Practice makes perfect. That old saying is true in so many different areas. Math is no exception. While learning a math concept, it's important to practice it. Practice helps to solidify the understanding of the concept as well as learn ways to apply it to the next lesson/concept.

IXL.com is a company that offers math practice in an easy to use, make it fun format. It's an online, interactive, web based math practice site for students at Pre-K level all the way through Algebra, with higher levels coming. 


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IXL Learning was founded in 1998. They have succeeded in advancing education through "Web-based technologies". They have created "transformative products" for the classroom that can become essentials in your homeschool family. From their comprehensive grade levels to their encouraging reward system, IXL.com is a great site to help your family enjoy math.

IXL is very easy to use. Once you've registered your children, they will sign on and find their chosen icon along with their name:

Then they get to choose which skill they want to practice. This is a great attribute of IXL. There are no absolutes as far as skill levels. If your student wants to practice algebra and then review his/her addition skills, it's a simple as a click. If he's not sure what a specific skill is, he can scroll over it and a sample pops up:
Once in the skill, your student will find a variety of question styles, to include different learning styles. IXL says, "We approach each math concept from all angles, offering visual representations, word problems, interactive activities, and more." (IXL.com)

After clicking into a skill set, your child will find a problem to answer. If the question is answered correctly, she will receive a "correct" response, if not, she will receive a "sorry - incorrect answer" with the correct answer, along with the option to see the explanation This allows your student to learn about that skill. You can view the userguide to get a better idea of these steps.
After a set number of questions (set by IXL), your student will earn an award for a job well done. This award system offers encouragement to continue on. This is a picture of my daughter's awards at the Algebra level. 
IXL.com is really a great website. I like that each student can choose what skill to practice and not have a set curriculum to follow. I also like that the problems are not just one style, but can be word problems or straight number problems. I like the fact that there is an explanation available if the problem was done incorrectly. My daughter likes this, too. She actually likes IXL very much. She enjoys the awards and likes that she has been able to practice her skills. My son, though, doesn't like the award system as much. He says it's not "fun". My daughter explained that the awards at some of the levels are "cheesy" and this may be why he doesn't like them. For example, she said at one level, the award was a pair of flip flops. She didn't think that was cool, nor would my son. He did do the problems and actually practiced a lot, for him. But I do wish that he was more encouraged by the awards so he would have wanted to go to the site without being told to. However, he did choose IXL.com for math over his own math book, so that's something. 

The other thing that my son didn't like as much was the explanations of the problems. He didn't feel that it was an adequate lesson. My thought, it was a pretty basic explanation and if the student didn't know the skill already, may not be able to grasp the concept from the it. But, IXL doesn't necessarily state that it is a site that includes math curriculum, but rather, a site to practice the skills already learned. So I believe they are meeting my expectations on the "lessons". 

Would we buy a membership for our family? Probably. I really do like it. IXL offers every skillset up to Algebra that you can think of. This is wonderful for my daughter who is at a higher level math. She can go back a practice. For my son, he is at the 6th grade level and IXL has helped him with his fraction & percent skills, despite his thoughts otherwise, lol. I used it for both my children to practice their multiplication facts. It's even better than flashcards!
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There are also reports that you can view for each of your children. 

They track the progress of your child in various ways. Charts are one of the ways.

You can view the progress by skill, category, and trouble spots.

You can also view how your child has progressed on each skill over time. 

The reports section is a great tool for you to follow your student.

IXL can be purchased as follows:
It can also be purchased by teachers that have several students for $199.00. 

IXL is definitely a site I would recommend you look at if you are searching for a math program for your family.
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Disclaimer: I received an online membership free as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew with the sole purpose of providing an honest review after using the site. For more information on this, please see my disclaimer.
 
 
We love getting magazines in the mail. We've had various subscriptions over the years, from children magazines to cooking magazines. But even though we like science, we have only had one subscription to a science magazine. This is because most science magazines are evolution based and we believe that God created the Heavens & the Earth, as it is written in Genesis 1. So, when we read about science, we want the glory to be given to Him not something else. 

So we were so excited to chosen to review Creation Illustrated because, as the title indicates, it is all about God's creation. Even before receiving the magazines, I browsed through their website to learn more about them. I learned that Creation Illustrated was founded by husband & wife, Tom & Jennifer Ish, in 1993. They wanted to serve the Lord and work together from their home, if possible. He blessed them with the creation of this magazine. And since then, "Creation Illustrated is published quarterly as a private, nonprofit, non-denominationally owned ministry dedicated to the eternal impact of sharing Biblical truth through the blessings of God's creation." 

