O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. Psalms 43:3

And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. D&C 88:118

The kids

The kids

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Presentation Day

Several times a year our co-op has presentation day. It is a day where the kids can show what they have been working on. Since several girls are doing Frontier Girls, we decided to present their awards on Presentation Day.

Tiger presented one of the computer programs he created. He was quite excited to show it off and the other kids seemed to enjoy it. Feb 2013 082

Butterfly presented her notebook from Dayspring.Feb 2013 083

Pumpkin Pie presented some of her Apologia notebook as well as recited a poem from her reading lessons. Feb 2013 080

Both Butterfly and Pumpkin Pie earned their karate pins for Frontier Girls.

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

A+ Tutorsoft Math Program- Review Crew

“Mommy, can I do some math?” I never thought I would hear those words from Butterfly. Butterfly is good at math, but often gets bored with it. So, what has helped her ask to do some math? 

A+ Interactive MATH created by A+ TutorSoft, Inc., an online interactive math curriculum!Photobucket

A+ Interactive MATH is available either as an annual subscription to a specific grade for the homeschool edition, or as a CD with the specific grade. The annual online subscription costs $19.95 per month, $49.99 per quarter, or $124.99 annually. The CD is available for $99.99-$124.99 depending on whether you choose the standard program or opt for more functionality and parental controls for the premium edition.  It is available for grades 1 through Algebra. For the purpose of this review, I was given an annual subscription to the online 3rd grade math curriculum.

A+ Interactive Math boasts a multi-sensory approach to teaching math. Each lesson is taught with speech, illustrations, as well as writing the words of the short lesson on the screen. This helps the child to hear and see the lesson at the same time. Following the lesson, the child has the option of participating in an interactive Q&A where the computer asks a series of questions and lists several answer possibilities. The student then types in the answer and receives immediate feedback as to whether their answer is correct or incorrect. There is also a section of worksheets and tests for each lesson. These can be printed and manually graded and entered or they can be done online and automatically graded.

When the student logs in, a screen with several tabs is opened. The tabs are MM Lessons, Lesson Plan, Printables, EBooks, Online Worksheets and Exams, Progress Tracking, and Help.


The MM Lessons tab is the list of all the lessons for the entire course. Each lesson will be presented in the right section of the screen. If at any time the child doesn’t want to listen to the lesson, the text button (4th button from the bottom left) can be pushed and the entire text of the entire lesson will appear on the screen. The lesson plan is a suggested order of lessons, essentially telling the parent or student to go down the list in order. Printables are optional printable worksheets and exams if the parent or child prefers to do the work offline and then record the scores manually. EBooks is a printable version of the online lectures as well as printable solution guides to the worksheets and exams. Online Worksheets and Exams contains all the unfinished and completed worksheets and exams. Progress Tracking shows the student how he is doing overall on exams and worksheets. The difference between the parental login and the child login is the parent login replaces the Progress Tracking with Admin Panel. This Admin Panel allows the parent to turn off the student’s access to the solution manuals. It also has a few limited options to view and print reports.image

As far as teaching mathematics goes, I think A+ is a good solid program. The teaching is clear with visual, text, and audio stimulation to help all learners. It goes systematically topic by topic throughout the course. A parent could of course suggest a student do x number of lessons on one topic and then move to another if there was concern about forgetting the operation, or it could be used as a mastery based approach. Each year does include some review of the previous year materials. For example, 3rd grade included a review of addition, subtraction, and place value.

I found customer service to be excellent. At one point, Butterfly missed a problem because the worksheet had two possible correct answers and she picked the one that the computer did not pick. I emailed A+Tutorsoft and they manually changed her score as well as emailed me back that they had corrected the error in the worksheet.

While we like A+ Math overall, and Butterfly will continue through the course, there were a few things that I think could be improved to make this an even better program though.

