Monday, June 29, 2015

My Love for Compass Classroom Part 2 (American History Version)

This post is coming to you a little later than I originally thought, but man this summer has been crazy busy for me. So here is the next product that I really love from Compass Classroom. Grace used Dave Raymond's American History the entire year for her high school American History Credit. As always I tweaked this product a fair amount. If you follow This Link you can read my original review from almost one year ago when I was reviewing the product for the TOS Review Crew. We loved the product so much that we kept using it and loved it.

In the beginning we used the product almost exactly as it was recommended. View one lecture a day to finish out one lesson per week. There are 26 total lessons. Each lesson has additional reading that is supplied for free for you to print you. At the end of the week there are 10 essay style questions for your child to answer pertaining to the lectures, reading, and their own thoughts. A portfolio is created of drawings, graphics, etc. in a notebooking/scrapbooking style. There are also three major projects to accomplish throughout the year (map reproduction project, 40 hour hands on project of the child's choice, and a 3-10 page essay).

Like I said, In the beginning we used it almost exactly as it is recommended. Just like any other homeschooling family we discovered that some parts didn't work for us because of learning styles, etc. The first item we ended up changing was the 10 essay style questions at the end of each lesson group. Grace was having a real problem answering the questions to match up with what the answers were in the teacher's guide and since I was not watching the lectures with her it was a very hard thing to try and grade. I decided instead to have her pick a topic from the daily lectures and write a one page essay each week in place of answering the questions.
We also ditched the additional readings early on mostly do to time constraints from her outside of the home classes. I do plan starting next month to have Grace read through the Genevieve Foster books that pertain to that time in history to just round out the credit some (The World of Captain John Smith, The World of William Penn, George Washington's World, and Abraham Lincoln's World).
Also with her artistic background we leaned heavily on drawing and working in her portfolio by adding portraits of the individuals she was hearing about in the lectures.
Hands down this was the best DVD based product we have ever used. I was very excited to learn that they are in production for the second half of American History with Dave Raymond because the DVDs we just finished only go up to the reconstruction after the Civil War. I am really hoping that it will be ready by the fall of next year to use for Grace's Senior year of high school. In the mean time I will be using the Economics program from Compass Classroom for her first semester of her Junior Year.

I should also mention due to running out of time at the end of the year I allowed Grace to do a four page spread in her portfolio on Harriet Tubman opposed to writing the 3-10 page essay. She had so much writing in her Literature class this year that I just felt it wasn't needed.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

My Love for Compass Classroom

Last year I was introduced to a company that was completely new to me through reviewing one of their products. This company is Compass Classroom. They offer many different types of products and continue to add new exciting educational tools often. I am starting a series about a few of the products I have used from this company. Yes, a few of them I received the for free for my opinions, but I have also continued to purchase materials on my own from them as well. Today we have finished the American History by Dave Raymond for a 10th grade credit. I am collecting my thoughts and will hopefully have a post ready tomorrow on this product. Both the review I did on the product last summer when we had just begun using it and now after a whole year. What did we like, was there anything we didn't like, and as a homeschooling family what did we tweak to make it work for us. As well as what my daughters thoughts were after using it for an entire year.

Today I want to talk about a product I used specifically for me as encouragement for next year with my tutoring students and also somewhat with my daughter who will begin her 11th grade year in August. This product is Homeschool Made Simple by Carol Joy Seid.  This is a workshop that is 8 segments long full of encouragement for moms whether you are a veteran or new homeschooling family. I have strived through the years to include lots of good literature in our home (sometimes I have failed and at times succeeded) and have it be the center of most of our learning. That is what Carol Joy Seid is teaching through this workshop.

