A+ Math Review

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A+ Math is fun, engaging, and helped my child to master new topics!

AJ’s favorite subject is math, so when I was given the opportunity to review the Family Math Package from A+ Interactive Math I thought it would be a hit. I didn’t expect AJ to grow leaps and bounds with the program, but she did! We received a six month subscription to the Family Math Package.

What is the A+ Family Math Package?

Family Math Package
A+ math is a complete online math program that offers a few different options. The one AJ and I reviewed was the Family Math Package. With that package we had access to math from grades K1 to Algebra. Depending on how you choose to use the program it can be completed completely online, or you can print off worksheets and exams. Multimedia lessons, an interactive quiz, and worksheets, ensure that your child understands the topic. There is also a PDF math book available if you want to read through the lessons, or use it for extra study practice.

You can switch grade levels at any times, and packages are available for use with up to ten children! Since it is an online program you will need high speed internet access to use the program. It works with most browsers on both PC and MAC.

How did we use it?

Since we haven’t been following a typical course of study for math, I wasn’t sure where to place AJ. She is in 6th grade, but is ahead in a lot of areas and behind in others. I decided to try her in the Pre Algebra section, knowing that we may have to go down a level if she found it too difficult. That is one of the amazing things about the Family Math Package, you aren’t stuck in one grade level.

There is both a student account and a parent account. I signed into my account, looked around, watched a few lessons, and was ready to start. Everything was very self explanatory, and there was even a big red button on the sign in page that tells you how to get started.

Once AJ signed in we decided to start with the tutorial to make sure she understood how to use the program. Then she started in with the first unit, Number Review. The lessons were short, to the point, and very well explained. The Number Review unit was all about different types of numbers; whole numbers, integers, real numbers, and others. We tried learning the difference between the number types in a different math program and she just didn’t understand the concept. I was a little apprehensive on how she would do, but she really seemed to grasp the concepts. At the end of the lesson she took an interactive quiz and got a perfect score.

Since the lesson was so short I had her do two to three lessons a day. She has a tendency to space out and not pay attention, so in order to make sure she was paying attention to the lessons I had her take notes. I found that having her take notes was very helpful to her retaining the information.

A+ Math is fun, engaging, and helped my child to master new topics

After about a week of using the program, I realized that we weren’t doing the worksheets. I don’t know how we missed them, but we did.  She went back and did the online worksheets for the lessons she had already completed and then it was time for the unit test.

There are two options for the test, online or printed out. I decided to have her do the online test. It is a timed test to stimulate a regular testing environment. She doesn’t do well with tests, or being timed, but she aced the test!

She was so proud of herself after the test and couldn’t wait to start the next unit. Then she found out it was fractions. We have studied fractions for a big part of last year and the first part of this year. She tested out of fractions, so I could understand why she wouldn’t want to go back over them again. We skipped over units two and three and went straight to unit 4, Powers and Roots. She loved the unit and learned so much! Being able to pick which unit to work on really excited her. She watched a few lessons on basic trigonometry and a few on polynomials because she wanted to learn new things.

Each day was a little different and as the lessons became more difficult she went down t one lesson a day.

What did we think?

There were a lot of things that we love about the Family Math Package.

Pros

  • It is a complete program, not just a supplement.
  • There are detailed reports to let you know how your child is doing.
  • Instant feedback is given if your child makes a mistake on the interactive quiz. They are taken back to the section in the lesson that explains that topic.
  • It is full of flexibility! From lesson order, to grade level, to printing things out or doing them online, you decide what works best for you.
  • It is affordable.
  • Lessons are presented in a way that makes sense.

While it is a great program, there were a few things that we didn’t care for.

Cons

  • Answers had to be put in a specific way. On the online worksheets, and the tests, the answers had to match exactly or they were marked wrong. In one lesson she was asked how much percent of something would be left. She answered 32% and was marked incorrect because they were just looking for 32. In another lesson she put .02 for the answer and was marked incorrect because the answer was 0.02. Once we knew that the computer wanted the answers a certain way, it was fine but it would have been nice to know from the beginning that they had to be entered that way. I also wish that there was a way for the parent to override the poor score for instances like I explained above. The good news is that they are working on a way to fix both of those issues.
  • The difficulty level in the interactive quiz and the worksheets often didn’t match. On a few lessons she was able to answer all of the interactive quiz questions very easily, but then the questions on the worksheets were way more difficult. This was AJ’s main complaint.

Overall, we both loved the program! I loved that it is so flexible. AJ loved that the lessons were short and to the point. For now we will be sticking with A+ Math.

Right now A+ Math is having a 40% to 50% off sale on their “Family Math Packages” and “Adaptive Placement Testing w/ Lessons” program from 5/4/2015 to  5/18/2015. We are really enjoying this program, if it sounds like it may be a good fit for your family check it out. I would highly recommend it!
A+ Interactive Math - Building a Foundation You can COUNT on!

Find out what other members of the Review Crew thought by clicking the graphic below!

A+ Interactive Math Review
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Spelling You See – Review

I am a bad speller. There is no easy way to explain how spelling and the millions of rules frustrate me. I could pass most spelling tests with out a problem, but a week later I wouldn’t be able to spell any of the words. I still struggle horribly as an adult. Unfortunately, AJ is just as bad of a speller as I am. We have tried quite a few different ways of working on spelling. We tried memorizing lists, playing games, and copy work. Each thing helped a little bit, but she needed more.

Spelling You See - A program my child enjoys and is learning from!

Thankfully we were given the chance to review a new product from Spelling You See, Spelling You See: Ancient Achievements Level F. We received the Student Workbook Part 1, Student Workbook Part 2, the Instructor’s Handbook, and a package of erasable colored pencils. We were excited to get started.

What is Spelling You See: Ancient Achievements?

Ancient Achievements is level F in the series and is the last book for kids who are in the “skill development stage” of spelling. Spelling You See takes a completely different approach than most spelling programs. There are no lists of words to memorize, and there are no tests. Spelling You See isn’t based on grade or age level, it is based on spelling ability. I highly recommend reading all about Spelling You See’s Spelling Philosophy. I found it very eye opening and thought that it explained exactly why both AJ and I have such difficulty with spelling.

