Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Smartick (A Homeschool Crew Review)

I'm always on the lookout for ways to incorporate more math practice into our homschool day.  If it's fun and the kids enjoy it, that's even better.  So when I was given the opportunity to review 6 months of Smartick from Smartick, I was pretty excited.

Able to adapt to your student's pace, Smartick is a math enrichment program designed to combine math and reading comprehension to help improve students mathematical skills. Students develop problem solving and critical thinking skills as they build self confidence.  Designed for students ages 4-14 students work at their own pace using short, daily sessions at roughly 15 minutes a day while not only improving their math skills but reading comprehension as well.  There are 10 sections students work though with Smartick, although the program picks the order and activities each day, so one day the student might work on fractions while the next day they are solving pattern problems.

The first time the student uses the program, they are given an assessment to calculate where the student is mathematically.   From there, the programs AI adapts itself to what the student knows, how they answer questions and how they progress each session.   Along the way, students are given "ticks" which they can use as currency in the Smartick world, to buy virtual pets, clothing, furniture and more.

As students use the program and progress, they also are awarded diplomas (which are cutely named after Mathematicians such as Pythagoras, Euclid and Ada Lovelace to help keep students motivated.  Parents can also create their own motivational rewards.  For example, for Ashleigh, I set one of her motivational rewards as this:  "If you do 8 sessions , If you complete 8 sessions, we will buy new pajamas" .  I can look and see how many more sessions she has til she completes this reward (as of now, she has 3 left) and that gives her something very substantial to work toward to motivate her to complete her sessions. 

I do like that after the kids complete a session, I receive and email that tells me what they worked on and how they did.   The kids never worked on the same thing as each other - Garrett did a ton of work with fractions while Ashleigh's sessions tended to focus more on multiplication and division. 

One other aspect of Smartick is the "Smartick Brain" section.  This section has different games that focus on more cognitive skills, such as memory, reasoning, flexibility and attention span.  Ashleigh was really enjoying this portion of the program, as there was a virtual version of Simon. You might remember Simon, the handheld light up game where you have to hit buttons in the same sequence as the machine. Garrett found a virtual version of Connect 4 as well as a Chess game.   These games appear to be Java based and have cute animations and sound effects. 

Smartick Brain games with cute graphics and sound effects

One slight issues we had using Smartick (when we could use it) was that Ashleigh easily gets distracted - by pretty much anything and everything. A dog barking outside, a car going by, a bird singing, ect.  This proved to be a problem as Smartick does calculate how long it takes the student to respond to the problem and so Ashleigh was constantly getting "Too Slow" on her assessments.  She never would use the pause button that is available.

Garrett actually fared much better using Smartick, and I think he really did enjoy using it more than Ashleigh did.  Garrett was able to concentrate on the activities more so than Ashleigh did and as such answered questions quicker.

Smartick mentions being able to help improve reading comprehension.  There are often word problems that require the student to read and solve.   Ashleigh did better on these types of problems then Garrett.  He might not like to read, but Smartick was making him read whether he liked it or not.

Ashleigh's sessions tended to have longer word problems.

One thing I liked is that at the beginning of each session, the kids were asked to select an icon that represented how they were feeling.   At the end of the session, they were asked again to select how they were feeling.  Ashleigh almost always selected the disgruntled face at the beginning as she hates doing math, but almost always picked the very happy face after the session was over.

First, let me say I really do like this program and I am looking forward to using it significantly more than we have.   However, with that said, we did not use the program near as much as we would have liked.  This isn't because of any fault of the program itself, but instead because of an unresolved problem with our internet that began early into this review period and was completely out of our control.

The problem was this - Smartick relies almost entirely on streaming on the internet which requires, what i guess, a larger amount of bandwith than other programs.  Recently, an "upgrade" was made to our internet and new cables were put underground by our cable and internet provider.  When this happened, originally, I could not get to ANY websites, including Smartick.   After a week of this, the provider again replaced our lines and equipment, and while we could then access the website and log into our accounts, the actual lessons themselves could not be accessed because of something wrong with the equipment.  It's been a frustrating few weeks for us - but we have been assured that another repair is in the works and should resolve the problem at that time.   It's our hopes that once that does, we can resume our progress that the kids made with the program as I really do think that both of them were making improvements from it's use.  It really is a great program.

#hsreviews #Smartick #SmartickFamily #Education #Edchat #Edtech #Mathematics #Math #Homeschooling #Homeschool #Homeschoolmom #Teaching #Edapp

For more information about Smartick, please visit their website.  You can also find more information on the following social media sites:


Be sure to click the banner below to read reviews from other members of the Crew who used Smartick with their families.
Math Enrichment Program {Smartick Reviews}

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Creating a Masterpiece (A Homeschool Crew Review)

Recently, members of the Homeschool Review crew were given a one year subscription to the online Drawing Program from Creating a Masterpiece.  Anything art related is always a huge hit in our household, and since this program includes four different levels of drawing lessons (Beginner and Levels 1-3) with  29 different drawing projects,  Ashleigh was absolutely thrilled to discover that she would be learning various drawing techniques using pencils, colored pencils and charcoal. 

