Wednesday, April 27, 2016

2015-2016 Year in Review

I just finished assembling portfolios for the boys to have them reviewed.  I can't believe we're already wrapping up our "formal" school year!

Yes, it's a little earlier than I usually do our portfolio review, but with the upcoming move, I wanted our paper trail closed for the year.  Not that the learning stops just because the school calendar ends.  We're still memorizing poetry, and learning new geography related to the move, and reviewing a video-based science curriculum, and we have co-op tomorrow, and you know . . . all that other fun stuff that is really educational that goes on around here!

So what did our year look like?

That's just a snapshot of our year.  It doesn't show that Emory learned to read, or has a passion for nature.  It doesn't show how hard Elliott worked to master multiple digit multiplication, or how he's a STEM kid.  It doesn't show that Eleanor knows her letters and their initial sounds, or that *aha* moment when she realized there were two letters that make the /k/ sound.  It doesn't show that Eloise has some serious gross motor skills and can run and climb like a five year old or the way she nods her head for each syllable when she's saying Emory, Elliott or Eleanor.

It does, however, show the moments.  The family-style learning that brings us together each day.  The hands-on, experiential learning.  The laughter.  The memories.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Quite awhile ago, my husband had an employee who gifted us some of their homemade soaps and lotions.  This included a body cream with emu oil.  I never thought much of it.  I just set it aside, until one winter day when my hands were chapped and a very popular brand of lotion made my skin burn.  I pulled out the natural lotion, and immediately felt soothed.  Since then, it has become my absolute favorite for my skin.  As we no longer have a contact for the family who made the lotion, I do not have access to this lovely cream, and was becoming a little worried when this little container was starting to empty.  Then I was given the opportunity to review GREEMU, from health and beauty company Devonian.

Review:  GREEMU from Devonion

What is GREEMU?

GREEMU is a plant-based beauty oil designed as a green alternative to emu oil.  It can be used to nourish and protect your skin and as a treatment for dry hair.  For those that desire an animal-free beauty oil, Devonian has developed GREEMU to replicate the properties and compositions of Grade A emu oil, except that it is made entirely from plant oils and butters.

I received a 4 oz bottle, with clear directions for either skin or hair use.  It does also include a warning not to use if you have allergies to plant oils, and of course to discontinue if any irritation occurs.  GREEMU consists of five ingredients:

Macadamia Oil
Palm Oil
Shea Butter
Sunflower Seed Oil
Rice Bran Oil

These ingredients are known for their moisturizing, healing and antioxidant properties.  I've never used straight emu oil, but I have heard good things about it.  So I decided that if it's supposed to work like emu oil, I might just try to see if GREEMU could eventually replace my beloved emu-oil based body cream.  I had a dry spot on my ankle and elbow, and decided I would give those spots special treatment with my new oil.

What did I Think?
The oil is a thick, almost-clear oil that only requires a small drop or two.  You just spread it and allow the skin to absorb it.  If you use too much, you will feel oily for a bit, but it's easy to moderate and feels better to apply than lotions.  It has no odor or smell, which is nice.  After the first two weeks, I can't say that I noticed any positive difference in the areas I was specifically treating for dry skin.  I decided to increase the frequency of use, to see if there were any notable changes.  Unfortunately, the slightly dry spots both started to feel scaly and appeared ashy in color.  I'm not sure why this happened to me, but it was certainly unsightly.  It's hard to say how this would compare to pure emu oil since I've never used it, but I have not seen positive results at this time.

Want to Know More?
Greemu is distributed by Koru Naturals, and you may remember I have reviewed some of their natural products before.  I loved their soap and have my eye on some other products as well.  You can also find out more on their website, Facebook and Pinterest.

The good thing about the Schoolhouse Review Crew is that you can get multiple perspectives of the same product, so be sure to check out more reviews!