At times Butterfly was frustrated with the Interactive Q&A because the moment an answer was selected, the correct or incorrect would pop up. A couple times she accidentally clicked the wrong answer and then couldn’t change her response. She also grew frustrated because the worksheets require clicking a very small bullet point to respond and then clicking next. Once all the answers have been submitted, the student clicks a button that says “Finalize Worksheet.” While it does give a warning that answers cannot be changed once finalized, it doesn’t warn that some questions were left unanswered. Being the perfectionist she is, she was quite upset when she got some problems wrong on a worksheet. She thought she had clicked the answer but had not clicked the bullet so it didn’t record her answer. Once she got the hang of the program she was careful not to click too fast and no longer had problems.

One thing I would really like to see is a scratch pad of some kind on the screen. We found that once the single digit problems and definitions were covered, Butterfly needed to write down all the problems on scrap paper to work them out. She grew frustrated writing out all the problems, especially for the timed test because she worried she would run out of time. As a result, she asked me to print off the worksheets. This is a workable solution but has a few problems. The printable worksheets showed the problems in a different order than the online worksheet and it is supposed to be manually scored. She didn’t mind inputting her answers online, but once I did it for her and accidentally submitted the wrong answer. Oops. I should have scored her manually. With the exams it was a little more of an inconvenience. The questions are completely different and therefore the parent must correct and input the score manually. This resulted in the progress tracking not being as accurate as possible since it tracks manually entered and online entered differently.

I also would have liked to see an option for the manual input scores and the online scores to be reported together. The way the admin panel is set up it asks for the student and which mode to show reports for. This means that if a student does some of the worksheets online and some offline the overall reports will not show all of the work completed.

I have to say I am a bit torn on the manual vs. online input. In the past, I have avoided online math as a primary math because I believe there is value in handwriting through the problems. I think it helps cement the method into the brain. This program is designed to be online and interactive. By having to print the worksheets and exams, the online interactive part of the program became diminished. After my snafu with the incorrectly answered problem, I asked Butterfly to use a small white board to work her problems. She seemed ok with that, although she still wanted the ability to have the page printed to work the problems and then input her answer.

I also would have liked to see less multiple choice. If the student must do all the work before answering the problem, I would prefer to see an input box rather than ABCD. Having an input box rather than multiple choice helps a child to get in the habit of checking work before answering a question. If a problem is solved and the option is not present, the student doesn’t check what he did wrong and learn from that mistake. 

While there are definitely a few things I think could be improved in the user interface, this does not diminish the quality of instruction Butterfly is receiving. If she doesn’t understand something, she can always go back and reread or listen to the lecture or, if she needs more practice on a topic, I can generate another worksheet for her to complete. I also appreciate the breadth of topics covered. Even Tiger noticed the breadth of topics and mentioned that he hadn’t learned the name of the commutative property of addition until much later in his math journey. Even though Butterfly struggles to remember the name, she understands the concept. Early exposure will help to make the concepts more familiar later.

Through the end of March, A+ Tutorsoft has offered 50% off to my blog readers. The coupon code is: SPOFFER50

Other members of the crew reviewed A+ Tutorsoft, both the online and CD programs. Be sure to check out their reviews.


Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Time for Tea

While the scouts were playing in the snow, the girls and I were left to our devices…

After running a bunch of errands, we went for afternoon tea at a cute little English tea shop nearby. The girls each got a tea tray with fruit, tea sandwiches, cookies, and slices of bread with jam and butter. They also got to pick between tea, cider, or hot chocolate. Strawberry and Butterfly chose some hot cider and Pumpkin Pie enjoyed hot chocolate. Butterfly and Pumpkin Pie practiced pouring “tea” for each other. All the girls had a great time. Even though they had a great time, they still would have liked to play in the snow with the boys.

Strawberry felt so grown up having a real teacup! Butterfly had told her about putting up her little finger. She couldn’t quite coordinate that so she picked a different one!Feb 2013 001

The tea sandwiches and of course the cookies were also a hit.

