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Green Acres is the place for me

We made the big move to the country over the last couple weeks. It was a stressful couple weeks. My grandma passed away, Chris had to work a LOT of overtime, and the kids came down with a nasty cold. We're still fighting that bug.

The house is drafty to the point of hilarity. We've laughed a lot over the size of gaps we've found. We weren't laughing when it it 8 degrees. But this gorgeous view makes it totally worth it.

No pictures of the house to share yet.



But I can share some of the wisdom I've already learned:

#1. Do not polyurethane a floor just before a polar vortex sweeps in, making it ridiculously cold for airing out the smell. And DEFINITELY don't polyurethane it the night before moving in. And DEFINITELY don't try to poison your favorite people by inviting them to come sleep over in your noxious living room.

#2. Always wear gloves when applying that expanding foam sealant in a can. With a 6 inch dispenser straw, it looks so innocently safe. It's not. Don't fall for it. And wear a ponytail. Trust me.

#3. Mice don't mind eating through foil. I knew, being surrounded by fields, that the nasty cold weather would send mice into our warm(ish) home. I thought I had things packaged carefully. Apparently mice eat through foil gravy packets? Yes, I use brown gravy packets. Don't judge. It's my comfort food.

#4. The world keeps spinning without internet. We had some kinks pop up with getting internet to the house. The phone company still doesn't believe me when I tell them our house exists. It has made getting writing deadlines and picture-sharing annoying, but we've survived just fine. In fact, I kind of like it.

#5. Propane is expensive, but boy does it make for a nice stove. My cast iron and I are LOVING this gas stove.

Countdown to Thanksgiving!

Disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links. It may also contain a review of items provided to me for free with the understanding that I would share my honest opinion. I am telling you this because FTC Regulations say I have to. 

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It contains the least pressure and practically zero commercialization, while providing a day (even several days) of family fellowship...not to mention some incredible food.

On top of these fabulous reasons for enjoying Thanksgiving, I love that the entire month is decorated with the beauty of changing leaves and reminders for God's many blessings.

To help us celebrate all month long, my family will be working through Amy Puetz's new eBook, Countdown to Thanksgiving.


 This book counts down to Thanksgiving, sharing a story and an activity for each day, beginning two weeks prior to the big day. Most of the stories contained in the book were written in the 1800s and early 1900s, some of which have not been republished since their first publication. The stories give a unique glimpse into Thanksgiving through the years and life in the olden days. The activities include recipes, games, songs, and more.

I've reviewed for Golden Prairie Press before and shared about the impressive quality of their material. This does not disappoint.

Countdown to Thanksgiving has a colorful cover page, but the interior pages are black and white for cost effective printing. It is also nice to view on an eReader or tablet.

There is a sale running on theCountdown to Thanksgiving Ebook until the 13th. Hurry and use the code THANK to receive $5 off of the regular price of $17. That would make this $12 for a book you can use every year as a November tradition.

Fall Copywork

Today, you can find me discussing the difference between copywork, dictation, and narration as a contributor over at Year Round Homeschooling.

And for my readers, I have a free Fall Copywork ebook

This ebook contains three levels of copywork, including print and several stages of cursive. It also includes all quotes as dictation exercises. It is a resource for all ages! 

IXL - a review

Christmas Book ReviewI'm sure you've seen the cute logo floating around the internet. You might have smiled at the clever title IXL, as in "I excel". You've probably wondered if it might be worth investing in. I strongly believe it is.

Recently, IXL gave us a one year membership to IXL Math and IXL Language Arts. With all of the chaos going on in our lives this month, I was quite relieved to know my girls would easily be able to continue practicing their math and grammar facts.

I realize there are free worksheets and drill games available out there, but they can't provide the kind of feedback that I get from IXL.

IXL covers everything from Pre-K skills to Pre-Calculus. It is intended for K-12th grade. It doesn't teach new concepts, but it gives excellent reinforcement.

