Friday, June 24, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 5/8/16

Jake (10), Alyssa (8), Zac (6½), Tyler (4), Nicholas (1)


Happy Friday! I have had good intentions of getting caught up on my Smiles lately, but there's just been so much going on at our house. We're enjoying summer and a lighter school schedule, working on a few projects, and having fun with some extra activities. I truly do plan to get at least one more list up within the next week, so don't forget to watch for it! You can never Smile too much.


1. Tyler, confused: "How come you keep calling my grandma Mom?"

2. Zac had to write sentences for a workbook page for school. He was given sets of words: flowers & May; summer & June; flags & July. His abstract thinking always amazes me (like #8 here and this picture). Instead of using June as a month like the other two sentences, he used it as a name. "June likes to play at the beach in summer."

3. Found written at the top of Jake's assignment: "I can not do this math paper as is it against my religious principles."

4. Tyler: "Mama, I think there are holes in the road."
Me: "Honey, you live in Michigan; there are lots of holes in the road."

5. Me: "Do you want ice cream?"
Alyssa: "Is there something else I can have? I had ice cream yesterday."
Me: "Whose child are you?"

6. Mother's Day


7. Tyler, in the house: "Next time there's an ant in here, I want you to put my shoes on. Then, I'm gonna step on it and squish it . . . Then, I want you to pick it up and throw it in the garbage."

8. Jake: "Alyssa has a monster under her bed." (Alyssa and Tyler share a bunk bed.)

9. Alyssa: "I bet if there was a competition to see who could cut a strip of grass the fastest and Dad entered that he would win." 

10. Tyler: "Mom, I'm never going to be a baby again."
Me: "I know. You're just going to get bigger and bigger."
Zac: "Yeah, and older and older. You're never going to be as old as Methuselah though."
Tyler: "Mefuselah?"
Zac: "Yeah. Do you know how old Methuselah was? 969 years old."
Tyler: "Whoa! That's even older than mom!"


 What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

LearnBop Review


Math. You either love it or hate it. Regardless of your feelings about the subject though, it's a very-needed, often-used skill. We had been using workbooks for learning, but when we had the opportunity for a subscription for LearnBop for Families, I thought it might be a good fit. The kids always love using the computer and it would be a nice change.

LearnBop is an interactive math learning system for K-12 grades. The program is designed to respond to a student's answers. The step-by-step method personalizes the learning like a tutor would. A student can move past what he already understands and focus on concepts that he struggles with.


Setting up our family plan was simple. I created a profile for each of the older kids (10, 8, 6 yr) by inputting their names, creating user names and passwords, allowing them to choose an avatar, and then picking a roadmap for their learning. The avatars are really cute. There are male and female versions of Pirate Navigators, Astronauts, Codebreakers (spies), Fashion Designers, Celebrity Chefs, and Hollywood Animators. Each of the characters possesses a special math power, like cryptography, linear algebra, and Newton's Laws of Motion. The powers have no effect on anything, but are just cute additions to the characters.

Choosing a Learning Roadmap is the most important part. You pick what your student will be studying. There's the option for an entire grade's curriculum (3rd-12th) or a specific concept.

  • Operations & Algebraic Thinking
  • Numbers & Operations in Base Ten
  • Measurement & Data
  • Geometry
  • Number & Operations-Fraction
  • Ratios & Proportional Relationships
  • The Number System
  • Expressions & Equations
  • Statistics & Probability
  • Functions    
There are also a few high school roadmaps. After a topic is chosen, the student completes a quick Warm-Up for each unit. This evaluation identifies any missing knowledge that he needs to work on. From there, the system personalizes the roadmap to focus on the student's needs.  The instruction is given through short videos with examples. The student has the option of watching the videos first or heading straight to the exercises if he already has a grasp on the concepts. If he can master the problems with 90% accuracy, he may move on to the next area of learning. Every incorrect answer will lower his percentage, giving him more time to understand the information. Each incorrect answer gives him the option to go step-by-step through that specific exercise so he understands what the correct answer should be.

