Sunday, October 19, 2014

Standard Deviants Accelerate Online Learning Review

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure Page for details.

Standard Deviants Accelerate was created by the brilliant minds at Cerebellum Corporation, an educational company that has been producing and distributing a plethora of educational resources since the days of VHS tapes (shh we still have a bunch of these archaic things). Over the years Standard Deviants has enhanced and modified their resources in order to keep up to date with the latest technological advances. Their latest advance is an online interactive educational website which offers a full years worth of curriculum supplement and test prep for 3rd through 12th grade (and even adults).

A moms review:
For the purpose of this review we received a 1 year subscription to all of the Standard Deviants Accelerate Homeschool Courses. Both of my children ages 7 and 8 have been utilizing several of the courses, even the ones meant for older grade levels, over the last several weeks. Since we unschool I feel very strongly about letting the children make their own choices on what they wish to learn about, regardless of age and grade level recommendations. I was a little apprehensive about them doing the higher grade level courses in Standard Deviants, but to my surprise they did extremely well and easily comprehended the information being taught. And most importantly they loved doing the online courses. Since the children were interested in DNA, the human body, weather and slavery we decided to utilize the US History, Biology, Earth Science and Nutrition courses.  I also had the children try the Arithmetic course. 

Program overview:
Standard Deviants is unlike any other online educational teaching tool we have utilized before. The program includes RTI Alerts, Differentiated Instruction, automatic grading, streaming videos, a variety of activities and more. With Standard Deviants children ages 8-adult can learn a variety of subjects through online video and written transcripts which teach in a way that is fun and interesting. 

Course Options:
  • Arithmetic - Grades 3+
  • Fundamental Math - Grades 4+
  • Earth Science - Grades 6+
  • Nutrition - Grades 6+
  • Algebra - Grades 7+
  • Biology - Grades 7+
  • Chemistry - Grades 9+
  • English Comp. - Grades 9+
  • U.S. History - Grades 9+
  • AP Biolody - Grades 11+
  • AP Chemistry - Grades 11+
  • AP U.S. Government & Politics - Grades 11+
  • AP U.S. History - Grades 11+
  • AP Eng. Composition - Grades 11+

The information in each of the course chapters is given in bite sized pieces and a mini module takes on average around 15-30 minutes. Children are able to read a transcript of the lesson or watch and listen to it being taught by a variety of very humorous instructors (who are young adults) through a fun, engaging video. After children complete the course lesson they are then tested to make sure they retained the information. There are drag and drop diagrams, assessment tests and written answer questions to enhance critical thinking skills. There is also a vocabulary review which can be read or listened to.

The Standard Deviant courses can be utilized on any device that has internet access so that means it will work on a tablet, computer or other mobile device. 

Student portal:
The student portal is easy to navigate and my children could easy find their courses, topics, videos and quizzes on their own after being shown just once. The only thing the children need some assistance on was reading the quiz questions and answers to them. The great thing about the courses is that they are self paced and you can jump around the chapters as you wish. 

Each course subject is broken down the same and includes several chapter modules, and a subject review. Within each chapter module there is an intro, several mini modules and a chapter review. The mini modules are really easy to navigate and contain 5 tabs at the top for accessing the video/transcript, vocab, diagram, quiz and written answer. Under each video is a box where children can take notes as they listen and then save them to their "locker" or print them.

If a child is working more independently and has a question about something in the course content they can click a button on the right side of the screen that says "SOS." A little window will pop out where children can type a quick note to their parent/teacher.

The only minor issue we encountered with the student portal was that it doesn't keep track of what modules and mini modules you have completed on the main menu, which would be helpful. You are able to see that you have completed a mini module once you click on it and view the diagram or quiz tabs which will show your previous attempts. And of course you can go into reports as well. To help us with this minor issue I simply printed the course module list and we would cross off the modules that the children completed to help us keep track.

