Friday, May 22, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Recital Dance Costumes

Busy ... busy ... busy. That's the word that describes this week which is why I forgot to post my Wordless Wednesday post on time.

Alyssa's dance costumes arrived and the teacher scheduled an informal photo shoot at the studio. Here are a few shots I managed to capture of Alyssa (Age 7 1/2) from the session.

Do you like her costumes? I think the white fringe one is my favorite. LOVE her smiles!


I will link this post up at Life at Rossmont's Wordless Wednesday Link-Up. Come join the fun! 
Wordless Wednesday at Life at Rossmont

Thank you for visiting A Learning Journey! Please visit us again soon. 


Saturday, May 16, 2015

TOS Review - Homeschool Legacy: Revolutionary Ideas

Homeschool Legacy Review

I've been reviewing a digital PDF copy of the Once-a-Week unit study titled, Revolutionary Ideas: The Story of the American Revolution from Homeschool Legacy for several weeks. I love this company and the products created by Sharon Gibson, a homeschool mom and author. In the past, I've reviewed her Birds of a Feather and Christmas Comes to America unit studies. Both experiences were positive so of course I didn't want to turn down the chance to review a historically-based unit study. I chose Revolutionary Ideas because I wanted to cover more American History this year and focus on a topic we hadn't yet explored.
Homeschool Legacy Review

Revolutionary Ideas: The Story of the American Revolution is a 7-week unit study containing 62 pages. It is suitable for children in grades 2-12. You'll need Adobe Reader to view the document. There's a "Getting the Most Out of Your Once-a-Week Unit Study" section at the back of the unit which I suggest reading before beginning ANY of their units. You can easily adapt or modify the activities for younger and older children which means you can use this resource with the entire family. It integrates many different subjects into the study.

Academic Subjects Addressed
  • Bible
  • History
  • Geography and Mapping
  • Math
  • Public Speaking
  • Drama
  • Language Arts: Literature and Writing
  • Research
  • Science
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Music Appreciation
  • Life Skills
  • Field Trips
  • Family Movie Night Suggestions
  • Family Games and Trivia Questions
Topics Covered
One of the following topics were taught each week. 
  • Significant Pre-Revolution World Events
          *French and Indian War
          *Magna Charta
          *Age of Explorations and Discovery
          *The Great Awakening
  • The Life and Times of Colonial Americans and their Taxing King
  • The Firebrands
  • Early Battles and the Shot Heard Around the World
  • American Declared Her Independence
  • The Turning Point
  • March to Victory
How We Used It
Revolutionary Ideas was used with my daughter, Alyssa (Age 7 1/2) at least 3-5 times a week. The idea is to set aside one day a week to complete unit study activities. The company suggests taking a break from current studies. I felt like there was a lot to complete in one sitting so we divided the unit study activities up into several sessions throughout the week. We continued using our core curricula and just added this unit study to our day. We did take a break from using our World History curriculum as we focused our attention on the American Revolution. 

We also didn't complete all of the activities mentioned in the unit study. I chose activities based on my daughter's interest and abilities. Many research projects and writing assignments were completed verbally and discussed rather than in written format since she is already writing several times a day in other subjects. 

We read from a family read aloud book every day and Alyssa spent at least 20-30 minutes independently reading about the weekly topics on a daily basis. Larger chapter books often took longer to read aloud than expected. If we didn't finish the activities in the amount of time scheduled, then we dedicated Thursday as a completion day. We tried to read the family devotionals at the beginning of each week on Mondays preferably in the morning. 

Fridays were reserved for Field Trips, but unfortunately we didn't take any related to the study because there weren't any locations nearby (Texas). We ended up watching related movies on Mondays and Fridays. Felicity is an outstanding movie to watch. It helps children understand and bring meaning to the concepts addressed in this study.

Our Experiences
This history unit study begins with a brief overview discussing significant pre-revolutionary concepts and events. Alyssa created a timeline in her notebook binder to document relevant battles, important people, profound acts, and other major events in history. She decorated the cover page of her timeline. She participated more in the timeline activities since she was involved in the process of setting up the timeline notebook. The timeline gave her a visual, chronological view of the historical events.  

We probably should have drawn or found smaller pictures for the timeline, because the pages dedicated to the 1700's were crowded since that was the time period we were studying. Each mark on our timeline represented ten years. We could space these marks out to represent 2 or 5 years instead of 10.

My daughter learned about King George III and how the colonial people lived. The discussion deepened when we were introduced to major firebrands including Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Paine. These well-known men utilized their talents to ignite a fire in the hearts and minds of the people towards revolution against the King and Britain. The unit study addresses the desire to be united and free. It emphasized the fact that the patriots and colonists needed to fight for their God-given rights.
The unit study weeks begin with a booklist with Dewey decimal numbers included. Required book titles have an asterick next to them and are needed to complete the study. Suggested classic history books include a variety of genres including but not limited to biographies, nonfiction, and historical fiction. There are recommended picture and chapter books listed. For the most part, we found those specific titles through our interlibrary loan system or we used several replacement titles that covered the topics. In the past when reviewing Homeschool Legacy Once-a-Week unit studies I had access to two libraries to gather the necessary books. This year was different. I needed to use only our local library and the interlibrary loan system to find books which means I needed to wait longer for the arrival of some book titles. We read books late in the game or needed to substitute titles. However, I used the alphabetical Dewey decimal call numbers to locate replacements.

