TOS Review: Code For Teens

Code for TeensTechnology is increasingly becoming a more and more integral part of our world and it is very important for our kids to learn how to use it. Fortunately, many kids today seem more adept at handling modern technology than their parents. However, there are many technical aspects to computers that elude even them, such as programming. I took my first programming class when I was in college and it was very basic, I wouldn’t even know how to begin to explain the concept to my high schooler. So, I was excited to take a look at Code for Teens: The Awesome Beginner’s Guide to Programming from Code for Teens for this review.

Code for Teens 

This full-color book focuses on JavaScript and covers topics like coding with numbers, functions, arrays, loops, and even making a game. It is written entirely to the student and is very easy to follow without being juvenile or kiddish (my son’s words, he’s a senior this year so this is very important to him). There are some basic requirements for the program: you must have a laptop or computer and you must download Google Chrome. That’s about it. One very cool thing about this book is that kids start coding right from the beginning. Really, they start performing very simple stuff from the very start, which I think takes away a lot of the intimidation associated with the whole process.

As your child moves through each chapter they will complete chapter quizzes, reviews and projects that they will save on the computer in their “workbook”. Answers to these quizzes and reviews are in the back of the book (which is awesome if you are not tech-literate like me). This workbook also gives them a sense of accomplishment as they see all that they have done as they work through the program. The projects are actually fun, and not boring, which my son kind of thought they would be (because, as he told me, most end of chapter projects are). Some of them are similar to logic puzzles, or may involve writing a bio of themselves or some other sort of activity, but he enjoyed them all and there are helpful hints in the back of the book if your child gets stuck (again, thank you Jeremy Moritz for that because I would not have been able to help on my own for sure!).

Code for Teens also includes a glossary and all the words in the glossary are in bold print in the text, which is nice for context. The color illustrations were a nice touch and added some humor to the book (which was also light and funny and not super serious which is what I remember about programming class, a fact I didn’t particularly enjoy). So, if you think computer programming has to be dry and boring and really difficult, I have to tell you, Code for Teens will prove you wrong. It’s fun, but still thorough, and a great introduction for a high school student looking to learn the basics of programming. I hope the author has plans to write similar books for other types of programming too. We really enjoyed this, and I would definitely recommend you check it out! To learn more, connect with Code for Teens on social media here:

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

 Code For Teens: The Awesome Beginner's Guide to Programming {Code for Teens Reviews}

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TOS Review: The Master and His Apprentices

I enjoy a stroll through a museum as much as anybody else, and I appreciate a beautiful work of art, but I have to admit, I don’t really KNOW much about art. In high school, I chose drama to fulfill my arts requirement, so when my own child expressed his interest in art (and classical artists), I really wasn’t sure what to do. Fortunately, there are curriculums out there to help homeschool moms like me and for this review we got to check out The Master and His Apprentices: Art History from a Christian Perspective a homeschool art history curriculum from The Master and His Apprentices.

The Master and His Apprentices 

This curriculum covers art all the way from Mesopotamia to today and includes chapters on Egyptian art, Early Greek Art, the Etruscan Period, Gothic art, the Renaissance, the Baroque period and more. Full color pictures invite you and your children to examine beautiful images you would likely never see otherwise, all accompanied by a wealth of information, enough to give your child a full high school credit if you choose.

Each chapter begins with an introduction that gives important background information on each period, which is important because it helps students understand the context in which the art takes place. As they are introduced to the art and the artists timelines help them keep track of everything going on. Students will learn about a variety of mediums from paintings to sculptures, and for my son, learning about the different styles of art helped to keep him from getting bored.

The teachers guide includes a sample syllabus and recommendation for grading papers and tests. I found this helpful, if only as a starting point. It is very easy to adjust this to meet your own personal needs, but as this is a very meaty program, it is nice to have a guide to give you an idea of how to structure this as a one year program if you want to do that. Basically it is set up for the student to do most of the reading on their own and be prepared to discuss what they read with you, which is appropriate for an upper level high school student. You could certainly read the material with your child if you wish, but for my junior in high school, he mostly did this as written.

There are questions for each chapter and four written papers assigned throughout the year. We did most of the questions orally, and these would definitely lend themselves well to group discussions if you wanted to use this program in a co-op setting or something like that. You could also assign the questions as written work if that suits your child better. I liked how a lot of the questions brought in Biblical principals and challenged students to think about what they learned about the art from a Biblical perspective. A lot of the time I think people don’t feel they can apply the Bible to artistic works but this program shows how this is simply not the case.

