Friday, February 17, 2012

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Sometimes life has a way of getting in the way of doing what you love. Though I LOVE to write, and have experienced a great deal of satisfaction from writing for this blog, trying to juggle full-time employment and homeschooling a 2nd grader has made it impossible for me to find the time to write. My own lack of time, combined with Arby's desire to get back to "family blogging" has brought us to the decision to discontinue our collaboration on this blog. The blog will not "go away"...there are articles here that I hope people will continue to stumble on and enjoy. But there won't be any new posts for the foreseeable future!

I hope to return to it again someday.

Arby and I have greatly enjoyed our blogging partnership over the last couple of years. For me, the best possible outcome of two years of blogging with Arby is the friendship that has been forged between our two families! It's been a joy to share this blog with him and to get to know him better. He's a man of great humor, and even greater character.

Thanks, Arby for being the best blogging partner that anyone could ever ask for! Hope to see you and The Boss again one of these days! There's a Portillo's Italian Beef here with your name on it!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Blog Contest Winner

Congratulations to Jill Schwarz!  Jill is the first (only, and last) winner of a blog contest here at The HomeSchool Apologist.

Jill, send me an email so that I can forward your email address to Lakeshore Learning.  They will send you a link for a free download from their online catalogue.

I hope you enjoy your selection.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A CONTEST! (after a brief product review)

Captain Chaos’s new favorite math activity is making a talking pig say, “Oops, try again!”  She giggles, and then tries again.  Who can blame her?  The pig is funny.  It’s a character found in a math game on the Lakeshore Learning Material’s computer based Interactive Calendar Math program. 

I was recently contacted by Lakeshore Learning and offered the opportunity to review any educational software title in their catalogue in exchange for a review on this blog. Normally, offers such as these go straight into my virtual trashcan.  In 4 ½ years of blogging, this is the first such offer I have accepted.   I did so because we need to shake up our homeschool curriculum.   We need variety in how we present concepts.  We need presentations that area good fit for Captain Chaos.  The girl simply cannot sit and write out an endless series of workbooks and worksheets as found in our A Beka and Saxon math curriculum.  We are turning our attention more often towards computer based learning.  That’s where Lakeshore Learning Materials enters the equation.  (I slipped-in that math reference for The Boss)
Interactive Calendar Math is a program for the first and second grades that teaches calendar concepts on a customizable classroom calendar, allows students to practice counting money as they drop coins into a talking piggy bank, practice skip counting with an interactive hundreds chart, and even write and solve their own math equations. There are also daily math problems for children to complete.   Each section is brightly colored, easy to read, easy to use, and has a button so students can check their answers. The skip counting page is customizable to your child’s favorite color. 

The first thing my kids did when they discovered the perpetual calendar was to check the days for their birthday this year, next year, and each year forward until they collect social security.   Well, okay, it really stops at 2030, but if you’re still homeschooling first graders in 2030, you have bigger concerns than running out of virtual calendar space.   By far their greatest discovery was the money counting page, where they must drag and drop coins into a talking piggy bank to equal a predetermined value up to $2.00.  If they get the correct combination of coins, Wilbur rewards them with a hearty “great job!”   If they miss, they are treated to an “ooo” face reminiscent of Gary Larson as the pig says, “Oops, try again!”  For some reason, neither my first nor fourth grader can manage to get a single money question correct.  But they have loads of fun!

We are still exploring this program’s uses, but I like the skip counting page.  By selecting any one number between 1 and 10, the 100 number chart can be highlighted to show counting by 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, 5’s, etc.   The page is colorful, and I can have this handy visual aid on a laptop on the kitchen table, which saves me from the trouble of decorating my kitchen in an early American classroom theme.    Educational posters clash with my cast iron collection. 

There are two flaws in the program.  The first is in the instructions for each section.  They cannot be turned off, so you have to find and click the “X” in the dialogue box the first time you use a feature each visit.  If you flip between features without exiting the program, you will not have to repeat this step.   I hope that this is corrected in future versions.   When I first looked through the program, I found myself asking, “Is this all there is?” But honestly, I have no idea what I would add. Using the virtual pencil to write numbers is challenging for little fingers, but I count it as OT.  I do recommend this program for anyone looking for variety in their daily math instruction.  It is available in CD ROM or download for $19.95.  The download is fast, simple, and easy to use. During the month of February there is a buy one, get a second half-off sale.  It had to be, because I made it work.    Lakeshore’s website even has a Free Resources page that is loaded with material we have yet to fully explore.  It’s well worth your time to check it out!
Now comes the contest part.  If you leave a comment on this blog post, I will enter your name in a drawing for a free software download of your choice from LakeshoreLearning Material.   Share this drawing on your blog and I’ll give you a second entry.  You can get another entry by sharing the news on Facebook.  Send a link for each additional entry to The deadline for entries is Thursday, February 16, 2012, at 6:00 p.m. CST.  I will put all the names in a hat and draw a winner.  I will post the drawing results on Friday’s blog (the 17th).

Good luck!