Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Menu Plan Monday: March 23rd, 2015

It was tough last week planning meals for only one. I ate frozen soups most of the week for dinner. Thankfully, my daughter is back home so I can start meal planning again. We're sticking to tried and true meals this week to make things easier. Visit the linky below for recipe ideas. I am hoping to try more new recipes in the near future.

Breakfast - Blueberry Oatmeal + Hardboiled Eggs
Lunch - Tune Cheese Melt Sandwiches + Carrots
Dinner - Spaghetti with Meat Sauce + Broccoli

Breakfast - Berry Yogurt Smoothie + Hardboiled Egg
Lunch - Egg Salad Avocado Sandwiches + Red Bell Peppers
Dinner - Spaghetti with Meat Sauce + Green Beans

Breakfast - Cereal + Kiwi Fruit + Egg Milk
Lunch - Turkey and Cheese Sandwiches + Green Bell Pepper Slices
Dinner - Roasted Chicken + Baked Potato + Peas

Breakfast - Lemon Blueberry Pancakes + Turkey Bacon
Lunch - Peanut Butter Honey Sandwiches + Apple
Dinner - Chicken Dumplings

Breakfast - Fried Egg, Cheese, and Turkey Bacon English Muffin
Lunch - Chicken Salad Sandwiches + Carrots
Dinner - Chicken Dumpling Leftovers or Chicken Quesadillas

Breakfast - Smoothie + Pecan Cream Cheese Muffin
Lunch - Turkey and Cheese Wraps + Avocado
Dinner - Turkey Burgers + Spinach Salad

Breakfast - Cereal + Fruit 
Lunch - Grilled Turkey or Ham Cheese Sandwich + Sugar Snap Peas
Dinner - Turkey Burgers + Spinach Salad

I will link this post up at Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

BookLook Review - Brave Girls: Better Than Perfect written by Jennifer Gerelds

I love being a part of the BookLook Blogger Review Program. As soon as I saw the Brave Girls: Better Than Perfect: A 90-Day Devotional for Brave Girls Like You non-fiction book written by Jennifer Gerelds I knew that I had to review it. We already own one of the books from the series called Brave Girls Bible Stories and it was a big hit in my home.

My entire life, I've struggle with perfectionism even though I know the truth now. God doesn't expect or want us to be perfect - we are seen as perfect in His eyes since he created us in His image. Our imperfections are beautiful and unique to each one of us. We are "better than perfect" and greatly loved in God's eyes. The empowering message found in this book was one that I wanted . . . and needed my daughter to hear especially living in today's society. I want to cultivate, reinforce, and instill self-confidence in Alyssa's heart and mind. I want her to gain a sense of bravery as part of her character as she develops into a Godly woman.

Book Summary

Better Than Perfect: That's what every girl is in God's eyes. 
A young girl’s doubt in her own self-worth starts from an early age. Am I pretty enough? Am I smart enough? Will I fit in? Do people like me? Am I worthy enough? These aren’t questions asked by teens, but from precious girls in grade school! Brave Girls Faith and Honor will help girls navigate these questions and learn just how wonderful they are! In this Brave Girls devotional, 90 engaging devotions will help young girls find their place in the world and learn that the beauty of their imperfections is what makes them unique, loved, precious, and “better than perfect” in God’s eyes. 
Book Description
This newly released 136-page paperback Christian devotional book published by Tommy Nelson: A Division of Thomas Nelson Publishers is outstanding! Faith and Honor, two of the Brave Girls, introduce the book and its purpose reminding everyone to remain faithful and put their trust in the Lord. God loves us and we are perfect the way we are and that the "secret" to being beautiful is seeing ourselves through God's eyes as part of the big picture rather than the messy pieces. They remind us to take note of our attitude as well.  

Each daily devotion includes:
  • Meaningful Bible Scripture Verses
  • Short Thought-Provoking Devotional Text
  • Simple Closing Prayer Pointers 
The devotion is organized into six main chapters:
  1. Truth Detectives
  2. Bible Beauties and Beaus
  3. Divine Design
  4. Body Builders
  5. Character Quest
  6. Mind Games
How We Used It
I am using this book with my 7-year-old as part of a mother-daughter devotional during our morning Bible time. We read one devotional each day. There are lessons and truths that we will both benefit from hearing. I want to use this time together as a way to grow closer to God and one another.

