Would it be?

This weekend, we went down to “the farm.”  Two brothers own it together.  One of them is married to my sister-in-law (and has been for 30 some years so we say it is Aunt N’s farm).  It is a small property of land.  At one time, I believe they did have animals out on it.  They haven’t since their own children have grown up though.  With as much work as they are doing out there, maybe the will again.

But it was BEAUTIFUL.  And peaceful.  And just what I needed.

I almost didn’t go.  Doc and Professor are still so deep in trauma (especially fear and defiance and food issues) that I didn’t think I wanted to take them anywhere.  And my three have been trying to deal with their own issues triggered by the littles’ issues (probably a good topic for another post). And taking a baby sounded like WORK.  And did I want to deal with certain family members?  And really, I just want to stay home.

And then I needed to take broccoli and cheese casserole.  But while we were shopping, hubby told me to make a dessert too.  All while the house is a mess and I have five children who need me ON THE FLOOR.

I suggested hubby take Tumbler, Swimmer, and T-Lo.  If our young adult children wanted to go, they could.  But in the end, I just couldn’t bear backing out.

There were a few little hiccups, but it was WONDERFUL!  Absolutely, perfectly, amazingly awesome! And I got some of the greatest pictures!  Well, the best pictures were the less “staged” ones, but of course, those have family member kids, foster kids, etc.   I sure wish I could share pics of Professor, Doc, and Little Lamb too!  But here is a good sampling 🙂

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This last pic is Daddy with his little ducks.  Doc hadn’t yet changed into the outfit I had planned for the day (she had jeans, boots, solid black long sleeve and a pink jean jacket).  But she’s cute both ways!

I had recently read a book (oh, I meant to do a review of that book) with a dairy ranch as the main setting.  Since then, I had done some research about finding such a thing.  This trip definitely bolstered that interest.  The house wasn’t huge (doesn’t need to be really); but can you imagine the freedom my kids would have outdoors?  Plenty of room to climb trees, shoot cans, fish, play with sticks, making crafts with pine needles, whatever.  And no traffic.  And your neighbor is down there if you need him, but not 1/5 an acre over.  And the dogs could run and play.  And I could BREATHE!

Would it be so perfect ALL of the time? Something tells me we’d still have a little stress 🙂  However, it does seem like it would be a whole lot easier to relax in such a nice, and much slower, setting.

So I looked at land again yesterday.  Still costs money.  But maybe it will be an option at some point.  Maybe if they make the adoption tax credit refundable so families like ours got any of it (I’ll explain about that one day.  I made mention of it HERE.).

Well, my sister-in-law has said we’re welcome to go down as we wish.  And I WISH!  LOL  I’m asking hubby to ask her about a certain several days.  And then she also said she’d like to do a get together family wise every couple months.  Good!  Honestly, I’d go back TODAY if I could!

 

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Reading

I absolutely love, love, love hearing my son read.  He just keeps getting better and better.  And as he does, his little brothers have more and more interest in learning also (one is decoding and the other recently learned all his letter sounds). He is picking up books reading here and there and everywhere.

SAY!
I like to read books Mom!
I do! I like them, it’s the bomb!

And I would read them in a boat.
And I would read them with a goat…
And I would read them in the rain.
And in the car. And on a train.
And in a car. And in a tree.
They are so good, so good, you see!

So I will read them in a box.
And I will read them with a fox.
And I will read them in a house.
And I will read them with a mouse.
And I will read them here and there.
Say!  I will read them ANYWHERE!

I do so like to read them, Mom!
Thank you!
Thank you!
Reading’s the bomb!

(Thanks Dr. Seuss! 🙂 ).

Neato :)

So schooling is still not going the way I want it to.  Sometimes, though, I think that is just as much of a blessing as it is a problem!  

In the past week, Professor (age 3) has learned almost every letter sound.  As of yesterday, he had a little trouble with e, i, u, and l.  Those make sense to me really.  First, vowels for Texan children just *are* harder. We simply say them strangely.   And L can be a challenge, especially if you don’t use the “la-la” version.  But in a week to get 20+ is just so cool!   

So I decided to try a few simple words.  I ran up against the same thing with him that I had with T-lo.  Letter sounds all day long; but /c/ /a/ /t/ never turned into cat.  

BUT!!!!

