Monday, September 30, 2013

{Mosaic Reviews} Math Mammoth

Our family has almost exclusively used a spiral teaching method for learning math.  A spiral teaching method gives small pieces of instruction that build on previous pieces learned on other days for a cumulative result by the end of the school year.  Each math lesson gives a few problems to practice the new bit of instruction and a lot of review of previously taught concepts.  I have always appreciated this teaching method because there is very little chance to forget concepts learned at any other point during the school year.  Our boys have always been successful in their math studies.  We haven't changed our curriculum or looked into other options because our current program is working well for us.

Through Mosaic Reviews, we were given the opportunity to try a program, Math Mammoth, that teaches mathematics through mastery.  The mastery method stays on the same topic for a long period of time and teaches all the smaller pieces of instruction in one unit.  Once that topic has been studied, the student moves on to the next unit with only a small amount of review of previously taught concepts within other units.

Math Mammoth was created by Maria Miller, a homeschool mom with a master's degree in mathematics.  She saw a need within the homeschool community for a math curriculum created especially for homeschool families.  Math Mammoth products are affordable, quality materials that are designed to be almost completely self-taught.  Each workbook or worktext:

*focuses on conceptual understanding
*uses visual models and exercises based on concepts
*emphasizes mental math and developing number sense


We received a downloadable version of the Light Blue Series for grade 6.  The Light Blue series is a complete, full year curriculum available for grades 1-6.  Each grade level contains two student worktexts, support materials, tests, answer keys, and review pages.  Math Mammoth is available as downloads, CDs, or printed formats.  An added bonus with the downloadable version is the ability to annotate right on the computer rather than printing out hard copies for your student.  With Internet access, the downloadable version also offers a worksheet maker to create your own practice sheets where extra study is needed.

I printed out Chapter 1 for both of my boys starting 6th grade math.  This chapter covered Basic Operations and Place Value.  I figured it would be a great way to review before starting our new school year.  Each chapter begins with notes for the teacher followed by lessons and practice problems.  Each lesson instruction is contained within boxes on the page, has short, concise instructions, and is followed by several examples.  It was easy for my boys to read the instruction and refer back to it as they were solving the practice problems.  This truly was a hands-off curriculum for me as the teacher.  Of course, I took time to check and correct their work but the actual learning and completing of the lesson problems rested solely in my capable 4th and 6th grade students' hands.  For a busy homeschool mama with other children to teach during the day, this is a fabulous perk of Math Mammoth.

My boys are not used to doing the same type of problems repeatedly for an entire lesson, so they did complain a bit about it, however I can see the benefit of approaching math by the mastery method.  Where they struggled at the beginning of a lesson, by the time they had completed a handful of the same type of problems presented in several ways, they had grown in their knowledge and understanding of that concept.  Over the course of several weeks, the boys' confidence levels grew as well.


As we move forward this school year, we will be sticking with our spiral math program as our main curriculum.  However, I am excited to add Math Mammoth to our math studies as needed.  I love that Math Mammoth is a complete curriculum but it can very easily be used topically where your student needs extra instruction or practice.  In fact, there are many affordable options to meet your student's needs.  You can purchase The Blue Series {books by topic}, The Golden Series {worksheets by grade}, and Review Workbooks.  I don't usually mention specific prices in my review posts but I must tell you this; prices range from as little as $2 per topic from the Blue Series to under $40 for one grade level of the Light Blue series for the. whole. year.  Wow!  Add to the fact that once you purchase the curriculum you can use it with as many kids as you have, the affordability sky rockets; simply print pages as needed.


I am a homeschool mama and teacher prone to flights of fancy with a tendency for buying the next best thing on a whim.  I must tell you, though, I did purchase the entire Light Blue Series package when a fantastic deal came up at the end of the summer.  But this was not on a whim.  We will be using Math Mammoth to reinforce what we're learning with our main math curriculum.  I was that impressed. 

Maria Miller has created a wonderful website with a variety of helpful resources.  If you are uncertain about trying Math Mammoth, sign up for the free Math Teaching Emails or Math Mammoth Tour where you'll receive 300 worksheets and sample pages, teaching articles, and Maria's newsletter through your email.  Please visit Math Mammoth for information on where to buy their great products.

Visit Mosaic Reviews to see what my fellow team members thought about Math Mammoth!




Wednesday, September 11, 2013

{Family} Iiiiii, Dada

 This little man rocks our socks!!!  Silas is 11 months old today.  How is that possible???!!!

We've been enjoying seeing his little personality emerge.  He's snuggly and gives hugs easily...especially to Mama, Dada, and Elijah.  Silas loves playing ball and throwing anything that seems throwable.  He's determined and somewhat strong willed.  He definitely knows what he wants.  Si loves our cats and plays with their food.  Naughty boy...he won't leave it alone.  This little man can scream with the best of them especially when he's being messed with by big brothers or Mama takes something away from him, like cat food.  Si loves being outside, crawling as fast as he can.  He's curious and brave and doesn't bat an eye about crawling away from mama though he gets upset if he can't see me in certain situations.


