Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday Weekend Favorite Curriculum Deals

I have compiled  a list of really great deals offered by some of the companies that we have reviewed and loved over the past two years. Most of these deals are active all weekend, unless stated otherwise. If you are in the market for some curriculum or supplies for the upcoming new year, this would be a great time to take advantage of these generous offers. Many of these companies are small, family-run operations that want to be a blessing and help to homeschoolers.

In no particular order:

College Prep Genius is having a site wide sale. Use the code BLACK2014 to get $10 off and free shipping for any purchase over $50. Sale ends 11:59pm PST on 12/1/14. My review of College Prep Genius - they sell SAT/ACT test prep materials and college planning materials.

Blick Art Materials is offering 15% off any order over $89. and 20% off any order over $149. plus free shipping. Use code CYBWKND. This special ends 11/30/14. We used supplies from Blick for our sculpting review from Artistic Pursuits.

Visual Latin - click link below: 50% off through 12/1/14 - see my recent review.

Compass Classroom: 30% to 50% off all curriculum through 12/1/14, including Visual Latin. (Plus a free Advent book with every purchase) Other subjects available are Economics, Filmmaking, Poetry, History, Vocabulary, and Latin courses. Click the link below to see all the deals:

Maestro Classics: TODAY ONLY! Free CD and shipping with any purchase. At checkout, use the two codes: HAPPYHOLIDAYS and FREE SHIPPING.

Veritas Press: 25% off all self-paced history courses, plus supporting materials. Free shipping is also being offered. Veritas Press was one of our favorite reviews of this year. This offer is good through midnight 12/1/14.

Lilla Rose: Beautiful hair accessories are 20-50% off with free shipping on orders over $50. This special runs through Sunday, 11/30/14. 

Answers In Genesis: 25%-80% off entire site. Family friendly products for science and Apologetics. Free shipping on orders over $50. Use code BF2580. To shop the AiG website, click the banner below. Sale prices are good through midnight 12/1/14.

HomeSchool Piano: Offering deeply discounted membership rates through Monday, 12/1/14. See my review.

Fortuigence: Check out the writing courses, and through Monday, 12/1/14, take 20% off the price of any course, using code: FHD20.  We recently reviewed the Personal Statement Essay Course.

Purposeful Design: This beautiful Creation book would make a wonderful gift. For the Christmas holidays, the author has discounted the price from $24.95 to $18.95 with significant discounts for purchases of multiple copies. This was one of our recently reviewed books

Fascinating Education: The online Science courses that we recently reviewed are now discounted 50% through December 15, 2014!! That is $39.75 for one course, with volume discounts if more than one course is purchased. To get this discount, you must use the code 2ZDWL5NHDB upon checkout.

Golden Prairie Press: Countdown to Christmas book is available for $19 to help keep the true meaning of Christmas alive in your family. Click the banner for more details. We recently reviewed Countdown to Thanksgiving.

{This post does contain several affiliate links - purchasing through my links will help support our homeschooling efforts with a small compensation}

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Old Schoolhouse Blue Ribbon Awards for 2014

2014 Blue Ribbon Awards

The results are in!!!

We are excited that some of our favorites won in several categories.

Would you like to see what home school products were voted the very best by the Crew this year? Check out the list of Blue Ribbon Award winners on the Crew blog.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Review: Word Up Latin

This past year we experienced a really neat introduction of beginning Latin into our home school, through our review of Visual Latin. Introducing Latin was not nearly as intimidating as it sounds, thanks to this simple, fun program.

When we had the opportunity to review a new product from Compass Classroom called Word Up, I was very interested. I remember back to my middle school years, and Latin class was a grueling mix of learning seemingly antiquated statements and memorizing long lists of prefixes, suffixes, and root words. I certainly did not appreciate the assistance it would give me later on in life, when I needed to decode long, puzzling words. While I desire my girls to possess this valuable knowledge, I certainly was seeking an easier way for them to obtain it!

Word Up! The Vocab Show from Compass Classroom

Since we already had some experience with the zany Dwane Thomas from the Visual Latin videos, the girls laughed when they saw his character come back in the Word Up videos. (I am not sure if they were laughing at him or with him though!)

