Monday, July 30, 2012

There is hope for the future of education in this country. #readmissionpossible

My blog is usually focused on homeschooling, but I know some of my readers are also teachers so I try and share educational information that can be valuable to everyone, that is why I am so excited to share this book.
I love reading books that give me ideas to improve my teaching not just in our homeschool but also in our co-op so this book was received with an open mind.
The Title of the book alone says it all for me. "How the Secrets of the Success Academies can work in ANY school"
Mission Possible by Eva Moskowitz and Arin Lavinia takes a hard look at what is wrong with the public school system but instead of beating a dead horse, they show just how stepping out of the box and getting the kids really excited about learning with teachers that are excited about teaching can really help everyone.  I love the idea that things happen at a faster pace and the kids are excited about school.  I remember being excited about school but also being bored often, I know that at home we have to be careful to keep the excitement level alive.
Several sections of the books really drove the Success Academies ideas home. Peer Reviews are done quickly with issues being addressed the same day so they don't become a bad habit. I LOVE the idea that more reading is key, having even the young Kindergartners are reading books.  I love her idea the students "are short but not stupid".
Teacher training is a huge key and as a homeschool Mom I am always reading and learning more to add to our homeschool. We school year round and usually only 4 days a week of formal "classroom" time, however I want to instill a love of learning in my boys and encourage them to "learn" all the time, that can be shop time with Daddy, helping the neighbor with her fruit stand during the summer, exploring the garden or the pond, any number of non-traditional activities. While they are learning outside or playing and creating their own learning activities I try and get some additional learning in myself, things like online conferences, reading blogs, articles, or books on a subject or style of teaching, any numbers of activities to improve our homeschool. I understand the hours are hard, but I see the value in my boys' smile and excitement when we try and succeed at something new, or when we spend that quiet time together reading a wonderful new book and talking about the charters or the theme, or simply enjoying the story being told.
The included DVD is filled with examples in live classroom which I love. I feel like I can actually put some of these things into action even in our 2 student homeschool. I also love the examples and the raising the bar for everyone.
Here is an interview with one of the authors.

Would you like to read this book? You can win your own copy of the book and included DVD by entering the Rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

disclaimer: This is a sponsored post and giveaway although all opinions of the book are that of the page owner.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Back to School: Maria meet Charlotte merging two methods of homeschooling our boys

BacktoHomeschoolThis is a the beginning of our 4th year homeschooling the boys. I can't believe we are starting grade 4 with Cameron. So, in four years of homeschooling and reading books and articles related to homeschooling we have finally settled into our own method. This brings me to the first topic of the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop put on by SchoolhouseReviewCrew.  
I had heard about Montessori Schools but really didn't know anything about them until I read The Montessori Method  and was inspired by the hands on activities and the way math was taught in a Montessori Program. I immediately felt like this was something my boys would benefit from and could be adapted to our shoe string budget.  I feverishly began planning and putting together  pieces to have bead bars and math games ready for the boys.  We had been using Math-U-See since the beginning and I was grateful that the colors matched so well. As we began to really look at the Montessori Method I realized there was so much more I liked about the program and could adapt to our classroom including organizational elements.  Not to focus only on Montessori method, I should take a step back.  

When we began homeschooling I started out with unit studies thanks to finding Hands of a Child in my search. I found that the Charlotte Mason style of Nature studies and living books was a huge hit with me and with my boys who loved to be outside and loved being read to. While we didn't use the Scope and Sequence in the Charlotte Mason method per say I love the other all feel and adaptability of her method. also love that so much of this method can be found online for free or at least affordably.

This year we are starting the history cycle over again with Cameron and starting Nathan on the cycle so with a 4th grader and 2nd grader we don't necessarily line up with  either method's scope and sequence but that is part of the beauty of homeschool I can adjust our goals and lessons to match the needs and excitement of the boys.

Nathan loves the hands  on aspects of the Montessori Method including life skills where Cameron loves reading living history lessons in   the Charlotte Mason style. I can adapt each method to our budget and the boys strengths and weaknesses. 

