IXL {TOS review}

We reviewed IXL, an online program math and language arts program geared towards children in kindergarten through twelfth grades.

ixlWhen it comes to academic curriculum, online options were always my last option when it came to curriculum. I did not want my child sitting in front of the computer spending endless hours glaring at the screen. I did not want my children playing games and treating their school work as fun and not something serious. I just had not found a program that seem to really offer quality instruction and was worth paying for the amount of money charged.

IXL broke my stance on using online programs. We love IXL. I love IXL and have enjoyed using it every time we have been able to review the program. As far as the amount of time spent using the program, obviously that is up to you as the parent. Yes, they sometimes want to spend more time using the program and sometimes, that is okay, because they are learning.

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Using IXL is fun. Their tagline says, “Practice that feels like play.” Well, I can’t take that away from them. According to my children, using IXL is fun. My response is, at least they are learning.

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IXL offers math for kindergarten through twelfth grades and language arts is offered for second through eighth grades. The program works as a supplement to both subjects and allows children to practice skills in those subjects. It does not teach them, but hat is okay, because practice is what they need.

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We spent most of our time in the math section, because there are so many skills to practice and I was often able to match their practice time with a skill they were currently covering in their school work. I really like that part, especially if the offline learning was frustrating for them in a certain area. Being able to practice a challenging concept using IXL gave a fun twist to something they may have found difficult.

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You can scroll through the directory and a pop-up will appear for you to see an example of the type of skills covered in that topic. You don’t have to click through and read.

Some other features I like about IXL:

1) The ability to track the progress of my children: I am able to let them work at their own pace and on their own. IXL e-mails reports to you, so you can see how your child is progressing through the material. I too got excited when I received an e-mail telling me that Lily or Canyon had mastered a skill. They both even earned certificates for the work he completed. IXL even sends you an e-mail if your child needs more practice in a certain area.

2) The variety of questions and activities included by IXL keep the program interesting to use while your child is still learning. There are so many different skills to practice in both math and language artsmath section.

3) IXL gives students unlimited aces to all of the grade level material they offer. As a homeschooler, that is important, because we often have one (or more) child who is grade level in one subject and maybe under or above grade level on another. My children were able to work according to their comprehension. Having access to the higher level of material as their skills increase is also good, because they can choose to be challenged by higher grade material one their improve in skill. Also, if your child is below grade level in either math or language arts, he is still able to use IXL and learn by covering material that is understandable to him.

This is the third time we have been able to review IXL. As my children have grown older, the program continues to be more valuable to them for review and practicing currently covered skills.

A new feature this time around was using IXL on our iPads. Of course, my children found this enjoyable. They went back and forth between using the computer and iPad. It was nice to have that option and being able to send someone to a quiet space for completing their work.

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
As far as the pricing, IXL is $9.95 a month for one subject (math or language arts) or $15.95 a month for both. The pricing is up there, but we found great value in the practice offered in the math section.

You can read more reviews of this item by fellow crew members on The Homeschool Crew Blog.


If He Had Not Come {TOS review}

We received and reviewed a physical, hard-back copy of If He Had Not Come, a book written by Nan F. Weeks and reintroduced by David Nicholson.

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I have to admit that as early as it is in the holiday season, I am already looking forward to Christmas. Because of that, I was excited about the opportunity to review If He Had Not Come. I have already begun making my list of Christmas books we will read this holiday season. If He Had Not Come is a rendition of another one of my favorite Christmas stories/movies where we get to see how life would have been if a certain person had never been born. Sound familiar?

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We are walked through the story with Bobby, a young boy, who sits with his father as he reads through the Bible. It is Christmas Eve, the stockings are hung and gifts are under the tree. The daily Bible reading by his father before Bobby goes to bed is from John 15:22 and Bobby falls asleep with the words, “If I had not come,” circling through his head.

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Bobby wakes the next morning and as we turn each page of the book, the reader, along with Bobby comes to experience a life without Christ. There are no presents or a Christmas tree; people are hard at work at the factory; stores are open; and there is no church to be found. At various places, he is met with a sign that reads, “If I Had Not Come.” Other places like the children’s home, the hospital and the homeless shelter are gone. These are all places that would have existed, because of the love of Christ working through people. Since He does not exist, these places to help people do not exist.

The biggest shock is when he opens the Bible and finds the New Testament does not exist, because He did not come.

If He Had Not Come is geared towards children six years old and up and can be used as a family read or in a classroom, like Sunday school. The original story was published in 1938 as part of an anthology called Christ and the Fine Arts, by Cynthia Maus.

Nicholson was introduced to the story almost 30 years ago when his children were young. It has since become an annual traditional read for the Nicholson family and he wanted to share the story with a new generation.

