Wednesday, November 5, 2014

David Nicholson (Christmas Book) Review

Christmas Book Review
David Nicholson, a retired teacher and short-term missionary, has taken a tale that was written more than 75 years ago and given it new life—If He Had Not Come. This is a short story, covering just 14 pages of this 40-page hardcover book. Written originally by Nan Weeks, David heard it in his adult Sunday School class and read it over and over again to his family at Christmastime. 

Though If He Had Not Come is written so that children as young as 6 can fully understand it and be fascinated by the concept, older children and adults will be captivated by the proposition—what would life be like for us all if Jesus had never come to earth? This idea is reminiscent of George Bailey in It's A Wonderful Life, except George wishes he had never been born. In this book, we are given a glimpse, albeit a small one, into what life would be like if Jesus had not come to earth as a baby, if God had not made the way of salvation through his Son Jesus Christ.

The premise set forth in this book is a very interesting and thought-provoking one, but I would have loved it if it were longer. I understand that David was taking Nan Weeks' story and reintroducing it, but so much more could be added to it. I also found it odd that all throughout the town there were signs that said, "If He Had Not Come." My kids and I just kept thinking, "If He had not come, there wouldn't be signs that said, 'If He Had Not Come.'" There also wouldn't be a gate standing where the Children's Home once stood. It would have never been there in the first place. I suppose if it is just a dream, anything can happen. It just seemed a little inconsistent to me and my kids.

The illustrations are done well. They provide a rustic touch to this reintroduction of a 75-year-old story.

Probably the best thing about this book, in my opinion, is what is found after the story has ended. David Nicholson provides interactive topics for families and Sunday School teachers. These six topics encourage discussion about Scripture, our thoughts and feelings, and the way things are today compared to when the book was originally written.

There is a page called "Going Deeper." This was written by Josh Mulvihill, a pastor in Minnesota. He delves into Scripture to help us find out why Jesus did come to earth and what it would mean for us if He had not come. Lastly, the Gospel message is presented, in the ABC format—Admit you are a sinner separated from a perfect God, Believe in your heart that Jesus is Savior, and Confess with your mouth and receive God's gift of salvation. There is also a prayer of salvation on the bottom of the page.

If He Had Not Come is a full-color, 8.5 x 11 book. It retails for $18.95 for the hardcover edition and also sells as an e-Book for $3.99.

Christmas Book Review

Find David Nicholson on Facebook:
Click to read Crew Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, November 3, 2014

Wizzy Gizmo Review: Fast Track Bible Pack

Our family is not new to Wizzy Gizmo, having reviewed one of their audio dramas in the past. This is a company with a heart for teaching children God's Word. The folks at Wizzy Gizmo have created many amazing Christian education resources. This time, we received the Fast Track Bible Pack. Selling for just $14.99, these New Testament flash cards are a wonderful way to supplement Bible time with your family.

Each card summarizes one book of the New Testament. It details the number of chapters included, who wrote it, and when it was written. On the back, it provides the theme, a brief outline, key chapters, key verses, key passages, key doctrines, and key people. These cards are an invaluable resource.

I have often found myself wishing that I had information about the books of the Bible in one easy place so that I might relay that information to my kids. Wizzy Gizmo has provided that place. For kids and parents who are looking to memorize Scripture, the key passages are perfect.

The book summaries on the front of the cards are extremely easy to understand and are written on a personal level, sometimes asking questions of the reader. A key verse is provided as well.

I like these cards because they are a very heavyweight card stock. So, they should last a long time. They are also extremely colorful but not too busy as to distract the reader. The website provides suggestions for using these cards with various age ranges, from 2 through adult. Yes, even adults can learn a great deal from these cards. They're convenient enough to put in my Bible or another book so that I can take the one I'm working on with me. When I've got a little downtime, I can slip it out and read it over. The more often I or my kids read them, the better we remember the information.

The cards are biblically sound. I did not come across anything that would speak contrary to what the Bible says.

Some of the other products available include: "Who Created Everything?" audio drama and book (Genesis chapter one) and In His Image book (Genesis chapter two).

