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Thursday, June 21, 2012


Math?  Really?  Hopefully.

We had another opportunity to review an on-line math curriculum.  It is IXL.  Get it?  I....X.....L?

This time we had A-man and L-Girl give this program a try.

This on-line curriculum goes all the way from Pre-K to Algebra.  They have it divided by grade level, but if your child isn't a cookie cutter child and doesn't necessarily fit into their grade level, you can hide that information and just have them work on what they need to without having the pressure that they may not be working on the "right" grade level.

A-man worked in the first grade level which teaches 151 skills.

L-Girl worked in the 4th grade level with teaches over 200 skills.

A-man was really motivated by earning the rewards.

 L-girl not so much.  I mean, I don't think she was upset by getting them, but they are not a motivating factor in her desire to do the work.

Here is what the awards/sticker page looked like for A-man....

You've earnedGold medal 26 medals
You've answered1,101 questions
You've practiced for3 hr 19 min
You've mastered18 skills
You've revealed16 prizes
Till your next win
  • 899 questions
  • 2 skill

Lili enjoyed working in this program.  She really thought the problems were pretty easy overall.  So, I had her "shop around" in other grade ranges to see how she did.  That is a nice feature that with this membership, you have access to all grade, if your kids need an ego boost, they can work on lower grade levels.  Or, if your kids want to challenge themselves, they can see what the older grades are all about....even Algebra. 

The program seemed really easy for the kids to log in and find work to do on their own.  I loved that IXL sent me a weekly report that showed me everything they had much time they spent working on many problems they worked.....and their Smart Score (from needs improvement all the way up to mastered).  Without the weekly report, I probably would have forgotten to check on my own what the kids had accomplished.

I can go to the site and log on to see if there are trouble spots and lots and lots of statistics like how much a cumulative score increased or the performance statistics and how they either increased or decreased.  There are lots of pie charts and graphs to show you the results, if you like that sort of thing.

We used IXL in addition to our regular  math curriculum, but I think it would stand up quite well as a stand alone program too....if you didn't mind all of the work being done on the computer.  I don't love that option, so I will continue to use it as an "extra".

IXL could also be a good option for people who worry about their kids forgetting too much of their math over the summer break.  It is something that can be done quickly and easily throughout the day without supervision from you. 
You can gain full access to IXL for up to 3 children for just $9.95 a month or for $79 a year.  If I wanted more of my kids to use this program, I could add them into the account for just $2.00 more per month or $20.00 per year.

If my kids aren't in the age range that you are interested in, go take a look at what other crew members kid's did and see what they thought. 

Disclaimer:  We received access to for free in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Few Random Things....

It is VBS week here, so I am gone half of the day and in an exhausted stupor the other half of the day.

But, here are some random things from what has been going on around here.

S-girl lost her first tooth.

L-girl made matching dresses for her and her little sisters.  D-man and A-girl were on their first mission she took the job as oldest sibling very seriously and did a GREAT job!

V-girl has decided that she is too big for, instead she does this at the dinner table....again.

Rainman and L-girl (really mostly L-girl....see her down there past Rainman's legs?) ripped off the truly disgusting carpet on our basements steps and I am happy to report that the wood is in great I should be able to paint them with something really cute.

As his Father's Day gift, Rainman's office went from this.....

To this.....

And, last  but not least....

I was recently cutting D-man's and A-man's hair (I am actually getting pretty good at it).  Anyway, in the middle of A-man's cut, I was interrupted so I needed to step away....this is what I came back to....

Can you see it there.....under his arm?  He grabbed a wad of hair from the floor and stuck it under his arm. 

That boy cracks me up!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Algebra Via MyMathLab

In my on-going quest to make my kids better at math (especially Algebra), I sign up for every possible opportunity to review a math project.  Yeah, my kids love me!  ;)

We got a chance to use a product from Pearson, called MyMathLab.

(Has anyone else seen this same "mom" in a lot of ads for homeschoolers?)
From their website:

MyMathLab is a series of online courses that accompany Pearson’s textbooks in mathematics and statistics. Since 2001, MyMathLab--along with MyStatLab and MathXL, have helped over 9 million students succeed at more than 1,900 colleges and universities. MyMathLab engages students in active learning—it’s modular, self-paced, accessible anywhere with Web access, and adaptable to each student’s learning style—and instructors can easily customize MyMathLab to better meet their students’ needs.

There are a lot of features to this program: homework assignments, testing, immediate feedback for the students, to name a few.

