Friday, May 10, 2019

Building Writing Skills ~~ A New TOS Review!!

We are huge fans of The Critical Thinking Co. and over the years have used many of their products. For this review we narrowed our choice down to the Building Writing Skills - Essential Tips and Techniques so that my eldest could work on some of those skills to help make her writing pieces better developed. It was supposed to be a digital product which we would have loved, but unfortunately my Chromebook is not compatible with the digital version. BUT the company is so great and they sent us a physical copy of the book! (Although this is not generally the case since this particular workbook is in the digital version only.)

Building Writing Skills does just that - builds a 6th - 12th grade students skills in writing so that they can sharpen their compositions by making writing more appealing and interesting to readers as well as clearly express their thoughts.  Throughout the workbook the students will cover vivid verbs, active and passive voice, adjectives, analogies, anagrams, nouns, qualifiers, alliteration, similes, metaphors, hyperbole, personification, onomatopoeia (a favorite of ours), and anthropomorphism. After this they will start working on complex and compound sentences, varying their sentence types and exploring different ways to start their sentences. The book also covers phrases and transition words, appositives, repetition and points of view.

These activities are split into multiple choice, fill in the blank, matching, crossword puzzles, as well as just rewriting sentences with the correct items that the student is working on for that activity. There are about 59 activity pages in the 84 page book. The answers for all the activities begin on page 72 and there is a 2 page sample activity for another of their other books at the very end.

My daughter has been doing about 1 activity page per week, sometimes 2 pages, but she was working mostly on the verb section and making them more vivid. Some of them were longer (like the crossword puzzle or when she had to rewrite the sentence with a more "vivid" verb that makes the sentences more interesting. This was very helpful while she's also been taking a writing class as a dual enrolled at the local community college. I believe she's read ahead in the workbook to learn some of the other areas since I think I've seen them in her papers I've edited for her class. That makes a mom happy! (Especially a mom who was an English major in college.)

Even though we had this as a book, it would generally come as an e-book. Then you could download the pages when they were needed or extras if your student needed more work on that particular writing skill. With the activities being just one page for most of them that will make it very easy to add onto your regular workload for the week helping to strengthen those writing skills yet still not overwhelming your student with too much work.

I believe you could also do this workbook out of order very easily. Since this was created for middle and high school students they probably will all know about nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and the like. This helps them make them stronger, interesting, and varied which leads to a more full and complete writing repertoire.

Each page has a small 'learning box' in grey which tells the student about the part of speech they are focusing on.

That is followed by instructions for the activity.

Next is the activity itself which is generally just one page. Some lessons have more pages to work on the concepts being taught so that they are truly cemented in their brains. And you really don't want them to work through this too quickly or they won't have time for the concepts to sink in!

I would highly recommend Building Writing Skills - Essential Tips and Techniques to anyone who has a student in middle or high school. It's an easy supplement to be added to their regular days work and will bring a lot of meat and content to their writing as they beging to add it in to their other work. You can also find The Critical ThinkingCo.  on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram, and YouTube. The company has also granted our readers this wonderful coupon for 15% off through the end of this year December 2019!

There are many other on the Crew who reviewed other products by The Critical Thinking Co. inculding math games, vocabulary,  critical thinking, and a few others so be sure to check them all out at the link below!

Critical Thinking, Math, Vocabulary & Writing Skills {The Critical Thinking Co. Reviews}

Friday, May 3, 2019 CLEP & DSST ~~ A New TOS Review!!

Since I have a high schooler, I have been looking for options that would help her meet her goals. She's been taking some dual enroll classes at a local technical school as well as doing our regular studies at home. So when we had an opportunity to receive a 3 month subscription to to check out their CLEP and DSST prep materials I thought this might be an opportunity for her to study a new language, like she's been wanting.

So what is CLEP and DSST prep materials exactly??

CLEP stands for College Level Examination Program. At there are 32 courses (subjects like College Algebra, Western Civ. I and II, Spanish Level I and II, Biology, and English Literature to name a few) that you can sign up for which include video lessons and prep tests to get you ready for taking the CLEP exam. This exam allows you to earn college credit in a faster way and at home. You do still have to pay to take the exam, but this might be a more financially economical way to afford college and you could take one class at a time to really focus on. You do also want to make sure that the college(s) you are looking at going to will accept the CLEP exam so that the credits you take will actually be added to their college transcript. The lessons are taught by an expert in the field and there is an "Ask the Expert" feature if you have questions about the material you are studying. You can work on this on any device that can attach to the Internet so that makes it easy to use even on the go!

