Sunday, July 29, 2012

Math Essentials is a No-Nonsense Math Solution

Algebra...friend or foe? 

Like it or not, it is essential.

But the truth is, every parent would prefer their child to actually enjoy their math experiences. After all, who wants to spend a year, month, or even a week with a student who HATES their math program? Not me. I know that for sure because I've done it (you can read about our math experiences with Bubba here and here).

Our goal as homeschooling parents is to develop lifelong learners who know how to be in charge of their own learning...self-directed learners who have the desire and motivation to explore new topics on their own, and who are interested and excited about their education.

There are many ways to skin a cat, bake a cake, or teach algebra. Everyone has a different favorite curriculum that they swear by. Most of those curriculum choices have many different things to recommend them. It all depends on your learner and their preferences.

But the truth is that every student is different and while you may be related to all of your students since you homeschool, it doesn't mean that they will all enjoy the same curriculum or learn in the same way. So, like many homeschooling parents, I am always on the lookout for new and effective ways to enrich or learning experiences, especially math.

Well, I have an inexpensive, effective, and even enjoyable math program to share with you. Costing only $27.95, Math Essential's Non-Nonsense Algebra program by Richard Fisher will help your student master essential math skills with minimal stress and maximum progress.

As you can see, one of the keys to this program is that every lesson is short, concise, and self-contained with a minimum of fluff and distractions. Each lesson contains an introduction, example problems, practice problems, and a brief set of review problems. BUT WAIT! There's more!!

Each and every lesson also comes with its own video lesson which is an explanation of the content (with the teacher using a white board) and several additional example problems (ones different from the problems shown in the book) which are worked through step-by-step. This video service is FREE! with the purchase of the book. That's a very economical way to add an audio-visual component to your math experience.

In the screen shot above, you will see the chapter topics, as well as a listing of the additional features contained in the book: helpful hints, a glossary, example problems with step-by-step solutions, written exercises, a review section at the end of each chapter, and the complete answer key at the end of the book (however, the problems are not worked is truly just the answers).

You can preview a sample of the Math Essentials Geometry book HERE, if you like, to get an idea of the book's layout. The Geometry book and the Algebra books are very similar. The Geometry book, which we also received and tried out, was shorter (only 63 pages instead of 209 pages), but was effective as a review/practice book (however, since it does not include videos, so it would not stand on its own as a curriculum). Samples of other books in the program may be found HERE.

The No-Nonsense Algebra book, however, could potentially be an excellent Algebra program for a hard-working, self-motivated student. I think it would be ideal for unschoolers who prefer to be able to explore learning as they see fit, and would very work well as a supplement for most any algebra program, especially one that does not already have some sort of audio-visual component. 

The way we used it was as a supplement to Khan Academy, which has been our FREE! Pre-algebra program this year. Tex has been diligently working through screens and screens of tasks, techniques, and operations using Khan Academy, learning and reviewing mostly on his own, with me or his father checking on his progress from time to time. He has truly liked the program and been motivated to earn the different badges and stars on his page (and seems to be learning a lot), but I will tell you that it has been somewhat frustrating to me for several reasons. 

First of all, it keeps changing. The site keeps getting updated, so progress Tex made gets moved or altered, and sometimes he's had to redo things. Plus, there's a lot of review worked into the program, which has been good since it has built a solid base of basic algebraic skills, but can also be daunting and tedious at times. Lastly, there is nothing tangible for ME to see that PROVES beyond a shadow of a doubt that Tex "gets it" or tells me specifically where he is on the algebra continuum (the screens show a huge flow chart, but it is not really specific to math discipline area). That drives me NUTS because I like to see something solid to show progress.
This is what the video screen looks like. You log in then choose your topic on the right.

Enter No-Nonsense Algebra. Hooray! 

I gave the book to Tex and advised him of the code to activate the video access (a unique code is printed in every book). I told him that he could do each chapter review with or without preparation and review, as he felt comfortable with, and that if he scored a 90% or higher on each review, he could skip the chapter. You may feel 90% is a bit tough, but we are going for mastery here, and anything less indicates a need to work on something more to get there.

Anyway, he had time to complete a few of the chapters before heading off to camp, getting injured, and having emergency surgery (and that's another story). In general, he'd watch several videos for each chapter to remind himself about a few of the tougher topics (or ones he just hadn't covered in a while) before taking the review test, and I am happy to say that he has adequately proved to me that he has mastered quite a few of the skills he needs for algebra next year! 

