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You may have heard of the Advanced Placement tests offered on different subjects by the College Board. If not, the AP tests allow a student who has studied advanced material on a subject through college level to take a test to receive both high school and college credit for the material. It is a good program for students who excel in one or more areas. Learning the material isn’t necessarily enough. Additional preparation on completion of essay writings required, topics covered, test-taking strategies, etc. could mean the difference between credit and no credit. The Cerebellum Corporation now presents their Light Speed Advanced Placement video program to clear the way for success.
This new program uses a format similar to their popular Standard Deviants series sold on DVD and seen on PBS. Through young actors and on-screen graphics, the program covers extensive research on essential test topics of Chemistry, U. S. History, U. S. Government and Politics, and English Composition and Language. The producers say it is a rapid and thorough approach to the topics. I received U. S. History to review. As the date for my students’ testing was only about two weeks away when I received the tape, I could give the students’ limited time to review the material before the test date. I showed the video on one school day, and let them use pages from the digital workbook provided with the program. The workbook pages are very concise and detailed to reinforce the material presented on the video. After viewing the video, I asked the two students to write comments about the experience. Both stated that they enjoyed the time spent viewing the video and thought it was helpful to them. It seemed to allay some concerns about the test and strengthen confidence at the very least. The essay section seemed to be the most helpful to the students. They felt the material was presented very clearly and concisely. One felt the actors were a bit corny and felt that was a little distracting. I definitely wouldn’t normally present the material in one session and only a couple of weeks to use the digital workbook. The program was designed to be used in small sessions and repeatedly throughout the year of preparing for an AP test. You can’t judge the program for its effectiveness in improving scores, of course, but both students felt more confident about taking the AP test after viewing the material. That is a plus in itself.
I have a little complaint with the DVD because I was not able to view this program myself. For deaf students, the DVD is not closed-captioned. Blind students would have some difficulty with the digital workbook because of the .pdf format limitations for speech readers and braille output. You can copy to another program for accessibility, but some of the pages consisted of pictures with information that can’t be view with a braille display or spoken with a speech reader. I certainly hope the producers will at least consider using closed captions in the future.
Although we can’t say how the program affected my students’ scores, their increased confidence even with the short time they had the program should count for something. At the cost of $14.98 for each title, Cerebellum’s Light Speed AP U. S. History should not be considered a waste of money. For the rest of the year, you can receive a 20% discount off any product using the code OSH20 at checkout. Check out their full listing at http://www.sdlearn.com.
I received a free U. S. History program to write this review. I didn’t receive any other compensation, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

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Penmanship is an important skill for an educated person; although, it is often dismissed as trivial if the student has the slightest problem learning to write. A person’s writing, though, is useless if no one can read it. The Presidential Penmanship program delivers a solid skills development method and beneficial quotes and scripture references to write on the mind and heart.

Presidential Penmanship uses the Getty and Dubay Italic style. I personally do not like the Italic style at all, so if you are in that mindset Presidential Penmanship isn’t for you. However, Italic has many supporters especially in the homeschooling world. If you fall in this group of supporters, Presidential Penmanship could be a good fit for you. The levels available are first through sixth, Junior High, and Senior High. Each level uses quotes from Presidents with older levels also using scripture references for copy samples. As the student practices good handwriting skills, good, quality sayings and scriptures to live by are written on the mind and heart. Grade 1 level provides lessons that begin with the quote written in quality penmanship for example. Some students, especially some special needs, may find it good practice to first use this example for finger tracing getting a feel for the flowing motion before attempting to write. The Grade 1 level then provides a sample written with block script that allows a student to write on the sample within the lines. This is followed by another sample written normally, but slightly lighter in gray scale allowing the student to continue practice by writing on top of the gray lines. Finally, to end the lesson for the week, there are blank lines for the student to try writing the quote on their own.  Grade 1 lines and spaces are bigger and bolder with a thin guide line inside the writing space for help with letter heights. Grade 2 uses a similar method for the lessons without using the block letters at first, and the writing space begins to get smaller. Grade 3 begins Italic cursive which doesn’t use a separate set of letters as other cursive styles do, so the student can easily transition to cursive from print. The remaining levels use the same basic lesson format that just enhances the skill development to normal cursive writing as the student’s physical abilities mature, as well. Older student copy longer quotes and copy scripture references. The lessons in the program begin as daily practice for a week and transition to practicing about three times per week, and there are enough lessons for a regular school year. The teacher can adjust the schedules for the best interests of the student. Presidential Penmanship gives the student ample help in developing good handwriting skills as their hearts and minds are strengthened in scripture and history.

Presidential Penmanship is available on CD containing all the levels of the program for $39.99. If you prefer the Italic style of handwriting, Presidential Penmanship is an affordable curriculum than can fit your children’s needs like a glove. Check it out at http://www.zeezok.com.

