Thursday 30 July 2015

TOS Review - UnLock Math

I had to smile when we were offered the chance to review UnLock Pre-Algebra by UnLock Math because hubby and I were just discussing if we wanted Lilly to do a more structured curriculum for math - talk about serendipity.

UnLock Pre-Algebra is a complete online math curriculum created by Alesia Blackwood - a teacher with years of experience teaching high school math, but more importantly, a teacher who has experience reigniting a love of learning math. 

Unlock math consists of 16 units broken down into individual lessons (up to 15 lessons per unit). Each lesson starts with a warm up section - this does not contribute toward their scores but provides a sneaky review of previous lessons and gets their minds ready. The video lesson is next - these are well made, short and engaging (Alesia has a great way of explaining a concept that Lilly really seems to relate to), they include plenty of examples that work through the concept. The video is followed by independent 'practice problems' (usually 10 questions) based on the material taught, after you complete the practise questions you can click 'view details' which shows them where they made mistakes and how they should have worked it out to get the correct answer. This is followed by a 'stay sharp' section which again reviews previous lessons. The final section is 'challenge yourself', again this doesn't contribute towards their mark but provides an opportunity to stretch their mind. The final tab is 'reference notes' which is a down loadable concept sheet containing an overview of the lesson (we've been printing these out for Lilly, as they provide a great review if she forgets anything and provide a great revision tool)

There are also review lessons at the end of each unit, followed by an online test. A midterm review and test and a final review and test. The tests are not overwhelming as they show one problem at a time and appear the same as the practise problems - so no test stress : )

There are student and parent dashboards. The student dashboard is really easy to navigate and they can easily see what lesson they are on. It shows how much of the course is still to complete.

The parent dashboard lets you look at the course gradebook which allows you to keep track of scores, where they answered incorrectly, date the lesson was completed, time spent on the lesson etc. It is also the home of the progress report which gives you an overview of how their grade is derived. I really like the pie chart feature (as I respond well to visual stimuli) that shows what they done and still need to do.

Lilly seems to have enjoyed these lessons, they can be completed fairly quickly (so gone are the days of her spending two hours stressing over worksheets) and when she gets a problem wrong she can see a proper explanation as to why.

The only downside Lilly found was in the practise questions there are two buttons to click 'next' or 'submit assignment', unfortunately when you click submit assignment the session finishes without asking you the rest of the questions - she did this once which made her score really low (I don't think she will make the same mistake again). It would be nice if the submit assignment button stayed dark until after the last question had been attempted.

I love how hands off UnLock Math is. The programme is so easy to use that Lilly can do it without input from me - the lessons are so well explained that so far, she hasn't needed help from me. I love that I can see exactly where she has gone wrong and if she needs more help in a specific area. I found the videos to be well made and carefully thought out. I also like the portability, if we go somewhere all she needs is internet connection to do her work - no need to drag big books or pencil cases around with us and she can do it wherever she likes. 

The company is amazingly helpful and all interactions I've had with them have been really friendly and pleasant.
UnLock Pre-Algebra is designed as a 7th grade math curriculum and is available for each student at $49 a month or an annual fee of $299 - they also offer a 50% sibling discount. They have given me reader discount of $100 to offer you which - expires 18th August

You can see what my crew mates thought of this over at the TOS Blog.

Monday 27 July 2015

Tints and Shades in the garden

Trying to make the most of summer learning means we spend lots of time in the garden, which is a really good place to do messy painting (if you don't mind ending up with blue grass)

We used a really good idea from pinterest, where she demonstrates tints and shades.

Which resulted in some great backdrops that they hope to add to next week.

Wednesday 22 July 2015

TOS Review - Home School in the Woods Project Passport History Studies

I've always enjoyed projects from Home School in the Woods, so was keen to be able to review their History Through the Ages: Project Passport World History Studies (and they don't disappoint)

We opted for Project Passport World History Study: Renaissance & Reformation which is a great way to explore history in a hands-on and fun way.

The idea is you can 'travel' through the era filling in your passport, Scrapbook of Sights and lapbook along the way. There are 25 stops (lessons) to your journey and each stop has up to eight activities (totalling over 50 projects and activities along with almost an hour of MP3 recordings) where you get to meet interesting people, experience great events, discover their way of life, explore their art, learn their science, taste their food, study their wars and view their drama all in a activity based format making history alive and interesting rather than dry or dull.

