Friday, August 29, 2014

Unsolicited advice...

     As we are a couple of weeks into our 7th year of homeschooling, I've finally found a method that is working well for us. Phew. I'm clearly a slow learner - lol. Not really - it just took lots of trial and error to find our groove. I have been talking to a lot of new-to-homeschooling families lately and try to encourage them each find what works for THEIR family and to not compare themselves to other homeschooling families.  Each family and each child is unique and if you try to match your curriculum to other people's, you just might end up miserable. If you are new to homeschooling, take some time to figure out how your kids learn best and how you teach best. Let them explore things that interest them and instill a love of learning. Even within the same family, kids learn differently. You are not trying to do school at home (aka - replicate the public shcool system in your kitchen), you are trying to educate your children at home. Big difference. Don't compare...and have fun!

     Besides not comparing yourself to others, I think you also need to be flexible. Just because something looks pretty at the store, doesn't mean your kiddo is going to love it. And just because one of your kiddos loves it, doesn't mean the others will too. And just because they loved it last week, doesn't mean they will love it this week. And just because you bought it, doesn't mean you have to finish it. Be flexible. If it isn't working, change it up. I have wasted entire semesters forcing a certain curriculum on a child when it wasn't a good fit. There were tears...from the kids AND from me. It was rough. I was venting one day to a very wise homeschooling veteran that a certain child cried and threw a fit everyday when we did a certain thing. She said...then don't do it. Wait, what? I can do that?!? YES! A perk of homeschooling is that if something isn't working you can shake it up. Now, I'm not saying that if your little darling hates math you can scrap it...but I am saying you can do odds or evens, or do them on a white board, with colorful markers, or switch vendors completely. You don't have to suffer! If it is a heart issue, that's another thing and sometimes you just have to push through, but sometimes it's just not a good fit for that kid. Some of our best lessons have been *gasp* not in the lesson plans. Be flexible...and have fun!

     My last bit of unsolicited advice for new homeschooling families is to put God first (ironic that this is last? Saving the best for last? The last shall be first?). When I made the kids schedules this year, Bible is the first thing they do. Most days, it is done before breakfast. I figure that if all else fails and the school day implodes (hey - it can happen), at the very least we have spent time with our Lord and learned more about Him. I love that in our homeschool and in CC, we can find God in every subject. I encourage you to always make time for Him in your school day. I don't promise there will be no tears if you do, but you will have a Friend close by to help you through the tears and give you hope for the future. He cares. Trust Him...and have fun!
And PS...HAVE FUN! Your kids are only young once. Enjoy them!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Review: UberMath

UberSmart Math Facts Review

Looking for an easy way for your kiddos to learn and practice their math facts? Then look no further than UberSmart Math Facts from UberSmart Software. We were graciously given this software program to review a few weeks ago and have had fun exploring it.

This program that was written by a homeschooling dad, is a downloadable program, so you need to be connected to the internet to play.  It is important to note that this is for Windows 7, 8, XP and Vista only. Sorry Mac users. Up to 8 kiddos can use the program and it is suggested for grades K-6, but I think it really can help older kids also.

Almost all the flashcards we buy, and math drill games we play, only go through 12x12 on multiplication. UberSmart is really uber smart - they go through 20x20! Woot! For CC, the kids have to memorize through 15x15 and it is so hard to find things to help them review these so I was pumped to see this perk. UberSmart Math Facts includes addition and subtraction problems through the 9s and multiplication and division through the 20s. There are drills and tests to see if you have mastered them. You can choose to do one number at a time or mix them up. There is really a lot of variety in this simple program.