Greemu Devonian Review

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©2011-2016 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

52 Lists: Week 16 ~ Favorite Books

This week's list is Favorite Books.  If this task had been given to me while I was still in school or a newlywed, I'd never finish, because I was a voracious reader.  My reading now has slowed down due to the nature of parenthood.  Then when I do read, it is almost always about children or children's books, but that is not a complaint.  Merely a fact that I'm in a beautiful stage, and I do cherish it dearly.

The Bible
In time of need, prayer, praise and joy, this is a constant reminder of a loving promise.

For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macauley
This was one of the first homeschooling books I read, and one of the few that has kept a place on my shelf.

A Charlotte Mason Education:  A Homeschooling How-To Manual by Catherine Levison
This is more of a practical how-to for the Charlotte Mason method, and an easy read.

Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
An interesting look at what we can do for our children to improve their relationship with nature, and the effect it has on their lives.

The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock
A practical resource for nature study.  I use it as a reference before we dive into an unfamiliar topic.

Five in a Row booklist
It would be too cumbersome to list every book this curriculum uses, and honestly, we haven't read all of them, but we have thoroughly enjoyed every book they have selected.  Even if you don't use this curriculum, the book selections are delightful.

James Herriot's Treasury for Children by James Herriot
There is just something heartwarming about these stories.

The Random House Book of Poetry selected by Jack Prelutsky
This book has traditional poems for all ages, and silly and fun selections as well, which makes it the ideal read for children of all ages.

More come to mind, but I'm out of time.

Next week's prompt is people you admire.  We are moving next week, so there's a chance I'll be late to post, or I'll just do two lists the next week!

52 lists with Chasing Slow

©2011-2016 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

X Marks the Box

Yes, we're moving.  My husband was contacted by a company several weeks ago, but turned down an interview.  When they reached out again, he decided to hear them out.  As you can tell, we liked what they had to say, and he accepted their offer.  While we are definitely sad to be leaving our family and friends, our church, and our fabulous co-op, we're looking forward to this "adventure" that God is taking us on.  We found a house that meets the needs of our family and homeschooling style, and we're also going to be closer to town than we've ever been.  The one disadvantage to living rural like we do now is that it just takes forever to get anywhere.  I won't know what to think to just make a "quick trip" to the store or library and not feel like half the day is wasted.  I'm looking forward to new explorations and hopefully finding our place in the homeschool community there.

For now, things are a little crazy as we de-clutter and clean and pack.  It's amazing how much stuff you can accumulate, even when you think you're doing good at the whole purging thing.  That's also why things here on the blog are short and sweet for now.  My mind is going in a thousand different directions lately!  Hopefully things will settle down in a couple of weeks and I can update on the new house!

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Math Mini Courses from A+ Interactive Math {Review}

Have you ever felt the need for just a little something "extra" when it comes to teaching math?  Maybe a supplement, a refresher course, something to fill in the gaps, or some other type of focused math course that targets a very specific topic?  A+ Interactive Math now has you covered!  They are introducing Math Mini-Courses, which are short courses that focus on just one or two mathematical concepts in order to fill in gaps, or to help children who are struggling.

Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}

What are Math Mini Courses?
A+ now offers 20 online Math Mini Courses which provide in-depth and consistent review from the very basics to advanced concepts.  There are multimedia lessons, interactive review, worksheets, automatic grading/tracking, progress reports, offline practice and more.  Each course focuses on one specific content area (addition, multiplication, fractions, time, money, geometry, etc) for elementary and middle school level mathematics.  These math courses can be completed in 2-3 months, but the subscriptions are for one year, which means you have more flexibility in how you use them.

