Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Book of Beginnings - Part 3

"In the beginning, God..."

This is, again, the opening phrase of the Bible.  Although in English translations, the words "God" or "Lord" are used throughout the Old and New Testaments, there are more Hebrew and Greek names used for God in the original texts.  For example, the Hebrew word for God in this verse is "Elohim."  This is the name we have for God from Genesis 1:1 until Genesis 6:5, when we see the first occurrence of YHWH (Yahweh or Jehovah); later in Genesis 14:18 we see the name "El" ("Mighty") introduced.  

It seems to me that God reveals more and more of Himself through His names as we go through scripture/His story (history).  We get to know Him better with each new name.  Here are a few more (not all):

I love the exclusive use of Elohim in the opening chapters of Genesis because, in my opinion, that word seems to exude the idea of the Trinity.  The word "trinity" does not appear in scripture, but the idea (three-in-unity) certainly does.  Elohim is a plural noun, paired with plural pronouns like "we" and "us" (i.e., "Let us make man in our image...").  Though "the Lord our God is ONE God" (Deuteronomy 6:4), He has a plural existence as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

We see the introduction of each part of the Trinity operating separately, but in unity, in the first 3 verses of Genesis:

Genesis 1:1 - God, the Father - created the Heavens and the earth
Genesis 1:2 - God, The Holy Spirit - moves across the face of the waters, 
Genesis 1:3 - God, the Son (see John 1:1-14; Jesus is the Word, but also the Light)

In the end, the Holy Spirit gives me the faith to believe in the Son who is the only way to the Father (Galatians 5:22-23, John 14:6).  

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Book of Beginnings - Part 2

"And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light."  Genesis 1:3

I count ten times in the first chapter of Genesis that God said something and then something happened.  That is the way He made light, Heaven, Earth, grass, trees, fruit, the sun, the moon and stars, living creatures of every kind to fill the air, the land and the sea.  And finally, He created man in His own image.  Just by saying, and it was so.

Psalm 33:6-9 says, "By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.  He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap:  He lays up the depth in storehouses.  Let all the earth fear the LORD:  let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast."

God's power is amazing.  I have yet to look in the refrigerator and say, "Let there be dinner" and have dinner appear!  Yet, God made the whole universe by His spoken Word.

In John 1:1-3, we find out that Jesus is that Word:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.

Selah (think about that).

Sunday, February 12, 2012


I don't usually do a lot of cut 'n' paste work in my curriculum reviews.  But, for this one, there is a lot of cool stuff I wanted you to see!  So, below you will find a full description and plenty of screen shots of the program in the words of the providers.  But, first let me tell you about my experience with ALEKS.

The name ALEKS (reminds me of Alex) sounds so friendly -- like a neighborhood pal.  And truly, this program was very user-friendly and even fun to use.  As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was provided with a two month trial version for free, in exchange for my honest review.  I have never before tried a comprehensive math program that was computer-based.  I downloaded the trial version. There was the tiniest of glitches because we needed an upgrade to Java before we could get things going and that took some finessing by my resident computer expert (but that is not the fault of ALEKS).  Once that was ready, ALEKS downloaded fine.  I was given login names for myself and my two children.  I could choose any courses I liked, so I put the kids in their respective grades (7th grade math and Algebra) and I also put myself in Intro to College Chemistry just to see what it was like (uh, it was hard).  To make myself feel better, I also tried out a 3rd grade math assessment (yes, I passed with flying colors).

At the beginning of each course, the student is walked through a tutorial of how to answer questions.  ALEKS has a brilliant system for typing fractions, mixed numbers, chemical symbols, square roots, etc.  They explain how the program works and then give you an assessment test of 20 to 30 questions.  Based on how well you answer those questions, ALEKS creates a pie chart showing what areas you have mastered and what areas you need to work on.  Some areas are immediately clickable -- you choose what you want to tackle first.  Let's say, you need to complete 5% more in the area of fractions.  So, you click on that subject and you are taken to a practice problem.  You can choose to answer the problem and try to move on, or you can choose the explanation.  The explanation is detailed and multi-leveled.  In other words, if you don't understand a concept in the explanation, it is highlighted and clickable and will take you to another level of explanation, deeper and deeper.  Once you understand the concept, and you answer several questions correctly, you can see your pie pieces filling in darker and fuller.  As pie sections are filled in, you are able to move to more sections and try more difficult areas.

