Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Math-Whizz Is a Hit Here

My kiddoes like online math programs with a game-like flair, so when I shared with my children about an opportunity to review a 12-month subscription to Math-Whizz from Whizz Education, I was not surprised when they said, "Yes, let's try it!" 

I have since been happily satisfied that all three of my children - despite being at totally different math levels with completely divergent learning styles - are benefiting from the program.

Speedy Success

In just a few weeks, one of my children has spent an average of 107 minutes a week with Math-Whizz and has jumped fro a 9.84 math age to a 9.95 one. (The recommended goal for program usage is a mere 30', but this child truly enjoys it, so I let him have at it!) 

Through parent reporting I have discovered this child does well on exercises, but not as well on tests.  Reviewing parent reports, I also now know which math skills I need to work with him 1:1 on through using provided replay modes or doing offscreen lessons of my own making.

He is succeeding so well with Math-Whizz that I am considering making the program a "spine" for his math studies for he remainder of the year.  My thought is that he can use the program at will on his own, and, then, once a week or so, I can review reports and create some tailor-made pencil and paper exercises, math games, etc. for he and I to tackle together, thus making this supplementary program a full program for us.

I am sure my other son would like if I did the same with him, However different child - different needs.  Unlike my younger son, who truly likes both the learning and the game aspects of Math-Whizz, my older boy tends to do the bare minimum in order to get to the games.  In fact, he has spent an average of 130 minutes a week on Math-Whizz, yet has only increased from a 13.42 math age to a 13.43 one largely due to the fact that about 1/3 of his time has not been used in tutor mode!

A note on the parent report alerted me to his odd time spent vs. progression made ratio, and, after reviewing reports and talking to my child, I realized that was spending a good portion of time in the game mode - earning just enough credits to play, play, play.  This did not surprise me, since this child is one who prefers online play to online learning.  It did not upset me that much either, since I am grateful that he enjoys Math-Whizz and has had to earn his playtime with the program by doing some work at least.  It did, however, make me realize that Math-Whizz can only remain a fun supplement for him this year, not a math spine.  For my son just does not have the attention and diligence to make the most of his math learning time with Math-Whizz.

He can - and does- however, learn some things and, interestingly, I have seen that his exercise scores are unimpressive while his test scores are great.  I am not sure if this is due to his ADHD and sensory things coming into play, with the graphics in the lesson exercises being more of distraction than a help to him, while the plainer style tests allow him more focus, or if it is just because my son prefers trying to quickly work things out in his head rather than using pencil and paper, and so tends to make careless errors sometimes - which are showing up with his exercise scores.  Whatever is the reason, I am confident with observation and persusalof another week or two of report, I will suss it out and, in the meantime, my son is still making incremental progress and thoroughly enjoying Math-Whizz.

His sister is also progressing.  In just a few weeks, she has moved from a math age of 10.84 to 10.86 with only 43 minutes of Math-Whizz use on average.  This pleases me since she has had to overcome frustrations to make such progress.

For, while my daughter likes Math-Whizz, the placement test at the start was tedious and difficult for her and she also has been chagrined by the amount of reading required in the lessons without an audio option to read text to her, plus, for some reason, our computer often glitches when she is on which makes inputting responses difficult for her.

These setbacks aside, my daughter is still progressing with Math-Whizz, and I am getting some good data that can help me help her progress more. Detailed reports help me know what to prepare to work with her on 1:1, so she can improve her math prowess even more.

Getting Started
Read all the reviews.

Upon receiving our log-ins for Math-Whizz, each child had to take a fairly lengthy assessment test that had common math questions based on my children's actual ages, with some questions "above grade level", some "below", and some "at", so the program could see where each child's strengths and weaknesses were.

Because the test was long - and contained too much reading for my child with dyslexia, I was glad that the test could be paused at any point, and, then, resumed without problem during a child's next log in.

I also appreciated how, once the test was over, I was sent a notice about my child's "math age" and my children could then use and play with the program.

The program is designed as a series of interactive, tailored lessons and fun games and is meant to be an affordable alternative to a math tutor for children ages 5 to 13 which can help them develop confidence and improve math abilities by 18 months in as little as a year.  I have yet to see if that kind of result will happen since we have only been using the program for a little while, but with current standings, I can see how it may!

