Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A+ Interactive Math

Well we began the new year with a bang, and plopped right into a new math curriculum. Math has never been my strong point so when this product came up for review with the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I decided to have one of my precious daughters try it out.


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What It Is:

A+ Tutorsoft, Inc. has created an online full-curriculum math program called A+ Interactive Math. They offer programs for grades 1-6, plus Pre Algebra and Algebra 1. I received the 2nd grade online program which was easy to download and begin. The sections that second grade covers are these:

  • Numbers Sense: Counting and Identifying Numbers
  • Numbers Sense: Place Value, Writing Numbers and Number Combinations
  • Number Sense: Naming, Comparing, and Arranging Numbers
  • Addition
  • Subtraction
  • Multiplication
  • Division
  • Rounding and Estimating
  • Fractions
  • Tables, Charts, and Graphs
  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Time
  • Money
  • Measurements

Pretty impressive, huh? Within each section are the lessons. Each lesson is interactive, with graphics and animation that help to teach the concept. The program uses three senses: audio - listening to a teacher explaining the lesson; visual - using animation and objects to show the concept; and verbal - at many places in the lesson your child is asked to repeat information or answer a question.


What You Get:

I received the online version. You have the option to purchase a monthly subscription for $19.95, a quarterly subscription for $49.99, or a entire year of A+ Interactive Math for $124.99. The other purchase option is to buy the CD which comes in two different levels; standard for $99.99 or the premium level for $124.99. You can see the 2nd grade Table of Contents here.


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With the online version, along with the lessons you receive a Lesson Plan, with 32 weeks of suggested study. Each lesson also has a printable worksheet and an online one. And then each section has its own exam, both online and printable. Another helpful resource on the site is the curriculum e-book. This is literally the 'text' of the material and gives the parent flexibility in teaching the concepts. Answer Keys to the printable worksheets and exams are also provided. And to make it very easy to track your child's progress, there is a Progress Tracker tab where, at the touch of a button, you can see what worksheets and exams your child has completed and what grade they received.

And right now A+ Tutorsoft, Inc. is offering a 50% off promotion through the end of March. Use the coupon code SPOFFER50 to get this great deal.

How I Used This:

The daughter that I had do this program does struggle with math and I thought that she might enjoy the change of pace. Even though she is halfway through a math textbook I started her at the beginning of this curriculum. Which was a good thing, since she needed a bit of place value review.

Each day she would watch a lesson. The lessons were not too long and always ended with an interactive quiz. If she got an answer wrong the right way to solve it was explained. Then I had her do both the online worksheet and printed one. She enjoyed having her time at the computer and liked filling in the answers on both worksheets.

In the beginning she felt like the counting section was a bit repetitive but I kind of feel that you can never do too much math. The graphics were appropriate and not too showy; sometimes schoolwork done on the computer can get inundated with crazy animation, but A+ Interactive Math did a good job of holding her attention, but not in an overwhelming or silly way.


What We Thought:

There were things I liked and didn't like about this program. There were many times in the online lessons when the 'teacher' would ask her a question. She would then say the answer rather quickly, and that tended to frustrate my daughter, who was still struggling to come up with the answer. And then when she got into the addition section I felt she could have used more questions in the worksheets; most worksheets have only 10 questions and she just needed more drilling with the math facts. I also wish that the worksheets were more cumulative; for her math is a struggle and she needs lots of review questions to master it.

But I loved the lesson plans and the way they progressed. The questions asked within the lessons were all very appropriate and useful in teaching the concepts. I also liked that A+ Tutorsoft offered printable worksheets. Many times online math programs offer only online problems which can become a problem in higher math levels. I feel it is very important to learn how to write out problems in math and this program did a good job of balancing between paper-and-pencil math and online learning. And the Progress Tracker was very helpful in keeping track of her grades and how far she had progressed. Overall I liked this math curriculum and will continue to use it with her.

You can also check out other Crew members who wrote about this company by clicking below.

