Today is the last day for the Discovery Streaming group buy at the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.  We have subscribed in the past and I just re-subscribed to it.  I think that a good majority of our science videos come from this subscription, but they have so much more to offer…if you dig a little.  That’s the problem, though.  You have to be willing to a bit of time searching for your topic and then previewing the images and/or videos.  They do offer lesson plans as well, but I have never used any and cannot comment on that.  For $99 it is a phenomenal value, in my opinion.

The other deal to consider is a Rosetta Stone offer from Live Mocha (which was bought by Rosetta Stone).  The offer is for levels 1-5 for $199 which is the best deal that I’ve yet to see.  Typically, it’s fairly easy to find the program for roughly $300 so this could be a big savings.

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Homeschool Spanish AcademyHomeschool Spanish Academy (HSA) is an online Spanish curriculum that is delivered by native Spanish speakers in Guatemala via Skype (an internet-based, free video chat program).  I was first introduced to this company last year when I had a chance to review them for the first time, and I was thrilled to have the chance to review them again.

There are several different tiers of instruction, geared towards teaching children from age 5 up to adults, but since my daughter is 6 years old, the focus of this review is on their Early Language Program.   The classes for this age group are 25-30 minutes in length which was just right for my daughter.  This program covers the same topics that most Spanish language programs focus on: food vocabulary, colors, numbers, clothes, etc (see here for the list of topics).  However, what makes this program unique is that while your child is learning they are receiving instant feedback from a native speaker, leading to better pronunciation and greater confidence in my experience.

After registering with HSA you are then able to schedule your classes with any tutor that you choose under their “schedule” portion after logging in to the member section.  I would certainly recommend scheduling out most of your classes in advance if you have a particular time slot that you would prefer as the classes fill up quickly.  HSA recommends trying out 2-3 different tutors (read the short bios and take your pick) in the beginning to see which your child prefers.  Our family has been super happy with Rosa – she is patient, kind, and seems to genuinely care about my daughter.

It is expected that you will be logged on and connected to Skype at least 10 minutes before your scheduled class time.  At times the full 10 minutes were necessary because Skype sends out random updates that take about that long to download and install.  Our sessions have always begun and ended promptly.  It was rare to have any issues with Skype, and all of the problems that we had were remedied by reconnecting.

The HSA website promises a tailored learning experience and we were certainly able to customize my daughter’s learning activities.  For example, at one point, my daughter was getting bored just doing the curriculum.  When I mentioned this to Rosa she started playing games with her.  Now, the first 10 minutes of the session is spent working on the curriculum exercises and the last 20 minutes are spent playing guessing games, drawing, or talking about some of her toys.

Since the last review their website has been significantly upgraded, although it appears that the reports and feedback sections may not be working yet.  However, it is much easier to schedule/reschedule sessions, check your schedule, and see the homework assignments.  And, all of the times are now given in your selected time zone, whereas previously it was only given in mountain time.

Overall, this is a fabulous program that our family has been very pleased with and we will continue to use for quite some time.

Price: Half semester (7 weeks) with 1 class per week is $59.99, but there are a range of pricing options

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I have been using FLL2 (First Language Lessons-level 2) mixed in with KISS grammar this year.  Last year we just zipped through FLL1, but this year my daughter is finding FLL2 more difficult.  The first half of the book was fairly easy for her, but then we came to adjectives and adverbs.  When we have a lesson on just one or the other, then she doesn’t seem to struggle.  However, when there is a lesson that asks to identify both adjectives and adverbs she gets confused.

So, we are stepping back from grammar for a while.  I don’t think it is worth trying to pursue it at this stage and we will see where she is next year.   For now, I think that I might try a few lessons from PLL (primary language lessons) as it seems to be much more gentle.  We need something that will give us some narration practice, copywork and dictation ideas, as well as some grammar and usage reminders.  I think that PLL will fit the bill.

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Bible Study Guide for All AgesWe haven’t done much in the way of bible literacy education beyond having my daughter read through a children’s bible.  And, as you may have guessed, we are not an overly religious family.  However, I have been looking for something to help me teach my children bible stories (my knowledge is woefully lacking) and have discussions about morality.  Thankfully, Bible Study Guide for All Ages was a program that I was chosen to review, as it has easily surpassed my expectations and can be used with children from preK up until the teenage years.

