Wednesday, September 26, 2018

I Know It! Math Supplement Review

My girls are so hot and cold with math. When something clicks and they are feeling confident, it's like we can't get enough. When they're learning a new concept and we're in the "tedious practice" stage, they whine and moan and tell me how much they hate math. When we first started homeschooling, that first math slump and attitude change from Madison really freaked me out - what did I do???? Did I break the child??? - but now, I know that math ebbs and flows and they'll come back around. However, I also don't need to make everything tedious when attitude is already questionable. So when it's new concept time, I try to do some more app and website use for practice. We have been using I Know It to add some supplementary online math lessons to our daily schedule, and so far, it's helping keep the attitudes MOSTLY good!

I Know It Interactive Math Lessons K - 5 grade

The program is designed for elementary level math students, kindergarten through fifth grade, so between the two girls, we can potentially use this for a while. The parent can log in and make assignments based on what needs practice, or even a favorite topic. Both girls love when something clicks, and it's fun to let them reinforce those skills, and then they're much more willing to practice what's unfamiliar. I set up what I want them to do, and then see how they did. Sometimes I'll assign practice because I think they're struggling, but they'll fly through it and it turns out that all they needed was a new format to help things click. Or sometimes I'll see that they're really not getting it, and I need to slow down. I love a program that really shows the parent what's happening, and I love the flexibility to skip around and assign specific topics, rather than a general "third grade math".

Because this program is geared toward both parents and teachers, it is common core aligned. This doesn't really bother us, but I know that some people have very strong feelings when it comes to common core, especially in math. For some, it's a plus (if they someday need to attend a public school they'll be on track!), for others, a huge drawback (that's the reason we LEFT public school!). My suggestion is to play around with the site and see if it works with your personal math philosophy.

I Know It Interactive Math Lessons K - 5 grade

What the girls love is that this isn't just a drill site. Reagan HATES when she just gets an "angry buzzer" and the right answer highlighted, and I kind of get that. What's the point? That's the equivalent of a red pen. This program allows students to get hints, and once they answer, if they're wrong, they get feedback on what they may have done and how to fix it. It really did feel like having a tutor!

We have a family account, which allows for a parents and up to four kids (obviously we're only using two). The parent sets things up, then creates sub accounts with logins for the students. I did select a grade for each child, but you're free to assign work either above or below that grade level. It's very easy to set up in a short amount of time.

This is a GREAT supplement and something the girls love rotating into our computer time!

Interactive Math Lessons K - 5 grade {I Know It Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Beginnings and Endings

The older I get the more I realize that I'm not a big fan of big changes.

We've had a few friends make BIG moves lately. Not house to house, or even town to town, but BIG moves. Leap of faith, leave it all behind, plane ride away moves. So of course, as that happens, it inspires conversation. Would we ever do that? Could we ever do that?

To me, it makes me very uncomfortable. Probably because our life here IS so comfortable. I love our town and our house and our friends and everything we have around here. I have people to put on the "in case of emergency" spot on forms. I know how much time it takes to get from home to the dance studio. I know that our house isn't perfect, but I know it well.

Plus, I'm pretty confident that NOWHERE is perfect and you exchange one perfectly imperfect life for another.

It's interesting to figure out when to move on and when to stick it out.

In the vein of "nowhere is perfect", we do have conversations from time to time about the places we are. Again, we see friends of ours making choices. Leaving co-ops, leaving dance schools, leaving clubs, and moving on.

We actually made a few changes this year - we got the new car of course, and went through all those discussions about what we see our needs being in the next few years. I left a mom group I've been in since Reagan was a baby, simply because it was time. And we made a church switch, which felt like a big deal.

Those endings and new beginnings are tough. I knew that we weren't totally happy there, for a variety of reasons, but I also knew that it would be hard to leave. We knew the routines, we knew the people, and it wasn't ALL why couldn't we just stick it out? We had a few friends who felt the same, and it seemed like they were going to stay. So...we should stay, right?

Well, we didn't. And once we made the decision to cut the cord, we did, with no waffling or plans to just go back if we didn't find the perfect spot. But the problem is that now we're figuring it all out. We need to figure out if we found a better place or just a different place. We need to figure out how to work through the holidays when we aren't 100% sure how to navigate. It's different. And different can be scary.

