Monday, January 21, 2019

Elephant Learning

Elephant Learning is an online automated math academy for students ages 2-16. Elephant Learning is so confident in their program that they guarantee your child will learn at least 1 year of math in 3 months if they play 30 minutes per week. The software is able to constantly trace a student’s progress and adapt the activities in order to ensure that a student gets help in the areas that they are struggling in and moving forward in areas they are excelling in. What makes Elephant Learning unique is that it is compatible with every curriculum because it focuses on mathematical concepts rather than procedures. Elephant Learning works on IOS/Android/Web Based Platforms. Before actually starting in on the program there is an assessment period. The assessment period will take time. Students are only allowed to play 20 minutes a day. Your child will actually not know when the assessment period is over. They will automatically be transitioned to play mode after they complete each section of the assessment. Elephant Learning calls it a “test out” mode. What exactly does this mean? For each subject matter they begin with the most difficult questions. If the student incorrectly answers questions, opts to skip questions because they do not know the answer, the program will automatically assign them based on the results. This process is continued until all subjects are tested out. As a parent you are able to go in and adjust the settings at any time. You can opt to let your child play unlimited instead of the default 20 minutes a day. You can also choose to start an assessment over, advance through an assessment, etc. There are 32 games within the Elephant Learning program. Each game is represented by a different character such as; Acidic Lemons, Forest Mushrooms, Smart Worms, Froglings, Unicorns, and Whale Spotting. Each child begins with an Elephant Age. This is the average age your child is doing math outside of the program. As they progress along through the program you will see your child’s Elephant Age increase as they develop in their math skills. The cost for Elephant Learning Math is $35 a month. If parents find this difficult to pay Elephant Learning has a partner, Math Matters, a non-profit dedicated to mathematics that provides scholarships that can lower the tuition to as low as $10 a month. An application form for the scholarship is a part of the enrollment form. 

Elephant Learning is best if used 10 minutes a day, 3 days a week. They do not recommend going over 60 minutes a week as this leads to burn out. I had my 5thgrader use Elephant Learning on unlimited play mode. Some days she used it for 15 minutes a day, a few times she worked 30 minutes, and sometimes 5 minutes. The assessment period took a LONG time! The program is for students ages 2-16. Currently this program is targeted for the home setting. They specifically point out that while they cover key concepts through Algebra, it is not intended to be a replacement for an entire curriculum. They are currently working on a classroom product that is coming out soon. 

Here are some examples of topics and questions from my daughter’s dashboard:
·     Find my number to 20 (Solve problems like: x-6=11)
·     Advanced Estimate Numbers to 200 (Estimate multiples of 10)
·     Groups of 3, 4, 5, and 10 (Divide 54, 63, 72, 81 by 9)
·     Language of Fifths using Areas and Collections (Produce 4/5 using areas)
·     Introduction to Equations (Solve problems of the form: (x+a)-b=c)
·     Divide in the Line: Numbers Greater than 50 (Divide 49 by 7 and 64 by 8) _
·     Understanding and Meaning of NOT (Negation, small numbers, both are negated)
·     Equivalent Fractions: Fourths and Fifths (Equivalent fraction of 1/5 or 2/5 using the number line)
·     Introduction to Decimal and Their Representations (Representations of the Decimal 0.2)
·     Advanced Percentage of Total Using the Number Line (Find 20% or 40% of 30 using the number line) 

Just to give an example of how my daughter progressed during the month of October, her Elephant age went from 9.67 to 10.1. On the Dashboard there are several ways to keep track of your student’s progress. The Overview keeps track of your child’s Elephant Age. It displays their age on a graph. Next, is a Playtime Analysis. This is a dated bar graph which shows the Average Weekly and Max Weekly time in minutes, the current week and past week, that your child has spent in Elephant Learning. The History Section displays every time that your child has logged into Elephant Learning. It displays the Date, Timestamp, if Passed or Failed, Types of Questions Asked, Milestone or Topic Covered, and Play Duration. At the bottom of the Dashboard you will find the Curriculum Section. Each subject is represented by a circle. You can click on any given circle to get more information about the subject matter. In the middle of each circle is a percentage which represents the percent of the subject matter completed. Each subject matter will either have a star beside it which means that the student is in assessment mode, a pause sigh indicating it has been paused, a red dot meaning the subject Needs Attention, a yellow dot meaning the subject is OK, or a green dot meaning the student is doing Great!

