Learning a language at any age

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This year we were on the hunt for a Spanish program for Evan.  It is his last year in school and all he really “needs” to graduate is a Foreign Language Credit.  Understandably I was very excited to be chosen to review The Easy Spanish Level I and use it for our Spanish Curriculum this year.

I remember my own High School Spanish class as being a bunch of exercises and sentences, conjugation of verbs that I could never remember, and a whole lot of “what did she say?”  Never learning to think in the language, I only learned to spit back the information for tests….  and as a result I never felt like I retained very much.

Fast forward 20+ years… and I was in the middle of Mexico City, Mexico….  Immersed in the language, and very quickly I began to learn…. as it was a matter of survival.  That experience cemented the importance of immersion for me.  I knew if I wanted my children to learn a language they needed to be able to think in this new language.  Just spitting back facts wasn’t going to cut it.

Great Commission Languages - Spanish Level 1

For our review, we primarily used The Easy Spanish! Level I with Evan, a High School senior and very independent learner.  I would make copies of the work text for him to carry in a three ring binder, and he would work on his Spanish before his Radio Broadcasting Class.  I chose to do this because I want to use the book again with my other three children, and I didn’t really want it traveling around the countryside in a teenage boy’s backpack Smile.  I also copied and laminated the flashcards from the back of the book to make them more durable to use with 4 children.

In the beginning he thought the first few parts of the lesson were “a bit young” but as he progressed, and worked through the Independent Learner and Charlotte Mason Activities, he began to see were the real work was.  This course is designed to be used at any grade level.  There are lesson plans for younger children Grades 3-6, for Middle School, as well as for the High School child or adult wishing to learn a new language.  The curriculum is geared to help you begin to think in another language.

For example, you are not given a list of sentences already written in Spanish to copy and learn.  With The Easy Spanish! curriculum you are given a small amount of information such as a verb and a condition, and told to write sentences to describe them.  Your brain has to think in Spanish to come up with them.  The Independent Learner section encourages you to begin a journal, even if it is only a few sentences.  Evan said that this was hard, but it helped him learn the words better.

Each lesson starts by listening to a dialogue on CD. It is recommended that this be done daily.  It is important to be able to hear the language pronounced correctly, especially when a parent does not have the experience of a native speaker.  The text provides

It was great to have a learning template or lesson plan already scheduled for us.  My son could easily look at it and know what portion of the lesson that he needed to work on for that week.

If you teach with Charlotte Mason methods, or even with a more Classical approach, this curriculum would be the one to choose.  You will find none of the rote methods of filling in the blanks here.  Great Commission Languages seeks immerse you in the language so you can embrace it.

The Easy Spanish! is available for $139.95.  This includes a workbook and 2 CD’s.  One of the CD’s is enhanced and when placed in your computer allows you to print out additional copies of some of the templates in the book, as well as notebooking pages for each lesson.  Overall, I found The Easy Spanish! easy to use as a parent,  my son found it easy to use and was able to work at his own pace.  I am excited to start it with my younger two children, and my daughter is itching to start on it next week. Smile  I would say that it is a hit with this family and our learning styles.

Great Commission Languages also has a Junior Spanish, The Easy French! and many more products to help you learn available at their website.  Please take the time to visit them.

TOS Homeschool Crew members reviewed both the Spanish and French language programs produced by Great Commission Languages.  Please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog to see what other families experiences with these products.

***disclaimer*** We were giving a copy of The Easy Spanish! Level I for free for the sole purpose of this review.  No other compensation has been received.  All of the opinions above are those of the family members that participated in this review.

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Math, it’s a Mammoth responsibility

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Talk to any homeschool parent, from the ones just staring out to the seasoned veterans and I bet nearly everyone of them has stressed out over what math curriculum to use.  There are only seven billion choices….  all of them touting themselves as the latest and greatest, as if they have reinvented the wheel.

