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Friday, June 22, 2012

IXL TOS Crew Review 2012

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               Do you have more than one child that you homeschool? Does a child in your homeschool struggle with Math or strive to work harder with small, fun, positive reinforcements? If you have answered yes to any of these questions then this may be the review for you. Schoolhouse Review Crew members were given a 6 Month Subscription for a parent and up to 3 children for IXL. This is an online Math program that is a great subsidy to any core Math curriculum. IXL  is designed for Pre-K through Algebra, with more advanced levels in the planning stages,  and practices drills and rewards children with virtual rewards that you can print out and save for your child.

         Taylor has always struggled with Math, while Math comes somewhat easy to his older siblings. We are always changing things up for Taylor to keep him motivated and so he does not get bored. I think this is why he struggled more with Math in public school, everything was always the same. Changing things for him has helped tremendously. We have found his core Math curriculum that is working and I always say if it is not broke don't fix it. However we are always looking for add on programs to help with drills and memorization. Taylor has trouble conquering core concepts and we need to be constantly working on keeping the facts fresh in his mind but at the same time we try to keep it light and fun. IXL does just that with fun graphics and virtual rewards that I can print out and put in Taylor's portfolio. He just beams with pride when given small rewards for his efforts and a program that can aid in making learning stress free and fun earns an A+ in my book.



    I love that even during the Summer Taylor can take learning on the go with our laptop and keep refreshed in Math without boring book work. We school somewhat year round but from May to September we try to keep it light after all it is Summer vacation. Programs like IXL are just the kind of Math that helps build on concepts that the kids learn with their core curriculum. Most kids who do not practice their Math throughout the Summer lose much of what they learned throughout the previous school year. This is why most teachers have to spend the beginning of every school year refreshing and the kids relearning. The option is to take the time to set aside some learning during the Summer. This is also a great time to introduce something new like IXL and carry it on through the school year as your child is already familiar with it. This is what we plan to do in our homeschool. Starting it now and getting used to it and then carrying it through our traditional school year as a supplement to our core curriculum.

  We started with 6th grade Math for Taylor and hope to bring him closer to grade level by the Middle of the school year. He is an 8th grader this Fall, but in Math he is still only a 6th grader in some areas and 7th grade in others. IXL feels out where your child is and once the student masters that area it slowly increases the difficulty and moves on. Taylor found this way of learning helpful as he was not rushed through and did not feel as though he was behind. He enjoyed getting his virtual rewards and I was pleased with being able to log on and see at any point how his progress was improving and with weekly emails I felt I was always in the know with how he was doing.


      IXL makes it easy to be in the know at all times for both the student and the parent by always keeping up with the progress of the student. I also thought that not having to pinpoint ahead of time the level that your child is on and being able to try out all levels to find the prefect fit for them. Most companies make you pick the level upon signing up and IXL does not do that all levels Pre-K through Algebra are available to you at all times. You can chose 2 different subscription options at sign up. You can pay by the month, for instance if you just want to use it for the Summer as a refresher course or a whole year. While we are using the Middle School areas of IXL many of the crew members have kids at all different levels, be sure to check out their reviews to see what they thought and how they used IXL in their homeschool.
  Check out the Schoolhouse Review Crew's reviews of IXL


As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my
honest review. All opinions are mine.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Creation Illustrated TOS Crew Review 2012

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          Do you love to Marvel at God's Awesome Handiwork of Nature?  We just cannot seem to get enough especially being at camp and spending so much time outdoors. Select members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew were sent 4 of the latest issues of Creation Illustrated Magazine. We took them with us to camp to incorporate them into our study of nature that we had already started.

    I had no expectations as I was thinking this is merely a magazine, well let me tell you when I opened the magazine I was blown away. Full of absolutely stunning photos, as an amateur photographer I was so impressed. I could not get enough I opened each and every issue we received and I just could not stop myself from flipping through them over and over. I was overwhelmed with God's awesomeness. Humming Birds, I had never seen one up close and they were just exquisite. My kids at this point had not even gotten a chance to take a look, I was being accused of being a hog. Me, never I just did not want to stop looking.

