Tag Archives: reviews

VocabularySpellingCity: A Schoolhouse Crew Review

VocabularySpellingCity: A Schoolhouse Crew Review

Sacha’s<25: A fabulous online resource for all parents with school age kids, whether or not they are home schooled, to help improve spelling and vocabulary.

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Home in the Trenches Product Rating (out of 10 stars)

Is it worth our time? 8 stars

Did it help us learn? 8 stars

Is it worth the money?9 stars

Is it useful to me?8  stars

Practicality-8  stars

Quality- 10 stars

Kid Rating- 7 stars

We received a  VocabularySpellingCity Premium Membership  from VocabularySpellingCity to review. I used this with my 4th, 7th and 8th graders. We had also received this review last year.  One of the most exciting changes is that you can now use this program on an iPad and iPhone.  This program is geared for K-12th grade students.

I would set up the lists I wanted my kids to each work on and then assign them the list and which activities I wanted them to do for the week.  I usually picked a pre-test as well as 4-5 activities and then the final test.  With a premium account you have more choices of activities as well all of your students activities are tracked and recorded!  A major bonus! In case you are wondering about other differences here is a chart showing you….

I really love all the different ways to help your child learn spelling and vocabulary, there is no reason for them to get bored with the activities!

vocabspelling city activities

Here’s one of the many games/activities you can choose from to assign to your child.

 

I had my own username and password to log in and get things set up for them as well as view the progress they were making during the week.  My kids each had their own log in information.  I love how it keeps track of everything for them and for me!  Great record keeping. During the week my kids would log in and do some of the activities.  I was figuring about 10 minutes a day but I found they really liked to do everything I scheduled over 1 or 2 days during the week.  It seemed to work for them, but I would think it better to schedule spelling our over a few days each week.  I usually had between 10-15 words for them to work on in a week.  With the lists you could choose from within the program some of them had up to 35 words.  This seemed to be way to many for my kids to do in a week. It made some of the activities really long. Overall, I am happy with the program and love the price!  Especially for a large family this is a great deal!

 

What I liked:

  • This program makes learning spelling words fun! There are plenty of activities to choose from, so even if your child doesn’t like a specific one you have lots of choices.
  • I think it is great to be able to combine vocabulary with spelling! Kids aren’t just having to memorize the spelling of words, you can choose activities to reinforce vocabulary development as well!
  • Great pricing, especially for those of us with lots of kids!

What I didn’t like:

  • This is from last year: There is a bit of a learning curve of finding your way around the site and figuring out what everything is.  It wasn’t too bad, but I thought I would sit down and get them all started right away.  Nope, took me about an hour of clicking around to figure some things out. (I wanted to reiterate this for those new to the program)
  • This year I tried to use our own lists.  It was easy to set them up but I had a harder time finding time to set up the lists.  I would advise trying to take some time over a weekend and set up a bunch of lists and assignments ahead of time.  I just couldn’t stay ahead of my kids!

To sum it up: Every parent should do themselves a favor and at least sign up for the free basic membership (or just take the plunge and do the premium!—you won’t be sorry). I am sure that you will find it beneficial for your children and an asset to their education whether they are in public school or are being home schooled!

The important information:

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Order from: VocabularySpellingCity

Price: up to 5 students is $29.99 per year

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

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God’s World News: A Schoolhouse Crew Review

God’s World News: A Schoolhouse Crew Review

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Sacha’s<25: God’s World News offers age appropriate monthly publications for K-12th grade. These cover current world news as well as interesting topics!

Home in the Trenches Product Rating (out of 10 stars)

Is it worth our time? 10 stars

Did it help us learn?10  stars

Is it worth the money? 10 stars

Is it useful to me? 10 stars

Practicality-10  stars

Quality-10  stars

Kid Rating- 10 stars

We were given a subscription to Top Story (Middle School) Magazine  from God’s World News for review.  When I first told Matthew (8th grade) and Joy (7th grade) that we would be reviewing this they didn’t seem very excited. I am not sure they even totally understood what we would be getting.  We have received 3 issues (so far) of the monthly magazine as well as a World Map to go along with the stories we would be reading about this year.  Our curriculum we used last year really stressed having students reading a newspaper or magazine and giving an oral report weekly on a current news topic that interested them.  It was one of the things that fell by the wayside.  I really struggled with finding a resource that wasn’t totally liberal or didn’t have other stuff I didn’t really want the kids reading about.  I have found that resource here…Thanks to God’s World News!

