TOS Review: Writing with Sharon Watson

Writing with Sharon Watson

High school literature can be tricky. There are programs that focus strictly on novels, programs that use a textbook-type approach, and a lot of online stuff to choose from. As a former English teacher, I personally prefer more of a hybrid approach, using both novels and some textbook-style teaching for my 11th grade son. So, I was happy to check out Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis from Writing with Sharon Watson, which suits my style perfectly.

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis

This program is a two-semester, one-credit course for students in grades 9-12. It features three main components, a teacher’s manual, textbook, and a quiz and answer manual. All of these are individually priced, so you can choose which components you want to use. There are also a lot of downloadable options like a free downloadable Novel Notebook. You also have the ability to access online quizzes that are graded for you using the information in the textbook, so if you have a child who prefers to work online, you can do that too!

So, how’s the course? Really meaty and well laid out. For starters, the teacher’s guide gives a very thorough introduction to the program, including a list of books you will need with the ISBN numbers. This makes it really easy to find the correct books. The reason this is important is because the activities and questions etc. are geared toward specific pages in those specific books. Could you use copies of some of the novels if you already have them? Sure, but you would need to go through the chapters and match up the pages to make sure your child is in the right spot when they do their work.

The teacher’s guide also includes a suggested schedule, answer keys, and a layout for the lessons. Like anything in homeschool, this is all very tweakable, which I appreciate. I used the suggested schedule as a guide for where we wanted to be each month, but we set our own pace based on my son. If it takes a little longer to complete, or we don’t get to everything, that’s fine. Illuminating Lit is full of so much that I think, even if you skip a little, your child won’t miss out on much.

Your child will read five novels in this program, Silas Marner, Frankenstein, Much Ado About Nothing,  Sense and Sensibility, and The Hobbit. They will also read many different short stories, essays and more. The textbook includes lessons on topics like theme, archetype, antagonists, protagonists, dramatic irony, and much much more. I think that is one thing that impressed me the most about the course. It covers a lot of upper-level topics that other programs I have seen just don’t offer.

The downloadable Novel Notebook is a nice addition to Illuminating Literature. It offer a space for students to gather their thoughts about what they are reading in different ways. They might answer questions or jot down some notes, they might be asked to take on the point of view of a character to answer questions, or complete some type of graphic organizer. The teacher’s guide also gives you a heads up about what questions students are answering and suggested answers if you want to discuss this with them.

My son enjoyed the stories in Illuminating Literature and seemed to enjoy looking at the works through the eyes of the characters and I really like how this program is set up and how in-depth it is. At a cost of less than $100 for all three main components, it’s also a great deal!

To learn more, connect with Sharon Watson on social media here:

Writing with Sharon Watson on Facebook

Writing with Sharon Watson on Pinterest

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this program, click here:

 
Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis {Writing with Sharon Watson Reviews}

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TOS Review: Innovators Tribe

Innovators TribeDo you have a middle school or high school student interested in subjects like engineering or architecture? Are you wondering how to incorporate courses in those subjects into your homeschool? Well, for this review we got to check out the online course, Thinking Like an Engineer from Innovators Tribe, designed to give students in grades 6-12 a taste of what it’s like to be an engineer. They also offer a similar course in architecture!

Thinking Like an Engineer 

Thinking Like an Engineer offers interactive lessons that your child can follow at their own pace. Hands-on projects are also a part of the course and the 3D CAD design software is included in the program so your technical needs are met. The course consists of six units that are divided into multiple lessons on topics like roller coaster design, types of bridges, introduction to 3D design, nano-engineering, and more.

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The program begins with an introduction to engineering, lessons on the types of engineers there are, and some activities to get kids going. Lessons vary in length, with some being around 20 minutes long and others (specifically the activities) taking as long as two hours. For those lessons, we broke them up into shorter chunks, to suit my 11th grade son’s attention span. One thing I really like about Thinking Like an Engineer is that the activities do not require a lot of special materials, which can be difficult to locate for a busy homeschool mom. In general students use paper, card stock, tape, scissors and an engineering level (which can be found online) to complete the challenges.

