Friday, October 24, 2014

Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Schoolhouse Review)

New Liberty Videos Review

image

New Liberty Videos offered the Crew several different DVD’s to review. We chose to view Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls. (Actually Emily immediately chose this one as the most interesting to her.)

Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls actually includes three different topics:

  • Dead Sea Scrolls—The finding of the scrolls and the tedious process of reassembling the pieces into scripture
  • Hebrew Word Pictures—explanation of the Hebrew alphabet, how words are formed, and how the letters and words make pictures
  • The Forbidden Book—How the Bible text and language changed through the Reformation

Each section is about 20 minutes long, with a total viewing time of 60 minutes. As you might notice from the topics, the overall theme is the history of the Bible and how it came to us. The video segments each seemed to be of a museum lecture. A speaker in a small auditorium explained the topic to visitors. Photographs and short videos of historical sites were shown as the speaker explained each topic.

I found the topics explored to be very interesting. I had no idea that the Dead Sea Scrolls were found as thousands of tiny fragments that are being reassembled to this day. Or that much of it was unreadable until the use of infrared light until the late ‘60’s.

It was fascinating to learn that Hebrew came from the Phoenician alphabet (which is what we use today) and that the early form of Hebrew script is very similar to our alphabet. Furthermore, each letter has not only a sound attached to it, but a meaning. Words consist of word pictures as well as phonetic spellings. Amazing! I have thought of this over the past week while reading passages from Psalms, where many of the chapters consist of acrostic (ABC) verses.

I was more familiar with the reformers of the church and with the transformation of our present Bible, but still learned some new things, for example, John Wycliffe was also a scientist who invented bifocals. (I always heard this credited to Ben Franklin, but he apparently only improved upon Wycliffe's design.)

I found the format less interesting. As a lecture format, it just didn’t have the appeal of a typical documentary. The speakers seemed very knowledgeable, but the first speaker, in particular, droned on and on in a monotone that made me feel that he’d given this talk hundreds of times. Emily proclaimed the DVD to be “boring” although she had initially been eager to watch it. We did have some good discussions about the content and ideas, though, so she did learn from the video. The content was excellent, and it correlated with our history and Bible studies well, but the lecture format was just not quite what I had expected.

Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls sells for $19.95. I felt that this particular video was most appropriate for high school age and up, although some middle schoolers might be interested as well.

Please visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew page to learn more about other DVD’s from New Liberty Videos.

Click to read Crew Reviews

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

 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dogs, dogs, dogs!

My Aunt Bonnie breeds cockers in Montana and currently owns nine dogs. (Our own Macy is one of her puppies.) Emily had a fun time on our recent trip running around with the dogs, running them through agility equipment, and even getting some grooming lessons from an expert. I’m hoping that she’ll be able to take over Macy’s grooming soon!

P1040656P1040657P1040772P1040775P1040777P1040778P1040783

Monday, October 20, 2014

Middlebury Language Courses (Schoolhouse Review)

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review 

Many homeschool subjects can be learned well from books, but foreign language (other than “dead” languages such as Latin) is an area that requires both audio content and interaction for a student to attain mastery. It’s also an area in which parents are of limited help if they are not themselves fluent in the target languages. I recently became acquainted with the Middlebury Interactive Language courses, an online option for language courses.

Middlebury Interactive Languages courses are available in Spanish, French, Chinese, and German for grades K-12 (depending on the language). Emily is taking the High School Level 1 Spanish Course.

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

Middlebury Spanish I offers daily lessons, each requiring about 30 minutes to complete. The student progresses through a series of slides, each offering a different activity. Emily was required to:image

  • Repeat words and phrases for pronunciation practice. (The student can even record her own voice for comparison with the model.)
  • Listen to conversations, picking out target words, or even filling in the missing target words in the printed transcript of the dialogue.
  • Match vocabulary words to pictures.
  • Learn about cultural traditions of Spanish-speaking countries.
  • Take periodic quizzes on what she had learned.

The activities are varied and fun, which keeps the student’s interest high. As each activity is completed, the image of the slide at the left side of the screen turns gray as a visual depiction of progress. Some activities simply need to be completed, such as listening to (and hopefully repeating) a list of vocabulary words or reading and listening to an explanation of a concept. Others are graded, such as matching and fill-in-the-blank activities. We were pleased to find that if the student does poorly on an activity, it can be redone until it is perfect. This ensures that the student is mastering each skill before she progresses.

image

I was concerned that the course would be too easy for Emily because she has had experience with several other Spanish programs. I didn’t think she was ready for Spanish 2, though. Fortunately, this was not the case. Middlebury Interactive Spanish 1 starts with letters of the alphabet, basic greetings, basic nouns and adjectives like most other programs. However, there was quite a bit of conversation even in the first lessons. The expectation was that the beginning student could pick out a few words and get the gist of the conversation. Emily could actually understand nearly all of the conversation, so the activity was just at a higher level for her as she attempted to grasp all the language.

image

Emily is really enjoying this online Spanish course, and I think she’s learning a lot. It uses a typical scope and sequence for high school courses, so it’s a good option for students who have had Spanish in a classroom setting or may in the future. It’s also a good supplement to more travel oriented or conversational courses that may leave out some of the basic concepts, such as memorizing verb conjugations that are a part of traditional courses.

