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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

TOS Review: A+ Interactive Math

Check out our review of A+ Interactive Math
Adam, my Algebra I student, was recently given A+ Interactive Math's online Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan program to review.

Last school year Adam was in Pre-Algebra. The program we were using was one I'd used with the older three kids and, while we liked it, I knew it wasn't a perfect fit for every student so when he started to struggle I didn't hesitate to have him try a different program. The new, very different, program worked well for a few months, but then he and I both realized it wasn't the right program for him in the long run and we switched back to the original program, starting from the beginning. Things went much better for him this time around, however because we'd made the last program switch halfway through the school year there was no chance of him getting through the entire program by the end of the school year and he only completed just over half the lessons.

This year his younger brother, Kaden, is using that same Pre-Algebra program and, of course, Adam really didn't want to be doing the same work as his brother so he opted to go ahead and start Algebra I this year, without the solid foundation he really should have had. This hasn't been an easy math year for him, though I have give him a great deal of credit for working hard and not giving up even when we decided to go back and redo 30 lessons. Right now, with one month or so of school left, he's finally "getting it" and should be able to finish the entire Algebra I program (let me tell you, I'm proud of this kid!).

Because of the gaps in his Algebra foundation and the struggles he's had this year I was certain that A+ Interactive Math would be a benefit to him as he could certainly use a little extra practice and lessons from a slightly different perspective are always helpful.

Kaden and River also used this A+ Interactive Math program for this review, but my focus, from the time the review was offered, has been on Adam. After doing a few tests and lessons River opted to use a different math review program he was already using, simply because it was familiar to him. Kaden has continued to use Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan, using the same 7th Grade/Pre-Algebra level as Adam, but at a slower pace.

The Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan program is on online program, for grades 1 through 7 (Pre-Algebra). While Adam is in Algebra I and Eight Grade the Pre-Algebra level proved challenging for him and was a good fit. The program looks for gaps in their knowledge and is tough, both boys were surprised they didn't do better on their initial placement tests but realized that's because they do still have a few things left to learn.

The student enters the program and takes placement tests for each related subject. Either he'll do extremely well on the placement test and move on to the next subject or he won't do as well, showing some gaps in knowledge and a need for improvement, and move forward to the lessons he needs to fully grasp the subject. As he does the lessons he can retake the placement test to see if he's mastered the subject. If the student isn't sure how to get started there are helpful videos to watch to guide them into the program.

A+ Interactive Math student test area

The student doesn't have to take all the placement tests in order and can skip around as he wishes, which can be very helpful as not all math programs move at the same pace.

A+ Interactive Math student lesson area

Each placement test or lesson takes about 20 minutes. We found that pen and paper is necessary to do the work associated with the challenging problems.

The lessons section provides the student with an individualized lesson plan. The lessons for the tests they've "passed" won't show up here, only the subjects they need work on. Within each subject are many lessons for the student to use to build knowledge.

The lessons are videos that clearly and concisely explain the subject matter. At the end of each lesson is a Q&A section to test comprehension.

My boys each did four lessons per week, as a supplement to their regular math programs.

The parent has his own A+ Interactive Math account to watch the student's progress. While I found the parent dashboard to be helpful, allowing me to see where Adam was in the program, I thought it was a little limited. Adam's school schedule had him doing four lessons per week, I found I couldn't track how many assignments or tests he'd done each week, so I really had no way of guaranteeing he'd done his allotted four and couldn't tell which four he'd done, making it hard to track his progress. I felt that I was "out of the loop" with this program, which, as the teacher, I don't like.

A+ Interactive Math online math enrichment review at Because I'm Me

"A+ Interactive Math is easy to navigate and if you have trouble you can watch the video that explain how to navigate through the website. You can learn a lot if you take the tests, go through the lessons, and retake the tests. A+ Interactive Math only takes 20 minutes a day to take a test or go through a lesson.

I did learn stuff I didn't know, so it has helped me with my Algebra."

"Some things I did not know but A+ Interactive Math had lessons so I could learn more. The program tells you about fractions, percents, and word problems. I have learned more about word problems from A+ Interactive Math. I have learned about negative numbers and percents. I think it is a good website."

