Friday, March 28, 2014

Sophia is here!

Welcome to the World My Beautiful New Little Girl!

Sophia Abbigail Lynnae
Born: 12/13/2013
Time: 3:28 AM
Room: 1313 (yep, 1313, I'm not making that up)
Weight: 7 lbs 9 oz
Length: 20 inches
Eyes: Deep Blue and sometimes Gray
Hair: Blonde, very fair blonde

Sophia's first photograph taken about an hour after she was born.

When I woke up for my third trip to the bathroom on Thursday morning, December 12th, it was around 3:30 am. As always, I urgently had to go! Unlike the rest of the times, I felt water leaking down my leg. Embarrassed, I ran to the bathroom and then noticed that the fluid wasn't yellow and was more than slightly sticky. I felt...ODD, for lack of a better word. I had only been asleep for maybe an hour and a half at that point. I googled "leaking amniotic fluid" and read through some of the entries. They said fluid was clear (check), somewhat sticky (check) and smelled "sweet" (um, at 4 am, I'm not sniffing that).  I cleaned up and had no more leaking while I was cleaning myself up. I put on a pad and went back to bed. Of course I didn't sleep. Half an hour later, I rolled over and felt dampness. I got up, went to the bathroom again. The pad was soaked. Not leaking but wet. It was clear, not yellow and at that point I was awake enough to decide I needed to sniff it (from a respectable distance), sweet...I don't know (maybe).

I consulted Dr. Google a little more. I still felt ODD, a little off. Our as yet unnamed baby girl wasn't due until December 31st. I had never had my water "break" without a doctor helping. All three of the other kids were either born on or near their due date.  I tried counting kicks but that early in the morning she was sleeping. I decided to text Doctor Kim and get a shower. I knew when she woke up she would tell me to go to triage and get checked out. I wasn't sure if at 4:30am I should go to labor and delivery triage or go to the ER. Secondly, I wasn't sure if I should eat and take my insulin or if I should AVOID taking my insulin. I woke Mark up around then because I was worried that taking a shower might start things and I didn't want to birth no baby by myself. I was not having any discernable contractions, just an occasional braxton-hicks contraction.

I worried more than a little bit about leaking fluid because on Friday, December 6th they admitted me to the hospital overnight for low fluid. It seemed like the fluid levels had went back up by Saturday and they were good on Tuesday when I went in for my normal stress test and fluid check. I hopped in the shower. Mark hopped in the shower. Kim texted me back to eat, take insulin & blood pressure medicine, and get to triage as soon as we could. We woke up all three kids, took care of the animals, and headed out. I took my insulin shots at home so that I didn't have to do that in the car, but we decided to grab breakfast thinking it would be faster than my usual egg/sausage/toast that I had cooked for the last three months. Once I take the shots, I need to eat within 10-20 minutes or I get sick from low sugar.

Unfortunately, Frisch's is never the "quick" route. As we were waiting in line, my contractions started being painful. Not unbearable, but enough to make me nervous. I could just imagine my water breaking and ruining our brand new van. How upsetting that would be! I did sit on some towels but I still worried. Frisch's took probably 20 minutes plus the drive there. I felt crummy for the first time that day with low blood sugar. We did finally get food and headed to the hospital.

When I delivered Matthew, his birth was quick and relatively easy. I went in for a scheduled induction (but was already in labor) and within 6 hours, I was pushing. An hour later he was born. The nurses joked about how if I ever had another baby, I better get to the hospital fast because his birth was so swift. Emma's birth would have been quicker even than Matthew's except when I sat up to push, her heart rate dropped. They rolled me over and stopped me from pushing until we could get her heart rate back to a good number and see that it stayed there. It added about 2+ hours to the process and caused her birth to take 8 hours instead of 5 or 6.

These thoughts were forefront in my mind as we sat waiting on egg sandwiches and driving through traffic to get to the hospital. I could just imagine having a baby on the side of the interstate. My poor kids having to help Mark deliver their sister. As this was Thursday morning the 12th, obviously those fears did not come to pass.

We make it to the hospital and snag a wheelchair to get upstairs. Then the waiting begins. By this time, I am absolutely sure that my water has broken and I had to change clothes before we left the house because of it. I have to convince the triage nurses that I have indeed though. By about 11 am, they decide to admit me. The nurse decides to have me walk to my room...ugh. She later claimed she didn't know I was leaking fluid. We are placed in Room 1313 on the morning of December 12th. Heather predicts that the baby will not be born until Friday, December 13th. (I'm still a little bitter about that!).

