Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Drive Thru History Adventures (A Homeschool Crew Review)

Last summer, the kids and I (minus Alyssa) had the opportunity to get to meet Dave Stotts from the Drive Thru History series and attend his presentation at the homeschool convention in our area.  It was here that we were introduced to a few upcoming projects that Drive Thru History was working on.  The first being an exhibit at the Museum of the Bible at Washington D.C and the second being Drive Thru History Adventures - a website filled with curriculum and resources for homeschooling families built upon the Drive Thru History video series as a platform.

Well, being that we are in California, we haven't been able to make the trip to our nation's capital to visit the newly opened museum as of yet. However, we have had the opportunity to spend the last few weeks reviewing  Drive Thru History Adventures and I am happy to say that it is everything that I was hoping it would be and more.

What is it?

Currently, Drive Thru History Adventures offers three online classes.  The Ancient History class is a 12-week tour thru Greece, Rome, and Asia Minor.  The second 12-week course is American History where Dave drives you through the birth of our nation, starting with Columbus and following through to the signing of the Constitution.  Finally, an 18-week course on Bible History that uses the series The Gospels will take you on a guided visual tour of Israel while learning about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.   Each class approaches history with a Biblical worldview.

However, the Drive Thru History Adventures website is much more than just access to the video series.  Instead, each week of the class revolves around one episode from the series and then additional resources, questions, and worksheets are added to make a curriculum that is appropriate for ages 12 and above. Suggested reading (included on the website) can also be added for high school students and can be read from the website itself or downloaded to the computer as a PDF to read later.

Additional resources and printable questions are available from each lessons launch page.

Also, each lesson's page has additional photographs that tie into the lesson that are not included in the videos.  These might be photographs of ruins or architecture of the time, a painting of an important historical figure or of classic artwork that tie into the lesson.

In addition to the main website, Adventures can also be accessed thru Drive Thru History Adventures TV which first gives access to the three courses on mobile devices such as tablets and phones thru the downloading of the Drive Thru History Adventures TV App (available for Android, iPhone and even Chromecast - so hopefully it will become available for Roku or FireTv in the future).

In addition to the three courses, Adventures TV also gives access to other videos on a wide variety of topics from Roman coins, the history behind major holidays, to behind the scenes videos from the Drive Thru History production crew.  This is also where Drive Thru History talks to YOU!  Yes, you heard me right.  There have been a number of videos where Dave Stotts has asked for members to submit their questions so that he can respond in a video, making the Drive Thru History Adventures a bit more personal, especially for kids.  (But its really cool for moms too!!)

Finally, membership to Drive Thru History Adventures also gives members access to the Members Only social media group.  This is another really great perk as it provides yet another form of personal relationship with the Production crew at Drive Thru History. Whether its Dave Stotts himself commiserating with you about having the flu or being able to ask Lead writer Randall Niles about one of the recent articles he posted to the Drive Thru History Adventures Blog, the social media community is a fun yet safe place to ask questions or just have a general chit chat about history.

How We Used It

Before I get into the actual logistics of how we eventually used this website, I should tell you how the first week went.

Since membership allows for access to the videos and curriculum for your choice of three adventures, I decided to start with the Ancient History Adventures with Ashleigh and Garrett since much of the information would coincide with what they are currently learning about this year.  With printouts in hand, the kids and I watched this first video and were finishing up with the discussion questions when my oldest daughter came into the living room and was quite upset that we watched it without her.   I've mentioned in other blog posts - my daughter is a HUGE Dave Stotts fan so how dare I watch Dave Stotts without her!!

This meant that the kids and I then watched the first video for Ancient History for the second time. I printed out a third set of questions and together the kids watched the video and Alyssa helped Ash and Garrett with their worksheets.

The Kids meeting Dave Stotts in June
That afternoon, my husband came home from work and asked the kids how their day went.  They told him about their school day and that we watched the first video in Ancient History and how Dave Stotts got lost trying to find the Colosseum even though he drove right by it and how that was so funny.

To which my husband took offense that we would dare watch Drive Thru History without him since he enjoyed the Gospels so much when we reviewed it last year.  That night we had to watch Episode 1 of Ancient History yet a 3rd time so that Charles could watch it as well.  Garrett watched it the third time with the same enthusiasm that he had watched it the first time and they still laughed as they watched Dave zip right past the Colosseum in his smart car.

This first week was a true learning adventure for me - I learned that our weekly lessons with Drive Thru History Adventures were going to have to be a family affair.  Since then, we have a family date on Tuesday nights. After we eat our dinner, we all cuddle up on the couches in the living room, turn on the TV and watch the next episode of Drive Thru Adventures as a family.  Which has actually worked out very nicely as now everyone can participate in the discussions and work together to answer the questions on the worksheets that might have missed..  It also means that Mom doesn't have to read all the extras alone (and Dad gets to have some fun with voices as he pretends to be Pliny the Younger or reading from Virgil.  The extras such as these readings really help to add a bit more "depth" to the curriculum beyond just the discussion questions and have added to some real educational moments for our family - such as when my kids schooled their father on who both Pliny the Younger and Pliny the Elder were.

