Monday, April 21, 2014

Learning About Simple Machines

Emily is continuing to have fun learning with Supercharged Science. She’s currently in the Energy 1 Unit, learning about pulleys and levers and actually spent most of last Saturday morning working on experiments without being told to!


Philosophy Adventure (Schoolhouse Review)

Philosophy Adventure

Age Range: Grades 6-12

Price:   Ranges from $39.95 for digital download to $89.95 for print book set with resource cd.






Philosophy Adventure , published by Home School Adventure Co., is a homeschool philosophy curriculum that teaches logic, critical thinking, creative writing,  and public speaking while studying the lives and teachings of 8 Pre-Socratic Greek philosophers. The set includes a student reader, a workbook, and a teacher guide.

The program covers 8 philosophers:

  1. Thales
  2. Pythagoras
  3. Xenophanes
  4. Heraclitus
  5. Parmenides
  6. Empedocles
  7. Protagoras
  8. Democritus

Each of the eight chapters includes about six pages that teach about each philosopher’s life, what was happening in the world around him, what ideas he had about the world, and how he was influenced by others and how his ideas influenced others. Also included in each chapter is one page each devoted to a writing and a speaking concept and assignment. A “Think” page introduces the reader to philosophical ideas and helps him or her relate those ideas to life and to a Biblical worldview.

Accompanying the main text is a student journal that provides space to do the creative writing assignments, critical thinking questions, and other writing instruction. Memory cards are also included to help the student learn important facts about each philosopher. We loved these!




Our Experience:

Emily spent one week on each chapter. The first day, she read the chapter, answered the comprehension questions, and did the mapping activity. Over the next 4 days, she completed the “Think,” “Write,” and “Speak” assignments, studied the review cards, and took the unit test. This was a comfortable pace for her, although the course could be extended to a full semester course by working on the assignments only 2 or 3 days a week.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure that Emily would be excited about ancient Greek philosophers, but she has LOVED using Philosophy Adventure. As the review period is coming to an end, I asked her if she would like to cut back to using it 2 or 3 times a week, but she insisted that she wanted to continue with it every day!

This is a very full course. It includes history, of course, as it teaches about each of the philosophers and the times in which they lived. Students will also learn many of the basic laws and concepts of philosophy, such as:

  • The Law of the Excluded Middle
  • The Law of Non-Contradiction
  • Law of Identity
  • Logical Fallacies
  • Red Herrings

The worldviews and teachings of each philosopher are compared to those of a Biblical worldview and the philosophy concepts are taught in the context of all natural laws coming from our Creator and the Truth that he created, making this a very Christian philosophy course. This is very important to me, since philosophy can be taught from an atheistic perspective.

The critical thinking questions are excellent for reviewing the text and for helping students to apply the concepts to life. The writing exercises are good, and Emily is especially loving the creative writing exercises, that have the student place himself as an observer of an incident in the life of each philosopher.

During each lesson, the student is working on writing a speech that will be presented at the end of the course. Not only is the student given help with editing skills, and making the speech more interesting, but is practicing using gestures, moving around, and inflection in order to become a better public speaker.

I am impressed with how many subject areas the course includes, all in an integrated manner that engages the student.

The Schoolhouse Crew is reviewing four different products: Philosophy Adventure, Mere Christianity Critical Analysis Journal, Philippians in 28 Weeks, and The Wise Woman. Click on the Crew banner to read about the other products, and use the code: CREW-10 to receive a 10% discount on the downloads of these great books. (Expires May 15, 2014)

Home School Adventure Co.


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I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

No-sort Laundry Loads (Purex Giveaway)


Purex has just come out with a new product—No Sort Detergent, with anti-color transfer technology. According to the claims, loads of mixed colors can be washed together with less chance of color transfer.

My first thought was that this would be GREAT for college guys—the stereotypical “throw everything in the wash together” population. But I can also see how Purex No Sort could be helpful for anyone—for those times when you just want to wash a few things, or to prevent damage when a dark or white item accidentally gets mixed into the wrong load.

I was eager to test it out and had an opportunity when Emily wanted her tie-dyed shirt and her jeans washed for the next morning.  I washed this load of bright colors and included the dark blue jeans. I also threw in a white towel just to see if it would pick up any unwanted color.


