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Apr 24, 2014

Funny Find - Bell

Found this bear bell in the camping section at Walmart.  It reminded me of that old joke.

The National Park Rangers are advising hikers in Glacier National Park and other Rocky Mountain parks to be alert for bears and take extra precautions to avoid an encounter.
They advise park visitors to wear little bells on their clothes so they make noise when hiking. The bell noise allows bears to hear them coming from a distance and not be startled by a hiker accidentally sneaking up on them. This might cause a bear to charge.
Visitors should also carry a pepper spray can just in case a bear is encountered. Spraying the pepper into the air will irritate the bear's sensitive nose and it will run away.
It is also a good idea to keep an eye out for fresh bear scat so you have an idea if bears are in the area. People should be able to recognize the difference between black bear and grizzly bear scat.
Black bear droppings are smaller and often contain berries, leaves, and possibly bits of fur. Grizzly bear droppings tend to contain small bells and smell of pepper.


There is a magnet inside the mesh bag to keep the bell from ringing when not in use.  

THMJ Week of 4/13/14


    In my life… 
There's an old joke that says, "If you don't like the weather in Vermont, just wait five minutes."  I think that can apply to just about anywhere, but this week, it was terribly accurate.  We had an 80*F day, followed by flooding the next day, and about five inches of snow that night.


Merrick sometimes insists we let him dress himself.


    In our homeschool…
We started Apologia's What in the World Can I Do? which is the fourth book in the What We Believe series.  I'm looking forward to telling you about that.

    In our homeschool co-op...
Friday School was moved to Thursday this week due to Good Friday. 
Magic School Bus Science - Magic School Bus Gets Charged.  We talked about the electrical items people use to get ready in the morning and lit some Christmas bulbs with batteries. 
Wiggles and Giggles - Merrick chose the nursery this week.  Silly kid.
Duct Tape Art - Mal and I finished his tote bag, which has no less than six different tape colors/prints.  Some of the kids finished and made flower pen toppers.
Amazing Body - I think the class played a trivia game.  Not sure that Mal really participated.
Nature -Xav made a solar system with glitter (!) stars.
Arts and Crafts -Xav worked on a Mother's Day project.
Archery - There was a competition of sorts with a timer.  Xav told me his team got the most points.
Conveniently, the homeschool running group was moved to Friday.  
Xav and I each did 4 laps.  We could have done more, but Xav's friend wanted to stop and he was happy to stop as well.  Merrick was out of the stroller by then and he had zero interest in another lap OR sitting in the stroller.  Mal did two laps with me.

    In Rangers... 
W Verse: When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  Psalm 56:3

    What we're reading...
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

    In the yard... 
Sunday Kite flying didn't go as well as I had hoped.  The wind was sort of fighting itself.  I think it was blowing into the hill behind the house, and coming back on itself.  My favorite (20 year old kite) was broken, we were missing a piece from last year's kite, Poppa of the Forest's kite didn't want to stay up.  We could only fly the star kite.  Still, it was a fun challenge.

Our mallard duck pair returned Sunday and the day after that we noticed our hawk was in the tree near the pond.  Coincidence?

The kids and neighbor have been finding salamanders and frogs in the pond.

    A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…
Here's a link for free milkweed seeds.  Monarchs love milkweed.  It makes them poisonous to predators. 

Linking at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers
and The Homeschool Mother's Journal

Apr 23, 2014

"Maths" - A CTCMath Review




CTC Math Review

CTCMath was developed as an online math tutor in Australia.  The developer and voice of CTCMath is Pat Murray, longtime math teacher and father of ten.  The lessons consist of a short video (just a few minutes long) and a question section, completed right online in the lower grades.  The upper levels have an optional, printable worksheet.  The lessons can be viewed and attempted as many times as necessary.  Our family has been allowed to review the 12 Month Family Plan in exchange for my honest review.  We recently finished our math books, so we have been using this as our only math for the duration of this review. 

When I set up our student accounts, I was able to enter what I considered to be a passing grade.  I even created a student account for myself.  I am sadly lacking in knowledge of the fake math (algebra).   CTCMath welcomes your feedback and provide a reminder each time you log out of an account.  With CTCMath, you have full access to the entire website, making it easy to place your child exactly where they need to be.  For instance, Malachi is using CTCMath for second and third grade, and occasionally even first grade for refresher on a few topics.  Xavier is mostly doing first grade work, but we're finding he is able to do quite a few of the second grade units easily.  You don't need to test your child, work through unnecessary lower level topics, or ask an administrator to move them ahead (or back).  Simply click on a different grade level. 

