Sunday, June 28, 2015

When momma has had enough, the whole house knows it.

So....we experienced an "episode" at my home. You know what I am talking about. One of those moments when mother dear has just flat out had ENOUGH! Yes, it was an "enough" moment. Let me preface this by say, I love my family . . . and this includes the fur family as well. I am mom to a cute as can be teeny tiny miniature dachshund. seriously, he's just the cutest. See him right there, looking all cute and stuff? Yeah...ok, so he's also a nervous pee'er. You know the kind, when you go to pick them up and they tinkle a bit. Yep, that's him. I've managed to help him through his anxiety tinkles for the most part, but we do have the occasional "OMG WHAT JUST HAPPENED" tinkle when someone goes to pick him up or pet him unexpectedly. And that is what set off Mom Crazy June 2015. My son, God love his heart, had gone upstairs to MY bedroom, found the above cute dog on MY bed, and went to "love" on him. Now, this could be a gentle pat on the head, or it could be a hug that will leave him thinking he's the newest "cuppy cake" I have no idea which type of "love" was administered to the poor, unsuspected pup....but it left it's mark on my bed. and that's when I'd had it. My son came down, demanding I put the dog in his box. That's it. I was over it. So...Here's a list of grievances that my family was introduced to, in a most unflattering and unmommy like manner, tonight.

1.) The dog is not to be on my bed again. At all. Period.

2.) When I say I need some quiet time. That means I need that time to actually be quiet. Not in a room with WWE on, and hearing, "Babe look at this."  "Babe did you see that?" "Mommy can I?" "Mommy can you?" It is QUIET time...just me....not everyone else. ME!

3.) If it is broken, I probably can't fix it. If I can fix it, and I'm busy, it can wait. If I am busy, and I'm pestered 10000000000 times over it, I will NOT fix a matter of principle.

4.) I will only answer the SAME question 3 times. 4th time I will not be nice about it. 5th time I'm ignoring you. Simple as that. Autism or not, they said you'd never proved them wrong. If you can learn how to speak, then you will learn how to accept an answer the first 3 times. Doesn't matter how many different ways it is asked, the answer will remain the same. A no is a no, a yes is a yes, and an I don't know will still be an I don't know. Let it go.

5.)  If it has anything to do with your computer or the game on the computer, go directly to the step dad. Do not ask me. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.00. I don't know. I won't know. And even if I do know, I won't be able to explain it. Don't even bother.

6.) If it is lost, don't ask me to find it. You should have kept up with it better. If you have exhausted all efforts to locate the missing article/item, I will then help you . . . in search party fashion, to find the missing "thing." Until then, no.

And finally 7.) If I say go upstairs...just go. Realize that I am only human. I take care of the house, do all of the errand, make sure the bills are paid, food is bought, cooked, and then cleaned up, I take care of all of the pets, all of the extended family stuff that pops up, work, blog, teach, and so much more. If I ask every now and then for just an hour to try to rest and regroup, please understand that I am doing it not only for my own sanity, but for yours as well.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday 5

1.) I have to have the cold side of the pillow.

2.) I want to learn couponing.

3.) I LOVE spell check.

4.) I think I would like to go back for my master's degree, but I worry my old professors will think I'm nuts.

5.) I kind of like cheesy reality TV....sometimes.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

This day in History June 24

1314 - Battle of Bannockburn; Scotland regains

independence from England.

For a fun study of this topic, you should REALLY check out "In Freedom's Cause" I just happen to have a review of it HERE: Heirloom Audio's In Freedom's Cause.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Circle C Adventures: Tales From the Circle C Review

Tales of the Circle C Ranch Bookk Review
Until this review, I had not read anything by Susan K. Marlow, so when I was given the opportunity to review Circle C Adventures book "Tales From the Circle C Ranch" I had no idea what to expect. Circle C Ranch is the home of Andrea Carter, also known as Andi. This series of books explores Andi's life as she grows up from a young little girl (about 6 years old) and follows her 1800s life as she grows into a young lady. "Tales From the Circle C Ranch" is a collection of short stories that are written as a result of readers' questions. They are arranged chronologically, and the beginning of each story tells you where it would fall in the book series. The stories included are:
Part One: The Early Years:
1.) Britches Are Not for Little Girls
2.) The Best Gift of All
3.) Aunt Rebecca and the Hat
4.) White Christmas

Part Two: The In-Between Years:
5.) Prince Loco, Chad's Crazy Horse
6.) Hurrah for the Forth of July!
7.) A Matter of Honor
8.) Snakes Alive!
9.) Virginia's Riding Lesson
10.) Where the Trees Meet the Bay
11.) Adios, Jeffrey Sullivan

For this review, I received one 151-page paperback copy of "Tales from the Cicle C Ranch" written by Susan K. Marlow, and published by Kregel Publications, a division of Kregel, Inc., Grand Rapids, MI. The front cover is illustrated by Leslie Cammelgaard, and the rest of the illustrations are by Melissa McConnell. ISBN: 978-0-8254-4379-4

We also received a PDF copy of the accompanying lapbook. The "Andrea Carter's Tales from the Circle C Ranch Learning Lapbook" can be purchased separately, and is a great addition to the book! 

