Monday, August 31, 2009

Not Me Monday: Not Eastern Syrup... but Western

Last week the Olive Plants house did not have a very special guest. He is not one of the cutest four-year-olds I have ever known. Four is not my favorite age because they do not have the most interesting take on things at that age. So our four-year-old visitor did not add any joy to our day.

For instance, when he walked through our backdoor, he did not exclaim, "I thought you had a sticky floor!" Do you remember the sticky floor?

Ahh... the memories!

I guess in his sweet, little mind once a floor gets THAT sticky, it just stays that way.

We did not complete any school work while Four-Year-Old was visiting because I would never subject visiting children to studying with us. I mean, really, what kind of a woman has school when friends come over to visit? So, dear Four-Year-Old did not "do school" with my much older boys.

In particular, I made sure he did not do geography with us. We sing songs to learn the countries, and I did not want him having too much fun. Now that I think about it, I don't know why I allow my boys to sing their lessons. I do not believe in children having fun while they learn after all.

The lyrics to the geography song they did not sing are not supposed to be, "Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium and Netherlands… France and Monaco… Germany… are all in Western Europe." A certain someone did not change the lyrics to "France and Monaco… Gerrrrrrr-man-eeeeeee are all in Western Syrup!"

My boys did not find this hysterical and they and their buddy did not sing "Western Syrup" over and over again for the remainder of the day.

Oh, and Four-Year-Old's mother, by the way, does not have a degree in German. I did not send him home with the misinformation that the country his mother so admires is in a place called "Western Syrup". I wonder if they have sticky floors there.

I guess this means one should be careful about sending her son to the Olive Plants School. You just never know what might happen, or not, around here!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Quarter Mile Math Special Offer

Barnum Software has graciously offered a $5 discount on any of their products for Olive Plant readers. You can read my review for The Quarter Mile Math here if you haven't already. To recieve your discount, enter the referral code "7D7Z7" (without quotes) upon checkout. This offer is good until September 30, 2009.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Product Review: The Quarter Mile Math

*Click here for a referral code which will save you $5 on your Barnum Software purchase!*

A frequent reader of Olive Plants recently commented that reading this blog has become dangerous because she wants to buy everything that I review. Well, prepare yourselves because The Quarter Mile Math from Barnum Software will not be an exception!

The Quarter Mile is a comprehensive mental math practice software . When I say "comprehensive", I really mean it. I received the Deluxe Version to review which includes Level 1 for grades K-3, Level 2 for grades 4-6, and Level 3 for grades 6-9.

These are the categories covered:
  • Numbers and Letters
  • Whole Numbers
  • Fraction Introduction
  • Fractions
  • Decimals
  • Percents
  • Estimation Preparation
  • Estimation
  • Integers
  • Equations
Within each of the categories there are several specific topics covered, too many to list here. In fact, there are over 300 different topics and over 70,000 math problems in all. For little ones, there's basic keyboarding, counting, and skip counting. For those who are little more advanced, there's addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. There's also computing fractions, finding percentages, and even pre-algebra. Still, this description does not do the product justice. The progression of skills is so good and so thorough. It's no wonder that The Quarter Mile Math is used in Sylvan Learning Centers in the United States and Canada.
How The Quarter Mile Math Works

The concept is simple but effective. The student can choose to play as a car racing along a six-lane road or as a riderless horse galloping through a meadow. He picks a topic and a race screen appears where he is the car or horse to the far left. The cars or horses that race in the other five lanes are the student's five best previous races, replayed exactly as they occurred. Therefore, he is racing himself and constantly trying to improve.
When he begins the race, problems appear on the screen one at a time. When he answers correctly, his car or horse accelerates, getting him to the finish line faster. If he answers incorrectly, he is given two more tries and then shown the correct answer. After he types it in, his racer accelerates. He is never penalized for an incorrect answer. Instead, he always has the opportunity to do better, go faster and accomplish more. The program recognizes the slightest improvements, even some that would not be humanly detectable, making it possible for him to recognize and enjoy every bit of progress he makes.

