Review: Stanford’s Gifted and Talented math program.

play quote1I know it’s Tuesday, and in the past we have done Toddler Tuesday, but I don’t have a toddler anymore. She’s more of a child now. That’s not to say we don’t play a lot – because we do. Play is the work of children. It shouldn’t be their break from work, it is their work. But it does mean that Toddler Tuesdays are no more. Instead, I will just post her lessons here too. A lot of them are the same as Nicholas did when he was her age.

Yes, she likes art best. But that doesn’t mean I’m not making sure she gets her full share of math and science. I certainly don’t want to be accused of pigeon holing her so young. So she gets exposed to a bunch of things. But art and play are important.

As I know, my son likes math. The harder the better – even though he whines about it. If it is too easy he simply refuses to do it because he’s already done it and already knows it. Therefore, we make sure his math is hard. Or I try to make sure his math is hard.

We use Stanford’s Gifted and Talented program for math. I generally like it. Except that it can get repetitive. He’s done – according to the program – 54 sections on addition with carrying. That gets a bit tedious. Although the program makes sure that there are only about 10 questions in a section, and mixes them up with different math concepts.

For instance, today he did a section of 10 questions on lines of symmetry, one section of plotting information on a graph, an addition with carrying, a word problems (set 13), more addition with carrying, and fractions.

I’m generally happy with the program. It’s got small introductory videos when they are working on a new concept. It never introduces too much at once  -everything is broken down into these little lessons.

The only thing I’m unhappy with it how it progresses. It doesn’t let him master something and move on. It simply moves him through the progression they have on the computer. If he screws up too many problems in a set – generally because he’s not paying attention – it makes him redo the set. I’m fine with that. What I’m not fine with is when there’s more addition with carrying. He’s done enough, let’s move on. Except that isn’t the way the program works.

They have a new Redbird course out that I’m thinking of trying out for the next semester. That course is supposed to be more adaptive to the child – which would be nice.

But what is really nice is that I don’t have to do the teaching. The computer does it. And he listens to the computer better than he listens to me.

Website review: NextLesson

I’m a HUGE fan of technology. I like it for my kids to play with, to learn with, and for me to use to develop lessons. I also use it to share all kinds of information with (hence this blog).

NextLesson is a website that has pre-made lessons, and a method for you to make your own. They are integrated with Google, so students need to have a Google account to get the most out of the experience.

The pre-made lessons come in two different types: whole lessons and worksheets.


The worksheets are really neat. They have math worksheets based on real athletes and real statistics. My son got a kick out of the LeBron James (and other basketball stars) multiplication worksheets. The worksheets are all tied directly to Common Core standards. They are listed. It’s easy to print them off and use them. It’s even easy to find them – you simply click on the worksheets tab. Then you can search by grade, or simply browse them to find what you like.

Pre-Made Lessons

The pre-made lessons are also amazing. The lessons cover a variety of subjects – and if you need the Common Core correlation standards they are all right there.

Once you’ve signed in, you simply search and the download the lesson. The lesson appears in the lessons section of your account. Each lesson is fully contained. You can print each part of the lesson, or you can simply browse through it online. I took some of the sheets and put them into a PowerPoint (just to see if it could be done) – and it was very easy. So if you don’t want each student to log into the lesson separately, you can just project what you need through PowerPoint.

Each lesson is broken into clear steps. Each step takes you to the next logical place in the lesson. The assessments are all done for you. All you have to do is follow the steps.

The lessons also allow you to assign a code to join the lesson. Then you email the code to the students, and they join a lesson using a Google account. So there can be online and long distance collaboration.

Another great feature is that the lessons allow you to customize them. You can add tasks, videos, and all kinds of fun stuff. I added some extra ranking tasks and videos to the “Animal communities” lesson. It was easy to do, and I got to add some specialized information about the animals my child likes best.

Making your own lessons

Once you have downloaded a lesson, it is easy to create your own. You simply click on the “create a lesson” tab. You can pick between starting from scratch and starting based on one the community already has. I started one from scratch. It is a very easy interface to drag and drop everything.