My kids love Drive Thru History.   Dave Stotts is someone who obviously loves history and loves to share that love with others.  It's also obvious that he wants to especially share that love of history with children in the hopes to ignite that same passion for history.   It's this approach that Dave and the Gang at Drive Thru History take that actually get my son to watch a full episode each week without complaints and has him giggling and talking about Dave's silly antics for days later.

 I personally have enjoyed the extras that come with the Drive Thru History Adventures, including the Drive Thru Adventures TV app on my phone. While the videos such as Dave's "holiday recipe" video has been of interest to the kids and the "History of Cheese" video had us all cracking up with all the horribly cheesy puns, I personally enjoy the videos about the coins of  Herod as well as his building projects. I also really enjoy the "Recent Posts" section where there are some really wonderful writings with contributors adding to it at least a few times each week.

#hsreviews  #drivethruhistory  #drivethruhistoryadventures  #adventurelearning

I HIGHLY recommend Drive Thru History Adventures. It's a great curriculum for the entire family and I could honestly write a novella telling you how great it is. But, the good news is, they offer a 7 day free trial for you to check it out on your own.

You can find more information about Drive Thru History Adventures at their website as well as on the following social media platforms:

Drive Thru History Adventures - Subscription {Drive Thru History Adventures Reviews}

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Starfall Education Foundation ( A Homeschool Crew Review)

For the last few weeks, the kids have been having a blast practicing their math and language arts skill with the Starfall Home Membership from Starfall Education Foundation. An annual membership, the Starfall Home Membership is a single account that can be used by all members of the family for one year that can be accessed on multiple devices such as tablets, phones, and computers.  
StarfallStarfall Home Membership provides access to interactive content in the form of games, riddles, songs, poetry, and a reading library to help develop skills for Pre-K through 2nd Grade. By using fun animations and sounds as well as engaging gameplay, younger students as well as for older elementary students who might need extra practice to master skills have access to a useful tool that provides hours of educational fun.
Available on both a website or as a downloadable ap for both Android and Apple products (Google Play Store, iTunes and Amazon App Store) , Starfall can be used on different platforms, whether it be a home computer, tablet, Kindle or Smartphone.  Both the computer website and mobile app are very easy to navigate allowing for the youngest of students to easily figure out on their own. 

Both the website and the mobile versions of Starfall are free from advertisements or outside links to other pages.  Even the  Starfall Store and the Parent-Teacher Center for Starfall require an adult to answer a question.  While a student who is able to read well and a bit more advanced in math might be able to circumvent the process, the average Kindergarten or 1st-grade student most likely will not.

Being that the website doesn't have links to outside websites or questionable advertisements allows for safe viewing of the content.   I have no problems allowing Ashleigh and Garrett to play this on their Kindles or to hop on the computer and work on this while I'm making dinner or grading work instead of hovering over their shoulder to make sure that they do not see something that I would prefer they did not. 

The Parent-Teacher center offers information to help to learn what State Standards the different offerings on Starfall teach and how they align with your state.  There are many resources (some free without membership) to use along with the Starfall website, such as printable worksheets, althought most of these worksheets are for Kindergarten and 1st Grade and were a bit young for my kiddos.  

How We Used It

Starfall has been a wonderful addition to our educational toolbox. The kids have struggled a bit with their multiplication tables (something that as an adult, I still struggle with to be honest) and we have used Starfall almost exclusively for practicing memorizing these skills.  From 2x all the way to 9x, I can finish each school day with telling the kids to work on Starfall for 15-20 minutes and know they are getting much-needed practice on a skill they need to work on.

Garrett really likes some of the other games, such as the Road Trip game.  It focuses on place value which Garrett doesn't necessarily need extra help with but he still enjoys the graphics.  It doesn't hurt that he can select a car that somewhat resembles our own car.  It also shows some basic geography and photographs of places along the trip.  He likes the graphics and the photographs, so this particular game appeals to him.

A few things we did notice is that the website offers much more than the mobile apps offer.  We discovered this when Garrett wanted to play the Road Trip game and it was not available on the mobile version.  The website offers quite a bit more, which just means that the kids spent a bit more time at the desktop than they did on their Kindles.

When my oldest daughter, who is now 18 and graduated, first heard that the kids were going to be reviewing Starfall, she was hit with a major case of nostalgia.   She herself used Starfall when she was in Elementary school and she admits that not much has changed since she used it herself.      Now Ashleigh and Garrett will be able to continue with their learning using Starfall as well. 

#hsreviews  #starfall  #starfalledu  #kindergarten

Social Media Links: 

The Starfall Home Membership {Starfall Education Foundation Reviews}

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Bytes of Learning (A Homeschool Crew Review)

For the last few weeks, Ashleigh has been working on typing lessons from Bytes of Learning.  These
lessons are included in the one year UltraKey Online Family Subscription which allows for all members of your family to learn proper learning techniques for one low price.

