Monday, April 30, 2018

A Review of Christian Heroes- C.S. Lewis from YWAM Publishing

When I want a biography for my children to read, I know that I can always turn to YWAM Publishing and find a great book.  They offer many biographies on a wide variety of people.  We recently got a chance to review C.S. Lewis: Master Storyteller which is in the Christian Heroes: Then & Now series of biographies from YWAM Publishing.  We also received a study guide to use along with our book.
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I picked the Christian Heroes - C.S. Lewis book because he is an author we wanted to know more about.  We love the Chronicles of Narnia series from him and Buddy read one of his other books earlier this year, but other than that we don't know much about C.S. Lewis.  I thought this would be a great time to learn since Buddy needed to read a biography for his literature class anyway.
YWAM Downloadable Unit Studies
C.S. Lewis lived a very simple life for being a famous author and he preferred to be out of the limelight.  His early years were very happy, but as he became a teenager, life changed and there were many tragedies in his family.  It was during this time that he leaned on his story telling and writing to help him deal with his grief.  It was how he escaped the troubles in his real life.  As he grew older and pursued his education and future career of Literature Professor, his writing led him to meet other authors who became good friends.  They encouraged and challenged his writing along with his brother who dealt with much of Lewis' publicity.  Lewis wrote more than 30 books over his lifetime including both fiction and non-fiction.

Through reading this 191 page book from YWAM Publishing, we learned a great deal about C.S. Lewis and his life.  The book has 17 chapters, a Note to Readers, and a bibliography and it is recommended for ages 10 and up.  Buddy read it aloud in about 2 weeks time by reading a couple of chapters a day.  We learned many interesting facts about C.S. Lewis along the way.  He suffered several family tragedies very early on in his life.  He was best friends with his older brother, Warren.  C.S. stands for Clive Staple and he renamed himself Jack which is what everyone called him.  He served and was injured in WWI.  He tried to serve again in WWII, but there was shrapnel under his shoulder blade that they couldn't fully remove from his WWI injury, so his duties were limited.  He married late in life and lost his wife to cancer, but was left with 2 stepsons.  He was a distinguished Literature Professor in England.  He died on the same day as John F. Kennedy which was a much bigger story.  The book was very interesting and reading it helped Buddy understand why C.S. Lewis wrote the way he did.
Along with the biography, YWAM Publishing provided us with a digital study guide to go along with the book.  It contains key Bible verses, display corner projects and ideas, study questions, essay questions, creative writing topics, hands-on projects, audio/visual projects, and arts and crafts projects.  There is also a chapter on Community Links for using community resources to learn more about the wars and the United Kingdom.  There is an entire chapter for Social Studies work along with a United Kingdom fact sheet for students to do research along with maps of Europe and the United Kingdom you can use with them.  There are also chapters on related themes students can research and a chapter for putting together a culminating event, which would be fun.  The study guide also includes an appendix with a list of books and resources that might be helpful to use and an appendix with the answers to the study guide questions.  This study guide can be used as a unit study and cover multiple subjects.
I would pull up the study guide on the computer and have Buddy write his answers out on paper.
There is no recommended grade level usage with this study guide because it can be used for multiple grades at the appropriate depth for your student.  I wouldn't expect my 4th grader to do the same level and depth of work at my 9th grader.  He can answer questions in-depth and write essays since he is at a higher grade level.  At this time I only had Buddy working through the study guide.  I had him answer the questions for each chapter to check for understanding of what he was reading.  I plan to have Buddy use the Social Studies chapter next fall as he studies the world wars.  I also plan to have him work on the essay questions next fall for Literature since I plan to add more C.S. Lewis books to our reading and the essay questions are generalized for his writing in general.  I am sure we work through some of the other areas of the study guide again as well.

I will always highly recommend any book in the Christian Heroes: Then & Now series of books from YWAM publishing.  They are great books about great Christians.  There are also several books in their Heroes of History series that I am interested in having my children read because these are great stories too.  I am especially interested in Heroes of History: Laura Ingalls Wilder since my daughter has been reading this Little House on the Prairie series this year.  Really, I haven't found a YWAM book that I don't want to have my children read.  I love that they tell the true stories of real people and we can learn so much from them.  I also like the study guides because they help me use the book fully in our school.  You can learn more about the Christian Heroes - C.S. Lewis true biography we read here.  You can learn more about YWAM Publishing on their website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Blog.  Check out the book reviews from my friends on the Homeschool Review Crew by clicking on the banner below because we all got to read different books.
Christian Heroes, Heroes of History & Study Guides {YWAM Publishing  Reviews}

