Wednesday, October 31, 2012
There comes a point in our school-sport-scout schedule where I am just hanging on until the end. I am at that place right now.
Ben's cross country season ends on Oct. 30 and Luke finishes up soccer in just two more weeks. It's not that their meets/ practices/ games have picked up in intensity. There just comes a mid-season time when jobs/ chores/ activities I've been putting off for a few weeks snowballs with current demands and needs, and I feel like I am drowning.
The boys and I have put in quite a few volunteer weekends selling Boy Scout Popcorn to raise funds for their scout accounts. We're hoping to send Luke to Cub Scout camp over the summer, and I'd like to have a nice stash of cash for him in his account that we can use towards it. Depending on when day camp is, both Luke and Levi will probably attend day camp as well.
Aside from scouts and sports, the boys are all progressing well in their coursework. Over the past few weeks we've learned about the prohibition and the Roaring 20s. Ben has touched on FDR's pre-presidency, Stalin.
One of the things I make Luke and Levi do nearly every week is make a President's Page. After looking at several and considering the resources I have here, I decided to adapt one for our early elementary needs:
One of the casualties of school so far this year has been our read aloud. I really want to be better about that. Also, science has been on hiatus for the past week+ because I've been feeling swamped with Life.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
I was particularly interested in the Chemistry (books 2 and 3) experiments. I haven’t tackled the concept of chemistry with the boys yet, and wanted to try the experiments to see how they might work as a stand-alone introduction to a topic.
Here are screen shots of the science experiments that are included in each ebook:
Science Experiment Book 1
Science Experiment Book 2
Science Experiment Book 3
Each experiment has several sheets:
- Assembly Instructions – this guides you in knowing how many supplies you’ll need to make a set of the same experiment bag if you are doing a swap. There is also a page that has the experiment label printed 4 to a page so you can just print this out to help for the swap.
- Experiment Log – this is your one-stop shop for all the ingredients for the experiment, the goal of the experiment and the step-by-step directions for your kids to follow. Luke and Levi have been able to follow along and carry out a majority of the steps in the experiments we’ve tried but I am always nearby in case.
- Experiment Log answers – after each experiment is finished, there are sets of questions for the kids to answer to help them explore think about what they’ve seen and what it means.
Turning pennies verdigris with vinegar
Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a set of the three science ebooks, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Samson’s Classroom is a set of three online programs that help support reading and spelling skills for grades K – 5. It involves three core programs: sight word recognition, spelling, and reading comprehension. We review a Family membership, which allows four students access to the program for a year for $50. A single user account (called a Home Account) is $30.
Setting up the program is very easy. There are some quick videos to watch if you have question on how the programs works, too. Luke and Levi have their own accounts, plus I have one as the teacher/parent. With my account I can log in and see their progress and scores on any of the tasks. I can even add my own spelling words to the Spelling with Samson program. There are already 5,000 words in their database and although I’ve added a few words that weren’t in there, there is an option to request them for future upgrades (since there is a voice that spells each words and uses each word in a sentence, I imagine it will take a bit of time to have them added). Your child can chose which activities they play each time they log on.
In Sight Words, there are 5 activities for each of the sets of words:
- Study mode, where each word is spelled for the student;
- Missing Letters – where the student picks letter tiles from a small set to spell each word;
- Letter Scramble – where the student selects the correct word
- Spell Words – the child spells the word with letter tiles
- Missing Words – the child selects the word to complete a sentence. I am glad that visually confusing words (like “cee” and for “see”) are used to really make the student work!
My boys love the Sight Word section of Samson’s Classroom. The theme is karate, and the boys earn colored belts as they complete reading and spelling tasks using 224 sight words. This was the first section Luke completed when we first started the review. He loved working to get his karate belts. Here’s a screen shot of his Black Belt:
In Spelling, the student works on four activities to stretch skills. I would say that Samson’s goal with these tasks is to help kids spell every word right in a timely manner:
- Study Zone – the student clicks on each word and it is used in a sentence and spelled aloud. The boys just listen to this part.