The news of the day is the mega snow storm that is about to hit. The headlines for the day are here. Nothing too big, a lot of complaining about Obamacare and some chatter about football. The weather has been so snowy and this weekend was lining up to be even worse. While we were still in triage, Heather shows up having taken the rest of the day off from work. Mark's mom is on her way. We just start getting settled in. Still not really having much in the way of contractions, but I'm hooked up to monitors and they get the IV started easily.

Mary eventually takes Matthew to her house and Heather and Emma hang out for a long time. It becomes obvious that baby girl is not in a hurry to come out and they start Pitocin and eventually start a glucose drip because my sugar is playing roller coaster since I can't eat but I took my insulin. Mark and the girls go down and enjoy a quick buffet of roast beef, mashed potatoes and all kinds of other goodies.

 I eventually convince the girls to go home. My parents come by after work and are disappointed that there's not a little pinky to cuddle. We promise to call them when she shows up and they head home as the snow begins.

We spend much of the day trying to rest and dealing with contractions. I'm thankful when they start the epidural. I had this secret fantasy that this delivery would be so quick and easy that I would deliver naturally without the epidural. 2 hours into real contractions and I'm talking to the nurse like a junky... "So, how long does the pain relief guys take to get here once we decide it's time for an epidural?" "Huh, depends on how many other mommas are asking at the same time? How many women in labor do you have right now? Wow, the snow is making everyone nervous and they're all coming in 'just in case'?"  "Alright, call him. Seriously, like right now!" Although I had a tremendous amount of trepidation about the epidural, everything went smoothly and I was very glad for the competency of the anesthesiologist.

Dr. Kim stops by at some point to let me know she is available when I'm ready but that she is going to sleep for a while since I'm not ready to push. Time passes, my sugar keeps going down and I keep sipping juice and getting glucose. I can't have anything else because if I should need anesthesia, I have to have an empty stomach.

Sometime before the nightly news, we start pushing. It's quiet. It's calm, just Mark, the nurse, and Dr. Kim. With the other kids, there was nervousness. There were other people in and out of the room. There was a discord or buzzing. With this birth, it was very quiet. Peaceful. I tried to focus and kept my eyes shut for much of the pushing. My pain was controlled well but I could still feel my legs and had control enough to move legs around just a bit.  We passed midnight and I may have cursed Heather's name slightly.

We pushed for what seemed like hours and I could tell that she wasn't coming out. My little sunny side up girl was stuck. What happens when babies are face up is they get stuck with their head at an angle that won't allow them to pass through the birth canal. Dr. Kim tried several types of manueverings to turn baby girl so that she would slip out. None of them worked. around 3:00 am, she has the come to Jesus meeting with me. "So listen, here's the deal. You've been at this a while and you're getting tired. We have a couple of options here. We can keep pushing and hope for the best but the baby's getting tired and you're getting tired and I don't like those odds. Second, we can prep and head for the OR. If you are too worn out, your water has been broken for most of 23 & 1/2 hours and we really like to have the baby out within 24 hours of it breaking. Or, we can use an extraction device. I prefer the forceps. I think we can maneuver her under your pelvic bone and get her out very quickly with them." We quickly talked over the options and decided on the forceps. The idea of recovering from surgery with a nursing newborn is just a nightmare in my mind. Dr. K has the nurse call anesthesia so they can top off my epidural because she's a wonderful doc and she didn't want me to feel the whole "giant salad tongs going into my hoohaa" thing.

We were ready to go quickly and it was very surreal. I could feel Kim slipping the huge forceps in one at a time. I could feel them turning the baby, not quite all the way and finally just ducking her under my pelvis and popping her out. It didn't hurt at all, but I could feel it. I know with the previous deliveries this was a different sensation.

They threw her up on my chest and I took an active role in cleaning her up and in the forceful rubbing that gets a baby breathing on their own. She took a few seconds and it was more than a little scary. I was thankful that her head was not super pointy as Heather's had been after a forceps delivery. With Emma they had used a vacuum extractor to pull her under the pelvic bone so she had a lump shaped like a dixie cup for a little while. Overall, she had a round little noggin.

Baby girl was finally here and although her apgar scores weren't great, she was breathing and healthy. She weighed 7 pounds 9 ounces and was 21 inches long. We had some wonderful time with just the three of us. We decided that the middle of the night was a wonderful time to have a baby. I immediately put her to the breast knowing that if my sugar was roller coaster-y all day that hers was as well. We had great skin to skin time without worrying about who was about to walk in. As much as I love our family and friends, it's very difficult to have the door opening every 10 minutes while you're being sewed up from delivery and trying to breast feed the tiniest baby you ever remember seeing.

