Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Dig-It! Games Review


We're year-round homeschoolers, and while summertime means that our workload is light and our schedule is flexible, the kids know that they have some sort of learning activity each day. It's exciting though when I tell them, "You have to play a game today." And when that game is played on the iPad or the computer? Well, that's a real treat.

Dig-It! Games is a company that focuses on game-based learning. In 2005, Suzi Wilczynski, founder, began to create fun, interactive learning experiences for middle school students by using her education and archaeology background. Not only are children naturally drawn to fun and games, but these games have "the potential to enhance learning by encouraging persistence, valuing effort over rote performance, and rewarding success without punishing failure." Depending on the game, they also learn important facts along the way. We've been learning the last several weeks by playing Roman Town (iOS App) and Mayan Mysteries (Online Game).


Roman Town is set in the ancient city of Pompeii. It is your job to help catch Ladrone, a master thief, by using strategic thinking, spatial reasoning, memory, logic, math skills, and problem solving. On your quest through the city, you play game with people you meet along the way. If you win the game, they give you a clue to help solve the case. 

Along with learning facts about Pompeii, you'll also learn about Roman life, experience ancient Roman games, and play 35 unique puzzles. The game teaches social studies, math, and literacy skills.


Jake, my 9-year-old, tested this app for me. He was thrilled to play the games and find the clues. Had I not put a limit on his game time, he probably would have completed the entire game in one sitting!
There were a couple times when he asked for my help (like the Roman numerals game), but otherwise played it by himself.


Mayan Mysteries is an online game in which Ladrone is back on the loose. You along with Professor Alex Quinn, Fiona, and Charlie make Team Q and try to figure out who is digging up Maya sites, looking for ancient artifacts. On your mission to save the mythical city of Ich'aak from looters, you'll discover 7 Maya sites and play more than 25 challenging puzzles.

The game teaches skills in social studies, math, language arts, geography, critical thinking, and reading enrichment. It is historically accurate, aligned to National Standards, and offers built-in assessments.

Since this game is best for grades 5-9, Jake played this one, too. He's actually a tad young for this, and it showed in both his understanding and enjoyment of it. There is a lot of information involved. You can either read the text yourself or choose the option to allow the characters to speak aloud to you. If Jake read it, he lost interest; if he listened, he stopped paying attention. The game is very fact-heavy. That can be a good thing for learning, but it just frustrated him. Every day after playing for a while, he'd ask, "Can I be done now?" It was a very different experience from Roman Town.


This conversation sums up his feelings about the games:

Me: What did you like about the Mayan game?

Jake: Nothing really. There were too many quizzes and so much information that you needed to remember.

Me: So, it didn't really feel like a game?

Jake: Not at all.

Me: What did you think about the Roman game?

Jake: Oh, that one was awesome! That had a lot of fun games.


I was in contact with customer support several times because of both a game-related issue and a user-caused issue. Each time, the service was prompt, helpful, and extremely understanding. I was very pleased and confident in the company.

Both games are full of historical facts and bring a fun element to learning. Jake might appreciate Mayan Mysteries as he gets older, but his 9-year-old self loves Roman Town.


You can connect with Dig-It! Games on the following social media sites:


If you'd like to see how other homeschool families used these games, you can read more reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog. 


Crew Disclaimer
Pin It

Friday, August 28, 2015

Things That Make Me Smile 8/28/15

Jake (9½), Alyssa (7), Zac (5½), Tyler (3), Nicholas (8 months)


Happy Friday! Things have gotten back to normal after our yard sale last week--no more boxes all around the house! We've tried to relax a bit more this week and enjoy the end of summer before school starts full time again. So many reasons to Smile.


1. Me: "Jake, there's no way you cleaned your room that fast. What did you do? Throw everything under your bed?"
Jake, appalled: "No! . . . Zac did."

2. Tyler, as we sat in the van while Leighton ran into the store: "Can I drive?"
Me: "No."
Tyler: "But you're the mommy and I'm the daddy!

3.

4. Jake, to Alyssa, joking: "How dare you criticize me! Haha, I don't even know what that means, and I'm already using it."

5. Alyssa, about a character in her book: "He's like Tyler. But not that much trouble."

6. I had left my wedding rings sitting on the bathroom counter after I cleaned them while I was getting ready for church.
Tyler, pointing: "Can I have those?"
Leighton: "No, those are Mommy's rings."
Tyler: "But I like them."
Leighton: "So do I; that why I gave them to her."

7.

