Tuesday, September 25, 2012

TOS Review - Homeschool Legacy

This year our history curriculum is focusing on the first colonies. How serendipitous (There's a good "vocabulary word of the day" for you!) that this unit study popped up for us to review!

Homeschool Legacy's Once-a-Week Unit Studies are Biblically based, Science and History units for grades 2 - 12 created by fellow homeschooling Mom, Sharon Gibson.  As stated on their website: Our goal is to help you instill a love of learning in your children and to help you get them fired up for the Lord.  The studies are designed to be used one day a week either as a supplement to your curriculum or as a stand alone unit that covers all areas of study.  Probably one of the coolest features of the unit studies (other than the "Stump Dad Trivia" questions that are added at the end of each section) is there are activities and ideas included so Boy Scouts and American Hertitage Girls can earn merit badges. If you have kids involved in those groups, that is a very awesome feature. I know Julianna was all about earning petals when she was a Daisy Scout...unfortunately that was solely at the discretion of her troop leader. They didn't get many petals that year. :-( 

Sorry, I digress. To go along with our history, we chose the Early Settlers in America title to review. This unit study was organized into six comprehensive weekly lessons covering the "lost colony" - Roanoke, NC, Jamestown, Holland, Plymouth, Pennsylvania and NY, as well as giving tips on how to schedule your week and the information needed for earning badges.  

My musings:
We enjoyed going through this unit study.  It worked better for us to split the lessons up into smaller parts to supplement our history rather than complete each weekly section in a day. Plus, we could introduce some of the colonies that we won't be learning about until a little later on throughout the year.  Each lesson comes with suggested readings and activities to do, so some pre-planning (to make sure you have all the materials available) and a trip to the library is probably required to get the books.  I wasn't able to find some of the titles listed, so I substituted books I already had or found ones from on the same subjects at the library.  We're flexible. Some of the activities listed we had already done recently either while on vacation (writing with quills at Monticello) or on a recent field trip to a local historical park (making ink and writing (again) with quills), but we did enjoy making a Bilbo Catcher toy (Anytime I hear the name of this toy I can't help but think of Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit. Lol It's actually from Bilboa, Spain.)  We'd played with a wooden one before, so we were familiar with how it works.
Here are a few pictures:

Early Settlers in America is only one of eleven different once-a-week unit study titles available.  It is available for purchase from the Homeschool Legacy website for $17.95.  Check them out.  :-)

* Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a copy of the Early Settlers unit study in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was given. *

Thursday, September 13, 2012

TOS Review - Family Time Fitness

I just realized that one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is that Julianna will never have to wear a uniform in a Phys Ed class.  Mine in Junior High was bad.  So bad that on the last day of our 9th grade year, we had a slumber party and burned those uniforms. (Yes, I went to school when it was 7th-9th grade and called Junior High. I'm a child of the 80's.) They were one piece, red and white striped jersey knit. Think prison uniforms. *shiver*   Gosh, those were traumatic years.  On the flip side, we used to play awesome games like Dodge Ball, Kill Ball (This was Dodge Ball's older, meaner brother - played with basketballs thrown by the strongest kids in class while all of us prison-uniformed students lined up against the gym walls.), Dead Man's Tag (If you were tagged you had to sit down and then your friends could drag you by your arms and legs back to safety as they ran passed - limb dislocation rocked!) and Crab Soccer (Think crab walking all over the gymnasium kicking each other in the shins trying to score a goal.)  Gosh, those were great years.  It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, my friends.  So, what made me have nightmarish flashbacks to my formidable Phys Ed years?  Planning Phys Ed activities for Julianna.  Thankfully, I have found something that eases the bad memories, Family Time Fitness.

The hubs and I (along with many friends at church :-) ) have been on a diet (or as Julianna calls it "pain and suffering") since early February and since Julianna is a total carb kid and a self proclaimed "sweetenarian", I thought it might not be a bad idea if we had a more structured Phys Ed program to help foster a healthier lifestyle, other than just playing outside, which we still do.  I had gotten some information about Family Time Fitness' Fitness 4 Homeschool curriculum at a homeschool conference last Spring, but in the hubbub of planning everything else, it sort of worked it's way down the "must have" ladder.  But, see how cool the Lord is?  I was totally stoked when it popped up as a review.  Yes, please!