If there are no spelling lists, how does it work?

On the first day of the week your student reads a passage. Ancient Achievements has selections about all kinds of different things from Ancient History. Some of the passages AJ has worked on include; cave paintings, cuneiform, and mummies.

After reading the passage the student goes through and chunks parts of the words by boxing them in with an assigned color. AJ used the colored pencils that came with the program, but you could also use highlighters.  On each page the types of chunks they need to look for are listed. In the beginning of the book it starts with just vowel chunks, then it goes onto consonant chunks. Further into the book they are introduced to bossy r chunks, ending chunks, silent letters, and the tricky Y guy.

By chunking the words, kids can see how they are spelled. Spelling You See.

This is one of the pages where she was working on vowel and constant chunks.

After reading and chunking the passage your student then copies a portion of the passage and chunks it. The copying portion is limited to 10 minutes.

They continue with the same routine on the same passage for the first three days of the week. Day three has an additional feature called Spotlight. In this section a little bit more about words is explained. In the teacher’s guide there are optional activities to practice the topic that the Spotlight is focusing on. Some of the topics we have come across so far are; rhyming words, root words, and different Latin root meanings.

On day 4 they read and chunk the passage, but instead of copying it, they write it from dictation. On day four you are able to help them if needed. After 10 minutes the dictation is stopped and they count how many words they got right.

Spelling You See - The perfect program for my struggling speller!

Dictation from Spelling You See

Day 5 is similar to day 4 except this time you don’t help at all with the dictation. The next week they move onto a different passage and the process begins again.

The teacher’s guide is necessary for the program. It has the passages for dictation, the correct chunking patterns, and ideas for the Spotlight section.

How did we use it?

We do school four days a week, so I was a little bit unsure of how to work the program. We decided to start in the middle of the week and just did the next day’s work each day. It worked out really well.

On the first day I read the passage to AJ and then she read it to me. We took it line by line and she chunked the passage as we went. I had the teacher’s guide open so that I could make sure she found all of the words that needed to be chunked. Then I set the timer and had her copy the passage. I was expecting a fight since she hates to write, but it went very well. Our biggest issue was that after the 10 minutes was up, she wasn’t finished writing. She didn’t like leaving the page partway unfinished so she finished it anyways.

Chunking with Spelling You See - Helpful for the visual learner!

After the first week we decided to get rid of the timer and just let her work until she was finished. Most days it took her about fifteen minutes to finish copying everything.

The second and third day she did mainly on her own other than reading the passage to me. The first day of dictation was the most difficult for AJ, because of one rule, no erasing. The student isn’t aloud to erase during the dictation, instead they are to cross off the word that is spelled wrong. It took a little bit to get use to, but now she knows she can’t erase. On the 5th day I would dictate the passage to her again and she would see if she could get more words correct on the second dictation.

What do we think?

When the books came in the mail I was sure that I would love the program. I wasn’t expecting AJ to love it too! She completes the spelling each day without an issue, but the best part is that I am seeing the skills transfer over to her other writing. When she is writing a word and needs me to spell it she often asks if it has any chunks in it. I have also noticed that she is remembering the words she is working on each week . The other day she was working on history and remembered how to spell archeologist, and that was a word she wrote a few weeks ago!

The only thing we didn’t like was the amount of room given to copy the passage. AJ has large handwriting and found it difficult to fit all of the words on the line. Surprisingly, after the first week, she started writing smaller and was able to fit everything in.

Overall she enjoys it, she is learning from it, and it is helping her to become more confidant. She enjoys the passages, and most of all enjoys the chunking. To her trying to find all of the chunks was like a puzzle. This is a program that I plan to stick with. I would recommend Spelling You See to anyone who has a child who is struggling with spelling, for us it is the perfect fit!

Spelling You See Review
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Orphs of the Woodlands – Review

AJ has a great dislike for reading. She loves math, science, and history, but don’t ask her to read. On the other hand, she loves games, if those games can have an element of math and science, then we usually have a winner. I love getting lost in a story and could get stuck in a good book for hours at a time, so I have been looking for a way to help AJ gain the love of reading that I have. Enter the latest product that we were blessed to review as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, Orphs of the Woodlands. Orphs of the Woodlands is an amazing product created by Star Toaster.

An amazing Online program that has sparked my child's love of reading!

We were given a year long access to the first book, The Treasure of High Tower. The normal subscription is for 60 days and is good for up to three children. There is also the option to extend the subscription for 30 days if your child hasn’t finished the program within the first 60 days. It is an online program so you will need a good internet connection, but you should be able to use it on any browser. We used both Internet Explorer and Chrome and had no issues at all.

What is Orphs of the Woodlands?

In very simple terms, it is a online book with learning and games intertwined. But it is really so much more! When you sign in to Orphs of the Woodland you are taken to a spy job application.  The WAK underground is looking for trustworthy spies to help save the Woodlands from the Night Creatures who are destroying the Woodlands.

This is where the fun begins! Your child gets to pick an alias for the main character in the book. The main character is male, so AJ decided that her squirrel would be named Tommy. Once your application is submitted you are taken to your journal. In your journal is a 15 chapter book told from your character’s perspective. (The book is over 350 pages)

Throughout the book there are interactive learning opportunities. Vocabulary words are highlighted and when you hover over them you are given the definition, or a list of synonyms. There are quotes and Latin phrases that are highlighted as well. When those are hovered over you are given the meaning of the phrase or more information about the quote. There are portions where sound clips are included and videos as well. It is so much more than a book!

The first chapter lays out the story. It tells all about the Night Creatures, Orphs (orphaned animals), gold stars (the currency of the Woodlands),  Ivythwaite, and High Tower.

After the first chapter, (and each other chapter you read) you have to complete jobs to earn gold stars so that you can take care of your Orphs. Jobs are based off of skills learned throughout the book.

