Monday, February 27, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew: Math Mammoth

Math has never been a strength of mine. As my girls get older I’m always on the lookout for products that can supplement our learning, so I was excited to learn I was chosen to review the Blue Series from Math Mammoth. We have been working through Geometry 2, Expressions & Equations, and Rational Numbers for the past six weeks or so.

Affordable Quality Math {Math Mammoth }

Maria Miller, the author of Math Mammoth, is a math teacher and homeschooler. While tutoring in the early 2000’s she noticed the struggle homeschool moms were having teaching math. She decided to start writing books especially for homeschoolers, and in 2003 published her initial set of math ebooks for grades 1-5. She has added many books to her collection over the years. Her goal is to help students understand the concepts of math, using visual models and exercises to help them understand how math works.

The Blue Series books are worktexts (texbook and workbook combined in one) on specific topics for grades 1-7. This series can be used as a supplement to your current math program, as a review for additional support if your child is struggling with a concept after you’ve finished it, or as a remedial tool. The worktexts are available as a downloadable PDF or as a printed book. For this review we received the downloadable PDF’s.

Geometry 2 teaches:

  • Area of triangles
  • Area of polygons
  • Nets and surface area
  • Circle and pi
  • Volume of common solids

Expressions & Equations teaches:

  • Order of operations
  • Expressions
  • The distributive property
  • Inequalities
  • Growing patterns
  • Using two variables

Rational Numbers teaches:

  • Add and subtract rational numbers
  • Multiply and divide rational numbers
  • Complex fractions
  • Scientific notation
  • Equations with fractions and decimals

Since we received the downloadable PDF’s, all I had to do was print and go. The PDF’s are enabled for annotating, so you have the option to have your child work right on the computer. I think that could be a nice change of pace for kids who like computer work. Katie likes worksheets, so she preferred the printed version.

We decided to use these lessons as review, so Katie was able to work through the pages with little help from me. The lessons were explained for each section before the problems, and were thorough enough that she moved through them with ease. After she finished her sheets for the day, I used the included answer key to correct her work. Easy peasy.

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I like that the textbook and workbook are combined into one book, with the answer key included at the end. Math is not a favorite subject of hers, but Katie worked on these pages three times a week without complaint. She liked the straight-forward manner; these lessons were written to the student, and that format really appealed to her. Although the Blue Series is meant as a supplement to your existing math program, Math Mammoth also has the Light Blue Series, which is a complete math curriculum for grades 1-7. Whether you’re looking for something to supplement what you’re already using, or something more thorough, Math Mammoth provides some great options worth looking in to!

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Affordable Quality Math {Math Mammoth Reviews}
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Thursday, February 23, 2017


My sisters and I went to visit our grandmother today at the nursing home. She has dementia, and is slowly losing her memory. It makes me sad to think of her in a nursing home, even though I know that’s where she needs to be. It’s hard for me to reconcile this woman who was larger than life my entire childhood, with the sad and often confused woman we saw today.

Growing up, my grandmother represented everything good in the world. My dad adopted me when I was 12. Even though I wasn’t hers biologically, she welcomed me with open arms and loved me like her own. So many of my happiest childhood memories are tied to her. For my fifth grade graduation, she and my grandfather took me and my best friend Sarah on a road trip to Niagara Falls. She made everything the coolest adventure. We camped a lot on that trip, and Sarah and I had our own tent. My Gram packed us a radio, a footstool to use as a table, a lamp, and so much more. It sounds silly, but she always thought of ways to make everything better. That trip, with all the stops along the way, was one of the best times of my entire life.

Gram had me over for sleepovers all the time. I loved being in their white house in Hudson. At night she would let me swim with the colored lens over the pool light. It was magical. I have so many memories of hanging out in that pool with my grandfather keeping me company. He was such a good man.

Halloween was always a fun time with her. I have pictures of my friend and I dressed up as punk rockers, in my Gram’s shirts and jean skirts. One year we entered a jack-o-lantern competition. My Gram and I spent hours making the coolest Cabbage Patch Kid pumpkin, complete with yellow yarn hair.

In addition to doing fun things with us, she was the memory keeper. She took thousands of pictures of everything over the years. As an adult with children of my own, I can now fully appreciate the effort she took to preserve those moments in time for us. She taught me important life lessons, like always send a thank you card. I remember she used to give me thank you cards to mail after my birthday or Christmas to make sure I’d send them.

