Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My Student Logbook ~ Review

One thing that many homeschooling mothers struggle with is record keeping.   I know I do sometimes!  While we are relaxed homeschoolers I do like to keep track of what we are working on.  Our oldest daughter will be starting high school in just 2 more years and I want to get into a good habit of recording everything she works on and keep track of the hours spent.  So I was really excited to have the chance to review My Student Logbook a easy to use planner created by a company of the same name My Student Logbook.

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What Is My Student Logbook?

My Student Logbook was started by Corina Abbott a homeschooling mom, when she was expecting their seventh child.  Corina was inspired by another mother who created a record keeping notebook by drawing columns to record their children's work in.  The problem was Corina just couldn't get the layout hand drawn the way she liked.  So with the help of her husband Jim she learned how to make them on the computer.

What Corina ended up creating is a very simple, easy to use student planner and log book.

My Student Logbook is available in 3 printed formats, dated school year, dated chronological (Jan. to Dec.), or undated.  It is also available in PDF format both school year and chronological year.
I received the PDF version of My Student Logbook in the school year format.

What's In My Student Logbook?

  • A dated page for each week of the school year or calendar year depending on the version you pick.
  • An All About Me Page to record your child's favourite things that year.
  • A Book's Read Log
  • Pages to record Prayers and Goals
  • Pages to record Bible Verses Memorized
  • Pages to record Events, Projects, Field Trips, Presentations, Activities.
  • Pages to record Test Scores
  • A Year Highlights page to record their favourite memories of the school year.

My Student Logbook was very easy to set up.  I received my book as 2 PDF files.  One contained the notes section and weekly calendar.  The other file contained the work lists sheets and extra the extra forms I mentioned above.  There are also directions for setting up My Student Logbook.

I first printed out all the calendar pages, then the work lists and forms in the other PDF.  One thing to mention is because of the way you set up these pages you whole punch the main calendar pages on the RIGHT hand side of the page not the left as you normally would.

After getting all my calendar pages whole punched and into a binder, I placed the other pages (About Me etc.) at the back of the binder and divided the sections with tabs. 
Then I took one of the work list pages and cut the edge off as instructed, folded it over so it would overlap the calendar page.  Your next suppose to tape it to the back of the calendar page, but my little ones had used up all my tape!  This is one thing I just can't seem to keep enough in the house. lol  So I just stapled the page to the top and bottom of the calendar page.  This seems to work just fine.

IMG_3569Then I simply wrote out a list of the work I wanted dd12 to do that week.  For some things I listed specific websites that I wanted her to use.  For some other things I just listed a topic such as Canadian History.  Some of our subjects we do together as a family so I have my own lists of what we do. I didn't feel the need right now to duplicate every detail on both my records and her personal student log.

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If you flip the work list open there is a place underneath to record notes. This is great if you want to list simple instructions or pages for them.  On the work list there is a small box on the right side to record the time spent.

This student logbook is so simple for children to use.  As they complete each item on the list they simply place a check mark in the box for that day.  You could also have them record chapter or page numbers in the box. 

My Student Logbook Pages

 

What Do We Think Of My Student Logbook?

This is our 8th year of homeschooling and I was looking for a simple but effective way for our 12 year old daughter in grade 7 to record her work.  My Student Logbook has been PERFECT for this!  Dd12 loves having her own book.  Unlike some other planners she has tried this one isn't overwhelming to her with a huge amount of choices or having to flip between pages often.

My Student Logbook Page

I love that it is so simple to just write out a list of subjects or book titles for her.  It takes me just minutes to update the list when needed.  I also ask dd to write down on the work list if she watches any extra documentaries or does another activity that we would include in a subject.  So many things our children will do independently during the day outside lesson times, that I can miss out on recording it all.  This easily solved that problem.  When a list needs to be changed and there isn’t room on the current work list, you just simply cut out a new one and attach it to the next weeks calendar pages.  The previous weeks colander pages stay tucked inside the work list, so you can easily see what was done when.

Some of our subjects we use just one website or book and it's a "do the next thing" plan.  For these I only listed the name.  With some of our subjects I have mixed resources so I simply listed a subject name.  Our daughter has a list on the computer that links to reading chapters, audio files, videos and work pages.  So for these subjects she knows just to go to that list and do the next item, then mark it as done in her logbook for that day.

I've been very impressed with My Student Logbook so far and my daughter has already asked to use it again next year! I find this is very flexible to use with any of our programs so far.  Right now this fits our daughters needs perfectly.

