Review: Dig It! Games – Roman Town (iOS App)

Reviews here aren’t always about books and curriculum!! Today I’m reviewing a cool ios app – Roman Town. The Roman Town app is brought to us by Dig-It! Games and is one of two reviews the crew is doing this week. The other review is for another Dig-It! Games products the online game Mayan Mysteries.  To check out more reviews from other crew members on both games, click HERE or on the banner below.

Dig-It! Games Review

Dig It! Games Review

 

How does it work?

For this review I was provided a free download of the game,  Roman Town. The game normally retails for $0.99 on itunes. After updating my ios to ios 8 (I know, I know!! LOL!! I’m just not one for updating!) I easily downloaded the game. Once it was downloaded I turned my ipad over to my 14 year old all-things-ancient-history-lover.

 

Dig It! Games Review

Observations:

In simplest terms – Roman Town is a fun game for kids to learn about Roman History. While exploring Pompeii the players are tying to track down a thief. By solving puzzles embedded in the game the players uncover clues to capture the thief. Throughout the game are interesting facts and data about Roman history.  The graphics are great and the games a fun to play, so it makes learning history fun and engaging.

From a Mom perspective there were a couple things about the game I really liked. First, the game doesn’t require the internet once it’s downloaded. We fly a lot and I really dislike games that once you download them, (and they’re an app), you still need internet to play. This doesn’t – which was great when Little played it on a plane recently! Another thing I love – NO “friends”. Yes, my kids love app games that they can interface with friends. I do not. I am always worried about creepy people online, and this game is a stand alone so you don’t have to worry about that. I love that feature of this game! Educational, fun, and SAFE. I’m a fan!!

 

Dig It! Games Review

Some of the problems are critical thinking and logic games…

Dig It! Games Review

Others are more linked to the “Roman” theme like deciphering Roman Numerals.

Any bad parts?

Both of my kids really enjoyed this game. The one thing that was a detractor was that Big finished the game in about 2 hours. She’s not a huge gamer (she prefers cruising Pinterest to Minecraft, LOL!) but she’s great at puzzles and logic games. At 14 Big found the games and puzzles to be repetitive, so I think she may be above the age range for this game. Overall, she did enjoy playing Roman Town.

 

Summary:

This is a fun game that would be a great compliment to any elementary-aged student’s study of Rome. It’s engaging, the graphics are good, and the puzzles are fun without being frustrating. The historical information is interesting and well presented. With the recommendation of my kids, I think this would be good for kids aged about 7-10. My older kids weren’t challenged with the puzzles and games, so they felt it would be best suited for younger kids. They both also felt that Roman Town would be good for the younger crowd from a knowledge standpoint as well. My kids have a lot of Roman studies under their belts (and an unbelievable love for all things Horrible History) they didn’t feel they learned a lot about Rome. They did think it would have been a lot of fun when they were younger and both felt the game would be a hit with younger Rome lovers!

 

Social Media:

https://www.facebook.com/DigItGames

https://twitter.com/digitgames

https://www.youtube.com/user/digitgames

 

 

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Landry Academy – Week 1 – A (Pre)Review

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A hot topic on many homeschool support websites is often, “Who has used online classes?… What are they like?… Are they worth the money?” Classes online range from free to very expensive, and just about every price point in between. This year my kids are taking 3 classes online through Landry Academy.  This is a review (or really, a part of a review!) of our experience with the school and classes. These are my opinions. I wasn’t endorsed or paid or compensated in any way for this review.

 

What is it? How’s it work?

Landry Academy is an online “school” that offers classes for grades 4 through 12th. Each class meets for a 90 minute live session per week, with the video available for later viewing if your student with miss the live time. After the live session the students have assignments, chats, and other things that need to be completed throughout the week. I have no idea how make up work will be handled, since we’re only in Week 2, but I’ll share that later.

For registration, I bought a Black Friday special package last year.  Landry Academy offers online classes, live intensive classes (2 day lab experiences and other hands on classes like blacksmithing, welding, art, etc.), mission trips, summer camps, family camps and more and has frequent, SUPER AWESOME online sales. Last year I bought a package with 2 intensives and 4 generic (name your class later) semesters for around $600. It was a huge savings and it made the classes an EXCELLENT value. So far I’ve found the  Landry Academy interface – paying, registering, finding classes, etc to be super easy to work with and very intuitive.  I registered for the classes by turning in 3 generics around the middle of July (I think). Classes fill up fast so if you want to register – do so early.

