Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Curiosity Quest DVD Combo Review

Vendor:  Curiosity Quest
Age recommendation - Ages 7 - 14

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a HUGE fan of using documentary materials with the kids.  Joe and I really enjoy watching the History channel, PBS Specials, etc.  We learn new things every time.  I hope we are showing the kids that learning is lifelong and not just for when you are a kid.  

I recently discovered Curiosity Quest shows on a field trip and fell in love.  I was super excited to get a chance to view more of the Curiosity Quest specials.

Curiosity Quest is a family television show that goes on quests to explore questions sent in by fans.  Joel Greene is the host and he goes out to answer viewers "letters of curiosity".  Unlike watching documentary shows on the cable channels, Curiosity Quest is written on a level that kids will understand.  

Each episode takes you on locations to learn more about various topics and answer questions that can range from baking bread to how Goodwill Inc. works. Curiosity Quest really encourages kids to explore their questions with hands-on learning.  

I really like the host Joel Greene.  He has such an upbeat personality.  He is funny and energetic, no matter what the topic.  Even if your child might not be interested in learning about a bakery, he'll make it seem very interesting.  Our kids love the Fun Facts that pop up throughout each episode and we make sure to quiz them on them.  I learn something new every time I watch an episode.

We were able to review two of the combo packs that Curiosity Quest offers.

The first pack was the DVD Combo Pack - Produce.  The combo pack include 3 full-length episodes.  This particular pack includes: Mushrooms, Orange Picking, and Cranberries.  

Joel Greene takes you straight to the farms where our food is coming from. He makes all the information exciting and interesting.  You will learn how mushrooms are grown for food and how they are picked and shipped to you.  How cranberries are grown and harvested.  And shows us how to pick oranges.

The other pack that we tried was the DVD Combo Pack - Swimmers of the Sea.  This combo pack includes 3 full-lengths on Salmon, Sea Turtles and Penguins.

In this DVD Joel takes you on an adventure to a Sea Turtle hospital in Florida, a Monterey Bay Aquarium to learn more about penguins, and then up to Alaska to learn about salmon at a Salmon Hatchery.  

How did our family use these?

Well Joey is working on a 4H project about local foods and the importance of purchasing as much as we can locally.  So the DVD Combo Pack - Produce was a great addition to this project.  He has not been on a local food farm yet, so he was able to learn more about one of his favorite pizza toppings....mushrooms.  (Oh and I got to learn more about that also.  Did not know that is how we get the mushrooms we buy in the store.).  The cranberry episode was very interesting, and since we won't get a chance to tour an orange farm or a cranberry farm where we live, was a great way to experience what it would be like to work on one.

DVD Combo Pack - Swimmers of the Sea was a fun watch for the girls and I.  The girls love turtles and penguins, so obviously these were favorites.  But I really liked the episode on Salmon.  This tied so well back to Joey's 4H project that I watched it with him too.  We both got to learn more about a fish that we enjoy eating and how the salmon is raised to help keep the salmon rates high.  The salmon episode also tied in a bit to our reading of American Girl - Kaya, since the Nez Perce relied on salmon.  Lydia and I could learn a little more about how we are able to eat this delicious fish still today.

All the episodes are a good length, usually about 20-25 minutes each, for short attention spans.  Like I mentioned earlier, the host Joel Greene is a favorite of mine in the way he keeps such an upbeat attitude.  I also enjoy how all ages, elementary through high school can use these videos and learn something.  Even myself as an adult was learning new things.  You can use these as tie-in to unit studies or just as a fun day video to encourage learning while playing a game or spending time together.

I HIGHLY recommend these packs from Curiosity Quest.  The DVD Combo Pack - Produce  and DVD Combo Pack - Swimmers of the Sea have been a great addition to our home.  I HIGHLY recommend all the Curiosity Quest DVD episodes.  We really enjoy all the episodes that we have seen and will continue using them.  

We really enjoy following Curiosity Quest on Facebook.  They love to get suggestions and keep you up to date on where they are heading and what episodes are now available.  

You can also check them out on their YouTube Channel.

