Curiouser and Curiouser….

 Beans, Bugs, curriculum, homeschooling, Reviews, TOS, TOS Crew, TOS Magazine  Comments Off on Curiouser and Curiouser….
Feb 112011

I was recently blessed with being able to review the Curiosity Files, Puffer Fish from The Old Schoolhouse Store. And I mean blessed! This was a great diversion during the doldrums of winter and a nice way to get back into the groove of homeschooling after the holidays.

The Curiosity Files with Professor Ana Lyze are a fun filled, easily adaptable unit study series by The Old Schoolhouse. They focus on the stranger and grosser topics of science (zombie fire ants and dung beetles anyone?) that seem to appeal to a wide variety of children. We selected to do the study on Puffer Fish due to the girls’ love of fish and a certain fish themed animated movie.

This study, while designed for children at about age six through middle school is very easily adaptable. My eldest is four and a half and doing kindergarten work, and was captivated by the topics regarding puffer fish in this study and was able to complete a lot of the projects. We did most of it orally and she did very well. Beans loved tagging along and seeing the puffers.

This unit study has everything you could want, from science (specifically zoology in this one), math (monetary conversion rates, other math problems), language skills (vocab, spelling, sentence combing and both print and cursive copy work), Bible (copy work and memorization), sociology (culture study with Japan) and even art. This study has TONS to do, and is easy to adapt to your needs by adding to it or taking away. We didn’t do the higher level math conversions for example (at 4 ½ we really didn’t need to). And we did most of our work orally. We discussed the vocabulary words and we talked about how and why puffer fish inflate. I think the girls (and I) know more about puffer fish than the average person….I didn’t know there were so many varieties!

The Puffer Fish study comes with embedded links to even more information online. There are pictures, articles and even videos of puffers puffing. The girls really enjoyed the videos (fair warning parents, look up all the videos and watch first. You would not believe what is out there on You Tube…) and still ask to watch them after we completed the work of the study!

There are tons of books at the library to add to your study. So if seeing a topic and freaking out because you personally don’t know anything about it is an issue, don’t let it be one! Each topic has a lot of resources that aren’t too hard to locate either online or at the library.

I was also very impressed with the fact that there were adaptions suggested for special needs students! I had yet to see very many ideas or alternative suggestions in curriculum I’ve looked at since I started homeschooling and researching curricula. I was very impressed with it, so if you have a special needs student, use the adaption suggestions as a springboard, you won’t regret it!

And the Curiosity Files are also on Facebook!  Feel free to go on over there and check them out!

We were going to do the paper mache puffer fish as the completion of our study. Unfortunately life got in the way (see the AWOL post…) and I didn’t feel like I could start a multiple day project last week and we’ve not been able to fit it in yet. I’m planning it for next week when Grandma is here for the Bean’s birthday. It will be lots of fun and I’ll come on and add pictures in a new post (and try to remember to link it….). The girls are so looking forward to the paper mache. In fact, when they saw the pictures and the directions for the art project, they were extremely excited and started begging to do it right away!

Our verdict: The girls loved this unit study! It was simple for me to pull off (I love simple planning), resources abound at the library and online to supplement it. It was so easy to adapt to what the girls can do, still challenge them and still hold their interest. You could take a week or two and only do the study, or do what we did and spread it out over the course of nearly four while still doing our regular school work. This series would also be great to do over longer breaks as an interest led study, like during the summer months when you want your children to still be learning, but you don’t want to do all school. I would also use this as week between quarters or semesters (depending on how you break your year up) and use this as a break from regular school for a week or two so you as the teaching parent can have some of a break, but still keep the students learning.

I highly recommend the Curiosity Files with Professor Ana Lyze to all homeschooling families. They are simple to put together, easy to do and are jam packed full of information. And what I love is that I can cycle back through this when the girls are a bit older and go even deeper yet into the topic! I learned more than I ever thought possible about puffer fish doing this study and found them to be more interesting than I thought. And no, I have no intention of ever trying one for food, they are poisonous you know.

The Curiosity Files are also very cost effective. You can purchase them singly. However, I suggest going the bundle route. You can now get ALL NINE of the studies in a bundle to save even more for under fifty dollars.  I don’t know of other studies at that terrific of a price! (cd for $49.00 or download for $46.00. I would personally do the download, instant gratification that way…).

I received the Puffer Fish study from the Curiosity Files with Professor Ana Lyze as a part of The Old Schoolhouse’s Crew. All opinions are mine and mine alone, and other than the product, no other compensation was received (it would be kind of difficult to review something without using it first, you think?) To see what my crewmates had to say about the Curiosity Files (and see the other topics covered), go visit the Crew’s blog here. Then go on over to the Store and get one or all for our yourself (and browse the rest of the store while there!)..