I literally spent two afternoons watching video after video. It reminded me why I started homeschooling in the first place and gave me lots of encouragement to keep doing what I am doing. Topics that she covers are revolve around learning your subjects through literature, building character in your children, what a typical day looks like, and so much more.
Carol is a joy to watch and listen. My afternoons spent listening to her workshop were rejuvenating and so encouraging. This is a very economical series to purchase and watch over and over again.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

TOS Review - SmartKidz Media - SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers

SmartKidz Media Review
Homeschoolers use a variety of tools to help educate their children. Students learn best in so many different ways. Two of our most important avenues of learning happen to be visual and audio. Over the years we have used so many video or streaming based products. This year alone we used a video based product for History and also supplemental materials for Biology in the same format. We have also listened to classical music (composer study), audio dramas (enhancing books we have read or dramas based on historical events), and books on tape (while drawing, etc.) many, many times during our nine years of homeschooling. When the opportunity to review SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers from SmartKidz Media cam about it seemed like a win - win situation. Through the TOS Review Crew and SmartKidz Media we were blessed with the opportunity to review this new product with a full year's subscription.

SmartKidz Media has made available over 1,000 media related items to homeschoolers to implement into your educational adventure. The types of media that are available, but not limited to, include; videos, music, ebooks, interactive study guides, games, and more in an online streaming format. Currently they offer 2 different payment plans - a monthly membership for $10.00 and a yearly membership for $99.00 as well as a free 14 day trial. SmartKidz Media is adding new media materials to their already large catalogue often. With a membership your family can utilize all the materials anytime, anywhere, and on any type of device. Current compatible devices include: PC, MAC, IPHONE, Tablets, Mobile Phone, and Roku Boxes. Below you will find the different categories now available in the SmartKidz Media catalogue:
World of Discovery (animal wildlife, culture, history, science, travel, exercise, and more)
Music and Fine Arts (music playlists from famous composers, jazz, relaxation, etc.)
Mighty ebook Collection
Baby Signs Program
My Animal Family
Quickfind Study Guides
Learning Special Needs (interactive books, supplementary materials in PDF format)
Living Skills Program
Ready Set Sing
Fun Zone (games)
This educational site could be used in so many different ways. As far as the videos go, they could be used as a supplement to many different studies pertaining to science, history, and geography. You could easily pick one or two videos that contain common topics and build a study around them. There are opportunities to include videos for exercise (P.E.), life skills (cooking lessons), and travel (geography).
The Quick-Find Study Guides is overflowing with rules and definitions for language arts, math, science, and social studies. Coming soon this section will also include study guides for Spanish and Accounting. The Fun Zone is an area many younger students will enjoy through games, jokes, riddles, and puzzles. Families with babies and very young children will enjoy the Baby Signs Programs that teaches sign language through video. So far I haven't even covered half of what is available. Truly, SmartKidz Media has something for every member of your family.
In our home my younger students concentrated on the animal and wildlife videos. This year in science we studied birds and insects that fly so we gravitated toward videos that supplemented the learning in those areas. In August we will be studying oceans and swimming creatures. I have already seen many videos we can use for that area of study as well. My favorite sections were the music playlist. Listening to famous composers while performing chores around the house made the chores much more pleasant than usual. Recently my husband and daughter have become fascinated with sushi (not me). I was thrilled to see that the Lifestyles and Cuisine section had a video on how to create all kinds of sushi. I watched the video and it almost made me wish that I enjoyed eating sushi. I was very excited to see the videos on World War II and the Cold War added to the catalogue and I am eager to share those with my high school student.
Go check out the 14 day free trial from SmartKidz Media and see if this might be a good fit for you and your family. Also see what other Crew Members thought of this product.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Brain Healthy Eating

We are slowly adjusting our family diet from simple to complex carbs. This means 100 percent whole grain, oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, and whole grain pastas.
If you or family members suffer from anxiety or depression this is something you should strongly consider. I am about to go through my third book on battling depression and anxiety and they all say the same thing. Get off of simple carbs (processed foods) and sugar. Exercise more. The first book I read The Chemistry of Joy was very eye opening about treating depression through a change of diet, exercise, minerals and supplements. The third book on my night stand that I am about to start is Grain Brain - The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar - Your Brain's Silent Killers.
Today was the grand opening for A to Zinc in our community. A new health food store that also carries good for you foods (some even made locally) as well as a smoothie bar. I purchased some bread, muffins, and banana nut bread to try.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Puppies Update - Because Who Doesn't Want to Look at Cute Puppy Pictures.....

