Friday, May 10, 2019

The Critical Thinking Co. Review

Since Katie is in 9th grade this year, thoughts of PSAT and SAT testing have been in the back of our minds. We jumped at the chance to review Vocabulary Virtuoso: PSAT-SAT Book 2 from The Critical Thinking Co.

Vocabulary Virtuoso Book 2 is written for students in grades 8-12 to build vocabulary necessary for comprehension in critical reading.

The lessons in this 187 page book are built around 20 vocabulary lists. Each list is made up of nine words, and 85% of the words in the lessons are from current PSAT or SAT lists. Each list emphasizes one part of speech- such as nouns, verbs, or adjectives. A review lesson is included after every four lessons to help ensure your student obtains mastery of the words. 

Each word list includes the pronunciation of the word, the definition, and a sample sentence to help give your student some context. There are six lessons for each word list that include a variety of activities. Some of those activities include:
  • writing the best word from a choice box to complete the sentences
  • story challenges: fill in the blanks in a story
  • working with synonyms and antonyms
  • word scrambles
  • matching definitions with words
  • completing sentences to demonstrate understanding of the words

How We Used It & What We Thought

Katie has been working through this book entirely on her own. All I have had to do is correct her work each day. (The answer key is right in the back of the book, which makes it a breeze to correct) We added this to her regular school schedule, so she completed one section of a lesson per day, four days a week. 

I have noticed her making connections between the words she is learning and every day life. It's been fun to watch her light up and say "Hey! I know that word! I was just working on it the other day!" 

Since Katie has been the primary user, I decided to share her thoughts with you.

"I like that this book has a lot of different pages for each word list so that you can really work on them and actually remember them. I liked the history stories a lot. I love working in workbooks, so I really liked that this was an actual workbook and not something we printed out and put in a binder. The thing I liked the most is that most other vocab books I've used always start you off with easy words, and this book gave me more challenging words right from the very beginning, so I was never bored with it. It has actually been fun to use and I'm learning a ton."

The Critical Thinking Co. designs critical thinking into all of their lessons so that students learn to carefully analyze what they are learning. Because deeper analysis produces deeper understanding, students can then achieve better grades and higher test scores. Most importantly, students who practice critical thinking will learn to apply it throughout all aspects of their lives.

The Critical Thinking Co. produces high quality learning materials for a variety of subjects. Members of the Homeschool Review Crew received quite a few options for review. Be sure to click below to see what they had to say!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Pathway to Liberty Homeschool Curriculum Review

I didn't find history very interesting as a kid. I've had the pleasure of discovering my love for it alongside my girls throughout our years of homeschooling. We were really excited to try out Pathway to Liberty's History Curriculum from Pathway to Liberty Homeschool Curriculum.

Pathway to Liberty's History Curriculum is a Christian program with a Biblical worldview that you can use with your whole family.

Written for students in K-12th grade, this curriculum allows you to teach multiple students in various grades all at the same time. The Teacher Guide is written directly to the teacher, and the Student Guide directly to the student, making it very easy to implement and use.  

For this review we received World History, which included the Teacher Guide, Student Guide, and The Chain of Liberty Book and Studyguide. 

 The program is divided into four years:
  • Universal History-Year 1
  • The Middle Ages-Year 2
  • U.S. History-Year 3
  • World History-Year 4
There are different levels within those four years:
  • Level 1: K-3rd grade
  • Level 2: 4th-6th grade
  • Level 3: 7th-9th grade 
  • Level 4: 10th-12th grade

What this means is that you can have all of your students using the same program, regardless of grade level. The weekly subjects and principles are the same for every level, with different books assigned for each. We used only one level, Level 3, as my girls are in 7th and 9th grade. 

The weekly overview gives you a great snapshot of everything you will do each week. There are four lessons broken down by level so you can easily see what each of your students is to do. 

Each week begins with a Scripture verse, Principle, and Leading idea. For the history piece there are assigned readings, (most days) videos to watch, and questions to answer in the Student Guide. There are also additional expanded history reading options, writing, and vocabulary assignments. 

