Wednesday, April 20, 2011

TOS Review: Nutrition 101

ONE DAY ONLY:  Tomorrow, April 21, The Old Schoolhouse is hosting a webinar with Sera Johnson, one of the authors of Nutrition 101.  This webinar will take place at 4:00 p.m. EDT.

Okay, I'll admit it: When I learned that I was chosen to be one of the reviewers for Growing Healthy Homes' Nutrition 101, I was 60% excited and 40% curious.  Or maybe it was the other way around.  I'd heard good things from several people about this health and nutrition curriculum, and I was excited to see it for myself.  But I'm also a HUGE supporter of the Real Food/Weston A. Price movement, and after over a decade of studying nutrition, I have some very firm beliefs about it.  I was super-curious to see whether Nutrition 101 would fit those beliefs.

Growing Healthy Homes was started in 2007 "to educate and train families regarding God's plan to optimum health as outlined in the Bible."  The product I received, Nutrition 101: Choose Life!, is a three-in-one family nutrition and health program for all ages that presents the major body systems, how they function, their common health issues, the benefits of good food and the consequences of bad food.

The book is divided into 6 units:

  • The Brain and Nervous System
  • Digestion and Elimination
  • Respiration and Olfactory
  • Muscular and Skeletal Systems
  • Cardiovascular and Immune Systems
  • Endocrine System and Emotions.

  • This book is well-researched, very in-depth and a fantastic study of the way the human body works and how the food we eat can help or hurt us.  Each unit is divided into small, easy-to-digest (pun totally intended) sections with Bible references, excellent illustrations, discussion questions and activities.  There are also art projects, science projects, and yummy, "hands-on" recipes.  As a whole, it's a fantastic tool for anyone who wants to give their children a Biblical, healthy understanding of nutrition.  Not only that, but the book is flexible enough that you could use it with pre-schoolers, or assign it for high school credit.  Truly a great resource for any homeschool!

    *I* (and I stress this, because I have to say that I'm probably the pickiest person I know when it comes to what really is nutritious and what isn't) did not agree with some of the authors' beliefs.  Specifically, I disagree with their take on nutritious fats, and how much fat is necessary.  They say a little, mostly the "good" oils like coconut and olive oil.  I say we - and especially our children - need a LOT of fat (upwards of 50% of our daily calories) and that much, if not most, of it should come from saturated fats, especially animal fats (though I agree on the coconut oil, depending on the type and source).  I was also sad to see no mention at all of soaking or sprouting grains, the health benefits of raw dairy (and conversely the health hazards of pasteurized dairy), and a heavy emphasis on the veggies.  And, I was actually annoyed at their choice to push "raw, blue agave nectar" as their sweetener of choice.  That's probably an argument better suited for a whole other post, but suffice it to say that even the "raw blue" agave is still highly processed, and the liver has to process this sweetener the same way it has to process high fructose corn syrup - it is NOT a healthy alternative to refined white sugar.  Yet the book had at least 25 recipes using it!

    However, even with those reservations, the Nutrition 101 course is so full of good info, and so-well organized and laid out, that I will continue to teach it to my children, adding in the things I listed above as we get to them.  And that's just another great thing about this course - you can add/remove/change things that you may personally feel need to be added/removed/changed without having to go out and try to find something completely different.  The overall information presented is very sound, both Biblically and nutritionally.

    You can check out more about the course by watching this video:

    You can also check out a free excerpt of the book yourself.

    The course is available on CD (e-book format) for $79.95, as a gorgeous, full-color book for $99.95, or a combo pack for $129.95.  My preference would be the combo pack.  It's nice to have the book in hands to read aloud from, flip through and have as a handy reference, but also great to have the e-book format so you can print single pages when needed.

    Want to see what the other crew members thought about Nutrition 101?  Check out their reviews here.

    Disclaimer: As a member of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received a complimentary e-book copy of Nutrition 101: Choose Life! in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased review. No other compensation was received.

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    TOS Review: Go Go Kabongo

    I have to admit, even though I have two kids who are not yet completely fluent in reading, my first reaction to Go Go Kabongo was "Another reading game?"  (Don't worry, I kept that one to myself!).  The girls were both super-excited to get yet another online game they "have" to play, as computer time is usually very limited in our house.  I can't tell you how often I heard "Can I play my Go Go Kabongo?", but it was many times, daily.  The other thing I heard, from my older boys, was "I don't think they're doing what they're supposed to do on there; every time I see them using Go Go Kabongo, they're playing a game."

