Unauthorized Family Game Night: A Review

With six kids, we have learned over the years just how important spending quality time together really is. Sometimes we just sit back and enjoy each others company. Other times, however, we opt for a more structured time together and spend days engrossed in a really good read-a-loud or an evening filled with fierce unbridled competition a.k.a. game night.

Unauthorized, by Chara Games is the newest addition to our family game night repertoire. This quick card game may be small and unassuming but is so much more than meets the eye!

Chara Games was established in 2014 by a husband and wife team that wanted to create quality games that have a purpose. Each game is designed to challenge the players to think about faith through play. Their mission says it all: Building games that create joy by developing relationships with God and people.

We look forward to reviewing many products, but games are met with an even greater excitement than normal. It is just plain fun to play games. It was a pleasure to receive a small box, which will fit nicely into our newly cleaned out, sorted and minimized game closet. It is also nice to be small enough to take with us camping or to a friend’s house.

Our first experience setting up the game was extremely slow going for us. I am not complaining by any means. I was aware that there was an instructional video available but I wanted to attempt the game with just the instructions given with the game itself. The instructions were confusing. As we sat around the table, anxious to get started with the game, much time was spent simply trying to make sense of the instructions themselves. Now that I have played the game, I can look at the instructions and they make complete sense, but I felt that initially, some of the instructions were not easily understood. Again, I could have watched the video.

The first time that we sat down to play, we played two games. The first game was slow, as is expected when learning a new game. The kids did not understand the reason for different steps or options, and I did not have the experience or understanding to enlighten them or provide any meaningful guidance. However, once we completed the game and had a better understanding of the process, we were able to make some assessments of the value of different options within the game. For example, a player may decide to “speak to a neighbor” a polite way of saying “look at a neighbor’s hand.” Initially, the value of seeing a neighbor’s hand was not fully understood and this option seemed a bit odd, but once you play the game a few times and begin to develop strategy, you quickly understand the value of knowing what cards a neighbor may be holding.

This quick card game is designed to be played with 6-12 players. Players are part of a conflict between the state and an underground church and the goal is to sway loyalty of others to either the state or the church. Although the intended age range is 12+, the game can be enjoyed with children around 8 years old. We have successfully played Unauthorized with our three youngest kids that are 7, 8 and 12. I will note, however, that although The Boy (7) and Sweetness (8) can engage in play just fine, they do not seem to have yet grasped how to develop a strategy with this game. I am sure that it will come with more experience and play, but in the meantime, when playing with them, the game is not as competitive as I believe it would be with a group of older kids or adults that understood the game. I am really looking forward to testing this theory out when we have our fellow homeschool blogging friends (also reviewing the game) over for dinner and games.

The game elicited lively conversation between us all. In my opinion, this was probably the single most important element of the game (I can’t help but be a teach-the-kids-every-moment-possible-mom). The cards are unlike traditional playing cards with numbers, letters or shapes but rather meaningful cards that are used to influence play but could just as easily cause you to ponder how our life experiences influence our decisions about faith. For example, one of the State cards says, Meaningless Traditions: Why do Christians do these silly things? Another State card says, Clergy Abuse: A sacred trust once violated isn’t easy to restore. These are real issues in many people’s lives that are difficult to overcome and a serious hindrance to one’s faith. The Church cards are equally thought-provoking. Once says, Experience Forgiveness: Freedom unlike any other and another says Witness a Miracle: We are forever changed by what we have seen. There are also neutral cards. These cards can go either way because when an individual has one of these experiences it typically causes them to either seek faith or push faith away. These were things like, Serious Illness or Family Member Dies. All of these experience cards allowed us to talk, as a family about our faith and the things that challenge it as well as the things that build it up. Honestly, anything that helps a family or a group of people actually talk about these kinds of experiences is a beautiful thing. That makes this game far more valuable than most any game we own.

At the surface level, Unauthorized is a simplistic concept, but when played as intended, it is thought-provoking, conversation-initiating and could ultimately by life-changing.

Blast Off!