There is a HTML5 version of CTCMath that you can use on any browsers which don't support Flash Player.  I used this log in on Internet Explorer and the Kindle Fire.  I did find out (the hard way, with Malachi) that not all of the activities can be completed in  the non-flash version.  In this third grade positioning lesson, you do not have the controller (upper right in the photo below) to move the ladybug.  There is nothing in the video to explain *how* the beetle changes direction, it just does.  It took a while to realize I needed to move Mal to Firefox and use Flash Player to complete the questions.  While most of the measuring was straight, there was one activity we found that needed the controller to align the ruler to the line to be measured.  This also would need to be accessed on a Flash Player compatible browser.


We tried CTCMath on these devices/browsers; Firefox, IE, Kindle Fire (Silk), and iPhone (Safari).
Firefox: We had log in issues once, but that was an across the board issue and not related to the browser.  I really like the flash version of CTCMath and recommend it for usability.
Internet Explorer: For whatever technological cafluffle, I don't have Flash Player on IE on the very same computer I have it on Firefox.  We used the HTML5 login on IE often these past weeks.  As I said above, some questions cannot be answered with this version, but I had very little trouble using it on the laptop.
Kindle Fire: HTML5 worked on here as well, but the screen is too small to see the video in it's entirety.  Most of it is visible though and it was adequate.  I had the most trouble accessing lessons on the Kindle Fire.  Sometimes, I clicked on the lesson tab only to be sent back to the HTML5 log in screen.
iPhone: I could not get CTCMath to work on my phone.  I could log in, select the grade and stream (unit), but I could not get to the topic in the third column.  I turned the phone vertically and horizontally, and tried to reduce the size of the site on my screen.  I just couldn't use it.
HTML5 works on other devices as  well.

Mal had a rough time dealing with less than perfect scores at first.  We had one instance where he answered a question correctly, but was marked wrong.  This is a screen snip of the answer section.  Once complete, students can view every question, whether it is right or wrong, and the correct answer as well as their grade.  Usually, the scoring is correct!


When measuring millimeters, he was one mm off for three of the ten questions (and three off for one question).  A 60% score?!  He took that very hard.


We also dealt with some confusion and mistaken entries.


Obviously, the true errors and typos are not the fault of the program.  These are just some of our experiences and can be frustrating for young learners who may not be as keyboard savvy as more experienced children.

CTCMath sends a weekly report for each individual user via email.  The report includes the log in activity for the week for that user and a summary of the student's performance.  Here's a screen shot from one of Xav's reports.  As you can see, he wasted a bit of time on Monday!


I can also access detailed reports from my Parents' Area account.



Once all of the topics in a stream have been completed, the student earns a printable certificate; bronze, silver, gold, or platinum.  Using the graphic above, you can see that Malachi earned a certificate for 3rd grade statistics and probability.  He nearly earned a platinum level, except for one score under chance.  He can attempt that sections as many times as he would like and, presumably, receive a higher score, eventually earning his platinum certificate (only the last three attempts are averaged into the rating).

One obstacle we encountered was when someone had trouble with a concept and the only option was to repeat the video.  There isn't a teacher manual to read or a second video to view or any other help.  Malachi had a struggle with two topics.  I helped him with one, then Micah helped him with it again.  He just needed it explained in a different way.  He was able to complete and pass the assignment, but it was a struggle and I'm not certain he could go back and do it again now.  For the second concept he struggled with, we ended up getting out math manipulatives to help work through them.  There are times when you may need scrap paper nearby to make notes, either to work through a problem or to keep track of measurements, etc when comparing objects.

Speed skills are also available for each student.  Just click the button on the screen and a box opens where you can select the level and type of skill you want to practice.  You have sixty seconds to answer as many questions as you can and then you see a results screen with the number you got right as well as a list of every problem and if you answered it correctly.

Somethings I'd like to see happen would be the capability to assign a lesson and have the student see it when they log in.  I have been getting on with them when they log in and selecting what they need to complete that day.  I can certainly write it down or tell them, but an online, visual reminder is something I'd love to see.  An overview of each grade and all the topics would also be terrific, a sort of site map, if you will.