God’s World News helps kids to grow in their faith and their understanding of the world around them. Six age-level packages provide engaging ways for kids to explore world events, discoveries, people and places, all in a safe Christian context.

There are 6 different magazines to choose from for your kiddos!  

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Top Story emphasizes News, Knowledge, and Wisdom, focusing on specific skill development for older students.

  • Editorials help teach critical thinking skills.
  • Lessons in the magazine and online use news stories as a springboard to teach concepts from Civics, Geography, Economics, Worldview and more.
  • MAP-IT! Locator maps correspond with a full-sized (20″ x 30″) world map sent in September to each class, homeschool teacher, and homeschool group coordinator (five maps sent to homeschool groups).
  • News graphics simplify otherwise challenging concepts.
  • DEFINE LINE teaches word meanings in context.
  • Quizzes test reading comprehension.
  • Age-appropriate website content expands the student’s experience and exposure to current news stories and thoughtful editorial cartoons at teen.wng.org.

Well, I had originally planned to read some of the magazine a few days a week with my kids and then discuss it.  However, that didn’t go as planned.  I pulled the magazine out of our mailbox and handed it to Joy to take a look at.  I didn’t get to see it for over a week.  She loves it!  She keeps coming and telling me about the different things she has read about in the magazine.  I love that she is learning about current news stories as well as interesting topics that are on an age appropriate level. I’m not sure we will ever go without at least one subscription to a kid’s level of God’s World News again (well at least till the kids are grown, and you know that will be a long time from now!).

We are big Mac fans at our house so my daughter found this article interesting and couldn’t wait to tell me all about it! That link will take you to the online version of the article she read in print!

I really love that this gives us a spring board of where to start on an age appropriate level talking about hard topics like whether the US should intervene in Syria and also interesting topics like companies who track our sales returns.  I really can’t speak highly enough about this publication.  At the end of the issue they have a quiz on some definitions of words used in the issue as well as a quiz checking comprehension of a specific article.

What I liked:

  • My kids love reading it.
  • It is a great magazine with good content and not “twaddle” and it is age appropriate!!!!!
  • No advertisements throughout the magazine.  Just the front and back covers have ads.  They seem to be for Christian schooling/college.
  • There is an online component.  All the content can be downloaded and viewed, as well as many of the articles can be read online!
  • If you are a subscriber you get access to all the levels online!

What I didn’t like:

  • I tried to look up the answers to the quiz online and it says “Not Found”. I am sure it is a glitch on their website.

To sum it up: I HIGHLY recommend this publication to you and your family!!!!!

The important information:

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Top Story (Middle School) Magazine

Order from: God’s World News

Price: $28.00 for a year subscription (10 Issues)

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Some Crew members tried out different grade levels of these magazines!

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DISC Career Style Report: A Schoolhouse Crew Review

DISC Career Style Report: A Schoolhouse Crew Review

DISC Career Style Report: A Schoolhouse Crew Review

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Sacha’s<25: On online assessment to help you or your student in understanding which careers they might be better suited for, using the DISC assessment.

Home in the Trenches Product Rating (out of 10 stars)

Is it worth our time? 4 stars
Did it help us learn? 4 stars
Is it worth the money? 3 stars
Is it useful to me? 3 stars
Practicality- 2 stars
Quality-3 stars
Kid Rating- 4 stars

We received for review the DISC Career Style Report from PeopleKeys.  I was very excited to use this for Matthew (almost 14) to try and help him start thinking about career paths that might interest him as well as what classes he might want to pursue for high school next year.  We were given from the company a key code to enter in order to take the assessment. (If you purchased it you would receive the same)  Logging on and starting the test were very simple other than I didn’t know that I should have entered his name in along the way so all of our final paperwork says my name thoughout it instead of his.  Oops!

From the PeopleKeys website:

Our online assessment and resulting report identifies work force requirements and matches your behavioral style with suggested careers. By giving you insight into yourself and your inherent strengths and limitations you will be able to identify career choices that make sense for you. With the information gained, you will be able to meet your career challenges and choices with confidence.

The assessment was quick to take…only 15 questions.  At any time if you needed to stop you could quit and log back in to finish.  Matthew and I found the questions to be hard to answer.  They are written in a way for those who are already in the work force and are also much more aware of themselves.  Kinda weird for my 13 year old to try to be answering!