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Pumpkin Pie was being a bit camera shy…Feb 2013 006 Feb 2013 007    

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Butterfly could have been the character from Mrs.. Piggle Wiggle- the Tiny Bite Taker- she was eating her cookies with the tiniest of bites!Feb 2013 014

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Peaceful Moment of Learning

Homeschooling usually includes a fair amount of noise, hustle, bustle, and energy. Most of the time, especially with a preschooler in the midst, someone is talking, playing nearby, or asking questions. This isn’t a bad thing, it just is. Every once in a while, everyone is so focused the spirit of learning is felt. Today there was one such rare moment. In that brief moment, there was a deep sense of peace, learning, love, and comfortableness. We were all together and yet we were all engaged. I was so grateful that my camera sat upon my desk and I could capture each child in that moment before it changed.

I was looking at an upcoming product that our family will be reviewing and each of the children were working on something. Then, all of a sudden, the room was SILENT. I looked up to see what was happening and I noticed that every one of my children was deeply engaged in their activity.

Pumpkin Pie was working on copy work for Zoology. She was analyzing the letters. A few moments later she asked me why the book author formed a letter the way she did rather than the way I have taught. Feb 2013 068

Strawberry had selected a puzzle and was beginning to work on it. A few moments later she was singing to herself and rolling around, but in that brief instance she was deep in thought.Feb 2013 069 

Butterfly was intently working on her math. Just a few moments later, she was done and ready for lunch.Feb 2013 070

And under the table, Tiger had found a book on the library book shelf to begin reading. Feb 2013 071

It was very brief, but it was one of those whisperings that spoke to me- “This is why you homeschool.”

The next few minutes got louder and louder, especially because Strawberry began to sing louder and louder… activities were completed… and it was time for lunch.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Apologia Land Animals of the Sixth Day- Schoolhouse Review


Apologia Educational Ministries has been known for many years in the homeschool community for its science curriculum. I have used the Botany program in the past and loved it. When I was selected to review Zoology 3: Land Animals of the Sixth Day I was thrilled. I was sent a copy of  Zoology 3: Land Animals of the Sixth Day Textbook  as well as a Notebooking Journal to review. I also purchased an additional Notebooking Journal and a Junior Notebooking Journal so that Tiger, Butterfly, and Pumpkin Pie would all have their own notebooks to work with.

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Zoology 3 is an science text geared towards grades K-6. It is recommended that students complete Zoology 1 before continuing to Zoology 3, but it is not necessary. One reason to consider Zoology 1 first is to help students understand classification before delving into the study of land animals. If you choose not to do Zoology 1 first, you may wish to look at the sample of Zoology 1 in order to cover classifications first. Our family did not use Zoology 1 and we also didn’t use the sample. It has not been detrimental to my children. They were, however, familiar with classifications from Botany.

Unlike many animal texts, this one does not start with small animals like lizards and snakes. Instead, it starts with the wild beasts, moves into livestock and then finally animals that creep on the ground like worms, lizards and snakes. The reason the author has chosen the order of animal presentation is that the Bible lists wild animals first followed by livestock and then creatures that move along the ground in Genesis. Throughout the entire text the truth of God’s hand in the creation is shared.

The chapters tend to take a funnel approach by starting with  a large groups of animals (order or family) and then moving towards the individual species. This funneling allows students to see how animals from the same family are the same and different. Each chapter also has extra learning opportunities like “What Do You Remember?” to give students a chance to narrate what they have learned, “Map It!” to have students  to see where they primarily live, “Track It!” to learn about different animal tracks, notebooking activities, and experiments. Most of the experiments in Zoology 3 can be accomplished with items from the grocery store. The textbook also has a link and password to additional resources online listed at the front of the book. These resources include videos, pictures, charts, and articles for further study. For a comprehensive materials list for experiments, sample notebooking pages, a sample chapter, and table of contents be sure to check out the Apologia website.

Creating a notebook is an integral part of Apologia’s science curriculum. The notebook is “an important tool that will provide you and your child with a record of what was learned.” (Zoology 3, pg vi)While it is possible to use the textbook without the accompanying notebooks, I feel that both the Junior Notebooking Journal and Notebooking Journal make keeping the notebook so much easier for both me as the mentor and my children trying to keep track of all of their work. Each assignment within the text has a page in the notebook to complete as well as additional pages to record and round out the learning.

