Learning French: A Review

We are always blessed to have an opportunity to review wonderful products, such as Armfield Academic Press’s Getting Started with French by Linney & Simpson.

Bookworm Beauty is 11 and in the 6th grade. She is a lover of languages. She started with Spanish in the 2nd grade when she had the opportunity to participate in a Spanish Immersion program for two years of her schooling. It was a tremendous experience and one that opened her world up to languages. She is not quite fluent in Spanish but can fumble her way around just fine.

Last year, she informed me that she would really like to learn French… and German… and Russian… but she really wanted to learn French. When we completed our application for the opportunity to review Getting Started with French, she was wringing her hands and praying we would be selected. Her prayers were answered.

Bookworm Beauty literally hugged the full-sized non-consumable book and snuggled up on the couch to jump right in… and it was still summer vacation for us! I had to pry the text away and go over the brief Preface and How to Use This Book with her. We reviewed those sections together, thumbed through the 172 lessons and took note of the Expressions Francaises, General Advice, Answer Key, Pronunciation Guide and Glossary.

Getting Started with French is intended to be a beginning French course for homeschoolers and self-taught students. It includes 172 lessons that take a step by step approach to the language, allowing learners to learn one concept at a time. Each lesson builds upon previous lessons and offers translation exercises to test one’s learning. Practicing the language is up to the student to make time for in his or her daily life.

I made the decision that since Bookworm Beauty has already proven to be successful at self-study that I would let her run with this program with as little intervention and support from me as possible.

Shortly after getting started in the text Bookworm Beauty lost her steam and ambition. She said that the course felt slow to her. I can imagine this program seeming slow when her experience with learning a language previously was total immersion with limited English for full school days. I had to encourage her to look at the lessons as baby steps, learning one thing at a time. She began having more success in learning but was still lacking enthusiasm.

When further questioning Bookworm Beauty, she stated that the biggest downside was that it did not include any sort of worksheets that would help her to utilize the words she had learned. I try and keep a balanced mind about these things and I know that some people really dislike worksheets and others prefer them. For me, this was not a deal killer. I actually liked the idea that the book did not include any consumable parts and therefore can be used with multiple students.

This is a program that although our experience was not one of fireworks, I find that it is a result of just not being a good self-study fit for my particular student. I truly do not feel it is because the program is lacking in any way. Having had some French in high school, I was able to peruse the book and refresh my own learning. I liked the way that the book took small steps, allowing me to almost meditate on each small step and build upon it as I moved along.

One of the most important parts of learning a language is practicing proper pronunciation. The text does a fantastic job at providing written pronunciation but that can sometimes be misunderstood. There are several resources available at their website  www.gettingstartedwithfrench.com including free audio mp3 downloads for this purpose.

I think that this program may be a good resource for anyone desiring to learn a language at a nice and steady pace.

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Exploring Creation with Astronomy: A Review

It has been another fantastic experience with Apologia Educational Ministries as we have been working through their Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition. As always, Apologia does not disappoint, this product has exceeded our already high expectations.

To start with, the quality of the materials we received from Apologia Educational Ministries has become a benchmark in our homeschool to judge other materials from – they are just that good. We received the Astronomy 2nd Edition Student Text ($39), Astronomy 2nd Edition Notebooking Journal ($27), Astronomy 2nd Edition Junior Notebooking Journal ($27), and the Astronomy 2nd Edition Audio CD ($29). We purchased an additional Astronomy 2nd Edition Junior Notebooking Journal to be able to complete this program with all three of our students.

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Apologia Educational Ministries has spared no expense in the production of these products. The Astronomy 2nd Edition Student Text is a full-sized, full-color hardbound book with 216 pages. Virtually every page following the 4 Table of Contents pages are beautifully laid out, inviting the students to learn the story of creation through the study of astronomy. Included alongside the text in each lesson are wisdom from above boxes that contain scripture verses or thoughtful quotes; think about this boxes containing meaningful tid-bits that inspire further thought; fun activities that are easy to complete at home; and end with a What Do You Remember? section, engaging the students in a recap of the lesson. The lesson pages are also filled with charts and colorful images that draw the students in.

