Outside The Box Homeschooling

A site to help moms teach their "outside the box" kids.

Spaceboards by NeoLithix

I am REALLY excited about this product!!!  OK, it’s a sneaky way to push my “In the Box”, workbook loving, friends over to the “DARK SIDE”!!!!!

These workbooks are really nicely done.  They also are yet another extremely economical option for iPad homeschool users.  Each workbook is only $1.99, or you can buy the whole grade level curriculum for $19.99.  They load into a free app that you download from the app store.  Each grade level can be purchased from the app store, but if you would like samples or individual books, you need to visit their website.  Once items are purchased from the website, they automatically show up in your app.  I did find that the refresh button in the app doesn’t refresh your account like I assumed.  You do need to log out and back into the app in order for your new purchases to show up.   Oh, and I appreciate that they had the tutorials already made and available on youtube.  You can visit youtube to view more videos on their products.

At first glance, I thought that the workbooks were a bit low in skill level, but after more review, I think they are right on track.  I am a hard one to please when it comes to grammar and language arts curriculum.  I do find that I would like a workbook format for this subject.  I am excited to try this product for Sweet Pea and will update you on how well it works for her.  Oh, and I appreciate that they had the tutorials already made and available on youtube.  You can visit youtube to view more videos on their products.

For more information on their products, visit http://www.space-boards.com

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Wondermaps by Bright Ideas Press

Although Wondermaps currently does not download to the iPad, it is still one of my favorite homeschool products.  At our home, we approach geography primarily by the FIAR or similar Charlotte Mason method.  As we read literature, we look at the settings and map them.  If a character is from a different country, we would map this country, state, etc.  A journey can be mapped by placing push pins on each location and connecting them with a string on the world map. We then add maps to our lapbooks and notebooking as well. Using this method to teach geography can be extremely frustrating if you can’t find a good map to accompany a literature book.  Even the ones that accompany many of the unit studies are distorted or don’t photocopy well from their study guides.  I was continually searching for a decent map on the internet.  Typically, it was a lengthy process that did not result in finding the exact map I had been looking for.  If it was a historical map, that was even a greater challenge.  This is where Wondermaps comes in.

As the name implies, Wondermaps is indeed wonderful.  Once installed on your computer, you have access to all the maps included in The Mystery of History and  All American History textbooks by Bright Idea Press. You also can choose world or United States maps.  Once you click on the desired buttons, it gives you the option to then select from sub-categories.  After selecting your desired map, it will display as a beautiful, color map.  Along the sidebar, are different items you may or may not want on your map.  If you do not want it to be colored, just deselect that option.  If the intention is to test your child on the capitals or major cities, deselecting the city names leaves only the locating dots on the map.  Terrain texts can remain on the map or be removed.  You are able to customize that map to meet your needs.  I am thrilled that I can print them in color or black and white.  This program is a dream for any teacher.

I mentioned above that all the maps in the history books published by Bright Ideas Press are included.  This is a HUGE resource of historical maps.  I have spent so much time searching for historical maps to go with unit studies.  Where would you find a map of British India in 1753?  I just did, in three clicks.  A map of Lewis and Clarks expeditions.  They are all there.  It may sound silly to be so incredibly giddy over a mapping program, but this is an amazing product.  You can purchase this product from Brightideaspress.com for $49.95.  It comes in both a CD or download format.  This product is in my opinion the best $50 I have spent on curriculum, and is a product my children will utilize throughout their entire educational experience.

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Visual Latin

For those who don’t know, my background is in science and healthcare.  A few years ago, I was employed, traveling the country, teaching a review course for the dental hygiene, national board exam.  I have been a registered dental hygienist since 1998.  Currently, I work clinically 12 hours per week.  The most interesting thing that I learned while doing this job was the lack of test taking skills in the graduating students.  You would think that students graduating from such a rigorous, science program would have fabulous test taking skills.  Hummm… What was the problem?