Tales of the Circle C Ranch Bookk Review
As I mentioned above, I had not experienced any of the books based on Andi and the Circle C Ranch until this review, so I was not really sure what to expect. I received the book, and had intended to read it as a bedtime story to my son-one short story each night. These stories are so engaging, and so entertaining, that we couldn't stop with just one. Susan K. Marlow's writing draws you into the story, and helps you to develop a true connection to the characters in such a way that you don't want to stop reading. These short stories are written in a way that is more like some one is sitting around telling of a specific incident that happened to them. One of my most favorite things growing up, and one of my most cherished memories, was sitting around at night listening to my dad and his brothers tell stories of them growing up, and even after they had grown up. For example, my two uncles shared a house together for a while and one of them just HAD to have a goat to tie outside to help maintain the property (rural farm land.) They had fixed themselves a really nice Thanksgiving dinner, and after they had eaten some one left for a bit and the other decided to take a nap. Something happened, and that goat got loose, got into the house, and ate all of their Thanksgiving dinner! This book, and the way it is written reminds me so much of those stories, and brings back such fond memories of my dad and his brothers, that it's impossible for me to not love it.

The first story in the book, "Britches Are Not for Little Girls," really hit home for me. I was a tomboy growing up with a daddy very similar to Andi's. Her dad is very much the type to dismiss social norms in favor of doing things his own way. It is against proper social rules for Andi, a young lady of prominent standing, to wear "britches" or ride a horse in her dresses letting her legs show. So a new friend offers her his overalls, which she takes as a perfect solution to her riding problems. She very much enjoys riding around the ranch with her dad, legs showing and skirt tale flying, but her aunt from the city is very much against it and this puts a lot of pressure on her mother. Her father laughs and says they are hundreds and thousands of miles away from those who take issue with little girls wearing pants, and it's safer and better for her to wear the overalls rather than get her dresses dirty-Or risk injury by riding sidesaddle. This is something my own dad would have said. He was very much a practical minded person who put logic and practicality over fashion rules. And like my own dad, Andi's father died when she was still young. It was her overalls that helped her cope with the pain of losing her dad, like my dad's stories and cowboy hats helped me. 
It's that type of connection that makes these stories so great. You get drawn into each story as if you are really there. Each one gives you a glimpse of what life was like in the 1800s, the customs, the social rules, the family dynamics....all of that is seen in Tales From the Circle C Ranch. 

We have not put together the lapbook yet. I wanted to do an initial reading first, then discuss the main point of each story in more detail while working on the lapbook. For example, with the first story we have been talking about social rules for the way people dress. So we have finished that aspect of the lapbook and discussed how little boys and girls were often dressed the same due to costs and ease of toilet training. Then we jumped a bit to "Snake's Alive," and now we're on "Aunt Rebecca and The Hat" since I've been doing a lot of photography work, this is the topic of the day. We've really gotten into the "History of Photography" thanks to this, so I expect we will be spending a great deal more time exploring the history of photography, and looking at old photos. 
The lapbook is a fun, hands on way, to bring this book to life and delve deeper into the study of history from the time period of the 1800s, and more. For example, in the section that covers "Aunt Rebecca and the Hat" your student will be asked such things as "What two Greek words make up Photography." Or "Why did a photographer cover himself and his camera with a black cloth?" Critical thinking questions like that can be used to bring a new level of learning to an already great book.


Overall, Susan K. Marlow does a fantastic job of writing a companion book that can really stand on its own, and is a fun way of learning about American History during the 1800s. We did not feel lost or confused at all. I was concerned that we would feel like something was missing due to the fact we've not read any of the others, but that wasn't the case at all. This book is a great example of how reader feedback and questions can influence an author, since this book is an answer to numerous reader questions and comments. We have thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it if you have not read any of the Circle C Adventures books! This would be a great way to test the waters! And if you have, this is a great way to revisit old friends!

Social Media:

Dynamic Literacy Review
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Monday, June 22, 2015

SmartKidz Media Review

SmartKidz Media Review
     A few weeks ago I was given the chance to do a review for SmartKidz Media. I integrate media clips and electronic learning options into our homeschool on a regular basis, so I knew the  SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers would be a huge hit with our family. And boy was I right! We have enjoyed our time with SmartKidz Media so much, it has become both an educational AND an entertainment staple in our home! For this review, we received membership access for 1 year. 

     SmartKidz Media is an online streaming library of sorts. You will find a HUGE (and I mean HUUUUUGE) assortment of videos and documentaries, Mighty eBooks, music of all kinds, games, etc. They are adding to the choices regularly, so there seems to always be something new. Just recently we discovered history videos had been added, and more are scheduled to be added soon! You can stream via your PC, Wii or other game console that allows for web browsing, tablets, Roku, Mac, phones, etc. You WILL need a high speed internet connection. 


There are so many topics and choices offered by SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers, that I can't even begin to list them all here on my blog. Here is a screen snip of the menu to show you the assorted MAIN topics. Now, within these main topics are subtopics, and within the subtopics are a variety of choices.

Here is what the drop down menu looks like. As you can see, this is the drop down for "World of Discovery." There is a very long list of choices here. For this review, I chose to picture "Science" as it has been one of Mr. B's favorites. 

So once we select "Science" we have a selection to choose from under that subtopic. "Bizarre Science" was a lot of fun, "how did they make that" is really interesting and shows a great deal of engineering. Right now, we are watching "Our World" as I type up this review. It is all about the Planet Earth. For example, it shows what NYC would  have looked like during the Ice Age, then it goes on to say the temps would have only been about four degrees lower worldwide than they are currently! 

SmartKidz Media also has a section dedicated to special needs learning. 

Here is a sampling that shows a few of the interactive books available for Special Needs learners. The books are interactive, and a lot of fun. Plus they teach real life skills that are important in the special needs world. 


Here are more interactive books. These books are really great because they are multi-sensory. The books are read aloud to you/your student, words are highlighted, there is a picture/video clip, etc. They are really good for teaching daily skills lessons, and to use as social stories. 

The story songs are a lot of fun, and another great way to tackle skills. 

And here are just a few more choices to choose from under the Special Needs tab. 

