Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Just a quick little note to say ... today was very stressful. It was led up to by a very full week. Last week I had a procedure Monday, a pre-surgical physical Tuesday, a review due Wednesday, a meeting between my son, his dog, and his 4-H Dog Club Trainer Wednesday, Boy Scouts Thursday, JD sick Friday, a 4-H Volunteer project, helping an AKC Dog show for 5 hours an hour from home (seven hour commitment) Saturday, 4-H Dog Training Monday.

So, this morning I had some out-patient surgery. The hospital is an hour away, and I had to be there at 6:00 a.m. for 7:30 surgery, so I got up at 4:00 a.m. to leave by 5:00.  I went into the surgery knowing that I had another review due by noon tomorrow, and that I need to homeschool tomorrow.

I finally finished the review. I have a headache, am tired. And I have my next review due next Friday, with another one due the following Monday.

So... I don't want to procrastinate on these reviews. For a few reviews I was really on top of things, posting the first day or two that I was allowed. I need to get back there again. I hate this last minute stuff. It messes me up.

It's 8:30 p.m. here. I think I'll go see if hubby will split some Ben & Jerry's with me. If not, I think I'm going to bed.

We need a solid school day tomorrow, using lots of products that I have upcoming reviews for (combined with lots of products I have done review of in the past).


Homeschool Legacy: Birds of a Feather - A Schoolhouse Crew Review

This month my son and I had the opportunity to use a unit study created by Homeschool Legacy, called "Birds of a Feather", by Sharon Gibson.

Birds of a Feather is an interesting combination of  Nature Study, Science, fun, and Heritage Girls/Boy Scout Badge work. This book is available from Homeschool Legacy for $15.95. It is a four-week study that works for grades 2 through 12. This is where I would normally tell you whether it is paperback or hardback (I think it is paperback), and how many pages it has in it. The reviewers actually received this as a PDF download (which you cannot buy), so I don't have firm information on the paperback or the number of pages. My download has 56 pages.

The activities in this unit study are designed so that they can be done with one child, or with many. These unit studies are designed to be a great diversion from the normal textbooks of the rest of your year.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Family Time Fitness - A Homeschool Crew Review

This summer my son and I had the opportunity to try out Family Time Fitness home fitness program for home schools.  I was delighted, because I always struggle to get that physical activity in, and I wanted some fresh ideas.
I received Family Time Fitness, Fitness 4 Home School, Core 1, as a download, and was immediately impressed with the volume of material I received.  

I perused the material and then printed out the first twenty lessons (Lesson Module 1) and put them into a 3-ring binder.  For a mere $57, you get 14 separate downloads (an Introduction and 13 separate modules of approximately 20 lessons each). Each Lesson module has two ways of viewing it: either as a two-page spread that is Internet-linked to videos of how to do every listed activity, or as a paper-saving, ink-saving one-page spread that you can print out and load into a notebook. 

Reading the Introduction has been really motivating. I knew I was not doing as much with my son as I wanted to, when it came to physical fitness, but the Introduction says my son should be getting physical activity for 45 to 60 minutes every day. I had not heard that before. The Introduction gives me confidence that following the FTF (Family Time Fitness) Program, I will be giving my son a systematic program that will improve his health, develop motor sensory skills, and eventually will improve his self-esteem and help him with self-awareness.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The History of the 1880s – a Decade of Change - A Schoolhouse Crew Review

