Monday, November 24, 2014

I've been AWOL

I haven't been posting much here the past few weeks.  Almost 2 weeks ago I put my back out bad, real bad.  The first week I could hardly get out of bed I was in so much pain.  This is the 3rd time in the past year I've had my back go out.  Eventually I'm going to have to have a good chiropractor take a look at my back.  The oddest thing was at the same time my back went out I came down with a tummy bug.  It was the closest thing to morning sickness I'd ever had!  Everyone thought I was expecting another little one.  The sight, smell etc. of food made me sick.  But 4 tests later it looks like it was ether because of my pain meds. or just the pain itself making me so sick.

While I've been knocked out we have had some real winter weather.  Storms last week dropped quit a bit of snow.  The kids have had so much fun playing in the first REAL snow of the year.  By real I mean deep enough to sled in and make forts.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

IXL Online ~ Review

I've tried a lot of different math programs over the years and it can be difficult to find the one that is just right for each child.  No matter what program we are using I find it is very important to do review and drill often.  I was so excited to have the opportunity to use IXL Math and IXL Language Arts from IXL with our children this year.

IXL Revew @ @HomesteadMommy

IXL is a review based program. It doesn't teach a concept with a demonstration and then give the student practice questions.  Instead it is intended that your going to use this to review concepts that have already been taught in your main curriculum program.  However if a student answers a question incorrectly they are shown a detailed explication of what they did wrong and how to find the correct answer.

IXL math covers grades Pre K through 12th grade and IXL Language Arts is a new addition to the IXL program and currently covers grade 2 to grade 8.

IXL Log In Screen 

When you sign onto IXL a menu pops up that lets you choose what user you want to use.  I love how simple it is, we have one login for the family that everyone can use.  That makes it so much easier to remember just one set of login information and the kids can share computers if need be.

  IXL Reports

The parent account you can easily see the skills that your student has mastered and what skills they need more practice on.  I also love that it keeps track of how much time they've spent on the IXL site.  I also LOVE that each week I'm emailed a report for each one of my students.  This shows me at a glance how much time each student has practiced on IXL that week and what topics they've worked on.  You also receive emails with certificates you can print for your children when they have reached certain points.  Our 5 year old loved getting one when he had practiced for an hours worth of math!  I think IXL has one of the best parent admin areas that I have ever used.  It's simple but powerful.

shot-2014-11-10_21-48-24_v1Jr. K math menu sample.  You can change grades by just clicking the tab

shot-2014-11-10_21-48-55_v1 Math Topic menushot-2014-11-10_21-50-12_v1 shot-2014-11-10_21-49-43_v1

IXL organizes math skills by grade and by topic.  You can pick any grade level for your student to work in and move them up or down as you see fit.  You can also use the topic page that would list ALL of their unit lessons about that topic on one page, separated into grade groups.  I think this is great if you have a problem area you want to work on or if you like to study math using a unit study approach.

IXL Math Canada

IXL also aligns it's math programs to our Canadian provincial curriculum.  This makes it really easy to find the right skills your student needs to practise if you want to use the same scope and sequence that your province does.
In the provincial curriculum there are unlimited practice problems for each learning objective and it tracks the students progress and produces a provincial curriculum report you can use to evaluate your students.


How We Used IXL

I received a 1 year subscription for 5 of my children for the Canadian IXL Math program.  I also received a 1 year subscription for IXL Language Art, that is currently only part of the USA site.

I used IXL math for my children ages 5, 7, 9, 10 and 12.  I also used IXL Language Arts with my 12 year old and 9 year old.  My main reason for using IXL was to review concepts we've already taught our children.  Because of this I started each one below grade level.  I often find it's the skills taught further in the past, that if not practiced often they will forget.  We used IXL math 3 to 4 times a week for each of the children. When they logged on I let them pick what topic they wanted to practice.  Some of them wanted to start at the beginning of a grade others enjoyed picking something new each day.

IXL Junior Kindergarten Menu Sample of Jr. K menu

shot-2014-11-10_22-04-34_v2 Sample Jr. K money question

shot-2014-11-10_22-01-56_v1 Jr. K Award card sample

IXL Smart Score As they worked through a set of questions IXL keeps track of their "smart score".  This is a score in the side bar that goes up as they get answers correct.  When they answer a question incorrectly their score goes down.  As they progress in the question set they earn red, blue and green ribbons.  Then when they've reached 100 out of 100 they earn a prize!  This prize is a little picture on their awards card.  The goal is to uncover the whole award card.  It's amazing how motivating this simple idea is.  When they've finished this unit and go back to the main lesson screen their completion is shown with a ribbon metal beside it.  This makes is so easy for children to keep track of what they've already finished.