My Student Logbook cost $15.00 or the PDF version is available for $10.00 for the single use license and $20.00 for the family license.   It’s suggested for use with with students in grade 2 and higher.  Although I think it would make a good “Mom’s Planner” if you were using it for younger children.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Around The Homestead ~ Canning and Cold Weather

It’s been a busy week here.  Early in the week our weather was beautiful and hot.  Hubby was hoping we would get another round of summer like weather.  Last Saturday we harvested a large bucket of cucumbers and lots of zucchini.  It was a bit later then normal for our season, but since we had to replant them and it was such a cool summer I was thrilled to get some!  So Sunday and Monday we were busy canning.  On Sunday we taught the kids how to make my bread and butter pickles.  Then on Monday we canned a double batch of zucchini relish.  Even ds5 was in on the fun helping to dice up the zucchini slices with a plastic knife.   Now they are trying to be good and wait until they are ready to eat!

We mowed down the potato plants and started to dig them up.  So far each row is averaging 75 pounds.  The yield isn’t to bad and it looks like we should have enough to get through to early spring at least and still have seed left over.

Our weather has since turned MUCH colder!  Yesterday and today we had to have the woodstove burning.  Yesterday it didn’t get above 13 C and was very windy.  We had planned to harvest more potatoes today but the heavy rains over night and today made the garden just to wet.  I hope that tomorrow or Monday the ground will have dried enough to get a few more rows done.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Weekly Wrap Up Sept. 13th

Goodness the past 2 weeks have been a challenge.  August 23th we went to visit some dear friends and take a trailer load of wood chips for their garden.  We brought back some more raspberry plants to!  After a nice visit there we popped over to see my Aunt and Uncle who we hadn’t seen in a while.  We had a great time but it was late in the day when we arrived back home.  The next day we all started feeling a little off. For a few days we had bad tummy pain, then it seemed to clear up for a few days.  Just when I thought it had passed we all started coming down with terrible headaches and congestion. We were knocked out for 2 weeks!  It made for a lot of late nights up with little ones.  But thank the Lord baby girl didn’t get sick!  By yesterday the kids were all over it and I still have a bit of a cough but it’s getting better. 

I don’t think this weather has been helping at all!  Thursday and Friday we had blistering hot weather then the storms on Fri. dropped the temps down from feeling like 40’s C to the teens!  This is the crazy pattern we’ve had all summer.  It sure made for some wild storms in the area.  We had a lot of low hanging cloud and rotation but thankfully it wasn’t to bad here.

We school year round, but I had planned to start our new year on Tuesday after labour day.  There was no way that was going to happen when we were all so sick.  Fevers, headaches and congestion there was no way anyone could concentrate on lessons.  I also sounded like a frog, so I couldn’t talk much. lol  We spent the week curled up watching a lot of shows on the history channel and some movie favourites of the kids.  I rented a new one we hadn’t seen yet.  Whisper An Elephants Tale, goodness that was a cute movie!  It brought up a good discussion on what poaching is to.

Now that we are all feeling better, I’m looking forward to getting back on track this week.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sick

I may be MIA for a little while.  This week all the kids and I have come down with some nasty bug.  So we are all feeling pretty miserable right now. :(  Just gota love the crazy weather that I isn't helping.  Everyone keeps getting sick when one day is in the 40's and the next the low 20's.  ARG!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review ~ Essential Skills Advantage

Earlier this summer I was trying to decide what we would use for phonics and language arts this coming year.  Around that time I had the wonderful opportunity to review Essential Skills Advantage (ESA) and received a 1 year premium account for each of our children.

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What Is Essential Skills Advantage?

ESA is an online interactive learning program designed for children in grades K to 6.  The learning program is made to work with children of all learning styles from visual, auditory and kinaesthetic.  For the past 10 years Essential Skills Advantage has been used in schools across North America and is now available to home users!

 

Using ESA

First you register and set up your parents account.  This program has two different logins, one for the parent and one for each of the children.  After your student accounts have been set up they can easily log in on their own.  The computer can save the parent login information, but the student logins are not saved.  I saved the student login URL so each of the kids could go directly to their login area and bypass the parent area.
Their home screen shows all of the available grade levels and once they click on the one they want to work on their login screen pops up.