The sweet nurses felt bad for us being so hungry and brought us plates up from the 3rd shift lunch buffet, so at 4:30 in the morning we were scarfing roast beef, turkey, dressing and all the fixings.

We marveled at our beautiful new girl. She was and is so pretty. More later on the loop she threw us for.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Mosaic Reviews: See the Light Art Projects Pointillism Fruit

Our product for review: Pointillism Fruit in the style of Georges Seurat

Product at a glance:

  • Facebook Page: Facebook
  • Twitter: Twitter
  • Blog: See the Light Blog
  • Pinterest: Pinterest
  • Ages/grades suggested for: 10 and up (youngers may use it with a little guidance, olders may use it alone with out much help)
  • Who can use it? Any one who would like to study art or add art instruction into their kids or their lives. Homeschoolers or after schoolers could both make great use of these DVD's as well as adults who want to enrich their lives with a good foundation knowledge of art method, theory and history. 
  • Products by this publisher (paraphrased descriptions from their web-site): 
Full set of 9 DVD's 

  • Create Your Own Masterpiece In The Style Of 9 Famous Artists! Full set $99.99, individual lessons $14.99


This 9 volume DVD series contains 36 complete step-by-step tutoring lessons, taught by Master Artist Pat Knepley.
Pat Knepley’s warmth and engaging personality captures the attention of children, draws them into the learning process, and leads them through a successful drawing experience in every lesson.Each lesson runs approximately 15 minutes and includes suggestions for follow-up drawing activities.Art History is another feature of ART CLASS. Your children will become acquainted with the famous masterpieces of many artists.Biblical truth is integrated into every lesson!NO WORKBOOKS EVER! These lessons require only basic supplies (see below). Most lessons require only a piece of copy paper, a #2 pencil, and a good eraser.

VOLUME 1: The BasicsVOLUME 2: Shape & SpaceVOLUME 3: Value & ColorVOLUME 4: Color Blending TechniquesVOLUME 5: Proportions For CompositionVOLUME 6: Texture & FormVOLUME 7: Perspective For The LandscapeVOLUME 8: Balancing &ForeshorteningVOLUME 9: The Portrait

What problem does this product solve (paraphrased from their web-site): 
Homeschoolers now have an option for meeting the National Visual Arts Standards at home without paying for private lessons. By following the full 9 DVD lessons in the complete set just as it is laid out, you can meet the guidelines for most state's 1/2 credit of Visual Arts on the high school level. By adding in field trips and additional projects outside of the given lessons, they can meet the state guidelines for 1 full credit of Visual Arts instruction on the high school level. 
Watching Lesson 1 on the DVD
Gathering supplies for Lesson 1

The Product Test:

We received the See the Light Art Project DVD on Pointillism Fruit in the style of Georges Seurat from See the Light for review last month. It is one of a 9 DVD set that together can comprise a full year's art curriculum on the high school level. Each DVD has 4 lessons around creating a project in the style of some of the great masters. I have listed all of them in the above product description. I chose Pointillism because it was something that I knew my kids had never been introduced to but had experienced to a small extent in art displays and museums (and a favorite restaurant has several Seurat painting reproductions that they are both fascinated by when we go there). 

Matthew sketching his still life fruit
Emma sketching her still life fruit

Lesson 1: Introducing Seurat's Impressionist Style of Pointillism

Mom confessional: 
I enjoy art when I take the time to do it with the kids, but it is a segment of our curriculum that often gets glossed over for the nuts and bolts of fitting all the other stuff in. I work full-time and homeschool 2 of my 3 kids (the older one is in college). I am pregnant with #4 and we have a small zoo at our house that demands a lot of time (dogs, cats, lizards, fish, etc.). Fitting in the core subjects often takes over the majority of our school time and art, PE, music, and other subjects that the kids love take a back seat. 
Despite that, my kids HUGELY enjoy art and the expression is allows and are all very creative when given the opportunity. I grew up in that era where art budgets were small and kids who were college bound often had little time for art because their electives were all sucked up by science and math electives. As such, I feel I have little artistic ability and therefore have little skill to pass on to my kids. I know that I am OK at art, in my head, but I definitely try to push those type of lessons off on my husband when I get the chance. He has his Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts and Graphic Design (doesn't he sound more qualified???). That being said, I grumble and grouse by then end of most of our art lessons which isn't fair to the kids who just want to make a mess with some paint and cotton swabs (or whatever our supply of the day happens to be).

