Preventing the Summer Slide with Dreambox

This summer has been one of our most structured summers when it comes to doing school with Wes. One program I did purchase this year to use was Dreambox Learning.

My long term readers may remember me doing a review on Dreambox Learning back in 2010, you can read it HERE if you’d like to see what I thought about it back then. The site has changed BIG time since then though. For example, back then it was geared towards K-3. Now it is designed for ages K-7! Also students can work through this program on their iPads.

I’m not sure if its that Wes is now more mature now, or the site has improved a lot, but he is doing AMAZING with this program. Before I thought of it as a supplement. Honestly at the end of June when I opened this account I thought “Oh we’ll just use it for the summer then I will cancel the account.” Nope, I am going to purchase a year subscription and use it along side Saxon math.

Math is something Wes is really strong in, however I’m not 100% comfortable with how Math is taught in our schools. I know they use the Manitoba curriculum, and I have read though it. But to me it seems like a lot is left at the discretion of the teacher. Each teacher could be pulling methods from different curriculums to meet the Manitoba Curriculum standard, and the teacher the next year could pull from other curriculums. And with the Common Core influence from the US leaking into Canada, I want my son to handle on Math. So I’m using Dreambox to reinforce and accelerate what he is learning in the school system. Then I am using Saxon math in help him get a good grip on old fashion paper and pencil math.

The combination seems to be doing him wonders. We have two and a half weeks left of summer here in Canada, and Wes has completed 36% of the grade 4 curriculum. I know this will give him a good leg up in school come September. This was done by spending 45mins 3-4 times a week.

I totally recommend Dreambox Learning to anyone interesting in helping their child catch up, or get ahead in math.

While I’m not being compensated directly by Dreambox for this review, if you would like a free month trial, leave your email in the comments box and I will send you one from my account. This will allow me to possibly earn free months for Wes to us this program.

Touch Math Upper Grade Workbook Review

Touch Math Upper Grade Workbook Review
touch math

Touch Math For Supplemental Teachings at Home

Even though Wes is in public school, there are a few subjects I just cannot leave in the hands of the public school system. I think even though your child is in school you should still play an active part in their education. Especially when it comes to math. Even though your child has a wonderful teacher(like my son does) there is no way they can individualize their curriculum based on their needs with 20+ children in class. There is a curriculum that must be followed and with a timeline to meet. While some children grasp the concept after one assignment, another child may need several. So I have decided to support both my son and his teacher and afterschool him.

Afterschooling is when a child attended school outside the home, but the received supplemental teachings at home, in the evenings, weekends and holidays.

Why We Love Touch Math

When I was homeschooling my son we struggled to find a math program that didn’t end up with him in tears. I’m telling you I bought several, but TouchMath was what broke the ice for Wes. He just blossomed when he was finally taught the strategies in a way he could understand.

Here are some of my past TouchMath reviews if you’d like to check them out:

Touch Math Review and Giveaway(Giveaway closed)

Touch Math Review

Jones Geniuses Vs Touch Math

Touch Math First Grade Software

Upper Grade Workbooks on Addition and Subtraction

Today I am reviewing The Upper Grade Workbooks on Addition and Subtraction . The workbook consists of 56 pages of student activity sheets that features scaffolding problems that help the student work to mastery. Each workbook also includes a answer key for easy correcting for busy parents.

Wes was super excited when he heard these books were coming in the mail. When he got home and found the package in the mail box he was so pumped he actually sat down and completed 15 pages in one sitting. TouchMath has always been a very inviting to him, and is honestly one if his favorite math programs too,

Scaffolding Method

I loved the fact that the scaffolding method helped Wes realize that if he could add and subtract single digits, double digits were not that hard. Then when adding hundreds and thousands were introduced he was able to smoothly transition.

