Daily Bible Puzzle App: A Review

Every once in a while something comes along that is just simple fun, such the Daily Bible Jigsaw app by Planet 316.

This is a free and inspiring application for iOS, Google Play, or as a Facebook game. Every day a new 30-piece puzzle is generated. Pieces are often presented as if they were dumped out onto a table (all conveniently faced upright). Once the puzzle is assembled, a nice confetti celebration takes place as the outlines of the puzzle pieces fade away and the picture is clearly presented displaying an uplifting daily scripture, to enjoy or even share on Facebook.

I rarely play electronic games on any of my devices. It is not that I do not enjoy the games as much as I do not like wasting a lot of time during my day. Games can become too much of an obsession for me and something I do not want to see my kids become too obsessed over. Yet, here we are. We have found ourselves looking forward to the new daily puzzle. I am asked daily, by the kids, if they could do the day’s puzzle. To further the fun, the puzzles are timed, so often times that we all do the same one to see who completed it in the shortest amount of time.

There are a few features that make this app fun. To start with, the background music is peaceful and relaxing. It does not matter when I complete a puzzle, my mood is taken to a relaxing and serene place. If you are anything like me, little challenges are big motivators. The timer is the first and most obvious motivator, especially if the kiddos are going to try their luck at beating my time later in the day. There is also a a power piece, a random piece that will be highlighted for approximately ten seconds after the first minute of the puzzle assembly. If you manage to attach the power piece to another piece while it is illuminated, you receive a coin. Coins can be used for a variety of tools that will either separate the edges from the middle pieces; rotate each piece into the position that they will be in when the puzzle is completed (so you will not have to rotate them later); sweep the board clean of loose pieces; give a preview of the picture; or put a couple of pieces together for you.

Sweetness just had to go back to January and complete her birthday puzzle!

I was not thrilled, initially, over the thought of the Daily Bible Jigsaw. There was no basis for my lack of excitement except the thought of needing to take time out of my day to complete a simple puzzle. However, I figured that the children would have fun completing the puzzles and believed that it would be nice to allow them to play on an app that would reinforce our biblical beliefs. My plans changed the moment I worked on my first puzzle. Yes, I was immediately hooked. I was bummed that I would have to wait a full day before another puzzle would be available and then I discovered that you are able to complete puzzles from previous days or even previous months! To select a random puzzle, you simply visit the calendar, which of course is setup as a monthly calendar where each day is a puzzle piece. As puzzles are completed, part of the month’s picture is illuminated. Yes, that meant another challenge!

We only played the Daily Bible Jigsaw on my Samsung Galaxy S7. It did not seem to drain my battery like some apps tend to do, that was a huge plus in my book. That allowed us to complete a puzzle while wasting time at the DMV or other places without fear that I’d need to plug my phone in for the rest of the errands that day. I did have a problem with the app at one point during my review period. For a couple of days, the app was frozen in a puzzle generating screen. At first I thought it was hung up from the intermittent internet we were experiencing but it never resolved itself. I tried basic troubleshooting like restarting my phone. Nothing seemed to work, even after a couple of days. I finally stopped the application from my settings menu. That worked, however we lost our history as we must have selected logging in with Facebook instead of our email, creating a new account. After that, I could not seem to log into the email account on my phone as it would automatically go to the Facebook account. Normally this would not be a big deal but I had nearly 500 coins in my account! I contacted their customer service and they walked me through a fix and then gave me extra coins. I appreciated their quick response and fantastic customer service.

There are many neat little features that keeps you wanting to complete puzzles. However, the greatest part of the app is the reward of the uplifting scripture upon completion of the puzzle. I think this app will remain on my phone for a long time to come.

The Most Significant Person Who Has Ever Lived

Easter came alive for us this year thanks to the opportunity we were given to review the Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels” by Drive Thru History® . This series covers the extraordinary life of Jesus of Nazareth.

