Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pumping Iron again

I had my six month check with the oncologist last week.  Everything is fine except my iron.  I am back to iron infusions.  I had my first drip yesterday.  It took four hours for them to pump it in.  I react if it goes in too fast.  They load me with benedryl but it wasn't enough to stop a reaction.  So for me it has to go in slow or I react.  One down two to go.  Then I plan on getting  to the bottom of my iron absorption issue.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Tos REVIEW ~ Big IQ Kids

Big IQ Title Banner
Big IQ Kids is a internet based program for kids K-8 helping them "become and stay A+ students".  It offers math, spelling, vocabulary and US Geography lessons and quizzes.
From the Big IQ Kids website:
" turns your computer into an online learning academy by providing daily academic lessons for young learners in an interactive, easy to follow format. For the best results, children should log into daily and complete their lessons and quizzes. This “daily” strategy builds invaluable study habits, leads to better grades and greater self confidence."
There is a free version and a premium version (we were reviewing the premium)  Big IQ kids has it's pricing options here.  My two boys were the ones who helped me review this product.  Ian is 11 and in 5th grade while Neil is 8 and in 2nd grade.

The format was indeed easy to follow, so much so that once I got my kids on and showed them around they were independent with the program.  The enjoyed the study of the states the most because of the interesting facts presented as each state was introduced.  The lessons build on themselves each day of the week gradually getting harder.  If I found the boys were breezing through the lessons giving them ample time for the games then I went in and changed things up a bit increasing the difficulty.  Below is an example of the page where I was able to customize Neil's math.
The cute little blond in the corner is Neil's avatar.  He can customize it using his game coins.
How we used it in our homeschool
I let my two boys, second grade and fifth grade, use this program independently.  I did go in and plug a week or two of their current spelling lists into the program just to play with that feature.  Since they don't really struggle in spelling I let them do the progressive lessons that were pre-programmed.  My boys would sign in with their own log in and password and go through each of the four categories.  As I was working on my computer emails would ping in with their results of each lesson or quiz.  I knew immediately if they were getting the lesson or if I needed to help them out with a concept.  I had to laugh one Saturday morning while my husband and I were on a getaway weekend.  A friend was watching my kids here at my house waiting for one of mine to be 24 hour fever free before combining my brood with hers.  I get an email at 9:30 in the morning telling me Neil had just scored a 100% on his vocabulary!  I knew right then that Neil had woken up and was "playing" on the computer, but he chose Big IQ Kids as an outlet.
The boys loved earning coins to use play the games.  I would have to say for Neil that was the big motivator for him to do the lessons.

Overall I enjoyed the fun, easy atmosphere BIG IQ kids provided.  My boys really enjoyed using it.

See what my other crewmates thought of Big IQ Kids here.

Disclaimer: I received a free premium membership for review purposes.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

TOS REVIEW ~ Apologia Who is God?


Bible time.  As a Christian homeschooler I know that Bible time should be the first subject we discuss each morning.  But in reality I had hit a slump.  With five kids in five different grades ranging from 1st - 9th it was difficult to find a curriculum that challenged the olders while informing the youngers.  I had resigned myself to teaching two different levels but had sent my olders to be independent.  NOT what they needed.  The youngers got stories but I felt it was repetitive of their Sunday School.  Then Who is God? and How can I know him?  Biblical Worldview of God and Truth from Apologia Press showed up in my mailbox to review for TOS.  Oh happy day.  We have started using Apologia's science curriculum this year and loved its narrative style.  Who is God? has that same easy narrative style.  It is engaging for my 1st grader up to my 9th grader!

The book is a hardbound, 252 page text that Apologia offers for $39 on their site.  It is divided into 10 lessons which have many sub sections in them.  Each lesson contains a Big Idea, a story that applies the big idea, several sidebars exploring the idea, think about it questions, memory work, vocabulary and notebooking ideas.  There is a lovely amount of information in each chapter that each of your kids is bound to have a favorite part.  I'm really finding it hard to put into words what I love about this book.  It has brought our Bible time back to the family unit.  The kids enjoy it.  I enjoy it (which means we actually do it:) )  Who is God? is the first volume in a series.
A lesson is taking our homeschool about 2 weeks to finish using the book 3 times a week.  I don't have a hard and fast schedule of what I read each day.  We just read, discuss and then stop when I feel we have learned and explored the idea.  Apologia offers notebooking pages on their site available to purchasers of the book.  We use these pages to help the kids solidify the lesson.  Also as book extras, are the teacher help pages,valuable information to help you get the most out of the lesson.

