Saturday, November 21, 2009

Combining Phys. Ed. and Math?

I had a girlfriend years ago that was attempting to homeschool her four young boys.  They were like little stair-steps going from age 11 to 5.  One of her sons had a lot of energy.  Now, here's a little secret about me, I don't believe that all the children diagnosed with ADHD really have ADHD.  But this little friend of mine had her oldest son tested and he was ADHD.  Since she wanted to avoid medication, she got some tips from the experts and one was to put a mini-trampoline, or an exercise bike right where they did their schooling.  When he would finish a subject, or start to get distracted, he hopped on the bike for a few minutes.  It helped him to focus.


This idea of combining book learning with exercise is really intriguing.  That's why I was really interested when I got the opportunity to review the Exploramania DVD "Gymathtics."  Exercise is not a regular occurrence in this household.  I'm embarrassed to admit it, but in the interest of full-disclosure, I have to be truthful.  I was hopeful that this DVD would be the solution to all our exercise woes.


This is an interesting product.  While you are exercising, there are math problems being presented to you.  The math is not difficult, mostly review of common facts, such as simple geometry.  But combining this kind of learning while exercising is a research-proven technique.  I was recently reading an article about a recent research project that showed how much better children who had exercised prior to a test did than those students who did not exercise.  So, I was happy to have this DVD/exercise program in my hot little hands!


The exercise was challenging.  Keep in mind that we are an "exercise-challenged" family.  The math was not complicated, but a great review.  But the commentary of the program was a little youthful for my 11 and 13 year old.  I tried to get them to focus on the exerercise, and not the commentary, but they really didn't enjoy being "talked down" to.   This DVD uses math geared to 2nd to 5th graders.  The exercise is for EVERYONE, including me!   The exercise program included a warm-up, aerobics to keep your heart rate going, and a nice cool down.  During the cool-down the commentary went off of math and onto character.  I couldn't argue with any of it, but sometimes a mom doesn't want an outside product trying to develop character in their child.  The cool-down included some yoga poses.  I love yoga, so I didn't have a problem with that. 


I'm sure I will  be able to force the boys into using Gymathtics again.  I did really like the concept.  Check out their website.  It's colorful and full of interesting products.  The Gymathtics DVD is available for $24.99.  And there is also a second DVD if your children get tired of the same routine each day.


 Contact information can be fund here.  Do check out their products, they are quite interesting.  And don't forget, there are other crew-members reviewing this same product so you can get a wide-range of reviews, here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Different Review...You Can Pick This Up for Free!

Well, this is a really fun review because you don't have to go shopping for this one.  If you like the sounds of it, you can get this CD for free.  I received a copy of "America's Heritage An Adventure in Liberty" CD from the American Heritage Education Foundation, Inc. On this CD are the PDF versions of an American History and Civics course for Elementary grades, Middle School Grades, and High School Grades.  There is also an Elementary Spanish version.


The Elementary version of this curriculum is 184  pages.  The Middle School curriculum is 182 pages long.  And the High School version is 187 pages long.   For today's reveiw, I perused the Middle School curriculum since our two guys are in that grade-range.  Although this curriculum is made for the classroom, most of it can be adapted to the homeschool setting.  There was one game that I think might be a challenge to convert from a 20-30 student classroom to a family, but other than that the activities can be worked as a family.  Some activities called for an overhead machine, which is typically not found in a home, but I think you can adapt by using your PC to enlarge something you need.  The activities in this curriculum are not public school material.  In it you learn about the true heart of our founding fathers and the foundation of this country.  I loved the comparison of the song "God Save the King" to "My Country Tis of Thee."   Here are two songs with the same melody but vastly different meanings.  After completing this activities, your children can't help but reflect on what our country based it's laws upon.  There is a lot of writing activities, so if you have boys, like mine, who are just beginning to embrace writing, you may want to give this curriculum a year.  I believe in a year, our boys will be ready for all that this curriculum has to offer.


As I've said before, this CD can be yours for free by going here.  If you would like to have this curriculum in a printed binder format, it is available to you on this page for $19.95.