How Did We Use It?
The crew was given the opportunity to review two Math Mini Courses.  This review came along right around the time we were preparing for a move for husband's job.  A friend told me to look at it as an adventure, but I was a little worried about finishing out the school year while working on the logistics of moving.  Our boys use a mastery approach to mathematics, so they typically have a narrow focus of subject matter anyway.  I noticed that what's covered in the last few lessons of our math curriculum isn't vital to mastering the content, so I don't necessarily need to finish it.  At the same time, I didn't want them to just let those skills sit idle, so I felt like it would be beneficial to assign them each a Math Mini Course that covers the same topic as their math curriculum's focus.  It would allow them to review and see the material from a different perspective, and give me peace of mind that they were still working and finishing out the school year covering relevant content.  Since it's an online course, I don't have to worry about curriculum strewn about while we're packing, and I can multi-task a little more since I'm not the one doing the primary teaching.

Elliott was assigned Elementary and Middle School Multiplication.  This course is geared for students in 2nd-6th Grade.  There are 13 lessons.  It begins with an introduction to multiplication and how it relates to addition.  It moves into multiplication tables, and multiplication tricks.  By the end, it covers multiple digit multiplication.  I knew that it would all be familiar to Elliott, because we've already covered everything, but I also know he's a kid who appreciates having some "easy" lessons every now and then too, and I was looking forward to him having some review for the end of the year.
Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}

Emory was assigned Early Elementary Subtraction, which is written for 1st-3rd grade students.  It has fifteen lessons that begin with an introduction to subtraction and works up to regrouping and multiple digit subtraction.  Since his primary focus has been only single digit addition and subtraction, I knew some of this would be "beyond" what he's covered at this point (he's only 6 years old) so I was okay with him working more slowly through it.  With a year's subscription, there's plenty of time to mature into the rest of the lessons.

Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}

Getting Started
Signing up wasn't too difficult, but I find the navigation to be a little tedious.  For myself and two children, it is actually three accounts with separate usernames and passwords.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, because I like that they have their own accounts which tracks their work.  It means signing in and out to access each account, and then multiple clicks through the program before a new window finally launches for the actual course.  Then you have to navigate through the course, and there are multiple screens, depending on which activity you are completing.

Then in the course, there are a lot of little things that can get overlooked by the student, especially a six year old.  Things like hitting "submit" on the belly of a frog who appears in some questions, or the question is marked incorrect.  You must remember to update the status of the lesson to complete, or you'll see a big red warning when you try to move to the next lesson.  It might track your work within each lesson, but it doesn't automatically track progress through the lessons, and you have to manually "complete" and move to the next lesson.  Also, everything is read aloud, but the multiple question choices are often wordy, and I find myself re-reading the questions and answer choices for him.  I just find it easier to navigate myself, once I learned my way around.

What Did We Think?
Since the boys were both comfortable with the content, they weren't overly enthusiastic about the lessons initially, but they were glad they got to do "easy" questions for math for awhile, since it starts at the very beginning.  I like how the tutor talks in a slow, clear, natural voice.  We've done online programs that talk too fast or have a robotic voice and that was irritating to the boys.  If you get the answer correct, you're congratulated, but if you get the wrong answer, the program then immediately gives you a detailed explanation.  I really like this feature!  I also love that children who prefer pencil to paper have the option of printable worksheets.  This, along with the generated reports, are nice for families who keep portfolios.

The narrow focus of these courses makes me believe that they can be used in multiple ways.  They can surely be used for students who struggle with a concept and need an intense study, but also to "fill in the gaps" if you've switched curricula, as an end of year review, or as a summer course to keep skills fresh.  The one-year length of the subscription means the course could also be stretched throughout a school year as a general supplement.

I also think the online nature of the program, with audio narration and visual demonstrations throughout the lessons should appeal to visual and auditory learners.  I certainly think it's worth checking out, especially if your children enjoy and thrive with online learning.

Find Out More
A+ Website

Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}

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©2011-2016 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

52 Lists: Week 15 ~ Favorite Quotes

This week's List was Favorite Quotes.  Here are a few that speak to me as a {homeschooling} mother.  

"Self-education is the only possible education. The rest is mere veneer laid on the surface on a child's nature."
- Charlotte Mason

"The sense of beauty comes from early contact with nature."
- Charlotte Mason

"Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them."

