How We Use the Brave Writer Program + Win a Brave Writer Poetry Guide

April is National Poetry Month and our favorite folks over at Brave Writer are sponsoring a giveaway of Poetry Guides to three lucky Creekside Learning readers. But first, let me tell you about how our family uses the Brave Writer program.

How We Use the Brave Writer Program

The Brave Writer program was designed by Julie Bogart, a homeschooling mom of five, to help parents be a coach to their children’s writing voice. Our family has been using Brave Writer for two years and it has worked really well for us.  I love that this program grows with your kids. We started out in the Jot It Down phase, where my kids would dictate their writing, in their voice, to me. This year, my oldest is delving in to the Partnership Writing phase. In the fall, he hopes to try out his first on-line class (Brave Writer offers many).  

Most significant of all has been the difference I’ve seen in my kids when I ask them to write.  The Writer’s Jungle, which is the cornerstone of all the Brave Writer programs, has helped us leap to the Brave Writer lifestyle.

We went from [Read more...]

Homeschool Curriculum : What We Love This Year!

If you start your homeschool year around September–good news! You’re in the home stretch in February. It’s a great time to take stock of your homeschool curriculum. What did you start with?  What’s really working, sparking learning and going well? What are you just slogging away at, trying to make it through? 

Homeschool Curriculum  What We Love This Year

Here’s what’s working for us so far this school year.  [Read more...]

It’s Brave Writer Giveaway Time!

Brave Writer is our beloved language arts program. It’s not only a piece of curricula, it’s a total change in thinking about how your kids are learning, and not just about writing.

brave writer

{This is a sponsored post.}

I was so excited when Julie Bogart, the creator of Brave Writer, offered to do her biggest giveaway yet on Creekside Learning. There are going to be 5 winners of free Brave Writer products. So exciting! [Read more...]

Review: More Starfall

    My kids have long been fans of  Starfall, a free website for preschoolers and early elementary aged kids that teaches reading and language skills. Starfall also has additional content on their More Starfall component, which consists of more games and activities and expands on the skills taught on their orginal site.

The More Starfall program costs $35 for a one year subscription. So what do you get that is different than the original, free Starfall?  That’s what we’ve been exploring.

Firstly, you get math. That’s something not on the original Starfall. More Starfall covers a wide range of math concepts from identifying numbers to basic geometry concepts, measurement, addition and subtraction as well as multiplication and a couple of division activities.  While there is a wide range of skills covered, some of the topics have a lot of content and others have only a couple of activities. For example, the division component only has two activities.

The math skills begin with  number identification and rote counting, forwards and backwards. They work their way up from there to activities for times tables up to the number 9 , well suited to the level of math my 8 year old is doing.

The math games are cute and catchy. There are dancing potatoes that add numbers, bee-bopping chickadees that demonstrate subtraction, a bubble popping game that counts backwards from 100 to 0.

In addition to the math activities, my preschooler really enjoyed the songs and rhymes feature and you can set the songs to play on a continuous loop, so we’ve done that while we’re working a puzzle or playing something else nearby.

There are more phonics and reading options on More Starfall. You can see some of the stories available in the photo below. If your child is receptive to learning to read the phonics and stories on the original Starfall, then this would provide more options. This seems to be one of the meatier parts of the program, with lots of options and a variety of stories.

 Some things are the same on both the original Starfall and More Starfall: the calendar features and the ABC chart, for example. Those are both features my kids have used and loved on the original version. It would be nice to see all new things on More Starfall and perhaps, as the site is developed, they will add more new content.

The range of activities seems rather wide. There are things like color identification, which seemed more suited for toddlers. But the math and phonics components are really the bulk of this program and make it well worth exploring.  The price is great. I haven’t found anything out there that is even close to providing content like this for only $35 a year.

My review in a nutshell…
If you have a child about ages 3 to 8, who enjoys learning on the computer with colorful graphics, has benefitted from the original version of Starfall, then More Starfall would be a good option. If you have found, like I have, that math options via affordable computer/web-based programs are limited, then More Starfall is worth checking out. The math, in my opinion, is the biggest strength of the program, simply because there aren’t other programs that have this in that price range. The phonics and reading content of More Starfall is valuable as well.  There are other programs that do that, but they are stand-alone programs for that subject only.

I received the More Starfall program for free for one month for the purpose of trying and reviewing it.  The opinions expressed in this post are my own. For more information about my disclosure policy, click here.

To read more curriculum reviews, visit my Reviews Page and my Reviews Pinterest Board.

