Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My Little Lawn Helper

Now that spring is here there is much work to be done.  My husband actually helps to mow at the church and to start the season off Gess and I decided to help him.  It takes several hours to do.  At first Gess played while we both mowed.


When I finished my part I took a break and played too.


While we played, daddy continued to work.


When he was about finished Gess and I went around picking up any trash left on the grounds.


I just love my little helper.  Well, maybe she isn't so little anymore.


It was such a gorgeous day!  I can hardly believe that three days later it was snowing!


I so want spring to come and stay!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: CTC Math

My daughter Gesserine has Down syndrome and math is the subject we struggle with the most. I have found that she is much more receptive to doing it on the computer rather than in a workbook, but finding a good program for that can be difficult. Then one month during my monthly homeschool mom's night out I had a friend tell us about CTC Math and how wonderful it was. I went home and began to look into it only to find out I was about to get the opportunity to review it! I was eager to see if this was going to work well with my Gess.

I was given the 12 Month Family Plan for the purpose of my review. CTC Math is an online math program for grades K-12 grade. This can be used as a full curriculum, at least for the elementary grade levels which is what I used it for, but it can also be used as a supplement to enhance any other program you may be using. The nice part about the family plan is that the price includes all the students in your family.


CTC Math is also not common core compliant which is actually part of what I loved about it. I am trying to teach basic math skills to my daughter who has special needs. I need her to learn math in the simplest form. I don't need it to confuse or confound matters for her. I also don't need it to include other subjects as I know what my daughter does or does not need.

When you first log on you choose your grade, your stream, and then your topic.


There is no assignment feature so you have to make sure your student knows where to begin, however once you are on a topic it will remain where you left off. It even has a nice feature to save your work so that you can stop in the middle of a lesson. It's only when you are starting a new unit that you have to direct the student where to go.  If you follow it in order it is even easier for them to navigate.

The teaching sessions were explained by an expert with a wonderful Australian accent. You can tell this program was not exclusively American as you hear dollars referred to as notes as well as bills and a few things like that.  However, it has been adapted to fit our needs. I loved how visually appealing these were. They had large font on the screen and most of the problems were demonstrated with tools to help the explanation. They worked them out step by step in easy to follow directions. While Gess struggles doing the math, she at least understood what was expected of her.


After the student watches the video instructions they have a set of questions to answer which demonstrate the skill just learned. These consisted of about 8 to 10 problems that were solved right on the computer. We were mostly using the 2nd grade level of math or lower and I was very glad to see that many of them allowed the student to use virtual manipulatives. For instance in subtraction sometimes you could cross off the number and other times you could move them out of the way. They also had place value blocks that corresponded nicely to the ones we actually use.


It does eventually make you drop the manipulatives, as it should. However since Gess has special needs I would let her continue to use some. She just cannot do the math without them yet so at least this way I know she is getting the concept.


When you complete your lesson you can view the results of the work and go over anything you missed. I wish these were saved and available in the parents' area. It would be nice to know exactly which problems caused them trouble and you can't tell that unless you are sitting with your student at the time or instruct them to print it. This is not a huge issue for me because most of the time I am sitting and helping Gess.


In order to pass you need to get a certain percentage correct. The program is defaulted to 90% but you can adjust it. I lowered it to 80% for Gess. As they complete each section they earn an award. Those are so very motivating for Gess. So far she has earned 1 platinum, 3 gold and 1 silver. There is an option for her to check her status on these at the bottom of the screen. She put her latest gold medal certificate as her background image on her computer. She is so proud of it!


The parents reports let you see the overall progress your student has been making and it also emails the reports to you on a weekly basis. Here is one weekly report I got for Gess.


In the parents' area you can review the report in summary or detailed form and view and/or print the summary as well as each individual certificate. I wish the parents' area had more, like viewing the individual worksheets, assigning lessons, or offering printable worksheets to go along with the lessons but what it has is helpful and can be exported easily for download onto your computer.

I was a little disappointed with some of the important life skills sections of math such as counting money and telling time. While these were well done visually, they weren't really done in a way that is comparable to our daily use. For instance the calendar was set up M-S. Calendars we use follow a S-S version.


