Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: That the weather is perfect this week....mid-eighties to low nineties. My garden seems happy; I harvested our first zucchini and cucumbers over the weekend. But no tomatoes....this is the third year that I have not had a good tomato crop.

What I'm reading: I did have some down time last week and got a good chunk of Age of Opportunity read. I am really enjoying this book and taking notes as I work my way through it.

What I'm listening to: Nutsy is sitting near me, playing with the dollhouse stuff, and singing through her Sunday school songs.

What we're learning: This week our 4-H record books are due. The older two are about done, but Dasher and I need to sit down and finalize her biography and make sure she recorded everything.

What I'm watching: Last night my Sweetie and I relaxed by watching a couple of Andy Griffith episodes. We love that show.

What's cooking: This week I am making Caesar Salad Wraps, Enchiladas, and Honey-Garlic Chicken in the crock pot.

What I'm thankful for: I am so thankful for music. When it is time to clean up we turn on our clean-up music, and I know for sure that it makes us clean faster....

What I'm creating: I took some fun photos last week and so I am going to edit them and put a lot of them up on Facebook.

What I'm planning: I need to plan out my music lesson for co-op tomorrow. There are also a couple of rooms in the house I want to organize this week.

What we did this last weekend: We house-sat while my friend and her husband got away for a couple of the house were 9 children, 2 dogs, 2 snakes, 1 bird, 1 rabbit, and about 7 chickens (The chickens were actually in the backyard.) We had a blast staying up late, watching silly TV shows, and having a massive water fight. Yesterday we heard a convicting sermon on anger, then we went to the park for a church picnic. It was the perfect day for volleyball!

What I'm looking forward to: This week we are going for a quick visit to the grandparents to celebrate an Aunties graduation from nursing school. We are looking forward to seeing everyone!

Pictures to share:

~Fun times with fun people.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

IXL Math


What it is:

IXL Math is a comprehensive online resource. And as a homeschooling mom, I know I love those! The levels offered are from Pre-K all the way through algebra, with trigonometry, geometry and other advanced topics coming soon. For each of the grade levels there are skills to work on in a Practice section. In the Seventh grade level there are 248 skills to master. Some of these are:

Least common multiple
Compare and convert metric units
Create histograms
Divide decimals
Area and perimeter: word problems
solve one step linear equations

...and 242 more.

If you hover the mouse over any of these skills, a sample problem comes up so you can see exactly what is reviewed in that section. When your child begins to work on a skill, problems come up one by one on the screen. If they get the answer right a box comes up that says Correct! If they answer incorrectly a box appears that says Sorry, incorrect answer. The correct answer is_______. At that point the student can either click OK, or Explanation. When explanation is chosen a simple description is displayed, along with any charts or graphics that might be helpful.

As your child progresses through the questions, a score is kept in a sidebar. Beginning with zero, this number increases each time they get a question correct until it reaches 100. If they get an answer wrong they lose points on their score. Once they reach 100, the skill is complete and considered mastered. They get a medal, which goes onto their Awards page. There is also a clock in the sidebar, showing the time elapsed since beginning the skill. A child can stop while in the middle of a skill; the program conveniently keeps track of where they left off and displays that next to the skill title on the Practice page.

The Awards page is a place where your child can see what awards they have collected and view what other awards they can earn.
IXL Awards and Games

Some of these are practicing for 1 hour, mastering a certain number of skills in a category, or doing a certain number of problems. It also gives a running display, showing how close they are to receiving their next reward.

Another section on the site is Reports. Here you and your child can see what problems were attempted, the skills practiced, and the time spent learning. There is a bar graph showing how long they practiced each week, and a pie chart showing what skills they spent time on. At the bottom another chart shows each skill worked on, how many problems were attempted, and the score they received.

IXL Family Reports

The State Standard tab shows the math standard in the state where you live. (When you set up your profile, it asks what state you live in.) You can see and print a report that shows how your child, based on their current performance, stands in comparison.