What my daughter had to say, “Elephant Learning is fun once you FINALLY get the assessment done. That takes a long time!!! I like all of the game choices. I like all of the different avatar choices that you can choose from. I chose a cute baby deer. My least favorite game is the number line game.” 

I really have been impressed with Elephant Learning. I like the ability to see how my daughter is continually progressing. She is able to log on and do everything on her own without any help from me. The game choices are amazing! I was really skeptical about the Elephant Age guarantee that they talked about. So far, I have been really impressed by my daughter’s progress. She enjoys working in the program and the time commitment is minimal. 

The only negative was that the assessment period took so long. Even though the program said that the child would not be aware of the assessment period my daughter was more than aware of when she was being assessed. She was smart enough to read the key and know that she was still in the assessment period for a long time and that part discouraged her. I tried to tell her not to think about it as an assessment, but her brain was stuck on “assessment” the whole time. I think she was wondering what the program was going to be like after the assessment and she was just ready for it to be done. 

Overall, I was very pleased with the program and would recommend it to others. Elephant Learning has a growing library of activities where characters will entertain while providing accelerated learning. Math matters and that is why Elephant Learning is so passionate about helping students succeed.

-Product review by Jennifer Ladewig, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November, 2018 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A Rhetoric of Love

A Rhetoric of Love is a one volume set that explores the art of effective, persuasive communication. Written from a Christian perspective, “A Rhetoric of Love aims to teach a ‘more excellent’ (I Corinthians 12:31) and that unlike other texts on the subject, it demonstrates that in rhetoric, as in life, ‘the greatest of these is love’ (I Corinthians 13:13).” When most individual think of rhetoric they think of the great Greek and Roman philosophers like Aristotle, Cicero, Empiricus Argues, Plato, and Socrates who taught orderly thinking and reasoning. The one thing that they didn’t teach about was love. The Bible commands us as believers to love one another and to love our enemies. This is one aspect of rhetoric that the ancient philosophers left out. This is where A Rhetoric of Love will fill in the gap. Your student will not only learn about the ancient philosophers and their classical tradition, but they will learn what the Bible has to say with regard to Rhetoric. The student text is 458 pages in length and the teacher’s edition is 217 pages in length. 

In A Rhetoric of Love students will be introduced to a two-part look into the “love” part of rhetoric. 

Part I: Introduction To A Rhetoric of Lovecovers:
·     Two Paths of Rhetoric
·     Why Persuade
·     What is Persuasion?
·     A Helpful Tool

Part II: The Perspective Of A Rhetoric of Love covers:
·     The Normative Perspective: Love Lives
·     The Situational Perspective: Love Frees
·     The Personal Perspective: Love Is a Habit

Each chapter in the student text begins with an opening statement or question. For example, the opening statement in, Chapter 7 entitled, Love Listens, says; “A rhetoric of love seeks action first and views the indwelling of an opponent as a starting point for interaction. The key habit for developing a mature empathy involves the slow practice of listening carefully.” These opening statements really give the student not only something to really think about but a glimpse of what the chapter is going to encompass. Throughout each chapter there are red boxes entitled Sidebar’s. These boxes go into more detail about the various philosophers. Sidebar 1.2 in Chapter 1 is entitled, “Cicero explains that an orator is not someone armed with weapons of persuasion, but rather one who has cultivated a wise life to share with others.”

