It's been a little over a year since we started using CTCMath and this is my second time writing a review about it. I was pleased to have my daughters start using it last summer because we were expecting baby #3 anytime and it was a blessing and relief to have some of their learning be more independent while we settled into our new status as a family of five and got acquainted with Baby Sis. Now, CTCMath's Family Membership continues to help us stay on track with math lessons while I attend to baby-turned-toddler as she climbs, tosses, tears, throws, plays, runs, bangs, wiggles, snuggles, hugs, kisses, babbles, and squeals throughout the house, and my attention is usually being split, balanced, or rotated among the three girls.
If you're interested in trying out CTCMath, until November 15th, 2017, you can get a free trial and they are also offering 60% off + 6 bonus months!
CTCMath is an extensive, secular, online math curriculum for grades K-12. Their website mentions that it is a full curriculum up to grade 8 and it is recommended as a supplemental program after that. I previously read on their website that it is not aligned with the Common Core standards (though that question and answer seems to have been removed from their FAQ page, so I'm not sure of it's current status, but I haven't noticed anything significant change). This is not a software disk, but rather a membership with online access, so students need internet access to participate. The program is computer based and is accessible via an iPad or Android tablet as well!
At the elementary levels we've used thus far, the program consists primarily of short, step-by-step, video-based tutorial lessons, thousands of practice questions (for which the parent can set the passing grade that is required), and diagnostic tests with automated grading, as well as progress reports, activity logs, and feedback available to both student and parent. There are also downloadable, printable lesson summaries (much like pre-made notes) for each lesson video. Diagnostic tests have three options for length, from 20-40 questions, depending on how comprehensive the user wants to be in evaluating the student's knowledge of a topic. They also offer speed drills and a game for practicing multiplication tables.
Parents also have accounts and are able to set up a specific assigned "tasks", such as lessons and/or tests, including a time frame and due date for completion, to guide a student in their learning path. They can also choose to receive weekly reports via email to keep track of how things are going. Just as the student has access to material from any grade, so too can the parent assign material from earlier grades as review or later grades if the student is ready to move on or for an extra challenge. There are various ways to see a student's progress, including a history timeline of usage, number of topics completed, dates lessons are passed/completed, and both detailed and summary reports.
Since we have a one-year subscription to the CTCMath's Family Membership, both Big Sis (fifth grade) and Lil' Sis (second grade) have been using it as their primary math program. Last year, I felt a little uncertain, at first, as to how to get things started because it isn't as restricted as other programs we've used in the past and doesn't direct the student from one task to the next in sequence. There is flexibility and are lots of options on where to start, which lesson (or even grade!) to work on, etc. This year, though, we are all set and know what we're doing.
Basically, there are two ways we use CTCMath in our house. First, I can (and do) assign "tasks" to each child. These are the topics that I decide I want them to complete within a give day or time frame - it can be one topic or several. Sometimes I'll put in topics for which I know they need extra practice or a refresher. Other times, I'll include tasks that ensure that they are staying on track to cover all the material for the grade over the course of the year. I find this necessary to be sure that they do work that is necessary for their level, since the program doesn't clearly walk them through step-by-step from one lesson to the next. Second, Big and Lil' Sis are also allowed some autonomy to choose which subjects they are interested in and want to pursue studying. I love this method because, as we well know, kids [and everyone else] learn best when they are interested in something. But since our state has required standardized testing at certain grades (currently 3, 5, 8, and 10), I feel it's best to do a mix of both teacher-directed and child-led learning.
There aren't clear placement tests, per se. We do use the diagnostic tests as a tool to determine their skill in each individual topic area, but the tests are not designed to test across several topics all at once and they do not direct the learner on what to do next. I have not seen any total grade level tests in the program that would tell a user if they "pass" a certain grade and are ready to move on to the next, nor what grade or topic at which to begin.
It is the ability to decide what to learn that has had a big impact on both girls' love of math and their excitement to use CTCMath and learn more, increasing their independence and self-direction. As I mentioned in a previous review, this is empowering! They are given ownership of their education and don't feel like they are just along for the ride. They aren't staring out the window waiting for it to be over. Instead, they are seeking out knowledge and retaining more of it as a result.
Both girls have made notable, trackable progress. Just today, Lil' Sis came bounding over to me with pride at her accomplishment in improving her ability to read clocks and calculate time (a weak are for her previously, but she got 100% of the answers correct this time). Big Sis often mentions that she enjoys the feeling of understanding math better now.
