Do you know about the Hidden Message of the National Seal?

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

We have been supplementing our history studies with The Hidden Message of the Great Seal How Foundational Truth From The Dawn Of Liberty May Rescue A Republic In Peril from The Hidden Message, LLC. This book is fascinating! The hidden message is a needed history lesson for our day.

What is it all about

Did you know that the seal of the United States has two sides? Did you know there were several iterations?

This book is quite an exhaustive study of our countries great seal and the history that surrounds it and our nation. It is a 260-page book full of great pictures and quotes! (I am a sucker for pictures since I am a visual learner and there are plenty in this book.) One of the quotes in the book that really seems applicable today is from Patrick Henry, “Bad men cannot make good citizens. It is when people forget God that tyrants forge their chains. A vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with freedom…”

The book The Hidden Message of the Great Seal covers the history of the seal, the mottos on the seal, the men involved in making the seal, and the message of the seal. Major themes on the seal that are expanded on in the book are virtue, freedom, Providence, and unity. The book also dispels some false information about the seal using the words of our founding fathers and the written record.

How did we use it

One of my boys picked up the book because he is really interested in money and our dollar has the images of the seal (actually you will learn by reading this book there is a slight difference in our money). I thought it was interesting that the seal design was based on the older currency of the day, and one of the seal designers also designed continental money. The book was a great tool to teach him about money, the seal, and our Nations founding.

The author, Michael Kanis, has spent a lot of time researching the American seal. I was impressed with all the Latin motto interpretations he presented. Some of the Latin was above my head, but it’s good to see all the Latin meanings and history laid out so I could understand them. I would love to see a study guide for this book.

I would highly recommend adding The Hidden Message of the Great Seal to your History book collection. Now more than ever we need to be teaching our children what the founding fathers had in mind for our great country and teach them that they have a responsibility to promote freedom and justice. For a limited time you can get a 50% off discount at The Hidden Message of the Great Seal How using the discount code “HOMESCHOOL”.

Be sure to visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog by clicking the picture below to read more reviews of The Hidden Message of the Great Seal.

The Hidden Message of the Great Seal {The Hidden Message, LLC Reviews}

BJU focus on Five review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

If you are looking for a Christian Kindergarten Homeschool Curriculum, I suggest checking out BJU Press Focus on Fives kit from BJU Press Homeschool. We had the opportunity to try out the BJU Press Focus on Fives and here is our review.

What is BJU Press Focus on Fives

BJU Press Focus on Five is a full Kindergarten curriculum for your five-year-old. It covers Reading, Science, Bible, and writing/composition. When I say full curriculum I do mean FULL. It includes everything you need for your kindergartner. The program includes 180 lessons. There are several teachers manuals. Several workbooks. Several flashcard sets. Several visual aids. Several Series of reading books.

BJU Press Focus on Five workbooks

The two-color workbooks in the picture above are used during the lesson. The black and white workbook is for extra practice.  The worksheets in the workbooks can be torn out or kept in the workbook.

The kit includes Alphabet cards to put on the wall, Phonics review flashcards and cards with High-frequency words.  I really like the visual flip chart in the picture below.  It has a spiral metal binding and a hard cardboard back.  It can stand up on its own. It would have been nice if they had the phonics review cards also included in the flip chart instead of separate cards but that’s just my opinion.

The BJU Press Focus on Five also includes little paper reading books for the lessons.  The books include the sight word being learned in the lesson and other words they are learning.  One of the workbooks also has little paper books the student makes to go along with the lessons.

There are six detailed teacher manuals that include all the lesson plans. The teacher manuals are very sturdy hardback spiral-bound books. The lesson plans in the teacher manuals are laid out in a lot of detail. There is a list of all the visuals and materials needed.  The lesson plans also have all the instructions needed for the lesson.  I would recommend reading over the lesson plan before the lesson so you have an overall idea of what is covered in the lesson.

I was impressed by how advanced reading concepts are taught in this Kindergarten curriculum.  When I was in Kindergarten we only started to read basic books at the very end.

Here is a broad outline of the reading lessons being taught throughout the curriculum.

  • Lessons 1 – 80: Letter sounds and simple short vowel words
  • Lesson 81: Constant blends are introduced.
  • Lesson 111: Long vowels like silent e
  • Lesson 121: Vowels working together
  • Lesson 136: Bossy r words are introduced

There are many practice worksheets to go with each phonics lessons.

While there are 180 lessons the last 20 lessons are actually for special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas. These are in the 6th teacher manual so it might not be apparent that these lessons are available.

What did we think of it

I initially thought my son who is almost 5 would try the curriculum since he is always wanting to do school. While most of the activities were his level, he is not very good at holding a pencil. Since there are a lot of worksheets it is difficult for him to do the writing activities.  So I had my next older son try the curriculum.