We loved Who is God? by Apologia but stop by the crew site to see what my mates thought.
Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this book as a member of the TOS crew for review purposes only.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

3 goals......28 days

There is a saying from somewhere that after 28 days of doing something it becomes habit.  Well I have tried to make all sorts of things habits and it just never seems to stick past day 4.  In an attempt to be more productive with my day I had to do something.  In the past I have always made huge lists of what I wanted to change and by day 4 I was discouraged and gave up.
Around the internet I have seen people doing 3 goals in 30 and it got me thinking about the fact that maybe I was not designed to bite off huge chunks of new endeavors and be successful.  So I chose 3 things a little over two weeks ago to take a shot at.  One was easy enough, two were things I have struggled with in the past.
I am happy to report that 16 days in and I have had success each day.  Two days ago I did forego one as I had run out of a supply but I made up for it that afternoon.
So what are my three goals?
1. Get up before 7am.  For any of you that know me you know how difficult this is for me.  I homeschool for a reason people!  But I needed to set this goal in order to get my day started and functioning before kids got up otherwise goal number two would never happen.
I've accomplished this by setting my alarm for 6:45 and hitting snooze twice.  Now some of you are doing the math and saying "if your snooze is 9 minutes like mine you are getting up after 7am".  My clock, however, at some point got set 5 minutes ahead.  I've also given myself permission to take short naps during the day if needed.  It has helped me adjustSo there you have it.
2.  Do my Bible Study.  I am attending BSF this year.  There is daily homework for 6 days of the week.  In the past I would get up super early Wednesday morning and hammer the whole thing out ...or not.  It only took the lecturer sitting next to me with a blank sheet to decide I needed to change some habits around.  So now I do the daily assignment and on Wednesday mornings  I do a little reading from the chronological reading I am doing (but am desperately behind in)
3.  Start a load of laundry.  My 14 year old is in charge of laundry around here.  It doesn't always get done in a timely matter though.  She also only pulls the chute of which my husband and I's clothes are not a part of.  I have taken to getting up in the morning, letting the dog out of her crate (she resides in the laundry room) while I load up the washer.

There you have it my 3 goals.  Waking up is harder to do especially since we are heading into spring break next week.  But I am determined to make this a habit so it will be up and at em even during spring break.

Monday, March 7, 2011

TOS REVIEW ~ Reading Kingdom


Reading Kingdom is an online program that teaches kids ages 4-10 to read using Dr. Marion Blank's method of reading.  From the website:
"The Reading Kingdom uses new teaching methods pioneered by renowned literacy expert, Dr. Marion Blank. These methods do not rely on standard phonics techniques which have yielded a national 40% reading failure rate. For better or worse, the vast majority of words in English cannot be sounded out. To adapt phonics to this reality, it uses almost 600 rules which are almost impossible to memorize and riddled with exceptions. The Reading Kingdom, on the other hand, has no complicated rules and empowers children to learn using simple and easy to follow techniques that leverage the tremendous skills they have mastered in learning spoken language. In addition, the Reading Kingdom is the only program that customizes itself to a child. In this way children do not become bored learning something they already know or frustrated by material that is too advanced for them."

I used this program with my two youngest kids ages 6 and 8. The program has a cute owl mascot that leads your little learner through their lessons.
The lesson pages are very engaging with bright colors and fun animations and sounds. Many giggles commenced as they answered questions and saw how their response triggered sounds and silliness.

While using this program in the beginning my kids were frustrated as they had to listen closely to whether the program wanted them to "type" or "click".  Also the child could not be too quick to respond nor too slow or the program would count it as a wrong answer.  Learning these nuances took time.

I teach reading using the phonics method so the approach the website took was different for my kids.  Avery was doing the mouse and keyboard training and I found that helpful for those skills.
Neil is all ready a proficient reader and seems to be stuck on Level 1 of the program.

The parent can check the progress of the student on the parent tab.  Here is Avery's progress as of this morning.

Reading Kingdom gives you 9 Reasons to sign up.  The pricing is  $199.99 for the year or $19.99 a month.  They offer a free 30 day trial to check them out.

Overall my kids had fun with this program.  If you are looking for a phonics based program than this is not for you.  If your child learns better with Blank's method than this program would be a good fit.  I highly recommend you give the 30 day trial a go before purchasing.
See what my other crew members thought of Reading Kingdom here.

Disclaimer: I received a free one year subscription to Reading Kingdom in exchange for an honest review as a member of the TOS Crew.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Avery got a lift

Avery got her lift Thursday.  It is a 1cm (~3/8 inch) lift.  It is shaped like a shoe insole and goes under her insole in her left shoe.  It makes her legs line up so she doesn't have to pop her right leg out when she stands (her right leg is longer).  It is taking some getting used to as her foot rides higher in her shoe.  She is also not used to having her legs the same leg so she still compensates by popping the leg out but that should resolve itself as she becomes more aware of the lift.  This lift should last for a year.
Interesting information I got yesterday though via an instructional paper from the orthotics place.
0-2 cm LLD (leg length discrepency) no action required, however a lift might make one more comfortable
2-5 cm LLD surgical procedure to temporarily stop the long leg from growing.  (we have been informed of this procedure)
5-15cm LLD surgery to lengthen the short bone
>15 prothesis.

My other favorite tid bit from the day.  Signs all over the waiting room about the patient being late would classify them as a walk in and they would be seen when possible.  However, we waited for an HOUR beyond our appointment before we were seen.  Nice.  The actual appointment took 10 minutes.  John ended up having to grab the big kids from PE since I still had a second errand to run in that part of town.