Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A+ TutorSoft, Inc., Math Program


I had the opportunity to review an online math program which was used by my daughter through A+ TutorSoft, Inc..  She is a little behind in math, so we were given access to the online homeschool version of grade 4 math, A+ Interactive Math Online.  


The first thing I noticed when trying to access this program is that it doesn't work too well in Google Chrome.  I needed to run it in Mozilla Firefox.  Once enrolled, my daughter did a lesson or two a day four days a week.  She worked through the program from "number sense review" to "fractions."  She also did some work with time and money, skipping algebra and geometry.  Clicking on the plus sign beside a topic on the left hand side of the screen, the student can see lessons.  Once a lesson is clicked on, it shows up in the screen on the right.  A female voice reads everything that shows up on the screen.  She reads slowly.  My daughter didn't like the voice and usually muted it and read the problems to herself.  When the practice problems come up, as soon as an answer is chosen, a window pops up with a character in it letting the student know the answer is right or wrong.  There is no "submit" button, no second chance.  

There are online worksheets, which my daughter did.  They show up one problem at a time, and the score is recorded automatically so that I can chart her progress.  A cumulative grade report can be printed out.  There are also printable worksheets and exams included in the online version.

My daughter says she didn't like the program, but she doesn't like math; so I'm not sure there would be a math program created that she does like.  I, however, liked the fact that she could be taught how to do each type of problem and then practice it before doing worksheets or taking an exam.  I would like it if she had to hit a "submit" button before entering her answers on the practice problems so that she wouldn't be frustrated or discouraged when it marks her answer wrong.  She did have to hit a button to enter her answer on the online worksheets. 

A+ TutorSoft, Inc., offers CD (Windows) and online versions of their math programs for grades 1 through 7 and Algebra 1.  The CD versions for each grade come in a standard edition for $99.99, a premium edition for $124.99, and an eBook edition for $59.99.  The online version is available in three different subscription lengths: 1 month for $19.99, 3 months for $49.99, and a full year for $124.99.  

The online version is the most comprehensive version as it does everything the CD versions do but also automatically grades worksheets and tests, generates additional worksheets and tests, gives the ability  to review questions and see step-by-step solutions, gives 24/7 access, and more.

A+ TutorSoft, Inc., is offering a 50% special promotion on A+ Interactive Math through the end of March.  The coupon code is SPOFFER50.

There is also a free one-month homeschool edition subscription.  Try the program for free before buying a subscription or CD.

You can read other reviews of this product by checking out the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Bends, Backstretch, and Burning Rubber

I am not a NASCAR fan, but John received two free tickets to the Daytona 500 on Thursday.  I'll try just about anything once, especially if it's free.  Thankfully, a friend was willing to take my hours on Sunday at work so that I could go.  We went to church Sunday morning and then headed down.  Daytona is only an hour away from where we live.  We figured we'd watch a little bit of the race, have the experience of being there, and then head home before the crowd left.  It didn't work out that way.  I didn't want to leave.

We parked behind the track and walked to a shuttle.  As we were walking, we saw the Thunderbirds.  I think they had performed earlier in the morning and were in the process of shutting down when we were there.

I was impressed by the level of organization there was with the shuttle service.  You could tell they had done this sort of thing before.  There was no waiting around to board a shuttle.  Bus after bus arrived to carry people to the track.  The experience was the same when we left.  The only lag was waiting for people to climb on board the buses.  There was a man behind us on the bus talking to his friend about being in the service and having to spend some time in the "Land of the Yankees."  John and I chuckled.  We were definitely in the south.

I got excited as we neared the speedway.  The fact that we actually had the opportunity to be there was thrilling.

Behind the Backstretch
Heading towards the Backstretch 
The Backstretch Gate
After having our bags inspected and tickets scanned, we headed to our seats.  Thankfully, I'm not afraid of heights.  I imagine if you were then climbing the steps to your seats would be a daunting task.

We had fairly good seats.  We were sitting in the backstretch directly across the way from the start/finish line.  We couldn't see the start/finish line, but there were a few Jumbotrons set up so we could see the action on the other side.

In the lake in front of us was a party boat with "Duck Dynasty" advertising all over it.  We were told the entire cast was on board.  I didn't see anybody I recognized from the show, though.

The drivers ran a few warm-up laps behind the pace car before the race began.

Danika Patrick (in green) - First woman to get pole position in Daytona 500.
The K-Love car.
Jimmie Johnson before the race he would soon win.
Once the pace car left the track, the race was on.  There was a great deal of excitement at the beginning of the race, whenever drivers came back on the track after a pit stop, after the yellow caution flag went away, and during the last few laps.  The time in between when they would follow each other in a single file line, lap after lap, was quite boring.  Sometimes the yellow caution flag would go up because of debris on the field.  Once it was cleared, things got exciting again.

