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Thursday, September 26, 2013

VideoText Interactive....Algebra....

This is a review.

I believe you are familiar by now with my feelings towards Algebra.  If not, check here and here

Rainman and I were both excited about getting to try out VideoText Interative.

My fear of my children turning out the way I did in their thinking and approach to Algebra has me in almost constant pursuit of combining the right approach to teaching them that it isn't so scary afterall.

We were able to try the on-line version of the Algebra:  A Complete Course.

Here is a quick video overview of the whole program, and kind of the thought process behind how it is laid out.  It is a little old fashioned looking, but it does a good job at showing how the problems are laid out and how they show the students how to work a problem.  It is an older video because it says that the author of this program, Tom Clark has over 30 years experience in teaching mathematics....he is currently up to 46 years of experience (and they show a VHS tape as part of the program)!  But, it does give you some good general information.  (Plus, you get to relive some of the fashions of 16 years ago!)

This program consists of 176 video lessons within 10 units  It covers Pre-Algebra, Algebra I and Algebra II.  I would say that is "complete".

If you are a Scope and Sequence kind of person, you can go take a look here.

If you want to see the whole Schematic for this complete course, you can click here.

There are the video lessons, but the program also has work texts (workbook), solutions manuals that they can use, if necessary, to see where they went wrong on working out their problem, and tests.  We like tests. 

Here is how it worked for us and why we all liked it:

From A-girl:

The lessons are easy to watch, I like the video lessons because they are short and to the point.

The lesson works like this: you login and then you find the unit, and then the lesson that you need. When you click the lesson it will bring you to the video page. You watch the video, then you go to the course notes (which is just a review of the video lesson) then you go to the work text pages. At the work text pages you will again review the video lesson, then answer the questions.

The next day (or if the lesson has a second or third part you will take it the second or third day) you take a quiz to see if you understood/remember the previous lesson. If you don't understand, then there is a second quiz that you can take, after you rework the lesson.


Rainman is mostly in charge of teaching the high math around here. Up until now, he has been using an old beginners Algebra textbook we found at a used book store.

So, here are the positives from my outsiders perspective on Video Text Interactive.  Rainman didn't have to decide how much to cover in a day, nor did he have to remember to teach A-girl on his days off of work.  A-girl could take care of math during her normal school hours and not have to do it at night when Rainman was around when everyone else was off relaxing and doing anything but schoolwork!  This also meant that she did math every school day...not just a few.  I also liked (and I think A-girl did too) that she could pause the lessons to work on things...or if she didn't get something.  They actually encourage you to pause and work through things before you move on.  One of the things that was a little odd for me is their recommendation that the students do NOT take notes during the lesson...because that distracts them from truly understanding what is being taught.  They seem to be right because A-girl is really getting things and she hasn't been taking notes.

From Rainman:

Since I was teaching Algebra, but am not home every day to teach, this Algebra course can cover the same things I cover, but do it every day.  I like the clear, concise teaching format.  The material covered seems very consistent with what I would have taught.  The homework assignments and quizzes are set up to get maximum retention for the student.  This is a very good teaching course.

So, yes, we all liked it.  It is an easy course to navigate and we like that it tests A-girl and what she is retaining. 

I can't give you an exact age for this program, because that will vary for each person as to when they are ready for this program., but, in general, it is probably a 7th grade and up program.  A-girl is in 8th grade and is doing 1 lesson a day and so far is breezing through.  She probably could have started this in 6th or 7th grade.   I think we will start L-girl in this program next year when she is in 7th grade....but, we might actually start her later this year, because, honestly, I think she is ready....according to what Tom Clark states is "ready".

If you want to try out VideoText Interactive, you can use the program for Algebra or Geometry.

Here is the cost breakdown for Video Text Interactive's Algebra program.

ONLINE ALGEBRA Modules A-F: Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, and Algebra 2 (Classic Print Version – $529.00) ……. $299

ONLINE ALGEBRA Module A – “Algebra Readiness” (Classic Print Version – $99.95) ……. $59.00

ONLINE ALGEBRA Completer Package – Modules B-F: (Classic Print Version – $429.05)…….$240

($299 pricing reflects licensing for two students. Add an additional student in your family’s household for $49. A student license will last three years from the date it is activated for each student, and instructor accounts may also be turned on for a short period by request for SAT/CLEP prep after a student license has expired. Online Programs have a full 30-day money back guarantee.)

