Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Books of Year One: Our Journey

We have been using Ambleside Online for our main curriculum. We try to follow Charlotte Mason's principles and methods in our homeschool. Practically speaking, this means we try to "lay a feast" of wonderful, living books, books filled with ideas, not just facts and information. We then require "narration" (telling back) so that our children assimilate what they read (or hear read aloud, in these early elementary years). Ambleside Online helps by providing a (free!) book list for each grade based on the curriculum used in Charlotte Mason's own schools. For me, this has meant that I don't have to come up with good books for narration on my own, but can cheerfully get on with homeschooling.

SA(6) has only three weeks left of Ambleside Online's Year One. It has been a good year. He began to learn how to narrate at the beginning of the school year, and has come a long way. There were times when narration did not go well at all, but overall his ability to narrate is excellent when he is willing, and he is usually willing. I am amazed now when I think how many books we have read together this way, and thought I would share our impressions of our books, including anything we might have learned along the way. 

The Aesop for Children by Milo Winter
This book is like training wheels for narration. The stories are very short and easy to narrate. It's one of SA's favourites. We narrate from two different books every day, and I usually choose this one when our other narration of the day is particularly challenging, to provide a bit of balance between easy and difficult readings.

Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling
This book has been an absolute pleasure from beginning to end. It has also sparked a few "virtual field trips" on YouTube...once to Sault Ste. Marie, and once to Niagara Falls and the Welland Canal.

Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin
This is a book of stories and legends from history. We used an online version (also for Viking Tales, An Island Story, and The Burgess Bird Book) and I would not do that again. I really felt that the lack of a physical book hindered a relationship with that book. For example, if I ask him now what his favourite book of the year was, he will not mention one of the online books. Narrations from these books were always "narrations from the computer" to him, while physical books would be requested by name. In the future, I will try to have physical copies of all the books.

Viking Tales by Jennie Hall
This is a book from the third term of Year One, and I'm still not quite sure what I think of it. It is well-written, and provides a vivid picture of Viking life (definitely a living book!). What I'm not always sure how to deal with is the very different values the Vikings had. Their gods, their Valhalla, and their love of war are all presented matter-of-factly and uncritically within the story. I find myself especially concerned about their version of courage, which gloried in violence and had no fear of death because of the false hope of Valhalla. And I am not finding myself particularly well-equipped to discuss this with SA without being preachy (He hates it when I talk too much!). And yet I don't want to reject the book. This really is the way the Vikings were and how they thought. I still have a lot to learn about how to discuss issues that arise from the readings. I would love to hear what more experienced moms have to say about this!

An Island Story by H.E. Marshall
This is a wonderful story of British history. However, it is from this book that I learned the value of prereading the stories myself before reading them with SA(6). We were gaily going along through our first term when I ran into chapter 5, "The Story of a Warrior Queen." It was the story of Boadicea (I had heard of her name, but knew nothing about her.). At the end of the story, she poisons herself and her daughters in order not to fall into the hands of the Romans. Marshall's retelling even has a heartbreaking moment when the younger daughter asks, "Must I drink it, mother?" It was just too much for me. I thought, "Why am I reading this with my six-year-old?" If I had read the story beforehand, I would have skipped it. As it was, the significance of that moment seemed to pass right over his head, and I was thankful. Just so you know, this is the only issue I have had with this book in the entire year. It really is a great book. I just share this because it taught me to pre-read and make sure what I was reading with him was suitable for us.

Benjamin FranklinBuffalo Bill, and George Washington by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire
We loved all of these books. They are so well-written and beautifully illustrated. We noticed connections between Buffalo Bill and Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose books we were reading as our bedtime stories at the same time. (They overlap on both map and timeline.) 

Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula
We found this church history book very challenging in the first term, so much so that I decided to substitute a biography or two by Simonetta Carr in the second term. We found the Simonetta Carr books also a little bit difficult to narrate at this age, and very long for the purpose. So the third term, I decided to try again with Trial and Triumph, beginning with Saint Patrick. To my surprise, SA had no problems with it anymore, because he had grown both in his ability to understand and his ability to narrate. I learned from this not to give up on a book if it doesn't go well at first. 

