"From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised." Psalm 113:3

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

CTC Math...A TOS Crew Review...

If you all have been readers for any length of time here, you are well aware of our hate / hate relationship with math learning in our home.  And, no, I don't mean love / hate.  I am quite realistic about the lack of enjoyment that anyone in this home takes in any math at all!

So we are always, always on the lookout for things that will make math time bearable--which for us means no tantrums, no tears, and very little screaming.

Enter CTC Math.  Have you all seen many of their ads?  It seems that I've noticed them for quite a while now, all over, but I've never had a clear picture of what this program was all about, and why I should purchase it for my math-phobic family.

CTC Math Review

What Is CTC Math?

CTC Math is an Australian-based program, with Math Teacher Pat Murray teaching and narrating every lesson, from Kindergarten all the way through Calculus.  Mr. Murray has been a classroom teacher for over 25 years, and is a very experienced dad--he has several children of his own.

CTC Math is touted as an online math tutor, although for children from Kindergarten to Sixth Grade math, this program can serve as a full math curriculum.  Beyond Sixth Grade math, CTC splits into topical math, such as Basic Math, PreAlgebra, Elementary Measurement, Elementary Geometry, Algebra I, PreCalculus, Calculus, Algebra II, Geometry, and Trigonometry, and for these levels, CTC is currently more appropriate as a tutoring resource only.

Since CTC Math is an online program, you will need to make sure that you have an internet connection, a working web browser, the latest version of the free Adobe Flash Player, and speakers or headphones in order to hear the instruction, given in the peaceful Australian accent of Mr. Murray.

What Did We Receive?

Our family was blessed to receive a 12 Month Family Plan from CTC Math.  This option gave us unlimited access to all lessons, in all grade levels, for all of our children for one year.  This subscription plan works for families of all sizes: families with more than five children using the program may need to contact CTC Math to receive more login information, however.

How Did We Use CTC Math?

I used this math program with my two younger children, who are currently working at or about the first and fifth grade math levels.  I was given a parent login, and each of my children had their own login assigned specifically to them.  All we needed to begin the program was the working internet connection and our logins.

Over the time of this review, we used this program as our primary math program, and used the First Grade level for Bug (age 7) and the Fifth Grade level for Firefly (age 11).  When we first began, I used the Standard Diagnostic Test that was included in each section in order to decide where to start my kiddos.

For example, in the First Grade Math Course, there are four "streams":  Numbers, Patterns, and Algebra, Measurement, Space and Geometry, and Statistics and Probability.  Once you enter into a stream, such as Numbers, Patterns, and Algebra, you can choose lessons from a variety of different topics.  Topics in this section included:  Whole Numbers, Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Fractions, Patterns, and Money.  At this point, choosing a topic will bring you to the lesson screen.

When we chose a topic, I started by having my kiddos take the diagnostic test (the standard version) in order to see how they scored and where their mastery level was for each topic.  If they scored adequately, we would move on to the next topic.  If there were trouble areas, we completed the appropriate lesson and questions at that time.

Once we had done this process a time or two, I was comfortable in placing them in topics and lessons that were at their placement levels.  At that point, we used CTC Math each day by having them log in and begin where they had left off the day before.  Each day's use would begin with the lesson, animated and narrated by Mr. Murray--simple lessons that would last usually about five minutes.  Each lesson was then followed up with questions--anywhere from five to twenty, where my kiddo could demonstrate what they had learned from the lesson.  I sat with them to do the questions, for the most part, because of this funny thing that happens when my children are faced with anything that resembles a competitive challenge--I will talk a bit more about this later.

If either of my children were having a hard time understanding or remembering the concepts of the lesson, we would print out the Lesson Notes for that specific lesson.  You can also print out the questions and answers, and solution sheets that help you to see how to solve the questions, step-by-step.  Once the questions were answered and my kiddos were happy with their scores, they printed out their answer sheets for us to have for their portfolio.

Now I'll go into the crazy competitive piece of CTC Math that turned my family crazy.  Do you see in the screen shot above that my Bug was working at a Platinum Level?  He is at that level because he has scored 100% on all of the lessons in that topic.  If he continues that pattern, he will earn a Platinum Certificate for First Grade Level Fractions.

IF, however, he were to get an answer wrong during that last lesson, he would drop down to a--wait for it--Gold Level Certificate.

And, evidently, the disgrace and shame that would come with that would be too much to handle.  Because both of my children needed me to sit with them to check their answers before they would enter them, just to make sure that they got their printed paper, but Platinum, certificate.

