Saturday, September 29, 2012

Getting I.D.E.As. About Pearl Harbor {Review}

Box of IDEAs has a unique unit-study approach to learning about specific topics.  We were grateful to review their downloadable Pearl Harbor enrichment study ($49.00; $79.00 for the physical product).  This unit study helps you explore Pearl Harbor and it’s geo-political significance before, during and after World War II.
The modules for this unit study are:

Before Becoming a Base
Beginning of  a Naval Presence
A Week Before the Attack
Day of Infamy
Day After the Attack
Weeks after the Attack
Six months After the Attack
A Year After the Attack
Four Years After the Attack
Decades After the Attack
(click on the information about the physical product for a good description of each module)
As a PDF product, you are given access to additional information about the learning philosophy of I.D.E.A.s., information on implementing this unit study, and a final test to use (if you wish).

Each module has a coversheet, which tells you what you’ll need to print for your students.  The next section provides reading material that you can cuddle up to with your children.  Luke, Levi and I tended to read this part off the computer (or iPad).  Additional resource links were provided so we could click over to interesting websites for more visuals and deeper study.  

The circled section sometimes asks great questions for further discovery - these could serve as great writing assignments for older students.  The bracked section provides links to websites to expand on the topic for further exploration.
The next section of each module was a “portfolio page.”  These pages are meant for printing out and putting in  your child’s notebook – either one specific to Pearl Harbor or (like us) perhaps it will be just part of your child’s year-long history notebook.  I appreciate that the creators of Box of I.D.E.A.s. created handy graphics so that I’d know at a glance what I was looking at:  Capture
The final section is an activity (hint: you will want to have a supply of cardstock for these sections).  Some of the activities are more academic than others (there is a timeline game to play, for example) while others use the theme of the unit to engage your children (an you!) in a fun little game. 

How we used it: I was glad to see I could load the PDF files onto our new iPad, which made reading the module information really convenient.  When I was playing my “A” Game,  I remembered to print out all the module material, so we could seamlessly move from the topic to the portfolio and activity work.

Because I’m using this with a 1st grade, Levi’s attention usually waned after reading the module and completing the portfolio work – something that could easily be done on different days to extend learning for the young ones.  My goal had been to touch each module two different times during the week – and some weeks this worked our well.  Our first week, even, the kids were interested in playing the module’s Go Fish variant to learn about endangered animals without prompting from me.  That should say a lot.


Many of the extensions involved additional research on related topics (pearls for learning about the Pearl Harbor/ Hawaiian ocean habitat or researching other war related industries) which could easily engage late elementary and middle school students.  


My recommendations & thoughts:   After using this kit with a 1st and 4th grader, I think that there is a lot of value for a home with a variety of grade levels.  The extensions and additional links would definitely keep Ben (8th grade) busy and interested (though I think some of the games would lose his interest).  The boys really enjoyed playing the activity games.   

I appreciated that the portfolio pieces and activities involved  a number of skills to really create a multi-subject unit study –- reading comprehension (fact/ opinion), math, number skills.  The boys didn’t even realize they were being asked to use some math.  (Well, OK, they did realize it, but they did not mind it!)

The only concern or surprise I had with the PDF Pearl Harbor Kit was a bit of sticker shock at the price – $49 would be a ways out of my price range for an add-on unit study for the boys, but totally worth it for a self-contained study on this period of history.  With only a bit of tweaking, I could use the extensions as writing activities and adding in additional library books on oceanography, Hawaii, the Pacific islands, Japan, and World War II.  

To read what others thought of this unit study as well as the salt unit study (some reviewed the physical product) please click on the banner below:

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product as a PDF download , at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Weekly Report: Weeks 5 and 6 {Hard Lessons Learned}

The honeymoon period of 8th grade is over.

Weeks 5 and 6 were full-on 8th grade.  We finished adding in all Ben's subjects, including his new online, virtual charter school Spanish class.  Not only is he learning new language, he really learned a lot about technology and user interfaces this week.

