15 April 2014

Curiosity Quest (Award Winning Educational Videos) {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

Curiosity Quest Review

We incorporate videos often into our learning.  Our favorite type is the straightforward "how it works" or "what it is" videos.  This is a fun way for us to learn more about a topic, or be introduced to something new.  Curiosity Quest produces exactly this kind of video.  We received two of the DVD combo packs to review - Produce and Swimmers of the Sea.  Each of these DVDs contains three episodes (approx. 30 minute length).  Entertaining and educational, with a target audience of elementary-age children, we found the episodes to be enjoyed by a range of ages - from the 4 to 41.

The way Curiosity Quest works, is that children have written in with questions, things they are curious about.  A letter is selected, and the team sets out on a quest to share the answer.  Host Joel Greene is often right in the thick of things, trying his hand at the tasks necessary (feeding animals, harvesting fruit, etc.).  The episodes reminded me of some of the shows we used to watch when had a satellite subscription.  How things work and different jobs that people do are common themes.  There are many episodes of "Curiosity Quest Goes Green" where recycling and good stewardship of the earth's resources are shown.  There are a wide variety of topics represented.  We'd love to see them all!

Curiosity Quest Review

The Curiosity Quest Produce combo pack features three items you find in the produce section - mushrooms, cranberries and oranges.  In each episode, we were taken into a commercial producer's facilities to see the process of growing, harvesting and packing.  It was very interesting to see how our food stuffs go from where they are grown through sorting and packaging to where we buy them at the store.  We learned many interesting bits about each item. 

We make pizza a few times a month and always have mushrooms.  While picking up mushrooms one week (after having watched the mushroom episode), my 9 yo daughter asked if they were Agaricus bisporus (they were).  We've decided we'd like to try growing our own.  Mmm. . . What else can we cook mushrooms in?


Of all the produce episodes, the one on cranberries is our favorite.  We love cranberries.  After viewing the episode a few (or several?) times, we were wanting to eat some.  Fortunately, I pick them up in the fall and freeze them, so we have them on hand.  We also had checked out some fun stories related to cranberries (with recipes utilizing this special berry in the back of the book).  Big sister whipped up the delicious "" while I read a few of the stories aloud.  The younger children also wanted to test the cranberries to see if they really float.  This led to testing other things (or maybe just an excuse to play in the water).  This was definitely a case of an interesting video sparking their curiosity!

Curiosity Quest Review

The Curiosity Quest Swimmers of the Sea combo pack gives us a close up look at sea turtle rescue, penguins and salmon.  We studied sea creatures in science two years ago, so the older girls were familiar with some of what saw.  It was all new and fascinating for the younger ones.  We have an upcoming zoo trip later this month and they cannot wait to see some of these creatures with their own eyes. 

We were not familiar with Curiosity Quest prior to this review opportunity.  I have since learned that episodes are regularly broadcast in many areas (even ours, if we had a way to pick up the channels) via PBS or syndication on other stations.  If you have curious children (seems redundant, doesn't it?) you will want to check into these videos.  You can buy videos individually ($19.95 - 24.95), selected combo packs ($24.95) or subscription options.  The Homeschool Membership looks amazing - a DVD with two episodes and related homeschool curriculum.  This is available monthly ($24.99) or annually ($264).

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Thank you, Curiosity Quest!

Crew Disclaimer

11 April 2014

Supercharged Science for Middle School {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

