Friday, March 29, 2013

Using Windows Live Writer

I started using Windows Live Writer several years ago to compose my blog posts and have  found it pretty easy to use. To me, the big advantage is that I can compose posts offline and everything is saved right on my computer for later editing or publishing. It’s really easy to schedule posts for a particular day and time as well.

I know I’m not using it to its full potential, though and am ready to learn more. Susan, from Homeschooling Hearts and Minds has published some Live Writer tutorials that I’m finding very helpful. Thus far, she has taught about:

Thank you, Susan! I’ve picked up a few tips and am and looking forward to more!

Monday, March 25, 2013

B is for Bubbles and Burning!

(Blogging through the alphabet with Ben and Me.)

We’ve been doing LOTS of science experiments lately. We’re in the process of reviewing the Supercharged Science e-science program (full review to come in a few weeks), which focuses almost entirely on doing science instead of just reading about it. Emily is having a ball!

Here, Emily is discovering that water has oxygen in it by heating up a test tube of water (but not to the boiling point) and watching for bubbles. She also learned that fish need the air/oxygen in water, which is why fish tanks have pumps to keep the water moving and to keep the air mixed in.


And did you know that if you soak a dollar bill in a mixture of alcohol and water, it will burn dramatically, but won’t burn up? The water absorbs the energy from the flame and, as it vaporizes, keeps the dollar bill itself cool enough that it doesn’t burn. (Trying it made me a little nervous, though!)



Sunday, March 24, 2013

Adventus Piano Software (Schoolhouse Crew Review)

 photo AdventusLogo_zps301dbe63.gif

Product: MusIQ HomeSchool Music and Piano curriculum

Ages: K-12 (and up)

Cost: $10.95 for monthly subscription (includes access to all software)

$89.95 per level for Early Curriculum Software and Lesson plans (ages 4-10)

$59.95-$109.95 per level for Multi-level Curriculum (ages 10+)

I was excited to have the opportunity to try out the MusIQ HomeSchool program created by Adventus, a developer and publisher of music and piano learning software programs that utilize MIDI keyboards and the computer instead of traditional teaching methods.

The online program, which we reviewed, includes use of all of these software programs:

  • Children’s Music Journey, Volumes 1, 2, and 3
  • Piano Suite Premier
  • Ear Training Coach 1 & 2
  • Ear Training  Coach 3 & 4
  • (The MusIQ Challenger game pictured above is apparently not included in the monthly subscription plan.)

Lesson Plans, which provide direction and additional activities to do under the guidance of a parent or teacher, are also available to enhance the program.

We purchased the M-Audio KeyRig 49e keyboard from Adventus and found it very easy to install—basically just “plug and play” --using a USB connection to the computer. Then we installed each of the software programs.

Emily worked primarily in the Piano Suite Premier program, since it is the lesson program for students ages 10 and up. Children’s Music Journey, which is for 4 to 10 year olds, looks like a LOT of fun, so we plan to play around with it as well, although we didn’t have time to do so during our short review period. It has some features—like learning about famous composers and their music—that aren’t included in Piano Suite Premier. (Read other Crew reviews to hear what reviewers thought of Children’s Music Journey.)


Piano Suite Premier includes 5 main activities:

  • Theory Thinker teaches finger placement, note names, note values, timing, and so on. Each concept is explained as the student clicks through the screens. Some screens teach and others have the student jump to the Piano Player to practice an exercise relating to the topic. The student progresses through each lesson at his or her own pace. When each lesson has been viewed or practiced, a red check appears by it. The student is free to continue to practice that section as long as desired, though. Theory Thinker also offers several games that teach notes on the keyboard and on the staff.
  • Piano Player includes over 500 songs in different genres and 5 different ability levels. The program can be set to show all songs or just ones in the student’s learning level. This is where the student picks actual piano pieces to learn. The student can choose “wait for note” mode, in which each note on the score turns green as it is played correctly. He must play each note correctly before proceeding to the next note. After the student has learned the correct notes, he can adjust the program to focus on timing, which requires him to play each note as it turns green. This mode shows errors at the end of the piece, but not as the student is playing. Specific bars of the piece may be isolated for practice as well.
  • History Happens includes short biographies of 150 composers. This is a nice reference, but there’s not much to do here other than browse or read.
  • Composer’s Corner gives students the opportunity to actually compose and record their own music.
  • Games  allows students additional practice in theory concepts. Several games are not “unlocked” until a student has covered the target skill in Theory Thinker.

imageTheory topics for level 1. Games are at the bottom of screen. Completed lessons are checked.

