Monday, April 30, 2012

Review: A Plus TutorSoft MATH Curriculum CD

I'm a traditional homeschooler. I love textbooks and workbooks and living books and notebooks! But education and gaining information is changing, and learning through technology is the "new book" of education. So, after checking out A Plus TutorSoft Math on-line, I decided that maybe change is a good thing! Particularly for my girl, Sugar Maple, who thinks my Math choices have been less than, um, fun. ((wink))

First, customer service! I can't move onto the rest of the review without mentioning the QUICK, FRIENDLY, THOROUGH e-mails I received from A Plus TutorSoft BEFORE I even decided to do the review. (I like to research products before we even receive them.) There's something POSITIVE to be said about a company that keeps in contact with their customers, answering questions timely!

From the A Plus TutorSoft Math Curriculum Website:

Our MATH Curriculum Software CD Includes,

  • Multimedia Lessons that use all three learning modalities - Audio, Visuals and Text
  • Interactive Quiz for each lesson with instant feedback and step-by-step instructions
  • Lesson Plan
  • Curriculum Book on CD
  • Printable Worksheets and Exams
  • Parental Guides - Solution Guides with step-by-step problem solving instruction

Premium Edition:

Includes all the core grade level contents listed above PLUS,
  • Progress Tracking and Reporting
  • Parental Controls
  • Weekly Certificate of Accomplishments

Sugar Maple is nearing the end of her 4th grade year so we asked to review the 5th grade Math program. (A Plus TutorSoft was very accommodating to our request for a higher level Math program.) 

Oh, and guess what? Want to try A Plus TutorSoft Math on-line for 30 days FREE? Click here to learn more about a this trial subscription for Grade 5 and Algebra! Try before you buy! How awesome is that! 

And they have this really cool FREE Math placement test that "identifies gaps & creates an individualized 'action plan' to master the weak areas". This placement test is timed for 2 hours. Yeah, I know - LONG - but you get a detailed report to help you plan your Math program.

Our thoughts? The on-the-computer lessons were short, which we liked! It was GREAT to see and hear lessons instead of simply reading them in a textbook. The problem sets were 10 or so multiple choice questions with areas to show work. We chose to work these sets in a one-subject notebook to save printing costs. (You can order the worksheet and exam workbook in addition to the CD program if you prefer. To find out more, click here.) Oftentimes, Sugar Maple would work through 2-3 lessons at a time so doubling-up is easy enough to do. Unfortunately it didn't keep her interest for long. I think some fun graphics during the on-line lessons might have helped, but Math just isn't for my Sugar Maple. (Different curriculum choices haven't change her opinions on Math!) But if YOU'RE looking for something on-line and multi-sensory with short lessons and multiple choice problem sets, this might be what you're looking for!

For more information on A Plus TutorSoft Math, click here or any of the highlighted links above.

Disclaimer: Our Side of the Mountain was provided this product free in exchange for our honest review. All thoughts and opinions are our own. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Review: Time4Learning

I was a little ambivalent about reviewing Time4Learning. Have you seen Time4Learning? It's an ON-LINE education program where kids work through lessons in Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies. Ambivalent? Why?

Well, I think I'm a tad OLD-FASHIONED. 

I know that technology has invaded our lives and is here to stay, but I'm still "down" with REAL BOOKS and more TRADITIONAL learning. I wasn't so sure about doing a complete curriculum ON-LINE. And I wasn't so sure how my little guy would do with the visual aspects of SCREEN LEARNING since he has tracking difficulties and sometimes on-line games can reek havoc on his SPD regulation. But Balsam Fir, who is finishing up 1st grade, ENJOYED it!

Time4Learning is a new approach that takes advantage of today's technology. It's a convenient, online home education program that combines learning with fun educational teaching games.
The online language arts and math comprise a comprehensive program for preschool, elementary school, and middle school. Science and social studies programs are provided as a free bonus for most grades.
Kids like using the computer to learn and to develop their skills. The Time4Learning educational teaching program gives students independence to progress at their own pace.
Parents like that Time4Learning tracks progress and helps students advance along individualized learning paths. Students master the skills and concepts needed for academic success.
Have a child with math and reading skills at different grade levels? No problem, just tell us in the online registration process.
Time4Learning is proven effective, has a low monthly price, and provides a 14 day money-back guarantee so you can be sure that it works for your family!

So, Balsam Fir used this program for several weeks and had no difficulties navigating the screens to find his lessons or understanding the directions provided for each activity. (Should I admit that I had a few snags getting it started the first time due to my pop-up blocker? Nah! LOL) He could independently work though his Time4Learning lessons which did free up more time for me to work with his older siblings (or throw in that load of laundry LOL).