Zeezok Publishing provided me with a free copy of Presidential Penmanship for the purposes of this review. I did not receive any other compensation, and the opinion is entirely my own.

Looking for a Keyboarding class that isn’t a game? Even more importantly, are you wanting a Christian Keyboarding class? Well, you aren’t going to find many of either. The game programs are fine for some students as a complete curriculum, and fine for even more as a supplemental course, but many times the student concentrates too much on the game aspects. There have been many teachers who have used the game programs and discovered their student loved the program, but wasn’t really learning how to properly keyboard. Hence the search for a more traditional program begins. You can find them, but you won’t find any that are Christian-based. That was the dilemma for one Keyboarding teacher at a Christian school. Like many teachers before her, Leanne Beitel set about writing her own. The result was Keyboarding for the Christian School, a great blend of tradition and scripture.

Using many of the traditional methods of teaching typing, but with scripture as practice exercises, Leanne Beitel created a course that most teachers can be happy with using every day. There are two separate programs depending on the age student: Keyboarding for the Christian School, grades 6-12 and Keyboarding for the Christian School, Elementary Version. Both versions have simple, but thorough lessons covering the important topics of keyboarding such as the touch typing technique, alphabetic keys, numerals and symbols, number keypad, centering, and enumerated lists. The Elementary version then provides timed writing practicing. The older version continues with topics such as the tab key, the footnotes styles of MLA and APA, cover pages, works cited and bibliography pages, letters, envelopes, and proofreader’s marks before it begins also with timed writing practice exercises. Most of the scriptures used are good life affirming ones from the Psalms. Typing these scriptures for practice will write them on the minds and hearts of your students to be used by the Holy Spirit throughout their lives to guide them and help them to praise the Lord. The other writings used in the older versions will teach your students as they type Biblical truths and better discipleship. The programs are easy to follow regardless of age group. The elementary version is very similar to the older version, but written with a little simpler language and uses colorful charts to guide the student for finger placement and correct key finding. If you start your student in elementary grades with this program, you can use the older version to review the basic skills if needed or skip straight to the additional topics that an older and more advanced student needs. I personally love the way the author included coverage of the number keypad and introduction to the formatting and reference citing styles of MLA and APA. The keypad skills I learned in school are seldom taught now, but those skills have aided me in my personal life from quickly using calculators and adding machines for bills and taxes and even in the grocery store to some degree with ATM and cash register use. As a blind person, it has been as invaluable as the touch typing skills I have acquired. I was able to even apply this skill to some degree in reverse to use a telephone .With report writing, many students might learn a little about giving credit in later years of high school, but never hear the acronyms for the two most accepted formats in the literary and psychological fields. Their knowledge of how to give credit and type it correctly is weak. Then, in college, depending on their class, they are expected to know which format to use having heard of neither. These courses are very well-designed and will prove beneficial to many homeschool and private school settings.

As far as accessibility, the .pdf format is a drawback for blind and deafblind students, but the author left the security open. With additional software, you can convert this to a more usable format for screenreaders or braille displays. Of course, this is never a perfect conversion which makes .pdf formats less than desirable for accessibility purposes. Hearing blind would benefit from an audio version of the programs, but keyboard shortcuts are needed in the step implementation first. However, keyboard shortcuts would be beneficial for all students since it makes many steps quicker and simpler. Many of the keyboard shortcuts are standard for basic word processing steps so this wouldn’t be too difficult to provide. DeafBlind students would need a .txt or rtf version of the program once keyboard shortcuts are added. An audio version would also help students who are LD or auditory learners for use in conjunction with the text. With just a few simple modifications, the programs could have a much broader audience and be even more useful for the students to use.
Keyboarding for Christian Schools is an excellent program for homeschool and private Christian school use. The programs are also quite affordable for homeschool and Christian school use. The homeschool price for e-books of both versions is just $22.00. A Christian School can get an unlimited license version for $159.95. You can find more options and additional products at https://www.christiankeyboarding.com/Home_Page.php. The lifelong benefits of good keyboarding skills and scripture knowledge gained from this program can be so rewarding.

Nutrition guides and fad diet information can be found anywhere. Many are not worth the junk science they are based on. I wouldn’t want to bring that kind of program into a classroom of any type, but my fears were totally unfounded on this program. This is not just another nutrition guide, and it is not based on junk science. Nutrition 101: Choose Life! is a full nutrition and health curriculum. Its design is an excellent way to bring the study of health into the homeschool way of doing things.

