Sunday, February 26, 2012

Beeyoutiful Natural Products: A Review

Beeyoutiful is an online health, beauty and well-being company specializing in all natural products.  You'll find everything here from prenatal supplements to hair products to baking items. 

This month, I got a chance to test drive two products from the Beeyoutiful company.  The All-Natural Lip Balm and the Tummy Tuneup capsules.  I took the capsules for several weeks.  I did not have any adverse effects, but I can't really testify how they worked since I don't suffer from stomach problems.  I have always read about the benefits of acidopholus and that is the basis of this product.  It restores the good bacteria in your system in the way that yogurt is good for your digestive system. 

On the other hand, the all natural lip balm was used by me for about a week until I noticed that my son was developing chapped lips.  So I turned it over to him and let him give me his review.  He is 12.  He said that it smelled "really, really good" (it was made with grapeseed oil and natural orange extracts).  He said that he liked the packaging because it didn't seem too girly and also it stayed on very well and was very moisturizing.  It smelled "natural, and not like medicine".  He is referring to some lip balms we have used in the past that have a very overwhelming peppermint tastes that almost "bites" too much. 

Beeyoutiful is aptly named because many of their products include beeswax, as with the lip balm.  I think their products are fairly priced (Tummy Tune-Up was $18.00 for a bottle, the lip balm was $3.99).  There is a discount for bulk ordering. 

Go here to see the wide array of products and books that they offer.  Click here to read reviews from other Homeschool Crew members. 

**Disclaimer:  I was provided the above products free of charge in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Great Backyard Bird Count!

Today's the day!  Get out your clipboards, your field guides and your binoculars!  It's time for the Great Backyard Bird Count!  Official dates are 2/17/12-2/20/12. 

Have you ever spotted a limpkin?  Do you even know what a limpkin is?  Well, I didn't either until last year when we participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count, sponsored by the Cornell Institute of Ornithology and the Audubon Society.  It happens every February and for about 4 days. You count the different species of birds in your backyard, your local park, campground or nature preserve.  It's easy!

Just click here and enter your zipcode.  The website will show you what species you are likely to see in February in your area.  Then, get a bird guide (or use the internet to help) and start making those tally marks.  Last year we went to Circle Bar B Ranch.  It is a wonderful park here in the Lakeland/Winter Haven area of Florida.  So many trails to explore, so many animals to see!  We usually see wild turkey there, but only in the fall, so we couldn't count them on our tally sheet--boo.

Bring lots of water on your trails!
A "snakebird" sunbathing. 

After you count, go home and do your part as an amateur ornithologist and enter your data on their website.  There are random drawings for those who enter.  You may win, you may not.  But you will definately get a great experience being out there in God's Country, binoculars in hand, spotting some of the most magnificent creatures on earth and noticing things you never noticed before.  If it wasn't for the GBBC, we would have never met our friend, The Limpkin.

Last year, the GBBC came along at the perfect time--while we were in the m
idst of Apologia's Exploring Creation Through Zoology I:  Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day.  Maybe it will fit your science curriculum as well.  If not, squeeze it in for fun!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

ALEKS Review

We have used enrichment worksheets in the past for math and we have used online drill programs for math facts, but we have never used a math course quite like ALEKS.  The acronym stands for Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces.  It is an online assessment program to see what the student already knows and what they are ready to learn next. 

ALEKS is designed for grades 3-12 to complete online lessons independently.  Each student has a pie chart of different math topics, of which they can choose to work each day.  The concepts that they have mastered are darkened and the lighter ones still need work.  The goal is to master the concepts and fill in your pie chart. 

While I like the fact that questions were presented in a few different ways, which is helpful to find if a student has really retained the information, I found the program boring and knew my children would as well.  We are used to a dynamic, graphic-filled online math program with interchangable, encouraging avatars.  They grumbled through their initial lesson with ALEKS and the second day felt they were being punished.  I feel like the program needs to be "beefed up" in the graphics program if they are to compete with the products that are on the market today.  For high school students, they may not mind the straightforward, get-down-to-business approach--in fact they probably don't want a cartoon monkey telling them "Good job!".  So in this case, ALEKS is perfect for older students.