Exams are also included in the teacher’s guide and it comes with an answer key and tips to help you through lessons which I found very helpful. Overall, I thought this was a great art history program that was definitely a good choice to fulfill an art credit for high school! To learn more, connect with The Master and His Apprentices on social media here:

The Master and His Apprentices on Facebook

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

The Master and His Apprentices: Art History from a Christian Perspective {The Master and His Apprentices Reviews}

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TOS Review: Silverdale Press LLC

Silverdale PressI have always been an eclectic homeschooler, using a variety of styles to suit our needs. One of the things I like to include in our learning is unit studies, especially for specific topics, like holidays. For this review, we got to check out the White House Holidays Unit Studies from Silverdale Press LLC. They offer a variety of studies on a number of holidays but for our review we focused on two of my favorites, Christmas and Thanksgiving!

Persuasive Writing and Classical RhetoricThe studies are set up for grades K-12 with different activities for grades K-6 and grades 7-12, so you could easily do these with multiple grade levels if you have a large family.  They are also completely self-contained, so you do not need any additional books to complete the activities. However, you can certainly add books from the library on the topics you are studying if you wish. Some of the activities do require art supplies, but a list of required materials is given at the beginning of each lesson so it is pretty easy to go through these ahead of time and gather everything you need before you get started.

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So, the Thanksgiving unit study is fairly short, consisting of only five lessons, each of which could pretty much be completed in one sitting. If you wanted to extend it out to one lesson per week so you could make it last the whole month of November you could do the reading portion one day, the activities another, and then add in some additional library reading on the other days. For me, I would probably just devote one of our schooling days to the unit study.
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Lessons focus on the history of the holiday and American traditions, including those involving Presidents like Franklin Roosevelt and Eisenhower. Students will read portions of Plymouth Plantation, make presentations about things they are thankful for, illustrate poems, and analyze primary source documents. I appreciate how this study gets into the history of how celebrating the harvest was so important in America and also taught me some things that I didn’t know such as why the date for Thanksgiving was moved (I truly had no idea about the controversy surrounding the date in the first place). It also includes some recipes, two from Mamie Eisenhower! I feel like this was a very interesting study and that my son and I both learned a lot from it.

The Christmas Unit Study features four lessons, which makes it perfect to roll into right after you finish the one from Thanksgiving! However, it does offer quite a few more activities, so you will probably need to spread them out over the week. As I said, you can certainly add more by checking out books from the library to read to or with your kids if you want, but everything you need is contained right here in the study itself. Each lesson in this study is unique, as it focuses on a First Lady (Jacqueline Kennedy, Betty Ford, Barbara Bush, and Michelle Obama) and their take on the White House Christmas for that year. I really found this one interesting.

In this study you and your children will learn how the tradition of decorating the White House around a theme began and create some of your own special designs. You will also get opportunities to bake, do art projects, and reach out and help others. The study starts with Jacqueline Kennedy’s Nutcracker Suite Christmas. There are links for you to listen to music from the ballet as well as an audio recording of the book. You could also buy tickets to go see the ballet in person if they are available near you.

You will also do a detailed study about the White House Nativity scene and get a chance to create your own as well as read President Kennedy’s speech from when he lit the first National Christmas Tree. Learning about the simple Christmas that Betty Ford had in the White House was very special, and the activities for that lesson lend themselves to a lot of family fun (making popcorn garlands, gingerbread houses and cookies, and cranberry trees). Plus, your house will be fully ready for the holiday season!

Some of the service activities involved in the Christmas unit study include adopting a family in need and visiting a Salvation Army store. You will also do a fair amount of internet research for this study as well. Before they complete the study students will get a chance to practice persuasive writing skills (writing a letter to the White House), track Santa, debate real vs. fake Christmas trees, and a whole lot more. This study really does have a real depth to it and is a lot of fun.

Some other observations about the White House Holidays unit study: it is set up to easily divide the activities between grade levels. You read the same lesson to your kids, but the amount of questions they answer or the activities they do will vary by age, I think this is great because it makes it really easy to do with all your kids at once. While I did not get into the other unit studies, I did take a peak at them, and they all look to be set up similarly, and they look just as fun! I am pretty sure we will hit all of them over the next year.