Emily has had some piano instruction, but still struggles with timing and even note names.  Because of this, I had her spend the first two weeks reviewing the Level 1 theory exercises.  Much of this level was review for her, but the additional practice was beneficial—she was identifying all the notes on the staff in no time, without having to figure them out! Then we started with the lesson plans for Level 2.

One aspect of the music, in even the early levels, was that hands  are placed in different positions for different songs and even moved around. Emily is finishing up the 4th book in her traditional program and every song she plays is in one of 3 or 4 fixed hand positions that she has been taught. This makes her more dependent on finger numbers to identify which note to play. The Level 2 Piano Suite songs are a challenge for her because she has to constantly look at both notes and finger numbers as she plays.

imageThe notes turn green as they are played correctly.
Game Time!
Piano Player
Ear Training Coach is included in MusIQ School Year 2 and up if you purchase each level separately. It is, however, occasionally scheduled in the lesson plans midway through Year 1. (If you have the monthly subscription play, you have access to it.)  Activities in Ear Training Coach offer practice in repeating back rhythms and melodies, identifying intervals, and sight reading. Emily enjoyed the “Intervalo” area where she tried to correctly identify intervals by listening. The other areas, such as mimicking rhythms and melodies were difficult even for me!
Each of the program components can be used entirely on its own, and at the student’s own pace, but the optional Homeschool Lesson Plans add some teacher “face time,” teach some additional topics, and pull everything together. Lessons should be scheduled once a week, with the student practicing on his own with the software the rest of the week. A typical lesson includes activities such as teaching note values on a white board, clapping back rhythms in 3/4 and 4/4 timing, learning and practicing scales, focusing on a practice piece for the week, and specific assigned activities in Theory Thinker or Games. A theory worksheet is also provided for each week.
My Thoughts:
  • The scope of this program is amazing. It really does cover a lot of piano instruction as well as some “extras” that go beyond just learning to play—composing, ear training, music history, etc.
  • Emily loved it. Believe me—until now, she’s never begged, “Please, may I just practice for 10 more minutes!” She’s putting in a lot more time with piano practice now. A lot.
  • We found Piano Suite Premier to be a little glitchy. About 1 out of 3 times when first starting up the program, it would freeze (black screen with music playing or an intro screen that wasn’t clickable). I’d have to open Windows Task Manager to exit the program and try again. Occasionally this would happen when using the program too, although the problem was usually only on start-up.
  • To a large extent, the MusIQ School programs can be done independently. Some amount of supervision is needed, though. Piano Player can’t know if you’re using the correct fingering. Although it keeps records for each piece, the student is free to jump from song to song, or skip ahead in theory lessons after viewing them once, even if the material isn’t mastered. The student would have to be very conscientious (mine is not!) or have adult guidance.
  • Personally, I found the Piano Player “wait for note” a little frustrating in the more advanced pieces because if I came off a  note just  little too soon as I was moving to the next note, it wouldn’t let me proceed with the other hand. I’d have to go back and play the first note again. One could argue, however, that requiring this level of precision will improve my piano playing and that perhaps I’ve been too sloppy in my timing. Emily had the same issue with Level 2 pieces, but for her it’s probably a very good thing.
  • I prefer playing on a real piano, or at least a high quality keyboard rather than the “education quality” one we’re using, but this didn’t seem to bother Emily. Since we have a piano, she’ll be practicing on it as well and won’t get totally used to the  feel of the inexpensive keyboard.
  • The Homeschool Lesson Plans are very good and will, I think, add to and reinforce the lessons in the software. I did have some issues, however, with the scheduling. The MusiQ 123 plans included assignments to compose songs using the Children’s Music Journey software. Someone who had purchased the 1 year program instead of the monthly subscription wouldn’t have access to this. There were also assignments for Ear Training Coach, which isn’t included in the Year 1 purchase. The lessons didn’t always follow the sequence of Theory Thinker, but skipped around. Also, there were frequent instructions to teach a specific concept. This was no problem for me, since I read music, but would be difficult for a parent with little music training. I enjoy using the plans, but they may not be for everyone.
  • When compared to the cost of music lessons, this is a great value!

I am really happy to have  the opportunity to use the MusIQ School program for the next year and anticipate that Emily’s piano skills will greatly improve!


I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A is for “Absorbent”

Have you ever wondered just which paper towel brand is best? Emily approached this question for her science project last week.


