A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers

A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers
The Burts in 2013

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I Think It Might Be Fall

Hopefully most homeschool families are back in the swing of things and enjoying the school year. That's not to say homeschooling families have to follow the public school's schedule - as a very eclectic homeschooling mom, I'd be pretty hypocritical to think that way! But I hope you are feeling good about this school year, whether you're 5 weeks in or just rolling up on day 180. My mantra for this year is "Be Encouraged! Be Encouraged! Be Encouraged!"

Fall is a great time of year for me to spend some time in reflection; this year I'm reflecting on the last 13 years of homeschooling. My oldest is 17 and his senior year is in full swing. He's working hard studying for his upcoming SAT II subject tests, keeping pace in his college Chemistry and Calculus classes,coaching Learn-to-Skate classes at the ice rink, and playing football with a local private Christian high school. (In his last game he had something like 30 tackles - he's really playing when he's on the field!) I'm busy all day every day (hence the lack of blog posts lately) but I'm also reflective and fully plugged in, enjoying the moments each day brings.

It's been a long 13 years; and yet it has been a very short 13 years...some of you know exactly what I mean! As I look over college brochures and schedule campus visits, I ponder the many days of hard work that brought us to this place. It's a blessing to be able to home educate my kids! And I want to think ahead, plan ahead and prepare myself for the changes that will come this summer. One of the ways I do that is to keep saying to myself, "Be Encouraged! Be Encouraged! Be Encouraged!"

I hope you are encouraged as you go about your day to day duties of teacher, mom, wife, guidance counselor, chauffeur, and daughter of the King of kings. Keep that last title in mind ~ because there is nothing I can say that can really encourage you much at all; but just a smidgen of time spent with Him can fill you to overflowing and be your encouragement all day long.

I have a giveaway on today's post - one copy of the Summer 2010 edition of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Leave a post and I will have my kid's hold a "drawing" and I'll contact the winner to get her mailing info.

Remember ~ Be Encouraged! Be Encouraged! Be Encouraged!

Day 42 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Product Review - New Monic Book's Vocabulary Cartoons, SAT Word Power

Vocabulary Cartoons, SAT Word Power (published by New Monic Books)is a fast-paced, simple to use asset for any highschooler prepping for the SAT. This 347 page book uses menmonics to teach 290 words commonly found on the SAT test. The age range suggested is 7th t 12th grade, but it really could be used from 3rd grade on up through 12th. At $12.95 for the paperback edition, it really is a good deal.

My high school students have used a variety of methods in their SAT and ACT preparations, including HUGE test guides, piles of vocabulary word flashcards, daily emails, and SAT prep websites. This handy little book would have been a real gem - if only I'd discovered it sooner!!

Some "complaints" I have about the resources we used are that the stacks of flashcards can tip over and become disorganized; websites take time access when schedules are full & remembering passwords can use up valuable time; test guides are big, bulky and just plain inconvenient to use. While this resource from New Monic wouldn't solve all these problems, it would help with learning common SAT words - therefore it would eliminate stacks of vocab words on flashcards. Believe me, it's no fun when a pile tips over and the words are suddenly all out of order...time spent re-ordering flashcards is NOT time well spent. SAT and ACT prep is stressful by nature - this is a time of uncertainty in the life of a teenager and as a homeschooling mom, I strive to make things simpler for my child as he preps for his college future (note I said simpler - not easier...there is an important difference!).

The ease of this program is based in the use of mnemonics to "link" the vocabulary words to certain memories or key words. Similar to the phrase, "In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue," this book uses mnemonics to "stick" the vocab words in the student's memory. Simple, yet effective - you can see why even 3rd graders can benefit from this book! I received this book at no charge from the publisher in order to review it, but I really would recommend this product...I'd also like to suggest their Coffin's Patch book (an engaging novel that includes 430 SAT words highlighted in the text) and the Picture Speller for Young Writers (this would have been great when my kids were younger!). To see these products, or to buy SAT Word Power in softcover or CD edition, visit their website at VocabularyCartoons.com

Thanks for checking out my review of New Monic's Vocabulary Cartoons, SAT Word Power. Have a fantastic weekend & happy SAT prepping!!