Created and taught by Sharon Hofer, Creating a Masterpiece is a series of online streaming art lessons that teach students of all ages and expertise how to successfully create works of art using various art mediums. A master artist in her own right, Mrs Hofer has years of experience teaching students one on one in her own home studio.  She has now begun to offer those same lessons through video instruction for those who cannot attend her classes, allowing those outside of her local area to have the same quality of lesson as those who attend her physical class.    

Each project starts with list of art supplies needed to complete the project.   Any supplies that are not currently on hand can also be purchased quickly using the "Purchase Supplies" button which adds the required supplies to your shopping cart from a very reasonably priced art supply retailer. 

Once all supplies are on gathered, students are ready for create a masterpiece.   Each project includes step by step video lessons that show exactly how to create the targeted artwork.  Each project is split up between short videos, allowing an easy stopping point if a break is needed, as well as making it very easy to jump back into the project when returning to it. 

 Students are invited to follow along, pausing the video as needed, as Mrs Hofer demonstrates each step of creating the drawing.  She tells the student what supplies to use and shows how to use them, shows how to sketch the drawings out and how to polish the project in order to creating a piece of art the student will be proud to display. 

For our review, we focused on the Beginning drawing portion of the lessons.   I would like for Ashleigh to work through all three levels while we have access to the lessons and feel that starting from the beginning will allow for her to learn the various techniques  as she works thru each level. 

Ashleigh really enjoyed being able to take either my laptop or her tablet to the table to work on her artwork.  She preferred to use the computer, mostly because she could make the videos larger.  The instruction is such that honestly, I wasn't needed at all. She would get her supplies out of the drawer, start the video and work on her own completely independently.  She found the instruction very easy to follow along with and the projects fun. 

The first project she wanted to work on was the giraffe in cartoon which was a lesson using drawing pencils.  This was a super easy project and a great introduction to the drawing program.  All Ashleigh needed was a 6B drawing pencil and a regular piece of paper (we used printer paper). 

Ashleigh did take her project a step further and opted to use colored pencils.  I really liked her color palette that she choose. 

The next two drawings she selected was "Simplicity" and "Hoot Owl".  Both of these used were also using drawing pencils, but used more advanced techniques then the giraffe project.  With "Simplicity", she even learned to use a tortillon. 

Each project teaches the student different techniques.  For example, "Simplicity" teaches how to see and incorporate values and shading, as well as the basics of planning your drawing and moving through a pencil project. 

I personally was extremely impressed with her final results with the "Hoot Owl" project.   This project demonstrated how to use shading and texture to really make the project pop.

For her final project for this review, she decided to work on "Moonstruck", the first colored pencil drawing that Ashleigh worked on. This project teaches the basics of value, shadow, and highlights.  The project was suppose to be drawn on vellum paper, which we did have, but Ashleigh opted to instead do the drawing on a piece of drawing paper.  I personally think she did a great job.

This was the second time that we have had the pleasure of reviewing art lessons from Creating a Masterpiece. Our first review was for the Core lessons and we really enjoyed those as well.  This is a great product that really helps students build their confidence in artistic abilities.  

#hsreviews #artinstruction #homeschoolart #onlineartprogram

For more information about the various video art lessons offered by Creating A Masterpiece, visit their website.  You can also find more information at their Facebook page

Be sure to click the graphic below to read the Crew reviews and see what other families thought of Creating a Masterpiece, as well as to enjoy the artwork done by each family. 
Learning to Draw {Creating a Masterpiece Reviews}

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Weekend Meal Planning

How is this weekend already over.. I feel like I should be waking up to a Saturday morning, instead I'm waking up to a Sunday. 

Charlie has a PT Test this week, so we're trying (key word, trying) to keep things a bit lighter.  We might also be changing the plans on Wednesday, as we might be going to town to shop for Halloween.    Really looking forward to the fresh baked bread - always makes the house smell amazing.

Sunday-  Salmon with Cilantro Garlic Sauce, basmati rice and roasted tomatoes and zucchini

Monday-  Middle Eastern Fried Rice with Turkey, peas and carrots and homemade naan bread

Tuesday-   BBQ chicken sandwiches with chips

Wednesday - Baked Chicken Cordon Bleu with broccoli in French vinaigrette (MAYBE)

Thursday - Zuppa Toscana  with homemade crusty bread

Friday - Chicken Cornbread Casserole with salad

Saturday - Rustic Roasted Garlic Chicken with Asiago Gravy, roasted new potatoes and dirty rice

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Worthy Kids Books (A Homeschool Crew Review)

Today I get to reintroduce you to a series of books that we have enjoyed in our family and that has recently added two new adventures to the series.  WorthyKids Books has just recently added Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd's Stone (Book 5) and Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Lion's Roar (Book 6), allowing readers to join Peter, Mary and their dog Hank as they travel back in time to the story of David and Goliath and Daniel in the lion's den.