With a full schedule of classes (Physical Science, Pre-Algebra, History/ Literature, Grammar, Writing, and alternating days of online Spelling and Vocabulary + Spanish), Ben is needing to learn time management.

 When I was in control of his schedule (up until about 6th grade), I nearly always planned a-little-bit-every-day. Last year, I gave him more freedom, and Ben appreciated more of a block schedule to his work.  He'd read his lit. book for 3 days, then do history 2 days. This year, I've really let him have nearly all the control in his schedule.   (I mapped out target dates for when blocks of his work needed to be done.  For example, he has until January 11th to finish pre-Algebra.  That should keep him on pace to finish at least half of Algebra in the second half of the year).

Now with this freedom has come consequences -- and boy, has Ben had some!  Last weekend, Ben was working on finishing his school work until Saturday at 1:30 pm.  This weekend was worse!  He worked all day Saturday on school work and all afternoon today (Sunday) until 9:30 pm!!!!!!

The last 15 minutes of his school week tonight, we talked about what he learned this week.  "Um, I shouldn't try to do an entire subject in 3 days." 

This was music to my ears.  I've been talking to him for more than the past two weeks about his schedule, but this just had to be a lesson he learned on his own. (He learned a couple other lessons this past two weeks as well, but this was the major bugaboo for him.)

Now, just for posterity's sake and complete transparency:  I have not been entirely patient and gracious during this learning experiment.  I've done well some days, but then I hear the lecture-y, Mother-knows-best tone in my voice, and {hating to admit it} the frustrated/angry tone sometimes.  Ben is gracious to forgive me, and I pray that the Lord's mercy will wash over any hurt it causes him.  

Tonight, however, we are washing the slates clean and moving forward. I have (realistic) hopes that week 7 will find my Ben more judicious in his use of time.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Is God Calling You Towards Family-Centered Worship? {Review}

I had never, ever heard of family worship or family centered worship until about three years ago, when totally hip young mom (that I've known since she was a sophomore in college) mentioned it on her blog or facebook page.  I recall thinking, "good luck with that!"

As a family, we have always done whatever was the norm in the church we were attending.  For the past 11 years, that has been to have our children with us during the song part of the service, then sending them to their age-appropriate children's ministry program during the sermon.  Now that Luke and Ben have aged-out of those programs, they sit with us for the whole service, and Levi attends a Junior Worship program.  This is just normal for us, and I never thought much about any other variation for worship.

I'm not sure I'm seeing much "fruit" from our decision to just "go with the flow" of having our kids participate in only half of a worship service.  I fear that we've sent a message to the kids that they are now "forced" to sit through a sermon because there is nothing else "to do."

In the past two years, we've really tried to draw Ben's attention towards the pastor's message by having him focus on the outline notes our pastor provides in the bulletin;  usually, this hasn't worked. We've encouraged (ok, demanded sometimes)  better attention during corporate worship from  all the boys -- stand up, look at the screen, follow along with the words of the songs. And would you stop drawing ballistic missiles!

 I'll admit, I often feel like a dictator.  It hasn't always been pretty and it leaves me longing for more.  More help.  More direction.  More patience.

I'm laying all this out there for you so you can understand my eagerness to review this new book from Raising Real Men and authors Curt and Sandra Lovelace:

Published by Great Waters Press (listed for $12.00 for the advance copy with free shipping as of this post), this book provides a guide for transforming your thoughts about how to worship with your children. Or, if you already have felt the nudge to incorporate your children into Sunday worship, you will be encouraged by real life stories from the authors, suggestions and scripture.

I was given an advance reader copy for review, and chapter titles for the final book are:

1-Bringing Them In
2-Understanding the Elements
3-Counting the Cost
4-Laying the Foundation
5-Getting Ready
6-Packing the Bag
7-Drawing the Word
8-Preparing a Plan
9-Facing the Challenges
10-Growing as Disciples.

The Lovelace's couch their thesis that children should be a part of the corporate worship service (and not sent to age-appropriate rooms and classes) with Old and New Testament scripture, from Moses on through to the Disciples.  They build a convincing argument that God intended for families to train up their children in the presence of a multi-generational corporate body of believers.