I never thought that science would become one of our favorite subjects in our homeschool. Honestly, I would not have thought that it would have been anything more than a subject to be checked off each year. I fully expected that we would cover math, language arts, history and science would be something added to our plate to ensure a well-rounded school experience.

Then it happened.

We moved to the prairie and suddenly it is as if we are living in on-going science experiments. We have witnessed weather unlike anything we have ever experienced before; all forms seem to be magnified out here in our own little expanse of wide-open land. We have encountered forms of wildlife (and dissected many of them): piglets, rattlesnakes, dragonflies, porcupines, skunks (no, we have not yet dissected a skunk or porcupine but we have collected some quills)! We have witnessed the cycles of life with rabbits, cats, dogs and goats. We have even enjoyed some of the most incredible sunrises and sunsets and have learned what causes the incredible colors within them. I know that science is all around everyone, but we simply did not experience things the same way when we lived in our little box in the middle of a crammed neighborhood. There is just something about having space and visibility.

This year, our science focus is chemistry and physics. I was not sure who was more excited about it, the kids or me, until the boys made a request. The Boy had his best bud over for a night. They are always busy building things like ramps to launch themselves into the abyss of our acreage, or pulleys to try and transport an object from one place to another. I just love their scientific, inquisitive minds.

The Boy and Tobmeister ran into the kitchen, interrupting my in-depth chemistry experiment that would result in dinner, with the biggest cheesy grins you could imagine. I knew instantly that they were brewing up something of their own. Then their eyes took on the irresistible charm, that they seem to be famous for, as they ask if they could launch rockets. “It’s science, Mom!” he added, as if it would seal the deal.

I looked over at the boys and saw their rumpled heads that was sure to contain as much dirt as hair and I did what every good science-teaching-mom would do. I relented. I just could not resist the double cuteness that stood before me.

I set my kitchen experiment aside and headed to the great outdoors.

Within minutes, the two scientists had mouths full of Big League Chew, Handsome’s requirement for rocket launching, and were busy making the preparations. The Boy had his new rocket ready to experience it’s inaugural launch and began to stuff the chamber with the necessary wadding. Handsome made a few  modifications to properly secure the engine and we were set for take-off.

The countdown was heard through excited mouths filled beyond capacity with grape gum. When the resounding announcement of “BLAST OFF!” was made, the rocket was gone, leaving only it’s smoke trail behind.

As a proud mama bear, I watched the two careen their heads back to assess where the rocket would land. With excitement, they both ran to retrieve it and quickly returned asking if they could “do it again!”

Do it again, we did.

These are moments that I treasure. Moments spent witnessing what boyhood is all about: buddies, dirt and science (and bubble gum too, of course)!

Another Summer Coming to an End

http://www.firehow.com/images/stories/user/147/back%20to%20homeschool.jpg

It is official. Although we never really have a solid delineation between summer and school, because we continue to do at least some things throughout the summer, we still have a definite moment in which it is no longer summertime and school has official begun once again. For us, the moment is when the local public school is back in session and Bookworm Beauty is able to participate in sports with her friends once again. Yes, volleyball officially started today. Tomorrow is another line drawn in the sand as the kids return to their weekly homeschool enrichment program in town.

Our summer was filled with many wonderful adventures. I told myself that I was going to blog about each one throughout and then decided that I would rather keep some things a little less public.

At any rate, we visited the Garden of the Gods and the Colorado Paint Mines, the kids attended a week of summer camp (giving Handsome and I our first week completely alone since we have been married), they also entered art at the County Fair and each won money. We spent many hours in our pool, added turkeys to our farm, enjoyed wonderful conversations with amazing friends and the girls learned to sew! We witnessed the birth of puppies, visited family, planted a garden, saw some great movies, went to a baseball game, saw an eclipse and will be finishing the summer with a Bronco game. It has been busy. It has been full and it has been fun.

I guess I am ready for a rest. There is something about the routine and structure that comes with the fall and back to school that is just so welcoming this year.

