Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Review: Aprendamos Espanol

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

My family and I used to live in Middlebury, VT, so seeing Middlebury Interactive Languages come up for review really caught my eye! Princess P has been wanting to learn Spanish for a while now, so we chose their Elementary Spanish I course for this review period.  It is recommended for grades 3-5 and P is in 4th so we were right in the recommended range. There are no prerequisites for taking this class, so we got her set up with an account and logged in to begin.

I was a little nervous to begin because despite two years of Spanish in high school and in college, I pretty much know nothing in Spanish. Nada. (heehee...I said pretty much) But this was totally fun and easy! There are 7 units and a review in this set. For P's grade, Middlebury recommends doing 2-3 days a week. Doing that, you could easily get through this in the semester. There is a calendar on the site with lessons listed for each day. We ignored that and just went through the Table of Contents and selected the next lesson on Tues and Thurs when we did Spanish.  I like that it checks off the ones you have done so you know where you left off.  I also liked that the topics were practical things to learn and the pictures are fun and bright. There are all cartoon drawings and the speech is clear on the sound parts.

Unit 1 starts by giving you the intro and objectives and then jumps right into reading you a story in Spanish. P was a little put off by this because she "didn't understand a word they just said." After two roughly a week and a half, they told the same story again and this time she could understand enough to make sense of it! This was super cool and encouraging to her.

The lessons are simple and required nothing from me. Once we figured out the system (ie click the check mark in the top right corner when finished so it scores it for you!), she was off and running. She would normally do an entire lesson in one sitting. There is enough repetition that she was able to do it all on her own. She would sometimes ask me "do girls end in a or o?" when she started a lesson because that kept confusing her, but if she knew it, she could do them all. There are some lessons that ask you to restate the words into a mic. When our computer died, the mic went with I just sat with her on those and listened instead of recording and playing back. Since we didn't have the teacher grading us, it was no biggie to do it like this. Once we get a new computer, we can start recording again.

They mix up the teaching methods throughout the lessons so it isn't boring to the kids. They speak, quiz, practice, explore, color, sing, etc. They keep the kids moving. We spent about 30 minutes at a time on this. Most of the time, that completed an entire lesson. Sometimes, we would stop and then pick up the next day and call it review before starting the next lesson. P enjoyed it so much she would want to do several lessons at a time, but after letting her do that a few times, I realized she wasn't retaining as well when she rushed through several so started limiting it to 30 minutes. It's a tough problem to have to limit their school, right? ;o)

Like my last review, this one is online, which is awesome since our computer crashed on us! We were able to pick up the next lesson on the laptop and not miss a beat.  This site also has a gradebook for teachers to check. The only issue here is some things it gave P 100% on when I watched her miss a few. It instantly corrects, or doesn't accept incorrect answers, so the 100% is might have taken 5 tries to get the 100%, which it doesn't show. Since she's in 4th grade, I'm not keep track of her grades anyway, just thought I'd throw that out there.

Middlebury Interactive Languages has several languages to choose from, and they have classes for K-12! I'm excited to have found this site and glad P is enjoying broadening her language horizon.

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

The pricing is $119/semester (+ an additional $175/semester with a teacher, so $294 total - we didn't have the teacher).

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Review: Standard Deviants Accelerate - Nutrition