IXL grade 2 math Sample question from the grade 2 program.  I love the audio options!

shot-2014-11-10_22-16-02_v2Sample question from the 4th grade math 

Another thing I love about IXL is that they have a audio option.  The student can click a speaker symbol to have the math question read out loud to them.  Often there are speakers beside the possible answers as well.  My 5 year old love this because he's more then capable of working at the Pre K and K math level I have him on, but he can't yet read the questions.  Since he can have them read to him, I don't have to sit with him the entire time he's working on his math review.  I still appreciate this option for my older kids.  Some times children get tired reading or have trouble with a larger word.  Also having the questions read aloud is wonderful if you have a late reader or dyslexic child!

IXL Language Arts  shot-2014-11-10_22-22-15_v1shot-2014-11-10_22-22-51_v1 LA sample for the 4th grade

We haven't used the IXL Language Arts as much as we have used the math program but we are enjoying it as well.  It starts at the 2nd grade level goes to grade 8.  It is a newer addition to the IXL program.  Unfortunately it doesn't have the audio option and that has slowed down the use of it with my younger children.  I have to be with them, to read and explain the questions.  I really hope the audio option is added to the LA section.

We have really enjoyed using IXL for our math and LA review and plan to keep using it.  Although IXL is intended as a review program, I can easily see how for some students you could use it for a teaching course.  We've done this with some topics our children wanted to practice, but didn't remember how or we had not yet covered.  I had them answer the first question wrong, then went over the directions with them.  Once they understood what it was asking of them we moved on to the rest of the question set with out issue.



  • 1 year math subscription for 1 child is $79
  • 1 year subscription for 1 child math and Language Arts is $129
  • Additional children are an extra $2 a month or $20 a year.
  • 1 year subscription for 2 children math is $99
  • 1 year subscription for 2 children math and Language Arts is $149

The math program is available for a large number of countries.  Currently the Language Arts program is only available on the American website.  However people living in other countries are able to order and use the American Language Arts program if they want to.  Other then some spelling differences I haven’t noticed a difference between IXL’s American LA program and Canadian programs that I have used.

Connect with IXL

I would recommend IXL for anyone looking for a great independent review program!  To read more reviews of IXL Math and Language Art’s click the banner below.

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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Finishing Up Fall Projects

This has been a rainy week here, with a little snow as well.  Winter is coming soon!  We are still busy getting caught up around here.  A few weeks with a heavy cold set us back on a lot of projects.  We finished covering the garden with the woodchip mulch we had.  We've made the rows for the potatoes we are going to try planting this fall as a test.  We've wanted to try planting potatoes in the fall for a while.  We've found our volunteer potatoes always do very well and some of the "old time" farmers we've talked with remember planting potatoes in the fall, not the spring like most people do now.   If this works out well it will save us a lot of time in the spring!
Hopefully the weather will be good enough for us to get out and plant them tomorrow.

Another project we've started working on this week is expanding our greenhouse.  We've been lucky enough to find a lot of free windows and glass doors this past few months.  We have enough to double our current greenhouse.  Today hubby worked on the framing for that and tomorrow we should have it done.  We really want to finish it because Monday or Tuesday they are saying we'll get a few cm of snow!

A few weeks ago we started some tomato seedlings from cuttings from our plants in the greenhouse.  We've moved them into the kitchen and so far they are doing very well.   We are going to experiment with a growing some plants in the house for the winter here.  Once we get an area setup for my grow lights again we will start with some greens.  I'm thinking spinach and lettuce to start with.  We'll see how it goes!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

If He Had Not Come ~ Review

If He Had Not Come Review @ www.homestead-acres.comChristmas is one of my favourite holidays during the year.  When I was a little girl as soon as Halloween was over we would start to decorate the house for Christmas.  Now while I don't start quite that early anymore, I do start reading Christmas books in early November to our children. This year we were lucky to have a new Christmas book to read!  We received a copy of If He Had Not Come rewritten by David Nicholson at David’s Treehouse.

