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Curriculum Reviews

Multiplication Made Easy {Times Tales Review}

My kids love memorization. They have memorized poetry, scripture, even boring grammar lists, happily and without complaint. But math facts? They are a huge struggle. I often wondered if this discrepancy in ability to memorize was due to the subject matter – words & ideas vs numbers. If so, I must be afflicted with the same thing, as I have struggled my whole life with math and yet I can remember pretty much every word of The Cremation of Sam McGee though I haven’t read it in 20 years!

All this to say that I was pretty excited and hopeful when presented with the opportunity to review Times Tales, by The Trigger Memory Co. Why? Because Times Tales is a memory system that uses stories to memorize math facts, which sounds just about perfect for my word and story loving daughter!

Times Tales can be purchased as either a DVD or digital download. I received the digital download, which includes two mp4 videos of approximately 30 minutes duration, and printable files for flash cards, quizzes and a game. We got started right away!

The videos take you through the 6 steps of the program. The first video, Part One, covers approximately half of the upper multiplication tables, and Part Two covers the rest. Multiplication by 0, 1, 2, 5, and 10 are not covered by this program. Here are the steps:

1. Meeting the characters of the story. Each number is dressed up as a character, in this example, the number 8 is “Mrs. Snowman”.

Learning Multiplication Tables with Times Tales: Step 1, Meet The Characters

2. Learning the stories. Each story contains two characters representing the numbers to be multiplied. In this example, the characters are “The Sixth Grade Class” representing the number 6, and a chair representing the number 4. The answer to the table is also found in each story.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 9.55.42 PM

3. Story Quiz. The video then goes through a little quiz to check for retention of the elements of the story (not the times tables).

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4. You tell the story. Next, the student is given the opportunity to tell back the story.

 

5. Flash Cards with the character symbols. The video then goes through the flash cards of the multiplication tables WITH the character symbols.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 9.37.05 PM

6. Flash Cards without the character symbols. The final step is regular multiplication tables flash cards.

After going through the video just once, my oldest daughter got almost all the flash cards correct. I as amazed at how effective the system was, because she had barely even started to cover multiplication tables with her math program! She had only had a basic introduction to the concept of multiplication and the 0, 1, and 2 tables.

Even my husband was amazed that she had been able to retain something she had so little understanding of so very quickly, and he wanted to take a peek at the program to see what it was all about!

The quality of the video itself isn’t much to praise – the graphics and animation are very basic and not at all on par with the current media offerings, but the system’s success lies in it’s ability to create a mental connection with words and images.  I wonder if the simplicity of the video is perhaps part of the reason it is so effective? Nothing too flashy, entertaining or distracting to take away from the mental connections being created?  I personally found it very boring (and slightly annoying), but to my surprise, my kids just ate it up. Especially my 5 year old! She actually asked to watch it every day! She has only just begun a kindergarten math program, so I didn’t want to get ahead of myself or push her, but I wonder if I pursued it she just might be able to memorize her multiplication tables as well.

We have only viewed the Part Two video a handful of times, but it is more stories and characters in the same vein as Part One. It is recommended to wait at least one week before starting the second set of facts, but I have put it aside for now until our math program catches up with the multiplication tables we have learned with Times Tales. I am so pleased that we are really cruising through multiplication after having spend over double time on addition last year!

Are you curious about Times Tales? Wondering if it could work for your children? Why not check out the Times Tales DVD 90 Second Introduction Video or the free 15 minute download sample?

Times Tales by the The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW
 

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Going Digital with Math-U-See {Demme Digital Packs Review}

I was super excited to have the opportunity to review a Math-U-See product — I have been using Math-U-See from the beginning in our homeschool and am now into the Gamma level with my 8 year old while her little sister (5) is working in Primer. It is a solid, easy to use, hands on, mastery based math curriculum that I haven’t regretted choosing it for an instant.