Next we were ready to add in our
first layers of color dots.
Matthew Gives it a shot on his pear.
Lesson 2: Implementing Pointillism

I was pretty excited to be included in this product review because I am very enthusiastic about anything that draws the art lesson together for me and allows me to sit back and supervise. These lessons did that very well. I felt like a facilitator as opposed to the teacher. I sat the kids in front of the lesson, pulled out the required supplies, and eventually participated alongside them in the lessons so that I stayed engaged and helped them stay engaged. My kids are on the low end of the suggested ages for this DVD as it is recommended for ages 10 and up. Even still, it didn't talk over their heads or get so involved they felt lost at any point. My 9 year old got a tiny bit lost while trying to apply dots and listen to the instructor's directions in the lesson a couple of times. We did rewind it and rewatch a few spots. 

My kids are a little bit of perfectionists and had a little bit of frustration that their versions did not immediately look as nice as the instructors' piece. I kept explaining that she is a Master Artist and we are beginners and that she has done this same exercise many times and we have done it a single time. I think by the end, they were pleased with how theirs turned out and they were talking about "next time" I want to try trees and isn't it neat how God turns tree leaves contrasting colors in the fall. 

Matthew finishing up his base layer
of dots.
Emma trying to decide if she needs
more dots or if she's finished.
Lesson 2: Implementing Pointillism. 

After sketching and laying the foundation colors in the first two lessons, it was time to add in dimension with some complimentary and contrasting color dots. This is probably about the only time the kids felt a little confusion. I feel like the lesson was explained very well, but that this was one of the concepts that the kids just needed to be a little older to understand. Eventually Matthew caught on to how he was supposed to shade and highlight his picture, but he had already randomly added a bunch of dots all over the place. He got a little frustrated. Again, he was being a little distracted that night and it was something you needed to concentrate on to understand. 

The kids adding in shadows
There was lots of holding out the
paintings and trying to see the optical
illusions that Seurat used and the
instructor referenced.
Lesson 3: Creating Highlight & Shadow

During the fourth lesson, we finished up our lesson on Pointillism and Georges Seurat as it applies to color theory. We also finished up our pointillism still life with fruit paintings. By the end of the fourth lesson, the kids saw how the it all fit together and understood the couple of things they were confused on in the middle. They have retained quite a bit of the information about art history and color theory (even without taking notes during the lessons). They explained Pointillism to their grandmother when she visited yesterday when she asked about their paintings.

Emma's finished painting with our
still life "fruit"
Matthew's finished painting
Lesson 4: Filling in the Details

I should have taken the photos from farther away so that the colors blended better. The illusion of color blending does work at a distance and it was exciting for the kids to see that it did from across the room.

Mom's version of Pointillism Still Life with Fruit

What would I change about it?

There isn't a thing I can think of that I would change. I would like to start with the basic art class this year and then progress to the art project set for next year. I love that they have them available as an online option and I plan on learning more about that option as time and money allow. 

I think that the kids at the age they are now will pull plenty of knowledge from the lessons and then definitely could repeat them for high school level art with some extra work thrown in to round out the time to a full credit's worth of work. It's a great value. 

What did Mom think?

I thought that over all it was very well done. I enjoyed not having to spend several hours googling and searching at the library to find the background information to implement the same lesson. Plus, I would have made the kids do it in one fell swoop as opposed to spreading it out like the DVD did. The lessons on the DVD were concise and a nice length for the age of my kids. Mrs. Knepley teaches the class concisely and professionally. She commands the kids' attention and even my flighty monkeys paid attention throughout the lesson. An older student could easily double up on the lessons and not feel overwhelmed with information. I think during the middle two lessons, there could have been an intermission period for the kids to work through the painting section a little more slowly. I just paused the DVD when she got ahead of where we were. 

I would love to own both sets that See the Light offers. That would be at least two years worth of art lessons for the kids that eventually they could definitely work through on their own with very minimal adult intervention. 

What did the Kids Think?

Matthew (age 12): 

"I love doing art. I really liked learning how to do art in the style of a famous artist that I have seen in history books and museums. I wish she hadn't said "my friends" so much, that was the only problem I had. I want to try some of the other lessons that we saw on the web-site!"

Emma (age 9): 

"I liked going through the lessons and finishing my project completely. I liked how it changed from the drawing to adding the base colors to the final piece with all the shadows and highlights. I can't wait to frame it and hang it up in my room."

Find other reviews and opinions of this product and several of their other products at Mosaic Reviews

Pursuant to FCC regulations...


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mosaic Reviews: Math Mammoth Complete Fourth Grade Math Curriculum (and some great freebies!)

