The Right Fit: Choosing the “Perfect” Curriculum

I wish I could be one of those parents who is blessed in picking the perfect curriculum right from the get-go and using it all through their children’s learning. Those people do exist, right? While we’ve been pretty lucky and only had a few changes over the years, it still irks me to know I’ve wasted a precious dollars.

How does one pick the right curriculum? Does such a thing even exist? If it works for one student, does it have to work for all our learners, and does it last for their entire learning experience? All great questions! I’m not an expert, but here’s what I’ve learned:

When Not to Buy – Knowing when to buy is good, knowing when not to buy is just as important. Don’t buy on impulse, out of stress or because someone else says you ‘have to’ have it. Learn what works best for your kids, pray, and buy when you’re ready.

Is it For Them or You? – Sometimes we have a tendency to pick curriculum which gets us excited, but we don’t stop to think if it fits our kids’ needs. We need to look at this curriculum from their perspective and determine if it’s the right fit.

All or Nothing – Are we buying one type of curriculum and then forcing all our children to learn the same way? If we can, we try to meet each child where they are. We’ve been blessed that most of our curriculum works for everyone, but there have been times when I’ve needed to adjust to fit a particular need. This is just one of the joys of homeschooling.

Can it Wait? – Being a planner, I like buying things in advance. One mistake I’ve made is in buying items way too early and then realizing I didn’t need them after all. While I’m all for a good deal and planning ahead, I’ve learned to bookmark or ‘pin’ items I might want, instead of buying immediately. As time progresses, I will come back to those and reevaluate as needed.

Pray Always! – As always, pray about this issue. When the Lord is at the center of your life, you can trust He will be faithful to direct you to the curriculum that best fits your family’s needs. Be open to what He is going to do. You’d be surprised at how often He will take you down a path you would never have dared on your own!

Be In Agreement – I don’t recommend tackling this obstacle all by yourself. Make sure your spouse is included in curriculum and course choices. Sometimes we stress over areas our other halves could work through in moments. We were created to work together, so plan a date night and hash it out. Figure out what you both are looking for and make it happen.

Bend a Little – So, you prayed over the curriculum, talked to your spouse, bought it, and somehow it just isn’t quite working out. That’s alright! Sometimes we have great materials at our disposal, we just need to tweak them a little. Other times, the particular curriculum is only good for a period of our learning experience before we move on.

The Curriculum Graveyard – This one is the hardest for me, I admit. However, sometimes curriculum just isn’t the right fit. What happened? Who knows! It might be that I’m not using it properly. It might be I wasn’t following God’s instructions and was using my own wisdom in making the choice. It might be God was using this experience to teach us a lesson which had nothing to do with the curriculum what-so-ever; the curriculum was merely a catalyst for a greater lesson. No matter; if it isn’t working, drop it! Donate it, give it to a friend, set it on fire (just kidding), or whatever else you can think of. Life is too short to waste on lessons which aren’t being learned. Don’t be afraid to admit what you’ve got isn’t doing the trick, then readjust.

I don’t know that we’ve ever come across the ‘perfect’ fit, when it comes to curriculum.  Honestly, I don’t know if one exists. What I have learned is to pray about the choices we make, be one with my spouse on this matter, and to be flexible with whatever we finally go with. No matter which curriculum we’ve chosen, we’ve always learned valuable lessons through using it. Just not always in the way it was intended.

We’d love to know… What is the shortest amount of time you’ve spent using a particular curriculum? What made you relegate it to the curriculum graveyard?

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A Comprehensive Curriculum Review!

A Comprehensive Curriculum Review!

The end of the year is here. Who’s breathing a sigh of relief? Who, maybe, just maybe, is a tad sorry to see yet another year flown by and are excited to launch a new adventure? Truthfully, I’m experiencing a little of both. But before I catch myself shedding a tear over a senior graduating or start stressing over the finishing touches on next year’s learning, I think it might be beneficial to take an honest look over this year’s curriculum and ask myself… Did this really work for us?