We used this as a complete curriculum at first, supplementing only additional readers for more practice, then stopped Math and picked back up with his Saxon. I found that my lil' Sapling could work though about an hour of lessons in Language Arts, Science and Social Studies before calling it a day. This impressed me since his ability to focus is usually only about 20 minutes. The videos and games were engaging with just enough repetitiveness to learn the information and apply it.

I found the portfolio and reports generator very helpful! These aspects of the program let you know what areas your kiddo struggled in and what areas they whizzed through, and you can print these reports out to place in a portfolio (if your state requires such things). I still feel FOR US that an on-line learning program would be a SUPPLEMENT to more traditional BOOK learning, especially since we limit any type of screen time. It was VERY hands-off for me, and, although some independent work is AWESOME, I feel kids at Balsam's Fir age should have more direct teacher-to-student instruction. But if you're looking for a strong independent on-line work program with multi-sensory learning that's a breeze to set up, figure out and print out portfolio reports or something to keep your kiddo's mind working during the summer months, this is a GREAT, INEXPENSIVE subscription!

Now, Time4Learning has a 1 minute informational video to view here. So, don't miss that if you want more information about their curriculum program and here to see lesson demos. Or here for subscription information and to sign up!

Disclaimer: Our Side of the Mountain was provided this product free in exchange for our honest review. All thoughts and opinions are our own.   

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Another Week Closer to Another Year Completed: April 21 - 27

April's almost over?! Really?! Wow! Has it flown by for you too?

White Pine went camping with the Boy Scouts this weekend. He packed up his LL Bean backpack with the essentials - socks, a change of clothing, a pillow, first aid kit, bug spray, sun screen...and a GALLON of Gatorade and enough Beef Jerky to smell up the whole kit'n kaboodle! He has SUCH a GREAT time camping with his buddies! And I'm glad he can share his STINKY jerky somewhere ELSE! ((wink))

Balsam Fir has become SURVIVIORMAN! Have you seen the show on Netlfix or Discovery Channel? A man named Les gets "lost" in different environments for 7 days, living off the land and recording his experience. Well, Balsam Fir thinks this is the COOLEST and walks around wearing a backpack and a bandana hat just like Les, pretending to be lost in the woods. And yes, we've gone over the finer points of the show: how Les is trained, has a plan and people coming back for him, that PREVENTION of getting in these situations is ALWAYS BEST, that eating "wild edibles" should not be done, and no, "marking his territory" around the yard is not acceptable to keep wild animals away. ((wink)) I think it's cute though! And why not learn survival information?

Guess what?! We've lived here for just over 6 years now and enjoyed the woods, lakes and mountains, but would you believe that we never knew there was a 16 mile trail system just 5 miles away? ((sigh)) Anyway, we headed out for a 3 hour hike to the river on Thursday.

We planted corn, cucumber and "goblin gourds" in the mini greenhouses to get a jump-start on the growing season. And Balsam Fir is SUPER excited that his peas have started to sprout!

Soak these Soil Cups in Water for a Few Hours
Poke in Seeds
Cover with a Plastic Lid and Voila! Mini Greenhouses!

Breakfast - It's what's for dinner! How can you go wrong with pancakes, right? Well, one of our favorite dinners is applesauce-cinnamon or pumpkin spice pancakes. And it's a "wing it" meal! LOL I put 1/2 a box - Yes! Simple, just-add-water box pancake mix! LOL - in a bowl, and then plop in some natural applesauce or unsweetened pumpkin, spices (like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger) and a tablespoon? of dark brown sugar and mix. Now, adding the water can be tricky because the apple and pumpkin have some liquid in them. I just "eye ball" the amount of water, stirring, adding more if needed, until I get the right consistency. Ever had peanut butter-and-jelly pancakes? LOL

Pancake Mix, Applesauce and Cinnamon
Pancake Mix, Pumpkin Puree, Dark Brown Sugar, Cinnamon,
Nutmeg, and Ginger
Dinner! Pancakes and Syrup, Scrambled Eggs (from Our Hens'
Eggs of Course), Red Seedless Grapes, and Cantaloupe

Oh, yeah, we did some school work too. ((wink)) Nothing too exciting though, just our regular ol' bookwork. We're DILIGENTLY working through our Language Arts and Mathematics so we can wrap up the school year on May 11th. Can it be done? We'll see! This time of year is hard for us to focus! So many OTHER THINGS seem much more interesting...state parks, wooded trails, gardening, riding bikes and scooters, running through the sprinkler, and...the list goes on. But the date is set: May 19th for PORTFOLIO REVIEWS!