Drawing on their years as a young family without children traveling the world and experiencing worship in lots of different places, the Lovelaces outline their own journey towards understanding corporate worship as a family.  They also share their experiences of trying to practice their ideas of family worship within a fairly traditional American church, where children go to their classes and adults attend worship.  They certainly sound like trailblazers on this journey.

I really appreciated the middle portion of this book, which gave pointers, hints and opportunities to "count the cost" of pursuing a season of family worship.  In most chapters, the Lovelaces share stories of themselves (well, Sandra mostly since Curt was at the pulpit preaching) shepherding and training their children to worship through the service.  They also include other stories of Sandra truly blessing other children in their congregation.  For one reason or another, Sandra took the child under her tutelage and helped the child develop a real heart for the Lord and for worship.

What I love best about these stories is that they are not perfect.  The Lovelaces share some of the struggles and challenges they had during this season of life.  (Sandra, thank you for being vulnerable and sharing some of your discouragement!) The transparency of their journey gives me hope!

Is this book a little too late for us?  After all, I have a 13 year old, almost 10 year old, and almost 7 year old.   Although the Lovelaces do not specifically address this, I do not believe we are (completely) too late.  After all, the Lord of Lords is on our side.

This resource would definitely be perfect for and those with toddlers and preschoolers. But, I do believe that -- with prayer -- we can modify some of the suggestions Sandra and Curt make and use them during different parts of worship with our kids, especially since two of the three sit through the sermon on a weekly basis. And now that I've read this book, and have an arsenal of ideas (Church Bag, colored pencils and drawings will play a big part of this), I'm hopeful that I can engage my youngest incorporate worship.

If you'd like to read what others thought of Children in Church, please click the banner below:


Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received an advance copy of this book no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A New 'Do

Thanks to a great software program for digital scrapbooking, I changed up my blog!  Can you tell what my favorite color is?  


I've decided to try a few new things here, because I've been blogging here for over 5 (!) years.

And in honor of that milestone, I actually purchased my blog name, so you can go directly to

and you end up here!

The pictures up top are from our fanta-bulous summer vacation to Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.  I just smile when I see these pictures, because I so love being with my family.

Anyway, look for a few more changes to come in the next month or so.

Monday, September 10, 2012

¡Hablo Español con Speekee TV!


I’ll be honest with you – I have NO idea what kind of animal, creature or thing Speekee is.  I don’t even really know if Speekee is a girl or a boy (we think of him as a boy in our house because…..well….that’s all I’ve got!).  But whatever he is (for simplicity’s sake, I’m going with he), I’m grateful that Speekee has sparked some fun language learning in our house over the past few weeks.

Speekee TV is an online video-based language learning, immersion program.  {They also have a DVD program, but the DVDs are only formatted in PAL, so check your equipment to see if it will work.}  You can subscribe annually for $60.00 or on a monthly basis for $7.50.  I think that this is a really great value for a houseful of preschool and elementary aged children, because you can watch the video segments as many times as you need, and Speekee is appealing to such a wide range of abilities.  Both my 6 year old (almost 7) and 9-almost-10 year old really enjoy the videos and lessons.

You can try Speekee TV for free for two weeks to see if it will work for your family!

Speekee TV’s features include:

  • 10 episodes of Spanish  ~ This may not seem like a lot, but each episode packs in basic vocabulary, conversation, glimpses into life in Spain, helpful phrases, and catchy tunes that I guarantee you will be singing while you cook dinner or wash the dishes. We’ve watched several of the episodes multiple times – to emphasis different vocabulary or phrases – and have not been bored at all!

Each episode of Speekee has a different theme: the park, the café, the house, the zoo, the classroom, the market, the station (travel), the beach, the garden and the party.  Most if not all of these themes are common to elementary ages students and the kids can draw on the experiences in these situations to help them use and understand the Spanish they are hearing.