Personally, I think this is a good program for a kid like Adam who needs a little extra to grasp math. He'll be continuing with it through the end of the school year. Additionally, if Adam enters public school he'll have to take an "End of Course" exam for the Algebra he's done this year, if our curriculum didn't cover something or explained it differently this program is helpful for filling in those gaps and differences.

My oldest daughter started struggling with math in 3rd grade. She's now in college and still struggling. While it's a little late to send her back to 3rd grade math I wonder, if this program had been available when she needed it, if it would have helped her to understand and to gain some confidence in math. I'd certainly have tried it. Because math is a subject that builds on itself it's really tough on a child when they don't understand a concept(s) early on and get lost trying to build on a foundation that isn't there.

I see it as a benefit too for summer enrichment, either to fill in any gaps from the previous year or prepare for the upcoming school year.

As I mentioned earlier, I do think the parents area needs to add some more details so the parent can see what the student is doing each day and how they're doing each day.

A+ Interactive Math Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan is available now for $29.99 for one student for a 3-month subscription and just $10 for each additional child. Free resources and more information can be found here.

A+ Interactive Math Review

Friday, May 1, 2015

Suit Up, Ted

Yes, please.

How I Met Your Mother was the first series I watched straight through when we switched to a Roku box and Netflix. That Barney Stinson is a stylish man. Legendary.

How to Suit Up Like Barney Stinson
Courtesy of Stylight.com

I have a huge (seriously, bigger than huge) crush on Neil Patrick Harris. I stalk follow him on Instagram so I'm pretty sure he loves me. Oh, and he went to high school with my brother (or to another high school in Albuquerque at the same time my brother went to high school in Albuquerque),  pretty amazing, right?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Summer Nautical

Patriotic, nautical fun pennant bow tie for men and boys, bowtie available now for summer!

 Red. White. Blue. Pennants. Banners. Stars. Stripes. Just a whole bunch of nautical, patriotic fun gracing this navy blue woven cotton tie.

Awesome banner print necktie for men and boys, available now

Bow tie, necktie ... you decide.

Red, white, and blue patriotic / nautical banner print woven cotton necktie for men and boys, available now at Because I'm Me

Or how about one of each? (or even matching suspenders, wouldn't those be amazing?)

Nautical / patriotic neck tie for men and boys, available now at Because I'm Me

Unlike the fun in this tie, however, the stock of this print is very limited.

River, leaving the scene

Available now in the shop.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Welcome, Spring Flowers

Because I'm Me blue green fun floral necktie, for men and boys, from $18

This fun woven cotton tie is perfect for spring and summer (or for a little spring and summer reminder in wintertime!).

The flowers are just wonderful, very eye-catching while still pulling off a professional finish.

White, shades of light and olive green, and various tones of blue dress shirts would complement this tie very well. Personally, I love it with a blue and white gingham button down.

Matching ties for brothers or father/son? We've got that, with a wonderful coordinating blue/green striped tie.

Because I'm Me blue and green floral and striped neck and bow ties for men and boys

As usual, both ties are available for men and boys, and as both bow and neck ties, with prices beginning at just $15.00.

Because I'm Me blue green floral woven cotton bowtie, for men and boys

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sponsored Review and Giveaway: Dial Baby Body and Hair Wash, Dial Kids Foaming Hand Wash

Because I'm Me Dial Baby Wash and Dial Kids Wash review and giveaway!

Sweet, gentle Dial Baby Body + Hair Wash for newborn to 2 year olds. This wash very gently removes dirt with an odor-free formula. Perfect for extra soft, sensitive baby skin.

New Dial Kids Foaming Hand Wash with a watermelon scent. River loves the smell of this hand wash and so do I, but for different reasons. He just thinks it's a great scent, but I like it because it's so easy to tell if his hands are clean by the nice, sweet, watermelon scent. He also likes the foaming and how easily it washes off, and that he knows his hands are clean when he doesn't see any more bubbles.