I washed the load, then checked the towel. It was hard to see, but I think there was a tiny bit of blue discoloration on the towel from the jeans, but certainly not much. (The towel on the left was washed in this load and the towel on the right was not.) I am declaring the experiment a success—I think the Purex No-Sort Detergent did a good job.

Please visit the Purex facebook  page for more information and promotions for Purex products.


Would you like to try Purex No-Sort? The giveaway winner will receive coupons for 2 free bottles of detergent (total value $12).

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Science Club

Off and on over the years, I’ve hosted a science club for our homeschool group. It has provided a good social outlet for the kids and gave them opportunities to work in a group. It has also kept me accountable for coming up with activities since I had others coming to my house at a specified time!

Just a few of the many activities we’ve done…

Learning about electrical circuits




Learned about imaging through the Science by Mail program


Built and tested rafts


Learned about chemical reactions




I think a lot of the other parents have appreciated the opportunity as well, since some families don’t do a lot of hands-on-science at home.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Curiosity Quest (Schoolhouse Review)

Curiosity QuestWith our latest review, we’ve just discovered another fun and educational show for kids: Curiosity QuestThis series, geared for ages 7-14, begins with a question sent in from a viewer. The host takes the audience on an intriguing field trip to learn about a new topic and to answer the question. The topics include such varied topics as cheese, how to make drums, recycling, glass blowing, and dog sledding.

We viewed the following Combo Packs, which each include 3 30-minute episodes.

DVD Combo Pack - Swimmers of the SeaDVD Combo Pack - Produce

Emily and I both enjoyed this fun show. We love field trips and these shows felt like field trips to places we might never have an opportunity to visit in person.

Each episode begins with a viewer question that introduces the topic. The show is interspersed with “fun facts”—quick tidbits explained by children, and related questions asked of kids or adults “on the street.”  For example, in the Cranberry episode, the questions were, “What does buoyant mean?”, “What is a harvest?” “How do you know when cranberries are ripe?”, and “Why do they flood the cranberry fields?”  It’s fun to hear the (often confused) answers from the kids who are questioned.Curiosity Quest Review

The host, Joel Green, visits a site (such as a cranberry bog in Wisconsin), and observes and often joins in the process. At the cranberry bog, he put on waders and walked out in the marsh, exclaiming about how cold the water was. He tasted cranberries straight from the vine, drove the 4-wheeler pulling the cranberry trailers (They wouldn’t let him drive the harvester!),  and visited the processing plant to see the cranberries blown dry, cleaned, and sorted. Meanwhile, he asked the kinds of questions that a curious child would ask. “Why do you have to dry the cranberries?” “Are these fields always under water?”

I found the topics very interesting. I had NO idea how mushrooms were grown. It is quite an elaborate and labor-intensive process, beginning with the fermentation of hay in which the spores are sown. Mushrooms are actually grown indoors, where the conditions can be kept ideal, and picked by hand by amazingly fast workers! 

I did know that salmon swam upstream to lay their eggs in fresh water, but had certainly not ever seen the process. Nor did I know about the elaborate facilities that salmon hatcheries build in order to keep the wild salmon population up. Did you know that salmon travel as far as Japan, then, 3 or 4 years later, return to the very same streams in Alaska to lay their eggs?

It was enlightening to learn how involved the process of sorting and cleaning oranges is, in order to prevent spoilage. Oranges are always picked by hand, but much of the sorting and packaging process can be done by machine.

Curiosity Quest Review

I love how the shows look at topics from a child’s point of view. The guide for each location gives a very interesting tour. Joel Green asks questions about every  aspect of the topic, which enables the viewer to learn more. The key points are repeated frequently, which aids in the learning process, and the occasional “fun fact” and “question time” breaks keep the viewers’ interest up as well. He gets to do things that we would all like to try, like feeding and touching penguins and sea turtles, wading in a cranberry bog,


I think that many children even younger than the suggested age of 7 would enjoy Curiosity Quest. At the other end of the age range, even I, as an adult, learned a lot and enjoyed the show as well. On at least one occasion, Emily was in a bad mood, and grumbled about sitting down to watch it, but was quickly drawn into the show. We expanded the educational aspect by having her write quizzes for ME or taking notes as she watched some of the episodes.