We received their Core 1, K-8 Curriculum to review.  For only $57 it includes 260 detailed lessons (downloadable pdf) that are progressive and sequential.  The only equipment you need are things that you already have, most likely, or can easily substitute.  You'll need bean bags or small balls (one suggestion given was balled up socks), hula hoop (the dollar stores sell them, if you don't have one), cones (or something to mark boundaries), stopwatch (hello, cell phone), outside balls / foam balls (can be used for activities both inside and outside depending on if you have to adapt due to the weather), jump rope, measuring tape and an exercise mat (or in our house, blankets and pillows/cushions).  

The lesson plans are all laid out the same (and feels very much like a traditional gym class):  the skills that will be taught (i.e. mobility, coordination, etc.) along with the equipment needed and recovery times between activities that are suggested (which are generally 30 seconds to 1 minute), warm ups, activity/game time, cool downs and an outdoor activity.  Also included in the curriculum are additional forms for downloading:  assessment tracking sheets, activity tracking sheets, and other health related forms:  meal planning, shopping lists, food diary and a nutrition journal.  

The majority of the activities could easily be done with just Julianna and myself.  The outdoor games/activities are saved for when Dad comes home.  Even then we still have a small group, but at least 3 participants is a little more fun for most games than just 2.  In my opinion, one of the best features of the curriculum are the video demonstration links that are included for every activity and game planned.  For example, say you were reading your lesson plan and you didn't know what it meant by the activity, crabwalk (unlike me since you already know I lettered in crab soccer in Jr High), you just click the handy dandy link and viola!  A YouTube demonstration video pops up.  Did I mention it's for every activity and game? Every one.  

So, friends, don't let your traumatic experiences from your past school years scare you off from teaching your kiddos Phys Ed.  Family Time Fitness makes it a very easy decision.  And at $57 for the whole family, it's a pretty economical one too!  

You can read what my other Crew Mates thought of the program here

*Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a copy of the Core 1 Curriculum in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was given. *


Thursday, September 6, 2012

TOS Review - Reading Kingdom

Hello again, Reading. You have become my arch nemesis in this homeschooling journey. You are the Captain Hook to my Peter Pan. The salad to my pumpkin pie. The Lex Luthor to my Superman. But, alas, I shall prevail.

Teaching Julianna to read has been the most difficult part of homeschooling to date. (I know the difficulties will change as we continue on, but it's currently one of those "trees for the forest" situations.) It's very difficult to watch your child struggle and fall behind peers in an area that is completely essential. It's a hopeless feeling and it seems never ending. So, since reading is a trouble area for us, I take any help I can get. Julianna does well with online activities, so I was hoping that Reading Kingdom would be a good fit for us. So far, so good.

Current reading programs are generally taught based on three approaches: phonics (sounding words out), whole language (memorizing whole words) or a combination of both.  Reading Kingdom, created by Columbia University's Dr. Marion Blank, differs from other programs because it teaches kiddos 4-10 years old, reading and writing by focusing on six skills:  sequencing (letter order), motor skills (keyboarding), sounds (phonology), meaning (semantics), grammar (syntax) and comprehension (text).

After taking the Skills Assessment (which the program instructs must be done without direct help), the program will then be "kid customized", so the lessons are meaningful and appropriate, not repetitive (which Julianna gets frustrated with...especially if she's balking at the subject anyway.)

My musings:

So far, I really like this program.  The initial assessment lessons were a bit longer (maybe 15 minutes or so) and she would complain about having to complete them, but our saving grace was the progress meter (it gave the percentage complete of the skills assessment and the program as a whole).  Being able to see that she was 75% done with the assessment part one day and now 98% done, etc. was a BIG motivator.  Since she has completed the assessments and now is into the actual reading lessons, things are going swimmingly.  She has been completing the lessons much quicker, so there hasn't been a fight when it's time to get them done.  The games and activities have had enough variety, so she's not getting bored with them.  We are using this as a supplement to our other Language Arts, but it could easily be used as a stand alone curriculum.
Parents can check the progress of their child at any time online and are also kept in the loop through emails when certain criteria (completing levels, etc.) are met.