The Astronomy 2nd Edition Audio CD is an audio book of the Student Text. The audio book is read by the author Jeannie Fulbright. To me, this is noteworthy because the author knows best what to stress and what was intended for the reader to grasp. Her voice is pleasant and her enunciation is clear, both of which are important when listening to an audio book. The Audio CD makes learning on the road a breeze, when homeschooling takes you away from home. For us, it made the text come to life as we followed along within our Student Text and let the author draw us into her story-telling of astronomy.

Both the Astronomy 2nd Edition Notebooking Journal and Astronomy 2nd Edition Junior Notebooking Journal are treasures. Like the text, they are full-sized, full-color and engaging. My students literally treasure these. All of their work can be done in the Spiral-Bound journals. There are notebooking pages to document Fascinating Facts and Personal Reflections; pages to complete many of the activities; copywork pages in both script and manuscript; coloring pages; crosswords; mini book cut & paste templates; and more. The differences between the two are minimal as they are designed to support the same text. The only significant difference is that Junior Journal offers primary dashed-line style writing pages to support younger writers and has meaninful coloring pages instead of the What Do You Remember? answer sheets found in the Notebooking Journal.  There are many things to like about these Notebooking Journals. The kids seem to really like the activities and the colorful graphics. I personally appreciate the ability to have everything in one concise book to peruse through later and review or share what has been learned. Every time the kids share their Notebooking Journal with others and explain the mini-books or other activities, they are reinforcing their knowledge learned. That is what matters most… they have learned.

I am always delighted to have the opportunity to review anything from Apologia. I am never disappointed. The content in their materials is second to none and they have several titles as part of their Exploring Creation series including Human Anatomy and Physiology, Botony, three levels of Zoology, Physical Science, General Science, Chemistry and Physics, Marine Biology, Physics, as well as advanced level programs. Every aspect of K-12 Science can be covered with their programs, giving a child a rich and well-rounded science education. Although we appreciate having the opportunity to review their programs, we appreciate these programs so much so that we have ordered the entire educational sets of both Human Anatomy and Physiology and Chemistry and Physics. We expect to work through Human Anatomy and Physiology the second half of this year, upon completion of Astronomy. With Chemistry and Physics, however, we are working through it alongside our other science programs at a snails pace simply because my students are fascinated with both chemistry and physics. I imagine that it will take us up to two years to complete that particular program and we are allowing it to segway into other areas of our homeschool education.

20160907_131344_resizedWe have done things a bit differently in our homeschool with Astronomy. As some of my readers know, we have an art group that is meeting on Wednesdays with two additional homeschooling families. I was so excited as I began preparing for receiving the materials for this review that I could not help but share my enthusiasm for this product. That enthusiasm led to changing our Wednesday art class to art and science. To make this happen, the other two families also acquired the curriculum and notebooking journals. I have to admit, it was difficult to wait a week for their materials to arrive to start our Astronomy studies.

Together we have five students working in the standard Notebooking Journal and three students working in the Junior Journal. We also have a preschooler that sits with the group and participates by listening in and helping the younger students color their coloring pages. It would be nice if there was a coloring pages workbook available for a preschooler to color but the older kids actually fight over who gets to have her help them which makes her feel important. We have tried as a group both taking turns reading the Student Text aloud as well20160907_131448_resized as utilizing the Audio CD to complete the lessons as a group. We enjoy listening to the Audio CD the most. Working through Astronomy together has been a wonderful blessing. We have rich group discussions and the activities really come to life when we do them as a larger group. The only thing we typically do not do as a group are several of the activities in the notebooking journals. We take time during the week to complete those. Overall, this has been an incredible experience for us all (adults included).20160907_131624_resized