    Well, surprise, boys!  That's the way Go Go Kabongo works.  It looks like a game, but it's actually teaching essential reading skills.


    From the website: What does GO GO KABONGO! teach? Kabongo games do not teach with “right” and “wrong” answers. Instead, they guide children toward better thinking by using an exciting, engaging game design. Children use a wide variety of critical-thinking and problem-solving strategies to play and progress, including these skills that are essential for reading:

  • Attention and focus: Children must be able to focus on important clues and rule out other distracting factors in order to become efficient readers.
  • Working Memory: Children must be able to keep information in their short-term memories long enough to make sense of a word, sentence, or paragraph. For example, repeating ideas back to themselves can help kids remember and make sense of key messages.
  • Processing: Children use different “processing” techniques to derive meaning from what they see and hear.

  • Successive processing: In order to decode words effectively, children have to remember the letter sounds in order and assemble them into a whole. The same is true with words and sentences.

  • Simultaneous processing: As readers advance, they move more quickly through words and passages, “reducing” and organizing the information to make sense of it faster. For example, they begin to recognize certain words, taking each one in as a whole instead of letter by letter. Or, they repeat back the essence of a paragraph, culling out the less important ideas and focusing on the most important concepts.

  • Visualization: When children are presented with more information than they can easily remember, creating a mental picture often helps them process what is being described.
  • Planning: Fluent readers take many factors into account each time they read. They use what they know about individual letters and words, their context in the passage, and their relationship to outside experiences. As children learn to read, they evaluate and apply various strategies, developing planning skills for future learning.
  • Comprehension: All of the skills and strategies above support a child’s ability to derive meaning from what he or she reads. Good comprehension is essential to all kinds of learning, from language arts to science, social studies and more.

  • This chart explains best how each game focuses on specific skills:

    Go Go Kabongo is separated into 3 different "habitats": Twister Top, Galaxy Garden and Laughter Lake.  You can see that each habitat has three different activities and each activity focuses on different skills.  I can tell you from experience with a 5 year old and a 7 year old, that neither of them ever thought they were learning anything, but I knew.  Not just from the way that their honed skills came across in other learning that we're doing, but also from the progress reports Go Go Kabongo was sending me.  I even knew when they weren't using the program, because I'd get a "we haven't seen Kaitlyn in a while" e-mail.  

    I really appreciated the updates.  I also appreciated that it was more than just a quick "this is what Kaitlyn is doing."  Each e-mail explained what each child had done, and what skills that activity was helping them with.  It also suggested activities that I could do, outside of the computer games, to help enhance and reinforce those skills.  I could also go online and view a more detailed progress report, using my parent account.

    Go Go Kabongo is FREE for the first habitat (Laughter Lake), and right now when you sign up you can also get the second habitat (Galaxy Garden) FREE.  The final habitat (Twister Top) is a one-time fee of $4.95.  A fantastic deal for lots of skills practice.  Go Go Kabongo is geared toward kids ages 4-7.  

    I liked this addition to our homeschool.  It could be used for a short span each day, but give the girls a little skills boost to help with their reading.  The games seemed to be well-rounded (if a little childish, but hey, they're geared toward kids!) and simple enough for my youngest to understand.  They don't place arbitrary time limits on the kids, so even a child who is still getting used to the computer can play the games.  And the price is unbeatable!

    Want to see what other TOS Crew members thought about Go Go Kabongo?  Check out their reviews here.

    Disclaimer: As a member of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received two complimentary memberships to all 3 habitats of Go Go Kabongo in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased review. No other compensation was received.

    Sunday, April 3, 2011

    TOS Review: Zeezok's ZGuide To The Movies - Mr. Smith Goes To Washington

    Although I consider myself 2nd generation homeschooler, I did briefly attend public schools during my formative years.  There was a short spurt during 1st and 2nd grade, another for part of 5th and 6th grade and a final attempt for my freshman year of high school.  It was during that last foray that I was forced to sit through the movie Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.  I say forced, not because it was a bad movie, or because I didn't want to watch it, but rather because that's how I remember the experience as described by my friends who were in that same government class.  We were given adequate warning of the days on which we'd be watching the movie, and assignments to prepare for it.  And in the intervening days between when we'd been made aware of the upcoming viewing and actually watching it, I listened to all sorts of complaints and gripes about how we were being "forced" to watch a "stupid black and white, pointless movie".  As much as I pretended to have my own opinions back in those days, I can safely say that I jumped right in with the complaining, even though I found myself actually enjoying the movie when we did watch it.

