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Archive for June, 2009

I promised to blog about my new online scheduling find, but I wanted to do my review justice, so it took me a few days. But here it is!

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When my husband David came on board with homeschooling Satori, he wanted to see some project management stuff. Like milestones, specifically. Satori already hit all typical preschool milestones and many of kindergarten, so I’m not sure how to set “milestones”. However, I DO fully agree to get more organized. So I embarked on the search for the perfect online scheduling program. Having been a web programmer, such a thing was right up my alley, but I had to admit, not the project I wanted to work on right now. But I knew what I wanted.

I wanted a system that had the following features:

  • Online – so I could access from any computer, or while traveling
  • Secure – uses SSL so personal info can’t be stolen
  • Catered to homeschoolers (or school in general), with features that we’ll love
  • Ability to let Satori log-in (in the future, she’s too young right now)
  • Handy Calendar – monthly and daily views
  • Was easy and simple to use
  • Was flexible!

I tried a few, but fell in love with Homeschool Skedtrack. It does all I wanted, but so, so, so much more. Best of all, it is FREE! It makes its money by sponsors and affiliate advertising.

Here’s the screen I see when I log in:

Homeschool Skedtrack

Homeschool Skedtrack

Here’s our Math Course report:

course-report-mus

The beauty of this is that I can setup all our math lessons in order, but not worry about dates. I am able to “Predict Dates”, which comes in handy, it will take our lessons sequentially, subtract the days we don’t do math, subtract weekends, holidays, vacations, full-day field trips, and present the dates that each lesson would be covered.

So when you log in, you’ll be presented with Today – Daily Schedule with all your lessons for that day. You can mark them off as you complete them.

Daily lessons

Daily lessons

For flexibility, if we have an unexpected sick day, or don’t get through an entire lesson, we simply don’t check it as Completed, and it will show up on the next available day.
To learn more, check out Homeschool Skedtrack’s website and view more sample screenshots, video tutorials, forums and more! They have forums and are very responsive to user feature requests. One request I will make is to see if I an pay something to get rid of the ads. 🙂

I realize that I haven’t updated our Prehistory Curriculum lately, and have been getting hits from random searches on our blog – like prehistoric plants, Dunkleosteus, trilobite cookies, Dimetrodon and more. 🙂 We have entered our Dinosaur study month and been enjoying just focusing on dinos. In a few weeks, we’ll be hosting a fabulous Dinosaur party, complete with dino dig, dino egg hunt, Stegosaurus cake and more! If you live near us, have a child interested in dinos, and haven’t been invited yet, let me know. 🙂

Tonight Satori and I played the Dinosaur Excavation Game. Sadly, it was a poorly designed game. It is like the game Operation, except you are to try to excavate fossils our of T-Rex. Touch the sides and he roars!

Dinosaur Excavation Game

Dinosaur Excavation Game

The reasons why we didn’t like it was because it was hard to get the fossils out. They were curved and slippery, it was easier to put them in upside-down so we could get some sort of grip. Secondly, the game stopped roaring after a dozen roars, even though I put new batteries in! (Maybe it had to do with Satori putting the excavation tool in her mouth?) The 36 Dino trivia cards were quite easy for someone into dinosaurs, which could be a good thing for a 4 year old, or a bad thing for an older child (too easy), and Satori was able to name most of the answers  before me even giving her the choices. Oh well. We ended the night playing Hungry, Hungry Hippos!

The past few months I’ve noticed that Satori is relatively enthusiastic about spelling (we’re talking about a 4 year old who only can read CVC type stuff yet, although today she did read her first 6 word sentence!) It never occurred to me to work with her on that. But now I realize that it can be helpful in learning how to read as well. After months of lurking on homeschooling forums, I chose this program – All About Spelling (AAS). It looks like a fun, yet effective, multisensory way to teach spelling.

So I ordered the AAS Level 1 and Starter Kit, which includes the letter tiles and magnets, which I had to cut and put together.

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The things you will need that are optional but highly recommended, are a 2’x3′ MAGNETIC white board and an index card file box. Some people might find it painful to buy an expensive white board this big, but I’m such an office supply geek that I couldn’t wait to find the perfect board. This one sits on the floor of our carpeted loft so we can learn spelling sitting together on the floor. (It will also hang on a wall too.) It tucks away and sits propped up under Satori’s desk when done.

