The Critical Thinking Co.™ {a review}

Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}
For the past several weeks my youngest little guy has been having fun playing with the Letter Sounds Song and Game™ Software - 2-PCs Win Download, which is one of five downloads offered in the Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic Before Kindergarten!™ software bundle from The Critical Thinking Co.™.
The Critical Thinking Co.™  is known for their curricula which helps children become "better problem solvers".  They offer a wide range of material from supplemental to full curriculum for students in Pre-K all the way to grade 12.  Eight subjects are offered, in various methods such as books, ebook, software downloads and more:
  • Critical Thinking
  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Test Prep
  • Tests
  • Technology
What is the Letter Sounds Song and Game™ Software - 2-PCs Win Download
Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}
The Letter Sounds Song and Game™ Software - 2-PCs Win Download is a software game offered for windows computers.  With this download you have access to two licenses for download to your window computer.  The game is intended as a single use, as it does not save information for more than 1 user at a time.

This software app, intended for preK to grade 1, has 7 really fun games that our youngest learners will find easy to play.  As the child plays the games s/he will learn the letter sounds.

This is not your traditional alphabet letter song, but rather a unique and catchy tune, Letter Sounds Song™, that includes both letter name and sound; such as, "A is the ah in apple."

My youngest little guy just so happens to love music.  He has been making tunes on keyboard and harmonica and humming along before he could even talk.  A music based song is just so ideal for him.  (However, each time my 4 year old and I played the game the other two (ages 9 and 6) would come hurrying over to watch us - they love the tune as well).

The game starts off with the Letter Sounds Song and the accompanying animation.  Afterwards you are taken to Game 1, where the child matches the letter to the word, or picture, that will complete the song.

The game is very user friendly and never discourages the child.  At anytime we can click the "play" icon to hear the complete Letter Sounds Song again, or click the gal with the guitar to have her sing the current verse.  When a wrong answer is chosen a sound is played that signifies a wrong answer. 

In the lower left we have a Menu/Scores link for parents to see the current score(s) and to adjust a couple things such as turning the incorrect sound or adjusting the pass games success score.  We can also skip ahead or replay a game under this menu section.

Game 2 removes the guitar wielding gal and has no sung prompt.  Other than that, the layout is the same.  We click the correct picture to hear the song continued.  As with Game 1, any completed letters are bolded as we move along down the alphabet.

These first 2 games teach the child the song verse so that s/he can move onto the rest of the games that will help the child further identity the letters and their sounds.  Such as Game 3, the child is asked to select the letter to match the picture given.

I played Letter Sounds Song and Game™ with my youngest sitting on my lap.  His is a preKinder and is a very young 4 who has never learned his alphabet or letter sounds yet.   We played the game several times a week.  The very first time he played it with me he was already getting 65% correct!    However, we didn't progress to Game 2 because he liked selecting the wrong answer on purpose, week after week.  His sister wishes he'd hurry along because she's begging for a turn! 

I love how fun this game is for him especially considering the Importance of Preschool Academics!

To see additional reviews of Software Downloads and a couple Paperback Books from The Critical Thinking Co.™, click the banner below: 
Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}
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Pirates or Privateers: You Decide {a review}

We have long been lovers of unit studies as this particular method of learning (or teaching) is the easiest and most fun for us.  It allows our multiple ages to all learn many subjects together, all centered around one chosen topic.  We have spent time with Homeschool Legacy before, and the wonderful Once-a-Week Unit Study topics that can found there.  

For the past several weeks we have been learning the difference between pirates and privateers as well as truths and myths of these seafaring scallywags with the help of Sharon Gibson, founder of Homeschool Legacy. She has done a fantastic job of creating a thorough yet quick study with her Once-a-Week Micro-Studies Pirates or Privateers: You Decide

What sets Once-a-Week Micro-Studies apart from the bigger Once-a-Week Unit Study is that these "micro" studies are designed to provide us a quick, but thorough, foundation in one of five offered topics.  There are no biblical devotional times as with the more detailed Once-a-Week Unit Study.  You also won't find the American Heritage Girls, Boy Scouts, nor Trail Life USA badge requirements with these Once-a-Week Micro-Studies, nor a long library list of required reading. 

Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}

The Once-a-Week Micro-Studies are created as digital ebooks and as such have many helpful internet links to enhance our learning.  With Pirates or Privateers: You Decide we are given fun links to websites for video clips, and maps, timelines and linked articles which all help to enhance our history study.

Pirates or Privateers: You Decide is a 22 page PDF that provides us with 4 weeks of history.  It is intended for landlubbing students in Grades 1 through 8.  All that's needed for the "Grab-N-Go" study are basic school supplies and one copy of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.

How We used the Micro-Study

In the first week of study we "set the stage" and learn the earliest recorded history of piracy.  We learn a bit of geography right along with the history.  A timeline is linked within the ebook for us to begin a timeline as a family, using the images provided for us in the unit study. 

We already had started a timeline last year so we opted to update our own timeline.  I do like that one is linked and provided for us for those that don't have a timeline started. 

I printed off the first week's pages to read on the go during a short family vacation, and I used the provided download link to print off the Spanish Galleon paper.  My two students (1st grade and 4th grade) read the printed pages together and my oldest finished off the labeling of the Galleon. 

Entering into week 2 we learn more history and language history as well as Good Queen Bess' role in the history of piracy.  (This was actually so timely as we were just finishing up learning about Queen Elizabeth I and my 1st grader just fell so in love with the Good Queen - so this section of pirate history happened to be especially fun and an easy learn for my 1st grader).

Two movies are suggested throughout this Micro-Study, and this second week's lesson prompts us with the first Family Movie Night.  These movies, to me, seem better suited for the higher grade range of this study, however, in the intro of this unit Sharon gives us several ideas to better suit a younger crowd.

Week 3 provides us with an additional Family Movie Night and games that pirates would have played!  One such game happens to be my 4th grader's favorite (checkers). 

History, Language Arts, and Music are the focus of this week.  We learned how the pirates became known as Buccaneers and a True/False section is provided for us to learn the difference between what pirates actually were like versus Hollywood's portrayal of them.

Week 4 we learned how pirates actually might have dressed.  We combined this suggested activity of dressing like a pirate with week 3's music lesson and had a little fun swabbing the decks to the tune of Shiver Me Timbers

In this final week we learn of government, and the Pirate Code (a lot of which actually shocked me!).  We also learned of current events and are linked to a short video clip of the American Navy pirate hunters.

Final Thoughts

The Once-a-Week Micro Studies are a great and engaging way to learn history.  No stuffy old and boring books here!  My eldest has enjoyed playing pirates for many years now and this micro-study has renewed his love of playing pirates - but now with a good solid history lesson under his belt scarf.

With Thanksgiving around the corner why not consider a fun history lesson with Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims?

To see additional reviews of Homeschool Legacy's Once-a-Week Micro-Studies click the banner below:


Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}
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Accountable2You {a review}

Accountability across all your devices {Accountable2You}
The world our children are growing up in is so starkly different than the world we grew up in.  This tech driven world grows every day and the challenges our youth face grow along with it.
Accountable2You offers our households Internet accountability with one of four available plans.  We chose to sign up with the Group Plan.  There is also a Family Plan, Individual Plan, and a Small Business Plan available.
What is Accountable2You?
Accountable2You is a software that, when installed on our devices, encourages purity and integrity within our households, small groups, or businesses.   This is done by providing an accountable partner, chosen by yourself, with comprehensive activity reports and instant texts for any questionable content.
What devices are supported?
Windows, iOS, Mac, Android, Chrome and Linux.  What kinds of reports are collected from each device varies depending on what you use.  When I first signed up for Accountable2You I found this provided graph very helpful to explain further:
As you can see by the image above, titles of web pages visited are provided in the reports across all platforms.  Android is the most covered for data reports, with iOS being the least.
More on Partners:
With the group plan each member can install the software on up to 6 devices.  Each device chosen has its own accountability partner, chosen by the user.  So for example, by own Windows OS I would choose my husband as my partner.  His Mac has me as the partner.  
Being a "partner" means that you will receive comprehensive daily, or weekly, reports about the device owners activities.  You will also receive an instant text for any highly questionable activity.
What is shown on the reports?
In general the repots show things like the title of a website you've visited, what folders, programs or apps you've opened (except for on i0S devices such as iPhone and iPad).   The reports will also show, if you chose so, where the device has been, if the device has GPS enabled. 