Yeah.  I blame my husband for the competitive spirit.

Anyway, thankfully, CTC Math has made sure that there is still a way for the Platinum Level to be reached even if the first attempt scores aren't great.  They average the most recent three attempts in an effort to increase the child's score, so if your child is a lunatic like either of mine, they can just keep working at a level and answering questions well, and they, too, can have a Platinum Certificate!

One other part of the program that we used extensively was the Speed Skills.  This was a fun way for my kiddos to get in some math fact drill work.  It has four levels, ranging from simple addition to Division with Remainders and Order of Operations.  The idea is that you have one minute to answer as many questions correctly as you can, and your high score is kept track of over time.  Both of my children used this section at least two to three times / day, trying to beat their previous scores.

Usually, we used this program at home, on our iMac, without any problems.  There were a few times, however, when we were out and were able to use it through a wireless connection on iPads, although we had to use an HTML login since we didn't have Flash Player.  Not a big deal as far as the lessons were concerned.  A bit of a bigger deal for the Speed Skills, but completely workable.

What Did I Think?

Here are a few of the features of CTC Math that made it especially interesting to me:  

--There are over 1300 animated and narrated lessons within the many levels.  And the animation and narration, as well as the interactive piece of the lessons, was a big hit for me.  For my younger guy, I loved the interactive piece.  For example, when changing tens into ones, he could point and drag large blocks of ten and manipulate them on the screen in order to help him count or keep track.  When trying to divide objects into equal groups, he could manipulate those objects as well.  That was just a little thing that made the lessons more enjoyable.

For my daughter, the lessons were intuitive and responsive to her.  By this, I mean things like:  when subtracting and borrowing, she was able to cross out numbers on the screen, or drag a "1" in front of other numbers, in order to help her keep track of what she was doing.  She often breathed a sigh of relief when she saw that that would be available in a lesson, because it really seemed to help her keep her place.

--There are over 57,000 interactive questions within the program.  If a child completes a lesson, but does not perform well on the questions, another whole set of new questions can be asked of the child about the same topics--more than once.  (Also helpful when attempting to get that elusive Platinum Certificate, that I've mentioned in detail before, lol!)

--There are both Standard and Comprehensive Diagnostic Tests within each learning area.

--Students receive instant feedback on their work.

--There is regular and accurate reporting given to parents about their child's work.  As a parent, one thing that I was really impressed with was the ongoing progress reports.  Each time either of my kiddos logged in, I could see how long they were active, which lessons they were doing, what their mastery level was like, and so on.  Since I sat with them each time, nothing was really a surprise, but I can see how this information would be helpful for older, or more independent, workers.  It is also helpful to print out and keep in a work portfolio.  These reports could be found in the parent section of CTC Math, and were also e-mailed to me once a week.

One suggestion that I think I would like to see implemented in CTC Math is a way to assign work or lessons to my children.  Again, I sat through the lessons with them, and I had the opportunity to accurately place them in the right lesson and point them in the direction of which way to go next.  But I think that it would be very helpful in terms of weekly lesson planning if there were a way to assign which lessons needed to be done, and then the students could see these when they logged in.

I like that you have access to all grade levels, so that you can move your child at their own pace through the concepts.  After all, which of us has a child that is so very completely in only Third Grade Math?

What Did My Kiddos Think?

"I thought that CTC gave a good description of what it was teaching, although it also gave practice questions to work more on the subject.  I don't like math in general, but they did pretty good.  I also liked to practice with the speed drills.  Four stars.  Because I don't like math."  (Firefly, age 11)

"I kind of liked the way they explained things, but I didn't like it so much.  It was kind of fun.  Sometimes I got stressed out with the speed skills, and the questions in the lessons, because I really wanted to get 100 percent.  It was kind of easy."  (Bug, age 7)

Momma disclaimer here:  I understand that these may not initially look like glorious reviews from my children.  However, we don't like math.  At all.  And more days than not, there were not tears, there was not arguing, and there was not screaming.  That means it was a big, huge hit!  And you notice that Bug's problem centered around the stress of the 100% for the Platinum Certificate--UGH!

Find Out More About CTC Math:

Currently, CTC Math's 12 Month Family Plan for K-12 grade is $118.80--more than 60% off of their regular prices.  You can also subscribe to monthly plans, or to plans for single use only.

You can sign up for a free trial and / or check out the demo page at CTCMath.

My Crew-Mates also got the chance to review CTC Math.  Take a look at what they thought!