My conclusion, after much pondering, was that they did not have a grasp of word roots.  They could not break down the words to make an educated guess.  Science is Latin based.  A grasp of Latin not only helps a student understand English, but it puts them so far ahead of other students when it comes to science.  On entering the dental hygiene program, by far the hardest part of the first quarter was that I felt like I was taking classes in a foreign language.  In fact, my good friend is from Romania.  She took many classes with me.  Even though English was a second language to her, science was easy.  Her first language is Latin based.  She wasn’t taking science in a foreign language.

From this premise came my resolve that Sis would take Latin.  At first I wasn’t concerned that she could speak it.  I was more interested in her ability to break down words.  I started with Word Roots by Critical Thinking Co.  At first she liked it.  It is in a workbook format.  As I have mentioned in previous blogs, a workbook rebellion has been waged against me.  It was first begun by Sweet Pea, but soon joined by Sis.  I will agree that by the end of the first book, it was very difficult.  She began to hate Latin.

While reading a TOS Magazine article, I came across a review of a new program called “Visual Latin”.  It sounded promising, so I visited their website.  They had their teacher videos via YouTube.  They also provide it in two download formats.  One is for iPod.  The second is in HD for use on a computer.  My interest was sparked.  Look there…  Free trial lessons.  I could make sure it worked on the iPad before buying it.  The download button was pushed.

This program loads perfectly into GoodReader.  They are large files and won’t download on my 16G iPad, but will on the 64G.  You can easily try the free sample lessons to make sure it will work before you purchase the product.  Once it is downloaded to GoodReader, you will need to unzip the file.  Included in your file will be three videos, three worksheets, and the answer sheet.  We transfer the worksheets into Type on Pdf instead of printing them.  The student can then watch the videos and do the worksheets completely on the iPad.  Once it is downloaded, an internet connection is not needed.  I love this because it is a great subject for her to take along when we need to homeschool on the road.

Sis is excited to do Latin now.  It is one of her favorite subjects.  She thinks the teacher is funny and often times has to annoy me by reciting all his lame jokes.  Due in my opinion to both Latin programs, I have seen a huge jump in her ability to break down words.  She does very well on tests and has a wonderful grasp of the English language.  She is enjoying learning how to speak Latin.  Her goal is to figure out what her best friend’s mom is saying when she speaks Romanian.  To say the least, I am beyond pleased with this program.  It is exactly what I was looking for.

The only negatives that I have found with this product is that their website is hard to navigate once you purchase the download.  It will usually give you an error message when you try to download it.  I have figured out how to go back into the account and change the settings to get it to work.  It is a pain.  The other negative is that because of the file size, I can usually only download one or two lessons at a time.  We then unzip them, move files, and delete the zip file.  It does take a bit of knowledge working with an iPad to get it to work at times.  Overall, once it is downloaded, my ten year old is more than capable of moving the files and completing her assignments on her own.

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Lego Education

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Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am a huge fan of Lego education products.  Both of my girls have completed all the Lego classes for their age group at our parent partnership program.  This year, I purchased the “Simple and Motorized Machines Kit”, along with the homeschool curriculum that goes with it.

I love this kit.  Everything needed comes in a neat bin for storage.  The teaching materials are in a binder along with the worksheets.  Each unit has a book A and a book B.  The really cool part about this, is that it is intended to be used by two children.  No more fighting about who gets to do the next step.  Both children get their own book.  They indepenently build their portion of the project and then at the end connect them together to create some sort of machine.

Each lesson has a story in which Jack and Jill are presented with a problem and build a machine to solve it.  Typically, the initial machine needs modifications.  After it is put together, the kids work together making modifications to the machine to learn the science concept and complete the worksheets.

An additional, really cool opportunity for kids is available using this kit.  Lego has teamed up with NASA this year, and is using this kit.  You can log onto legospace.com and participate in experiments with the astronauts.  We haven’t had time to participate in this program, but I have looked at the website.  It looks like an incredibly fun learning experience.

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