Sunday, March 31, 2013

Math-U-See {Schoolhouse Review}

With my two kiddos starting multiplication this year, we have dabbled in many different math curriculums looking for the perfect match. We've used our tried-and-true math facts, a systematic approach, and an online program. And then we were given the opportunity to review the hands-on approach of Math-U-See. I had wanted to try Math-U-See products for some time, and now I SEE what we have been missing! For one of my kids, especially, this program is a great fit!

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As Math-U-See is not set up as a grade-level program, I did not know which level I should request. After taking the free placement test, I determined that both of my children (ages 9 and 7, both doing primarily third grade work) would benefit most from the Gamma level.

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The primary concepts covered in the Gamma level are single- and double-digit multiplication including (from the website):

  • Using strategies based on place value and properties of operations to multiply
  • Fluently multiplying any combination of whole numbers
  • Solving for an unknown factor
  • Solving abstract and real-world problems involving addition, subtraction, and multiplication
  • Measuring and computing area
  • Relating concepts of area to addition and multiplication

  • To view a sample lesson from Math-U-See ~ Gamma, you can go to THIS LINK.

    For the Math-U-See Gamma level, the "Essential Products" needed are the:
    • Instruction Pack (includes the Instruction Manual and Instruction DVD, both with lesson-by-lesson instructions and solutions) which sells for $44.00;
    • Student Pack (includes student worksheets and review pages, Application and Enrichments Pages, and tests) which sells for $30.00; and
    • Manipulative Block Set (can be used on all primary levels up to Algebra 1) which sells for $38.00.
    As part of the review, we received all of the "Essential Products" listed above. Not only did we receive one manipulative block set, but the vendor graciously gave us TWO sets! This was a huge blessing for us since we have two children and they could do their assignments at the same time without having to share the one set of blocks. I tell you this as a way to recommend that if you have more than one child using Math U See, that you should get a Manipulative Block Set for each child.

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    How We Used the Product:

    On the first day of the new lesson, we watched the video for instruction. After the video instruction, I briefly covered the material in the Instruction Manual and then had the kids get started on their lessons. We did one, sometimes two, lessons per day. In the Gamma level there are 6 Lesson Practices and 1 Application and Enrichment assignment (that is set out in more of a word problem format). The lessons were easy enough, and the instructions clear enough, that they were able to easily understand how to work the problems and were able to work independently.

    They loved the blocks! Actually SEEING the problem worked out made it make so much more sense to them, especially in dealing with multiplication. Sometimes, however, they were having so much fun building the problems with their blocks that they asked to just build with the blocks for play at lunch time.

    At the conclusion of each set of lessons, there is a chapter test.

    My Opinion:

    I actually love this program. So far it has been pretty easy, but with multiplication I think starting out easy is the way to go. We are supplementing with practicing multiplication facts every day, just to keep them constantly fresh.

    I plan to use this Math-U-See Gamma curriculum through the end of the school year, and then start back up with it in the Fall. (This summer we will just continue to review multiplication facts.)

    While we were previously using an online math program, my 7 year old kept saying that she wanted to go back to "paper math". My 9 year old, however, enjoyed the online program and works better with visualizations and a hands-on approach. Math-U-See caters to both of their learning strengths and preferences in the same program! On the problems that Brynne doesn't need the manipulatives, she just skips using them and works the problems out on paper. But, when she is stuck on something, the manipulatives are there to help. Eli uses the manipulatives with every problem, even if he can work it out in his head. Seeing the problem worked out in front of him helps to drive it home in his mind.

    The kids say, "This math is fun!" I think it's wonderful! And, the price is right!

    To see what other Crew Members thought of the Math-U-See products, including the Gamma level, go to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.



    Friday, March 29, 2013

    Weekly Wrap-up ~ NOW We're on Spring Break

    In our regular life this week…

    We are back to REAL regular life this week. We pulled into our driveway in Missouri at 5:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning, after driving straight through overnight for 14 hours. So the rest of this week? It's been all about reconstructing my house, deep cleaning, and even some furniture rearranging. Yeah. After four hours of sleep I woke up on Wednesday morning and decided my bedroom arrangement wasn't working for me. So, I rearranged it. It's a tiny room, so I had to be creative. I made it work, though, and now I just need to buy the finishing touches in decorations. I like it so much better!

    In our homeschool this week…

    Last week, while we were on vacation in Florida, we had school every day. This week, while we are back home, we are on Spring Break! Yeah, Monday and Tuesday were spent in Florida and we just played those days. Wednesday and Thursday were spent recuperating from our vacation back here in Missouri. And today daddy is here early for Easter weekend, so we are hanging out with him. (I have to admit what a nerd homeschooling mommy I am, though. I am actually looking forward to getting back to schoolwork on Monday! I don't think the kids probably agree.)

    Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

    This has been a special week for us because my sister-in-law, Shawna, and my sweet 5-month old niece, Bell, have been visiting from Portland, Oregon. It has been so great to see them! Bell is growing up so fast and is absolutely precious! I love her so much and am sad they left today. We won't get to see them again until July, and Bell will be 9 months old then! My brother, Tim, will be coming with them, so it will be nice to have them all here together. (By the way, these long spans of time between seeing Bell is one of the reasons I wanted us to move to Missouri. My other baby niece, Ashtyn, is 9 months old and I get to see her every week because we live close. I love seeing her grow up and being so close to her. I wish Bell lived across the street.)

    A favorite thing this week was…

    Getting all of the O'Neal cousins together for some pictures on Wednesday. My parents have seven grandchildren ages 5 months, 8 1/2 months, 7, 9, 15, 16, and 18. It is very rare to get all of them in one place at the same time, so we got together for a while and took some photos. I'll be posting some of them in a few days.

    What's in the kitchen this week ...

    Kyndal made cheesy chicken lasagna for us on Wednesday night (yum!) and Dawson brought leftovers home from his job tonight (the perks of being a kitchen boy at the nursing home). The house is pretty empty of groceries, so I went today to get us a few things for a few days. We are having italian chicken spaghetti and then a big turkey dinner on Sunday at mom and dad's for Easter.

    What we're reading ...

    Mom: I finished the three books I took to Pensacola (man, that was nice!). I am now reading The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin (a historical fiction novel about the life and marriage of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh).
    Eli: Captain Underpants (the third epic novel) by Dav Pilkey
    Brynne:  Buddy (Puppy Place) by Ellen Miles

    Things we're working on…

    Enjoying our last few days before we get back to the books on Monday. This weekend we will also being doing all of our Easter activities and coloring our Easter eggs. My husband and I are working on the gardening area of our yard this weekend. It's going to be a huge project but I absolutely cannot wait! We have lived here 7 months and haven't done any landscaping yet. It is a clean slate and I am so looking forward to planing gardens, flowers, bushes, and the like. Come on Spring!!

    I’m grateful for…

    us finally being rid of our house in Oklahoma. Things didn't turn out quite as we had hoped they would. But, we can now move forward with the next phase of our plans.

    I rewarded my kids this week by…

    convincing daddy to let us buy tickets to WWE Monday Night Raw LIVE in Tulsa in May!! We have lower level seats and the kids are flipped-out excited to go!! It will be such a fun night because they love WWE so much. It's contagious to watch them be so excited about it. (And seeing John Cena in person won't hurt my feelings that much, either. Eli told me once that if we ever met John Cena that he wanted me to dress really pretty.) I also snagged a deal on some Buy 2, Get 1 Free used Wii games, and got the kids two games they have really been wanting. And one of them was FREE!

    Things you might have missed at Journey to Excellence ...

    A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…

    We are happily linking up this week at the following sites:

    Monday, March 25, 2013

    B is for Books

    Since we spent the past week in Florida (leaving to go home tomorrow), you would think that my B word would be Beach. But the word I have chosen, instead is Books.

    Books provide the portal that allows me to escape, travel, dream, and live in places where I will never have the opportunity to live. When life is just, well, yuck, I can pick up a good book (or this week, three) and go somewhere else.

    I hope that my children catch the bug and find that they are able to absorb themselves into good stories and make reading a lifetime passion.

    I am linking up at Blogging Through the Alphabet at Ben and Me.

    Friday, March 22, 2013

    Weekly Wrap-up ~ A School Week in Pensacola, Florida

    In our regular life this week…

    Our regular life includes 10 days in Pensacola, Florida, at my parents' vacation home. We are one block away from the Bayou Grande, across the bay from the National Aviation Station (NAS Pensacola). We are thoroughly enjoying our time so far, especially since the weather has been in the mid-60's to the mid-70's here and it's 30 degrees and snowing in Missouri. Although being here is certainly a vacation, it's "regular life" for us this time each year. We have a lot of fun. But mostly we just live here like we live at home, with much better weather and a change in flora and fauna. It's amazing!

    In our homeschool this week…

    You might think that we would call this a week of vacation, our week we have spent in Florida. But, it's not! Yeah, we have had FUN in the SUN, but we have also had school. Why? Because, we do unit studies and when you are in Pensacola, you should do unit studies on seashells and many, many, other Gulf Coast, Floridian, things.