We first watched movies by Marshall Publishing when my son was very young. At that time he could not get enough of movies like Lots and Lots of Trains (when we could find it at our local library). Later we had the opportunity to review Lots and Lots of Firetrucks, but by that time he was older and didn't enjoy the movie, which seemed suited for kids younger than he was. But Marshall puts out an amazing variety of media. They have animal DVDs, comedy and game show DVDs, educational historical documentary-type DVDs, as well as their "Lots and Lots of" series that I mentioned before of Trains, Firetrucks, Monster Trucks, Jets and Planes, Motor Sports and RC Crafts, Rockets and Space, and Penguins.  Marshall Publishing has the goal of creating lots and lots of fun, amusing, amazing, entertaining, educating forms of media to the public, and they do a great job.
In our homeschool this year we will be wrapping up the 1800's, and studying the 1900's to present. I was very pleased, therefore, when I was given the opportunity to review a DVD by Marshall Publishing and Promotions, Inc. called The History of the 1880s – a Decade of Change.  
I was waiting with anticipation, when the DVD arrived, and watched and waited for an opportunity to sit down and view it. Our week days were full, but Saturday afternoon rolled around, and there was time. I popped it in and sat down to watch.  
My son, who disdains anything that smells at all educational, promptly quipped, "Do we have to watch this?"  I told him he didn't have to watch it, but I was watching it.  My sister, my adult daughter (college grad, major of History), and my husband all sat watching it, enjoying the way it was put together. My son, insisting he wasn't watching or paying attention, still managed to pay attention and make comments about parts of it. At certain points during the viewing, he would surreptitiously appear from around the corner (where he was on the kitchen computer) and watch sections of the documentary.  
The History of the 1880s – a Decade of Change is 60 minutes long. The DVD is broken into "Chapters" (not quite as easy as a book to switch between chapters, but helpful when targeting a specific section of the DVD).  This DVD targets 4th Grade through adult. Some younger might be interested, and some right in the target range (like my son) might not.
The website for The History of the 1880s – a Decade of Change has, below the product information, a Study Guide to help in using the movie. Since my son really didn't enjoy this movie to sit down and watch it through, I will break it up next time and we will just view each  topic at the time we are studying it.  
Here are sections within the movie that we will use to just watch that section when we cover the material in our current studies of the 1800's:
  • This week we will watch a small section that talks about the 1800's being the height of the Victorian Era. We read, on Friday, about Queen Victoria's being crowned at a young age, and her reign being called the Victorian Era, so this section will be an excellent supplement to add to our studies tomorrow. This section also covers the fashion of this decade.
  • There is a section that talks about the great cattle drives of the 1880's, and how the once massive herds of buffalo were in danger of being wiped out. This will dove-tail well with the book we are reading, Little Britches: Father and I were Ranchers, and I will have him watch this when we get to the next book, Man of the Family, where Ralph starts herding cattle. (Even though it is a different time period, it will be a good fit.)
  • Immigration, and unions forming to fight low wages. I'm not sure when we will be covering this, but when we do I will pull this section of the DVD out for us to view.
  • Statistics and Information: I think we will view this section when we are leaving the 1880's and entering the 1890's in our studies.
  • The time line will also be helpful. It mentions that in 1880 the Salvation Army was formed and Garfield became President. This helped me to realize that this is the year I want us to read the biography about the Booths, who founded the Salvation Army. Also, when we are covering Garfield we need to be quick, because he had a very short Presidency. (I don't remember right this second, but I think he was assassinated.)
I could continue, but you can see from the above how the Study Guide on the website is helping me plan out my use of this DVD.  I also own the Marshall Publishing DVD of George Washington Carver, which I will pull out for us to use soon when we read our biography of George Washington Carver.
The History of the 1880s – a Decade of Change sells normally for $24.95, but is currently on sale for $19.95. In addition, there is currently a coupon code for free shipping!  TOS27
Most of my family really enjoyed this DVD. My son, the reluctant student, fights me at almost every turn, says he hated it. (I guess he would rather read some dry, dusty book. HA! -- No, he would rather be off at the creek trying to catch turtles or snakes.)   
The History of the 1880s – a Decade of Change is a documentary. Documentaries have their place, and some hold my son's attention better than others. (He can watch animal documentaries better than he can watch historical documentaries.) The rest of my family (all adults) really enjoyed The History of the 1880s – a Decade of Change (as we also enjoy most documentaries, historical or otherwise.)
DISCLAIMER:  As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the DVD The History of the 1880s – a Decade of Change in exchange for my honest, uninfluenced review. The opinions expressed herein are my own. I was not told what to say.
 This has been a Schoolhouse Crew Review. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Math911: A Schoolhouse Crew Review

I consider myself an accomplished Math person. I "get" Math. I like Math. I don't mind teaching Math. I'm not afraid of Math.