What is Word Up? This is a series of ten short videos that teach the Latin and Greek roots of some commonly used words in our English language. Each video is about 15 minutes long, and teaches twenty new vocabulary words from two roots. It is set up like a common TV show. In fact, the introduction is that of a TV host, played by Dwane Thomas.

Following the short introduction on the 'set', it is turned over to the Latin & Greek scholar (also played by Dwane Thomas), who is 'out in the field' teaching that lesson's new words. 

Each lesson is set against a backdrop that reinforces the words of the lesson (the above example is "urban").  The backdrop quickly switches as each new word is introduced.  For example, in the first lesson, the roots 'aqua' and 'hydra' are introduced. Of course, we realize these have to do with water, so the lesson continues on teaching ten words that use 'aqua' and ten words that use 'hydra'. There is a short review built in as well. 

Here is an example of a word that comes from the Latin root 'aqua':

Each lesson is also very entertaining. These are lessons that your children will ask to watch over and over again. Dwane Thomas takes a difficult subject and makes it easy and fun to master!

Why is learning Latin important? Did you know that approximately 60% of our modern English language has been directly influenced by Latin? Understanding Latin helps the student to decode and understand English! And those endless lists of vocabulary words? If a student knows their Latin, they can easily remember those new vocabulary words without much effort. 

What ages are these videos for? The recommended age is 10 and up. High schoolers will be entertained, and the instruction is incredibly helpful for those who are studying vocabulary lists in preparation for SAT testing. I do have to say that my 9 year old is mesmerized by these videos too, and definitely remembers what she is learning, so possibly students even younger than 10 can appreciate them as well. 

What else is available? With the purchase of Word Up, you also get access to an online review with flash cards, games, and quizzes. Using these will cement the words down in your student's mind, and give you objective means to use this video as an actual Latin course with grading if you desire to do so. The online review does require the student to be able to spell the words correctly to complete most of the games, so this could also double as a spelling/vocabulary course.

How did we use this program? We have watched the videos several times over now. We did try out the online flashcards and review games as well. All my students, while laughing and saying how silly Dwane Thomas is, have not been able to tear themselves away from the videos. Personally, I think they are hooked, and the silly word associations and antics of Dwane Thomas really helps to reinforce what he's saying, because it really holds the student's attention. 

Can I try a sample? There is a sample lesson that can be downloaded from the website.

What does it cost? Word Up Latin sells for $15.00. It can be downloaded or purchased as a DVD. Volume 1 is already available, and Volume 2 will be coming soon. 

Special Alert: Compass Classroom is having a special sale this coming Black Friday week. Click the banner below for special pricing. 

Last words: This is the way I wish I could have learned Latin when I was younger. I am so glad it is available now for my children to use, and I am grateful for people like Dwane Thomas who are so passionate about learning Latin that they will make these videos available for home schoolers! 

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product from Compass Classroom in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own, or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC regulations. 

Please Note: This post contains affiliate links. Because I believe so strongly in this company and it's products, I have joined as an affiliate. Purchasing these items through my blog will earn me a small commission on each sale. Thank you. 

Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

My Top Ten Home School Products of 2014

Our home school has been so blessed this year to try out so many new things! This week I posted my last reviews for The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew. Through the Crew, our home school was blessed with 38 different products that we tried out, not to mention two other items we reviewed outside the Crew. What a blessing! Were we busy? Yes! Was it worth it? A thousand times yes! We have found some really neat things that have worked for us, and really made our home school a well-rounded and enriching experience for the girls. I have also learned about many products out there that maybe didn't work for us, but we were able to help someone else by recommending them.

2014 Blue Ribbon AwardsAs you may know from following the blog, we use A Beka as our core curriculum, and then enhance our curriculum with a number of different items to make it a well rounded education for the girls.

The voting is in - check out The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew's list of "Blue Ribbon Awards" for the 2014 Crew year. It was so fun and exciting to vote for our favorites, and I can't wait to see which products take top honors!