Here are a few of my favorite lines throughout the text that I highlighted. It was so hard to narrow down just a few. 

·     “Communicators do not change people’s minds; people decide to alter their own attitudes or to resist persuasion.” (page 28) 
·     “Blind spots don’t exist only in our field of vision. They show up in many areas of human experience, especially in how our minds view the worlds around and within us.” 
(page 41)
·     “We all have slipped into fruitless arguments at times.Reference to 2 Timothy 2:22-25” (page 54)
·     “Rhetoricians in the Old Testamentthe prophets Moses (Exodus 4:10), Isaiah (Isaiah 6:8), and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:6). God promised them all ineffectiveness (Jeremiah 7:27, 11:14) Whatever the reasons behind this difficult mission, and whatever else we are to learn from the prophets, we see that the best language, the best arguments, the best speeches, the best rhetoric – even God’s own words – can fail to persuade. Words do not succeed on their own. Arguments do not convince by themselves. The personal dimension is the key factor in whether words accomplish what they set out to do Words are only part of the story”. (pages 58-60)  
·     “Kairos is a timeliness and a fittingness. It includes the right people, the right message, the right means, and the right occasion. In rhetoric, this means the moment is right to persuade, and your message matches the moment. Ecclesiastes provides another way of understanding Kairos in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.” (pages 300-202)

At the end of each chapter there are Comprehension Exercises, Discussion Exercises, and Presentation Exercises. 

In Chapter 16 entitled, Love Moves, one of the Comprehension Exercises states:
Plato divided the human soul into three basic parts: intellect, spiritedness, and emotion. Does the Bible agree with Plato’s theory? If not, where does it differ? Can Plato’s view still be helpful?

When referencing the teacher’s edition to look at suggested answers for this particular question this is what was said:
The Bible doesn’t agree with Plato’s theory. It views us as undivided beings in which all three aspects of our nature are interwoven. Plato’s analogy can still be helpful, though. These three aspects of our nature are interwoven, but they can get out of balance. When out of balance, we need to adjust. 

For the Discussion Exercises in Chapter 16, one of the discussion choices is to:
Review some recent political speeches from an online news source. Look for appeals to victimhood. Do they seem genuine? Find one speech that appears to be and one that doesn’t. Look for one that tries both to deny and to embrace victimhood, too. Write a description of how each speech appeals to victimhood. Evaluate whether the appeal is successful. 

For the Presentation Exercises in this chapter one of the options that students are given is to:
Find several meme postings that come across as self-righteous or humblebragging. Give a short presentation that suggests fixes. Suggest better ways to say whatever is true or helpful about the memes.

What is really great about A Rhetoric of Loveis that the teacher edition assumes no prior knowledge of the subject. It is expected that the educator read the student text ahead of the student. Each lesson represents a week’s worth of instruction and is divided into five sessions. Some may choose to condense the week into fewer days. Appendix A in the back of the book has two schedules, a two-day a week & a five-day a week, based on a 34-week school year. Each lesson shows the order in which the content of each day’s material show be done. 

Lessons follow the following order:
1.    Student reads the chapter (session 1)
2.    Opening statement or question (session 1)
3.    Student’s answer Comprehension Exercises (session 1)
4.    Student’s respond to one of the Discussion Exercises (session 1)
5.    Comprehension Exercises answers discussed (session 1)
6.    Student’s share Discussion Exercise responses (session 2)
7.    Student’s begin Presentation Exercises (session 1)
8.    Student’s discuss Presentation Exercise responses (session 3 and 4)
9.    In class discussion of Discussion Exercises (session 2)
10.  Student’s present Presentation Exercises (session 3 and/or 4)
11.  Student’s discuss remaining Discussion Exercises (session 3)
12.  Present Presentation Exercises (session 3 and 4)
13.  Review the biggest ideas of the chapter and set the stage for the next (session 4)
14.  Read following chapter and answer Comprehension Exercises (Session 5)

In the footnotes of the teacher’s edition the teacher will find links to video’s and articles. 
These links to articles, videos, and other educational points of departure are meant to enhance the students experience. 