Watch for the next installment in this week's blog hop focusing on curriculum.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Upper Level Math for younger kids? Sure with Math Essentials

I loved math when I was in school, well for the most part. With that in mind, I remember I would excel at certain parts of math and then get bored until we moved on to something new. I wanted to solve that problem for my boys. They excel in addition of large numbers and love working with larger numbers, but most of the grade appropriate books don't have a lot of large number problems.
When Mastering Essential Math Skills from Math Essentials came up for review on the crew, I decided to give it a go. I was excited to find a lot of large number addition problems as well as speed drills in the book.
We actually reviewed Middle Grades / High School which was a serious opps on Mom's part, but it still worked out. Since I screwed up when I signed up I thought for sure this would be way over Cameron's head, but he actually grasped more of the concepts than I thought he would. We watched a couple of the lessons on the DVD to see how he liked it, and found he actually didn't mind the DVD lessons, but needed my help sitting still for the lessons more watching the DVD then if we just did a mini lesson together (I watched the DVD then summed it up for him). Since I hope to use this program again in the future with both the boys, I decided to use sheet protectors for the book and write on the protectors with a dry erase pen. This also helped Cameron associate place values (he could write in place value colors if he needed to) and also helped if he needed to correct a problem after the fact.
We were able to also look at decimals and fractions, something we had touched on, but that Cameron was eager to learn more of.
From Math Essentials Website

You can improve essential math skills and scores dramatically in middlegrades/high school in only 20 minutes per day using this powerful, proven program developed by Rick Fisher.
Mastering Essential Math Skills for Middle School Grades/High School is 8 chapters and 125 pages. You'll be provided instruction and practice for:
  • whole numbers
  • fractions
  • decimals
  • percentages
  • integers
  • geometry
  • charts and graphs
  • problem solving
I was very impressed with the layout of each lesson and the idea of only 20 minutes a day. While we spent about 30 minutes a day on each lesson that we did, I can see the direction was right on. You can download samples including  [Table of Contents]  [Sample Pages]. The book with DVD retails for $33.95 which is a good value for the contents and the program. 

We also received a copy of Geometry from Math Essentials. This book gives students the essentials needed to understand Geometry.  You can download samples of the Geometry book including Table of Contents and Samples Pages. This great little tool retails for $11.95 but if you are considering it for a co-op or class setting they offer a bulk rate for purchases of more than 10 books of $10.95 a book.

The Math Essentials program was designed by Richard Fisher whose goal was to have students Algebra ready in less than a year. I love incorporating algebraic concepts early in math so this program overall is a great fit for our style of teaching.

One other feature in these books that really stood out for me, Speed drills. While this isn't something we focus on, I like the idea of having the boys think faster. Maybe they don't get every answer in the drill right, but the idea of picking up the pace a little is a great idea.

You might also like to see what the rest of the Crew thought of this program. Click the button below to see what they thought.


disclaimer: We received the above mentioned books as members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for our honest review of the product.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Play Time gives Mommy so Free Time at Imagine: Play

As a Mom blogger I love finding new things for the kids to do that gives Mom a little free time to blog or create. I recently found a new option locally for the boys. 
indoor play centerImagine: Play is a new indoor play and party center in McMinnville where I recently took the boys to enjoy a play date with their cousins. The summer pricing is very reasonable at only $5 for kids age over 3 years old.  Even the regular pricing of $6 is a great deal. She also has punch cards (buy 3 get 1 free) or Monthly passes

I love the fact that even my 9 1/2 year old had fun playing. He was able to guide some of the activities and helped the little ones stay more on task and move from one area to the next without over lapping toys.
After our first adventure to Imagine Play we decided to go a second time with just my 2 boys. I took my blogging and lesson planning activities and found a picnic table to sit and work at while Cameron and Nathan enjoyed playing. We have decided to go again before the month is up, so since Tuesday is their later hours the boys have asked that we do picnic dinner at Imagine Play. That is the plan.. I'm thinking pizza from one of the local pizzerias and an evening of play is in order for the boys.

Another awesome advantage to Imagine Play is the party feature, from private to semi private parties. They also offer themed parties with amazing costumes for the kids to play dress up (yes even the boys). I am really  considering this for one of the boys' birthday parties this year.
This is the first of several posts about local companies I love to support.
If you are local to Yamhill County, what is your favorite local business that could use a little extra attention? Leave a comment about your favorite business so we can all help out our local favorites.

***This post is not a sponsored post, just me supporting a local business that I really enjoy***

Friday, July 20, 2012

Are you Ready for Back to School, Homeschool Style?