We received the digital download version but there is also an option to choose the files on CD. The download included several PDFs, MP3 files and images.

Inside the PDF folder is an introduction folder for parents which talks through how to use this (this is a must read - it also has pictures of finished lapbook pieces), a 'Travel Planner' which gives you an overview of what you will be covering in the unit and gives a number of tips.

The other folders include printable covers, the 'Travel Itinernary' which is the guide to what you will be doing on that stop - it outlines the pages and supplies you will need, how to put the pages together and instructions for any crafts. The 'Masters' are the lapbooking  elements that will need printing for each child. The 'Teacher Keys' contain the time line and maps you will need. The 'Text' contains the historical information needed to complete the 'stop'.

I started by printing off everything I needed for the first stop and collected it all together. I ended up printing an average of one to two stops a week - you could spend less time each stop but the girls were enjoying it so I let them take as much time as they wanted.

Although this is designed for grades 3 and above, both Tulip and Rose wanted to join in with their older sisters (as they can't let them have all the fun).

I loved that it has so many activities to choose from writing a newspaper, putting together a menu, 

art activities, 

designing postcards, crafts, time lines etc. I also liked the 'quiz' cards which provided us a great opportunity for narration. (I'm really looking forward to making the Globe Theatre and making a ruff but they are in stops we haven't got to yet)

I was impressed by how much of the everyday Jo's life of the Renaissance you actually explored - not just the royalty and key players. My favourite aspect was how flexible you could be with the activities, choosing some or all (they even have a list of suggested books if you want to take your studies further) means this can take as much or as little time as you want.

There is a lot of printing required for each 'stop' which can be time consuming and, as with most lapbooks, you will need lots of paper and card stock (luckily I already had lots).

The girls have thoroughly enjoyed learning about history with this method and didn't even consider it 'school', often working on it in their free time. Sunflower is already planning a Renaissance tea party ("cause it will be educational mummy") and is busy putting together invites, the menu and making ruff's for her guests to wear. Lilly has enjoyed the art work the most. Both Rose and Tulip have liked the crafts and the stamps in their passport best.

Project Passport World History Studies are designed for grades 3rd - 8th and can be completed in 8 to 12 weeks, however the beauty of these is you can pick and choose the activities so they can take as long as you wish. It is available as a download for $33.95 and $34.95 for the CD.

You can see what my crew mates thought of this as well as the Ancient Egypt and Middle Ages Project Passport World History Studies over at the TOS Blog.

Wednesday 15 July 2015

You gotta love it when....

... you hear the kids discussing teddy bear genetics.

Rose has a camouflage bear that is 'marrying' Tulip's white fluffy bear - together they are going to have twins next year and the girls were planning which babies they would have, the conversation went a like this

'I think they should have a pink panda baby and a camouflage baby cause they'd look cute'
'That won't work, you can't have a pink panda baby'
'But I want a pink panda'
'Well you can't because of heridatory genetics, if you wanted a pink panda baby then she should have married a red panda cause red and white make pink'
Followed by big sulks

Sunday 5 July 2015

More secret truths about homeschooling - Socialisation

I previously posted some truths that no one tells you about homeschool and I thought it was time I addressed the most important one.

Socialisation is a major problem - the girls have had chicken pox this week and we've been forced to stay at home much to their despair - this means we've missed 6 home ed activities that we were supposed to attend (a charcoal art workshop, youth group, a fundraising high tea party, ninjas, free running and a sewing class) combine that with the home ed camp we attended last week (woodland survival walk, 

mosaic making,


making nettle cordage, 

lap booking, games workshop, paper making, big science (Rose is being an oxygen atom), 

stomp rockets, camp fire cooking, baby games etc) 

so I'm really glad my girls are ill otherwise we wouldn't have had any time over the last two weeks to actually learn ; )

So yes - socialisation is a real problem, if you are not careful you'll have too much socialisation and not enough education 

Friday 3 July 2015

Gotta love when...

... the girls decide to teach each other. Rose decided to give her big sisters a dinosaur lesson this morning and it was hilarious to listen too.

She started by getting them to guess what a dinosaur  ate based on a picture of its teeth and if it's had 'eyes on the side to help it hide' or 'eyes in front to help it hunt' and the choices she gave them were ace; is it a meativor, a plantivore or a greedy one that eats both?

Her conclusion (she does know the right terms, she just prefers her own names) was 'herbivores are really omnivores because there are bugs on the leaves they eat' : )

Can't fault her logic.

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