Another feature that I want to mention is one that might get easily overlooked. There are three small, simple links near the bottom of the lesson and task pages: Speed Skills, Times Tables, and Swap Pieces. These might be useful tools for some users that let the student practice math facts and play a game. I do think that these links could be made more prominent and easier to locate, but maybe they don't want it to serve as a distraction from the main lessons.
I would definitely recommend CTCMath to others who are looking into online math curriculum options, whether it be for students struggling with math, those right on track, or those who are advanced or want to get ahead and not be held back by a rigid process. Indeed, I have suggested this program to a number of my friends and other families in local homeschool groups over the last year because I definitely see the value in it.
If you'd like to know more about this program, you can check out other reviews by clicking on the banner link below and/or visit CTCMath at their website and/or on Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, Pinterest, and Youtube! As mentioned above, at the time of this post and until November 15th, 2017, you can get a free trial of CTCMath and 60% off + 6 bonus months!
The ravenous readers in my household could live in a library or bookstore, if only given the chance. They adore books of all kinds and educational fiction (like historical fiction or strong moral, ethical, or lesson-based fiction) is one of the most effective ways for them to learn and remember something, particularly with my oldest. Non-fiction books are great, too, but books that make something humorous, personal, and/or relatable are the ones that remain the most memorable.
Some books that we've recently received for review have been: Oh Susannah: It's in the Bag, If You Were Me and Lived in... Colonial America, and If You Were Me and Lived in... Ancient Greece, all of which were written by Carole P. Roman.
About the Books & Our Experience
Carole P. Roman is an award-winning, independent author who has written over fifty books for kids. She has penned several different series, including some with historical and/or cultural topics and books at nursery/preschool or early reader levels.
It's worth noting that the author's website has a link to "worksheets & resources", which are mostly links to lists of questions for kids to answer after reading some of the books. She has them in a blog post and they can be highlighted and printed that way.
The "If You Were Me and Lived In... ____" books which we received were bursting at the seams with colorful illustrations, all kinds of relevant facts and details, and a glossary of terms. They are paperback but seem relatively solid with somewhat thick, glossy pages. Both Big Sis and Lil' Sis read along with me as we explored, compared, and contrasted the two time periods.
Our history focus right now is early American through modern times, so the If You Were Me and Lived in... Colonial America book covers just the right time frame to supplement our studies. However, with the amount of information that is packed into this little book, this might actually make a decent base or reference for a unit study as well.
This is not just a quick, light-hearted picture book style story, though it does, indeed, appear that way at first glance. It's not a long story, but I wouldn't necessarily call it a quick read either because we felt it was a lot to take in all at once. While it does not lay out a multitude of dates or pile on a myriad of specific names (though the author does include a short list with brief bios of certain key figures - which is nice), it attempts to paint a picture of the time period by sharing about life, experiences, and people in general. It touches on major events, challenges, and work, and describes even what some might consider to be minor aspects like food, chores, and clothing. We felt that it did a good job at this, but I also felt it had an edge that made it more facts and less story. This means you get a lot of bang for your educational buck, but less entertainment along the way. Still, the author has a decent balance of the two, especially considering the purpose of the book.
The illustrations are a bit quirky, or even slightly crude, at times. It could be argued that this actually suits the time period and adds to the feeling of being there. The text was white printed on a very dark background, which felt awkward and strained my eyes. This bothered me as I found it to be distracting from time to time (even if my daughter didn't notice).
The story has the reader imagine they are a child of parents in London and explains that people felt they needed to move to seek freedom to practice religion and life as they desired. It follows the child to the Netherlands and then aboard the ship sailing to America, the harsh, difficult times of getting a village established, what it was like growing up there, connections with Native Americans, and the colony growing and taking root.
We also received If You Were Me and Lived in... Ancient Greece, which does not match up with our current history study time period, but we have covered it and will again, so we went ahead and looked through the whole book. (I couldn't, for the life of me, get the image of this one to show up here, but you can see it in the group book photo at the top of this post.)
The text in this book was dark on a light background, which my eyes appreciated after reading the other one. I also liked the illustrations even more; the pictures were well designed, interesting, and did a well at complementing the story.