These guys literally run our lives. Everything revolves around trying to get them potty trained, fed, playtime, cuddle time, etc. We can't leave the house for more than 5-6 hours at a time. They have cost us thousands of dollars. Yes, you heard me right. Thousands! Between the actual purchase of the puppies, to the many medical problems, preventative care, neutering, food, toys, and puppy pads.

I have heard that boy dogs are harder to potty train and I am beginning to believe that statement. It is always three steps forward and two steps back in that department. Neutering did help with marking the territory problem in the house, but still multiple accidents a day from each of them.

Despite all of that we still love them to pieces. They have two very distinctly different personalities. They love each other to the moon and back and cannot be separated for anything unless they have my poodle there to soften the situation.

This is what I see every night before bed. Sweet faces!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Fellow Coffee Addicts Please Stand Up

I came into the coffee addiction late in the game. Only two short years ago did I really start drinking coffee. Since then I have graduated to frappes, iced coffee, and a regular cup of joe nearly every day at home. I use it more for snacks or treats than I do for the caffeine. Well all those frappes and iced coffees start to add up after awhile. Today I had a brainstorm.

Make some really strong coffee, put them in cute little ice cube trays, then plop them in the freezer for a few hours.

I ended up with many cute shaped coffee flavored ice. Now I can add them to my milk and make my own iced coffees. Or I can put them in the blender to try my hand at a frappe. Also the coffee flavored ice cubes will keep my iced coffee very flavorful unlike adding ice to the coffee itself, which it then waters down.

Had me one tonight and YUM! My name is Diane and I am a addicted to coffee!

Monday, June 15, 2015

TOS Review - CTC Math - 12 Month Family Plan

CTCMath Review
My long time readers are already familiar with posts I have written in the past about how much Grace despises math, especially Algebra. In 9th grade she had so much trouble that she barely passed with a C. In light of those struggles we decided to have Personal Finance as her 10th grade math and take a step back from some of the higher math concepts. Fast forward to this summer - Grace has signed up to take Geometry through a hybrid program at a local Christian private school - and she knew she wanted to brush up on reviewing her Algebra 1 concepts. Next thing I know a review pops up from CTC Math with a 12 Month Family Plan. This really could not have come at a better time for us and we feel so blessed to have been chosen to review it.
Until I started reviewing on the Crew I had never even heard of CTC Math. Then every once in a while I would see testimonials from other Crew Members about how much they loved CTC, so I knew when the opportunity to review it came around it might be a good fit for us.
CTC Math is basically an online tutor for all math grades Kindergarten through Calculus and Trigonometry. With the 12 Month Family Plan for 2 or more students you will get unlimited access to all levels for just $118.00 a year. This is an amazing price for homeschoolers that is a 60 percent discount off the normal pricing. Of course if your student needs to only review or brush up on certain math topics then purchase a monthly plan of $11.97 for one student of $15.97 for 2 or more students.

CTC Math is completely online with worksheets you can print if needed. The website is incredibly easy to use and navigate. No learning curve required. The lessons are narrated and animated with a teacher that has a lovely Australian accent. The video lessons are short and to the point. Our algebra lessons that we have viewed so far have not been longer than 4-6 minutes each. All levels combined equal over 1300 video tutorials. Some aspects of the program that I really love as a parent are self-grading worksheets, weekly reports sent to my email, and keeping an overall average of the completed work. I also love that there are solutions to every single problem and that on each worksheet the student will find an answer bank. This lets the student know if they are on the right

We chose to review the Algebra section of this program as Grace is trying to furiously work her way through all the lessons this summer to get ready for her next higher math class in the fall for 11th grade. This means Grace worked on CTC Math so far 3-5 times a week during the review period. She has completed Part 1 and half of Part 2 in the Algebra section. Each Part has 3-6 topics. The Topic sections then have anywhere from 5-13 lessons per topic to complete. Does she still get frustrated? Yes, but she always will because math is really not her strong subject. Did she like CTC Math? Yes. Will she continue to use it? Absolutely. Once we finish the algebra 1 portion of the program, I plan on Grace utilizing the Geometry sections when she has problems or questions from her homework.

