TOS Review: GrammarPlanet

GrammarPlannetGrammar is one of those subjects that is often difficult to teach just because most students find it dry and boring. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to make identifying nouns and pronouns and diagramming sentences fun! However, I believe that a solid understanding of grammar is very important in teaching students how to write. Those who have a thorough understanding of how grammar works will have a better understand of how to put sentences together when they are writing. So, I was excited to check out a new online program from GrammarPlanet to see if it might make grammar instruction a little bit easier.

Aimed at students 10 and up, the program includes video instruction, practice lessons and quizzes. Each unit offers a set of printable notes your student can use to guide them in the lessons and refer back to if they get confused. I thought this was a nice feature and good reference point. We kept the notes in a folder for my son to refer back to throughout the units. There are 12 units total that start off with simple topics like nouns and move on to more complicated topics like everyone’s favorite thing, diagramming sentences!

grammar planet 1

Videos are typically short, lasting around 5 minutes or so, and the speaker in the videos is clear and pleasant (this is important, the person delivering the instruction is a huge part of any course). After watching the videos, students complete practice sets on each topic. One of the things I really like about this program is the immediate feedback students get when they do the practice. Each sentence is scored right away and they can quickly see if they made a mistake. This helps them make corrections as they go, which I think helps them learn much better than if they find out about their mistakes at the end or something like that.

grammar planet 2

grammar planet 3

After they complete each unit students take a quiz before moving onto the next unit. The tests consist of a number of questions that mix multiple choice questions with questions that ask students to identify the different parts of speech within a sentence. Quizzes are slightly different in that students do not receive feedback until the very end, where they can see their score and then see what they got wrong on each question. Again, I like the fact that students don’t just see that they got a question wrong, they get to see why they got it wrong and what the correct answer is.

For parents, GrammarPlanet offers you excellent reports about your child’s progress. You can login and click on unit report to see all the questions your child completed for that unit and exactly which ones they got right or wrong. In fact, if you click on a specific question, it will show you HOW they answered that question so you can see EXACTLY what they missed! I think that’s pretty awesome because it allows you to identify if there is a specific thing your child is struggling with or needs help with! You can also review all of your child’s test questions as well and reset a unit if you think your child needs to redo it.

grammar planet 4

All of this is available for less than $40 for ad-free access to the site. I really think that if you want a simple way to teach grammar, GrammarPlanet is a good way to go! To learn more, connect with them on social media here:

GrammarPlanet on Facebook

GrammarPlanet on Twitter

GrammarPlanet on Pinterest

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

*Grammar Program Online {GrammarPlannet Reviews}

 

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TOS Review: CursiveLogic

Many people would say that since the advent of the computer, cursive writing has slowly become a lost art, and they wouldn’t be wrong. However, I’ve always felt it was important for my children to learn to write (and read cursive) and at the very least, be able to sign their names on documents and forms. For my oldest, this was not a problem. However, my youngest struggles with writing in general and so far, we have had no luck with cursive. For this review, we got to try out the updated CursiveLogic Quick Start Pack and The Art of Cursive from CursiveLogic.

Cursive Logic New Edition

This program teaches cursive in a very systematic way and is appropriate for all ages. Basically, anyone who wants to learn cursive, from kids to adults, can use this. My son is a junior in high school but he didn’t feel like this was babyish in any way (most of the books I had gotten from the store had cartoon pictures etc. He hated that). The Quick Start Pack includes a webinar for parents that goes over how to teach the program, step by step. This is very helpful if you don’t know where to start.

Cursive Logic Sample Page

The workbook itself includes information for teachers about the different parts of the program and how it is set up. I would highly recommend reading this information thoroughly before getting started. You begin with proper posture and instruction on how to hold the paper and pencil for both left and right-handed students. As a family of lefties I really appreciated this.

Exercises start with teaching simple shapes, that eventually help form letters. Students engage with CursiveLogic in multiple ways, not just through tracing forms on the page. The program encourages using their fingers to trace letters, reciting while learning and more that apply to different senses, making it an immersive learning experience. As they progress through the program, students learn more and more shapes and how they are connected and go on to forming strings of letters and eventually, words.

