Thursday, March 30, 2017

Manhood Journey

A Note from Erika:
We've been part of the Homeschool Review Crew for over 5 years now. During that time, I've written many reviews, but this is the first one that Leighton has done. When I first saw that we had the opportunity to use the Manhood Journey Father's Starter Kit, I thought it was a great way for Leighton to have some quality one-on-one time with our oldest son. We need to be intentional in training our children and this kit is designed to help fathers do just that. Manhood Journey & City on a Hill Studio have created a system for ages 8-17 that involves discussion questions, Bible reading, activities, and work assignments that all work together to help boys become men. The rest of the review was written by my husband.   

What boy doesn’t grow up imagining the day he will be a man? I know I did. To be free of authority, be married, and have kids of my own that I could have do all the chores. To finally be “free.”


Then I left home, went off to Bible College, and was all on my own. I didn’t have my license yet, so if I needed to go somewhere, it was my bicycle or convincing/paying somebody to drive me. Responsibility got thicker and trials got heavier. When the bank account got thin it was my fault. If I didn’t have anything to eat it was my fault. If somebody took issue with what I had done I couldn’t hide behind anybody. It was time to step up and realize I had to be responsible for me. Some people might help, but ultimately it was up to me. I had made it to manhood.

Or, did I?

When Jake (11 years) and I sat down to start this program, our journey, the first question we went over from the books was, “What is manhood?” His response was simple, “An adult man.” He said this to me like, “Dad, isn’t that obvious?” What we must realize and admit is that no individual ever arrives. One of the purposes early on in the series is to recognize that manhood is not a destination but rather a journey, thus, “Manhood Journey.”

The kit we received contained the first of six modules. Included in the kit was the “group guide” and the “1 on 1 guide” for the Embarking Module as well as a DVD with introductory videos for each of the modules. The kit also includes 10 map/brochures containing information about each of the modules to help recruit dads to join the group and decide which modules to complete after you finish the first. Included with the kit is a free copy of the book Wise Guys: Unlocking Hidden Wisdom from the Men Around You.

The program is setup to be used in a group setting once a week and then you carry conversations with your son(s) throughout the week about the group meeting. It does say that the guide can be used without the group, you just need to skip the group-related parts. This is what we did. I took our oldest boy, Jake, aside and he and I endeavored to go through the first module, Embarking. We have not, at this point, completed it, but so far we are enjoying the time together.

The purpose of the Manhood Journey is to help fathers to build up the next generation of godly men by providing resources and guidance for small groups of fathers and sons. The idea is for each father to be the main guiding influence in their son’s life to push them to godliness. Rather than relying on the pastor or youth pastor to instruct your son in a christian walk, you can do this yourself.

I was rather disappointed, when we got the kit, to find that the NIV was used when scripture was referenced throughout the studies. I firmly believe that the King James Bible is the Word of God for the English speaking world and any effort to make it “easier to understand” is changing it. This, though, is not the time to debate what is scripture and what is not. I am simply wanting to ensure that it is clearly known that this program does use the NIV primarily with a few quotes taken from other versions.

I do find the program very well put together and rich in content. You start with the five “big rocks” of Godly manhood. The fact that a godly man trusts God, prays fervently, studies God’s word, builds relationships, and serves others. An illustration is described and visualized using actual rocks to relate the need of these five things in a godly man. We chose to use Lego blocks, Duplos actually, along with regular Lego pieces to represent the smaller rocks. The goal was to see how to fit all aspects or "rocks" into your life. Start with the big important things, and the smaller things will fall into place. Jake now has a stack of five different colored Duplos on his shelf to help him remember these five character traits. These five “big rocks” are to serve as the foundation of your manhood journey.

For us the largest take away from the journey thus far is the time that Jake and I spend together 1-on-1. With five kids in the house now it has been a long time since Jake has received a lot of time alone with his father. The method that we have taken to is that I leave him a sticky note in the morning with a few references for him to look up in his Bible. He then writes down what it speaks to him. (The guide does have you each start a journal to take down notes from the journey.) We would then sit together at night and go over those few verses and the topics from the guide. Jake asks each evening when I get home if we are going to do the journey. He has been reading his Bible more and taking notes on all of it. I’m proud of what he is doing and have been enjoying our time together as father and son.

