Friday, August 28, 2009

GrapeVine Study (Old Testament Basics) - A Review

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Product: Old Testament Basics – Learn the Facts of the Old Testament using a Question/Answer Format

Company: GrapeVine Studies – Stick Figuring through the Bible

Price: Ranging from approximately $10 - $45

Old Testament Basics Teacher Edition $25/Student Edition $20

Old Testament Basics E-book Teacher Ed. $20/Student Ed. $20

Where to Buy: GrapeVine Studies

Brief Overview: GrapeVine Studies is an innovative Bible study program. The company has several different products to choose from, both from the Old and the New Testament, for ages 5 - Adult. I chose the Old Testament Basics. It is easy to teach, easy to learn, and easy to remember…using a catechism style of questions and answers. And it adds a bit of fun and creativity into the mix by adding stick figure drawing.

In-Depth Look: I had been struggling for over a year, wanting a Bible study program for my daughters with more “meat” to it. I had tried several children devotionals over the years. But lately I felt like it just wasn’t enough. It seemed we were putting more emphasis on the cute little stories and not enough emphasis on learning the facts of the Bible. So when the opportunity came along to review a new program, I was very eager to give it a try. I chose the Old Testament Basics because of its catechism style. The question/answer style was completely focused on the facts. 225 facts, to be more exact. Dianna of Grapevine sent a Teacher’s handbook for me and a Student’s handbook for both of my school-age daughters (10 and 7).

Each lesson contains a question, a Bible passage (for most), an answer, and a stick figure drawing. At the beginning of the lesson, we have chosen to have a sort of review…I go through all the previous questions and let my girls take turns answering the questions. Of course, there are 225 questions, so I haven’t decided how we will handle our reviews once we get farther into the book. But for now, it is working great for us. And my daughters take great pride in recalling the answers. Then we start the lesson for that day, usually doing 2 questions. I read the question and any applicable Bible verses. Then I write the answer on the marker board for my girls to copy. My 10 year old doesn’t need this, but it helps my 7 year old. This study is recommended for ages 7 and up. Some of the longer answers frustrate my 7yo since it is difficult for her to copy them and keep the writing tiny enough to fit into the provided space. But this is rarely the case, as most answers so far have been just a few words in length. Then I draw the stick figure on the marker board to give them an idea of what to draw. My 7 year old likes to draw the one suggested. But my 10 year old enjoys adding a “creative touch” to the drawings. Both love showing their drawings to other family members, even showing them off to their grandma on a recent vacation to Mississippi. To date, my daughters have memorized several Biblical facts…I have even learned a thing or to, such as the original languages of the Old and New Testament. In case you are curious, the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament was written in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.

I am very pleased with the study and look forward to continuing the lessons. My daughters are also enjoying it, often asking to do another question so that they can draw another picture. And did I mention that the pictures are all stick figures? So, no artistic talent is required. Just copy the figures from the book onto a marker board and let your children copy it from there into their workbooks.

A break-down of the available GrapeVine Bible studies might be helpful to you.

Beginner Ages 5-7 Pre-K- K
These fun and engaging books are designed with small children in mind. Take a look at how you can effectively teach young children even when they have the wiggles!

Level 1 Ages 6-8 Grades 1-2
Take a step beyond the Beginner. Teachers will introduce Bible timelines and teach more in-depth lessons. Your students will never complain about being bored again!

Level 2 Ages 8-10 Grades 3-4
Level 2 students will continue to learn the Bible timeline and memorize important biblical facts that every believer would benefit from knowing. Students will love drawing the Bible!

Level 3 Ages 10-13 Grades 5-8
Bible geography sets this level apart. Not only will students learn the major characters and events of the Bible they will also know where these events take place.

Level 4 Teen-Adult Grades 9-Adult
Students will master the Bible timeline, be introduced to Bible study tools, and practice using a Bible Dictionary, Concordance, and Topical Bible.

Level 5 Teen-Adult Independent
Mature believers will enjoy these self-directed Bible studies. Students will practice inductive study skills, answer critical thinking questions, do hands-on projects, and choose research projects.

Multi-Level Ages 7 and up
Do you need to teach several age groups at one time? These studies will help you effectively teach each age while maintaining the interest of all students.

What I Like: The books arrived packaged with a special touch. The books are so colorful, with "confetti" design scattered all over the covers. This study is easy to use, no prep work necessary. The only other supplies needed for this particular study are a marker board with markers for the teacher and some pencils and colored pencils for the students. It truly seems to work; my daughters are learning and remembering Bible facts. It is available in paperback and e-book format, depending on your preference.

What I Don’t Like: The cost might be prohibitive to some that would otherwise enjoy the program. For the Old Testament Basics, it would have cost $65 for my teacher’s book and 2 student books for my children. The e-book format would cost $60.