We found several of the documentaries and movies on either gMovies, Amazon Prime, Discovery Education, or You Tube. There were great substitute titles available online. We also owned and watched Felicity and a handful of related Liberty Kids DVD videos. We added in Pups of Liberty and Colonial Chaos (PE) to our list of supplements.


This particular unit study is writing and research intensive. Alyssa researched the five parts of the Declaration of Independence using a variety of resources including books, encyclopedias, and online websites. She found out the relevance for each part and implications of signing the actual document. She researched several topics from the first week using an encyclopedia and wrote a few short paragraphs about them (seen in the photos below). 


I made adaptations to several writing assignments. Instead of having Alyssa write part two of the Declaration of Independence in a different voice. I kept things simple and asked her to write a short paragraph about the Declaration of Independence (as seen below) using the information attained through this unit study and techniques from her current writing curriculum. She did verbally read aloud part two of it using a Chipmunk's voice. There are many creative writing assignments included in this study. I hope to go back and complete a few more as summer approaches as a way to solidify her learning. 

She was introduced to new vocabulary words and searched dictionaries for the meanings of words such as tyranny, tyrant, tax, intolerable, firebrands, and so forth. It is important for children to understand the words they are reading in order to comprehend what they are learning. I appreciate the exposure and inclusion of vocabulary activities.

The five pages of Revolutionary Trivia questions were utilized at the dinner table and during game time. We had to answer a history question before moving forward on the game board. I also asked Alyssa the 33 questions and gave her a mini treat for correct responses. Alyssa liked challenging her father with the "Stump Your Dad" trivia questions. We don't own the game RISK and couldn't purchase it during the review period, but Alyssa seemed quite interested in playing it so we'll keep our eyes open for thrift store deals. Whist, Hoop Rolling, and Quoits were fun "time period" games we played. We used the instructions in the study to create the quoits game which served as a perfect, active break in the middle of the day. I recommend using a thicker, more solid rope than ours.



The popular, "Yankee Doodle," song lyrics and tune were heard quite often echoing in my home. She had a blast creating a lyrical song about Paul Revere to the tune of "Yankee Doodle." She researched information about him and read many books prior to writing the song. She did a magnificent job singing facts and choosing key points! I LOVED my daughter's dramatization of Patrick Henry's speech "Give me liberty or give me death!" She cracked me up because she sounded like a pirate. 

I had a difficult time getting her to continue the rest of her studies after she played on her "glass armonica." She listened to the different sounds and pitches when lightly tapping glasses with varying levels of water. I should have planned this one for an end-of-the-day activity! She watched a few videos online about Ben Franklin's invention and read a few books prior to this hands-on activity.        

She was intrigued with the art activities. Alyssa enjoyed learning about Copley, who was an American artist, during the Revolutionary time period. Viewing his Revolutionary portraits inspired Alyssa to research more paintings similar to his work. Trumbull's Signing of the Declaration of Independence masterpiece was the perfect, complementary tie-in to the study. Alyssa eventually found a $2 bill so she spent a few minutes examining the painting on the back several days after researching Trumbull's biography. I love how these unit studies integrate art into the day making it more fun for us. My daughter identified many more of the signers after visiting the website links provided.
 

Overall Opinion and Thoughts
Teaching history has never been my cup of tea, but using Homeschool Legacy's Once-a-Week Revolutionary Ideas Unit Study has enabled me to gain confidence when teaching about the American Revolution and has created some fun-filled memories in my home. I am learning information about the Revolution that was NEVER taught the schools I attended.

This resource definitely sparked an interest in learning about the American Revolution. My favorite features of this study are the recommended reading lists and the embedded educational links. I love having access to high quality living books that help bring history concepts to life. The Dewey decimal call numbers enabled me to find related material for all topics addressed. Having links already embedded within the study saved me a lot of prep and planning time.

The wide variety of educational activities included makes it easy to quickly and thoroughly study the American Revolution. It also gave me the flexibility I desired in a unit study enabling me to pick and choose activities that suit my daughter's interest and abilities. We enjoyed many of the activities! We skipped a few and took a few rabbit trails. I really liked beginning our weekly study on a positive note with a family devotional geared towards the topic. We are really looking forward to the "Revolutionary War" party planning activity at the end of the study where Alyssa can present her projects once again. 

My daughter's absolute favorite art project in the entire unit study was painting an American flag on a pillowcase. We read many books about the American flag and how it changed over the years. She learned that America started with 13 original colonies and about the growth of our country.

The unit study was used as a way to expose Alyssa to the American Revolution. She ended up diving deeper into the subject than I expected and she remembered more than I ever imagined she would. I was impressed by the amount of information she retained. Her interests expanded and she fascinated me with factoids she learned. We are almost done with the unit, but I plan on going back to complete a few skipped activities when we have more time and can add in more writing assignments. 

Homeschool Legacy's Once-a-Week Revolutionary Ideas Unit Study is jam packed with hands-on, multi-sensory activities and research projects. This well-organized unit is sure to bring history alive. It can be used as a stand alone unit or as a supplement to any history curriculum.

American Heritage Girls and Boy Scouts of America merit badges can be earned upon completion of particular unit studies. Furthermore, if you complete four units studies then you'll cover a full year of history or science.

