Sunday, June 26, 2016

An Afternoon at Hunt Club Farm

I spent this nearly this who20160621_160135le week really sick with a nasty cold I caught from the kids.  But early on, I did take the kids out to Hunt Club Farm for an afternoon of fun.  I took advantage of a Groupon deal to get us all an annual pass.

They just love chasing chickens and picking them up.  There are so many different kinds there!  And they had cups of animal feed to give the goats and alpaca.  That wa20160621_160907s the sweetest, friendliest alpaca! 

There’s also a new aviary.  It’s beautiful!  We were able to go inside and sit down by the pond and watch the parakeets fly back in forth in flocks.  So pretty!  They had such bright colors.  They did a really nice job with the aviary.

Then we stopped for an ice cream cone before heading home.  Unfortunately, that was about all the fun we had this week, but that better than n20160621_161835othing.  I think I’m on the mend now…I’ve turned a corner, thankfully, so each day should be a bit better than the last.  Just in time to get back to school work.  Isn’t that always the way?!?

Hayden starts attending a 2-week STEM Robotics summer camp at his school tomorrow.  That ought to be fun for him.  So I think we’re gonna go ahead and do school this week and save our other week off for the following week, since Steve will be at home for the 4th of July.  We haven’t made a specific plans for the holiday yet, but we usually go see local fireworks.  We used to also go to see a Tides baseball game with fireworks just before the holiday, but we’re kind of broke at the moment, so that may be out this year.

Here’s to feeling better and enjoying this mild weather!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

REVIEW: LearnBop for Families by LearnBop

With lots of math struggles taking place at my house over the last year, I was anxious to review LearnBop for Families by LearnBop.


LearnBop for Families is an adaptive online math program offering an annual subscription for up to four students.  It gives parents the ability to select the level for each student and monitor their individual progress.

This program offers levels from Grades 3-8 plus high school Algebra 1, Algebra II, and Geometry.

It offers warm-ups, in-lesson videos, and practice problems called “bops.”  There’s a roadmap for each student showing the concepts that are covered for the grade level and where the student is on that map.  It also gives teachers access to their achievements and mastery levels.  There are built-in awards issued for achievements, which are especially encouraging to younger students.

This multi-student subscription is available for $199.95 annually or $19.95 monthly.  There is also an option for a single student plan for $149.95 annually or $14.95 monthly.



I received the LearnBop for Families subscription for up to 4 students.  I set up my youngest son, Holden, for the 3rd Grade level, and I set up my daughter, Haylee, for the 7th Grade level.  They were just going into 3rd and 7th grades, and although they were a year ahead in their math courses, I wanted to have them practice at their actual grade levels to ensure that we could catch any gaps in their learning up to this point.  After all, they’ll be tested on their actual grade levels at the end of the year!

Now I should begin by saying that I did not tell either of them about this review until I’d already received it.  Holden is great at math but notoriously takes hours to complete his assignments for school.  He simply lacks the focus and has not mastered his basic math facts, which slows him down considerably.  Writing has been a major roadblock for him, so giving him worksheets to complete creates a nightmare!  Haylee is not a natural at math at all.  She has always struggled with math.  Although she has mostly mastered her math facts at this point, it was a long time coming, and she still misses some from time to time.

Needless to say, I knew neither of them would be overly excited about doing a math review!  I want to make that clear up front since that was the basis we were working from when we started this program.

First, I’ll talk a bit about how the program is set up.  When you begin, you do a warm-up session.  This sort of assesses your current understanding before starting you on a new concept.  This program automatically adjusts based on your level of mastery, so it will give you extra work if you need it.  Once you begin a concept, you are expected to complete at least 5 problems or “bops” correctly in order to achieve mastery.  Mastery is considered 90% or above.  It will keep giving you problems on a particular concept until you get at least 90% mastery and have completed at least 5 bops.  Then you can move on to the next concept in the unit.

For the teacher, you can log into your account and view each student’s progress at any time.  You can also receive emails each time your student masters a concept.  From the dashboard view, you can see how much time the student spent on their work, how many bops were completed, and what their mastery level is so far.  You also have the ability to change a student’s roadmap (grade level) from this dashboard.  This is especially convenient if you just want to have the student brush up on certain concepts in a lower grade level before beginning a new roadmap or if you are unsure where to start.

