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Level 1 All-Subject Package Review by Ta’Neisha Kemp

BookShark LLC
(303) 797-2954
8022 South Grant Way
Littleton, CO 80122

Our homeschool was truly appreciative and excited about the opportunity to review the Level 1 All-Subject Package offered by BookShark LLC. BookShark is a 36-week, literature-based homeschool curriculum for families with children that are in Pre-K to approximately 16 years old. Their instructional approach uses a myriad of fiction books, nonfiction books, biographies, illustrations, and hands-on experiments to convey educational concepts. BookShark LLC also desires education to be engaging, interactive, and inspiring so each child's experience is more than textbook memorization. The ultimate goal is for the literature, illustrations, and experiments to create a lasting connection between the people, places, concepts, life skills, and events they learn about.

Prior to choosing a package, I had our middle son take the reading assessment and I reviewed the various sample lessons provided on the website. Based on the results I opted for the Level 1 All-Subject Package which includes everything you need for History 1, Read-Alouds 1, Science, and Language Arts. A laminated Markable Map, D-Ring 3-inch Binder with Tabs, and dry erase Markable Map Markers were also provided. Math, Handwriting, and Phonics are also available from this company but were not offered for this review. The Level 1 subjects are advertised for children ages six to eight; however, our five-year-old son had no problems with the material. I do feel that if your child is already reading at an advanced level they will be able to comprehend information and concepts taught in the lessons. The package also includes instructor's guides for each subject which are already 3- hole punched for the binder. Though this is not a Christian based curriculum, I do feel that all can benefit from the lessons and I look forward to explaining that to you throughout the duration of this review.

BookShark items can be purchased individually or as a complete package with varying discounts. The purchase price varies slightly as each package can be customized to fit your child's specific educational needs. Currently, the Level 1 All-Subject Package, including math, handwriting, and the optional phonics set, retails for $938.75. The package as I received it, without the math, handwriting, or optional phonics set retails for $880.00. By ordering a complete set from the website, with or without customization, you will automatically receive 20% off the retail price. Depending on customization, this can save you over $150 off the retail price.

Book Shark’s approach to learning history is based off their Reading with History program. The goal is for students to understand different perspectives while reading through fictional and non-fictional literature, biographies, and illustrative books. Our History 1 package included The Usborne Time Traveler, Tut's Mummy Lost & Found, The Usborne Book of Peoples of the World, Archaeologists Dig For Clues, The Great Wall of China, The Timeline Book, Timeline Figures 1 packet, The Usborne Book of World History, A Child's History of the World, and a History 1 Instructor's Guide, and the Read Alouds 1 set. A placemat sized laminated, fold-out map is also included inside of the Instructor's Guide. The Read-Alouds 1 set consists of Mountain Born, Charlotte's Web, Henry Huggins, The Year of Miss Agnes, Mr. Popper's Penguins, Understood Betsy, Favorite Poems of Childhood, Detectives in Togas, Little Pear, Owls in the Family, It Could Always Be Worse, Gooney Bird Greene, Homer Price, and Silver Street Farm. It was interesting to note that the schedule for these 14 books can be found in the History 1 Instructor's Guide. History and reading can be purchased as a set so I expected to see reading information on that guide. However, I was a bit surprised not to see the read aloud information included in the Language Arts Instructor's Guide as well. Further research on the website explained that the readers are integrated within the history curriculum beginning at Level 3 therefore the readers schedule is always placed in the history guide. 