The Burgess Bird Book by Thornton Burgess
This was another book that did not go well in the beginning...for SA or for me. He found the narrations challenging because they had a lot of conversations and not much action. I disliked the book at first because of the anthropomorphism of the birds...assigning human-like motives to their actions. I also didn't like Jenny Wren as a character --sharp-tongued and quick to take offense --and she was in every chapter at first! However, we kept at it, and SA got better at narrating. I got used to the style and had some relief when Jenny Wren wasn't in every chapter we chose anymore. I wouldn't say it's our favourite, but I do feel we've learned a lot about birds from it. We always went to to learn more about the birds we read about and to hear their songs, and that was always a favourite activity for SA.

James Herriot's Treasury for Children
Just lovely, what can I say? 

Parables of Nature by Margaret Gatty
This was one of our more challenging reads, and was especially difficult in our first term. In our second term I switched to the modern paraphrase, and that went a little better. The third term, I went back to the original book. To be perfectly honest, I still don't love this book. I find it so very wordy! I can (and do, sometimes) skip whole paragraphs without missing any of the story. However, SA does seem to enjoy it, as long as I don't make our sessions with it too long. (This is a temptation for me, as the chapters are very long.)

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
This book surprised me every time. Even when I started to realize this about it, it still surprised me. I would preread it and think, "There is no way this narration is going to go well." And then I would read it aloud, and it would be wonderful. SA could narrate better from this book than from any other. When we started in term one, I was a bit worried about the made-up words. (Should I define them?) But before long, I just relaxed and enjoyed's really all about the sound of them as you read them aloud. We had so much fun with this playful book.

Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb
This was our most difficult book. Ambleside Online offers another Shakespeare option by Edith Nesbit called Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare. We tried both the Nesbit and the Lamb options, and decided to stick with Lamb, though its vocabulary was much more challenging. I felt that Nesbit condensed a little too much, and Lamb was more interesting. Through all our readings, I had to remember to keep it as light and enjoyable as possible. After all, this is SA's introduction to Shakespeare. We would roll a dice to take turns narrating, I would draw little pictures to keep things straight. I would keep each session short. I would borrow the Bruce Coville book from the library for the story we were reading if it was available (and it almost never was, ugh. I may have to buy a few of those.). I had intentions of reading and memorizing short selections from Shakespeare for our poetry teatimes, but that didn't happen. Maybe next year.

The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
We love the stories of the Blue Fairy Book, though this book has also been a journey from the beginning of the year to the end. When we bumped into the first scheduled story in term one (Beauty and the Beast), we had not done any long readings with difficult vocabulary yet. The first narration did not go well, and I wasn't sure if it was just too difficult. But in time I learned to read through the day's reading myself first, explain any difficult words before beginning, and take a turn or two narrating myself to show SA what I expected from him. By the end of the first term, it was going well, and now at the end of Year 1, it is one of our favourites. I really feel that the expansion in SA's vocabulary from the beginning of the year to the end has been largely thanks to this book and Tales from Shakespeare (though all the books played a part).

I still have another post in me about Year 1...maybe next week. Meanwhile, if you're interested in any of the books above, you can go to the Ambleside Online Year One booklist for links to free online versions, audio versions, and Amazon.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

For the Record...

The time I didn't have any Miquon math pages printed out for JJ(4) and he made his own...

For the record, I am not teaching him math yet. I just give him the Cuisenaire rods and some Miquon worksheets to play with during school time. I think the number reversals, lack of signs, etc. will probably remedy themselves by the time he starts Year 1.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Cat Up a Tree: A Book for Poetry Teatime

I was reading poems from Cat Up a Tree for the zillionth time yesterday at teatime, and I realized I have never shared this favourite with you. I picked it up on a whim at a local used bookstore about two years ago. Since then, we have pulled it out regularly (at least once a week!). The boys all have their favourite poems that they choose every time. And I have not gotten tired of this book at all even though we have read it so often, which in my opinion is one sign of a good children's book.

