Apologia Biology: Our Fall Semester with Bridgeway Academy (plus a coupon code for you!)

Are you homeschooling high school, or preparing to?  If so, Biology is probably on your mind as you’re planning your student’s classes and high school transcript.  We were so fortunate to be invited to review Bridgeway Academy‘s high school Apologia Biology course (FYC Biology Course w/Lab), which Jackson started in September.  It has been an academically rigorous, yet fascinating and enjoyable, way to study high school Biology.  I’d like to share some of my son’s experiences with this class and studies.

 

 

What is Bridgeway Academy?

Bridgeway Academy is an online educational provider that we’ve long admired.  They provide accredited courses, taught online by qualified educational professionals and teachers, which are both academically excellent and interesting to homeschool students. Live courses are offered for students in first grade all the way through 12th grade, and over 30,000 students have participated in Bridgeway Academy classes from 1989 on. And 83% of Bridgeway Academy students proceed to their first choice college!

 

Apologia Biology

Jackson is enrolled in Bridgeway Academy’s FYC Biology Course w/Lab for the 2017-2018 school year.  This Learning Lab course uses the Exploring Creation with Biology textbook, along with Bridgeway Academy’s own Biology Lab Kit, and the course provides 1.5 credits upon completion with a D grade or higher.

The 16-chapter textbook covers:

  • the definitions of life and biology plus classification, taxonomy, and biological keys
  • Kingdoms Monera, Protista, and Fungi
  • the chemistry of life
  • the cell, cellular reproduction, and DNA
  • Mendel and Genetics
  • Evolution
  • Ecology
  • Kingdom Animalia (invertebrates, arthropoda, chordata)
  • Kingdom Plantae
  • Reptiles, birds, and mammals

The textbook contains daily reading sections and questions to answer on the reading, plus experiments, study guides, and review questions for each chapter.  It’s definitely a textbook that’s written for high school students; the material is advanced but still very doable for the high schoolers.  Good reading and comprehension skills would be an advantage for students, however.

 

The supplies

Everything we needed for the course (the Apologia Exploring Creation with Biology 2nd Edition, the Bridgeway Biology Lab Kit, including the Bridgeway Biology Lab Manual) was purchased from Bridgeway Academy.  Also included with these are the Apologia Exploring Creation with Biology answer booklets, for the parent.  The course and supplies (books & lab kit) are priced separately, so you can price compare items or obtain a used copy of the textbook if you so desire.

You can see the ingredients of the lab kit above.  It is shipped in a sturdy cardboard box, but we purchased the plastic containers with lids so we could store them more effectively.  (Plus I wanted to keep the dissection specimens, above on the right, in a separate container.  As anyone knows who’s ever done a biology dissection, there is an odor to those specimens that we didn’t necessarily want permeating our house!)  There is also a dissection pad which is pictured below.

Students will need some additional household goods and objects, like ice cubes, eggs, vinegar, etc.

 

Class slideshow on matter

What a typical class period looks like

The live online class, taught by Carla Berg, an experienced certified science teacher (as well as a very fun and interesting one!), meets once weekly for an hour and a half.  Mrs. Berg introduces and teaches about the current chapter’s materials.  She includes scientific photos and videos, Powerpoint-type presentations, questions-and-answers (of various styles), and lots of interaction with the students.  The students have the opportunity to communicate via text chat as well as via computer audio/video as they answer questions and participate in class discussions.  Below, you can see the whiteboard she also uses for class interaction and Q&A and the students’ responses.

 

Jackson says, “The live class work does usually stay for an hour and a half, with the first 30 minutes covering an introductory topic or some questions that Mrs. Berg wants to address from the previous week.  The last hour is usually composed of learning about the topics that will come up in your book that week and doing fun activities sometimes with several other (groups of) people in the class.  These many assignments help towards the full grade.  The class itself overall is well-taught and the class participation helps the students get to know each other and the time is used well to teach or participate in activities.”

 

Interaction via the class whiteboard on Moodle

 

It’s clear that Mrs. Berg is an experienced and quality teacher.  She does a fantastic job interacting with the students and teaching and presenting the information.  She has high expectations for the students which are communicated clearly.

Following the class, Mrs. Berg puts the week’s assignments and links up on the Moodle site.  Moodle is the interactive classroom where the Bridgeway Academy classes are held.  Through the Moodle site, students can attend class, view/complete/submit for grading their daily assignments, take tests, and keep tabs on their class scores and grades.  It works incredibly well and is, I think, a great tool for today’s generation of students.  Generally, the week’s work could include: daily reading and questions; glossary work; experiments; test review assignments.  Tests occur every few weeks, one chapter (module) at a time.