Even with my initial disappointment with City on a Hill’s choice of scripture reference I have enjoyed the other content of this program and would recommend it with the discretion of whichever version you use. Another suggestion I would make is to get both the group and 1-on-1 guides even if you are not meeting with a group. I have found in each of lessons we have done that I did not get the entire gist of the thoughts without first reading through the group guide. Not a deal breaker, but in the intro of the 1-on-1 guide, as well as on the site, the impression is made that the program can be done without the group guide if you are mentoring a young man 1-on-1. I really do like this idea of encouraging men to take the reigns of raising good godly men in their own sons. They will learn from the example we set for them rather than a possible conflict of what we do versus the other men we may place in charge of their time and teaching. By doing the training through our personal time we emphasize the importance of the traits we are trying to set in front of them.

As you go through the lessons that focus on each of the “big rocks” you are given questions that you can use to interact with your son. For some topics, the conversations that we have had with our boys has waned because of their desire of independence and our desire to not be overbearing, but any nervousness of topic choice can be set aside by the direction that is given in the guide. Simply read through each of the concise chapters before you take it to your son so that you are familiar with it. Use the guide as you teach him. Don’t be afraid to read from it when you ask the questions. It really is ok if your son knows you actually are a human and may not know everything. These guides really will help you through the entire process. Then once you are done with Embarking, you can choose your next stop. Whether it’s a clean heart, or teaching a good work ethic. Maybe it’s uncovering the reality of what being a man is apart from the lies from the world, or learning how to remain strong through trials and temptations. Also, lessons on servant leadership, remember, even Jesus lowered Himself to wash the feet of the men He was leading here on earth.

Let me simply encourage you that if your influence has waned in your son’s life or if you want a little more help as you try to teach and disciple your boys, give Manhood Journey a look.

You can connect with the companies on the following social media sites:

Manhood Journey

City on a Hill

You can see how other homeschool families used this study by reading the reviews on the Homeschool Review Crew blog. 

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 3/10/17

Jake (11), Alyssa (8½), Zac (7), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (2)

Happy Friday! `This week we went to The Henry Ford Museum, spent a bit of time reorganizing books, celebrated Dr. Seuss' birthday with a day of fun, and made many memories together.

1. Zac, after he had put on his suit and combed his hair for church: "Now I look like a fancy gent."

2. Tyler, in the van: "I wish Nicky was in the front so cute driving."


4. Jake, making up his own joke: "What do you do when a popsicle is bad? You give it a lickture." (lecture)

5. Jake, watching a baby walk with squeaker shoes: "That would make it hard to sneak up on somebody."

6. Alyssa, after watching the Giant Screen Experience movie Mysteries of the Unseen World: "That was really interesting."


8. Zac, thinking: "My mind is tingling."

9. Jake, making up his own joke: "How did the hot dog go into the lion's den? It gathered all the courage it could mustard."

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Bessie's Pillow Review

I've mentioned many times how important reading is in our home. The kids spend the majority of their school day reading as that is the foundation of our schooling. While they enjoy getting lost in a book on their own, they especially love when we all sit an read aloud together. We like all kinds of books--picture books with cute stories, fiction books with fun characters, fantasy books with exciting plots--but our favorite type to read together is biographies. They are the perfect way to learn about not just a person, but the time period in which they lived, customs, clothing, words, cultures, philosophies, history, geography, and so much more. Reading them together ensures that I am able to stop and expound on parts of the book more thoroughly or explain advanced words.

We recently finished one such book, Bessie's Pillow, published by Strong Learning Inc., a well-known tutoring company in the New York area. Bessie's Pillow is the story of Bessie Markman, a Jewish girl from Lithuania who immigrated to America to avoid persecution. The novel, which is written in first person, was based on a series of conversations with Bessie's daughter Ann and later related to her granddaughter, Linda Bess Silbert, who put the story on paper.

