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Monday, February 28, 2011

Product Review: I See Sam

I See Sam books is a literacy program designed to achieve Academic Success for All Learners. They are used world-wide in a variety of learning environments. Each little book offers instruction, reading, and introduction to future concepts. The drawings and the simple text make sure that your student masters the reading concepts. So many beginner readers today have words that are impossible for a early reader to sound out. That is not the case with the I See Sam series. Every word in the book is made up of sounds that have been presented and taught.

The series involves eight sets of color-coded books from a kindergarten to third grade level. The sets are in an easy-to-use format, encompassing embedded cues, and assessment tests located throughout. The series is backed by solid research and correlates to core curriculum standards. Click here to download the Scope and Sequence of the Little Books.

There are many buying options for the Little Books. Each set can be purchased individually for $30. The books can also be purchased in set that include a Starter Set for $60, a Read to Succeed Set for $70, and a Deluxe Read to Succeed Set for $160. Many of the sets come with interesting extras such as book organizers, flashcards, manipulatives to enhance learning, and teaching guides. The website also offers additional free resources that you can download and use.

In addition to the reading program, the company offers products to help teach math, and spelling for a wide range of learning levels. They also offer a text on behavior modification techniques for parents.

I was so excited to receive Book Sets One to Four and flashcards from the program. Henry has been working on letter sounds, but we had been unsuccessful finding a program that offered him actual book reading. The programs that we had been trying were always too complex for his pre-reading ability.

The teaching sequence was easy to follow, even while homeschooling two older children at the same time. It took Henry literally five minutes to grasp the concepts introduced in the lesson of the first book and read the text. After his initial success, he really took off! He read the first five books in under five minutes. Since he already knew his letter sounds, he was able to self-teach the lessons in the front of the book as well as the learn the concepts in the back of the book for the future books. He enjoyed the simple stories and reread them several times. He did have one complaint about the program. He wished the pictures were in color instead of the blackline drawings.

Henry reading with the books.

I definitely recommend using the I See Sam books instead of purchasing leveled readers from other sources. These books have quickly become an essential part of our homeschooling curriculum for our beginner readers.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Curriculum Review Group I received several sets of the I See Sam books for free in exchange for an honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Product Review: Math Rider

Math Rider is a computer math program designed to help children master the fundamentals of math operations. It offers math practice in an easy and effective manner for all four math operations using numbers up to twelve.

The program is created using the highest levels of artificial intelligence and is able to determine quickly and accurately what the player knows and doesn't know. This eliminates unnecessary and boring drilling of facts, and jumps right onto mastery of concepts your student struggles with. It even takes into account such factors such as personal computer skills and will actually slow down or speed up the game depending on the players typing ability.

Set in a land of fantasy, your child must complete missions in order to rescue a princess in trouble. Together with their trusty horse, Shadow, your student will ride across this digital-fantasy land in an effort to achieve math mastery.

More than one child can create a profile with a password for the game. Perfect for large families who have multiple children begging for a turn.

You can order the program here for instant download to your computer for only $37. The program has specific computer requirements, be sure that your computer can support the program before ordering.

Why we liked the program:

*The practice of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division all in one program was an easy way for the kids to practice their math facts.

*The game itself was very entertaining to watch.

*Rewards we easily identifiable and motivated the player.

*This is a very affordable way to boost your child's math knowledge.

Struggles we endured:

*Although the rewards for the missions we different, the missions themselves were the same. This did not help to motivate James to keep using the program in the long-term sense.

*Even though the game adjusts to the computer abilities of the player, Isaac did not have sufficient computer skills to play accurately. Even at its slowest level, the game was too fast for Isaac causing frustration and even tears on occasion.

*The program took up a ton of space on our computer and required us to download a separate Adobe Air program in order for it to run. The entire time we had the program installed we kept getting a "Low Disk Space" message and would be forced to delete or consolidate programs. The computer ran slower while it was installed and as soon as we uninstalled it all our troubles cleared up.

*James burned out fairly quickly on the program due to the amount of repetition involved in achieving success. Due to this repetition, the program became more like "advanced flashcards" rather than exploration of a mathematical kingdom. We are not a video game family and this may have contributed to his eventual abandonment of the program.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Group, I received a free copy of Math Rider in exchange for an honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Oh Snow!

After our little spring teaser from last week it was hard for us ('us' meaning the adults) to adjust to more snow. Latrobe got almost nine inches in one night.

The kids had no problem at all with the snow and were delighted to learn that public schools were closed so the neighbors were able to play outside as well!

She put this snow in her hair and asked me to take a picture of it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Funny or not so much so?

We were at a gathering where Margaret acquired a not-so-pleasant smell in her pants. One of the children at this gathering wrote the message "I stink" on her arm. It is faded now after two major attempts to scrub it off.

At first I thought this was hilarious. Especially since we didn't notice until the next day. But one of my boys pointed out that it really wasn't nice to write that on someone's arm, especially when that person is in the process of becoming potty-trained and can't really do anything about smelling bad at times.

Maybe it is mean of me, but I still chuckle a little when I think about it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

She's all mine!

Life doesn't get much cuter than this!

She does have a bed. One of the nicest beds in this house. But she NEVER wants to miss a single second of anything and literally goes and goes until she drops on the floor.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Missed the bed

Success is...

Having the event that you organize and run make the cover of the local newspaper!
And having your super-handsome first-born be featured in the article!

