Friday, May 25, 2012

Saxon Math Review

Math is one of my least favorite subjects.  Not because I don't understand it, but because it has been difficult to find a curriculum that works for our family. We have tried textbooks, workbooks, software and websites with little success.  Either my kids get bored or they don't retain the information.  In any case, I am usually frustrated by the end of the year (or sooner) and we go back to square one.  This year we finally found Saxon Math, a curriculum that meets the needs of my child. 
My oldest daughter (the guinea pig) sits down with her textbook every day and reads through the lesson.  If she has questions she asks, but usually she understands the explanation.  After reading the lesson, there are several sets of activities to complete.  Some are to practice the lesson that was just taught, some are problem solving, and some are review from prior lessons.  She also has a facts test every day to review basic skills such as multiplication and division facts, converting measurements and reducing fractions.  If she needs extra practice for a particular lesson, there are extra problems at the back of the book.  A test is offered every five lessons and an investigation activity is offered every ten lessons.
I have found that the number of problems within a lesson is too much for one day.  Generally, my daughter completes the even or odd problems and I grade her work.  If she needs more practice, we review the lesson and she completes a few more problems.  This system serves our needs better than having her complete the entire set of problems for every lesson.  
Taking into consideration our experience with the product this year and the cost to continue it with my other children, I will be switching everyone in our family to Saxon for the upcoming school year.

You might want to know that Saxon offers math curriculum for kindergarten through twelfth grade. 

Saxon Teacher is a component that I was unfamiliar with until this spring when I saw it at the homeschool convention.  This multimedia presentation teaches your child as she goes through the lessons.  When I get to the point that I don't feel comfortable teaching math, we will take advantage of this product.

I did not receive any product or compensation in exchange for this product review, nor did anyone ask for my opinion.  I freely share my opinions with anyone willing to read or listen.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Summer Reading Program

Barnes & Noble is offering a summer reading program for kids!   Download the reading log for your kids to fill out.  After reading and writing about 8 books, they simply take the log to Barnes & Noble to get a free book.  Check out the details here.

Adoption Update

It's been almost five months since we brought Alex home, so it seems to be time for an update.  When we considered adoption (less than a year ago), one of our biggest concerns was how a six-year-old boy would fit into our family.  It took Alex no time at all to rid us of that concern.  Even with his limited English, he gets our family's sense of humor.  He also loves to do most anything we are doing, whether it's cuddling on the couch to watch a movie, ride bikes, or go farming with Grandpa.  Speaking of English, Alex has a firm grasp of the language with minor grammar issues and a vocabulary just like most other six year-olds.  People who meet him now don't even realize that English is his second language.  Bonding has also been a huge success for us.  Alex gives hugs and kisses all day long, especially to me.  The words "I love you" come almost daily now and we have learned to appreciate that he says it when he means it rather than just because it's the thing to say at that moment.  On Mother's Day, Alex got his piggy bank and asked AJ to take him to the store.  They came back with a cute arrangement of carnations and a card on which Alex wrote "I love you."  I will treasure that forever.

Another big success for Alex has been his academics.  He does well with his school work, usually completing his work quickly and accurately.  He reads English fairly well, as well as appropriate for a first grader.  His penmanship is beautiful and he enjoys writing stories in his journal.

Two issues came up after we brought Alex home, neither of which were anticipated.  The first was when we took him to his own bedroom the first time.  At the orphanage, all of the boys sleep on the floor in one big room.  For some time, our family gathered in Alex's room at bedtime each night to sing, tell stories and pray until he fell to sleep.  During the night, he woke and came into our room where he slept on the floor.  In the last couple of months, he has progressed to the point that we sometimes gather in the girls room and sometimes in his room.  He is comfortable with getting in his bed alone and waiting for us to tuck him in and he rarely makes it into our room during the night.

The other issue we are still working on is his desire to play.  Looking back on his time in the orphanage, the children spent most of their day at school.  If they weren't at school, then they were on an excursion, watching television or playing video games on the computer.  This has especially been a problem on school days because Alex finishes his school work quickly and has more free time than the girls who take longer on their work.  He is starting to enjoy playing with his cars, drawing and reading for fun. 