There are a few issues in the maneuverability of the program as well.  The cursor doesn't automatically prompt the student in the answer square and you can't use the tab key.  So you have to constantly be mindful of where your cursor is or fool with clicking your mouse in the right block to give the answer.  This wastes time and makes it very frustrating for the student.

On the plus side, parents are able to check the student's progress at any time and the student can see their mastery progress as well on a tab labeled "My Pie".  It can be used with English or Spanish speaking students.  On the downside, it just isn't very fun for younger students in my opinion.

ALEKS is available as a subscription.  The price is $19.95 per student per month; $99.95 every 6 months or $179.05 per year.  They also offer Family Discount Plans.

Check out the free trial by clicking below....

**Disclaimer:  I was provided a trial version of ALEKS to use with my family in exchange for an honest review, which I have provided here.

See what the other folks at The Homeschool Crew Review thought of this product by clicking here

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dissecting Again. Poor Starfish.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Math Rider

This month, we tested "Math Rider", a software program that drills addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts.  Each operation has four levels, from "easy" to "master".   I had almost given up trying to teach multiplication facts to my 4th and 6th grade sons, so we decided to give Math Rider a try.

The program is pleasantly narrated throughout and has a fantasty theme with elves, castles, damsels in distress, an of course, a hurdling horse named Shadow.  My children are used to playing alot of war games with their Playstation, so I thought they would balk at using this product.  But pleasantly enough, they didn't complain and even asked if they could do Math Rider for their regular math assignment several days.  I think they liked the way that even a less than perfect score is praised, as long as there was improvement from the previous lesson.

Instead of randomly spitting out problems that have already been mastered, Math Rider is able to tailor each adventure to that particular child, only drilling what needs to be reviewed.  Statistics can be easily viewed as well, showing the students where they are on the road to mastery.

 When a child doesn't know an answer, or takes too long to answer, the horse simply stops and the correct response is shown.  If the studen knows the answer, Shadow jumps the obstacle.  It really was a pleasant way to present the math problems without being annoying, which is where some learning programs fall short.  Children don't need to be blasted with noise to learn and the people at Math Rider understand that.

Math Rider sells for $37 here.  I think this is a fair value for this program, especially if you have multiple children that will use this program at some point in their school career. 
See what the other folks at the Homeschool Crew thought of this product here.

**Disclaimer:  I received a trial subsciption to Math Rider in exchange for my honest opinion.  No other compensation was granted to me.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Teaching Shakespeare

Elizabethan England.  A study of it would be incomplete and well, soul-less, without The Bard.......We have had a flavorful two weeks learning about Elizabeth I, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.  Talk about bad behavior!  Those Tudors were shameless.  But Elizabeth, aka "Good Queen Bess" loved the theatre, especially Shakespeare.  Who wouldn't?  History, Comedy, Tragedy......Murder, Mistaken Identity, Men Dressed As Women Dressed As Men (Twelfth Night), and of course, lots of dueling.

I started with a read-aloud selection, "William Shakespeare & The Globe" by Aliki.  Don't you just love Aliki?  I grew up seeing her books featured on Reading Rainbow nearly every week.  This book introduces Shakespeare and tells about his youth and the early days of the travelling theatres, which eventually led to a permanent theatre being built to perform his plays. 

I had also purchased "Who Was William Shakespeare?" from the "Who Was?" series of childrens' biographies.  Once we read the Aliki selection, it seems we had covered the material pretty well. 

We used Lois Burdett's "Shakespeare Can Be Fun!" series as we dove right into MacBeth.  Lois Burdett teaches Shakespeare to children as young as 2nd grade and has them illustrate and summarize the play in their own words throughout the book.  The play is condensed to its essence and retold in an appealing rhyming verse, while retaining some of the most famous phrases from the original play.  Macbeth is the perfect selection to make Shakespeare seem "cool" to boys.  It's easy to identify with Macbeth.  He already had some power, but when presented with the idea that he could have more, he became prideful.  It didn't help that he had married someone even more greedy and self-righteous than himself.  Between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, there weren't many people left in Scotland that they hadn't killed or plotted to have killed and in the end....well, you'll have to read it.