I know, I know, it will not be long before you will hear me speak of longing for summer once again. This year I plan to enjoy each season to it’s fullest, even winter. I didn’t even say that through clenched teeth!

No-Nonsense Algebra: A Review

Products were provided to us through our participation of the Homeschool Review Crew for review purposes

Bookworm Beauty has always been fairly strong in math. We have rejoiced about her strengths over the years. Unfortunately, as her math level has increased her learning style has really become more evident and it has led us on a hunt to find a program that she learns well from. I have always found that several people can teach the exact same concept and only one persons explanation may actually “click” for someone. We were hopeful that No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials would generate her “aha” moments for learning algebra.

We received a physical book and access to online video lessons to coincide with the book. It is a simple program, almost too simple to feel complete. The full size 275-page consumable book contains a full year of algebra lessons, glossary, resources such as important formulas, important symbols, common prime numbers, etc, and answer pages.

Access to the online video lessons was as simple as visiting the website and plugging in the access code. Bookworm Beauty was set up to begin algebra within minutes of receiving our materials.

The video tutorials are short and simple, typically under ten minutes. They are whiteboard animation type lessons. The writing appears as the teacher explains the lesson and takes the student through the process of solving the equations.

Math is a daily subject for the students in our home. We believe it is essential for mastering math concepts. Bookworm Beauty is crossing over into the independent study realm and is doing far more schoolwork on her own. Math Essentials makes this an easy accomplishment for her. She logs into the daily lesson, watches the tutorial and then completes the worksheet in the book itself. On average, math has taken her less than a half an hour to complete the lesson for the day.

Notice the “-0” on the previous lesson!

No-Nonsense Algebra can be used as a curriculum or as a reinforcement to help a student master various skills in areas that he or she has struggled in. We were unsure as to whether or not we would use this program to meet the algebra requirement as a full program or as a resource. Upon receiving the program, Bookworm Beauty started at the very beginning which was a lot of review for her. The lessons were short and simple. She decided to try and skip forward to attempt some more difficult lessons. Knowing that she struggles with word problems, she jumped to the last chapter, Algebra Word Problems, and watched a video lesson online. She felt confident that she fully understood the process as she watched the lesson but found that she had a hard time remembering the steps once she opened the book. Fortunately, the book offers an introduction (overview) for each lesson, which she referred to. In the end, she still struggled through the section and she decided to go back to the lesson she was on near the beginning.

By the end of the book, students will have covered all of the basic algebra concepts including quadratic equations, polynomials, rational expressions, radical expressions, and more.

We are still unsure as to whether or not we will use this program in its entirety to meet her algebra requirements. If we decide to use another program, we are sure that we will keep this for reinforcement. It’s a simple program and can be taken along with us on road trips or used to get a different explanation for a type of problem that she is struggling to understand. Either way, we appreciate No-Nonsense Algebra.

I Didn’t Think Our Family Time Could Get Any Better

Products were provided to us through our participation of the Homeschool Review Crew for review purposes

Oh, the adventures we have been on, and it has been worth the wait! When I first started with the Review Crew, I quickly learned about the opportunities to review Heirloom Audio products. I also learned, just as quickly, how coveted those review spots were. Twice in the last two years, I was not given the privilege, but the third time was a charm! I literally squealed when I heard that I was selected to review In the Reign of Terror by Heirloom Audio Productions.

I could go on and on about many things pertaining to this audio drama. I could share about the historical story line and how the main character, a young man named Harry, visits France as the French Revolution broke out. I could also share about the caliber of actors and actresses that recorded the program. I could even share details of the sound effects that made this audio drama so captivating.

Instead I want to share about the things that I noticed in my home with this program. We really enjoy family read-alouds for our family time and are often in the middle of more than one great book. We also enjoy quality, family appropriate movies. It is only natural to assume that we would enjoy an audio drama as well, which we had not tried previously. Wow, were we missing out!

It seemed a bit difficult, at first, to get everyone together at the same time, but once we did it was amazing. I felt like we may have been experiencing entertainment similar to what my mother experienced as a child sitting in front of the radio, hanging on every word in the program. She would chuckle when she told us about how they would watch the radio the way we watched the television. I had a sense of nostalgic pride thinking of my mom that passed last year and what she would think of her grandchildren staring at the radio.