This creates an environment of self competition and positive reinforcement where math, and not gaming, is the focus. The student is not distracted by having to steer the vehicle or horse or by obstacles, secondary tasks, or other gaming elements. He moves his car or horse solely by solving math problems. Though he is given as much time as needed to answer each problem, the intrinsic desire to beat his previous times kicks in, and he is motivated to solve an incredible number of problems in a very short time. He is able to track his progress, too, through a top 5 scores average. When each race ends, he is shown his current time, his rank in the race, and his top 5 average. Mom can easily access his records and chart his progress, too.

Deluxe version users can race each other in tournaments from separate computers and locations. Standard CD users can hold tournaments as well. They would be required to take turns on the same computer or record and compare scores from different computers.

How We Use The Quarter Mile

Each day I dedicate one hour to math so I can work one-on-one with each of my sons. While I tutor one, the other works independently, usually on math memorization. The Quarter Mile Math is exactly what I needed for this.

First, the self competition really is very motivating. I have to pull my boys away from the computer when their independent time is over. I have never had to pull them away from flash cards or worksheets. In fact, keeping each boy on-task and from interrupting my one-on-one time with his brother has been a real chore in the past. But not with The Quarter Mile. Instead, I hear requests like, "Please, mom, just a little longer. I came in 2nd that time and have to get 1st place again."

Secondly, most skills that they need to master are contained within the three levels of The Quarter Mile Math. I say "most" just because I have not compared the topic list to the scope and sequence of every grade level, K-9. There is so much included on The Quarter Mile that I cannot imagine there being any gaps. This means no more searching for activities to fill the independent study block. It is all at our fingertips now.

Finally, there is not a predetermined order as to how the topics must be completed. I can have each boy solve problems that match his current area of study. For instance, one of my sons knows most of his multiplication tables really well but is still having some trouble with the 6's. He did not have to work through the 1's, then the 2's, then … until he finally got to the 6's. He started where the need was the greatest. However, if I want him to work on previously mastered skills for the sake of upkeep, I have that option too.

What are the cons?

I really could not find any. I imagine if I were the reader of this review, I would wonder if the newness would wear off and if my kids would lose interest in The Quarter Mile before they complete all the topics. My boys' interest did not diminish even a little in the month we used it. Being able to switch topics kept up their interest as did racing and self competition. They were very determined to beat their records.

How can you get The Quarter Mile Math?

You can buy the Standard CD Version with six different programs to choose from, each a one-time purchase ranging in price from $39.95 to $89.95. Or you can buy the Deluxe Version like I received which includes all the products offered. The subscription cost for the Deluxe Version is only $2.95 per family per month, $19.95 per family per year, or $34.95 per family for two years. There is an unconditional, 30-day money-back guarantee on all Barnum Software products. You can compare the two options here.

I encourage you to visit their website and watch "The KEY to The Quarter Mile Math video". In it, Barnum Software president, Christopher Wright, introduces the product and explains the value of self competition. You can also visit their homeschool section and read tips on getting started, look at their printable progress chart which lists all the topics covered, read more about tournaments, and more. There is also a free demo download for you to try.

I give The Quarter Mile Math two enthusiastic thumbs up and encourage you to take advantage of this wonderful learning tool. I am truly amazed by the amount of math covered for the price. Never again will I spend as much as $35 for software that covers a single topic, like multiplication, when we now have everything we need in The Quarter Mile. I intend to continue our subscription when our current one expires, so let me know if you purchase the Deluxe Version, too. Maybe we can hold a tournament!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Our Daily Schedule: The Picture Book Version

6:00 a.m.

The Alarm Sounds

To the Track for Exercise

Back Home for Breakfast (although this pic was actually taken at IHOP!)

1st Chores

Mom starts the laundry...

and remembers to close the lid!

Dad leaves for work.

Mom is sad.

8:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m.

School Begins


Catechism Practice


10:00 a.m. until 10:30 a.m.


A very drained mother refuels with an energy drink!

10:30 a.m. until Noon

Geography and World View


Noon until 1:00 p.m.



Outside Playtime
(except for on rainy days like when this pic was taken)

5-Minute Power Nap

1:00 p.m. until 4:30 p.m.


