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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Ready To Teach - Review

Heavy into review season here at Shut The Fridge, I know.  But, I am finding lots of good stuff that you can use in your school next year, like this one from Ready to Teach called Greek Morphemes Lessons - (It's NOT Greek To Me!).

A few years ago, I got on a kick that the kids were all going to learn their Greek and Latin root words.  I made up flash cards and everything.  Like all of my education fads, it sort of faded, and, of course, the kids lost some of the flash cards.  :)

So, I was super excited when we got the chance to try out an official curriculum designed to do what I had sort of pieced together myself.  Greek Morphemes Lessons is a vocabulary program that is based on over 200 Greek Roots, Prefixes, and Suffixes.

Because, honestly, let's face it, the older I get and the longer I have homeschooled, I realize how helpful it is to understand some of these basic things like Greek and Latin roots for words ...and how completely useful they can be in life, or while watching Jeopardy!

L-girl was in my targeted range for this one, so she got to be the guinea pig.

So, who out there can tell me what a "morpheme" is?   LOL  It really just means that big words are made up of smaller word parts - those smaller word parts are morphemes.  See?  I can teach you usable stuff here at Shut The Fridge!

So, for instance, take a word like...


Scary word, right?  Wrong....because if you break it up into its morphemes, you can figure out what it means....or get a pretty good idea of what it means.

Let's break it up together:

Micro - means something small
Archaeologist - is someone who studies old stuff
Gynocologist - is a doctor who specializes in lady stuff
Phobia is a fear of something

See what we just did there?  So, Microarchaegynophobiac is a person who is scared of little old ladies. Emoji

L-girl was very independent with this curriculum.  I basically just handed the book and the thumb drive over to her and off she went.  I corrected things and answered a few questions for her along the way, but other than that, she was on her own.  I will say though that this was one of the school things we have around here where I wouldn't have minded being a little more hands on (if I actually had the time) because I think this stuff is really interesting, so I know I would have learned a bunch too!

But, I didn't have the time, so L-girl was off and running on her own.  She actually worked on this 5 days a week and according to her each lesson took about 30 minutes or so.  The lessons had various assignments for "working" a word (basically just dividing it into parts and figuring each individual part out).

L-girl did accidentally go a little off track was when she was making her study cards.  She neglected to take note of the fact that the book came with color coded sheets in the back for her to write her words on......or already created perforated cards.  She just created her own with index cards and even after I told her about the colored paper in the book that she was supposed to use, she didn't change them, because she thought the pre-determined size of the cards in the book were too small.  She liked having the larger sized cards that were easier to read.  Plus, I am a strong believer that you retain and remember stuff longer if you write it down in your own, that would be a bonus too!

When I corrected her work, I just went to the Instructor's Manual and corrected things.  (There was a separate printed and stapled together chunk of corrections to the manual.  I am assuming that these will be corrected with additional printings of the texts)

The only issue we really had was when she tried to use the accompanying CD for Self Review before she took her tests.  I think it was supposed to be interactive and accept your answer, then give you feedback on whether it was right or wrong - but, for us, it didn't accept any of her clicks or answers, so it didn't really do her any good to work through the Self Review sections. Not sure if we got a dud CD, or if this is a real glitch that needs to be addressed (and I will admit that I never followed up and sent the information to the creators of Ready to Teach).  But, that is the only issue we had with this whole program.

L-girl admitted that sometimes she thought the work and lessons were boring (but, let's be honest, ALL school stuff is sometimes boring!),.  However, the day that she got a Jeopardy question right because of Greek Morphemes Lessons - was enough to hold her over for awhile!

We gauge success around here by whether or not we can beat each other (and especially  Rainman) to the "question" in Jeopardy.  She beat us all!  What did she know that we didn't?

What is Philophobia?  Fear of love.

I feel like Greek Morphemes is one of those sneaky school things that you won't really know the true value of until years later, when you can decipher the meaning of a word when you are sitting around watching Jeopardy or taking the SAT test.....and you will actually be able to successfully break apart a scary word and figure out what it means. So, for us, this curriculum is a definite keeper (it would be just for the Jeopardy advantages alone)!

You can incorporate Greek Morphemes Lessons (Student book, teacher book and CD) into your household for $69.95, plus shipping and handling.

Find out what the other TOS Reviewers thought of Greek Morphemes Lessons.

So, Yeah.....



Enough said, right?!?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Lord Heritage - Review

Lord Heritage is a company that has put together a product called HomeSchool Office that I got to try out.

The mission statement for Lord Heritage says, "To preserve and teach God's Truth in education by following His commandments in instruction so that,

"All thy children shall be taught of the Lord;
and great shall be the peace of thy children."
Isaiah 54:13

The HomeSchool Office product is an on-line planning/organizing tool that is designed specifically with homeschooling in mind.
Its premise is wonderful and based on what they call the POWER strategy.