    OK back to reality I come, I handed one to each of the kids I simply just wanted to see their jaws drop. They indeed were shocked at how beautiful the creatures they were looking at were. After we got over the initial awe we started to see that there was so much more to these amazing magazine that initially catches the readers eye. In these publications you will find not only stunning photos, stories that tie into these pictures, recipes that spark your inner chef, contests for the kids to find the photographer within and a chance to get published. There are also lessons that delve deeper into the wonders of God's awesome beauty. I was beyond words. Never did a magazine make me feel this at peace.
                      Here is some info from the people at Creation Illustrated...





Who Are We?

Creation Illustrated is published quarterly (beginning in Fall 1993) as a private, nonprofit, non-denominationally owned ministry dedicated to the eternal impact of sharing Biblical truth through the blessings of God's creation.
The editors and publishers are a Christian couple, Tom and Jennifer Ish, who homeschooled their daughter, Melissa, and have dedicated their lives to serving God by providing positive choices in reading material for the whole family.


Mission Statement:
Our purpose is to share the wonders of God's creation. By revealing fresh insights of His infinite wisdom, gentle touch, undeniable justice, redeeming love, and flawless design, pure truth shall bring renewed peace. Each part of this publication is offered as a reprieve from the daily rigors of life so that all can look to the future with unbridled gratitude and hope.


          We studied one magazine a week doing the activities and making the recipes and reading the stories aloud. We loved to sit around the campfire by the lake surrounded in God's handiwork and read. This was an amazing addition to our continued study of nature. Rest assured these will not be magazines that we just read through once and discard. I have already seen my boys reading them over and over even if just to look at the pictures again. 
Here is what is included in the most current issue for Spring 2012




Current Issue:
Spring 2012 Vol. 19, No. 1

Features include:
  • A Creatures Near and Dear to Us feature on hummingbirds called "Flying Jewels"
  • An Outdoor Adventure story on Yellowstone National Park
  • A Lens on Creation snapshot of birds on "Bonaventure Island"
  • A Creation Day 6, Part 3 story on the Creation of Humans
  • Creation Highlights in the news
  • A Creation Resource Guide
  • A Creation Stewardship page
  • My Walk with God story called "Bloom Where You're Planted"
  • A Genesis Cuisine recipe section featuring Smoothies for homemakers
  • A Wholesome Living Guide
  • An encouraging children’s story called "Bunny Surprise"
  • A Youth Photo Contest
  • An Instructional Guide to help homeschoolers and teachers glean key spiritual and character-building lessons from each article
  • An Educational Resource Guide
  • Uplifting poetry
  • And more!


    Do you want to experience God's Creations and read inspirational poems and stories. Would you like toYou can also request your own sample issue of Creation Illustrated before committing to a subscription. 
 see your kids on Fire for Nature. You can do this and so much more with Creation Illustrated Magazine.   For just a small investment you can add a new dimension to your homeschool curriculum and take a closer walk with some of the most exquisite creatures we have in this world with us.



Creation Illustrated is published quarterly in the United States with a cover price of $4.99. You can subscribe online for the following lengths/rate:
  • 1 year $ 19.95
  • 2 Years $ 37.95
  • 3 Years $ 53.95
Those who pay now with a credit card will save another $5.00 per year per subscription. Canadian Residents will need to add $5.00 for postage, those living in other foreign countries will need to add $10.00.




    Are you still not convinced, well you can also request your own sample issue of Creation Illustrated before committing to a subscription. You can also read what my fellow crewmates had to say about the magazine as well and how they used it in their homeschools and families. 






As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my
honest review. All opinions are mine.








