Friday, September 12, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile 9/12/14

Jake (8½), Alyssa (6), Zac (4½), Tyler (2)

Happy Friday! It's hard to believe another week has passed so quickly. We're two weeks into our new school year. Things have been going well. Tyler has conveniently decided the last two weeks that he no longer needs naps, so it's been . . . interesting, trying to juggle schooling while keeping up with him. Never a dull moment.

I hope you've had a fun, smile-filled week! 

1. Zac: "Mom, I love you! I just spotted lightning!"
Me: "I love you, too. Lightning reminds you that you love me?"
Zac: "Yep."

2. Alyssa: "I think I just heard a bee."
Zac: "Oh, that was just my tummy."

3. Jake: "I want to marry a princess."
Me: "And why's that?"
Jake: "I want to be king!"

4. We moved Tyler out of the crib and into the toddler bed. 

5. Watching Leighton sitting on the couch playing a racing game on his iPad with all 4 children crowding around and cheering him on.  

6. Every time Tyler says "excuse me" it sounds more like "goose me." I always feel obliged to honor his request.

7. Jake, proudly: "My socks stink! Wanna smell them?"
Me: "Ewe, no."
Jake: "Hey, Ty-Ty, my socks stink. Wanna smell them?"
Tyler smells the socks.

8. Leighton surprised me with some presents.

9. Alyssa: "What's a throw pillow?"
Jake: "It's a pillow someone throws so if someone else is falling or something they have some place safe to land."

10. Jake: "We come from a very important family. Our ancestors were Vikings."
Alyssa: "One of our ancestors was a grandma."

What made you Smile this week?
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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Under Drake's Flag

Do your children like adventure, pirates, and audio books? Do you appreciate captivating entertainment with strong Christian morals? Then this review is for you!

Our family loves read-alouds. I've mentioned dozens of times how the kiddos will sit and listen to various novels for hours on end. I love reading them quality literature and sharing that time with them. Not only does it teach them life lessons, it also introduces them to new vocabulary. The only problem is that I don't always have the time to spend the day reading. (Sometimes life just isn't fair, ha.) We love to incorporate audio books and dramas into our days. Whether we're folding clothes, driving in the van, or just needing some downtime, audio books are perfect. This one from Heirloom Audio Productions is no exception.

I made sure to pack Under Drake's Flag when we went on vacation a couple weeks ago. Audio books are perfect for passing the time on long road trips, especially with 4 young kids in tow. We decided to head to the Smithsonian National Zoo with Leighton's sister and her family while were were in the area. That morning drive was the perfect time to listen to the approximately 2-hour production.
Under Drake's Flag is a theater-quality production based on the novel with the same name, written by G.A.Henty. As soon as the CD started playing, the kids asked to drop down the TVs in the van. Between the music, the quality of the actors reading the lines, and the background sounds (wind blowing, waves crashing, guns firing, birds chirping, etc.), it sounds like a movie production, and a good one at that. It's easy to visualize the scenes: pirates swabbing the deck, fierce storms raging, men fighting for their lives. We were immediately pulled into the story. 

Ned Hawkshaw is easily someone that would make little boys jealous. He embarks on a great adventure on the ship of Sir Francis Drake. Along the way, he fights off a shark attack, saves a woman from drowning, survives a shipwreck, engages in fierce battles, and gets caught up in the Spanish Inquisition. He also learns firsthand of the faith of Captain Drake and discovers what it means to truly trust in God. Ned grows from a boy into a man, from a servant into a leader. His faith is tested, but he remains strong. Set in the time of the great naval battles between the English fleet and the Spanish Armada, there is plenty of adventure along the way.

Under Drake's Flag costs $29.95 (+$6.95 shipping and handling). The 2-CD set comes with a convenient study guide pamphlet filled with review questions, ideas to get you thinking deeper, and vocabulary words. Along with the set, you'll also receive 4 free bonuses: MP3 download of the story, the complete e-study guide (much more in depth than the pamphlet), the MP3 soundtrack (contains all original music by Emmy-winning composer John Campbell, who also composed the score for The Chronicles of Narnia), and a beautiful printable copy of Drake's Prayer.   

The audio production is ideal for ages 6-adult, but our entire family enjoyed listening to it. Of course, the little ones didn't quite understand everything, I'm sure, but it's never too early to introduce quality literature. This will be a story that we reference throughout the years.

If you'd like to see what other homeschool families thought of this production, you can read more reviews at the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Things That Make Me Smile 9/5/14

 Jake (8½), Alyssa (6), Zac (4½), Tyler (2)

Happy Friday! We went on vacation last week and had a wonderful time. We spent some time with distant family, visited Washington, D.C., enjoyed swimming in the pools, and even got to relax a little. Most importantly, we made many memories as a family and had multiple reasons to Smile.

One thing that doesn't make me smile this week is that I was having trouble with the internet and lost a few of my Smiles for this week. I had typed them, thought the post saved, and discovered today that they're gone. Of course, I can't remember them now. It just proves to me again how important it is to write things down, to keep a log. And it makes me grateful for the lists I do have. 

Now, let's Smile!


1. Zac: "I hope the spider doesn't poisonous us."

2. Alyssa, while being tucked into bed: "I love being homeschooled. It's so much fun."

3. Zac, while watching a cricket and accidentally stepping on it: "I guess my shoes are faster than it!" 


5. Alyssa, after listening to Leighton read about how cottontails visit their litters only twice a day and nurse for just 5 minutes: "That is not a very good mother."

