Our Family

Our Family

Friday, February 28, 2014

Curriculum Favorites: Math U See

One of the benefits of reviewing curriculum is that I have an opportunity to try a wide variety of products every year.  One downside may be that you never can use everything that you review all of the time.  You really have to pick out your absolute favorites and stick to those as your core curriculum.  I am going to start writing a series of our all time favorite curricula for each subject starting with math.

If you have been a long time reader of my blog, you probably have heard this story before, but if you haven't, it's worth reading.  My first year of homeschooling, a friend who had been homeschooling for almost 20 years recommended Math U See to me.  Chelsea was in the 3rd grade and the books were set up very different back then, but we really liked it.  She enjoyed the videos and understood the concepts very well with the help of the manipulative blocks.  When Nick started Kindergarten the next year, he started on Math U See as well and really liked it.  A year after that though, after talking with some homeschool friends, I began to have doubts in Math U See.  They talked quite a bit about the "gaps" that Math U See had in their program and that because it is a mastery and not a spiral program that it was way behind public schools and would affect standardized testing.  I listened to their advice and decided to switch programs.  For four years we tried different programs: Abeka, Horizons, Alpha Omega, and some online subscriptions and the children just floundered.  Chelsea was having the most difficulty and by now was in high school.  Finally I decided enough was enough and I was going back to the program that worked for us instead of making the children suffer because other families felt that Math U See had too many short comings.  I switched all of the children back to Math U See that year.

So does it have gaps and is it behind compared to public school?  I think every program is going to probably have some gaps.  Nothing is going to teach absolutely everything.  I mentioned above that the program has changed a lot since we started watching Mr. Demme on VHS in 2005.  Math U See has made a lot of changes to their program over the years, and all of these have taken a great program and made it even better.  Just last year all of their elementary books were overhauled and expanded to include application and enrichment pages and expanded teacher content.  As far as making your child be "behind" Math U See does teach differently from the public school.  But, my children have always scored exceedingly well on standardized tests (not that I think standardized tests are a good measure of knowledge but it is the only one we have to go by.)  Also, by following the Math U See levels from K and up, Pre-Algebra falls about the 7th grade most students in public school do not take it until 8th or 9th grade.

So why do I like it so well?  There a few different reasons.  I love the video instruction.  I have 7 children and using Math U See, the older children can watch the videos and complete the lessons with little to no instruction from me at all.  I like that it is mastery based and makes sure students understand a concept completely before throwing others at them.  I like that right from the beginning they teach real world math through using word problems and beginning algebraic equations.  Many children struggle with math because it is abstract and they can't "see it."  By using manipulative blocks, children can see and understand exactly what they are doing.  There are plenty of worksheets included in each lesson to make sure the student understands the concepts, but if they don't you can print off more on their website.  The few times I have contacted customer service, I have found them to be very helpful.  The children enjoy learning from Mr. Demme and his "corny" sense of humor.

Isn't it more expensive then other math programs?  I think the initial cost is the biggest expense.  When you first start out you have to buy everything: Instruction Pack, Student Pack, and manipulatives.  But the manipulatives last all the way through Algebra 1 and you do not need to add any other until you reach Epsilon and need the fraction overlays and then in Zeta the decimal inserts.  The student book and test booklet are consumable and have to be bought for a new student every year, but the instruction pack can be used over and over again with other students.  So if you have more than one student the cost goes down, and if you don't you can always sell the teacher's manual and DVD when you are finished.  The elementary sets (alpha-zeta) are $43 for the instruction pack, $30 for the student pack, and the manipulatives are $38.  The primer level is a little less expensive and the upper levels of math get a little more expensive, but price wise are still cheaper than other DVD instruction programs that I have seen.  Math is the most expensive thing that we use in our homeschool, and honestly it is important and if it works it is worth paying for!  Right now I have children using: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Zeta, and Stewardship.  Even my little one enjoys getting ready for when she will use Math U See!

