Category Archives: Reviews

Monday Review: HMHCO Environmental Science

by Kristen Lauria

Note: I purchased this curriculum myself and have received no compensation for this review.

Today I am going to tell you about a great book I found for teaching Environmental Science.  The book is published by Holt McDougal and is available here.  This link goes to the homeschool package, which includes both the student and teacher materials.  Another alternative is to buy the online access here and then a student text only.  The online access gives you access to the teacher’s edition plus lots of activities (like labs and such) that really make the course interesting.

I have used this curriculum for the last year to teach an online environmental course and plan to use it this fall for both regular and AP level environmental science (sign up here).  It is adequate for both levels with a little extra work put into making it an AP level course.  In the next few weeks I’ll be posting an article about how to get a course approved through College Board so you can put AP on your student’s transcript.

But back to the textbook.  One thing that I really like about this text is the use of color, graphics, and current events/case studies to break up all of the material.  This book is meaty and has lots of content to cover, but it is really user friendly and has so much information broken into bite-sized chunks.  There are 6 units, each of which contains 3-4 chapters, with each chapter having 2-3 sections.  There is lots of review available at the end of the chapter and if you get the teacher materials you can have access to pre-made tests available in either multiple choice or open ended or a combination.

In the future I hope to offer a guide to using this textbook for your own student including a recommended schedule, activities, and labs.

The Good:  Very thorough and includes all topics I would want covered in an environmental science course.  The online component has links to lots of relevant articles, course materials, and easy to do at home labs.

The Bad:  The HMHCO website is kind of a bear to navigate and they limit certain products to only schools for purchase, so you have to be sure to have the right item in your cart or you won’t be able to proceed.

Recommended For:  Students who are looking for a math-light science program or who are in middle school or 9th grade and are not ready for biology or chemistry.  This is also a great class for students who have finished their high school requirements and want a less intense science class for senior year or need another AP for college applications.

Website of publisher:  https/

Where to buy: I’d recommend either buying a used copy from Amazon here (aff) or getting the online materials, which are only available at the publisher’s website.

Has your student considered taking environmental science?  Tell me how it went!

Monday Review: Math Mammoth

by Kristen Lauria

Note: I purchased this curriculum myself and have received no compensation for this review.

This is my first ever post for the blog and I wanted to start off by answering a question I get frequently: What’s a great curriculum for teaching math in the elementary years?  For my children, it’s been Math Mammoth by Maria Miller.

I stumbled across Math Mammoth when I was looking for a mastery-based program for my own kids.  I’d heard of many of the big names in math like Saxon and Singapore, but both of those were spiral-based programs.  I could tell from even an early age that my son wouldn’t be interested in small bites and constant repetition.  He has an intuitive nature when it comes to math and often knew the concepts before I had an opportunity to teach him.

Math Mammoth is a series of worktexts, which are consumable combination workbook/textbook, that the student both learns the material and practices it all in one.  Each year is covered by a book level of the same number (so grade 1 is book 1A/1B) in the Light Blue Series and is split into 2 volumes so that it’s not so overwhelming to the student.  The nice part about just one book is that the student learns and practices together and they can flip back to refer to the instruction when they get confused.  Another nice part is that absentminded kids (like DS) don’t have 2 books to keep track of.

Both my children have worked through this series, with DS in grade 5 now and DD in grade 4.  In the beginning, my DS couldn’t read, so I needed to work through the lesson with him.  By second or third grade he was reading well enough he could work through the program relatively independently, only coming to me when he was struggling to understand.  My DD progressed about the same and they both now work on their own, only occasionally needing more explanation.

For perspective, DD is most decidedly not a math person and has still had success with this program.  The only thing that I think it lacks to some degree is practice for the operations (+ – x ÷, but that is easily outsourced to apps and other programs to practice.  The program also comes with links to an online worksheet generator, so if there is a skill that your child needs more practice on, you can always make custom worksheets (with answer keys!) to give your child that extra reinforcement.

I’ve been exceedingly pleased with this program and am disappointed that there’s not a companion curriculum for middle/high school, but I’ve found other great resources to fill that gap that I’ll review in coming weeks.

The Good:  Very thorough and includes all topics I would want covered in elementary, examples and instruction teach right to the student, colorful and engaging, inexpensive.

The Bad:  Not a ton of review of concepts since it’s mastery based.

Recommended For:  All children, including those children who are naturally adept at math and those that struggle.

Website of publisher:  https/

Where to buy: I’d recommend Rainbow Resource Center if you want a printed version or Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op (aff) if you want digital.

Please comment below with what elementary math curriculum has worked for you!