That section on money seemed to be too short for me.  I definitely felt there could be more there.  They also do very little work with bills (which they often referred to as notes) and instead work mostly with change. While they address bills for one lesson, when you actually practice paying for things you do so with dollar coins instead of paper bills. They also emphasize half dollars quite a bit too. While its good to learn these coins exist and how to use them, these are ones we very seldom see or use in daily practice.  I can't even remember the last time I ever used a dollar coin to pay for things.  I would like to see those lessons include both notes and coins which is what the children will actually use in real life.  Of course this probably isn't as big an issue for kids who do not have the learning struggles that my daughter has.  I did love that they were very realistic looking so were easily identifiable.


While CTC Math can be used as an entire curriculum like I am doing, I don't feel like you will be able to get away with that for children that want to really excel in math. They will need more of a challenge and supplements to help such as printable worksheets. The lessons are repeatable but I am struggling to get Gess to do so. Once she sees the lesson colored as complete she refuses to go back. I need her to do that because she needs the practice.

Other than that I have found this program to be beneficial for us. I plan to continue to use it and will supplement some of the areas with hands-on examples that Gess needs anyway. I also love the way it excites Gess about math. She gets really excited when she gets an answer correct and is really fond of receiving awards. I love seeing her raise her hands and shout "yes" or give herself a thumbs up for getting a problem right. She is learning to do the math on her own and that is important. Even though she requires helps most of the time it is nice that she is recognized for her accomplishments.


CTC Math is currently offering homeschoolers 60% off the regular price. If you sign up as a homeschool family you get the 12 Month Family Plan for only $118.80. You can also choose a 6 month or monthly payment plan. If you have only one child like me you pay only $78.80 a year.  If you use this as your entire program there are no books, workbooks, or any thing else for you to buy so it really is a great deal. That is worth it to me knowing that Gess is getting all of her math concepts covered while requiring no prep work on my end. To learn more visit the CTC Math website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about it by clicking on the banner below.


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Monday, April 21, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: Philippians in 28 Weeks

My latest review of the Home School Adventure Co. has been a spiritually challenging, yet fulfilling personal adventure for me.  I was given the PDF version of Philippians in 28 Weeks and I am beginning week 7 as I post this entry today.  What you need to know is that Philippians in 28 Weeks is not merely a study of the book of Philippians that is completed within 28 weeks.  No my friends, the point of this study is to memorize the entire book of Philippians in 28 weeks!


Philippians in 28 Weeks can be used with ages 9 through high school as a read along or with teacher guidance depending on where you feel your student is.  High Schoolers can use this by themselves.  Adults will also benefit greatly from it as I surely have done.  Because my 12 year old daughter has special needs and had a month long battle with bronchitis as I started I chose to not have her participate with me yet, except for reading through the Scripture together once during each week. She also reads along as I quote the Scripture to test me.  She certainly catches every mistake I make!  I am planning on having her join in the memorization soon, but due to her special needs I will not have her memorize the entire book.  There are segments in chapter 2 and chapter 4 I want her to memorize and I know she can handle passages with up to 15 verses.

The goal of the Home School Adventure Co. is to equip parents and educate children "to be loving, compassionate, strong, and wise" as we learn to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The Philippians in 28 Weeks study really takes that approach to a whole new level.  They remind us how the bible is banned in many countries and yet we have many bibles sitting on our shelves at home. Then they ask the question that really cuts to the heart, what good are they if we don't use them and share them with others?

The steps they give you are rather simple in reality.  You read, record, repeat, review, and retain.  The book comes with several helps to walk you through each of these steps.  The best part was the memorization cards.  These were beautifully made.  Here is an image containing both the front and back of the card.  Of course, if you printed it each image would be on a different side of the card.


Not only are these handy tools but the way they break down the verses really helps you visualize them and get some rhythm to it.  The fact that the copy work sheets are written in the exact same way was also very helpful.  Often when I am saying a verse I am picturing how it is structured on the card.  The copy work is helpful, even if it were not in a special format.  I remember learning once that if you write something down it is like repeating it 11 times. That has stuck with me, so these sheets were extremely handy for memorizing and if you use them with a student they double as a handy penmanship worksheet too.


Along with the cards and copy work sheets you also get a chart for accountability where you can mark down which of the four things you did each day.  This didn't quite follow the directions exactly.  While the directions say read, record, repeat, and review/retain, this has boxes for read, reflect, repeat, and recite. It kind of mixed me up a little, but I got past it. I did like having the reminder in front of me.  Here is a copy of my sheet from about a week ago.


Each week focused on one set of Scripture to memorize covering 4 to 6 verses per week.  As well as the copy work there were also a few specific questions for you to consider about the passage and at the end of the week you spent some time reflecting on what you have learned over all.

