Preparing our children for their future is one of the first thoughts we have for them, often long before they are even born. Unfortunately, doing something about it is another thing. We have good intentions, thinking about colleges, careers, marriage, . . . laundry. Then the long list of chores, finances, dinner, commitments all seem to get in the way. If you're anything like me, you'll find your oldest child in her Senior year and realize. . .she, nor you, are prepared for beyond graduation.

Jean & Judah Burk have created a wonderful little book (just 440 pages, lol) that can help your student, and you, prepare throughout high school for that inevitable step she or he will be taking sooner than we expect. College Prep Genius offers High School Prep Genius: An Academic Guide To Excellence to give your student practical steps that will help navigate through the many facets of life beyond high school. 
Back in 2011, I had the opportunity to review Jean's revolutionary curriculum, College Prep Genius, an SAT/PSAT prep course. I have now had the privilege of reviewing the book she and her daughter wrote, High School Prep Genius (HSPG). Jean and Judah worked together to create a guide that can be "a student roadmap for high school success" (HSPG, pg. 5). It's not just a simple "how to" book, but rather a comprehensive guide to various aspects of your student's life inside, outside, and beyond, high school. Areas like: subjects to take, likes and dislikes, healthy eating, timelines, friends & relationships, investments, lifestyle skills, attitudes (emotional and mental), career choices, surveying colleges, and much more.

HSPG is designed for students in 9-12 grade, but can be used with 7th and 8th graders that are focused and determined. Many of the steps and strategies are common sense, like eliminating test anxiety by focusing on something else instead of a test. But just because they may be common sense, doesn't mean we think about them in a common sense way. Sometimes we may not even think about the topic until we are faced with a problem, and by then we haven't created a strategy to manage the situation. 
Picture
The premise of the book is to have the students work through each chapter, with a "parent's homework" section near the end (of the chapter).

High School Prep Genius offers 4 units: Introduction, Foundation For Personal Success, Foundation For Academic Success, and Foundation For Future Success. 

Each unit has several chapters and there are 5 appendixes with great extras. Throughout the book there are worksheets that the students can use and guides for writing a high school transcript, high school plans, college money chart, and more. 

Picture
High School Prep Genius has 18 chapters and is loaded with information. (click the photo to enlarge)

My favorite unit is the one on personal success. It's not a get rich quick scheme. It's about growing and maturing in a way that will benefit you in life and relationships.

Each chapter has excellent tips, and then expands the thought to help your student understand and apply it to herself. For example, chapter 10 on getting organized has "Prioritize Your Obligations", "Balancing The Obligations", and "Beat Procrastination". Each of these topics has a few paragraphs dedicated to explaining why it's an important trait or skill, and then gives ideas on how to accomplish the goal.

Most chapters have a "Think About It" section for the students to answer questions. This is useful to get the students, well, to think about the subject. The photo on the left is an example of this section The photo on the right is a worksheet that can be filled in.
How To Purchase: High School Prep Genius is available for $29.95 and is an excellent value.

What We Thought: Honestly, I wish I had this before my 17yo was graduating from high school! There is so much information in this book that we could have used to better prepare. But on the good side, I can use this for my 7th grade son. He's not ready to be thinking about high school even, but there are many steps that we can take to get headed in the right direction.

What I liked the most is that Jean and Judah speak directly to the students. They ask pointed questions and offer advise that is straight forward, and typically easy to follow. Though most of the book is on preparing academically, there is plenty of helpful tips for growing and maturing with qualities that are admired and desired.

This book is neither Christian or Secular, necessarily. It can be used for students that are in public school, private academy's, or homeschooled. You just modify to your needs.

How We Used It: First I read this book cover to cover. I wanted to understand what it was all about. Each page often brought a sigh, wishing I had known that before, or done that before. But that's what learning is all about. I then had my daughter read through it. She liked it, too. She thought there was nice information and liked that it wasn't just for homeschoolers or "public school kids". She didn't like that this book doesn't start until 9th grade. She felt that, for example, with test anxiety, it's something that should be learned throughout the school years, not just in high school. "It's something that takes time to learn". She also didn't think that the organization section for academics would be totally useful for homeschoolers. But I think that's because she doesn't see all of my IHIP's or quarterly reports, lol.

After she finished reading it through, we started to use some of the worksheets and projects. Jean & Judah first write about starting a binder/notebook with tab for a 4 year plan, classes, test prep chart, college searches, awards, etc. This is something that we can utilize throughout my son's high school years. We then went through the chapters and worked together answering the questions (since my daughter is almost done with her senior year and my son is in 7th grade) and using them as learning tools. This was nice. There is a section on faith and beliefs and it suggests sitting down with your student and talking about the family's beliefs and traditions and what he or she believes. Encouraging thoughts about difficult questions. We have always talked about things like this, but I like that it's included in the book.

I believe High School Prep Genius will be a wonderful asset for your family. It's offered me many great ideas and avenues to take in order to get my son headed in the right direction. I believe we can also use it for my daughter, to help her make those decisions that are literally right around the corner.
 
 
We love science! There are so many interesting things to learn about, and see, and do. We believe that God created all things and that He gives us the wisdom to explore & learn what He wants us to. For centuries, those explorations have led scientists to incredible discoveries. Today, we can learn about all of these through various sources.

But what's the best way to learn it? There are innumerable science programs available in the forms of textbooks, modules, videos, unit studies, lapbooks, and online. Determining which is best really depends on your family. But one company that we've recently been introduced to has definitely caught our attention. Supercharged Science is a company that offers a physical science curriculum and their awesome Supercharged Science eScience Online Learning Program. This is an online program that offers a complete science education, including experiments, to K-12 students and educators. We were able to review the eScience program with the extended high school level as members of the SRC.

Supercharged Science was started by Al & Aurora Lipper several years ago. Aurora has an extensive education and career experience. She has a Bachelor's and Master's in Mechanical Engineering Cal Poly State. Her thesis was in flow patterns of F-15 engines (with a 4.0 and "Graduation with Distinction"). She taught at Cal Poly, has worked at NASA, and then created Supercharge Science to help children learn science and have fun doing it.  
Picture
So What is the eScience Program?