Also, when you join MyMathLab, you gain access to a community.  A community that is filled with over 10,000 math instructors.  They also have on-line chat help available 24/7....just in case you have a night owl that cannot sleep until they have completed some Algebra!  According to their website:

 A typical course in Algebra 1 or Algebra 2 is completed over an entire school year – or approximately 36 weeks. However, this course is set up so that it can be delivered based on your desired timeline. If your child works for 90 minutes per day and 5 days per week, the material could be covered in approximately 18 weeks. There are 10 units included in the course; you should determine how much time to spend each week per unit in order to complete the course by your desired deadline. To complete all 10 units in 36 weeks, approximately three weeks per unit is needed. 

So, you can buzz through it really quickly....or you can take it easy, and move at your own pace, because you have access on-line for 18 months.

How we used it:

I think I have told you before that we aren't really using a "real" curriculum this year for D-man's Algebra.  We got a used college level Algebra textbook that we have been using.  I say "we" loosely because I haven't had anything to do with his math this year.  He has basically surpassed my skill level....but not Rainman's.  Although with MyMathLab, neither of us would need to be an expert to "teach" this course.

As a parent, I could (if I wanted to) edit his assignments, or add tests or quizzes.  Or, I could (like I actually did ) do nothing, and just let him run with it alone.
They have all kinds of math, business math, statistics, calculus, ....even up through college levels.  Here are the list of titles they have available.  Here is a just a sampling of the Algebra titles they offer.

I asked both D-man and Rainman to use this program and see what they thought.  D-man fit it into his regular lesson plan and did some of his math time with his existing textbook and some with the MyMathLab. 

He doesn't really like to do school on the computer...he much prefers actual textbooks (he is his mother's son)....but, he said he liked it and liked that it told him right away when he got stuff wrong.  As he described it, he just "read the textbook, then worked the problems.  That's it."

He didn't love that he couldn't move on until he had gotten a score of 90%. But, I guess I support that requirement, because then you don't run into my problem of having to move onto new stuff before you really understand things.....Mr. Anlauf....I am talking to you.

Rainman, who I thought wouldn't like it, because it was sort of new-fangled technology, actually really liked it.  He said that the Algebra 1 level of MyMathLab was very similar to what was covered in the college level textbook that we had been using.  He did not read the on-line textbook, but watched the instructor videos, which he said were just like college lectures.  As he described it, he just "watched the videos, then worked the problems.  That's it."  (Hmmm....I guess D-man has a bit of both of us in his DNA!)

Overall, both D-man and Rainman thought this was a really strong upper level math program.  They both said that it was a little hard to navigate the site at first, but once they nosed around a bit, they figured things out.  (All of that probably could have been avoided if they watched the Getting Started video that was available.....but that is just me talking. )  ;)

Pearson has a lot of stuff available from elementary social studies to reading programs to science.  Just go to their site and search by grade level to see what they have to offer.  They are also working on Advanced Placement (AP) courses. 

MyMathLab Algebra 1 is available for $49.97 and the parent kit is available for  an additional $30.00.

The Schoolhouse Review Team tried out a lot of different Pearson products this time, so go take a look and see how they liked theirs.

Disclaimer:  We received student and parental access to MyMathLab Algebra 1 for free, in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mmmmm.......Hold Still!!!

This is why my children are so pale. 

We no longer go to the beach! 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Discovery Scope

This is one of the coolest things we have gotten to review....ever.

It is a hand-held, widefield microscope.  Hand-held, like you actually carry it around with you....even look at things under a microscope!

L-girl, A-man and S-girl have had a blast with this....although S-girl doesn't quite have the skills it takes to get everything completely in focus....she still thinks it is really cool to walk around our yard and pick stuff up and look at it under the Discovery Scope.

The information page on the Discovery Scope website goes into all the great features this little guy has. The last thing they mention is that light makes the difference.  And, boy, is that true.  The beauty of this is you get your specimen clamped into place and then you move into different lighting to see it in different ways.  Like, for example, you could have the light just bouncing off the eyes of your bug.....or you could move so the light is shining through your bug.

The Discovery Scope is very small and most definitely portable.....and definitely sturdy.  In fact, if there is any problem during "normal" use of the scope, they will replace the defective part, for free. 

It is, quite simply, a way to look up close and personal at things....but not have to put them on a slide to do it.  It comes with a little clear plastic box, so you can catch live specimens and look at them without having to squish them on a slide.   So, you take a look and then release the little guy.

Did I mention how small it is?