- Missing Letters – students hear a sentence, then find the set of missing letters to correctly spell the target word (this is one of the boys most favorite games because of the karate) :
- Spelling Scramble – students first collect letters and then use them to spell the target words. This was a hard game to learn (even for me) because you can only control Samson with the arrow keys, and the little spider is fast! Initially, Levi figured out that if he let the spider catch him, after a short 5 sec or so “time out",” the spider disappeared and he could steer Samson to all the letters:
- Crunch Time – students spell the target words … and speed counts! I will admit, that this is a hard task with the first try of giving the student about 5 seconds to spell the word correctly. More time is given if the student cannot spell the word before a walrus comes and starts eating the iceberg your character is standing on. Here’s a picture of the walrus right after he took one-third of the iceberg away:
I will say that this is the hardest task on Samson for my Luke. Speed + Spelling = tears. However, he has shown me that he can get 100% on this task, but it takes some practice and concentration. When Luke achieves success on this, he is all smiles, and I know it boosts his confidence in his hardest subject!!
Reading with Samson has four levels of reading. The student can select any level they wish and read the passage (both fiction and non-fiction content is offered). I was impressed with the variety of questions asked about a passage – factual as well as word meanings, author purpose, and some simple inferential questions. If a student gets a question wrong the first time, they get a second try. The split screen allows the student to look back at the passage for details they might need:
As your child reads successfully, they earn tokens to play an arcade game called Hammer Time:
I do like all the parental reports that are provided. Here’s what Luke’s reading stats look like:
With a quick glance I can see that green stats mean he did well, and red means he missed some answers. This red/green code is used to report scores with all Samson’s programs. The kids see red/greed dots on their sign in screens so they can track their progress:
My recommendations & thoughts: My boys are really enjoying Samson’s classroom, and I am really appreciating that the boys are getting an extra dose of spelling and reading during their day. I know the Spelling component is really challenging Luke right now, and I think this is really, really good for him. No, I do not like that he cries about it (the crying has lessened so much over the review period, I should add), but I do like that he is having to focus, concentrate and work at learning. This is just what he needs right now.
I should mention that there are some printable resources you can download and use as well (worksheets and games), but we haven’t used any of them.
Early on during our review period, I had a question and spoke with an engineer at Samson’s Classroom. He was so nice and interested in what I had to say about the game. I really got the sense that the developers of this game are constantly trying to improve their product and offer something that is of high quality. With Samson being web-based, at least I know that the program is always up to date!
To read what other Crew moms thought of Samson’s Classroom, please click on the banner below:
Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.
Monday, October 22, 2012
I was thinking that I had written a blog post about Luke’s vision issues. Beginning in December of 2011 or maybe it was January 2012, he’s been seen by an orthopist for a eye convergence disorder. Convergence is when you bring your eyes together to focus on something – like a book. The catch for Luke is that his eye glass prescription forces his eyes to diverge (he has a “minus” prescription), but he has to converge for reading, so he is working double hard. He’s been using a computer program to help with this all year – and he’s been doing great. He’s basically on a maintenance program and the orthopist said he’ll be dealing with this issue all of his life.
Last spring I began reading about some helps for Luke with his reading. Because of the convergence issue, he sometimes complains that words “jump” on the page. Indeed, Luke does have trouble staying on one line of text. I read some information that said that research showed that people with some types of vision/ reading problems respond well when colored gels highlight the words they are reading. So, I cut up a transparent pinkish-red binder divider to see if that would help Luke.
“Mom, the edge isn’t even,” Luke would say about my homemade reading guide. And it would bug him so much, he wouldn’t use it.
I love these!
The multi-colored pack I received had the following colors in it: yellow, celery, grass, jade, aqua, sky, purple, magenta, pink, and orange. They are all approximately 8 inches long and 3 inches wide.
They are designed for people with visual stress and dyslexia as well as Irlen Syndrome. You can read about these issues on the Reading Ruler web page under “Product Description.”
