Practice, practice, practice! and it’s fun!! (with IXL!)

What an incredible year this has been for reviews, I’ve been especially pleased in finding new curriculum ideas for our homeschooling life. Some have been wonderful and will be new staples in our regimen, while others have been neat and we might continue if a budget allows. One program we have been blessed to discover and experience for the last several weeks that will definitely be a program on my go-list is IXL ~ (http://www.IXL.com/). In the past, I’ve seen sales for IXL (such as through the co-op) and I’ve seen their ads and banners on blog sidebars, but I never really knew what it was about… 

Christmas Book ReviewThrough the blessing of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I have been blessed to gain access to both the IXL Math and IXL Language Arts for one year with an account for both of my students. I’ve been using this with AppleBlossom (age 5 years, 3.5 months) and OrangeBlossom (age 3 years, 3 months). The whole program itself is applicable to K-12. Although OrangeBlossom is using the math in the PreKindergarten setting. She can count, but doesn’t quite recognize numbers yet. What has fascinated me is that I’ve noticed the program figuring that out! Not only will it ask things in a fill in the blank format, but there are also a few questions that come up with multiple choice options. She is having to work longer to get those higher scores, but I do see her improving. AppleBlossom on the other hand is all over the place.

With AppleBlossom I decided to start her in the PreKindergaten Math to see what she could do and review, and she has slowly made her way into the Kindergarten and even First Grade levels, she likes the power of bouncing around. Hopefully as she completes more she’ll have more things on key with what she’s currently working on in skills in our math curricula, however the review and fun to choose truly pleases her. Our core math curriculum that we are working with is on the first grade level as we have split it across her K4 and now K5 year. (Most of her material is technically first grade, but for all real purposes, she’s my K5 kiddo – if first grade materials hold us to two years, that’s totally awesome for us.)

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IXL is completely an online program, and we have had access to both the math and language arts portions. We have spent a majority of our time in the math, as it starts at level PreKindergarten, while the language arts starts at level Second Grade. What has surprised me is that there is some in the language arts that AppleBlossom is able to complete and that delights both her and myself! But it also shows us that there is a lot to learn before we can do it all, it has given us goals and something to thrive forward to as well.

The IXL Math covers PreK through Precalculus.  Or PreK-grade 12.

IXL Language Arts covers Grades 2-8.

Our expectation going in was to schedule ourselves to use IXL three times per week, however it is begged for daily by both of my girls. Actually what I’ve found is that AppleBlossom will spend a plethora of time in her math session learning and practicing new skills. Then when it is OrangeBlossom’s turn, she will sit right next to her and while often she (A) is telling her the answers after she (O) doesn’t figure it out… at first I was thinking oh she’s cheating her out of trying, but with the levels that they are both at… truly she is practicing more and teaching her little sister. Now that I can abide!

imageIXL has mobile apps and this has been the main thing to allow us to truly use the program. We do not have a computer that I trust to just let the girls be at without my direct supervision, and that defeats part of the purpose in my mind for using a computerized practice program. So with that in mind, the apps have been a God-send. While IXL has apps across the major platforms, however my first generation iPad hand-me-down is too old of an iOS to download the app. However! I can use it in the Safari browser on the iPad, and put a link on the homescreen, so it’s as if we’re using an app. I have never introduced browsing the web to them, so if they even click the wrong thing and it goes to an unrecognized screen they come squealing and running to me to “fix it”. So this has worked really well for us. There is not an iPhone app, as far as I know. As to trying it on my first generation Kindle Fire, again, my OS is too old and will not work with the app. Alas. However! I can again use it in the browser. But I have found that things are much easier to let them use on the iPad (less chance of changing my bookmarks and removing books from the device!). Either way, there are multiple ways for them to use it and that pleases me. We have used an old laptop (again, another dying hand-me-down, but hey it works — most of the time!) with IXL and other child-only programs as the only desktop icons and they have worked well. I liked that as well, because it worked on introducing a keyboard to my K5 kiddo. But again, I don’t trust leaving her on the computer alone and that causes me to need to be directly involved.

