Friday, 27 March 2015

Gotta love Spring homeschooling

The girls loved how much time we spent last week on spring activities - not only did they get to see the eclipse 

 and learn all about the spring equinoxbut their chicks hatched - all on the same day : )

HomeSchool Office - TOS Review

I was asked to review HomeSchool Office which was created by Lord Heritage, It is a complete, online homeschool management program that allows you to organise, arrange contacts, plan schedules, create assignment calendars, track resources, manage lesson plans, budget, record attendance and grades all in one integrated program that also produces reports. 

When the log in details arrived my first task was to enter all the relevant details in the team section - these included address, school district, students, additional teachers etc. It only took a few minuets to enter the information.

The concept behind HomeSchool Office is to giver the POWER back to you. The planner contains six sections based around this acronym.

P is for Plan. This is where you create your master schedule - you enter subjects for each student (I really liked that the kids are given a colour, so schedules are colour-coded), In addition you assign times for each subject and you can also can also assign how long you expect an individual assignment to take. This section contains a customisable school calender which is really useful for recording number of school days and making note of your yearly schedule (dates you want to school, free dates, trips etc,). You can also plan projects for the year (including a materials list) and my favourite section - Budgeting, to help me plan and keep my school spending on track. 

O is for Order. Here you can create a to-do list, integrate your personal calendar with you school calendar and create reminders. It is where you view or print schedules (can be daily, monthly or weekly).Allows you to view your Calendar in a monthly, weekly, or daily format, and to create daily and weekly "To Do" lists as well as schedule events, reminders, etc

W is for Work.
This is the section you children will mostly use - you and your child can view their calendar, follow daily lessons and manage to-do lists. Within this section, individual assignment's can be marked as complete, or pushed forward to another date (which moves all the other assignments forward as well) if more time is needed to understand the subject. Alternatively they can pull assignments forward and do them earlier than planned if they've grasped a subject quickly..

E is for Evaluate. Here you can keep track of attendance (full attendance, 1/2 day, absent etc.), track hours per subject and grade each subject. I like that assignments can be assigned a weight (so 30% assignment, 30% lab, 40% exam etc.)

R is for Report.
This does what it says on the tin. You can generate reports and transcripts. It takes minuets to mark the boxes for subjects and term I want on the report.

I did feel the program offered more than I needed - probably because I'm in an area where the Education Officers involvement is almost non-existent, so I don't need to create reports or attendance records - However for those who do live in more stringent areas I can see this being a real benefit as well as very helpful for those with larger numbers of children to organise (did I say how much I loved the colour-coded chart for each student?)

I loved that I could plan projects, create materials lists and manage my budget - I found these ideas to be a great plus to my homeschool management .I think this is an amazing program to help both parents and kids keep on track - I saw the benefit from the kids knowing which assignments they needed to do in advance and plan their workload.

I did find that I needed to refer to the “help” section when filling in the 'Plan' and the articles here were very helpful and good at talking me through the task.

HomeSchool Office is available for $79 for the year. They even have a 30 day free trial so you can see how it works for your family and how it could benefit your homeschool planning.

You can see what my crew mates thought over at the TOS Blog

Friday, 20 March 2015


I've been lucky that my girls seem to tolerate math lessons - I've not had tantrums or tears but neither have I had huge smiles and excitement. When the opportunity to review GPA LEARN and their online math program GPALOVEMATH came up, I was keen to try. The program looks amazing and I knew my kids would learn loads from it. 

I received access to a year’s subscription for Tulip and Rose for their online programme (they primarily used 1st and 3rd grade). GPALOVEMATH gives you access to all levels K-5th for a year for each subscription you purchase.

It's really easy to set up - you start by creating a parent account and separate log in's for each child. Once I had created accounts for Tulip and Rose, I was able to set rewards for lessons completed - they have a list you can select from which includes suggestions like 'win 2 stickers' or 'Mum does your chores' or 'bake a cake' or you could enter your own ideas. Its up to you how many rewards you select - I choose to have a reward after every 9 lessons.

When the girls log in to
 their accounts, they see four tabs on their homepage to choose from. 

Dashboard: Shows them how many lessons they’ve attempted, quiz's completed, level achieved etc. The three levels are rockstar, master and apprentice and each indicates a different level of mastery.
Learn: This is where the lesson modules are. There are 3 learning paths here (green, purple and blue) indicating different subjects (like addition, multiplication, geometry). Here they click on a lesson which takes them to their tutor movie, practise and quiz. Once a lesson is completed it unlock the next lesson on the path.

