homeschooling

[Homeschool Review Crew Review] Critical Thinking Co.

H just turned six a few months ago and we think she’s pretty advanced when it comes to her language skills. I know, I know every parent says that but hear me out. First, her first word was at six months, which really isn’t impressive until you learn that she used multi-syllable words like “ruckus” and “adventure” before she turned one.

Since then, her vocabulary has grown exponentially and she regularly — and correctly — uses words like “ornery” and “moratorium”. This is why when we had the chance to review Vocabulary Riddles I by The Critical Thinking Co., we immediately thought that it was a great opportunity for H to challenge herself.

On Vocabulary Riddles I

Vocabulary Riddles I is a book that aims to improve a student’s vocabulary through the use of context clues in a sentence. It is meant to be used by Grades 4-8, although in our case, our daughter who is a first grader was able to use it. I did, I should note, offer a lot of guidance.

According to the book, the words come from different sources like The New Yorker and the New York Times. These words are also helpful to build up their PSAT and ACT vocabulary.

The book starts out with a riddle, which is usually alliterative, and the child is supposed to answer questions about it later. These questions are prompts in order to analyze the words and find out the meaning of the whole sentence.

For example, the student is supposed to identify which one is the antonym for a particular word. Then a synonym. The next question is to indicate what part of speech a certain word is. Finally, the last question is to identify which sentence explains the original riddle. The synonym-antonym-part of speech combination is a recurring theme in the book.

Vocabulary Riddles I also devotes the last few pages to the correct answers so it is easier to check.

On How We Used It

crticalthinkingco
Our screencap of the cover: I found it a little funny that the cover had these kids happily jumping around words like “uncouthness” and “incorrigible”

We used the electronic version of the book, but I understand that there is also a physical copy. It’s a pretty short book with only 30 pages, but each riddle is already packed with so many words to learn so there’s a lot of value in it.

The download was easy and the use of the website is pretty straightforward. This was a noteworthy point because I noticed that there are a lot of websites that make you meander through their pages to get you to buy more stuff. After choosing the product, you download your copy and key in the serial number you receive.

Since my daughter is outside the recommended age, we took things pretty slowly. We also used it a bit differently from how older kids would. I read the sentences to her and asked her read them back to me. (Using this as reading practice was an unexpected bonus.) Then I asked her the questions with a lot of follow-ups to help guide her towards the answers.

With words like “bunkum” and “contumacious”, she got a lot of questions wrong. Obviously. But, she also did get some right. There are also some easier words like “audacious” and “bewildered’, which are, I think, age-appropriate challenges for her. For those parts that went over her head, I used it as a good time to introduce the dictionary and how to use it.

On Our Impressions

I remember being stressed out over learning vocabulary words whenever I had to take those government-mandated tests and for the college entrance exams. I could saved myself a lot of grief if I were exposed to bigger words when I was younger. This is why I love the idea of having a series like this (There is a Vocabulary Riddles II) because it doesn’t belittle the abilities of kids.

I completely agree with the approach as well. When the words are presented in riddle or sentence form, they understand the meanings more organically and within context — as opposed to just memorizing them on flash cards. It makes more sense to learn words if you know how you will use them.

I can also see how the method of asking for the synonyms, antonyms, part of speech, and having them reword the sentence can be applicable to other situations. Once the student develops the habit, it’ll be easy to break down other sentences that can be encountered in the future.

If you are interested in the product, The Critical Thinking Co. has a special offer: free Shipping + 15% off any size order. Use coupon code TOSCREW18. This code expires 12/31/2018.

You can also sign up for free Critical Thinking Puzzles. You can choose PreK – Grade 8 puzzles delivered weekly to your inbox. Sign up here.

Find out more about Vocabulary Riddles I and Critical Thinking Co., you can visit their social media pages.

Other homeschooling families have also tried out the different products of The Critical Thinking Co. You can read their reviews by clicking the image below.