The writing in the books are clean, crisp and free of distraction, while still child friendly. While the downloadable pages you can purchase from TouchMath, I like the ready workbook that requires no planning. After I correct my son’s work and any corrections are made, I circle the page numbers of the pages I want him to do the next day and put it away. The following day when asked to do his TouchMath, he opens his book and knows which pages to do. Sometime he will even circle the number of an extra page or two when he feels like he’s on a roll and completes those too.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely!! When Little Z is ready for workbooks, we will be starting with kindergarten level workbooks for sure. Hopefully they will have a Preschool level workbooks by then. TouchMath has been a total blessing for my family. The skills he has learned over the years using this program can easily be transferred to other math programs he is using at school. And at $10 a workbook they are VERY affordable.

Touch Math is Now Homeschool Friendly

One thing about TouchMath back when I first discovered them what it was not easily accessible for homeschooling  parents due to the cost. Back then it was designed for the classroom. But over the last few years they have created products like this and others. They are smaller, and designed to be used by parents and one or two children. Touch Math really take suggestions from parents and educators seriously. They want to know how the children who are using their program are doing.

 

Disclaimer: I received these workbook in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any other way.

What the boys are doing these days.

I got a gentle push again from my dear friend reminding me its been a while since my last update. Honestly the last month I seem to have been getting sick here and there, and well this blog was put on the back burner.

The boys are doing very well. Wes is advancing through his piano book, and doing very well. I started him more on a after school routine. Every evening he is suppose to do 20 mins of home reading for school, and then practice his piano for piano lessons. His teacher doesn’t send home any homework and now that he’s in grade 3 I see an issue with this. I don’t want him to be shell shocked when he starts grade 4 or 5 and starts getting 30mins to an hour of homework a night. So when he arrives home I proved him a pile of books to read. I set a timer for his 20 mins.

Wes struggles with comprehension. He is amazing at decoding words, but what is the point of being able to decode if you don’t understand what you are reading? So a while back I found these books. I know he’s in the third grade, but I decided to buy the 1st and 2nd grade first. I’d rather him work through a book and have success with it, then start him at the grade 3 level and have it be too hard and have him give up. Also even though the first few assignments in the 1 st grade may seem easy, I think he is still taking something away from it.

I also decided to start taking advantage of our Click N Kids subscriptions. Wes is always wanting iPad/Computer time, and frankly I’m sick of the mind numbing garbage that he’s watching/playing. So I have him do one lesson of the spelling program and one of the phonics. Right now he’s whizzing though it. I’m bumping him up 5 phonics levels each time trying to find his level. As for spelling, we just started this, but I having him go to the lessons that offer a test of the previous lessons. If he does well I bump him up to the next level that has a test. If he were to do poorly, or not pretty close to 100% I would go back and have him complete the previous levels. 



 So the other day my step daughter came home with her homework from school. She attends a well know college prep school(pre-k to Grade 12). I flipped through the book as I had heard about it from the BrillKids forum. I like them a lot, so I looked into ordering them. I was shocked that they were available on amazon.ca for such an affordable price. Wes is pretty strong in math, but even still I decided to start him off with the second part of grade 2. The second book in the grade to series introduces the children to multiplication, and I didn’t feel it would be wise to skip over that piece. Even though we whip through it in no time, its a good solid start. Leaving math to the school system scares me as its so important. I ordered both of the grade 3 books as well.

I know this might seem like a lot, but really it takes him from when he gets home at 4ish till I’m done work around 5pm. One hour and then he has from “5pm-8pm to just be a kid.” Plus I think when the day comes that he has a teacher that feels kids should have homework, he wont feel so shocked. 

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Baby Z. Oh wow what a character. “Stop don’t do that”, in his language means, Quick! Do it faster. He is extremely busy and into everything. I use to think playpens should only be for sleeping, and using them while the child is awake is cruel. That was until I met Baby Z. You place him in a playpen with a pile of books, he will happily look through them. Place him on the floor with the same pile of books, he will abandon them and try and knock over the TV, push any button he can find, chew on the table or manage to remove the power socket covers.

