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Recently, I received from The Old SchoolHouse Magazine as part of the Crew a request to do a review for MathScore. As with other products, I received the chance to use it for free, but I will review it based on my own opinion. MathScore is an online math assessment and practice program. It provides thousands of randomly chosen problems to assess your student’s math level and practice their weak concepts. Math levels covered include first through Algebra I. This site could provide a much needed assessment tool for schools and homeschoolers.
The program, developed by graduates of MIT, is designed to accurately assess and prescribe practice regardless of math curriculum or method taught to the student. Students have access to a basic Core assessment test which then lists the results and any necessary topics that need to be further taught. The system has worksheets and mini lessons for each topic covered. The student can access as many worksheets as needed to practice the skills taught in the mini lessons. The student can then be reassessed for the topic after practice. Student gets detailed results of their assessments and practice answers. Parents have a separate log in that allows them to get detailed results and teaching suggestions including details of their students’ use of the program. Each time the student logs in, the program keeps detailed records of total log in time, time spent actually working, number of problems done, percentage correct, and percentage of attention span. I had several students at different levels try out the program. I even tested each student with the television on nearby, too. Of course, I never allow TV watching in school, but I wanted to test this attention span percentage. The program very simply, but accurately gave me a report to let me know just how distracted my students were while doing the lesson and worksheets. I also received emails letting me know when my students worked and how much was accomplished. This could be a useful tool for a busy parent to monitor their children’s working time without having to actually sit by them the entire time. If they don’t work you know it. When they do work, you can tell just how much effort was put into the work and how successful they were doing it. I particularly liked the Copy sections of the program which helps the student learn to type their answers more accurately and more quickly. This is a much needed skill for most students. The program wasn’t designed originally to be a teaching program in the sense of a full curriculum, but the site information states that many homeschoolers do use it that way because of the presence of the mini-lessons. I personally don’t recommend that blindly, but it could be used as a tool to decide when the student needs additional and more teacher-focused instruction.
The MathScore program, though not a good solution for all students, is affordable. The cost for one student is $14.95 per month, but can be as low as $9.95 per month with a time commitment. Additional students can be added for increasing discounts to as low as $3.95. Check it out for yourself at http://www.mathscore.com.
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.
Tortoises and hares and pretzel vendors and contrabassoons and cellos are all playing together in one place? Just what could this mean? It is a delightful story adaptation brought to life with the sounds of an orchestra. This story brought back wonderful memories of the old cartoons like Bugs Bunny with the orchestra sound effects. The developers of Stories in Music™, Bonnie Ward Simon and Stephen Simon, take that idea to its fullest benefits with dramatized narration and full orchestral sound affects to enhance the story and encourage better listening skills and appreciation of music.
Each audio cd begins with the story narrated with the orchestral sound effects. The story is followed by narration telling about the story, its history, type of literary story such as a fable, and the purposes of the story type. The cd also includes the original song played separately to allow children to learn the song for singing and performance. The music is included with words once to help teach the song and another instrumental version is at the end of the cd to allow for student performance. It is a great way to get the students involved with the story and experiencing music. Another important feature of the cd is a narration explaining how the composer used music to help tell the story. Music samples of various instruments are played such as a contrabassoon with its low, droning sound and how its sound was used to create a particular sound effect or represent a character such as the tortoise with its slow movements. The story is played again after this narration encouraging the students to listen carefully for the sound effects explained. This is a delightful way to explore how music affects us and can be used in so many ways such as story narration. It also encourages active listening skills to recognize these instruments and how they are played to add to the story.
Each audio cd set has a booklet with full color pictures of orchestra instruments, information about music and music reading, and information related to the story theme. In Tortoise and the Hare, there is information and pictures explaining the difference between turtles and tortoises, and rabbits and hares. There are crossword puzzles and word jumbles and other fun things to do that reinforce the information taught in the booklet and on the cd. There is also words and music to a fun original song written and included as part of the story.