My Thoughts
We ABSOLUTELY loved Brave Girls: Better Than Perfect! My favorite chapter was the first one which began with descriptions covering 15 essential truths and baffling lies we've heard or told ourselves. These important snippets will clear up any misunderstandings we may be believing in our hearts. For example, a handful of lies addressed in this book are "I need to have money to be happy," "I need to be beautiful," "I can never make mistakes," "I need to have fun all the time," "I always need to be right," and "I need for everyone to like me." After stating each lie, often with scenario examples, the truth is clearly voiced.

Each devotion begins with a Biblical referenced scripture verse that can be memorized and is relevant to the central topic. The brief one-two page devotions were stated in a straightforward manner which took very little time out of our day. The material presented was age-appropriate in with regards to content, length, and level. However, I was a little confused because the description states that it is a 90-day devotional, but there were only 86 devotions in my book.

Several interactive and engaging exercises are provided throughout the book which in some cases will help you to spend more quality family time with your daughter. The following activities can be found scattered throughout the book recipes, crafts, research, science experiments, journal entries, easy word searches, fill-ins, hands-on activities, and fun games. There are step-by-step directions and a bulleted list of materials for crafts and recipes. Not all devotions have a hands-on component. A "Write It Out" reflection accompanies each chapter and can be used as a way to apply or summarize what's been learned.

Pre-teens will find that they can relate to the material covered in this book especially when they are confronted with issues in today's society which can have a profound impact on the self-worth of a person. Many Godly character traits were addressed in this book including but not limited to joyfulness, generosity, kindness, obedience, respect, self-control, patience, wisdom, truthfulness, humility, gentleness, and gratuity.

The one or two sentence prayer pointers teach children how to build a better relationship with God through conversation. They are easy-to-read and can be restated by children leading the closing prayer.

The book can be purchased at Faith Gateway Store for the affordable price of $7.99 or on Amazon for $6.80.

Note: All prices are subject to change.

I would definitely recommend Brave Girls: Better Than Perfect to pre-teen girls between the ages of 7-11. Older and younger children within the age range will find the content appealing. It guides Christian girls through a study emphasizing God's Word when we doubt who we are and who He wanted us to be. This book would be a great gift in an Easter basket or Christmas stocking.

I received a complimentary, free copy of this book from the publisher as part of the BookLook Blogger Review Team Program in exchange for an honest review on my blog. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
I review for BookLook Bloggers

Thank you for visiting A Learning Journey!

I will link this post up at Homemaking Linky and From House to Home.
I Choose Joy!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Baby Toupee

I was looking through Alyssa's baby pictures today. These photos brought a smile to my face. It's actually a build-a-bear wig. 

Thank you for visiting A Learning Journey. Visit us again real soon. I will link this post up at Life at Rossmont's Wordless Wednesday Linky.

Wordless Wednesday at Life at Rossmont

God bless,

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

TOS Review: GPALOVEMATH developed by GPA LEARN

Critical Thinking Company Review

The company GPA LEARN developed a product called GPALOVEMATH that we recently had the privilege and honor to review. We received an online subscription and access to SIX grade levels for a FULL YEAR. My daughter truly enjoys this program and I must say that I am more than impressed with it. My favorite subject to teach is Math, but I always use an online educational program to supplement the core curriculum.  

Product Description
GPALOVEMATH is an online, web-based mathematics program geared towards children in grades K-5. It offers over 150 lessons per grade level in addition to at least 10,000 practice problems for each grade level. We started using it after signing up for a free trial. We primarily used and focused our attention on the Third Grade Scope and Sequence lead by the learning coach, Abacus. Each grade level has a specific animated learning coach that gives instruction on a concept with sample problems. My daughter really likes Abacus, because he motivates and encourages her to complete the lessons. 

On the Learn Page, you will notice three paths on the lesson map that your child can follow: Green, Purple, and Blue. Lessons are unlocked as a child completes required lessons in a recommended order. Lessons must be unlocked in order to complete them. The locked lessons are shaded gray. Although, you do have the option of choosing specific skills or concepts to work on for each grade instead of following the suggested order.

Three standards are addressed in the LEARN section:
  1. Operations and Algebraic Thinking
  2. Numbers, Base Ten, and Fractions
  3. Geometry, Measurement, and Data  
The program took Alyssa through a sequence of "game-like" structured lessons: Instruction, Practice, and Quiz. She could hop between any of the three sections within one lesson. She could advance or review material as needed. She worked at her OWN, individualized pace which is an important aspect of the program. She even liked that she could retake a quiz or relearn the material since mastery was her ultimate goal.