Math U See is our favorite Math curriculum ever!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Favorite Recipes: Apple Crisp

This is one of my husbands favorite desserts.  The recipe can also be used with peaches or other fruits that you have on hand.  I used canned peaches one day when I didn't have a lot of time and it was delicious!

5-6 apples peeled, cored, and sliced to about 1/4 in thick
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup uncooked rolled oats
1/3 cup flour
4 tablespoons butter

Combine apples, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.  Then place the apple mixture in an greased 8x8 baking dish.  Then in the bowl you just emptied mix all the other ingredients until combined;  Sprinkle the topping over the apples and bake at 350  until the apples are tender 50-60 minutes.  Cool and enjoy!

If you use canned fruit, the baking time will be cut significantly.  When I make the peach crisp, I bake it for around 30 minutes, just long enough for it to be bubbly and the topping to brown.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Homeschool Wrap Up Week 25

We had a pretty good week in our homeschool.  The weather this week was beautiful, and it was so nice to see  the sun that we set aside a few things that weren't all that important and spent hours playing outside!
Photo: Wondered where Anthony went as the rest of us are enjoying this beautiful day outside.  He ran inside for some string and a paper clip so he could make a fishing pole.
Anthony made a fishing pole

We are plugging along through America the Beautiful and just finished lesson 91.  Our newest read aloud is All of a Kind Family.  After finishing Little Town on the Prairie, Alex has asked me to read the next one in the Little House series, These Happy Golden Years for our bedtime book so we will start that one soon.

We finished Lesson 9 Order Artiodactyla.  It usually takes us 2 weeks to complete a lesson, but we finished this one in one week.

The rest of our work carried on as normal and all of the children finished another lesson in Math, Spelling, and Writing.  Lillian is loving her Spelling You See lessons!

I mentioned this on my facebook page the other day but I thought I would mention it here too.  I was amazed while rereading Little Town on the Prairie, especially the chapter on the School Exhibition, how different education is now then it was then.  During the exhibition, the children are called upon to do amazing mental arithmetic, grammar, geography, and recite poetry and other things.  Laura had to recite all of American history from Columbus to John Quincy Adams by memory! It seems to me that the further we advance technologically, the less educated we really are, and that is sad.  Another thing that I think made a huge difference in education was when we went to age segregated classrooms.  This created lower levels of learning and made younger children miss out from learning by listening to older children.  I say all this to say that is one of the things I love most about our homeschool.  All the children learning together and the amazing things the younger children learn from the older ones.

I hope you had a great week in your homeschool!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Journey Through Learning Stock Up Sale (aff link)


A Journey Through Learning, my favorite lapbook company is changing their price structure.  Instant download lapbooks will go from $4.50 to $6.99 and instant download express lapbooks will go from $1 to $1.99 starting March 1st.  From now until February 28th, you can stock up at the old price and get 20% off using coupon code stockup.

You can find their express lapbooks here.

Jeannie Fulbright Apologia lapbooks here.

All other lapbooks can be found here.

Happy shopping!

*Links to A Journey Through Learning are my affiliate links.  I only form affiliate relationships with companies whose products I actually use and can recommend!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

February Cloverbud 4 H Meeting

Last night was our February Cloverbud 4 H meeting.  The topic I chose was Kitchen Science.  We had a lot of fun!  It was funny too because when I was planning the meeting I didn't think I had enough stuff to last a full hour, but we ended up going almost an hour and a half.

We had 14 children at the meeting.  Since it was mid winter break for our local schools, I figured there would be some children missing, but it was the only day the EH house was available that worked for me.

First (after the club business was taken care of) I showed the children rock candy crystals that we have been growing at home.  It is a simple, fun experiment but we couldn't do it during the meeting because they take about a week to grow.

Next we talked about yeast and did an experiment with yeast.  In 4 baggies we put 2 tsp of yeast.  Then one of the baggies got sugar, salt, and warm water, another got sugar and warm water, another got cold water, and the last salt and warm water.  We left the baggies sitting on the table to see which one would grow the fastest.