6. Zac: "If Santa was real, he'd be one of my biggest heroes."

7. Zac: "That's the stinkiest horse I ever met."

8. Me: "I want someone to help you with that, Ty-Ty."
Tyler: "No, Ty-Ty help Ty-Ty."

9. Zac, looking at a Lego magazine: "You know which Lego sets I want? That one, and that one, and that one, and that one, and that one, and that one, and that one,and that one. And that one. And this one. And all of these."
Me: "Is there a Lego set you don't want?"
Zac: "Ummm . . . uh . . . uhh . . . nope."


11. Jake: "In my dream, I pulled out my tooth, and it looked like a Lego."

12. Leighton: "Hey, who took my spot?"
Zac, sitting in Leighton's seat: "Ask Alyssa."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wordless Wednesday 8/27/14

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UberSmart Math Facts

Math is one of those subjects where it's easy to see how it applies to everyday life. I can remember being in school and listening to my peers ask in various classes, "Why do I need to learn this? When am I ever going to use this?" Math is not like that. Ok, maybe some math is not super essential to daily life--I cannot remember the last time I used the calculus knowledge I learned in high school--but regardless, math as a whole is vital to know. Whether you're doing something as simple as shopping at the store or following a recipe or doing something more difficult like a career in engineering or as a computer programmer, you're using math. My kids enjoy math, as far as using it to accomplish something, and they're very good at it. They're not overly thrilled with sitting and performing math equations though. Since we hadn't drilled simple math facts in a while, I noticed that their response times had lengthened. I was please to receive a program from UberSmart Software to review.

UberSmart Math Facts is a Windows-based (XP, Vista, 7, and 8) downloadable software program that helps teach and review basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. The idea came about when David Kocur began looking for a flash card program for his kids. After searching, downloading, and reviewing dozens of programs for hours, he couldn't find one that he truly liked. It was then that he started to write his own, and UberSmart Math Facts was born. It worked so well with his own daughters that he decided to offer it to other families as well.

The program teaches math skills using dot cards, flash cards, and keyboard entry. Addition and subtraction facts are reviewed through the 9s family, while multiplication and division are practiced through the 20s. 

As soon as you download the software, you are able to make profiles for up to 8 students. I used this with Jake (8) and Alyssa (6). The each know how to get to their own profiles and can pick up practicing where they left off without any help from me. I can easily customize it to fit their needs. There are sections labeled Learn, Practice, Test, and Compete for the students. 

In the Learn section, the student receives an equation (dot cards for beginners or flash cards for intermediates) on the screen and can answer it, either audibly or mentally, before clicking the show button to display the correct answer on cards. This option gives the student the ability to learn the facts without the pressure of answering correctly and finding the numbers on the keyboard within a given time. This is Alyssa's preferred way of practicing.     

The Practice tab has 3 options: dot cards, keyboard entry, and flash cards. Here, the student can practice finding the correct answer by clicking the correct card to answer the problem (dot card), typing in the given number (keyboard entry), or typing the answer to the equation (flash card). This is a timed section. If the student does not answer correctly within the proper time, the answer will show on the screen. 

The Test option is Jake's favorite. After learning and practicing, the student is given the opportunity to showcase what he knows. It is much like the practice part, except once all the problems of an operation and family are answered correctly in a round, it is marked as mastered. Jake loves working hard to master the individual families. Seeing that Mastered! acknowledgement gives him a sense of pride.

The Compete section allows the student to test their skills against other users around the world. You can choose who is competing: elementary, middle school, high school, or adult. When the series of questions on the flash cards is completed, the score and rank is shown on the screen.

The final two tabs, Report and Maintain, are for the parent/teacher. This is where I can see each child's progress or adjust things accordingly. For instance, for Alyssa, I've changed her seconds per problem from the suggested 4 seconds to 6 seconds because she was getting too frustrated if she couldn't answer in the appropriate time. She's my little perfectionist. It was too-overwhelming to her to get the problems wrong because she was running out of time to remember the answer, find the numbers on the keyboard, and enter them all before the 4 seconds were up and the answer was displayed on the screen. Once she'd get 1 or 2 wrong, she'd lose interest and focus. Once she becomes more familiar with it, I will change it back to the 4 seconds to increase her response time. For now, I love having the option to adjust it according to our needs. She's currently working on her addition skills, whereas Jake has mastered all the subtraction families and is working his way through multiplication mastering those as well. 

When we first started using this program, Jake, especially, was a little intimidated because he thought it would be too difficult to learn (or in many cases recall) the facts. Like I said in the beginning, his response time had slowed down drastically. Almost immediately though, even he saw major improvements in his skills. Having instant results drove him to try even harder to succeed. They each practice their facts for about 10 minutes a day 4 days a week. I've been very pleased with what they are learning and remembering. The program is not a flashy, fun game, but a program that is right-to-the-point and streamlined. Most importantly, it's a program that works. 

UberSmart Math Facts costs $24.95 and is available for instant download. It's recommended for grades K-6, but can easily be used for anyone wanting to brush-up on their math facts. The software license can be used on all the computers in the home and for up to 8 users. 

Personally, I'm glad to have this program for my family to use.

If you'd like to see how other families used this program, head to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read more reviews.

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