Because I'm Me Dial Baby Wash and Dial Kids Wash review and giveaway!

Both of these washes were developed by pediatric dermatologists, with the resources of Dial's 67 years of product development, so they are super gentle and cleansing. Both products are hypoallergenic with no artificial parabens or dyes, and are pH balanced.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Dial brand provided me with a sample of Dial Baby Body and Hair Wash and Dial Kids Foaming Hand Soap in exchange for a product review. All the opinions expressed here are my own. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

TOS Review: Star Toaster - Orphs of the Woodlands

review of Star Toaster's Orphs of the Woodlands series, online game with learning for grades 4-7

"Orphs of the Woodlands is awesome!" - Adam

"It's a really fun game and I learned stuff from it." - Kaden

"It's fun." - River

The kids were asked by Star Toaster to review The Treasure of HighTower, the first book in their online adventure series Orphs of the Woodlands. To sum up Orphs of the Woodlands: it's a book, it's a game, it encourages positive values, and it's a multi-subject learning tool. And it's up there as one of our favorite review products EVER.

This program is all about the child (hereafter referred to as "he", though this program has been created for both boys and girls, I just happen to have three boys using it, so went with "he"). He begins by filling out an application to become a spy. The name he enters will become his name throughout the story, because this book is about him. The spy company, WAK., is a little short on spies so he is hired for this dangerous, unpaid position. Oh, and he's a gray squirrel and an orph.

review of Star Toaster's Orphs of the Woodlands series, online game with learning for grades 4-7

 *The images I'm using are from River's account, his user name is "Monster", hence "Squirrel Monster".

As the child begins reading he'll discover a whole new world, filled with a wide variety of woodland creatures, adventures, friends, spies, enemies, and excitement. He'll care for orphs, orphaned little animals who need help (he's one himself) and Ivythwaite, his childhood home and home to the orphs he's caring for, and he'll travel to the city of HighTower and HighestTower Palace to find treasure.

Throughout the pages of the book are interactive bits and pieces. Words may be in red print instead of black - some of these are challenging words that can be hovered over for definitions, some may be "Top Secret Files" that will give a little more information about the name in red, some are famous quotes and the author they're attributed to, and so on.

review of Star Toaster's Orphs of the Woodlands series, online game with learning for grades 4-7

Occasionally, the child will come across a blackboard, clicking on the blackboard will teach the child information, often a two-three minute lesson by Prof. Forp, his very smart, messy mentor, who teaches him in exchange for cleaning and Latin lessons (yup, even Latin is thrown into this game!). There are also letters written to the child that must be read. Most of the words in these letters are hidden and the child needs to remember Prof. Forp's lesson about acids and bases to make the invisible ink show, once the ink shows the really important messages appear!

review of Star Toaster's Orphs of the Woodlands series, online game with learning for grades 4-7

At the end of each chapter the child earns goldstars to support the orphs he's caring for at Ivythwaite. If he doesn't earn enough money to care for the orphs they'll disappear from Ivythwaite. To earn goldstars he must work. Here's where the educational aspect of the program really comes into play. The child will choose jobs from a variety of subjects, some of which are art, math, science, vocabulary, and much more. Jobs in math might focus on mean, estimating the height of a tree, angles, or area. Thinking skills jobs usually pull information from the previous chapter, so skipping big paragraphs will leave the child at a disadvantage!

review of Star Toaster's Orphs of the Woodlands series, online game with learning for grades 4-7

To do a job the child first does a lesson, usually either a short written explanation or a video of one of Prof. Forp's lessons. Prof. Forp might be my favorite character in the book because he's entertaining and he starts every lesson by saying, "As I've told you before, I never repeat myself, so pay attention."

review of Star Toaster's Orphs of the Woodlands series, online game with learning for grades 4-7

After the lesson the student answers a question. The answers aren't super tricky, and usually one or two of the multiple choice answers are silly enough to be eliminated immediately, like "I wasn't paying attention. Who is PinchPaw?", creating a fun environment, not a super stressful "test" feeling. If the child gets the answer right he earns goldstars to care for his orphs. If he gets an answer wrong he moves on without earning points, it's not the end of the world! After getting enough correct answers in a category he'll be "promoted" and will earn more gold stars for each correct answer in that category.

review of Star Toaster's Orphs of the Woodlands series, online game with learning for grades 4-7

At the top of the Jobs/Help Wanted page is information on how many orphs the child is caring for, how many goldstars he needs to care for those orphs, and how many goldstars he's earned.