Before each “job” there is a lesson on the topic. Some of the lessons are written pages for your child to read, and others are fun videos where Professor Forp teaches you a lesson. Professor Forp is a fun character who encourages you to seek out, “New Information Daily!”

The jobs you do vary with each chapter but they include:

  • Math– covering topics such as; place value, decimals, basic algebra concepts, lines and angles, mean, median, mode, circles, and more.
  • Science – covering numerous animal facts and a few other topics.
  • Language – covering Latin, basic grammar, homonyms, and more.
  • Vocabulary – covering numerous word families.
  • Thinking Skills – covering comprehension questions and memory skills.
  • Character – covering character skills and inspirational quotes.
  • Life Skills – full of wonderful recipes from the story.
  • The Arts – covering basic art subjects like; color, design, and tessellations.

In the beginning your child earns 6 gold stars for each correct answer on a job. As they get more correct answers they move to the next level and eventually earn more gold stars for each correct answer. The trick is that if you answer a question wrong, you don’t get paid, and you don’t have a way to earn those missed stars back again.

What are the Gold Stars For?

Star Toaster Review
That is where the game part of the program comes in. Using strategy you have to decide how to spend your gold stars to best take care of your Orphs. Which land should you purchase? Should you do projects to lower the cost of taking care of your Orphs, and if so which ones? You have to be careful because if you don’t have enough stars to take care of your Orphs, then they will leave and not come back!

 How did we use it?

This program is geared for kids in grades 4 through 7, but I really think it would be good for grades 4 and up. There isn’t a set way to use it, so I had AJ work on it throughout the week for as long as she wanted. Most days she completed a chapter and the jobs for the chapter, but with some of the longer chapters she only made it halfway through the reading and we would pick it up another day. Since she dislikes reading so much I decided to use the program with her and share the reading. The book was very interesting and I enjoyed it.

If you can’t or don’t want to read with your child that is okay too. There is a parent log in where you can find out how your child is doing on the lessons. You also will receive emails from Star Toaster updating you about what your child will be learning and their progress.

Working on Star Toaster - An Amazing online program for kids in grades 4-7

The program was very easy to navigate. AJ did most of it on her own. Using the menu at the top she was able to get to the book, her job list, and her timeline with ease.  We found everything self-explanatory and easy to understand. The best part is that there are helpful videos that explain every portion of the game if you can’t figure something out.

We also took the learning off line. There was a lesson about how to estimate the height of a tree that we tried and a lesson about PH and acidity that she did. I noticed that the lessons on homonyms helped her in her writing as well.

This is so much more than a book! We took the learning offline and explored some of the fun from the book!

 

What did we think?

We LOVED this program. It was the perfect fit for AJ! It has it all; an intriguing story where she is part of it, vocabulary words that are explained so she can understand what she is reading, fun bits of math and science sprinkled in, and a game where she gets to help others. She enjoyed trying to figure out who the good guys were and who was working with the Night Creatures. The story had  mystery and comedy while focusing on good character qualities and the value of knowledge.

She loved Professor Forp. He was funny and really explained subjects in an easy to understand way. I loved that the jobs she had to do forced her to really pay attention. At first I didn’t like that she couldn’t redo a problem if she missed it, but she only ended up missing 3 questions in all because she didn’t want to take a chance of not being able to care for her Orphs, so in actuality it was really a good thing!

AJ’s only complaint was that some of the chapters were too long. I agree that a few of the chapters were long, but I don’t think they could really be broken down any further to keep with the story.

After finishing the book AJ was actually upset! She didn’t want the program to end. The next book will be coming out soon and she really wants to read it. This program has sparked AJ’s love of reading. We finished the book, but she is reading it again because it was so much fun. When this kid willingly reads something a second time I think that speaks for its self. Star Toaster has a real winner with this product!

Star Toaster Review
If you have a reluctant reader, or a child who loves to read, you should checkout Orphs of the Woodlands ! The best part is that they are offering a free trial where you will be given access to the first 100 pages and the jobs that go with those pages. This program sparked my child’s love of reading and hope it will do the same for your child.

Star Toaster Review
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Real Life Homeschooling – Finishing Out the Week

I can’t believe that this is the final day of the real life homeschooling Blog Hop. Today I will share how we ended up finishing out the week.

We had a successful week, everything was finished and she ended up with almost an entire extra day of Spring Break.

When I looked at the spreadsheet Tuesday night I was happily surprised. AJ had finished her spelling, math,  and literature for the week. She only had Bible, Science and History left.

Tuesday night was a late one. I didn’t get to go to bed until 5am because Grandma had an accident around 1 in the morning and had to be showered and changed. I threw her sheets in the washer and then she ended up wanting breakfast. After a few hours she was tired and happily went to bed. At that point I crashed! Things like this happen quite often around here and that is one of the main reasons we don’t have a strict schedule. I didn’t end up waking up until about 11 am.

I decided to take a shower before even thinking about school work. That is until AJ walked in the bathroom and read the Bible reading for the day to me. She told me that she already finished the worksheet for it, and she was ready to work on her history next. When I got out of the shower I found her, already showered, dressed, and hair kind of done working on her history. (We are working on how to do her own hair so she will be ready when she goes to camp this summer.)

Working on History flash cards - Real Life Homeschooling

A few minutes later she was finished with her vocabulary and we went over the book of Joshua in the Kids Bible Handbook. I have to say that book has made Bible time so much easier! It breaks down what happened in each section and really helps both of us to understand the Bible.

We finished up the day by re-watching the science videos and looking through the library books on weather. At about 12:30 school was over and she was officially on Spring Break.

We had a very successful week, but it isn’t always that way. Sometimes Grandma is up all night and we don’t get any sleep, on those days school work doesn’t really get done.

You may have also noticed that there was not any art, grammar, or writing on our schedule this week. We aren’t doing a formal art program. Art is done as it fits in with science and literature, and is really focused on one week in every history unit. The history program is actually very hands on and fun, but this was the first week in the new unit where we had a lot of reading and listening to do.