Sequencing-Interactive: This was one of my favorite sections. I remember when Mr. B was younger, I used a computer program to make a breakdown of how to do specific tasks such as brushing his teeth. I would print out a picture each step of the way, and we'd go over those steps until he understood what to do on his own. These sequencing interactives take all of that work out of the equation! You can just click on the one you want, and BAM! It's done for you! Your child/student can watch as often as he/she needs. I've posted a couple of screen snips of "The Pizza Book" interactive book to show you just how great these are for special needs. 

They break down each task into individual parts, and say WHY each part needs to be performed. Plus it ties in to any type of PECS system you pay use. See the little PECS like picture on the right side?! AWESOME!

Pretty soon they are going to be adding even more songs to target the special needs population. 

I can't wait!!!!

Technical issues:
If your internet is slower, you may need to allow the videos to "buffer" a bit before proceeding. Also, I almost exclusively used this on our Wii U. I found I had to tap on the pause area, then tap play. Other than that, it worked great on the Wii U!

Does SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers pass my 4 Ingredient Test?

1.) Customization: Is it easily adaptable? Can we customize it to fit “us?” Can we modify or set our own schedule? Can we take breaks, jump ahead, or flat out skip?

Yes! This is a media library, so you can use what you need, when you need it, and as often as you need it! You can "rewind" and "fast forward." You can easily integrate these videos and eBooks into your lesson plans, or discover a new topic of interest and create a lapbook or lesson plan around that. It's really great!

2.) Value: Is it long lasting? Will it cover multiple grade ranges? Are you locked in to one specific grade level? Are there hidden fees?

It covers so much, and on multiple age/grade levels.   As you can see, you can tackle everything from Early Learning to Special Needs, even whole family entertainment and education. I even saw yoga! There are NO hidden fees. You can either be billed monthly, or receive a discount if you choose to pay for 1 year all at once. You can do monthly, currently at $10.00/month, or yearly at $99.00. They also offer a free, 14 day trial that you can utilize to try it for yourself.

3.) Attention span: Is it boring? Is it engaging? Is it varied enough for ADHD? Does it last too long? 

It is definitely NOT boring! There is so much variety, you're bound to find something for everyone! Some videos are longer than others, but many are rather short segments broken into parts (some as short as 10-15 mins, some 30 or 40mins...) Plus, you can pause as needed for breaks if you want or need.

4.) Does it tie into other things we already have.

Oh my Heavens YES! SmartKidz Media has something for every topic! Science, History, etc. It's really great! Today alone we have watched programs that have covered earth science, history, dinosaurs, etc. We received a full year's access, and it will take longer than that to experience everything SmartKidz Media has to offer!

Overall, SmartKidz Media has been a great fit for our family. I am thoroughly impressed with the Special Needs focus, and Mr. B is loving all things science and history found here. I always suggest previewing things before allowing your children to watch, just to make sure they fit your system of beliefs, or so that you don't find yourself with unexpected questions. I haven't personally found anything I wouldn't allow Mr. B to watch, but again....everyone has different opinions on that sort of thing. So any time it involves watching videos, I will always suggest you preview first. Overall, we really, REALLY appreciate and enjoy SmartKidz Media! 
Social Media Links
SmartKidz Media on Facebook 

SmartKidz Media Review

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Water Bottles

A while back, a friend of mine was visiting and she left her water bottle at my house. After looking it over, I found it to be a really nice water bottle, as nice as a water bottle can get haha! I'm not one to use a water bottle, opting to just buy a bottled water on the go. But there was something about hers that I thought was just....neat. Her's is a bright pink, thick glass, twist off lid, and awesome. I thought, wow....this must be a very expensive bottle. Of course, I was too polite and shy to inquire as to the cost of such a cool bottle HAHA! So imagine my surprise, while walking down an off aisle at walmart, trying to bypass other shoppers, when I see her bottle in aqua blue! I was so happy. I had no idea how much it was, since it was just there....all by its lonesome self. But I didn't care! I didn't care if it was $10, or $15, or even $20! I wanted that bottle for my very own! I would be come a water bottle person! So....I grabbed that bottle, and I marched myself right up to the checkout. OMG it was on clearance for $3.00! If there had been more of them I would have gotten another! So in short, I got my bottle, and I used it today. It doesn't hold as much water as I thought it would. It only holds about 20 ounces, but it was just fine for Mr. B and me to take with us on an impromptu outing. I used a water bottle ice pack thingy, so the water stayed really good and cold, the glass insured a pure taste. And we love it! I may now be a water bottle person. 

If you are wondering what bottle this is, it's an Ello brand glass bottle. Here's a photo I found on Amazon for it. You can get it there for $9.99 on amazon prime. I think I'll be on the look out for more glass water bottles! 

Friday 5

1.) I LOVE BBQ! Pulled pork BBQ, BBQ Chicken, BBQ Chops, Shredded Beef BBQ, and I LOOOOVE me some beef brisket! MMMM BBQ!

2.) I HATE sweet tea. Honestly....just...yuck. 

3.) I only slept about 3 hours last night. Go me?

4.) I'm STILL battling this cold! UGH! 

5.) Kleenex cooling touch )or whatever they are called) are the most amazing tissues on the planet. Add a little Vicks to them #Kleenex! Make them AWESOME!

That's my random Friday 5 this week! Let me know yours!!!!!!  God Bless Y'all!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Autism, Sensory and sickies!

My son is always hit with an heightened level of sensory seeking when he is sick. This wee, Mr. B is battling a respiratory infection, and these ALWAYS mean more sensory seeking. Whether it is running, stomping, spinning, or shaking his head, we are battling both the "sickies" and the stimming.

This leads to a lot of issues, since most often the sensory seeking behaviors require a lot of physical work. This leads to asthma flairs which make him feel even worse! So how do we tackle the stimming sickies?