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My son enjoyed the narrator, Mr. K, who was lively and fun to watch. The lessons are a fair mix of videos and slides, which kept him from getting bored. (there are even a few bloopers at the end of some lessons which made him laugh) As your child moves through the course, their progress is tracked, making it easy for you to see how they are doing. If they skip a lesson, it shows up on the dashboard as a bouncing icon, so they can easily go back and finish it.

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There are about 14 design challenges in the course and let me tell you, they were not easy. In fact, it was interesting to watch as my son figured he would easily be able to complete a few of them and then found out he was wrong. I am glad that this course really did force him to think carefully through the challenges and problem solve along the way. These are skills he can apply to other areas of life whether he becomes an engineer or not.

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We both felt this course was very interesting, and I would often sit on the couch with him to watch some of the videos (we did skip ahead to check out the part about the scariest bridges, which was pretty cool!). My son appreciated that he could work at his own pace, because with juggling other high school courses being on a tight timeline would only stress him out. We would get together on Mondays and look over his work for the week and then set some goals for what he would complete in Thinking Like an Engineer for that week. It may take him some time to finish the course, but he is enjoying it and he is learning and that’s all that matters. Since it offers a total of 30 hours of work, I am going to give him a 0.25 credit for the course as well.

If you have a budding engineer in your family (or architect or capenter) I would definitely recommend checking Innovaters Tribe out! To see what other crew members thought about the courses we got to try, click here:

Thinking Like an Architect or Engineer {Innovators Tribe Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

TOS Review: CTCMath

CTCMathEveryone has those subjects they just love, and also those that, well, they don’t like so much. For me, the not-so-much subject has always been math. Fortunately, my youngest likes math a lot more than I do,  but he finds it easier to learn it from someone who is not me.  I am always on the lookout for programs I can use so he can learn at his own pace, and I was happy to check out a single student membership from CTCMath for this review.

CTC offers a wide range of math programs, from elementary to the high school level. For this review, my son, who is a high school junior, tried out their Algebra 2 program. This class is divided into three sections, each one sub-divided into topics like solving linear equations, polynomials, rational expressions, and more. Lessons consist of a video of math problems being solved narrated by an instructor who explains each step. My son preferred this to a video that showed an actual teacher working on a board, because he said it made it easier to focus on the problems themselves. The narrator speaks very clearly and at a good pace, and my son enjoyed his accent!

CTCMathAfter watching the video, students can then complete a worksheet that gives them a chance to practice what they learned. They can do the work on paper or you can print out a copy of the sheet for them to work on. Students type their answers into CTC and it tells them how many they got right. Students can make multiple attempts on the worksheets and even go back to watch the video again if they want. Afterwards, students can then view complete worked out solutions for the problems if they can’t figure something out. I can’t tell you how much I love this feature! Having the problems worked out step by step really helped us identify where my son made a mistake. Often, you will get an answer key with the simple answer, but that doesn’t help much once you get into upper level math, so this is a part that I really appreciate.

The results tab lists the scores for each lessons, the numbers of attempts made at each lesson, and the date the lesson was passed. This makes it very easy to track your child’s progress. For parents, CTC allows you to log in and set tasks for your child to complete. These tasks will appear under the “tasks” tabs on your child’s page. You can set a date for completion and you get notifications if tasks are not done on time. In addition, you get weekly emails with reports on your child’s activity for the week. These are really helpful if you’re in a busy season and can’t be on top of your child every day because you can easily see if your child is on track.

CTCMathAdditional features I really like about CTCMath include their speed drills, where kids can practice math facts, and their diagnostic tests. You can assign these and use them to determine what things your child really needs to focus on. On the whole, I think CTC is a very solid math program and a great help for parents who want to give their kids more independence. In addition to single-student memberships, CTC also offers family memberships and they allow you to do a free trial so you can check it out first! If you are interested, you should check out their special pricing which runs from now until 11/15/17 which gives you a discount of 60 percent off!

To learn more, connect with CTC on social media here:

CTCMath on Facebook

CTCMath on Twitter

CTCMath on YouTube

To see what other members of the crew thought of this program, click here:

 

CTCMath Online Math Tutoring {Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

TOS Review: Captain Bayley’s Heir (Heirloom Audio Productions)

Heirloom Audio Productions Have you ever wanted to travel to the Wild Wild West? Did you ever wonder what it was like to travel to unsettled areas and deal with the adventures you would find there? If you have, you definitely want to check out this review of Captain Bayley’s Heir from Heirloom Audio Productions, because it will take you right there!

