homeschooling

[Homeschool Review Crew Review] Help Teaching Pro

help teaching pro hands
If you look really closely, you can tell that we use the Pacman method for the greater than/less than lessons. That’s the best way to teach it, right?

HelpTeaching.com is a wonderful resource site chock full of lessons, practice sheets, and other things you might need for homeschooling your little one — or not so little one — since they have materials from preK-12. I had the chance to review Help Teaching Pro and here are my thoughts if you would like to see.

Do I need This?

At the start of our homeschooling journey, a little less than a year ago, I was so diligent in making everything from scratch. I was writing original compositions to help H with reading, making our own worksheets, and doing little math makey-do projects. But that phase lasted a few weeks since (a) I realized how time-consuming it was and (b) there are so many helpful resources online I can take advantage of.

Help Teaching Pro is like a cupcake that you don’t actually need, but will definitely want once you get a taste for it. It is such a great assistance for busy homeschoolers since it takes a large chunk of prep time and does the job for you.

A key feature of the site for me is the Test Maker, which allows you to generate your own exams, which in our case, we used as practice sheets. You can easily search for the questions you like by filtering questions from their bank by topic and grade. Just mark the questions that pique your interest and the site will the create them into a test for you. You can edit the test later on, by adding other questions or reshuffling the questions you already have.

You can print save this exam in your content tab for future reference and also print it. One of my favorite details about the site is that it provides an answer key, which is really convenient. As the parent of a kindergartner, I should be ashamed of myself if I find the questions made for her tricky, so this is not an immediate gratification thing for me. I can just imagine in the future, when we’re doing calculus and other higher level content, that this would be a welcome and often-used feature.

Using the Site

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Whether you are a member with limited access or a Pro user, the content you need is easily searchable by level or subject.

HelpTeaching.com tackles the major subjects of English/Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies. It also provides content for pre-school all the way up to the 12th grade. To find the items you want, the site divides its information by level and subject matter. All you have to do is click on the link you want.

Since the site is basically click-and-go, you can use it intuitively. The advantage of this site is that is not cumbersome to use at all. It is literally as easy as one, two, three since I counted three steps before we got to use a worksheet. First, go to the site; second, click on the questions you want; third, print it out. See? Like do-re-mi. That was a Jackson Five reference, by the way, in case you youngsters were wondering.

Additional Content

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Regularly updated with good content? Sign me up!

HelpTeaching.com also runs a blog that has topics that has a wide range of relevant topics. As expected it has learning-related articles like 15 Educational Travel Activities for Kids but aside from that, the blog also runs content on personal growth like How to Encourage Positive Social Media Use for Students.

The blog is a good read and there’s something heartwarming about a site that invests in more than just the maths and reading aspects. The more cynical side of my personality wants to say, “c’mon, it’s just a blog” — which in many ways is true, because you’re definitely not going to outsource topics like kindness and social responsibility to a website — but, the site definitely earns some points by taking the time to do this. It gives a resource site, usually a very business-y visit, a more personal touch.

General Impressions

help teaching

I really liked Help Teaching Pro and found it to be a good supplementary tool to our homeschooling lessons. It’s certainly not going to replace the good old method of parents preparing for the subject at least the day before. But, it does provide a solid means of cutting down the grunt work, so that parents can focus better.

The things that I thought could have used improvement are really small. For example, I thought that the graphics that came with the lessons and test questions looked a little dated and clipart-y. The fonts were also a little too small for me. But these are minor quibbles and does not take away from the usefulness of the site.

I am thankful that I got the chance to use Help Teaching Pro would recommend it to other parents who are looking for a reliable site to assist them in educating their children.

To learn more about HelpTeaching.com, visit their site or the following social media links:

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homeschooling

[Homeschool Review Crew Review] If You Were Me and Lived In… Carole P. Roman Review

The If You Were Me and Lived in… series is a collection of books by Carole P. Roman that introduces the different cultures from around the world to its readers. She is an established author who has written an large collection of books. It is aimed for the younger set, from 4-9, but it is definitely not limited to that age group.

To say that these books piqued my interest is a bit of an understatement. I may or may not have whooped out loud when I received them in the mail. I will neither confirm or deny. But suffice to say that I have a very keen interest in these books.

I am the worst traveler in the world. I am severely scared of plane rides and I have vowed to never step onto a ship. When I’m in a different country, I stay close to the hotel and basically rely on my companions to do the adventuring and just kind of tag along. I’m terrible. But, I am determined not to pass my travel anxiety to my kids. This is why geography plays a big role in our daily lessons.

