Friday, October 15, 2010
"Educating children for God's glory" is the motto of Solio Deo Gloria Resources. The company offers unit studies and Bible studies for children in grades K-12. As a member of TOS Homeschool Crew, our family received a digital copy of Soli Deo Gloria's "Young Hearts Longing for God: A Pre-inductive Psalm Study" in exchange for this review.
Young Hearts Longing for God: A Pre-inductive Psalm Study written by Kim Kargbo, is designed for students who can read alone, but may not be ready for disciplined independent Bible study. According to the author, this is typically grades 3-5, but a recommendation is also given to utilize the curriculum through 8th grade. My third grade daughter, Sierra and my 8th grade daughter, Micah both made use of the study for the purposes of this review.
Inductive Bible studies utilize the power of color and shapes to identify key elements within the text. For example, the lesson studying Psalm 95 instructs the student to underline all the names for God in red, while the lesson on Psalm 36 has the student underlining attributes of God in orange, drawing a star over the sentence which tells the end result for a wicked person, etc. Using color and pictures is much more engaging than dissecting sentences in a more typical manner.
Young Hearts Longing for God has all scripture used typed on the top of each worksheet page. The author uses the New International Version of the Bible. Below the text are a series of questions, some of them simply instructions for underlining, etc., which help the reader draw meaning from the passage. The final step for each lesson is to answer a question in a journal. The author recommends keeping a spiral notebook for journaling exercises. She has designed her study to last an entire school year with the student spending one week studying each Psalm.
"Again, you may use your discretion in this regard, but a word of caution--taking longer than one week per Psalm may cause the child to become bored and lose interest, therefore not gaining all that could be gained from the study", says Kargbo.
I found the curriculum to be very user friendly, well organized and easy to implement. I simply printed out the digital copy, read the one page of instructions for use and we were off and running. Sierra required lots of hands on time with me in order to successfully make use of the study. Some of the concepts were difficult for her to grasp at first, but with discussion she genuinely engaged with the study and enjoyed it. Micah, grade 8, used the study completely independent of me as she does with most of her studies.
When asked for their opinions of Young Hearts Longing for God, the girls had lots of glowing comments.
"It helps you to think about what each verse means instead of just reading it. Sometimes I don't stop to think about the true meaning of a verse or I don't understand it. (when reading the Bible). This helped me focus on that", said Micah.
"I liked the journaling because it helped me think more and apply the Psalm to my life. It made all the verses more relevant", she added.
"The colored pencils helped me understand the meanings of different things", said Sierra, age 9. "It helped me understand what we were doing."
"I liked the journal too because at the end of the year I can look back and see all the things I learned", Sierra continued.
When asked for any final comments, Sierra added, "I also liked having the verses on the paper. It made it easier to have them right there".
To purchase Soli Deo Gloria's Young Hearts Longing For God: Pre-Inductive Bible Study of the Psalms or any of their other products simply visit their website at http://www.solideogloriaresources.com/ The study sells for $16.00 plus minimal shipping on the site. A sample can be viewed by clicking here.
Friday, October 8, 2010
Looking for a new approach to nature study? Hop on over to Digital Frog International at http://www.digitalfrog.com. Famous for their innovative virtual frog dissection interactive video computer program, Digital Frog now offers virtual field trips for all ages. I received the entire virtual field trip series ,"The Wetlands, The Rainforest and The Desert" as a member of the Homeschool Crew in exchange for this review. Although my first initial reaction was "a bit pricey for an educational computer program", Digital Frog's programs are not average!
Digital Frog International describes themselves at their website as: "an innovative, enthusiastic, software company, dedicated to creating high-quality educational, multimedia CD-ROMs with an ecological focus. Our corporate headquarters is a converted barn surrounded by frogs, dogs and bogs in rural Ontario, Canada."
Always in need of an assistant, I asked my Kindergarten son Aidan to assist me with this review. Aidan is a Jr. computer geek, Lego afficiando and lover of animals. He is the biggest nature enthusiast of all of my kids, so I was sure he would definitely enjoy a virtual field trip.
Aidan was very excited to click through the different options of this program while I read the excellent, in depth text aloud. The field trips are multi-layered adventures filled with clear, bright photography, easily read, yet extremely informative text, and interactive opportunities within the virtual world.
Aidan and I chose to visit, "The Wetlands" first. We selected this from our initial screen choices of Wetlands, Rainforest or Desert. Next, the program directed us to a bog in Canada and we were asked if we would like to locate the bog before our visit. Choosing "yes" the next screen challenged us to click on North America on a world map, then Canada, then the Province of Ontario, then Algonquin Park, until finally we arrived at Cloud Lake. Throughout our virtual journey short, detailed descriptions of our destinations were provided in text which I read aloud to Aidan.
Once we arrived at Cloud Lake a series of 8 different posts, or specific sites of the bog, to visit were presented. We chose to travel to in order so as not to miss anything on our visit. Clicking on a mini map took us directly to the post marking where we investigated various plant and animal life at each location. The visuals have a 360 degree effect (think Google Earth) which is very fun for a six year old. We spun around in circles and happened upon a wood duck, a wolf and a beaver at various moments. Besides the fun of spinning, a small virtual notebook located to the right of the viewing area for the bog presents "field notes"for areas encountered. The text for the field notes is very concise, informative and intelligently written. I'm not sure of the grade level of the writing, but it is definitely appropriate for high school level nature study and if read aloud with explanation, appropriate for young nature enthusiasts too.
