Category: Curriculum

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Journey Homeschool Academy Experience Astronomy- A Review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

**Please note: This Post Contains Affiliate Links**

Y’all. I think I have hit my limit on thinking about all the things. We go through seasons in our homeschool. I go through seasons as a homeschool mom and I think I am cycyling to a season where I just need someone else to do the work for me. I love being creative… I really, really do. I love piecing together and creating curriculum and classes and projects. Finding out what my kids want to learn about and making it happen is the heartbeat of my homeschool mama heart. But… I am tired. I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders every morning before I even get out of bed. I need some help this year to make sure my children are getting the very best of me. You can imagine how thrilled I was when we were given Experience Astronomy: Elementary from Journey Homeschool Academy.

Science and History are the two areas where I fall behind the most. I usually rely on our homeschool association’s enrichment classes to fill in some gaps for me, but those have been canceled for the fall because of the Rona. My girls (ages 8 and 10) were super excited when I told them about Experience Astronomy: Elementary. I am so grateful for the age in which we live and the ability to access amazing online classes such as the ones offered from Journey Homeschool Academy.

Experience Astronomy: Elementary is an online, video based course. The website is easy to navigate and help is abundant. Each lesson has a main video (about 15- 20 minutes long), a memory video to help reinforce concepts, and extra material like the instructions for hands on activities, verses to trace, and a quiz.

Lesson One includes the instructions to make a shoe box planetarium. I love that this is not just an online, video class. It includes super fun activities as well as a reading list of books (most available through the library).

Each lesson includes a quiz in the extra materials tabs. As you can see, the class is presented from a Christian Worldview. I LOVE this. All truth is God’s truth. God cares about Science. I love when we can show our kids how science has a part to play in God’s kingdom.

I am super excited to use Experience Astronomy: Elementary with my 3rd and 5th grade girls. They are always asking for science. I start strong and never seem to make it past the first week or so. I tried last year… I really did. We tried a Nature Study and then a Human Body Science. I just tapered off and the girls quit asking. I have high hopes for this year. This Astronomy Course from Journey Homeschool Academy has done an amazing job of offering an engaging and complete 30 week course. This is just what I need this year!

Journey Homeschool Academy also offer Biology for Elementary and Upper Level. I am seriously considering getting the Upper Level Biology for my 8th grader this year.

Be sure to follow Journey Homeschool Academy:

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Instagram: @intoxicatedonlifeblog

Check out what other review crew members are saying. Click the banner below:

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Getting Started Homeschooling Part 8- High School

When my oldest was just started out and we were beginning our homeschool journey, I remember worrying and scurrying to get all the things. He needed an easel. He needed colored pencils and crayons and notebooks and workbooks and curriculum. We needed a designated school area. We needed a schedule. I needed to check boxes.

As time went on, I realized that a beautiful part of homeschooling is not having to recreate school at home. I was a classroom teacher before having kids and I thought that homeschooling meant having to set up a classroom in our home. If that’s your jam… go for it. BUT… if the idea of having to have all the things to be a successful homeschooler is stressing you out… in the words of Elsa… Let it Go!

For years I was able to adapt and adopt our delight directed approach. I gave up many preconceived notions and began to include the kids in the learning goals and material choices. It was a beautiful thing. But then… Then my oldest went into ninth grade and that familiar panic crept back in. All of the sudden I felt like I needed all the things. Like my son needed all the things or I was going to completely fail him and leave him unprepared for the world. I started entertaining the thought of buying curriculum, enrolling him in classes, putting him in school. Somehow highschool just felt scary. Like the game just got more real.

As I was in a flurry of planning and explaining to my son all the things he would have to do, he said, “Wait… I thought we were unschooling delight directed kind of people…how does that work with high school?”

He was right… why would I need to change our philosophy and vision now? How could I continue with interest led learning? How do we continue create life long learners?

Please remember that I am living in North Carolina. My homeschool experience and knowledge of the law is through the North Carolina lens. Please do your due diligence and research the homeschool laws in your own state. Some states are more regulated and some are less.

In North Carolina, there are no requirements to graduate high school. You, the parent, are the chief administrator of your school and therefore create and set the learning goals. However… if you have a college bound child… it would behoove you to look into the requirements for admission and work backwards from there. Not every student will go to college. I have told my kids that I don’t know if they are college bound, but I am not going to be the reason they don’t have the option. I will build our homeschool in such a way that they have the option to go to college when they graduate.

I heard a friend describe homeschooling highschool like this… the core subjects… like math and language arts and history and science are the scaffolding on which the school experience is built. You have to have those core subjects to build the foundation. When you have those in place, you can design your education to fit your interests and needs.

