Monday, December 30, 2013

Looking forward to the new year

I am grateful for each and every day in each year.  Each January of the new year gives me an opportunity to seek God's plans and purposes for the year in prayer and fasting.  To me, it's like given God the first fruits offering.  The first month of the new year is dedicated to seeking him. 

I gain so much during this time.  Perhaps I should give God one week in the following months of the year to keep the spirit of the sacrifice going the whole year.  Anyone want to hold me accountable to that?

Here is to a prosperous new year.  Praying that it brings joy to each of you.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

IEW's 12 Days of Christmas Giving

Excellence in Writing is offering free downloads from December 26 - January 6.  Families can register here:  You will receive an email with a link to the free download.

What a great Christmas gift to you from IEW.

To register for this event, click here.
Sign up to receive daily reminders.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Help pt 2

The bottom line is ...I didn't make it.  My body rejected anything that had to do with staying up between 11 pm - 4 am.  No amount of caffeine or chocolate resolved the issue.  So I clocked 25 working hours then I was done!  The amount of money made in that time takes less than an hour to spend.  I'm not sure if it was worth it or not.  But I'm all for new experiences.

There are a lot of new experiences in our household this month.  The year 2013 goes down as the year of transition.  There has been so much to adjust to this year and its only by His Grace that each and every day is won.

But this is a homeschooling blog so I would like to focus on what has been successful in this school year thus far:

1.  Public School classes have been great for Princess both socially and academically.  It's not that the class instruction has been so great but she has been forced to rely on herself to seek out resources so that she can learn the skills that are being introduced.  Lackluster teaching and unmotivated peers are not an excuse for failing.  You are responsible for your own learning.

2.  Videotext Math Online.  No book to tote around.  Everything is online.  Sometimes I can check Pumpkin's work away from home and only print out quizzes and tests for recordkeeping.  Having the video instruction is great!

3.  My Father's World is always a winner in our home.  When I am lesson planning for my oldest and youngest, I am so grateful that MFW has done all the work for me.

4.  Outsource Grading.  I've used the same outside grader for this school year to grade high school writing papers.  I love the outside accountability and justification for my writing instruction.  She gives great feedback and her grades are right on point with my own assessment.

I am often inconsistent and have so many obligations.  I don't always spend enough time with each child and sometimes I doubt if I am doing a good job.  This is when it is good to take the time to reflect on what has been going well.  I know each year will not be perfect.  My kids are learning in and out of the "classroom."  I pray in the end it will all be good.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Christmas help anyone pt 1?

So I've done a lot of odd jobs during Christmas time over the years; primarily of the retail variety. It puts you smack dab in the middle of the Christmas rush. You have random conversations with people, you get to see what's on sale, etc. etc. I make a little Christmas cash and everyone's happy right?

Well this year truly takes the cake. My husband saw a commercial about needing seasonal help at their fulfillment center 25 minutes from where we live. It took an hour just to fill out the application online. Next you show up at a strip mall for further testing and an interview. I got to the strip mall one hour after the place opened because I wanted to be there early. I waited in line with other "characters," and I do mean characters for an hour. Once inside, it was another 2 hours before I walked out of the door with my schedule to report to work on 12/4.

My head was spinning. I thought I could work about 20 hours per week until Christmas. Little did I know they only had full-time shifts. My choice was 7:30 - 5 pm or 5:30 pm - 4 am! My mouth hung open but I had 3 hours invested already so I took the night shift. You know I homeschool during the day so it was just no way to do the day shift.

My husband laughed so long when I told him the story. But hey, I like a challenge, they promised 5-20 miles of walking a night; and I could stand to lose a few pounds. I actually looked forward to it. I knew I could only do one week realistically. There was no way to keep this type of schedule through Christmas. By night 2, I was wondering if I would make it to my last night.

Stay tuned for part 2........

Monday, November 25, 2013

You only have 4 years to get it done!

It's always nice to have the insight of another homeschooling mom who looks back and expresses what she would have done differently when she homeschooled a high school student.
It is impossible to dot every "i" and cross every "t" but I am realizing so much as I go along.

High school students have no time to waste. There is a lot to get done in little time - you only have 4 years to prepare for your future right? Well..sort of.