Emily says that she loves using Middlebury Spanish and wants to continue with it. She said that she liked that when vocabulary was taught, she was immediately quizzed on it, then quizzed again later. She also enjoyed the conversations in each lesson.

My only suggestion is actually not about the course; it is about the Middlebury website. It was very hard for me to get a grasp from the website of what the course would be like until we actually tried it. It would be very helpful for potential customers to try out a lesson for free or to see screenshots of each course as well as seeing a scope and sequence for the course. It’s a wonderful course, but it is difficult for a potential customer to see that.

Middlebury Interactive Language high school courses are $119 per semester without teacher. Teacher support is an additional $179.

Click to read Crew Reviews

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

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Biology Class—Fungi, Part 2

This past week was the second week for our Biology Fungi Module. The first activity was to used fungi guide books to identify varieties of fungi and to assign them to the correct phyla. These are all photos of fungi that I saw in Montana and South Carolina. Admittedly, most do fall into the phyla Basidiomycota (mushrooms and shelf fungi). The students were able to definitively identify some, tentatively identify others, and were stumped on a few. My main purpose was to have them familiar with the different phyla, though, as well as to consider the vast variety of fungi.

Fungi

After reviewing the chapter highlights and discussing the different phlya in Kingdom Fungi, we proceeded to Experiment 4.2. The students mixed 1T yeast and 1T sugar with 2 c. warm water. They let one sit for 5 minutes and the other sit for 1 hour. (Actually I started the hour one before class to save time. Then, they made slides, stained and unstained from both samples and looked for yeast budding under the microscope.

P1040871

We had a bit of trouble differentiating between bubbles and yeast at times. Also, some of the samples were taken from the bottom of the cup, while others were taken from the bubbles at the top. They all agreed that the better samples came from the bottom and I reminded them that in taking samples from 2 places, they had more than one variable changing. Did the dye make a difference in what they saw or was it the sample variation? Lesson learned, I hope!

Next week, chemistry!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Standard Deviants Accelerate (Schoolhouse Review)

Standard Deviants Accelerate Review
 
 

I’ve been familiar with Standard Deviants for a long time. We own several of their Spanish videos that teach concepts in a fun, fast-paced way. They have always offered videos for a variety of subjects, but now, the company has expanded into full online courses with videos, quizzes, and suggested classroom hands-on activities. This new program is called Standard Deviants Accelerate.

Standard Deviants Accelerate Homeschool Courses include these topics, primarily for middle and high school students:

Arithmetic - Grades 3+
Fundamental Math - Grades 4+
Earth Science - Grades 6+
Nutrition - Grades 6+
Algebra - Grades 7+
Biology - Grades 7+
Chemistry - Grades 9+
English Comp. - Grades 9+
U.S. History - Grades 9+
AP Biology - Grades 11+
AP Chemistry - Grades 11+
AP U.S. Government & Politics - Grades 11+
AP U.S. History - Grades 11+
AP Eng. Composition - Grades 11+

The program is actually designed for classroom use, so it was a little more complicated to set up than I expected. From my teacher’s login page, I had to set up a “class period” for each course I was using. Then, I was given an access code to give to my student. She was able to sign up for her own account and use the access code for each particular course to register for that course. The process is repeated for each course, so a student will see each course she is registered for on her home page.

Although the process is a bit complicated, the Standard Deviants staff are extremely helpful and are happy to set up a private webinar at any time to give direction and assistance.

image

I registered Emily for 3 classes: Biology, English Composition, and Nutrition. She worked primarily in biology, and also did several lessons in English composition. We haven’t started Nutrition yet, but it is on her home page for now. When she signs in, she sees icons for all three courses. After selection one, she then sees a list of topics for that course and is able to choose one to work on.

image

Each lesson has several components:image

  • Video—A 3 to 15 minute video that teaches the concept; Space is given to take notes and to save them in the student’s “locker.”
  • Vocab—A list of the target vocabulary or main concepts from the lesson
  • Diagram—A hands-on activity where the student drags appropriate terms to their definitionsimage
  • Quiz—This 5 question quiz is checked by the computer. For any errors, an option appears to watch just that portion of the video that pertains to that question. Then the student is given an opportunity to retake the quiz (although the original grade does not change.)
  • Written answer—The student answers the same thematic question as it applies to each lesson. (For English composition, the question is “How does learning to write affect thinking?”)