Lady Bird Johnson

"Do not, then, my friend, keep children to their studies by compulsion but by play."
- Plato

"Train up a child in the way he should go:  and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
Proverbs 22:6 KJV

"Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children."
- Charles R. Swindoll

“Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”
- Fred Rogers

“When we treat children's play as seriously as it deserves, we are helping them feel the joy that's to be found in the creative spirit. It's the things we play with and the people who help us play that make a great difference in our lives.”
Fred Rogers

"Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself."
- John Dewey

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
Nelson Mandela

"It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education." 
- Albert Einstein

"Children have to be educated, but they have also to be left to educate themselves."
- Ernest Dimnet

52 lists with Chasing Slow

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Friday, April 15, 2016

WHAT is this thing!?

I kid you not.  As we're decluttering and packing, my six year old son found an old alarm clock and asked me "WHAT is this thing?  What does it do?"

It's proof of how reliant we are on our cell phones, as we use them for both alarms and radio/music, essentially rendering this thing useless.

So my kids declared it a relic of the past and said I was old.

Thanks, boys.

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Saturday, April 9, 2016

52 Lists: Dream Jobs

This week's prompt was to list our childhood and current dream jobs.  This was an easy one for me.  I had big aspirations as a child, of course, and my dream job changed a few times, but for the most part, I noticed a clear pattern.

Childhood Dream Jobs

Teacher- I figured I was going to teach Preschool or Kindergarten.  I sometimes considered gifted or literature, but I always returned to early elementary.  I had no clue how that would actually turn out!
Lawyer - I'm not sure where this originated.  I did take a few very basic legal courses for my Associate's Degree (because I chose a legal specialization) and I interviewed in one law office as a young adult.  I chose a different path for my Bachelor's degree and future!
President of the United States - I was a studious, straight-A student, and my daddy always said I could be anything, including the first female president.  So maybe my dream was to impress him.
Librarian - Who wouldn't want to be around books all day?
Writer- I was going to write books.  I loved creative writing as a kid.
Publisher or Editor - I did love to read after all . . .

Can you tell I loved reading and writing?  Some of my favorite classes in high school were a creative writing class and the newspaper and magazine journalism classes I took.  Oh, and anything literature.

Current Dream Jobs

I never really "dreamed" about being a wife or mother, and certainly not a SAHM.  I'm still not a June Cleaver, but this is my dream-come-true life that I'm living.  By the time I had my first child, homeschooling was a real goal, so I guess I took a different path to teaching, but I got there!

Once upon a time I had this grand idea that I should open a Children's Museum, because our area is lacking the hands-on, interactive experiences for children that larger cities offer.  I do love the idea of creating cross-curricular exhibits.

I also like the idea of the Preschool inside of a Nursing Home.  I love the preschool age, and my husband has background in long term care, but the idea makes him nervous.  I've watched some of those videos, and the friendship between the generations just makes my heart sing and cry at the same time.

On a more practical note, the other area I've seriously thought about pursuing as the children get older and more independent would be tutoring or working in the field of homeschool curriculum/publishing, or somehow working somewhere homeschool related.  After my children, I have a strong passion for home education and I want to continue to share that with others.

52 lists with Chasing Slow

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Friday, April 8, 2016

Visual Learners

When you have a visual learner, they need to see to understand and assimilate information.  They feel more confident processing new information visually.  My husband is a visual learner.  He likes charts and pictures.  I'm a visual learner too, but I like to read to figure things out.  We both like to make lists so we can see what we have to do and how to organize the process, and he is forever doodling notes on things, especially when he's on the phone.  My oldest son is showing strong signs of being a predominately visual learner as well.

Here are some of the ways that I appeal to his learning style:

Choose Books Wisely
Books with detailed illustrations, colorful overlays, charts and other visual stimuli are more appealing to my son.  His attention is constantly drawn to sidebar text, thought bubbles or other graphics, and he finds those facts more interesting than just straight reading.