Cat Up a Tree tells a story in poems. It's a simple story, really. A cat climbs a tree in chase of a robin. A little girl sees and is concerned for the cat. A number of people get involved in trying to get the cat down from the tree. In the end the cat comes down by himself.

That's all there is to the story, but that's not all there is to the book. Anne Isaacs' poems tell the story from the perspective of the cat, the people involved, the tree, and passersby, among others. A number of different styles of poetry are used, providing variety and interest. Best of all, the poetry and vocabulary are not dumbed down because they are for children. For example, in "Night Rising," the cat speaks to the moon from the branches of the tree:
Ancient alchemist, wake! Arise:
Flood each echoing well with beams;
Scatter coins across the sky;
Pour down your cold, transmuting fire.
I know my children don't understand everything about the poems, but they love them just the same. They know when they're not being talked down to.

JJ(4)'s favourite poem is "Box-Car Racer," a fun poem full of sound effects:
At the top of High
I buckle my helmet, spit out my gum
Check the brakesropesteeringwheelaxletires
with one foot holding the box-
   over the

SA(6) loves "Out on a Limb," a poem full of drama as five people climb the tree after the cat. His favourite part is the ending:
While they debated the matter,
The cat crept, unseen and alone,
Then lightly descended the branches
To follow a path of his own.

Stephen Mackey's illustrations add to the humour of this poem, and work well together with the poetry throughout the book.

We love Cat Up a Tree. Try checking it out of your library. I'd love to hear how your children like it.

PS. I am not an Amazon affiliate, and just included the link for your information. If you're buying from Amazon, I'd encourage you to support your favourite blogger who is an affiliate (Why not?). 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Review: Successful Homeschooling Made Easy

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I worked for a small company selling homeschool curriculum and resources. The owner of that company was a wise and experienced homeschool mom, and she loved to help new homeschoolers with their questions and concerns and curriculum choices. (She actually hired me so I could do some of the boring business stuff and she could focus more on helping people.) Many, many homeschoolers went from overwhelmed and fearful to encouraged and confident because of her counsel.

Every new homeschooler needs someone like that as they begin homeschooling, but not everyone has someone nearby to help. For those people, Stephanie Walmsley of Successful Homeschooling Made Easy has created an email course (titled the Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Course). This course is designed to help you figure out how to organize your days, choose curriculum, and still get the housework done from the moment you take your children out of school to homeschool them. Lessons are sent out weekly by email for six whole months. Each lesson includes an assignment to help you think through a certain aspect of homeschooling. It is recommended that you set aside some special time for yourself each week to work through the assignment.

"I just pulled my children out of school. What do I do now?"
I belong to a few Facebook homeschool support groups. Every once in a while, someone posts a question something like, "I just pulled my children from school. What do I do next?" Immediately, they are inundated with advice (sometimes conflicting) from fifty homeschoolers with varying levels of experience. The most common advice I see is, "De-school for a while to rediscover your children's interests and rebuild your relationships with them." While I agree with this advice, I realize at the same time that if I was in that situation, I would not have the confidence to follow it for more than a week or two. What do you mean, play games and read books together? Is it really okay to do no schoolwork at all during this time? Stephanie Walmsley takes this lack of confidence into consideration, and comes up with a brilliant plan in her very first lesson. She guides new homeschoolers through making a simple schedule or routine that will work for them, no matter what their style is, and has them include a time for two academic things only: literacy and math (the Three R's, in other words). Why is this so brilliant, you ask? Because she is giving you permission to relax while you figure things out, while at the same time giving you confidence that you are making progress in the basics. Add to this that she is helping you establish a good habit of daily work from the very beginning of your homeschooling journey.