ALEKS covers math from kindergarten through college level and even has a way to earn ACE college credits.

I thought that the process and explanations were exceptionally well-done.  I really like the fact that a motivated student could get through this without much parental involvement and probably at an increased speed.  I think that you could definitely achieve a good level of mastery with this system.  The "artificial intelligence" of the program really seems to do a good job of tracking what you know and what you need to know.

In the maths where you must draw graphs, circles or other geometric shapes, ALEKS has a really cool way of simulating pencils, erasers, compasses, and rulers.  It was fun practicing drawing the lines and circles!

That said, I'm not sure that there was enough practice for a struggling student.  If you complete 3 problems correctly on Tuesday and "master" the concept, that doesn't mean you will remember them a few weeks later.  My 9th grade daughter felt that she would like more repetition (not that she wanted to do the work, but she felt that she would learn  better with more).  When I took the 3rd grade assessment, I got a 100% on my first try (thank goodness).  I thought that there would be a series of review questions, but instead you are expected to jump into the next level.  That is okay, but I just thought it would be nice to be able to assign some review if you wanted to.

I loved receiving weekly e-mail updates on how my children (and I) were faring.  The updates told me how much time we spent and how our pies were coming along.

I am used to spending about $70 a year for math curricula, a student book and a teacher's manual.  ALEKS is a bit pricier at $19.95/month or $99.95 for 6 months or $179.95 for 12 months.  But, if your student is a good independent learner and can finish more than one course in a year, you may be saving money in the long run.  There is a discount of multiple siblings using the program.

So, I definitely think ALEKS is worth considering.  Consider what type of learner your child is.  If they like to use the computer, are willing/happy to work somewhat independently, and motivated to move quickly (to save you money), then I think this would be a good program for you.  Below is more information from the makers of ALEKS, including a special price trial version just for you, so keep reading!  Then, to see what other TOS reviewers had to say, click here.

What is ALEKS?

Aleks LogoAssessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces is an online mathematics program that provides personalized learning and assessment tailored to a student's individual needs. Using artificial intelligence and adaptive, open-response questioning, ALEKS quickly and accurately determines what a student knows and is most ready to learn within a course. Learn more by watching a quick 2-minute video.

With a comprehensive course library ranging from elementary school math to complex subjects such as PreCalculus, ALEKS acts much like a human tutor to help take the stress off of homeschooling parents.

ALEKS offers highly-targeted, individualized instruction from virtually any computer with Internet access, making it a comprehensive and mobile education solution for students in grades 3-12. A subscription to ALEKS offers access to all courses and students may take as many courses as needed during their subscription period.
ALEKS is a Research-Based Online Program:
  • Complete Curriculum Solution for Math with Access to Full Course Library
  • Artificial Intelligence Targets Gaps in Individual Student Knowledge
  • Master Account - Monitor and Direct Student Progress
  • Unlimited Online Access - PC and Mac Compatible
  • QuickTables - Math Fact Mastery Program for Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction Included with Any Math Course
ALEKS has been used successfully by homeschoolers, as well as by millions of students at schools and educational institutions throughout the world. Additionally, some ALEKS course products are American Council on Education (ACE) credit-recommended, meaning students may be eligible for college credit at participating colleges.

GOOD DEAL:  Because you are a homeschooler reading this blog, you can use the ALEKS 2-month free trial (a $39.90 value). We only offer a 48-hour trial directly from our website, so this is a special offer only for homeschoolers who are new users to ALEKS.

Homeschool Banner 

Student Account
Student Assessment
Assessment: Students begin in ALEKS by taking an individualized, adaptive assessment to determine what they already know and what they are ready to learn.

Student MyPie
MyPie: The ALEKS Pie summarizes a student's current knowledge and offers topics that the student is ready to learn next. The darkened portion of each pie slice represents the topics that the student has mastered and the lighter portion represents what the student has yet to learn.

Student Graphing Tool
Input Tools: ALEKS provides a free response environment and sophisticated input tools that avoid multiple-choice and require students to demonstrate content mastery.

