Sep 29, 2010

Time for a new hairdo!


We will be discussing colors next.....

Snap-It Screen Capture Review

I was contacted with a request to review this fantastic product - Snap-It Screen Capture! This tool is a must for bloggers!!! Here is some info from the site:

Capture anything you see on your PC screen!
Don't waste time cropping your captures. Take a "snapshot" of anything exactly what you need, with just a click.
Easy to Learn, Easy to Use!
Some features include: 
  Supports hotkeys, auto-saving, clipboard
  Automatically copies screenshots to the clipboard
  Tracks capture history, auto-saves captured images
  Saves files in BMPGIFJPEGPNG and TIFF formats
  Auto-names captured images
  Crops out sections of vector graphic files such as Fireworks, Adobe Illustrator or Corel without having to flatten the files or open in a new editor
  Irreplaceable tool for Designers, Office Workers, Business People, Analysts and more
  Perfect for Technical Writers who have to describe interfaces, menus, buttons, etc.


It is great for catching the images as you see them, so as your explaining something - POOF there it is....

You can show images of anything that you see on your screen! From the Blogger dashboard - 



To your desktop - 

To a screenshot of Homeschool Tracker - 




This would also be a fantastic way to incorporate images, text info, or other features into reports and presentations for homeschoolers, educators, business people, and really anyone that wants to put together a professional looking piece! It was super simple to install and after really looking through the site easy to use. I will say that I had two small problems with the program. For one there wasn't any explanation of how it worked. I had to REALLY go through the site to understand exactly what I was doing. I had expected some sort of explanation or tutorial to pop up when I downloaded it, but that didn't happen. It may on the full version, but I have no way of knowing that. The second problem that I had that I was unable to resolve was that when I press my hotkey to take a pic of the screen, I have to have my cursor exactly where I want it as it vanishes as soon as I hit the key. This caused a lot of cropped shots that I wasn't expecting - 


      


Beyond those few glitches, I would highly recommend this program! Take a look and if you are willing to recommend it and write a review Snap-It is willing to give out full licenses to the product in return! For more information contact there sales rep HERE .

Thanks for reading and if you do a review, be sure to link back here as well to let me know what you think!
  

Sep 27, 2010

First Day of Fall Session

Today was a rather dreary wet day, just the perfect day to get us back into our regular learning routine. Not that our learning is dreary, but I will say that it was much easier to feel like doing book work than if it had been a gorgeous beach day! I don't know how people start back to "school" any earlier than this!

Our curriculum lists and schedule can be found through the page links at the top of the screen. I am holding back on our schedule this year. KM is not very interested in outside classes and really only has her heart set on one particular activity with our homeschooling group, so we are keeping our fingers crossed on it coming through. She really wants to make sure that she has plenty of time to just hang out, read, play and enjoy HER time.

Sep 24, 2010

Gifts of Homeschooling

One of the greatest gifts that homeschooling allows me to give my daughter is time! Time to...

  • spend with friends
  • be a kid
  • learn in her own way
  • explore whatever interests her at the moment
  • spend with her family
  • enjoy the beautiful fall days
  • learn at her own pace
  • be by herself
  • do whatever makes her happy
Today she was quite content to have time to soak up some rays, while reading a large stack of Manga books!


Sep 22, 2010

New photo project....

This is a bit off topic, from my normal homeschooling stuff, but hey I can do that right... homeschooling isn't the only thing that goes on in our lives...hard to believe I know, but it is true!

I have decided to work on my photo skills a bit and am challenging myself to a 365 project. You can read all about it here. I have always loved to take photos, but have never really put anytime into truly trying to do it. So I have decided that I am just going to do it! I am going to put the time and energy into an area that I feel I might have some talent in.

Sep 20, 2010

She's 13!!!

Where, oh where did the time go? How is it possible that I have a 13 year old? We had a big bash over the weekend and lots of fun was had by all!



Sep 18, 2010

Write Guide Review

I was contacted at the beginning of the summer by Write Guide.com's founder to do a review of their site and was given a one month trial account for my daughter to try it out. As writing is the most stressful subject in our household and the program sounded intriguing, I thought we would give it a whirl ~ I also managed to get KM to agree to try it.

Here is some company info -
WriteGuide.com, also known as Ludwig Education Services, LLC, is a small, family-owned business that serves homeschool families and adult learners, providing them with their own private writing teachers. We also work with many independent-study charter schools in California and Alaska. Founded in 1998, we remain devoted to providing homeschoolers with daily, 100% individualized writing instruction. To learn more about our teaching approach and methodologies, please review our Homepage, and our company's philosophy and mission statement. All schools, businesses, and individuals are welcome to contact our main office via the information on our Contact Us page.