We compiled a list of our own favorites though, and I would like to share the best, the funniest, and well....the on my blog.


1) Barrel of Belly Laughs Award: Hands down, this goes to Snake Oil from Out of The Box Games. We have so much fun playing this game, where players come up with the most outrageous inventions and then make a sales pitch to the unsuspecting customer.

2) Kid Favorite: This one kept coming up repeatedly when we were voting for the Blue Ribbon Awards. It is an audio drama called The Brinkman Adventures. These audio dramas features a family telling real life missionary stories. They are fascinating (and shhh...educational!) and the girls love listening to them over and over.

3) Cool Mom Award: Yes, using the treasure hunts from Clued In Kids elevated me to coolest mom on the planet status. We only reviewed two different hunts, and I can't even tell you how many times the girls have asked me to set up more treasure hunts since then! Since I lack the creativity gene to set up one on my own, treasure hunts from Clued In Kids has found it's way onto my Christmas shopping list.

4) Best Book (that I didn't even know I needed): Well, I might have suspected I needed something, but I really wasn't sure what....But after reading Flourish it really opened my eyes to the need for more balance in my life. No amount of wishful thinking and planning will take care of my family unless my time and priorities are balanced. This was a great read and a great help.

5) Best Movie: I found the movie Captivated from Media Talk 101 to be a great help to us, teaching us the place that  screen time should have in our life, and why controlling it is so important. We ended up purchasing more copies to loan out. This movie is a great help and I encourage everyone to watch it.

6) Kelly's favorite: Besides the overall favorites of Clued In Kids and the Brinkman's, Kelly really loved almost everything she tried out this year. It was incredibly hard for her to pick a favorite, but I think we will have to go with the self-paced online History course from Veritas Press. The characters are quirky and the history song they sing every lesson is cheesy, but I think that's what makes this program so endearing. Our whole family can sing the song, listing all the important historical events of the New Testament: Greece and Rome era.

7) Melissa's favorite: Melissa has really taken to her French lessons from Middlebury Interactive Languages. We have tried out several foreign language programs over the past year, and this is the one that really stuck and worked for her. She loves her French and is making tremendous progress.

8) Laura's favorite and the Biggest Surprise Award: Laura mentions weekly how grateful she is to have taken the Personal Statement Writing Course from Fortuigence. This program indeed was a big surprise. We almost passed it over, but Laura needed to write personal essays for her college applications and was really struggling to write about herself. I welcomed an opportunity for her to work with an outside writing instructor and step away from having to give feedback about her essays. This course made writing come so easily and naturally for her, and her essay came out superb! She has already used it for a number of scholarship and college applications.

9) Kid Tested and Mom Approved Award: While this program is NOT the favorite of the kids, it's value is so great that it makes my top ten list as the mom and teacher. Practicing math facts is never fun but it is necessary, so UberSmart Math Facts comes in very handy. This program is simple with no frills, but it is effective. It's an easy alternative to daily flash cards, and Kelly's math skills have increased exponentially by doing it several times a week. This is the math facts review program I have always dreamed of, but never found until this Crew year.

10) In The Trenches Award: The best product we tried out that gets used daily and eliminates stress from my life is the Trident iPad Case. This military grade case completely encloses the iPad. Seriously, the iPad has survived accidental drops and water spills and hasn't skipped a beat thanks to this awesome gadget. I am really happy we have it.

These are our favorites from the past year. Stay tuned as next week I will be posting the Crew favorites, and 2015 is already shaping up to be an exciting year for the Review Crew. I am so happy to be chosen as a member of the Crew again for 2015.

2014 Blue Ribbon Awards

Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Review: Out of the Box Games

Our family loves games and is always looking for new ones to try out. We recently had the opportunity to review Snake Oil from Out of the Box Games. This creative game is hilarious and different every time you play it!

What is Out of the Box Games? This company focuses on games that are out-of-the-ordinary and different than mainstream...hence the name! Their games all meet a certain criteria of being fresh, colorful, uncomplicated, able to be played in under an hour, and providing funny entertainment for families and friends. They have a unique game finder on their website that allows you to input the type of game, age range, and number of players that you are seeking, and it will match you to appropriate games that are available.