While it seems no matter how much baby proofing I do upstairs, he can find SOMETHING to get into trouble with. My downstairs is a safe haven for him. He can go go go and rarely get into trouble. I try to spend as much time as possible with him down there, but there are times I need to be in the kitchen and he needs to go in there. But I’m finding going to other peoples house exhausting. I think I’m going to have to look into training him. Maybe blanket training. I hate the thought of it, but I can’t be running after him like a crazy lady. Right now its ok, because he’s small and cute, but it wont be like that forever.

Before the haircut


 We took Baby Z for yet another haircut. Last Tuesday I noticed when he was eating his hair was falling in his eyes and bugging him. Well thank goodness it was a friend of mine cutting his hair (I also watch her little girl) because I don’t think anyone else would have had enough patience for him. He screamed like she was cutting off limbs instead of hair. Then when she was done his hair and went on to cut his brothers he started sympathy crying. He screamed until we left the salon.  

After his haircut


That being said, I don’t want people to think he is an awful child. Far from! Maybe yes, I could take Wesley wherever and he would not get into everything. But Z is an AMAZING sleeper. Wes I had to rock and rock and rock and when he fell asleep I would sit there holding him wondering, is he a sleep enough for me to put him down? Baby Z I just lay him down with his blankie and walk out and he rolls over and goes to sleep. Worse case he yells out at me once to tell me he’s ticked off I’m suggesting its bed time. But then stops immediately. Also with the exception of meat, Baby Z eats a lot better then Wes did at the same age. Wesley would only eat baby food until he was 2 years old. Z loves to experiment with new foods. 

We are still doing a lot of the same educational activities were were before. Baby Z has most of the 3 levels of Meet the Sight Words on the iPad down path. And I have introduced Meet The Blends DVD. 

I found a new series of DVDs called Little Champion Reader. It looks like a better made, more complete Your Baby Can Read series. More DVDs, less flashcards and more books then the YBCR set. So I feel back into my old ways of buying impulsively… and I ordered it. So I’ll let you guys know what I think when it comes. 

Jones Genuises Vs TouchMath

Jones Geniuses Matrix Vs TouchMath
 
Disclosure
Full disclosure, I received one program for review and I purchased the other program. This DID NOT influence my opinion and neither company asked me to write this entry comparing the two programs. I just wanted to share with my readers the differences and reasons why we decided to use one program over the other.
 

Math Hunt

As a homeschooling parent, the one area you will hear me write a lot about is math. Math scares me, like it does a lot of people out there, young and old. There are two topics that stump me no matter how much effort I put into them—Chemistry and Division. Well, I don’t want this for my child. I want math to be easy and fun for him. I want him to be able to take Pre-Calculus and Calculus in High School and not spend hours feeling frustrated. To date, I have tried several math programs with my son and most of them just didn’t feel right, so I had to get back on Google and try and find on that did.
 

Two Programs I decided to Try

Two programs that I stumbled upon that were somewhat similar was Jones Geniuses Matrix System and TouchMath’s TouchPoint system.
 

TouchMath(TM) describes themselves as:

“TouchMath is a multisensory program that uses its signature TouchPoints to engage students of all abilities and learning styles.
Our award-winning, step-by-step approach covers: Counting • Addition • Subtraction • Place Value • Multiplication • Division • Time • Money • Fractions • Story Problems • Shapes • Sizes • Pre-algebra”
 

Jones Geniuses(JG) describes their program as:

“Jones Geniuses Accelerated Education is the number one provider of accelerated learning math curriculum for homeschoolers, after-schoolers, and their families. We operate under The Institute for Accelerated Learning, Inc., a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation with headquarters in Kerrville, Texas”
 

Dot Systems

Both systems teach a child to place dots on the number in a specific order, and then to count the dots in a specific order. If you show a child the number 3, they may know it is number three, but do they understand what that means in quantity? Children that use the JG program or TM program truly learn what the numbers represent. In turn, if the child knows what the number truly means, mathematics becomes a whole lot easier. Math is a language, just like English, French, or Japanese, and I want my children to truly understand this important language.
 