Product at a glance:

  • Web-site: Math Mammoth
  • Facebook Page: Homeschool Programming on Facebook
  • Twitter: Homeschool Programming on Twitter
  • Ages/grades suggested for: Grades 1 through 6
  • Who can use it? It would be good for homeschoolers or after schoolers (people who are helping their public/private school kids focus on specific skills or weaknesses).
  • Products by this publisher (paraphrased descriptions from their web-site): 
  • Math Mammoth has two different types of products. First there are the complete curriculums like we received (basically a year's worth of math laid out for you) or in In-depth subject books by topic (ie: fractions, time, geometry). Here's a couple of great graphics to help you understand:
Click here to find more information on Math Mammoth's
Full Curriculums: Full Curriculums

Click here to find more information on Math Mammoth's
Blue Series (areas of concentration): Blue Series

What problem does this product solve: 

Math Mammoth offers a mastery based program of math curriculum options that are systematic in their approach. They give parents or teachers a nearly hands-off set of math workbooks that many kids can work through without too much help or intervention. They are also downloadable, so if you find out your current math isn't working or you end up teaching your niece and need a math curriculum ASAP, they've got you covered! 

The Product Test:

Our family received a download of the Math Mammoth Grade 4 Complete Curriculum with Answer Keys, and Tests & Cumulative Reviews (Product Page). I was excited as we hadn't dealt with a math curriculum for my fourth grader yet and I was hoping this would be a good fit.

The downloaded version is full color (which we like very much in our household). The printed books according to the Math Mammoth web-site are black and white. It seems as though my kids prefer the color graphics and lots of pictures to the text-heavy, black and white books that we find in some programs (Saxon, I'm looking at you). I printed out the first half of Work Text A and put it in a binder for Emma. She is not a fan of change and not completely a fan of math, so her initial reactions were a bit negative. The pages are a bit more crowded with information and problems than she is used to dealing with and that also put her off. I think that it has more to do with her grade level than Math Mammoth's program, but it was her major complaint. I know my son had a huge problem jumping from third grade work to fourth grade work for similar reasons. 

Not exactly a happy mather...
All that being said, Math Mammoth was great once she started giving it a try. She has a tendency to panic and wants someone sitting right beside her giving her their undivided attention while she's doing math. Although I did still sit with her, I could manage to work on my work while she worked through the majority of the lessons on her own. She was able to read the explanations in the Work Text and begin working through the lesson generally on her own even when it was a new concept. When she was done with lesson, I gave her the answer sheet and let her grade her own work. She loves to play teacher and use the red pen. Afterwards, we would go over the problems she missed and work out where she had went awry.

Here are some great positive points to think about:

  • Math Mammoth offers a both a free sample of 350 worksheets and a week long tour of their products. That can be found here. The sheets can give you a clearer picture of what their books are going to look like before you buy them.
  • The full Math Mammoth program is relatively inexpensive. For the price of many other company's workbook, you get the whole shebang (full year of work texts, answer sheets, teacher's notes, tests and review). There isn't a teacher guide as such, all the teaching information is included in the work texts so that the kids can go through it on their own.
  • They have a worksheet generator and dozens of math resources that they recommend if your child needs more review on a topic.
  • The pdf that you download is an editable document, so in theory, you could use the books completely online or even on a tablet or device. 
Editing the page on screen

What did Mom think about it?

I think that it is a very good value for a well laid out curriculum. I like that I can download it once and use it again and again for multiple children (in the same family).  The review or concept books are awesome if you finish your regular curriculum early or find out mid-year that it just isn't working. They are way better and more involved than the books that are available from our local teacher supply store. If fractions aren't clicking, just pull out the fraction download and get tons of more material to drive home the concepts.

I know Emma felt like the lessons were a little long but I tend to want a minimum amount of math every day (at least 30+ minutes). These lessons filled that bill very well. She tends to drag her feet even on topics she understands. So 30 minutes of math for another kids ends up being 50 minutes or more for her. She has the ability, but her attention wanders.

What Did the Kid Think? 

Emma (age 9): 

"I liked the way the lessons were explained but I felt like there were too many problems for each day. I get tired of all that math without a break." (just to reiterate, mom felt like it was an appropriate amount of work per lesson)

Find other reviews and opinions of this product and several of their other products at Mosaic Reviews

Don't forget, Maria has some great freebies and so much fantastic information on her blog and in her emails. Sign up here and learn for yourself what is so awesome about Math Mammoth!