Parent portal:
The parent portal is also very easy to use and allows parents/teachers to read reports, view progress and more. Though most of the grading is done automatically, parents/teachers can provide inupt as needed by customizing the one-click rubrics.  Setting up my children's courses was really easy, though it was a little time consuming because I had to set up each course individually

Seeing is believing:

Additional details on courses:
Since my children did utilize so many courses I am not going to talk about each one, but I did want to highlights a couple of them.

Gwyn has really been into DNA lately so we focused on the DNA and genetic sections of the biology course. This course was fabulous and even I picked up some things I didn't know. The course covers everything from the cell to the ecosystem. SDA Biology teaches students the stuff that life is made of and shows them how it all interconnects. Topics include heredity, DNA technology, human physiology, and more. We are still working through some of the modules in this course but did complete the Molecules and Cells, Heredity & Inheritance and Molecular Genetics modules. The course has been a great supplement to our DNA strand kit and library books on DNA.            

Earth Science:
Space and weather are always popular topics in our home so the children wanted to give the modules on these topics a try. The weather module was a huge hit. In this course children learn all about the drama that Earth has got going on from the solar system to earthquakes. The course was a great way kick off the Fall season. 

FREE stuff:
Standard Deviants Accelerate offers a FREE 6 month trial subscription.

Wrap up:
Standard Deviants is a fabulous online teaching resource that can be utilized in a classroom setting, media lab, public library or homeschool environment. All course material is secular and non-religious. It works well with any homeschool style and it makes a great supplemental or even full curriculum. Standard Deviants offers affordability, flexibility and most importantly fun learning. The Standard Deviants accelerated learning program is interactive and multi-sensory so it's great for all learning styles (auditory, visual and kinesthetic). I highly recommend Standard Deviants. 

Gwyns review (8 yrs old):
I really like the courses and learned a lot for the videos. I even did really well on many of the exams. I think the videos are funny and I like the cartoon graphics. I do the courses a few times a week.

Links to follow:
-Standard Deviants Facebook
Standard Deviants Twitter
-Standard Deviants Pinterest
-Standard Deviants Google +

Where to buy:
Standard Deviants Accelerate is $99 per subject for a one year subscription (1 student, 1 teacher), or $24.95 per month. AP Courses are also available for $14.95 per month (1 student, 1 teacher, 1 subject).

Click here for more Standard Deviants Accelerates reviews from the The Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Click to read Crew Reviews

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Gravity Maze Review

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure Page for details.

One of my favorite board game companies is ThinkFun. Not only are their games always fun, but they are educational too. ThinkFun was founded in 1985 in the basement of a husband and wife team Bill Ritchie and Andrea Barthello. ThinkFun is a little different than most board game companies because they started with and continue to have a very unique mission. Their mission, "To translate the brilliant ideas of the craziest mathematicians, engineers and inventors into simple toys that can be appreciated by boys and girls around the world." Their innovative games naturally inspire learning, spark creativity, and build problem solving skills through play. 

A moms review:
We reviewed a ThinkFun game several months ago called Robot Turtles which was a huge hit with the children. So when I got the opportunity to review another game from ThinkFun of course I said yes. Gravity Maze is the newest game from ThinkFun and is guaranteed to provide your family with hours of fun. The game is perfect for ages 8-adult.

This is another item I am saving for the children for Christmas so I tested it out. The really cool thing about this game is that it is a single player game. So I sat down to play a couple rounds and well before I knew it 10 minutes turned into an hour. I love logic, critical thinking puzzles so this game was right up my alley. It reminded me a lot of the wooden labyrinth mazes I used to play as a child...just way cooler.

This hands-on, educational game is great for building critical thinking, visual perception and reasoning skills. The game comes with 1 game grid, 10 sturdy tower pieces, 3 marbles and 60 challenge cards. It was really easy to play and it only took me a few minutes to read the instructions.

The object of the game is to arrange colorful, translucent towers to move your marble from it's starting point to the target location. You can only use gravity to accomplish the task and there is only one design that will successfully move the marble directly to the target. There are over 60 challenges so you are guaranteed to have hours of fun.