And be sure to read til the end to find out how you can win all 7 books !!!

About the Series

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls is a series of children's books written by author M.J. Thomas who came up with the idea to write them after he was disappointed in finding a lack of books that teaches Biblical stories to children in a fun but imaginative way.  Having himself graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Biblical Science from Liberty University, he decided to set out to write a series of books that upheld Biblical accuracy but also included character and adventures to capture the imagination of young readers while teaching them the Bible at the same time.

This resulted in a series of adventures that include elements of time travel and danger as readers follow the story of Peter, his older sister Mary and their dog Hank.  Each book finds the trio deciphering the meaning of riddle hidden in a scroll that was discovered by their Great Uncle, Solomon.  Each school transports the children (and Hank) to a significant event in the Bible where they have a set amount of time to decipher the riddle  of the scroll.

Each paperback book is relatively short in length at roughly 120 pages with cute black line illustrations.  The books are geared towards a reading level of 6-8 years old.  In addition to helping readers learn about popular Bible stories, these books also cover a wide variety of everyday that children can relate to.

The reading level for both books is for grades 1st - 3rd, which while Ashleigh reads well above this grade level, was the perfect reading level for my son who struggles with language arts.  Even though the reading level was lower than Ashleigh's current reading level, she still really enjoyed reading these books independently.

For Garrett, the font size proved to be perfect for him as well which was really great for him as often he has problems following along and losing his place while he reads. The chapters are short and the text is broken up with the line drawing illustrations which helped give him confidence when he was asked to read aloud.  

We really enjoy these books and would highly recommend them for your family library. 

And guess what? You can get your hands on ALL 7 Books!!!  To help promote the newest book, Worthy Kids Books is running a giveaway for all 7 books and will choose three winners to get SIGNED COPIES of the entire series.   Just enter at or click the graphic below. 

For more information about The Secrets of the Hidden Scrolls, be sure to visit the website.  You can also find more information on the following social media sites:

#hsreviews #secretofthehiddenscrolls

Be sure to click the banner below to read more reviews on these two books by other Crew members. 
Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd's Stone (Book 5) & The Lion's Roar (Book 6) {WorthyKids Books Reviews}

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Brain Blox Building Planks (A Homeschool Crew Review)

Building toys are always a huge draw for Garrett, so he was pretty excited when he was given the opportunity to review  Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks , another product from Brain Blox, the same company responsible for Fun Family Chess.   

Garrett loves anything that he can build with so this particular review was right up his alley.   Brain Blox Building Planks is a set of 1 inch wide, 4 ¾ in long and ¼ inch thick rectangular pieces of wood that are super easy to create and build structures with.  Each plank is made from Earth friendly New Zealand pine wood, a renewable resource.  The planks are sanded smooth to eliminate splinters and burrs.  The set that we were given for review contained 200 wood planks as well as a bright red canvas drawstring style backpack to keep all the planks together when not being used.  (Sets with 100 planks and 300 planks are also available for purchase). 

Unlike other building block sets, Brain Blox planks do not use magnets or locking systems to hold the planks together, so the user has to use their imagination as well as problem solving in order to build their creations.  Without realizing it, they are using math, physics and engineering concepts in order to use the blocks to create structures that stay together and are able to bare weight. 

The first thing Garrett decided to make with his blocks was a tower that he originally saw in the idea booklet that came with the building planks.  I'm not entirely sure what it was suppose to be, but he told me it reminded him of the Flight Tower here on base, so he wanted to created it.

It didn't take him very long to create, probably about 10 minutes and he was pretty happy with himself once he completed it.  I didn't know that the original design idea came from the idea booklet, so I instantly saw the flight tower when it was completed.   It wasn't until I was looking at the booklet that I saw he got the original idea from there.  LOL

Flight Tower here at Edwards AFB

Next, he decided that he wanted to build the original World Trade towers.  He ended up making one and had begun the second one when our dog knocked it down with his tail.  Luckily, I decided to take a picture when he was finished with the first tower instead of waiting for the entire project.

Another idea he found in the idea book was for the Parthenon.  He is studying the Parthenon with his architecture course this year so it was really neat for him to work on this one.  This one did not take him long to build either. 

These building planks have been a huge hit with Garrett and they are something that he can keep on hand to play with when he needs "busy" activities to focus on.  I am trying to figure out ways to incorporate their use in our homeschool assignments, such as with STEM activities as well as his architecture lessons. 

#hsreviews #BrainBlox

For more information about Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks ,be sure to visit their website. You can also find Brian Blox on the following social media sites:


Be sure to click the banner below to read reviews from other Crew members and see how they used Brain Blox Building Planks with their families.
Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks {Brain Blox Reviews}


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