For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Silverdale Press - TOS Crew Review


This is my first year homechooling a high schooler. It has not gone quite has planned and one of the subject that I am still working on with my 9th grader is writing. As a boy he did not like writing in the elementary levels and I did not push it until about 5th grade. Now with the high school years upon us, writing has become a must. So, when the chance to review a writing curriculum came up, I took the opportunity to try it out.


Persuasive Writing and Classical Rhetoric: Practicing the Habits of Great Writers is a writing program put out by Silverdale Press LLC, a company dedicated to providing high quality education to homeschooling families, especially for the middle and high school years. Founded by a couple with high credentials (a Ph.D and a lawyer), their goal is to cultivate knowledge and sharpen skills in students.

I was immediately attracted by the fact that they were classical and using the framework of classical rhetoric to teach students persuasive writing, given that our homeschool bent has been classical. I was not disappointed.

Persuasive Writing and Classical Rhetoric is a full high school 36-week curriculum, designed to be used 4-days a week. One of the main emphasis of the curriculum, as is of classical education, is the imitation of great writers. In each chapter of the curriculum the students read a great writer, analyses his writing and then is led to learn from it. Also, at the beginning of the curriculum, the students are encouraged to make a list of 10 books to read over the course of the program to widen their exposure to good writing as well as their knowledge base so as to have content to engage and write about. My son got actually excited bout picking up the books.



The curriculum comes with a textbook, a reader, which contains all the reading selections, a workbook, and an answer book for the teacher. I like that the curriculum can be done by the student independently. It is done workbook style, but the questions are both factual as well as thought provoking. I like how it forces the students to truly understand what they read as well as see how the writing itself contributes to the power and effectiveness of what was written. It is very cleaver. My son is not a quick thinker (he likes to take his time) and I had to really push him to look at the text more carefully instead of the surface.


Another important aspect of the curriculum is the practice. The student is asked to write a 500 words essay with a given prompt at the end of each chapter. The idea is that you learn best by not only exposure and study of good writing but by constant practice.

As soon as we got the curriculum we dived into it. I printed the workbook and made sure my son had the textbook and reader on his computer. My son had trouble with completing the essays, but I encouraged him to push through and keep working on them. Some topics inspired him better than others.

I personally like the selections that they put together in the reader. It includes:

  • Winston Churchill
  • Jane Austen
  • Alexander Hamilton
  • JFK
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Augustine
The way the curriculum teaches writing is somewhat different than traditional curriculum. It takes the student on a journey to discovering what makes good persuasive writing good. As mentioned earlier one of the means is through imitation and study or great writings, the other mean is through a careful, systematic teaching of what constitutes or makes good writing. They take the student through an understanding of how one can have a good topic, how to arrange one's arguments, what good arguments are and how to be ready to defend one's position.

I really like that the last few chapters cover style, punctuation, and the aesthetic of good writing.

I am looking forward to finishing this curriculum with my son. It really looks promising to me. Bonus is that my son does not mind it at all except for the essay every week.

Makes sure to check the other crew members' review as some got to try out their study guides.



Persuasive Writing & Classical Rhetoric: Practicing the Habits of Great Writers & White House Holidays Unit Studies {Silverdale Press LLC Reviews}





Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Critical Thinking Detective: Vocabulary from The Critical Thinking Co. - TOS Review

If you love logic and critical thinking and want to impart that to your children, The Critical Thinking Co. has been in the business of doing that for years. I have been homeschooling for 9 years and I have always heard of them, and always in a positive way. I myself have used some of their products and have not been disappointed in them. So it was natural for me to ask for one of them again and it came up for review. This time a lot of the choices were totally new products to me and they look quite intriguing. I opted to give Critical Thinking Detective: Vocabulary Book 1 a try. It comes both as a physical book and an ebook. We received the e-book version.

Critical Thinking Detective™ – Vocabulary Book 1
Critical thinking is an essential skills to develop. Including logic and critical thinking in our curriculum every year has been a priority of ours since we started homeschooling. Now that my boys are in 9th and 8th grade the kind of logic books we use has changed a bit. With kids in Middle School and High School you want challenging but still fun books, and if it can do double duty even better. This is what you get with the higher grade selections from The Critical Thinking Co.

I am planning for my son to take the SAT and one of the things he need to be good at is vocabulary. So, what best way to hit two birds with a stone than to go through a book that allows you to practice critical thinking and at the same team enhance your vocabulary.

Critical Thinking Detective: Vocabulary did not fail. What this book is is a collection of mysteries that your child has to solve. The trick is that the setting and the clues use vocabulary that your child most likely do not know. This forces him to have to look for their meanings in a dictionary.