Here's how the conversation went with my high schooler:

"mom there really isn't a do-over for high school is there?"

"It depends."

I remember my college had a policy of repeat, forgive. You had 2 chances in your 4 year tenure to repeat a class you were failing, take it again and have the failing grade forgiven. It never even showed up on the transcript. Similarly, community college will allow you to withdraw from a class to avoid receiving an "F" if you withdraw by a certain date. What about high school? Are there any do-overs? If a graduating senior doesn't have the G.P.A that allows him entrance into college straight out of high school (assumming these are his goals), I suppose his do-over is to take remedial courses in community college then transfer to the 4 year school of his choice later.

What about a homeschooled high schooler? My solution would be to take longer to complete a course or take it again. Yes, there is time lost; but isn't the point of schooling, learning and mastery? Why do we have to get it all done in 4 years? There is always more than one way to skin a cat.

This discussion comes out of my daughter's frustration with the speed at which Algebra II is taught in the public school. I had to remind her we are not on their schedule. You will get it done even if that means taking a second Algebra II course to solidify concepts so that you are prepared. This course meets every day for 1.5 hours for one semester only. Surely there is time to take a second Algebra II course second semester. This way the material won't be new to her.

This brings me back to my original point. Belinda over at Live Life with Your Kids, blogged about time management. This is what we talk about with our high schoolers all the time. In one sense you have 4 years to get these subjects done so my student has to be very intentional on how she spends her time. Having the two public school courses and adding a community college class in January, has taught her this all important lesson. It doesn't get any easier after high school. These lessons have to be learned now. Slowly, I see how I might avoid some of these time management pitfalls with the younger two coming up on their older sister's shoes.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The stress of the season

The stress that I feel isn't because of the holidays which are literally around the corner. It is my new routine that has me feeling angst. The littles school day starts almost 45 minutes earlier than their old school. That means my day starts 45 minutes earlier. I used to have 8 full hours to devote to homeschooling, dinner preparation, errands and whatever else crept into my day. Now I have about 2 hours! This is mainly due to the fact that I must still run my oldest daughter to our old neighborhood to finish out two courses. Two hours drive round trip! It is temporary so perhaps my stress will be temporary as well. I decided to outsource high school Chemistry and high school Algebra II this year so save me the headache. I already know I can not teach math to Princess. Apparently, neither can her high school teacher. The kicker is Princess has one of the highest averages in her math class because everyone is having a tough time. Now I remember why it is a gamble not knowing from year to year if your kid will get a good teacher or a horrible teacher in public school - I guess any school for that matter. One thing I can say about this kid is she did go to office hours to get one on one tutoring which she said was helpful. Now that we are so far away it is a little difficult to go to office hours often. Did I mention that I was stressed? So once again this mom has to search for resources to help this kid master this math. So much for saving me a headache. We will get through Math! On another note, Princess applied to community college just yesterday. This will be yet another new experience for this high school junior. One more step to the academic independence that is right around the corner. It won't be an academic class to start out. She will tackle an Art Foundation course which has been a missing piece in her year. I know she misses her Art outlet. We just had no room in the schedule for it this semester. We will attend a homeschool open house at the college on next week so that is really exciting. I look forward to seeing what this new experience will bring.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

It's all done!

So as of 12 noon November 1st we are all moved out of our house ready to move on to the next chapter in our lives. This is the same week I lost my grandma who was 96 years old. To say it's been a busy week is an understatement. A neighbor asked how I was doing and I paused. She replied in robot mode, huh? Yea..that's where I am. Robot mode. But one task is done, now moving on to the others - getting the new place set up so we can have some sense of organization, getting new library cards, finding a new piano teacher, finding the youngest kid a new preschool and registering his siblings for school. All in a day's work for this busy mom.

In all the rush of the week, up and down the road and packing the car 4 times here is what the best neighbor ever did. She brought us dinner - soup, pigs in a blanket, cupcakes, pumpkin roll and drinks.  It's the thoughtful things in life that can really make your day.

Before we moved to this neighborhood, I prayed for really great neighbors. I got just what I prayed for now we have to leave it all behind. I'm sure God has a fresh supply of good neighbors waiting for us wherever he shall lead us.