 

Dissecting a mushroom on the dissection pad

What we’ve covered this fall

As of this week, Jackson has completed the work for weeks 1-10 of the semester.  He has studied these chapters (or modules, as they’re known in Apologia world):

  • Biology:  The Study of Life
  • Kingdom Monera (a.k.a. bacteria)
  • Kingdom Protista (including protozoa and algae)
  • Kingdom Fungi (yeasts, mushrooms, slime molds, and more)

He has completed several experiments at home, many of which have been just amazing.  He grew bacteria in petri dishes for several days, and wrote an extensive lab report on his observations.  He’s dissected a mushroom (which you can see above) and drew a diagram labeling the various components of the fungus.  That was a painless introduction to the world of dissection and dissection tools.  Currently, as he studies the 5th chapter (Chemistry of Life), he’s learning the difference between chemical and physical reactions. (We have an egg in the kitchen which has been soaking in vinegar for two days.  The shell has completely dissolved and the egg has expanded.  Tonight we’ll switch the vinegar for Karo syrup and make more observations in 24 hours, then soak it again in distilled water.  Jackson keeps daily reports on the egg, its measurements, and any visible changes.)

Sometimes, the experiments are done during the actual class time.  When Jackson learned about yeasts, Mrs. Berg displayed photos of the changes in yeast that occur when they’re being used in the making of bread.  All of these experiments deepen the students’ understanding of the kingdoms being studied and really help them to remember and retain the information.

The tests for the chapters are difficult and challenging, yet still very doable.  They are fantastic college preparation, in my opinion; students who are used to a homeschool environment with Mom or Dad can still, via Bridgeway Academy’s classes, learn how to interact with a non-parental teacher in a given subject.  He also took a quarter test (sort of a mini-midterm) over the first four chapters.  And he and his classmates are just beginning work on a Biology project which they’ll present to their classmates via Powerpoint, YouTube videos, or spoken presentation later in December.  Great experiences, all of them.

 

My impressions thus far

I honestly couldn’t be happier with Bridgeway Academy, Apologia Biology, and Mrs. Berg, as Jackson is working through this high school Biology course.  He is gaining vital experience that will benefit him not only for college, but for life after college and even the remainder of his high school studies.  The course is fascinating and the class time is enjoyable.  Jackson is getting a excellent Biology education in this course.

Jackson says, “This is a good preparation for the type of work one would have to do in college if he’d never taken any homeschool classes like this before.  Thus, since I hadn’t, it has been a little challenging.  But the On Your Own questions (from the textbook) are good-length assignments and the tests are well-spaced out.  They have review pages that are the assignments before these tests, which are good because they help you prepare for it.  The labs have people do some very neat and cool experiments, showing different processes in the biological world, such as osmosis, diffusion, and other in-depth topics that cover something in a very neat way.”

I also wanted to mention that last week, Mrs. Berg scheduled a phone conversation with the parents of each student in the class.  During this time, she was able to share how she thinks each student is doing in class–sort of a phone parent-teacher conference.  I felt that I already knew how Jackson was doing (because I can access his Moodle page, plus I sit nearby for all his classes, but I enjoyed getting to hear Mrs. Berg’s impressions.

I have seen some incredible growth in my son this semester as he has participated in this Apologia Biology Learning Lab. He has learned to schedule and complete his assignments each day so that his class work is completed at the end of each week.  By interacting with Mrs. Berg, he is learning more about how to do excellent work; he is challenged not only by the daily assignments and tests but also by the interactive class time, where he is expected to participate.  He is also learning about persevering when faced with a difficult task…until success is achieved!

 

And a coupon for you…to save 15% on a class!

So…does this make you think that you’d like for your child to take a Bridgeway Academy course?  I hope so!  Our experience has been most excellent and we’re looking forward to the remainder of the year in Biology.  (That is saying something, because Biology has always been my least favorite of the sciences!)

–Save 15% Thru December 13.  Use Code AUTUMN17 at checkout!

Sign-up today and get 15% off of your selection from over 30 highly engaging, real time, instructor led Learning Lab  courses. Live online Learning Labs offer expert teaching and in-depth study opportunities within a supportive learning community. Designed for students in grades 1 – 12, Bridgeway live online Learning Labs have something for every student!

For the full list of live online courses and to register* visit Bridgeway Academy Learning Labs

*Each course has limited space available. Kits & materials as additional purchase may be required for some courses.See Bridgeway Academy for details.

 

In closing

Be sure to visit Bridgeway Academy Learning Labs and check out their extensive list of awesome online courses.  They truly are amazing and you might find just what you’re looking for, for your own family!