    But this isn't a commentary on how easily persuaded I was to follow the crowd when I was 14 years old.  It's a review, and an admission of how much I've learned since then.

    I have to admit, I was actually excited to watch Mr. Smith Goes To Washington again, this time with my 14 year old, and with the added benefit of Zeezok's ZGuide To The Movies to enrich both our experiences.

    Here's a little bit about the ZGuides in general, from Zeezok:
    Each ZGuide contains a topic overview, movie synopsis, and ten learning activities for an in-depth study of the film. The topic overview puts the film in historical context, giving a student with no prior knowledge of the topic important background information. The one-page movie synopsis provides a more detailed explanation of the movie’s storyline than typically found on the back cover of the video case or on movie review websites. While watching the film the first time through, students answer the movie review questions. This assignment forces the viewer to become an active learner rather than a passive observer. Nine additional activities provide interdisciplinary educational opportunities built around the movie’s themes. Certain activities require the student to use outside resources (library, internet, etc.) to learn more about the topic. Several of the guides contain related memorization selections, combined with a public performance option, to develop the student’s mental powers and public speaking abilities. Creative and critical writing assignments nurture the student’s confidence in putting their thoughts on paper. Every guide contains a “hands-on” activity for the kinesthetic learner, designed to develop the student’s artistic talents. The “Worldview Activity” goes to the heart of critical thinking by asking the student to evaluate the actors’ attitudes and actions. “The Filmmaker’s Art” activity focuses on movie-making techniques and their effect on the viewer. Parents and siblings can contribute their thoughts with the “For Family Discussion” section at the end of each guide. Many of these discussion questions relate to moral or philosophical dilemmas present in the movie.
    The goal of the is not just supplemental educational activities for specific historical topics, but to also teach the viewer to think critically.
    I'm a very strong believer in watching movies as an active learner, rather than a passive viewer!  As a Communications major in college, I learned how important it is to not just allow yourself to be mindlessly entertained (as I admit, I did when I watched Mr Smith Goes To Washington when I was in high school), but to understand the ideas and worldview that the filmmaker is trying to persuade the viewer to agree with.  We've always taught our children that TV and movies are not ever "just entertainment" - that everything they view, from a sitcom to a commercial to a full-length movie, is trying to change their worldview.  As a family, we try to watch things together so that we can discuss them afterwards, and help our children ferret out those truths.

    I loved the ZGuide's approach to this.  As I said, I used it with my 14 year old son, though my younger children (ages 11, 7 and 5) all watched the movie with us and participated in some of the discussion and activities.  Even though the level of this particular movie is above the ages of most of my children, it addresses a topic that we're currently studying (US government).  I was very excited to see that the ZGuide offered several activities that were directly in line with what we were learning about (Activity 2 was all about filibusters; Activity 4 was a quiz about the steps for a bill to become a law).  In short, the movie and the ZGuide were a fantastic supplement to our current study of government.

    Overall, I found the ZGuide to be an excellent addition to our homeschool.  I plan to purchase about 1 ZGuide a month to use with various movies so we can continue these great discussions, and hopefully teach our children an even greater understanding of how to step outside a movie and see it for what it's trying to persuade you to.  My biggest hope would be that after using the ZGuides for a while, they learn to start asking the questions themselves.  I believe that the ZGuides would also be an excellent place to start for adults as well, especially if you aren't used to asking questions of the media you view.

    Currently Zeezok offers 28 ZGuides, for movies like One Night With The King, The Ten Commandments, Driving Miss Daisy, and Flyboys.  Many, if not all, of the movies the ZGuides are available for, can be watched using the Netflix streaming program, which many people have access to.  If you do not have Netflix, many movies can be found at your local library as well.  As a last resort, Zeezok also offers the movies themselves, which can be purchased along with the ZGuide.

    ZGuides are available on either e-books or on CDs, for $12.99 each. If you're interested in what other reviewers have to say about the ZGuides they used, check out their reviews here.

    As a funny (strange, not "ha, ha") aside, I'll admit that as I was walking through the exhibitor hall at the Cincinnati Homeschool Convention yesterday (Saturday, April 2nd), I came across the Zeezok booth and noticed their ZGuides.  And I thought to myself, "I wonder when that review is due?" only to come home that evening and discover that I'd somehow forgotten to put it on my calendar, and it was indeed due April 1st.  Hence, the slightly late review.  My apologies to TOS and Zeezok!

    Disclaimer: As a member of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received two complimentary ZGuide (e-book) for Mr. Smith Goes To Washington in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased review. No other compensation was received.