The story begins with a mention of geography and Greece today, then moves into imagining you lived in 350 BC. It is comprehensive in the many aspects of life and experience, just as the Colonial America book. It talks about government, housing, schooling, military service, city-states, slaves, food, clothing, jewelry, gender roles, markets, trade, and more. Most pages have a couple of sentences about a God or Goddess that usually at least partly relates to a topic discussed on that page. There is also a reference section near the end of the book, before the glossary, where the author lists and describes the various Greek Gods and Goddesses.
Good books! Not perfect, not our absolute favorites, but a solid choice nonetheless. If You Were Me and Lived in... Colonial America, and If You Were Me and Lived in... Ancient Greece, along with the other similarly titled books in the series, could certainly be a solid addition to geography, culture, or history studies. And Oh Susannah: It's in the Bag is a sweet, charming story for a young child as well.
You can visit the author on her website or on social media at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Good Reads. you can also find her books on Amazon. If you'd like to find out about what other homeschool families think about these and many other books from Carole P. Roman, click on the banner-link below and read to your hearts content!
We recently went on a bit of a "road schooling" adventure, flying over to the mainland and road-tripping our way through six states on the West Coast and then hopping over to Alaska before heading home. It was an experience filled with memories that will last a lifetime. We visited museums, state and national parks, science centers, beaches, farms, historical landmarks, and both big cities and small towns. Throughout it all was the common thread of learning more about our nation as a whole, but the individual state that intrigued the girls the most was Alaska. Capitalizing on their deepening interest in the states we had just explored, we've been using the Make-a-State Activity from Home School in the Woods to expand on their knowledge using a hands-on flair!
About Home School in the Woods
They have multiple product lines, including things like:
About the Make-a-State Activity Pak
The Make-a-State Activity is part of the Activity-Paks series. It consists of a CD or downloaded set of files that contain twenty projects that combine to make a lap book about a single state, along with all the necessary instructions on how to make it happen. The projects are mostly themed templates/masters of different kinds that are printed on paper and/or cardstock, and then cut-out and completed with details from any U.S. state of your choice, then taped or glued into a file folder that you assemble specifically for this purpose, eventually resulting in a "lap book" that cohesively brings it all together into a great little package presentation. While many of the activities require state-specific research, writing information, and/or coloring or drawing on the given lines and spaces of a generic template, several of the project files have state-specific details and illustrations already on them, such as the state quarters and basic state maps.
Project topics include: key state facts, origin of the state name, state motto, symbols, song, industry/agriculture and climate, wildlife, geography, government, seal & flag, history, landmarks, quarter, sports teams, vocabulary, and timeline, recipes, native tribes, famous people, and regions.
Also included in the Make-a-State Activity CD or downloaded files are two bonus materials:
1) "State pages" - files for each of the 50 states and Washington D.C. which consist of a single page loaded with basic information about the state, including key facts, dates, and a super brief overview of history. This is meant to get a student started, but they will still require books and/or online resources to fully complete the projects. Thankfully, there are some suggested resources if you're not sure where to look for information.
2) "Name that State!" File Folder Game: a printable game that can be assembled in a file folder and used to practice state and capital knowledge and recognition in a fun way.
Once I finally got everything printed up, the directions were comprehensive and easy to follow and the completion of projects (and later the lap book assembly) went smoothly.
We chose to focus on Alaska for this lap book and we were excited to get started! After the initial printing and prep, we spent some time on this nearly every weekday.
The projects varied greatly in the amount of time it took for us to complete them. If you plan to schedule this lap book's activities into your school routine/schedule and want consistency, I would recommend devoting a certain block of time to it (such as 20 or 30 minutes a day, for example) vs. planning to do one of the twenty projects each day. Since it is summer and we don't have a busy schedule right now, my daughter just worked on this at her own pace.
Big Sis enjoyed this product and said that she wants to do one for all of the states that we have been to thus far. I will share her own review with you here now, per her request.
"They make it really fun by using a lot of different activities in the projects, like reading, writing, research, pasting, cutting, and putting it all together into a colorful lapbook that you can look back on later and be proud of. It's not just one thing. It's not monotonous so you don't get bored of doing the same thing for a long time - like only writing. I also like that you can make it colorful and that they have things like pouches in the lap book that you put things in. There was a lot of drawing. Personally, I love drawing! Some people may not like that though, so maybe they could find pictures to print or cut-out from a magazine instead. That's what I did for the state symbols project in our lap book. My favorite projects for this lap book were the 'my name is Alaska' one, the newspaper, and the tourist brochure. My least favorite thing was all the cutting that was necessary, but that's because we cut out all twenty project materials (to prepare in advance), so I would suggest that you cut out one project at a time when you go to work on it each day."
