Thursday, June 27, 2019

Matific Galaxy (A Homeschool Crew Review)

If you should know anything about Ashleigh, it's that she absolutely hates math. She hates adding, she hates subtraction, she loathes multiplication and division, and don't even get me started about the strong feeling she has in regards to fractions and decimals.   Because of her hatred for the subject, she has really struggled with everything in regards to math because she just doesn't want to do it 

Enter  Matific Galaxy.  Members of the crew were given a one year subscription to Matific Galaxy  for one child. For this review, I decided to use the program exclusively with Ashleigh. 

Targeting students grades K-6th, Matific Galaxy is an online, browser based learning environment that makes learning and practicing math skills fun.  In addition to using a computer to access the program, students can also practice while on the go by downloading the companion app on their Iphone or Andriod smart phones (but not available from the Amazon store for Kindle). 

When starting with Matific Galaxy, we were asked to select a grade level to place Ashleigh in. Based on the math skills I knew that Ashleigh was struggling with, I opted to place her in a lower grade so we selected 4th Grade math.  This way I knew she was practicing skills that we could eventually build upon to get her doing math at grade level. 

The Grade 4 Level will have Ashleigh practicing 63 various skills, such as measurements, basic geometry, multiplication and division as well as those dreaded fractions and decimals.   The grade level can be changed in the parent portal, so if a grade is selected that is too easy or too hard, the parent can go in and adjust as needed.  For now, we are sticking with Grade 4. 

One our grade level was selected and locked in, Ashleigh was ready to go. 

The basis of the game is pretty simply.   The student must answer math questions correctly in order to help the inhabitants of Matific Galaxy.  An evil alien has taken the pixels of these inhabitants and students save them by getting the pixels back.    The inhabitants look, well, blocky, without their pixels but once the student has taken back the proper amount of pixels, the inhabitant transforms into a higher definition creature, which the student can interact with.

Each inhabitant has a series of different math skills that students work on in order to get all the pixels needed for that creature.  For Ashleigh, these skills have ranged from identifying geometric shapes (ie: trapezoid, rhombus, obtuse triangle) and parts (ie: verticies, edges, faces), to solving multiplication problems,  and working with simple fractions, just to name a few.   Each time the student works through a particular activity, they are awarded stars based on how well they did, as well as coins (which go towards leveling up) and they fill in some of the mixing pixels for the creature.

Each activity focuses on one skill.   For example, the portion below shows some fraction work.  For this section, the student is asked to identify the fraction of fish to answer the question asked.  Each activity has about 4-10 questions (depending on the skill being practiced).  Completion of the activity awards the student with stars, pixels and XP coins.

However, simply getting all the pixels back doesn't end that portion of the program.  Students are encouraged to continue to practice the skills that fall under each of these characters in order to earn prizes that they can use to dress the character up with.  The character also will get dirty and hungry, showing a sad face, creating more of a reason for the student to go back to that particular character and practice those skills.

The first time the student finishes a "world" and retrieves all the pixels for that creature, they are awarded a prize.  These prizes are used with the creature as accessories to either change his environment or for the creature to wear.  After the initial prize, students can earn more prizes for their creature by simply practicing the skills they have already completed in that section. So this prize system acts as an initiative to get students to continue practicing those skills rather than simply moving on to the next section and flying thru the program.

As a parent, I am able to log into the Parent Dashboard and see what progress Ashleigh is making. This is helpful as Ash tends to hop on while I'm working with her brother on another assignment and I don't always see exactly what she's working on.

From the parent's dashboard, I can see her overall results and what she's been working on.  I can also see what she needs additional work on.  Or, as in Ashleigh's case, I can see that she actually DOES know the skills she claims to not know when I hand her a math worksheet ;)   From this screen, I can also see what percentage of the program she's completed.     You can also use this screen to send lil messages of encouragement so that the next time your student logs in, it pops up and lets them know you acknowledge the hard work they are doing.