What We Liked
  • Embedded Educational Links
  • Literature Rich Study
  • Print What You Need
  • Flexibility
  • Integrated Subjects
  • Hands-On, Interactive Activities
  • Biblically-Centered
  • Whole Family
  • Limited Amount of Prep Work
  • Available in Digital or Hard Copy (Print) Format
  • Geography Incorporated
Vendor Suggestions
  • The 13 Colonies Map seemed fuzzy or blurry. We had a difficult time seeing distinct border lines between each colony when utilizing this map. I suggest finding a clearer and larger copy of this map to include in the study. I loved the idea of starring the colony location to indicate where battles took place. 
  • The embedded educational links provided were wonderful and we absolutely loved this feature, but we would appreciate more age-appropriate links included in the study especially for all research topics. There weren't as many as I expected and it would make research easier for younger children. 
  • Integrate more science, math, and recipes into the study.
  • Add research forms and artist notebooking pages
  • Organize all book titles by age groups and indicate movie ratings.
  • I would add timeline figures for younger children or for children who dislike drawing. This was the one thing I wished we had during this study.
Recommendations
I highly recommend Revolutionary Ideas for all homeschool families. Obviously, if you homeschool using a Unit Study or an Eclectic approach you'll appreciate their unit studies. The Homeschool Legacy Once-a-Week Unit Studies may also appeal to individuals utilizing a Charlotte Mason or Literature-Based approach.

Honestly, if you are a homeschool family looking for a break in the routine and want to focus on a particular topic while integrating other subjects . . . take a few moments to visit Homeschool Legacy and browse their unit study options. Anyone can benefit from using these hands-on unit studies!

Visit the website to view a Sample Week and see a suggested schedule. We would like to eventually purchase the Native American Unit Study.
Homeschool Legacy Review

Price 
Grab-N-Go $17.00
Paperback $21.95

Check out the available unit studies in their shop! I hope to see more Science titles available in the future.
Homeschool Legacy Review

As previously stated, I reviewed Birds of a Feather and Christmas Comes to America. Visit the links for more information and to read my reviews. 
HomeschoolHomeschool Legacy Review

Social Media
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Pinterest
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Head on over to The Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog to read about many other Homeschool Legacy Once-a-Week Unit Studies reviewed by my friends on the Crew. I am headed that way to read about the Native America and Knight and Nobles reviews.
Homeschool Legacy Review

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Virtual Refrigerator: Pillowcase American Flag Art

We created a flag pillowcase as one of our fun art projects in our Homeschool Legacy Revolutionary Ideas Unit study. This flag art project was completed throughout the week over several days. We read several books about the American flag and its changes over the years. The 13 stars represented the 13 original colonies.

Supplies Needed
  1. White Pillowcase
  2. Red, White, and Blue Acrylic Paint
  3. Meter or Yard Stick
  4. Pencil
  5. Large, Flat Paintbrush
  6. Star Template
  7. Thirteen Wooden Star Placers
     Star Stamp Optional Supplies
  • Glue Dot 
  • Dowel Stick
  • Wooden Star
Directions
First, Alyssa and I used the yard stick to draw 13 stripes and a blue rectangle in the corner. Alyssa painted the blue rectangle in the left-hand corner first and let it dry completely (upside-down in the photo). Then, she painted the red stripes over a two-day time period. We didn't paint the white stripes because the pillowcase was white.

I placed a glue dot at the end of a dowel and wooden star to create a star stamp. This tool was used to stamp or paint the white stars on the flag. Thirteen wooden stars were used as placers. Alyssa organized the wooden stars in a circle in the center of the blue rectangular field. She took one star off at a time as she stamped the white painted stars. This helped her evenly space out the stars on her flag.

I will link this post up at the Virtual Refrigerator. The theme for May is flowers, but you are free to join and add any art post.

Thank you for visiting A Learning Journey!

God bless,
Tracey

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Educents Teacher Appreciation Week and Free Gift

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!
teacherappreciation_emailnews

A parent is a child's first teacher. I also homeschool my daughter so I am her primary teacher, but she also has a piano teacher, a dance instructor, and several Sunday school teachers.

I appreciate everything my teachers have done in my life. I especially remember one math teacher who had a profound impact on my life and the decisions I made as an adult. I still send out and receive Christmas cards occasionally from this math teacher. Mrs. Hill was always there for me when I needed help or a friend. She was involved in my life and showed that she cared for me. She was one of the many teachers that taught me to be a strong leader and woman.

Here are six reasons why I am thankful for educators:
  1. The educators in my life had patience when teaching difficult concepts. They also helped me understand that mistakes are inevitable and that we can indeed learn from them. 
  2. They provided me with the guidance I needed and a shoulder to lean on when faced with difficult home life circumstances.
  3. They encouraged and motivated me to follow my dreams enabling me to be anything I wanted to be when I grew up. They gave me the power to overcome obstacles that stood in my way.
  4. They taught me to have the strength I need to stand up for myself and the needs of others around me. 
  5. They helped prepare me for college and life by giving me advice and structure.  
  6. The teachers throughout my childhood and life shaped me into the homeschool teacher and educator that I became today. 
Education has such an impact on ourselves and our little ones. Educents is here to help you pay it forward. In honor of Teacher Appreciation week, Educents and Peekapak have teamed up to provide your favorite educators with a gift basket worth over $40, which includes a FREE $10 Educents Gift Card; 3 months of Peekapak lesson plans (3 digital storybooks, 12 in-class lessons; and 12 at-home activities) that teach Character Education and Language Arts.

