Sunday, July 29, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up - July 29

Another week here at home (yay!). It's been HOT with thunderstorms, so we've been inside most of the time.

Continuing to enjoy lots of read aloud time. . . some more work on straightening the girls' room, though not as much as I might wish.

We found a new batch of kittens this week. I figured there were some somewhere, maybe. Last month I noticed the 3rd stray cat looked pregnant and then got REALLY skinny. But she's been hanging around quite abit, seems to go in all directions when she leaves here, and the time the girls tried to follow her to see if she'd lead them to her kittens, as soon as she noticed them following her, she came and started rubbing around their legs (we've named her "Lady Underfoot" (after reading about a cat named "Lord Underfoot" in a book) because she likes to be right. under. our. feet!). So, kind of like one of the earlier batches, I wasn't sure if the kittens had survived because the mama seemed to be around the house so much.

So anyway, after one of the thunderstorms, Rodney had asked the girls to take the wagon and go along the private road that leads to our driveway and gather some of the branches that had fallen, to get them off the road and so we'd have them to use for our Fri night firepit. While doing that, they heard the kittens up near the barn, and found 3 kittens, a long-haired black, and 2 calicoes. So, since Daddy "gave" the one surviving kitten from the earlier batches to Little Bit, Sassy is "campaigning" to get to keep one of these calicoes as "her" cat. I'm leaving that to be worked out between her & Daddy.

Friday evening was a fun, but bittersweet time. We enjoyed dinner with our neighbors (who are moving away in Aug) and our Pastor & his wife (who are moving away in 2 days), they will all be missed SOOOO much, so while we loved spending time together, visiting, and eating yummy food, it was also sad to think that we weren't likely to all be together again. Proof of how much Pastor Mike and Miss Linda will be missed, before the evening was over all 3 of our girls were on their laps or hanging over the back of their chairs and Pastor Mike was teaching the big girls about the geography of Michigan (yesterday a storm was coming through so we turned on the weather channel and MiniMe immediately could point out Michigan on the weather map and said "hey, I see the mitten!" LOL) :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Crew Review: Math Essentials

We're a "living math" kind of family, but as the girls get older . . . and their logic skills mature, we're getting closer to the point where we'll be looking for something  to use for math to breeze through and fill in any gaps that we missed. So I figured we'd dip our toes in and review Math Essentials.

We received 2 books. Mastering Math Skills Book 1, with DVD. And Mastering Math Skills Geometry. We started with Mastering Math Skills Book 1

PhotobucketEach lesson is only 1 page in the workbook (there is no textbook, explanations are on the included DVD). The lesson begins with 4 review problems, reinforcing things learned in previous lessons, and 2 speed drills (one addition, one multiplication). The speed drills are blank, so the teacher can decide what number to use for the speed drill each day.

After the student has done the review problems, and speed drills, and the teacher has gone over these problems with them so they can check their work. We watch the DVD segment for that day. The segments are very short, only a few minutes and very basic, showing only the problems . . . so think of it kind of like your tv turning into a chalk board (white board?) and the teacher is doing problems on the board.

Then there are 10 problems, for the new skill, and one story problem, and that's the end of the lesson.

Doesn't that sound great?!? Having gone through school doing all those repetitive math assignments, I LOVE how short each lesson is and how fast paced, each page adds a new skill. If I could have done math this way, as a student, I'd have loved it! What we discovered, however,is that when a child has never had to sit and do long, boring, repetitive math assignments, 10 problems seems like a lot. So we have ended up breaking most lessons into 2 days and I just make up extra "review problems" for the extra days.

Another thing we came across was that Sassy and MiniMe want to know WHY everything works the way it does . .. they were absolutely NOT content to just take my word for it (or the teacher on the DVD's) that if you carry a number over to the next column (for addition), or borrow from the next column (subtraction), so we spent a lot of time going through WHY it works to carry/borrow (have YOU ever really thought about WHY that works? I never had . . . I SOOOO wanted to say "trust me, it works!!!" but figured that was kind of defeating the whole love of learning thing we've been working on for so long. . . so we plowed through and figured it all out and it finally made sense to them . . . I was blown away with the addition that they could do in their head though, without carrying . . . they have a great grasp of it all, it's just "ok, now let's do it like they do it in school" that gave us fits . . .

Photobucket We ended up not getting to the Geometry book at all, I think, down the road, it might be great, but at this point they are kind of overwhelmed with just the basic book, so I didn't want to confuse things. by adding Geometry into the mix at this point, I'm excited to use it in the future!

So, what did we decide? I still REALLY like how quick and to-the-point it is! If I had to learn math over again, this would be my product of choice! My girls, have done well with it, they are learning a lot, quickly. But they don't enjoy it. And it hurts my heart to hear them groan at the thought of math. . . . I think it's all a matter of perspective. If your child is used to doing longer math assignments, they will likely love how to-the-point this all is. If your child, like my girls, are used to learning math while cooking or helping build a playhouse, etc, and have never sat down to a math workbook, then, well, this is still a math workbook . . .

