Thursday, June 30, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Summer Fun at Children's Museum

I've been spending as much time as I possibly can with my daughter before she leaves for her father's house for a month. One place we visited was the Children's Museum in New Braunfels. I found an awesome Groupon deal online. We both had admission for only $3.50. There was a deal that offered two admissions for the price of one. Then, I had a 50% off coupon code which made this a VERY affordable and frugal summer fun activity. She always has a blast playing with the other children. This time she was a mother hen to a toddler that followed her everywhere.
Coloring Strawberry Art Work
Project: Mosaic Strawberry Art
Conserving Water
Grocery Store Pretend Play
Painting and Face Painting
She also painted a flower on large paper. 
Outdoor Rock Climbing
Light Up Exercise Games and Dancing
Sorry this one is blurry.

If you'd like to join Groupon, please contact me so that I can email you my referral link. It is a great way to save money. Thank you!

I will link this post up at Tots and Me's Wordless Wednesday Linky

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

TOS Review: Family Online Subscription from Veritas Press

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

Veritas Press sent us a one-year family online subscription to to review. This comprehensive curriculum is suitable for children in 2nd through 6th grade. Veritas Press implements a Classical Christian Educational Approach. We started with the first program titled, Genesis to Joshua, which covers several Old Testament Bible books beginning with the topic of Creation and ending with Joshua's Last Words. This homeschool Bible curriculum utilizes magnificently illustrated stories, interactive games, relevant mapping exercises, educational activities, and video lesson content.

There are 3 modules currently available including:
  • Genesis to Joshua
  • Judges to Kings
  • The Gospels
Two other modules are under development:
  • Chronicles to Malachi and Job
  • Acts to Revelation
Each module is centered around 32 core Biblical events which inspire your child to study and learn God's Word. Each event is divided into 4 separate lessons which contain approximately 4-20 slides. This means that with a family subscription, you'll have access to 128 lessons within the three courses. Each family can choose which program to begin first; courses don't necessarily have to be done in chronological order.

The information taught is thoroughly presented by Abigail and her brother (Asher) with the help of two animated characters known as Teb (cat) and Tizzy (gnat). The program teaches children about key people, places, dates, Scripture references, and main historical events from the Bible. Abigail and Asher are fully costumed actors set in front of a n authentic background which help bring the Bible to life. The dialogue between the two characters was humorous and the stories were interesting.

How We Used
Alyssa (Age 8) who works at a 3rd-5th grade level used this online subscription 3-5 times per week for approximately 20-45 minutes a day depending on the event and number of lessons completed. We aimed at her completing 1-2 events per week and 1-2 lessons each day. You can easily decide on and adjust the pace this way. We used Chrome 51 as our preferred browser on our Mac OS X 10.9.5 computer. The screen resolution size for best performance must be at least 1024 x 768.

My daughter started with the free trial at the very beginning and diligently worked through the lessons in sequential order beginning with Creation. This Bible curriculum tied in perfectly with her Science curriculum which covered Creation for the first two weeks. She made great connections between the two programs.

After logging in, she chose an avatar. The complete curriculum begins with step-by-step instructions on how the program works. I clicked on the drop down menu to see a Table of Contents showing the lesson sequence. The lesson below consisted of an introduction, review activities, short video footage, Bible card reading, and more. The lessons will vary for each event. By clicking on the white circle seen below, a new lesson will launch. You must earn at least one star on your banner flag to proceed. You proceed by clicking on the "Ok, got it!" statement.

We usually utilized as Alyssa's core Bible curriculum in the morning to jumpstart our day or at the end of the day after homeschool lessons were finished. We will continue to use the program in chronological order throughout the summer until our subscription expires next May. Alyssa worked at her own pace, but I was always nearby to facilitate, review material, and assist if necessary. After the review period, she'll independently work through the lesson sequence now that she's familiar with the format. I believe she will start working at a faster pace at that time. There were many different types of activities including but not limited to matching, mapping, identifying, fill-in-the-blank, true/false, sequencing, timelines, event ordering, family trees, and so much more.
Event Ordering Activity
Cain and Abel Family Tree
Creation Sequencing
Matching Consequences
The Bible Card reading lesson is clearly read aloud. Related characters and images are shown on the screen during the read aloud. These cards are always available to review afterwards, but it may be helpful to purchase the optional physical Bible Flashcards for an offline review. We didn't find them to be necessary. The repetitive nature and consistent review aids in long-term retention.