The guide is broken down into four helpful sections with the first providing details about how to read it. The quick start guide gives brief information about how the curriculum flows, how to use the maps, and prep information to do before each lesson. Next, we have the "Schedule and Notes" section which gives details about how your daily activities are to be completed. The schedule is four days a week with plenty of freedom to incorporate extra activities if you feel like your child needs it. The first page for each week has space for you to write the date and shows the weekly calendar along with what books to read on each day. Following that are approximately two to three pages of added details discussing the concepts that are going to be covered, discussion questions following each reading with example answers, and special vocabulary that you should note when you are teaching the material. The resources shown in Section 3 of this guide include a weekly book list which is a great addition for those that might need to reserve a library book or buy a copy. Thankfully, this package included all the reading material we needed. There is also an extensive letter to the parents about explaining contradictions in historical accounts, understanding gross motor development, and practical life skills assessments. Timeline instructions, the scope and sequence schedule, a field trip planning guide, and blank pages for schedule adjustments are available. In the final section, extra details about how to place your information in the large binder correctly as well as how to use it are given. The fourth section was extremely helpful to me since I was not familiar with this curriculum at all. A Certificate of Completion is also provided to award your student at the end of the school year.

During the review period, a basic week in history included reading approximately 10 pages of The Usborne Book of Peoples of the World and discussing their customs, traditions, languages, and beliefs. BookShark has opted to only use the older edition of this book because they find the organization to be more helpful and believe it gives examples from different people groups in context that coordinates well with their teaching approach. Around week five, The Timeline Book is able to be used to introduce the approximate year each of the figures made their appearance in history. This sturdy, spiral bound book has a nice cover and folder located inside that I keep the Timeline Figures 1 packet in. The figures are easy to cut out and add to the book I found that I actually prefer this method rather than having a large, wall timeline. As we ended the review period, we had just begun learning about early civilizations like the Mesopotamians and the Egyptians. Each day a chapter book was assigned as a read aloud with the occasional addition of a poem or nursery rhyme. During this time we read and discussed several poems, a few nursery rhymes, and the entire Charlotte's Web book. Comprehension questions for the all of the daily readings are provided in the guide that led to great discussions that ensured my son understood everything.

Of course within the review period we did not get to experience the entire 36 weeks of history; however, we are definitely looking forward to it. I did flip through all of the books that we have not used yet and found them all to be high quality, inclusive of detailed information, and having bright, colorful illustrations that will capture the reader. Even in the book that we did use, it was hard not to read more than suggested in the schedule. I really feel that BookShark is spot on with their Reading through History program. Going over the daily readings had my son so excited and he actually asked to have school each morning. I think starting history lessons like this at a young age would definitely ignite a passion and create a lifelong learner.

BookShark Language Arts focuses on reading, phonics, spelling, copy work, creative expression, and writing mechanics. The Language Arts 1 Instructor's Guide is organized as stated before and also includes weekly overviews, teacher scripts, worksheets, and rubrics. The details ensure that you are not confused about what you are teaching and how to teach it. If you prefer not to assign your children a grade then you will love the freedom of this content mastery scoring system. Weekly rubrics maintain confidence that your students are mastering concepts as they progress through the school year. Our Language Arts included Level 1 Readers, Read-Alouds 1, Letter & Word BINGO, Go Blend!, and dry erase BINGO Markers. Though we did not get to use all of the included games, I did look over everything and noted their quality to be top notch. The provided Level 1 Readers are Put Me in the Zoo, One Fish, Two Fish..., The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, A Big Ball of String, The Best Trick, The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto, I Can Read It! Word Lists, I Can Read It! Book 1, I Can Read It! Book 2, and I Can Read It! Book 3.

A typical day in Language Arts features approximately 40 minutes of reading, instruction, and discussion. During each daily lesson, we worked on strengthening our son's reading via I Can Read It! Book 1. In this book, there are several short stories about various topics with simple words for children who are learning how to navigate longer books. These readers feature a lot of rhyming words and each week, a creative writing expression sheet provides a chance to review and share thoughts on what was read. The spelling and sight word lists are pulled from the stories that your child is reading and the I Can Read It! Word Lists. You go over the spelling and sight words by reading and writing them several times. I found the daily lessons to be easy to navigate through with my child. I was also happy to have a few consumables to use each week. I laminated the word lists, cut each into flash cards, and then stored them in labeled snack sized Ziploc bags. We also kept the worksheets and created a portfolio journal for our son.

