Friday, October 29, 2010

Review: The Old Schoolhouse Student Planners

A few months ago, I posted about The Old Schoolhouse Planner in my entry Confessions of an Unorganized Homeschool Mom. It hasn't worked miracles, but I like to think that I'm gradually moving towards the new-improved-Cristi that I dream about.

A few weeks ago, I was graciously afforded the opportunity to see if I could share my newly acquired organization skills with my children. Thankfully, I'm not on my own. Addison and Brennan can each have their very own Planners to rival the one that's organizing my life.

The Middle School Planner is a 280 page document that you can personalize to fit you and your child's needs.Not only can use choose which pages to print, but many of the pages are able to be customized before they are printed. I keep most of my own planner pages in a three-ring-binder, but I'm considering having some of Addison's pages spiral bound.

I was quite impressed with all that was included with the Middle School Student Schoolhouse Planner. Like the adult planner, there are full-sized calendars for the year, available in both lined and unlined versions. By printing it on colored paper, Addison can have one customized for her current interests. (Perhaps I should only print a few months at a time, so that we can change the background design as her interests change.)

There is a ton of useful information for a middle school student to refer to as needed, and it encompasses a wide range of topics -- vocabulary roots; the miracles and parables of Jesus; list of the American Presidents; a list of countries worldwide (with capitals); writing prompts; non-school related stuff like kitchen measurement conversions; a history timeline; lists of famous composers, artists, and inventions; and much, much more.

Middle school is a good time to start teaching a student to do some basic planning and goal-setting. There are pages provided for short-term goals (daily, weekly) and also for more long-term goals (monthly or for the whole semester). I particularly like the format of the page that starts, "One of these days, I would like to...." The student can brainstorm ideas for things they'd like to buy, places they'd like to visit, things they'd like to read, and so on.

Addison might not like that I've found great planning pages for her schoolwork in this planner. She is currently experimenting with a block-style schedule in terms of doing her independent schoolwork each day. It is working well for her, but it sometimes makes it difficult for me to keep track of what assignments she is supposed to do when. If I print out the weekly schedule pages and she records what she is doing, I'll be able to see at a glance which subjects are being neglected. I know we'll both appreciate this sort of record keeping when we come to the end of the schoolyear and most of her subjects are on-track to being completed. My goal is to help her stay on schedule so that she's not squeezing the last half of the science text into a few weeks during summer school.

I would have been pleased with all of the school-related offerings in the Student Planner. The Old Schoolhouse went several steps farther and included plenty of other useful tools. There are places to record service projects, reading logs, to-do lists, and even a wish list that could record ideas for birthday and Christmas gifts. (I need to print one of those for everyone in our family). In terms of your child's spiritual development, there is a place to record Bible memorization, two different Bible reading schedules, and a great prayer journal.

The Middle School Planner is available through The Old Schoolhouse Store for a regular price of $19. There are several bundle options available now that make it an especially good deal if you have children needing different levels. 

Even though I feel like I've babbled on and on about this Planner package, I also feel like I haven't even talked about half of the things that you can find in it. I now feel like I have the tools to help all my children learn to be more organized. Perhaps someday soon I'll be posting about a new-improved-Addison and her little brother the new-improved-Brennan. By the time Lauren can read and write, we'll have this organization thing down pat.

Disclaimer: I received free copies of the Student Planner (both Secondary and Middle School versions), and I received no other compensation. In return, I promised to provide an honest review of the materials and how they worked for our homeschool family.

Friday, October 15, 2010

TOS Review: Soli Deo Gloria Resources

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For the past several years, our three children participated in a wonderful Awana program in Virginia. I was very impressed with how much they studied their Bibles each week and the amount of scripture they memorized so that they would be able to complete their books each year. (Addison actually completed four of the books in just two years so that she could catch up with the rest of her friends.) Because they were learning so much through that program, I didn't feel the need to add an additional Bible study curriculum to our school days. Unfortunately, this year we haven't been able to find an Awana program that will work with our schedule, and I've been looking for a good Bible study that will work for our family.

For the past few weeks, Brennan and I have been trying one of the Bible study programs offered by Soli Deo Gloria Resources. We received their Young Hearts Longing For God Bible study in e-book form. It is intended to be used with third through fifth graders, students that are reading fairly well on their own and are ready for their first independent Bible study program.

Each week covers one Psalm (or a portion of a longer one). The student reads through the Psalm each day that week. By reading it several times over the course of one week, you gain greater insights into its meaning and application. I have been using the daily reading to help Brennan with his oral presentation skills. He reads it aloud to me each day, similar to the way he'd read a passage of scripture during a church service.

Each Psalm also has 8-10 questions to answer. These questions can be divided throughout the week or completed all at one sitting. I really like the way that these questions encourage the student to dig into the scripture, not merely to find basic facts. For instance, yesterday Brennan was working on Psalm 46. He underlined some passages in black (what things could make a person afraid) and then put a yellow star around the phrases that showed what God does to counteract those terrible things. Later he found the words and phrases that show us how God is our protection.

The last question for each passage is a journal entry topic. This is not meant to be a lengthy writing assignment, but rather a way to encourage the child to communicate with the Lord in a written way. Even though Brennan is not a strong writer, he does not complain too much about the 2 or 3 sentences that these assignments require.

All in all, I'd have to give this study a big thumb's up -- it is practically perfect for Brennan to use this year.  Each day's work is fairly short, but I can see where he can gain a lot from doing a study that requires him to dig into the scriptures on his own.

Soli Deo Gloria Resources has one other Bible study available -- a study of Proverbs 31, also for upper elementary aged students. They also offer unit studies for history, geography, and science. If you'd like to see what other homeschool families thought about the materials offered by Soli Deo Gloria Resources, be sure to check out The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew blog.

I received the Young Hearts Longing for God e-book as a member of the 2010 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.


Monday, October 4, 2010

The new most coveted spot in our house

I've been meaning to make one of these cocoon swings since we moved in, and I finally took the time this weekend to get it put together and hung up in the garage. A few years ago, Addison got to sit in one when Brennan did an OT evaluation. She's been wanting one ever since.




This morning, Brennan found that it was a perfect place to read a book for school. The beauty of homeschooling!

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