BSGfAA does not cover the bible in a chronological fashion.  There are a total of 416 lessons spread across four units.  Each unit is further broken down into packets of 26 lessons.  The first lessons cover the story of Joseph: how his brothers hated him and sold him into slavery up until his family finally joins him in Egypt.  Then the program moves on to Daniel and subsequently Jesus, before going back to cover Adam and Noah (click here to see the order of study).  The authors state that the first 30 lessons are meant to give some bible history before going back to fill in the gaps, and that going between the Old and New Testaments makes for a more balanced way to study the Bible.

Primary Student PagesThere are several levels to this program depending on the age and reading ability of your child(ren).  Each level covers the Bible in the same order so that it becomes easy for a family to use this program together.  The beginner level is for non-reading students, the primary level is for students who are beginning to read, the intermediate level is for children reading at a second grade level or higher, and the advanced level is for fifth graders and up.  Although my daughter is reading at about a third grade level I decided to try the primary level student pages for her since I was unsure of how much reading she would want to do (the names of people and places in the Bible can be daunting at times).

Primary Teacher Guide For the primary level (only) the teacher guide is considered a necessary purchase and I certainly agree with that assessment.  The guide is spiral bound and the lesson plans in the guide are so easy to follow.  The student pages come separately and it is easy to tear out the page that is needed for that day’s lesson.  The content of the lesson is a bit repetitive, but I found that to be helpful for the memory work portion of this program.  Each lesson begins with a quick review and then moves on to some memory work and suggested songs.  Following that is the main story for the lesson and some review questions to check for comprehension.  The lesson ends with the student doing some mapwork or filling in a timeline and then applying the lesson learned from the bible story to a contemporary situation (sample pages can be found here).

Generally we broke up a lesson into two sessions and so we were able to easily cover two lessons a week.  At times my daughter wanted to push through an entire lesson, but I preferred doing the review, listening to the songs, doing the memory work, and reading the story the first day and then finishing up the lesson the next day.  I would read the main story from our Golden Children’s Bible, but I would also need to have the New American Bible (BSGfAA can be used with any version you have) close by to read certain verses to her when they were not included in the student pages (the GCB does not clearly indicate individual verses).  My daughter enjoyed following along with her student page (there is only one double-sided page per lesson) and filling in the blanks, marking the correct answer, matching people to their names, drawing on the maps, and filling in the timeline.  Aside from wanting to follow the teacher guide, there is no particular reason that you couldn’t break down the lesson however you see fit and scramble up the pieces if you so wish (eg. reviewing the previous work and reading the current story and then doing the memory work and mapwork/timeline portion).

Children's Songs CD setBible Book Summary Card frontbible card back
Two other resources that we used were the Children’s Songs CD set and the Bible Book Summary Cards.  Although these components are not required, they certainly did add a richness to the program that I would be hesitant to leave out.   The CD set features a cappella singing that is pleasurable to listen to and many of the songs are included to help out with the memory work component of the program.  One of the first songs suggested is to help memorize the 12 sons of Jacob, and you will find suggested songs in the teacher guide for each lesson.  The Bible book summary cards are a stack of 66 8.5″x11″ full color cards that represent the main message for each book (of the Protestant Bible).  On the front side is a picture (or several pictures) depicting the themes and on the back is a summary of the book along with some good memory work questions at the bottom.  I have included images of the front and back of the first card that covers Genesis, but more sample cards can be found online.  These cards are also referred to many times in the teacher guide, but only three are used in the first packet of 26 lessons.

working on the student pageOverall, I was quite impressed with this program and I have already purchased the next student pages and teacher guide packets for our studies.  I loved the fact that this program can be used in a secular sense for bible literacy.  There is no particular denomination that is followed (although it is based on a Protestant Bible) and it is easy to flavor the studies however you choose.  According to the BSGfAA website, the authors “work independently of any church group or denomination and make no attempt to teach their opinion about issues of debate.”  I also appreciated the lack of crafting, gluing messiness; a set of colored pencils/pens/crayons is all that is needed.  The only thing that I was not happy with is the flimsy paper covers on the student pages and teacher guide – these certainly need to be treated with care if they are not to be destroyed quickly…quality cardstock would have been appreciated.

Need help deciding what to purchase for your family?  Check out these helpful FAQs when trying to decide what you might like to purchase.

Price: student pages $9.95 each, teacher guides $9.95 each, children’s songs cd set $19.95, Bible book summary cards $24.95

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The Hands On Equations App Level 1 is available for free today for both iOS and Android platforms.  It’s normally $4.99 so if you are in the market for an algebra app or just want to try it out, then download it today.

Hands On Equations is suitable for children that are working at around a 3rd grade level and on up.  I have heard that you would still want to buy the verbals problem, but that this app essentially replaces the learning system (ie. the manipulative part of the program).

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