Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ooka Island (Review)


Ooka Island is a "learn to read" game for children from pre-K to 2nd grade.
 It is software based, not an online program. 

There are three editions:
School
Home
&
Homeschool

We are reviewing the "Homeschool" edition.

Our Ooka Island software arrived quickly, and was delivered on a USB drive for Mac.
Installation was a SNAP and it was ready to play in no time at all.

Now...let me give you a little information before I get into the "meat" of my review.
My 7 year old (Troy) has had a VERY difficult time learning to read.
He also gets frustrated with the computer, and does not spend any time on it.
We limit time with electronics in our home, so it is not like he has a lot of "practice" either.
When preparing to do this review, I did not have high hopes. 

Back to my review:

Troy sat anxiously watching as I installed the software and was immediately drawn in by the graphics. He repeatedly asked, "Is it time for me to play yet?".
Finally, it was time. 
He played,
and played,
and played some more.


There are also printable workbooks to go along with the program,
and correspond to the books they read within the program.
We used these to help reinforce the computer learning. 


(Yes, we often do school in our pajamas)


I think the first few days he spent 2-4 hours a day playing.
(I know, I know...that is a lot. However, he was learning and loving it, who am I to argue?)
Immediately I noticed changes in his reading ability. 
I mean after his first day playing it, not after a week or two. 

After several weeks of playing, he has grown by leaps and bounds. 
I swore I would never use a computer based tool for homeschooling,
opting for the more traditional living book method.
Ooka Island is my exception to that rule.
We LOVE it not only because it is fun...
we love it because it does what it is supposed to do,
and that is to teach a child to read. 

Troy begs to play it DAILY!
 (yes, even weekends)

The best feature for me as the parent is the Ooka Island "Lighthouse".
This is what the website says about the "Lighthouse", 
and it explains it better than I could:

"The Ooka Lighthouse Reporting System is an easy-to-use online portal for parents and educators. As young learners travel through the downloadable Ooka Island Learn-to-Read System, account holders can follow along in real-time by logging into the Lighthouse via a web browser.

Current research is emphasizing that academic success in the early years is highly correlated to success in life. In fact, if children can read fluently and well by age seven, the likelihood that they will reach post secondary education doubles. The findings from the Lighthouse Reporting System tell us that children, ages five and above, using the Ooka Island program, can emerge into reading after as little as eight hours spent on the program, and that four-year-olds can emerge into reading within 13 hours. The “Red Line / Blue Line Chart” describes a typical five year old child’s progress on the Ooka Island Learn-to-Read System."
Here is a little video peek at the Ooka Island Adventure:


You can see the pricing here

BUT WAIT, do you want to save some?

Here is a link to save 30%!




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Monday, April 29, 2013

Spanish for You (Product Review)


"Spanish for You" is a complete foreign language curriculum for grades 3-8. I had to tweak it some, as I was using it for my young 1st grader in order to facilitate a review for it. My plan had been to use it with my teen, who is struggling in her spanish class, but it just didn't pan out like I had intended. The material was just too different from what she was studying. Anyhow, we have not done the study the way the program was designed, BUT, I have looked at it thoroughly enough to understand how it would be used with a child who could dig deeper into the materials.
So, that being said, lets move on.

With this program, you receive: 

    • Spanish for you! soft cover book (allow up to 2 weeks for delivery) or E-book (trial pkgs.)
    • Audio download (MP3) of the entire book. You use these as the lesson guide instructs.
    • A free bonus audio of the entire book recorded by a native speaker from Mexico. (MP3)
    • 24-30 Week Lesson Guide (PDF) - The student (and parent if needed) follows this guide step-by-step to know what to do, at whatever pace works for you.
    • Self-checking worksheets (PDF) - You just print these as you need them. The lesson guide will tell you what you need to print and when.
    • Free set of pictures for making flashcards and other activity materials. (PDF)


You can teach this curriculum whether you have a foundation in spanish or not. For me, I speak very little Spanish. We live in an area heavily saturated with native spanish speaking people, so it is very important for my children to develop a basis in the language.

We started out learning the colors and numbers. There is an audio file to accompany this, so that Troy could hear it and repeat it. We also did the flash cards to accompany them so that there was true mastery of the vocabulary. 

In the weeks that we reviewed the program, that is as far as we have gotten. However, it has worked and he can now at least say 15 colors and 20 numbers in spanish. The book came with suggestions for games to play to integrate the vocabulary into every day life. Application was what I REALLY loved about doing as much as we did. 

We got the "Fiestas" which has the theme of celebrations. Because we chose this, we learned cultural lessons too about things like "Day of the Dead", "Carnival", and "Holy Week" in Spain. 