So, to clarify, the program we are using for A-girl is the $299 version.  Now, she will have access for 3 years.  I will also have access for L-girl, when we start her, and her access will last for 3 years from the time she starts.  Does that make sense?  It may sound like a lot of money, but when you factor all of that in, it is really a great deal, for a great advanced math program.

There is also an Algebra Classic program available, if you don't have high speed internet, that has hard copies of the teaching materials available.  You can check out the details for that option here. It does cost a bit more. 

See what others on the TOS Review Crew thought of both VideoText Interactive Algebra and VideoText Interactive Geometry. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Game of Becoming President

This is a review.

Who knew there was a game out there about the whole presidential election process?  Not me.  But, when we got the chance to review/play the game called, The Presidential Game, I really sort of jumped at it. 

We are not freaks about following politics, but we do follow politics.  We support candidates.  The older kids have even helped out on a few local campaigns.

But, even though we follow on the perimeter and live in a country called the United States of America......there are things that we don't understand about the whole process of electing a president.

I have to admit, that I haven't play this game yet (I have been packing, you know!).

Rainman and the kids, however, play it...a lot....and not even because I forced them too because this was a review.  From the very first time they played, Rainman said, " This is a fun game!"  D-man said, "This is a fun game!"  L-girl said, "This is a fun game!"

Get it?

It is a fun game! 

Sort of weird when you consider the fact that during their turns they fundraise or campaign and try to get states from each other.

Although it is designed for ages 11+, our younger ones have been teaming up to work on the campaigns with their older siblings....and like it just as much as the older ones.

Here, I will let  D-man explain to you how the game actually works.

So, the object of the game is to have 270 electoral votes at the end of 30 rounds. 

Each round consists of each player choosing to either campaign or fund raise. 

If you campaign, you roll three dice and and add tokens to three different states, each state gets the amount that you rolled on one die. The amount added to each state has to be from a different die than the other two. 

If you choose to fund raise, you roll three dice and choose one state to add tokens to. You have to put at least half the amount you rolled onto that state and you can put the remaining tokens wherever you want. An added bonus to fund raising is that you draw a card after your turn, the cards typically tell you to add a certain amount of tokens to a certain state(s). 

Occasionally, the card will tell your opponent to add tokens somewhere. At the end of 30 rounds, all the states that are not occupied are rolled for, each player rolls one die and the higher roll gets the state. 

When all 50 states (plus D.C.) are occupied, you add up all the electoral votes. The player who finishes the game with 270 votes wins the election and the game. 

The game takes a little while to understand and get used to, but after you understand it, it is a very fun and informational game.

Seriously, they have a lot of fun with this game....and it isn't quiet fun.  It is loud, uproarious fun.  There is cheering.  There are groans of defeat.  There are whispered strategy sessions.  There are accusations about plans.  Sort of like a real election, huh?

(See?  A-man is only 8, but he is teamed up with Rainman against D-man and L-girl.)

There was an interactive electoral map that we didn't even bother with, but if you are a more high tech family, than it would add a cool layer to your game.  We just used the score card thingie...

Suffice it to say, they are having fun playing the game.  They are coming to a much greater understanding of the electoral process and why some decisions to give up on states or not even bother to campaign there, make sense to the big picture.  Rainman actually pointed that one out.  He said, "This really shows you why candidates sometimes don't even bother campaigning in certain states."

You can get your own The Presidential Game to play for $35.00.

I honestly think my family would play this and think it was fun, even if it wasn't a review product.  They have not slowed down or showed any signs of their enthusiasm for the game waning....even though I sort of want it to, so I can get some help packing.  Honestly, when we were packing up games and puzzles, L-girl pulled The Presidential Game out and set it aside saying that she was sure we were going to play that one more before we moved.

See what other TOS Reviewers thought of The Presidential Game. 



Monday, September 16, 2013

Show Ready No More.....

I have started packing up our things that we won't need in the next few weeks leading up till our move......and look what has happened to my beautiful, show ready kitchen!  Emoji  I miss my clean, show ready house!