Where did the name snake oil come from? In the mid-1800's there were laborers that introduced actual snake oil liniment into the country and sold it to help soothe muscle pain. As word spread, and people traveled west, peddlers carried bottles of this 'miracle' potion around to new towns, and attempted to sell it to the unsuspecting folks. They would come up with vigorous sales pitches, and the reputation of snake oil grew beyond a muscle liniment, into a complete cure-all for all of life's woes. Eventually, it was discovered that much of this 'potion' that was being carried around, and sold, in the West was nothing more than just regular oil. It didn't contain any of the original snake oil and was nothing special, yet its salesmen continued to make their case to sell it. Soon, the term 'snake oil salesmen' came to be part of our American culture, denoting a person who would stop at nothing to convince you to buy their product.

What does that have to do with this game? This "Snake Oil" game makes for great entertainment by turning players into snake oil salesmen who must convincingly pitch their imaginary products.

How do you play "Snake Oil"?  Each round, one player is selected as the customer, and the remaining players are snake oil salesmen. All players receive a handful of cards that each contain one word. After learning the role of the customer, players peruse the cards in their hand and select two that 'go together' in a practical and funny way. They are given 30-60 seconds to make their sales pitch to the customer, telling them how much the imaginary product would help them, and trying to convince them to purchase. At the end of the round, the customer selects the product/sales pitch that he liked best, and awards his customer card to that player. Play continues until everyone has had an opportunity to be the customer, and play can continue for multiple rounds if desired. At the end, the player who has earned the most customer cards by his successful sales pitch is declared the winner.

Here is an example of a recent game played by our family:

Examples of customer cards - Players tailor their sales pitch to meet the customer's needs

A hand of item cards - select two to make your 'sales pitch'

Here was a winning sales pitch: a snake oil salesmen sold "toy pajamas" to a kindergartener. The sales pitch included details about "when mom makes you go to bed too early, just put on your toy pajamas and you will never be bored! They are full of nice, quiet toys you can play with in your bed until you are tired enough to fall asleep."

How many players can play "Snake Oil"? The game suggests 3-10 players. Our family usually plays with 5-6 which is a great number. There is an option to play "Snake Oil" in a group setting which seems like a fun activity for youth groups and schools.

What ages can play? The game is recommended for ages 10-adult. There is a good amount of abstract thinking and creativity required, so children much younger than that age might find it a little difficult to really jump in to the game. That being said, our 9 yr old enjoys the game!

How much is Snake Oil? The suggested retail price for Snake Oil is $19.99 and it can be purchased at many local retailers, using this store locator. 

What is our opinion? We have played Snake Oil a number of times since it arrived in our home. Each time we play it, it's different, based on the cards in each player's hand. This game will seriously bring out the belly laughs! Some of the sales pitches are so outrageous that you can't help but laugh until your sides hurt. We have had inventions of shower socks for aliens, fart vacuums for politicians, and rocket boots for cowboys, amongst others. I think having to quickly formulate creative thoughts and then pitch it to the rest of the group is really great training for public speaking! We think this game is fun, creative, and hilarious. Anytime we have had friends over and played it with new people, they share our opinion. They may start out cautiously, but once they get into the game, there is no holding back. 

One note: There may be a few word cards that may be awkward to use in mixed company so parents should flip through the cards before handing it over to the kids. There are a few that I removed to keep the game from quickly spiraling out of control when teens are playing it.

Awards: Snake Oil has been awarded a number of prestigious awards, including the winner of the national game competition put on by Mensa:

 Connect with Out of the Box Games on social media:

Watch a quick instructional video about Snake Oil on YouTube

To see what other Crew members thought of this game, click the banner below:

Click to read Crew Reviews
Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Review: Purposeful Design

What student of creation science has not embraced the term 'Intelligent Design'?  We know and believe that intelligent and common design demands an intelligent and common designer. Since no one was present to record the beginning of time and the actual events of how the world began, we choose, by faith, to believe the Biblical account: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" in Genesis 1:1.