To play you simply select a challenge card (beginner-expert) and then set up the matching towers on the game grid. But you must use your critical thinking skills to determine where to add the towers on the grid so that the marble falls from the Start Position to the Target Tower. See super simple...well that is until you reach the expert cards. The front of the card indicates the starting tower and target tower positions as well as the grid pieces to add. And the back of the card has the solution to the puzzle.

For even more added fun you could easily make your own tracks and challenge family members or start a family friendly competition to see who can solve each challenge the quickest.

I just know this game is going to be a huge hit and I can almost guarantee that it will be going with us our fieldtrip car rides!

Links to follow:
-ThinkFun Website
-ThinkFun Facebook 
-ThinkFun Twitter 

Where to buy:
Gravity Maze retails for $29.99 and can be purchased on Amazon.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Ways To Keep Children Engaged At A Museum

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure Page for details.

We have been visiting museums since the children were 3 years old. Even at the age of 3 we were sure to remind them about proper museum etiquette, but we were also always sure to make museums a fun place for them. Here are a few ideas for keeping children engaged at a museum.

8 Ways To Keep Children Engaged At A Museum:
  1. Find scavenger hunts or journal pages for children to complete during their visit. You can find FREE printables several places online and on my FREE Notebooking/Journal page. You can also check with the museum to see if they offer any resources. Many of our local museums provide FREE scavenger hunts, family friendly guide brochures and even flashcards. 
  2. Take along art or history books that contain information on some of the artifacts or pieces of artwork you may encounter. 
  3. Ask the museum if they have discovery backpacks available. These generally contain resources  (like books, drawing paper, magnifying glasses, etc) that children can utilize throughout the museum to enhance their learning experience.
  4. Find out if child friendly audio guides are available. 
  5. Take a docent led family tour.
  6. Take along a small toy or something children can hold in their hands so they won't be tempted to touch. My son always takes along a couple Lego Minifigures to help his wandering hands.
  7. Give children a pad of paper and a pencil and have them draw their favorite pieces.
  8. Discuss the art and artifacts with children, don't just read the informational plaques. Ask them questions like what is your favorite color in the piece or what do you think the artist was trying to convey. Discuss the tiny details, like the girl standing in the background. Have children count objects in the artwork, like birds or trees. Discuss cultures and time periods.
Remember children do have short attention spans so it is perfectly okay if you don't see the entire museum in one visit. Be flexible and have fun! Nurture their love and curiosity for art and history early on because children that learn to appreciate art and history become adults that appreciate art and history!

Don't forget to download your FREE Artist Journal Page and Art Museum Journal Page!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Museum Etiquette Reminders (For Children and Adults)

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure Page for details.

The children and I visit museums frequently. And each and every time before we enter we have the museum etiquette discussion. The children know my speech so well that they can finish my sentences while I am giving it. Sadly though we come in contact with many children and even adults who have not been given the museum etiquette speech and wreak havoc throughout the museum ruining the experience for other patrons and sometimes even the artwork and artifacts. Now don't get me wrong my children are by no means angels and often have to be reminded (sometimes several times) during our visit of proper etiquette.