Most colleges look for students to complete 4 English courses, 3 Math courses, 3 Science (with two of those being lab sciences), 3 Social Studies, 1 Health, 1 PE, and 6 Electives. Now… HOW you complete those can be flexible and creative. Some areas of study have little wiggle room… like math. Sorry… but Algebra seems to be a non-negotiable. I told my son that if he could find a solid college within a 300 mile radius of our home with an arts program that did not require Algebra for admissions…we could totally look into dropping Algebra from our school… but until then… he just needed to do it! Not everything is pleasant or fun. Sometimes we just have to endure and work through hard things. That is life and learning endurance and resiliency is super important.

Tips for Homeschooling High School

  1. Involve Your Student. Sit down with your student and look at the scaffolding for the year. Involve them in the choices for their scaffolding and for their electives. What do they want to pursue? When you include them in the planning, it goes well for both of you!
  2. Steer Towards Independence. Let your student have control where they can. Let them be mindful of their workspace, of their schedule and managing their time. Allow room for growth and for error. Your child is not you. They may have a different way of looking at things, organizing things, accomplishing tasks. Give them the freedom to learn themselves and be successful in their way.
  3. Encourage Interests and Passions. You may notice this has been a common theme throughout my Getting Started Homeschooling Series. One of my major goals for my kids when they leave my homeschool is to be able to identify what they want to learn and have the ability to go after it. I want them to know how to learn. While under my roof, they should have the ability to experiment, fail, and succeed. If they want to be an entreprenuer- we will learn about good business practice. If they want a career in food, we will seek out opportunities to learn more. Maybe give them a specific night of each week that is theirs to create the menu, plan, and prepare dinner for the family.
  4. Be creative in your records. A trap I think we fall into as parents and educators is that we have to complete a book or course in one school year. We think that the disciplines should be separate… like chemistry and home economics are two different things. Or math and life skills do not over lap. But they do. My son took a food Chemistry class last year. He learned about cooking and his labs consisted of food related experiments (that often ended up in a delicious dinner for the rest of us!). Maybe your child doesn’t take specific computer skills course, but rather you incorporate using Google tools like Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc. into their regular rhythm of school. At the end of four years, you can look back and see the hours of training put into learning word processing, spreadsheets, etc. and you record a Computer Skills class on their transcript.
  5. Encourage Volunteer Work and Service. Teach your student to be a good human. How can they use their time and talents to give back to the community. Not only does this prepare them to be compassionate adults… it also looks good on a college application! Look for local opportunities to serve… help in a food pantry, do yard work for seniors, read books to children (or animals apparently at the local animal shelter), write letters to seniors who are trapped in retirement communities with no visitors due to COVID, organize a silent auction with proceeds going to a local charity, collect coats and blankets for the homeless, deliver meals on wheels… opportunities to serve are out there. Encourage your teen to find them and engage.

Your involvement in your teen’s high school homeschool experience can vary from teacher to tutor to guidance counselor to bus driver to cheerleader. You are preparing a young adult to launch into this world. They aren’t ready yet… they will still need you! Hold loosely to your highschooler as they grow more towards independence each day. You may be surprised with what they can do!

Last tip… know your strengths and weaknesses. You do not have to teach all the things. Goodness… high school sciences and math… whew… outside my wheelhouse! I am so thankful for online resources and classes. My oldest will be taking Spanish online through Luma Learn. He is going to do book studies through Progeny Press for his Language Arts. We are currently working on creating a small co op where he can learn with other high schoolers. Classes will include world history as seen through the arts and public speaking. Lean on your community. Realize that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Tons and tons and tons of resources are out there for you! Easy Peasy, Khan Academy, and School Yourself are just a few of the great FREE options out there!

SchoolhouseTeachers.com has put together a great option that takes the guess work out for you. They are offering virtual “Boxed” curriculum through your membership. This is really great because veteran homeschoolers have curated courses to create a wonderful and full homeschool year. And guess what!!! There is a great sale going on right now with Schoolhouse Teachers. Buy one year, get the second FREE! Two years for just $179 (and you get a free tote bag… just saying!).


Other topics I’ll be covering in this “Getting Started Homeschooling Series” are:

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Progeny Press Study Guide Reviews

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

The world we live in is so muddled. I cannot imagine being a teen or tween right now. Maybe every parent feels that way about the younger generation. It is a constant struggle to find solid, engaging literature for my kids. My thirteen year old daughter loves graphic novels and manga style art. She is constantly coming up against politcal agendas and themes that are counter to the Christian faith. Teaching her to discern is a daily lesson. I am always reading reviews, talking to friends, and trying to figure out what is healthy and what isn’t. It is exhausting! I love when I find a company that takes the guess work out of the equation. A company with a Christian worldview that helps kids see literature through a Biblical lens. Progeny Press is one such company. We were given the opportunity to review In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson Study Guide for Grades 4-6 and Animal Farm Study Guide for Grades 9-12.