The only card stock paper I had was colored so I printed my cards up on yellow.  I didn't bother printing the picture on the back.  While it was lovely I preferred to save some ink.  I would then sit at my desk or table and work at it.  Here is my notebook where I keep everything inside, except the week I am working on.  That I keep clipped on top with my cards so I can easily access it when I need it.


The hardest part for me was not really the memorization so much as it was getting the reading in. For the study they suggest that you to read the entire book of Philippians each and every day.  I managed to do that several days a week, but unfortunately not every day.  I also found it difficult to get other study in because when I wasn't reading it, I was memorizing it, repeating it, or reflecting on it.  One thing I have started doing is reading the passage before I even get out of bed.  That way if I have time to read later I can catch up on my other daily reading or studies I might have going.

After a few weeks you do start to see why the reading is so important.  It really does help you to memorize when you are already so very comfortable with the passage.  In fact, I would recommend people start doing the reading before they even dive into the study!   That really does seem to help!

Now this study is not for those who have trouble finding time to read or study the Word of God on a regular basis.  Those habits are really essential for being able to complete the study.  You also probably need to allow for life emergencies and know that there may be a need to extend it.  In fact the author had originally wanted to complete it herself in less time.  However, while you need to remain flexible you can't let every little trial get in the way.  You must be willing to commit, even when its tough.  This does take a lot of time and commitment, but I believe it is totally worth it.

So far I am right on target and have completed the first chapter.  I am praying that I will remain diligent and finish this through to the end.  One of the reasons I was eager to try this study was because of how significant the book of Philippians is to me personally.  This passage of Scripture has gotten me through many rough times and helped to train my way of thinking by teaching me how to renew my mind in Christ.  The peace of God promised is truly available to all if you follow the instructions!  I have overcome so much and gotten through pain, adversity, anxiety, and overcome temptations because I did what Paul said to do.  So, like Paul, I want to remain committed and "press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."  I am praying I will press on and complete the goal of memorizing this book too!

On the Philippians in 28 Weeks page of the website you can watch a video that shows a young man quoting the entire book from memory showing you that this can be done, even by children. I want to assure that it is possible if you have the commitment to try it and while I am only up to one chapter of the book I figured I would share my results so far.  I hope to continue to share more in the future to hold myself accountable for finishing this study.  Do realize that the last several verses were just learned this week so I will be struggling through those more than ones I memorized earlier.  These will improve as I continue.  In fact this week is designated for review only.  At the end of each of the four chapters you spend one week merely for review.  That certainly helps before you move on.  In this video I believe I made 7 mistakes.  Some were small such as saying "of" instead of "in" but I did leave out the phrase "striving side by side" before I said "for the faith of the gospel." According to the scoring system I received a 77% but I still have another week to work on them and I was a bit nervous being on camera!  Consider this my practice exam.


At first I thought that the study element of this was lacking.  There are only a few questions during each week, but the impact of diligent memorization more than makes up for that.  I have never been able to answer a question so fully before.  Having the Scripture ingrained in your heart makes pondering much more meaningful.  I also noticed that I am using these Scriptures in every day life, even ones I have not yet memorized.  In talking with my husband, in Sunday School class, or when I was counseling a friend passages from Philippians came to mind as relevant to the discussion.

The Philippians in 28 Weeks currently comes in both the ESV or KJV.  I reviewed the ESV even though that is not the version I use for my personal study. I have actually enjoyed using something different for memorization.  In fact, my husband and I are now doing all of our memorizing in the ESV to keep it consistent.  We will still continue to use our other version for study.  While we do have an ESV Bible in our home, I also downloaded a free ESV Bible app for my phone and did most of my reading in it or on the cards themselves.  Be careful though, there is an ESV and an ESV Anglicized version.  The one on my phone was slightly different than the one they used for the book!

The Philippians in 28 Weeks Complete Print Edition is $28.95
The Philippians in 28 Weeks Complete Ebook Download is $14.95
You can also purchase the cards separately but if you get the study do know they come with it.

The Home School Adventure Co. is currently offering a promotion right now.  Until May 15th you can get 10% off any download purchase by using the code below.
Code: CREW-10
Expires: May 15


Home School Adventure Co.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Free Eggsperts Animated Series - Limited Time only

We are loved Reading Eggs when Gess was little and still use the upper levels titled Reading Eggspress for keeping up on her reading and comprehension.  Now they have an animated series The Eggsperts and for a limited time you can view it for FREE!  To learn more about Reading Eggs visit their website or read my Reading Eggs Review.  In the meantime, enjoy these episodes for FREE while the offer lasts!