But T-lo got it!  I decided to use more easily blendable sounds like M and F and S rather than C, B, and P.  And now T-lo can do them all.  Once he got the idea, he just took off!  I figure we may still have a few issues. This morning he was writing words like pig and hug (though we started with just /at/ words).  YAY!

So other topics of interest:  

  • counting by fives and telling time (obviously the latter is a little harder than the former)
  • multiplying small numbers
  • multiplying with zeros (3000 * 200)
  • place value (where *does* that comma go?)
  • adding for the boys
  • ocean animals
  • dinosaurs
  • geography (you’ll notice this is always a fave.  BTW, Professor is doing great catching up with the others on that also!)
  • writing letters (though Tumbler likes to write stories, lists, etc)
  • Swimmer is reading well but still working on confidence and speed

Obviously we touch on a number of things in a day.  

So part of me says that is a fairly full course of study over the week.  The other of me says I still wish we sat down more/longer and “did school” a little more formally and systematically.  I don’t think it is absolutely necessary at these ages (2-7), just how I would prefer to homeschool.

Then there is Heidi. She’s a superstar too!  Her heel is beautiful once she gets going.  She is doing her job around the house a bit more.  She loves playing outside with the kids.  SHe’s jumping and mouthing a LOT less.  She’s 8½ months old and all puppy, but a good puppy 🙂  

Lots of learning in the H household.  Actually, I think I may be learning the most.  Professor and Doc are giving me a run for it.  They have some real issues going on.  They’ll come along, but I think it is going to take them a little longer than average, maybe, to trust they are safe here and they aren’t going anywhere.  I’m going to learn some patience as well as how to reach these individual kiddos.

 

iTooch Apps by EduPad – A Mosaic Review

So another review we’ve been working on is for iTooch.  For other reviewer’s opinions, please click here.

iTooch is by Edupad.  They actually have quite a few apps on a variety of subjects and levels.  Here are just two of the five screen shots I could have taken from the app store:

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The program also comes in Windows 8 and Android.  Actually, as I was reading some of the reviews, it sounded like the Android versions were actually a little better in a few ways.  I’ll try to mention those as I do this review.  Again, please see the other reviews if you want to consider which system to use these on.

So if you want to do high school math or French or 5th grade language arts, you can.  THere is also a program called Recess for playing.  I really enjoyed playing that one, actually.  There are two games.  On one, it calls out a color and you tap that color bubble.  If you miss though (the bubbles are moving!), you’ll end up with another bubble, another color, which will mean it takes you more time to clear the screen which is the goal.  The other recess game is a math game.  It gives you an equation and you have to fill in the missing digit and operation.  Here is a screen shot of each game:

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So my daughter is 7 so I had her try out the Elementary program and we downloaded the 3rd grade math and language arts trials.  There were lots of options though: image_8

So my daughter liked the program in general.  It is appealing visually.  The “little dude” is fun. From reviews, it seems he is even more fun on an Android device. My fave “little dude” was when he turns to stone because you’ve sat there so long.  However, the moment you move the iPad, he isn’t stone again so I couldn’t get a screen shot!

The app gives positive feedback along the way.  The biggest issue I had with it for my daughter (who was getting irritated about it) was that the student has to actually choose to go from practice mode to the evaluation mode.  Obviously, not all 7 year olds or 9 year olds know when that time should be.  Additionally, the test questions were exactly the same as the practice questions.  The only difference was that you couldn’t look back at the lesson and that there were a limited number of test questions.  Now, this is one area it seems is not the same on the Android version.  Another reviewer talked about it moving the student from practice to testing.  

Here are some screen shots to give more information:

This one is during the test.  As you can see, there are only going to be six questions total.  It is timed (the yellow bar on the side).  There is positive feedback when you get it correct

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This shot shows a positive response during the practice mode.  On the side, it looks like there is a limited number of questions. However, you can keep doing them forever.  Unfortunately, my 7yo did!
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Here is a a screen when you make a mistake.  It tells you the right answer.  It is nice and low key which is nice for younger students.

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The below is a lesson screen.  The student can come to this screen any time during the practice session to go over the lesson.  image_3

The following two screens are just of me playing with the work space.  Again, not intuitive for a young student and actually unnecessary on the part she was working on (language arts).  However, if you needed to do double digit multiplication or were learning how to do basic multiplication, needing graphics, this page is a nice way to work.  Have I mentioned that I love that the blackboard looks used instead of perfectly black?
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Lastly, there is the evaluation screen.  I like that it is color-coded.  If the circle is not yet colored in, it means the student hasn’t taken the test on it yet.  If it is orange (or is it red?), it means the student scored a B- or lower.  Green is B+ or better.  A yellow star is for 100%.