Standard Deviants Accelerate Review
Standard Deviants Accelerate is fun, video based online learning resource for middle schoolers and high schoolers. We chose to review their Standard Deviants Accelerate Homeschool Courses Nutrition curriculum for Terrific T, who is in 6th grade. It is recommended for grades 6+.
We have never done a specific nutrition class, so I was excited to have this opportunity for him (us) to learn more. I set up his account and he started the same day. There is really no prep work (score!) for this program. Since it's an online program, we were able to use it on our laptop when our computer decided to kick the bucket last month. We didn't lose anything! We just logged in from the different computer and were ready to start again. 
There are 8 chapters in the Nutrition curriculum. Each lesson contains a short (7-10 minute) video. There is a full transcript of the video posted too that you can print off or follow along with. I chose to not print these. T liked the videos (although he said they were "a little cheesy" LOL!) and I think trying to follow along would have been too distracting for him. I used them to skim what he was learning when I didn't watch with him. There is a place to take notes right on the screen and save them to your "locker." He didn't take notes as we went because typing is a little slow for him still, but I had him write a few sentences about what he learned before moving on to the next step. 
After watching the video, he moved on to the vocab section. Here they have important words and definitions from the lesson listed and a link to hear them spoken along with it. I just had him go over them several times and tell me about them. Then there is a diagram section also with drag/drop activities to use the new terms learned. 
Finally, there is a multiple choice quiz. T would select his answers and submit them (it says, "Throw it against the wall and see if it sticks!" lol!!). If you are wrong on any of them, it brings up a short (like 20 seconds!) video with the correct answer right then. I liked the immediate feedback on it and the diagram both. T learned quite a bit in these lessons. It was fun to see familiar words that he has learned about in CC (we are doing the body this year) and be able to enhance that information with more details. I think this was a perfect nutrition curriculum for him. 
Standard Deviants Accelerate ReviewAt the end of each chapter, there is a review section. This has activities that use all the learning styles. Some are better suited for larger groups of students but some we could adjust to do individually. Then there is a post test and some critical thinking questions that we did together.
This was an easy program to use with really nothing for the teacher to do once you get it started. Princess P is reviewing another online program so I had Terrific T do this alone, but I think even P (4th grade) would have enjoyed this and learned good info from it.  There is a dashboard where I can get on and see how he is doing. He didn't always submit his work as we did a lot of orally so I kept track of his progress on my own, but if you had more than one student, or a good typist, you could use their grading program also. It was simple but good to have.
The lessons took him about 20 minutes a day and we did it three days a week. It was a quick way to supplement our current science curriculum and get a comprehensive nutrition education with little effort. If you are like me, you don't have time to research and plan one.more.thing. SDA takes the planning and researching out and hands it to you with "cheesy' videos that the kids enjoyed!! That's a win in my book!
SDA offers the following online courses:
Arithmetic - Grades 3+
Fundamental Math - Grades 4+
Earth Science - Grades 6+
Nutrition - Grades 6+
Algebra - Grades 7+
Biology - Grades 7+
Chemistry - Grades 9+
English Comp. - Grades 9+
U.S. History - Grades 9+
AP Biolody - Grades 11+
AP Chemistry - Grades 11+
AP U.S. Government & Politics - Grades 11+
AP U.S. History - Grades 11+
AP Eng. Composition - Grades 11+
The price of the annual subscription for one student and one subject is is $24.95/month or $99/year. I'm sure we can finish the Nutrition one in two months.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Busy, busy, busy!

I haven't gone this long between posts in two years. Oops! I hate being this busy. By the time I can sit down to this dinosaur computer, I'm too tired to fire it up and type. Here's a quick "catch up" post...

This week is fall break for CC (and public school) so we are using this time to get caught up on everything around here.

Big Daddy has done an amazing job remodeling our master bath. Once I decorate it, I'll have to show pics. He put in new flooring and painted the walls, doors, and trim. Put in all new light fixtures, faucets, and everything so it is updated from the brass looking ones that came with the house to pretty brushed silver ones. It looks so good! He's been home for the past few months and we are being spoiled rotten with him here and not working. It's awesome!

Captain C is LOVING football. He loves being on a team, hitting people and being hit, and winning is awesome too. They are 6-0. Undefeated! He comes home bruised and sweaty and happy as can be!

Terrific T has stepped up his school work this year and is doing so well. Almost every single morning, I get up and he and Princess P have already done a couple of their subjects and are working hard. They like to knock the school work out early and play. They are so creative in their playtime and get along really well except when they don't. LOL!

We are so blessed to have a sweet little one with us again. She's a doll! Busy and determined and fits right in around here. P is loving having a roommate that she doesn't have to sleep with one eye open with. ;) We are all enjoying our time with her and getting to know her future parents as well.

My grandma also moved up to the area a couple of months ago. Her healthy is struggling and it's so heartbreaking to watch, but I'm so thankful she is close. I'm getting over there as much as I can to sit with her and visit.

Add in homeschooling, CC director duties, church activities, YL classes, a few pictures here and there, and it's no wonder we have no groceries in the house! Believe it or not, I've said no to a ton of things lately...for my own sanity. It's hard, but has to be done.

So to pick P up from a birthday party and then finish up some TOS blogs. I have sadly decided to take a year off from reviews (see above for reasons why). I love doing it and love the variety it has brought to our homeschooling but something had to go. I have 4 more reviews to finish up before the year's over.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Let's Talk Oils ~ So much fun!