Other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew were given the opportunity to try out the Curiosity Quest DVD Combo Packs that we did.  Be sure to visit the link below and see how they worked in their homes.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Our triumphs and accomplishments for Week 44 & 45

Ok...So I am a week late on this.  We are actually in week 45.  Things have been hectic.  First we were having issues getting the Homeschool with Minecraft classes up and going.  It was just a matter of getting all the new classes uploaded and ready to go.  The house was a mess and I have not been feeling great, so it made it very hard for me.

Then we received the news that my father-in-law was very ill.  So we changed everything to see him.  He was seriously and passed away on Wednesday night.  My husband is experiencing many different emotions right now.

We also have a big event to help with this weekend and the viewing/funeral for my father-in-law is Sunday and Monday.

All the running this week has taken a toll on all of us.  Because we had some field trips early in the week that we had already been on.  I think by next Thursday we may crash, because everyday for the next week is full of events.  I know I may not be moving by next Friday.

Needless to say, it's been an unschooling week.  We have been watching some videos on geology to go with our science unit.  Joey has been reading his book.  We played a couple math games and the girls are playing their new engineering game, Goldie Blox and The Spinning Machine

The kids have been playing Minecraft a lot also.

Last week though we had a good week of school.

Joey made us dinner of chili con carne.


It goes with his 4H Project, Food, Fitness and Fun  We made a few adjustments and Joey even ate sauteed red pepper!!!

The kids had some "excavating" projects that they worked on.

 Lydia worked on multi-digit addition.
 Caty started a new reading program from Logics from English.
 Lydia is driving me nuts, "hen pecking" at the keyboard.  I am trying to get her to type correctly.  So she started Dance Mat typing.  She is not a huge fan.  I need to find something for her.
 Joey and Caty played a lot of Cars 2 Monopoly last week.
 The new kittens
 Caty is working on reading her color words.
 We did schoolwork at the piano teachers house.  Caty's working on recognizing color words.
This week we had art class on Monday.

 We played games and watched videos all week.

 We also had a field trip to the Mazza Museum - Art of Picture Books.  I'll post about that trip next week.

Yesterday we made ginger syrup and made homemade ginger ale to go with our lunch.  It was very yummy and 4 out of the 6 of us LOVE it!!  I haven't had soda in ages.  This was soooooo good!

It's been a rough week, but we are chugging along :)

Bring on Week 46!!

Supercharged Science - e-Science Review

Age Range - K - 12 

Science is an area I struggle with.  I feel like I cannot give the kids a good scientific explanation to go along with experiments they do.  I get nervous that the kids will keep asking me questions that I don't think I'll be able to answer.  I am very grateful when they do not seek out further questions.  

We recently had a chance to try out Supercharged Science K-12 e-Science Program ($57.00 a month).  I thought how awesome, a science program laid out for me.  I had no idea at the time how much information was included.

At Supercharged Science they want to take away the boring part of science.  There is not stacks of textbooks and piles of papers.  They want to take you into the fun stuff, the experiments.  They want to help provide your child with a strong foundation that will help them through college.

The Supercharged Science K-12 e-science program includes over 900 science activities, experiments and projects for pk - high school.  They provide lesson plans, data/lab sheets, exercises, reading materials, and quizzes.  There are also videos of real scientists in action.  Supercharged Science even provides a tutorial on how to start and keep a science journal to help track your student's progress in science

We were getting ready to start a study unit on Geology, so we jumped ahead to work on studying our Earth.  So we dug into the lessons.  The amount of reading material provided was unbelievable.  I did not need to get any extra library books or have a textbook out.

I was very impressed that there was so much information that I needed to weed out what Lydia and I were working on.

Several hands-on Experiments are included under each science topic.

If you want to use them, questions and quizzes are also included.  I didn't use them other than to draw Lydia out about the topics.  But there are plenty of questions included.

We are still working on our science unit in Geology.  We do science 3 days a week, and we are drawing out this unit for a few weeks.  

Here is one of my favorite parts I discovered on Supercharged Science.  The questions section.  You can actually post a question to help you explain the topics to your children!!  They answer the questions to help you out!  You can read through some that have been asked even, so your question may already have been answered.  