I am nearly speechless as I sit here and write about our experience with this product. Emotions well up from deep within me as I believe this may have been the single most important product that we have had the privilege of owning. I do not know where to start and I do not want to miss anything; I still get goosebumps when I think about these last few weeks.

I knew that I could expect a quality product from Drive Thru History® with Dave Stotts as we own the Drive Thru History America: Foundations of Character and we have also seen portions of East Meets West and Rome if You Want To. Dave Stotts has a great presence and he brings history to life as he unfolds a historical narrative while taking you on a drive through significant historical locations. He is welcoming, funny and makes you feel like you are an old friend along for the ride.

My expectations of the product quality itself were exceeded from the moment I opened the package. To start, there is a full-colored sleeve surrounding a beautifully bound hard back book. Three discs are tucked nicely away on the inside of the covers, two in the front and one in the back and in between are just over 100 high quality, full-colored full-bleed pages of chapter summaries and discussion questions upon gorgeous photography. The packaging is absolutely fabulous and gives the impression that this is important. As a matter of fact, it feels like it should be on display like a coffee table art book, not something that should be tucked away on a shelf among the rest of your movie collection.

It was a Monday evening, near dinner time when we opened the package. Everyone was home and it was the perfect opportunity for us to watch the first episode together. I assumed, at the time, that we would continue to watch the episodes during our normal school day and thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for Handsome to get a glimpse of our current studies. It was quickly decided and within minutes the trusty tv trays were set up and episode one began. The room grew strangely quiet and as I looked around the room, not a single person was distracted. Everyone was on the edge of their seat as the initial episode unfolded.

Stunned. The ambiance of the room was nothing short of stunned. It was as if we all just witnessed a meteor fall from the sky and land right in front of us. I can not put my finger on what happened in our living room that night, all I know is we were silent. We were somber. We were in awe. Our awe was not necessarily of the fantastic episode, it was realizing the value of this story, the story of the single most significant person to have ever lived. The Boy (6) was the first to break the silence, “let’s watch the next one!” And that we did.

We did the same thing the following night and again a few nights later. We often watched two episodes, sometimes only one. When family visited us for a weekend, we watched two together and then our guests continued watching the entire first disc – six episodes!

On our way to church on Palm Sunday, Handsome and I were talking about how different the Easter season seemed this year. We had just finished the twelfth episode the night before which was A Final Trip to Jerusalem. It dawned on us in that moment that the next episode would be about Jesus’ triumphal entry, Palm Sunday, that same day nearly 2,000 years ago. We were moved to tears as we overcame our goosebumps. We were ready to start the final disc, the last six episodes, covering the last days of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. We were literally going to be watching these episodes perfectly coinciding with the days that we traditionally celebrate the events themselves.

Both Handsome and I have read the gospels in their entirety. I have read the entire bible from cover to cover. Our children have read the gospels. We all know the story of Jesus. We know most of the details. We speak about them often. Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels”, however, made it possible for us to live the gospels for those few weeks. We watched Jesus’ life unfold before us and we went with him on His journey throughout His ministry. Nothing, except being in the Holy Lands could have illuminated the life of Jesus the way that Drive Thru History® did.

We did finish the last disc during Holy Week. We were with Jesus at the Last Supper on Thursday. We listened to the crowd crying, “Crucify Him!” as He stood before them, as well as when He carried His cross, was nailed to it, and took His final breath, all on Friday. And then on Sunday, we were there with the women as they walked to the empty tomb. It didn’t matter that we already knew the story, it was a completely different experience to be part of the story; to be there firsthand.

We watched the entire 18 episodes during the review period, as a family. It literally transformed our understanding of the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It colored in the pictures of our black and white mental pictures of the events of His life. It filled in gaps on things that we did not fully understand the magnitude of, such as the narcissistic King Herod and the Herodium. And again when Dave told us about the significance of the Samaritan woman at the well and why the Samaritans were considered less than. We were taught the meanings of many customs like the wedding customs of the day. We got to see the pools of Bethesda.