P - Plan
O - Order
W - Work
E - Evaluate
R - Report

Sounds good, but what does that actually mean?  Well, for Planning - that would cover  setting up your lessons and your schedules.  Order would be where you create your lists and reminders (I used this the most!) and the place that you can integrate both sides of your life - school and home.  Work is where you can print schedules and the students can follow their lessons.  Evaluate is where you can keep track of stuff like attendance (if you need to keep track of that where you live), time and grades. Report is the area where you can keep all the transcripts and reports that you may need to meet your local state requirements for homeschooling.  

(Think I could have anymore tabs open on my desktop?!?)
If the idea of the POWER strategy  isn't enough awesomeness for you, each letter also has a Bible verse(that I have paraphrased below) attached to its premise also.

P - Jeremiah 29:11 (This is "my" verse that my parents sent me off to college withFor I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future )
O - Corinthians 14:40 (But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way)
W - John 17:4 (I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do)
E - Matthew 28:20 (...and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.)
R - Romans 14:12 (So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God)

I know.  Sounds awesome and inspiring, doesn't it?

I was so excited about trying this system out.  So excited.

But, I neglected to take into account a few things.  First that I am, at heart, still a paper and pencil kind of gal.  Second, that in order to successfully use this fantastic system, it was going to take some time/effort to get things set up and entered on-line successfully.  The third thing that I failed to take into consideration was that my thyroid surgery was going to kick my butt so badly.

The first thing to do it to get your Team set up.  That is basically getting all your kids/students information put into the system.  This also where you can also put in the "type" of grade you will be giving your students.  For example, grade letter, percentage, or descriptive.  We do percentages around here that we translate into a letter grade....except in Kindergarten where we do our own description and star system.   Inputting all these details on your kids,  will  enable you to see all their different things that they have to can even be color coded on the calendar.

This screen is from the Plan portion.  Notice there are tabs for Subjects, School Year Plan, Master Schedule, Projects and Budget.   LOTS of detail can go in here.  Here is where the time and thyroid surgery issue reared its ugly head.  :(  I just didn't have it in me to enter everything we had going on into this system.  I just didn't.

One of the best things I saw about HomeSchool Office is that you can do (and keep) everything in one place.  You can have each member of your family's schedule there.  You can do all your lesson planning and reminders to yourself about what needs to be reported or turned in for credit.  If I had decided to homeschool all through high school, this would have been a fabulous product to keep track of everything so I could have created their transcripts and not have to rely on my memory of what we had done in years past.

Unfortunately, taking into consideration the 3 things I listed above that I hadn't thought about (love of paper and pencil, time to input our lives/schedule, and my thyroid surgery) HomeSchool Office ended up not being a good fit for me....right now.  And, I just thought of a 4th reason.  Rainman.  Rainman is way less technologically savvy than I am (he still has a flip phone...and is happy about it!).  Rainman is also the one that creates our lesson plans and yearly schedule....on paper.  I just follow and implement them.  I think if he would have had the chance to try this out back in July/August when we were setting up our school year, it would have had a better likelihood of succeeding.  I think.

With that being said, I really do think it is a fantastic premise and there were pieces of it, that even with all my reasons, including my post surgery stupor/brain fog, that came in handy.  My most frequently used portion of this program was the"To Do Lists",  "Reminder" and "Family Messages" features.  That was were I did actually type in things for myself and the kids so I wouldn't forget.  I guess it was sort of a step up from my usual  paper and pencil To Do list...but, it did work.  It showed up on the front page whenever I logged into Lord Heritage.  The other part of this that I almost came to love (and, again....if I would have been able to enter more of our actual lives into) was the calendar section - where you can see as much or as little as you want....and each thing is color coded.

I think if you were already someone who relied on an on-line app or calendar program, you will absolutely be in love with HomeSchool Office, because it has everything you need to run both a smooth home and school.  Everything.

I also think that if you are homeschooling in the high school years, this is something you absolutely need for keeping track of everything to make sure you are complying with laws and creating a great, usable transcript. But, for me to go from my hard copy, paper/pencil versions of everything we do, it was too big of a leap for my first foray into organizing and planning with the help of technology.  Make sense?

HomeSchool Office is web based and can be accessed from any device that has a browser, for me, I just used it on my computer.....plain and simple.

Go take a look and see what other TOS Reviewers thought.

You can try HomeSchool Office free  for 30 days, or go ahead and take the jump for $79/year.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Great Parents Academy - Review

We have been trying out an on-line math program through Great Parents Academy, also known as GPA LEARN, and more specifically, the program we used was called  GPALOVEMATH.