To take our astronomy studies further, we took a day and scheduled a field trip to NCAR – National Center of Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO. If you are ever in Colorado, this FREE self-guided, hands-on science center is one to be added to your itinerary. Students have the ability to touch and feel displays that generate tornado models, hurricane models, clouds and so much more. We were fortunate to schedule an actual field trip and spent 3 hours studying the Earth’s weather system. This was fascinating. 20160907_103407_resizedEqually interesting were the many features in the center that allowed the students to further expand upon their recent astronomy studies. We had the ability to watch a video display of Solar flares from the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory in Hawaii. Studying the sun in this way was absolutely fascinating. I highly recommend visiting their website when covering the Sun in lesson 2 of Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition.20160907_131732_resized

Also available from Apologia Educational Ministries is a fantastic Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal ($22).  I regretfully neglected to add this to my recent purchase. We really could have used those yesterday and will be ordering those soon to capture all of our science field trips into one location. We will be sure to have them in time for our next field trip planned, when we visit one (or more) of the local planetariums.

It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway… we fully intend to complete Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition in its entirety. This is not a review product destined to our homeschool library, at least not until it is completed!

 

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Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens: Review

Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens from The Spiritual Circle Journal is a full-sized spiral bound notebook type journal intended for children ages 8 and above. My first thought regarding having the opportunity to review this product was one of ambivalence. I normally appreciate tools designed to increase spiritual growth but I was a bit hesitant about this particular journal. My hesitance was primarily based on the fact that instead of lined writing pages, the nine graphic pictures duplicated on each page seemed to be more of a distraction and I found myself assuming that it trivialized journaling.

After a sigh and a slight gulp, I opened the book and prayed that I would face this product with open eyes and a willing heart. I flipped through the introductory pages and read the three Parent/Teacher/Leader Guide pages. Immediately I found myself rescinding all of my previously unfounded thoughts!

This was not a trivial journaling tool. In fact, this was not just another journal. This journal was birthed out of a desire of an adult woman’s heart to help children learn to hear God’s voice and recognize His hand in their own life.

20160901_083631The author took steps to keep things fun and personal, a must for children’s journals. For starters, there is the ability to customize their own cover. The journal has a heavy duty plastic cover to protect the underlying decorated cover and although there is a basic cover, it is followed by a heavy duty blank white page to be designed by the child. Once it is completed, the child can remove the standard cover to reveal theirs under the clear plastic protector.

The next page to personalize is the Personal Page. This is where the child can basically fill in the blanks on all things relating to themselves and includes a space to paste a selfie picture.

The journaling pages take up the bulk of the book and it is here that the magic happens and children are able to notice themes of how God is working in their life. Each of the 65 journaling pages contains nine simple illustrations, representing specific prayer areas. The illustrations and their representations are: a cloud labeled JE for Journal Entry this is where the child can share anything that is on her mind; a music note with L/V for Lyric/Verse to share any lyrics or verses that seem to be stuck in her head; a book with a M for Message to share anything that she has learned from the Word; a heart with a C for Confession to confess wrongdoings; a car with a GM for God Moving to write down coincidences and things that seem to just happen; a light bulb with LL/LBM for Lesson Learned/Light-Bulb Moment to share lessons learned; a bag with a P for Prayer to journal any prayers; a memo with a TY/A for Thank You/Adoration to document praises; and a shoe with an A for Actions to identify areas that she feels God wants her to do.

The last fifteen pages are Summary Pages and encourage a student to take their journaling a step further.

It was a difficult choice for us to determine whether Bookworm Beauty or Sweetness would benefit the most with the Spiritual Circle Journal. After careful thought, it was determined that Bookworm Beauty would utilize the review copy and we would simply have to order Sweetness her own copy.

Bookworm Beauty struggled a little with her initial entries (which the author mentioned would most likely happen) until she got the hang of the routine. I cannot say that at this time there has been any sort of profound moments, but what she has done is begin to document her spiritual walk, which is the first step.

I believe this product is well worth its $15.00 price tag and I am thinking that this will be the first product that I will commit to offering a follow up review on. I am anxious to see the benefits of Bookworm Beauty’s journaling.

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