Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Weekly Highlights: Winter Break? No. Flu? Why, Yes!

Our week of Feb. 17- 23
Sunday:
Our week started with Mommy volunteering (for the first time) in Ryan's Sunday School class. It was the beginning of winter break, and they needed a few extra hands. It was a lot of fun! One thing I love about our church is its openness to the special needs community. I got to see first hand how the special needs kids (that could be in a regular Sunday School class) were paired with their own helper, and how well this worked!
A few minutes into class, K-4th graders combine for about thirty minutes for songs, an activity to show an aspect of the Bible story, and the actual Bible story either acted out or on the big screen. I enjoyed this part, too! I got to see Caraline participate in a couple of different ways!
And here is one of them! She had to come up with a solution of how to make lemonade with no spoon or bowl or way to mix the lemons, sugar and water. So, the solution was to put the sugar, water and squeeze the lemon juice into her mouth, then do jumping jacks to mix it all together and then spit it into the pitcher. Eww, gross...right... The kids loved it!

Back in Ryan's class, we completed another three or so fun activities to go along with our lesson. I was impressed with the quality of the hands on activities and how they tied in with the lesson.

The Rest of our Week:

We weren't going to take a winter break, not just yet anyway. So Monday found us learning  and working away on our normal studies. That afternoon, Ryan pulled a Fred Sanford. He was really going overboard on how his ribs hurt, his back hurt, his head hurt and his ears, too. Then he got tickled and fell over laughing. We both shared a good laugh. From then on, I thought he was just trying to get out of doing school work. So, we did a math lesson on my bed. Afterwards, he just laid down...I checked on him after doing a little bit of work with Caraline and this is what I found...
Poor little buddy really was sick. The next few days were rough for him. He ended up with the flu and bronchitis....

A couple days later, this happened in the middle of the day....
Poor little Jonathan ended up with the same thing. Earlier that morning he had a fever, and I should of thought better than to let him play with his scissors. His judgement was certainly off (as was mine apparently!) He gave himself a um... unique haircut.

So, Ryan didn't have regular school for the rest of the week. We continued our read aloud, The Princess and the Goblin. We watched the Magic School Bus, Veggie Tales, the Crocodile Hunter, the old school Electric Company and a couple of movies. For a couple of days, this really was all Ryan could do.

Caraline continued regular lessons and we actually doubled up a little bit. We thought it might be a good idea to get a little extra done in case she or I got as sick as Ryan and Jonathan...And it did happen. I got sick. Then Daddy got sick. Caraline, so far, has been healthy.

At dusk a few days later, Daddy suggested we get some fresh air at our favorite nature area. (We hadn't left our house in DAYS!) We were just going to go down to the pond which was an easy, very short walk from the parking lot.

We hadn't even made it all the way to the pond when we heard the LOUD rushing of the creek a few hundred feet beyond the pond. This was the loudest we'd ever heard the rapids. There was no way we could just sit around at the pond when this thunderous rushing water was audible so far away! We slowly made the descend and found the creek pretty much at flood level. It was certainly worth the short hike, even though we were all completely worn out (except Caraline, who managed to get muddy and was proud to show it off!).


And even though we still weren't 100%, we did do an ARTistic Pursuits lesson together. Art is a great stress reliever. It's not too difficult to make out Jonathan's new hair do either...we haven't ventured out to the barber's to get it fixed quite yet.
So, we might not have had the healthiest week, but we were able to splash in a few fun things.

This week I am linking with:

Homegrown Learners





Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A+ TutorSoft, Inc.'s Complete, Interactive MATH Curriculum

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"Your Own Virtual Teacher Anywhere, Anytime"

A+ TutorSoft, Inc. has developed an interactive, multimedia math curriculum "that use(s) all three learning modalities - Audio, Visuals and Text" for first through sixth grades, plus Pre-Algebra (seventh grade) and Algebra I. This curriculum, A+ Interactive MATH, is designed to meet national standards and surpass state standards.


Now, when you visit the website for the first time, you may be a little overwhelmed (like I was!) with the amount of information presented on the homepage. Once you spend a little time there, you'll find an abundance of helpful information. A short sampling includes:
 A+ Interactive MATH Format Choices: 
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The above premium edition CD is the format we chose to review.


Homeschoolers have three options for A+ Interactive MATH,
The option we chose to review is the premium edition curriculum CD download of third grade, our grade of choice. I have two younger children that will benefit down the road from having the physical CD. The online version is a pay by the month, quarter or yearly subscription. (There will be a coupon code at the end for 50% off until the end of March 2013!)

