Thursday, May 18, 2017

Homeschool Rescue from Only Passionate Curiosity: A TOS Crew Review

Only Passionate Curiosity Homeschool Rescue
Only Passionate Curiosity Homeschool Rescue

Homeschool Rescue from Only Passionate Curiosity

YEAH!  This is one for us...homeschool moms!  I've been enjoying the encouragement and inspiration in Homeschool Rescue from Only Passionate Curiosity.

Only Passionate Curiosity Homeschool RescueHomeschool Rescue is an online course that offers a treasure chest of homeschool how-to's for both new and seasoned homeschool parents.

 Author, Heather Aliano, has created a 5 lesson course that can be completed in 60 days,  just for us homeschooling moms.  By using videos, printable transcripts, audio downloads, and homework/workbooks (yes, moms do homework too!) many facets of the homeschool lifestyle are covered.  The course also offers lists of resources & useful links for further research.

I've been homeschooling for 15 years (yikes!) and I found many new gems in this program.  The video segments are broken down into 20 lessons, with a total of  over 5 hours of content!   I work online in the early mornings, and this was the perfect time for me to listen to these helpful lessons. The course is designed with assignments daily, and a helpful calendar is included to help you keep on schedule

The course is divided into 5 modules. Some of the topics covered include:

Only Passionate Curiosity Homeschool Rescue

I found so many things to appreciate in this program.  First, do you need a dose of encouragement? This is the right place to come for it!  Heather, a fellow homeschooling mom, really gets our needs, and she has filled this course with encouragement- the way we need it most.  Sometimes it was the quote she starts sessions off with, other times it was the gentle reminders,or even the "tough love" challenges that were exactly what I needed in this season!

The course is self-paced, but a unique feature is that this course is sold in "classes",  Registrations for the next class open for a couple of weeks at a time, they are currently open from now until May 31, 2017.  Then when sign ups end, the course will begin and run from June through July.  While you are working through the course, you get the support from other "classmates" via a Facebook group created just for you!  Your registration gives you lifetime access to the course and any future updates.

We had a blast in Module 3 - Planning and Curriculum.  Of course, curriculum is my favorite!  But, the homework of determining learning styles was fun for all of my students, and an invaluable tool for me as well.  The homework and extra resources are worth buying this program for alone!

Module 4 - Setting Your Students up for Success was particularly useful for me on a personal level. The main idea I took away from this course was a renewed commitment to "master the follow through".  After homeschooling for so many years, several bad habits have evolved that really need to be readdressed.  The follow through with ALL my students, not just my younger ones, was an encouraging message I really needed to hear!

Also, Module 5 - Teaching Older Students was perfect for my season.  Teaching high school is a huge task, and not many programs prepare us homeschool moms for what we are facing. Homeschool Rescue offered plenty of practical tips for this age group.

Thank you Heather for putting together a truly useful course for us!  Don't miss this one, summer is the perfect time to invest your time in this.

Find Only Passionate Curiosity on Social Media:


Hashtags: #hsreviews #homeschoolrescue

Only Passionate Curiosity Homeschool Rescue

Homeschool Rescue {Only Passionate Curiosity Reviews}

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Algebra for Breakfast: A TOS Crew Review