I still haven't ruled it out. I think it's not the right choice for us right now . . . we're going to continue with our living math approach for this year, in some ways they're so grown up, in others they're still so very little . . . they know that at some point we will have to do SOMETHING to make sure we haven't missed any important gaps in math. We may very well opt for this series when that time comes, but that's at least a year off.

So, I recommend it if you've been using a more traditional math curriculum and are looking to streamline! And, just to reiterate, I do think this would be an ideal choice for reviewing/filling in the blanks with an older child. It's quick and to the point, but packs a ton of information into the quick lessons!

I'm going to defer to other reviewers on how accurate the age/grade level is. Math is an area where I probably have the least of a solid idea as to "grade level" for my girls. The book we are using says 4th/5th grade, they are finding it challenging, but not un-doable. . . they are 9 years old, but have had no "formal" math, so . . . I just don't know what "level" they are at.

The workbook and CD that we received sells for $33.95. If you have multiple children, or feel confident to teach 4th & 5th grade math without a "teacher's guide", you can purchase the workbook alone for $15.95.  The Geometry book, which does not have a CD, is $11.95.  The site also offers a variety of other math books.

As always, you can see what other Crew Members thought, here. In addition to the books I reviewed, other crew members reviewed a selection of Math Essentials' products, so browse around and see what they thought of all these great math products.


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the above mentioned product in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are those of myself or my children, as stated.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up for July 22

Look at how organized I'm getting, actually writing my weekly wrap-up on Sunday, like I'm "supposed to".

You know what that means. It means we had a boring week LOL. Or at least a quiet week, which I'm perfectly ok with! But it doesn't lend itself to exciting blog posts.

So seriously, what DID we do this past week?

Well, we spend time at home, which is a lovely thing to do! We're in the midst of reviewing several things right now, so we took some time to focus on "school" (while it's too hot to enjoy being outside anyway, although today is pretty nice out).

Daddy told Little Bit that she can keep the one surviving kitten from the earlier litters of kittens, she promptly named the (male) kitten "Joy.  And has been doing her best to love the poor little thing to death. It endures her love with amazing patience, and makes a beeline for the front door, or he's decided that under Rodney's recliner is a good hiding spot . . . which it is . . . unless he's under there sometime when Rodney puts his footrest down, not sure what that would do . . .  Joy and MiniMe's cat, Moccasin aren't on great terms, I'm guessing the problem is that Joy's mother is quite territorial (I thought that was a male thing?) and has claimed the porch as her territory and chases Moccasin if he tries to be on the porch, sigh . . . So, I think Moccasin smells her on Joy and therefore keeps his distance. . .

Our history slowed down abit while we finished up listening to Uncle Tom's Cabin, which is an incredibly long book! The girls seemed to enjoy it however, and we wrapped it up this week, and did a quick overview of Bleeding Kansas, now we get to dive in to John Brown . . . such a morbid part of American History, sigh . . . But definitely interesting! And the girls are excited to read about John Brown since they didn't get to learn much anything about him when we went to Harper's Ferry earlier this year.

Little Bit is plugging right along through the alphabet, we learned about the letter L this past week, and much to her excitement, that included getting to "lick lollypops" for snack one day :) Her favorite in-car entertainment right now are Leap Frog videos, so that's fitting in nicely with this, to give her a very firm foundation in letter sounds and such. With all 3 girls, I've used the alphabet song as a "transition song" from the time they are very young toddlers, until they're old enough to not need a transition song (though some days I think I should still use it with the big girls, sigh), so right now, one time I use it for Little Bit is to let her know that it's time to stop nursing. I'll tell her "ABC and then no more nummegs" (her word for nursing, don't ASK me where she got it, I have no idea), then sing the song. One day this week, I decided to see what she did if I mixed up the song (at that age, the big girls could sing the song, but couldn't separate it out into individual letters, or start in the middle. And even at age 5-6 didn't really associate the song with the letters they were using to learn to read, I can remember MUCH later, talking about putting something in alphabetical order and it took some rewording for it to click with them that if you sing the alphabet song, that's the order of the alphabet LOL), so I sang something along the lines of "A-B-C-D-Q-R-S . . . "  she picked up on it immediately, and would tell me what letter I *should* have said, then sang through on her own, then said "now you try" it was SOOO cute! And rather impressive, for a 3 year old LOL. But then, she doesn't really understand that she's only 3 LOL.

One of the fun things we ended up doing this week was to play with the alphabet bean bags her grandmothers each made for her for her birthday. We matched up letters that were the same, and put them in order and such, she was LOVING it. (she also loves to throw bean bags into a bucket, basket or Bilibo, which was what scattered them all over the floor, requiring us to put them away, and while we're putting them away, we might as well do a little sorting right?