Having laid a foundation for your homeschooling days, you now have the breathing room to ask and answer for yourself, one at a time, all the questions that need to be answered as you homeschool. The course guides you through this process, helping you work through:
Why am I homeschooling?
What do I hope to achieve by homeschooling?
How am I going to get everything done?
How will I keep from getting burnt out?
What homeschooling method will I choose for my family?
How will I choose my curriculum from the bewildering array of options available?
...and many more questions. These are just some of the issues you will begin to think about in just the first nine weeks of the course. (There are twenty-six weeks total.) Put together like this, the questions seem overwhelming, but since they are presented step by step from week to week, you will find you have the space not only to think these things through, but to begin to implement the answers you come up with.

Not Just for Newbies
Though I'm only in my second year of homeschooling, I consider myself a confident homeschooler. Having been homeschooled myself, and having had my hands on almost all of the curriculum choices available through my former job, I have already thought through many of the questions presented by this course. I know I am inexperienced, and I expect that I will learn as I go, and that I will adapt my methods as my circumstances change. However, I also believe I have found the basic educational philosophy and methods that I will stick to throughout my homeschooling career.

Having said that, I still found it helpful to work through this course (I worked through the first nine weeks for this review.). Sometimes we need a reminder of why we're doing this in the first place. It doesn't hurt to think things through once again, and it's always good to learn from the experience of those who have gone before. For that reason, I highly recommend the Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Course, not only to new homeschoolers, but also to those who have been homeschooling for a while. Particularly if you are feeling burnt out or less than confident in any area of homeschooling, you will be benefited by this course.

Stephanie Walmsley has other courses on her website as well, and having seen the quality of this one, I find myself quite curious about her Charlotte Mason Made Easy Course.

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Saturday Catch-All: Pictures and Literary Language

For the Record
These pictures were taken on May 3 (last Sunday). The boys are in their shirtsleeves because it was lovely and warm out (about 15 degrees Celcius/59 Farenheit). The warm weather lasted a few days, but alas, the temperature has regressed again. Right now it is around freezing at night and around 10 degrees during the day. The snow JJ was working on has completely disappeared now, though we still have a few small banks left on the property.

This picture is looking at my backyard and garden, also on May 3. The snow has finally disappeared from my garden now, though when I tried to work the soil a bit this week it was still pretty frozen. I'd say we are at least two weeks behind when it comes to gardening this year.

And on Monday, I saw my first barn swallow of the year! I love those birds.

Spring is coming!

Literary Language
I have noticed lately that SA(6) and JJ(4) are talking like a book. They are not doing this like Anne of Green Gables, with her big words. Rather, they are consistently using "for" instead of "because," "perhaps" instead of "maybe" (though "perhaps" is fairly common here on PEI...Islanders pronounce it "p'raps") and other small habits of speech. SA started it, and now JJ is doing it too. For example, "I can't do that, for I am too tired." I'm wondering if I should worry about this, or just enjoy it. :) I have not corrected them, for they are not wrong. Also, SA would take such correction much too seriously. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Review: The Busy Homeschool Mom's Guide to Daylight

It's only now, as I near the end of my second year of homeschooling, that I'm beginning to realize what a marathon I've signed up for. I have always known that I would homeschool, and that I would do it for the long haul. With my steady personality, when I committed to homeschooling, I committed all the way. But not having any doubts does not mean that I have no fears. What will it be like to homeschool four boys at once? Will I have what it takes to manage our days? Will I be able to hold on to the priorities God wants me to have? Will we finish strong?

A little e-book from Real Life Press that I read recently for review met me right where I am: “If God has called you to homeschool...then He has already equipped you with everything you need to get the job done.” In her book The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Daylight, Heidi St. John encouraged me by reminding me that this homeschooling venture will ultimately not be about me and my abilities and energy (or lack thereof), but about God's purposes in each of our lives. St. John also provides a mix of inspiration and practical advice from her own experience on organizing, scheduling, menu planning, homeschooling multiple children at once, and more.

I see myself on a journey as a homeschool mom. I'm learning. Sometimes I wish I was older and wiser right now, without having to go through mistakes and adjustments and a whole lot of hard work. It's just a fact that there will be things that will only be learned by experience in my life. But there are also things that I can learn from the experience of others if I'm just wise enough to take them to heart. This is why I like hearing from veteran homeschoolers, whether in real life or in books like this one. 

