Monday, September 16, 2013

PeopleKeys - DISC Personality Style Assessment (Review)

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PeopleKeys is a worldwide leader in behavioral analysis.  The company offers a variety of tools that assist in answering the question, "Who are you?"  As a homeschooling parent, you are also most likely interested in having that question answered for each of your children.  You desire to understand their unique personalities, their motivators, and their struggles.  With such information in hand, you can better tailor your teaching to fit their individual needs. 

While several crew members reviewed items directly related to their children, I used a product that was outside the age range of the kiddos in my home.  So... it was Momma's turn to try something out!  Designed for students ages 13-Adult, I used the StudentKeys Online Personality Style Report (retails for $12). 
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Who are you? 
Discover who you are, what motivates you, how you communicate and what your strengths and limitations are.

The online assessment only entailed 15 questions.  For each question, four answers were provided. I then had to order the responses from most likely to least likely.  At the conclusion of the assessment, a report was generated for my immediate perusal and study. In addition, the report was also sent to my personal email address.

Because the product is online, there is no wait for product shipping or turn-around time for report generation.  Therefore, strategies and a plan can be put in place almost instantaneously.  In a fast-paced, need-to-know world, this is a huge draw for many people!  Unfortunately, based on the report, I received, I have to say the quick response time paled into comparison with the disappointment in the quality of the results. 

On the cover page of the report is my name and my personality style listed as REFORMER.  That's great!  I expected to scroll to the next page and immediately learn what a "reformer" is.  WRONG!  Actually, I didn't find that word mentioned again in the report. 

Pages 1-3 answered what are personality styles and why understanding them is important.  On page 4, under the title Your Personality Style, I read:  Angela's style is identified by the name "Communicator".  The remainder of this page proved to be the most helpful of the whole report.  It included paragraphs describing the personality of a communicator.  It touched on emotions, value to a team, and greatest fears.  It also identified things such as:  motivating goals, areas of influence, and areas for improvement. 

Pages 5-15 of the report are generic pages explaining the DISC Personality System.  Aside from a small sentence in the sidebar which said, "You are a primary "I" personality style." there was no other personalized information in the report.  While it did give a good overview of the DISC system, it was expected that the individual would decipher which information was pertinent to his/her own personality style.

In good conscience, I can't recommend this product.  Possibly, if you were utilizing the entire system offered, the results would be different because the DISC solution carries throughout.  However, as an individual piece, I did not find the personality styles aspect to be a strong product compared with the other tools available on the market.  In the past, I've taken much more detailed and thorough personality style assessments and have walked away with a better understanding of how I operate day to day and under stress as well as know my strengths and weaknesses.  The small time investment and quick return of the StudentKeys Online Personality Style Report are appealing, but the quality of the report is greatly lacking. 

Of course, experiences differ, so I encourage you to click below and read what other Schoolhouse Review Crew members are saying.  You will also be able to read reviews of the other products PeopleKeys has to offer.  



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Friday, September 6, 2013

A Child's Geography Vol. 3 (Review, Giveaway, & MEGA-GIVEAWAY!)

Maps, timelines, biographies, apps, history and geography texts - Knowledge Quest is a one stop shop!  This wonderful company is well-known for quality materials.  Most recently, my family was blessed to review A Child's Geography Volume III:  Explore the Classical World.