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A Happy Memory If You Have Anxiety

Paper.Journal.1

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[Homeschool Review Crew Review] Home School Navigator

Want to know a secret? Once upon a time, I was a high school teacher. I rarely tell people about it because first, I was terrible at it and second, it was the worst year of my life. I only mention it now because I got the chance to use Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Program. Why did I make the connection? Was it a horrible product? Read on to find out.

On Home School Navigator

From the start, let me say that Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Program is the complete opposite of horrible. I’ve had the chance to review a lot of materials recently, both as part of the Homeschool Review Crew and from the suggested books given by our provider. Hands down, this product by Home School Navigator is turning out to be my favorite so far.

This product is a complete curriculum, which includes lesson plans, videos, printable materials, and book lists. There are six different color-coded levels, depending on where your child is when it comes to language arts. You can view the framework here.

Homeschol Navigator provides an overview of the lessons in increments of a month. It gives information like the genre and literature and the reading and writing goals to be achieved. Then, it breaks it down to something more specific and practical. There are lessons plans by week, where you can see what you are supposed to do each day. All of this happens by simply downloading a PDF file and printing it out.

Everything is contained in the file, from the teacher’s guide to the worksheets.

How We Used It

We started off with the lowest level, which is red. As we progressed, it was clear to me that we should have used the next level, orange, which is more at par with her skills. But, we stuck to it, since practice and mastery is always a good thing and I didn’t want to disturb her flow.

Each day, we are given a to-do list. You can choose to upload the work into the site, which can be later compiled and printed out into a portfolio once you are done with the curriculum. I ended up not doing that and instead, kept all the finished output in a folder.

The common thread among the levels is the presence of read-alouds. The curriculum suggests that the books are read several times to ensure comprehension. In our experience, the story is the anchor for the rest of the lesson. Whether it be watching a video or doing some desk work, the story acts as the introduction of the lesson and as a way to interest the student.

On Our Impressions

Home School Navigator

I mentioned early on that this is one of the best products I’ve reviewed so far. The reason for this is how complete, thorough, and organized it is. It reminded me of my teaching days when we spent several months just making lesson plans in preparation for the school year. It honestly felt like you had someone do that for you, with this product.

As teacher-parents, it is easy to rave about how these lessons are presented. It’s pretty much established that it is convenient and easy to use. However, that’s just a part of the formula. The real bulk is whether or not it actually works on the children.

In our case, my daughter loved the stories. What kid doesn’t like being read to? She also thought that the activities were unique enough to  pique her interest. It’s not all copywork or line tracing or even answering open-ended questions. The activities were presented differently each time, which she enjoyed.

My only quibble is that it was not easy finding the books on the recommended list. It’s apparent that Home School Navigator wanted to stick to the more popular ones, but as someone from the Philippines where libraries are practically non-existent and bookstore options are lacking, it was a bit of a struggle to follow the list completely. Having said that, I think it’s more of an indictment on the sorry state of my country’s access to books, rather than it being the fault of Home School Navigator.

Overall, I am quite thankful to have encountered Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Program. I highly recommend it. To find out more about it, follow them on the following social media pages.

Interested in what other homeschooling families have to say about this product? Click on the image below to read more reviews.

Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Curriculum {Home School Navigator Reviews}

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[Homeschool Review Crew Review] PandaParents

The last few days of summer is upon us. In about a week, I will officially have a first grader and a preschooler. While the kids definitely took some time off from formal lessons, they did not rest on their laurels. We had the chance to use MESSYLEARNING FOR PRESCHOOLERS AND KINDERGARTENERS by PandaParents, an interactive education program for young learners. Here is our review if you would like to see.

On M.E.S.S.Y Learning

Parents everywhere might frown at the word messy. Sure, messiness almost always comes hand in hand with learning, especially for young kids, but do we really want to encourage it? Fortunately, messy in this case is actually an acronym. It stands for:

(M) Mixed subjects and activities for integrative learning

(E) Engaging activities that challenge minds

(S) Simple 1-2-3 steps: read, learn, create

(S) Smart designs for creative learning

(Y) Yeah, a new way to promote preschool STEM and early brain growth

PandaParents’ approach to education is three-pronged. It makes use of a story. a video, and a workbook. The big idea behind this is that the different functions of the brain are utilized. In addition, creativity is nurtured while practicing the fine motor skills in children.