DSST stands for DANTES Subject Standardized Test and was originiated by the United States Department of Defense as another way to get credits by examination tests. This once was just for military members and their families, but is now open to everyone. They offer 30 different exams that cover 6 differet subject areas - English, math, science, business, history, psychology, and health. Business Math, Ethics in America, and Technical Writing are a few of the courses available at Study.comDSST's are very similar to CLEP exams and really the difference is in your choices for the multiple choice questions as well as the amount of time you have to take the final exam. Once again, you really want to be sure that your school of choice will accept this type of test for credits so you don't waste time or money doing them. These are set up similarly with short video lessons followed by self assessments.

Both of these courses will take between 15 and 20 hours to complete which is certainly less time then a traditional college course. When we started this I asked Arianna what she may be interested in and of course she picked a new language. Since she had no prior interaction with Spanish I didn't think we would need to start with a placement test. I was not sure if she would be able to accomplish a brand new subject in just 3 months and she has not really gotten that far in, so we may have to add another month or so. That being said here is her Dashboard. You can see everything that's going on at a quick glance.
You can do the modules in any order, but she is working from the beginning. You will see your progression as you work through the chapters. You will also see your test or quiz scores.
Short Quiz
Graded instantly

You will also see the goals that you have for each week to be accomplished. At the bottom of each lesson you will see a full transcript of what is being taught to you in the video. This is great for your visual learners so they can read the lesson as well as watch or hear it.
Lesson Summary

Video lesson on Hay

Transcript of lesson on Hay

Then after each lesson there is a short quiz. At the end of each chapter there is a 30 question test.

One feature my daughter liked was the ability to take notes while watching the video. She could type them up and save them. They are also time stamped to where that note is from within the video so you can quickly find where that was if you need more review on that note.
Notes on the right hand side and time stamped so you can find them in the video.
Right now on the progress board it shows my daughter as being behind. Her other in class college dual enroll classes got her a little stressed and with the unexpected death in our family we spent more time travelling than we had anticipated. However, college classes are over next week and she will spend a bunch more time this month and next working on her Spanish so I have no fear that she will get a majority done in the 3 month subscription we have been granted by One thing I realized (after the fact) was that you could set up email reminders to help you stay on track. I will need to set those up so she gets regular emails. She has a tendency to forget or work on something longer then she really planned.

Because the courses are self-paced she can take as long or as little to complete the course. I knew that since she had no experience with Spanish it might take her a little longer, but she has had a good bit of Latin and has been working on French for a few months as well. Having that as a background I figured she'd catch on to Spanish in a flash. I expect she'll be doing more in the course now that her other required college classes will be complete and she can focus better.
Recent activity
I also think that the basic monthly fee of $39.99/month is not that bad if we have to pay for an extra month or two so that my daughter can get a language credit for college. That's a lot cheaper then a traditional college course. We will be looking at hopefully taking the CLEP exam for Spanish before the end of the year.

All in all I believe has been an asset for my daughter. It has allowed her to work on another language and start really prepping for college. I think that as a homeschooler CLEP and DSST are true assests in our aresnal as parents to help give our high schoolers a good foundation in college. And it can be a more financially economical way to get college credit before "going" to college.

You can find on Facebook and Twitter.  I hope that you also read how other Crew members also used in their homes by clicking the link below.

CLEP & DSST Exam Prep { Reviews}

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Worship Wednesday

I know that sometimes a song is more then a song. That's exactly what this song is for me. When I heard it come on the radio yesterady I almost just turned the music off. But instead I listened. I remembered. I wept. The words are true, sometimes we need HIM more than anything. We need the Healer. I'm glad that my dad is with HIM now.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Online Unit Studies by Techie Homeschool Mom ~~ A New TOS Review!!

If you know our family you know that we have used unit studies on and off throughout our entire homeschool journey. Online unit studies are a staple for us and we were pleased to be chosen to review a brand new company to us -- Techie Homeschool Mom. It was created by Beth Napoli, a homeschool mom like you and I, who wanted to teach homeschoolers about the tech world in a healthy way. We were blessed to review an online science based unit study with Solar System Online Unit Study.

