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

Friday, May 4, 2018

CodeWizardsHQ - TOS Review

In this new technological word our kids more and more need exposure to the world of computer science and coding. Computer programming is an ever expanding field that our kids do well to get their hands on learning. There are a few companies that are dedicated to have children learn the language of coding, and CodeWizardsHQ is one of them.  The kids of the Schoolhouse Review Crew got to preview to first lesson of their level I course.

CodeWizardsHQ is a homeschoooling computer curriculum that offers live classes in computer science. It is important to note that these are "live", meaning a real-time teacher teaching and interacting with your kids. It is not self-pace. It is a full, comprehensive coding curriculum that can prepare your kids for college. It is intended for grade 5-10 students.

For more about the uniqueness of the program, check their website.

CodeWizardsHQ is comprised of a set of 12 week courses. They offer 3 levels of computer programming and coding instruction, ending with a fourth level that consists of a 6-month internship program with a partner non-profit organization.

This video gives you a nice snapshot of what this program is like:

From the one off class my son (for whom this was the first exposure to coding) participated it, we can say the following:
  • the teacher was very friendly and knowledge. She was articulate and connected with the kids.
  • the pacing was good, as my son said he was not bored and found it  quite interesting
  • it was enough to pick his interest in the subject
In this one hour class that the kids took, they learn some basics code language and were able to create a comic strip web-page. Your children has constant access to his work, which means they can work on it anytime.

These coding classes look really interesting and I am happy that my son got interested in coding.  it would make for a perfect elective class. I am really considering having one of my kids enrolling for this.

This is a program for any student really, but CodeWizardsHQ is making a special offer for homeschool students.  There is a significantly lower per-student pricing based on the # of students in the class and the flexibility to pick their own class time.

You can also check them out on their social media platforms:
You Tube
They even have a Facebook group for parents interested in their child learning to code. It includes sharing of resources, ideas, tips and support for teaching programming to kids.

Live Class Computer Programming for your Students {CodeWizardsHQ Reviews}

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A+ Interactive Math - TOS Review

Math curriculum abound, yet it can be quite difficult for parents to find just the right Math curriculum that works for their child(ren). Well, today I have a Math curriculum to share with you that might just be what you are looking for.

A + Interactive Math (by A+TutorSoft Inc) is an online Math Curriculum that offers you a full Math Curriculum for grade 1 to Algebra 1. It offers an array of  Math instruction packages, two of the main ones being their Family Math Package, which gives you access to all levels, and their Adaptive Math Curriculum Online, which comprises a Placement Test followed by individualized Lessons Plans based on the test. These were the two that the crew members got to review. Since we had reviewed the adaptive Math Curriculum in the past, I opted for the Family Math Package this time around. The The Family Math Package gives you access to the program for a full year for up to 10 students.

A + Interactive is online, so you will need a computer with internet access and log ins for each students as well as for the parent. It does work on both Mac and Microsoft, but not on mobile. We had used this program before, so we already had log-ins, I just needed to enroll the boys in the Family Math Package program, and we were ready to go.

Though I enrolled both boys, I had my 7th grader gives this a try first. He is doing pre-algebra at the moment and was struggling with graphs , so I decided to have him start the program at the coordinate planes section and move on from there. It was not easy to skip the first few chapters, but eventually got there. I suppose the program is meant to be used from start to finish, but there is a manual and somewhat tedious way to move ahead. That is one aspect of the program that I have to warn against, some of the functionalities are not intuitive at all. You have to dig around to figure out where things are and how the functions work. I wish they had tutorial videos.

The things that I like about  A+Interactive before are still the same though|:
  • It is interactive. They complete the lesson, which is narrated to them and very visual. Then they complete interactive questions with instant feedback.
  • It is a full, complete Math program. 
  • It is very independent. It teaches, corrects, grades and explains what is done wrong one question at a time. No parent involvement needed.
  • I love the variety of ways you can practice and test the students, through the printable or online worksheets and exams.
  • I love that it has the whole text of the curriculum available to view or/and print
  • I love the printable reference chart

In the parent account, you can check the student progress and score.

The program also allows the parent to set up some features for the student account as seen below:

My son did a couple of chapters independently and enjoyed it. He found it easy to follow and understand. He thought that the teaching was pretty clear. He did not like the fact that once you are done a section you have to update your status yourself otherwise it will not let you move on.

Overall, I think this is a great program which could potentially be appealing to a wide variety of learners.

Family & Adaptive Math Online {A+ Interactive Math Reviews}

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Ideas to Keep Your Toddler Busy

My little baby has turned one a few weeks ago. Wow, times fly! He has learned to walk and he is a rather busy toddler. What do I do to keep him busy? Here are a few ideas to keep a 9-18 month old busy:

Food exploration: food is always fun to play with. At that age babies love exploring and discover new textures; food offers a wide range of those. I am not one to like mess, so I do not let him play with his food at meal time, but during play time I give him textured food to explore with.

