Tag Archives: home education

Funtastic Unit Studies: Science Unit Studies For Homeschoolers and Teachers . . . A T.O.S. Review

To say that I have never enjoyed science is an understatement. I was not very good at it in school, and feared teaching it to my kids. And then can the book Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers, by Susan Killbride, from Funtastic Unit Studies!

This is a large softcover book which runs 201 pages, and has 20 unit studies in it on different topics. The first half of the book is geared to younger ages, while the second half would be for when they are a bit older.

We chose a unit from the first half for a variety of reasons. It interested us, the needed items were easy to access, it had a lot of food involved (remember, I have all boys, lol), and we wanted to include the boys next door, one of whom is going into the first grade.

So you are probably asking ok, but what did you do and learn? Why is it “Funtastic?” Because I know you are aware by now that wherever possible, I believe learning should be FUN! 🙂

We began by talking about teeth, and the various reasons it is important to care for them. We made homemade old fashioned tooth powder, and my boys then brushed with it, which caused them to appreciate more fully the tooth paste available today. They also learned not to use the homemade version more than once or twice, as it is very abrasive.

Here you see the only items going into the tooth powder:

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All mixed together:

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And here are the boys “joyfully” brushing their teeth with their homemade tooth powder which we flavored with vanilla, lol!

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We learned about the importance of calcium, and made our own calcium-rich snack. It called for milk and lemon juice, although we also added some roasted garlic and herb seasoning.

We began with a quart of milk which the boys took turns pouring. Side note, I was going to buy a quart of milk, and my husband pointed out that I could just measure a quart from the gallon jug in the fridge. Duh! As I’ve told you before, I am NOT the science and math parent here. lol!

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After, they stirred until it boiled:

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Once it boiled, we added the lemon juice and stirred for a minute or two more . . . and the curds began to separate from the whey!

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We drained it through a mesh colander, and this is how much we ended up with from the original quart of milk!

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We also learned about and made a snack rich in vitamin A, which included cream cheese, shredded cheese, and carrots. The boys took turns stirring it up . . .

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And then “The Artist” put on food handler gloves finished mixing it, and formed it into a ball!

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We also put together a healthy fruit salad . . .

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Once the boys next door got home from their summer day camp, we did some activities to see how germs spread. We used glitter so that they could actually visualize it.

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We also did an experiment with a little spray bottle and a piece of poster board to show them just how far the germs can actually go if you cough or sneeze without covering . . .

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For vitamin D, and also to talk about the importance of exercise, we went out doors for some fun!

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As you can see, they had a blast jumping rope and playing limbo. Below, even the neighbor boys’ dad got involved!

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I managed to get a quick video too! The neighbor boys’ parents are holding the rope.

Once we finished playing, the boys and I went inside to enjoy our healthy snacks!

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As a quick addition that I forgot to add to the original post, we went to Sam’s yesterday, and my kids tried the Healthy Choice fudge bars, after which “The Batman” pointed out that it went with our health unit. The rest of the time we were there, they were checking labels for the vitamins, etc. So great, they actually had remembered what they learned, and applied it in real life!

All in all, we had a great time, and you can, too! Check out this free Plant Unit Study, as well as the free Molecules Unit from the book. Both will give you an idea of how much fun you can have! With science! Who knew!

To read about what other members of the crew did with this wonderful book, please click the banner below!

Funtastic Unit Studies Review
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Digital Science Online: Visual Learning Systems (My Review)

My four boys and I have been having lots of fun using Visual Learning Systems as a group for a little over a month. We received a subscription to both the Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) and the Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12)

The Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5), is divided into two sections. One is primary, which would be the grade K through 2 collection. This included well over 50 units of study, contained within the following subjects: physical, earth, life, and health. This is a great section if your children are in that age/grade range, there are tons of beautiful videos, animations, photos, and activity sheets, etc.

WE did not use this section, because my kids were beyond it, for the most part, but I really wanted you to know that it is there, and that it’s GOOD.

