bit of writing, here’s the sections:
A. Copy all vocabulary words and translate
B. Answer questions (questions about grammar, Latin/ English differences, parts of speech)
C. Practice saying Latin prayers (with space to write this out)
D. Answering English questions in Latin OR translation
E. This is an extra section – Using the optional Lingua Angelica supplement (which is recommended for grades 3+)

Tests incorporate information from these reviews: grammar-based questions, translations into English as well as into Latin, and fill-in-the-blanks with word banks for the Latin prayers that the students memorize. Tests are in the back of the teacher guide, so you’ll definitely want to make sure you purchase it.

My recommendations & thoughts: We’ve really enjoyed this Latin course, and I think my years as a homeschooler is helping me to not stress with a program like this {I’ve used this before with Ben and have to admit that my Type A personality did not make this an enjoyable course}.  Although it is very school-y, there is enough writing in the workbook for older students to gain Latin skills, but there are enough supplements (like flashcards and the teaching DVD) to allow younger students to gain quite a bit of Latin knowledge.  I appreciate having Ms. Lowe teach Latin calmly and carefully on the DVDs, because Latin is just not a language I know well enough to have a comfort level teaching straight from a workbook.  While I think the tests are great to have to gauge learning, I think when we get to the first one, I’ll probably do part of it orally with Levi – we’ll grow into the written work as the summer/ fall progresses.

Crew review members also had the opportunity to review Geography I.
Click to
read more reviews about these two products from the Schoolhouse Review Crew
All prices are accurate as of blog posting. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday - Keeping 'The Goal' The Goal

My primary aim in homeschooling my children is to learn about God and his plan for us as a family and as individuals; to know God and make him known through Jesus Christ. 

But I will honestly admit that our homeschool too often falls short of that goal. I get caught up making progress in math or spelling their/there correctly or answering all the questions for our history class.   Are chores getting done?  Is your bed made?  Did you brushyourteethputonyourclothesmakeyourbed today?


 I was convicted about this shortcoming in our home and felt like God wanted me to be very intentional today about returning to our goal of placing God first.

Lamentations 3:23
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning

So, we re-started.  Everyone was working on their own study - including me and my Good Morning Girls Summer Bible Study.  

Ben's Bible Study was about temptation and I was not surprised to have this verse:

1 John 2:16
For everything in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - comes not from the Father but from the world.

It is easy for me to try to make SCHOOL SUBJECTS more important that GOD in my homeschool.  It satisfied the lust of the flesh (worldly goals) and pride (academic achievement).  I'm grateful for God's reminder that HE must be first not just in our homeschool but in our lives.  I'm grateful that he is a loving, merciful God who gives us a new day each day.  I'm grateful that he is a living God, who meets us right where we need him each day.  
Matthew 6:19-21
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

And I'm grateful for this picture.  Two of the three boys quietly studying their Bibles {Luke was in his room doing his study}.  I pray that this scene become more common in our house, more of a routine this summer and into the future.  

Has God stayed at the head of your homeschool this year?
What devotional or Bible studies help you stay focused on Him through the year?
What can you do to 'right the ship' this summer?

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

This is part of a blog hop!  You can visit other  blogs that are posting on this same theme.  Most are far less wordy than I am!  You can also add your Wordless Wednesday post to Heather's hop by clicking below!

...And, {one last thing}, I'd love it if you subscribe to my blog via Google Friend Connect or NetworkedBlogs.  Thanks!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Standardized Tests in the Homeschool - What Are They For?

Photo by Shannan Muskopf used under a Creative Commons license.
There is a bit more buzz in my state this year about standardized testing in the homeschool.  A few provisions in our state law changed last summer making and it seems to be making standardized testing a more popular way for families to demonstrated yearly progress {which is required by our state.}

I have to admit that my most preferred method of demonstrating this yearly progress is the beloved portfolio review.  Annually, I've gathered all the kids work in a huge 3 or 4" binder and written up a summary of our year to share with our reviewer.

However, with THREE kids now, portfolio reviews are less affordable and I honestly have much less time to gather it all nice and neat for her, yet alone write out three reports.