Click to read Crew Reviews

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Home School Adventure Co...A TOS Crew Review...

Being a part of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew has been such a blessing to our family over the past few years.  We have been able to learn about and use so very many different products and curriculum that we may not otherwise have had the chance to see.

Recently, one of these has been a product put out by the Home School Adventure Co.

The Home School Adventure Co. has a number of resources available to homeschooling families, in order to equip parents to help raise loving, compassionate, strong, and wise children.  The resource that we were able to review was Philippians in 28 Weeks.

Philippians in 28 Weeks

What Did We Receive?

We received the digital copy of Philippians in 28 Weeks, with a Reflection Journal by Stacy Farrell, and we chose to receive the English Standard Version.  This product is a 151-page book that includes an introduction, instructions for use, materials needed for all four chapters of the book of Philippians, a tracking log, memory cards, and some information about the author.

Each chapter in Philippians is accompanied by "assignments" on a daily basis, consisting of things like copy work of verses, journal questions, weekly reflections, and recitation charts.

What Is Philippians in 28 Weeks?

And can you really memorize an entire book of the Bible in just 28 weeks?

Well, Ms. Farrell believes that you can, and she has proof of this in her own sons.  She has put this book together to help you and I do it as well.

Philippians in 28 weeks can be used with children from age 9 until high school age, and, of course, with adults as well.  For ages 9-11, it is recommended to use it as a family read-aloud and discussion, for ages 12+, more as discussion with parental guidance, and for high school age, it can be used independently.  Ms. Farrell even gives a breakdown in the book's introduction of how to assign grades to the work, if that is something you are interested in.

The book recommends a five step process in learning to memorize the Book of Philippians:

--Read.  First of all, it is recommended to read the entire book each day.  By doing that, you are absorbing the information and the words included in the letter.  This can be done in less than fifteen minutes a day.

--Record.  Here is where you use the journal that is part of the program.  Each day, after reading, you have activities to complete:  copy work of the verses, questions to answer about the verses, or a summary of what you are learning as you study the verses.

--Repeat.  You need to repeat the verses daily.  Ms. Farrell kindly includes memory cards in the book, which can be nicely printed off and laminated to keep around the house, or carried with you.

--Review.  Practice.  Go over and over the verses throughout the day and week.

--Recite.  Recite learned verses once a week and test your own retention.

How Did We Use Philippians in 28 Weeks?

At first, my intention was to use this alongside both of my daughters, ages 14 and 11.  We have done some memory work in the past, but it's not something we've done a lot of.  Both girls were initially on board with the idea and were excited to think of being able to recite an entire book of the Bible.

Until after Day One.  When my eleven year-old let me know that she thought she should be a bit older before she tried.

So, from then on, we decided that this was going to be a task that my oldest and I would tackle together.  Each day, we took some time to read Philippians in its entirety.  It would usually take us 10-15 minutes, and then we would try to work through the "Record" section.  For the first two weeks, we attempted to follow the schedule laid out for us in the book:  copy work the first day, questions the second, and so on.

And then we discovered that we weren't quite as good at memorizing as we thought we might be.  So instead of stressing ourselves completely out and eating, drinking, and dreaming Philippians, we slowed the pace down.  To a snail's crawl, really.

We pulled back to continuing to read Philippians each day and journaling when we had something new to master, but really focusing on testing each other and reciting--over and over and over again.  Here was where we took advantage of the memory cards, and printed them out to keep around the house.

My favorite place was on the refrigerator.  That only gets opened approximately seventy times a day.  I began to get into the habit of reciting or testing myself each time I had to open the refrigerator door.

So, it is going to take us longer than 28 weeks.  But we're still going to work hard on it.

What Did I Think?

I think that memorizing an entire book of Scripture is a fantastic idea.  No one can take out of your head and your heart what you have worked so hard to put in there, and there are no better words to fill your head and heart with than God's.

However, having said that, we seemed to struggle a bit in our home with "teaching an old dog new tricks".  My memory is certainly not as strong as it used to be--as for my 14 year-old, I'm not sure what her excuse should be!

Reading the Scripture daily was a wonderful idea, and both of us enjoyed that time.  We were able to discuss the passages and get the meanings and messages out of the Scripture, and both of us found ourselves reciting some of the verses aloud from later passages, just from hearing them so often.

And we worked hard on the memorizing part--really, we did.  And both of us have beginning passages memorized, but not nearly as much as we should have according to Ms. Farrell's lesson plan. 

