For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

5 Games to Jump Start your Hands-On Learning

It's been a while since I have joined the Canadian Homeschool Blogging Team monthly post. I  am back this month on the theme of Hands-on Learning.

Kids learn well with hands on activities. This is especially true for kinesthetic learners, but every kind of learner can benefit from some hands on learning. My favorite hands on activity to use with the boys are games. With Christmas coming up, I thought I would share with you a few educational games, that might be new to you, but nonetheless that are fun to play

2. Giddly Games, covering a wide range of subjects

3. Fractazmic, great for learning fractions

4. Professor Noggins card games

5. BrainBox Games

Hope you check these out, I am sure you will find something that would fit your family.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Basics of Critical Thinking - TOS Review

We love Logic at our house. One of the skills, besides a love for God and His Word, we long to develop in our kids, is the skill of critical and logical thinking.

One of the last products we got to review for the crew was one of those. It comes from a very well known company especially committed to developing curriculum in this subject for homeschoolers: The Critical Thinking Co. They have been around for a while and keep coming up with new products on a consistent basis. I was very delighted to receive one of those for review: The Basics of Critical Thinking.

The Basics of Critical Thinking is a book designed to teach kids the process of evaluating argument starting from the very basics of what an argument, a fact, an evidence is, and building up from that. It is designed for grades 4-9, and having looked through the book and my 5th grader work his way through it, I can say that the grade range is about right.  

I had been wanting to do some sort of logic curriculum with my 5th grader and this came at the right time. I had him work on this 4 times a week (the duration of our school week), going though about a chapter a week (depending on the length of the chapter). The way the chapters are set up is as follow: a concept is introduced and explained, then it is demonstrated and then, followed by a set of practice exercises that will help the student to learn to apply it or recognize it. 

The concepts covered are as follow:

• What Is Critical Thinking?
• Conclusions and Decisions
• Beliefs and Claims
• Finding (Identifying) Evidence
• Evaluating Evidence
• Inferring and Inferences
• Facts and Opinions
• Facts and Probable Truths
• False and Probably False
• Facts, Probably True, and Probably False
• Venn Diagrams
• Logical Connectives
• Advertising
• Agreements and Contracts
• Common Errors in Reasoning
• Arguments
• Valid and Invalid Arguments
• Fallacies
• Analogy Argument

I chose my 5th grader to review this with because, being a logical, Mathy kind of child I figured it would be good for him to learn formal logic and have anchors to base his thinking upon. He tends to be like me sometimes and come up with his own logic. Having gone through the first few chapters I can say that it is helping.

Just recently I was able to appeal to what he was learning in clarifying an argument that he was having with his brother, and where he did not get the logic his dad was applying to the situation. Once I worked him through the process, using some concepts he had learn in Basics of Critical Thinking, it made sense to him and we were able to move forward.

The book is colourful and easy to use. It is a workbook that can be worked on independently since everything is explained and demonstrated, and the answers are located at the back of the book. As a parent all you have to do is keep an eye on what your child is learning so that you keep up and help him practice what he is learning in everyday life.

The Critical Thinking Co are always coming up with wonderful products, and the crew got to review quite a few recent ones, so on top of this new Basics for Critical Thinking make sure to check out the other products that were reviewed by other crew mates.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Eat Your Science Homework - TOS Review

Science is one of those subjects that must be taught but that many of us feel inadequate to teach. That is why a new product that can make the subject fun and easier to teach is always welcome. Well, this is what you have with Eat your Science Homework, a book put out by Ann McCallum Books.

Ann McCallum books is a company that carries books written by Ann McCallum, a Canadian, living in Maryland, turned children book author, that loves to write books that teach, picks and enlarge the mind of children.

What is Eat Your Science Homework? It is a book that contain science experiments that you can eat. It is a hands-on science book, filled with 6 recipes, that will allow you to connect science and food, and therefore demonstrate to the kids how science is in everything.