8. Jake: "Have you ever heard someone say, 'Don't leave a single stone unturned?' Well, I think someone said to Tyler, 'Don't leave a single thing unmessed with.'"


What made you Smile this week?


Pin It

Monday, August 24, 2015

Things That Make Me Smile 8/22/15


Jake (9½), Alyssa (7), Zac (5½), Tyler (3), Nicholas (8 months)



Happy Monday! We had a huge yard sale over the weekend. It went so well. Not only did we make some money, but we got a ton of stuff out of the house. We're still going strong with our Word of the Year. That's a big reason to Smile!



1. Alyssa: "Mom, how do you spell your name in cursive?"
Me: "The same way I spell it in printing."

2. Tyler, about his wooden train tracks: "Nicky 'stroyed it! He did it on purpose!"

3. Tyler, days after we were "arguing" about whether or not he's strong: "Oh, yeah, I'm strong, Mommy. You were right."

4. 

5. Zac, pointing to a picture of Oscar the Grouch in a book: "Does he live in a garbage can?"
Me: "Yes."
Zac, making a disgusted face: "I don't know why, but it's weird."

6. Tyler, at sunset with a very red sun: "Finally, Mars came!"

7. Tyler: "Mom, you're choc-o-lated."

8. Zac, joking: "I have difficulty hearing."
Jake: "What?"
Zac: "I have difficulty hearing."
Jake: "What?"
Zac: "I have difficulty hearing."
Jake: "What?"
Zac: "I have difficulty hearing."
Jake: "What?"
Zac, getting frustrated: "I have difficulty hearing!"
Me: "Zac, do you get the joke?"
Zac: "What? What joke?"


9. Jake, completely serious: "Will you tell Nicholas to stop trying to communicate. I can't understand him."

10. 

11. Alyssa, while trying to decide on a movie to watch as a family: "How about Lion King?"
Jake: "No! That's the oldest movie I know."
Me, looking up the release date: "It's from 1994. I was 12."

12. Zac calling funnel cakes "fun cakes."

13. Tyler: "Can she come, too?"
Jake: "She lives too far away. Where does she live anyway?"
Tyler: "At her house."

14. Jake: "What do we say if people ask how much the lemonade costs? Do we just tell them it's free?"
Me: "You could say, 'We're accepting donations.'"
Jake: "Or we could say, 'We're expecting donations,' haha."


What made you Smile this week?


Pin It

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Alpha Omega Publications Review





Back before we started homeschooling and I began spending my days teaching my little ones, I was paid to spend my days teaching other people's little ones. And big ones, for that matter. I've taught professionally at both the early elementary and high school levels. I enjoyed them both, but my heart was always with the little ones. First graders think learning is fun, school is exciting, and work is enjoyable. Teenagers aren't quite as enthusiastic about writing essays and diagramming sentences. While I'm sure I'll enjoy teaching my children once they hit those teen years, I'm glad we're still in the color-the-pictures and sing-songs stage. Three is such a fun age. Everything is new and exciting. My 3-year-old is curious and loves to learn. The past few months I've realized that I needed specific activities for him for schooltime. He wants to be a big kid, too. I was thrilled to be offered the  Horizons Preschool for Three's Curriculum Set  from Alpha Omega Publications.

Alpha Omega Publications is a company that is focused on homeschooling. Whether you're looking for curriculum, exploring methods or styles, needing help, or searching for support, you can find it here. Along with many options of curricula, they offer tips, placements tests, encouragement, and information to assist you on your homeschooling journey.

The sell materials to fit every homeschooling style. Horizons is a teach-led option for K-12 grades. It combines brightly illustrated workbooks with hands-on learning activities for a spiral learning method. Students learn by introduction, review, and reinforcement.



The Preschool for Three's Curriculum is designed meet the educational needs of your 3-year-old. The 40-week course strengthens cognitive development, pre-reading skills, numeracy skills, language acquisition, and school readiness. The set includes a student workbook, a student workbook companion, a Bible story reader, and a teacher's guide.

The student workbook is filled with consumable worksheets that are perfect for a little one. Skills addressed include coloring, matching, dot-to-dot, counting, tracing, grouping, color recognition, one-to-one correspondence, and more. The pages include rich, bold colors and various types of illustrations including real photograph, realistic drawings, and cartoonish pictures. There are 4 worksheets for each lesson.