We have been using copy work for grammar for the last few months. Spelling You See has taken the place of copywork for now. If we continue with it after the review period (which I am almost positive we will) then we will probably add back in some additional copy work a few times a week. We also use the daily grammar from schoolhouseteachers.com. Once we get more use to the new schedule I plan to add that back in.

Writing, the dreaded subject, wasn’t on the list because we finished the last unit in composition and I didn’t want to start a new one and then have a week off for Spring Break in the middle. I haven’t found the perfect program for writing and am looking for a way to make it more enjoyable for AJ.

A successful week where everything was accomplished!

So that was our week. She finished everything on the spreadsheet and had almost an entire extra day of Spring Break!Thanks for joining me and I hope you were given a real life look into our homeschool!

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop
Here are a few of the other bloggers who are participating in the blog hop, check them out!
Indy Homeschool
The Open Window-An Autism Blog
Creative Madness Mama
Hopkins Homeschool
Tots and Me…Growing Up Together
Our Journey
Crystal Starr
A Little This … A Little That
For the Display of His Splendor

Real Life Homeschooling – Some Days Take a Little Longer

Today is Day 4 of the Real Life Homeschooling Blog Hop. This week I have been sharing a typical week in our life, even though each week is a little different. These posts are all based on the week before Easter, because this week is Spring Break and 5 posts about us doing nothing would be pretty boring! Here is how our third day of the week, Tuesday went.

Real Life Homeschooling - Some Days Take Longer

On Monday night I noticed that AJ wasn’t feeling too well. I soon found out that when she was with her grandma over the weekend she went swimming! The pool is not heated and it is still too cold to swim. We had just discussed this and told her that she could not go swimming a week ago, so when she woke up feeling sick I was more than a little irritated.  If the situation would have been a little different I probably would have just skipped school for the day and we would have just made it up later. But after finding out that she completely disobeyed and went in the pool knowing that she was not suppose to, I decided that she would have to just deal with school. Am I a mean mom? Maybe, but in life there are natural consequences and this was one of them.

Tuesday we were off to a slow start. We started school around 10 am. First we worked on her Bible study, and then she did her Bible reading for history.

Putting God First with Bible reading in our Homeschool!

Once she was done with her Bible reading we decided to work on spelling. She did her chunking, read the passage to me, and then asked if she could study some of the harder words for a few minutes before her final dictation. That caught me off guard! I gave her a few minutes to work on her spelling and then we started in on dictation. The dictation is suppose to be stopped after 10 minutes, but when I told her time was up she asked if we could finish. She ended up working on it for about 20 minutes, and was very proud of herself when she corrected it. There were over 100 words in the dictation and she only missed 3! Talk about a boost in confidence. I think Spelling You See is really going to be an answered prayer for us!

Spelling You See - Final Dictation.

After spelling she went and got dressed and did a few chores that she didn’t do before we started school.

Real Life Homeschooling Chores are just another part of school!

We were going to go onto science, but my leg was swelling so badly that I had to go inside and put it up. We decided to work on Star Toaster. It is this amazing reading program that uses an online story, a game, videos, and so many other exciting features to make learning fun. I have a full review coming soon, but here are the basics. She logs in and reads a chapter in the story, The Orphs of the Woodlands. Throughout the story she learns different vocabulary words, character traits, nutrition tips, and math skills. At the end of each chapter she has to do jobs (answer questions) to earn stars so that she can take care of her Orphs (orphaned animals) that she is helping. It is a really neat program and she really enjoys it. She was really into the story, so she ended up working on it for about an hour.

Working on Star Toaster - An Amazing online program for kids in grades 4-7

When I finally told her we had to move on she ended up finishing up her A+ math for the week. The first chapter was really easy, but she enjoyed it. I am crossing my fingers that the rest of the chapters will be as well done. She crossed off math for the week and noticed that the next day’s spelling was a Daily Puzzler from Schoolhouseteachers.com She loves those and asked if she could work on that next. As you can tell by the picture, she was starting to feel a little bit better.

Working of Daily Puzzlers from schoolhouseteachers.com

After crossing off spelling for the week, it was time for science. Today we were learning about clouds. I had printed off a worksheet about the different types of clouds, but I had a hard time telling them apart. (See you don’t have to know all of the answers, just how to find them!)So we decided to do a google image search and learned more about the different types of clouds.

Learning about clouds using a google image search.

After finishing the worksheet we went outside to see how many types of clouds we could name.  Sadly, it was clear as could be other than this little cloud.

Learning about clouds, and this was the only one in the sky!

AJ sketched the cloud, and then it was time to make a cloud in a bottle.

Real Life Homeschooling - Hands on Learning

She had a lot of fun with the experiment!  After science it was time to finish up history. Today she had to do the first half of her vocabulary for history. I decided to try something different with this unit, and had her make flash cards instead of just doing a worksheet. She liked it and I think that she will practice the flash cards more than she will study them in a book, time will tell though.

Real Life Homeschooling -Flashcards for history vocabulary

When the history cards were done she had to read two more chapters in Because of Winn-Dixie. She surprised me and finished the book! She even took the test and aced it! This may seem like a little thing, but this is the first book that she has EVER read by herself, that doesn’t have pictures, where she has really read it and was able to answer questions! This was HUGE!!! After working and pushing, and backing off, and getting frustrated, our hard work has paid off and she willingly finished a book!

Real Life homeschooling - Finishing her first book

She is just in the wheelchair so she can wheel around and spin while reading, she is fine!

 

I don’t know if it was the new schedule that gave her more responsibility, or the fact that she wanted to be on spring break, or if it was just a good book, but now I know she has it in her.

Overall it was a good day, but it was a long day. School lasted about 6 hours. Some days will be longer than others when your child decides to take forever, or when you dig deeper into a subject. We take each day and see how it goes. Tomorrow will be our final day in the real life homeschooling blog hop, come back to see how we finished out the week.

Check out some of the other members of the school house review crew who are participating in the blog hop!