The accessibility for various special needs students here could be limited, but learning disabled, autistic spectrum disorder, and hearing blind students will certainly benefit. The little booklet is short enough to read to a hearing blind or even be brailled. Hard of Hearing, Deaf, and DeafBlind students may also benefit with a little modification and role play. Tell the story in print and ASL using a speaker large enough for the student to feel some of the subtle vibrations of the music. Role play the sound effect use such as running and walking in the Tortoise and the Hare. Simulate other effects such as crowd noise and other story action. Experience with actual orchestra instruments would be excellent allowing the student to place his hand on the instrument or near the sound hole to feel the vibrations. Allow the students to create their own sound effects with available instruments or handmade ones, too. Drums or pots could be used to beat out a running or walking pattern. These activities can reinforce the connection between story elements and music for these students.
The web site, http://www.maestroclassics.com, has additional learning activities that can be used for many students to reinforce the concepts and skills presented with these wonderful stories. Each cd set is $16.98 or 3 for $45.00 with a code. You can purchase many stories, such as Casey at Bat and The Story of Swan Lake, with more in production. Explore music with your child with these delightful stories. The blessings will last a lifetime.
Stories in Music™ authors provided a cd and booklet set to be tested for this review. The opinion expressed in this review is my own.
History, by the definition of http://www.dictionary.com, is the branch of knowledge dealing with past events. An old history text I had in school and can’t remember defined history as the story of man. There should only be one story, but that isn’t the way it is. As a Christian, I know that man’s story is only possible because of God, so really history should be defined as His story. Secular historians as guided by the great deceiver, Satan, have sought to remove the creator of history from the story. Church history took God’s story and corrupted it over and over again for the power derived for one group or another. There are as many church histories as there are denominations and religions. How do we know what is truth and what is not? The answer is simple. The truth is the Bible. God has filled His word with His spirit and keeps it from corruption through His spirit stirring in Man’s heart. How can we teach our children the Truth and guard their hearts from the corruption of the world? We can try to teach them only the Word of God and keep them away from all dissenting forces while they are with us. When they leave, we can only pray that their hearts and faith are strong enough to withstand any attempt to sway. Often, we know that plan fails. To me, a better way is to teach our children the Truth, but expose them gently and carefully along the way to what the world teaches as we lay it beside the Bible for comparison. When viewed by the light and truth of the Bible, all other things will either confirm or deny God, the creator and Jesus, the son and Savior, and the Spirit who acts upon the hearts of man throughout time.
The Amazing Bible Timeline that I was given free to review here is a tool that seeks to give parents the ability to instill not only the Truth in their children, but also that strength of heart and faith to withstand the attempts to sway and corrupt. The originators of this timeline researched all the many histories of our time and past and placed all those together side by side in the chronological order of time along with the history as present by God through the Bible. They have made it as thorough and accurate as humanly possible. The company continues to update it as more is learned about history and as God and man continue to write history. The material is presented simply as an expanded time line incorporating the many time lines of the Bible and other world histories without emphasis to one religion, denomination, or secular historian. This gives the parent the full control to use the tool to teach their child how the Bible teaches and what man has sought to confirm or deny of that truth. Using the method of presentation given for the use of the chart, it is easy to see how God has influenced the world as His creation despite men and Satan’s efforts to purge the evidence of Divine influence.
The 37” X 45” chart is multicolor-coded and lay out is circular and wide to be as useful as possible despite the overwhelming amount of information provided. The print is small and difficult to read at times, but a magnifier helps. In addition, the company provides Adobe Reader .pdf format files on their web site free after purchase for download. With those files, it is easy to zoom into one particular area to study the contents more closely. Use the chart on the wall or a table along with the computer files either on the computer or printed out for particulars areas you wish to highlight at a particular time to see the specific events within the bigger picture of history as a whole. In this way, it is easy to see how the control of the Romans and culture of Roman society affected the Jews as they rejected the Messiah because they were hoping at the moment for an earthly king to rid them of their captors. Or, you can see how God influenced man as He worked to purge our country from the sin of slavery, and directed the forces that prevented Hitler from ruling the world.