BookShark’s Science program pairs books with engaging experiments to explore animals, astronomy, and physics. The Science 1 Instructor's Guide is in the aforementioned format with specific sections, guided lessons, comprehension questions, and worksheets. Everything you need to conduct experiments, with the exception of a few household items, can be found in the Science Supplies Kit 1. This kit contains aluminum foil, a small balloon, AA battery, carbon paper, cellophane pieces, paint pack, long rubber band, sponge, straw, Styrofoam tray, tissue paper, toothpick, tracing paper, and a cow magnet. The Usborne World of Animals book, Discover & Do, Level 1 DVD, and Science Activities, Volume 1 were used weekly during our time with this program. Pasteur's Fight Against Microbes, Space, First Encyclopedia of the Human Body, The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks, and Why Do People Eat were also provided. Though we have not had a chance to use these books yet but we definitely look forward to getting into them as our school year progresses. I did flip through each and once again, I'm impressed with the quality of books chosen by this company. All the books appear to further explain the science concepts by pairing a plethora of information with colorful pictures.

Our daily science lesson began with reading from The Usborne World of Animals book where we learned about the habitats, diets, habits, and survival skills of creatures from all over the world. After our reading time our son completed a portion of the activity worksheet which reviewed the lessons via matching games, vocabulary, coloring, as well as cut and paste activities. A few optional home or outside activities are also provided on the calendar like exploring the neighborhood, doing a five senses taste test along with playing animal charades or hide and seek. Even though these were optional we chose to do them because only adds more fun and precious memories to your day. Depending on the length of time we devoted to the added activities, the first three days of our science week took approximately 30-45 minutes to complete. On the fourth school day, you watch a lesson from the Discover & Do, Level 1 DVD. This and features an example of a science concept and experiment that you will be attempting that day. Next, we read a few pages from Science Activities, Volume 1 which provides illustrated details and explanations about experiments. Our experiments covered the parts and power of magnets, gravity, force, as well as the components and usefulness of a compass. We found the experiments fun, definitely age appropriate, and they were easy to do. Our son did not need much help following the directions and since each experiment has an example we could easily correct any mishaps. It was great to have all the items readily available in the supplies kit and the things that we needed to gather from the house were not hard to find. Any additional items needed are located at the bottom of the weekly calendar along with the note of what you need to have available for a subsequent week.

Overall I found that the months we spent using BookShark's Level 1 All-Subject Package was definitely entertaining, engaging, and educational. I appreciated that our son desired to participate in school each day and thought that the courses were pleasant to teach and easy for our son to follow. I enjoyed how they incorporated quick activities like practicing speech by having a show and tell. They also added to record it which was definitely beneficial to us because our son is in speech lessons. Recording this activity allowed him to hear how he says certain words and correct them as needed. Our son really liked Sight Word Bingo and I thought it was a fun way to learn and review phonic sound clusters and sight words. Another item I loved about this package was the extremely detailed Instructor's Guides. I didn't have to make any copies or create any activities because it was already done for me. Since our homeschool journey began we have always had a four day school week so I was happy that this curriculum applied that. 

As I've stated before this is not a bible based curriculum but that did not bother me one bit and should not deter you. For those that are interested in providing Bible study in your lessons you can always grab a devotional, read the Bible in the mornings, or even go over your Sunday school lesson with your family. Whether you are a believer or not it is important for your children to understand all that is offered under the umbrella of culture and religion in this world. Explaining the different choices to your children at a young age is only going to strengthen their ability to defend the Christian faith when they get older. The myriad of books provided completely confirm the company's desire to emphasize an engaging and literary filled education for homeschool children. This curriculum can easily be used in a home with multiple children of various ages. You can cater this to each child's unique learning style while feeling comfortable and confident in the high academic standards offered by this company. We definitely look forward to continuing our school year with this BookShark curriculum and our son is working hard to receive his official Certificate of Completion in May.

-Product review by Ta'Neisha Kemp, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November, 2018