Posted in Family Games, Homeschool Review Crew Posts, Uncategorized

Review of Brain Blox’s Fun Family Chess

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It can be difficult to learn to play chess but Brain Blox makes it easy for even young children or adults with no experience to play with Fun Family Chess.  As a child, I never learned how to play chess.  But I am surrounded by an entire family of chess players.  My husband has played since he was a child, and my children learned how to play when they were younger.  So when I saw the opportunity to review this game come up, I was thrilled about the opportunity.

According to their website, “Brain Blox offers toys, games, and journals to empower families toward a more conscious vibrant lifestyle.”  Fun Family Chess is designed for single players or teams of family members to play together.  Whether you or your child(ren) learn best by watching videos or reading directions, this company has something to offer you.

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For this review, our game came packaged in a box.  When we opened the box, we found the chessboard folded in half with fasteners to keep it closed.  When we unfolded the board, we found the chess pieces in two separate velvet-like bags, cards to explain how the various pieces move, along with a die that can be used to direct what piece you may move.  The chessboard is painted white and is very striking. We also received a two-month membership to Chesskid.com, which provides a family-safe place for children to learn how to play chess.  I also appreciated how the pieces are displayed on each side of the board to show where the different pieces need to be placed.

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I am someone who learns best by doing, and I prefer learning against someone who is going to be patient with me.  So I elected to play against our daughter, with my husband providing coaching in the background.  As an adult learning to play the game for the first time, I found the die kept things moving along (especially with my husband helping me).  I found the game intense, and the cards really helped me know how the pieces could move.

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I think that understanding how the different pieces can move is one of the most challenging parts for me.  However, the video on the website illustrating how the pieces can move was very helpful.  There are a number of videos on the site including how to set up the chessboard for Fun Family Chess, how to play Fun Family Chess, how to move the pieces, and how to play standard chess once you learn how to play Fun Family Chess.

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My ultimate goal is to have my three sons and husband play a championship game using the die to add a bit of excitement.

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There are some differences between Fun Family Chess and Standard Chess:

  1. In Standard Chess, you do not use a cube to tell you how to move your pieces.
  2. In Fun Family Chess, you win by capturing your opponent’s king.  In Standard Chess, you win by putting your opponent’s king in checkmate or possibly ending the game in a stalemate (meaning no one wins).
  3. In standard chess, when you move a pawn to the opposite side of the board, you can promote your pawn to any piece you choose except to a king).
  4. If a pawn moves beside your pawn, you can do a move called “En Passant”, meaning in passing you can capture that pawn.
  5. Finally, in standard Chess, there is castling where your rook and king can switch places if all of a given set of circumstances exists.

So if you are looking for a fun way to teach someone or want to learn chess yourself, check out Brain Blox‘s Fun Family Chess for yourself.

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You can find Brain Blox on Social Media at the following links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mybrainblox
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brainblox
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpUttakNtthj_haX8LwRlwA

Other members of the Home School Review Crew are posting their thoughts about this product today.  Click here or on the graphic below to read other reviews from members of the Home School Review Crew.

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Posted in Home School Review Crew Posts, Language Arts, Literature

A Review of Progeny Press and their Shadow Spinner Study Guide Grades 5-8 &Hound of the Baskervilles Study Guide Grades 9-12

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Progeny Press makes earning High School Literature credits easy with high school level study guides such as  Hound of the Baskervilles Study Guide and to complete Middle School Language Arts studies with Shadow Spinner Study Guide this time to review. With two students currently in high school, finding quality language arts materials is important to me.  Progeny Press makes finding literature studies simple.  Now I need to state upfront, I ordered the Hound of the Baskervilles Study Guide for my children.  However, I ordered the Shadow Spinner Study Guide for myself.

For the purpose of this review, our family received the interactive study guide for both books along with the answer keys for each.  These products were digital downloads that were easily retrieved from Progeny Press.  We did have to buy the actual literature selections ourselves. The e-book pdf has fillable fields so your student can work on a computer from grades 4 and up.   These guides can be reproduced and used with multiple students whether in the home or in a co-op.

According to its website, Progeny Press’ mission is:
“To teach our children to think clearly, to understand literature, and to rely on the scripture for truth and values, and enjoy themselves while they do it!”  With our family’s Christian values, this mission statement meets exactly what I am looking for in Literature and the English curriculum for our children.

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Because our children are in high school, I want literature plans that include comprehension questions, critical thinking skills analysis, literary techniques as well as vocabulary.  The study guides from Progeny Press meet all those requirements.