The Need for Vision
Three themes really stood out for me in this book: the need for vision, the need for flexibility in our planning, and the need to find encouragement. We all need to take the time once in a while to evaluate how things are going in our home schools, and to consider again what our priorities are and why we are homeschooling.
"Busy homeschool mom, why are you homeschooling? Most moms I know would never, not in a million years, take on homeschooling if they were not driven by something. What's driving you?" (p. 40)
Thinking through our goals and priorities now will help us stay the course when we have frustrating and fruitless days later.

The Need for Flexibility 
The second theme that was helpful for me was that "The key to successful planning is understanding that even the best plans need to be flexible." (p. 43)  St. John reminds us that there are seasons of homeschooling, a sort of natural ebb and flow, and that we need to change our plans and expectations as our lives change. She includes many practical applications of flexibility in planning.

I love her advice to "create some white space" on your calendar. I am a strong believer in white space. I know that right now, with three young children and a baby, I can't handle more than one outing a week (besides church). Back when I had only two children, I remember it was enough to make sure I never went out two days in a row. I anticipate my "white space" needs will change again as my children grow older. That's really what it's all about...taking note of what works for you now and planning accordingly.

I also liked her suggestion that menu planning does not mean that you have to assign days to your meals. I have always found that menu planning works best for me when I plan a variety of simple and more complex meals for the week, and then choose which one to make based on how my day is going.

Flexibility in planning also means changing the plan when it's no longer working for you. I found myself thinking about this when spring suddenly arrived this week. Where last week was cold and miserable (we even had almost 10 cm of snow early last week!), this week is sunny and perfect weather for playing outdoors. My winter routine is just not working for me this week, and I know I will have to change it to allow for hours more time outdoors as the weather gets warmer.

The Need for Encouragement
Heidi St. John speaks of the danger of comparing ourselves with others, and of the impact good friends can have on encouraging us and keeping us accountable. Ultimately, though, we need to find our strength in the Lord.
"I believe that when we find our strength in Christ, we will also find strength for the homeschool years. Is it hard? Yes it is! Do we ever really know what we’re getting ourselves into when we obey the call of God on our lives? I don’t think so!" (p. 193)
I appreciated the encouragement I found in The Busy Homeschool Mom's Guide to Daylight. I would recommend it to any homeschool mom who needs a lift. With its balance of planning and flexibility, I think it will help both the organized and the disorganized to manage their "daylight" better.

This e-book is also available as a physical book at the Real Life Press website.
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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Review: A+ Interactive Math

My six-year-old son, SA, loves math and does very well with it. My joy and challenge as a homeschool mom has always been not to kill that love of math, but to nurture it and help it grow. We are currently working through second grade math using a program that emphasizes mastery of mathematical concepts. We supplement with a variety of math activities and games. We are moving along smoothly and steadily, but at the back of my mind I'm always he being challenged enough? He never seems to find any of it hard. I believe that part of the value of learning math is learning persistence and stick-to-itiveness through problems that seem hard at first, but become clear as you work away at them. SA is not really having that experience, and I'm not sure how much it matters. (Don't be envious of me if your children don't like math. We all have our own challenges and our own joys in homeschooling, don't we? And clearly I'm still finding something to worry about...)

When I first saw the opportunity to use and review A+ Interactive Math Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan, an idea began to form in my mind. This combination of mini tests and lesson plans at specific grade levels promised to "identify and close" gaps in math learning within an intensive three-month period. What if we could just zip through second grade math, skipping the parts that SA already knew, and focusing on what still needed to be learned? Then we would just pick up and start third grade math at the beginning of next school year, and maybe, just maybe, he would finally be challenged.

That was the theory.

In practice, it didn't quite work out the way I hoped it would...

What are the Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan?

The Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson plan are offered by A+ Interactive Math as a three-month online subscription for up to ten students. You choose the grade level to test your children at (usually the grade level they've just completed), and they then take a series of mini tests. If they pass the tests, great, they're at grade level. For any tests they don't pass, students can go on and follow an individualized lesson plan which teaches the concepts they missed. Students can also practice with online worksheets.Then, when they're ready, they can retake the tests.

