Thursday, June 27, 2013

{Review} The Classical Historian

Have you been struggling to find a great history program for your student?  Is history boring while trying to learn facts about different event?  Do you struggle in teaching and analyzing history?  Do you struggle in teaching how to write and discuss different opinions of history?  Then you need to check out The Classical Historian.

I personally have taught history using another company and their resources which almost always uses living books.  The Classical Historian doesn’t use living books or text books.  This company uses products created by John De Gree and his wife, Zdenka along with a few other resources.  Mr. De Gree realized that there was a need in America to promote independent and critical thinking through analysis and discussion of history.  

Taken from The Classical Historian website:

For young students, The Classical Historian teaches basic facts through history flash cards, and fun and educational games. Children ages 3-11 love to memorize and play games. They also love repetition, and are most comfortable when the educational lessons rely on games with clear rules. Older students, ages 12-18, enjoy to argue, like to analyze, and are eager to express themselves. The Classical Historian uses these natural aspects of the young student to promote the academic study of history. The aim of the study of history is discover not only what happened, but to strive to understand why it happened.

The Classical Historian uses a five step program to teach history.  The first step is the “Grammar of History.”  Steps two through five are the “Dialectic and Rhetoric of History”:  
          1. The Grammar of History 
          2. The Tools of the Historian
          3. Research
          4. The Socratic Discussion
          5. Analytical Essays

You can read more about the De Gree’s mission statement and the research behind the structure of their curriculum here.  

We received Take a Stand! Ancient Civilizations Student's Edition, Ancient Civilizations One Year Guide, and Teaching the Socratic Discussion DVD Curriculum which all work together for students in grades 6-8.  You would still need World History Detective, Ancient and Medieval Civilizations, Book I and Global History and Geography, Readings and Documents to complete a year of study.   The other item we received was the Ancient History Go Fish Game which is not required but makes learning history more fun.  In fact, the card games offered at TheClassical Historian are great for any age pre-k through high school.


Personally, I struggled through the Ancient History curriculum trying to figure out exactly how it all worked together.  The more time I spent (uninterrupted) and was able to read through the guide and follow along with the accompanying books, it made more sense to me.  It goes into great detail on how to write short and longer essays as well as discussing your view points with others.  I love the research that Mr. De Gree has the student do for “homework” as this facilitates a greater understanding for the information needed to write and discuss.  We currently use a curriculum with Legs that is less hands-on for the parent due to time constraints and the fact that we want Legs (14) to learn time management and the need to be self-reliant as she gets older.  The Classical Historian is definitely not hands-off except for the homework assignments but I can definitely see where it could be beneficial in our home for the great writing and discussion lessons.  The parent would need to spend some time before the school year and some each week preparing the lessons.  This is not a open-and-go curriculum.

Our favorite item we received was the Ancient History Go Fish Game.  We have played Go Fish several times and even Chubbles (5) was able to play and win.  She was learning without even knowing it while having fun.  Collect the Cards was a favorite of Dude (10) and Lil Red (8) who are both pretty competitive.  The clues are read straight from the cards and others had to try to guess the location.  This not only reinforced the history events and locations it was also another way for reading skills to be practiced which was a bonus.  The set of playing cards also included instructions for two more games called Continents Game and Chronology Game.  These last two games are a little more difficult and even the adults in the house were stumped during a few rounds.  It looks like we all need to beef up our history memory a little bit.

The Classical Historian company also offers Medieval and American History card games like the set we received and memory card sets as well.  For grades 6-8, The Classical Historian offers curriculum for Ancient Civilizations, Medieval Civilizations and American History.  If you are looking for curriculum for grades 9-12, The Classical Historian offers Modern American History, Modern World History and American Government & Economics.

Pros: The card games are really fun and easy to implement into your schedule already.  I love that all ages in my house can enjoy the games and learn while having fun.  The history curriculum covers writing and discussing fully.  There is no doubt that a student would finish a year of the curriculum with a great background for writing which would prepare them for college.