I apologize for being so wordy about our experience with the Gospels. I feel that I can not possibly convey the utter significance of this series as it brings to life the greatest story already told.

The accompanying book, or study guide, included full-bleed pages of stunning photography of the location of the particular events as background for every page. There are summaries to be read either before or after the episode, and even later for further reflection. Scriptures are listed of where the individual episode is drawn from through the four gospel books. There are also discussion questions provided to deepen ones thoughts or share within a group, such as:

Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels” is appropriate for all ages and a fabulous family-friendly series. It can also serve as a homeschool curriculum, a small group study or even a Sunday School class. The accompanying scriptures can be assigned to be read prior to the episode or even read aloud together. It is created with the utmost flexibility, allowing it to be a perfectly tailored fit to ones particular needs. Although it is appropriate for all ages (parents might want to preview episode #16 – The Crucifixion of Jesus prior to showing young children), in regards to a classroom or homeschool setting it was developed for middle school ages and above. We had fully expected to use it as such with Bookworm Beauty but ended up enjoying it as a family instead.

Getting Beyond the Foot Bone

Do you remember the bone song that we sung as kids? The foot bone’s connected to the leg bone… the leg bone’s connected to the knee bone…

Related image

We are currently studying Human Anatomy and Physiology. I must say that we are thoroughly enjoying it too! I can not help myself, I have to shout out for Apologia for once again producing another outstanding science curriculum with their Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology! This was not a review product for us. We have enjoyed Apologia’s science programs so much so that we have invested in the full sets of the Anatomy and Physiology, the Chemistry and Physics and soon we will be purchasing both the Zoology and Botany Curriculums. ***this is not a solicited endorsement, it’s simply my honest acclamation***

Image result for the foot bone's connected to the leg boneBack to Human Anatomy and Physiology. There is so much to learn about our amazing and wonderfully created bodies. I’m a mom, in my 40’s. I have three adult children in their 20’s. I also have three younger children, under 12. I have homeschooled for nearly a decade in total over the years and I have a master’s degree. I’m educated. I also believe I am fairly knowledgeable, yet I am continually learning things that I did not know about the human body through this program.

Right now we are finishing up the bones of the body and moving into the muscular system. I remember early on in college, I learned the bones of the body. I was challenged by the professor to learn the scientific names of the bones, all 206 of them. Our kids are elementary age, and they are still sponges. They have memorized close to a hundred verses over the years in their Awana program. Certainly they, too, can learn the bones of the body.

The bar has been raised. The challenge has been thrown out there. The kids have learned that I am planning a special hiking day at one of my favorite Colorado State Parks. I have not been in several years and it is really a big deal for them to go with me. They just have to memorize the bones to earn their spot.

Today, there are many more resources available than when I was in school. Gone are the days of black text on white paper for studying things like bones. We found a couple of really fun YouTube videos with bone songs by Mr. Parr, a creative sixth grade teacher. Google him and you will find a whole assortment of songs to teach students various facts. This Bone Song and the Parts of the Skeleton songs are amazing, and quite hilarious too. Yes, it is about to get real fun around here!

 

 

It Is Brewing

Brewing (v.)  This word has multiple meanings and brings up a many thoughts. People think of beer or coffee. Others think of storms. Handsome, however, thinks of my idea machine that ends up costing him money. Yep. I think that is what is happening.

Please, oh please keep it a secret. We can not let him know yet, not until I can figure out all of the selling points that trigger his desires to jump on board with us.

I will let you in on the secret though, if you can keep a secret.

As a homeschooling family, one of our favorite things have been the field trips. It gives us wonderful opportunities to experience our learning outside of text books, videos and the like. We have experienced much on our field trips. We have walked  the road of the pioneers, flown flight simulators, tracked the weather, wandered through cliff dwellings, played with authentic telephone switchboards and even spent time in a historic one-room schoolhouse, and this is only the beginning of the many things that we have done. Field trips literally bring life into our learning.

