Friday, April 25, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile 4/25/14

Jake (8), Alyssa (6), Zac (4), Tyler (2)

Happy Friday! We've had such a fun week: trip to the zoo with extra activities for Easter, coloring eggs, celebrating Easter with family, planting seeds for an experiment, making play dough, baking a cake, and starting some new, fun resources for school. Lots of Smiling this week!   

1. Zac, while playing  made-up game: "Whoa! I got 2 zillion points! Tyler almost got as much as me. He got 12 points."

2. Zac: "Mommy, I love Tyler! But I love Jesus even more."

3. Alyssa, about a song: "I think I've memorized this very well."


5. Zac: Girls ends with an S, but I want boys to end with a Z.  Boyzzzz."

6. Zac: "Minnie is the coolest name in the world."

7. Alyssa: "You know, I talk a lot."

8. Alyssa, tattling: "Jake said he hated me!"
Jake, smiling: "Words may be deceiving."

9. Me: "I'm thinking about cooking a ham today."
Jake: "Ooh, I'm thinking about eating a ham today." 


11. Zac, about his sandwich: "I ate 3 halves."

12. Alyssa: "Thank you for getting me the penguin one (Lego set). I wanted it ever since I saw its habitat."

13. While listing make-believe characters . . .
Jake: "Griffin."
Zac: "Dragon!"
Alyssa: "Unicorn."
Zac: "Two-headed dragon!"
Alyssa: "Pegasus."
Zac: "Three-headed dragon!"
Jake: "Centaur."
Zac: "Four-headed dragon!

14. Jake, holding a wiggle worm: "Aw, he's so cute!"
and then . . .
"Should I tear him in half so he can be friends with himself?"

What made you Smile this week?

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CTC Math


Math is a subject that is used in everyday life, whether it's for your job, in your home, or at the store. That's why it's so important to have a good grasp of understanding. Since math builds on itself, I want to make sure that my kids have a solid foundation now, so that future learning of more difficult concepts is made easier. I was thrilled we were given the privilege to review a 12 month family plan subscription from CTC Math.

CTC Math is a comprehensive online math tutor. What I really appreciate about this program is that the lessons begin with video tutorials. The videos are recorded by Pat Murray, father of 10,  from Australia (where the program was created.) My kids loved his accent and often answered the questions in the same way, and many times kept up the ruse for a bit afterward, too. More than just being a fun tool to practice another accent, the videos are truly helpful in learning math concepts. With 1,367 animated and narrated lessons starting with kindergarten and going all the way through high school (algebra, calculus, geometry, trigonometry), there's something for each student. The tutorials for the younger grades are 3-5 minutes and easily kept the attention of my little ones, while the older grades' videos are a few minutes longer. Don't let the brief lessons fool you. The tutorials are done in such a way that makes the concepts easy-to-understand. They are colorful, but not flashy or distracting. And while my kids enjoy the programs with the create-your-own-avatar, I appreciate that this one does not. Too often I'd find them wanting to change their characters and, in turn, not focusing on the lesson. Here, there's nothing to draw their attention elsewhere.

After watching the video portion of the lesson, the student answers about 10 questions to see what he's learned. My little pupils had fun with the ones that required dragging the answer to the appropriate place, because we recently got a touch-screen computer. (Hey, whatever it takes to get them excited!) It does work just as well using the mouse and even on some mobile devices. After the questions are completed, a results page comes up so the student can immediately see how he did. Little green check marks are by the ones that are correct, and red Xs are next to the incorrect ones. From there, the student can complete more questions or head back to the lessons.

All of the lessons can be accesses at any time. So, while I started Alyssa (6) in kindergarten and Jake (8) in third grade, they were each able to choose other levels to learn. Jake, especially, was pleased with this aspect. He rarely likes to work where he's "supposed to", but instead wants to find a section that is more difficult and challenging.