Spanish for you was developed by Debbie Annett, MSEd. 

The following is from their "About" page. 

More to know:
  • Every Spanish for You! package is used over an entire school year by the author before it becomes available for sale to ensure quality and test it every step of the way.
  • Each Spanish for You! book provides new material as well as overlapping of some material from other Spanish for You! books for reinforcement of concepts.
  • The self-checking worksheets are leveled for grades 3-4, 5-6, and 7-8 because even though grades 3 through 8 are learning the same content, they need practice appropriate to their grades.
  • This curriculum prepares students to excel in any high school Spanish curriculum.
  • Many students who have used this curriculum for 2 or more years have been able to begin high school Spanish early, some as early as 5th grade.
  • Some students who study with Spanish for You! for a few years are able to begin high school Spanish at the second year level.


We are enjoying this curriculum and using it at a modified level for a younger child. However, it is certainly best suited for the target age ranges. We will be using it starting Troy's third grade year and hope to work through all books that will be available. Right now there are three different themes available, "Fiestas"(Celebrations), "Estacions" (Seasons), and in June "Viajes" (Travels) will be released.

On their website there are free samples for you to utilize.

The program costs range from $9.99-$64.95. I have found that this is a very reasonable price for a full Spanish curriculum.



For more reviews, please click on the disclaimer above. 


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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Apologia's The Ultimate Homeschool Planner (& Weekly Planner for Teens) - Review




I have used several homeschool planners. I have used free ones you piece together yourself, dated ones you buy, undated ones you buy that are pre-printed, undated HUGE planners you print pages as you need, etc. I always felt something was lacking. 


I will start out with my review for "The Ultimate Homeschool Planner".


First off, who doesn't love pockets? This planner has pockets in the front and back for that stuff that you need to store. We keep our flashcards in there. 

And then...here comes one of the VERY BEST parts of this planner. Debra Bell (the author of these planners) is a seasoned homeschooling Mom. She and her husband home-educated their four children from grades K-12. (Click here to learn more about her.) She put that knowledge to use building this planner, and she also guides you through how to utilize the planner to get the most out of it. It has fully detailed instructions as well as the reasoning behind those things. 

Things such as: 
Planning Retreats
Planning Sessions
Planning Breaks
Monday Morning Tutorials
Friday Afternoon Breaks




See a full table of contents here.


Here you see my planning grid, in progress. I would have NEVER thought to put my year on a grid like this. It has enabled me to see ALL goings on, without flipping around and trying to cross reference. 


Here, we have a list of goals for each of my children.
This includes character goals and academic goals.


Following this, there is a page to list family priorities.
This is excellent for being able to figure out what fits into your homeschool, 
and what is best to phase out or say "no" to. 


Then there are several pages to list homeschooling resources, 
followed by monthly calendars for the year (undated, so you are not limited in start/finish times). 

Since we homeschool year-round, undated is absolutely necessary for us. 

Next, we have the weekly planner pages.

The rows vertical and horizontal are blank so you can utilize it how it works best for you.
I use it for ONE child, so I use subjects across the top,
and days of the weeks down the side. Then I just check it off as it is done. 


On the right side, there is space for:
Notes
Supplies
Appointments

Along with those there is an inspirational quote.


Weekly, you are encouraged through "The Ultimate Homeschool Planner" to have a weekly planning break.
In this time, you reflect, plan, pray, and formulate your "battle plan" for the upcoming week. 
For me, this is has been super beneficial. Purposefully reflecting weekly on forward momentum and evidence of character growth certainly helps in moments of Momma doubt and homeschool burnout. 

In the back of the planner there are pages for recording grades, reading lists, & filed trips.

She also has some tips in the back that are excellent tools for even an experienced homeschooling parent. 

There is a year end review and a page for notes. 

This planner most definitely has helped our homeschool. Not just in planning, but in improving and adapting. We can continually prioritize, assess goals, and form an evolving plan to give us the best success at educating our children at home in a godly manner (while being well organized).

We will be using this planner permanently now. 
It has two different choices for the cover, both beautiful and appealing. 

This was a bit more of a challenge since my teens are no longer home-educated fully.
My oldest son and my daughter attend a local school full-time, 
and my next to oldest is studying for his GED. 

My oldest uses a school issued planner, so I gave it to my daughter to use.

She used it for a few weeks and really found it didn't help her much, except for listing under the days of the week what tasks/tests she had that were special. 

So, I passed it onto my son who now uses it to plan out his studying in his GED guide.

He enjoys it for that purpose, but it really doesn't utilize the planner to its full potential.

This planner is really well suited and thought out for a high-school student who is tracking progress for their high school diploma and/or transcripts. 

