Homeschool Posts

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Pencil Grips and Safety Scissors for Kids, a review

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support!

Need help teaching your child how to correctly hold a pencil while writing? Or maybe watching your little one wielding the school scissors makes you a tad uncomfortable? The Pencil Grip, Inc. just might have the right solution for you. We recently had the opportunity to try out and review The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit and The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors.


Review of the Pencil Grip and Ultra Safe Safety Scissors at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Homeschool Math for All Ages, a review of CTCMath

I’ve been homeschooling for more than 10 years, and I’ve probably used at least 10 different math programs. It can be hard to find one solution that works for all your kids and grows with them as they advance from all the way from foundational arithmetic to high school mathematics. Over the years, our family has invested a lot in different math curricula, so I was excited to try out a Family Membership of CTCMath, an online program that offers homeschoolers 60% off + 6 bonus months.

CTCMath


CTCMath is a complete K-12 math solution.

Buy an Individual or Family Membership and cover math for the entire year.


Ease of Use

For the Parent

CTCMath is designed for the busy homeschool mom. Instead of writing out math assignment sheets for all your kids each week, you set up a profile for each of your children and then you can either have them follow through their level in order or assign tasks for them to complete each day. It’s easy to do this, you just “add a task” and then choose what that task is and who you want to assign it to. You can also switch to “student view” and preview the lessons.

ctc math certificateProgress can be checked through the student’s profile (so there’s never any reason for your teen to say he has no idea how he’s doing) or through your parent dashboard. You can easily see which assignments were attempted and how many problems were answered correctly. You cannot see which problems your child got wrong or why (there is a way to see this, I’ll talk about that in a bit).

For each section there are diagnostic tests of varying lengths (short, standard, and comprehensive) to check if a topic has been mastered. Students can earn certificates for completing a percentage of each section satisfactorily. These appear on the screen, but will also be emailed to you. You’ll also received weekly email reports showing your children’s activities on the site.

Since each child has his or her own profile, I feared it would be a super pain to keep track of multiple passwords. CTCMath thought of that---you can have your student log in directly to their profile, OR you can log into your parent dashboard and then log in as a student from there. Easy peasy. This is especially handy if your children are young and are using the family computer (or Mom’s laptop) to access the program.

For the Student

For review purposes, Emma (age 8) has been using the 3rd grade course and I have been using the Algebra 1 course. I chose this course for myself, because I took a diagnostic test and found that I had forgotten how to convert repeating decimals into fractions and I wondered “hmm…wonder what other Algebra 1 concepts I’ve forgotten how to do?” Open-mouthed smile

For the most part, we have found the program as easy to use from the student end as it is from the parent end. Your student will choose the section they are on from a list. Each section has multiple parts to it and each of those has multiple lessons. Here’s a look at how the “lesson tree” is presented (this is actually the “student view” from my parent account on a section my daughter hasn’t started yet):

ctc math lesson tree


And here’s a look at the lesson list for “Mental Strategies:”


ctc math mental strategies lessons

And here’s a look at a section Emma has been working on (this is from her student profile):

ctc emmas lesson list

She loves that she can customize the colors of her dashboard.

How CTCMath Works

For each lesson, there is a video to watch that explains the concepts. The video lecturer has a pleasant voice with what sounds like an Australian or possibly South African accent. The program makes good use of video. There are no talking heads here. Winking smile

From Algebra I and Grade 3, respectively:

ctc algebra scientific notation calculator

ctc 3rd grade telling time

The video can also be made “full-screen” by clicking a button.

Afterwards, your student will complete an assignment and/or worksheet (this varies by level and by lesson). Most lessons have an online assignment where you are given problems to complete one at a time and you input the answers. Some of the lessons (this seems to be mostly the upper level courses---I don’t think we’ve encountered them at the 3rd grade level) will have a printable worksheet instead OR in addition to the online assignment. If both are offered, the student only needs to do one or the other, but you could do both for extra practice. Answers to the worksheet are also typed into the program for automatic grading.

ctc math algebra percent to fractions questions

ctc math algebra recurring decimal to fraction worksheetThis is one of the printable worksheets. You can view it onscreen, open it in another window, or download it to print.

Worksheets have an “answer bank” where you locate the correct answer and enter its letter in the program for grading.

ctc algebra composition percent entering answers

Once answers have been submitted, you can view the solutions.

ctc algebra composition percent solutions

After your child completes an assignment or worksheet, the program will show them the correct answers and what they got wrong. At this point, you have the option of downloading or printing a pdf showing exactly what they got wrong or right. Once this window is closed, you can no longer do that, so I recommend having your child send it to the printer or ask you before going on to another lesson.

