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MasterBooks Applied Engineering Review

When in your homeschool do you teach engineering, anyway? How about junior high? With the right curriculum and engaging material, young students can build an appreciation of God’s creation and it’s application to modern design.

Applied Engineering:

Studies of God’s Design in Nature

Science students love and learn from.MasterBooks provides a unique curriculum for junior high science. This simple course offers a wealth of information students will enjoy.

The complete curriculum comes in four books: a consumable Parent Lesson Planner, Discovery of Design, Made in Heaven, and Champions of Invention.

The Parent Lesson Planner is the heart of the course. It begins with a brief instruction on how to use the full-year program. Next follows the planner, which gives daily assignments with a box for the student to check completion and a place for grades.

A science course students love and learn fromThe bulk of the Parent Lesson Planner, however, is actually a consumable student workbook. Each lesson includes 5-10 brief questions on the day’s reading. The questions are straightforward, and even my writing-adverse student had no problem completing each assignment quickly.

After the worksheets come the quizzes and tests, which are perforated for easy removal if desired. Finally are the answers to the worksheets and tests. My only complaint about the entire course was that these answers were too complete, usually a paragraph long. More concise answers in the key would have made grading a lot faster.

A science course students love and learn fromDiscovery of Design by Donald DeYoung and Derrik Hobbs is the thickest and most imposing of the books. My student was not excited about reading it at first glance. But once he started the course, he grew to love it. Each lesson includes two short pages to read on one interesting topic. It presents a scientific fact and examples from creation or an example of an animal that inspired the design of something commonplace.

Made in Heaven by Ray Comfort and Jeffrey Seto looks, at first glance, like a picture book. My student found the layout and illustrations inviting. Every two-page reading assignment presents more examples of man’s design based on God’s design. The detailed illustrations and charts help students completely understand the correlation.

A science course students love and learn from

Champions of Invention by John Hudson Tiner resembles a thick pamphlet, yet it represents the heaviest reading of the course. The book presents nine short (6-8 page) biographies of scientists. Students read the book a chapter each week in the last quarter of the year and write a brief report on one scientist.

My student loved this course; it was his favorite subject of the year, if not his homeschooling thus far. He looked forward to each day’s assignments. Though he only briefly answered each worksheet question and hardly ever studied for a test or quiz, he scored nearly 100% recall on each of them. I was shocked by the seemingly trivial facts he remembered. He said it was just so interesting it stuck in his mind.

A science course your student will love and learn from

That is the beauty of this course. Finally, students can enjoy science and remember the content simply because they love it. Instead of groaning through a thick text or difficult assignments or grade-crushing tests, they can quickly breeze through a subject and move on to observing what they learned in real life.

In short, Applied Engineering makes true scientists out of homeschool students.

Applied Engineering: Studies of God’s Design in Nature includes a consumable workbook and three non-consumable texts. You can preview each book on the publisher’s website. Though advertised for seventh through ninth grade, the course is more appropriate for junior high than high school study. The economical course is available directly from the publisher for $60.96 (currently on sale for $45.11) or from Amazon. Each book is also available as downloads from the publisher.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this curriculum from the publisher for my own consideration. These opinions are my own. Affiliate links help support this site.

Jensen's Vocabulary offers students lessons in word roots and usage.

MasterBooks Jensen’s Vocabulary Review

Homeschoolers often view vocabulary as an afterthought . . . until the college entrance tests loom large. While good literature reading and healthy writing training greatly improve a student’s command of English, that usually isn’t enough.

Students need training in the building blocks of English words.

Jensen’s Vocabulary

Jensen's Vocabulary offers students lessons in word roots and usage.Vocabulary by Frode Jensen teaches students to recognize common Latin and Greek word parts to decipher for themselves new words they meet.

Instead of looking up words in a dictionary or even memorizing definitions, students are trained to identify the Latin or Greek root of a word to discern the meaning, memorize the root, determine the word’s prefix or suffix, then use the word in a sentence.

The course is divided into three parts: 18 lessons of Latin I, 18 lessons of Latin II, and 18 lessons of Greek.

Each group of lessons focuses on that language and a specific list of root words, so as the course progresses, students become increasingly confident identifying word meanings. Each lesson contains four parts, with an extra day for review or testing:

  1. Match the word with definition using only a list of Latin or Greek word parts (Traduce: to defame, slander, vilify)
  2. Identify the Latin or Greek root of each word and what that root means. (Traduce: duce —  to lead)
  3. Identify which vocabulary word means a combination of root and affix meaning (across+ to lead — traduce)
  4. Identify the appropriate use in a sentence. (Gossip often serves to traduce undeserving people)

And therein lies the rub. For the first few weeks, students find the course difficult and even confusing. They are strongly encouraged not to use a dictionary, yet they are required to identify the meaning of very unfamiliar words simply by looking at a list of Latin roots.

Though this rough beginning may seem discouraging, older students quickly become familiar with the program’s strategy and find the lessons increasingly simple. This is why the course is better for high school students, especially older, well-read homeschoolers.