Supercharged eScience (SCS) is a complete science curriculum that can be used independent of other curriculum or in conjunction with, depending on your own preference. They even offer a "conversion chart" to help direct you to which lessons coincide with a particular curriculum from another company. SCS "meets or exceeds" state and national standards. Each of the lessons includes exercises and quizzes, as well. 

SCS does not teach evolution or creation. This sets eScience apart from most curriculum that I've seen. Though we are creationists and use a creation based science program, it's refreshing to be able to use an online source and not have to worry about what "facts" my kids are learning that are irrelevant or unnecessary to the topic, like many secular sources have. 

SCS is a step-by-step program that guides your student through each lesson and every experiment. Aurora is an interactive and vibrant educator that will engage your student's desire to learn science. She is the sole instructor in each video and absolutely brings science to a hands on level, even astrophysics and thermodynamics!

SCS is self-guided. Even though the lessons are titled Unit 1, 2, 3... they can be done in any order of preference. And each unit can take as long, or as quickly, as you and your student decide. With the conversion chart, Aurora has made it very user friendly. And each of the lessons has experiments listed for young students as well as high school students. The units are categorized by topic and grade level (SCS FAQ's).

SCS is accessible on or offline. Aurora has also made all of the lessons plans printable, too. You can download the complete lesson as a PDF file and/or view them online. The videos are included within the online lesson. There is even a complete "shopping list" to ensure you have all the necessary lab equipment/supplies for each of the units far in advance of when you are ready.

SCS is parent friendly. If you have any questions while using Supercharged Science' eScience program, you can simply call or email a customer rep directly. Aurora is even available on Wednesday afternoons (as of this posting) and you can call her directly with any questions of the lessons or experiments. That, to me, is amazing!!! There is a full list of FAQ's and a special Parent Resources page that offers info like: what should my child know about science, common mistakes made when teaching science, 6 keys to teaching science, keeping a scientific journal, and so much more.

SCS offers a Getting Started page. This page will help you and your student learn the basics on using Supercharged Sciences' eScience program. It lists how to get started and how to get the most out of the program. This is a great place to start, for sure. There is a video that you can watch, too, with Aurora talking about the program. Check it out for a quick sample view.

How To Purchase Supercharged Science eScience Online Learning Program:

Picture
The eScience program has 2 different levels. The K-8 level is $37 per month and the K-12 level is $57 per month. The expanded K-12 program includes the High School levels which are wonderfully designed with higher level experiments. 

Picture
What We Thought: I have to admit, when we first began to use the eScience program, we were not fascinated. We had a difficult time navigating the site, which was frustrating. And it seemed like some of the experiments didn't give us the list of supplies needed. 

This was before we viewed the getting started page and watched the video. We jumped the gun a little on that. Once we figured it all out (read the instructions, lol), we loved it. My 7th grader is completing General Science through Apologia and all of the lessons fit smoothly with it. My 12th grader is using Apologia's Physics curriculum and enjoyed Supercharged Science very much.

We pretty much jumped around to whatever we chose to do most of the time, but it was really nice to be able to look up specific lessons depending on the topic we were learning that week. I also like that we could go at our own pace. This allowed us to do as we pleased, which is important to us. 

The experiments, for the most part, were very user friendly, too, except the Chemistry ones. These required a chem kit, which we didn't have. But we were able to watch the videos and still learn. Most of the experiments used around the house supplies or easily accessible ones, with links to sites we could get them from. This, again, was nice.

I do believe we will continue to use this program throughout the rest of the year and into next. It has many positive aspects. I think you will really enjoy it, too. You can try it out for 30 days to see. 

For other great reviews, click the link below.

 
 
Teaching writing and grammar can be both challenging and exciting. As our children are learning the basics of grammar, there is often frustration while they try to link it all together. But once they've reached the point where they can put their thoughts together and write on paper what their ideas are, there is an exciting new world they've entered that they can share with others.

Essentials in Writing offers a complete language arts program for grades 1 through 12. Each grade offers lessons appropriate for that level: from sentence formation to writing a research paper. Each course comes as a DVD set and includes PDF printable worksheets and answer sheets. There is also an included instructional guide for you to help get started. 

Essentials in Writing was created by Matthew Stephens. He is also the instructor in the videos. He earned an Elementary Education degree and is certified in Elementary education and Middle & High school English. His goal with Essentials in Writing "is to help produce confident writers who enjoy the study of language". By achieving this goal, students will learn "the concepts that are critical to effective written communication".

As members of the SRC, we received the 8th Grade Essentials in Writing curriculum. It is recommended for students ages 13-14.
Picture
This 4 DVD course includes:
* 64 Video Lessons *
* 157 pages of worksheets & answers *
* 15 optional grammar review video lessons *

The 8th grade curriculum topics include:
* Sentence Development *
* Writing Techniques *
* Paragraph Development *
* Compositions *
* Narrative *
* Compare & Contrast *
* Formal Essay *
* Persuasive Essay *
* Choosing/Narrowing a topic *
* Expository Essay *
* Research Paper *
for additional syllabus

So How Does It Work? With the 8th grade course, you have the option of having your student review grammar with the "intense grammar review". It is on the same CD/DVD as the PDF worksheets. It is not required for the course and does not have worksheets to complement the lessons, but is a nice review for students that might need it. Topics like subjects & predicates, nouns/possessive nouns, subject/verb agreements, adjectives & adverbs, capitalization, & punctuation are all covered in the 15 supplemental lessons.

Mr. Stephens recommends reviewing these at the beginning of the course if necessary and then referring back to them should your student not be familiar with a topic during the course of the year.

Once you have made the decision about the grammar lessons, you and your student will move on to the actual lessons. Mr. Stephens suggests reviewing the worksheets first, then watching the lesson (you can view a sample lesson below), complete the worksheet, and finish with a quick look ahead at the next lesson. There is no set time that is required for each lesson, it is dependent on your student's understanding of the subject. 

One of the great ideas that are in place with this program is that the worksheets correlate with the video lesson by number and letter; for example, 3A & 3B worksheets are to be used with video lesson 3. It's a good way to keep track of the lessons. The video clips are short, maybe 5-10minutes long. Mr. Stephens uses a white board to demonstrate the lesson. Each lesson spins off of the previous one so the student is learning in progression. While learning writing, the lessons encourage reviewing your work and ensuring your complete thoughts are expressed. If they are not, then the piece is modified. Mr. Stephens stresses the importance of writing what you're thinking so that your reader can enjoy it the way you intended.