Math Manipulatives
Using hands-on elements allows him to see the math, to watch numbers change, and visualize the next step of the process.

When used wisely, flashcards aren't just about drill, drill, drill.  We do a lot of games like nerf targets, races, timed challenges, etc.

Teaching Aids
Teaching props, manipulatives, color coded lessons, charts, graphs, and other visual aids make things more interesting.

Especially useful for science, my kids love when I do demonstrations for them, so they can see (whatever we're learning about) in action.  Even more than that--they love when we get to do experiments and activities that allow them to see the way something works or to test their predictions.  I think ALL kids like hands-on activities though, and sometimes combining these learning methods is even more beneficial.

Videos and Movies
Not just video-based lessons (like our beloved Math-U-See) but documentaries and short video clips for science and social studies are an interesting and fun way to enhance traditional lessons.  My six year old is an auditory learner, so videos work well for introducing a topic or wrapping up a unit.

Computer/Tablet based Lessons
There are a lot of computer based and online programs, as well as apps for the Kindle or iPad that have pictures, animation, videos, drag-and-drop elements, or other features that appeal to the visual learner.

Put Their Hands to Work
Encourage them to process the information by outlining, labeling their own charts and diagrams, coloring/drawing a related picture, mapping a route, etc.  Having it for a reference later is always useful.  Building things with their hands--LEGO models, or an art project, will work for visual-kinesthetic learners too.

What type of learners do you have in your home?  How do you meet their needs?

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Stopmotion Explosion {TOS Review}

My boys have shown a little interest stopmotion animation lately.  They've played around with a few apps and made a couple of cute, if not very basic, movies.  When we were given the opportunity to review the book Stopmotion Explosion: Animate ANYTHING and Make MOVIES from Stopmotion Explosion, I knew it would give us the opportunity to learn a little more together.

Stopmotion Explosion

If you're not familiar with the concept of stopmotion, it is essentially taking several pictures, slowly altering the scene, repeating until your "movie" is finished, and then playing them in quick succession so it looks like you're seeing the movement/motion.  It's like the flip-books we used to draw in school!  It's quite a bit different from those apps the boys were using, which did all the video animation aspects for the kids.

Stopmotion Explosion has taken this to a new level by providing a book, as well as a complete kit with a camera and software, both of which the crew has been reviewing.  I have been reading the book Stopmotion Explosion by Nate Eckerson.  With 17 chapters, it will take you through the history of film and give you a very thorough overview of how to create stopmotion movies--from the animation, to the script, to lighting, to choosing cameras, to editing--and quite a bit more.  There were neat recommendations for creating smoke clouds and other special effects that I certainly couldn't have come up with on my own.

He gives recommendations for cameras as well as video editing software. There is a download section on the website (password protected) where you can download free software and sound effects.  Since the book can't flesh out full tutorials, it will point you to video tutorials online whenever applicable.

What Did We Think?

You might be surprised that I started the project with my 6 year old instead of my 9 year old.  That's because I'm not technically inclined, my 6 year old was even more anxious to start, and I figured he would have more mercy on me.  My oldest is more technically inclined, and has higher expectations.  I knew there would be a learning curve, and I wanted someone who would be patient with me!

I let Emory pick out what he wanted to use for his video and he created the scenes while I grabbed the shots with my digital camera.  Then we transferred everything to Windows Movie Maker (recommended in the book) along with some audio clips that were from the Stopmotion Explosion downloads.

I won't go into the technical side of using the program, since it's just one that they recommend and they can direct you to tutorials, but it's worth noting that this part was beyond my six year old.  If you're going to be doing stopmotion with young children, be prepared to do the heavy lifting, so to speak.

Anyway, our first attempt was short and sweet.