From what I’ve seen looking at the IXL website (http://www.ixl.com/apps), it appears their apps are in a constant state of improvement and right now have different capabilities. But as to how they work, right now I can not tell you, but using the browser I have had no issues and mobility has not been a problem. There is a chance Santa is bringing a new Kindle Fire for Kids and I will be very interested in seeing how the IXL app works on that one… I’ll have to let you know if that indeed does happen!

On a daily basis, AppleBlossom uses IXL Math on our first gen. iPad in the browser. She considers it a treat and a priviledge and I love how she enjoys it so much that it encourages her to do her other schoolwork first! 

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As I admitted previously, I did not know much about IXL or how it works… One thing I did promptly learn is that this is for PRACTICE and a supplement to our already math program, this is not an online math curriculum on it’s own. This is what we needed! While if a question is answered incorrectly, the next page will present why it was wrong, what the correct answer is, and how to get to it. After all, mama and daddy brains can only come up with so many review questions on a whim, and here with no mama brain power involved (after all that mama brain power is valuable and currently being split with a toddler and newborn as well as the K5 kiddo…) a non stop amount of questions to reinforce and support a new skill until mastery!

With over 3,000 Math skills ranging in grades from Preschool to Precalculus, and topics such as shape counting, money, Algebra, Geometry, and so much more, you’re sure to find the extra help your child needs with their Math studies. Students receive immediate feedback for each question answered. Students have the ability to do the lessons as many times as they wish, and even earn medals and virtual prizes based on their skills mastery.

The Language Arts portion offers practice skills for grades 2-8, with nearly 800 skills available. Lessons range from the basics like nouns, articles, and alphabetical order, to more advanced skills such as ellipses, analogies, and Greek and Latin roots.

– See more at: http://schoolhousereviewcrew.com/ixl-online-review/

We click the IXL link on the iPad homescreen, and then wait a few seconds as it will log us back in. Then for AppleBlossom we click Child 1, she then chooses which level of math, and which topic she wants to work on and she’s off! After each correct answer a pop up affirmation appears and after a set number of correct answers, she will get a medal and the screen lights up with an image of a medal and an exclamation like Dynamite! Excellent! You got it! Awesome! Terrific! and so on. This truly pleases her, and has given her some practice on recognizing these praise words as sight words as well. She gets so excited and it is such wonderful reinforcement that she is doing well. When she gets something wrong, the next screen says Oops! and the shows her what was wrong and how to get the correct answer. So in comparison to some other online math practice programs, this one doesn’t teach it first – but we were not looking for another lecture in this program. We wanted to just go do math! and that’s what we do here!!

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On her main Kindergarten Math screen, there is a listing of skills to work on. Once she has worked on them, the green tally’s darken, and once she accomplishes a goal and gains a medal those also appear nearby. As well as a smart score in brackets which gives an idea if something should be further worked on to obtain a 100% score. This is so nice, so as not to have to open it all up to see where she last was… As she continues to work on problems, awards add up. There is an award board for each level (currently working on the Pre-K and Kindergarten board with AppleBlossom) and on the screen it shows neat little boxes of pictures that are “awards” and this simple little thing is so pleasing to both of my girls. On the sidebar is the stuff that I’m interested in, with the listing of how many gold medals, how many questions answered, how long she’s practiced at that level, how many skills mastered, how many prizes revealed, and how many minutes/questions/skills until her next win!

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For me, in the Parent setting there is one downfall. Anyway, as I was saying… one downfall is that I cannot see reports when looking at the website on the iPad due to limited Adobe Flash Player issues. But, I can check it from a PC laptop or iMac desktop with no issue. In my email, I will get “News flash from IXL!” emails with a large image of an open envelope with news such as “Great Job, Child 2! Child 2 has spent 1 hour practicing math!” so if I wasn’t keeping track when they were using it, these flashes would let me know when they hit a milestone. I also get another email with a weekly report, and I have to admit this may be my favorite. With other similar (but very different!) programs I would get an email attachment or a link to go back to the website. With IXL, my weekly report is right there in the body of the email and that little step makes my life so much easier. It is done in an attractive format of a chart. If I so desired, this form is very printable with a child name, and date and so on. It tells me similar information as the Awards page, how many questions answered, how much time spent and so on. But where this goes further is it give me a name and link to a skill she has worked on with her current score and her correct/total of questions ratio. So with this weekly email I can get a quick glimpse without having to go look for it, to see what we might need to work on more. I love that!