On South Korea

The first book we read was If You Were Me and Lived In… South Korea. H was particularly interested in this one, because she feels a strong connection to South Korea because of the food. She loves Korean food. While kids generally drag their parents to McDonald’s or some other fast food joint, H will do cartwheels just to eat at her favorite Korean restaurant.

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H zeroed in on the details given by the book about family life in South Korea. She was amused that their word for mom (omma) and dad (appa), which are very similar to the more familiar mama and papa. It kicked off a great conversation on how people can have a lot of things in common, even if they are different from each other.

To reinforce what we read in the book, we tried to play ddakji, which is a traditional Korean game using folded pieces of paper. It is similar to the game pogs, although H enjoyed the paper folding experience more than the actual game.

On India

The second book we read was If You Were Me and Lived In… India. When I had the chance to choose which books to review from the collection, I picked India because I thought it would be a fun lesson to conduct. India has such colorful traditions and is so steeped in history that it would be hard to distill everything to make it palatable for a five-year old and a three-year old.

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I was ready to talk about the Taj Mahal and Holi and was very excited to show the kids pictures I pulled from the internet (“Gooble”, as H says.) The book talked about cricket, the sport, and how popular it is in India. When the kids heard the word “cricket”, they immediately associated it with the insect. We ended up using the book as a takeoff point to talk about the animals in India. I’m always so amused at how lessons can take such unexpected turns.

On China

If You Were Me and Lived In… China rounded out lessons with these books. Coincidentally, I was just cleaning out some drawers and found some mementos from earlier travels. I found a few coins and some refrigerator magnets that made for great visual aids when we read the book.

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The book on China was unique because it featured an actual picture of the Great Wall of China in addition to the usual illustrations. The kids were very curious about the wall so we spent some time learning more about it together.

I went to China when I was younger and even got to see one of the terracotta soldiers the book talked about. I told them it was a lot bigger than I expected. The kids were more invested in my story than they usually were. I suppose it’s because they had just read about it in a book, so it made it more magical.

On the Series

The books follow a general formula. It first introduces the physical aspect of the country, showing the shape of the country and its position on the earth. It shows a glimpse of everyday life, like the common names of people and what they eat. The books also mention famous landmarks, like the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal.

I like that the books include proper pronunciations of the words written in the local language of the country being discussed. It’s such a small detail, but I thought it was very respectful of the culture and also very considerate for the one reading.

It was also nice that the book discussed these countries in the modern setting, since most books I’ve encountered usually dwell too long on the history of the country. While the past is interesting, it’s also important for books to make the point that these countries have developed and modernized as well.

These books are a great addition to any library and I would definitely be looking into getting some more. They are quick reads but packed with sharp details that make each country come alive for kids.

Find Carole P. Roman on social media:

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homeschooling

Homeschool Review: The Art of Cursive

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This is my usual handwriting. I am a huge fan of cursive.

I went to school at a Catholic school that required us to learn a particular kind of penmanship. It’s so distinct that alumna of the school can spot each other just from our handwriting alone. Cursive was so important in my education — the teachers would not check your papers if you didn’t use the required handwriting — that I am floored to learn that some schools don’t even bother teaching penmanship anymore.

Fortunately, this kind of snub is not absolute. I was recently given the chance to view the CursiveLogic Online Seminar on how to teach cursive. My kids are lucky, because my idea of penmanship class is to have nuns hovering over me, barking out, “pointier, pointier!”

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The CursiveLogic Online Seminar is a 48-minute long video that teaches practical techniques on how to teach cursive to children,

This video by CursiveLogic is presented by Linda Shrewbury and goes through practical methods on how to teach penmanship to students. The video is a complement to the CursiveLogic Quick-Start Pack, which contains a 112-page workbook divided into 10 lessons. The company also offers the Art of Cursive, a book for older students who want to learn, or improve, their cursive handwriting.

 

The method makes use of a multi-sensory approach to teaching writing.

After watching the video, a big takeaway for me is that certain letters have similar ways of being written out. Using the CursiveLogic method, the letters are grouped by shape and connected by letter strings.

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The orange color is not a random. Color is used to help students remember the lesson.

For example, the letters A, C, and D have similar oval shapes. Teaching these letters as a group makes it easier for the child to grasp. It’s simple and logical and a complete eye-opening experience for me.

