December 30, 2015

My Top 8 Favorite Curriculum Reviews for 2015

I was blessed with a large amount of quality curriculum and products to review in our home and homeschool this year. I only had a few less than awesome experiences, which is rather telling about the quality of the material out there. I thought that as I gear up for a NEW year with the Schoolhouse Review crew, I would share my top 8 favorite reviews from 2015.
8 Favorite Product Reviews for 2015

The products that made this list earned their spots, because they are things that we are STILL using, or products that were so great they even induced me to buy more from the company!

8. The Ultimate Homeschool Planner {Apologia}

I am happy to say that this planner is still rocking my world! I love having everything I need for homeschool planning and just a basic calendar in the same place--in paper form! I also discovered that small sticky notes fit perfectly in the homeschool planning form spaces, which is great for when I have an appointment or something. I am still recording test/unit scores in the back, and have already written in my monthly calendar through March! It is so nice to finally have exactly what I want in a planner! I am already going to be watching for the next year!

I love finding resources that help me work through the Bible with the boys. When we started our review of the Grapevine studies, I had a feeling it was going to be a good match for us. We have since continued using the product and it has been a great resource. 

One of the best things, is that I find the boys drawing the stick figures on their notebooks during church services too. This is a great way for me to see what they remember and enjoy for our studies! I am definitely going to be checking out the next portion of the series when we are done with this one.
In my review of some skin care products from Koru Naturals, I stated that I would update with how I liked the results of using the products...I love them! I have been using the Manuka Honey and Manuka Oil Facial Cleanser, and the Manuka Honey, Tamarind and Manuka Oil Facial Toner together every night. I have also been following these products with the Skin Care Cream which really seems to seal in the moisture! Interestingly enough, since I started using all three every night, I have not had as many "Tzone" breakouts! 

I also like using the skin care cream on my legs after shaving and on random rough patches I get on my elbows. I am very satisfied with the products and because they seem to last a long time, I may invest in another round when these are empty.

Science. If you are a regular reader than you know that science is not a subject I do well. I just don't like all the planning that has to go into everything! Fortunately, we reviewed Digital Science Online which provided the whole shebang for me: instructional videos, pre/post tests, writing assignments, and experiments! Since our review, we have continued to use Digital Science Online for our primary science resource. With access to all levels, we've even started Baby Britches in some of the primary level lessons. 

I find that having the bulk of the lesson planned out, allows for me to be more creative when it comes to the experiments or extending the lessons. We are currently finishing up a unit on plate tectonics, and I was able to work in using a "build your own volcano" kit, as well as a few plate tectonic activities (graham crackers and whipped cream anyone?). I don't feel so overwhelmed with this subject now, and Little Britches is getting the science he craves. I plan on using the lessons as long as I can, and will be considering purchasing an edition when my free subscription has ended.

Writing and a reluctant writer do not go well together...but the writing curriculum from IEW changed all of that for us! Since we reviewed the product, we have continued to work through it. I have been pleased to see a whole new attitude about writing, AND I witnessed for the very first time Little Britches writing his very own 1 1/2 page story all on his own, as a spin-off from another writing assignment he was doing. This is incredible and reminded me again, of the success that IEW have had in our family. 

We plan on continuing to use the writing program AND i invested in the Kindergarten level writing program to use with Baby Britches. I am happy to say that we are definitely an example of how well the IEW program works for auditory learners!

I had a feeling that I would enjoy Super Teacher Worksheets--and I did. What I didn't realize was that after the review period was over, I would continually return to the website to snag more worksheets, games, and activities for the boys to do. Little Britches has a unit study style Kindergarten, and it is great to be able to do searches on the Super Teacher Worksheets website to see if there is anything that works. I've been able to add in telling time activities, human body activities, states of matter activities, simple phonics books, and much more! 

When Little Britches was stumbling over some grammar exercises, I went to the website and found several worksheets and games that allowed us to do focused attention on areas he needed help with! I also was able to find cut n paste activities that fit several science and geography themes we were learning as well. I love having Super Teacher Worksheets at my fingertips, and plan on renewing my membership when my current one runs out!

Spelling! Oh how this used to be one of the most dreaded parts of our language arts curriculum...until we were introduced to Phonetic Zoo earlier this year. We have continued to use this fabulous spelling curriculum because...well, it works! Little Britches doesn't complain about spelling anymore. Do you even realize how shocking that statement is for me to make? 

I love that after every lesson he has 15 new words mastered--and the skills to spell words that are similar correctly! Phonetic Zoo is all about mastery, which is ideal for Little Britches--as of this point he's completed 10 lessons. Each lesson has 15 words...that means he now has 150 words in his brain that he can spell correctly! Big words! Tricky words! And I see it paying off in his writing too--as he remembers the various jingles he has learned for assistance in determining spelling rules. We will be continuing to use this product, and then will move into the next levels when done! 

This product could be one of the most valuable things that we did all year. I was continuously impressed with the presentation of the information relating to making informed decisions. The book succintly analyzes the main forms of arguments used in discussions, and did it so well, I understood it FAR better working through it with Little Britches than I ever did in my Introduction to Logic class in college 8 years ago! I wish THIS book had been our textbook! 

I believe that now that we have concluded the book, Little Britches has a very good base for analyzing information to form conclusions and decisions. We are even able to still reference things we learned regarding valid and invalid arguments thanks to the every increasing political campaign coverage! If my 9 year old can dissect their arguments and conclude correctly that they are invalid...well, that doesn't say much for the general population that buys into the spectacle! I firmly believe that it would be highly beneficial if children, teenagers, and yes, even adults worked through this book. I look forward to exploring more of what this company offers in relation to critical thinking products!

Well there you have it! These are my top 8 favorite products that I reviewed this year as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew! We were blessed with over 30 different products to review for 2015--and I am definitely getting excited about what is in store for 2016! There are a LOT of new to me companies, as well as some old favorites to look forward to! And it will all start next week!! 
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