And just so you know, they have much more than just high school courses.  You’ll find elementary and middle school courses as well!

Bridgeway Academy on social media:

Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/HomeschoolingHelp

Twitter- https://twitter.com/bridgewayvoice/

Pinterest- https://www.pinterest.com/bridgewayacademy/

YouTube- https://www.youtube.com/user/bwacademy

Blog- http://www.homeschoolacademy.com/blog/

We’ll continue to share with you over the year more about our experiences with Apologia Biology and Bridgeway Academy, so be sure to stop back by to see more about our homeschool life and science.

Enjoy!  –Wren

 

DISCLOSURE:

From time to time, finchnwren may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog. We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews. We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinions, of these products. We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Advertisements

Kwik Stix now at Toys “R” Us ~ And You Can Win a Set! (Giveaway ends 4/30/17)

Guess what??  Kwik Stix, our family’s favorite tempera paint sticks, are now available at Toys “R” Us!  And the lovely folks at The Pencil Grip, Inc. are providing a set of Kwik Stix for one giveaway winner here at the FINCHNWREN blog!

 

 

What are Kwik Stix?

Kwik Stix are wonderful solid tempera paint sticks that are perfect for children (ages 3 and up), families, and adults who love to create beautiful art!  They work like glue sticks, in that they’re encased in a plastic container with a cap.  To use, you simply remove the cap, roll the paint stick up, and you’re ready to color.  There is virtually no scent (like you’d find with most tempera paints), and you get the rich texture and color of liquid paint without the mess.  All you need are Kwik Stix and whatever medium you’d like to draw on, which could be anything from paper (of all kinds), canvas, wood, and more!

Kwik Stix come in two size types, the Kwik Stix Classic and Kwik Stix Thin Stix.  The Classic version sticks are 3 1/2″ long, with a chubby paint stick width of almost 3/4″.  This width is perfect for little hands, but also is great for coloring large areas quickly and easily.  The Kwik Stix Thin Stix are longer and thinner than the Classic ones, measuring in length at 5 1/2″ with a paint tip of 1/2″ wide.  These are wonderful for coloring in small areas, without getting outside the lines.  Personally, our family loves working with both types at once!

And what about colors?  There are so many to choose from, such as:

  • Kwik Stix Classics and Thin Stix come in 6-packs or 24-packs
  • Both the Thin Stix and Classics come in white, yellow, orange, red, pink, lime green, green, light blue, blue, purple, brown, and black.
  • The Kwik Stix Metalix packs include gold, silver, fuchsia, deep green, deep blue, and deep purple, all of which feature metallic or glittery accents
  • The Kwik Stix Neons packs are filled with bright orange, vivid purple, lime green, light blue, yellow, and bright pink…in brilliant neon hues.

How we’ve used Kwik Stix

We have loved allowing our imaginations to run wild with our Kwik Stix, not only in the surface we’ve drawn on but in the art movements we were studying in our art lessons.  Here are some ways we used them as we learned about Vincent van Gogh, Pop Art, and still life paintings:

 

 

We also love using them for creating art in our art journals.  They’re also wonderful for Bible journaling!

 

And now…the giveaway!

The Pencil Grip, Inc. is providing one set of Kwik Stix (size, style, and colors to be selected by The Pencil Grip, Inc.) for one FINCHNWREN blog reader!  Just click on the pink “Enter here!” link below, which will take you to the Giveaway Tools entry form.  Giveaway closes on April 30, 2017 at 11:59PM.

And don’t forget to check out Kwik Stix at Toys “R” Us!

Enter here!

Best wishes, and enjoy!  –Wren

From time to time, FINCHNWREN may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog.  We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews.  We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products.  We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

The Fabulous New Kwik Stix Thin Stix ~ My Review

The Pencil Grip, Inc. produces some of my most favorite art supplies, which we have adored using in our home.  Recently, they sent me their newest version to review: the Kwik Stix Thin Stix 12 pk.  I’m so excited to share our thoughts and art results with you!

ks-thin-stix-banner

What are Kwik Stix, anyway?

If these amazing art media are new to you, you really will want to know all about them!  Kwik Stix are solid tempera paint sticks which can be used in any situation that the artist would normally use regular paint.  The paint sticks roll up and down (sort of like a glue stick, but with paint instead of glue!) and have a cap which helps keep the paint moist when not in use.  They are safe to use for children from ages 3 and up.