We have had some failed crystal experiments that we are repeating.  So our science journals now list, "Make sure to read all directions and follow them."

Supercharged Science actually has science topics broken down into grade level suggestions.  

They really try to make science such an easy subject to teach.  Not only is all the material included, but they also make sure that parents know how to use the website correctly so that you get the most out of the information you have been given.

I really like that I have all the information and material there at my disposal, and I can choose to present what I want and when I want to.  Lessons can be made as long or as short as I need to for that science class.  Supercharged Science does provide a lot of flexibility.  

Will we continue?  I am debating continuing using Supercharged Science only because of the cost.   The monthly cost is a bit steep for our budget.  Even with cutting our field trip budget back, it would be difficult to afford.  Although if we begin traveling more, it will be worth using Supercharged Science because I will have Science curriculum with no textbooks to carry in and out of hotels.  I keep leaning toward yes.  I believe that we will be continuing with the lower level K-8 option since it has a lower price of $37.00. 

Supercharged Science is allowing our readers to try their program for a month for only $1.00.  Simply visit this link from Supercharged Science to enroll for this trial.  You can experiment to see if Super Charged Science is a program for your family.

Other members of the School House Review Crew were able to use Supercharged Science with their families, visit their blogs below to see how it worked for them.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Victus Study Skills System Review

Victus Study Skills System
Teachers Edition - $40.00
Student Workbook - $20.00

I have wondered how to encourage good study habits in Joey.  He has a diagnosis list as long as my arm and unlike what people feel is typical for autism, he does not retain information well.  We have tried various settings to see what works best for him.  But as I soon learned, it takes more than the setting to prepare him for good study habits.  We were excited to have the opportunity to use the Victus Study Skills System.

In my mind, I know having a good quiet place to study is the ideal setting for studying.  Having all of your materials next to you is also important.  We encouraged Joey to find where he felt comfortable.  I provided him with a list of tasks that needed completed.  Now what do I do?

Victus Study Skills System provides parents and students from 5th grade through 12th grade a foundation which they can build good study skills on.  It helps introduce students to the 3 foundations of study skills.
  • Where am I now?
  • Where do I want to be?
  • How do I get there?
The easy to use program can be completed in as little as a week or take about two weeks to complete and get the student on their way to better study skills.

The program can be done both student-led and parent-led, whichever option you choose.  We actually did the parent-led option so that I could see where Joey was at.

I really liked how the Victus Study Skills System Student workbook was laid out.  Each foundation was laid out and broken down into smaller study sessions.  Children are encouraged to fill out checklists and figure out their learning strengths.  It shows how to set goals, not just for the day...week...or month.....but for a year.  It encourages time management skills also.  The workbook really forces children to look at themselves and learn more about themselves.  

The Victus Study Skills System Teacher Guide was a great resource to use.  It includes a full layout to help the parents teach each lesson.  There is information on how to prepare the lesson for your student and even suggestions on how to present it.  It also explains in further detail why each section is important to keep building on to help with those study skills.  This is a great resource, even if you child is doing the student-led approach.  It would really give you suggestions to help draw out your student during casual conversations after each lesson they complete.

We actually have been using this about a month now.  Joey has discovered that he does learn differently (a reason he loves homeschooling, the flexibility for him).  He is also on the 4th -5th grade level of the suggested grade range.  So he did have trouble understanding the information being presented.  But I actually expected that.

We switched it up just a bit for him, and we went with the approach of discussing the information from the Teachers Guide.  We talked about his study habits and how we can incorporate the material we are reading to help him remember more material that he is working on.  He said he never thought that doing better in school would require "that much thought ahead of time."  

We have to keep lessons and discussion to about 15 minutes, or he is unable to retain much.  Which we knew already.  But now with the help of Victus Study Skills System, Joey and I can work together to make sure that we can make the most of the short bursts that he uses to do his work currently.

We actually will continue to use the Victus Study Skills System with Joey by reviewing material that we have read frequently.  (It's also helpful for mom to keep reminding herself.)  It will help refresh Joey.  I also plan on using this with Lydia when she is old enough, because I am very impressed that the program really empowers children and encourages them to take hold of their education.