I was lucky enough to receive this package from my seven-year-old daughter who attached a special message for me to read. I'm glad that she loves homeschooling and her kind words brought joy to my day. It's your turn to let others know they've impacted your life in some way.

So, whether it's your mom, your classroom teacher, a homeschool mother, a tutor, your neighbors, or another special human being who taught you important lessons, thank them by giving them a FREE gift basket, on Educents!

Fill out the form here to send this freebie to an educator you know.

Thank you for visiting A Learning Journey. God bless! 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

TOS Real Life Press Review: Firmly Planted, Books of Moses, Part 2

Real Life Press Review
Being part of The Schoolhouse Review Crew Team has placed products in our lives that truly are a blessing and one product we've been reviewing that has changed our homeschool day is The Firmly Planted, Books of Moses, Part 2 Family Study Guide and Student Book published by Real Life Press

I received a digital downloadable PDF e-book copy of both books. The full-color companion student workbook contains 232 pages with a plethora of age-appropriate reproducible activities. An answer key is provided at the back of the book. The Family Bible Study Guide contains 118 pages most of which are black and white with a tint of color added. 

You'll need an updated version of Adobe Reader to open the PDF files, a printer, and a computer with Internet to download the books if you choose to purchase the digital copy. 
 
One of my main jobs is to disciple Alyssa to learn and discover God's Word aiming to place Christ at the center of her life. I am always in search of good quality Bible studies that will help us deepen our relationship with God and grow closer together.
Real Life Press Review

Product Description
The Books of Moses Part 2 e-book is the second book in the "Firmly Planted" Bible study series which is a series created by authors, Jay and Heidi St. John (The Busy Mom). This book is organized as a 10-week family study. The subtitle of the study is "God Guides His Family and Gives Them His Rules."

Many underlying messages are included in this study such as topics about love, hope, trust, compassion, obedience,  jealousy, forgiveness, anger, truth, promises, faith, and many more meaningful messages.
 
The content covers Bible scripture from Genesis 37 through Numbers 14. This Bible study is suitable for all ages and was designed to be used with the entire family. The Books of Moses, Part 2 study guide was designed for parents to learn alongside their children and meant for them to grow together in Christ and walk in God's amazing Word. 

Topics Addressed
  1. Joseph Sold Into Slavery
  2. Joseph Saves His Family
  3. Moses and the Burning Bush
  4. The Plagues
  5. Crossing the Read Sea
  6. The Ten Commandments
  7. The Tabernacle
  8. The Golden Calf
  9. Choosing Levites
  10. Exploring the Promised Land
Each Lesson Contains
  • Central Idea
  • Short, Engaging Bible Narrative
  • Memory Verses (Leveled by Age Groups)
  • Thought-Provoking Discussion Questions
Helpful Icons
The Seed -This icon indicates the beginning of a new lesson and reveals a key concept or idea that should be discovered. For example, the seed in the first lesson was "God sometimes uses pain to advance his plan." 
Planting the Seed - You'll find two leveled Bible memory verses suitable for children. One is for younger children ages 4-11 and the other verse is for older children 12 and up. 

Watering the Seedling - This is a short 5-6 minute story that can be read aloud providing a deeper understanding of the lesson content. 

How We Used It
Books of Moses (Part 2) was used on a daily basis as a mother-daughter Bible study 5 times per week. If we had a busy week we might double up two days or eliminate worksheet pages and just do the daily readings. I used the Family Study Guide in conjunction with the companion Student Book. The family guide is the core and is definitely REQUIRED to complete the study. We tried to complete the components each morning before starting our homeschool day, but honestly some days we completed activities in the afternoon or evening. I used this study with my daughter, Alyssa (Age 7).
 
The study requires some parent prep. You'll need to plan out your week and print out the activities ahead of time. You may need to gather a few items around the house for the nature study projects such as ingredients for making Matzo bread, playdough or clay for a valley diorama, spices, a periodic table, almonds as a snack, etc. 

It allowed us to have an open conversation about our life circumstances. The profound message of trusting in our loving God and his plan for us stood out. Our conversations have become more meaningful allowing my daughter to open up more and share her true feelings with me. 

We skipped the Upper Class pages for older children found at the end of the study and we also eliminated the older Journal pages because the lines were too small. I did verbally asked any questions and listened to her responses. 
 
A Weekly Glance
I tried following the schedule below but of course life always happens so I gave myself some wiggle room allowing for adjustments to the schedule and worksheet changes. One thing I told myself every week was that we did NOT have to complete EVERY page provided in the student book. 

When creating the following schedule, I tried to add writing work to each day. We also attempted to memorize the provided verses for children ages 4-11. I would encourage you to play memory verse games or utilize a scripture memory system to assist with this process. 

There are four Daily Study devotional read alouds including reflective discussion questions provided in the guide followed by the Digging Deeper and Taste the Fruit sections. We read one Daily Study each day for four days in addition to the Digging Deeper and Taste the Fruit sections. The Digging Deeper section helps further expand the discussion. The Taste the Fruit section engages the learner and offers questions that promote thinking and enables the child to apply the key concepts to their life.

