Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: Standard Deviants Accelerate

We recently had the privilege to check out several Homeschool Courses from Standard Deviates Accelerate. While some of the courses target elementary students, all the way down to third grade math, for our review we chose to focus on several high school courses that coincide with our current studies.

What is Standard Deviates Accelerate Homeschool Courses? It is an online collection of educational resources to supplement or round out a home school curriculum. Struggling students can use it for remedial help, and advanced students can use it as an extra resource to enhance their learning. The program is fun and fast paced, and purposely made to appeal to middle school and high school students through the use of multi-media productions.

What happens when you purchase the program? Parents can purchase a one year subscription to one course for one student for $99. Each course can also be purchased for $24.95 per month, and AP courses can be purchased for $14.95 per month. Once you have purchased the program, you will receive an access code for the student. Students must have their own email address to sign in to their courses.

When students log in to their home page, they will see tiles for each course they are enrolled in. It will look like this:

How to use the program:  Students can access their program either by clicking the tile or clicking on the "classes" pull down menu. Once they are in their course, they can use the menu to go to where they left off in the program. The program does not keep track of this, so the student has to know what they have already completed.

An example of this is the menu of the Nutrition course. Here are the first two chapter's table of contents:

What does a course consist of? Each course has several steps. First there is a pre-assessment which introduces the student to the subject matter, and asks several questions to help them gauge how much they know.

The pre-assessment question for AP English Comp

Following the pre-assessment page, students have access to the course itself, which consists of the lessons, a vocabulary word bank, diagrams (which are short activities that reinforce that chapter of the lesson), a short quiz, and a written assignment. 

About the courses:

Nutrition Course

The Nutrition course is geared towards sixth grade and up. I believe it would be a great program for middle school. The chapters are broken down into small lessons, which take about 15-20 minutes to complete. On the right of the screen is a small video lesson that is fast paced and uses young people as actors, teaching the lesson in a fun and informal way. They use slang, props, and graphics to get the points across. To the left side of the video is a written transcript of the lesson that the student can follow along with and read. If you have a student that is "all business" and doesn't care for the somewhat silly nature of the video lesson, they can opt out of the video and just read the written portion. Most middle schoolers will likely enjoy the upbeat video lessons though. 

Here is a screen shot of a Nutrition lesson:

Following the video lesson, the student can review vocabulary words from the word bank, then do the diagrams, which are short activities that reinforce the concept from that lesson. Here is an example of the diagram activity from a Nutrition lesson. Students drag the answers to the correct place on the page, and the program records the number of attempts it takes them until they get it correct. Answers won't 'stick' if they are in the wrong spot. 

After completing the activity, students can take a short quiz on that chapter. Most quizzes had about five questions. If the student was stumped, they could go back to the lesson and watch that part over again, or read through that section on the transcript. Quizzes have multiple choice answers. Here is an example from the AP Government course: 

Once students have selected all their quiz answers, they submit their quiz and are told if any answers are incorrect. One thing I really appreciated is that wrong answers are marked correctly and explained, and a link is provided to review that section of the video lesson so that the student can clearly understand the concept before moving on. 

"Throw it against the wall and see if it sticks" is the hot button to click to submit quiz answers. Not very conventional, but again, the program is meant to appeal to middle school and high school students!

After completing all of the above for one lesson, last but not least there is a written assignment for the student to complete to demonstrate mastery of the subject. Here is the writing prompt for the first chapter of the Nutrition course: 

While the program does keep track of the student's progress with diagram activities and quizzes, it gives rubrics to aid parents in correcting their own student's writing assignments. Parents can also go in to their parent side of the program and edit the rubrics. The program does not give a grade - that is left up to the parents. 

Course Evaluation: At any time while a student is logged in, they can click on their progress reports and get a feel for how they are doing with the course. Parents also have an administrator side of the program where they can evaluate the progress of their students. The program allows repetition of course materials to achieve mastery.  Progress reports use a series of arrows to illustrate how successful a student has been with their work.  

I am including two separate "compasses" here to illustrate progress of two courses. The first one shows a shorter arrow and color bar, which shows the need for improvement in the AP Government course. 

The second compass shows a longer arrow and a fully colored bar, which illustrates almost complete mastery of the subject matter so far in the Nutrition course:

About the AP courses:  The AP courses are designed to refresh a high school student over an entire subject that they have already completed, and prepare them to take the AP test in that particular subject. We looked extensively at the AP American Government course, since Laura is currently taking that course, and could possibly take the AP test for it. 