Over the past couple of years, as she started deteriorating, I felt an urgent need to let her know what a difference she made in my life. In an upbringing filled with chaos, she was my one constant. She showed me what family meant; she loved me unconditionally like nobody else had. I was a difficult teenager and young adult. I struck out on my own and couldn’t be bothered with things like keeping in touch with my grandparents. Through all those selfish years, she was there. Loving me without judgement whenever I got around to visiting. As I sat with her today and watched her struggle to remember our names, as I watched her try to be positive even though she knows her memory is slipping away, I wondered if she knew. If I had found a way to convey to her the monumental effect she had on my life.

As I ponder life, I’m acutely aware that in no time at all I will be old. It is my hope that I will pass on enough of my grandmother’s legacy to my children that someday my grandkids will be in the place that I’m in now, and they will just know. Love your people now, while you can. It is truly all that matters in this life.


                                                 My grandparents, Jim and Arlene Calder, in 1978.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew: Home School in the Woods Review

I have been a fan of Home School in the Woods for a long time now, so I was thrilled when I was chosen to review HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: Renaissance & Reformation.

HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study
A homeschooling family of six, the Pak family started Home School in the Woods in 2002 when they published their first set of timeline figures. From there they branched out, creating more and more products that help make history come alive.
The Renaissance & Reformation study has 25 lessons, or “stops” that are designed be completed over 8-12 weeks, depending on how many lessons per week you decide to do. Each stop includes all the information needed for that section. However, if your child finds a topic particularly interesting, there is a book list included to help you dig deeper.
For each stop there is a Guide Book Text, which includes all the facts and information you need for the lesson. There is also the Travel Itinerary that gives you a list of the activities for that stop, as well as all the instructions for each activity. Some of the activities for each stop include:
  • Scrapbook of Sights-souvenirs to make along the way
  • Snapshot Moments in History timeline
  • Renaissance Reporter Newspaper
  • Wish You Were Here postcards
  • Dining Out Guide-a chance to try out some recipes of this era
  • and more!

How We Used It:

There is a TON to this study! The first thing I did, after buying some fun colorful paper, was spend some quality time with my printer. The first stop was the Introduction, and included setting up a lot of the pieces we would use throughout the study. I found it easier to print a few stops at a time instead of trying to print the entire guide at once. The first stop definitely includes the most pages to print, though, as it includes the Passport and Luggage folder (fun!), timeline pages and figures, the newspaper pages, as well as the first lapbook project. So I printed the first six stops, and got everybody all set up and organized with their own binder.

We would start each lesson by reading the Guide Book text out loud. This is where the teaching of the material came in. Next we looked at the Travel Itinerary to see what activities to do. Since I printed everything ahead of time, all the pages we needed were in my binder ready to go. These activities are what brought the reading alive.

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I love that everything we needed was included in one place. All I had to do was print all the pages, and request some books from the library. (Just for fun because we like books. The Guide Book was thorough and informative. You don’t need anything more. Plus, there was a book list. I can’t resist a good book list to choose from. ) The thing we loved most about this study, in addition to the beautiful graphics and the overall visual appeal of it,  is the great variety of activities. The girls have written newspaper articles and ads, listened to audio tours, created art, done postcards and fun lapbook pieces—all while learning about the Renaissance & Reformation. Instead of just reading about it, they got to immerse themselves in the time period and learn through hands-on activities that have helped reinforce their learning. They call this study the “fun” history, which I think says it all!

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HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: Renaissance & Reformation is available as a download for $33.95. We loved this study so much, I’m looking forward to trying Home School in the Woods newest Passport to History: Ancient Greece next. Be sure to look for Ancient Rome in 2018, too! You will not be disappointed!

HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study Reviews
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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

I love you day is kind of a big deal around here. While we don’t buy into all the commercialized hype that comes along with it, Valentine’s day is our special day of reminding each other how much they are loved.



We woke up to the dining room all beautifully decorated. Don took the morning off from work so he could cook us all some breakfast. Even though he doesn’t believe we need a holiday to celebrate the love we have for each other every day, it was so nice to see him make such a huge effort for his girls. Did I mention we love I love you day? I think he secretly likes it, too.



Katie also got flowers. From a boy. I know. Thankfully he’s a sweet boy from church that we really like, since she was quite pleased by the gesture. Ahh, life with an almost 13 year old. I am so not ready for this.

Thursday, February 9, 2017


As a homeschooling family, we try to be mindful of the fact that always being together doesn’t necessarily translate into quality time spent together. It’s easy to get caught up in the to-do lists and the-crazy running around to get to the next thing on our schedule- days. Since I’m a compulsive documenter of all things, it was nice to look through my pictures and see the evidence of time well spent. That we do actually find the time to slow down and just be together, even in the midst of the chaos.


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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

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