In this unique, interesting book we were privileged to review, author Jay Schabacker takes us on a journey to understand that creation - this world as we know it - goes beyond intelligent design, and is actually 'Purposeful Design', a finely tuned world from the far reaches of the universe right down to the microscopic elements that comprise what we can see and handle. It was designed by our Creator with a unique purpose: to bring glory to God, and to reveal His nature in science to those who would study it. Creation reveals the love of God, and that is the author's purpose in writing this book.

What can I expect when I order 'Purposeful Design'?  This 91 page, hardcover book is full of glossy pages, beautiful artwork and photography, and interesting facts. It is "coffee-table worthy" and very appealing to look at. Written specifically to children, it starts at the beginning, just like Genesis, and systematically investigates all seven days of Creation.  Each chapter covers, in detail, one day of the Biblical account of Creation. It begins with the verse that describes the day, then goes on to examine the particular details of the elements created on that day. For example, on the first day, when God created the heavens and the earth, there is a good explanation of the foundational scientific principles of thermodynamics. Each chapter probes a different creation day, and its corresponding matter, including unique animals, and amazing, obscure facts about the human body on day six.

What reading level is the book? From my experience, I would say this book is at a middle school level of reading. Younger children would definitely benefit from having the book read to them, and enjoying the lovely pictures though.

About the author: Jay Schabacker is a retired NASA scientist and former businessman who is now spending his time traveling. He is also involved in Biblical education, with a myriad of contributions to many Christian organizations.

How did we use this book? When it first arrived, I was thrilled to see the author's signature inside the front cover. I always appreciate such attention to details.

After opening the package, I intended to briefly thumb through the book, and then leave it out for the girls to look at when they were done with their work. An hour later, completely captivated by this book, I had the girls clamoring to see what had so arrested my attention. I ended up leaving the book on the coffee table, and one by one, everyone spent time perusing the pages. This book is fascinating, and I just could not put it down! 

The writing is set up in short snippets, where we can easily read just a page or two and be thoroughly engrossed in the subject matter. It is easy to pick up this book for a few minutes or an hour, depending on how much time you have!

Some of our favorite sections: 

Kelly is learning about the water cycle in science this year, and this page explained it so clearly and thoroughly.  I love the connection between the rain cycle and the 2nd day of creation, where God designed the atmosphere.

On day five, when God created the fish, there is a page that tells of some very unique kinds of sea creatures! It points out how our God has a sense of humor. We found this page so entertaining, and were tickled by God's sense of humor just like the author was!  Check out these neat pictures:

Heather is currently studying BioChemistry in college, and absolutely was thrilled to see a small portion of the 'Metabolic Pathways' in a cell included in the 6th day study of the human body. There is so much going on in each cell of our body at any given moment! She actually had to memorize a large portion of this very chart for the class she's taking, so she was fascinated at seeing it in the book, and took a few minutes to explain some of it in more detail to the rest of the family.

Metabolic Pathways chart

Overall opinion: Purposeful Design is a science book that does not come off as a textbook. It serves to pique one's interest in the scientific details of creation, and really make the reader stop and ponder the One who designed it. I feel like Jay Schabacker is a very wise grandpa gathering children around him to pass on his scientific knowledge and love for the Creator and His creation. We absolutely adore this book, and keep it conveniently located right in the living room for the children to look through any time they wish. It is the type of book that you can look at repeatedly, yet 'see' new things each time. I truly appreciate the love, honor, and adoration for our Lord that is evident throughout the book.

Really useful bonus: In order to make this book useful as an addition to your Science curriculum, the author's website has a Young Explorer's Club for parents to download a free student workbook and teacher key. There are comprehension questions and short activities for each chapter. 

A typical worksheet page looks like this:

The teacher key has the answers in red: 

There is a certificate of completion at the end:

After reading the book, following up with these worksheets will truly give your students a "Creation Science" course that will fascinate them and leave them with a great appreciation for the God who designed it all.

Cost: The book is currently selling on the website for $18.95 and bulk rates are available if you wish to purchase more than one copy. 