You would think after homeschooling over thirteen years we would have this gig down. No changes, no issues. But that is the way of life. No guarantees, and just when you think you’ve got things down, something alters your plans. Thus, we find it beneficial to continually assure ourselves we’re on the right track and using resources which most benefit our students. Here’s what we’ve found, based on this year’s learning routine:

Bible

This year we chose to expand our topical study of logic, using Keeping Faith in An Age of Reason by Master Books. This proved to be a good decision; helping our children gain a better understanding of Scripture, assisting them in knowing where to find things in their Bibles, and gaining a knowledge of arguments against Biblical topics. Overall, I am happy with our decision.
However, with that said. I believe we might need to spend this coming year focusing on a few Bible basics. While a study of logic and apologetics is important, and we would argue a necessity, we have also noted our children seem to have lost a knowledge of basic Bible stories. There are a few parables my two youngest seem to have forgotten, events which are covered in the Old Testament which they do not recall. With that in mind, we are going to use next year to travel through a study of Scripture from beginning to end with the intent on regaining what has been lost. It should be a blessing!

Language Arts/Artimetic

Up to this point we have used aBeka for all our language arts and arithmetic, and this has proven to be a wise decision. We appreciate their focus, their continual reinforcement, and their instruction in Latin and Greek roots for language arts. But this coming year will see a few changes.
Our middle daughter expressed a desire for video lessons, and while we could use aBeka to continue her learning, we have chosen an alternative and gone with Khan Academy for this coming year. The curriculum is free, online, and very thorough. (Our oldest daughter used Khan when practicing for college SAT’s and benefitted from it greatly.) We are excited to see how she does.
Language will remain primarily with aBeka, with the exception of choices in Literature which will stem from our study of history. More on that in a moment…

History

American History from Master Books was our choice of curriculum for this year, and it was a dream come true! We have been through a slew of history curriculum over the course of our years learning and this one finally met all our needs. Biblically based, to the point, easy to follow, hands-on, and engaging. We couldn’t have asked for a better choice.
Next year we will continue on with Master Books using World’s Story Volume 1, focusing in on ancient history to the fall of the Roman Empire. I am most excited to experience the purposeful Biblical study of this curriculum, as opposed to a previous choice in curriculum which covered the same time period but with less detail and Christian worldview.

Science

Our focus this year was Botany. Our children specifically requested this study, as Biology had already been covered and neither Anatomy nor Physics appealed to them. It was fun. We included quite a bit of hands-on activities, and the kids learned a great deal. I would recommend Botany for other students who might have similar concerns.
With that said, I will note our choice in curriculum – which can be found HERE – was not as developed as I would have liked.
Our main resource, Botany Adventure, did lay out a year’s schedule and included helpful ideas on activities, labs, hands-on application, and more. However, the author did not do a thorough job of indicating where information could be found. We discovered we needed to do a great deal of leg work. Not an issue, as we are experienced learners, but for anyone new to homeschooling I could see this being an issue. In addition, some instruction given was vague and unhelpful. (e.g. “Using slide —, sketch what you see.” With no indication of where we were to obtain the slide, create the slide, or otherwise.)
Our supplemental resource, Sassafras Science Adventures Botany, proved to be a fun read, with a great deal of additional, history information included, but proved to be a distraction from our main lessons, instead of a help, and thus we chose to refrain from finishing it. It would have been a perfect guide for younger students, with the addition of their study guide, but for our purposes it didn’t work.
The one resource I will rave about is the Botany Coloring Book. If you have yet to explore this resource, do so. It is amazing!
Next year we’ll be doing a study on Geology using Master Books. I am incredibly excited to launch this new adventure. It looks incredible and has so much to offer. It is going to be amazing.

Electives

These are always fun, and never disappoint. With everything from foreign language, art, physical exercise, and more; electives are the easy part of our learning routine and always a blast. I would like to see more hiking next year though and perhaps some classes on self-defense, which has been specifically asked for by our daughters.

Overall, it hasn’t been a bad year. In fact, it’s been pretty amazing. We’ve had a lot of new adventures, one of our favorites being Generation Joshua. We’ve learned a lot and taken on a lot of challenges. The kids have done wonderfully and we are very proud of them.

Now, it’s time for a short break. Maybe. For them. Perhaps for me, if I can manage to stop moving, planning, and organizing for five minutes. Then we’re on to another grand adventure. We’ll see what new lessons the Lord has in store for us and enjoy the journey.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Colosians 3:17

Share with us… What was your favorite area of study this year and which was your least? What would you do over?