Monday, October 28, 2013


I blogged about AdCamp this summer but I recently received an email with a video link to the new promo being used to advertise AdCamp 2014. My lovely daughter is featured at second 41-44. proud of her.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Bridgeway Academy

Bridgeway Logo photo bridgewayacademylogo_zps8c2d62cc.jpg

My family received a wonderful opportunity to review Bridgeway Academy’s Learning Lab course.  The courses are a way for your student to participate in a live, online interactive learning environment devoted to one subject.  My student participated in the Marine Biology lab.  There are courses available for elementary, middle, and high school courses.  A sampling of what is available includes:

Magic Tree House Series:  The Arctic (elementary course)
Fun with Science:  The Rainforest (elementary/middle school course)
Fun with Science:  Marine Biology (elementary/middle school course)
Web Design (high school course)
Elementary and Middle school courses are $145
High school courses are $275

My student enjoyed this course.  The instructor was knowledgeable and upbeat.  She has extensive experience in her field and it showed throughout her lectures.  My student learned quite a bit in this course and was challenged by the homework assignments. My student showed up for class one day a week for 8 weeks.  Each class session lasts about an hour.  I didn’t have to remind her of her class time.  She was on time ready to work each week.  However, we did receive an invitation each week to attend the next class session which was nice.  I listened in the first couple of weeks but let her go on her own after that.  PowerPoint slides are available for review after attending class through the Moodle platform but my student took notes during class and used her notes to complete her homework assignments.

One thing this course challenged her to do was to meet deadlines each week.  The homework assignment was due each week by 9 am the day of the next class session.  My dear daughter missed the first week’s deadline and one other week’s deadline.  I have to remember she isn’t used to deadlines and perhaps I should have double checked her completion of assignments.   I did receive an email from the instructor when the very first assignment was not turned in.  That is helpful especially for the homeschooling parent who may be out of pocket on occasion. 

Bridgeway Academy has an exciting line of academic offerings.   A perusal of their website reveals a myriad of options for homeschooling parents.  Some of their homeschool options include Schoolyear in a Box; this option comes with a lot of other services including an individualized curriculum plan and placement tests; full year and half year packages are available; dual credit enrollment and so much more.  The only thing I was looking for that I didn’t find was the option to take individual courses online.  I am an eclectic homeschooler often pulling from many resources to meet my students’ needs.  Sometimes I just need an online or outside course for one or two subjects only.  I would like to see this option among their many other academic offerings available in the future.  One other suggestion I would make is to keep adding topics to the learning labs course offerings. 

When I asked my daughter what she liked and disliked about this program she said, “it was fun and interactive.  Talking with other students via chat was cool.”  She often told me what students were saying via the chat board even when the instructor told them to keep their chatter on topic.  I’m sure keeping class order in an online class is no different than it is in a brick and mortar classroom – a challenge for any teacher.  My daughter said she could think of no negatives about the learning lab experience.    My other daughter who didn’t take this class wanted me to add that the field trips to youtube were fun to look at.  She peeked at the computer now and again during class time when she heard “wow…that’s cool” coming from the actual student in class.

Check out all of their class offerings.  It's a great course for homeschooled students.  I noticed during the last class session many of the students commented that they were sad the course was over.  The interaction is really that great.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Family in Transition

Sometimes I think about the children of Israel living in the desert in tents.  They had to be ready to pack up at a moment’s notice when Moses said it was time to move.  Likewise, I think about how we live and if God was calling us to move how ready would
we be?  Perhaps that is why so many people are leaning toward living simpler lives.

For different reasons, we’ve moved 3 times in the last 5 years.  I knew the first two moves were temporary so I was very conscientious about not accumulating things.  I thought we were settling in for a long while when we moved last but circumstances have changed which means we are moving again.  Now I know how military families feel.

There is some excitement and anticipation for experiencing new places and meeting new friends but the transition is never easy.  Packing is no fun but purging is liberating.    Homeschooling during a transition isn’t easy either.  In our last move I remember we didn’t do school for an entire week.  We needed that week to set up our new home.  This go around I have 3 extra kids who will transition with us and that just adds a different dimension to the whole move.

