Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mosaic Reviews - Math Mammoth 6

As a long time owner of the Math Mammoth Blue series, I was happy to have the chance to review Math Mammoth 6.

Math Mammoth is a versatile spiral based math program that comes in a variety of forms:

Light Blue Series or Complete Curriculum 

Blue Series or Books By Topic

Golden Series or Worksheets By Grade

Review Workbooks

Real Life Math

It can be purchased as a download or  CD or in printed form. I always choose downloads as a personal preference. I find them more convenient storage wise (thumb drive or CD) and I have a laser printer so it's economical for me to print what I need.

We used Math Mammoth 6 for Youngest for the review period. I have been using worksheet from the Blue Series that I purchased sometime back to fill in gaps for all three kids. The Blue Series is based on topic and is designed to be used to shore up or reinforce any gaps or concepts that a student struggles with.

I loaded the worksheets onto out iPad via Google Drive. In order to work on the sheets on your iPad you will need an App that will let you 'annotate' or write on the PDF file. I use Notability which is $2.99. I can also print or email the completed sheet from the App.

Using a stylus makes a much thicker mark than a pencil would so I wound up printing out the worksheets. But I took a screenshot so you could get an idea of what it would look like if you did work the sheets on the iPad.

Using Math Mammoth really helped Youngest understand he doesn't know it all when it comes to Math. It helped uncover gaps in his math learning I didn't know he had. He liked the clear and varied explanations of concepts. I will be using the previously purchased Blue Series to help with those gaps while we use this for the rest of our school year for his primary math curriculum.

In short, I find this is an affordable, flexible product that works very well. I have used the Blue Series with all three of my kids - all differently abled learners. It is cost effective - even when figuring in the printing cost. 

The author makes it very easy for you to get a good feel for the program prior to purchasing it. She advises giving your student a placement test. Then you can sign up for Math Teaching Emails or Math Mammoth Tour to get further information. (Scroll down to the bottom of this page.)

Prices vary for Math Mammoth depending on what you preferences are:

Printed versions can be found at Rainbow Resource  or Lulu.

Lulu pricing is as follows for a printed version:

Part A $14.95
Part B $14.95
Answer Keys $14.95
Tests & Cumulative Reviews $12.95
Part A - REVISED Edition - $17.95 - bound

Downloads or CD packages from Kagi  (CD or Download) or Currclick (dowloads only) from $34.00 for the complete Grade 6 Curriculum (including tests & answer keys) or $39.00 for CD. You can get 6A or 6B for 17.50 for Download.

There is a REVISED version of 6A available from the above retailers.  The link will explain the difference between the old and new versions and give you a timeline for when 6B REVISED will be published.

I highly recommend this product as a complete curriculum or as a supplement. It's visual and easy to understand and follow. I will continue to use this for my youngest and the Blue Series to supplement Middle and Oldest in their Math studies.

To check out other reviews of Math Mammoth from the Mosaic Review Team go here.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Lurches and Stalls in Our Homeschool Year

When I first learned to drive my mother had a straight shift van that I tried to drive. Emphasis on 'tried'.

We lurched, we stalled, there was a great wailing and gnashing of teeth. I simply had a hard time multitasking enough to drive the blasted thing and finally gave up and swore I'd never drive a straight shift again.

Well, other than my pick up truck that I absolutely adored but wound up not being practical for driving around Raleigh - where I was living and working after I bought it. Something about that straight shift transmission clicked with me. I knew exactly when and how to shift.

Then I got married and had kids and we had automatics again. While I was pregnant with Youngest we had someone very kindly donate a little car that had a straight shift. I tried to drive it. I had lost the skill and I lurched and ground my way across Wilmington. (Honestly, I love it here until I have to drive here. Something about this area makes people drive like they got their driver's license out of a crackerjack box.)

This homeschool year reminds me of trying to drive a straight shift car again.

Oh, I picked out the curriculum. I did posts about it. I sold or gave away what wasn't working. I made out my schedule. (I adore planning - it's follow-through that I need work on.) We used the curriculum for six weeks.

And we stalled out.

This is our seventh year. I should be an old pro at this - right? Uh, no. It's like I forgot how to drive the car all over again.

And I got stuck shifting gears again. Some of the stuff I thought wouldn't work - well I had a piece of it leftover and I thought - well, let's try this again.

