Friday, October 24, 2014

Random 5 on Friday: Catching Up and Reducing

The Pebble Pond

Here's a quick Random 5 on Friday post, and then I need to get back to work - I have baking and some chores I need to get done before running errands this afternoon.
  1. Thought I was staying on top of grading the kids' schoolwork, but I've still got a fair-sized stack of math to go through. This weekend's project is to make sure I'm completely caught up.
  2. My pet peeve of the week: people adding their link to a link-up but it has NOTHING to do with the theme of the link-up. Hello?! Do you even look at the anchor post?! I'm sure no one reading this would ever do that, but there are people out there that do and it bugs me. Thanks for letting me vent. :-)
  3. Six big bags of clothes and bedding left my house this week - donated to Purple Heart. A little bit more progress in our efforts to reduce our stuff this year. And speaking of reducing... I'm finally trying to get more serious about some personal reducing. I need to lose weight, and I need to quit procrastinating. I've been making a few small changes that have already helped me, and I am committed to continuing. Some things are harder to change than others, so I expect there to be some difficult days when I am just not feeling it.
  4. It was too cloudy to see any of the partial solar eclipse yesterday. But we didn't have welding masks or anything like that anyway, so maybe it's just as well that we watched the live streaming from a couple of conservatories instead. I like lunar eclipses better - no special viewing equipment needed. :-) 
  5. Finally did some catching up and blogged about some of the books I finished reading recently. Check out my book blog, Just A Second, if you want to see what they are. 
Not an eclipse - just the moon.
The stack of stuff donated this week!

The Pebble Pond    For the Display of His Splendor
In addition to linking to the Random 5 on Friday at The Pebble Pond, this post is also linked at For the Display of His Splendor.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Virtual Refrigerator: Four Seasons

Welcome to another edition of the Virtual Refrigerator! This weekly blog hop is co-hosted by A Glimpse of Our LifeAngels of HeartHomeschool Coffee Break, and Every Bed of Roses. We all cordially invite you to add your link sharing the art that's on your Virtual Refrigerator and then hop over to the other blogs and admire what's on their Fridges! 
October's Art Challenge: Autumn Leaves
The hosts of the Virtual Refrigerator put our heads together and decided to give a themed challenge to each other and to our readers each month. For October, the theme is Autumn Leaves, and we'd like to you to link up and pin your artwork that features autumn leaves in some way. We'll be featuring themed submissions to the Fridge as we go along. Please continue to share any art posts on our Virtual Fridge as well - we love seeing all of them! - and we hope the theme provides a little additional challenge and inspiration!

Last week one of Kennady's science assignments was to draw a picture showing a favorite weather condition in the area she lives in. She couldn't decide what kind of weather she enjoyed most, so she did a four seasons scene. Here it is in progress - when I saw this, I asked her if the winter scene was a full blizzard white-out. LOL

Virtual Fridge: Four Seasons

Here's the finished piece. Once the snow stopped, we could see the bare branches on the tree. ;-)
Virtual Fridge: Four Seasons

You can grab the button above and add it to your post. Add your link here to share your child's art or your arts and crafts how-to posts. Please visit the other blogs and admire what's on their Virtual Refrigerators!

You may also follow the Virtual Refrigerator's group Pinterest board. If you'd like to join us, just ask and one of the Fridge hosts can send you an invite. Continue to share your posts on the link-up each week, and on the Pinterest board!

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 ©2006-2014 Homeschool Coffee Break. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Standard Deviants Accelerate - A Schoolhouse Crew Review

How can you not be intrigued by an online learning program with the name Standard Deviants Accelerate? At first, the name wasn't familiar to me, but when I checked out their website, I liked their approach of infusing humor into educational videos. We had the privilege of reviewing the Standard Deviants Accelerate Homeschool Courses over the past couple of months.
Standard Deviants Accelerate Review
Standard Deviants Accelerate has been producing quality education videos for over 20 years, using humor, varied presentations, and bite-sized chunks of information to help students learn what they need to know. The idea is to condense core academics into a few hours of instructional videos that are entertaining and funny. Standard Deviants Accelerate Homeschool Courses take this approach of humorous video instruction combined with printable text, interactive diagrams and quizzes; making it easy for homeschool families to use these courses as supplements or as a study spine to cover a variety of subjects. All the instructional material is included in the videos, so homeschool parents aren't kept scrambling for books and materials. The courses are entirely online, so they can be accessed anywhere you have an internet connection. Students can work at their own pace, and a large part of the grading is done automatically.