How We Used It:

The only thing I needed to do to prep was request the books we'd need from our library. The lesson plans are so thorough you can literally open the guide and go. For Level 3 we were assigned books to read from Joy Hakim's series, A History of US.

Each day we'd sit together and read the assigned chapters, watch the video, and then answer the questions. The time it took us to complete the work varied depending on the length of the videos, which averaged from 15 to 45 minutes. After we completed the work for the day I would assign them chapters to read from the History Expanded section. I thought this was helpful to allow them time to read the entire book we were working from, as the curriculum didn't assign all the chapters in the main lessons.

What We Thought:
We have really been enjoying this curriculum! I love the inclusion of videos, as it adds an element to our learning that doesn't come from just reading alone. I like that there are writing, word study, and vocab lessons in addition to the history. It makes for a very thorough and well-rounded program. 

There were a few minor things that we didn't love. The videos were on Youtube and not super easy to find. I'd love to see a more structured approach to cataloguing the videos by level or something. There were also some typos and formatting issues, but again, that's not really major. The last thing was that we didn't really care for The Chain of Liberty book. If I had it to do over again I'd probably skip the first two weeks where that book is used and begin at week 3. 

Overall, I think this is a solid history program. My girls have really enjoyed using it, and we've learned a ton of stuff we didn't know before. We will definitely continue using it in our studies. 

Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew received different levels to review. Be sure to click below to see what they had to say.

Visit Pathway to Liberty Homeschool Curriculum on social media:


Thursday, May 2, 2019

The Hamelin Stoop Series Review

My girls have been voracious readers their entire lives. As they have gotten older, they have developed a serious love for fantasy books. We were thrilled to receive the first two books in The Hamelin Stoop Series, published by 12 Gates Publishing.

Author Robert B. Sloan introduces us to a young boy named Hamelin Stoop in his first book, Hamelin Stoop: The Eagle, The Cave, and the Footbridge and continues weaving the intriguing tale in his second book, Hamelin Stoop: The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna

Hamelin Stoop: The Eagle, The Cave, and the Footbridge opens with Hamelin's parents and gives us the background on why they choose to leave baby Hamelin on the stoop (hence his name) of a children's home. In this first book we get to know Hamelin and watch him grow as he faces challenges like bullies, people he loves leaving him, and a deep sense of feeling like he doesn't belong. Even when things are going well he has an underlying feeling that he should be doing something else. 

As we read about his everyday life, we're also taken along on great adventures as Hamelin stumbles into a cave that appears to lead to another land, meets a great eagle who tries to guide him and ultimately protects him, and starts to get glimpses into his greater purpose. Although he thinks his mission is to find his parents, he learns there is so much more to the story than what he knows. 

In Hamelin Stoop: The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna Hamelin's story continues, and we meet new characters. Hamelin has now crossed the footbridge into another place, and there is no turning back to life as he knew it before. Along the way we meet some new characters, Eraina and Lars. Each has a mission of their own; Hamelin wants to find his parents, Eraina is looking for her lost sister, and Lars is searching for the stolen jewel that lights his land. They must work together for any of them to succeed, and the story is still so much bigger than any of them know.

There is so much to love about these two books. Robert B. Sloan has given life to characters into whose stories you can't help but being drawn. There are all the elements of a good fantasy story; mystical lands full of good and evil, special gifts that give our beloved characters extraordinary talents, and vivid writing that brings it all to life in your imagination. 

The best part about this series is that it bridges the gap between junior high and young adult fantasy. These books have been perfect for my twelve year old, because she's at an age where she wants to read all the fantasy books she can get her hands on, but isn't quite ready yet for some of the more mature themes present in young adult fiction. 

This series is written for 6th grade and up, but has a higher reading level than typical middle grade books, and has content that is suitable for all ages. This makes it perfect both for kids like my twelve year old who want to read fantasy on their reading level but aren't ready for young adult stories yet, and also for younger kids as a read aloud. 

