Category: elementary school

Curriculumelementary schoolProduct Review

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.

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Curriculumelementary schoolhighschoolProduct ReviewWhat I'm Reading

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.

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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:

elementary schoolhomeschool helpsProduct Review

MaxScholar Orton Gillingham Software- 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.

If I can teach my children to read, I will have given them the keys to the world. If they leave my homeschool as competent and confident readers, I will count it a success. When a child learns to read, a door to learning is opened. They can take ownership and learn all the things. Each one of my kids has been so different when it comes to learning to read. There has not been a set formula that has worked. My oldest was reading chapter books by the time he was four. He was reading dinosaur encyclopedias at age five. I never taught him to read. He learned completely on his own. My second took some time to get there. We did phonics and leveled readers. One day, when she was eight, she picked up a chapter book called “Life with Lily” and consumed it. She retained all the information and was able to articulate the story line and characters to me. My third was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was six- right at the age when most kids are in the thick of learning to read. Reading became associated with pain for her and it wasn’t until she was nine that she began to come around and realize it isn’t so bad. Then we have number four. She is bright and articulate and curious. To talk to her for any amount of time is to realize how smart she is. However, when we did our yearly testing this year at the beginning of June, our friend and tester shared that she had some concerns about dyslexia. Not an official diagnosis, but some concerns. It doesn’t surprise me that one of my kids would struggle with dyslexia. I struggled my entire school career and wasn’t given a name or strategy for my struggles until my senior year of college. I was beyond thrilled when the opportunity to review MaxScholar Orton-Gillingham Software came our way. I went ahead and requested accounts for both of my younger girls.

The Orton-Gillingham Approach is a direct, explicit, multisensory, structured, sequential, diagnostic, and prescriptive way to teach literacy when reading, writing, and spelling does not come easily to individuals, such as those with dyslexia.

MaxScholar Orton-Gillingham Software is an online reading subscription program. It is like having an online reading tutor. We received a six month subscription through MaxScholar. Everything is accessible online. There are no additional materials to keep up with. You could use this program with any student, regardless of reading ability. However, it has been specifically designed for students who have learning disabilities… specifically dyslexia.

My eight year old working on her phonics placement test. Please excuse the excessive amounts of post-it notes. I have a problem.

Both of my girls did a placement test as the first thing to determine the level at which they should start. It is tedious. My youngest was totally cool with it. She is a box checker and detailed oriented person. She sat patiently and didn’t question the process. My older daughter, however, was less than impressed. She kept looking at me and asking how much more she had to do. She would get to the end of a section and think she was done only to have another part of the assessment pop up. She could have stopped and come back to it, but I encouraged her to keep going. This is my very tactile/ kinesthetic learner- my girl who is constantly moving and does not do well when she has to sit at the table and work. In fact, most days, she doesn’t use a chair- she stands, dances, and wiggles her way through school.

Each girl has her own log-in to her customized account. Once the placement tests were finished, they were able to log on and pick an activity. As you can see in the image above, the activities include MaxPhonics, MaxReading, MaxWord, MaxPlaces, MaxBios, MaxMusic, and Max Vocab. Phonics, Reading and Words are the three main programs. You can actually block the extra activities if you want your child to focus more on the main topics. I may end up having to do this with my older daughter as she immediately went to the MaxMusic section and didn’t want to give the others a try.

The program is very easy to navigate. You can see the teacher chick at the top guiding where to go. She talks to my girls whenever they log on- welcoming them back, etc. You can use MaxScholar Orton-Gillingham Software on your desktop through a web browser or through an app on your device. We chose to use the web browser to access the program.

The girls have their own log in and I have mine. The parent portal is fantastic and easy to navigate. You can adjust their grade level, turn on and off the placement tests, grant access to games, and more. You can keep track of what your child is doing and how they are doing.

Coming soon are training videos for MaxScholar. These are super informative and easy to follow, making the MaxScholar experience that much better. As part of the Review Crew, I was able to have access to these videos and it really helped as the girls and I navigated and utilized the program.

I am impressed with MaxScholar Orton-Gillingham Software. I am excited to see how it helps my girls learn to decode and gain confidence in their reading abilities. I am sad to think that I missed something early on with their learning to read, but so thankful for tools to help them now.

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elementary schoolGetting Started Homeschooling

Getting Started Homeschooling Part 6- Elementary School

Y’all! I have loved every stage my children have gone through. Truly… I don’t know that I have a favorite age or stage as far as parenting goes. But as far as homeschooling… elementary school is my favorite. It is just the best! There is so much room for creativity and child- led learning. It is a beautiful time to get to know your kids… to explore their interests. To try new things. You can find your homeschooling groove during these years without fear of failing.