Eat Your Science Homework is a 48 pages book suitable for 7-10 year old kids. That said, you can certainly use it with older or younger kids. It contains the following experiments:
  • Atomic Popcorn Balls
  • Density Dressing and Veggie Sticks
  • Invisible Ink Snack Pockets
  • Loop, Whorl and Arch Cookies
  • Sedimentary Pizza Lasagna 
  • Black Hole Swallow-Ups

The structure for each experiment/recipe goes like this:
  • An introduction to the concept being displayed
  • Ingredient list
  • Recipe steps
  • Explanation of science involved

The book is very colourful and appealing. The recipes are pretty easy to follow. The list of ingredients is also pretty straightforward and easy to obtain, though I wish that the list of the ingredients needed to complete all of the experiments in the book was listed in one place within the book, either at the beginning or the end. I had to look at each recipe and make my grocery list accordingly. For each recipe I had one or two things that I needed to get. 

On the website you can find a downloadable teacher's guide that will allow you to make the most out of the book. It contains extra experiments, printables to fill in, and more scientific explanation and information. Eat Your Science Homework is really a great introduction to science concepts, and a great way to feed those inquiring young minds, and pick their interests in understanding and knowing more, but that is about it. That said, with the teacher's guide you can really expand on the different topics.

The boys enjoyed making the couple of recipes we ended up making. They were able to do them rather independently of me, and we were able to talk about the science.

What I like about this book is that it is very easy to implement. It can come as a breather in any science curriculum you are using, and complement your science studies. It is a nice break from the textbook for your upper elementary, and a nice way to introduce science to your younger ones.

Ann McCallum Books carries not only an Eat Your Science Homework book, but Eat Your US History Homework and Eat Your Math Homework. These, along some other story books for children that Ann McCallum wrote, were also reviewed by the crew so make sure to check the other crew members' reviews.

Ann McCallum Books Review

Thursday, November 5, 2015

When Lightning Struck - A Book review

Are you studying the Reformation? Do you love Historical Fictions? Do you love reading about the heros of the faith? Then read on...

As a homeschooler I always encourage my fellow homeschoolers to include Historical fictions in their study of History as it helps students really enter the time period that they are studying and get a better picture of how people lived and what they felt.

I recently had the privilege of reading a historical fiction titled When Lightning Struck: The Story of Martin Luther. If you have never heard of Martin Luther or read anything about him, you are missing out and here is your chance to learn who he was and what he did in an enjoyable way.

When Lightning Struck is written for Middle and High schooler, but I could not put it down. If you love reading you will devourer this book. It would also work really well as a read-aloud for upper-elementary kids. It contains 23 chapters of average length that will keep you wanting to know more.

When Lightning Struck is written by Danika Cooley, an author, writer, and blogger who also developed a wonderful Bible Curriculum, Bible Road Trip, which I have enjoyed using with the boys. Knowing her love for truth and sound theology, as demonstrated in her Bible curriculum I knew it would shine through in this book, even as she seeks to paint a realistic picture of the development in Martin Luther's journey.

The description of the book goes like this:
"Martin Luther's life was too exciting not to be written for teens and younger readers! In this 
fast-paced, action-packed novel of Martin Luther's life, teen readers (and more than a few adults!) will be introduced to a fascinating time when princes ruled Europe and knights roamed the countryside. They'll learn about a time when powerful forces lined up against each other and believing the wrong thing could get you killed. 
When Lightning Struck! is far more than just an adventure story, of course. It also tells a theological story. Drawing carefully from Luther's own words, this book introduces readers to a kindred spirit who struggled with what knowing God through Scripture means for daily life. They will understand what was at stake and how powerfully liberating Luther's idea of grace through faith was—in his time and in ours!
In crisp, enjoyable prose, author Danika Cooley conveys both the drama and the meaning of the Reformation for younger readers like no one before her!"
From the get go you get enthralled in the life of Martin Luther, as well as his feelings and thoughts. As you turn the pages of this book you get deeper and deeper into what made Martin Luther who he was, passionate and brave. That said you also get a picture of what kind of man he was, firm but with a temper. You live his struggles with him and get to see the power of Scriptures as you follow his own encounter with it.