The next time I get settled perhaps I will remember how I feel right now.  Determine to live simply so it isn’t such a challenge to just pick up and go wherever God may lead.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

God's World News

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Using the resources produced by God’s World News is a great way to make sure your student of any age is aware of what’s going on in the World from a Christian worldview.  I received a full year subscription to the high school print publication entitled Trak to review for the OldSchoolhouse magazine review crew.

Through their many publications, God’s World News provides news and interesting information for children so they will know God has the whole world in his hands.  The following publications are available:

God’s Big World (Grades PreK-K)
Early Edition (Grades 1 & 2)
News Flash! (Grades 3 & 4)
News Current (Grades 5 & 6)
Top Story (Middle School)
Trak (High School)

A home edition of the Trak publication includes 10 monthly issues (doesn't include December and May) for $28 and includes student website access at The first publication I received contained one national news story about the bankruptcy of Detroit, Michigan.  Other news stories were interesting but I wouldn’t consider them “news.”  The cover story for one magazine discussed the limits and lessons of artificial intelligence.  The cover story for another issue explored the methods border control agents use to track immigrants trying to enter the US at its borders.  All of the monthly issues cover a topic in technology, a sports topic, a business topic, and some sort of social issue.  Other tidbits sprinkled throughout the magazine include “Last Words,” including quotes from notable people and political cartoons. 

In my opinion the magazine is too light for high school.  There isn’t enough depth for real discussion and critical thinking.  Frankly, I would let an elementary aged student read the Trak magazine intended for a high school student.  There isn’t enough “real” news for my liking.  That isn’t to say it wouldn’t be a good fit for another family with a high school student but for us it’s just not enough.  My 9th grader agreed.  She said she liked the magazine there were a lot of interesting stories but not any “real” news.  The editors of God's World News encourages its readers to write the editors giving students experience in writing editorials and responding to the information they read.

(update) - I received my most recent magazine and it was like a different magazine!  Lots of what I consider current events.  There was the fairly recent shooting at the Navy Yard, Jerry Sandusky's recent appeals court appearance, Detroit mayor sentenced, the food stamp debacle, etc. 
Then there were social news stories that captivated my attention. The story of Jennifer Bicha, sexual abuse victim; and the story about Pastor E.W. Jackson who I'd never heard of.  The movie reviews were very informative and the notable books about American culture interested me.  I immediately felt the need to update my review.  I am really baffled by why this issue seemed so different from the other issues I'd already received up to now. 

My current events curriculum includes watching the local and world news with the kids at night.  I don’t think you can get any more current than that.  It gives me and my husband a chance to help them interpret what is going on as they watch.  While the local news is definitely not from a Christian worldview, the discussions we have help my kids understand the news from our biblical worldview.  I get more detail from the television news which I believe is important to get a better understanding of what's going on in the world. 

Now here is where God’s World News really wins me over – online!,, and have lots of web content that isn’t included in the print magazines.  However, you can still find a full digital copy of the print magazine.  I love that you can visit any one of these sites and tab over to the others.  You can literally jump from one article to the next on these sites.  

The teen website carries a lot of the stories I was more or less looking for in the print version like information on the recent federal government shut down.  All the articles on this site are under headings entitled SciTech, Must Know, Beliefs, Fun Stuff, Live Culture, and Arts.  Each section has various articles with biography information on notable people from the past and present.  There is an abundance of political satire as well.  I only wish it was balanced humor with many political leaders getting a fair share of attention.  It seems to be all about our President.  
The kids website is organized around the following headings:  MySci, Creation, Time Machine, People/Places, Know Me?, and Fun Stuff.  The Time Machine has many articles on information that is historical in nature. MySci contains articles related to science topics.  The Know Me? Section contains the biographies I mentioned previously from the teen section.  There is overlap between the three sites where appropriate.

Other resources online include tons of pdf files that can be used on various topics in Bible, Biology, Astronomy, Geography, and History just to name a few.  A teacher could really get creative in using these resources.  Immediately I thought the files would be great source material for outlining or teaching younger children how to summarize information.  

