Saturday, April 22, 2017

Digital Savvy {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

Technology.  Love it or hate it, technology definitely has a huge impact on life these days.  I cannot even begin to imagine what the world will look like for my kids forty years from now, and what kind of jobs they are likely to have.  One thing seems pretty certain though, being comfortable with technology is likely to be a key skill for practically any work (paid or unpaid) that they are doing throughout their lifetimes.

CompuScholar, Inc.
That is why I was so excited to get the chance to review Digital Savvy, the newest course from the people at CompuScholar, Inc.  I've talked about this company before, but they had a different name then.  Homeschool Programming created the coursework that Connor used for his computer programming class in high school.  (You can read my reviews of Windows and Game Programming, and C# Programming, but keep in mind, these courses are so much better now with the online format!)

Let's start with the format for these courses.  It now comes as an online subscription, which isn't always something I like.  I like having materials I can easily pass down from child to child.  Subscriptions don't tend to work that way.

That being said, this format is so easy to use.  Log on, do the next thing.  I love this presentation.  Even though I OWN the books for many of their other courses, I fully intend to use the subscriptions for my kids.  Completely worth it.  The part I really love is the new monthly subscription option.  You can still purchase a year of access to the course for $120.  But now you can do a monthly subscription for $15/month.  If your child is likely to get through the course in less than eight months, that would be a good option. 

CompuScholar, Inc. Digital Savvy

So Digital Savvy means what, exactly?

This course is a pretty general computer knowledge class, meant for grades 6-12.  I had all four of my children working in it (grades 5, 7, 9 and 11) as I know there are topics that each of them need.  Trina, the 5th grader, is certainly capable of working through the material, though she is moving pretty slowly.

Topics include:
  • Learning about the computer itself, and how to mange the information on there.
  • Networking and online safety.
  • Learning the basic office products - word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases.
  • Learning about editing images, and using social media and email.
  • Learning a bit of website design, and some simple computer programming.
  • Learning about careers in computing.
Thirty years ago, I could easily have taught most of that (the online parts were a lot different then though!)  Now, I'm quite sure I could learn a thing or two in most of those topics.  So having a coherent course that teaches this to my children is perfect.  The student doesn't need a lot of previous knowledge, but they do need to know basic computer skills.  They should be able to turn it on, use the keyboard and mouse, and that sort of thing.

Parents do not have to be very tech-savvy either, as CompuScholar will directly answer student questions.  Parents do need to not be techno-phobic though. 

What I really love is that my kids are all able to work on this fairly independently.  Even the 5th grader.  She told me that she finds it fairly easy to use, "but it is hard because I really don't care about any of this stuff so I don't want to."

Yeah, well, I care.  You need to know it, kiddo.

The 7th grader is the most gung-ho.  I told him that if he finishes this course, he can start doing Web Design next.  He is completely in favor of that. "It's good and very informative. I was able to figure out some things to do to try to speed up a couple of the old computers we have."

I'm going to let Richard describe how the course works.
This is a very good course.  For me, personally, I wish that learning how to build a website was a bit earlier in the program.  When I first started this, I was very enthusiastic to get through this so I could build a website.  But if you are wanting to generally learn about computers, I would recommend it."

First, I watch the video.  The lesson text is essentially the video script.  I think it is really great to have the video going and read along in the student text.  If you have the time, it is good to do both though, separately, as the repetition helps you remember.  If you are already familiar with one of the topics, it will probably suffice to just watch the video.

After learning the material, there is a quiz for each lesson.  It's five questions, usually multiple choice.  You get three attempts.  At the end of the chapter, you will get an overall quiz, which will have twenty questions on it.  You really need to remember the lessons to finish the chapter quiz.

Some lessons will have a "work with me section" that will be like a mini activity. It will be something that will relate to just that lesson. Some will have activities that relate to the entire chapter.
The program grades the quizzes, so I don't have to do that.  I do need to grade projects though, and CompuScholar provides grading rubrics and other suggestions to help with that.

