Thursday, October 31, 2013

REVIEW: Rosie's Doll Clothes Patterns

Did you learn to sew as a child? I did! I had the great fortune to be in a 4-H club, and my leader taught me to sew. My mom taught me a lot, too, and loves to remind me of the countless seams she had me take out to do over. I've wanted to teach my girls to sew, but wasn't sure where to start. I was delighted to have the opportunity to review Rosie's Doll Clothes Patterns! For this review, I received a 12-month online subscription to her sewing program.

Rosie's program consists of over 130 tutorial videos, which you can purchase on DVD or use online with a 12-month subscription. It's recommended for ages 8 and up. As you work through the course, Rosie provides 8 patterns for different items to sew for your 18" doll:

  • Sport shorts
  • Crop top
  • Sarong
  • Halter top
  • Summer nightie
  • Ruffled hat
  • Pumpkin costume
  • Underpants

The nice thing about these patterns is that you print them at home with your printer. No tissue paper pattern pieces - woo hoo! The pieces are simple to cut out, too, which is great for beginning sewers. The written instructions are nice, but you really need to watch the videos to understand what to do fully. I *love* having the videos. We watched some more than once, making sure we understood the instructions. Rosie has a lovely, cheerful voice with an Australian accent, and we enjoyed listening to her. While we were sewing, if we couldn't remember exactly what to do, we just went back to the video. Actually, I was the one going back to the videos. The girls caught on quickly and were instructing *me.* That's a little embarrassing to admit!

Each week, there are videos to watch that teach you about everything from the basics of fabric (woven vs. knit, nap, one-directional fabric, etc.) all the way through elastic and even puff sleeves! Every doll needs at least one dress with puff sleeves, don't you think? In addition to teaching basic sewing skills, Rosie shares great tips that are specific to doll clothes, as well, such as sewing hems first. have you ever tried to sew the hem on the sleeve of a doll's dress after you sewed the sleeve? It's not fun.

The patterns are a great way to practice the skills you learn from the videos. The first pattern, Sport Shorts, is quite simple, and is a nice, quick project to get your feet wet and build confidence - simple seams, waistband with elastic, and hemming. Then, when you sew the crop top, you build on those skills with top stitching, and a garment that goes together in a really nifty way.

Although I know how to sew, and have made doll clothes before, I learned a lot from Rosie's videos. Also, she taught everything in such a way that it seemed simple and clear to the girls, who picked right up on sewing. She teaches everything in a sequential manner so that you avoid a lot of frustration. For example, I don't think I would have remembered to tell the girls that you should watch the guide lines on the needle plate of the sewing machine so that you sew in a straight line, rather than watching the needle go up and down. I would have assumed they would just do that, when in reality, they had never used a sewing machine before and would not have known. Things like that saved a great deal of frustration and seam ripping. I also learned about some new-to-me sewing tools, such as the loop turner and the bodkin. Rosie taught me, too, that rotary cutters can be used for cutting out all kinds of pattern pieces, and not just straight lines!

My 12 year old jumped right in and had a great time sewing. She is the one who would show me how things worked when I had an issue (usually from trying to figure things out without watching the video or reading the instructions carefully enough), and would say "No, Mom, it goes like this." My 13 year old was less excited about trying something new, and resisted a little, until she saw how easy it was. Once she completed her shorts, she was having a good time, and she loved how the crop top came together! It really is an ingenious pattern, but not difficult at all to sew.

Unfortunately, we had a lot of sewing machine issues, so we didn't get as far as we'd hoped in sewing our doll clothes. However, we each completed a pair of shorts and a crop top, and we're looking forward to working through the rest of the patterns. We're going to sew lots of clothes for my little nieces' American Girl dolls for Christmas, so keep an eye out for pictures!

Rosie's online video course is available through her website for $47.46 (It's $49.94 AUD, since she's in Australia, and the price could fluctuate slightly with the exchange rates). She's also offering a special from now through December 24, 2013: if you purchase her program, she will include an extra pattern of your choice for FREE! That brings the total number of patterns you get up to 9. What a great gift idea for that special girl who wants to learn to sew!

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew!

Monday, October 28, 2013

White Chili: It's What's for Dinner

It's been unseasonably cold here lately, and it's put me in the mood for soup. One of my favorite recipes is for white chili. My mother in law gave me this recipe when I was first married and learning to cook. I love it because it's simple, tasty, and quick - very little planning ahead needed. That works very well for me!