Many more resources from God's World News includes:
Write with WORLD writing curriculum
WORLD Magazine Today's News | Christian Views Online news site
The World and Everything in It news radio/podcasts
WORLD on Campus Online news site for college students

Overall the magazines are great reading material for students working alongside their main curriculum.  The online resources carry an abundance of resources and information to be used in creative ways.  Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Chess House

Starter Chess Learning KitI received a  Starter Chess Learning Kit from Chess House to review for the The Oldschoolhouse Review Crew.  This starter kit retails for $39.95 and can be purchased from the vendor's website.  I was quite impressed with the packaging when it arrived.  The kit includes a vinyl mat, 32 plastic chess pieces and Elliott's Chess School DVD  Pawn level 1, all in a nice carrying case with detachable shoulder strap.  The Starter Learner Chess Kit is for all ages.

My husband picked up a glass chess game years ago but none of us play.  He just likes shiny, glass things.  My 12 year old daughter wanted to play with it and he told her if she learned how to play chess she could have it.  So when the Starter Chess Learner Kit came up for review I had a great idea and my eager beaver 12 year old was all for it.


Elliott Neff is a National Chess Master and he guides students through this level 1 DVD which includes 10 short episodes.  The introduction covers how the game board is set up in ranks and files and where each piece is placed on the board.  Episodes 1-7 introduce each game piece and discusses how the piece moves on the board, how the piece captures its opponent to rack up points in the game, and the best strategy for using each game piece.  If you are new to chess the game pieces include:
  • Pawns
  • Rooks
  • Bishops
  • Queen
  • King
  • Knights
Episodes 8, 9, and 10 go over special moves and concepts that can be used to help players win the game.

Activities are included with the DVD that allow you to practice what you learn from the DVD.  These activities include:
  • setting up the game board as fast as you can
  • playing a game of pawns 
  • playing a game of rooks vs pawns
These activities give you practice in using the game pieces and help you figure out the best way to position pieces to capture your opponents game pieces.  Elliott Neff encourages beginners to play the beginning activities often and to even enter beginner tournaments to try out your chess strategy. 
Once you complete this level 1 "pawn level," you are ready for level 2, "knight level."

20130919_154011.jpgMy daughter watched  the entire lesson DVD in one sitting.  The entire DVD is less than one hour.  One aspect of the video lesson that she really liked were the high quality graphics and video game like transitions between segments.  After playing around with the board using the knowledge she learned she exclaimed, "mom I know how to play chess now!"  I don't know how accurate of a statement that is but she definitely has a good understanding of the game to begin playing and play she did.   She grabbed her older sister and taught her everything she knew to start her first game.  

I haven't gotten in on all the action yet nor have we broken open the glass chess set yet.  However, I will say we know enough to start practicing the basics.  

This is a great program for any student of any age to begin learning the game.  Elliott has a easy going way of explaining concepts clearly.  He is enjoyable to watch and easy to follow.  I especially enjoy the high quality video production and graphics.  Great product!

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fresh & Local

I'm not sure how common produce auctions are but there is one about 1.5 hours away from me that I absolutely love.  A friend took me 2 years ago and it was absolutely amazing. This auction sells seasonal produce 3x/week straight from the local Amish farms.  It is so much fun bidding on items and getting a steal of a deal.  I have to be careful because unless you use or freeze right away you end up throwing out your deals because fresh only lasts for a little while.

You can really taste the difference using fresh tomatoes and peppers picked that morning in your meals.  I froze green beans and tomatoes but used most of my kale.  Of course my potatoes will last for quite some time and we are still eating the apples.  This auction goes from April to October so perhaps I'll have a chance to make one more visit before the season ends.

Bona Appetit!

can't remember how much

box of green beans $5

& box of peppers $1

 Yes $1


3 bags of kale $3.50

Chili with the day's tomatoes & peppers 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

YWAM Publishing

I received an E-book pdf copy of Jim Elliot: One Great Purpose by YWAM Publishing for review.  I also received Jim Elliot: One Great Purpose Unit Study Curriculum Guide by the same company for review. 

I was first introduced to YWAM through my use of My Father’s World curriculum.  This company has a huge missions focus and a lot of their curriculum packages include mission biographies from YWAM Publishing.  The biographies I’ve read have left a huge impression on me and my children.  On many occasions a passage has leapt out at me and I stop to pray either for missionaries everywhere or for myself because of a personal response.   Giving to missionaries or missions in general has been another personal response I’ve had to reading YWAM biographies.  