But making choices about beginnings and endings is hard. You need to be smart. Change for change's sake isn't always great. Split second decision making when you're frustrated with something isn't smart. But staying in a comfort zone JUST because it's comfortable might not be smart either.

From the everyday to the big picture - beginnings and endings are tough.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Getting it Done

I've got this big long list working right now. Summer has become fall, and I'm a big fan of getting a fresh start for each season.

I mean, in theory. I'm really good at list making.

I have cabinets I want to clean out, floors that I want to deep clean. I have to do the seasonal clothes swap/shop/clean out. I have school supplies that need organizing. I have a car that needs a thorough deep cleaning before I turn it in.

Plus, co-op starts in two weeks. And I did amazingly well at getting about fifty percent prepped for my classes, but that remaining fifty still needs to happen.

Plus, the regular homeschool/housecleaning/bill paying/dinner making/article writing/life managing stuff.

I am really, really good at making this list. Totally thorough. It's neatly written and color coded and has all the things I need to do and the sub-things I need to do. I'm really proud of how organized I look.

When it comes to getting it done, however, I'm struggling hard. HARD.

How on EARTH to people find the time to do all this? Does everyone struggle with the "getting it done" part? Are they dropping the ball? Have things that are just floundering on the list eternally? I mean, to be honest, if I can't manage to do the things with actual deadlines, "clean out freezer" doesn't really have a shot.

IF I were being honest with myself, I would say that it's my own distractability that kills me. If I really wanted to fix this, I would give myself an hour each day to get things done outside of my daily stuff, and I'd try to tackle one thing each day. I'd make sure that I wasn't disturbed by either children or work at home husband (HAH) and that I left my phone securely out of sight. I'd put in that solid hour with distractions. After a few solid days - maybe even weeks - of this discipline, I'd be in great shape.

But let's be honest. At this stage in life, it's all about triage.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Reading Eggs Review

You know how sometimes you swear companies know exactly what you're thinking, and it's almost scary? That just happened to us with Reading Eggs.  We do love Reading Eggs, but we've always used it more as a fun, game time, Mom-needs-to-work-with-your-sister-so-leave-me-alone supplement, rather than a true part of our curriculum. The former reading specialist in me loves how beautifully it is set up to get kids hitting all those early literacy milestone, but we just don't do a lot of online stuff in the house. Well, they heard me, and they came out with workbooks. Real, written record of what they did, set up for a full school year workbooks. And because it lines up with the books and program online, it lets me use it as a real part of our paper and pencil curriculum. Both girls are already excited about Reading Eggs and now with the new workbooks we can solidify Madison's reading with 200 Essential Reading Skills for Third Grade.

Online Reading Eggs Suite

First of all, I LOVE the set up - it's EXACTLY how we work. Thirty six weeks, five pages a week. I don't need to count pages and divide things up. We do four day weeks, but can easily adjust. There is one story for the week (that you can find online) and you use that story to work through comprehension, grammar and spelling patterns. Every week you do a story with comprehension questions (the same story) for two days, spelling for two days, and grammar for one. I love any curriculum that organizes itself well.

Online Reading Eggs Suite

Now for the few cons, because nothing is perfect. I hate reading on a laptop screen and I really wish the stories were printed in the book OR that they used published stories that could be purchased or borrowed (they do print relevant passages FROM the books so that students can focus on certain areas). I'm all for e-reading and audiobooks - for myself AND my kids - but when you're teaching kids how to look back in the text and look for certain things, having a physical book helps. I also think that the spelling lists are very ambitious for only two days of study. There is no WAY a student could do twenty words a week in only two days of working with them, unless this was simply spelling review for them. BUT, we used it as a supplement for spelling patterns and continued using another spelling curriculum, so that wasn't a huge deal.

What using this workbook did, as well as provide a nice daily reading page for Madison, was encourage me to use the online program more. I had a subscription for both girls, but I'd let it lapse. I figured Madison was getting too old, and Reagan had an abundance of apps she loved. I really did forget that Reading Eggs, as a program, extends beyond the preschool years. Yes, they are great at those five early reading components, but they work with word patterns and spelling and vocabulary and fluency and comprehension all the way through the elementary years. Madison, as a third grade, has PLENTIFUL material to work through. Reading Eggspress (intended for second through fifth grade) isn't just a time killer. I had the girls re-do their placement tests to make sure they were working in the right "maps", and both were eager to immediately continue because the lessons are just FUN. Reagan, as a first grade, definitely benefits from the true phonics and phonemic awareness lessons you get at that stage. They also have a program called Mathseeds that Madison has outgrown, but is a great supplement for Reagan and her first grade math.