The online learning math program is organized into three MAIN components:
  • Instruction
Each grade level has a specific learning coach that teaches your child a particular concept or set of skills     covering sample problems using a thorough, step-by-step direct instruction format. The program teaches using a slide format similar to a powerpoint. There are red and green arrows which gave Alyssa control over the pace of her lesson. The orientation lesson explains that the child's responsibility is tolisten carefully, say the problem, and solve problems mentally. However, we always kept a pencil and scrap paper nearby. Colorful graphics were used to depict terminology, manipulatives, and examples. The bulleted "Process Reviews" were greatly appreciated and served as a way to summarize the lesson. 

My daughter was rewarded with a dance break upon completion of the instructional lesson. She liked that she could change the strobe light colors. When he praised her with a strobe light dance, she would join in on the fun! 
  • Practice 
During the practice session, Alyssa was asked to solve problems. She submitted her answers with a yellow forward arrow found at the bottom right corner of the problem screen. A green checkmark replaced the arrow for correct answers and a red "try again" arrow was seen for incorrect answers. The learning coach guided her through the examples and positively praised her efforts.
  • Quiz
The quiz begins immediately after the practice session concludes. This part of the lesson is done independently without the online instructor's help. Alyssa had the opportunity to apply what she learned to problems. She had the option of moving forward and backwards if she wasn't ready for the quiz section. I loved that more challenging questions using the word, "NOT" were included. There isn't a back button. However, there is a "play again" button enabling the child to retry the entire quiz or sequence of lessons. Most of the quizzes contained 15 questions with 2-4 answer choices. A variety of question formats were used including but not limiting to true/false, yes/no, type in the numerical answer, choose an operation or "plan of attack" and so forth. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety and types of answer solutions.

The quiz was graded automatically and the results with points acquired were given as immediate feedback upon completion of the quiz. Data was sent to my e-mail address. Alyssa was also able to review missed problems. The original problem, incorrect answer, and the correct answer were shown. The screenshot below displays the possible scoring results. She's constantly telling me the number of points she's earned, the level she accomplished, and which badge was obtained.

My daughter, Alyssa (Age 7), used the GPALOVEMATH online learning program as a supplement to her core math curriculum. She utilized the program at least 4-5 times per week for a minimum of 15-40 minutes covering at least one lesson each day. There's a good chance that she'll complete the third grade curriculum in less than the estimated 10 months working at this pace. Occasionally, she would work through a second lesson just for fun.

We chose to follow the recommended scope and sequence order for the third grade curriculum. The third grade scope and sequence covers multiplication, division, fractions, geometry, time, and more. She was allowed to  choose any unlocked lesson from any color path. The skills addressed in this grade level were more relevant to her core curriculum. Just a few of the subtopics she covered were Combining Shapes, Angles: Acute, Obtuse, and Right, Symmetry, Quadrilaterals, Adding with Expanded Form, Parallel, Perpendicular, and Intersecting Lines, Time to the Minute, 2-Step Word Problems, Problem Solving with 3-Digit Numbers, and Multiplication on a Number Line. Most of these lessons served as a review for Alyssa.  

This program enabled her to learn and practice the skills providing for enrichment and reinforcement. The material is often presented differently from what I've taught her so it exposes her to new material and gives her the tools she needs to figure out problems in multiple ways for the future. This curriculum will not only review and maintain the skills that she's currently learning, but it also helped fill in gaps we didn't know existed and taught concepts we haven't yet covered which was a blessing.  

Supported platforms include Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac computers, Apple iPad, and Samsung Galaxy Tab 4. The following browsers are supported: Google Chrome, Internet Explorer 11, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari 6 and 7. Chrome was used as our preferred browser on a MAC computer. The only thing we needed was our computer and an Internet connection. No software or downloads were necessary to stream this online math program. Your log-in information will be sent to you via e-mail. Thankfully, the lessons were portable on the iPad for those on-the-go errand days.