If you have curious kids at your house, you will surely love this show!



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I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Supercharged Science (Schoolhouse Review)

Age range:  K-12
Price:         $37 a month for K-8 materials; $57 for K-8 plus the expanded 9-12 content.
We were introduced to Supercharged Science last year and had a lot of fun with all the hands-on activities (2013 Supercharged Science Review) so I was excited to have the opportunity to review it again this year and share some more of the fun science activities on the site. We were given the e-Science Premium Membership to use for the purposes of this review.
These excerpts from the e-Science User Guide explain how it all works. Basically, you pick a topic (from the topic list, or within a grade level), watch an introductory video, watch videos for individual experiments and do the experiments, then, once interest is piqued, read about the topic, and answer the review questions.
There are two ways to approach the vast amount of material on the Supercharged Science site—by topic and by grade level. Each grade level includes experiments, activities, and reading material from a few specific topics that are typically studied at that grade level. The “topic” option allows the student to pick and choose a topic of interest or to coordinate activities with a science text.
I think the grade level option is new since last year, and that might be a comfortable way to begin for a family that wants to focus on topics that might be traditionally taught in each grade. Since we covered several complete units last year (Chemistry, Mechanics, and Motion), there was some overlap with the eighth grade curriculum and we decided to just pick another unit of interest and jump in. Emily has been studying physical science this year, so we started with Unit 3: Matter (Atoms, Density, and Solids), completed it, and are just beginning Unit 4: Energy 1 (Pulleys and Levers).
Usually, new users to Supercharged Science will only have access to the first few units. Access to additional units is unlocked each month. This makes the site less overwhelming, because it includes a vast amount of material once everything is accessible! However, if the user has particular interest in a particular topic, he or she can just request access to it, and it will be unlocked. (The company is very helpful, and wants you to be able to have the best possible experience.)
The e-Science program offers 27 different units and is heavier on physical science concepts, but also includes units on biology, chemistry, the scientific method, and science fair projects. Each of these units takes 2 weeks or more to complete, and includes videos, experiments, reading material, and review questions. Some activities are labeled “for advanced learners.” These activities tend to require solving mathematical equations or involve more dangerous materials, and are more appropriate for high school, or possibly middle school ages.
The “heart” of the e-Science program is videos and experiments. Each experiment is accompanied by, not only clear instructions, but a video of Aurora Lipper performing the experiment and explaining it. Aurora’s enthusiasm is contagious and is sure to spark your child’s interest in the topic. Ideally, the student will pick and choose from the projects that spark his interest, watch the video, and jump into doing the activity himself. Each unit also includes reading material and review questions that can be used as a test. Many of the experiments also include printable worksheets that lead the student in thinking through the process and documenting findings and conclusions. I really like these, because I know that Emily can rush through an experiment or activity without taking away from it what she is expected to learn. The worksheets help the student relate what he or she sees to the concept.
Last year, I helped Emily with most of the activities. This year, she wanted to be more independent, so I let her do everything on her own. The only requirement was that she come to me to explain each experiment after she was finished and that she read the informational material in addition to doing the experiments. So, I’ve just spent several weeks teaching NO science. Emily made an “A” on the final test of Unit 3, so the process obviously works. And she had fun doing it! While younger children will certainly require assistance, middle schoolers and high schoolers should be able to work independently with this program.
Here are some of the experiments Emily performed while learning about atoms, density, and solids:
“Blowing up” soap in the microwave oven
Homemade lava lamp
Making moon sand
Growing salt and vinegar crystals
Making a penny “crystal structure”
If you would like to add more hands-on activities to your current science program or to try teaching science in a whole new way, you may want to take a look at the Supercharged Science e-Science program. You can try out the Supercharged Science e-Science curriculum for just $1 for the first month.  This is a great opportunity to see if the program is right for you. (Use the above link.)  Or grab a Free Copy of the Science Activity Video Series and Guidebook to try selected activities. 
Connect with Supercharged Science:

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I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Making Paper

We have just started using the Artistic Pursuits book, Sculpture Technique: Construct for an upcoming review. The first project we did was making paper. It created a bit of chaos in our kitchen for almost a week as we made multiple batches of different colors of paper, but was fun.

