Tuesday, April 28, 2015

No Fear Biology!

Have you ever heard you "can't" teach high school sciences at home?  Well, don't listen to them... it's more fun at home!

Dissections for example...  with a couple of specimens and tools - you're ready to go.  Plus, you don't have to share with lab partners, you get them all to yourself!  No scalpel happy friends dicing it up before you're ready.

YouTube has plenty of excellent videos to guide you step by step through the process.  And, you can pause when you want to.
Of course, my favorite part of HS science class was goofing off... and you can do that better at home too!  However, hiding crayfish parts in siblings beds is "off limits" :-)

Home Science Tools sells great, affordable kits - you can dissect just about anything - we did a worm, fish, frog and crayfish.  We got to see all the amazing internal structures, took our time exploring and cleaned it up fast. 

I haven't had this much fun...ever!  No more fear!!

Modern Milestones from Spelling You See : A TOS Crew Review

Spelling You See Review
Spelling You See Review
Spelling You See ReviewSpelling You See Review
Spel...Sepll...Speling...SPELLING!  How many attempts does a homeschool teacher have to take at getting this correct?  I'm at the end of my rope...

If you can relate, Bentz Test Laboratory has a lifeline for you - Spelling You See from Demme Learning (makers of Math U See) -  will blow a brand new breath-of-fresh air on spelling instruction!

Many popular programs approach spelling with long lists of rules, or longer lists of words to memorize followed by a dreaded weekly spelling test.  Not Spelling You See - This program is a one-of-a-kind, innovative and effective way to teach spelling IN CONTEXT.  Plus - it's fun for your student, really.

By placing your child in a level that matches their language development (no grade levels here) your child will start learning spelling in a natural way, that appeals to many learning styles.  The Bentz Test Laboratory tester was placed in the Modern Milestones (Level G).  This is one of 2 newly designed levels.  Levels are available for all stages in language development - you can check out a more detailed description of their Five Developmental Stages of Spelling as well as download some Readiness Guides to find the proper place for your student.

Modern Milestones is designed for students in the Word Extension stage of spelling.  My tester was working with base words, suffixes & prefixes, nouns & plurals, Past tense, doubling final consonants , and the one-on-one rule during this review period.  It goes on to work with word endings like -ous, -ation, -ion, science words and more with base words. 

The Modern Milestones set includes: Instructor Guide, two Student Workbooks plus erasable colored pencils for marking.  36 Lessons feature passages used for copywork, dictation, and exercises that focus on interesting people like artists (Jan van Eyck, Botticelli) inventors (Gutenberg, Da Vinci), composers (Amati, Bach) , scientists (Bacon, Kepler), authors (Shakespeare, Crevantes) and many other fascinating characters who have influenced the world in modern time periods.  It's a great companion to history studies too!


Designed to be completed in 5 short daily lessons, it is a full year of instruction.

My student, who is in 6th grade, was able to work completely independently, except for the weekly dictation from me.  I must admit that teacher-intensive spelling programs are the death of spelling around here...who has time for that? Not me!

By using repetition and exposure to the written passage - this program makes spelling make sense. Spelling is developed in context, and much more naturally than memorizing rules and lists. The student carefully reads and marks the passage -called "chunking", copies the passage (great for your handwriting practice as well) and uses it in other activities (like fill-in-the-blank).  Finally, they complete a dictation exercise to show what has been learned.

 No weekly tests!  My tester loved that instead of  "# of errors", she was marked " # of words spelled correctly" -  I love that this new level included a word count for me in the Instructor Guide as well. 

This particular tester is truly a terrible speller.  After many attempts with rules based programs, I had just about given up...determined she may just be "one of those people who can't spell".  Spelling You See has really changed my mind!  I am seeing HUGE leaps of improvement in her spelling AND in her writing skills.  Spelling is a dreaded subject anymore.  One of the easiest to use and most effective programs ever, it get two thumbs up!!

If you have had it with spelling, Please give Spelling You See a try...

Find Spelling You See on Social Media

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SpellingYouSee
G+: https://plus.google.com/+SpellingYouSeePage/posts
Twitter: http://twitter.com/SpellingYouSee
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/SpellingYouSee/

Some other Crew Members reviewed - Ancient Achievements (level F).

See what other members of the Crew thought here
Spelling You See Review
Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Early Elementary K-3, Book 3: Modern Painting and Sculpture from ARTistic Pursuits : A TOS Crew Review

ARTistic Pursuits Review
Art.  Can you hear the hyperventilating of homeschool moms everywhere?  This subject strikes fear and trembling into some of us... the idea of brushes, paper, and **gasping** PAINT can make the most devoted homeschool teacher cower in the corner!

Okay,  maybe I'm being a tad overdramatic...but, ART is a subject that frequently makes me sweat.  How am I going to teach something that I am so "personally challenged" in?

Thankfully, ARTistic Pursuits is here to rescue us.  They produce full art curriculum for grades K-12 (start breathing again...)  I am a LONG time fan of this company and have used many of their books over the years with the testers at Bentz Test Laboratory.  They make it so easy to teach quality art, that even those of us in corner can come out and play :-)

Our newest art adventure is from Early Elementary K-3, Book 3: Modern Painting and Sculpture.  This book covers 36 projects which will introduce the artists, styles and mediums from Impressionist to Modern Eras.  Different mediums are practiced, including painting and sculpture .  These books are thoughtfully designed to teach your child to observe, think critically, and create. 