Here it is:

  • 1.5 lb. boneless chicken (If I have leftover chicken in the freezer, I use that. I freeze it in 2C bags and just dump one in.)
  • 28 oz. chicken broth (Tonight I used a 32 oz box of chicken broth - shh, don't tell the soup police!)
  • 48 oz cooked Great Northern beans, incl. liquid (Or, 3 cans. I used to be able to get a large jar of Great Northern beans when we lived in Michigan, but not in North Carolina. You could also cook your own beans, but that requires planning ahead. See first paragraph.)
  • 2-3 C chopped onions (You will get about 2 cups from a large onion. Trust me, that's plenty. After I have that sucker chopped up and ready to go, my eyes are watering so badly, I wouldn't dare attempt anything else with a sharp knife.)
  • 2T garlic, minced (I have a giant jar of pre-minced garlic from Sam's. This saves me from learning that my fresh garlic has all sprouted and is now useless. Again, refer to the first paragraph.)
  • 4 oz. green chilies, chopped, including liquid (One of those little cans. I don't have a clue how I'd prepare my own green chilies.)
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp oregano (I do not like oregano, so I would add half this amount or less.)
  • 1 tsp each cumin and coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (I think that's a lot. My husband likes things spicy and hot, but the rest of us, not so much. I can't remember ever adding this in this recipe.)

You can add any vegetables you like. I usually add 1 C chopped carrots and 1 C chopped celery. You might like to add some corn, or some jalapeños.

  1. Lightly brown the chicken, and dice or chunk to bite size.
  2. Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil until soft. (I put the celery and carrots in there too.)
  3. Add chilis to onion and garlic.
  4. Place all ingredients in a pot, bring to a low boil, and serve.

See? Isn't that simple? Here are a couple more notes: 

  • I use my mini-chopper to chop the onions and sometimes the celery. It's not as good for the carrots, though, because if you cut them up too small, they turn the soup orange. That's less visually appealing for this soup. 
  • I use my soup pot to sauté the veggies. No sense in dirtying two pans.
Alongside, I usually try to have a salad and some bread. I know we're all supposed to be eating low-carb and avoiding processed carbs like bread, but soup needs bread. It just does. I might also steam some broccoli if I'm feeling ambitious. 

Let me know if you try this! I hope you like it! Click here for a printable version.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Schoolhouse Review Crew : Join Us!

Check out the Crew Blog post for more information, and apply today if it sounds like something you'd like to do!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Those Crazy Children

Go outside, I said.

Play with your brother, I said.

What did they do? They colored themselves blue.

Even the dog didn't escape unscathed.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

REVIEW: God's World News

In our Charlotte Mason homeschool, my girls are old enough to keep current events notebooks. This involves keeping track of the two or three most important news events each week, and re-writing them in their own words. The trick to this is finding news I want them to read. I try my very best not to watch the news, as it makes my blood pressure rise too much, and many stories reported these days are not things I think they need to know. Most mainstream media is far too liberal for my taste, and truly, I've had a difficult time finding any one source I felt comfortable with them reading.

The opportunity to review Trak, the news magazine for high schoolers from God's World News, came at a great time. In addition to a year's subscription to Trak, I received an email from God's World News telling me we have a membership, which means we receive a print copy of World Magazine, a bi-weekly news publication for adults, as well as full access to online editions of all the God's World publications. They have magazines available for every age, from Pre-K through adult. I cannot tell you how happy that made me! In general, we follow Ambleside Online's curriculum, and World Magazine is one of the suggestions on their list of possible sources for current events.  It's published with a Christian worldview; you can read about that here. That's important to me. It's not hard to find news that is presented with a secular worldview; that's all I see and hear.

God's World News publishes magazines for students of all ages, from PreK through high school. The titles are:

  • God's Big World (PreK-K)
  • Early Edition (1st-2nd grade)
  • News Flash (3rd-4th grade)
  • News Current (5th-6th grade)
  • Top Story (middle school)
  • Trak (high school)

Trak (along with each student magazine) is published monthly (not in May or December). In addition to the print magazine, there is a corresponding website available, where students can read articles and other fun stuff. I haven't showed this to my girls yet, because frankly, they don't need another reason to spend time online. However, they could view it on their iPads if they needed to read and were away from their print versions. Some of the articles are the same as the print magazine, while some are website-only.

