Archive

Posts Tagged ‘book lists’

Works for me Wednesday — Homeschool Tracker

February 7th, 2012

This year with the advent of high school for my oldest I really needed a method to keep  better track of, well, everything. Grades, attendance, transcripts, course materials, book lists, etc.

During the summer I got really serious about finding a workable method for record keeping and what I found was exactly what I needed, in Homeschool Tracker.

We first downloaded the free version to make sure that I liked it. Played with that for about 6 weeks of summer school and I knew it was a keeper, so we jumped in and bought the full version, and now I tell everyone I meet about my new brain.

Why I love it so much:

- Does way more than I ever need it to do. This is a good thing. Because, some day I might just get the urge to put all my homeschool books in one list or write out detailed lesson plans or have a weighted grading scale. But, for now, I can pick and choose the features that I choose to use, and the rest just sit there quietly until I decide to use them or not.

- Prepares my assignment sheets for me. At the beginning of the school year and again over Christmas break I put in a bunch of hours logging all their assignments for the months ahead. Yes, that was a monumental task. Think 5 kids times about 7 subjects each times about 200 days of school. Yeah, a little crazy, but the program makes it as easy as possible. Now, all I do is select all the students and print out the sheets two weeks at a time. I could print the whole year, but I like to do a couple at a time because invariably I change something over the course of a week or two and I would hate to have to hand-write all those changes. Each weekend, or Monday morning depending on how things go, I print out everyone’s sheets, punch holes in them and they put them in their binders. Then, as I come around to work with them individually we pull out the binder and know exactly what needs to get done today and all week.

- Easy to reschedule. Life happens, sometimes a little too often. Kids get sick, relatives drop in, an assignment takes longer than anticipated, a concept needs extra teaching, kids fly through what you thought would take a week, books get lost, and sometimes the teacher gets sick. With a few clicks you can reschedule all assignments for all the kids or pick and choose what subjects and what kids need some rescheduling.

- Grades are figured automatically. All I needed to do was each week spend about 20 minutes (for all 5 kids, if you have fewer in school this would be even quicker, it takes me less than 5 minutes per kid) putting in their grades for the week and I have report cards ready made at the end of each quarter to go get their rewards from Chuck E Cheese.

- Not just about grades. As I mentioned this program does way more, and you can use any or all of the following features: track attendance, keep a reading log, record assignments and grades, write lesson plans, track goals, record school info, catalog your home library,  and print reports for any or all of those things.

This program has surpassed my expectations for a record keeping program and made it so painless. Yes, it took a little bit to get the hang of it, but they have an online forum on their site that can answer all of your questions and then some. I also made some silly mistakes while learning and spent extra time fixing said mistakes and getting back on track. But, now it is such a huge time saver and I have all their records in one place, saved and backed up every five days without another thought.

Why you should definitely try the free demo first:

- I will readily admit, there is a huge learning curve with this one. There are so many features, and it is a little old school in its on screen presentation, but it can do anything you want it to, you just need to learn how to work it.

- I’m sure it’s not for everyone. Although for me it was love at first download, it might not float your boat. So, check it out, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. It is amazing!

I can’t say enough about how much I have enjoyed using Homeschool Tracker Plus. I am thrilled to pieces with this program.  You can check out the basic edition for free, and you can try the plus edition for $5 for 30 days. If you do decide to buy, pleas use my referral code: U33EH and I’ll get a little bonus for referring you. :) Hope it is a help to you as much as it was for me.

Check out more wfmw.

TOS Crew Review — Read for the Heart

May 27th, 2011

Photobucket

Reading is an integral part of learning, and more so it is an irremovable part of our family life. Because of this, I am constantly on the lookout for good books. You know the ones. The ones that have withstood the test of time. The ones that both boys and girls can’t wait to hear more of. The ones during which you would never fall asleep. The ones that spark meaningful conversation even after you have closed the cover for the last time.

Sarah Clarkson wrote Read for the Heart to do more than just recommend some good books. She wrote it to help cast a vision for giving reading a place of prominence in your home. By the time you get to the book list you can’t help but be fingering your library card debating which book to put on hold or check out first. I know reading is important, but this book helped reignite my desire to pass my love of reading on to my kids.

Product: Read for the Heart

Details: A 384 page book with encouragement to make family reading and individual reading time a priority. Over 300 of the pages are lists of books that include summaries and background information to help you choose the best reads for your family and your kids.

Price: $17

What I loved . . .