Even Jasper enjoys watching the radio during In the Reign of Terror.

I have to admit, I had a difficult time following the story and I really had to focus on paying attention. I know that I am not an audio learner and I even prefer subtitles on movies so that I can read through the movie. I was better prepared the second time we gathered together to listen to more of In the Reign of Terror. I had taken the time to visit Live the Adventure Club, Heirloom Audio’s fabulous family friendly educational entertainment website, that is simply above and beyond what I could have hoped for. As a side note*** anyone can enjoy a FREE 3-month trial of the Live the Adventure Club and also receive their newest release, Captain Bayley’s Heir, for $1!*** I logged into our Live the Adventure Club site and was able to open up the actual script for In the Reign of Terror. This was an amazing help for me to follow along. There is even the ability to have each individual word highlighted as the story is being told when you listen to the audio drama online. What an amazing feature for new or struggling readers! There is so much thought that went into the Live the Adventure Club website by Heirloom Audio Productions. I highly recommend that you visit the site and take advantage of the FREE 3-month trial. Members receive discounts on Heirloom Audio products, children can even earn additional discounts or credits for products by completing various kids activities.

Bookworm Beauty taking the Chapter 15 – Robespierre Quiz

In the Reign of Terror summary by Bookworm Beauty (12): a young British man named Harry went to France to teach a noble family (The Marquis) English while they would teach him French and their customs. While he was there, the Reign of Terror (the French Revolution happened.) The kids managed to escape the angry mob. While they were living in hiding the father and grandmother were caught and killed just for being a noble family and followers of the King and Queen.

While in hiding, Harry and his friend Victor went to see the sentencing of noble families. During that, Victor’s father was sentenced to death. His grief caused him to become ill. Harry went to get Victor’s fiance Marie Marquis. Harry tried to ensure that the coast was clear, but Marie couldn’t wait for him to get back and went on alone. A member of the Public Safety Committee took Marie to be held in jail until her sentencing…. To find out what happens next, you’ll just have to listen!

We also received and downloaded the 43-page Study Guide for In the Reign of Terror. The first time we sat to listen to the program, we had not yet taken advantage of the Study Guide. However, the second time, we were well armed to take advantage of all that we could learn from this program with this guide. Like most study guides, there are comprehension or discussion questions. First, there are Listening Well questions which are easy enough for even the younger kids. “What’s the name of the family dog?” is a great example of these questions. Then there are the Thinking Further, more difficult and thought-provoking questions such as, “In traditional etiquette, it’s improper for a man to shake a woman’s hand unless she offers it. Why do the rules of etiquette and courtesy make this difference between the way a man greets a man and the way he greets a woman?” The first question draws out a simple answer where the second question elicits discussion and enables us to further the kids’ understanding of times past as well as how it relates (or compares) to our culture today.

Coloring pages are available for download. This is a picture of Harry saving the girls from the mad dog.

To take things even further, there are Expand Your Learning sections that provide background, history, examples and more. We really enjoyed the section on 18th Century Fashion and getting a glimpse of what high fashion was like more than two hundred years ago.

There is even more. At the end of the study is a book list to further one’s study on the French Revolution as well as bible studies and historical background for In the Reign of Terror. We found that In the Reign of Terror is a fabulous audio drama that could be nothing more than great entertainment, or through the use of the additional tools available through Heirloom Audio, it could be a solid History supplement for any homeschool classroom.

I am thrilled to have finally been invited into the world of Heirloom Audio and I foresee our History studies becoming more alive and exciting than I could have imagined.

 

Educational Activity Notebooks

Products were provided to us through our participation of the Homeschool Review Crew for review purposes

Bookworm Beauty has always loved activity books, of any kind. When she was still in the public school system, Grandma would take her to the store at the beginning of summer to buy her a BrainQuest book for a summer bridge activity book and she would lug that one-plus-inch book around everywhere we went. All of this to say that I was not in any way surprised by her reaction when we received the ability to review the USA Activity Bundle by The Crafty Classroom.