Our blessings are abundant and we count Alex as one of those blessings.  He adds so much to our family with his sweet personality and precious laughter.  Dinner is one of my favorite times of the day because we all sit and talk, usually much longer than the food lasts on our plates.  I'm looking forward to many more years with our daughters and son.

Below are some pictures from Alex's birthday party last weekend.  When asked what he wanted for his birthday, he answered, "a Cars party at church with cake."  How can I say no to that?

Singing Happy Birthday

Alex's favorite gift - a skateboard from Grandma & Grandpa

After the party, we went to a nearby park for a train ride.

Not everyone is called to adopt, but we are all called to help orphans.  We couldn't have adopted Alex without help from the Project Nic Fund.  The guidance, support and financial contributions were integral in bringing Alex to our home.  For Alex's birthday, we would love for you to make a contribution of any size to this worthy project.  In addition to helping with adoptions, the Project Nic Fund is supporting a home in China for children whose lives are impacted by AIDS.  When you click on the link, go to the "Give Online" tab.  You will have the opportunity to specify "Project Nic" in your donation.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Happy Birthday Alex!

Today our family will celebrate Alex's seventh birthday and his first birthday with us and we couldn't be more excited!  When I asked Alex what he wanted to do for his birthday, he asked for a Cars-themed party at church with his friends.  He also asked for cake and ice cream.  I love easy!  Here are a couple of preview pics:

Alex's cake is a simple sheet cake.  We added a fondant road in the shape of a "7" and 3 characters from the movie.
Goody boxes for Alex's friends filled with candy.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fridays Mean War

Our house battles it out every Friday and each member of the family looks forward to the event.  We call it Zone Wars, based loosely on FlyLady's cleaning zones.  My kids spend Monday through Thursday cleaning their personal zones (Monday - bed, Tuesday - floor, Wednesday - dresser, Thursday - school area).  On Friday, we attack the house with Zone Wars.  Here's the battle plan:

1.  I make a list on the white board of all of the tasks that need to be accomplished.  The length of the list is determined by the amount of time we have, what the week has been like, and what is coming up.  For example, if it has been a crazy week or we are expecting company, the list will be more detailed.  If we've done a really good job of keeping up with things through the week, it will be a shorter list.  Another thing I keep in mind is the length of time it will take to complete a task.  I try to break big tasks up into smaller tasks that can be completed quicker.  The ideal task is 3-5 minutes long so rather than writing "clean the living room,"  I will write "pick up books," "dust the living room," and "vacuum the living room."

2.  This step varies from week to week.  Here are two of our more common methods:
  • Divide into teams.  Each team chooses one task to complete.  The timer is set for 5 minutes and each team hurries to complte their task.  Points are awarded to each team according to how well each task was completed.
  • Divide into teams that switch after each task.  The timer is set for 5 minutes and each team hurries to complete their task.  Points are awarded individually according to how well each task was completed.
  • Attack the tasks as individuals.  Rather than setting a timer for each task, we set an overall time limit.  As a person completes a task, he/she initials it and chooses another task.  Points are awarded individually according to how well each task was completed.  As needed, teams are formed and both people get points for those tasks.
While the kids work on their tasks, I alternate between cheerleader, coach, and teammate as necessary.  When tasks are completed, I judge the work and award points.

3. After the Zone Wars are over, we go to the score board.  Sometimes everyone gets a prize if they meet a minimum number of points and sometimes there are four prizes awarded in order of the points earned.  It depends on what I think will motivate everyone to participate that day.

We have tried several methods to teaching the children to care for our home and this has worked best.  I appreciate that I am not the only one trying to get it all done.  Our kids love the feeling of accomplishment when they have worked hard and see a clean house.  They also love their prizes (tonight's prize package is movies and ice cream for anyone with 20 points).  My husband loves coming home to a clean house and a happy family.