For example, from our last email I can see she’s doing okay on clocks, but could use some more practice or a reinforcement lesson. She has totally mastered her counting, but is doing dreadfully on her directs of left, right and middle so we definitely need to teach a lesson of that. Once we do our schooling reinforcement lesson, I can then send her back to that skill on IXL and see if she improves.

The Reports section online (through a computer, remember!) is much more information with pretty charts and graphs and options to see both Math and LA or just one for each child at a time. I can put in dates and see just a short period of days or weeks or I can see an entire term. Many options to get exactly what I’m looking for. There is also a banner with the latest news flash, “Child 1 has completed 1,000 problems across all levels!” This banner also has a link where I can get a printable certificate as well. We will have to wait on those, as they do still say Child 1 and so on for review purposes, but the capability is there! And all that information is just in the Overview. There is also a Proficiency assessment where it tells me all the things she’s good at (both excellent and pretty good). I have options here for seeing all she’s worked on, (goodness we need to work on our more/less) or just the things she is proficient within. There is also a Report Card section, which is not as you think of a printable report card per say, but another place where I can see either categories or standards (eg. Tennessee Early Learning Developmental Standards and Common Core State Standards) where I can see what she has done with her scores in comparison to the standard score. (See examples of charts on their website for the homeschooler.)

Goodness! Just looking in this section there is so much more that I could go on and on and on about! Usage! Performance! Trouble Spots! Progress! (over time) and State Standards! in addition to the things I’ve already mentioned. I can see how much time is spent on a particular skill, so even while a correct percentage might tell me one thing, if it takes her forever to get to that score I can see it is something to work on and drill so that she can be even more proficient in her time as well as computational skills.

Now if I wasn’t already impressed with all the recording and charts on the kiddo’s skills, something else nifty is that while logged in as a parent I can go and practice a skill to see the types of questions (and test myself) but parent skills are not recorded. Yet the fact that I can browse around things and experiment without affecting her skill levels makes me very happy.

What I see in this program is an extension of the mama brain. This catches things I probably would have missed in my frazzled day-to-day life and it helps me. It is fun for the girls and it’s like a game to play rather than making them thing “more school” but practice practice practice, you know what that leads toward! The program is attractive, but not distractive. There is praise when due and encouragement abounds and I couldn’t be more impressed.

Update: It was not until today that I discovered that I can put a different password between the different accounts and change the name and icon! Go figure and I thought I had been all over that site! New things every day!! Thanks Potters Hand Academy for point that out!

Also, I forgot to mention there is an audio option. Especially useful for my non reader, and my budding reader. There is a little green logo that will appear next to the question and sometimes answers that she can press and it will computer-voice read it aloud to her. Another mama saver!

For Parents, a plan of IXL is available for $9.95/mo or $79/year. I have used the program in Firefox, Chrome, and Safari and have no issues and I’m truly impressed… if all my chitchat above didn’t convince you. *wink*

Edited to add: Each additional child costs $2/month or $20/year. For more information or to purchase a family membership, go to www.ixl.com/membership/family/pricing, and select your preferred membership option to view pricing details.

Connect with IXL on Social Media
https://www.facebook.com/IXL
https://twitter.com/IXLLearning
https://plus.google.com/+IXL

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About CherryBlossomMJ

The Creative Madness Mama also known as Margaret is a Christian Stay-at-home Mama, married to the Enginerd, Quilter, avid reader and book-a-holic. A book blogger for bunches of different publicists. She loves to share the latest and greatest about books coming out as well as her quilt and other crafty projects with some pictures of her Kindergartener AppleBlossom, newborn Almond Blossom (the boy!) and toddler OrangeBlossom in between. Plotting to be a homeschooler, she's a cloth diapering, breastfeeding, babywearing, list making mama full of a little creative and a lot of madness.

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