Place your homeschooling curriculum reviews here
History At our House: HistoryAtOurHouse provides a systematic, full-featured presentation of
history to students beginning in 2nd grade and extending all the way
into college. The curriculum is designed based on the basic premise
that history provides indispensable knowledge about the world, which
must be conveyed starting at an early age, and continually pursued – at
higher and higher levels of abstraction and intellectual penetration –
throughout a child's academic career.
The curriculum fully integrates history so that every level is
connected to every other level; what is taught in 2nd grade is
connected to what is taught in 3rd grade all the way on up to 12th
All HistoryAtOurHouse lectures are delivered to classes of
students, live, through a conference-calling "bridge." This allows
students from anywhere in the country, and indeed the world, to attend
classes from home. In addition, live classes are digitally recorded and
then posted to the Internet in MP3 format so students who cannot attend
the live sessions, or who choose not to, may access them at their
convenience. MP3 formatting allows parents/students to easily play the
lectures on their home computers, or transfer them to a portable
Students can register for Ancient History (for ages 6-8 or for ages
9-13; $20/month for Basic, $35/month for Live, or $75/month for
Premium) or for American History ($20 per month for ages 6-8 or for
Review of History at our House:
My Best Pick for the Year
My children (DS9 and DD8) studied lower elementary American History with History At Our House this past school year 2007-08.
It was amazing to watch their knowledge grow day by day. Our famous
Americans, events of the past pop up in our conversations regularly.
I witnessed every time we had a lecture to dial into, who can run
faster to the computer to be the first. My children were careful to
reread their class notes regularly and were interested in keeping their
binders organized. Completing the tests sharpened their research skills
and they were oh so proud when got a “virtual tap on the back” from Mr.
Powell by answering correctly over the phone.
During the History Through Art course they not only learned some
invaluable information about the era through paintings, they also
studied how to analyze those pictures. What to look for to try
understand the message the artist wanted to tell with his image on the
canvas. Finally with the added Geography we had a well rounded Social
Science program to follow for the year.
In 30 minutes four times a week and I had a professional, interactive,
entertaining and up-to-date history, art and geography in my house.
Everything was prepared for the lectures. We just had to set down and
travel in time with Mr. Powell. It was my best pick for the year.
100 Top Picks For Homeschool Curriculum: Choosing the Right
Curriculum and Approach for Your Child's Learning Style (by Cathy
Duffy) not only helps you choose the best curriculum based on your
educational philosophy and child’s learning style, but gives you
information on how to determine your child’s learning style as well as
your own. The author discusses her top choices from every subject area,
approaching everything through a Christian perspective.
This book is amazing! I did not know of its existence until just last
year. I wish I had found it my first year of home schooling. It could
have saved me from some expensive mistakes.
Before you even get into the many choices of curriculum (there are
so many more out that, the book only contains her top choices), you
discover so much about the nuts and bolts of homeschooling that the
first few chapters are worth the cost of the book.
Cathy Duffy does a wonderful job of helping you discover what your
teaching philosophy is. You also will be asked a series of questions to
help set goals of what you want to achieve by schooling your children
at home. The next thing you learn is what your learning style is, and
she also helps you pinpoint your child/rens learning styling (believe
it or not, they are not always the same). You will have learned so much
by this point; you can't imagine that there is anything else to learn.
But there is!
She then walks you through her Top 100 choices of curriculum of
multiple subjects. The overall reviews are broken down in chart form
that help you understand each curriculum in the following categories:
if the curriculum of choice will go well with your child's learning
style, the amount of parent/teacher instruction, the amount of writing
involved, the amount of prep work prior to each lesson, grade level
specific or multilevel, what type of philosophy it will support, and if
there is a teacher’s key/guide to purchase.
The remaining book, then breaks down the 100 choices and gives you
a nice detail of the curriculum that should help you decide if you want
to pursue that choice or look into something different. There are also
web addresses included for you to investigate the product even more. I
found myself making a lot of notes in the margins for myself to help
save time in the future when I need to plan for the coming year.