Obviously, Silas is pulling up and standing.  He's starting to take mini steps along whatever he's holding onto.  And stairs...he'd climb the stairs if I'd let him.  But I'm trying to teach him how to go down the stairs first before he has more freedom.

We're starting to recognize some words and signs... cat, Mama, Dada, ball, hi, bye, all done (this is the only sign we've taught him...as an appropriate response when he's done eating rather than throwing his food!)

This particular evening, Mike was out mowing and Silas was hanging out by the door, a common hangout spot when any of the family is outside and he is not.  He kept yelling and waving, "Iiii, Dada!  Iiiii!"  Every time Mike walked in front of him, Silas got so excited.  

The cutest thing.  It made me giggle and cry at the same time.  

So thankful I was able to capture this moment.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

{Mosaic Reviews} Homeschool Programming

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"  If you were to ask either of my oldest boys these days, one of their first answers would be, "...a computer programmer like daddy!"

We were given the opportunity to try out Homeschool Programming, a computer science curriculum targeted for kids and teens in 4th - 12th grades.  I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity for our boys to experience first hand the type of work their dad does every day.


Homeschool Programming was created by homeschooling parents with degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering who saw a need for computer science classes within the upper elementary to high school range.  The courses are completed on the student's {or family's} computer and students only need to have basic computer skills to begin their class.  Students can work through the material at their own pace and are able to learn independently.

The suggested course of study includes instruction in Visual Basic and web design for younger students and C# and Java for high school students. 


Each course has instructional lessons, activities to practice concepts learned in the lessons and their solutions, supplemental instructional documents, tests and answer keys, and free technical support.
So, how did our family use Homeschool Programming
First, let me tell you that I think computers hate me.  No, really.  I have some of the silliest problems and I feel helpless to solve them on my own.  I get by with limited knowledge and understanding of all technical stuff and it frustrates me that I don't know more.  My husband is great at humoring my computer illiteracy and usually with the swipe of his finger, problems are resolved.  I really felt like he was the one who should be guiding our boys along as they used Homeschool Programming.  Seriously, he supports our family doing this very thing...
But, as it turns out, I worked with them and it was a good thing.  Really good. 

We received KidCoder: Beginning Web Design as a downloadable product for the purpose of this review though customers receive hard copies of the student text and an installation CD.  My husband helped me get each item downloaded to our desktop so the boys and I could easily find the files every time we needed them.  I read through the first several lessons and completed the corresponding activities on my own before introducing it to my boys to get a feel for the program.  I had thought they could be independent with using this program but after looking it over, I decided it would be best for me to read the lessons with them, then let them complete the activities without my help.


The lessons are chock full of information.  They are written simply enough for upper elementary children to understand along with cartoon visuals and boxes to highlight important points.  Technical terms are used and are given easy to understand explanations.  I was concerned that my 4th and 6th graders would not read slowly or carefully enough to understand the information which is why I read the lessons with them.  I personally had to re-read parts of the lesson for the terms and ideas to sink in.  This is not an issue with Homeschool Programming or the way the information is presented.  It has everything to do with me.  I realize that I set myself up for failure at times because I don't try to understand computer related topics.  I'd rather just let my husband or someone else fix it for me.  Thankfully, my boys must have inherited my husband's brain for computer science because they didn't seem to have any trouble understanding what was being read to them. 
The boys were able to easily complete the activities corresponding to each lesson and are well on their way to creating a website!  In fact, they have really enjoyed learning about web design.  We are planning to complete the remaining lessons as part of our school plan this fall and move to advanced web design in our second semester.

Though my boys have learned a great deal, I feel like I have benefited the most from Homeschool Programming at this point.  I have a better understanding how to work with my blog and can look at the HTML code without feeling completely lost when I have a problem.  I am excited to continue studying with my boys, growing in my confidence around computers, and becoming more proficient in creating and understanding web design.

So, is Homeschool Programming only beneficial for a family who homeschools?  Or only for the targeted age range?  Absolutely not!  I believe that a wide variety of individuals, both in homeschool and public or private schools, both young and old, could gain valuable knowledge and hands-on practice from these courses!

If you are interested in purchasing Homeschool Programming or in viewing additional courses, please visit their website.

Check out additional Homeschool Programming reviews by my Mosaic Reviews team members!!!

   


Thursday, August 8, 2013

{Family} The Farwells Go Camping

It's two days before we leave for a week of camping in the Adirondacks and I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed.  We've never camped as a family before.  We're green.  Really green.
 