A teenager's perspective: Even though I don't like math, I really like this program. I think it is one of the best math programs I have used and we have definitely used many over the years. Great for reviewing topics you didn't learn well the first go around and very easy to use. I would like to see a little more description in the videos with all possibilities of the problems that are presented to solve on the worksheets.

CTC Math is one of the best products I have every reviewed. Definitely in the top five and it is a perfect fit for my family. Be sure to check out the reviews from other Crew Members to get their perspectives on CTC Math.

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

TOS Review - Dynamic Literacy - WordBuild Elements, Level 1 Set

JazzEdge  Review
I don't know about you, but around this household we love finding interesting ways to study vocabulary. Even though we haven't studied a true Latin program in our home we have used various products that included some Latin and Greek root word training. Recently I have seen a word used more and more that I have to admit I'd never heard before - MORPHEMES. Maybe I've just been living under a rock!, but morphemes are basically the core parts that build a word. When WordBuild: Elements, Level 1 Set from Dynamic Literacy came up for a review, I knew it was something we needed to investigate.
JazzEdge  Review
For this review we received three physical products: teacher's edition, student workbook, and WordBuild the Game, which make up the Elements Level 1 Set. Currently this set is retailing for $99.99 and is recommended for grades 6 - 10. Dynamic Literacy has another level available for younger students grade 2 - 5. The student workbook is consumable, but the game can be used for multiple students.
Dynamic Literacy has created a unique and effective way to train and help improve in the areas of language, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. Their program is based on learning how to decipher and build words starting with Greek and Latin root words. Add in the prefixes and suffixes, then one word turns into multiple words. Learn 50 root words, add in the extras and BAM your student has learned enough words to fill up a spiral notebook. That is a pretty awesome feat for a student to accomplish in just 15 minutes a day of study. Oh yeah, did I mention that this program is based on only 15 minutes of work a day, five days a week.
JazzEdge  Review
Our review product, Elements Level 1 assumes and recommends that your child already have a basic understanding and mastery of phonics as well as how to use prefixes and suffixes. Once your child finishes with Level 1, you will find a level 2 and 3 for more advanced work.
The student workbook is 127 pages long with an appendix in the back that includes bingo games and advance preparation worksheets. In the beginning of the workbook you will find a short article that is an overview about our language which is very informative and enjoyable. I love reading history about the English language. Then each lesson is setup the very same with worksheets teaching a new root word: Root Squares, Magic Squares, Stair Steps, Comprehension Booster, and My Word Wall. Each individual page is to be used 15 minutes a day. Short and Sweet, but packing a powerful punch. It was very easy to hand this off to my high school student for individual work. The worksheets are set up in a sequence that allows the student to become familiar with the root and the different words that come from it on into defining, review, and comprehension.
The teacher's edition is just .... wow! Full of all kinds of information to relay to your student: What to teach, activities, discussion, extended learning, demonstrations, answers to each page, and more. Quite frankly there was so much here it seemed a little overwhelming to me. This wasn't just one or two pages for each weekly lesson, but for every day/page(worksheet) equaling five days a week and a check-up at the end. The teacher' edition is a must for this program and should not be skipped.
Also included in our review product is WordBuild the Game. The game can be used for the student to review what they have learned and have a little fun in the process. In the game the student chooses a root word and starts building words by adding prefixes, suffixes, and other root words. This can be timed or not and used by multiple students. The game came to us as a CD.
We used this product 3-5 times a week to round out Grace's 10th grade English credit. She found the program challenging and a little frustrating because in her words, "Her brain doesn't exactly work that way and it was difficult at times to come up with many words in the opening activity". She also thought it was a very useful educational tool that taught her a lot in the short time she used it. To be honest I have to agree with her assessment. The program is challenging, unique, and very educational.
Dynamic Literacy has been gracious enough to offer my readers 25 percent off books and 10 percent off WordBuildonline by using the code cabin. Be sure to also check out the reviews from the other TOS Crew Members.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Powerful Statement - The Story of My Life