How To Purchase: Each grade level can be purchased for $40, which includes all of the video lessons, worksheets, answer sheets, and instruction guide. This is an incredible price for a full year language arts curriculum. You can also purchase a pre-printed workbook for $20 if you prefer not to print out the worksheets. Essentials in Writing is upgrading their program to digital and will be offering their PDF files via a digital route instead of on the CD's. Not all grades are upgraded yet, as of this review date. If you have any questions prior to purchasing, they have a contact us tab on their site.

What We Thought: I have to admit, I wasn't totally sure about the reaction I would receive when we started this. My son (7th grade) was a struggling reader, and now is sort of a "struggling doer". He's not fond of schoolwork, most of the time. My daughter (12 grade), on the other hand, loves school. So I chose to use this course together with the both of them, to see how it would go. With him a year behind the level, and her several years ahead, I thought it might just work. 

I did start with reviewing the optional grammar lessons. Since my son had struggled for so long with reading, many other aspects of language arts fell to the wayside as we pushed forward with reading. I really liked the lessons that Mr. Stephens added. The first review lesson, subject/predicate, is a basic sentence structure lesson, but it's a very important one. Knowing how and why the two go together is essential to moving to the next step. Actually, all of the grammar review lessons are basic lessons, but are so important to have a grasp of prior to moving on to the lessons in the curriculum. I was impressed with how much my son actually did remember about basic grammar. He didn't necessarily remember the titles, but while going over it together, he would be able to remember the concept quickly. The last review was on capitalization rules. This was definitely a lesson my son needed to review. We have gone over this many times before, but it seems like he was able to understand it a little better after watching Mr. Stephens explain it.

Since I usually add in photos to my posts to break up all the print, I'll add a sample video here of one of the lessons by Mr. Stephens. My review continues below the video.
For the curriculum itself, as I said above, we worked together doing it. We set aside time each morning to complete at least on lesson. One of the first things my daughter said was, "why didn't we have this when I was learning these[lessons]. I wouldn't have had to review so much for the SAT". Mr. Stephens seems to be able to take each lesson and explain it in simpler terms, like taking a math equation and simplifying it before completing it. My son wasn't too keen on it at first, but then realized it wasn't so bad. I printed out the worksheets and after the lesson would have him try to complete as much as he could. I think he surprised himself, even, that he could do it. 

For this review, we moved a little faster through the lessons to get the full feel of the program. It was important, though, to ensure that my son understood the lessons prior to the next one we chose. We quickly moved through the first few lessons of sentence development. The biggest issue was expanding the sentences to become a complex sentence. 

While going through this program, I was reminded of an episode of Little House on the Prairie when all the students needed to write an essay about someone they admired. Laura was young, but chose to write about her mother. She couldn't write all of the words she wanted and couldn't form the essay the way she had it in her head. She spoke one "essay" while another, much simpler version, was on the sheet. There's more to that story but it made me realize the importance of Mr. Stephens' goal. Encouraging children to be able to communicate what they're thinking through their written words is inspiring. 

Going back to our experience. As we moved on to higher lessons, we came to lesson 11A: Using imagery in writing. It discusses using "vivid language" to bring your words to life. The worksheet references Mark Twain's "Don't tell me the old lady screamed. Drag her in here and let her scream!". It sounds funny but makes a ton of sense. Don't just say it, show it. I remember teaching this to my daughter a few years ago. It was difficult for her to get at first. With this lesson, my son finally was able to get it. Though I was doing most of the writing (it's coming along, though, lol), he was coming up with the ideas. It was fun working with him to create little stories from each individual sentence. 

Several of the lessons (personal narrative, persuasive & expository essay's) are similar to speeches that we have in our speech & debate club, so both of my kids have had experience writing them. But the way that Mr. Stephens broke the lessons down really allowed them to work through the creation step by step. It made the process simpler and more enjoyable.

Overall, we really liked Essentials in Writing. The one thing that we didn't really like was the audio quality of the DVDs. It sounded like there was a slight vibration or echo. It did this on our t.v. and on the computer. It wasn't too overly distracting, but was definitely noticeable.

I am impressed with the quality of the curriculum in Essentials in Writing, aend am confident you will like it, too. You can see samples of the lessons on the website for each grade as well as the corresponding syllabus. Check it out for yourself. $40 for a full year language arts curriculum is an excellent price. To read reviews from SRC members for other Essentials in Writing grade levels click below.
 
 
As members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we have been introduced to many great products over the years that supplement our homeschool curriculum. Lone Star Learning falls into this category.

Lone Star offers products on subjects like math, science, and language arts. They are "committed to providing quality teaching tools, created by teachers, for teachers." They have physcial products as well as digital products available. For our review, we received a free one year membership to their digital product Target the Question.
Picture
Target the Question is an easy to use product that is designed to increase your student's math problem-solving skills. It is based on the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) publication Principles and Standards for School Mathematics and is also correlated to the Common Core State Standards and to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS)
Target the Question utilizes an interesting concept to increase the students understanding of problem-solving. The student ultimately learns to find the pertinent information needed (and get rid of the extraneous info) to solve the question. To do this, the teacher and student work together with the problem of the week, until the student is then able to create additional questions based on the relevant information given.

How It Works: Target the Question Digital is available for grades 1-7 and can be purchased in English or Spanish. With the program, you will be able to download a pdf file that contains the following:

* 36 Problems of the week with 4 "extension sets" (extras) *
* 5 daily questions for each "problem of the week" *
* Virtual draw pad *
* Tutorial *



And a pdf file that contains:
* An  introduction to your specific grade Target the Question program *
* Teacher directions *
* A complete answer key for each of the problems *
* Correlations to the CCSS and TEKS *
* Student "Think Sheets" *
* Diagrams of "problem-solving strategies" print outs *


Picture

Once you purchase your license and are able to login, you will gain access to your "dashboard". You will click into the program and see the program page. 

On this page you will see a button to start the program as well as the downloadable pdf file and tutorials.



Picture

When you click on "Start Program" you will be taken to your Problem of the Week menu. 

To begin, you will start with week 1.

