Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New Monic Vocabulary Cartoons Review

Are you looking for a fun way to teach your third to sixth grader vocabulary words? Or perhaps you are in search of a new way for your upper elementary child to retain the vocabulary words they learn? If you are in either of these situations, I would suggest you look into New Monic Vocabulary Cartoons, Elementary Edition.

About the book:
New Monic Vocabulary Cartoons, Elementary Edition uses mnemonics to help students retain the vocabulary words they learn. Mnemonics are devices such as poems, rhymes, or formula that help aid memory retention. New Monic couples a cartoon with an easy to remember sentence to help with vocabulary word retention and recall. This book contains 210 challenging vocabulary words that third through sixth graders should know. After every 10 words there is a quiz to test retention. The quizzes are in matching and fill in the blank format.

You can view a complete word list for this book as well as page samples on the New Monic website.

How we used this book:

As a member of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew I was given the opportunity to review this book with my oldest son who is a fourth grader. To say that vocabulary is his strong subject is quite an understatement. We struggle on a daily basis with many common vocabulary words. Hence, I was very excited to find out that we were being given an opportunity to review this book.

Each school morning during our group study time I would introduce a new word, show the cartoon, and read through the definition, sentence and accompanying mnemonic sentence. All of my kids thoroughly enjoyed these exercises. Later in the day I reviewed the word with my oldest and had him read the page on his own. As a writing and retention exercise I often times asked him to write 1-2 new sentences on his own using the word.  When we had completed 10 words my oldest would take the corresponding quiz. I am happy to say that he always did very well on the quizzes, which is more than I could have hoped for.

Using mnemonics proved to be a fun yet effective way for my son to remember the vocabulary words presented in this book. As a result, I have begun introducing and creating mnemonics for other words he struggles with. Again, he is showing improvement with words that he previously struggled with.

Pricing information:

New Monic's Vocabulary Cartoons, Elementary Edition is available for $12.95. Large quantity order discounts are available.

Want to read what other TOS Crew members are saying about this book? Hop on over to the TOS Homeschool Crew blog to read more.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Blank Park Zoo field trip

This week my kids and I got to experience our first field trip since moving to Iowa. Granted, we went to the zoo because my cousin and her boys were in the area, but it was an educational field trip nonetheless. 

The Blank Park Zoo located in Des Moines, IA is the only accredited zoo in the state of Iowa. The zoo first opened in 1966 and since then has under gone numerous renovations. The land that the zoo sits on was originally Fort Des Moines and donated by the federal government for recreational purposes. The community of Des Moines truly rallied behind the idea of building a zoo in their town. Countless fundraising activities happened to make this zoo a reality. 

Upon arriving at the zoo I was pleasantly surprised to see the parking lot nearly empty. I was excited at the prospect of nearly having the zoo to ourselves. After we paid, gathered ourselves, and plotted our course on the map we were off. Initially we were going to head straight out of the doors to the main part of the zoo but my 5 year old spotted something he wanted to take a closer look at. What he had found was an amazingly real-to-life decorated passage of walkways and caves. Around each corner was something new to learn about, whether it be about an animal, habitat, or an ecosystem. This path took us past red pandas, fruit bats, cockroaches, salt water aquariums, an indoor water fall, and much more. I know we were all in awe of everything there was to look at and explore. In particular I will not quickly forget the amazement of being up close and personal with fruit bats as they feasted and flew around. They are simply amazing creatures!! Also, in the aquarium portion of this pathway is a nursery. The day we visited there were baby jelly fish and baby clown fish on display. The sheer impact of these babies was realized when I saw their grown counterparts in other tanks. Let me just say, that I am shocked at how much a tiny jelly fish can grow. Nearly invisible in their nursery tank, the adult versions were enormous. 