Are we proud of ourselves for what we have learned?  Absolutely!

Are we better for having read and learned from the Book of Philippians so many times?  No doubt.

Will we continue to plod through the plan to meet our goal?  I think we will.

Will it take only 28 weeks?  Surely not.

What Did Turtle Think?

"I liked it, for the most part.  I didn't like reading it every day, but I did like the idea of it.  The memorizing was hard.  I wish they had more background information in the book--I wanted to know about who Paul was writing to.  It would be better if they included more of that history.  I also wish that maybe we just read Chapter One each day until we mastered that, and then added the next parts. That might have been easier."  (Turtle, age 14)

Again, we supplemented with a study Bible to get the information that Turtle was looking for, and talked through the verses she didn't quite understand, and I really think that was an important part of the process.

Find Out More About The Home School Adventure Company Here

Philippians in 28 Weeks is also available in a print version ($28.95) for either the English Standard Version or the King James Version of the Bible.  Currently the digital version comes only for the English Standard translation, but it is $14.95, and you can get a set of the memory cards only for the ESV for $9.95.

You can look at a sample copy before you purchase as well, if you want to get a closer look.

Home School Adventure Co.

Also, from now until May 15, 2014, Ms. Farrell is offering my readers a 10% discount on all downloadable products from The Home School Adventure Co!  All you have to do is use the code: CREW-10!

My Crew-Mates reviewed several other resources from The Home School Adventure Co.  Make sure you head over and take a look at everything we got to explore!

Click to read Crew Reviews
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Welcome Home!!!

Tomorrow we are gathering to welcome home a hero.  My dear friend is getting her hubby back.  The Navy has had him deployed for nine months, and boy, has his family missed him!

Today we made posters to help welcome him home!

We missed you, Mr. Rob!  Welcome Home!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

This Isn't My Story...

We sponsor a child through Compassion.  Sweet Isaac, who I will introduce you all to someday.

We have our family's reasons for sponsoring.

Take a look at why another family has chosen sponsorship.

Do you have a reason?

A Stillness of Chimes...A Book Review

affiliate links are contained in this post...for full disclosure policy, click here...

A Stillness of Chimes, by Meg Moseley, is an entertaining, suspenseful Christian mystery. 

Laura Gantt comes back home to Prospect, Georgia to settle her mother's household after her untimely death.  While there, she uncovers rumors that her father, thought to have drowned twelve years earlier, may actually still be alive, and wandering through the town.  Laura is understandably shaken, especially when strange events begin to happen around her.

Laura draws on the support of her childhood friends, Cassie and Sean, to help her find out what is going on--but now that they are all adults, things are a bit more complicated than they were at age 12.  Cassie is home and hiding from her own perceived failure, now taking care of a mother who seems to be mentally slipping.  And Sean is still reeling from a childhood romance with Laura that came to an abrupt end--and an abusive father who still comes around to stir up trouble.

A Stillness of Chimes is an easy, enjoyable read that will leave you wondering throughout the whole book about what, exactly, is going on in that little Georgia town.  If you are beginning to look for some absorbing summer reading, I would definitely recommend starting with this novel.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Victus Study Skills System...A TOS Crew Review...

Every once in a while, we are asked to review an item that, at first glance, doesn't seem to mesh well with what we are learning at home.  When we were first chosen to receive the Teacher Edition and Student Workbook from the Victus Study Skills System, I was initially less than enthusiastic about it. 
After all, we are homeschoolers.  Isn't part of the deal that we learn somewhat less traditionally than those in public schools?  Aren't study skills just for those standardized-testing public schoolers?
I will freely admit it here.  I was so very wrong about this system, and we were so very blessed to be chosen for this review.
Let me tell you why...
What is the Victus Study Skills System?

The Victus Study Skills System is a systems approach to studying, based on the idea that learning to study, and learning how to learn is a way of life ("victus", in Latin).  As our children get older, there may be times when we are expecting them to go and "study", or go and "learn from that book", without much direction on what that actually means or looks like.  I think that homeschoolers may be especially prone to that--I know that I am.  Coming from a public school background, I have studied for many tests over the years, but my children NEVER have.
They won't know what it means to be able to do it effectively--unless I teach them.
Going along with the idea that learning to study is a way of life, the Victus Study Skills System addresses things like:
--organization and time management
--motivation and goal setting
--note taking and test taking
--reading with better comprehension and efficiency
These skills are taught to students within the framework of self-assessments to find where the student is now in their habits, helping them to identify where they want to be, and determining the best way to get from where they are to where they want to be.
Victus Study Skills Review

What Did We Receive?