Each week, one thing that I print out and laminate is that week's letter, in both upper & lower case, that looks like a "road" to drive matchbox cars on. She doesn't always drive her cars on it,  but does seem to like having it. This week I had most of the letters we've learned so far in the bag I took to piano lesson (my challenge is always to keep Little Bit quietly entertained during MiniMe's lesson. Now Sassy is asking about having violin lessons, and the thought of keeping Little Bit quietly entertained through TWO lessons is abit daunting, but that won't happen until we get past the busyness of late summer/fall, so maybe she'll be old enough to enjoy being read to or something by then). So anyway, she found the whole pile of letter/roads in my bag and proceeded to sort them out putting upper & lower case together. She needed some help, but did pretty well. Somewhere I have a felt "train" that has upper case on the track & lower case on the cars or vice versa, guess I should find it and see what she thinks of it. . .

We started a fun new Bible Study that looks at various girls/women in history and the virtues they exhibited. The first girl we've been reading about is a medieval princess, which is whetting their appetites for world history :)

For the first time, we're putting alot of time and effort into math, more on that coming soon (with the review).

MiniMe continues to LOVE LOVE LOVE her piano lessons! It makes her easy to find, if she has free time, chances are, I'll find her at the piano, either practicing or trying her hand at composing.  And encouraging her even more, in her piano passion, we're currently reviewing a fun e-book that teaches about some of the great hymn writers. Now Miss "I can do anything" thinks she should be able to sit down and play all the hymns we're learning about LOL. Her wonderful piano teacher did say she'd see if she could come up with a simplified version of one of the hymns (just the melody) and teach it to her.

We are also working on re-vamping the girls' room right now. The idea has been brewing in my mind for awhile now, but we've been too busy. I'm doing my best to encourage my little pack rats to either give away things they no longer leave, or at least pack up things they aren't using, we're having some . . . success . . . LOL. At least we're getting through stuff and getting it organized abit more. Awhile back we hung a mirror in their room so they weren't fighting over the bathroom mirror so much, and as we were straightening things up, one of them suggested that if they had a shelf under the mirror it would be a place to put hairbrush, etc. I was trying to decide if I thought I was "handy" enough to hang a shelf (probably not), but then while we were looking at back-to-school stuff it hit me that we could turn crates into a "shelf", so we got a couple crates and stacked them to make a shelf. It's working well, except Little Bit feels left out (there are 2 crates). So, since I need a couple more crates to corral homeschool books in (in a perfect world I would have enough bookshelves to have all our books on shelves, organized by topic or something, but since I don't, I'm finding it works well to keep the books specific to a certain curriculum all together in a crate(s) that can be stacked and accessed as needed) I'm going to get a couple more and either stack them 3 high (they're rectangular, I think if I stack them horizontal instead of vertical they'll fit that way), or make it a "longer" shelf and have it 2 wide . . . might do it stair-stepped and have Little Bit  have her own little top shelf to put some of her stuffed animals or something on. . . So we're making progress, and hopefully once we get everything situated, they can keep it clean better . . . maybe . . . we'll see . . .

So that's been keeping us busy this week.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Pittsburgh - Part 2

Our second day in Pittsburgh we had a hard time deciding what to do. We could either stay at the hotel all day, swim and such, and just let Daddy have the car, OR we could spend a LOT of time in the car, taking him to his client, and picking him up when he was done, but then we'd have the car in between to go to the Children's Museum. The challenge was that it was a LONG drive from his client to the Children's Museum, and he wasn't expecting to have to be there until 6pm, like he had the day before (different client, shorter drive, but still . .. ) So, I warned the girls that we would be in the car a lot, and might not have very long at the museum, but in the end, we chose to go. And even though we were only there for a couple hours, I'm glad we did, all 3 girls love this museum so so so much! We never moved beyond the "art" area, but that's ok too.

Little Bit was definitely more into this year, she loved the painting, and painted at least 3 or 4 "paintings".

The big girls love this area, always have. I wondered if they might be "outgrowing" it, they've been abit less craft-obsessed lately at home. But no, they loved it the same as always, jumping right in as if they owned the place. Here's some of what all three of them spent their time doing:

Paper Collages

Little Bit enjoyed the clay.

MiniMe made SEVERAL pieces of handmade paper, and got Little Bit in on it too. Here's Little Bit ladling the liquidy paper "goop" into the papermaking frame.

And here's MiniMe turning the wheel to squeeze all the water out.


Little Bit enjoyed the "building" thing . . . big pieces of wood and plastic with hole in it, and then tons of nuts & bolts to use to put them together, or just put through the holes.

A huge hit, and new since last time we were there, was SEWING!! There were tons of fabric scraps and needles and thread and pins and . . . I'm not sure what else. Once the big girls discovered that, they spent the rest of their time there. Even stayed there, sewing, while I took Little Bit to the cafe for a snack.