Have you noticed that Math is one of those guilt inducing subjects to teach?  You always wonder if the kids are learning all they need.  You can fret over the completeness of the curriculum.  Then factor in your own feelings of parental inadequacy based upon your own experiences with the subject. Wow, it is a wonder we ever get past addition sometimes!  If this is you and some days I admit that it is me…may I encourage you for a moment?  Take it slow.  Math is one of those things it is best to take your time on.  You need to work consistently on it each day.  Work with a goal of mastery, not just getting through a book in a certain year.  Not understanding something is not a sign of failure, it just means you have work to do.  Let’s stop beating ourselves up over it!

Life, and many years of homeschooling has taught me two things about math.  Flashy expensive curriculums are not always all they are cracked up to be, take reviews from fellow homeschoolers into consideration, and buy from people who love math.  Ok, that was three things….. but who is counting.  Maybe I need math more than the kids do… Smile

As a TOS reviewer, we communicate and coordinate things through a forum, it is our version of a virtual water cooler.  We can ask questions, encourage one another, and sometimes vent.  When Math Mammoth came up for review the discussion went into hyper-drive.  The creator of Math Mammoth, Maria Miller, was giving TOS Crew Members unprecedented access to her curriculum.  She said to us…  “I have many products and I want you to use a product that is going to help YOUR family.  So come, look, talk to me, and we will choose a product that will best meet your needs.”  I went to her site and we tested. Some parents emailed her directly and explained their family math situation and Maria recommended a curriculum for them.  The discussion around the water cooler about Maria and the time she was taking to talk to people, highlighted her commitment to providing caring customer service.

Hunter is in the 4th grade and when I went to her site and printed off a test to see if he was ready for Math Mammoth’s Math 4A, I found out just how much we needed to learn.  So rather than push him through, I decided that we would back up and work on Math 3A and 3B.  This flexibility is one of the major reasons that we chose to homeschool.  I desire my children to have understanding of their subjects not just spend a few minutes on something and then fly on to a new concept.  If we don’t get it, we work on it till we do.  Take a look at what Math 3A and 3B cover. 

3A 1             3B

 

Alright, lets get to the curriculum itself.  It is mastery based.  Short on topics per year, long on covering each one.

I like it.  I really, really, like it.  I wish we had started with it from Kindergarten/First Grade, and for Jeremiah, next year that is what I will do.  I am also extremely glad we went BACK to grade 3 math.  Math Mammoth introduced a new way of thinking about grouping things; there is a high emphasis on mental math.  This new way of grouping makes addition and subtraction so much quicker and easier. Hunter is having to think differently to answer some of the questions… but he is progressing very nicely as we worked through Chapter 1 of Book 3-A.

Ever wonder why they order math the way they do in some books? I know I have wondered why they do things in a certain order….there are times it doesn’t seem to make any logical sense as you progress through a book.      Well, with this curriculum you don’t have to cover it in order.   It is suggested that you introduce multiplication before division, but other than that, you can proceed through the lessons as you wish.  I find that mixing up the learning of multiplication with other math concepts gives Hunter’s brain a chance to process and retain facts. So we will be jumping around the books all year.  I like that there are more than two pages of work when a new concept is introduced.  This coupled with the worksheet maker should really help cement those facts and concepts into the brain!  Take a look at these sample pages.

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3b work1

3bwork2

Math Mammoth’s complete 3rd grade curriculum (Light Blue)  is available in three different formats.  Workbooks, that are available for purchase through Lulu or Rainbow Resources and with tests and answer keys it would come to $54.80.  Next you can purchase a CD-ROM through Kagi, and it has the additional features of a worksheet maker and a SoftPak, which is a 7 program tool to help your child with math, language arts and testing, all for $39.00.  The curriculum is also available for Download for $34.00, and that is the version I used. It really is quite affordable.

Both texts, worksheet maker, answer keys, cumulative review, tests, and the SoftPak, all arrived instantly and are hanging out on my external hard drive. I print a chapter at a time, a few worksheets that will help with some new skills, and the chapter test.  I print everything double sided to save some paper and then I place it all in a three ring binder.  Hunter can write directly on the pages, and I can have the answer key up on the computer to help if we need it. I actually prefer this format to a traditional bound workbook.  I just can take the pages out of the binder that we are working on and they lay nice and flat on the table, no more writing in humpy, floppy workbooks.