You can also find Home School in the Woods at their website to explore their wide variety of product offerings and learn more about the company, or visit them on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and YouTube!
Big Sis has some experience with very basic sentence diagramming, which she was exposed to last school year during her language arts studies. She is proud she knows how to do it because it means she’s learning something that her daddy and I don't remember doing in our brick-and-mortar conventional style schools. I've been learning more about it as we go, in order to be prepared to teach my girls and assist them as needed. But because this isn't a strong suit of mine, this chance to use and review Sentence Diagramming: Beginning from The Critical Thinking Co.™ has been helpful!
About The Critical Thinking Co.™
& Sentence Diagramming: Beginning
Several of my veteran homeschool mom friends use and recommend their titles. They are standards-based and secular materials designed to be easy to use and aimed at improving critical thinking skills. Their website states that they guarantee better grades and higher test scores or your money back.
Lesson 1: Simple Subject and Main Verb
Lesson 2: Direct Object
Lesson 3: Adjectives
Lesson 4: Adverbs Modifying Verbs
Lesson 5: Predicate Adjectives
Lesson 6: Predicate Nouns
Lesson 7: Prepositional Phrases (Adjectival)
Lesson 8: Prepositional Phrases (Adverbial)
Lesson 9: Compound Subjects
Lesson 10: Compound Predicates
Lesson 11: Compound Direct Objects
Lesson 12: Compound Predicate Adjectives and Nouns
This paperback book’s list price at the time of this post is $12.99.
Though Big Sis has some basic diagramming exposure, we started at lesson one just to be sure we covered everything before moving on. We then moved through the first 3 lessons in one week. After that, we slowed the pace to one lesson a week. It was easy to work it in to our weekly schedule and complimented our grammar practice. There has been a noticeable improvement in her understanding of grammar and breaking down a sentence into its parts of speech, as well as how the words work together and relate to one another.
We liked that there was room to diagram everything and I appreciated the ease of use. While the book has several sentences for practice in each lesson, I would have liked additional pages or downloads available for more repetition, or perhaps more review in a cyclical fashion. It’s not that my daughter needed the extra work in order to grasp the points presented in the material, but that I am concerned she might forget what she has learned without going back to it now and again. So this is something we might pull out again a few months after we finish it, just to review it quickly and make sure she didn’t forget anything.
You can learn more by visiting The Critical Thinking Co.™ at their website or on social media at Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest!
How does it work? Basically, you choose from several available plans for that month, customize your choice (if desired) by choosing a different number of servings or swapping out any recipes that you know you wouldn't want for ones you like better, print the ready-made shopping list, directions, and labels for your plan, shop for any necessary ingredients, prepare or assemble the meals, store them in the freezer, thaw when needed, cook them, and then serve and eat! It's also possible to use the plans to "eat one, freeze one", where you freeze a duplicate of each meal that you make for dinner, rather than making all ten freezer meals at once.
- Traditional Meal Plan
- Gluten-Free Meal Plan (<-- the one I need!)
- Slow Cooker Meal Plan
- Clean Eats Meal Plan
- 20 Meals Plan
- All Chicken Meals Plan
- All Ground Beef Meals Plan
- All Pork Chops Meals Plan
As you can see, there are a few plans that center around a specific meat. They are provided to cater to grocery store meat sales. Or for those of us who who shop at Costco (which could be most of the people on this island, I think).
It is worth noting that the meal plans are only available during the month they are released. Past plans are not accessible. However, there are also a bunch of recipes available separate from the meal plans provided for the month. So if a member has certain needs or preferences, they can choose to easily swap out recipes in any of the meal plans for something different from the available recipes on the website, or a user can use those recipes and create a custom meal plan of their own.
- Type of Protein (Chicken, Ground Beef, Other Beef, Pork Chop, Other Pork, Seafood, Vegetarian)
- Cooking Method (One Dish, Grill, Skillet, Baked, Dutch Oven or Saucepan, Slow Cooker), or
- Dietary Preferences (Favorites, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Gluten Dairy Soy Free, Paleo & Whole 30, Top 8 Allergy Free)
- Favorites! (Members can save their favorites recipes by clicking on the small heart in the top right corner of a displayed recipe, which then show up in this category.)