Friday, April 27, 2018

5 Days of Unit Studies - Day 5

This week during this 5 day blog hop, I want to share what I have learned about unit studies with you and give you practical tips for using them in your school.  Here is Part 1Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 if you are just joining in.  I am sad today is the last day of the hop, but I hope what I have shared with you this week has helped you.
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All week long this has been my opening..."Unit studies have changed how we do school in our home.  They allow us to explore more topics, dig deeper, and be creative when showing what we have learned."  Today I want to share with you why.  A few years ago we were stuck in our school.  My oldest was in 7th grade and every day seemed like a battle.  He was burnt out on our boxed curriculum that I could just open and go for our day and I wasn't sure I was in the place I could take on planning on my own again.  I knew that planning our own curriculum would take a lot of time, especially since I had a middle school child and early elementary child at that point.  I also knew that my son was beginning to hate school.  One day I was chatting with a dear friend and I asked what she did in her school since she had multiple levels of grades she taught too and she shared that they used unit studies.  A light went on for me and I knew this was the route for us.  I started out with unit studies for just history for just my son.  My daughter was still enjoying the boxed curriculum, so I knew lesson planning would be manageable if I was just planning for one student at first.  I asked Buddy to make me a list of what he would like to study for history and went from there.  He had several things related to the Civil War on that list   So that was our subject for history for the year.  Under the subject of Civil War, there were many topics that we studied and made into small unit studies so that they didn't overwhelm Buddy.  Switching to unit studies for just one class that year made the difference in our school and turned it around.  Instead of being a daily battle, there was excitement, willingness, and  joyful learning again.  It flowed over into other subjects.

This year Buddy worked on unit studies off and on for a couple of subjects.  I switched Little Miss to unit studies for History this year and she has done well.  Both of my children have done small unit studies for other school subjects when they have fit what we were working on.  Next year for school I plan to add in more unit studies.  They allow us to dig deeper in topics that really interest my children.  They also allow them to be creative with their work and how they present the topics they research.  They give us flexibility because we have a general overall plan and learning goals set, but we can take multiple paths within the unit studies to reach the goals.  Do I have to do some research and planning ahead?  Yes, but if it makes our school run smoother, I am all for it.

Take it one step at a time.  Start small and pick just one school subject to try for unit studies.  If it works for you, keep going.  If it doesn't work for, that's okay too.  If you feel like you can't plan out your own unit studies, search the Internet.  There are great unit studies that are already made that you can buy, download, and then print everything you need to do the work.  Don't be afraid to purchase those and start there, there is nothing wrong with that.  I've used some of the unit studies that you can purchase through being on the Review Crew and they are fantastic.  The best piece of advice I can leave you with this week is.....don't be afraid to try something new and see if a unit study works for your student.  There is no right way and no wrong way, just what works for you.
Coming Soon ... 2018 Annual Spring Blog Hop
This week I am participating in the Spring 2018 5 Days of... Blog Hop from the Homeschool Review Crew.  We are all writing about different topics this week and sharing them with you.  We each got to pick our own topic so I can't tell you how excited I am to read what everyone is blogging about this week.  Click the links below or the banner above this paragraph to Hop on over to the next blog and read what they have for you, I know I will definitely be hopping to my friends' blogs to see what they wrote.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

5 Days of Unit Studies - Day 4

Unit studies have changed how we do school in our home.  They allow us to explore more topics, dig deeper, and be creative when showing what we have learned.  This week during this 5 day blog hop, I want to share what I have learned about unit studies with you and give you practical tips for using them in your school.  Here is Part 1Part 2, and Part 3 if you are just joining in.
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So far in our week long discussion on unit studies we have talked about what a unit study is and things to consider for choosing a unit study for your school, the different types of unit studies and setting learning goals for the studies, and where to find resources and activities for your studies.  Today we are going to talk about methods of completing your unit studies.

There are several different ways to compile the information your student learns in a unit study.  There is no right way and no wrong way, just what works best for your student. Here are some suggested methods that we have used that work for us.
  • Lapbook - A lapbook is a couple of file folders put together to display all the little projects and research we complete in the unit study.  We usually section it out so that we can fit multiple facts and projects in the lapbook and show all of our work in one place.
  • Notebook - A notebook is just a spiral bound notebook where my student will put all the information they research for the unit study.  If you don't want to use a spiral bound notebook, you could always use loose leaf paper and a binder.
  • Folders - This is another method we have used where we combine a lapbook and a notebook in a three prong folder.  We used the outside and inside flaps to glue down projects and then we use the prongs to hold our notebook pages.  
  • Research Paper - I do this with my high school student.  I have him collect all the facts and information he finds in a notebook.  Then he uses his research to write a paper on the topic.  
  • Create a Game - We have made file folder games out of the information we learned on a subject, but you could create your own board game too using cardboard and craft supplies.  
  • Create a Newspaper - I've had my son use the information he studied in his unit study to create his own newspaper.  I had him write articles that contained facts, advertisements that fit the time period he studied, and entertainment articles that pertained to the study.  It was a fun way for him to present his research.
This is a list of just some of the ways you can have your students present what they learned in a unit study.  There are so many more creative options and how you choose to show your work depends on your student.  My elementary student loves to show her creativity and create elaborate lapbooks and projects to show what she learned.  My high school student likes to do reports or newspapers, something that shows what he learned, but doesn't have to have the artistic flair his sister likes to show.  Neither way is wrong, it just totally depends on each of my children.  I like for their personalities to show in their unit studies.  This gives them ownership of the study and they do a great job when they feel like it is theirs.  The bottom line is you know your student and you know how they learn best, so do that.
Coming Soon ... 2018 Annual Spring Blog Hop
This week I am participating in the Spring 2018 5 Days of... Blog Hop from the Homeschool Review Crew.  We are all writing about different topics this week and sharing them with you.  We each got to pick our own topic so I can't tell you how excited I am to read what everyone is blogging about this week.  Click the links below or the banner above this paragraph to Hop on over to the next blog and read what they have for you, I know I will definitely be hopping to my friends' blogs to see what they wrote.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Review of the Planet 316 Story Bible and the companion Planet 316 Bible Story App from Planet 316 and Worthy Kids/Ideals