The first thing I did when I got the software downloaded was to put Terrific T and Princess P in the program and adjust the time limit on the problems. They both freak out if they know they are being timed and I knew that would make them not even want to TRY the program. So I added in some more time for T and even more time for P so they wouldn't be stressed and could learn to use the program. This is an awesome feature in a program! I appreciate them letting me, the teacher, choose how long they have instead of having a preset time. Then I started to look around and explore. For younger kids, there are dot flash cards to help them learn the facts and typing practice to learn where the numbers are located on the keyboard. For older kids, you can start with straight flash cards. They believe in teaching the problem before you begin testing them on the facts. Another feature that I appreciate in this is it is like actually using a deck of flash cards. You don't just get random cards, you get all the cards in a set - so all the 6s or 13s or whatever you are learning.

UberSmart Math Facts Review

After you do your learning and reviewing, you can take a test to see how you are doing. During the test time, you can see the card before and after yours. At first, this was a little annoying to me and the kids, but as we got more used to the program, they liked being able to look ahead and answer fast. This is like when you do a pencil and paper test - it's not just isolated facts. During the test, it doesn't tell you right or wrong. You answer and it moves on. At the end of the test, it shows you the missed ones and you can go back and do the flash card practice with just those missed number and focus on getting those mastered.  This saves time in drilling the facts you already know. Sweet. We like saving time!

There are also reports available that show how close you are to mastering each problem. Your progress is represented with happy and sad faces in red, yellow, and green, with green being mastered. We hope to get them all filled in green and smiling in the next few months.

I also want to add that I had some trouble when I first downloaded the program (totally MY error, not theirs) and I emailed the company, not mentioning I was on the Crew. I got a quick and excellent reply from the creator of UberSmart, David Kocur. He was very kind and helpful and got me up and running quickly.

I added this into the kids math rotation. It obviously didn't replace their math program, but was a great addition to it. I had them do one set a day (4s, 5s, 6s, etc). I let them choose, as long as they weren't doing 1s or 2s or something. lol.Now that CC has started, I'm having them do the numbers we are skip counting for the week. I really think this will help with Memory Master this year! 10-15 minutes a day will pay big dividends in the end.  In all honesty, my kids don't normally love doing math on the computer, but this is different. It really is like flash cards. There are no games and distractions. It is simple and it works. My kids were happy  that you could get on and quickly get it done. They have games they like to play, but not mixed with math. lol

The software (that you can download and keep for life - no renewal fees or anything) is $24.95. And check this out....They are offering our readers a 30% discount if you purchase before September 30th. Use the code "v4 Early Bird" as the discount code on the purchasing page to receive the discount.

You can click the link below to see what other Crew Mates thought about the software.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Review - Wizzy Gizmo's audio book!

Wizzy Gizmo Review
My kids love audio books and can normally be found listening to one almost everyday at some point. So when Wizzy Gizmo offered to send  Audio Drama One: Who Created Everything? for me to review, I was excited to have an audio book with a purpose for them to listen to. This is recommended for ages 4-12 and retails on their site for $14.99. It is 36 minutes of high action drama, followed by 24 minutes of beautiful soundtrack music to enjoy.

Wizzy Gizmo ReviewThe founders of Wizzy Gizmo have a passion for getting the Word of God in homes. They don't want you to replace your daily Bible reading with their products but want to add to that time and fill your home with His Word.

We popped this in the van so we could all listen to it while we drove into town. The kids normally listen to things before bed, but I wanted to preview it to see what it was about first. I'm glad I didn't put this on as a bedtime listen!! It was so fun and entertaining that they never would have fallen asleep. The sound effects and dramatized story was exciting to listen to for all of us. Terrific T said he wished it was a video though, because he wanted to see what the sounds were. lol.

The storyline is that a professor has an invention, called Gizmovision, that you can put books on and it will show them to you. They decide to put the Bible on there, and go back to the beginning...creation! The kids get to see (or hear for us) each day of creation. There is a catchy sound track (Princess P said some of the songs sounded like Disney songs - they are upbeat and fun and really are catchy) that goes along with it and then is played alone at the end.

The stories were accurate, in my opinion, and they added in extra facts that several times I was about to say to the kids to clarify or add on to the story, but they did it for me. These are very well done! We just left it in the van to listen to a few more times before sharing it with others.

