Saturday, May 31, 2014

Progeny Press Review

Progeny Press Review

Progeny Press is a provider of study guides and was created by a homeschooling family that realized there weren't many critical thinking literature guides available. We chose The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh study guide, because we are currently working on a Native American unit study.

This is a wonderful story based on true events that took place in the early 1700's. The story focuses on a young girl named Sarah who traveled to Connecticut with her father to cook and clean for him while he builds a cabin for their family. Sarah remembers the words her mother said to her to be brave and learns valuable life lessons from her father. At first she is scared when she learns her new neighbors are Native Americans, but as she gets to know them better, she becomes their friend. When her father needs to leave to bring back the rest of their family, she is left with the tribe. They care for her and treat her like a sister and daughter. When her family arrives, she is happy to move back home, but is glad to have spent the time with her neighbors.

Progeny Press's literature study guides include a table of contents, notes to the teacher, synopsis, author details and background information about the story before beginning the questions. There are before you read questions, as you read questions and chapter questions. Sometimes they do group the chapter questions, which I suppose some people would not like if they are working on one chapter at a time. However, we read the entire story before even looking at the questions. Once we had read the story through the first time, we started over and this time with the questions on hand. I read the story out-loud in about 30-45 minutes. The study guide also provided activities and arts and crafts ideas, including a recipe, art project, craft, game and crossword puzzle. There were additional suggested reading material, however you are not required to read them unless you want to. An answer guide can be found at the end of the study guide.

While this story is recommended for children in grades 1st through 3rd, I found it fitting for our needs. We did not use the study guide for written assignments, as my children are not proficient writers. Instead I read the questions out-loud and talked to my children about their answers. I had taken notes to which questions go with which chapter and had labeled them in order. My preschoolers listen closely to stories, so this was a great way to introduce them to literature studies!

We used the vocabulary guide provided in the study guide to make flash cards. We printed all of the words onto flash cards that I made online and laminated them. I used a hole punch on the top corner of the card and put them on a ring. The definition of the card is printed on the back of the card for reference. Each day we chose one word and read the definition out loud. I told them a few different sentences on how those words were used and asked them if they could make their own sentence using the word.

The crafts, recipes, games and other activities were a great addition to this study guide. We love bringing our studies to life, because I feel like that is a great way to connect what you learn to real life experiences. While they are too young for some of the activities to do on their own (such as the cross word puzzle), the few that we could do they enjoyed greatly!

We will be keeping Progeny Press in mind for future literature studies! We liked that the questions were engaging and actively encourage the child to think about the answer. To be fair, there were many questions, much more than I expected and we did not use all of them. I simply used the ones that I thought my children could understand. We love their literature selection and that they offer books for all grade levels. Their books are divided by lower and upper elementary, middle and high school. And they do not offer just the study guides, but the books too! Because sometimes it can be impossible to find the book you want to read at a local library or bookstore. We found The Courage of Sarah Noble at our favorite used bookstore.

Progeny Press Review

The E-Guide for The Courage of Sarah Noble is available for $11.99. This study guide is also available in CD format. Please note that as this is a downloadable product, you will need to print the pages in order to use them if you intend to hand-write the answers. However, this product has a neat feature in that you can write your answers right onto the PDF, so you can save it and print it if you want to! As most homeschoolers deal with an abundance of printing costs, this is a great way for older kids to complete their work.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Color Discovery Bags for Toddlers

Today's Toddler Series theme is Colors! Be sure to stop over at Suzy Homeschooler's to see their Color Sorting with Big Brother’s School Supplies activity! 