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One of the factors that make this company and its Study Guides rank high on my list for literature is the study guides are interactive.  This means I avoid having to print out tons of paper and using a ton of ink.  My children have the ability to answer the questions right on the computer.  Witha quick click of my mouse, I was able to download the Study Guide as well as the separate Answer Key.  The directions state that the answer key should only be downloaded on the teacher’s computer.  Because my children are in high school, I would have no problem with them having the answer key on their own computers.

Our family has always been fans of a television series that had one of the lead characters to portray the role of Sherlock Holmes.  So our teenagers were excited about studying this work.  The guide includes biographical information about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, activities to complete before reading, vocabulary words, literary techniques, moral lessons and character values along with other activities and writing assignments as well as Biblical lessons.

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My children found the exercises to be what they expected to have to complete for a literature course.  I appreciated how a comprehensive list of materials for further reading as well as the movie suggests was provided.  All in all my teenagers were satisfied with this guide.

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The answer key includes all the correct responses for questions that do not require the student to form their own opinion.  So for the middle school guide, students are required to read a sentence and then form their own idea of what the definition of the selected word is before looking it up in a dictionary and writing that definition down.

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Now I personally have watched a television program that mentioned Sharazad, but while in school I never read anything related to Arabian Nights.  So I picked this one for myself.  Even as an adult, I believe no one is too old to continue learning and discovering new information for themselves. The activities in this interactive study guide were similar to the ones in Hound of the Baskervilles Study Guide, but at a level that was appropriate for middle school students.  Again, the guide included vocabulary assignments, critical thinking assignments, as well as questions to make the students think.

You can find Progeny Press on social media at the following links:

Facebook: facebook.com/progenypress
Twitter: twitter.com/progenypress
Pinterest: pinterest.com/progenypress

All of the unit lessons are written from a Christian perspective which matters to our family.  So if you are looking for quality literature studies from a Christian perspective, check out Progeny Press and their Hound of the Baskervilles Study Guide for High School students and to complete the Shadow Spinner Study Guide for middle school students.

Other members of the Home School Review Crew are reviewing these guides as well as The Long Way to a New Land Study Guide Grades K-3 and Little House on the Prairie Study Guide Grades 4-6.  So click here or on the graphic below to read more reviews of Progeny Press.

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Posted in Art, Home School Review Crew Posts, Homeschooling

Review of HIGASFY Art History Video Series

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I have struggled with how to add art education to our homeschool but HiGASFY Art History Video Series made it possible to add this subject to our homeschool day.  I need to state from the beginning, however, I really wanted this subscription for myself.  For years I have wanted to develop some artistic talent.  Growing up, my older sister was the artist in our family and I did not want to try to compete with her.  So I elected to stay away from art.  I love having an online art curriculum that combines videos, and a curriculum bundle.

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The curriculum bundle includes lesson plans, Name that Artist activities, and flashcards for each era.  All of these can be printed out. However, I wanted to conserve ink, so I elected to download these items to my tablet where I could quickly and easily access them.  I elected to print the lesson plans in black and white so I could complete some of the activities such as the crossword puzzles and word searches.

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But my husband and I have three sons ages 23, almost 21, and almost 19 along with our daughter who is almost 17.  All four of these children at various points in their lives have demonstrated they are artistically talented. So I am determined to see what talent I can develop.  Because I attended a college that emphasized the Humanities, I recognize the importance of combining art history with the actual practice of art.

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HIGASFY combines the best of art history, artwork, and various activities that go across the curriculum spectrum.  Rather than being presented in a dry and boring manner, Mrs. Beth brings art to life along with her animated sidekick Gasfy who is a drop of paint.  Aimed at children in grades 1-8, I feel the videos capture the spirit and interests of children of all ages.

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The curriculum covers 4 different art eras: Renaissance, Baroque, Impressionist, and Post-Impressionist. I elected to begin with the Impressionism period.  Recently I have become fascinated with the art and artists from this period.  This selection did not disappoint.  Mrs. Beth and Gafsy take you on a tour through art eras covering a plethora of artists, cultural events of that era all while examining masterpieces for what makes that period unique.

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The lessons plan clearly lay out what needs to be completed each day.  I love how free drawing days are included throughout the study.  I also appreciated how vocabulary words were included in the lesson plans as well.  Students need to know the terms that apply to a given period or artistic style.  In addition to the drawing activities, additional activities provided range from writing assignments to geography assignments to science to critical thinking skills and more.  On some days no videos are required, but instead free drawing assignments are given.

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The “Name that Artist” cards for each period provide examples of each artist’s pieces along with the name of the artist and the name of the piece.  This feature allows students to review artists they have already studied.  If my daughter was in grades 1-8 and she was the one doing this program, I would have printed out the cards and had them laminated to make them last longer.  Otherwise, I feel viewing them on my computer or tablet for me is fine.