David Nicholson is a retired teacher and missionary.  He discovered the story If He Had Not Come by Nan Weeks when his own children were little.  He read this sweet story to his children for years then decided to reintroduce this story for children to enjoy again.

I received a large and beautiful hard cover copy of If He Had Not Come. This Christmas story is intended for children ages 6 and up so that it can spur some interesting and deeper discussions.  The book has quite a bit of text on each page along with beautiful vintage style illustrations.

Review of If He Had Not Come @  @HomesteadMommy

The story starts out with a little boy named Bobby listening to his father read the book of John in the Bible on Christmas Eve.  One phrase sticks in Bobby's mind from the reading as he goes to bed.  "If I had not come..."

Not long after going to sleep Bobby is awoken by a voice calling his name.  He thinks it is his father calling him to get up on Christmas morning.  As Bobby goes down stairs he is shocked to see all the Christmas decorations are gone, there is  no tree, no presents.  He hears a nearby factory running and wonders why are they working on Christmas day.  Bobby head's over to the factory to ask why they are working.  He's told to go away and know one there knows what Christmas is!  While Bobby is looking around town he finds an elderly man who isn't well.  He tries to go to the hospital to find him help, only to find the hospital isn't there!  He then tries the homeless shelter and it's gone to, so is the church.  Each place he visits he finds signs saying "If I had not come".   Feeling so confused he decides to go home to ask his parents for help.  When he gets home he picks up the Bible his father was reading to him the night before.  He find's that all the pages past the book of Malachi are empty!  All the pages have faint printing of "If I had not come".
How stunned Bobby was to find all the things that had been connected to his Church have disappeared. 
Then Bobby wakes up on Christmas morning hearing the church bells and he is so happy, he had only been dreaming!

If He Had Not Come Review @

I read If He Had Not Come to my children ages 5, 7, 9,10 and 12.  Although the book is suggested for children age 6 and over, my 5 year old really enjoyed it.  Now he will be 6 soon though.  Our children loved the beautiful images in the story.  They loved to follow along with little Bobby as he explored his town.  They all wondered what happened, was Bobby dreaming?  The book brought up a lot of discussion topics about why we celebrate Christmas and what life could be like if Jesus had not been born.   The younger children thought of it as a nice story about how they should appreciate what they have and are thankful that Jesus came to save them.  Our older children naturally had a deeper connection.  They can better recognize all of the things around them that are funded and supported by Christian church groups.  How would their lives be different with out these?  How very different would our lives be if Jesus had not been born to save us.

If He Had Not Come @

At the back of the book are some helpful extras.  The first is interactive topic starters.  These would be great for Sunday Schools and we enjoyed using them as well.  I picked a few questions to talk about each time we read the story.

Then there is a section called Going Deeper.  This has discussion questions that would be best suited to older children.  Some of the topics are thinking about all the things today that were started by Christian groups that might not exists if Christ had not come.  The Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity etc.

Then there is a page that shares God's gift of salvation message and guides you through the steps of admitting sin, believing Jesus and confessing your faith.

At the end there is a simple craft idea to go along with the story.  It shows how a Christmas tree represents the story of Jesus.  We haven't done this yet, but plan to as Christmas gets a little closer.

If He Had Not Come is available in 2 formats, hardcover is $18.95 and e-book is $3.99.

This has become a must have in our Christmas collection and I'm looking forward to reading it with our children each year.  It will be one we treasure to share with our Grandchildren some day as well.

Connect with If He Had Not Come on Facebook.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Review ~ Fascinating Biology From Fascinating Education

3cdd8eb8-08ea-4a62-84d1-f151cd091822_zpsea5e04fdOur oldest daughter is really interested in science.  So I'm always on the look out for great science programs for her.  I was very excited to have the opportunity to review the Fascinating Biology course from Fascinating Education.


What Is Fascinating Education?

Fascinating Education was started by Dr. Margulies who wanted to flip the teaching process around and teach science in a right brain method.  Instead of using text books at the primary teaching tool, Dr. Margulies uses colourful illustrations and audio as the main learning tool. 

Fascinating Education currently offers 3 science courses for children in middle school and high school.

In Fascinating Chemistry students learn about how atoms bond to form molecules and how each bond effects the resulting molecule.  They learn how these work to explain things from water freezing, nuclear energy to weather.