For my son, this approach seems to be very effective. I structure lessons for about 20 minutes per day, and he doesn’t seem to mind doing them, which is a big thing because he has found handwriting tedious in the past. The verbal cues he has learned help him to remember how to form the letters and it seems to be coming easier and easier to him.

As part of this program we also received the cursive coloring book, The Art of Cursive. I’ve noticed that coloring is kind of a big thing even for adults these days, and I have to admit I find coloring verses in my Bible very relaxing. This book includes gorgeous illustrations that incorporate many of the same movements from the workbook, accompanied by quotes from famous poets and people and Bible verses. You could easily use this yourself if you wanted, or you could allow your child to color pages one day a week (which is what I did). My son actually really liked this part the most I think.

The Art of Cursive Logic

Overall, we are very satisfied with how things are going so far. If you have a child who wants to learn cursive I would definitely recommend checking this out. To learn more, connect with CursiveLogic on social media here:

CursiveLogic on Facebook

To see what other crew members had to say about this program, click here:
The Art of Cursive & Quick Start Cursive {Cursive Logic Reviews}

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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: Hewitt Homeschooling (American Lit)

Hewitt Homeschooling

I love literature! Reading has always been one of my favorite things, and I love sharing books with my kids. I am always on the lookout for good literature programs for my son, especially now that he is older. For this review, we got to check out the American: Early-Mid 19th Century literature program from Hewitt Homeschooling. This program is aimed at highschool freshman and sophomores. I used it with my 10th grade son.

 Lightning Literature and Composition Pack
American: Early to Mid 19th Century

Early-Mid American Lit is the first part of Hewitt’s American Literature program, with a second book, Mid-Late 19th Century, that follows. You can choose to either use one set each semester, or spread out one book over an entire year. For my son, the slower option is better as reading is not his favorite subject and requires a lot more effort from him. The course consists of a student book and a teacher’s guide.

The teacher’s guide includes suggested schedules for a one-semester and full-year course, which makes it easy for you to set up the course. I will tell you that the one-semester schedule is very heavy on the weekly reading, which is why we opted to go with the full-year course. It ended up being too much for son to do in a week along with his other subjects. The guide also includes rubrics to use for grading, checklists for writing assignments, and answers to the questions in the student book.

The course itself consists of four units, with two lessons per unit. Students read a mix of classic novels (which you can easily find online or at the library) as well as poems and short stories that are included in the student book. Some of the authors covered in the Early-Mid American Lit book are Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Longfellow.

I had my son start with the introduction, which gives background on literature in general, writing tips, and information about how to use the guide. Since the course is pretty student oriented, I wanted to really go over this part since I knew he would mostly be using it on his own. The first unit begins with the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. This section does use a very specific edition of the book which I was able to find online. We broke the reading into weekly assignments, based on how the guide set up the questions, and my son would read each day, then complete the questions in his notebook. In general, we got to about 3 sets of questions per week.

I felt the questions themselves were a good mix of direct recall and questions that caused students to think and synthesize things in the text, and were appropriate for high schoolers. After completing all of the reading there was a lesson about autobiographical writing. We read through and discussed this section together, then I had my son choose one of the writing assignments at the end of the unit. I liked the variety of options students had for their writing assignments, with choices that range from simple to more complex and serious to humorous. I feel like my son is much more motivated when he gets to choose an assignment, and it leads to less conflict between us.

 

The second lesson in Unit 1 moves onto Washington Irving. It included a fun short story written by Irving that my son read in the text with a series of short comprehension questions after. I felt like this was a good way to break things up so they don’t feel monotonous. Students get to read full novels, but also get breaks and are able to read shorter works as well.

All in all, the Early-Mid American Lit course is a solid program. It offers a a wide variety of classic literature to your children in an easy-to-use design. You can literally just read the introduction to the course and get started! Also, this program comes as either a student book and teacher’s guide or a full set that includes all the necessary novels, which allows you to choose what fits your budget.