CTCMath is work in progress with great potential.  It's a fabulous math tutoring program.  I believe it's relatively new to the US homeschool market.  It has been instrumental in assisting us in figuring out where each boy actually is in math.  I was pleasantly surprised to see them doing more challenging math than either had previously attempted.  While they've struggled in some areas all year, I've seen them blossom in other areas.  It's exciting to know they are ready to be challenged and just because they don't understand one concept, doesn't mean we can't move on in other areas.  I'm very grateful to Pat Murray for that.

The cost of CTC Math for Homeschoolers is currently $118.80 for one year for the whole family.  Try the free trial and see how you like it.  145

Grades - Kindergarten through adult.

Facebook CTC Math
CTCMath Blog

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Apr 20, 2014

THMJ Week of 4/6/14

    In my life…
At Mal's nine year check up (which went well until the vax), I saw this sad note on the wall.

Merrick now replies to I love yous with, "La you, too."  Melts this mama's heart.

    In our homeschool…

Our Mexican jumping bean "hatched."  See that little, tiny moth on the bean to the right?


    In our homeschool co-op... 
Magic School Bus Science - Cracks a Yolk episode.  We opened an egg into a dish and identified all the parts.  Then I read Benjamin's Box, showed the class my resurrection eggs, and let them choose something from my treasure chest.  I reminded them that Jesus is the greatest treasure of all.
Wiggles and Giggles - Merrick participated this week. 
Duct Tape Art - We're still working on our duct tape bags we started last class.
Amazing Body - Teeth!
Nature - Geodes!
Arts and Crafts - Top Secret Mother's Day gifts were begun, I believe.
Archery - Lots of bowing and arrowing.
Library trip afterward.  Merrick did his usual coloring and do-a-dot markering while the boys chose books.  We borrowed Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel to go along with a Maestro Classics CD we've been listening to.

Homeschool running group started this Thursday.  This is an eight week group for kids and moms.  Once in a while, a dad comes along.  I pushed Merrick's stroller for a mile.  Walking.  Slowly.  But on Saturday, I did a four mile Leslie Sansone video.

    In Rangers... 
Merrick rushing to Rainbows.


V verse: Verily, verily, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give it to you. John 16:23

    What we're reading... 
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 

    In the yard...
Our chickens laid three eggs one day.  Hmmm... one doesn't look quite right.


Then, Saturday, they really did lay three eggs.  Things are picking up in the hen house!

    Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…
Lowe's Build and Grow had a recycling truck.  Micah took all the yahoos along.

    I’m cooking…
PDubs whiskey cream sauce and blackberry cobbler.

Apr 17, 2014

Hazelnuts and "Caramel"

This cocoa was very "fake" tasting.  I wasn't a fan.  Roasted hazelnuts?  Don't mind if I do!


Apr 15, 2014

"What are you curious about?" Curiosity Quest Review

For this review of Curiosity Quest's DVD Combo Pack - Produce and DVD Combo Pack - Swimmers of the Sea, I decided to ask Mal and Xav to tell me a favorite part, or a particular fact from each of the videos.  Since these are actually for their education, I thought you might appreciate some of their input.  Their opinions are of the 7-9 year old boy interest level.

Hands down, the favorite of all episodes was orange packing.  The banana/orange knock knock joke was a huge hit around here!  I've decided not to share the joke here so as not to ruin it for anyone, but if you're really curious, you can take a quest through Google to find it easily enough.

So, what are you curious about?  That's the question *you* get to answer by writing to Curiosity Quest.  They choose actual viewers letters to answer by making engaging videos.

My boys refer to the host as JoelGreene, like his name is one word.  Joel is high energy and was fun for the boys to watch.

Each episode asks the man (or kid) on the street questions like:
  • What's your favorite orange?
  • How much does a sea turtle weigh?
Some of the answers absolutely made me cringe and I was a little embarrassed for the interviewees. 
Another part in each episode was "Heeeere's your fun fact."  (I now have that stuck in my own head!)
  • Places mushrooms can grow.
  • How cranberries got their name.


Curiosity Quest Review


DVD Combo Pack - Swimmers of the Sea
(Sea Turtle Rescue, Penguins, Salmon)

Curiosity Quest Review

Penguins -
At Long Beach, CA, Aquarium of the Pacific we got to see Joel get a little squeamish about touching the penguins' lunch.  We loved learning about penguins and watching them eat and play.  Xav has been asking me if every creature he sees (even land animals that *don't* have white bellies) have white bellies to hide from predators like penguins?  Huh?
Xav: I think my favorite one is the penguins because penguins are silly.  Before I ever saw that movie, I thought they had no voice box.  I thought they said, "Whack-whack.  Whack-whack."
Mom note: *whispers* Xav is a little "whack."
Mal: I like hearing the penguins make noise.

