The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews
|With so many products available we often need a little help in making our curriculum choices. The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine family understands because we are in the same boat! Do you need more information on a product before you buy? With over 5,500 products listed in 52 easy-to-use categories, much of the information you need to know is only a click away! Let our reviewer-families help yours.||
Do you want to get the word out about your product or service to the homeschool community? Email Tess Hamre and share a little about what you´d like showcased, and we can help with that!
Precision Academics Resource Bank CD-Rom Review by Donna Campos and Dr. Anne Margaret WrightDesigned and developed by Val Gray
Precision Academics Resource Bank
P.O. Box 2070
Port Macquarie NSW 2444
Offices: Port Macquarie 02 65825515 Australia
The Precision Academics Resource Bank is a single CD-Rom containing more than 400 Workbooks suitable to supplement curriculum for students of all ability levels from 3 to 12 years of age, students who are exceptionally advanced from 3 to 9 years of age, and students facing substantial learning challenges from 3 to 19 years of age. The single purchase of a family license permits printable use for any child in the family and includes the 400+ adapted education workbooks, a “How and Why” Manual, and Functional Literacy and Numeracy Pre-Tests for determining appropriate placement in the program. Access to a computer and adequate printing abilities are necessary, as are the usual writing supplies for workbook activities. Many of the activities may be completed directly from the computer screen without printing by having a child point through activities. Each workbook includes a page for tracking completion, including space for a signature and completion date for each section. The use of brightly colored stickers or motivational marks are encouraged and will need to be purchased separately so that parent teachers can choose stickers that will be the most motivational for their particular individual student. The Resource Bank includes material appropriate for both secular and Christian faith based curricula, allowing families and schools to choose and print only what is appropriate for their school environment. The curriculum is divided into Levels One through Four, a placement test is provided, and it is strongly encouraged that parents use their own best judgment for every given subject area to utilize workbooks for the various levels of a child developmentally, even if that means a student is working in different levels for different subject areas. In the simplest terms, workbooks supplied include 70+ English, 70+ Mathematics, 70+ Curriculum Studies, 70+ Key Learning Skills, 30+ for older students who require extremely high levels of adaptation, and 20+ to support Pre-School outcomes. Note these are numbers of Workbooks and not numbers of pages. There are more than 6,000 pages of resources in all. Assessment sheets are included at the back of each workbook to track and record progress and may be removed for record keeping.
The Precision Academics Workbooks were designed by an Educational Psychologist, who is also a Special Education Consultant, and mother of three children whom she home schooled while living in rural Australia. Val Gray has 25 years of experience helping children with special learning needs and is now providing families with an educational program that is flexible enough for every child in the family. Although it is designed for use primarily by those with special needs, because it begins with basic concepts this material will be well used by children of all ages from preschool level and beyond. As a supplement to any general curriculum Precision Academics may be used by printing whole workbooks or only limited pages, completely dependent upon the needs of the student and any skill deficits. There are five functioning levels when considering levels one through four, plus the Cross Curriculum Life Skills as level five. Workbooks may be used as a one-on-one tool with teacher or sibling assistants, as a group activity in a home school with a variety of ages completing a workbook together, for review while parent-teachers are working with other students, on a per page basis for specific enhancement in particular skill sets, and any time additional focus is necessary in any particular educational area covered in the workbooks. The material is ideal for students with special needs, including autism spectrum disorders, dyslexia, ADHD, learning difficulties, Gifted & Talented, Down syndrome, receptive and expressive language disorders, and more. The activities include copy work, descriptive sentences, oral recall, drawing, research, speculation, and more. The pages themselves may be printed in single page or double page format, allowing printing cost savings. It is suggested that color printing be used to enhance the encouragement and focus of children using the Workbooks. The pages are kept simplistic enough to not cause distraction for children by having busy borders or other unnecessary graphics. They also present bright colors and entertaining graphics to hold the attention of students at a variety of developmental levels and still supply information for the task at hand. Home schools that do not use workbooks will not find much enjoyment in the use of the full workbooks, but may still utilize various pages for specific learning needs, review, and extra emphasis when desired. The broad ability level keeps the Precision Academics Resource Bank an incredibly useful tool for most home schools with multiple children, regardless of schooling method. The extensive use of assistance and one-to-one activities provides expressive and receptive language skills enhancement that will benefit every student regardless of developmental needs.
The Precision Academics Resource Bank CD-Rom begins with a “Getting Started” section and “Workbooks” section, breaking down into more specific components from there. The Getting Started section includes Pre and Post testing for literacy and numeric skills, sample activities, an Award Certificate, brochure, Instructions on How to Run a Session, Placement and Progress information, and a list of the workbooks. The Workbooks section is extensive and branches into additional workbooks. I will provide a general listing of each Level with available workbooks in this review, however, extensive listings are available on their website (http://www.precisionacademics.com).