This last year we have studied astronomy and human anatomy. We have continued to study Early American History as we have also continued our studies of Beethoven and Bach. Zoology is on the horizon for next year. There are so many things that we can do to support our studies. But one thing seems to be blossoming right before our eyes.

It first started on our Pioneer Road Trip late last summer when Sweet Debra brought up her desire for our next homeschool trip. She mentioned really wanting to take her kids to Chicago. I thought it was a lovely idea but I was not sure how it would fit into our upcoming studies. I realize now that she planted the seed and the seed had time to begin to sprout. Sprout it did. As I was looking into some museum ideas and things to support our current and near future studies I stumbled upon the Chicago City Pass. Wow… our family of five can visit five different city attractions in Chicago! Now here is where it gets really good… the Museum of Science and Industry has an incredible exhibit called You! The Experience. This is a perfect way for our kids to sum up all that they have learned about the human body including movement, the mind, the heart, digestion and more. Then there is the Adler Planetarium where we can further review our astronomy studies.

Image result for chicago city pass

There is more. Since next year’s studies include zoology, what a great way to study animals than from the inside out? Just a few hours from Chicago at the Milwaukee Zoo, there is currently a Body Worlds: Animal Inside Out exhibit.

And it just keeps getting better. Really, it does. There is the possibility of an Amtrak train ride, oh how we have loved the train. The City Pass also includes the Sky Deck at the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), what an awesome opportunity to visit such a historic building. I can not avoid mentioning the Chicago Dogs. Yes, Chicago Dogs… what can be better than that?

It is still merely an idea, a dream. Actually, it is brewing… and you know what that means, right? I guess I am going to have to remind Handsome that the Ghosts in the Darkness lions are at The Field Museum which just happens to be a part of the City Pass. I know that seeing these lions are somewhat on his bucket list, is that a low blow?

We will see how things develop and I’ll tell you all about the trip! (wink, wink)

Lessening the College Burden: A Review

The word college when spoken can elicit a myriad of responses. Many people smile, reminiscent of their fondest memories; some look up towards the sky hanging upon their future aspirations; and many, like me, cringe at the reminder of the overwhelming debt load that continues to follow us years after obtaining that coveted piece of paper declaring I have arrived. Recently, our 22 year old daughter made the decision to return to college and finish what she had started years ago. Thinking about the debt burden that typically comes along with that, I was excited to be able to offer her the ability to utilize the services of SpeedyPrep offering College Level Examination Program (CLEP) preparation.

I wish that I had known about CLEP when I went back to school. CLEP is one of those secrets that can literally save someone thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours. There are currently dozens of CLEP tests available covering general education courses in Literature, Psychology, Math, History, Business, Foreign Language and Science. The tests are held in many locations nationwide, one may find one within a reasonable distance from their home from nearly everywhere. Most tests cost less than $100 and take only a couple of hours, a mere fraction of the time and cost of attending a semester long course at a local college or even online.

Although appearing a much easier way to navigate the college journey, it is not necessarily as easy as it first appears. Passing the tests can be a challenge for most people without studying the materials. There are books available for purchase and even many found in local libraries, which may be a good option for a student that learns well perusing written material. Many people that I know would do better with something a bit more interactive. This is where SpeedyPrep comes in.

SpeedyPrep is an online subscription-based CLEP preparation service offering 24 courses for nearly pennies in comparison to the cost of traditional college. It gets even better – SpeedyPrep offers a 100% Pass Guarantee! I have never seen a college offer their students a full money-back guarantee if the student completed the course and failed the class, yet SpeedyPrep does exactly that. If a student completes a SpeedyPrep course, yet fails the CLEP exam, they will refund your money. I do not know of a safer college investment than that. It gets even better still! There are enough courses available that a student could CLEP through their first year of college and more.