There are some great teacher resources to go along with the student magazines. There are several biographies on important historical figures from all time periods, and the teacher's version has study questions. We're studying the Middle Ages this year, so I went to the page to see what I could find, and there were several: King Alfred, Charlemagne, and Joan of Arc, to name a few. If we don't have time to read an entire book on a particular person, these short, 3-page biographies are a nice way to fill in gaps on someone we should know about. They include a section called "Bible2Life," which discusses how the subject of the biography lived their faith, and also a section titled "In That Day," which is a list of other events happening when the person lived, to help you put them in historical context.

There's also an international news summary, called "Globe Trot."I really liked that feature of the website. The one drawback to Trak is, as a monthly publication, it's not really daily or weekly news, if you know what I mean. This page on the website provides more current news.

My girls and I had some great discussions as we read through our magazines. I had them choose one or two articles that piqued their interest, and we talked about them. We talked about everything from trampoline safety to whether or not the government has the right to our cell phone and internet usage information. It was interesting to hear their opinions, and I tried to play devil's advocate to help them see both sides of the issues we discussed.

I like both Trak and World Magazine for my family. Even though they are Christian publications, I didn't agree with every article - and that is a good thing. That means I'm thinking about issues, and so are my girls as we talk things through. will definitely keep our subscriptions, and I'm going to check out the 1st grade magazine for my little man. Each version of the magazine is available from God's World News for $28.00 per edition (there is a discount when you subscribe to multiple editions). There are discounts available for homeschool groups and schools, too.

Click to read more reviews of God's World Magazines from the Schoolhouse Crew!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Life Skills at Co-Op

At our little Charlotte Mason co-op, we have a time slot for handicrafts and life skills. The first thing we did this semester was make some pillow cases to donate to children who have cancer. That was fun! They were easy to make, and it was a good feeling to think we were sending a small touch of love to children who are so very ill.

Since we finished our pillow cases, we've all been learning CPR. I've taken CPR before, but my certification has lapsed, so I'm grateful for the refresher. What's so neat about this is that she was able to get two kits for us to use at home, with DVD instructions and inflatable manikins to practice on! One is called Mini Anne, for practicing adult/child CPR, and the other is called Mini Baby, for practicing infant CPR.

Both of these kits are available from the American Heart Association, and they are only $34.95 each. You can sometimes purchase them through Amazon, but I couldn't find any consistent links to share. I'm not an affiliate for these kits, or anything like that. As we were practicing, I remembered why it's so important to learn CPR - you never know when you might be the only person who can save someone's life. What a great skill for kids to learn!

I was able to sign my girls up for a CPR certification class last week, and they will be getting their books and cards in the mail. They were both nervous, because they didn't know many of the other kids taking the class, but I think they had a good time. I'm proud of them for completing it, anyway.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

REVIEW: Starter Learning Chess Kit

I know I learned to play chess when I was young. My dad taught my brother and me, and we played quite a lot, as I recall. However, I have not played in years, and while I have a vague recollection of the way the pieces move on the board, and checkmate, I don't remember much beyond that. I never learned any cool chess moves like the Wronski Feint (okay, that's a Quidditch move, not a chess move, but you get the idea).

I did some quick research, and learned that the game of chess began, in some form, about 1500 years ago - in India! From there, it it spread to Persia, then to Arabia, and then to Europe (at least according to Wikipedia). This year in history we're studying the Middle Ages, and chess is part of that. Knights were expected to know how to play chess, and it was a popular game with nobility. We received the opportunity to review the Starter Chess Learning Kit from Chess House at the perfect time! The kit includes a vinyl mat that rolls up, regulation-sized plastic chess pieces, the Pawn Level DVD (the first level in Elliot's Chess School), and a handy carrying case to keep it all together.

The DVD lessons are taught by Elliott Neff, a National Chess Master. He even plays chess blindfolded.  I have no idea how that works at all, but his lessons are clear and easy to follow. He makes the game sound simple.

There are ten topics on this beginner-level DVD:
  • Intro to Chess
  • Pawns
  • Rooks
  • Bishops
  • Queen
  • King
  • Knights
  • Castling
  • Pawn Shields
  • Development
For each segment of the DVD, there is a corresponding practice game in the liner notes. (A friend of mine told me about the liner notes. I don't usually read liner notes. These are VERY HELPFUL, so if you get the DVD, don't skip them!) The lessons present how each piece moves, and the practice games have you practice moving the pieces from the lessons, without using all the pieces on the board. For example, when you learn about pawns, you can then play the pawn game, in which each player uses only their pawns to try to get across the board.