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The flashcards provide pieces of artwork on one side of the card while the other side shows the artist’s name and the name of the piece.  I love how these cards go hand-in-hand to reinforce what the students are learning.

Hre are some of the drawing activities I attempted.

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You can find HIGAFSY Art History Video Series on social media at the following links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/higasfy/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/higasfy/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjrNWpYDazk50FyV7AdKhkw
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/higasfy/

As an adult, I found the historical aspects, the artists selected, and the artwork selected to be inspiring.  I loved how the activities suggested go across curriculum lines and develop a well-rounded art program.

 

 

All in all, I have to say I feel HiGASFY Art History Video Series offers a wonderful opportunity to learn about art history and art education in a creative and inspiring way.  So check it out for yourself.  Other members of the Home School Review Crew are sharing their thoughts about this program this week as well.  Click here or on the graphic below to read more reviews.

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Posted in Homeschooling, Music

Review of Music Appreciation Book 2: for the Middle Grades from Zeezok Publishing

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We have been studying Frederick Chopin with this wonderful homeschool music program, Music Appreciation Book 2: for the Middle Grades from Zeezok Publishing.  Even though my son and daughter are in high school, I felt this music appreciation program would be useful for our family.  Considering our son wants to major in music and loves arranging music himself, I felt he could learn a lot from this program.  My plan is to use this program as a springboard for a more in-depth music appreciation study for our high school-aged son by adding in more self-investigation and exploration directed by his interests.

Zeekok Publishing, a homeschooling-family owned business started providing homeschooling materials in 1993.  According to their website, “Our vision at Zeezok publishing is quite simple: to publish top quality materials that will complement your educational needs.”  I have always loved looking at their materials when we have attended any homeschool conventions.  So when we had the chance to review this Music Appreciation program, I was thrilled.

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For this review, we received: one student book and the nine composer biographies listed below:

  • Frederic Chopin, Early Years
  • Frederic Chopin, Later Years
  • Robert Schumann and Mascot Ziff
  • Adventures of Richard Wagner
  • Stephen Foster and His Little Dog Tray
  • The Young Brahms
  • The Story of Peter Tchaikovsky
  • Peter Tchaikovsky and the Nutcracker Ballet
  • Edward MacDowell and His Cabin in the Pines

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I love how the student workbook comes already punched, so if your family chooses to keep it in a three-ring binder you can with minimal effort.  For each lesson, students read in one of the biographies and complete exercises in the student workbook.  The activities in the student workbook include comprehension questions, true-and-false, and other similar questions.  For each composer, there is a weekly outline at the beginning of the section, a timeline, other interesting facts, character qualities, additional reading suggestions and more.

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Also included are QR codes and the website for an IRL that allows the student to access the various musical tracks required.l  Our family was able to easily use a QR reader on my phone to access these files.  Our family found the musical selections to be of high quality and worth listening to so far.

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The course begins with Chopin and then covers Schumann, Wagner, Foster, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and MacDowell.  As someone who enjoys music, our son (even though he is older) was excited to have the opportunity to learn about these composers.

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We found the biographies interesting to read, even if younger than our children’s ages.  We appreciated how the biographies talked about both their younger years as well as their older years.  We also found the stories to be filled with interesting details such as relating the story of how Schumann decided he would be a musician and let his mother know of his decision by sending a letter.

All of the biographies are in one book except for Fredric Chopin, whose story is divided into his early years and later years and Peter Tchaikovsky whose story is broken into one about his story and one about the Nutcracker Ballet.  While we have not gotten to Peter Tchaikovsky yet, we are looking forward to reading about him since our daughter took ballet lessons.

In addition to the materials we received, families can also purchase a lapbook and a coloring book.  Instructions for what to complete in the lapbook are provided in the student workbook.  
You can find Zeezok Publishing on Social media on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram.

Our family has been very pleased with this homeschool music program and are looking forward to completing it.  We feel it is a very balanced program that contains worthwhile information.  So if you are looking for a homeschool music appreciation program, check out the Music Appreciation Book 2: for the Middle Grades from Zeezok Publishing

Other members of the Home School Review Crew are sharing their thoughts of this program as well this week.  Click here or on the graphic below to check out their reviews.

Posted in Audio Dramas, Book Reviews, Home School Review Crew Posts, Uncategorized

Review of Britfield & the Lost Crown

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We have been reading and loving an adventure novel called Britfield & the Lost Crown and the escapades of Tom and Sarah.  Having already read a physical copy of the book myself, I was thrilled to have an opportunity to review the audio version of this book.  I have to say it did not disappoint. Full of English history, this adventure novel was worth both reading to as well as to hear being read aloud.