Best of all, you get all the benefits of paint without the mess!  You don’t need paintbrushes, water, painting smocks, or all the other equipment you’d normally need for a paint adventure.  All you need are the Thin Stix and something to paint on!  In our home, we’ve used everything from art journals, to canvas, to stock card, to regular paper, and more.  (Read on to learn about our newest discovery!)

The 12-pk we received contains the following colors:  white, yellow, orange, red, pink, lime green, green, light blue, blue, purple, brown, and black.  Unlike the regular-sized Kwik Stix, which are shorter and chubbier (which enables little hands to hold them well plus provides a nice thick line when painting), the Thin Stix are longer and thinner, measuring at 5 1/2″ long with a 1/2 wide paint tip.  They apply paint that’s both rich and vivid, which a variety of surfaces take well.  The Thin Stix glide smoothly across the page and are just a pleasure to use.

You can read about our experience with the regular-sized Kwik Stix in Metalix and Neon, which we tried and loved last fall.  We used them as we did an art study of Pop Art and two of Vincent Van Gogh’s master works, and they were just incredible!

 

ks-thinstix-pic-2

 Kwik Stix’ Thin Stix are wonderful for:

  • Art Journals

Since we’d used our Kwik Stix beautifully for artist study when we reviewed the Neon and Metalix versions in the fall, I wanted to try the Thin Stix for different types of projects.  This time, my son and I used them in our art journals, which have a thick, creamy, textured feel to the pages:

ks-thin-stix-pic-1

 

You can see some of that texture in the tulips picture above, which took the Thin Stix paint quite well.  The paint dried quickly (Kwik Stix’ paint sticks are designed to dry in about 90 seconds), so there was no ending up with paint on my hand from working in a small surface.  I was also able to layer additional color over the tulips to add a bit of shadow and shading; you can see the orange I applied on the left side of both the red tulips and the yellow ones.  This was a free-hand project; we just decided what we wanted to draw and went to town.  Fun!

  • Coloring books

I’m sure you’re familiar with the whole coloring-books-for-grownups movement that’s been so popular lately.  I have a couple of those, and my newest one seemed that it would be perfect for my new Thin Stix!  Because coloring books have more lines that you’ve got to work within, I imagined that these Kwik Stix, which have a narrower tip, could work well within those margins.  I was pleased with the outcome!

ks-thin-stix-pic-10

  • Art lettering

Recently, I’ve been venturing into the world of creative lettering.  I started with some calligraphy in the fall and, last week, tried a new font that starts with a big penciled letter with space inside.  After you have your outlined letters, you take a fine felt-tip marker and doodle inside the spaces.  Then, the doodles become the letters.

ks-thin-stix-pic-7

I thought I’d add some paint and color to my recent word doodle BRAVE.  I used the Thin Stix to make the colors pop.  Actually, this is a photocopy on card stock of my original doodle.  The Thin Stix didn’t smear the copy at all, just slid right over it!

 

  • and even Bible journaling!

    ks-thin-stix-pic-9

It occurred to me when we received the Thin Stix that they might work well for Bible journaling.  One challenge with Bible journaling is finding art media that doesn’t bleed through the thin Bible pages to make the other side unreadable.  I’ve wanted to use paint for awhile in this journaling but have limited myself to colored pencils and felt-tipped markers, just because of the thin pages.  I not only loved the way the Kwik Stix brightened up my drawing, I was astonished at how little they showed up on the preceding page!  (You can see the back side in the photo below on the right.)

ks-thin-stix-pic-5

Really, your own imagination and the sky are the limit!

 

ks-thin-stix-pic-3A few more thoughts…

My son, who’s a 9th grader, really liked the new Thin Stix a lot.  He says that they are more accurate, and he likes them even more than our original ones.  (No doubt due to the thinner tips!)

So…who would enjoy these fabulous new Kwik Stix Thin Stix 12 pk?

  • Parents with little ones
  • Homeschoolers
  • Art teachers
  • Bible journal aficionados
  • Any kids, from toddlers all the way up to high schoolers!
  • Basically, anyone who loves working with quality art tools

We love them.  Honestly, every time we have gotten a new set of Kwik Stix paint sticks, we have fallen more in love with the company.  I regularly make art on my own, and I teach art at our local homeschool coop.  But I also like sitting down with my son to create, whether we’re working on an artist study project or just sitting down to play with creating.  It’s a high value for me, because it gives the two of us time for great side conversations.  I also find that creating art is healing, encouraging, uplifting.  Just the process of it builds something in your soul, I believe.  So having our amazing Kwik Stix products, especially our newest Kwik Stix Thin Stix 12 pk, makes creating art so easy and so mess-free.  Plus, in addition to all these great reasons to create, you also end up with beautiful artwork that it’s a pleasure to display!