Engage: Here you can leave messages for your children and they can interact with each other.
Motivate: Rewards can be purchased with points earned by completing their lessons.

The lessons are fairly short and it generally took about 20-25mins to cover the movie tutorial, practise questions and quiz. The girls loved  them because they were engaging, funny and easy to understand. The tutorials are well done, interesting and teach concepts well. Rose especially loved the 'surprise guests' in the first grade feature.

Our review period started well - it was easy to set up and we the girls watched the introduction to each section, then the green section on Rose's first grade program froze - I enquired with their customer support team who were very helpful and got back to me immediately to explain that the next lesson would only unlock when she had completed some lessons in the blue and purple sections because that knowledge was required for the next green lesson.

GPA LEARN would email me whenever the girls completed a lesson. It also offered me the chance to test drive the lesson so I could discuss it with the girls if they needed my help. I also got a weekly digest which summed up the information from the daily emails, I could see what lessons they did and how they scored on their quiz.

Tulip was able to use this fairly independently, occasionally she would ask for help with a topic but as a general rule it was self explanatory. With Tulip I sat with her (more to help her with how to use the computer) whilst she worked on the lessons - they have a useful 'read aloud' feature for non readers, so if your child was able to manipulate a computer they would be fine to work independently. The girls used this on average 3-4 days a week as their main math lesson. 
GPA LEARN do market this as a math supplement, if so it's on of the most comprehensive and in-depth I've seen - I can easily see this being used as our main math lesson. There are about 150 lessons at each grade level and the topic list is very thorough.

I think its fair to say that this has now become a staple in our home - It's a great way to learn math online. T
he girls loved their 'tutors' and find the movies fun and appealing. It’s a fun way to learn math. I now have children excited to do their math lessons !
The rewards have been an amazing motivator - their first reward was to chose what we had for dinner - and since then I've often seen them completing two or three lessons a day just to find out what their next reward would be )

I know I'm onto a good thing when they enjoy using it and ask beg
 to use it : )

GPA is available for an introductory price of $129 per child per year (Use Promo Code GPAINTRO15) or they also have a monthly payment option of $12.99 per month.

You can see what my crewmates thought over at the TOS Blog

North America Activity day

Gotta love any event involving chocolate : ) Our home ed group arranged loads of activities relating to USA.

Comparing Cadburys to Hersey's (loved the expressions on their faces)

Hollywood Hill - they had to script, film and act a movie.

Money facts - all about the symbolism of the Great Seal and examining different coins and notes

Flag Facts - meaning of the colours, stars etc

Exploring Native Indians - looking at tribes, Tlingit art/totem poles, maps and lifestyles.

The science, history and method of popcorn - looking at the oldest popcorn found, why it pops, Native beliefs surrounding popcorn, uses of, tastes etc.

 Learning about and making Betsy Ross stars

Tasting table.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Applying the Scientific Method (otherwise known as our scary microwave experiment)

The girls and I were listening to a talk on youtube of the dangers inherent in using a microwave - being the sceptics we are, we decided to prove his statement by setting up an experiment.

The speaker claimed that if you boiled water in a microwave then cooled it and used it to water a plant then the plant would die. The girls decided to design an experiment to see if this was true, which provided a great opportunity to discuss the scientific method - they boiled water in a microwave, boiled water in a kettle and kept some as normal tap water to see what the different results would be. All the plants were the same age, from the same batch and kept in the same location (same temperature and light), all were watered at the same time with the same amount of water so their only variable was the type of water used.

The plant on the left is tap water (our control), the one in the middle is boiled kettle water (just to make sure it wasn't the boiling of the water that caused the problems) and the one on the right is boiled microwave water. 

I will be honest and say this is the second time we had to run this experiment as the first time we ran it all the plants were getting smaller and we couldn't understand the results - it turned out Tulip was eating our experiment, we were using basil plants which she loves to eat with tomatoes : )

Linked on Science Sunday

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Egglo Entertainment Easter Adventure - TOS Review

We were given the chance to review Egglo Entertainment - Its the brainchild of Darcie Cobos, a mother who wanted to find a creative way to explain the importance and true meaning of Easter to her own children and other children in her community. They use the scriptural teaching that Jesus is the 'Light of the World' from John 1:5 as the fulcrum.