Connect with Jay Schabacker on social media:

To read other Crew reviews, click the banner below:

Click to read Crew Reviews
Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Review: Golden Prairie Press "Countdown to Thanksgiving"

{please note: this post contains affiliate links. I will receive a small compensation if you purchase this book through my links. Thank you}

I have really enjoyed the fresh approach to learning American history through the materials we have used from Golden Prairie Press, especially Heroes & Heroines of the Past: Am. History Curr. . Combine that with my absolute love for the upcoming Thanksgiving holidays, and this book was just the perfect solution to keeping our family's focus on thankfulness this season.

It saddens me greatly to see how Thanksgiving has been relegated to a second-rate holiday. Stores jump from 'celebrating' Halloween right into Christmas, and Thanksgiving is quickly becoming 'just' a break for eating and shopping between the two.

Thanksgiving has such a rich history in our nation. Yes, we know it started with the Pilgrims being thankful for their Indian friends, and their survival of the first year in Plymouth, but did you know that many presidents have used this day to proclaim thankfulness to God as a country? President Lincoln issued a famous Thanksgiving Proclamation that insured that the day would always be celebrated as a national holiday.

When I was given the opportunity to review the Countdown to Thanksgiving Ebook from Golden Prairie Press, written by Amy Puetz, I was very excited.

What is Countdown to Thanksgiving? It is a 96 page book written to help families learn about Thanksgiving, and make their celebration of it very meaningful with fun family games, activities, recipes, crafts, and stories.

How does it work? There is a small calendar to print out, to help keep track of the 14 days leading up to Thanksgiving Day. The activities of the book start on whatever calendar day is 14 days before Thanksgiving, and children can keep you on task by checking off each day as you accomplish the tasks and read the story together. Each day has a short historical story about Thanksgiving. Some of them take you all the way back to the Pilgrims, while others take you on a journey throughout American history to meet an average American who celebrated Thanksgiving in a meaningful way. Following the story, each day has a short activity listed. Some days may take a little longer, because there is a recipe or craft to do. Other days may find you singing a song. The days are interchangeable, so by looking ahead, you can plan which activities best fit your family's schedule.

What ages will work for this? The stories and activities are geared for ages 6-14, but this book really is one that the entire family would enjoy doing together.

Not just an ebook: The ebook does have color, but if you prefer the Countdown to Thanksgiving Printed Book it is also available in black and white.

How much does it cost? Both the ebook and printed book sell for $17. There is currently a special for a limited time for $5 off - use the code word THANK.

When does the Countdown begin? If you are using this book, the countdown to Thanksgiving will begin on November 13. Though the book can be started at any time, and the activities also used at any time, it would really build some good memories, and celebrate Thanksgiving in a special way to take the two weeks prior to the day to focus on what Thanksgiving really is all about.

My opinion: I really love this book! It is a fascinating compilation of stories, special recipes, and good ideas. I have my countdown calendar printed off, and the girls are looking forward to starting and celebrating our Countdown to Thanksgiving!

Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Disclaimer: I received a free 'Countdown to Thanksgiving' ebook in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own, or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC regulations. 

Obscure Bible Heroes: Shamgar

While "Blogging Through The Alphabet" is all finished, and I was able to blog 26 different characters for each week, I found that I had a few favorites that didn't make it into my weekly posts, so I wanted to include them here at the end. In no particular order, I will be posting a few more obscure Bible Heroes over the next few weeks. 


Judges 3:31: "And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad: and he also delivered Israel."

During this early period of Israel's history, they were the only nation in the world that lived under a theocracy - direct rule by God. While God gave them earthly leaders to follow, they did not have a king ruling over them. The Israelites went through cycles of disobeying and forsaking the Lord, then being brought under the oppression of neighboring nations.  These dark times would cause them to humble themselves, get right with the Lord, and then God would send a deliverer to help them throw off the shackles of oppression and become independent once again, living in their own land in peace. It amazes me how often the cycle was repeated. Most of this history is recorded in the book of Judges.

Judges 2:16: "Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them."