These are the years your child will take off with reading. I liken teaching reading to a light switch. It will turn on… but the timing may be different depending on the child. Once that light turns on, it is amazing. A child who struggled and struggled to sound out words and read full sentences will suddenly be checking out chapter books from the library and reading through them … and retaining the information. It is a little bit magical. I have watched this happen with all of my children. I have one child, who through circumstances beyond her control has learning issues, gain the confidence to read and loves it now. Her light switch was more like a dimmer switch… the light would go on and off and have different levels of brightness… but eventually it clicked and she reads like a champ! Trust me… it will come. I have a friend who once said the greatest thing she could do for her child is teach them to read. Once you do that, they can take more ownership of their education and learning. It opens the world to them!

So… How in the world do you get started homeschooling elementary school??? With so many great curriculum options, programs, online courses, books… where do you start???

Two things to consider… What kind of homeschooler are you? And what kind of student is your child?

Do you want a box curriculum to tell you what to do? Do you enjoy piecing together your own curriculum? Are you a schedule person? A morning person? Do you prefer a more traditional approach to school? Is your child a tactile learner (they have to touch everything)? A kinesthetic learner (they move all day long)? An audio learner (they learn through listening and get distracted by visuals)? A visual learner (they need to see all the things)?

You need to know yourself and know your child as you move into homeschooling. The elementary years are the best time (in my opinion) to figure all this out. Let me share a little of my personal story and then I will give you some resources to help you out!

When my oldest was five, I figured it was time to get serious about homeschooling and look into curriculum choices. I went to a homeschool conference. I highly, highly recommend you find a conference in your area to attend. Unfortunately, most of the conferences this year were canceled due to COVID-19. Hopefully next year will be different. Conferences are great because you become immersed with people who are speaking the language of homeschool. You get to see and touch the curriculum and books. You can ask questions of the vendors and really gather information to make informed choices… or you can be like me and buy all the shiny, lovely things that have that new book smell… only to bring them home, put them on the shelf, and leave them there, abandoned with the lingering hopes of being used.

ANYWAY. I went to a conference. I settled on My Father’s World first grade curriculum. We loved it. For me, I was deep in the throes of young motherhood. At that time, I had a five year old, a three year old, and a one year old. The days were busy and the nights were not filled with the sleep I needed. My husband was in the midst of getting his Masters in Counseling. I needed a curriculum that was laid out for me. I needed a schedule and boxes to check off. I needed someone else to tell me what to do. My Father’s World was great. We went on to use it for the next 3 years. We used the First Grade, Adventures in U.S. History, and Exploring Countries and Cultures.

Fast forward three years from the beginning of all this. Another child has been added to the crew. My husband graduated from his Masters program and we moved to Western North Carolina. We have settled in and even completed a year with of a co op with other families. We all did Exploring Countries and Cultures together. It was awesome! One of my favorite years. We were together with three other families. We would meet once a week and do the fun stuff… the cooking and science and art. My older two remember that year fondly.

Well… I ordered the next level of My Father’s World… Creation to the Greeks. Another solidly put together curriculum. But as I sat there looking at it, I realized my heart wasn’t in it. I was not excited about using it and I knew my kids wouldn’t be either. I ended up making a bold and scary choice. I sold the curriculum. I called my older two (then 8 and 5) to the table and gave them each a piece of paper. I asked them to write down what they wanted to learn about. Now… I kept my math curriculum… because I know my strengths and weaknesses. Math is a weakness and I know that without a solid math curriculum for my kids, it could mean disaster for them.

My oldest wrote that he wanted to learn about “how things work” and the next oldest wrote that she wanted to learn about “pandas.” By the way… this is the method that I have implemented every year since and for at least three years, she wrote she wanted to learn about pandas. So… if you ever need to know about pandas… I’ ve got you covered. I took the things they wrote down and started gathering materials. I utilized Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, the library, YouTube… I gathered materials to help meet the desires of my kids. We read books and wrote reports (language arts), we made models using legos, cardboard boxes, Hot Wheels Cars (STEM- Science), we did virtual tours of zoos, watched documentaries, and learned about China (Social Studies and History), and we painted and drew pictures (Art). Once we exhausted all we could about “how things work” and “pandas,” I asked them what was next and we did it all again.

Y’all… they LOVED that year in school. I would hear them in their room in the mornings talking about how they were so excited to “do school.” It was a really fun year and I learned a lot through the experience of letting go and trusting the process.

Resources for Homeschooling Elementary School

Curriculum Options (There are so many out there. These are just a few)

My Father’s World– Christian Worldview, Literature Heavy. $$

Sonlight– Christian Worldview, Literature Heavy. $$$

Book Shark– Secular Worldview, Literature Heavy. $$$

Abeka– More Traditional, Christian Worldview- Online and Offline Options $$

Simply Charlotte Mason– Charlotte Mason Based Studies $

Moving Beyond the Page– Secular Worldview, Hands On for Creative and Gifted Learners $$$

Time 4 Learning– Secular Worldview- Online $$

Easy Peasy– Christian Worldview- Online and Offline- FREE

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Christian Hero Then and Now Biographies– We used these as the spine of our year once. We would read the books and talk about the people, places, and things.