Monday, June 18, 2012

Pearson Homeschool MyMathLab Algebra 2 TOS Crew Review 2012

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     Was there one thing that was stopping you from homeschooling? For me that one reason was my ability to teach my boys Math once they reached beyond the basics of Math you use in everyday life. Don't get me wrong I was a student who excelled in all of my classes throughout my journey in school growing up. Yet I find myself lacking in knowledge of anything beyond Math I use on an everyday basis, some of the earlier Algebra I can do and basic Geometry but after that I am not comfortable teaching my boys. This is why we look to online Math programs to help get us through this subject I struggle teaching with. Does this make me a bad parent? Or better yet does this mean I should not be homeschooling my kids? I most certainly think not. I come across many parents that have this same feeling. When I approach parents that are contemplating making that huge leap into homeschooling, one of the most common things I hear over and over is " I am not smart enough to teach my kids." I am always quick to offer support and lend and ear and then I let them in on my secret, You do not have to be a genius to teach your kids, this was God's Plan for us and there are ways to make it work. Ways like Pearson Homeschool, who brings to us online learning such as MyMathLab, Algebra 1 and 2. 
I have blessed once again by the TOS Crew, Which is now so appropriately called the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Pearson Education Inc. the trusted name in learning in schools across the nation, have brought that same quality of learning to the homeschool community with Pearson Homeschool. Learning has never been easier on both student and parent. Pearson has curriculum for all grades PreK-12 and teaching not only Math but Reading and Language Arts,Social Studies, and also Science. If you are a parent that struggles in areas of teaching do not feel as though you cannot do your job as a teacher efficiently, look to Pearson Homeschool for the help you need. Homeschooling can work for everyone you just need to find the right resources. I have been using various online Math programs since we started homeschooling several years ago. I do supplement with hands on Math as well and use some additional drill type workbooks. I use different programs for each of my boys as they each learn differently and I strive to find what works for them individually each year to start the school year off right. We have used a different type of Math each year and sometimes more than one company for each student each year just to make sure my kids are learning efficiently and are happy learning the core subjects they need to excel at to get ahead in life. 
For Alyx Math seems to come naturally to him and he is above grade level in Math and is starting High School in the Fall. I knew I needed to find a good Algebra program that was going in depth into Algebra beyond the basics so when presented with the opportunity to review Algebra 2 from Pearson Homeschool I felt my prayers had been answered. 
MyMathLab, Algebra 2 is a comprehensive Math program available for purchase for $49.97 for the student access kit and $30 for the additional add on of the Parent Access Kit you can have a whole year of Math for your student to have a successful school year. 

      




MyMathLab Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 are two fully-digital programs by award-winning author Elayn Martin-Gay that provide parents with rich and flexible course materials that will engage your child. This personalized learning experience ensures your child’s success in Algebra 1 and Algebra 2.
MyMathLab is ready to use out-of-the-box or you can choose to customize and create your own lessons and assignments. Either path will be matched to your child’s learning style and pace. An Implementation Guide of mini lessons and online course management tools make it easier to teach Algebra 1 and Algebra 2. Your child will receive an interactive eText, personalized study plans, and multimedia learning aids to fit his or her level. Additional resources include a Student Organizer and over 3,000 videos by Elayn Martin-Gay.
Key features and benefits:
  • Ready to use out-of-the-box or choose to create your own lessons and assignments
  • Fully interactive eText
  • Robust multimedia library with videos and animations to improve understanding
  • Personalized learning based on quiz and test results
  • Easy-to-create online homework, quizzes, and tests that are automatically-graded
  • Immediate feedback for all your child’s work 