What a compliment!

"Mama, what in this house is the most massive item besides you?"

Saturday, February 12, 2011

New Smile

This new smile was kind-of forced. Okay, it was really forced. Picture this: James is sick with fever for several days. He is laying in my bed in complete misery when he manages to croak out, "Mama, my tooth came out." Now this fever has been weird. We are talking swollen ears and nose bleeds weird. So when he said his tooth fell out I wasn't really surprised. I was open to anything at this point.

Turns out the tooth was loose and he had been wiggling it while laying in complete feverish misery. Well, the announcement of the lost tooth reminded Isaac that the dentist had stated that several of his teeth were starting to come loose and he would be losing them soon. The dentist appointment was over two weeks ago and it Isaac got started making sure that "soon" equaled "now."

Sure enough, in just over an hour he had wiggled that tooth out. Which reminds me that the tooth fairy has double duty tonight and needs to start searching for some cash.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Homeschool Science Fair

Last night was the Homeschool Science Fair. It was a huge success!Above is Isaac's project. It was on how the nose helps you taste. Below is James' project. It was on using air and water to power a car.

James won a trophy for Best Use of the Scientific Method!

Isaac didn't win a trophy this year, but he was all smiles because he thought the medals were just as neat! Plus, he won one last year and was happy for his brother.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Guess what tomorrow is?

Tomorrow is the Latrobe Area Home School Science Fair. It's just a little gathering of over 30 kids with extensive science projects that are judged and awarded prizes. Some kids have been working on their projects for months. Back before I had to endure the pregnancy from you-know-where I volunteered to coordinate, plan, and run the science fair. I did it last year, and it turned out really well. Of course last year I didn't have to endure over six months of almost daily throwing up. But I still thought I could handle this. It's all in the planning.

Fast forward to the beginning of last week. James is almost done with his science fair project because Michael is helping him. Isaac, well... we had an idea what he was going to do. Then illness strikes boy number three. Then boy number two. Then the mama. Then the papa. Then the girl. Only the boy who is finished with his project is spared this illness. Go figure!

We have managed to get Isaac's experiment done. And some of the write-up. Thank goodness that the fair is in the evening and we can work our way through the day hacking and sneezing to get the project board completed.
Here is total Isaac cuteness conducting his experiments.
Check back tomorrow or Friday to see photos of the fair and find out how it went!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

This mess needs some help!

It's Barbie and Princess mania at my house lately. I got these bins thinking this would be a great way to organize the clutter associated with these well-loved and well-used toys. Problem is, as easy as it makes it to clean them up, it is just as easy to take them out again.

Maybe another solution needs to be found.
Delsey Luggage offers kid-sized totes and organizers that could zip up the mess in a flash. Maybe something with some compartments to keep the shoes and clothes organized.

Disclaimer: This post was on behalf of
CSN stores. Look for a product review from them coming soon!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Our week in review

This week started out well, but didn't end as well.

Monday we had a great school day and lots of errand running. Blah. I can't stand running errands.

Tuesday the weather was yucky and co-op was cancelled. This turned out to be a good thing since Henry spiked a fever around 3pm without any previous symptoms. You should have seen this kid at lunch that day! We are talking three quesadillas, fruit, cookies, lemonade. At three when he started complining of feeling poorly I thought it was his overeating that was catching up with him. He continued to have a fever on and off through Wednesday.

Since kid illness kept me from being able to attend my weekly sewing group, I ran out to the thirft store for an hour on Wednesday afternoon when Mike got home. I try to get to the thirft store on Wednesdays because it is half-price clothes day. This time I scored more than clothes when I found this:

A sewing cabinet!

I have been looking for one of these, but they are usually so expensive that I pass on them. This one was only $19.99 and came with a sewing machine!

Now I am completely loyal to Brother sewing machines, but this one looked like it was in good shape and came with the cabinet. It is a Kenmore, and the only thing wrong with it appears to be that it could really use a good cleaning. All the functions work well and it sews great! Perfect for the kids to sew on, since I have three kids who want to sew and currently only one machine I am willing to let them use.

This inspired me to look for a new table to sew on, which I found at another thrift store. It wasn't as cheap as I would have liked, but it did come with chairs. I got the store to keep the chairs and they knocked off fifteen bucks.

Having all this new furniture inspired me to rearrange the sewing room (again).

It is so clean and organized now that I haven't actually been able to sew anything yet. But that's okay because on Thursday it was Isaac's turn for the fever. Although Henry was better, I still had nurse duty all day. I am thankful that my kids are incredibly easy when they are sick. And that the library is stocked with DVDs that we can borrow for free.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

More Birthday Photos

She got a wedding dress-up set.

Chocolate cheesecake. Only Isaac liked it, meaning the rest is for Michael and I! Please note the custom-made cake platter from etsy. I found someone that creates dishes that look similar to the ones we got in Barcelona. This was a Christmas gift for Michael that arrived yesterday (I was a little slow on getting the custom orders in on time this year).

Tinkerbell is ready for marriage. She also got a pair of real ballet slippers. After she put them on she said, "Now who can drive me to the dance class?"

Happy 3rd Birthday Margaret!

Today is Margaret's third birthday. Michael and I have been blessed beyond measure with the addition of Margaret to our family.
Here she is at 12 hours old.

Here she is on her first birthday.

Here she is on her second birthday.

Happy third birthday sweet girl!