I highly, highly recommend these courses.

You can see what other Crew members had to say about Digital Savvy, Web Design, and Java Programming

Digital Savvy, Web Design & Java Programming {CompuScholar,Inc Reviews}

You can find them on Social Media at:

Homeschool Programming
Facebook –
Twitter –   @hsprogramming

CompuScholar, Inc   @compuscholar

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Coming Soon: 5 Days of Growing a Heart for your Community

I've been totally neglecting my blog lately, but some of my fellow Crew Leaders have challenged/cajoled/encouraged me to participate in the Homeschool Review Crew 5 Days of Homeschool ... Blog Hop.

Like I had the first clue what I could write about.  I certainly look forward to reading some of the topics that others are posting on though!

I was challenged/cajoled/encouraged to post about "Growing a Heart for your Community," so though I certainly do not feel like I'm an expert at all, I am going to be posting about some of our experiences in that regard.

I haven't completely finalized the specifics on this, but I will be writing about developing a servant's heart, finding opportunities to serve, and I plan to end the week by lecturing myself on balance and moderation.

I am SO not an expert on that.

5 Days of Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017

Check out the other topics!

  • Chareen – 5 Days of Charlotte Mason Resoures
  • Dawn - 5 Days of Homeschooling Teens
  • Michele - 5 Days of Keeping your Homeschool Alive
  • Amanda H - 5 Days of Homeschooling Without Going Insane
  • Annette - 5 Days of Things We Enjoy in our Homeschool
  • Ashley N - 5 Days of "Kitchen-Schooling" with preschoolers
  • Carol - 5 Days of An Honest Look at High School
  • Cassandra H - 5 Days of Knowing When and What to Change in Your Homeschool
  • Christina C - 5 Days of Building Positive Thinking
  • Crystal H - 5 Days of Creating Independence in Your Homeschooling
  • DaLynn M- 5 Days of Threadbare Homeschooling
  • Dana L - 5 Days of Homeschooling with Epilepsy and Other Issues
  • Elyse R - 5 Days of Finding our Homeschool Strengths
  • Emilee R - 5 Days of Homeschooling as a Single Parent
  • Erin S - 5 Days of Homeschooling with Living Books
  • Felicia M - 5 Days of Living the Bible in Your Homeschool
  • Hillary M - 5 Days of Morning Time for All Ages
  • Jaime G - 5 Days in the Life of a Stressed Out Homeschool Mom (and how not to be one)
  • Jacquelin C - 5 Days of Hands-On Learning
  • Jennifer K - 5 Days of Inspiring Reluctant Learners
  • Jennifer N - 5 Days of Books To Help Homeschooling Moms
  • Jodi G - 5 Days of Hiding the Word in Their Hearts.
  • Julia C - 5 Days of Homeschooling from Scratch
  • Karen W - 5 Days of 5 Days of International Studies for Young Children
  • Kelly KL - 5 Days of Homeschooling Children with Special Needs
  • Kemi - 5 Days of Working Through Math Struggles in Homeschool
  • Kirsten W - 5 days of Homeschooling Twins
  • Kristi H - 5 Day of Preschool Math
  • Kym T - 5 Days of the Rewards of Homeschooling Teens
  • Linda S - 5 Days of Wit and Wisdom from Veteran Homeschool Moms
  • Lisa M - 5 Days of Popular Homeschool Teaching Styles
  • Meghan W- 5 Days of of Literacy in the Home{school}
  • Melissa B - 5 Days of Extracurriculars to Add to Your Homeschool
  • Meredith D - 5 Days of Homeschooling a High Achiever.
  • Missica J - 5 Days of Eclectic Homeschooling with Special Needs
  • Monique G - 5 Days of Homeschooling the Middle School Years
  • Rebekah T - 5 days of Simple Homeschooling in a Complicated World
  • Ritsumei H - 5 Days of Homeschooling Books
  • Wendy R - 5 days of Homeschooling Kids with a Large Age Gap
  • Yvie - 5 days of Road-Schooling

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

American History with Memoria Press {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

Memoria Press

Today I get to talk about one of my very favorite companies for homeschool curriculum, Memoria Press. I was first introduced to Memoria Press a dozen or more years ago, and I used a lot of their materials and loved them.  Now they have so much more available!

