Friday, June 24, 2016

Weekly Wrap Up - College Week

My little camper came home over the weekend.   She was exhausted and tanned, and I believe she grew a couple of inches too.    She had a ton of fun!   She even won the Best Girl Camper Award.

Sunday of course was Father's Day, and we celebrated my husband and his Dad.   Check out the cool t-shirt we bought him.

The girls were in college this week.  Lindsey was studying robotics, and was the only girl in her class.  She had the highest score every day on the robot obstacle courses, and now she's very excited about the world of robotics.



Olivia took a stage hair and makeup class.  Her teacher was very talented and really good with a tiny room full of 15 teens and a lot of makeup.    Their final production for the week had to be a Disney villain.   Olivia picked Scar from "Lion King".   She's getting good at this!





We worked on another art project at home.  This one is the Mermaid of Denmark and we used water colors, oil pastels and acrylics.   Lots of fun here.


On the blog this week I shared an encouraging message about being a Dad Worth Remembering.  I also shared a post about evaluating our school year in 2016 Success....or Failure.   I also shared reviews on LearnBop and MySchoolYear.com

Linking up with the Weekly Wrap  Up.
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Thursday, June 23, 2016

2016 Success....or Failure?

 

Regardless of the type of homeschool philosophy camp you abide in, evaluating your progress, mistakes or even philosophy camp are always a good idea.    It helps to take a clear, hard look at what did and didn't work.   Sometimes you see that what worked for the first year (or years) is no longer working and you need to make changes.  I suggest however, that you do your evaluating a couple of weeks after you've finished your year, once you've had a chance to...decompress, if you will.

Depending on what state you live in, you may need to submit documentation to back up your school achievements.    In some states, live Virginia for example, you can submit a portfolio of your student's work, have an evaluation letter submitted by a qualified evaluator, or have your students take the dreaded standardized tests and submit that the student is in at LEAST the 4th stanine (or the 26th percentile).

I've often heard public school parents lament about the SOL testing, and how "it doesn't show fair representation of what they really know".   I've always agreed with that statement, yet I've opted for the standardized test route each year just so my kids can get used to taking the tests in preparation for the biggies in high school (PSAT, ACT, SAT).

Imagine my COMPLETE AND UTTER SHOCK when I received the test results below, on a Friday evening, after 5pm, ahem.



Yes, you're reading it right, "lowest level", "Composite Score 1", "Stanine 1".   I stood there blinking, with my head titled to the side, looking somewhat like our dog when he hears a noise he doesn't understand.   I began to interrogate the child that these scores represented....

"Did you READ the test?"  With much tone she replied "YEAH!"

"Did you understand the test?"  Again with the tone, "YEAH!"

"Did you pick some random crazy pattern and just fill in circles wantonly?"

"NO!....wait, what does wantonly mean?"

Oh good grief!

For the entire weekend I felt like the absolute WORST homeschool mom ever. I mean really, how poorly am I teaching if she got a ONE??   I kept flashing to that scene in "A Christmas Story" where the kid had to wear the dunce hat in the corner.   It was bad ya'll.

Monday morning, and at exactly 9am, I called the testing facility and said I had a question about our test results, gave them my account number and the gal said, "Which student are you calling about?  Oooohhh...never mind, I see which one....."   Yeah, ya think?     She then began to interrogate me.

"Did the student take the correct test?"   Trying not to have a tone, I responded "Well, she took the one YOU sent her."

"Did the student read the test?"

Now with a tone, "Yes she read the test!" (deja vu)

After a couple of hours of research I got a call back.   "Um...apparently our scoring machine ATE your daughter's answer sheet, and never actually scored it."    I know I heard the  Hallelujah Chorus echo in the background.   Before I could catch myself, I said "Really, and nobody picked up on that BEFORE you almost caused me to have a  complete breakdown?? "

"Um...apparently not.    So we're going to have to send her another test kit and she'll have to retake it."    The child's response was "YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!"   I believe the tone was now justified, ahem.

Three weeks later, the new test is done, results have come back and tada!   She's in the 98th percentile (a far cry from ONE).

Evaluating your homeschool year doesn't sound nearly so bad now, compared to that horror story, now does it?    You can thank me later, grins.

Be sure to pop over and read the experiences of others as they've wrapped up 2016.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

MySchoolYear.com (TOS Review)

Today's review will be sharing my experience using the Annual Membership  from My School Year (Homeschool Record Keeping) from MySchoolYear.com.  This online planner gives you all the tools you need to plan and keep track of your academics!



Setting up your account is quick, easy and painless.   You enter each child's information (school year, grade level) and then you can add classes, attendance requirements, and scheduled events.  Once you have your information entered, you'll have these handy dandy pie charts (shown in the photo below) that will automatically update (or you can update/edit yourself).   This feature gives you a quick, visual understanding of where your student is on attendance (both days and hours) lessons and reading requirements.   Handy bar charts quickly show you events, extra curricular activities, standardized tests and awards.


The "Tools" feature allows you to copy classes/lesson plans and reading logs/lists, create a plan (quickly divide material into evenly distributed lessons i.e. reading schedule).   There's also an option under "Tools" to reschedule lessons, so if someone is sick or life just happens, you can easily get back on track when normal returns to your homeschool.

The "Teacher's Aide" feature gives your reminders about info you've missed.  For example, looking at the pie chart above you may have noticed that there isn't a portion showing as completed (because I'm setting it up for the upcoming year)...so in the Teacher's Aide section, I have reminders that both girls are missing attendance hours and days, and that I'm missing lesson plans for the subjects I haven't finished adding to.

