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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A-man is 8!

My not so little guy anymore turned 8 last week.

Well, I guess there is still a little guy in there....

He asked for a red velvet cake this year.  I guess he has officially become a southerner!  And, he wanted his cake decorated with Archie comic books stuff.  I usually try to actually decorate a cake and draw out sketches and scenes.  But, the red velt cake mix I got had this filling stuff and you were supposed to bake it in a Bundt pan.
So, instead of one of my "masterpieces", he got this....
He has always loved Archie comics.  There used to be a little used book store in our town that had cardboard box after cardboard box of old comic books that he used to dig through and get.
Anyway, in typical fashion he was happy with his cake and anything that happened that day.
I think V-girl has her eye on one of his presents!

Here he is with some of his favorite presents...
 We got him an (already loved my some other person), spy jacket.

L-girl made him a Ninjago pillow case.
A-girl made him a book bag/stuff bag that I somehow didn't get a picture of here.  It is a canvas bag that she put camo pockets on in varying sizes so he can haul his stuff around more easily.  He is always climbing trees and just hanging out, so this way he can bring his essential with him.  I came out of the house one day a week or so ago and Rainman said, "Look where he is and what he is doing."  A-man was perched up in a tree reading.  Rainman said he had been there for about 45 minutes.  I used to do that when I was little.  I didn't always climb a tree, but I would go out in the woods and find a log or a big old tree trunk to lean against and just read.

Loving little S-girl statue thing we have going on here. 
Can't you just sort of see what A-man is going to look like all grown up in this one?  My heart hurts....
But, for now, he is still my little snuggle dude and I will take it.  For the last picture, I will show you the shot that I actually was able to capture with my very fickle, moody camera of him opening up his spy watch....
Love you, A-man!

Friday, February 22, 2013

A+ Soft Tutor Math

I think you know by now how I feel about math.  Right?  It scares me a little.  I live a little bit in fear that my kids will inherit my nervousness about numbers.

So, just about anytime I get a chance to have the kids try a new math program, I jump on it.

This time around, A-man got to try an on-line program called A+ Tutorsoft, Inc., Inc..

There is also a physical CD product.....  

 photo 3rdGradePremium.png

......or a homeschool, on-line version.....called, A+ Interactive Math, which is what we used.

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It is billed as multi-sensory interactive math and has courses for grades 1-6, plus Pre-Algebra and Algebra.  We used the 3rd grade level, even though A-man is in 2nd grade this year.  We took the placement test and it looked like he could handle some of the 3rd grade stuff.

What We Liked:

It is a pretty detailed program.  It really covers everything and even some stuff that I was surprised was included in a program for 3rd graders.  It highlights the numbers or the things to really pay attention to as things are added to the screen, sort of like a Power Point Presentation as bullet points get added.

I like that sometimes the way the problems were presented, really made him think......

Like, asking them how you got to a number like 874. 

Then giving them multiple choice options, where the answers weren't just the standard 800 + 70 + 4 or 8 hundreds, 7 tens, and 4 ones.  But, you had a choice that said 7 hundreds, 17 tens and 4 ones....or 7 hundreds 14 tens and 7 ones.  See?  You have to think and really know place values. 

I also liked that there were worksheets available to complete on-line or for you to print out. Actually,
I liked the whole printable section that included worksheets, tests, and the reference pages that show place values (whole numbers and decimals), measurements, angles, shapes, time conversion charts, etc. 

In the e-book section, they have the answer keys for all the worksheets and tests.  (Again, whenever I don't have to think, I choose not to.) 

With A+ Tutorsoft being available on-line, that would definitely come in handy if you were traveling or even just at dentist appointments for the family.  Easy to access and follow along with the lesson from wherever you happen to be.

Depending on your child, they may be able to complete the work without you constantly sitting at their side.  The on-line access comes with a parent page where you can check their progress on the worksheets and tests.

What We Didn't Like:

Not that I am into all the bells and whistles and cartoon characters, but the teaching portion of the program was a little dry, and didn't seem to be suited for a young child.  The teaching portion was very "college professor giving a lecture"-like.  A-man didn't like the teacher's voice and sometimes the sound seemed a bit muffled.  There is a monkey that climbs across a rope at the end of the lessons telling the kids they did a great job though, and there are more bells and whistles and fun kid stuff in the Interactive Q&A sections though.

(Working on the Interactive Q&A section.)

I didn't like the busy look of the page, but that didn't seem to bother A-man.