We look forward to the release of the rest of the books in this series with great anticipation!

I was one of 50 reviewers blessed with The Hamelin Stoop Series. Be sure to click below to see what my fellow Homeschool Review Crew members had to say. 

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Saturday, April 20, 2019

Thursday, April 18, 2019

CrossWired Science Review

Seventh grade has been pretty book heavy for Francesca, so I've been on the lookout for some fun and engaging learning programs. When I learned about Sound, and Fluid Dynamics from CrossWired Science I knew I found what I'd been looking for!

CrossWired Science is a company I can really get behind. Their chief purpose is to please the Lord. Their desire is to help people to see the glory of God, and to teach true Science-the carefully thought out handiwork of the Almighty God.

For this review I was essentially a Beta tester. While they are working on the site continually to make it better and add more content, there is already so much offered. The material is primarily designed for students ages 4-18, but it is heavily designed to appeal to any age. 

Right now there is one project that consists of two Global Topics: Sound, and Fluid Dynamics. Each Global Topic has 29 lessons for a month or more of Science, and is "CrossWired" to many subject areas. 

Within each Global Topic there are two study tracks offered: First Timers and Second Timers. First Timers is for students going through the program for the first time, and Second Timers is for students going through a second time.  The content is mostly the same for both, with the differences being in the depth of writing and the difficulty in the questions. The written material in First Timers is less complex and there is more explanation. In Second Timers the questions are more difficult. The videos, pictures, and basic concepts are the same in both. 

Each Global Topic is structured the same, and contains each of these areas:
  • Videos
  • Experiments
  • Research
  • General Links
  • U-Choose
  • Reinforcement
  • Field Trip
  • Reading
  • Gold Digs or Digging Deeper
  • Devotional

Videos: are short enough to keep the student engaged, but packed full of learning. There are printable questions to go with the videos, and an online quiz that is graded automatically.

Experiments: offers a wide range of experiments from easy to complex, with every day items you have around your house to things you need to purchase. PDF files that are easily printed have all the information needed to complete the experiment, and there are grade levels and time needed noted on each one so you can easily find what is appropriate for your student. 

Research: learning how to research is an important skill. Being able to glean important information in an age when an overload of  information about everything is available at our fingertips will serve kids well into adulthood. The Research section describes what research is, offers a list of suggested topics (or your student can choose their own topic) and gives an extensive list of safe research options. I really appreciated this section, because it talks about good and not so good sources of information.

General Links: to unique and fascinating topics. You are intentionally led to explore a vast array of topics that take you out of the theme you're studying, purely for the delight of learning!


U-Choose: Whether you assign a project, or let your student go where she's led, here you will find many hands-on project ideas for FUN!

Reinforcement: Ideas for your student to create something fun to reinforce learning of the Global Topic.

Field Trips:Nothing reinforces learning better than getting out in the world and experiencing learning first hand!

Reading: As a family of book nerds, this is probably one of my favorite sections. Reading lists galore give you the opportunity for building in reading for fun every week. The lists include grade levels and reading plans.

Gold Digs or Digging Deeper: Gold Digs are guest topics that aren't related to the theme, to give your student a breath of fresh air and the opportunity to dig deeper into a topic of interest. Digging Deeper are Global Topic specific. Here you will find lots of pictures, and printable questions as well as a quiz to reinforce learning. 

Devotionals: of all sizes are offered. CrossWired Science loves the Word, and to tie it to lessons from how God build our universe.

Whew! As you can see, there is already so much on this site, with much more to come. Four projects is equal to a full year of Science, so CrossWired Science is a great option for both a stand alone curriculum and as a supplement. 

In addition to the core program, there are also great teacher tools, such as schedules and calendars to help you get the most out of the plethora of information offered. 

This wonderful delight-led program engages all types of learning for a thorough and long lasting Science experience.

80 members of the Homeschool Review Crew were blessed with this awesome resource. Be sure to click below to see what others had to say!

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