I printed out the pdf copies of Jim Elliot chapter by chapter.  My daughter and I were unintentionally competing with one another to finish each chapter before printing out the next.  It was like an exciting novel we couldn’t put down.  We couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.  The secondary story in the biography was the love story between Betty & Jim.  I was intrigued by Jim’s longing for her friendship and ultimately realizing his need for her partnership in ministry.  Love that!

The Unity Study Curriculum Guide includes a lot of information to help make the reading of the biography an in depth unit study.  There are reading comprehension questions for each chapter, vocabulary, and scripture verses to memorize.  There are a few Spanish phrases the student can learn and many more activities.  Here’s a sampling of what’s included in the study guide:

  • Ideas for a display corner representing the country & culture of Ecuador
  • Creative writing suggestions
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Audio/Visual Projects
  • Hands-On Projects
  • Geography Assignments
  • Social Studies
  • Planning a Culminating Event
The Appendix includes additional books and resources to explore related to the many themes in the study.  The paperback book of Jim Elliot can be purchased for $6.99 and is recommended for ages 10 and up.  Kindle and Nook Ebooks can be purchased for the same price.  Many of the biographies are packaged together as a set for a discounted price.  We have purchased these in the past so I have quite a few biographies on my shelf that we must still read. 

The Unit Study Curriculum Guide can be purchased for $7.99 and can be used for a range of grade levels. 

At the time of this review, we are working on an oral presentation so that my daughter can present to the other members of the family what she learned about Jim Elliot and his life as a missionary in Ecuador.  She is deciding on the content to present but we will include a large map of Ecuador including all the mission stations where Jim and his team worked and a table spread with the foods that the missionaries treasured.  We will also include customary Ecuadorian food like empanadas, fruits, and a stew.  
Since we love cooking around here we got a head start on homemade empanadas.  Since I had a chili type recipe leftover from dinner the night before, it was a perfect filling for the homemade empanada dough.  I just added cheese on top of the meat filling and voila!  Found a lovely website for Ecuadorian recipes here.    


This recipe was a hit for the family and probably a keeper on my menu rotation. 
 Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

Friday, October 4, 2013



I Can Write Upper Case! Fundanoodle is a fun, hands-on learning system that prepares children for school.  The brand includes products for 3, 4, 5-6 year old students.  Color coded levels correspond to age groups.  I received one product in the blue colored series “I Can Write Upper Case!” to review.  I also received the Magnetic Dry Erase Lettering Practice Board for review.  The first product is one of 6 products in the blue series that includes:

I Can Do Math! Level II
Magnetic Dry Erase Lettering Practice BoardI Can Write Numbers!
I Can Build Upper Case Letters!
Muscle Movers I Upper Case Motor Cards
Max & Alphie’s Adventures! Activity Book 2

I Can Write Upper Case! teaches preschoolers to use commands like zip across, zoom down, hop to the top, and buzz around to teach children proper upper case letter formation. These commands make it easy for the parent to direct children’s learning by giving them specific terms to use while teaching their kids.  One of my favorite features of this product is the use of green “go” lines and “pink” stop lines so kids know where to begin and end their letters on a given line.  Each sheet has plenty of space to practice each letter.  Only one line of letters include the green and pink lines so I found myself using a colored marker to include these go and stop lines on other lines.  The go and stop colors seemed to be most helpful for my child. 

The entire learning system seeks to:
  • Help fine and gross motor coordination
  • Enhance eye-hand coordination
  • Encourage touch & visual exploration
  • Promote problem-solving, discovery, and self esteem

Personally, I can attest to the fact that it builds self esteem.  I have 6 kids in my home – 3 biological who are all homeschooled, and 3 foster kids, two of which are in school.  Kid#5 worked with this Fundanoodle product.  She is always wanting to do and know as much as the older kids.  She went to the Headstart program last year and would come home wanting to do homework like her older brother.  She would also see my kids doing their homeschool work and she always curiously looked on.  I’ve purchased workbook type things for her in the past (dot to dots, coloring, etc.) and we also taught her all her letter sounds.  My kids work with her as they have time but this was the first time she had her own “real” work to do. 