This book is not a one time read. I have pulled it off the shelf
multiple times when I am ready for a change in the current curriculum
or if I would like to add a new subject to our schedule. If there is
one book that I recommend to all new home schooling families, it is
We have used two different grade levels of BJU Heritage Studies and we
have really enjoyed them both. We just finished the 1st grade Heritage
Studies book and it really hooked our first grader she wanted more. We
would read a few pages in our textbook and then find a book on our own
bookshelves that went along with the topic. The textbook peaked her
interest and then she wanted to study more on that topic. I did not use
the teacher’s manual along with this book but used it more like a
history spine. The first grade book has some very neat and homeschool
friendly projects through out. Our 1st grader and her littler brother
(3½) enjoyed making paper weaved mats when we were reading about
different Indian tribes. The 1st grade curriculum also gives a great
introduction to geography. Our two using this book enjoyed drawing maps
of the inside of our house and displaying them on the refrigerator.
We have also used the 4th grade Heritage Studies. We used this with our
oldest son and I did use the teacher manual with it. He too enjoyed the
curriculum. I read it aloud to him each day so that we could discuss
what we had just read. I am a history buff so this worked well for me!
I really appreciated all the extra learning suggestions, timeline
suggestions, and discussion questions that were in the teacher manual.
We did not use the student activity book for this level either.
If you have more than one child you can easily pick a level that is
between the two grades and use it for both. You can buy two student
activity books and supplement the older child's lesson with extra
reading books. If you have more than one child and you are keeping all
of their lessons/subjects separate it could become very time consuming
trying to coordinate it all. The teacher manual would be very helpful
and a time saver for you.
I keep all of our Heritage Studies textbooks on the shelf as they make
great reference books and the kids really enjoy looking/reading through
them for fun. I even have a couple of levels that we haven't used
because they are great reference books that the kids enjoy.
Bob Jones does a great job of presenting history in the elementary
years in a story-like fashion that is very interesting and very
appealing to kids and adults. I enjoyed reading their textbooks as much
as they did! It incorporates geography, hands-on projects, timeline
work, and much more. Very solid curriculum that is very God centered
and easy to use.
Review of Zoombinis
Zoombinis is a series of three educational software programs (Logical Journey, Mountain Rescue, and Island Odyssey) designed for children 8 and up
One of our major goals as a homeschooling family is to expose our daughter to many opportunities that develop her thinking skills. Zoombinis introduces kids to logic and problem solving in a fun way. Each challenge in the Zoombini adventures calls for attention to detail as the player figures out what is happening in each scenario and what they need to do in order to reach their goal.
Our daughter started playing Zoombini games when she was about 6 and it was fun to hear her say in a most important way, “I’m really good at logic.” I was concerned about the frustration level at first. She is very determined to “get” things and often insists on doing so whether she is ready to learn something easily or not. I talked her through the process in the beginning and played the game a little bit myself, taking steps out loud so she could see what I was doing. When she had the idea of the process she needed to go through to figure things out, her frustration level went down. That’s when she wanted me to leave her alone so she could figure the rest out herself. It takes practice to look at things in the Zoombini way, but it gets easier.
To play Zoombinis, kids have to look at the details of a scenario to figure out why things are happening the way they are. They have to think of different possibilities and eliminate possibilities based on what happens when they test their theories. Our daughter goes through “if...then...” scenarios out loud sometimes as she plays. “If the Zoombini with roller skates and a blue nose goes over there, then the bridge falls down. If the Zoombini with roller skates and an orange nose goes over there, the bridge stays up. Therefore, a blue nose makes the bridge fall down.” Watching her go through this process of elimination and listening to her explanations, is really fun. Zoombinis has introduced her to the power of problem solving through logic.
We have Zoombini Logical Journey and Zoombini Island Odyssey. Each has a storyline that ties all of the scenes together. Zoombini Island Odyssey is the more difficult of the two and incorporates concepts such as food chain, ecology, and genetics into the scenarios. Our daughter recommends starting with Logical Journey because it is easier. Both of these games start by having the player build Zoombinis out of different combinations of “feet,” hair, and facial features. These characteristics play a part in some of the problem solving. Some of the situations use additional variables for even more of a challenge. Each part of the game has a question mark icon you can click for spoken instructions. This helped out a lot when we forgot what we needed to do or had no idea in the first place. Clicking the question mark icon also brings the instructions up as text on the screen. These games are very well thought out and worth the price of about $10.
The ability to think through a problem logically is priceless. What a great thing to have an enjoyable game that fosters that ability!