From the discovery center area we decided to venture to the Australian Outback. Let me begin by saying, I never expected the kind of exhibit that we encountered. In the Blank Park zoo outback you can get up close and personal with the animals on display. While they ask that you stay on the path through this exhibit, the animals are free to roam wherever they want; even on the path where you are walking. My kids and I got to stand and observe a wallaby within about 2 feet. Amazing! It was quite an experience to be able to mingle with free roaming wild animals that originate from another continent.

After I reluctantly left the Australian Outback we set off to explore the rest of the park. We got to see a tiger, lions, Japanese macaques, gibbons, giraffes, and many more animals. I must admit though, if you are looking for a large zoo to explore this is not the best option for that adventure. When you are with young children who look at an animal for a minute or so and are off to the next exhibit, this zoo will take you no more than 2 hours to fully experience. However, if you are looking for a quiet zoo experience without the crowds this is hands down a place you should consider. All in all, my cousin and I and all of our kids had a fun and educational day at the Blank Park Zoo.

Through the end of this year the Des Moines visitor's bureau is offering a coupon book for area businesses. Download the coupons (via pdf) to receive a coupon for $1 off a child's admission price to the zoo. It might be only $1, but every little bit helps!!

Koi Pond at feeding time.
My youngest 2 petting an adorable goat.

Visit Live The Adventure for more Field Trip Friday experiences!


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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Finding free time as a busy homeschool Mom

By definition, "homeschool Mom" means busy, always doing for others, taxi, manager of the home, chef, doctor, counselor, mediator, organizer, and scheduler to name just a few of the job requirements. In the midst of it all, how do we find time for ourselves? Do we need time for ourselves? When do we find time for ourselves amongst everything else on our "to do" list?

Every homeschool Mom is different so I can only speak for myself, but I absolutely need time for myself. I need time to gather my thoughts, accomplish things I need to get done, or even simply read a book and drink a cup of tea in silence. For me, my personal time helps me to recenter and unwind from the trails and tribulations of the day. Putting my feet up after a long day of mothering my 3 children gives me a chance to reflect upon the day and pray about how I could have made it better and consider the things that I particularly enjoyed from the day.

As a new homeschool Mom I used to try and squeeze my personal time in during the day when my kids were awake. When my kids all napped or had "quiet time" this worked most days. However, I am at a time in motherhood journey when quiet time during the day just isn't possible. So when do I find the much needed time for myself? My quiet time is now in the evenings after my kids have all gone to bed. All 3 of my kids have early bedtimes, partly because they are early risers but also so I can have some much needed downtime. My youngest falls asleep quickly after I put her to bed and my older boys are allowed to read until they get tired, which is typically 30 minutes or so after I put them to bed. I think my boys enjoy their quiet time in the evenings as much as I do my own quiet time.

During my evening quiet time I get to enjoy a cup of tea in peace and do whatever my heart leads me to do. Some nights I blog while on other nights you might find me reading a book, researching curriculum, or simply catching up on Facebook. It really doesn't matter what I do in the evenings just so long as I get that down time for my brain to reflect upon our day.  Personally, I find quiet time a necessity as part of my busy homeschool Mom schedule. I have also found that the quietness of the evening lets me appreciate the hustle and bustle of the day much more. I adore every minute that I get with my 3 blessings but I also enjoy the quiet time in the evenings that I work so hard for during the day.

Cruise on over to The Old Schoolhouse blog for more wonderful blogs on this topic!

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Review: America's Math Teacher

As part of the The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew my oldest son and I were given the opportunity to review America's Math Teacher (AMT). What is AMT you ask? America's Math Teacher is an online educational math program complete with video teaching, worksheets, and assessments.

America's Math Teacher was designed by a math teacher who saw a need for improved math education in children. He designed a 4 course math curriculum that begins with basic math skills and progresses all the way through algebra. Rick Fisher, the inventor of this program recommends beginning AMT with fourth graders. Each lesson in the AMT program is completed in 5 easy steps:
  1. Watch the lesson video in the learning center.
  2. Complete the corresponding written exercise found in the resource center.
  3. Check the answers in the solutions section.
  4. Take a quiz after each section.
  5. Take a final exam at the conclusion of each course.
Online learning allows you the flexibility that is the cornerstone of homeschooling. Using this program your child can complete their lessons when it is convenient. Online lessons also eliminate the need for costly text books.