From my own teacher’s login page, I am able to see Emily’s scores on quizzes, see and/or grade her written responses and  receive “alerts” for areas she has not achieved a passing score in. I can also add students to classes and read any messages she may have sent me.

image

Emily has been enjoying her Standard Deviants Accelerate courses. We’re finding this online supplement to be very useful  both for reviewing concepts she has already learned and for learning new information. The videos are fast paced, with speakers changing frequently and diagrams and pictures that illustrate concepts. They are a bit silly as well, making the learning process fun.

She is able to retake quizzes and watch the videos as often as needed to master the content. I love that feature. However, the first quiz she takes is the only one that shows up on her grade. The final test for each section includes all the questions that she missed in individual lessons. I find that Emily needs a lot of repetition to retain information, so having this course to use along with our other classes has been a blessing!

We haven’t used the class activities yet, partly because I have a class of one student, making most of the activities hard to do, and partly because we are using Standard Deviants Accelerate as a supplement to our main biology and English courses and, while the online, independent aspect is perfect for us, adding additional activities doesn’t fit in our schedule right now. However, they do look like beneficial activities and I will consider using some of them in the biology lab class that I teach.

Standard Deviants Accelerate classes are not full classes, but are excellent for review and supplementation. And my child thinks they are fun! 

Each subject costs $24.95 a month or $99 a year.

 
Click to read Crew Reviews

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

iWitness (Schoolhouse Review)

P1040835

I had the opportunity to review three books to review from Apologia Educational Ministries’ iWitness series.

iWitness Biblical Archaeology
New Testament iWitness
Old Testament iWitness

The iWitness series, written and designed by Doug Phillips,  presents scholarly material in a format that is interesting and understandable for students (and adults) ages 11 and up. The books are printed in primarily sepia tones, which gives them an antique, scholarly look. Each page is heavily illustrated with drawings, paintings, and photos with “notes” superimposed on top that tell about the subject in bite-sized pieces.

Old Testament iWitness tells all about where our Old Testament came from. The reader will learn about the authorship of books, about the Jewish collections of books and our current divisions of these books, and how they came to be included in our present-day Bible. The process the early scribes used in copying these books is described, as is are the discoveries of ancient manuscripts and other archaeological finds that validate the authority of scripture.

New Testament iWitness explains the canonization of books, the preservation of these writings from the time of Jesus up to modern times, and differences or errors in various texts. It discusses some of the other early church writings that were not included in scripture, either because they were written after the apostolic age, or because they contradicted the teachings of the gospels. Some of these books are even assumed to be forged. I found this very interesting. Many of us were under the assumption that the New Testament in its current form was compiled a few hundred years ago, but actually all of our current New Testament books were considered authoritative by the early church within 100 years of Christ’s death and resurrection.

P1040868

iWitness Biblical Archeology gives fascinating details about the archaeological finds that validate scripture accounts and how the history of other cultures fits in (or doesn’t fit in) with Biblical history. The book is organized by Bible chronology, first discussing Noah’s ark and the various claims about its remnants being found and the various stories from other cultures that are similar to the Biblical flood story.You will read about the Pharaohs of Egypt, Sennacherib, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some interesting historical facts are included. I found it very interesting to read about how Hadrian filled in the cave where Jesus was rumored to have been born, planted a grove of trees and dedicated it to Adonis. Later Constantine removed the grove and built a chapel at the site. Similar circumstances happened at the traditional site of Jesus’ tomb.

P1040867

Emily really enjoyed reading these books (and I did, too). There is a lot of content that most adult Christians don’t know, but the many pictures and interesting format, as well as the interesting information would interest many children in middle school or even younger. My only small complaint would be that the notes, which are written in various fonts intended to mimic handwriting were sometimes a little difficult to read. The content was meaty enough that I counted the 3 books as three weeks’ credit for her Bible/Apologetics class.

Emily is already asking for more books in this series, especially the one on heresies and cults that will be coming out in 2015, so that’s a definite recommendation for the series!

Each iWitness book sells for $14.00.

Click to read Crew Reviews

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

 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fungi

Part of the Glacier National Park is classified as temperate rain forest. We took a walk through a Cedar Forest and enjoyed seeing a large variety of  plant life and fungi.. Since we had a fungi chapter coming up in biology, I photographed as many as I could.

P1040750P1040751P1040752

We found these fungi growing in a complete circle around this rotting log very interesting.

P1040762P1040756P1040765

Then I made a picmonkey collage with these photos and some others I’d taken locally to use for our biology class.

