When I first began reviewing for the Schoolhouse Review Crew about six and a half years ago there was no such thing as the Blue Ribbon Awards. Now they are a big thing for the crew and the vendors that produce the great products that the crew reviews. Let me explain how the Schoolhouse Review crew works.
The Schoolhouse Review Crew is made up of 200 bloggers that have established blogs with a dedicated following, are homeschoolers, and can write a quality review. We also have to be willing to test out new homeschool curriculum and other products for a six week period. For example, if we were given a math product to review that may mean that we have to either set aside our regular math curriculum or use the new math product alongside our regular curriculum and use them both together. After using the product for six weeks we write our reviews, post them on our blogs, link them to crew blog and then share them on social media. Since there are 200 Schoolhouse Review Crew members that have 100’s and sometimes 1000’s of followers each, then potentially 10s of thousands of people could be reached and read these product reviews. The more exposure the products get, the happier the homeschool curriculum companies are.
It really is a win/win situation all the way around. The vendors get exposure and the bloggers are sent some great curriculum that they otherwise would probably not purchase on their own.
One of the pleasures of being on the Schoolhouse Review Crew is getting to vote on our favorite products at the end of the crew year. This is a big thing for the crew members and a big honor for the vendors if they are chosen. As Schoolhouse Review Crew members, we do not take lightly our jobs of voting for these awards. Because the crew members like to have the holidays off to enjoy them with their families without having to worry about crew responsibilities, the crew year starts in January and ends in November. Therefore, we just got done voting on our favorites for the year.
Let me tell you, whenever I go through the process of thinking about and evaluating all of the products we have received for the year I always get emotional. God always knows what we need when we need it. I remember the times of sitting down with my children and trying out great curriculum with them. I remember the supplemental materials that we received that made our learning that much richer. I remember the breakthroughs that happened when we finally found something that worked with that child that was struggling in a particular subject. I remember the fun products, the challenging products and the products that might not have worked for our family but might be a blessing to another family with a different set of learning difficulties.
At the bottom of this post is the list of the products that the Schoolhouse Review Crew awarded with the 2015 Blue Ribbon Awards. First however, I wanted to list our favorites for the year and tell you why. Don’t worry, I don’t have nearly as many categories as the actual Blue Ribbon Awards. In fact, I really only have two - what I liked, and the kids top choice. So, without further adieu, here are the Tinkel Blue Ribbon choices followed by the actual Blue Ribbon Award winners.
(not in any order)
ASD Reading – ASD stands for Autism Spectrum Disorder so ASD Reading was developed for kids on the Autism Spectrum. The developers are the folks that created Reading Kingdom and ASD Reading is similar but not exactly the same. Jacob is developmentally delayed and we have been having a difficult time getting him to read so I decided to try this with him. He loved it and, before we knew it, he was actually reading! The other day I picked up the phonics reading book we were using with him before starting ASD Reading and he was able to read stories from the middle of the book where as just a couple of months ago it was a chore for him to sound out the words at the beginning. This, alone, makes ASD Reading deserve an award in my book! Click on the highlighted name above to get to ASD Reading’s website and click here to read my full review on this great program.
YWAM Publishing – YWAM stands for Youth With A Mission and they do excellent mission work all over the world, but they also have a fantastic publishing arm that publishes Christian biographies and unit studies of historical figures, missionaries and famous people from around the world. We were given a biography and unit study of Mary Slessor, a Scottish missionary that went to Africa in the 1800’s to serve in very dangerous sections of Calabar. I wasn’t sure how my children would do with a biography, but I used it as a read aloud with them and they absolutely fell in love with the book and we had so much fun with the unit study that it prompted me to develop my own history curriculum using great biographies this year. YWAM Publishing has great material. To find out more about them click on the highlighted text above. To read my full review on YWAM Publishing click here.
With Lee In Virginia – I really like G.A. Henty. He has become one of my favorite historical authors and John Allen loves him as well, so we were thrilled to get the audio production of one of Henty’s books, With Lee In Virginia, from Heirloom Audio Productions. However, I was wondering how the two youngest would do with listening to it. G.A. Henty can get a little deep for very young kids so I wasn’t sure if Jacob, especially, would get bored. I had nothing to fear. Heirloom Audio Productions does a first class job with their audio dramas. I mentioned in my review that I used to work at Walt Disney World and this recording reminded me of something that Disney would do. It is absolutely fantastic and my kids were enthralled. We listened to it on our way to Canada and they liked it so much that we ordered another Heirloom Audio Production drama of another Henty book to listen to on the way home. And . . . shhhhhh . . . don’t tell them, but I’m thinking about ordering yet another one for them to listen to on our holiday travels. To read my full review on With Lee In Virginia click here. To find out how to purchase With Lee In Virginia click on the name above.