He plans to continue working through the book over the summer to see how far he can get before he hits a "bump" where he will need to actually study a topic thoroughly before moving on. Once he reaches that point, he will work with whichever math program we are using for Algebra, and use this program for review purposes...though he could, if he decides over the summer that this program is all he feels he needs to cover Algebra thoroughly, use this as his program, as it covers every topic that is normally covered in a year's worth of algebra study. I am fine with whatever he chooses, as long as it in some way shows me how he is progressing.

I have to tell you that I really liked how the teacher kept encouraging the students to "Write that down." I think that using all three learning styles: audio, visual, and kinesthetic makes math learning so much more effective, and many kids, especially those gifted at math (like Tex) tend to skip that "writing it down" step, trying to solve every problem in their heads. The main problem with that is that then you can't see where you went wrong when you do get a wrong answer, and it is harder for you to get help because of it.

I also liked how the teacher wrote the problems on the white board in one color and worked them in another color. That helped me differentiate between the original problem and the elements of the solution. The teacher's style is pleasant and his manner of speaking is easy to understand. All in all, this product gets a "two thumbs up" (that's thumbs up from both Tex and me).

Math Essentials is an award winning program that I think will excite your students. The company offers more than covers math topics from about fourth grade on up...and very economically, too. You can see the other levels and order many of the Math Essentials products HERE.

You can see what others on the Crew thought about Math Essentials products at the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.



Disclaimer: I received both No-Nonsense Algebra and Math Essentials Geometry for the purposes of review the products here on my blog. The opinions you have read reflect our personal experiences with the products. No other compensation was received.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Portrait of a Wedding---And Then Some

 Over the river and through the fields 
to the bride's house we go...

We all know the way, it's a very special day...

And all our hearts are aglow...
(okay, I'll stop with the silly songs now).

Outside the barn, overlooking the fields, where the service was held.

It is a special day, though.
June 24, 2012
Our oldest son's wedding day.

The barn and indoor arena where the reception was held

Everything waits in readiness for the 
stars of today's events to arrive...
Distributing the flowers

The Groom

The Bride
The soon to be "Mrs. Bubba"
(hmmm...we'll have to come up with a better name than that, won't we?)

The Best Man
My brother

"How much longer, man?
I can hardly stand it."
"Don't worry. The time will fly. 
You have a lifetime. Chill."

The Ushers
Tex and the bride's brother

The Maid of Honor 
and the Flower Girls
The bride's best friend and her daughter on the left
Firefly and Ladybug are on the right

The Preacher and his lovely wife
Can't get hitched without a preacher, can you?

The Groom's Family
Well, some of the members of the groom's family, anyway...
Boo, where are you?

The grandparents and great-grandparents
The uncle and aunt and cousins...

The Parents of the Bride 
The bride's mom and dad

Parents of the Groom
Me and Hubby

Oh, look, there's Boo!!

And the rest of you, too!!

Soon, the wedding begins...

The ushers seat the family members...
this is my grandmother who is visiting from Iowa.

The guys are waiting on the sidelines.

The bride waits out of sight. 

The music cues the flower girls...

Violin music plays softly as the three sweet 
flower girls spread rose petals on the already
glorious carpet of green grass.

The bride's maid of honor watches her approach the arbor...

Here comes the bride...


A proud mother watches her son see his bride in her
gorgeous gown for the first time...

Does he look happy, or what??

A proud father walks his precious daughter down the aisle
to begin a new life with her love...
A teary-eyed mother misses a daughter already, 
but instead gains a son.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today...

More than an exchange of vows, 
it is a knitting together of hearts...

A covenant before God to never be broken.

What God has brought together, let no one put asunder.

"I now pronounce you, husband and wife..."

"All right...

...You may kiss the bride!"

"I present to you for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. Bubba!"
(No, he didn't really say the Bubba part, but oh, well.)

"WHAT? You mean we have to do photos BEFORE we eat?"

Don't many other things,
the wait will be worth it. ;-)

Aren't the pictures beautiful?

The Wedding Party
Tex is on the left, Ladybug and Firefly are on the right.
My brother is next to Bubba.

The lovely ladies...

The handsome gentlemen...