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

Hewitt Homeschooling on Facebook

Hewitt Homeschooling on Twitter

Hewitt Homeschooling on Pinterest

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

Hewitt Homeschooling {Reviews}

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TOS Review: IEW High School Essay Intensive

Institute for Excellence in WritingHigh school is where the rubber meets the road. As a homeschool mom, it is also the part that feels the most tricky to me. I have so much to get my kids ready for, SATs, ACTs, college applications. Ugh. And writing is a huge part of that. While I am pretty confident in my skills as a writing teacher, I still feel more secure with a set program for this subject, just to make sure I don’t miss anything. So, for this review, I was excited to check out the High School Essay Intensive from Institute for Excellence in Writing.

I have used products from IEW before and I have always been happy with them. This new program is no different. High School Essay Intensive is very thorough, with the same detailed instruction I have come to expect from Mr. Pudewa. The program itself comes with five DVDs full of instruction, totaling over 6 hours. The format is the same as other IEW courses which feature Mr. Pudewa teaching a group of students. It also includes handouts and a general outline of the course.

Institute for Excellence in Writing High School Essay Intensive This program features a wide range of topics from different paragraph models, to outlining, proofreading, and writing for specific purposes like the ACT. The course outline includes a space for your student to take notes, which I found really helpful for my 10th grade son. He was able to follow along on the DVD and the guided outline allowed him to take notes easily. For a student who is working on note-taking skills, this feature is very helpful.

The included handout, Portable Walls for the Essayist, is a great reference your student can use all through high school. It includes definitions of the different types of essays, essay models, examples and outlines of the writing process, and more, all in a handy, laminated, folder-type handout. We are definitely going to hang onto it for future writing reference.

So, how did we use the High School Essay Intensive from IEW? Well, basically we started with disc 1, breaking the lectures into parts. My high-intensity sophomore is not good at sitting and watching video for more than 25-30 minutes at a time, so I would break the videos into parts and have him take notes on each section. Then we would pick up the next day wherever we left off. It might take us a little longer to complete the program this way, but that doesn’t bother me. I would rather go slower and make sure my son truly understands the lessons anyway.

After taking notes, my son would also work through any assignments in the course, from outlining, to writing sentences, to essays themselves. Some assignments took longer than others, so we would adjust the lecture schedule accordingly as needed. This is one of the areas I really appreciate Mr. Pudewa. He is just so good at making things really clear for students. His easy to follow instruction made it simple for my son to “get” what he was supposed to be writing about.

We really enjoyed the High School Essay Intensive from Institute for Excellence in Writing. Andrew Pudewa is great at connecting with students and making writing interesting (his sense of humor helps a lot too). I felt this program was really well-laid out and helped ME as a homeschool mom improve my writing instruction. The only drawback I see with this is that it doesn’t include a suggested schedule, which I always kind of like to have.

To learn more about the High School Essay Intensive, connect with IEW on social media here:

Excellence in Writing on Facebook

IEW on YouTube

IEW on Twitter

IEW on Pinterest

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

High School Essay Intensive {Institute for Excellence in Writing Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

TOS Review: Everyday Education, LLC

Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}Let’s face it, high school writing is hard. There is so much to remember. When I was in high school, I had notebooks full of notes and references to help me when I wrote my papers. Of course, back then, there was no such thing as the internet! I always thought it would be easier if I had some kind of reference I could refer too when writing. So, I was really excited to get to review the Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers from Everyday Education, LLC for my high school son.

Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}

My youngest is not a natural writer. In fact, he fights it almost every step of the way. However, I know how important writing is for his future. We have done tons of grammar and writing programs along the way, but it doesn’t always stick in his head. At first this used to make me feel bad, but then I realized that’s just how he is. So, wouldn’t it be easier if he had a resource where he could just look stuff up to help him along the way? That’s exactly what the Handbook for Writers is.

 

It contains a wealth of information on writing in various topics. From grammar, to examples of certain kinds of essays, to how to reference resources, it’s all here! You can easily use this as an addition to any high school writing curriculum, allowing your child to refer to it as needed. I also think, with a little creativity, you could even use it as a writing curriculum, expanding on each section with other materials and giving your child a chance to practice and hone their skills.