This is an on-line resource for math stuff for grades K-5. So, we used it for all three littles.  V-girl, Kindergarten, S-Girl second grade, and A-man, 4th grade.  I will tell you a little secret, once the littles started earning their rewards, my big kids wanted in on the action too!  I will tell you more about that later!

As with most of these types of programs, you set up individual accounts for your student.  In this case, each of them had different guides or learning coaches that worked through their lessons with them.  The GPALEARN mindset is for Learn, Engage, Motivate.  But, those high-falutin' words just boil down to giving instruction, having them practice, and then quizzing them.  Sort of sounds old fashioned and simple, right?  Well, the reality is, the answer is sort of yes and no.  It is a simple approach with a very modern twist in the on-line game-like look and feel of the lessons.

GPALOVEMATH gives you a bunch of, a whole school year's worth.  They have 150 lessons which breaks it down to 10,000 problems!  You might not want to share that tidbit with your kids, because it would scare them off, and that would be unfortunate, because this is a pretty cool math curriculum.

So, all that happens is you get your kids accounts set up, they log in and get to work....but it is fun work.

As part of the "engage" section there is a way for you to allow the kids to chat and interact with other "friends" using this program.  I wasn't comfortable with that, but we did use it to send messages back and forth to each other.  Honestly, they were mostly little love notes back and forth to each other that had nothing to do with math.  But, it was fun and if I didn't log on and check my messages, I would get the little people saying things like, "Mom?  Did you check my math yet?"  Now, normally that is not something that would come out of their mouths, because it may mean homework or something dreadful like that.  But, with GPALOVEMATH, I knew when they asked that I either needed to approve a reward or they had left me a message!

Each of the kids is in a different grade level, so they all have different teachers/coaches/cartoons that they worked with.  They also each got different problem solving strategies to help them work through the math problems.  For example, V-girls, was the acronym C.L.U.E.   C - Comprehend the Question, L - Let's Stop, U - Use, E - Evaluate.  Seriously, I am not sure how they did it - but that is stuck in her head now.  I just asked her to remind me what her problem solving strategy was and she just spit it out!

A-man's was the acronym F.O.W.L.  F - Find Out, O - Organize a Plan of Attack, W - Work It Out, L - Look Back and Check.

S-girl's was S.P.O.T.  S - Study the Problem, P - Plan It Out, O - Operate and Solve, and T - Test and Confirm.

Seriously, when I was writing this review, I called them all over separately to remind me and they all just knew their problem solving strategies....and they even used the words "problem solving strategy"!  Crazy cute!

They send me e-mails when each of them completes a lesson,, how they scored on their quiz at the end of the lessons, or if I need to approve one of their rewards.  I can also just simply log in to my parent account and check on them or create individualized rewards to encourage the kids to complete their lessons.

That brings up the most unique part of GPALOVEMATH.  The reward system.  It is AMAZING.  It is clever.  It is exciting.  It is attainable for the kids.  I could have created some easy, more personal rewards for my kids, but, GAPLOVEMATH had created such awesome ones already, I didn't even bother!

They had rewards that they could redeem for monetary value (like spending their reward points to trade in for a quarter from mom and dad) and even actual e-gift cards from Target or Toys R Us.  Since we live in the Atlanta area, we could have also turned in points for local attractions too like the World of Coke, or the Varsity, but the kids were super, duper excited about getting some shopping money at a store we only go into rarely!  So, yes, they have each earned two $10 Target gift cards for themselves.  Actually, S-girl has earned three of them.

But, as great as those are, it was sort of crazy how legitimately excited the kids got when they earned other rewards.  Those "other" rewards were things like cooking with mom, having mom or dad do one of their chores, picking what we have for dinner, bake a cake with mom and dad, pick a game to play with mom and dad.  I mean it when I say that they were so excited when they could come and proudly announce to me that I had to do one of their chores because they had earned that in their computer math!  We did all have a good laugh at the "stay up 30 minutes late" reward, because, seriously, around here that would have them staying up into the wee hours of the morning.  We already stay up late, so, I could have eliminated that reward and created our own custom reward. But, I didn't.

There was only one thing that bugged me/annoyed me about GPALOVEMATH.  It was the computer/robot-like voices of their individual learning coaches.  Super annoying sounding whether I was sitting next to them or in the other room while they were working.  I can't even describe it...just a non-human robot voice, that, talked too fast.  In defense of GPALOVEMATH though, the voices did not bother the kids as much as they did for me.

Really, that was the only bad thing I can say about this one.  So, yes, we loved it.  Yes, this will continue to be part of our home school....even after our review period is over.  I can't always say that about the neat things we get to try.