Review of Time4Learning

For the past month, we’ve been using Time4Learning for math for my 8 year old. The whole Time4Learning program was recommended by a friend who remarked at how independently her kids could work with this program. That appealed to me, as my middle and youngest children get older and require more of my attention during “school time”, I wanted my 8 year old to have a few things he could do on his own, for the most part. And Time4Learning has been a good fit for him.

What is Time4Learning?

Time4Learning is an automated, on-line learning system that spans  lessons for preschool through middle school. It can include language arts, science, math and social studies.  It provides a sequence of lessons that are checked off as the child completes them at their own pace. Lessons can be repeated or the child or parent can pick a different sequence.  Parents can view detailed lesson plans on line or print them for record keeping.

While Time4Learning can be used as a core curriculum program, I want to be clear that we only used it for math (at the 2nd grade level), so my review is specific to the math portion of the program.

What do we like about Time4Learning?

  • It holds my child’s interest. He has some favorite characters, enjoys the games and activities and the flow of the lessons seem to be a good fit.
  • He truly can do most of it on his own. I often sit down with him when he starts, at some of the testing times, or whenever he asks me to help him with something, but he is mostly working independently.
  • He doesn’t have to write. Firefly has long had issues with writing. Our first homeschooling year, we had a battle for nearly every subject, which would surface only at the point where he had to write. It’s gotten better since then but he still isn’t fond of writing. After that first year, I made a decision to keep handwriting contained specifically to handwriting practice, rather than have a battle in each subject. Requiring him to write very little, other than when we are practicing handwriting, has made a tremendous difference for us.  Since the Time4Learning program is entirely computerized, writing is not an issue.
  • It’s very thorough. And I like being able to see all the upcoming lessons in the math program so I know what he’ll be working on.
  • I can track his progress, if I choose. Thus far, since we were doing a part of each lesson together, I didn’t utilize the parent feature of tracking progress. I feel like I have a handle on what he is learning from the program, but I like that this feature is available and will use it in the future.
  • It has helped me be consistent with math. That’s right, I said me. See, math is not my favorite subject to teach. It is probably why we have used three different math programs in three years. All the programs were good, but I didn’t like preparing math lessons or teaching math lessons so often I saved it for last and then, guess what? It didn’t get done much. Cue the homeschooling mom guilt: My child is behind in this subject because I don’t have it together. Time4Learning has helped me consistently keep math a part of my son’s learning. It’s the first thing he does every day for school. And since he does it mostly independently, I can move on to one of my other kids and get them started for the day.
  • The Time4Learning customer support has been great. They’ve responded quickly to our questions and a minor technical difficulty that we had. They set up our accounts quickly. When I requested a level change for my daughter, they did it right away.
  • I can choose the level my child works at. I can move him up or down a grade if one grade is too easy or another too challenging.

Firefly doing math while laying on the exercise ball.

What are the challenges?

We tried using the program with my 6 year old daughter and she was only mildly interested. I don’t think this has anything to do with Time4Learning, she simply isn’t ready to do more formal lessons yet.  She’s had this response with another computer program as well as some text/workbook type of curriculum. I would definitely revisit Time4Learning with her at a later date.

My son struggles with the test portions of the program. This is probably more a function of his personality than the program. He has a lot of test anxiety and hates to get anything wrong. This lead to some resistance on his part on the days where a test was the next item in the queue for his Time4Learning Math. However, if  I  sit down with him and help him slow down and think through his answers before choosing one or let him skip the test entirely when it was obvious that he knows the material, it’s fine.

Overall, I would say that neither of these things were hugely problematic for us.

What does my child say about the program?

Since he’s the one actually using the program, I thought you’d like to hear what Firefly has to say about it, in his own words:  ”The games are pretty fun because it teaches me.  Some of the games are like a card game, and I like that.  I like the Mango character, he’s funny.”

Is there anything you didn’t like?  ”Well, sometimes I get what they’re talking about but they still keep explaining it. I wish there was a button I could click on to skip the explanation when I already understand, so I could go on to the next thing.”

Online Education Program for PreK - 8th Grade

Moving Forward

We plan to continue to use Time4Learning for math for my 8 year old and revisit if for my 6 year old in the future. I would also consider it for other subjects as well, either as a supplement or a main curriculum choice.

You can explore Time4Learning’s demos to see if they might be a good fit for your family.

As a member of Time4Learning, I have been given the opportunity to review their program and share my experiences. While I was compensated, this review was not written or edited by Time4Learning and my opinion is entirely my own. For more information, check out their standards-based curriculum or learn how to write your own curriculum review.

To read my other curriculum reviews, visit my Reviews Page.

Follow my collaborative Pinterest Board on Curriculum Reviews, where a group of homeschooling moms share their opinions on various curriculum and homeschool products.