But we can all use a little help sometimes.  When my oldest arrived at Algebra I age, I found myself unable to teach her Algebra I. There was a combination of things going on to shipwreck my efforts. It wasn't enough that I had a two year old boy, at the time, who seemed bent upon preventing my efforts to homeschool. There was also this issue that my daughter was trying to understand what I was trying to teach her. I mean, what's up with that?

Lest you think I jest, let me explain a little further. To me, Math is like a challenge, a puzzle. You figure out how to do it. memorize what method or formula to use in various equation problems, and then you just do it. You don't ask questions; you just look for the next challenge. When multiplying sides of an equation with fractions, it's enough for me to know that you multiply both sides of the equation by the reciprocal if you need to move the fraction from one side of the equation to the other to isolate the variable. That wasn't enough for my daughter. She wanted to know why you multiply by the reciprocal. Two hours later, I had adequately explained why, but I knew I could never walk her through Algebra I on my own. We hired outside help.

That said, when daughter #2 hit Algebra age, she had a Learning Disability that was especially apparent in the area of Mathematics. I wasn't equipped to deal with it, and once again we got help from outside sources.

That "2-year-old boy" is now fast approaching Algebra I age, and this time I am actually going to teach it on my own. There are no preschoolers to distract us; he doesn't have a Learning Disability. As a matter of fact, he seems to be a bit of a Math whiz. So I'm starting to work on getting my ducks in a row so that I will be ready to instruct him in higher Mathematics.

This summer, the Schoolhouse Review Crew was offered the opportunity to review a Math program called Math911. I jumped at the opportunity, because it looked like a really good program.
Math911 was created by Professor Weissman of Staten Island, New York. 
I was selected to review Math911, and I was very pleased. I was given Math911 as a download. There is a version available for sale on the website in the form of a Flash Drive with 2 mg of storage, enough to store all the student's additional school work! The Flash Drive normally sells for $49.95 but is currently available at the amazing price of $9.95!

I downloaded the program in mid-summer.  I received an error message upon downloading, which seemed strange, so I wrote the message down and called the phone number given for Technical help.  Professor Weissman quickly called me back, walked me through the set-up, and made sure I had the program up and running on my computer before he hung up. Points for fast and effective customer service.

Initially I started doing the Math911 program that is available to YOU for FREE. It is so good I didn't even realize there was more for me to download. It took me three weeks or more before I realized it and downloaded the rest of the program. I started the program on my own so that I could be familiar with it before I introduced it to my son.  After working it awhile I realized that the program starts at Algebra level, not pre-Algebra, so my son really isn't ready for it yet. So I would work on it on my own.

As I opened up the program, it didn't seem to have any instructions. A problem was presented, and I answered it. "Correct!!!" flashed on the screen. Now what do I do? I sat looking at the screen, trying to figure it out. There is a series of buttons down the right side of the Math work space. One button said, "New Problem". Well that looked promising. I pressed it and along we went, it asking questions, me answering, it saying "Correct!!!", me pressing "New Problem". There don't seem to be step-by-step instructions, but it is pretty easy to figure out how to use the program.
As I worked my way through the problems presented to me, I was surprised when  I got some answers wrong. What's up with that? (Okay, I finished Algebra in 1973... How could I forget absolute variables?)

Frustrated, I sat staring at the screen trying to figure out what to do next, not to mention why was my answer wrong.  Looking again at the buttons down the right side, there is a green button there that says, "See All Steps". Well, that looks promising! I clicked on it, and my error was explained. Voila! I had forgotten how to do absolute values.
Working longer I again started getting answers wrong. I stared and stared. I clicked on the button that would explain, and I still didn't get it.