The student workbook companion assists the workbook. The pages are a slightly heavier stock and also consumable. There is one worksheet for each lesson. The activities focus on more of a hands-on approach and include skills like lacing, gluing, positioning, arranging, memory, sorting, and more. The majority of the pages require the parent to cut out portions before the student can complete it.


The Bible story reader is a small book that has a story to accompany the lessons each week. The left side of the page is a full-page picture and the right side includes the story, Bible reference, thought questions, and a prayer. The stories are short, only a small paragraph, which is perfect for a wiggly 3-year-old. The questions help you expand on the story and help the student to better understand. The story is reinforced throughout the week using the workbooks.

The teacher's guide is a big help to the teacher. Each lesson lists the supplies needed, Bible references, the Bible concept, help with the lesson, memory verse, detailed descriptions of each worksheet, and multiple learning activities. The activities for the week might include language arts, phonics, math, science, social studies, writing, health & safety, music, physical education, outside activity, creative cooking, arts & crafts, and more.   



As soon as we opened the box set, my little guy ran off to admire his new books. He carried them around with him for days and showed anyone he saw. He was so excited to have his own schoolbooks. Once we started the curriculum, the excitement continued. While I'm not a big encourager of formal work for little ones, my little guy is loving the workbook portion of the set. He would happily sit and complete page after page after page until the book was done, if I let him. Many days, we complete multiple worksheets at once. I don't want to discourage his love of learning or excitement for school just because the guide suggests one page a day. I want to focus on that passion and grow it.
 
Most pages include at least a little coloring. That is the only thing that he doesn't care for. Sometimes he just scribbles a few lines and other times he asks me to color with him. We're enjoying the hands-on activities so much that even the other kids want to be included and join in on the fun.

I appreciate the Bible story reader and all that it has to offer. I think it's cute when I'm reading and he says, "Hey, that's just like at church!" The Truth is being reinforced at both home and church.


We have fallen in love with this curriculum set and now have a new favorite product. He's already flipped through the books and is excited about future lessons. This is one that we will continue to use, for sure.


You can connect with Alpha Omega Publications on the following social media sites:



If you'd like to see how other homeschool families used this curriculum set or learn about some of the other products, please read more reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

Crew Disclaimer
Pin It

Friday, August 14, 2015

Things That Make Me Smile 8/14/15


Jake (9½), Alyssa (7), Zac (5½), Tyler (3), Nicholas (8 months)


Happy Friday! This week we had a family get-together, played in the rain, organized school books, and Smiled, lots.


1. Jake: "You know that big guy on Mulan? He'd like you. He said it didn't matter what a girl looked like, just that she could cook. And you are a really good cook. He'd really like you, because you can cook and you're beautiful."

2. Alyssa: "I sometimes always do that."

3. Jake: "Nicky's so flexible, he can kick himself in the head."

4.

5. Jake, because Tyler spent 2 nights at my parents' house: "I don't like when people go to Gramma's early. I miss saying, 'Tyler, be quiet!'"
Alyssa: "Yeah. Good times, good times."

6. Jake finished reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Two Towers.

7. Me, carrying Nick in one arm and holding something in the other: "Could you open that door for me, please? I have only two hands."
Jake: "For Christmas, I'm going to buy you extra hands."

8. Zac: "When are we having another survival at church?"
Me: "A what?"
Zac: "Survival. You know, when we go to church day after day after day after day after day after day and then we're finally done."
Me: "Oh, a revival."

9.

10. Tyler, in my room while I was getting dressed: "I see London and I see crayons. I see Mommy's underpants!"

11. Zac, eating dinner: "Mmm, this is the best! Who makes the best stuff in the entire world?"
Me, trying to be funny: "I think Daddy and I do, because we made you guys."
Zac: "Mmhmm. Wait . . . How did you both make us?"


What made you Smile this week?
 
Pin It

Friday, August 7, 2015

Things That Make Me Smile 8/7/15

Jake (9½), Alyssa (7), Zac (5½), Tyler (3), Nicholas (7 months)



Happy Friday! We've had another great week full of Smiles.


1. Tyler, on a cloudy day: "Mama, why does the sun keep turning off and on?" 

2. Listening to the boys whisper in their room.
Jake, about Nick: "Let's keep him in here with us tonight. Hide him so Mom and Dad don't know."
Zac: "Yeah, put him under the bed. Mom never checks under the bed at night."

3. Tyler, after I used an exfoliating soap to wash him: "I'm all crumbly!"

4.

5. Tyler: "Mommy, will you help me?"
Me: "You have you hang on one second."
Tyler, trying to touch me: "But I can't reach. You're too far away."