UltraKey Online is completely browser-based, requiring no downloads to your own computer system. However, because it is a typing program, requiring the student to place their fingers properly on a keyboard, it is recommended that this program is not used with a phone or a tablet but instead with a computer with a full-size keyboard.

Starting with learning the Home Row keys and ending with the number keys, UltraKey Online will help take students from a complete beginner to an efficient typist in twelve lessons.  Lessons combine audio and visual instructions together, take roughly 20 minutes each to complete and are designed for older elementary students through adults - although younger elementary students could easily work through the course with the help of an adult.

How We Used It

Last year, Garrett had the opportunity to learn to type while Ashleigh worked on another skill, so this time around, I wanted Ashleigh to have the chance to learn.  For this review, Ashleigh used the program exclusively.  However, since it is a family subscription, I also set up an account for Garrett, which he will be able to use to improve his typing skills.  Ashleigh has had no previous typing instruction and has only recently started using the computer for things outside of educational programs.

Because UltraKey is an online website, it was very easy for me to simply bookmark the login website at the top of my browser so that Ashleigh was able to log.

Before students learn to type, UltraKey begins with teaching proper posture, which is something more people probably don't think about when they begin to type.

Because of this, we opted to do lessons on the desk computer so that Ash could sit in a chair with the keyboard in the proper position for typing rather than having a laptop sitting on her lap on the couch.

Following learning proper posture and hand placement, Ash was ready to begin the actual typing instruction, starting with learning the home row letters.

.The lessons also include typing practice where the student is graded using a Star System.  They are given a string of letters to type (in the case of the picture below, letters from the Home Row lesson) and are awarded between 1 to 4 Stars on how accurately they typed the string.  This proved a bit difficult for Ashleigh to complete, which meant it took her a few weeks to actually complete the lesson in regards to the Home Row Keys.  This wasn't a fault of the program, and actually, is a major plus to the program - students cannot advance to the next lesson until the material covered is learned.  In Ashleigh's case, she had to repeat this particular lesson a few times before she was able to type the strings correctly (and ultimately pass the skills check for the lesson) and move to the next lesson.   I also noticed that while she did struggle with the Home Row lesson, once she finally did pass the lesson, she did very well on the next lesson.  As students have a full year to learn the material, I was comfortable in allowing her to take the time needed to master the lesson knowing she has plenty of time to complete the other lessons.

After students complete the lesson and skills check, UltraKey Online provides a Progress Report that allows parents to track their progress.  It does not appear that this progress report shows failed attempts at the skills check as Ashleigh didn't do so well on her first few tries for lesson 1. But it does show me her Accuracy in the lessons as well as her Gross Speed of Words per Minute.   Also, there are certificates available to be printed when the student completes the course.  Since we are not at that point yet, we haven't printed one out, but they are available when she gets to that point and I know that as Ashleigh is a reward drive kid, she'll really enjoy recieving it.

Ashleigh has enjoyed using the program, although Lesson 1 did cause a bit of frustration (because she wanted to rush through things).. I am glad that the program does force students to slow down and get it right as opposed to allowing them to skip to the next lesson.  I have no doubt that when she does complete the lessons, she will have the typing skills necessary to take her to the next generation of computer skills.

UltraKey Online Family Subscription is available in three subscription prices, depending on the size of your family, starting at $29.95 for a  3 User Family, $39.95 for a 5 User Family, and $49.95 for an 8 User Family.  Parent accounts are free with subscriptions.

#hsreviews  #typing #keyboarding #onlinelearning

Find more information about Bytes of Learning and the UltraKey Online Family Subscription on their website . You can also find Bytes of Learning on Facebook.

UltraKey {Bytes of Learning Reviews}

Hanger 1600 (Wordless Wednesday)

Well, not quite so wordless.. Just because I do want to give a bit of history in regards to the hanger in today's pictures ;)
Being an aircraft testing base, Edwards AFB has lots of hangers that house aircraft.  Two of these hangers many of you have seen without realizing it.   The first is the  Benefield Anechoic Facility (BAF) which is the worlds largest anechoic chamber and has been featured in many aircraft posters and pictures throughout the years.  It's a huge hanger covered in foam spikes that allows for a completely controlled environment for testing aircraft systems.  

Inside the Benefield Anechoic Facility (BAF)
The second hanger that you've most likely seen without realizing it is Hanger 1600.  If you are a fan of the movie Armageddon with Bruce Willis, you've seen the inside of Hanger 1600. If you've seen the video for the song American Soldier by Toby Keith, you've seen Hanger 1600.  If you're an Iron Man fan, again, you've seen the inside (and outside) of  Hanger 1600 (and one of my husband's jets to boot ;)   lol)

 The F-22 in the above picture (and most likely the same jet in the bottom picture) is also the same jet to pay Starscream in the Transformers movie)

This week I spent quite a few hours in Hanger 1600 for two totally different events.  First, for a concert with Gary Sinise and the Lt Dan Band ;) 

And then, a totally different atmosphere a few days later for my husband's Awards Ceremony


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