Standard Deviants Accelerate Homeschool Courses are for Grades 3-12. The following courses are available:
  • Earth Science - Grades 6+
  • Nutrition - Grades 6+
  • Biology - Grades 7+
  • Chemistry - Grades 9+
  • Arithmetic - Grades 3+
  • Fundamental Math - Grades 4+
  • Algebra - Grades 7+
  • English Composition - Grades 9+
  • U.S. History - Grades 9+
  • AP Biology - Grades 11+
  • AP Chemistry - Grades 11+
  • AP U.S. Government and Politics - Grades 11+
  • AP U.S. History - Grades 11+
  • AP English Composition - Grades 11+
Each course includes video instruction with accompanying transcript; critical thinking questions; multiple choice questions; graphic organizers; and vocabulary words. Transcripts, written work, and quizzes can all be printed.
Standard Deviants Accelerate Review
How did we use it?  We received a full annual subscription to Standard Deviants Accelerate Homeschool Courses so that we could try out as many of the courses as we wished. Although I briefly explored several of the courses, our focus was on the Nutrition course. Because a half-credit course in Health is now required for our homeschooled high schoolers, we thought the Standard Deviants Accelerate course in Nutrition would be a fun way for Landon (Grade 10) to get this requirement. I got Kennady (Grade 8) signed up for the same course, so that she can complete that half-credit early, and so they could do the group activities in the course. As it turned out, Landon got ahead of Kennady in the lessons, so the group activities didn't work out for the two of them quite as I'd planned, but that's okay!
Okay, I know you probably can't read those chapter titles, so I'll summarize what's covered in this course: The Intro to Nutrition chapter lays groundwork and explains macronutrients; What Your Body Does With Food covers digestion and metabolism; Food Spectrum teaches the food groups; Micronutrients explains vitanmins and minerals; Preventing Nutritional Disorders provides a basic understanding of nutritional disorders and how diet and weight management contribute to disease and to overall health; Eating in Context explores body types, alternative diets, and psychological factors involved in our eating habits; Where does Your Food Come From? discusses fresh, frozen, and organic foods; and The Savvy Eater sums it up, encouraging students to be informed consumers and make healthy food choices.

For each topic in the chapter, there is a video lesson that is about 10 minutes long. The SDA actors and actresses present the information in a dialogue-type video presentation that includes jokes and cartoons and a little silliness. The student can follow along in the transcript beside the video screen. Landon often got impatient waiting for the video to load or to stop hiccuping (we have slower internet, so that's on our end!) and would just read the transcript. He was getting all of the information that way, just not all the visuals and audio. See the yellow button that says, "Print Full Transcript"? That's right, you can print it out so there's something in your notebook if that's what you need for studying, or for your records. There is a space on the screen where the student is encouraged to take their own notes, and those can be printed too.
Following along on the tabs across the top of the page, the next step is the Vocabulary Words. Each is defined, and clicking the speaker icon allows the student to hear the word and its definition. Again, this page can be printed if needed.
For many of the chapters, there is a drag-and-drop graphic organizer type of diagram that tests the student's understanding of the material taught.
And finally, there is a multiple-choice Quiz, and a Written Answer assignment to test the student's mastery of the topic.
The student's work is graded automatically by the program, except for the Written Answer. In the Teacher or Admin area, there are rubrics provided in the Grading section, but the answers themselves were not. It would have been very helpful to have the screen show me some suggestions of what the student's answer should include. So for example, the question "How can fiber intake help prevent weight gain?" was asked in a Critical Thinking question, but the Grading section did not summarize the answers to that question that would have been referenced in the lesson. I had to either know the answer myself, or review the lesson material to find it. Of course, some questions ask the student to summarize what they've learned, or how they can personally apply what they've learned.