For days, Bookworm Beauty asked me if we had received the download links for the product. She was eager to have something fun to lug around and work on through the summer time. Her good morning hugs quickly turned to a happy squeeze when I was able to hand her the awaited binder.

To start, The Crafty Classroom is a fantastic online resource shop. One visit to their website is all you need to turn a gray sky into rainbows. Ok, so that will not literally happen, but I do find myself in a better mood when I visit. It is welcoming and everything is bright and cheery. If it were a physical store, it would be somewhere that my kids would want to visit again and again. They offer fun and fabulous resources for a wide array of homeschool subjects as well as art tutorials, free printables and more. The bottom line is that anyone that homeschools, or just has young children around, should have this site bookmarked.

We received three links as part of the USA Activity Bundle, a $15 value. The bundle includes three activity books:U.S.A. State by State Activity Notebook,U.S.A. State Bird Art Cards, and U.S.A. 50 State Mazes. I took one look at them and decided that I did not want three books for Bookworm Beauty, but rather a single and organized book. I started by printing the State-By-State pages single-sided and put them back into the printer to print the corresponding state mazes on the back side. I then printed the state birds out separately. I did not realize, before printing these out that there are many states that have a common state bird with other states. I guess I got to learn something new with this product as well! Once everything was printed, it was only a matter of minutes for me to divide the proper state – now double sided worksheets – into groups corresponding with each bird. I had to battle with my own OCD traits to do this as there was no longer an alphabetical order to the mazes and state info but rather a seemingly random grouping. It does make it difficult to flip through and find a particular state, but I got over it quickly. All of the pages received a three-hole-punch and was placed into a binder. The only hiccup I had was when I was printing out the mazes and noticed that there was not a maze for Wyoming. I quickly emailed Valerie McClintick at the Crafty Classroom and shortly thereafter I noticed that the link had been updated and included Wyoming.

Bookworm Beauty has had fun looking up various state facts for each state in our union. She, of course, thinks that the state-shaped mazes are simple and fun and the birds are fascinating. For me, I like that she has do a little bit of research to look up the various facts for each state when completing the State-By-State pages, such as the state flower, which number it is in the union, their nickname and state abbreviation. She also gets to color their state flag, locate the state in a US map and then locate it’s Capital, Rivers, Lakes and Mountains. Lastly, there is a section on each page that allows the child to write out some facts & notes on the state. I had to chuckle when writing this review and seeing that although she has worked on a lot of the states, Colorado is the only one that appears to be completed and the facts & notes lists nothing more than “I live here!” Well, I guess that is a fact.

This has been a fun product and one that I believe every family should pick up at some point. It would be a fantastic addition to a road trip. A few years ago, we took a trip to Hawaii. We rode the Amtrak train from Colorado to Oakland, California and I knew that we had over 30 hours of train time to fill with the kids. We found similar worksheets to these and printed out one for each state that we would pass through: Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, and of course, Hawaii. It was fun to cover facts for each state and introduce the kids to their current surroundings as we passed through or visited. I can see this particular Activity Bundle serving us for years to come as we prepare for various trips.

If you have not checked them out, go over and visit The Crafty Classroom. We are studying Chemistry this year and they have a fantastic corresponding resource, Periodic Table of the Elements Activity Pack for a mere $5. The purchase was easy and I received an immediate email response verifying the purchase with the link. I had the product printed out within minutes of my finding it on their website and completing the transaction. That was simple.

The Crafty Classroom is bookmarked on my computer and I have a feeling I am going to have to start explaining to Handsome why we have so many transactions with them!

 

 

The Ultimate Planner

A subscription to Homeschool Planet  was provided to us through our

participation of the Homeschool Review Crew for review purposes

Planning may very well be the single most important element of my homeschooling family and after subscribing to and using Homeschool Planet through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op, we may be gathering together for a calendar burning party! This program has been nothing short of a perfect fit for our busy family’s many needs.