*****Math Mammoth has just announced that their PDF download versions are now equipped with annotation. So printing no longer is a must.*****

I can not possibly fit all of the products that Math Mammoth provides into this review.  So please take the time to visit their website,

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I am sure that you will find many products available to teach your child math and stay well within your budget.

Visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew Page to see what other products were reviewed by Math Mammoth.

******disclaimer******* Members of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew were given a product of their choice, free of charge, from Math Mammoth, for the purpose of this review.  No other compensation has been received.  All of the above opinions are my own.

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have them typing in an hour?

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Keyboard Town Pals is a web based typing curriculum marketed for children ages 7-10 or those in the 2nd through the 5th grades.  It provides a unique way of associating the letters on the keyboard with something more visual, and in the case of this program, it is puppets.  Their claim to fame is that their program will be able to teach a child how to type in one hour.

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Hunter is (or was) a hunt and peck typist.  For me a not needing to look at the keyboard and still type really fast sort of mom…. it was nerve wracking to watch him type.  When the opportunity to review a product that would teach him correct finger placement while appealing to his visual learning style became available; I was all for it.

Upon first impression, the puppets were a bit child-ish for my nine going on sixteen year old.  He sort of shot me one of those  “Really mom??” looks when we logged in. But over time, he warmed to their quirky ways. 

Next, some of the letters and puppets use sound cues vs. spelling cues such as: Emma for the letter M, Why for the letter Y, and You for the letter U ….  to help lock the letters into a child’s memory.  These difference in cues is clearly stated by the lead puppet.  However, for those who already have issues with spelling things phonetically, as Hunter does, it was a distraction.

In Lesson 5 we meet Emma, Nina, Helen and Jane.  These are not nice puppets.  Their conversation about a “new girl”, how they don’t want to include her, and they go on to list her faults, was probably the single biggest turn off for me as a parent.  I overheard this lesson as I was doing dishes, and Hunter was working on the program nearby. I stopped dead in my tracks and turned off the water, asking Hunter if those girls were just as mean as I thought I had heard.  He told me “Oh yeah mom, they were bad.” The poor behavior is addressed later by another puppet….. and they do show displeasure for the choice of words….  But I am just at a loss as to why poor behavior needed to be modeled by the puppets in the first place.  Surely there could have been other ways to introduce the letters J, H, M, N, U and Y, without resorting to neener- neener- neener type name calling.  

Conversely, my 4 year old absolutely adored the puppets.( I would distract him in another room during lesson 5.)  He would just love to sit and watch the show while his brother typed. If his hands were a bit bigger I would have let him practice on his own.  Even with my personality conflict with the puppets, they do what they are intended to do.  They associate the keys of a keyboard with visual clues and help a child remember where the letters are.

I have not seen Hunter sit at the computer and hunt and peck at the keys, since beginning this program.  His hands are on home key street and he moves the appropriate fingers to the appropriate keys. He was able to quickly complete all of the 8 lessons that the program provides.  He would often work through all 8 in a day.  There was no gnashing of teeth or threatening needed to have him practice.  He willingly and eagerly practiced every time I asked.  So much so that he became a bit bored and wanted more to practice.  The program has a virtual journal that you are supposed to use for more practice, but it was really just a PDF file of the text from the puppet portion.  I think he would have enjoyed some additional practice with more variety.

795         796

I was asked to review Keyboard Town Pals  Web Based version and given one month of access.  Since my child was hungry for additional practice that the program did not provide, I have trouble recommending the price of $39.95 for a one year membership, as a great value for homeschooling families.  Perhaps if it were broken into quarterly subscriptions with a smaller price tag; I could see the value.  My child would have been bored with a whole year of the same 8 lessons and while I understand that repetition brings mastery, a bit more variety for the older student is needed.

Keyboard Town Pals also is available in a CD ROM version for $39.95 and the company also has a typing readiness program available for Little Hands.

While our family will not purchase a subscription or continue to use this product; I am grateful for the experience of reviewing it.  Hunter did learn how to type correctly, and he did learn it in about an hour. 

Ours was not the only family to receive and review Keyboard Town Pals.  Please stop by the TOS Homeschool Crew page and read about how it was used in 100 homes across the world.