This particular book contains 12 mysteries where you have to figure out who is guilty based on series of clues. The child the has to understand what is being said and analyze the clue to deduct who the culprit is. After each mystery, you are then suppose to work through a worksheet where your child can practice the words he just learned. This is the part that my son had a hard time with. He was able to solve the mysteries quite easily, but when it came time to fill the worksheet, he had troubles. Actually, when I tried it myself I found it quite challenging. The worksheet is a fill in the blank kind where you need to figure out which of the new word (18-15 words listed at the top) fits in the sentence. It was also confusing that there were more words listed than needed in the worksheet. Even with having to look up words, the whole process is not overly long, about 1/2 hour max. My son preferred to do the mystery on one day and the worksheet on another day. I discovered a couple mysteries in that you could fill in the worksheet right on the screen, but I son still preferred to print them. And, thank goodness, all the answers are at the back! I certainly needed that.



Geared toward kids grade 5-12, Critical Thinking Detective: Vocabulary is engaging, colourful and right up what you expect coming from The Critical Thinking Company. It can be done independently, but kids on the younger spectrum might need coaching. The only objection I have is that it only works on Windows computer, given that my boys use  Mac. They had to do the work on my computer. All in all I would definitely recommend this book for vocabulary enhancement which doubles up as critical thinking practice. Some kids, like my 7th grader may not like the tedious side of having to look words over, but some might thrive on it. My 14 year old who likes to use big words is actually enjoying learning new words.

The Critical Thinking Co has a wonderful and wide array of products for you to check out. For you crew readers they have a couple of offers:

  • Free Shipping + 15% Off Any Size Order! Use Coupon Code: TOSCREW18. Expires 12/31/2018.


Critical Thinking, Understanding Math & Vocabulary {The Critical Thinking Co.™ Reviews}

Friday, May 4, 2018

CodeWizardsHQ - TOS Review

In this new technological word our kids more and more need exposure to the world of computer science and coding. Computer programming is an ever expanding field that our kids do well to get their hands on learning. There are a few companies that are dedicated to have children learn the language of coding, and CodeWizardsHQ is one of them.  The kids of the Schoolhouse Review Crew got to preview to first lesson of their level I course.


CodeWizardsHQ is a homeschoooling computer curriculum that offers live classes in computer science. It is important to note that these are "live", meaning a real-time teacher teaching and interacting with your kids. It is not self-pace. It is a full, comprehensive coding curriculum that can prepare your kids for college. It is intended for grade 5-10 students.


For more about the uniqueness of the program, check their website.

CodeWizardsHQ is comprised of a set of 12 week courses. They offer 3 levels of computer programming and coding instruction, ending with a fourth level that consists of a 6-month internship program with a partner non-profit organization.

This video gives you a nice snapshot of what this program is like:


From the one off class my son (for whom this was the first exposure to coding) participated it, we can say the following:
  • the teacher was very friendly and knowledge. She was articulate and connected with the kids.
  • the pacing was good, as my son said he was not bored and found it  quite interesting
  • it was enough to pick his interest in the subject
In this one hour class that the kids took, they learn some basics code language and were able to create a comic strip web-page. Your children has constant access to his work, which means they can work on it anytime.

These coding classes look really interesting and I am happy that my son got interested in coding.  it would make for a perfect elective class. I am really considering having one of my kids enrolling for this.

This is a program for any student really, but CodeWizardsHQ is making a special offer for homeschool students.  There is a significantly lower per-student pricing based on the # of students in the class and the flexibility to pick their own class time.

You can also check them out on their social media platforms:
Facebook:
Twitter:
Pinterest:
You Tube
They even have a Facebook group for parents interested in their child learning to code. It includes sharing of resources, ideas, tips and support for teaching programming to kids.


Live Class Computer Programming for your Students {CodeWizardsHQ Reviews}


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A+ Interactive Math - TOS Review

Math curriculum abound, yet it can be quite difficult for parents to find just the right Math curriculum that works for their child(ren). Well, today I have a Math curriculum to share with you that might just be what you are looking for.


A + Interactive Math (by A+TutorSoft Inc) is an online Math Curriculum that offers you a full Math Curriculum for grade 1 to Algebra 1. It offers an array of  Math instruction packages, two of the main ones being their Family Math Package, which gives you access to all levels, and their Adaptive Math Curriculum Online, which comprises a Placement Test followed by individualized Lessons Plans based on the test. These were the two that the crew members got to review. Since we had reviewed the adaptive Math Curriculum in the past, I opted for the Family Math Package this time around. The The Family Math Package gives you access to the program for a full year for up to 10 students.