She tested four brands of paper towels  (Viva, Bounty Basic, Publix, Bounty, and Scott) for absorbency and for strength.

Here is Emily’s description of her strength test:

Strength Test

What I did was I took the wet paper towels and put them over a bowl  Then I got my mom to hold the towel there while I put some heavy washers on top of the wet paper towel. The results were very interesting and I cant wait to share them with you.

Viva: Viva, had a total of 14 heavy weight washers on top of it until it broke through and into the bowl.

Brawny: Brawny had a total of 11 washers.

Scott: Scott had a total of only 9 washers

Publix: Publix only had 5 washers on it until it caved in.

Bounty Basic: Bounty Basic had 9 washers on it until it broke apart.

I thought that none of them could hold all of those washers while they were wet but it sure did surprise me how many washers they could all hold!

She tested absorbency by pouring water 1/2 tsp. at a time over a paper towel until it was saturated. Then she calculated the cost per square foot of each brand and graphed the results of each test.

Her conclusion was that Viva was the strongest and the most absorbent of the brands that we tested, although it was also the most expensive.

This was a easy and fun project that gave us some practical information and helped Emily develop some good “consumer skills.”  Try it at your house. I’d love to hear if your results differ from ours!

Instant Publisher

self publish,self publishing,book publishing companyWhen I published my first Super Star Speech book in 2008, I spent quite a bit of time researching printers, both local and internet, trying to find a company that could provide exactly what I wanted at the best cost. I needed a spiral-bound format so that the books would lay flat and could be copied easily and found that some printers only do perfect-bound books. And with my limited budget, cost was very important. It’s really easy with their cost estimator tool, to quickly figure out what the cost of printing books will be and to adjust the variables, such as binding or volume ordered to see the effect on price.

Instant Publisher was able to provide what I needed, and the cost was the best I could find as well. They have a lot of options for size, binding, and paper type. I’ve used them ever since and have been very pleased. I usually even have my books printed and delivered in a week or so. I think the longest wait I’ve had has been two weeks.

If you have a printing need—cookbooks, your new novel, whatever, I’d suggest looking at what Instant Publisher has to offer.


Disclaimer: I’m sharing my honest opinion about my experiences with Instant Publisher. In return, Instant Publisher is providing me with a coupon toward my next order.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Art of Poetry (Schoolhouse Review)

Do you know how to “teach” poetry? I really didn’t. We enjoy reading it aloud from time to time and may note instances of alliteration or onomatopoeia, but until now, that’s where my children’s poetic education ended.
The Art of Poetry, published by Classical Academic Press, provides homeschool parents (or classroom teachers) with an excellent program to study poetry with their children.
The Art of Poetry is designed for middle school and high school aged students and includes three components: a student book, a teacher book, and a DVD set (optional).
The 268 page Student Book includes 16 chapters, and covers topics such as images, metaphor, symbols, rhythm, shape, history of form, movements, and genres, as well as focused studies of Emily Dickenson and Walt Whitman.  Each chapter discusses the focus topic, then includes 3-8 poems with discussion questions that help the student analyze and understand the poem in the light of the chapter focus. The chapter ends with a glossary of literary terms and  an activity list with suggestions for observation activities to picture collages to writing assignments.
The hefty 313 page Teacher’s Guide contains the entire student text plus detailed answers for the poetry discussion questions. I found this very helpful—Personally, I would have missed a lot of insight without having this as a guide as I attempted to discuss the topics.
The DVD set features the author, Christine Perrin, MFA, discussing the poems and chapter topics with four students. We found it helpful to hear their thoughts, and the discussion was a good model for showing Emily the types of things she should be noticing in poems. Ms. Perrin also modeled some of the end-of-chapter activities.
Our Experience: I felt that The Art of Poetry was a very thorough and in-depth guide. It has been a challenge for Emily, who is in 7th grade, requiring at times, more abstract thinking than she is capable of. She enjoys poetry, however, and is learning a lot as we progress through the course. My initial intention was to cover most or all of the book in a concentrated study of around two months. Instead, we’re taking it more slowly, so we have ample time to discuss and savor each poem. This is definitely a meaty high school level course, although it is accessible for motivated middle school students.
Our procedure has been to read and discuss the chapter topic the first day, then to read and discuss two poems each day. Sometimes we re-read poems that we’ve already discussed. After we finish the chapter, we watch the DVD. This has helped to cement the concepts and deepen our understanding. Then we choose several of the end-of-chapter activities to work on.
Emily’s favorite activities have involved writing her own poems.
We read this poem by Ezra Pound:
In a Station of the Metro
The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.
Emily wrote her own poem inspired by it:
The heavy drops of rain
fall hard upon the soft soil.
We also read this poem by Emily Dickinson:
Dust of Snow
The way a crow
shook down on me
the dust of snow
from a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
a change of mood
and saved a part
of a day I rued.
Emily wrote:
The Dust of Poop
The way Dove
looks down on me,
The speck of poop from
and old oak tree.

