Sunday, June 17, 2012

Chasing The Sun by Tracie Peterson - book review


Hannah Dandridge finds herself left alone with her young siblings on her lawyer father's Texas ranch when he disappears during the Civil War.  There is much unrest between the settlers and the Indians, and with the war raging, times are lean and hard.  When Hannah's father fails to return...and she hears no word she begins to fear the worst.  He is dead.  She wonders if maybe she shouldn't make marriage plans with her fathers old and undesireable law-partner, Mr. Lockhart.  A loveless marriage may be her only option for survival!
When William Barnett appears at the ranch Hannah is confused.  The ranch was given to her father as spoils of war when the Barnett's deserted to the North.  It was assumed the traitorous Barnett's would never return.  When the sole surviving Barnett son does return he is shocked to learn that his family ranch has been siezed and is even more surprised to find a beautiful young woman struggling to keep it operational.
Can Hannah and William find a way to work together...and what else will they find? 
I thought this was a GREAT read!  I couldn't put it down and I stayed up way too late because I just had to know how it would end!  Chasing the Sun by Tracie Peterson, the first book in the Land of the Lone Star series won't disappoint.  Enjoy!
Disclaimer:  I received this book from Bethany House free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All the opinions expressed herein are my own.

IXL.com Math - Schoolhouse Review

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Sometimes I worry a little about whether or not we are meeting the state standards in our homeschool.  Right now Kayley is young enough that where we live she is still under the age of compulsory attendance in our state (here in Missouri it is age 7).  As we get deeper into our homeschool journey it is nice to have an option to fall back on a program that will meet our state requirements if I feel like we need to fill in some gaps.  IXL Math is able to do just that!  We were blessed through the Schoolhouse Review Crew to try out IXL.com!
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What is IXL?
From their website:  Practice makes perfect, and IXL makes math practice fun! IXL allows teachers and parents to monitor the progress of their students and motivate them through interactive games and practice questions. Widely recognized as the Web's most comprehensive math site, IXL offers a dynamic and enjoyable environment for children to practice math. Students who use IXL are succeeding like never before.

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IXL provides drill and fact based math practice in a fun way and can be used with any math program.  We spent our time reviewing the second grade level but they offer math practice for grades PreK-8th/algebra with higher level math coming soon!  See the learning objectives for each grade HERE.  They are aligned with each states standards and IXL is used in over 150 countries around the world!

How does it work?
Your child begins by working through each individual task on his or her own personal home page.
IXL Screen Samples

As they complete the drill they are given virutal rewards and incentives.  Each grade level has its own game board and the student "unlocks" hidden items as they complete the tasks, master a skill, practice for a certain amount of time, etc.  This fun treasure hunt is what makes the drill seem like a game.
IXL Awards and Games

Your child is given a score or ranking as they go that can be easily viewed and accessed through the parent dashboard.  The option to print out full spreadsheets for filing in your childs portfolio is convenient to generate and easy to use.  The spreadsheets allowed me to see the topics Kayley practiced, how she scored and how long it took her to do complete.  This is a really great tool for measuring and tracking her progress.
IXL Family Reports

IXL is reasonably priced at $9.95 per month per child or $79 per year.  
All major credit cards accepted.
To order IXL, click HERE.
IXL Fee Buttons

What did/didn't work for us:
I enjoyed IXL. I like how easily laid out the sections are, the printable spreadsheets are great and it is really easy to move smoothly from one task to the next. The treasure hunt and earning incentives was motivational.

Kayley on the other hand grew a little frustrated with IXL and here is why: As she worked through the tasks she would get to about question 16 and start getting tired. When she got to question 20 thinking she was done she would get so overwhelmed that it didn't stop...question 21, 22, and so forth. On taskings where there were 30 questions to answer she was flopping over in her seat groaning. It was just too many questions for her. 15-20 practice questions max for my little girl. We didn't do any tasks that had more than 30 questions, I am not sure if they go any higher...and I cannot control the amount of questions she had to answer before achieving mastery and moving onto the next level.

Also, as we were working through skip counting Kayley had to type the answers in herself...and she is just not quite there yet. She had to search for the numbers she needed. If she made a typo, searching for the delete or backspace key took a while and after about 10 questions she would ask me to type them for her. I didn't mind since I am usually "hovering" anyway but there were several times where she mised one because she typo'd and it wasn't a true reflection of what she learned.

With that being said, IXL.com is a great program that is easy to use and this is just what didn't work for us...this program may work great for your family! I know a lot of my fellow crewmates love this program and you can read their reviews by clicking below!





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Disclaimer: I recieved IXL.com free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Creation Illustrated Magazine - Schoolhouse Review

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I love magazines.  I love the pictures.  I love the fact that it is divided up into bite size articles that allow you to skip around or stop and start whenever and where ever you want.  I even love the ads!  As I have gotten older and more Mom-ish I have started to cringe at some of the ads and models that I see in a lot of todays magazines.  Immodest fashions, compromising positions, blatant immorality...  Ugh!  Finding a magazine that can be enjoyed as a family is TOUGH but I think Creation Illustrated is filling that gap!  Thanks to the Schoolhouse Review Crew we were given an opportunity to see for ourselves!
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Published by the Ish family, Creation Illustrated states their purpose is....to share the wonders of God's creation.  By revealing fresh insights of His infinite wisdom, gentle touch, undeniable justice, redeeming love, and flawless design, pure truth shall bring renewed peace.  Each part of this publication is ofered as a repriee from the daily rigors of life so that all can look to the future with unbridled gratitude.