  • Inspiring. I can find oodles of book lists all over the internet. While I appreciate getting a good book recommendation now and then, I really appreciated Sarah’s casting of a vision for reading. I love to read, and yet it is one of the first things I drop from my schedule when time gets tight. She reminded me with a passion how important time spent reading is in our home and school.
  • Personally and statistically supported. Creating beautiful word pictures, the author shares what crafted this love for reading in her heart. And, she shares statistics, quotes, and other encouragement as to the importance of reading. We owe it to the development of our kids’ minds to read early and read often, and this book can be a great catalyst to encourage you in the endeavor and give you the tools (great books!) to enjoy doing so.
  • Lists and more lists. Not just an alphabetical listing of books (although the index does provide that), this book breaks down the lists by popular genres (historical literature, fairy tales, picture books, etc.) Beyond that, each entry includes the author, other books by the author, illustrator, copyright date, and a brief summary of the book. A few quick lists also reference Caldecott winners, Newberry winners, and books especially for boys, girls, and families reading together.
  • Reading tips. Aside from rich motivation and abundant lists, she also gives some tips to making reading time special. From locations to treats she will stir your own imagination in this area.
  • A must have book. This book offers an incredible resource when doing your book shopping. I am always looking at books at a used book sale and trying to figure out by reading a sentence here and there if I or my kids will like the particular book. I will definitely bring this guide along with me now to see what it has to say when purchasing unfamiliar books. Obviously it won’t have all the good books listed either, but it does have many, and many that I am not familiar with as well. I look forward to bringing Sarah with me to all the book sales now and ask her advice before  I buy. :)

Some considerations . . .

  • One person’s opinion. You might feel differently. Her glowing opinion will not guarantee that you will like it. For example, she loved Across Five Aprils (which I have also heard many other people rave about), and I had to force myself to trudge through this book with my kids a few years ago. I was not impressed. But, we are all entitled to our own opinions and will love what others didn’t and vice versa.  You will still need to determine what books are a good fit for your family’s interests, values, attention span, academic subject, and personalities.

This book stirred up an incredible amount of enthusiasm within me. I cannot wait to finalize plans for the coming school year and include some of the great books recommended in this resource. I would strongly recommend this book to any homeschooling mom needing encouragement and ideas for making reading come to life in your home. You can check out the table of contents as well as a sample chapter if you would like to see a bit of the book for yourself and accept Sarah Clarkson’s invitation to more than just a “reading list, but to a reading life.”

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This product was provided to me free of charge through Apologia as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.



Tweet

TOS Crew Review — Easy Classical

January 10th, 2011

The demands on homeschool mother’s schedule are many and I enjoy finding products that make our life a little easier. The company Easy Classical has worked to put together a number of schedules to help homeschoolers incorporate more great materials into their school days.

They offer schedules for specific grades, subjects, and topics. Their schedules are thorough and offer abundant information. They do require additional purchases as they do not include the books you actually read, but merely provide book lists that their schedules incorporates. Most of the books you could either view online, order through CBD, or borrow from your library or Interlibrary loan.

Photobucket
Product: Early Modern History Schedule

Details: A thorough year-long schedule including book lists of history texts and read alouds, quizzes, activities, and tips to get the most out of this year of study

Price: $29.95 for downloadable product. Or, $35.95 if  you would prefer a physical product shipped to you.

What we loved . . .

  • Loads of resources. This is far more than just a couple page schedule to get you through the information in a year. They have gathered some great titles and put them into bite sized pieces for an educationally rich year of history study.
  • Favorite titles. Although I don’t recognize every book that they recommend I do see many familiar favorites and others that I have heard others rave about.
  • Classical approach. Well, I don’t know if I should say we love this, but I know many others would. I lean more toward Charlotte Mason if anything, but I do see some of the benefits from a classical approach. So, that said, this schedule does build on a Classical educational philosophy (hence the company name — Easy “Classical”), which is a time proven method.
  • Permission to adapt. One problem I have run into with schedules is my self-imposed need to do it all. This schedule says at the outset that you should not attempt to complete everything that they recommend. They just want to offer enough variety for the many different students and teachers that they are serving. And, they also acknowledge that life will sometimes get in the way and we won’t accomplish all that we had hoped in a given week. That is of course okay, and they reassure you that they expect that in the formulating of these materials.
  • Age range. It is sometimes challenging to teach a wide age range of students on a daily basis, but Easy Classical is designed to teach kids in grades K-6 and I felt that some of it could be adapted to older kids as well. I would have no trouble using this for all of my learners, pre-K through 8th grade.
  • Look before you buy. By looking through their website and downloading the samples you can get a good feel for this product and see if it is right for you and your family before purchasing it. Sample schedules could be used to give it a trial run in your homeschool and you just might find this product a great fit for your homeschool.

Some considerations . . .