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So this gives you an idea of what the app is like.  I think with a little direction, most 6-9 yos could do it without getting too frustrated.  And an older child probably would have been just fine with the less intuitive parts anyway.  I do like that the Android version seems to have automatic evaluations though as well as even more cute graphic activity.  

I give these apps a thumbs up.  If you’re looking for a cute, fun, educational app, you might look at the iTooch apps by Edupad 🙂

 

 

 

Math Mammoth – Mosaic Review

So I’m a math person.  I love math.  I enjoy math.  I find math exciting.  I find math relaxing even.  I like math.  My first two kiddos were math people also.  One could see the math of a rain storm. My daughter learned multiplication when we ran out of toilet paper so used paper towels.  She was 3 at the time.  She was multiplying fractions with an 8th grader I was tutoring.  She completed all of another curriculum’s 3rd through 6th grades in 4 months at almost seven.  She used my mother’s college algebra book at 7 and graduated high school a year late (at 16) with Calculus II and Statistics under her belt though I believe in using multiple math programs, not just one.   The other actually struggled with algorithms initially because he could just see math.  At four, he was doing pre-algebra programs. We’re just math people.

But I adopted three who aren’t mathy people.  There is no pulling out word problems for fun or teaching a little brother how to do FOIL.  In fact, it seems that K-3 math is really going to make us sweat.

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Enter Math Mammoth.  Now, full disclosure, we already own and use (in our own way), the full Math Mammoth Light Blue program for grades 1-6.  So for this review, I decided to get the Blue Series, Math Mammoth’s math topics curriculum.

For my review, I received the following:

  • Introduction to Fractions
  • Early Geometry
  • Measuring 1
  • Place Value 2

Let me start by saying how incredibly affordable these books are.  The most expensive book I saw on their site is only $7.50.  The Place Value 2 is only $2.25!  (***Note:  The prices are raising by 5% this month).  So if there is an area you need to supplement or focus on for whatever reason, the price is definitely right!

Second, I like that there are so many different activities.  There are hands on activities, ones where they have to continue along a line of thought, ones where they need to think about real life objects to figure out a concept.

One important part for less mathy kids is PLENTY of practice.  Of course, sometimes that is good for mathy kids also.  For example, when *I* was a child, I would have loved doing one problem after another.  But my daughter would have hated doing so much.  So she could have skipped some.  But my “new kids” (adopted in July 2012) need more practice so do most problems in each set.

I also like the scaffolding.  The fractions book is a good example. There are dots to guide the child.  There are directions to tell them exactly how to do it a certain way.  Questions lead them from what they’ve already told them to another part they were previously told.  For example, a question may say, “Divide this into fourths. Color 1/4.” Then it will ask how many little squares in 1/4 as well as how many little squares in the whole rectangle. They start small (1/4 or 1/2) then go to bigger numerators (3/4, 7/12, etc).  Then they move to the number line and later word problems.  Slow and steady, the student moves from super easy to much more challenging.

Another thing I really like is that my children had fun with the materials from day one.  One of the first things we did was the beginning of Measuring 1.  They went through the house measuring things with various objects.  In the below picture, they used their big brother’s shoes and their little foster brother’s shoes (seen by my daughter’s feet).  That really made units real to them!

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But let me say that my favorite part was how my children were able to run with the information.  I’ve been fussing with my daughter for over a year about Place Value.  She simply could not grasp it for whatever reason.  Though we haven’t finished the materials, she has been able to extrapolate further (at least able to know what questions to ask which is huge!) and to USE the information she has.  It isn’t just memorized information, but she truly has the concepts.

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One Minute Reader iPad App – A Mosaic Review

So when I read the interest form for this iPad app, I was very excited.  My young six year old can decode when he takes the time; but he’s not a confident reader.  He also is very sensitive about me working with him, afraid of my disapproval or disappointment.  The app, however, keeps each part very short (a minute, hence the name!) and sweet.  He gets stars, points, and can see the progress he makes in various ways.  PERFECT.

Which app?  It is One Minute Reader, the iPad App.  Here is the screen shot I took of the app store from my iPad (mini).

