Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mosaic Reviews: eduPad's iTooch apps

This is an informational review for those interested in educational software apps for their tablets and other compatible devices.  

eduPad, a French-based company of educational apps for grades K-8 and  the creators of iTooch (touch, learn) believe:  "Tactile tablets and smartphones are changing the way we learn. They are intuitive and have the ability to eliminate the barriers between school and home, work and personal life, play and study."

  • Available now for Android devices as well as Windows 8 and RT Tablets and Apple products.
  • No internet connection required to use this app. 

  • Students earn badges and unlock new material as they progress through the achievement levels.  
  • The app contains it's own virtual blackboard and calculator for student use in working problems without leaving the program.

  • All lessons are multi-media.
  • There are between 1,500 and 6,000 activities per app that your student can use as learning tools.  Each activity can be completed in practice or test mode.  Students can access lesson summaries and helps for each activity.
  • In-app purchases for additional materials, automatic updates, and ways to provide in-app feedback.

You can try certain versions of this app for free or purchase at the following links:  Android, iOS, or Windows 

For more information, visit

Mamma Wing

I love my three little baby birds that God has given to me.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Empty Place

 Me, Terry and John

A friend of mine who just lost a family member put it well when she said:  "We are just beginning to feel that empty place in our family that you have lived with for the last 15 years."

If you've known me at all, you know my brother Terry was killed.  When he was murdered it was devastating to our family.  My dad passed away less than a year later.  Today would have been my dad's 64th birthday.   So from the end of August until the beginning of October is a very emotional time for me that kinda comes to a head toward the end of that period.  A empty place exposed...

  My dad, Terry, John and me on Easter Sunday 

A few years ago I wrote this:

"I've had a burning in my chest for a few days anxiousness, an irritability, a depressing grief. 12 years ago we lost my brother, Terry Lee. It's been 12 years since that horrible phone call that rushed us out the door and home for the worst days of my life. Memories flood this time of year. Just like real flood waters they cannot be kept at bay no matter how hard we try to ignore them. Some years it creeps up faster than others, some years it can be kept back longer but inevitably it comes under the doors and up to the windows."

This sums up how I feel as the anniversary approaches...

There are things I can't remember from my past, like I have blank spots, but I'll never forget those first few days.  I'm sad to say that is what goes through my brain during this season.  Reliving those moments and feeling like you are watching everything around you happen, but it's not really you.  Feeling the weight of grief so heavy on your chest that it just might crush you at any moment. 

The weight is still there but it's different now.  It's like realizing you can deal with a certain type of pain.  It's like the first time I had a c-section and  I felt like if I moved the wrong way I would just kill over and die--it hurt that bad.  The next time, I knew what to expect and it was still painful, but I knew I could make it through the pain.  

Every year I mark this anniversary by writing something that usually brings me to tears, but is in some way healing for me.  It's like I can't feel that grief lifted until I do this. 
Some Personal Thoughts,  12 Years..., When the Tears Fall Like Rain,
13 Years and An Eternity, 14 

I thank the Lord that He allows those feelings to come earlier than they used to, because as I've said before He gave me a reason to celebrate next week as well.  My daughter turns 13 next week, she is more than words can express to me.  So, I will celebrate my brother's namesake, Tera Leigh and that empty place will still be there, but not center stage like it is today. 

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;  
Isaiah 43:2-3a

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mosaic Reviews: Math Mammoth


Math curriculum is one of those things that home schoolers are proud to proclaim their preferred choice.    We identify ourselves by our chosen curriculum, "We use Saxon!",  "Teaching Textbooks is the best!",   "We love Math U See!"  and the list goes on...  Personally, we have used Saxon for years.  I have tried other curriculum, but have found my children need the constant repetition or they forget how to work certain types of problems.  Math has been a struggle for my kids at different times along our journey.  With all that being said,  I was still quite interested when I heard we had the chance to review Math Mammoth.  I knew there were some areas my 6th grader could definitely use some additional practice.

I choose 4 levels of the Blue Series to download and review:  The Four Operations, Geometry 2, Decimals 2 and Measuring 1.