I started using Young Living Essential Oils, as I have mentioned, to help our family with allergies and other issues. I am continually amazed at how well they work on so many things. I signed up one year ago today - Oct 4, 2013 - and never dreamed how much fun I would have thanks to YL. I have met so many great people. I'm educating myself on the chemistry and uses of the oils which is fun to be learning more things. I came into this only planning to use the oils for us and never having been in a MLM type business before so had no idea how they worked. As I shared my stories of success (how can you NOT talk about something that works so well), people have wanted to try them for their families. I'm loving seeing my friends and family using oils too. Now, I think more of my friends USE oils than don't. That wasn't the case a year ago. Anyway, I didn't even realize that by sharing my stories and others signing up, YL gives me a commission. I am now getting all my oils "free" basically. Just for telling people what works for me. I've had people as me if I sell oils. I don't. I really have NO interest (or time) to sell anyone anything. I am, however, happy to talk to anyone who will listen about taking charge of your own health and not putting tons of crap into your body blindly. How often do we question what is in the pills the doctor prescribes us or our kids? We don't. We take them and go on our way with no thought to the fact that we are destroying the good along with the bad most of the time. With oils, we can treat the issues that are presenting in our family, without worry of side effects. When T has allergy problems, we don't have to plan to skip the day of school because the meds will make him sleep like a log, or bounce off the walls, or (yikes) so angry we all fear for our lives. Ugh. We, instead, rub some oils on or simply inhale them and go on with our day. I looooove it!

I also never would have guessed I would have dropped $400 on a machine that scans my electrical energy. Kookoo...kookoo!! But I'm SO glad I did! I swear this thing is right on the money! Big Daddy even asks for me to scan him or the kids anytime something comes up because he has seen how accurate it is in diagnosing. I need to do it today, actually. I have a cough that is hanging on with both hands and he told me last night to scan today...and I forgot. I will. He scanned last month as soon as he started feeling poorly and then took or used all the oils it recommended and was completely better the next day. I scanned when I was not feeling well and got Thieves lozenges and Peace and Calming (it was late...bed I assume I needed sleep!). It's pretty nuts how well it works.

YL is getting some flack lately for being slow on shipping and overwhelmed customer service. They are hiring 45 new people every 2 weeks, but have to get them trained. Patience, grasshoppers. This is a huge testimony to how fast this company is growing and the only reason it is growing so fast is because the oils work. Once you see it for yourself, you won't care if you have to wait three weeks for an order because you know the quality will not be compromised to make/ship quicker. For that reason though, I'm going to order a couple of days early this month. I'll be placing my order on the 6th if you need anything. If you want to get a quick scan before you order, let me know and I'll hook you up.  If you know you need something and won't be ordering soon, I'm happy to add it to my order (Thieves, anyone??). Also, YL just released a holiday catalog with some specially packaged products that you might want to check out.

I love that my whole family is seeing the benefits of YL oils now and reaching for them instead of OTC things. If you have any questions, I'm happy to help. If you want to start getting your oils free too - I'd love to help you do that also. Between ER and just telling people how the oils are helping you, you can let YL foot the bill for your health. C started seeing a chiropractor about a month ago and goes after each football game to get put back together properly (LOL - it's been his hands most weeks. He keeps jamming things on the line.). They will charge our insurance but when we looked at the deductible and saw that we had only spent about $75 total for our family this year at the dr, it was going to be a long way to the deductible. I think that letting God use the oils to help us is keeping us all more healthy and out of the doctors office. Win-Win!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Review: IEW Fix-It! Grammar

Fix It! Grammar Review
Oh man, I was SO excited to see this up for review. I love all things Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW), but had no idea they had a Grammar program. Wahooo! I was so pumped to be chosen to review Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1] (Teacher Manual) - $19.00  and Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1] (Student Book) - $15.00. 

My kids have been using IEW's writing program for the past 5 years and thriving with it. I love the way they break everything down and make it easy and fun to learn writing. Knowing how much I love their writing, I had high expectations for the Fix It! Grammar books, and they didn't let me down! 

There are 6 books in this series and they are geared for grades 3 through high school. I wanted to use this for Terrific T  (6th) and Princess P (4th) so did the placement test they provided here. I decided it would be best to just start at the beginning, with Book 1: The Nose Tree. I figured this way we would learn how the program works and not miss anything. I received the teacher's book and one student book. In the front of the teacher's guide, there is a page that has things you can download for free off the IEW site. One of those things is the student book if you are going to use it in your immediate family or classroom. Sweetness! I didn't have to order a second student book after all. I downloaded and printed the book, 3 hole punched it and put it in a binder for T to use and P used the spiral book we were sent. Now, depending on how much it costs you to print things, it might be cheaper to just order another student book, but I can print really cheaply on my printer so this was a great deal for our family.