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One Minute Reader is an iPad app based on Read Naturally’s proven reading program.  There are six levels: emergent, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.   As you can see on the screen shot above, there is a free version also.  From it, you can have your child take the placement test so you know which levels of the program to use with each child.  Each book of the program has five stories.   You can get a full level, five books, for $19.99.

So what does One Minute Reader do?

First, it develops fluency by allowing the student to hear fluent reading at a pace reasonable for the child.  Second, it allows the student to practice repeated reading with the material.  Additionally, the app works on vocabulary and reading comprehension.  And finally, the app gives the student visual feedback throughout.

Let me walk you through some of what my children practiced.

First, you open to the main screen and choose a story.  There, the child does a “cold reading.”  They’ve never seen the materials before and read.  Below, you can see Swimmer clicking start to start his cold reading. At the end of one minute, the student is directed to click the last word he read. The first time Swimmer did it, he got 12 words which is, of course, very low.  Again, I believe that is more because of his confidence level rather than his reading ability.  This is even more reason, in my opinion, why Swimmer needs to be doing programs like this one!   Anyway, regardless of the child’s words per minute, they get points added to their score for having done the work.  Swimmer liked earning points!

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Okay, so after the cold reading, the child goes to the next screen.  There, he has two activities to do, both of which earns him more points.  He can get definitions of certain words and he can have the material read to him.  At first, Swimmer had a bit of trouble listening to the reading; but in time, he learned that doing so helped him progress.  It may take a story or two for the child to get the point!

After the child listens to the story a few times as well as goes through the vocabulary, it is time for him to try to read again.  Each time he reads, again, he earns more points.  Additionally, at the bottom of the page, there is a section where it shows him his words per minute. When he is happy with his score or ready to move on, he can push the arrow at the bottom of the screen to get to this page which shows where he started and where he finished this session:

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After this screen, the child goes to a screen that has comprehension questions.  Here he also gains both points and letters towards the “Joke Jumble.”  The next screen also has a crossword puzzle to work on (it includes questions from all of the stories).

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What I like most about this app is that each session can be as long or short as you want it to be.  If it isn’t a good practice time, you can do just a minute or two.  If it is a great time, then you could spend 10 minutes or so on it.

I also love how it gives the child lots of feedback in terms of points, stars, progress words per minute, and the like.  It is very motivating.

Of course, the part that makes the difference the most is the child’s confidence and reading ability.  As I listened to my son read some of the stories, I was just amazed!  Not only did he read the words correctly and at a nice pace, he also did so with inflection.  For example, with Big Ben, he read, “So what is Big Ben?” stressing the word “is” as well as making it clear it was a question.

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Sadly, I have to say there is one negative about the program.  As we all know, kids sometimes rush through things when allowed to just play with things.  Honestly, practicing reading as play would be a good thing in my book even if it is just a section or two done once or twice.  However, with the One Minute Reading iPad App, once children get to the comprehension questions, they cannot go back to have the material read to them or for them to do another timed reading.  And once you’re done with the section altogether (past the crossword puzzle, you can only get the score information unless you delete the previous data and do it over again).  Now, I think it is fine to restart the reading from scratch.  I just think it would be nice to be able to continue on the same reading regardless of whether you have completed it or partially did it through the comprehension questions in the past.

There is just one thing I’d like to add to this app if I could.  I would love if they would have a version that we could add our own readings in, ideally including the vocabulary and reading comprehension also.  If they had a version for us to do that, I’d buy it in a heartbeat as I really believe it could be awesome for our religion’s “school.” I would recommend it to all the other parents in our congregation!  But I think other people would like it also.  They could put segments of their reading assignments into it, do it based on interests, or even do it with readings for various subjects (history, music, science, etc).

I will definitely be rating this app well!  I hope you enjoy it as much as we have! To see more reviews, click here.

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Repeated Reading – my pre-review reading post

So one great thing about being a homeschooling parent a second time around is that I can do things with my kids that I was wrong about the first time around.  Repeated readings is one of those things.

When my daughter was young, she read and read and read.  From before she was three, she was reading.  A couple months after turning three, she was reading chapter books.  She was expressive and enjoyed reading from sun up to sun down.  If she wasn’t reading, she was creating her own little stories.  My son, however, could do reading activity after activity if I gave them to him without being able to read real books at all, much less fluently, with expression, etc.  I would not even consider repeated readings “like schools do” though.  I didn’t want him sight word reading.  I didn’t want him memorizing books.  I wanted him to learn phonics and only phonics!