An Online Based Preschool Curriculum Option

 TOS, TOS Crew  Comments Off on An Online Based Preschool Curriculum Option
Sep 032010

I recently was given a month long subscription to Time4Learning to review. As I have a preschooler, I was reviewing the preschool section of this internet based curriculum.

Signing up my child to use the site was extremely easy. Just supply a name for them and a password, and then answer some basic questions about where they were at academically so the system could place them in the appropriate level. A confirmation email soon followed welcoming the Bugs as their newest student.

I don’t have a lot of experience when it comes to computer based learning. In fact, I normally shy away from things such as this, especially for children who are so young (Bugs isn’t quite yet four).

Time4Learning is totally web based.  In fact, it keeps track of your child’s progress, grades the work and does all the lesson planning for you.  In the preschool level, it works mainly with phonics and mathematics instruction and throws in some social studies and science for fun.  The lessons are animated. The child can work at his or her pace and even repeat lessons.  Mom or Dad can go in and see the lessons before the child completes them so they know what their child is to be doing.  The site does let you see demos of the lessons and the lesson plans before you decide to start the program to help you decide if this is right for your situation.  There is even a parent’s forum on the site for you to have online fellowship with other parents.  I did find their website very easy to navigate and it isn’t too overloading visually.  However, they don’t give you a price for the program up front (at the time of this writing $19.95 for the first student and $14.95 for each additional student).  They kept saying “low monthly price” on each page that I saw, until you click the tab to enroll.

Honestly, this program wasn’t a very good fit with our family. Finding the time to log on was a challenge itself (we tether to my husband’s blackberry for internet use). Then, while Bugs is on the computer, she just gets absorbed in it. While working she would get that glazed over look in her eyes that I’ve seen older children get when they have been using video games or other electronics for too long. Then, she would get frustrated when she couldn’t get the mouse to do exactly what she wanted (I will say that we have a touch pad mouse and she is normally very adept at using it for other things). Also, when using electronics for any length of time, Bugs gets very upset when I tell her it is time to turn it off and then has problems with doing anything else that doesn’t involve a screen. I do not like that in my child. Bugs also needs more concrete things to learn with. While she is an auditory learner, she still benefits greatly from having manipulatives and other activities to tie in to her learning. I find that easier to incorporate into our daily plans with math and phonics instead of doing a program like this, and then coming back and redoing those subjects later with the manipulatives. Also, at the end of our thirty day trial, there was no notice that the time was up. Most companies that I have had subscriptions for have sent an email two weeks before the subscription was up to warn me that I was about to expire, and then one the week it was set to. I had no warning that the time for use was about up. I don’t know if that is because I had the program for a month for this review, or if this is standard for all users. If you decide that this is the program for you, mark your calendar when your subscription is going to be up to guard against suddenly not being able to log your child(ren) in and then having your account deleted.

I can see how this program could be used successfully. If your child is needing extra reinforcement of learning basic phonics and math concepts, then maybe using this program to supplement will work for you. If you know that you are going to have a very busy time approaching (such as a family illness where you are taking care of them, you are sick yourself, or about to have a baby, or are having to travel for any reason) then this may be a good program for that time for you. You really don’t have to worry about the hard core lesson planning that a lot of other curriculums make you have to do. This is also very easy to transport and do anywhere you have an internet connection.

Tim4Learning, at the time of this post is 19.95 per month for the first child, and 14.95 per month for each additional child. With your paid subscription, they do offer a two week money back guarantee if it doesn’t work for you (not to be confused with a two week free trial.)

You can go here to see a list of others who also reviewed this product.

I was given a month long subscription to Time4Learning from Time4Learning as a part of The Old Schoolhouse’s Crew for the purposes of this review. All opinions included herein are mine and mine alone. No other compensation was received..

Aug 302010

Recently I was blessed to receive a copy of Peterson Directed Handwriting’s Cursive prorgram to review for our homeschool.

Peterson Directed Handwriting is not a new company.  It has been around since 1908.  I like companies that are well established and are able to adapt to the current culture.  You have to be doing something correctly to be able to stay in business that long, right? 🙂

I received five PDF files to download, each with individual licenses so I can print for our use.  They were the Cursive First, Step 2 Cursive, Step 3 Cursive, Step 4 Cursive and the On Your Mark Game.  With these, I can go and find exactly the information I need to teach when I need it, and I can print and reprint pages (especially helpful if you need to go over the information repeatedly with your scholar).  The files I received are at about a second grade level, where most public schools will start to introduce cursive.

Peterson is different than any other program for handwriting I have ever seen.  This is the first handwriting program that is more auditory based.  As you learn the different strokes for each letter, you say what you are writing.  Such as Loop Top and Sharp Top.  The program also utilizes different colors for the strokes to help with those who are more visually oriented, but this is mainly an auditory program.