We received one copy of both the Teacher Edition ($40) and the Student Workbook ($20) to use in our homeschool.  Although there is information on the Victus Study Skills System website about using their materials with children as young as 4, the books are most appropriate for 5th-12th graders.
The Teacher Edition is an 82-page, spiral bound notebook that fully explains the Victus Study Skills System philosophy, foundational cornerstones, and objectives for the course.  It gives sample course plans and suggested ways for using the material, and then offers an overview of the ten lessons contained in the course.  Each lesson begins with a section for the teacher, covering the purpose of the lesson, any preparation needed for the teacher, and the suggested procedure for teaching the lesson.  There are also copies of the student text within the lessons, so that the teacher can make sure they know exactly what their student is seeing in their book.
The Student Workbook is another soft cover, spiral bound notebook that is 65 pages long.  It also briefly covers the objectives and idea of the course, but then quickly goes into the material needed for the lessons.  The workbook is black and white, and contains fill-in-the-blank answers, checklists, places for drawing notes, and an Appendix of helpful forms, strategies, and flashcards.  Here is a sample look at the Table of Contents.
How Did We Use the Victus Study Skills System?

I used this system with my oldest, who is 14 and in 8th grade.  We used it together, in short bursts of lesson time, with me preparing ahead of time and teaching the lesson, and my Turtle working through her Student Workbook during the lesson.  
The course is an approximately five hour course, and one sample schedule given in the Teacher Edition gives five days to teach the lessons.  We went much more slowly, but were able to finish the entire course in a matter of weeks, spending about 15-20 minutes a day working through the books.
What Did I Think?

I was very pleasantly surprised by what both my daughter and myself learned by using the Victus Study Skills System.  Although I didn't initially think that it would be a benefit to us, it has definitely become a blessing.  And next year, when my daughter goes into public high school, I think it will be an even bigger blessing!
First of all, I thought that the content of the course was relevant, interesting, and important for both of us.  The material made a great deal of sense to both of us, and Turtle enjoyed using some of the checklists provided to learn things about herself, like her learning style and her current study habits.  What's more, once she discovered those things, she was able to gain skills that helped her to use her learning style and study habits to her advantage.  For example, with her being a very visual learner, it is important for her to write things down, several times, when trying to remember them.  She also learned fun tips like using sticky notes on her bathroom mirror to help her recall important information.
We both learned why her current preferred method of "studying"--stretched out on her bed--while comfortable, may not be the best choice for retaining information.  Too bad for her!
I learned that she thinks it is only necessary to spend one hour in the library to get enough facts for a research paper.  And that she believed that she would only need about a day to get said paper written well.  Now, Turtle is not only getting ready to go into high school, but she has been accepted into a very rigorous program in that high school.  I'm pretty sure she is going to need to spend much more than an hour working on papers.
Thanks to Victus Study Skills System, so does she--now.
As we have been working through the course, Turtle has made some positive changes in her study skills.  She has cleaned off her desk, and although she still does do most of her work on her bed, I have seen some evidence of work being completed on that desk.  She has perfected a color-coding system while taking notes that she used in studying for her latest Algebra exam.  And she has purchased a planner--and written in it in order to keep track of the time she has free to get things done.
There are a few things about the course that were a little difficult to figure out.  One of these is the "fill-in-the-blank" pages in the Student Workbook.  When we used them, Turtle simply filled in the answers as I dictated them, as I couldn't find another way that was suggested.  Because of this, I sometimes felt that she was not quite as engaged and was working simply to complete the page.
Also, I felt that oftentimes in the course, it is directed to a much bigger group than one teacher and one student.  That was, however, easy to work around, although there were some "preparation" activities that we chose to skip instead of try to adapt.
There is a bit of preparation time for the teacher that will make the course the most interesting and important.  I think it is possible to use the course as pick-up-and-go, but I definitely think that would detract from the overall lessons.
Overall, I felt that this course was very valuable to us, and will only continue to become more valuable as Turtle transitions to other teachers.  I hope that she continues to go back to her workbook and the information she gained from the course to best succeed in her schoolwork, and in her life goals as well.
What Did Turtle Think?

"Victus really gave me good ideas on how to study.  It helped me a lot...and will help me even more.  I enjoy doing the activities, like making a schedule and organizing my days."  (Turtle, age 14)

Find Out More About the Victus Study Skills System:

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