So what is a unit study? And how can it possibly be done online? Well a unit study is a study into one topic or area that integrates multiple subjects  providing an in-depth and well-rounded dive into that subject. Through the ones available at Techie Homeschool Mom you will access online videos and websites as well as commenting with others who are also working on the same unit. This community provides an avenue of camaraderie that isn't always available to homeschoolers. And since the study is all online there is no need for outside books or worksheets that you will need to gather and print. However, you may have to collect some items to complete the hands-on projects within a unit. In my belief, these hands-on projects are what make the unit study come to life and be cemented in your students life forever.

The online unit studies created by Techie Homeschool Mom have been developed for children in late elementary through middle school age so that they can access them on their own and be able to navigate through the site along with the additional videos and links added within. Those younger could also use these unit studies, but would probably need a little help on the computer. The courses are self-paced so you can decide how long each unit will take. It was suggested that each module (there are about 7-9 in our Solar System Online Unit Study) would take about 2-3 hours. The older your student, the more capable they are in using a computer, and the length they engage in the projects will determine whether the time will be shorter or even longer.

One thing that I valued from the Solar System Online Unit Study we received was that once we have access to the course it is ours forever. And it can be accessed from multiple devices. That is a great value. There are several one module online unit studies (like Helen Keller and Easter) that are just $8. We received a longer unit called the Solar System Online Unit Study which has about 10 modules and costs $35. She even has bundles available as well.
Here is the Welcome Screen. On the left is the menu bar. On the top is the
 complete and continue bar which moves you from one section to the next. 
Once you login to your course there is an introductory module with some links to her Pinterest page and her Facebook page. She also has a group you can join just for more community. You literally just have to click the complete and continue bar after each section to move on in your course. If you want to jump around (which is totally up to you since it is self-paced and for your family to make as your own) you can just scroll down the course menu on the left hand side and click where you want to go next. Easy-peasy!
This is the layout of the course. The green bars on the right show what is ready to be started.

As I mentioned above we have been working through the Solar System Online Unit Study which includes learning about the solar system, Copernicus, Galileo, the sun, planets, gravity, and even comets, asteroids, and meteors. My son has greatly enjoyed this unit study and I am glad to know that we have accomplished a little more science in a fun and engaging way.

While discussing the beginning module he had to draw the solar system. There were plenty of examples and there was also included a chalk art tutorial, but how he did it was completely up to him. Here are some pictures of his progress and his finished project.
Just starting and watching the tutorial.
Working on the solar system.
Finished product!

Since he is in the 4th grade a few of the hands on projects are a little harder because they wanted him to create a data table. The good thing is that all the directions on HOW to create it were given to us step by step. We just hadn't had time to fully complete them since I had a family emergency that came smack dab in the middle of this review. He did tell me he read through the instructions and thought he could create it, so I think next week I'll let him have at it.

We are about half-way through the program, mostly to my family emergency, but one thing we are both looking forward to is completing the solar system model as the end of unit big project. There are so many ideas given on how to complete the model, but it is solely up to my son (or your student). I can't wait to see what he comes up with.
Watching a video where this guy is doing a "to scale" model of the solar system.
The planets were all lit up and this ball represents Neptune.
The planets are all orbiting.
One of his favorite parts of this unit was a few videos and a website we went to that showed how far away each of the planets are from the sun and each other. He still asks if he can view the website where he had to scroll and scroll and scroll to travel several million miles to go from the Sun all the way to Pluto (even though he's now not a planet, but might become one again soon)!!
It's just a speck!
See there's Pluto!

I know that we will be exploring more of the online unit studies that Techie Homeschool Mom has to offer. Others on the Crew were reviewing several other units including Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and Ancient Rome, Famous Artists Vol 1 and Vol 2, and Famous Inventors, along with the Solar System Online Unit Study, so be sure to check them out by clicking the link below. As well as finding Techie Homeschool Mom on Facebook and Pinterest you can also find them on Instagram, Twitter, and even YouTube. I'd love to hear from you if you do one of these studies so comment which one and what you loved most about it!

Solar, Ancients and Famous People Unit Studies {Techie Homeschool Mom Reviews}

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