Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Picta Dicta Vocabulary Builder by Roman Roads Media ~ A Homeschool Crew Review

Our second review this week has been all about Latin! We have been using the Picta Dicta Vocabulary Builder by Roman Roads Media for the last few weeks to see if we could learn some new words in Latin.

I have never taken any kind of Latin so when this review came up, I thought why not check out the Vocabulary Builder to get a small taste of it. It's definitely not a complete curriculum by any means, but I think it would be a huge asset to someone who is taking Latin. On top of that it's fun!

Picta Dicta is completely online, self paced and geared for a range of ages starting in junior high on up through college. It covers general reading vocabulary learning such things as verbs, nouns, adjectives, and other concepts to help students with reading proficiency. It uses a combination of things such as pictures, sounds, and concepts just to name a few, to help the student remember each word or phrase.

Roman Roads was very generous in giving us as many licenses as we needed to complete this review. This means I could also use it in addition to Gavin, my 13 year old. I normally have them working on reviews themselves for the majority of the time, but I really dove into this one myself. We ended up pretty much doing it together since it was just me and him.

Getting started with the program is super easy. Once you set up your learner profiles, you are ready to get started. We just dove right in. The Vocabulary Builder has several different difficulty levels, but we decided that we should definitely start off with Easy.

Once you are to your dashboard, you can see the word "Play" at the top and you will click on that. This will take you to where the lessons are.

On the right side of the screen are two icons, Train and Go. To get started, we went to Go. This brings you to the first lesson which is over The Map and all things to do with The Map. Each lesson is broken down into 3 parts. Learn, Choose, and Spell.

You will start with the Learn category. This is where the words are introduced to you. There are flashcards that pop up that tell you the origin of the word, it has a picture to help you remember the word, and also tells you what the word means.

After showing you a few flash cards, it will next give you words that you have to match with the pictures. This is extremely helpful for the visual learner. Aka me and my children! Sometimes I really think the pictures are what helped us remember the words.

When you have completed the Learn category, you will then move to the Choose category. Here you will be given the word like before and then you will have to choose the correct word or meaning.

We did really well with the words, but we were constantly getting hung up on the phrases! We finally made it through though because the program will continue to go over them until you know them.

Next you will move on to what we found to be the hardest part of each lesson which is Spell. Here they gave you a word and then you had to not only remember it, but also spell it correctly! This was very challenging for us for some reason!

After every chapter or two, there will be a review over what you've learned. You can also go the the Train icon at the top of your dashboard and pull up reviews that way. There are a number of ways to review, so you can have all of the practice you want!

Like I said, this would be great for someone who is taking a Latin course, so we may revisit this again when Gav is in high school! We really enjoyed using it, and we even came away knowing some new Latin words. I would highly recommend it for a supplement or to anyone just wanting to brush up on their Latin!

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Classical Rhetoric and Picta Dicta {Roman Roads Media Reviews}

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Kingdom File Series by Barbour Publishing ~ A Homeschool Crew Review

Our newest review is over two fantastic books, Who Was Jonah?, and Who Was Mary, Mother of Jesus? Both of these books are from Barbour Publishing and are in the Kingdom Files series.

I had never heard of the Kingdom Files series before reviewing these books. They were written by author, Matt Koceich. Matt lives in Texas with his wife and children, and is a public school teacher.

I have to say, I was really impressed. In this series, you will find that it's a Bible based biography, and is geared for kids ages 8-12. Each book in the series follows a different Bible character. The story is well told, and lets the reader dive right into that time period.

The first book I want to talk about is Who was Jonah? This is the first one Gav grabbed because we have always enjoyed the story of Jonah. As you can see from the cover, these books are very inviting to any reader.

In the beginning of the book there is a page directed to the reader, or the Reading Detective. It explains all three of the sections that the book is broken down into which are the Fact File, the Action File, and the Power File. These aren't just your regular run of the mill children's books. They are full of information not only about the Bible character, but also about other key people in the Bible.

So before your child even starts the story, they are given the Fact File we talked about earlier. I thought this was such a neat extra to the book. The Fact File tells us all about our character, in this case, Jonah. It gives us his occupation, where he's from, a timeline, and even some key stats.

