Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Online Times Alive Subscription and Times Alive App from City Creek Press, Inc. Review

Some students have trouble memorizing multiplication facts and often times find it boring.  With the Online Times Alive subscription and Times Alive App from City Creek Press, Inc., students can learn math facts by watching videos and having fun.  We received a six month subscription and the App to try out!

So what is Online Times Alive?  It's an online program for students that teaches all the times tables from 0-9 using cartoons, stories, visual tricks and mnemonics based on the best selling book, Times Tables The Fun Way Book for Kids.  Students watch movies, learn songs, play interactive games and participate in progress checks.

I like that this program tracks your students progress so you can see their improvement.  It has a pre-test to see where your student is starting from and a post-test after they have completed the program.  The average post-test score after using Times Alive is 98%!  I also like that parents can see the time, date, scores and lesson completion information.  You can use this online program for an unlimited number of students.  In order to track their progress, the students need to use the same computer every time (because the data is stored on the computer itself), which can be a Mac or PC.

Times Alive is full of lively animation that make the number characters come alive.  Each story is immediately followed by a catchy song and music video that helps tie the story to music.  It includes little quizzes and interactive games as the students progress through the program to help test recall.  There is not a lot of parent involvement needed as long as your student can use a computer or navigate through an App.

This is the song for the story about 8 x 8.

And here is an example of a game question.

This is a question asking students to remember the stories and which facts they correspond with.

An example of a short progress check and quiz.

As I mentioned above, there is also an optional Times Alive App available for iOS 9.0 or above so you can download it to your iPhone or iPad.  You can purchase this in addition to the online subscription.  My kids actually preferred using the App.  I think they liked the portability of our iPad.

The stories, songs and games in Times Alive help make learning the times tables fun and easy.  E, F and G are really having fun with the stories and songs.  They especially like the songs!

Check out the video below to see a fun sample of the videos your students will watch using this program.

What's the cost?  With this subscription a one-time registration fee of $6.95 is charged at sign-up and the membership for Online Times Alive is $9.95/month.  You can cancel at any time.  I have a coupon code for you if you'd like to check out Online Times Alive, use code lovetolearn and get your $6.95 sign-up fee waived!  The App is available for $14.99 and there is a free, Lite option that you can try out as well.  The Lite version includes lessons 1-3.

While you certainly could use this program with any student who needs help with their basic multiplication facts, I think it is best suited for children 3rd/4th grade and younger so in my family E, F and G.  They have used it the most and continue to enjoy it!

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Saturday, September 14, 2019

Homeschool Organization: Our Homeschool Room

I'm super excited about the current Timberdoodle Blog Hop on Home Organization.  And more specifically, I want to focus on our current "homeschool" home organization.  People often ask me how I homeschool or how I organize our space.  I haven't really shared about this since we moved into our new home a little over a year ago.  I am very blessed in that my new house has a dedicated homeschool space.  It was a 20 x 20 room that we completely redid after moving in.  We put new paint on the walls, installed new flooring, changed the lighting.  It was a project but I am so in love with the result.  Do you have to have a specific homeschool space in order to homeschool?  Absolutely not.  I also want to mention that we do not even complete all of our homeschool material in this room because honestly homeschool is done everywhere!  But I do love having a dedicated space for our homeschool supplies to live and we do a lot of "school" in this space because it's awesome!  I'm probably the most excited by our homeschool library that has accumulated a plethora of rich books over the years.  Enjoy and let me know if you have questions!

This is what you see when you first enter our homeschool room.

This is our teaching/school whiteboard and our homeschool library.

A side view of our library.  I love having this because my kids can read and reread some of their favorite books as they have access to them all year round.

We have some reading cushions and pillows set up for the kids (it's a tiny reading nook).

Next to the whiteboard is our television.

Our couch faces the television so we can watch movies here or use it for educational purposes.

I love that this room has large windows on both sides!

Here are the windows on the opposite side.

The back left corner of the room is a LEGO storage and play area.  The kids play here often building LEGO projects or zooming cars and trains around the room.

