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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Math Mammoth: A Review


Guess what? Another review!  Seems like all I am writing right now is reviews!    This one is for a Math curriculm called Math Mammoth.

Math Mammoth offers affordable, yet quality math worktexts and workbooks for grades 1-8, available as both downloads and printed books. These books concentrate on conceptual understanding and are strong in mental math. The directions in the worktexts are written directly to the student, and are often self-teaching, thus requiring little preparation and involvement from the teacher.

The company offers a full elementary mathematics curriculum for grades 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Each grade level in the curriculum consists of two student worktexts (A and B), and supportive materials, which include answer keys, tests, cumulative reviews, and an additional worksheet maker.

But it also offers lots of supplemental math materials:
  • Collections of handy 1-page worksheets with varying problems, which are offered either by topic (GREEN SERIES) or by grade level (GOLDEN SERIES).
  • The BLUE SERIES books are worktexts  by math topics. They concentrate on a few connected topics and concepts at a time, and are great for many purposes, such as initial teaching, remedial teaching, or review.
  • Make It Real Learning workbooks allow you to solve problems from real-life.
  • States by the Numbers workbooks include lots of basic practice using real-life data.

After  looking through the vast website and assessing the needs we had in math, I chose to review 2 topics in the Blue Series. 

My thoughts:   I chose these topics with Eli (Grade 1) in mind.  Our current math curriculum is taught in a cyclical approach so I figured the topical approach would help to supplement and reinforce the concepts he is learning.  I found the text to be straight forward and simple to follow.  Because Eli isn't really an independent learner, I knew that the worksheet format would not work well for him so I worked through the lessons with him.  On some of the lessons, the others also joined in.

They had fun working together on the activities.   Eli likes anything hands on so the activites were a winner.  Even though he doesn't  enjoy worksheets too much he did manage to get through a few lessons  filling in the pages.  They provided a great diversion from our regular curriculum.  I find breaks like that tend to keep them motivated!

We will revisit these worktexts.  The best thing is that I received them as an e-book and the licensing permits me unlimited copies for my students, which means I that I can reprint and use these same books for Eden and Marcus when they are ready for them.

The full curriculum is about $35 per grade and the supplementary worktexts are around $3 or $4 per topic.

You can check out what others thought here. 

Disclaimer:  As a TOS Homeschool Crew reviewer, I received these e-books in return for an honest review(positive or otherwise) of the curriculum.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Keyboard Pals: A Review

Do you remember learning to type? Was it easy and fun? If you were taught like me it wasn't either of those! We were given a product to review that claims to teach kids to type in an hour while they have fun as well! Here's some information from the Keyboard Pals website
Our Mission: Our mission is to teach young children to type on a Qwerty computer keyboard in the fastest, easiest, and least stressful way. In only one hour Keyboard Town PALS’ “Learn To Type”software is able to achieve that goal.
Stress-Free: We have eliminated the stress normally associated with learning to type and replaced it with adorable puppets who sing songs and tell stories in a relaxed learning environment. Our system has no boring drills or exercises. No mindless games. No nerve-wracking timed-speed tests. We have even deactivated the delete and backspace buttons since mistakes are never counted and scroll right off the screen.
Wholesome: We are dedicated to developing educational software that you can depend on; wholesome products that will help you do your job as a parent – the most important and rewarding job anyone can have.
Self Motivated: Your child will become an eager participant in the learning process and will be self-motivated to learn and complete the program.
6 and Up: Keyboard Town PALS is best for the beginner audience of kids ages 6-12 and those with learning differences. All you need is a kid, a computer and an hour.

So what did we think?   I personally found the puppets kind of corny but since I wasn't the target audience I kept an open mind and my opinion to myself when I introduced the program to the kids.  I used it with both Micaiah (almost 8) and Eli (6).  I did a run through of a few of the lessons myself and they were easy to understand and would need little to no parental supervision once the kids were logged on.