We HAVE been using the elementary a lot, because, frankly, I thought it was the best way for us to work as a group, something which many of my readers know that we enjoy doing. The elementary section of Digital Science Online has subjects like physical, earth, and life, with subtopics or units within them. As with the Primary section, there are lovely, well made videos, animations, photos, worksheets, and hands on activities in some areas. It’s meant for grades 3 through 5.

We have, for the most part, enjoyed this, except for having to crowd around one computer (something I will also address a little later). It was very impressive how, when we would choose a subject, there would then be a list of sub-topics within that subject, effectively giving us a unit study, already all organized for us! The reason I like this aspect so much is that all four of my boys really, really enjoy watching science and nature programs on television. The problem with that though, is it’s hard to put together a group of programs at the same time which would work together as a topical unit.

Eventually, though, with the exception of “The Puzzler”, the boys really wanted to have a go at the higher level, which I’ll talk about in a bit, because truthfully, I thought only “The Artist” would be able to handle the Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12).

How wrong I was!

As I mentioned back at the beginning of this review, we were also given access to the Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12).

The Secondary Edition has considerably more units of study, with a great number of sub-topics. My kids liked the longer videos, which, once again, I must complement. They are quite beautiful.

I have asked them to stay away from some sections of the biology units, after they pointed them out and said they didn’t think they should look at them. I was very proud of them for this actually, as it shows they have been listening to us and to their teachers at church when we discuss what is or is not appropriate for them.

There are also areas in which evolution is used as a given, where we believe, and teach, from a Creation world view. It was very interesting, however, to listen to everyone of our boys, at different times while watching different sections, saying things like “That’s not true, there’s no millions of years” or “Evolution isn’t real, we know that”. 🙂

The Secondary Edition also has worksheets and such, but these are really beyond any of my boys other than “The Artist”. I DO find that “The Batman” and “Mr. Loquacious” can do a lot of them orally, though.

AS I told you above, I really thought it would be better to use this program as a group, because as often as possible, I prefer it when we can do that. This DID work, for a while, but lo and behold, just today, they asked me two questions:

Will this work on our tablets?
Can we do it separately so we can choose our own topics?

Well, guess what, it works on the tablets! I hadn’t even tried, because I’m used to things like this being mostly for iPads, which we do not have. WE have Android Tablets. SO, I told them I would try it on mine first to check, and if so, we’d see if it would work on theirs. It did! 🙂 Since I had never actually set up separate student accounts because *I* wanted this to be a group learning thing I thought my kids would love to do this together, I chose to call customer support, given that I had forgotten how to set up separate log ins. Guess what found out? Well, while yes, I CAN do that, I don’t HAVE to! They can all log in using the information I used for the one log in, and they can all do it at the same time, on their own tablets or a computer. YAY! The customer service is wonderful. The first person I spoke with was named Louise, and the second was Emily, because they handle different aspects within the company.

One of the reasons I was so pleased to discover that this could be used on their tablets, all at the same time, and that they could be doing different subjects at the same time, as well, is that now, we don’t have to have a “discussion” about what we will learn about “today”. Being able to use the tablets in this way is a definite plus as well for the family who travels, because their children will be able to take this beautiful program along, and learn science their way. It would be great if you’re staying somewhere with provided wifi, and much better than spending all your in room time just watching television.

ALL in all, we really, really like this program. I even had one child come back inside from playing to ask if he could do some more science on his tablet! What better rating is there than that, right?

Want to see what my fellow Crew members think of Digital SCience Online? Just click on the banner right below!

Visual Learning Systems Review

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Who invented the term “Stay At Home Mom”?

I am a full-time wife, homemaker and mom. I am NOT, however, a “Stay At Home Mom”, who sits around doing nothing. In fact, I don’t know too many moms who are, especially if we are also homeschooling moms. Let’s see, just today, we had to go into the next town to pick up a written prescription at the doctor’s office, then drop it off at the pharmacy.

We then went over to a friend from our church to pick up some things that the boys had left at their house yesterday while she kept them for us so that my husband could go out for the day for my birthday.

We did our piano practice, we undecorated the Christmas tree so that my husband could take it down and put it away, and packed up the other decorations I had put out.