Algebra for Breakfast
Algebra for Breakfast

Algebra for Breakfast

Math is not our favorite subject. There, I've said it. Bentz Test Laboratory has been exploring an online program that is helping improve our attitude, it's called Algebra For Breakfast.
This is an online supplemental program features two levels, one for grades 3/4 and one for grades 5/6.  I have testers in EVERY single grade!  They have all been working through the lessons together.  We recieved a 6 month subscription
The author, Bob Hazen is also the teacher for the online videos.  The program uses online teaching (yeah - I don't have to) as well as printable worksheets for the lessons.  Manipulatives, like blocks and dice are a vital part of the methodology of this program.  We were able to easily use manipulatives we already owned, but sets are available.
The program is fairly easy to use.  Once logged in you can select the lessons your student wishes to work on.  I had testers in both levels, so it was nice that they could all log on under the same user name and password.  
Each level contains 50 lessons, some of the content is similar, but the levels are distinct.  Lessons are unlocked gradually over a period of time.
The lessons are short videos of Bob Hazen teaching to a class.  My testers did not really enjoy the videos, they found the other students distracting (one of the benefits of homeschooling).  In addition, there are videos directed to the parent as well.
My younger testers really preferred the games and manipulatives.  He offers suggestions for games to help improve skills that use blocks, dice and even number cards you can make to play various versions of "war".  Most of the information presented was completely new for them, so I'm sure it will pay off later as well.  One of the things they really enjoyed was the iTunes album of The Original Skip Count Kid’s Skip Count Songs (by James McGhee) recommended.  They listened to it over and over.

 I like that the program uses all our learning styles.

My older testers, the 5th and 6th graders had no problem jumping in and getting going.  They found the lessons short and worked quickly through the lessons. 
Overall, they enjoyed doing the worksheets, I was impressed by how much they knew!  They also liked the games best. Playing war with the number cards is a great way to cement negative and positive integers.  The dice had all of them improving math facts at the same time.
Overall, we thought this was a nice supplemental program that made Algebra not-so-scary.  It would be a perfect way to sneak in some math over the summer.

Find Algebra for Breakfast on Social Media:


Hashtags:  #hsreviews #mathsupplement #mathenrichment #algebrareinforcement
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Bob Hazen's Algebra Lessons {Algebra for Breakfast Reviews}

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Monday, May 8, 2017

My Son Got Married!

Just pretending... he got married in his play - Our Town. :-)

My actors have been busy again, this time with a production of Our Town by Thorton Wilder with their homeschool group.  It's a once a week class that has meet for the entire year working on this play.

I love this scene... my son is officiating the marriage of his younger brother,  I wonder how they kept straight faces?

This one made us all cry... he's on the grave of his now deceased wife.  What a powerful play this is!

I love all the lessons they learn in theater!

High School Essay Intensive from Institute for Excellence in Writing: A TOS Crew Review

Institute for Excellence in Writing
Institute for Excellence in Writing High School Essay Intensive

High School Essay Intensive from Institute for Excellence in Writing

If you have high school students, you know it's that time of year... time for the SAT and ACT tests.  The Bentz Test Laboratory has been preparing with the NEW 2nd edition of High School Essay Intensive from Institute for Excellence in Writing.

This course is designed for 9-12 grade students. It includes top-notch teaching from Andrew Pudewa (our FAVORITE writing instructor) on 5 DVDs. 

 The 6.5 hours of teaching on the DVD's cover the basics of essay writing as well as recently updated information and instruction for the new essay formats of the SAT and ACT tests. In addition, it includes 28 pages of printable notes for students to use while watching the DVD's. 
We also received a copy of the  NEW Portable Walls for the Essayist Folder, which is a very useful tool to remind your student of essay models, strategies, the writing process and transitional words and phrases, all in a handy folder. 

We are long-time fans of everything Institute for Excellence in Writing produces.  In fact, my college age son learned essay writing from the First Edition of this program.  Andrew Pudewa quotes sources that claim that the essay score on the SAT or ACT is one of the biggest determiners of college readiness and success. Learning how to write a solid essay can mean extra dollars in scholarships for potential college students as well.  It makes taking the time to teach these skills very worthwhile investment.