(You may view a side by side feature comparison of the online option, standard CD option and premium CD option by clicking here.)

What is included with the 3rd grade full curriculum (premium) CD product?

Below is important information from a couple of different places on the website (but I've condensed the information into one place) detailing what's included in a Premium Edition CD:

  Multimedia Lessons that use all three learning modalities: audio, visual, and text.
  Interactive Q & A that allows students to practice problem solving with immediate feedback and step-by-step explanation using audio, visual, and text.
  Full Curriculum Book which contains chapters with concise and "to-the-point" explanations covering all the appropriate grade level content.
  Worksheets PACK with printable worksheets.
  Worksheets Solution Guide with step-by-step solutions for each problem in the Worksheets PACK
  Exams PACK with printable exams
  Exams Solution Guide with step-by-step solutions for each problem in the Exam PACK.
  Recommended Lesson Plan in regards to the pace, timeline, and ordering of the material
  Reference Sheets filled with facts, formulas, and diagrams.


AND

1) Progress Tracking and Reporting for up to 5 children with easy to read progress report. Easily maintain records of all completed assignments for each student in one secure place.
2) Parental Controls - Allows parents to hide/unhide the "answer keys" and solution guides from a student
3) Weekly Certificate of Accomplishment - The system tracks all assignments completed by students once parents have entered their assignments scores and generates a "Weekly Progress Report" in a very child-friendly format for student's review. This provides encouragement to your students as they see their weekly accomplishments in a very well formatted "certificate-like" format.


Ok. So now that you know what's included, let's take a look at what a day of lessons looks like:

If you haven't already watched, the  product demo is a fabulous resource for visualizing exactly what the actual product looks like.

We begin our math lesson by remembering where we left off the day before. The program doesn't automatically begin in the place we last logged out. So, we use the drop down menu on the left to find (remember) our place. Then, we begin our lesson. With the "virtual teacher" the lessons are explained clearly. There have only been two instances of Caraline needing an extra explanation and help from me. This is over the course of more than 23 lessons.

There is a lesson planning guide that maps out a weekly schedule. I found it slightly fast paced in some instances, and we slowed down just a little bit from the suggested schedule. Sometimes we complete one lesson per day. Occasionally, we do two or three. We proceed at Caraline's pace. When I honor her pace, she enjoys math immensely.

A screen shot of one lesson example in Basic Number Sense
After her on screen lesson (lesson times average around ten minutes) utilizing text, visuals and audio, Caraline begins the Interactive Q & A. This is one of the my favorite parts of A+ Interactive and a big reason why I LOVE this program. During the Interactive Q & A, there are questions asked and multiple choice answers given. If the question is answered correctly, the "virtual teacher" says "Good Job!" and you move on to the next question. If the question is answered incorrectly, the virtual teacher states in a very sweet voice, "I'm sorry, that is incorrect." Immediately, a review or "reteaching" of that skill is presented along with the correct way to answer the question. The student is then given another chance to correctly answer the missed question. At the end, there is a printable certificate with the correct and incorrect number of questions answered with attempt 1 and attempt 2. Caraline always prints this certificate for my physical record book. (I don't utilize the online scoring system.) With the CD version the parent must manually type in the scores. From what I understand, the online version does this automatically.



If Caraline makes 100% on the first attempt of the Interactive Q & A, she is done with that lesson. If she misses a question or two, she prints off the corresponding worksheet by clicking on the red Print Worksheet tab on the left side of the screen. After she is finished with the worksheets (generally two pages), we go over her answers, utilizing the worksheet answer sheet if needed. I then file the worksheets in our math folder.
This is what the Interactive Q & A certificate looks like.


There are also end of unit exams with roughly 20 - 40 problems each and a detailed solutions guide or answer key, too.

Final Thoughts:

I love the interactive features of A+ Interactive MATH, the detailed answer keys and the clear, precise presentation of lessons using the "virtual teacher".   This program is easy enough for Caraline to be completely independent, from beginning the lesson to printing her own worksheets. A+ Interactive MATH has been a positive addition to our homeschool, and we look forward to continuing to use this program. I also look forward to being able to pass down this program to my younger children.

Pricing and 50% Off Coupon!

Use this code SPOFFER50 at checkout for 50% off your order until the end of March 2013!

The Premium Edition Cds are normally $124.99. If you utilize the 50% off coupon, the Premium Edition CDs are only $62 dollars and change! The standard CD versions are priced at $99. Also, available on the above hyperlink is a Table of Contents for each level.