Level One Workbooks include: Fine Motor skills, Receptive-Expressive communication, and workbooks for Transition into School.
Considerably more workbooks are included in the remaining levels with Level Two including: Christian Studies, Creative Minds, Concepts & Patterns, English Spiral series, Fine Motor skills, Mathematics Curriculum series, Listening & Instruction following, Mathematics Spiral series, Personal Development, Receptive/Expressive Communication, Processing Speed & Accuracy, Thinking & Problem solving, WINGS (theme based small group work based on principles of multiple intelligence), Word Sounds & Spelling, and Working Memory workbooks.
Level Three consists of Concepts & Patterns, English Spiral series, Creative Minds, Leadership & Teamwork, Listening Skills & Instruction Following, Mathematics Spiral series, Mathematics Curriculum series, Personal Development, Processing Speed & Accuracy, Thinking & Problem Solving, WINGS, Word Sounds & Spelling, and Working Memory.
Workbooks for Level Four include Concepts & Patterns, English Curriculum series, Creative Minds, History & World studies, Leadership & Teamwork, Mathematics Curriculum, Listening Skills & Instruction Following, Mathematics Spiral series, Personal Development, Science & Geography, Processing Speed & Accuracy, Thinking & Problem Solving, WINGS, Working Memory, and Word Sounds & Spelling.
Level Five includes the Cross Curricula Life Skills activities for levels one through four, which includes 30 workbooks. The Challenge Me workbooks have their own selection category and include sections on How to Use the Workbooks, Sample Answers, and Student Online Workbooks that are broken down by Early, Middle, and Upper skill levels. All but the Challenge Me workbooks are in PDF, easily printed in single or double page formats. The Challenge Me workbooks are in Microsoft Word and the student answers directly onto the screen and saves their work as individual files.
The placement tests provide information to determine which level to begin using with a child, but parents can determine exactly which level to use as the placement tests are to be used as a guide and not as a definitive placement. Positive reinforcement is encouraged at a whole new level for parent teachers as the program calls for focus on every effort, considerable checkmarks, smile faces, and stickers for each attempt, and focus on simply pointing out errors as something to take another look at rather than as an incorrect answer. The one-on-one work is continuously guided as the teacher ensures that the work is completed successfully before placing a mark of 100% on the page. The program considers this an essential task on the part of the teacher as children will gain confidence and an expectation for completion and mastery of the material. Our son was excited to see his success and paid better attention each time we came together for additional work.
As the workbook is finished, additional sample work is completed at the end of the book to be used as a permanent record of the accomplishment along with the assessment record. These items can be used later during IEP reviews, as sample work for a portfolio, or to fulfill local education requirements as evidence of material completion. It is also possible to complete workbooks using adaptive equipment which may be considered by home schools utilizing this technology.
Interactive computer screens allow students to write directly onto large or individual computer screens, but work must be saved in a personal copy using the “save as” function when using this option. For children with minor special needs and when using many of the level one and two activities for review without the necessity of a printed record, it is possible to complete the activities with no written copy of the workbook as the child touches the screen and responds to particular questions or tasks alongside a parent teacher. Teachers will want to track completion and record the workbooks completed in this fashion, but the printing saving is excellent and should be considered for students with only moderate delays who are able to complete the activities in this manner. We completed several workbooks using this method as an additional means to confirm which level our son should be working and as a way to quickly review material I thought was grasped when I wanted to witness additional confirmation before moving onto another area.
An incredible amount of activities are included in the Precision Academics Resource Bank, saving you valuable time and energy from uploading activities and searching for help for any particular skill on the internet to help a struggling child. The General Guidelines that were provided stress the careful use of positive reinforcement and constant encouragement, while the design of the material allows space to record accomplishments and keep a record of success for both student use and educational requirements. For families with children functioning at vastly different developmental levels, Precision Academics offers help in the worksheet activities. Home schoolers functioning under an IEP (individualized education plan) for special needs will appreciate the tracking ability and outcomes and goals listed for the workbooks.
Our family was impressed by the Level Four History & World Studies workbooks as they include Explorers, World Religions, Vikings, Peace & Conflict, Native Americans, Industrial Revolution, and the Gold Rush, as well as workbooks on several individual countries. The pages included written information with questions intermingled as you progress; all of the answers are found on the page, providing a wealth of information as well as questions to confirm understanding. World Religions includes a “Research Task” for a student to look up outside of the workbook, allowing increased knowledge and activities outside of the workbook format.