1.) LOTS of redirection. I try to provide him with a large variety of calming activities. Arts and crafts, extra computer time, that sort of thing.

2.) Sensory diet. I will bounce him on the yoga ball, spin him in a chair. Basically, I give him the sensory stimuli he seeks, but do the work for him.

3.) PATIENCE! Patience is so important. He can't help it. And as frustrating as it may be for me to tell him over and over and over, "MR. B. you can't run in the house" it is worse for him because he can't handle the internal battle on his own.

Meds will make it worse. Antibiotics to ward off ear infections or sinus infections, steriods to help the asthma, antihistamines....all of it add to the hyperactivity. Lots of love, and lots of patience...and prayer.

So when your ASDer gets sick, don't feel you are alone when you have to battle the sickies and the stimming at the same time!

Pirate's Code: The Adventures of Mickey Matson DVD REVIEW

Hey all! I received a copy of Pirate's Code: The Adventures of Mickey Matson, a family approved (for all ages) film to review, and I have been so excited about this! Finding wholesome family entertainment seems to be getting more and more difficult today, so I was hopeful Pirate's Code would deliver a great film, and I was right!

The Details: 

Releases on DVD June 2, 2015

91 Minutes // Genre: Adventure // Rating: NR

"In this follow up to Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Treasure, Mickey Matson is at it again; this time pitted against the evil Admiral Ironsides and his gang of pirates who are intent on destroying civilization. They're new invention, the Tesla Coil, is a weapon of mass destruction that will send an electromagnetic pulse throughout the world, destroying every electronic device in existence. With the help of a secret organization, Mickey and his best friend Sully embark on a mission to stop the pirates from taking over a submarine and stealing the last part needed to complete their devastating weapon. If Admiral Ironsides succeeds in his plan, civilization will be sent back to the Stone Age. It's a race against time, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance."

Pirate's Code Trailer

What we thought about it:

Even though this is technically a sequel, it's really a movie on its own. If that makes sense. It's not necessary to have seen the 1st ("Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Treasure") in order to "get" or understand/follow along with this movie. It is a really fun, and entertaining family movie that really is appropriate for all ages. The "high tech" stuff on the screen was probably a favorite here, as with any boy pirates+high tech= sheer awesome haha! Overall, this is a great movie!


Want to win your own copy?! Enter below for a chance!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

And the sickies hit....UGH!

We were so incredibly blessed to have avoided most of the fall and winter "ick" that went around this year. June came and I thought YES! We made it! ....     ......     ........    ........Yep totally jinxed myself. Now I'm a coughing, sneezing, stuffy-headed, body aching MESS! UGH! Summer colds are the WORST (even if it is still calendar spring...) it's been in the 90s and I'm chilling. I need prayers, and tissues.

Monday, June 15, 2015

CTC Math 12 Month Family Plan Review

CTCMath Review
Greetings blog readers! For last several weeks we have had the great opportunity to review a 12-Month Family Plan for CTC Math. CTC Math brings you an online based math curriculum that includes computer based practice and streaming videos that teach math concepts. Your child can work at his or her own pace, "rewind" the videos as needed, and take their time to master math concepts. CTC is multi-sensory based with visually appealing videos and practice problems. CTC brings a really nice online math program to homeschoolers that doubles as an online math tutor, as well. For this review, we received 1 12 month family membership account. 
How We Used This:

Mr. B really likes computer based math curriculum (ok, he really likes any sort of school work that is computer based,) so I knew CTC would be a hit. We were so excited when we were chosen for this review since I've heard GREAT things about CTC Math, but we had yet to experience it for ourselves. We settled in as soon as we received our login information, and prepared to be wowed. The lesson videos are short, really short. I'm talking some of the 4th grade videos were just a couple of minutes! The 5th grade videos we've used so far have been around 5 minutes. So yes, the videos are short. 

After watching a video, Mr. B would then do the practice questions. What is nice about these questions is there is a bar at the top that will let you know how close you are to completion. This is really nice for students with any ASD as they have a visual transition tool to assist them in knowing when they will be finished with the questions. 
Here are some screen snips to show you what the videos look like. 

As you can see, on the right is where you can find the questions for this subtopic, as well as a lesson summary. 

Autism Math Curriculum

After the handful of questions (around 10 or so, thus far...) Your child will be presented with a report that looks like this: 
Autism Math Curriculum

This is a visual representation of the lesson your child has just completed. It allows them to see their score, what questions they answered incorrectly, as well as the corrected answers. I really like the history graph to show their progress through the topic.

If your child wishes, he or she can also skip the video by simply clicking on the "Questions" icon.


In similar fashion, the parent's area also has detailed reports. These are great if you have the option for an end of the year portfolio review. You can simply print off these reports to include in your portfolio, instead of dozens of worksheets. Also, on the right hand side of your screen there will be a running list of "Recent Activity" telling you when your child has logged in, what they did, and their score. I am not providing a screen shot of this for privacy reasons as it does list your child's name. 

Autism Math Curriculum

This (above) is the detailed report. As you can see, we just started our 5th grade lessons. Mr. B was a bit on the hyper side, so he had to spend some time today doing "homework" to settle down a bit. The detailed report breaks down the sections into each part, and lets you know how well your child did on each topic. I have set it so that a 90 is a passing grade, which is why the bottom two have checks and the top doesn't. Now, I know Mr. B knows his numbers to 1 million, but due to his sensory seeking this morning, he failed to properly read the questions. That, and the layout of some of them were a bit confusing to him, but I'll get into that in more detail in just a bit. I have the option to allow him to do this section again. It would be nice if the program allowed for a total redo, but it doesn't. Currently, your child can redo a section as many times as they like and the program will average the scores. I wish there was a way to complete delete a section/score in the parent interface. 