Next we mixed up the ingredients for homemade finger paints and let Chelsea cook it on the stove for us.

Our next experiment was called dancing raisins.  We put water in a cup and carbonated water in another cup to see which one would cause the raisins to dance and talked about what caused that to happen.

Next we did a density experiment called Sinking Marshmallows.  Each child was given a cup and a marshmallow that they had to try to sink.

Then we did fireworks in a jar.  Using a jar of warm water, vegetable oil, and food coloring we watched the colors explode in the jar.

Next we made our snack which was sorbet.  In a plastic bag we combined 2 cups ice, 1 cup salt, and 1 cup water.  Then we added 1 cup juice to a smaller baggie and put the small bag inside the big bag.  Then for added protection we put the big bag inside another big bag.  The children shook the bags until the juice froze.  Then we put it into cups and ate them.

The last thing we did was to spoon the finger paint mixture into little cups and let the children add food coloring to them so they could take their paints home with them and paint.

Since some of the children in the club are getting older, we decided we would try and see if anyone wanted to be officers.  We have a treasurer and last night we had 2 volunteers to be president (they are going to rotate every other month) and a volunteer to be club photographer.

Monday, February 17, 2014

ABC Snacks: Letter E

Several weeks ago, the girls and I started Snacking Through the Alphabet following along with  All About Learning Press new blog series.  So far we have done: Ants go Marching, Beautiful Butterflies, Creeping Caterpillars, and Delicious Dirt Cups.  This week we made Excellent Egg Salad Sandwiches.

The only part of this snack that I had to do for the girls was to cook the eggs.  The rest they could handle on their own.  On the All About Learning post, they used pickles to make faces on the sandwiches which looked really cute, but my girls did not want faces on theirs.

We used:

6 eggs
2 scoops Miracle Whip
4 slices of bread

The girls really enjoyed making (and eating) these Excellent Egg Salad Sandwiches!

*link to All About Learning is my affiliate link.  I only form affiliate relationships with companies whose products I actually use and can recommend.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Homeschool Wrap Up Week 24

We had a busy week in our homeschool this week!

We completed 5 lessons in America the Beautiful this week.  Our favorite lesson was on Thomas Edison.  It was interesting too that we had that lesson the day after a certain evolutionary scientist had some not very nice comments about homeschoolers not being able to socialize and work with other people to make advances in science, especially since Thomas Edison was homeschooled because his teacher said that he could not learn.  Seems to me he did pretty well for himself and patented over 1000 inventions.  We are still reading Little Town on the Prairie as our read aloud.

In Land Animals we finished the chapter on Ungulates.  I confess that the younger children once again did not finish the lapbook on this chapter, but I am ok with that.  Emmie loves to put the animal stickers on our map, so Nick helped her put them all up.

Everyone finished another lesson of Math U See.  Alex, Christian, and Anthony all finished their All About Spelling lessons.  Nick and Alex started working on topic reports on dolphins for IEW and should finish them up next week.  Nicholas is moving rapidly through his Visual Latin lessons.

Lillian and Emelia finished up their Caps For Sale lapbooks.  We were using this free one from www.homeschoolshare.com.

Our free year for reviewing Adventus expired, so I went ahead and started paying for a subscription.  The girls really enjoy this program!

We had a great time at Grandview learning about Mammals!

Lillian began working on a review of a brand new program, Spelling You See.  She loves it so far!  She is also reviewing Talking Shapes a brand new app from Talking Fingers.  Alex started reviewing a DVD from ScienceandMath.com: Mastering 5th Grade Math-Volume 1-Fractions.  We had a good time Friday with our Valentine's Egg hunt using glow in the dark eggs from Egglo (review upcoming.)

We also made some Finger Paints and Eggcelent Egg Salad Sandwiches.