Well, I was wrong!

We had been outside our religion for a few years then went back.  I wanted my children to “catch up” with basic Bible knowledge.  Each day, we read from The Bible, the Bible Stories book, the Great Teacher book, the monthly publications, and studied for meetings.  We memorized scripture.  I taught the children to look up scripture.  We practiced and practiced.   And my son’s reading ability multiplied significantly each week.  It was amazing.  See, when we studied for the meetings, for example, we read the materials together.  Then it was read at the meetings.  Then it was discussed.  Many of the study  materials had questions for each paragraph.  The kids would each write a couple answers for each study so they may be able to participate by answering at the meeting.  And of course, many ideas, phrases, words, etc were used in each of the materials we were using.  Like I said, his reading ability exploded.  His decoding was better.  His fluency was better.  His comprehension was better.  He read, he understood, he could use it in other ways.

And I became a believer in repeated reading!

So my younger set of children have a full phonics program and several supplements also.  They also do repeated readings.  They do it on individual words.  They do it on whole sentences.  They do it with whole books.  They do it similar to how my son did it.  They do it with computer programs.  The do it with various readers we have.  Their reading is coming along nicely and I’m glad that repeated reading *is* part of their early reading instruction.  I really believe they benefit from it in all ways (decoding, fluency, expression, comprehension) as well as that it gives them more confidence.

Busy Bees of the H fam

So as you can imagine, we’re extremely busy.  Here is a little update:

  • First, this past weekend we had a special three day convention we attended.  It was absolutely wonderful.  I took my two big kids (18 and 20) and five of the littles.  I left the baby with another foster family (respite).  The children behaved beautifully all three days despite how uncomfy the seating was at the convention center!  My son was baptized.  My littles paid attention at times.  It was great!  I will probably share a little more in later days because we learned so much.  Awesome!
  • Monday, we had our area’s Not Back to School Party.  It was HUGE!  It was nice seeing so many other homeschoolers in the area.  So part of what we do is take a huge group picture.  So we got all the kids together for that.  Well, someone was sneaky and smart and took a picture of all the moms taking pictures!  No way they would have gotten all of us to stand together, ya know!
  • Last night, I found out that my three little ones are transitioning to fictive kin.  In their case, it is a neighbor of a relative.  We have been asked and asked and asked about adopting from placement through earlier this week and it has taken two months from the first “meet you” visit to talking about transitioning.  We really thought maybe these were our children.  But I feel a real peace about them going to these people.  I wish them all the very best.
  • Homeschooling with six children seven years old and under takes a LOT more time than you’d think.  We are constantly going off on rabbit trails, being distracted by a diaper change or what have you.  It is fun, but takes a LOT longer than it would with fewer children.  Of course, maybe it is just preparing us for when they are older and it will take more time for the actual work.
  • The six month mark passed regarding Sweet Little M being taken halfway across the country to strangers, to her fifth home where she is now in need of professional help to deal with the trauma of what has happened to her because the state and her “new parents” had other interests, not her best interests, in mind. I am still angry, bitter, sad, scared, worried, fearful, disgusted; but actually, all of these have died down a great deal.  Now I simply love my little girl from afar and believe more than ever that our Heavenly Father is more than capable of helping her for now and forever.

Hopefully, I can keep up with my blog a little better in the weeks to come. I do know I have a review I’ll put up this weekend.  I would also like to share a couple pictures and thoughts from the convention.  We have all sorts of pictures of our school days also.  And the children have made amazing progress.  Tons of stuff to post if I can just find time to post them.

3 Rs

So, many of our materials are staying very similar.  We’ll enjoy some Song School Latin and I really like Elemental Science. There are so many options, really; but we feel good about our choices.

But since my children are so young, outside of spiritual things, we really focus on 3 main areas of instruction, commonly known as The 3 Rs: reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic. Just saying it is very odd that they are called the 3 Rs when two out of three don’t even START with the letter R.  I guess they all have R in them.

Okay, I tend to “overdo” a lot of things.  WHen I say overdo, I don’t mean that I do some extreme amount.  My kids aren’t strapped to desks by any means.  Instead, I mean that I present things in various ways and have them play with them in many other ways.  I want my kids to have a LOT of exposure.

