Friday, November 22, 2013

Blue Ribbon Awards for 2013

*this post contains affiliate links*

Have you seen the list of Blue Ribbon Award winners for 2013? Each year the Schoolhouse Review Crew tries out all kinds of products for homeschoolers and their families, and provides reviews for these wonderful vendors. At the end of the year, Crew members vote on their favorites in a wide range of categories. In 2013, Crew members reviewed products from 86 vendors, and apparently the voting was tight, with only a margin of one or two votes in some categories! Once the votes were tallied, 28 vendors received the 38 Blue Ribbons awarded. Congratulations to all the wonderful vendors!

I'm going to highlight the Blue Ribbon winning vendors that my family was privileged to meet this year, and I'm pleased to see that many of our favorites were overall favorites as well.
One of big winners is Institute for Excellence in Writing, taking the Blue Ribbon for Favorite Writing Curriculum, Favorite Middle School Resource, and Favorite High School Resource. I was thrilled to be able to review IEW, and we give it our enthusiastic recommendation! 
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Our bottom line: I don't think I can adequately express how great this has been for me and for my students! We have gone from all three of us dreading writing assignments to enjoying the process, and we are all learning it together. I don't think I will hesitate to purchase the SWI Level C in a year or so, because I have already seen how well it's working. I'm looking back over what I've written for this review post, and I think I'm at risk of gushing and going on too long about what I love about IEW, but it's all true!  (Click here to read our full review!)
The award for Best Online Resource went to Supercharged Science, which was one of our favorites. This curriculum truly encourages hands-on science, which is quite an accomplishment for an online resource! My kids enjoyed trying the program out last spring when we were studying astronomy, and it has become a standard part of our science for this school year as well. Landon is using it as his main resource for Biology and Kennady is referring to it as she does her own study in zoology. 
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 Our bottom line: I am planning to have Landon and Kennady use Supercharged Science for their complete science course for the next school year. I love that they can both use the program at the same time, but Landon will be able to do more in depth work to earn his biology credit for high school, while Kennady will be able to follow along and do the middle school level work. It takes the pressure off me because I don't have to manage textbooks or do much planning ahead. We'll be able to use resources we already own alongside e-Science too. (Click here to read our full review!)
I was especially interested to see which vendor won the Teens Choice Award. This goes to the product that earned the votes of the teen students of Crew members, so it has to have pretty broad appeal and be something that goes beyond merely education. The teens voted for The Presidential Game. (Landon's vote was split between The Presidential Game and another vendor and he had a tough time making a choice!)
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Our bottom line: I think it's safe to say my kids enjoyed playing this game AND they learned about the electoral college. I may be asking them to interpret the data for me next election cycle! This game would be a fun addition to a homeschool learning about Civics, and something unique for family game night or for a party game. There's nothing 'childish' about it so it would be just as appropriate for adults as for kids, and the strategy and teamwork aspects would make it entertaining for almost anyone who enjoys a good board game, whether they enjoy and follow politics or not. This game got plenty of votes at our house! (Click here to read our full review!)
Best e-product went to Home School in the Woods for their excellent lapbook kits. When we reviewed this, we had little experience with making lapbooks, but these products are top-notch and we were very impressed.
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Our bottom line: This was a lot of fun, for me and for Kennady! I'm so glad we gave lapbooking another chance, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is something even older students can enjoy and benefit from. Kennady learned plenty of new things while working on this, and got a chance to review and better understand some of the events she was already somewhat familiar with. I would highly recommend this Lap-Pak or one of the other products from Home School In the Woods to any homeschool family that is interested in trying out lapbook type projects. These Activity Paks and Lap-Paks make it easy and fun! (Click here to read our full review!)
Favorite Technology Curriculum was won by Homeschool Programming. This was a resource I wasn't sure we needed until we actually reviewed it. It turned out to be very enjoyable and easy to use, and teaches great practical skills for students.
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Our bottom line: Despite a slow start, Kennady is enjoying this course and I am learning along with her! We are both really looking forward to the second semester, having seen a little preview of it already. Because this course has such broad age appeal and suitability, it's very likely that Landon will do it too. If he does, I'll have trouble deciding which of them to hire to re-design my blog! We are very glad we got to review this excellent resource! (Click here to read our full review!)
Kennady really enjoyed the art reviews she got to help with this year, and one of them is the winner of the Favorite Fine Arts award - See The Light. This delightful DVD series of art lessons guide students in making art projects in the styles of famous artists.
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Our bottom line: Well, my young artist loved doing this project and it inspired more artistic ideas for her! She had such a hard time deciding which of the DVDs she wanted most, that I think it will be worthwhile for me to get one or two of the others for her to try. I think these DVD lessons would be a welcome addition in most homeschools, and would be great for small co-op classes as well. 
(Click here to read our full review!)
Diary of a Real Payne from Barbour Publishing was chosen as the Best Childrens Book, which was no surprise to us, since Kennady so thoroughly enjoyed it!

Our bottom line: Kennady read this book quickly and really enjoyed it, and I've overheard her talk to a couple of friends about it already. I think we will be very interested in Book 2: Church Camp Chaos when it is published in March 2014. I can warmly recommend this book for young readers for its wholesome and realistic portrayal of an imaginative young girl and her adventures in growing up. 
(Click here to read our full review!)
We had many more favorites from the reviews we did this year that didn't quite make the awards, but earned a permanent place in our homeschool and warm recommendations from us to other homeschoolers. You can read all of my Schoolhouse Crew Reviews by clicking on this label, and definitely stop by the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to see the list of all the Blue Ribbon Award Winners and a link to all of those reviews.

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