Friday, May 30, 2014

Apologia Educational Ministries

There aren't any Apologia Educational Ministries curriculum products that I haven't loved.  So when offered the opportunity to review one of four volumes in the What I Believe series, I was more than happy to do so.  The series is a Biblical worldview curriculum dedicated to teaching children the essentials of the Christian faith.  I received four physical products belonging to Volume 4: What on Earth Can I do? I received a text book, a notebooking journal, coloring book, and junior notebooking journal.  The ideal grade range for the curriculum is 1 - 6.  I used the curriculum with my 7th grade daughter.

 What on Earth Can I Do? Available 2013

You can purchase each volume separately or as a 4 volume set for $120.
The Volume 4 set I received retails $39 for the text; $24 each for the notebooking journals; and $8 for the coloring book. 

Other titles in the What I Believe series include:
Volume 1 – Who is God? (And How Can I Really Know Him?)
Volume 2 – Whom am I? (And What Am I Doing Here?)
Volume 3 – Who Is My Neighbor? (And Why Does He Need Me?)

What I appreciate about Apologia products are the well laid out lesson plans found in the beginning of their texts.  In the case of What on Earth Can I Do?, the calendar like grid can be found at the beginning of the notebooking journal.  My daughter checked off lessons as she completed them making it easy for me to keep track of where she was in the curriculum.  There are 8 lessons total and families can plan to complete the curriculum anywhere between four and eight months. There is a sample lesson plan at the Apologia website which is helpful in understanding the flow of the curriculum.  Easy to read lessons give way to a wealth of information.  Apologia uses an integrated learning approach focusing each biblical lesson across the academic disciplines of art, math, science, and history.  This was a pleasant surprise and one of my favorite aspects of the curriculum.  My daughter is receiving biblical instruction but learning a great deal about history as well. 

Many homeschoolers enjoy making their own notebooking journals to chronicle what they’ve learned and to have as a keepsake.  I believe in not reinventing the wheel and enjoy the journals Apologia puts together to use with their curriculum.  The notebooking journal is full of puzzles, activities, mini-books, writing and art prompts.  My daughter loves crosswords and word searches.  This by far was her favorite part of the journal.  She said she learned a great deal about history and likes how the history and bible go hand in hand.  I must agree.  I also enjoyed the critical thinking questions in each lesson often found in the “Think About It” and “Going Deeper” sections of the journal.  As if this isn't enough, there is vocabulary for each lesson which I asked my student to include in the writing required for the lesson to reinforce learning.  Finally, two scripture verses are introduced in each lesson.  One focuses on the theme of the lesson and the other a biblical trait for the student to ponder.  Coloring books are great no matter how old you are.  However, my kid is not keen on coloring so this was not a popular part of the curriculum for her.   
We have been studying Ancient history this year but she is now learning modern history using this product and how her biblical faith applies in this context. I enjoyed the "Make a Note of It" activity in Lesson 1 where I had to gather pictures of my daughter at different stages in her life to illustrate her tapestry.  This tapestry is a woven work of art and God is the master weaver orchestrating every detail of her life.  Because of this fact, she can trust him and know that her future is in his hands (Psalm 31:14-15).  This lesson touched me and encouraged me as a mom of three girls reminding me of who is in control. 

As usual, Apologia does not disappoint.  Now I'm curious to know how the other three volumes compare to this volume.  The What Do I Believe series is a must for all Christian homeschools.

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Heroes and Heroines of the Past American History

I received Digital Heroines & Heroes of the Past; American History by Amy Puetz and Golden Prairie Press to review.  I received two ebooks, part 1 and part 2 covering the time period 1000 to 1837; and time period 1837 to the present.  I also received the Historical Skits book to review.  The entire curriculum includes the two ebooks I received, the Historical Skits ebook, Sing Some History CD and Listen to Some History mp3 CD for $98.99.  An additional materials CD is available that includes timelines, color pages, and other activities.  In specific units there is a literature component where one of five literature books can be read by older students or used as a read aloud for younger students.

The chapters include small snippets of information which for an older student is good for an introduction to the material.  Since we will do a more in depth study in high school, I felt the information was sufficient.  Part 2 starts with Section 16 and ends with Section 30.  Each section contains about 5 lessons.  Each lesson has about a one page synopsis of the topic for 1-2nd grade, then three to four page summary for 3-6th grade.  Following the lesson are a few reading comprehension questions and my favorite section the ‘Writing Topic’ section.  There is also an ‘Examining Historical Art’ section where your student answers a few questions about the art picture shown.  There is a scripture memory verse at the beginning of the section to ponder and recite before starting the next section.  There is a beautiful curriculum outline here, all fixed up in a grid just like I like it.  There is no guess work.  You get a snapshot of the entire year; the topic for each lesson, activities scheduled (craft, cooking, writing assignment, game, etc.); any literature assigned, and the color page assigned. 

Golden Prairie Press Review
My girls took their end of year testing and realized there were a lot of American history questions they could not answer.  When you do history chronologically that will inevitably happen.  My younger girls did ancient history this year and geography last year.  We don’t begin American history until high school so I gravitated to ebook 2 which included more modern history.  I don’t typically like to do more than one time period in a given school year but what could it hurt to do a unit study on American history?  I started with Section 24 to begin a study of World War I.  I had planned to start with World War II but after listening to my youngest daughter tell me all she knew about World War II, I decided to start with World War I. 

I printed each section for my daughter to read choosing which extra activities I wanted her to do.  I favor writing assignments and she always enjoys the baking assignments.  Where lessons included sheet music for the piano we always tried those.  My daughter has three years piano experience.  The writing prompts gives me great insight into her comprehension of the material introduced.  Another favorite part of this curriculum for me is video suggestions.  We like viewing videos as it relates to what we are learning in our homeschool. 

Overall, I like this curriculum the way we are using it, as an introduction to American History.  I don’t think it is strong enough for older students as a stand alone curriculum but is good for younger students. 


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