The "questionable" and "highly questionable" content is all chosen for you by Accountable2You.  As far as I can tell it is all "purity" related.  Purity of the body (think porn related) and of the mouth (like foul language). 
In total we installed Accountable2You software on 4 devices.  We installed software on each of our iPhones, my Windows computer, his Mac laptop, and the kids iPad. 
You can add your own questionable content, which is really useful if you have younger users that would be otherwise excluded from sexual sins.  So for example, I could add "Star Wars" as questionable - not because it is bad but maybe I'd like to be alerted if my kid gets side tracked onto YouTube when he's supposed to be doing his math.   Or maybe I have a shopping problem and I want to curb the habit.  I could add "Amazon" or "fluffy pink purse" to my questionable content so my partner can put a halt to my actions if I succumb to the temptation of online shopping.
We also found out, by accident, that if you remove the software your partner will be alerted right away via text.  That's good news if you do chose to be accountable for whatever reason, and then fall into temptation and want to be "sneaky" and remove the software to browse to your hearts content.  Your partner will still be alerted and can help you come to your senses again.  Or, in our case, we will realize that the Mac system turned off the software and we can turn it back on.
My husband just shuts his laptop when he is finished, and the software would prefer he turn off his laptop properly.  For the ones in red (when the software was turned off unexpectedly) I was texted.  The yellow "questionable" is just shown as an alert here, in the reports, so you can then investigate further and discuss with your partner or dismiss. 
App Usage is where we can see a break down of where time is spent.  This is great, in my mind, for kids or spouses that what to curb a gaming habit.  Or maybe curb how long you're on Facebook or just surfing in general.
Under the "Details" you can see the website titles, email subject lines and so on.  Nothing more.  No screen shots, personal information or keystrokes are recorded. 
More on how the Group Plan works:
Under the Group Plan each individual that is added can add up to 6 devices.  So say I am the "owner" of the account and I want my small group to do this together.  I'd invite Sally and Sally in turn installs the software on her chosen devices.  Sally, and her chosen partners are the only ones that see the reports for those devices, or receive alerts.  I'm essentially just the account manager.  Not the spy of my small group.   In other words, the others in the group retain their privacy.
As the primary account holder I handle the payments, the adding of users (via email) and the removing of users.  That's it.  We only see reports for our own devices or partners.
Some ideas for Group Plan:
  • Small Group
  • Youth Group
  • College/Career Church Group
  • Homeschool Group/Co-Op
  • Adult Siblings
Final Thoughts
If I could do this over I would chose for ourselves the Family Plan as opposed to the Group Plan.  For the Group Plan you really have to be sure that your friends truly want to be held accountable.  This isn't a program to force us to behave.  It's one to assist and encourage us in our integrity. 

The Group Plan can save money if you do have a group that wants to be accountable for their actions online.  My "group" plans fell through and we are basically working just as a family anyway, so I'd prefer the Family Plan where you can get all the accountability of the Group Plan, in addition to create child accounts and set time limits on devices. 
I do like this with the family in mind, with tech in the hands of most teens and even children.  Especially for the teen user of android this would be especially beneficial for helping your teen be accountable for his/her actions online, even via texting.
To see additional reviews of the Family Plan, Individual Plan, and a Small Business Plan click the banner below:
Accountability across all your devices {Accountable2You}
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