Deuteronomy 6:6-7

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~ Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I See Cards - Pyramath

Math is one of those subjects that automatically makes me break out in a sweat. I know that I'm not alone here. As a child, I had many different math teachers, some really good, some very bad. Unfortunately, I tend to remember the less than kind remarks other than the praise. Because of this, I've tried to be intentional about doing everything possible to make learning math a positive experience for my kids. Which brings me to this month's featured resource - Pyramath, from I See Cards.
In teaching math, I have enthusiastically added counters, file folder games, fun worksheets, etc. to make the subject more palatable for my girls. As with most people, we've had varying degrees of success with each one. Enter Pyramath cards, an intriguing card game for anyone, age K and up, and allows play for 1 person or an entire class.
This card game is so versatile. I was amazed at the seemingly endless ways to play the game. Let me start by saying that the object of the game is to be the first player to build your cards into a pyramid, thus the name... catchy, yes?
Okay, so whether you're working with 1 child, or 10, there is a game variation available. There's solitaire, my favorite, the basic 2 player standard, pyramid for a class, pyramath speed, and actually, quite a few more. You can check out the website for a complete list. No matter how many play, the stategy remains the same. How to begin? Glad you asked! The dealer shuffles the deck, and places 7 cards face up, side by side. The cards are numbered on each side so each player or team can see them. (Side note- each card also has the written word in addition to the numeral in several languages. Bonus learning feature! ) The remaining cards are placed in the middle. The first player chooses a card and sees if it can be played between any 2 of the cards lined up in the row. A card is played by adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing. If the card is playable, the first player continues. Otherwise, the next player takes a turn. Play continues until someone completes their pyramid.
It's no secret in our family that our oldest is not exactly in love with math as a subject. However, all I had to say was math game, and her interest was piqued! My children love, love, love to play games! The best part for me is that you can play according to your child's ability. I love this card game for reviewing our current math facts. It's also great that it isn't necessary to wait for enough people to play, because no matter who's available, it's game time.
So, if you're in the kitchen preparing a meal and your child wants to play, she can. Or, if it's game night, and your family of six wants to play, divide into 2 teams and get started.
I feel that I must warn you, though, that pyramath has the potential to become very addicting!
I think you'll find that you're sharpening your own math skills as your kids are learning. Such a simple resource, such a great find. On top of everything else, it's among the most affordable products on the market. From my family to yours, two thumbs up all the way!

I See Cards - Pyramath
Price - $6.95 per deck
Age Range - K +

Friday, September 3, 2010

Time 4 Learning

I don't know about your children, but my daughters are always asking to play a game on the computer, so when I learned that we would be trying out the Time 4 Learning program, I knew that they would be pleased.

Let me begin by sharing a little bit about Time 4 learning. First of all, it is a computer based program for children in preschool up to 8th grade, and offers lessons in subjects like language arts, math, science and social studies, and includes various lesson extenders and games, not to mention the computer skills that will be learned along the way. You purchase a monthly subscription (prices occasionally change, so check the website for current information), that may be canceled at anytime, and they offer an initial 2 week money back guarantee if you are unsatisfied with the program.

Each child has his/her own password to log in, with the younger ones checking in to the lower level and the older ones checking in to the upper level.

One of the nicer aspects of this program is that it is customized to your child's level of ability. Prior to starting the lessons, you, the parent, will select the various skills that your child has mastered, and Time 4 Learning will then choose the appropriate level for them. Additionally, as your child begins to work, if you find that the subject matter is either too easy or too difficult, you have access to one level above or one level below the one you 're using. There is also the option of changing the level permanently should it become necessary.

Okay, so you've logged in, now what does a typical lesson look like? Well, you'll notice a little timer at the upper right side of the screen. For my kindergartener's level, it begins counting backward from 15 minutes. This will help you keep track of the length of your lessons. Your child may pick from the menu of subjects- and there are many to choose from! Highlighted arrows then guide your student through the sequence of events as they complete the lesson. Upon completion of certain subjects, you'll find that there is a quiz or a test to take.

It's easy to track improvement with the progress reports. The program allows you to either check in on the computer, or print them out for your portfolio. You can then see in what areas you need to review, if any, or perhaps increase the level of difficulty.

Some of you may be wondering how to figure out how many activities to include in your school day every week. Well, there are quite a few to choose from, but never fear! Once again, they've done the hard work for us. If you click on the tab for lesson planning, you'll find that by simply plugging in the number of activities per subject, you will easily be able to divide them up for each week.

I would guess that the favorite part of each lesson for your kids- if they're like my own, is the computer games. Time 4 Learning has included a playground section with a fun selection of games to play. A good incentive for them to complete their schoolwork.

Already you're probably agreeing that this resource offers so much, but there's still more! A parent forum is available to meet and share with other parents, ask questions, encourage each other, etc.. If you find that there is an issue or a problem that you simply cannot get an answer for, then Time 4 Learning is available by phone or e-mail to assist.

As with so much of the curriculum and various resources that homeschool parents use, there can be too much information to keep track of, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed or even just forget where to find specific information. To help with this, every time you log in, you'll see a tab called Getting Started. Everything you need to remember may be found here. Also very useful is the Hints and Help tab, for technical issues and program hints.

That should provide an adequate overview, now for perhaps the most important part of this review, our family's sentiments regarding this product.

I mentioned earlier that I knew that my children would enjoy reviewing this product, and did they ever! There has not been a day where they have not requested- many times- to take their turn on the computer. And why wouldn't they? Time 4 Learning offers colorful characters, fun games and songs, "painting pages", stories, all while learning concepts that might otherwise be on the mundane side of things. As for the success of the material, my youngest was spouting off her newfound knowledge of language arts as we shopped for groceries. It's been an effective educational tool for us!

My purpose in trying this out is to provide my honest opinion. So, in light of that, I do need to bring up a few aspects that made using this a challenge.

The programs were child friendly, allowing my kids to work mostly independently. But occasionally there would be a part of the lesson where the directions were unclear, and sometimes downright confusing for all of us. As a result, there were times where my daughter would get an answer wrong, although she did know the material.

Logging out presented another source of frustration. The program did not provide a way to exit without completely getting offline, which posed a challenge when it was the next child's turn, as I had to reboot everything.

I guess the question is, would I recommend Time 4 Learning? My answer would be yes, I would. The issues are minor, in my opinion, and the product has been effective in teaching my daughters material that might otherwise be a bit tedious to learn. Also, the kids have clamored to use it, and make a noise when their time is up, which isn't the worst thing in the world, you know what I mean?

Time 4 Learning

Phone: 954.771.0914

Age Range: Preschool - 8th Grade

Price: Monthly Subscription - prices occasionally change- check website for current information