About In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson:

In the year 1947, Shirley Temple Wong and her mother receive a letter from her father. He asks them to come and join him in New York City where he has been working and preparing a home for them. New York is a long way from Chungking, China, but Shirley is excited that her family will be together again at last. Shirley has difficulty adjusting to life in a new country, with its new customs and languages. But then summer comes, bringing the miracle of baseball. Suddenly Shirley is playing stickball and following superstar Jackie Robinson as he leads the Brooklyn Dodgers to victory after victory. Jackie Robinson proves that in America, the grandson of a slave can make a difference and be a hero! And for Shirley as well, the land of America becomes the land of opportunity.

In times of chaos and upheaval, finding a book with relateable characters and stories of overcoming difficulties is great. Not every kid goes through heartbreak, disease, or suffering… but many kids will move at some point in their childhood. This is a relateable concept for sure.

I have always enjoyed using unit studies with my children. In The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson Study Guide from Progeny Press is an excellent unit study on the book. Before you even begin to read, there are activities to do that include Geography (learning about China on the map) and Social Studies (learning about world religions such as Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism).

The study guide goes chapter by chapter. Each section includes vocabulary, reading comprehension questions, and questions to dig deeper. This is all presented through the lens of Scripture.

We were given the eGuide to review. I am coming around on using eBooks and eGuides. This was easy to download and follow. I can print what I need and print multiple copies when needed. I keep all of my eLearning materials on a thumb drive. The files are divided into folders and easy to find.

The activities in In The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson Study Guide are fun and engaging. To be 100 % honest, with summer time, we have slowed down considerably on all things school and really haven’t given this study guide the attention it deserves. I am, however, really looking forward to doing the “A Year in Your Life” activity as suggested in the “After You Read Activities.”

About Animal Farm:

“A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. The stage is set for one of the most telling satiric fables ever penned – a razor-edged fairy tale for grown-ups that records the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible!”

Can we just talk about for a minute how perfect Animal Farm is for the time we are living in?!?! I have seen more quotes from Orwell’s Animal Farm floating around social media in the last six months that ever before. I am a sucker for a good dystopian novel. Most days, it feels like we are living in a dystopian novel!

My son also enjoys this genre and he is the one I had in mind when given the Animal Farm study guide to review. He is fifteen and heading into tenth grade. He needs to learn to think critically and examine the literature he is reading. We talk all the time about caring about what he is feeding his brain. This kid has been reading on a college level since he was about seven years old. Finding appropriate literature that is engaging to him has been a challenge, to say the least. I really appreciate how Progeny Press explores secular literature through a Christian perspective.

As with In The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, the Animal Farm Study Guide begins with background information specifically about types of economic systems (Capitalism, Communism, and Socialism) as well as types of government (Monarchy, Democracy, Totalitarian, and Republic). Pre-reading activities are suggested as well. Students are instructed to read the book in its entirety before beginning the chapter by chapter study guide. While this may seem redundant to a high school student, I like the idea of reading it first and then breaking it down.

The study guide is designed to be completely independently (yay!). The PDF worksheets are designed to either be printed or filled in on the computer. If you have a more verbal processing or less independant worker, you could definitely go through the study guide together and use it as a great springboard for discussion. If your student completes a section per day, the study guide is designed to be completed in eight weeks. The work is manageable and includes things like Vocabulary, Analogous Events and Characters, General Questions, Analysis Questions, And Digging Deeper. If your child is anything like mine, they will skip all things “optional.” But I would encourage you to have them slow down and take a look at the great “optional” activities provided throughout the Animal Farm Study Guide.

I am seriously considering investing in a few more (maybe 4 total) study guides from Progeny Press and building my son’s tenth grade English credit from them. We could do a whole year of Dystopian Novels- Animal Farm, Hunger Games, Farenheit 451, and Lord of the Flies. I think the guides are well thought out and challenging.

Be sure to follow Progeny Press on Social Media:

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The Homeschool Review Crew reviewed several products from Progeny Press. Be sure to read what others are saying. Click the banner below:

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Getting Started Homeschooling Part 3- Choosing Curriculum

One of the number one questions I see being asked about homeschooling is “What curriculum should I use???” This is a pretty loaded question. The truth of it is, there is not a right or wrong answer. So many options are out there in the homeschool market and just like anything… some are great… some are … meh!