Has given my hair
a change of style
and made it look
so crazy and wild.
Yes, her poem shows her quirky sense of humor, but she’s enjoying writing and poetry!
Final Thoughts: I think the Art of Poetry is an excellent course for those who want to undertake a serious study of the subject. The literary techniques Emily is learning about will be very useful in analyzing any literature, not just poetry. I think the teacher’s book is a necessity because of the answers to the discussion questions and added insights. The DVD set would be nice to have—we have benefited from “listening in” on the discussions and hearing the lectures,  but if the expense is an issue, the course is still very good without them.
The Art of Poetry $24.95
The Art of Poetry Teachers Edition $29.95
The Art of Poetry DVD Set $69.95
Bundle of all 3 products $99.95 (new price April 1)
I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Fool Moon Rising (Review)

Top Image
“What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why do you boast as though it were not a gift?” 1 Cor. 4:7
This verse from 1 Corinthians is the theme for a sweet picture book, Fool Moon Rising, by Kristi and T. Lively Fluharty, and published by Crossway.
Fool Moon Rising tells the tale of the moon, who bragged about his great power—his ability to change shape and even disappear, his power to light up the night sky, and his effects on the tides. He was puffed up with pride until the brilliant light of the sun forced him to admit that he was not the greatest being in the sky and that even his light was only a reflection of the son’s great light.
The story, ideal for 3-7 year olds, is told in a bouncing rhyme and directs children to acknowledge their own dependence on God, and the danger of pride. The back of the book includes several discussion questions and fun facts about space. The artwork is bright and fun, and depicts the moon as having a lot of personality.
Fool Moon Rising would make a good bedtime story or devotional. It could also easily be developed into a unit study for children, including not only Bible truths, but a study of the moon, space exploration, and astronomy.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Essentials in Writing (Schoolhouse Review)

Essential in Writing logo photo EssentialsinWritinglogo_zps7affe1cf.jpg
Company: Essentials in Writing
Product: Essentials in Writing 7th Grade Level (1st through 12 grade levels are also available)
Price: $40 (DVD with video instruction and CD-ROM with printable worksheets, assignment sheets, and answer key
$20 Optional Pre-Printed Workbook
Essentials in Writing Grade 7 photo EIW7thgrade_zps7e459c7d.jpg
I’ve tried a lot of different writing curriculums with my children and have never found just the perfect one. Some focus on creativity and creative writing, others work on specific skills and writing genre, and still others seem to jump around too much. I think everything we’ve used has helped my children’s writing skills improve, because the more they write, the better they will be at writing. Still, I never felt as if I found a great program, one that would really prepare them for good high school or college level essay writing.
Essentials in Writing is a sequential, video-based curriculum with the goal of creating “confident writers.”  Each lesson is introduced and taught by the author, Matthew Stephens, in a short video segment. Then the student does the daily assignment, which may be a worksheet or a writing assignment. Larger assignments, such as essays or research papers are broken down into bite sized pieces, keeping the projects very manageable for students who might be intimidated by a large assignment.
From the Essentials in Writing site:
“In Seventh Grade, your child will learn:  detailed sentence structure, additional grammar, additional capitalization/punctuation rules, proper use of a friendly letter, using the writing process to compose narrative, descriptive, expository, and persuasive writing (including formal paragraphs), and five paragraph essays, compare and contrast writing, response to literature essay, effective writing skills, multi-paragraph composition, the process to complete a research project, other forms of written communication, and other topics.”
Our Thoughts:
I really like this program! It is living up to my expectations. Emily spends about 30 minutes a day doing her assignments (sometimes more, sometimes less). First, she watches the video lesson, which is 5-10 minutes long. The instructor, Matthew Stephens, teaches the concepts clearly while writing examples on his whiteboard. He then explains the student’s assignments. Some lessons have 2 or 3 days of assignments to go with one video, so Emily will proceed through the assignments and go back to the video lessons when needed.
The 7th grade curriculum covers clauses, run-on sentences, comma splices, complex and compound sentences, and prepositional phrases in the early lessons. In lesson 7, it begins to teach the formal writing process with lessons on paragraphs, then on various types of essays.
Emily enjoys writing, but I do think that even the most reluctant writer would do well with this program. The lessons are very clear and every major assignment is broken down into “bite-sized” pieces. The personal narrative, for example, is written over 4-5 days, from outlining to rough draft to final copy. A student who might be overwhelmed with an assignment to simply “write a personal narrative” is given ideas about what to write, and incremental assignments that are simple to do until the project is completed. A scoring guide is included for each major writing project that helps the parent grade the essay and helps the child understand which areas could be improved upon.
I’ve been watching the videos with Emily about half the time, just to keep up with what she’s doing. I also briefly look over her finished assignments and help her make revisions or corrections. But for the most part, this program takes very little of my time and allows Emily to work mostly independently. Her abilities are being stretched, but she has not been frustrated. Most importantly, she is learning to recognize and understand the difference between good and mediocre writing.
I thought about sharing Emily’s narrative essay about her most embarrassing moment, but unfortunately, it turned out too embarrassing for me to share!
This is a program that we plan to stick with. After using it for a month, I’ve already recommended it to several others!
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Making Your Own Homeschool Games (And a Free Bible Trivia Game!)