One of the newest things out from Demme Learning‘s Math-U-See, is their Digital Packs. Digital Pack are a digital alternative to their traditional teacher’s manual and DVD set and provide 12 months of access to streaming of the instructional videos and Instructors Manual, level and test solution pdfs of your chosen level(s). Also included is their awesome Skip Counting and Addition Songs mp3 (these are a GREAT memory aid!), and their Digital Manipulatives. The Digital Manipulatives are an online tool version of their Manipulatives App.

Demme Learning Math U See Review

We accessed the materials using both our Macbook and our iPad Mini fairly easily, the only delay being that you have to login to the site each time to gain access. To make things a little smoother for us for our day to day use, I left the pdf page we were currently using open in a tab of my browser. This made it much easier to use and then we only had to login for our weekly video lessons.

While we did have some fun playing around with the Digital Manipulatives, I certainly wouldn’t recommend them as a complete replacement for the physical set. They could certainly be handy for traveling and homeschooling on the go though! My kids are pretty inexperienced when it comes to technology, and had a difficult time figuring out how to “pick up” the blocks, and move/remove them. We are currently working on the lower multiplication tables, which isn’t requiring much manipulative use at this time anyway.

Having the video streaming was a total hit with my daughter, and she really appreciated being able to watch her video at the dining table (or anywhere else), rather than in the family room with her sisters distracting her. I am also able to use the pdf to correct her work, and I’m really happy to have a bit more room on my teacher’s manual shelf with one less book taking up space!

Because I will be putting three children through each Math-U-See level, digital packs don’t make financial sense for me personally — I will still continue to buy their standard Instruction Packs for each level. They may be slightly more expensive than the digital version, but they are a one time cost that will be spread out over all of my children whereas the Digital Packs need to be re-purchased each year and for each level. They would definitely present a cost savings to those who are homeschooling an only child, or for families where the children are using separate math curriculums.

If you are interested in seeing how the Digital Packs work with various ages, levels, and individual homeschooling families, be sure to click the banner below to read the reviews of other Review Crew Members.

 

Demme Learning's Math-U-See Review
 

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Celebrating Christmas With Music! {SQUILT Christmas Carols Review}

I am so very excited to be sharing with you today how we have FINALLY incorporated Music Appreciation into our homeschool! I confess that I have zero musical experience, am unable to read music, and have an embarrassing lack of knowledge of composers, musical terms, or even styles and periods of music. I might be able to distinguish between Country, Rock, or Hip-Hop when flipping through radio stations, but that is about it.

My oldest has been taking piano lessons for a few years, and up until recently, that is all the music that has been included in her education.

This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for details. I received this product in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own or those of my family.

Enter SQUILT Music Appreciation Curriculum — the perfect solution for this relaxed classical homeschool mom! SQUILTs curriculum is designed by Mary Prather of Homegrown Learners. She has an undergraduate degree in Music Education as well as a Masters degree in Education and has put together this fabulous resource that is so easy to use that even this musically challenged mama can do it!

What is SQUILT?

SQUILT stands for Super Quiet Uninterrupted Listening Time — which is the core of the program — sitting quietly with your students and really listening to the piece. The program is digital and contains everything you need to add Music Appreciation to your homeschool –all you need is a computer or device with which to access it, a printer for the notebooking pages, and some pens/pencils/crayons.

Celebrate Christmas with Music! SQUILT's Christmas Carols Vol I & II are perfect for music appreciation during the holiday season. #homeschooling

An Easy Way to Add a Little Christmas & Music Appreciation to Morning Time

The files were easy to download to my Macbook, and then I saved them to my Google Drive so that I could access them comfortably throughout the house on my iPad. Because I am very much a paper person, I did print myself a hard copy that I could sit on the couch with (and not have my toddler grabbing at the technology!) I played the music on my EU BOOM Bluetooth speaker and I also used my library’s Freegal subscription to access some other versions of the songs and streamed them for listening.

SQUILT Christmas Carols Volume 1 & 2 are shorter than the other SQUILT Curriculum and contain 5 lessons each and are just perfect for this time leading up to Christmas. The program begins by defining what a Carol is and then provides an overview of the components to listen for (dynamics, rhythm/tempo, instrumentation, and mood). Notebooking pages for both writers and non-writers are included as well as links to the individual pieces of music (several examples of each) to listen online as well as some supplemental activities.