What You Get:

Membership with IXL is very easy to set up. The monthly plan per child is $9.95; a yearly plan is $79. Each additional child is $2 a month, or $20 a year.

IXL Fee Buttons

This includes access to the entire site, weekly emailed reports that point out successes or trouble spots, and awards and certificates to print. Each child also has a profile they set up with a fun avatar to identify themselves with. Go here to start your membership.

How We Used This:

Three of my children used this resource; primarily doing seventh, third, and first grade math. For the older two I had them set the timer and work for a certain amount each day. The youngest one is not yet a proficient reader so I appreciated that next to the questions and answers was a little icon she could click on to hear the information read to her. We quickly found that getting the awards was what was fun; the awards are cute little icons that they collect on a graph. You can also print out certificates to give your child.
IXL Certificate of Achievement

 In the first week I let my older child pick and choose what skills to do; but in the second week I began to require work from certain areas. They all found it a challenging, yet fun way to learn math.

What I thought:

This was a super good find. I loved it that the graphics were fun, but not distracting.

IXL Screen Samples

The realistic looking pictures were especially appealing to our youngest learner. The clock ticking away was helpful for one child but frustrating to another, so we used a post-it note to cover it up. The skills offered were very comprehensive and grade appropriate. After the first couple of weeks I happily saw improvements in their math facts, and no one was complaining when I told them it was time to get on the computer for math practice. I liked the weekly reports that were sent to my email; plus I could get on anytime as a Parent and see their progress. I did find that the "time spent" clock kept ticking even if questions were not being answered; this could be a sneaky way for some children to say they were doing math but were really not. But of course the parent would see the skills mastered and the percentage correct and figure out that the student was not improving. As I used this website, the one thing I had to keep reminding myself was that this program is not meant to be a full-time math curriculum; it is only meant to supplement another math program. That is probably the only complaint I have! With the format and skills offered, I would have loved this to have been a full curriculum.


So I do plan to continue to use this; when one of my children is having a problem in math with a certain concept, I can utilize this website and give them another way to learn the skill. And now it is on our list of free-time computer websites, and at least one of my kids has said they will go there and work on skills on their own.

Other Crew members reviewed this product; check out the list of them and see what you think. 


Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a subscription to IXL math, at no cost to me, for my honest and humble review. All opinions are mine.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fair & Friends

Just a quick post.....with some photos from the last few days.

Our 4-H club had an end of the year pizza party and lined up all of the new officers for next year.

Three of my children were up there....Mr. Lego is Vice-President, Bookworm is the Correspondence Secretary, and Dasher is a Sergeant-at-arms.

We spent one day at  the El Dorado County Fair.

 Sheep Showmanship...

The winner!

Sheep Costume Competition....

...and yours truly competed in Parent Showmanship.....

...and won.

Hanging out with a sweet little friend.

We spent some time with good friends who came from across the country to visit.

Playing football in the sand....

...and capture the flag in the street.

Good times.

Blessed by friends.

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: That I sold the goat. I have to say it again, I SOLD THE GOAT!! And it is a very happy ending; Arwen is now living in the Sierra foothills with a few horses and a new goat friend, Betty. She will be well taken care of and spoiled rotten.

What I'm reading: Another week where I didn't have enough time to read. It seems like we are in summer mode but are still doing school, plus wrapping 4-H things up, and seeing good friends. So....reading gets put further and further down on my list. Probably not a good thing and something I need to change this week.

What we're learning: We are continuing with light school this week; in co-op the children are doing research essays and presentations on the early 1900's. Nutsy finished up a level of her phonics book so it's onto the next one.

What I'm watching: Well, this week I am watching children. A dear friend of mine is going away with her husband for a couple of days to celebrate their anniversary, and my Sweetie and I are going to watch their 5 children. We are going to have a blast!

What's cooking: This week I am making a stir fry and chicken tacos in the crock pot. The days I'll be cooking for 12 people I will make spaghetti and tostadas. Yum.