Unlike me the kids liked the puppets.  Micaiah had success with the program and is well on his way to typing.  (He will continue to practice with the program until our subscription runs out). He however did not like it enough to sit for an hour or even a half hour so I can not vouch for the claim that it can teach you to type in an hour.  There are a total of 8 lessons- one lesson per finger and they did one or two lessons at a time.  Eli who is at the lower limit of the target age range did not have a whole lot of interest in learning to type.  When I asked him if he liked the program his answer was "Yes, but I only want to type with my right hand." 

So all in all I found it to be a good program that sets out what it intends to do if the child is ready to learn to type.  The product can be purchased as a CD-rom ($35) or there is an online option ($30) and the company has other companion products available for purchase if you want to extend the learning (finger puppets, coloring book, a game).

Check out the Keyboard Pals website for more information.  If you want to know what others thought, take a look some more reviews here.

Disclaimer:  As a TOS Homeschool Crew reviewer, I received a free 6 week subscription for online access to  the Keyboard Pals software in return for an honest review(positive or otherwise) of the product.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

10 years after "I do"

Today is our 10th wedding anniversary.

I posted this message to my husband on Facebook this morning:

"I thought I loved you completely when I said "I do" but now 10 years later I see that that was just the beginning... I love you more than I could have ever imagined!"
Amongst the congratulatory messages we received on that post was a question from one of my friends asking the secret to making it sweet. It got me thinking about how much I have learned over the past 10 years about marriage. When I think back, knowing what I know now, I was quite clueless about what makes a marriage work when I walked down the aisle. Sure we had the premarital counseling that is so important but it is one thing to know something in theory...putting it into practice is a whole other ball game!

So here is a list of 10 things I have learned over the past 10 years.  Most of these things I am still learning but practice makes perfect right?! 

  1. First and foremost, keep God at the centre of the marriage.
  2. My husband is always on my team. He is not my enemy...even when we don't see eye to eye.
  3. Honesty is always the best policy.
  4. If I want my spouse to be honest and openly communicate with me, I have to create/maintain the right environment for that.  I have listen without judgement no matter what is being said.  
  5. I don't always have to be right. (still working on that one :)
  6. Conflict is an opportunity for growth.
  7. Don't try to change your spouse.  Pray for God to change them but pray more for God to give you the grace to accept them as they are.  
  8. Be willing to overlook the little things... when it comes to our spouses faults or our own pet peeves, we tend to go through the dating stage with our eyes shut tight and then when we get married our eyes are wide open.  It should be the other way around!
  9. Marriage is not 50/50.  It's not even each person always giving 100% (can you really give 100% 100% of the time?)  Sometimes it might be 20/80 and other times it might be 80/20.  The main thing is being willing to pick up the slack when necessary.
  10. As much as you love your children, they do not come before your marriage.  A healthy marriage will make healthy kids.  Make sure your kids know that mommy and daddy are a team.

So Sweetie, I look forward to learning so much more as we continue this journey together...


Monday, November 7, 2011

Book Review: The Pirate Queen

The Pirate Queen by Patricia Hickman

Treasure is found in the most unlikely places. The envy of all her friends, wife and mother Saphora Warren is the model of southern gentility and accomplishment. She lives in a beautiful Lake Norman home, and has raised three capable adult children. Her husband is a successful plastic surgeon--and a philanderer. It is for that reason that, after hosting a garden party for Southern Living magazine, Saphora packs her bags to escape the trappings of the picturesque-but-vacant life. Saphora’s departure is interrupted by her husband Bender’s early arrival home, and his words that change her life forever: I’m dying. Against her desires, Saphora agrees to take care of Bender as he fights his illness. They relocate, at his insistence, to their coastal home in Oriental—the same house she had chosen for her private getaway. When her idyllic retreat is overrun by her grown children, grandchildren, townspeople, relatives, and a precocious neighbor child, Saphora’s escape to paradise is anything but the life she had imagined. As she gropes for evidence of God's presence amid the turmoil, can she discover that the richest treasures come in surprising packages? 

I was given the e-book version of this book to review by Waterbrook Multnomah. I had never hear of the author, Patricia Hickman, but the description sounded interesting. I was drawn in after the first few chapters. Hickman's writing style makes the characters come to life and the plot while starting off seemingly predictable takes several unexpected twists which keeps you turning the pages.  There were times I laughed, times I got mad, and times I cried.  I definitely didn't want to put it down.   For me that makes it really good read.