SQUILT Music Appreciation Curriculum {Review Christmas Carols VOL 1 & 2}

I decided to add our music appreciation to our usual Morning Time routine, two or three times a week. On the very first day, we would do the “super quiet” listening — I simply asked my girls to grab a throw pillow and rest while they listened to the piece. On the second and third days, they would complete the notebooking pages; my Kindergartener would use the “Draw What You Hear” page and my Third Grader the regular one (but she also loved the drawing page and usually used both).

SQUILT Music Appreciation - Notebooking pages for non-writers DSC_5454SQUILT Music Appreciation Curriculum

I am so grateful for how easy this program is to use! All the answers are provided, so I don’t have to decide whether each piece is mezzo forte or fortissimo, an example of crescendo, or if it has an allegro or andante tempo. I’m sure I couldn’t if I tried! I also love that it has introduced these words to my vocabulary and I am beginning to understand more about music and learn along with my children — which is my favourite part of homeschooling.

What’s Included in SQUILT Christmas Carols?

SQUILT Christmas Carols Covers the following pieces:

SQUILT Carols Volume 1: Carol of the Bells, Away in a Manger, The Little Drummer Boy, Angels We Have Heard on High, and O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

SQUILT Carols Volume 2: Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella, Go Tell it On the Mountain, In the Bleak Midwinter, The First Noel, and Calypso Carol.

We have greatly enjoyed adding both Christmas cheer and Music Appreciation to our homeschool this year!  And I am excited to continue with Music Appreciation during our Morning Time in the New Year — especially since SQUILT has their other courses arranged by time period , which will be a nice complement to our History studies.

I encourage you to check out the various resources available from SQUILT, and enjoy music with your children this Christmas — or at any time of year!

 

Drawing With (My) Children: Lesson 3

 

My oldest daughter has been drawing quite passionately since our last lesson – she will sit at the table for an hour or more at a time with her sketch book and work away on her pictures. One day last week I invited her to join me with our books and a pile of Eric Carle books for inspiration. I even found myself having fun with it! One of the pictures we found inspiration in was this duck from Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Using Eric Carle's Brown Bear for drawing inspiration! - www.learningmama.comI love how Big Sister thought to add cattails to her picture, I wish I had thought of that! We both thought it looked like mama duck was looking over her shoulder at her babies so we drew in some ducklings.

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Drawing From a Still Life

Next up for our lessons from Drawing With Children is Lesson 3: Drawing from a Still Life! I reviewed this chapter several times knowing that it was going to be a more difficult one. Although this lesson is for learning to draw from a still life, the author takes the reader through the lesson of drawing a picture of a still life. This is necessary because she walks you step by step through the process needs to be able to refer to specific, predetermined objects. After completing the lesson, we can make the transition to drawing real objects and constructing our own arrangements.

The photo of the still life is an arrangement of a teapot, vase, cup of kitchen utensils, and an abacus on a placemat. I decided we would only do Level 1, which is only the teapot and the vase. We discussed choosing where to start, placement and drew preliminary sketches before starting the lesson.

Like the previous lessons, step-by-step directions are given for drawing the objects. Big Sister had a much harder time with this lesson than the two previous. She made many mistakes (although the book discusses that there are no mistakes!) and we talked about how to adjust/cover them up. When the time came to add detail to her picture, and therefore incorporate some of the things she was displeased with into patterns etc. she had lost interest in her picture and wanted to be done. The next day, however, she was willing to give it another try and did a much better job of it. I think this week we might have some fun setting up our own arrangements from household objects and, now that it is spring, we should be able to get lots of practice in using our nature notebooks as well.

Drawing With (My) Children Lesson 3: Still Life - www.learningmama.com
Mine, Big Sister’s and Little Sister’s first attempts at Lesson 3. Big Sister was not pleased with all with this attempt but happier with her second try the next day.