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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest and humble review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: That I can't believe it is going to be March this week. I love getting January and February behind me, but it seems that every year goes faster than the last. It also feels like spring is right around the corner...

What I'm reading: I changed my mind about the book I am going to read aloud to the kiddos....Now I am reading My Family And Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. This well written book is a humorous glimpse at the author's childhood in Greece with his family, and of course all the animals he befriends. I am totally loving this book so far. 

What we're learning: This is the last week the older children have to work on their 4H presentations. I am starting a mew music curriculum with all three girls, we are learning about health and nutrition in science, and the older two are studying The Hobbit in literature.

What I'm watching: Over the weekend my Sweetie and I watched a couple of Sherlock Holmes films...the old ones with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. It cracks me up the way they talked back then...."Why hello, old girl...." Why would anyone want to be called old girl?

What's cooking: This week I am making Butternut-Kale Lasagna, Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole, and then Apricot Chicken in the crockpot. Bookworm is having another cooking lesson this week and is going to make Clam Chowder.

What I'm buying: Well two of my kids just got their Polish rabbits....we now have 3....a black one, a chocolate, and a ruby-eyed white. This means that they can all start practicing showmanship for fair.

What I'm praying: That the Lord would continue to give me patience and grace as I teach, train, direct, and guide my precious children.

What I'm planning: Well I have 3 reviews I need to write in the next couple of weeks, writing papers to correct for co-op, and the March poultry meeting to plan. It seems to never end....

What we did this last weekend: Saturday we went out to a goat farm and the kids picked out their market goats. They are not yet weaned so we are planning to actually go get them in the middle of March. Yesterday we went to church and Sunday school, then over to a friend's house for a relaxing afternoon.

What I'm looking forward to: This afternoon a dear friend is coming over with her children for tea and scones and I am looking forward to that. And this next weekend is our county presentation day and my Sweetie and I are both looking forward to judging.

A picture to share:
 





~Co-op last week: The Littles working on their earth science lapbooks...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Falafels with Tzatziki Sauce

Eating costs money.

And I try to make nutritious, but yet tasty dishes for our family, and do it without breaking the bank. One of the ways that seems to help is to incorporate more vegetarian meals into our menu plan....meat does seem to be a big part of our food bill. I am also not a big fan of substituting meat with meat substitutes like soy burgers or tofu hot dogs. So I turn to recipes that are meant to be vegetarian, and are quite tasty too.

One of these is the Falafel.

Falafels are a Middle Eastern dish: deep fried balls of smashed chickpeas and spices, usually stuffed into pita bread. Which sounds like a daunting thing, but is actually not that hard at all.

First you start with chickpeas, otherwise known as garbanzo beans.



And since I am trying to save money, it is much cheaper to buy dried beans and cook them yourself, instead of opening a can. The biggest problem with this idea is that it does add a couple of hours onto your cooking time, so you do have to think ahead.

Almost all beans need to be pre-soaked, and chickpeas are no exception. So into the pot they go, with a couple of inches of water.



I do a fast soak, which means I bring them to a boil, then turn off the heat, put on the lid, and let them sit for an hour.

The other option is to have them soak in water overnight, but that takes even more ahead-of-time planning.

After they have soaked I drain them, and then put more water back in and bring it to a boil. I then turn it down low and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.


This part of my version is a bit of a controversy; falafel purists say that you can skip this cooking step, but I see the hard beans after my soak and feel I need to cook them just a little.

After a bit of a simmer, they get drained.





 Now the spices come out.





I add coarsely chopped parsley and onions, cumin and coriander, garlic, salt and flour. This all goes into the food processor.


( You can see that I had to switch machines....this one here is my trusty food processor that never dies. It has been with me since someone gifted it to us on our wedding; the only problem is it only holds about a cup at a time.)


The whole batch pureed.





Now comes the fun part.

Get your hands wet and make golf ball-size lumps with your hands.