In the Children's Words...

My daughter, as I mentioned, does not like placement tests nor text heavy learning.  So, she said:

When I first started Math-Whizz, I really hated it, because I did not like the placement test.  It felt dry, boring, and long,  What I did like about it, though, was I could pause it whenever I liked and come back to it without losing my place.
After I finished the placement test, I liked the other part when I do it from my study.  I had options to tutor, play games, go to the store, challenge other people, and paint the walls.
The studying is okay, but I wish they had an option to have all text read aloud and I also wish some things were explained a bit better.  Besides that, it's all good.
My favorite game is Mathman.  
I would recommend this to kids who like online programs and who are like my brother and like credits, buying things, and stuff like that.  For kids like me, it's good after the placement test.  (I never like placement tests, so it is not just Math-Whizz.)

I will add that my daughter often does not like online learning, so her liking this program is telling of its quality and appeal!

My youngest child likes overall package - fun and learning.  he said:

It's fun!  You earn credits by doing math questions, taking tests, reviewing, and challenging other people.  Then, you can use the credits for playing games, buying pets, and stuff in the store.

I like the games.  Jimbo Jump, Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road, and Keep 'Em Up are my favorites.  In Jumbo Jump, you jump and try get past ghosts.  In Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road, you use the arrow keys to dodge cars, go over rivers, and stuff.  And, in Keep 'Em Up, you use the moue to move a ping pong paddle to hit balls up.
  None of the games except one have math, but I am learning math, too, so I can play the games and challenge other people.

He liked the idea of challenging other people, and the option to do so motivates him to review and improve his skills.

My oldest son favors the games.  He said:

Math-Whizz is an online math program designed to help kids learn their math.
When you first start, you must take a placement test, which is long, long, long, but, you can take breaks, and, when you are done, you find out your "math age".  I thought this was pretty cool, because my "math age" is greater than my regular age. 
Then, you can get into your virtual study and you can change it by adding pets, toys, and plants which you by with credits.   You can also paint it and change how it looks. 
You can also click through the image of the computer to learn new stuff or on the tablet to review old stuff.
When you are learning, you get taught things with interactive slide shows, graphics, and stuff, and, then, you do problems that will actually challenge you.  The program uses what you know from the placement test, and moves from there.  
Every so often, there are tests, too. 
I think they should add a place onscreen to write, draw, and do your math work with a digital pen, not just the keyboard.  The calculator also needs to be able to shrink smaller.  Now, it covers up a lot of the screen and messes me up.  
When you do math, you earn credits which can be spent in the store or on games.  I like the games.  One of my favorites is a space games where you shoot blobs of goop at enemies who are shooting blobs of goop at you. I also like Pac Man and the panda game. 
I would recommend Math-Whizz.  It is not as fun as some other math programs I have used, but it is better than a majority.  Its greatest aspect is the way there is a study and you can choose to go to any of the digital spaces from there - to buy things, to play games, to learn...  I feel like I am learning.

So, there you have it.  Math-Whizz  is working for all three of my children and holds up to its promise:

  • Artificial intelligence adapts to each of my children's needs.
  • The program acts as a supplemental tutor, evaluating student progress and guiding a child through advances in math skills
  • Included parent reporting helps me track my children's progress and hone in on which math skills and knowledge my children would do well to practice 1:1 with me.
  • Between the customized lesson delivery and options for children to skip portions of exercises after proving their prowess with them, there is little wasted math time.  If a child is having trouble with something, practice is there.  If a child get something, the program moves on. 

 I have been pleased with Math-Whizz for its kids appeal, customized math teaching, and ease of implementation.  I appreciate how it works to help my children progress with math independently while keeping me abreast of where hey are succeeding and getting stuck, so I know how be to utilize our precious 1:1 time together.  I am glad the program has come into our homeschool and think it is worth checking out!

Learn More

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You might also like to see what thirty Homeschool Review Crew families thought when they tried Math-Whizz. Find all  the reviews.