Throughout the book, the themes of forgiveness and grace were woven together in a captivating story which was uplifting and encouraging and pointed toward experiencing God's presence in the midst of pain.  The gospel, the redeeming message of Christ,  was clearly presented and was well positioned in the plot.  My favourite character had to be Tobias,  the young boy who unknowingly helps to change Saphora's outlook on life.  His positive attitude and determination while faced with huge trials was a challenging example of how to live life fully no matter what you are faced with.   

I will definitely be looking for more titles by Patricia Hickman.. especially if I get that Kindle on my wish list (hint, hint my dear hubby:)

Disclaimer: I received this book (e-book version) from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for this honest review.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ooka Island: A Review

For the past month Eden has been battling Fliggs (FLying Pigs), rescuing Elves, collecting mist, wandering through sound caves, hanging out in a Popcorn Library, playing in a Pencil Playground, skating down an Alphabet Mountain, and looking for books in a submarine.

     Sounds like fun?
                     Let me introduce you to Ooka Island!

We were given a copy of this downloadable online adventure to review but before I tell you what I think of it here is some information found on their website which will tell you a little about it:

Ooka Island is an online adventure based on a dynamic, individualized, and adaptive reading curriculum that will keep children captivated and develop their literacy skills along the way.
The Ooka Island Adventure starts with 20 minutes of guided play where the player is guided through a customized learning path through the 7 activities on Ooka Island. After 20 minutes of guided play the player unlocks the next book on the Book Path, reads the book in the Popcorn Library and completes the comprehension and vocabulary activities. The player is then rewarded with 8 minutes of free play where the player can play in any unlocked activity on the Island, purchase items in the Mist Mart, or play with their Ooka Elf friends in the Pencil Playground.
The Ooka Island Adventure is embedded with an innovative learning algorithm that adapts game play according to each child’s needs. If a child struggles with any skill being taught, they are rerouted to an activity where that same skill is presented in a different way. This pattern is repeated until the child has mastered the particular skill.
The Ooka Island Adventure is accessed online but not through a web browser, so players are never directed outside of the game to other websites or to outside content.

After being Ooka Island Adventurers for a month now, I can tell you that we love it.   It is designed for Pre-K to Grade 2 but since Eli (grade 1) is reading quite fluently I decided to use the program for Eden (pre-K) who wasn't reading but was becoming more interested in reading.  She knew all her letters and the sounds and was getting the concept of putting letter sounds together.  So Ooka Island came at the perfect time. From the first day, entering the "Cave of Sounds" she was excited.  I think she was thrilled to have a program that was hers (the boys have had the chance to review a couple of programs that have been above her level).  After I sat with her for a few days, she was able to maneuver through the program quite well on her own.  Her favourite part is getting to the Popcorn Library and having the book read to her.  She likes to log on and go straight to the library to read the books that have already been unlocked.  After a month she has unlocked 16 books and there are 85 in total so we have plenty more Ooka Island ahead of us.  She also,  in true girl fashion, loves shopping in the Mist Mart for new clothes, shoes and accessories for her avatar.

I like that the program moves at her pace, and if she is struggling with a skill, it repeats (without it feeling repetitive)  it until she gets it.   It has built her confidence in reading and she is now trying to read any book she picks up (including mine:).   I like that she doesn't always have to do the full 20 minutes as the program will pick up where she left off.  I am impressed with the thought and planning that has obviously gone into the development of this program.  We had a few installation issues and compatibility issues (it's a newly released program) but the customer service representative I dealt with was always efficient and knowledgeable.

Would I recommend the program?   Yes, if you have an emerging or early reader who loves technology,  give it a try.  There are several pricing options available and they are even offering a 30% discount to celebrate their launch so now is a great time to explore the island.



I participated in this review as a member of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Team.   Click here to see what my crewmates  are saying about Ooka Island.

Disclaimer:  As a TOS Reviewer I was given a free 6 month subscription in exchange for my honest (positive or otherwise) opinion of the product.