The bride's family...
Her parents, her brother and his young lady.

Our growing family...what a blessing!

The bride and her brother...

Hey, when can we eat? We're hungry!
(and they've got these really cool glow sticks
on the tables inside that I can't wait to open...)

Just a few more pictures and it will 
be time to go in for the food.
My mom, her mom, Grandpa Bill, and my dad.
The Blessing Farm Family (with no Bubba).
The happy couple with Nanny and Poppy.

"Hahaha! You really did it! You don't know what kind of
crazy family you just married into, do you? Hahahaha! Poor Girl."

"You did well, young man. We're proud of you...
She's a lucky girl. May you both be abundantly blessed."

"Do you believe we actually made it through the wedding?"
"Well, sure, I always knew we would. Can we leave now?"
"No. I only get to wear this dress once."

Bubba and his wife watch their guests enter the 
festive reception area from above...

Okay ushers, grab the ladies and go get some grub! 
Mothers and Grandmothers first...

 Next to enter, the happy couple...surveying the well-wishers, the decor, and the feast.

I have on good authority, however, that they were too busy 
having a good time with their many family and friends who blessed them 
with their company to eat much, but what they did eat was delicious.

Now that's a line. Aren't you glad you didn't have to stand in it?

Great job, Mom and Dad (of the bride)!
The happy couple says, "Thank you for everything."

Here's a fun idea (though somewhat messy):
Have the guests add their fingerprints to a keepsake picture
(in shades of green and aqua, so they are like leaves on a tree)
as they sign in to give to the happy couple later. Priceless.

The couple leaving their own prints on the tree of their life together...

Every place setting had flowers, there were fans for all of the ladies,
fun glow sticks and bubbles for the kids (or kids at heart), bottles of local
wines at each table, and sweet birdhouses of robin's egg blue jelly bellies
for all to enjoy. What a treat!


And then there was dancing...

Daddy and daughter dance to "My Girl"
by The Temptations.

"God Gave Me You" by Blake Shelton...
the couple's first dance.

Mother and son dance to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" 
by Israel Kamakawiwo'Ole

All the married couples danced to 
"I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz.

My folks were next to last of all the married for longest married. 
They lost by ONE year to a couple (the bride's aunt or cousin, I think) 
who'd been married 47 years. Congratulations to them both!

The kids loved this one.
Okay, so did the grown-ups.

Cowboy spent much of the evening dancing with two
sweet young ladies over and over again. They were so 
patient with him. I am sorry to say, I did not get their photo.
If anyone has one, please send it to me!

Amazingly, while the rest of us had a great time dancing, visiting,
and eating, Boo ran around here and there, and kept out of trouble.
Hard to believe, huh?
What a cutie!!

The Cake...and cupcakes galore.
Red Velvet, Chocolate Decadence, and Carrot Cake.
All I can say is YUM!!
(and isn't it a masterpiece, too?)

Cutting the cake...
No cake-in-the-face smashing for them.
All I can say is that they are so much more 
mature than we were...LOL.
(Just for the record's sake, I only smashed cake in his
face because I saw him going for mine. He asked for it.)


We all had a lovely time celebrating and rejoicing over God's provision together.
Thank you to all who made it such a special day.

Sending the grandparents home, out of the heat.

Thank you for coming.
We sure do love you!!

Random pictures I liked:

Finally, we're out of here!

BYE!! We love you!!! 
Have a fantastic honeymoon (they did).

"Yay! We finally got out of there.
It was a wonderful day, but I am ready 
to start our new life together, and 
my cheeks kind of hurt from all that smiling."

"I know what you mean. If I'd had to shake even one more hand
I think my hand would have fallen off."

"You did a great job, honey. It was a special day.
Your family sure did seem to be having fun."

"Yeah. Did you see my mom out there doing the Electric Slide
and dancing to YMCA? How embarrassing."

"Aw, I thought it was cute. Your sisters and brothers were out
there, too. It was a like a family homeschool field trip. Hahaha!"

"Right. You just wait. I'll get you back for that one."

Sigh. "I love this dress, but it's a bit 
hot and I am ready to change into something more comfortable."

"No problem dear. I think I can help you with that."


PS. Ladybug walked in as I was putting this together and said, "I don't think I've ever seen Phillip look happier. They are so in love." Awwwww.


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