It has:
An "About me" section
Schedule Logging
Calenders (Undated)
SAT words weekly
Planning pages with days of the week and subjects
(Time spent on subject tracking)
Think pad space (notes?)
Doodle Space
It also has neat quotes on the side...
The Periodic Table of Elements
and many other useful charts and conversions.
It has maps too...

(My kids really liked the info in the back, even though they didn't use the planner fully)

They also LOVED the design. Said it was "cool".
There is a lot of space for notes too.

The stickers in the back are awesome too...

We all believe this planner would be excellent for a homeschooling teen. 

You can order "The Ultimate Homeschool Planner for Teens" here for $19.00

You can order "The Ultimate Homeschool Planner" here or here for $28.00
(Links to ordering for each cover style)


You can see other reviews of this and other products by clicking on the disclaimer above. 


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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

We Choose Virtues Review and Coupon Codes


Around our home, we try really hard to instill good character traits in our children. I say we try, but really sometimes we don't quite teach intentionally and therefore the importance of a particular trait is not focused on until a child noticeably deficient in that virtue. We concentrate on "yes sir", "yes ma'am", "please", and "thank you".  We are intentional in these things. Otherwise, it is usually waiting until a chance to practice a virtue is missed before we speak up to "correct" it. However, rarely do we place continual intentional focus on it. 

When I saw the "We Choose Virtues" products were coming up for review, I did a little squeal of delight. I was so excited to get these and begin using them. 

Here is a shot of the flash cards we received, along with a game suggestion card:


The traits on the cards are:

Attentive
Content
Kind
Patient
Self-Controlled
Diligent
Gentle
Forgiving
Perseverant
Obedient
Honest
Helpful

We also received a "Parent Card" which guides us in ways to focus on the character trait:
Our parent card was focused on "attentiveness",


I knew I had to tread carefully with my teenagers with this one. They can be very touchy, and quite resistant to anything that might improve them as people. It was certainly evident that I should have had a system like "We Choose Virtues" when they were younger! 

What I finally decided to do was pull the teens off to the side and tell them that we all had to work to retrain Troy. I told them that I needed them to participate so that they could help me since they often saw behaviors I didn't. They were totally on board with that! I do know though, by teaching, you are learning, and that is all that mattered.

Every morning at breakfast, the kids pull the flash cards out and go through them. Right now we are only focused on the "I am" statements (like on the Attentive card, which says "I watch and listen carefully"). In the evening, sometimes we pull them out and play games with them. Our favorite one has been for someone to make a skit and act out the lack of a virtue, and in order for the next person to have a turn, they must say the catch phrase (I am statement) on the card that would correct that situation. Then, the person who did the skit must fix their skit to show how to do the "right" thing. 

Another thing we do is "catching" others doing well in the virtues and praising them. The seven year old LOVES this one. The teenagers? They love catching each other NEEDING to remember one, and then point it out to them. Siblings... 

It was quite ironic that the parent card we got was the "attentive" one since that seems to be the number one virtue lacking in our home. Not just the kids, but us as parents too. We have used this card as our "focus" card for a month, and I can actually say we have seen an improvement! We have memorized the Bible Verse, and the examples of what being attentive is "not". We find examples to talk about, and relate it to planes (we live by a busy airport, giving us a lot of chances to be reminded). See, the attentive character is "Airplane Betty Jane". The parent card guides you to know how to relate the character to the trait creating an easy memory jogging tool for the child. Well, for adults too. I now think of "attentiveness" with every plane I see. 

Heather from We Choose Virtues has offered a LIFETIME long coupon code for the use of my readers here. The code is good for 15% off of your shopping cart. The code to use is: VIRTUE15

If you choose to make a purchase of the homeschool kit before the end of April 2013, there is a special code just for you! It is: Home20

There are so many products available for purchase, that I cannot list them all and their prices here. The Homeschool Kit is $98.99,  and has everything you need to complete the program. 

Another choice is the Family Kit for $69.99.

If neither of these options fit your budget, Heather (from We Choose Virtues) recommends the following: 


You can also see more reviews of this product starting April 3rd over at Mosaic Reviews.
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Sunday, March 24, 2013

FamilyMint Review



FamilyMint is a program that can be utilized to teach your children money management. This is what their site says about the program:

"FamilyMint's Money Management Certification Program combines a 60-page step-by-step workbook with a fun online money management application for kids.  Kids that complete the 2 month program develop key money habits that will benefit them the rest of their lives."

In our family, I thought about this program and who in our family would be best to have work through it. I decided to let my 14 year old work through the program, and then write a review herself for the program. I did not have her register and use the online worksheets, because our children have limited access to the computer and internet. This program does have some excellent computer based resources, but since it is totally an option to use it without those resources, we chose to do it that way.