For example:

Question # 11.  My normal tone of voice is…

Emotional and direct, emotional and zestful, low-emotion and low-keyed, unemotional and reserved.

Matthew had to order these from most like him to least like him.

Question # 13. My preferred mode of dress is…

Conservative, Conforming, Casual, Formal.

 

I had to read each of the questions with him and then we talked about them before he answered them.  They just aren’t written for homeschool students (or any kids) to be answering.  They are written for adults in the workforce already.  No problem, that is what they say on their website as well.  It just isn’t what I would ask in order to figure out what careers would be a good fit for my 8th grader.

Once we were finished with the test we received a 9 page report with information about his personality as well as what careers might best suit him. This report was confusing to say the least.  While some of the descriptions seemed to be right on with him, others were really off base.  The report said he was a Reformer, with a High I Personality Style in the Workplace. Kind of funny since he has never been in the workplace!  He also was very high in the D style as well.

So from that assessment it gave us a list of about 100 careers that might be a good fit for him….Adminsitrator, Coach, Comedian, Buyer, anything in sales, Nurse, Lawyer, Sous chef, Firefighter, Music producer, Investment banker, Journalist, Contractor/builder, Fashion designer, News anchor, Pastor, etc.

OK, really?  This really is the most random list of careers I have ever seen based on personality styles.

What I liked:

  • This gave Matthew an interest in reading more about the DISC Personality Profile and we actually already had a book about it.  

What I didn’t like:

  • Not designed for a student to be taking.  The questions aren’t worded in a way for them to answer easily.  It should have been written on a level they could answer….For example, “On the playground I ….” “When I am with my friends, I tend to be….”, “When working on a big assignment I….”
  • The career list is so vast that really any career could be listed as one he could do.
  • There was no good explanation of how to understand the assessment or what it all really meant.  For that amount of money I expected a lot more information to be given to me.  How about even a good explanation of the DISC Profile?

To sum it up: While this was fun for Matthew to take and getting the results was exciting, I wouldn’t place a whole lot of stock in what it said.  It wasn’t written in a way for him to easily answer based on his life now and the results were so varied in the career options available to him.  I would use this assessment if I was looking to hire someone in a business I was running or possibly if I was thinking of entering the workforce….not for my student to try to decide a career path. 

 

The important information:

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DISC Career Style Report

Order from: PeopleKeys

Price: $32

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew. The Crew was able to review many different products from PeopleKeys.

 

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Homeschool Spanish Academy-Middle School Program:Homeschool Crew Review

Homeschool Spanish Academy-Middle School Program:Homeschool Crew Review


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Sacha’s<25: An online Spanish program designed for personalized lessons with a native, Spanish speaking teacher for ages 5-adult.

Home in the Trenches Product Rating (out of 10 stars)

Is it worth our time? 8 stars
Did it help us learn? 8 stars
Is it worth the money? 8 stars
Is it useful to me? 10 stars
Practicality- 10 stars
Quality- 7 stars
Kid Rating- 8 stars

Our Experience:

We received the  Middle School Program from Homeschool Spanish Academy to review this summer. Wow, we have been so blessed to do this review 2 years now.  Last year we had Andrew do the Elementary classes.  This year Matthew (13) and Joy (12) are getting a turn with it.  They have completed 4 of  7 weeks we were given to review. They took a paired Middle School session (geared for middle school aged students…they offer them for all ages up through adult).

In order to be able to do these classes you must have a computer, internet (a free speed test is done to make sure it is fast enough), speakers, microphone, and a web camera (this is very helpful). The middle school sessions are 50 minute classes and are done on the computer with a teacher in Guatemala. HSA uses Skype to connect you with your teacher. In case you don’t know what Skype is….it is a free service which allows you to video chat with anyone in the world who also has a Skype account.

Scheduling the classes was really easy…It was different than last year and everything is now done on HSA’s website.  Once you log in you have a main page that you do most things in.  You sign up for classes here as well as submit homework etc.  The tabs across the top allow you to easily access your schedule/scheduling classes as well as downloading assignments and submitting them.

Homeschool Spanish Academy--classes page

Matthew and Joy were a little bit nervous before the first class.  They weren’t sure about having to Skype with someone they didn’t know and learn Spanish as well!  Before the first class someone from HSA calls to make sure your are set up technically with Skype. Since we had done this last year it was a quick call.  Even last year it was pretty quick to make sure we knew what we were doing!