As an aside, I’ve also registered Big for an intensive lab in the spring, but I think I am going to see if they’ll let me change it to something totally different. (My great plans of a lab intensive were foiled by a lab loving 14 year old… I’m hoping the kids can take a blacksmithing instead!) I’ll let you know how it goes. Every time I’ve had to contact someone for log on help, or a question, they’ve been awesome, so I assume a switch will be easy-peasy.

 

Before the Class Started:

As I mentioned in other posts about our school year, I have Big taking one  Landry Academy class, and Little is taking two. Before the classes started I received great information on books, requirements, supplies, start times, etc. The general communication has been great from each teacher. Links were provided for books, as well as information on buying used from other Landry parents. I did not feel the least but lost for information on how the classes would start.

With that, I want to share that the student interface for  Landry Academy is excellent. It has taken some time to get used to it, and each teacher can personalize their class site, so we’ve had a lot to learn. Learning curve notwithstanding, the system is EXCELLENT.

 

Class Start:

Now, this is a review of Week 1. I am writing this so new guys aren’t surprised and know what to expect. I am certain my opinions will change as we go through the semester! Please, take this as the views of a very new guy!

With the kids in 3 classes I have gotten to see the online advice I’ve read “the class depends on the teacher” play out pretty clearly.

With one teacher, the information has been more… fluid. The grading matrix changed the first week. No big deal. The requirements for an assignment changed mid week. OK, kid emails teacher and lets them know he finished early and can’t go back and recreate the process to photograph. No big deal (assuming the teacher is reasonable and accepts the work), but nerve racking for a online class newbie kid. The assignment requirement baffled the entire class – so the assignments were extended and everything clarified. Annoying. No big deal. We’ll chalk it up to the learning curve. Some of the requirements for the students really should have been in an appropriate doc and sent to students, but students are expected to recreate a couple fairly large pdfs in word – an hour or more of work if you’re good at formatting. Again, annoying, and in the end will be no big deal. Suffice it to say this class has had a VERY frustrating start for Little. With the changes, he spent about 4 hours Monday working through “new” (I would say “old, but poorly communicated”) expectations for the assignments he spent more than 4 hours on last week. It was overwhelming for him and the due date (since it was “last week’s work”) was really short so he had to battle through. This week seems to be better and we’re both getting our legs under us for this class.

The other two classes have started out much, much smoother. One was a little rocky in trying to decipher the assignments, but we searched every crevice of the online class portal and found out the system and  the needed information. It was easy to apply what we found, and Little is really enjoying the class.

Big’s class has been super smooth from Day 1 (but is academic and Little’s are electives, so that may be a part of it).

 

Lessons Learned So Far:

Since this is out first “live” online class (we’ve done Veritas Press self paced and BJU streaming for years) we’ve had a fairly steep learning curve. While I kind of wish we’d started with one class per kid, I think that might have been fatal for our  Landry Academy experience. Little’s two classes are balancing each other out in terms of workload, learning curve, and frustration. If he only had the harder one – he might have a really sour taste in his mouth (as would I!). But, with the other class he’s seeing that pushing through the hard parts is worth it and he’s enjoying his class. Big’s academic class is really smooth and she’s enjoying it. I wish the writing load were higher, but I’ll make up for it in the spring if it doesn’t pick up. 😉

These classes take a week or more to get used to the process. I think each class will get easier and easier to assimilate into the semester. The kids will know the format and the system (we’d never used dropbox before — we’re learning here!). I think with a lot of colleges moving in the direction of online classes, and teachers expecting more things to be turned in online that learning how online classes work and managing the interfaces is a great life tool.

Another HUGE plus I’m seeing with  Landry Academy is the kids learning to manage their own deadlines. There are A LOT of out of class assignments and deadlines. A lot. Chats and online discussions need to be attended. Work needs to be turned in. Right now I’m fairly involved in making sure stuff gets turned in, but I can see my role in that lessening even this week. I expect by the end of the semester the kids will manage it themselves (or at least Big will… Little might need more time since he’s younger). Landry has great Google calendar links, etc. so it’s fairly easy to manage. I can see how multiple classes on multiple days can get confusing!