Both programs have their pros and cons, however in the end one of them works better for our family at the moment.
 

Jones Geniuses

The first program I tried with my son was Jones Geniuses. There was a big hype on the Brillkids forum, and Dr. Jones himself offered several online conferences free of charge and explained his program to us. This was fantastic as I was able to ask questions directly to the man who created the program. They also offered Brillkid forum members a co-op style deal. So I ordered their program. I dealt with their representative Chris who was extremely helpful and friendly on the phone. We chatted about homeschooling and the public education systems in Canada and the US vs. the UK. I was extremely impressed with the time and effort both Chris and Dr. Jones took to make sure all my questions were answered. Watching some of the older children in the more advanced JG Programs made me realize they were on to something.
 

Not What I Expected

However, I think I can speak for a few of the forum members, and some of us were disappointed with our packages. For myself, it seemed homemade and not very child friendly. Posters were printed on plain paper instead of cardstock. I was expecting a more professional looking package for the price I paid. Later I found out after reading a blog review that part of my kit was missing. I called my friend who was waiting for her kit and emailed another who had just received her a week or two earlier, and they too were missing that piece. To the JG organization’s defense, they did send us our missing pieces quickly, but I for one do not enjoy having to double-check packages to make sure all the pieces are included. The other thing that surprised me was that it had passed their quality assurance inspection noted on the inside of the lid, everything was checked off and signed that it was in the package.
 

Overwhelming

One thing I found with this Early Learning program from JG was I did not like the step-based approach. Personally, I think if you’re doing a step-based program you should start with Step 1, then once that is mastered move on to Step 2. With JG Early Program, you’re working on several steps all over the place. I felt disorganized as a parent/teacher, and my son (5) was getting bored.
 

Tears, Tears & More Tears

So after a phone conversation with Dr. Jones, we jumped right into the worksheets. They were plain-looking sheets that started off with 4 questions per page with dots and increased to 100 questions with no dots. Having my son do these sheets was like pulling teeth. There was nothing physically attractive about them to interest a young child. Also, I didn’t like that I had to teach my son to place the dots one way and count them another. When we got to larger numbers like 7, 8, or 9 it seemed like dots were all over the place. My son was frustrated; he would place the dots like he was supposed to count them, and the other way around. And even though I was staying completely calm and positive, subtraction problems had my son so frustrated he burst out crying. This was not what I wanted for my son. It broke my heart, and I packed up our JG program and put it away.
 

On The Hunt Again For The Perfect Math Program

Then while on another desperate search for the “Perfect Math Program” for my son I stumbled upon TouchMath.  I emailed the people at Jones Geniuses and asked them what the difference was between their program and TM. This was the reply I received:
 
 “Our Matrix is a dramatic improvement on Touch …in a nutshell, ours is simpler to understand. Touch is too abstract for the younger brain to understand.”
 
 
This was discouraging to me, and I thought, well if JG dots are so difficult for him to place TM with be even worse with their double touchpoint. Boy was I wrong!

TouchMath

I decided that I had to do something so I emailed TouchMath and asked them if they would be interested in doing a review/giveaway on my blog. Bob promptly emailed me back and we started hashing out the details. I was sent the computer software Kindergarten Math Program and the Digital Kindergarten Kit 4 program.  I was excited and nervous while waiting for the program to come in the mail. At this point, I was really sick of trying so many math programs and being disappointed time and time again. I was also nervous because TM has double touchpoints. If my son couldn’t handle single touchpoints how would he handle double?

Math Magic?

When the product arrived there were 3 CDROMS. I registered the products and loaded The Kindergarten Software’s first disc on to my computer. While the program had a minor glitch in the first lesson, my son learned his touchpoints in 45mins the FIRST time using the software, the double touchpoints, and all. Subtraction was presented to him using both touchpoints and objects to cross out. Suddenly it clicked for Wesley! The Digital Kindergarten program took what my son knew and brought it to the next level! He was adding 3 numbers together, and learning things that the JG program doesn’t hit, for example, patterns, time, fractions, etc.
 