If your child doesn’t get 100% on an assignment, she will have the option to do another set of problems or go onto the next lesson. If she get’s 100%, she can go on to the next lesson. She can stop after a single lesson or continue to work---lessons are quite short (videos are typically under 10 minutes and the problems sets are not huge). I haven’t found any of them to take more than a 1/2 hour. Yet---but I’m not deeply embroiled in Algebra yet…I have learned how to convert repeating decimals into fractions, though. Winking smile

When your student is finished with lessons for the day but wants a little math fun, there are also 3 games she can play on CTCMath for sharpening her math facts and thinking skills: Speed Skills, Times Tables Shoot ‘Em Up (like space invaders) , and Swap Pieces (logic).

What do we think of CTCMath?

It’s very flexible!

CTCMath seems to be a well developed program that’s easy and convenient to use. I can buy a Family Membership and my whole family can use it (even me). A child who is independent can use it independently without me hovering. It keeps records of how each child is doing (though I do wish that I could view more detailed information from my parent dashboard). I can give assignments to keep a child on track or allow her to go at her own pace.

If she finishes the course she is doing, guess what? She can start the next course! You have access to all levels. This makes it super easy to allow your child to progress at her own pace or to even switch courses midyear if that’s what you need to do. It also makes it easy to go back to a previous topic if you find that your child has forgotten something.

Or, suppose you have a high schooler who is a little behind where he wants to be? He can complete two courses in a year or 1-1/2 years to catch up.

My daughter seems to enjoy it.

She likes the novelty and independence of doing it on the computer. Emma sometimes gets bogged down with pencil work, so this is a nice change of “scenery” for her.

The content is good, though we did run into a few issues.

The different length tests are nice, also (you can pinpoint a weak area or give a child with test anxiety a break).

I like the lesson format and the overall quality of the instruction is pretty good, but I did find some inconsistencies.

I look for a strong conceptual component to any math program that we use---my children forget what do to do when they don’t know why they are doing it that way. A couple of the algebra lessons that I’ve done so far have been very much about procedure without spelling out the why for that procedure. And a couple of them have been very focused on “this is how you do this on a calculator” without first explaining how you do it without a calculator.  I agree with the judicious use of calculators, but these were both concepts that can be taught initially without using a calculator.

I ran into one mistake in the answer given for one of my assignments (I don’t think I’ve ever come across a math program without a single mistake).  My daughter ran into a glitch during an assignment where the program did not fully record her answers and her score didn’t match up with her performance. I sent an email to their customer service and received a quick response---it was a glitch they were aware of and working on. We did not run into it again.

ctc algebra finding number given a percentage unitary method problem error

I think the key to using ANY math program is keeping tabs on how your students are doing and following up when they run into difficulties. CTCMath makes it pretty easy for me to do that. 

Additional features I would love to see:

  • the ability for the parent to over-ride a grade (helpful if the program’s answer key is wrong or if the parent can clearly see that the wrong answer was due to a typo)
  • further video explanations of the answers to problem sets in case the student needs “extra help”
  • the ability for the parent to mark lessons that their child has already mastered in some way without the child completing them
  • a placement test that will show you which lessons to target given the results (you can view a breakdown of how your child did in each area of a diagnostic test)---every math program varies a little and this could help with proper placement

Overall, CTCMath seems like a good value for a good product. I recommend giving it a try.

Try a free trial of CTCMath here.

Check out what my Crew Mates thought of CTCMath:

 

CTCMath Online Math Tutoring {Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

High Quality Educational Worksheets for Your Homeschool, a review

Super Teacher Worksheets offers an Individual Membership that provides unlimited access to a virtual treasure chest of fun, high quality elementary printables, perfect for your homeschool family or co-op class. Our family recently had the opportunity to try out and review this handy resource.


 Super Teacher Worksheets
Whether you are looking for a little extra something for math, phonics, reading, writing, handwriting, grammar, spelling, science, social studies, critical thinking, or just seasonal fun, Super Teacher Worksheets probably has something for you.  In addition to a wide range of premade printables, you’ll also have access to several online generators that will allow you to create your own math practice, quizzes, flashcards, calendars, classroom newsletters, and more. That’s a lot for less than $20/year.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

4th Week of Homeschool Co-op and Other Happenings

Time passes both slowly and quickly when you’re super busy. We are in our 4th week of homeschool co-op and, for the most party, things seem to be going pretty well. No one is struggling more than usual and the angst level is about the same as it was last year.

working on homework at the kitchen tablePeter working on his homework with moral support from the animals.

We are busier than than last year. We are out of the house multiple days week and the kids have multiple activities going on. My husband says this is likely to be our busiest year between preparing to launch our oldest and all that entails while balancing the needs of everyone else.

Your 17-year-old is looking at colleges, preparing to take the SAT again in October, organizing his Eagle Scout project, and so on. It’s hard to believe we are at the end of this segment of his journey.

Last weekend, the two oldest kids went to Comicon.

All dressed for comicon

Yesterday, our third child celebrated his 12th birthday. That’s him up near the top of this post.

The other day my husband and I had a long talk about life, the universe, and everything.  We’re both very proud of our children. We’re happy we’ve been able to give them a stable home life and a great home education. I have no real regrets and I’m looking forward to continuing through the next 10 years, whether it be with the co-op or independently.

How are things going in your homeschool?