Writer's Workshop (T-F)

Exhausted Mom Breathing Exercises

Literature (T-F)

Latin (T-Th)

Science (T-Th)

Mom suffers from Post Science Stress Disorder.

Art and Music (F)

Piano Lesson (F)

4:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m.

Dad's home!

More Playtime!


More Chores

Family Worship

8:00 p.m.



To read about how other homeschoolers schedule their day, jump over to Life with My 3 Boybarians for the Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Uppercase Living Give-away

I told you this is a great week for give-aways. Darcy at Life with My 3 Boybarians is hosting an Uppercase Living give-away. Enter by Wednesday, August 26 for a chance to win one of their products of your choice, up to $35.

If you're not already familiar with Darcy's blog, take a little time to look around while you're there. She is a talented writer and photographer.

Kroger and Crayola Give-aways

This is the week for great give-aways. Kimberly @ Raising Olives is offering two great ones this week.

General Mills and PepsiCo. are offering one $30 Kroger gift card to one of her readers. You can also enter to win a Crayola Creativity Pack, valued at over $57.

While there, check out Kimberly's fabulous blog. She is a great lady and mother to nine precious kids. She offers a lot of great advice on parenting, homeschooling, and homemaking.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Liberty's Kids Give-away

Kellie @ Blue House Academy is hosting a fabulous give-away! One blessed reader will win a complete, 6-DVD set of Liberty's Kids episodes. That's all 40 episodes, from the Tea Party to the Constitution!

Click here to visit BHA and get the details. While you're there, take a little time to look around. Kellie is a very special mom to three beautiful children, one of whom has autism. You will be inspired by her loving and faithful care for her family and her faith in the Lord.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Plan-It School Series: The Conclusion!

The plans were in place.

The classroom was in order.

The children were excited.

Mom was well-rested.

And Dad was raring to go.

The first day of the 2009-2010 school year was picture perfect at the Olive Plant house. I opened my planner at 8 a.m. and glided from one lesson to the next.

There was singing.

There was dancing.

There was reading and discussing, writing and drawing. It was like a big, bright ray from heaven was shining down on our little classroom.

Then it happened.

Road crews stopped in front of our house at 10 p.m. and worked until 6 a.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

We thought they were finished until they came back for an encore performance the following Monday and Tuesday.

The walls vibrated.
The furniture rattled.

Beeping sounds echoed up and down and up and down the street all night. Lights flashed through the windows so frequently that we felt like we were at

a disco!

In other words, there was no sleeping at our house for five full nights.

It is so nice when our days come together perfectly, and we can easily follow our plans just as we wrote them. From time to time, there are days like that, and it feels good to experience the fruit of our labor. However, these are not the days for which lesson plans are really intended.

Lesson plans serve a better purpose on those days when life is hard. When the unexpected brings me down, they serve as a reminder of the important job God has given me. They remind me that what I do or don't do today will affect tomorrow. They prompt me to "get over myself" and to pray for the grace to do what God wills. Sometimes that means doing more than I thought possible through Christ who is my strength. Sometimes it means relinquishing that which I thought was so important. Some days I want to give up but am reminded that God's grace is sufficient, and others, I must lay my plans at the Throne of Grace and pray, "Not my will but yours."

So as I end this series on lesson planning, I want to encourage you to be mindful of the fact that planning is not about being perfect. It is about being prepared. When the hard times come, don't feel defeated. Don't look at your plans and think all is lost because things didn't turn out exactly as you hoped. Instead remember that "man's mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." (Prov 16:9)

Planning is prudent. "The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty." (Prov 21:5) However, complaining, particularly because our plans are interrupted, is rooted in pride.
"Come now who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such town and spend a year there and make a profit'- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.' As it is you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil." (Jam 4:13-16)

Now that they are complete, let's not boast in our plans. Instead let's start each day with the words "Lord willing" and end each one with gratitude for all He has given us and done for us.

Thank you for reading the Plan-It School series. I am praying that the Lord will bless your hard work this school year and prosper you and your family for His glory.


*Photo credits: from as marked, all others (excluding #1-3 from