Each week you will see a brand new word problem. You and your student(s) will review the basics of the problem and begin to filter out the relevant information and the info that may not be necessary. 

Picture
The problem to the left is from week 5 of grade 7. You can click the picture to enlarge it.

For the sake of the review, I added a few extras to the screen. The first screen you will see does not contain any question. You will simply see the problem along with the  toolbar at the bottom. 

After you have reviewed the problem with your student(s) and are ready for the first question, you will click "Monday" and then a problem pops up in a purple box (as seen in the picture). The toolbar contains buttons for each day of the week, pencils, highlighter, eraser, cleaner, draw pad, and menu button. In the screen shot, you will see the words "family of 5 went" underlined in blue and "5" highlighted. You can easily use the tools to point out information needed right on the screen. You will also see in the screenshot the draw pad (to the left of the shot). In the draw pad you can also choose a pencil and "write" on the draw pad to complete a problem or to keep your screen clean.

Picture

Once you have worked through the problem with your student, you can click the "view answer" tab and the answer will pop up in the same purple box. 

Now you can compare the student's answer and work together to ensure understanding. 

The program is designed to review one problem each day. 

How to Purchase: To purchase Target the Question, choose your language and grade and then your license term. You have the option of purchasing 1-5 years. One year of Target the Question is $59.99. After you purchase, you will receive an email with your login information.

What We Thought: We have used Target the Question for several weeks for this review. My son (7th grade), daughter (12th grade), and I worked together to review the problems and questions. It was nice to be able to work together and go over each of the questions. I was impressed with their ability to come up with additional questions for the problems (which is the ultimate goal). We began to ask simple questions to each other that were thought provoking and helped to draw out the important information in the problem. 

With each question of the day, I had each of them try to come up with the correct answer alone. It often became a game, with them challenging each other to think quicker about the problem. It definitely improved their ability to filter the information. As an added bonus, we frequently found ourselves discussing things "out of the box" about the problem. For example, with the problem above, we discussed working for $3.25/hr pulling weeds for so many hours in order to pay for the whole family. And, paying $.45 an inch for the fish. We thought this was crazy, but we live in the country and take our own boat on the lake to fish. It costs us only gas : ^ ) But I liked the fact that we were able to expand the discussion to economics just with this simple problem

We all really liked Target the Question. It was fun, yet worthy, from an educational point of view. Problem-solving can be challenging for many students, because of all the extra information supplied. This program is a wonderful concept to help. My daughter liked the program because she said "I liked that we could work with the same problem for the whole week and that there were different questions for the same problem. Because that way we were able to work on finding the right information for each question. With the weekly questions having the same root problem, we weren't jumping around to random questions that didn't have anything to do with each other." My son said "It was cool. I liked that it wasn't just questions, they had a story to them." 

I liked that both kids enjoyed doing it and we had fun together . . . doing math : ^ )

I think you will find Target the Question a great asset to your math curriculum. Whether you homeschool or your children are in a traditional school setting, Target the Question will definitely prove beneficial and rewarding.

You can try it out first (scroll to the bottom), if you're not sure. You can read more reviews from other members of the crew by clicking below.
 
 
The American Dream. What do you think about when you hear that phrase? For me, I think about immigrants coming to the USA from Ireland, Italy, and other countries, a hundred years ago or more, seeking the Promised Land. Whether it was freedom from oppression in their native countries or the economic hope that was possible, America opened it's doors to many people seeking a better life.

Today's culture may allude to the American Dream, but doesn't encourage youth as it once did. Robert and Kathleen Basmadjian want to change that.

To do this, they created Inspiring the American Dream and wrote their book Abraham's Journey: A Celebration of the American Dream.

Their mission "is to inspire today’s youth, by instilling in them the values, principles and virtues necessary to achieve the American dream" (Inspiring the American Dream[IAD]).
Picture
I received a copy of Abraham's Journey as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Though it is available also as a physical book, we received the ebook to read on our iPad.

Abraham's Journey is about a boy growing up in the Great Recession. His journey begins when he learns that his parents lost their jobs and Christmas would be without presents. He wanted to get a job to help his family out and to "save Christmas" (IAD). While texting friends, Abraham Lincoln pops onto Abraham's screen and takes him on a time-travelling journey to learn about the American Dream. Along the way he meets "successful American icons" (IAD) like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Amelia Earhart, Norman Rockwell, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill & Melinda Gates. Each of the characters speak to Abraham about working to find his special talent, reaching his goals, and the American Dream. 

Picture
Throughout the story, Abraham learns about perseverance, imagination, self-reliance, and entrepreneurship. He learns that the American Dream is not just about wealth, but about sharing with others and making a difference in their lives. 

On the last few pages of the book, there are definitions of terms used and character biographies for each of the people Abraham met in the story. The biographies are brief excerpts, but it was nice to read a few of the facts. It also encouraged us to learn more about each of them.

The artwork was interesting and detailed.. On our version of the book (the ebook), the colors were vivid and bright. Each picture is relevant to the story on the page, which is nice. 

How To PurchaseAbraham's Journey: A Celebration of the American Dream is recommended for kids ages 7-12. The ebook is 40 pages long (including the cover pages and title page). The physical book retails for $14.99 and is available through Inspiring the American Dream. The ebook is available through iTunes or Amazon (Kindle edition) for $9.99.

What We Thought: Overall, we liked the book. It did inspire us to learn more about the American Dream and the characters referenced in the story. After reading the book, my son first pointed out the biographies and definitions in the back. He liked that partof the book the most. The next thing he pointed out was one of the pictures. 

Picture
Being a 12 year boy and preferring to look at the pictures before reading, he explores all the little details of each picture. So when he saw this picture, he excitedly called my daughter and said "look, it's Data's arm!!" This, of course, was in reference to Star Trek, lol. But what he was looking at was a yellowish blanket that Abraham is carrying and his father's adjacent hand. They blend together and look like a "severed arm", according to my son. It kind of does, too. This was just a lighthearted observation : ^ ) It did not distract from the overall story.

My daughter (17) liked the story, but stated that some of the words seem a little big for kids 7-12 and the concept of the story might be too mature for the younger reader. She also thought it seemed more like a book that parents might read to their children. This would actually be a good thing, because then, discussion of the American Dream and all of the historical figures can take place. 

