Tuesday, November 11, 2014

IXL Math & Language Arts - A Review

Christmas Book Review

Our family has been enjoying the additional learning exercises provided through IXL.  Both the math and the language arts programs have provided fun supplementation to the resources that were already part of our home education routine.  Harmony is old enough to benefit from both of the online programs provided.  IXL Math supplies her with both reinforcement of her current skills and extra practice on strategies that pose her more of a challenge.  Currently we are not using a formal Language Arts curriculum.  Rather we have been using a few less formal resources, and IXL Language Arts has been a nice fit.

We use the programs in a couple of different ways here at Royal Academy.  Harmony can go online and practice her choice of skill sets, and the IXL program keeps track of her progress.  Alternately, I can assign her certain exercises and check back later to see if she's grasping the concepts.  I should note that the assignments cannot be given within the program.  I just write the exercise numbers on a piece of paper for her, and she looks them up on her own to complete them.  As you've heard me mention previously, instilling independence and self-sufficiency is high on our priority list.  Using the programs is another simple way for me to work toward that end goal.  In this way we have put IXL to work as our primary math program to fill the gap in our transitional time since she has completed her previous math program.  It is nice to have a resource to help keep her skills fresh as well as provide an added challenge while we decide where we want to go from here in regard to her mathematical education.

Harmony assisting Avery while Bella observes.

Annabella and Avery are both of the preschool age, and they really enjoy IXL Math.  The Language Arts program begins at Grade 2, so they are too young to utilize it yet.  Harmony loves to work with them on the math program.  Reading them the questions and helping them understand the concepts and answer the questions is a great opportunity for all of the kids.  Not only do the little ones learn math skills, but Harmony gains confidence through teaching them.  It's a win, win!

We are also excited about the potential of IXL in our homeschool thanks to the availability of apps.  It is not something we've managed to implement at this point, but we certainly plan to in the future.  Most likely it will be after Christmas since we are planning to add some new technology to our school supplies this holiday season.  The complete program, math Pre-K through 12th Grade and language arts 2nd through 8th grade, is available through the iPad app.  Pre-K through eighth grade math can be accessed through the Android and Kindle apps with higher level access on the horizon.  The math portion goes all the way from Pre-K through 12th grade when accessed via the internet.

Although IXL is designed for skill practice as opposed to a full curriculum, we have found a way for it to take center stage in our current routine.  If you would like to utilize IXL in your homeschool family memberships start at just $9.95 per month or $79 per year.  For more information or to purchase a family membership, visit the IXL website.

You can connect further with IXL via Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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Friday, November 07, 2014

A Break from the Norm

Sometimes it becomes evident that a diversion is needed from the mundane, everyday routine.  Don't get me wrong.  Our routine is a good one, and it works well for us, but sometimes changing things up a bit is just what's needed to add a little fun and adventure into the normal course of living.  Since the kids and I have done so well at staying on track with our academic schedule, and we really don't take any breaks, it was easy to throw caution to the wind this week and head out for some spontaneous shopping and exploring.

My favorite day was Wednesday when we decided to take a truckload of donations to K.I.D.S. in St. Clair.  It's a wonderful organization that provides clothing, books, toys, and other needed items to children that are experiencing difficulty in one fashion or another.  We learned about it shortly after the girls came to live with us, and they really blessed us.  Now, we make it a point to give back.  This time was the first time I directly involved the children in the process.

After breakfast and morning devotions the kids and I headed up to Avery's room to go through all of his possessions.  We took out a trash bag and small box of items to donate.  I had already loaded up the back of my truck over the weekend with items from another room I've been actively purging.  We added Avery's old treasures to the load and headed out.

For some reason I missed a turn and it took us a little longer than it should have to get there, but we weren't in a rush.  It was no big deal.  We still made it there in time for the kids to help me unload the donations.  They enjoyed helping.