How did we use the Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan?

SA spent the first few days working on some of the mini tests for second grade math. Working on his own, he passed the number sense test, then failed the addition test. I thought that was odd, since he always gets 100% of his addition questions right when working in his regular math workbook. I knew for sure that he didn't have a gap in that area. The next day, I told him to retake the test, and and sat down with him to see what the problem might be.

Left to Right, or Right to Left? The Direction Problem
The problem was one that would be an issue with any math done on the computer rather than on paper. Typically, addition problems are solved from right to left. First, you figure out the ones, you carry any tens, you add the tens, you carry the hundreds, then add the hundreds, etc. The problem is, data is entered into a computer from left to right. First you enter the hundreds, then the tens, then the ones. So when a young child confronts an addition problem (especially one that involves carrying) on the computer, they can do one of two things:

1. Write it down, figure it out on paper, then enter the answer into the computer. (And I ask...If we're going to write it all out on paper, what is the benefit of doing math on the computer, anyway?)

2. Figure out the ones in your head, hold that number in your mind, carry the tens and add them, hold that number in your mind, carry the hundreds and add the hundreds. Type in the hundreds. Type in the tens (if you remember, otherwise figure them out again). Type in the ones (again, if you remember, otherwise figure them out again.).

Obviously, either option has more opportunity for error than figuring out addition problems on a math worksheet, whether during transcription, or whether during the "holding it in your mind" stage.

My son (whose fine motor skills are admittedly slightly delayed...he prints neatly, but not with grace and ease yet) will always choose option #2 if he can. Add to this the fact that the Adaptive Placement Test saves all your previous answers and they pop up when you start typing (for example, if you had a previous answer that was 255, and the current answer is 241, the number 255 will pop up as soon as you type in the 2), and it was no wonder he was making mistakes. (It was quite amazing to me that he was getting so many right, actually!)

Of greater concern to me is the fact that solving problems backwards in this convoluted way becomes a habit if it is done regularly. I don't want that to happen, and so I'm giving serious consideration to never doing math on the computer (at least in this early elementary stage) unless a program has addressed this issue in some way.

In any case, I made sure SA had a pencil and paper the next time he took the test and insisted he write things down if they were at all complicated. He still chose to write very little down, but passed the test.

The Individualized Lesson Plan

Next, SA went on to the subtraction mini-test, and failed it. I realized that a similar thing could have happened, but thought I'd sit beside him on his second attempt just to make sure. It turned out he did have a gap in his understanding. He was having trouble with borrowing when there was a "0" in the tens place.

The next day, we opened up the Individualized Lesson Plan. I was a bit surprised to see a whole series of nineteen lessons on subtraction waiting for us, but realized that this might be helpful for some since a lot of the knowledge builds on previous knowledge. The trouble was, we had a very hard time finding the particular lesson we needed...the one that specifically addressed borrowing when there is zero to borrow from in the tens place. We watched several lessons trying to find it. SA did not enjoy this at all, since he is a child that really dislikes too much explanation when he already understands something. Finally, we gave up for the day. We did find it on a later day. It was the third question in the second-last lesson offered. By then I had already explained it myself to SA.

Based on this experience, I felt that the Individualized Lesson Plan was not individualized enough. It was individualized in a broad sense...if a student failed a mini test on subtraction, that student got access to all the lessons on subtraction. I would have liked to see lessons highlighted that dealt with the specific issues the student had within the mini test.

The Terminology Problem

By this time, I'd learned my lesson. I sat with SA while he did the tests from then on so I could assess myself where his gaps were. There were several instances where SA simply did not understand the terminology in the questions. For example, in the Elementary Algebra test there was a question that asked, "What is the common ratio in this number pattern? 1, 2, 4, 8, 16" Once I told him what "common ratio" meant, he figured out the answer immediately. This problem actually came up quite a bit, so I know I need to work on making sure he knows the proper terminology of what he's doing. At the same time, I think terminology is less important than understanding the concepts and being able to solve problems. (I am reminded of a math program I went through when I was a child that had me do a lot of labeling of math problems with the proper terms: a subtraction problem would be labeled minuend, subtrahend, difference. I still don't know why that was considered so important...)