We happily recommend all the Kwik Stix art media, and especially their newest Kwik Stix Thin Stix 12 pk!

 

 ks-thin-stix-pic-4

Where can you purchase Kwik Stix Thin Stix?

Kwik Stix Thin Stix at Amazon
Other Kwik Stix products by The Pencil Grip, Inc. at Amazon
The Pencil Grip, Inc.
Kwik Stix on Pinterest
The Pencil Grip, Inc. on Facebook

Enjoy!  –Wren

Disclosure:  From time to time, finchnwren may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog.  We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews.  We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products.  We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

The Critical Thinking Co.’s Sentence Diagramming Curriculum ~ Our Review

Recently, Jackson and I had the opportunity to brush up on our grammar when we were selected to review Sentence Diagramming: Beginning from The Critical Thinking Co.™ for the Homeschool Review Crew.  Let me share with you about our experiences!

Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}

What is sentence diagramming?

The first time I ever saw it, I was reading one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, in which Laura is participating in an end-of-the-year student presentation.  I remember being absolutely astonished at her sentence diagramming!  It certainly was nothing I was ever taught in school.  However, sentence diagramming is apparently making a comeback.  It’s a thorough and complete method of teaching the parts of speech.

Students draw a horizontal line, with a vertical line intersecting it.  Then, they rewrite a sentence, placing every word in a spot that is designated for the part of speech it is with various lines angling off as they indicate whether a word is an adjective, adverb, subject, predicate, etc.  A student would find this useful in examination and learning of grammar, because it very clearly shows exactly what each word in a sentence is.  Below, you can see an example of sentence diagramming with the famous sentence, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.”

 

diagramming-1

 What is The Critical Thinking Co.’s Sentence Diagramming: Beginning?

It is a softcover consumable book (8 1/2″ x 11″) that contains everything you need for teaching sentence diagramming for grades 3-12.  Because it is a consumable product, you would need one book for each student you’re teaching, since all the student’s work will be done and written in the Sentence Diagramming: Beginning book itself.  Students do a variety of work in this book, from correcting errors in diagramming, to writing and diagramming sentences themselves, to labeling sentences given in the text.  The book contains 12 several-page-long lessons, as well as an end-of-the-book review section and an answer key.  This book covers these topics in its lessons:

  • Simple Subject and Main Verb
  • Direct Object
  • Adjectives
  • Adverbs Modifying Verbs
  • Predicate Adjectives
  • Predicate Nouns
  • Prepositional Phrases (both adjectival and adverbial)
  • Compound Subjects
  • Compound Predicates
  • Compound Direct Objects
  • Compound Predicate Adjectives and Nouns

Students begin, naturally, with the simplest diagrammed sentences in chapter 1; those with just a noun (subject) and a verb (predicate).  Helping verbs and proper nouns are mentioned there.  The course progresses quickly from there, with brief explanations of the part of speech at the top of each chapter, an example, and then exercises for the student to complete.  Generally, each chapter contains several segments of explanation which explain more difficult sentences as the student goes along.  You can see by the list above the the most difficult parts of grammar are in the last third of the book.

 

diagramming-2How we used it:

For this review, we utilized Sentence Diagramming: Beginning as our grammar spine.  We did a few pages at a time, generally covering more than one chapter in a week’s time.  At this rate, we’ll be able to complete it over the course of one semester.

Jackson and I would sit together, go through the explanation and examples on each chapter’s section, then he would do the work in that section.  I’d review his work then and correct any errors (or not, if there weren’t any), then we’d progress to the next section in the chapter.  This worked well for us.  I can see that as we approach and enter the last third of the book we’ll probably divide the chapters into several days’ work, stretching it out more for deeper understanding of more difficult types of diagramming.  We’re able to progress at our current speed simply because Jackson has quite a few years of grammar study under his belt already.

 

diagramming-3Our thoughts and recommendations:

For us, Sentence Diagramming: Beginning has been an excellent review of important grammar topics.  As I mentioned, he has studied grammar for years in his various language arts programs, so much of the general knowledge on the parts of speech is familiar to him.  However, diagramming sentences was not.  I really value that skill for him, for a variety of reasons.  First, because it’s presented in a very different format (placing each word in its own segment that identifies its part of speech), it really makes the student think about what the words actually are.  Second, it’s a great activity that I believe will stimulate better learning as it works with parts of the brain that maybe normally aren’t accessed in language arts study; sort of like working a puzzle.  Third, it’s a process that will engage both visual and kinesthetic learning styles and skills.  In short, it’s a great activity for deeper thinking and learning!

