Thursday, September 22, 2011

Magnet Curriculum


What kid doesn't love playing with magnets? I know both of mine have really enjoyed playing with the magnets in the kit Little Bean received from a friend a year or so ago. The kit even came with a little booklet with some simple experiments to try. So when the opportunity arose for me to review Primarily Magnets, published by Aims Educational Foundation, I was certainly interested.

Primarily Magnets is geared toward grades K to 2, and is 85 pages long. Covering such things as magnets interacting with other magnets, magnets interacting with other materials, attraction and repulsion, magnetic fields, and the everyday use of magnets, this supplimentary curriculum went far beyond the little booklet in our existing magnet kit. Primarily Magnets consists of thorough lesson plans which are aligned with educational standards and also has pages that can be copied for use with the lessons. A CD with PDF files of all the worksheets comes with the book, which is really convenient for those who don't have free access to a copier, but can print at home. Primarily Magnets is $18.95. Primarily Magnets is offered in a PDF version for the same price.

As I said, the kids have already done a lot with magnets in the past, but with Primarily Magnets I was able to take their knowledge to a deeper level. I was glad that we had a variety of magnets on hand already, otherwise the book alone would not have been all that fun since it does not come with magnets. You can purchase ring magnets alone from AIMS or a Mostly Magnets kit, but the kit in my opinion wouldn't work for homeschoolers because it comes with too many duplicates (it was clearly made for classroom use). But magnet kits are inexpensive and easy to purchase, and luckily this curriculum with adapt well to any magnet kit you decide to use alongside.

I found Primarily Magnets to be a solid curriculum choice for those looking for a unit study or semester long study of magnets. Was it exceptional? In my opinion, no, not really. But it wasn't bad either. It was a good solid curriculum and I have nothing bad really to say about it. My friends on the Homeschool Crew also reviewed Primarily Magnets and other products from AIMS (AIMS offers quite a range of educational products in the areas of math and science), so if this book sounds like something you'd like to know more about, by all means hop on over here and see what other people are saying.

I received Primarily Magnets for free in exchange for my honest review. I am not obligated to give a positive review, and all opinions are mine.

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Couldn't have found this site at a better time...

Just a few weeks before we picked up our little one (now 4 weeks old!), I started asking around on the different homeschooling message boards about an online program that I could use with my kids. I knew I'd be swamped taking care of a little baby, but at the same time, I really wanted the kids to continue with their studies even while we took some time off from our regular schedule. I didn't want an actual online school or a complete program, just something that would continue to sharpen and keep their knowledge fresh while we were away from the school room for a while.

A few people mentioned this program called Big IQ Kids, which is a free website (with a premium section, more on that later) designed for K to 12, offering learning exercises in math (drill), spelling, vocabulary and the states. To my delight, I was actually offered a premium subscription to this site for both my kids, and it couldn't have come at a better time!


Big IQ Kids is kind of a unique program because it is fairly customizable for your student. In the math section you can choose to have them timed or not timed, which operations you would like them to do and in how many digits (1 digit addition, etc), and how many problems they must complete to finish the lesson. In the free spelling section you can input your own word lists and choose how many and which games they will play to learn their words. Miss O was put on the premium spelling, and hers is oddly much less customizable than the free version. The section the states is not customizable, but it starts everyone at the beginning.

I'll be honest and just say we did not use the vocabulary section all that much, and I'll tell you why. This may just be me, but the characters on this program are computerized and they speak in a very monotone and unnatural fashion. In the vocab section especially, this is apparent, and I'll just say it, the voices irritated me. I didn't feel like my kids could understand them because of the strange tone and mode of speech. They actually never complained that they couldn't, but I couldn't bear to listen to it more than necessary!

Now here's the part of Big IQ that my kids liked: after every lesson, they earned a coin. The coins are saved and then can be used to play little games on the computer. The games are short and generally pretty simplistic, but it's enough of an incentive to get them to happily do some math drills or spelling games.

As I said before, Big IQ also offers a premium section of their site. The main difference between the two is that with the premium subscription the program will monitor and track your child's progress in the various subjects and move them forward only when mastery is achieved. But you do not have to have the premium membership to benefit from this site. There is alot there that is free for you. I wish I had known about it earlier! Here is more information on just what is free and what is included in the premium price. You can purchase the premium programs separately or all four for a bundle price of $19.99 a month, or $89.99 for a year. Find out more about pricing for individual purchases here.

We were given a 1 year subscription to this site, and I am sure we will get lots of use out of it--we already have! If you are interested in Big IQ Kids, hop over here and read more reviews for this product or go to their website FAQ page and find out more!

Please note: I was given this product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I am not obligated to give a positive review and all opinions are mine.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Foster Care Update

We have had our little foster baby in the house for a little over 2 weeks now, and she is such a delight! I haven't shared much about her, though I'd like to (I feel like I need therapy just thinking about all she has gone through in her little life!), to preserve her privacy and dignity there is alot I can't talk about.

But she is doing great! She came to us at 4 lb 12 oz, and she is a whopping 8 lb 5 oz now at almost 4 weeks. She is such a good baby too. I have memories of walking my kids up and down the living room floor at night trying to get them to fall asleep and stay asleep. Not so with this little one! She came to us already knowing how to fall asleep on her own. She has a very distinct pattern to her days: eat, stay awake for a while, get groggy, go to sleep, and start over again. Except at night when she skips the staying awake bit! Truly I did not know babies like her existed, she is SO good!

Even still, she does keep me getting up every 3 to 4 hours at night and likes to spray me with her projectile vomit at least daily (she has acid reflux and is on Zantac), so I am tired! I got a cold just right after we got her, and haven't been able to get rid of it. I'm not sure how I will with such sporadic sleep going on!

I don't know if I mentioned before, but in the state of Oklahoma, a kinship or family placement takes priority over a straight foster care placement, which is what we are. There is a relative that would like custody of this little one, and so is going through background checks now. If she is approved, the baby would go to live with her. Things do not look like they will go that way, but we will not know for at least a few months.

Baby had her first visit with her birthmom yesterday. I will say that it was interesting (and not in a good way) to say the least, but the most important thing I got out of it was that a)the birth mom loves her little baby A LOT, and b)although she is upset about the situation, she does not have any bad feelings, it seems, toward us as the foster family. I'm glad for that because I would really like to have a good working relationship with her, and am not the kind of person who knows how to deal with that kind of conflict. The baby was wide awake for the visit and well fed beforehand, so she was a little sweetie pie for her mom and they spent some time getting to know one another. I'm not sure if and when the next visit will be.

Yesterday our case worker also gave us a clothing voucher so we can do a little shopping for the little miss! Since she was so new when she came into custody, she came with nothing but the clothes on her back (a 3 to 6 mo. onesie and socks) and a receiving blanket. We have purchased alot of clothing for her already, but with the weather changing (yay!) she will be needing more warm clothing and the voucher will help a lot!

Miss O and Little Bean are enamored with her, but in different ways. Miss O is like my little helper, she even *tries* to change diapers for me! Little Bean loves how soft her skin is and how she makes "animal" noises and squeezes his fingers! We started homeschooling back up again on Tuesday, but I can tell I may need more time. My energy is really at an all time low. Thank goodness she is such an easy little baby, not sure I can handle much more!

When she came to us there were some concerns with her heart (possible situs inversus, or reversal of the heart) and she had some stomache distention, and had an x-ray. All was normal on that, and she is healthy in every way at this point. We are so thankful to have her for whatever amount of time. What an amazing (yet exhausting experience) this has been so far!

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