A variety of interactive games scattered throughout the program pulled Alyssa's interest and attention into the learning environment and reinforced material being taught. Critter Catch, Grain Wheel Game, Fruit Fall, and Bake a Cake were several of her favorite games to play during the review period. Critter Catch required her to answer comprehension questions to earn game time. She could even unlock a 2x2 Bonus which means she earned extra points when 2 of the same type of critter was caught one on top of the other.
Critter Catch
Bake a Cake
The Grain Wheel game was her absolute favorite game. The numbers 100, 300, and 500 were seen twice on the giant wheel divided into 6 parts. The number spun determines the point value for the question. Alyssa's task was to click on the middle "Spin" button and to push "Stop" middle button when ready for the spinner to land on a number. If she answers a comprehension question correctly, then she would earn the amount spun. It seemed like almost all of the games were "favorites."

Fruit Fall was a game played to review The Fall in the Garden when studying God's Covenant with Abraham. First, she chose a character which was either Adam or Eve. Then, the game began with a 3-second countdown. Her task was to answer review questions on a tree branch. Four multiple-choice answer choices were given on a basket. Sound effects indicated whether your answer choice was correct or incorrect. If she answered two review questions correctly, then she earned 30 seconds of gathering falling fruit. One point was given for each fruit caught. She used the left and right arrows to move the character. Once the game ended, she received her total number of points. Game directions are clearly stated at the beginning.

The catchy Timeline Memory Song was the perfect tool to help her memorize the 32 key events of the program in chronological order. The length of the song was almost 4 minutes. Alyssa would sing in while doing chores, in the car, and around the house just for fun. She loved the song and said it was addicting! Each main event was shown on the screen with key words or phrases in addition to a visual story illustration and/or date. She couldn't help but stand up to sing the song. Alyssa would often create hand and body motions for each event to aid in memorization. would occasionally asked children to read particular Biblical verses such as "Open the Bible to Genesis 1 and 2" to complete the activities. The online content is based on the New King James Version. She would utilize her HCSB version of the children's Bible. The curriculum motivated her to use and read her Bible more frequently.

During specific video lessons, several vocabulary words were verbally defined. For example, the words "temptation" and "stonemason" were shown on the screen. The actors would read aloud the corresponding definition. I encouraged Alyssa to utilize those words throughout her day and if possible to use it in a sentence, because I wanted her to understand how to use the word correctly in the context of a sentence. One new word she added to her vocabulary knowledge was "bitumen."

I was impressed with the fact that Art, Geography, and Music was integrated into the lessons. Occasionally these activities would lead to extension activities. For example, a painting by Jan Brueghel was shown during the Creation lesson. Alyssa researched the artist later that week. The map work replaced our current Geography lessons. Locations mentioned in the Bible lesson were mapped out on the screen and she was encouraged to recognize their locations.

Alyssa was given online worksheets and tests to complete as she progressed through the content. The worksheets and tests assessed her understanding before allowing her to proceed. It also reviewed new and previously learned content. These lessons MUST be passed before Alyssa could move forward with lessons which encourages mastery level learning. The lessons will remain LOCKED until a passing score is earned. The worksheets covered only Bible flashcard content. Answer choices shown in red indicate wrong answer choices and correct answers are in a green font. Answer choices were given in multiple-choice format. You can retake any worksheet and test.

Graded reports with automatic feedback were offered during the 1st and 4th lesson. I decided to print Alyssa's worksheet and test grade reports upon completion to track her progress and grades, because the online subscription does NOT have a feature which records grades. The scope and sequence is the same as the Self-Paced Course except for the online version doesn't store grades. This information truly helped me assess her understanding of the material. I was able to view the correct and incorrect answers, her percentage score, and the actual questions. This pertinent information allowed me the opportunity to clarify misunderstandings through discussion, reteach content, or have my daughter rewatch the lesson videos. A passing score of 70% was required to advance to the next lesson. You can also take and save screenshots of the scores. I wish I could save the reports in PDF format, but it only saved the screenshot below as an HTML page.