I like the premise of the story. But I do agree with my daughter that some of the words are not typically in the recommended age group's vocabulary. I also agree that the overall concept may be missed by the younger readers. But I like that the idea of the American Dream has been revived by the Basmanjian's. Their dedication to helping the youth of America realize their potential is refreshing.

Although I liked the idea of the story, the art work, and the goal of the story, I was disappointed in the general historical content. As each character was mentioned, there was little discussed about what made them an important figure in American history or relation to the American Dream. The first 3 characters actually had almost nothing written about them. There are the brief biographies in the back, but a better place may have been in the front of the book so the reader has an idea of who each are before reading the story. Though I knew the characters, the one thing I wasn't sure about was the "Great Recession". I actually thought it was the Great Depression and couldn't understand why Abraham had a smartphone in the early 1900's. I did figure it out, though. This was one definition that I thought should have been in the back and wasn't. 

My main concern with the story is that God was only mentioned once, in the phrase "God's children". To me, the American Dream includes Him. I do not believe that we can get anywhere without Him. Abraham learns about "faith" but it's more of a faith in himself and his talents. I admire that he wanted to help his parents and that he learned compassion for others, but he started his journey with the pretense of buying Christmas presents to "save" Christmas.

I do think that Abraham's Journey is a nice book and would be inspiring to many. If you are teaching about the American Dream, it would certainly be a nice introductory story for your kids to read. 

So the question remains, is it possible to achieve the American Dream? That is a question I can not answer for you. I do know that working hard to achieve your goals, and allowing The Lord to lead you, will most certainly bring you closer than just sitting in your chair, watching t.v., and wishing you had . . . whatever that dream is.
Photobucket
 
 
Have you ever noticed when you're reading a book or magazine that sometimes it's difficult to focus because of glare, page or font color, or tired eyes? Do you have a struggling reader at home or a child learning to read? 

If you've answered yes to any of these questions, Crossbow Education has products that can help. Crossbow Education's products are especially designed for children with Dyslexia and sufferers of Visual Stress. 

Crossbow Education is a family owned business founded in 1992 by Bob Hext. At that time, Mr. Hext realized that the games he was using to help his students were "were more effective than many of the published materials available at the time" (Crossbow About Us). In 2005, the Eye Level Reading Ruler was patented.
Picture
We were recently given the opportunity to review the Eye Level Reading Rulers as members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew. These amazing reading aids are designed to "reduce page glare, "dancing" and blurring text and other symptoms, while also providing valuable tracking support for reading" (Crossbow).

These Rulers come in 10 different colors that gives the user the ability to use whichever color fits best for the situation or personal preference. The Reading Rulers are made of durable opaque and transparent plastic (opaque in the middle of the two windows). They are about 8" x 2 1/2" wide with over 6 inches of horizontal highlighted reading area. Each Ruler has 2 reading windows, the first is 1/2" which works for single line highlighting and underlining, and the second is 1 1/4" to highlight more lines or larger text.

So What Is The Purpose or How Do They Work? Before I answer that, I want to touch on Dyslexia and Visual Stress.

We've all heard of Dyslexia, but we often only think of it as a disorder where letters get flipped around But the term Dyslexia encompasses much more than that. It is a processing disorder, but there are several different "signs" or symptoms that you might see in your child or student. Crossbow offers more detailed information here. Dyslexia can be mild or severe but always affects the person that has it, in some way.

Your tired eyes could actually be Visual Stress, a condition that isn't simply diagnosed with a routine eye exam. Much like Dyslexia, Visual Stress has different signs & symptoms, and Crossbow explains it well

The Reading Ruler can help Dyslexia and Visual Stress sufferers by underlining text in order to track the words/sentences and highlighting the text to clear the appearance of it. In the images below you will see both windows in action. The top window works well with underlining a single sentence and the bottom window highlights a larger area of text. The bottom image also shows how the ruler can be flipped over so the logo is not seen. Because some readers need no extra distractions, Crossbow added this benefit. 
What We Thought. I really like these Reading Rulers. I have suffered from eye strain for a long time. Though I do not have an actual diagnosis of Visual Stress, I suspect it is highly possible. I get Migraines too easily if on the computer too long or reading certain print and many of the other symptoms I do have. These rulers allow me to ease the strain on my eyes which helps me enjoy reading that much more. For my son, who does have a form of Dyslexia, the Rulers offer tracking and focus to him. This is important for speed and comprehension, I believe. My daughter likes them to reduce eye strain from the white of most print pages.

I am confident that you will find the Eye Level Reading Rulers as beneficial as we do. The large assortment of colors offers an individual touch that you will appreciate. Each of us has a preferred color based on how it works for us. It's not that we like that color the most, but we like the way that specific color changes the text for us.

You can purchase the Eye Level Reading Rulers in packs of 5 for $9.45 and packs of 10 for $16.95You can choose multi-color packs or specific colors. 

Crossbow Education also offers Plain Window Reading Rulers that have no logo on them that are available for $9.45 (pack of 5). They also offer other great multi-sensory products for Dyslexia from other publishers.

To read more reviews from the SRC members, click the banner below.
Disclaimer: I received this product free as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew with the sole purpose of providing an honest review after reading it. For more information on this, please see my disclaimer.
 
 
Both of my kids like playing computer games. Whether they're on the actual computer or some other platform. They also both like animals and learning about them. I love games that combine their likes with education or a learning environment.

ZooWhiz is a great new website that we were introduced to as members of the SRC. Created in 2011 by EdAlive, ZooWhiz offers kids ages 5-15 an interactive, curriculum based, learning environment that's not only educational, but fun, too. EdAlive was founded by Graham East in 2003 & has quickly become a leading publisher of educational software (ZooWhiz About). 
Picture
ZooWhiz has a "bank of over 17,000 carefully-crafted, finely-incremented learning activities" (ZooWhiz) that will engage your children and motivate them as they complete the questions, earn "coins", visually see their progress, and create their own personal "zoo".