We all enjoyed this a lot and hope they will make more Wizzy Gizmo stories for more of the Bible. I think listening to this helped make the Creation story more alive and active for the kids. It was fun and easy to listen to and you didn't hear a word in the car while they were listening intently.

Check our more info on this product at:

And click here to see what other Crew Mates thought:
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Monday, August 18, 2014

The porch...The porch!

Today was our first day back to Classical Conversations for all of us (Captain C started last week so his pics are from last week and the group one is from today). We have such a wonderful community in CC and love going so much that the kids want to go everyday.

Here are my annual back to school pics of my 9th grader, 6th grader, and 4th grader. It's amazing that I have kids this old since I'm pretty much fresh out of college, right? 



I love these kids more than words can say. My people!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Blog slacker!

Finishing up summer has tried to suck the life right out of me and I've been a major blog slacker! Please forgive me.

We are back in full "Back to School" mode here now - midway through week two. Captain C had his first day of Challenge I on Monday and I hosted my back to school parent meeting last night for the Foundations and Essentials families. We have our back to school swim party tomorrow for the kiddos and then dive in all the way on Monday with week 1 of CC. We can do this!

I love Cycle 3 in CC. It is based around the United States, which happens to be my favorite country. :) The kids will learn all the states and capitals, rivers, regions, mountain ranges, etc and 24 awesome history facts about our country. They will also be learning anatomy and the periodic table. And don't forget John 1:1-7 in English and Latin. I love it!

P will join T this year in Essentials {yikes!!!}. I started them both doing a little Essentials copy work last week and they are both doing great. I think having them both in there will be good - iron sharpening iron. It's hard to get lazy and complain with little sis/big bro is sitting next to you cranking it out. A little healthy competition is good for everyone. I hope.

And our precious little spitfire left us today after 2 1/2 months. There is a DEFINITE void in our house tonight. The silence as I write this is a reminder that she isn't was never silent with her around! I keep thinking someone needs to wake her up or she will never go back to bed tonight. But alas, she isn't up there napping today...she took a long road trip to her new home, in another state. We were blessed to get to know her and honored to be able to pray for her by name for years to come. She was hard to let go, because her future is totally us. I'm so thankful that God knows exactly where she is headed and who she is going with and pray He continues to bring people into her life that will build her up and not tear her down. People who will love her, flaws and all. We will always love her and she will hold a special place in our hearts forever.

Well, before I start crying, I'll wrap this up. I have started the kids back to school pics on the porch and will post those next week when I get T and P done too. In the mean time, feel free to click back to see the first back to school pics I posted after moving over to this blog. Man, they were just babies!!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Still oiling it up

July was a fun and busy month. We had an awesome trip to Colorado and of course, took oils with us. T, P, and I get uncomfortable when traveling on curvy roads pretty badly so I was prepared this time. P had her seabands on, but a few times, she still started getting sick. I pulled out the Peppermint and DiGize and she just smelled them and felt better! I ordered a new car diffuser, but it didn't come in until after we had left for vacation. Bummer. On the bright side, I had it for C's first week of football. I had Purification diffusing in the car when I picked him up and it totally covered the football funk. :)

Several times this month, I went to bed feeling icky.... I oiled up before bed and woke up fine the next day. Love waking up refreshed and cleared up!

I also co-hosted my first Young Living class this month. And it was a blast. Who knew? You don't actually have to know everything to share these amazing oils...just sharing how they have helped us and where to get more information. Once we started sharing how they work so well for us, everyone wanted to try them. The awesome part is that then THEY have their own stories because they really do work. I have a completely anonymous, skeptical friend who texted me last night that as much as she hated to admit it, the oils worked for her! haha.

This month, I also cashed in about $300 in Essentials Reward...meaning FREE products. wahoo.