The Homeschool Review Crew has recently had the opportunity to review three very different products:  First Form Greek Complete Set, which I plan to work through with Connor this summer. Other reviewers used  Iliad & Odyssey Complete Set, which I have been using with William -- and we love it!

My fifth and seventh graders have been using two complementary products that will be the focus of this review: The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & the Great Republic Set and 200 Questions About American History Set.  These two programs can be used individually, but I really love the combination of the two of them together.  They are both intended for grades 5-8.

The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & the Great Republic Set

The main component for us is the H. A. Guerber set.  This set consists of the book, The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & the Great Republic, plus a Student Guide and Teacher Guide.  The program is broken into thirty-two weekly lessons.  A typical lesson covers 2-3 chapters in the Guerber book, and then there are four sections in the workbook.  First is a Facts to Know section, which lists out key people, places, or events and gives a short explanation.  Second is a vocabulary section, which pulls words from the text, and the students are to look the words up and write out an appropriate definition. Third is a series of short-answer Comprehension Questions.  Finally, there are some enrichment activities, which usually include map and timeline work, along with some type of research.

For instance, lesson ten covers three chapters of the book (Stories of Franklin, Braddock's Defeat, and Wolfe at Quebec).  Each chapter of the book is around two or three pages, so these chapters are not long at all.

The Facts to Know section mentions people like Benjamin Franklin, General Braddock, and William Pitt.  It also covers two events -- the Seven Years' War and the French and Indian War.  Vocabulary words include words such as apprentice, dint, clad, and fray.

The discussion questions really do make the kids think.  None are too difficult, but they need to be paying attention and thinking as they read.  The enrichment for this lesson includes locating places like Philadelphia and Quebec on a map, adding to your timeline, and a composition assignment to write several short journal entries as though you are a colonist in this time.

200 Questions About American History Set
Grades 5-8

The 200 Questions set ties right in.  This set includes flashcards, and both a Student Book and Teacher Guide.  The 200 Questions break down as follows:
  • 150 questions dealing with historical events, such as naming the general who captured Quebec.
  • 30 questions related to a timeline, so it is necessary to grasp dates here.  The only date they expect you to know from this lesson is when the French and Indian War occurred.
  • 20 questions related to famous quotations 
  • 44 questions related to the presidents of the United States
Yes, that adds up to more than 200.

Working through the Guerber text, and adding in the appropriate questions from 200 Questions will only get you up through 116 of the event questions.  To work through the remaining 34 questions, Memoria Press recommends using Story of the World 4.

We were looking for an easy-to-implement history program that would still teach a lot, and this does fit the bill.  We are able to use this by doing history 3-4 days per week.  We read a chapter per day for two or three days, and the kids then go into their Student Books to answer the appropriate questions.  Once we get through all of the chapters, they take a day to do some of the enrichment activities, and we go through the new questions from 200 Questions.

All together, we are spending about twenty minutes per day, and we are all learning.

Bottom line is that we love these sets.  My oldest high school student is using the flashcards too, as he is studying for the American History CLEP test.  The flashcards give him one more way to test himself.

Check out Memoria Press on social media:

Twitter:  @MemoriaPress

And definitely click the banner to go read more Crew reviews!

First Form Greek, Iliad/Odyssey and American History {Memoria Press Reviews}

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Eclectic Foundations {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

Over the past couple of decades of homeschooling, I have used numerous phonics programs, especially since I am dealing with dyslexia and other reading struggles.  Some programs have been really effective, some were not.  Most of the programs have required fairly lengthy lessons, or a lot of prep time from me.  What I have wanted to find is a program that teaches reading in an organized manner using short lessons that don't require a lot of time from me.  No nonsense.  No frills.