The junior notebook is geared towards younger elementary students (generally K-2) or those with limited writing abilities while the regular notebooking journal is geared towards middle to older elementary students (generally 3-6). Both journals contain a suggested outline for completing the curriculum as well as many resources to help the child create a meaningful notebook.  

The Junior Notebook contains coloring pages, short notebooking assignments with large lines, places to draw pictures, activities, projects, book and DVD lists for each chapter geared for children under 8, copywork, some miniature colorful cut and fold books to add to the journal, and colorful animal stickers for the map assignments.

The Notebooking Journal has many similar features with a few modifications.  There is more room for writing in the form of narration questions and a page for recording fascinating facts for each chapter. The lines provided are narrower for older writers. There are no coloring pages, but there are vocabulary crosswords, and a final 50 question review at the end of the notebook. The book and DVD lists include books and DVDs which are geared for children up to at least age 12.

We have been using Zoology 3 for part of our group learning time. I will read about half of a chapter aloud and we will discuss it. Tiger usually answers the “What do you remember?” questions while I am reading rather than waiting until later. I don’t mind, since he is gaining the valuable skill of note taking! Butterfly usually listens and then does all her notebooking work later. Meanwhile, Pumpkin Pie usually listens and colors one of the coloring pages in her notebook. The next day I read the other half and the process continues.

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The children were really excited to stick the animal stickers from the backs of the notebooking journals on the wall map. As soon as they saw them, they couldn’t wait to use them. Strawberry really loved those stickers. She kept taking stickers from the various journals. Good thing we had enough to put on our maps! I was a little frustrated though that they were not labeled in the notebooks because some were hard to discern. In order to complete the map exercises, I chose to buy a very large wall map. We then used it to place pictures of the animals we talked about all around the world.

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Tiger really liked the book lists and asked me to check out a few books from the book lists that interested him. I appreciated that each book listed has a brief synopsis as well as age recommendation.

Overall, we are really enjoying our study of land animals with Zoology 3. I believe children should not be talked down to or have information watered down for them. Yes, minute details might not need to be explored by young children, but I believe that they can handle scientific names, descriptions, and information. Land Animals teaches scientific information without dumbing it down. Furthermore, it presents it in a logical fashion which is easy for the children to understand. All of my school-aged children (6.5-11) are learning from this text at their own levels. None of them feel like it is too hard or too easy. This is especially important to me as I juggle so many ages, stages, and abilities with a limited amount of time. I look forward to continuing our science study and moving into another one of Apologia’s Zoology texts.

Apologia’s Zoology 3: Land Animals of the Sixth Day Textbook is available for  $39, the Junior Notebooking Journal is available for $24, and the Notebooking Journal is available for $24.

Members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed all three zoology texts as well as the Anatomy and Physiology text. Be sure to check out their reviews by clicking the banner below.


Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Congratulations Butterfly, Tiger, and B!

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Last night the results were read and they all passed their most recent tests!

Butterfly had one of the best tests she has ever had. Sensei presented her with her blue belt with black stripe. Feb 2013 052 

Sensei gave me the honor of presenting Tiger his San Kyu or first degree brown belt last night. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture! It was very humbling to present that belt to my son. He has earned it. He has been training for 6 years now and slowly crawled through the ranks. I have witnessed him go from a barely five year old kid who ALWAYS had the wrong hand and wrong foot forward to a focused, determined young man. His technique improves all the time. This past test he looked very strong. He had great focus and much improved stances since 4 months ago.

Then Sensei also gave me the honor of presenting B with his Ni Kyu or second degree brown belt. This time I got smart and asked Sensei to take pictures.  I obviously wasn’t in uniform as I was on the sidelines with all the girls. Not only that, but my gi barely ties around my belly at this point. So, to me, it looks a little odd to be wearing street clothes and presenting the belts, but either way, I felt quite honored. The first one is the presentation of the belt and the second picture is the final bow.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Butterfly’s Essay on Karate

One of the requirements for the Karate badge for Frontier Girls was to write a short essay answering the question “How can martial arts make you a better person?”  The essay was supposed to mention some of the things that martial arts had taught her. Here is her essay (spelling and punctuation original except her name has been changed):