It certainly makes organizing my own thoughts easier, and it is simpler and allows for more “stuff” than simply typing out a lesson in MS Word and creating my own worksheets. I can add videos to watch, clips to listen to, and all manner of web-related activities. It also lets me put the lesson into steps – so I can do that all online rather than having to mark it out in the MS Word document.

It’s a very easy interface to use, and is much simpler than making a long list of websites to visit and videos to view while typing a lesson plan out.

My favorite part

So you might be asking what my favorite part of the whole thing was? It is that things are grouped clearly and the outline are already done. The lessons are customizable. But the outline of the lesson – and really the whole lesson if you want – is already done. I just like to make each lesson “mine” by adding something here or there – and that was really easy to do.

The only problem is…..

The problem is that some of the lessons require “golden tickets.” The golden tickets are used for the premium lessons, and there’s nothing that I can tell about why some lessons are premium and some are not.


Overall it’s a good website. It doesn’t have a lot of the younger kid stuff- there’s no preschool or basic letters/words anywhere. But it does have a plethora of older kid stuff. I love it for practicing math – there are so many examples that are based on multiplication but aren’t simply answering multiplication facts. It’s great because the kids think they are solving sports problems, but they are doing multiplication.

I’d definitely sign up for their basic service. The basic service – if you go now – can be as low as $4/month. Considering how much is already done for you, and how many lessons there are on the site, I’d be willing to spend the money to be a basic member. I don’t know about access for the premium lessons – there’s not a real good way to preview them so I can see if I’d like them. But for all the basics – absolutely.


Caveat – I did receive a one-year subscription in exchange for this review.

Free clipart!

I’m always in search of free Clipart. It’s not always easy to find images. When I do, I tend to go on a binge and download a bunch, then save them onto a thumb drive. Now I have 4 thumb drives filled with images and I’m always switching between them trying to find the images I really want when I make my own worksheets and things. At least it was fun searching for the images.

I came across this new website, – I haven’t seen it before. And they have some great, free, simple images. I love it.

If you are looking for some simple images – this is where you go. Simply search “free” and then your image after the word free, and you will get a listing of all the free images.

Have fun!


Here’s the website for Mathletics:

I found this website because I was looking through the vendors for our charter school. This looked like a cool one. I explored their website, and decided I’d sign Nicholas up.

There’s both a parent log in and a student one.

As the parent I get to set tasks – but not the order in which they are completed.  I can see his progress. They also have a page with workbooks you can download – but that page hasn’t worked for me yet. I’m waiting for their tech support to get back to me. I’m hoping the workbooks are as easy to use as the website.

The choices are pretty self explanatory for the kids. They have choices of what you can pick for them to do – and if you don’t choose anything they can do whatever they want on the site. But you can always pick “make it harder” or “make it easier” to find more choices of tasks.

The “classes” themselves are about 10 questions in length. The tests are a little longer, but I haven’t seen one that’s more than 20 questions.

The classes ask the kid a question, and they have to chose the answer, then click submit. The program will immediately tell them if they are right or wrong. Then they click next and go on to the next problem. It’s a little repetitive and the same questions can pop up more than once. But it is nice the lessons are short and sweet.

It holds my son’s attention for the entire time. I sit down at the beginning of the week and fill up his task list. Then he has to do 4 a day. If you think I’m being mean, you should know that 4 “classes” takes him 30 minutes or less. He gets to choose which four things he does. He thinks this is awesome because he gets to choose. He has learned that the choices in yellow are the classes and the blue ones are tests. He saves the tests for the very end.

There is one big complaint I have: The classes give the kids the option to “hear” the computer read the directions. But the tests do not. Also, the color differentiation when the kid chooses an option isn’t always big enough that they can easily see the differentiation.

Right now we are using this website to review things and practice money, shapes, and 3D object. We also use it to review basic math.

