Monday, December 13, 2010




My family has been using ALEKS, a math assessment type program, online for the past couple weeks.  ALEKS stands for: Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces. This program is offered in English and Spanish and is designed for Math grades 3-12. ALEKS can be used to supplement your program or as the core subject. ALEKS is set up to teach according to state standards for each individual state. The system is set to function in two main modes, Student and Teacher and can be used by classrooms, homeschoolers, as a tutor for struggling or advanced students, or for individuals wanting to have a little extra practice in math.

There are several options for purchasing a single subscription:

Student Portion

I cannot emphasize enough that this program is completely personalized according to the individual child. To start the program an assessment is used to find out where the child is in their learning. In order to do that each student begins at a point pre-determined by his teacher/parent, and is given questions (NOT multiple choice) based on this pre-determined level. ALEKS determines what to ask next based on the answer to the previous question. The assessment usually takes less than an hour and has around 20-30 questions. The assessment is considered an artificial intelligence in that it determines what the student already knows and what he is ready to learn next. No two students will have the same assessment.


After the assessment you receive a pie chart showing which topics have been mastered and which have not. This pie chart is where the assessment ends and the learning begins. Your student can click on any section and there will be links to learning exercises that will help him master his weak spots, thus filling in his pie chart.

The learning mode offers plenty of practice of course, but even more, there are step by step instructions as well as personalized suggestions to help him better understand what is causing him trouble. Your child will be motivated to use ALEKS because he’ll want to get his pie chart full and because it’s fun and interesting.

Once he fills in the pie chart he can take a final assessment. If he passes this he’s free to move on to the next level.  If he doesn’t then he’ll be shown on his pie chart what areas need more work and he’ll begin working to complete those areas again. This is because mastery is determined by the assessment not the pie chart/learning mode.

Another very important feature with the ALEKS math program is Quick Tables. As you might guess, Quick Tables is used to help master addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. Just like the assessment and learning modes Quick Tables also uses artificial intelligence to determine what facts need more work to move from short term to long term memory.

Students receive a color coded table to show which facts have been mastered and which they are getting close to mastering. There are games to play that will help your child learn his facts, but to earn new games they must complete 20% of their table (great incentive).

Teacher Portion

Once you begin ALEKS you will receive an account for your child and a Master account for you. The Master account allows you to quickly see your child’s progress, exactly how much time he’s worked per week (ALEKS recommends 3 hours per week minimum), what needs more work, etc.  Along with these expected resources ALEKS offers something, in my opinion, even greater. There is a section that lets you know how many topics are learned per hour of use and with that information ALEKS will project how many hours are necessary to reach your goal and approximately how many weeks it will take to make the goal if you continue to work at the same rate. This will let you know if your child needs more or less time on ALEKS. I LOVE the program I’m currently using, but this feature has caused me to rethink the course we’re using. I love the idea of knowing what needs to be done and having a goal set to get it done.

Also with the Master account you can generate quizzes and worksheets for the Learning Mode and Quick Tables. Also you can edit the Quick Tables to concentrate on new facts or facts that you feel like your child needs to work on. You can edit how much time the child needs to spend in Learning Mode before being allowed to play a game and how many games are allowed per daily lesson. There are other things that you can change/edit as well, including the cute character that is known as his instructor. There are four to choose from and the default character is ALEK’s himself:


How cute is he?



If you are interested in a quick easy to understand overview of the different aspects of ALEKS try one of the informative tours from their website. You should also check out some of the training tours to get a better idea of what it’s like to actually use ALEKS.

How Did ALEKS Work FOR US?

It worked wonderfully! Maybe too wonderfully because it caused me to second guess the math I’m using for my very bright 10 year old son, who all of a sudden isn’t enjoying his regular math these days. That part had nothing to do with ALEKS, he hasn’t enjoyed it all year.

I would like to go ahead and throw my one negative in followed by a positive that will hopefully help those who are as overwhelmed as I was initially. When I first started with ALEKS, it seemed like, well, too much information. I am a bullet list type person who likes to go in depth where I want to go in depth and skip the rest. It’s possible to do that when getting to know ALEKS but it’s not as easy as it could be. For example all of the different course products stumped me at first, but then I found this neat chart to make it easy to decide where to begin. I would highly recommend using the brief tour’s  and free trial to help you get started. Once I went through the tours and spent some time just playing around, it all clicked and I grew very fond of ALEKS.

As for my son and ALEKS, he was able to master 6% of his goal during our short time on ALEKS. He only averaged about 1 hour of work per week so had he worked the 3 hours they recommend he would have soared through this program. A big plus for my son was that he could choose what concept he wanted to work on each day. If he was feeling tired and not all together enthused about school (I know, I know, typical day for most kids, but you get the idea) he could work on an easy concept such as whole numbers. On the other hand if he woke up with an extra pep in his step and was feeling like he could conquer the world, well then that would be a fractions kind of day!

All in all I have been very impressed with ALEKS. I never dreamed math could be so individualized without being so time consuming on the parent. ALEKS has done a great job putting together a program that does just that! I knew it was a wonderful program but my son’s comment the other day convinced me, he said “Math is my favorite subject now!”

To find out what other TOS members had to say about ALEKS, click here.

**Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received this product free of charge, in exchange for my honest opinion/review. For more honest reviews from real homeschoolers, visit the TOS Crew website.

Friday, December 10, 2010

TOS Review: Apologia’s Good Morning God

My kids and I had a nice time during our Thanksgiving week, reading this beautifully illustrated hardback book, Good Morning God by Davis Carman. This book is published by Apologia Educational Ministries. The cost of the book is $14 and you can also purchase a coloring book to go along with it for $4. The child in the book is four years old and the publishers suggest using the book with children ages 1-8 years old.
The purpose of this book is to help children realize they don’t have to stop what they’re doing to worship, they can do it as they go about their daily lives. They don’t have to reserve prayer for bedtime and mealtime, they can talk to Him anytime. And it’s also a great reminder to us parents that we don’t have to sit down and have a Bible study with our kids in order to teach them about Him. We can, no we SHOULD, teach them as we go.
These Commands that I give today
Are to be upon your hearts.
Impress them on your children.
Talk about them when you sit at home
And when you walk along the road,
When you lie down and when you get up.
                                        ~Deuteronomy 6:6-7

In the front of the book they offer several tips on how to use the book. It is less than 25 pages so you can simply read it straight thru (something we will definitely do in the future). Or you can read it everyday for a week like we did.
The book is broken down by the days of the week, beginning on Sunday and ending on the following Sunday. Each day I made a point of letting my two youngest, ages 3 and 5, know what day of the week we were on. Since reading this book I’ve brought out my old wall cards “Today is ______” and “The weather is_____” to help them learn the concept of days, weeks, months etc. Each day we read the designated 4 short pages for that day of the week then I discussed with them using the discussion questions located in the back of the book. There are also scripture verses to use.  If you have older kids this would be a great way to get them involved. There is very little to read each day so you could easily do this in one setting, BUT the discussion questions would be a bit much to do all at once, in my opinion.
I think this book is great for the children, but it was actually more beneficial for me. It truly was a great reminder that I need to look for those teachable moments, and constantly have Jesus on the tip of my tongue, teaching them as I go…
If you would like to hear what other TOS members thought of Good Morning, God, click here.
**Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received this product free of charge, in exchange for my honest opinion/review. For more honest reviews from real homeschoolers, visit the TOS Crew website.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Free Womens Day Planner Giveaway

Tiany at The Homeschool Lounge is giving away a Woman's Day Planner. To enter click here. You will also get a discount code for 10% off, just in case you're not the lucky winner!
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