Wednesday, April 23, 2014

CTC Math - A 2014 Homeschool Crew Review

Back in March I learned that the Schoolhouse Review Crew would have the opportunity to review CTC Math.  I was pleased when I learned that we would be among those Crew members reviewing the program. We received the 12 Month Family Plan, and we jumped right in. We were allowed to have more than one student, so I not only set up an account for Miner, but also one for myself! So since mid-March, we have both been working on the Algebra I level of CTC Math.
It took us both a little while to get used to the idea of logging into the program, watching the video, and answering all the questions. I remember my surprise, as we got into week 2, when I received a progress report on my two students' accounts (mine being one of them). The report informed me that my student had logged in every day, but had not done any of the worksheets! What a great program, to so quickly let me know there was a problem going on so that I could take care of it.

I had assumed that Miner had it figured out, but he needed me to show him how to open up the worksheet and the answer sheet, to figure out the problems and fill them in. Then it was more a matter of keeping him going each day.

After a number of weeks, we came upon a snag. The instructor was asking Miner to do something on the calculator that was a function that our calculator did not have. I had him skip that section, to be looked at together at a later time. So one of the things I like about this program is the thorough way the program covers the material, and makes it clear where Miner or I do not understand something. For instance, Miner is still needing more work in the area of converting fraction to decimal to percent. I myself have learned where I didn't know what I didn't know. Some of it I knew I was clueless about (Scientific notation), and some of my math errors were totally unexpected (working with negative powers). I have learned so much with this program! I wish I had had it when my two graduated daughters were doing their high school math!
To get set up, initially the parent registers with CTC Math, and when logged into the "Parent Account" sets up the "Student Account" with a user name and password. Then the student logs in to the Student Account and selects a math level. All the levels are available for the registered student to work on, so the student can work at any level he or she wants to, or any level mom wants him to work on. Miner and I are working on Algebra I. The way the Algebra I program works is that when you select Algebra I, the screen opens to give you Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 and Level 4. 

I wanted to work the program right along with my son, and I started with Level 1. Level 1 is divided into Number Review 1, Number Review 2, and Algebra Review. The reviews are very comprehensive. Number Review 1 contains 16 sections; I completed them and moved on to Number Review 2. Number Review 2 contains 8 sections. I was able to get through 7 sections, but the 8th section I was unable to do. It is titled "Scientific Notation: Using a Calculator", and none of my calculators have the button(s) that the lesson calls for. So I skipped the lesson, and I will go back to it at a later time. I'll either figure out my calculator or do it manually.

This problem highlights the same problem Miner had come across. I'm not sure what section he was working in, but the lesson said to press the A-B-C button to change percent to decimal to fraction, and none of our calculators have such a button. I need to go back, later, to make sure Miner knows how to do those conversions without the calculator.

I also completed the Algebra Review, and that completed Level 1 of the Algebra 1 program. I moved on to Section 2. So, for purposes of this review I wanted to let you know the contents of Sections 2, 3 and 4, even though I haven't completed them.

Part 2 is divided into four sections: Algebra Introduction (12 Lessons); Algebraic Fractions (10 Lessons); Algebraic Equations (7 Lessons); and Simultaneous Equations (9 Lessons, the last being a Topic Test). Part 3 is divided into three sections: Monomials and Polynomials (11 Lessons); Factoring (13 Lessons, the last being a Topic Test); and Inequalities and Absolute Values (6 Lessons). Part 4 is divided into six sections: Coordinate Geometry (12 Lessons); Functions, Relations and Variations (5 Lessons); Radicals (12 Lessons, one being a Topic Test); Quadratic Equations (10 Lessons, one being a Topic Test); Univariate Data I (10 Lessons - one being a Topic Test); and Univariate Data 2 (3 Lessons). 