When we started working in I Can Write Upper Case! school hadn’t started yet.  So she eagerly worked through several pages in one sitting.  Now that school has started she worked on one to two pages a day.  She has completed the whole book and asked why the book didn’t have lower case letters!  I guess that means I need to purchase the I Can Write Lower Case! tablet that is in the green color coded series.  I almost forgot to mention the stickers in the back of the tablet you can use after you child has completed a page.  The stickers match a specific page and signifies a job well done.  I used the stickers sparingly.  I reserved them for the pages she did exceptionally well to ensure she took special notice to penmanship and neatness.  You may choose to praise each and every page as a well done page.  This is a personal choice.

Three year olds have a series of products in the orange color coded series; Pre K to K students have products in the blue color coded series; and K to First Grade students have products in the green color coded series.  Prices range for each product but the product I reviewed I Can Write Upper Case!, is priced at $5.99.  We didn't use the dry erase practice board until my K'er finished the writing tablet.  Then we broke open the dry erase practice board for her to practice writing whichever letters she wanted.  I noticed that she wanted to keep practicing those letters she had the most difficulty with, namely the "z" and "y."    Unlike other dry erase boards I’ve purchased, the Fundanoodle board includes the same grid lines and boxes the writing tablet has.   It is priced at the Fundanoodle website for $9.99. 

Another great feature of this learning system is the resources available at the Fundanoodle website.  Even after your child uses all the pages in the writing tablet, you can download extra pages from the website and print them out.  My K student enjoyed her tablet and I think it worked great in helping her form her letters. 

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Where is Fall?

National Harbor Bakery
I know its October but all week long we've had 70-80 degree weather.  I have one foot in the summer closet and another in the Fall closet.  You can't quite but the short sleeves away. 

Last weekend I had an unexpected layover at National Harbor.  Beautiful weather on the water.  I was able to capture a few shots.  This coming weekend may be the last "summer" like weekend before the cool, brisk weather sets in.

View of the Harbor

Cupcake Love!

Gaylord Resort Hotel

Mom, Brother, Me

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Videotext Interactive

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I am so fortunate to have received a 3 year subscription to Videotext Interactive Algebra: A Complete Course program to review for The OldSchoolhouse Magazine review crew.  I know other homeschoolers who’ve used the program and it always seemed like the crème de la crème of math programs but financially out of reach for my family.  The online program is new and since it isn’t a physical product, it comes at a more affordable price when compared to the traditional program. 
ONLINE ALGEBRA Modules A-F: Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, and Algebra 2 (Classic Print Version – $529.00) ……. $299 - See more at:
The Algebra: A Complete Course program covers pre-Algebra, Algebra I, and Algebra II and retails for $299 (compared to the Classic Print Version which retails for $529).

The Scope & Sequence of the entire program can be seen here.  The pacing options include 3, 2, and 1 year options.  Your student’s grade level and previous experience with Algebra will determine which pacing option you choose.  Here is a sample of the 2 year pacing option.

Vidotext’s philosophy is to have students of mathematics master concepts not just memorize and learn shortcuts.  The video instructors strive to teach the how’s and why’s of the concepts not just how to solve a problem. 

I am opting to start from the beginning with my 9th grade student and work through the units in 2 to 3 years.  The two year option has students working through the video lessons every other day but we started working through Unit 1 lessons covering two lessons per day.  In my mind, math lessons should be done daily and since the videos are 5-10 minutes long we viewed two per day.  Parts A & B of Unit 1 were fairly easy for my student so I didn’t think it was necessary to drag it out.  Videotext Interactive provides a nice Progress Checklist so we printed it and were able to check off the Parts we completed as we went along.  

I viewed all of the videos with my student stopping the video at certain points to make sure she understood.   A day for my student looked like this:
  • Log in to site.  Watch the video lesson (6-10 minutes in length).
  • Ensure my student’s understanding of the material by having them teach back to me or through discussion of the material
  • Have student work even and/or odd Worktext problems
  • Immediately check solutions to problems correcting any mistakes
  • Next day, take quiz on previous day’s lesson; repeat
There are two versions of the quiz for each lesson.  Likewise there are two tests for each lesson.  Videotext Interactive suggests using one as a review and the second as the quiz/test that counts for a grade.  