There are progress reports for both the student and the parent/teacher. Both versions make use of a graphic that shows how much of the material has been mastered, and how much the student has done. The progress wheel in this particular report shows that Landon has completed the Written Response and Tests and Quizzes for this section, but not the Subject Review or Group Activity. And in the second screen shot, the quizzes and assignments along with their scores and average are shown.
Each of the Nutrition chapters open with a Pre-Assessment Activity, and most of these are intended to be done as a Group Activity. Some are very easy to adapt for only one student, such as the journal writing activity, or could be done individually instead of working in groups. However, if Landon saw the words "working in groups..." at the beginning of the assignment, he figured he couldn't do it, so most of those have been skipped so far. If Kennady had been able to do those along with Landon, most of them would have been doable. I will need to decide if he has to go back and complete the Group Activities in some way in order for me to consider the coursework complete, or if it's okay to just leave them out. That said, the program did not prevent him from moving on if he didn't complete the activity. 

What we liked best:
  • information is presented in different formats so just about any learning style can be accommodated. Students can hear and see the video, but also read the transcript. Vocabulary words are listed and defined, and are recorded so the student can listen to the pronunciation.
  • I love that we can easily print out almost everything. This makes it a lot easier to show what we've done during an oversight meeting.
  • The coursework is condensed, so the lessons don't take up huge chunks of time; and it's all self-contained.
What I need to mention:
  • SDA is a secular, non-religious curriculum and attempts to stay neutral. So you should be aware that the Earth Science and Biology courses include teaching of Big Bang Theory and Evolution.
  • I had some trouble navigating through the grading tasks. I would have preferred a grading page that showed me everything that needed grading, rather than having to select each chapter and topic to find out if there was anything to grade. I also would have liked if the grading section had provided suggested answers for the written answer work.
  • for high school credit (for the Nutrition course specifically), some additional reading, projects, or writing assignments would be needed in order to round out the course. The courses are intended to be condensed supplements, and not stand-alone complete courses.
Our bottom line: For the Nutrition course, this is working out well for us right now. SDA provides a light-hearted but focused approach to learning the basic material that has the right balance of flexibility and simple structure. I would recommend SDA for students that work well independently and enjoy the videos. These courses are good for getting the essentials of the subject covered efficiently, but will not provide in-depth coursework for students that want or need to dig deeper. Some of the other courses hold appeal for our family  as well (I'm thinking Algebra, in particular, for Kennady), even though we couldn't make use of them immediately, but I think they will be useful as supplemental material as we go along. 
Standard Deviants Accelerate Review
Would Standard Deviants Accelerate be a good fit for your homeschool? Here's what you need to know:
Visit the website:
See the full list of Standard Deviants Accelerate Homeschool Courses and an overview of How It Works for Homeschool.

Pricing: Core Curriculum Subjects (one student, one teacher) are priced at $24.95/month or $99 annually per course. AP Subjects (one student, one teacher) are priced at $14.95/month per course. See the Plans & Pricing: Homeschool page for details. A six-month free trial is available.

Recommended Ages: Grade levels are given for each course, but generally age 8 or Grade 3 and up. 
The Nutrition course that we are using is intended for Grade 6 and up.

You can follow Standard Deviants Accelerate on Facebook, on Twitter, on Google+, and on Pinterest.
Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other reviews. Crew members reviewed all of the homeschool courses at SDA, so be sure to check out all of them! 
Click to read Crew Reviews
Crew Disclaimer

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Middle School Monday: Art

Middle School Monday

Welcome to Middle School Monday!

I'm glad my daughter has a creative bent and enjoys art. I've never been a very good artist myself, so I'm not sure where it comes from, but she is quick to pick up pencil or pen or chalk pastels and draw.

Middle School Monday: Art

This year she doesn't have a separate art curriculum, as she has for the past couple of years. Instead, we are finding art projects that go along with her Cultural Geography course, and sometimes with her Meteorology course.

Sometimes they are rather serious drawings, like this one of Stonehenge. Although she can't resist adding a title in Dwarvish.
Middle School Monday: Art

We had fun making these Greek theater inspired masks, almost like giant emoticons!