What to Expect During the Course

Every time a student or parent writes to his or her writing consultant, the writing consultant will always respond within 24 hours (unless it's a weekend or holiday), providing whatever lessons or feedback are necessary to help the student move forward with the project. Enough instruction will be provided to give the student about half an hour to 45 minutes of work per day, so that the student can then write back to his or her writing consultant to receive more instruction. Ideally, students should write to their writing consultants every day, Monday through Friday, so that they'll receive five sets of individualized lessons, feedback, and instruction per week. Students can take as much time as they need before responding to their writing consultant, but please be aware that the consultant won't write back until the student has responded to his or her last message! Upon hearing back from his writing consultant, a student should complete the assigned work, and should respond with a message and a draft of his paper. Parents can also send one message per day to their child's writing consultant, in addition to the message or paper that the student sends. We like to view our course as a partnership between two teachers (the parent and the writing consultant), and so frequent parent input is both anticipated and appreciated.

I started out by describing KM and the issues that she has had with various writing programs as well as the situations that had occurred in PS. Then they assign a teacher based on this information. When we first were contacted by the teacher I was unaware that they hadn't passed the information on, but expected me to reiterate it. This made no sense to me because I had put a lot of time and thought into the description of my daughter because I thought the teacher would be seeing it and using it to set up a plan of action for her. Instead once the teacher was chosen she contacts both the child and parent through the
mywriteguide portal not knowing anything about the child(ren).

There are a lot of really great options available - see four approaches, about midway down the page - and I choose for the teacher to decide what she thought would be a good place for KM to start, given her reluctance to write and it was decided that she should work on a simple report. The teacher did a great job of getting KM to pick a topic, ready to research and explained how to collect bibliography information thoroughly. She then gave her an extremely well thought out outline to use to organize her information. KM decided to research Neptune and then, after researching and with the help of the teacher, decided to focus specifically on the Voyager 2's missions and info collected on Neptune.

We lost a day of the program because KM and I were unaware that she had to respond to the teacher after her first initial "Hi there" email in order for the teacher to email her back. While I understand the want and need to ensure the anonymity and security of our children on the Internet, as well as keeping a record for the program and teachers' safety, but this portal thing is a bit of overkill in my opinion. The teachers "can't" send a message to the student unless the student replies to the previous message. I really think it would be beneficial if the system emailed you when you had new messages, there were 3 days that she had to keep checking back in throughout the day in order to see if she had gotten a message yet and didn't get responses until very late in the day.

The parents have to log into there own portal in order to see what is going on as well, which while easy enough to do, is just another thing to check on. The other drawback to this is that they can only respond back and forth once in a 24 hour period. KM is very much a seize the moment type of learner and when she has a question she wants the answer fairly quickly. This lapse in time caused a lot of momentum to be lost. I felt like I had to hold back from stepping in in order to see what was going to happen and I have to say it was agonizing for me as she was putting a lot of effort in, but then had to wait for so long to get the responses or feedback that she needed to move on to the next step.

Things get hectic in the summer and in case you haven't been to my blog lately, they were totally kooky here for a bit. So there was a Monday to Thursday stretch that KM didn't log into her account and I was surprised when I logged into mine that the teacher hadn't sent me a note asking anything about whether she was okay or if she was having trouble and afraid to ask or anything. The program runs on a month to month payment basis and if your child is missing a good junk of days, I would kinda expect some sort of acknowledgement to the lack of participation.

KM worked very hard on this report and she really seemed to be understanding what the teacher was saying. I helped her stay on task as I was hopeful that she would complete the entire paper before the month was up. Even with some of the previous hurdles, she did manage to keep progressing. On the day that the program was to expire, the teacher sent a message asking her to send her final draft and any last questions in her final email. KM was excited to have it completed, get final feedback and wanted to know how to complete the bibliography, however the program email interface did not allow us to do so. If I had know that this was how the program worked I would have had her email the full draft the day before with her question about the bibliography, instead of just the tweaks she had made to her conclusion paragraph. I emailed the office in regards to this and they gave a very timely response of "Thanks for writing! Your course was scheduled to end today, but we're going to extend it by a day so that Mrs. xxx can review the final draft. " which I was happy with. I do not however know if this is something that would have been done for everyone or just something that was done for me because they knew I was reviewing the site ~ I try to not be cynical, but the person that responded was the person that initially contacted me to do the review.

The teacher was very encouraging and really gave some great feedback, formats and suggestions in a very positive way. I think that in theory this program is a good idea and although it was a great learning experience for KM, she picked up some good tips, and the final paper that she produced was far better than she or I expected, it just isn't for us. I am super picky about where I spend my money and with my homeschooling dollars even more so. It might be a good fit for more advanced and/or independent writers, but from the stand point of the parent of a reluctant writer it just doesn't seem to be what we need. It must have some sort of staying power that I am missing as they have been around since 1998. I think that the biggest issue is that I feel if I am going to be paying $75 a month for a writing tutor I don't want to have to teach writing at all. With this method and the lack of instant information, guidance and direction I think I would have to step in far more than I would be willing to.

Thanks to Write Guide for allowing us the opportunity to review your product!

Sep 17, 2010

Creative Use of Waiting Time

A few weeks back, we got to the movies a bit early and it was TOTALLY EMPTY, so KM decided to have a wee bit of fun, with Bunny Fu Fu
video

Sep 16, 2010

Why shouldn't you play with your food?