Life at Rossmont
A Stable Beginning
Happy Little Homemaker
Joyful Hearts and Faces
Day by Day in Our World
Mama’s Coffee Shop
Delightful Learning
Double O Farms
Tales of a Homeschool Family
Home Sweet Life
A Rup Life

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop
 

 

Real Life Homeschooling – A “Normal” Day

Today is day 3 in the Real Life Homeschooling Blog Hop. I am sharing the second day of our week, Monday.

I let AJ sleep in, because I slept in. I ended up sleeping through my alarm which happens a little too often. When I woke up around 9:30 this is what I found.

Working Independently on School Work

AJ was in the garage eating breakfast and working on some of her independent work for the day! She told me she wanted to get started so that she would have plenty of time to ride her bike. Maybe this new schedule really is working. She ended up reading the Bible stories for both today and tomorrow. This was part of her history work.

Next we went on to the Bible Study that we are reviewing. After reading a few verses and discussing them, she attempted to do a crossword puzzle. Unfortunately, the crossword puzzle questions and the answer squares didn’t add up. After a few minutes we decided to have her do the younger version of the crossword puzzle instead.

Next on the schedule was Spelling. Today was the dreaded day of dictation. She started out by reading the passage and chunking it. Then we covered the passage and I dictated it to her.

Chunking the passage from Spelling You See

She struggles with the dictation because one of the rules is that she can’t erase. If she spells a word wrong she has to cross it out and try again. She also doesn’t like to be timed. The dictation is only suppose to last for ten minutes, but today she was a little distracted and didn’t write very much after 10 minutes so I stopped her after 15 minutes. She did well, but I hope that we can get further along tomorrow when we do the final dictation.

Dictation with Spelling You See

After spelling we moved onto Science. Today’s lesson was about how to read a weather map. She read a little bit about weather maps and then had to answer six questions based on them. It was a quick activity that only took about 15 minutes.

Learning all about Weather Maps

I let AJ pick the next subject and she chose math. She started with her Key to Percent book and finished her two pages very quickly. Then she decided that she wanted to go ahead and finish off the book today, including the test.

Taking the final test for Key to Percent Book 1

This is where we normally get off course with our schedule. She wants to do more in a subject and we end up putting other subjects on hold. Last week we were so focused on history that we didn’t do any science. I told her that she could do as much math as she wanted, but that the other subjects had to get done too. She passed her test with 98% and wanted to start the next book, but I had to stop her there, because I didn’t want to do school work all day. Have I mentioned how much I love Key to Math?

Next up was History. She read a few verses in Joshua and then I put on the What in the World? CD for her to listen to while she colored in her What’s in the Bible? coloring book. I have found that she doesn’t pay attention unless she is doing something. She just spaces out and can’t tell me anything that has happened. Sometimes I let her play with play dough, kinetic sand, or putty. But today’s lesson fit in so well with the coloring pages so I had her color.

Coloring while listening to What in the World?

While she was listening to the CD I checked on Grandma and started preparing dinner – chicken and dumplings.

She looked at her spread sheet and realized that she forgot to do her A+ Math that we are reviewing. She logged into her account and started on lesson 6. After she did the lesson and got 100% on the after lesson questions, I realized that there were worksheets to go along with the lessons. She hadn’t completed any of the worksheets because I didn’t realize they existed. Oops! I had her do a few of the worksheets that we had missed and then it was time for lunch.

Working on A+ Math

Even with doing extra math and history, school was less that 4 hours long. I ended up running a few errands to the pharmacy and the store and then we worked on Star Toaster when I came back. When we were finished she rode her bike for over an hour. It was a very successful day!

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop
 Here are 10 more amazing bloggers who are participating in the Blog Hop, check them out!

Treasuring Life’s Blessings
Double O Farms
Simple Living Mama
Fried Clams and Sweet Tea
This Sweet Life
A Net In Time
Counting Pinecones
Some Call It Natural
Kingdom Academy Homeschool
Debbie’s Homeschool Corner

See how others spend their day by checking out A Day in our Homeschool!

 

 

 

 

Real Life Homeschooling – Fitting It All In

Today is day 2 of the Real Life Homeschooling Blog Hop. (You can see day 1 here) I will be taking you through a typical homeschooling week at our house. This week we decided to do school Sunday through Wednesday. (This post is based on the week before Easter, because we are on Spring Break this week.)

Sundays are busy around here. It is our day that we do the major cleaning, so it is not the “best day” to do school, but we have to fit in school when we can. Here is how our day went.

My alarm went off at 8:30 and I woke AJ up about 9am. She didn’t want to get up until I reminded her that she had church that night and if her work wasn’t done (As long as she puts in a decent effort she can go, even if everything isn’t finished.) she couldn’t go to church.

Homeschooling in Real Life - Fitting it all in

From about 9 to 11 she got up, ate breakfast (eggs, toast, and an apple), took a shower, and made her bed. She moves so SLOWLY in the mornings sometimes. So slowly that it drives me nuts!

From 11 to about 1:30 we cleaned. The floors were swept and mopped, everything was dusted, and then……. Grandma woke up. She had a wet diaper so we changed her and made her some breakfast. I put a Shirley Temple movie on to occupy Grandma and then supervised as AJ vacuumed the house. Then it was time for lunch. Lunch was simple, a tuna sandwich, chips, pickles, and cucumber.

At about 2pm we started school. I was afraid we wouldn’t get much finished since church was at 5:45. We do the majority of her school work in the garage.

Normally, I would let AJ pick the order of the subjects for the day, but not today. Since we were in a time crunch I decided to start off with history. This week in history we are starting a new unit all about The Children of Israel. It covers quite a few books in the Bible, from Joshua to 1 Kings. Today on the schedule was reading the article, reading a few stories in the Action Bible, and reading a few major verses in her Bible.

Homeschooling in Real Life - History

We read the article and Bible verses together and then she read a few stories in the Action Bible.

The Action Bible - A great way to help kids understand the Bible.