Features We Like
Reward System
I can't say enough about the built-in motivational reward system created for this program. Alyssa's favorite thing about the program was earning rewards. In the beginning, I was given the choice of either creating a customized reward system or using the auto build list. The customized reward list gave me the chance to manually choose available rewards for Alyssa based on her interests. This section contained over 100 options. My daughter told me which rewards she liked most and we added the reasonable and agreed upon ones to her list. I later reorganized the rewards so that there would still be an element of surprise. The auto reward list gave five popular rewards that you could use to motivate your child up to 15 times a year. 

Earned rewards showed up in Alyssa's backpack. Each reward tells the child how many more points are needed to purchase specific items. She can't wait to earn extra baking time together, craft time, more snuggle time, and later bedtimes. Alyssa's ultimate favorite "five star" rewards were the Marketplace prizes offering $10 or $25 e-gift cards to purchase with points earned. She bought three e-gift cards during the review period. I love the fact that I can reward her educational accomplishments. She also has a blast rating the rewards which helps me understand what motivates her best. I am now more involved in and supporting her online learning. She has a positive, happier attitude towards online math and her confidence level regarding "new" math problems has increased. The reward system definitely motivates Alyssa!
Gift Card Purchase

Engage Tab
We were able to communicate about what she was learning, how many points and which rewards she earned, and how she was doing through the program's messaging system. I loved reading her messages to me! She felt like she was a big girl with an "e-mail" account. I haven't seen anything like this in any other math program. I saw it as another avenue to pass on more positive praise and encouragement while building communication skills.

Online Math Manipulatives
The program used a variety of familiar online math manipulatives such as base ten blocks, counters, number lines, geoboards, pattern blocks, and clocks to explain concepts. For some exercises, Alyssa was able to click and drag manipulatives to the work space.

Prime Directive
The student's main objective for the lesson was clearly stated on-screen.

Vocabulary Addressed
Math vocabulary terms were illustrated and explained thoroughly. They were often shown in a chart or graphic organizer.

Parent Emails
The automated reports and e-mail notifications with immediate feedback were most helpful in keeping me updated on Alyssa's progress. Each time Alyssa finished a lesson, a progress report was sent summarizing her score indicating what she accomplished in a certain amount of time on a certain date. The program also noted any skipped or completed sections. It was based on real-time data. I had the ability to glance at her e-mailed report from the other room enabling me to see how she was doing without disturbing her lessons. Additionally, I received a weekly digest stating her progress for the week. You can only print the records from your e-mail.

Problems Read Aloud
One aspect that we thought would be great for younger children who are not yet reading was that if you clicked on the text, the problem would be read aloud.  

This feature shows you a summary of your child's progress including the total number of lessons completed and attempted, the number of completed lessons done over a two-week time period, a goal progress tracker, your engage activity, upcoming rewards, and other information. It also included the level (master or apprentice) and type of badge earned (rockstar, excellent, and nice job).

24/7 Access to ALL Grade Level Content
I appreciated having access to several grade levels which enabled me to differentiate her learning experience if one grade level wasn’t the best fit for her. I LOVED the fact that she could work on several grade levels at once with our subscription any time of the day.

Possible Vendor Suggestions
  • Amazon e-gift cards would make wonderful reward options!
  • Is there a way that paper and pencil problems could be solved in a work space on the screen using an online writing tool?
  • Explanations for "why" problems were incorrect would be helpful in the quiz section. I think it is important for students to understand "why" a problem was incorrect and not just that they got it wrong without necessarily having to redo all or parts of a lesson. 
  • The cost of this online program is too high for my budget. Including all grade levels in one subscription will increase the value of the program and help validate the cost. Could you offer different subscription plans? For example, parents can be offered the choice of purchasing the current subscription plan for all grade levels at $129 or they can purchase individual grade level subscriptions for a reduced price. Furthermore, could a discount be offered for additional children in larger families using the program? 
  • I was hoping there would be another dance break after the practice session before immediately starting the quiz.

There's a special introductory price of $129 per child for the online annual subscription (retail price of $149) when you use the promo code GPAINTRO15 at checkout. A payment plan of $12.99 per month was also offered. This is the price for ONE student having access to ALL grade levels (K-5th)!

What does that mean to you? 

It means you can differentiate learning. If a child is struggling with one particular math concept, then they can complete lessons from an earlier grade level as a review or for reteaching purposes. Children can also move ahead at their own pace by working on higher grade level concepts. This flexibility is outstanding! Alyssa was curious and wants to check out the lower grade levels too. 

NoteAll prices at the time of this review posting are subject to change.