I really appreciate that grammar lessons are included, because it gives those kids who did not master grammar before a chance to really apply those skills to their writing. For some kids, learning punctuation, nouns, verbs, gerunds etc. is really hard out of context. With the writers handbook, you can easily apply what your kids are learning directly to their writing, which really works for kids like my boy.

Also, the reference and citation sources were really helpful in this book. To be honest, I don’t completely remember how to cite sources anymore, but I know (from my experience with my college-age son) that it’s important. Also, a lot has changed since I was in high school. Now there are simply so many more things to cite! Having the writers handbook to refer too is really handy in those cases!

The PDF file offers hundreds of pages to help your student write the best papers possible. In fact, there were a couple of times my older son asked his brother to use his handbook when he had to write a paper for school! I think that over the next two years of high school we are going to refer to this handbook a lot, and my son may even still use it when he is in college. At less than $40, I think it is a steal!

To find out more, connect with Everday Education on social media here:
Janice Campbell on Pinterest

Excellence in Literature on Facebook

Everyday Education on Twitter

Janice Campbell on Google+

To see what other crew members have to say about this resource, and the other ones we got to check out, click here”
Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}

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TOS Review: The Cat of Bubastes (Heirloom Audio Productions)

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes

Travel back in time to Ancient Egypt and go on an adventure with Amuba, the captured prince of Rebu, a city on the shore of the Caspian Sea. During his journey, he will find friends among his captors, and some enemies too, and in a race to save a friend’s life, discover the One True God. The Cat of Bubastes is another audio drama from Heirloom Audio Productions. We have loved every single one that we got to check out so far, and we were really excited to check out this latest release for this review.

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes

Based on the book of the same name by author G.A. Henty, the two-disc set takes you and your family into the book. As always, Heirloom has recruited top voice talent to play the roles, and their sound effects and soundtrack help you feel like you are really in the story. All of the actors do a great job, and as you listen, you can picture the action in your head, as if you were watching a movie.

I don’t want to give away the whole story, but I will tell you that Amuba comes to serve the high priest of Thebes, where he is taken after being captured. He and his friend Jethro become close to the family of the priest, who is very kind and treats all people with respect. Of course, conflict arises on a few fronts when Amuba and Chebron, the priest’s son, discover a murder plot in the city and then have to flee for their lives after accidentally killing the sacred cat of the city. During their adventures, they encounter Simeon, a faithful Israelite, and Ruth, his granddaughter, who help introduce them to the Christian faith.

Full of historical facts, The Cat of Bubastes combines history with drama to create excitement that you can also use as a teaching tool. Each track is numbered, so it is very easy to pick up where you left off as you listen. Along with the CDs, Heirloom gives you access to some awesome extras including a study guide that is chock full of information. There are discussion questions for each track on the disc, questions that include both recalling info from the story and questions that require you to go a little deeper with your thinking.

One thing I noticed in this study guide was the inclusion of other historical information related to the story. The Expand Your Learning sections offer info about a range of topics from Ancient Egyptian games, to the Pyramids, to recipes you can make. At the end of the study guide are three Bible studies you can do with your family. We mostly used the study guide as a source of discussion, but now that my kids are older, I did have them answer some of the going deeper questions in writing and keep a notebook of the vocabulary words.

Other extras include a download of the actual G.A. Henty book, complete with color pictures. I like this option because if you have a reader in the family, they can read the book before or after listening to the audio drama. You can also download the soundtrack, a poster, and more.

We thoroughly enjoyed listening to The Cat of Bubastes. Like the other Heirloom audio dramas, it is pure, family-friendly entertainment that both introduces your kids to history and points them toward God. I definitely recommend this if you and your family like listening to audio books. They are great for road trips or just listening to after dinner. To learn more, connect with Heirloom Audio on social media here:

Heirloom Audio on Facebook

Heirloom Audio on Twitter
Heirloom Audio on Google+

You might also want to check out some of their other adventures like, The Dragon and the Raven and With Lee in Virginia.

To see what other members of the crew thought of this product, click here:
Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes

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