The AP Government course begins with a detailed explanation of the AP test itself, going over how many questions are covered in each section, what types of questions will be on the test, and giving test taking strategies for the test itself. It is a very thorough dissertation preparing the student for the AP test, and leaving no surprises as to what they can expect when taking it. 

The next section of the course is in two parts, and each one is called "30 in 30". It is a thirty minute video lesson (with the corresponding transcript) that essentially covers all the main topics in a typical American government course, and summarizes all the areas a student will need to know to get a high mark on the AP Government test. There is a total of one hour of lesson time, and plenty of vocabulary lists, diagram activities, and written assignments to make this course last several weeks. Motivated students could probably work through the entire course in several days.

Here is a screen shot of the AP Government lesson: 

I would like to discuss a few things you will see on this screen shot above, that are great assets to this program. First of all, there is a white window below the video. Students can type notes on this white board during the lesson, and then "save" their notes to their "locker". This will give them full access later on to all the notes they took. This can be used to highlight things they didn't know, or perhaps areas that they found confusing and wanted to go back and study later. There is also buttons to choose "Print full" which allows the student to print an entire copy of the written lesson. "Print work" allows them to print out the notes they recorded on the white board.

Here is an example of an activity in the AP Government course:

A few other tidbits: SDA can be used on iPads! This is very helpful if a home school has multiple students using it. There are fourteen courses currently offered, including several AP test prep courses. 

Courses offered:
  • Arithmetic & Fundamental math (grades 3+)
  • Earth Science (grade 6+)
  • Nutrition (grade 6+)
  • Algebra (grade 7+)
  • Biology (grade 7+)
  • Chemistry (grade 9+)
  • US History (grade 9+)
  • English Composition (grade 9+)
  • AP Test prep courses for grade 11+ include: AP Government, AP Biology, AP Chemistry, AP US History, and AP English Composition.
*Parents should note that science courses are taught from a secular perspective and do include teaching on evolutionary biology.

The bottom line - what we thought: I was very impressed with the fun and upbeat nature of the lessons, and the thorough degree of preparation offered for students that are planning to take an AP test. I think having this course for the month prior to taking the AP test would adequately help a student keep all the pertinent topics fresh in their mind, and really help them improve their scores.  I think the nutrition course is a helpful supplement when coupled together with other coursework for that subject. The subject matter is comprehensive and would definitely reinforce concepts that are learned, helping to cement them down in the student's brain.  This program is a great supplemental tool to enhance your home school curriculum, or perhaps round out a curriculum you are already using that does not quite feel complete.

See how other members of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew have used this program in their home schools:

Click to read Crew Reviews
Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Easy Way to Preserve Your Harvest

Continuing on the theme of "eating a rainbow", I would like to discuss one method I have used a lot lately to preserve the bountiful harvest of fresh veggies and fruits that we have received this year.

While it is wonderful to eat the veggies fresh, even I have to admit that you can only eat so much in a day! I do make fresh veggies the centerpiece of many meals during fall especially, and also spend lots of time chopping, freezing and canning.

Here is a wonderful idea to preserve your veggies and save time down the road with meal preparation as well. As we all know, chopping up big baskets full of veggies can be very time consuming.

Often I find that if I set aside an hour or two for the family to work together on chopping veggies, we can accomplish a lot.

I also found that if I take a very large bowl full of chopped up veggies and saute them with olive oil and herbs, that not only does it make the house smell delicious, but it helps me out on those days when I just don't have the time to chop veggies, but still want my family to eat healthy.

Did you know that you can freeze sauteed veggies in individual servings? 

I have been filling up the saute pan with whatever is available in my latest basket of vegetables. Onions, peppers, and garlic are mandatory, but beyond that, there have been some interesting additions, including hot peppers, all sorts of squash, corn, leafy greens like kale, swiss chard, and spinach, and even eggplant!

Once the veggies have been cooked and cooled, package them in small freezer bags. I like using one quart sized bags, because it typically will hold enough sauteed vegetables necessary for one recipe. Once the veggies are thawed, they must be used or they will get very soggy and unappealing.

One of my favorite uses for stored vegetable saute is to fill up a quick, healthy omelet. It only takes a few minutes to fry up eggs for an omelet, and the veggies can be quickly warmed either in the microwave or in a separate frying pan. Pour your warmed veggies onto your eggs, sprinkle a little cheese on top, and you are ready to start your day with a healthy breakfast!

Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

This recipe is linked with Lisa Boyle at Try a New Recipe Tuesday

Monday, October 20, 2014

Review: Middlebury Interactive Languages

As I have mentioned previously, while most of the family is studying Spanish, Melissa continues to desire to learn French. We have been blessed to have the opportunity to allow Melissa to study Middle School French 1 this semester with Middlebury Interactive Languages. 

What is Middlebury Interactive Languages?  This is an online assortment of interactive foreign language courses for grades K-12. There are advanced and AP level courses offered for high school. Middlebury College in Vermont has designed these courses to meet the growing need for virtual learning in schools and home schools. Courses are designed to give a multi-sensory approach to learning a language in a fun way. Instruction is based on an immersion method of learning the language, not only hearing it and speaking it, but also writing, grammar, and cultural experience as well.

What courses are currently offered? This chart shows the current online languages available for each grade level:

Now I would like to write specifically about the program we used: Middle School French 1.

Melissa has had some previous exposure to French vocabulary, but not any solid instruction in grammar and writing. She is in 8th grade, so I chose Middle School French 1 to be sure that it would cover anything she did not already know, and not leave her with gaps in her learning.

How many lessons does Middle School French 1 have?  There are 90 lessons total. If a student completes one lesson per day, four days a week, (the recommended pace for middle school) they will complete this entire course in one semester, and could then move on to Middle School French 2, giving them an entire year of French instruction.

How long is a lesson each day? The lessons took about fifteen to twenty minutes each day, depending on the type of activity that was involved. Some days, Melissa would repeat the listening and speaking activities so it took a little longer.

What makes this multi-sensory?  The lessons are exciting because they are just a little different everyday. Some of the many varied activities include listening to native speakers, answering questions, speaking words and sentences into a microphone and recording themself, fun interactive games, journal writing assignments, and short videos. I was very impressed with the wide variety of presentation in the lessons. The students are seeing, hearing, typing, and speaking throughout the lessons.

What is a lesson like? The middle school student is able to log in and work independently. The home page takes them to their next lesson. The lessons are set up in a "power point" slide show style, with a table of contents on the left side of the screen, and the ability to work through the slides in order, and go back to repeat and review slides as needed. When assignments, games, or quizzes are complete, the student can submit their work by clicking a small button at the top of the screen.

Here are some examples of a few of our favorite activities:

After learning conversational vocabulary, there is a 25 question test where the student listens to the questions in French, then records their answer through a microphone.

 After learning noun gender, the practice activity had Melissa choosing whether the nouns listed were masculine or feminine, and singular or plural.

One of Melissa's favorite activities was the vocabulary matching games set up throughout the lessons as review.

Other key elements to this program are the instruction in French culture, which includes short videos for the student to watch....

...And thorough instruction in grammar, writing, and sentence structure:

Teacher helps: While the student can easily move through the lessons and work independently, there is a wonderful grading report system that allows the parent (or teacher) to track their engagement and proficiency for each assignment given. Not only quiz and test grades are recorded, but all of their completed work can be viewed by the teacher or parent.

This is an example of the gradebook that shows all course work. The teacher or parent can see the grade, how many questions were answered correctly, the date it was completed, and they can also view the completed assignment.

There is also a report card grade given, which shows a lot of details for the course overall, including the percentage of the course that is completed:

How much does the program cost?  The Middle School French course currently costs $119 per semester if the student works independently, and $294 if the student works with a teacher. We worked independently, but my understanding is that if you sign up to work with a teacher, they will listen to the student's recorded language speaking and give them feedback on their speaking and on their other work. Also, to use the high school courses on an official transcript, the program recommends choosing the option to work with a teacher.

What does Melissa think of this program? Melissa has been using it almost daily since we started our review. She really enjoys using the program. She has had a few difficult moments with it, but we have worked through those and overcome them. She really enjoys the wide variety of activities, and her favorite activity so far has been translating an email from an imaginary French penpal.

The only glitch Melissa has mentioned with using the program is that often the native speakers talk too quickly for her to understand what they are saying, and she gets frustrated by that. Her suggestion would be to make a way for the student to adjust the speed of the speaker, so that they could hear it slower when they are first learning, and then quicker once they get the hang of it.