So here are some materials we’re using for each subject:

Maths –

  • Stanford University’s EPGY K-8 math (currently mid-2nd grade, will likely get to 4th this year)
  • MathMammoth (grades 1-3) – review next month!
  • DreamBox Learning (K-2)
  • Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool math (GR1, GR2, 1st , 2nd grades)
  • Various videos, online educational games, ipad, manipulatives

Reading (I have one strong reader, one good reader lacking confidence, one ready to put things together, one barely beginning)-

  • AlphaPhonics 
  • BlendPhonics – only for 1st grader at this time though all will sit in
  • Reading Eggs (kid is on map 11 of 12 though he hasn’t done most sight words or spelling exercises)
  • Considering a different reading program for T-Lo
  • Bob Books and Now I’m Reading Books
  • Various videos, online educational games, ipad, etc – review coming at the end of the month!
  • Phoneme connectable blocks
  • Read together and independently A LOT.

Spelling, Writing, Grammar –

  • All About Spelling
  • National Spelling Bee Study Words (starts at 1st grade)
  • Reading Eggs
  • Various websites, ipad and other tablets
  • Correcting words in writing
  • Writing With Ease
  • Cursive writing (mommy made mostly, semi following loops and other groups)
  • Journaling a few times per week (pencil and paper!)
  • I will also have each child capable write down at least one answer per Christian Meeting.

Public Speaking will mostly fall under other subjects, primarily spiritual, at this time.  I’m sure I’ll blog about some of those things as they come up.  In fact, my children have been working on some Bible readings I may add video of soon and one child already did a first “talk” in front of the congregation!

So many things to blog.  Now to find time to do so!

Hodge Podge

Wow, I’m really slacking!

Just busy busy.  To be honest, almost overwhelmed kind of busy.

I get online here and there, but that isn’t the same as composing a blog post.

But here are some pics 🙂

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Review: Classical Historian’s Medieval History Memory Game

Okay, show of hands: How many people LOVED history as a student in school?
What?  Why am I not seeing tons of hands raised?
Oh, history was boring?  All you did was read dry textbooks, hear dry lectures, and do a few research projects?
How many good history days did you have as a student?  Less than the number of fingers on your hands?

Well, isn’t that one of the reasons we homeschool?  We can make learning enjoyable!  We can make it stand out as fun while allowing our children to excel also.  And when we choose to educate classically, we give them even more of a chance to learn various time periods as well as history around the world, not just once in tenth grade, but throughout their time as students.

The De Gree family, a homeschool family of seven children, have created an award winning curriculum as well as some supplementary products.  If you want to learn more about their curricula, classes, supplements, and family, you can find them at http://www.classicalhistorian.com or http://www.facebook.com/classicalhistorian .  Additionally, you can find more reviews of these products at :::coming soon::::

The product I was offered to review was the memory game, the medieval history one.

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As it turns out, Ace is a champion at memory games.  In fact, I had to download ones meant for older people onto my ipad because the preschool ones were way too easy.  So getting a memory game in the mail was nice!  Now I could teach him something while challenging him memory game wise.

Okay, so what did we get.  Well, as I mentioned, there are 64 cards, two of each of 32 topics.  They are very sturdy cards with good pictures and a short description like Charlemagne, Nuns, Samurai, Castle, and Machu Picchu. There is an instruction sheet to tell you how to play each of two games, a regular matching game as well as a game where you match each card to the correct category ( PUT CATEGORIES HERE!). My children are really too young for the category game.

Now, on the website, it says the matching game is good for ages 3 plus.  It also says that the game is simply to introduce the pictures and names to the children.  I think it would be nice if they would add a cheat sheet with a sentence or two about each thing.  Remember, many of those of us who are teaching our children got very little, if any, world history in school ourselves.  So it is possible that we wouldn’t know what to tell our seven year olds about Charlemagne or Machu Picchu.  Obviously, our curriculum will, in time, help us fill in the information; and we can always use our friends Google and Bing.  I just think it would be nice to have a cheat sheet.