My kids are very young so we’re at the early stages of writing. H is working on improving accuracy and neatness while R is working on his grip. When teaching them, I’ve always introduced the letters sequentially following the alphabet. Now, I realize that there’s really no need to do it that way. It makes more sense to introduce by similar shape, even when working on print letters. Thanks to this video, I’ve restructured our lessons to make use of these logical groupings. Also, “over, back-trace” has become a staple chant around the house.

Another benefit to using this grouping system is that the kids are able to practice the same movement even when working on different letters. For instance, when they write “C”, they are following the same shape as “A”. They are using the same strokes and patterns. It works to reinforce knowledge. When they get better at writing one letter, they get better at both!

Another technique used by CursiveLogic is the use of multi-sensory tools like color, verbal, and movement to emphasize the lessons. For example, the video uses “over, back-trace” as a chant to help kids remember what to do. This is particularly helpful for younger children, who might find the repetitiveness of handwriting practice a chore.

I mainly use the Montessori method when teaching the kids. Interestingly, cursive letters are introduced first in Montessori. The reasoning behind this is that kids tend to scribble first. It’s more natural for them to use connected letters that use the spacing needed in print letters.

Using the techniques taught by CursiveLogic reinforces this idea that learning how to write should cater to how the mind processes things naturally. In many ways, CursiveLogic lives out the expectations set up by its name. It truly is logical. This smart, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that approach makes teaching penmanship much, much easier.

You can connect with CursiveLogic’s Facebook page here. In addition, if you are interested in trying out this method, CursiveLogic is offering a 20% discount on the CursiveLogic Quick-Start Pack this month. It features access to the webinar and one workbook. Please use the code CREW2018 upon checkout.

 

 

 

homeschooling

UltraKey Bytes of Learning Review

Since I am a writer, I am pretty fast at typing. But, I confess, I actually don’t type properly. My fingers are all over the place. When there was a chance to review UltraKey Online Family Subscription from Bytes of Learning, I was pretty pleased. Not for myself — I’m a dinosaur and set in my ways. I wanted H to be exposed to using the keyboard properly.

A few caveats before anything: first, H is only five. We used this program with the idea of exposure rather than mastery. Second, H is only five. We are still learning how to spell so typing is a definite challenge for her. Third, she’s only five.

On UltraKey Bytes of Learning

UltraKey Online Family Edition
Want to learn how to type better? Look no further than this product!

The program is a comprehensive lesson on using the keyboard properly. It covers the basics such as posture and finger positions to mastery exercises. There are 12 lessons in the program and primarily uses video to teach. The recommended starting age is eight, although it can be used by younger children, as in our case.

Bytes of Learning lets you set up an account with several users, making it available for different family members. Each user can customize the settings, such as being able to use the backspace function or how to move from one lesson to another.

 

On Our Positive Impressions

One of the best things that I liked about Bytes of Learning is that it is self-paced. This makes it more flexible, allowing my daughter to use it even though she’s about three years off the recommended age. That was really impressive to me — what I thought would be a disadvantage for her turned out to be a non-issue.

H was able to enjoy the program, even though she was not the intended audience. She was able to sit through and learn from the videos. The most specific example is the one of the first ones, which is the video on posture. H diligently followed, because the instructions were clear and concise. The graphics complemented the audio and that allowed her to see what she should do.

Another thing that I liked from Bytes of Learning is that the challenges has a logical progression. You first had to learn individual letters and then words, and then sentences. H was able to use the proper keystrokes for the letters and some words. Sentences were, not surprisingly too advanced for her. But gosh, I was so proud to see her even try.

There was another benefit to using Bytes of Learning that I didn’t anticipate. A lot of the activities or games had H copying words she saw on the screen. Since she was sounding it out as she was copying, H’s spelling and reading skills were practiced as well.

On The Graphics

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The interface is easy to use because of the clear icons. 

The graphics has a throwback feel to it. The colors shun the minimalist, subdued shades favored by recent trends. The smiling computer character also reminds me so much of Clippy, the helpful paper clip from the early version of Microsoft Word. By nature, I resist change to I was very much charmed by it.

But, aesthetics are only secondary to how effective the interface is. When it comes to that, I’m going to again emphasize that my daughter is — pop quiz! how old? — and she was able to navigate the program easily. The icons are front and center and easily identifiable. So easy that even a — one more time for the people in the back — five year old can handle it.

We did experience a few issues the first time we tried the product. The audio kept on repeating itself in some sections. We had to reload the page each time that happened to continue using the program. However, that only happened on one day so it could either have been problems with our internet (We’re from the Philippines. Ranked as having one of the slowest internet in Asia. Yay, us.) or a temporary glitch. It was a one-day thing so it’s hardly worth mentioning.