So that was our time at the Children's Museum. Definitely worth going, even with all the driving it involved! And since we're listening to Uncle Tom's Cabin in the car, extra driving time is "useful" (that is one freaking LONG book!!! The audiobook is SIXTEEN CDs long!!!)

The next day dh just had a quick stop at a nearby treasurer's and then we were heading home, so the girls and I just stayed at the hotel, packed, did some school, and of course . . . went SWIMMING!

And then, when dh got back to the hotel, we loaded up and headed home. 

One more fun tidbit/picture and then I'll stop boring y'all. In preparation for the trip to Crayola, I had to REALLY clean the car, so that we could all ride together. That meant actually making room for 3 kids on the back bench. While I was at it, since we'll be towing our minivan behind my parents' motorhome during a trip next month, I figured I might as well kill 2 birds with 1 stone and do a thorough job all around. And in the process, I managed to find the headphones for the DVD system. So on this trip, Little Bit discovered the "fun" of listening to her "TV" on the headphones. Much to the delight of the big girls, since it mean they (we) could continue listening to Uncle Tom's Cabin while she watched Letter Factory (over and over and over and over . . . ). Isn't she cute riding along wearing her headphones LOL.

So that was our trip to Pittsburgh. Now we're back home and trying to get back on top of the housework and not melt in this HEAT, and such.

Crew Review: TimeMaps


As you've probably figured out, we LOVE LOVE LOVE history around here!! So any time a history review product comes along I'm generally jumping up and down. This one, I did, pause slightly on, because it's world history, and we are thoroughly immersed in American History right now, but I just couldn't pass up the chance to check it out.

PhotobucketSo, what is this? THIS is TimeMaps from Knowledge Quest. You can download it directly onto your computer ($44.95), or purchase it on CD-ROM ($49.95). It's a set of 7 electronic maps. Each map is for a specific time/event in history. For example, the Rise of Rome, or the Black Death. You can see the 7 maps available, and purchase them individually, here. When you open the map it begins at earliest point in that specific history. There are place names, and other relevant things on the map. Clicking on an "i" (for information) at the top of the map means that you can then click on small "i" icons in various parts of the map and to open boxes that gives information about that specific place/event/person. You can also click on boxes that will animate the map to show trade routes, etc. In addition to the map, there are teacher helps and student worksheets to go with each map.

This was abit challenging for us to use, simply because it is all world/non-American history (it would be awesome if they had these maps for the Revolutionary War, Civil War, Westward Expansion . . . ). So, we weren't able to incorporate it into our normal history. I had fun playing with it familiarizing myself with the product for review purposes for several days before I even showed it to the girls. I decided that, while it works fine on my little netbook, for demonstration purposes, and so that we could all see it better, we should use it on my husband's big laptop (and I do mean big, he and I have an ongoing argument on what the preferred attributes of a laptop are, he wants the biggest one he can find, I tend to think laptops should be . . . portable LOL). Anyway . . . so I handed the CD to dh and asked him to set it up on his computer for us. And then he wouldn't give it back!! HE played with it for awhile, until I pointed out that we didn't have to give it back, so he could play with it whenever he wanted but could we PLEASE go on with school right now?

So after all that, my poor, deprived children finally got to check it out. It took a little while to get them into it, since they aren't very familiar with  world history. Once they understood what it was all about, they didn't want to stop. I finally had to tell them that, I was very sorry, but no, we couldn't learn the entire history of Rome in one sitting. 

PhotobucketSo, since we're immersed in American History right now, that's how we "used it" for now. HOWEVER . . . when we finish American History (which is going to take at least another year at the rate we're going), we plan to start learning World History, and THEN we will really dig into this program and I can NOT wait!! Using this as an "accessory" of sorts to a great, living books, history curriculum will be amazing. To learn about Alexander the Great and then come to this map and be able to watch the Greek Empire spread across the Persian Empire, will be so much more meaningful! This is a great supplement to absolutely any World History Curriculum, I can't think of any style it wouldn't work with! Even radical unschoolers could put it on their computers for the kids to play with :) 

And while you're on the Knowledge Quest site checking out these awesome maps, be sure to poke around some more, they have TONS of amazing looking products! Some of my fellow crew mates got to review the MapTrek ebooks. So be sure to head over to the Crew Blog post to see what others thought of both TimeMaps and MapTrek.


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the above mentioned product in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are those of myself or my children, as stated.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pittsburgh - Day 1

Last week we spent a few days in Pittsburgh for Rodney's work. It's been awhile since we've been out there, I guess that means he's doing his job, so has less training to do. Good overall, but the girls had been missing our favorite museums, so we were excited to go back.

Our first stop was Carnegie Science Center. LOOVE it!!! The last couple times we've gone, things have worked out to have Daddy come with us, or one year, my parents came through Pittsburgh while we were there, so they came with us. This year it was just us girls. Which had it's challenges since the stuff the big girls love the most is in a building that doesn't have much for Little Bit to do.