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Product Review: Homeschool Programming Inc.'s KidCoder Beginning Web Design

Product at a glance:

  • Product Received: Homeschool Programming KidCoder Beginning Web Design Course
  • Publisher: Homeschool Programming, Inc.
  • Price: $70.00 for the course alone, $85.00 for the course and instructional videos, or $20.00 with video only. In October, they will off the KidCoder Year Pack which includes KidCoder Beginning Web Design and KidCoder Advanced Web Design together (a full-year of technology curriculum) for $120.00 for the courses along, $145.00 for the courses and instructional videos, or $30.00 for videos only.
  • Web-site: Homeschool Programming, Inc.
  • Facebook Page: Homeschool Programming on Facebook
  • Twitter: Homeschool Programming on Twitter
  • Ages/grades suggested for: Grade 4 through 12. Younger kids with motivation can possibly handle it. Adults and college age people can use the information to self teach.
  • Who can use it? This program is excellent for homeschoolers. Siblings can reuse the same content without charge because the company supports homeschooling families. From what I have seen of the courses, they would also be fantastic for parents who want to do computer programming as a summer enrichment activity or after schooling activity. I could easily see it being used in co-ops, private schools, or even public schools though teachers of groups would need to purchase a separate course for each student. They do offer group discounts according to their web-site and conditions of use statement.
  • Products by this publisher (paraphrased descriptions from their web-site): 
    • KidCoder Beginning Web Design is the first semester course in the KidCoder Series. Kids in grades 4-12 will learn to create their own web pages using HTML. 
    • KidCoder Windows Programming is the first semester course in the KidCoder Visual Basic Series. Kids in grades 6-12 will learn to write graphical Windows programs using the Visual Basic programming language.  
    •  KidCoder Game Programming is the second semester course in the KidCoder Visual Basic Series. It takes your programming to the next level.
    • TeenCoder Java Programming is the first semester course in the TeenCoder Java Series. It introduces 9-12th grade students to the Java Programming Language. Students learn to create graphical and console applications using object-oriented design concepts.
    • TeenCoder Android Programming is the second semester course in the TeenCoder Java Series. Students use their Java knowledge and free Android Developer Tools for Eclipse to write their own mobile applications. 
    • TeenCoder Windows Programming is the first course in the TeenCoder C# series. It introduces 9th-12th grade students to the C# programming language. Students will learn to create graphical Windows applications using object-oriented design concepts. 
    •  TeenCoder Game Programming is the second semester course in the TeenCoder C# series. It pairs the C# programming language with Microsoft's XNA Game Studio to provide a modern, easy to use game-creation framework. Students will be thrilled to learn how to write their own Windows games from scratch.

What problem does this product solve (from their web-site): 

Homeschool Programming, Inc. was founded by homeschooling parents who have a B.S. and M.S. degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. They have a combined 17+ years of experience in the software industry. A love of computers starts early. Many computer programmers write their first programs in middle school. The courses from Homeschool Programming, Inc. let kids and teens take that important first step towards what could become a lifelong hobby, career, and passion!

It all started when a homeschooled family member wanted to learn computer programming, REAL computer programming and her mom had no idea how to teach her. When their searches for material to teach their relative came up empty, they started writing their own curriculum. They wanted to teach professional programming languages in a fun way that students could understand and non-technical parents could teach.

The Product Test:

Our family received a digital version of KidCoder Beginning Web Design Course to try out for several weeks in order to write a fair and honest review. I have a fledgling knowledge of web design having taken an intro to web design class in college about 9 years ago. Although I have not endeavored to write my own page since that class, I understand the fundamentals that are involved in page creation. Looking over the material in KidCoder, it has a very similar feel to the college level class I took. The pacing is even similar. The material parallels that class. While it is written in a tone that kids can relate to with illustrations that kids can enjoy, the material is code line for code line what I studied in that sophomore level college class. What am I trying to say? There is a depth of material covered in this course that you don't usually see in elementary and middle school technology programs. I would venture to say that even in high school level technology classes you may not see this much material. 

Dad letting them work on their web page project.

Normally, if you order the program from Homeschool Programming, Inc. from their web-site, you receive a physical printed textbook and a CD with the set up programs. To enable the reviewers to have a longer review period, we received a pdf of the book and downloadable set up programs. We also were given web access to the instruction videos that are usually sent out on DVD's and supplement the text book. For the first week or two's lessons, we didn't take advantage of the instructional videos. My husband would read the lessons to the kids (a fourth grade 9-year-old and a seventh grade 12-year-old) and then he would walk them through the activities. In the last couple of weeks (once we took the time to check out the videos), the kids quite honestly don't need our help. They watch the videos while flipping through the book and then will work through much of the activity on their own. Dad really only gets called in when their page doesn't "work" like they expect. For those of you who have done any basic web design, that means Dad just gets called in to proofread.