We decided to set up one of our favorite color activities - Discovery Bags! We still love color themed sensory bins, but these bags are much more fun! Over the course of the day I handed out the brown paper bags with a color name on the front (in matching color, with both uppercase and lowercase letters) and told them to fill them up with any objects they find of that color. Each time we make these bags the theme is different, so they never know what to expect! Once each of the bags were filled (and of course a parent can fill these themselves if they want to make it more of a surprise!) I spread a comfortable blanket on the floor and arranged the bags. For one child, you could set them up in a semi-circle or you can set them up around the edge of the blanket. We set this up for two children, so we arranged five bags along the edge of the sides. This way they can take turns choosing a color and put it back when they are done. 

You can let them choose one bag at a time or let them select multiple colors. We opted for one bag at a time. It was interesting to see what they did with the objects inside. They played with some, built with others and created some neat combinations!

They both ended up "cooking" with most of the items. They had found several silicone muffin molds and popsicle sticks and eggs and little bugs, so they used them to make soups and other delicious dishes!

They also discovered they could fit their felt eggs inside plastic eggs! They had so much fun filling them and then "cracking them open" to see the egg spill out!

They used the blocks, stairs and ramps from the yellow bag to create a bridge for Princess Belle.

Yum! Bug soup!

Bean spent a few minutes scooping out the insides of the bug to make soup.

Bean basically created a guillotine from the contents of the pink bag. She used it to chop up the felt eggs.

The brown bag didn't have too many items in it, so they simply bounced the bunnies around.

The green bag had the most items.

Bean loved combining the bristle blocks with her special blocks (sorry, we still have no idea what they are called!).

For most of the bags were were able to compare the color shades. They were able to make groups of similar colors and groups made up of a light, medium and dark color.

The sponges even made it into a soup!

It was so awesome when we discovered this little guy could sit on a block and slide down it!

Most of the building happened with the red batch! Munchkin made a car showroom. :)

Bean made a sailboat and a Captain America building.

The white bag included lots of vehicles.

As did the black bag.

Finally Bean realized that there had been crayons and markers in each bag! So she decided to color with the black marker.

Munchkin wanted to add his own artwork, so he made a turtle! He's been having a lot of fun drawing outlines, like we do with chalk at the park.

And then they opened the last bag! They saved purple for last, since it is Munchkin's favorite color!

They had so much fun exploring each bag and deciding what to create with the items inside! 

For younger toddlers who are still putting objects in their mouths, you should be careful of what is included in the bags. I only included objects that I knew my children could play with safely. You can also use big paper bags, which is what we used when my children were younger, this way when they tip them over they can pull all the objects out and even explore inside the bag!

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Rosetta Stone Reading for Homeschool Review

Disclosure: I received a 1 year subscription in addition to monetary compensation for this review. All opinions are honest and 100% my own and I was not swayed by the free product or compensation. 

I originally found out about Rosetta Stone's Reading for Homeschool program through Educents. I had never heard of their reading program before and quickly looked into it. I was pleased to see that Rosetta Stone had designed a reading curriculum specifically for homeschoolers! They meet nationwide literacy requirements, along with common core standards, and introduce the world of reading in an engaging and interactive world for young learners! The program is technology-based and helps the child learn to read by building a strong literary foundation through fluency and comprehension skills.

I know many people who have had great success with Rosetta Stone's foreign language programs, so I was thrilled for the chance to review their reading curriculum for homeschool! As expected, I was impressed from the beginning. We began with the Pre-K level and are part-way through some of the Kindergarten lessons. Outside of this program, we have been using other reading and spelling curriculum's, but none of them are online. It is nice is have this balance of online and offline reading lesson, despite the curriculum's being quite different.

Rosetta Stone for Homeschool is available in the US and Canada for desktop, browser and iPad. The 12 month subscription costs $99, which comes out to $8.25 a month. It is an investment that is well worth the money! Homeschoolers can use this Pre-K to 5th grade reading curriculum all year long for multiple children and across the 18 levels that they offer! Each level builds upon the one before it, although you can start at the reading level your child is currently at and do not necessarily need to start from the beginning. Children will be able to transition to the next level once they are proficient in their current level. This way children will not end up struggling with new information, while still trying to catch up on the last level. I think it would be amazing if they expanded this program to include reading levels for grades 6-12 as well!