The higher level maths are not intended to be complete curriculums, but the lower levels can be used as complete curriculums. I am a math lover, and I am fully enjoying finding shortcomings in my math knowledge, and learning how to do the math I previously did not know how to do. My son, not so much. And when he gets to a point where he does not understand, he still tends to just stop working, and I need to walk him through and explain the material to him. That is why I am also working the program, because I know he will have trouble, and I want to be familiar with the material and be able to help him whenever he gets stuck. Not all students may be like my son -- some might fly through this material with never a snag. 

Now, some specifics about the program that I wish were different:
  • There does not appear to be a way to change the size of the window that opens when you click on the worksheet. I wish I could enlarge the page to the size I want it to be.
  • The way the worksheet is often set up, the questions are at the top, the answer choices are at the bottom, so you have to scroll up and down on the worksheet on every single math problem. It is annoying. It would be nicer if the top half had questions on the left and answers on the right, and then the bottom had questions on the left and answers on the right.
  • The answer selections on the worksheet are usually in columns, and the answer needs to be typed into the answer sheet, which has the answers in rows. It is confusing and would be nicer if they were both rows or both columns.
CTC Math has programs for children from Kindergarten to Trigonometry, so all grades, all ages. Homeschoolers get a huge 60% discount off the regular price - 12 months for one student for $78.80, or only $118.80 for your whole family! I don't know how long these prices can last!

I have really enjoyed our membership with CTC Math, and my son has really benefitted. You can try it yourself by signing up for a free trial. I think you and your student(s) will like it!

Philosophy Adventure - A 2014 Homeschool Crew Review

In March I was offered the opportunity to review Philosophy Adventure, by Home School
Adventure Co. I was pleased to review this product. I have long been trying to read the writings of philosophers to my son, without either of us having a good grasp of who each philosopher was, when or where they lived, etc. Philosophy Adventure was an excellent product to expand our understanding!
I had recently begun seeing advertisements for Home School Adventure Co., but was really unfamiliar with them. Going to their website, I found that they have not only Philosophy Adventure, but also a Mere Christianity Journal (and we were just starting Mere Christianity!), Philippians in 28 Weeks (a program for memorizing the book of Philippians, that dove-tails well with Philosophy Adventure), and The Wise Woman with Literary Analysis Journal Questions. Philosophy Adventure was the best fit for us. My son doesn't like to be told what to journal about, and he memorizes scripture best when he decides on his own which verses he wants to memorize. So Philosophy Adventure it was!
This is a beautiful, professionally created curriculum that focuses not only on reading about philosophers, but also works to impart to the student critical thinking skills, creative writing skills, oratory (speech) skills, all wound up with a Biblical world view. This comprehensive curriculum teaches history and geography as well!

We received three digital downloads: the Philosophy Adventure Reader, the Philosophy Adventure Student Workbook, and the Philosophy Adventure Teacher Resources. The way we regularly used the curriculum was to start with the Reader. I would read the information about the philosopher, and then I would pause and ask questions. The Student Workbook was also reinforcement, giving my student questions I didn't think of, and a place for him to record his answers. I love this digital technology -- these are "writeable" PDF downloads, and when the answers are recorded they can then be saved. This saves money, because I don't have to print out the workbook for my son (even though he and I both prefer a printed copy).

Dipping into the Teacher's Resources, I printed out appropriate two-sided memory cards (and I loved that they lined up perfectly when printed -- all I had to do was cut on the little lines!). These worked really well! My son was even surprised himself when he found himself remembering minute details about the philosophers -- when they had lived, where they were born, what they believed in, where they had traveled, who they had known, what quote they were known for, what phrase they were known by. These cards really helped cement in the facts.
The Teacher Resources also contains an Introduction for the teacher, Timeline Resources, Master Maps and Keys, for teaching the Geography portion, as well as Quizzes and Answer Keys. We did not opt to use the quizzes, but I used all the other sections of the Resources. In the future I will probably have my student integrate the timeline materials included about these philosophers into another timeline that we were previously using in our home school.

The Reader itself covers eight philosophers (Thales, Pythagoras, Xenophanes, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles, Protagoras and Democritus). These philosophers are "pre-Socratic", as in they lived before Socrates. The Reader also contains writing checklists (think "instructions"), and the creative writing assignments for each of the eight philosophers covered. The Reader also has appendices covering additional recommended resources, and also telling the woks consulted to create the book, and gives credit for the images contained, all wrapped up with a very helpful index.

