Finding Our New Groove

No matter how smoothly the days are running, you always reach a point when you need to find a new groove. Children mature, schedules change, and well,  life happens. We are in the midst of that transition time right now as their are shifts happening in our home.

My oldest daughter has been taking two classes at the community college and takes her finals tomorrow. She will have a couple of weeks off before summer classes began. For summer classes she opted for the online option. This is a bonus for me because now I don’t have to take her to and from class. It has really eaten a chunk of time each week that seems to throw those days off balance. Summer will fly by and that means we need to have plans lined up for her senior year. Hard for to grasp some days!

While my oldest sees the end in sight, I have another high school student preparing to take college classes in the fall. A couple of middle schoolers that need a bit more encouragement for independent work. Elementary level kiddos who just seem to soak up so much information and want more and more. Teaching my kindergarten guy to read, working with my preschooler and trying to keep up with a super active 23 month old.

Needless to say my days are full and never boring. Unfortunately they are not flowing well. They seem jumbled, messy, inefficient. So we are working on a new groove. Balancing the needs of various ages and stages. Making sure the important aspects of learning and living are not pushed aside. Finding joy in the everyday and ordinary.

So the blog has been a bit quiet. By the end of the day, I just want to curl up into bed and enjoy a chapter of a good book Books may be my one weakness, you know. I believe they are feeling sorely neglected. Hopefully when I finalize a few plans I will share here. Perhaps my new groove will encourage someone trying to find theirs.

But for now I think I will take a moment with a good book and give my brain a break from all the planning.

The Key to Extraordinary

Two years ago I read aloud A Snicker of Magic (Natalie Lloyd) to my children and we all loved it immensely. Who could resist Felicity and her love of words? Midnight Gulch, with its magic and ice cream, was a town you just wanted to visit. I was interested to see future books by Ms. Lloyd. Several weeks ago I was scanning the library shelves for a few good books to take home and the spine of a book caught my eye. Something about the colors and the style pulled at my memories.

Ah, Natalie Lloyd had written a new book and somehow I had missed this news! The Key to Extraordinary was released in February of this year. I was surprised to find it tucked snugly between other books instead of on display with fellow new publications. My plan was to read it aloud but we were deep in the middle of a couple other read alouds so the timing was off. Naturally I did what any book lover would do and read it for myself. And I must say that is was a delightful read.

Emma lives with her Granny Blue (who drives a motorcycle)  and helps run the Boneyard Cafe. (An appropriate name when you are next to a cemetery). If you stop by the Cafe on Saturday, Emma will take you on a guided tour of the cemetery. The tour ends with a delicious cookie courtesy of the Cafe.

While Emma is a spunky, adventurous, quirky girl who is growing concerned that she will never have her Destiny Dream. A couple of years before, Emma’s mother passed away leaving Emma with a family legacy. Emma was a Wildflower like so many before her. This means that Emma will have a Destiny Dream and that dream will reveal to Emma her destiny, her gift, her purpose. Emma longs for the dream to come so she doesn’t fail her mother and the other Wildflowers.

And how will Granny Blue and Emma save the Boneyard Cafe? Times are hard and Granny Blue is struggling to keep the Cafe open for business. This is Emma’s home, full of memories of her mom, she can’t bear the thought of it being gone.

As with A Snicker of Magic, Lloyd once again brings us engaging, delightful, fun characters along with beautiful words and witty humor that will have you laughing and smiling as you read. I will confess that I even teared up once or twice. This is a story of family and friendship. About realizing that it is the small, ordinary moments in life that are important and life changing. And your destiny? Well, you’ll have to wait and read.

There is a theme of magic woven through out this story. Emma is convinced there is a ghost that visits the Boneyard Cafe but she can never catch him. It usually ends up being her brother making the magical, special hot chocolate; Granny Blue’s secret brew.  There are magical plants that can carry messages through the years. The magic is really love and friendship and memories living and moving around us.

After I finished, Extraordinary worked its way through the female readers in our home. My 10 and 12 year old daughters loved it. My ten year old daughter loves to read but is extremely selective about what engages her.  She said that she loved The Key to Extraordinary more than A Snicker of Magic because this one has more adventure. She also observed a fact that I missed. A character from A Snicker of Magic pops up in The Key to Extraordinary. I totally missed it!

Even my teen girls read and enjoyed The Key to Extraordinary. No matter your age who can resist a wonderfully told story of friendship, destiny, and hot chocolate? I think you should read it and let me know what you think.