(Hopefully I will be adding more pictures of our own later...our card reader has broken and I cannot upload them at this time)

Her is her review:

When my mom handed me this book, I thought to myself "I am way too old for this, and I already know all of this stuff". However, when I started actually working through it, I realized I had been wrong.

I got my first bank account last year when I started babysitting. It is a "checking" account, but I don't use checks. I just have a debit card I use. I have not been good about tracking, saving, or anything. I also have a savings account, but it only has $5 in it.

The first thing I really likes about the "FamilyMint" book was the "SMART goal system".  I had never had a system of setting goals. I just decided what I wanted and sometimes I got it, and sometimes I was too impatient and spent my money before I had got what I wanted. I often have been disappointed in my ability to save for what I really wanted. I feel like through the FamilyMint book, I have finally learned how to set goals and attain them. I like having the worksheets to physically see my progress towards my goals. Looking at them helps to keep me focused.

Another thing that I learned a lot through this book was about budgeting. Not only did it teach me a lot about how I divide up my money, it made me realize how much my parents have to use their money for taking care of the families needs. It makes me more aware of how it can effect the family when I ask for things.

Interest has always confused me. After working through the section on interest, I called my bank to see how I can start earning interest through my own account. I have to save for a while to have the $500 to put into an interest bearing account, but I understand now how it will be beneficial.

I can now write checks and fill out deposit slips, which I couldn't do before. I feel like I have a good understanding of how to manage my money. It will help me when I am out and on my own in a few years.

I would recommend this product for all kids. It was written at a level that kids younger than me could easily understand, but I still learned a lot from it.  ~ by Michaela

This is a video from FamilyMint on life "Before and After FamilyMint".


FamilyMint has several different options available for purchase that range from $4.99/ month to $29.99 for purchase of the full program. There is an option available for everyone's needs.  There is also a FREE 14 days trial you can access. The options are listed here for you to explore. 

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This review was done as part of the Mosaic Review team. I was provided these materials to review as part of the team, and in no way was asked for a favorable review. 

You can see the other reviews for this and other products by clicking on the link below.

Monday, March 4, 2013

I am "that" homeschool Mom...


I am "that" homeschool mom.

The one who doesn't fit in homeschool groups,
because I have a child in public school. 

The one who doesn't fit into public schooling groups, 
because I homeschool.

Yet, I do not consider myself a "public school mom", 
because, I homeschool. It is just what I do. 

One of my children goes to public school, to receive some education.
That being said, I think most of what she learns comes from her time here at home.

Why do I even care about "labels"?
I don't have a clue. 
But the fact is, I do. 
I shouldn't want to fit in (and in many ways I don't).
But still, I do wish that I didn't feel so alone.

In the homeschool community there is often a stigma associated 
with those who have children in public school. 
I guess it is a sense of superiority because "we" believe we have 
chosen the best way to educate a child. 
I know this is true, because I have seen it.
I have also been guilty of it.
I am still guilty of it.

Even though I have a child in public school, 
I think it is beneath her and the inferior way for her to be educated. 
Why is she there then?
Well, that story is long. 
I will save it for another day.
It has to do with her desires,
and my husband's (and my) desires to not make her bitter. 

I often find I am ashamed to admit that I have a child in public school. 
No one has shamed me, 
but because I believe it is best to keep children home for their education,
I am ashamed of myself for allowing one to be away.

Now, I said there was a stigma in homeschooling circles about public schoolers.
That is true.
However, I believe it to be more true in general public.
They don't understand homeschoolers.
They still think they are "weird",
even though more and more people are discovering it is NOT weird.
In fact, it is very natural. 
We teach our children every day, regardless of where they get their formal education. 

There it is, just a confession from "that" mom.
The one caught in the middle.

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Troy Says: On the Human Body



What happens to food when you eat?
It gets all munched up inside your stomach.

What makes boogers?
Whenever your nose gets dry, the boogers gets, umm, uh...all dried snot.

Why do we fart?
Because thats just what happens to gas.

Why do people have different colored eyes?
Because that's just the way God made them.

What makes people have different hair colors?
Don't you get it Mom? God made us all different.

Why do we have 10 fingers and 10 toes?
So we could have on each hand and foot.

Why do we have tongues?
To eat and drink. Because, your tongue helps you chew your food with, um, your teeth and your tongue. And, that's it.

Do you think helps us talk?
Well yeah, because it just works along with our teeth to make us talk.

Why did God make different skin colors on humans?
I don't know. I think we're all the same on the inside. 

What would happen if we didn't sleep?
We'd all die. For sure.

What does a brain look like?
It might look like a glob of skin with blue and green veins attached to it. 




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