The story begins in 1906. Bessie, or Boshka as she was called then, was only 18 years old. Life was difficult in Lithuania for the Jews. Though her family was more fortunate than most, they still saw much pain and devastation. In order to escape the ever-growing persecution, she left her family and all that she loved for a new life in America. The journey alone was difficult--weeks of travel, loneliness, inspections, the unknown. Even her plans upon arrival were changed because of poor circumstances.

Hard work and determination payed off and eventually Bessie found her way. A pillow and a promise set the course of her life. She found love, experienced extreme loss, and overcame hardships. Bessie was a pioneer for women's rights and giving everyone a well-deserving chance at success. She was giving and fair and truly had compassion on people. Her legacy still has an impact on the world today.

Because Bessie's Pillow is based on true events, there are some topics in the book that are more mature than what you'd read in children's books. My kids are 11, 9, 7, and 5. As I said, I use this time of reading together for deeper explanation. Many of the difficult portions I was able to describe on the children's level. Give just enough information for them to understand, without overwhelming them. It was not an issue for us, but the book may be better suited for older kids, or at least it's something to be aware of with younger ones.

That being said, the book is easy to read. It truly feels as if you pulled up a chair and grabbed a cup of coffee and some cherry blintzes and listened to Bessie herself tell you the story of her life. We found ourselves rooting for her to succeed and felt sorrow when times were difficult. There were a couple extremely rough experiences in her life that brought me to tears. I was choked up and then read through the sobs. One of my little ones looked up at me and quietly said, "This is a sad book." And it is. But it's also a book of happiness and blessing. And any book that can make you feel that much emotion is very well written.

Though the book itself is filled with all sorts of learning opportunities--Jewish customs and words, history, customs, culture--there is such a deeper level of study that can take place through discovering Bessie's America. I am amazed at the amount of work that has been done to compile this resource.

  • You can learn about immigration and even look for your ancestors' names on the database for Ellis Island records.
  • You can study the history of things and places mentioned, like the fire of the sweatshop factory where Bessie started work. 
  • You can discuss the health of the period and how advancements in cleanliness and medicines are able to help fight of the diseases of the past. 
  • You can watch video clips of singing and dancing that was popular and learn more about the theater.
  • You can find recipes of foods that they ate and discover how they got their names.
Even the back of the book itself is filled with valuable information. Explanations and descriptions comprise 20 pages of text, while photographs of the family fill others, as well.

Bessie's Pillow was well-loved in our home. Bessie's story deserves to be told, and I can see us reading and enjoying this book again.   

You can connect with Bessie's Pillow on the following social media sites:

If you'd like to read more reviews of this book, please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog. 

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 3/3/17

Jake (11), Alyssa (8½), Zac (7), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (2)

Happy Friday! This week was filled with lots of Lego-building, book-reading, food-making, memory-creating fun. What made you Smile this week?

1. The kids had set up all our pillows to make a fort. Nicholas broke it down and Jake shouted: "The wall's been breached! Save the women and children!"

2. Alyssa, at my parents' house: "Did you know that I love to read? That's why I brought a ton of books!"


4. Alyssa, after church on the way to the nursery: "I can't wait to see Nicky! I missed him so much!"

5. Jake, while I was reading: "Hey, that reminds me of a song I made up 3 minutes ago!"

6. Alyssa, holding a new book that she had been reluctant to read: "You know the saying 'don't judge a book by its cover'? You really should listen to it!"

7. Alyssa: "I'm going to eat breakfast now. {looks at the clock} Whoa! I need to catch up! It's already Elenvenses."


What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Circle C Stepping Stones

Reading is a major part of life in our home and the foundation of our schooling. Since the kids fly through so many books in a week, we are always pleased to get new ones to review. This time, we received two new books!