PicMonkey Collage

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Biology Class—Fungi Part 1

The experiments we did last week in biology class involved observing Basidiomycota (mushrooms, puffballs, and shelf fungi) and Zygomycota (bread and fruit mold). The students were instructed to bring in fungi and molds for us to look at with magnifying glasses and the microscope. Unfortunately, the weather has been very dry here lately, so the students had a hard time finding the fungi. All we had were a couple examples of shelf fungi and a portabella mushroom from the grocery store to examine. They did bring some “lovely” and aromatic samples of mold, though—growing on bread, cantaloupe, apple, and grapefruit.

I noticed that all the kids are getting better at writing up lab reports, making slides, and using the microscope.

P1040859P1040857P1040858

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Rock Star Essay (Schoolhouse Review)

Fortuigence Review

Writing can be a difficult subject to teach and to grade, so I was happy to have the opportunity for Emily to take Fortuigence ‘s Essay Rock Star Persuasive Essay Writing Course.  This online writing course for ages 12-18 includes seven lessons that take the student from brainstorming through outlining and drafting to a polished essay. Each lesson includes a short video, a page or two of instructional texts, and some worksheets, outlines, and/or examples that take the student through the process of writing a persuasive essay from beginning to end. The student submits his or her work to a teacher online and is given feedback and guidance at every step of the process. At the conclusion of the course, the student will have completed one essay.  The lessons include:

  1. Introduction and pre-assessment
  2. Brainstorming
  3. Organizing Ideas (Outline)
  4. Free Writing
  5. Revision
  6. Editing
  7. Wrap Up

Most of the lessons had many pages of printable handouts—outlines, rubrics, worksheets, and writing samples. This was actually my favorite aspect of the course. We printed everything out and now have them in a notebook for further reference.

For the first assignment, Emily had to submit a writing sample. We chose to send in a an essay that she had written last spring that was representative of her work. “Mrs. I” responded to tell her that she was a “competent writer,” that she was looking forward to working with her in the course, and to move on to lesson 2.

In Lesson 2, Emily was given a list of possible topics for her persuasive essay. She chose to write about, “Obstacles are a part of life that you have to push through.” She was required to brainstorm about the topic and write down all of her ideas, using a very helpful worksheet that helped her articulate her main point, whether she agreed or disagreed, and three reasons to support her reasoning. After completing this step, she could see that her outline (Lesson 3) was easy to complete, since she had already given the subject quite a bit of thought.

After each lesson, she received feedback from Mrs. I within a day or two. Generally, the feedback was brief, but at one point, she was given some critique of her opening paragraph and was asked to rewrite it before proceeding to the next lesson.

One of the big advantages to me was that someone else was giving Emily instructions and feedback about her writing. Emily likes to write and is great at churning out first drafts, but she hates to revise. It was nice for me to stand back, knowing that she was responsible to someone else for finishing assignments and was being required to go through each step from brainstorming to finished essay. For the most part, she worked on her own. On a couple of occasions, I did suggest that she work a bit more on an assignment before she turned it in. And I was glad that she was required to rework one section. It probably would have been helpful if the teacher had been a little tougher on her at the beginning. She was very encouraging, but I would have liked to see Emily pushed a bit more toward excellence. The only point where I actually helped a bit was on the final editing (punctuation and spelling).

There are four courses in the Rock Star Essay program:

  • The Personal Statement
  • The Persuasive Essay
  • The Expository Essay
  • The Textual Analysis

Each course is $57 (or $197 for all four). Completing of all four courses in this homeschool writing program is equivalent to 0.5 English credits. The course is designed for middle to high school students and, while the course assignments are same for all, the teachers guidance and expectations will vary with the writing ability of each particular student.

If you are looking for an outside teacher to help your student gain proficiency in essay writing, the Rock Star Essay program is a good option.

 
 
Click to read Crew Reviews

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

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fun with 3-Dimensional Math

Geometry has been pretty difficult for Emily for the past few weeks, as she’s learned theorems about triangles, parallel and transverse lines, and polygons and solved for unknown angles. She’s having a much easier week right now, learning about solids. One of her assignments today was to draw and assemble the nets of various 3-dimensional shapes. I think I even heard a “This is fun,” comment come from her lips!

Personally, I’ve never cared for 3-dimensional math, but she seems to have knack for it.

P1040862P1040865P1040866

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Biology Class—Algae

Last week in biology class, we learned about algae. First, we spent some time reviewing and discussing the various algae phyla in Kingdom Protista. Then, the students spent some time with the microscope viewing and drawing pre-made slides of volvox and spirogyra. Then they spent some time writing out question cards for Module 3. For the last 25 minutes of class, they divided into teams and played a quiz game with the questions they had made. Most fun class yet!

P1040829