My kids can easily move through the program using their dashboard. It shows what concept they are working through, what percentage they have completed, and where they are in the process. They can see which videos have been completed and which step is next. It also shows the activity on the site for the past week like time spent, "bops'" and videos completed, concepts mastered, and more.  

  
While I appreciate the ability to personalize their learning, there are some things about this program that I find frustrating. For instance, it is aligned to Common Core standards. While that doesn't affect many of the concepts, there are some that are very confusing, even to me. Simple problems that should have been very easy to my kids (I have seen them complete similar examples in other materials, after all) left them clueless. Also, some of the technical aspects of the program could be made better. For example, in some visual exercises, the kids were supposed to answer the questions where a blank box was. The problem is that often the box was not by where it should have been (like on a graph or number line) so it seemed like it was asking for something else. The biggest issue though was that the questions did not fit on the screen. The kids would have to scroll down to another page. The question would be at the top, the answer choices would be at the bottom, and then they were supposed to drag the answer back to the top again. Everything for each question should be on one visible screen.


This example doesn't show the answer needing to be dragged back to the top, but it does show the need to scroll.

Unfortunately, this program was not a good fit for us. That does not mean that it's a bad choice  for everyone though. In fact, LearnBop has won many awards and has helped many students. If you'd like to see how this program worked for other homeschool families, please read the reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.


You can connect with LearnBop on the following social media sites:
Twitter    




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Monday, June 20, 2016

Father's Day 2016


Father's Day is a special time. I've been blessed with wonderful men in my life. My husband, father, brother, and grandfather are great men--ones who love unconditionally, work hard, care for their families, give of both their time and money, and are willing to help just about anyone with just about anything. They are talented and intelligent men whom I trust beyond measure. They are wonderful examples for my boys. 

I try to teach my children all year long to honor and respect their daddy. They need to know how special he is and how hard he works to provide for them. He may not have had the example of a good father growing up, but he is that God-fearing, faithful, loving father that his own children need. He truly is a wonderful man and deserves accolades galore. We adore him.

For the past many years, I take aside the kids one by one to fill out these questionnaires.  It's one of my favorite things. Some of their answers are funny and others are sweet. All of them though were said with love. Here is my sweet husband through the eyes of our little ones.



By Jake, 10 yr:
My dad is 33 years old.
My dad weighs 135 lbs.
My dad is 6’3”.
My dad's favorite color is green.
My dad's favorite food is ribs.
My dad is really strong. He could lift 200 lbs.
My dad always says, “Get in bed.”
My dad is the best at fixing machines.
My dad's job is demolition.
My dad and I like to go to the store.
My dad really loves our bedroom to be clean.
I love my dad because I’m supposed to.
It makes my dad happy when we finish school on time.

By Alyssa, 8 yr:
My dad is 32 years old.
My dad weighs 10 lbs.
My dad is 5 ½ feet tall.
My dad's favorite color is green.
My dad's favorite food is Mom’s homemade pizza.
My dad is really strong. He could lift a train.
My dad always says, “Tyler Joseph!.”
My dad is the best at stop motion and fixing things.
My dad's job is working at Blue Star.
My dad and I like playing Legos.
My dad really loves Mom’s food.
I love my dad because he’s my dad.
It makes my dad happy when we obey.

By Zac, 6 yr:
My dad is 23 years old.
My dad weighs 60 lbs.
My dad is 6 feet tall.
My dad's favorite color is green.
My dad's favorite food is chicken.
My dad is really strong. He could lift 10 lbs.
My dad always says, “Thank you.”
My dad is the best at fixing things.
My dad's job is to work.
My dad and I like to play.
My dad really loves Mom.
I love my dad because he’s really good to me . (my favorite answer <3 )
It makes my dad happy when we’re good.