A + Interactive is online, so you will need a computer with internet access and log ins for each students as well as for the parent. It does work on both Mac and Microsoft, but not on mobile. We had used this program before, so we already had log-ins, I just needed to enroll the boys in the Family Math Package program, and we were ready to go.

Though I enrolled both boys, I had my 7th grader gives this a try first. He is doing pre-algebra at the moment and was struggling with graphs , so I decided to have him start the program at the coordinate planes section and move on from there. It was not easy to skip the first few chapters, but eventually got there. I suppose the program is meant to be used from start to finish, but there is a manual and somewhat tedious way to move ahead. That is one aspect of the program that I have to warn against, some of the functionalities are not intuitive at all. You have to dig around to figure out where things are and how the functions work. I wish they had tutorial videos.


The things that I like about  A+Interactive before are still the same though|:
  • It is interactive. They complete the lesson, which is narrated to them and very visual. Then they complete interactive questions with instant feedback.
  • It is a full, complete Math program. 
  • It is very independent. It teaches, corrects, grades and explains what is done wrong one question at a time. No parent involvement needed.
  • I love the variety of ways you can practice and test the students, through the printable or online worksheets and exams.
  • I love that it has the whole text of the curriculum available to view or/and print
  • I love the printable reference chart

In the parent account, you can check the student progress and score.




The program also allows the parent to set up some features for the student account as seen below:


My son did a couple of chapters independently and enjoyed it. He found it easy to follow and understand. He thought that the teaching was pretty clear. He did not like the fact that once you are done a section you have to update your status yourself otherwise it will not let you move on.


Overall, I think this is a great program which could potentially be appealing to a wide variety of learners.

Family & Adaptive Math Online {A+ Interactive Math Reviews}


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Ideas to Keep Your Toddler Busy

My little baby has turned one a few weeks ago. Wow, times fly! He has learned to walk and he is a rather busy toddler. What do I do to keep him busy? Here are a few ideas to keep a 9-18 month old busy:


Food exploration: food is always fun to play with. At that age babies love exploring and discover new textures; food offers a wide range of those. I am not one to like mess, so I do not let him play with his food at meal time, but during play time I give him textured food to explore with.


On/off , in/out play activities: I have discovered that my little boy loves to put covers on top of things (pots, bottles, anything.). Also, taking stuff out of containers is one of his favorite activity to do. So go fill a basket, a pot, anything you have on hand with all sort of different stuff and watch your child having fun emptying it. Only downside is that you have to refill it again....


Peekaboo and hide and seek game: My baby has always enjoyed me playing peekaboo with him. This game has reached new levels as he can now do it too. Use hands, blankets, whatever you have on hand will do. He loves it too when I hide somewhere and call him name or say "Where is mommy". I love doing that especially when I do not want him to go a certain place.


Playing with balls: Balls are fascinating to babies and toddlers. My son loves playing with balls of any size. He enjoys playing with it himself or watching his brothers play with it.

Books: My boy loves books. So what I do is recreate the library in my home by making book displays at different spots in the house and let him have at it. I even heard of someone who would set up books at the corner of the staircase. I probably will try that one my little one stops dropping things down the stairs.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Home School in the Woods - TOS Review

If you are a hands-on homeschooler or you and your kids like playing games. You might be interested in this latest review of  mine. Home School in the Woods has been putting together homeschooling resources that enhances any homeschool for years. The range of products they offer is just too large to be listed. They cover every subject and time periods as well as variety of resources. The crew was blessed to be able to review quite array of their products which can be found in their A La Carte line of products which gather different project from other collections . These include file folder games, lap books, activity packs, file folder projects, 3D crafts, and newspaper activities. I decided to give the Art Gallery file folder game a try.



The reason why I picked this particular resource is because we have not done much Art study in our homeschool and I thought this would be a fun way of adding some.
The product is digital, so it needs to be downloaded, printed and put together. The instructions are straight forward and easily followed. I had no problem putting it together. The game consists of a board, 60 playing cards, and 4 markers (so for player, but can be played with more). The goal of the game is to recognize the art pieces, author, name, year and style of art. You start from anywhere on the board and it ends with the fist player who makes a full round back to that spot.  If you are not familiar with file folder games, it is all about printing the parts of a game and gluing them unto a one or two file folders that you assemble together. You sometimes have to color the pieces too. I had the options of doing it for this game, but did not.