Going into the Reports section from the Parent's Dashboard provides a bit more information specific to what the child has been working on.  Here, you can see exact what skills the student has worked on, how well they did on that skill, and also see how it compares to other students working on that same portion of the program on Matific Galaxy.

The report also shows what each of the activities for each creature covered and how well the student did in that particular area, as well as how they performed versus the other students in the same portion.

Overall, Ashleigh has loved this program.  It plays into many aspects she likes, such as cutesy characters, fun games, and short activities. She actually asks to play this outside of school time.  it's really helping her to improve her confidence as far as math skills which is a definite plus for us.   Her overall scores on the activities has shown me that she isn't nearly as far behind as I thought she was, only that her lack of enjoyment has held her back.  We plan on working through the entire 4th grade portion of the program and then moving her to the next grade if possible during the subscription time frame. But this is a program that I can see us keeping for some period of time to allow her to work thru the various skills it teaches.

You can find more information about Matific Galaxy by visiting their website.  You can also find them on the following social media platforms:

#hsreviews #math #mathematics #learningthroughplay #edtech #edutech #educationtechnology #STEM #STEMeducation #mathanxiety #mathematical #mathproblems #mathonline #mathresource #mathteachingresource #elementaryeducation #kindergartenmath #elementarymath #mathgames #mathfun #funwithmath #mathforkids

Click the banner below to read reviews from the other Crew members and see how they used Matific Galaxy in their own homeschool environment :
Grow Your Math Skills with Matific Galaxy {Matific Galaxy Reviews}

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Jump In (A Homeschool Crew Review)

When you homeschool multiple kids, there's going to be multiple subjects that are very difficult for each student.  For Ashleigh, it's math.  For Garrett, it's writing.   Garrett hates writing with a passion.  However, for the last few weeks, we have been using Jump In, 2nd Edition, a student directed middle school writing curriculum from Writing with Sharon Watson and may have found the tool that we need to change that for him.

Student Book
Teacher's Guide
For this review, we received the 2nd Edition of the Jump In Middle School Composition curriculum in the digital format, as well as the accompanying Teacher's Guide, also in digital format.  Both of these books are also available for purchase in physical format from the author's website.  The Student book is 292 pages in length while the Teacher's Guide is 123 pages in length.

Jump In is designed to teach writing to students on the middle school level (mature 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grade).  Throughout the curriculum, students work through 98 daily lessons (which are referred to as skills) as well as 19 addition activities and checklists.  These lessons are designed to take roughly 5 to 20 minutes to complete each day, depending on what is being worked on. Students begin by learning how to write simple paragraphs using topic sentences and focusing on main ideas in order to keep their writing on point, but as they progress through the curriculum they will learn to write nine various types of essays as well as a research paper.   Options are given for reluctant writers as well as eager, more experienced writers.

Jump In gives three different scheduling options to help incorporate the curriculum into your school year.  Schedules are given for a One Year Plan, Two Year Plan, and Three Year Plan.  Depending on the age of your student or how much time you have to work through the curriculum, there's an option that should work for you.

The main portion of the curriculum is the Student Edition.   Through each section, students are walked step by step through how to write various types of papers.

Papers that will be written include:
Get Your Feet Wet
Opinions—You’ve Got Them
Persuasion: The Basics
Cause and Effect
A Newspaper Article
A How-to
A Report
A Biography
Compare and Contrast
A Book Report
A Book Response

The process includes methods of brainstorming and then writing the initial paper, then moving on to proofreading, editing and revising that paper to create a more polished finished paper.

While Jump In is designed to be more student lead, there is a Teacher's Guide available. The Teacher's Guide is designed to help the parent/teacher guide the reluctant writer through each step of the process, as well as serves as a guide the parent as to how to grade papers, and also guides the parent how to monitor their student's progress.