Parents will note that this curriculum is designed for students in grades 3-12.  Younger students probably won’t (and shouldn’t) progress at the speed we did.  However, since this was a grammar review plus a new activity for Jackson, an older student, we were able to move faster than perhaps the average younger student would.  In any case, it has been a fantastic activity and one that I know we’ll continue and benefit from.

 

Where can you purchase Sentence Diagramming: Beginning?

The The Critical Thinking Co.™ website has Sentence Diagramming: Beginning available as well as many other excellent physical, digital, and software resources.  In fact, other Crew members reviewed quite a variety of these great educational products!  Here’s just a short listing of some that my Crewmates reviewed, with their links.  (You can also click on the banner below to read more about their experiences with the The Critical Thinking Co.™ products.)  Just follow those links to check them out:

Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}

You can also visit The Critical Thinking Co.™ at their social media sites:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Critical-Thinking-Co/46128092293
Google+: https://plus.google.com/114500823774999703181
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/source/criticalthinking.com/

Enjoy!  –Wren

 

Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}Crew Disclaimer

An Awesome Freebie for You ~ From My Favorite Online Storyteller, STAR TOASTER!

Our readers know how much our family has adored Star Toaster.  And now, this incredible company is going to make it possible—entirely free!–for you to come to love them too!

 

star-toaster-free-bannerWhat is Orphs of the Woodlands?

Last fall, we received this app, which features the incredible adventure story of a squirrel.  (Our Orphs of the Woodlands tells all about it, and you can see how we adored it by clicking on the link!) Star Toaster, which produced this app, weaves lessons on science, nature, cooking, good character, language arts, and more into the captivating story of this animal on a quest to solve a mystery while caring for tiny orphaned animals.  The whole experience is just incredible for kids AND parents!

And now….as a back-to-school gift from Star Toaster….

You can receive it free from the App Store!

free-orphs-bannerJust click on this link:  Free Orphs of the Woodlands App which will take you to the download page at the App Store and you can get it free.  It’s suited for both iPhone and iPad.

And just so you know, I don’t work for Star Toaster or anything.  I just adore them, their company and its values and messages.  And this story is too good to miss, so go and download it today!

Enjoy!  –Wren

 

“Getting Started With French” ~ A Review

Are you thinking of studying a foreign language in your homeschool?  If so, I have a wonderful resource for you–Armfield Academic PressGetting Started With French!  We received a copy of this book to review via the Homeschool Review Crew.

getting-started-french-banner

What is Getting Started With French?

Getting Started With French, authored by William E. Linney and Brandon Simpson, is a beginning language learning textbook especially written for homeschooled students.  In fact, its subtitle is “Beginning French for Homeschoolers and Self-Taught Students of Any Age.”  It’s ideal for homeschoolers or those who are learning French for the very first time for many reasons.  It’s extremely affordable ($21.95 at Amazon); it is incredibly easy to use even if the user is unfamiliar with French; it’s divided into clear, simple lessons; and it has an audio component.

Getting Started With French is composed of a softcover book and accompanying free audio downloads from Getting Started With French.  The book contains lessons 1 through 172; an answer key in the back for the lessons’ exercises; a pronunciation guide; a glossary; and an index.  The audio downloads can be retrieved two ways; either by downloading zip files to your computer or by simply accessing each lesson’s pronunciation file via the website.

The lessons start very simply; with new French words and their correct pronunciation, and then each subsequent lesson builds on the ones before it.  The audio files use a native French speaker from Paris to pronounce each word or phrase for the student.  So first, the student reads the lesson in the book and learns a little about new vocabulary or pronunciation rules in French.  Then, he can listen to the audio file and practice his own pronunciation.  Last, he’ll (usually) do written work.

The authors also include fun Expressions Françaises (French expressions) here and there; familiar French phrases that even English speakers would know, along with the stories behind those phrases.  They are fun pieces of trivia especially created for French students.

 

 

getting-started-french-picture-1How I used it

My son is preparing to resume studies of another foreign language and was concerned about learning two very different languages at once.  So this time, I was the person who got to use the curriculum!  I’ve always enjoyed French (whether it’s the food, the fashions, the country’s beautiful architecture, or the language itself), but it has been years and years since I studied it in high school and college.  I really looked forward to picking it up again.

