TenMarks – A Review

Product: TenMarks Online Curriculum – Grade 4
Price: 10$US/month, 49$US/6 months, 89$US/year (per student)
Ages: grade 3-10

Unlike some people who homeschool, we actually look forward to math. My son can spend hours sitting around looking at numbers/questions and finding patterns in them. No a bad thing, however, I really like having something to show for his efforts (just in case the ministry of education should come a calling, we’re REALLY behind in sending it his homeschooling registration for the year) and he is constantly lost in the realm of numbers these days and rarely gets around to actually completing a worksheet in the program he begged for last year. We were given the opportunity to review numerous math programs as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew last year and while it was a lot at the time, I actually found myself longing for a new math program to review this year in order to shake things up a bit. When the opportunity presented itself to review Ten Marks I eagerly signed up thinking that a change in the routine would be good.

Before continuing to read this review, I invite you to please check out the video below….

Ten Marks an online math program that can be used as a complete curriculum or supplement for children in grades 3 – 10 (we reviewed the grade 4 content). I think that what makes this program work so well, at least for us, is how very user friendly it is. My son was able to use this program with very minimal input on my part and when there’s a young baby in the house that’s definitely a plus.

When your child logs in he will be brought to his homepage on which his worksheets for the week are displayed with their due date. The default is to have 4 worksheets with 10 questions each assigned each week but it is easy to change this default to more or less depending on how quickly you would like your child to complete the program. Your children can even fast track their worksheets themselves if they want to advance through the program faster once they’ve master the week’s worksheets. The next week’s worksheets will be generated for them and they’ll be able to get a head start on them! Your child will also be able to see how many worksheets he has left before he gets to his next reward and he’ll be able to see what percentage of the section he’s completed. The Ten Marks program is broken down into a variety of topics that are then broken down into a variety of concepts that are then taught through a variety of tracks. Each track is evaluated through a worksheet of ten questions.

For example Liam is working on number operations which was broken down into the larger concepts of place value and number sense, addition and subtraction of whole numbers, multiplication and division facts, and multiplication. He has now worked his way to the multiplication section which is further broken down into a series of tracks (multiply by one digit numbers, multiply by greater numbers, patterns and multiples of ten, multiply by 2 digit numbers, etc). Each of these tracks have 10 multiple choice questions that your child needs to master before they can move on to the next track. Your child can ask for hints (a maximum of three for question) and if they still need help each question has tutor that will explain the concept being tested in sufficient detail for your child to be able to solve the question. Once your child has completed the worksheet they will be marked and then given the chance to correct their mistakes. In addition to the the weekly practice worksheets your child will also be able to take tests on the material they have covered (this this they only get one chance to get the right answer, and they can even practice any off the other material that 10 marks offers (from ANY of the grades) so if your 7 year old want to take a stab at highschool algebra he could or if he needs to review material from an earlier grade he’ll be able to. What more could you ask for?

As the parent, you will be able to customize your child’s learning experience by selecting the number of worksheets you want your child to complete each week, omitting or combining tracks, and rearranging the material to fit whatever concepts you are currently studying in your homeschool. You’ll also be able to see your child’s progress and how many hints and videos he had to use in order to master the material. You’ll also get an overview of what your child has completed and what is coming up in the program.

Having this information has been a relief for me as I’ve been feeling a little antsy about our unschooling approach and having proof that my children are learning something. Having a program that my son loves (so I don’t have to ask him to do it) that also tracks his progress is an unschoolers dreams!

Another fun aspect of TenMarks is the rewards system, and yes, I usually am very hesitant about reward systems. However, the child isn’t rewarded for every right answer with crazy graphics and fireworks so they actually have to work for their rewards which are pretty tame video games (racing, spotting differences, etc).  It isn’t an overwhelming, you are SOOOOOOO wonderful type of reward. As a parent you can also schedule rewards for your child. This can be anything that would motivate your child. In our case, I scheduled a one on one “date” with Liam to happen once he completed 18 worksheets. With 6 worksheets scheduled a week, it meant that approximately every three weeks he would get some one on one time with the parent of his choice. Last weekend I got the first date I’ve had in  long time with my son sipping hot chocolate and visiting the library while my husband slaved at home baking pies and oatcakes! *lol* Next time he’s decided to take Daddy on a date!

While we are very pleased with this program and will likely continue it next year once our free subscription (for reviewing) has expired, I can see some issues that people might have with it. First, it was very clear that a child could easily cheat their way to a good score. Very early on in the program my son came to some terms that we hadn’t really discussed and instead of watching the tutorial videos (which, to be fair, I hadn’t really explained to him well) he was clicking the hints (some which are pretty obvious like “the answer isn’t a) or c) so that the child already has a 50% chance of getting it right and then with a second chance to correct their answer once the worksheet has been marked you can see the issue) and then guessing. It was pretty clear to me that my son wasn’t actually doing the work as some questions would have required pencil and paper yet, somehow he was still getting the “answers”. However, once I explained to him that the whole idea was to LEARN and that the program was meant to TEACH him with the tutorial videos he was eager to use the program in the proper manner (not all children would be). Another thing that I felt necessary to tell Liam was that if he was having a problem with a question to watch the tutorial video FIRST and NOT the hints (as I said earlier some of the hints make the answers WAY too obvious and that isn’t teaching the child anything). The Ten Marks video tells you to look a the hints first and then if you can’t get it to watch the tutorial. I think that is a REALLY bad idea.