Overall Thoughts and Opinions
My daughter rated this program as "the best" out of the ones we've tried and let me tell you . . .  we've tried many online math programs. Even though a subscription gives us access to ALL grade levels, unfortunately the price is still out of my budget. If I could afford this math program, then it would definitely without a doubt become her new web-based math supplemental program in the future. In my opinion, it's a comprehensive and complete curriculum that can be used as a stand alone product or as a supplement. If practice worksheets accompanied each lesson, then this would be a top-notched core math curriculum we'd have to consider.     

We will definitely continue using our subscription until the day it expires! This program actually served as a reward itself, because Alyssa wanted to complete her core math assignment neatly and quickly so that she could do her online work which follows. The program is fun, educational, interactive, and user-friendly. If we don't get to her core math assignment for the day, I feel pretty confident that math was covered when she completes one of GPA LEARN's lessons. I know that Alyssa is receiving an exceptional foundation in math using this solid web-based program.

Are you ready to sign-up for the free trial and check it out for yourself?

I highly recommend the yearly subscription to GPALOVEMATH created by GPA LEARN (Great Parents Academy) to ALL homeschool families if they can afford it. Furthermore, I would also recommend GPALOVEMATH for classroom settings in both public and private schools. It will be very beneficial to visual learning students struggling in math that enjoy computer-based, interactive online learning.

Social Media

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog or click on the banner below to read the experiences other reviewers had using different grade levels.
GPA Learn Review

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Mummified!

Alyssa recently learned about Ancient Egyptians. She was curious about the mummification process so she spent some time researching it. Afterwards, we decided to have a little fun so we would turned her into a mummy. Later that day, she decided to mummify her American Girl doll. She had so much fun doing this activity. But . . . as you can tell it wasn't easy covering her, because the toilet paper tore quite often. Hope you enjoyed this activity.

Note: We didn't use the entire roll of toilet paper and the only part I tossed or wasted were the pieces near her boots.

Thank you for visiting A Learning Journey.

God bless,

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Schoolhouse Review: Digital Science Online by Visual Learning Systems

Visual Learning Systems Review

Reviewing the Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) and the Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12) developed by Visual Learning Systems was an absolute blessing! I was thrilled when I found out that the Schoolhouse Review Crew would receive a full one-year subscription to BOTH levels with access to a single student, teacher, and admin account for the purposes of this review.

Finding a science curriculum that both you and your child likes isn't always an easy process. We were using a curriculum that I liked, but I wasn't quite sure if I wanted to focus on only one specific science topic for an entire year. The science curricula we were using would too often get set aside due to teacher prep time or lack of materials. I live in the country and unless I plan ahead, I don't always have project items on hand. 

Product Description
Visual Learning Systems is a Vermont-based family owned and operated business offering Digital Science Online (DSO) programs for children in grades K-12. This educational science publisher produces high-quality visual-based content that teaches and encourages children to learn. Brian Jerome, a former science instructor with a Ph.D, is the unit creator behind the scenes. Digital Science Online uses a combination of animations, still life images, interactive graphics, and a collection of informative videos that capture and engage the child in the learning process. This complete multi-media curriculum teaching tool enables children to learn about their world. The annual subscription also includes the following components:
  • Comprehensive Teacher Guides (Downloadable PDF File) with Pre and Post Assessments
  • Subtitled and Close-Captioned Content-Specific Videos
  • Reproducible Student Activities (Printable PDF)
Teacher Guide - The teacher guides contain 15-30 pages of teaching resources including introductory activities, viewing suggestions, itemized learning objectives, national standards and correlations, assessments, student activity blackline masters, and video scripts. Answer keys are also provided for all student activities, the video review and quiz, and for the assessments. The teacher guide is available as a PDF file or can be viewed in sections online. I never printed the teacher guides because I was able to view them online. If you have an iPad, then you can view the teacher guide as your student works online. 

Video scripts from the teacher manual are helpful on days we aren't watching the videos together. They are broken into numbered sections that can also be read online. I had the ability to review, skim, and prepare for the day's lesson and content in advance. It's a wonderful summary of the content addressed.

This isn't just an interactive online science program that you put in front of your child with assignments to complete. You do need to set aside a little time to grade multiple choice assessments and dedicate some time to look over the worksheet answers IF you utilize those tools.