Darth Vader Defeats

Once I got through that first video, it did get a little easier to start figuring things out.  More natural light was definitely necessary, keeping the camera still, that type of thing.  I did find myself referring back to the book frequently.  It's solid information, and more than enough for a beginner.  I wouldn't call myself knowledgeable about stopmotion animation yet, but I feel like I can help the boys work their way into better videos as we trial and error together.

The reading level of the book, and the fact that it requires quite a bit of computer use, means your younger students (below 3rd grade I suspect) are going to need quite a bit of parental involvement, while upper elementary and middle school students will likely still need some oversight, but not to the same extent.  Teens can be unleashed and should be able to crank out some pretty neat projects once they learn the basics.  I'm glad that Elliott is a bit more adept at computers and figuring this type of thing out (he loves working through video tutorials) so he doesn't need me as much as he digs into this.  His big project is going to be Minecraft related is all I know.

Overall, It's not my thing, but this review wasn't about me.  My job as mom and home educator is to act as a facilitator and mentor, and help them work through projects and become more independent.  Stopmotion is actually a great project for my boys where they can take the lead.  I can see why they enjoy it.  It's a lot more time-consuming than I expected, but if they are willing to put in the effort, then I am willing to support their interests.  I plan to share more videos as time permits and they learn more and develop their skills, so stay tuned!

More Information


The crew has had a lot of fun reviewing the Stopmotion Explosion kit and book, so check out what their families have been creating!

Stopmotion Explosion Review

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©2011-2016 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

FIAR: The Story About Ping

We're probably one of the only FIAR families that didn't start with this book, or at least row it early on . . . but as I've said before, we just kind of moved through the curriculum wherever our interests take us.  We finally got around to rowing one of the most popular stories . . . 

FIAR:  The Story About Ping

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The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack is a classic that helps us explore the topics of discernment and obedience, as well as spend a little time learning about China.  It was a pretty casual row, and I'm behind in sharing this one also, so I'm almost forgetting what we studied!

Social Studies
Discernment, China, Yangtzee River
We learned a little about China--location, culture, the flag, etc.  

We watched an episode of Wild China on Netflix, then completed a notebooking page about what we learned about China.  Elliott talked about the animals he saw in the documentary, and how he learned he was born in the Year of the Dog.  Emory talked about some of the animals as well, particularly snakes and cormorants. 

We played on a language translator for a long time! 

The boys really enjoyed listening to, and trying to pronounce everyone's names.

We cooked "Chinese Fried Rice" (recipe adapted from a Google search, lol) and tried our hand with chopsticks.  Elliott had the best luck, but none of us were great.

Counting/Grouping, Addition
The boys did some pages from the Homeschool Share Ping lapbook.

Language Arts
Classics, Fiction, Story Elements
The Fiction Book Report for Elliott went along with some of the discussion points in the manual, and I added the Story Elements page for Emory to do at the same time.

 I let each kid test various items.  Besides the pencil, some of the choices included an apple, orange, LEGO brick, penny, and a couple other different things.

They both chose different items, made their predictions and tested them.  Eleanor enjoyed helping them with this activity!

D is for Ducks
I didn't do a full separate unit for her, she just kind of tagged along with the book, the science and did a few extra little activities of her own.

She loves her dot painting of course.

The duck matching was from and just gave her something to do for fun.

Like I said, simple and relaxed and casual.  Our next row, Andy and the Lion, was also casual.

©2011-2016 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Times Tales {TOS Review}

Third grade is kind of the Year of Multiplication for most kids.  I'm tackling my first round of third grade as a homeschool parent, and we're in the throes of multiplication.  When an opportunity to review Times Tales from The Trigger Memory Co came up, I didn't want to pass it up.  I've heard so many great things about Times Tales after all.

Times Tales Review

Elliott picks up math fairly quickly, and he understands the concept of multiplication without issue.  He had most of his multiplication facts memorized, but there were still a couple of upper level times tables that eluded him.  Since our primary curriculum focuses almost solely on multiplication for an entire year, we were just finishing up single digit multiplication when this review came along.  I realized it was the perfect time to take a break and shake things up before moving on to multiple digit multiplication, so we could tackle the last third of our curriculum with confidence and speed.