Supercharged eScience Review
Through the younger years, we have a very relaxed approach to science learning.  For my youngest learners, nature studies fills my requirements.  As my children get older, I know they need to step this up.  We have found that the e-Science Program from Supercharged Science is a perfect fit for homeschool science for middle school.  We have reviewed this online science curriculum before, primarily with our elementary-age learners.  This time around, we focused on our middle school girl.
The e-Science Program is available as a subscription (K-8 $37/month or K-12 $57/month).  One of my favorite things about Supercharged Science is how fun it is for all learners, regardless of age.  Science is about discovery and experimenting - and the units and activities in the e-Science Program certainly encourage that.  For younger students, that may be all the further you take a lesson.  For older learners (like my middle school girl), they need more.  More reading and recording of hypothesis and observations.  This is the genius of Supercharged Science.  You can take things as deep and involved as your learner needs. 
With my younger learners, we spent time perusing various topics and exploring whatever caught our eye.  As a subscriber, you have access to only a few topics at first, with more opening up over the months.  You are free to request access different topics as your interest leads.  The limits are to keep you from being overwhelmed.  There are 20 topics in addition to unit 0 (an overview) and units on the scientific method, science fair projects and 'mathemagic'.  You can also choose to work through the units by grade level (preK/K to 8th grade + advance topics) - this is how we approached things this time around.
When we first looked at the seventh grade lessons, there are three categories - Life Science, Energy, Physics of Light & Lasers.  My daughter, being a nature lover, chose Life Science to start it.  Science as a subject is not a favorite for her.  Through the various experiments and activities, she has been learning about cells (specifically plant cells).  She has been working with our (just-barely-capable) microscope and samples from vegetables and plants easily obtained.  It was pretty neat to step outside, pull one of the young wild onions and bring it in to learn about mitosis.
My self-proclaimed non-science-y girl then proceeded to think of other things to check out.  She is really looking forward to the warmer weather when things start really growing in the water (we keep an open 100 gallon tank below a downspout to catch rainwater for our animals).  I love that she is finding an interest in science - and reading the pages for the lessons (we download the pdf and print it out).  I still have to remind her to keep more notes in her science journal, but she's getting better.  She has no problem with drawing and sketching, it's those pesky words. 
We She has moved onto the topic of genetics.  Did you know you can extract DNA? - in your kitchen? -with commonly available materials?  One of my other favorite things about Supercharged Science (are you noticing I don't have one favorite?  This program is absolutely wonderful!) is that most of the activities and experiments can be done without expensive or hard to find items.  We She has been using pond water, carrots, celery and onions for the experiments so far.  We already had a low-grade (just a step above a toy version) microscope which is strong enough, but we know we want to upgrade.  Their are pictures on the site and online (I've seen some great videos on YouTube) if a microscope is just not feasible.  There are also numerous lessons where a microscope is not needed. 
The other great benefit is her ownership of her work.  She is not waiting for me to assign her something.  She is working through at her own pace, watching the videos, reading the accompanying lesson, preparing the activities -- all on her own.  This has been one of my main goals for her this year.  Supercharged Science is really helping with that.  The way the e-Science Program is laid out, you can read the lessons first (on-screen or download the pdf to print or upload to a tablet) or jump right in to the experiment (presented in video with written details on the same page).  The videos can be viewed in full screen, paused or reviewed as needed for the best guide or review.  This is such a versatile program!  It can stand alone or supplement a traditional curriculum.  Unusual for a science program, there is nothing religious or secular (no creation or evolution talk -- love that it can appeal to all families!).  It's simply straightforward information, examples and Aurora's enthusiasm to help your children be excited about learning.
I am excited to share an opportunity for you to try out the e-Science Program (full access K-12, all topics) for only $1 (30 day trial - cancel or continue the monthly subscription at the regular rate).  You can also sign up and receive a 5-lesson mini-program F*R*E*E!  It was through opportunities like these that I learned about Supercharged Science - and the passionate teacher Aurora Lipper.  
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Thank you, Supercharged Science!
Crew Disclaimer

02 April 2014

Spelling You See from Demme Learning {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

My older girls are frequently writing stories and skits.  I love that they are creative and writing!  However, I cringe when they ask me to read them.  Their spelling is such that it is very difficult.  *sigh*  Homeschool mama fail, right?  We've tried different homeschool spelling programs for learning or practicing, but for various reasons, don't stick with them.  Spell check should not be what my girls depend on; they need to learn how to spell.  The brand-new Spelling You See looks quite promising!

spelling you see review

We have been so blessed through the Schoolhouse Review Crew and the opportunities like this - trying brand new curricula.  We received Spelling You See: Wild Tales (Level C) - we have the Instructor's Handbook ($14) and the Student Pack (two workbooks plus erasable colored pencils - $30).  Due to a shipping mix-up, we had received Spelling You See: Listen and Write (Level A) which consists of the Instructor's Handbook ($14) and the Student Pack (workbook, sticker pack and handwriting guide - $20).