As far as accessibility goes, the company providing .pdf files is a great help for the Learning Disabled and low vision students who might want to use the time line. The blind and deafblind will not get any true use of the product due to lack of braille access. The company must use graphic files, and there is no way to present graphic information in braille except as a verbal or written description which may or may not facilitate comprehension. Parents and teachers will have to find other ways to present the material to them. One suggestion would be to take the information and provide it in small chunks of time with a tactile and braille-labeled timeline. If you provide all the material across the circular bands for a time period of a 1000 years or smaller increments, the students could gain the knowledge the same way by seeing the variations of history for just that period for comparison and study. Even though accessibility is an issue for some here, this product should not be discounted. The knowledge gained by students or parents in preparation to teach students can be invaluable.
In addition, the company, Bible Charts and Maps, LLC provides a document presenting tips for using the timeline for Bible Study and history teaching. They also have interactive maps for the Holy Land and a genealogy of Jesus Christ in various file formats to use, as well. The Amazing Bible Timeline chart is $29.97 plus shipping and handling including the digital version and the interactive Holy Land maps for free. Go to http://www.BibleTimeline.net for more information and to purchase. Use this tool wisely and as intended, and you have a resource to help build your child’s faith on the truth of Jesus Christ.
Lapbooking? Doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, as they say in Britain. I am married to and have raised self-proclaiming”geeks”. Truth be known, I am probably a little on the geek side, too. I have just never cared for things that seemed like art. I was about to dismiss this review as “not very useful” if I am being honest. I wouldn’t give a bad review for that reason, of course, but I don’t know if I would have put a good effort into it, though. My conscience wouldn’t let me do that really, so I asked around and got other opinions about lapbooking in general and this particular set from A Journey through Learning. Boy, did I get a surprise!
Almost every parent in my school for homeschoolers had heard of lapbooking and loved it. The parents find it so useful for their children in learning and more importantly, retaining the information they learn. These parents felt that the process of building presentation booklets on specific topics increased their students’ interest level in the subjects, too. The ability to make lapbooks almost 3D with the use of various paper folds adds additional interest and skill to the unit studies. This method is very similar to scrapbooking and just as versatile, it seems. A Journey through Learning unit studies take a great method and make it easy to learn with the detailed instructions and tip guides. The well-designed templates and colorful photos and clip art helps make it easy to create advanced and spectacular booklets. The study guide provided with each one gives your student a great start at learning. Lapbooking and A Journey through Learning cover all the modalities needed to make learning a success with the ability to teach the skills of following instructions and working together (when a family tackles each project). You can then tie it all together with the ability to express themselves creatively.
Accessibility for these projects is there for the .pdf since Adobe has the text-to-speech ability. Of course, there is no braille output for this, but the authors do have the ability to copy text for accessibility turned on which will allow it to be pulled into other screenreading programs for large print, better voices for the blind, and braille for the deafblind. The great colors available in the templates are good for low vision, and the templates can be printed out at larger scales for those with low vision. These can definitely be modified for many special needs students.
These great lapbook units on all kinds of subjects from amphibians to reptiles, to the Civil War to the Bible can be found at the web site, http://www.ajourneythroughlearning.com. The prices are very affordable and are available in three formats: downloadable .pdf at $13.00, CD_ROM at $14.00, and print at $21.00. Created by two homeschooling moms for homeschoolers who understand what you do and what you need to teach your students, these lapbook sets are just the ticket to success.
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.
Welcome to Wynfield Christian Academy’s homeschooling world. We are not here to turn homeschooling into a private school world. We want homeschooling to flourish as it is. Homeschooling is a wonderful way to fulfill the parents’ God-given responsibilities of educating children. Wynfield just wants to provide more resources to add spice to your teaching and to make it easier to for parents to get their children into colleges without having to limit the homeschooling way. We also help families with special needs children to have more resources to homeschool their children, as well.
Here on this blog we will give you teaching ideas, discuss homeschooling issues, and even review some products for you. Give us your comments or ideas for discussion. We are always listening. If you are interested in learning more about our umbrella program, visit our web site at www.wynfieldca.org. We also have a DeafBlind program to help educate, train, and equip DeafBlind children and adults that you can learn more about, and even learn how to help us on that mission at www.wynfieldca.org/deafblind.html or visit our blog at www.deafblindhope.wordpress.com.