I did start on NEXT YEAR'S curriculum organizing, pulling THIS YEAR'S books off the shelves. I like to put Post-Its on pages with schedules, answer keys, problem sets, etc. to make it easier to find things. The Post-Its are usually gone by mid-year, but by then we know where to find what we need easily. And I started my NEED TO BUY list...composition notebooks, colored pencils, GLUE STICKS, and so on. (Are we the only family that NEVER has enough glue sticks?! LOL) Fortunately, our supply list isn't going to be very long...because the To Buy curriculum list IS! Who's all set for next year?

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sip! Our Spring Tea #2

Who would've thought that the Saplings would be "INTO" our first English Tea! I wouldn't! They were SO excited to share poems, standing up to recite them to our family, and nibble on some new, tasty recipes that we did it AGAIN to wrap up National Poetry Month!

Super excited Sugar Maple has been reading and picking her poems for THIS tea since our first English tea at the beginning of the month!  She and Balsam Fir are especially fond of the zany poems in these books:

It's also inspired Sugar Maple to write Haiku, Tanku and Lantern poems to share with us as well. (Check out the KidZone here for Haikus! Or Reading Fun: Poetry for LOADS of stuff on poetry!) 

Our Tea Menu (Where Everyone Had a Dish to Prepare)
(click on the highlighted links to see the source of these Pinterest recipes)

Veggie and Dip Bread Cups (Sugar Maple)
Delicious Deviled Eggs (Balsam Fir)
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies (Sweet Pepperbush - Me! LOL)
Various Teas (Blue Spruce)

We shared about 10-12 poems and listened to classical music, having a relaxed dinner with conversation. We worked on using clear, deep voices and reading our poems slowly, enunciating words with inflection. A wonderful way to learn speech techniques! And practiced being ATTENTIVE listeners.

Another GREAT success! So much so that we'll continue having teas in the summer months, but enjoying them OUTSIDE! Won't that be fun? And with ICED TEA! LOL (Anyone have a sweet tea recipe?)

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Different Kind of Week: April 14 - 20

Phew! I'm exhausted. What a productive week! But only a few lessons were completed! Life's "lessons" were in full-swing here! It was a different kind of week at Our Side of the Mountain!

Grandpa and Nannie Lobster came for a visit and helped us with some (exhausting) home projects. It was awesome to have 2 extra adult hands around! And niece Noodle came with them for a visit!

We spent 3 1/2 days constructing, painting, stapling, sawing, planning, and sweating over a new, larger fenced in yard for the hens and ducks. We even relocated the flock to a different part of the yard! And the new coop arrived! Whoop! Painting it to look like a red barn was a bit of a frustration challenge though! The hens and ducks are not so sure about sharing a run together, but they're figuring it out. (Check back for a post on the new "digs"!)

Peek-a-Book Balsam Fir
Peek-a-Boo Noodle

Oh, and Grandpa and Nannie Lobster even repainted the playroom-turned-reading-nook-and-bedroom and steam-cleaned the carpet for us! Remember those mountains of books I organized last week? Well, we moved them onto bookcases in one part of the playroom with a small sofa and TV for a quiet reading and viewing area. The other part of the room is White Pine's new bedroom! And he's SUPER excited about that! At 13, he's ready for a little space of his own!

A View of the Window Corner with Desk
and Bureau
SOME of Those Books I Kept After Last Weeks Purge..Another
4 Bookcases to the Left, but SO Organized Now

Sugar Maple painted the front door a nice cranberry color. It's a little "rough around the edges", but she was proud of accomplishing a home project on her own. (Shhh! Don't let her that she probably paints better than I do! LOL)

And then there was the AFTERMATH of all these projects: yard clean-up and delayed housework. I did, however, manage to keep up with the laundry this week, but the dishes, vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, and other stuff...not so much. But my hard-working Sapling rose to the task and we got everything accomplished.

Oh, Pink Reliant Grapes! (Total change of subject, huh? LOL) White Pine planted a stick-looking grape vine this past week. We repurposed a wooden platform bed frame into another flower bed for Sugar Maple, and 3 wobbly bookcases into raised beds for an herb garden. And the flower bed has lots of shoots!

Flower Shoots!

Otherwise, we watched WAY too much "Top Gear", "Doctor Who", "Survivorman", and "SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS", ate too much take-out, stayed up late, and forgot some chores. ((wink)) It's going to be hard getting back on track Monday!

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