6. Tyler, after he burped: "That was so, so, so super, super funny! That was super funny!"

7. Alyssa went to get something she left in the van.
Tyler, heard the door open, jumped up and shouted: "Is Daddy home?!? Is Daddy home?!? Is Daddy home?!?"
Me: "No, not yet."
Tyler: "Oh. Is it a box?!?"

8. Tyler, after he didn't get his way: "I want to go to Gwamma's!"

9. Tyler: "Mommy, may I play wif play dough?"
Me: "You have to clear off the table first."
{throws everything on the floor}
Tyler: "I did it! May I play now, please?"

10. Nick helping me bake and licking the bowl.


11. Nicholas was afraid of my nephew and cried every time he looked at him.
My Brother: "I don't know why he's petrified of Patrick."
Jake: "It's more like he's Patrick-fied."

12. Zac: "I don't want to be an adult when I grow up."

13. Tyler, while driving: " I want my baby brother."
Me: You do? That's good."
Tyler: "Yeah, and I want a baby sister."
Me: "And a baby sister?"
Tyler: "Yeah, so there's 3 girls. We need a seat (in the van) for a baby sister." 



What made you Smile this week?
 
Pin It

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Funtastic Unit Studies Review



My kiddos love science. They thrive on experiments and hands-on projects. They long to understand how and why things work. They enjoy examining and discovering just about everything. My little ones, like their daddy, are naturally drawn to all things science. I knew they'd be excited to use the Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers this summer. 

This book, written by Susan Kilbride, is part of  Funtastic Unit Studies. Susan, a homeschooling mother with a degree in biology, started the company to help other parents feel comfortable teaching science. She used the methods that she applied when teaching her own son and the unit studies book was born.      



Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers is broken into 2 sections: studies for ages 4-7 and studies for ages 8-13.

Ages 4-7
  • Our Senses
  • The Human Body
  • Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life
  • Animals
  • Insects and Their Kin
  • Fun with Magnets
  • Stars and Planets
  • Health
  • Beginning Plants
  • Animal Ecology
Ages 8-13
  • Insects
  • Microscopes and Invisible Creatures
  • Atoms and Molecules
  •  Matter
  • Chemistry Fun
  • Weather
  • Force and Motion
  • Simple Machines
  • Light and Color
  • Plants II


Each chapter starts with a list of materials needed for that topic. Then, it's broken into parts or subtopics for the unit. Each part lists activities for learning. For instance, we started with Chapter 1: Our Senses. The unit is as follows:
  • Part 1: Introduction
  • Part 2: Taste
  • Part 3: Touch
  • Part 4: Sight
  •  Part 5: Sound
  • Part 6: Smell
  • Part 7: Review of Senses 


This book is very simple to use and makes teaching science fun. Since we do science together as a family, I like to find activities that include all the children (9, 7, 5, 3). The chapters for the younger group work perfectly for us.  I've done a study on the 5 senses with the kids before, but this one was even more exciting for them. We did activities like read "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" and pointed out every time one of the senses was used; tasted some yummy treats and discussed whether they were sweet, salty, bitter, sour, or savory; took turns hiding objects from around the house in a paper bag and tried to guess what they were by feeling them; listened to different pitches of sound on glasses of water and even played "Mary Had A Little Lamb;" took turns picking things from the kitchen and tried to guess what they were just by the scent; played Mad Libs in which an orange turned into a popcorn machine; and experimented with many other activities to learn about our senses.

 
The activities for the older group are more in depth, of course. They include using a microscope; writing a research paper; decoding physical and chemical properties; classifying objects; and using materials like a pulley, cellophane, a carnivorous plant, iodine, colored marshmallows, and more. There are also accompanying tests and worksheets along with the answer sheets.

This book is packed full of activities and experiments that could easily keep your kids busy all year. Most of the materials are things that you probably already have around the house.The activities are easy to prepare and take just minutes to set up. In fact, I know that I could hand the book to my 9-year-old and allow him to preform the majority of the activities on his own. This book truly is written to make learning science as simple as possible.


Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers is thorough, affordable, and fun, and one that you'll want to utilize in your homeschool. If you can't wait for your own copy to arrive, you can start with the 2 free PDF units from the book that are offered or use one of the other freebies on the site. 

My kids ask every day if it's time to do science. We're all enjoying this book and will continue using this wonderful resource.



If you'd like to see how other homeschool families used this book, please read the reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.



Crew Disclaimer
Pin It