After doing all the jobs available, or at least enough to care for the orphs in his care (any remaining jobs can be done after the next chapter), the child works on his settlement at Ivythwaite. Here he can use any remaining goldstars he's earned to buy more land for the orphs, buy more housing, or add things to the settlement to reduce the cost of caring for the orphs. He'll have to strategize a bit as he decides what to spend his goldstars on.

review of Star Toaster's Orphs of the Woodlands series, online game with learning for grades 4-7

When he's done at Ivythwaite he reads the next chapter. At the end of the chapter he'll have a few more orphs to care for and will need to do jobs again to support all of his orphs. There are new jobs to complete for each new chapter, focusing on skills earned in the most recent chapter will reviewing skills already learned.

Could the child skip the jobs altogether? I think so, but then he'd lose all his orphs, which wouldn't be good because (1) he's an orph too and understands that these creatures need care and (2) he made a promise to his tiny chipmunk orph friend Muffum to help orphs.

Could the child skip the book and just do the jobs? He could rush through the pages, but the pages are short and full of adventure! So much happens that I don't think he'd want to miss any of it. Truly, there's so much action and adventure that even my more reluctant reader was excited to make his way through the book.

The parent has their own account for this program. It doesn't have the game (I know ... bummer!) but does allow the parent to see how the child is doing. The parent can see where the child is in the book, how many orphs he's got, and all sorts of other useful information. The parent can also see which jobs (questions) the child didn't earn, in case they want to go over any and review them with the child.

review of Star Toaster's Orphs of the Woodlands series, online game with learning for grades 4-7

Star Toaster created the Orphs of the Woodlands adventure for kids in 4th through 7th grade, but I think there's a lot of flexibility there.

River is 6, initially he and I read through it together but he started working on his own and was on Chapter 4 in no time. There are words that are very big to him, but he was sounding them out and getting through them. He loves Prof. Forp's videos - I'm pretty sure he'd be happy to have Prof. Forp be his primary teacher.

Adam and Kaden dove right into this. I think Kaden completed the entire book and most jobs in a few days. Adam took closer to a month to get through the entire program. They did learn a lot of new vocabulary words, much of the rest of the information was review for them (they're in 7th and 8th grades right now).

I probably had a harder time figuring this out than the kids did. It just doesn't come to me instinctively, thankfully there are very helpful videos under the "help" section. Each one only takes a few minutes and explains the program very well and very clearly.

review of Star Toaster's Orphs of the Woodlands series, online game with learning for grades 4-7

What we like:
  • It's fun!
  • The story is very engaging and entertaining
  • It's easy to understand
  • They get to play an online game ... while learning (win-win!)
  • Prof. Forp is a good teacher
  • We love this program
What we don't like:
  • The next book hasn't been released yet (it's coming)
  • Once the book was finished the kids couldn't go back and start over
I hope I've peaked your curiosity and interest in Orphs of the Woodlands, because if it isn't clear yet, we've really enjoyed the program. It's available at Star Toaster for $19.99 for a 60 day subscription for up to three kids AND a 100 page FREE TRIAL is available as well.

Check out the other TOS Reviews of this product:

Star Toaster Review

How To Tie A Necktie

How To Tie A Necktie

How to Tie A Necktie

How To Tie A Necktie

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sponsored Review and Giveaway: Dial Miracle Oil Hand Soap

Dial Miracle Oil Review and Giveaway at Because I'm Me

In addition to the Dial Miracle Oil Body Wash I reviewed recently, Dial has also introduced new Miracle Oil Hand Soap infused with Marula Oil. As much as I like the body wash, I was super excited to get to try the hand soap and I was not disappointed.