Since I have Celiac Disease and can't eat gluten, plus members of my family have some other minor allergies to contend with, the flexibility and options available to me through this service were much appreciated. I had access to all eight meal plan variations for the month and looked them all over to see which would suit us best. It is a nice, thoughtful addition that every recipe includes a notation of how to make it dairy-free and/or gluten-free when feasible (which is likely helpful for those new to such restrictions), but it wasn't hard for me to quickly figure out on my own, since most adaptions were simply omitting the cheese or using a gluten free version of pasta or another gluten-y ingredient. Sometimes the instructions would say there wasn't a great dairy-free option for the meal, but I think some of those would actually still be possible if using a suitable dairy-free cheese substitute (though it might not taste quite the same, perhaps).
I'd like to have access to the assembly or pre-freezing directions on the website, but as far as I could tell, these instructions only showed up when everything was downloaded or printed. But having them ahead of time would let me to preview more of what I'd need to do, saving computer memory and time if I decided against making the recipe. Granted, downloading or printing everything let's me keep it all for future use, especially since the meal plans change each month and past plans aren't stored on the website. However, I'd still like the small convenience if seeing all directions and waiting to download it until I know if it's a "keeper".
The next Saturday, my husband and I tag teamed both ingredient prep and baby duties! We chopped veggies, cut and browned meat, made a sauce, and got everything ready. Then I was able to assemble the meals into freezer bags fairly quickly. The whole process was supposed to take an hour, but I think it took us more like two hours. I blame this partly on it being our first time through and we noticed a few ways we could be more efficient next time. We're also a bit slow when chopping produce and could be quicker with those knife skills. Additionally, we found a couple of minor errors on the ingredient and recipe lists that had us double-checking things to be sure it was correct before proceeding. In the end, we had TEN meals (two of each of the recipes we chose) - nine in the freezer and another that we planned to make that night for dinner... and I have to say it felt great to have all those dinners on hand!
Since each recipe has directions for freezing the meal or for cooking it right away, we chose to make one of our Spanish Rice Skillets for dinner that same night, without freezing it first. During this process, we realized we would prefer less rice and adjusted it accordingly before cooking. It was easy to make and turned out just fine. I found this particular recipe to be a bit bland, but that is personal preference. My kids tolerated it because it had rice. My husband rather liked it and ate it with tortilla chips. He then single-handedly polished off the leftovers the next day!
We made our first meal from the freezer later that week. It was the Slow Cooker Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin. It was GOOD! I should point out, however, that I did use my Instant Pot pressure cooker instead of the slow cooker. In order to be sure that it cooked properly, I added just a bit of water. Then I set it for about 15 minutes of high pressure and allowed it to do a natural pressure release when finished. It was a perfect texture and the flavors were delicious. We decided to add more onion the next time because that part was really yummy. My kids don't care for onion, but that meant more for me!
Just was with any meal plan, cookbook, or recipe website, there were dishes we enjoyed, some we thought were just acceptable, and those that we disliked. A unique aspect of this service is that you can customize, swap out recipes, and build your own meal plan, which is just wonderful. This kind of thing could easily be rigid and limited, but the creator of MyFreezEasy obviously is aware of the many differences in dietary needs and preferences from one family to the next and offers plenty to be suitable for a wide range of users.
To learn more about MyFreezEasy, you can check out their website or find them on social media: on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram!
About Everyday Education, LLC
About Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting
The foreword, written by Janice Campbell, provides some background on the book, tips on both reading and writing, and offers some suggested teaching schedules. In case you're wondering what type of time commitment this program requires, she points out that short 10-15 minute lessons are ideal, with a session each day (five days a week).
The introduction by the author gives some convincing reasons to use an italic style - which the author asserts is easier to learn, more legible, and more attractive than today's cursive. In Chapter One, she answers common questions, gives advice and recommended books for further reading on the topics of teaching reading, and briefly explains what the italic style is and how it developed. She mentions it's possible to complete all sixty lessons in sixty days, but that one should go at the pace that is best for each child (which will vary).