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Sunday, October 28, 2018

Pivot like St. Paul - An All Saints Day Party Game {Free Printable}

Get a FREE PRINTABLE Challenge Sheet!

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What happens when a local store has a Twist and Shape balance exercise board on deep discount as you're planning games for an all Saints Day party?  

You brainstorm a new game for your twist-loving kids!

This year, we'll be adding Pivot like St. Paul to our collection of All Saints Day challenge games by placing a challenge sheet alongside our balance board, a book, and a play sword and having the children twist and turn away for 25 counts each - if they can - to remember St. Paul and the date we celebrate the feast of his conversion (January 25).

My kids are already having fun testing the game, and I'd guess your children might like the game, too.  Thus, I am sharing a free printable challenge sheet set - with one game sheet that mentions picking up a board and a book (which are two symbols of St. Paul) and one that does not. 

NOTE: If you don't have a Twist and Shape board, a Simply Fit Board, a Sit-n-Spin, or any device that a child can spin on could work..

If you'd like other game ideas, there are plenty more here:

Find them here.

The Final 3 All Saints Day Game Challenges
3 All Saints Day Game Challenges
3 More All Saints Day Party Ideas

2 All Saints Day Craft Challenges and a Physical One

3 Skills-Based Game Challenges for All Saints Day

Enjoy your All Saints Day!

St. Paul, pray for us.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

What Do You Like, Mama?

"What do you like?" my daughter asked me tonight.

"Hiking. Berries. Snuggling with my kids. Walking in the woods.  Reading stories with you..." I rambled on for a minute with a stream of conscious list.

I neglected to state, though, the most important things:




You, my child.  And Daddy.  Your siblings.  Our family.  Our friends.

The way God has created each of us with gifts and talents that can guide us to specific purposes in life ... to the way we are to live and share love in this world.

What do I like, my dear child?

The opportunity I have to live my vocation to married life.

I know.  I know.  I don't always live it well, but I am ever grateful for each bit of grace and mercy extended to me as I live my calling as wife and mom.

One day, dear child, when you have grown and moved through the process of recognizing your own vocation, I pray you are just as grateful.

Married. Single. Religious. Ordained. Whatever life you and your brothers may be called to, may you each live it with love, knowing always, Mama loves you and thanks God every day for gifting me our family.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

An Audio Adventure that Makes You Think

Jumping, hollering, and excitement are always part of the scene when a new Heirloom Audio production comes into our home, and, the case was no different when we receiveda 2-CD St. Bartholomew's Eve set for review.

My children were super enthusiastic to listen to 
St. Bartholomew's Eve and to discover where this latest audio adventure would take them. 

However, silly me failed to prepare them for what they would be listening to...

Pausing the CD to Discuss Truth and Bias

Shortly after beginning to 
St. Bartholomew's Eve,  my children's comments required me to pause the CD for a chat about truths and perspective.

Truths include:

  • St. Bartholomew's Eve is set during the time of the French Wars of Religion - a brutal period when Catholics and Protestants fought in France.
  • The audiodrama is an adaptation of a G.A. Henty novel by the same name.
  • G.A. Henty was a Protestant English novelist and war correspondent from the late 1800's who wrote popular historical adventure stories.
  • People are human, and, therefore, imperfect.  Throughout history, people of all faiths have failed to live their faith well at times, including Catholics. 

Perspective, too, is important to consider.  Of course, when the story of a Protestant-Catholic war is adapted from a novel written by a Protestant author from the late 1800's, there is bound to be some obvious bias.  

Deeper truths, however, are even more important.

My wholly Christian, wholly Catholic children noticed the bias in St. Bartholomew's Eve and were, to varying degrees, jarred by it.  However, after a brief chat about that, they were also swept up in the strong characterization, realistic sound effects, moving score, and excellent adventure that is always a part of  Heirloom Audio productions and was absolutely well done in St. Bartholomew's Eve

Thus, in the end, they began to see that although bias was inherit in the combination of the time period and perspective of the story of St. Bartholomew's Eve, deeper messages were ecumenical truths

Truths such as:

  • You can disagree with someone without despising them.
  • There is such a thing as "just war", but many battles are unnecessary and simply bring despair and death. 
  • We live God's will for our lives by looking to love and accept, by building one another up, not tearing one another down.
  • People in power sometimes abuse their power, working against God's will.  Always consider truth before blindly following orders.  Obey the King of Kings, not the king (president, minister, leader) of (insert location or group).
  • Not every (insert faith, type of person, etc.) is good/bad.  Look for the character of individuals; don't make assumptions based on labels.