Within the Reader, each covered philosopher has his own section, broken down into seven sections per philosopher. The first section focuses on the idea of helping the student "Write Skillfully"; the second section focuses on "Think Creatively"; the third section teaches the student to "Speak Articulately". The fourth and fifth sections seem to focus specifically on geography and philosophy, and the last two sections are partially titled: "Direct from the Source", and "Biblical Worldview".
The Student Workbook is broken into three sections. The first section focuses on Notebook Pages, Maps, and Creative Freewritings for each of the presented philosophers. The second section is called the "Write, Think, Speak Journal", and again has a section for each of the philosophers. The third section is called "Checklists", and is basically a training section learning polished writing. It is subdivided into "Start", "Substance", "Structure", "Style", "Polish", "Peer Critique", and "Evaluation". These are steps to polished writing that my now-graduated students learned with another curriculum, so I am familiar with them, but I had not worked with them with my current student. Sadly, he has continued to resist my (albeit meager) efforts to guide him, even with this curriculum, so we will have to continue to work on this.

I really liked the way the philosophers were presented chronologically -- it really helps me to remember the timeline correctly when I covered them that way. I really liked the assistance in pronouncing names correctly ("zee-nof-foe-nees", not "Zeno-fones", like I had thought...). I thought the Student Workbook was really well done. My only regret is that I received a digital copy instead of a printed copy, because I can tell it would be easier to enjoy the materials to their fullest in a printed copy. With all the colorful pages, I would not be willing to print it out on my own -- too expensive. So we will continue to work from our digital copy.

These are sold in various combinations. To receive a printed Reader, a printed Workbook and a CD of the Teacher Resources costs $89.95. To buy a printed Reader, a digital Workbook on CD and a Teacher's Resource CD costs $69.95. To get all three resources on CD costs $49.95, or you can get all three resources as a digital download (what I received) for $39.95.

Hot news! I just learned that the author is extending a discount to my readers!
The code is for 10% off any download purchase.

Code: CREW-10
Expires: May 15

This discount actually applies to any of the Home School Adventure Co. products, so feel free to follow the links I provided to you.

The Philosophy Adventure materials are geared towards 6th-12th graders, but middle-school-aged kids will generally need parental guidance/assistance. My son is 8th grade, and we did the program completely together.

So, my son is a reliably difficult student to please. He is forced to study subject matter he does not care about. I asked him what he thought, but other than making demeaning comments about philosophers and about not caring about school, he had nothing to say about these products specifically. ::sigh:: Not much excites him educationally. So you will have to rely on my opinion. I consider it worthwhile to study the philosophers, and I consider Philosophy Adventure to be a high quality product that delivers its information well. I like it, and I think you will too.

To see more reviews of products by Home School Adventure Co. click the button below:

Composer Study - Haydn/Horn Concerto in D Major

I am catching up on my composer studies for the Ambleside Online Composer Study rotation of Haydn. Today's composer piece is Horn Concerto in D Major.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Composer Study - Haydn/The Creation

I am still working to catch up on composer studies following the Ambleside Online Composer Study rotation for this year. I should have been working on this one in November. It is called "The Creation".

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A TOS Homeschool Crew Review: Curiosity Quest

This spring I learned for the first time about a company called Curiosity Quest that produces educational DVDs about various natural science topics.
I was selected to review two of their products: DVD Combo Pack - Produce (Mushrooms, Cranberries, Orange Packing) and DVD Combo Pack - Swimmers of the Sea (Sea Turtle Rescue, Penguins, Salmon).

We started our viewing with Produce, which contains Curiosity Quest episodes about oranges, cranberries and mushrooms, watching Oranges first. 
I had had an idea about what it looked like when field workers collected and "dumped" their loads of oranges, but I had never seen it. It was interesting to learn about how they snip to pick, not twist or pull, and also how the oranges are sorted, sorted, and sorted. I was surprised that it was harvest time when it was so cold outside!