After history was finished, she moved onto Bible. We are reviewing a Bible Study from Heidi St. John called; Firmly Planted The Gospels Part 1 Today we read the first part of Luke 1, and discussed it.

Firmly Planted Bible Study, Luke 1

Then she worked on the vocabulary section while I put dinner on. We need to get a better dictionary, because the one we have just isn’t cutting it any more. She had to use the computer to look up most of the words, and they were basic words.

Looking up words using Dictionary.com

Next on the list was spelling. We are reviewing Spelling You See, and so far AJ loves it. I was concerned about the amount of writing at first, but she has been doing very well with it.

Spelling You See - A hands on way to practice spelling.

First she reads it to me and then she chunks the words based on the vowels. After we go over the chunking, she copies the passage.

Spelling You See - A hands on way to practice spelling.

Spelling only took about 15 minutes total. Today for some odd reason she decided to cooperate and get her work done in a timely manner.  After spelling we moved onto math.

Today’s math was in 2 parts. First she did some online math (more on that tomorrow) then she worked on her Key to Percent book. Today’s lesson was on finding percent by using what she already knew. She had to find  49% by finding both 50% and 1% and subtracting, or find 35% by adding up 25% and 10% of a number.

No need for paper, we do math on the whiteboard!

She worked her problems out on the whiteboard after I went over what she had to do. While she worked on math I folded some laundry and checked on Grandma. Then I checked Facebook and my email. A few minutes later I checked her math and she had them all correct. I love this math! Everything is step by step and she enjoys doing it.

The last major subject for the day was science. We are using Digital Science Online and are working on Weather. Today she watched the video all about weather in action and filled out a worksheet. She watched it alone while I went inside and put my foot up because I was hurting a lot.

Using Digital Science online to promote independence

When she finished science (about 25 minutes) she asked if she could do her literature at bed time. I decided we would try it and she did her PE. I had to add PE to the schedule because otherwise I tend to put it off so that she gets more book work done. In all honestly, if it wouldn’t have been on the schedule I would have skipped it. She loves to ride her bike though, and I think seeing it on the schedule actually makes her work harder.

After PE she watered the plants, and then it was time to eat a snack and go to church. She ended up finishing up everything except literature by 5:15. She says that she really likes the new schedule and if more days go like today, I will gladly take the extra time to schedule each week.

After church, at about 7:15, we ate dinner. Tonight was ham, mashed potatoes, and steamed carrots. When it was time for her to do her literature, she gave a little attitude because she wanted to watch TV.

Working on independence in Home School

After a few minutes of moaning about how she could do it tomorrow, she went in and read her book and answered the questions. She actually ended up doing both Sunday’s and Monday’s work, because, “The book was just so interesting.” I don’t know who kidnapped my child and replaced her, but I am gladly keeping this one!

Each day is different and today everything seemed to work out well. AJ cooperated with her school work, Grandma willingly stayed out of trouble, and the house was cleaned. Most days are not this smooth, but I am thankful when days like today happen.

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop
 Here are 10 more blogs that are participating in the blog hop, check them out!

For This Season
Unexpected Homeschool
For Him and My Family
As We Walk Along the Road
Growing in His Glory
Homeschool Coffee Break
Daily Life
There Will Be A $5 Charge For Whining
Proverbial Homemaker
ElCloud Homeschool

 

Real Life Homeschooling – Scheduling

Homeschooling is such a general term. You have your strict, scheduled homeschoolers who have a set regimen and follow it to a tee. On the other side you have homeschoolers who do little or no bookwork and let life lead the path of learning. While either are great,  I think most families fall somewhere in the middle. This week I am participating in a blog hop all about real life homeschooling with members from the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Throughout the week I will be giving you a glimpse into our school week, the ups and the downs.  I hope you will join me each day this week for a new post about our real life homeschooling!

Scheduling Our Homeschool Week

We have a four day school week. Thankfully we live in a very easy state when it comes to homeschooling. There are no set number of days or hours that we have to do schoolwork. Still, I try to maintain a basic schedule so that AJ can have the best education that I can give her. The days we school often change depending on appointments, Grandma, and just life in general. This week we plan to do school work Sunday through Wednesday. Ideally, I will plan our school week the weekend before, but sometimes come Monday morning (Or Sunday if that is our first day) I am going over the work from the week before and figuring out what we need to do. Recently AJ has taken a maturity growth spurt when it comes to school. She informed me that she wasn’t a baby anymore and that she could do some things on her own! That was music to my ears!  Coming from a kid who has needed someone to sit by her side to keep her on task, I was shocked to say the least. I looked at our schedule, some things needed to change. I was scheduling too much and not giving her enough independence. I switched up how I was scheduling our week and the last few weeks have run a lot smoother. Here is what scheduling looks like for our homeschool. First I go through the work from the week before. I should file it, but this week I stuck it in a folder to take care of later. By the looks of that folder, later needs to get here soon! The next step is going through the next lessons in each subject AJ  is working on. I look at what we are reviewing and decide if I will be switching out subjects, or adding more subjects to our day. Once I know what I want her to work on, I type it all up into a spread sheet.

Our weekly schedule

The new thing I do is color code the spread sheet. I go through and change the font color based on how she is suppose to do the work. One color is for the subjects she will work on with me, one color for the subjects where I need to teach her something, or work with her for part and then she works by herself, and a third color for the topics she is to do by herself.  This takes a little longer, but it seems to help our day run smoother. After I have the week planned out, I print out the spread sheet, print any worksheets that need to be completed, and gather all of the books she will need. I stack the books and worksheets up in a pile, and we are ready for the week.

Getting ready for a new week

On the schedule for this week…..

Math – Finishing up book 1 of Percent and finishing Unit one of A+ Math Pre Algebra (A Review Item)

Science – Learning more about weather – including a cloud experiment

History – Working through the book of Joshua in the Bible and starting our study of The Children of Israel.

LiteratureBecause of Winn Dixie. I want her to finish the book this week, but I don’t know if that will happen.