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Teaching Curriculum vs. Teaching Our Children

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“Why isn’t she moving faster? Doesn’t this child understand I want her to get through the material in the next half hour! I really want to get through with this part of our day so we can move on to other things. It really, really, shouldn’t take this long.” As I anxiously watch my daughter from across the room, the Lord uses this as the perfect opportunity to speak to my heart and teach me something vitally important. Am I teaching the curriculum or teaching my child? Oops; guilty as charged!

I think, sometimes, we homeschool parents can get caught up in the wonderful resources we have available to us. We ooh and aah over new-found books, get excited about special projects, and store up on awesome resources. In all our enthusiasm, I wonder if we have completely forgotten why we do what we do.

Are we getting caught up in buying resources which seem wonderful, and pushing our children through the motions, without bothering to ask ourselves if this is helping our children actually learn or – though learning is taking place – they are enjoying the learning process? Heaven forbid I force my children through hours of lessons every single day just so I can say I finished a book we purchased. Lord help me if I am pushing my kids to finish material in a certain amount of time simply because I have other plans for the day.

Now, don’t get me wrong. In our learning, we most certainly have a wide arrangement of resources available to us and I highly recommend using them to the fullest. However, I need to be careful the resources are being used as a help and not as the driving force behind my children’s education.

Ultimately, I don’t want my children to simply learn how to finish a book. (Although that is a good skill to be learned.) I want my children to love learning! I need my children to fully understand the world in which they live and the impact the Lord wants them to make in their own sphere of His creation.

The books, games, projects, and field trips we have before us can be used wonderfully in each of our learning endeavors. However, I want to be careful of how I am putting them to use. At the end of the day, if the only thing my kids did was push through a stack of paperwork so I can say we were productive, I have failed in my job. Getting through the books isn’t the goal. The goal is to teach my children, to reach their hearts, to minister to their souls, and to encourage a love of learning.

I need to make sure I am teaching my children and not merely the curriculum!

“All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.”

~ Isaiah 54:13

We’d love to know… Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a lesson and suddenly realized this is not working? How did you redirect your learning to be more productive for your children?

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Easter Fun Series!

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“On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed [is] the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.“
~ John 12:12-15

Aside from Christmas, Easter is the most significant holiday for Christians. This is more than just an opportunity collect eggs, wear cute bunny ears, and hoard candy. Easter is amazing, redeeming grace. For our family, this is a time to put aside outside responsibilities and simply focus on the true meaning of this holy occasion. For the next few weeks, we will focus on all things Easter.

It is our desire to use this time not only for encouraging our family, but to learn from yours! Join us as we focus on the true meaning of this special holiday. We hope to share some of our favorite games, activities, crafts, and recipes which all point towards Christ and His love for us.

Easter Fun: Easter Week Begins
Easter Fun: Resurrection Eggs
Easter Fun: Books
Easter Fun: Egg Decorating
Easter Fun: Resurrection Garden
Easter Fun: Resurrection Rolls

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,”
~ John 11:25

Share with us… What is your family’s favorite homeschool resource for learning the true meaning of Easter?

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Review: Fitting Words Classical Rhetoric Complete Program by Roman Roads Media

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“Asking ‘Why rhetoric?’ is similar to asking ‘Why logic?’ Again, the answer is self-evident. Without logic, the question couldn’t exist. Without rhetoric, the question couldn’t be well answered. The question, then, is not ‘Why should we study rhetoric?’ The more appropriate question is, ‘How could we not study rhetoric?'”

We love developing new skills. With the help of Roman Roads Media and Fitting Words Classical Rhetoric Complete Program our family is on a new adventure learning the fine art of effective communication.

Roman Roads Media specializes in classical curriculum for home and classroom use. Amongst their incredible line of resources families can find materials for teaching logic, western culture, latin, poetry, history, and rhetoric. To assist us in our studies, we chose to take a closer look at Fitting Words Classical Rhetoric, recommended for high school students and above.