What We Enjoyed

I asked SA if he enjoyed anything about the Adaptive Placement Test and Interactive Lesson Plan. He mentioned three things. He really enjoyed the Elementary Algebra mini test, because the problems were of the sort he likes to figure out. He also liked the Progress Report (and indeed, I found him looking at it quite often.). Finally, he liked the Interactive Q&A in the lesson plan. (I think this had to do with a frog that hops across the screen to collect your answer.)

Did the Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan Work for us?

The answer is...sort of. It worked when I sat next to him and assessed for myself where he had gaps. It didn't work the way I envisioned, and I think perhaps it would work better for older grades than younger grades. I can also see it being useful if a parent is beginning to homeschool and has no idea where their child is at in math. Even in that case, I think parents should sit with their children (or review their answers afterwards, which is also possible with this program), clarifying why they got the answers they did and getting a clear picture of where the child's gaps really are.

We did not complete all the tests, and now that our review period is over, we will not be continuing with it. I also should mention here that the quality of the website was not excellent, and that may have helped to undermine my confidence in the program as a whole. There were numerous minor glitches in the programming. SA figured out pretty quickly that pressing the enter key restarted the timer if he was running out of time on a question. Occasionally the review of a test would not accurately reflect what had been done (saying a problem had not been attempted, for example), though the final score would be correct. I saw several spelling errors and typos ("litter" instead of "liter", for one...though of course as a Canadian I would have liked "litre" even better. *smile*).

And my original idea? The one about moving quickly through second grade? I've thought more about it, and realized that if SA has mastered a concept, we can move on. We are free to skip problems in his regular math book if he doesn't need all the practice. We can move on to concepts he doesn't understand yet and work through them instead. That's something I should have known all along. Now I've thought it through and decided to do it, so that's one good thing that's come out of reviewing A+ Interactive Math.

To find out what other Crew members had to say about A+ Interactive Math, click on the banner below.

Saturday Catch-All: A Week Off

We took a week off last week. I know many homeschoolers use the six weeks on/one week off routine. We are six weeks into our third term, and up till last Friday I wasn't sure if I'd take the week off in the middle. The thing is, we were doing so well. We had momentum, and we were reaching all our daily goals (possibly for the first time ever!). But it turned out I really needed to take the week off. We had a very busy week and I would probably have gone crazy trying to homeschool at the same time.

I noticed that taking the week off had some benefits for the boys. They pulled things out to play with that they haven't played with in a while...certain math games, and pattern blocks. SA played the piano more than ever, though I didn't require any practice from him.

After being practically housebound all winter, I am finally able to get out again because our van has been fixed! The first thing I did was make a dentist appointment. I've had a mild toothache for about five months. I knew it was a cavity, but was trying to tolerate it until my baby was old enough to be left with someone for a couple hours. It turned out the problem tooth was a wisdom tooth, so it got pulled forthwith. And now appointments are popping up like mushrooms all over the place. MM(2) had a dentist appointment last week as well, JJ(4) has a speech therapy appointment on Monday, and it seems like there's at least one appointment per week for someone or other for the next month and a half. 

After being home at least six days out of seven for months and months, the thought of this is a little overwhelming for me. Getting out with the four children requires beginning to get ready two hours before the appointment, in order to get out of the house an hour before. Then the children not having an appointment must be dropped off somewhere so I can manage to get to the doctor's office within five minutes of the appointment time. Needless to say, having an appointment practically wastes a whole day for me.

You organized and energetic women, you women that manage to get out of the house more than once a week with all your children in tow, tell me how to make this process better, please. In the meantime, I'm accepting my limitations. This week, I decided that going forward I will try to go out no more than once a week with all the children (besides church) until this school year is finished. I have further decided that I will not stress about schoolwork on the days I do go out. If the last six weeks of this term takes eight weeks, so be it.