When Lightning Struck is very factual, it is real history, full of dates and places, and people that made up this particular time in History. You really get a picture of what life was back then, and what Martin Luther went through both before and after his conversion. The narrative is full of quotes and filled with details. You can't help but place yourself in the story and live it. The book is so well-researched that Danika included at the end of he book a list of  all the resources she consulted in writing it.

This book is a definite add-on to any library, especially if you plan to study the time of the reformation or include church History in your course of study.

To help you make the most of your reading and learn more about Martin Luther, Danika has even created both a 12-week study guide and a discussion guide to go along with the book. And they are both FREE!

A few things to note before you go off checking the book out:
  • There is a Reformation giveaway going on right now ending on the 9th. You don't want to miss out on these amazing prizes!
  • Danika is hosting a Facebook Party on the 10th of November to celebrate the release of her new book.
  • Danika is having a 50% sale on everything on her blog, Thinking Kids until the 11th of November.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Standard Deviants Accelerate - TOS Review

Looking to spice up your science studies with an online program? Looking for a program to supplement what you are doing in Science or to serve as a review? Read on!

We recently received a one year subscription to Standard Deviants Accelerate (SDA) online program. We were given access to all their Homeschool Courses. These include:
  • Arithmetic – Grades 3+ 
  • Fundamental Math – Grades 4+ 
  • Earth Science – Grades 6+ 
  • Nutrition – Grades 6+
  • Algebra – Grades 7+ 
  • Biology – Grades 7+ 
  • Chemistry – Grades 9+ 
  • English Comp. – Grades 9+ 
  • U.S. History – Grades 9+ 
  • AP* Biology – Grades 11+ AP Chemistry – Grades 11+ 
  • AP* U.S. Government & Politics – Grades 11+ 
  • AP* U.S. History – Grades 11+ AP 
  • Eng. Composition – Grades 11+ - 
*AP stands for Advance Placement

What is SDA exactly?

SDA is an online program that offers a new way of learning or reviewing a whole array of homeschool science and Math topics. The program consists of videos featuring engaging teachers/hosts making these topics very interesting. The videos contains the lessons, with full transcript available for print, and are taught in a way that brings the students in. The creators have managed to find a way to captivate the students to listen to what they are trying to teach. The lessons, while being rather involved in the topic that they cover, are taught with a funny element to it, keeping the student engaged.

  • The steps for one lesson are as follow:
  • Watch the video
  • Go over the vocabulary
  • Go over the diagram (optional)
  • Take the quizz

There is a section as well where students can think about a challenge question to help them stimulate their thinking on a particular concept.

The quizzes are graded right away to the student can get feedback right away and where mistake are made the part of the video relating to that question is featured. These quizzes are also graded so you can keep track of how well your child doing.

It is online and therefore requires an internet connection and a device. My boys were able to use it both on the computer and the Ipad.

This program is for Middle School and High School students (grade 6 and up), but some of them could be used by 3rd graders and up.

Also, this program is secular, so one needs to be aware that evolution is taught in the biology courses as well as the physical Science courses.

One more thing to note is that these courses are accelerated so they are fast-paced. They cover a lot of topics in a very short amount of time. In my opinion they are best used as reviews or for kids who thrive on being challenged or think big picture.

I had the two boys used this as their science almost 4 times a week. I had them go through the physical science course. They would listen to the listen and then take the test. They enjoyed lessons and found them funny at time. Some of the material in my opinion was a bit heavy for them (grade 5 and 7) but I think they are able to retain most of it.

The program itself is very easy to navigate. Setting up the accounts are a bit more challenging but once it is set up you are good to go. The parent's account allows you to see the progress of each student. I also like that everything is printable so you do not have to exclusively use a device.

This is great program for auditory and visual learners. It would be a beneficial add-on to any homeschool.

Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

Thursday, October 29, 2015

An Interview With Danika Cooley (author of When Lightning Struck)

I am really excited about Danika's new book on Martin Luther: When Lightning Struck: The Story of Martin Luther. If you do not know Danika, she is the author and creator of the Bible curriculum I often mention on my blog, called Bible Road Trip. I love Danika because she loves the Lord and is a very thoughtful and theologically sound writer.

Her new book, intended for Middle and High Schooler, is due to release in less than a week. So, in anticipation I thought I would share with you her answers to some questions you may have for her.

Here we go: 

1. What inspired you to write When Lightning Struck?

I absolutely love Christian history. I think that understanding our family history is vital to understanding the way God works in history, and to being able to understand the current trends in theology--the same heresies that the Apostles addressed have plagued the Church throughout the last two millennia. As the "Father of the Reformation", Martin Luther is a particularly fascinating and important figure in the history of the Church. Also, his story is exciting--he lived in the time of castles, princes, and knights; he risked his life for the sake of the Gospel; and he became an outlaw, was kidnapped, and more.

2. What was your main goal in writing When Lightning Struck

I wrote When Lightning Struck! so that young people will have the opportunity to learn about an incredibly important figure in Church history--and about theology--in an engaging manner. Really, I wrote it with my two middle school boys in mind. I wanted to make Christian history come alive for them.

3. Which part of researching When Lightning Struck was the most personally interesting to you?

We have so much information about the stories Martin Luther told about his life, that I really enjoyed finding those stories and incorporating them into When Lightning Struck!. It was also really important to me to get the theology involved in the story correct, and I found that aspect of the story fascinating.

4. What did you learn from writing When Lightning Struck?

My research notes are about three times as long as the book! I learned so much about Martin Luther, the Renaissance Popes, the papacy, and the structure of medieval monastic orders. In order to tell the latter parts of the story in which the Protestant leaders were debating over the manner in which Protestants should live out their faith, I really had to study quite a bit.

5. What are you reading right now? What authors (living or dead) have influenced you most?

Right now, I'm reading Ulrich Zwingli by William Boekestein, Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley, Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, the books of the prophets in the Old Testament, and a number of books with my boys for school. Reading is definitely one of my favorite parts of my work--I read about a book a week, with bigger works on the side.

6. What was the book that most influenced your life — and why?

I was definitely a bookworm growing up, and I read everything I could get my hands on--some good, some not-so-good. This may sound cliche, but the book that has most influenced my life has been (and continues to be) the Bible. I've read it through many times, studied it, and it's changed me. Isaiah 55:11 tells us that God's Word never returns void, that it accomplishes what He purposed it for. It has certainly changed me.

7. Did you always have a talent for writing, or is it something you wanted and needed to work harder to achieve?

I've always loved to write. That said, writing is a craft, and like any skill, it needs to be developed with practice, and through criticism and study. I've studied writing, I read widely, and I've had a lot of excellent input from some amazing editors and writers.

8. With all of the duties that you juggle, when do you fit in the time to write?

For me, finding time to write is the same as finding time to exercise, eat, or sleep. I consider it a necessity, so I work hard to make time for it. I've also sacrificed other activities to fit it in. I don't watch television, I prioritize my time, and I often write when I might otherwise be sleeping.

9. Is your writing style different now than it was when you first began? In what ways have you grown in your writing?

I think it's taken me time to find my voice and hone my skills, and I suspect that I will continue to improve as a writer--we always get better at the things we practice.

10. How did you get your start in writing/getting published?

I attended a writing conference for beginners at a local Christian college six and a half years ago. A children's author graciously sat down with me and explained what I needed to do to write for children, and directed me to a local writer's organization. I began attending conferences with Oregon Christian Writers four times a year, and writing for Christian children's magazines. My first acceptance letter came three months after that first conference.

11. What do you recommend for others who are getting started?

It's a good idea to find a local writer's organization, and learn about the business. I think writing for magazines is a clarifying process, which I highly recommend. Also, if you want to reach people for Christ, writing for magazines can really extend that reach.