Whether you homeschool or not, this is a great program for your children and even yourself if you are going back to school to use.  It really does encourage and show students how to build good study skills to get the most out of the important information that they are reading.

Victus Study Skills System has posted a wonderful video about their system.

Several members of the TOS Review Crew had the privilege of also trying out the Victus Study Skills system.  Take a few moments to see how this program worked for their families.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Media Talk 101 Review

Title:  Captivated: Finding Freedom in a Media Captive Culture
Vendor:  Media Talk 101
Price:  $16.95 plus shipping/handling
Ages:  All family members

We recently were privileged to have the opportunity to watch the award winning documentary Captivated: Finding Freedom in a Media Captive Culture written by Phillip Telfer and Colin Gunn.

Today's modern generation is "electrified".  There are few kids that do not own an electronic device of some sort.  Infants now know how to use tablets for games, and toddlers know how to use cell phones.  When we travel, we carry laptops, tablets, cell phones, and mp3 players.  I feel like our electronics carrying bags take up as much space as our clothing at times.   Electronics are very much a part of most of people's everyday lives.

How many places do you go and not see a TV?  Brayden doesn't go anywhere without checking for free wireless.  Our internet goes down and I even freak out a bit.  I really do plan several activities and school around the internet.  I mean, who uses a paper dictionary anymore???  Not me.

Our society is really tied to the internet.  If people aren't checking their emails, they are on social media.  There is a wide selection from Facebook to Twitter.  There are even new business contact sites such as Linkedin.    You can easily spend hours on the computer and not accomplish anything more than updating your Facebook status.

That is where the documentary Captivated: Finding Freedom in a Media Captive Culture comes in.  It is not an anti-social media movie.  It points out the possible dangers of not keeping your social media time in check.

I actually watched it on my own the first time.  We preview most movies before letting Joey watch them.  This movie was not exception to that rule.

I actually enjoyed the movie and the cautionary message that it was giving.  Many of the ones that were interviewed has extreme addictions to social media and online games.  They fortunately woke up and learned how to control their addiction.  People do not even realize that social media can be worse than a gambling addiction.  These ones realized the time that was being stolen out of their days.

With that theme, I cautiously allowed Joey to watch some of Captivated: Finding Freedom in a Media Captive Culture with me.  Joey takes everything he sees and watches to heart.  I was afraid he would read the message as all social media is bad.  And he did.  This though opened up discussions with Joey about learning control over our time on the internet.  We were able to talk about whether or not we could go a whole day without being on Facebook or play an online game.  If we can do it, then we are not "addicted".  But if we cannot, we need to figure out a game plan to protect our hearts and minds.

We also talked about how spending too much time in the e-avenues of life can rob us of precious time.  Time that can be spent with our families or just getting stuff done.

We did enjoy watching Captivated: Finding Freedom in a Media Captive Culture together.  I thought they did a good job trying to get the point across, but unfortunately Joey really saw it as saying just give it up to avoid the chance it might be addictive to your personality. I wish there was more of a balance of people that found the balance without giving up their internet time completely.  I only say this, because with a husband who works from home in IT....the internet is pretty important.

We have been working harder at how much time we spend on social media.  I do random checks through the day now because of our online business.  This is the main way of communication.  I know I am still on more than most, but I have become more aware of when I just seem to be trolling posts.  Captivated: Finding Freedom in a Media Captive Culture was definitely another gentle reminder to keep an eye on our electronics time.  We will definitely remain stronger as a family without the internet and video games stuck between us.

Not sure, check out the trailer....

Captivated - Trailer from Media Talk 101 on Vimeo.

I would definitely recommend watching this with your family if you seem to be experiencing electronics overload in your lives.  The personal stories add a touch that allow you to really make comparisons in your own life.

Be sure to check out their Facebook page.

You can purchase Captivated: Finding Freedom in a Media Captive Culture from the Media Talk 101 Website by visiting here.  Single copies of the title are available for only $16.95.  But multi-copy purchases are available.

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