Ironically this was not done by one of the children!
CJ is often the culprit of these interesting designs!

Sep 15, 2010

Random Acts of Fitness - Free Fitness and Nutrition Info from Subway

Subway is one of our FAVORITE places to stop to get a quick healthy lunch when we are out and about! Awhile back I ordered a Random Acts of Fitness Kit from Subway, fortunately for us we received an actual kit before they ran out! However they are working to get all the aspects of the kit available on-line shortly. There website also has tons of ideas to get your kids up and moving in ways that are outside the box!

Here is the gist of the program:
SUBWAY RANDOM ACTS OF FITNESS FOR KIDS is about making small changes that can add up to big results. The kit includes tools to help kids EAT fit, THINK fit, and BE fit, all while having fun and taking positive steps toward a lifetime of better health.

I have heard from a lot of homeschooling families that health, nutrition and physical education in general, sometimes tend to take a back burner to the "more important" subjects. This program gives some great types and ideas to incorporate little changes and activities into your everyday "school" routine. In the kit we received a planner that covers from Aug. 30 2010 to Sept. 1, 2011. In this planner there is an activity listed for each and every Monday through Friday day for that entire year!

This "school" year we are going to begin incorporating these activities into our week! Since I just got the kit yesterday (9/14) we had a bit of catching up to do so we crammed two weeks of ideas into a 30 minute slot this morning and here is some of what we did:

Pedometer scavenger hunts send the kids hunting for things that fit into a general category. Each month starts out with a different theme and the kids use the pedometers to see how far they had to go to find them:
They had to find 3 different kinds of leaves, 3 things that were natural and red, 3 things that were natural and smooth, and 3 things that were natural and rough. She was reaching on the red one - the cactus has a few little red spots, but I let her have it:

One minute activities give the kids some well needed movement before settling in to work! KM got really silly with the volcanic eruptions and felt the walking hands gave her back and legs a great stretch!
-

Be sure to check out back and see what other Random Acts of Fitness we incorporate!

In the meantime, How do you incorporate fitness and nutrition in your child(ren)'s home education?

Sep 10, 2010

8th Grade Fall Curriculum Picks

Here is what KM and I have decided to work with this fall -

Math -
She did a great job over the summer on the Straight Forward Algebra Book 1 and we decided to take a break from it before she starts book 2. So she will be finishing up the book Word Problems (Practice Practice)
and she completed the rest of Ko's Journey.

English Language Arts -
We love the Straight Forward Series so much that we decided to try the English Series as well, so she will be using the All-In-One English Series Master Book (Straight Forward) . For vocabulary she will be working on Painless Vocabulary. For Spelling she will be utilizing a variation of the Free Spelling program found HERE. For writing we are going to incorporate some of the review questions from Story of the World's Activity Guide as well as the questions from The Story of Science Student Quest Guide so that we are working on her strengthening her answers to open ended response questions - which in my opinion is the practical writing skill that she needs to work on write now.

Science -
We will be continuing on our journey through the Story of Science on to Newton at the Center. As I mentioned we will be utilizing all aspects of the Student's Quest Guide, but will especially be focusing on the open response questions. We also will still be using the Thames & Kosmos Milestones in Science kit as well as working on K'nex and other projects.

History and Geography -
We will also be moving on to The Story of the World Volume 3: Early Modern Times and again utilizing the review questions for writing. In case you missed how we adapt this for the middle school crowd you can check the post on that HERE.

EXTRAS -
We will also be doing -

Sep 7, 2010

Transforming Space

One of our biggest changes this "school year" will be the loss of our "classroom". Really this was more of a work/craft/study/play room, but KM liked to tell people she had her own classroom. With the recent events around here though we have decided to give up this space to turn it into a room for DN.
So in light of this change, we reorganized some small lightly used areas to fit our learning tools...

We moved the spare counter shelf into the corner of the kitchen dining room and that will be used as a display area.
I consolidated the totes and moved around the boxes and shelves to get a more organized system for books and supplies. I set up a "command station" for myself in my bedroom. I also consolidated the hall closet and put some things in the attic to make room for the science equipment and extra books. Finally I use a set of old cabinets from when we remodeled our kitchen, for future curriculum storage.

I have heard from many people, especially those that have transitioned from PS, that they started out with a "classroom" and slowly worked away from it. This has been true for us as well, we have done lessons in various areas of the house since we started, but always had a specific "school" area and had the classroom for this past year. KM has been doing her lessons in her bedroom, curled up on the couch and out in the yard, more and more this summer, so really this won't make a huge difference. The biggest thing will be the lack of schoolly posters and such that will be up on a regular basis. We will probably still make some collages and such, but I think since KM is getting older and not really needing those repetitive visual cues.

We slammed this last week of summer session lessons into yesterday, so now we will have three weeks off. I am just about finalized - hahahaha - on next sessions picks and am looking forward to finishing up my responsibilities in the camper as well as getting into some fun fall activities around here. I will be sure to post a few reviews that I have been meaning to get to, as well as our final curriculum choices.