If you have a youngster that is in the process of learning to read, give Reading Kingdom a looksie.  

They offer a 30 day free trial and then memberships are $19.99 per month or $199.99 per year.  Additional children receive a 50% discount.  


*Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a subscription for Reading Kingdom in exchange for my honest opinion.  No other compensation was given.*

Sunday, September 2, 2012

TOS Molly Crew Review - Everyday Homemaking - The Everyday Family Chore System


Julianna has been begging me to set up a chore chart for her for quite a while. Yes, I know that sounds very noble of her, but she does have ulterior motives (read: she wants things.) Nevertheless, I have never been able to come up with a successful (or consistent) chore chart, so when I was given the chance to review The Everyday Family Chore System by Everyday Homemaking, I jumped at it.

The chore system was created by Vicki Bentley "to encourage you and provide some tools to help you to mentor your children in what it means to be a responsible, caring, sharing part of your family. That will include some training in appropriate attitudes and character, as well as the physical teaching of how to accomplish a task."

The book is split into three parts:

Part 1:  Laying the Foundation (training your children to become responsible, serving members of the family and in living skills)
The foundation of this system is based on the following four principles:
  • Having realistic and age-appropriate expectations (For example, in the 5-12 age range we are creating a chart for we'll focus on training on being consistent, respectful, thinking of others first, being diligent, being thorough and cheerfully obeying)
  • Establishing rules and standards (Kids must know what is expected of them and parents need to change their automatic "no" (which I am very proficient in) to a "yes" and let the responsibility of the actions fall onto the child.  An example was given of instead of saying, "No, you may not have dessert because you didn't eat your supper." You change it to, "Yes, you may have dessert if you finish your healthy food."  I am allllllll about personal responsibility (Do not get me on my soap box about how that is a key component that is lacking in today's world!), so I'm definitely implementing this strategy, um, today!)
  • Having a working knowledge of family discipline (Do not correct in anger, but rather train in love teaching both repentance and restoration.)
  • Tie strings to their hearts (Connect with your kids through time, love and their interests in turn showing them they are an important part of the family.)
Part 2:  Implementing the Plan (assignment of age appropriate chores and designing the system you will use)
This is the part of the system that I think is most helpful.  It gives a list of age appropriate chores from age 2 - 13+.  That has probably been the hardest part of putting a chore chart together - what should the chores be?  It gives a lot of ideas deciding how often the chores need to be completed (Is it daily?  Weekly?) and how to create the system.  Her original chart used clothes pins that had the chore written on them attached to a piece of cardstock.  Her daughter's names were written down the middle and the chore pins were split into weekly and daily chores on either side of the card.  Index-like cards that give specific instructions for the chores (called how-to-do-it cards) are also in a pocket on the board.  Since we are starting small, I used a foam door hanger, wrote Julianna's name at the top and split the bottom into two sides:  To do and Done.  I am using the idea of the clothes pins, but she will need to move the chore pin from the "to do" side to the "done" side as they are completed.  After we get this established, we may need to move onto a more elaborate board.  My main reason for going small at first is we (meaning ME) need to get it established and we (again MOI) need to be consistent in following through to completion.

Part 3:  The Chore System (all of the premade labels and how-to-do-it cards ready to print and use)
Pre-made chore labels (also blank ones) and all of the instruction cards are already available for you to print and use! Timesaver.

I am excited to try our chore system out.  I will update periodically about what works and didn't and what changes needed to be made.

The Everyday Family Chore System is available in print form (spiral bound) for $19.99 and as an ebook download for $14.99.  You can order on the Everyday Homemaking website or through their Amazon store.

*Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Molly Crew Review, I was given an ebook download of the book The Everyday Family Chore System to feature on my blog in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was received.