As a homeschool parent, you have the flexibility and freedom to put together curriculum, learning goals, etc. I know in North Carolina, there are no checklists of what your child has to accomplish in each grade. That is truly up to you as the parent. Public schools operate on standards… the standards were mandated by the state when I was teaching. I believe most schools now use the common core standards. Most homeschool curriculum do not even refer to such standards. You do not have to be bound by standards when you are homeschooling. Even in a more regulated state like Massachusets where parents have to have their curriculum, assessment plan, and intended of hours of instruction approved by their school district, there seems to be some flexibility in how those things can be accomplished.

To get started, you’ll want to ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you want a curriculum that is all inclusive? Meaning… do you want a box to show up at your house with everything you need for all the subjects, including a daily schedule and checklists?
  2. Do you want to piece your curriculum together?
  3. What type of homeschooler are you? Read THIS POST to understand a little more about different homeschool philosphies and methods.
  4. Continuing with # 3… what type of teaching style do you have? What type of learning style do your children have? Do you prefer a more traditional teacher led environment where you are in charge and present all the intruction, etc. Are your children auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learners. Are they more independent and self motivated or do they require more attention?
  5. What is your budget? You can homeschool on a shoe string budget… I promise you this. So many free and inexpensive resources exist. I have spent most of my homeschool career scouring the internet for resources, bartering my skills and time with other homeschool moms for help, networking at conferences to do curriculum reviews. If you are on a strict budget, never fear… you will be ok! If you have a large budget… congrats! The homeschool curriculum world is at your fingertips!
  6. What’s your worldview? Are you wanting a curriculum that teaches from a Christian worldview or a Secular worldview?

Time

When choosing curriculum, consider how much time you are wanting to go into your homeschool week. How much planning time are you budgeting? How much instruction? How much free learning? Creative play? Park time? Extra curriculuars? You want your curriculum to work for you. You’ll want to pick a curriculum that is in line with your time needs.

Structure and Freedom

Do you want to have everything laid out for you? Or do you want to have some freedom to develop your own resources? When I was a young mom, always pregnant or nursing… I wanted a boxed curriculum that told me what to do. My brain’s bandwidth was limited and I just did not have the creative energy to come up with my own learning goals or resources. We used My Father’s World for the first 3 years of our homeschooling journey. It was fantastic and affordable. My kids really enjoyed it!

Now that I am a little more seasoned and have been at this a while, I have learned my children. I have learned myself. We are a more ecclectic kind of crew. We are a more relaxed kind of crew and don’t like busy work. My children are highly invested in picking and choosing what they will be learning through the school year. One of our primary resources is Schoolhouse Teachers (dot) Com. This is a company that offers over 400 courses, written by a myriad of individuals. The courses cover preschool through highschool and include a TON of resources for parents. Read more about Schoolhouse Teachers HERE and HERE.

Schooling Multiple Ages

You will likely need to consider multiple ages and stages in your homeschool. Never fear… many curriculum are geared toward multi-age learning. There is no need to buy an individual curriculum for each child. Many people will teach the same social studies, science, history, etc. to all of their children while providing age/ level appropriate material for math and language arts.

You teach the same information, but allowing for various ages. Here is an example of how this has worked in our homeschool. One year, we chose to use the Christian Hero Then and Now books from YWAM as our spine… the thing from which everything else was built on. When we read the book about David Bussau, an entrepreneur from Australia who used his skills to teach business to people in South East Asia, I was able to create activities for my children at their level (at the time, they were 9, 7, 5, and 3). When we created a map of Australia, all four children had their own paper, but I expected more from the nine year old than from the three year old. I wanted the nine year old’s map to have landmarks and cities while I was fine with the three year old just coloring. We did family projects like Aboriginal style painting and writing a letter to Mr. Bussau. We did individual projects like creating a tourist brochure, doing a report on Australian animals, and more. Are you tracking with me?

Your youngest child will absorb more than you realize when you include them in the family work.

Strengths and Weaknesses

When choosing a curriculum, consider your own strengths and weaknesses. I don’t know anyone who is strong in all the subjects, all the time. I am strong in Language Arts and Arts, in general. Math and Science are not subjects where I thrive. I didn’t do well with them as a student and am struggling to provide solid and consistent instruction for my own kids in those areas now.

Because I struggle with math, I know that I need a solid math curriculum. I know that I cannot provide what my children need in that area without help. We have used Math U See the whole way through. My oldest started struggling when he hit Algebra and I will be getting him a private tutor in the fall.