We are preparing to get back to homeschooling, now that Christmas and my birthday are done, and I’ve been picked for my first crew review for 2015.

Let’s see, what else? We have church on Wednesday evenings, so we needed to make sure that everyone was cleaned up and ready to go, that supper was ready early enough to eat and get there on time, and that my boys who are in the teen class had all of their materials ready that they are to turn in on Wednesday night.

Then, we were notified by the pharmacy that we couldn’t pick up the prescription, that the insurance company was refusing it. Well, the child who needed it is completely out, and needs it for tomorrow, so I finally called the pharmacy. Turned out that they entered it wrong. I got them to re-enter it, and was able to pick it up after church, along with dropping something off to a church member who is sick.

Did I mention laundry? Well, there was laundry (home ec?) to do as well.

We moms who do not work at an outside of the home job, we still work, and we are BUSY! We aren’t (at least, I’m not) sitting around, watching soaps, talking nonstop on the phone and eating bonbons. And guess what? f you’re a mom, whether you work a paying job or not, you are WORKING, and at something very, very important. Don’t stop believing that!

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Apologia Educational Ministries (iWitness) . . . A T.O.S. Review

Our family has really loved using material from Apologia Educational Ministries ever since first being introduced to one of the science resources after a friend had used one and told me my boys would love it. They did, too!

This particular set of books which I am writing about today though, is different. As a member of the Review Crew, I received three books in the iWitness series:

1. iWitness Biblical Archaeology

iWitness Biblical Archaeology gives an awesome look at archaeological finds which prove many things that we as believers already knew (by faith) to be true. Many people and places which are referred to in the Bible, were not really shown in “historical” texts, because there was no “proof”, but many finds over time have more than proven the truth of their having existed.

2. New Testament iWitness

New Testament iWitness takes the reader along as it investigates things such as “Who wrote the New Testament?” “How do we know?” “How was it handed down?”, among other fascinating things. This book follows the history of and formation of the canon, while the reader sorts through the information given.

3. Old Testament iWitness

Old Testament iWitness goes into discussion of the differences between the Old Testament and the Hebrew Bible. It asks questions such as “Who wrote these ancient books?” “how were they collected?” “Is it mythology or history?” As with the other two books mentioned above, the reader is led through looking at evidence for him or herself, and gaining a great deal of knowledge in the process!

These books are written and designed by Doug Powell, who purposely does not write from his own opinion. He gives facts, actual photos, archaeological proof, and then we are expected to think for ourselves and come to our own belief. While they are very well put together for all ages, the suggested reading level is age 11 and up.

The first thing I want to tell you about is my initial impression when the books arrived. These are extremely sturdy paperback size books, but there the similarity ends. these books have very thick and sturdy pages, which means they will last, and continue to be a good resource on our shelf for many years to come. The other thing that caught my eye immediately was the layout of the pages. As an avid scrap-booker and paper crafter, the scrap-book style layout of all the pages was really pleasing to my eye. There is a nicely done combination of pictures and text. The text is all arranged on separate pieces which look like pieces of scroll or parchment. Over all, the look and feel of each of these books is, in my opinion, of very high quality.

Both “The Artist” and I have been reading through them, beginning with iWitness Biblical Archaeology. I must tell you that this is the book which turned out to be a favorite, although we enjoy all of them. 🙂 However, I have always wanted to learn more about archaeological finds which prove the things I know to be true because of my faith in God’s Word.

“The Artist” and I had different “favorite” parts, though. He says his favorite was when the archaeology book gave information about the Mesha Stele or Moabite Stone. It discusses how one group attempted to destroy it, rather than have the Turks get it, but that the original discoverers managed to find enough of it to reconstruct much of the stone, giving valuable information regarding people and places within the Old Testament.

“My” favorite part was the recounting of the story of the flood of Noah’s time, as related by different cultures throughout time. I had always heard that different cultures had their own passed down stories of the flood, and iWitness Biblical Archaeology talks about several of them. It then also shows the similarities and differences between Genesis and these stories. For me, it is just one more reason that I believe there is no real excuse for claiming God does not exist.

In Old Testament iWitness, I was interested in the sections about the manuscripts and how they were copied, along with how the books were arranged and included.

In New Testament iWitness, I was again interested in the methods of copying, along with differences in copies, and why certain books were rejected.

The bottom line is that we really enjoyed these books, and we definitely recommend them. They can be purchased at the cost of $14.00 each from Apologia, and I must say that I feel they are well worth the cost.

You may also check out Apologia Educational Ministries via social media:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/apologiaworld
Twitter – https://twitter.com/apologiaworld
Google+ – https://plus.google.com/105053356034237782125/posts
Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/apologia/

99 other crew members also reviewed these iWitness books. Please click the banner below to read about what they thought!
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Fix It! Grammar . . . A T.O.S. Review

In all of the years of working on the education of my kids here at home, we have never, ever actually used a formal grammar program. Or, for that matter, ANY written grammar program, to be honest! I have basically practiced an informal method of correcting their spoken grammar as a part of our daily life, something I will continue doing, as I believe it works quite well for SPOKEN grammar. However, “The Artist”, who was the student reviewing a fiction writing course last year, really wants to go back to it, and to learn to be better at writing stories, so I thought that the opportunity to review Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Teacher Manual] (Book 1), along with Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Student Book](Book 1), would perhaps be a good thing for him. I took a look at how it worked and decided to give it a chance.

This grammar program is from the very well known Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW).

IEW is a company I personally have never really taken the opportunity to really check out, because I was afraid it would be too difficult for my special needs guys. However, I am extremely glad we were blessed with the opportunity to review Fix It! Grammar, because it really works, in just minutes a day!

Here is the basic concept . . .
Method: modeling proper grammar within stories. Instead of being taught a grammar rule, and then being forced to practice it with a bunch of exercises, followed by the next grammar rule, over and over (Lather, rinse, repeat, so to speak) in Fix It! Grammar, the grammar rules are taught as they are needed, within the context of a story that builds upon itself until, at the end of the lesson book, the student has written correctly, the entire fairy tale used at that level.

The Process: 15 minutes per day. The level we received is giving us 33 weeks of grammar instruction and practice, in only 15 minutes per day, and 4 days per week.

This program is incredibly easy to set up and to work through! If you have the student book, then your student will need a note book divided into two sections, which are Rewrite and Vocabulary.

On day one of each week, your student will read and correct ONE sentence. Yes, one. He or she will read the sentence, look up the bolded word in a dictionary and write the best definition which fits within the context of the sentence, and write that into the vocabulary section of their note book. This will be built on each day until at the end, they have their own vocabulary dictionary to refer to. Then, he or she will copy the sentence for that day into the rewrite section of their note book, using double spacing.

On days two through four, the student will use the abbreviations at the top of the page, as well as the provided grammar flash cards to help them remember how to mark the section. As with day one, the student does their “rewrite” in the notebook, writing with double spacing. They are to use their best handwriting, so this is also a nice addition to the day in giving them that particular practice!

While we received both the Teacher book and the Student book (both are very nice, spiral bound books), If you prefer, you CAN just purchase the teacher book at the cost of $19.00. The teacher book comes with a license allowing you to download the student book and print as many copies as needed for use within your own homeschool family. The Student book, available for $15.00, is well worth it though, depending on how much it costs for you to print, and whether or not you have more than one child. I happen to have four boys, so knowing that I can print it as needed when each of them is ready for this, makes this a bargain for me.

A placement test is provided if you are unsure where to begin your student, however, like many people, I chose to begin with book one, so as to create a good foundation upon which we can build with the levels which follow. There is also a webinar available to introduce you to Fix It! Grammar, along with how this program differs from traditional methods of teaching grammar.

Fix It! Grammar is intended for 3rd grade and up, but as I said, I personally think that if you, like us, have not done a formal grammar program, it’s best to begin at the beginning.