The area Little Bit likes best (the "toddler" area), has enough open ended-ness that the big girls can entertain themselves pretty well, but they don't want to be there ALL day . . . so we had to do some taking turns and juggling, but it all worked out.

First we headed to the Sports Building. That would be the big girls' favorite part, where there's not much for Little Bit to do.

Actually she COULD have jumped on the trampoline (which I took pictures of, but as I suspected, the huge windows behind it turned them into shadows, so nevermind, sigh . . . At least the way I was reading it, the only requirement was that they be over 30lbs, which she is. But she is cautious enough to not want to. She did make a very cute cheerleader for her sisters though, chanting "Go Sassy, Go" while Sassy did backflips and such, so sweet.

Then we moved on to the rock climbing wall. She actually MIGHT have been able to do that one too, it said children under such-and-such a height must be accompanied, or somesuch, but again, she was to cautious to want to try, so I didn't bother asking for specifics. The guy who was supervising the rock climbing was AWESOME!!! In the time we stood there (not very long, there was only one group of kids ahead of the girls) I saw him climb that wall probably 6+ times, to help various kids. The picture above is the only one I got of both kids climbing. And you can see that he's helping MiniMe find a foothold. When Sassy got up closer to the top, he actually climbed up beside her and let her use his hand for a foothold to get up the last little bit, she made it all the way to the top (22 ft, I think it was).  MiniMe wasn't willing to use his hand as a foothold once she was up higher, so she didn't get as high, but she sure tried to find the holds on her own, she kept trying different routes until he said time was up.

Meanwhile, Little Bit discovered the "spinning thing". I didn't pay attention to what it's called, the POINT of it was to stand on the circle and get it spinning really fast, then lean out to slow down and lean in to speed up. She preferred to stand on it and make it b-a-r-e-l -y move, but she loved it, and the place was empty enough that nobody was waiting for her to be done so, whatever . . .

After that we moved on to the toddler area so Little Bit could have some age-appropriate stuff to do.  As always, her favorite was the water play and she would have happily stayed there all day. She did also enjoy the drums (shocking isn't it?" and "planting" vegetables in the farm area.

Some of the other fun included, MiniMe's attempts to build an earthquake-safe structure, experiencing what it's like to be in a diner during a hurricane (I was abit nervous as to how Little Bit would react when the big girls invited her to join them, but she did fine. Don't think she really understood it but she didn't freak out, so it was all good.

Little Bit and Sassy also got to meet and pet a turtle, I tried to get a picture but the child who literally pushed me out of the way as I was snapping the picture kind of messed that up, and since he, and others, were being equally pushy to Sassy & Little Bit, I just encouraged our group to move along, sigh . . .

The "feature" exhibit right now is music, specifically guitar-related stuff. Which explains the huge guitar in the top picture, it was a "Rock 'n Roar" Guitar, get it?.

The big girls enjoyed a computer-based exhibit of "simon says", trying to play the "chords" (touch the right part of the screen) in the same pattern as the computer had played it. Little Bit just thought it was funny to see the "ooops" picture if you didn't do it LOL.

Little Bit DID really enjoy hitting the different types of wood to hear the different sounds, or maybe she just figured it was a fun "drum", who knows, but it kept her well entertained while her sisters were playing with the above mentioned game.

I think this is the first year that Little Bit has really gotten into the aquariums and fish. She immediately noticed that there are big magnifying glasses in front of each tank, and had great fun "spying" through the magnifying glass. I'm not sure she was looking at anything specific, but she was having fun LOL. We all thought it was pretty cool when we realized that one of the tanks had seahorses, since a favorite part of last quarter's Ocean Theme in Little Bit's class at church was to pretend to be seahorses hiding in the seaweed, and then to take little plastic seahorses to hide in the seaweed. So it was pretty cool to see REAL seahorses hiding in REAL seaweed.

 You know the 3 year old has had a full day when she ASKS to "take a nap on your back". LOL. I had assumed she WOULDN'T nap in the chaotic loudness that is the museum, and since our day was shorter than we would have liked anyway, because of needing to go pick Rodney up afterwards, I didn't want to lose a chunk of the day by taking her out to the car to nap. So I'd figured, she's fighting naps anyway, I'll just let her go without and then she'll crash in the car on the way to pick Rodney up. But she got to the point where she did, indeed, ask to take a nap on my back. Of course, since I wasn't anticipating that, and try to carry as little as possible, I'd only tossed in a thin, short, wrap, that I figured would do in a pinch. Not ideal for a napping 3 yr old. Especially one who rarely lets me wear her, so my babywearing muscles have NOT kept up with her weight, sigh . . .