I found this really cute summarization of Hamlet for kids.  It pretty much says it all, but there's no way we're going to miss watching the Mel Gibson/Glenn Close version, which came in the mail today in a little red envelope!  Hurray!  Watch this clip and see what you think.  It piqued the interest of both of my boys.  They begged me to order the movie so they could see the exciting swordfighting/poison wine scene in the end!

If you live in Britain, you are lucky enough to have the series, Horrible Histories!  They have a humorous video clip on nearly every stage of European history, including The Plague, Henry VIII (divorced, beheaded, and died, divorced, beheaded, survived....I'm Henry VIII, I had six sorry wives....some would say I ruined their lives..).  For the rest of us, we have grainy, somewhat shaky recorded versions of the series on YouTube.  Still, they are so good, I've used them for our Middle Ages/Renaissance studies.  You can't even purchase them in the U.S. and if you go straight to the Horrible Histories website, you are unable to view the videos if you live outside Britain.  I'm not happy about this.  Someone please fix it. 

For their final Shakespeare project, the kids are developing an elaborate stagefighting video, complete with fake blood, daggers and choreographed fencing.  Stay tuned for the video!  Of course, they can't rightly stagefight in camo shorts and a t-shirt, so I may be breaking out the sewing machine and fashioning some Elizabethan duds.

Clam Dissection!

 After our unit on bivalves through Apologia, the boys dissected a clam, which we purchased through Home Science Tools here.  We've learned that dissections need to take place outside!  Although don't smell like anything, I just don't like the idea of guts on my kitchen table.

Movies of Yore

We have come to the end of our Renaissance study and I wanted to make sure I mentioned some of the fantastic films we have enjoyed!

We really liked Joan of Arc, the 1999 version starring Leelee Sobieski and Jacqueline Bissett.  Netflix didn't carry this, so I got a 30-day trial membership to Blockbuster Online just to receive it in the mail.  We really, really enjoyed it, but split it up over 2 days since it was long.  They do a fantastic job showing Joan's calling, her passion for leading the French to defeat the English and help Charles VII realize his place on the throne (played by Neil Patrick Harris in a terrible bowl haircut). 

The memory work for this week was....."During the Hundred Years' War, Joan of Arc and King Charles VII led the French to defeat the English in the Battle of Orleans.  In the late 1340's, rats carrying The Plague killed one in three Europeans."

During a study of the Reformation and Martin Luther, we rented the film "Luther".  It stars Joseph Fiennes (of Shakespeare in Love) and Alfred Molina (your kids might recognize him as Dr. Octopus from Spiderman 2).  If you are studying the Reformation, it would be a great way to bring the story to life.  It's available on Netflix and you can read the review here.  It is PG-13 for unscrupulous behavior by a few cardinals and some burning at the stake by those who possess Luther's writing. I felt like it was a great way to show how the people of Europe were used to a message of hellfire and brimstone until Martin Luther came on the scene.  He preached a message of a loving Heavenly Father and believed that everyone should be able to read the scriptures for themselves. 

The memory sentence that the boys memorized this week (thank you, Classical Conversations teachers' guide) was......

"In 1517, Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation by printing the 95 Theses, which made Pope Leo X excommunicate him."  (of course, we make up an awesome song and hand movements to help them AND ME remember this forevermore).  Songs are the key to memorization.

Of course, I'm watching Showtime's The Tudors to get more insight into the time period of Henry VIII and Martin Luther (I never knew that Henry used Martin Luther's new teachings to justify his divorce from his first wife Katherine of Aragon).  I'm afraid the kids will never see this while under my roof (mature doesn't even begin to describe some of the courtier's behavior, especially the King), but Mama is enjoying it!