Make Math Facts Stick with Times Alive! {Review}

Times Tables the Fun Way {Review}

Do you have clear memories of being drilled on the times tables when you were a kid? Do you recall the boredom of the experience?  Luckily, there is a much easier – and fun – way to get your kids through the process of memorizing multiplication facts. Over the past weeks, my daughter has been using   Times Alive online lessons with animated songs and stories to learn times tables the fun way.  The software is based on their popular book Times Tables the Fun Way! which has successfully helped students learn their multiplication facts for years, without the frustration.

For this purpose of this review, I was given a three month subscription for this program.

Students are encouraged to use the program for twenty minutes sessions, twice per week, for six weeks.  And that’s all it will take to get these facts stuck in their head once and for all! The colorful illustrations and cute stories help kids memorize facts quickly and painlessly.

How We Used Times Tables the Fun Way!

Getting setup and started with the program was easy and took all of five minutes. My daughter (10) has some experience with multiplication and is pretty good with the facts from 0-5. Still, there are always certain facts that she forgets, and this program helped them stick in her mind.  The facts for 6-9 were a bit fuzzy in her mind when she began the program, so much of it felt new. She worked her way through with ease and little frustration. She sometimes found the songs irritating or too babyish for her taste, and prefers to read the stories herself. I think the songs offer a wonderful way for younger kids to learn and remember facts.  She enjoyed the interactive aspects of the program, even if they were a little young for her.

Here’s  a look at a what the songs and stories are like:

Tracking Progress

Parents can esily track their students progress as they work through the program by checking in on the progress report page. The report will let you know which lessons your child has completed, how they scored on the quizzes and if they started and then stopped a particular lesson without completing it. It allows parents to quickly assess which facts need additional work and if their child is struggling with any particular facts.

Times Tables the Fun Way {Review}

What We Liked About Times Alive

  • It kept my daughter engaged in learning, most of the time. Occasionally, she would get bored. She would take a break and come back to it later or the next day.
  • My daughter is a visual learner, and this met her learning style well.  I think the songs would be wonderful for young auditory learners as well.
  • The program covers all of the times tables, from 0 to 9.
  • At $9.95 /per month, it’s budget friendly.
  • It can be used for multiple students.

Overall, this is a fun and adorable program that’s easy to use and effective. I do recommend considering your child’s age and maturity before purchasing.

Times Tables the Fun Way {Review}
 See City Creek Press for a Monthly Subscription Online Version.

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Times Tables the Fun Way {Review}
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Playing with Poetry: 3 Ways to Make Poetry Engaging


Teaching poetry can be daunting. Many young students find reading poetry daunting, or worse, boring.   I’ve been asking around and many (if not most) people seem to think poetry is a nice and all, but they aren’t enthusiastic about exploring it with their kids.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. – Leonard Cohen

Playing with Poetry

I’m currently working on poetry with middle school students, and I realized that if I can’t make it fun in some way, they will stare at me like they’re on the verge of death. I don’t want to be responsible for their pain, so I’ve searched and searched for ways for them to play with poetry – as opposed to simply reading and discussing it –  in our class.  I do use a couple of texts to guide during the first 15 minutes of class, and then we move on to the fun stuff.

My goal is to help them learn to love poetry. In order to do that, they need to be able to relate to poetry. Occasionally, they’re inspired to create their own poetry, but I don’t force them and they aren’t required to share their work with the class.

Here are some of the resources I’ve used recently :

1.Rolling for Metaphors: Understanding metaphor is essential to understanding poetry. To help the concept stick (and for fun) we created our own  Rolling for  Metaphors cubes to create our own metaphors. Some of the results were fun, others weird, and some metaphors didn’t work at all.  My students laughed through the entire process. We read and discussed several poems before diving into this activity. Emily Dickinson’s Hope is a Feather seemed to be the most memorable, and helped them to understand not just the use of metaphor, but also symbolism.

Watch the video below and grab the free printout with instructions for the activity.

2.Blackout poetry: I adore blackout poetry. I find it relaxing and meditative. My students would agree. We didn’t use exclusively newspaper as show in the video below. To start, my students created a new poem from a poem we had read and studied. Then we tried creating poems out of magazine articles, and pages from an old copy of The Hobbit.  This helped ease any reluctant poets anxiety about what / how to write a poem.

To find out more about blackout poetry, check out Austin Kleon on TedTalks:

Magnetic Poetry:  Used in the same way as the cubes above, magnetic poetry will give your young poets words to work with. Kids can search out the words the like best, the ones that impact them in some way, and use them to create an original poem, haiku or even a single verse. To help them get started, I made up a bunch of titles and put them in a little bag, and students grabbed a title and worked from there.

Using word magnets to create poems.

Using word magnets to create poems.

Magnetic Poetry can be found in sets on Amazon, or students can make their own. A quick search for magnetic poetry on Pinterest will give you plenty of ideas and instructions!