Also included in the curriculum is a midterm exam as well as a final exam. 

The Teacher’s Edition is very user friendly and gives step-by-step instructions as to how to teach each session and implement all extras. Suggested answers are given for Comprehension Exercises. 

A Rhetoric of Love is intended for to be used in the 10thgrade. This course would work well in the school setting, co-op setting, and also for the homeschooling setting. For the homeschool setting it is quite easy to adapt the curriculum fit more of a single student self-paced program. Since my high school aged kiddos are deep into their current studies at this time they read through chapters of the book and loved it! They gained so much insight. After reading through A Rhetoric of Love for myself I am anxious to use the curriculum in its entirety this next upcoming school year for at least two of my children. I thoroughly enjoyed working through this curriculum myself. For the upper level student that may not have the time to devote themselves to the full curriculum but is interested in the study of Rhetoric would most definitely gain a wealth of information from just reading the student text alone.

I would most absolutely recommend A Rhetoric of Love to educators that are looking for a solid rhetoric curriculum that looks back at Greek and Roman philosophers and their classical thoughts and traditions while providing one missing piece, the Bible for guidance. 

-Product review by Jennifer Ladewig, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November, 2018 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Decluttering 2019

One of my goals for 2019 is to DECLUTTER! We live in a very nice size house, almost 4,000 square feet. Over the months and years, one tends to accumulate while at the same time not getting rid of the same amount that you bring in. I love organization but at the same time am sentimental and practical. It is hard to get rid of some of my kiddos childhood things that hold so many memories. I also hate to get rid of stuff that is still useful but don't really need or use anymore. I am by no means a HOARDER! I actually get a great cathartic thrill when I declutter and once, I get started I am a woman on a mission. My husband says, "Declutter as if we are about to move. If we wouldn't take it to move than get rid of it. It makes total sense." As my children are getting older and leaving home and getting jobs and are not home as much, I am no longer cooking needing to cook LARGE portions. Unfortunately, more often than not I still find myself falling back into my old habits of cooking too much. I find myself buying larger quantities of food items than I need that end up going to waste. I am determined in 2019 to make a concerted effort to buy for our shrinking crew’s needs. This will actually enable me to buy more healthy, organic choices and spend the same amount of money. Win, win! Today, I took to decluttering my kitchen and pantry shelves. I was SHOCKED at the amount of canned and boxed items that were YEARS out of date. I only share this because the craziness of life tends to make you forget what you do and do not have. Before you know it, you have four bottles of catchup, three cans of salsa, 9 various boxes of crackers, and cans of tomatoes at the back of your pantry that are bulging out that expired in 2014. You know that fifty-dollar bottle of Manuka Honey that you purchased at Costco over a year ago that you haven't been able to find. Well, you would be surprised to find that it usually shows up during the declutter process, lol. 

If you have kids and live in Texas, the great Clothing Migration tends to take place all year long! Just in January alone one day it will be in the high 60's and the next day it will be in the 30's. With a large family that leads to A LOT of clothing. Luckily, I only have to really deal with my younger three now. It is a constant process of sorting through because of clothing getting to small and needing stuff that is bigger, or clothing getting too worn/holes/torn, sensory issues with the clothing, just not my style, and so forth. I am constantly going through the clothing and assessing what needs to get donated, given away, or taken to the resale store. Having five girls and one boy (one not at home anymore) makes this process so much more difficult, lol. 