But we tried it. I'm not sure I've ever done a Rebozo style back carry before (which I know means nothing to most of my readers, but just in case I have a couple other babywearing mamas who read my blog), but it worked well and she fell right to sleep. I wouldn't have wanted to do a 20 mile hike like that, but for her short nap, it worked out quite nicely and I wasn't as sore the next day as I thought I might be.

The loudness and chaos did mean that her nap wasn't super long, which I expected, and was fine with, since she did also crash in the car on the way to pick Rodney up. But it at least caught her a short nap that made her not soo tired she couldn't enjoy our last little while at the museum.

One thing Little Bit loves about this museum is that, instead of stairs between floors, they have ramps so she loves to run down the ramps. And *I* love this picture of all 3 girls running and skipping down the ramp together as we were leaving. I would have taken a video so you could also hear them singing "Three Sisters, Three Sisters . . . " (their own made-up song), while they skipped but it was soo incredibly LOUD in there that you wouldn't have been able to hear them well enough to bother.

So that was our day at Carnegie Science Center. . . check back later for the rest of our trip ;)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Crew Review: Keyboarding for the Christian School

A couple years ago Sassy and MiniMe were able to learn the basics of typing, and were doing well with it. However, because we don't typically do much of our school on the computer, they haven't really kept up their typing skills. So when we had the chance to review Keyboarding for the Christian School, I thought it would be a good "refersher course".

We received the elementary version, ebook Keyboarding for the Christian School. The book is designed to be printed out and the student then types their lessons in a Word Processing program. The early lessons remind me of my high school typing class, except I remember our teacher calling out the letters we were to type instead of us copying them out of a book. But it's the same basic approach, starting with ASDF, adding JKL; and so on.

We dove right in, starting with lesson one. I printed it out and set MiniMe up at the table with the laptop and the first lesson. She really struggled with the idea of looking at the paper, while typing on the screen. I don't think she was wanting to look at her fingers, so much as, she wanted to be able to watch the screen to check her own work as she went. Over time, she learned to look back and forth, and would check her own work (she's a perfectionist LOL). This seemed to be "proving" the theory behind this approach. The website explains "Usually you are typing something from a rough draft.  If the lessons are only available on the computer monitor; your student will not get the needed skill of transferring information from paper to the computer." This sounded good to me up front, and MiniMe's challenges seemed to back it up. But the more I think about it, I'm not so sure that is true. I can't think of the last time I typed something while looking at a paper hard copy. I write "rough drafts" of my blog posts, directly into blogger, and then just go back and edit, I don't hand write a first draft. Even if I were to print off a rough draft to edit, I wouldn't be straight typing it back into the computer, I'd just be going back in and making the edits. . . there ARE still specific careers that include lots of data entry from hard copy to electronic, but I'm not sure this is true across the board.

Meanwhile, when MiniMe finished her lesson, it was Sassy's turn. She seemed to struggle much less with typing off a paper hard copy, and has moved through the lessons without any real problems.

The book we reviewed, the elementary edition, is listed as being useful for grades K-5. I'm not sure how this differs from the middle school book, as I mentioned, it reminded me alot of the typing class I took in high school, so I would say this book would work fine for older ages as well. I don't think my children would have done well with this book much younger than they are now (age 9, 3rd/4th grade level, roughly). Certainly, I don't think this approach would work well for a child still learning their letters or just starting to learn to read. I would argue that it's not necessary to teach typing to a child that young, but if a person felt the need, there are programs that combine letter recognition/reading with the typing that I think would be a better option for at least Kindergarten & 1st grade.

So, in the end, I think this is an option for teaching typing. If you prefer to keep your children off the internet, and avoid lots of "video game" type elements, this is great for that. I think it will teach typing, just fine, much the way many of us learned "way back when". I disagree with the premise that it's "necessary" to teach from paper, rather than using a program that teaches directly on the screen. I think in most cases once a person is a proficient typer they will be able to switch back and for as needed, and I feel that for many of us, most of our typing is "creative writing" done directly on the computer.

It could be argued that you could probably teach using this basic approach without a textbook, simply by creating your own drills and teaching the basic fingering, however, since the ebook is only $12.95, I'd say it's easier to not have to think it all through on my own :) 

In addition to the elementary level ebook, there is also a book for grades 6 and up, and print versions of each book. To see what other crew members thought of both ebooks, you can read their posts here.

Oh dear, I almost forgot the most important part! The vendor has generously provided a coupon code for my readers! Use the coupon code: SUMMER2012 between now and 8/29/12 and receive 20% off!


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the above mentioned product in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are those of myself or my children, as stated.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Field Trips & Farms

I'm not even going to bother with the mundane details of the last couple weeks, when we were home we were doing normal home stuff, but we weren't home a whole lot.