The episode about mushrooms was also fun to watch, and I was surprised at how much I didn't know. Mushrooms aren't a vegetable. In cooking, I usually think of them as vegetables. I've never seen a "fungi" listed as a food group, only "Fruits and Vegetables". And I learned that mushrooms do not grow from seeds, but from spores. There is a whole different vocabulary for talking about mushrooms.

The episode about cranberries was interesting. Kids were asked what cranberries taste like, and it was funny that they assumed that cranberries are juicy and sweet. Cranberries are always dried to be, and they are only sweet when they've had sugar added!

Next we watched Swimmers of the Sea.Throughout the viewing Miner periodically commented that he thought the "Fun Facts" blurbs were silly, and that he thought the section where they ask random people questions (like "Why don't penguins fly?" was silly. I think he was overly critical.

I was really enjoying Penguins, and was interested when the penguin keeper told Joel Greene, the host, that she was going to show him how to tell the boy penguins from the girl penguins. Imagine my disappointment when she told him that the girl penguins were the ones with the green tag on their wing/flipper! Well, I guess they can't show us how you tell the difference between the boys and the girls without the green tags...
My sister came in during Turtles and watched Turtles and Salmon episodes. The Turtles covered more than one type of Sea Turtle, so I'm confused about which type this is, but one type of turtles they know the male from the female turtles by their tail. Females have tails, but they are so short that they remain in their shell. Male turtles develop their tails when they are ready to mate; I think Joel said that can take as long as fifteen years. Do you know what turtles eat? Or how long they live? You can learn all these facts by watching Swimmers of the Sea

Watching the episode about salmon, I learned that salmon know where they hatched and get back there to spawn by smell! I had no idea! They know they are there when the smell is right. Their life cycle includes spawning once, and then the die. You can learn all about salmon, where they eat, how and why naturalists are helping them and much more in this episode. And did you know there is one word for animals born in fresh water that live in salt water, and a different word for animals born in salt water that live in fresh water? (I didn't even know there were animals that are born in salt water that then live in fresh water...)

When I asked Miner which episode he liked best, he said, "Cranberries!" That surprised me. I think I liked the Turtles episode best.

If I could wish for one improvement on the DVDs, it would be that they could be CD/DVDs that had a PDF file with vocabulary words and review questions. I don't know if that could be done, but it would improve the product for me.
Curiosity Quest is an informational series that investigates various topics in response to letters that viewers send in. The episodes are geared towards children ages 7-14.The Curiosity Quest Combo Packs cost $24.95 each and each episode runs about 30 minutes. I was given two Curiosity Quest Combo Packs to watch in order to give my honest and unbiased review. I was not required to post a favorable review.

To see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of their Curiosity Quest Combo Packs, click the button below.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Composer Study - Hayden/London Symphony no 104

I'm still catching up on Ambleside Online's Composer Study rotation for the firs term of the year (as in I should have been working on this one in October). So here is my composer study share for this week:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Supercharged Science - A 2014 TOS Homeschool Crew Review

Have you heard about Supercharged Science yet? Well I was delighted to learn that I would get to review the e-Science Premium Membership again this year. We received a six-month family subscription.
I have been having so much fun with Supercharged Science e-Science this time around! Now, just to warn you, there is a lot there, and it can be overwhelming at first! If you look at the e-Science topics page, you'll see 20 different Units, with additional buttons as well for "New to e-Science", "Introduction", Unit 0 (Zero), etc. Take a look this free special introductory offer.