Schoolhouse Review Crew
I am so excited to be a part of this upcoming Blog Hop focusing on Back to School Homeschool Style.

Thanks to Marcy from BenandMe and the SchoolhouseReviewCrew for putting this together.

Here is the week's outline from the SchoolhouseReviewCrew  website:

Homeschool Methods Unit Studies, Charlotte Mason, Unschooling, Classical? Which homeschool method is right for your homeschool? On Monday, the Crew tackles this topic, bringing you their experiences, tips, and recommendations!
Homeschool Curriculum The most popular question among homeschool momma’s has to be, “What curriculum do you use?” If there’s anything these bloggers understand, it’s curriculum! On Tuesday, the Crew shares their favorite choices with you!
Homeschool Planning I suppose the 2nd most popular question among homeschool mommas might be, “How do you plan your homeschool day . . . week. . .  year?” From year around schoolers, to traditional “public” school schedules. From days planned out practically minute by minute to those who “wing it,” the Crew will share their planning tips with you on Wednesday!
Homeschool Classrooms I just love catching a glimpse of homeschool rooms. Some folks have classrooms decked out with teacher and student desks, chalkboards, and walls covered with charts and maps. Others spend more time on the couch or kitchen table. Come take a peek at the Crew’s homeschool classrooms and other spaces on Thursday.
Homeschool Co-ops To co-op or not to co-op, that is the question. On Friday, the Crew will share their experiences, both positive and negative, with this form of homeschool enrichment.
Here is a a peek at the topics I will be sharing:
Homeschool Methods: Charlotte meet Maria, how we combine Charlotte Mason's style with Maria Montessori's method to educate our boys.
Homeschool Curriculum: We will highlight a few of our favorites along with some of the awesome things we will be using this year. 
Homeschool Planning: How do I combine Goals with Guides and plan our year round school
Homeschool Classrooms: Take a peek at our non-traditional classrooms and how we use the spaces we have, including some fun crafts to decorate and organize.
Homeschool Co-op: Knowing what to take on and how to get the most our of your co-op.
If you have questions post a comment below and I will work the answers in to some of my posts.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Montessori Man brings color organization to our colored pencils

I've been thinking about  creating something to organize our colored pencils for a while now. I really like the Montessori colored cups but I know that the cups wouldn't make it back to the base so I decided to come up with something different.     I've been thinking about using a solid piece of wood for a while. Today I found a piece of 4x4 that at first glance was the perfectly length. Turns out, it was a perfect 24 inches long. 
I thought I could do it, but should have known better than to try.

Thankfully, unvlDad came to my rescue.
He put together the drill press and the vice to hold the wood in place and at the right height to drill 1 1/2 inch holes in 9 spots.

Here it is just waiting to be filled. The brightly colored pencil box it is setting on , was my pencil box in high school not to bad for 20 years old. Of course it just mostly sat on my desk when I doodled. My Mom found it full of Crayola Colored pencils and called me to tell me about her find. 

Filled with colors while still in the shop. I am so blessed to have such an amazing husband who is willing to rescue me and build such awesome things for our homeschool.

I love how the colors look all sorted. The whole thing sets up on a shelf until school time and then will set on the table between the boys so they can reach the colors they need.

Knowledge Quest in search of the knowledge of Maps

PhotobucketGeography isn't a huge part of our homeschool, but knowing how to read a map and where in the world we are studying is important as I teach the boys their history lessons as well as other social studies.  I have used Knowledge Quest maps samples in the past and was overjoyed when we were given the opportunity to review the Map Trek seriesOregon Companies
Before I dive head long into talking about this amazing company, I have to admit a little bias. If you have read my reviews here or on my personal blog, you know I love local companies. There is always something special about working with and supporting local companies. Knowledge Quest is an Oregon company which is always a bonus for me.
So on to the good stuff, the Map Trek series is a set of 6 e-books filled with outline maps as well as labeled maps.