Then I press them like a pancake.




Not too thin; these are still at least a half an inch thick. If they are too thin, they will fall apart when you fry them.

At this point they can go into the fridge until 10-15 minutes before dinnertime.

The other thing that is a MUST with Falafels is the Tzatziki Sauce.

You begin by straining out yogurt by lining a colander in a bowl with cheesecloth and letting it sit in the fridge for a few hours.




Or, if you are like me and never seem to have cheesecloth on hand, use a dampened paper towel.

Into the strained yogurt goes thinly sliced cucumbers, garlic, salt, and olive oil.




Traditional Tzatziki can also have dill or parsley, but we like it this way.





Finally I chop up some lettuce and coarsely chop some Kalamata olives.

 


Now we are ready to fry the Falafels.



I wanted to have them all done at once, so I heated about a half inch of oil in both my cast iron skillet (my favorite pan in the world) and my other teflon frying pan.

Once the oil is hot, in goes the Falafels.




If your heat is good, ( I fry at about medium-high), each side should take about 4-5 minutes.



 Don't worry about bits coming off; these are kind of fragile, so you have to be careful. And the little crumbs taste just as good as the patties.

After a few minutes of draining on paper towels, they are ready to eat.





With our Falafels I usually make Tabbouleh, and serve home-baked pita chips (pita bread, cut into wedges, brushed with olive oil and sea salt, in a 375 oven for 10 minutes), hummus with olive oil, and slices of feta cheese.




Yum.



The garlic is so tasty, but not overpowering, the Falafels are crunchy and moist at the same time, and the olives and Tzatziki sauce lend the perfect flavoring to this lovely dish.

Here are some other vegetarian dishes I have made that I love....

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Sauce
Mediterranean Wraps
Tostadas with Jalapeno-Lime Sauce
Easy Refried Beans
Quesadilla Pie


Falafels

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, or 2 cans of garbanzo beans
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 cup flour
salt to taste

Pita bread
Chopped olives
Shredded lettuce
Tzatziki Sauce (see below)
 Sliced cucumbers, sliced tomatoes, sliced red onions....

Instructions:

If using dried chickpeas, either soak overnight or use quick soak method. (Bring chickpeas to a boil, turn off and cover with lid for 1 hour.) Drain. Add water to cover by two inches and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Combine chickpeas and remaining ingredients; blend in a food processor. Taking a scoop in your wet hands, form golf-size balls. Lightly press and place on wax paper in refrigerator. Heat 1/2 inch of oil in frying pan over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, gently add patties. Fry 4-5 minutes on each side, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Serve in warmed pita bread with olives, lettuce, tomatoes, sliced cucmbers, other toppings, and Tzatziki Sauce.

Tzatziki Sauce

Ingredients:

2 cups plain yogurt
2/3 cup thinly sliced cucumbers
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil
A couple pinches of sea salt

Instructions:

Strain yogurt by placing it in a cheesecloth (or paper towel) lined-colander in a bowl, in the refrigerator for several hours. Thinly slice cucumbers with a mandolin or sharp knife. Squeeze cucumber slices with your hands (over the sink) to remove excess moisture. Add to yogurt, along with other ingredients. Mix and store in fridge.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: That our 4H stuff is starting to take over things. The older two kids went to Avian Bowl this last week and both won in their divisions. We are very close to buying our goats, Presentation Day is a couple of weeks away, and this is the week to breed rabbits for fair. Busy times, but good learning times.

What I'm reading: I need to get back into reading aloud to my kids. So this week I am going to start reading Booth Tarkington's Penrod to them.

What we're learning: This week and next week the older two need to focus on their 4H presentations; Bookworm's is titled Show Me The Rabbit and is about rabbit showmanship, and Mr. Lego's is titled This Little Goat Went To Market, and is about purchasing, training, and fitting a market goat for the fair.