I learned a lot from the lessons and practice games. As I mentioned, I did learn to play chess when I was younger. However, I did not know the pieces are worth points, or that the rows and columns are called "ranks" and "files." I should have known that each space is labeled with a letter and a number, because I've certainly read books and seen movies about people playing chess through the mail, but I never thought about it until we watched the first lesson.

My girls learned a lot, too, and because Mr. Neff's lessons are taught so well, they had no idea how much they were learning. Each lesson segment is short, which is great, because they're not overwhelming. One of the reasons I haven't pursued chess in our family is the idea in my head that it's complicated. These DVD lessons showed me that is not true. It makes a huge difference, learning from someone who has mastered the game and is passionate about teaching people to play, rather than trying to teach ourselves from a book.

The girls and I had a lot of fun learning to play chess with this DVD. We watched one segment, played the corresponding practice game, and waited until the next day to watch the next lesson. Even some of our furry family members joined in the fun! The practice games really are excellent for building knowledge and confidence. We will definitely continue with this series of DVDs.

This starter kit is labelled for all ages, child through adult. I am not sure what the best age is to begin learning chess. I read that children can learn as young as 3, but my 6 year old is not interested yet. He did, however, teach me to play "Battle," which involves him knocking over all my pieces and making rules so I can't knock over any of his. Ha! I could probably teach him how to play the game, but I think I'll wait until he wants to learn, so it's fun for both of us. All that to say, there is no specific age when a child is "ready" to learn chess, and each child is different, so you'll want to determine for yourself if your young one is ready or not.

This Starter Chess Learning Kit is available from Chess House for $39.95, which is a great deal for everything included!

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

REVIEW: YWAM Publishing

As a public school graduate, I confess that my knowledge of American history is less than excellent. I know I learned some things, but haven't sought to continue learning, and I didn't connect with what I did learn, so I've forgotten most of it. I know George Washington was our first President, and that he led American troops against the British Army during the Revolutionary War, and that his house is called Mount Vernon (I've even been there). That's where my knowledge of his life ends. I would like to know more, and would certainly like my children to know him better, so I was excited to have the opportunity to review the book George Washington, True Patriot from YWAM Publishing. For the purpose of this review, I received an PDF copy of both the book and the corresponding Unit Study Curriculum Guide.

I read this book aloud to all three of my children, primarily with my girls in mind, who are 12 and 13. My 6 year old listened in too, and he enjoyed it. The stated age for this book and others in the Heroes of History series is 10 and up, but it's certainly accessible for younger students. The vocabulary is not complex, and it isn't a difficult read at all. I thought it was a nice overview of his life, and gave some good insight into his early years.

My children and I had great discussions about how very different George Washington's life as a child was from the way theirs is now. For example, he learned to ride a horse at a very young age, and by the age of 8 (eight!) he was riding alone (galloping, according to the book), delivering messages for his father. Also, at around the same age, he was hunting deer to feed his family, by himself, with a rifle. My girls have learned to ride horses - but in a ring, always supervised, and always wearing helmets. They have also learned to shoot guns, but not until they were 11 and 12, under very controlled circumstances, and I don't think I would feel comfortable letting them go out hunting on their own. I know I didn't go out hunting by myself at their age; I took a hunter's safety course when I was in high school, and learned to shoot skeet, but I certainly never went out by myself with a gun. My dad did as a boy, I know. It's interesting to note the changes from generation to generation.

George Washington was ambitious from a very young age, and found creative ways to advance himself in his career. His mother was an anxious woman, and tried hard to keep George close to home, particularly after his father died. He was supposed to go to England to attend school when he turned 12, but after his father's death, George's mother refused to let him go. After that, he made his own way. First, he found his father's old surveying equipment, and taught himself to use it. That led to his first job, working as the chainman on a team that mapped out land in the Shenendoah Valley, across the Blue Ridge Mountains. From there, he earned his surveyor's license and was appointed count surveyor. After his brother died, he went to the governor to ask for his late brother's appointment as adjunct of the Virginia colony, which was a bold move - George was only 20 and had no military experience. The governor decided to appoint four adjuncts to replace George's brother, and George was given the least prestigious of the four positions, but it gave him the military rank of major and new start. He was always looking for ways to achieve his goals, and didn't give up or wallow in self-pity when things didn't go exactly as he planned. He was even responsible for the situation that started the Seven Year's War between England and France - and yet ended up a decorated general in the American army and was our nation's first President. I loved learning about the good and the bad things in George Washington's life, and learning that while he had some difficult circumstances and certainly made some mistakes, he kept on going and was successful in his life.