This is the summary report. this just lists the main topics, the number of lessons within that topic, the number of lessons your child has attempted vs. the number passed, and the average score. This is a nice overall view of what is going on. 



Overall, we like CTC. There are a few things that bug me, though, that I think hinder this particular program from a special needs/ASD perspective. First, I've always taught my son to work his math problems from right to left. This includes how he writes out his answers. So if an answer is 1, 347 he would write the numbers in the following order: 7, 4, 3, (comma) 1-right to left. In CTC Math he must enter the numbers as 7, 4, 13 with no comma-with 7 and 4 right to left, and 1 and 3 left to right. This has been VERY confusing to him, and VERY frustrating when he would be scored incorrect when he had actually arrived at the correct answer (an no ability to go in and manually change this.) It just seems backwards to us. Also, there are NO commas. This led to more than a few mistakes. It is a generally accepted notion that a comma separates each grouping. A comma between the 100s place and the 100's place, Between the 100,000's place and 1,000,000's place, and so on. CTC Math leaves out these commas.

He got this answer wrong because the lack of commas confused him. I feel this is a pretty significant flaw in a really nice program. It seems rather minor, but it would keep us from utilizing the program in the future just because of the confusion. 

Again, no comma to distinguish. The lesson is taught in a very nice way, the use of colors provides a multi-sensory means of learning, but the lack of comma is confusing to my son. 

This screen snip shows another confusing matter. I did not get a screen snip of the actual problem that caused his confusion, but this was close to it. The actual problem was one where you had to state how much each place value was. But there was no place holder for the 0's in the question. For example. Here there would be 3 100,000's, 0 10, 000's, 5 1, 000's, 0 100's, 7 10s, and 4 1's. This confused him as there was no place holder for the 100,000's place. That's something to think about if you have an ASDer who wishes to use this program.  

I think if there was an option to print out worksheets for the elementary grades, this might prevent some of the mistakes from being made. He could enter in his answers in the manner in which he is accustomed, and add in his own commas. 

You can somewhat customize your user interface, so that is good. I left it as the standard blue, but this shows you can change the background color if you wish. I tried to get a screen snip showing the color options, but the window would leave each time I clicked elsewhere. There is a large variety of colors from which to choose. 

Autism Math Curriculum

Despite the above issues, CTC Math is a really, REALLY nice math program. It is a nice blend of visually appealing software and teaching that go together to help your child master math in a fun, game like way. You have a great parent area that details your student's progress with easy to print reports for a clutter free end of the year portfolio or record keeping. 

Does CTC Math pass my 4 ingredient test?

1.) Customization: Is it easily adaptable? Can we customize it to fit “us?” Can we modify or set our own schedule? Can we take breaks, jump ahead, or flat out skip?

Yes, you can customize your own schedule and everything, right down to the background color! Your child can even choose to skip the video and go straight to the questions. If my son has shown a definite mastery of the material, then I allow him to skip if he wishes. Also, if you notice in the above screen snips, you child can rate each lesson with stars to indicate the level of understanding.

2.) Value: Is it long lasting? Will it cover multiple grade ranges? Are you locked in to one specific grade level? Are there hidden fees?

You must add each individual student, but your membership lasts a year and you can choose various grade levels. So you are not locked into a specific grade level, and there are no hidden fees. You have unlimited access to any lesson on any grade level. This is really good if your child is behind in some areas, but more advanced in other, or if you are between grades.

3.) Attention span: Is it boring? Is it engaging? Is it varied enough for ADHD? Does it last too long?

The videos are pretty short, and the practice questions are limited in quantity. Your child shouldn't have to spend a great deal of time at any one session. We typically do a video and 1-2 sessions of practice each day.

4.) Does it tie into other things we already have.

This is just math. There are no other lessons involved, just math. Since math is all around us, it will of course tie in to anything math related. But if you are wanting a more unit study approach, this isn't it. This is a well executed online math curriculum.

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Monday Mayhem

Why does Monday get a bad rap? I know for me it seems like there is too much work and not enough time. Mondays are doctor days, pharmacy days, errand days, going to the bank days, making phone call days, and garbage day. I LOVE garbage day. I feel physically lighter when I purge the house of trash. Seriously. I am like a reverse hoarder I think. So let me know what makes your Monday a "Mayhem Monday!"

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Saturday 6

1.) I need the beach.
2.) I need sand beneath my feet.
3.) I need to go look for seashells.
4.) I love the mountains.
5.) I love the beach, too.
6.) Saltwater air needs to surround me STAT!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Dynamic Literacy: WordBuildOnline Review

JazzEdge  Review
I will admit, I had no idea what to expect when I was chosen for this review. All I knew was that my son said "It catches my attention," and that's saying a lot. So, I get my log in information for the review, and proceeded to be wow'ed! Dynamic Literacy nailed it with WordBuildOnline! WordBuildOnline is an online based literacy program that focuses on the meanings of the individual parts of the words, rather than phonics. There are daily activities to do each day, and as your child progresses through them they develop a solid understanding of the information presented. And it's fun, too! For this review, we received 1 WordBuildOnline account.

How it works:

JazzEdge  Review

There is a short video that introduces the weekly lesson, and explains the meanings of the suffix/prefix. Your child is given a 15 minute timer for each daily activity, and if they do not finish the activity within that 15 minutes, the program automatically shuts off so that your child doesn't spend too much time on one thing. You CAN do more than one activity each day (especially for older kids who may just need a little extra practice or a refresher) but it is best to wait as long as possible between activities so that the program can adjust to your child's ability the way it is designed. You have a parent login that you can use to view your child's progress. In addition to that, you can also choose to review what they have done, or reset that activity. If you reset, it deletes the progress made on that activity and allows them to do it again.  You will receive an email to the email account you used to set up your account each time your child completes a lesson. Also, it is important to note that the parent or teacher also has a video that goes into more detail about each lesson. 