Implementing the suggestions found in the teacher guide that activiate the child's prior background knowledge about a topic can be extremely helpful. My daughter always surprised me with the information she already knew when she was given a pre-assesment. I knew not to waste as much time on material already known. Pre-assessments helped me identify problem areas and emphasize the difficult, misunderstood topics.

Educational Videos - The videos were developmentally appropriate for the grade level ranges. They taught concepts in understandable terms using a clearly understood narration voice with proper pronunciation. Furthermore, the bite-sized segmented videos can be spread out throughout the week. The video content immediately captured Alyssa's attention. The videos lasted 10-20 minutes depending on the grade range selected. The longer videos were from the Secondary Edition. There were over 136 videos in just the Elementary Edition (K-5) and 125 video titles in Secondary Edition (6-12). 

Student Activities - Clickable thumbnail images of the student activities can be seen online. The student activities varied including but not limited to cut and paste, fill-ins, matching, lab investigations, illustrations, labeling, reading passages with comprehension questions, projects, writing prompts, and word finds. The best part is that you have control over which activities you complete and how many activities you do from the units. The Elementary Edition Grades 3-5 worksheets can be writing intensive at times.  

The science curriculum covers topics from several major elementary science fields including Life, Physical, Earth, and Health in the Elementary Edition which is something our current mastery-based program doesn't do. There are also ESL and Integrated units studies. Biology is covered in the Secondary Edition.   
Visual Learning Systems Review

How We Used Digital Science Online
The program is compatible with updated versions of Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. We used Chrome as our preferred browser on a MAC computer to stream videos over the Internet. As long as we had an internet connection, we could conveniently access our subscription easily 24/7. No additional software was needed. I navigated the website easily and had the option of searching the database for specific science topics. The Crew received BOTH levels of the program to review so we could evaluate each one. We primarily used the Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) resources and online videos with my 7-year-old daughter approximately 4-5 times a week in conjunction with and as a supplement to her core astronomy science curriculum. Science took approximately 15-45 minutes each day depending on the number of activities we completed. 

My daughter begged me to review this product so she was extremely eager to get started! First, I explored the different levels and unit studies available as soon as we received our log-in information. When exploring the website, it is best if you choose a grade range first, then the core science field, and finally decide on a specific topic to teach.  

There wasn't really any order or sequence that you needed to follow. I asked Alyssa to make a list of interesting unit studies she wanted to learn about from the Elementary Edition. We started with complementary topics related to the content addressed in her current science studies and then we branched out to the interest-based unit studies.

The Elementary Edition is divided into two grade range categories: Primary Grades K-2 and Elementary Grades 3-5. My intention was to complete the unit studies from the Elementary Grades 3-5 section first in hopes to challenge my daughter and use the Primary Grades K-2 unit studies independently taking a more interest-based, delight-directed approach. However, we ended up switching between the two grade ranges but almost all units came from the Primary grade level. Our emphasis was on Earth and Life Science unit studies. We completed the following unit studies during the review period: "Day and Night," "Sun and Stars," "Planets," "Earth's Nearest Neighbors," "What Do Living Things Need," "What is a Mammal," and we recently finished "What is an Insect." Her favorite unit studies were "Planets" and "What is a Mammal." Alyssa also enjoyed quizzing relatives and friends about the content she learned. 
Visual Learning Systems Review

The first unit study Alyssa jumped into was the Primary Planets unit study which she completed within two days. I immediately realized that I wanted to break a unit study up over several days to encourage and facilitate better comprehension of the concepts instead of covering one unit study a day. Would you like to see what our week looks like?

A Weekly Glance
  • Monday
A pre-assessment in multiple choice format was given to Alyssa at the beginning of the lesson before being exposed to the video content. It enabled me to informally evaluate her prior knowledge about a topic without taking grades.

The introductory activity from the teacher guide was next on our agenda. Many introductory activities required very few materials and little prep. Materials were easily gathered from our home within a matter of minutes. I usually prepped while my daughter completed the pre-assessment or other lessons. These short activities sparked my daughter's natural curiosity for the topic. She began to ask questions about what she was going to learn. I will say that Alyssa reads a lot of non-fiction animal texts so she was already familiar with many of the terms in the following unit. She also used some of the information from the pre-assessment to create the graphic organizer and mammal list. 
Mammal Introductory Activity
Then, Alyssa and I usually watched the full content-rich video together. She completed the Video Review as a student activity while watching the video. This was also a great time for me to check for and clarify misunderstandings about the content as they occur. I taught her to listen and watch for the question cues. Slides with the Words "Video Review," "You Decide," "Your Describe," You Observe" would pop up on the screen. Once she heard and saw the cues, she would get her pencil ready. She developed and fine tuned her note-taking and attention skills. The video was paused while she recorded her answers to the questions and responded in written format. The company did give some response time for answers so depending on how fast your child writes you may not need to pause the video. I encouraged her to write in neat, complete sentences.