And it worked beautifully. I speak of IEW - the writing program that I just really love but thought I could never implement and the boys would never 'get'. The one my boys fight over now because they adore Andrew Pudewa. (Most kids like sports guys? My kids love Steve Demme (MUS) and Andrew. They want to meet them.)

Except this time Oldest clicked with it. Seriously clicked with it. To the point I ordered the upper level and it clicked even better. He used one of the vocabulary words the tutor gave him in a paper! Correctly! All by himself! Happy Dance!

But I ground the gears again. Oh no! He's almost seventeen! He's behind.

For many reasons he's not where most kids his age are. For one thing he started public school later than most because his birthday was past the magic cut off. Then we had five years of public school in which he spent more time out of the classroom than in and had underlying reading issues the school refused to recognize or help him with.  He can't read because he's autistic, they said. I didn't buy that because Middle and Oldest were/are reading just fine. So after we pulled him out we had to save up money to have him tested and then find a tutor and well.... The tutor is like Wonder Woman. She started from the very beginning and now has him almost through the Wilson program. In two years (give or take a few months) with one visit a week. And she told me today he was almost done with Wilson which she had warned me might slow down for the last two levels. Someone forgot to tell Oldest. And I don't mean to diminish the fact the kid has worked his tail off at learning to read because he has. It was just something I couldn't teach him. I don't remember learning to read. I just always have.

But for some reason I keep thinking - He's behind - time is running out.

Time out, Peggy.... Behind What? 

I don't know, God. He's just.. behind.

He is as I have made him. I created him. I have a plan for him. You know this. 

God knows me. I mean, He created me too. He knows that I'm like the Israelites He used Moses to lead out of Egypt. I'd wander around the dessert for forty years if He didn't do something huge - something I can't ignore - like part the Red Sea or something. I call it sending me billboards - flashing, loud billboards.

I do believe! Help my unbelief!

I went to our local support group meeting a couple of weeks ago. We had a great meeting and a parent panel. Wise women who have homeschooled for years answered questions. Mine was - wait for it - my Oldest is behind.

The President - who has homeschooled for seventeen years and had a struggling reader herself - looked me dead in the eye and gracefully and sweetly said, 'Get over that. He's not behind. He graduates when YOU say so.'

Deep breath. Ok, that's really clear. Thanks God. Now what?

Trying switching back to the automatic.

So next week we're changing some of our curriculum. And I'm going to savor that Oldest is making these huge gains and strides. He aced the standardized test last year. (Actually they all did and Dear Husband asked if that meant I'd cut myself some slack. Of course not, dear.)

God has sustained us through a very unexpected lay off. He provided a job my husband likes and is not nearly as stressed over. Its well worth a pay cut. Its well worth me going without health insurance for 90 days. I've always done better trusting God in the big but not the little things.

One step at a time, we will move - and not lurch - forward. And I promise to try and remember that God has a plan for each one of my kids.

In the Review pipeline: Math Mammoth - later this month. See the Light Art - next month.

Til next time,

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Mosaic Review - Homeschool Programming INC - Teen Coder: Windows Programming and Teen Coder: Game Programming

Since all three boys love video gaming and I rely on Oldest to help with anything computer/tech related I asked to be on the team to review two products from Homeschool Programming Inc.

We signed up for:

and Game Programming (2nd Semester). Course only - $75.00,   Course and Video - $90, Video only $20.

The complete package for the year - both programs - is priced at $130- Course only, $155 - Courses and Videos, Videos only - $30.

The Windows Programming program is a pre-requisite to the Game Programming because it builds on skills learned in the first course. The above links will take you to directly to the order pages.

Our materials came in the form of a download and we could access the videos solely for the review. It was quite a trick to juggle the PDF of the book, the video and the actual program. I could not print the manual out to use (printer issues) and that would have made things infinitely easier.  The other mistake I made was trying to install it on Windows 8. I consider myself fairly computer savvy but Windows 8 is beyond my capacity for patience on a regular basis. Once I installed the program on our Windows & laptop things got MUCH easier.  Based on the issues I encountered I would highly advise purchasing the full package and spring for the videos. They are worth it. 

I also watched the videos and followed the instructions step by step. This made downloading and installing the required (and free) Windows Express 2010 and Microsoft's XNA Game Studio a breeze. 