12. What would you say to a young person who aspires to be a writer? What advice would you give? Also, what would you tell his/her parents in order to help them be supportive in their child's efforts to pursue writing as a career?

The most important thing you can do is learn how to write. It's also important to learn about the industry. Find writer's conferences and workshops, attend, take notes, and really learn from the authors there. Don't let rejection letters stop you--just keep working on your craft. I'd also suggest finding a mentor--someone who is already writing for publication--and humbly following their advice. Also, read widely. Read many genres, from different time periods. Practice writing, but as you do, think about what you'd like to say, and who you'd like to say it to.

13. Would your advice be any different for an adult who would like to break into the business? How?

My agent, Chip MacGregor, always says a successful writer should have great writing, a great idea, and a great platform (the people who read your work, or listen to you speak). It's important to work on all three.

As far as platform goes, serve your readership. For my Christian friends, really work unto the Lord and glorify Him in all you do. He is sovereign over all things, and will open the doors He wants opened.

Really, writing professionally is a lot of work, but it's also a great opportunity to communicate, to practice your craft, and to get to know some amazing people. I feel humbled and blessed to be writing professionally.

14. What else do you want readers to know? Consider your likes and dislikes, interests and hobbies, your favorite ways to relax — whatever comes to mind.

I love to play board games with my kids, hike, paint (I majored in art), garden, and cook. I love my family, and I feel so blessed to be able to spend time with them. I homeschool my younger two, and that's just a gift. Teaching children about the Bible, theology, and Christian history is my passion--I hope to be a lifelong student, and a lifelong teacher. 

Don't forget to enter the Reformation Day giveaway going on right now in celebration of When Lightning Struck up-coming release.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Phonetic Zoo (IEW) - TOS Review

Spelling, oh spelling! Spelling has always been one of those subjects that the boys have had a hard time to master. Since I started homeschooling I have always heard about Institute  for Excellence in Writing (IEW) but only came to know about their spelling curriculum about 5 years ago. Because of tight budget I had never made the plunge, but I always thought it would be a great product to try with the boys. Well that day came when it was offered on the crew, and of course I jumped on it.  I  signed up to received Phonetic Zoo Spelling Starter Set A We have been using it for the past few weeks, and I have not been disappointed.

First, let me tell you about IEW. IEW is a homeschool product company that has been around for a long time, offering valuable products for homeschoolers mainly writing related, but covering spelling and grammar as well. The crew has had the privilege of reviewing many of their curriculum so you might want to check those out.

Now back to The Phonetic Zoo. This is a Spelling curriculum that uses the auditory side of a student learning abilities. It is a self-paced program. We received the Spelling Zoo starter set A - there are three in total, A, B and C.

Our package included:
  • 5 audio CDs (includes MP3 downloads) - this is the meat of the program
  • Lesson Cards with all three levels of spelling words and jingles - these contain the spelling rules and examples - we did not use these as much but if your children need a lot of help with spelling these would be essential and beneficial
  • Personal Spelling Cards to keep track of your student’s typical misspellings - Great to keep track of your students mistake and for review purposes.
  • Zoo Cards that serve as a way to practice jingles or as rewards - these could be used in several different ways and these are all explained in the teacher's manual, that said they are mainly a review tool
  • Downloadable Phonetic Zoo Teacher’s Notes PDF file - this is such a valuable resource as it contains the how to use the program, a little explanation of the philosophy behind the program and wonderful appendixes that include extra spelling lists, placement test
  • Spelling and the Brain video seminar (link to streaming video)
Phonetic Zoo Spelling lever A is best suitable for ages 9 and up. You can always (actually highly recommended) take the placement test in order to figure out if your child is ready to use this curriculum and/or which level to assign him.

Since this was a curriculum that I had long been coveting, as soon as it got here, I got both boys (grade 7 and 5) started on it.

The way Phonetic Zoo works is that every lesson you learn a new rule/jingle and go through a spelling list illustrating that rule. You keep working on the same list several days in a row until you get them all correct.