Upon receiving the digital file for Jump In and giving it a good look over, I printed both files out.  The 123 page file for the Teacher's Guide was easy to print, punch holes and contain in a small 1/2 inch three ring binder.

Ashleigh and Garrett's student workbook file was 293 pages in length, slightly longer but still able to fit neatly in their 2 inch binder.

We didn't exactly Jump In with Jump In but instead decided to wade in a bit more slowly (especially with Garrett) by using the three year schedule program offered in the book.  We are currently working through a hybrid 5th-6th grade year, so this will allow us the full three years to really focus on the book and work slowly through it in it's entirety.   Garrett NEEDS the instruction in this book, so I'm very happy that we're receiving this now rather than later.

Using this Three Year Schedule, we have focused strictly on using the writing prompts for now in order to allow Garrett the opportunity to get use to writing.   An entire section of writing prompts,  called Ten Minute Plunges, are provided.  These prompts are broken down first by month and then by week, giving four prompts per week to choose from for each month of the normal school year (September thru May).

 As we are currently in the summer months and are doing less than we do during the regular year, so we are picking two prompts a week to focus on - one on Monday and one on Friday.   I simply write the prompt on the white board for the kids to see, we will have a quick discussion about the prompt and then the kids are given 10 minutes to write.

Writing Prompt Time
This process started rather clumsy to begin with.  Ashleigh, being ahead of her brother in the language arts/writing department, was quickly able to easily put her thoughts on a page or two of paper in that ten minutes. Garrett, on the other hand, struggled at the beginning.  For example, one of the prompts asked "If you could have an artist paint a picture for you, what would you have the
artist paint?"..  I ended up having to ask a ton of guided questions to Garrett, trying to get him to think what he wanted to write.  After asking a question and having him give an answer, I would tell him to write about that answer.  He would write one sentence, then look at me and ask "Now what?".  This continued for a number of the prompts, however, he is starting to figure out he can build upon his answers and write a bit more without my prompting.

Garrett's First Attempt at a Writing Prompt

We will take the entire summer, continuing with the various writing prompts (and adding a few of our own) before we will move on to our first paper.  With the three year schedule, students are asked to work on the writing prompts for a few weeks before working on one of the writing chapters, then switching back to the writing prompts again.  Our plan is to work thru the book in order, starting with writing an opinion paper (which I think might be easiest for Garrett), which would for him to write a paper roughly 150 words in length.  As he progresses through the curriculum, the hope is he would get comfortable writing a paper  closer to 300-400 words in length, depending on the type of paper being asked to write.

While we are still wading into the shallow end of this writing pool, I have taken a look at the various lessons included in this curriculum and I have a strong feeling that this will work very well for Garrett.  Just in the weeks of doing writing prompts, I've noticed that Garrett is getting more comfortable with actually writing, even with other subjects.  I've noticed that just the process of jotting words down on paper has seemed to become easier for him, with less frustration.

I am really looking forward to using this as our main writing curriculum for our upcoming school year.  I think the short, less demanding lessons will be perfect for him to build confidence as a writer.

For more information about Jump In 2nd Edition as well as other products from Sharon Watson, be sure to visit the website.  You can also find more information on the following social media platforms:


Be sure to click the banner below to see how other members of the crew used Jump In with their homeschool students. 
Jump In, 2nd Edition {Writing with Sharon Watson Reviews}

Monday, June 17, 2019

Homeschool Convention Part 2

Probably the most exciting portion of a homeschool convention for most people is the vendors hall.  Who can resist all the shiny new curriculum.   While most of my family would be perfectly happy only visiting the Rainbow Resources booth (which I think we went back to at least three separate times), the homeschool parent in me loves just browsing and looking at all the wonderful offerings, many of which I had never heard of.

Speaking of the vendor hall - we were able to meet a few vendors that we have reviewed in the past..  Ashleigh was absolutely thrilled to meet Brenda Ellis from Artistic Pursuits (  who was so sweet..  We love her art books and Ashleigh enjoyed showing her some of the artwork we have done using her art instructions.