SpeedyPrep’s Information Systems course has given me a better understanding of my computer. I feel more prepared now for taking the CLEP test as well as being able to get better use out of my computer for future classes. There is a lot of information packed into this course! -Angel, 22

In our situation, SpeedyPrep is saving my daughter hundreds of dollars, not to mention time. She spent a year at a local university right out of high school and decided to take some time off. After wandering through life for a few years, she has meandered her way back home to return to school. Fortunately, for her, she had a reasonable amount of credits already accumulated as she enrolled into her Athletic Sciences degree program. There were, however, a few classes that she still needed that she is able to fulfill through a CLEP test.

After setting up our account on SpeedyPrep, she began working through the Business course – Information Systems. She is nearly ready to take the CLEP exam. Unfortunately, she has not taken it yet so I can not inform you as to whether or not SpeedyPrep has fully prepared her for passing. She is feeling rather confident, however and believes that the service provided by SpeedyPrep is more than adequate. Her greatest delight is the savings of time and money, both of which a young college student tends to have a shortage of as they navigate their own college journey.

One of the best features of SpeedyPrep is the ability to work on any one area that you desire. For example, in Angel’s Information Systems course there are several sections to work through, including: Business Strategies, Computing Devices & Functions, Data Concepts, Data Management, Design & Standards, Web Strategies and so much more. When you are working on a section, such as Hardware, you are given questions such as this: 

But wait! You may be thinking… if CLEP tests are multiple choice, why do I have to type in answers? The idea behind SpeedyPrep is to make sure that you have actually mastered the content before attempting the exam – they are after all offering you a full money back guarantee! If someone reviews it the way that SpeedyPrep has laid out, they should be able to breeze through the multiple choice questions on the CLEP test itself.

The built-in reinforcement is another feature to focus on. For example, if you get an answer wrong, you get an immediate explanation. Reading the explanations are a great reinforcement study tool and may look like this:

Another feature worth mentioning are the many videos that can be watched. Although these are not the main teaching mechanism, they are a fabulous supplement to what you may already know or are learning through the course itself.

Lastly, and probably the single greatest feature, is its affordability. Subscription options are available monthly ($19.95), quarterly ($53.87) and annually ($179.55). Can it get any better? It does, ALL of their courses are available freely during your subscription period. Yes, I said all. This allows a student to work through multiple subjects at a time, continuing to increase their overall savings.

In my opinion, CLEP tests are the wisest choice for most people going to college and SpeedyPrep is the greatest preparation tool a student could have.

 

Not Just Another Fabulous Review

As Bookworm Beauty has gotten older, I realize that I have spent more time worrying about her writing skills and less time on any formal reading programs. This was mostly justified by her love for reading, as her name would suggest, as she seems to always have her nose tucked into a book! I actually gave little thought to whether or not we were missing anything until we were notified of the opportunity to review Readers in Residence Volume 1 (Sleuth) by Apologia Educational Ministries.

Bookworm Beauty’s and my immediate reactions were an astounding “YES!” This was entirely based on our experience with Writer’s in Residence, which we were able to review last year. Her experience has been so positive that we have resigned to the fact that we would pursue every product possible put out by Debra Bell (Author). However, in all fairness we decided that we would give Readers in Residence a fair review without any preconceived assumptions.

It was hard to stick with our plans when finally we had Readers in Residence in our hands. One of our favorite elements of Writer’s in Residence was it’s presentation and Readers in Residence was equally appealing. It lured Bookworm Beauty in as if it was the long awaited sequel to a beloved novel. For me, this is always a good sign. For the most part, she is rarely difficult about starting a new curriculum of any kind (what a blessing) but it is still a delight to witness her eagerness to get started on something new.

We sat together and read the first few sections together. There is a 2-page Quick Guide that outlined the purpose and scope of the program and also a single-page Preface which was a personal letter from the Author, Debra Bell. We then reviewed the 3-page Welcome Letter and the suggested daily schedule. It was a Saturday afternoon when we received the book, well outside of our normal school hours, and she asked if there was anything else that I wanted to look at because she wanted to get started. With no real reason to hesitate I turned her loose, besides I did have dinner to make. It should go without saying that I had to peel her away from the workbook and force her to join us for dinner!