Dial Miracle Oil Hand Soap review and giveaway

The soap is super gentle on skin and the marula oil keeps hands soft even with frequent washing by nourishing while protecting skin from damaging free radicals. At the same time, the miracle oil has deep cleaning power to remove dirt. What a perfect combination!

Dial Miracle Oil hand soap with marula oil

I liked the feel and lathering of this hand soap. True to it's word, my hands felt clean and fresh after washing, without feeling super dry.

Would you like your own bottle of Dial Miracle Oil Hand Soap? Enter below to win two free bottles of this wonderful hand soap. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Dial brand provided me with a sample of Dial Miracle Oil Hand Soap in exchange for a product review. However, all the opinions expressed here are my own. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Most Awesome Funky Striped Bow and Neck Ties

red dotted and striped necktie available for men and boys, bow ties also available in same print

Dots in lemon, kelly green, patriot blue, peridot green, and candy pink, joined by feathered lines of aqua spice up this cherry red cotton tie.

This tie is super fun and colorful; a very eye-catching, versatile addition to your wardrobe.

striped and dotted cherry red necktie

Both bow and neck ties are available for men, boys, and toddlers, and babies in the Because I'm Me shop.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Congratulations Amy, Winner of the Purex Crystals ScentSplash

Congratulations to Amy, winner of the Purex Crystals ScentSplash in wash fabric scent booster.

Stay tuned for a new giveaway offer coming up very soon!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Easter filled with love, family, peace, pretty eggs, and good candy.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Suits, Shirts, and Ties

Matching Suits, Shirts, and Ties
Courtesy of BeckettSimonon.com

Thursday, April 2, 2015

For the Cowboy

green bandana print bow tie for men and boys

Adding wonderful new bandana inspired cotton bow and neck ties to the shop. This time in a lovely shade of soft green.

These ties are perfect with cowboy boots, but also work very well in other casual settings, and pair well with white, tan, and blue button down shirts. While they coordinate well with many other Because I'm Me ties we think they're especially fun with our other bandana-style printed bow ties and neckties.

green bandana print necktie for boys and men

The ties are available in the Because I'm Me shop for both boys and men, from infant to adult, in bow and neck ties.

Can't you see your favorite cowboy wearing an amazing hat and this tie?

Because I'm Me green bandana inspired cotton bow and neck ties for your cowboy

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Quickie Patchwork Bench

Because I'm Me wonderful bench update, new patchwork top

We have a bunch of exciting new ties coming to the shop very, very soon and I can't wait to share them with you (actually, we kind of already have - you can see River wearing one here and another on top of the Easter basket here). While they prepare for their debut I decided to attack a small project at home, recovering a little bench in my living room.

There was nothing wrong with the "before" bench, which was once a patio coffee table that I bought at a thrift store for $5, it was just tired looking, having had the same fabric on it for the last ten years or so.

The plan for the living room is to create an eclectic mix of colors, patterns, and objects all grounded by lots of white. I absolutely love white in my house, the lighter and brighter the house feels the better.

Because I'm Me wonderful bench update, new patchwork top and painted legs

I grabbed a bunch of Amy Butler prints left over from this quilt and this one and created a new top for the bench. The piecing isn't done meticulously, I was going for a random patchwork look.

After removing the top of the bench and spray painting the legs to freshen them up a bit the top was recovered and reattached.


Because I'm Me wonderful bench update, new Amy Butler throw pillow

To unify the room a bit I made a throw pillow with some of the remaining fabric for the other side of the room. I love these fabrics so much! The pillow has a simple envelope closure and the fabric for the backside is just as wonderful as the fabric on the front. I'm going to add a few decorative buttons to the backside so it can just as easily be used as the front.

Because I'm Me wonderful bench update, new throw pillow backside, using Amy Butler cotton prints

Off to the next project ... painting all the baseboards and trim throughout the downstairs and, finally, putting the finishing touches on the new floors that were laid last summer.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Congratulations Cheryl, winner of the Dial Boutique Collection Hand Soap