Do you like to play games? Most kids do! At our house, we often play games as part of our school day. There are many games that you can buy to practice or learn different subjects. We have a lot of those, but we like to make our own games, too. Almost every subject can be made into a game. Here are a few ideas:

1. Use a board game that you already have. Make some question cards about anything you are learning. For example, you could make a set of questions about reptiles or the Civil War or planets. Write a question on one side of the card and the answer on the other side. Each player must answer a question correctly before he or she takes a turn.

2. Make a matching game to practice something you are learning. You could write a math fact on one card and the answer on its match. You could name an inventor on one card and his invention on the other or a vocabulary word on one card and its definition on the other. 3x5 inch index cards cut in half are a nice size to use. Place the cards face down on the table and take turns turning them over looking for matches.

3. Write historical events on cards. Write the date the event occurred on the back of the card. Try to arrange the events in sequence, then check yourself by looking at the dates.

4. Regular playing cards can be used for math games. Here's one idea. Take out all the face cards. Divide the remaining cards into 2 equal stacks. Play "War" with the cards to practice "greater than" and "less than." To make the game harder, flip 2 cards over on each turn. Add the numbers together (if you are learning addition facts) or multiply the numbers (if you are practicing multiplication facts). The person with the highest total collects all the cards for that round.

5. Divide a large sheet of paper into 9 rectangles. Write a number from 1 to 9 in each space. Toss 2 or 3 beans onto the paper, then add or multiply those numbers together. Take turns with another player to see who can reach the highest score. Write fractions in some or all of the spaces to make the game harder.

6. Give each player 10 number cards from a regular card deck. Roll a die. Each player uses any number of his cards to create an equation that will equal the number on the die. For example, if the die shows a 4, a player could make 2x2 or 6-2 or 3x3-5 or 2x6-8. Each player writes down his equations and the player with the most correct equations in two minutes wins that round.

Looking for more ideas?


Download a free copy of Old Testament Bible Match at Currclick or visit my homeschool games page to see some of the other  games I’ve created for our homeschool. Use them for ideas or even buy one that fits into what you’re studying.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Science in the Kitchen

One of the common concerns about homeschooling is “how to do lab science.”  I’ve taught my children at home through the eighth grade and honestly, that has never been a problem. On occasion, I have purchased lab materials, such as dissection tools and specimens, test tubes, and fruit flies for genetics experiments. But usually, I can find nearly everything I need for hands-on science right in the kitchen or medicine cabinet.

And the perfect place for us to work on all those messy experiments? The kitchen, of course!

Testing for starch



Floating boats


Comparing the density of liquids


Read more about “schooling in the kitchen” at the 5 Days of Teaching Creatively Blog hop!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Science Club Fun

I host a science club for our homeschool group twice a month. Last week, the kids had a lot of fun building boats out of straws, clay, and aluminum foil.


Then, they competed to see whose boat could hold the most weight (as measured in washers and pennies).

After the initial test, we discussed why some boats were more successful than others and I gave the teams another chance to improve upon their boats.