Readers in Residence is a full year reading curriculum divided into six units. Each unit centers around a different book and a different focus. Genres include historical fiction, animal fantasy and contemporary realistic fiction. Sarah, Plain and Tall, Charlotte’s Web, and Because of Winn-Dixie are three books read and the other three are books of the student’s choice. Students focus on different elements throughout the year, such as character development, inferences, plot development, figures of speech, theme, and many more.

In the six weeks that we have been working through Readers in Residence, Bookworm Beauty has nearly completed the first unit (32 lessons). I have not once had to remind her to do any of the work. As we outline our days, she automatically lists Reader’s in Residence and Writer’s in Residence. It seems to be as much of a normal daily activity for her as eating breakfast!

I’m really not just biased. Debra Bell has a tremendous gift of taking students on a journey while learning the elements necessary for a full language arts program. It is as if she is a personal guide, interacting with the students during the entire process. In our experience, Bookworm Beauty’s language arts skills have really developed over the last year and I give most of the credit to these two curriculums. We are anxiously awaiting the Writer’s in Residence, Volume 2 that is due out in the near future. She is ready to take her skills to the next level!

More Here to Help Learning

***Please note*** although I have reviewed Here to Help Learning over a year ago, this post is not in any way a solicited post nor am I being compensated in any way. This is a post of our current experiences that I am eager to share.

We have been on the Here to Help Learning bandwagon for over a year now and continue to sing its praises!

After experiencing tremendous improvement in the kid’s writing, we decided to take it a step further. Here to Help Learning has a fabulous writing project as their crowning achievement of sorts. For those that are not yet familiar with the program, there are six years of writing instruction (and more) packed into a wonderful $6.99 monthly subscription.

The Essay Writing Flight (Level) 3 is a Write a Book Project. Over the course of nearly a full school year, the students are taken on a journey in which they develop and write their very own six chapter book. I was hesitant at first to take on such a challenge, but since my kids have had such great experience with Here to Help Learning overall, I decided to go for it.

I gathered up the ladies in our art co-op and asked if they would be interested in having their two older students participate as well. I was so thrilled that they wanted to join us, making our writing class a class of six students!

We have been meeting together one to two times a week and are currently almost 1/4 of the way through the program. These kids are phenomenal. I have enjoyed being a part of this experience and watching each of the kids develop their ideas for their book. We have just completed the planning lessons and soon they will begin their actual book writing.

I can not wait to share with you their successes and the final books when they are done. I’ll keep you all posted!

Homeschool Kitchen – Part 1

We finally did it. We have talked about it and talked about it, maybe even dreamed a bit about it. Now we finally did it.

Our homeschool art co-op did something different this last week. We gathered together to use up the 40 pounds of potatoes we had and we started what will become a monthly meal prepping class for the kids.

At first we talked about all of the wonderful things that happens when things are prepared and ready to go and how the monthly meal prep is such a fabulous idea. Then we all had a deer in the headlights moment when we realized that we all have deep freezers full of wonderful stuff that you tend to buy when you live rurally and even decide to buy 1/4 cow, or even 1/2. That’s without even mentioning the chickens, rabbit, elk and any other meat that seems to be stashed away in there. This is not a bad thing. It’s a great thing. Unfortunately, we do not want to thaw meat to assemble it into incredibly prepared monthly meals that will go right back into the freezer.

This realization led to us brainstorming about other freezer meal prep ideas that we could do instead and that would make sense for our limited grocery-store-lives. We came up with a lot of options. First off, we can do anything ground beef as that needs to be precooked for freezer meals. We can also do all sorts of burritos, egg rolls and of course just about any kin d of breakfast casserole we could imagine.

That is what we settled on. This time, the kids made breakfast casseroles.

What fun we all had! We spent the better part of the day reinforcing kitchen safety tips and teaching the kiddos basic knife skills as they all had very sharp knives. I do not recall the last time that 30 pounds of potatoes were chopped into cubes without me having to wash or cut any. Well, I guess I did cut the first one to demonstrate, but that was it. As a matter of fact, none of us adults did much of anything other than handle the potato par boiling and set up the buffet style casserole workstation.