The complete program includes five key components:

  • A Fitting Words Textbookroman_roads_3
  • A Student Workbook, including exercises and activities for each lesson, and six Speech Judging Sheets.
  • An Answer Key, including answers to every exercise and exam.
  • A Fitting Words Exam Pack, including nine exam reviews and nine exams. Exams being two to four pages in length, primarily consisting of essay questions.
  • And a Fitting Words video course, – Streaming or Blu-Ray/DVD + Streaming – in which students receive in-depth teaching from the author for every lesson. Students are given numerous examples, illustrations, and video clips demonstrating good oratory from history, extra activities, and more.

As the curriculum is recommended for high school students and above, I determined this would be a perfect fit for my high school senior. While I do have another student in high school, I wished to use my oldest daughter as a gauge for whether her younger siblings would benefit from the curriculum earlier in their learning program. As I had never taken a classical rhetoric course myself, I thought it would be fun to join her in her studies. One afternoon a week we sit down together and complete a given lesson; our time lasting approximately two hours. This schedule best suits our routine and needs; however the program could easily be completed throughout the course of the week should a family desire to do so. Having received the curriculum a month ago, we have thus far completed the entirety of Unit One and will continue on until the finish of the course at the close of our year.

Fitting Words Classical Rhetoric has proven to be a well-organized, wonderful resource for us. The curriculum is simple to understand, thought-provoking, engaging, and enjoyable. Video lessons are brief yet highly educational; insightful and Biblically sound. The given exercises are more than manageable and often fun verbal prompts for discussion. While we consider ourselves fairly well-read, we’ve been encouraged to study works we had yet to explore such as selections from Quintilian and Plato’s Gorgias. We’ve developed memorization by studying Scripture and key speeches given throughout the Bible.

Having used the course for several weeks, we are confident this was the right choice for our family and accurately assessed for high school students and above. We’ve found the lessons to be achievable for my oldest daughter, while encouraging her to study further. Our high school sophomore has expressed a desire to join in our lessons and she will be doing so from this point on.

While Fitting Words does a beautiful job teaching rhetoric, we felt the curriculum was a perfect fit because we had already laid a strong foundation in logic and apologetics. While these studies are by no means required in order to use Fitting Words Classical Rhetoric, students might find they enhance the learning experience and compliment the lessons. Thankfully, Roman Roads also offers a course in Logic to assist families in teaching this skill.

“Rhetoric is the art of using words well, and is measured by our ability to teach men the truth, to move men to goodness, and to delight men with verbal beauty. Effective speaking and writing is informative, powerful, and elegant.”

Fitting Words is a thorough course in rhetoric, and we are enjoying the multitude of benefits it offers. We are excited to continue on with our studies and develop this lovely skill. Thanks to Roman Roads Media and Fitting Words our family is on a new adventure learning the fine art of effective communication.

If you’d like to learn more about Fitting Words Classical Rhetoric Complete Program or Roman Roads Media, please visit them at their website and on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest. To read additional reviews like this one, and gain more insight into what Roman Roads Media has to offer, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew.

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We’re curious... Have you ever taken a course on classical rhetoric?

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Curriculum 101: A Series Review!

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One of the biggest struggles homeschooling families battle is which curriculum is best for their children. We become overwhelmed by the amount of curriculum available, struggle to find the right fit for each of our children, proceed to doubt each choice made for at least the first several weeks, and continue to search for new ways of teaching well after we’ve already begun our year.

To this end, we thought we’d spend time launching discussions on all things curriculum.

What you’ll find in this series: Encouragement, help, tips, hints, and open discussion on what’s worked for our families and what hasn’t.

What you won’t find in this series: A push toward any curriculum in particular. Our desire is to spend time in open conversation with you readers! We would love to share how we’ve taught each subject; what’s worked for us; and ways we’re still attempting to improve in each subject. What we don’t want to do is fit your child into our homeschooling box.

We’re praying you’ll join us in this adventure. Consider this an open invitation to share your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you readers on each topic; letting us know your thoughts, tips, and links to related articles.

Reading
Writing
Arts/Crafts
Bible
Grammar & Composition
Arithmetic
History & Geography
Science
PreK Helps
Music
Computer Sciences
Coding
P.E.
Foreign Language

May this series enrich each of us. And, may the Lord use this time to encourage us all in our homeschooling adventures. ~Cristina

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Searching for What Works

searching_for_what_worksI have a confession. I bought a book – a set of books, really – and they just aren’t working for us. I’ve tried to renegotiate and finagle; I’ve tried to beef them up with additional materials. But the sad, sad fact is they just aren’t what my kids need. It seems I am back to searching for what works.