The pricing guide for the online homeschool version can be found here.

Be sure to check out other reviews of the online and Premium CD versions by clicking the banner below.


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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Love, Circus, Compassion, Solar Ovens and Ponies - Highlights from our Week

Highlights from February 11-16th ~  The week of love...
My sweetie and I laid eyes on each other for the first time 15 years ago this week! We met at a Valentine's Day get together friends from our college group at church put together. Mutual friends invited my now husband - with a whisper in his ear to be on the lookout for available me =) It was a great no pressure blind date of sorts! And now look at us, fifteen years and a family of five. There are 20 roses,  fifteen to represent our fifteen years together and another five for our family of five. So sweet and very beautiful!

 Homeschool Creative Highlights:
 We are using ARTistic Pursuits and I believe artistic creativeness is shining through. This is Ryan's adorable drawing of dogs from one of his math lessons this week.
During free coloring time, I was impressed to see the use of complementary colors and two toned coloring in the dinosaurs and the sun!

Valentine's Day Celebrations:
Our children participate in Awana activities at our church. In addition to our Bible lesson and memorizing our memory verse in Cubbies, Jonathan enjoyed a Valentine's party complete with valentine exchange, a heart scavenger hunt around the church and cute crafts. Our older two had special Valentine's activities, too.
Jonathan was my big helper before co-op. He helped set up our solar ovens and found sticks to prop the lids open.
Thursday is our homeschool co-op day and it just happened to be Valentine's Day, too! We had another day of valentine exchange (all three kids) and special celebrations! Who says homeschoolers miss out on special celebrations?!

In our Growing Up Wild class, a tribal missions focused class I am teaching, we used our solar ovens (made in a previous class) to make a special Valentine's Day treat. The weather was sunny and 52 degrees. I was worried that our treat might not melt well. So, I also brought in a heat lamp, and we experimented with indoor solar oven with heat lamp vs. outdoor solar oven and sunshine. We were surprised that the outdoor treats melted faster and were more gooey than our indoor heat lamp treats! Unfortunately, our bottom row of outdoor treats were invaded by nature--- ants...

Compassion International:

We sponsor a nine year old child through Compassion International We got our first letter from her  this week, along with this beautiful drawing! It is so special corresponding with this sweet little girl. It warms all of our hearts to be her new friend! Compassion is a wonderful organization. Would you consider pulling a child out of poverty by becoming a sponsor? It costs just a little more than $1 a day ($38 a month). You really will make a difference in the life of a child!

Our newest read aloud: 

We began reading The Princess and the Goblin on our Kindle this week. Our pastor recommended it a couple of months ago for its Christian allegory. Caraline isn't one to want to read about goblins or anything creepy. So, she's still not so sure about this book because of the title. The boys, however, are loving it.

Our field trip to the circus!
Our Friday was filled with a full day at the circus - our first! The kids woke up two hours before their normal wake-up time because they were so super excited! We made it into ATL around 8:15 am with plenty of time to eat breakfast in the CNN center cafeteria. While there we watched the Russian meteor coverage on the huge big screen tv's. Watching on such a huge screen was super cool!  We also got to see the actual CNN journalists' humvee used during the wars in the Middle East.

And of course the circus was a big hit! We were there in time to participate in the pre-show and meet some of the performers. It was a fun, long day!

That night, our little ones tried to make our dogs into the circus act dogs we'd seen....Oh, boy...

The  next day (and the coldest we've had by far) our boys got to spend nearly the whole day with my dad! (Caraline attended a Valentine's party with friends from co-op for three of those hours.) Afterwards, Dad picked Caraline up from her party. He then took all three kids out for ice cream and a pony ride! I love that he has a little more free time (occasionally) on the weekends. We are certainly benefiting from that and love getting to see more of him. Especially, since he lives in another state!

~Hope
This week I am linking with:
Homegrown Learners



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Flowering Baby, Birth to Five Curriculum

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Flowering Baby, LLC utilizes a "whole child developmental approach" for their birth to preschool curriculum. The co-authors (including a child development expert) penned Flowering baby using  Classical, Unit Study and Charlotte Mason philosophies.

Each year is a separate product. Birth to One, One to Two and Two to Three are designed for the specific age of the child. They are broken down by the child's age in months and focus largely on cognitive skills, developmental skills and includes suggestions for read alouds and music.

A link to a one month preview of Birth to One can be found at the very bottom of this page.

A link to a one month preview of One to Two can be found at the very bottom of this page.

A link to a one month preview of Two to Three can be found at the very bottom of this page.