You can see that there is an opaque band in the middle (with the company’s logo on it). We use that edge to line up with our text for reading. Sometimes Luke (or Levi, my model in our pictures) will use the one-line-at-time edge, and sometimes they’ll use the paragraph-sized band of color.
Using one line at a time (above)
Using the paragraph-sized band of color (above)
On the fat, colored side, you’ll see a dark line. When I’m tired at night (or in the afternoon) and reading, I will sometimes just use the dark line as my reading guide instead of the color. Honestly, the reading rulers are so versatile that when we are reading, it doesn’t matter which edge the boys are using – as long as they are reading and tracking well!
I should also mention that one side of the plastic ruler has a matte finish, and the other has a glossy sheen. I didn’t realize that that was on purpose – the website mentions that the glossy/ matte feature matters for those dealing with visual stress.
How We Use Them: When we first got these in the mail, I just let the boys pick out the color they wanted to try first. We held them up to the light as well as put them on a book so we could get a clear idea of the shades of color. Levi went for his favorite color first (orange) and Luke decided on a greenish shade (I think it was grass he tried first). Since we started the review, he’s misplaced one or two, so I just find the remainder and let him pick a different color. He hasn’t tried all of them, but he seems to prefer the lighter shade ones over the purples and aqua colors. Eventually, we find the misplaced ones and he uses them. Have I noticed a difference? He definitely does better with the thinner band of color, which reveals just one or two lines of text. I’m hoping that by using this more consistently, we can get to the wider band of color eventually.
These double well as bookmarks, and then we don’t misplace them (a common problem here)!
To read what other blogging-homeschool-moms thought of Crossbow’s Reading Ruler, please click on the banner below:
Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Ben has been delivering papers in our neighborhood since he was just a week or so shy of 11. ( He makes more money than I do!) Since the beginning, we set a guideline for Ben about how he could use it: save, spend and give. When he’s wanted to purchase something big (an iPod Touch last spring), we debated back and forth: is this is saving money? his spending money? I guess we did half of our job: we set up the categories, but not the parameters!
Well, three categories had worked well when Ben was younger, but I do want to prepare Ben for when he has to manage more money --- and more expenses.
Enter WealthQuest For Teens. This is a comprehensive program that aims to develop healthy thinking about money and healthy habits about its use. A WealthQuest For Teens subscription is available for a special price of $39.95 (retail price is $50.00). It is designed for 14 to 19 year olds. Although Ben is a little young, he’s also blessed by a steady paycheck, so I decided this could be a good program for him participate in.
There are four parts of WealthQuest:
- A secure link to the online set of seven short videos. Each lasts just about 10 minutes or so. The videos showcase a variety of teens introducing the topics of: introduction, determining net wealth, income, knowledge about money, a money management system, reasons for wealth, financial freedom.
- A student study guide. This is a 30-day PDF booklet to print out. After watching the video, Ben and I went through the book to guide us step-by-step in using the concepts we learned about in the video presentation. Some of the assignments truly last minutes, while others have made us think long and hard (especially questions about our attitudes about money!).
- A parent guidebook. This is a great tool, and I would recommend reading this either before or while your student is going through the program. Not only does the author, Jill Suskind, explain her own financial history and reason for creating this program (she is a high school English teacher by profession), she also explains the programs components, goals and parental role in all of this.
- A link to the recommended online program called MoneyTrail. This program helps kids and teens track allowances and money using the “silo system” recommended in the program (Money Trail is not affiliated with WealthQuest For Teens, from what I can tell).
The goal of WealthQuest is to train teens to develop health habits for money management such as
- Tracking their money;
- Developing healthy habits
- Using the “silo system” to distribute money into different categories (like an envelope budgeting system)
- Reading about money every year
- Engaging in conversations about money with people who can offer expertise and guidance.