You’d think after many years of homeschooling this mama would finally have it down, wouldn’t you? After all, once we find a good curriculum it ought to work for the remainder of our schooling experience. Theoretically. However, once you’ve done this a while you realize something. Kids change! What works one year, doesn’t work another. What worked for one child, won’t for another. It can be just a tad frustrating. A tad.

It can be a continual search for materials which best fit our kids needs, and our household budget. How do we determine which curriculum works best? When do we make that investment, and when do we walk away? While we seem to go through this process each year, weighing each child’s needs, there are a few constants our family stands by:

Christian Materials (or at least not anti-Semitic/Christian) – As Christians, we try to ensure our children’s learning is centered on Christ. When at all possible, we purchase materials based on our worldview.

Budget – Is this something I can do myself, find somewhere else for less expensive, or get at a discount? If not…

Longevity – Will this last for only a month or so? Can I make this stretch for more than one child? Some materials are worth the high price, even for only one child; others could be set aside for something better.

Preparation – Will this help my child be ready for whatever future the Lord has prepared for them? One child may need to be challenged in a particular area, whereas another needs something completely different. I want to ensure each child has what they need to fulfill their calling.

Time Consuming – I don’t mean for my kids, I mean for me! Is this curriculum going to take up mounds of my time in the planning, prepping, and teaching? If so, I might wish to regroup.

Challenging – This is for my kids! I want them to be stretched and challenged. (Notice I said challenged and not overwhelmed!) I want our kids to be pushed to achieve more, continuing to find their own limits.

Enjoyment Level – Lastly… While I understand some subjects might be forcefully endured, especially during high school, I like to make their learning as fun as possible. Will my kids enjoy this particular curriculum or is there something which might excite them to learn more?

While there is no perfect method for choosing which curriculum works best for our kids, the checklist above helps guide us in narrowing down our choices. Each curriculum we’ve used, no matter how long we’ve used it, has always taught us something valuable. Even if it’s just to appreciate the beauty of something else… anything else!

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”
~ Proverbs 19:21

Your Turn!: What are your criteria for picking new curriculum? Share your list with us and help other homeschooling families in their journey to finding new learning materials!

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Review: The World’s Story 1: The Ancients

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I have a confession. I have not been happy with our history curriculum choice. It came highly recommended, it had a ton of hands-on activities, and it covered a great deal of information. What was the problem? Not once did it mention the Bible, nor God’s plan for the world He created. I found myself constantly needing to add my own supplements to the lessons and, on occasion, re-word selections entirely. Now, thanks to The World’s Story 1: The Ancients from Master Books, we have the opportunity to explore history like never before, and this mama couldn’t be more pleased!

The World’s Story 1: The Ancients tells the fascinating story of ancient civilizations of the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas from a strong Biblical perspective. Featuring an engaging historical narrative, The Ancients covers Biblical history, educating students about civilizations mentioned in the Bible, up to the development of the early Church. Designed for grades sixth through eighth, The Ancients is the first in a three-volume series in The World’s Story.

“I like to say that if we do not learn history, it is impossible to learn from history. If we do not learn from history, we cannot change the future. We need to learn the mistakes of the past so that we do not repeat them; we need to understand the lessons of the past so that we can make better decisions.”
~ Angela O’Dell

Our family was offered a PDF copy of both student text and teacher guide of The World’s Story 1: The Ancients, which was especially beneficial as I could print multiple copies of any worksheets needed; essential in a home where history is studied as a family unit. The student textbook contains twenty-eight chapters covering creation through the end of the Roman empire. Each chapter includes a brief reading, Biblical references, map work, opportunities for analysis and connection to the world in which they live today, photos, and much more. The teacher guide includes weekly lesson schedules, student activity sheets, review, answer keys, and more. A comprehensive introduction review_worldstory1_studentpagesassists parents in making the most of this curriculum, including tips for struggling learners and teaching multiple ages.