  • Over 150 minutes of pure Spanish learning  ~  The videos average about 15  minutes, with a few approaching 19 or 20 minutes.  We haven’t found them to be too long or boring, because each episode has  interesting and varied segments, but with predicable people and characters to help the kids know what to expect.
  • Learn Spanish from real Spanish children in real Spanish locations ~ I love helping my kids actually see that kids in other countries are just like they are.
  • Features songs, animation and puppets
  • Optional subtitles in Spanish and English ~ I tend to have the subtitles on for a few minutes at the beginning as a help for me.  Once I have the words and word endings, I turn it off.  (It has been helpful for me to review my Spanish from many, many years ago.)   Right now, I really want Luke and Levi to focus on listening to the language and not trying to read it {Especially since Luke has a harder time with reading}.
  • Free activity sheet downloads ~ We have honestly not used many of the downloadable worksheets. 
  • Great fun and extremely effective ~  I often use Speekee as an incentive for the boys to finish their chores!
  • Created by specialist language teachers
  • Free optional curriculum ~  The FastTrack program is totally optional, but totally included in your subscription price.  It provides you with 40 weeks of activities to expand on the videos and guide you in teaching a second language to your kids.  I’ll write more about FastTrack below.
  • Songs you can't stop singing  ~ And that is the truth!!!!!

Let me tell you about FastTrack.  Each of the lessons is broken down and studied for four weeks, four times a week.   In the first week, you watch the full episode with your child.  Then, on the next 3 days, you will focus just on one part of the episode – maybe the greetings, or role playing, or learning colors.  Sometimes there is a PDF worksheet to complete, or suggestion to make one of the sock puppets. (Oh! that I could find a single sock right now;  Levi would LOVE to make Lupi or Dino and has been asking me about it for a few weeks now.) I really appreciate that the boys are re-hearing the language (and improving their pronunciation) and practicing the language in little bits.  Trust me, it is not boring. 

As I mentioned, the FastTrack lessons are available with your subscription, so you do not have to pay anything extra for them.  The lessons are  available when you log into SpeekeeTV and you can have them emailed to you.  After getting the emails for 6 weeks now, I actually prefer to access the material online instead.  It reads a little smoother for my visual learning style and helps me to see what I need to re-watch with the boys, or make, or print off.  

My recommendations & thoughts:  I cannot say enough great things about Speekee.  My kids beg to do Spanish and Speekee, even more than when we  used Speekee for a review last year.  As a matter of fact, I would say that they are even more interested in Speekee this year – and I’ve heard them both add little Spanish phrases into our conversations!  We now ask each other, “Que tal?” and Luke remembers “Bien,”  while Levi leans over and says, “How do I say ‘good’ again?”  Really, it doesn’t get much better than this!

Last year when I reviewed Speekee, I really liked it, but was at a loss on how to use the material to teach Spanish to my kids. FastTrack has been “IdeaTrack” for me.   IT has been so inspiring, and have really made Spanish come alive in our house. See, my gift is not necessarily generating creative, new ideas, but I’m great at modifying someone else’s plan or idea to fit my life or needs or style! FastTrack, then, has been awesome to help me see the video in pieces so that I can actually use it with the boys. Today, for example, we have been practicing using por favor, de nada, and gracias when talking to one another. The boys have LOVED it, and even used it at dinner!

If  you’d like to read how Speekee worked in other homeschool families, please click on the banner below:  



Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a six month online subscription, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

Helping to Unpack History: Marshall Publishing DVDs

One thing I’ve learned about teaching history to my kids for the past 7 years:  there is no way possible for them to know everything.

Duh, I know. But when you are young in your homeschool journey…. and only contemplating the educational needs of your first child, because the young siblings are still trying to master walking without bumping into walls…..and you realize that the only scope and sequence you have to follow is your own……well, you tend to think that the education you can provide your child (by God’s grace) is going to be seamless, comprehensive, and all-encompassing.  In.  every. subject.

At least that is what I imagined in the beginning.  But – boy! – how God has humbled me and put me in my place.  I realize now that the focus of my home school should be imparting a love for God in my kids as well as imparting a love of learning about His world.