On Our Experience

We received the digital version of this program. PandaParents can provide physical copies by December. There were  stories, which you are supposed to go through alongside the worksheet pages. It’s supposed to stretch out over sessions to a total of about a month.

The stories are meant to appeal to the younger set. For example, in Mommy’s Baby, the plot is all about a mother and her child during bedtime. A Jolly Jingling Journey has a Christmas theme and talks a boy and his encounter with Santa.

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They used muffin instead of the overused pie. Score!

One of the first things I notice in children’s books is the quality of word choice. I can’t stand books that belittle the capacity of children when it comes to vocabulary. Fortunately, these products do not suffer from that common literary ailment. Words like “jubilant” and “joyful” are used. Although the plots in the books we read are nothing groundbreaking, they were not dumbed down. In addition, the books are colorful and should appeal to young kids because of the friendly-looking illustrations. They also emphasize phonics by highlighting particular learning sounds.

As for the videos, they come in a variety of lengths. Some of them were notably long. We had one that went a little over 30 minutes. Honestly, we didn’t finish that one. By the one-third mark, the kids were flitting in and out, doing their own thing.

H’s handwriting still needs refinement so we still love working on sheets like this.

I think this program’s best features are the workbooks. It’s a lot of pages that help the kids practice their paper skills, from writing to cutting. As far as content goes, it runs the whole spectrum. There are comprehension activities as well as letter writing, counting, tracing, and other skills. The pages are colored so it might not be the most cost-effective method to print it at home. But, PandaParents is making physical versions of the products available.

On Our Impressions

When I was reading the website in preparation for writing this review, I was highly amused at the Y of their MESSY acronym. (As a refresher, it’s “Yeah, a new way to promote preschool STEM and early brain growth).

I think it’s representative of PandaParents and its products as a whole. There’s an obvious eagerness on their part, that you can just imagine the people behind them saying “Yeah!” while pumping their fists in the air. You can tell by the way lessons are created. It’s not just a story. It’s a story, a video, and worksheets. That there is dedication and belief in your plan, because coming out with that kind of output is not easy.

There can be some improvements that can be made in the products though. I noticed that the videos can be a little bit more streamlined since some are far too long. The narration is also not as fluid as some of the other videos that we were able to watch.

Having said that, I think the strength of this product is their method of teaching. No one is going to argue that a multi-sensory, interactive approach isn’t going to help kids learn. The kids get to use their eyes, their ears, and their hands. In that sense, this product has a definite edge.

To learn more about this product, you can reach out to them through these social media channels:

 

Want to learn more about what other homeschoolers are saying about this product? Click on the image below.

Messylearning For Preschoolers and Kindergartners {PandaParents Reviews}

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[Homeschool Review Crew Review] Kayla Jarmon

We recently got the chance to read three books by Kayla Jarmon. Her bio is enough to entice other families to pick up her books. In her website, she describes herself as author, mother, and friend. Here is our review if you would like to see.

On A Boy and His Dog

A Boy and His Dog Cover-01

Boy-dog stories are pretty common in children’s literature. But even though it has been done many times before, the friendship between a lad and his furry pal can still tug at the heartstrings. This book is no different.

This book explores the sweet relationship of a boy and his dog. A boy and his dog are friends for life, the book boldly proclaims. They sleep beside each other and play together. All those mundane things that anyone who has ever had a dog can relate to.

The illustrations are nothing elaborate and the color palette has a simplicity to it that makes it seem like a child chose the scheme. It feels like these were done intentionally to emphasize the innocence of the story.