I am continuing to read through One Year to an Organized Life and every now and then a true nugget of knowledge punches me in the face. These nuggets may just apply to me, but I have a strong suspicion that they apply to so many around the world, especially in the United States. So today I share with you a statement from One Year to An Organized Life (dealing with the chapter on creating a welcoming bedroom) this is The Story of My Life.

"When we feel vulnerable and powerless in our lives, we frequently do one of two things: we gain weight or we weight ourselves down with too  much stuff. Fat and stuff are both buffers against a world we perceive as threatening our well-being."
Regina Leeds

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Organizational and Decluttering Project - Day 1

As I mentioned in a post a few days ago my life was in need of some rearranging as well as organizing. Not to mention just some plan old cleaning up. The book I am loosely following for this massive endeavor is One Year to an Organized Life, only I speeding it up to all be finished by August.
Today I bit the bullet and started on my bedroom closet and attic space. You see in our small cabin the only real storage space is in the attic that you get to by walking through my closet. First off the closet needing freshening up to even get to the attic space.

Next was tackling the attic. I was able to condense some boxes and storage containers that had clothing I was holding on to for ...... I have no idea why I was holding on to much of it.

As you can see the attic still needs some extra help that will come a little more down the road.

In the end I toted 4 garbage bags full of clothes and linens to a local thrift shop that sells merchandise to raise funds for a local abuse shelter. It felt so good to get rid of some of the "stuff" that literally weighs me down. Now off to the next big area that needs help - the laundry/pantry room. What areas of your house are in need of some TLC??

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Moment of Reflection

"Mindfulness - Theory of achieving joy in life - even in the midst of suffering - is to be mindful; aware, in the moment, and responding with intention."
The Chemistry of Joy by Henry Emmons, M.D.
Lately I have been plugging through five different books on many different topics and this quote from The Chemistry of Joy struck me and I thought I would share. I realize that mindfulness is kind of a Buddhism thing and that is not any direction I'm taking. Christian through and through here, but sometimes, especially when you are fighting unseen demons in your life, other articles and books can touch you just as much.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Two Things I Needed to Get My Life Back on Track

For many reasons the past 6-8 months have been hard. I won't go into specifics, but I will say that there are certain areas of my life that have fallen to the wayside. It is time to get to work and accomplish some things.
These past few months I have found it incredibly hard to open up my Bible or read any devotional materials. This I am quite ashamed about, but truly want to rectify. It is so hard to find something to read that will be meaningful or will apply to particular struggles I am going through. I have visited three libraries in the past two weeks and finally found a devotional to start that hopefully will hit the spot spiritually for me. This author is completely new to me - so in other words hoping she is not off the mark with certain doctrinal issues. I'm just taking the plunge and seeing where it leads me.

The next area of my life that needs major overhaul is my house. I have let it go. I ran across this book yesterday at the Spout Springs library and thought I would give it a try. I'm a list maker and checker. That's how I get stuff done. This book lays out a one year plan to organize your life from your closets to your finances. It is a week by week guide. I'm sure some areas of the book won't apply to me where others are desperately needed. If I like the book well enough - it will be purchased to refer back to more and more as the year progresses.
Summer is the perfect time for me to catch up on these much neglected items of my life. No real school. No Cooperative. No tutoring students. Plus Grace will be starting a job next week and four volleyball practices a week in July. This gives me even more time to myself to concentrate on such endeavors.
I also have a few other areas in my life (as well as the rest of the family) that need to be addressed. We will cover those next week in another post. Wish me luck - I'm going in!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