As I peruse my homeschool inventory, I am a bit overwhelmed at everything I have. There is so much I don't use or haven't used in so long. Do I keep it or get rid of it? That is next on my agenda. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

My Thoughts on the online kids resale, Kids on 45th

As fast as kids grow I am definitely always looking for sales and bargains on kids clothing. I am also a huge fan of one particular Once Upon a Child store that is local to us. Other than that I am not the biggest fan of second hand stores as I find them a bit disorganized. The clothing is usually overly worn out, out of style, and for the most part lower end brands. The particular store I go to is very selective as to the clothing they select in their buying process which makes shopping their store worthwhile. Having a large family I prefer to spend a bit more on the higher end brand clothing so that I can pass it down to the next kiddo and not have it look worn, oddly shaped because it has shrunken from washing, etc. It lasts and and holds up well. I came across Kids on 45th on the internet and after looking at the reviews and the many pictures that people had posted thought I would give it a try. Many people talked about receiving clothing with tags still attached. The clothing was very nice looking. Not wrinkled or shrunken from lots of wear. This lead me to believe that they were selective in their clothing that they were willing to ship out to customers. WRONG! I wasn't expecting Versace but I sure was not expecting Wal-Mart, oddly shrunken, stained clothing either. Sure, from time to time, I buy my kiddos clothes from Target for play knowing that it will probably not be handed down. It is cute and the price is right. I wouldn't expect to resell it. I may hand it down to a friend for free. Here is the invoice of what I ordered. Keep in mind these are clothes for a 10 1/2 year old.

5 long sleeve shirts
1 sweater/sweatshirt
1 winter dress
1 pair of jeans/pants

The sweater had a pull on the back with a small hole. 

The jeans were very wide legged and definitely not what you would 
consider IN STYLE!

This shirt is just beyond ugly. I am sorry. It is like a huge balloon. Not stylish at all!!

If anything in the box was decent it was this dress but then again
the dress is so short you have to have leggings to wear it. My daughter is
very short for her age. She is 10 and is the size of an average 7-8 year old so 
that tells you how short the dress is. You can see the shirt above is the same
length as the dress?!?!

This shirt has a stain right on the front on the upper middle. Also, when the arms
and the shirt part are the same length there is a problem. It has SHRUNK! Meaning
the torso part is going to be too short!

See the oval stain?

Again, a wonderful Wal-Mart, Faded Glory, shirt. Torso part has shrunk so 
that means that it is not going to fit!! 

I requested long sleeve shirts. This is not a long sleeve shirt?

Again, NOT A LONG SLEEVE SHIRT!! I requested long sleeve shirts!

So many of the videos on their Facebook site are deceiving. People talk about receiving 
clothing with tags still on them. The clothing is not wrinkled. It is A LOT NICER than what
I received. It is almost like the videos shown are staged. I am not saying they are it just
seems odd to me. Most of our clothing was very wrinkled and quite worn. Not 
like what people on the site are showing in pictures and videos. 

Overall thoughts on Kids on 45th. I will not be ordering from them again. 
I guess lesson learned. It was a $27.72 lesson learned. Hope this review 
helps someone else considering purchasing from them. Maybe your experience
will be far better than mine was. I will stick to purchasing in person so that
I can see what I am buying. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

Mazie is officially an Adrenal Insufficiency Service Dog

Mazie will be 2 years old in March 2019. She is a labradoodle from Novacek's 84 Labradoobles. One of the major reasons that the dogs from the Novacek's are such natural alerters for Adrenal Insufficiency is that Amy Novacek herself has Adrenal Insufficiency. When new litters are born the puppies are exposed from day one to the scent emitted by Amy's Adrenal Insufficiency. Amy herself has two working service dogs, Hank and Buddy. Hank became a natural alerter for Amy's AI and has gone on to be a huge help for Amy in fighting her AI. On a side note, Mazie actually naturally alerted for one of my daughters in the middle of the night before she was officially scent trained. Okay, back to the beginning of getting Mazie. We were blessed to be a part of Mazie's life from the very beginning. We were able to travel to the Novacek Ranch to look over all of the puppies and choose which puppy would be ours. Fairly quickly were knew which puppy we wanted. Mazie was off in a corner by herself. She was smaller than the other puppies. She was on the calmer side. Her coloring was unique in that she was black but had brown paws. She was in our eyes the cutest one of the litter. Maybe we were a bit partial but then again it was kind of love at first site. For the first 9 months of her life, she lived with an amazing family, the Richard's, who loved on her and worked day and night on obedience training. Miriam Richard took Mazie on many outings such as the mall, zoo, state fair, museum, sporting events, movies, etc. early on to get Mazie used to being around crowds and different environments. She exposed her to a plethora of sounds, people, objects, environments, and situations at an early age so that Mazie would learn to not become reactive to these things. They also began basic scent training with Maize. During this time, we would visit Mazie so that we would be able to bond with Mazie and she would be able to bond with us. During this time a dog trainer was used to help with Mazie's training. 