Age Three to Four and Four to Five are structured by calendar month and themes. The Monthly curriculum focuses largely on subjects such as science, math, reading, physical exercises and scheduling a variety of music - with most months including suggestions of music to listen to for the month. There are also specific themed unit studies (in a separate PDF file). In addition to the calendar month activities, you are to choose two themes, in what ever order you wish, each month to complete.

Example of the twenty-six titles in the 84 page Four to Five Theme Curriculum Guide are: Arctic Life, Bodies of Water, Bugs and Birds, Christmas, Dinosaurs, Fall, Family, Farm Animals, Fish and Frogs and the list continues in alphabetical order.

A link to a one month preview of Three to Four Monthly curriculum can be found at the very bottom of this page.
A link to a one month preview of Four to Five Monthly curriculum can be found at the very bottom of this page.

How We are Using Flowering Baby, Four to Five in Our Homeschool:

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We have a bright 9 year old daughter that enjoys playing preschool learning games with our four year old son. They both do well in this type of teaching situation. Not only does our son learn, but our daughter also learns a plethora of valuable skills through teaching a younger sibling, too. So, when an opportunity arose for us to try Flowering Baby with its simple yet effective approach to learning, my daughter and I instantly knew we wanted to give this a try with four year old Jonathan.

We began by printing out the month of January curriculum guide (16 days of activities). For our two themed units, we chose Aquarium and Arctic Life (six days of activities) and Bodies of Water (six days of activities) printed those out and placed them in a three ringed binder.

Caraline and I read over the curriculum guides and discussed each day's activities. We looked over the materials and suggested books and began requesting those we didn't own from our local library. For the few we couldn't get from our library, we simply chose a similar book as suggested in the curriculum guide.  While searching for library books, we came across a couple of educational children's DVD's to supplement as well.

The night before lessons, Caraline and I have a meeting to discuss the following day's activities, about two hours worth of activites. We gather all of the needed supplies at this time, too.


 Here's a peek at some of the books we are using for our month of January study and Aquarium and Arctic Life themed unit study.
     
A Sampling of What a Typical Day of Flowering Baby Looks Like:

Our preschool activities on this day began by singing the ABC's. We changed this one activity up a little bit from the manual (Isn't this what homeschoolers do best?!) by showing lowercase alphabet letters with our song and saying the sound each letter makes as we sing.

Today's focus was the letter B. We practiced writing the upper and lowercase B on a whiteboard. (There are no guided worksheet pages or tutorials on how to teach handwriting in Four to Five. I did see more specific handwriting instruction in Flowering Baby, Three to Four.)  We also thought of words that began with B and said those aloud as suggested.

Flowering Baby recommends several complete phonics guides and websites, in case your child is ready for more detailed instruction, to use along with their program. Flowering Baby is meant to complement any of them and to be a good stand alone introduction to those not yet ready to begin a more in-depth phonics program.

Back to our day...
After reading Blue Sea (four times!), Caraline directed Jonathan per the Flowering Baby manual to count out 10 blue teddy bears and position them from left to right while counting. They took turns finding blue items around the house and sorting them from light blue to dark blue. (I especially loved the sorting from light to dark activity! That is something we haven't practiced much.) Caraline also watched over Jonathan as he cut out blue items from an old magazine and pasted them onto a sheet of construction paper. (For children that can't get enough of math, Flowering Baby recommends Saxon Math K in addition to their curriculum.)

After a break, Caraline read The Listening Walk to Jonathan. In January, one of our focuses was ears and hearing. For foreign language time, all of our children listened to a Spanish storybook on CD, and then enjoyed Classical music as they played with building blocks. Listening to three composers of differing styles per month is recommended.

Later in the day, Caraline read the Three Billy Goats Gruff and then all three children acted out the story with building blocks and farm animals, including the one toy goat we could find! This was a great tag along for small, medium and large as introduced in Blue Sea and another of my favorite Flowering Baby activities!




And lastly, we focused on our themed unit. We all located the Arctic and Antarctica on the globe. Next, instead of reading a book about the arctic, we watched a great video Really Wild Animals: Polar Prowl, a National Geographic film (Our only deviation from the themed curriculum's library choices - the authors do, however, suggest looking for supplemental or replacement titles at the library.) that we checked out from our library. Next, Caraline directed Jonathan in sorting the land and water toy animals we had on hand. We also talked about what we would wear if we were visiting the Arctic regions and why we would choose such clothes.