Spelling You See Review

Especially with a brand new curriculum, it is important to read the teacher's instructions first.  I know, you see the bright shiny books and want to jump in.  With Spelling You See, there are just over 6 pages for Level C Wild Tales to introduce you to the philosophy and get started - easy.  There are also some great tips and helps in the weekly activity guide and FAQ sections.  If I had seen the age suggestion in the placement guide, I probably would have chosen the next level for my girls.  I am mainly using this with the "middle" girls, 9 and 11 (roughly 4th and 5th graders).  They read well, but spell horribly. *grin*  Due to their ages, Level D is recommended.  The early parts of Level C (about 7 weeks worth at the suggested pace of a lesson a week, working daily) use nursery rhymes just as Level B does.  My girls were feeling this was a bit juvenile for them, so I showed them that we would soon get to the non-fiction animal stories soon.

They stuck with me, motivated to move a bit more quickly.  We worked daily (and when they asked, 6 days a week) and due to the short lessons, sometimes completing more than one day's worth of work at a time.  At least in the beginning.  Once we were a bit deeper into the lessons, we slowed down.  Hmm, maybe this was the right level for them after all.  This level was my first thought -- trust your instincts mama!
Spelling You See Review

Even though we follow a mostly - Charlotte Mason style of learning, we have not figured out dictation. Thanks to Spelling You See, not only are the girls learning spelling; their mama is figuring out dictation - for the first time ever.  Each week begins with reading the passage (I read it aloud to the girls even though the reading level is quite easy for them -- that is intentional.  Reading levels are often above spelling levels).  On this page, we mark the "chunks" - the groups of letters we are focusing on - vowel, consonants, bossy r, etc.  This is where the fun color comes in.  Each type of chunk has its own color.  The first three days, the rhyme or passage is copied.  This is where your learner can erase to get it right. For the longer passages, only part of the passage is copied each day.  Day four is "no rule day".  This means you are not correcting their spelling - it is free writing (or coloring or whatever you instruct) time.  The final day for each lesson is the dictation.  This was the day the girls were happy we started with the easy nursery rhymes.  There is no peeking and no erasing.  You also stop these writing times after 10 minutes.  Some days, my girls thought this was great (either they were done or ready to be).  Other days they asked if they could finish the last couple of words.  Depending upon the circumstances, I let them.

Short lessons - this is easy to fit in daily (both for the girls and for the mama with learners in different levels).  Colorful - the colored box(es) on the first page of each lesson reinforces the color used to mark the chunks.  The boxes contain the letter groups the learner is looking for.  Copywork and dictation to practice writing the correct spelling and then "test" their memory for the proper spelling.  Spelling You See seems to be everything I have been looking for in a spelling program.  I cannot wait to use the higher levels with my older girl.  Be sure to check out the sample pages to find the right level for you learners spelling needs!

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Thank You Spelling You See!

Crew Disclaimer

19 March 2014

Last Day to Save Big on Amazon Prime

There are affiliate links in this post.  Thank you for blessing my family!

Today is the last day to sign up for Amazon Prime at the current price of $79/year (that works out to only $6.58 month). March 20th, the price increases to $99/year. This is still a great price for all the benefits of Prime ($8.25/month), but why pay more? What are all the benefits of a Prime membership?

  • Free 2-Day shipping of many items (with no order minimums -- good-bye $35+ orders!)
  • Unlimited streaming of thousands of movies and TV episodes
  • Borrowing via the Kindle Owner's Lending Library (1 free each month)
  • 20% off diapers and wipes subscription orders (for Amazon Mom members)
  • 20% off other family items through subscribe & save (at least 5 items scheduled for the same day) also an Amazon Mom perk.

Amazon Mom is free to sign-up and a great deal for moms (or dads, grandparents or caregivers).  Even as a cloth diaper family, we would use disposable wipes and have some disposable diapers on hand "just in case".  Not to mention the other items you can add to the subscribe & save program and save above and beyond that discount. 

As a single income family, I am always looking for ways to save money and get the most for my husband's hard-earned wages.  Amazon Prime membership certainly qualifies.  Start saving now (and save even more by signing up today!)