You can use all, or parts of the course according to your student needs. My testers are knee-deep in SAT/ACT testing, one of them is a Junior, and another a Sophomore.   Here's an outline of what is covered in the course:

Part 1A – General Strategies for Essay Writing: Length and Structure
  • Initial Exercise
  • A Hurt and Rescue Operation
  • What is an essay?
  • Two Questions Writers Need to Ask
  • Translating Assignment Length to Paragraphs
  • Types of Paragraph
  • The TRIAC Paragraph Model
  • Essay Models
Part 1B – General Strategies for Essay Writing: Invention and Style
  • Canons of Rhetoric
  • Invention
  • Practicing Common Topics of Invention
  • Practice with TRIAC Outline
  • Sentence Patterns
  • Literary Devices: Schemes and Tropes
  • Practice with Sentence Openers and Figures of Speech
Part 2 – Understanding and Preparing for the New ACT Essay
  • ACT General Guidelines
  • The Assignment
  • Strategies for Planning
  • Strategies for Writing
  • Strategies for Proofing
Part 3 – Understanding and Preparing for the Redesigned SAT Essay
  • General Guidelines
  • The Assignment
  • Annotating
  • Handy Annotation System
  • Annotating Practice
  • Strategies for Planning
  • Strategies for Writing
  • Using Effective Vocabulary
  • Strategies for Proofing
Part 4 – Strategies for the Personal Essay
  • General Guidelines
  • Sample Essay Prompts
  • Strategies for Planning: Pop out from the Crowd
  • Strategies for Writing, Editing, and Proofreading
  • A Not-So-Secret Secret
  • Final Practice
  • Concluding Comments
  • Last Bits of Advice for Life
The DVD's are very well done.  The picture and sound quality are excellent.  Andrew Pudewa is teaching a live class in the video.  My testers think Mr. Pudewa is hilarious, they really enjoy his sense of humor. These DVD's are designed to teach directly to the student. 

We watched Part Two and Part Three that covered the essays for the ACT and SAT.  Mr. Pudewa fully explains each test's scoring scale (we loved his description of the ACT - "a mystical algorithm") and expectations of the scorers. Some common things to avoid, like teenage slang and contractions. This was very insightful information for our test takers. He even offers suggestions for how to use to the time allowed for the essay portion of the test effectively - planning, writing, and proofreading. Some simple tips like these can make a big difference.

Mr. Pudewa writes on a white board as he teaches.  This is particularly helpful for my sons to see, hear, and take notes.  It's involving all of their learning styles, and I have found they remember so much more.

The two tests are different styles of essay writing, so it's good (in my opinion) to have your child try both to see which is a better fit for them.  The ACT is an argumentative essay and the SAT is an analytical essay.  Good news - this course teaches them what they need to know for both!

Mr. Pudewa recommends watching and then practicing their new found skills before taking the actual test.  My testers and I did several practice essays together after.  They are both planning on taking the tests this summer, and are A LOT more confident about the essay portion!

This is a must have resource for every high school student.  

Find Institute for Excellence in Writing on Social Media:

Twitter:  @IEW

Hashtags: #hsreviews #highschoolwriting #SATprep #ACTprep

See what other members of the Crew thought here

High School Essay Intensive {Institute for Excellence in Writing Reviews}

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Secret Bridge from Lamplighter Publishing: A TOS Crew Review

The Secret Bridge {Lamplighter Publishing Reviews}
The Secret Bridge {Lamplighter Publishing Reviews}
The Secret Bridge from Lamplighter Publishing

Getting lost in a good story is one of our favorite pastimes.  The Bentz Test Laboratory has fallen in love with our new find, a 118 year old story - The Secret Bridge from Lamplighter Publishing.  This book is recommended for ages 12 and up.
We have been long-time fans of Lamplighter Publishing. Their mission is to develop "Christlike character one story at a time."  Each and every story they publish has this goal in mind, all 142 of them.
Don't you love things that are beautiful... both inside and out? This book (and my tester) fit the description - beautiful inside and out.  The book is gorgeous, gilded with gold and engraved on the cover, it looks like a treasure.  But, the real treasure is inside the book.
The story captivated my 14 year old tester, who could not put it down.  This 261 page book tells the story of Bridget Channing's transformation from a poor orphan girl into a faith-filled Christian wife. 