What I'm buying: I headed to Costco today for my monthly shopping trip. I am looking forward to stocking the shelves and the kids are looking forward to the samples.

What I'm thankful for: I am thankful for my taste buds. I was reading a news story about a lady who was in an accident and part of how she was injured was loosing her sense of taste. What a blessing it is to be able to taste so many wonderful things.

What I'm creating: Well, I am helping my children to create their record books for 4-H. They put a lot of work into them...a bio essay, photos and letters, and of course recording everything they have done this entire year. These are due next week so they need to get cracking.

What I'm planning: I have a review that needs to be written in the next couple of days; then I will have a break for a couple of weeks. I also took lots of photos at the fair and last weekend so I might do another blog post with them. 

What we did this last weekend: On Friday we went to the El Dorado County Fair. It was lots of fun watching sheep and swine showmanship, walking around, and seeing the exhibits. Saturday we went to visit some dear friends who were visiting from the east coast. We talked, swam in the lake, and ate yummy food. Sunday we went to church, then home for a quiet Father's Day. We swam in the pool, ate Gyoza, and played a Lord of the Rings trivia game.

What I'm looking forward to: We are really going to have a great time with all those kids later this week. We have co-op on Wednesday, and then Sunday is our first church picnic of the summer.

A picture to share:

~Saying goodbye to Arwen.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Pearson Homeschool - Reading Street 3rd Grade

As a member of The Crew I was asked to review Scott Foresman's Reading Street from Pearson Homeschool. Since I have a reluctant reader I thought it would be a good thing to mix things up a bit and try something new for a change.


What It Is:

This is a full reading curriculum which includes topics such as reading comprehension, phonics, spelling, vocabulary, and writing. I received the 3rd grade homeschool bundle. The curriculum is divided into six units, with each unit divided into six weeks. The week begins with a "Let's Talk About" section that gives discussion ideas and oral objectives. There is a page spread on phonics with a short paragraph to practice with. The next section is about comprehension skills and give tips and exercises to aid in understanding. Vocabulary is covered, with photos to reinforce the definitions being studied. The largest portion of the text is a real literature book, complete with the illustrations and photos that you would see if you were holding the actual book in your hands. As I looked through the table of contents I recognized some of the books: Hottest, Coldest, Highest, and Deepest by Steve Jenkins, The Story of the Statue of Liberty by Betsy & Giulio Maestro, and Kumak's Fish by Michael Bania. After the story there is a page of critical thinking questions and another page about the author of the book. There is a writing page spread which has a writer's checklist, writing assignment, student model, and writing conventions, or rules. And finally a review page with further topics for discussion and research ideas.

Each week follows a theme. For example in the fifth week of unit 1 the theme is money and spending. You can see how each section follows this theme:

Let's Talk About - Saving and Spending
Comprehension - Author's Purpose
Vocabulary - Prefixes and Suffixes
Literature Book - My Rows and Piles of Coins by Tololwa M. Mollel
Let's Write It! - Writing a Realistic Story
Short Story: Learning about Money
Review - Tips to Save Money

Some of the other vocabulary topics in the text are homonyms, synonyms, and compound words. Writing assignments vary from writing thank you notes, to composing news articles, to creating fictitious stories. 

What You Get:

For $124.99 you get...

Student Edition Textbook
Guide On The Side
Teacher Resource DVD
ExamView Assessment Suite CD

Go here to purchase. (The homeschooling bundle I reviewed is not yet up on the website; the old one from the 2011-2012 school year is listed there. The new one should be there soon at the above link.)

The Student Edition Textbook is actually two hardback books, 3.1 and 3.2, that are each over 500 pages. Since this is a 3rd grade textbook the font is larger than normal and easy to read. There are many colorful illustrations and photos throughout the book as well. At the beginning of each text is a section called Envision It!, which is a visual skills handbook. Some of the literary ideas shown in this part are cause and effect, fact and opinion, and drawing conclusions. Throughout the book in the margins are word definitions, chapter objectives, and further research ideas. Words that might be unfamiliar to the student are highlighted in yellow.