Holden’s 3rd grade roadmap included a total of 13 units.  Once Holden got started on this program, he was delighted!  There are instructional videos built in, and you can choose to watch as many or as few of them as needed before moving on to the practice problems.  Holden needed a little help navigating the program initially and understanding the phrasing of some of the questions.  Part of that was because he was using a very small netbook, and he couldn’t see the entire question with its illustrations on the screen at one time.  When I later set up an account for myself to tinker with on my widescreen full-sized laptop, I realized how much easier it was to complete the questions on a larger screen.  In any case, he soon got the hang of it, and he absolutely shrieked with delight whenever an award or achievement medal popped up on the screen to say he’d mastered a concept or completed a unit!  He quickly informed me that he could work on it all day, and he spent much more time in one sitting that I would have required of him.  He did not complain when I asked him to work on it, either.

Haylee, on the other hand, had a completely different experience.  It was more frustrating for her, but it was because she did not do as well as her brother had done.  The cool thing about this program (and the reason I wanted her to review it) is that when the student misses a question, it takes them through the problem step-by-step, breaking it down into each of its smaller components.  IDSCF4675t has the student complete the question in increments until they can arrive at the correct answer.  That’s awesome when you are shooting for mastery and desiring for your student to grasp the concepts that plague them most.  But for Haylee, that included lots of concepts, which meant lots of backing up, and lots of time spent on a single concept before she could move on.  I worked with her sometimes, and her dad worked with her sometimes, and my husband said he felt it was taking far too long to get through a concept for her.  She was spending close to an hour at each sitting.  Needless to say, she was not a big fan of this program, and she fussed a lot about having to use it.  Now to be fair, she generally feels that way about all math, but I think all of that backing up into the step-by-step work made her feel a bit defeated and deflated her confidence somewhat, especially when she could hear her brother working on it in the other room and getting all kinds of awards.

So in reality, I think it’s a good product, the approach is great, and all of the built-in “helps” ensure your child will truly understand what they are doing and how to arrive at the correct answer.  I think all of the on-screen awards and achievements are a huge motivator for younger students who get excited by the recognition.  For a student like Holden, that made it a great fit.  He got a little bored during some of the videos (he has a really short attention span), but computer-based math definitely seems to work better for him, and that was important information for me to have going forward.  He was not spending huge amounts of time in one sitting, and he was getting it done in about 15 minutes per session.  For a student like Haylee who can be frustrated to tears by math in general, I think it’s probably best used as a targeted supplement to help her better understand concepts that are fuzzy for her.  I think going forward, I could have Holden work on it regularly, but for Haylee, it would have to be something I have her do for specific concepts or with a timer so she doesn’t hDSCF4673ave to dread the possibility of a lesson taking an hour to complete.

One more nice feature of LearnBop is that it is compatible with Safari v.8, which means the kids can also use it on the iPad!  I didn’t realize that when we started the review, but I’m sure that will add to the desirability for Holden, since he loves to play with my iPad.  Be sure to check compatibility requirements before you get started in any browser. 

Overall, I think this is a wonderful program and a great way to do math for students who like computer-based learning!

Take a look at what other Crew members have to say about LearnBop by clicking the banner below.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Our First Week of School

Well, we’ve got the first week of our new school year under our belts, and I’d have to call it a complete success! 


Haylee’s doing well with her new math program, Unlock Pre-Algebra, and got 100% on her first test! 

Holden’s doing grDSCF4665eat with his new math program, Teaching Textbooks 5, and he’s able to do the lessons all by himself!  That’s a big change.  He’s been scoring 95-100% on every lesson, and he loves the sound effects and animations it gives him for positive reinforcements.  I’ve actually heard him cheering himself on in the school room!  He likes to print out the report of his work for his dad to see.  And the best part…it’s only taking him about 25 minutes to get through the video lesson, the practice sessions, and the problems!  Yay!  Of course, the content so far has been review-type lessons, so it will get harder and take longer as he moves on.  But he likes the setup of it, and he can follow it himself.  The real test will be how he does when he has to start writing problems down to work them out.  Time will tell!


Both kids are doing Bookshark for history this year instead of Sonlight.  They really like it so far!  The read-alouds and the readers are not taking as long since there DSCF4666are significantly fewer books, and it makes it easier to follow along with just one story at a time.  We’ve always enjoyed the Story of the World books, and this year, Haylee’s core has books 3 and 4.  To keep her attention and make it more fun, I scan ahead as to the subject matter before I start reading and then do a quick Google search for printable coloring pages of the people/subject matter from history so Haylee can color while I read aloud.  She loves that and has been looking forward to it!

Holden is doing great with his reader, and he’s keeping up with the length of the chapters.  Great news!  His reading really improved after we dropped the 2 Advanced Sonlight readers in favor of the 2 Intermediate ones this last school year.  It restored his joy of reading, and that was a good thing.  Now he’s better prepared for the longer reading assignments, but because we’re doing Bookshark, there are fewer books, which means the assignments aren’t too long for him.