What did we think of it? Well, I find it incredibly easy to use! “The Artist” really does not enjoy being MADE to write, although he enjoys writing on his own time, so this was the perfect choice for him. I mean, really? One sentence per day? Even my lazy writer who constantly complains about his hand cramping from too much writing, is fine with this! He really doesn’t mind giving up 15 minutes out of his day, and when he is finished, he will have completely written the entire fairy tale himself, with correct grammar! The only real problem we have is keeping him from reading ahead to see the rest of the story, lol!

You will find IEW on the following social media:

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Google+
You Tube
Vimeo

Bottom Line? Not only do I very highly recommend Fix It! Grammar from IEW, I think we will be continuing with it level by level. It is a very painless way to learn written grammar, and frankly, I like that. There is no reason education HAS to be dreary, if there is a better way, and this is definitely a better way, in my opinion.

Other Review Crew members have been reviewing this and other levels of Fix It! Grammar, so please click on the banner below to find out what they thought!
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Filed under education, Fix It! Grammar, Grammar The Easy Way, home education, homeschool products, homeschooling, Institue For Excellence In Writing, Language Arts, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post, special needs education, TOS Review, writing fiction

Under Drake’s Flag (Heirloom Audio Productions) . . . A T. O. S. Review

Growing up, I often heard my dad telling us children about my grandmother listening to the original soap operas on the radio, and about programs on the radio that appealed to the children and families of that time. I had never listened to an audio drama, so I thought this would be an interesting review, especially since my own children have always had the visual along with the audio (what with watching their movies, as opposed to listening, you know). In fact, they are SO used to looking at the screen, I wasn’t sure how well this would be received, but I knew *I* wanted to hear it, so I went for it, LOL! This audio production is written to ages 6 – adult, and I thought that to be pretty accurate.

Heirloom Audio Productions is where you may purchase this wonderful 2 CD boxed set of the Audio Drama “Under Drake’s Flag“. It is available as an “instant access” mp3 version for $20.00, which also includes the following bonuses:

1. The complete Under Drake’s Flag eStudy Guide and Discussion Starter.

2. A beautiful, printable copy of Drake’s Prayer.

If you prefer, you may purchase the 2 CD boxed set at $29.95 plus $6.95, which includes the following bonuses:

1. The “instant access” download of Under Drake’s Flag valued at $20.00.

2. The complete Under Drake’s Flag E-Study Guide and Discussion Starter. 30 pages of Under Drake’s Flag discussion points, history-learning guides and story-related Bible study, valued at $20.00.

3. The Under Drake’s Flag Soundtrack MP3 download, valued at $20.00.

4. A beautiful, printable copy of Drake’s Prayer, valued at $10.00.

The add on bonuses in the CD boxed set add up to $70.00, making this a very good deal, in my opinion!

Now, down to the review! We ended up choosing to listen to the complete story, rather than breaking it up into chapters. After all, when we watch movies, we don’t break them up, either! Plus, to be honest, I was concerned about losing their interest. I didn’t need to worry though, because they listened pretty well! “The Artist” and “Mr. Loquacious” really paid more attention that “The Batman” and “The Puzzler”, and were much better able to answer the comprehension questions in the mini study guide which is included in the boxed set. There is a much expanded study guide as a download, but at this time, it wasn’t a good fit for my boys.

Both guides have comprehension questions for each chapter: “Listening well”, “Thinking Further” questions, and “defining words”. There is also a Bible study section with sections such as “Godly Character”, “True Manhood”, and “Confessing Christ”, each of which is related to parts of the story, and has corresponding Bible verses to use in your study. Drake’s prayer is also printed inside the CD holder, and it is a beautiful prayer.

After explaining to the boys that this would be like “listening” to a movie instead of “watching” a movie, we popped the first CD into our DVD player and settled in. I had told them they could either draw pictures relating to the story while listening, or write down interesting things they heard, but surprisingly, none of them did, they just flopped onto the floor and listened! Even their dad and I enjoyed it, although we were both very tired and not feeling at our best, and so we dozed off a couple of times.