To begin, I selected a composition notebook to use for the written portion of each lesson.  I downloaded the audio zip files from the Downloads tab of Getting Started With French (there are both pronunciation files and author commentary for each lesson; this is like having a French teacher right in your own homeschool) to our PC.  However, because our PC sits in one area of our dining room I often work elsewhere with audio or video files using my Kindle Fire, just because I can be anywhere in the home (or away, if there’s wi-fi) to do it.  So I simply used the audio files straight from the website almost all of the time as I studied.  This worked perfectly.  I followed the lessons as they are presented in the book; first, I’d read the first few paragraphs, then I’d listen to and repeat aloud the audio vocabulary, then I’d write the exercises from the book in my composition notebook.

The lessons are very simple and easy, yet profound at the same time.  Who could have imagined that with only a softcover textbook and audio files, a French class focusing on grammar, pronunciation rules, vocabulary AND correct voicing of the French language could be achieved?  And yet that’s exactly what Getting Started With French has done.  The authors recommend that a student study one lesson per day, rather than clumping together many lessons at once.  There might be the temptation to do that just because the lessons are on the shorter side.  However, true learning will occur much more effectively and smoothly if students learn just a little at a time and learn it well.  Then, each following lesson will build on the ones before.

 

getting-started-french-picture-2My impressions

Personally, I found Getting Started With French incredibly enjoyable.  I loved using it!  It was truly wonderful to get back into French language study, and even though I have a busy day nearly every day of my life, I was able to fit in study times with no trouble.  (And because of the audio access via my Kindle, I could do it in any room of the house!)  I did remember a good portion of French vocabulary and grammar rules, but what I appreciated most was the fact that the audio files modeled for me the correct pronunciation.  Since my college years, I spent several years studying and speaking (well, attempting to speak) Russian and, as you can imagine, the pronunciation and even the placement inside the mouth of voicing different vowels, vowel combinations, or vowels with consonants was dramatically different.  And yes, every single student benefits from hearing words spoken by native speakers.  But in my case, I found that I had to retrain my palate (so to speak) from Russian pronunciation to French.  Thanks to the audio files, this was easily accomplished (although honestly, it’s still a work in progress as I haven’t completed the entire course yet!).

One thing that a person can find challenging when learning a foreign language is putting grammar together with vocabulary.  Why would a French speaker say or write  “l’orange” instead of “la orange,” for example?  What does the cédille do to the French pronunciation rule of a “C,” or “ç” in a word?  All these questions, and many more, are explained little by little to students.  I really appreciate the way the authors don’t separate grammar lessons from everything else (which I think makes language-learning very challenging), but place them in context by weaving them into lessons where the students are also working on pronunciation and building a vocabulary.

I would definitely recommend Getting Started With French for any student (child or adult) who’d like to begin to learn this beautiful language…and also for any homeschool parent!  Even if there is no French experience or ability whatsoever in the home, authors Linney and Simpson have created lessons which are incredibly easy for both the teacher and the student to apprehend, and just as important, to truly progress with.  Getting Started With French provides a fantastic foundation for further language study by its excellent pronunciation, conversation, translation, and vocabulary/grammar lessons.

 

getting-started-french-picture-1Other resources from Armfield Academic Press

Armfield Academic Press also has other fantastic introductory language learning books available; Getting Started With Spanish and Getting Started With Latin.  They’re also planning to publish Getting Started With Russian soon.  Although I’m really enjoying studying French again, I must admit that there are foundations that I missed when I studied Russian the first time.  I was actually living in Russia and studying Russian at a university there with a native Russian speaker; and she was fantastic.  However, because it was more of an immersion experience, I missed some basic yet crucial grammar and pronunciation information (like how exactly to form my mouth around “ы” or managing the dipthong “лю.”)  I feel completely confident, based on using Getting Started With French, that Mr. Linney will be more than capable of unlocking the secrets of the Russian language to me….at last!  (When Getting Started With Russian is published, that is!)

Finally….

If you’re or your child are interested in studying French, do check out Armfield Academic PressGetting Started With French.  It is affordable, understandable, and so user-friendly.  I truly loved it, and am looking forward to more from Armfield Academic Press!

You can visit Armfield Academic Press‘ Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ArmfieldAcademicPress/.

Enjoy! –Wren

Introducing Getting Started with French {Armfield Academic Press}

Crew Disclaimer

The Only Pencil Sharpener You’ll Ever Need ~ Review of the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener

Yes, it’s really true: I believe that the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener is the only one you’ll ever need, whether you’re looking for one to use in your homeschool or your classroom!  Classroom Friendly Supplies very kindly sent me and Jackson a Cool Blue Classroom Friendly Sharpener to use and review in our homeschool.  I can only say, “Where has this sharpener been all my life??”