I have another concern about the program.  It gives four location categories, but the great majority of the cards are from Europe.  Now, I can understand that to a degree.  I even went and looked at another history program and found that a larger percentage of the topics there were also about Europe.  But it wasn’t *as* uneven.  It was close enough that I had to count it to see it with the other program where there is no doubt looking at the answer key for Classical Historian. On top of that, a LOT of topics were Christian/Catholic in nature.  Again, I can understand that to a degree based on the time period.  Now, it is their curriculum supplement and they can have whatever they wish.  I just think that part of a classical history about a time period is about moving away from ego-centrism.  I would have liked some of the more common and general topics to be left out or combined while adding more topics from other areas.

Though I said that, my kids thanked me for letting them play.  I loved that the cards are so sturdy, especially as I had an almost three year old enjoying the game with me.  I liked that there were lots of topics to choose from (we made a smaller game as my children found 64* cards challenging).

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So I definitely think the product is good.  It is also affordable ($14.95).  It is something I can see using again and again with my crew over the next couple years, especially when we make it to that time period.  I probably will make myself an information sheet with key points about each topic to share here and there with the children.  We’ll also be more likely to use certain cards than others, especially while we’re working with smaller groups of cards.

Isn’t it great when your kids actually THANK you for sharing an educational product with them?!?!  That was the best part!

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Review: How Do We Know God Is Really There?

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Recently, I received a copy of the book, How Do We Know God Is Really There by Melissa Cain Travis.

The book is available through Apologia Educational Ministries.  There are many ways to learn more about them.

Apologia is most well-known for their elementary through high school level science courses.  Many years ago, I taught a cooperative class of homeschooled and private school students using their Biology book as our core.

This direct address for this book is http://shop.apologia.com/books/367-how-do-we-know-god-is-really-there-.html  At this link, you can purchase the book for $16.

So what is this book?  It is a good physical quality, hard cover book.  The website describes it as a read-aloud picture book “designed to introduce kids to important questions of the Christian faith in terms even pre-readers can understand.”

I believe the book is simple enough for the intended audience to understand the beliefs it shares.  The pictures are simple and are enjoyable (the book is illustrated by Christopher Voss), with a picture included on each two-page spread throughout the book.

I would expect that most families would read the story together, checking to see if the children got the point as they went. A good reader or older child could read the book independently.  Younger children may like looking at the pictures in their free time. Some families may investigate further by looking up information about certain planets, scientists, creation history, etc.  There is only one scripture cited; but families could also look it up in a couple Bible versions to better get the sense of it.  They might also find other topically-relevant scriptures.

I did have a problem with the sentence structure and combinations throughout the book, especially on the second page.  I wouldn’t have said “They would” at all, much less several times.  Sometimes, it seemed the book was written by a young person.  I feel bad mentioning this though as writing isn’t my best subject or ability either.  However, I also didn’t publish a book.  I simply believe children’s literature, though it may have a different goal (in this case, being informative regarding faith and science), should be a good model, or at least not a poor one, for our children.  In my opinion, the issue was to the degree of being distracting.

I also think the book would have been better if it were:

  • either shorter as it really took awhile to get into and was wordy;
  • or if it was a simple chapter book, maybe three chapters, going just a tad further.

One additional section to add would be a letter to parents.  In that, I would include a little more science to help parents answer questions or go further as well as give resources (scriptural, online, or other books).

I think it handles the question of “but where did it come from” very well. Physicists have known for a long time that “Another theory…will be needed to explain the original creation of the universe.” Of course, creation itself tells of it’s Creator.

I think it was wise for the materials not to take a position regarding old and young earth creationism also as it will make it more palatable for both groups.

DISCLAIMER: Generally, I would leave my review to the above.  However, I do feel the need, since this is primarily a book regarding religious belief, to address the fact that my family will not be using this publishers books about faith, whether each one, individually, is theologically sound or not, as we do not believe the same as their company does about many matters of spirituality.

Yes, I have many children, but…

This is still rubbing me the wrong way.  I really shouldn’t let what other people think bug me, but sometimes it does. Well, and this person has irritated me before with her mouth.  Just let it go!

The other day, an older woman (her grandkids are now adults) was sharing with me about some of her child rearing.  Her daughter piped in also.  It was neat.  Some of it was how “mean” she could be (can’t we all?) while part of it was how she balanced it out with nurturing, play, fun during chores, etc.

So then she pops off, “Well, I only had three so I could do things like that.  I guess with so many you can’t.”

Ummm, what?