If you are ordering Young Living each month, you might as well be on the Essential Rewards program and earn free products! I decided to stock up on winter germ busters here - Thieves hand soap and hand sanitizer, RC (great for coughs and congestion...and bone spurs apparently) and DiGize, another staple at our house. I also thought I would try some Clarity for back to school time...I've been diffusing it while the kids do school. I'm not sure why exactly I got Geranium and JuvaFlex. JuvaFlex is a great liver detox and anger is stored in the liver, so I threw it in thinking if we have any angry little elves, we can detox that. BUT a friend at church said she went in last week and her liver is acting up, so I gave it to her to use. I think I threw it in "for no reason" for her - love how God takes care of things. I'm praying it helps her numbers go back to normal quickly.

I'm ordering tomorrow if anyone local wants to take advantage of my wholesale membership (24% off retail) and free shipping (I'm already paying it for my order so won't charge you since I get the ER points off of you - it all works out). If you want to sign up to be a wholesale member too, leave me a message and I'll hook you up.  I really don't think you will be disappointed if you try them!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Review - Visual Latin

Roman Roads Media Review
When I heard that Roman Roads Media was offering Visual Latin 1 and 2 up for review, I jumped at it. A friend had mentioned in the past that she liked it, but I needed to see it for myself. Captain C does Latin with his CC class, but the other two are a little (understatement of the year) hesitant about Latin. Visual Latin is recommended for 4th grade and up, which Princess P is starting 4th and Terrific T is starting 6th. I've been looking for a way for them to be introduced to Latin, and like it. Enter Dwayne Thomas! What can I say about Mr. Thomas? He makes learning Latin fun and easy! The kids never once complained about doing the Visual Latin. He's so funny and it makes Latin not scary at all. When he said he was from Oklahoma in one of the lessons, we knew we were hooked.
Roman Roads Media sells homeschool curriculum that is classical and Christian. Hmmm...right up our alley! I was sent the downloadable link for Visual Latin 1 that is currently on sale for $70 (normally $100). They were updating the DVDs when my review period started, but said they will send me that now too - sweet! It is on sale now for $85 (also normally $100). I feel like I can teach most subjects pretty well, but Latin...not so much. Having this on DVD was a big seller for me. I was happy to let Mr. Thomas take over these lessons and I became a student along with the kids.
Roman Roads Media ReviewThere are 30 units in on the DVD - each divided into 3 lessons. There is also a free workbook that you can download to go along with them. I printed this out, thinking it would be 30 pages (30 units...follow my logic here?) but I wasn't thinking that each lesson would be a page so I printed about 100 pages. lol oops!  Oh well, better to have them all printed ahead of time so we are ready for the year. 
The videos are short - like less than 10 minutes each and the time flies by when you are watching them. There are 3 of them for each unit - one for grammar, sentences, and reading. We would watch the video, and do the worksheet together. Since I was teaching two kiddos at once with this, we did most of the worksheets orally, or I would write what they answered, but we did them all together. I like to let them do the translating pages with each other - translating every other sentence. Then we go over them together.
I love that while there is a lot of great, deep teaching, it's done at a level that kids understand and relate to. I mean, what better way to teach about predicate nominatives than with the sentence "I am a ninja." That got their attention. haha. The grammar page really teaches the lesson. The sentences page is where you use what you learned in that lesson and previous lessons (He made a point to say that you are now responsible for what you have learned and it will appear in future lessons after you learn it). Then the reading section. This is a cool addition. Mr. Thomas reads from the Latin Vulgate. He reads a few verses once. Then reads it again and we repeated it. Then we did the 3rd worksheet where we translate the Vulgate. I'm amazed at how much vocab the kids are learning through these three lessons each week. Using the words over and over is making them sink in and they aren't even doing vocab drilling. The translation pages has a word box of vocab words on it but most of them they already knew if they paid attention in the videos.
The entire lessons take about 20 minutes a day for us to do. It is a small investment of time for big returns. We did this three days a week during the summer, but started this week back to school so doing it 4 days a week. We should finish up Latin I and be able to start Latin II this school year.  I can't wait to see how much they learn.
  I can't say enough good about this program. It is simple - no frills learning. It's pretty much Mr. Thomas and his chalkboard. They put all the writing up on the screen so we can see it and hear it while he is teaching which is helpful. And I love the repeating the Vulgate together so you are learning how to pronounce the words. I know that Latin is called a "dead language," but I disagree. It is very much alive and living in so many of our other languages.  It is such a beneficial language to know! The kids are learning so much (and we are only on unit 5...took a vacation in the middle of this review!) and it's done in a way that makes you forget that you are learning such a hard subject. People hear "Latin" and shiver and assume it's too hard for them, but this really makes it doable. Check it out! I don't think you will be sorry. You can check out sample lessons here to see how great they are before you buy them!