Two weeks ago, we spent a day at the Crayola Experience with our friends E&J. Their mom and I had both gotten discounted tickets that were getting ready to expiring, so we made a day of it and all went together. When I first got the tickets I told myself that I'd make sure we went before the school year was out, but obviously that didn't happen, I SOO wish it had, even during the week, it was CHAOTIC there. Thankfully my big girls are big enough to help keep track of the littles, and to go off on their own when what they wanted to do was different from what Little Bit wanted to do, so it all worked out. The kids all had fun, and thanks to the discounted tickets, we got our money's worth. I wouldn't recommend it on a weekend, or for a mom to go alone with multiple LITTLE children, too easy for kids to run off and get quickly lost in the crowd.

Some highlights were, playing with clay that you could color on with markers.

Painting and making "binoculars":

And "Doodle in the Dark" (drawing with glow-in-the dark dry erase markers on lighted boards in a dark(ish) room).

It was a fun day! I'm glad we did it, I doubt we'll go back :) 

The rest of that week was spent getting the 0-4 yr old room at church changed over from being an "ocean" to being a "farm".  I was happy with how it turned out, and the kids seem to be enjoying it. I haven't taken any pictures though, will try to remember to take some next week.

This past week we made a quick trip to Pittburgh with Rodney (he needed to go for work, the girls & I went for the museums, and pool LOL). So that'll be another field trip post coming soon, because I'm tired and this post is getting long.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Crew Review: Apologia - Who is My Neighbor?


Lately we've been struggling a LOT around here with the concept of putting others first. I think it's a combination of the age, and, of course, the society we live in. Even though they are much more "sheltered" from modern "look out for number 1" views than they would be if they were in school, it still seeps in. So, when I got to the chance to review Apologia's Bible curriculum "Who is My Neighbor?" I thought it sounded like a good fit. 

PhotobucketThis is actually the 3rd in Apologia's "What We Believe" series. The first two are "Who is God?" and "Who Am I?", this is the first that we've had the chance to review. The What We Believe Bible Curriculum is designed to be used for the whole family, with a suggested age range of 6 to 14. I would guess that some 4 & 5 year olds would also enjoy it, though my 3 year old isn't ready to sit still and listen yet, she's not even a big fan of picture books though, so I wasn't expecting her to be ready for this LOL.  The curriculum consists of 8 lessons. The suggested schedule is to use the curriculum 2 days per week, with each lesson divided up such that it takes 3 weeks, or 6 lessons. We decided to use the curriculum every (school) day during the review period in order to get a better feel for it in the time allowed. That said, we did miss some days, especially during camp meeting.

PhotobucketIn addition to the Who is My Neighbor textbook ($39), we also received the related Notebooking Journal ($24) and Coloring Book ($8).  Since we received one journal, and were using this with 2 children, I opted to just have them both use regular notebooking pages that I printed off, rather than the journal. Additionally, my children are still young and struggle with lots of writing, the journal is either going to include a lot of blank pages or the child will do a LOT of writing. All of the "discussion questions" that we choose to discuss together orally, are included in the journal, as are vocabulary words, etc. It should be noted that in addition to the "assignments" included in the textbook, the Notebooking journal also includes crossword puzzles, word searches and "lapbook" style, "Minibooks" for each lesson. 

PhotobucketWe also opted to not use the coloring book at this time. The older girls have never been real big on coloring, preferring, even as preschoolers, to draw their own pictures, rather than color pre-made pictures.  And again, with the one book, two kids thing. While I sometimes will print a "coloring page" for Little Bit to scribble on, since she does primarily scribble at this age, I didn't want to hand over a nice, complete coloring book to her to scribble on. The coloring book is well-done, and looks fun to color (and while my children aren't big on coloring books, *I* love to color, always have, so I can pretty quickly judge whether or not a coloring book is worth coloring in or not LOL).  My current thought is that we'll revisit this curriculum in a few years when Little Bit is in the 6-9 age range and at that point, she can use the coloring book and the older girls (who will be 12-15 at that point) can look at the journal and decide if either one or both of them would like to use it, it's beautiful, and would result in a wonderful "keepsake" of the study, if the child enjoys journalling and writing. If they both want to use it at that point, we can order another one. 

So, what did we think? While I can't say that we've solved the "me first" attitude issues, we've been having, the girls are enjoying it, and when I told them, this week, that our review period is complete and we can decide if we want to continue with this curriculum or not, they both voted to continue using it. I figure that's a pretty good recommendation. Overall, I've been happy with it, I find the layout/structure to be challenging . . . Each lesson is long, designed to be divided into 6 "classes". I find that I constantly have to refer back to the suggested "layout" or "lesson plan" in the front of hte book to figure out what we're supposed to do next. We're actually following this curriculum pretty closely to the "recommended way" (rare for us LOL), other than using it every day instead of 2 days per week. While I expect to have to jump around in a lesson when I "tweak" things, I am finding it frustrating that I can't just go straight through without having to "think about it", when I'm using the book as suggested. I also find that some days are much "longer" than others. The first & last day of each lesson each involves a LOT of reading, and I often divide them into 2 days to keep it from being too long for the time we have, the childrens' attention spans, and the amount of time I can expect Little Bit to self-entertain while I read to her older sisters. The 2nd day is quite short, and, in many cases, seems to have little real "religion" in it, often being more cultural trivia and such, which, while interesting, I don't find to be a good use of our "Bible time" (I'm pretty picky about making sure that Bible time is truly Bible focused, so finding a good portion of one day's reading to be a description of various types  of public transportation, doesn't really excite me). Going forward, I'll probably be dividing large reading days into multiple days, and skipping much of the cultural notes type information.