Teaching  and learning from the Bible is very important in our family.  We strive to make sure that children are reading God's word every day.  So when we got the opportunity to receive the Planet 316 Story Bible and the companion Planet 316 Bible Story App from Planet 316 and Worthy Kids/Ideals to review recently, I knew I wanted to see what it was all about and I knew that Little Miss would have fun trying it out..
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Planet 316 is a company on a mission to spread the Gospel through the use of technology and the games they have created.  They strive to make the Bible approachable for all ages by developing fun, interactive experiences that can help families connect.  They have developed computer games, apps, and videos that help children of all ages and adults learn and memorize Bible verses and learn the Bible in fun ways.

The Planet 316 Story Bible contains more than 100 Bible stories that were specifically chosen for this book to teach children about God's love for all people.  It features stories from both the Old Testament and the New Testament.  It also features bright, colorful, and fun illustrations that come to life with the augmented reality used in the companion Planet 316 Bible Story App, which is free once you buy the Story Bible.  The Story Bible has over 300 pages.  Each featured story gives the Bible reference so you can easily find the complete story in the Bible if you choose to.  The hardcover Story Bible is available to purchase for under $15.


(I apologize for the white dots on the pictures, those are the reflections of my lights on my iPad.)
Planet 316 makes the companion Bible Story App easy to find and download by including a QR code at the front of the Story Bible that you can scan with your phone or tablet.  This app works on both Apple devices (tablets and phones) and Android devices (tablets and phones).  Once you download the app and open it up, it is very user friendly.  It instructs you on how to scan the Story Bible pages and then when the image pops up on the device screen, you tap it to make it come to life.  The augmented reality of the app allows the people in the stories to talk, the animals to make noises, and adds background sounds (an example is the sound of rushing water).  This app adds to the story and makes this book unique and fun.
Little Miss and I were excited to receive our Story Bible.  She is 9 and an independent reader, but I knew that she would still have fun with this Bible and the companion app.  Once I got the app downloaded to our iPad, she took over.  She started reading the stories and then scanning them with the app to make them come to life.  The stories were easy for her to read and she loved the animation when she scanned them.  She liked to see what things could be tapped in each picture to see what would talk or make a sound.  She didn't read the stories in any particular order, she just picked the ones that interested her.  Her favorite stories were Queen Esther, Noah and the Flood, and The Birth of a Savior.  She continues to read through this book and use the app.  I like that when she could be playing games on the iPad, she is using her Bible Story book and app instead.
I have truly enjoyed the Story Bible and companion app as much as Little Miss has.  Yes, I did try it for myself and found myself reading and flipping through multiple stories so I could see the animation in the app.  It is fun and a great way to help kids remember Bible stories.  Younger children can definitely benefit from using this Bible and app and it would be a great present for young children.  We definitely recommend this book and app if you have children in your home.  You can learn more about Planet 316 and all the interactive products they have to offer on their website, Facebook, and Twitter pages.  You can learn about the Story Bible and companion App by clicking here.  You can also learn how my friends on the Homeschool Review Crew used this book and app by clicking the banner below.
Planet 316 Story Bible and Bible App {Planet 316 Reviews}

5 Days of Unit Studies...Day 3

Unit studies have changed how we do school in our home.  They allow us to explore more topics, dig deeper, and be creative when showing what we have learned.  This week during this 5 day blog hop, I want to share what I have learned about unit studies with you and give you practical tips for using them in your school.  Here is Part 1 and Part 2, if you are just joining in.
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Yesterday in this series we discussed the different types of unit studies and setting goals for what you want your students to learn from the study.  Today I want to talk about finding resources and activities to go with your unit studies.  I touched on this just briefly in Day 1 of the series, but today I want to dig a little deeper into this.

