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

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Middlebury Interactive Languages - TOS Review

It has been proven that learning a foreign language can do wonders for the development of kids. Finding a program to do that is not an easy task. I am also up for trying new ones and we had that very opportunity come up recently on the crew through Middlebury Interactive Languages. As a French speaker I desire for my kids to speak French, so I always tend to favor French, and therefore got to review the full first semester of the French Course.

What is Middlebury Interacive Languages?

Middlebury Interactive Languages is an online foreign language course. They offer foreign language learning in Spanish, French, Chinese and German. Some languages cover all grades (K-12), the others start at grade 3 up to grade 12, with some advanced placement courses as well. All of the courses are online so you will need a computer to go through the program.

This is an interactive language learning program. It is divided into units, each made up of 6 lessons. Each unit is introduced through a story being read to the child, followed by vocabulary practices and speaking labs. the remaining lessons allow for the child to review and practice the vocabulary. There is lots of repetition to allow the child to really master the vocabulary. The course is geared toward vocabulary acquisition and speaking fluency skills acquisition. This is accomplished through immersion and the aid of the starting story.

The story being used are familiar ones so that the child is not lo,t even if he does not understand all the words. He can still have an idea of what is being said. Examples: Little Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast.

The exercises consist mainly of drag and drop and matching exercises, easy to manage for younger kids. The instructions are in English which makes it easier for the child to work on the course independently.

The speaking lab consists of repeating vocabulary and recording oneself. You even get to hear yourself afterwards. I wish it was self-correcting though.

Each lesson and unit ends with quizzes. All the quizzes and tests are graded and kept on file.

It is important to note that the program involves a lot of oral repetition from the student, so a microphone (built-in or external) is necessary to have the maximum benefit from the program. MY son actually had fun hearing himself repeat the words and expressions.

I had my 4th grader go through the first semester of the Elementary (grade 3-5) French course. He worked on it daily (4 times a week). Middlebury's recommendation for this level is 2-3 times a week. My son did not mind doing it on a daily basis. He was able to go through the course with very minimal help from me.

We found the elementary level pretty easy, but my son has had earlier exposure to French, so we ended up skipping some sections. This program does not require you to have any prerequisites and the elementary levels teaches basics words and phrases such as greetings, numbers, family numbers, and parts of the body to name a few topics.

What we like about Middlebury Interactive Languages:

  • Easy to use and navigate.
  • Interactive and engaging.
  • Interesting stories and catchy songs.
  • Whole language learning.
  • Variety of exercises with immediate feedback.
  • You have access to the quizzes for review.

Price is for one semester (6 months - 45 days of content)

$119 without a teacher. You can add a teacher (for help and support) to your subscription for an additional cost of $175.

Click to read Crew Reviews

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Standard Deviants Accelerate - TOS Review

Looking for an attractive, engaging e-learning program for your kids, read on.

We recently received a free account from Standard Deviants Accelerate to the Standard Deviants Accelerate Homeschool Courses (SDA) program, and we have thoroughly enjoyed using it.

What is SDA?

 SDA is an accelerated online learning program. The program offers the following courses:
  • 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 these are are videos with very engaging participants 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.

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.

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 my boys do the Math (my 4th grader: Arithmetic, and my 6th grader: Fundamental Math). I also had my 6th grader go through the Biology course. They both enjoyed going through the program on a daily basis. My oldest enjoyed these videos because he loves humor and thrives on material that is above him. He likes to be challenged, and this is what these did for him because the content is very academic, yet presented in a very appealing way with jokes, analogies, diagrams, visual simulations and the likes.

Each lesson is followed by a vocabulary review, a graphic organizer exercise, and a test or quiz. Even the quiz my boys did not mind doing, and were very happy when they aced the 5 multiple choice questions. It was very helpful for them, when they had missed a question, that the program would actually tell them which part of the video addressed that particular topic, and they could just replay it right there and then.

What you need.
Since this is an online resource, you need a computer and an internet connection. The program can be used on a computer or a mobile device. The boys used it mainly on my Ipad mini.

Here is a video of how the program works:

What we liked.

The boys loved the humor of the presenters. Here are a few other aspects for which I would recommend this program:
  • It is interactive.
  • The topics are not dummed down. 
  • Lots of vocabulary is taught.
  • It is pretty comprehensive, even though it is meant as a supplement.
  • It is very independent.
  • The quizzes are graded right away, and the relevant parts of the video added where mistakes are made.
  • The addition of review chapters.
  • Review of vocabulary through the graphic organizers.
  • There is a space provided for the student to take note if desired.
  • The addition of optional thinking exercises.
  • The fact that mostly everything, from the lessons to the quizzes, are printable.
  • Progress reports available for both the parent and the student.
  • You can retake all of the courses or lessons. The quizzes will be the same, but you can retake them all the while.
The boys finished the Math courses during the review period. For the Biology, my son is still going through it, but I will probably go over it again with him, as a lot of the concepts were very involved for his level (it is grade 7 material and he is in grade 6). This program is recommended for use as a spine and/or as a supplement, so during the year we will keep going back to it.