I liked the way the audio drama was written. It begins with two boys, Ned and Gerald, who are British boys in school, working on a report about Sir Francis Drake. Gerald is CLEARLY more interested in the history, while Ned just wants to skip doing it and go to a cricket match. They happen upon a man they are invited to call “Mr. George”, who offers to tell them a story about Sir Francis Drake, in which there just happen to be two boys named Ned and Gerald. We are to understand that Mr. George is G. A. Henty, who lived and wrote about history, writing 122 books which became essential reading in English schools. He promises that if the boys become bored, he will stop if they tell him, so they may go to the cricket match. In the end, they become so caught up in the adventures of the Ned and Gerald in the story, and how they adventured the seas with and without Sir Francis Drake, that they don’t ever ask him to stop telling them the story!

In “Mr. George’s story, we hear about how Ned first comes to Drake’s attention by saving a man who is in the water, Drake promises that should he ever return to Ned’s village, he will offer him a place on his ship, something Ned wants very much, even though his mother is opposed, having lost her husband to the sea. Eventually, though, Drake does return, and offers Ned a position. His mother, knowing what is right for him, gives him his father’s dagger and her blessing.

Ned and Gerald have many adventures, helping to fight against the Spanish Armada, saving a Spanish young lady from drowning, facing the Spanish Inquisition, and more, all the while learning from Drake about being good men with Christian principles. We are hopeful that heirloom Audio Productions will soon release even more wonderful audio dramas such as this one, as we thoroughly enjoyed it!

I highly recommend this audio production!

Check out Under Drake’s Flag on Facebook, too!

99 other Review Crew members also reviewed this product. To read about what they thought of it, please click on the banner below!
Under Drake's Flag Reviews
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UberSmart Software . . . A T.O.S. Review

My boys and I have had the opportunity for the past few weeks to work with UberSmart Math Facts.

This little program, created by a homeschool dad whose wife wanted their children to have help with learning their math facts. It is available from UberSmart Software It is written primarily for students from K – 6, or anyone older (even adults) who need, or would like a refresher on the basic math facts, and can be purchased for $24.95.

I was intrigued enough at how simple this little program is for learning math facts, that I really wanted to give it a try with my kids. As it turns out, it really is a basic little program, which you download to your computer (which must have one of the following: Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8), and you ARE permitted to put it onto multiple computers, which can be of some help if you have several children, and more than one computer.

The UberSmart Math Facts program works just like your traditional set of flash cards, but electronically, on your computer. First, learn, in which your student tries to answer the problem and then hit the answer key to check your answer. Another section, practice, allows him/her to click on the answer they think is correct, and they may also choose test when they are ready, which causes the program to give them a timed session with a certain number of cards.

Depending on whether or not you allow online activity, your student may also choose compete, allowing them to compete against others around the world in a timed session. We haven’t done this one.

This program also has a “report” and a “maintain” tab for the parent. If you like to have printable reports to keep for your records, or if you need them in a portfolio to turn in to your state, UberSmart Math Facts gives you the ability to have them. You can also maintain things like how long you want a student to have on timed activities. The default (4.5 seconds) is too, too fast for all but one of my boys, but you can adjust it, as I said.

Here are some of the different ways you can have the program set up, depending upon the age or ability of your child.

Traditional flash card format:

Keyboarding (practice typing the digits in quickly):

Dot cards:

There are other possibilities as well, such as showing the dots and numbers together.

I wanted to try UberSmart Math Facts because I feel that my boys can use a LOT of help when it comes with the memorizing of math facts, in particular “The Batman”.

I, personally, like this program. My kids, not so much. They thought it was boring, because they have, in the past, used math fact programs that were more like a video game, and they love video games, of course! They love the flash, excitement, and “leveling up”. However, since I can SEE some improvement, I’ll continue using it. We most often use it in the “practice” mode, because it is very hard for some of my boys to actually memorize the facts and have them stick. As with many things, we need to sort of tweak educational materials for our special needs kids, and given that we CAN continue under “practice” until such time as they are ready

A number of other crew members also were given the opportunity to review UberSmart Math Facts, Please, do click the banner below to see what they thought of this program!
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Filed under education, home education, Homeschool Math, homeschool products, Math Facts Drill, UberSmart Math Facts