Progeny Press – Progeny Press was another literature unit study company that we had the opportunity of reviewing this year but it wasn’t a study of a biography, it was a study of the novel Sarah, Plain and Tall. This was another one of those books that I wasn’t sure that Jacob and Joshua would like and, since the unit study was different than the unit study listed above, I wasn’t sure how they would do with it either. Again, I had nothing to worry about. They absolutely loved the book and the study. It was exciting to see their eyes light up when reading an excellent piece of literature and doing a study on it. The absorption of the book and the Progeny Press unit study was another reason I decided to scrap the boring history text book and use good novels and biographies to teach history this year. Again, to find out more about Progeny Press, click on the highlighted name above, and to read my full review click here.
Institute for Excellence in Writing – The Institute for Excellence in Writing is last on my personal favorites but it certainly isn’t least. We actually got to review several different products from IEW this year during two different review periods and we were blessed by them all. The first was one of IEW’s great writing curriculums. John Allen had used one a few years ago and it really helped him, but now it was Joshua’s turn. I selected an easier one for Joshua because he’s not quite at the stage John Allen was when he used it. Still, I wasn’t sure if Joshua could handle this fun but challenging course. He did great with it. We have put it aside while we review other things, but are definitely going to pick it back up and continue to use. Click herefor that full review.
The second time we reviewed IEW we were given three products to review. One, was a book and DVD on using games in your homeschool, another was a very unique thesaurus that really isn’t a thesaurus at all, and the third is a fantastic timeline of great historical books to be used for history. Wasn’t that last one timely since, as I’ve mentioned a time or two before, I am developing our own history curriculum this year? All three have been great additions to our homeschool. Click here to read my full review on these resources and click on the Institute for Excellence in Writing name above to find out more about all of IEW’s great products.
All Around Tinkel Favorite
Finally we come to the family's all around favorite this year. When I sat the boys down to talk this over with them I expected them to say one of the unit studies or one of the audio books that we have reviewed. I was somewhat surprised as to what their top choice was. All of them unanimously said the same math program – CTC Math!
CTC Math – is a program that is actually out of Australia and my boys absolutely love it and have advanced leaps and bounds in math already this year. All three of them are enrolled in it as it covers kindergarten through high school. The boys watch a short video that explains a math concept and then they do an online worksheet that covers that concept. They love the gentleman who humorously but excellently explains the concept, and they love doing the worksheets and earning certificates when they do well. This is an all time keeper for us. We have pretty much scrapped our other math curriculums and are solely using this. Click on the name above to find out more about it and, of course, click here to get to my full review of CTC Math.
Well, those were the Tinkel Family favorites for this year. There were some other crew members that blogged about their personal favorites as well. You can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below.
So, you’ve read the Tinkel Family favorites for 2015 but who were the actual winners. Here they are - the all around Schoolhouse Review Crew 2015 Blue Ribbon Award Winners. Click on the highlighted links to find out more about each product.
Favorite Reading Curriculum: Reading Kingdom
Favorite Writing Curriculum: Institute for Excellence in Writing
Favorite Vocabulary Program: Dynamic Literacy
Favorite Spelling Program: Institute for Excellence in Writing: Phonetic Zoo
Favorite Grammar Program: Institute for Excellence in Writing: Fix-It! Grammar
Favorite Penmanship Program: CursiveLogic
Favorite Literature Curriculum: Progeny Press
Favorite History Curriculum: Home School in the Woods
Favorite History Supplement: Heirloom Audio Productions: In Freedom's Cause
Favorite Science Curriculum: Visual Learning Systems
Favorite Science Supplement: Ann McCallum Books: Eat Your Science Homework
Favorite Math Curriculum: CTC Math
Favorite Math Supplement: SimplyFun
Favorite Christian Education Curriculum: Grapevine Studies
Favorite Christian Education Supplement: Brinkman Adventures
Favorite Foreign Language Curriculum: Middlebury Interactive Language
Favorite Fine Arts Product: Maestro Classics
Favorite Elective Curriculum: Apologia Educational Ministries: Field Trip Journal
Favorite Audio Drama: Brinkman Adventures
Favorite Video: FishFlix.com
Favorite Preschool Product: La La Logic
Favorite Elementary Product: Star Toaster
Favorite Middle School Product: The Critical Thinking Co
Favorite High School Product: Writing with Sharon Watson
Favorite College or College-Prep Product: Freedom Project Education
Favorite Parent Product: Koru Naturals
Favorite Planning Product: Apologia Educational Ministries: The Ultimate Homeschool Planner
Best Resource I Didn't Know I Needed: Homeschool Planet
Best Online Resource: Super Teacher Worksheets
Best e-Product: Home School in the Woods
Just for Fun: USAopoly
Kids' Choice: La La Logic
Teens' Choice: YWAM Publishing
All Around Crew Favorite: Institute for Excellence in Writing