In our house, as the weather turns more spring like, it can be easier to let some topics slide.  That is exactly what happened in May; I realized that the end of the 1800s was really getting short changed.  Great people and events that shape our American consciousness were getting dropped left-and-right from school as we finished up, compiled portfolios, played sports and prepared for vacation.

I gratefully, then, jumped at the opportunity this summer to review Marshall Publishing’s 60-minute DVD entitle America in the 1880s ($19.95)
What was life like in America in the 1880s? Certainly nothing like today, yet many of the things we so cherish now had their roots during this significant and often time neglected decade in history.
Just like a time machine, we transport you back to discover the people and events that shaped this exciting decade: the Brooklyn Bridge ...Washington Monument ...Statue of Liberty ...Gunfight at the O.K. Corral ...Oklahoma Land Rush ...Johnstown Flood ...Thomas Edison ...Mark Twain ...Baby Doe ...Sitting Bull ...Sarah Bernhardt ...John Philip Sousa ...Buffalo Bill ...Gilbert and Sullivan ...Wyatt Earp...Jesse James and Billy the Kid ....Alexander Graham Bell ....John D. Rockefeller ....Andrew Carnegie ....Samuel Gompers ....Susan B. Anthony ....Lillian Russell ....and many more!
You will learn about fashion, politics, sports heroes, famous inventors, Wall Street financiers, railroad expansion, buffalo extinction, Indian resettlement, Civil Rights, union organization, urbanization, the music of the times, and much, much more!
Through the use of live re-enactments, rare historical photographs and drawings, and award-winning photography you will be amazed, amused, entertained and educated about many little known facts and some life changing events that have become part of the foundation of our society today.
As a special bonus feature, we also present an archival documentary film about the life of Alexander Graham Bell, his work with the deaf and the invention of the telephone!

The website has a page dedicated to the History of American in the 1880s DVD with some educational helps and supports for the DVD:  a timeline of major events, vocabulary and terms.  There are 6 study questions.  I can see this being helpful for older students for review and discussion. 

As a reader of my blog, Marshall Publishing is offering my readers free first-class shipping by using code TOS27.  That is a savings of $7.95! You can order at Marshall Publishing website or call their toll free number 1-888-300-3455 (8a – 8pC CST Mon-Sat).
Marshall Publishing has many other DVDs (and DVD packages) for all ages. 

My recommendations & thoughts:  The video is a combination of reenactments as well as historical footage/ photographs.  It is narrated throughout to provide a thread of continuity.  The narrator’s voice reminded me of some of the old movies/ film strips I watched during my elementary/ middle school years.  I don’t mean this is a bad thing – it is what it is. 

Although the boys were not excited to sit and watch it (“It is still summer, Mom!”), they live to tell and thought it was interesting.   I thought it was a great way to explore an influential time period in a short amount of time, and feel a little less guilty about the holes in my kids education.  The suggested age range for this DVD is 4th grade and up, and I would have to agree;  my 1st grader, Levi, watched some segments.  There is a separate biographical presentation about Alexander Graham Bell and in retrospect, I would probably not watch both the main DVD and the Bell segment back-to-back.  That was a bit much for the kids’ attention (even Luke and Ben’s) given we were refreshing after a summer off of school.

To read what others thought of this DVD (as well as the Oregon Trail & Pony Express, Historic Expedition of Lewis and Clark,  and Lots and Lots of Penguins and their Happy Feet! DVD that the Crew reviewed), please click on the banner below:


Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this DVD, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

School Report: Week 4

History: So we're really digging into trench warfare, zepplins, U-boats (always wondered what that phrase meant), and life on the Western and Eastern Fronts.  We are reading a couple very interesting books that are great WWI resources:

Where Poppies Grow: a World War I Companion

Where Poppies Grow: a World War I Companion

This book is similar to the set up of DK resources, but with less visually busy pages.  Illustrations -- maybe just 4 or 5 -- are large and text boxes easy to read.  Its two-page spreads cover distinct topics, such as homelife, spies, front line daily life, air warfare, sea warfare and such.  It was first published in Canada, and has reference to those from Canada who served in the Great War moreso than American troops (a nice perspective).