On a positive note, I have gotten 30 boxes packed in 2 that is good....right???

So, other than a few reviews that I have to finish up, I  probably won't be posting too much until we get to our new place. 

Just pray for a smooth few weeks leading up to closing/moving.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Change Appears To Be Coming.....

Well, I think we have sold our house.

We had a few bumps with our inspection.....of course, all the areas of concerns they found, had passed our inspection perfectly 4 years ago.  We haven't done anything to make them areas of concern, I assure you.

The appraisal happens today....and if that goes well.....we will be moving by month's end.


Month's end.

This month.


Ask me if I have started packing yet?

I haven't.

I think once the door hits the appraisor's butt, I will break out the cardboard boxes and tape.  I think.

Maybe I should wait and make sure the numbers are okay?

Uggg....I don't know.    My brain won't shut off these days.  It is filled with "what ifs" and "whens".  There is so much background paperwork needed that it feels like all I am doing is signing things, copying things, sending multiple copies to various interested parties.  In between the paperwork, I am assuring future buyers that my house where I have been raising 6 children, is perfectly safe and will not spontaneously combust.  Oh, yeah and school.  We have been teaching school.

I have a feeling that my children may be getting an unplanned fall break this year!

I will keep you posted.  If you are the praying type, please consider praying that the appraisal and all the events that must follow go smoothly.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Homeschool Spanish Academy

This is a review.

This apparently is the year for me and my kids to try live, on-line classes.  First, MacPhail music lessons and now, Spanish lessons.

We got to try out a half semester of classes - which is seven, 25 minute live lessons through Homeschool Spanish Academy.  Their How It Works section on their website is super helpful, but I am going to walk you through how it worked for us. 

L-girl was the lucky one selected to try this curriculum. Obviously, they have different age ranges (Early Language, Middle School, High School and Adult) We are using the Early Language Program for ages 9-12.  These lessons are 25 minutes long....the upper level classes are 50 minutes long.

To make sure this would work with our system, we did the background work of using and then a representative from Homeschool Spanish Academy contacted us and walked us through a few things on our computer to make sure our system would work.  He also contacted us via Skype to ensure there weren't any reception problems there either.

Once we got approval for our system requirements, our next step was registering in their system and picking a teacher.

First, we went to Homeschool Spanish Academy's website and registered for classes with our basic information, age, any Spanish experience we had, what program we wanted to use, etc.

Now came one of the fun parts, picking a teacher.  They had a list of potential teachers, their available times for clases, as well as their pictures and a little bit of biographical information on each of them.  We read through them all and decided that Luisa sounded like she would be a good teacher. 

So, we picked Luisa, then went to the schedule your classes page and found a time that worked for us.  We decided on once a week lessons because I was afraid that more than that would overload L-girl.  Homeschool Spanish Academy actually recommends twice a week classes for the best results, but I didn't want to scare L-girl.

We decided to go ahead and schedule all of our classes at the same time each week, with Luisa.  But, the beauty of this curriculum is that you could have lessons at different times each week, different days...even with different teachers.  Actually, that is another thing that they recommend....trying different teachers is actually highly encouraged (up to 3 instructors). It would give students the ability to experience different teaching styles, but more importantly to hear different accents. I was told by the ever helpful, Ron, that the teachers keep very detailed notes for every session (and we have seen Luisa writing stuff down). So, if you try out a different teacher, they would have all the notes from your last class, what you may have struggled with in front of them and could plan their class accordingly. 

Again, we ignored that advice and just went with Luisa!  We are such rebels.

You can tell Homeschool Spanish Academy knows homeschool moms, because they actually have the program set up to send you a reminder 24 hours before your scheduled lesson.  We homeschool moms tend to get a bit distracted, so that gives us a heads up to double check our schedule/lives and make sure that the scheduled time still works.

So, now we are ready for our actual first lesson with Luisa.  I will tell you L-girl was super nervous.  Super nervous. She was even throwing around the random...."Why do I have to do this?"  "Why didn't you pick someone else to take Spanish?"  "I don't even want to learn Spanish....why are you making me do this?"  You know....the usual.