When a key term was mentioned on the screen, we also paused the video for a brief discussion about any confusing vocabulary words when necessary. For example, some discussion was needed to further discuss the terms "rotation" and "revolution" when watching an Earth science video. 

The video review lesson ended with an outstanding summary noting the key, important concepts addressed during the lesson. This served as wonderful review and reiterated the main concepts. 
Completed Insect Video Review and Quiz
The last activity for the day was the 5-Question Video Quiz (as seen above). This is the second part of the video review. I appreciate that both the video review and quiz were on the same page saving on paper and ink costs. If you wanted separate pages for children who are overwhelmed with a lot of information, then you can always cut the page between the two activities. The Video Quiz was utilized as a graded mini-assessment to gauge whether or not Alyssa understood the presented topic. The video quizzes she took were fill-in the blank type questions as seen in the screenshot below. 
  • Tuesday
One or two student activities were assigned on this day. Alyssa rewatched related video segments on the computer or on the iPad. We also discussed animations further and enjoyed the beautiful images. If it were a Primary unit study, then we read a book from the provided list. Alyssa made her own connections and told me how the book relates to the video content. The Word Find worksheets were one of her favorite student activities. 

  • Wednesday  Day OFF to participate in extracurricular activities or extra student activity
  • Thursday 
One or two student activities were completed on this day along with watching video segments, discussing animations, and viewing the related still life images. If another book was available to read, then we incorporated it into the lesson. She found the reading passages to be "just right" containing interesting facts. 
Mammal Reading Passage
    • Friday
    Alyssa watched the full unit study video prior to taking the post-assessment which was graded. You can choose whether or not to grade the tests. They can also be completed verbally if desired. The tests she took so far were in multiple choice format (fill in the correct bubble). Other types of test questions seen in both levels vary including but not limited to fill-in, short answer, true or false, and matching. All of which are simple and effective ways to assess a knowledge base.

    The questions she got wrong on the pre-assessment were always correct on the final test. Post-assessments are usually helpful in noting the effectiveness of programs and help gauge progress over time. I was hoping to see how much she actually learned after utilizing the videos, however, it was difficult for me to tell because my daughter memorized the answers from the pre-assessment. 

    Fridays were also our "plan ahead" days. We would chose another unit study to cover for the following week. This gave us a few days to gather related literature and additional materials. The Primary teacher guides give a list of related literature connected to the topic. If you can't find the specific books in your library, then you can do a simple search based on the main topics addressed in the student objectives for additional book substitutes.
    Additional Usage Notes
    If the unit study addressed was more in-depth covering more complex topics, then Alyssa watched the full video every day to reinforce the concept.
    What We Liked
    • Thorough Teacher's Guides with Everything Planned Out
    • Pre-Video Introductory Activity Suggestions Spark an Interest in the Topic
    • Captivating Images and Fascinating Life Action Footage
    • Short Age-Appropriate Video Lengths for Shorter Attention Spans
    • Time-Saver By Integrating Reading, Writing, and Math Into Lessons 
    • Consists of a Wide Variety of High Interest Topics from Core Science Areas
    • Relevant, Factual Information Presented
    • Multiple Learning Styles Addressed
    • Exposure to Basic and Advanced Vocabulary with Simplified Terms and Explanations
    • Limited Color Used on Worksheets Making Printing More Affordable
    • Primary Grade K-2 Literature Connections - I appreciate the literature connections which helped integrate and incorporate more science-based reading into our homeschool. One of our goals this year is to increase the amount of reading we do and the booklists added another dimension to the unit studies. The number of connections made to the topic also increased while reinforcing the learning process. The book suggestions can be read prior to watching the video or after a video lesson. One of the cute picture books mentioned in the Mammal unit study was Pinduli by Janell Cannon. I've never read this book, but I'm glad that I was introduced to it.   