 

ClassroomFS Sharpener banner

Why we needed the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener:

We don’t use pencils for every single thing we do in homeschool.  But we DO use them for math, for journaling, for art, for nature drawing, and for handwriting.  I personally use one for lesson planning.  And as many people do, we prefer a nice sharp point on our pencils for writing or drawing.  However, that became a point of frustration over the years.  We have used a battery-operated electric sharpener….that died.  We have found manual sharpeners that really worked well….until they didn’t when the sharpener’s blade dulled.  Then we’d end up with pencil lead that would *almost* be perfectly sharp.  The, the nice tip would break off in the sharpener and we’d have nothing but a pencil that needed sharpening again.

cfs-sharpener-pic-2

This was so frustrating for both me and my son.  Finally in desperation, I switched to a mechanical pencil.  But that didn’t take care of the problem for Jackson, or for me when I wanted to journal or create art using colored pencils.  Then we just ended up with a bunch of nubs.

cfs-sharpener-pic-3The Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener

So, you can imagine how thrilled I was to receive this sharpener to use.  As you can see, we received the Cool Blue sharpener, although It’s available in a variety of colors (blue, green, purple, red, pink, black).  It’s made of metal, with a few plastic pieces.  It also comes with a clamp for affixing the sharpener to a countertop or bookcase, but it’s stable enough without the clamp, and we never needed to use it.  It’s very sturdy and has a good weight, but it’s not overly heavy.

It doesn’t work exactly like the pencil sharpeners you might remember from your own elementary classroom.  However, it’s actually quite simple to use and operate for both children and adults.  You can see a video or directions on how to use the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener at the company website.  But I’ll describe them for you here as well!

First:  Pull the silver portion straight out into a locking position.

CFS Sharpener Pic 4

Second:  Push the two black square knobs together and insert pencil fully into the sharpener.  Release the knobs.

CFS Sharpener pic 5

Third:  Hold the top of the sharpener lightly but firmly and turn the handle clockwise.  In just a few turns, the pencil will be sharpened.

CFS Sharpener pic 6

Fourth:  Pinch the two knobs together to release the pencil.

 

CFS Sharpener pic 7

Finally:  Ta-da!  A gorgeously-sharpened pencil!

How we used it

I mentioned above how many ways we use pencils in our homeschool.  So, Jackson used the Classroom Friendly Sharpener for his pencil school needs.  You can see his hand in the pictures above in my step-by-step directions.

 

CFS Sharpener pic 8I also teach an art class in our homeschool coop.  For an upcoming project, we’ll be using watercolor pencils.  I have a large supply of those, but about half of them were worn down to nubs from use over time.  I wanted my students to have sharpened pencils to work with, but I didn’t want to take the pencils to class unsharpened.  The pencils needed to be ready to go!  So I used our Classroom Friendly Sharpener, and in about 5 minutes, sharpened this huge bunch.

 

CFS Sharpener pic 10I probably could have sharpened them a bit more quickly, but twice I had to fix a tiny issue.  With two of my pencils, a small amount of lead broke off inside the sharpener’s blades.  However, the Classroom Friendly Supplies website has a Help Portal which has instructions for fixing small issues.  By watching their video and reading some instructions, I was able to take the sharpener apart, find the broken lead, and get it out using a toothpick.  Voila!  The issue was addressed and the sharpener was back to work!

I should tell you that I sharpened 23 watercolor pencils in a row before that happened.  🙂

 

CFS Sharpener pic 9Our thoughts

I LOVE this sharpener.  It is so easy to use, it sharpens pencils quite incredibly, and problems are easy to troubleshoot and fix.  It is attractive and I don’t mind having it out in our homeschool study area.  I also really appreciate not having to hunt down the tiny manual sharpeners that we’ve been using!

One does have to apply pressure while turning the handle and sharpening, but it’s not an inordinate amount.  As I said, I sharpened pencils for 5 minutes and only at the end did my arm start to tire.

The Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener met a definite need in our homeschool….and removed a consistent source of frustration.  I love knowing that sharpening broken or dull pencils will never be a problem for us again, either in our home studies or for my art class.  I recommend it wholeheartedly to you!

 

CFS Sharpener pic 11How to purchase

You may purchase the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener at Classroom Friendly Supplies.  I’d love for you to visit their website or their social media sites to see more about the only sharpener you’ll ever need!

Enjoy!  –Wren

Visit Classroom Friendly Supplies at:

www.classroomfriendlysupplies.com
info@classroomfriendlysupplies.com

Classroom Friendly Supplies on Facebook
Classroom Friendly Supplies on Pinterest
Classroom Friendly Supplies on Twitter @QuietSharpeners

Disclosure:  From time to time, finchnwren may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog.  We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews.  We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products.  We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.