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Back to school time!

I know I say it all the time, but time is flying by. Summer is over and today, we started 4th, 6th, and 9th grades here at the E household! WOW. Did you catch that...a highschooler?!?! Dang!

We are starting our 8th year of home educating and 6th year of Classical Conversations. That's crazy too. I think back to the days when I was longing for them to all be in Kindergarten so I could have some free time and wonder what I was thinking. I love having my people around. I really do! I can't imagine them being in school all day. I'd miss them.

This year, Captain C is a freshman and in Challenge I. One thing I love about being in CC is that I don't have to plan his curriculum and worry I'm missing something.Wahoo...his was easy. Buy the books and follow the guide. He is doing a higher math than his class so we just adjusted that and he will have the conversations in class about Algebra 1 and doing Algebra II at home during the week. Another thing I love about CC - a perk of homeshcooling is being able to customize their curriculum to them, and I still can. He is also starting football this year and loving it. I'm praying for his safety!!

Terrific T is starting the 6th grade this year and Princess P is starting 4th. It's a good thing we keep rotating toddlers in to keep my young. ;) They will both be in Foundations and Essentials this year at CC and are so excited to get back to their friends there. At home, we are starting workboxes this year. Crazy to start something totally new 8 years in? I think not. The more I read about them this summer, the more I think they will work for these two.  The idea is that I have an 8 drawer rolling cart for each of them and one subject per drawer. They start at the top and work to the bottom...and then are done. We started using it today and it was great to be able to see how many things are left. They also know what's left to do so if I'm busy or something, they can go to the next subject and not have to wait around for me to tell them what to do next. I hope this works!

I ran out of velcro for the labels. I will have all of them labeled soon.
In case you care, here is what we are doing:
Bible - Draw to Learn - I reviewed this last year and loved it and the kids love it so we are doing it again.
Math - Saxon - 54 and 76 and using another fun review item everyday for warm up that I'll be blogging about soon.
Handwriting - CC's Prescripts - Another that I reviewed and got the new Cycle 3 ones and they will continue to do the Math one on off days.
Visual Latin - That review will be posted in the next couple of for it. Love it!
Language Arts - All this is covered in CC's Essentials this year. I'm excited that the kids will be in the same class and we can work together at home. I'm using their spelling lists in the back of the guide too for them this year.
Reading - we have a LOT of US History based reading books here that they will be reading. I also picked up an Abeka reader on each of their level for reading comprehension this year. I'm hoping to get them reading a ton this year and loving it. A girl can dream...and pray...right?
History - Story of the World and CC History Highlights. I found some worksheets for each of them on CC Connected that I added to that box.
Science - God's Design for Science. I didn't review it but love it and blogged about it here.
Geography - they are going to trace the US map everyday. They are learning it inside and out in CC this year and I want them to be able to draw it from memory too.
Memory Work will be added in when CC starts on the 18th.

I think that is all...and all subject to change. LOL.

I love the blank slate that a new year starts. New school supplies. New outfits. New books. New haircut (for me). New attitudes. I love it!

We are praying that our kids grow closer to God and grow to love learning this year. Day one was a success. Bring on day two!