Finding the right resources and activities doesn't have to be an overwhelming task, it just requires a little bit of planning ahead.  Once you know what subjects and topics you want to cover for your unit studies, it is time to start finding resources.  I start by looking at my bookshelves to see what we already have before I begin looking elsewhere.  Sometimes we can use some of the books we have and other times they don't give enough information to be a good resource.  Next I pull up my local library's website.  I can research a lot of books, movies, and magazines from the comfort of my own home.  I can reserve resources that I think fit our study and pick them up when the library gets them all ready.  Then once I pick these up, I can glance and read through them to make sure they are appropriate for our school and give the information needed for the goals I set for our study.  When I am picking up my library books, I ask the librarian for any other suggestions.  They are always very eager to help.   Another place to check are the Amazon Kindle books.  They have many free titles on their site and you don't have to have a Kindle to read them, they have an app you can download to your computer and still read the books.  Next up (and many times this happens while I am waiting for the library to get all my "holds" around) is scouring the Internet for resources.  This includes looking at unit studies that you can purchase.  Sometimes I decide they are what I want to use and purchase them, other times I use them to get an idea of the learning goals they include.  There are also tons and tons and tons of great websites full of information out there.  When I find one that works for our study, I either write it down or bookmark it so I can find it when I need it again for my students.  I also check Netflix and Prime Video for any documentaries that might work for research for our studies.  Sometimes these are a fun change of pace for school.  Lastly I check with friends to see if they have any books or other resources that might go with our studies.  I keep a list of all the resources that I compile for a unit study in a notebook that I used for planning.  This way I don't lose all of my valuable research.

Now that you know how I search for resources we use for our studies, let's chat about adding in activities to go with them.  You don't have to add in activities, but they do tend to make the research in a study more fun and help to break up the monotony of day to day work.  Once we know what our unit study is about, I figure out what would work best for activities.  If it s a book or book series we are studying, we will make recipes from the book or time period, we do crafts that the characters might have made,we try foods they ate, and so on.  If it is a subject or topic we will do experiments that fit, write a newspaper about it, or write a speech.  We have also went on field trips to explore more about topics and visited cities near us that pertain to the topic, subject, or book.  The type, amount, and extent of the activities are really up to you and what fits in your study.  Basically it comes down to this...do what works for you and your students.  Some unit studies won't have many activities due to the time period you want to complete it in or maybe due to what you are studying and others may have a lot.  That is okay.  It is part of being flexible with a unit study.  Tomorrow I will be back to tell you more about how you can put together your unit studies.
Coming Soon ... 2018 Annual Spring Blog Hop
This week I am participating in the Spring 2018 5 Days of... Blog Hop from the Homeschool Review Crew.  We are all writing about different topics this week and sharing them with you.  We each got to pick our own topic so I can't tell you how excited I am to read what everyone is blogging about this week.  Click the links below or the banner above this paragraph to Hop on over to the next blog and read what they have for you, I know I will definitely be hopping to my friends' blogs to see what they wrote.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A Review of the Adaptive Math Curriculum Online from A+ Interactive Math (by A+ TutorSoft Inc.)

As a homeschool parent you are constantly assessing your student's work and determining if they are working at their grade level or not.  This is especially true for me when it comes to math.  I know what my children can do when it comes to math, but it is always reassuring to find out for sure.  This is why I was interested in having Little Miss try out the  Adaptive Math Curriculum Online from A+Interactive Math (by A+ TutorSoft Inc.) that we received recently to review.
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The Adaptive Math Curriculum is designed to identify and close any learning gaps that your student may have.  You first pick the target grade (the grade level you think your student is at).  Then this online program performs an assessment of your student by giving  "mini tests" for all the major math concepts in that grade level.  Based on the results from the mini tests, an individualized lesson plan is created for your student.  This way they can focus on just the learning gaps areas and get these concepts down before taking the mini tests again.  This curriculum features fully automated lessons and grading, interactive review, practice problems, step-by-step solutions, and various reports that let you see your student's progress and results.  The methods in this curriculum are designed to accelerate learning and save time since your student doesn't have to do multiple lessons on the topics they already know.  This online curriculum is for grades 1-6 and Pre-Algebra.