Cons: The two biggest cons I can find with this program is that this is not a hands-off curriculum for the teacher.  It definitely involves the teacher each day/lesson.  The cost may be another factor for some families but some the books might be able to be found at used book stores or libraries.

This review is a part of Mosaic Reviews: A medley of review perspectives.  To see other perspectives, please visit here after June 28th.

This is my last review with Mosaic Reviews.  If you are interested in being a part of their team, leave me a comment and I will send you the information.  It is a great team to work with and I highly recommend it!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

{Review} How Do We Know God Is Really There?

 This review product was quite a surprise to me.  I was not sure my older three would really get anything out of it and I was certain that the book was too old for you baby.  I was completely wrong!  This book has made us all thing in a way that we most likely would not have in our faith.
Apologia is the publisher of “How Do We Know God Is Really There?” and is written by Melissa Cain Travis and illustrated by Christopher Voss.  It has a great kid-like feel with pictures that look as though a kid colored them.  The story is easy to read to any age also.

I took the time to read the book by myself first and I initially thought that my two middle kiddos would listen but then go on with what they normally do and say.  I was almost certain it would be too much for my youngest to understand and that would not pertain to my oldest.  Boy was I wrong!

Lil Red (8) and Dude (10) really understood what the book was saying and they have since brought it up while we are involved in other activities so I know they are thinking about it.  Chubbles (5) enjoyed the pictures the most and has even asked if we can get out Legs’ telescope to look at the moon and stars.  What surprised me most was what the book has done for Legs’ and her faith.

“How Do We Know God Is Really There?” has helped Legs support her belief in God’s creation and use that to support a rather deep discussion with her pen pal who is admits to being an atheisist.  I have heard most of the information shared and I have to say that their discussion is so much “deeper” than any I have had with any adult about my faith.  I love how Legs’ has such a deep love and understanding of our God and this book was blessing to her.

You can get your own copy of “How Do We Know God is Really There?” from Apologia for $16.00 here.

Pros: This book is an easy read and very colorful.  It is published by Apologia Press, Inc. would publishes great resources for homeschoolers as well as other products like devotions.  This book looks to be best for the elementary age group but as you can see from my experience, it affects younger and older as well as adults.

Cons: It was a little difficult to wrap my mind around the concept of how the author explained the planets and space in relation to God’s existence but that is probably because as adults we most likely already have an opinion and we are not as open-minded as children.

This review is part of Mosaic Reviews: A medley of review perspectives.  To see other perspectives, please visit here after June 21st.

The next review will be The Classic Historian.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

{Review} My Home School Grades

Do you have to keep track of your homeschool students’ grades for reporting?  Do you like to keep track of grades for your benefit only?  Are you looking for an easy program that does not include planning?  Are you looking for a program to record these grades that is accessible from any device?  Then I have a great recommendation!

My Home School Grades came about in the fall of 2012 when the CEO, John Echols and his wife were looking for something to help them keep track of grades and create a transcript for their freshman student at home.  They searched all the available programs offered and each one lacked what they were wanting for their family.  Mr. Echols joined forces with self-taught web designer, Jordan,  who developed the site and program.

The program is easily accessible whether you are using a computer, tablet or smart phone.   If you have access to internet, then you have access to My Home School Grades.  The program is also designed to do most of the work for you.  Once you are signed on, the program fills in the students’ last names automatically which helps with reporting and transcripts.  There are also preloaded publishers in the system with curriculum and lessons already laid out.  All you have to do is add the grades as the work is completed.   Other easy areas to navigate are Activities which include things like sports, choir and organizations as well as a transcript creator.

I was excited to use this program!  I have personally used one or two other programs offered to most homeschoolers but they had lengthy user manuals and/or they required that I enter lesson plans of the curriculum we were using.  That was time consuming and redundant since we use curriculum that includes a lesson plan for the year.  I found myself giving up and not using those other programs to their full potential.