Monday
Bible Narrative
We read the summarized the Bible narrative or introductory lesson on the couch from the iPad or on our computer screen. Alyssa would usually Color the Bible Verse Page after the story. I was going to have her color it during the reading, but she wanted to take turns reading passages. She enjoyed reading and following along with me. We usually complete the Vocabulary page in which she defined words using a dictionary. I always supplied her with more than one dictionary including a Bible dictionary. Our last resort for finding dictionary definitions was to utilize an online dictionary via the iPhone or computer.

Tuesday
Watering the Seedling + Daily Study: Day 1 Reading
We read the next section titled, "Watering the Seedling" where more depth material is added to the story. I printed the primary-lined Copywork page which focused on a particular verse to practice penmanship skills. A 1-2 sentence blurb summarizing the events in the verse followed several of the scripture references. We always read the verse and discussed how it applied to our lives. Alyssa will eventually write these verses in cursive after we finish her cursive handwriting workbook.
Copywork

She also completed the "What Do You Remember" worksheet. She used her Holman Christian Standard Bible to look up referenced verses that were suggested helps for finding answers to the questions asked. The worksheet below referred her to Genesis 37:12-36 to answer questions. She did a great job with these exercises and thoroughly impressed me with the knowledge she gained from the study. I checked her work and clarified any misunderstandings by rereading and discussing the Scripture together. 

Wednesday
Daily Study: Day 2 Reading 
This is our busiest day so I decided to make it our easy Puzzle Fun Day which frequently includes the crosswords, coded messages, word searches, and the maze activities. The maze and word search were done in the car when traveling to extracurricular activities. The crosswords and word searches were differentiated for older and younger children. We used the more advanced crossword puzzles and she worked on the word searches for younger children.

The crosswords and coded messages were her favorite pages. We both appreciated that the crossword required students to go to their Bible to seek out answers if unknown. Alyssa would locate the referenced Scripture passage in her children's Bible related to the key words, read it aloud, and quickly figure out the correct word for the crossword puzzle. At one point the reference was incorrect, but I wonder if that has to do with the fact that we were using a different version of the Bible. The Scriptures referenced were taken from the English Standard Version (ESV) of The Holy Bible.     

The "Responding to God's Word" was occasionally added to Wednesday assignments. Alyssa would read Bible verse and respond to questions using complete sentences. One of the pages I liked had her fill out a chart differentiating between valid, real reasons for not doing something and then excuses. The example was for not doing homework. I gave her an example and modeled the activity beforehand.   

Thursday 
Daily Study: Day 3 Reading
Alyssa worked on the "Exploring the Bible" sheets on this day. These sheets varied and weren't always related to the study. They often taught doctrines or information about the Bible. The photo below shows a word scramble, but several sheets offered questions to research. The lesson definitely familiarized my daughter with her Bible. She's more comfortable using it as a resource when confronted with unknown information. Alyssa decided to open her Bible to the list of Bible books for help with the following worksheet. Her task was to unscramble the Bible books written by Moses and Joshua. 

She also completed a "Write About It" sheet which focused on one of the fruits of the spirit. The page below defines, describes, and explains the fruit of the spirit, patience. Then, she was given the chance to write about her experiences related to that particular fruit of the spirit. I praised her each time she demonstrated patience especially when she was reading to a child at the library. Other fruits of the spirit discussed so far were gentleness, self-control, and love.

Picture It illustrations were done on this day too. She drew a picture of us together because I made her feel loved. She also drew a picture of her best friend (Rylee). On another day, Alyssa read and illustrated the meaning of Exodus 3:3.

Friday 
Daily Study: Day 4 Reading 
Fridays are a little more relaxed so I added in the weekly Nature Studies if we had the supplies on hand. I was surprised to find out that many of the activities were actually indoor activities. I was hoping for more outdoor nature study activities, because I wanted us to get out more with a guided lesson in hand. We did use her telescope to search for spring constellations and took a nature creation walk to relieve stress. Alyssa created a mini Exodus/Passover poster to remind her that the Israelites moved out of Egypt and crossed the Red Sea in the spring. 

The family study also integrates geography into the day. On Fridays, we studied the Map It Knowledge Quest Maps from the study guide. Map work consisted of studying and discussing the places on the map and how they relate to the lesson. Leveled map work was provided for younger and older children. Alyssa chose to do all the activities for both age groups, because she wanted to label the entire map. She copied and studied the locations on the map once labeled correctly. 

There were Acrostic pages included in the guide which were the most difficult and time-consuming pages for us to finish. She added a lot of personal information to these pages so I won't add a photo. For example, in chapter 2 the word FAITHFUL was written vertically down a page within a boxed chart. Alyssa was asked to, "Consider something that she experienced that has been hard" and she needed to fill in the chart discussing how God used it for good. She chose divorce as her topic. Each sentence started with a letter from the provided word. A couple other acrostic words were PASSOVER and HOLINESS.

Overall Thoughts and Experiences
Jay and Heidi St. John's wisdom and knowledge seeped through the pages of this comprehensive study. We immediately addressed relevant issues we've been dealing with right off the bat (confronting anger and forgiveness) during the first week. This study has given my daughter and I the chance to open up and discuss what is truly heavy on our hearts. She can easily apply the truths and principles taught to real life situations.