I would encourage you to look into your local homeschool community. Are there groups that offer classes? Do you have friends who could join you in co-teaching? Maybe you offer to teach math and they offer to teach history?

It is also important to know your child’s strengths and weaknesses when choosing a curriculum. How do they learn well? If you have a very wiggly child, choosing an online program that requires sitting for long periods of time may not be the best option. If you have an easily distracted child, choosing a curriculum with a lot of frills and extra pictures, etc. may not provide the best environment to concentrate. If you have a self-motivated child, a curriculum with boxes to check and clear lessons may be best.

Don’t Stress!

I don’t know many homeschool moms who experience true love with the first curriculum they choose. You are not married to it and you don’t have to keep using it if it turns out not to be the match made in heaven you had hoped for. You can research all day long, look at curriculum pieces, borrow from a friend, read reviews, etc. .. but until you actually start using something with your children, you won’t really know if it is the right fit.

If you are worried about wasting all that money you just spent when you realize the curriculum doesn’t work, take to ebay or local buy/ sell/ trade groups. Someone will more than likely gladly take it off your hands!!!

Also… don’t abandon ship right away if you find the curriculum you chose isn’t working. There is something to be said about stick to it-ness. You could try using it less often, modifying your pace, supplementing with other things.

Research

As will all things homeschooling, I would encourage you to do your due diligence. You do not have to blindly choose a curriculum. You can find reviews galore on the interwebs!

I am part of the Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew. I regularly receive products to review in our homeschool. The crew that reviews the products is comprised of real life homeschoolers… a variety of styles, philosophies, and methods.

Cathy Duffy is a HUGE NAME in the Homeschool World! You can learn about all things homeschool through her reviews!

If you have an opportunity to go to a curriculum sale or a homeschool conference, you can get a hands on look at what you might be interested in.

Here is a list to get you started of some solid curriculum that either myself or my friends have found.

Classical Education

Veritas Press– Classical Education from a Christian Worldview

Classical Conversations– A Classical Co-Op that is active nationwide

Charlotte Mason

The Good and The Beautiful: Literature heavy. The Language Arts for levels 1-5 are available for FREE DOWNLOAD.

Ambleside Online: Free, but you have to buy the books.

Simply Charlotte Mason: Utilizes nature, composer, and art study. Heavy on “living” books.

School At Home (More Traditional/ Conventional in approach)

Abeka: Christian worldview, guided lessons, textbooks

Sonlight: Christian worldview, all subject packages, guided lessons

Bookshark: Secular worldview, all subject packaged, guided lessons

Unit Studies

Homeschool In the Woods: History units- hands on learning

Homeschool Legacy: Once a Week Unit Studies covering a variety of topics

UnitStudy.com: Downloadable content for a variety of subjects

Online Programs

Easy Peasy: Online, complete FREE Christian curriculum. Preschool- Highschool. Great for self-motivated, box checking kids.

Power Homeschool: “Power Homeschool is a program intended to aid parents in homeschooling their student. Parents may choose up to 7 courses at a time from numerous courses (grades PreK-12). Students are able to learn at their own pace under the supervision and assistance of their parent.”

Time for Learning: online, secular homeschool for preK-12th grade. Easy grading, student focused, and flexible with tools for parents.

Want to know a secret???

Some families don’t use curriculum at all! Say what?!?! It’s true. Some people piece together their learning materials based on interests and learning styles.

For us, it is a year by year process. I evaluate what my children need and try to buy or find resources that will best help them. Some year that looks like buying curriculum pieces and sometimes it looks like unit studies and field trips.

I keep open conversation with my children to help determine what their goals are. We build our year to meet both their interests and my goals for them.

Some companies and resources that I personally enjoy are:

SchoolhouseTeachers.Com : We can pick and choose courses from the large menu of options. The classes are self-paced.

Institute for Excellence in Writing: I was very, very hesitant to incorporate this into our homeschool life, but I heard the founder of the company speak at a conference last year and was so impressed with his philosophy of education. My son used the Student Writing Intensive Level C this year and really enjoyed it. CLICK HERE for THREE FREE WEEKS of Instruction from IEW.

Teachers Pay Teachers: This is a market place filled with resources made by teachers. Pro tip- every Teachers Pay Teachers store has to offer something for FREE!!! Check out MY STORE with tons of No-Prep Printables!

Beyond the Stick Figure: This is a complete drawing, painting, 3D art course for the whole family!

Reading Eggs: This online program has been great for my elementary and middle school kids. It is a wonderful supplement to any reading and math program. CLICK HERE for a 4 Week FREE TRIAL.


Other topics I’ll be covering in this “Getting Started Homeschooling Series” are: