8/23/14

5 Random Quirky Cat Habits

I know it’s Saturday and a Random 5 on Friday just doesn’t really flow on Saturday but this is certainly not the first time I’ve posted a Random 5 on Friday on a Saturday. I also need a q topic for ABC Blogging so this post has a theme.

Cats are, I think, quirky by nature but some some kitty habits are strange even by cat standards. As a married couple Honeybear and I have adopted 4 cats and had one cat adopt us. Each cat has been completely different in personality and each one has had a least one quirky habit!

Quirky Cat Habits from Circling Through This Life

1. Cats like to play. That’s not quirky.  Cats like to jump up on things.  That’s not quirky. But Daisy liked to play with pens. She loved them. She loved to bat them all over the floor and chase them. She preferred pens or pencils over traditional cat toys like balls of string.  What made her really fascinating to watch: she would help herself to her toys. She would jump up on the desk, pull a pen out of the cup, drop it on the floor, jump down and begin her play session.

2. Mo was our first cat. He did not like Honeybear. He tolerated me.  He did seem to think Boobear was ok.  Mo liked to escape from the house. It was like he had to get away from us.  The quirky part?  He always came back.  He didn’t seem to like us and we thought he was running away the first couple of times but he always came home.

3. George is buff colored tabby.  He’s a big cat.  He likes to eat. I mean he loves to eat. He gets so excited and vocal about his food. His litter mate, Lacy enjoys her food but she is much more “normal”.  She’ll meow a bit and rub against your leg and then wait, nearly patiently, for you to fill her dish.  I think she exemplifies normal about-to-be-fed kitty behavior. George?  He paces.  He yowls,  He rubs against you.  He tries to climb the counter.  He tries to climb your leg.  He wants his food and he wants it NOW. 

5 Random Quirky Cat Habits at Circling Through This Life ~ Mittens

4.  Speaking of eating and George.  He has another strange eating habit or rather about to eat habit. If I am in the bathroom (you know taking care of nature’s call), he *must* rub against my leg and be petted before he will eat his food. He will sit in front of the toilet and wait.  He won’t move until I pet him. He’s worse than my children.  I cannot go to the bathroom alone. He seems to just know when I have “to go” and follow me.

5.  Daisy had a thing for Arby’s roast beef.  At least that was meat.  Otherwise she just wasn’t too interested in people food.  Lacy doesn’t seem to care about people food either though I suspect she likes yogurt as I have found a yogurt container left on the table licked clean. But the quirky cat thing?  That’s George again. He loves fresh lettuce leaves and canned green beans. You can not leave lettuce out. We often get fresh lettuce from the Farmer’s Market or Bountiful Baskets.  If you leave it on the floor while unpacking, better make sure he is not around.  We discovered his love of green beans when he decided to help himself to Supergirl’s dinner. Thankfully she was finished.

Lacey’s personality seems to be pretty much typical cat.  She likes to hide.  She likes to squeeze into tiny spaces and her favorite thing to do is sit in a box. Any box will do but the smaller the better. She and her litter mate George seem so different it’s hard to believe they are siblings!  Mittens was a stray who adopted us. She was completely an outdoor cat but she loved us and we loved her. We think she met an untimely death from a coyote. She either wasn’t around long enough to express her own quirkiness or she was like Lacey and was another example of “typical cat.”

The Pebble Pond

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Blogging Through the Alphabet

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8/22/14

Downloadable Math Drill Software: UberSmart Math Facts {A Crew Review}

Mastering basic facts can be a chore. A student might master the concept of addition or subtraction but still need lots of practice and reinforcement to memorize the math facts. A common method to achieve memorization includes drill with flashcards. In this digital age you can also find online programs to drill those math facts. Many of those drill programs are flashy, colorful and are more “game oriented” than learning oriented. Usually those programs require a subscription because they are entirely internet based.

UberSmart Math Facts~ Downloadable Software ~ A Review

UberSmart Math Facts from UberSmart Software is different. This Downloadable software comes with a license that allows you to install on all your [Windows based] computers. It is a computerized flashcard based drill program. There are no flashy characters.  No quests to perform. No animation that can distract students. That sounds boring, doesn’t it? But it’s not boring. Really. Three of my girls used this program and I played around it.  Not once did I hear “mom, this is boring. I don’t want to do this.”  I like that it is focuses on the facts and not on gimmicky games to entice children to want to play. My girls were motivated to complete the problems because they liked the encouraging notes.

I really enjoyed practicing with UberSmart Math. I liked how encouraging the messages were after you completed a round of the flashcards. I think that makes the program that much more enjoyable. I like the way they do the intermediate mastery tests. ~ Turtlegirl

Encouraging Messages ~ UberSmart Math Facts ~ Review by Tess

UberSmart Math Facts is also different because it doesn’t just drill the facts. There are two modes: Learning and Practice, and two levels: Beginner and Intermediate. The Beginner level uses dots and the Intermediate level uses a more traditional looking flashcard. With the dot cards you can choose to show the numbers with the dots.

In addition to the learning and practicing by drill, the program also offers keyboard entry practice. One of my hang ups about using the computer to drill math facts with young children is the student is often unfamiliar with the keyboard and has to hunt and peck for those numbers which slows them down. UberSmart has a Keyboard Entry listed under the Practice tab. I’ve been refreshing my 10 Key skills (see that screen shot above? That’s me.  Fast but not quite accurate.) You do not need to have a keyboard with the numbers on the right.  The number row of a standard QWERTY keyboard work just as well and still offer the student the opportunity to learn the location of those number keys. 

Key features I really appreciate!:

  • Parent can track student progress ~  There are several reports parents and students can view including mastery charts, test scores (grade book), progress reports, mastery dates, and competition achievements. You can even print the grade book! Some reports can be exported.

Progress Report ~ UberSmart Math Facts Review by Tess

  • Assessment & Mastery Tests ~  The Tests tab has both Assessment Tests so you can know what you need to do and Mastery Tests so that you know when you’ve mastered a set of facts.
  • It is downloadable!~ I love that this is a one time purchase with a license to use it on all the [Windows based] computers we own. I installed this on Turtlegirl’s laptop and Tailorbear’s laptop as well my own. When Supergirl is a little more independent I can install it on her computer but she will have to start over as her progress is stored on my laptop.
  • Admin Password ~  Even though this is installed on my students’ laptop, They cannot make changes because it is admin password protected. The Admin can add students, remove students and change student settings.
  • Student Settings ~ The admin can customize some settings such as upper limits for multiplication and division, time per problem, and mastery speed. 

There is a feature that I cant decide if I like it or not: Full Screen. I like that it blocks out the computer desktop which can be distracting, but I do wish that it actually made the program screen larger. I was hoping when I set it to Full Screen that the size of the flashcards would be larger but all it really does is create a different, math related background.

Regular Screen vesus Full Screen ~ UberSmart Math Facts ~ Review by Tess

UberSmart is a great drill program. It’s especially good for the harder concepts like Multiplication and division. I have always had trouble with multiplying twelves. I really like how easy it was to learn them and to practice them. I also like the way that you can practice your number typing speed! That was really cool! ~ Tailorbear 

The Details:

  • The Vender:  UberSmart Software
  • The Product: UberSmart Math Facts 
  • Format: Downloadable Software
  • Age Range: Although this is geared for K or 1st through 6th grade it is appropriate for any one who needs to mastery the four basic operations or who just wants to improve their speed.
  • Price: $24.95 
  • NOTE:  This is only available for Windows (XP, Vista, 7, 8).  According to the FAQ page there are no plans for a MAC version.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read what others have to say about UberSmart Math Facts.  

This Graphic contains the FTC Regulations statement for Reviews.

All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews to find more great products.

8/18/14

Back to School Celebration Giveaway

My friend Karen from Tots and Me is celebrating both back to school and her 5 year Blogiversary. I am so excited to co-host this giveaway with her! She’s giving away a set of Supergirl’s favorite DVDs! Fascinating World of Series from Brain Food Learning. I think this giveaway is worth entering just for a chance to win those!  And we co-hosts are offering your choice of a $30 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal!  You know you want to enter!  I almost wish I wasn’t participating so I could win a copy of The Well Planned Day. I reviewed an earlier edition of The Reading Game. How cool that they have a 2nd edition now.  So check out the great products that Tots and Me put together! Have you used any of these products before?
 
Welcome to the Back to School/5 Year Blogiversary Giveaway

Hosted by: Tots and Me

Back to school time is here! 
 
The summer, once again, just flew by and now it is time to think about school books, schedules, and learning. No matter how your children are schooled, there are plenty of goodies in this prize pack to stimulate those brains and get them learning.
 
Let me introduce you to the wonderful sponsors of this giveaway.
 
 
One winner will win this entire Back to School Prize Pack valued at approximately $370. The winner will receive:
 
Winner's Choice FunBites Cutter for some kitchen fun. You can choose between triangles, squares, and hearts.
(Read the review here)
 
 
Rock 'n Learn Learn a Language DVD to begin learning a foreign language (or Winner's Choice of a Rock 'n Learn DVD)
(Read the review here)
 
 
Crazy Legs from Endless Games for some get-up-and-move fun. Great for phys. ed. time.
(Read the review here)
 
 
Korner'd from Endless Games for those times you want a challenge and some family fun.
(Read the Review here)
 
 
Pencil Sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies, because we have to keep those pencils sharp to get the work done.
(Read the review here)
 
 
Battle Sheep from Blue Orange Games for family fun and sharpening your strategy skills.
(Read the review here)
 
 
The Reading Game- The fast action memory game with picture flashcards and story books, to help your child learn to read.
(Read the Review here)
 
 
1 Year membership to ABC Twiggles for multi-sensory ABC Learning Fun
(Read the review here)
 
 
Winner's Choice of 1 Learning Activity Kid from Fundanoodle.
Choose between I Can Build Upper Case Letters! and I Can Bead, Lace, Rip, Trace!
(Read the review here)
 
 
A set of 3 Fascinating World of . . . DVD's from BrainFood Learning. Learn about Insects, Mammals and Birds.
(Read the review here)
 
 
1 Year Access to the News-O-Matic app from Press4Kids- The Daily News Experience, Just For Kids.
(Read the review here)
 
 
The Well Planned Day 2014-2015 Family Homeschool Planner from Home Educating Family Association (hedua)- To keep your day organized
(Read the review here)
 
 
A 1 Year subscription to Math World from 10Monkeys.com- For math fun for children in K through 3rd grade.
(Read the review here)
 
 
A digital/eBook copy of both the Wild at the Zoo Adventure Pack and Bugging Around: Insects from KidQuest Science Adventures for more science fun.
(Read the review here)


A Cooking Box from Raddish to encourage learning in the kitchen.
(Read the Sponsor Spotlight here, and stay tuned for the full review which will be coming in the near future, as I only just received the product and we haven't had a chance to use it.)


All you need to do is enter in the Rafflecopter form below. There are only 4 simple mandatory entries, with the remainder of the entries being optional. Remember, you do not have to do the extra entries, but they will increase your odds of winning.

This giveaway is open to US residents 18 and over.
The giveaway runs August 18th through August 31st.
All entries are subject to verification.

Thanks for stopping by, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Tots and Me received the above mentioned products for free in order to conduct thorough reviews.  Tots and Me  received no further compensation. This did not in any way influence her reviews. As with all her reviews, the Back to School reviews reflect her own honest experience and opinion. She only recommends products or services she use personally and believes will be good for her readers. All opinions are her own.

The participating bloggers did not receive any compensation and are not responsible for shipping any prizes. Tots and Me is only responsible for shipping The Fascinating World of Insects DVD from BrainFood Learning, all other prizes will be shipped from the sponsors.

8/17/14

Making Do Without a Homeschool Room

I have always wanted a separate space for homeschooling.  A place where we could have everything set up and not worry about it wandering all over the house.  A room with a door so we could exit the room, close the door, and not see the in progress experiments or drying art projects.  A space large enough with a comfy couch for snuggling and read alouds yet also big enough for a big dining room table for experiments and “seat work.”  Oh and of course plenty of shelf space for great books. I’d love a closet to store book supplies.  Oh and a desk for mom with space for a computer, printer, copier and scanner.

Yes that was my fantasy.  My reality?  We live in an 1100 square foot 3 bedroom house with no attic, no basement and no dedicated storage space.  2 parents, 4 children and 2 cats.  We moved here when my oldest was in Kindergarten.  She’s about to start her sophomore year in college. The girls were so little that we put all four of them into one bedroom.  We tried using the 3rd bedroom as a school room but it didn’t work for me.  There was not enough room for what I wanted and the littlest ones were too much underfoot.  It felt cramped and claustrophobic.  We quickly converted the “schoolroom” into a “playroom.”   This worked for us for many years as a way to contain the toys.  Today that room is a bedroom.  The 15 and “neurotypical” 17 year share that room.  The college girl and Supergirl, my developmentally delayed 17 year old, share the bedroom they once all shared.

Making Do Without A Homeschool Room ~ Circling Through This Life

In my reality, I have no space that I can dedicate completely to home schooling. I do think it is important to create a distinction being school time and non-school time. I also think it is important to find a balance.  I never wanted home school to be “school at home,” but I also didn’t want to be so relaxed that we had no structure or discipline.

I’ve thought about using the family room as the school room but couldn’t quite bring myself to give up the family room.  Our living room is too open.  I think of it as our library and music center: bookcases, couch, rocking chair and piano.

I do like using the dining room table for seat work, especially when teaching handwriting. For many years we did reading aloud in the living room.  Now we tend to do reading aloud in the family room since the futon is gone and we moved the larger couch from the living room to the family room. Science was done at the dining room table or the kitchen counter.  DVD Lessons happen in the family room.

Turtlegirl’s favorite place to do school is the kitchen counter. She has many computer based courses and she sets up her laptop and her notebooks. It keeps her accountable because I can see her and because we have to have the counter to make dinner, she stays on top of putting her work away which means she is less likely to lose her notebooks. She does have literature books to read and she does move to a couch for those.

Supergirl sits at the table for her school work

Supergirl and I sit at the the dining room table to do her work. She has a special chair that allows her to be the right height for the table and gives support for her feet so they are not just dangling. This is optimal for her as she learns to write.  We move to the loveseat in the living room or the couch in the family room for snuggling, reading practice and mom’s reading aloud.

Tailorbear is my wanderer. She loves to do her reading and questions for history on a couch but I make her sit at the table to do her computer based classes.  Sometimes she likes to go to my bed do her literature readings. I think she likes my room because George the Cat will seek her out there and snuggle with her while she reads.

Tailorbear working at the dining room table.

Our dinning room is the closest thing to a centralized school location. We have a tall wooden cabinet, a small wooden cabinet, a tall bookcase which holds resources and magazine racks with notebooks and workbooks, a short bookcase, and a wooden frame that holds bins.

What I’ve learned in 18 years of homeschooling: a separate, dedicated space isn’t necessary. The dining room table, kitchen counter, living room couch, bed, or floor all work just fine. We just have to be a bit more diligent in putting away our school things at the the end of the day so that we can make dinner and have family time. I think having a home school house instead of a home school room emphasizes the idea that learning and education are not confined to a classroom or set hours of the day. But I still long for a place to stash all of our stuff!

You might want to check out my post I Need Organization to Keep My Sanity! and Organizing my Home School Stuff. Do you have a dedicated home school space? Are you like me and school everywhere in the house?  Does that work for you?

Schoolhouse Review Crew Carnival Homeschool Classrooms

8/15/14

First Day Traditions ~ Back to Homeschool Blog Hop

As I said earlier this week, we have tended towards a year-round/take-as-much-time as-we-need approach to home schooling when the girls were younger. There is just something about taking a least a couple of weeks off at the end of summer before beginning a new school year.

Back to Home School Blog Hop Day 5 First Day of School Traditions

We’re odd ducks here because I call it the first day of school and it is the start of a new school calendar but we might not actually be starting new curriculum. We might just be picking up where we left off. (For Turtlegirl, especially, we are not really starting anything new in September.)  But I want there to be something different.  Something special.  Something that marks the changing of one school year to another.

One thing that I have always done was, to quote Turtlegirl, “pass out pretty new school supplies like new pencils and notebooks.  That’s always my favorite.”  BooBear remembers that back when we used Sonlight I would often save “Box Day,” the opening of the box with all the wonderful new books, for the first day of school.

Most years I do take First Day of School pictures.  Tailorbear tells me that she doesn’t necessarily like those but she does like the school supplies. I am planning to take first day of school pictures again this year. Sorry Tailorbear you’re stuck!

First Day Of School Traditions Pictures

Some years we would go out to dinner and there has been a time or two when we’ve gone out for breakfast. This year we’ll have a big breakfast. I’m thinking waffles and sausage or waffles and bacon. Our official first day is September 1st which happens to be Labor Day so I suspect bacon cheeseburgers will be on the menu with my baked potato salad.

It is our tradition to take that first day and set up notebooks and organize the magazine racks that hold spiral notebooks and workbooks. This year, in addition to passing out color coded spiral notebooks, I’ll be handing a Student Log Book to Turtlegirl and a customized student planner to Tailorbear.

Speaking of color-coded spiral notebooks let me take a moment to tell you what I mean. Each summer, during the back to school sales, I pick up several spiral notebooks. I pick up about 10 in 4 3 colors so that each daughter has her own set. We can tell at a glance whose notebook is lying around by the color of the cover. I also like having colored post it tabs and note pads, and highlighters to help me see at a glance who is leaving me a note, or where each girl is in a shared book. I even use those same colors to color-code the girls in Homeschool Tracker!

First Day Traditions Back to School Photos 2013

I just want the first day of school to be fun, memorable, and set a positive tone for our school year. Do you have any special traditions for your First Day of School?

Schoolhouse Review Crew Back to Homeschool GIVEWAY!

 Don’t forget to enter the Back to Homeschool Giveaway.  Over $1300 in prizes!  There will be two winners selected.  Prizes include PayPal Cash!

Over 50 Schoolhouse Review Crew Bloggers are participating in the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop!

First check out these Schoolhouse Review Crew Bloggers:

Dawn @ Double O Farms
Lisa Marie @ The Canadian Homeschooler
Lexi @ Lextin Academy
Karen @ My Harbor Lights
Jen @ Happy Little Homemaker
Joanie @ Simple Living Mama
Lisa @ Home to 4 Kiddos
Lori @ Home: where life happens

Then click on the banner below to read even more Back To Homeschool Posts from the Schoolhouse Review Crew!

Back to Homeschool Blog Hop