  • Would still require some advanced planning. While the schedule is made out, you would need to round up the books and have other supplies on hand. They make it as simple as possible without selling you hundreds of dollars of books to go with it, but you will need to track them down. They do have a wonderful page on their site that links to all of the books and resources that they recommend.
  • Might not work for everyone. Any time that you find a great product, it will not fit every family. Some kids won’t enjoy the books, some won’t like the writing (which I felt this schedule was a bit heavy on, especially for younger kids). But, you can try it before you commit, so that is definitely not something to hold you back.

I have used schedules in the past from various sources and always get away from them. I prefer book based programs because I get so bogged down and “check-box” driven when I use a schedule. I end up using them more as a book list than an actual schedule. I also prefer oral narration to quizzes, but that comes from my Charlotte Mason bent. That said, I think this is a great resource. It looks easy to use, fits a wide range of ages, and uses top-notch books as its spine. This would be a great asset to any homeschool looking for a quality history program.

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This product was provided to me free of charge through Easy Classical as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.

Living books

August 26th, 2010

In reading on Charlotte Mason’s style I came across a term I have heard many times now — Living Books. She says this about choosing reading material:

For the children? They must grow up upon the best . . . There is never a time
when they are unequal to worthy thoughts, well put; inspiring tales, well
told. Let Blake’s ‘Songs of Innocence’ represent their standard in poetry
DeFoe and Stevenson, in prose; and we shall train a race of readers who will
demand literature–that is, the fit and beautiful expression of inspiring ideas
and pictures of life.

She warns against twaddle, a word I just love.  So, I have started a vigilant hunt for books that breathe.

We read living books because we love them, they bring us together. They prompt incredible conversations. Even my little ones surprise me with the observations that they make about a book and its connections with real life. They bring something to our home school that no unit study, hands-on project, or even a field trip can. They spark the imagination and make creativity soar.

Some look alive, but hold nothing of value beyond the front cover. Others look old and dry and yet have carried us on amazing adventures. How do I know? Where do I find a good book?

Just wanted to share some great resources for finding a good read:

Ambleside Online — This website builds directly off of the Charlotte Mason philsophy. It assigns a time period for each year and can and is used by many as the core of their homeschool. We used them loosely for a couple years. Now, I still refer to that site because the book lists are excellent. We have loved probably 90% of the books we found through that site.

Curriculum reading lists — I started looking through other curriculums (like Sonlight — which we also used for a year) to see what books they recommend at various grade levels. Lots of great recommendations made it into our reading list this way as well.

Five in a Row — For books and accompanying activities, these books can give you plenty to choose from. Books that have stood the test of time, and you will love reading and rereading with your kids.

The Book Guardians — This is a brand new site for which I will be a contributor. Be sure to check it out over time as more books get added to its ranks. It will list books and share in 10 key areas if they have content that might need consideration. I talked more about it on my blog post about book reviews.

Common Sense Media — This site offers a number of reviews, but does not seem to have a strong moral slant. I did not find the reviews as helpful because I tend to have a stricter standard on what I deem appropriate reading for my kids. Still, definitely some value in the sheer quantity of books they have reviewed.

Christian Children’s book reviews –A good site, but seems to review only Christian books.

Focus on the Family has a book review section — Some good reviews, but they seemed to be lacking a depth in their recommendations and information provided. Does come from a conservative preference morally.

Facts on Fiction — Lots of reviews and clearly targeting key areas of concern. Alphabetized and easy to find what you are looking for.

1000 Good books — compiled by 25 homeschool moms, you can find 1000 of their recommendations. That should keep you busy for a while!

Many books also offer lists and reviews:

- Honey for a Child’s Heart

- What Shall We Then Read

- Hand that Rocks the Cradle (from the Bluedorns)

- Books Children Love

- Invitation to the Classics

- The Read-Aloud Handbook

Finding the time:

With six kids, five of them now school age, the trick is finding time in a day to read books. We have employed a variety of means to do so. We read a bit each day. Sometimes at bedtime, sometimes in the afternoon. We have a silent reading time each day as well. Books on CD also help. We listen to these in our rooms, at bedtime, and definitely in the car. We “read” an extra book or two each month by listening in the car. And, it keeps the kiddos quiet while we travel!

Looking for some recommendation? Here are some of our favorite books:

The Little House on the Prairie series

The Princess and the Goblin

Gone Away Lake

The Calico Captive

The Endless Steppe

God’s Smuggler

Bruchko

Robin Hood

Galileo and the Magic Number

And, every year we discover a few more favorites. Stay tuned to hear what we unearth this year.

Please add some more resources or book favorites of your own in the comments. We are always looking for well loved books.

This post linked to Works for Me Wednesday.

Google Analytics integration offered by Wordpress Google Analytics Plugin