This is a curriculum that can be used in a structured/formal setting, a "family worship" setting, or even handed to an older student to read and use as a personal Bible study, on their own. I'd recommend you at least look into this series if you're in the market for a new Bible curriculum.

You can see what my fellow crew mates thought of this book, here.


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the above mentioned product in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are those of myself or my children, as stated.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up - July 1

Did you miss me? Campmeeting always makes me hermit-ize for abit afterwards.

So let's see . . . last week (a week ago) was campmeeting. We stayed in my parents' motorhome, which made it bear-able even with the odd weather, chilly the first few days, HOT the next couple . . .

The big girls had a blast, as always.  This year the afternoon activities didn't grab them, so they opted to not participate, which I think really worked much better for them/us. Last year they only partially participated, but even so, they were EXHAUSTED by the end of the week. This year, having that down time in the afternoon made things work better. In a perfect world I'd still vote for not having the evening meeting go so late, or having an afternoon meeting and NOT an evening meeting, like Kindergarten, but nobody asked me LOL, so given the options, skipping afternoon activities, made things go more smoothly.

Little Bit did NOT sleep well. The original plan (concocted by Sassy & Little Bit) was that the 2 of them would share the bottom bunk. But Little Bit didn't fall asleep well and her wiggling kept Sassy awake. So she ended up sleeping with me, which worked ok-ish the first part of the week, but once my parents came up, I opted to just take her home at night and she & I could sleep in our own beds.

Little Bit was ambivalent about her meetings . . . I think it was too much sitting still for her. I, on the otherhand, was excited to get some great song ideas for a Zoo Sabbath School program, using music we already have and just switching up the words woo-hoo!! Now I have my 4th quarter program mostly pulled together (just have to figure out what animals & props we have and how to work around any we don't have).

The big girls continued to enjoy Family Worship. Little Bit liked the theory of it "are we going to Family Worship today?" but the reality is, for a 3 year old, it's just more time having to sit still and be quiet. Since it was early enough to run into her normal breakfast time, she was kept still & quiet by eating LOL (which may be why she looked forward to it, now that I think about it LOL).

Since we had our afternoons open, we went to Cabelas a couple days. Little Bit, interestingly enough, was pretty happy to just sit and watch the fish in the "pond" instead of looking at all the impressive animal displays. I was impressed that, as we walked into the Africa section, she said, w/o any prompting, "Africa!" I'm not sure how she knows that . . .

So, that was campmeeting week.

The last day of campmeeting, my parents had determined that Hopewell Furnace was actually demonstrating how they would have cast the metal (using aluminum because it's easier than iron . . . lower temp required to melt it, I think, but don't quote me on that), so we went to that in the afternoon. VERY COOL! Hopewell Furnace continues to be near the top of our list of favorite National Parks. The girls had fun feeding grass to the horses there too. MiniMe was too hesitant to actually hold the grass on her hand, but Sassy had a blast doing it.

This past week we've been recovering from campmeeting. . .
Can you spot MiniMe in the tree

We also had fun babysitting our friends E and J on Tuesday. Little Bit was rather out-of-sorts. I think more "changes to her routine" so close on top of campmeeting was too much for her. And 3 isn't an age that responds well to sharing in general. Thankfully, the weather was GORGEOUS so we spent a good part of the day outside.
Little Bit and J, sharing MiniMe's water

Beyond that, we tried to get caught up on laundry and other chores, and get some school in.

On Monday we got to visit with our neighbor, Miss Judy. She's been on a work project for the last few months and we haven't been able to have our weekly visits, so it was fun to be able to catch up.

On Friday Rodney took the girls to visit Grandmom.

And we wrapped up our week by visiting a nature museum on Sabbath. It's a small museum in Lancaster. Our Cosi Museum pass got us in free, and it was definitely worth the price LOL. There was a room where the kids could touch and play with stuff, a room with live snakes & turtles and stuff (in cages), a space exhibit, dinosaur exhibit, and then a room that had the "original cabinet displays". I didn't get a chance to read the history, but I guess the museum started out as being a display of taxidermy birds (and a few animals) over 100 years ago. So all those are in one room together. It was pretty cool. There were also some bird sound thingys (like this one), and the birds in the cabinets, that had bird sounds on the thingy, so that was pretty fun to play with.