I love that I can use Map Trek as a stand alone World Geography series but also integrate the program into the History curricula I am already using with their free Integration Guides that outline which maps to use at various points along the way. We are using a combination of TruthQuest History and Story of the World blended with a bit of Ambleside Online, so having the integration guide makes my life just a little easier.  You can purchase each e-book individually for $14.95 e-book and $19.95 CD Rom however the best value really is the complete set of 6 for $47.00 ( a huge savings over $30)  or $55.00 for the printed book and CD pack (also a huge savings)
So, how have we used the program so far; the boys have colored and labeled a full world map with oceans and continents and are working on Ancient Egypt Maps currently. We will be adding more of the Ancient world maps to their notebooks as we continue their journey from Creation to the rise of the Roman Empire. We previously used maps of the United States Civil War to show various battles while we studies the Civil War.  I love having every map I need to help show the boys where in the world it all fits together.

Check out what the rest of the Crew thought of this awesome program!


disclaimer: We received the e-book collection free as members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for our honest opinion of the program.

Christian Keyboarding, a Mom looking for a skills program with a moral background


TOS crewAs a mom of two young boys I try and make sure all of their computer time is quality time and that the programs they use are of moral character. It is a challenge sometimes as so often the program we want them to use are filled with corny characters that only end up turning them off to the program. I was thankful to find a Christian based keyboarding program for them to use as an elective course to practice their typing/ keyboarding skills. I learned a few things about my boys while reviewing this program. The e-book we reviewed retails for $12.95 which is a great value. Being an e-book actually was a handy feature this time around. Rather than printing the e-book for the boys to look at, I ran it on our Nook sitting next to the computer screen so they could see the book.
I love that this is a fundamentals program without too much extra fluff. I learned to type using a college textbook my mom gave me at age 9 so I know the value of learning to type at a young age. I did find out that my boys struggle isn't finding the keys or remembering where the keys are, but simply their hands can't really reached the keys while staying in the home position.  So, before we continue the program (which we will be doing through out the summer) I am going to get them a smaller keyboard to use for typing class.
Keyboarding for the Christian School offers a variety of levels and add-ons to their program and while it was designed for a school setting , it worked well in our relaxed eclectic school setting just fine. The value is definitely strong with this e-book since we can use it without printing anything and we can use it as a jumping off point to further their typing skills.

Check out what the rest of the crew thought of this program!

Schoolhouse Review Crew

disclaimer: We received an e-book copy of this program as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for our honest review of the program.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Summer Fun at the Zoo #sunsetzoo

We spent an evening at the Oregon Zoo enjoying the sights and the sounds. This particular evening included a lot more sounds, music sounds that is.  We listened to Boka Marimba a local group performing wonderful music of Zimbabwe.  You can hear some of their wonderful music on YouTube.
This was just one of the fun things going on during the Sunset at the Zoo opening night event. This series will continue every other Wednesday through August at the Oregon Zoo. Since it had been a couple of years between visits we decided to explore the Zoo some. Honestly the last time unvldad and I were at the zoo our youngest was maybe 3, so we had not seen the Africa exhibit open. Cameron was excited to show us the Africa exhibit, that became our focus after we explored some of the fun activities tied into Sunset at the Zoo had to offer.
People were already filling up the main stage lawn for the evening concert.

Nathan is such a little science guy, he tried out the Owl Pellet dissection and found a couple of leg bones he was able to identify. 
He was so excited to explore the pellet even if he didn't really know what the Owl pellet was. I am so grateful that he is eager to explore and learn. I only hope that I can find more ways for him to search out and explore the world around him.

Next we made our way to the Africa exhibit where the boys explored and played and generally cooled off from the temps,

Oregon Zoo

Cameron has been obsessed with Cheetahs even since he watched and episode of Wild Kratz on PBS so when we ventured through the beautiful Africa exhibit he was so happy to see the cheetahs and asked if I would take extra pictures for him. Of course I obliged him the request as long as I could take a few of him and this brother along the way. 

Within the exhibit the boys found a Safari ride to drive and added to their excitement. The zoo is so much more fun with a couple of crazy boys to hang out with.

Of course I took more pictures but this one really struck me. Both of these beautiful cheetahs sat posed so perfectly. I had so much fun watching them and shooting pictures at Cameron's request.

The display area made the boys feel like they were really on a safari.


The boys had fun playing in the mongoose tunnel.

The final request was to see the giraffes All three the boys asked to see the giraffes, so off we went, and as we ventured down the paths we could still hear bits of the music filling the air.

Cameron was captivated by the giraffes and just watched them gracefully wander.

Even Daddy enjoyed the giraffes, I think he felt a kindred spirits with them.