We really enjoyed the Plant and Animal Classification workbook, as it provided a broad review of a topic often enjoyed by children, but difficult for our autism spectrum son to comprehend. The following paragraph offers more specifics about the negatives we found in the material, but particularly in the science workbooks.
Information we found objectionable was often only a single sentence that is easily blacked out or a single page we could choose to not include in our work, with little effect on the overall goal of the material. The tasks are kept consistently short and easy to follow, which we appreciated as attention spans of many children are extremely limited. The Assessment sheets at the back of each workbook allow the parent to focus on specific skills studied in the particular workbook and record the level of understanding. Visual learners will enjoy the graphic images as they are age-neutral, provide bright colors, and are clearly presented without distracting backgrounds. I do wish the CD-Rom offered a straight forward list of all of the workbooks to choose from, but we found the details on the website to be an excellent way to pick and choose a particular workbook if the Resource Bank is strictly used for general review and specific skill areas.
There were things we found inappropriate in some of the workbooks. Some graphics include cartoon mummies, unicorns, wizards, and leprechauns. In addition, some of the workbooks include seasonal items and topics, which require more careful use of those pages to be sure they are used at the correct time of year. The very nature of the Precision Academics workbooks allow the user to avoid any workbook or particular page they deem inappropriate, which is an incredibly positive aspect of the material. Parents are encouraged to review every bit of material as we found several areas of disagreement for our Christian family. One quote stated that Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament are studied by people of the Jewish and Christian faith, and are also found in the Koran. I would have preferred a clarification that ‘some’ of the Old Testament is quoted in the Koran, as they are certainly not included as a whole. Another text stated that people of the Christian faith celebrate baptism by sprinkling holy water over the child to purify him or her, which is clearly sprinkling, not baptism by immersion which is symbolic and not done to purify anyone.
Other areas some families may need to be aware of are occasional activities that included Santa Claus and Halloween, although Halloween is presented in a straightforward manner as a “scary holiday” and then collecting treats and costume parties are merely commented on. Thanksgiving made no reference to thanks to God, simply to being thankful, which we found very disappointing. Easter had a fair description referencing Christ’s death and resurrection and celebrating new life with eggs, bunnies, etc. An old earth viewpoint and occasional evolutionary content are found periodically. If these issues are central to your educational curriculum, you will need to review every page in order to maximize the positive and minimize the unnecessary material. For example, the dinosaur material included 65 million year references, a theory of an asteroid hitting the earth and changing the atmosphere rather than the impact of the global flood and Noah, but then many of the dinosaur pages did not include any old earth or evolution references and could be used successfully. Some of the Rocks and Minerals workbooks had similar content disallowed in our home school, but still included excellent information we found helpful and perfect for review.
It was impossible for us to read through every single workbook, but in our review, only the Adaptation and Change workbook was found to be completely inappropriate for our worldview and too much trouble to pick and choose pieces of the workbook, we‘d choose to avoid that one workbook completely. Overall, the pages including any reference not suitable for a family are easily avoided during the printing process, and considering the more than 6,000 pages of material, any disallowed portion will still be a very small fraction of the usable work in the program. Parents should also be aware that the metric system is used periodically and may be an additional educational opportunity as you compare hectares with acres or other measurements. We also noted occasional typos and mistakes, and the Human Body workbook had several graphic placement errors. Anyone who prefers not to use worksheets or with a very small family may not find enough value in this program, but for those with multiple children being able to use the different topics and skill areas over several years during elementary years, Precision Academics offers a reasonable price for an extensive amount of workbooks.
There is much information to be found in the Precision Academics Resource Bank, making it an excellent resource for home schools with younger children. The material is generally geared for elementary levels, although it expands to children with a broad range of learning needs and therefore extends to younger and older children. We enjoyed the short tasks and simple graphics without the often decorative borders and backgrounds found in many activity books that only detract from the learning process for special needs children. Families who avoid workbooks may not choose Precision Academics as an option for their home school, but it could be an excellent option in that instance as the only workbooks used in a home school, as it provides an incredible opportunity to review a great deal of material without purchasing printed workbooks that go unused or include inappropriate and unnecessary information.
Those who love workbooks will be excited to find the gems within the Precision Academics Resource Bank. It is a tremendous resource with such a broad range of subjects covered and developmental levels presented that even seasoned teachers will be impressed. Some of the typos and graphic errors should have been caught and corrected in the editing process, along with the discrepancies of metric system conversions, but at this price for more than 6,000 pages of material, even the errors could be overlooked. There is so much information for families with multiple children at vastly different developmental levels to use over so many years; it is simply hard to beat the amount of resource material included. The extra relationship value that is built while siblings work one-on-one together in different capacities is an additional benefit that shouldn’t be overlooked.