Sea Turtles -
This episode takes us to Marathon, Florida Keys to The Turtle Hospital where sick turtles go.  Over 1,300 turtles have been released from there.  They are doing great work at the hospital.  It was kind of sad to learn that some turtles can never be re-introduced to the wild.  
Xav: I like in the sea turtle one, seeing the sea turtle that had one tiny fin.  How you tell a boy from a girl, you can see the boy's tail from the outside, but not the girl's tail.
Mom note: Once a male is mature, his tail is visible outside of his shell.
Mal: I liked learning how turtles hide in their shells to hide from their enemies.

Curiosity Quest Review

Salmon -
We learn from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Juneau that Alaska has five species of Salmon and we can remember them on our fingers.
  • Pinky - Pink 
  • Ring - Silver/Coho
  • Middle - King (They grow to as much as 100 lbs.)
  • Pointer - Sockeye (A little 3 Stooges-type reference boys will love.)
  • Thumb - Chum
At the Macauley Salmon Hatchery, we learned how hatcheries replenish the salmon supplies for the commercial fishermen.  Without this assistance, commercial fishing would have to be heavily regulated. 
Xav: They are tough.  Sometimes the salmon can even go up little waterfalls.  They have little, tiny red eggs.
Mom note: They jump as high as 25 feet.
Mal: I liked seeing the salmon jumping really high.

DVD Combo Pack - Produce
(Mushrooms, Cranberries, Orange Packing)


Curiosity Quest Review
Orange Packing -
We were able to learn about the harvesting and packing of oranges at Gillette Citrus in Danuba, CA.  I could just imagine the smell of all that magnificent oranginess when we see Joel Greene in the orchard.  I know apple orchards smell so good here in the fall.  Navel oranges are harvested in the winter (which they boys had a hard time believing since no one was dressed for winter), and valencia oranges are harvested in the summer.  An interesting tidbit is that oranges self-polinate, but bee keepers will pay to bring their hives to the orchard for the orange blossoms in the spring, making tasty orange honey.
Xav: The black lights make their bad ouchies look even worse.  So they can get rid of those oranges or make it so they don't get worse.
Mom note: The oranges get bruises or cuts that need to be treated with antiseptic to prevent spoiling.
Mal: I like when the windmill got started up and Joel Greene told the banana/orange joke.
Mom note: The windmill blows warmer air down on the oranges to prevent freezing.

Cranberries -
Wisconsin's official state fruit is the cranberry, so it makes sense to travel there to the Habelman Brothers' farm.  Cranberries are buoyant, so the fields are flooded at harvest time.  Next they head over to Russell Rezin and Son to see how berries for juice and craisins are harvested differently.
Xav: Cranberries are very strong.  Joel Greene asked if they were breaking them by standing on them.
Mal: I liked seeing the harvesting, the whole four-wheeler thing attached to the tractor thing.

Curiosity Quest Review

Mushrooms -
This episode takes us to Monterey Mushrooms, Watsonville, CA, where we find out all about our favorite fungi.  This episode was heavy on mushroom growing vocabulary. 
Xav: Mushrooms aren't grown in soil.  They grow in hay.  The brown ones are super, duper big and they are hollow inside.
Mom note:  By hollow, Xav is referring to the open veil of the mushroom underside.
Mal: My favorite part was when Joel Greene jumped in the truck thing and the guy said, "Hey, Hey.  What are you doing?"  Joel Greene is funny.

While all the episodes were both educational and entertaining, I preferred the produce DVD.  The boys seemed to just be happy I was letting them watch a funny show on TV.
Xav: They're fun learning movies.

Suggested age range is 7-14.
Price - $24.95 each for the combo pack.  That is a GREAT deal, considering individual episodes are $19.95 each 30 minute episode.


You can learn all about Curiosity Quest at their website or on social media.
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
There's even a Curiosity Quest blog!  (PS. They have a big announcement on Wednesday!)


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Apr 10, 2014

Cocoa Nib Cookies

I made these cocoa nib cookies with the recipe on the package.  Yuck!  However, the nibs are super yummy and nutty in a regular cookie recipe.