On/off , in/out play activities: I have discovered that my little boy loves to put covers on top of things (pots, bottles, anything.). Also, taking stuff out of containers is one of his favorite activity to do. So go fill a basket, a pot, anything you have on hand with all sort of different stuff and watch your child having fun emptying it. Only downside is that you have to refill it again....

Peekaboo and hide and seek game: My baby has always enjoyed me playing peekaboo with him. This game has reached new levels as he can now do it too. Use hands, blankets, whatever you have on hand will do. He loves it too when I hide somewhere and call him name or say "Where is mommy". I love doing that especially when I do not want him to go a certain place.

Playing with balls: Balls are fascinating to babies and toddlers. My son loves playing with balls of any size. He enjoys playing with it himself or watching his brothers play with it.

Books: My boy loves books. So what I do is recreate the library in my home by making book displays at different spots in the house and let him have at it. I even heard of someone who would set up books at the corner of the staircase. I probably will try that one my little one stops dropping things down the stairs.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Home School in the Woods - TOS Review

If you are a hands-on homeschooler or you and your kids like playing games. You might be interested in this latest review of  mine. Home School in the Woods has been putting together homeschooling resources that enhances any homeschool for years. The range of products they offer is just too large to be listed. They cover every subject and time periods as well as variety of resources. The crew was blessed to be able to review quite array of their products which can be found in their A La Carte line of products which gather different project from other collections . These include file folder games, lap books, activity packs, file folder projects, 3D crafts, and newspaper activities. I decided to give the Art Gallery file folder game a try.

The reason why I picked this particular resource is because we have not done much Art study in our homeschool and I thought this would be a fun way of adding some.
The product is digital, so it needs to be downloaded, printed and put together. The instructions are straight forward and easily followed. I had no problem putting it together. The game consists of a board, 60 playing cards, and 4 markers (so for player, but can be played with more). The goal of the game is to recognize the art pieces, author, name, year and style of art. You start from anywhere on the board and it ends with the fist player who makes a full round back to that spot.  If you are not familiar with file folder games, it is all about printing the parts of a game and gluing them unto a one or two file folders that you assemble together. You sometimes have to color the pieces too. I had the options of doing it for this game, but did not.

Once I had it together and ready to play I realized that it would be a real challenge, as we did not know the answers, except for maybe a couple of art pieces.  The boys and I had to improvise, they did not want to study the card ahead (which was my first idea), so we decided instead to play it as a guessing game, based on the info present on the pictures on the board. The way Amy put the game together, the board had all the artists on it with brief information on each one of them. This trick really helped us guess the who  part and the era part. As we played the game we were getting better at recognizing the style of the artist and guessing them based on that.

Bottom line, this game is best played by people who have learned some art works in the past as a review game. If, like me you know very little, it will take a few try to first learn the works (unless you decide to study the cards first - which is definitely an option), and eventually play it as a Trivia game. Either way I think it could be quite effective. This game targets grades 3-12 and I would say it definitely can be used in some form or way for any of these grades.

Covers quite a few art works and artists
Easy to play

Requires prior knowledge but can easily be adapted to fit your need

There were so many options given to us, I actually had a hard time picking which one we were going to review a few others that I eyed were:

  • Literary Genre Lap Book  Mini-Study
  • The War to End All War file folder game
Make sure to check the reviews for the other products we all got to review.

À La Carte Projects - Individual projects designed to enhance your studies! {Home School in the Woods Reviews}

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Parenting Made Practical - TOS Review

Parenting is hard. Anyone who has or is raising kids will tell you this. There is no way around making it easier, it is just what it is. No matter the age your kids are a , there are challenges to being a parent. That said, learning to deal with kids and raise them the best way possible, can definitely be helpful and make the whole process less stressful as well as more purposeful.

This is where this resource I was given the opportunity to review comes in. I was not familiar with it until it came up for review, but I must say it is a good one. Parenting Made Practical offers parenting resources to help parents navigate those parenting waters and challenges. Its goal is to equip parents with tools to help children become responsible adults. They offer a wide array of books and DVDs.  I chose to review the Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting your Kids to Think video download.

There is lots to say about the video I watched. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it very helpful. Some of the material was not new, but put into a different light and presented in a quite enjoyable way. It made the material fresh again, and renewed the challenge for me.