15 Museum Etiquette Reminders (for children and adults):
  1. Do not give the statues high fives, climb on them, or hang on them.
  2. DO NOT TOUCH!!! Unless there is a sign that says "touch me," it's hands off. 
  3. Turn the flash off your camera. Light damages art and artifacts, maybe not right away, but definitely over time. Have you ever noticed how dark museums are?
  4. Use your inside voice and have quiet discussions. A museum is a place to both learn and reflect so it is definitely okay to have discussions just try to keep the volume down so you don't distract those around you.
  5. NO running, pushing or shoving. A museum is not a playground. There are priceless artifacts and pieces of artwork that could get damaged if you bump into them. 
  6. Obey rules and stay behind barriers, ropes etc. They are there for a reason!
  7. Leave book bags and large bags at home or in the car. I am guilty of this one. Over the last couple of years I have noticed that many museums are implementing a no book bag or large bag bag policy. Turns out that people have been bumping into artifacts and artwork with their bags and causing damage. We always take educational books and other activities to enhance the learning experience so I now keep a small reusable shopping bag in the car just for our museum visits.  
  8. No eating, drinking or chewing gum! If you must have a snack or drink step outside.
  9. Do not block the exhibit or information plaque. Take a step back so everyone can see.
  10. Pick up after yourself. Do not leave trash laying around.
  11. Keep hands off the walls and glass. As I tell my children, "someone has to clean off all those hand prints, lets try to help them out a little bit." 
  12. When you point out the details on a piece, stay far enough away that you do not make contact with the piece itself. The oils from your fingers will cause damage. The two foot rule works well for our family.
  13. If you or a child is bored or being disruptive remove yourself from the museum.
  14. Show docents, guards and other employees respect. Most docents are volunteers who are there to share their passion with visitors. 
  15. Be respectful of the culture(s) being represented. Learn about the culture rather than ridiculing it.
I hope these etiquette reminders help your family on your museum adventures. There is so much that can be learned from a visit to a museum so it is important to respect them and what they contain inside so that they are here for years to come!

Check back tomorrow for 8 ways to keep children engaged at a museum!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Learn How To Pan For Gold Review

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure Page for details.

Discover with Dr. Cool was created by a husband and wife team, Jordan and Katie Willing. Both possess a passion for science and children which is why they only produce kits that offer exciting hand-on experiences that will inspire young learners with the wonders of the natural world. Every Dr. Cool Science kit is exciting and engaging for students, as well as a valuable contribution to the curriculum of any teacher, homeschooler, or parent. Some of their adventurous kits include gem mining, crystal growing, dinosaur digging, geode breaking, fossil digging and gold panning.

A moms review:
Christmas is just around the corner and if you are anything like me I am sure you are on the search for amazing gifts that are unique and will provide your children with hours of fun. Well the Learn How To Pan For Gold kit is an amazing product that offers children a fun, learning adventure.

A couple months ago we visited Dahlonega, Georgia, which is the site of the first major U.S. Gold Rush. Well as you can imagine both of the children became fascinated with gold after our trip and ever since then have been on the search for gold in our local rivers. But since they lack the proper tools and panning technique their attempts have not been very fruitful. Which is why I knew The Learn How To Pan For Gold kit would be the perfect gift for them this Christmas.

The Learn How To Pan For Gold kit is the perfect gift for little prospectors age 6-12 years old. This award winning toy will provide hours of fun and learning. The hands-on science kit includes a 10" prospectors pan, tools, storage vial, practice and advanced miner bags of paydirt, plus a large fool's gold nugget (pyrite). There is also a full color adventure and activity guide which were written by teachers. The adventure guide include lots of amazing science and history facts about gold. And the activity guide includes 10 fun games, puzzles and challenges.

Before digging into the kit I read over the instructions which explain the gold panning technique. The instructions were super easy to follow and include photos for reference as well. Since I do intend to give this to the children for Christmas I was the one who played with the kit, and I must admit I had a blast. Boy is gold panning harder than it looks. With lots of patience and practice I worked my way through the practice paydirt bag and EUREKA, I found the gold! Note: the gold in the kit is not actually gold, it is just pyrite, but it definitely teaches children about the art of gold panning. And after they have mastered the included paydirt bags they can move onto local streams and perhaps find real gold. You can also purchase mining bags of real gold online from various sellers.

This kit is the perfect way to enhance history and science lessons. Dr. Cool kits are so much fun that children won’t even realize they’re learning! 

Links to follow:
-Dr. Cool Website
-Dr. Cool Facebook 
-Dr. Cool Twitter 

Where to buy:
The Learn How To Pan For Gold kit is regularly $14.95, but right now you can get it for just $7.50 off the Dr. Cool website ($7.50 price expires 10/31/14). The kit is also available on Amazon.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.
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