Here is how we used America's Math teacher in our homeschool:
My 4th grade son tends to struggle with math, especially as we progress into more challenging math concepts. My son is very much a visual and auditory learner, he needs to see the lessons taught and explained in detail rather than learning the lessons from a textbook.  Because of this I was excited when we were given the opportunity to review this product. Based on his learning struggles and learning style I was hopeful that this program would help his math skills.

To begin this program I chose to complete an evaluation of his math abilities using the basic math skills evaluation exam. This online evaluation scores the test in real time giving immediate feedback for a wrong answer. I was seated next to my son as he took the exam. The score at the end of the exam was not calculated correctly. However, this seems to be a glitch in the scoring system and AMT is actively working on fixing these errors. Rick and the other customer service representatives at AMT are thankful and appreciative when errors on the website are called to their attention. For my son's sake I went through the exam answers with him and recalculated the test on my own.

Armed with the knowledge of where my son should begin in this program we set to work. To prepare for each day's lesson I always printed the corresponding math worksheet before my son set to work. Each day my son easily logged on the AMT website and watched the math lesson video that he needed to complete. Because this was a new program for both of us I chose to be near by doing housework or working with one of my younger children so that I could be readily available if my oldest ran into a problem. One aspect of the videos that we both enjoyed was the unique use of technology in the lessons.  During the lessons the instructor uses a screen and visual pen to illustrate and teach the lessons. Perhaps it was just us, but we both thought it was a neat approach to teaching. I am very happy with the progress my son made with this program. He firmed up this knowledge on some of the weaker areas and also expanded his knowledge by solidly learning new concepts. He and I both thoroughly enjoyed the program.

Would you like to try America's Math Teacher before you buy it? You can request a free 30 day trial code from a sales representative in your area. Select your state from the map here to request your free 30 day trial code.

Try AMT's videos and printed exercises for FREE!

Pricing: $195/year for a homeschool membership.

Would you like to read other The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew member reviews for America's Math Teacher?

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Unanswered Prayers

Unanswered prayers are challenging. They can leave you with more questions than answers. You wonder why? You ask when? You beg and plead with God to grant your prayer request more times than you can count. But why isn't He answering your requests?

Until today I had an unanswered prayer. I began praying this prayer to my Heavenly Father over a year ago. Well over a year ago in fact. Month after month I would cry when the prayer went unanswered. I threw up my hands, questioned why, begged, pleaded, and sometimes stomped my feet in frustration. I just couldn't understand why my prayer was being ignored.

A few weeks ago the answer to why my prayers were going unanswered hit me square across the face. Prayers often go unanswered because there is an area of your life that God wants you to fix/resolve before He answers your prayer request. BAM! Talk about knocking me to my knees. After I picked myself up and dusted off my bruised and battered knees I began to examine what in my life needed fixing. A day or so later I had my answer. What the answer is here I would rather not share, but suffice to say when I began fixing that area of my life the very next morning my whole world turned around. I just hope it is not too late to fix the damage I have done over the years.

With the area of my life back on track and the feeling of calmness settled over me God told me that it was only a matter of time until my prayer would be answered. He also gave me the peace of mind to know that even if this prayer was not answered the benefit I would reap from repairing the other part of my life far outweighed my unanswered prayer.

My God is an awesome God though and today He answered my prayer. My unanswered prayer was brilliantly and joyfully granted today. Praise be to Him!! The joy from today's answer coupled with the happiness I am experiencing from the resolved portion of my life is simply overwhelming. Sometimes, we need to just step back and quite asking for things from God and instead ask what God wants us to do. When I did this, He has given me a precious gift.