But I have great news! Until September 30th, you can save 30% on your book order by using the following coupon code: crew9

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Quarter Mile Math - Levels 1, 2 and 3 Bundle Deluxe Version - A Review

Product: The Quarter Mile Math – Math Practice Software Kids Love
Levels 1, 2 and 3 Bundle, Deluxe Version

Company: Barnum Software

Price: Standard Versions Ranging from $39.95 to $89.95
Deluxe version ($2.95/month, $19.95/year, $34.95/2 year)

Where to Buy: The Quarter Mile
Brief Overview: A math practice/drill program that motivates students to solve math problems as fast as they possibly can. Topics cover kindergarten to 9th grade. The Quarter Mile Math topics correlate to all state math standards and to the NCTM standards. Students race cars or wild horses (no jockeys) to compete against their own 5 best times.
In-Depth Look: I received the Quarter Mile Math Levels 1, 2 and 3 Bundle Deluxe Version. This version covers grades K-9 with 323 topics and 70,000+ problems. Up to 12 family members can use it. These members can play simultaneously on different computers, even competing in real-time tournaments.
The CD is simple to install. Once installed, the parent adds the students’ names, assigning each a password and appropriate grade level. A student then logs in and picks the subject/topic that they wish to practice. (Here is a list of the topics covered.) The student can also choose if they want to race dragsters or wild horses (no jockeys). The computer shows a question based on the topic selected and the child enters the answer. If the answer is correct, the car/horse accelerates. If the answer is wrong, the car/horse maintains its speed. A student gets 3 chances to get the correct answer. If not, the computer will give the student the answer. The student must still enter the correct answer before the racer will accelerate and move on to the next question. For the first 5 races of each new topic, your child will race against computer times. It is designed so that the child usually wins the first race. After that, your child will be racing against his own previous times. For example, if she gets her best time ever on her 15th try, then the computer will congratulate her for coming in first and drop the slowest time to date. If after the 12th time, he gets his worst score ever, the 5 best scores to date stay in place and the new time is thrown out. Even a small improvement in time will be rewarded by beating out a previous time and improving the overall average. Some topics adjust to more difficult questions as the student shows mastery. The format remains the same throughout all subjects and topics. Remind your students to save their progress each time they end a session.
We opened the box, installed the CD, set up our users and started playing the game within a matter of minutes. It was really that easy. Once playing we had issues with the game freezing up at the end of most races. We checked the manual and found that a fix was included for this problem. It was self-explanatory and we were able to solve the problem.
My 10 and 7 year old daughters have been selecting various topics at random. Some of their favorite topics to race against have been keyboarding skills and place values. I am thrilled to find the times tables listed individually, for in-depth drill capability. My daughters enjoy both the dragsters and the horses. I thought they might favor the horses, but they flip back and forth between both. My 7 year old seems to enjoy it more. She seems to view it more as a game, while my 10 year old views it more as schoolwork. But once playing, both are equally competitive…racing to beat their previous scores. So I can definitely see the potential in using this program both for review practice and also for speed drill improvement.
The company is helpful, friendly and seems sincerely interested in seeing your children succeed. The site has a special section for homeschoolers (including a users forum), a section for teachers, a tips newsletter, hundreds of testimonials and a quick and friendly customer service team.
I am impressed with the software and plan to continue using it for several years for review and drill practice. The deluxe bundle will take my daughters through pre-algebra.
What I Like: The Deluxe Version is reasonably priced at $2.95/month, especially when 12 family members can use it. The company offers a 30-day unconditional guarantee. I like the game format: short, simple races that allow a student to compete against his times. You couldn’t ask for a wider range of topics, considering the Deluxe Version covers K-9th grade. It only takes a few minutes to install the CD and figure out the format. My 7 year old can manage the game, if I pick the topics. My 10 year old can handle it all.
What I Don’t Like: We find it a little difficult to know which topic to pick. It would be nice if the game had the capability to allow you to pick a path for your child and then allow your child to work her way through it. Or if I could pick a Level and only see topics in that skill level. But the CD does come with a Topic List that assigns the topics to 3 different skill levels. So it would be wise to keep the sheet handy.
How We Used It: So far, I have allowed my daughters to randomly pick topics. They have been using it just for fun, to get the hang of the program and so that I could get a good feel for it, as well. My plan for the school year will be to hone in on specific skills that need review, such as fractions, and that need speed improvement, such as times tables.

Special Note: This may be of interest to homeschool groups. Barnum Software is looking for seven or more families who would like to participate in a pilot tournament program. Families in the group would use a special Deluxe version of The Quarter Mile Math that would enable students to have tournaments with each other. You can get more information by emailing them at .