Amazing Customer Service

I contacted Bob and told him we were having difficulty with the software program. Nothing major, just the touchpoints were difficult for a 5-year-old with a lot of computer experience to place. He told me they were already addressing this issue and it would be corrected in the next version. A month or two later I received this email:
 

 According to our records, you have purchased and registered our TouchMath Tutor Kindergarten Software. We will soon begin production on an updated version, and because you are users of the current product, we want to give you the opportunity to help with the process!

Please take a moment to complete a very brief survey and give us your feedback. By sharing your thoughts, you will receive a FREE copy of the updated software when it’s released later this year!

The survey will close on January 21, 2011.”

 
This showed me that TouchMath does stand by their product! And they are willing to listen to suggestions and improve their already great program. I also enjoy that I can download free samples of each Kit and try them out with my son. It allows me to know what to expect when I order and helps me decided what grade level I should be ordering him.

Price Point

The thing I think that scares people away from TouchMath though is the price. But the way I look at it is, it’s an excellent product, and it works. The new digital kits make it easier for families to reuse the program over and over again with younger children. And when your family is done with it you can resell it, just like you do a textbook.
 
UPDATE October 2018: Since this article was originally posted TouchMath has created some more affordable options for homeschool families. These products’ copyright only allows you to use them with your household, but they are significantly cheaper.
 
You can read more about it here: TouchMath for Homeschooler!! A Review
 
In the end, I know JG is working on a Matrix 1 program. My son was not ready for Matrix 3, however the Early program was not for him either. He may have benefited more from using the Matrix 1 program if it was available. Touch Math is presented in a fun way with cute characters and is more aesthetically pleasing to my five year old right now. At this young age, I have to respect him and present him with things that keep him interested.
 
So for now we will continue using Touch Math till he is at the Upper Grades Level (Grade3) Then I will likely look at going back to Jones Geniuses program when he is older and more mature and may have more patience for it.
 

How To Make Jones Geniuses Work For Younger Children

 
I know other parents who have made Dr. Jones’s program work for their young children. They created manipulatives and other tools and their children are doing excellent. But right now in our day-to-day lives I know I don’t have the time or motivation to get these types of tasks done in a timely matter.
 

TouchMath For The Win

Touch Math has done the work for me, manipulatives are available to purchase and the worksheets are fun and keep my son coming back for more. He actually completed 11 sheets in ONE sitting, he wanted to do more, but I hadn’t printed out enough. On average he does between 4-6 sheets a sitting. I see him loving math and getting excited about it. For me this is thrilling! I can finally lay off Goggling math program options.   

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Eye Check Up for Wes//Homeschool Lesson with Handwriting Without Tears

Well I was home today. I had the worst head cold. I don’t usually stay home for that kind of stuff but my eyes were swollen and watery. Plus Wesley has been complaining about his eyes hurting him this weekend so I took him to the eye doctor.
He was so good! He thought it was like school because he was being asked to name then letters. LOL he’s say “T. T says Tah” Turns out he has perfect vision, his eyes are a little dry and that’s whats bugging him.

So instead of spending the morning with his ABA tutor, he spent it with me. He asked to do “words” a million times. “Words” usually means a mixture of flashcards. Right now he knows his time when it comes to hours and half hours, and today I introduced 15 mins. We are also working on some basic sight words, organs, sea creatures and musical instruments. I still don’t see how he can tell the difference between a oboe and a clarinet but he can lol.
To end the day after I got some meds, I was making dinner and he was demanding some attention lol. So I pulled out our “Handwriting without Tears” wooden pieces and he did those at the kitchen table while I cooked.

I’m still waiting for my Tweedlewinks DVD’s and Themes to Remember Cd and book to come in… I’m so excited. I’d really like to order “Your Child Can Read” and this other Math program another mom recommended but I have to pace myself. LOL don’t want to go broke 🙂