Schoolhouse Teachers . Com- This is a great resource offering over 400 courses for Pk- 12th with TONS of Parent helps! You can read more about it HERE and HERE.

Teachers Pay Teachers– You can find a plethora of resources through this open marketplace created by Teachers and for Teachers. My shop has a variety of No-Prep Printables. Just download and go!

Drawing Notebooks– I cannot stand having thousands of pieces of paper around my house filled with my children’s most amazing artwork. So… I buy them sketch pads. The art is contained and the temptation to chuck it in the trash is decreased. Drawing notebooks can also make great Nature Journals.

Legos! Oh my word… there is so much you can do with Legos! You can have free build. You can create challenges (Check out these building challenge cards in My Teachers Pay Teachers Shop), you can learn about a city and then have your kid build it with Legos. They can play quietly with Legos while you read aloud. The open ended options are endless!!

The Young Peacemaker Book– These are great years to work on character development. This book is a great resource for teaching your children about character and how to interact with others.

Final Advice

Two things that I think are CRUCIAL for your elementary age student… PLAY and READ! Read, read, read… and read some more. You read to them. Have them read to you. Play… allow time and space for play- directed and free. Let your child be bored. Boredom leads to creativity. Play is important. Don’t buy into the lie that your child is wasting time when they are playing. They are learning. Their brains are building. At the end of the day… if they have played and spent some time in a book… it has been a good day!

As far as how your day should look when you are homeschooling an elementary age student:

  • Elementary age students can complete their daily work in an hour… maybe 1-2 hours for upper elementary. Focused academics does not need to take much time.
  • Children thrive on schedules. Make sure your student is aware of your expectations. Your day doesn’t need to be scheduled to the minute, but have consistent rhythms. Maybe have book work time in the morning, free reading after lunch, chores, screen time, etc. Maybe make Tuesdays a library day and Fridays a field day.
  • If something is frustrating to your child, take a break and step back to see where you might need to slow down or speed up.

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

elementary schoolhighschoolmiddle schoolProduct Review

Exploring the U.S. Life-Saving Service- 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.

Unit studies are a perfect fit for a delight directed style of homeschooling. They give you the freedom to explore unique topics and tie in a variery of academic disciplines. We were recently given the opportunity to review Exploring the U.S. Life Saving Service 1878-1915: 17 Student Workshops with 120 Activities from Rebecca Locklear. The unit study is all about the U.S. Life Saving Service which was the forerunner to the U.S. Coast Guard. Comprised of eight member rescue teams, this service would row out to ships in distress during violent storms to rescue those on board. If you have a child who is an outdoor enthusiast, loves to learn about survival skills, enjoys hiking or boating, or just loves to learn about unique pieces of history, this downloadable unit study from Rebecca Locklear is a great fit!

The study is divided into 4 units with 17 workshops:

  • Unit 1: Life at the Station House
  • Unit 2: Working Together
  • Unit 3: The Culture of Character
  • Unit 4: Relevance Today

Each worksop begins with listing the objective and the materials needed to complete the activities. It also shares grade appropriate goals (as seen below):

The book begins with a thorough look at the history of the U.S. Life Saving Service. The old pictures are fascinating. This would be an excellent unit to include in a Post-Civil War to World War 1 Unit. The book is rich with maritime history and information.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, Unit Studies are fantastic for connecting the various disciplines. Just look at the variety of activities included in the Exploring the U.S. Life Saving Service book. Not only are many activities included, but many types of learning styles and interests are addressed. This book will appeal to your logical thinkers, your artists, your actors, your wiggly learners, your book learners, and everything in between. It would be really great to use at a homeschool co-op as it provides for a lot of collaborative learning. In fact, I think it may be best used in a co-op setting with multiple children. The hands-on activities include designing a logo for the U.S. Life-Saving Service, make gingerbread in a jar, performing a skit (the script is included in this curriculum), playing a game, designing and creating an anchor, making smelling salts, role playing, completing a cold water experiment, and more.

Pictured above is a matching activity included in Unit One: Life at the Station House. The activity is a game to be played after learning about how the people of the day identified and hunted for food. My kids and I read through Unit One together.

This 117 page text includes history, science, writing, cooking, art and more-all in one book geared towards grades 4-12. The author has a personal connection to the U.S. Life Saving Service in that her great-grandfather, “Skipper” Eldredge, devoted 15 years of his life to this service.

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