Captain Bayley's HeirFirst, let me say, we have reviewed for Heirloom before and are always pleased with what they have to offer. In fact, I have a few expectations now whenever I get to listen to their audiodramas: 1. a stellar cast: Yes, they have amazing talent for all of their stories. From Brian Blessed, who features on the majority of their recordings, to others like Jade Williams and Ian Porter, you are getting a top-notch performance from everyone! These people really seem to LIVE their characters, which helps you get totally lost in the story. 2. Amazing soundtrack/sound effects: whoever does the sound recordings for Heirloom should be commended! Their sound effects/music/etc are always on point and perfectly suited to whatever is happening in the story. Like, if you close your eyes, you really feel like you are there!

So, without giving too much away, this particular story, based on a classic GA Henty novel, features the story of Frank, an English lad falsely accused of theft when it comes to his inheritance. He flees to America to escape the charges and encounters the Captain on his journey. In addition, he travels across the country in the heart of the Gold Rush, ecountering raids, stagecoach robberies, buffalo and more along the way. Of course, he alos encounters the Lord and learns a lot along the way.

So, why do we love Captain Bayley (and the other audiodramas from Heirloom) so much?
Mainly because it is pure, wholesome family entertainment. You can listen to this with kids of all ages (the first one of these I reviewd, I think my youngest was 11, now he’s 16) and never have to worry about what is going to be said. We enjoy saving the CDs for road trips when we can all listen together, but you can also put them in a CD player at the house. The chapters are conviently divided, so it is easy to pick up right where you left off each day!

Also, these audiodramas are just plain exciting! I have two boys who are now older teenagers and they have spent many years listening to these, and they always find them entertaining. As a homeschool mom, I appreciate the historical content, because I can see how you could easily use this story as part of a larger unit study/history study if you wanted too.

In additon to the CDs, you also gain access to bonus content which includes a study guide. I always enjoy these study guides, because even though we primarily use the audiodramas from Heirloom for entertainment, I still like to know my kids are getting something else from listening, you know? The study guide includes discussion questions from each chapter which range from basic recall to questions that require a lot of synthesizing information and drawing conclusions. We use these strictly for discussion, but you could absolutely have older students write their answers to them if you wanted.

Helpful vocabulary and background information is also included as well as Bible studies related to the story. On the whole, the study guides help take Captain Bayley from an exciting audiodrama to a real teaching tool. If you want to access the extra materials you need to sign up for the Live the Adventure Club which is a new feature Heirloom offers that allows you to connect with other people listening to the same story you are, gain access to extras and more. I know, sometimes you don’t want to sign up for one more thing, and to be honest, I get that, but it’s worth it.

In short, we totally enjoyed this product! To learn more, connect with Heirloom Audio on social media here:

Heirloom Audio on Facebook

Heirloom Audio on Twitter

Heirloom Audio on Instagram

To see what other members of the crew thought of this product, click here:

 

Captain Bayley's Heir {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}Crew Disclaimer 

TOS Review: Apologia Marine Biology

Apologia Educational MinistriesOne of the things I find complicated about teaching high school is getting in all the elective credits. Sometimes it can be difficult to find interesting courses to fill those needs for your child. However, I do have a kid who loves the ocean, so the Marine Biology 2nd Edition Advantage set with the Audio CD from Apologia Educational Ministries seemed like a good fit for us!

Marine Biology 2nd Edition Advantage SetThe Advantage set itself comes with the student textbook, notebook, and tests and answer keys. We loved the full-color textbook which has a great layout on each page. The pictures/charts/diagrams etc help break up the text, which is great for my son who has trouble focusing when there is nothing but words on the page. This program features 16 modules on topics like: Life in the Sea, Marine Invertebrates, Marine Ecology, Coral Reefs, and much more.

Each chapter includes a few experiments that can pretty much be completed with things you have at home. I like this feature since purchasing a lot of very specific items for labs is often expensive. Directions are clear and easy to follow, meaning you can easily do the labs even if you do not have a lot of science experience. There are questions sprinkled throughout the chapter that help students articulate what they are learning, and each chapter features a review at the end that your child can complete before they take the test.