{Let me say that writing out the reports are not required;  it is actually something I enjoyed doing as it gives me an opportunity to reflect on what went right and not-so-right in our year.  It also gives me a chance to reflect on our plans and goals for  the coming year.  Sort of like the evaluation and discharge reports I would write when I was a speech-language pathologist.}

For all those reasons, this year I determined to use our habit for every other year standardized testing as our option to fulfill state law.

But, there are other reasons people might use standardized testing in the homeschool.  Because of my former career in speech pathology, I'm very familiar with standardized testing benefits and shortfalls.  So, I thought I'd talk about how testing fits with homeschooling.

1.  Some use standardized testing strictly to fulfill state law.   Like us this year. Some state require testing periodically (say, 3, 5, and 8th grades), while others require it more frequently.  In some states, like mine, it is one of the options parents can use to satisfy the legal requirements to test.  In my state, a composite score of greater than 40% is required to continue a home education program.  This is not necessarily an average of all the subtest scores, however, and it must be computed based on the test company's procedures.

Photo by Nalini Prasanna under creative commons licensing
2. Some use periodic standardized testing to help their children learn to take standardized tests.  Let's face it, if you want to go to college or even into the armed services (and doesn't the US government have a civil service test?), you will have to take a standardized test.  Even our church has used standardized assessment forms to take surveys of the membership for planning purposes.  We must all learn to fill in the bubbles properly and timely!  Up until this year, my kids have experienced standardized testing for the practice of learning to take a test in a controlled group environment.  They've had practice taking timed tests -- learning to work efficiently to complete a task within a specified time frame.  And, they've learned to respect the testing environment so everyone involved can complete in quiet with minimal distractions.  It has been a great exercise that I'm glad we've undertaken in the past 8 years.

3.  Some use standardized testing to verify placement in courses.  If you are considering using an umbrella program that provides curriculum, grading, and testing materials for all one cost, you will likely need to participate in standardized testing for placement or to measure annual progress.  One program, for example, that uses a variety of standardized testing is Christian Liberty Press' CLASS Academy.  {This is mentioned as an example and in no way am I making a judgement on CLASS Academy one way or the other.}

4.  Some use standardized testing to gain further information.  I've found the kids' summary scores from their standardized testing to be very interesting.  Only once was a super surprised at the results of the testing.  Usually, I find that it corroborates my own gut-level feeling about how my kids are performing in their day-to-day schoolwork.  If you get that sort of results, you can consider the test valid. In the field of test design, Validity refers to the degree to which an assessment measures what it is designed to measure {thanks to for the definition}.  When I get test results back that show above average performance in, say, math calculations and I am observing this in my student on a general basis, I know that the test is valid.

One of the best tests that I've used (OK, I've only used two different kinds) is the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT).  I used this with Luke two years ago (2nd grade) for two reasons.  One, it was his first time taking a standardized test in our every two-year cycle of practicing test taking skills.  Secondly, I decided that I wanted to make this practice as useful to me as possible.  The SAT analyzes error patterns to return to you a very detailed assessment of what is below average, average, and above average in your child's skill set.  Back then, Luke as struggling with reading, and I wanted more information on how I could help him.  Since the SAT is not timed {there are timing suggestions} I felt this would give me an accurate assessment of his abilities.  Here's a quick look at a portion of his standardized test cluster summary:

Luke's performance on the spelling questions designed to parse out his level of mastery with phonetic principles was below average.  Now, I knew this in my heart, so this particular subtest didn't tell me anything I didn't know but it confirmed for this mama that I needed to stay strong and not give up on our very intense phonics spelling/ reading program.  And that, my friend, was worth every penny.

The other test we've used is the California Achievement Test (CAT).  From what I've found online, this is an old test from 1992 or earlier.  However, it gets the job done and satisfies my state law to administer a nationally standardized test.  This is the one that Ben has taken for the past two testing cycles (I started testing him in 4th grade).  The only bummer about the CAT is that you don't get nice assessments of error patterns to help pinpoint weak points and skills that could use some help. 

This year, Luke and Ben took the SAT (it was less expensive that taking the CAT) and Levi took an online version of the CAT.  Why?  Well, I need to watch my pennies these days.  Luke and Ben's tests were only $29 and Levi's was $25.  Had I used the 1st grade version of the SAT, his test would have been $39 (tests for early elementary can cost more because the answer sheets are usually longer and the administrator's book is, too).  