    We have spent the week using Amanda Bennett's Download-n-Go unit, Sunny Seashells. On Monday, we learned about the three main types of mollusks: sea snails, clams, and scallops. We learned specifically about giant clams, shells in Ireland, and safe and responsible shell collecting. In the afternoon we headed to the downtown pier. There we saw pelicans! That was exciting! We also learned about the history of Pensacola by a statue at the pier, about how it was tossed around between Spain, France and England.

    On Tuesday our seashell study had us learning the differences between univalves and bivalves. We focused on hermit crabs and learned the parts of a shell and how the mantle creates the shell (of course, the hermit crab does not have this). We studied shells in Australia. Then we went to our favorite beach at the Pensacola Lighthouse where we rode waves, observed seagulls and sandpipers, and made tide pools in the sand to protect our sandcastles from the waves.

    On Wednesday we took a break from seashells to go to National Naval Aviation Museum at NAS Pensacola. This is one of our favorite places to visit while here, so this year we decided to try to learn something new. We spent time learning about the U.S.S. Enterprise, which is the most highly-decorated aircraft carrier of WWII. We toured the new 1943 replica military town with a home, store, barber shop, and more. We followed the history of aircraft carriers. And we learned about the naval aviators who were stranded in a raft for 34 days in 1942, and how they survived. You can read all about it in the book, The Raft by Robert Trumbull. I'll be reading this book soon.

    On Thursday, we learned more about tide pools, whelks, oysters, how pearls are made and scallops. We walked down to the beach on the Bayou Grande to see what shells we could find. We weren't overly optimistic because shelling in Pensacola is not that exciting. But, we were thrilled to find clams, oysters, scallops, and a couple of tiny univalves! Then Brynne and I found barnacles, both open and closed. Brynne and I actually squealed when we found the scallops and univalves.

    Today we took another break from seashells because the kids wanted to tour the Historic Pensacola Village. We went on a guided tour and saw a middle class home owned by a wharf owner, a wealthy Victorian home owned by the daughter of the Barkleys, the Old Christ's Church, and a very small lower-class home with an outdoor kitchen and garden area. The kids watched a woman dressed in period dress prepare the fire (actually, we came back a couple of times because it takes about two hours). We also watched her make the "sponge" for her bread that she will actually bake tomorrow (gotta rise overnight). We spent some time on a self-guided tour of a couple more historic buildings depicting a freed slave woman's home (and there were display cases holding shackels, newspaper ads of property for sale including slaves, and even a KKK patch), a USO woman's home, and a home from the 1920's. We stopped for lunch and gelato in, yet another, historic building, and ended our day touring the Barkley house. What a day of learning!!!

    Tomorrow we will finish our seashell study. Shhhh .... don't tell the kids that it's Saturday.

    Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

    Yesterday we saw a plumber because our sewer backed up. (What is it with me and sewer backups lately?) We actually thought we might have to pack it up and go home 6 days early, but he was able to fix it enough for us to stay. Thank goodness!

    I am hoping to be able to meet up with Michelle at Just Me! before I leave next week. I need for her to e-mail me her number at so we can make plans. Michelle, if you are reading this, E-MAIL me!!

    Who we are NOT seeing this week are the Blue Angels. Good ol' President Obama has made budget cuts in the Navy and the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds have (mostly) been grounded for 2013. That is a huge disappointment because they are so huge in this area and we look forward to seeing them every year. Even my 7 year old does not have an affection for our current president. I wouldn't try to get into a political debate with her, if I were you.

    A favorite thing this week was…

    Going to the beach at Pensacola Lighthouse. The weather was PERFECT! The kids rode 10,000 waves and built sandcastles. My mom and I just sat and read and watched them have the day of their lives. It was a great day!!

    (My pictures of this day are on my little camera, not on a memory card, and I didn't bring that cord. The photos are trapped for now. It's a bummer because there were some great pictures!)

    Spending the day touring the Historic Pensacola Village was also really cool.

    What's in the kitchen this next week ...

    We've had tacos, spaghetti and turkey burgers. We've gone out for BBQ and ordered pizza. We have plans to go back for BBQ again (because kids eat for free that day), and go out this evening. Otherwise, we'll just be cooking at home and trying to use up the rest of the food we bought at the beginning of the week. I don't mind cooking while I am here, because we are all pretty easy eaters.

    What we're reading ...