Author:  Terri Johnson
Price of Physical Product:  $34.95
Price of e-book:  $24.95
Age Range: Grades 1-6
Within the book's 224 pages, your family will embark on an amazing journey through The Classical World.  There are 15 chapters loaded with interesting text and stunning photographs.  Readers explore 12 countries all located around the Mediterranean Sea: Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Servia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, San Marino, the Vatican, and Malta. 
If this is unfamiliar territory, fear not.  You will not have to play tour guide or expert historian for your children.  Author, Terri Johnson, writes in a wonderful, conversational voice and speaks directly to the elementary student.  This truly is a LIVING book!  Literally, it is as if she is holding your children's hands and leading them through the country.  She is kind enough to make note of the terrain, introduce the local people, share important history, make cultural connections, and show the traveler a good time. 
While the reading is entertaining, there are measures to ensure that children are learning and retaining the new information.  New terminology is boldfaced and have pronunciations.  Full definitions can be found in the extensive glossary.  Throughout the text, there are suggestions for narration.  This allows Mom & Dad to check for understanding.  There are also opportunities to respond to questions and prompts in a field guide/journal.   
Additionally, there are extra activities are located on the CD-ROM in the back of your book or separate files if using the e-book format.  These goodies include: chapter timelines, suggestions for map labeling, hands-on activities, crafts, and recipes, recommended reading lists, and a prayer guide. 
Being that we had not started our formal school year at the beginning of our review period, I opted for us to use this resource in a very relaxed manner.  We read the text together and discussed our reading.  We've been doing a lot of traveling as of late, so the ease of the e-book format proved to be a tremendous help to us.  After working through the first few chapters, we each have our favorite features:
  • Jeremiah - pictures of the houses and buildings
  • Caleb - the frequent mentions and pictures of native wildlife
  • Rachel - even though we didn't tackle any recipes on our own, my little "foodie" loves learning about the various cuisine
  • Mom - the prayer guide
Honestly, I've been dubbed "geographically challenged" and history was never my favorite subject in school.  However, even I found this study interesting.  I appreciated that the material was presented from a Christian worldview, and the inclusion of the optional prayer guide was by far my favorite thing.  After reading the chapters together in the book, I could then reference the prayer guide and share with the children specific ways we could pray for the now familiar people and places. 
Our family has enjoyed our journey through the Classical World together as we turned finger swiped each digital page.  I anticipate more great times of exploration as we complete this curriculum.  As the busy summer comes to a close and we look to get settled after another move, I look forward to digging deeper into the remaining chapters and many "extras" included with this book. 
Are you now considering some geography study/world travel for your homeschool family?  As always, before purchasing, I encourage you to try the product with your family to ensure it will fit your homeschool style and needs.  Knowledge Quest commendably allows you to download chapters 1-3 completely free.  This is a wonderful sampling, and you will get a good feel for the layout and tone of the entire book.  
Knowledge Quest is generously offering a free digital edition of A Child's Geography Volume III:  Explore the Classical World to one of my readers!  Yippee!!!  Enter below and you can enjoy this wonderful resource with your family.

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As if the A Child's Geography Volume III:  Explore the Classical World giveaway wasn't fabulous enough, Knowledge Quest is hosting a MEGA-Homeschool Giveaway valued at $650+.  You don't want to miss out on the opportunity to win.  Enter below!

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Homeschool Spanish Academy (Review)

 photo shield120x160_zps644d7b08.pngHomeschool Spanish Academy is a one-on-one program.  With siblings around, even in homeschool, this type of instruction is a luxury.  You definitely can't beat that student/teacher ratio!!! 

With the aide of a high speed internet connection, web cam, and Skype, the student and native-Spanish speaking teacher are able to connect.  During the review period, Caleb participated in the Early Language Program designed for students as young as 5 through 12 years of age.  The recommended starting age just happens to be 7, so Caleb fit the bill perfectly for this review. 

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I was a bit nervous about this review product, because we have never utilized such a program in our homeschool.  Prior to Caleb's first class session, a technician called to ensure that our operating system, Internet speed, and technology were all set up properly.  I appreciated this service because once completed I had no fear that Caleb's sessions would run smoothly on the techie side of things.  Other services that impressed me were the reminders sent 24 hours prior to the scheduled lessons, and the ease in scheduling classes. 

Classes can be scheduled to be taken either once or twice a week.  Based on our busy summer schedule, we opted to have classes once a week.  It was easy for me to schedule Caleb's classes online.  On one occasion, I ended up needing to cancel a scheduled class.  Again, the process was very simple.