- Donating money to worthy causes
- Seeking out other streams of revenue
How The Program Works
Ben and I watched the videos together. Here is a screen shot:
Next to the video (the red arrow with a #1 on it), is an online journal (#2) that corresponds with the content of the video. Students type into the screen with their ideas, thoughts and impressions, and can print them out (answers aren’t saved though). So, although the video only took us 10 or 15 minutes to watch, the time we spent on the journaling might have made each video module last 20 or so minutes.
Ben and I got a little side tracked in watching these as consistently has we had planned, mainly because cross country season started and we got off our routine. The videos certainly held Ben’s interest, so he was willing and interested to watch. You could easily schedule to video module over the course of a week or two.
The next part is the student Basic Seminar QuickStart Guide. This guide takes all the information from the video and feeds it to the teens in little bits over the course of 30 days.
I appreciate that there are lots of different topics in this workbook – everything from setting up your silo system (Here is Ben’s)…
…to thinking about why money is important, what it can (and cannot buy), setting up a plan to read a book about money (she recommends many secular and Christian authors), setting goals, financial freedom. Every topic from the videos is touched on again in the workbook. This is a great place to engage in discussions and share stories about money management with your teen.
The final part is practicing using an online budgeting program, such as MoneyTrail.net. She recommends dividing all income into the following groups: Necessities, Learning, Giving, Financial Freedom, Fun Money (it has to be spent by the end of the month), and Saving for Big Ticket Item. Ben and I really thought this was a good system – a nice graduated step up from save-share-spend budgeting.
My Thoughts and recommendations
I really think that this program has some great, unique gems. I really like the goal of teaching not just money management (meaning budgeting). I like that it includes the goals of talking about attitudes about money, learning about money (as a lifetime habit). This is a great tool to have meaningful discussions.
The author talks about wealth in terms of money. In our family, “wealth” can mean so much more because we seek to live for Jesus Christ. This program has/ is giving us many opportunities to discuss a fuller meaning of wealth. Does the secular nature of the program devalue it? Absolutely not! I think this is a great tool to begin to have conversations and develop habits with teens to encourage and train them to be wise stewards of their financial resources. To add in a Christian aspect of financial stewardship, I will encourage Ben to add some books about written by Christians to his life-long reading list.
To read what other homeschool-blogger-moms thought of WealthQuest For Teens, please click on the banner below:
Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a subscription to WealthQuest For Teens and its associated, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
Dayspring Christian Academy is a brick and mortar private school in Pennsylvania. It teaches students under the Principle Approach of Christian education. I’ve begun to notice more and more interest and online buzz about the Principle Approach and encourage you to read about it at Dayspring’s website. Here’s a little blip about it that was sent to me with this review:
“…The Principle Approach is America’s historic, classical Christian method of education to prepare young people to be servants, scholars, and statesmen in our constitutional federal republic. This requires developing a biblical worldview as well as excellence in character, skills, and talents. The Principle Approach is very intentional in its purpose: equipping young men and women to help restore the biblical foundation of America.” (emphasis mine)These are very intriguing, noble goals – goals which I am reaching for with my boys. So, I was excited to have the opportunity to learn about the Principle Approach in action with a review of Dayspring’s The Pilgrim Story interactive, online course. You can purchase access to it for $99.00. You’ll receive 6 months of access time to complete the course – which seems totally doable. In the course, you will have an interactive, self-paced course consists of five units totaling 17 lessons complete with assessments and ideas for further study.
- King Henry (Important because of the separation from the Catholic Church)
- Geneva Bible
- Life in Scrooby
- Liberty of Conscience
- Leaving England
- The Second Escape Attempt (yea, I didn’t know that it took the Separatists two tries to leave England either)
- Preparing to Go
- Leaving Leiden
- Conditions on the Mayflower
- Building Christian Character
- The Mayflower Compact
- The First Winter
- Spring, 1921
- The Wampanoag People
- The Rest of the Story
Over the summer, Luke and I tested a product for The Old Schoolhouse Crew Review
to help him learn all his multiplication facts fast. It is called Math Made Easy. Well, last week we finished it (I forgot to journal about that achievement), and this week we returned to Math U See's Gamma program. I promised Luke that as he works through Gamma (which teaches multiplication)and gets 95% or better, we can move faster through the worksheets. He was rewarded this week with finishing a complete lesson with 100% test score! I am truly proud of his hard work.