All people are different.  Maybe *she* couldn’t have eight children and spend time with each one.  Maybe *she* couldn’t have gotten individual time with each child each day.  Maybe *she* couldn’t fix pancake muffins, make chores fun, chase them around on scooters, whatever.  Me?  I can.

In my favor are a few things.  First, I intentionally am WITH my kids.  I sit on the floor half the day with them.  They are usually in the same room as me, even.  I believe nurturing and playing with kids (let them lead, mostly) is healthy for them.  I can more easily discipline when I can easily tell what is going on.  And my kids are home.   Homeschooling gives me six or seven hours she didn’t have.

Anyway, all kids are different.  All people are different.  We have different goals.  We have different abilities.  We have different strengths.  We have different needs.

I *am* capable of taking care of eight children (two being young adults now so just the six littles).  We go to the park. They are involved in sports.  We have a lot of appointments to work around.  The school-aged children are advanced academically and *are* being educated well at home.  We do volunteer work, are involved in our congregation, etc.  They spend a LOT of time outside.  We simply are a very active family.  Our children’s play therapist, when describing us in an email said that we spend more time playing with the children than any other family she’s ever worked with.  We simply believe in it 🙂

It is important that we remember, I think, to support others, not tear them down.  I have looked at other families and thought, “I couldn’t do THAT.”  I don’t look at other families and think, “they can’t do what we do because they ___________.”  It is not for me to judge whether someone else can do what I can do.  Then there is a question about whether someone else even WANTS to do what I do.

Be nice Mamas.  We’re all doing our best 🙂

This week

So, I have news about Heidi.  She can become a service dog for PTSD!  Our trainer is going to work with us and we’re very excited.  I really think my one child especially is going to really benefit from this!

In other news, Heidi is four months old tomorrow.  Here is her picture from when we first got her:

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Here is a picture of her today:

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Yes, both were in front of the oven.  Can you believe two months makes such a difference?  She’s just growing by leaps and bounds!  She is extra smart also.  SHe started the intermediate class last night.  Instead of loose leash walking, we doing heel.  Step one and two last night.  Step one:  sit next to mom with eyes with my pants seam.  CHECK! She did it immediately.  Step two:  A couple “heel” steps.  She does well for 4 or 5 then gets a bit distracted by the other dogs and such.  Part of that is because turning is tough for her too.  But she’s FOUR MONTHS OLD and getting it.  She also does sit, stand, down, return (for life-saving come…I do use “come on” for minor movements), spin, shake, stay, free, push-ups, watch-me, etc.  She’s been fully potty trained for a full month (which amazes us as we’ve done really poorly at that in the past).

Okay, so other things.  Here are pics of the kids this week  from the field trip and swimming:

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Push Push Push to a Screeching Halt?

So in a world where testing is the end all be all, testing starts early.  When my boys were in HeadStart, they tested them within the first month of school and a couple times throughout.  See, they had to be ready for Kindergarten so they will rock the test in 3rd grade.

Many times, it seems that preK and Kindy kids are smarter than ever.  I know when I was doing my “pre-clinical” hours in the kindergarten classroom, it certainly seemed that way.  Half of the class were well above the goal levels.  They were writing full paragraphs of five or six sentences.  They were reading small chapter books.  They could tell you about a few presidents.  They could draw parallels between two works of literature! Seriously great stuff.  And then I did my time in the 3rd grade classroom.  They were exactly where you would expect 3rd graders to be, struggling with pulling key information from a paragraph, with learning half the multiplication table, with learning what a fraction was, and weren’t reading much better than the Kindergarteners were.

There are studies (the Moores document comparing hundreds of such studies) done that show that kids will be about the same level, if not further, than their same age peers in about a year without formal schooling prior to age eight or nine.  During those years from three to eight years old, they can be working on building real life relationships, having meaningful work to do in the home and community, following interests, and learning naturally while living life.

Though we are intentionally educating our children, informally and formally, prior to age eight, we do so very gently without neglecting all the important things outside of schooling.  And education is very important, but it is not most important.  Even if it were though, children could get so much more education from activities other than schoolishness.   Either way, the opportunities for young children to experience have value also.  If a child is spending five, six, seven hours on academics, they are missing out on all they *could* be doing.

And then it goes back to what the PURPOSE of those academics are at those young ages.  When considering the drawbacks, I have to wonder why we’d spend all that time doing formal academics at four or six, giving up all those hours of other opportunities, when it doesn’t usually lead to any real gains?