The program had tutorials to watch to help figure out how the program worked and where to click, which helped us figure out how to navigate, but even with that,  we were wondering if we had done things correctly and clicked the right buttons for his work to count and be tracked.

We ended up printing off the lesson plan and just marking things off when we finished them, because you could log into the program and start wherever you wanted.

This program just wasn't a good fit for A-man, but I suspect that it would have been for D-man at this age.  It is just a different presentation style that he didn't respond to.  It is a really detailed math curriculum that could easily stand on its own.

How to Try it For Yourself:

You could try program with the physical CD version, but, the on-line version gives you the most features, including automatically grading the student's work.  You can also choose between standard and premium versions.  The premium editions come with the added features of being able to track student progress, set academic start dates, and hide/unhide solution guides.    Here is a table that compares the different products and features of each product.

A+ Tutor Soft is generously offering a coupon code for my readers to give this program a try! You can get 50% OFF through the end of MARCH. The coupon code is: SPOFFER50

You can get a full year of access to  A+ Tutorsoft on-line at a regular price of $124.99 (but remember you can get 50% off through the end of March).  You can also pay quarterly for $49.99 or monthly at $19.99.  Lots of payment options.  The grade level CDs cost $99.99 per grade for the standard edition or $124.99 for the premium edition.

Still not sure, even with the 50% discount?  Try a free trial of A+ Tutor Soft Interactive Math.

The TOS Review Crew tried out both the physical CD version and the on-line version in different grade levels.  Check out what they had to say.

Disclaimer:   I received  free on-line access to this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest 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.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Song School Spanish

Music is powerful.

It helps....(or makes) remember stuff whether you want to or not.

I mean, I remember way too many lyrics from my high school days.  Don't even get me started on the ones I am embarrassed to say that I sang along at the top of my lungs to....only to realize years later what I was actually singing!  (Billy Squier's  - The Stroke -  anyone?)

My point is, like the ABC's or the books of the can make some things much easier to remember....for the rest of your life.  I mean, I still sing the ABCs in my head when I am alphabetizing.

That is sort of the concept behind Song School Spanish by Classical Academic Press.

This curriculum is designed to be used with ages Kindergarten through 2nd or 3rd Grade.  So, I have been using this with S-girl and A-man, but of course, V-girl does not want to be left she is hanging out with us.  She listens to the music, but does not do any of the workbook pages.

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(Meet Conejo and Tortuga!  Hola!)

This curriculum came with a student workbook and CD, as well as a teacher book for me.

The CD has 42 short, little, fun songs/chants on it. 

The ideal plan is for you to complete a chapter of the workbook each week, which would take you through 31 chapters during your school year.  They suggest having a lesson 3 times a week.  We have ended up spreading ours out a bit more, since we are only doing Spanish class 2 days a week. 

The lessons are all laid out for you. Almost no thinking or digging required by the teacher.  You know I am all over that.

Each lesson starts by explaining what you are going to learn in that Chapter, the words, the letters (how they look and sound different than our own alphabet), the songs (they even tell you in the student book what track they are on the CD and how many times to sing the verses).  There is writing practice of the new words, story time, some simple art projects (like drawing your teacher or how your face looks when you are sad).  There are fill in the blank questions and songs. 

I liked the workbook and how the lessons were laid out.  Super easy for me and easy to follow for the kids.

In the back of the book are little cut out thingies that you can color and make into puppets or just tape them to a pencil or stick to help them visualize what the thing is that goes with the Spanish word.


I will admit that the first time I popped the CD in before we started the lessons, I didn't find the songs all that enjoyable.  But, they grow on you.  And when you use them (as intended) along with the lessons, you see how they truly help solidify the new words inside your head.  They are catchy.  They run through your head when you don't necessarily want them to....but, what that means is that you are learning.  I would much rather my kids learn this stuff that the lyrics to The Stroke, wouldn't you?

There wasn't much that I didn't like about Song School Spanish.  I felt it was age appropriate for what is was marketed towards K-2nd/3rd. This product is described as a "gentle introduction of Spanish grammer".  It is.  You are not conjugating verbs with the kids, but through the use of the songs and stories, you figure out that the Spanish language is put together and structured a bit differently than English.


We loved the inclusion of the website Headventure Land because they had a free Flash Dash game that ties in with Song School Spanish where the kids could practice the vocabulary words they were covering chapter by chapter in their lessons.  Super cool resource!

We have had a little Spanish study in our school already, so some of the things they caught onto really quickly because they remembered us studying it before.  But, really the songs (although annoying sometimes) really did a lot of the work to solidify things in their little heads!

