Thursday, February 28, 2013

X is for XtraMath

I am sure that many of you already know about XtraMath, but just in case you haven't heard about it I wanted to tell you a little about the program. It is a FREE online fact practice resource tool covering addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. It takes only a few minutes a day (10 minutes or less). Consistent practice is always encouraged. This program makes it easy to integrate into your homeschool or school day by requiring the minimal amount of time. It helps the child practice math facts and build fluency. The child gains confidence in basic math skills which will enable the child to attempt more higher level or advanced math problems. You can read about the People Behind XtraMath by clicking on the link. If you have any questions about XtraMath, then head on over to their FAQ section. One of the questions addressed in this section discusses the system requirements for this program so be sure you read it first. The program is not an animated, flashy program. It is simple and straight to the point.

This is the screen you will see when your child has an account. Make sure you create a parent account. When you visit this page, you click your child's name to begin the program. Mr. C (the teacher) will appear on the screen with instructions. 

Other Features
  • Parents are e-mailed weekly detailed progress reports with mastery scores for each operation. A graph represents progress over time. The facts are color-coded to show progress. The calendar reveals the dates when XtraMath was utilized. More information can be found on the website or within the program.
  • XtraMath also sends reminders letting you know that your child has not worked with the program and they specify the last day it was utilized. Reminders stop if your child discontinues the program. We stopped using the program for months. We never received reminder e-mails during that time period of inactivity. 
  • The student activities are short, simple, and effective. They appear on screen and actually look like flash cards.
  • The practice session is timed. The child must answer the facts correctly and under 3 seconds. This requirement meets the state and national standards for fluency of arithmetic facts. This may or may not be the best tool for your child. Some children get frustrated when timed. The goal is to turn ALL the boxes green. You can change your child's program to the six second program. This is helpful if your goal is to have your child practice math facts with more time instead of focusing on recalling them in a certain amount of time (fluency).   
  • Smile faces are earned if answered in 3 seconds or less. A green check mark is earned if they answer under 10 seconds. The child must type in the answer before moving on to the next problem. Incorrect answers must also be typed in.
  • Once an operation is completed with mastery, a parent can print out a certificate of achievement.
  • You are given a pin number that allows you to use the program when away from your personal computer. You can use it while traveling if you can find a local library with access to computers. You can also use the program at a friend or family member's house with the pin number. 
  • They recommend that your child masters each operation in the logical order presented, however you do have the option of changing the operation and program for each child when signed in as a parent or teacher. 
Note: This is not a review. I just wanted to share this FREE resource with my readers. This is an affiliate free blog. 

I will link this post at Marcy's Blogging Through the Alphabet Linky on her Ben and Me blog. Do you have a letter X post you could share with us all? If so, please head on over to Marcy's blog and link it up. I will also link this post at Math Monday Blog Hop and Homeschool on the Cheap.

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

W is for We're Off to See the Wizard

Wizard of Oz Birthday Party
I thought it would be fun to write up a fun birthday party theme for my Blogging Through the Alphabet "Letter W" post. We threw my daughter a Wizard of Oz birthday party when she turned four (she's 5 now). Yes, saw the movie and LOVED it! She was not afraid of the witch or the monkeys. We all had loads of fun planning and organizing this event together.

Birthdays are a huge deal in my house. I almost always do something special and out of the ordinary. We invite all of our friends and family members to the house. This is usually the one time of the year that we get to see everyone in one place. This is the only big party we have all year! My husband wishes we could afford to do more parties. Unfortunately, her birthday is in November so it makes things difficult with Christmas around the corner. Yes, I know ... I could do a simple party but that is just not me.

We do our best to bring the theme alive so that the kiddos have a wonderful time and engage in imaginative play while visiting us. Our parties are meant to entertain the children. However, I think several of our friends also enjoyed this party. I wish my sister could have joined us because she is a huge Wizard of OZ fan.