You have the benefit of adjusting your student's learning level quickly and easily if the work is too difficult or too easy. ZooWhiz has striven hard to accommodate curricula from Australia (where it's based out of), USA, New Zealand, UK, Canada, & Singapore, (respectively). You are able to adjust spellings according to US or Australian standards, as well as the measurement systems (Imperial or Metric units of measure or currencies in $, £ or €). I personally think it's a great idea for children to learn both sets of measurement and the currency exchanges. Then they won't have to search the web for a converter : ^ )

ZooWhiz offers your children "comprehensive coverage of maths, punctuation, spelling, grammar, vocabulary, word skills, phonics, phonemics and reading" (ZooWhiz). Each age and/or grade level has focused lessons that progress as your child does. As I mentioned above, if your child advances beyond the lesson, you can freely change the level, or if he needs to work a little more on a specific level, you can adjust it back. 

How Does It Work? The whole site is easy to use, too, starting with the sign-up process. The first step is to pick out an Avatar. There are 12 different Avatar's to choose from right now. 

Once your child chooses her Avatar, the next screen is where she will enter her name and your email address. An email will be sent to you for approval of use.

I want to add, here, that ZooWhiz has taken many precautions to ensure your child's safety online. Each username and password are chosen by ZooWhiz, to "eliminate" any inappropriate words that would show on your child's screen. Another safety feature is that your child's username can be saved on the sign-in page, but not the password, so noone else can sign into his account. And, a very important aspect of the safety system that ZooWhiz has created, your child does not interact with anyone else while on ZooWhiz (ZooWhiz safety)

After you approve your children's accounts, you will receive their username and password. You can also sign up for a free parent account where you will be able to edit each child's "age floor". This is where you can set the content (math, reading, and words), by age, for your child. This is a nice option since you can put math at one age, reading at another, and words at another, depending on your child's individual abilities.

Once your child sign's into her account, she will see the screen below:
The "Learn & Earn" section is for all the lessons available, the "Milestones" section shows the progress that has been made, the "Biodome" is the place your child can use the earned coins to "purchase" animals for his zoo. Once purchased they will receive the animal with info on each including: info, detail, habitat, diet, & threat (the latter 4 are included with the premium membership). The "Arcade" is a where your child can use coins earned to play timed games, some educational and some just for fun.

The navigation in the "Zoo" is easy. Regardless of where your student is, there will either be a back arrow or the compass (seen in the lower right corner), that will take him back to the main page. 

And What Are Educational Activities Like? They are actually very good. They are not easy peasy, unless you want them to be. Below are some screen shots with the grade/age listed below the image.
Picture
Math Age 6-8
Picture
Math Age 10-12
Picture
Words Ages 7-11
Picture
Maths Ages 8-10
Picture
Word Skills 11-15+
Picture
Reading Ages 10-15+
I like that with certain questions, there's a built in lesson. For example, in the above "Confounded Croc" pic, on the bottom right side, it tells what a gerund is, how it's used, and an example. You can click here to see a bigger pic. In the bottom right pic, the definition of an "Onomatopoeia" is given. These are helpful reminders or great lessons, depending on the level of the child. 

Below is a quick ZooWhiz Tour that will show a few more screen shots.
You can also view a larger version of this introductory tour video.

ZooWhiz offers a Free Keeper Membership or a Premium Membership is just $14.95 for a full year. Each premium membership comes with the following:
Because ZooWhiz is a growing site, more benefits are being added for both the Free membership and Premium membership. And satisfaction is guaranteed.

What We Thought. I like all the different elements that ZooWhiz has to offer. We received the Premium Membership for review, so the free memberThe learning activities and questions are definitely challenging and I can see the educational value in each of the sections. I like that the site is interactive and encouraging. I think it's cute that, since it's based out of Australia, one of the responses to a right answer is "crackerjack". Each question has the option of missing it twice before the correct answer is given. This is helpful for a student that may not know what is being asked, or doesn't know the concept. The math is really challenging, too, and I like that. The pattern questions are not simple add 3 or divide by 2, it might be add together and subtract by 1. I am sure you will find each of the sections a welcome supplement to your curriculum. 

My kids, on the other hand, aren't as warm about it as I am. They started out to be, jumping online and working hard to earn coins to buy animals for their zoo. However, once the animal was purchased, there is no interaction with it. It's basically just the facts and a picture. I think they were expecting to be able to "play" with the animal in their zoo. Then when they went to the arcade, each game is timed at 3 minutes. So if they are in the middle of the game, it is timed out and they must purchase another session. They can continue or restart, but nonetheless, the game was interrupted. They did not like this.

But that aside, they did find that the activities/questions were challenging and original. They were able to review lessons from the past and practice ones they are learning (for my son, my daughter is slightly more advanced so the lessons were review for her).

Because the site is upgrading and adding new things all the time, I encourage both kids to check back often to see what's new. They do like all of the animals they have to choose from and like learning about them. The games are fun, too. And I must admit, when I got into one, I didn't like being timed out so quickly either. 3 minutes seems like a lot, but it really isn't when your playing, lol.

Overall, I do recommend ZooWhiz. The price is right, if you choose the Free membership, and the Premium membership is very reasonable. It's a great way to encourage your kids to practice their school lessons and have fun, too. Try a free membership today, to see what you think. 

To read other reviews from the SRC, click below.
Photobucket
Disclaimer: I received a free membership to ZooWhiz free as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew with the sole purpose of providing an honest review after using it. For more information on this, please see my disclaimer.
 
 
"Consistent exercise, and certain types of specific exercises,
can both temporarily and permanently affect the way your brain is able to focus,
its ability to deal with stress and anxiety, and its ability to learn … 
Exercise is like fertilizer for the brain … it’s so good, it’s like Miracle Gro
”. 
- Dr. John Ratey, Harvard Brain Researcher 
Gym. What's the first thing that comes to your mind reading that word? Maybe activities or exercising? Maybe changing your clothes in smelly locker room filled with too many other people? Or going back to class after running around and wishing your gym class was at the end of the day so you could go home and shower? Or maybe your memories are a combination of both. Whatever your memory of gym class is, I'm sure it consisted of at least one "Ugh!"

As homeschoolers, we have the luxury and responsibility to bring some form of activity into our home for our children. Sadly, the luxury often becomes more of a chore and the responsibility becomes optional. We start out with the right ideas: on Monday, Wednesday, & Friday we'll walk, and on Tuesday & Thursday we'll ride our bikes. But usually when Monday morning comes, you actually thinking about all the work that didn't get done the week before, or the housework that didn't get done over the weekend, and Monday's walk doesn't happen. Then, because of the weather, or chores, or appointments, or. . . whatever, the rest of the week's scheduled exercises are interrupted, delayed, or cancelled. 