The Unit Study Curriculum Guide has some nice resources. There are key quotes, which you could use for copywork, memory work, discussion; perhaps display a significant quote on a wall. For each chapter, there are four questions: a vocabulary question, a factual question, a comprehension question, and an open-ended discussion question. I particularly enjoyed going over the discussion questions with my girls. Putting themselves in George Washington's shoes, thinking about how he might have felt in a given situation, helped them connect with story. The guide also includes creative writing suggestions, ideas for hands-on projects, audio-visual projects, and arts and crafts. I am not a huge fan of unit studies in general, but anyone could use this guide to pick and choose things that work for your students and your educational philosophy.

There is also a suggestion to look for links to this part of history in your own community; perhaps a museum you could visit, or a local expert on the Revolutionary War or military tactics you could speak with. I love that - living history! There is a nice book list, containing suggestions of other biographies of George Washington and other related books, related movies and documentaries, related articles from National Geographic magazine, and related internet sites. The guide includes maps and timelines, which are wonderful resources to enhance your studies of this period in American history.

George Washington: True Patriot is available from YWAM Publishing for $6.99, for any version: print, Kindle or Nook. The Unit Study Curriculum Guide is available for $7.49. There is even an audio book!

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew!

Friday, October 04, 2013

REVIEW: Homeschool Mom's Bible

Along with other books, I love Bibles. I love reading different versions and having lots of them around so I can compare them. I don't always make time for quiet time in the mornings, so having a devotional is nice; it gives me something specific to read so I will sit down and do it. This Bible, the Homeschool Mom's Bible from Zondervan, provides both of those things in one lovely package! At my house, this is one less thing for me to misplace (if I had a Bible and separate devotional book, for instance), and that is a GOOD THING.

I chose the King James Version, because my children and I are working on reading it together. I might as well keep it up on my own time, too. It's also available in the NIV, if you'd prefer that. They are both hardcover Bibles, nice and sturdy. I have several leather-ish bound Bibles, and while they are lovely, they don't always sit well on the shelf. The paper is not as thin as in some Bibles, which is nice, and the font is large enough for comfortable reading. My over-40 eyes appreciate that.

Aren't they pretty? There are 365 devotionals in this Bible, spaced every few pages, with a border around each one so they are easily distinguishable from the rest of the text. They were written by Janice Tatman, a homeschool mom with 25 years experience. She wrote them for a daily devotional email sent out when she worked for a major curriculum supplier, and those pieces have been assembled into this Bible for homeschool moms. You could use the way the devotionals are spaced to read through the Bible in a year. It seems very do-able that way (and would not require me to keep track of a piece of paper with scheduled readings - another bonus). Additionally, there is a topical index in the back, so you can look up a particular issue and flip to a devotional written on it. I checked - "loneliness" is in there. I will need those often.

As I read through some of the devotionals, I found that some of them really spoke to me, and others don't fit where I am right now, and I disagreed with the perspective every now and then. That's the beauty of something like this - I might read through it every year, these same devotionals, and different ones will touch my heart. Even if I never resonate with some of them, every one is food for thought. The one in the picture was a really good one to read, about the response when a child is bored. Like the author, I have a host of chores that I could suggest to a child who tells me they are bored, but I loved her response to this child, at this time: that life isn't always lived on the mountaintop. She said to her son, "Most of your life will involve being faithful in the normal, everyday routine, but when God chooses, he gives you something that changes your life forever."

I don't know about you, but sometimes I struggle to be faithful in the daily routine. I find it difficult to stay focused on the things that I know are important every day, even though they involve taking care of my family. Sometimes I am distracted from homeschooling my children by feeling that I should be cleaning or cooking something, when in reality, they need my focused attention during school time. Sometimes I would prefer to read a book for fun than vacuum, or start laundry, or clean a bathroom. I need regular reminders to stay faithful to these things that are my job, and I appreciated the perspective in this reading.