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields

This book integrates the poem by John McCrea (accompanied by beautiful illustrations from Janet Wilson) with Mr. McCrea's biography, details about the war in Belgium and the Western Front; and it's publication and reception outside the war theatre.  

The last book that the boys have fallen in love with is a picture book:

War Game: Village Green to No Man's Land

War Game: Village Green to No Man's Land 

This story of WWI is told from the perspective of four young British pals who love to play soccer.  Caught up in the patriotism of the war effort, the young men join up and we follow them through their training, life on the Western front, and the miraculous armistice on Christmas Eve, 1914.  {Thank you, Canton Library for withdrawing it from your library.  Your loss is my gain.}

I'm not sure, but it is possible that my 13 year old has picked up War Games to read himself. 

Science:  We talked about the layers of the earth today, and the boys were estatic to have a good hour painting the layers of the earth on a foam ball cut out:

We added in math this week.  Luke is finishing up the review product, Math Made Easy to learn his multiplication facts.  We're on week 4 still (a long break since I wrote up the review).  He's really getting it! Levi is reviewing addition and subtraction with Wrap Ups, worksheets made from Math U See's website and a few apps.  Ben is just barely 1/2 way through pre-Algebra.  He's taught me Mr. Demme's cool trick for celsius to farenheit conversion!

Speaking of conversions, Ben is learning about conversions in the first chapter of Physical Science this week.  He asked me some tough questions about why we use them, and I tried to explain it.  I wasn't sure I was successful, so I told him I'd find some info online -- and I did!  They actually explain it the same way I did, but sometimes Ben needs to hear what I said from someone that isn't me in order to believe it.  

We also started grammar, which is not horribly exciting, but no tears for any of the boys!  Ben is really going to flourish with Fix-It! combined with IEW's Level B continuation Course.  I'm excited to see what his writing looks like by the end of the year! Today, Luke said, "I like grammar!" (Did I mention that we're using Winston Grammar?  He likes the colored cards he uses to label sentences). 

Luke and I are reading aloud The Railway Children for his literature assignment as well as for reading practice.  We laughed this week when Bobbie (a girl) affectionately called her brother a "brick."  Apparently, this idiomatic expression does not translate well in 2012, as both Luke and I decided that being called a brick as not a good thing!  

Levi and I are going to read all the Pathway Readers that I own -- I think I have up through the middle of third grade. He really loves these sweet stories, and I love any excuse to cuddle my not-so-baby baby.  He'll be 7 in less than a month now!


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Map Work, Version 2.0

This post might be a "duh" post for many of you.  If so, just you can just give me a patronizing virtual pat on the head, and I will totally understand.

Sometimes, I can be a bit slow.

We've been happy consumers of black line maps for many years now.  We've used various online ones (especially when Ben was young) such as these, these and these. Since we began using Tapestry of Grace, we've gone ahead and purchased MapAids, which exactly matches what we are studying.

One of the historical atlases we own
Even while working in our history group with two other familes, I never felt 100% about how I was using the maps.  I felt like I was spoon-feeding the kids locations.  I would typical pull out my teacher's key map and just point to locations that the kids needed to find and replicate.

Look here.  Copy this.

Not very exciting. Probably not very educational.

Last spring I had a revelation that I really wanted to transform our map work. I'm 100% certain that this idea is not original -- it probably came from one of the other Tapestry users.

My thought is that I want my kids -- even Levi -- to use the blackline maps to learn about geography and history by referencing all the variety of atlases we have -- historical map atlas, online maps, and contemporary geo-political maps.  My thinking is that I want the boys to be fluent using reference materials.  I want them to be able to interpret the information and use it in other situations.

This year, we are having geography day (Wednesdays).  I grab all my atlases (three historical atlases, two geo-political ones). The boys grab the colored pencils; sometimes, I use the label maker to type out labels for Levi when there are tons of things to find.