If you want to add some unit study fun to your homeschool, you can learn more about Silverdale Press on social media here:

Silverdale Press on Facebook

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

Persuasive Writing & Classical Rhetoric: Practicing the Habits of Great Writers & White House Holidays Unit Studies {Silverdale Press LLC Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

TOS Review: Something’s Fishy at Lake Iwannfisha

The Critical Thinking Co.™I love a good mystery! And what better way to teach critical thinking skills than with a mystery story? For this review, we got to check out the Whodunnit Forensic Mystery, Something’s Fishy at Lake Iwannfisha from The Critical Thinking Co.™. It is a complete self-contained activity aimed at students in grades 5-12 and we found it very entertaining.

The Critical Thinking Co.™
The mystery begins with a full set of teacher instructions that give you background on the case, witness and suspect profiles, timelines, and specific instructions on how to guide your students through the activities. This is very helpful because there are a lot of pieces to coordinate and students are meant to find out certain pieces of information at very specific times, so you need to make sure you stay on top of that. The directions are however, very easy to follow, so once you read them, you should have no trouble getting started.

Something's Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha 

Activities are designed to be completed individually or in a group, so you could easily do this in a co-op setting if you want, and I think it would be really fun actually. However, for this review, my son just did it by himself. The teacher’s guide tells you exactly which handouts you need to make copies of as well, which is also helpful. Since everything is contained in the workbook itself, the only other things you really need to complete the whole mystery is a folder to organize the handouts and a pencil.

Now, as for the case itself, it involves a few murders, and my son was immediately intrigued. When I first showed him this, he thought it was going to be some “little kid, who robbed the candy store” kind of thing, but as soon as we got into the actual crime, he got interested. The way the police reports, witness and suspect interviews and evidence reports are set up, you really feel like you are immersed in investigating an actual crime. They give you enough information that you have what you need to pull the pieces together, but it is by no means an easy thing to just figure out. Students really need to use deductive reasoning to work out who committed these crimes and how.

I like how the Critical Thinking Co.™ put this together to make it interesting and exciting, and encourage students to use critical thinking skills in a way that really requires them to apply them. Not just in the sense that they are reading and answering questions or drawing conclusions, but that they are pulling together pieces and parts of information from all different sources and synthesizing them and then drawing conclusions and using those conclusions to answer other questions. That’s the kind of critical thinking I want my son to be able to do as a high schooler, and honestly, this is just a really fun way to do it!

We took several weeks to work through the mystery at Lake Iwannafisha, but you can definitely set your own pace. I can tell you we would absolutely recommend this if you want a fun activity to do for summer or just to add something extra and different to your homeschool. I am seriously going to check out the other programs that Critical Thinking has to offer that are like this one because we enjoyed it so much.

To learn more about this program, connect with Critical Thinking on social media here:

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To see what other members of the crew thought of this program and the others we got to check out, click here:

Critical Thinking, Understanding Math & Vocabulary {The Critical Thinking Co.™ Reviews}

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TOS Review: Memoria Press (Latin)

Memoria PressSo since most colleges ask for two credits in languages I thought it was important that my boys study a language in high school. My oldest chose Spanish, which I figured was pretty easy. However, my youngest wanted to do something different, and he chose Latin. I have to say, this terrified me, but I found a great program that I loved (First Form Latin) and it turned out to be great for both of us. For this review, I got to check out the next year of that program, Second Form Latin from Memoria Press.

Second-Form-Latin-Set

 

 

Okay, the first thing you should know is that the Second Form Latin Complete Set comes with a lot of components. Do not let this intimidate you. They all work together really well and are very easy to use. Keep in mind, this program is meant to be used AFTER First Form Latin, so the idea is that your student will have some experience with the language prior to beginning the program. Also remember that you are still your child’s teacher, and of course, you can always choose to leave some parts out if you wish.

What does Second Form Latin come with? A student textbook and workbook, a teacher’s manual and complete answer key, tests and quizzes for each lesson, flashcards, a pronunciation CD and a set of instructional DVDs. The DVDs are taught by Glen Moore, and he does a very good job of presenting the material. However, this particular child has never done well with DVD learning (believe me, we have tried many times) so I only use these sparingly.