I know there are some people that are anti-workbook for kids, but not me.  I love workbooks.  I love having hands-on practice of concepts.  I think the kids also enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that they get when they finish their work for the day or week. 

If you get the teacher's edition also, it has a few teaching helps, but also has the answer key for the workbook pages.  I could see using this with older students in a more independent way, because the workbook is so well laid out, and then just checking some of their work with the answer keys. 

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For now, we are doing it together (which is why the songs are stuck in my head too).

Here is a sample of the workbook pages.

If you want to listen to a few samples of the songs, click on this link and then scroll down to the tab that says "Sample Songs".

One cool thing that is available (but I didn't need to use) is the "Ask the Magister(teacher)" link through Classical Academic Press.  You just type in your contact information, what book you are using and what your question is and they will get back to you.

Song School Spanish through Classical Academic Press costs $24.95 for the student book and CD,  and $24.95 for the teacher's edition.

The TOS Review Crew reviewed other items by Classical Academic Press besides Song School Spanish.  They reviewed God's Great Covenant, the Old Testament too.  To see what the crew thought of Song School Spanish and God's Great Covenant, click here for their opinions

Disclaimer:  I received the Song School Spanish workbook, CD and teacher's edition from Classical Academic Press for free, in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Flowering Baby

Review season is back!  For some of you that is probably great news and there are those of you that I know may be tempted to skip my review posts.

But, rest assured that even if you aren't a homeschooler, there will probably be something interesting in my product reviews.  If nothing else, it will give you insight into how us weird homeschool families work!  So, don't run away just yet.

The first product we got to try is called Flowering Baby.

When I first heard Flowering Baby, I thought of those  Anne Geddes prints of babies dressed up as flowers.  But, this isn't a photography course.  It is a curriculum for early childhood (Birth through 5).  I am not sure if it is what the creators (two homeschooling moms) intended, but the name really makes sense to me if I think of all those phrases about, "Kids really blooming."  or "She really sprouted this year."  or "You grow where you are planted."

If you have known me for any length of time, you know I am not really "pro" preschool.  I think of that time as fun and relaxing for kids.  Yes, of course, they learn.  But, I don't want it to turn into a big,  high pressure learning situation.

None of my kids have had any specific preschool training and have, thus far, all excelled in their school work.

So, I was a little skeptical, until I looked at some of their sample pages and realized this was my kind of preschool.

Low Key.

It is put together by the year and then broken down month by month.  You can follow a theme or a monthly calendar.

We used the Three to Four curriculum for V-girl. 

For this particular curriculum, there are general "education" things, like recognizing letters, numbers, and shapes, but also thematic units, like Transportation, Music and Instruments, Farm Animals and Gardens, and Dinosaurs.  That kind of thing.

(Working on her shapes)

This curriculum is pretty easy to use because you use lots of things you have around the house for art projects and easy to find books from the library (if you don't already have them on your shelves).

V-girl and I used a combination of the monthly guide and the thematic guide for her "school".  And, honestly, we didn't always stick with the plan.  Because, sometimes, when we would start something, it would turn into something different.

Like when we were looking at the globe and finding the arctic to talk about penguins and cold and ice.  It turned into where do we live?  Where does Grandma live? Where are we going on vacation?

So, as usual, we tweeked the Flowering Baby curriculum to what worked for us. 

They incorporated a lot of great websites to go along with whatever you were studying.  Even if it would have only gotten me some new websites for free coloring pages, it would have been worth it.....but they had a lot more than just coloring page sites.

This "school" is really as easy as something like: look at the globe and find ________ (fill in the blank), then read a book about that place and the things and people that live there, and then cut pictures of some of those things out and paste them on paper while you name them.

That is it.

I know you are thinking, "Well, I could do stuff like that on my own".

And maybe you are right, but, for me, now that I am on kid number 6, and my attention is running to and fro and my energy is usually partially sapped....having someone else do the thinking for me is heavenly.

Here is a sample look at the Three to Four curriculum.

And, honestly, I never would have thought about starting "map studies" with my 3 year old on my own.  But, you know what? She loves it.  She gets it.  She is identifying places on her own.  Who knew?!?!

Our school time only takes about a half hour...give or take five minutes.  She is still V-girl, so some days she just isn't in the mood to do what I want her to do.  I don't push it, partly because I am tired, but also partly because I don't want school to become a horrible thing she has to do.  I want it to still be fun.

("Reading aloud" about aquatic life with the Little Mermaid....which actually wasn't one of the recommended books.....she came up with that one on her own when we were talking about things that live in the sea.)