The book of Judges is full of obscure and unlikely heroes. Most of the men (and women) listed there are people who had hardships and circumstances in their lives that would seemingly disqualify them for leadership roles, yet those are the people God chose to deliver and save His people. It is fascinating to read their stories.

There is one who has always stood out to me as a really great example of a man who used what he had to accomplish great things.  As a judge chosen by God to deliver Israel, he had a high calling. Yet he seemed ill-prepared. If you consider this verse, it mentions that he used an ox goad to kill all the enemies.

The long, pointed ox goad is shown in this picture from

An ox goad is a long, pointed stick that was used to goad, or push along, oxen that were plowing. It is not exactly the weapon of choice when one needs to face a well-equipped army such as the Philistines. That is precisely what makes Shamgar a hero though. He didn't have all the right tools, but he had a heart of obedience to God, and took what was in his hand and used it to finish the job God gave him.

Perhaps Shamgar was a farmer who was used to wielding an ox goad on a daily basis with his cattle. Perhaps God took him from his task of plowing the fields, and sent him out to battle the Philistines. While we do not know the details of his life, we do know that he was greatly used, against great odds, to battle and overcome 600 well-trained, battle hardened Philistines, and free Israel from their bondage. Following his heroic deeds, Israel lived in peace for many years.

Like Shamgar, I want to be busy serving the Lord with what is in my hand. I don't need to wait for God to give me more, or equip me better, but I need to just realize that God has already equipped me for the job He has called me to. Now it is my duty and privilege to get busy doing it, accomplishing great victories for God with what I already have in my hands. 

Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Review : IXL Math & Language Arts

Practice, practice, practice! It's the only way....
To make myself better, everyday!

With all the time we spend on core subjects such as Math and Language Arts, I find there are still areas that need improvement. Math and Language Arts understanding gives the most necessary and foundational skills needed to have a successful education. It is the basis for understanding, reading, writing, and science.

Last year we reviewed IXL, and loved it, so we are very happy to once again receive a one year subscription to the Math and Language Arts programs offered by IXL to use in our homeschool.

What is IXL?  It is an online program designed to reinforce concepts taught, and practice math and Language Arts skills to gain mastery. It is set up in a fun, interactive way as 'practice that feels like play'.

What grades are covered? IXL's math now has levels from Pre-K all the way up through high school! High school math subjects include algebra 1 & 2, geometry, and pre-calculus. Language Arts covers grades 2-8, with 9th and 10th grades coming soon. Though we did not personally use the earlier levels, they do include an audio option to have the questions read for students who cannot read fluently yet.

Easy Log-In
How much practice is there? A typical grade subject includes hundreds of questions - enough to keep a student engaged for their entire school year. They work through each topic until they have mastered it. As their speed and accuracy in answering questions correctly improves, so does their score. When they have achieved a 100% mastery on a particular subject, they earn a medal, and can move on to something else. Students can move around throughout the program and switch to whatever subject area is relevant to their current studies - they do not have to move 'in order' through the IXL program. They also can work on multiple subject areas at one time. They do not need to limit it to only one topic until mastery. Kelly currently has about 6 topics that are at various stages of mastery, and she rotates between them when practicing with IXL.

What happens when you sign up? Students sign up, choose an easy log in with a personalized avatar, and then can move on to their home page. On this page, in either math or Language Arts, they are able to see a list of all the topics in their grade level, with a small gold medal next to subjects that they have mastered.

Notice the gold medal next to the first exercise - "Identify pronouns" - this shows mastery of that exercise has been achieved.

Using the program: IXL does not teach concepts, but rather reinforces concepts already learned. It is designed to compliment the curriculum your students are already using. Parents can pick and choose what subject areas need extra practice, and allow their students to practice and get extra help in a fun way. When a student answers a question correctly, they are rewarded with a correct answer page, typically stating "excellent" or "awesome" and then moved on through the remaining questions. Their score on the right side of the page reflects their progress. Once they have answered enough questions in a row correctly, the program will say that they have "mastered" that subject. Students strive for 100% mastery.