The Circle C Stepping Stones books published by Kregel Publications is a brand new series. Andi Saddles Up and Andi Under the Big Top are books 1 and 2 of the six-book set written by Susan K. Marlow. The Circle C books follow Andi Carter as she grows up on a cattle ranch in California in the late 1800s. There are four levels of books:

  • Beginnings -- tells stories of young Andi in easy-to-read text and includes fun illustrations. 
  • Stepping Stones -- focuses on 9-year-old Andi. The vocabulary is a little more advanced and has only a few pictures. 
  • Adventures -- shares the escapades of Andi at 12 years. The writing and storylines are richer.
  • Milestones -- continues with Andi's life as a teenager. These full-length chapter books are nearly twice as long as the other series and are the most advanced of the books.   

Since we received books from Stepping Stones (which are geared toward ages 7-10) and my reading kids are ages 7, 8, and 11, this was the best fit for our family. The books are around 100 pages each and contain 12 short chapters, making them a quick read. The beginning of each one dedicates a couple pages to defining new words that may be confusing to young kids. Vocabulary like alfalfa, conchos, woolgathering, calliope, menagerie, and surrey are listed and given a brief description. The end of each book includes a short 2-3-page history of a relating topic from the story. (Book 1 explains sheep and cattle wars; book 2 describes the circus.)

Andi Saddles Up begins with the celebration of Andi's 9th birthday. She had been hoping for a new special saddle for her horse Taffy since she was finally old enough to be considered a real rider. When her present wasn't where she expected, her was disheartened. She moved from one disappointment to another as she witnessed her brother in a dispute with their neighbor over the boundary line between the two lands. While fighting and sabotage consumed the adults, Andi found her precious saddle, made a new friend in the neighbor girl, and attempted to trick ride against her brother's wishes. It was a fall that resulted in a broken bone that helped the two families resolve their differences.

Andi Under the Big Top is an exciting time as Andi and her friends and family visit the circus. Peanuts, popcorn, a lion tamer, clowns, acrobats, all sorts of animals, and intriguing people all vie for Andi's attention. She meets a boy who ran away from home, a skilled trick rider, trapeze artists, and eventually has her own horse stolen from her barn. She has to fight to retrieve the horse again and learns valuable  lessons in the process.     

There are free activity pages and study guides that accompany each book and can be used as a reading curriculum. The activities cover a wide range of topics, including history, language arts, math, science, Bible, music, art, and more. Each book's activities take 21 days to complete, with an optional lapbook packet bringing the study to 28 days. Not only do the guides include many topic, but they incorporate many different types of exercises, as well: short answer, matching, word search, crossword, maze, poetry encouragement, word pictures, and much more. The guides also briefly expand on topics from the books, like teaching about trout and giving a recipe for dough balls, describing the bones in the arm and showing an x-ray of a broken bone, explaining how and why people used stilts and giving directions to make your own. The study guides are nearly 30 pages a piece and greatly further your learning.     

My kids enjoyed these cute, lesson-filled stories. They are not the style of book that my oldest is drawn to, but he read them for me nonetheless. He's just over the intended age range and read each book in one hour's time. When I asked him what he thought of the books, he nonchalantly replied, "I liked it." He then said he thought they would be best for ages 5-9. My daughter, who is my most avid reader and falls perfectly in the age range, loved both books and eagerly described them to me. The books took her approximately 1 1/2-2 hours to read. My third child falls at the bottom of the range. He's just recently started enjoying lengthy chapter books, so these were more of a challenge for him. Each took about 2 hours for him to read.

The Circle C books are a wholesome collection that would be good for every family. With easy-to-read books all the way through full-length chapter books, there's a fun, Andi story for everyone.

You can connect on the following social media sites:
Kregel Publications: Facebook and Twitter
Susan K. Marlow: Facebook and Twitter

If you'd like to read more reviews of these books, please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 2/24/17

Jake (11), Alyssa (8½), Zac (7), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (2)

Happy Friday! Did you have a special moment or funny memory from this week? Share it with us so we can Smile with you, too! Here are some of my favorites from this week.

1. Jake, making up his own joke: "What would a judge say if he worked at the drive thru at McDonald's? . . . Order! Order!"