Apologia Marine Biology is a creation-based program, which I like, and interspersed in the chapter are sections called “Creation Connection” which links what is being learned in the chapter to evidence for creation. If you did not want to focus on this, you could skip this part, but I felt it led to very good discussions between my son and I and helped him sharpen his viewpoint on creation in general.

The appendices offer a glossary, additional study guides, and a list of required lab materials. Basically, my son and I would work our way through the chapter, with him doing the reading and answering the questions, and when we got to the end of the chapter, he would complete his review and take the test. If he did not do well on the test I would have him go back and complete the additional study guide for that chapter.

One thing that helped him complete the reading on his own is the Marine Biology 2nd Edition Audio CD. Read by Marissa Leinart, the CD offers a complete word-by-word reading of each chapter. This is great for reluctant readers like my son who are often intimidated by the sheer amount of reading in a textbook. Ms. Leinart reads at a comfortable, steady pace with appropriate volume and inflection so kids don’t get bored. The CD also offers and introduction and student notes section as well. It is important to note that this is an MP3 CD so you will need a compatible device to use it.

Marine Biology 2nd Ed Audio CDAnother really good part of the Advantage set is the student notebook. Seriously, I cannot stress enough how, whenever you get any Apologia program you should ALWAYS purchase the student notebook. It is so worth it! First of all, the notebook includes a daily schedule with reading/labs/questions all spelled out for you, which is in itself a huge bonus! The notebook also includes all the questions in the chapter, so your child has one place to record all their answers and you aren’t chasing papers around. Lab forms and chapter reviews are also included, so you really don’t need to purchase additional notebooks/binders etc. There is plenty of room for students to write and take notes too.

Marine Biology 2nd Edition Advantage SetThe test book and answer key are also a great component of the program. By high school, kids need to get used to taking tests and I don’t want to have to make them up on my own, it’s just additional work I don’t need. A complete answer key makes it easy for me to grade everything at a glance, so I know if we need further discussion or study on a topic or if we can just move on.

Altogether, we thought Marine Biology was great, and for less than $100 for the main set, it also has a great price! To learn more, connect with Apologia on social media here:

Apologia on Facebook

Apologia on Instagram

Apologia on Twitter

Apologia on Pinterest

To see what other members of the crew thought of this program, click here:

 

Marine Biology 2nd Edition Advantage Set {Apologia Educational Ministries Review}Crew Disclaimer

TOS Review: Heirloom Audio Productions (In the Reign of Terror)

Heirloom Audio ProductionsIn summer, we do a lot of road trips, and I love having audiobooks to listen to in the car as we drive. It’s a great way to keep our whole family entertained! For this review, we got to check out In the Reign of Terror, the latest offering from Heirloom Audio Productions. We have reviewed several of Heirloom’s audiodramas before, and we are never disappointed. Based on novels by GA Henty, the stories are always full of adventure and excitement that keeps my boys on the edge of their seats, and this new one was no different!

In the Reign of TerrorSet against the backdrop of the French Revolution, the story is the perfect mix of history and drama. It tells the story of a young man named Harry, who is caught up in the events of the revolution, trying to save an aristocratic Christian family from execution. The cast, as always, is stellar, with Brian Blessed leading as Henty himself. Rounding out the ensemble are actors like John Rhys-Davies from movies like The Lord of the Rings, and Cathy Sara from Downtown Abbey.

The cast does an amazing job of bringing the characters to life, infusing them with passion and vibrance. You really connect with each one, and find yourself anxiously waiting to see what happens to each person. A 2 CD set, In the Reign of Terror offers over two hours of entertainment, broken into sections that easily allow you to pick up wherever you left off. This feature is especially convenient if you listen to it on a day when you have to run a lot of errands.

Heirloom audio always seems to product top-notch products, complete with background music and sound effects that draw you even deeper into the story. You find yourself automatically rooting for Harry and waiting on pins and needles as each new chapter develops.