Well, l-4l is supposed  to mean what is the absolute value of -4, which is 4. When I clicked the button asking for steps to show the answer, it showed this:
- l-4l = -4

But my starting screen was missing that first negative sign. Frustrated, I emailed Professor Weissman, who patiently directed my eyes to a line below the problem, which made the problem as a whole say:


What is the opposite of this number?

That certainly explained why I was getting it wrong... 
Math911 is ingenious! Deep, yet simple, it lures the student through learning painlessly, while easing new concepts into the brain almost unnoticed.  I will be continuing to work my way through this program to sharpen my math skills and prepare myself for teaching Algebra and additional higher math subjects to my son. When he is old enough, I will introduce this program to him as well.
The Math 911 Website includes, on its sidebar, free lesson downloads for educational packets of instruction on "Introduction to Whole Numbers", "Addition and Subtraction", "Multiplication Factors," "Division of Wholes," "Intro to the Integers", "Combine Integers", "Multiply/Divide Integers", and "Combine Like Terms". There is also a link to "Laugh With Math", which takes you to a web page where you can order a funny book of Math humor. If you click on the links, you can actually read your way through the book! Or if you prefer, you can click on the link to learn how to order a paper copy of the book. Looks pretty funny to me!
So, to concisely sum up some features of this program, Professor Weissman offers:
  • FREE:  The math911 Standard  Version, which contains a complete Introductory Algebra Course (Algebra 1) and can be downloaded from Math911.com. No credit card or rebate required.
  • The Premier / Premier Password/ Network Password version, which comes as a bundle for $49.95 for all three (not $49.95 each), which also includes free upgrades and technical support, which you also get when you download the Introductory Algebra course:
    • Intermediate Algebra Course (Algebra 2)
    • PreCalculus topics
    • Trigonometry topics
    • Introductory Statistics Course

  • Math911 has amazing customer service, even for the free program. Professor Weissman seems sincerely to be a genius of a man whose desire is to make himself available to do whatever he can to create future generations who succeed at higher-level mathematics.
Additional information from Professor Weissman:
  • RE: Activation Codes for Premier, Premier Password, Network Password
    Upon purchase ($49.95) you should
    1. Click on Register button and email us the Registration Codes
    2. Identify yourself as a home schooler.
    3. You will receive a reply email with ALL Activation Codes for all versions
         listed below:
         a) Premier Version (one user no password)
         b) Premier Password (Multiusers with Passwords)
         c) Network Version (Multiusers with passwords)
    4.  Users can switch between versions by clicking the REGISTER button and
         entering the codes for the desired version.
    4. Passwords are generated by the software.
  • If you sign up now for a low cost annual site license, I'll include free use with summer homework programs, free use with after school programs, free student home privileges, free keying to your textbook, and free bonus modules for Pre-calculus and Statistics. Call me now and enjoy the savings later. Professor Martin Weissman 1-347-528-7837 

New! Unique! “Algebra In A Flash” flash drive version; works great on school laptops and allows students to continue at home. Great for 1:1 classrooms.

$40 off student special. Regular $49.95 now only $9.95. Click on this link: www.AlgebraInAFlash.com

At Google checkout use promotion code:homeschool
Special Back To School Free Offer. No Rebate Necessary. No Credit Card:

Complete Introductory Algebra Course. Click Here. Download, Install, Run. Free Tech Support: 347-528-7837 (Select SAVE then RUN)

After install look for the Math911 desktop icon.
Version 12.8.27
August 27, 2012 (XP, Vista, Windows 7 Compatible)

You may need to right click and 'Run As Administrator' if you have Vista or Windows 7.