The only problem I found as we've been using this program is seen in the picture above. Alyssa was working on the shapes lesson. She's know her shapes for many year, so I knew this would be an easy lesson for her. I was standing nearby and heard her frustration in getting an answer wrong. As I looked at the screen to see what the problem was, she clicked the button to move to the next page. I did get a glimpse of the screen though and was intrigue. It had looked like she had answered them correctly. I watched her finish the review questions and had her complete them again. They have a bank of over 57,000 interactive questions, so I wasn't sure if she'd get the same question the next time. Thankfully, she did. I watched her put the triangles and rhombuses in the proper boxes. Then I watched the little red X pop up on the screen again. There must be a glitch in the program somewhere. I explained to her that she had been right, but that didn't change the results page with the 90%. All in all, it is not a big deal, but one that I believe should be noted. 

Speaking of the results page, the parent can log-in to the system and easily see what the child has accomplished. I can see exactly what my kids have been working on and how well they are comprehending the material. I also get emails with their progress. One thing that the kids like is that they earn printable certificates for completing the work. That piece of paper with a picture of a medal and their name makes them feel so proud of their hard work!

I am so glad we have a full 12 months with this program! I believe that CTC math is one of the best math resources we've used. The lessons are not too long, easy-to-understand, and interactive. My kids can work at their own paces and have their very own tutor anytime of the day. The best part though? They're truly understanding and learning the concepts. 

Currently, homeschoolers can purchase a 12-month subscription plan for the reduced rate of $118.80. CTC Math also offers other options for plans, like single students or family for monthly, 6 months, or 12 month rates. Check out the plans to see which one may work best for your family   

If you'd like to see how this program worked for other families, please click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew of this program.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile 4/18/14

Jake (8), Alyssa (6), Zac (4), Tyler (2)

Happy Friday! What a busy week it's been. We spent Saturday geocaching, Sunday through Wednesday nights at church for revival, Thursday running errands, and here we are again at Friday. We've had injuries, bad attitudes, and very tired children. In the midst of craziness, it's important to Smile. Happy Easter!  

1. Zac: "The sky is black when it's night. That means the sun is turned off at night, right?"

2. Alyssa: "What are you doing?"
Jake: "Playing the Wii. What does it look like?"
Alyssa: "Playing the Wii."
Jake: "It was a rhetorical question. That means you don't answer it."

3. Zac, concerned, pointing to a picture on a sign: "Mom, I hope you don't turn into one of those sphinx."

4. Zac: "I can say one thing in Spanish: ooplo.
Me, humored: "Ooplo? And what does that mean?"
Zac: "I don't know; it's Spanish!"

5. Watching the kids work together to build a castle out of our Toydle.

6. Giving the little ones a bath and seeing cute, little butt cheeks smooshed against the glass door of the tub.

7. Zac: "Can I have two, please? One on the bottom and one on the top?" 

8. Jake: "I have bad news and bad news. First bad news, the backyard is still covered in snow. Second bad news is that Tyler is up."
Me: "Tyler is up is bad news?"
Jake: "Yeah, because now he's going to get in trouble."

9. Jake finding typos in a published book.

10. Me: "Are you hungry? Do you want Mama to make you some eggs?"
Tyler: "Noooo! Cake."

11. Window Kisses

12. Jake, showing me the "shorts" he was wearing: "Uh, Mom, I think you put Tyler's pants in my drawer. Haha, these aren't my shorts."
Me, laughing: "No, but they fit pretty good."
13. Zac: "Do you know my favorite part about Easter, that part that I looove?"Me: "What?"
Zac: "Jesus!"

14. Zac: "I want to be a grave digger when I grow up. Then I can get all the worms I want!"

What made you Smile this week?

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile 4/11/14

Jake (8), Alyssa (6), Zac (4), Tyler (2)

Happy Friday! We spent some time this week reading through old blog posts and watching old home movies. The kids loved seeing how cute their younger selves were, and I enjoyed hearing their laughter. There was an abundance of Smiling this week. 

1. Zac: "Can I have some honeydude?" (honeydew)

2. Alyssa, as she was leaving, because Tyler was sick and staying home from church: "Don't forget to give Tyler vitamin C."

3. Zac: "Do you want the good news or the bad news first?"
Me: "The good news."
Zac: "The good news is that I love you. "
Me: "Aw, I love you."
Zac: "And the bad news is the Devil."