After completing an event, a related story image fills the lesson map trail page. Characters are added to the picture and stars were given. Her progress through the curriculum was tracked by viewing the number of earned stars on the screen. At least one star was required in order for her to move forward or on to the next lesson. The stars represented how she performed on each lesson. Three stars meant "great," two stars indicated a "good" job, and 1 star was "passing." She wasn't allowed to move forward until a lesson was completed with a passing score. Material is constantly being reviewed. The built-in review definitely helped solidify and reinforce learning. Alyssa wasn't bothered by the bloody scene below, but she did say that younger children may not like it. 

My daughter already completed and learned about 9 Biblical events including Creation, The Fall in the Garden, Cain and Abel, Enoch and Methuselah, The Flood, God's Covenant with Noah, The Tower of Babel, Call of Abraham, and God's Covenant with Abraham.

What We Liked
  • Interactive Games and Activities
  • Chronological Study
  • Colorful User-Friendly Interface
  • Funny Animated Talking Characters
  • Printable Grade Reports
  • Mastery-Based Learning
  • Built-In-Review
  • Online Worksheets and Tests
  • Multi-Sensory Program Addresses All Learning Styles
  • Biblically Sound and Accurate Curriculum
  • Visual Timelines: Click and Read Card Descriptions

Overall Thoughts and Results
The amount of information taught was extraordinary. This elementary Bible curriculum taught us both much more than I ever expected. The in-depth coverage doesn't compare to anything I've ever reviewed. I give the company a round of applause and a pat on the back for going above and beyond. I was 100% impressed with the fact that my daughter was learning Noah's genealogy, mapping Biblical locations, and studying family tree information. The lessons and fun activities were age-appropriate. The built-in review helped aid retention for longer periods of time. This is an exceptional way to learn and study the Bible. I believe wholeheartedly that if Alyssa utilizes, then she'll have a strong foundation in God's Word. I pray that we will be able to continue using this program for years to come.

Alyssa is DEFINITELY retaining the information taught. Her Bible knowledge is expanding. She eagerly shared several stories she learned about using the online curriculum with our pastor and other church members. She gave rave reviews about it encouraging them to use it during Children's Church. She received passing worksheet and test scores. The passing score is set at 70% but she consistently earned much higher scores which I believe is due to the fact that concepts are structured, repetitively taught, thoroughly covered, and consistently reviewed. Alyssa really enjoyed using this program. She couldn't stop talking about how fun the games were and about the humor of the actors and animated characters. After using, my daughter could easily tell me relevant facts about what she learned during a lesson.

I absolutely LOVE the flexibility of the curriculum which allowed Alyssa to work through the contents at her desired pace covering as many events as possible. My daughter is absorbing the material quickly. She is currently working through the first program and has completed 28% of it. I appreciate that there is NO PREP WORK.

Veritas Press did an excellent job choosing engaging games and activities for children. My daughter asked to do Bible lessons every day. It was THE subject she wanted to do most of all. Another fun activity Alyssa adored was creating her own world. She had to answer comprehension questions to unlock the features.

Possible Vendor Suggestions
1.) Incorporate hands-on Bible projects and related literature to the online curriculum.
2.) Add an optional way to track grades for multiple students using the family online subscription.
3.) My daughter's only dislike about the entire program was the sheep game. A question was asked and four animal pens held answer choices. After answering a question, she had to enclose the sheep into the correct pen. She said she dreaded the game and was annoyed by it. The sheep wouldn't stay in the pen and she had a hard time turning them towards it. The only way to move the sheep into the pen was to click on them, but they were constantly moving.

I HIGHLY recommend this subscription to all families regardless of whether they homeschool or not. Homeschool families and Sunday School teachers can use it as a core or supplemental Bible curriculum. If your student enjoys online learning, then you may want to seriously consider this curriculum. Classical Christian and Eclectic Educators may also find this online Bible curriculum appealing. This program can be used individually or in a small group. Multiple children can use this subscription at the same time. Visual and auditory learners may appreciate learning the Bible using
Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

A family one-year online subscription for up to 5 students will cost you $199. You could also break the family plan into monthly payments of $19.95 per month. A single student yearly online subscription to can be purchased for $99 or $9.95 per month. I suggest signing up for the 14-Day FREE Trial to see how the program works and if your children like it. Monthly subscriptions are also available. Visit the online website store for more information.