The boys also finished up their lapbooks for Tapestry of Grace's history program. My only regret with our history program so far is that I keep forgetting to do the geography maps on weeks we have them. I'd also like to get back into memorizing Classical Conversation's history songs that go with what we are learning. I might purchase their Cycle 3 app to help make using the history sentences more accessible. We all like using the iPad!
Finally, since our first quarter is over, I decided to re-evaluate what organizational systems are and are not working. I had created a teacher's planner page for me to use primarily with Luke and Levi. It ended up getting very complex, because I needed three sections: A combined section and separate sections for their independent math and grammar and the like.
Additionally, I was having trouble with Luke progressing from one subject to another with an increased level of self-reliance. It was my own fault -- Luke never looked at my planner. I mean, how's the poor kid going to know what to do when he doesn't know what comes next?
I really loved the Mead planner I purchased for Ben this summer -- but the style was so unique I could not even find it on Mead.com! So I decided to adapt it for Luke....and Levi wanted one, too, of course! His reading is progressing well enough that I decided to go ahead and make one for him, too. Here's a picture:
I went ahead and had it bound across the top. This was created using Excel. Can I get an "amen!" in appreciation for all Excel can do?!
I know that the newness will wear off over time, but Luke is really liking his planner so far. I am teaching him how to use it to move from one subject to the next. I'm teaching him how to voice his needs for his education (Mom, we need to do our spelling now."). For as disorganized and distracted as he can be, he also wanted to have a planned day, so his book has several copies of a daily planner so we can decide when to work on his subjects.
Speaking of planners and accountability and scheduling your day....Ben's progress to date will be in a different weekly report. Oh vey.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
- Levi had to do a writing project about himself. Here's his self portrait:
- I have a trumpeter in the house! He is taking lessons at the elementary school just a few miles from our house. Luke is very happy. He can even make a noise out of it!
- Our history studies have brought us to the end of WW1. The young boys have read about flappers, prohibition, and the jazz age. We watched a video about how to do the Charleston -- and I still plan on making them learn it. Here's Luke's mini-book about suffrage. Please don't correct the spelling.
- Luke and Levi have read about caves and volcanoes for science this week. They wanted to make a volcano, so we did. I thought they did a great job painting it!
I think we have used the infamous baking soda/ vinegar reaction for one project or another nearly every year of our home schooling!
- The boys' sports have taken a hit over the past week. Endless days of rain prevented Luke from have a practice or two, and then there was one day I just could not morph myself into Superwoman and be in two places at the same time. I tried. Ben had a week off from Cross Country to try to get some healing on his heel. He and Dave are trying to figure out why he is experiencing pain while running (Ben runs with a mid- to forefoot gait so heel strike is not a problem). Interestingly, Ben ran his fastest 2 mile meet this week, averaging 7 minute miles. His new self-directed training program is to not train for a week, lol!
- While Ben has been learning time management for his classes (especially Spanish and History), he has gotten a bit behind in science and writing over the past two weeks. This week he turned in his IEW writing assignment, and I thought he did a good job of using different sentences in his story. He took my editing suggestions to heart (no tears!) and produced a nice final copy. It really does make a difference to him when I use "editing" instead of "grading." Wow, semantics matter.
- I'm working with Ben on the actually practical use of his assignment book. See, he does a fairly good job of writing down his assignments for the week, but then he forgets to look at it! I try to get with him on Wednesday to make sure he isn't falling behind.
- On Tuesday, I'll be teaching our history class for the dialectic students on the politics of the 1920s -- FDR's pre-presidency life, Warren Harding, and Joseph Stalin. I am trying to squeeze in some interesting cultural history bits of information. I found a great website about the history of food in the US. I plan on trying to cook a 1920s meal this week: The Food Timeline (This link is for US foods in the 20th century)