Moreover, the story made me think about the great suffering of Christians of all denominations throughout history and how, in our current world, those of us who believe in Christ often face increasing hatred and scorn.  We must not get discouraged though.

God sanctifies and strengthens His people even in the midst of terrible trials.  Hardships happen.  Families are broken.  Countries divide.  Individuals make horrific choices that spread ill will like wildfire.  However, God always prevails.

We Christians must think and talk about what it means to be Christian.  We must understand that popular culture and government policies can change and, in doing so, can quickly and dramatically, oppose our Christian values.  And, in the end, we must be prepared to be ready to do God's will, trusting in his providence.

Heavy stuff, I know.

Quality stories do that.  They move you.  They make you think.  And, bias or no, 
St. Bartholomew's Eve does just that!

A Dramatic Story that Makes You Think

My 11-year old daughter describes the story this way: 

This story is about a boy named Philip Fletcher who is from Britain and goes to France to help his fellow Christian Huguenots in their war for freedom of religion.
When he gets to France, he practices how to use a pistol and prepares to fight with his cousin Francois.
A little bit into the story, when he has already faced a lot of trouble, Philip meets Argento, a boy whose father had died because of he Catholics .  Argento tells Philip where the leaders of his town are, and, after Philip takes care of them, he makes them promise that they will not hurt Argento or his family.   
After Philip leaves, the leaders break their word.  In the process of escaping them, Argento loses another thing - his leg! 
When he gets o Philip, a peg leg is made for him and he joins Philip in peacetime and battles.
The Huguenots go to Paris for a royal wedding where a Catholic princess is to marry a Protestent prince and an unexpected attack takes place.
There are many battles in the story. In one, when the Catholics are coming, the Huguenots block gates with skinned animals.  Then, they use the skinned animals for food at a party.
I enjoyed the characters.  They had strong traits perseverance, loyalty, and determination.  
The story teaches people to stand up for what they believe.

Most definitely, the characters in 
St. Bartholomew's Eve are well portrayed by the audiodramas star-studded cast, which included Brian Blessed (Star Wars), Elizabeth Counsell (The Chronicles of Narnia), David Shaw-Parker (The Muppet Christmas Carol), Brian Deacon (Bonhoeffer), Andy Harrison (The Secret Garden), and Hugo Docking (Oliver Twist).

Also, without question, growth in virtues and faith is evident in the main characters.

Of course, due to the setting of the story, much of this growth is the result of battles, and the battles is what my 8-year-old keyed into.  

He said:
This audiodrama had a lot of battles in it.  I liked he battle scenes.  The sound effects made them actually sound like battles and the narration was good.  It was exciting, but not too gory. 
The story was a little bit bias, but it was good.  It was exciting and had meaning: People are silly about faith.  They should let other people worship how they want and should worship how they want themselves.  They should only fight when it's in dire need.  They should not kill innocent people.  God doesn't want that.

It's pretty good that a story can inspire a battle-loving 8-year-old to think such thoughts, huh?

It also had my 11-year-old thinking.

He is my most black-and-white thinker and is also someone who believes fervently in his Catholic faith.  So, he had some trouble with this CD, but still appreciated parts of it and thought about its deeper meaning.  

He said:
This story was difficult for me to listen to because of its bias, but I appreciated when they said not all Catholics are bad.  I also felt for the boy in it.  
Argento seemed to have very bad luck.  He was always losing something - his house, his parents, his leg!  He gained friendship with Philip...
I did not expect Philip's cousin to die in the story...
This time period was crazy and chaotic.  No one was living what they believed.  They were murdering each other because of the dumb mother of the kind.  Christians should make peace, not kill each other.
I love all the other Heirloom Audio adventures, but this one - nah.  It was too bias for me.  It only showed the "good Huguenots".  I am sure there were people doing wrong on both sides - people taught lies by Huguenots like people were taught lies by the stupid queen mom.  
I think Christians should not murder each other.  It breaks God's commandments.