This particular vendor was a huge surprise for us.  In 2016, we did a review for the Spanish program for Foreign Language for Kids by Kids.   That was a video program where students watched the interaction between three brothers and their mother going about their morning routine, all in Spanish.  Well, two of the boys were at the convention and Ashleigh and Garrett had the opportunity to talk with them (well, Ashleigh talked, Garrett, not so much lol).

Okay, so lets start with the things I actually purchased.    

First, let me state, there's a few things purchased that are not included in this photo.  First, I purchased the Elementary Greek Year 1 Set from Memoria Press.  This is being shipped to my home and will be here next week.    This will be Garrett's foreign language study starting in Sept.  (Ashleigh is using Latina Christiana also from Memoria Press)

The second thing we purchased that is also being shipped is the Butterfly Farm kit from Insect Lore.

I have mentioned a number of times how much I love the biographies from YWAM publishing and I had already planned on taking advantage of their convention pricing  (10 books for $55).  The hard part was narrowing it down to only 10!!!   The War of the Worlds book came from another vendor (possibly Rainbow Resources?) and was purchased by my husband and it's one of his favorite books.  I did regret not picking up the Book of World Maps that they had, as well as the Ben Carson biography. LOL 

Next, I purchased the Student Notebook to go with the third edition of Apologia's General Science.  The kids will be reviewing this curriculum over the next few weeks, although I had already planned on using this curriculum with them this year for their main science curriculum.  I needed a second copy of the notebook so that both kids had their own.   I was VERY lucky that Rainbow Resources had 1 copy of this notebook available, and at a very cheap price too. 

Here's the "fun" stuff that the kids each selected.  The tins of thinking putty are an absolute must for us at convention as it helps keep the kids entertained during workshops (especially Garrett who tends to get antsy and will start crying after a while).  Ashleigh picked out the butterfly magnet kit and the glowing planets while Garrett picked out the IQ Fit kit and the Dig for Gold kit (that had a piece of Iron Pyrite in it).

Alyssa picked out this really cool Tolkien's World coloring book as well as her own larger tin of Thinking Putty. 

One of the extra purchases that I made was from the Celtic Life and Heritage Foundation.   They offer free educational modules in regards to preserve Celtic Irish heritage.  They do rely on donations and help to finance the site through the sales of a card game titled Seanchai, which means Storyteller.  Being that my mother is a McGrath , I knew my grandfather would haunt me if I did help support this cause ;)   So I bought a set of the game cards as well as an additional monetary contribution to help support the site.   I'm looking forward to using these to help education myself and the kids on our Irish heritage.

In addition to the purchases we made, we bought home a whole ton of freebies.. From glowing mouse ears from, a few silky superhero robes and a bag from Memoria Press, Magazine from Homeschooling today, key chains from Medieval Times and tshirts from Ifly and Focus on the Family, we had tons of things to bring home.

 Not to mention all the book marks, catalogs and sales materials I will have fun looking over the enxt few weeks :)

I would say Convention 2019 was a huge success, both in terms of great workshops and some good hauls from the vendor hall.     Now to start saving for 2020 :)

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Homeschool Convention Part 1

Homeschool Convention.....  No two other words have ever had such an impact on a homeschool family.  Just the idea of being surrounded by other families who aren't judging you for your decision to home educate, hearing amazing speakers that reinforce your reasons for doing so, not to mention the extremely expansive vendor hall full of shiny products - just the idea can get one's heart pumping and their mouth salivating.  LOL

We've been looking forward to heading to Ontario for the Great Homeschool Convention since we had to miss it last year.  Homeschool Convention has quickly become one of my families favorite summer activities - for myself, it's about getting to hear some amazing speakers while for the rest of them, they love the vendor hall  (especially Rainbow Resources)..  So, this year, we loaded up the car and made the 2 hour drive to Ontario to attend the Thursday and Friday portions of the event.