My kids said to me recently: "Why cant you teach like the people in the SDA videos?" Ouch!


One course for one student is $99 for a year, or $24.95 per month.
The AP courses are $14.95 per month.

Curious?? There is a 6-month free trial going on right now, check it out!

Click to read Crew Reviews

Friday, October 10, 2014

Random 5 on Friday

Friday is on us again. It is Thanksgiving week-end here in Canada, and there is much to be thankful for.
The Pebble Pond
1. Electives have started this week and the boys were happy with their classes: Basketball and Build-it projects for the both of them as well as Finance for Zach and Chess (again) for Joho.

2. Our school is going along slowly but steadily. I am happy to report that there is progress with my middle schooler on the matter of diligence and getting his work done in a timely fashion. Still lots of maturing to do when it comes to precision and attention, but I am counting my blessings and recognize the progress. Thank you Lord!

3. This is what I spend half of my morning today doing, as three library discs got stuck in the machine. I thank the Lord that Joho and I managed to get them out after lots of figuring out.

4.The boys have been enjoying some cool books recently:

5. Joho had a birthday last Saturday. He turned 9. Where did the time go? The boy enjoyed some bowling time with his friends from church (4 of them), and some more back at the house. He was more than happy to get (which he already knew he was getting, since that was his request) the Lego Movie PS3 game, which he cannot wait to start playing once we get the second hand, newly acquired, advanced Christmas gift PS3, hooked up on Monday.

Bonus pic: We woke up at 5:00 am on Wednesday to watch the eclipse. The three of us did not regret it:

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Hym

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery

Come behold the wondrous mystery
In the dawning of the King
He the theme of heaven’s praises
Robed in frail humanity
In our longing, in our darkness
Now the light of life has come
Look to Christ, who condescended
Took on flesh to ransom us
Come behold the wondrous mystery
He the perfect Son of Man
In His living, in His suffering
Never trace nor stain of sin
See the true and better Adam
Come to save the hell-bound man
Christ the great and sure fulfillment
Of the law; in Him we stand
Come behold the wondrous mystery
Christ the Lord upon the tree
In the stead of ruined sinners
Hangs the Lamb in victory
See the price of our redemption
See the Father’s plan unfold
Bringing many sons to glory
Grace unmeasured, love untold
Come behold the wondrous mystery
Slain by death the God of life
But no grave could e’er restrain Him
Praise the Lord; He is alive!
What a foretaste of deliverance
How unwavering our hope
Christ in power resurrected
As we will be when he comes
What a foretaste of deliverance
How unwavering our hope
Christ in power resurrected
As we will be when he comes
- Matt Boswell, Michael Bleecker, Matt Papa 2013

Friday, September 26, 2014

Random 5 on Friday

The Pebble PondWeek 4 of school is over. What did we do this week?

1. We had our outdoor time. Yea for mommy to actually taking those boys full of energy outside 3 times this week. Now to keep this up.

2. We covered most of our subjects this week: Vocabulary, Handwriting, History, Math, Science, Latin, French, spelling and Writing.

3. Our History/Bible Survey topic this week was on Egyptian Gods and mythology, as well as a study of the exodus and the plagues. Interesting discussions going on.

4. I am enjoying the book we are going through for our Art study this semester: A Child's Introduction to Art

5. My oldest son's activity on his free time:

Soccer has been his new obsession since the beginning of soccer. This is but a small fraction of hat he has been up to.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Hymn - He Will Hold you Fast

This week-end I came cross a song I had never heard and was touched by the lyrics, so I thought I would share it: 

He Will Hold Me Fast

When I fear my faith will fail, 
Christ will hold me fast; 
When the tempter would prevail, 
He can hold me fast. 

He will hold me fast, 
He will hold me fast;
For my Savior loves me so, 
He will hold me fast. 

 I could never keep my hold, 
He will hold me fast; 
For my love is often cold, 
He must hold me fast. 

I am precious in His sight, 
He will hold me fast; 
Those He saves are His delight. 
He will hold me fast. 

He’ll not let my soul be lost, 
Christ will hold me fast; 
Bought by Him at such a cost, 
He will hold me fast.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Random 5 on Friday

The Pebble PondIt is week 3 since school started and we are already behind. Tell me I am not the only one. Anyway I am fine with it. We did some catch up this week, along with some of our regular subjects. It would seem that I have packed our week a bit on the heavy side, so I need to spend some time this week-end to rethink our whole schedule.

Here is my random 5 for this week ( and last week as well, since I missed last week):

1. We got some hands-on projects in, and started on a timeline, yeahhhh

2. Last week Friday we had a field trip on a ship. It was really cool and the boys learned a lot.

3. So thankful for the discussions our Tapestry of Grace curriculum allows Zach and I to have. Such questions on the afterlife, how we know the Bible is true and more.

4. Our library crate is getting fuller.

5. I got to meet another homeschooler this week. How exiting! On that note I am in the process of starting up a homeschool group with a friend of mine. Lots to pray about and consider.