My Home School Grades does not have any place where you add in lesson plans.  This is strictly a way to record grades and activities for each of your students.  The best part of adding the grades was that I can decide if I record each grade as a letter (A, B, C), a percentage (90%, 85% 70%) or a fraction (84/90, 90/100, 50/50) and the program shows the cumulative grade for each subject.

You will find that many common activities that homeschool students are involved are included in the activities area already but you can also add whenever necessary.  Activities our family will be recording will be volunteer experiences for Legs, sports for Dude, dance and theater for Little Red and dance for Chubbles.  I am sure there will be other activities to add as the kids get bigger too.

One thing I didn’t expect with My Home School Grades was that when it is time to create and send in transcripts to colleges or other institutions, all I have to do is go into one student’s page, clink on Transcript and it is immediately created and ready to be printed.

You can visit My Home School Grades to watch tutorials on how to use the program and to sign-up for a 14-day free trial.  After the trial, you can purchase a lifetime subscription for $49.99.  This allows one family to add as many students as they need to serve them.

Pros: This is another product that I think is amazing!  I am so blessed that our family was allowed to review this product and be allowed to continue to use it throughout our homeschooling career.  I really think this program is going to be a huge blessing for many.

Cons: I have not found anything in this program that I did not like.  Some families may find that the publishers or curriculum they use is not in the system but Mr. Echols has said they are working daily to add more and if you would like to see a particular one, please send them an email and they will work to get it added.

This review is part of Mosaic Reviews: A medley of review perspectives.  To see other perspectives, please visit here after May 23rd.

The next review will be Apologia book, How Do We Know God Is Really There?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

{Review} Waterproof Bible

Are you an avid beach comber?  Or how about someone that likes to hike?  Or just someone that likes to be outside a lot?  During any of these activities, do you like to take your Bible with you but you worry about the weather or environment conditions ruining your Bible? Whether it is a traditional book or electronic version?  What is a person to do?

The Waterproof Bible is perfect for you.  Bardin & Marsee Publishing has created a Bible that is 100% waterproof inside and out.  Their “Waterproof Bible lets you take the word with you anywhere.  Water, mud and pretty much anything else wipes right off.  Available in NKJV, NIV, ESV, NLT and KJV.”

Our family received a copy of the New Testament version which included Psalms and Proverbs.  At first, it was hard to allow God’s word to be allowed out in the elements but after taking deep breaths I allowed Dude to drop it in a bucket full of water and then we left it out in the rain.  This included some expected mud to land on the Waterproof Bible.  Another time I let Chubbles drop it into the pool at the hotel while on our vacation.  One last test was during our youth fishing event.  Legs reported that her friends thought she had lost it when the Bible was put into the pond.

*Pictures to come soon*

Bobby and Anna at Bardin & Marsee Publishing made the Waterproof Bibles completely waterproof, dry quickly, are much stronger than paper, are usable with writing utensils (ball point pen, pencil, or dry highlighter), and adapt well to all extremes or reading environments.  When we brought in our Bible in from our tests, we opened it up on its spine to allow it to dry overnight as the directions indicated.

The kids are excited to come up with more ways to test our Bible.  Dude wants to take it into the shower with him and the little girls want to take in into the bathtub with them.  I have to consider those because they already like to take long showers and baths.

I am pretty sure Legs is going to take it with her to the annual church camp.  I am sure that it will get a lot of testing throughout the entire youth group.

Pros: This product is amazing!  A lot of thought was put into the creation of this product and it is a great value.  We have been able to take God’s word with us where we would not have before.

Cons: I have not come up with after reviewing this product.

I thought this would be a great present for a new graduating student to have with them wherever they go.  You can look at all the options and order your own copy here.

This review is part of Mosaic Reviews: A medley of review perspectives.  To see other perspectives, please visit here after May 17th.

The next review will be My Homeschool Grades.