This was a fantastic opportunity for me to gain an overview of the curriculum itself; determining whether it would be a good fit in the future, giving a feel for the material, and where the Lord might be directing our lessons. The World’s Story 1: The Ancients is the first in a coming series of three. The World’s Story 2: The Middle Ages will be available soon; with The World’s Story 3: The Modern Age being released Spring 2019. A review of The Ancients would determine whether an investment in further volumes would be something of interest.

Over the course of a week, I spent several hours a day studying both the student text and teacher guide. The curriculum itself did not mandate this, by any means. The Ancients is a well constructed course, with many helps to assist both student and parent in their daily lessons. Under normal circumstances, an hour’s reading through the introductory passages and helps would have sufficed to begin the course. My main objective was to compare The World’s Story with our current curriculum with a remarkably similar name, thus more time was given for this review. I found the curriculum to be a perfect fit for the suggested age category, with the possibility of being extended further for older students.

I cannot say enough lovely things about this curriculum. I appreciated the introduction and the care taken in explaining the importance of studying ancient history. Not all students have an appreciation for this and the author did a fantastic job laying a foundation for the lessons. We loved that the Bible is the ultimate guide in using this curriculum, leading students back to God continually. Our previous curriculum – while well-organized and hands-on – missed the key element of a strong Biblical foundation and continual Scriptural reference. review_worldstory1_teacherpagesWe’re incredibly excited that we are given a full, accurate account of the world’s beginning and a better understanding of God’s plan for His people. We’re quite pleased with the amount, and diversity, of activities included in the curriculum. The World’s Story far exceeds anything we could have anticipated. Families can expect to explore art studies, artifacts study, map work, copy work, narration, sketching, hands-on activities, timelines, “Dig Deeper” selections which include additional research prompts, and so much more! And the best part? Everything is included in the set. No more buying of additional quiz/test books or answer keys. This set is all we needed to start our adventure in history.

While a particular curriculum selection might fit our family overall, we inevitably need to tweak the details and rearrange lessons to best meet our needs. I was pleased to discover author Angela O’Dell had already anticipated this and created the material for such a purpose. Aside from exchanging a few written exercises for verbal, this curriculum is a fantastic fit. One thing we might note is that The World’s Story does not include suggested literature selections related to each chapter. However, in each “Dig Deeper!” exercise, several areas of further study are suggested which would help direct in choosing additional reading.

With the help of The World’s Story 1: The Ancients and Master Books this mum has gone from discouraged to excited about this coming year’s study of history. I can’t wait to dig into our lessons, knowing everything we’re learning is directing our children back to God’s Word and His plan for our family. I am overjoyed by the amount of fun, educational adventure we’re going to have this year, and it’s all thanks to this remarkable addition to our learning routine!

If you’d like to learn more about The World’s Story 1: The Ancients and Master Books please visit them at their website – where you can download a preview or place your order for this incredible resource – and on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube!

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Your Turn!: How “hands-on” is history in your home, and how has it changed as your children began high school years?

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Review: Critical Thinking Detective Book 1 from The Critical Thinking Co.™

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When our family first began homeschooling, I found myself overwhelmed by the wealth of information available. I was undecided regarding personal goals for our children or which method of homeschooling was best. Through prayer and my husband’s leading, we determined there were three goals we were seeking for our children. We wanted them to read well, so that they might take in the Word of God; write well, so that they could communicate what the Lord was speaking to them; and think well, in order to analyze the world in which they live and serve the Lord righteously. During this past month, our family had the pleasure of reviewing Critical Thinking Detective Book 1 from The Critical Thinking Co.™ which is helping us maintain these goals and encouraging our children to put on their thinking caps!

Producing quality products since 1958, The Critical Thinking Co.™ has a vast selection ofreview_criticalthinking_sample2 resources designed to help teach children critical thinking. Through the medium of math, vocabulary, reading, writing, science, and more, students are taught to analyze information and gain a deeper understanding of the world in which they live. Critical Thinking Detective Book 1 is one of several in the Critical Thinking Detective Lineup. A 32-page paperback workbook, Book 1 leads students through a series of detective cases challenging them to analyze data and develop observation skills. Designed for grades four through twelve, students will find each case fun to solve. 