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Programs offered are:

  • Complete Reading for Kindergarten
  • Complete Reading for Grade 1
  • Complete Reading for Grade 2
  • Complete Reading for Grade 3
  • Fun With Spelling 1
  • Fun With Spelling 2
  • Fun With Spelling 3
  • Reading Comprehension 4
  • Reading Comprehension 5
  • Reading Comprehension 6
  • Vocabulary Builder 4
  • Vocabulary Builder 5
  • Vocabulary Builder 6
  • Spell Master Grade 4
  • Spell Master Grade 5
  • Spell Master Grade 6
  • Grammar Grades 3-5
  • Spelling Stumpers 1-5
  • Spelling Stumpers 5-9

I'm using ESA with our children age 5, 7 (just turned 7!), 8, 10 and 12.  I decided to start them off below grade level to allow them some "fun" practice and to get used to how the program works.  My 5 and 7 year olds were the first to get started and both started with the Kindergarten level.  Dd7 absolutely LOVES this ESA program!  From the moment I turned it on for her she was all giggles and often I heard "Look Mommy I got this right!"  and "This is so much fun!"

It starts off with easier games like click on the item of clothing.  Picking out different shapes and colours.  As you progress it moves into ordering the alphabet and clicking on pictures that match a beginning and ending sounds.
When a unit is finished they get a screen that shows a star with their score and a little cartoon dog dancing to some music.  This  always makes dd7 laugh.

Ds5 also enjoyed working in the K level and being younger it's a little more challenging for him.  Some of the activities he can easily do on his own, especially the earlier ones.  As the program progresses they were more challenging for him and either a big sister or myself would sit and help him when needed.

Screen shots from the Kindergarten program.

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Dd's 8 and 10 I started in the Complete Reading for Grade 3.

  • Vocabulary Builder
  • Compound Words
  • Easily Confused Words
  • Figurative Language
  • Prefixes
  • Suffixes
  • Language and Grammar
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Spelling

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They've worked through 40% of the grade 3 program in the past few weeks, and have had so much fun doing so.  Each of these sections open up into sub menus with the lessons.
We decided to start at the beginning and work straight through.

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The stars under each blue tile represent the score.  When they have 3 stars they have finished the lesson unit.  A score over 80% earns a gold star anything under that is a silver star. At the bottom of the screen are numbers in little buttons to show how many pages of activities there are.  There are two sliders in the bottom right of the screen.  These show how much of the entire program they have completed and how much of their current unit has been completed.

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When they are working in an activity there are small vertical bars under it.  The blue ones show questions that haven't been done yet.  If they get a question wrong it turns orange, if they get it correct it turns green.

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When a unit is finished they get a screen that shows a star with their score. 

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Our oldest dd12 is working in the Reading Comprehension Grade 6. I wasn't sure if she would enjoy this program or not since we've largely used a Charlotte Mason style program that focuses more on narration then reading comprehension questions. However dd has really been enjoying the program and has found it just the right challenge.  She often uses this program more then the 30 minutes a day that I asked of her.  Anytime I find a program that the kids want to use all the time I’m thrilled!

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The 6th grade program focuses on reading comprehension.  The student has a story to read, words highlighted in blue can be clicked and it will read the word to them.  This  really helps children to understand harder words they might not have read before.  After this there is a number of activities that focus on the lessons taught in that story.

spell-master-6-2I love how they use shape boxes to help children match and spell words!  This has been a help for my daughters visual right brain  learning style.comp-6-3 comp-6-4 comp-6-5

What Do The Kid’s Think?

Dd8 I like everything! (LOL Well that’s easy isn’t it?!)

Dd10  It’s really good.  I like that it gives me 3 chances to get a question right.  It moves at a slower pace then other programs I’ve used so I don’t feel rushed and I learn more.

Dd12 I love the spelling because it has a lot of fun activities.  I really like the reading comprehension because I like to read and it teaches me about animals and science.  My favourite activity is unscrambling the spelling words.

What Do I Think?

I have to say I truly LOVE the Essential Skills Advantage program!  It’s an easy to use independent program.  I like this because having 6 little ones I can get pretty busy.  With this program the kids can easily work on their own and only occasionally need help to understand a question.  Most of the instructions are read out loud by the program and can be repeated by clicking on the ear symbol.  Our children have been really enjoying this program and I have seen an improvement in their spelling and reading already.  They’ve logged a lot of hours using this.  I originally only asked them to use it for 20 to 30 minutes 4 days a week, however they are often asking to  use it through out the day.  It’s funny because it’s not set up as a game style I expected they wouldn’t be as interested in the program but the opposite is the case.  I think because it’s less stimulating they are enjoying it more.  

I really like that children can work in different grade levels at the same time.  Maybe your child can read at a higher level then they can spell.  No problem just work at an earlier grade level in spelling or move a head if you find the work is to easy.