I received both the Algebra 2 Student Access Kit and the Parent Access Kit in the mail for my review. I am always apprehensive when having to set up an account and get started with a new program but I was pleasantly suprised by how painless getting started with MyMathLab truly was. I answered a few simple questions, such as my name and Email and my students name and Email and entered the access code in the appropriate box and Success! Alyx was happy to see that it was easy to log on as well, some in the past have not been as easy. After I was enrolled in the parent portion of the program, I could then create the course name for Alyx's Math studies, I simply named it Alyx's 9th Grade Math, I know how original. I was able to customize what Alyx sees when he logs on, for instance if your family is not a primarily English Speaking family you can change the language setting. This would be very helpful if you have students that are taking language classes and are in the mostly fluent segment to help them build on their new language at the same time. I was also able to change the style of the links from text to buttons  and  change the color of the course schematics too, so of course I changed it to Alyx's favorite color Orange. Allowing small changes like this helps to present this new curriculum in a friendly way that is either familiar with the kids or fun so that they feel comfortable getting started. I give signing up for MyMathLab and A+ in this category.
As a parent logged in to the portal I was impressed with the wealth of information I can get at a glance, for instance what assignments and quizzes and tests Alyx has completed or needs to repeat. I have the ability to tailor the program to fit my individual students needs and that is very important to me. Alyx works at a fast pace and I want to make sure he is not bored or stalling out in his studies. On this flip side as a student working with MyMathLab Alyx is able to get immediate feedback on all of his work which is important to him, if he doesn't do well on an assignment he can keep at it until he feels he has mastered it and then move on. I can see how many times he has attempted a single assignment to know that he may have struggled with this particular aspect. There are many media options for help and teaching the lessons, Alyx can choose which one is best for his learning style and that is huge in my book. A child who is comfortable with the way they are being taught excel so much more than a child who is struggling with their current learning style. Alyx loves to move at a fast pace and I am excited that with MyMathLab he can do that with ease and I love seeing my son complete his Math work without any moans and groans and with confidence that he is mastering what he is learning. I know in my heart that MyMathLab is the right choice for my son. 

There is so much more I could tell you but I would love for you to check out it out for yourself I know that you will not be disappointed. Be sure to check out all of the curriculum offerings from Peason Homeschool as well. If you would like to hear what my fellow crewmates had to say about the choice they picked for their review please visit our new and improves Schoolhouse Review Crew Website. There were 4 choices for the crew to pick from so if Algebra 2 is not what you are looking for I am sure there will be something that meets the needs of your family.
































As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my
honest review. All opinions are mine.





Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mobile Education Tools StoryBuilder TOS Crew Review

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   I know my kids are crazy about using technology in our homeschooling activities. They also love using their Ipod Touches, especially on the go. Ipod Touches are a great tool for running errands and Doctor appointments, which we do a ton of. The Ipod Touches fit right in the boys' pockets so no need to haul a bag around or to worry where we are leaving it in the car. Being part of the TOS Crew has given us many opportunities, and the boys seem to love the opportunities that give us a chance to incorporate technology into our schedule. This time we were given the chance to try out a handy APP from the Apple App Store for IPhone 4/ IPod Touch 4th Generation(the one with the camera) and it also works for the IPAD too. The App sells for $5.99 and is called StoryBuilder from Mobile Education Tools. They also sell another neat APP for the IPad that is called Rainbow Sentences and it sells for $7.99. They are generally geared for Elementary age children and younger Middle School Students and Special needs kids can benefit greatly from these APPS as well.
Here is some info about StoryBuilder...


Winner – Best reading app of 2011 by the Huffington Post
Story Builder is designed to help children accomplish the following goals: 1) Improve paragraph formation; 2) Improve integration of ideas; and 3) Improve higher level abstractions by inference. Extensive use of audio clips promotes improved auditory processing for special needs children with autism spectrum disorders or sensory processing disorders. Story Builder offers a rich and fun environment for improving the ability to create a narrative.

Features

  • Record feature allows students to record narrative in their own voice
  • 3 levels of play
  • Simple and intuitive interface to record narrative
  • Recorded answers are stitched together to create complete narrative
  • 50 distinct story lines to create narratives from
  • Over 500 audio clips of questions to guide narrative
  • Optional question text and answer introduction reinforcement
For more information, or to purchase a copy, please visit the iTunes Store.





     The APP is very easy to purchase and add to your device. Once it is downloaded you are ready to go, the boys were eager to get started as soon as it was on the IPod touch. We were able to put it to use first thing as we were leaving for our trek back up to camp which takes an hour and a half. At first they were not too happy with me as they thought the cartoon images were a little babyish for them, I was reminded that they are entering 8th and 9th Grade and how could I? I really had to chuckle at that statement, as it made me realize they truly are evolving into true teenagers.  After a small chat with them to tell them to just keep an open mind and to just go with it. So as we were driving along the boys alternated answering the questions asked of them. You do this by pressing the record button and the APP records their answers. So after answering all the questions the app reads back their "story". They started off kind of frustrated telling me that their story did not make sense of any kind. I was not fully concentrating on what they were doing as I was driving so I wasn't sure if it was something they did or if it was the APP itself. After going through the process several more times and me trying to listen to what they were hearing from the APP and what they were repeating back. Sometimes it can be my boys not fully "getting" it as they have Auditory Processing Delays due to their Asperger's Syndrome.