HSA teachers

We scheduled all of our classes with the same teacher this time.  I think my kids felt more comfortable just having the same teacher.  Last year we switched around and tried a few teachers out.  My suggestion would be to try a different teacher if you feel like there might be a better fit for your student, but if they are happy then don’t worry about switching.

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My kids found the lessons to quickly advance.  I liked this because they really did have to spend some time outside of the lesson to review the material in order to not feel stupid when they didn’t know it the next week.  I found it to be beneficial to have the 2 of them take the classes together.  Not only is it cheaper to have 2 students together (I think you have to have students no more than 3 grade levels apart to do the joint class) I found that they enjoyed working together outside of class to quiz each other on the vocabulary and pronunciation.

At each class my kiddos would wait by the computer for their teacher, Luisa, to skype them.  Then they would connect with her.  After a few hellos, she would begin the lesson. This is done with a sort of power point presentation on the screen that she and the students interact with.  She would tell the students how to say certain words, they would repeat them and then they would move onto another screen.  The first week they learned pronunciation of the Spanish alphabet. After class that week I was able to log into our account and see what homework was assigned.  They just had to review the material that they had learned in class.  I was able to download the worksheets that went with what they covered in class for them to review.

spanish screen

The second week they actually had a homework assignment.  We found it was easiest to type up the answers into a document and then upload it to HSA through our account.  It was pretty simple to do.  Actually my 7th grader did it herself!  Both of my kids would have to submit their own homework assignments.  Also, when it came to quiz time, which was done orally with their instructor, the other child had to leave the room. I was surprised that we didn’t receive any feedback from the instructor on their homework or quizzes.  I contacted the company and they promptly sent me a report card with grades on homework and the quiz taken.  I was a bit surprised that the scores for both of my children was exactly the same.  I appreciate this report card which kept track of how many classes taken and what was covered as well as how many credits they would be receiving for the completed work! This makes it super easy for me to keep track of….will be great for high school transcripts!

These classes really did spark their interest in learning another language.  While I don’t think we will continue on right now due to cost, I will be looking into using HSA when we hit high school and need to have credits in a foreign language.

What I liked:

  • Very easy to use…even with all the technology required.
  • I just need to schedule classes, the rest of the teaching, assignments, and grading are done for me.
  • The teachers speak in both Spanish and English and are very encouraging.
  • Very flexible…classes are schedule weekly around your schedule…one week might be Tues at 10am and the next week might work Wed at 4:30.
  • Private Spanish teachers can’t be found for this price! Super inexpensive!

What I didn’t like:

  • My kids found errors on the teaching portion and homework handouts.  Yes, they were minor but they shouldn’t be there.  Señora and Señor cannot mean the same thing and don’t, but in the lesson with the teacher the screen said that they did.  Oops!
  • Yes, even though it is a good deal, it is still pricey.  I think we will be waiting until we need to count credits for highschool to take advantage of this program.
  • They have become so popular that it is hard to find a time slot with a teacher right now.  They are in the process of hiring more teachers!  YEA for them!!!! Give them a few weeks and it should be easier to schedule time slots!
  • Occasionally, we could hear other teachers talking in the background.  It was a little distracting at times.

To sum it up: Want to learn Spanish or have your kids learn Spanish? This is the way to go. Homeschool Spanish Academy is offering one-on-one or 2 on 1 classes for ages 5-adult which are scheduled around you! Personalized instruction from a native-Spanish speaking teacher….it doesn’t get better than that….and it is very affordable for what you are getting! Schedule your free trial class today!

 

The important information:

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Sign up for classes at: http://homeschoolspanishacademy.com/

Price: These are middle school prices:  Pair pricing as well as 1 on 1 class pricing:

We received a pair-half semester 1 class per week for review- $154.99

HSA 2013 pair pricing

 

2013 HSA pricing

 

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

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Because You Are Strong (Bible Study for Boys): A Schoolhouse Crew Review

Because You Are Strong (Bible Study for Boys): A Schoolhouse Crew Review

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Sacha’s<25: A study of Godly strength, designed for boys ages 10 and up, which helps boys learn different methods of studying the Bible.