Do I miss writing out my reports for the reviewer this year?  Nope.  I've thought this past year to death {as is my style and nature} and know exactly what I did right and wrong and what we need to work on.  As a matter of fact, I think I'll go grab all the kids' papers and throw them in manilla envelopes this year, and save myself from putting them in a binder just to take them out again in the fall.

Have you ever administered standardized tests to your students?  
What purpose did it fill in your homeschool?


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

{Crew Review} Freedom Ride Bible Study From Christianity Cove

I have to admit that I am really having a hard time finding engaging Christian curriculum for my middle-school-soon-to-be-high-school son, Ben.  So I was happy to give Christianity Cove a shot. Freedom Ride: 12 Lessons of Faith for Today's Teens ($29.00, PDF download).

This resource is really designed for a Sunday school or small group to use.  The twelve topics are dividing into three groups:

Building a Sincere & Awesome Relationship with God:

How to Behave:

How to Grow:

How To Talk to God

         Loadies, Cokeheads, Drunks, & Stoner

      Finding Your Gifts from God

How To Hear God

       Gossips & Other Trumpet Mouths

   Putting Yourself in the Other Guys' Shoes

         3 Reasons We Don't Hear God

Peer Pressure 1 & 2

     Loving Your Brothers 'n Sisters

Following God's Lead

    Facebook Fights & Texting Wars


As you can tell from the topics, this study is definitely designed for a teenaged audience.  While some of the topics could  be used across a broader range (such as the topics about building a relationship with God), the tone of the materials is designed to engage the teen audience first and foremost.

I’ll admit that when I was given the opportunity to review a Christianity Cove product, I had a really, really hard time navigating the website and engaging in the website.  The products offered at Christianity Cove are listed here with short blurbs about their content.  If you find one you are interested in checking out, you are directed to an online (what I call) info-mercial about the product.  Mary-Kate Warner narrates an online presentation that you cannot pause.  She explains the reason for Freedom Ride and some staggering statistics (59% of teens abandon their faith by 18!).  I do so wish the presentation was optional for those who are auditory learners while providing reading materials and samples (Although I should add there is a generous 60 day money back guarantee). 

How We Used This Product:  This is a sizeable product with 83 pages of lesson plans and handouts for your teen.  Each topic is divided into a 15-minute lesson (scripted out for the teacher), small group discussion (up to 45 minutes is suggested), and finally a "Help All Week” section which encourages journaling or quiet time with a take home handout.

I found the teaching pages to be easy to navigate and follow with minimal prep time required from me {a good thing}.  Since I was just using this product with one student, I didn’t go to the trouble of making big signs;  Ben and I just talked it through or I’d show him the teacher copy for any stand-out reminders.

Each lesson is preceded by this teacher’s synopsis of what is covered in the lesson, supplies and directions:



Here’s a sample from the small group discussion:


And here’s a sample take home page to encourage more-than-just-Sunday Christians:


There is just something about group dynamics that is irreplaceable when you are engaged in a 1-on-1 interaction.  This is where, for us, Freedom Ride was difficult to use.  I don’t doubt that these activities would really engage a group of diverse teens.    Ben isn’t a Chatty Cathy sort of person.  He doesn’t ooze words.  So, using a product like this with him was more challenging.  Of course, I’m not Effervescent Ellie either, so our discussions were low-key and rather brief.  We finished within about 20 minutes.

My recommendations & thoughts: I think Christianity Cove has an interesting product here, I’m just not sure it is best used on a one-on-one home education environment.  Certainly, consider your child’s gifts and personality.  I appreciate that Christianity Cove offers a generous  money back guarantee policy so that you can actually get a feeling whether or not this would be a helpful way to engage in Bible application with your teen. 

Christianity Cove allowed Crew members to review many of their products, including:

Outstanding Object Lessons, Bible Science Experiments, 100 Simple Service Projects, Daily Dilemmas: 26 True-to-Life Devotions for Kids, "Tween a Rock and a Hard Place" Lesson Blueprints, Bullying & the Bible Lesson Plans, KidMin Power Pack, Bible Memory Games, The Divine Dozen: 12 Parables of Jesus Every Child Should KnowMake & Take Bible Crafts, New Testament Life Lessons, Fruits of the Spirit Activity Kit, 10 Commandments Activity Kit and Lord's Prayer Lesson Pack.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew


Prices are accurate as of the posting date. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Leave it to Levi to find a long-forgotten Usborne Summer craft book. 