In Fascinating Biology students learn about the basic biology principles.  Cell membranes, chemical energy, growing, etc.

In Fascinating Physics students study the laws of nature in movement, energy and sound.  They learn about the forces of gravity, magnetism and electricity and more.

For our review we received the course Fascinating Biology.  It contains 19 lessons.

  • Lesson 1: What is Life
  • Lesson 2: Chemistry Review
  • Lesson 3: The Cell Membrane
  • Lesson 4: Take in Nutrients
  • Lesson 5: Take in Energy Part 1
  • Lesson 6: Take in Energy Part 2
  • Lesson 7: Take in Energy Part 3
  • Lesson 8: Take in Energy Part 4
  • Lesson 9: Grow
  • Lesson 10: Reproduce Part 1
  • Lesson 11: Reproduce Part 2
  • Lesson 12: Reproduce Part 3
  • Lesson 13: Homeostasis Part 1
  • Lesson 14: Homeostasis Part 2
  • Lesson 15: Adapt Part 1
  • Lesson 16: Adapt Part 2
  • Lesson 17: Prokaryotes, Protists, Animals, and Fungi
  • Lesson 18: Plants
  • Lesson 19: Hypothesis Testing

When you log into Fascinating Biology each unit is laid out in a grid. Each unit is represented by a thumbnail image that has something to do with the topic of that unit.  Under each unit image are 3 buttons.  The first one is Lesson clicking this lunches the lesson play list.  The next is Script, this opens a PDF of the lesson, if your student would like to read along.  The last button is Test, clicking this opens up the lesson test.

Fascinating Education Biology menu

When you click on Lessons it opens up that unit's work in a new browser tab.  The lesson is set up like a power point type of show.  The unit is broken down into shorter lessons that are a few minutes long.  Don't let the small size of each lesson fool you, there is a LOT packed into each one.  You can pause the lesson at any time and skip back and forth in each section if you want to review something.

When your finished you close that lesson tab and go to the main unit grid screen.  Then launch the test.  The test is set up in a multiple choice format.  I like that the test require at least 80% to pass, but are set up to help your children succeed.  After taking the test they can view what questions they got wrong and it shows them what the correct answers are.  They can then go back and retake the test.

Fascinating Education Bioilogy

I'm using this course with my 12 year old daughter in grade 7.  She loves science and is a strong right brain learner, so I thought this course would be a good fit for her.  We have had some road bumps using it.  At first I thought we could do a lesson at a time, but I was wrong.  There is so much information packed into each unit lesson we had to slow down to doing 4 or 5 of the smaller lessons in each unit.  There is also a lot of new vocabulary terms that are new to her and not covered in other science programs she has used yet.  So I found I had to sit with her and pause the lessons to help explain what they are and what it means.  Because of this, she wasn't able to do the lessons independently as I had hoped she could.  My personal opinion is although these courses are intended for middle school and high school children, I think the biology course is better suited to high school or advanced middle school students.  At least if you want them to be able to work independently.

I really like that the tests focus more on building the students understanding of the topic, rather then just you passed or failed.  When our little perfectionist didn't pass the first test on the first try she was quite upset.  But I explained to her that the point is to assess what you do know and what you need to learn more about.  When the test is finished you can view the questions and your score.  It shows you what ones you answered correctly and what ones were wrong. On the wrong questions it shows you the right answer.  This is the opportunity to read the questions and the right answer.  If they still don't understand why that answer is right, they can go back and review the lessons again.  Once they are more confident in the material they can try the test again.
When the test is passed you are able to print out a record of the score.  I would love it if there was a parent/teacher area that had these saved so they could be reviewed and printed by the parent.  If your child forgets to print the score, then you can't access it again unless you have your child retake the test again.

I don't normally use secular courses as our core courses, but I found this one easy to work around.
Some of the lessons we have done in the biology unit had quit a bit of evolutionary theory in them.  At this level of work I'm not worried about it, since we teach other theories that disagree with our beliefs.  I think it's important to understand what others believe and why we do or do not agree with it.  I just told my daughter to answer the questions according to the theory they are asking about and it wasn't a problem for us at this point.

I would recommend Fascinating Biology to anyone looking for an online audio based program.  I do think it's best suited to high school students over middle school students. I thinking about having our daughter retake the course once she reaches the high school level, because I think she will get much more out of it then.