    Mom: Vintage Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball. I have finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and will be reading The House at Riverton by Kate Morton starting tomorrow.
    Eli: "WWE Magazine" 
    Brynne: nothing, but she was mad I didn't bring Buddy (Puppy Place) by Ellen Miles

    The kids and I are reading all kinds of seashell and seashore books this week, also. We've read two to three books each day.

    Things we're working on…

    For me, it's reading as much as possible and sleeping late every day. The kids are working on enjoying themselves and soaking in the sun and fun of Florida. They've also been working on their Family Feud skills. We have been watching a lot of that, lately, and also playing it on the computer.

    I’m grateful for…

    the men in my life who have made this week away possible for me and the kids. Rick made sure we could afford it financially and Dawson stayed behind to make sure the doggies were taken care of.

    I rewarded my kids this week by…

    doing something fun each afternoon if they put in some school time in the mornings. We have gone to the beach and the playground. We went to the downtown marina area and today we went back downtown to go on a Historic Pensacola tour of some old houses, a church, and the Barkley mansion. We've relaxed, we've played, we've watched t.v., and gone on walks. We're going back to the beach another day, and out to eat a couple of times. And we had some lunch out and gelato.

    Yes, I was there, too! (and so was my mom) ...

    A windy, not-so-pretty hair day.

    Things you might have missed at Journey to Excellence ...

    A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…

    We are happily linking up this week at the following sites:

    Homegrown Learners

    Thursday, March 21, 2013

    Dr. Suess ~ Virtual Book Club for Kids

    February's artist for the Virtual Book Club for Kids was Dr. Suess. We have read several Dr. Suess books this year, and were trying to decide which book we wanted to use with our activities. We thought about doing Green Eggs and Ham. But, when the kids saw Fine Feathered Friends, by Tish Rabe, we decided to use it instead. No, technically it's not a book by Dr. Suess, but it is from the Cat in the Hat's Learning Library collection. So, we went with it.

    We are currently studying birds. We have done some lessons in Apologia's Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day, so decided to move ahead and study their habitats and nests.

    About this same time we learned that our Homeschool Co-op was going to be having a Geography/Science/Arts Fair, and we came up with the idea of each of the kids making a habitat diorama for the bird of their choice. Brynne chose the Cardinal and Eli chose the American Robin, since those are both birds that frequent our yard.

    I found a great lesson by 4H about habitats and nesting called "Wildlife is all Around Us, Book 3 - Summer", and it included information about the American Robin. I just pulled information from the internet on the cardinal and added it to the chart.

    First the kids painted the insides of their dioramas. Brynne painted hers as a winter scene and Eli painted his as a spring scene.

    Then we added the items for their habitat ... a pine "bush" for the Cardinal and a green leafy tree for the American Robin.

    Next it was time to make the nests. We wanted them to be authentic to the type of bird, so we studied about the types of nests in our Apologia book and then used the 4H materials to plan our nests. The kids gathered items from the yard that their bird would use for a nest. We hot glued Brynne's together. But, for Eli's, we used mud as the adhesive. And it WORKED! (I told Brynne we could try to glue hers together with spit, like some birds do, but she wasn't too into that.)

    Then they made the proper number of eggs with playdough in the appropriate colors and the final items for their dioramas were the birds themselves.

    They each wrote about their bird, habitat, nest, and eggs in a small report and attached it to their  completed projects to enter into the Fair.

    It was a great project, and I was so proud of how hard they worked on it!

    March's author is Julia Donaldson. We have a GREAT book picked out and some FUN projects! We'll be working on that book after our Florida trip.

    I am also linking up our Fine Feathered Friends study at Read-Aloud Thursday with Amy at Hope is the Word.

    Monday, March 18, 2013

    A is for Azaleas

    One of the greatest things about coming to Pensacola at the end of a long winter in the Midwest is all of the bloomed flowers. Everything is so green and colorful and pretty. We have lived in the midst of brown and dead and ugly for many months. But this week we are in the midst of color! The azalea bushes are in full bloom (actually about at the end of their season) and I am grateful we had a chance to see them!

    This inspires me to get home and get started on our landscaping to infuse a little color into the exterior of our home!

    Linking up at Blogging Through the Alphabet with Marcy at Ben and Me. Join us!

    Sunday, March 17, 2013

    Weekly Wrap-up ~ Our NOT Regular Schedule and Lots of Extras

    Last week was what I defined as a regular week for us. This week, not even close. But, there was lots of fun and learning going on anyway!

    In our regular life this week…

    About all we could think about was our trip to Florida. We are SO ready to get to some warm weather and sun and relaxation. We left last night and arrived at 5:00 a.m. this morning. We have had a pretty low-key day because we were so tired, but we did walk down to the mini beach for a little playtime.