The approach in the rest of the book is simple and straightforward, easy to follow, and does not take long to learn. Reading instruction is done systematically, beginning with the introduction of the letter sounds and moving on to blends and increasingly more advanced words. Uniquely, the book incorporates copying of letters and sentences right from the start. There are a few Bible verses in the practice pages, as well as lots of other quotes, sayings, words, and sentences of all kinds. It is not a book of Bible verses, but there are some in there.
Interestingly, even during the phonics and reading portions, beginning with Chapter Two, the book is written in the italic style, preparing the student with plenty of examples and models for proper penmanship. As the book transitions to focused instruction of italic writing, it progresses from straight, to slanted, and then to joined letters. Finally, one can choose to continue on to learning to use an edged or calligraphy pen for truly fancy, artistic, beautiful handwriting.
We received the ebook version, so I looked it over and then printed up the relevant portions right away. Since I needed to make dinner, I asked Big Sis to put the practice sheets in a three-ring binder and off I went. However, I came back several minutes later to find that she hadn't put more than a couple of pages in the binder. Turns out that she was too excited and had pulled up the book and had been busily reading through the whole thing! The style appealed to and intrigued her. She asked if we could get started right away, saying that it looked like something she would enjoy, so I capitalized on her interest and we got to it first thing the next morning! (Lil' Sis was pleased to be doing the same thing as her older sister, as usual.)
While Chapter Six is where the focus of the book shifts to handwriting, there were plenty of opportunities to practice letter formation and sentences throughout the book, so we took advantage of those pages for lots of practice. I'm glad we did, because it has easier, larger print and spaces for practice. Plus, Lil' Sis giggled at many of the silly model sentences, motivating her to continue, often leaving her wanting more.
Additionally, the way the author and book used the beginning lined practice pages was foreign to Big Sis because she'd spent so much time learning differently in the past. I think it could be confusing to other kids too. The author has the letters sitting on the part that appears to be the spaces between lines, with the tops of tall letters touching the dashed lines, rather than the lowercase letters all bumping up to that dashed line as we're accustomed to from prior handwriting courses. Later, the slanted lines were a bit much for her and it took some getting used to. Eventually though, the more advanced simply lined pages made things easier and clear. I think that starting my daughter on writing with this book & method would've been ideal, but we were able to work through the differences and overcome the quirks with some extra time and practice.
The program of instruction was structured and systematic, yet flexible. The author seems to be an advocate of Montessori and Charlotte Mason styles, so the book might particularly appeal to homeschoolers that ascribe to these methods, but I think it could easily be used by and adapted to a variety of learning approaches and student needs. Overall, we liked it!
At the time of this post, the ebook costs $27 and the printed and bound book is $29. A great deal for anyone and considering that it's relatively inexpensive (especially for what is offered), it is an appealing option for those with limited budgets too!
While my review was primarily on the handwriting portion of the book, you can click on the banner below to read more reviews... some of which might focus on other areas of the book, and you can find out what other families think about it. There are also reviews of a couple of other products from Everyday Education too!
About Ultimate Phonics Reading Program
The program begins with the early, basic letter sounds and progresses systematically to more advanced letter combinations, blends, and patterns. It presents a lesson topic and follows it with practice for each one to build skill and mastery using broken down words, lists of words, and then sentences to read.
Also worth noting is that you can get the program's scope and sequence or view/download the phonics word lists and sentences covered in the software for free, allowing you to see what will be taught or get a quick look at what your child is learning at each stage. The Spencer Learning website offers a simple reading assessment for free too, which could could be useful in getting a general idea of your child's reading ability.
Lil' Sis utilized the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program about four days a week. I always let her decide how many lessons to go through. She must've enjoyed using it because she always did more than one (usually a few at a time) and often initiated it on her own, asking if she could do her phonics. Since it's not a super modern game, at first I wasn't sure what attraction it could have for her, but I have come to believe that it's the feeling of accomplishment from completing the quick lessons (probably each taking ten minutes or less) and by the gradually increasing confidence in her reading skills as well.
When I asked Lil' Sis for her opinion, she said, "It's really good because it helps me read better!" She also mentioned a few times that she wished she could make the interface bigger on the screen. It wasn't because the words needed to be bigger - they were plenty large enough - but just a personal preference she has for having the program fill the screen. Oh, the silly preferences we humans have sometimes!
