Friday, August 29, 2014

A New Year... A New Adventure

It's a brand new school year, and we are on a brand new adventure!  All EIGHT of my children are enrolled at Bentz Academy - we have K-11th grade this year.

It's also our first year back "on our own".  With our recent move, we are not part of our Co-op any longer (sniff...)  But, we are watching and praying for them from afar (thanks to FB).  I'm so thankful for all the learning experiences we shared with our dear friends in Conway.  But, this week marks the start of all the learning experiences we get to share in San Antonio.

Here's a little first day of school run down for you:

Bentz Academy 2014-15

 High School

Middle School

Elementary School

Yep, this is what I have to work with... turn your back for a moment, and the signs all get mixed up!

Our first day started with a trip to JC Penney to get a cheap "Official" picture of the first time all of them are in school together.  I had to bribe everyone with lunch at Chick-fil-A, but we got some amazing pictures!  If you don't get even cheap professional portraits done every now and then, you should - your children change and grow and you won't remember without the picture.  Plus, my phone doesn't take the nicest photos, I'm so glad I took the time to do this!!

Then, we were off for our first day of learning together at the Witte Museum.  What an amazing treasure we discovered!!  Of course, with family pass in hand, we'll go back many more times.  We explored Texas history and ecology, tested our bodies with rock climbing and many other hands-on activities, and to Joshua's delight - met some dinosaurs!

These are my high schoolers participating in an activity to measure their brain activity.  So cool - they had to relax while wearing the headband with sensors, when they did - it moved the ball on the table in front of them, and displayed their brain activity.  A friendly, brotherly, competition...

This was PE for the day - rock climbing wall!

And, biking across a suspended cable, high up in the air, backwards...

The Witte has something for everyone.  The Princess gown collection - with dress up too, was a huge hit for my Kindergarten Princess'  first day.

This absolutely wonderful first day was a gift from above.  It was a reminder of WHY we started homeschooling...  We wanted to enjoy the blessing of learning and exploring together.  I can't wait for the year to unfold!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

UberSmart Math Facts from UberSmart Software: A TOS Crew Review

UberSmart Math Facts Review
Ideal for K-6 (or anyone who needs some practice!)  - $24.95
This is a DOWNLOADABLE SOFTWARE for mastering math facts. It can be used by eight or more students and will enable your student to practice the following:
  • Dot Cards (like adding domino faces)
  • Keyboard Entry (Ten-Key Numbers)
  • Flash Cards (add, subtract, multiplication, division) ~ Addition/Subtraction goes up through the 9s ~ Multiplication/Division has the option to set it to go up to 9's - 20's.
SYSTEM SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS: This is for Windows 7, 8, XP and Vista only. 
UberSmart Math Facts Review
UberSmart Math Facts ReviewUberSmart Math Facts Review
UberSmart Math Facts Review
Sometimes, the simplest things are the most effective at Bentz Test Laboratory.  Take UberSmart Math Facts  from UberSmart Software for instance.  This downloadable software (no annual fees - yeah!) is a simple math facts review program that you can use with 8 children...must have been designed just for us. 

UberSmart is the brain child of a father that needed to help his child master those pesky math facts, while dealing with her learning disabilities.  When he couldn't find what she needed to help her, he created his own.
My main testers were all elementary age, but several of my older children will find themselves earning some time with this program as well when they need some "brushing up" on math facts.  Especially at the beginning of the year. 

Starting off with the "Learn" function - my tester could choose between "beginner" and "intermediate" modes.  Using either domino-like dot cards, or traditional flash cards, the math facts and solutions are shown to the student. 

After that, my tester could move into the "Practice" function, where the same choices are given - but this time, they get to type in the answers.  There is a suggested time limit, my tester had plenty of time to answer.  You can easily adjust this, if desired.

The "Test" section allows your student to test their skills.  You choose the math function, and the desired number sets to test.

In "Compete" - your tester can compete against the other users of the program.  Can I say, "friendly sibling competition"?  We definitely used this function to my, er... our advantage, nothing encourages math practice like beating your brother!
"Report" & "Maintain" are tools for the parent to check on progress and setttings.  By starting off with the assessment test that evaluates skills in counting, sequencing, relationship, odd and even, keyboard entry, and all of the basic math facts in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, you can customize each child's target  practice area.
My testers enjoyed UberSmart Math Facts.  It's not distracting, easy to get started, and really effective.  Each of my testers improved mastery of their math facts.  I appreciate how easily it can be customized for each child, targeting specific areas they need to work on.  Best of all for mom, they can work on this independently.