4. Watching Tyler sit on the couch and browse through a LEGO catalog.

5. Zac, holding the phone to my ear: "Now you have love in your ear!"
Me: "I do? Why?"
Zac: "'Cause I kissed the phone!"

6. Jake: "I want to play professional Uno."

7. I looked over and found that Tyler had pulled half the wet wipes from the container. He saw me and started pulling faster, of course. As I walked over to stop him, I said a bit sarcastically, "Oh, Ty, that looks like so much fun." He replied, "Yep."

8. Zac: "If I kiss you and you kiss me, we're married."

9. Zac: "We have so many Legos, we could make a whole entire world!"

10.Tyler dumped out all the toys, just so he could play in the box.

11. Zac: Mom, it's sweating in here!"

12. Jake, proudly: "Mom, I can fit a whole golf ball in my mouth! Wanna see?" 

13. Zac: "May I have a napkin, please?"
Jake: "You have pants for a reason."

14. Alyssa, after hearing a commercial about infertility: "We don't want another baby, right?"
Me: "Right . . . Unless God wants us to, then we will."
Alyssa: "Well, I don't think God wants us to."
Me: "Oh, yeah, and why's that?"
Alyssa: "'Cause he sees how much trouble Tyler is."

What made you Smile this week?
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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile 4/4/14

Jake (8), Alyssa (6), Zac (4), Tyler (2)

Happy Weekend! I am officially caught up with my Smiles! This week the kids raced pinewood derby cars at church (and brought home 3 trophies!), we had a double birthday party for Alyssa and Tyler, and Smiled lots.

1. Alyssa, about Tyler: "Sometimes he's just pretending to be good. He has a trouble smile."

2. Zac: "I have an idea. Today is today and later is the day before this day and tomorrow is tomorrow."

3. Zac: "The sun dries up the rain."
Me: "You're right; it does."
Zac: "Yeah, I just knowed it. Nobody told me . . . Uh, I mean, I knew it."


5. Jake, looking at a picture of dinner someone posted on Facebook: "Ooh, did you make that?"
Me: "No."
Jake: "Oh. Now it doesn't look appetizing."

6. I bought a new Magic Tree House book this week. Even though he still claims he doesn't really like reading, he took off to the other room with it and hid in a corner. Every time I'd walk by, he'd hide the book behind his back and try to look innocent, because he didn't want me to know that he was reading. He eventually came and sat next to me as he finished the book. He sat and read it from beginning to end, just because he wanted to.

7. Zac, while I was making dinner: "Thank you for making the so best smell in here!"

8. Jake and Alyssa made chocolate chip Heath cookies for Leighton, all by themselves. They learned a few lessons along the way, made a huge mess, and baked delicious cookies.

9. Celebrating April Fools with the kids. My favorite part was giving them chocolate milk, but switching Jake's with chilled coffee. The look on his face was hilarious.

10. Jake, sitting with his face in the open window: "Mmm, I love the smell of fresh, spring air!"

11. Zac: "Is crap a word?"
Me: "Yes, but that's not a word you should say."
Alyssa, innocently: "What does crap mean?"
Me: "It's not a nice word. I don't want you to say it."
Alyssa: "Well, they (iPad) showed us a picture of a corn field for it."
Me: "Ah, crop." The joys of new readers.

What made you Smile this week?

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile 3/28/14

Jake (8), Alyssa (6), Zac (4), Tyler (2)

Happy Friday! I am still trying to play catch-up, so this is last week's list. Our "baby" celebrated his second birthday, I cleaned up lots of messes, and we all had many reasons to Smile.

1. Jake: "{Girl from church} asked me to marry her."
Me: "And what did you say?"
Jake: "I told her 'Not if God doesn't want me to.'"

2. Tyler sitting and playing with a car and randomly saying colors, "Yewo. Geen. Purpo. Boo."

4. Jake: "Hi."
Me: "Hi. You look guilty."
Jake: "I was trying to remember where I put my gum. Then I remembered that I spit it out."