And, though it’s a painful lesson, I am glad that Little’s class has been frustrating for him. He needs to learn that not all teachers are reasonable (not that his has been unreasonable – not at all!! – but he’s seeing that it CAN happen), dates change without warning, expectations shift, and things you thought might be easy can be frustrating and hard. My kids have not had to deal with that at all (this is their first outside teacher)- and this is a great, safe place for him to learn these lessons. He’s learning to be cheerful when it’s hard, and to redo work – a few times if need be – even when you don’t think you need to. He may get a failing grade in the class – but if he learns some really important life lessons – then I think the class will be money well spent. I hope some skinned knees here might be a valuable lesson for the future!

 

Where we stand:

We’re in Week 2. Big has had two classes, Little has had one class twice and one class meets tomorrow. I am overall VERY pleased with our first week. Te frustration of the learning curve is starting to wear off, we’re getting our bearings, and I’m very pleased with the classes  and Landry Academy. If the classes progress like I expect, then I am TOTALLY saving up some jack for more online generic semesters when they go on sale again!!

Bible Bee – The Nationals Update

After writing about our crazy start to this year’s FULL homeschool schedule, it’s likely not a surprise that today I’m sharing about how we’ve made the decision to drop out of the National Bible Bee.

We LOVE the Bible Bee. LOVE!! This was our third year participating and the Bee is definitely a high point of our summer. We love the study and the scripture memory. We love the challange. We LOVE the fellowship.

This year Big really wanted to “make the cut” and get to Nationals. Last year she missed the cut… by one question. Needless to say she was a little disappointed, and despite hard challenges and scheduling hurdles this summer – she worked really hard, studied hard, and made the cut!

She was thrilled!! We started attacking the nationals study list with vigor. She was doing really well.

Then, we got the final memory list. With the list we came to the realization that if she wanted to participate (and not really compete – mostly COMPLETE) she’d have some hard decisions to make. A co-op class would have to be dropped… and a 12 week break from TKD was needed… and the robotics team wouldn’t fit in this year. With those shelved for the fall, she’d still need to get up early and stay up late studying.

And let me say this really clearly – studying God’s Word is a GREAT thing. Memorizing God’s Word is a GREAT thing. We do both of those things as a regular part of our lives. Adding to that time is a GREAT thing.

But this year, for Big, dropping everything else would not be a benefit to her. Right now. This year. She’s less than a year from earning her black belt. She’s worked on this for YEARS. She’d likely have to end her TKD career as a don bo if she took the time off for the Bee this year. I think she would grieve not making it to black belt for a LONG, long time.

The chemistry class she’s taking feeds her love for science and the co-op will provide a much needed group of nice kids to hand out with. The robotics team is similarly a great fit for her. She needs those outlets this year. Dropping them would be counterproductive for her.

I know that every family is different and the paths God has for our kids are different. We are THRILLED to participate in the Bee and we’re already looking forward to next year. We’re excited to be able to pray for and encourage others taking the plunge and preparing for Nationals. It’s an AWESOME goal. To keep up our memory work Big and I set a goal to memorize 1 John before Nationals. We have loved our time doing memory work together to prepare for Nationals and we really want to keep that up – even without our heading to San Antonio. [Honestly, we’ve been SHOCKED at home much she can retain with just a little focus! I’m nervous to join her, but I think I can do it!] For us, this year, hiding 1 John in our hearts and seeking balance in the activities that Big participates in – that will be a fabulous Bible Bee win for our family!!

How about your family? Did the Bee challenge you in your walk with the Lord? Are you headed to Nationals? Can we pray for you!?

Week in Review – 21 August (but late…)

Last week was a wild ride – as you can tell by the fact that I am doing my Weekly Report on a Monday! With many of us slogging through the first few weeks of school and getting the balance of school and home in order, I’m sure you can commiserate with my feeling a little overwhelmed!

Last week was our first FULL week of school. By that I mean – all academics, all extra curricular activities, Bible Bee, everything.

It. was. nuts.

First thing Monday morning Little had his first online class with Landry Academy. We’d prepared, read up, tested all the gear… But there’s always a learning curve. The class went well, but I’ll be honest and say we struggled through the first week’s assignments and expectations. Some grading criteria changed mid week, we emailed the instructor and didn’t hear back, and it was generally a tough week trying to figure out what was due when and in what format. I think everyone struggled since this morning (Little is in class now) the instructor extended the deadlines and the kids need to resubmit everything. I’m sure a lot of our growing pains are due to lack of familiarity – but so far the online classes are FAR from hands off for me.