What is the precious gift that He has given me today? Wouldn't you love to know!!! ;)  I promise I will reveal my blessing in a few weeks. Until then, feel free to make a guess.

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Friday, September 3, 2010

Review: Time 4 Learning Preschool

Looking for a fun and educational online preschool curriculum? Is your 3-4 year old ready to "do school" like their older siblings? Want something more than just dollar store workbooks for your eager to learn preschooler? Consider Time 4 Learning Preschool for your smart preschooler.

As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was given the opportunity to review Time 4 Learning Preschool with my 3 year old daughter. As part of her preschool learning I have exposed her to online preschool educational games. She loves learning online and playing what she calls "her school games". She was thrilled when we started Time 4 Learning Preschool. Not only was this a new online experience for her but she was also learning new things that she had not been previously exposed to. Each time we sat down together to do her "school work" a few minute session quickly blossomed into 20 minutes or more of fun and educational learning.

The Time 4 Learning Preschool curriculum includes two levels, pre-K 1 and pre-K 2. Both options are easily accessible from the preschool learning page. The preschool page is nicely and colorfully arranged to make navigating the learning centers very easy. Both the pre-K 1 and pre-K 2 main pages start with cute main topic icons. Once you select a topic of interest, for example insects you are taken to the insect subset page. Within this subset page your child will have 5-6 educational activities to complete the insect unit. When each activity is completed a red check mark appears on the icon letting you know that activity has been completed. Once the entire unit, i.e. insects is complete there will be a red check mark on the main preschool home page. I found the red check mark system to be very easy to manage. At a quick glance I could see the progress my daughter was making with this program. I should also note that just because you have completed an activity or unit does not prevent you from repeating those activities. Your child can repeat the games and activities until their little heart is content.

Main Preschool Unit Page
Preschool unit subset page
Within the review period for this program (8 weeks) my daughter was able to complete about 90% of the pre-K 1 units. Please keep in mind we did not get online everyday to play on this site. Some days time did not allow for computer learning or she was in the mood to do her workbooks instead of working on the computer. When we were utilizing the Time 4 Learning Preschool site her favorite activities in each unit were the story books, movies, and matching games. The matching games in particular noticeably helped her to begin associating capital letters with their matching lowercase letters. During our time on this site we got to learn about the human body, weather, farm animals, the alphabet, and a whole host of other wonderful unit topics. Because my daughter's fine motor skills are not developed enough to accurately move a computer mouse I did the clicking for her while she told me the answers to the activities. This adaptation worked out very well for us. She was still actively involved in her learning and was not hung up by the frustration of not moving the mouse accurately. Older children will not experience this problem and should be able to navigate the Time 4 Learning site on their own without hesitation.

The Time 4 Learning site is not just for preschoolers. This site is a wonderful homeschool, after school, or summer enrichment curriculum for preschoolers through eight graders. Do you have a child who is on different grade levels in different subjects? Time 4 Learning will customize their curriculum based on information you provide during the online registration. You can also easily register and manage more than one student in your family. During the registration you can assign each child their own log-in and password information. This convenient option makes managing their progress incredibly easy in the reports section of your parental screen.

The Time 4 Learning curriculum includes language arts and math. Science can be added on for first through sixth grade and social studies can be added for second through seventh grades. The monthly pricing includes one or all of the subjects. There is not a discount if you want to use only one subject. Not sure if you want to take the plunge and pay for this program? Time 4 Learning has a 100% money back satisfaction guarantee within the first 14 days of your membership. Based on my experience, within 14 days of regular use you will know whether your child is benefiting from the program and if it is a good fit for your family.

Pricing: $19.95/month for the first child*
             $14.95/month for each additional child*

Time 4 Learning provided me with a free trial membership in exchange for my honest review.

*prices in effect at the time of this review. Prices may vary after this posting.

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