Friday, July 31, 2015

A TOS Review: Heirloom Audio Productions, With Lee in Virginia

A struggle within a nation. Brother against brother. Boys becoming men too soon. Mothers in fear, every night in prayer. The power of this story will overwhelm you. Heirloom Audio Productions delivers an emotional look at one of the most difficult times in our country's history: With Lee in Virginia.

With Lee in Virginia Audio Drama Review
Reading aloud is something we have always enjoyed as a family. It is an opportunity to slow down, take a moment and learn together. An audio book is a great respite for this mama, who often tires of reading in the car on trips, and I can just sit back and enjoy with the rest of them. We have listened to many audio books over the years, but Heirloom Audio Productions brings stories to life in a much deeper way. It is an experience in sound and drama. Not just a voice reading to you, but actors portraying characters, background music, and sound effects. It is basically a movie without the picture. It truly draws you into the action.

With Lee in Virginia takes us back to the spring of 1861, the very week the Civil War begins. We meet Vincent Wingfield, a 15-year-old plantation heir from Virginia. He enlists with the calvary of the Army of Northern Virginia, and he is soon making a name for himself in battles you may recall reading about in your high school history books. Because of the speed of his horse and his eagerness to serve, he moves through the ranks quickly - even despite injury - and is put in the company of the most famous military names in the Confederacy, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E Lee.

Vincent is a slave owner, but he is a compassionate young man who is personally involved with his slaves' lives. His personal servant Dan is devoted to him, as Vincent is to him as well. He is both admired and hated by fellow southerners because of his ideals, but he is not swayed by man's opinions. He is adamant in his faith, and confident in his Heavenly Father.

Like many soldiers who are wounded, he has moments of struggle with his identity, but he only becomes stronger for it and continues to lead his regiment in prayer and battle. For such a young man to lead and be respected by these great men was so enlightening to me.

The faith of the men was revealed throughout the story, something you don't get in today's history books. I enjoyed the perspective of the story, the narration, and of course, the action. It was so wonderfully told, with some of the finest Christian actors of our time taking on major roles. I can only imagine that this will give your children a greater interest in the war that shaped our nation, and give you a new perspective on the men who fought and died so bravely.

But the learning won't stop there! Heirloom Audio has produced an amazing study guide that is 30 pages chock full of study questions, history lessons, and bible themed discussions as well. This could be a full unit study, and you can download the mp3 soundtrack to listen to the score from the production while working together with your family.

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With Lee in Virginia Audio Drama Review

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Weekend fun in the SUN

A TOS Review: UnLock Math

Unlock Math Review
So with the summer break looming ahead of us, I was excited to look for new curriculum ideas for the coming year. There are so many choices out there for each core subject, not to even mention the slew of electives available, that it can really seem overwhelming. I have been so thankful for friends sharing resources, free trials, and of course, the TOS Review Crew for giving me opportunities for trying things out to see what works for each child. And believe me, with 6 kids that all have different talents, personalities and learning styles, it can get pretty tricky finding out which course will work best for each child. This time, it was Chloe's turn to be the guinea pig. We have been reviewing UnLock Math, UnLock Pre-Algebra this summer.
UnLock Math is an online math curriculum that uses a comprehensive teaching theory using video, computers, and a teacher. Alesia Blackwood is a high school math teacher and mother of (almost) four children. She understands from years in the classroom how many students just don't get math. In her testimonial, she explains that by the time many of her students reach her room, they've already decided they just aren't "math" people. But her innovative, engaging, and positive teaching skills can soon turn their minds the other way. My daughter has been one of them. 

Chloe is not a "math" person, either. She can be brought to tears most days by math lessons. She is easily intimidated by higher math, and though I've seen her confidence improve this past semester due to another math curriculum we reviewed, she still wouldn't say she really liked math. She could get through it, but that was about it. Alesia brought a nonthreatening personality into our homeschool. Chloe liked her hair (she's naturally curly, like Chloe), and enjoyed her video presentations. I could see her smiling through her lessons, saying yay to herself when she got a higher grade, and just not complaining like she usually does. I watched some of the lessons with Chloe, and I agree - Alesia is the math teacher I would have wanted, too! Her enthusiasm and ability to break down the information into relatable concepts is a gift.

Some of the components we enjoyed were the videos like we already mentioned, the student dashboard, and the progress reports.

The dashboard is the way the lessons are broken down. The student knows exactly where they are, what their grade is at that moment, what is coming up, and what they probably need more work on. 

Unlock Math Review
The progress report gives me the breakdown in a little different format, but keeps Chloe and I on the same page when it comes to what she is learning. I wasn't sure about doing pre-algebra with her this year as a 7th grader (Connor waited until 8th grade). But with UnLock Math, she doesn't feel pressured. She is getting new information every day, but in such small chunks that she doesn't feel overwhelmed. I am very happy with her progress so far.

Here Chloe's take on UnLock Math:

"I like this better than other online programs we've seen. I really like Mrs. Alesia. Having a teacher just works better for me. I respond to a face telling me what's up better than an automated robot voice. I have only seen stuff to review so far, but it's making more sense that it ever did before. I still don't love math, but it isn't so scary this way. 
I like that I don't get graded on the practice problems. It gives me a chance to figure it out before I am graded. That is a bonus.
I wish there was something that encouraged me when I'm doing good. It just gives me a fraction at the top of the page, so I tell myself good job or say yay. In other programs, I've had some incentive or reward, like a message telling me great job or a cute animal graphic. Something like that makes it a little more fun.
I love the learning path! You get WarmUp, Mrs. Alesia's video, Practice Problems, Stay Sharp, Challenge Yourself and Reference Notes. I don't really know what the Reference Notes are or why they are there, but the rest is great. It gives me a chance to get ready for the lesson, hear the lesson, practice what I learned, review something from a past lesson, and then a fun problem that makes me use a critical thinking skill. It's a good way to end the lesson...when you get that challenge problem right.

Unlock Math Review

One thing I didn't really like. Sometimes Mrs. Alesia points her finger a lot to emphasize something. It's almost like she's pointing at me and I'm in trouble...and sometimes she talks like she's talking to a 2nd grader. I am almost a 7th grader, so I kind of wish she talked to me more grown up."

So that's Chloe's "review"! I am excited to see how she does with new concepts coming up, but I am happy to see her enjoying math at this time. I hope to see more improvement, greater confidence, and hopefully...eventually...with Alesia's teaching...she will learn to love math!

To connect with UnLock Math on social media, check them out here:
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UnLock Math Review

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