The Guide On The Side is not a teacher manual of the text, but rather a guide for teachers with instructional strategies. There are sections on fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and writing. Each of these sections has a skill handbook which gives grade-appropriate goals. There are also generic-type question ideas to aide the teacher in gauging student mastery. Assessment ideas, strategies for implementation, and spelling and vocabulary lists are also provided. There are sections on genre/text structure, concept development (research), media literacy, and ELL (English Language Learner, or ESL).

The Teacher Resource DVD contains whiteboard transparencies and downloadable vocabulary resources (picture and word flashcards). It also provides the teacher with blank lesson planners, flip charts for group stations, and scoring rubrics. Another section on the DVD is the Practice Books; these include Let's Practice It! and the Reader and Writer's Notebook. In the Let's Practice It! section, there are at least 10 worksheets for every week. These include phonics practice, spelling words, story comprehension, and vocabulary definitions. In the Reader and Writer's Notebook there are more worksheets, slightly different from the ones in the other section but with the same format. The sixth week of every unit in the textbook is a Notebook week, where the student is required to fill out 10 pages of review from what they have learned in that unit. A Teacher Manual with answers is provided for both worksheet sources.

The ExamView Assessment Suite CD is an interactive tool for the teacher. It is used to create tests for students. You can choose the number of questions and whether they are multiple choice, true/false, matching, or essay. There are different types of tests as well; baseline group tests, weekly tests or benchmark tests. An answer key is also provided.

What I Thought:

My daughter and I spent about 3 weeks doing Reading Street together. The work you can do in a week is overwhelming so I went through ahead of time and picked out what we would do each day. I pretty much skipped the phonics part and focused on the literature, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. We both really liked the color photos, the stories, and thought-questions. I really appreciated that in every week of work, there was a real book to read. The text had lots of places for my daughter to read from; from the instructions to definitions to non-fiction descriptions. She really enjoyed the change of pace from our regular reading. The worksheets were thorough and comprehensive although I must say that it was a bit overwhelming to have at least twenty to choose from for only one week of work. We chose to do a few on reading comprehension and fill in the blank questions.There were also worksheets that gave some grammar practice; sentence/fragment, subject/predicate,and singular/plural. The DVD had many useful resources on it; if I was doing this with a more visual learner the vocabulary flashcards provided would have been helpful as well. At the end of the first week I made up a test on the  ExamView CD; I was hoping that I could just have my daughter take the test on the computer, but instead I printed it and had her fill it out. The Guide On The Side was like reading a manual on classroom-school teaching; as a homeschooling mom I found it a bit overwhelming and too detailed for my liking. At the end of The Guide are spelling and vocabulary lists, which correlate with the text.

So the bottom line: this really is just a secular textbook that could be used in the public schools, but has been made available for homeschoolers. Every resource, text, and worksheet in it assumes you are in a classroom situation and have 28 students in your charge. Now this might not be a bad thing; if you are teaching this in a co-op setting it would be much more useful. Also, some of the worksheets reminded me of questions and topics found in state standardized tests. You know, some of those things that we might miss when we homeschool from a more non-textbook approach. Again this is not something negative; sometimes it is good to shake things up a bit. Yes we are homeschooling our kids the way we want, but the way the world tests is through using multiple choice questions and reading comprehension exercises and someday our children might need to take a test that would have typical test-type questions. So I appreciated the change, and will use parts of  this reading program sparingly as we teach reading.

Other members of The Crew reviewed many other Pearson Homeschool resources: myWorld social studies, enVision Math, MyMathLab Algebra, and other grade levels of Reading Street. Check out it out here to see what they said. 