When our lesson time came around, Luisa typed a message via Skype that just asked if L-girl was ready for her lesson.  As soon as L-girl typed back that she was ready, Luisa officially called us via Skype and the lesson began.

The first few lessons were a bit rough.

Luisa and L-girl had a little trouble hearing each other.  There was a slight delay in words and a bit of breaking up, like when you are losing a cell phone call.  They were always able to eventually figure out what the other had said....but it was frustrating.  Sometimes, Luisa would just resort to typing her questions or words in the little text box a the bottom of the page.  The other problem we were having is we could hear other Spanish lessons happening near Luisa.  We could hear other teachers and other students practicing their Spanish. 

After the second and third lesson, Luisa said she would report our sound problems and someone would be in touch to see if it could get fixed.  Nobody called after the second lesson, but after the third lesson, Ron, from Homeschool Spanish Academy called and ran a few system tests and made some suggestions for improving the sound.  He said that Luisa is naturally soft spoken, so she has the volume turned up on her microphone, but suspected that she hadn't turned on the noise cancelling feature that would block us from hearing the other classes going on in her vicinity.

L-girl and I also decided that she would try using a set of headphones/ear buds for the next lesson to see if that helped.  Lesson number four was much better....still not perfect.....but way better.  L-girl and Luisa could hear each other and there wasn't as much "Can you hear me now?" stuff going on.

L-girl is really making progress.  At this point, they are just working on Spanish words, names, and phrases.  But, she is really soaking it up like a sponge.  Her big brother, D-man, is taking Spanish in high school and she has actually been able to help him with some of his homework and practice.

L-girl is also having fun now.  The nerves have worn off.  She likes Luisa because she is sort of grandmotherly in her approach.  Very patient.  Very loving.  Very kind hearted.  The cadence and intonation of her speech is very encouraging.....even when she has to repeat the correct pronunciation of a word many, many, many times!  Emoji

Luisa sends an e-mail after each lesson that has L-girls assigned homework. 

I have seen and heard L-girl working on it.  But, when I went to put together this review, I found something out. 

This might be too small for you to see.....but, this is L-girls assignment summary.....can you see the green words?  Those say....Missing.

Yes, L-girl has 4 missing assignments....well, 3 actually, since the top one isn't due until next week.  I asked L-girl about this and she said she had done them, but wasn't sure how to hand them in.  So, instead of asking me or watching the You Tube video...

....see the bottom one?  How to Turn in Homework????  L-girl just decided to skip it!  Grrrr.....

Rest assured, Luisa, her homework is on its way!!!

Now that we have the technical snafus worked out, we are loving this program.  L-girl is really learning quite quickly conversational Spanish.  I don't even think I heard her say anything in English during her last lesson!

You can create an account and try out one free Spanish lesson.  What do you have to lose?

Oh, one of the other cool things you can do with Homeschool Spanish Academy is have "paired" classes.   So, if you had students that aren't more than 3 grade levels apart, they could take lessons the same the same computer.  Kind of a cool idea, I think. 

For the half semester, Early Language lessons, with just one student, the cost would be $59.99.

Here is the standard pricing chart for the Early Language Program through Homeschool Spanish Academy.  There is a different pricing chart for the upper level courses as their classes are longer.

One-On-One Pricing

And here is the pricing chart for the Early Language Program, if you are interested in a paired class for your family.  Again, there is a different pricing chart for the upper level courses, because their classes run longer.

Two-On-One Pricing

Technology is really sort of amazing, isn't it?  This is a great program.  It is a great idea for homeschoolers.  We have tried other language programs in our school, but I really think there isn't anything better than learning the language from a native speaker.  L-girl has moved along much more quickly in her lessons than I thought she would and she seems to be retaining a lot (thus her ability to assist her big brother with some of his Spanish!) She hasn't conjugated verbs or anything yet, but she is learning a lot of words and phrases that will be useful. 

I highly recommend Homeschool Spanish Academy for the quality of the teaching we had with Luisa, but also the customer support and troubleshooting Ron did with us when we were having problems hearing (sort of important for the student and teacher to be able to hear each other, huh?)

Go see what the other TOS Reviewers had to say about Homeschool Spanish Academy.