As hands off as I could get would be working on my coloring book…

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With the art class came some projects and I LOVE them. Little will learn a lot in this class, I am sure. So far I am… This is my fruit drawing…

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Little made a cube to display the 6 elements of design…

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And he completed a fruit drawing of his own outlining the 6 coloring techniques. He made about 6 drafts of this one. I am proud of him for sticking through until he had one he was proud of turning in!

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Big had one online class that was a little more straightforward – writing. It went well and I think the class will be a great fit for her. She also started her first co-op class, EVER. A friend of mine teaches at a local CC, and she’s offering chemistry this year. For a whole variety of reasons it’s a great choice for her, so with a carpool plan in place I’m hoping this class will work out well for her. We’re both anxious to see what the workload is (she’s already taking BJU Bio and we’re not dropping it!) and how the class time will impact our week. I’m very hopeful it will be a win.

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Later in the week Little had his online robotics class. More learning curve – for him and for me! I think this will be an AWESOME class, but we’ve got to get our feet under us! [As an aside, after spending more time reading through every page in his class profile, I think we’re making HUGE strides in learning the system for this class. Thankfully DH helped with some technical issues, and I think by tonight we’ll be much smoother sailing on this one. Thank you DH!!!]

Needless to say I was THRILLED when a couple of activities got cancelled at the end of the week. I was worn out. TKD was cancelled Thursday night, and I cancelled out of Bible Study (which I hated to do, but it worked out well for my friend), and robots Friday night was cancelled. It ended up being an AWESOME quiet Friday night after a run to Hobby Lobby for more art supplies (LOL!!) and other than a bunch of drops and picks from Nigel (my car) Saturday, it was pretty chilly too. It’s funny how this year’s “chill” was last year’s “NUTS!!!”.

I think the dog was even a little worn out.

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So that was last week.

This week – crazier. Week 4 of official schooling… 3 online classes… 1 co-op class… piano… piano lessons… robots daily if we can make it… scouts… scout trip… oh my…. there’s even more!!!

What’s on your schedule this week!?!?!

Linked at:
Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers: http://www.weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers.com/weekly-wrap-up-the-one-with-all-the-rain/

The Modest Mom Blog: http://www.themodestmomblog.com/2015/08/modest-monday-and-a-link-up-116/

Monday

Yesterday was a Monday.

A real one.

A MONDAY if you know what I mean.

 

This is our first week where we check to see if my normal fall-semester-school-year-plan, and all it’s moving parts, works. I was nervous to see if it would all work (and I still am… it’s only Tuesday!).

 

We started with a 6:45 wake up. I went for a walk and panicked that I had the online class time wrong for Little, so I went home and checked. 8. Good. Finished the walk.

 

Class for Little went well, except that every time I poked my head in to ask how it was I got a sad look and, “You just talked over the teacher and I missed something.” My bad. Big and I knocked out math, and then she went on to her work list.

 

Then Little needed to head to the orthodontist… It went fine. Except now the boy is in pain. And a little whiny. Understandably.  We had shakes for lunch. Well, brunch. And I made pizza for lunch. Even the dough…

 

…Except that while making said lunch I broke my FAVORITE mixer blade. I love you Amazon – the replacement will be here Wednesday. (If you don’t have one – the beater blade is AMAZING!!)

 

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More school…and discovering it was WARM… VERY warm.

Yeah, a/c is out. This is a minor issue in the Deep South in late August. Not really. It’s pretty huge. Thankfully, it was unseasonably cool and cloudy!! Praise God!! And, thankfully DH was where I could call him and he arranged for the a/c guys to come by. (Update – AC is fixed! YAY!)

 

Lunch…with Carl Azuz. It’s great to have him back!

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On to afternoon stuff… two scout events…a couple of longish drives…and my brilliant “leave my phone at home” maneuver. Nice.

With the end in sight (and a friend from scouts driving Little home) I decided to pick up dinner at a drive through. Another Monday fail. After waiting almost 20 minutes (really, I timed it), with no cars moving I left. Thankfully, there wasn’t anyone behind me and I could back out. So I went home and badge a mostly tasteless stir fry. It was pretty sad. Even my PF Chang knock off garlic snap peas weren’t very good.