The lessons are clearly outlined with necessary materials & pictures to guide you through the process.  One of my favorite parts of this curriculum is the information about the artist's time and perspective.  Questions to help you guide your student into observing critically are included as well. My testers are much more likely to look at art in a deeper way after working in these books. 

This books covers greats like Monet, Renoir, Cassat, Seurat, Van Gogh.  After spending time with the Impressionists - they move on to more modern art movements like Cubism, Assemblage, Abstract, Realism and even Computer Art.

They recommend scheduling one lesson a week, and completing the full book over the course of one year. Throughout the book you will find children's book and video suggestions to add to your art studies.

I have found that just leaving this book in an available location can result in children getting interested in creating art on their own!

Here's a couple of projects we worked on... rather than opening and beginning with Lesson 1, I decided to let them pick a few projects that caught their fancy to start with.

First - we read some information and history on the artist.  Then,  I took a deep breath - and gave them paints...

It wasn't even that scary, and the book inspired me to "go off plan" and have them create a color wheel in the "points" style too!  Hey,  maybe this art thing's not that bad after all... plus, we're having fun!

Watch out Seraut, there's some new kids in town!

 That went so well, we decided to try a new technique - Assemblage.   With step-by-step instructions and some creativity - we were creating our own 3-D art.  I love that many of the materials are common household "odds and ends" and not only expensive art supplies.  You can buy supplies directly from Artistic Pursuits as well. 



Giraffes, dinosaurs and A TEXAS Long-horn... of course!

 Remember, I said if you left this book out...  My middle schooler found it and decided to create on her own project, completely independently. 


You don't need to be afraid of teaching art any longer.  If we can do it (with the help of ARTistic Pursuits) you can too! We're all proud of what we created, and I even had fun :-)
Other great books from ARTistic Pursuits you may want to check out:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Orphs of the Woodlands by Star Toaster: A TOS Crew Review

Star Toaster Review
 Orphs of the Woodlands from Star Toaster is an online book, designed for kids in Grade 4 and above, which offers you much more than reading and phonics. It is “an educational journey that combines a reading adventure, an academic treasure, and a rewarding game”.

In this extremely well done program - you student gets to enter into an adventure to save the "Orphs of the Woodlands" - aka - orphaned creatures.  While on this reading adventure, they also complete activities in a variety of subjects like: math, science, vocabulary, Latin, Arts, famous quotes, music, and even cooking & recipe ideas.  This program is completely filled with learning activities, and character lessons - but, they make it all look like pure fun!

The Bentz Test Laboratory was a bit skeptical when I told them I had another "online reading program" for them to test.  But, one peek at Orphs of the Woodlands - and they were hooked.  They keep begging for more time!   The graphics are amazing, the storyline keeps you on the edge of your seat, and the activities woven seamlessly throughout don't even feel like "learning"!

In this story- The Treasure of Hightower , each of my testers completed their own "application" to become a spy and defender to the Orphs (helpless woodland orphan creatures - that will not survive without YOU!).  Each of my testers designed and named their main character - including character traits they posses..  My testers LOVED that while each of them were doing this program (up to three children) and they each had individual characters!

Over the course of 15 chapters, which your child reads independently (ideal for grades 4-7), they are taken on an adventure. Once the story has drawn them in, they get to complete activities which earn them "gold stars".  These are the currency of the Woodlands, and can be used to purchase the supplies the Orphs need to survive and thrive. 

The reader is instantly drawn into the story as a vital, providing character. My testers loved that the program remembers where you left off, and returns you to the exact spot next time you get some computer privileges from mom. (Take if from me, Mom - you will want to grant these with this program!)

Star Toaster Review
My testers appreciated that this program was teaching higher level concepts...not just the beginner level.  The vocabulary alone makes it worth getting!  Being the rescuer of the Orphs was a HUGE incentive to them as well.  Great character lessons are woven throughout the adventure.

Easy-to-create parent accounts allow you to keep track of your students progress.  Progress emails are also used to update you on what your child is working on.  This is a beautifully done program - the graphics, the design, and the story are some of the best I've encountered!

With summer break right around the corner, this is the perfect way to keep them learning - but, shhh - don't tell them... They will think this is for fun ;-) 

Go ahead and check out their FREE Trial of the first 100 pages of the book, plus more than 50 lessons.

One of our favorites by far - my testers keep begging for more!  Good news - the next edition is already in development, my testers are not-so-patiently waiting!!
Don't miss out on this one, it's a real keeper!
Star Toaster Review
See what other members of the Crew thought here
Star Toaster Review
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

I'm in LOVE!!

This is going to be a "less wordy" post... because - the pictures will do the talking!

Meet our newest additions - Marco (who turns out to be a "she") and Cleo....

For the love, I actually had to register as an "official" - Pet Rescue Foster Mom to bring these two fuzzballs home.  Now, the kids are hoping we can continue this crazy and foster more kittens... Not sure that my dear hubby will give in.  We did talk him into 2 kittens though :-)

Best entertainment in town!  They play hard, sleep hard and purr like crazy... We're all in love!
Shhh... don't tell him - I have proof!