Friday, January 27, 2012

Teaching Textbooks and Xtra Math

I hate math...I try not to say so in front of my girls, but I am not very strong in any of my basic math facts.  I love calculators, and I can do the basic math I need to do...if I have to!
My first experience with teaching math to Eva was Mathematics K for Young Catholics from Seton Home Study.  My difficulty was that it didn't have enough instruction for ME to be able to teach.  It assumed that I knew how to explain basic math facts. When I went eclectic in first grade, we moved to Math-U-See Alpha, which was a better fit.  Steve would teach the basics to my daughter, and I'd just have to supervise.  The problem I had was getting her to memorize her basic math facts.  The Math-U-See blocks were great for learning concepts, but MUS didn't have the drill that Eva needed. 

Well, now she is in second grade, and we are on our third math program - Teaching Textbooks 3.  Eva is very good at math concepts, so when she passed the placement test for the 3rd grade level program (and the lowest level that Teaching Textbooks has at the moment) I went ahead and outsourced math to my computer. (I purchased the CD-ROM only, and Eva uses a dry erase board to work out problems.) Teaching Textbooks has more math fact practice than our previous books.  Eva really loves the "bonus rounds" where she can get extra points for answering math facts, but she really seems to need a lot of drill on her basic math facts.

We have used flashcards, which are frustrating for me (I'm not a particularly patient mom), we have Math Gear: Fast Facts in Addition and Subtraction, we have Usborne Big Book of Sticker Math (that we do when we are in town waiting on Charlotte who attends preschool for speech therapy), and while they are all useful, none were improving Eva's math fact knowledge or speed very quickly.  I started to look around for a computer game to help with math drill, but I didn't find anything that looked like what I needed.  Then, I saw a suggestion for xtraMath, a free online math fact drill program.

XtraMath is all that I was hoping for - it's not very flashy, which I thought might be a bummer to Eva, but she LOVES it (as much as anyone loves math drill). She particularly likes when she gets to do "race the teacher";  Eva's only been at it for a little over a week, but her speed is improving already.

While I am still a fan of Math-U-See, and am using the primer level with Charlotte, I have to admit that every time Eva gets on the computer to do Teaching Textbooks and/or xtraMath, I am one happy homeschool mom!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Quo Vadis

The first book I tackled for my year long project was Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz (however that would be pronounced!)  I chose it because it was on both the Catholic Lifetime Reading List and the Reading List for the first time period in EPIC (Mustard Seed 33-99AD), as a bonus, it is a narrative, so I didn't have to worry about highly philosophical or challenging theological thoughts over our break from school.

The story is very compelling - I had a hard time putting my Kindle down.  It's a little on the long side - since reading on the Kindle only tells you the percentage of the way though and not the number of pages, I just checked at Amazon, where a paperback edition has 589 pages - but it was worth the time to read.

It is hard to sum up a book in just a few words without spoiling the story.  A young Roman officer falls in love with a young woman who turns out to be a Christian.  The most interesting of the historical characters are Nero, St. Peter and St. Paul, all of which interact with the young officer throughout the book.  The burning of Rome and the subsequent persecution of Christians happen within the story, and all the pain of those events is portrayed.  The Christian characters are mostly shown as loving, good people, although there is one not particularly likeable Christian character.  Some of the pagans are portrayed as brutal, but mostly not of their own accord, more out of fear of Caesar, and as products of Roman society.  You can see in the story both the fear that the early Christians must have had during the persecutions, but also the hope and the trust that Jesus would come again.  There are inspiring words from Peter and Paul, and conversions that occur.  Just thinking about the early Christians that received baptism from St. Peter or St. Paul is awe inspiring.

There have been several movies made, but I haven't seen any of them.  I checked Netflix instant download, and none are available there right now, so I guess I won't be seeing them anytime soon.  I doubt that they would be able to live up to the book, anyway.

The translation I read was free, and was put together by volunteers, so there are the occasional typos, and the language is older (lots of thous and werts, etc.)  But, I have no complaints.  I love the fact that I can read great books for free, and I appreciate the volunteer labor that goes into turning public domain books into e-books.

Reading Resolution

Well, Christine over at Good Company inspired me - I'm not really making a resolution in the traditional sense (clearly there are many improvements I could work on) but instead, I am excited about my "resolution."  She is endeavoring to read 52 books from the Washington Posts top books of 2011.  That got me thinking about reading some of the many, many, many books that are sitting around my house unread.  Honestly, I find it hard to read something intellectual after homeschooling all week long, so many of my Catholic books are just waiting for me to get to them.  So, I am challenging myself to read at least 12 books from the Lifetime Catholic Reading Plan by Father JohnMcCloskey and/or from the EPIC reading lists (available in the free downloads).

I printed out the McCloskey list to take to my bookshelves and see what I had there.  These are the books from the list that I have read (not necessarily the edition):
Rome Sweet Home by Scott and Kimberly Hahn
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Here are the books I have on hand (again, not necessarily the edition I have):
Catechism of the Catholic Church (I use it, but have never read it)
St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox by GK Chesterton
The Lord of the Rings trilogy by JRR Tolkien (I made it part way through the first book, once.  I enjoyed the movies.)
Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross
Mere Christianity by CS Lewis
Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila
Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux
Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre De Caussade
True Devotion to Mary and The Secret of the Rosary by  Louis-Marie Grignion De Monfort (the reading list has listed a compilation of his works, with four more included that I do not have)

Finally, the books on the list that I found free for my Kindle:
Essay on Development of Christian Doctrine by Cardinal Newman
Apologia Pro Vita Sua by John Henry Newman
Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
The Idea of a University by John Newman
Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz
Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton
My Way of Life/Summa Theologica Parts I-II and Part III by St. Thomas Aquinas
The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni

I've finished my first book so far (I started early) and will write some about it soon.  I think that I have plenty of choices now, and that's before I spend a penny on a book, or even put any titles on paperback swap!