My next son liked the program but the beginning lessons were too easy for him which makes it hard to jump in someplace in the middle.  I really liked the phonics lessons and how they were laid out.  He did not know some of the High-frequency words in the reading books since he did not start at the beginning.  I really liked the extra activities and crafts at the end of each lesson.  I also liked all the visuals and using the characters Mr and Mrs short and Uncle short and Miss Long to help with the phonics concepts.  Some of the activities I didn’t really think were necessary for homeschoolers like the classroom routine and the reading centers since I do not have a classroom full of kids.

Overall the curriculum is very comprehensive and detailed.  For people who are by the book and like things to be very structured it will work well but maybe not so much or people who are laid back in their approach to homeschooling.  I think the online version of the curriculum would work better for our family since we tend to be more laid back.  You can see more about the online video version here.  I think the BJU Press Focus on Five program would work well for someone starting out who wants everything laid out for them in detail.

Other families used BJU Press Focus on Five too so be sure to check out their reviews by clicking on the banner below.

BJU Press Focus on Fives {BJU Press Homeschool Reviews}

Reading Unlocked Reading Program review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

My son is loving the online reading program Reading Unlocked.  The lessons are short and provide many different ways to practice reading.  The lessons are only 10 minutes a day and he has no complaints when we work on reading with Reading Unlocked.  Since I have lots of boys, I am always looking for good phonics-based reading programs.  I feel like my son is actually learning better with the Reading Unlocked program than other programs we have used.  I was especially excited Reading Unlocked works on an iPad. Keep reading to see how our review went.

What is Reading Unlocked

Reading Unlocked is an online subscription program for teaching reading. The Reading Unlocked program works on a computer or an iPad using an internet web browser.  Reading Unlocked only takes 10 minutes a day.  To get started you choose the reading level your child is ready for based on three different lines of text shown in the picture below.  The first level is for beginning readers.  The second level is for readers who know almost all the letter sounds and three-letter words along with some blends.  The last level is the highest level and introduces more complex blends and long vowel sounding words.

The Reading Unlocked program should only take about 10 minutes a day.  There are several different exercises you do with your child.  To start a new sound or blend is introduced.  There are status dots at the top to show you how much is left for the lesson.

Several words are introduced with the lesson sound or blend.  Each letter sound (or blend) is sounded out individually and then the sounds are sounded out together in the whole word.  This is especially helpful for my son who has auditory issues.

Many different exercises are used to practice the lesson sounds.  The picture below shows the exercise where the student changes the word by switching out one of the sounds.  For example below you are supposed to turn nest into chest by moving the ch blend over the n.

The picture below shows where the student chooses the picture that matches the word.

All the exercises were at the level that my son would not get discouraged.  The picture below shows another exercise with the words learned.  Each line as a few additional words plus the other words which reinforces what they just learned.

The last exercise has a poem to read and the student reads the highlighted words.  I initially didn’t really like this but my son really seemed to like it. After the lesson is complete you can see the words learned and the days you have completed a lesson.

How we used reading unlocked

Because Reading Unlocked works on the iPad, I found it easy to help my son who is learning to read before bed in his room.  With the iPad and Reading Unlocked you can work on learning to read anywhere.  The only issue with using it before bed is then its hard to write out some of the words he is learning as the program says.  I wish there was a worksheet or a list of words that I could download and help him practice writing the words he is learning.  You are supposed to write the words on a separate sheet of paper during the lesson, but if you don’t have writing materials handy you may not remember what words your child is supposed to practice writing.  I usually try and take a screenshot of the words he is supposed to write out, and then I make a worksheet for him to practice later.  

Since my son has been reading simple words for awhile I started him off on the second level.  My son did pretty fine until some of the lessons used blends like ch and sh which he hasn’t learned yet.  Even though he had not learned those blends he did ok after I explained how the blend sounded.  Later I realized that those blends were introduced in the last several lessons for the first level.  In the settings you can change what level and what lesson to work on.  I tried several lessons until I found the ones where the blends started.  I had him work on those earlier lessons so I could make sure he understood those blends.

I only used the program with one of my children.  While I did not see a way to add individual students, you can use it with multiple children by changing the level and the lesson in the settings.  It would be nice if you could add another child, but it’s not that big of an issue.  Once you start using the program you get a feel for where your child should be at. Overall the Reading Unlocked program is very effective for teaching reading.  When I asked my son what he liked about Reading Unlocked he said, “I am learning more.”  I was surprised he said that, but I really feel like he is learning more.  The program is just enough for him to learn without being overwhelmed.  

Is it right for your child?

If your child struggles with your current reading program or complains about learning to read then I would recommend you give Reading Unlocked a try.  Reading Unlocked is especially good for homeschool parents who have limited time to help their child learn to read. Reading Unlocked is especially good if your child struggles with reading.  As a homeschool dad with lots of boys I recommend Reading Unlocked to teach your child to read.  I especially love that Reading Unlocked works on the iPad so we can work on it anywhere in the house.