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The book is hardcover with beautifully illustrated, glossy pages. Nicholson has taken great care in the appealing presentation of the book and Weeks’ story comes to life through the illustrations of Charles Jaskiewicz. When it comes to children’s books, I specifically note the detail and quality of the illustrations, because sometimes that is all a child needs to grasp the story. Jaskiewicz does a good job.

There are discussion questions at the end of the book. They are questions that are appropriate for younger children, so this would be a great family read-a-loud and also time to open the Bible and read through some of the related verses. A Gospel Message, steps for accepting God’s gift of salvation, is also included in the book.

I read through the book on my own, because it is a Christmas book and we do Christmas anything after Thanksgiving only. My oldest did read through the book and enjoyed the story. He agreed that it would be difficult to imagine life and a world without Christ.

If He Had Not Come will be one of the first books we read this holiday season. I know that we are going to have good discussions.

Of all of the story ideas, I have never read a book about or discussed with my children what the world would be like if Christ had never come. I am glad it will be just a discussion and that it was not reality.

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
If He Had Not Come is available as a hardcover book for $18.95 and as an E-book for $3.99.

You can read more reviews of this item by fellow crew members on The Homeschool Crew Blog.


When London Burned audio-book {TOS review}

We reviewed When London Burned by George Alfred (G.A.) Henty that was produced by Jim Hodges Productions as an MP3 CD and the accompanying Study Guide in PDF format. The CD and study guide are appropriate for children 10 years old and older.

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Listeners are placed in 1660s London in When London Burned that is described as “a story of restoration times and the great fire.”

In many of Henty’s novels, the story often centers on a young boy, who is challenged with tasks that are typical of an adult and When London Burned is no different. When the first chapter, Fatherless, opens, we meet Cyril Shenstone, who stands with tears in his eyes as his father lies in another room ready for burial. Although Cyril is the son of a nobleman, he is left penniless by his father, who lost the family fortune during the Commonwealth. We walk through the story with Cyril, who learns to care for himself financially (as he had done before his father’s death), and eventually gains recognition as one who assists those affected during the Great Plaque and the Great Fire that burned in London.

The study guide has a variety of exercises that accompany the 22 chapter CD. Along with four quizzes that occur after every five or six chapters, each chapter has vocabulary words, questions and activities for the listener to complete. The quizzes ask questions regarding the previous chapters. There are also the answers, in the back of the study guide, to all of the chapter questions and quizzes. So, if you give the CD to a child who is able to complete independent study work, then you do not have to listen to the entire 13 plus hours to know if he is answering the information correctly.

The questions seemed to more comprehension than analysis. Most of them are call and response. The quiz jim_hodges01 questions were not that much different (level of challenge) from the chapter questions. The accompanying activities do present a bit of a challenge with ones like plotting the distance (math lesson) between different towns or a discussion of an approach one would take and defending it with Bible passages (bible lesson). The way the study guide is written does allow you to use it with multiple ages of children. Some portions may be more challenging for one age/child and very easy for another.

At the end of the study guide is a Character First sheet that covers particular words that deal with good character. You will see words like Responsibility: Knowing and doing what is expected of me and Cautiousness: Knowing the importance of right timing in accomplishing right actions giving definitions. There are 49 character traits that provide good conversation starters.

I popped the CD into our player and my children listened to one chapter a day. With the exception of two chapters (chapters nine and 10) that have a shorter run time, the listening time for each chapter is a minimum of 35 minutes. Taking into consideration the questions in the study guide, combined with the chapter time, makes it a good amount of learning time with the material.

There were at least two activities per chapter, so we were not able to complete them all. Instead, I went through before we listened to the chapter and chose the activities we would do, which was about three a week. There were some activities like analyzing a nursery rhyme that was fun and watching a video of the Great Plague that reminded me of the current Ebola crisis. This topic made for good conversation about the plague and comparisons as to how the situation was handled then and how America is handling the Ebola virus issue now.

When London Burned is an audio-book as opposed to an audio-drama. There is one narrator throughout the story. At this, you may or may not lose some of your listeners due to the way it is presented.

Jim Hodges has produced an audio-book that may work well enjoyed as a family listen-aloud. You may listen to a free MP3 download of chapter four to see if it is something your family will enjoy.

When purchased as a CD, you will need to use a drive in a computer, DVD player or an MP3 compatible CD player to listen to the story. The MP3 CD does not play in a standard player.

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
When London Burned is available as a physical CD for $25 and a digital download for $18. The study guide is available for $12.

You can read more reviews of this item by fellow crew members on The Homeschool Crew Blog.


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