Doorbell Broken Sign
We made this sign at the last minute with a Cricut Expressions Machine.

The Yellow Brick Road Leading to the Party
I drew a yellow brick road using yellow chalk on our driveway. The chalk looks white in the photo. It started by the mailbox and lead guests to the party. 

The Emerald City
My husband built the Emerald City with leftover wood we had on our property. I have to say ... it looked so much better in person. He painted it emerald green and then threw glitter all over it. The poppies were purchased at Hobby Lobby. I had imagined using so many more, but fake flowers are expensive. I should have planted them in advance but I do not have a green thumb. We also used large foam puzzle mats to create the yellow brick road that lead to the door of the Emerald City.  

Knocking at the Emerald City Door 
Dorothy's House
This is Dorothy's house ... you know the one that fell on the Wicked Witch. Her legs are sticking out from underneath the house. This was actually a doghouse that my husband built for her Clifford birthday party the year before, but we decided to repaint it as Dorothy's house. The legs could be easily made but I found the leg prop on sale after Halloween. The lollipops were made from round white styrofoam pieces, PVC piping, cellophane paper, glitter, red ribbon, and spray paint.

Side Note: There's a funny story about the doghouse. Our neighbors were building their house and dropped a piece of wood on our property. The gentleman told me that he didn't want to hop the fence to get it, because he saw how big the doghouse was and could only imagine the size of the actual dog. I laughed so hard! If I had known that I would have had a huge chain leading to the inside of the doghouse just to prank everyone. 

Making Lollipops for the Lollipop Guild
Character Stand-Ups (On Sale)
Hot Air Balloon Centerpieces
I made paper mache hot air balloons for several of the tables. This project took a loooong time to complete. We placed Wizard of Oz puzzles, Playdoh, and crayons for the color sheets on the table. I used punch balloons, thin ribbon or tape, paint, newspaper, glue, and box (without lid) to create these centerpieces.
My friend dressed as the Wicked Witch
Table Covers
We covered all the tables with green tablecloths. There were also Wizard of Oz and rainbow balloons hung. 

I played the Wizard of Oz soundtrack in the background. This must have annoyed someone because it was constantly turned off. 

Dress Up Outfit 
The outfit was given to her as a dress up birthday gift. It's hard to see but there are white pantalones underneath. I LOVED this outfit! This was the year Alyssa fractured her wrist badly during gymnastics so you can see the lovely purple cast. She LOVED her ruby red sparkly shoes from Target. The socks and hair ribbons were custom made from a seller on Etsy. 
Dress-Up Time
All the guests were invited to dress up as any character from the movie. We only had a few guests willing and daring enough to dress up.

My husband dressed up as The Scarecrow for the party and Halloween. This costume was a huge hit!

My daughter begged me to dress up as Glenda, the Good Witch. I am not a fan of pink clothing at all and I hardly ever wear dresses, but she convinced me. The things we do for our children!

Food and Beverages
We served star-shaped wand sandwiches (Glenda's wand), rainbow colored veggies and fruits, rainbow Goldfish, hot dogs and hamburgers, chips, nachos, juice, and water. I made a green punch with Sprite and lime-flavored  sherbert.
Rainbow Colored Veggies and Fruit Trays
Witch Brew Punch
Special Treats
We almost always try to include a few treats that match the theme. My sugar cookies and heart-shaped brownies were a bit hit with the children! They were made from scratch. I saw the witch hats on a blog posting Halloween party food.
Dorothy's Ruby Red Shoe Sugar Cookies
Tin Man's Heart-Shaped Brownies
Wicked Witch Cookie Treats
The Cakes
My husband and I have so much fun together designing, carving, and decorating the cakes. This is the biggest project for the party, but we have a great time working together.
Practice cake made with frosting poppies.
I brought it to the Halloween library party
because I didn't want to waste the ingredients. 
The real birthday cake with poppies made from gum paste. 
Dorothy's Lopsided House with Witch Legs
Rainbow Layers on the Inside
Cake Up Close
Guess which cake the children ate? Yep, the one that took the least amount of time to make. It is probably because I told them there was a big surprise on the inside. The kids made all kinds of sounds when we cut into this cake.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow Pinata
My husband built the pinata stand to make things easier.