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C. R. Stewart, the author, has 20 years of experience in writing everything from fiction to non-fiction, and even movie screenplays.  Our family feels he has done an excellent job of creating a picture with his words in this Young Adult novel.

As a parent, I appreciate having the options of a paperback book, an e-book as well as an Audible audiobook.  Because we already had a physical copy of this book, I was excited to see the audiobook being offered for review.

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I was already familiar with the story and spoke about some points with my family.  However, the added dimension of listening to an audiobook as a family increased my enjoyment.  As we began listening to the story which is set in England, I was thrilled that the narrator, Ian Russell, spoke an accent.  I feel he did an excellent job, and his voice fit the storyline so perfectly.  

As an orphan, Tom endures much hardship at Weatherly Orphanage and at the hands of the individuals in charge, Mr. and Mrs. Grievous, the seedy caretaker Mr. Speckle, and even the legendary watchdog Wind all create a miserable existence for the children who are essentially being held hostage in the orphanage.

When Tom discovers his parents may be alive, he endeavors to make plans to escape the orphanage.  Sarah, one of his friends from the orphanage, winds up having to escape with Tom.  The relationships throughout the story came across well to our family.  We enjoyed listening to the adventures and escapades of Tom and Sarah as they made their way to London.

As Tom and Sarah move from one place to another and from people and situations to new circumstances, our family was enthralled by this book.  The danger, adventure, and mystery are portrayed well.

One of our family’s favorite parts of this story is when Tom and Sarah take to the sky in a hot air balloon.  It emphasized the importance of the hot air balloon the cover of the book.  Full of danger, adventure, and mystery, the story kept our attention. While I personally have no desire to go up in a hot air balloon, I can picture my children being open to such an adventure.

Detective Gowerstone provides an interesting foil for Tom and Sarah, but things are not always as they appear to be.  So our family also appreciated how the storyline developed through imagery and details that assisted our imaginations.  Throughout the story, we found things and people we thought were one way to actually be a different way.  We appreciated these twists.

There is an 83-page pdf study guide that goes with this book. It can be found on the Resources page here, along with printable quotes, creative ideas, and more.  The study guide is designed to be used over eight weeks (or longer) taking students through the book chapter by chapter.  It includes activities involving vocabulary, comprehension activities, and other activities such as crossword puzzles and word searches.  I definitely feel this guide would be an excellent addition for homeschooling families to assist with family involvement and ensuring your children are retaining what they are reading or hearing.

 

You can find  Britfield & The Lost Crown on Social Media on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Our only complaint about this story is the same one I had when I initially read the book.  We were disappointed it ended and the next novel in the series is not supposed to be released until sometime in 2020.  We are anxious to find out how the story continues.

So if you want to read or listen to an adventure book with English history, check out this book for yourself.

If you want to read reviews by other members of the Home School Review Crew about Britfield & the Lost Crown and the escapades of Tom and Sarah, click here or on the graphic below.
Posted in 2019 Home School Review Crew Posts, Home School Review Crew Posts, Homeschool Planning, Uncategorized

Review of My School Year Homeschool Record Keeping and their Annual Membership Plan

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Regardless of what style of homeschooling your family does, at some point, every family needs a way of maintaining records of what topics and subjects have been covered.  Also, every family at some point or points needs to be able to generate transcripts and other types of reports to demonstrate what your students have covered. With the Annual Membership Plan, I can use My School Year Homeschool Record Keeping to easily track and organize our homeschool.

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My School Year Homeschool Record keeping is a record-keeping program that functions as a planner and more.  From everything from keeping track of the usual subjects and attendance records to creating transcripts and more this program has a lot to offer.

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I freely admit I am a planner-junkie.  I love planners.  I love exploring what various programs have to offer.  So I was excited to have the opportunity to review this program.  I would like to state I am the primary one who has been using this program since I am setting up our new school year using it.  Our new school year will not start until the day after Labor Day in the United States, so we still have over a week to go. This planner is online so it goes where your family needs it to go.

My School Year Homeschool Record-keeping offers a homeroom where you can quickly see at a glance your students.  There is a calendar which displays appointments, extracurricular assignments, and more.  The lesson plan book displays assignments.  A large number of reports are available to use and print.  Finally, the Teacher’s Aid displays what you or your students still need to do.  Because I have a few subjects we have not made a final decision on what materials we are going to use, those items display here and serve as reminders of what I still need to do.  Also, because we have not started our school year yet, I see prompts to enter attendance into the program.