I think this is an affordable tool to add to your math tool chest - Use  the code “v4 Early Bird” in the discount code box during checkout you will get a 30% discount, valid through September 30, 2014
 See what other members of the Crew thought here
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Friday, August 22, 2014

Happy Kids Songs: A TOS Crew Review

Happy Kids Songs Review

Happy Kids Songs - Happy Kids Songs Workbook: Hands-On Activities to Build Character, Social, and Emotional Skills.

Emotional Skills
Friends & Sharing (Set 1) - $4.95

Happy Kids Songs Review

The Friends & Sharing album contains 5 original songs:

- Sailing on the Seven Cs (about the “Ingredients” of friendship)
- Everybody Wants to Find a Friend
- Sharing Friends (Including others in play)
- Happy as Happy Can Be
- Together (Sharing time/saying goodbye)
Happiness & Attitude (Set 5) $4.95
Happy Kids Songs Review
Volume 5, Happiness & Attitude starts out with -
Shake It Out and Dance, a modern pop tune about turning “I can’t” to “I can.” This album also includes: - Who Knows What’s a Kudo? (About Giving compliments)
 - I Don’t Understand (Handling limitations & asking for help)
 - Be Good to Yourself 
- Better Together 

Manners & Character (Set 6)- $4.95
Happy Kids Songs Review
Volume 6 topics included honesty, manners, quirks, the golden rule & how there is more than one way to view a situation.

Happy Kids Songs Workbook: Hands-On Activities to Build Character, Social, and Emotional Skills.  - $12.56

Happy Kids Songs Review

Geared for ages 3-8, but children ages 0-9 are likely to enjoy this too!

By signing up for their email newsletter, you can get access to all their PDF’s and get a free song each month.

Bentz Test Laboratory has a bunch of music loving littles around! Happy Kids Songs has created 8 albums of catchy tunes to help reinforce character lessons for your younger crowd.  We took a listen to 3:  Friends and Sharing (Set 1), Happiness and Attitude (Set 5), Manners and Character (Set 6). 
We also got a peek at the Happy Kids Songs Workbook: Hands-On Activities to Build Character, Social, and Emotional SkillsCheck out Dr. Mac's introduction on this short video:

We received downloads of these songs, and were easily able to enjoy them on my mobile device, or - you can burn a CD to take on the go with you.  We are logging a lot of hours in the van lately (anyone feel my pain...) so, it's a perfect time to share some music that has a message! 
The songs are professionally produced, and very catchy.  These little tunes tend to stick in your head - by design.  They focus on character issues common to many children this age.  Not specifically Christian, but strong moral messages. 
One of my tester's favorites was "Sailing on the Seven C's"  from Friends and Sharing - Consideration, commitment, communication, concern, curiosity, and cooperation.  It's a great message - and reinforces the message that we have been teaching our children at our Co-op! (we call it the 3 C's...)

Another song that was VERY meaningful for several of my daughters was "Together".  Since we just moved, we've been dealing with a lot of sadness about leaving friends behind.  Here's an excerpt:
It's time to go, to say good-bye.
  But we know the reason why
 We can never end
Time that we spend together,
Because you're my friend.
Happiness and Attitude has another family favorite - "Shake it Out and Dance" - about moving away from the "I can't".  Do you have a kiddo that struggles with this?  Feeling like they can't do something?  Well, you can just "Shake it Out and Dance!"  Works every time around here!  The discouragement turns into a dance party, and everyone feels better!  Even mom :-)

Happy Kids Songs Workbook: Hands-On Activities to Build Character, Social, and Emotional Skills is a handy 122 page workbook that contains all the lyrics to the songs, as well as hands-on activities and crafts that you can use to teach the character traits.  This would be the perfect companion to use the music in a Co-op or classroom setting. 

Find Happy Kids Songs on FacebookTwitter, & YouTube
Check out what other members of the Crew thought here
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

One Last Hurrah!

Summer's almost over...  can you hear them?  The school bell's are ringing!  We got one precious last drop of summer fun with our dear Arkansas friends.  Rather than bore you with the details, I'll leave you with some pictures of what last week looked like...

A weekend getaway with my sweetheart - Fredericksburg, German Food, and SHOPPING!!

Not one, but TWO Birthday celebrations!

Our best buddies from Arkansas here to visit, and of course we went to SeaWorld!

Riding rides, enjoying the shows, and unlimited food bracelets...

Pool time too!

Riverwalk shopping, and the Rainforest Cafe

Now, that's a week to end the summer with!!