    In our homeschool this week…

    • Bible ~ We covered The Ten Commandments this week, and the kids have called me out on a couple of things (oops!).
    • Writing ~ We continued with cursive handwriting and the kids are actually really enjoying it! They think it is fun!
    • Reading ~ We finished the second book in The Spiderwick Chronicles series and will start the third book after our vacation.
    • Math ~ We finished our multiplication lessons in A+ Tutorsoft. We did lots of Math U See ~ Gamma and the kids really like it (and so do I). The Multiplication Wrap-ups got lots of use this week, too. Brynne is up to 6's and Eli has completed 3's. This is a great tool and my Favorite Resource this week.
    • Unit Study ~ This week was all about the bird habitat dioramas. The kids researched, gathered materials, and made their nests. They researched and made their eggs for their nest. They colored their birds, and and they wrote reports.
    • Geography ~ Eli wanted to learn about Hungary, so we did our "Holidays of the World" (co-op class) country reports about Hungary.

    Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

    We are in Pensacola, Florida. Have I mentioned that? One thing we are really looking forward to is seeing the Blue Angels do their practice flights. We do that every time we go. This year we will be there late enough in the season that the kids will be able to go to the Naval Aviation Museum after the show and get their autographs.

    A favorite thing this week was…

    Celebrating the kids' accomplishments! They were awarded for being in the Science/Geography/Arts fair at Co-op and then Eli was awarded for his rank advancement in Scouts at the Blue and Gold Banquet. It was a perfect way to end just before Spring Break.

    What's in the kitchen this next week ...

    We will be eating in Florida all week. The great thing about going to my parents' house there is that it's like being home. So, we will cook healthy, easy meals, as usual. Typically when we are there we eat spaghetti, turkey burgers, and tacos. We will also take the kids out to eat a couple of nights.

    What we're reading ...

    Mom: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    Eli: Star Jumper: Journal of a Cardboard Genius by Frank Asch
    Brynne: Buddy (Puppy Place) by Ellen Miles

    While we are in Florida, I will be doing LOTS of reading. Here's what I have sitting on my nightstand ...

    Vintage Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball. It was finally at our library!!! I cannot wait to meet back up with my good friends Cici, Bridget, and Lindsay!! It's been a long time!

    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I have been waiting for this one for a long time. I think I'll read it first so my mom can read it after me.

    The House at Riverton by Kate Morton. Kate is now one of my favorite authors. Love her books!

    Created to be His Helpmeet by Debi Pearl. This one is bit controversial to some, but oh, so good!

    Attracting Birds to Your Backyard by Sally Roth. It's time to start doing some exterior landscaping. And I want lots of birds to visit our back yard!

    We are also doing a seashell unit study while we are there, so I have brought along lots of books for the kids and I to read.

    Things I’m working on…

    A tan. And reading as many books as I can. And watching my kids swing on the rope swing at the beach 10,000 times. And rubbing my toes through the sand. And searching for seashells. And resting.

    Things the Kids are Working on ...

    Taking a much-needed break!!!

    I’m grateful for…

    again, my dad gets the gold medal. This past week we had a sewer backup problem. I thought there was mud coming up in our basement toilet and shower. Ummm .... that wasn't mud. Yuck! My dad came to the rescue, as he owns a residential plumbing construction company, doing exterior work. He quickly realized that a construction crew laying a fiberoptic line a few months ago had cut right through our sewer line. So, he was able to orchestrate getting it fixed and it was somebody's else's problem (primarily). Without him, that would have REALLY cost us!!

    The silver medal goes to Eli's Scout leaders. Billy and Shelly do EVERYTHING in our Pack and work so hard. It is a thankless job, most times, but I really appreciate their leadership.

    And the bronze goes to my husband for all of the driving around he does to see his kids. He is a great dad! He drove from Tulsa to our house Friday night for Eli's banquet, got in some Wii time with Brynne, spent the night and left the house bright and early on Saturday morning to drive another two hours to watch his older daughter play in a volleyball tournament.

    I rewarded my kids this week by…

    squeezing in a little time to go to the park to meet new homeschooling friends. We REALLY did not have the time for playdate in the midst of getting ready for our trip and preparing for Eli's banquet, but I felt that they needed the opportunity to meet new friends.

    Things you might have missed at Journey to Excellence ...

    A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…

    This was Spring Break last year. We will be at this beach at the Pensacola Lighthouse this week.

    We are happily linking up this week at the following sites:

    Homegrown Learners