 

Nutrition 101: Choose Life! written cooperatively by Debra Raybern, N. D. and Sera Johnson and Laura Hopkins and Karen Hopkins as part of Growing Healthy Homes, LLC. brings the study of the body and how it works into the homeschooling way by integrating the program into the lifestyle of the family. The resource itself is full of interesting reading about each of the body’s systems complete with colorful pictures and diagrams loaded with details. Biology study alone, it isn’t either, though. The delightful twist is nutrition and how food affects the workings of the body systems. The ultimate goal of this project is to help the family “develop lifelong habits and desires to eat wholesome foods that support great health”. The authors’ goal is definitely well-supported by the wealth of researched information, exciting family activities, and delicious healthy recipes. Scripture is referenced throughout the program modeling for your family what God has intended for our bodies, His temple. The activities are designed to get your students thinking and finding out for themselves what amazing bodies God made for us and how it is our responsibility to care for them properly. The delicious recipes are specifically chosen for each lesson to emphasize the many points taught in each area. They are designed with the family in mind including the picky eaters. The design is visually attractive to the eye as well as conducive to learning using the added visual cues of boldly colored and attractive fonts for vocabulary, pronunciation key facts, and fun fact side boxes.  The appendix is also packed with good resources for almost anything you might wish to learn more about such as selecting fresh produce, kitchen safety, calcium, asthma helps, mold, and more. This program really takes health to more than just “a check off the box” course .

 

The visual organization, though designed for the sighted, is still suitable for many low vision students. The colors and boxes help to separate the main lesson from the added information and to highlight the vocabulary and other features. The e-book version of the curriculum is in Adobe .pdf, and thankfully, the authors turned on the accessibility features that are present in Adobe. Unfortunately, this will not help braille readers at all, since Adobe has locked the .pdf to use only its speech-to-text reader which has no braille output features, and the Adobe .pdf format is not accessible to JAWS or other screenreaders for speech or braille output. I am not faulting the authors for this at all, and I hope they will educate themselves to the needs of the blind and deafblind market. There are homeschooling families who need these accessibility features including braille.

 

Nutrition 101: Choose Life! is an amazing curriculum for homeschool use. It is so versatile being in the digital e-book format and a print format. The program can be purchased on their website for $79.95 for the CD-ROM, $99.95 for the print book, or a combo pack of the CD-ROM and book for $ 129.95. This curriculum really can deliver on its promise to help “develop lifelong habits that support great health”. Find out more about this great curriculum at http://www.GrowingHealthyHomes.com.

 

The Old School House Magazine has been producing an excellent print magazine for many years. It is a beautiful, full-color magazine filled with great product reviews, timeless homeschooling and life tips, and curriculum information. Now the staff of The Old School House has brought that same magazine into the digital world, so you have the choice.

The magazine opens on your desktop with a tutorial page that explains the various navigation symbols and how to use them. There are several ways to “flip” through your magazine or search to find a specific topic. The navigation bar at the top of the screen gives you a logo for The Old School House that you can click on to go straight to their web site. Next to that logo are tape recorder or VCR type navigational buttons for previous page, next page, first page, and last page for simple flipping page to page or jumping to the front or to the end. To the right of those buttons, you will find a menu bar similar to the one on your web browser where you click on the word to bring up a list of options. The menu items available are contents, pages, search, links, and settings. The menu boxes stay viewable and usable until you click the “X” for close in the top right corner. The menu boxes can be moved around the screen as well, so you can see the magazine pages when you need to access the information for use in choosing the option or typing in search information. In addition, the box is slightly transparent to allow you to see the page under the box enough to be of help, but not enough to affect the readability of the menu options. This is a really neat feature to have. The only menu item that differs from this is the “pages” item. Clicking on the “pages” menu gives you a page of fairly large thumbnail pictures of each page in the magazine. You can scan the thumbnails to find the page you want and click on it. You then automatically “flip” to that page. The “contents” menu gives you the Table of Contents listing articles or sections of the magazine. You click on the section to turn to that area of the magazine. The “search” is a simple search feature for items in the magazine. You can customize it some. The “links” menu is a great feature. You click “links” to bring up a box that lists the various links on the current page to readily click and access that link’s web site, or you can check the “show all links” box to see all of the magazine’s links. You can also use this “links” menu when on the thumbnail pages to quickly choose a page that has the links you are looking for on it. Click a page and the menu box automatically updates for the links on that page. In this fashion, you don’t have to change the view to allow for easier reading of the page to scan for the link. Finally, the “settings” menu item gives you a page to choose settings for the e-book such as one or two page viewing, standard and magnified text size, page turning speeds, etc. Check this page out quickly after opening the digital magazine to customize your viewing. Another cute feature is the page turning. It really looks like you are turning the pages of a print magazine. In fact, the wonderful color and eye-catching design and format are identical to The Old School House’s print magazine almost giving you that feeling of curling up in a comfy chair with a magazine to read.

Well, you can’t quite curl up with this magazine, but if you aren’t familiar with The Old School House, this is a good way to introduce yourself. The magazine is jam-packed with good information and uplifting articles to help beginning and experienced homeschoolers with their journey of educating children.

 For more information, go to http://www.thehomeschoolmagazine.com.

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