Screen snip of the parent dashboard showing my son's progress report. 

Rating Key that explains what the numbers mean. As you can see, Mr. B is scoring all 4's, which means he is answering all questions correct and in a lot less time than is allotted for each activity. 

How we used this:

We use this as our primary vocabulary program. Mr. B enjoys it so much that he will do many activities in one day. You are supposed to wait as long as possible between multiple activities, but he doesn't. I'm sure that probably skews the program's ability to adjust to his level, but we are ok with that. He has learned a great deal in just six weeks, and has a greater understanding of how prefixes and suffixes work together with root words in order to build new words. The "ed" week was fantastic. He had consistently been spelling "walked" as "walkt, " as well as other past tense verbs with a
"t" instead of an "ed." When he learned "ed" means in the past, it instantly clicked with him and his spelling ability progressed immensely. 
JazzEdge  Review
What about autism?
As for autism, this is a FANTASTIC program to use to build a greater vocabulary. As parents of ASDers know, ASDers often need things broken down into parts, then explained in terms of "why" for them to "get it." This program does exactly that. It breaks down words into their parts so that your ASDer will understand WHY it is "ed" and not "t" or why the word "in" can be put in front of another word to make a completely new word. It will help them understand opposites "Inflow vs. Outflow," for example. Then of course there's the vocabulary building.; WordBuildOnline gives your child numerous tools to place in their vocabulary "word bag" so they have a greater number of words from which to pull. But not only that, your ASD child will be given the tools and ability to build their OWN words! Once they get an understanding of how prefixes and suffixes work in relation to root words, they will begin trying to make their own. And that is the beauty of this program! It focuses on the meanings and how one part of the whole can be changed to create a completely different meaning!
JazzEdge  Review
There are a couple of changes I'd like to see made that would perhaps make this a little more user friendly, especially for those with autism. If you look at the above graphic, the idea is to match the meaning with the word. A really great and fun way to reinforce the meanings of the words! My only issue with this is that I'd like to see the meanings either get crossed out when they are chosen correctly, or perhaps highlighted or some other visual means to distinguish them from those that have yet to be chosen. That would be a real benefit for those who are even more visual to be able to not get overwhelmed or frustrated if they happen to choose the same number twice. The graphic just above this one is the same way. Once you choose the option correct, it is crossed off, but I would like to see the word chosen highlighted once it is clicked so that the child knows they clicked on the word of their choice. Or even have it a drag and drop option. Something to let them know their click was successful. I say this because I would find Mr. B clicking multiple times because he wasn't sure if the word he wanted to choose had been clicked on. And the last thing I would change is the log in screen. I would flip flop the "Log In" button and the "Create a New Account" button. I accidentally clicked on the create a new account button the first time I logged in,  and had to have my account reset because of my mistake (I had filled in the information as if I was creating a new account.) I have found myself often nearly clicking on the left button instead of the right. That is something to think about when you go to log in: Make sure you pay attention to which option you are clicking on.
These are minor pet peeves, that to me would make an already great program even better!
JazzEdge  Review

WE LOVE WordBuildOnline! WordBuildOnline a great, fun interactive vocabulary program that makes learning fun! It fantastic for autism and ADHD due to the visual learning nature, the way each word is broken down into its parts and the meanings of those parts (morphology), and the short duration of each lesson. It helps students develop a large vocabulary, and gives them the tools they need to build words on their own. I highly recommend WordBuildOnline!
Does Word Build Online pass my 4 Ingredient Test?

1.) Customization: Is it easily adaptable? Can we customize it to fit “us?” Can we modify or set our own schedule? Can we take breaks, jump ahead, or flat out skip?

The program adapts to your child's ability. The program adjusts the level of difficulty based on your child's performance. That's about as customized as one can get with an online program. You can set your own schedule to a point. It is designed to go an entire year, with one activity each day. That means lesson one would take 1 week, lesson 2 would take one week, etc. You can choose to do more if you like, but that will reduce the time spent. You can take breaks, and there is an option to skip activities, though I wouldn't suggest doing that. 

2.) Value: Is it long lasting? Will it cover multiple grade ranges? Are you locked in to one specific grade level? Are there hidden fees?

Once you pay your fee, that's it. Your child has as long as he/she needs to complete the course. It does cover multiple grade ranges, but you will need to purchase additional student accounts for more than one student. The cost is very inexpensive (at only $30.00) and right now, my blog readers will enjoy a discount with the coupon code OpenWin  (more details about that are found at the bottom.) There really isn't a specific grade level, but more ability level of the student. There are NO hidden fees.

3.) Attention span: Is it boring? Is it engaging? Is it varied enough for ADHD? Does it last too long?

It is definitely NOT boring! It is engaging, and the short lessons are PERFECT for autism and ADHD, where attention span may be fleeting at best. It is varied to a degree, but structured with a specific routinized order that will provide that comfort that comes from knowing what to expect.

4.) Does it tie into other things we already have.

YES! Vocabulary is a part of life! This will help your child in all aspects of academia due to the nature of the skills. It can help increase reading comprehension, spelling, writing, and social communication.

Some may wonder about the pros and cons of such a program with regards to autism. I'll try to list a few here:


~ WordBuildOnline is a segmented approach that breaks down the WHY of a word into smaller parts. Using the same "walked" example, WordBuildOnline says WHY walked is spelled with an "ed" and not a "t." For those on the spectrum, understanding the WHY is extremely important. They need to know why something is the way it is, WordBuildOnline does this for vocabulary.