I truly live seeing him tackle a creative project. 

It's a Blur......



My oldest son -- Ben -- turned 14 recently.  Time is such a blur.  So true:  The days are long, but the years are short.

I look back at his baby pictures -- such shallow images of our precious time together.  Where is the depth?  The fatigue, the pure joy, the softness of his new skin, his content little suckles at my breast?  Why couldn't I capture that in a picture?   Where is his giggle, his laugh? {And we didn’t have high def digital pictures back then ---  arg!!!!!)

Hours Old

One week old

One of my fave pictures of Ben

Oh, that I had not been so tired to write down more. His stories, his sermons {at age three}. his own best super hero. {Star Coswald In Spanish.  Don’t ask. We don’t know why. Which makes it even sweeter.}  His Ben-isms {“Daddy, I think I swallowed a bug,” he said after the first time he threw up.}

Now, I know it sounds like I'm wallowing in the past.  We have today and by God's grace many more todays to remember. I’m just struck at how fast this has all gone by.

This was his first birthday since we began homeschooling {at birth} that we had to have a school day on his birthday.

"This is the last time I'll ever have to do school on my birthday, <Mom."
"Why?" I ask.
"Because next year, I can work harder on Monday to get it all done for my Tuesday birthday."

Photo 2
14 came so fast!


He's learning, I think.  This hard year of consequences hopefully has paid off.

We always have the birthday person's favorite foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This year: bacon and French toast for breakfast, subs on a sub roll + chips for lunch (with Adventures in Odyssey as our background entertainment) and buffalo wings for dinner.

                  Photo 1
                       Luke and I happy for the bday boy.
Photo 4
Levi and Dave enjoying good food and company

Surprise cake for dessert.  None of that embarrassing singing in a restaurant for my shy guy.  I know he appreciated that.

Photo 6
My heart explodes with love for them all.
Dear God,
Grab hold of Ben's heart, and don't let go.  Let his heart stay open to you, your Truth, your Son, and His leading.  Let him follow you all his days.  Let him lean on you in good times and hard times.  Let his faith never waiver.  Let him be a man of God, honoring you as a witness in this world.
It is hard raising him sometimes, God.  Cover my mistakes with your grace and love and mercy.  Give me wisdom that I surely do not have to walk and talk with him as he becomes more of a man.  Give his dad the strength and wisdom he needs to walk his first born to adulthood and beyond.
Thank you for trusting us with him, Lord.

Photo 5
Sorry, buddy, you'll always be my Baby Ben.  

Monday, June 3, 2013

{Crew Review} ‘Let’s Make a Webpage’ from Motherboard Books


Motherboard Books gave me the opportunity to review a beginning web page program for ages 8-12 called
Let's Make a Web Page ($19.95 e-book).

One of the things I want to gift to my children is the ability to not just be consumers of technology, but I’d love to give them skills so that they can harness technology and use it to their benefit and God’s.  With this in mind, I thought that giving Luke the opportunity to try a computer-based product that gives him creative control and power would be a good idea.

Phyllis Wheeler (the mother behind Motherboard Books) has created a step-by-step guidebook to help explain computer web page design to younger users.  Topics in the book are:

Lesson 1: An Interview (this interview becomes the subject of the webpage. I was the lucky subject for Luke’s page.)
Lesson 2: Download and Set Up the Program
Lesson 3: Add Text
Lesson 4: Make a Table
Lesson 5: Add Photo
Lesson 6: From the Internet, Add Animations
Lesson 7: Browser Check, Backgrounds, Photos
Lesson 8: Sound
Lesson 9: Links
Lesson 10: Post Your Work
Appendix: How to Upload to the Internet

The lesson topics seemed pretty comprehensive in terms of adding most any element I could think of to a webpage (except maybe a video). 