Read other reviews of the Fast Track Bible Pack and other products here:

You can find Wizzy Gizmo on these other social media platforms:

*I received this product free of charge in order to provide an honest review.*

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

We had the opportunity to review a German Course through Middlebury Interactive Languages. Middlebury has courses for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The German course we were given to review was the high school German geared towards students in 9th-12th grade. Upon first opening the course, it is inviting. The picture displayed was colorful and interesting.

A table of contents is listed on the left of the screen when beginning each day. Students can click through to where they left off. Once a lesson has been completed, a check mark is placed in the box to the left of the lesson. All lessons have a written script and a speaker, so the important parts of the lesson can be heard by the student. The first screen for each new unit details the objectives of the unit—what the student can expect to learn. Then there is a vocabulary guide and an introduction to the vocabulary. A pronunciation button is available for each word. This was, obviously, very helpful for my son as he sometimes had to click it over and over again because he'd forget how the German word was pronounced. It is a bit inconvenient, however, that a bar showing how long it takes them to say the word pops up right over top of the word. The list of vocabulary can be printed out.

As we went through the German lessons, I thought it would have been helpful if some of the words were said a little bit more slowly. There were words I'm sure we were pronouncing wrong because they said them too quickly. Interactive lessons are provided to learn the vocabulary words. I thought these were a lot of fun. You have to drag and drop the right answers onto the pictures. There is also a speaking lab—an opportunity to record your voice. The sentences provided are long. Unfamiliar words are underlined so students can click on them to learn what they mean. Speaker buttons are provided. I felt, again, that the speaker said the words faster than we could catch all the syllables and nuances. There is also no way to really compare your own attempt to the native speaker. You can listen to your own voice, but there is no direct comparison provided on the screen (no side-by-side voice comparison) to see how your own voice differs from the original.

An exercise comes next that allows the student to listen to a conversation and fill in the missing words. It seems to just be so the student can learn to pick out the vocabulary words from the conversation. It wasn't very difficult. After this exercise and the matching exercises for the vocabulary, the student is able to check his work by clicking the check mark in the top right of the screen.

The second unit teaches the German alphabet. I appreciate this part of the program. A lot of other language programs do not teach the alphabet, but I find that it is helpful to know how each letter sounds so you can at least try to figure out how to pronounce new words. After all, isn't that how we all learned English? Because there are four different letters and some of the letters that are the same as in English just pronounced differently, the student almost needs to take notes. There is an option for printing the script, which might actually be very helpful in this instance.

Some of the interactive exercises allow the student to drag and drop the answer while others require the student to actually type in the answer. I don't feel there is enough repetition of the words in the lessons to bring the student to the point where he feels comfortable spelling the words. I noticed my son getting visibly frustrated during these exercises. "How am I supposed to remember?" These exercises require a lot of going back and forth, unless the student actually writes down every word he learns throughout. He says there is also no instruction in how to type the German characters that aren't also in the English language.

Various topics are covered throughout the course: alphabet, pronouns, greetings, definite and indefinite articles, plurals, school words, adjectives, verb conjugation, etc. There are also cultural topics: Berlin, Burg Eltz, pastries, German economy, Berlin Wall, Brothers Grimm, and so on. I really enjoy the cultural pieces. It adds so much to the study of a language when you are able to catch glimpses of the life of the people.

At the end of each unit, there are two tests. One is multiple choice. The other is either writing or speaking. I've got to say, "These tests are hard." I'm not sure I could pass them without a LOT of review of the words.

A semester of Middlebury German for high school without a Middlebury teacher is $119. If you choose to use one of their teachers and obtain credit in this manner, the cost is an additional $175 per semester, for a total of $294.

I love learning languages, and there are so many different programs available. Middlebury has some things other programs do not, and there are some things that it could do better. I wish there was more review of the vocabulary and better instruction in pronouncing the words. But I liked the interactive exercises and the cultural bits.

The following images are screenshots of different exercises available throughout the program, as well as the various programs that are available:

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

Find Middlebury on these social media outlets:

Google +:

Click to read Crew Reviews
Crew Disclaimer
foreign language learning
world language learning
second language acquistion
digital language courses
digital language learning
online language course
kids language course
kids language learning
Middlebury Interactive Languages  
Spanish, French, Chinese, German

Monday, October 20, 2014

Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

Standard Deviants Accelerate Review
Bringing a different approach to education for more than 20 years, Standard Deviants Accelerate began by providing videos and now has a website to share that same quirky teaching method with students. Standard Deviants Homeschool Courses include earth science, nutrition, biology, chemistry, arithmetic, fundamental math, algebra, English composition, US history, AP biology, AP chemistry, AP US government & politics, AP US history, and AP English composition.