 Between all 10 Units there are 176 video lessons to watch.  The Quick Reference Guide included in the program is all I really needed to understand how to get started. 

The online interface is pretty user friendly.  Everything you need for the day’s lesson is listed along the margin of  the screen.  If you want to view CourseNotes after viewing a lesson, it is a written summary of everything that was taught in the lesson.  The Worktext is listed in the margin for the student to practice problems related to the lesson.  The solutions to the Worktext problems are also listed along the margin.  The only thing not listed along the margin is the student’s quizzes/tests and the solutions to those tests.  The parent/teacher must log in to the interface under her unique log in/password to access those documents along with everything else the student has access to under their unique log in/password.

At the rate we are going I believe I could get through half of the course by year’s end if I don’t have to slow down.  That’s a bit ambitious of me and perhaps I’m basing my pace through this program on a few weeks of working through it but I believe it is doable for my student. 

Here is a sample of the entire program and how the videos are organized:

Unit 1 / Module A / 27 total videos / Structure of Mathematics
Unit 2 / Module B / 22 total videos / First Degree Relations – one placeholder (variable)
Unit 3 / Module C / 26 total videos / First Degree Relations – two placeholders
Unit 4 / Module C / 9 total videos / First Degree Relations – three placeholders
Unit 5 / Module D / 24 total videos /Second Degree Relations (polynomials)

Viewing a total of 108 videos on average 3 times a week, it will take 36 weeks to complete the program through Unit 5.  I'm aiming to view videos 5 times a week but I know we may have to slow down for tougher concepts so again I believe this is doable.

Here are a few things we don't like about the Videotext Interactive program.
  • Graphics seem outdated.  My student says it looks like the '70s
  • At the highest settings the volume is still kind of low.  (My computer has no other issues with sound)
  • Perhaps they should consider using more than one instructor to mix it up a bit
If I could make suggestions to improve the program, I would suggest the following:
  • Give student the ability to assess quizzes/tests from her log in.  Perhaps deny access until system records completion of previous lessons and appropriate worktext problems have been completed.
  • Have a progress section that shows all the videos that have been viewed, all quizzes/tests taken along with grade received.  In this way parents can quickly see at a glance what has been completed by the student and any potential problem areas based on quiz/test scores.
  •  included with the above improvements have students enter the answers directly into computer.  Of course this means student work all problems on their own paper but by entering the answers online the system keeps track of grades and progress.

My Final Thoughts:
To date, we have not done any work that is new to my 9th grader but I am trusting the Videotext philosophy.  Perhaps if we hadn’t done Algebra work during the summer I would feel a little nervous only working on what I consider to be pre-Algebra work so far in Videotext.  However, if my student walks away from this Algebra course with a thorough understanding of the concepts studied, it will be worth the slow pacing of the program. 

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Beginning of Week 4

I think we've found a rhythm.  Everything is working like clockwork.  Everyone knows what to do and when to do it - thanks to assignment check sheets and well thought out lesson plans through Week 6.  Of course MFW lesson plans are done through the end of the year so no worries there. 

I'm pleasantly surprised to report that NuNu is finding her history readings interesting.  She hates to read but loves the stories in Tales of Ancient Egypt which is part of her Beautiful Feet Ancient History curriculum.  She is also enjoying her online class with Bridgeway Academy which I will be reviewing really soon.

Pumpkin reluctantly gets through her Videotext lessons which I am reviewing as well.  It is a line by line, precept by precept type of curriculum.  You think you are learning something you already know but I understand they are trying to build a strong Algebra foundation on which to build.  We faithfully tread through each lesson.

Now to the highschooler - driver's ed!  She has her learner's permit now so Dad is fully responsible for her driving lessons.  Her times out with Dad make for funny stories upon their return.  It's one of those rites of passage that makes parents everywhere nervous.  I'm thinking of ordering some "student driver" magnetic signs to put on the car when they are out driving.  Let all other drivers beware is a good thing.

She is also preparing for the PSAT which will take place in October.  The school has prep classes which I signed her up for.  They will have SAT prep classes in the Spring right before the scheduled SAT.  There are many rites of passage coming up for her.  My mom used to say "enjoy while their small because they grow up so fast."  Now I know what she means.


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