On Dying is Part of This World

Dying is Part of This World Cover-01

To be honest, I glossed over this book with my kids. As a newly minted five-year old and three-year old, I don’t think they’re ready to have a full discussion of death. Especially since their only brush with it is the death of a fish late last year. The time will come, I know, when they will know the full magnitude of it. When that happens, I will have this book to help me explain it to them.

In the meantime, I use some parts of the book to reference that death is a part of our world, but we look forward to a time when Jesus will render it useless. Dying is a Part of This World also takes a more hopeful view of loss and grief. It contains scripture references and great question to help answer the fear of death.

On Don’t Forget Me

Don't Forget Me Cover-01

My kids liked A Boy and His Dog the most. For me, however, the clear winner in this set was Don’t Forget Me. It is about a baby talking to God while inside the mommy’s tummy until birth. Mothers will definitely feel a pinch in their hearts over the sweet dialogue.

It also offers more than just making your eyes tear up. Don’t Forget Me has scripture readings and discussion guides on the theme of new life. Without giving away the whole book, it offers a heartfelt theme: God is the author of life, from start to finish.

There are so many books, especially electronic ones like these, that are available in the market. It can be difficult to go through the choices. But, in reading these, I found a common thread in them that makes me confident in recommending them to others. These books are earnest and sincere, making them perfect reads for families.

You can find Kayla Jarmon on the following social media links:

If you want to find more about what other people are saying about Kayla Jarmon and her books, please click on the image below.

Discussion Book Series and A Boy and His Dog {Kayla Jarmon Reviews}

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[Homeschool Review Crew Review] Reading Kingdom

Something magical happened in the past couple of months in our home. H is now reading full, complicated sentences. While she’s been reading since she was four, her skills were a bit jerky and definitely still in the preschool stages. But recently, it’s like the floodgates opened. This reading explosion, I should mention, coincided with our use of  Reading Kingdom, an online program designed for kids in the K-3 levels. Its goal is to help create successful readers who can go beyond phonics or sounding out letters when they read.

On Reading Kingdom

Consider these: heat, hearth, caveat. They all look alike on paper, but they are pronounced differently. According to the Reading Kingdom website, fewer than 1 in 5 words can be sounded out.

Reading Kingdom solves this situation by not solely relying on phonetics. Instead, it makes use of a six-prong method. In Dr. Marion Blank’s patented method, she uses sequencing, writing, sounds, meaning, grammar, and comprehension.

In Reading Kingdom, each of these levels is taught through several lessons. The recommended frequency is to use the program four to five times each week, completing one to two sessions in each sitting.

On How We Used Reading Kingdom

We were at the tail end of our school year when we started to use Reading Kingdom. We mainly used it as practice after our regular lessons. Once summer started, I made H sit down and do a round or two to keep her from getting rusty. Admittedly, we were not able to comply with the recommended frequency, because we’ve gone on a few long trips as a family.

We did an assessment at the beginning of the program, which allows Reading Kingdom to determine the level your child will be in. Since H was a preschooler, we were placed on the lowest one.

Each session has a series of questions that often involves repetition of the word. The words are presented in different ways, such as spotting it in a sentence or typing out the missing letters. The next lesson then builds up on what the child has previously learned.

Notably, Reading Kingdom reminds you after each session that it works best when you only do two at the maximum to get the most benefits.

On Our Impressions

One thing that I liked about Reading Kingdom is that it did not use the typical words associated with young learners. We did not have to read “dog” or “mat” even at the earliest stages. Reading Kingdom also took steps to put the words in context. There would be questions that asked the child to pick the picture that corresponds with the word. I observed that comprehension and usage of words is given weight, even in the beginning.

Reading Kingdom is an online interactive program that requires the use of a physical keyboard. H has had a chance to use the keyboard, thanks to a previous product we reviewed. It was an advantage for her because she was a little familiar with the letter placements. For kids who are not used to the keyboard, Reading Kingdom does offer prompts to help them locate the letters.