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

Social Media
Twitter @VeritasPress

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more Veritas Press reviews about their Self-Paced Bible Courses or to read about experiences with the Online Subscription.
Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, June 23, 2016

My Niece's 2016 Visit: Saying Goodbye

If you haven't heard from me lately, it's because I had a visitor. My beautiful niece, Jessika, from New York visited us and we've been keeping her company. Alyssa really missed her and stayed close by her side. We said goodbye to Jessika the other day. My sweet daughter cried and is hopeful that she'll visit again soon. We truly enjoyed seeing and spending time together.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

BookLook Blogger Team Review - Brave Girls: Beautiful You written by Jennifer Gerelds

I recently had the honor of reviewing another Brave Girls 90-Day Devotional written by Jennifer Gerelds titled, Brave Girls: Beautiful You. I received the paperback 136-page book as a member of the BookLook Blogger Review Team. Beautiful You is the third book in the Brave Girls series published by Tommy Nelson. This book was just as good as the other Brave Girls devotionals Better Than Perfect and Faithful Friends and the Brave Girls Bible Stories book. My daughter and I enjoy reading this exceptional series together!

I wanted to review this devotional, because I want my 8-year-old daughter to have a healthy self-esteem. I also wanted her to understand that beauty is on the inside. Beauty comes from within your heart and reveals Godly character traits. God made us the way we are and in His image so we are perfect to Him. This is a profound Christian message that any girl should hear in today's society. The devotional is written in an age-appropriate manner containing a few simple illustrations of the girls or decorative pages.

There is a daily referenced Bible verse, short relevant devotional, and a concluding prayer pointer to read aloud. Questions or interactive activities are weaved throughout the book. Scripture verses are taken from the International Children's Bible or New King James Version. The pages are labeled as Day 1, 2, 3, and so forth so you can start wherever you want. This devotional is unique because it contains interactive thought-provoking journal questions to reflect on, fill-in-the-blank crosswords, multiple-choice and true/false quizzes, and engaging word scrambles. Many more fun activities are included in this book. 

This 90-day devotional is based on Ecclesiastes 3:11 "He has made everything beautiful in its time." This devotional is told through the eyes and perspectives of three fictional Brave Girls: Gracie, Hope, and Glory which makes it more personalized and relatable for younger girls reading it. The term beautiful had different meanings for each girl. Different people reading the book will also have different thoughts about what the word, beautiful, means in their world. 

The well-written book is organized into six core sections:
  • Beauty Basics - We are flawed but beautiful because God made us.
  • Radiant Reflections - We're all sinners but God loves us and helps us fight temptation or sin.
  • Words of Beauty - We are showing Godly behavior when we love and serve others. 
  • Beautifully Clothed - God can change us by removing the old and transforming us into someone new.
  • Kingdom Fitness - Our bodies are a holy temple for God's Holy Spirit. 
  • Creative Beauty - We are unique and beautifully made. 
I gave this devotional to my daughter as a gift. We decided to use it together when we wake up in the morning. I believe the strong message is one that we both need to hear or for that matter any girl should hear. I appreciate that minimal black and white illustrations were utilized in this devotional. It kept my daughter's focus on the Word and the text rather than on distracting images.

The book begins with a few self-awareness questions and activities. Our favorite sections were the Works of Beauty, Radiant Reflections, and Beautifully Clothed. Works of Beauty contains real life challenges which teach her ways to show God's love by serving others. This section contains activities that put God's Word into action. For example, the Art of Encouragement activity reveals actions that offer encouraging words to strengthen and build up others by creating handmade appreciation cards for her parents, paint watercolor pictures with related Biblical verses for nursing home residents or church members, sticky note surprises can be left out for a loved one, or she could write a special letter to a teacher or her pastor explaining their helpfulness. My daughter left me sticky note messages all over the house. I LOVED the Deeds Day activity which encourages children to bless the church with a day of service. Mission Fields is another one of my favorite activities which provides ways that children can serve and connect with their neighbors. Beautiful You is chocked full of relevant information which emphasizes inner beauty compared to external beauty.

Radiant Reflections has your child dig deeper to learn more about who they are inside. This section encouraged my daughter to look at herself as Jesus does and to see herself as beautiful just like He does. The book provides reflective questions to ponder, drawing activities, scale ratings, and other interactive ways to celebrate the person God made them to be. The book discussed communication, forgiveness, beauty, importance of prayer, guilt, being humble, and so much more.