There were so many valuable activities that reinforced the lesson for children. The wide variety of engaging and fun activities including word searches, mazes, crosswords, journaling, copywork, nature studies, and more motivated my daughter to learn and encouraged her to research more. My daughter enjoyed many of the worksheets, but Alyssa's favorites were by far the crosswords and coded messages. The flexibility of the program appeals to me. I was able to pick and choose worksheets and activities for each week and didn't feel obligated to complete them all. I was able to work through the study at our pace and print only the pages I wanted. 

Books of Moses Part 2 is an integrated study that effectively encourages children to "think" about God's Word and apply it to their lives. It helps children understand and apply the Biblical truths to their circumstances in life which may possibly lead them towards a change in attitude or lead them on a path to a new way of living which focuses on God.

This Bible study has encouraged personal, sweet conversations with my daughter which in turn has allowed us to explore the Bible in new ways enabling us to not only grow closer together but closer to God. Our bond and relationship is getting stronger every day. This study gave me a way to help her work through our difficult life circumstances. The content helped us make sense of what we're going through and learning in the midst of change and through examples found in the Bible. It's helped us put our trust in God's plan for our lives. 

Price
Family Study Guide $9.95
Student Book $24.95

Note: All prices are subject to change. The books can be purchased separately, but the family study guide is REQUIRED to complete the study. These prices are for PDF digital files. 
 
Recommendations
Yes, I absolutely recommend Firmly Planted, Books of Moses, Part 2 Family Study Guide and Student Book published by Real Life Press. Most Christian families can use the family Bible study in their homes. Homeschool families notice that some activities take on a Charlotte Mason approach. Children's church ministries or teachers will also benefit from utilizing this resource with their Sunday school class. 
 
Vendor Suggestions
  • Offer flexible lesson plan suggestions for parents and educators to choose from for ease of use. 
  • Add a Bible story reading list offering book suggestions related to this particular study. 
  • Create Bible memory verse games or activities to help children hide God's Word in our hearts and learn the verses better. 
  • The verses may need to be further divided into more age groups. We focused on the verses meant for children ages 4-11 and we had a difficult time memorizing several of them due to their length and complexity (difficulty) level. It may be easier if children ages 4-7 had a separate verse to memorize.    
  • Can you provide a Bible timeline and figures in the family study guide which would give younger children a visual of the events that occurred in this study?
Social Media
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The Schoolhouse Review Crew blog contains reviews for several other products offered by Heidi St. John's company besides Books of Moses (Part 2) Bible study. Visit the website to read about their experiences with their other products such as Lapbooking Made Simple, The Busy Homeschool Mom's Guide to DaylightThe Busy Homeschool Mom's Guide to Romance, and the Firmly Planted, Gospels (Part 1 and 2). 
Real Life Press Review

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Saturday, May 2, 2015

TOS Review: A+ Interactive Math Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plans

A+ Interactive Math Review

A+ Interactive Math has recently released a brand new product called the Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan in which the Schoolhouse Review Crew team members each received up to 10 online 3-month student subscriptions to review. This math assessment and intervention product will help you pinpoint your child’s problems areas and weaknesses in their math education. 

Are you wondering if your child has any math learning gaps? 
Are you looking for a way to assess, identify, and close those gaps in math?

A+ Interactive Math Review

My daughter, Alyssa (Age 7 1/2) is working above grade level when it comes to certain math topics. We've used a mastery-based math curriculum with her since she was a wee little one. Additionally, I supplement with online math programs. This is NOT our first time utilizing A+ Interactive Math's multi-sensory math programs. I am currently using the 3rd grade Family Math Package so I am familiar with the program and how it works. In the past, we have used their First and Second Grade Homeschool Edition of A+ Interactive Math Online.

I often wonder if Alyssa has any learning gaps. We both love math. She's a quick learner so she's never really struggled with any particular math concept yet. She learned her addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts with ease at an early age. However, I ask myself quite often, "Is she working above and beyond her grade level and the public school standards? Which concepts does she struggle with the most?" How can we improve those weaknesses?" The solution to these burning questions was the Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plans

Product Description
The Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan is a comprehensive and complete math program or assessment tool for grades K1-Algebra 1 offering multi-grade level "adaptive" testing that enables an educator to identify current skill levels and weaknesses. The interactive lesson plans target those problem areas. 

I needed to choose a "home" grade level which is a grade level that my daughter either recently completed or will complete soon. I chose 3rd grade as her "home" grade level. The third grade curriculum is divided into 14 concepts or mini test categories.

Concept Areas Covered
  • Number Sense
  • Addition
  • Subtraction
  • Multiplication
  • Division
  • Rounding and Estimating
  • Decimal Numbers
  • Fractions
  • Graphs
  • Time
  • Money
  • Measurement
  • Geometry
  • Elementary Algebra 
Each grade level placement test consist of approximately 10-15 different concepts. The fourth grade curriculum has 17 core concepts. Each test had 10-25 questions given in multiple choice or type-in-your-answer format. On an average, there were 12 questions to complete. The longest 3rd grade placement test was the Geometry test. I wish that this test was divided into two parts which would be consistent with the other test lengths and reduce the amount of time she worked on the concept in one sitting. My daughter was given 1-6 minutes per question depending on the difficulty of the problem which gave her plenty of time to solve the problem on paper. 