Bible – Focusing on Luke chapter 1 about Jesus’s birth in a new Bible Study (A Review Item)

Spelling – Spelling You See (A Review Item)

Extras – PE and Star Toaster – An online reading adventure (A Review Item)

We will see how this week goes. I hope you come back tomorrow to join me on or week of Real Life Homeschooling!

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop
 

There are 52 bloggers participating in this Bog Hop, here are a fer of them.

Every Bed of Roses
Ben and Me
Footprints in the Butter
Mountain of Grace Homeschooling
Raventhreads
Counting Our Blessings
Homeschooling for His Glory
Ozark Ramblings
Chestnut Grove Academy
Only Passionate Curiosity
Farm Fresh Adventures

 

Thick as Thieves – A TOS Review

I don’t know about you, but I have a very reluctant reader. She reads well, but just doesn’t like it. If I give her a book with a lot of pictures or a non fiction book  she will read it with a fake smile, but if I give her a fiction book with no pictures at all, attitude is usually around the corner. This year I have been focusing on her reading. She has read a lot of different types of books, and I have noticed that the ones that keep her interest the most have a strong, believable, young girl as the main character. I was thrilled when we were given the opportunity to review a wonderful book, Thick as Thieves by Susan K. Marlow. Thick as Thieves is the first book in a new series, Circle C Milestones. After reading about the book, I thought it would be the perfect fit for AJ.

Full of suspense, wonder, and excitement. We stayed up until 3am because we couldn't put this book down!
 

About the Book

The Circle C Milestones series takes readers on an adventure with fourteen year old Andrea Carter (known as Andi) who is growing up in California in the 1800’s. The book opens with Andi worrying about her horse, Taffy, who is going through her first foaling. Andi is in that awkward stage where she isn’t a little girl any more, but where she isn’t old enough for anyone to take her seriously. After some scary stuff happens, that keeps you on the edge of your seat,  Andi has to return to school instead of being able to stay with her horse.

When school starts more drama and conflict occurs as a new girl, Macy, comes to school. Macy is dirty, smelly, and full of secrets. As Andi’s luck would have it, Macy ends up as her new seat mate.

Just when things start to settle down, cattle rustlers start stealing horses. When Andi’s family’s ranch is hit, suspense and adventure fill the story. Will Andi’s family get their horses back? Will Andi make it through the school year sitting by the crude Macy? Throw in a few plot twists, and you may be surprised by the ending. I sure was.

Thick as Thieves is a 173 page soft covered book that is broken down into 26 chapters. It is recommended for kids ages 12 and up.

Free 40 page Study Guide. There are sections on idioms, characterization, similes, and so much more

To go along with the book there is a free downloadable study guide. The study guide is 40 pages long. It covers vocabulary and comprehension questions like most study guides, but it goes much deeper. There are sections on idioms, characterization, similes, and so much more. There are even fun sections that teach a little more about life in the 1880’s.

The study guide is recommended to be used one of two ways. It can be used after reading a number of chapters or you can read the entire book and then come back and do it.

How We Used It

This book arrived the day we finished up our previous novel study. My plan was to print out the study guide and have AJ start reading the book the next day. That didn’t happen. When the book arrived in the mail she read the back and wanted to start reading it that night! When she asks to read, I don’t usually say, “no.” We did a little bit of shared reading (I read a page then she reads a page) and stopped after a few chapters. She did the study guide the next day and we read some more. We did that for the first two days, but then we decided to wait and do the study guide at the end of the book. The book was just too exciting to put down. On the third day we stayed up until three in the morning because she had to find out what was going to happen. We still had a few chapters left, so we finished up the next morning.

The problem came when she went to work on the study guide. She couldn’t remember what happened in each chapter. She knew how both Andi and Macy had changed had grown, but she couldn’t remember what part of the book things happened in. We decided to skip the comprehension questions and just did the fun activities that went along with the book.

If I were to do another study guide with one of Susan K. Marlow’s books I would do it a little differently. I would have AJ do the vocabulary section before she started the book so that she would be more familiar with it. Then I would make sure to at least ask the comprehension questions after each set of chapters. The rest of the study guide we would do after the book was finished. The study guide is amazing! It is well put together and a wonderful resource. I really wish we would have utilized it better.

What We Thought

We loved this book! It was full of fun, adventure, suspense, and wonderful character traits. Andi is not perfect, and I think AJ really understood her. AJ was so into the book that a few times in the beginning she said, “Andi just needs to punch that Macy!” Both of the characters were so deep and interesting. The theme of the book is friendship, and it really shines through. There are biblical values intertwined throughout the book, but it is done in a way that doesn’t come across as preachy.

This was the first book that either of us had read from this author and we were plesently surprised. She has a wonderful writing style and we can’t wait to read more of her books about Andi. There are two other series about Andi; Circle C Beginnings (for ages 6-9) and Circle C Adventures (for ages 9-14) and AJ wants to read them all! We have the Circle C Beginnings set on order at the library and we can’t wait until it comes in.

Any book that can spark AJ’s interest in reading is a win in my book. I would recommend it whole heartedly!

Click the banner below to see what other Schoolhouse Review Crew members had to say about the book.

Koru Naturals Review
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GPA Math – A TOS Review

Math, you either love it or hate it. Around here we love math. AJ would do math any day over reading or writing. When I was given the opportunity to review an online math program GPALOVEMATH from GPA LEARN I thought it would be the perfect math program for AJ. I was given a year long subscription to GPALOVEMATH. There are over 150 lessons and 10,000 problems in each grade!

GPA LEARN - A TOS REVIEW Earning badges and points MOTIVATES!

GPALOVEMATH is a math program that is completely online. Using animated characters, lessons that are to the point, and step by step directions, your student can master math standards. GPALOVEMATH is really broken down into three parts – Learn, Engage, and Motivate. When you purchase GPALOVEMATH your child will have access to all six grades of math, from K-5. We used fifth grade for the majority of our review, but we also looked around at some of the other levels.