Home in the Trenches Product Rating (out of 10 stars)

Is it worth our time? 9 stars
Did it help us learn? 9 stars
Is it worth the money? 9 stars
Is it useful to me? 9 stars
Practicality- 9 stars
Quality- 10 stars

As a mom of boys I am always looking for great ways to get them excited about the Bible while teaching them more than just Bible stories. I want them to learn the Bible and how to apply it to their lives! I was very happy to get to review Because You Are Strong (A Study of Godly Strength for Young Men) from  DoorpostsI simply love this company  and all of the different products they have to offer.  If you haven’t checked out their website or seen them at a homeschool convention you should definitely take some time to peruse their website.  Their mission is to provide Bible-based parenting and character training materials! They want to come along side you as you serve God by raising up godly children who love and obey His Word. Their goal is to provide you with tools that make your job easier.  Can I say, “Thank you, Doorposts!”?  We have used many of their products already.

If you are looking for a Bible study for yourself I highly suggest Thirty Days of Bible Study for Busy Mamas, which focuses on the book of Colossians.  I was able to do this study a while back and really enjoyed it.  (It is on sale as well right now!)

My Experience:

I was super excited to get my hands on this study! I have found that is isn’t very easy to find Bible study materials that are age appropriate and engage my kids, as well guide them in how to study the Bible.  I loved that even though this is written for boys there are optional discussion questions for girls in the back of the study guide.  So even though it is written for boys you could have a sister tag along and use those discussion questions when the others wouldn’t apply to her.  

This study is written with 2 goals in mind:

  • to gain a biblical understanding of strength
  • to learn and practice Bible study skills

I love that this study is teaching different methods of Bible Study.  This wasn’t something I learned until I was in college!  It is so important to me that kids learn different methods that I taught a whole Bible study for girls on how to study the Bible at our homeschool co-op.  This would be a really awesome study to do with boys in a co-op setting as well.

This book is written with 10 studies divided into daily segments.  There are 74 days worth of study within this book but with all the additional ideas at the end of the studies you can really stretch this study to cover almost a whole school year! (I’m not sure I would stretch it that long, but it offers it as an option!) Each of the daily studies should take anywhere from 5-20 minutes to complete.

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With this study your children will need a few additional Bible study tools: Nave’s Topical Bible as well as Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (if you don’t have those things the study offers suggestions on how to look up information online).  It would also help to have a Bible (duh!) and some colored pencils to mark your Bible.

The 10 main chapters include studies by topic, word, verse, chapter, actions, and book of the Bible.  The 11th chapter reviews everything learned about strength through the study. Through this study boys will learn how to use a concordance, study original Greek and Hebrew words, learn how to understand and use the marginal notes in the Bible as well as learn how to use online Bible study tools.  Due to the timing of this review I read through this material myself because my boys were tied up in an in-depth study of 1st John for the Bible Bee.  I enjoyed looking through this material and am excited to have my sons (almost 14 and 9) work through this study now that the Bible Bee ended this weekend!

What I liked:

  • Kids will learn lots of different ways to study the Bible.  It really gives them a great sampling of methods and keeps the pace moving with variety to stay away from monotony.  
  • I love the boxes in the side bar with other info, helpful tips, ideas for additional studies, etc.
  • What a great topic to get boys interested in as well as learn about!
  • I appreciated all of the application questions to help boys understand how to be doers of the word and not just hearers!
  • Now I know this is going to sound silly but I have to share this.  I love how the book lays flat while you are working on it.  There are nice wide margins where you can add extra notes and it makes it easy to answer the questions in the book because you aren’t dealing with the pages bending weirdly in the middle of the book.
  • The study leaves plenty of rooms for the boys to fill in answers.  I hate when I am answering questions and there isn’t enough room to finish my thoughts!

What I didn’t like:

  • Not a deal breaker, but the book used King James translation of the Bible.  It would be awesome if they had different versions for different Bibles.  We really prefer ESV and I find it easier for the kids to understand.  (I understand why they did this because the study tools use King James).

To sum it up: Wow, I am really excited that this Bible study is available for boys. The awesome folks at Doorposts have one available just for girls as well.  And if you are a busy mom there is one for you…30 days of studying Colossians.    Oh, and if you still haven’t made your way to their website please take time to check out all the awesome resources they have to help in Biblical parenting.  They will be a blessing to you and your family!

 

The important information:

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Because You Are Strong

Order from: Doorposts

Price: The softcover book is currently on sale for $12. (All of their Bible Studies are on sale until 8/31)The ebook sells for $10.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Some of the crew reviewed Beauty in the Heart a Bible study written for girls.

 

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