There is something special about reading devotionals written just for a homeschool mom. This is a different life I live, with unique challenges and blessings, and it's a special thing to have devotionals written by someone who has been there before me, you know? If you're in the market for a Bible, or know someone who might like it, I hope you'll check it out. Both versions, KJV and NIV, are available from Zondervan for $34.99 each.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

REVIEW: VideoText Algebra

Do you struggle with teaching math in your homeschool? I do. I hate teaching math. There. I said it. Actually, anyone who knows me knows this, as I have been searching for the perfect curriculum that would solve all our math woes since my oldest child was in 1st grade (she's in 8th this year). I can do math, most of the time, but I don't teach it well. I have one way that I understand it, and if the children don't understand it that way, we find ourselves at an impasse. This has not made for a pleasant experience for any of us. I've learned (finally) that I have one child who learns math a little differently than your average bear, and I need to figure out how to help her with it. I've decided that THIS WILL BE THE YEAR in which we conquer the math monster.

We've been using another program that teaches on the computer, and while my children liked it, I could see that it wasn't giving them enough mathematical depth, if that makes any sense. When I received the opportunity to review Algebra: A Complete Course from VideoText Interactive, I jumped on it. I watched this sample video and learned WHY dividing fractions works the way it does, and I was sold. I did learn to divide fractions when I was in school, of course; I knew how, but never why. It might sound silly, but this was a huge revelation for me!

Each concept is taught through a video lesson, during which the student watches the instructor talking, as well as watching visuals of the concepts as they work through them, which replaces watching a teacher write on a blackboard. It's recommended that you sit and watch at least the first few videos with your student, stopping frequently to ask them about what they're learning and talk with them to be sure they understand. That, right there, is key - having your student narrate what they're learning back to you. Brilliant! I have been watching the videos with the girls when I can, but often I'm hanging out with my 6 year old, so the girls come to me when they are working through their problems for each lesson and we talk then. Each video lesson is 5-10 minutes long, so the lessons themselves are short - a perfect fit for our Charlotte Mason homeschool.

This is not a typical algebra program. When a student completes Algebra: A Complete Course, they can claim credits for Pre-Algebra, Algebra I and Algebra II. They do not use a traditional scope & sequence for teaching the subject; they teach with a mastery approach, going through and re-teaching arithmetic concepts and explaining why things work the way they do, then going on to apply those concepts to algebra.

The folks at Videotext recommend this course in general for 8th or 9th grade students, but if you feel your child is ready at a younger age, you can certainly start them in this program. Take a look at this video to hear Tom Clark, author of the program, explain how to know if your child is ready.

When you log in as the instructor, you have the option to print entire files for each unit, or print them out per lesson. It really depends on how you organize your students. I have one friend who gives her children binders with their daily work, so she puts their worktext pages in that binder, but prints out the course notes and bound them separately. I don't have daily work binders, so I chose to print all the course notes for the entire program and put them in one book, and print out the worktext for Unit 1 and put that in a binder by itself.

Instructor Screen
When students log in, this is what they see:

Obviously, they are not privy to handy things like the answer key. They have links to the video lessons, and the teacher is responsible for printing out any required documents for them. One thing I like is that each time they click on a new lesson, they receive a prompt that tells them to be sure they've taken the quiz for the previous lesson before they begin. That's a handy little reminder for both student and mom!

I'm not going to lie: this has been a challenging program for us. I am faced every day with how much math I've forgotten. I thought pre-algebra would be a breeze, but I'm constantly referring to the answer key to figure out how the questions should be answered, or how something is supposed to work. When they say they don't teach any shortcuts, they aren't kidding, and apparently I learned a lot of them. I am learning things from the ground up, just like they are. I think the best approach is going to be for me to watch each lesson the night before and work through some of the problems. Hopefully by doing that I will be able to help them when they have questions, and sound like I know what I'm talking about, rather than figuring it out on the spot.

My oldest child, who doesn't like math much, is being forced to think, and that is a GOOD THING. I can already tell she's learning a lot from this program. She said to me the other day, "I guess that's why they made me learn all that fraction stuff, eh?" I do think she enjoys the work, because she's finally learning the "why" of math. She never saw the point before, and now I think she's beginning to see.

My younger daughter likes this program very much, because it IS challenging. She likes math, and enjoys working through the problems. I actually had her skip a year in our other math program, because it was too easy, and I knew she'd pick up whatever she needed to know from Videotext. That has proved to be true. Today she learned how to factor, and she picked right up on it and finished her work. She did ask me if it's really necessary to go through all those steps just to simplify a fraction. I told her it is!

This really is an excellent math program, and we're going to continue on with it. It's available from VideoText Interactive for $299, which is a great price for what is essentially three years of math instruction.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew on VideoText Interactive's Algebra program, as well as their Geometry program.