I have been searching high and low for the perfect planner over the years, physical or electronic and have tried several in the process. In the end I began to accept, reluctantly, that I would simply need to accept the fact that I would need to continue to use multiple planners or systems. Which was a fate that assured that some things would fall through the cracks. After years of pondering the perfect planner, you could imagine my delight as I was able to mentally check off each element that I would include in the perfect planner as I watched the introduction video of Homeschool Planet.

Not wanting to wait another day to get started in planning our crazy life, I set up my free 30-day trial of Homeschool Planet before my review period even started. To do this, I first had to join the Homeschool Buyers Co-op. Looking back, I am glad that I had to join the Homeschool Buyers Co-op because I had heard about this group over the last few years and kept putting off looking into joining it because I did not realize that it was a FREE resource. Yes, I am kicking myself now for missing out on this fabulous group that provides their members with discounts on many products and curriculum.

To make this FREE membership of the co-op and the FREE trial of Homeschool Planet even more incredible was that I also received a FREE lesson plan (a $5-15 value) from their Homeschool Planet Lesson Plan Marketplace. PLEASE NOTE – this FREE lesson plan deal is only being offered as an incentive for the month of June 2017. Of course, I chose a free lesson plan. I selected IEW Poetry Memorization to allow us to add it into our new electronic removing-the-stress-and-chaos-family-planner. Simple. Quick. I was even able to select which of the 125 days of lessons that I wanted to move into the calendar as we are well into the curriculum already. Within minutes we had an entire lesson plan in our planner! The best part is that as life happens and schedules change, I do not have to dread the process of changing things in our planner; I simply (yes… there’s that word again… simple) shift the lessons forward however many days needed. I can shift the one lesson or apply it to all of the lessons, I can even choose whether to apply it to one person or all!

It gets better! Handsome and I used to use a phone app that was a combined calendaring system. We managed our previously very busy household, pre-homeschooling days, to keep track of the older three high school girls’ schedule. We had the ability to maintain to-do lists and shopping lists, as well. It was wonderful. However, it was seriously coming up short when I began homeschooling and needing to plan our schooling as well. As I experimented with other planning systems, they were coming up seriously short when they could not include the features that we had relied on from our other electronic system. Those struggles are over… Homeschool Planet allows the ability to add multiple widgets! We have added shopping lists, which can be separated by stores, and to-do lists as well. Not only are the lists on the planner, they can be sent to our cell phones! Next time that Handsome is unable to get in touch with me, on his way home, to find out the grocery needs that I have, as we live an hour away from any stores, he can simply text SHOP to our planner number and the list is sent back immediately. I can also click the “send” button and the list will be emailed to us both. Ahhhhh, I can literally feel stress melting.

It gets better still! I was able to include the kids’ chores into the calendar! Not only can I add their ongoing chores, I can also add additional one-time chores as needed, with notes that indicate the value of that chore. This is going to make Handsome’s job much easier when he sits down to pay the bills and determines how much they have earned for the month. For me, what is more exciting about this element is the accountability. Handsome can look on the calendar during the day while he is at work and know whether or not their individual chores are done for the day. He can also see about their schoolwork, music or sports practice, or whatever else is going on in each individual life, such as appointments.

We are in full-swing summer mode around here. Yes, there are things to do still, but school scheduling needs are slim. As a result, we are not using the planner to it’s full potential. I am okay with that. We are learning it together, as a family, and creating a new normal. We will be well into our new planner habit by the time school is in full swing in August.

Although the ability to add lesson plans and homeschooling tasks is expected, I need to also share that this really is a whole family planner. Each individual can look at their own schedule or they can look at the whole family schedule. Lists can be made individually as well, so Bookworm Beauty and Sweetness can maintain their own lists of things that they want to work on or accomplish, beyond school. Birthdays can be added with notifications placed on the calendar. This is literally a whole family maintenance system. It is also a gradebook and I can keep track of hours and even generate transcripts. I feel like I can go on and on about the many facets of Homeschool Planet and I think I have only scratched the surface in understanding all of it’s features.