Beautifully Clothed discusses how to change old, negative attitudes and behaviors into new positive ones. It compares old wardrobe actions to new wardrobe behaviors leaving it up to the child to decide which one shows God's glory best.

I HIGHLY recommend the Brave Girls Beautiful You 90-day devotional to any preteen daughter or granddaughter in your family between the ages of 6-12. This Christian children's tween devotional will help any girl appreciate themselves and grow up to be comfortable as the person God created them to be. It will help your child develop a stronger faith and relationship with God.

This paperback devotional can be purchased on Amazon for $6.25.

Note: All prices subject to change without notice.

I received a complimentary, free copy of this book from the publisher as part of the BookLook Blogger Review Gold 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

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Alyssa's 2016 Piano Recital

We've been preparing for Alyssa's piano recital for the last couple months. My daughter played two classical songs at her piano recital last Saturday. The songs she performed were Theme from the Surprise Symphony by Joseph Haydn and Theme from the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky. She did an exceptional job! I am so proud of my baby girl's accomplishments. She'll be playing the pieces at church this Sunday. I just wanted to share a few photos with you all.
Alyssa and Mrs. Lu
(owner of Lusic Piano Studio)
Friends for Life
New Friend

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

TOS Review: MaxScholar Reading Intervention Programs

MaxScholar Reading Intervention Programs Review

MaxScholar offered us their MaxScholar Reading Intervention Programs to review to help improve my daughter's reading comprehension and vocabulary skills. We received a one-year online MaxGuru license for ONE student and ONE parent account. The program is suitable for children in Pre-K through 12th grade. The programs within this package are based on the Lindamood Bell Process and Orton-Gillingham approaches to reading instruction.

What Does the MaxGuru Package Include?
  • Max Phonics
  • MaxReading
  • MaxVocab
  • MaxWords
  • MaxBios
  • MaxPlaces
  • MaxMusic
The essential elements, identified by the National Reading Panel, known as the Five Pillars are addressed in the  MaxScholar programs. The Five Pillars which effectively teach reading are Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Reading Comprehension, and Vocabulary. 

How We Used MaxGuru
The MaxGuru program was used with Alyssa (Age 8) for approximately 30 minutes to an hour a day 3-5 times per week. She works at a 3rd-5th grade level. She is not a struggling reader and has mastered most advanced phonics. We preferred using Google Chrome on our Mac OS X 10.9.5 computer. 

We tried all of the programs included in the MaxGuru package except for MaxPhonics, because I wanted to explore the programs offered which were more suitable for my daughter's needs and abilities during the review period. MaxPhonics will serve as a great review to maintain previously learned phonics and phonetic awareness skills. However, our focus for this review will on MaxReading, MaxVocab, and MaxWords. 

The main reason I wanted to review this program was because I wanted to work on Alyssa's reading comprehension and vocabulary. I was particularly interested in and fascinated with the color-coded highlighting program. I believed it would help Alyssa focus on understanding the meaning of a text better. I am also a firm believer of learning word parts to enrich vocabulary. 

We landed on the MyMax dashboard after logging into MaxScholar with her username and password. At this point, Alyssa chose a program to further explore. Her excitement about this program was overwhelming. 

First, Alyssa took the reading assessment which began at Level 7 during her very first visit to MaxReading. Level 7 is comparable to Grade 7 content. I was concerned when I saw the level of the test, but my daughter surprised me with her results. MaxScholar recently updated the program with a "too hard" feature which means you can adjust the pre-assessment level if desired. Her pre-assessment indicated that she was at a Level 6. It didn't really explain why or how she was placed at that level except for the fact that she got 6 out of 10 questions right.

I asked Alyssa to choose a passage to independently complete at the suggested reading level so that we could assess her progress over time. I was shocked when she chose the Ice Hockey passage as her first Level 6 passage. Later she told me, she thought she clicked on Ice Skating. I immediately noticed that her comprehension score was passing, but her highlighting score was extremely low. I knew it would be low, because she hasn't had enough experience with this skill yet. I made the decision to start her at Levels 2 and 3 so that she could work with easier passages when learning the new color-coded highlighting strategy. I didn't want her to get frustrated while learning a new educational strategy. As she becomes more familiar with and has more experience using the strategy, then I'll move her up to the more difficult higher-grade leveled passages. 