I would say that Bytes of Learning is a welcome addition to a family’s must-try educational sites. Even kids younger than the recommended age can benefit from it. Knowing how to use the keyboard properly is considered a basic skill, since almost everything is done using computers. Bytes of Learning is a straightforward, no-fuss way to develop or improve this skill.

Bytes of Learning on Social Media

Find their Facebook page here.

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homeschooling, parenting

Interactive Fun at PlayLab Cebu

Our family spent about two years living in Cebu because of my husband’s work. Although it’s been about four years since we moved back to Luzon, Cebu will always be close to our hearts.

We jump at the chance to visit whenever we can. Even H, who was barely three when we left, gets giddy with excitement. Cebu is still home to her.

Fortunately, we were able to make the trip recently. We stayed at Summit Hotel, a relatively new location for this established hotel chain. The hotel itself wasn’t anything special and it featured a disturbing trend — doorless bathrooms! Why? Although the shower and toilet stalls had cubicle doors, I would still rather have a real one than I can close behind me.

But, whatever weird taste the room design left in my mouth was negated by the fact that Summit was right beside PlayLab,  Touted as the first digital playground in the Philippines, it features 14 exhibits where children can use technology in interactive and creative ways.

The first thing you see when you enter is this giant screen with lights. The lights react to your movements. This must have entertained the kids for a whole hour.

In this activity, you transform into different animals. I think the animals are based off the animals in the Chinese calendar. H was obviously ticked at the thought of being an ox.

R is trying to target the trash with a ball. The trash is supposed to explode in a cloud of bubbles, but he wasn’t strong enough to throw it with enough force. He tried to remedy that to no avail. His frustration was palpable.

A lot of the exhibits had the same concept. Design something and then watch it on a screen. Here, we designed butterflies. They also had one where you can build tangram rockets and launch it into space. In another exhibit, you can scan pictures of animals you color and they run around a forest.

The was R scrambles to try to catch up with his sister cracks me up.

The kids obviously had a grand time. They liked it so much that we returned the following day. Although since that was a Saturday the place was packed. We didn’t get to enjoy the exhibits as much. Friendly advice: if you’re going to go, better go on a weekday when the crowds are more manageable.

PlayLab Cebu is open daily from 10am to 9pm at The Greens, Level 1, Robinsons Galleria Cebu. Entrance fees are P200 per person for two hours during weekdays and P250 per person for two hours on weekends.

 

 

homeschooling

Free Download: Nouns Worksheet

nounsI’m introducing the concept of nouns to H. Nothing too technical, since she’s only in Kindergarten. I’m basically just letting her identify which words refer to people, places, things, and ideas.

You can download the worksheet we used, if you like.

 

homeschooling

Review: SchoolhouseTeachers.com Yearly Membership

It’s always so hard to get back into the swing of things right after the holidays. Maybe it’s the overconsumption of Christmas cookies. Maybe it’s because I would rather revel in the Christmas cheer than go back to the daily grind.

Fortunately, I had something else to look forward to, so I didn’t feel too bad about the holidays ending. This week, I tried out what it is like to have a Yearly Membership from SchoolhouseTeachers.com which is the curriculum site of the The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Here is my review, if you would like to see.

On SchoolhouseTeachers.com

This site is a treasure trove for homeschoolers – it has over 350 course options over extensive subject matters. It has lessons on the major areas like math, science, and language arts as well as electives and other subjects like foreign languages.

High-quality, Self-paced, Online Homeschool Resources {SchoolhouseTeachers.com}

The site also offers a video library,  which offers videos to be streamed from Creation.com, Vision Video, RightNow Media, and many more. It provides access to World Book. This is a network library of resource eBooks that is categorized by library, grade, and subject.

SchoolhouseTeachers.com provides materials from pre-school to high school students. It also provides support to parents by providing training videos, resources, and scheduling tools.

The Just for Parents section is also noteworthy because it is a good reminder that homeschooling is supposed to be a family endeavor. The information is not limited to homeschooling-specific topics, but rather also has wisdom to offer on family relationships. The courses are as varied as “Finally Conquer Fractions” to “Making Marriage Last”.

On Our First Impressions

I am homeschooling a five-year old and to some extent a two-year old (he’s too young for formal lessons, but I keep him engaged as much as possible) so our focus is primarily on the subjects available in the Pre-K and K and the 1st grade categories.

The first thing I noticed about the site is how organized it is. You can browse by grade or by subject. You can also look at the Quick Links to see a snapshot of what the site has to offer.