My son really thinks Reading Unlocked is helping him learn to read better. Other families used this product too so be sure to check out their reviews by clicking on the banner below.

Reading Unlocked {Reading Unlocked Reviews}

Math U See AIM review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

If you have a child working on Addition and Subtraction, you will want to be sure to check out Accelerated Individualized Mastery (AIM) for Addition and Subtraction from Math-U-See.  Even if you already use Math-U-See you can still benefit from using the AIM program.

What is AIM:

The AIM program is a program to help your child master addition and subtraction facts.  The program comes with the Math-U-See manipulative blocks, colored pencils, a resource guide, Math Fact Strategy Posters, addition and subtraction fact check cards, and year-long access to the AIM program instructional videos and guides.

If you use Math-U-See, you will already be familiar with some aspects of the AIM program. The integer blocks will be familiar and the video lessons with Mr. Demme will also be familiar since they are the same as in the Alpha and Beta programs.  We have been using Math-U-See with all our kids, but I had not seen the AIM program before though.  When I looked at the program, I thought it would benefit my son since we can always improve math facts.

The program includes 12-month online access to Lesson videos, Instructions, Solutions, and printable resources.  The online videos and website work both on a computer and with the iPad.  You can download the pdf of each lesson, activities and resources.

The online instructional videos show

  • Instructions on How to administer the assessment
  • Instructions on how to use The Build, Write, Say method
  • Instructions on how to Fade from the Manipulatives
  • Instructions on how to perform the Mastery check
  • 22 lessons for all the addition and subtraction lessons from Mr. Demme

Who is AIM for?

AIM is for children who struggle with math addition and subtraction facts and have not mastered those facts.  To see where to start or where your child has problems there is a before AIM Assessment. When I gave my son the before assessment I was surprised how he didn’t know his facts like I thought he would.  The assessment says that if it takes more than three seconds for the answer, then they do not have the fact mastered.  If you already use the Math U See program you can use AIM to help ensure your child has a mastery of his addition and/or subtraction facts.

How we used AIM

The instructional videos for the lessons were the same as the Math U See Alpha and Beta math programs but they are online.  The difference with AIM is the concepts used to practice the math facts.  My kids always like playing with the Math U See blocks.  It helps visualize the concepts of math with a base 10 system.  The AIM program uses the manipulative blocks along with the colored pencils which stand for each block color.  There are also fact check cards to check their knowledge. The fact check cards are basically flashcards with three stars on each one.  If the child knows the fact, you color in one of the stars.  When all three stars are colored in then you consider the fact known.  If there are math facts they still have not mastered then they can work on activities suggested in the AIM program until they have mastered the particular math facts. When they have mastered all the facts for the lesson then you can move on to the next lesson.  Since my son needed to improve his addition facts, we decided to use the AIM program and hold off on working more on his Math-U-See Alpha math book.

What we thought of AIM

My son enjoyed working with the manipulative blocks.  The AIM program has many different activities using manipulatives to practice math facts. He really enjoyed the many manipulative block AIM activities like The Train Hitch, Building a Wall of Tens, Addend Sleuth, and many others.  My son also liked using colored pencils but I don’t know if they really helped all that much.  It is probably helpful if you are very visual.  Overall we liked using the AIM program and I plan on using it instead of our math program until my son has mastered the addition facts up to where he is at with his Math-U-See math book.

Want to hear more about Accelerated Individualized Mastery (AIM) for Addition and Subtraction? Click below to read what other members of the Review Crew thought.

Accelerated Individualized Mastery (AIM) for Addition and Subtraction {Math-U-See Reviews}

The Easter Storybook Review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

We have been enjoying reading as a family The Easter Storybook published by David C CookThe Easter Storybook is a hardback book that contains 40 stories from the Bible about the life of Christ.  Since the book has 40 stories it can be read every day during the time of Lent.

While the book is set up to be read during the 40 days of lent, it does not have to be used only during that time period. I used The Easter Storybook as a read-aloud for my younger boys every night.  I usually let them look through the pictures and then let them choose what story they want me to read to them.  We really enjoyed the pictures that go with each story.  Each story started with a short verse and were on par with a level that kept their interest.

Even though we didn’t read The Easter Storybook for lent, I still plan on using the book for the week between Good Friday and Easter.  I love the idea of reading stories in expectation of a time of celebration like Easter.  So many times the focus is on just one day.  With The Easter Storybook you can build anticipation for the real reason for Easter.

My boys and I really enjoyed The Easter Storybook from David C Cook.  I would recommend it as a read-aloud Bible storybook for your family.  The pictures kept the attention of my boys while I read the story out loud to them.  There were plenty of stories for them to choose from.

My family loved The Easter Storybook. Other families used this product too so be sure to check out their reviews by clicking on the banner.

The Easter Storybook {David C Cook Reviews}