On the way to Homeschool Convention

Today, I'll focus on the Convention itself - the speakers we heard, the vendors we met with and the vendor hall itself.  However, I'll have to save all my purchases for a second post tomorrow... ;)

We headed out pretty early.  We knew registration did not begin til 130 but we weren't sure how long it would take us to get to the convention center, especially with Los Angeles area traffic.  It really is a beautiful drive from out desert to the Ontario area, with lots of mountains, rock formations and green trees (living in the desert, we don't see trees and green very often).

 As luck would have it, we encountered very little traffic and had plenty of time to eat lunch at one of our absolute favorite places - Raising Cane's..  Cane's is a fast food chicken place that we first discovered while living in Shreveport, Louisiana.  Back then, I think there was only like 5 restaurants total, all in Louisiana.   Finding out that Cane's had made it's way to California, we knew that we had to eat there while we were in the area and we were so glad we did.. Just as good as we remembered :)

With our stomachs filled, we headed over to the convention center.   We still had a good 30 minutes to wait before we could enter the building, but we just sat outside and had fun looking at the trees.   I'm telling ya, green grass and trees really are a novelty for us haha

Once inside, we picked up our registration packet and our wristbands and headed to our first workshop for the day, which started at 230pm.  We opted to go see Mastery Learning, Ability Development, and Individualized Education with Andrew Pudewa from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW).

Now, I should give a full disclosure here.  I have been wanting to see Andrew Pudewa speak for a long time now.  We were suppose to go and hear him last year, however, my husband had to work Thur and Friday so we would have only been able to go to convention on Saturday.  That year, Pudewa only spoke 1 time on Saturday, very early in the morning and my husband said there was no way we could get up that early and drive to Ontario to make it after he worked til after midnight the night before. 

Finally being able to get my chance to hear him speak in person, I was maybe fangirling a little bit  a lot. 

We got to the room about 30 minutes early and within 5 minutes of sitting down, Mr Pudewa came into the room and began chatting with the few people who were already seated.   Ashleigh had been waiting to recite "Oooey Gooey", one of the poems she learned while doing the IEW Poetry memorization program (and of course, she couldn't remember any of the other poems she memorized from that.. lol)..

It was a wonderful talk about his time training under Shinichi Suzuki, how Suzuki developed his methods of teaching and how those methods can be applied to our own students in a vast array of subjects to help obtain mastery of that subject.

While Garrett and Ashleigh weren't all that impressed, Charles and Alyssa both really enjoyed getting to hear him speak.  I personally walked away with the knowledge that I need to go back and help Ashleigh master some of her lesser math skills. 

The next talk we went to was Adam Holz from Focus on the Family/  seaking about  Media Matters: Exploring the Scope of Media and Entertainment Influence in Our Lives.   This turned out to be a great workshop on the impact that screen time has on our kids, from video games to phones to what they watch on television. 

There were also some very interesting facts I hadn't ever thought of, like that reading comprehension is actually less when reading a book on a tablet verses reading that same book in physical form.   We enjoyed listening to Mr Holz speak so much that we all agreed we had to listen to him again the following day.

Garrett enjoying the view of the trees during a break
For our final speaker of the day on Thursday, we went to listen to Adam Andrews with Center for Literary Education ( )for his Literary Keys - Unlocking the Meaning of Classic Books.   This was a really great workshop about how to use literary tools such as conflict, climax and setting to help understand the true message the author is trying to convey in his story.  This was demonstrated using the story "To Build a Fire" by Jack London.

Mr Andrews was a new-to-me speaker and we really enjoyed listening to him. Alyssa actually deemed this workshop her absolute favorite of the entire convention.     I'll be looking more into his materials for upcoming purchases to add to my own library.

With about an hour to kill before the final event of the night, we headed to the vendor hall for a quick look around.   (You'll have to wait to see what we bought over the course of the two days til tomorrow).