A slightly closer view.

Along the back wall we have desks.  We have a 3D printer, a laptop and a computer (these are recent).  The kids have a few things that they work online for school and we are tweaking this part of our set-up.  Of course they can also use the desk space to complete assignments.

Behind our couch and across from the desks we have a table area.  This is great for working on lessons, teaching, and playing games.  This photo was taken standing in the back right corner of the room.

 Here you can see the back right corner of the room.  We have our homeschool bins and a supply bookcase.

Our supply bookcase.  It currently houses books that we are working on and lots of school and art supplies.

Our Homeschool Bins

Above are our current homeschool bins.  I wanted to mention them because we are discussing organization.  I have one for each of the kids as well as one for me.  We just added these this year and I really like them.  The kids keep their current consumable books and things that are specific to them in their own bin while I keep the current teacher guides, answer keys and such in mine to help me find them right away.  These bins have trays at the tops that can hold pencils, pens, crayons, etc. as well so they are super hands as the kids just grab them each morning and go!  I might have to talk more about these in another post.

Be sure to check out the other homeschool organization ideas at the Timberdoodle Blog Hop below!  I'm headed there myself.
You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Daily GRAMS: Grade 7 by Easy Grammar Systems Review

I discovered Daily GRAMS ~ 4 years ago when A was in 6th grade.  I was so ecstatic when I was provided with the physical Daily GRAMS: Grade 7 book by Easy Grammar Systems to review this year with C.  He completed the Grade 6 book last year so this was a perfect fit to jump into for this school year.  The Daily GRAMS series is available for grades 3-7.

The Daily Grams books have 180 lessons that are designed to be daily (hence the name), 5-10 minute reviews.  I think of it as bite-size grammar lessons.  Topics focus on capitalization, punctuation, grammar and other concepts throughout the various lessons as well as sentence combining for improving the quality of writing.  Because these books review concepts rotationally it enhances mastery of the material.

 Above you can see the format of these lessons.

In Day 5's lesson above you can see that it begins with capitalization as every lesson does.  The student is to circle the letters that are to be capitalized and write the capital letter above the lowercase one.  The next section is meant for students to add the correct punctuation as needed.  The middle portion of the lesson changes and varies from lesson to lesson.  This lesson address clauses and phrases as well as helping verbs.  And lastly, each lesson ends with sentence combining.

 Day 7 lesson

In Day 7's lesson you can see that the punctuation part of the lesson is an outline instead of a sentence in the previous example I showed you.  This middle section addresses alphabetizing and adjectives.

Day 9 lesson

And in Day 9's lesson you can see that the punctuation part of the lesson is abbreviations while the middle section addresses irregular and regular verbs.

I hope these examples give you a better idea of the format for each of the 180 lessons.  They have a similar format and flow that your student will become accustomed to.  After C completes his lesson, I grade it and then talk about anything that he missed or I ask if he has questions about anything.  We both really enjoy these reviews and I appreciate that it helps me see some of his strengths and weaknesses.

The teacher text has reproducible student pages in the front portion of the book and contains the answer key in the back portion of the book.  If you do not wish to make your own copies, you can purchase a separate student workbook or if you are using this program with only one student, they can write directly in the teacher text.  I let C write directly in our book.

Answer Key

The answer key for all 180 lessons is located at the back of the book behind all of the lesson pages.  It helps make grading a breeze!

I love the Daily GRAMS series because the lessons are extremely manageable and C likes completing them.   Although short, the lesson really pack a punch in that they help me see what concepts C is having trouble with or hasn't quite mastered yet and which ones he has nailed down.  It allows me ample opportunity to continue to reinforce rules and different aspects of grammar.  I want to make a special note that this series in not the teaching series from Easy Grammar Systems.  They have a separate Easy Grammar Series that is the teaching series while the Daily Grams series is just the review series.  I hope that makes sense - it's important to note this though.

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Thursday, September 12, 2019

First Day of School Photos 2019-2020

We started school last week and of course I took photos of our first day!  I'm just a bit behind in posting them.  We are a little over a week into our school year and I'm so pleased with how everything is going.  I think it's going to be a great year!

