Sunday, August 30, 2009

Quarter Mile Update

I just received an exciting message from Christopher at Quarter Mile Math. He is offering a discount to all my readers to receive $5 off any standard or deluxe product. All you have to do is visit and enter coupon code 7L7R7. Happy Shopping!!!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lowdown

Things have been absolutely crazy in my world lately. It's been super busy, but in good ways with one exception. We had to make an unexpected trip up to Indiana because Chris' dad had some major complications after a surgery and we weren't sure if he was going to make it or not. Thankfully, he is doing much better and is almost ready to go home finally.

The boys are growing up so fast. My oldest will be 11 very soon and has started 5th grade. I don't feel old enough to have a fifth grader. I remember some very significant events from when I was in 5th grade. That was the year we moved to Wisconsin. I was not happy about that at the time. In January of my 5th grade year was when the Challenger accident occurred. Back to my son, he has started piano lessons. I think in a few short weeks, he has surpassed anything I've ever been able to do on the piano. He is very musically gifted (gets that from his dad). He may be starting percussion in band as well. Little one, who is in 1st grade now, is mathematically gifted (like me). He just started 1st grade and is about halfway through his 2nd grade math book. Amazing. He has also become very taken with the game of baseball. He started playing last fall because his friend played. He hated every minute of it, played in the sand, and would not do anything he was supposed to. Then, time for spring season came around and he announces that he wants to play again. He found out that they gave away trophies in the spring. He was much improved. I still wasn't sure if he would consider playing again. A few weeks ago, he saw a sign on the side of the road advertising football. He said he wanted to play football. OK. I start looking into various football programs. I find one that will fit, and ask him if he is sure he wants to play football. "No mom, I want to play baseball again. I want to get more trophies than (my friend)." No, he is not competitive at all.

I am working with some other homeschooling families to open a new non-traditional private school. The paperwork and fundraising for that has kept me very busy in between schooling and extracurriculars. Glory Bound Academy should be sending out enrollment packets starting next week. If you would like more information on that, please email

Getting chosen to review homeschooling products has been such an unbelievable blessing. When we order our curriculum every year in February, we usually just get the basics. Occasionally throughout the year we have the opportunity to get something a little extra, or try something new. But since July we have been receiving all sorts of new things to try, and having a blast doing so. If you haven't seen the reviews, please go back through the history and take a look. I have definitely found some great products to add to our regular shopping list. We will be making some changes for now, and the future. I think our favorite product that I've written about so far is the Grapevine Studies. The boys are still enjoying that. Though we are taking a break this week because I am waiting for new ink for the printer. There are a bunch more things that we are working on and some we need to get started on. I will give you a little sneak peek into what we are doing. We started a new history book yesterday and so far really enjoying it. We have a nutrition course to get started on. We have five lapbooks about various topics and I am trying to decide which one to do before I have to write the review. We have a very interesting writing program that we started with my oldest one this week. Writing and spelling has been something that he has struggled with. So if this helps even a little bit, it will get a glowing review from me. It utilizes some great classic literature. This week we are working with a passage from "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea". I can't wait to see what will be delivered next.

What Boy Doesn't Love a Car Race?

The Quarter Mile Math is a self-competitive software for practicing math skills. Children solve math problems to make either a horse or a race care move up the straight, quarter mile track. They are racing against their previous best scores. I love that concept. I am very competitive with myself. I love to try to beat my past times, scores, goals, whatever. Unfortunately, I'm afraid, my children did not inherit that same passion. Or maybe it is just because it involves math. The graphics of The Quarter Mile Math are very simple. There are not a lot of distractions all over the screen. It is just practicing math, and challenging yourself.

There are over 70,000 problems ranging in level from kindergarten through pre-algebra. The Standard CD version is split into three levels. Each level is $39.95 each, or you can get the complete set for $89.95. The Deluxe version comes with student progress tracking, includes all levels, and is a very good value at only $2.95 per month for the whole family. Yes, you read that right, two dollars and 95 cents. That includes printable progress charts that would be a great addition to your child's homeschooling portfolio.

We have only had the program a few weeks, and to this point my children are not that excited about it. In this world of 3-D graphics and Wii games they are a little bored by the game. But I am going to keep at it for a while. I think after another month, I will post a follow-up to share if they have enjoyed it anymore, or made any progress.

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Hank the Cowdog" Maverick Books

I love getting packages in the mail. When I got the package in the mail from Maverick Books, I was expecting a book. Wasn't I surprised to find so much more inside. We did get a book. It is titled "The Case of the One-eyed Killer Stud Horse". It is book eight in the "Hank the Cowdog" series by John Erickson. This is definitely a book series for boys. My boys found it hysterical. Unfortunately, I found it a bit lacking in manners. It did not use any bad language per se, but it did occasionally word things in a way contrary to our teaching.

We also received a CD of songs and excerpts from several of the stories. Again, I got the same feeling that it was OK, but just not the manners I want my children to imitate. "Hank's Tornado Game" was also in the box. The game is pure, good, family fun. It reminds me a lot of the game "Trouble", but instead of a popper it uses a spinner. The pieces you move around the board are characters from the book. My 10 year old found it a little boring, but my six year old loves it. The great thing is that it is portable. The board folds in half and locks together, keeping all game pieces safely inside.

If you are interested in learning more about Maverick Books and "Hank the Cowdog", click HERE. The books sell for $4.24 each for paperback. "Hank's Tornado Game" sells for $12.99.

HTML - What Does It Mean?