Day 41 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Math Tutor DVD Review

Today is an exciting day for me - I GET to review some fantastic products. Notice the emphasis on the word "GET"...I'm not exaggerating in the least; the products I'm writing about today are some of the best I've seen in my 13 years as a homeschooler. Furthermore, this company's resources would be a help to any student studying math on any level (from basic math to physics). Read on to learn more!

I received 2 DVDs from the MathTutorDVD company - The Pre-Algebra Tutor Volume 1 and The Texas Instruments TI-83/TI-84 Calculator Tutor. Of the two DVDs, my family and I have used the Pre-Algebra Tutor discs the most, so my review will focus more on that item than on the TI tutorial. Let me say, however, the Texas Instruments tutorial DVDs will be used in our home and I am certain I will learn a lot about complex calculators & their functions. Both of these resources are of great value to my homeschool - I am very impressed with both products. and each disc is divided into "sections". There are a total of 9 sections on the 2 discs and each section is something like 40 minutes long (give or take). We use the sections as additional teaching help whenever they correspond with our current math program's lessons. That sounds harder than it actually is; the section titles are listed on the back cover of the DVD & it's pretty simple to match the section with the current Algebra topic being covered in our day to day math program.

Let me briefly discuss one of the sections from the Pre-Algebra Tutor Volume 1 set. "Absolute Value" is one of the sections on Disc 1; it's a simple but often misunderstood algebraic concept, so it seems like a good topic to discuss. The teaching style on the DVDs is very relaxed; the tutor uses a set of whiteboards as he explains and reviews the concept while working plenty of examples. In the section covering absolute value, he begins by explaining the symbol for absolute value - such as |4| or |-2|. Then he explains that each digit has an absolute value using a number line to demonstrate this concept. Whether negative or positive, the digit "2" is 2 places removed from "0" which is at the center of the number line. So, it's absolute value is "2" whether it is a negative or a positive number. Don't worry if my explanation doesn't sound simple - the tutorials are so well done that anyone can learn new concepts with this program.

The next thing he teaches in this section is a list of rules for adding and subtracting integers (which are simply positive and negative numbers). Again he uses the number line as he teaches, backing up his words with a visual example. So my visual learners can grasp the concept along with my auditory learners and those that are more kinesthetic can "complete the learning loop" by pausing the DVD, working some of his example problems on their own as they say the rules aloud to themselves or pause the DVD and add some notes to their math binders. And I would also like to mention that the tutor has a very pleasant voice - now, that may sound silly to some of you, but after 13 years of homeschooling I've learned that a monotone voice = a tuned out student.

While the tutor does say it's okay for student's to check their work on a number line, he wants them to memorize the "rules" and "signs". I agree with him 100% on this point - and that is one reason we use math binders for notes in our homeschool. Each student has their own binder and notes are added one page at a time as needed. All their notes are in one place, neatly written and organized. My children rarely need to have an "open book" quiz or test because the process of keeping the binder and reviewing their notes during their day to day assignments works amazingly well. (Except for my math loving son - he doesn't need notes for math - he does Calculus to relax!)

In a nutshell, this company has produced products that should simply sell themselves. I like everything about the tutorials - from the length of the lessons to the cost of the DVDs. And I must admit, after using many different programs over the years, I was pleasantly surprised by these products! Even my son the math whiz commented on how great they were - coming from a young man who makes the interpretation of math classes on MIT's Free Courseware seem simple, that's a high compliment. If he says they do a good job, believe me, they do a good job! And it gets even better - MathTutorDVD has online subscription's available for $19.95 per month. All of the courses are available to watch from your computer at home - and different aged children in the home can share the same account and watch different subject levels. That's a real bargain for a homeschooling family!

The DVD sets cost anywhere from $21.99 to $49.99 depending on the subject. I've looked over their product selection and couldn't find anything "missing" that I would have needed during our son's math-oriented high school years. The length of the tutorial DVDs varies - some are 4 or 5 hours in total, while others have as much as 14 hours of teaching on the discs. Teacher prep? None is required, although mom or dad could watch the section first in order to be one step ahead of the student. All ages and all learning styles would benefit from this series. I'd have to give this company a "strong A". If you'd like to learn more, you can visit their website at

Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about these fantastic products - I'd be more than happy to give you my biased opinion :)

Lord bless your happy homeschool today!

Day 40 done :)
Jan L. Burt