Once I had it together and ready to play I realized that it would be a real challenge, as we did not know the answers, except for maybe a couple of art pieces.  The boys and I had to improvise, they did not want to study the card ahead (which was my first idea), so we decided instead to play it as a guessing game, based on the info present on the pictures on the board. The way Amy put the game together, the board had all the artists on it with brief information on each one of them. This trick really helped us guess the who  part and the era part. As we played the game we were getting better at recognizing the style of the artist and guessing them based on that.



Bottom line, this game is best played by people who have learned some art works in the past as a review game. If, like me you know very little, it will take a few try to first learn the works (unless you decide to study the cards first - which is definitely an option), and eventually play it as a Trivia game. Either way I think it could be quite effective. This game targets grades 3-12 and I would say it definitely can be used in some form or way for any of these grades.

Pros:
Colorful
Covers quite a few art works and artists
Easy to play

Cons:
Requires prior knowledge but can easily be adapted to fit your need

There were so many options given to us, I actually had a hard time picking which one we were going to review a few others that I eyed were:

  • Literary Genre Lap Book  Mini-Study
  • The War to End All War file folder game
Make sure to check the reviews for the other products we all got to review.



À La Carte Projects - Individual projects designed to enhance your studies! {Home School in the Woods Reviews}

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Parenting Made Practical - TOS Review

Parenting is hard. Anyone who has or is raising kids will tell you this. There is no way around making it easier, it is just what it is. No matter the age your kids are a , there are challenges to being a parent. That said, learning to deal with kids and raise them the best way possible, can definitely be helpful and make the whole process less stressful as well as more purposeful.


This is where this resource I was given the opportunity to review comes in. I was not familiar with it until it came up for review, but I must say it is a good one. Parenting Made Practical offers parenting resources to help parents navigate those parenting waters and challenges. Its goal is to equip parents with tools to help children become responsible adults. They offer a wide array of books and DVDs.  I chose to review the Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting your Kids to Think video download.

There is lots to say about the video I watched. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it very helpful. Some of the material was not new, but put into a different light and presented in a quite enjoyable way. It made the material fresh again, and renewed the challenge for me.

The material at Parenting Made Practical is put together by a couple used to dealing with youth and families in church and other contexts (the husband having served as Youth and Family pastor and the wife being a social worker). As such they know the challenges and needs of families. They are able to come up with resources that address exactly those needs. Their  material offers help in parenting children from age 2 to college. Here is a list of books and videos you can find on their website:

Why Can't I Get My Kids to Behave?
Navigating the Rapids of Parenting
Dating, Courting & Choosing a Mate... What Works?
What Every Child Should Know Along the Way

What I liked about the video I watched

I do not know about you but lecturing my kids is second nature and is a very easy trap to fall into even if we know better. In this video Joey and Carla Link explain and demonstrate to you the failure of lecturing (or nagging or yelling), your kids as well as how to avoid doing it by showing what to replace it with. They take your hand and show you step by step a better way. The better way being to lead them to think about their behaviour and owning it. The lecture has a lot of aspects that make it enjoyable to watch, as well as very helpful:
  • They cover a lot of topics in a 50 minutes video. They manage to include a description of temperament types which is helpful to take into consideration when learning how to avoid lecturing
  • The husband and wife team-teaching is very effective as it becomes a dialogue. They even included a live example with the help of their daughter, making it more interesting
  • They do try to include some humor, even of the whole lecture looks and sound pretty scripted and somewhat rigid
  • The video is just the right length. Though 50 minutes sounds long, I can guarantee you that you won't see the time pass, that is how engaging Joey and Carla are more because of the content that is covers than the style itself 
  • A good addition is how they include extra resources for the audience to check out to complement their teaching.
  • The style of teaching is very direct yet gentle. They say things the way they are, while in the same breadth giving you hope and solutions to correct the problem or bad habit.
  • The advice and tips are very detailed and practical.
  • I also love how the steps appeared on the screen as they went through them.
This video was very helpful to me as I was reminded of some habits that I had neglected, such as not accepting certain types of answers or putting off doing something to a later time. I had already been doing some of the things they talked about, such as the whole questioning approach, but it was nice to be given extra tips and advice on how to do that even more efficiently. Joey and Carla rightly put the emphasis on the heart of behavior and not just external behavior change, and for that they are a resource I would definitely recommend. That said, like every parenting  resource, every parent has to see for himself how to best apply the principles being advocated, and not necessarily apply them blindly.

Find Parenting Made Practical on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, and make sure to check the reviews of the other material they offer.

Parenting Made Practical {Reviews}

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