We hear the letters all the time, but what really is html? Is it possible that I could ever understand it well enough to design a website? What if I told you it's so easy that a child could design a website?

We had the privlege of reviewing a DVD lesson called "Web Design for Kids...and Curious Grown-ups". The DVD is one hour and 22 minutes long, but is broken up into seven chapters. Each chapter is a very simple lesson on how to use html codes to design your very own website. It transforms the technical into simple language that anyone can understand. They call it Sesame Street language. It is specifically targeted for ages 10 to adult. The only computer software required is notepad and internet explorer. Notepad comes free with most PC's. Also, you do not have to post anything on the web to see the results.

We tried the DVD with my 10 year old first. We just popped it in the DVD player and hit play. He sat on the couch with the laptop and followed along with the DVD. I was able to pause the DVD to let him catch up with typing (that's definitely the next skill we need to work on). It was very cool, because as he completed a step, then he would go check to see how it looked. He loved typing in the code and then quick checking to see what he did. The great thing is that we left the DVD paused and just let him play and experiment for quite a while. Overall, my son really enjoyed the program. I love anything that will get my kids excited about learning. The problem we ran into was that my six year old also wanted to participate. After much prodding on his part, we finally let him give it a try. As expected, he struggled and did not get much out of it because dad ended up having to do most of the work. I should add that my six year old is quite a bit ahead academically, working mostly at a 2nd and 3rd grade level. He just was not quite ready for this.

For a limited time, you can order "Web Design for Kids...and Curious Grown-ups" for only $19.99. Click here to check out the website.

Monday, August 17, 2009

ALEKS Math, Take Two

ALEKS math is an online math curriculum that is smart. It keeps track of the lessons your child has completed and mastered. When beginning, it starts with an evaluation to see if there are any lessons mastered before you start. It is great to have that, and to know that yes my children have actually learned something. ALEKS uses a pie chart to keep track of progress. The kids love the bright colors and seeing the chart get filled in. The programs are designed for third through twelfth grades, and even beyond.

I signed my 10yo up for fifth grade. He did his initial evaluation, and tested out of about 1/4 of the lessons. He loves that he gets to decide what to do. I am not crazy about that idea. He picks all the "easy" lessons, and then never gets to the things that are really important. The other problem we ran into with him is that he doesn't test well. He would do his lessons, know the stuff, but would not get the questions right on the test. That causes the lessons to be added back into his pie. Then he gets to redo things that he already knows, and again doesn't get to the important stuff. He loves doing it, which is a huge challenge. But he just doesn't seem to progress.

I signed my 6yo up for the third grade. It really isn't as crazy as it might sound. He is currently starting first grade, but is working through second grade math. I thought, it couldn't hurt to try. He did the evaluation, and also tested out of about 1/4 of the lessons. I was very impressed. He was able to do a few lessons, but many of the things were way beyond where he's at right now. If we had already done regrouping, I think he would've done very well with the third grade program. He is a much different learner than my older son. Little one takes direction much better and would not hesitate to do difficult lessons. I wish we could have done more with him, but it was just a little above his head and I did not want him to get frustrated and burned out.

I also got to sign up and give some things a try. I tried Algebra. I really love the program, and think it is a fabulous way to lay out the lessons. When I was in school, I would have loved a pie chart like that. I am very competitive, especially with myself. I love to see the pie getting filled in. I think for an independent, goal-oriented learner it is a fabulous program. Sometimes, though, the explanations don't really make much sense. It is good for practice, but not necessarily great for teaching. I would love to see a little more explanation, or maybe a video demonstration. I think my oldest son would do much better with the challenging lessons if explained better.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fun with Stickfigures

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not an artist. My children, at a very early age, have far surpassed my artistic abilities. So when I first saw Grapevine Studies: Learning the Bible through Stick People, I had to laugh. Stick people are right within my range of artistic ability. We chose to study the New Testament, Level 1 so that it would be suitable for my first grader. I was worried that it would be a little beneath my fifth grader, but figured it couldn’t hurt.

The first week of the study was an overview timeline of the entire New Testament. I printed the pages. There are about three to four events on each page of the timeline. I took out the dry erase easel and started drawing stick figures for the boys to copy onto their timelines. There is a short description of each event to go along with the picture. I read as they drew. Now, I should clarify that my boys do not like to do anything that is related to school. I struggle on a daily basis to get them to do their work. They LOVED this. First, they thought my drawings were hilarious. The 10yo decided that he would rather look at the computer screen to see the pictures. I think that was just a 10yo thing, because my pictures really did look just like the ones on the computer, and his weren’t any better. I was a little worried how the 6yo would do, if he had the fine motor skills to be able to draw the pictures. But, they both did fabulous.

The second week went back to the beginning to really study each event, starting with John the Baptist. There is a Bible verse to copy, several stick figure drawings, and Bible reading. It is very simple, one page each day. The boys do not get overwhelmed at all. In fact, they beg to do the stick figures. Here is a sample picture that my 6yo drew for week three.

I don’t know about you, but when I find a curriculum for anything that my kids beg to do, I am thrilled. I also love that it is already all planned out and very simple to use. I wish that I could find a program like this for all the classes. I will certainly continue to use this study, and probably order others.

To check out all the studies that Grapevine has available, click here. They offer both hardcopy books, or e-format (which I love). Also, Grapevine Studies has been kind enough to offer a 30% discount to all my readers. Upon checkout, simply enter coupon code CREWS. Offer expires September 15, 2009.