If you are looking for a text to help guide you through the process of teaching poetry, I highly recommend The Art of Poetry by Classical Academic Press. It’s provides an anthology of poetry and plenty of explanation (for the teacher) while exploring the elements and history of poetry.  Additionally, I use Poetry for the Grammar Stage from Memoria Press. The teacher guide doesn’t offer as much instruction, but it has still been useful for use in class.

The Art of Poetry and Poetry for the Grammar Stage

The Art of Poetry and Poetry for the Grammar Stage

What poetry programs or activities have you used in your homeschool or co-op? I would love to hear about them! Tell me in the comments. 🙂

Poetry can be dangerous, especially beautiful poetry, because it gives the illusion of having had the experience without actually going through it. – Rumi



Raising a Little Entrepreneur

If challenged to create a product to sell, what would your child create? They may surprise you…

Selling her homemade, one of a kind lollipops.

Selling her homemade, one of a kind lollipops.

My youngest daughter (now 10) took a class at our homeschool co-op last semester called Little Entrepreneurs. Over the course of a couple of months, students developed their ideas for a product, created it at home, learned how to design a logo, and determined a fair price based on cost.  The kids then had the opportunity to sell their products at the co-op holiday fair.

I wasn’t sure my little woman was going to embrace this class.  To my surprise, she lectured me after class one day, because she knows how I do things.

“We can’t leave this to the last minute, Mom. I need to get my supplies as soon as possible.”

One of a kind lollipops!

One of a kind lollipops!


The logo, first designed on paper, then recreated using picmonkey.

The logo, first designed on paper, then recreated using picmonkey.


Some of our favorite pop creations...

Some of our favorite pop creations…

I was also surprised when she refused to leave her table during the fair – even when every other kid took a break – because she didn’t want to miss a sale.

“What if someone wants to buy a pop?”

A white chocolate Santa-stash pop...

A white chocolate Santa-stash pop…


What’s the bottom line? This project increased her confidence, helped my shy girl talk to a wide range of people and filled her cash box quite nicely. Can you guess what she did with the profits? She saved every cent. 


“The surprise is that you continue to be surprised.” J.A. Davis


The Twelve Dancing Princesses {Wordless Wednesday}


The magical old woman.

The magical old woman.

The Adventurer played  The Old Woman in a recent production of The Twelve Dancing Princesses at Edmond Town Hall in Newtown, CT.  The Butterfly played Jill, the quiet, sweet princess who often had her nose in a book.

The Princesses. The Butterfly is in lavender.

The Princesses. The Butterfly is in lavender.

I love watching them year after year, changing and growing as performers. The performing arts has been a major part our homeschooling journey, and whether they choose to spend their lives and careers in the theater or not, I know this has been a valuable experience.


7 Favorite Homeschooling Resources for 2016

resources-2016I want to start by saying that I don’t believe success in homeschooling is dependent on expensive resources. At our house, curricula and resources are here to help, but they don’t dictate our learning adventures. We often use these materials to guide us, or as a starting point, or we use it as intended for a time, and then move on. If a resource doesn’t suit our needs, I let it go, even when I love it and the kids don’t!

Over the past year, I’ve reviewed close to 40 different resources, from beginning reading to college prep courses. Below are my favorites, and are either currently in use in our homeschool or safely tucked away on my bookshelf waiting to be used and loved by another kid. Each is linked to my full review.

  1. Math-U-See Geometry: If you have a high school student that hates math, this could help! Each lesson is clearly explained in depth via video. It offers a clear and concise study of geometry without overwhelming your student.
  2. Memoria Press Literature Study and Greek Myths: We tried Grade 2 Literature and Greek Myths (middle school) this year, and both exceeded my expectations.
  3. If I could only have one online subscription, this would be my choice. I don’t use it exclusively (but I could). In addition to the curriculum provided (I pick and choose what will work for us) I use it for ideas, planners (student and mom) and college planning assistance. This resource is helpful for filling in extra subjects and electives for high school students at an affordable price.
  4. Rainforest Journey: This was by far my youngest daughter’s favorite resource this year. It’s online, colorful and interactive.
  5. Writers in Residence: This program is wonderful for students who resist writing. Lessons are short and carefully designed to help your child organize their thoughts before they begin writing. We aren’t currently using it due to time constraints, but I plan on getting back to it with my daughter (13) soon.
  6. Orphs of the Woodlands – This is a terrific little app to have on your phone and let your child work their way through while you are running errands or waiting around somewhere for a sibling to finish an activity. The story and characters are adorable and the activities are challenging and fun.
  7. Artistic Pursuits – I love to explore art with my kids, but when it comes to drawing, I’m no help at all. This program helped my 12 year-old learn some new drawing techniques and provided inspiration for her evolving artwork.

Do you have a favorite curriculum or resource that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments! I would love to give it a try in the coming year.