What is Times Tales?
Times Tales is a video-based program that aids in the memorization of upper level multiplication problems.  It uses fun mnemonic stories, helping children recall their math facts more quickly.  The times tables that are covered include:

You will want to make sure your child has a conceptual understanding of multiplication before beginning Times Tales.  While it will help students memorize the facts, it does not teach how multiplication works or real life application.

How Does it Work?
I received the digital version of Times Tales (it is also available as a DVD) to facilitate this review.  The digital version includes five files to download.  The main component consists of two mp4 video files, as the program is separated into Part 1 and Part 2, and teaches approximately half the facts on each video.  There are two PDF files with activities that correspond to each video segment, and a PDF answer key.

We started with Part 1, obviously.  There is no teacher's guide or anything of that sort.  Just start the video; the instructions are in it.  Our host, Hannah, opens the segment with instructions for how to proceed, and how to know when we're ready to move on.  The videos take about 30 minutes each to complete, so make sure you have time to work through them.

Times Tales Review

Essentially, each number is represented by a character.  Each times table in story form, with these characters as part of a story, and each short story represents a times table.  By the end, students who can't remember abstract times tables can recall the stories, and thus the answers to the multiplication facts.

As you watch the video, there are places to stop and check your knowledge.  Everything is oral response only and based on the honor system--we're told not to move on until certain things are memorized, but since it is only a video and not an interactive computer program, you'll have to make sure your students aren't progressing before they are ready.

Times Tales Review

In the beginning, we were also told to wait at least one week between watching Part 1 and Part 2, but in the meantime, we could do the printable activities included to reinforce the facts.  So that's just what we did.  The activities include crossword puzzles, flash cards, cube games and tests.  As a bonus, corresponding division facts are included.  (They're also part of the videos, though less emphasis is placed on division.)  This means that as your child is focusing on multiplication, they can learn the corresponding division facts as well.

Times Tales Review

On Monday of Week 1 we watched Part 1.  The rest of the week we the activities.  The practice test uses the picture representation of the numbers from the videos, while the regular test just uses numerals.  He went from only missing two on the practice test (and one was a careless mistake where he left a digit off his answer while rushing through) to missing zero!  Since he was doing so well we moved on to Part 2 the next week, and followed the same method, with equally impressive results.  What was more impressive to me though, is the amount of time he spent on it was drastically lower than he would have spent two weeks prior to starting Times Tales.  He no longer had to spend the time starting with a fact he knew and "counting up" to the actual fact he was trying to answer, and the tests went by so quickly.  Honestly, I feel like this was an easier route to finally memorizing them than our mastery-based mathematics curriculum provided.

Times Tales Review

What Did We Think?
It worked!  The stories really did provide a "memory peg" as they call it, which helped him visualize the multiplication factors and product as we worked on them during the week.  Elliott only had a few random facts left to memorize when we started, so we just did the minimum two weeks with the program.  I don't know how long it would take for children who need to memorize more facts, but it is flexible and allows students to work at their own pace.

After the two weeks, we went back to our regular curriculum.  His recall of those obscure facts had definitely translated into his work!  Now that we're moving through multiple digit multiplication, he only has to focus on the process, not doing the calculations.

The only thing I wish was included were "worksheets" for the division facts.  It includes flashcards only.  Not that I can't find or create my own, but if they had them in the same format as the multiplication that would have been convenient.

I think this will work with most children.  It should appeal to a variety of learning styles, because it has audio, visual and kinesthetic components to it.  I don't have experience with learning disabilities, but their website suggests that it works just as well with children who have dyslexia and other learning considerations.  I really think this can be a good supplement for most children, no matter what curriculum they use, and after our experience, I would recommend it.

Times Tales Review

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