The "Reports" feature is pretty awesome!   Again, quick and easy is the mantra with this program.  You can quickly and easily print off individual course descriptions, student awards, extra curricular, materials list (surely I'm not the only one who finds they can't do a project or lab because they didn't get all the items ahead of time, ahem), reading log, report card, standardized tests and the dreaded TRANSCRIPT!  Yes, that's right, a simple way to do a transcript, I think I hear the angels singing (grins).

One totally awesome feature is that first thing on Monday morning I get an email listing the weeks schedule!   That's right, it's automatically sent to my inbox and I can quickly print off a weeks worth of lesson plans with one click.

You may think all off my quick and easy comments are hype, so to appease your mind you can check out this tour and see for yourself.  You can also get a free, 30 day trial membership to see if this product is a good fit for you.   You'll also be happy with the pricing for MySchoolYear.   Monthly rates are $5, or you can get an annual membership for only $40 (yes really)!    Both plans offer all Features Enabled, Unlimited Students and Secure Cloud Access, however the annual membership also comes with a Price Lock Guarantee, meaning your annual rate will never increase as long as there is no lapse in your membership.

To read more  TOS Crew member reviews, click here.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

LearnBop (TOS Review)


If you're looking for an online program to help strengthen your children's math skills, (grades 3-12) then LearnBop may be just what you're looking for.  Today, I'm sharing our experience in reviewing LearnBop for Families, which is a 12 month subscription.


Initial set up for the site is pretty easy.   You get to pick an avatar for each student (bottom right of photo above), and pick a grade level.   Once you've set up their information, the system will have the student do an assessment to see what areas need work and then it will set up a "Road Map" accordingly.   It does not however tell you what they did right or wrong on the assessment.   While moving through the "Road Map" students will earn achievement badges (bottom left in above photo) to help keep them motivated.    If for any reason you find that the student needs to go up or down, you can change their "Road Map" at anytime.

Once your account is set up, your homepage will list a "Dashboard", "Learning Roadmap", "Progress" and "Achievements" across the top of the page.  Each student's will be listed individually under each tab, so if you click on "Progress" every student you list will pop up and then you just click on the one you want to see.


Your students progress is mapped clearly (as shown above) so that you can see how well they are doing, the percentage they have completed and achievements earned.      The lessons consist of video tutorials (and extra, optional videos if needed).   The student gets credit for watching the videos and then moves on to the "Bops", which are the actual problems they answer.  

To pass, or master, a "Bop" the student must score a 90%.   Oddly enough, the student can get all the answers correct and still not have 100%, in order to get to 100% you have to do extra credit problems.   This was very frustrating and it took a while to figure this out.

When working through the "Bop", the student is presented with questions, and either multiple choice, fill in the blank or line segmenting options to show the answer.   If your answer is incorrect you can then get a step by step explanation for how to get the correct answer.   If you continually get the answer wrong, you can click to get the right answer shown to you.  The lessons are thorough, and the explanations are clear and precise.  

However,  as with any new program (and the family version is new) there are a few glitches that are still being worked out.  There are times when the right answer is not available or is continually marked wrong by the system.  This is annoying for the parent, and frustrating for the student.   There is an option to report the problem as having an error.    Truthfully, this was a real issue for Olivia as she became very frustrated when she knew she was right and it wouldn't accept her answer, or when the correct answer was the answer she'd been entering, but it kept being marked as incorrect.

I believe this is an exceptional product that can really help students gain a deeper understanding of math.   It could easily be a stand alone math curriculum, or used for remedial work or to carry you through the gaps of summer vacation and holidays.

Single student rates start as low as $14.95 per month, with a family rate (up to 4 students) starting at $19.95 a month.   With a thirty day, money back guarantee you really can't go wrong if you want to give this one a try.

To read reviews by other TOS Crew members, click here.

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Dad Worth Remembering

In the past little while, several of my close friends have lost their fathers – some to chronic illness, others to sudden tragedy.  Each of these dear friends has lost a “daddy” -their first true love.   It’s been truly humbling to listen to these women share about the great love and admiration they have for their fathers.   These haven’t been perfect men by any stretch, because none of us are even close to perfection.   Yet in the eyes of their daughters, they are as close to perfection as it gets.   This is truly amazing to me.

My girls are still young, not even teenagers yet.   I see that same adoration in them.  Screeches of “daddy’s home” echo through our house as the door slams and little feet race down the driveway to grab the returning hero at the end of the work day.   A “snuffle” from Daddy at bedtime is a prized commodity and probably holds far more value than all of the vaults at Fort Knox.  Rumor has it that his homemade pizza is the best pizza, EVER!

This is truly a relationship that I can’t quite fathom.    I sometimes stand afar off and watch the three of them as they interact and I wonder what it is that makes that bond  between father and daughter so strong.   Maybe it’s the princess in every little girl, looking for a knight in shining armor?

Whatever it is, I’m happy that my children experience it.   One day (far, far away I hope) they will experience the loss of this first love of theirs.   It will be heart wrenching, but it will be the magnum opus of this man’s life.  His greatest work, to love his children and show them a glimpse of the Father’s love for them.

Dads, they need you.  They need your love.  They need your guidance.  They need your encouragement.  They need your time, your laughter, your snuffles.  Better to be wept for with fondness, than to be wept for with regret.
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