Friday, 24 June 2016

My School Year (Homeschool Record Keeping) - TOS Review


We've had the opportunity to review My School Year (Homeschool Record Keeping) from MySchoolYear.com over the last few weeks. We received the Annual Membership to review. 



MySchoolYear.com is an online lesson planner and record keeper. It's site offers many different tools to help keep your homeschool organised, help you know what is overdue, current and upcoming and to search, filter or sort lessons. These include;

Attendance - the automatic attendance will keep track of hours as well.
Lesson Planning - it can be used to create lesson plans and will reschedule lessons if you fall behind. It also lets you share and copy lesson plans for multiple students.
Reports - create transcripts, report cards etc.
Tracker - you can keep track of events, awards, sports, community work and any other extracurricular activities. It also tracks reading lists and there is an option to create materials lists as well. 

Grading - you can enter grades for an automatic grade average a well as keeping track of all graded work.
Teachers aid - automatic reminders for planning and tracking


You start by entering your homeschool information - name, school year, schedule, holidays etc. Then you start adding your students names and their subject, this does take some time so I would advise you find a nice quiet evening and sit down with a hot drink. There are some shortcuts that they have designed to make filling in this section easier (you have to enter lessons and times for each individual subject and student) called Quick Split and Rapid Repeat. Quick Split works by letting you divide a book into sections by day or lesson while Rapid Repeat repeats an assignment automatically adding the next lesson number for you (read chapter 1, read chapter 2 etc)



This is a well designed and well thought out program - they have made it as easy to use as possible and I was impressed with the Teachers Aid - it provided reminders and prompts that helped with the site navigation, it also sensed when I missed entering a piece of information or grade and alerted me so I could stay on top of things. I'm lucky that I don't need to keep records but if you do need to keep records, create reports or keep track of attendance then I can see how this would be really beneficial to you.

 

I really liked having the option to track and include sports and volunteer work for the girls but my favourite section was the Reading Log, it is really simple to use and you can enter as much or as little info as you like - you can assign start or end dates, chapters, genre, assign pages or you can just enter title and completion date. Personally I liked that I could enter the price and keep track of my budgeting (I have a real weakness for book buying so it helped keep me in check).


 

Some nice perks of the program are it's compatibility for use with iphones so it can let you and your students know what you need to do even when you are on the go and it protects all your records so no more worries about crashes or viruses ruining your records.

MySchoolYear.com is available for a monthly fee of $5 or a yearly price of $40.

You can see what my crewmates thought over at the TOS Blog

 


Wednesday, 22 June 2016

LearnBop for Families - TOS Review

We were given the chance to receive an online program designed to help strengthen math skills, LearnBop For Families from LearnBop is specifically designed for use at home and covers grades 3-12, they gave me a 12 month family subscription for review purposes.

 

LearnBop is designed to be a complete math curriculum offering personalised math support which identifies any knowledge gaps and helps your student to learn and more importantly master the concepts. There are over 11,000 lessons which include topics like Statistics, Geometry, Algebra, Pre-algebra, Trigonometry, Math Problems, Fractions, Decimals and more.

You start by picking an avatar for each student and a grade level (either grade level 3-8 or Algebra 1, Algebra 2, or Geometry) then they do an assessment to check where they are so an individualised Road Map can be created. You can alter their Road Map in the parents section if you feel they need something different.
 

 
  
Each lesson starts with instructional videos to show the concepts they will be learning (and extra, optional videos if needed). They are then presented with the 'Bops' which are the problems they need to solve - these can be multiple choice, fill in the blank etc. Once they achieve mastery in a subject by scoring a set % they can pass to the next subject, however if they answer any of the questions incorrectly they explain step by step how to work out the correct answer. Students are motivated by earning achievement badges

Each of the girls had a dashboard that showed what they are working on, number of videos watched, Bops answered, time spent on the program, percentage completed and any achievements awarded.


 

The parent account shows all of the same information but for all students on the account so its easy to quickly check how your kids are doing in the program and to see if you need to make any changes. Being able to oversee means they girls could be fairly autonomous in their work - the only time I needed to step in was when there was a glitch in the system - there were 3 instances where the right answer was entered but the program read it as the wrong answer, but as with any new product they are working through and correcting these - they even have a option to report the error so they can act on it quickly.

 
I really liked the video lessons and felt they were thorough and well explained, I also liked the explanations for incorrect answers and that they showed each individual step in detail for solving them. I found the program fairly easy to use and was impressed by the ability to customise this program - I could switch the areas the girls worked on and they didn't have to work through it sequentially. 

 
 

Lilly got frustrated that some of her correct answers were marked incorrectly but I believe they are working on the kinks (you can send a report if there are any issues with the questions). Otherwise the girls seemed to enjoy the lessons and both Tulip and Rose loved the awards.

Single student rates are $14.95 per month, or a family rate (up to 4 students) at $19.95 a month, there are also options to pay yearly at $149.95 for a single student and $199.95 for up to 4 students (saving you two months of fees)

You can see what my crewmates thought over at the TOS Blog


 


 

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Wild Animal Activity Day

Our local group ran an activity all about wild animals.

 

We made some elephants and read the Rudyard Kipling tales,

 

looked at where and how different animals lived,

 
 

played guess who,

 

looked at endangered species,


and learnt how bread is not good for ducks and what is best to feed them instead.