In addition to the audiobook, you also get access to a downloadable study guide. This guide features questions for each chapter in the story. The questions range from recall questions that make sure students listened and remember what happened, to vocabulary and questions that require listeners to dig deeper and make connections between events and draw conclusions, make inferences and other higher-order thinking skills. We usually discuss these questions orally after each section, leading to a lot of family discussion. The guide wraps up with three Bible stories that connect with the Biblical themes related in the story. If you would like to use this audiodrama as part of a unit study, Heirloom also offers a reading list with books about the French Revolution in the study guide, which would be especially useful for older students.

Users also have the option of joining the Live the Adventure Club, an online community that Heirloom just started. If you sign up, you not only gain access to the downloadable extras, but you can also participate in discussion boards about the books, access quizzes on the audiobooks, and have your kids play games and find lots of other things to do to further explore the adventure!

We thoroughly enjoyed In the Reign of terror and are looking forward to Heirloom’s next adventure! To learn more, connect with them on social media here:

Heirloom Audio on Facebook

Heirloom Audio on Twitter

Heirloom Audio on Google+

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this product, click here:

 

In the Reign of Terror {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

TOS Review: Fascinating Education (Fascinating Biology)

Fascinating EducationAll kids learn differently, and one of the great things about homeschooling is how you can customize your child’s education to meet their needs. So, one of my kids is a fantastic book-learner. You can just hand him a textbook, tell him where to start, and send him on his way. My other one, however, really struggles with textbooks. Too many words on a page, too big, too intimidating etc. So, I have learned to find alternate methods of teaching for him, including online learning. For this review, we got to check out Fascinating Biology from Fascinating Education.

Fascinating  PhysicsThe course consists of 18 lessons that include topics like energy, nutrients, reproduction, adaptations, plants, and more. Each lesson offers a narrated power-point style video with a navigation bar on the side. I really appreciated this part because it was easy to break the lessons up if you wanted (for kids like mine with a short attention span) and pick up right where you left off. If you have a child who is not an audio/visual learner, Fascinating Education also gives you a word-by-word script of the lessonn with the pictures included so your child could read the lesson instead. These are also handy for reviewing before taking the tests.

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The tests are basically quizzes that review the information in the lesson with multiple choice questions. Students receive their grade immediately and if they did not do well, they are given the chance to review the test and retake it. I really really like the review part, because that is what I would have my son do anyway if he had trouble with a test in any subject. I think giving your kids a chance to review where they went wrong helps them learn the correct information and then they can retake the test afterwards. You can also print PDFs of the tests if you prefer to use paper and pencil.

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As far as how we used Fascinating Biology, it was pretty easy. I would look at the lesson for the week and decide how much my son would do each day. One thing to know about this program is that some lessons can be long (45 minutes). If you have a child who can focus on a presentation for that long, then you’re fine. If not, you can break it into sections using the menu like I did. My son usually did at least three sections per day, depending on the rest of our schedule. It will probably take us a little longer to complete it that way, but I don’t mind. I’m more concerned about making sure he really understands the information.

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After each lesson, we would talk about what he learned, and I could use the script at this point to follow along and make sure he knew what he was talking about. The tab on the side also includes a glossary of terms that you could use to have your child keep a biology vocabulary notebook if you wanted. Once he finished an entire lesson, we would review the key terms and then he would take the test. If he did well, we would move on, if not, I always had him review the test and also the script to go over those concepts that he missed. If you want, you can also print the tests, which will give you the score, and list of questions which tell you which ones your child got right and which ones they got wrong.

One thing to note, the program at this point does not save test scores, nor do they keep running grades, so you will have to keep track of that yourself. Also, while some of the tests include questions from multiple lessons, there are no formal mid-term or final exams. Since Fascinating Education has made some changes to their programs, there have been a few technichal issues with sound and things like that, but I didn’t really feel that was a big issue. Their team is very responsive and works hard to resolve problems quickly, and I find it is not uncommon to run into hiccups when using computer-based programs in general.

I feel like Fascinating Biology is a great overview of a biology course. After trying and trying to get my son through a traditional textbook course, I was really happy to find something that worked well for him. I think he is getting a fantastic grasp of biology concepts, and will have a great foundation to move on from.

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this product, and the others we got to check out, click here:

Biology, Chemistry & Physics {Fascinating Education Reviews}

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