Water Balloon Witch Game 
My hand hurt from coloring this blown up color sheet. I didn't have time to color her entire dress black. The children rode witch brooms and wore witch hats to the picture and threw WATER balloons at her so that she would hopefully melt. The colors did run a little. I should have colored the entire dress.

Game Problem: The water balloons would not break no matter how hard we ALL threw them! Oh ... I was attacked by fire ants. This was about the same time my 5" heels poked through my petticoat. The dress was so long that I had to wear the highest heels I could find. My daughter chose silver glitter shoes. Don't go there?

Scarecrow Stuffing Scavenger Hunt
The Wicked Witch and her monkeys scattered Scarecrow's Body parts in the forest. We hid and scattered the Scarecrow's parts around the yard. The children and parents worked in teams to see who could build their scarecrow the fastest. The items were gathered and the scarecrows were assembled. We propped one of the scarecrows up in the tree. Later that day my nephew took off with one of their heads. You can also see the lollipops we made for the party.

Game Problem: The game was a bit too much for our youngest guests.

Pin the Heart on the Tin Man
We ended up moving the game because the sun was shining in everyone's eyes. I cut red heart shapes using a Cricut Expressions Machine. You can also see the apple toss game in the photo. The children later filled the apples with sand. My husband had sand delivered for a yard project. We forgot all about it but it ended up being a sand box for the children to play in especially later in the day. The child that pinned the Tin Man's heart closest to the correct place won a heart-shaped clock necklace. I think I also gave each participant a heart sticker.

Witch Hat Ring Toss
We stuffed the hats with newspaper so that they would hopefully stand up tall. The broom was supposed to be on the other side of the hats. The children stand behind the broom and toss the rings.

Problem: The wind blew the newspaper out from underneath them and hats blew across the yard.

Party Favors
I found the basket boxes at Oriental Trading Company. I used the Cricut Machine to cut out the Toto patterns and then stamped the words "Thank you" in white. I filled the goody bags with a candy filled red ruby slipper, rainbow crayons, rainbow lollipops, brain squeeze balls, smarties, star wand, pink bubbles, witch finger, heart-shaped tin with mints, and an engraved dog tag necklace. The date of the party and the birthday girl's name was engraved on the dog tags. I created a scarecrow diploma and rolled it inside a "Wizard of Oz" cupcake ring with a Twizzler.
The Goody Basket
The Goodies

Possible Gift Ideas
Character Dolls (EBAY)
Wizard of Oz Puzzles (EBAY and Dollar Tree)
Wizard of Oz Game (EBAY)
Wizard of Oz Soundtrack (Amazon)
Dress-Up Outfits (Custom Made EBAY)
Wizard of Oz Antique Posters (I think my friend found them at Half Price)
Dorothy Build-a-Bear Doll (Build-a-Bear or EBAY)

More Favorite Photos
Alyssa thanking her guests for the birthday gifts.

I also love it when she takes time to read the card aloud.

Alyssa passing out her goody bags to the guests. I always TRY to make this her responsibility and it gives her the opportunity to say thank you to her friends. We usually pass them out before opening gifts ... that way all the children have a gift to open.

There's just something about this photo. I think it has something to do with her being a such risk taker while wearing a cast. She knew we couldn't set it up until she healed properly. We bought it for her before the accident.

I am linking up this post at Blogging Through the Alphabet on Marcy's Ben and Me blog. I will also link this post to Tip Junkie (Home Birthday Parties for Kids Linky Party). Check out all the awesome birthday parties if you are needing a few ideas for this year. Do you have a birthday party you could share with us all?
Blogging Through the Alphabet

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God bless,