2. Zac: I want at least 5 children--at least. You know why? I want to name them after the (Lego) Nexo Knights."


4. Me: "My skin is so dry. I need some lotion."
Alyssa: "I have some perfumy lotion."
Zac: "I have some spit lotion!"
5. Tyler: "I love it when it's so beautiful outside!"

6. Zac, to Alyssa: "Don't scream like a little girl."
Alyssa: "But I am one."


8. Jake, making up his own joke: "Which composer is most likely to get chicken pox?  . . . Ba-Ba-Bach!"

9. Alyssa, after Nicholas convinced her to play with him when she was trying to do something else: "I don't know how he works his charm."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 2/10/17

Jake (11), Alyssa (8½), Zac (7), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (2)

This week we set up a surprise for the kiddos. We created a detailed treasure hunt that involved finding puzzles pieces  and assembling it for a hidden message. The surprise ended with checking the calendar where it was written that we are going to Legoland Florida for our vacation this year.  It was so much fun! The first 3 Smiles are quotes that I heard after they figured it out.

1. "I'm shaking with excitement!"

2. "I wish I could do a backflip because I would do 10 of them!"

3. "This is going to be the best vacation ever!"

4. Jake: "Girls wear way more clothes than boys. They wear like 7 layers at a time."

5. Alyssa, running around from Zac and cuddling up next to me: "You can't hurt me! I have a force field!" 

6. Jake's Lego laundry and washing machine creation.

7. Tyler: "Mama, can you get as much energy as you want?"
Me: "Ha, no."
Tyler: "No? Well, when does it stop."
Me: "When you have kids."

8. Alyssa: "It's so much fun having a baby brother!" 

9. The blessing we received from a stranger.

10. The song "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" from Frozen was playing in the living room: ". . . It's just you and me, what are we gonna do?"
Jake, popping his head around the hallway corner: "They do know it's you and I, right?"   

What made you Smile this week

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Monday, March 6, 2017

Be Ye Kind

I love this family of mine. 

There's no denying that parenting is work. Some days the work is light and attitude are good. Others, well, others are more taxing, stressful, and make you question every decision you make. 

This past week fell into that second category a few times. 

It had been a while since we spent the day doing something fun together as a family. There are countless projects around the house that need to be completed and many chores to be done (that seems to be a normal occurrence in a family of 7), but Leighton and I felt that it all could wait another day. We packed up the kiddos for The Henry Ford Museum

The museum is packed with things to see and do. It is especially perfect for a family that focuses on life schooling and incorporating learning activities into everyday experiences (which could be why we've bought a membership every year since our first visit.) 

We had a fun-filled day and learned a lot in the process. While the kids' favorite parts included participating in a car assembly line and the Giant Screen Experience, my favorite wasn't based around an attraction. 

The museum hosts a Make Something Saturdays event. The theme for the month of March is drones. The kids were able to see the parts of a dissected drone, learn to fly a drone on a simulator, watch a live demo, and experiment creating their own flying machine and test it in a wind tunnel. They each also got their own whirligig to take home. They immediately ripped open their bag and placed the propeller on top of the straw. The had fun spinning and flying and were surprised at how high these simple toys went into the air. 

Over the next few hours, the kids pulled the toys out for a few more rounds of fun before their attention was drawn to something else. In the stroller. Out of the stroller. Up in the air. 

During one such time of whirligig fun, a man and his young grandson walked up to us in excitement.

"Where did you get that?"

I explained where the exhibit was and then related the time that it ended. We happened to be standing under a large clock. 3:30. A half hour too late. Their faces fell as they walked away. 

Jake looked at me and said, "He can have mine."

Are you sure? You've been having so much fun with it.

"Yes, I want to give it to him." He searched though our belongings in the back of the stroller and found the sought-after toy. Then I watched my 11 year old run up ahead and hand it to the little boy.

"Thank you very much! Thank you!" There was excitement once again on their faces.

My heart swelled with admiration as I watched that boy of mine walk back to me. And through tear-filled eyes I told him how proud I was of him.

That. That was my favorite part of the day.

He may have given only a small, cheap toy, but he demonstrated a great lesson learned.