Before working on the passages independently, I guided Alyssa through the steps for the first two passages she worked on at Level 2 and 3. I scaffolded the process by explaining and modeling a small portion of the highlighting activity. There were times when I did wonder why certain words were highlighted even though this skill is an effective reading comprehension method. I will now tell you how we used this program AFTER the pre-assessment.

Accompanying vocabulary words were taught using the MaxVocab program before reading the passages. The MaxVocab is a perfect complement to the MaxReading program and the two programs were utilized concurrently. Alyssa read the definition for each highlighted vocabulary word in gray, read it in a sentence, and learned the synonyms and antonyms for each new word if applicable. This definitely helped expand her contextual vocabulary knowledge. I realized this year that she was having a difficult time using new vocabulary words in the context of a sentence. She was able to see modeled examples using this program and this particular skill has in fact improved over time. I appreciated this program, because my daughter was learning new vocabulary within the context of a passage. There is also a MaxVocab Dictionary which contains ALL of the meaningful words for ALL of the MaxReading levels and books.

Next, Alyssa read aloud or silently read a Level 2 or 3 high-interest chapter she selected for the day. The font size of the text could be easily adjusted using the "A" button making the font size smaller or larger. She read the passage aloud and in her head several times before moving on to the highlighting activity. 

The highlighting portion followed the reading session. She focused on relevant content by identifying the topic (blue), main idea (green), and details (yellow) of a chapter book passage using a digital highlighter. In the past, when trying this method on paper, Alyssa would highlight most of the passage. MaxReading is teaching her how to effectively highlight passages. 

There's a counter after each highlighter which indicated the number of items that should be highlighted in each color. However, they recently removed the detail counter from the program. My daughter said that the counter was helpful, because she could determine if more or fewer important details needed to be highlighted. We noticed that if she tried to highlight too much a note would pop up so she could change her highlighting choices. After completing this exercise, she can compare her work to the correctly highlighted passage. The icons at the top of the page represent exercises or steps to be completed in the MaxReading program. 

The next activity was for Alyssa to create an outline for each passage read in the MaxReading program. Outlining was a new method she learned about using this program. This skill will help her when researching content for papers. She is gradually getting more familiar with this process. The only time she was really given any instruction on how to outline was when we first started as seen below. I believe that she could have benefited more from this exercise had there been more instruction on how and what to outline. 
Outlining Directions

MaxReading also taught other helpful writing skills by incorporating activities that teach summarization, drawing conclusions, and compare/contrast. She had a choice of three activities. Alyssa wrote basic paragraphed summaries which consisted of one main idea sentence, three details, and a conclusion. She could also responded to open-ended and general questions in written (typed) format. For example, one open-ended question asked my daughter "What are some similarities and differences between Abraham Lincoln's childhood and your own?" I enjoyed reading her comparisons and contrasts. I told her not to pick the same exercise every day, because I wanted her to practice all the skills. 
Ice Hockey Passage
General Question:
Drawing Conclusions
After creating an outline for the chapter, Alyssa independently answered five multiple-choice comprehension questions. Four answer choices were usually given. These questions were utilized to assess her understanding of the information she read. Questions asked about the main idea, specific details, important dates, word meanings, and more. In the question below, you can see that incorrect answers receive a red star and correct answers are yellow with a green checkmark. 

Finally, at the end of the lesson there were engaging vocabulary games or interactive activities to play such as Hangman, Word Searches, and Match-Ups. This feature was used to practice word recognition skills and reinforced learning. The games motivated her to enrich her vocabulary by learning new words. I usually required her to complete the games. The words hidden in the word searches could be found in ANY direction making the task a bit more challenging. During the Hangman game Alyssa read a definition and typed in missing letters to complete a vocabulary word. She could only make 5 mistakes. The Match-Up game simply matched definitions to vocabulary words. 
Word Search
MaxWords is the second program I was MOST excited about. It is based on the Orton-Gillingham approach. Alyssa expanded her vocabulary by learning about morphology. She learned that smaller parts of a word could help her read bigger words. Studying word parts can increase vocabulary knowledge. 