When your student logs on to the program they are taken to their dashboard. On their dashboard they will see how many lessons they have completed, the number of stars they received for each lesson, their progress, and how many rewards they have earned. From there they have the option of clicking on one of the three tabs; Learn, Engage, or Motivate.

When your student clicks onto the learn tab they are taken to a screen with three different paths to work on. The paths vary a little by grade, but in 5th grade they were:

  • Green Path – covers order of operations, problem solving skills, and variables.
  • Purple Path – covers place value, decimals, fractions, multiplication, and division
  • Blue Path – covers the coordinate grid, graphing, geometry, and measuring

GPA LEARN - Learning Paths

The lessons can be completed in recommended order, or by topic. If you are going in recommended order, there may be times when one or more of your paths are blocked and you are forced to complete other lessons before you can continue on the blocked path. This can be bypassed manually, if you want.

When the student clicks on the desired lesson they are taken to a lesson that is broken up into three parts. The first part is the Introduction.

The 5th grade lessons start off with Nina Numerator and Dino Denominator needing your help to stop the Evil Dr. Division from trying to ruin the world. In order to stop Dr. Division you have to solve math problems and earn clues.

GPA LEARN - Math Missions add to the excitement of math!

After explaining why the topic is important to learn, any new math words are defined.

Mighty Math words - New Vocabulary is learned for most lessons.

The concept is explained in detail. Then the student is walked through four problems on the topic, earning a clue after each problem.

GPA LEARN - Math topics are broken down into easy to understand steps.

During this time the student should work the problems out, but they can not click on anything or submit their answer in any way. Once they earn all of their clues Dr. Division is defeated until the next time and the introduction is over.

Following the introduction is the practice section. In this section you practice solving problems. If you get it right then your learning coach gives you positive feedback, a green check appears, and you can go on to the next problem. If you get it wrong, your learning coach points out what you did wrong, a red refresh button comes up, and you are given another chance to solve the problem. When practice is over, it is time for the Quiz.

GPA LEARN -  made a mistake, your learning coach will help guide you!

The quiz is 15 questions (10 for younger grades) long. During the quiz the learning coach doesn’t provide any feedback, and you won’t know if you answered a problem correctly until the end of the quiz. The quiz is made up of multiple choice, drag and drop, and fill in the blank questions. When the quiz is over you are given your score and your points. You are also able to go through any missed problems.

 

Earn points and badges after each quiz!The second tab your student can click on is the Engage tab. Under that tab they can send messages to approved people including their teacher. This section may be great, but we didn’t use it. With just the two of us, it would be silly to communicate over the computer, but it might work well if your student has friends using the same program.

The final tab is what makes GPA LEARN different from other math programs, the Motivate tab. For each lesson your student earns points depending on how well they did. They can then use those points to purchase things. There are numerous options from staying up late to cooking with parents, and even having the parent do the child’s chores. There is also the option to earn a gift card (provided by GPA LEARN) to different retailers. During this review we saw Toys R Us and Target, I don’t know what options there will be in the future. **** As you can see AJ earned quite a few gift cards, but policies have changed and now there is a limit of earning 3 per year*** There are also random awards that parents can select in the beginning that are given out as surprises when the student has completed so many lessons.

GPA Learn- Earn surprise rewards

GPALOVEMATH can be played on your MS Window or Apple MAC computer; Apple iPad, or Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 (10”). You can use it with your favorite browsers, Google Chrome (recommended), Apple Safari 6 & 7, MS IE11 and FireFox. We used it on my Windows 8 laptop using Chrome.

AJ is in 6th grade, but since we have been doing a mastery based math, there are a few holes, especially in geometry. AJ used this program in place of her normal curriculum for the six weeks. I had her do about 5 or 6 lessons a day. She was able to log on and navigate the program very easily and did the program mostly independently. All she needed was my computer, some scratch paper, and a pencil and she was off.

GPALOVEMATH sounds like the perfect program. It is visual, interesting, and full of bells and whistles to make learning fun. Unfortunately, we found some major flaws.

The voices of the characters are horrible, on top of being annoying and computerized, there were times that math vocabulary words (along with others)were pronounced incorrectly. The audio was at times playing so fast that nothing could be understood and at other times there was so much static that the sound had to be turned off. I contacted the company and they are aware of the problem and are in the process of redoing the audio for the 5th grade level. Currently the only fix is to turn the volume down and read through the lesson, but for AJ that was a major issue.

The other major issue was that there were a lot of math errors. I know there will be errors with any program, but this was a bit much. The first few we just talked about, but by the fifth or sixth time that her correct answer was marked wrong on a quiz she was frustrated. She actually used the feedback button herself and contacted them about the issue. She was right, and the problem was fixed.

Most of the issues were simple errors, but a few times the errors prevented her from getting the highest score and the correct points.

GPA Learn - a major con we had was the numerous math errors

As you can see in this picture, they have that point D would be at -6,2. The correct answer would be -6, -2 but she was marked wrong for that answer and another one that was really correct on the same lesson. After reporting quite a few errors we were informed that the 5th grade team would be going over the problems to check them. When we looked at the other levels there were errors as well. In one kindergarten lesson the question asked which picture showed the snowman after it melted, but none of the pictures had anything to do with snowmen.

AJ’s biggest complaint aside from the audio and the math errors was that the introduction was too long. In the beginning, saving the world from Dr. Division was exciting, but after a week it became old and boring. In fact, because of the awful audio and the long introductions AJ decided to skip most of the lessons and just do the practice and quizzes.

There were some really good things about the program too. I love how step by step everything is. I also appreciate that after each lesson she completes I receive an email telling me what she worked on, how long, and what her score was. I can even see if she skipped the lesson or watched it. I love the detailed feedback that shows me how she is doing. The customer service is top notch, and very professional – even when dealing with an 11 year old.

Overall I think it is a great idea, that is just poorly executed at this point. Would I recommend it? No, not now, but once the audio is fixed and the problems are rechecked for accuracy I think that this would be a great math program.

There were a lot of reviewers, and most of the ones that I have read were very positive, so go check them out!

 

GPA Learn Review
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