Eclectic Foundations might just be the answer I had wanted all along.  I have had the opportunity to try out Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B and Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level C.  Level B is intended for grades 1-2, and Level C is intended for grades 3-4.  My children are all beyond that -- most are way beyond that -- so my experience is not typical.

Language Arts {Eclectic Foundations }

Eclectic Foundations is designed to be a complete Language Arts program, not just phonics and spelling.  This also includes reading comprehension, grammar, poetry, handwriting, and composition.  With all of that, I would expect the program to eat up a lot of time.  But it doesn't, and that is the beauty of the program.

The idea is to do short lessons consistently.  Using tried and true methods (such as the McGuffey Eclectic Readers) is one of the biggest benefits of the program.  Once upon a time, these seven books (the Primer, plus the 1st through 6th Readers) took students from learning their letters all the up through what is now considered college-level reading.

Eclectic Foundations is intended to be a nine book series, with each book covering 36 weeks of lessons.  At this time, only the first three levels are available, with Level D coming out this month.  That is my biggest criticism of this program, to be honest.  If more levels were out, I would be thrilled.

Reading through the "What level should I start with?" I read the following:
I also recommend starting with level B if your student is weak in spelling.  Many students that are not strong spellers have not been taught to decode phonetically.  Levels B and C have a strong emphasis on phonics.  Formal spelling lessons are not taught until Level D, but having a strong foundation in phonics will give your student a huge advantage.

Based on that paragraph, I decided that I needed to start my kids with Level B.
Language Arts {Eclectic Foundations }

So how does it work?  Well, you do one short lesson per day, four days a week.  At the beginning of Level B, over the course of a week, you will:
  1. Read through a word list each day, with basic silent-e words in the first week, and practice writing them.
  2. Practice/learn one cursive letter per day, doing both uppercase and lower case. (All other work can be done by printing.)
  3. Two lessons from McGuffey's First Eclectic Reader, each completed over two days.
  4. Read a discuss a poem.
  5. Cover some basic grammar.
  6. Using word cards, color them by part of speech and add them to a word box.
By the end of Level B, you are doing the same stuff, except for handwriting.  As soon as you work through all of the letters of the alphabet, you start practicing some short sentences.

It is short and sweet and requires almost no prep time from Mom.  It is short and sweet, and my kids don't complain about doing it.

In Level B, you are covering a lot of material.  For instance:
  • The daily phonics word lists go from basic silent e words, to words such as know, guide, wrong and gnash. 
  • Handwriting practice moves from learning Aa to writing a sentence like "Begin at once and do it."
  • The first story in the reader is five words long.  "The dog.  The dog ran."  The last story is seven paragraphs, including words such as school, ready, write, and should.
  • Grammar instruction moves from learning things like alphabetical order, to writing a composition about keeping bad company.
All of this in short, incremental lessons.

What did we think?

I totally did not expect to actually use this product when I first looked it over for a Crew run.  I thought I might take a look and wish it had been available when my kids were younger.  Instead, I have found a program I will actually use with all of my homeschoolers.  The material doesn't talk down to the student, so it can be used with older students.  It isn't too juvenile (though the teens rolled their eyes at that first five word "story," I have to confess) or babyish.

My plan is to work through these books with all of my at-home children.  The oldest two are doing two lessons a day (which is one McGuffey's lesson) every day of the week, so that we can hopefully get through Level F before the oldest of these students graduates.  Son Three should then be able to slow down to a more normal pace, and finish the entire series before he graduates, assuming the levels are out in time for that.

My younger kids (grades 5 and 7) are going a little faster right now also.  We're doubling up lessons, so we get through two weeks' worth each week.  Once they get into Level D, we are likely to slow down and work closer to the suggested pace, but we will only take a couple of weeks off between levels, along with breaks at Christmas and the like.  My hope is to finish the entire series by the time the 7th grader graduates.

Language Arts {Eclectic Foundations Reviews}

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