Student Problem Two
Learning Mode: The Learning Mode provides students with practice problems, and offers explanations of topics and procedures as needed. Once a student has demonstrated mastery in the Learning Mode, the topic is added to the ALEKS Pie and new material that the student is now ready to learn becomes available.

Student Explanations
Explanations: When a student is working on a particular problem, she can access an explanation of that problem by clicking on the "Explain" button. The explanation typically provides a step-by-step solution, with commentary. In some cases, an alternative or more detailed explanation is also available.

Student Feedback
Feedback: Students receive immediate feedback and, in some cases, suggestions for correcting mistakes.

Review: At any time, students have the ability to review topics they have previously or recently mastered. To view topics that were added in the Learning Mode, students can click on the "Review" button on the ALEKS toolbar and can work on additional problems for review.

Worksheets: Students have the ability to print out 16-question worksheets for additional practice or review. These worksheets are uniquely generated based on the student's current knowledge.

Student Problem Two
ALEKS QuickTables: QuickTables is a research-based, math fact mastery program for multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.

Student QuickTables Games
QuickTables Interactive Games: Provide additional review and built-in rewards.

Master Account

Master Homepage
Master Account Homepage: Easily manage all student accounts, monitor student progress, view customized resources, and more.

Master Attendance Report
Attendance Report: Track student time spent in ALEKS per day, the topics attempted, and the topics mastered and added to the ALEKS Pie.

Master Progress Report
Student Progress Report: Track student progress made throughout the course. The blue bar represents the percentage of course material that the student has mastered during an ALEKS assessment; the green bar represents the percentage of new topics the student has mastered in Learning Mode since the last assessment; and the yellow bar represents the percentage of topics the student has yet to learn in order to complete the course.

Master Quiz Results
Quiz Results: Quizzes are automatically graded and the results are available to both the parent and student immediately. View a quiz results sample report (PDF).

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Digital Worship Announces a New iPad App: BIBLE SHUFFLE!

I am so excited to introduce you to BIBLE SHUFFLE, a Christian iPad app that my husband recently developed and is now available at the App Store!  This educational app provides basic Bible drill practice, helping students learn to order the books of the Bible in a fun way.

BIBLE SHUFFLE allows players to start slow, ordering individual divisions of the Bible, such as the gospels (4 books) or books of law (5 books), but graduates as quickly as desired to ordering the entire Old and New Testaments.  Beginners can use the "Study" section to see the books in correct order for each division before they tackle the timed round.  And there is a "Hint" button players can tap which reveals the next book in order, in case they get stuck.  Using the hint button takes time, so they will soon drop this habit in order to beat the clock.

Student Score Sheet
BIBLE SHUFFLE captures the speed students order each division, and uses the times to allow them to advance through 5 levels:  Beginner, Student, Scholar, Expert and Champion.  They can see exactly how fast they need to be in order to achieve the next level -- and, trust me, those final levels are really challenging!

Homeschool or classroom teachers can check student scores to see how many divisions each student has completed and how their times are progressing.  Up to 12 student names and scores may be stored at a time on one copy of BIBLE SHUFFLE.  

Example of One Division
The score times energize students' competitive natures as they try to get faster times than their friends, siblings or parents, "inadvertently" memorizing the books as they progress.

The graphics for this game are colorful, but simple.  They do not distract from the learning process.  This game could be played during class-time by students who have finished other work early, or as a Bible drill practice for an entire class (or family) at once.  Actually, anytime is a fun time to play this game!

BIBLE SHUFFLE rewards students with applause, encouraging words, and fireworks with the completion of each division.  They are awarded medals for each level achieved.  Bible verses adorn each page, reminding students of the glory and importance of God's Word.

The BIBLE SHUFFLE app is only $1.99 at the App Store.  If you have contacts with a Christian school who would like to use BIBLE SHUFFLE in the classroom, let them know that the Educational Pricing Program is reduced even further to $ .99 per copy.

If you don't have an iPad, but know someone who does, please forward this information to them! We'd LOVE to see BIBLE SHUFFLE go viral!!!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

"He Calls Them All by Their names"

Psalm 147:4 says, "He tells the number of the stars; he calls them all by their names."