 
 
*****disclaimer*****

as previously stated, we received one month of free access to the Keyboard Town Pals web based program free of charge, solely for the purpose of this review.  No other compensation has been received.  All of the above opinions are based on our usage of this program with in a homeschool environment. Thank you KTP for allowing us to review your product.

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Expanding upon the reading of great literature

Over here we homeschool in a pretty eclectic fashion.  Lots of reading, loosely following the Charlotte Mason style.

One thing I struggled with; knowing that I have needed to improve, was our study of literature.  We read and talk about the books, but I am not so good at creating writing assignments, nor have the older kids been the best at completing them. We are a very well read family, but it just felt like there was something missing…… I just kept thinking back to my own public high school classes and feeling like I was missing the mark somehow.

I am now pleased to tell you……. I have found the answer.  Excellence in Literature by Janice Campbell is that “thing” I have been looking for to tie it all together.  It is one of many great tools available from Everyday Education.

I received this book as a download and it has been a blessing to have it in that format.  It can be read on a laptop in the living room, on a Kindle in the bedroom, and on the computer in the kitchen for reference.  I also printed it out double sided and placed it in a three ring binder so my oldest could take it with him to his Radio Broadcast class and work on it in his down time.

Created to be used with Jr.High through High School students and as a College Preparatory class, EIL begins at the beginning.  The first twenty-eight pages cover a variety of topics; from the introduction to the chapter on How to Read a Book, Excellence in Literature presents a concise list of objectives that will help put any anxious high school parent at ease.  The goal is to facilitate independent learning in the last years of school so that the student is well prepared for most anything they will come across in College.

It includes great guidelines to help parents with evaluating the written product of their students; along with many additional resources to enrich the reading of the book.  There is also an Honors course built right in, and they say that you should be able to CLEP any one of the following tests to earn college credit: Freshman Composition, English Composition with Essay, or the Analyzing and Interpreting Literature.

We worked our way through Unit 2 which covered the book, Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne.  We have enjoyed the links provided to enrich the book reading experience and are waiting for our reserved copy of the movie to arrive at the library so we can wrap up the lesson.  At the end of this week we will have finished a very nice 500+ word essay regarding Passepartout and his antics. (I am trying to talk my son into letting me post his essay when he has finished it…..  )

Overall, we enjoyed the schedule, layout and assignment suggestions that were provided.  There was no hemming and hawing from Evan (my Senior in High School and chief tester for this review) just here is the assignment and here is when it is done.  He felt independent, and I didn’t have to plan or prepare much.

This curriculum is very reasonably priced at $27.00 for the downloadable version and $33.95 (including shipping) for the print version.  Nearly every book on the reading list can be found at a library, or via a Kindle public domain copy, making the curriculum even more appealing to those who homeschool on a budget.

I was very pleased with the product and I intend to use it with my younger children as they go through the Jr. and Sr. High grades.

Please stop by Everyday Education and view their many other resources.  There are five volumes of Excellence in Literature available. I am confident you will find something that you can implement in the Junior and Senior High School years with your family.

Several other families reviewed this curriculum.  Please take the time to visit their blogs and see how it worked for them.  You can find a link over at the TOS Homeschool Crew page.

 

******disclaimer******

Everyday Education provided the selected members of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew with a complimentary copy of their curriculum, Excellence in Literature.  It was provided for the purpose of this review.  No other compensation has been received.  All of the above opinions are our own and we are not obligated to furnish only a positive review.  If the product was not a fit for our family, we will be sure to let you know.

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Paper Flower Craft

In response to a request for this particular craft…Here it is…

I found this craft in a book called “175 Amazing Nature Experiments” by Rosie Harlow and Gareth Morgan published by Random House ISBN 0679820434
The book is full of great hands on activities for science for ages 2 and up. Even my oldest children still like to do activities from this book. If your library has it, or you can find a copy to buy, I highly recommend it.

My only suggestion is to use a very wide straw… when we made it we used thin bendy straws… and had to tape the petals to the outer part of the straw, because they didn’t fit inside… other than that… it was a blast, and very educational. My son still sees flowers in the store, and will start naming off parts.

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