Since there are three parts to the course, homeschoolers enjoy flexibility in using this course. It may be completed in one year or two years (with the addition of one semester of Biblical Greek, for example). As a compliment to an existing English curriculum, it works well for a self-paced study.

The new 2nd edition has been completely updated by MasterBooks. It now includes a Parent Lesson Planner to make progress simple for students and parents. It also has expanded, yet easy, instructions to encourage the user for greater flexibility.

I taught the first edition (not the updated second edition) Jensen’s Vocabulary simultaneously with my eighth-grade and tenth-grade students. They used the course in addition to English literature and writing or grammar for an honors credit in English. Because of the difficulty level and because of the heavy English workload, we completed a Vocabulary lesson about once every two weeks. We finished the first half of the book and plan to finish the entire course next year.

My tenth-grade student struggled with the first two lessons, but then she found the course easy and breezed through it. She quickly memorized the Latin word parts and recognized them in daily life, as well.

My eighth-grade student struggled with the course for several weeks. He needed my help for the first few weeks, then he checked his first day’s answers with his sister for several weeks. After a couple months, he seemed to catch on, though he never 100% mastered any one lesson. In the future, I would hold off tackling this subject until well into high school.

Ultimately, I do recommend this course. By forcing students to analyze the word parts and repeating the same format every week, Jensen’s Vocabulary works. Students do not merely memorize a few vocabulary words and definitions. They learn valuable Latin and Greek word parts that will serve them long into the future.

Jensen’s Vocabulary is printed in a consumable workbook. The course is recommended for high school students. Sample pages are available on the publisher’s website. The workbooks are available directly from the publisher on sale for $26.40. You can find the course as well on Amazon. Downloadable versions are available from the publisher for $23.10. You can preview the book on the publisher’s website.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this curriculum from the publisher for my own consideration. These opinions are my own. Affiliate links help support this site.

MasterBooks Jensen’s Format Writing Review

Writing can seem intimidating for parents and students. How should a paragraph read? What makes a good essay? How do we know if we’re doing it right? And how do we grade it?

For this reason, most homeschool writing curricula are heavy, cumbersome, expensive, or formulaic. After a while, you can even identify what curriculum a student has used simply by reading his writing. These approaches frustrate parents and hamper a student’s long-term writing skills.

That’s why we made a different choice.

Jensen’s Format Writing

format-writing-pack-sm_1.pngFormat Writing by Frode Jensen teaches a logical, systematic approach to both paragraph and essay writing. In spite of the heavy subject matter, the curriculum is easy to use and simple for the student.

The new MasterBooks edition comes in a set which includes to student workbook and an explanatory DVD. The DVD contains each lesson explained by author Frode Jensen himself. The subject is designed for high school students to complete in thirty minutes over the course of one year.

The fresh edition begins with a simple explanation how to use the Parent Lesson Planner. The PLP gives each day’s short assignment, broken up by weeks and semesters, just like other MasterBooks curricula. Each assignment includes a place for students to check off completion and a space for the parent’s grade. Finally, the introduction presents the course itself.

Within the course, each new skill is introduced both in the workbook and on the DVD. If the student and teacher read the lesson or watch the DVD together, the assignment will be easier for the student and the parent will understand how to grade the completed work.

Tests are included for evaluation. At the end of the new edition, parents will find answers to exercises and tests as well as grading criteria for tests.

Below is a sample from the explanatory DVD.

I used an earlier version of Format Writing with my eighth-grade student. The assignments in our book are the same as in the newer edition, we simply lacked the Parent Lesson Planner.

I chose this curriculum to help prepare my eighth grader for the essay writing his high school history class required. My primary goal was to teach him how to correctly structure different types of paragraphs and to self-edit.

With this in mind, we progressed more slowly through the course than the current Parent Lesson Planner suggests. I watched my student’s work carefully and repeated paragraph assignments if he struggled. For example, he completed two definition paragraphs over three weeks and wrote two process paragraphs over two weeks. The newer edition would recommend one paragraph of each topic per week.

Also, I never used the instructional DVD. My kinesthetic learner does better if I sit next to him and help him colorfully highlight important points and draw diagrams of his assignment. A DVD would have lost his attention. He did well with my coaching.

Finally, I am myself an author and have taught paragraph and essay writing to my two older students already, so I felt confident teaching the course with less coaching. However, I am glad to see the updated edition gives parents additional support so they, too, can teach writing with the same confidence.

Regardless of the Parent Lesson Planner, this course is easily customized to each student’s ability. A bright, literary high school student would love the PLP and coast through the book with flying colors. A student like mine who hates writing would also find the book logical and the instructions clear so he can successfully complete each assignment.

Bottom line, my writing-hating son the confidence to complete an essay on any topic successfully.

Homeschool Made Easy

Format Writing is suggested for high school students. Middle school or high school students with less writing experience could easily spend two years completing the course by repeating each paragraph assignment multiple times, then focusing on the essay portion the following year.  As long as the student is writing and editing every week, this would fulfill one credit each year.