I pull out the targeted map points from our Tapestry guide and sometimes take a peak at the teacher's key (just to make sure).  Then we go to work!

Here's what today looked like:

The boys did awesome.  Not only did we map the Dardanelles Strait and the Gallipoli peninsula, we talked about why these geographical features were important in The Great War for both the Turks and the Allies. Levi and Luke discovered how cool Istanbul/ Constantinople is (it's on two continents!) and how important.  Gosh, my 6.5 year old can identify the Black Sea better than I could when I was 40!

The boys worked so hard and shared our resources well.  They showed interest in the atlases and in discovering history and the world.  I loved working with them.

Today's lesson -- for me and the boys -- was just great.  Lights went on for us all.  Learning occurred for us all.  And memories were made that I will treasure forever.

Even if the boys cannot remember what a peninsula is tomorrow.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Math911 ~ A Comprehensive Upper Level Math Tutoring Program


I was very grateful at being chosen to review another math program.  I’m just always amazed at the variety of ways one can learn a single subject and all the multitudes of different ways the material can be presented. 


Math911 is a downloadable program with two versions:

1. The free version contains a complete Introductory Algebra (Algebra 1) course.

2. The Premier version is $49.95 and the same Introductory Algebra (Algebra 1)  course as well as :

  • Intermediate Algebra  (Algebra 2)
  • Pre-Calculus topics
  • Trigonometry topics
  • Introductory Statistics course
       You can request from the Math911 help desk a password version which allows multiple users or a network version, which can be installed on one computer and shortcuts can be created on multiple other computers on your home network {if the word “network” freaks you out, it is actually pretty easy and you’ll get step-by-step help in setting this up}.

I’ve found  the topics in the Introductory Algebra program to be appropriate beginning with middle school students up through high school.  You can view a huge selected list of topics covered at the Math911 Algebra In A Flash website.

{If you use the promo code: HOMESCHOOL during check out, you can get the USB complete version for only $9.95!}*

Please note that if you purchase the Algebra in a Flash USB, you must run the program from the USB (see FAQs about this).

I think one of the most important things to know about this software is that it is not a game.  at.  all.  It is a piece of software that takes you through all the major topics of  a math course and gives you practice solving different types of problems. 


The screen is fairly simple and is reminiscent of the Good Ole Days of desktop computing:

math911 screenshot

See the black circle in the gray-outlined box?  That is where you enter your answer.  Then press enter.  At the bottom third of the screen, you will find out if you got the problem right or wrong.  If you get it wrong, then you can click on the button at the right that says, “See Solution.”  Math911 will take you step by step through the problem, with some explanation of what you should do at the bottom of the screen.  When you are done learning with that problem, you click on “New Problem” to move on.  You can see additional screen shots at the Math911 website.

The program is a mastery-based program, so no errors are counted.  You will always get 100%.  I really appreciate that the program keeps a grade book which shows which topics and levels have been worked on.  Of course, since all grades are 100%, it is pretty easy to figure out your score. 

Our experience:   Downloading the software was easy. I did get warnings from my virus software because it is not a commonly used program, but I was able to tell the software to trust the program, and I downloaded it without trouble. 

Once the program is downloaded, you can immediately begin to use the Introductory Algebra program.  To access the premier (full) version, I had to copy down four registration codes, email those to the Math911 help desk and wait for four additional codes to be emailed back to you (I didn’t have to wait very long – maybe half a day at most).   This seems a little big clunky, but once these four codes were entered as instructed, I was able to work on all the courses – including calculus!

{I did try installing the network version.  It was pretty straightforward, but my computer seemed to be missing something, and I just ran out of time trying to figure it out.  However, I got great responses and help from Dr. Weissman, so the network not working is not his fault, but mine!}

Ben started working at the beginning of Introductory Algebra.  This course has a pre-Algebra beginning.  Ben needed to work through understanding values of negative numbers and positive numbers.