Sign-in for IXL is a breeze. I create an account with one Login Username and Password and then register each student who will use the program. They log in with my Username & Password and the program then has them choose which student name belongs to them. Even easier, when you use the IXL App, you are always signed in and just need to tell it which student name to use.

Mine love that I was able to choose icons to represent them. I went with little cartoon faces to represent my girls, one with blonde hair and one with brown. When it's time to practice, students click on their icon and then choose the level they would like to practice.

The Levels range from A through N. Once students log in, they choose the level they would like to work on. This might be a deterrent for some families, if they have a student who insists on working on levels they aren't ready for.

I like that these don't list grade levels. This means that I don't worry any students that need reinforcement in younger material. It also means my students working ahead don't get big heads. They each just strive to work through their level and push on toward the next one. After choosing their level, 

Within each level, there are separate lists of skills to work on. For instance, if you choose Level A, you'll find 10 topics to work on, such as Shapes, Counting to 3, Comparing, Money, etc. Under the topic of Shapes, you'll find 3 skills to work on. Under the topic of Comparing, you'll find 4 skills to work on. There are a total of 42 skills in Level A. Each Level has a different number of skills covered. There are 277 in Level E, 288 in Level M, and so forth.

The problems are intuitive and this is a part that I think is key to this program. There aren't set number of problems and the child passes or fails. Instead, the problems are presented with the basics first and they progress in difficulty level as the student answers correctly. If the student misses a problem, it tells them what they need to do differently and continues to quiz them until they consistently answer correctly. It doesn't waste their time, grilling them on things they've proven they know. And it doesn't rush them through, moving them on before they are ready.

Once they master a skill, they receive a medal.

Each student has an Award page, which displays their progress. They have to earn a certain number of medals to reveal a "prize" behind each square of their award board. The prizes are fun pictures, which mark their accomplishments. Clicking on the Question Mark boxes tells you how many skills still need to be mastered to earn the prize.

I have my girls work on math for 1 hour each day. If they finish their regular math book assignment before the hour is up, they work in IXL. They LOVE wrapping up math so they can move on to IXL. They nearly always push for extra time with it.

This surprises me because it isn't anything like a math game. It is simply an attractive site with math problems. They are cleanly presented and just a perfect challenge level.

The pages are uncluttered and there is practically no sound to distract or annoy. When students answer problems correctly, a tiny "ding" sounds in the app and a sign pops up saying, "Terrific!", "Brilliant!", "Great Job!", etc. There are appropriate sounds for activities, and there is audio available for the younger grades so that students can have questions read to them.

If students answer incorrectly, IXL stops and walks them through what they did wrong. It doesn't just tell them what the correct answer should be, but it explains why it should be.

Something I especially love about IXL is the updates it gives me on my students' work. Weekly emails share performance reports on everything students have been up to. I can see at a glance how they are all doing and how much time they've spent practicing. I can look a little deeper and see their improvements, their challenges, and the time they are spending on individual problems. I can see which problems they missed, what answer they gave, and what the answer should have been.

IXL is excellent for parents wanting to know that their students have mastered their skills and to know what areas their students need extra work in. It is great for students, helping them practice and master skills. It is a great confidence booster, and not in the A-for-effort kind of way. Instead, it helps encourages them to work on skills until they are mastered, showing them their progress along the way.

IXL Language Arts 
There are currently 7 levels to practice in IXL Language Arts, with more to come. Students can begin with past tense and compound words, working onward toward analogies and ellipses. Recently, the IXL app was updated to also include Language Arts lessons, so students can use an iPad instead of the desktop for this section. The Awards and Reports works the same for this section of IXL as it does for Math.

Pricing for family memberships starts at just $9.95/month or $79/year for one subject. Each additional child costs $2/month or $20/year. So for my two girls, using IXL Math, it would cost us $99 per year. For IXL Math and Language Arts, the price for both girls would be $149 per year.

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