First, we soaked torn paper in water.


Then we put the paper and water in the blender until it turned into mush (paper pulp).

P1040168 P1040202


Then we used a Grummer’s Dip Handmold to scoop pulp from the water, drain it, and press it dry. P1040205

We made an assortment of colors, which will soon be used in future sculpture products.



Monday, April 7, 2014

Victus Study Skills (Schoolhouse Review)

Victus Study Skills Review

Does your child have poor study skills? Or does he or she want to become more efficient or effective in keeping up with homework, studying for tests, or organizing his or her time? I know that study skills have been a weak area for Emily. Some of my older children seemed to intuitively manage their time well and developed fairly effective techniques for studying on their own. Emily hasn’t done this, so I was very happy to have the opportunity to try the Victus Study Skills System with her.


There are several components to the Victus Study Skills System:

  • Teacher Edition ($40) –Teaches the 3 foundational cornerstones of the program and teaches each study skill in detail
  • Student Workbook ($20) –Helps students learn and practice each study skill
  • Student DIY Workbook ($25) –Can be used by students independently
  • Classroom Video ($30) --Shows the process being taught to a classroom
  • Power Point ($25) –Slides for classroom use

We received the Teacher Edition and Student Workbook for the purposes of this review. (Although there are different purchase options, depending on customer need, the program is complete with these two components.)

The Victus Study Skills System, designed for 5th through 12th grades, can be easily used in either a classroom or homeschool setting. The program does not teach an assortment of unrelated skills, but rather, is a system of study that aims “to equip the student for success in academics and in life.” It is based on three Foundational Cornerstones:

  1. Where am I now? P1040136
  2. Where do I want to be?
  3. How do I get there?

Within each section are checklists, worksheets, and questionnaires that help students discover and articulate their learning styles, their strengths and weakness,  and their goals for the future. Within the “How Do I Get There?” segment, which comprises over half the program, students are taught guidelines for managing time and organizing their study environment. They learn and practice techniques for studying a passage of reading material, taking notes, and test taking. The Appendix includes flashcards that review the key points of the program, and some additional surveys and practice materials that reinforce the 10 program lessons.

Our Experience:

First, I skimmed through the entire Teacher’s Guide to get a feel for the entire program. There are 10 student lessons, but a suggested teaching schedule is provided that groups lessons together so that the whole program can be taught in just 5 sessions. We actually devoted 7 days to the program, then spent several more days doing some of the additional activities in the appendix to reinforce the lessons. We typically spent about an hour each day learning study skills. While covering this program, Emily discovered her primary learning styles, learned the difference between goals and learning objectives, and practiced writing and implementing learning objectives. She learned techniques for better reading comprehension, taking notes, and test taking.

Most of the time was spent learning the skills, rather then using them, so we are now spending time putting what she has learned into practice.


I thought that this program was a nice length. I was rather surprised at the suggestion to complete the entire program in 1-2 weeks, but we found this easy to do. I felt that Victus gave Emily tools that she could use (and tools that I could suggest to her) in a short period of time, then set her free to practice them in her regular schoolwork. We will be reviewing the techniques frequently, and I’m already reminding (or assigning) Emily to use the PQRST technique while she reads a science chapter or English assignment in the hopes that it will improve her comprehension and memorization of key facts. Since note-taking is a skill that she has not had to use much before now, I’m having her start to take notes on our read-aloud history time. I am sure this will improve her retention as well as give her a skill that will be valuable in high school courses and in college.

Although a few of the suggestions given in the books were applicable only to traditionally-schooled students, such as writing down homework before leaving each class, and checking planners before leaving for home, most of the material was very useful for homeschooled students. In fact, I found a few areas, such as note-taking, that she might have learned already were she in public school. We’ll be sure to work those into our days.

If you would like your students to become more disciplined and effective learners, I highly recommend the Victus Study Skills System.


Connect with Victus Study Skills

Twitter: @VictusStudy


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I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.