 During the month of January, we worked on learning our telephone number by heart and learned when to use 911. We practiced simple addition using food and while we were at it, we talked about healthy food and junk food. We used a Charlotte Mason type approach to literature with two of our storybooks, the Snowman and Blueberries for Sal. (In the appendix there is a Learning through Literature guide for each book with narration prompts.) We painted and made simple crafts, too. We  also tried out some physical skills like kicking a ball with our right and then left foot, along with so much more.
  
The activities may seem simple, and that is the hope of the authors. They also don't want the simplicity to fool you. You see, there is a method and purposeful goal for each and every one of the activities.


Final Thoughts: 

We are enjoying Flowering Baby years Four to Five. There are plenty of activities to keep us busy and learning beyond two hours. Many times we don't finish everything for one day. The curriculum is easy to implement. It doesn't take a ton of prep. The biggest time consumer, in my opinion, is frequent trips to the library for topical books (not a bad thing!). And even though I am a check off the list, spread sheet kind of girl - the format still works for Caraline and myself. We just put a check mark by each activity as it's completed. Simple, and it works. This is a well rounded, well structured, full of fun, learning curriculum. Caraline and I are happy to have been given the chance to review Flowering Baby, Four to Five with Jonathan. Plus, Caraline is learning valuable skills from teaching this program, too!


Pricing and Discount:

All levels of the Flowering Baby curriculum are sold on CD in PDF format from Flowering Baby, LLC. The price ranges from $30 each for the first three age levels to $38 each for the last two age levels - which includes the level we used with Jonathan, Four to Five. Using the code "Blog10" at checkout, you will receive a 10% discount from Flowering Baby, LLC!


Again, at the very bottom of each page is a free sneak peek  (includes lists of most often used items): 
Four to Five Preview
Three to Four Preview
Two to Three Preview
One to Two Preview
Birth to One Preview

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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Our Week of Art, Humor and a One Month Anniversary!

Feb. 4th-8th

For the most part, this week was a pretty normal just-doing-our-basic-subjects kind of week. Caraline continues to do a few preschool activities (Flowering Baby) with Jonathan each day, too. We did add a new art curriculum that we absolutely love! And our first Schoolhouse Review (Apologia's Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day) for 2013 is up! Our homeschool is deeply enriched through products we review. I am thankful for that! My hope is that our reviews are helpful and insightful to those of you looking for inspiration and enrichment for your homeschool, too.


 Caraline and I are are currently reviewing a multisensory, complete math curriculum called A+ TutorSoft for the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Caraline has a great sense of humor and often draws silly little pictures that showcase her personality. Here she claims to be a little confused about rounding to the nearest hundred on one of her A+ worksheets. She got it right, though! I admire her willingness to always give it a try. (By the way, she looks forward to doing math independently with A+!)

 


Here we are doing our first art lesson in ARTistic Pursuits Vol. 3! We are having the best time with this curriculum. Art is not something I had the opportunity to study growing up. I love that a company has developed a curriculum that can be taught by someone with no artistic ability or background!
I used these same readers, Frontline Phonics, with Caraline and I look forward to the day I will use them to read along with and to Jonathan, too.
I don't think I've told you, but Ryan and I enjoy special reading time at night. It's also just a super sweet moment in life that is very special to me. (I used to do with same with Caraline when she was a new reader, too.) We go to his room,  just he and I,  about an hour before bedtime. Then, he reads two or three stories to me and I read two or three stories to him.  This is what makes a strong reader. Lots of individual, one on one practice. Our nightly reading is in addition to our Reading lessons and extra practice time during the day. After our one on one nightly reading, we join Caraline and Jonathan for another bedtime read aloud.


Also this week, Caraline is busy working on piano pieces she'll be preforming in front of a judge for Federation, and Jonathan is learning to write his name. (He has pretty handwriting for a four year old!) We completed our fourth homeschool co-op class of the semester this week, too! This year is flying by...

And, we've officially had Sandy for one month today! She has grown so much in the past four weeks. (We think she's finally growing into those precious ears of hers, too!) The top picture was taken the night we met her at the vet's office. She was practically skin and bones. The bottom picture was taken last night while practicing loose leash walking with Caraline!

And...Monday evening my husband and I had an evening out. Last Saturday we enjoyed Daddy-Daughter and Mama-Son dates and Monday it was our turn! We enjoyed a wonderful dinner overlooking a waterfall...

The kids don't know, but next week we have a family field trip planned to the circus! It will be their first time!!!

I'm linking with Collage Friday and Weekly Wrap-up.
Homegrown Learners



~Hope