Though this was certainly not our intention, exercise soon becomes a "fun day activity" or just free-time play. Our days then consist of school, music, maybe a sport, and laziness. YUCK!

We all know how important exercise is to staying healthy, so how did we, as homeschooling parents, who love our children and want the best for them, allow this to happen? 

Well instead of worrying about what should have been, I've got a great product to help you change what will be. The above scenario often happens because we just don't know enough about teaching a gym class. This product can change that.
Picture
Fitness 4 Home School Core 1 Curriculum K-8  by Family Time Fitness is a wonderful homeschool fitness program for kids K-8 (but good for younger and older, in my opinion) that is designed to be done right in your own home or yard. You don't have to be a gym teacher or exercise guru; you just have to be a mom or dad that wants a great phys. ed. program for your kids.

From Family Time Fitness: "Our program, designed by experts in fitness training, nutrition and body movement, is designed to suit every age and ability level while affordably fitting into your budget. Our program combines flexibility and fun with a comprehensive curriculum to give your children a foundation for strong bodies and minds." 

You may still be asking yourself why does it matter? "Why do I need a structured physical education program for my kids? Isn't any form of exercise good enough?"

You may even believe that because, while searching for homeschool curriculum, you didn't see any for "Gym" or "Physical Education", that it must not be that important. That's a mistake, though. We don't see any programs because there just aren't many out there, and especially one that is focused on teaching "spatial awareness, body awareness, environmental awareness, enhanced neurological development, mind-body coordination, stress reduction, social engagement, poise and confidence" (Family Time). 

Take a look at the comparison study done by Dr. Chuck Hillman at the University of Illinois. It's very obvious to see the energy patterns that are stimulated and changed with just 20 minutes of walking. 

And, according to Dr. John Ratey (quote above), exercise can increase your brains ability to focus, handle stress & anxiety, and learn and retain what's learned. 
Isn't that what we want for our own children?
So what does Fitness 4 Home School Core 1 Curriculum K-8 offer? 

* There's a Start up/Training Guide for parents that will walk you through the different elements of physical education, what to expect from the program, safety info, and most importantly, how to fit this program into your daily curriculum.

* There are 260 planned lessons, that include step by step instructions and a link to a video that demonstrates that actual exercise. Each lesson includes 30-45 minutes of physical activity.

* One page summaries of each lesson to allow for easy printing

* Video Demonstrations to help refresh your memory of your gym class days : ^ 0 Just kidding, lol. The videos show actual children doing the exercise so that you and your children can see the exercise in action. There are over 200 videos and you will have guaranteed lifetime access to these and all updates.

* Assessment Tools are available to help track progress. There are also downloadable nutritional logs and meal planners to use to maximize your family's fitness.

* Encouragement Emails for encouragement and motivation. These include tips & reminers, too. 

* Online Webinars are also available to you for additional instruction.

This incredible curriculum is available for just $57. You will not be disappointed! 
You can view the scope and sequence here. Below is a video that gives a sample of what this wonderful program includes. 
What We Thought: This is a great program! I am so impressed with all that Family Time has included. Each lesson includes warm ups, several exercises, cool down, and outdoor activities. And though many are simple exercises that I remember from my childhood, they are not necessarily easy. Each lesson uses muscles that may have not been used in a looooong time, : ^ ) and I definitely found myself a little sore afterward. No pain, no gain, right? Not really, but having a little soreness after not only helped me realize I am really not in shape, but also gave me the encouragement that the program was working and my body liked it. Both of my kids liked it, too. My son is already active and in acro, soccer, and luge, but I can tell you, some of these exercises weren't easy for him, either. My daughter has never really been the sports girl. She likes dance and a few other things, but likes reading and academics more than exercise. So, like me, a few of these exercises did cause a little bit of discomfort after. But she liked being able to do them. We all did.

I was very pleased with the choice of music that was dubbed in on each of the videos. It was pleasant to listen to, offered no words, and just was nice. The video clips are not long (each are less than a minute, that we could see), but very helpful. 

It was nice to be able to add in exercise to our daily routine. I will be honest and say it doesn't happen as often as it should, still, but we are working on it and excited to "keep moving forward". 

I am certain you will enjoy this program as much as we did. You can try it for free for 2 days here.

Family Time Fitness offers programs for schools and co-op's, too.

The Fitness 4 Home School Core 1 Curriculum K-8 is now available for just $57 (web price at this time). It can be quickly downloaded as a PDF file. Other members of the SRC also reviewed this program. You can read their posts by clicking below. 
Photobucket
Disclaimer: I received this product free as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew with the sole purpose of providing an honest review after using it. For more information on this, please see my disclaimer.
 
 
History has not always been one of my favorite subjects. Too many dates and names to memorize and not enough excitement - or so it seemed to me while in high school. Homeschooling has changed my opinion of history and opened my eyes to incredible adventures and wonders. One of the many interesting stories that I was able to rediscover is that of Lewis & Clark: their expedition into the unknown western frontier, the fears they must have had, the struggles they faced, and the wonders of the land they were able to experience. In today's fast paced world filled with computers, 3D T.V.s, and the ability to get from one side of the country to the other in a matter of hours, Lewis & Clark's journey is almost inconceivable to us.

Unfortunately, reading the story in a textbook doesn't give the journey true clarity. What did they really see when crossing uncharted land? How hard was it, really? What's the big deal?

Let me tell you about a video that we recently reviewed that may help you answer these questions, and maybe even a few more : ^ )

The Historic Expedition of Lewis and Clark – We Proceed On! by Marshall Publishing, takes you on the same journey that was traveled over 200 years ago.    
Picture
You will be introduced to Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and the Corps of Discovery. Because their expedition was well documented by both Lewis and Clark, you will hear excerpts from their diaries that can immediately place you right beside them in their journey. 

Throughout the video, you will find actual footage of the trails taken by Lewis & Clark, as well as photos, maps, & live re-enactments. The scenery is beautiful, with mountains, rivers, bison, and so much more. The music that is played in the video is pleasing to listen to and appropriate for the particular situations. If there was a dramatic scene, the music was dramatic, if the storyline was peaceful, the music was, too. 