Haylee is doing Bookshark Science 7 this year.  So far, she absolutely LOVES it!  She is studying the book on Robotics right now, and every Thursday, she has a hands-on experiment or building project.  This week, she got to make her first robot…an Art-Making Vibrobot!  She had so much fun and made it all by herself.  We took a little video to show how it works.  She said she wants to take a picture of her creations every week and keep them in a folder so she can look back at them at the end of the year.  She’s never asked to do that before!  That seems like a good sign!


The kids are combined this year (for the first time ever) for bible study using Apologia Who Is God? and for music using Music Appreciation Book 1 by Zeezok Publishing.  That’s going really well, too! 


The amount of work I have scheduled for both of them seems to be just right!  They are both finishing all but the reading before lunch time.  That’s so wonderful!  Holden even likes his new handwriting book, and he’s writing in cursive without tracing for the first time ever!  I’m so happy that our days are not too long.  It allows us to have more down time and relax and do fun activities after 2 PM when I would normally be preparing to pick Hayden up from school.  Yay!


Hayden just finished his junior year of public school on Friday, so I now officially have a senior, a 7th grader, and a 3rd grader in the house!  We all have 2 weeks off together now before the homeschoolers get going on their school year in earnest and the public schooler starts his summer cross-country training.  I hope everybody gets along.  They can start to irritate each other when they are all together!  I’m hoping the weather warms up again so we can have some fun afternoons at Ocean Breeze Water Park.

We always do an annual end-of-school year dinner out, which is a rare treat for us.  The kids picked dinner at Mi Casita, so we headed out on Friday night to celebrate and also for an early Father’s Day outing.  It was fabulous, as always!

Here’s to a successful and far less stressful school year!  2016-2017 is gonna ROCK!!!

Monday, June 13, 2016

First Day of School 2016-2017

We hadn’t originally planned to start our new school year until next week.  However, since Hayden’s last week of public school is this week, the kids decided they wanted to start this week instead.  That way, they could have the next two weeks off with Hayden before he starts his summer cross-country practices and before they get going with their school year in earnest.

So alas, here we are, on our FIRST day of the new 2016-2017 school year with Holden as an official 3rd grader and Haylee as an official 7th grader!  It was a great first day of school, and the kids seemed to enjoy all of their new curriculum changes.

DSCF4665 DSCF4666

If today is any indication, I think it’s going to be a GREAT year!

Monday, June 6, 2016

11 Amazing Educational FREE Trials for Summer!!!

I was absolutely floored when I received an email from Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op last week announcing that they were offering FREE trials through August 31st on 11 different educational products!  My jaw literally fell open.  They’ve always offered a few, but this was over the top!

And then when I looked closely at what the free trials were for, I was again astounded at the products themselves!  This is quite an offer.  Check out this list:

  1. Always Ice Cream & Clever Dragons
  2. EducationCity
  3. eMedia Music Academy
  4. Family Boot Camp by Family Time Fitness
  5. LoveMath by GPA Learn
  6. Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization Levels 1 & 2 by Institute for Excellence in Writing
  8. Meet the Masters
  9. Miss Humblebee’s Academy
  10. Portals School Courseware by Evan-Moor (all 11 titles and all grade levels!)
  11. Taken Charge: Siri and the Curious Code

And what’s more, when you sign up for these summer trials (which don’t automatically renew, so there’s no need to cancel down the road), you can also opt to receive corresponding lesson plans that plug right into Homeschool Planet!  If you are already a Homeschool Planet subscriber (as I am…I can’t live without it!), then the lesson plans you select will be ready for you to plug in the next time you open Homeschool Planet.  If you are not a current subscriber, you can still get the lesson plans, along with a free trial of Homeschool Planet to go along with it! 

I’m really blown away by the generosity and quality of these trial offers.  I’m familiar with the Portals School Courseware already, because I’ve used it in the past.  It’s amazing!  And the value of getting access to all grade levels and all 11 titles is incredible!  I have a feeling I’ll end up subscribing to the group buy through the Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op once the trial has ended, because we already use many of the paper versions of those products through our subscription.  But I think my kids will really enjoy the novelty of doing them on the computer instead, and the group buy offer for that is also a great deal!

So my sincerest thanks go out to the Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op for offering such amazing summer freebies, complete with lesson plans.  Check them out for yourselves!

And while you’re there checking them out, also be sure to print out your FREE homeschool i.d. cards for the 2016-2017 school year.