Online Reading Eggs Suite

Right now, by using this link, you can get FOUR free weeks to try things out instead of just the usual two. I don't know about you, but two weeks is tough to really know if you'll use a program, so this is definitely something to take advantage of. If, once you use it, you feel like the workbook is a key component to add (as I did, and do), use the code WK10VS4ZX5M for 10% off.

Online Reading Eggs Suite {Reading Eggs Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Just How I Want It

There's something about settling that just doesn't sit right. I'm always disappointed when I go to a restaurant, get all excited about something I'm about to eat, only to hear it's not available that night. Sure, I can find a second choice. And sure, it'll be tasty and fine. But I'll have that little nugget of regret in me, thinking that all this build up turned into a let down. WAS it a let down? No...but the settling part makes it feel that way.

When Adam and I were house shopping, we knew we were looking for our "forever home". We decided that we didn't want to be in a position where we'd outgrow our house. If we chose to move, either for relocation or different wants, it would be a choice, not a "shoot, we no longer have enough bedrooms for kids" move. I know that we were fortunate to be in that position at all, but MAN did it make house hunting difficult.

Both Adam and I had non-negotiable features that we didn't want to settle on, because this was our forever home! We didn't want to end up in a town that we didn't love, because this was our forever home! We wanted a good neighborhood, because this was our forever home!

So while friends of ours started and finished their house hunts and ours dragged on, we started getting really frustrated. We were in a tiny apartment, lined with boxes, and we just wanted to get in a house. We knew we were GOING to get a house, we just had to wait for the right one. So months passed and we stayed frustrated and tried to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

And SIX MONTHS after starting the hunt, we finally made it into our forever home. I won't lie and act like it's perfect - I don't know that any house is - but we didn't settle.

That's what I'm reminding myself of now. Adam and I ordered the new car back in early July. My current car was struggling - badly - back then. We knew that we did NOT want to put any additional work into it. However, we also knew that this was going to be a significant dollar purchase AND a long term purchase, we wanted to make sure we got just what I wanted.

In other words, we weren't willing to settle. We wanted to get what we wanted.

It was hard. We sat there on July 5 and were told we could drive home one of the cars that was at the dealership home THAT DAY. They had two that were sort of what we wanted. I mean, the features were a little different. And the colors weren't what I loved. And it was more expensive, yet not what I wanted. But it was still so tempting because it was THERE.

But we didn't settle. And now it's been two full months and I can't start the school year off carpooling like I'd hoped I could. I worry about the check engine light and the engine that sounds so tired and the creeping odometer and the leaking.

But when it's done, it'll be just how I want it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Season of New Beginnings

It is the season of new beginnings. The new school year seems to bring a sense of moving forward and graduating even more than the end of the school year, or the new year on the calendar.

January 1, besides writing the year wrong on everything I date for a few months, doesn't have much significance. It's still winter. It's still cold. My kids are the same ages.

End of the year? Yes....when you finish a grade or even graduate, it's an ending and a mark of moving forward. However, sometimes the summer dilutes that a bit. You don't graduate and change your life the next day. You have that summer to transition.

And that transition is important, because that new school year makes a big difference.

Your preschooler is leaving for school for the first time. Wearing that backpack that is the same size as their whole little body, clinging to you at the door. Most of the time, even if they've been in daycare since they were bitty, that first "preschool" day feels different.

Your kindergartener is going off to "big school". Maybe they're on the bus for the first time. Maybe it's their first time with a full day away, or packing a lunch. They've moved from those baby years into the kid years. It feels different.

Every year in the elementary grades feels like a new change. There are new expectations, new supplies required, more responsibility.

The middle school comes and you're in a whole new world.

Freshman in high school. Huge changes.

Every progressive year is a step further and further away. Suddenly the big preschool backpack and kindergarten lunch box have become a graphing calculator, SAT fees and a laptop.

Then college. Bedding and supplies and books. And do you need to get your kid a car?

Even after college there's a transition period of new beginnings before your kid truly leaves the nest. It's always time to begin anew in September.

But to me, it's my favorite time of year.
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