A few crashes were within our sight as turn #2 claimed handfuls of cars various times throughout the day.  It makes you feel bad for the teams that spend so much money to be a part of something like this only to be taken out because of another driver's mishap.


These jet sweepers were louder than the race cars.
We had a beautiful day of weather while we were there.  There was not a drop of rain, even though folks were worried it would.  It did get chilly enough for a jacket but then warmed up again once the sun came out.  We left under cloudy skies again, but they were beautiful.  We finished our date with dinner at Red Lobster on the way home.  It was delicious!  The whole day was wonderful, definitely worth blogging about.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Florida Alphabet

Since we have been here in Florida for almost 9 months, I thought I'd have a little fun with my blog and list 26 things I have discovered or enjoy about Florida, following the alphabet...

A is for Alligator Farm in St. Augustine.
B is for Borillo's Pizza - the owner has Steelers paraphernalia all over the walls of the restaurant.
C is for Cocoa - the name of our puppy we got in September.
D is for Disney World - only two hours away!!!!!!!!!!
E is for EverBank Field - where the Jaguars play.
F is for First Lego League - Jake's team made it to Regionals.
G is for Go Fish - the store where I work in downtown St. Augustine.
H is for hurricanes - never really had to worry about them before moving down here.
I is for I-95 - the main highway that runs North and South through Florida.
J is for Jacksonville - the city where John works.
K is for Kilwin's - a local ice cream shop.
L is for Lions - the Bridge of Lions - connects St Augustine to Anastasia Island over a beautiful bay.
M is for Mandarin Christian Homeschoolers - the co-op we attend on Friday mornings.
N is for Navarre Beach Sand Sculpting Competition - drove 6 hours to camp with friends and see sand.
O is for Outlets - there are two different outlet malls just five miles away.
P is for Publix - the closest grocery store - they have the best spinach artichoke dip.  :-)
Q is for Quaint Old St. Augustine - I love the stores, the forts, the history, the tourist traps, all of it.
R is for Ribault Club - an destination of the rich and famous in the early 1900s, now part of a state park.
S is for St. George Street - the pedestrian-only street full of shops in Old St. Augustine.
T is for Turning Point Christmas Lights.
U is for UCF - where Jake had his Lego League competition.
V is for Virtual Charter School - Jake is taking his driver's ed course through FVCS.
W is for Winn-Dixie - the grocery store that closely resembles Giant Eagle and gives $ off gas.
X is for Ximenez-Fatio House - historic attraction in Old St. Augustine - never visited but filled the "x" spot.
Y is for Yogurt Co. - the first self-serve yogurt shop we'd ever been to.
Z is for Zebra Longwing - Florida's state butterfly - it'd be a good one for Steelers Country.

I hope you enjoyed a little taste of our adventures.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Unfolding a Scatterbrain, a Cauldron, and an Ant

The first known use of the word scatterbrained was in 1747.  I had been using this word to describe what my brain has been like the last few weeks, but I've learned it's not really a word I would want to use to describe myself.  Merriam-Webster defines scatterbrained as "having the characteristics of a scatterbrain."  That makes it very clear, doesn't it?  Okay, so what is a scatterbrain?  It is defined as a "giddy, heedless person."  The definition becomes increasingly more clear with every word I look up.  NOT!!  The dictionary says the first known use of scatterbrain was in 1659.  Was it really almost 100 years before describing a person as a scatterbrain and saying they are scatterbrained?  Hmmm.  Must just be first time in print.

Anyway, we probably all know what a giddy person is like.  A heedless person is one who lacks direction or thought.  My mind isn't like this lately.  It is more like a cauldron full of thoughts all mixing together.  I can multitask to an extent but, when there are two or more urgent matters swimming around in my mind, I have difficulty.  I am starting to think about Jake going to college and what needs to be done here in the next 3-1/2 years to be sure he can get into the college he wants and study the major he is interested in.  I also have to consider what is best for Nate and Paige for their future and my sanity as a homeschooling mom.  I am having to work with an attorney to be sure my medical bills are paid from an accident I was in last year.  I always have our finances on my mind and being sure we are not overspending.  (The $10 late fee charge I just got hit with for being late on Paige's dance class payment doesn't help that.  Utilities don't even charge that much for a late payment.)  I am taking a class online that will hopefully allow me to begin doing medical transcription again.  I have friends with cancer.  The list goes on and on.

I would rather let life just happen but, at some point, I need to be proactive so that things are done and done well.  If I do nothing, there will be consequences.  If I don't do right by my kids, they may not get where they want to be in life when they get older.  I know they have to play their part in the process, but finding their curriculum and teaching them is my responsibility.  Dealing with the attorney needs to be done so that my bills are paid.  Going through this class is something I have to do if I want to be able to work at home and be there for my kids as opposed to having to work outside of the home.  Good things in life are worth working for.