 A is in 10th grade

 B is in 8th grade

 C is in 7th grade

D is in 5th Grade

 E is in 2nd grade

F is in K

G is in PreK

Here's to the best school year yet!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

College-Ready Writing Essentials™ by BetterRhetor Review

I was super excited for A to improve her academic writing by working through the College-Ready Writing Essentials program from BetterRhetor.  She used the online Premium package, which contained 25 lessons and she had to submit an essay at the end of the program for grading and feedback from Dr. Bryant.

The target audience for this program is high school juniors and seniors as well as recent high school grads.  A is entering her sophomore year.  I thought this would be a great program for her to complete and she can repeat it if necessary when she is a senior as she has a lifetime access to this program!

The 25 lessons are intended to be completed over a five week period.  Lesson 1 is an overview of the program.  Lessons 2-11 cover planning.  Lessons 12-19 cover drafting.  Lessons 20-23 cover revising.  And Lessons 24-25 cover finalizing.

I like the way this is set up online with the lesson bar on the side as well as a program tracker bar.

Here you can see that A has completed more of this course as her tracking bar is now 36%.

This course is a self-guided online program that's available for individuals and small groups.  It is the "home" version of the instructional resource developed by William Bryant, PhD for high schools, colleges and universities.  It is available in two packages - full or premium.  The main difference between the two packages is that Dr. Bryant gives personal essay feedback in the premium version (and there is a full teacher's guide available as well).

CRWE guides students step-by-step through the complex process of writing a first-rate research based persuasive essay.  The type they will be expected to write in college.  I really like that the lessons contain detailed instructions and that they are written to the student.  In addition, lessons include links to real examples.  There are downloadable exercises and worksheets for students to complete as they work through this course.  Since A is homeschooled, David and I completed most of the peer evaluations sheets.

A chose to write her persuasive essay on the topic of Space Exploration.  It is a topic that really interests her and I love that she went to the library and checked out numerous space books.  She also spent a huge amount of time researching online.  I'm really proud of her for the work that she put into her paper.

A completed her essay!  The tracking bar is 100%.

A with her essay on The Benefits of Space Exploration.

What did A think?  A was thrilled that she was able to pick her own topic.  A thought this course was thorough and had good explanations.  She didn't understand 100% of the material but she felt like she was able to understand most it because of the explanations.  She really appreciated the examples, especially for those times when she didn't quite understand what she needed to do.  She liked the strategies and thinks they will be helpful in the future.  She thinks Dr. Bryant's feedback was very helpful.  She feels that he made a lot of comments to her that will help her improve her writing skills and overall be a better writer.  She has more confidence and knows what skills she can work on more.

I cannot stress how helpful Dr. Bryant's personal feedback was for A.  If you are like me, it can be hard to help guide and teach your child/student through the complete process of writing and give feedback.  Having Dr. Bryant's feedback really completed the program for me as it gave A ideas and suggestions for improving her personal writing.  This was so valuable!

Here are some excerpts from Dr. Bryant's feedback to A.
     Your passion for your topic shines through, while the tone of your prose stays consistently serious-minded and evenhanded.  This demonstrates good awareness of what's expected of an academic essay, and it takes skill to achieve.  In addition, you found and drew from credible sources, so you're working with trustworthy information, which shows that you understand the importance of intellectual integrity in an academic setting.  Well done.
     As you move toward college-level writing, I suggest that you consider narrowing your focus when faced with an assignment like this.  As a topic, the costs and benefits of space exploration is perhaps too broad to deal with effectively in a short essay.  Better suited to the scope of this project would be a more specific topic, such as, for example, whether we should send people to Mars, the privatization of space exploration, the creation of a "space force," or the growing competition among nations to find usable natural resources on the Moon.

I'm not going to put all of his comments and feedback here but I hope this gives you an idea.  We were not disappointed and if you have the ability to go with the Premium package I would highly recommend it so that you can have his valuable feedback as well.

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