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The night closed out with some bible memory… Next Food Network Star (go Eddie!)… and the kids orchestrating a great practical joke before I went to sleep (rotten stinks!).  Unfortunately, this Monday would not end (likely my late afternoon Coke didn’t help) and I feel asleep fitfully about 2… Ugh.

I am normally a lover of all things Monday, but today, I am SO thankful it’s Tuesday!!

5 Reasons Homeschooling Teens is AWESOME

It’s the time of year when all the kids are headed back to school. It’s exciting for everyone – though in talking with local friends many are a little trepidatious about teaching high schoolers at home. I TOTALLY get it. My oldest is a freshman this year. I have a tiny pinkie toe in the trenches of “homeschooling high schoolers”.

 

So, I am more writing this to the moms of younger kids who, when they look ahead, they get a little freaked out. They see these big, sometimes hairy, sometimes smelly, adult-looking people and worry. “I can’t do that!” resonates in their heads. “We’ll homeschool to middle school, and then send them to school for high school.” “I can’t do those upper level classes….”

 

Please, don’t make plans now for your kid’s future. Maybe a brick and mortar school is what they, and you, will need. But I beg you not to get yourself psyched out, get your hearts set on sending them to the local schools, or mentally draw any finish lines to homeschooling. I am here to share with you that teaching older kids is a JOY and … yup… it’s even more fun than nature walks and finger painting!

 

Older kids are way MORE INTERESTING to have discussions with! They have ideas and opinions. They can process both what they read, and the world around them, and on great days – scripture along with it all. It’s awesome. They become so much more interesting to teach when comprehension is about ideas and conclusions and connections more than, “John flew the plane where?”.  I’m at the stage now where I have to accept that my kids have their own ideas. My job is becoming more of a mentor, a guide, a partner – and it’s COOL!

Older kids are HELPFUL. Yes, you have to train them. (And for mine, I still have to check and make sure everything is being done.) But, they [can be trained to] have initiative. They help. They can mow lawns and do dishes and clean up after themselves. They can find things, and clean up their own school books, and if they lose stuff – they have to deal with it. I’m not saying make your kids martyrs. By no means. I am saying that art is FUN again. Baking is a JOY. The daily working of family life can be smooth with older kids.

Older kids are INDEPENDENT. Let me be frank here. I am not one to throw a pile of books at my kids and walk away. That’s not what I am saying. I am saying, that older kids can manage more. For example – this morning I needed to run to Walmart. We were out of TP in the master bath. THIS is an issue for me. And, Walmart is just awful unless it’s about 8 am… The kids had their lists and got to work while I was gone. They had reading, some online classwork, etc. I did math as soon as I got home. This isn’t a habit of mine – but when I need to go I go. Sure, some things are slower (and that may be the new year, too) but it’s not a huge deal to leave a worklist. They’re old enough now I expect (and inspect) that it will be done.

Older kids are FLEXIBLE. I know this isn’t true for every kid, but most older kids are much more flexible. My kids can work at a coffee shop – and actually get something done. They can read in the car – or on an airplane. They can do math later in the day when I can help if I’m busy in the morning. They can sleep in and be productive at night. They travel well. They can manage food and snacks themselves – and clean up. They’re just generally a whole lot easier to work with than little ones.

Older kid’s WORK IS MORE FUN. Ok, apple prints are cool. Teaching a kid to read – that’s a top 5 parenting moment. But EV3 robots… arduino building and programming… real art (with REAL supplies I can steal!)… Bible Bee memory work and Greek word studies… apologetics…geometry… aero… photography… graphic design…  THIS IS REALLY FUN!!! Math is much more fun when it’s algebra than teaching ling division (really).  The material with older kids is just a whole lot more interesting and engaging to teach and to walk alongside with them.

 

Please, Moms. Don’t freak out. Don’t stop homeschooling because you’re intimidated. Don’t make plans for the future on the basis of fear. Honestly, the water is fine over here. In fact, so far, it’s awesome. I fully realize there are likely sharks nearby (there are ALWAYS sharks in this parenting journey!), but I think we’ll be able to navigate these waters together!!

 

Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.

Proverbs 31:25

How about you? Do you love homeschooling teens – or do you have little ones and you’re still a little freaked out by future?