I initially went back to Unit 0 again, this year, and focused on the 18 key scientific principles, many of which kids need to know before they head to college. I was thinking I was going to park there with "Miner", but as I got into the material I could tell it wasn't going to interest him to sit through it. He's almost to high school, but he really doesn't want to learn about what he needs to learn about. He just wants to get in there, get his hands dirty, make it pop, fizzle, and overflow, bang it with a hammer, dunk it in a bucket, etc. So, in my house right now, Unit 0 is for mom. 
So after I refamiliarized myself with the program, I studied my child Then I studied the Units, and I concluded that he would want to do the Earth Science unit right now (Unit 20). So I clicked on it and was informed by the program that I did not have access to that Unit. But I've been around e-Science long enough to know that if I want a Unit that has not yet been revealed to me, all I need to do is ask. The reason new subscribers receive certain units at the beginning, and are then granted additional units each month, is so that they won't become overwhelmed. But if you want something that is there, just ask. So I did, and there it was!

So I opened up the Earth Science unit and began to look at it. It starts with a section on weather. I showed it to Miner, but he started snoring. He and I both knew what he wanted to start with -- Gems and Minerals. Lesson 2 of Unit 20 focuses on Geology, which is what you need to focus on to work with gems and minerals. We watched the introduction to the Geology section, but then I hopped back to a section about creating a science notebook.

Miner will be in 9th grade next year, and after I had listened to Aurora's videos about the importance of the Science Journal, I decided now was the time for me to have Miner learn about using one and require that he use one. So we spent some time watching the video teaching him all about the Science Journal. He wasn't happy about it, but I consider it a necessary "evil" to get him started on this, which is something I will want him to be doing throughout his high school years.

So, now that he knew what to do with his Science Journal and why, I gave him a red spiral (his favorite color), and we got started. Now, I myself was starting this unit not knowing the difference between a rock and a mineral, and not knowing the exact significance of the items on a Periodic Table of Elements, nor the difference between an element and a mineral. So forgive me for mistakes I may make in what I say, as I'm still a new "geologist" myself.

We actually listened to the introduction again, and this time Miner took notes. I'm real pleased with how well he did. He doesn't have much experience with taking notes. I was also happy to be getting many of my own questions about elements and minerals answered as well. Aurora goes so fast! But there is a pause button, and also most of the video is reiterated in the reading material. 

So we watched videos, I read the reading assignments aloud for the both of us, and we started watching videos on experiments.

What quickly became clear to me was that my son was going to get bored and frustrated if I didn't take the time to prepare before pulling out the science. Each Unit has a shopping list, and each experiment needs certain items, but to look at the shopping list for an entire unit can be overwhelming. What Aurora recommends is that you peruse the experiments and start with ones for which you have the materials on hand. So that's what we did. For my son, also, it worked better for me to watch the experiment video in advance, and then just tell my son what the experiment was without having him watch the video. It depended upon the video. So sometimes I had him watch the videos, and sometimes I just had him do the experiment. We worked out a balance that worked well for us.

So I worked really hard (felt like I was chasing my tail) rounding up materials I knew we had in our house to run experiments on the topic of my son's delight. It was discouraging at times because I took so long that my son was starting to make comments about not wanting to do a bunch of "lame" experiments. He just wanted to go out hunting for more specimens.  Fortunately for me, though, most of this review period the weather was really fowl, so we were stuck inside anyway.

We started with a scratch experiment, after learning about Moh's hardness scale. We have a specimen of talc, and that's the only specimen we have that was affected by a fingernail. Miner really wasn't interested in doing the full experiment, so I quickly moved on. (The rest of the experiment involves testing hardness by scraping a plate of glass and scraping with a steel nail. As I was driving, later, I had to request Miner please take his specimen off the car window. We may have to go back and finish this experiment!)

We moved on to a color streak test, using the back-side of a tile from our patio table. One way of identifying minerals is that a certain mineral always leaves a streak of a certain color.

We were ready to do an experiment that called for seeing if the rocks float (I can't find it right now, so I'm sorry, but I don't remember what we were testing for). Miner said, "That's lame. None of them are going to float." So I immediately picked up the mica sample and floated it. He said, "Well any of them can float on the water tension." So I tried it, and I could only float two out of the eight specimens on the water tension. But seriously, we don't have any specimens that float on their own, like lava rock. So I don't think floating the mica on the water tension was really what the experiment was asking for. It might have been an experiment to see if the rocks were porous.