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

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: That it is going to be a hot one today. We had the windows open earlier to let the cool air in, but I just shut them because I feel the temperature rising. We are in the middle of a little heat wave with today being 97.....when I just looked at the weather forecast we are in the 90's for the next 9 days.

What I'm reading: Alas, no time for reading this last week. And I don't see much extra time this coming week. I have been reading through a couple of curriculums for some reviews I am working on for The Crew....

What I'm listening to: Bookworm is playing her piano....our summer school schedule starts about 45 minutes later than the rest of the year but still includes time to practice music.

What we're learning: This week the older children are working on their math and literature. They have one final assignment due for their co-op writing class, and we are all starting a new Bible curriculum that I am really excited about.

What I'm watching: After we improved the drainage of my bean containers they seemed to look a little happier so that was good...there are gorgeous blossoms on my cucumbers but not one vegetable yet. I have some green tomatoes on the vine, the green onions need to be pulled, and the watermelon looks surprisingly happy. I say that because I have never successfully grown a watermelon before, and I'm hoping this year will be different.

What's cooking: This week I am making Gyoza, Miso and edamame one day, Chinese Fried Rice another, and on the day that I'll be out all day.....Chili in the crockpot.

What I'm buying: This is my week for big shopping....I don't think that I'll make it out this week and will probably shop early next week, but I do need to come up with menu ideas. Some of the things I want to make next month...chicken stir fry, chicken wraps, tostadas...

What I'm thankful for: I am really thankful for my friends. Through them I am convicted, encouraged, and blessed.

What I'm praying: That I would see what Christ has done, extending such abundant grace to me, a sinner, and desire with all my heart to obey His word.

 What I'm planning: I need to get going with my planning for co-op. I am using this book to teach singing and basic music theory to the students; there are a few places that I need to adapt the curriculum and come up with my own stuff and our first meeting is this week......aaackk!

What we did this last weekend: Saturday we went up to our friend's house to hang out, fellowship, and tattoo rabbits. Yup, they have rabbits that they are taking to their fair and all rabbits going need their tattoos. Sunday we heard an encouraging sermon on working out your salvation, then enjoyed visiting with people during our extended fellowship. Then we went over to a friends house for yummy food and good conversations.

What I'm looking forward to: We have a busy but fun week ahead: Our 4-H pizza party/awards ceremony is Tuesday and our first real co-op meeting is Wednesday. Then Friday we are heading to my friend's fair to watch their competitions and hang out, and Saturday we are possibly catching up with some old but very good friends. (Not old in age; we've just known them a long time, but they now live across the country and are coming for a visit.)

Pictures to share:

~Saturday morning for breakfast Bookworm made PW's cinnamon rolls...

 ~Some of the kids having a blast Saturday afternoon.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: That I am pretty much recovered from the fair. After tons of laundry last week, cleaning the house, editing photos, organizing bookshelves,.....I finally feel like I am back on track this week.

What I'm reading: I am planning to finish up Age of Opportunity this week. After that, I am not sure what I should read next.

What I'm listening to: Breeze coming through the window. Children stirring upstairs. Today we might get a little rain, which should cool things down a bit.

What we're learning: We are starting our summer schedule this week: school will be only in the mornings and will consist of Math, Across Five Aprils Literature guide from Progeny Press, Science and History from our new co-op, and for the first couple of weeks in June, our 4-H record books. The younger two will continue with their reading and phonics assignments too.

What I'm watching: Over the weekend we watched David Copperfield. I really enjoyed the story! My Sweetie has read the book but I haven't yet and we don't own it, so now it is on my reading list.

What's cooking: This week I am making Moroccan Chicken with Lentils, Chipotle Chicken Salad, and Mediterranean Wraps.

What I'm buying: I can't think of anything to buy this week, but I did put Italian Seasoning, cornstarch, and band aides on the list of things to put on my monthly shopping list.

What I'm thankful for: I am really thankful for my family. I love my husband so much and my sweet children (most of the time) make me smile.