Here is a typical 4th grade question about graphs and interpreting data:

Correcting the wrong answers: When students answer a question incorrectly, the program pauses and gives them both the correct answer and a thorough explanation so that they can read through it, understand it, and then improve. They will continue to see similar questions as the one answered incorrectly, until they have shown mastery of the subject.

Here is an example of an explanation for an incorrect math answer for the question shown above:

The Language Arts explanations are very thorough. Here is an example of an explanation for an incorrect Language Arts answer, in the 8th grade Language Arts level:

As you can see, students can drastically improve their understanding just by reading through the explanations given for wrong answers.

Flexibility of the program: Students have access to all grade levels, not just their current one. If a student is struggling in an area that perhaps is several grade levels lower then their current one, they can select whatever topic is troublesome and exclusively practice until they have mastered that area. With this flexibility, parents can definitely tailor this program to exactly fit a student's needs.

Incentive plan: Students receive awards based on their progress through the program. As I already mentioned, each subject that is mastered earns a gold medal. In the math program, students also receive awards based on the number of correct answers, and subject areas mastered. There is a chart where they can place their award 'stickers' and uncover virtual prizes.

Here is what the awards center looks like: 

Students also receive email certificates based on their performance. A typical email looks like this:

The lovely, full color certificates can be printed out and handed to the student as a tangible reward for their hard work:

Reports for the teacher: IXL still has one of the best report systems recording a student's work of any online programs I have ever used. Weekly progress reports are mailed to the teacher/parent. Also, I am able to log in at any time and see exactly what my students have been up to: how much time they have spent, what areas they have mastered, where they have struggled, how it compares to their practice last month, and what percentage of their current grade level they have mastered. I can even go in to see which specific problems they missed. It is fascinating to be able to see exactly what the students have accomplished or exactly where their problem areas are. I really feel like IXL tries to partner with a home school parent to help them successfully educate their child in these core subjects of math and Language Arts. 

Here is the home page for the teacher report section. As you can see, there are a number of options to view reports, including graphs and usage reports. I can track exactly how much time was spent in each subject area.

IXL on the go: A really convenient feature of IXL is its iPad and Kindle Apps. We have used both, although the girls prefer using it on the iPad because the math app turns the iPad into a whiteboard for them to work their problems. The Language Arts App is new, and has been a great help as well. 

Here is a picture of Kelly working math problems on the iPad app as she answers questions:

How much does it cost? The cost of this program for one student is $9.95/month for one subject, or $15.95/month for both Math and Language Arts.  Additional students cost an extra $2 per month.  Alternatively, you can purchase an annual subscription which is only $79 for one subject, or $129 for both math and language arts.  Each additional student adds $20 a year to the cost.

How did we use IXL? We have used IXL this fall with Kelly practicing 4th grade Math and Language Arts, Melissa practicing 8th grade Math and Language Arts, and Laura practicing Pre-Calculus at the high school level. Laura also reviewed some Algebra 2 and even some 8th grade level math (ratio & probability) for SAT test practice. She especially found the explanations helpful when she answered a question incorrectly. Melissa has used the Language Arts section a bit more then the Math section, and it has greatly helped her understanding as to why certain things 'are the way they are' in English grammar.  Kelly has definitely gotten the most use of the program though, using it at least 3-4 times per week, as extra practice with both Math and Language Arts concepts. Some of the Language Arts concepts have been a little tricky for her, as things are called by different names than the way she is learning them, and she doesn't have enough experience to know that they are talking about the same thing yet. I have found that when I am able to sit and explain those words to her, that she has no problem at all mastering subjects in Language Arts. Kelly definitely prefers the Math section though, because of the fun way of incorporating the iPad, and also the rewards and virtual prize board are attached to the math section, but not the Language Arts section. This definitely makes a difference in what area she chooses to practice!

How could IXL improve? The only thing I can think of that could improve this program is having a rewards board for Language Arts. 

Would you like to try it for yourself for free?  By going to the IXL Website, you can choose a grade level and practice up to twenty questions per day at any grade level, just to get a feel for it! 

Check out IXL on Social Media:

And read how the rest of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew used IXL in their home schools:

Click to read Crew Reviews

Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Crew Disclaimer