 
I'm trying to figure out what we need to bring, how to cook food over a campfire and camp stove, and how to keep everyone engaged and having fun.
 
I'm also unsure how I'll feel about a week of not blow drying my hair.  Oh, vanity, you're such a pain!  Do I bring my make-up if I'm just going to be eaten by a bear?  Ha, ha!  (Okay, stop laughing.  I'm actually scared about this...}
 
I went shopping today for no-fail meals...canned soup, ramen cup o' soup, fruit, pbj, and marshmallows.  We're going to try some campfire meals, too...chicken & veggie foil packets, hobo biscuits, blueberry muffins cooked in orange peels, and roasted corn and potatoes.  If all else fails, I think my kids would be happy to survive on marshmallows...and I'm stashing some chocolate!
 
But seriously, I am so excited for the opportunity to really connect again with each of my kids and as a family without the stresses of work, the never-ending "to-do" list, and the distractions of technology.  I am the worst.  I always have my iPhone nearby and the computer is a few steps away.  My kids are always asking to watch tv shows and I cave way too often because it's easy and well, I'm probably ignoring them anyhow while on my phone.  Sad but true.  We've all developed this dependence on technology to entertain us.
 
So, if you think of it, pray that we strengthen our family relationships while away this week.  Pray that we can come up with a plan for managing our lives and screen time appropriately when we get back home.  Pray that we have tons of fun!!!
 
And pray that we don't get eaten by bears...


Monday, July 22, 2013

{More Like Him} Tearing Myself Down

Sometimes...no, most of the time...I like to make things look all honky dory.  And, that's honest for the most part.  Life really is good.  Really.  Praise Jesus!!!
 
But there is a part of me that really struggles.  Inside.  Sometimes it has to do with my role as a wife or as a parent or as a homeschool mama.  Sometimes, more often than not, it has to do with how I look - what I perceive as physical flaws - and I verbally beat myself up.  I am so hard on myself.  Too critical.
 
 
I've been in a funk recently.  Like maybe the worst one ever.  I'm struggling to rise above the things I'm saying to myself...  Lies, I know...
 
"You're not attractive...like not at all."
 
"Goodness gracious, look at those dimply thighs..."
 
"What the heck?  Acne???  You're 36!!!  Get it under control!"
 
"You look terrible in that shirt.  You belly is stretchy and squishy and poochy.  You still look pregnant!"
 
"Where are your training bras, you saggy, shrinking flat board?...sob, sob, sob."
 
"Don't smile...too many wrinkles and fine lines. Oh, and yellowing, crooked teeth.  Yuck."
 
"You're old and you look old.  And you look really bad.  And old.  In case you hadn't noticed."
 
And so it goes...and much worse, too...
 
Most of the time I stuff these feelings down and don't talk with anyone about them.  However, a few weeks ago, it all came to a boiling point and I shared all these thoughts and many others with my husband.  And you know what he said to all the things I hate about myself... "Kiley, I would have never described you {physically} by any of the characteristics you mentioned...  You are beautiful."  And he said a lot more, too, but that's only for my ears and heart...
 
Later, we read a devotional that said the following..."Our Creator has "honored" us by the precious gift of His Son.  His gift has declared our worth and value.  Who am I that I should devalue what God has honored by the gift of His Son?  To demean, neglect, or ridicule {myself} is to trample on the blood of Christ.  Might this truth encourage my lips to speak only those things that edify... Remembering the great value that God has placed on {me} makes it more difficult to say hurtful words."
 
"For you know that is was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed...but with the precious blood of Christ..."  I Peter 1:18-19
 
Do you think it was a coincidence to read this devotional that night or was it, perhaps, God-ordained?  Yup, it was God.  No question.  God speaking directly to my heart.
 
And so, I struggle with abusive thoughts toward myself.  And I struggle to see that my value that rises above physical characteristics.
 
But I have a Savior and a Godly husband who speak the truth I cannot speak to myself. 
 
I will listen.  I will learn.  I will repeat.  I will believe. 
 
And I will give myself grace in the meantime...


Sunday, July 21, 2013

{Family} Four

I'm not quite sure how we arrived at FOUR years old but here we are.  Goodness, this girl is such a bright spot in all our lives.  I took a few minutes to capture our Sadie on her birthday...and yes, her emotions and expressions pretty much sum up our days.  He, he!
 

 










 
Happy Birthday, Sadie Katie!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bloglovin'

In an effort to move along with updates to my blog, I've moved my Google Reader over to Bloglovin'.  You an find me there and follow along!
 
Follow my blog with Bloglovin

I've also joined feedly.  I suppose I'll decide which one I like best once I've tried both.  You can find me there, too.  But I can't seem to figure out how to make my own fancy schmancy button for you to click on.  They make it sound so easy to create but it's stumping me right now.  Ha, ha!!!