One thing you’ll want to realize first:  This program relies on using a trial version of a software program that does, indeed, build webpages.  It is called Coffee Cup Visual Site Designer.  The trial version has a 30-day full version download, so you’ll want to realize that you only have 30 days to use this product and complete this learning project, unless you plan on purchasing the full version. 

By working on this project 3-4 days a week, we were easily able to complete a lesson per session and complete the webpage (well, nearly complete it) in less than the 30 days.

How We Used This Product: For this review, I decided that it would be best of Luke to have a hard-copy of this product, so I printed it out (it is only 60 pages) and I used my handy dandy comb binder to bind it all together in a booklet for him to use. 

Then, I set to work with him.  I was hoping that the software would be easy enough for my 10 year old to use on his own, but he and I found that two heads were better than one. (Just to remind you, Luke has struggled to read and has only recently become a somewhat fluent reader.  His comprehension for concrete information is pretty good, but this sort of technical reading was a bit over his head, even though it was definitely written children).  I think for Luke the fact that I was asking him to do something totally new (website design) with a totally new product to both of us (Coffee Cup) was a little overwhelming, and he definitely needed me to help him through the entire process.

One of the things that I’m very aware of is the new vocabulary used with new learners {in classical education, this is part of the grammar of a subject}.  I can remember there were a couple times when I wished the guidebook had a glossary which we could turn to to quickly recall the meaning of several terms which were making Luke’s eyes glaze over.  I was able to save the day in the end, but there were a few times I felt like I needed to take over for a few minutes to get us back on course.


Let’s move on to the actually work text.  I thought that Ms. Wheeler did a really great job of writing out the technical steps of what we needed to do to add a picture, text, clip art, and background image.  I appreciate some of the internet wisdom she attempted to impart on my young son by directing him to a website with a lot of advertising and for-pay material, and then she explained why you don’t want to go to such a site for free images.  She also made an explanation of proper use of other’s work via the creative commons licensing.  I appreciated her inserting ethics as well as safe online navigation into the curriculum.

As I was talking with Luke about this project, I have to say that he really loved the idea of learning to create a webpage.  We talked about some of the obstacles we faced completing this project (new vocabulary, comprehending technical writing as I’ve already mentioned).  Another obstacle we faced was the Coffee Cup program itself.  Ms. Wheeler is using this free trial as a vehicle to teach the skill of web design;  however, we both felt a little lost with the software itself since it was totally knew to us and we didn’t find nor search out a tool to help us gain a basic understanding of all the features of the software.  We both felt a little like robots:  only using the features of Coffee Cup that were required to complete the project and never really feeling comfortable with what we were doing.

Another thing to think about:  if you want to actually take your webpage live, you’ll need a host server for it.  This is something we didn’t investigate, but by previewing it in our web browser of choice, Luke was able to see the graphic animations move (the man to the left of me paints with his brush) and hear our bird call.  That seemed good enough for Luke.

In the end, we were able to create a web page as instructed:

My recommendations & thoughts:   Did Luke learn anything?  Absolutely.  He really enjoyed being more than just a consumer of computers.  It was definitely an introduction to web page design though, and I really feel like if he is going to learn more, I need to invest in some other next step for him – including software (and we’ll have another learning curve for that), web hosting space, etc.  But, with blogs gotten for free, I sort of feel like teaching him web design with a blog interface and CCS coding is more the way to go. So, that is probably the direction we’ll continue with any of my boys in the future.

The age range for this product is ages 8-12. Personally, I would look more towards a child’s reading ability, independence, interest and curiosity with computers (and how they work) to gauge if this product is appropriate for your student.  Levi will be 8 in October; and although he is a very good reader, I will wait until after he is 10 before beginning something like this with him.  I feel pretty confident that I could hand the manual to Ben (14) and he could work through it independently.  However, you can only download the trial of Coffee Cup once on a computer, so consider that if you are wanting to use this across a number of children. {I really do wish this program used another web design interface that was more than just a temporary trial.}

If you are looking to whet your child’s appetite for web design and are willing to invest the time yourself in a quick project (especially if technical reading is something with which your student might need some assistance), this might be a fun product for you to try out. 

In addition to trying out Let’s Make a Webpage, Review Crew members were also able to try out Logo Adventures from Phyllis Wheeler.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew


Prices are accurate as of posting of this review.