~ It is visually engaging. You see the word. You hear the word. You get to type in your own meaning for the word. The word becomes your own. That simple.

~ There is a definite start and end, and your child can SEE this. They can see the timer counting down. They know that no matter what, after 15 minutes it is over. There is no need for a transitional period, or anything like that. The timer is the transition. They will have the power to pace themselves within that timer. The timer is awesome! So often our kids get stressed and it is because they have a need to know how long something will last. They have to know what is going to happen in the immediate future. The timer gives them that little glimpse because they will know that at the end of the 15 minutes, no matter what, they are finished.

~ Instant rewards. At the end of each activity they will earn a paw print for the day. That is a powerful motivator!

~It's not available for really young kids. I would like to see something similar for the preK-2nd range. I understand it couldn't be the SAME thing as this particular version, but something tailored to them would be great. For example, matching the number words with the number, or color words with colors, things like that that would take an abstract and pair it with a concrete.

~ The ability to read is sort of a must. If they can't read, they can't do this on their own, and it won't make much sense to them.

~ The things I mentioned above about the lack of highlighting or crossing out. A more user friendly interface of sorts would be great. Highlight what has been clicked when clicked, or perhaps make it a drag and drop feature instead. Something along those lines and this con wouldn't even be a thought!

If you want to try WordBuildOnline for yourself, I have a special savings code for you! Just enter OpenWin to save 10% off WordBuildOnline, or 20% off the books, also offered by Dynamic Literacy (such as WordBuild Foundations or Elements.) 

To read more reviews about WordBuildOnline, or to check out the reviews on WordBuild Foundations or WordBuild Elements, please click the banner below to check out the Schoolhouse Review Crew where you can find more reviews on this product, and so much more! 

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wordless Wednesday.....with words.

I say Wordless Wednesday because, for some photos, there are no words. This is a photo I shot at a recent wedding. I pride myself on capturing these little hidden, candid moments. This bride told me I must be a Ninja because I got shots at times when she had no idea I was even there. This is one of those shots. She had stolen a moment to whisper an "I Love You" to her daughter after her wedding ceremony.

If you would like to see more of my work, visit my Facebook page Here at MP Photography on Facebook.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Terrific Tuesday

I'm waking up in the mountains this morning. What has made your Tuesday Fantastic?

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) Review

IEW Review
When I found out we were getting to review Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, and Student Writing Intensive Level A for the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) I honestly jumped up and down and did my happy homeschool mom dance! (Sorry, no videos!) I have heard such fantastic things about this program, but I wasn't sure if it would be autism appropriate, so I never had the chance to try it out. For those who may not know, Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, and Student Writing Intensive Level A deluxe package is a GREAT DVD based program by Andrew Pudewa that not only teaches your child the mechanics of the writing process, but also teaches you how to teach your child!  

Teaching Writing: Structure and Style is a 12 DVD seminar that comes with a binder full of the TWSS practicum workbook teaching goodies. TWSS is great for helping YOU teach your child so you both master the art of writing! Student Writing Intensive A is a first level writing program designed for kids in the 3rd-5th grade range. This program is a great tool that breaks down the writing process into smaller pieces so that your student can master writing in a logical, and easy to follow manner. 

For this review: We received the Teaching Writing/Student Writing Value Package Level A ($249.00 as of the writing of this blog.) In this package we received the 12 seminar DVD and practicum workbook, 5 student DVDs and Student Notebook with handouts and lesson plan suggestions, and 1 year premium online access. This is a very large package! 

IEW Review
How We Used This:

I wanted to follow the lesson plan exactly as it is written, but found I needed to move a little slower with Mr. B. Up until this point, I had tried nearly everything to help him write, and nothing worked. I was cautiously optimistic about IEW. I popped in the first DVD, and sat back in shock! Over the course this year, I have discovered Mr. B responds really well to DVD style programs, and this one is no different. At the beginning, Andrew Pudewa instructs his students to use a code system for raising their hand, this is one of my son's favorite things about this program HAHA! He is always holding his hand up now with the appropriate number of fingers! So at that moment I knew he would take to this program.  
As I stated before, we have moved a little slower. For example, the first lesson is about key words, and rewriting paragraphs using these key words, and combining sentences with the word "which." It sounds like a lot of information, but the way Mr. Pudewa breaks it down, it is very simple to understand. We spent the first lesson going over the handout along with the video. The following days you are to do the same lesson on your own using different handouts. We did this, but we had to go back to the video a few times for repetition.  We also extended the lessons beyond the handouts, and I had him underlining the keywords in other school work, and orally reworking the paragraphs, then orally narrating back to me. 
For the first time ever, Mr. B wrote a paragraph on his own!!!!!!!!!!! 

That in and of itself should tell you just exactly how amazing this program is!

First there are handouts. This particular handout provides a two for one lesson. Not only did we tackle writing style and structure, but we also got to learn about Sea Snakes! This led to all sorts of discussion and creative learning. As you can see, I took this photo in the middle of his work. Here he was to underline three key words in each sentence that would help him to remember what that sentence was about. The DVD is FANTASTIC about going over this and explaining what words are key words. He caught on to this fairly quickly, but we did have to go back to the DVD lesson a few times due to the nature of his special needs. That's the great thing about the DVD, you can go back to it as many times as you need!

As they underline the words, they are to make a list of the words. Neatness doesn't matter here, as it is just a brainstorming type of work. So long as the child can read it, that's the important thing. The DVD goes over the first 5 lines, and the child is on his/her own for the 6th. Mr. B was pretty nervous he had gotten it wrong (meaning no one else on the DVD chose his specific 3 words) so he was pretty excited when one child on the DVD said the exact same 3 words Mr. B chose, and Mr. Pudewa said good job! To Mr. B, he was bragging specifically on him!