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Easter Basket Fun

We don't really do the Easter Bunny, but have colored eggs and and made baskets to give Gess a hands on lesson on traditions that people do for certain holidays.  She never really got a surprise basket and knew that we hid the eggs that she colored.  It was fun and she has enjoyed it.  She also understood what all those people meant when they asked her questions people always ask young kids about Easter.  Now that she is almost a teenager we have decided to continue making the eggs and baskets for others, instead of for herself.  This year we made a basket for each of my grandchildren.
My mom is going through some medical issues which is keeping me busy and preoccupied so to make the coloring easier for me and more independent for Gess I picked up some clear plastic eggs from Hobby Lobby and gave Gess some paint and brushes and let her go to town.


Then we stuffed them with candy, threw in a few glowing eggs from Egglo (with the verses inside), a couple of children's bible story books, toys, chalk eggs, and candy jewelry.


I think the grandkids will love them and I know Gess had fun making them.  Still, it is my hope and prayer that on that special day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ which is much more exciting than candy, toys or colorful eggs.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Riding Her Trike

Gess has had trouble riding a traditional bicycle.  She just doesn't seem to have the core strength or coordination to pedal, steer, and keep the bike steady.  Training wheels helped some but she really tried to lean on them too much, especially when she got tired.  My husband was attempting to make a recumbent bike for her but it was a tedious task with the materials he had access to and our budget simply didn't allow for us to buy one.

Then God surprised us with the neatest hand-me down gift ever!  Some dear friends at church blessed us with this large tricycle. The seat was a little worn but her daddy crafted her a new one and it was good to go.  Now she can pedal and steer without trying to also balance her body!  She will still have to work on her stamina as she tires after a short ride, but she can ride!  I am so happy!  Thank you Lord and thank you friends for giving us this new toy!


video

Friday, April 11, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: Curiosity Quest

My daughter Gess is a very curious little girl.  The fact that she has special needs makes me even more thrilled that she is always asking questions and trying to figure things out.  It sure makes it easier for me to teach her.  Lately she has been curious about the food that we eat.  We will be eating something and she will ask, "where did that come from?"  We then have the joy of explaining the method of how we get our food.  When its a fruit or vegetable that is fun.  When its meat, well, we try to be as accurate as possible without spoiling her dinner.  So when I saw that I had the opportunity to review some DVDs titled Curiosity Quest I knew that would be right up Gesserine's alley.  I was even more thrilled when some of them pertained to food!

For the purpose of my review I recieved the following DVDs from Curiosity Quest:

DVD Combo Pack - Produce - Mushrooms, Orange Packing, Cranberries
DVD Combo Pack - Swimmers of the Sea - Turtle Rescue, Penguins, Salmon Hatchery

These Combo Packs have 3 episodes on each DVD.  They are geared for children ages 7-14 and each individual episode is approximately 30 minutes in length.  Each show begins with the host Joel Greene reading a letter from a viewer with a question the topic is based off of.  He then takes you on a journey to find the answer.  To do this they usually tour some sort of facility that has specialists in the field to help them not only answer the questions, but actually see how it all works. They break through the tour a few times with little mini segments where they ask people on the street questions to test their knowledge on the subject or tell us some Fun Fact about it. 

Because of her fascination with food and where it comes from, Gess chose to start with the Produce video.  The first episode we watched was on Cranberries which is actually something we don't eat a lot of.  I wish it was cranberry season so I could have found her some fresh ones to try when we were done, but it was still fun to watch out of season. 

The letter that inspired this video was, "Dear Joel, I have seen an ad on T.V. for cranberries, and I was wondering why the men are standing in a lake full of them."  I have seen that ad and actually wondered the same thing myself, but not enough to ever go find out.  So this video was educational for both of us!  Not only do they explain why they are standing in the lake, it shows you the process on scene.  Joel himself gets to walk out in a lake full of cranberries.  The poor guy does it when its snowing! 


You then get to follow the cranberries from the lake, to the processing facility, all the way to the truck that takes them to the store.  At the end they eat at the center's restaurant where everything is flavored with cranberries, even the ketchup!