This was the report for Little Miss after she completed the "mini tests" the first time.
Once we gained access to the Adaptive Math Curriculum Online, I set up my parent account and access for Little Miss.  She is finishing up 4th grade math and I wanted to use this curriculum to see if she was really understanding it or not.  This was the first year that her math book was hard for her and that she struggled to get some of the concepts.  So once I got her all set up, I started her on the process of taking the placement tests.  For 4th grade math there were 17 "mini tests" that I had her complete in about a week and half's time.  I wanted her to not rush through the tests, but to be able to focus and not do poorly because she took too many in one day.  The tests were timed, but you can go in under the parent dashboard and adjust the time so that your student has more time to complete each question which was a good thing to reduce pressure.  After she would complete a "mini test" it would show her if she met the goal or if she had a learning gap and needed to work more in a specific topic.  Little Miss did great on these tests and only had 8 areas with learning gaps.  Many of the areas of learning gaps are topics that her math book did not cover as in-depth as this program does or ones that she had not finished yet in her math book.
This is what it looked like for the mini tests she passed.
Next Little Miss started working on her individualized lesson plans.  These were specific lessons to teach her the concepts for the learning gaps she had.  When I looked at the detailed report I could see what grade level she was working at after the tests, before she completed any lessons.  The lessons are fully automated and give her instant feedback after each question.  She does very well on them and she really likes that she doesn't have to spend a lot of time on things she already knows, she can just focus on the topics she needs to learn more about.  She can also take the placement tests again for the topics at any point.  She has tried to take the placement test for geometry a couple of times, but she still has a gap in that topic.  I will have her keep working on the lessons and then try the placement test again until she passes it in the areas with gaps.
This shows the areas she needed work on.
I appreciate this program because it does help me assess where she is at in math.  There were areas she passed with flying colors and there were gap areas.  Now I know exactly what areas she needs more work in and I am thankful for that.  I also appreciate that she can focus on the areas she needs more work in and not have to work on the areas she is already strong in.  This helps Little Miss not get frustrated with the program.  The only two negative things about this curriculum in my opinion is that the student and the parent dashboards can be a little hard to navigate and you have to go in and enter when each lesson is completed otherwise it never gets marked complete.  These are just two minor things, but overall I really like this curriculum for Little Miss and I will have her continue using it until she has passed all areas of 4th grade math.
This is one of the parent reports that shows the grade level Little Miss is working at and how she did on the mini tests.
You can learn more about the Adaptive Math Curriculum Online that we received here.  They also have a Family Math Package that you can learn more about by clicking here.  You can learn more about A+Interactive Math (by A+ TutorSoft Inc.) on their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest pages.  You can learn more about what my friends on the Homeschool Review Crew did with these products by clicking on the banner below.
Family & Adaptive Math Online {A+ Interactive Math Reviews}

5 Days of Unit Studies - Day2

Unit studies have changed how we do school in our home.  They allow us to explore more topics, dig deeper, and be creative when showing what we have learned.  This week during this 5 day blog hop, I want to share what I have learned about unit studies with you and give you practical tips for using them in your school.
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Today we are going to start chatting  about how I create unit studies.  First I decide if our unit study will be topic based, subject based, or book based.  What is the difference you ask?
  • Topic Based - This is studying one specific topic at a time.  It can be as broad or narrowed down as you want it to be as long as there is enough information on the topic.  An example of a broad topic would be The Civil War and a narrow topic would be The Battle of Gettysburg.
  • Subject Based - This is creating a unit study for a specific subject.  Then under that subject you study topics that pertain to it.  If I was going to create a unit study for Math then I would pick what topics or sections we would cover for math.  Maybe we would study division in math and learn several different ways of dividing, the terms involved with division, and dividing with remainders.  Then we would move on to the next topic in math.
  • Book Based - This is where you pick a book or a book series and create unit studies out of it.  The study can include the characters, the setting, what life was like during that time period, the geography of the book, and so much more.  
Then I set some learning goals for our unit study.  I think about what I want them to know by the end of the study.  Is it just the facts surrounding what we are studying?  Do I want them to know specific details?  Are we learning about the history of events?  Knowing what I want my students to learn from the study helps me determine how long the study will take.  If I want them to know lots of details the study will take longer.  After I determine our learning goals and how long I want the unit study to take, then I start searching for resources to use and activities we can do that pertain to the study.  We will discuss the resources and activities more tomorrow so I hope you will come back then.  In the meantime start thinking about how you could use a unit study in your school and ask me any questions you might have by commenting below.
This week I am participating in the Spring 2018 5 Days of... Blog Hop from the Homeschool Review Crew.  We are all writing about different topics this week and sharing them with you.  We each got to pick our own topic so I can't tell you how excited I am to read what everyone is blogging about this week.  Click the links below or the banner above this paragraph to Hop on over to the next blog and read what they have for you, I know I will definitely be hopping to my friends' blogs to see what they wrote.

Monday, April 23, 2018

5 Days of Unit Studies - Day 1

Unit studies have changed how we do school in our home.  They allow us to explore more topics, dig deeper, and be creative when showing what we have learned.  This week during this 5 day blog hop, I want to share what I have learned about unit studies with you and give you practical tips for using them in your school.
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You may be wondering...what exactly is a unit study?  A unit study is a collection of learning activities tied to a theme.  This theme can be a single book, a book series, a topic, or a broad subject.  Unit studies tend to be more hands on than traditional methods of studying.  They can be tailored to what works for your student and for your family.  There really is no wrong way to create a unit study since you can study a topic at the depth level that works for your student.