I keep discovering new elements of the Homeschool Planet program. I have always been one to jump in and figure things out instead of investing time in reviewing manuals and such. However, I decided with this program that I really wanted to understand it’s capacity. I plan to use this life-saving resource for our family, well beyond reviewing it. Fortunately for me, there are several tutorials on how to use different features. This shortened the learning curve immensely. Whenever I want to learn a new thing, I watch another tutorial and decide if it is a feature that I want to add to my planner.

I have one fear with this program. It is entirely electronic. It is not a program stored on my computer so I have no control in it’s storage. I have to have total faith in the hosting servers that our planner will be there each and every day. There are abilities to print out calendars (nice for a road trip day) but something that I will be unlikely to use on an ongoing basis. I am confident that the system will be in place without fail for the most part but I believe it is important to plan for the unexpected issues that can happen. Most schools have “Snow Days” accounted for in their annual schedule In our community it isn’t “Snow Days” per se, it is “Mud Days” from rainy days and dirt roads. As homeschoolers, weather rarely has an effect on us, but we can learn from the school systems planning and we will have “Unexpected Days” in our school. Simply preparing for the possibility of a server going down, maintenance needs (that I did not prepare for) or the like, relieves even more stress. If we wake up one day and the planner is out for some reason, we will officially be utilizing one of our “Unexpected Days” and either move into a pajama read-in schedule, impromptu field trip or any other on-the-spot-decisions we happen to make. Pre-planning for such possibilities just makes me smile.

This next school year already feels less chaotic. There is no reason to spend another day feeling overwhelmed with the many tasks of a busy homeschool mom. Maybe I will have some time to read a book entirely for pleasure this next year.

 

 

The Joy of Babies

Babies, babies, babies… they all bring me so much joy! Right now I am relishing in my delight and joy of garden babies! To fully appreciate these little guys, one must understand that out here on the plains, growing anything can be a challenge. I have had to tweak my gardening skills a bit over the last few years to make gardening a little more conducive to the harsh winds and dry soils.

Babies are sprouting up all over the garden. Seeing these little babies, and the hundreds more all througout the garden bring me more than just joy, but hope too.

I will be walking with a little extra hop in my step today!

Curing the Summer Lulls: A Review

As our school year was winding down and the sunshine was beckoning us to come outdoors to play, the kids were beginning to show severe signs of cabin school fever; that point where it seems as though suddenly everything they have learned, like basic math principles, are missing. As Sweetness was in a constant state of squirming in her chair, K5 Learning‘s online program showed up to her rescue.

Okay, things may not have been quite this drastic this year, but truly, K5 Learning has brought us an easy solution to our summer woes. As homeschoolers, we are not tied to the typical school calendar but the world around us seems to still have that influence on us. We lessen our schedule, tremendously, but education is a way of life for us year round. This allows much more freedom for us, as the kids’ learning continues instead of spending the first month back to school reviewing what was learned the previous year that was also forgotten over the summer.

K5 Learning is an online subscription-based supplemental program providing materials for K5 Reading, K5 Math, and K5 Spelling. Although this is our summer hero, it would be a great reinforcement for students needing a supplement anytime of the year. Subscriptions can be purchased either monthly ($14.95 first child/$9.95 additional children) or annually ($119 first child/$79 additional children.) They also offer a FREE 14-day trial, so there is no risk in finding out if it is right for you. Although K5 Learning is primarily an interactive online program, they also offer FREE worksheets  for anyone, anytime. Worksheets are available on subjects such as Math, Grammar, Comprehension, Cursive Writing and even flash cards.

After we received access to K5 Learning, we proceeded to set up our account, which was a simple process. I had to set up the parent account and then create the student accounts. Sweetness was able to choose her own login name so she became a superhero; Sweetness is now Airtrin when she is doing K5 Learning. I think they empowered her super powers too, because she seems to be laser focused when doing this program!