I am reminded of Proverbs 6:6 which says, "Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise."  A sluggard is a habitually lazy person.  I do not want to be a sluggard.  I'd rather be like an ant.  The female worker ant takes care of the queen, the young, and the ant nest.  They search for food.  They store the food.  They build the nest.  Some worker ants are soldiers, guarding the nest.  Worker ants are born for a life of service, and they live on average 1-5 years.  Why should I, being made in the image of God, choose to be lazy when a small ant, not made in the image of God but created by God, works from the time it is born until the time it dies?  God is always at work but does rest.  He is always creating and is always involved in our lives, but he takes time for rest.  I should do the same - expect to work and work hard but take time for rest.  It shouldn't be the other way around - lounge around all day every day and then do a little bit of work from time to time.  I need to just get busy and get stuff done.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Unfolding A Weekend Excursion

Want to know another reason why I love living in Florida?  Disney World is only two hours away (if you don't count Orlando traffic on a Friday afternoon during rush hour).  We made our second trip to WDW this past weekend since we moved here.  Our main purpose for heading to Orlando was for Jacob's Regional First Lego League competition.  They were competing for a bid to the state level, which they didn't win unfortunately.  Since we had to be there at 7:30 a.m., we decided it would just be easier to spend the night in Orlando on Friday.  Of course, then, we just had to make it a Disney weekend.

My original plan was to leave at 2 p.m.. on Friday, but I found out that Cocoa was due for a booster shot on Saturday.  Fearing the kennel would not let her stay the weekend, I made an appointment for her to have that booster at 2:00 on Friday.  That meant I had to leave our co-op as quickly as possible, but that didn't happen because I needed to talk to one of the teachers before heading home.  Instead of being able to wash the dishes in the sink before I left, I just threw them in the dishwasher and closed the DW door.  I don't recommend doing this.  It took quite a while for the stench to go away with a Scentsy burning after I came home and opened the DW door.  Ew!

Cocoa ate food right before we left for the vet, but I didn't have the wherewithal to pick up her food before she ate.  So, she threw up in the car on the way to the vet.  That was just lovely.  She didn't have a fever, so I just chalked it up to having just eaten and my crazy driving so we wouldn't be late for her appointment.  The vet appointment took 15 minutes, but then I had to go to the post office to mail something to my mom.  Nothing ever gets done quickly in St. Augustine.  The traffic was horrible, and the line was long so I used the machine to print out my own postage and pay for it.  I also had to get gas.  By the time I was on I-95, it was 3:00.  We reached Orlando in time for rush hour.  That was not fun.  Cocoa also threw up two more times in the car.  Of course we knew this was from a Nylabone I had given her.  I bought two bones for her a few weeks ago expecting to hold onto the bacon-flavored one for our trip.  This would be a special treat.  I didn't know the bacon-flavored bone was edible, unlike every other Nylabone she had ever had.  She ate half of it and was car sick the whole way there.  I was sure the kennel would be calling us to get her in the middle of the night because she was sick.  Thankfully, she didn't have any other issues all weekend.

After Cocoa was settled and we checked into our room, we had dinner at the counter service restaurant at our resort.  We stayed at Old Key West.  It is the oldest Vacation Club Villa.  It doesn't have amenities as nice as some of the other deluxe resorts, but it is okay for a weekend in January.  There is a pool, but it was too cold for us (Floridians) to use.  :-)

After dinner, we went to Epcot and purchased Disney passes.  This is something I had wanted to do since before we moved down, so I was thrilled to finally have them in my possession.  Our first ride that night was Mission Space.  The kids all rode the more intense version, and John and I rode the less intense one.  We got into the capsule and had a delay which turned into a second delay.  If you know anything about Mission Space, they put you into make-believe hypersleep for your trip to Mars.  I told John I was putting myself into hypersleep and that he could press the buttons in front of me when it was my turn to press them.  Our next ride was Test Track.  They have refurbished it, so it doesn't have the large room when you enter where you see all of the car parts and crash-test dummy areas.  It is a hallway you follow that shows various elements of car design.  There is an area where you can design a car, which then can be in a commercial you create after the ride is over.  Nate's computer crashed, so he couldn't design a car.  The next morning, the computer crashed on John.

We rode Soarin' which worked just fine, but three kids tried to jump almost the entire line while we played games on the large screens in front of us while we waited to get on the ride.  We caught them and stopped them, making it impossible to jump the line any further.  Some people's kids.  :-(    Our last ride that night was Battleship Power Nap...I mean Spaceship Earth.  I cannot ever remember the name of this ride.  It always comes out Battlefield Earth or Battleship Earth.  John calls it Spaceship Power Nap.  So, we have affectionately named it Battleship Power Nap, or is it Battlefield Power Nap.  I may never get that one right.