Once we were finished at K.I.D.S. we found a local party store to purchase some snacks and headed out to travel the waterline.  We found a nice spot to pull off and watch the water and enjoyed our snacks.  Then, we traveled the back way home through the woods and stopped at a park for some fun time to run around and climb.  Bella's favorite is the teeter-totter.

The rest of this week we wrapped up our science and history studies and focused our energies on purging more things from home.  I cannot tell you how good it feels to finally have enough energy to get some of our house back in order.  With kids moving in and out over the past three years we have changed rooms around more than I care to remember.  It has caused some very frustrating disorder.  Step by step I am reclaiming my organized home.

As the kids grow and get more settled in our family they are growing more independent, and for me that means more time to do the things I need and want to do.  There was a point where it seemed they would never go off and explore or play on their own.  Now they play make believe A LOT, and I absolutely love listening to their exploits.  Sometimes they even include me in their script.  Of course I play along.

Right now we all seem to be in a spot where we need a little more freedom.  Play really is the work of the children, and I have been actively encouraging mine to work very hard.  It just seems like that kind of season right now.  It's a time for us to set aside rigorous academics for a more relaxed approach.  I guess that's why we're so good at being eclectic.  We may use a curriculum, or two or three, for this or that, but we can also flow with our natural rhythm as well.  Sometimes that is what's most important.  Aside from a strong faith walk, the thing I wish most for my children is independence and trust in themselves; their instincts and intuition.  Having enough time to freely explore, create, and play is essential to the end goal.

This week of redirection has renewed my strength and my hope in the future.  It's weird how some days life can seem so long, and others it seems way too short.  Recently I was reminded just how important it is to be present in the here and now.  Life is short, and if we do not take the time to enjoy it we will surely miss out.  We are not guaranteed tomorrow, so we should live today.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

If He Had Not Come by David Nicholson - A Review

Christmas Book Review
I have to admit that I have never heard the original version of If He Had Not Come by Nan Weeks, but I can see why it is considered a classic.  The story is thought provoking and a great conversation starter between parent and child.  David Nicholson retells the story sharing his thirty year family tradition so that we can begin our own tradition of reflection and conversation within our own families.  Tradition has been at the forefront of my mind and a big topic for me lately.   Ever since Avery joined our family five years ago, and with the addition of the girls two years ago, I have learned a lot about the importance of tradition.  If He Had Not Come is a perfect fit for our family.

This year is the first year we are planning to take the month of December off from regular academics and take the time to really enjoy the season.  One of the things I have planned is reading Christmas themed books all month.  I really like the idea of keeping a basket of wrapped books in the family room and having the kids take turns picking one to unwrap and read each night before bed.  If He Had Not Come will be in our basket for sure.  I even plan to read it as a special activity for Christmas Eve, as that is when the story takes place.  We'll light candles, make hot cocoa, pop popcorn, and read and discuss the story before bed.  I can think of no better way to send my children off to bed on Christmas Eve.

Even though If He Had Not Come is geared toward the six years and up group, all of my children enjoyed reading it.  (Mine at home are currently three, four, and nine.)  The story is told through the eyes of a young boy.  I like that the relationship in the story is between father and son.  That, along with the artwork reminiscent of days gone by, gives the story a comforting feel lending to that word tradition that keeps popping up around here.  David Nicholson provides some great resources in the back of the book.  Harmony, the resident nine year old, and I enjoyed discussing the questions posed on the Interactive Topics page.  The questions definitely are not geared for toddlers.  Throughout December we will further explore the questions provided by Josh Mulville for Digging Deeper.  We'll even do the Christmas activity in the back.  The little kids are sure to enjoy it with us!

The added resources really make this beautifully bound, hard cover copy of If He Had Not Come a treasure to last generations.  It's a timeless story with a timeless message that is sure to ignite valuable conversation within every family that reads it together.  It's a wonderful resource for beginning a simple tradition that could have eternal implications.

You can order your own Casebound Hardcover copy for $18.95 and begin your own family tradition.  If He Had Not Come is also available for $3.99 as an E-Book.

Follow David Nicholson and his book If He Had Not Come on Facebook here.

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