Fortunately, we all have chickens and are nearly swimming in excess eggs. The kiddos greased up their pans, filled them with potatoes, sausage or chorizo, bell peppers, mushrooms and green chiles. They then carefully cracked eggs. Then they cracked open more eggs. And then more. They cracked open over twelve dozen eggs! Lastly, the casseroles were topped with lots and lots of cheese, because cheese makes everything better.

Us moms had to get involved at the end to ensure everything was wrapped as securely as possible.

In the end, twelve breakfast casseroles were made that day. Each family had one for the following Sunday and three to put into the freezer for another day. The kids had a great time. The moms enjoyed visiting and helping orchestrate things.

Breakfast the following day was fantastic! I’d call it a successful day for sure!

We are looking forward to the next cooking adventure… burritos?

Developing Technologically Savvy Kids

There seems to be no way to avoid technology becoming a way of life for our culture. Although I am fairly technologically savvy, I find that I do not possess the skills or interest to fully teach the fundamentals and was therefore elated at the opportunity to review Digital Savvy by CompuScholar, Inc.

CompuScholar, Inc. offers several computer science courses for both homeschoolers and classroom settings. The homeschool courses offered are appropriate for middle through high school grade levels. Courses available for grades 6-12 include Digital Savvy, Web Design, and Game Programming with Visual Basic; courses designed for grades 9-12 include Windows Programming, Java Programming AP, Unity Game Programming, and Android Programming. All courses are available as a Self-Study class and some courses are also available as a teacher led class. Additional students can also be added at a reduced rate making it nice for families with multiple students.

Digital Savvy is an online subscription based course ($15/month or $120/year), consisting of 25 chapters, teaching the fundamentals of computer components, programs, internet usage, safety, web design, programming and more. If a student were to complete a single lesson per week, she would finish the program over a period of two semesters. The self-study lessons consist of video instruction, text and a quiz, typically taking less than an hour to complete and providing immediate feedback to the student.

There are many great features to the Digital Savvy course that Bookworm Beauty has been working through. The first thing that I have noticed is that I did not notice anything. Basically, I signed her up and created her login six weeks ago and as I sat to write my review I realized that I had very little knowledge of the program itself. To me, this is a wonderful problem because it means that the course is user-friendly enough for Bookworm Beauty to not need my assistance to complete the self-study course. Although I have not been involved with the daily process of the course, I have had conversations with Bookworm Beauty about the lessons as she completes them and am pleased with the knowledge she shares with me.

Bookworm Beauty has completed the first six lessons over the six week review period. On one quiz, she missed a question and was able to go back, review the material and retake the quiz. Each quiz allows the student to take the quiz up to three times. This is another feature that I appreciate as it allows the student to correct their mistakes as they go along and therefore reinforce their learning.

Another nice feature is that there are different logins provided for both the students and the teacher (me). There are many features in the teacher portal. I can view student progress at a glance in the Gradebook and I am given the ability to track completed quizzes and even see which questions were missed.

Lastly, a feature Bookworm Beauty and I both greatly appreciated was the painstaking simplicity of the instruction. She said that she felt that things were thoroughly explained and most anyone could understand what the different fundamentals are and how they all work together. She was not necessarily a fan of the amount of time spent on reviewing things, and felt that it could go a little faster, but she did understand that it seemed redundant for her only in areas where she already had prior knowledge. An example of this was the amount of time spent reviewing the peripherals of a computer in the first few lessons. Although she did not care for the continued review, it reinforced her understanding of how peripherals integrate with computers.

The only feature that I feel could be improved upon is on the dashboard itself. It would be helpful to have an easy way to see exactly where a student left off by creating a check mark or fading out links already completed. We took a week off during spring break and upon our return, she actually clicked on a lesson she had already completed. Of course, she realized this mistake quickly and went to the right lesson but she could have just as easily skipped a lesson and proceeded normally without realizing it until looking at her grades at a later time or when I logged into the parent portal and noticed a skipped section.