The sun, moon, and stars are wonders of God's creation.  Set to dazzle us.  Set as signs and seasons for man, here on earth.  If you are studying astronomy, or would like to, The Celestial Almanack would be an awesome addition to your plans.  But, you don't have to be doing a unit on the stars in order to enjoy this publication!   You can add star-gazing into your daily life, anytime!  

The author, Jay Ryan, compares the elements of the sky with the calendar, modern and ancient, biblical and church history, as well as mythology.  He enthusiastically declares the wonder of God that can be seen in the stars.  

This almanac provides a plethora of diagrams for what constellations you can see when, what planets are visible and where to look for them, and great explanations of what is happening in the sky on a daily and monthly basis.  You can use this booklet as a guide for nighttime star gazing because it is specific to the date you go out looking.

These pages are PACKED with information!  Some interesting, some whimsical (the date Dagwood marries Blondie), some amazing!  My husband, the rocket scientist, is reading it now and planning (I'm sure) a nighttime adventure for us!

Currently this 20+ page e-zine is on sale here for only $3.00.  This is a resource you can't refuse because of the price!  The reading level is a little high -- probably not a resource for elementary students to read on their own, unless they are precocious in this area!  But, easily readable by older students or adults who can break it down for the younger ones.

Jay Ryan is the author of Signs & Seasons, Understanding the Elements of Classical Astronomy, a homeschool curriculum designed for homeschool students ages 13+ (or younger with adult supervision).  He also wrote Moonfinder, an astronomy picture book for a younger audience.  For more information about these and other resources, click here.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was given a free copy of The Celestial Almanack for February 2012 in exchange for an honest review.  You can see more reviews of the almanac here.

Equestrian Equations! Giddyap!

Math Rider is a fun math facts game designed for kids ages 6-12.  The addition, subtraction, multiplication or division (your choice) math facts are presented as hurdles in a horse race.  Your child types in the answer to each equation that pops up -- the faster the better!  For each question answered correctly, the horse jumps a hurdle.  An incorrect answer causes the horse to stop in his tracks, the hurdle burns up, and the correct answer is given visually as well as orally.  The same question is repeated within 2 turns so that the learning is reinforced right away.  I like that.

For each race run, your child is earning distance along a Quest track.  There is a whole story sequence about saving a princess in a castle.  The more correct answers and more quickly done you are, the closer you get to the story resolution and your rewards.  The number of points/distance you need to cover depends on the Quest.  You can choose Easy, Medium or Advanced, and you can vary the amount of problems and numbers covered in the problems.  There are a total of four quests, but differing rewards for each math operation.  Although there is talk of an "enchanted forest" and a flower with magical properties, I did not find   these to be objectionable for our family.  You can review your progress by clicking on the Quest map, to see how far you need to go.

The graphics for this game are simple and the only real animation is the running horse and the rewards.  That is not a bad thing, in my opinion, as sometimes games are so exciting and visually distracting that the learning is lost.  But, if your child is used to highly animated computer games, they may find this one a bit on the boring side at first.  I found it a little disconcerting that the math facts questions were completed before the horse had finished his last hurdle and you have to wait for him to catch up.  It would be nice if he actually jumped at the moment you answered correctly.

Where Math Rider really shines is in its data collection.  This game collects information on what numbers, what facts, what typing speed, what answering speed, previous speed for that same problem, and more!  There is a chart for each math operation (addition, subtraction, multiplication or division) that includes information on each number problem and what level your child has achieved.  You really need to know each fact in order to master the game.  After each hurdle race run, the screen shows a bar graph for each question.  This bar graph lets you know not only whether the answer was correct/incorrect, but also how your speed was.  Math Rider adjusts itself to your child's typing speed.

My son is slightly older than the target age range for this game, and he found the Quest story a little childish.  However, I did see improvement and more confidence in his multiplication math facts after he played -- which is the whole point!!!  I would definitely recommend this game, especially for younger children.

Math Rider currently sells for $37, but the price is going up on February 15, 2012 to $47 as they just came out with a new 3.0 version.  So, if you are interested, you'll want to race over to Math Rider's website.  There is a free 7-day trial so you can check things out before ordering.

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I was provided access to this game free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  For more TOS reviews, click here.