What's cooking: This week I am making Baked Potato Soup, Southwestern Wraps and Beef Tacos for dinner. The Baked Potato Soup is one of my kid's favorite meals and super easy to make.

What I'm thankful for: I am thankful for a day off. Today is President's Day, and my Sweetie is home. We are planning a relaxing day with a nice walk, a yummy dinner of maki, and maybe a movie tonight with the kids.

What I'm creating: Over the weekend My Sweetie and I were trying to remember how we had celebrated all of our anniversaries. Some of them we just went  to dinner, other we went away for a couple of days. This week I want to look through my journals/blog posts and write out what we have done over the years.....good times and good memories.

What I'm planning: My review writing season is starting back up again...I have a couple of math reviews to write in the next couple of weeks.

What we did this last weekend: The older two were gone to Avian Bowl so it was just our younger girlies and a friend (who stayed with us while her siblings were gone to the Avian thing too). We took them to the park Saturday, the day where the high was 70 degrees. (Yay! Spring is coming!) Yesterday we went to church and Sunday school, then home for a relaxing afternoon.

What I'm looking forward to: I am meeting a friend for coffee later this week which I am looking forward to. We have co-op this week, a 4H meeting, and this weekend I think we will be going to a goat farm to see what they have.

Pictures to share:




 ~Another fun Pinterest idea....Saturday morning we put pancake batter in a squirt bottle and we all made our own creations. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What We Learned Today...


Today in co-op....



 earth science






IEW writing class





the color wheel




 mixing colors






singing class






bean nachos






Monday, February 11, 2013

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: That today just flew. I know I normally write my Monday Musings in the morning, but we had a few things we needed to get done, lots of school, loads of laundry, errands.....and I kept putting it off, and off.....well you do know that writing posts on my blog are not at the top of my to-do list. But I will post it by midnight tonight!

What I'm reading: The last thing I read was the California Driver's Handbook with my son. We are going over it like mad and studying for when he goes in for the permit test.

What I'm listening to: The kids turned on the Return of the King soundtrack....and Into the West was just playing. I love that song.

What we're learning: This week we are moving onto the digestive system in anatomy. The older two have papers due this Wednesday in our co-op writing class, and I am doing a modified version of writing for the younger two. I am also reviewing two different math curriculums that the younger two are each doing and they are having fun working through the computer/worksheet/ manipulatives.

What's cooking: This week I am making a chicken stir fry, Chicken Corn Chowder, and Falafels.

What I'm thankful for: I am thankful for sanctification. Which at times is a really hard thing to say. Our sovereign God uses all sorts of things, even things that are painful, to make us more like Him.

What I'm planning: We are planning to get our goats for 4H pretty soon. The busy spring season is approaching...

What we did this last weekend: I spent most of Saturday morning doing school planning...every couple of weeks I fill in all the kids weekly schedules in advance, make sure any necessary worksheets are printed, and correct all their old work. My Sweetie took the kids to the park and they all had a blast playing basketball. Sunday we went to church and heard a convicting sermon on forgiveness, then off to our outreach at the assisted living center. Then home for games with our friends.

What I'm looking forward to: We have a 4H meeting this week, a couple of appointments, and just the normal stuff, which keeps us busy.

A picture to share:





~Celebrating 16 years.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fun Food

Last Saturday we decided to have a fun food night. Which meant we were not trying to include all the food groups or count calories.

And what is the one appliance we pull out when we want that kind of a meal? The deep fryer, of course.

The next thing I did was grate some cheese.


You can't go wrong with those two things.


First up to fry were homemade corn dogs. (No, I am not that crazy....only the breaded part was homemade.)


And yes, my Sweetie is using chopsticks. And I have to say that they do make the job much easier.

This is a very simple recipe....we cut the dogs into thirds to make them easier to handle, dipped them into cornbread batter, and then into the fryer they went.



These could sit on the stove and warm for a while.

 In an attempt to have some kind of pseudo-nutrition, I also decided to bake some potato and sweet potato fries in the oven. I tossed them with olive oil and sea salt and put them into a 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes, stirring them around a couple of times.