This video was originally produced by Kaw Valley Films Production and was copyrighted by Marshall in 2009. It is approximately 35 minutes long.

You can purchase The Historic Expedition of Lewis and Clark – We Proceed On! for $19.95. (a $5 discount). And if you use the code TOS27, you will get FREE SHIPPING (I love free shipping).

Marshall Publishing is a multi-faceted media organization that has been in business since 2007. Their goal "is to provide lots and lots of media fun for everyone through award-winning DVDs, Books, CDs, CD-roms, and broadcast and internet programming that will amaze, amuse, entertain, and educate" (Marshall Publishing). Their products include "AS SEEN ON TV" products and "LOTS & LOTS of" brands. Their DVD's have been endorsed by The Dove Foundation, Kid's First, NAPPA, Coalition for Quality Children's Programs.  For more than 30 years their management team has produced and represented over 35 t.v. shows & programs that have aired on network and PBS channels.

What we thought. We enjoyed this video. We were impressed by the amount of information that was packed into 35 minutes! We learned that the expedition took them through 18miles of prickly pear cactus, and what an unpleasant 18 miles it was. We learned that Lewis & Clark were advised by indians to not travel a certain way, but they chose to anyhow. Which wasn't a good idea. How often do we not listen to sound advise? This was a nice point in the movie to have a life lesson. I love being able to use these situations that pop up. The Lord uses "coincidence" well. We also learned that "Hungry Creek" was named because this is where the group survived with no food, in the cold snow. 

I liked that the life stories of Lewis & Clark, and other members of The Corps of Discovery, were given during the movie. And especially liked that Lewis' dog "Seaman" was taken along for the ride. I love Newfie's. They are such a beautiful breed.

The one thing that we didn't like was that the footage seems dated. It was "crackly" according to my daughter, and it was. The sound seemed old. I wasn't sure if this was intentional to get the viewer more into the time period. It was still an enjoyable video and I do recommend it. 

If you are studying this time period or would just like to watch a good, historical video,  The Historic Expedition of Lewis and Clark – We Proceed On! is a great one to choose.

The SRC members reviewed other products from Marshall Publishing, as well. To read those reviews, click below.
Photobucket
Disclaimer: I received this product free as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew with the sole purpose of providing an honest review after viewing it. For more information on this, please see my disclaimer.
 
 
Throughout our life, we find situations where it is necessary to type more than lol, ty, b4, l8r, 2day. For example: work, resume, writing a business letter, or acceptance of a great award : ^ ) We never know when it may be important to be able to create a great paper or letter for some purpose in our lives. 

One of those very important purposes is the SAT. For every High Schooler thinking about college, the SAT is one of the means to get there. The essay portion of the SAT is often a great stressor for students. Worrying about the topics, the time limits, the content; it can really cause anxiety. But there is a great website that I learned that can help your student prepare - Time4Writing.
Picture
Time4Writing is a writing resource that offers students of all ages, from elementary to high school, guidance and instruction to increase their writing skills. Each of the courses are 8-weeks long and are totally personalized. Each student is assigned to an actual tutor and all of the tutors are certified teachers. 

We were given a membership to the SAT Essay Writing course to review as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew. This came at a perfect time for us. My daughter will be taking the SAT this fall and we were concerned about the essay portion. She loves to write and writes creatively very well. But sitting down to write an essay about something she's not interested in has always been a huge task for her. Being timed is another problem area.

Time4Writing has really helped her in both areas. This is because Time4Writing is designed to help "students work on budgeting their time, developing a strong thesis, using solid examples, and editing their writing all within the limited amount of time they are given during the actual SAT exam" The course was created by English teachers who have been official scorers for the SAT and, therefore, students "are given tools and tips from experienced educators who have been in the trenches". (Time4Writing). 

Picture
There are 8 units in the SAT Essay Writing Course that your student will be guided through. He must complete each assignment before being able to move on. This is a great aspect of the course. It is common for students to look at the next page of an assignment just to know what's ahead, but this is not a good tactic. It usually just causes more stress and anxiety because then they worry if they can do it.  In Time4Writing, the student is given an assignment to complete. Once it's complete, the tutor will grade it or offer feedback. Then the next assignment is available. 

The 8 units are: 

Unit 1 – What you need to know when writing for the SAT 

Unit 2 – Breaking down the writing prompt

Unit 3 – Writing an excellent essay

Unit 4 – Using your voice in your essays

Unit 5 – Stronger sentences, stronger essays

Unit 6 – Improving paragraph structure

Unit 7 – Identifying and correcting errors for better essays

Unit 8 – Practice, Practice, Practice
Each of the units builds on the previous and walks students a step at a time. Unit 8 includes real time SAT essay writing. I am excited for my daughter to get to that point!
Time4Writing offers free resources as well as their many courses. You can try them out and see the benefits your student can have from one of their courses.

Each of the courses is 8 weeks long and offers a money back guarantee.
14-Day Money-Back Guarantee
* Flexible Scheduling Available *
What We Thought: I am very pleased with Time4Writing. I am thankful to have had this opportunity to review them : ^ )

My daughter enjoyed working with her tutor. She was apprehensive about starting the lessons at all. She was worried she wouldn't "do it right" or "know what to do". After the first couple of lessons, though, she found it much less stressful and actually enjoyed doing the work. Her instructor was awesome! Her comments were helpful and encouraging.

This is an example: 

"You did a great job with these thesis statements this time! They have all of the needed information:

1. subject
2. claim
3. three points of support

A good thesis statement with this information gives your essay some organization, and it may even improve your SAT essay score. You may move on to the next activity. Keep up the great work!!!" 


I am impressed with Time4Writing's SAT Essay Writing. We have a few more weeks left to our membership but I can truly see the benefits of these lessons with my daughter. Her anxiety level about writing essays has decreased, her skills have improved, and she likes it. That's what I'm happy about the most. It hasn't been a struggle to get her to do it since she realized what it was going to be. 

I believe you will like Time4Writing, too. It is an incredible resource for any student that has struggled with writing.

You can read more reviews by clicking below.
Photobucket
Disclaimer: I received this a membership free as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew with the sole purpose of providing an honest review after using it. For more information on this, please see my disclaimer.