There were also so slight issues with the tutorial videos themselves. While I found that the material was explained in an easy to grasp manner sometimes the writing was not very clear on the white board and that could lead to some confusion. While I was not bother by the accent whatsoever it is probably a good idea to mention that one of the tutors had a bit on an accent and it could make him difficult to understand for some children (we didn’t have that issue).

This program sells for 10$US/month (per child) with deals for a 6 month (49$) or 1 year (89$) subscription and I would not hesitate to purchase this for Liam next year (probably at the year subscription level). I really like the fact that we get an overview of what your child is doing with the program (give me a few more months to get totally comfortable with the whole unschooling thing and maybe I won’t worry so much) and that the tutorials are really quite complete. The amount of material covered in the program is really substantial and things are covered in a variety of ways so that your child can choose from a variety of different concepts when they are faced with a certain math problem out there in the real world. I, personally find myself talking in circles when trying to give math explanations (English and history and more my thing) so having tutor available that gets right down to it is great for us. If we had to hire a personal tutor then we’d be spending a lot more than 10 dollars a month. I could see this working well for a highschool student (if they were honest enough to use the programs as intended on not cheat). The only downfall that I can see is that this program could get quite expensive if you had several children in the family all working at different levels. If that is the case, then you may want to look at other options or try Ten Marks free trial out before committing to the program. All in all, we are very happy with this program and I can see us using it again in the future.

As the girl says, “IT WORKS!”

**Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

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Friday Fave Five – Jan 28th

It time again to share our favorite moments from the week. Please join Suzanne at Living to Tell the Story to share your moments, too. If you feel so moved please send up some prayers for Suzanne’s family as her mother in law has suffered a stroke in the last couple weeks and things have been very topsy turvey in Suzanne’s life.

Here are my favorites this week….

1. Switching places with my husband for and afternoon. That is to say, I got out of the house while he stayed home and baked. (oh and baked he did!)

2. Getting my new blog up and running. It isn’t completely set up how I would like it to be but I’ve begun to enjoy working on it and I hope to get into blogging a lot more soon (it isn’t so easy with a nine month old, though!)

3. Knowing that Homeschool Horizons is coming back to Canada and having a wee itty bitty bit of things to do to help it’s return. I’ve enjoyed getting to write a bit more than I usually do and getting to talk to my friend, who has taken over the magazine, on the phone regularly has been wonderful as well. I miss you, my dear, and cannot wait to see up this spring. (for more information on the blog, please check out their facebook page here).

4. Snow. It’s just beautiful, isn’t it?

5. Warm blankets.
Seriously, all I want to do at night is cuddle down under some warm blankets and fall into a deep winter’s sleep. Unfortunately, for reasons we won’t mention, my blankets have been stolen and I’ve been woken every night this past week but those first few minutes in bed under my big wool blankets have been heavenly. I’m so blessed to be warm enough on these cold nights.

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The Illustrated Bible Dictionary For Kids – A Review

Product: Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids
Company: Lifeway Christian Stores
Price: 14.99$US

My son, as you probably know if you frequent my blog at all regularly, loves bible studies so we were thrilled when we were chosen to review The Illustrated Bible Dictionary For Kids as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. Waiting for the package we seriously a lesson in patience for both my son and I as we were so eager to see this book. Fortunately, this book did not disappoint when it finally arrived on our front porch.

This bible dictionary is indeed beautifully illustrated and my son, who immediately opened it up to look for maps, was impressed with the depiction of what towns in biblical times might have look like. He’s vowed to read/study a letter of the alphabet each day and so far we have yet to remind him of the commitment he made. Who would think a child would like to read a dictionary? This book has 750 Bible words (places, people and important words) as well as illustrated charts, which I personally LOVED, pronunciation guide and verses in which the words can be found.

For 14.99$US this book is a spectacular deal in my opinion. The illustrations and photography are beautiful and book itself is of good hard cover quality. I would not hesitate to purchase this book for a moment. This book can be purchase directly from Lifeway Chirstian Stores (which is an incredible source for both children and adult Christian resources so be sure to check them out) or your local book store.

**Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

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TOS Blog Cruise – My Secret

My Secret to avoiding burnout is really quite simple….

I realize that there is really NO WAY TO DO IT ALL! My three children are with me 24/7 there is no way that I’ll be able to attend to their educations, get them to their various activities and groups,  have a perfectly clean house, keep up with my writing and courses, host get togethers and playdates and keep it all together. Not only do I realize that I can’t do it all, I ACCEPT it! I do the best that I can with my days and if my dishes aren’t done or the laundry isn’t put away at the end of the day then I don’t sweat it. There is always tomorrow.