We had such a fun evening of exploring the zoo, activities and music. I highly recommend my local friends check out the Oregon Zoo and try and attend a Sunset at the Zoo event.

Professor B's #Math a supplemental helper #hsreviews

PhotobucketMath is one of those subjects I was always good at, but sometimes have trouble teaching 2 different levels at the same time with the boys, so I am always looking for supplemental things to try and reinforce whatever lesson we happen to be working on or whatever area we might be struggling with. Thankfully as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I have been blessed with a variety of math programs to try with the boys.   Professor B is the newest math program we have tried. I love the idea of 3 years of math in one program and at a pace that can potentially help teach more of the basics in an effective fashion.
Professor B is a web-based program designed by Everard Barrett a math educator from New York with experience in elementary through college level Math education.  The Professor B program structures math like a story rather than the traditional format. At first I wasn't sure what to think of it but as we watched the videos and read the lesson on the screen I began to see that connectedness of the program, however the boys became frustrated with Mommy sitting with them to do their math on the computer. Since my youngest is working on 3rd grade math but is at a 1st/ 2nd grade reading level I have to sit with him to read what Prof B was saying and my 4th grader doesn't focus as well on reading from the computer so I ended up sitting with him as well.  Both of the boys enjoyed the worksheets that went along with the program so that made the computer based time a little easier once they realized , if we get through this part we can go do our worksheet ourselves. I guess that is the goal, to create independent learners, so I can see the positive in the situation.
One thing we had trouble with was each time we logged on I would have to go through my notes to remember where we left off with each of the boys. I think this is something they are working to improve.  I did really like the fact that we could jump around a little if we needed too, for instance my oldest was struggling with larger number place values so I found the lesson that went over place values and had him go through that lesson before we moved on to level 2.  I also found it interesting for the boys to learn different ways of completing the same problem, especially with multiplication. I have found that just like different learning styles in the broad spectrum, you can have a different learning style in a variety of subjects, and the Prof B program helped with that in that it is a visual and auditory program (since I had to read the slides to them) and then a hands on program with the practice pages.
The jury is still out on the value of the product overall, but that might just be that we are finding success with other math programs right now and this was just icing on an already sweet cake.
Professor B's program is priced at $100 for 3 years of access to a single level . You can check out a Sample Lesson and learn more about Professor B's Methods. You can also check out what the rest of the crew thought by clicking the image below.


Disclaimer: We received an online copy of this program as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for our opinion of the program.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Who is My Neighbor? Why Should I Love him? 2 good questions with a message for all

homeschool product reviews This year the boys and I are once again participating in several service projects within our local community including harvests and donations involving school supplies. I want my boys to appreciate what we have and know that even when it doesn't seem like much something simple can make a big difference in someone else's life. I also wanted them to understand what the Bible says about helping each other and loving our neighbor even our enemy.
educational ministriesWhen Apologia's Who is my Neighbor curriculum came up for review on the Schoolhouse Crew I was excited because it fit so well with the direction I was going this summer with the boys.    I had seen the other books in the Who is series from Apologia and while they sounded interesting and useful I wasn't as drawn to them as I was with this title.

Apologia Educational Ministries Who is my Neighbor is the 3rd book in the series from Apologia and can be used as a stand alone or in sequence with the first 2 books.   Who is my Neighbor textbook is a hardcover full color book full of stories , scripture, lessons, and real life scenarios for the whole family. The textbook retails for $39.00.  Also available is the Notebooking Journal which retails for $24.00 and a color book that retails for $8.00.
We are using the whole program as a family so we are doing most of the questions as narration rather than having the boys write them down. I purchased an extra coloring book so each of the boys have their own and as we read the various lessons from the book the boys can color and discuss the picture that coordinates with the message and story.
I am thoroughly enjoying this Bible Study with the whole family and have been  very excited to see the boys enjoying this too. Now that we have used a portion of this program I am really looking at getting the first 2 books as well as the newest book in the series over the next few years as a family devotional lesson.
If you are interested in this program, Apologia has samples of the books as well as the coloring pages that can be downloaded.
This is a very good value for the price, even if it seems high, the overall content and the way it is written pulled my whole family into the Word so it is a good value and a blessing.

Check out what the rest of the crew thought of the program below
apologia review

disclaimer: We received a copy of the above mentioned product as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for our honest opinion of the product.