After watching the video we decided to explore cranberries some more at the store.  Since we didn't find any fresh ones we simply got dried and canned cranberries as well as cranberry juice.  Gess was disappointed that we couldn't find cranberry ketchup but she isn't giving up.  She still searches for it on the ketchup isle each time we go to the store.

Next we watched the Swimmers of the Sea.  We started with Salmon Hatchery and learned a very cool way to remember the types of salmon using our hand.  There are chum, sockeye, king, silver (or choho) and pink.  Watching how they raise and release salmon out into the wild was pretty fascinating.  Out of 125 million babies about 10% actually come back.  The process was simply amazing.  Gess' favorite fun fact was how a king salmon can weigh up to 100 pounds!

The Penguins episode was fun too.  Here they visited an Aquarium to watch penguins up close.  Each episode seems to have key words it defines.  This time it was husbandry.  Gess was surprised that it had nothing to do with marriage!  We also found it amusing how they get them to take their vitamins.

Then we went back to learning about produce again. The Orange Packing one was really interesting.  Did you know they have yet to invent a machine that can pick oranges better than man can?  I believe its the same with mushrooms too.  These guys are swift though, its incredible!  Joel found out it isn't as easy as it looks.


 We really liked how the bad oranges go into cattle feed so nothing ever gets wasted.  Gess favorite part was the end where they tell that silly knock knock joke.

Knock Knock
Who's There?
Banana
Banana Who?
Knock Knock
Who's There?
Banana
Banana Who?
Knock Knock
Who's There?
Orange
Orange Who?
Orange you glad I didn't say banana?!

Gess is a knock knock joke nut and has told this one a million times.  Now she was reminded to tell it again for several days.  Thanks for that!

The episode Mushrooms was really fascinating to me.  I never really thought about how you would actually farm mushrooms.  You learn that it isn't the best smelling place around.  I didn't really think about the heat and decomposition that goes into growing these fungi plants but it sure makes sense.  These guys were fast pickers too, they were able to pick 104 pounds per hour!  Again, Joel here wasn't as fast.


The last one we watched was Turtle Rescue.  In this episode they visited a sea turtle hospital where they treat sick or injured turtles.  Their goal is to rescue, rehabilitate, and release them back into the wild.  Sea turtles are an endangered species so only people with a permit can touch them, let alone keep them.  Like salmon, sea turtles lay eggs where they themselves were hatched from, so no matter how many miles away they are they know where to return.

In this episode there is a brief discussion about the origins of sea turtles which is from an evolutionary point of view, though they don't believe sea turtles themselves have evolved.  They date them back to the age of dinosaurs suggesting they are the oldest creature having been around over a hundred million years.  That was the only reference to origins that I found on any of the videos.  The rest simply has fun and interesting facts about the topics.

In all of the videos Gess loved the segments where they asked people on the street questions about the topic but they often gave wrong answers and that confused her.  She finally started asking me each time, "are they telling the truth?"  She was trying to learn facts and they were mixed up with mistakes.  I think I noticed in some episodes that they rang a bell in the background when the answer was correct.  That was helpful to let you know if they were right but it didn't seem to do that in all of them.

Gess enjoyed these and has watched some of them more than once.  I love that they encouraged her to explore more about the subjects.  She went to the library and checked out books on penguins and salmon.  We also encouraged her to try the foods that were discussed.  In fact, one day we had an entire dinner based upon our studies.  Daddy made salmon, rice with mushrooms, stuffed mushrooms, green beans with mushrooms, cranberry sauce and cranberry juice.  This had to be the first meal where she didn't have to ask, "where did that come from?"


Gess actually likes salmon and mushrooms, except when the mushrooms are stuffed.  I don't get that, those are the best kind!  Gess is also not a fan of orange juice or oranges, but we knew that already.  What we found out here is that she isn't a fan of cranberries either.  While she does like cranberry juice blends she didn't care for straight up cranberry juice, cranberry sauce, or even dried cranberries.


She still had fun discovering about them, which she probably wouldn't have done if not for these videos.

Overall I feel these were really well done.  I think that by dividing the tour up with the questions, fun facts, and other useful information really helped keep the video moving and the audience engaged.  Joel is also very entertaining and seems to have lots of fun so he really does get the kids excited about the topic.  While I feel they are bit pricey for three 30 minute segments, they were really fun to watch and we both learned a lot.

You can purchase the DVD's at the Curiosity Quest website.

DVD Combo Pack - Produce $24.95
DVD Combo Pack - Swimmers of the Sea $24.95

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