A+ Interactive Math – Review

For the past several weeks, we have been using Math Mini-Courses provided for review from A+ Interactive Math. After teaching more than one child math over the years, I have learned a very important lesson: mastering the basics of math builds a firm foundation for higher math courses. To help a couple of my children work toward that mastery we have been utilizing two Math Mini-Courses: Early Elementary Addition and Elementary & Middle School Multiplication.

What are Math Mini-Courses?

Math Mini-Courses are exactly what the name suggests. As our children are progressing in math, we may notice weaker areas or gaps in learning and mastery. It happens at all levels of learning. Taking a break from moving forward and spending a bit of time in review and practice is often a wise and prudent choice. Math Mini-Courses were designed for this purpose. With a selection of 20 mini-courses, meeting the needs of Grades 1 – 6,  Math Mini-Course can help with the review and mastery of counting and place value to probability and statistics. Depending on the child, completion of the mini-courses could be accomplished in a couple of months, but a full year’s access is given so the student can freely progress as his/her own pace.

How do the Math Mini-Courses Work?

Math Mini-Courses from A+ Interactive are very simple to use. When the child is ready to work on math, she simply clicks the “launch” button and comes to her dashboard. From here she can choose to do the next online lesson, complete an online worksheet for extra practice, or perhaps she is ready to complete an online test. There is also an option for a worksheet to be printed for the lesson. Another feature that can be helpful for some students is the option to print out a PDF of the lesson. It is a print version of the online lesson that was viewed. This can be really helpful for when the student might need a quick refresher on a specific topic or method.  I know some of my children are like me and retain information better that they have read.

How Did Math Mini-Courses Work for Us?

I had two children using the Math Mini-Courses. Sarah, 8, has been working through the Early Elementary Addition Mini-Course. This course is designed for Grades 1 -3 and presents 17 Lessons. In these 17 Lessons topics from how to use an addition table to adding three digits numbers is presented in an interactive format. After viewing the current topic, Sarah would then move on to an interactive online worksheet. Sarah is not a confident reader, so having the questions read to her was extremely beneficial. She didn’t have to put her focus and energy into deciphering words but could just focus on the math task at hand.

Sarah is a bit behind in math so she is moving through the program slowly. She came to the topic on Adding with Re-Grouping and hit a bit of a wall. She was definitely feeling stressed and was almost in tears when she did poorly on the interactive worksheet. We had a nice chat about working at our own pace. I had her do an online worksheet and I also printed the available worksheet as well. Thankfully, since we have a full year’s access, we can take our time on re-grouping before pushing ahead. I”m not sure how it would be for other Math Mini-Courses but while we are working on re-grouping, we moved a head a bit to other topics like Find 10 More.

The second Math Mini-Course used was Elementary Middle School Multiplication for Grade 2 – 6. Hannah has been using this 13 Lesson mini-course to firm up on her multiplication skills. With this course Hannah has been reviewing the basics of multiplication and then moving on to multiplication with 3, 4, 5 digit numbers. For Hannah, this mini-course is serving as reinforcement for her current math studies. The online interactive portion of the course has been enough for Hannah and we have not used any of the printable material.

Our Final Thoughts

It is no secret that I struggle with online instruction especially for my younger students. Independent learning is wonderful but I think it definitely has a time and place. For us, the Math Mini-Courses have been a bit difficult. With the online lessons, the topic can be presented in only one way. If Sarah doesn’t understand it today, tomorrow she is going to have to watch the same lesson. And still not understand. It serves as a great review but if the topic is somewhat new, the lesson wasn’t really beneficial. Children learn in different ways. To use these courses to the fullest potential you really need to know how your student best learns. And know when to slow down. Sarah uses the program about three times a week but progress is slow.

Hannah, 10, started out using her Math Mini-Course on multiplication about three days a week. Then she requested that she only have to do it one day a week. She stated that she preferred her regular math book. She found the interactive video a bit annoying and preferred for me to explain the math to her. It bothered her that if she got a question wrong on the interactive worksheet, the program would tell her the right answer, and then the results showed she made a 100 when really she didn’t. She is moving forward and with only 13 Lessons she will be done soon.

Overall, I think A+ Interactive’s Math Mini-Courses serve a great purpose. Gaps are going to happen. Review is going to be needed at times. Having options and resources to help our students during these times is great. I can see Math Mini-Courses working well to refresh a student’s mind after a school holiday or summer break. Perhaps before moving up the next grade level of math, the student needs to reacquaint herself with a few fundamentals.  Although the Math Mini-Courses were not a perfect match for my two students, we are tweaking them and making them work for us.

Other Crew Members reviewed a variety of the 20 Math Mini-Courses offered. Take a moment and see what others are saying about A+ Interactive’s Math Mini-Courses.


Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}
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