The material at Parenting Made Practical is put together by a couple used to dealing with youth and families in church and other contexts (the husband having served as Youth and Family pastor and the wife being a social worker). As such they know the challenges and needs of families. They are able to come up with resources that address exactly those needs. Their  material offers help in parenting children from age 2 to college. Here is a list of books and videos you can find on their website:

Why Can't I Get My Kids to Behave?
Navigating the Rapids of Parenting
Dating, Courting & Choosing a Mate... What Works?
What Every Child Should Know Along the Way

What I liked about the video I watched

I do not know about you but lecturing my kids is second nature and is a very easy trap to fall into even if we know better. In this video Joey and Carla Link explain and demonstrate to you the failure of lecturing (or nagging or yelling), your kids as well as how to avoid doing it by showing what to replace it with. They take your hand and show you step by step a better way. The better way being to lead them to think about their behaviour and owning it. The lecture has a lot of aspects that make it enjoyable to watch, as well as very helpful:
  • They cover a lot of topics in a 50 minutes video. They manage to include a description of temperament types which is helpful to take into consideration when learning how to avoid lecturing
  • The husband and wife team-teaching is very effective as it becomes a dialogue. They even included a live example with the help of their daughter, making it more interesting
  • They do try to include some humor, even of the whole lecture looks and sound pretty scripted and somewhat rigid
  • The video is just the right length. Though 50 minutes sounds long, I can guarantee you that you won't see the time pass, that is how engaging Joey and Carla are more because of the content that is covers than the style itself 
  • A good addition is how they include extra resources for the audience to check out to complement their teaching.
  • The style of teaching is very direct yet gentle. They say things the way they are, while in the same breadth giving you hope and solutions to correct the problem or bad habit.
  • The advice and tips are very detailed and practical.
  • I also love how the steps appeared on the screen as they went through them.
This video was very helpful to me as I was reminded of some habits that I had neglected, such as not accepting certain types of answers or putting off doing something to a later time. I had already been doing some of the things they talked about, such as the whole questioning approach, but it was nice to be given extra tips and advice on how to do that even more efficiently. Joey and Carla rightly put the emphasis on the heart of behavior and not just external behavior change, and for that they are a resource I would definitely recommend. That said, like every parenting  resource, every parent has to see for himself how to best apply the principles being advocated, and not necessarily apply them blindly.

Find Parenting Made Practical on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, and make sure to check the reviews of the other material they offer.

Parenting Made Practical {Reviews}

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Wordless Wednesday - Science Center Days

We had a field trip at the Science Center today. While the older boys were having fun with friends and enjoying a Mars mission lab, baby Al discovered the place for the first time!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Bytes of Learning - TOS Review

Typing has never been my strong suit. You would think as a blogger I should have that down, but I don't. So, when a curriculum that teaches typing came along for review, I thought this would be something I should probably try.

Bytes of Learning is a company that specializes on developing multimedia software to aid students (as young as 8 years old ), and adults learn better. Members of the crew were given the opportunity to try out their UltraKey Online Family Subscription with access for a full year.

Before having the kids try this software I decided to take the review period to test it on myself. The way this software works is actually pretty straight forward. There is nothing to download, it is all done online. Once you've got your account set up, you are welcome with this screen from where you can access your dashboard.

The dashboard is a very important place in UltraKey because this is where you set up and manage everyone who will be using the program. The family subscription allows you 7 users , each with their own sign in which the main user sets. UltraKey is very adaptable and offers you many options. The student enrollment is the most basic. UltraKey allows you to manage the family as a whole (common features such as access to games and forum), and also to manage each student. When it comes to managing the students, there is an array of setting you can go through:
  • Goal setting, which is very detailed and specific: speed, accuracy, with custom or automated options
  • Setting of the interface itself: background color, sound, practice amount, coaching intensity
  • Goal and progress report
Each section of the program has an introductory video which explains to you what it is about. There is also a thorough PDF guide that details to you every aspect of the program.

I really like this program. What I appreciate most is the fact that it is like having an instructor that guides you step by step. The program is incremental. It starts with the real needed basics such as posture and position of the fingers. Then with each lesson you are introduced to a set of new keys. As you go though the lessons, the practices are pointed enough that it allows you to really internalize what you are learning. Though you can set your own practice amount in the dashboard, you can also do more or less during the lesson itself.  I love the repetition. You can only move forward as you reach the goal for each lesson, usually in both accuracy and speed;  the next level gets unlocked. The program teaches you typing by introducing letter pairs and chains.

The program is so engaging that it is easy to just keep working. I found that what stopped me was tiredness of the fingers or brain starting to go numb. Mentally I found myself wanting to do more, but could not focus anymore. I love the way the assessment details to you what you did wrong and gives you tips on how to improve. I also love the voice over which works well for auditory learners  and visual learners.

On top of the lessons, the student can have extra practice though the forum or in the game section.

The program works on all platforms. The software  is oriented towards the American keyboard and North America spelling and content. A UK and an Australian/New Zealand orientation is coming  in 2018.

I am looking forward to have the boys use this program and I know they will enjoy it and that it would be beneficial.

UltraKeys is an innovative, engaging online keyboarding software which I think would work for many. Check out Bytes of Learning on their Facebook page.

UltraKey {Bytes of Learning Reviews}

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