What does Mom think of this program?  I have been thoroughly pleased with the quality of this French instruction. I appreciate how grammar and sentence structure is incorporated into the lessons, giving the student a solid foundation on which to learn a foreign language. They are learning more than just conversational French. The cultural French instruction is interesting, and it has been great to hear Melissa excitedly sharing French facts with the family. (Last week we learned about the structure of schools in France).  I am impressed with how much she has retained using the program for only 15-20 minutes per day. This program has been easy to incorporate into our home school day, and it is effectively teaching French better than any other method we have used.  It is extremely user friendly, both to the student and the teacher. I am considering purchasing the second semester for Melissa to continue using, and am also considering trying out the elementary Spanish program for Kelly!

To connect with Middlebury Interactive Languages on social media:

To see how other members of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew used this program, click the banner below:

Click to read Crew Reviews

Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.
Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Obscure Bible Heroes {Blogging Through The Alphabet - Y}

Y is for Young Timothy

1Timothy 1:2- "Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord."

The Apostle Paul ministered to many people and wrote many very specific letters that are included in the New Testament, but some of his most prominent personal writings were directed to young Timothy, Paul's "son in the faith".

We can learn some interesting things about Timothy by searching through the Scriptures. We know that he had an interesting spiritual background, in that his mother was a Jewish believer and his father was Greek.

Acts 16:1-3 "Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek:  Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.
Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek"

Timothy's spiritual heritage can be traced back to his mother and grandmother, godly women who instilled faith in young Timothy.

2 Timothy 1:5- "When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also"

Throughout the New Testament, we see how Timothy accompanied Paul on various missionary journeys to the churches, and had a wonderful testimony of faithfulness and dedication to the cause of Christ. He was "well reported of" and had a good reputation among the believers. Paul encouraged Timothy to be a godly example, and assured him that by doing so, people would not disregard him just because he was young.

1Timothy 4:12- "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity."

By reading through the New Testament, we are able to see how Timothy overcame many difficult circumstances in his youth, and was a godly example of a faithful soldier of Jesus Christ. He leaves a wonderful example to young people all throughout history that they too, can be a faithful servant and follow Christ with their whole hearts, and that young people can be some of the greatest examples of Christianity in action. They don't have to wait until they are 'all grown up'.

Like Timothy, I want to serve God by giving Him the best years of my life - my youth. When I grow old, I want to encourage the young people in my life and pass on my faith to them, like the mother and grandmother of Timothy did.

Ben and Me

Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Portable Salads {So Many Ways To Eat A Rainbow}

I have been really enjoying all the fresh vegetables and fruits this time of year - the fall harvest has been so blessed and bountiful. In looking for ways to incorporate more of these veggies into our everyday eating, I have come across several great ideas to share.

Like most people, I am a busy person who has great intentions to eat right, but often fail in the practice due to not taking time to prepare.

These canning jar salads are a great way to prepare healthy lunches or meals ahead of time, and they are also portable! With the method shown here, you can also prepare several days' worth of salads ahead of time, and keep them in the refrigerator so they are readily available when needed.

First thing to start off with is quart sized wide mouth canning jars. It is important to use wide mouth jars, as they make packing and eating the salads much easier!

In the bottom of the jar, pour your salad dressing. I typically use about 1 tablespoon of dressing for a salad this size, but you can adjust it to your own tastes. Vinegar based dressings work especially well, but as you can see from the picture above, I have also used cream based dressings with success.

On top of the dressings, layer chopped veggies - whatever suits your fancy. I like to use crispy veggies and let them marinate in the dressings. I have found that carrots, celery, and broccoli work well here. I also use tomatoes, peppers, and onions. 

Other toppings that can be used are shredded cheeses or small cuts of meat such as chicken or turkey. On the top, pack your lettuce leaves in. 

It is important to pack the layers into the jar tightly so they stay put while transporting. The most important consideration is to pack the salads in such a way that the dressing and lettuce leaves do not mix until you are ready to eat it. Once the lettuce leaves touch the dressing, they begin to wilt, and if not packed carefully ahead of time, the salad will be a soggy mess by lunchtime.

When you are ready to eat your salad, you can shake the contents of the jar to mix first, or just stir with your fork (another reason that a wide mouth jar is handy). The plastic screw-on lids come in very handy for these salads, although sometimes if they are not leaving the house, I will just use a plastic bag and rubber band over the top to keep it covered and fresh while it is sitting in the fridge.

These salads can be made ahead of time, and kept for up to several days in the fridge. Line up your jars, chop up your veggies, and pack your salads for the week! You'll be eating healthy and saving time and money.

Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Linked up with Lisa Boyle at "Try A New Recipe Tuesday"