But since the deep fryer was out of storage, I had to try deep fried french fries. I had read up on the proper way to fry them and found out that the best way to do it is to double-fry them. First you fry them for 2-3 minutes at about 325 degrees, then at the last minute, you throw them in again for a couple minutes at 365 degrees.

Meanwhile Mr. Lego was busy frying hamburger patties on the griddle.




Now this is where things got experimental. A few months ago my Sweetie and I went to the Squeeze Inn. This place puts massive amounts of cheese on your burger, steams it with chips of ice on their gigantic griddle, which then forms the cheese skirt. Here is a photo below of our burger which we SPLIT.


We could totally do that.

Yeah, right.

So on went the cheese and ice chips. (Which we made by putting ice in a plastic bag and hitting it with a glass jar on the counter. Very technical.)




 Then on went the lid.


 While this was going on, my Sweetie opened up the deep fryer for experiments.

The kids grabbed the Joe-Joe's in the pantry, and I cut more cheese up to fry.



 Back to the burgers....



 Hmmm, not exactly like Squeeze Inn, but still very cheesy. I think we just couldn't get the griddle hot enough to crisp up the cheese. My Sweetie says that the next time (if there is a next time), we'll try it in the cast iron skillet on the stove.




The fries went back into the deep fryer for their second fry.


And I must say that this was the closest I have ever gotten to fast-food type fries in our house. See my oven-baked ones on the baking pan in the photo below? I tossed them in a few good glugs of olive oil and they still got mushy and stuck to the pan.

The fried cheese?


It disappeared! There was only one piece that survived without the cheese oozing out of the batter.

Here was my burger. The cheese skirt was not crispy like I wanted but hey, when you're eating cheese that's been fried, it's delish.




A corndog, which dipped in mustard and ketchup is quite yummy.




But the winner of the evening was the deep fried Joe-Joe. This was exactly what you would get at the fair....a bite full of warm, chocolatey, crunchy tastiness.


And that was our dinner. Not a green thing in sight. We do eat pretty healthy for all our other meals. (We all came into the kitchen and chugged glasses of water a couple of hours later because of all the salt, and I was really craving some fruit for breakfast the next morning.)

But it is fun, once in a GREAT while, to just plain eat bad.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

To My Son: 16 Years Ago Today.....

16 years ago yesterday I went in for an ultrasound. You weren't due for another 5 weeks, but I had already been in the hospital for premature labor.

 {Cooking in our little kitchen, a month before you were born}


The doctor said that you were going to do better on the outside, so she told me to go the hospital. I quit taking my labor-stopping medication, called the grandparents, and headed with Dad to the hospital.

16 years ago yesterday, you were sunny-side up. That meant that I had lots of back pain in labor and had to work harder to get you out. I wimped out and got an epidural, tried to sleep, and held Dad's hand.

I worked for 9 hours.

Then, you arrived.


At 12:45 AM, all 3 pounds and 15 ounces of you burst into the world.

I was so happy to hear you cry.

After they cleaned you off and I got to hold you for a bit, they took you to the NICU, while I went to my room and slept.

16 years ago today, I got my first good look at my boy.




Throughout the day we all got to hold you.

 {Grandma & Grandpa}


For the next ten days I would go to the hospital at least twice a day to see you. I was so thankful we lived across the street and I could walk over whenever I wanted to!

 {Chillin' out under the bili lights}


It was hard trying to get some sleep, making sure you had milk, holding you with all the wires, and saying good bye each night.

{Dad, giving you some of my good milk}


Finally, ten days after you were born, we took you home.



You were so small that even when you stretched, your body still all fit on a cloth diaper.




We were so glad to have you home.



And now look at you.



Happy Birthday, my son.

May you trust in the Lord with all your heart, and not depend on your own understanding, but know and acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
{Prov. 3:5-6}