“If we teach children everything we know, their knowledge is limited to ours. If we teach children to think, their knowledge is limitless.”
– Michael Baker, President

Our family was given a physical copy of Critical Thinking Detective Book 1 to review with our son. Little Man is eleven now; the perfect age to ensure those critical thinking skills are being formed and solidified. The thin paperback had an appealing cover which attracted his attention and increased his interest in the book. Each lesson began with a short mystery, followed by four suspects’ accounts of the case. Based on the details of the mystery and the information given, our son needed to determine which suspects were innocent and which was the guilty party. To assist him, each mystery included a suspect sheet upon which he could record a person’s name and reasons why he believed them to be innocent or guilty, along with sentence numbers to support his reasoning. My goal was to incorporate one to two lessons per day into our routine, completing a minimum of four cases per week over the course of several weeks.

During our first lesson, I worked closely with my son to ensure he understood what was being asked of him. I offered assistance if needed, and helped him with writing down his review_criticalthinking_sample1thoughts. After a few cases, we chose to work through occasional cases verbally. My son would read the mystery and build a solid case for each suspect’s innocence or guilt, then he would ask for my attention and proceed to lay out his case. Afterwards we would check the answer sheet included in the back of the book and discover if he was correct. Our initial lessons took approximately fifteen to twenty minutes, provided my son stayed on task. The remainder of our lessons around ten minutes in length.

Working through Critical Thinking Detective Book 1 was simple. The curriculum was well laid out, with fun graphics of each suspect. The overall format was organized, methodical, review_criticalthinking_wJAGand helpful. While my son was able to solve most of the mysteries without difficulty, we did find a few of the cases harder to solve than others mostly due to a miscommunication in vocabulary. While we understood a suspect’s words to have one meaning, upon looking at the answer sheet we discovered his words had a different connotation. This frustrated my son at first, however it proved to be a good lesson in understanding proper communication and learning to look at words carefully to find double meaning. Upon completion, I appreciate how Critical Thinking Detective Book 1 has helped teach our son to slow down and focus on the details of a story and the importance of context clues. The cases themselves were quite funny, with suspects stealing potted plants from storefront windows and kittens snagging the neighbor’s barbecue.

We love discovering new curriculum. We’re overjoyed when we come across resources which help us achieve our goals in reading well, writing well, and thinking well. Critical Thinking Detective has been an exercise in all three, and we’re blessed in having had the experience. Now, on to Book Two!

If you’d like to learn more about Critical Thinking Detective Book 1 or The Critical Thinking Co.™, please visit them at their website and on FacebookPinterest, Twitter or Google+. Be sure to take advantage of this limited time offer: A FREE set of critical thinking puzzles valued at over $75! Find resources you’d like to purchase? Receive free shipping and 15% off any size order now until the end of 2018 by using coupon code TOSCREW18.
To read helpful reviews like this one, and gain more insight into what The Critical Thinking Co. has to offer, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew.

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

review_aplusWe’re nearing the end of our learning year. While we’ve been assessing our progress throughout our schooling, this is the perfect opportunity to identify lessons which might need a tad more work before moving forward. Thanks to the Adaptive Math Curriculum Online from A+ Interactive Math (by A+ TutorSoft Inc.) we’re zeroing in on math studies that could use a boost.

A+ Interactive Math (by A+ TutorSoft Inc.) offers colorful, multimedia lessons that teach math concepts using audio, visuals, and text. Using interactive review, worksheets, step-by-step solutions, automatic grading and tracking, and various reports to measure student progress, A+ Interactive Math seeks to help identify and close learning gaps by re-teaching concepts needed. Currently, A+ Interactive Math offers both an Adaptive Math Curriculum Online and a  Family Math Package

Using the Adaptive Math Curriculum Online, students are given a series of placement test based on a “target” grade level. The program then gives a mini-test for each major math concept to gauge student’s skill level. If it detects any learning gaps between the “target” grade level and student’s current skill level, it automatically creates an individualized plan for the student. The plan includes video lessons, interactive review, practice worksheets online, automatic grading, tracking and re-test. Essentially this is a skill-based learning model. This program covers Grades 1–6 and Pre-Algebra. This program is completely automated, where lessons are chosen for you.review_aplus_interactive

Using the Family Math Package, students are not pre-tested. This is a package of ALL grade levels offered. Each grade level includes comprehensive course contents with video lessons, interactive review, practice worksheets, chapter tests, automatic grading, tracking and much more. Parents can place students in any grade and change the level at any time.