The Ish Family story is inspiring.  Their strongest desire is to bring God's Wonders to the reader and you can feel this tone throughout the entire magazine.  Articles are dotted with scripture.  You can read more about Tom, Jennifer and Melissa Ish and the Creation Illustrated story by clicking HERE.
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Creation Illustrated is published quarterly and we were given an entire years worth of magazines (4 editions) to review.  We really enjoyed reading these!  They follow a typical magazine format with a letter from the editor, sharing the mail, articles with amazing pictures!  I mean really, totally awesome photos!  There were recipies and tasteful advertisements.  It has been described over and over as a "Christian National Geographic" and it really is! 

Toward the back there are stories for children and even better (our favorite part) - there is an entire section called "Instructional Guide" that is designed to help the family use certain stories as devotional readings and a second section that offers guidelines for deeper study that asks questions specific to the articles.  A wonderful feature created to help classroom students, homeschoolers, families and individuals integrate the scientific and spiritual lessons presented throughout the magazine.  Wow!  Hello science lesson!  I have enjoyed sitting down and cuddling my kiddos on the couch and reading an article, answering the questions and learning while having fun.  My 2 year old and 5 year old are postively mesmerized by the pictures.

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We really enjoyed Creation Illustrated and I think you will too!

How to Buy:
Subscription rates are as follows:
Add $5.00/year for Canadian postage
Add $10.00/year for Foreign postage

To subscribe, click HERE.
*If you pay now by Credit Card you will recieve an additional $5.00 off!
If you would like to receive a sample issue free of charge, click HERE!

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I know a lot of my fellow crewmates also loved Creation Illustrated,
find out there thoughts by clicking below!



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Disclaimer:  I recieved Creation Illustrated free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Beating the Summer Heat....

It's my turn to blog today over at Latter-day Homeschooling.  I confessed my dislike for summer and shared my top 20 "keep cool" ideas!  Hop on over and check it out!
Latter-day Homeschooling

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

StoryBuilder - Schoolhouse Crew Review

Storytelling and narration are great skills for kids to learn but sometimes easier said than done.  Who knew that learning simple storytelling techniques could be so easily taught using your iPhone?  Not me!  Thanks to the Schoolhouse Review Crew and the Mobile Education Store we were given and opportunity to review a product that we have had SO much fun with:  Story Builder!
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About StoryBuilder:
Story Builder was Huffington Post's winner of the 2011 best reading app!  Recommended for ages 4 and up, Story Builder was designed with 3 goals in mind, to help children:
1) Improve paragraph formation; 2) Improve integration of ideas; and 3) Improve higher level abstractions by inference.
Extensive use of audio clips promotes improved auditory processing for special needs children with autism spectrum disorders or sensory processing disorders.
(Read more HERE.)

How does it work?
Story Builder is fun and easy to use.  Here is how it works:
First Story Builder provides your child with a scenario, a question, and a prompt.  Answering to the question your child will hit the record button and answer the question.  For example:  "After the storm ends, the boat...will quickly sail into the harbor and drop anchor."  After recording your child can play their answer back and decide if they like what they said.  The first time Kayley hit the "play answer button" she was floored!  She LOVED hearing her own voice talking back to her!
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Depending on your child's reading/stor'ytelling level they will answer at least 4 questions about the same story. At the end they will hit the "play story" button and listen to all the answers strung together.  Voila!  A story!

A cool feature:  You can save the stories and email them to yourself!  I haven't figured out how to upload the story to the blog but it is really cute to have those stories saved in my email.  I don't know what I was thinking - but I should've emailed a story to Grandma.  She'd love it!

Also noteworthy:  This app does NOT slow down my phone or cause it to "freeze up" like some other apps do.  Story Builder runs smoothly and we've had no problems with it at all.

What did we think about Story Builder?
We love, love, loved it!  Of course kids LOVE to play on your phone, don't they?  My daughter is always thrilled to get a chance to play with my phone.  Now, not only is my daughter doing something she loves but she is learning how to narrate as well!   When Kayley gets  hold of my iPhone, the battery is dying by the time I get it back.  This app works pretty well while waiting for a table at a restaurant or dentist office or bored in the backseat!

How to buy:
Story Builder retails for only $5.99 through the iTunes app store and is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.  (Requires iOS 4.1 or later).

I know a lot of my other crewmates reviewed StoryBuilder or another great product through the Mobile Education Store called "Rainbow Sentences."  To see what they thought check out the link below!
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Disclaimer:  I received StoryBuilder in exchange for an honest review. 
All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

It's hard to believe it but today marks 10 years that my husband and I got married.  It's been a challenging decade.  We've gone through a lot together. 

The Good: 
Two of the cutest little stinkers on the planet: Kayley & Maggie.  James' graduation from medical school.  My separation from the military and subsequent graduation with my M.A.  Our homeschool journey.  A wonderful ward family in Marshfield.  A mini-van - something I swore I would never have no matter how mom-ish I became (I changed my mind).

The Bad and the Ugly:
Two life-threatening surgeries for James - terrifying to say the least.  Infertility.  Three failed IVF attempts that broke our hearts.  Two failed adoptions that broke our spirits.  A rigorous residency program that nearly severed our connection to each other. 

It's been a weird decade but I'm glad that we've made it and have come this far.  
I love you, James.
Here's to another 10 years.
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