My only complaint about Format Writing is the insufficiency of the student checklists. They do remind students to check major issues like the number of sentences, the topic sentence structure, mechanics, and content. However, these areas could be broken up into more specifics for self-editing skills. I made a separate checklist for my son that included active voice, varied sentence structure, repeated words, comma after introductory phrases, and other editing faux pas. A longer, more specific checklist could greatly aid students, but parents can easily create one themselves.

Jensen’s Format Writing includes a consumable workbook, though answers could be easily written on separate paper so siblings could share the book. The course is recommended for high school students, though bright middle school students could use it at their own pace. Sample pages are available on the publisher’s website. This writing curriculum is more economical than most. The workbooks are available directly from the publisher for $37, which includes the DVD. The book may also be purchased separately. You can find the course as well on Amazon. Downloadable versions are available from the publisher for $17.50.

You can preview each book on the publisher’s website. You will find the preview pages and sample video here.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this curriculum from the publisher for my own consideration. These opinions are my own. Affiliate links help support this site.


Math Lessons for a Living Education offers a simple solution for Charlotte Mason and classical homeschoolers.

MasterBooks Math Lessons for a Living Education Review

Math is a critical course for even elementary students, but homeschool parents struggle to make the course inviting. It seems like the only options are worksheet by worksheet, memorize the facts, and limited application. Classical and Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, in particular, find the subject at odds with their teaching methods.

Until now.

Math Lessons for a Living Education

Math Lessons for a Living Education offers fun, simple math lessons perfectly designed for Charlotte Mason and classical homeschoolers.With Math Lessons for a Living Education, homeschoolers can, at last, provide meaningful, engaging lessons in mathematics. This colorful, gentle curriculum provides comprehensive instruction in a practical format. With practical examples and fun stories, the curriculum builds skills while teaching fun character lessons without sermonizing or boring the student.

Each book in the series begins with a quick explanation how to use the course. This explanation is completely unnecessary because the workbook is so simple to understand.

Next follows the parent lesson plan pages, a brief listing of assignments with boxes for the student to check when completed and the parent to record grades. This is broken up into quarters for those following a traditional school year.

Every week begins with a story, a continuing series about a family that includes character-building stories and examples of math in real life. The daily lessons typically include one or two brief pages that include new material and review problems. The fifth day usually consists of a puzzle or other fun activity.

Solutions and manipulative worksheets are included in the back of the book.

My student had used Saxon math successfully before I switched him to Math Lessons for an Early Education his fourth-grade year. A precocious learner, he had experienced no problems with Saxon. However, I wished to slow down his progress since eleven-year-olds have not developed the reasoning skills for conceptual math like algebra and geometry.

My son was drawn to his math book, asking daily when he could start “fox math” as he named it from the cover image. When he began, however, he found the lessons quick and easy. Though the curriculum advises the lessons will take 30 minutes for the average user, he breezed through a week’s worth of lessons in only 15 minutes per day. After the vigorous work of Saxon, both he and I viewed this as a welcome change. Young students don’t need to work harder at math; they need to find enjoyment in applying math principles. 

After quickly completing Math 4, he moved into Math 5. Though he continued doing a week of assignments each day in the beginning, he soon encountered new material. That is when we began using the curriculum as intended: one day at a time. He still enjoyed the lessons and learned a lot while completing his subject in 10-15 minutes.

I, on the other hand, rarely had to help him with his math. The explanations and examples are so simple for good readers, the student can conquer even new material successfully. Even if I had to read the instructions and explanations to him, we could have finished a page in less than 20 minutes.

Why am I making such a big deal about the time? Because math shouldn’t be hard. And even more importantly, young students do not need to spend more time sitting at a desk working on a worksheet. They need more time to play and explore the world around them. Author Angela O’Dell agrees, and she provides an excellent way for students to learn the basics and prepare for advanced math while keeping the subject simple.

Math Lessons for a Living Education would work well, also, with students who are math-adverse or who struggle with math completely. The simple and easy lessons, presented on full-color sheets with few problems each day help build confidence. This curriculum puts the fun back into math.

Since the lessons are so fast and easy, I was concerned in the beginning that my student was not receiving sufficient review. But remember, I came from 15 years of Saxon math, which is all about review. I was wrong; even the math my student found difficult (showing his work in long division) was strengthened considerably by the end of the book. Each review lesson showed he retained what he had learned over several weeks.

Math Lessons for a Living Education comes in a consumable workbook graded for approximate school grade level. Placement tests are available for each level on the publisher’s website. For an all-in-one curriculum, this product is extremely economical. The workbooks are available directly from the publisher for $36.99 (currently on sale for $27.37) or on sale from Amazon. Downloadable versions are available from the publisher for $25.89.

You can preview each book on the publisher’s website. You will find the grade 4 preview pages and placement test here.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this curriculum from the publisher for my own consideration. These opinions are my own. Affiliate links help support this site.

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