Submitted by: KristenS
A friend recommended A History of US to me during one of my near tirades about boring history texts. I was at my wit’s end with trying to find something to capture my daughters’ imagination AND teach them the facts at the same time. I seemed to find books that fell into one of two categories: fact-filled and mind-numbingly boring or error-ridden yet full of creativity. I really wanted something that was both creative and reliably informative. I finally found these things in A History of US.
So far, I’ve used volumes one and two, and one of the best things about these books is Hakim’s conversational tone. Nothing makes a book livelier than feeling as if the author is actually talking to you. I like to read these books to my children instead of having them go over them alone. I really feel that my readings are enhanced by the author’s creative way with words. My children were actually able to stay awake while I read this.
Before we tried these books out, my children thought history was a real chore. I’m sure they were tired of listening to me lecture on and on about the inaccuracies in this book or that book. I know they’d had enough of the stodgy volumes we pored over and the endless questions that followed some of our more traditional textbook experiments. When we finally found these books, my children sat up and took notice. They started asking questions about the things we read and wanting to learn more. Sometimes, they even asked to read these books instead of working on other activities.
A huge plus with this series is Hakim’s tell-it-like-it-is style. This author doesn’t gloss over dark moments in United States history and make them seem heroic or romantic. If something in our history is terrible or shameful, Hakim can be counted on to call it that. However, this author is also good at giving both sides of a story. Instead of merely commenting on a misdeed, Hakim often discusses what may have led to problems. Furthermore, if historians aren’t sure about the facts surrounding a moment in history, Hakim is quick to say so.
These books don’t require any preparation. You and your children can just sit down and get started reading right away. I don’t think any supplemental resources are necessary either. However, if you like end–of-the-chapter questions, exercises, tests, and quizzes, you’ll need to create your own, as these books don’t include such things.
Review of Spell to Write and Read
tried Starfall.com at the recommendation of a teacher friend who uses it in her classroom. It has now become a staple in our homeschool for teaching letter recognition, sounds and beginning phonics. In fact, it's what I use to create a kindergarten phonics curriculum since we don't buy prepackaged curriculums for kindergarten. I start using Starfall ABC's with my kids when they turn three. Starfall ABC's is everything a preschooler loves including colorful pictures, fun stories, songs and educational games. Starfall's set up lets kids navigate the site with little to no help. Once I explained to my children that they click on the large arrow to turn the pages, the red X to close out the page, and click on items or letters with sparkly stars around them, they were able to navigate the site independently at a young age. While I use Starfall mainly for letter recognition in preschool, Starfall's constant letter sound repetition on the website lets kids pick up more than one skill at a time. Starfall also helps teach preschoolers that letters make sounds and sounds make up words. An object that starts with that letter introduces every letter. For example, the letter V is dropped off by a vacuum, and the letter W is caught in a web. Both of my kids started their Starfall addiction in preschool. For kindergarten, I use the Starfall website almost exclusively to create a phonics curriculum. Starfall provides homeschoolers with games and lessons that cover short vowel sounds, long vowel sounds, digraphs, word families, silent e and more. They also provide online stories that stress the word family or vowel sound I'm teaching my child. The best part of Starfall for a kindergarten curriculum is their free download center. Starfall lets parents download and print the Starfall reading and writing journals, letter printing sheets, word searches, short fill-in-the-blank stories and books. These materials are plenty for a kindergarten phonics curriculum, and are a great supplement to a reading curriculum. I would recommend Starfall to any homeschooler who has a child who struggles with reading, or who is just learning to read. In the three years we've used Starfall, I have yet to find something I don't like or don't agree with. Even now, at seven years old, my son still likes to get on Starfall and independently read the more advanced stories. In addition, his sister runs to the computer when she hears me call out, "It's Starfall time!" As a homeschooling parent, I believe Starfall.com is one of the best free educational programs on the internet.
Review for hooked on Phonics:
We purchased a number of the Hooked on Phonics workbooks including Spelling (kindergarten), Beginning Words (first grade), Addition (first grade), and Math Activities (kindergarten), but haven’t tried a complete Hooked on Phonics system. The Hooked on Phonics books we've purchased serve our homeschool merely as supplements. We practice an eclectic sort of teaching style that includes a packaged curriculum and countless workbooks and worksheets from other sources, just to add a bit of variety to our lessons and to keep things interesting.
Full Review and Additional Review for hooked on phonics
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