Spinning in circles in the "great outdoors" is fun, but for educational purposes, I asked Aidan his favorite animal so we could investigate the variety of information available in the text. He chose "Wood Duck", we clicked the link within the program, and were taken to a close-up photo of the wood duck at the lake. Within this screen were options to read an "Intro" about the duck, "Habitat", "Behavior", "Life Cycle", "Food Source", "Size Ranges", "Latin Name/Classification", "Trophic Level (ie. Consumer), and "Food Source".We could have spent hours just investigating the wood duck and all its related components, but the great thing about a virtual field trip for nature study is that you don't have to do it all at once. Older students can benefit with longer visits to study the in depth nature of the text and visuals, while young ones can glean brief snippets of information and enjoy "spinning" in the great outdoors.
I asked Aidan, for his honest opinion of "The Digital Field Trip Series" and he said, "I liked seeing the beaver, the frog, the wolf and the bald eagle in the wetlands!" When asked if he had any suggestions for improvement he added, "I wish there were games to play".
Digital Frog International's "Digital Field Trip Series" can be purchased at the company website for $199.00. Individual trips (ie. Desert only) can be purchased for home use for $60.00 each. Digital Frog is used in classrooms, but is a perfect product for home education as well.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
If you need a little help managing your 21st century one room schoolhouse you might consider investing in LanSchool. Priced at $99.00, for a home version, LanSchool provides "supermoms" and dads the opportunity to develop "super powers" to help keep up with technology use in the home. Set up is simple and easy to use and once loaded on the teacher's computer, LanSchool allows parent teachers the ability to monitor all screen use in the home.
LanSchool apps are available for free at the Itunes store to downloaded to IPhone, or IPad. This allows even greater flexibility and time saving measures for teachers to monitor PC and Mac computers. In addition to monitoring screens, LanSchool provides the option of pairing a teacher computer with a student, blanking student screens when appropriate, instant messaging with students and blocking unwanted internet use.
It is easy to monitor student's progress and computer usage with LanSchool, but I am not convinced it is a product necessary for most homeschool families. I appreciate it is an award winning technology product that is easy to use, but don't have the same issues in my home classroom as a classroom in a more public setting. Although a great product for technology based classrooms filled with distractions, and perhaps a necessary element for a distractible child, I couldn't find a use for LanSchool in our home. We only have two computers for school use and both are in the same public room. Most of my children's schoolwork is done with traditional pen, pencil, paper, arts supplies and "old school" books. Even though my husband is a computer consultant and I maintain this review blog we try to limit our internet time in exchange for face to face interpersonal interactions. Needless to say, LanSchool is not a product I would recommend to the average homeschool family.
To judge for yourself, consider visiting the LanSchool Technology website at http://www.lanschool.com/lanschool. LanSchool provides a "guided tour" of their product along with testimonials, pricing options and technical specifications at the company website. If you still can't decide if LanSchool is for right for your family, simply register on the site for a FREE 30-day trial.
* I received a free copy of LanSchool for use in my home as a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew. This review was written in exchange for the product use and represents my honest opinion.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Fans of fantasy fiction are in for a treat with Foundlings, the first book in a new series, The Chronicles of Peleg, written by Matthew Christian Harding. According to Harding, "Foundlings is historical fiction that takes place in the time period of Peleg, soon after the tower of Babel dispersion". Dragons, giants and huge beasts are common throughout the storyline adding to a more fantastical experience for contemporary readers.
Harding, a homeschool Dad, offers a young earth creationist Biblical worldview which he says, "conforms to the Word of God". "Foundlings weaves together the Biblical principles of chivalry, truth, courage, duty, faith and love within the framework of Genesis, and a bold adherence to its historicity", he says.
Understanding Harding's motivation for writing the Chronicles of Peleg is equally noteworthy. The author states in his testimony that he is a former member of the occult saved through divine intervention only God could orchestrate. His credentials include an English degree from St. Olaf College and a Masters in Special Education from the University of Arizona. The greatest motivation, however, came from his love for his children and the desire to share meaningful stories with them at bedtime. "When I put the children to bed at night, they would often ask to hear stories about when I was young. Tiring of the same routine, I began to make up stories that got longer and more intricate, sometimes lasting for months", he says.
Encouraged by his wife to record these works of fantasy, Harding began to write the Chronicles of Peleg. To date he has completed, Book One: Foundlings and Book Two: Paladins. Harding says he plans many more to follow.
Foundlings is designed to appeal to children ages 10-12 and older. Younger children may enjoy the novel as a read aloud. My 13 year old daughter, however, is not a fan of fantasy fiction and did not enjoy the novel. Unfortunately, I also struggle with fantasy literature often feeling I have to work too hard to learn a new vocabulary, and follow complex plot lines. It is a personal genre preference that kept me from enjoying all Foundlings had to offer. I could not identify with the characters easily and the rich descriptions were not enough to carry my interest forward.
In an effort to give Foundlings a fair evaluation I passed the novel on to my 21 year old daughter, a self-professed fan of Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis, both genius fantasy authors in their own right. Her review of Foundlings was more favorable, "It's creative, but very long and drawn out. I felt it was overly detailed. I would still recommend it however, to lovers of fantasy fiction, especially because of its Biblical content", she said.
For those who enjoy a unit study approach to literature study, Harding is intending to publish a companion book which will investigate the historical, Biblical and character building themes of the literature. Consideration is also being given to creating a lapbook and educational game in the near future.
Foundlings and Paladins can be purchased at Hardings website, www.MatthewChristianHarding.com, local bookstores, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, Ingram and Baker & Taylor. The 256 page novel sells for 11.95 in paperbook format. Harding offers free shipping on his website for all customers. In addition, a "money back guarantee" accompanies each purchase.
* As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received Foundlings for free in exhange for this review. My review is a reflection of my honest opinion of the book. *