About Math Mammoth:  

"Math Mammoth books concentrate on conceptual understanding and are strong in mental math. The directions in the worktexts are written directly to the student, and are often self-teaching, thus requiring little preparation and involvement from the teacher."  (quote from Math Mammoth website)

Blue Series:  Grades 1-7
Instructional and practice problems
Organized topically

Light Blue Series:  Grades 1-6
Self- instruction

Golden Series: Grades 3-8
Organized by grades
No instruction- practice problems only

Green Series:  Grades 3-7
Organized by topics
No instruction- practice problems only

Make it Real Learning Series: Grades 3-12
Math problems taken from real life situations

How we used this program:

I printed out lessons and put them in our own 3 ring folder for Daniel.  This became his math "textbook" while we reviewed the program.  I also came across a skill that Tera was struggling with and printed out a specific lesson for her to practice. 

What we like:

  • Flexibility- This program is a full complete curriculum in and of itself, but can also be used as a supplemental resource.  That is how we intend to use it.  I like that we could mix and match books to tailor make our own math curriculum. 
  • Affordability- Math Mammoth is easy on the budget with their wide variety of purchasing options.  You can purchase by the individual book topics ($2-$7 per download) or complete grade levels for under $40.  If your curriculum budget is slim, you could even buy the downloads as needed. 
  • Variety- I have never seen a program with so many options of custom building your own curriculum.  You can buy a complete curriculum (Light Blue series), books by topics (Blue Series- Decimals, Geometry, Fractions, etc.), worksheets by grade level (Gold series), review worksheets by grade and topic and real life math. 
  • Nice format-  The pages are formatted with color coded boxes.  The instructional part is always in a blue box, puzzles in a pink box, etc.  They also use boxes to group together similar problems.  This really helps break up the page for visual learners. I really liked the graph paper format used to help with division and multiplication problems. 
  • Self- teaching- This program similar to Saxon is designed to be self-teaching. 

What we struggle with:
  • In the review process, I underestimated how my son would adjust in switching up curriculums for a while.  He finds his rhythm in a curriculum over time and adapts very well.  I chose books from the Blue Series that I knew he struggled with, so we could hone skills.  It turned out that constantly working on problems that he already was struggling with was a bit frustrating for him.  I still feel like our month or so was still successful.  He went back to his regular curriculum and has been making fewer computation mistakes.

Overall, this is a math program that I'm going to use as needed while we'll still stick with our Saxon curriculum as our main curriculum.  I would recommend that if you are looking for a new program to supplement or a complete program, give Math Mammoth a try.  There are several ways to try out this program before you actually purchase, check out the links below for some great freebies to give you a feel for the program.  

Cool free stuff:

Placement Tests
Free samples
Math Mammoth Email Tour:  This is so cool!  If you are confused about all the offerings, the company will take you on a free virtual tour through email.  You receive a packet of over 300 worksheets and emails every day for a week discussing different aspects of the program.

Where to purchase:

Math Mammoth is available as a download at Currclick or the Kagi Store; as a CD (by grade level) at Kagi or Rainbow Resource; or as printed copies available through or through Rainbow Resource at a higher price than the downloads, but you have the convenience of not having to print them yourself.    

Monday, September 23, 2013

Family Day

We are always thankful for my husband's job. This past weekend they had Family Day with food, games and fun!  We also get a chance to meet some of the people that JP works with and just 

Michael really liked playing Bingo and sitting up in the fire truck!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dauphin Island Estuarium

The Dauphin Island Sea Lab Estuarium is a neat place to visit if you are on the island.  I had seen a review saying it wasn't worth the money, so my expectations were low.  We were pleasantly surprised!  (With our AAA discount, we paid $28 for our family.  I also heard there were discount coupons at the Visitor's Center.)  Do not get me wrong, this is not Ripley's Aquarium- the tanks are smaller and overall it's not that large.  You can rush through this museum in 30 minutes, or you can take the time to look at things, talk to the knowledgeable volunteers and learn about the area.   For a museum this size, I felt there were a great deal of hands-on things for kids. 

I love the hands-on activities for the kids.  Michael did not want to leave this boat!