Yes, my oldest struggled in hearing about the evil things Catholics did, knows that evil can be pervasive across all sides, and understands God does not want us to murder one another senselessly.
St. Bartholomew's Eve may have been difficult for him, but it was a worthwhile story for us to listen to.  It made my family think.  It can be used a tool for all adventure-loving Christians to open discussion about past persecution of Christians - at the hands of people from other faiths and even from fellow Christians - and about the need to be prepared for whatever may come to Christians in our modern society.

I would recommend it to those who love historical audiodrama, with these two caveats:

  1. Children under 6, and older children who are sensitive, might be disturbed by some of the scenes in the story.  here are scenes of death, etc., however tastefully portrayed.
  2. Children like mine may need to be prepared for the bias of the story and guided to discern the truths of basic historical facts and deeper meanings to apply to the present.

Like all 
Heirloom Audio productions, St. Bartholomew's Eve is of to--notch professional quality!

Learn More
Find all the reviews.

Eighty other Homeschool Review Crew families reviewed St. Bartholomew's Eve, too.  Read all the reviews.

Find Heirloom Audio on social media:

Discover other audiodramas that can help you "live the adventure".  We've happily reviewed all of the Heirloom Audio productions to date and encourage you to check them out.  They are all top-notch historical adventures told from a Christian perspective.

Wulf the Saxon

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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Create Art and Pray for All Souls

Do you have creative kids?  Have you lost a loved one?  Then, this idea is for you!

Make a calendar to remind you to pray daily for our beloved dead.

It's super easy to do.

Simply create an image that reminds you of November, and, then, glue it and a calendar grid onto a piece of cardstock.

You may also want to expand this art project into a full lesson, teaching (or reminding) your children about All Souls Day, the monthly dedication to pray for the dead, opportunities to help the dearly departed through gaining an indulgence for them, pairing your project with Eternal Rest copywork or with a STEAM design challenge.

Or you can make it into an art, faith, and poetry lesson as we did this past week in our Art, Music, and Poetry club.

{Some links which follow are affiliate ones.}

We began our club with a brief prayer, and, then, got right into reading about Paul, Jean, and Herman Limbourg in Artists that Shaped the Renaissance.

After chatting briefly about the Limbourg brothers, the time in which they lived, and their art, we did a picture study of Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, October, a beautiful artistic work created by the Limbourg brothers between 1412 and 1416 as a part of a Book of Hours.

The children were wowed by the detail within the reproduction on page 19 of
Artists that Shaped the Renaissance.

Then, we looked at a modern Liturgy of the Hours book, chatting about what it is and how it is used before pausing to read a portion of it. 

We read and briefly discussed a psalm, asking the children what stood out to them in the psalm, both in terms of poetic devices and from the perspective of being Christians listening to the Living Word.

Finally, we adapted the art project for Lesson 4 in Artists that Shaped the Renaissance in order to create watercolor paintings of things that remind us of November using watercolor pencils and regular watercolors.

When each of our paintings was completed, we affixed it to a piece of black cardstock and, then, cut out a blank monthly calendar grid to attach below it.


Individual calendar pages to be used throughout November to pray for our beloved dead.

Now, we're jotting down names of our dearly departed to pray for on each day of November.  If you'd like us to add the name of your beloved dead to our prayer calendar, please just let us know

Here are a few more snapshots of our lesson time:

Also feel free to browse our other All Souls related posts.

 Take a Few Minutes of Your Day to Help Holy Souls

 Pray for All Souls with FREE Eternal Rest Grant unto Them Copywork Printable in English and Latin

 Try a Design Challenge for All Saints and All Souls Days

 5 Ways Children Can Live in Faith for All Souls

 Please Join Us in Praying for the Dearly Departed

 A Simple Activity for All Souls Day -- Or Any Day You Want to Pray with Children for the Faithful Departed
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon them. And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.


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