This ease of navigation comes in handy because of the sheer volume of information the site has. I think it is the thing that stands between, “how thorough!” and “this is too much!” as a first impression. There are a lot of lessons crammed in here so having a roadmap that works ensures you don’t miss out on anything.

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Here are the available subjects in the 1st Grade category. I expected to see math, science, and the other usual subjects, but what a treat to see music and foreign languages as well.

On the Games

We’re at the tail end of the school year and already prepping for our final portfolio review, so I skipped past the main lessons. But, I did zero in on the activities that can supplement the lessons that we are already doing.

For us, one of the best features of the site is the Everyday Games. Made by Teresa Evans, a veteran teacher from Australia, these games were designed for children to learn. We used the math games and it helped without being too in your face about it. I guess you can liken in to adding grated carrots to your kid’s mac and cheese. It’s good for them without them realizing it.

You can choose a game depending on your goal. For example, we used the math games in our lessons. There were games for skip counting, telling time, addition. Simply go to the section you want and print it out. The instructions suggest laminating the printouts so it can be used again. It’s a thoughtful little suggestion.

According to Teresa, her educational motto is “keep it simple.” This shows in the way the games are constructed, which has instructions easy enough for kids to follow. The games we have used so far are done in the style of board games. Although the games require two or more players, they can be easily modified for a single player. In our case, I had H play against the clock. If she finishes answering before the timer runs out, she wins.

On the Bible Lessons

 Another topic that we got to explore were the Bible lessons. It was a pleasant surprise to learn that the choices aren’t just for the topics, but also the method of teaching. You can have the kids watch videos (it licensed Bedbug Bible Gang until July 2019) or print out a story and an accompanying worksheet.

Leading up to Christmas, I used the Birth of the King printables as an activity. I downloaded the teacher pack and was pleasantly surprised at how comprehensive it was. The pack contained the story from the Bible, activity sheets which included coloring pages, a maze, and a word hunt game. Interestingly, this section comes in different languages, including Tagalog, our local language. This really surprised me, since it is not a common language.  I will surely revisit this section not just for the Bible lessons, but also for her Tagalog.

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One big rule in the house is no screentime until school is done. H is a little unsure why I called her over to the computer during our lesson.
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Surprise! She got to watch an episode of the Bed Bug Bible Gang. Here she is dancing to the catchy intro song. This was the least blurry shot out of the lot. I guess it’s safe to say that she really liked it.

One little thing though: I thought I encountered what I thought was a dead link for the lessons under Adventures of Carlos Caterpillar. It turns out that licensing restrictions limit it to members in North America. It’s something to note for those outside the continent. But still, there are so many other lessons available I feel like it didn’t affect my options.

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Licensing issues can limit some access for those outside North America. But, I only encountered this once among the dozens of pages I visited so it just felt like a minor blip.

On What I Think

I may have already used the word “comprehensive” in this review, but there is no other word I can think of that can effectively summarize the SchoolhouseTeachers.com experience. Let me use it again. It is comprehensive. Very, very comprehensive.

You can easily plan your whole school year around the site. It makes it a practical choice. Yearly membership provides all the members of the family access to all the online classes available, including videos and references. It eliminates having to pay different subscription fees, which to me, makes it more cost-effective.

Access to the different levels is also very convenient. It’s not just that most homeschooling families usually have children enrolled at different levels, but also that each child usually develops differently in various areas.

For instance, H is more proficient at math, which allows us to teach her more advanced concepts than the ones required in kindergarten. But, her writing skills still need more work, so the Beginning Handwriting in Pre-K and Kindergarten activities are more appropriate for her.

Being able to choose lessons appropriate for different levels from one site made it easier and more expedient. I don’t need to hop from one site to another, searching for the appropriate activities and worksheets to get.

I highly recommend SchoolhouseTeachers.com. Getting the yearly membership is definitely worth the price. The activities are reliable and engaging. The content is also notably well-researched and presented in a clear, concise manner.

But I think in our experience, I especially see its value to new homeschooling families such as ours. One of the challenges I experienced with homeschooling is the amount of work it takes to plan a day.

I had to sort through the available materials, distill the data I found into understandable chunks, and think of how to present it in a fun and informative way. It’s a lot of work and can be quite overwhelming at times.

SchoolhouseTeachers.com basically holds your hand through this process because of the pick-and-choose, step-by-step way it presents the information. To me, this is priceless because it allows me to concentrate more on interacting with my children rather that spending most of my energy in the preparation. i just wish I had this site sooner!

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