The day we were there, this great volunteer stood and talked with us about 30 minutes, all about the area and wildlife.  He had all kinds of preserved samples (kinda reminded me of biology class) for the kids to touch and hold.

You could measure yourself against some of the local wildlife.

There was an outside stingray tank with various feeding times you could witness.   The volunteer even said, "Just walk around, and we'll come and get you before he starts feeding." 

If you visit the Dauphin Island Sea Lab website, there are some great teacher resources available for the various grade levels.  I printed these off for the kids.  Tera and Daniel weren't that excited and really didn't finish there sheets.  Michael had a longer attention span for his than I thought and loved circling the things he saw on his sheet.  

Outside is the Living Marsh Boardwalk....This is a cool place you can walk around either before or after walking around the museum or both.  They had a row of rubbings that kids could use paper and crayons to come away with pictorial representations of wildlife and plants.  Daniel really liked this part.  He even tried some of his own sketches of things he saw.  

In our opinion, this is a great way to spend some time learning about Dauphin Island.  It was a great fieldtrip!

Saturday, September 21, 2013


enough, sufficient, plenty...

I've been reading this crazy book called Flunking Sainthood by Jana Riess.  The author decided to read works of the saints while focusing on one spiritual discipline each month.   This book is about how horrible she is at trying to do these things.  I'm about halfway through as the author realizes that maybe the reason she's not having much success is her motive altogether. 

Disclaimer:  The author uses what I consider bad language at certain times in the book, which I didn't really appreciate.  I don't think using coarse language is appropriate for Christians or really for anyone to use, but because it seems cool, they do it anyway.  But that's a different issue altogether.  

In the chapter where she is abstaining from any purchases outside of her regular groceries for the month, I found this quote:

"There are two ways to get enough:  one is to continue to accumulate more and more.  The other is to desire less."  -G. K. Chesterton 

"I have learned, in whatever state I am in, to be content." Philippians 4:11

She quotes a research study on choice by Sheena Iyengar that concluded that "there is such a thing as too much choice.  It turns out that we get overwhelmed easily."   

I was struck by these quotes and how they could relate to our decisions in homeschooling.  

It's no secret that this year, our family has made a priority to home school from home two days a week (at least).  Some weeks this feels like such a great, freeing choice.  (We have art class, chess club, swim lessons and music lessons for my two oldest kids every week plus fairly regular play dates, so it's not like we're hermits.)  My daughter actually thanked me out of the blue yesterday for how we limit their activities.   Some weeks I feel pretty good about the work level I've planned for the kids.  They are learning, exploring and thriving-happy.  

Other times, I question myself extensively about whether we are doing "enough".  When I talk to other families or read blog posts, I have moments of doubt.   I see others doing so much more than we're doing and if they can do it, shouldn't we?  I'm overwhelmed easily at the immense choices.    They are teaching their kids three foreign languages, making models of every major battle in the history of the United States and they know all the scientific names for our regions' plants and animals.  (I exaggerate, but you know what I mean!)  Some weeks I question whether I'm pushing them too hard or not enough.  

There is this trend in human nature to assume that every choice we make has to be mirrored by everyone else.  I do believe there are some absolute choices that have specific right or wrong answers, but a lot of the time things are left up to our own personalities, temperaments and uniqueness.  We falsely get into our brains that everyone has to use our curriculum, home school with our method,  or they are wrong...or we're wrong.  If we were told all children learn exactly the same, we would rise up in revolt proclaiming the falseness of that statement.  Yet, we compare ourselves to others all the time. 

"God made us so unique and special-that each of us is the prefect parent for our particular children, that God specifically matched us.  And because God has different life plans for each child, he needs a wide variety of parents to raise them.  That's why it's important not to compare yourself to other mothers or become a slave to one particular method."  The Mommy Manual by Barbara Curtis

I really have no answers to this issue, except to continually remind myself that God has given me these children and I'll do the best I can to raise them to love Him and serve others.  I'll remember to celebrate the uniqueness that each family has as they struggle to do the same.  I'll give grace instead of criticism.  I'll grant myself that grace, too.  

And that's enough, sufficient, plenty!

"I have learned (I am learning), in whatever state I am in, to be content." Philippians 4:11  



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