Before you go jumping into unit studies, take a few moments and consider these things:
  • What kind of learners are you teaching?  - Unit studies don't work for everyone and that is okay.  If you students prefer a textbook and sticking to a very set plan, then maybe unit studies are not the best route for you.  Do you have kids that love hands-on learning?  They learn a fact about something and want to learn more.  Is your curriculum flexible?  Are you okay with changing and adjusting as need be to make a unit study work?  Unit studies aren't super complicated, but they typically are not just open and use either as there will be things you need to print, resources to find, etc.
  • What subjects are you using a unit study for? - Do you want to study a single topic, a book series, or use it for a single school subject?  Some people use unit studies for certain school subjects like history because unit studies can be easy to put together for those subjects.   Other people use them for their entire day because one unit study can examine multiple subjects.  For example you can use a book series to study history, science, and language arts by learning all about the time period, places, and events in the book for history, studying the animals, plants, and people in the book for science, while doing writing, studying the vocabulary, and diagramming sentences for language arts. Are you planning to use different unrelated unit studies at the same time?  For example you do one study on the planets for science, one study on the U.S.A. for history, and a study on authors for language arts.  
  • Where will you find your unit study? - Unit studies can be created by you or they can be purchased.  They don't have to be difficult to put together on your own once you decide what it is you want to study and how in-depth you want to go.  (We will discuss putting together your own unit study tomorrow.)   But I will also tell you that the Internet is full of great unit studies, some are free and some you have to purchase depending on what you are looking for.  I will be the first to admit that I have used unit studies written by other people and they have been great for my students.  Either way works and you can even buy a unit study and then add stuff to it to make it fit your students.  The options are endless.
  • What resources do you already own or can borrow? - Many times when I think about things I want my kids to learn, I check my bookshelf and find I already have at least one book on the subject.  Other times I hit up my local library to see how many resources they offer on a topic.  After I have requested materials from the library and am there picking them up, I ask the librarian if they know of any other materials that would be great for my student to read through or use for research.  The librarians are always super happy to help and they are great at finding age appropriate materials.  Finally don't forget friends and family.  A couple of years ago my son studied the Civil War.  I was chatting with good friends about what he was researching and they lent us some books on Civil War battles that they had that were wonderful learning tools for my son.  
  • What is your student interested in? - I find that our school year works better when I let my students study things that they are interested in a few times each year.  This doesn't mean we only study fashion and go karts because that is what my students like.  It means that I add studying fashion into our unit studies throughout the year to help keep her interested in it and learning more about it off and on.  Of course fashion could be it own unit study too, but we haven't done that one yet.  As for go karts, we haven't done specific unit studies for that, but we have done research on how engines work, voltage, and the electrical components.  Basically if there is a topic that really interests your student, let them explore it.  That is what unit studies are all about.
Unit studies are a great way to let your child explore a topic and really dig in deep to things they love.  We will continue using them in our school as long as they are working for us.  Some are more detailed than others, but that depends on what I using them for.  Tomorrow I will be discussing how I put together a unit study.
Coming Soon ... 2018 Annual Spring Blog Hop
This week I am participating in the Spring 2018 5 Days of... Blog Hop from the Homeschool Review Crew.  We are all writing about different topics this week and sharing them with you.  We each got to pick our own topic so I can't tell you how excited I am to read what everyone is blogging about this week.  Click the links below or the banner above this paragraph to Hop on over to the next blog and read what they have for you, I know I will definitely be hopping to my friends' blogs to see what they wrote.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Thrifty Thursday That Saves You Money in the Long Run

So I will be the first to tell you that today's tip doesn't seem very thrifty at first.  What I am going to share with you will cost you money up front, but in the end it will save you time and money.  Want to know more?
Something that cost me some money up front, but has overall save me time and money is my Instant Pot.  I waited until I found a great sale on it and then purchased it.  Interestingly enough this sale was in late summer not after Thanksgiving or near Christmas.  I got my Instant Pot for around $80 and on some sizes the prices have come down more now and other sizes are more, but they are bigger and have more features..  So $80 was a lot initially, but overall this gadget has saved me lots of time and money.
I often get so busy with school and the kids that I forget to get meat out of the freezer until 2:00pm or later.  This used to be an issue because then I would have to defrost the meat in the microwave and then hurry to cook it in the oven or on the stove to get dinner done on time.  This would leave the meat tough and without a lot of flavor.  Other times by the time I realized I forgot to pull the meat out, it would be way too late and I would just run and pick up dinner somewhere which would blow our budget.   Now that I have my instant pot, I can throw the meat in frozen and still get it done in about an hour or so.  I can cook entire meals in there and have dinner in about 30 minutes or less.  I also use it to cook boiled eggs in under 10 minutes that peel easily.  I throw whole potatoes in it to make mashed potatoes and it cooks them in 10 minutes.  I cook tons of stuff in there.  The other benefit to my instant pot is that if I need to take dinner somewhere, the lid locks and I don't make a mess in my car.  So yes, it did cost me some money in the beginning, but it has more than paid for itself in saving me time and when I get busy, I throw dinner in the instant pot instead of running into town to buy dinner.

Do you own an Instant Pot?  What do you cook in yours?  If you don't own one yet, check it out and put it on your wish list.