Our next stop was to take the assessments. I liked that although you select a grade level for your student, the system still has them take an assessment to determine where exactly in that grade level he or she needs to be. This allows for a student to get reinforcement where needed and not having to complete the level from step one,which could be unnecessary review for some kids. Your kids are likely to start right where they need to, once they complete their assessments.

Although I am singing the praises of K5 Learning, and the assessments, I have to admit that we experienced great frustration with the assessment process. I set Airtrin up to take the Math assessment and proceeded to work on other things. When I came back into the room, she was in tears. She is a sensitive, yet diligent child. Since she knew this was something she was supposed to do, she will do it to completion even if she is struggling along the way. She does not stop and get help or tell us that she can not do it, she continues to work through tears. After noticing her frustration I found that the assessment was asking questions that she had no idea of the concept, yet alone the answer. They may not have even been grade level questions. The questions presented were multiple choice, however and she was frustrated that she could not determine which answer to select. I was surprised to find that there was not a way to skip the problem or identify that she does not know the answer and move on. For some kids, this would be fine and they would pick any random answer and keep moving. For her, it was a roadblock. We stopped the assessment and emailed support at K5 Learning.

This is where K5 Learning really shines. I immediately received a response back from support informing me that the assessment is created this way because many students will pick the path of least resistance instead of pushing themselves to try. If there is a skip button or a way to indicate that he or she does not know the answer, students will likely select that when they are unsure of themselves. They gave us two options. We could persevere and select any random answer on those questions and finish the assessment or we could avoid the assessment altogether and move on into the program for the overall grade level.

Airtrin and I talked it over and we decided to persevere. I stayed with her this time and when she came upon an problem that she had absolutely no clue of what was even being presented, I encouraged her to just pick an answer and move on. This was still a struggle for her, picking any answer is just not her style but we persevered anyway. I did notice that there were a few times that she randomly chose the right answer and I worried that it would throw off the assessment so I contacted support again to ask about that possibility and I again received an almost immediate response from them with assurance that the system has built in features to allow for false positives.

Upon completion of her assessments, I received an email (again immediately) with the assessment results. This provided us with valuable feedback as to her overall progress in these subject areas, which I appreciated. It also helped us to identify which worksheets would be good for her if we chose to print some. She logged back into her account and started with the lessons that were provided for her and has been off and running since.

Although we have spent a majority of time on the Math section of K5 Learning, because that is where our greatest needs are, they also have a Reading section. Airtrin completed that assessment too.

For me, the FREE worksheets and the ease of use for my child are a great plus but the greatest feature is being able to have an accessible customer support team that is quick to respond to inquiries and eager to provide solutions. I believe that this is the most important aspect of any online program and K5 Learning has raised the bar!

We have enjoyed using K5 Learning as a supplement to our homeschool. Airtrin has been eager to get online and work through her lessons now that the sun is shining and she wants to get outside to play, as if pencil and paper in her math workbook is that much more difficult. Nonetheless, it is a great change of pace and she is getting to work on getting reinforcement on the targeted areas. We both appreciate that she can login, spend 30 minutes on K5 Learning and get the reinforcement that she needs before heading outdoors for her summer adventures!

 

 

Our Annual Read-a-Thon has Commenced

For many families, June marks the beginning of long drawn out days of basking in the sunshine and endless fun. We delight in our fabulous fun times outdoors, just like most others, but June marks the beginning of daring adventures, heroes, folklore and more. Yes, for us, it marks the beginning of exploring piles of books!

We always participate in our local library reading programs and sometimes we even venture out to neighboring libraries to participate in theirs as well. Before you shake your head, realize that we have a policy of only applying our reading time to a single program at a time. More programs means more reading.

This year our library teamed up with Beanstack and is taking their summer reading program to a whole new level! Participants earn badges for completing various activities (including reading) from nine different areas such as play, listen, write, make, and more. Each category has several activity options; kids select a few items to complete to earn the corresponding badge. If they complete all 70 activities they will earn the coveted Master Engineer badge.

It is exciting to see the kids looking over the activities and planning out the adventures to come. I am hoping to take you along with us to see our progress. Our first stop is to find a geocache tomorrow…