Because the emphasis is on an auditory approach, the program recommends the use of headphones. Andrew Pudewa explains how this also helps eliminate distractions and therefore improves focus. So, what the boys would do is get their sheet of paper, headphones, and cd player loaded with the disc and go on with their lessons. Because the boys have made some progress in spelling in the past couple of years, some of those rules they already know but still need more practice, so I  did not bother going over the rule with them at the beginning of each lessons, as suggested in the teacher's manual.They just dug right in.

So, in each lesson, after jingling the rule, the voice on the cd will go through a list of 15 words, one word at a time with dead time in between each word to give the student time to write it down. Every 5 words or so the jingle will be repeated for better retention. Once the list is done, the voice will go over the list again, this time enunciating the spelling for the student to correct himself, and write the right spelling in the case he got it wrong. If the student got any of the words wrong, he is to repeat the process the next day. Once he gets all 15 words right, he can move on to the next lessons. Every 5 lesson there is also a review that is included.

The boys found Phonetic Zoo easy to use and I found it easy to implement in our school day. Each list is made up of 15 words and the whole process, for us, took about 15 minutes. We used it 4 times a week and I was surprised that they did not find having to redo the list the next day when they got some words wrong (granted the most tries they had to do for a lesson Has been about 3 times I believe). I really like that it can be done independently, and the boys actually like that too!

The Phonetic Zoo is a great program that targets auditory students but works well with any type of student. There is repetition, writing, hearing and review, all woven throughout the program.

IEW Review

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Reformation Day Giveaway

We are approaching October 31, which is an important date for all protestants. This date commemorates Martin Luther’s nailing of his ninety-five theses to a church door on October 31, 1517 in Wittenburg, Germany, which in turn provoked a debate that resulted in what we now call the Protestant Reformation.

As the “Father of the Reformation”, Martin Luther is a vital figure in Church History. His sacrifice and willingness to wage battle against the spiritual, religious, and political powers of his medieval world allowed Christians throughout time to embrace the following truths: salvation by grace alone , through faith alone,  and in Christ alone, along with the supremacy of Scripture, referred to as Scripture alone, and all of it for God's Glory Alone. These being commonly called the Five Solas of the Reformation.

 Danika Cooley, author and creator of the Bible curriculum Bible Road Trip,  has recently written a book for young people recounting Luther's story:  When Lightning Struck!: The Story of Martin Luther.

I am very excited about this book and am thrilled to share this giveaway with you!

Want to know more about the book and about Danika, stay tuned for future posts....

But for now make sure to enter the giveaway for a chance to win amazing prizes, including a copy of the book! Keep reading . . .

  Reformation Day Giveaway 

To celebrate Reformation Day and the release of When Lightning Struck!: The Story of Martin Luther, I've joined together with a team of blogger friends to host this wonderful giveaway, valued at over $500!
 One person will win ALL of the following: 

 WiFi 8GB ($49.99)  
From, a $50 Gift Certificate
From Nuremberg Tourist Board, a Playmobil Martin Luther figure ($9.99) 

From Thinking Kids Press, a curriculum bundle from When Lightning Struck! author, Danika Cooley: 
From Fortress Press, a book bundle by author, Tim Dowley:
  1. Christian Music: A Global History  ($35)
  2. Introduction to the History of Christianity: Second Edition ($55) 
  3. The Student Bible Atlas: Revised Edition  ($12.99) 
  4. Atlas of the European Reformations ($24)
From Home School Adventure Co.:
  1. Philosophy Adventure: Pre-Socratics (digital $39.95)
  2. Mere Christianity Critical Analysis Journal (digital $18.95)
To enter the giveaway, use the Rafflecopter below.  a Rafflecopter giveaway
Terms and Conditions:
This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.  Void where prohibited by law. Must be at least 18 years of age. This giveaway is in no away associated with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. No purchase necessary for entry. Odds are determined by the number of entries. Selected winners will have 48 hours to respond to email notification to claim their prizes or another winner will be drawn. Entry into this giveaway will subscribe you to the Thinking Kids Press email list. 
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