   After a few minutes  I came to the conclusion that what they were doing was basically answering the question with part of the question itself. This is very common and most people do this naturally, this is how we are all basically taught. I helped them around this by answering the next set of questions myself and getting a little goofy about them. When it replayed my story the boys were cracking up. After I showed them what they should do it "clicked" for them and then they had fun for the rest of the drive. My boys sometimes lack imagination and this APP really helped them think outside of the box. By the time we got to camp they were cooking up some pretty far fetched stories. I was delighted to see them enjoying the StoryBuilder App as Language Arts is definitely not the favorite subject of our homeschool. I am sure my boys would not play this everyday for hours on end as it is not meant to be a "game" like you would play just to play, but I do see us incorporating it into our routine on a regular basis to get the boys excited about story writing. I see this as a valuable asset to our on the go learning. We are always pleased to find fun things to do to liven up our boring drive to camp or when we are out and about doing errands like banking, or grocery shopping. We also try to fill the times we are sitting at Doctor's offices, which we do quite often and if you go to any specialist you know how long those waits can be. I like that I can use that time to still "teach" the kids something. Sometimes other kids waiting join in our fun and often parents are quite thankful.

    So if your kids struggle with Language Arts like mine do, and you love using technology in your homeschool you definitely should check out Mobile Education Tools and add StoryBuilder or Rainbow Sentences to your APP Library There are some other APPs available for purchase as well that were not choices for the crew. Be sure to check out all of the other TOS Crew Reviews for both of the APPs offered to us by Mobile Education Tools, all of us use our products in a way that fits our unique family and homeschool so you never know what you may find along the voyage.
                     
                          Schoolhouse Review Crew Mobile Education Tools Reviews





















   

Monday, June 4, 2012

Monday Meltdown Blog Hop June 4, 2012

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Welcome to the first edition of Monday Meltdown Blog Hop here at the Fresh Start Academy Homeschool. The only rules I ask that you follow are no foul language  and please grab the code and paste it at the top of your Monday Meltdown blog post, and finally please sign the linky and only link to your Monday Meltdown post. That is it and I hope this helps unload anything that has been on your chest, so that you may start the week with a clean slate.






     So for my Monday Meltdown I am going to talk about how I have been sick for over 2 weeks and I am still not better. It started 2 weeks ago Friday with a Sinus infection and turned into Bronchitis and then a week later was Pneumonia, and here I am another week later and a second round of antibiotics and steroids and I am not feeling a whole boatload better. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I have MS and being sick aggravates my disease. Another thing that contributes to not getting well and my MS acting up is Stress. I have my fair share of stress on a daily basis, but I have added stress as of late due to a falling out with a friend, who did not turn out to be any kind of friend after all and after repeated requests for her to just leave me and my family alone, she has repeatedly texted me, commented on social networks and I have done my best to block her but she just won't take a hint. I know that the added stress of her harrassment, even though she does not call it that is impeding my getting well. How does someone live with themselves knowing they are maliciously causing a great amount of stress to someone and not care. I looked up the definition of Cyber Bullying and this persons behavior fits it to a T. I am not into bashing and name calling, and low blowing people. I do not like confrontation  and this is out of my comfort zone. I just want to consider this another lesson learned and move on.  I am keeping all texts, emails and contact in a file if it indeed has to move forward. I will not be bullied and let someone harrass me and my family. People like this makes it very hard for me to trust or get close to anyone. I have come to the conclusion that this person is so unhappy with her own life that she is choosing to take it out on me and that is not fair. Get a life and leave me alone. 
There I feel so much better now that I got that off my chest. 
What has been troubling you lately?, have you witnessed something in public that appalled you? Unload and start the week off fresh join in our Monday Meltdown