We did an experiment to test the minerals' reactivity to acid. Miner started to get concerned when he saw the little container of acid, the gloves, and I told him to wear his sun glasses (since the only pair of goggles I could find was broken). So I eased his concerns and let him know that the diluted hydrochloric acid was just distilled white vinegar. We only got one specimen to fizz.

I was going to list the experiments in this unit for you, but there are just too many! We still have many that we haven't done yet.

During our time in the Geology unit we were also able to weave in a field trip to the Smithsonian Institute's Natural History Museum's Gem and Mineral exhibit.  It was really awe-inspiring to see samples right in front of us of minerals we had seen on the eScience website.

We were able to really see crystal structure, fracture, and cleavage. (This word makes Miner laugh every time I say it!)
We saw how some of the least-assuming minerals, when cut in certain ways, become beautiful gems for jewelry. We saw really amazing specimens of sedimentary rock.

We also went to a gem and mineral show, and I let Miner purchase some new specimens. And finally, I think his favorite field trip might have been when the weather finally warmed up and we went, bag and hammer in hand, hunting for new specimens in the "wild".

Now, did I find any negatives about this product? Well, yes.
  • It can be a negative that mom needs to chase down supplies. You are going to have to do this with any science program, though, or else spend lots of money and have a company send you everything you will need. Supercharged Science offers this option as well.
  • Unit 20 is probably the newest unit. While we were in it, there was one point where I was very confused because it seemed like every time I changed links for where we were (introduction, reading, experiments), it seemed like the video I started with was the same as the video we had just seen on the previous link. Miner kept saying, "We just watched this!" And I would reply, "No, it should be different. We're on a different page." But it wasn't. This was part of why I had to start pre-watching the videos and taking more and more time preparing. I'm sure they are always looking for glitches like this to repair, so I'm sure they will catch it.
  • It was frustrating when, in the video, Aurora said, "If you haven't already, print out this chart" which was showing in the video, but we couldn't find the chart on the site anywhere. Maybe the site could have a link for "forms".
  • Also in unit 20 I found one page that needed some serious editing - like an incomplete sentence, a noun/verb disagreement or tense disagreement, ...stuff that made Miner snort when I finally just read it as it was written so he would understand why I was reading so slowly (as I tried to figure out exactly what they were trying to say). Maybe they want to hire me to help edit their site...
In my opinion, the good way out-weighs the bad. I love Supercharged Science.

If you have never been to Supercharged Science, you will do well by looking at the User Guide.  After that you will want to go through those three first, in that order. There is a lot of information there to help you get started and not feel overwhelmed. Even if you are returning to the program, you might want to start there. To access the first three units, though, you will have to sign up for the $1 Trial month that is available to you.  You can get a free taste, first, though by doing some free experiments, and then go sign up!

The e-Science Premium Membership is geared toward all grades, K - 12.  The normal price for the Supercharged Science e-Science Premium Membership is $37 per month for K through 8th grade and $57 per month for the expanded 9-12th grade material (good for advanced 5-8 graders too), with a full money-back guarantee! If you try it for one month and don't like it, you can even have your $1 from the trial price back at your request. But I know you're going to love it!

More images from the Smithsonian:

Monday, April 7, 2014

Artist Study - Monet

The artist of focus for Ambleside Online Term 2 is Edouard Manet (man-AY; 1832-1883; French Impressionism). The paintings of focus are below:

 Concert in the Tuileries, 1860-62 (Notes at Artchive) OR Luncheon on the Grass, 1863 (some nudity; but arguably his most famous painting. Noteshere) .

2. The Old Musician, 1862

   3. The Races at Longchamp, 1864
File:Edouard Manet 053.jpg

   4. The Fifer, 1866
The Fifer

   5. The Railway, 1872; NGA Lecture about this painting

   6. Le Bar aux Folies-Bergère 1881-82; (Audio from Artchives; or YouTube video; not previewed).
         Additional notes for further study here. More paintings here.
File:Edouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère.jpg