My ninth grader participated in this review by taking nutrition which is geared towards students in grades 6 and up and English composition for students in grades 9 and up. There are actually homeschool courses for children as young as 8 years old. Upon entering the course, a table of contents is listed at the bottom of the page. The student clicks on this to return to where he left off. The ninth grade (and up) English composition class covers topics such as analyzing writing, research strategies, building an argument, rhetoric, writing, researching, citing sources, business writing, nonfiction and fiction,

Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

Each lesson plays a video. Everything that is said in the video is offered as text beside the video with the option of printing the transcript. There is also a blank area below the video where students can take notes. These notes can be saved to the "Locker," an area where students and parents can monitor progress.

The videos are chock full of information, maybe too much information in just one video. The folks in the videos try to be humorous, though my son didn't find them very funny. He said he felt that he learned some but that the lessons were a bit too childish for him.
Standard Deviants Accelerate Review
Vocabulary along with pronunciation is present after each lesson. There are diagrams, or exercises, for students to test their comprehension of what they heard/read. These were a little frustrating. It is a drag-and-drop exercise. Only the right answers stick, but they have to be dragged to the right place in order for them to stick. They can't just be dragged to the right box but have to be strategically placed.

Quizzes are available. If the student gets any of the answers wrong, they know right away and are encouraged to re-watch the video which pops up at the bottom of the quiz. The section of the video that corresponds to the missed question is provided. The quiz grades are available in the Locker.

The last section is the written answer section. Throughout the English comp course, the same questions were asked: How does the perspective of the thematic question (How does learning to write affect thinking?) inform your understanding of the topics covered in this section? and How does what you have learned in this section provide new dimensions to your understanding of the thematic question asked above? My son did not understand why they kept asking the same questions over and over, so he often did not answer them. He gets frustrated when there is too much repetition. There seems to be a lot in this program.

Each chapter review is broken down into a group activity, post-test, and a critical thinking section. Since my son never had a group of three to four other students, he did the assignments on his own. He actually enjoyed some of them. Students are given a few different topics to choose from, and they have to develop a mini-lesson plan focused on one of five different groups. The lesson plan has to be taught in such a way as to engage that particular group. My son liked it when he was able to pick comic-strip readers. Some of the other chooses for other chapter reviews include forgetful people, aliens from another planet, mimes, peasants from the dark ages, and so on. So, not everything is practical, but the creators of Standard Deviants Accelerate do try to have fun with the students.

The post-test cannot be taken until all of the quizzes throughout the lesson have been completed. Then it is all online and interactive. Like the quizzes, students know right away what they got wrong, and videos are available to re-learn the information. Students can then retake the quiz. The critical thinking part through my son for a loop, I think. He would rather have to write about something specific, something he learned in the lesson, but the second half of the critical thinking assignment required hypothesizing. I was glad to see, though, that he was really trying to do his best with these assignments.

My son spent more time in the English comp class, but the nutrition class is set up similarly. Some of the topics are the body processes regarding food, sugar, salt, oil, vitamins, minerals, nutritional deficiencies, organic foods, and making good food choices.
Standard Deviants Accelerate ReviewPricing for one child is as follows: An annual subscription for one subject is $99.00. A monthly subscription for one class is $24.95. One AP class is $14.95 per month.

I have mixed feelings about this program. It is set up so that I don't really have to teach anything; it is all online and taught via video. That I like. I can print our progress reports, which I also like. I don't feel, though, that it is deep enough or challenging enough for my son. There might not be much out there that is, however.

Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

Find Standard Deviants through these social media outlets:


Click to read Crew Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, October 6, 2014

Two Words or Not Two Words

As I edit, one of the most common errors I have found (though there are many) is when authors do not know whether a word is supposed to be two words, one word, or a hyphenated word. Using Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary: Eleventh Edition, allow me to share some words and their actual spelling.

all-time (as an adjective)
ice-skate (as a verb)
seat belt
shutdown (as an adjective)

For the sake of needing to get this blog up, I will post it now. I will add to it as I come across more words during my editing.