You can read more about it on their Who Are We page. Not only was I able to learn more about who they are but also what they believe:
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Their Mission Statement:

"Our 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 offered as a reprieve from the daily rigors of life so that all can look to the future with unbridled gratitude and hope." (creationillustrated.com)

I was impressed immediately by their desire to glorify The Lord through their magazine. Every issue contains the mission statement & throughout the pages there is scripture that correlates with the article's and/or photos.

Each issue contains 3 sections: Nature, Scripture, & in Living. These are meant to "provide a balance of mental, spiritual, and physical enrichment" that everyone needs. There are inspiring articles and uplifting spiritual, character-building lessons for readers of all ages. There is even an instructional guide in each issue that can be used as a lesson planner for homeschooling or simply to retain some of the facts you read. This is a great way to get your children to thinking about what they're reading.
Because we are reviewing this magazine now, and it is a quarterly magazine, we were sent 4 issues, including the current Spring 2012 issue. WOW! I knew from looking at the website that the pictures were incredible, but seeing them. . . WOW! This is a full color magazine with heavy weight, glossy paper that is absolutely stunning! The photos are more beautiful than could ever possibly be described here. I invite you to Creation Illustrated's website where the photos can be seen in better quality and you can request a free trial issue and see them up close and personal. The photos are taken by Mr. & Mrs. Ish, as well as others, and each of them have been blessed to be able to grasp the beauty of each and every creation. 
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I also found in each of the issues, a section called Genesis Cuisine. This section offers wonderful recipes that are even on a recipe "cards" (see pic).  My daughter loves this section, too. 

My kids were fascinated by each and every issue: the photos, the articles, the details. We are nature freaks, lol, and being able to view images that show such incredible detail, to the point of seeing the dew drops on a dragonfly (above cover photo). . . it's amazing! We will definitely be getting a subscription to Creation Illustrated
You can, too. Subscriptions start at 
$19.95/year (4 issues). Additional years are as follows:

2 years (8 issues) - $37.95
3 years (12 issues) - $53.95
Add $5.00/year for Canadian postage 
Add $10.00/year for Foreign postage 

These magazines are certain to be treasured by your family & not just tossed away after reading. They're certainly keepsakes.
And remember, you can get a free introductory offer, too.
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Disclaimer: I received this product free as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew  with the sole purpose of providing an honest review after using it. For more information on this, please see my disclaimer.
 
 
Finding the best homeschool curriculum for your family is not an easy task. I have found myself searching through websites, curriculum magazines, convention booths, and even friends shelves to find just the right one that will work for him (or her). This is because there are so many styles of learning, styles of teaching, and styles of books.

There are workbooks, unit studies, curriculum's in a box, textbooks, and any combination of them. There's traditional, classical, secular, christian.. . . . my mind spins as I even think of what to type. We have tried most styles and have found a couple that have worked for us for certain subjects, but I'm still always looking for the rest.

One of the styles that I have not really looked at before, except science, is a textbook. Growing up I went to public school. There, of course, everything was from a textbook Because I am not a fan of public school, anything associated with it tends to make me cringe - thus, textbooks do, too. 

However, I have been introduced to a textbook style curriculum through the Schoolhouse Review Crew that turns my frown upside down ; - ) It's Reading Street grade 6 from Pearson Homeschool
Pearson's Reading Street are textbooks but it offers so much more than just instruction. There's interesting stories, thought provoking suggestions, learning tips, and much more. Within each weekly lesson, there are vocabulary words, writing ideas, games, lessons, & connections to the other lessons learned. Reading Street is really so much more than just reading - it's language arts combined into one format. 
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We received Reading Street grade 6. I thought this would be a great way to wrap up the end of my son's 6th grade and lead him into 7th. He has typically been a reluctant/struggling reader. He has improved incredibly but we plan on working through the summer to increase his skills & this review came at a perfect time for our family. The Lord always knows our needs!

When we received our package, I opened it right up to look at the textbooks, anticipating that old public school feeling. I was pleasantly surprised that the books really are nothing like the ones I remember from school. Like I said above, there is so much more and they are actually fun, or can be, if used in that manner.

There are 2 textbooks for 6th grade. Each are vibrantly illustrated with bright colors and sketches & pleasing to view. Not that old black and white typeset that I was used to in school. Each book starts out with a Visual Skills Handbook & a Visual Strategies Handbook. These "handbooks" offer picture lessons of things like cause & effect, fact & opinion, library, inferring, predict & set purpose, and questioning. This allows the student to see the lesson. It's nice.