In addition to the student and teacher books, each student needs a notebook. For T, since his book was in a binder, we just added two more sections to the back with loose leaf paper. P was using the spiral book so used a new spiral notebook for her two extra sections. You basically need the book, and then a section to rewrite the passages and a section for vocab.

After a quick and easy set up, we were ready to begin. Each lesson takes only 15 MINUTES A DAY. Love this! Our days are so full that I wasn't sure we could add in a long program but this fits in perfectly. each day, the kids edit a sentence using editing marks and label certain parts of speech. They look up one vocab word to add to their vocab section and copy the corrected sentence into their journal. Each sentence is in order and is writing out a longer story, which will be written in full by the end of the book. 

It's really that simple. There is no grading of the lessons as it is intended to be a teaching tool. We just worked through them together and corrected as we went. This it broken down into 4 days of assignments, which fits in great with our schedule too since we are out of the house one day a week. There is a handy Glossary in the back of the book that is wonderful. It explains everything they are learning about. This is great for teachers who aren't confident in grammar or familiar with IEW. There are also grammar cards in the student book. We cut these out and laminated and drilled on them just a few minutes a day. 

These short lessons are teaching the kids a variety of things, such as: capitalization, punctuation, homophones, grammar, parts of speech, vocab, copying and even giving them handwriting practice. So much in such a short time.  I like that it overlaps with the writing we are using from IEW too. The extra practice on who/which clauses and quality adjectives has been good reinforcement for the kids. We don't normally do a specific vocab time each day. This has been an easy way to add that in and get us talking about new words. They are looking them up in the dictionary and using context clues to decide the proper meaning. 

I like that both kids can do this together, even though they are different grades. They like that it doesn't take much time and the continuing story line is something they look forward to doing. I like the price - totally reasonable for what you are getting and especially love that you can download more for your other kiddos and not have to keep rebuying the workbooks.

Using this for the last month or so, I am extremely pleased with how well the kids are picking up the information in such a short chunk of time. It's easy to fit into our day and they have never complained about having to do it. We added it into our "Essentials" workbox and they never batted an eye. I think being familiar with IEW was helpful for them (they knew not to be scared of it) but I think anyone, even those who have never used their wonderful writing program, can jump right in and have great success with this. It is definitely a stand alone program and we are loving it. I'm so thankful to have had the opportunity to add this into our schooling.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

No more specs!

Captain C decided he was sick of a) wearing glasses and b) not being able to see when he doesn't wear glasses (!). We decided to give contacts a shot and he is rocking them. It's been two weeks today and he went back for his visit and is doing great so ordered 6 months. He loves them. The first three days were rough and I thought he would be too frustrated but he persevered and on day three got them in and out on his own and hasn't asked me for help since. 
I'm so proud of him not giving up! He's just happy to see people and not blobs on the field now. Lol. 

Attack of the computer problems!

It's sad when you walk into the computer repairman's store and the secretary says, "Hi, Leslie." ACK! I've had the strangest computer problems ever lately. My current the blue screen of death. I need a new hard drive and new windows and it was going to be almost as much as a new computer. Not something we planned to do right now, but I guess it is time to upgrade. Ugh

Minor annoyances like this make me thankful though...because I have a computer to break, money to buy a new one, and an old one that I'm able to peck away on, even with no word processing things (yay for Google Docs so we could do the kids papers this week for CC!). We are certainly not roughing it over here with our fall-back devices. It's almost embarrassing....not almost. We are spoiled rotten and ready to make some changes.

How spoiled are we? It's a little humbling. Big Daddy and I have been talking a lot about minimizing what we have. It's time. I feel like Madame Blueberry sometimes. We are so stuffed full of stuff that we don't have time to DO anything. We have to get out of this don't be surprised if you walk by and see us throwing stuff out the door. Big Daddy is anti-garage-sales, but I'm hoping to change his mind and clear this place out.

We know how fortunate we are, but just don't want to start thinking this is normal. It's not. Ready for some changes....and it took a blue screen of death to give me a wake up call!