By Tyler, 4 yr:
My dad is 63 years old.
My dad weighs 20 lbs.
My dad is 100 feet tall.
My dad's favorite color is green.
My dad's favorite food is macaroni & cheese.
My dad is really strong. He could lift the TV.
My dad always says, “Go to bed.”
My dad is the best at picking up the TV.
My dad's job is work at work.
My dad and I like to tickle each other.
My dad really loves Mommy!.
I love my dad because.
It makes my dad happy when we be nice.

Happy Father's Day, Leighton! Thank you for being the very best daddy to our children. Just like Zac said, you're "really good" to us. <3 We love you and appreciate you. Lots.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Minstrel in the Tower


I know, I say it a lot, but our family loves reading. With the foundation of our schooling being literature, it's no surprise that our favorite reviews often deal with books and reading. Add in Progeny Press, a company that we love, and you know that the study is going to be very much enjoyed. This time, we were able to use the Minstrel in the Tower E-Guide

Progeny Press is a Christian company owned by Michael and Rebecca Gilleland. It is their mission to "teach our children to think clearly, to understand literature, and to rely on the scripture for truth and values, and enjoy themselves while they do it!" They offer more than 100 study guides for classic, popular, and award-winning books. The guides are designed to help students better understand and enjoy literature by getting them to think through the themes and ideas written in the stories. The study guides are available in three formats: a physical book, a CD with a PDF ebook, and a downloadable PDF file. 

Since we like to incorporate as much as possible as family studies and my children are 10, 8, 6, and 4 years old, I knew I wanted to look at the lower elementary (K-3rd grade) list. Because the kiddos love anything pertaining to the Middle Ages, I was immediately drawn to The Minstrel in the Tower guide that accompanies the book with the same name. The Minstrel in the Tower is a short chapter book (60+ pages) written by Gloria Skurzynski. It tells the story of a young brother and sister that travel the countryside alone to find their estranged uncle because their mother is sick. The children are caught, held for ransom, and eventually escape from their tower prison. Set during the time of the Crusades, knights, minstrels, lutes, lords and ladies, the tale is one of magic and excitement.


The guide is broken down into sections:

  • Before-you-read Activities
  • Chapter 1
  • Chapter 2
  • Chapter 3
  • Chapter 4
  • Chapter 5
  • Chapter 6
  • Chapter 7
  • Chapter 8
  • Word Search
  • After-you-read Activities
The 45-page guide also includes additional resources, answer key, and a brief bio of the author.


This study guide is filled with different types of activities. There are questions like Why do you think Roger wanted Alice to come along, At the Crossroads, why did Roger and Alice take the road to the left? and Why was it to important to Roger that he climb the oak tree to get the lute?; finding the definitions for vocabulary words like dismay and wimple by studying them in context, fill in the blanks, matching and more.

Within the section are also Bible verses that compliment the lessons in the story. The verses are written out in the guide itself, but because a different version from what we read is used, we opted to pull out a KJV and read directly from the Bible. There are also questions that accompany the Bible verses and reinforce the themes.


The kiddos usually play with Legos, color, do something else to keep their hands busy while I read chapter books. I've found that it helps them pay attention to the story better and keeps their interest. This read-aloud time helps all the children to hear different ideas and gives me the opportunity to ask more questions and to encourage deeper thought.

While the kids do enjoy answering the questions, they prefer the hands-on activities. This study doesn't have as many activities as some of the other studies we've used from Progeny Press, but it offers a few. There's a word search, field trip, clay sculpture, and writing projects, along with a few other ideas. There's the suggestion to draw your own banner or coat of arms. Instead, we found a site online that let us design one digitally by choosing color options, set-up, and whatnot. I appreciate the flexibility of using these types of guides.