MaxScholar recently added a pre-assessment to this program. I requested that they activate the MaxWords pretest for Alyssa. As far as I could tell, it did not erase her progress and she could still access all the content regardless of the results. The pretest offered placement or starting point suggestions. This pre-assessment covers syllabication, syllable recognition, spelling, word meanings, and sentence building. At the end of the assessment, a 91% score was indicated on the screen and the program recommended that she start the section teaching Greek Roots. A white arrow was pointing at the suggested exercise. Additionally, the program showed the wrong answers and offered the correct answers

This assessment makes sense because she's had exposure to syllabication, prefixes, suffixes, spelling rules, and some Latin words in the past. Yesterday, I asked her to work on two Greek Root sets. There was a pink read aloud symbol next certain words so that she could hear the correct pronunciation. Immediate feedback was given such as "Oops wrong answer" or "Well done! You got 4 answers correct." If the pre-assesment was too difficult, then she could click on the "too hard" button. They also provided a "skip this" button if she wanted to skip a particular part of the pretest. We did NOT adjust the level of difficulty or skip any test sections. 

Pre-Assessment Results

Six different types of syllables were addressed using the CLOVER feature, which is another component within the MaxWords program. As Alyssa's reading level increases each year, syllabication of multi-syllabic words have become problematic or more difficult. We focused on open syllables, r-controlled vowels, closed syllables, vowel-consonant-e and consonant -le first. You could read the rule by hoovering over or clicking on the letter. Then, she started working on her last set which consists of double vowels which make one sound. This set contained more exercises so she'll need more time to complete them. Each syllable type was explained and percentage scores were noted for each set. Learning the syllable division rules, seeing examples, and practicing syllabication using online games and activities helped strengthen this skill. Click on the second screenshot below to see an example exercise where Alyssa was asked to choose the correct syllable division for several words. 

In the past, I've read many articles about the benefits of teaching prefixes, suffixes, Greek roots, and Latin roots to enrich a child's vocabulary. Furthermore, syllabication and spelling rules can help increase the number of words known. I believe this program will have a huge impact on her overall reading level. She'll be able to easily break up and understand more difficult larger words she comes across when independently reading. 

The most important step is "Listen Up." Alyssa wasn't spending enough time learning the meanings of the words so she had a more difficult time doing the other exercises that followed. I suggest encouraging your children to study the meanings and examples associated with each word part. Each program has different types of exercises. The icons at the top show my daughter the activities needed to complete. It lights up the current activity so she can see what's she's working on and what's next. I will show you just a few of the many exercises Alyssa completed. She worked on activities related to syllabication, word meanings, one-minute timed fluency, and finding Latin prefixes to complete a word within a sentence. In addition to the activities below, Alyssa completed 5 out of 6 Latin sets and 2 out of 4 Greek modules. There were fill-in-the-blank, syllable division, drag and drop matching activities, and so much more to explore. I love the methods and variety of activities they utilize to teach morphology. 
Prefixes: Greek Numbers
Listen Up Exercise
Syllabication and Fluency Exercises
Move and Match and Question Exercises
MaxBios and MaxPlaces
MaxBios and MaxPlaces were used as supplements to our Geography, History, and Character curricula. She also explored these areas just for fun when she wanted to learn more about a particular place or person. Learning interesting facts about people and places has always been a fascination of my daughter.    

MaxBios strengthened her chronological sequencing skills with timelines about influential people and the important events from their life. Alyssa jumped back in history when visiting the Old School Musicians, Beethoven and Mozart. She is gaining knowledge about famous people in history and those present today. 

She still has many Fascinating Men (Ghandi, Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King Jr.), Amazing Women (Rosa Parks, Cleopatra, Pocahontas, and Helen Keller), and Entertainment figures to discover later this year. She couldn't wait to learn more about Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift. I love that reading comprehension is also integrated into this program! After choosing and reading about each influential person, she answered comprehension questions about that important person. She became more comfortable with the types of questions as she practiced answering more questions. 

MaxPlaces benefited our homeschool, because she became more familiar with the world around her and different cultures were introduced. She identified and located several chosen destination places or landmarks on a map containing 51 locations to explore around the world. The passages under this section cover a variety of levels so they may not necessarily be at your child's level. 

The first place Alyssa visited was Austin, TX. She shared interesting facts with my sister who just moved to Texas. First, she read a fact-filled leveled passage about the location and answered multiple choice questions to assess her understanding of the content. She also discovered several other places such as Alaska, Maui, or the Pyramids of Giza. This is one of the extra programs that reinforce skills from MaxReading. Her score was revealed and a green dot was placed on the map.