You see, I lost track of how many instance in which I scolded him this past week for not being nice. I don't know how many times I quoted Ephesians 4:32: 

"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, 
even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."

Be ye kind.

He loves to joke around, but doesn't always know when to stop. He loves to use sarcasm, but doesn't always use discretion. He loves to tease, but doesn't always understand that others don't find his actions funny.

Be ye kind. Just be kind. 

That was our biggest issue last week. That was the area that gave me the most grief.

And then Saturday.

Just when you think you're not getting through, just when you think you've failed, just when you think they don't care, you get a "Saturday."

Friendly. Generous. Considerate.


Parenting isn't always easy, but it is always worth it.

Be ye kind.

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Smoky Mountains ~ Here We Come!

No, we're not preparing for a big vacation to Tenneessee this year. Smoky Mountains ~ Here We Come! is actually the title of a book we were able to review from By the Way Book Series.

The series was created by Joy Budensiek as a way to help Christian parents "talk to their children about God and spiritual truths in their daily lives." These hardcover children's nature books have a biblical worldview and values and enable scriptural conversations. Each book focuses on a specific state (or region city, country) and teaches about its history, culture, and natural habitat. The series follows two children, Alex and Lexi, as they journey across the country, explore their surroundings, and learn about God's creation. The author herself has been involved in mission work and has traveled to many places. Now, she and her husband have made a hobby of traveling and taking the pictures for these books.

The series has a four-part purpose:
  • Informative -- Teaches awesome facts and figures about our world.
  • Integrated -- Teaches science, geography, and history.
  • Intentional --  Teaches God's message as priority.
  • Inspirational -- Teaches the beauty of the world was designed and created by God.

Our family spent a week in the Smoky Mountains last year for vacation. My husband and I had been many years ago early in our marriage, but this was the first time we were able to take our children with us. Oh, the beauty of that place. The mountains, the views, the colors, the water, the nature. It's easy to see God's handiwork all around you. Since we have recently been there (and because we're making a quick stop on our way home from vacation later this year), I knew the kids would be excited to learn more about the beautiful Smoky Mountains. 

In this story, Alex and Lexi spend a few days visiting their Uncle Ted, a forest ranger in the Smoky Mountains. Their adventures take them along the trails to Clingman's Dome, Newfound Gap, Charlie's Bunion, the Appalachian Trail, Cherokee country, Mingo Falls, Cataloochee, Cades Coves, and more. As Uncle Ted takes the kids with him to make his springtime rounds through the mountain, he teaches them all about the creatures and plants that make their homes there. Not only is there teaching woven throughout the story line, but there are Did You Know sections set into the pages, as well. For instance, did you know that skunks will attack a beehive? Or that elk will lick cars to taste the road salt? Do you know why the Smoky Mountains are smoky?  Do you know what animal is a black-chinned read? We also learned a funny story about how tricky ravens can be!

God's influence is prominent in the book. The group prays, reads and quotes Scripture, and praises God for His handiwork. There are many Bible verses sprinkled throughout the pages. The pictures are a mixture of actual photographs (some recent and others from long ago) and illustrated drawings. The landscapes of the region make beautiful background art for multiple pages.  

Smoky Mountains ~ Here We Come! was a joy to read with my children. We all learned so many new things. It's nearly 50 pages and filled with facts and story alike. We read it all in one sitting. I had tried to stop halfway through, but since the kiddos begged for more and I'm a sucker for read alouds, we finished it. The only thing I do not like about the book is the size. Instead of a typical vertical book, it is horizontal. While I'm assuming they chose that format in order to use beautiful panoramic photos to fill the pages, I, personally, don't care for books this size. For one, my hands became weary holding the lengthy book. For another, the books don't fit on the bookshelf well with all the others. (To a visual person who likes her bookshelves just so, this is an annoyance.) Ok, so maybe these opinions seem trivial to you, but they are my opinions nonetheless.