*This is not a sponsored post.  I did not get paid to tell you about my Instant Pot, I am just sharing how I save myself time and money.  This post does contain my Amazon Affiliate link which means if you choose to buy from my link, I make a small commission from Amazon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Review of Help Teaching Pro from HelpTeaching.com

There are many times when I am teaching that I think "it would be great if there were a worksheet to go with this."  Yes, I homeschool and yes, I can make a worksheet, but I don't always have time to sit down and make something on my own.  This is why I am always on the hunt for resources that have worksheets, tests, and quizzes already created for me but still gives me the ability to quickly create my own if I need/want to.  The Help Teaching Pro subscription that we received to review from HelpTeaching.com does just that and more.
HelpTeaching, printable worksheets, online lessons, quiz maker, worksheet maker, printable games, printable game generator
We have reviewed materials from HelpTeaching.com before, but I was excited to dig through their site again to see what we could use for our school this time.  This site and the Help Teaching Pro subscription covers multiple grades and multiple subjects.  We received a one year subscription to the Help Teaching Pro to review.  The Pro subscription also includes unlimited access to their online Test Maker to create custom tests and worksheets, access to their Math Worksheet Generators, and access to their Game and Puzzle Generators.  They also now have Online Lessons for some subjects.  It also includes unlimited access to their online tests and worksheets, the ability to make and save your own tests and worksheets on their site, pre-made premium content, and more for just $39 per year .
Once you sign up for your subscription you can get your student(s) signed up for their accounts.  You can link their accounts by email so you can send them their scheduled assignments, but don't worry they don't have to have an email to work on the site.  I wanted to see how the scheduled assignments worked so I set up my email for my children's email and this worked perfectly.  When I would schedule a lesson or test for one of my children, an email would pop into my account with a link that they could click and complete what I sent them.  After they finished, I could log in to HelpTeaching.com and check out the results two different ways - question by question or the entire assignment.  
I had both my 9th grader and my 4th grader trying out worksheets, tests, and online lessons from the Pro subscription.  I had my son do some of the physics and math worksheets from the 9th grade for review for school.  I also have him scheduled to do vocabulary lessons that are online.  Some of the worksheets I had him do I printed off for him and some of them I assigned to him through email.  I had my 4th grade daughter work on the questions for Because of Winn Dixie in the lessons because we happened to be reading this book anyway when we got access to our subscription.  There are review questions for every chapter of the book and they are a great way to check for understanding in the book.  I also had her work on some grammar and math worksheets.  She also tried one of the online lessons for geography.  I was also able to use the Math Generator to create a division practice worksheet for her and the Word Search Generator to create a word search for Because of Winn Dixie for her.  Both kids thought the worksheets and lessons were good.  They liked using the worksheets that I printed off when we went on a two day trip with my hubby.  It was a great way to still get school in, but not have to pack all their books.  Buddy liked having the assignments emailed so that he could just click the link to find what he should work on versus having to wait for me to pull it up and get him in the right area.  Little Miss always finds another worksheet she wants to try anytime she is near when I am finding her other worksheets.
This is the Math Generator I used to create a worksheet.  I just had to adjust the options in the sidebar to get the larger division problems I wanted Little Miss to practice.
One of the things I really like about HelpTeaching.com besides being able to assign the lessons is that the site grades the work for me which is a HUGE plus in my book.  It grades the work in one of two ways.  If your student uses the links for the scheduled assignment their answers are recorded and checked as they work.  If you print off the lesson, worksheet, or test for the student, you can go back in once they are done and put in what answer they picked and it will grade it as you put the answers in.  I liked both methods and I liked being able to go in and check how my kids did on the assignments quickly and I could see exactly what problems (if any) they got wrong and which answers they picked.  I also liked that you could see the total score or you could review each question for which answer they picked.  The other thing I really like about this site is that they have so much content.  I can always find something for my kids to work on.  Sometimes the worksheets I find are for their grade and sometimes it is for the grade above or the grade below their grade.  There is a plethora of material on this site.
By adjusting the tiitle and putting in my own words I was able to quickly create a word search for Little Miss.
Overall I was very impressed with the selection of quizzes, tests, worksheets, and lessons included with the Pro Plan from HelpTeaching.com.  I feel like they are a good supplement to any curriculum, but they would probably not work as the entire curriculum unless you were creating a LOT of your own content.  I also like being able to create my own tests, math worksheets, and puzzles quickly.  They made those sections of the website super quick and easy to use.  I clicked a few buttons and added a few words and my worksheets and puzzles were done.  

You can learn more about the Help Teaching Pro we received by clicking here.  You can learn more about HelpTeaching.com on their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  You should definitely check them out and see how they could benefit your family.  If you aren't convinced yet, click the banner below to read the reviews from my friends on the Homeschool Review Crew to find out how they used their subscription.  
Help Teaching Pro. {HelpTeaching.com Reviews}

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Review of Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology from Apologia