MaxMusic was used more as a reward for completing work in a timely manner or during her free time. Alyssa practiced melodies using the on-screen keyboard which helped improve her memory and auditory skills. She had to remember and play particular notes. She was very interested in the modern musicians that are popular today including but not limited to Selena Gomez, Adele, and Taylor Swift. She immediately checked out Adele's music first. Reading comprehension and closed reading activities were integrated into this program. The excerpt song lyrics were provided so that Alyssa could study them and highlight verbs. This was by far her FAVORITE program! 

Identify Verbs

Fill in The Correct Word

Play Notes on Piano
MaxPhonics and MaxReading (K-1)
Alyssa explored the lower grade MaxReading content to review and maintain her reading skills in her free time. I let her choose the content. She opened several MaxReading Prep levels and worked on observation, detail-oriented, visualization, verbalizing, and retelling skills using pictures. This was a very helpful exercise which enabled me to notice a few minor gaps in her learning. However, MaxPhonics seemed too easy since she's mastered most advanced phonics. I may still require her to visit the program over the summer to review material previously learned. 

MaxReports offered me the ability to track and monitor Alyssa's student progress through the MaxGuru program. I monitored her progress by viewing the overall reports with percentage scores for each individual program. I was hoping for more detailed reports. However, I needed more specific data to assess her needs and identify her weaker areas in order to create an intervention plan for next year. 

Overall Thoughts and Results
MaxScholar is a multi-sensory program that explicitly teaches effective reading comprehension methods systematically. One unique feature that I adore about this program is that it ties reading comprehension into almost every component and it utilizes non-fiction or informational passages as well. I appreciate that the font size could be increased or decreased depending on what is best for each child's needs. Any program that allows my child to work at an individualized, flexible pace is a positive aspect for me. The engaging, interactive games and varied exercises provided Alyssa with a positive, fun working environment. 

I have definitely seen an improvement in Alyssa's comprehension skills. She is paying more attention to her reading and focusing on the content better. My daughter is learning how to outline passages, she's highlighting more relevant content, and her summaries have become more concise. The color-coded method for teaching students how to highlight content ended up being a huge hit with my daughter. Her vocabulary repertoire is expanding as she learns more about roots and word parts. The content can be challenging at times, but she handles it with grace. Her confidence using new strategies is soaring. 

We'll definitely continue to utilize the program over the summer and next year until the subscription expires. Unfortunately, due to our budget constraints, we will not be able to renew our subscription. MaxGuru is a complete online learning program that teaches reading comprehension, vocabulary, phonics, fluency, and phonemic awareness to children between the ages of 4-16 years old. It is a structured, organized, and research-based program which has greatly benefited our homeschool.

I HIGHLY recommend this program to homeschool families with students struggling with reading or for any parent wanting to improve their child's reading comprehension and vocabulary. There is something for all types of learners at different levels. This would be a great program for Title Reading teachers at public, private, or charter schools to utilize. Home educators utilizing the Orton-Gillingham and Lindamood Bell approaches may also appreciate this program.

Possible Vendor Suggestions
1.)  I would like easier access to the parent password protected dashboard from the student's dashboard.

2.)  I wish the detail counter could be a feature under the parent dashboard that we could add or remove under settings. 

3.) Could you add more learning activities to the MaxBios, MaxPlaces, and MaxMusic program?

4.) More informative reports showing problem area details such as incorrect question would be helpful. Dates didn't always match what we did. 

5.) Offer differentiated or leveled word searches based on difficulty level. 

6.) I wouldn't have selected several of the musicians seen in this program. I haven't seen any profane lyrics yet. I am concerned with the lyric messages or use of certain words. 

7.) Offer a pick-your-programs package allowing us to choose a certain number of programs for a particular price.

The retail price for the MaxGuru program is $330. However, for a limited time you can purchase it for 20% off dropping the price to $279 for an annual subscription with unlimited access for one user. Keep in mind this program contains ALL of the components listed in the introduction of this review. Please visit the website store for other package options.

There is no way that I can cover all aspects of this system thoroughly in one review. Be sure you sign-up for the FREE trial to explore the features of this innovative online program. Click on link and scroll up or down.

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MaxScholar Reading Intervention Programs Review

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