As my daughter went through a lesson, I would have her try to read what was on the screen first, then mouse over each sound or word on the screen to confirm that she read it correctly. This was a great way for her to move through each lesson with autonomy. There was also a speaker icon next to the introductory paragraphs a and the practice sentences for each lesson, which could be clicked on to have the paragraph read out loud - very helpful.
One other feature that I wanted to point out in the software is the "find" button. If my daughter was reading a book and struggled with a certain word or letter combination, we'd look up the associated phonics lesson as a review. I noticed this process definitely helped her to recognize and handle similar words when she came across them later. I also like that this software can be used with other students in my home as well, so when my older daughter occasionally needs a reminder about a phonics rule, I could even use this with her too! Or eventually with Baby Sis as well!
I would recommend this program to anyone who is looking for a computer-based phonics and reading option as long as they know what to expect (so read the reviews and try it out first!). It could seem dull, plain, and boring to those accustomed to more flashy apps and high-end graphics that are common these days, but the simplistic nature and short lessons might make up for this and it is certainly worth it for the end result of improved skills. While there isn't any single curriculum or educational product that is perfect for all students, this one is worth looking into for anyone that would like to teach their child phonics at home or supplement their child's reading skills (regardless of the child's school type - home, public, private, charter, or hybrid). If you've used it, please feel free to comment below and let us know what you thought of it too!
Big Sis (9) has been more interested in email lately and Lil' Sis (6) has started learning how to type properly, so they were both excited about trying KidsEmail.org Annual Subscription and I was curious to explore the parental controls & features. Though we've only had the accounts for a few weeks, we've gotten a good feel for it. Read on to see what we think of it so far.
Email is a great tool and kids can really benefit from having access to it too, but most standard email accounts are designed with adults in mind. While most of us have become accustomed to weeding through the ads (both sneaky and blatant), inappropriate spam, potentially hazardous attachments, complicated features, and embedded links, these aren't things we want our children to navigate on their own until they have developed the judgement and ability necessary. Especially for our young children, we want to know with whom they are communicating and to what they are being exposed.
This service allow parents an array of options, most of which which can be activated or disabled for each child's account as a parent sees fit. So a younger child might have more protective measures and monitoring than an older teen. The accounts can thus be used to provide a child with increasing independence and freedom as they grow.
Some of the special features offered are:
- The ability to monitor both sent and received mail; a copy sent to the parents email for review.
- Intercept email that fail to meet certain parameters preset by the parent, then choose to allow/disallow it to be sent on to the child.
- Choose specific days and times that kids can regularly access their email.
- "Ground" a child, including a custom message when they try to log in, automatically preventing them from accessing their email for a certain time period.
- Create a specific allowed contacts list for the child and/or block certain senders.
- No ads!!
- Historical location/GPS tracking (when the app is used on a mobile device).
- Decide what gets through to your child: allow or disallow links, images, certain attachment types, and "bad words".
- Different logins for kids, teens, and parents.
- Teens get a slightly more grown up feel to their accounts.
- Spam filtering
- Custom folders
- Activity logs
- And more!
I agree with her. There is a lot to like about this kids email service.
It was easy to get started. Once I set up my parent account, I added my two children and we chose their email address and password. I selected the options for monitoring and account settings for each child, added contacts that we wanted to allow them to communicate with, and we were all set!
Unlike most email services that I'm accustomed to with lots to look at, this one doesn't have unnecessary clutter. It is streamlined and super easy for the kids to figure out. There are only a few "buttons" on the side navigational bar, it's easy to find contacts and the advanced editing tools for the email messages (font, colors, etc.) can even be turned off if a child isn't ready for (or doesn't need/want) those options. And of course we love that there are no ads!
Both my girls loved the options for different backgrounds. I didn't like how some of them didn't seem to fit the screen quite as well as others... but that's just the perfectionist in me talking and is such a minor thing really that my kids didn't notice and loved every one of them.
Really the only solid drawback we found during our use of the annual subscription was the lack of any way to save an email in progress. There wasn't a "draft" folder, as my daughter pointed out above. That was a big issue for us because my daughters are still learning to type or take some time to decide what they want to write or make it just like they want it. Big Sis was "interrupted" twice in one day by having to eat lunch and then later having to go to bed and she couldn't save her work. We solved this problem by copying her work-in-progress to a text file to save it and then copying it back to a new outgoing message later, but it would be nice to be able to just click "save". This might not be an issue for other children and families, but for the sake of kids like mine, perhaps they could add this as a feature in the future!