If you would like to contact the American Heritage Education Foundation, Inc., they can be emailed at  Pick up your CD on the web here

Their mailing address is:

3501 West Alabama

Suite 200

Houston, TX 77027-6035

Telephone:  713-572-3657


And, as usual, if you don't want to take my word for it, read the reviews of my other crew members here

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A New Crew Review from Bright Ideas Press


Several weeks ago   Bright Ideas Press  provided me with a free copy of All American History Volume I to test and use in order to write this review.  When I received it I was a little worried.  Other than Math, I don't buy curriculum.  All American History seemd to be very curriculum-y.  I thought that I definitely would not like this.  I love creating my own unit studies.  I love reading a great book to the boys and finding cool activities to do around what we've read.  As I looked at a thick hard-back history book, a thick student activity book, and a thick teacher's manual, I immediately judged it as being curriculum and not for me.


Then we started a unit.  I actually started in the middle of the book.  Last year we had spent a lot of time on Columbus and then the early settlers.  At the end of the year I had begun a unit on the American Revolution.  Although All American History Volume I's beginning sections are pre-revoluion, I chose to begin at Unit 3 which deals with the American Revolution.  This group of books, which is really more like a great Unit Study than a curriculum, is easy to get started.  It does not take a lot of mom-prep.  I don't like to spend lots of time reading teacher's manuals and getting activities organized to prepare for a lesson.  You don't need lots of prep time to get started.  And the activities make this so much more like a unit study than a history curriculum.  There are notebooking activities and timeline activities.  In three words...I loved it.  But, what about the boys?  In three words...they loved it.


For the first lesson, I had them read the Student Text.  They don't have a lot of non-fiction reading experience.  They don't have any textbook reading experience at all.  They read it and immediately pronounced it, "Cool."  After reading, they completed the first page of questions.  But they weren't just a question and answer worksheet.  There were pictures to cut out and drawings to make.  It was right up our boys' alley!  They were hooked.


For each chapter there are "for further review" questions.  I had each boy pick a question and complete it.  Our oldest learned about an artist's depiction of the French and Indian War.  He learned about the picture, the characters in the picture, and the time period around it.  He gave a thorough and interesting talk on what he learned and even printed a copy of the painting!  Our youngest, T-bone, chose to take a virtual tour of one of the forts involved in the war of 1812.  He, too, gave a great talk about what he learned.


So, if all curriculum is like this one.  I may  become a curriculum girl!  The boys and I are really enjoying All American History Volume I.  We will definitely be finishing this book, going back to the beginning and catching up on what we've missed.  This is well-organized, thorough, and captivating.  The only criticism I have is that the books don't easily cross-reference to each other.  I don't think this would be a problem if you began at the beginning.  But since we began in the middle, trying to find the right pictures for the activity sheet we are working on is not easy.  They are not necessarily marked easily, as the author just assumes you have moved on to the next picture.  I found that to be a problem with many of the activities and it's been challenging to find the correct pages or items to coordinate to the activites.  The teacher's manual doesn't always say, "If you go to page ## in the student activity sheet."  It just talks about the next activity or the "Steps to War" activity.  It's up to you to figure out what that activity is.  If you're doing this curriculum in order, you won't have a problem.  The next activity being discussed is simply the next activity in the book that you haven't completed.  The next picture to be attached to your notebook page is the next picture that you haven't cut out yet.  But, you know me, I've just GOT to be different!


All American History Volume I is $68.00 for the Student Text, the Student Activity Book, and the Teacher's Manual.  In my opinion all three of these books are necessary to do this history lesson well.  If you want to purchase items individually, the text is $44.95 (493 pages).  The Student Activity Book, which is three-hole punched and perforated, (perfect for notebooks) is $16.95.  And the teacher's manual is $18.95.  The teacher's manual has great suggestions for activities to support each chapter, booklists for every unit, and answers to the worksheet questions in the student activity book.  This curriculum can be used by all ages.  There are adaptations suggested for younger students as well as high-schoolers.  I really think all ages will find challenging activities and reading.


If you'd like to see other items from Bright Ideas Press, check out their website here.  They have a lot to offer.  Their contact information can be found here.  Although all my fellow crew mates did not review All American History, there are lots of Bright Ideas Press reviews here.  And my review is a day late, so with that I will say goodnight until next post!