5. Jake: "I could make dinner."
Alyssa: "You don't know how. All you could make is eggs."
Jake: "Yes, I can. I can make corned beef and pasta fagioli. "

6. Zac: "I think hiccups are scared of water."

7. Tyler helping me "wash" the windows.

8. Zac: {Achoo} Mom, I almost got you!
Me, teasing: "Oh, no, don't sneeze on me."
Zac: "Yeah, 'cause you're pretty. Why would I sneeze on you when you're pretty?"

9. Zac: "Tyler's playing with the confuser!" (diffuser)

What made you Smile this week?

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Spelling You See Review

Have you ever s-p-e-l-l-e-d w-o-r-d-s because you had little ears listening and you didn't want them to understand what you were saying? My husband and I can get away with that less and less since our kids are getting older and especially now that we've been using  Spelling You See: Listen and Write (Level A). More and more, I find them spelling out words and sounding out the letters they see and hear. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad they're doing so well, but how can we talk about i-c-e c-r-e-a-m and still keep it a secret!

Spelling You See (part of the Math-U-See family) claims to be "a natural, easy way to teach and learn spelling" and I couldn't agree more. The program focuses on short daily activities that combine listening, speaking, reading, and copying. By repeatedly reading and writing, the student naturally imprints the proper spellings of words in their minds. The program currently offers 5 levels of learning, starting with the students just beginning to learn letter names and sounds. That's the level we've been using. 
I've had both Alyssa (6) and Zac (4) working through this book. Even though Alyssa has been reading for quite a while now, I felt that she could benefit from the early spelling lessons and the handwriting review. Zac had learned his letter sounds and could read simple CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words, but not consistently. Also, he had little formal experience with proper letter formations.

I printed off the lessons (we received a PDF version, though it is not available to purchase) and handed them each lesson 1. They excitedly flew through the page and asked for number 2. The directions recommend 10-minute lessons, but my kids never want to stop after just 10 minutes. 

The 36 lessons are divided into 5 parts, A through E. The top of each page is letter formation practice. The bottom portion is filled with letter boxes. These boxes help the brain learn sound-to-letter correspondence. The lessons start three-letter words to copy and gradually increase to 5-letter words to spell.

Alyssa and Zac start by writing the letters and making their sounds. They try to have a race to see who can get done first, but I remind them that writing properly is more important winning. That works. Sometimes, ha. Then I pick out which one of each letter is written the best and draw a smiley face above it. The so look forward to seeing which letter gets the smile! After that, we work on the letter boxes together. 

I am amazed at how well this program is working for us! The format seems so simple, there is nothing exciting, the pages are plain, yet I have seen vast improvements in my little ones and their abilities. Alyssa, for sure, is doing better with both handwriting and spelling, but Zac is the one who has benefited the most. In the beginning, he struggled, understandably, with some letter formations, but usually by the second or third day with the letter, he was writing it beautifully. Another thing is that before, he would write in capital letters sporadically, but is now writing in lower case. Also, I can say a word, and he spells it. But the biggest, most exciting part? He is reading now! And not just slowly sounding out words, but reading simple books. I am beyond thrilled, as is he. 

I do have one negative though. I do not like the font that is used. For instance, certain letters, like l and t are have a curved end instead of a straight line. The curve is harder to write. Alyssa, especially, would write the letters properly before with just a straight line for the l and so on. When they started this program though, I found their writing getting worse. As you can see in the picture above, her ls were getting sloppy. Instead of having them practice those letters to match the ones on the paper, I had them write like they had done before, with the straight lines. Not a big deal, but one to note.   

Other than the font issue, I have nothing but good to say about the Listen and Write program. The kids and I all enjoy it and are seeing improvements. We will definitely continue with this program. I am interested in researching the higher levels for Jake (8) as he has struggled with his spelling. If this is working so well for the other two, I expect it to work well for him, as well.

The instructor's handbook costs $14 and the student pack (workbook, sticker pack, and the Guide to Handwriting) costs $20.

You can find Spelling You See on Facebook and Twitter.

If you'd like to read more reviews of Level A or would like to see some of the other levels, please check the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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