Everyone declared it to be a lot of fun!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

100 Bible Verses Week 10

“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son does not have life.”   1 John 5:11-12

I have to confess that I’m slipping a bit in the memory challenge. The last 3 weeks’ verses are partly memorized, but not all the way there. I really need a better system for keeping up with them. Instead of keeping my memory notebook on my desk, I’m going to move it to the living room where I do my quiet time in the mornings.

And where I’m really slipping is keeping up with Emily to work on her verses. I don’t think the past 3 weeks’ verses are even in her notebook yet. Maybe if she studies them while she eats breakfast?

My goal for this week is to get caught up!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Fixing My Eyes on Jesus (Review)

Fixing My Eyes on Jesus, by Anne Graham Lotz, is a 366 day devotional book. Each daily reading is short (100-150 words) and begins with a Bible verse.

I found a few devotionals that were insightful and really spoke to me.

One of my favorite passages tells of a scene from Pilgrim’s Progress in which a man is too engrossed in picking through garbage for some sort of tidbit to notice that behind him is an angel offering him a solid gold crown studded with jewels. Lotz says, “ When we get to heaven, will we be ashamed of our preoccupation with garbage in this life—garbage that prevented us from turning around, leaving it all behind, and reaching out for what God wanted to give us? !1 Cor. 2:9 says, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.’”  Very convicting!

Anne Graham Lotz’s passion and personality come out in the readings. I have seen her in videos and listened to her read books on cd and as I read, I can “hear” her speaking. She has a passion for Jesus, and the theme of this book emphasizes that.

Many of the daily readings, however, seemed somewhat uninspired. While the content was doctrinally sound, the readings reiterated themes that I’ve read many times before instead of giving me fresh insight into the scripture passages. It was hard at first for me to put my finger on just why the book didn’t grab me. Then I realized that other devotional books that I’ve read are more personal. The authors share personal stories from their lives that bring the topics to life. In this book, I didn’t see as much of that.  Anne Graham Lotz did some personal sharing, but so much of the content was more like commentary. This style would likely be what some others would prefer in a devotional, but left me wanting more.

I received a free (e-book) copy of this book from the Booksneeze blogger program in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Dog Ate My Homework!

Yep, she really did. Our dog, Macy, pulled Emily’s math page off the kitchen table and shredded it into tiny pieces. Looks like she had a lot of fun with it! Emily’s not complaining, either.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

“Get the Picture” Vocabulary Cards (TOS Review)

PhotobucketTarget Vocabulary Pictures
Vocabulary is an important part of any subject, from literature to science to math.  When children fail to master this vocabulary, they tend to do poorly in school, even though they may understand the underlying concepts. For example, a child may be competent with addition skills, but if he or she doesn’t know the terms, “sum” or “increase,” the child may not be able to interpret what he or she is being asked to do. 
The “Get the Picture” vocabulary cards from Lone Star Learning provide a great way to help children master this vocabulary. We tried out Set 1 of the math (Target Vocabulary Picture Sets) and Set 1 of the Science Vocabulary Pictures.  Each vocabulary word is presented in a pictorial form that is designed to help the child remember the meaning of the word.
  • $29.99 (5.5”x 4.25″ cards), $34.99 (8.5” x 11”)
  • 57 math vocabulary cards including terms such as “acute angle,” “diameter,” “divisor,” and “octagon.” 
  • $29.99 (5.5” x 8”)
  • 40 science vocabulary cards including terms like “lever,” “gear,” “conifer,” and “precipitation.”
Our Experience:
Emily was familiar with most of the math and science vocabulary words, so we used them as a review tool. I found that, although she knew the context of many words, she couldn’t necessarily define them clearly. so this became not only a review of previously learned science or math concepts, but an exercise in clearly articulating word meanings. I also found that she was a bit fuzzy on some terms or concepts that we had studied a year or two ago, so the cards became a good vehicle for briefly revisiting these topics.
The way the words are depicted on the cards is quite clever, with graphics giving the reader cues to the meanings. As we looked at each word, we talked about the graphics and discussed how they helped to show the word meanings. I also had Emily divide the words into categories…seasons, simple machines, types of rock, and so on.
For a younger child, I would use the cards a little differently. I would pick out just the vocabulary that corresponded with the topics we were studying in math or science, discuss, and display the cards, and possibly use them to make a vocabulary test for the unit.  They are also BIG—definitely large enough to use with a group or to display on a wall. And just look at the pictures to see how attractive they are!
Lists of the vocabulary included in each card set can be found at Lone Star Learning. Card sets are not grade-specific, but include a variety of words useful for elementary through middle school ages. 
My verdict: A fun way to practice vocabulary!
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