The next day Jake and I were up at 5:45.  We stopped at McDonald's for breakfast on the way to UCF.  Jake likes French Toast sticks, and I remembered that McD's had them.  I was a bit surprised when his French toast had ham and cheese between the bread slices.  Really?  That doesn't even sound good.  Jake just picked at the bread.  He hates cheese.  My maple and fruit oatmeal was good though.  I highly recommend it.

We all had fun at the Lego competition, but it was sad when they didn't get a bid.  It all worked out the way it should have though.  The coach found out two weeks ago that she has breast cancer, and she starts chemotherapy on Friday.  Please pray for her.  Her name is Karyn.  Thanks!!

That night we went to the Magic Kingdom.  I was eager to see the new Fantasyland.  I am not impressed yet.  They aren't finished.  Right now, there is a very expensive restaurant, a counter service restaurant, a character greeting spot and a ride with a very long wait time.  I looked at the menu for the restaurant.  We peeked our heads in the counter service restaurant, Gaston's Tavern, and saw Gaston's great big chair, and then decided Ariel's water ride wasn't worth the 40-minute wait at 9 p.m.  Nate wanted to ride Space Mountain, but the wait was too long.  When we went back later, it was shut down for "technical difficulties." (I'd be avoiding this even if it was rideable.) There was definitely a theme running through the weekend.

Sunday was great.  I woke up around 7:30 and went to the gift shop to buy cereal.  We had breakfast in our room and then went to visit Cocoa.  We did this twice a day, so it made it a bit easier for all of us having her in a kennel.  Best Friends Kennel is right on Disney property.  I recommend this kennel if you are looking to board a pet while you visit WDW.  The prices are pretty reasonable, especially if you are staying on property.  They really take care of the animals there, and the facilities are great!  You can pop in any time you want to see your pet.

In the dog park - Cocoa and Jake

Cocoa mid run

Playing with Nate
Hulk at the Lego store

Jake wanted to eat lunch to celebrate his birthday at T-Rex in Downtown Disney.  We had just enough time to get to Hollywood Studios and maybe ride one ride and get Fast Passes for Toy Story Mania.  We got the FPs and then went to lunch.  John and the kids wanted to ride Rock 'n Roller Coaster, but the wait was 40 minutes or 60; I can't remember.  I myself have been advised to avoid the harder, more intense rides at Disney because of issues with my neck, so I have to forego most of the roller coasters from now on.  The other ride we could have gone on was the Tower of Terror, but the wait for that was 30 minutes; either one would have made us late for lunch.  Even though we were early for our reservation, they seated us.  The kids played at the Lego store while we waited for our food.  We ate in the Ice Cave where there were meteor showers every 20-30 minutes.  The walls of the cave turned from blue to red and back to blue.  It is very, very loud in this restaurant, but it is a lot of fun as well.

T-Rex skeleton in the Ice Cave
 After lunch, we headed back to Hollywood Studios to use our Toy Story Mania fast passes.  Totally worth it!!  John and the kids headed to Rock 'n Roller Coaster while I rode the Tower of Terror by myself.  This is my all-time favorite ride.  The wait was only 10 minutes.  So that was a bonus!

John and Paige in the back/Nate and Jake in the front totally enjoying their ride
Jake in a silly hat.  Doesn't everybody have a least one family-member-in-a-silly-hat picture?

Jake, Paige, and I rode this.  We enjoy this every time, especially when they open a new line right when we get there.
Once we finished up at Hollywood Studios, we spent the rest of Sunday at Epcot.  We spent some time in Club Cool.  Why not spend time drinking free Coke from around the world?  We've been there enough to know the two flavors that are worth drinking.  Half of the experience of Club Cool is sticking to the floor because of all of the Coke that gets spilled throughout the day.  ;-)

I forced the family to head to World Showcase.  All I kept hearing was, "Why are we here?  What is there to do here?"  I can't explain it, but I just loving walking around back there.  The theming here is excellent.  There is so much to see and hear and smell.  We ate dinner in Paris and had dessert in Paris, America, and Germany.  

Hand-carved $8,000 elephant.  Nate said it didn't look like it was worth more than $7,000.

A Corner of Paris taken from our outdoor table during dinner.
John and the boys rode Test Track again.  I think this time it worked out for everyone.  Paige and I stayed off and bought jackets at Mouse Gear.  It was downright chilly, and we were not dressed for cold weather.  Once we finished riding and eating and shopping, it was off to pick up Cocoa.  She was so happy to see us and finally get to leave via the front door.  She made it the whole way home without any issues at all.  We arrived safely home around 11:00 and slept until almost 11 the next day.  It was totally worth it!!!!!

I hope you enjoyed my weekend getaway journal.  Thanks for reading.