Want to try GPALOVEMATH for your kids?  Right now, you can get a special introductory price of $129 for an annual subscription by using Promo Code GPAINTRO15.  There is also the option of a monthly subscription for $12.99/month.

See what other reviewers thought of GPALOVEMATH.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Visual Learning Systems - Review

We got a chance to use and review a science product by Visual Learning Systems.

It was for something called, Digital Science Online Elementary Edition, and Digital Science Online Secondary Edition.

We were able to use both editions in our house because I have such a wide variety of ages in my kids.

So, L-girl used the Secondary Edition (for grades 6-12) ,

and A-man, S-girl and even V-girl used the Elementary Edition (for grades K through 5) - which is actually divided again once you access the material to K-3 and grades 3-5.

A-girl and D-man could have also used the Secondary Edition, but their existing school schedules were a little too packed, so I decided not to have them take a look right now.  I didn't want to overwhelm them.

This is actually a pretty neat product, especially for the homeschool community.  The videos sort of reminded me of the Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom show that I used to watch on Saturdays back in the 70's!

But, that little trivia tidbit aside, it is much more than that.  It is an on-line annual subscription service to a collection of K-12 science videos, clips, animations, images, assessments, student activities and teacher's guides.

We used this as a supplement to our normal school most days of the week.  Which means that some weeks the kids did the Digital Science Online 5 days a week and sometimes we only got to it 3 days a week or so.  I will say that even though we used this as a supplement, there is enough content that this could totally have been used as our stand alone science curriculum too.

We did what was the simplest for us.  (I know.  Big surprise, right?)

I gave each of the kids the log-in information and asked them to log in and do their work.  Emoji

Sometimes I sat with them, while they watched the days lesson, but, most days they were on their own.  If you know me at all, you know I am a BIG fan of the kids being able to be independent and complete their school work without me having to constantly hover.  I like to do drop by visits with this type of curriculum and Digital Science Online was perfect for this approach.  They just put on their ear phones (so they didn't interrupt the rest of us doing school nearby) and watched/listened to the days video lesson, that included an  interactive fill in the blank question and answer type quiz built into the end of the lesson.

Easy peasy.  Science done.

The videos were well done and professional.  Not the grainy, low-budget, old fashioned stuff that we sometimes get in the homeschool community.

Each video segment lasted from about 10 minutes up to 20ish minutes.  The shorter times are for younger students and longer times are for older students.

There was also a plethora of student activities available via the teacher portion of the website. Worksheets.  Pre video assessments.  Post video assessment, aka, quizzes.  Vocabulary work and other various types of worksheets and hands on activities.  A-man is anxiously awaiting me getting my act together, so we can make a volcano!  

We liked this science add-on.  The kids liked that they could jump around between the different areas of science:  Physical, Earth, Life, Integrated, Health, and Biology.  I have a few kids that are a little quirky in the fact that sometimes they are easily bored with a subject and sometimes they want to devour everything they can about a subject.  I have stopped trying to figure out which time it will be which approach.  So, the ability for them to jump around within science was perfect for this, especially for A-man.  It was also especially awesome when he was able to answer a few questions on Jeopardy based on what he had learned from Digital Science Online!

I liked this for all ages of my students too.  They did a good job explaining things for the different age and knowledge levels.  Sometimes, I did think things were a little above the head of my Kindergartner....but, I actually sort of like challenging her to see what she can learn/retain.  And, I will admit, she surprised me with some of the information that she hung onto and remembered come quiz time!

I liked the fact that Digital Science Online seems to be a good fit for different types of learners, whether they do best with visual, auditory, or hands on type of learning.

I liked that my subscription gave me access to all the different levels of the program, so I wasn't pigeonholed into a specific "age" or "grade" level.....because, if I have learned anything as a homeschooling mom.....those two words....don't necessarily mean the same thing (or apply in the same way) to the kids that live under my roof.  When my two older kids schedules quiet down a bit, I am going to have them take a look and see if it will benefit them the way it has benefitted my younger set of learners......even if it is covering stuff that they already "know", I found the Digital Science Online had a slightly different information or examples to help solidify what they already "knew".

Overall, Digital Science Online was a winner in our book.  
If you are looking for an on-line science program that is high quality, you can get a subscription to Visual Learning Systems for $99.  This isn't just for homeschoolers though either, there is also an option for a subscription for your school too with pricing based on student population.  

Want to take a closer look before you commit to the subscription?  You can sign up for a free trial first to take a look.  This is one product where I cannot really imagine that it wouldn't be a  good fit for just about every family, no matter the predominant learning style.   

Take a look at how other TOS Reviewers used Digital Online Science and what they thought.

Monday, March 9, 2015

March Madness.....

I am writing over at Home & School Mosaics today.

Go, take a peek at how we do  March Madness around here!

Shut the Fridge March Madness