Knowing that my children are going to be immersed in a technological culture for their lifetimes, I feel a tremendous burden to ensure that they not only learn the basics but also how to use technology wisely, safely and as a tool. I feel that Digital Savvy provided a fantastic foundation to both of those end goals. I foresee Sweetness and The Boy completing the Digital Savvy course in a few years and Bookworm Beauty moving on to additional courses as well.

American History Made Easier: A Review

Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it – George Santayana

We have felt that History, American History in particular, is one of the most important subjects our students could learn. Over the last century, many history texts have been watered down, misleading, and sometimes inaccurate. There are good texts out there, I have just found it very difficult to find what I was hoping to be accurate that would also fit our own unique learning environment. I believe that our opportunity to review H. A. Guerber’s The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & the Great Republic Set and 200 Questions About American History Set by Memoria Press was nothing short of an answer to my prayers.

Guerber’s The Story of the Thirteen Colonies and The Story of the Great Republic was originally published in 1899. It was intended for and still remains as a historical reader, an elementary text book, or as a supplement for American History, covering events from Columbus through to the Spanish American War. This volume, by Memoria Press, combines the two original works into one timeless piece.

The 200 Questions About American History Set was developed as a supplement to be used alongside great history programs. The questions have been taken directly from Guerber’s works as well as from Everything You Need to Know About American History Homework and Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World, Volume 4. Although this set is an excellent resource to be used alongside Guerber’s set, it would be a fabulous addition to any American History program.

We have been working through a very solid American History text when our Memoria Press products arrived. The previous program was so thorough that we were overwhelmed and wondering if we would ever really begin to wear the binding of the text book. I have to admit that after setting down the nearly 500-page history text (part 1 only) and picking up the 6×9 soft covered, 211-page text book, I wondered if it could possibly hold more than the mere fraction of facts that sheer size alone would seem to afford.

I spent some time perusing the books that we had received while on a short car ride. The Thirteen Colonies set retails at $48 and includes a text, a teacher guide and a student guide (workbook). The 200 Questions set retails at $27.80 and includes a teacher guide, a student guide (workbook) and a pack of flashcards (each of the 200 questions). The first thing I took notice of was the fact that the Thirteen Colonies text, although small in size, included 85 lessons! Reading over the Table of Contents I recognized the names and events that are important to American History. I read over the first couple of lessons and knew that this was going to be an excellent program for us.

The lessons are bite-sized without compromising content. I think of it as the Cliff Notes version of American History. Nothing important is spared as you read through the short stories. Most lessons are two pages in length, making it easy to fit a lesson in on even the difficult days.

We jumped right in, starting with the first lesson. I read the lesson aloud to all of the students (ages 6, 8, and 11) and then had Bookworm Beauty complete the corresponding section of the student guide. Afterwards, I asked the kids if they wanted me to skip ahead to the spot in history that we had currently reached with our previous studies as the first seven lessons cover events we have already studied this year. The answer, unanimously, was a resounding, “No!” I was a bit surprised because I did not expect them to want to review things we have already covered. After exploring, I found that they all agreed that even though these lessons are shorter, they learned something new that either we did not learn in the previous studies or that somehow it was not learned.

I am not exactly sure what I appreciate the most about this product. Despite the seeming simplicity of the lessons, they are filled with solid information. Simplicity, yet thorough, is always something to be appreciated. I also appreciate the way that the 200 Questions About American History serves as a companion guide, covering the most important history facts and each president thus far. Bookworm Beauty does not necessarily get giddy about writing her answers to questions in the student guide, but all of the kids get excited to pull out the flashcards and test their knowledge. As a mom, and their primary educator, I am delighted to see them enjoying the flashcards and therefore reinforcing what they have learned.

We are finally no longer overwhelmed with the awesome task of learning the history of our great country. We are enjoying this curriculum and fully intend on completing it in its entirety.