The beginning to the instructional video.
With the instructional videos, I really think that ANY parent could use this program to teach their children. A motivated child could easily teach themselves if the parents aren't technologically inclined. The videos are also great for students who need audio or visual aids to learn. My oldest daughter is an audio learner and even though we never homeschooled her, I often had difficulty relating to her learning style as I have always been a visual learner. It was difficult for me to understand that reading the chapter and writing notes wasn't how she needed to study.

A shot from Chapter 1 Lesson 4 explaining
HTML tools and their benefits and downsides.

The class is broken into chapters which are broken into lessons, it would be easy to do 4 days a week and complete the class in a semester. It would also be easy to do 2-3 days a week and stretch the class out for the entire school year. This will probably be how we continue after the review is submitted. We have so much material we are going over this year. Aside from Math and History, everything will probably only be done 2-3 times per week. The lessons are quick and engaging enough that my kids did not mind going over 2 or even 3 per day as well.

I knew when signing up for this review, it would inspire and excite my 12 year old. I was right, he was over the moon at the prospect of gathering enough knowledge to put together his own web-site. What I hadn't counted on was the enthusiasm I have gotten from my 9 year old daughter. She is at least as excited as my son and has already started saving for her web-site domain. She's very worried that someone will steal her "Emma's Fashion" domain before she scrapes together enough to buy it. They took the first few lessons and sketched out a site map of how their pages will link up and spread out. Planning not just the front page but also layers and layers of pages that link to buttons on their homepage.

Here are some great positive points to think about:

  • A great aspect of this product are the tools used for web design. All of the software mentioned is either included or a free download or software that generally comes with most computers (text edit, notepad, web browsers, etc). 
  • The material in the classes are in depth enough to be used for high school credits. Each level of the class is two semesters which equal a full credit of technology if you live in an area where that is required.
  • There are chapter tests in case you are in a state where you are required to submit scores.
  • As a parent, you need absolutely no experience to teach this class. There are some great tools that help you get started. Make sure you read the instructions and watch the video tutorials. Overall it is simple and easy to use.
  • KidCoder is able to be used on Windows or Mac Computers.
  • It is something that you could absolutely hand over to an 8th or 9th grade student and expect them to run themselves through the entire program with minimal help. 
  • The price is good especially when you consider the material involved. I paid $210 for the textbook (plus tuition, plus gas, plus technology fees) in my college class and I would venture to say that it didn't cover as much as these kids will cover in the full year course that runs $120-$145. 
  • They offer some great resources on their web-site that show you what you're getting yourself into. Demo Videos and Sample Pages will show you how easy the system can be.

What would I change about it?

I honestly can't name a single thing that I would change at the moment. We are 4 chapters in and I've been pleased with the program completely so far. I mean, it's easy to say, "Well, it's pricey!" but in reality, it is not. I paid $700 or more for a very similar class in college and it was less interactive and explanatory. With the videos, it could easily be as pricey as those distance schools that charge $400 or more per year for electives. I think at $120-$145, it's well priced and a good value. 

What did Mom think?

I liked the pacing of the class. Even my flighty 9 year old stuck with it throughout the entire lesson (and that was with dad reading aloud to them). Once we tried out the videos, she was definitely on board fully. On an average day, I would guess the material would take about 20-40 minutes per lesson. Some shorter, some longer as the kids build their web-sites. There is a bit of a learning curve in getting everything set up and going. I'm sure it has more to do with my bull-in-a-china-shop method of charging in without reading the FAQ or Getting Started Guide more than the program. My husband came in, gave the Getting Started page a quick once over and had everything humming along in the time it took me to let the bulldogs outside and back in.

I think my favorite part of the program is just the enthusiasm I have seen in the kids as we worked on the material. They are so excited to decorate their little corner of the World Wide Web with their thoughts and dreams and hobbies. 

Their one disappointment was that the exercises in the book define what the page you are writing does. They didn't want to create a page about Raptors, they wanted more excitement than that. After assuring them that they can apply what they are learning to their own page eventually, they perked back up and have been more self motivated working on this than I have seen them motivated about anything else ever! As an adult, I understand you have to practice before you can soar.

What did Dad think?

It was amazing rereading the history of the internet and the basic terminology of the web, including how to design a web page, KidCoder makes all the steps clear and concise and accounts for numerous operating systems and web browsers.  And I got to relive it, with the my children's fresh sets of eyes, my own initial journey onto the web to see how it works.  KidCoder provided more help and details then I could have on my own and my kids were cheering at each new lesson and marveling at the progression on their web site devoted to Raptors. They completely forgot they were in class.

What did the Kids Think?