 

The next lesson will cover much more advanced concepts such as volume drawing,  positive and negative space, and lighting. I think we will stop here though, it’s getting pretty tough and I think we will revisit this after we have had some time to practice (and mature!). Instead, we will go back and do the second level lessons for lessons 1-3 which should keep us busy for some time.

While the sample pictures of children’s work in the book is quite impressive, I do think it is a bit much to expect that a non-art experienced parent teaching their children at home will have similar results as those who have received the same instructions provided in formal lessons by a skilled artist.  I really wish this book had more of the early level instructional lessons because this has been a lot of fun and I’d like to keep the momentum going!

This post is fourth in a series reviewing our experiences using Mona Brookes’ book Drawing With Children:

1. Drawing With (My) Children: Our Homeschool Experience Using the Monart Method

2. Drawing With (My) Children: Lesson 1

3. Drawing With (My) Children: Lesson 2

 

 

Drawing With (My) Children: Lesson 2

With much excitement and anticipation, we moved on to Lesson 2 in Drawing With Children!

Since our first lesson, Big Sister has been very interested in drawing. She worked her way through Ed’ Emberley’s Drawing Book of Animals while waiting for her next lesson. It’s so much fun to watch children learn as their interest is piqued!

We began our drawing lesson with some of the recommended warm-ups with Little Sister joining in. She really liked finding the elements of shape in our surroundings, as well as the Random Warm-up (p. 65) where we practiced making all of the elements in various colours. Then Big Sister repeated the Level 2 exercise for determining starting level, and she improved a bit so I gave her the Level 3 exercises as well. She did fairly well, so I think we will end up trying out all three levels for each lesson.

Lesson 2 is Drawing from Graphics, and it begins with some drawing tips. The author discusses following your feelings, overlapping, making adjustments and changes, where to start, making preliminary sketches, texture, and shading. I went over the basics as suggested, and showed Big Sister the examples in the book of drawing with objects overlapping each other and how to make adjustments when you aren’t satisfied with your work (transforming, adding on, covering up, and tracing).

Drawing With (My) Children: Lesson 2 LIONS! - www.learningmama.com
Little Sister’s attempt.

 

Drawing With (My) Children: Lesson 2 Lions! - www.learningmama.com
Big Sister’s Leo! I love the little birds she added flying overhead.
Drawing with (My) Children: Lesson 2 Lions! - www.learningmama.com
My Lion.

Then we got to the fun part: Leo the Lion!  Leo the Lion is the Level 1 project for this lesson and a photo of an embroidery graphic is given, along with a simplified drawing. We made some preliminary sketches to determine how big to make our lions, leaving room for whatever else we wanted in the picture (trees etc) and then jumped right into the step by step instructions.

Little Sister came back to join us for this part, and it only took a few minutes before I wished she hadn’t. All that wonderful information offered by Mona Brookes in the introductory chapters regarding attitudes, environment and quietness while drawing? Our drawing lesson soon became an example of what not to do! What developed in my dinning room was what one could only describe as a toxic art environment: Baby Sister screaming in the high chair as I doled out pieces of grapes and Cheerios. The Frances Audio Collection playing in the background (Little Sister popped it into the player when she became bored of all the talk about overlapping and adjustments). And the piece de resistance was Little Sister crying, and then having a full on tantrum while trying to draw the lion and imploring me to draw it for her. She was just so unhappy about her ability, it was heart breaking really.

Little Sister eventually settled down and finished her lion with us but was greatly displeased throughout. I think it turned out pretty cute though! Big Sister had a lot of fun, and despite Little Sister begging her to come play, she decided to keep at her work and add a tree and birds to her landscape.  I think I’ll break out the Eric Carle books this week so we can practice copying some simple, animal graphic shapes.

Animals are so much fun to draw!  What have your children been enjoying drawing lately?

 

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This post is third in a series about our implementation of Mona Brookes’ Drawing With Children. You can check out the others here:

1. Drawing With (My) Children: Our Homeschool Experience Using the Monart Method.

2. Drawing With (My) Children: Lesson 1

4. Drawing With (My) Children: Lesson 3