L-girl has it in this one.  They are looking at a tiny slice of watermelon.
Here is my picture of the dandelion that the kids were looking at.  I tried to get one of the caterpillar too....but instead of putting that one in the specimen box, A-man put it in the clamp....and, it died.   I did get to see it....but it was gross.   Lesson learned.

Alright, my little point and shoot camera set for macros isn't quite cutting it.  (There is a camera adapter available.)  One of my fellow reviewers, Marcy, has a fancy Ipad that takes pictures (do they all?) and hers turned out really well.  Take a look....

Bottom line is, this is one of those products that is NOT just for homeschoolers.  Any curious little boy....or girl.....would love having one of these around when they head out on adventures.  It would be a lot of fun to have on a camping or hiking trip.

I know it isn't Christmas yet....but these would make a great Christmas gift....they could look at a snowflake on their mitten....and prove once and for all that each and every snowflake is unique.

You can get the basic Discovery Scope Kit for $40.00, which includes, one Discovery Scope©, one mini clamp, one multi-use chamber holder, two 1"X3/4" clear view chambers, and one water dropper.   It comes packed in a Tupperware-type container with a lid, so it is easy to throw into your bag and take it on the road with you.  That is something you cannot do with a standard classroom microscope.

I love, love, love that it is can look at stuff in your, uhhhhh....dust bunnies.  No, really, you could look at sugar, salt, your toothbrush, a pencil....the bottom of your toys to see their country of origin....the options are endless  But it is created so you can walk around your yard and find treasures to look at that don't require picking the flowers off their stems....or killing bugs....again.....we are sorry, little caterpillar.

You can see what other TOS crew members thought of the Discovery Scope here.

Disclaimer:  I received the Discovery Scope for free in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Just In Time....

I am finally making this house mine and it is just in time.  I told you in this post that since we moved in almost 3 years ago, I have hardly hung up any pictures and personal items.  I did hang up the kids baby pictures in our bedroom, and I hung up these "yearly" portraits on our main level.

I mostly hung them up because most of the nails were already in place from the previous owners.  Our wedding picture is in the middle.  I will confess that these "yearly" photos are not so "yearly".  The picture of D-man was the last one taken while we lived in Minnesota.  The others I took here in Georgia....but they aren't exactly current either.

Notice anything wrong with this little tableau?

Here.  Look again.

Down there.  Bottom right corner.  Yup, an empty frame.  That empty frame has been there since I hung these up....well, that it not entirely true.  It did hold V-girl's 8x10 newborn shot from the hospital until I  felt guilty enough to actually start her scrapbook....when she was about 1.

So, as you know, I have started painting trim and filling all the nail holes that have just been sitting around since we moved in. 

There were a lot of nails that I just let sit in the walls from the previous owners. 

I know. 

It is sad, isn't it?

I am doing this project  little by little, as I have time, or, more accurately, as the kids will leave me alone so I can do it. 

Last night I was painting (actual walls - which I will fill you in on later) as the four youngest kids (D-man and A-girl are on a mission trip) watched Prom.  I know....but, for some reason they love it....and it doesn't have any language or inappropriate content. (I have to admit I love Lloyd and Jesse is one cute, not really a bad boy, "bad boy".)

I walked through this hallway where the pictures are located...

(Like the toy gun and Incredible Hulk fist, plus miscellaneous garbage strewn about?)

....and I found V-girl standing by her play kitchen....but, she wasn't playing.  She was looking up at the pictures on the wall and said,

"Where's me?"

Like I said, this taking pictures down and painting and revamping things is just in time.  I had totally forgotten that there was an empty spot where V-girl should be.  Totally.

I promise you V-girl, momma will actually take the time to order a beautiful picture of you and hang it up when I put these back up!  I promise!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I Might Turn Into One of "Those" Blogs

Long story a wee bit shorter.  We wanted to sell our house and move.....but, times being the way they are.....we are stuck.

So, I am finally (after 3 years in the house) painting and hanging pictures and making this place my own.

Part of making this house work for us is sort of re-purposing how we currently use the space.  If I pull this off, I may even get my dining room back and actually be able to eat in it and not just use it  doing school.

I have just started the projects....but I am already excited about what I see.

The people that lived here before us had no children.  None.  The whole house is painted with flat (read.....non-washable) paint.  So, number one, our walls are digusting.  Number two, the house feels very formal and fancy.

I am not, nor have I ever been formal or fancy.

The drapes that came with the house are really nice....heavy, tapestry type fabric.  Pretty.  Formal.  And, definitely NOT me.