The kids and I enjoyed the story, the question and discussion time, and the projects. I love how the guides incorporate the Bible and point the readers back to Christ. This study has taken a  cute story and has given it a deeper meaning. Whenever you can apply a lesson, rather than just hear about it, it's much more likely to make a lasting difference.

This study e-guide costs $11.99, and you can view a sample on their site. If your kids are older than the lower elementary age, don't worry, Progeny Press offers study guides through the high school level, as well. As always, we enjoyed this review and look forward to using another study guide from Progeny Press in the future.


You can connect with Progeny Press on Facebook and Twitter.  

If you'd like to read more reviews of this study or are interested in one of the other guides, please visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.



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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Forbrain Review


One of the best things about having a baby is watching him learn new things--first smiles, first steps, first words. The language milestones carry on for a few years. With an 18-month-old in our house, someone often says, "Hey, did you hear that? He said a new word!" I love hearing how a little one mispronounces things. Love becomes wuv, duck changes to guck, and three sounds like free. And we laugh and think it's adorable. But it's no longer cute when a child grows into an adult and still speaks that way. Nor is it fun for the one who cannot be understood because of poor speech. The embarrassment and frustrations become stronger the older the person gets. That's the point we've gotten to in our house. Embarrassed. Frustrated.  That's why I was excited to learn of Forbrain - Sound For Life Ltd.

My lone girl in my sea of boys has always been the one to deal with a mild speech sound disorder. When she was younger, it was more pronounced. She struggled with S-blend words, dropping the S completely. Instead of star, spy, and sky, she'd say tar, py, and ky. I remember vividly the day she mastered those words. Unfortunately, many people still had a difficult time understanding her. I researched on my own and got some exercises from a friend who is trained in speech therapy. We worked on some of her other issues. And worked and worked. Over time, she learned to correct the problems. Except one. Her only speech issue now is pronouncing the /r/ sound. And as much as we try and as many of the "tricks" I've used, we can't seem to overcome it. She is 8-years-old now, so I don't expect her to outgrow it at this point. Also, because she's older, she's more aware of it. She gets extremely embarrassed and sometimes angry when someone (usually a family member) cannot understand what she's saying. I was at a loss. Then came the opportunity to use a bone conduction headset.


The Forbrain headset is designed to "amplify sound through bone conduction." It's purpose is to help a user to process information more clearly and to understand communications better by focusing on his own voice through a highly sensitive microphone and dynamic filter that creates an auditory feedback loop. The headset sits on the temples, leaving the ears unblocked. This position allows the user to hear the surrounding sounds normally while efficiently concentrating on his own voice.

Forbrain is beneficial for improving a variety of skills:
  • Attention
  • Concentration
  • Verbal working memory
  • Short-term memory
  • Verbal fluency
  • Written expression 


I was ecstatic that we were getting this resource. My girl, not so much. I tried explaining the benefits of it and that hopefully this was going to help her. I showed her the video describing it. I assured her, again, that it was ok to need to work extra hard to correct this, that there was nothing "wrong" with her. Still, she was hesitant. That is until the day it arrived in the mail. Her brothers oohed and aahed over the "awesome headset" and wished they were the ones who got to use it. Everyone took a turn trying it out. Each time, you could see the look of surprise on their faces as they heard their own voice. Because this device allows you to hear your voice as it actually sounds and not how you hear yourself, the kids were all confused. "That doesn't sound like me." It made a good discussion about the auditory process.

Forbrain is simple to use. You place it on your head and talk. That's it. My daughter wears it 5 days a week for 15 minutes a day while reading aloud. There are many more possibilities though. A child can wear the headset alone or with a parent or professional. Forbrain can be used to help almost anybody any age (3+) in multiple ways. 