This program is comprehensive and inviting and even my almost-3-year-old is making great progress! He shows the most interest and willingness to sit through lessons and actively answer questions. My oldest, who is 4, prefers multi-sensory activities that involve using her hands. Since she has some difficulty using our computer mouse, I typically have to sit with them and press the buttons. Despite the fine motor control issue, she diligently tries to use the mouse and she manages to use it on her own some days. Older children shouldn't have this issue, and likely they have much more experience using a computer. If we owned an iPad I feel like their experience would be much more hands-on, because they would be able to select the buttons simply by touching the screen. This interaction level is great for young children, because they will feel a sense of accomplishment when they are able to work on their own. Hopefully Rosetta Stone will create an Android version of this product!

I love the fact that this is a program that can be used independently, because that is the way my daughter prefers her lessons. For example, I'll explain the lesson and start the example problem and then leave her to her own devices. I will check back a few minutes later (and usually I'm just on the other side of the room, but she likes having her own space) to see if she has questions or needs help. This program, at least from what I have seen, can be self-correcting and if the child selects a wrong answer, it will revisit the problem and re-explain differently until the child understands. We love this program because it works at the pace of the child and does not try to move them ahead to the next lesson until they fully comprehend the current lesson. My children use this program for about 30 minutes to an hour at a time. Each activity can be completed in a couple of minutes and sometimes they finish the entire level.

Each level explains the types of activities the child will be learning. These can include phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, comprehension, fluency, etc. As you can see in the pictures below, each level is different and focuses on 4-6 separate learning activities.

The reading curriculum is interactive and perfect for children who learn best at their own pace. Children can decide which skills they want to work on for each level and move on when they are comfortable with their current level. And while this program was designed to be used independently with children, parents will be able to keep track of each child's progress with easy-to-understand progress updates. The parent will be able to design the lesson plan as well.

Here are some activities from the Pre-K level. This level does not involve actual reading, however it does introduce the concepts of reading, such as an introduction to the alphabet and concepts like rhyming and literary comprehension. Children at this level listen to the words and make the connection through pictures.

Phonological Awareness - Rhyming: Example: Socks rhymes with - grass or locks. Socks rhymes with locks. Each correct match becomes a red apple on the tree. There are 10 questions per group and 4 groups per level. They become more difficult as the child works through each group.

Phonics - Letter Matching: recognize and match the uppercase and lowercase letters in the alphabet.

Vocabulary - Categorizing Pictures: children can select the pictures that they think belong with each group. So for this one, they have to decide which pictures belong on the farm and which belong in a city.

Comprehension - Nursery Rhymes: children listen to the story and answer key questions about the narrative.

For example, here we see a clock, Little Bo Peep looking around, and Humpty Dumpty sitting on a wall. The child is asked to look at the pictures and then asked to match the picture to the question.

The only issue I have is with the Lexia Reading Core 5 website. If we decide to take a break from the lesson, either for the kids to take a bathroom break or for me to make lunch for them, or basically anything that takes a handful of minutes, we are logged out. So then we have to go through the processes of signing back in and figuring out where they left off. It's not a major issue, but it is an inconvenience, as we have used other online homeschooling programs that do not sign us out after a few minutes of inactivity. And it only bothers me because they have to restart from the beginning of the lesson, rather than picking up where they left off.

Overall, we loved the Rosetta Stone Reading for Homeschool program! The price of the product is fairly inexpensive, especially because it covers a whole year's worth of curriculum and you have full access to all levels of the program. The price for the subscription is for one child, however if one child works through the program, another can restart from the beginning once they finish. We plan to continue using this program and are excited to see what level they will be at by the end of the year! We will definitely keep Rosetta Stone at the top of our curriculum lists!

Be sure to check out Rosetta Stone's social media pages!

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