I received the The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure bookThe Egg-cellent Easter Adventure program guide download, Egglo Glow in the Dark Easter EggsEgglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls and the Egglo Bible Verse Scroll Stickers.

The girls enjoyed reading The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure book to each other, it's a 40 page story encompassing the adventures of a pair of siblings, their cousin and their dog - The kids head off to the attic to pass the time and discover a glowing egg (the glowing Easter eggs are used as symbols to represent the Light of Christ throughout the story) which leads them on a great adventure around the world where they solve riddles and discover more eggs containing scriptures whilst leaning to become better, kinder, more considerate and ultimately discover the true meaning of Easter. 

I followed up with some activities from the program guide - this has 60 pages packed full of ideas, activities and resources to help you plan and organise your own Easter Egg Hunt to teach the true meaning of Easter. It's great for both an at home setting or for a larger church group. It includes loads of colouring pages - characters from the book as well as scenes with Jesus and crosses. There is a food section in the guide which would make great snacks for a Easter party. It also has a number of ideas for hands on activities and games, posters, invites, extra scrolls, presentation ideas, decorations, discussion prompts and object lessons. Of course, Egglo Entertainment offers all of the stuff you will need to conduct your egg hunt and reinforce The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure like glowing eggs, bible verse scrolls and an array of stickers.

The main attraction for the girls were the Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs ,
These are like the plastic eggs we fill up each Easter except they glow. They come in a box of 12 and come in four pastel colours (green, yellow, blue, or pink) six of the eggs have crosses on and six are plain. It is recommended to charge the eggs prior to use (which only takes about 20 mins)

We started our glow in the dark hunt by reading John 18-20 and discussed what it means to us using prompts from the programme guide along with their beach ball game. Instead of the girls racing against one another to see who could find the most eggs, I asked them to work together to find all of them. In each egg was a scripture scroll and a clue to the next location (using the Light of Jesus treasure hunt from their website). 

The scripture scrolls are cute and look just like the scrolls in the story. They come in a pack of 12 and are only about 2 inches high, they contain a summary of a Bible verse and the scripture reference. I found these to be very durable (the ends are plastic and the paper is a very heavy, gloss paper). These were a particular favourite of Rose, I've found a few of these stashed in her various bags and pockets (and even one under her pillow, which is usually only reserved for her spiderman purse)

We live in a world today where holidays have become very materialised. This particular day is such a important day for followers of Christ and I want my children to understand the importance of why we celebrate, not just about the Easter Bunny or lots of chocolate. Egglo Entertainment has given me the tools to help do just that.

I must admit I was very impressed with the whole programme, the concept is memorable and really engaged the girls imagination and the quality is amazing. I liked that the girls could see other kids choosing to change their behaviour and that the story kept referring you to the scriptures. There are so many different ways that these can be utilised (and not just for Easter) they are a great way to open discussions about the Bible, Jesus being the light of the World and the events that took place at Easter all those years ago. They even have a page on their website devoted to additional uses for the Egglo Eggs - I think my favourite was to use them as a comforting night light in a child's room as a reminder to them that the light of Jesus is always there for them and chasing away darkness. They also have a pintrest board full of ideas.

Its fairly obvious to say that the girls loved this - I mean what kid wouldn't want to hunt for glow in the dark Easter eggs? - Lilly (12), Sunflower (10), Tulip (8) and Rose (6) all participated in the fun and all of them enjoyed it. This has been an activity that all of them have understood on the same level, Jesus is our Light in a world full of darkness.

The complete Egglo kit is currently on sale at a reduced price of $50.00 or you can purchase the individual products for; 
The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Program Guide download for a sale price of $9.99
Glow in the dark eggs normally $11.99 (sale price $9.99)
The Egg-cellent Raster Adventure Book normally $12.99 (sale price $9.99)
Treasure Scripture Scrolls for $4.29
Bible verse Scroll stickers for £3.49

These are suggested for ages 4 to 13 but I think they are adaptable for most ages.

You can see what my crew mates thought over at the TOS Blog

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Historical Games

Our local Home Ed group held a historical games day

We started by looking at various games from history.

 Then the kids had to make a game board from calico

(and an optional bag to hold the pieces)

then create pieces form either clay, salt dough or toilet roll mache.

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