This is just a sample of the possibilities of use:
  • Reading aloud
  • Speech preparation
  • Communication
  • Singing
  • Accentuation
  • Dialogue
  • Echo
  • Memorization


The Forbrain device is a stimulating teaching tool. You should expect to use it for 6-10 weeks to see results. My daughter has been using it just barely 6 weeks. Though she has not mastered that tricky /r/ sound just yet, I have definitely seen an improvement. I really wish I had recorded her reading at the beginning and then recorded her reading now so she herself could hear the difference. Another benefit from using this is that she is willing once again to work on her pronunciation. For a while, every time I tried to help her, she would get upset and become silent. Now, her attitude has improved and she's willing to try. She gets the device out of its case and puts it on to read by herself most days without being reminded to. I asked what she thinks of Forbrain. 

"It's cool. It sounds like an echo when I talk."

I'm excited to see what she can accomplish with continued use of this award-winning device.


You can connect with Forbrain -- Sound For Life Ltd on the following social media sites:



The Forbrain headset helps people with many types of difficulties or even for those whoe are simply looking for improvement. If you'd like to see how others used this product, please read the reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.
 
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Friday, June 10, 2016

The Glass Castle



Our family loves to read, so it's no surprise that some of our favorite things to review are books. When I saw that we had the opportunity to read a book from Shiloh Run Press (a division of Barbour Publishing) that is geared toward ages 10-14, I was excited. I read the first chapter of The Glass Castle  by Trisha White Priebe and Jerry B. Jenkins and was immediately more intrigued. A king, castle, mystery, suspense, danger--yet clean fiction written by Christian authors--I knew my son Jake, especially, would love it. I read him the first chapter, as well, and he begged for more. That's when I explained that he would have to wait another week or two until the hardcover book arrived in the mail. Poor kid, ha. 

He tore open the package the day it came and immediately began reading. I heard "this is so good" and "I just don't want to stop reading" and "I love this book." He finished all 41 chapters and 250 pages in just a few days. In fact, we had gone to my parents' house on Mother's Day for lunch. The kids had the opportunity to stay there for the afternoon before the evening church service or come home with Leighton and I. Jake almost gave up the privilege of staying and playing in order to finish the book he had left at home. Yeah, that's how much he enjoyed it. 


Rather than hearing what I had to say about the book, I thought it would be fun to see the synopsis through the eyes of a 10-year-old. Here is the summary of the book in his own words.
     
"It was great. It was about Avery, a girl who was kidnapped at 13 and brought to a castle that was full of secrets. She was scared because she didn't know where her little brother or her father were. At the castle she made some friends, a few enemies, but mostly kept to herself. All the kids in the castle were 13 years old. The kids were required to do all the work in the castle because the new queen-to-be (Angelina) didn't trust anyone and sent away the servants. Some kids were scouts who spied on the adults through vents and would tell everyone to leave if someone was coming, some worked on the dress for the wedding, and others cooked all the food (Avery tried, but wasn't very good and almost set the place on fire). Even though all the kids were orphans, they wore fancy and expensive clothes because they got them from Angelina because she threw away clothes after only wearing them once. Avery was introduced to chocolate for the first time and thought it was delicious.

"The kids elected a boy named Tuck to be the king of the kids and he chose Avery to be his queen. She liked exploring and the more time she spent there, she realized that the castle was exactly like the tree house her father built for her at home. That's how she discovered the library. She loved books and was mad when the adults started burning them.  

"She eventually escaped, but when she found out that someone took over her house and her dad was gone, she went back to the castle. She went to the library and found a secret door. When she opened it, it led to a secret tunnel. That's how it ends."

After hearing how the book is "so good" and how I "had to read it" myself, I had to read it myself. I easily saw why he loved it so much. The story pulls you in right from the beginning. I don't normally read novels during the day (something about caring for 5 kids and house and homeschooling, ha), but I read this one. I started it at night before bed and finished it the next day. It's an easy read and perfect for the target age group. I appreciate the subtle Christian theme sprinkled throughout and clean dialogue.

We enjoyed this book so much that when Jake mentioned that he couldn't wait until fall because the sequel, The Ruby Moon, comes out then, his dad pre-ordered immediately. I have my own assumptions about aspects of the story, but I'll let you read the book and decide for yourself.