Now we are ready to get into the Action File portion of the book. This is where we will read
all about Jonah and his adventures. Throughout the story there are Bible verses for reference which is another plus. Gavin told me that he really enjoyed every part of the story. He said it was written in a way that it was not only easy to understand, but also enjoyable. While reading the story there are little clue boxes. They are just little extra bits of encouragement for the reader.

One of my favorite things about the book is the Power File at the end where the reader is given 10 "Power-Ups." These are more in depth bits of encouragement and memory verses covering topics that connect scripture to the reader's lives. Just to name a few are: Obey God, God Cares, God is Faithful, and more. I think these are fantastic because it helps the reader remember just who God is and how much He loves us!

The second book that we were given the privilege to review is Who Was Mary, Mother of Jesus? It again has a very inviting and lovely cover.

Gav hasn't started this book yet, but he's excited to do so. This book follows Mary and the birth of Jesus, so I think we are going to save it for when it gets closer to Christmas. It has all of the same great pieces to it as Who Was Jonah?.

Gav really loved reading these books, and I think he benefited from them even though he is 13. I hope to order some more and add them to our library!

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Kingdom Files {Barbour Publishing Reviews}

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Never Forget 9/11

Today we remember that awful day 17 years ago. It is definitely a day we will never forget.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

GrammarPlanet ~ A Homeschool Crew Review

For the past few weeks we have been reviewing a free comprehensive online program called GrammarPlanet. GrammarPlanet is geared for kids aged 10 to 99, and it covers grammar, punctuation, and usage.

I was super excited to review this program, because I love grammar, and my kids do not. The fact that it was all online, and free was very appealing to me. (You can pay for an ad-free version if you prefer) I thought this would be a great way for my 7th grader who isn't a fan of grammar to get some good practice in. I made a teacher/parent account and immediately got Gavin all set up to start working. It was fast and easy to get started, and also very easy to add my student. He will have his own access to the program through his user name and password.

After logging in, your student will be brought to his/her dashboard. This is where they will go through each unit, and as of right now there are 13 different units available. The first thing you are to do is print off the notes for each unit. My printer is acting up, so we just had to pull them up on the computer. It would be good to have a folder or notebook of some sort to keep all of these notes handy for your student, even if they aren't working in GrammarPlanet.

Once the notes are printed, your student is ready to watch the video that coincides with that unit. It will introduce the topic such as nouns, articles, pronouns, etc., and even pause in the middle to make sure your student is paying attention and understanding what is being taught. It will ask a question about what is being discussed. and your student chooses the correct answer. 

 Some of the videos seemed to overwhelm Gavin with information. I could tell he was confused a little bit, so we would watch the video again. It was almost too much information for him to soak in at times. We moved on anyway so he could start the practice portion.  This is where he started getting frustrated. The first unit on nouns wasn't hard for him at all. I felt since he's in 7th grade, most of this would be second nature, and I was right. As we moved on, I could tell he was a little overwhelmed because the labeling process of the program made him completely flustered. What you were to do is go through and label the parts of the sentence. So in unit 3, the student was labeling articles, adjectives, common and proper nouns. If he labeled something wrong, especially with what they called wings, it would count against him. The wings hurt him a lot, and completely frustrated him.

If you get too many wrong, it will tell you that you need to review the video and notes, and even lock you out of the level. The parent/teacher will have to go in and unlock the level so that the student can move on. I am not a fan of this. I would have to log him out, then log myself in, unlock the level, then log myself out, and then him back in. It just seemed like a waste of time to me. I would have much rather it just not let him move on to the next level until the current level is mastered. Once you have completed the practice, and gotten most of them correct, you will take a test over the unit. I did like that it counted some parts of the sentence correct, and it wasn't just all wrong if a label was missed or missed labeled. It also lets you look at what your child missed on each sentence, so that's another plus.

We reviewed GrammarPlanet as a Beta testing. I ended up taking Gav off of the review due to him getting completely frustrated and overwhelmed with it. I think it has great potential, but I also think it is geared more for older kids like high school or college aged. I think it's just too confusing for younger students, especially those who struggle with grammar. I will say it was a great review for me since I took it over, but even I as an adult, I found some of it to be overwhelming. I failed Unit 3 THREE times before I got to move on. I was ready to throw in the towel myself! If they tweak things, and make this program a little less confusing, I think it can be fantastic. Until then, we probably won't be using it much.

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*Grammar Program Online {GrammarPlannet Reviews}
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