Nicholas tried the online competition in basic addition and got second place in one race, first in another, and disqualified for three or more wrong answers in a third. He goes back and tries it about once a week. He’s not a huge fan of that. But what he does like is seeing his point total increase.

I like the site. Will I sign up for it next year? Nope. It’s not that I don’t like it and wouldn’t recommend it to others, it’s just that I’m not a huge fan of it for my son. He likes math, but I’m not so sure he likes this website. He gets caught up in some of stuff on the screen and doesn’t always like the repetitive questions. It’s great for this year, and maybe as the year goes on he will like it more, but we shall see.

Kumon Simple Addition finished!

Nicholas’ certificate for finishing the book. It wasn’t quite as important as eating pancakes.

We finished the My Book Of Simple Addition book. It’s done.

We finished in about 4 weeks. It starts with simple 1+1 and 1+2. It moves through up to 28+2.  In each new section they have a number line that the kids help fill in and use to help them add. Then, towards the end, the number lines disappear and the problems are on the page.

One of the problems is that this book is incredibly repetitious. That si also a benefit for a lot of kids. For mine, not so much. It was too much repetition towards the end. But it did reinforce the math concepts and get him to memorize the math problems without having to do extra work. So in the end, I’m fairly happy.

We are getting the next book in the series – Addition – today and will start it tomorrow.

Free app: Classical Kids Education

So you want your child to learn about music? Here’s a new and wonderful app – Classical Kids Education (the link is below). It’s free today, so get it and try it out.

It has quizzes, a recorder, and stories to go with the various songs. It also has a metronome to help kids learn how to stay on a beat. It is really a neat app. I hope you go try it!

Here’s the link to the app:

Math for All Seasons by Greg Tang


We went to the library recently and had a lot of fun with Greg Tang’s Math for All Seasons.

The book has math riddles in it. But the riddles have accompanying pictures that help you solve them. And they have instructions for solving them. If your child doesn’t feel up to being creative, there’s always simply counting to solve the riddles.

This is the type of book that makes for good library reading because you can only read it do many times before try have memorized the riddles.

Critical thinking skills: Mind benders

I really enjoy finding new ways to help my kids develop their thinking skills. Critical thinking is an essential skill and it’s hard to teach. It is something that needs practice and development. I found this book –Mind Benders Beginning Book 1 (PreK-K) – at our local homeschool store. I thought it might be fun.

We are having a ton of fun doing these puzzles. We sat down and did 1o of them at once! I had to make him stop or else we would’ve gone through the whole book today. It took Nicholas – who is 4 – three puzzles to get the hang of how they work. Now he can do them on his own if I’m there to help him read the clues.

I really like it. The puzzles are short and start out very, very easy. The clues are short and don’t have too many clues. The clues stick to concepts that young children will know – smallest, biggest, widest, tallest – and don’t require that they rank the options (Mary has a fish that is smaller than Joan’s, who has a fish smaller than Mark’s). Instead they are one step clues that help them learn how to process things. The pictures are silly, but they are clear about what is what. Nothing is confusing. The pictures, instead of words, on the logic charts make it so the children can do their own markings once they have help with the clues.

You can get the book with the link below (or above).

Mind Benders Beginning Book 1 (PreK-K)

Engineering experiments


Tinker toys are one of the best inventions ever. They help kids with their motor skills and lets them explore creativity, engineering, and various building principles.

Guided play doesn’t always have to be strictly guided; free play doesn’t alway mean free. Sometimes it is a matter of guiding by choosing toys and letting them free play with certain toys instead of simply giving the children free rein.

Our free play today involved tinker toys. And my budding engineer built his version of a fire engine.

Engineering experiments


Tinker toys are one of the best inventions ever. They help kids with their motor skills and lets them explore creativity, engineering, and various building principles.

Guided play doesn’t always have to be strictly guided; free play doesn’t alway mean free. Sometimes it is a matter of guiding by choosing toys and letting them free play with certain toys instead of simply giving the children free rein.

Our free play today involved tinker toys. And my budding engineer built his version of a fire engine.

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