How It Works?
  1. The student logs in at the website. Each student has their own username and password. 
  2. The child completes a mini unit placement test for EACH major concept or specific area for her home grade level in order to identify current skill level and weaknesses.
  3. The child submits the test and receives immediate feedback with automatic scoring information and identified gaps are noted. 
  4. An individualized, "personalized" lesson plan is generated for you to view targeting trouble areas if learning gaps are found within a concept.
  5. Your child will follow the online lesson plan to close learning gaps. Tests are retaken to show which skills have been mastered and which gaps have closed.
  6. You can view and print various progress reports.
Individualized Lesson Plan Includes:
  • Colorful, Step-by-Step Multimedia Video Lessons with Thorough Explanations


  • Interactive Questions that Reteach Concepts When Student Answers Incorrectly

  • Online Practice Worksheets with Automatic Grading and Tracking

  • Visual Student Reports
Summary Report

Reports Show
  • Home Grade Level
  • Incorrect and Correct Problems
  • Total Number of Questions
  • Skipped Problems Not Attempted
  • Status At or Below Grade Level   
There are two types of reports. The summary report as seen above reveals a pie chart with percentages. You'll also see a chart listing the number correct and incorrect from a total number of questions. The progress report shows an animated man that walks across the screen to a particular goal. For each test, children must reach the goal (make a certain score) in order to pass. This is indicated by a vertical purple line. You'll see the examples later in the review. 
What You'll Receive
  • Engaging and Interactive Video Lessons with Audio, Visuals, and Text
  • Interactive Review Questions and Practice 
  • Online Practice Worksheets
  • Automatic Grading and Feedback 
  • Easy to Read and Follow Progress Reports
  • Multi-Grade Level Testing
  • Reinforcing Lesson Plans
How We Used it? 
The Adaptive Placement Test was utilized 3-5 times a week during the review period on our MAC OSX 10.6.8 computer using Safari or Chrome as our main browsers and a high speed Internet connection. As previously stated, I chose 3rd grade as Alyssa's "home" grade level. She took 1-2 tests during each session. She wanted to complete three placement tests in one day when we first logged in which I allowed, because the previously studied topics were easy. The FAQ states that it may be better to spread out the tests completing 3-4 in a week, but you have the flexibility and choice to decide how you want to use the program. 

Alyssa worked on the tests for 10-40 minutes which varied a great deal depending on the number of tests she took, the number of questions on a test, the difficulty of the material, and the amount of time allotted for each test. The average amount of time she spent on a test was approximately 10-15 minutes.

Paper and pencil should definitely be nearby to show work. I clipped extra lined paper to a clipboard for easy access so that she could show her work for each problem. I would often use this "show your work" paper when discussing and reviewing the solutions after a test was taken. It helped me figure out why she missed particular problems.    

Special Note: When using paper and pencil to solve problems, make sure the child copies the problem correctly.  

Our Results
To my surprise, the score for the first test that I thought she would excel on wasn't as high as I anticipated but she still passed and was able to move forward. After completing the test, she said that she wanted to go back and relearn the material because she forgot it and personally felt like she didn't do that well. A lesson plan was NOT created for this concept, but luckily she still has the option to review the material because we also use the Family Math Package as a supplement. She made a 75% and the program announced that "no further action is needed." 

I found out that Alyssa did have some gaps in her 3rd grade math education. An individualized lesson plan was created for Alyssa covering Geometry concepts, because she did not meet or exceed the mastery goal required for that concept. 


After reviewing her test, I pinpointed the specific skills troubling my daughter by looking at her incorrect answers. She went to the multimedia video lessons under her plan. We saw a list of all skills for that particular concept. I only asked Alyssa to watch the videos addressing the concepts that were areas of concern. The videos she watched covered the following concepts and skills: Measuring line segments, quadrilaterals, and polygons. I didn't have her complete all the other video lessons since she didn't miss any of those problems or skills on the test.  

Next, she completed the corresponding interactive questions and printed out her reports indicating the number correct.  

After she obtained a 100% on the interactive questions, the next item on Alyssa's agenda was to complete the online worksheets to practice problems for the same concepts. In the screenshot below, you can view a problem Alyssa was given on the "Quadrilateral" worksheet.
Worksheet Problem:
"Measuring Line Segments"
Once she finished the online worksheets, I asked her to RETAKE the 3rd grade Geometry placement test. She passed the test and her grade improved. Please understand that once your child retakes the test and if they pass the test demonstrating mastery, then the individualized lesson plans for that particular concept disappear! However, I noticed that the Geometry questions that were incorrect this time were different than those previously missed. This let me know that even though she passed the test, she may have guessed on certain problems and I will need to reteach and review several more Geometry topics. I will also have her complete the concepts using the Family Math Package I purchased. The Family Math Package complements the Placement Tests and Individualized Lesson Plans perfectly. 
3rd Grade Placement Test List
Alyssa quickly passed and completed ALL of the third grade tests closing any gaps. I had the option of changing her grade level, but I didn't want to lose specific reports and information during the review period since her original "home" grade level was 3rd. 

I decided to begin testing Alyssa on the 4th grade placement test concepts, but under a different student name for the purpose of this review. The program identified the gaps she had with 4th grade Fraction concepts. 