One of the greatest things for V-girl is that is there have been so many "Curious George" books included in the suggested reading.  She loves "Monkey George" and since we have recently found a local library that we love (and doesn't give us dirty looks as soon as we step in the building), we have been able to get books from the suggestions that tie in with whatever we are taking a look at that week  (dinosaurs, pets, winter....get the idea).  There is a lot of reading in this curriculum.  What is not to love about that from either a 3 year old perspective....or a tired momma perspective?

I looked at the Four to Five level a bit and noticed that it covered things like teaching your child about "911" and gets them started writing their numbers and letters.  It also suggests bigger read aloud books in addition to Curious George and Winnie the Charlotte's Web (not sure I would tackle that kids always make fun of me when I cry at books!).

I didn't look much at the other grade levels, but Flowering Baby has been nice enough to include samples of all the age ranges.  So find the range you are interested in and go take a look!

Birth to One Info          Birth to One Sample

One to Two Info           One to Two Sample

Two to Three Info        Two to Three Sample

Four to Five Info          Four to Five Sample

I was able to just download the curriculum to my computer and start using it right away.  Since I am old fashioned and like to have paper things in front of me, I went ahead and printed off the units up front and created my own "book" with the curriculum inside.

The good thing about that is that L-girl was able to help V-girl complete lessons too if I had too much other stuff going on (never happens around here, right?)

Overall, I really liked this curriculum.  It was very easy to use.  I could do as much as V-girl could stand.  We could veer off onto similar topics easily and it was no big deal.  Like I said, I honestly never would have thought of pulling out the map or globe for her yet and she loves spinning the globe around and finding the places we have talked about.

And, as you can see.....

(Ignore the floor and look at the cute little girl, okay?)

V-girl is excited to go to "school" just like the big kids!  ( floor is a mess...I wonder if that is her pencile on the floor....I have been looking for my kitchen towels too....and do you think that plant needs some water?)

The ladies at Flowering Baby have agreed to let my readers have a 10% discount on their products. 

Just enter the coupon code, "Blog10" at check out.

If you are debating whether to send your little one to preschool, or even debating whether you actually can homeschool your kids. This is the perfect product to try out and see how you both do.  I think you will see how fun, and doable it is to teach your own children.  Flowering Baby makes it really easy and, like I said, takes the thinking out of the equation for you! 

The Three to Four Curriculum I used has a regular price of $38.00 for the year long curriculum, with the younger age curriculum just costing $30.00.  But, with the 10% off coupon code it will be even less.  (I will let you do the math  Winking smile)  Seriously, can you find a preschool program cheaper than that?  I don't think so.

As usual, the TOS crew got a chance to try out all the different Flowering Baby products for the different age levels.  Go take a look and see what they thought and how they used it at their house.  I bet some of them followed the rules and didn't even tweek things like I did!

Disclaimer:  I received a free download of the Three to Four year old Flowering Baby curriculum for free, in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Sneak Peak at the Ocean....

I bit the bullet and decided to upload my pictures to the computer and cross my fingers that I get my back up situation taken care of sooner rather than later.

Lots of Valentine's goings on at our house today, so here is a sneak peak at our time at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

First time at the ocean.
A-man was the first one "in".....of course he got drenched.
A-girl after one of the games in the activity center.
Off the balcony of our room.  We had a great view!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Little Winter Vacation

I meant to be one of those bloggers that was organized enough to schedule a few posts while we were out of town.

But, I am not.

So, if you have been faithfully checking in to see if there is anything new.  Any homeschool product you can't live without.....any cute things that the kids did.....any home improvement project that FINALLY got completed.....sorry.

I am back.

I am a little afraid to load my pictures onto my computer because my external hard drive is full and my computer hasn't backed itself up in about 2 or 3 weeks.

Do I need to go get another external hard drive?

Do I delete stuff on the external hard drive and just back up again?

I really mostly care about my pictures and my downloaded stuff for school....oh, and my stuff in Word. 

Is there a way to set up my back ups for just those things and that they will just replace the existing ones instead of saving and resaving until there is no room?

I will figure it out and post some pictures soon.  I haven't even seen them yet.  Especially the ones I took on the beach....because, even at the time I took them, I couldn't really see what I was taking pictures of.  The sun and water just kept reflecting back at me, so in the little view thingie all I was seeing was a close up of my sunglasses and eyeball.  We shall see what I got!

I will leave you with this thought, which my friend, Sherri, tells me is a very telling statement:

Rainman and the kids had a wonderful vacation.