Here is a picture of Mazie as a puppy. 

At around 9 ½ months old, Mazie came to live with us. It was an exciting time but also a scary time too. It was a bit like bringing home a new baby. I had a dog as a child, but we really did not know much about dogs and their needs.  Our initial trainer helped to guide us as we continued to train Mazie on our own. After about 10 months it was clear that change was needed. We realized that in order for Mazie to become a full-fledged Adrenal Insufficiency Service Dog we needed to seek out a trainer who specialized in training dogs for Adrenal Insufficiency. While a lot can be accomplished "owner trained" Adrenal Insufficiency is a bit more complex. We wanted to ensure that Mazie had the specialized training to ensure that she could and would alert for my two daughters that have AI when they have issues. This required consistency, a lot of time, and the right training. That is where Beverly Swartz came into our lives. She is the owner of All Purpose Canines, Inc.. Mazie is a recent graduate and is now home working for both of my daughters and ALERTING! We still have to practice using scent articles from past Adrenal crises a couple of times a day. As many know, unlike diabetes where your blood sugar is constantly going up and down each day, those with AI may go long gaps without having a crisis. Therefore, it is important to keep past scent articles available to train with your dog in order to ensure that their training is being reinforced. The scent article is hidden on the person with AI. The dog alerts and then you treat the dog and give the dog lots of praise for a job well done. In a real-life situation building up to a crisis they have potentially averted a crisis. Or maybe, saved your life! 

Here are some pictures of Mazie working to pass her Public Access Test the last step before becoming an Official Service Dog. We are so very proud of her. 

Mazie making herself at home at the hotel.

Together at last.

Happy, Happy!

Placement on elevators is important.

Beverly going over important information. 

Walking with a loose leash right beside her handler. 

Eye contact.

Right in line with each other.


Waiting on commands.

Being told to lay down.

Being told to stay!

Separation but obedient to stay. 

Command to sit but stay. 

Command to come along with praise.

Mazie laid politely beside the table during our meal. At the end of the meal we
 tested Mazie by placing food beside her. She did not sniff at the food. She looked away 
from it because we told her to "leave it". 

Beverly, Karis, and Mazie 

Entering the Courthouse

Going through a metal detector. A great way to simulate airport security.

Sister's turn. 

All smiles. 

Step in line. 

Slow, step, slow, step. 

Practice makes perfect.

Walking along her dog. 

Walking along her dog.

Talking to Mazie. 

Giving Mazie a command. 

Good girl, Mazie!

Time to sit for a bit. 

It's been a long day.

Waiting for the jury duty crowd to emerge so that we can see what
Mazie's reaction will be. 

Mazie STAY!

Let's go!

Load up. 

Let's go!

Load up.

Mazie passing another dog without reacting. 




Mazie sitting next to a dog without reacting, sniffing, or moving. 

Chilling, just sitting. 

Being praised for tasks well done. 

And the best for last an Adrenal Insufficiency alert 
using a hidden scent article on my daughter. The scent article
was from a previous adrenal crisis that my daughter had. 

Confetti Eggs