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.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Presidential Game

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I received a free copy of The Presidential Game to review for The Oldschoolhouse review crew.  Two teams, one Democrats and the other Republicans, “battle” for control of the electoral votes in each state to win the presidential election of the United States.  The object of the game is to collect 270 of the total 538 electoral votes by the end of the game.   As few as 2 players can play and the game is geared toward players age 11 and up. The game retails for $35.

I tasked each one of my kids with reading the directions before we could begin play and all 3 failed at the task.  Ultimately, I read the directions and then explained the object of the game for them to begin.  Princess (age 16) was the Democrat playing against her younger sister NuNu (age 12) who was the Republican.  Following the rules of play was relatively easy but what we didn’t truly grasp from the beginning was the best strategy for winning the game.    However, strategy did become clear toward the latter part of our first game.
Here is what’s great about this game:
  • gives a basic understanding of how presidential elections are won in this country
  • players get an idea of which states are influential in elections
  • players bring a better understanding of the campaigning candidates do in real presidential elections (i.e. the states they spend the most time in and why)
  • great opportunity to review US geography
  • great opportunity to sharpen mental addition/subtraction skills

I must say that my 16 year old brought a better appreciation of the game to the table than my 12 year old as were playing.  My 12 year could follow the rules of the game but often times didn’t get the point.  They both enjoyed the funny anecdotes of the political cards.  NuNu commented that the political cards made the game fun.

To keep the game moving along, I found myself acting as a campaign analyst much like the banker in Monopoly.   I kept track of which states my girls wanted to campaign or fund raise in and I kept the electronic electoral map found at The Presidential Game website.  In this observing role it became clear how one could secure his or her position in a particular state and how to secure the most votes to ultimately win the game.  

On the most basic level I think it is important to note the following regarding strategy:

  1. Take note of the states that have the most electoral votes. 
Commonsense says to campaign or fund raise in these states first.  These states include New York, Florida, Texas, & California.  When players campaign they decide on 3 states to campaign in and roll their 3 dice.  The value of the dice decides the number of votes (chips) that go in each of the 3 states.  Obviously you can only get a maximum of 6 votes in a given state in each turn.  However if you fund raise you add the value of the *3 dice and must place at least half of that value in NY, FL, TX, CA (the states with the highest electoral votes).  In this scenario you can put as much as 18 votes (chips) in those crucial states.  With this information, strategy becomes clearer. 

  1. Pay attention to how far you are in the game.
20130917_123522.jpgEach turn corresponds to a week in the presidential campaign.  You decide the number of weeks (turns) you will play at the beginning of the game.  We opted for 15 weeks of play (15 turns for each team).  If you know you want to knock your opponent out of a crucial state, pay attention to how many votes (chips) they have in this state.  If you can take it from them with time in the game for them not to regain it back, you can secure your position.  NuNu never glanced at the score but Princess kept her eye carefully on the score and based her plays on the score and how strong her position was in several key states.  This proved smart in the end as she won the election by a landslide.   Below is a picture of the electoral map that I used at The Presidential Game website.  The results of the final election:

Here are some of the sticking points in the game that we had a little trouble understanding:

  1. I never grasped the point of the paper score card if I was keeping track on the electronic map.  I couldn’t figure out if I was supposed to be adding chips (votes) or the electoral votes on the paper pad.

  1. The game doesn’t account for half votes.  When fundraising there were times when the value on all 3 dice equaled an odd value (13 for example).  If a player only put half of her votes in a designated state we just rounded that vote down (we put 6 in the fundraising state and 7 among other states). The game rules do not address this. 
3.  No one understood what to do with the blank political cards.  However, after seeing how my fellow crewmates played this game I understand that you can get creative and make your own political cards.
4.  If two candidates are in the same state with an equal amount of votes does the state become neutral?  We just always made sure someone dominated in each state if only by one vote (chip).

 **The election rules that come with the game don't state how many dice to roll when fundraising.  At the The Presidential Game website it states to roll only 2 dice when fundraising.  We used 3 dice in our games.

This game will come out again perhaps shaking up the teams with different family members to test out several strategies for winning.  Great learning game!

 Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Second Full Week of School

Well school is off to a great start.  We are working through lessons and getting things done.  NuNu is enjoying her Marine Biology online course through Bridgeway Academy which I will be reviewing soon.  Princess is adjusting well to her two public school courses.  Whoever said Algebra 2 starts with a review of Algebra 1 was uninformed.  Granted we didn't complete Algebra 1 in its entirety but they are doing standard deviation and beginning statistics none of which isn't in any Algebra 1 curriculum I've seen.  Princess is definitely up to the challenge.  She seems to thrive on challenge.  She says she asks more questions in class than other students but she wants to make sure she understands everything.  That's my girl! 

The girls started their weekly CrossFit class today as well.  Boy did they get a good workout.  Just what they need.  I wished I couldv'e joined in maybe next week.

Head over to weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers to see what other moms were up to this week.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Homeschool mom's first day of school on her birthday!

Sometimes I want to see my day by watching it on film.  Was it really this crazy today?
20130903_065619.jpgHere is a snapshot of my day:

6:30 am - wake up in a panic because I set my alarm for 6 am but it didn't go off.
check on my high schooler who is already getting ready so I check my emails and double check bus times.

Today was the first time in 4 years she's ridden the school bus.

7 am - said goodbye as she rode off.  (I felt a little emotional).  For goodness sakes she is 16 but I still felt that way.

7:10 a - take the first birthday call from my mom.  She is always the 1st to call.
 - rouse the others
- get the "littles" up and dressed
- start oatmeal
- eat

20130903_101021.jpg8:30 - drive the "littles" to school, walk to classroom, chat with neighbors who are also there.
- back home to start day with homeschoolers
- prayer & scripture reading
- sit through new Videotext math program with pumpkin.  Will review this product next month...stay tuned
- observe NuNu conduct her first science experiment with Apologia General Science
- teaching multiplication of mixed numbers and reducing using cross multiples with NuNu
- back n forth to bathroom with potty training 2.5 year old
20130903_101028.jpg- conversations with hubby about decisions we will be making soon.

10:55 am - off to pick up high schooler
spend about an hour at the school working out scheduling kinks with guidance counselor

12 pm - home for lunch and emails
- check NuNu's math
- pumpkin indicates that she is done with her work for the day.  She is motivated to finish her school year early this year so she works ahead.
- put toddler down for nap

2:34 pm- take birthday phone call from my Dad.  Seriously...I only hear from him on my birthday. Long story but glad to talk to him every year on this day.
- go to post office
- go to library to print out information (my printer is down)
- stop by the store to p/u milk and salad stuff.  Run into a homeschool friend.  Chat for 5 minutes...not noticing until 9 pm tonight that I actually left the milk on the shelf next to where we were chatting!

4 pm - walk to corner to get "littles" off of bus.  Meet some new neighbors.
- fill out the mountain of forms that are sent home on the first day
- have a conversation with nutrition services ("littles" are suppose to get free lunch but they aren't on the list)
- ask Pumpkin to start dinner, I finish it.
- verify littliest of "littles" still has a spot at preschool since I haven't sent in deposit yet

- braid/twist high schooler hair (takes a loooong time!)
-more birthday phone conversations

8:00 pm - family prayer time
- listen to my middle child rant about why I don't want her to bake a cake for my birthday.

9:00 pm - moment to myself
- realize I don't have enough milk for oatmeal in the morning.

Was a great day but a lot coming off of a week of vacation.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The end of summer

I like going to the beach the week before school begins.  It's like a signaling of the end of summer and the beginning of the fall season.  However, I do end up missing all of the back to school events the school system does and I have to make phone calls while at the beach to find out bus times, etc. but it is still a good time.  We did a dry run of our school schedule before leaving for the beach so it wouldn't be so hard to get going after Labor Day.  Believe it or not the girls (well 2 of the girls) wanted to pack some of their books to work on assignments while at the beach but we didn't have enough room for the extra bags. 
daytime view of bay
day at the beach

nightime view of bay

goofing off
  Goodbye summer.....hello "back to school" and the Fall/Winter season.


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