I also really like the parent portal area.  This area makes it easy to change your children's passwords and see what lessons they are working on also what has been completed.  It shows you how many attempts they took at the unit and how many attempts it took to obtain mastery.  It then shows their finished grade and the date the unit was last accessed.  They also offer downloadable certificates you can print and use as your child completes each unit.

ESA makes a great supplement to any K-6th language arts program!

How To Get ESA

ESA is a online subscription based program.  You can subscribe to the premium Essential Skills Advantage for $9.99 per month.  They offer a 14 day free trail to!  ESA is currently offering a discount code to reduce your monthly membership by 50% and this is good as long as you keep your subscription!  The discount code is TOS50 and it is good until October 1st, 2014.

ESA is also now running a FREE version of their program, called the basic plan.  It has a lot of the great content their premium plan has but is lacking some games and the record keeping.  You can find out more about the basic plan here.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Review ~ UberSmart Math Facts

Math facts ah, this can be a topic of struggle in classrooms and homeschool families alike. I'm always on the look out for ways to help our children practice and master their math facts.  So I was excited to have the opportunity to review UberSmart Math Facts from UberSmart Software

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What Is UberSmart Math Facts?

UberSmart Math Facts was created by David Kocur, a homeschool dad and computer programmer.  He created this program when he wasn't able to find a suitable math facts drill program for his children.  Amazingly after just a few months of uses his older children had mastered their addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts!

UberSmart Math Facts is a downloadable Windows program to help children learn their math facts.  David Kocur has designed his program to help children succeed in learning math facts.  It is intended to teach facts one group at a time starting with adding 0's, then 1s etc.  This helps children to build confidence as they master one group at a time and gives them a good foundation to build on for the next fact group.   This math drill program is intended for grades K to 6.  However anyone needing extra math practice can use it.

 

Learn

DotCards

The learning section in UberSmart Math Facts starts younger children with dot cards similar to dominos.  The intermediate section uses traditional style flashcards.  In this section the student is suppose to say the answer out loud then click the show button to see if they picked the correct answer.

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Practice

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In the practice section the student can also choice between flashcard or dot cards.  Now they are to enter the correct answer using the keyboard.

 

Testing

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The test section gives the older students a chance to do a assessment test to see what math facts they are struggling with.  This can be a great time savings as if your already proficient in some areas, your time is best spent practicing facts you struggle with.

After the test is finished your student can pick what area they want to drill.  You can work on one set of facts as a time or on all facts.  In addition to the learning and practicing your student can compete.  They can race to complete a section of drill problems in a set amount of time.

In the settings you can change the amount of time aloud to answer problems.  Another option is to increase the facts from 12 x 12 to 20 x 20.

UberSmart Math Facts is intended to be an independent program used by the student so a helpful reporting section is included.  In this area you can view what facts your child has been practicing.  It also shows you what your student has mastered and what they need to keep working on.  The chart can also be used by the child to see how they are doing.  UberSmart Math Facts uses different coloured smiley faces to mark the facts that need more work and ones have have been mastered.

 

How To Get UberSmart Math Facts

UberSmart Math Facts offers a 30 day free trial.  This is great to test out the program to see if it is a good fit for your children.
UberSmart Math Facts cost $24.95 for a family licence.  A family licence lets you run the program on all the computers in your home.  Each install allows for up to 8 student profiles.

 

System Requirements

UberSmart Math Facts is a Windows program.  It will run on Windows 8, 7, Vista and XP.

 

How We Used UberSmart Math Facts

I've been using this program with our 4 oldest children ages 12, 10, 8 and 7.  In this group there is a wide range of abilities from just learning math facts to children struggling to remember them after practicing for some time.  We used the program 4 days a week.  I started by having the older children take the assessment test then started them on the facts that they needed to practice the most.  The younger children I started at the beginning to let them practice and master the foundation facts.  They used this program for about 15 minutes a day to drill their facts.

Some of my children really enjoyed using this program.  Because it's not a bells and whistles game style it was not distracting or over stimulating for them.  While some of our other children really found the lack of visuals a hold back for their learning style.  Over all I've enjoyed using this program! It lets me easily keep up with math facts drilling for our family.  I love the reporting charting lets me see what areas have been mastered and what our children might need more help with.
One program option that I really loved was the ability to increase the time allowed for each question.  This helped to relive the pressure of having to rush to answer a problem that some children struggle with.

UberSmart Math Facts will continue to be a math drill program for our children that we use weekly.  I would recommend this software for anyone looking for a simple and easy to use math drill program.

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