    Possible Vendor Suggestions
    • There weren't as many hands-on activities as I had expected. I would suggest adding even more hands-on projects and experiments to different primary and elementary studies. Of course . . . this is based on my observations from only the few units we completed. I am hoping as I continue to explore the units, that I will discover more hands-on activities that can be used with one child over time. The day and night activity below was not from the unit study, but the study and literature suggestions inspired us to do it. "The Shape of an Orbit" activity from the Elementary Earth Science unit titled, "Earth's Nearest Neighbors" was one of the activities that we did in addition to the worksheets. 
    Day and Night Activity
    Shape of an Orbit
    • I also wished that the student activities showed adaptations for homeschool families, including those homeschooling an only child. Several of the student activities were more geared towards classroom settings. Granted, you can easily make adaptations to the assignment to fit your situation or come up with your own activities. For example, when studying "Earth's Nearest Neighbors" each group of students were given a planet to create for a solar system model. You can have just one child complete the activity over a longer period of time or divide the work between several children in your home. However, I chose to skip the activity. This project would have taken several days for my daughter to finish which is more time than I wanted to devote to that topic since we were reviewing the concept. Another project that seemed overwhelming for one child was the sun activity from the "Sun and Stars" unit. Each child in the class cuts out 40 circles and arranges a total of 1,000 circles to create the sun. This was definitely too much cutting for one child. However, it is a great activity for a class to discuss the size of Earth compared to the sun.    
    • My daughter quickly realized that the assessments are basically the same exact questions for both the pre-assessment and post assessment. She has a great memory and could easily memorize the answers. I would suggest rewording the questions instead of just reordering them.
    • We hope that the company will eventually add more unit studies and video clips to the program, because we enjoyed watching them and learned a tremendous amount. The presentations are straightforward and informative. 
    Digital Science Online Homeschool Pricing
    Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) $99
    Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12) $99

    *You have the opportunity to possibly differentiate learning within a unit study by checking all the grade level videos for similar topics if you purchase both annual digital subscriptions. Each edition costs $99.

    Please Note: The homeschool reduced prices offered are for home use only for up to 8 children. You do NOT have public performance rights.

    The price is fairly cost effective when you consider what you're paying for and what you get for a year. You can decide on the pace that works best for your family giving you the option of working at a much faster pace covering one unit study a day choosing several student activities to complete in one sitting or you can slow things down like we did. You have more than enough content to cover over a year's worth of learning depending on the pace you choose. Visit Visual Learning Systems for more information and to start using this tool with your family.

    Overall Thoughts
    I can confidently and successfully teach Alyssa core science topics through engaging online video clips and structured lessons found in the teacher guides. The solid program gives me the essentials I need to effectively teach science and be more involved in her lessons. I still have the flexibility that I desire. I also noticed that lessons were smoother and she was more enthusiastic about science! My daughter is actually learning the material presented and is definitely increasing her knowledge of scientific concepts. I had a difficult time getting Alyssa off the computer after the first video lesson, because she wanted to watch more videos and I don't blame her because they are indeed captivating. I believe that children can learn and retain a great deal of information just from watching the online videos with audio. 

    There's a HUGE possibility that this product due to its comprehensiveness may actually replace her current science curriculum for the rest of the year. The Visual Learning System unit studies available through Digital Science Online helped fill a void we had in science while exposing my daughter to additional concepts not covered in our core curriculum. This curriculum will be extremely helpful when we sell our house and move, because when we pack up her curricula we'll still have access to a high-quality science education program requiring minimal prep and time.  

    I HIGHLY recommend the Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) annual subscription created by Visual Learning Systems. This digital subscription resource will appeal to both homeschool families and classroom teachers. It would be an invaluable resource particularly for individuals that teach science at ANY grade level. It's an exceptional resource that will save you an enormous amount of prep time. You also have the relief and convenience that all standards are covered if you are required to meet those expectations in your state. This complete K-12 grade science education curriculum would be an outstanding option for audio-visual learners. Notebooking, lapbooking, more experiments, additional hands-on activities, and copywork extensions can easily be incorporated into these unit studies if desired, but are definitely NOT required due to the thoroughness and simplicity of the product. 

    Be sure to visit the following link for Tutorials and Demo Samples. You can even request a trial. You'll find a PDF file containing Frequently Asked Questions available on the website that may answer basic questions you have about the subscription or program. If you contact the company, customer service reps were reliable, quick to respond, and friendly.

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