From there we got to work. I had a steep learning curve with Windows Express. I think I have been using a MAC too long and have lost the knack of Windows software. The boys were too intimidated by Windows Express to get past the first couple of lessons - which surprised me. They were further disappointed to learn that until we completed the Windows Programming we would not be starting the Game Programming due to lack of skills. So we all did the work together. 

The materials are clearly written and easy to follow. The only difficulty was switching back and forth from the window to reading and the window of doing. I solved this by opening the PDF on one computer and the program on another and the video on yet another. 

Oldest really liked the first three chapters which deal with the history of Windows and Windows Programming and Languages.  We then moved to working with C# programming. 

Hello World:

Hello World 2:

Data Types:

We worked farther along in the Windows Programming guide and I do apologize for the not so sharp pictures but I wanted to give you some idea of what some of the exercises looked like. This course was easy to navigate once I got it installed properly. Any issues were the result of user error - not the curriculum itself. 

All in all we enjoyed this product after the Windows 8 disaster. I'm hoping to print out the user manuals because I think it would make this much easier. The videos are a necessity in my opinion - especially for visual learners like mine. This is going to make a nice elective for  Older and Middle and I plan on having them work through it individually before moving to the Game Programming segment. Since we have an Xbox 360 I'm sure it will be a great motivator!

I am pondering their materials for Youngest - they have the Kid Coder for Visual Basic and Game Programming and also for Web Design - he is a little more tecnically minded than the other two boys. For a complete list of available courses check here

Check out what other Mosaic Reviewers had to say about this and other products from this vendor by clicking here.

Disclaimer/Disclosure: I was given use of this product for the purpose of obtaining my honest opinion. I received nothing else. This is my honest opinion. Please consider that every family is different and results may vary.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Mosaic Reviews - One Minute Reader

I jumped at the chance to review the One Minute Reader iPad App.

Out of my three boys I have one struggling and one reluctant reader. I gave all three the placement test and Level 5 was the best fit. (Side note - it is much easier to engage any of my three boys if the learning takes place on the iPad)

The One Minute Reader App is a product made by Read Naturally - which uses a combination of three research proven interventions to help struggling readers.

I tried it out myself just to get a feel for it and to anticipate any issues the boys might have with it. I was pleased to see that there was a detailed help file and navigation through the program was very easy. There were five sets of stories and I felt like we really lucked out with the topics.

Oldest LOVES anything weather related so 'Disasters' really worked well for him.   

Middle has discovered the Percy Jackson series and as a result 'Greek Mythology' was a perfect fit.

Youngest decided that Inventions was interesting.

   Once the user selects a collection, it will ask for their name-  type it and hit enter.

The next screen will show the five stories in the collection. Tap one and the 'Cold Read' starts with clear instructions. This is followed by 'Read Along' and 'Read Alone'. At the end is a 'Quick Quiz'.

The suggestion is to use the program at least three days a week and so that was what we did. Middle completed all of the stories in one day - despite my asking him to pace himself. He was happy to re-read the stories so no harm done and I think he liked competing against his own score.

Oldest liked that it defined and pronounced unfamiliar words. He also got a lot out of the Read Along. He is a very auditory learner and it really aids his comprehension to hear material while he is reading it. In fact he very often talks himself through his assignments.

Youngest hates reading aloud and it was hard to get him to participate at all. I think he liked the stories though.

All in all I believe this product is well worth the money. It is engaging and I have seen an improvement in Middle and Oldest in fluency after a month. I wish there were higher levels as Oldest is still working on remediation for his dyslexia and I believe this would be more engaging for him than a regular textbook.

The One Minute Reader App is free on iTunes with samples of the six levels - E, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.  In App purchases are $2.99 each.  The One Minute Reader App for a certain level is $19.99. The App has built in reading placement. It will suggest a level after you child has read a few sentences.  Also there is a built in Help file that is very detailed and easy to navigate though I found the App extremely user friendly.

The One Minute Reader material is also available in print form. Check it out here.

I really like this product and we will continue to use it particularly for the older two. It is a great way to get reluctant or struggling readers to work on improving reading skills in a fun way.

Check out what other Mosaic Reviewers had to say about this product by clicking here.

Disclaimer/Disclosure: I was given use of this product for the purpose of obtaining my honest opinion. I received nothing else. This is my honest opinion. Please consider that every family is different and results may vary.