This is the back of the handout.  It's a check list to make sure they have everything correct with their paper. After you make up your keyword list, you have to make up sentences for each, and then combine some sentences with a "which " clause. The child has to write a rough draft, then a very neat, with no mistakes, final draft. There is a specific structure to the papers, as shown by this photo, and this is great for Autism/Asperger's due to the routine nature. They don't have to wonder if their set up is correct because it is the same set up each time. They must use ink pens only, leave a line between each sentence, and make all corrections in the free space. 

Another really great aspect of this program is the editing skills your child develops. They will learn editing shorthand/symbols and the mechanics of proofreading while going from their rough draft to their final drafts. This is the first program I've seen that truly teaches the entire writing process. This isn't just freewriting or prompts. This is reading about something, picking out the note taking keywords, rewriting the information into their own words (more or less) editing a rough draft, and then finally producing a final draft of their own work. 

Does Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, and Student Writing Intensive Level A Pass My 4 Ingredient Test?

1.) Customization: Is it easily adaptable? Can we customize it to fit “us?” Can we modify or set our own schedule? Can we take breaks, jump ahead, or flat out skip?

There is a schedule provided that really does provide the best results. I wouldn't suggest skipping anything as they build upon each other. There is ample practice, so you could skip a skill if your child has mastered the concept, but I really think practice makes perfect and it would be best to follow the provided schedule. You can, of course, keep practicing and take a more slow approach as we have had to do.

2.) Value: Is it long lasting? Will it cover multiple grade ranges? Are you locked in to one specific grade level? Are there hidden fees?

There are NO hidden fees. You get your package, and it contains everything you need except plain notebook paper and the writing utensils. You get the DVDs, Binder/case for the DVDs, binders, student handout pages, dividers, and instructions for putting it all together. The deluxe package is great, and I received a code that unlocked a year's worth of goodies, too! This does cover multiple grade ranges, so it is long lasting.

3.) Attention span: Is it boring? Is it engaging? Is it varied enough for ADHD? Does it last too long?

I'll be 100% honest, when I first popped in the DVD I really thought Mr. B would be bored. But, he wasn't! Andrew Pudewa must possess some sort of magical kid quality because he captivates your attention, and really encourages your child to WANT to learn and WANT to do well! The lessons are not terribly long, you can pause the video if needed for sensory breaks, and Mr. Pudewa is funny and really gets on the child's level. All of that works together to make the program really good for kids.

4.) Does it tie into other things we already have. 

The handout topics are pretty varied, so those may or may not touch upon a topic you are currently covering. BUT, writing ALWAYS ties in with other subjects. We carried the lessons over into other subjects by locating the key words in writings/passages, reworking sentences with the "which" clause, editing and proofreading, etc. 


Overall, WE LOVE IT! It is a great program for special needs and all learning styles. Mr. Pudewa really gets on the child's level and makes the learning process fun and low stress. The Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) has a special place in their hearts for special needs, and it shows with this product. They don't downplay the writing process, or "dumb" it down at all, which, as a special needs parent you totally get where I'm coming from there! There is nothing more frustrating than wanting your child to reach his/her full potential, grabbing a product that is designed for "special needs" and it is on a grade level ages below, or leaves out stuff that the product for a "typical" learner would have included. IEW does NOT do this! This is the same product for typicals as well as special needs, but it is presented in such a way that ALL can learn and benefit from it. I know I have mentioned my son's struggles with getting is thoughts from his brain to the paper. IEW breaks the writing process down into smaller steps, and it shows kids like mine how to save those brain ideas and get them on the paper. The keywords, underlining, allowing for proofreading and corrections, and calm environment all work to make this possible. MY SON WROTE A PARAGRAPH PEOPLE! HE WROTE A PARAGRAPH! He did something I honestly didn't think he'd ever do! MR. B wrote a PARAGRAPH! This is more than a language arts curriculum, it is more than a writing is a life changer for us! I want to shout it from the hills, HE WROTE A PARAGRAPH! 


IEW Review
I realize I have made the student portion of the package the focus of this review, and for that I do apologize. I have just been so blown away by the progress Mr. B has shown in his writing, that I am overjoyed and want to share it with the world! The Parent portion is just as great, and just as important. The DVD course and materials take the stress, frustration, and apprehension out of teaching writing (especially teaching it to your Aspie or ASDer). I do not want to downplay the importance of the parent aspect at all! If you click the banner below, several of my fellow crew members have gone into great detail on "Teaching Writing: Structure and Style." So PLEASE click below and go see what they have to say about that, and several other FANTASTIC, WONDERFUL Institute of Excellence in Writing products (Like Level B, Fix in Grammar, etc.) Teaching Writing: Structure and Style is a GREAT addition to your Student Writing Intensive Level A (or any of the student packages) It is 12 disks that show you how to teach your child. The first 9 are workshops that really get into the how's of teaching. The last 3 are over 5 hours of Anthony Pudewa teaching kids on 4 different learning levels. There is a binder with pages and pages of teaching tips and resources such as student page samples, and more. I found this particularly helpful because the student pages provided a sort of measuring stick for me. The workshop DVDs were so beneficial to me! I've struggled to teach Mr. B a subject that I have always found so easy. My college thesis was 32 pages! The topic? Social interaction in virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft! I have always loved writing, so teaching it to someone who hasn't loved it as much has been hard. This course takes that difficulty away, and for that I'm so grateful! The premium code I mentioned above unlocks 1 year of lecture videos and PDFs used to teach the various levels of IEW writing, and has proven it's worth for us time and again. So PLEASE check out the other reviews of IEW by clicking below! 

IEW Review
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