Middle School Monday: Art

Simple science diagrams turn into artistic sketches.

Middle School Monday: Art

Middle School Monday: Art

She had an assignment in the Weather and Climate book asking her to draw a picture of her favorite kind of weather where she lives. She couldn't decide, so she did a four seasons panel in chalk pastel.

Middle School Monday: Art

Middle School Monday: Art

And any old time, she'll come up with her own projects for fun, like using up craft sticks, paint, and glitter to make Dr Who's sonic screwdriver.
Middle School Monday: Art

Or just doodling with chalk pastels and practicing shading.

Middle School Monday: Art

Middle School Monday: Art

This was last week's art project. I challenged Kennady to come up with some art with the theme Autumn Leaves for the Virtual Refrigerator, and this is what she did:
Middle School Monday: Art

 If you're looking for art instruction or ideas suitable for middle schoolers, check out my reviews of ARTistic Pursuits Middle School Book Two, ARTistic Pursuits Sculpture Technique, and Geography Through Art.

How do you include art in your middle schooler's education? Leave a comment and let me know! I also invite you to drop by the Virtual Refrigerator each week and share your art posts.

Each week I invite bloggers to share their posts about middle school here on Middle School Monday. The link is open through Friday, and I will do my best to visit, comment, and share your posts. Please grab the Middle School Monday button to add to your post or to your sidebar when you leave your link below, and please visit the other links and comment or share. I look forward to seeing what you and your middle schoolers are doing!
Middle School Monday at Homeschool Coffee Break

Please visit your neighbors, leave comments, and share!

 ©2006-2014 Homeschool Coffee Break. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Homeschool Weekly: Ready for Fall Edition

In our homeschool...  I feel like I don't even know what the kids got done this week! They worked on things on their own, so I didn't do much other than  try to keep some of the grading up to date.

I do know that Landon worked on History, and that Kennady worked on Geography. This week she learned about a couple more Eastern European countries - Hungary, Slovakia, and Serbia.

Kennady worked on Literature, but she is falling a bit behind schedule. No big deal, it's just taking her longer to read Treasure Island than I expected. I worked with Landon at the beginning of the week to review the Analytical Grammar lessons we did during the summer, and assigned some refreshers, but we didn't get started on new lessons yet.

Both of them worked on Math, and I'm very happy with how that's going!

Kennady is now a full week ahead of schedule in Science, so things have a way of balancing out. She even did a couple of little art projects related to Science.

And Landon is still working on the Nutrition course (we will be posting our review within a couple days).

So even though I don't know exactly which lesson everyone is working on, and can't remember the details of what they did, at least I'm confident that it's getting done!

In other news... We got our new roof done this week, although it kept being pushed back because of the rainy and windy weather during the first part of the week.

Our truck is in the shop, getting major repairs, which is frustrating in itself. Aren't vehicles a pain sometimes? Like when they don't work and you have to keep getting them fixed. *sigh*  We are down to one vehicle this weekend, so we've had to plan carefully to get everyone where they need to be.

I recommend...  checking the Schoolhouse Crew blog - this was a busy week on the blog, and there are lots of resources there. You'll find lots of ideas for Artist and Composer Studies in this week's Round-up post, Crew members reviewed three books in the iWitness series from Apologia, and reviews are being added daily for Standard Deviants Accelerate. Also, the Crew is now accepting applications to join our Review Crew for 2015!

Artist and Composer Round-up

On my blog this week...

On the bookshelf...

  • Song of Redemption - Lynn Austin
  • Robin: Lady of Legend - R.M.ArceJaeger
  • A Lady's Honor - Laurie Alice Eakes
  • Out of the Storm - Jody Hedlund 

A parting shot... My friend posted this picture on her fridge as a broad hint to her daughter that reading was important. One day the daughter took the picture down. Mom put it back up. Later Mom noticed that a little "L" had been added to Mark Twain's forehead, along with a beard. LOL The silent battle continues. I thought it was hilarious.

Weekly Wrap-Up  
This post is linked at Managing Your Blessings, at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers,  and at Home to 4 Kiddos -  see what other homeschoolers are doing this week.

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