I began by inputting basic information such as school information, student information, subjects, and even our extra-curricular activities.  I found the program fairly easy to use when getting started.  The screens were fairly easy to follow.

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For families who have more than one student using a particular curriculum, it is fairly easy to assign those students to the same lesson plan.  When our children were younger I would have loved this feature.

I love how the calendar function displays appointments, events, extracurricular activities, lessons, and reading list as well.

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Also, the number of reports and the types of reports available is impressive.  Here are some examples of what reports you can create.

 

You can find My School Year Homeschool Record Keeping on social media on:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MySchoolYearWeb
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/MySchoolYear

Each day you can set up the program to send emails to remind you of what needs to be completed that day.  I find this to be a worthwhile function.

All in all, I am pleased with this program.  It packs a lot into a fairly straightforward program.  So check out the Annual Membership Plan from My School Year Homeschool Record Keeping to see how you can easily track and organize your homeschool.

Other members of the Home School Review Crew are also sharing their experiences with this online planner this week.  So click here or on the graphic below to read other reviews.

 

Posted in Classical Homeschool Method, Home School Review Crew Posts, Homeschooling, Literature

Memoria Press’ Tenth Grade Literature Guide Set

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If you prefer classical Christian education then you need to check out Memoria Press and their Tenth Grade Literature Guide Set which includes the To Kill a Mockingbird Literature Guide.  As someone who loves to read, and more importantly loves to read quality literature.  I was thrilled for our family to have the opportunity to review this Literature Guide Set from Memoria Press.  Through our years of homeschooling, our family has always found Memoria Press offers quality Christian based materials that meet our family’s needs.  This package includes The Scarlet Letter, Julius Caesar, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Romeo & Juliet. This tenth-grade set is suitable for students in Grades 8 – 12.

All of the guides begin with preliminary information to help the students get started including how to mark a book, how to set up the notebook, and other helpful suggestions.  Then each guide moves into the actual work of literature being studied. The Student Guides are designed for the students, while the Teacher Guides are designed for the Teacher/Parent.  The Teacher Guide includes the Student Pages along with answers to the questions for those pages in the margins, tests, quizzes, writing assignments along with other features designed to help the teacher.

The Student Guide includes directions for the student, questions to answer, and other information necessary to help the student complete their work.  For our daughter, who is 16-years-old, little assistance or instruction was needed from me in order for her to complete the actual assignments.  However, if you were using this with an 8th or 9th grader, they may require additional assistance.  I think these guides would work exceptionally well for students close in ages/grades to each other.  If I was using these with our oldest two sons who are two years apart, I would definitely use one level for both sons.  However, they have graduated already, so that is not an option.

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We elected to start with the guide for To Kill a Mockingbird.  The set includes a Teacher Guide and Student Book.  Rather than writing in the Student Book, students are required to set up a literary notebook.  In addition to the guides, families will need a copy of the book (I recommend a physical copy since students may want or need to mark in it). Also, the student will need a notebook or other means of keeping up with the written assignments.  We elected to use an online word processing program to make it easier for us to pick up the work and go.  Plus it made it frees us from worrying about papers getting damaged or lost.

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The guides include Vocabulary assignments, comprehension questions, basic features and backgrounds, useful literary terms, setting, and more.  Our daughter appreciated the reading notes at the beginning of each chapter in the Student Guide.  She stated some questions were very straight-forward and simple to answer, such as when the author was born or when her parents were married.  However, other questions required more thought and effort to answer.

In addition to the vocabulary work and comprehension questions, essay assignments and Tests and Quizzes can be found in the guides as well.  We felt these items helped keep students on track and allowed parents to see how much their student was retaining.  Since we are on a summer schedule, I am allowing our daughter to work at a slower pace than I would if it was our normal school year.   The first test for To Kill a Mockingbird does not come until after chapter 11, we did not complete that quiz yet.

All of the guides contain the same features of completing vocabulary, comprehension questions, reading, and either quizzes and tests or just tests.  Our second son is looking forward to his sister completing the two works by Shakespeare.  So we will see if he provides his sister with assistance when we begin those two guides.

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Here are sample pages from the other guides.

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You can find Memoria Press on social media at these links:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/memoriapress/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MemoriaPress
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/memoriapress/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/memoriapress
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/memoriapress/

You can find out about their affiliate program here

Other members of the Home Schoool Review are blogging about their experiences with Memoria Press and their Tenth Grade Literature Guide Se along with other levels of their literature guides.  So click here or on the graphic below to read additional reviews.