(Ignore the picture of A-girl modeling and wearing make-up.....just focus on the curtains.)

Here is the kitchen....which didn't have the full down to the floor draperies....just the topper thingie.

So, I took them all down.  Boy, did it open up the space and make it seem lighter and brighter!

In some parts of the room, there is a chair rail with kind of a burnt orange-y color underneath.  The trim throughout is sort of a creamy beige.

(Pedicare night at our house...complete with reading material!) is what I have done so far....

I have painted the trim white....and done a primer coat on the orange stuff....I think I will keep the bottom looks clean.  I can paint it a high gloss enamel so I can wash all the gross stuff that ends up there right off!

Anybody have an opinions about America's Finest Paint?  I am on a I went for that option. 

So, just a warning....I might turn into one of those blogs where I post all the pictures of my projects and paint color choices and DIY stuff that goes wrong.

Fair warning.  I am a little obsessed.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Is This Horrible?

I saw this posted on Facebook by a friend of mine.  I read it. 

Laughed out loud. 

D-man heard me laughing and came over to see what I was laughing about.  I said something about how funny it was.  He read it over my shoulder and said, "Well, yeah....but it has a lot of bad words."

So, I said, "What bad words?".... then proceeded to start reading it outloud......which then made him repeat over and over...."Mom!  Stop!  It sounds horrible when you say it."

Rainman and I don't curse.....really.....ever.  I rarely even think them in my head.

So, my question for this horrible?  Should I have not let my 14 year old son see it?  Hear me say it?  Am I a bad mom?  (maybe you shouldn't answer that last one)

Sorry, I still think it is really funny.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Have You Ever Slept in a Wigwam?

After Oops! this isn't Route 66 adventure,  we headed to Holbrook, AZ.  To.....

Sleep in a WIGWAM!!!

We had done this on our last Route 66 trip too....the only difference this time is....we got 2 teepees instead of one.  Everyone had gotten a little bigger since last we have added V-girl to the clan.  So, all the kids sleeping in a double bed like last time just wasn't going to work. 

So we split adult per wigwam....then all the girls decided they wanted to be with I got the boys.  Since we have 4 girls and only 2 boys....I think I had the more comfortable night's sleep!

They are a super cool place to stay.  Small.....but cool....obviously, the walls are slanted, but that also means the shower is slanted....the mirror in the bathroom is slanted.....the wall for the toilet is slanted...

We decided to do something else that we had done the last time we were in town.  Go bowling!  Since our last visit the ownership had changed hands....and it was really quiet....and a little smelly in there.  But we had fun.....and we had the whole place to ourselves!

A-girl showing her stuff.....with the bumpers up!

Great night of family fun.  Expensive night of family fun. Two games for our family cost over $60!  Isn't that unreal? 

Oh, well....we headed out to dinner at this place....

The Cars people also ate here back when they were researching the movie and even include Joe and Aggie in the end credits of the movie.  It is sort of a dive....crooked, wonky floors, mismatched tables and chairs, out of things that were listed on the menu.  But, the food was good and the service was no complaints.  Although the owner of our hotel said she would recommend a different place to us next time....someplace that more of the locals go.

After our bellies were full, we headed back to the wigwams for a little fun.

I think A-girl is on her tippy toes.....

Trying to do the domino thingie without anyone getting hurt. 

Then we separated and went to our separate wigwams.  Then the boys and I spent like a half hour trying to get a decent picture of the three of us.

Oops!  No D-man.

Oops!  No A-man.

Plus there are countless blurry ones, and ones of me with a really bad double chin....

I am not showing you those...

Here is my favorite....although it is still slightly blurry.....

And A-man looks like he is being stabbed.....and is about to hurl.  But, the important thing is....I look good, don't I?  The blur gives me a nice soft touch....and the best double chin!!!

The kids goofed around a little bit in the morning before he headed out.

Shadow stabbing.

Before heading out of town, we swung by Prospector Joe's Trading Post.  Which was just an old abandoned Ember's Restaurant that Prospector Joe now lives in and sells/trades things out of.  Prospector Joe was the only other person at the bowling alley the night before (he came to visit with the new owner and have a cup of "Joe").  We chatted with him a bit and he invited us over for coffee in the morning.

We stopped by his place and got a few A-man's cowboy hat...said our goodbyes (we didn't end up staying for coffee....because he had to get his wood stove going to be able to brew, I don't think he thought we would really stop he wasn't really ready for us) and headed out of town onto our next adventure.