Magnetic white board for AAS

Magnetic white board for AAS

The program comes with sheets of perforated paper that you tear apart and file away in an index card box. Here we chose one of our sparkliest boxes to make it more appealing. 🙂 There’s quite a lot of Flashcards, they barely fit in our little box.  Here you’ll be able to organize phonograms, sounds, words, rules and so on, so you’ll know what you have to review, what is mastered, and what is yet to be taught.

AAS file box

AAS file box

The magnetic letter tiles you aren’t using can be stored away in little bags for later use, or wait for Level 2. (I had my own zip-bags I used.)

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Here’s a sample lesson.

Sample lesson

Sample lesson

So far we’ve done just two lessons, but Satori and I are loving it so far! I’m really excited about using this program, and think it will help with learning to read. Learning to spell would of course be a good thing too!

Now that we are getting excited about math and MUS program, it was time to give our blocks a new home, instead of their cardboard box they came in. I’d been lusting after the wooden box that Math-U-See sells on their website, but balked at the $40 price. So yesterday we took a trip to The Container Store and found this Small Hobby Case for just $14.99. It turned out perfect!

Math-U-See blocks

Math-U-See blocks

(Click on photos for full-size.)

There is a spot just the right size for almost all the 11 size MUS blocks. Only one compartment shares two blocks, but if I was very anal, I could purchase a small divider to separate them. I used my handy Label Maker to churn out labels in fun fonts so we know where the blocks go.

Blocks in container

Blocks in container

Like a little tackle box, it folds up neatly.

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And is just the right size/weight for four year old hands to pick up and tote around.

Toted in 4 year old's little hands

Toted in 4 year old's little hands

Because we’ll be starting MUS Alpha by this fall, or possibly August, I purchased the Completer Set of blocks, bringing our set of blocks to at least 10 pieces of each, with 40 green Unit blocks. This tote will hold all but 5 of the huge Hundreds blocks. Most spaces will allow the complete set to fit PERFECTLY, some will have to stack on top of each other like Legos, but they’ll still all fit nicely when the box is closed. We should get the extra blocks next week, and of course I’ll update with a picture of our full MUS Block box. 🙂

Satori finished her Place Value lesson today on Math-U-See’s lesson 9. We actually started this lesson a few weeks ago or so and I wasn’t sure she was going to “get it” right away. So I started researching additional math curriculums that might compliment MUS and chose Singapore, which will arrive this week. Today we tackled the lesson again and to make it more interesting, we didn’t work off the workbook, but instead pulled out our white board and made it even more hands-on.

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The red swirls is the “tornado” which messed up all our housing on Decimal Street. Satori set to putting the Tens townhouses and Ones apartment units in the right places.

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Ah, much better. She then wrote the numbers for each place value and was able to say the number! 64! 27! 91! I was so proud. We also did it backwards where I’d write the number and she’d have to first say the number and then place the math manipulatives in the right place.

This is an example lesson of what is in Math-U-See’s Primer. The Primer is for preschoolers who show an interest in counting and quantifying. We’ve only sporadically done lessons, but I hope to be more consistent now and finish Primer by the end of the summer. Primer is meant to simply introduce math and we can breeze through most of the lessons. Not until Alpha will we have to make sure we really master each lesson before we move on. But for now, using Primer, Satori will be able to so some simple addition/subtraction, skip counting, work with hundreds, and tell time.

If you use Math-U-See, it won’t belong before your little one discovers that the green units make good hand puppets!

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We’ve had a pretty cold and wet spring so far, I think the winter was warmer and drier! Definitely not a typical Colorado sunny and warm climate. Today is proving to be a nice day though, so we got to work outside for the first time in months.

Hanging out on the deck

Hanging out on the deck

Yesterday I found the coolest homeschool scheduling online planning application, I will blog about it within the next 24 hours. So, so excited about it!

We are in a hotel room in Steamboat Springs, this weekend we journeyed to Utah and Colorado’s Dinosaur National Monument. We really loved seeing all the dinosaurs this weekend! More photos to come when I am home with Photoshop, but here’s a few teasers.

First stop today was a Natural History museum in Utah where we were greeted by this Diplodocus!

dinosaur 010

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Then onto Dinosaur National Monument park where Satori earned her Junior Paleontologist badge!

Junior Paleontologist Satori!

Junior Paleontologist Satori!