The Middle School, High School and Adult class sessions last 50 minutes.  On the contrary the Early Language Program classes are only 25 minutes in duration.  In my opinion, the shorter class period is wise.  It is definitely more age and developmentally appropriate.  If the class was any longer, Caleb would lose focus.  He also couldn't input and retain any more information than the 25 minutes allows.  The shorter class period is definitely optimal for the younger age group.  It makes language learning meaningful and manageable.

To begin each lesson, Caleb's instructor would message via Skype to see if we were ready to begin.  When I would reply and give her the go ahead, she would video call.  Caleb worked primarily with Luisa who was actually located in Antigua, Guatemala.  (Seriously - how cool is that!)  Caleb was pretty impressed that he was speaking with someone in Guatemala because Papaw and Daddy have both been there on mission trips.  He made sure to wear his latest souvenir Guatemala t-shirt during one of his class sessions.

Not only is Luisa a native Spanish speaker, but she is an experienced teacher.  From the very first class, she always spent the first few minutes chatting with him to make him feel comfortable.  She asked questions about his favorite things, what he had been doing, etc.  She would ask him questions from prior weeks and review.  When presenting new material, she would actually turn her video feed off and she would use illustrated visuals on the screen.  This is a great combination that works well for audio and visual learners. 

The Homeschool Spanish Academy teachers move at the pace of the individual learner.  For example, Caleb seemed to move quickly through the first couple lessons learning the Spanish vowels and alphabet.  Spelling his name and the names of others was something he grasped quickly.  A little funny... Luisa asked him to spell his Mom's name in Spanish... he rattled off the Spanish letters for M-O-M.  Possibly confused, she asked him to spell it in English.  Again, M-O-M.  Ha!  It took some explanation on her part and awhile for him to grasp that she wanted him to spell my first name.  It was cute!  I'm glad I'll always be M-O-M to my little guy.

Caleb struggled some and needed more time when he began working on formal greetings and conversation.  The good morning, good afternoon, and good evening phrases really seemed to throw him for some reason.  To reinforce the Spanish learned during his classes, review homework was emailed to be studied between class sessions.  This sheet made it much easier for me to assist Caleb and practice with him - especially the trickier phrases that caused him the most trouble.

My only complaint regarding the Homeschool Spanish Academy class sessions was the sound.  Because the teachers are operating out of a call center, there was a lot of background noise at times.  Other teachers (probably sitting in the neighboring cubicle) could be heard conducting classes.  Most of the time, the conversations were faint, but other times they were rather loud and distracting.  For an easily distracted 7 year old boy, this did prove to be a challenge on occasion.  I sat in the floor beside Caleb, so often, I'd be repeating the teacher in a whisper to help him out. 

With the onset of the new school year, scheduling Caleb's remaining classes became difficult.  It seems that Homeschool Spanish Academy is booming!  When questioned about the scheduling issues, HSA responded with two encouraging tidbits.  1) More teachers are being hired. Yay!  2)  Trying other instructors is actual highly encouraged (up to 3 instructors).  

I was very interested to learn that HSA recommends using various teachers because the students can benefit from experiencing varied teaching styles and different accents.  This is all possible because of the very detailed notes that the teachers keep regarding each session.  These notes are always reviewed prior to the student's next class whether it is by the regular teacher or another.  If for some reason there are questions regarding the notes or the student, the instructors operate from the same call center and can quickly share information with one another.

Because Homeschool Spanish Academy offers programs for early learners, middle and high school students and adults, the prices vary.  For the  Early Learner course that Caleb used, it costs $59.99 for half a semester (7 weeks/1 time a week).  See other pricing options below.
One-On-One Pricing

If considering Homeschool Spanish Academy, I encourage you to consider a free trial session for your child.  Also, be sure and read the reviews of other Schoolhouse Review Crew members by clicking the button below.  You'll find information about all of the Spanish programs HSA offers. 


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