TOS Review - Memoria Press - Famous Men of Rome Set

Memoria Press Review
History is probably my favorite subject to teach. Come to think of it, when I was in school it was also my favorite subject to study. I am always excited to see products come up for review when they involve some form of history. I was doubly excited to see the Famous Men of Rome Set from Memoria Press come up for review. Luckily we were chosen to review Famous Men of Rome and I used it with my 5th grade tutoring students.
Memoria Press Review
Memoria Press is a family run company that started in 1998. The company was founded by Cheryl Lowe who is the author of their Latin Curriculum, Latina Christiana. All of their products are first field tested in a school that they started in Kentucky before sold to the greater public. Memoria Press offers curriculum that is taught through the Classical Methods and is currently working on creating Classical Core Curriculum for all grade levels Preschool - 12th.
Famous Men of Rome Set Consists of a Teacher's Guide, Student Guide, and Text (reader). This set is currently retailing for $39.95 and is recommended for students 4th - 8th grade. We received all three books as softbound physical products. The books are very well made and the text has wonderful color illustrations for each story.

Famous Men of Rome Text- The text is 155 pages long with 29 stories about different famous men in Roman history and one story in the end dealing with the end of the Western Empire. Also included in the back of the books is a glossary of people and places as well as maps of Italy, Rome, and the Roman Empire. Through the 30 included stories the student will read about the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. The illustrations are quite stunning and add a lot to the text. The seven stories we read through the review period , I only had to edit a couple of sentences that I thought my girls weren't ready to hear. Let's be frank - the years of the Roman Empire were often quite brutal. The text was actually my favorite part of the set. The girls loved sitting and listening to a great story. They especially enjoyed the story of Romulus and Remus with the beginning of Rome.

Famous Men of Rome Student Guide - The Student Guide is chock full of activities and information to round out each story read and to delve deeper into the subject matter. Each story/lesson includes:

  • Facts to Know: Each lesson has a facts to know section. This could be in the form of people, places, culture, and quotes. The author of the student guide recommends memorizing these facts, especially if your family studies by the classical methods. It is also recommended to possibly use as copy work.
  • Vocabulary - The lessons also include a vocabulary section with 7-10 vocabulary words. These are words taken directly from the story and used in the context of the sentence used in the story. This list can be used for spelling and vocabulary lists as well as copy work exercises.
  • Comprehension Questions - Each lesson includes 5-9 comprehension questions to help the student comprehend more of the story as well as dig deeper into the material. This is also the section that your student can practice answers in complete sentences and using proper grammar and punctuation.
  • Activities - This section incorporates activities to help immerse the student more into the lesson/story. So far we have come across: describing the Roman Gods and matching them to the Greek Gods, map activities, drawing, research, timeline entries, essay style questions, memorization work, and identifying cities and bodies of water on maps.
Every 5 lessons will have your student stopping to do some review work of the previous lessons. Each review section is about 8 pages long including review work of previous vocabulary words, important dates, lists of Kings in order, important people, quotes, and map work.

In the back of the student guide you will find an appendix that contains: timelines, maps, a pronunciation guide, Who Said What Worksheet, Horiatius at the Bridge poem, and a one page article comparing Rome to America.

The Teacher's Guide - Basically the mirror image of the student guide with answers. This guide also has tests for each lesson and a pronunciation guide.

As I mentioned before I used this product with three 5th grade girls. Although the workbook was used only with one student due to copyright rules. Mostly I read the story out loud then concentrated on the vocabulary and activity section. Due to having student that despises writing, we chose to answer the comprehension questions orally. I felt that quite a few of the activities were a little difficult for my 5th grader, but that may be that we haven't educated in a classical manner and studying the ancients in this way was kind of new to us. The stories were enjoyed and the illustrations were spectacular. We worked with this product three days a week, normally Monday - Wednesday, which enabled us to get through about one lesson each week, sometimes two.

The Famous Men of Rome Set would be great to use as a full year of history with a few historical read alouds added to the mix. I have reviewed products from Memoria Press and have never been disappointed. Please be sure to read what other Crew Members said about the products they reviewed from Memoria Press.

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