Because, trust me, you'll want to read this book yourself.    




You can connect with Shiloh Run Press through Barbour Publishing on Facebook and Twitter

You can read more reviews of this book on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.



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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

MaxScholar



With 5 kids in the family, it's pretty common to have to share things. That's why the kids get excited when they gets things--even review things--all to themselves. My kindergartner was the lucky recipient this time with a one-year subscription of the MaxScholar Reading Intervention Programs

MaxScholar is a "comprehensive, multi-sensory, reading and language-based program. Their research-based methods their language and reading skills. My favorite thing to teach is reading. I love watching the realization that the sounds together form words, seeing little faces light up and they read their first words, experiencing the excitement as the words are understood as sentences, understanding how foundational reading is. Years ago, I taught first grade in our Christian school. I got to help those students through the steps. Now, I get to help my own precious ones. Don't get me wrong, just because I love it doesn't mean that it's easy. Teaching little ones to read can be challenging. A lot of homeschoolers are nervous about that responsibility. In fact, I was talking to a friend today who is preparing to teach her daughter to read in the coming months. She's feeling a bit overwhelmed. If you too are feeling overwhelmed or just need someone to help your child with reading or comprehension, MaxScholar might just be what you need.

   


We've been using the MaxGuru portion of the site. It includes the following:

  • MaxPhonics--This section uses a multi-sensory approach to teaching phonics that is ideal for ages 5-7. The student can focus on individual letters, blends, or digraphs. There are videos to demonstrate correct pronunciation, drill exercises to strengthen skills, and games for reinforcement. 
  • MaxReading--This portion cam be summed up as highlight, outline, and summarize and focuses on learning to read. The 13 levels of difficulty each contain several multi-chapter books. Your student can use an electronic highlighter to identify important parts of the text and learn to outline and summarize each chapter. Comprehension questions help with retention.   
  • MaxWords--This part helps the student to learn to build words: roots and more. Learning word parts helps to build vocabulary and improves both spelling and reading. My dad taught me the skill of combining prefixes, suffixes, and Greek and Latin root words. Using this method, MaxWords teaches the student to increase his vocabulary by 16,000 words.    
  • MaxMusic--Sometimes you have to use whatever your child responds to to teach him. This section uses music and games to teach reading. The piano game and more also help memory, recognition, and auditory skills. 
  • MaxVocab--This is the complementary dictionary for the site. It teaches thousands of words and definitions with interactive games.
  • MaxPlaces--This is a great way to learn geography. The student can choose from 51 places on a world map. He learns fascinating things through a short passage and then answers multiple choice questions to check reading comprehension.
  • MaxBios--This portion introduces students to famous people from around the world through biographies. It uses a timeline format which teaches chronological ordering skills.
 

 
 There is really so much on this site. It was created specifically to help those with Dyslexia, learning disabilities, ADHD, processing problems, and those struggling to read. No one in our home deals with those issues, but MaxScholar can be beneficial to anyone. Since we're in the summer months and on a light school schedule, I let my kindergartner to choose how he used the program. Since I was also given a parent account, I can login and see exactly what he's been doing. The reports show me where he's been studying and how well he's doing.Not surprisingly, his favorites are the games. He spends much of his time in the MaxPhonics portion playing memory, word builder, and space rhyming. I always say that little one's learn best through play. Because he's an advanced reader, I don't mind him spending the majority of the time playing games for learning. He has ventured into the other sections as well, but the phonics is a favorite. 
 
 
 

If you have a student who struggles with reading, is learning to read, or just needs some practice, MaxScholar could be a great option for you. Its multi-sensory approach to reading will appeal to all learning styles.


You can connect with MaxScholar on the following social media sites:
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Google+
YouTube  

If you'd like to see how other homeschool families used this program, please read the reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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