If you want to know more, you can find KidsEmail.org at their website or on social media on: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, or Instagram!
It is designed to allow the student to work at their own pace. Membership to CTCMath is not limited to one grade, so the student can move from one level to the next as needed (at their discretion or as directed by the parent through the parent account), allowing for review of earlier levels and material. The program consists primarily of short, step-by-step video-based lessons, thousands of practice questions and printable worksheets and diagnostic tests with automated grading, as well as progress reports, activity logs, and feedback available to both student and parent. There are downloadable, printable lesson summaries (much like pre-made notes) for each lesson video. Diagnostic tests have three options for length, from 20-40 questions, depending on how comprehensive the user wants to be in evaluating the student's knowledge of a topic. There are various ways to see a student's progress, including a history timeline of usage, percentage of topic mastery, dates lessons are completed, and both detailed and summary reports.
The program also has a Times Tables game and Speed Skills timed drills (plus another puzzle game called Swap Pieces). This was something that we found useful but didn't notice they even had a way to access it until recently. The links to get to them were at the bottom of the Lessons tab and in normal, small font, almost in the footer of the page, it seemed, so it wasn't immediately apparent that it was something we could do. On top of that, my daughter had customized the colors of the background and accent (yes, you can do that!) and she chose something blue, which left the blue links barely visible until they were clicked on and turned yellow! Until then, I assumed that it was something my daughter would encounter at some point and we hadn't gotten that far yet. (I knew it existed because it was in the reports section of the account.) Now that we found it, we'll be using it more often for sure! We're paying particular attention to improving speed of recall for Big Sis during the next few months and it's always nice to add another way to practice the facts to keep things interesting.
Of course, sometimes (or often) children need specific direction or to be shown exactly what to work on, or they might need a little encouragement to do extra review in areas with which they are struggling. Indeed, there were times when one of my girls didn't particularly like working on an area they were weak in and would try to gloss over it and move on to something else. For these instances, I loved the ability to login to the parent account and "dictate" (assign) specific tasks and diagnostic tests for my kids to work on next, along with a time frame to focus on it. We used this for extra review of multiplication facts for Big Sis, in particular, since she knows her facts but often stumbles or takes time to think of the answer.
But I would venture to say that this is also an excellent option for kids who are on track or even skilled/advanced in math as well! For students on track for their grade, like Lil Sis, this program can offer a comprehensive scope of math skills they need. And for those kids like Big Sis who are ready to move ahead and find joy in learning new math concepts, the flexibility and potential autonomy offered by CTCMath could be just what they are looking for!
I imagine that we will be getting a lot of use out of this program in the coming months, especially in the first weeks after the new baby arrives. We plan to use it as a supplement for Lil Sis (who still thrives on hands on practice with math and uses a lot of manipulatives) and might be using it as a primary curriculum for Big Sis (we're still deciding and choosing between a few options, but will definitely stick with using it one way or another). I would definitely recommend CTCMath to others who are looking into online math curriculum options!
About Rachel & the TreeSchoolers
1: A Rainy Day
2: Incredible Insects
3: Plants and Flowers
4: Awesome Animals
5: The Amazing Human Body
6: Happy, Healthy Me
7: Scientific Reasoning
8: Extraordinary Earth
9: Our Solar System
In addition to the DVDs, there are free downloadable activity guides available as well! They offer these guides for volumes 1-6 and 8 at the time of this review, with guides 7 & 9 in the works. Ranging in length from 36 to 75 pages, they are customized to the each topic, containing things such as an overview of what is included in the DVD, which key questions, activities and games, printables (for things like flashcards and certificates), suggested reading/books, song lyrics, and/or ideas to extend and expand upon the lessons presented in the videos. Some of the activity guides also listed the key signs that could be found in their corresponding DVD.
If you've tried these DVDs, please feel free to comment below and let me know what you thought of them as well!
Image Disclaimer: All the above images included in this review where posted with permission from Two Little Hands Productions LLC.
Note: Aside from the review of this product, I am not affiliated with Two Little Hands Productions. The above links in regards to this company and product in this post are NOT affiliate or referral links and I do not benefit financially or otherwise from any purchases made through said links, nor is it required that you use these links to reach the company.
I'm a homeschooling mom of three, enjoying our time in Hawaii and hoping to share some of that experience with you, including ideas, reviews, resources, and information.