This program consists of 26 lessons, plus additional reviews every five lessons or so. The lessons themselves are only a couple pages in the student workbook but they are very meaty. The teacher’s guide is the best place to start as it takes you through the general format for each lesson and then breaks down each lesson with individual notes. It might take some time to get used to the lesson format, especially parts like the oral drills and games if you are only teaching one student. However, what I figured out is that this is a great chance for YOU to learn Latin as well if you want. Seriously, after working through First Form with my son I discovered I learned a ton, and I am picking up more with Second Form now.

Teaching the lessons took me about 30-40 minutes at first, but once I got used to it, we averaged around 25 minutes per lesson. Each lesson takes about five days to complete, with your child working in the workbook each day. I appreciate how the workbook is set up in five distinct sections for each lesson because it makes it really easy for me to give my son a stopping and starting point each day. He generally completes the workbook on his own now, only coming to me when he has specific questions, but in the beginning, we did the workbook pages together.

The pronunciation guide was another huge bonus for me because reading Latin does not come naturally (at least at first). We listened to this together on the first day of each lesson and then referred back to it if we needed to. My son did not enjoy doing the flash cards, but really, how many 17 year olds enjoy doing drills? The fact is, they were very helpful in getting him to really remember information, especially from earlier lessons as we moved on. Also, you can use them to play games. After you complete each lesson, there is a quiz which we found helpful because it helped us figure out if there was something we needed to go back and review.

So, how do we feel about Second Form Latin? Honestly, we love it. I am amazed at how thorough it is and how easy it is to teach! I have watched my son grow in confidence over this past year as he studies, and as I mentioned, I feel like I am learning Latin too. He thinks it’s cool to be able to read and and understand more and more, especially since many people don’t understand Latin at all. Also, he is recognizing the connection between Latin and other languages and seeing where a lot of our words come from! I would definitely recommend this if you want a rigorous but easy to teach program for your high school student.

To learn more, connect with Memoria Press on social media here:

Memoria Press on Facebook

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Memoria Press on YouTube

To see what other members of the crew thought of this program and the other projects we got to check out, click here:

Spelling, Music Appreciation & Latin {Memoria Press Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

TOS Review: Bytes of Learning

UltraKey Bytes of LearningAs my kids get older, I realize the need for them to become more and more proficient with technology. While my son, a high school junior, is quite comfortable with computers one area that needs work is his typing skills. At this point his style is still more “hunt-and-peck” than anything else. So, I was excited to give the UltraKey Online Family Subscription from Bytes of Learning a try.

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This program is completely web-based, which is nice because we can access it from anywhere. It offers pretty personalized lessons, allowing you to set your own goals or choosing to allow the program to set goals for you. It also offers reports for parents on skill checks, games and more. You can easily track your child’s progress, seeing which skill checks they have passed complete with errors. This allows me to know if I need my son to go back and redo something.

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Lessons are a mixture of videos and slides, and the narrator speaks in a pleasant, even tone. As students type, a picture of the keyboard is on the screen with a model of where their hands are supposed to be. This was helpful for my son as he became comfortable with the proper positioning. Lessons begin with an introduction and some initial activities with specific keys, then move on to typing words and sentences. Students are given plenty of opportunities to practice before moving on to the Skills assessment. In addition to lessons on keyboarding, there are also very helpful videos on proper posture, finger placement, and even stretches you can use between lessons.

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Since Bytes of Learning is a self-paced program it is very easy for kids to complete on their own. They simply log in and start. My son spent about 15-20 minutes a day working on lessons, which was the perfect amount of time, keeping him from getting bored or losing interest. It was also really easy to fit into our already hectic days.

UltraKey Online also offers games which allow students to practice their skills while having fun. I appreciate the fact that the games also allow students to practice other important skills like spelling and even state capitals. My son enjoyed the games and you can get reports on those too and students earn printable merit awards as they complete levels. He liked challenging himself to improve his score each time he played. The rhyming game was his favorite.

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The UltraKey family subscription allows you to add three, five, or eight students at a time for a cost of $29.95-$49.95. I think this program is appropriate for all ages, even younger students. As a parent, I appreciate how easy Bytes of Learning is to manage, the interface is very well set up and it’s really easy to review your child’s progress. I would definitely recommend this program if you are looking for an easy typing program to get your kids comfortable with keyboarding.

UltraKey Online Family Edition 

To learn more about the UltraKey Online Family Subscription, connect with Bytes of Learning on Facebook:

Bytes of Learning

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UltraKey {Bytes of Learning Reviews}Crew Disclaimer 

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