H enjoyed the program because of its cute graphics and friendly-sounding narration. However, I had to coax her into sitting through the lessons because most of the questions were repetitive. From an educator’s standpoint, repetition makes sense because it ensures mastery. From the perspective of a then-five-year old, it was just another reason to be antsy.

H is now faster and better at reading. Do I credit Reading Kingdom for this? Not solely, of course. Nothing beats mom sitting down with her, teaching her how to read and helping her choose a book. But, it is a great supplement and practice tool. Reading Kingdom is engaging and you can really see the methodology in the way they build up a child’s reading skills. It is also a great way to introduce the use of technology, like how to use the mouse and the keyboard, to young kids.

To find out more about Reading Kingdom, visit their website or connect with them through social media:

 

The company also offers ASD Reading, which is a patented, research-based reading program for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Read more reviews on Reading Kingdom and ASD Reading by clicking the image below.

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[Homeschool Review Crew Review] Weigl Publishers

We got the chance to review some books from Weigl Publishers, which were published in digital format. Here is our review, if you would like to see:

About the Books

The company has a roster of of interactive books — I believe, the titles clock in at 1800, which is practically a whole library. They are made to engage the child to help learn various subjects like math, history, and animals.

The books work when you enter a code, which once you do, allows you access without expiration. You can use the links that pop up which lead you to additional materials like puzzles and maps.

The books come in PDF format. They can be used on a tablet, laptop, or even your phone. To gain the full effect, like the sound effects, you will need Flash or Javascript.  About 20 years ago, this would be unheard of! Do you remember when the computer had to prompt us to download Flash? Or even way back, when we had to wait for the dial up to connect before we could access the internet? Those days are long gone, thankfully, and we get to experience a different layer to learning through materials like these books.

On the Experience

I have to admit that it took me a while to get on board using screens when it comes to schooling. While screentime is not exactly banned in our home, I do try to keep them in the “privilege” category. But, it is exactly materials like these books that help me relax when it comes to using screens as a way to learn.

A Lions World, Review, #hsreviews, #AV2Books, #MediaEnhancedBooks, #digitalbooks, #digitallearning, media enhanced books, AV2 Books, Digital books
A Lion’s World turned out to be a favorite for my son.

A Lion’s World is an easy read. It is a short, zippy, and uses words appropriate for young learners. It is complemented by videos as well as narration, when you code in at EyeDiscover.com, which really brings the story to life.

Glaciers Earths Water, Review, #hsreviews, #AV2Books, #MediaEnhancedBooks, #digitalbooks, #digitallearning, media enhanced books, AV2 Books, Digital books
Science comes alive through videos and narration.

Glaciers is a bit longer at 15 pages in PDF format. The best part about this book is that it follows the curiosity of the child by providing links to other facts about glaciers. There are other activities like videos and worksheets.

There Once Was a Cowpoke Who Swallowed an Ant, Review, #hsreviews, #AV2Books, #MediaEnhancedBooks, #digitalbooks, #digitallearning, media enhanced books, AV2 Books, Digital books
It made my naturally skeptical daughter laugh. Score!

Who doesn’t love a silly story? There Once Was a Cowpoke Who Swallowed an Ant was a delight to experience because it came with sound effects that my kids loved. Writing-wise, it has the style that most children’s books follow. It is a bit sing-songy and of course, had a zany plot. It’s a winning formula.

On Our Thoughts

The disadvantages that I attributed to these kinds of books (distracting, too stimulating, and other screentime-associated fears) turned out to be unfounded. All it took for me to remove that bias is to actually try and use these books. These are lovingly written, with beautiful and well-made illustrations and pictures. The narration took a bit of getting used to at first, but they were a pleasant addition to the experience. (You can also turn them off, if you want.)

It turned out that they were a great way to keep the kids engaged and learning. The kids liked the multi-sensory approach in that they can see and listen at things at the same time. Parents, like myself, are assured that they’re not being fed junk. The books that we got to read are smart and are excellent takeoff points to more learning activities.

Multimedia Digital Books {Weigl Publishers Reviews}

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