I was very interested in the books that were chosen for the students to read as well as the activities that were given. Each story is an excerpt from a classical story that most of us parents will recognize, like Old Yeller and The Chimpanzees I love. Throughout the stories, there are vocabulary words highlighted so the student will see them in context. This is a very good learning tool. There are historical lessons the students will learn, too. Black Frontiers by Lillian Schlissel is one such story that offers a history lesson.

Not only do you get the textbooks, you will also get a Teachers Resource DVD that help you plan your student's lessons, print worksheets, games, quizzes and more. This DVD came in handy for me. Looking at the textbook alone I kind of said "huh?", because I wasn't sure exactly what to do. I wondered where to start and how to best utilize this great book. The Teacher's Resource DVD saved me : - ) It gave me ideas to use.

There is also an ExamView Assessment Suite DVD. With this DVD, you can create exams for each lesson. You can choose from a pre-created exam or customize for your child. This is a nice tool, too. 

Lastly, with the package, comes Guide On The Side. This is a handy dandy guide book that walks the teacher through effective literacy instruction. "It provides a framework of routines and example activities that include mini-lessons, a writing workshop, and guidance for assessing and monitoring your child's progress." It is comprehensive and thorough. Navigating through it, for me, was involved, and takes time. This is not a resource to just look at on a wim

So what do you get in the 6th Grade Reading Street package? You get
  • Student Editions (2 volumes)
  • Teacher Resource DVD ROM
  • ExamView CD (for creating tests)
  • Guide on the Side Instruction Booklet
  • Parent Guide

The price for this entire package is $124.99. It can be your complete language arts curriculum for 6th grade. Reading Street has curriculum for students grade 3-6. There are also other resources available including math, science, and social studies.
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Disclaimer: I received these products free as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew  with the sole purpose of providing an honest review after using them. For more information on this, please see my disclaimer.
 
 
When I was growing up, we played outside, read books, maybe watched the Sunday night Disney movie, and had to do our schoolwork on paper. Though the first few things were fun, doing schoolwork wasn't always an enjoyable activity : - ) That was because it was always the same thing - paper, pencil or pen, and my hand getting really tired. But with the technology that is available to our children now, school work doesn't have to be boring & it can be done at home, in the car, or even on a plane. Programs that are available for the computer, gaming systems, and the portable systems are accessible everywhere.

One such program is Rainbow Sentences by Mobile Education. This is a downloadable program for the iPad that is available right from the iTunes store.
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So what is Rainbow Sentences? It is a game that helps "students improve their ability to construct grammatically correct sentences by using color coded visual cues." The parts of sentences are color coded, which aids the students in recognizing the who, what, where, and why of the sentence; & increases the students understanding of how those word parts work together to form sentences.

How it works: once the app is downloaded, you (or your child) can easily set it up according to your child's level. There are 3 levels to choose from, with level 3 having more complex sentences. There is also an option to have the lines colored and words grouped, depending on each individual child's needs.

Once the game starts, the student is given a picture along with words at the bottom and empty lines at the top. The student must place the words on the correct lines to form a sentence, using all of the words. As the levels progress, more words are added to increase the complexity of the sentence. You can watch the video below to see the tutorial:

As you can see, the program is incredibly easily to set up, and it can actually be fun to play. Because the words can be colorcoded & spoken, even a child that doesn't read well yet can learn while they are playing. For those that are learning to read, being able to hear the word spoken can give them confidence in their ability to sound words out. As the student plays, the words are sounded out and he can determine if the sentence sounds right, as well as determining the right word placement. As the game is played, the player gets a piece added to a special puzzle. Once all pieces are obtained and the puzzle is complete, it becomes an animated video that's fun to watch. 

Below are a few screen shots. You can see the various steps as the player adds the words to the sentence line. When all the words are correct (bottom left), the player has the option of recording the sentence in his/her own voice. The bottom right picture shows a sample of the puzzle at level 1. Your child will be excited with each accomplishment as they receive a new puzzle piece, until the whole puzzle is complete and they can watch it come to life!
Features of Rainbow Sentences:
  • 165 images to create sentence from
  • Intuitive drag and drop to create sentences
  • Words are spoken as they are being dragged for non readers
  • Words can be color coded for added visual support
  • Word groups can be selected to simplify sentence construction
  • 6 levels of sentence complexity
  • Pictograph lessons to help students learn proper sentence construction
  • Record feature allows students to record sentences in their own voice
  • Save and email recorded sentences
  • Students earn puzzle pieces during play to encourage continued play
  • Puzzles come to life once level is complete