Her scores improved and she passed the 4th grade Fraction test after following the same procedures mentioned above. Even though she passed, we'll continue reviewing concepts for the time being. We'll tackle 4th grade number line and number comparisons next week which was a difficult concept. She was asked to compare fractions and decimal numbers on a number line.    
Before
The little man stopped before meeting goal expectations.
After
The little man walked passed the goal! 
Features We Liked
  • Individualized Multi-Sensory Lesson Plans Target the Issues 
  • Short Assessments and Lessons Requiring Minimal Time on the Computer
  • Complete and Comprehensive - Everything You Need is Included
  • Program is Easy for Both Parents and Children to Navigate
  • Adaptive Testing Starts at "Home" Grade Level but Covers Multiple Grade Levels
  • Hide the Timer - Tests and questions were timed-bound. Some children are intimated or become frustrated when they see that they are being timed. I love that this program allows the user to hide the timer. I noticed that Alyssa worked at a much faster pace and rushed through problems missing them when focusing on the timer. I also noticed that when problems became more difficult the timer became an issue. 
  • Relevant Math Examples Utilized in the Video Lessons
  • Smiley Face Praise Giving her a Thumbs Up Saying, "That is correct. Good job!"
  • Step-by-Step Solutions to Incorrect Responses. Click on the graphics below for solution examples.




Possible Cons
  • Some children may not respond well to time-bound tests. I do feel that, for the most part, the program gives plenty of time for the test based on the number of questions (no more than 25).  
Vendor Possible Suggestions
  • I was hoping this program would provide "individualized" lesson plans based on and specific to her specific incorrect test answers. Once a lesson plan was generated, ALL the skills for that concept were retaught. This program could be improved by truly "individualizing" the lesson plans so that a child is only relearning misunderstood topics they struggled with and not necessarily having to learn all of them from the concept. I went through the topics to figure out which video lessons she needed to watch in order to retake the test and not focus on topics already mastered or understood.  
  • Offer multiple student discounts that can be started at different times instead of one bundle all beginning and ending at the same time.
  • My daughter realized after submitting an answer that she made a mistake and wanted to go back to correct it but wasn't able to. She was frustrated when she couldn't fix it before the test was graded. Mistakes are bound to happen and some children will want to correct those errors before being graded. I think a back button should be added.  
  • Is it possible to provide a read aloud feature for test questions to be read aloud for non-readers or struggling readers so that they focus can be on mathematical skills and not reading? I've worked with children that excel in math yet struggle with reading.   
  • There were spelling and solution errors. For example, the number words under the "Money" placement test such as "thirty" and "twenty" were misspelled. We also came across an error in the program that needs to be fixed. The error had an impact on her test grade. In the problem below, the program stated that "Choice D: 24" was the answer to a LCM problem which was incorrect. Alyssa's score dropped and the problem was marked wrong even though she indicated the correct answer which was "C:12." The detailed solution actually shows the correct answer. Click on the picture for a larger view. 

Price
The Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plans will only cost you $29.99 for the 1st child's 3-month subscription and $10 for each additional child added to the package. This is a limited-time special promotion offerThe retail price is $49.99 for one student. You can add 1-10 children to your package. Discounts are given for purchasing the program for multiple children - you'll receive a 67% off discount. Check out the DEMO at their website. I love their "Buy Today, Activate Later" motto. 

Heads Up!
A+ Interactive Math is offering a 2-week 40% to 50% off sale on their “Family Math Packages” and “Adaptive Placement Testing w/ Lessons” program starting on Monday, May 4th. The deal is available from 5/4/2015 and ending on 5/18/2015. 

Note: Prices are subject to change without notice. 

Other Products
Family Math Packages offer flexibility and functionality. Several crew members reviewed this product. 
A+ Interactive Math Review


In the past, I have also used the First and Second Grade Homeschool Edition of A+ Interactive Math Online until I recently switched to a Family Math Package.

Freebies
Free Math Placement Test
Free Family Math Package
Free Single Grade Level
Free Math EBook
Free Software Download

Recommendations
I highly recommend the Adaptive Placement Test with Individualized Lesson Plans from A+ Interactive Math for homeschool families and schools needing a short term intervention or assessment tool to utilize any time of the year. This would also be a great comprehensive math resource for tutors, summer school programs, and after school care facilities. Furthermore, this math tool can be used with ANY math curriculum you are using to help identify and close learning gaps.

It will effectively assess your child in every skill under a particular concept in 30 minutes or less. I believe your child can also improve their math skills if they utilize the placement test in conjunction with the lesson plans. I would consider utilizing this tool over the summer to reduce summer learning loss, to fill in learning gaps, to encourage advanced children to challenge themselves and get ahead, or to assess grade levels prior to the beginning of a new year.

Read the following article titled, Top 12 Reasons To Do Adaptive Placement Test with Lessons for more information about the product and why you might want to use it.

Future Plans and Usage 
I intend on using the 4th grade Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plans at least until the end of this school year when our subscription expires in June to further assess and identify my daughter's current grade level. I hope to print out all reports for her assessment binder. Then, I will change her home grade level to 5th. I will have her complete placements tests and lesson plans concurrently for both 4th and 5th grade until I can pinpoint a possible grade level while allowing her to learn advanced concepts. 

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Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read other reviews for the Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plans. Several other crew colleagues reviewed the Family Math Package.

A+ Interactive Math Review

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