Thursday, March 31, 2011

Civics Class at the Movies

I don't remember how I stumbled on Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the classic movie with Jimmy Stewart, but I saw a clip of it and thought, "That might be an interesting resource for Civics."  Civics is a tough subject for me.  I mean, we take the boys with us when we vote.  We talk about politics, and what's going on in Washington a lot.  But as far as formal Civics, I don't do much.  Last year, we studied the citizenship test until the boys could get A+ and called that Civics for the year.

So, then I found "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."  I found the movie at our Mr. Smith Goes to Washington DVDlocal library and we watched it late one morning.  The boys weren't happy that it was in black and white, but, very soon, all three of us were enraptured by the plot and the actors.  This was a phenominal movie.  We spent a few minutes in discussion about how the scenes in this movie are examples of things that really happen today in government.  I was happy for the Civics lesson and the discussion, but we didn't have anything concrete to show for our efforts.

Fast forward a several weeks and I received notice that I was going to review one of Zeezok's Movie Guides: z-guides to the Movies.  Guess what was one of the movies on the list?  Mr. Smith Goes to Washington!

I downloaded the e-version of this movie guide.  It was so easy to implement.  The lessons are laid-out so that the entire unit can be done in a week's time if you do two activities a day.  If you wanted to do a speed course you could do everything in 2 days but you wouldn't get much else done.    And the activities are thought provoking and complicated but not difficult.  It's not some easy spoon-feeding stuff here. 

We watched the movie again, this time using the movie review questions to guide us along as we watched.  Then we started in on the other activities.  At the end of our week we watched the movie again and completed our final activity. 

I was impressed with this unit study based on movies.  Check out all the movies for which Zeezok has guides here.  It's a great list with movies that cover a wide-range of subjects.  And they have plans to add a bunch of other movies too!  The lesson we did was at a high-school level, but there are middle-school level movie guides in the works too.  I know some of my fellow crew-mates are reviewing movie guides that haven't even been released yet.  Check them all out here. 

The movie guide I received sells for $12.99 on Zeezok's website.  And Zeezok even sells the movies that go with their guides!  Again, you can see everything they have to offer as part of their movie guides here.  But they also let me know that their movies are readily available on Netflix.  And, like I said, I found our movie at the library.

This is the second time I've reviewed a product from Zeezok, and I have loved both items.  If you'd like more information from Zeezok, check out their contact page here.  And consider using a movie guide.  I was really impressed.

I received a complimentary e-book of Zeezok's movie guide for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in order to complete this review.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Program for Programming

The Kid Coder Year Pack from Homeschool Programming is excellent. It is a non-consumable product so you can use it over and over again for all your children. It gives your children a marketable skill with a useful computer language, Visual Basic. The software required is free and downloadable from Microsoft and used universally.

When our T-bone, age 12,  began this course, he worked it entirely on his own!  All he did was open the book and begin.  Even the software download is part of a lesson, so there is no preparation needed. If you need a little guidance, the teacher's guide contains a CD with printable instructions on downloading the software, registering the software and installing the help features.

I just have to jump-in here and tell you that, this curriculum has blessed me so much.  Our youngest has skills that don't always bring about the praise of others.  His older brother is a champion archer.  He's also a bit more outgoing and enjoys being on-stage or in front of people.  Although T-bone is just as bright and personable, his gifts lie more with things he does alone such as computer work.  When the Kid Coder books arrived, he jumped up and down with excitement.  We have always done all subject except math together with both boys, but the Kid Coder books were just for T-bone.  And he couldn't have been happier with having his own special subject that only he could master.  And, oh my, how he has mastered it.  He makes these things appear on the PC and he incorporates his own humor and creativity.  It has been wonderful.  And truthfully, I have NO clue what he's doing.  I helped on day-one with the installation of the software needed and after that, he's been on his own.  He works through the lessons and then shows me what he can make our PC do. 

As part of the curriculum there are chapter tests.  I love these because it reinforces that he's reading and understanding the reading, since I'm not instructing at all. I don't worry so much about grade as I do that he is able to answer each questioin.  If it were left to him, my little hands-on guy would just get to the fun stuff of programming and leave all the reading for another time.  With chapter tests, he has to pay attention to the reading as well as the hands-on portion.

The student book has sections for the child to read and then you have follow-up questions, or tests to print from your teacher's CD. The teacher's manual contains all the answers. This Kid Coder course is geared to 4th to 8th grade students, and our 7th grader had no trouble with the reading and found it interesting.

The one year Kid Coder curriculum which includes the student book and teacher book with CD for PC programming and game programming is $120.00. You can break this up and purchase just the PC programming or just the game programming curriculum. They also offer a high school programming curriculum called Teen Coder with similar pricing structures. Check out their website here, for information on everything they have to offer and the prices on all of it.

As always, I would encourage you to follow up on the information I'm presenting here by reading the reviews of my fellow crew-mates. You can also contact Homeschool Programming directly here if you have more questions or concerns.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary one-year pack of the Kid Coder programming curriculum from Homeschool Programming in order to complete this fair and honest review.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

On Line Learning and Games

A few months ago, I was digging around for some fun things to do for Friday Fun Lessons.  One resource I love for that is the homeschool buyers coop newsletter.  There's usually some interesting links at the bottom of each of their newsletters.  Well, this day was no exception and I found Big IQ Kids.  We played around on that website for almost an hour, taking the quizzes and playing the games that we earned by taking the quizzes.  At that time I only used the free version, which I thought was pretty good.  We found some games, the boys and I, that we all really liked.

Imagine my surprise when a few weeks later I got the opportunity to review Big IQ Kids!  Now we could play around with the subscription portion of the site and STILL play the games!

I must say, I'm really pleased with this website.  Each day the boys log on and do a spelling lesson, a vocabulary lesson, a math lesson, and a geography lesson.  We tend to slack off in geography around here, so I'm grateful for the geography lessons.  I wouldn't use math as the main lesson, just as a refresher, but the spelling and vocabulary could be your entire spelling/vocab. curriculum for the year.  After the boys finish their lessons, they earn points.  With the points they can play games.  And they have played some really cool challenging games!

The boys aren't crazy about the voices used on the website.  Sometimes, it can be hard to understand the spelling words and they need me to say what the word is so that they can hear how it's correctly pronounced.  BUT the spelling words are really challenging!  The other day, one of the guys had the word "ecclesiastic"! 

Although they whine a bit when I send them over to "do" Big IQ Kids, they always end up playing well into their free time after they've finished their lessons for the day. 

And I get notices when they've mastered a subject, such as a times-table, or taken a quiz.  I get daily notices on how well they've done on their spelling lessons.  (I won't tell you how bad it's been.)  I love this accountability.  And I didn't have to do anything to set that up.

You will find the pricing structure here.  You can get anywhere from a one-month to a 12-month subscription.  It's a bit pricey, 99.99 for a year, but it would completely cover a spelling and vocabulary curriculum for a year and give you math practice and geography reinforcement as well.

Check it out for yourself.  There is a free portion that will give you a very good idea of what Big IQ Kids has to offer.  But, as always, don't take my word for it.  Check out the reviews of my fellow crew-mates here.  We've thoroughly enjoyed our time with it and will continue to use it until our one-year subscription is up.

I received two one-year subscriptions to BigIQKids in order to complete this review.