Our opinion of this app? We liked it. It's simple to set up and easy to use. My son (12yo & a struggling reader) was able to use it by himself. Though he started at level 1 to try it out, he moved to level 3 that day. When he initially began level 3, he did use the color coded words & lines and struggled some with getting the words in the right order. Once he figured out how the colors of the words matched the color of the lines, it became easier. Another feature that the app uses is that, with each level, the first word of the sentence is capitalized, and the last word has a period after it. This may seem to simplify the process too much, but it actually reinforces the rules of capitalization and punctuation. I liked that. Plus, it gave him a place to start if he wasn't sure. After a few sentences, he changed the settings to color-code off because he thought "that made it too easy". I was happy with him just using it, but then to hear him say he wanted it harder was music to my ears. He played the game right along without giving me a hard time, despite that he doesn't like school work. He kept playing because he wanted to get all the pieces to the puzzle.

What he didn't like was that once he earned all the puzzle pieces, there were no other puzzles at that level to make. Each level has just one puzzle. So now he can still play the game, but there is no goal to reach. Because he completed the puzzle fairly fast (it's only 5 sentences per puzzle piece & 12 puzzle pieces all together), he doesn't have the motivation to play anymore. 

What I thought could be different is that, though the purpose of the app is to help the child learn the parts of sentences, there really isn't any lesson that teaches what parts of speech each word is. There is an option to watch the lesson, (see above right pic) but it describes only "first we need to know who or what the sentence is about, then. . . what. . . , lastly. . . where. . .". The lesson doesn't state noun or verb, but who & what it's doing. This is fine for early elementary grades, but the lessons do not advance with each level.

Overall, this is a great app. It's not just a mindless game, there are actually lessons learned and skills enhanced. I believe you will like Rainbow Sentences.

Rainbow Sentences can be purchased directly from the iTunes Store for just $7.99
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Disclaimer: I received this product free as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew (formerly known as the TOS Homeschool Crew) with the sole purpose of providing an honest review after using it. For more information on this, please see my disclaimer.
 
 
Today's wonders are the beautiful birds that God created! They've been coming to by feeders this week. I love watching them!
How has God's wonders blessed you today?
 
 
As the 2011-2012  Crew year comes to a close, the TOS crew once again presented awards to our vendors.

The awards are known as the
TOS Homeschool Crew
Blue Ribbon Awards.

The following vendors are the recipients of the award this year.  

I have reviewed a few of these products & a few I have not.

Click on the links and you will be able to check out the Crew reviews as well as mine!
Favorite Reading Instruction Product:  Reading Eggs
Favorite Writing Product:  Write Shop
Favorite Language Arts Product: Progeny Press
Favorite Social Studies Product: TruthQuest History
Favorite Science Product: Amazing Science
Favorite Math Product: Math Mammoth
Favorite Online Math Product: Math Rider
Favorite Foreign Language Product: Visual Latin
Favorite Fine Arts Product: Artistic Pursuits
Favorite Christian Education Product:  Apologia: Who Am I?
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Favorite Preschool Product: Before Five in a Row
Favorite Elementary Product: All About Reading
Favorite Middle School Product:  Write with WORLD
Favorite High School Product: Excellence in Literature
Favorite College or College-Prep Product:  Excellence in Literature
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Best Online Resource:  Reading Eggs
Best e-Product: Heritage History
Best Homeschool Resource: Apologia: Educating the Wholehearted Child
Best Book, Novel, or Magazine: Apologia: How to Have a HEART for Your Kids
Best Children’s Book: Amazing Animals by Design
Best Game or Toy: Northstar Games: Wits and Wagers and Say Anything
Best Hands-On Resource: Pitsco Education
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Best Resource I Didn’t Know I Needed: eMeals
Best Customer Service: K5 Learning
Most Adaptable Resource: Creek Edge Press
Most Family-Oriented Resource: Northstar Games: Wits and Wagers and Say Anything
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Kids’ Choice (favorite of CHILDREN ages 0-12):  Reading Eggs
Teens’ Choice (favorite per the TEENAGERS): Pitsco Education
All Around Crew Favorite: Visual Latin
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I would like to add one of my favorites to this group. Action Alert. This amazing tool allows you to safeguard your family from several technology harms. It's not just online safety that we need to have, but computer safety itself. This program can help you & your family. Be sure to check it out