Fascinating Chemistry, Fascinating Biology and Fascinating Physics cost $79 each for 1 years access.
If you register for 2 courses at the same time the cost is $125 for a years access.  If you register for all 3 courses it is $175 for 2 years access.

Fascinating Education also has FREE samples of each class online if you would like to try it out and see if it is a good fit for your family.

To read what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of the courses offered by Fascinating Education, click the banner below!

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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Our First Snow Of The Year!

Last night it was raining and the wind was strong.  I felt bad for all the little trick or treaters out and about.  During the night the rain changed to snow.  We woke up to a thin white covering of snow over everything.  It's so pretty!  By noon it was melted, but it continued to snow on and off through out the day.  The kids are so excited and can't wait for the snow to come and stay!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Review ~ Clued In Kids Treasure Hunts


Do your kids love treasure hunts?  Mine sure do!  Any game involving searching for hidden clues, figuring out puzzles and finding goodies is something that will be a big hit here.  So I was really excited to have the opportunity to review 2 treasure hunt games from Clued In Kids.  We received Homework Reward Treasure Hunt and Thanksgiving Treasure Hunt, both were PDF versions.

The Homework Reward Treasure Hunt is intended for use with 1 to 10 children.
The Thanksgiving Treasure Hunt is geared for ages 4 to 104, great for the whole family!  Both currently cost $5.99.


Who Is Clued In Kids?

Clued In Kids was started by Helen Bertelli who was inspired by the British TV show Treasure Hunt.  Helen's childhood dream job was to create treasure hunts.  That does sound like a wonderful job doesn't it!  Well Helen started making these treasure hunts for her children and sells them so your children can enjoy them to.

Clued In Kids has treasure hunts available for many topics including Thanksgiving, Halloween,Christmas, Winter, Pirates, Princess, Slumber Party, Multiplication and nutrition themes.
Some of these are available pre-printed and some are available as downloadable PDF files.

Each PDF file was 8 pages long.  This included 12 treasure hunt clue cards, 2 to a page.  As well as a cover page and instructions and the last page is a reminder of where you have hidden the clues and answers to help your children if they get stuck.

The Homework Reward Treasure Hunt included activities of unscrambling words in different ways.  Some were mazes that you followed to find letters to build the answer with.  Others were pictures that equalled letters to build a word with, some were written back wards.  Some activities had pictures to find the odd object for that place and that is where the next clue would be.  One activity was making a paper air plane!

f464d889-0fee-4296-9e5c-c606ada36630_zps00c2ba20 The Thanksgiving Treasure Hunt was very similar.  There were fill in the blank word puzzles.  You had to figure out the Thanksgiving theme word in each line to solve the vertical mystery world.  Very much like a cross word puzzle!  There were some easy math puzzle and a lot of Thanksgiving trivia.

These treasure hunts were very easy to use.  I printed out the clue sheets and cut them apart.  Each card has a "Hunt Leader" note on the bottom to tell you where to hide the clue.  At the top of each clue is also a place to write a persons name.  This is a great idea if your doing a treasure hunt with more then one child.  Especially if it's a larger group!  I labelled the easier clues with the younger children's names, the ones that were a little harder for an older child.  This way it was fun to search for the clues and not just the fastest person get them all spree.

It took me about 15 minutes to print, cut a part, label and hide the clues.  Hiding places are all through out the house.  Some of them for the Thanksgiving hunt were with bikes, hairbrushes, in the freezer and in the pantry.

The Thanksgiving Treasure Hunt is really geared to an American Thanksgiving not our Canadian one.  That was ok though, because our kids are familiar with some of the American Thanksgiving traditions and history.  Some questions needed a little help from mom and dad.

What do the kid's find at the end of the treasure hunt?  That is completely up to YOU!  Some ideas are candy treats (maybe chocolate coins for treasure!), art supplies, a pizza supper, new movie really what ever you think your child or group would enjoy.

Our children ages 12 10, 8, 7 and 5 really had fun working together on their treasure hunts!

Would you like to try out a treasure hunt with your children?  You can receive the printable Homework Reward Treasure Hunt FREE  for joining Clued In Kids newsletter!

Clued In Kids is also offering special Christmas treasure hunt cards.  You can read more about this on their blog.

Connect With Clued In Kids:

To read more about the treasure hunts offered by Clued In Kid's and what other Review Crew members thought, click the banner below!

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