Regardless, the size of the book would not keep me from purchasing more in this series. I am in awe of the quality. The glossy pages, the amazing pictures, the fascinating facts, and the exciting story all work together to make a fantastic book. Since we've chosen a Florida destination this year for our main vacation, I'm considering buying Florida's Treasure Coast, book 1 in the By the Way Book Series, before our trip. In fact, this series was so loved in our home, I may just start our own collection! There are 4 new books being released this year (added to the 6 others already published), and I hope they continue to create more fun, fact-filled stories for all to enjoy.

You can connect with By the Way Book Series on their website and Facebook.

If you'd like to read more reviews  of this book series, please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Math Mammoth Review

Math is a subject that is used in everyday life, whether it's for your job, in your home, or at the store. That's why it's so important to have a good grasp of understanding. Since math builds on itself, I want to make sure that my kids have a solid foundation now, so that future learning of more difficult concepts is made easier. The problem though is that as my firstborn has gotten older, he's decided that he no longer likes math.Some days it's a complete struggle to get him to complete his assignment. I knew it was time to try a new curriculum.  

We used Math Mammoth years ago. He did well with it then; maybe we'd have the same results with it again. The company offers everything from full curricula to books for specific topics to review workbooks and even individual worksheets. I opted for the Light Blue Series, which is a full elementary mathematics curriculum and chose Grade 6. Though the curriculum is offered in physical book form, we are using the digital version.

Math Mammoth is different from other curricula in that it is mastery-oriented instead of spiral-oriented. The student is introduced to a new concept and then given many opportunities to practice and truly learn it before moving on, as opposed to quickly "learning" a new concept, practicing a handful of times, and then reviewing prior work. This method insures that the student understands one topic before learning another. The books also emphasize conceptual development and mental math. The directions are written to the student himself, which results in a self-teaching format and requires little preparation and involvement from a teacher.

The contents of the book are as follows:

  • Chapter 1: Review of the Basic Operations
  • Chapter 2: Expressions and Equations
  • Chapter 3: Decimals
  • Chapter 4: Ratios
  • Chapter 5: Percent
  • Chapter 6: Prime Factorization
  • Chapter 7: Fractions
  • Chapter 8: Integers
  • Chapter 9: Geometry
  • Chapter 10: Statistics

The download for the curriculum contains many parts. The worktext itself is broken into two books (divided into chapters 1-5 and 6-10) along with corresponding answer keys. There are also tests (along with editable versions), multiple review worksheets, and other useful tidbits and valuable information.  Also included in the worktexts are multiple online resources. Things like charts, games, worksheets, quizzes, and other various tools enhance the study for more learning.

Obviously my son has not completed this curriculum in the last month or so that we've been using this, but I can already tell that it's a good fit for him. For one thing, he hasn't been complaining about his assignments! For another, he actually told me that he liked this book "much better than the other one." The directions are easy-to-understand and thorough. The problems themselves are varied. Instead of completing 20 of the same type of exercise with different numbers like other books, there are only a handful of each exercise before the style is changed. Same concept, different execution. This setup helps him to keep interest and not become overwhelmed. The problems require him to use logic and reasoning to solve the answers. His main complaint with past curricula was that he was reviewing such a wide range of math topics in a single lesson, even ones that he knew well and no longer needed daily practice. This issue is resolved with this particular curriculum.

One thing that originally concerned me when I was looking over the curriculum is that it meets Common Core Standards (CCS). I have used Common Core aligned materials and have been extremely disappointed, so much so that I have thrown books out because of the poor directions/problems/answers/execution/etc.. Maria, the author of the Math Mammoth materials, addresses the CCS through a lengthy explanation. I respect her taking the time to not only share her opinion, but also to give further understanding about the whole situation. I realized then that the CCS was not going to be an issue in using this curriculum.

I am very pleased with this math curriculum. The change in my son's attitude alone is enough to make me happy, but the fact that he's learning and retaining the information means that it's accomplishing its purpose. If you'd like to see if Math Mammoth would be a good fit for your family too, you can enjoy over 400 free sample pages taken directly from their books. 

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If you'd like to read more reviews of the many options that Math Mammoth has to offer, please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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