Karate has taught me self-control, to listen, and not to “count butterflys.” (thats what I call it…) When I was little, my Sensei was alwas telling me: “switch hands, Butterfly! switch feet, Butterfly!” but it has paid off. I am now a blue belt.Feb 2013 043

The Power of a Well-Timed Book and a Source of Inspiration

Pumpkin Pie has been resistant to learn to tie her shoes. She probably  has found it quite easy just to ask her brother and sister to do it for her. That said, she has recently joined Frontier Girls and one of the badges for her level is a Life Skills Award. This award requires that she learn to tie her shoes. Even so, she was quite hesitant. I grabbed the Usborne Tie-A-Bow Book off my shelf and showed her the illustrated shoes. After showing her a couple times how to tie, she has now mastered tying a bow! Congratulations Pumpkin Pie!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Karate Test Time

Feb 2013 021 Three times a year our dojo does karate tests. Both Tiger and Butterfly did really well. B also tested. He wasn’t too thrilled with a couple of his katas but overall I thought he did pretty well.


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B ready for his test!

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Butterfly and Tiger performing kata.


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After the test, Butterfly wanted a picture with her awesome Sensei.

They will all receive their new belts, assuming they passed, on Wednesday.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Frontier Girls Initiation

Jan 2013 086Butterfly has felt left out as Tiger has advanced through the ranks of Cub Scouts. While she loves Activity Days at church, she doesn’t like that it only meets twice a month and there are no awards, requirements at home, or goals to work towards. The Faith in God Award is not too difficult to achieve as long as she shows up to activities and puts in minimal effort at home. I didn’t want to do Girl Scouts as I think it has fallen too far away from life skills and I don’t like all that they stand for. A friend found a newer organization called Frontier Girls. Most things can be done at home and it emphasizes the values that are important in our home- faith, liberty, service and goal setting to learn new skills and become a better person. The motto is, “If you see a need, take the lead!” Given this motto, girls must participate in several service projects each year.

Several of the families in our co-op have decided to join Frontier Girls. We decided to only have Pumpkin Pie and Butterfly join since I don’t see much point in having Strawberry working towards goals she doesn’t really understand. We will get together periodically for service projects and to work on occasional badges, but the badges will mostly be done at home. I am thrilled. The Life Skills Achievement encouraged Pumpkin Pie to learn to tie her shoe- something she has REFUSED to do since others would do it for her! 

During the initiation, the girls each recited one of the lines of the Frontier Girls creed and lit a candle.

Frontier Girl Creed

As a Frontier Girl

I will be Loving, treating others as I would like to be treated.

I will be Joyful, finding the blessings in every situation.

I will be Peaceful, respecting others opinions and beliefs.

I will be Patient, persevering toward my goals despite obstacles.

I will be Kind, respectful to all and willing to help others at all times.

I will be Good, pure in all I do, think, and say.

I will be Faithful to my God and loyal to family, friends, and country.

I will be Gentle, taking special care of those weaker or less fortunate than I.

I will have Self Control, using my time, materials and talents wisely, and being accountable for my own actions.

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One of the little brothers of one of the girls came to inspect the uniforms after they were presented. :)Jan 2013 094

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Final Pinewood Derby

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Tiger is almost 11 and will graduate from Cub Scouts in March. This past Tuesday was his final Pinewood Derby as a cub scout. Over the last three years, he has had three very unique cars that didn’t go very fast. That first year was so hard on him to come in dead last… the following year he had lower expectations and he took more pride in building the car and creating a really cool car even if it wouldn’t win. Each year he got a little better speed- and he earned it. Each year, he has done the bulk of the work on the car with B only supervising and doing the cuts. Jan 2013 075

Jan 2013 079This year, he decided to create a runway with a model space shuttle taking off. He may have come in near the bottom in speed, but he got first place in design with Best Design. He was pretty thrilled to be awarded for his design.

In the end, Tiger learned that the real fun came not from winning the race but from building his car with his dad and designing something that was fun to him. Over the last 3 years, he learned sportsmanship, compassion, and how to just have a good time. I sure wish a few of the dads that were there this year could learn those skills!