Ben started to have some issues with the program recognize his answers.  The program seemed picky about the spacing, comma usage and placement of negative  with the numbers.  Once he thought he had the technique down, he came upon a new issue.  Now, to be fair, I let Dr. Weissman know about this issue, and he asked which sets of problems Ben had problems with.  Ben couldn’t remember.  Dr. Weissman was willing to understand where issues were and make corrections. As a matter of fact, several new versions with modifications were made to the program while we were using it for the trial period.  Dr. Weissman’s willingness to constantly improve his product is commendable.  Ben has a low frustration tolerance for math, so these few little issues of spacing answers correctly really frustrated him and decreased his interest in using the program.  Those with children similar to mine might keep this in mind.

My recommendations & thoughts:  I think that this program is a great value for someone who is looking for a comprehensive upper level math supplement.  There are hundreds of problems which can be added in to your main math program for extra practice.  Answers are provided so your students can see step-by-step where they made mistakes.  Everybody gets 100%! If your student is having trouble with polynomials (or whatever), you can skip ahead to that set of problems.  There are even tests!

I went ahead and tried some of the math problems from algebra that I didn’t remember (which is a lot right now!).  Trying to answer the problem, however, was hard, and proved to me that this isn’t meant to replace a textbook– there just isn’t enough instruction before working through a problem.  Of course, once I got it wrong and could see step-by-step why I got it wrong, I could easily see what do to on the next problem.  So, this might be great for someone who needs a refresher.

Some other hints and good things:

  • tech support and upgrades are free
  • there is no textbook that accompanies this program
  • you can create multiple student accounts so more than one student can use the program (with the right activation codes)
  • plans are in the works for an introductory statistics course

Please click over to the Schoolhouse Review Crew (on the banner below) to see what other moms and their students thought of Math911!


*Prices are accurate as of posting date of this review.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a download of the complete Algebra in a Flash product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

School Report: Weeks 1, 2 & 3

{The title of this post is misleading, because we've really only had two weeks of school.  In order to keep myself sane, I tend to count our weeks by Tapestry of Grace's year plan.  This year, in our first week we completed work for TOG's week 1 and 2.  In our second week of school was we completed week 3.}

Welcome to our school!  I'm glad you are coming to visit and see what the kids are doing.  It's been several years since I chronicled our school year -- I dropped out when life was just too, too crazy.  We've backed of to only too crazy, so I'm hoping to review our school year's highs, lows, hits and misses more often.  

Our first week was actually pretty easy.  We started with only two subjects -- Our Tapestry of Grace history and literature.  The little boys really had a whirlwind tour of the early 1900s -- the Wright brothers, the Titanic, The San Francisco earthquake among other events.  I'm grateful that I prepped all the materials we needed to make TOG's lapbooks this year.  The boys are really enjoying them, and they are looking great:

We decided to cut out and glue the mini-books in place before we finished them.  The boys had a wonderful afternoon cutting and gluing and now we can just pull out the lapbook, write our summaries and information and not have to worry about clean up -- the bane of my existence.

Ben's first week was a review of Teddy Roosevelt's early life and early presidency. 

Our second week took us on a trek to learn about the beginnings of the Great War.  Do you realize that in less that two years, we will be remembering the 100 year anniversary of that war's beginnings?

I also started  Luke and Levi (known collectively as The Little Boys or TLBs) with their writing programs:  WriteShop.  I purchased level A for Levi, and he's balking a bit that the first set of writing assignments is about animals.  Fortunately, I've learned to not judge Levi's initial impressions as being final.  He'll definitely get over it.  I'm pleased with the variety of hands on, visual and auditory components for Luke.  I think it will be great for him!  (I cannot wait to tell you about his journal entry he worked on today;  you'll have to wait until my next post!) 

The last thing we added was science.  I'm grateful science is not a lot of work right now, because I'm finding that both boys like to hear each other's history books read (I bumped Luke to Upper Grammar history and Levi is having lower grammar read to him) aloud -- so really, they are each doing two history programs. I know my years of reading aloud to my boys are waning, so I'm not going to complain at. all. about the amount of couch and cuddle time we have so far this year.