That being said, there are times when things do accumulate and it gets to be a bit too much. Then I have no issues calling a mental health day. We put off any activities that take us out of the house, forget about homeschooling and stay in our pajamas ALL DAY. The kids tend to snuggle up with books and puzzles and an occasional movie on Netflix might be turned on and they get to relax while I get in control of the chaos by focusing on the chores that are causing me the most stress. Most often this includes a good scrubbing of the kitchen and an afternoon sorting through the homeschooling work that the children have accomplished over the last while (it tends to accumulate all over the house as my methods to contain it have yet to be effective). I have also scheduled my weekly chores so that things usually don’t accumulate too badly. On Monday mornings the kids and I do a good cleaning of the kitchen (which tends to explode over the weekend) and on Friday we give the house a relatively quick once over, including organizing toys and picking up things that may have strayed from their normal location over the course of the week.

Another key to our relatively relaxed homeschooling environment is that we homeschool year round so I don’t feel stressed about slower days (or sometimes weeks) during the traditional school year. I also trust that even when my children aren’t engaged in sit down school work that they are still learning valuable lessons. I trust that they will learn what they need to learn to be successful without hours and hours and hours of input on my part trying to teach them materials that they are not interested in, not ready for or that quite frankly is plain ol’ boring.

Finally, I have a couple close friends who also homeschool and can relate. One friend is local and we try to get together somewhat regularly and I can’t help but feeling refreshed and inspired after spending  an hour with her. She always has wonderful ideas and it’s kind of nice to know that despite how together she looks (with 10 kids) that she has days where things don’t work out according to HER plan either. My other friend is now far away but always has a kind word and her own stories to share. I think it is key to know that you aren’t in it alone and that really no one has it as together as they sometimes make it look.

Remember be honest, don’t stress, and this too shall pass.

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When Mama is Out….

Daddy will BAKE!!

Thank you for switching places with me for the day!

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Do you Speak Spanish? – A Speekee Review

Product: Speekee TV

Price: 7.50$US/month

Do you speak Spanish?

Well, why yes, I do with help from Speekee and his friends! Speekee is an adorable Spanish puppet that teaches children 2-10 how to speak Spanish* through a series of 10 online videos. As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a 2 month membership to the Speekee website so I could try out this Spanish immersion program with my children. I’ll admit that when I received it not long before the holidays that I tossed it aside to look at later. I didn’t have any huge desire to sit my kids in front of the computer screen to watch videos with all activities going on for Christmas. After coming back to it at the start of the new year, I will admit that I wish we’d started this program earlier on because they kids LOVE it and I even find myself singing the tunes from the episodes. What can I say, Speekee is catchy.

Speekee is a total immersion program so there is no English spoken in the videos. There are English and Spanish subtitles but they are most for the parents/teachers benefit as the are quick. My son reads fast enough so he was able to tell his younger sister what certain words meant when she asked. The conversations that Speekee and his friends have are simple and take place in familiar places and situations. There is also significant repetition throughout each episode and through the whole series of 10 videos making it easy for children to pick up and remember words. Before long, your child will be singing along with Speekee (and you might even find yourself singing “Dondé Vamos?” as you are doing the dishes one evening). In addition to the videos, there are also worksheets that go along with each lesson. We chose not to print these off but I used them to test the children orally. They are a tad on the easy side but make a nice addition for younger children.

This program was developed with 2-10 year old children  in mind. My children are 5 and 7 years old and they both really enjoyed the program. My 9 month old is sitting beside me as I type and is watching an episode and he is clearly captivated by it as well. While I not one for TV for young children, I kind of appreciated language programs for children especially when the people speaking are native speakers of the language as children language skills are just exploding at just a young age. My daughter is speaking a lot of Spanish around the house these days and my son goes around translating her (but doesn’t speak it himself). Considering that we only used this program for three weeks and only used the first four episodes, I am impressed and wish we had started sooner.

Speekee is also available on DVD (though you may want to check your DVD player as the company is based in the UK and not all North American players are able to play the PAL format DVDs. The DVD package includes 4 DVDs (ten lessons), a CD of 34 tracks of music found in the episodes, parents guide and Spanish/English dictionary. Schools can also purchase a 2 year Spanish curriculum for Speekee that includes DVDs/worksheets, online resources and more. For more information on these products please visit the Speekee website.

We have been quite happy with Speekee TV and find that the price of 7.50$US/month is reasonable, however, if your DVD player will play the PAL format DVDs then that is also something to consider because if your children are like mine they will want to watch the lessons over and over again. I’m amazed at home much the children are picking up from each subsequent viewing on the lessons but I guess that is the beauty of immersion learning.

Make sure to check out the Speekee website for yourself but be warned you may find yourself singing in a foreign language!

*American readers might want to note that the Spanish that is taught is that of Spain and not Latin America, however, they are very similar.

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