To help narrow-in on areas of math study which might need a little more work, our son was given a one year subscription to the Adaptive Math Curriculum Online. After receiving email confirmation of registration, setting up an account for both myself and my son was an easy process taking mere minutes. A fifth grade “target” was chosen for his review, as my son will be finishing this grade within a few short weeks. The goal was for him to spend approximately thirty minutes a day, Monday through Thursday, completing placement tests and working through possible lessons of review. As he progressed through the online curriculum, I could check on his work from my parent account; reviewing all answers from tests and areas which might need additional study.

While setting up our accounts was simple and easy, we did note finding a computer to access the lessons proved to be a little more challenging. While flash is loaded on our laptop, lessons could not be viewed. Placement tests were possible, but lessons gave us difficulty. Switching to a desktop computer, we experienced trouble attempting to access lessons on our kids’ login – which has higher viewing protection and blocks a great deal of incoming information. Thus, for these lessons, it was necessary to use an admin login and parental viewing controls. Because of this I chose to sit with my son while he completed lessons, which gave me greater opportunity to gather his thoughts on the adaptive math curriculum and view areas of struggle. This also meant I did not need to access my parent review_aplus_videolessonlogin as much as I would have expected, given I was able to see firsthand how he was progressing.

Adaptive Math Curriculum Online takes students through a series of placement tests based on their target, creating lessons when a child struggles in a particular area. In my son’s fifth grade target, seventeen tests were given with a range of twelve to thirty-plus questions in each. Tests took approximately ten to fifteen minutes to complete; depending on the type of questions asked. If for any reason we needed to leave a test, tests would then need to be retaken from the beginning. I’m thankful to say he did not seem to have any great difficulty in the bulk of these tests; passing fifteen of the seventeen lessons on his initial run. During one lesson I had him purposely miss a few questions, so we could see what a review lesson might look like should it be needed. Two additional areas of study were shown to need a little more work, but nothing which caused us great alarm.

For areas in which he struggled, we were able to view lessons to strengthen these skills. The lessons were brief and well taught, and offered him a quick Q&A to ensure he was on the right track. Lessons could be viewed as a slide presentation or in text form. Worksheets were also available; they greatly resembled the placement tests taken initially, but were good practice. If my son wished to see an overview of his progress, a report could be generated. Once my son is able to pass all of his placement tests, I am free to move him on to the sixth grade “target” from my parent login, and the fun begins again.review_aplus_login

From a teacher’s perspective, I would remind other educators A+ Interactive Math is not testing based on the chosen curriculum of your home. Expect to possibly see questions which your child has not come across before, or might be taught in a different manner. While we did not anticipate seeing quite so many placement tests – Honestly, I had imagined only several comprehensive exams. – having now used the online curriculum, I better understand the necessity of this process. As I mentioned, my son seemed to have little difficulty in the placement tests themselves, but I feel he would have done better had a visual “progress bar” been present. After moving through a great deal of questions, he would inevitably begin asking how much longer he had to go and when the test would be over. Had a “progress bar” been available, this would have been a great help. One quick tip: We did note having paper and pencil nearby was handy; several questions required these tools in order for him to identify the answer needed. Overall, from setting up our account to working through each placement test, the entire process ran fairly smoothly. All things considered, this curriculum does its job well.

Our learning year is almost over, but we’re not done yet. Before the year runs out, we’re zeroing in on a few final lessons and mastering areas of study which have proven to be a challenge. Adaptive Math Curriculum Online has been a help in closing those gaps and encouraging us to finish well. Let’s see what the new year brings!

If you’d like to learn more about Adaptive Math Curriculum Online, Family Math Package  or A+ Interactive Math (by A+ TutorSoft Inc.), please visit them at their website and on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter. To read helpful reviews like this one, and gain more insight into what A+ Interactive Math has to offer, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew.

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Your Turn!: Do you find a final review at the end of the school year helpful?

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