What I'm creating: I have a couple of reviews that need to be written, and I want to catch up with my journal writing. Now that I have this blog I find I don't write so much in it, but I love looking back over the years and seeing what our family was up to and it has been a few weeks since I updated it.

What I'm praying: That the Lord would continue to sustain the job my husband has, and the jobs of our friends. And that we would ultimately look to Him for our needs.

What we did this last weekend: We did yard work on beans were becoming quite unhappy and so my Sweetie drilled holes in the bottom of the wine barrels so they would have more drainage. We grilled chicken and vegetable kabobs and hung out in the yard that night. Sunday we went to church, watched Nutsy and Dasher give their Sunday School presentations, then had our monthly fellowship meal. Then home with our family for a quick dip in the pool, and chicken nachos for dinner.

What I'm looking forward to: Starting our new summer schedule! It is a bit less intense then our normal schedule and I am looking forward to it. We have our first meeting with our new co-op this week too; the mom's will be planning out the year and the kiddos will be playing.

A picture to share:

~Friday night pizza: Grilled sausage and mozzarella with caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

County Fair 2012 - Last post

The very cool thing about this years' fair was that, after 3 years of trying, we finally made it to the auction. This is a very serious auction, with real buyers who are looking to buy good meat animals. Law firms, food service companies, builders, small business owners, and chain grocery stores are all there to bid at the auction.

This whole process took lots of work; a month or so ago, our kids wrote buyer letters to prospective buyers. Telling them a bit about themselves, what they are learning in 4-H, and asking them to come to the auction.

The auctioneer, complete with his cowboy hat....

Bookworm was up first since she had a 5th place she is in line with all the FFAers around her.

Here she is in the auction ring....the auctioneer doing his speed-talking spiel, smiling and looking the buyers in the eye, selling that rabbit.....and it sold!

Dasher did a great job too and had a little bidding war going on for her rabbit.

And Mr. Lego was trying his best to sell his rabbit, and ended up selling it to an industrial construction company.

After the animals sold, we went to find our buyers and thank them with a little gift. We also wrote thank you cards to be sent to them next week.

We hung around the auction all day; helping our friends get their animals ready, seeing the big cowboy hats and belt buckles, and the humongous steers get auctioned off.

When we weren't with the rabbits, we were in the barn....

...playing cards....

....or hanging out with the goat.

We had our rabbit potluck....

...with a cake just for the rabbit people.

And of course we ate rabbit.

This was one of the most delicious rabbit dishes I have had.

The last day we had Rabbit Bowl.

Mr. Lego was in charge of asking questions to the can see Bookworm with her team here too.

After 4 rounds her team won 3rd place.

Then Mr. Lego was up with the seniors on a team called the Californian's....

...they battled it back and forth until the Californian's won.

Great experiences, good lessons, long days, and fun times.

Friday, June 1, 2012

County Fair 2012 - Part 2

The next day we were at fair bright and early to clean out our stalls.

We are supposed to have the barn cleaned out by 8am....

....this thing comes by at around that time to clean away what we have swept into piles.

Today was the breed show. Here are the bunnies...waiting to be looked at...

And we got 1st and 2nd in senior does and 2nd in senior bucks.

The girls got out their rabbits for people to pet.

Our market rabbits: YUM, STU (as in stew), and BQ (as in BBQ).

Then we waited and waited for the Nigerian goats, Pygmies, fiber goats, dairy goats...until the very last class which was goat whethers under a year.

Bookworm got to help our friend show his baby goats in the show.

The whole time, that baby goat was crying for his mama.

At one point he firmly planted his feet and would not go one step further. Bookworm had to carry him out of the ring.

Emma and her friend watching the goat show.

Finally, what all the kiddos had been looking forward to....rides.

Even Dad got to go on a ride.

I went down this huge slide....I was a little freaked out because coming towards the bottom, we were on our way to hitting the metal guard rail at the end.

Another late night, but a fun day.