Matthew (age 12): 

"I think the KidCoder Web Design class is good because it tells you step by step how to write the code for a web-site. Plus, it is teaching you how to plan and design your own web-site and I think it's fantastic. I want to keep studying it so that by the end of the school year, I have my own functioning web-site where I talk about all my hobbies!"

Emma (age 9): 

"I think it's really cool that kids can learn how to design their own web-sites. I can't wait to keep going in the class and get to the point where I'm actually designing my OWN web-site instead of the practice sites the class teaches. I've even picked out the name for my site and I'm saving my allowance to buy the domain name!"

Find other reviews and opinions of this product and several of their other products at Mosaic Reviews

#HomeschoolProgramming, Inc.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Product Review: Ancient History Go Fish Game by The Classical Historian

Product at a glance:

  • Product received for this review: The Classical Historian's Ancient History Go Fish Game
  • Publisher: The Classical Historian
  • Price: $11.95
  • Web-site:
  • Facebook Page: Classical Historian
  • Ages/grades suggested for: Ages 6 and older (some reading required)
  • Who can use it? This is a great product for homeschoolers. It is also useful in the classroom setting for teachers covering Ancient History and want a fun way to reinforce the concepts that have been covered. 
  • Other Products made by Classical Historian: Complete curriculum from a Socratic perspective, several other games, California History studies, flashcards, and history textbooks. Some very interesting stuff, take a look!

What problem does this product solve: 

I know as a homeschool mom, I'm always looking for new ways to engage my kids with the materials and subjects that we are covering for school. I am constantly asking myself, "How can I clarify this topic?" or "How can I stuff more understanding into their heads?" Games are always their favorite way of reviewing a subject.

So far, in our 2+ years of schooling at home, we have covered mostly American History. We received for review the Ancient History Go Fish Game. We all thought that was pretty cool since we had not formally covered any of the topics in our deck. The topics included:

1. Prehistory
2. Ancient Asia
3. Mesopotamia
4. Ancient Hebrews
5. Ancient Egypt
6. Ancient Greece
7. Roman Republic
8. Roman Empire
9. Native American Homes
10. Political Leaders
11. Seven Continents
12. Rivers of Early Civilizations
Out of those, we had only covered Native American Homes and the Seven Continents.

Emma and Dad take the early lead.

The box had 4 cards for each of those topics as well as rules for 4 different games. The games are:

  1. Go Fish
  2. Chronology
  3. Geography
  4. Collect the Cards
We have played the Go Fish game and worked on Collect the Cards. Since we don't know the material very well (at least the kids do not), it really amounted to taking turns reading the hints and then giving each other the answer. However, after the first time, each of the kids were claiming cards every couple turns. They were retaining the information just from playing the game! We haven't studied or read books or even filled out worksheets and timelines. They were learning from JUST playing the game. 

When it came time to type out this review, I couldn't find the game. I searched in a panic looking high and low all over the tables and shelves in the room where we had played just the night before. Here's where it was: 

Yes, that is a backpack shaped like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Shell. It is indeed stuffed to the brim with Bionicles, Battle Beasts, a pair of epipens, and twelve pounds of action figures and there, on top of it all, Matthew pulls out the Ancient History Go Fish Game. "Oh yeah, I took it to work with us today, Mom. I thought we might get a chance to play it if we finished our regular school stuff."

{{A little background, A.) The kids go to work with us 2-3 days a week and B.) They haven't finished all of their class work from this school year, so they are still working at least 3 days a week until it is complete.}}
Matthew starts to catch some matches.


What did Mom think?

I liked the content of the games. I liked the ease of game play and the quick rule cards. Each game only has a single card front of rules. The game is fantastic for reviewing the topics you have already covered and touching on the topics you have not hit yet. It also makes a great year in review game.

What would I change? 

I might narrow the time period to specifics. For instance, we are studying American Colonization. I would love a set just for that. Other narrower topics that come to mind: Explorers, The Civil War, Reconstruction, The Industrial Revolution, World War I & II, etc. The games they currently make are great for a year in review type game time, but I think it would be a great help to have a smaller chunk of time covered in a game. 

What did Matthew think?

I won! I loved it! It was a very neat game but I think I will like it even better after we have studied more Ancient History.
Emma is working on her grace when
things do not go her way.

What did Emma think?

I want to play it more times so that I can beat Matthew! He just got lucky at the end of the game and caught all those matches!  {{Like I said, we're working on grace.}}

For other perspectives and reviews of other great history games by Classical Historian, go to Mosaic Reviews and read to your hearts content. Also, we're having a Facebook party on Friday, June 28th, 2013 at Mosaic Reviews Facebook page! I'm sure there will be some great giveaways and some great advice! Go check it out!