The website for Peterson Directed Handwriting is full of very helpful information.  Do you have a left-handed student?  There is a special section for them here.  You can also order the Left Handed Writer, E-Book from their online store.  I wish that when I was taught how to write, someone took the fact that I was a leftie into consideration.  I was taught to just reverse what the right handed students were doing.  I honestly believe that my handwriting would be much nicer today if I had been taught how to write according to which hand I use.  My husband is also a leftie, and I’m sure he could have also benefited as a child as he has the strangest grip on a pencil I have ever seen.  So far, Bugs is a leftie too.  This information has been quite helpful so hopefully I will be able to teach her how to write better than her dad and I were taught.

I attempted to use this program with the Bugs.  She is my oldest scholar and is doing well in her preschool studies (I believe that cursive should be taught first after having taught other children cursive in several different grades before now.  The children who learned cursive first had an easier time learning to write that way than those who printed first, and they had much nicer handwriting.  However, that was my experience with it).  Bugs had a hard time being able to say the strokes as she was writing them and she was getting extremely frustrated as her fine motor skills are not yet quite to where they need to be for this level of instruction.  After searching all over their website, I did find a preschool program.  I am in the process of “tweaking” what we have though and it should work.

This program is great as you don’t have to teach the letters in any particular order.  First you teach the basic strokes, and then you can teach the letters in any order you want.  I like this as I like to have my handwriting to correlate with our phonics lessons for extra reinforcement of those.  This program can also be adapted to move at a pace that you are comfortable with, either faster or slower.  I don’t know about you, but rarely do I use anything without adapting it for our specific needs.  Peterson is really adaptable.

The customer service I received was very good.  Mr. Nelson gave us instruction online on how to use the program and was very througough.  You will be able to find help for any problem that you may be finding in your endeavor to teach handwriting, either on the website, through a PDF, or with the live help options. I was very impressed and pleased with all the assistence that was available should I have needed it.

To purchase the files I got, you can go HERE.  The cost for each of the individual licesnes (which is all you would need for homeschooling) is 19.95 apeice.  You can also purchase other items like triangular pencils, grips and paper positioners through this site.  They have everything you might need to teach your child how to write fluently.

I received a copy of the Cursive First, Step 2 Cursive, Step 3 Cursive, Step 4 Cursive and the On Your Mark Game with individual licenses from Peterson Directed Handwriting as a part of The Old School House’s Crew. for the purpose of this review.  No other compensation was received and all views in this review are mine and mine alone..

Jul 222010

Yes, I realize that it is about the end of summer time, but there is still ample time to be getting out on a quick road trip or two.  If so, are you prepared?  Do you know how to make the trip a bit easier to tolerate and perhaps even curtail the dreaded question of “Are we there yet?”

The answer is in this E-Book called Travel Kits, A Simple Way to Bless Others by Donna Rees.  Travel Kits is an E-book the explains step by step how to put together a little traveling intervention, shall we say.  This great resource explains how to put together a nice goody bag (or box) full of presents to dole out to the inhabitants of the vehicle, and even gives some great ideas on what to get for whom and where to find the items.  However, for me, the absolute best part was chapter 13.  Chapter 13 was like an appendix of sort that has a list of hyperlinked websites for games you can play in the car, easy crafts you can do in the car and even the official state tourist information site for each of the states and U.S. Territories.  There is also a handy checklist for preparing your car for a long trip and even suggestions (and a few terrific looking recipes) to pack a great picnic lunch.  I don’t know about you, but the last lllllooooonnnnnnggggg road trip we took, well, the lunch didn’t survive as well as I thought it would (yeah, squashed bread, frozen egg salad, it wasn’t great).  I wish I had this book then for the incredible wrap recipes.

Travel kits

This book does not only have to apply to traveling with children.  You could put together a kit for newlyweds for their honeymoon, a kid going away to camp, or even for someone in the hospital.  This is a great springboard for growing other ideas to bless others.

Travel Kits is available from The Old Schoolhouse Store for a mere $12.45 that you can instantly download to your computer (yay!  No waiting for it to come in the mail!)   The Old Schoolhouse Store is chock full of wonderful resources for homeschooling and carry so many products that I can’t list them all for you.  You will just have to go on over and browse.  I will tell you that there you can get E-books for many different topics, instructions on how to make a wide variety of lapbooks and of course, the wonderful magazine The Old Schoolhouse.

I recieved a copy of Travel Kits, a Simple Way to Bless Others by Donna Rees from The Old Schoolhouse Store as a part of the TOS Crew in exchange for my honest opinion and posting of a review.  I received no other compensation.  All opinions in this review are mine and mine alone..