I hope you had a great week in your homeschool!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Art at Home: Homemade Finger Paints

Our next 4 H meeting is in a few days.  The topic is Kitchen Science and one of the projects I found that I thought would be fun and easy was to make homemade finger paints.  We had some time on Friday so we decided to make some to test it out and see if it worked since we had never made it before.

Lily and Emelia were very willing kitchen helpers.

The recipe we used was:

1/2 cup cornstarch
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups warm water

We added all the ingredients to a sauce pan.  Then I cooked it over medium heat stirring until thickened which took about 10 minutes.

It looked like this when it was finished.

We allowed the mixture to cool, and then spooned it into small plastic containers.  It made 11 containers.  Then the girls added a few drops of food coloring to each cup and stirred.

We did blue, red, yellow, and green.

This morning, the girls painted with their homemade paints.  They were a little thicker than I expected, but had a very nice texture to them.

I think these will work out well for our 4 H meeting, and we will definitely be making them again at home too when these run out.

Friday, February 14, 2014

How Long Is Enough?

Do you ever wonder if you are spending enough time on school everyday?  Or have a hard time deciding how long to spend on each subject?  Or how many subjects your children should be learning?

It can be hard sometimes to find a balance and decide how long is long enough to spend on each subject, or school in general.  Especially when comparing your homeschool to how long children the same age spend in public school every day.  You cannot really compare a homeschool to public school because they are just so different.  Most public school are in session 6-7 hours a day, but not all of that is doing school work, of course. So if you do not use the public school as a guideline for how long you should spend on school every day, how do you figure out how long is long enough?

Some subjects are pretty easy.  Most math books for example are set up to complete a page a day.  Other curricula come with a Teacher's Guide telling you what you should be completing in a day. But what about the ones that aren't so clear?  I read this guideline once and it made perfect sense to me, so we have followed it ever since:

Spend 2 to 2.5 times the child's age per subject every school day.  A 6 year old should spend around 12-15 minutes per day on each subject, while a 12 year old should spend 25-30 minutes.

This to me makes perfect sense. By using the age as a guideline, it helps me keep the lessons age appropriate for the child's attention span.  It is not a hard and fast rule, but a guideline to follow.  There are times when we get finished with some things a little faster or times when something may take a bit longer.  When I combine subjects with many different ages, like our Bible lesson, I try to keep it towards the lower end of the age range.

When it comes to deciding how many subjects your child should be learning, that is going to vary not just from family to family, but from child to child.  For instance, I do spelling with my 4,6,8,and 10 year olds, but my 12 year old has never really done spelling.  He has always been a very good natural speller so there wasn't any point in making him memorize lists of words he could spell.  Many families teach grammar as a separate subject, but I prefer to teach grammar in the context of our writing.  You would be surprised too how much children can learn about a wide variety of subjects just by listening to you read aloud good, living books.  So, do not base your subjects on what other people do/do not do.  You have to figure out what subjects work best for you and what your children are interested in learning.

Don't stress about whether or not you are spending the "right" amount of time on school.  Each individual situation is different.  Do what works for you and your family at this point in your life and try not to compare your homeschool to anyone else's.

Happy Homeschooling!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

February Grandview Program

This month at Grandview we started a new series on Animal Classification.  Each month for the next six months we will cover a different types of animals: mammals, amphibians, birds, reptiles, bats, and insects.  Each month we will have a program, a hands on activity, and a folder for our lapbook. This month we started with mammals.

Our hands on activity was to make an animal track out of Plaster of Paris.  The children could choose between bobcats, squirrels, armadillo, and coyote.

Then we got to learn different facts about mammals such as what makes a mammal a mammal and the different types of mammals.  Our focus in this program was on mammals that live in Arkansas.

Then each of the children got a fur.  They had to try and guess what kind of mammal it was and whether it was an herbivore, omnivore, insectivore, or carnivore.

Then we played a little game to reinforce what we learned.

Christian and Lily completed their lapbook folder this afternoon.



Another great program at Grandview!