I have admitted before that science is not my favorite subject.  While it isn't my favorite subject to teach, it is one that Little Miss likes to learn about.  This is why I am always on the lookout for great science curricula.  I want her to learn all about science while she is interested in it, so I was excited to receive Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology from Apologia to review recently.
Anatomy & Physiology, human body for elementary grades, Apologia
Apologia is the #1 publisher of creation-based science and Bible curriculum.  They believe in homeschooling, being able to defend the Christian faith, and that every academic subject can be taught from a biblical worldview.  They publish materials and curriculum for many different academic subjects covering grades K-12.  They also offer resources for homeschooling families and even have an Online Academy that students can attend to.  Apologia has been a company we have used for years and one that my family will continue to use for years to come.
Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology is part of Apologia's Young Explorer Series.  For this review Apologia was very generous and we received the Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology textbook, the Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology Junior Notebooking Journal, the Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology Notebooking Journal, and the Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology MP3 Audio CD.  The textbook features 265 pages and 14 lessons.  The lessons are:
  1. Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology
  2. The Skeletal System
  3. The Muscular System
  4. The Digestive and Renal Systems
  5. Health and Nutrition
  6. The Respiratory System
  7. Life in the Blood
  8. The Cardiovascular System
  9. The Nervous and Endocrine Systems
  10. The Nervous System Extended
  11. Your Senses
  12. The Integumentary System
  13. The Lymphatic and Immune System
  14. Growth and Development
The textbook also includes an index and a section of answers to the Narrative Questions in each lesson.  It also includes projects and experiments for each lesson.  This book is written so that it can be used in any elementary grade from Kindergarten to Sixth grade like all of their Young Explorer Series books.
Little Miss made a slime skeleton.
The Junior Anatomy Notebooking Journal has 210 notebooking pages, 15 pages of answers to the vocabulary exercises throughout the journal, 3 pages of field trip journals, 38 pages of mini-book activities, and 5 pages of drawings and templates for putting together the "Personal Person Project."  This Junior notebook is perfect for younger elementary students since it includes coloring pages, copywork, and easier activity pages.  There are plenty of crafts and activities in it to keep young students busy and interested in anatomy.
The Anatomy Notebooking Journal is laid out much the same as the Junior Journal except it is designed for older students.  It has 196 notebooking pages, 4 pages of vocabulary answers, 2 pages of field trip journals, over 50 pages of mini-book activities, and 5 pages of drawings and templates for putting together the "Personal Person Project."  In the pages for each lesson it has pages where the students can take notes while they read, copywork to complete, vocabulary crosswords, questions for each lesson, and more.  It keeps students thinking about the lesson they read in the book and has creative activities for them to complete after they finish each lesson.

The MP3 Audio CD we received is the textbook read aloud in an audio format.  Each lesson and each section of each lesson is labeled so that you can quickly find where the section you need to listen to.  The textbook is read clearly and at a good pace, not too fast, not too slow.  It is very convenient to have when a reading section has a lot of big words or if you want a break from the reading.  We used it for both of these purposes.
This is her Digestion Theme Park
Little Miss, my 4th grader, has been having a lot of fun learning all about Anatomy.  Even though there is a suggested schedule you can follow for this book in the notebooking journal, I wanted to use this curriculum 5 days a week so I planned out the reading and the activities so that each lesson took us about a week and half to get through.  I had her read a couple of sections from each lesson each day and then I would ask her some questions about what she learned.  We found that it was easiest for her to do the notebooking journal pages at the end of each lesson spread out over 2 days rather than try to do a little bit of the journal each day.  Little Miss was able to read the text on her own especially since hard to pronounce terms also had the phonetic spelling so she could properly sound them out.  As she was reading the text, I had her write down notes that she thought were important to know on the appropriate journal pages.  Her favorite parts of each lesson were the "Try This" sections which gave students projects they could try that pertained to the reading.  Some of the "Try This" sections were mummifying apples, calculating how much of your weight was muscles (Little Miss is just over 20 pounds of muscle), and measuring our the length to represent how long your small intestines are among others.  Little Miss also loved trying the experiments and projects for each lesson.  She had a lot fun creating her "Digestion Theme Park," growing her muscles, and analyzing a chicken bone.  She liked having the notebooking journal to work through the pages for each lesson.  She did very well at remembering what she read and the vocabulary crosswords.  She liked creating the mini-books and I think all the hands-on activities, experiments, and "Try This" sections help her retain the information she read about in the textbook.  She is still talking about things she learned in lesson 1 and 2 even though she has been working through lesson 5 this week.
A closer look at the theme park elements.  
Little Miss likes the way using the textbook and the journal together makes learning about Anatomy interesting and fun.  She said, "It's not just reading and answering questions so I want to work on science because I get to try what they talk about."  I like that this curriculum makes science interesting for her.  I also appreciate that this is written with a Christian perspective and it gives several reminders of God as our Creator and that we were created with a purpose.  I also appreciate that at the beginning of the textbook there is a list of all the supplies needed for the experiments broken down by lessons.  That made it easy for me to gather everything each week that we needed for the experiments.  We are truly enjoy this curriculum and even though science is not my favorite subject, Apologia has made it easy for me to teach and Little Miss is eager to soak it all in.

You can find out more about all the wonderful products that Apologia has to offer on their website.  You can also find them on social media on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ and YouTube.  You can learn more about the Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology that we received here.  I definitely recommend checking it out.  You can also see what my friends on the Homeschool Review Crew are saying about this curriculum by clicking on the banner below.
Apologia - Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology Reviews