The very extensive amount of material makes any disallowed pages a family chooses to make unacceptable for use in their home school, such a small percentage of loss overall and it is still an excellent value. When I think of how many workbook pages have been flipped past, torn out, or left unused in the workbooks that have passed through our home over the years, it makes me appreciate the value to be found in this Resource Bank. Print only what you need, choose material by developmental level and subject matter, find it all in one convenient disc, and utilize the information for years with multiple students in your home. How many support curriculum products can provide all of that in one product? Val Gray has designed a product that will be well used by children of every developmental level, not only those with special learning needs.
Precision Academics Resource Bank is an excellent tool for home schools with children, period. If you are tired of piles of workbooks covering mismatched subject matter and a single page for science along side a single page for language arts concepts, utilizing the specific subject areas within Precision Academics Workbooks will thrill your heart and make your teaching job much easier. You will appreciate the flexibility of this product and the specific needs of your home school as you enjoy using the more than 400 workbooks found in the Precision Academics Resource Bank for years to come.
Val Gray, an Educational Psychologist and Special Educator from Australia, has provided a wonderful resource for homeschool families – Precision Academics Resource Bank ($95). At its simplest level, the Resource Bank is a set of over 400 workbooks, of about 30-40 pages each, with a total of over 6000 pages of materials, that cover over 20 topics on four different levels from pre-kindergarten through about junior high level, including 20 Christian Studies workbooks, and 30 Cross Curricula Life Skills workbooks that are suitable for older students with moderate to severe disabilities. The beauty of the program is that all of this comes on one CD-ROM disc that allows the parent to tailor everything to their particular students’ needs, abilities, challenges, and interests. The materials are designed to supplement rather than replace your curriculum although they are very comprehensive. There are extensive materials about how to use the program that make it easy to adapt to your particular needs. The workbooks would work well for typically developing children, but also have much to offer for children who are gifted or have developmental disabilities or other special needs. The company’s website (http://www.precisionacademics.com) has a wide range of sample pages which might be helpful in deciding if this product would be helpful for your family. It is not easy to find a program that covers so much ground, so effectively, but I’m pleased to say that Precision Academics delivers!
One of the things I like most about this program is its flexibility! Many homeschoolers love workbooks, and many hate them; Precision Academics allows you to do much of the student’s work through workbooks, or to just supplement a few areas where they are struggling. Each topic, such as listening and comprehension, fine motor skills, communication, writing, spelling, math, etc., can be matched to the student’s level for that particular topic, so they can work at different levels for different skills. Or you can just print out a few pages here and there that will supplement other materials. The workbooks could easily be adapted for spoken or signed communication, or for use with augmentive communication. There are excellent pre-tests and post-tests included to help determine the most appropriate level for each student for each area. These can also be used to monitor and record progress. The workbooks are in Adobe Acrobat format, making them easy to use, easy to bookmark, easy to print, etc., and many can be completed on the computer. The software license allows for a family to use the materials for all of their children, so even though the initial cost may sound high, the sheer amount and flexibility of non-consumable materials is overwhelming! The workbooks can be stapled together as a book when completed so the student can continue to review the materials or show them off to Grandma. I think you could make some very creative lapbooks using these workbooks, as well!
While we tend to steer away from workbooks and toward books and other hands-on activities, my family loved this program! I usually get frustrated with traditional workbooks because some of the activities are too hard, some too easy, and only some ever seem to be just right. But with Precision Academics, I can pick and choose just what my kids need, or use whole workbooks for a more comprehensive approach to a topic. Each workbook has an Assessment Page that delineates which skills are covered and a Work Sample Page that allows the student to show off some of their new skills. You could keep only these two forms from each workbook for your records, or keep the whole book, or make your own books from selected pages. My only warning is that the author is Australian, so British spelling is used throughout (such as colour), which we didn’t mind, but a quick word to kids that sometimes words are spelled different ways in different countries should suffice.
There are many things to love about this program. We were very impressed with the bright, colorful, fun pictures and the wide variety of creative exercises that capture the kids’ attention. My kids loved doing the worksheets, and I was able to find just what each of my younger kids needed to work on. We loved that the materials are very positive and that the focus is on mastery, not just busy work! I found that the materials worked very well for my three-year-old son who is gifted, and for my nine-year-old and six-year-old sons who both have Down syndrome. The emphasis throughout the materials on teaching critical thinking and strong communication skills was a huge bonus. As homeschoolers, we love products that are flexible but comprehensive, affordable but of high quality, and easy to use but thorough. Precision Academics fit the bill with room to spare!