Ultimately her transformation brings their feuding families back together in an inspiring story of reconciliation.  The rich vocabulary of this story sets it apart from other books aimed at this age group.  
Bridget's story is filled with surprises and suspense. Scripture is woven beautifully into the story as Bridget begins to "acquaint thyself with him".   
We love a story that can teach us without preaching.  This is a story that completely satisfies the reader and brings her closer to God at the same time.  My tester enjoyed getting to read a mysterious love story, that was completely age appropriate, hard to find these days!
My tester also enjoyed the quality of the book itself.  As Bridget and her beloved exchange letters, the font of the writing looks like actually writing.  "It makes the characters feel more personal".  I love to fill our shelves with beautiful books!
This is a well written story that will entertain and inspire your daughters!  I highly recommend this one.
Find Lamplighter Publishing on Social Media:

Twitter:  @lamplighterbook

Hashtags: #hsreviews #classicliterature #lamplighter

The Secret Bridge {Lamplighter Publishing Reviews}
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Entire Level I from ArtAchieve: A TOS Crew Review

Entire Level I from ArtAchieve

Bentz Test Laboratory has been having a blast making art with the Entire Level I from ArtAchieve!

ArtAchieve is an online program that teaches you child how to make beautiful art completely on their own!  I always "mean" to do art, but... it often falls off our day.  Finally, I've found a way my children can do the art they love, and I don't have to feel guilty!  

We have been creating with Entire Level I which includes projects from around the world.  They offer 5 different levels with increasing difficulty.  My testers are in 2nd and 3rd grade and they LOVE this program.  There ar 12 lessons in Level 1 - perfect for the beginning artist.  They include:
  1. Simple Lines
  2. Czech Cat
  3. Hungarian Insects
  4. The Haitian Gecko
  5. The Dragonfly From Ecuador
  6. The Chinese Dragon
  7. The Owl From Bali
  8. The Kitenge Tree Wall Hanging from Tanzania
  9. The Plate From Nepal
  10. Four Suns with Four Faces
  11. The Sheep From Wales
  12. The Umbrella From Thailand

Each lesson includes a video or Powerpoint explanation of the project to be completed with detailed, step-by-step instructions. 

Printable "warm up" sheets are included to get your child's hands and focus ready to create. A finished picture is also available to print out, if you child likes to see what it's going to look like.  Additionally,  they recommend music to be played to help set the tone for the lesson (or silence works too!)  

The program encourages them to relax and "draw for themselves" and not just for the teacher.  This is an important point if you have "perfectionist" children (like me) that get easily frustrated if they aren't pleased right away.  

The supplies needed are very basic for this level, paper, pencil, markers, oil pastels, and watercolors.  We had all the supplies on-hand from all of my "good intentions".  There was no prep work for me!  Just turn on the computer, log on and let them go.

My testers tried the video and the Powerpoint, but found they liked the Powerpoints better because they could control how fast they worked.

Each lesson not only includes a great art project, but tons of fascinating information from around the world. They got to learn about the world, and make a great projet. 

This was an EXCELLENT addition to our geography studies this year.

My testers begged to do this program.  Here's a sampling of what they created:

Four Suns with Four Faces

The Sheep From Wales

The Owl From Bali - they learned alot about "warm" and "cool" colors!

The Kitenge Tree Wall Hanging from Tanzania

The Chinese Dragon - one of their favorite's!

The Dragonfly From Ecuador

The Haitian Gecko

Hungarian Insects

We LOVE this program.  It's so easy to use, and my students loved what they created.  You will want to check this out - they offer 5 free lessons .  Check them out!


Find ArtAchieve on Social Media:

Facebook:   @ArtAchieve
Instagram:   @johnahofland
Twitter:   @ArtAchieve
Pinterest:   artachieve

Hashtags: #hsreviews  #artachieve, #artlessonsforkids, #homeschool #artclassesforkids, #drawinglessonsforkids

See what other members of the Crew thought here

Art Lessons Inspired From Around the World {ArtAchieve Reviews}

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