After spending some time in the vendor hall (and spending a ton of Dad's money), it was time to head to the ball room for the concert - Andrew Peterson.  We got there a bit early and found seats.

This is one of the few times I really wish I had bought my big camera with me for this convention, as my phone isn't the best for distance and low light conditions.. But he was so good, we all enjoyed hearing him live.. 

Everyone was hungry and tired by this point, so after a quick dinner at the Denny's next to the hotel to fill our tummies, we headed to the hotel and went to sleep.

Needless to say, 8am comes pretty quickly.  (Mom was actually up at 7 while everyone else slept til 8).   Everyone got ready and headed to the lobby for what I have to say is probably the best hotel breakfast I have had (with exception to the Embassy Suites)..

After being thoroughly impressed the day before with Adam Holz, we decided to catch his workshop on Pop Culture Worldview Analysis 101.  This workshop was very interesting, as it discussed how all creators of media, whether a newscast, a song, or a television show is a showcase for the originators worldview.  We then looked at a few case studies based on three different songs (Born This Way by Lady Gaga, Take Me to Church by Hozier and Bad Guy by Billie Eilish) to try to determine the message and worldview each portrays.   It was a great workshop and we all enjoyed it.

We didn't have to go far to get to our next workshop as it was in the same room.   We decided to move up to a table so the kids had space to play with their putty and fidget toys while we listened to Colleen Kessler from Raising Lifelong Learners and her workshop on  Embracing Rabbit Trails: How to Build on Your Child's Interests and Passions to Ignite a Self-Driven, Lifelong Love of Learning

We had about 30 minutes before the workshop started and so we were playing with Snapchat filters..

 Unfortunately, I forgot to turn off the filters and took all my photos of this event with the filters on.. LOL   So I apologize to Mrs Kessler for the filtered photos.

I enjoyed this workshop very much, though I doubt Alyssa or Charles got much from it.. LOL  But it was about learning how to identify your child's strengths and how to tell the difference between a strength and an interest.   Once you're able to identify these, you can then designed activities and learning to cater toward that strength rather than trying to find a cookie cutter approach to learning.  Mrs Kessler gave tons of ideas on how to help "learn your student".  I walked away with a great many ideas that I hope to incorporate into our upcoming year, especially with Garrett. 

Time for lunch.. As we learned at a previous convention, food at the convention center is unreal expensive so we took a walk off the property to around the corner and found a small retro diner called Spires.  Surrounded by Norman Rockwell prints and wood paneling, it was a great place to grab a sandwich, soup and salad. 

Our next workshop was back to see Andrew Pudewa.   This time we were wanted to hear Fairy Tales and the Moral Imagination.   This was probably my favorite workshop of all the ones we attended (although they were all wonderful). If you get the opportunity to hear this particular workshop, recorded or otherwise, it's worth hearing.  In this talk, Mr Pudewa discusses the four archetypes in literature and how fairy tales actually teach us some pretty amazing lessons on Christian concepts.  

Our final workshop was the Classical Panel.. This was sooooo cool.  This featured five well known named with Classical Education - Martin Cothran (Memoria Press), Christopher Perrin, Heidi White (CiRCE Institute), Janice Campbell (Everyday Education) and Andrew Pudewa (IEW), as they explained and answered readers questions about the Classical Education style of teaching (which is what the kids and I want to move towards). 

This ended up being Charlie's favorite workshop from the entire two days as he learned much from it and I think he enjoyed the banter between all five of the panelists.  I wish I could have been there today (Saturday) to attend the second panel, but unfortunately we weren't able to attend today's portion of the convention.  

Tomorrow, I'll go more in depth on the Vendor Hall and what we saw there.. And of course, I'll lay out my entire haul (well, almost my entire haul - two things are being shipped)... SO be sure to come back tomorrow for part two of our Convention Adventure :) 


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