 

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Progeny Press Study E-Guide - Indian in the Cupboard - TOS Review


We love reading, most of our lessons are based around books so reviewing the Indian in the Cupboard E-Guide study guide from Progeny Press has been great fun.



Progeny Press is a Christian company who have created a wide variety of literature study guides across various reading ages, they are student workbook style guides designed to help you enjoy reading, improve comprehension, understand vocabulary and to analyse the literature they have read.
We received their E-Guide which is an interactive version of their guides so you have the option to either print or type directly into the guide on the computer (you can also mark and comment on their work directly onto the computer as well)

The Indian in the Cupboard E-Guide is so well-organized and so easy to use in
conjunction with the book by Lynne Reid Banks. 



The E-guide is set out as follows

Instructions
As you would expect this outlines how to use the guide and gives tips on how to get the most out of this study and to really help your student really enjoy the book.

Book Synopsis
This provides a short overview of the plot

Information about the Author
Gives some history on the author and includes information on other books they have written

Prereading Activities
This section sets out some great questions looking at history, lifestyle and culture based around the story and characters. It also sets questions to study the French Indian war.

Chapter groupings
Based on a couple of chapters they assign tasks which include

  • Vocabulary - here you match words with meaning and work on definitions.
  • Characterization - looking at a characters feelings and motivation.
  • Story Questions - short answer questions based on the text.
  • Point of View - looking at how the characters view the world and why.
  • Thinking About the Story - comprehension questions.
  • Dig Deeper Questions - matched with Bible verses, these questions look at character and how you would react in a situation.
  • Writing Project - sets short writing exercises
  • Summary - this looks at the story structure, includes a character study and compares the story relationships and contrasts them with your relationship to God. 


Additional Resources
list other books by the author and books of related interest


Answer Key
Suggested answers on a separate Pdf

The beauty of this study guide is it's flexibility - you can type or print and write, you can work at your own pace and set your own schedule. We typically read 3 chapters a week as a group read aloud (each taking turns to read) and I assigned the corresponding chapter/s in the E-Guide after we had done the reading, however there were weeks when we read more and weeks when we read less. The older girls worked on both the PC and printed pages whilst the younger two worked with me (both written and orally). There were a couple of 'dig deeper' and 'point of view' questions that we used as group discussion questions which prompted some great character/values conversations.

I also really like that it covered multiple ages - this E-Guide is designed for 5th-8th grade but even Rose (age 7) was able to join in although she didn't do so well on the vocab questions.

I loved that this got the girls thinking more about the story than they would usually and that it prompted such great value conversations. The girls really enjoyed it and I can see myself using Progeny Press lots in the future.

Progeny Press guides are available in various formats (bound book, CD or PDF). I received The Indian in the Cupboard E-guide which is available for $18.99, you will also need access to a copy of the book by Lynne Reid Banks.

You can see what my crewmates thought of this and some of their other guides over at the TOS Blog


Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Forbrain Bone Conduction Headset - TOS Review

If you've been following us, you will probably have noticed that some of my girls have a couple of learning issues - this is why I was so excited when the opportunity to review Forbrain - Sound For Life Ltd and their Forbrain Headset came up (I was even more excited to be chosen).

 

Forbrain is a bone conduction headset that uses your own voice to help with learning, language, and memory. The headset is positioned to rest on the bone in front of the ears, this delivers the vibrations from your voice much faster than air conduction and creates a stronger auditory feedback loop with your brain. Forbrain recommend using the headset for at least six weeks for between 10-20 minuets a day (depending on age and need) whilst talking aloud, reading aloud, having a conversation or singing.

 

Our Forbrain headset arrived in a protective case and was supplied with a USB charger, extra microphone covers and instruction manuals. (it is advised that you charge for 3 hours before the first use which will provide you with a battery life of 6 hours)


Forbrain can be used in many ways and is particularly useful for;
  • concentration difficulties
  • memory improvement
  • improving focus
  • reading difficulties
  • confidence building
  • exam and presentation performance
  • improved motivation
  • singing and rhythm work
  • brain stimulation 
  • improve attention
  • improve speech and pronunciation
  • auditory processing disorder
  • ADD and ADHD
Tulip was intended to be the main user for this as she has has dyslexia and concentration issues which we hoped would improve using Forbrain (although the others decided it looked like too much fun and demanded asked for turns too). Tulip is an auditory learner so this was a good fit for her. She did complain of a headache the first few times she used it but it quickly stopped happening. She would read aloud whilst wearing it and was often spotted having conversations or playing top trumps with it on.


Sunflower and Lilly both used it for read aloud and conversations and even used it to help memorise some scripture verses quicker - they had a friend over who was revising for some exams and she wanted them to test her on her revision cards so they suggested she read the cards aloud with Forbain on.
Rose loved it - she loved hearing herself and wanted the most turns (she loves everything her sisters use). I noticed her pronunciation improved (she often has a slight lisp) and she seems more confident in her reading with it on.

 

I loved how popular this was with the girls, it almost became like a favourite toy where they would time the others go so they could tell them when it was their turn for it. I did notice an improvement in Tulips concentration and an improvement in her reading skills as well as an unintended improvement in the girls singing - we were learning a new song for hubby's birthday (they learnt their parts whilst wearing it) and no one hit a single wrong note.

 

Forbrain is available for $359 and you can see what my crewmates thought of it over at the TOS Blog 

 
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