My personal experiences:
  • Fabulous math program. Sadly, it proved my Mathematics skills sadly inadequate, much to my chagrin. I had thought I was pretty good.
  • Sometimes my answers would be marked "Wrong" if I spaced the answer differently than the program wanted. As an adult I could look at the explanation and understand, "Oh, my answer was right, I just put a space here", but a child might not see that and might get frustrated at times.
  • This program does not have any bells and whistles. It is a basic program, no games. It will teach, but it might not easily hold the attention of a child with ADHD. 
  • The Algebra I program is FREE! How can you lose? Download it and try it out. If it works for you, plan to invest in the rest of the levels, and you will be all set to home school your higher level math courses and get your students prepared for college mathematics. To me this seems like a no-brainer! Go to the site. Download the free program. Try it out.
DISCLAIMER:  As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a complete download of Math911,  Premier course, in exchange for my honest, uninfluenced review. The opinions expressed herein are my own. I was not told what to say.
 This has been a Schoolhouse Crew Review. 
To see more Schoolhouse Crew Reviews of Math911, go to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog page for this product.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

School Planning

Since I haven't been posting often, I thought I'd explain why. I have been trying to get my Daily Lesson Planner ready for JD's 7th Grade year.

I home school using Charlotte Mason and Ambleside Online. With part of my brain I totally agree with CM philosophies, but I've never been able to fully implement her methodology. When Charlotte was alive, children did not have television, computer, Legos, movies, etc. My ...principal (of our homeschool)... has never chosen to eliminate television from our lives. As a matter of fact, our life was upgrade from antenna to satelite this week (for the first time in my son's life he has more than five channels). So more than ever there is, in his brain, this desire to work as little as possible to just finish in the hopes of getting to his electronic toys. And I admit that over the summer he has had more electronics than we intend to permit him to have during the "normal" upcoming days. ("Normal" as differentiated from unusual days, such as my upcoming medical procedure day...)

So I fully anticipate quite a culture shock as we start school next week. JD is 12, and I have already begun to hear comments from him that are fairly typical of a child who has been allowed to be too autonomous, and who sees the upcoming day when his freedoms will again be taken away. (Example: "Fine! Schedule [...me to do that activity]... You already run any minute of my life anyway! I don't get to decide anything I do!" Which is so completely untrue right now, but will be much more true as the school year starts.) 

My son would not be best served, in my opinion, by an unschooling philosophy. His choices would not be self-challenging to cause him to learn and grow. He prefers to make lazy choices. And I don't have adequate support in this family to make Charlotte Mason changes, such as eliminating twaddle, so when he "reads" on his own time he does not choose Swallows and Amazons or Tom Sawyer, he chooses Garfield.

My state requires regular diligent instruction in eight subject areas: Math, Science, Language Arts, Social Studies, Art, Music, Physical Education, and Health. My umbrella requires I document our instruction in Bible. Charlotte Mason suggests studies include Latin and one additional foreign language (she suggests French, but we're going with Spanish), as well as nature study (science), artist study (art), composer study (music), hymn study (music), folk music studies (music), narrations (writing), geography, time lines, and lots of outdoor time. My brain wants to do The Art of Argument.  I'm beginning to believe I cannot possibly do it all. But I am planning to give it a try.

My hopes for this upcoming year (7th Grade) include:

  • ·         Bible – Apologia: Who is My Neighbor;


Foreign Languages:
  • First Form Latin (daily);
  • Spanish I (daily);
Language Arts:
  • Vocabulary: Vocab Videos;
  • Spelling: words from Vocab Videos
  • Writing: Susan Wise Bauer's Writing With Skill when he doesn't have a writing assignment with Lightning Lit;
  • Writing and Lit: Lightning Literature and Composition (almost daily);
  • Literature: Ambleside Online Literature and "free reading" (daily or almost daily)
  • Grammar from BJU 7th Grade English (almost daily) (skipping non-grammar assignments)
  • The Art of Argument (almost daily);

Social Studies:
  • Ambleside Online History readings (almost daily) with time lining;
  • Ambleside Online Geography readings (weekly) with map work;

  • Ambleside Online composers, including biographical work; notebooking; mapwork; listening to music;
  • Ambleside Online hymn studies;
  • Ambleside Online folk songs.


Physical Education