Mathseeds Review – Learning Maths with a 2.5-year-old

I first heard about Reading Eggs when I was stalking home education blogs for reading resources, more out of curiosity than anything else. Talitha was two-and-a-bit at the time and I felt a little weird about teaching her to read but she was clearly interested and it seemed counter intuitive to ignore and redirect that desire.

I wasn’t sure about using a computer game series, though, which Reading Eggs is. We’ve always agreed that we’d like her to have a low-media life in the majority so she could spend these crucial years learning through doing real things rather than attached to a screen.

With the caveat that we’d keep an eye on things and limit her use if necessary, I signed her up for a trial. She loved it and, to my amazement, was able to use the program so I ended up purchasing six months when she was two years and five months in November. We’re in a routine now of doing it a couple of times or so a week, which feels comfortable.

So, having had a positive experience with Reading Eggs so far, I agreed to review its sister program Mathseeds when the Reading Eggs company got in touch.

Mathseeds with a 2.5-year-old

At first I was frustrated that I couldn’t get it to work on any of my browsers! The company helpful with technical support, though, and we were soon up and running. I’m not sure why there was problem other than that the animations are more complex than the Reading Eggs ones and possibly more prone to hiccups. For some reason it seems to work a lot better on the iPad.

It’s all been smooth since then. So far everything seems pitched at a good level for Talitha. She’s currently two years and eight months. She doesn’t always understand the point of the games in the first go but that’s fine because I sit with her and can explain or demonstrate. She loves recognising the numbers and their corresponding words. She’s begun to recognise at a glance when there are four of something in a picture or when there’s an odd object in a group.

She sometimes gets a little carried away and wants to make up her own rules though! So, if she’s asked to put four dinosaurs in a jar and then the lid, she might want to only put one in or put them all in, even though she knows how many “four” means. She wants the game to move on so she’ll usually ask me to explain again what she needs to do.

She just isn’t ready for the “Memory” game where she has to turn over the cards and match them so we do it together and skip on to something else she can do. Some of the “Playroom” which is a section of games outside of the lessons involves mathematics too complex for her, which suits me fine because once she’s done a lesson, we move on to something “real-life” like her shape buttons or baking.

I’m always watching out for frustration or boredom as I’d rather she didn’t play it if it stresses her but it doesn’t seem to at all and she’s surprised me again and again with how much she’s learned from it so far.

Obviously, we’ve started a bit early. The age range for Mathseeds is 3 to 6 years. And I have a code for you! Enter “UKB26MST” for a 4-week extended trial.

Reading Eggs sent me a free, extended trial for the purposes of this post and I’ve reviewed it as honestly as possible.

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Christmas in a Day: Sainsbury’s remind us of the true meaning of Christmas

In association with Sainsbury’s

It’s barely mid-December and I’ve heard so many talk about feeling overwhelmed by Christmas already. At times, I’ve felt it too. So, it’s with interest that I’ve welcomed this post from Sainsbury’s about taking it all back to values.

It’s easy in the hustle and bustle of the modern world to forget about the true meaning behind important dates in our lives. Nowhere is this truer than at Christmas when the pressures that we face to make everything perfect for the whole family can sometimes obscure what the whole festive season is really about.

Commerce

A popular gripe is that the whole thing has become too commercialised, with business and big companies seeing the festivities as a time when we spend more on virtually everything and therefore they fight for our custom.

Of course, the truth is that we like to treat our friends, family and ourselves at this special time of year. It is the only occasion other than a birthday that we really show our affection for others by giving them presents and the whole point of a ‘feast’ time is that we over indulge a little and push the boat out when it comes to having things that might otherwise normally be seen as surplus to requirements.

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By Crnorizec (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons from Wikimedia Commons

Adverts

With this in mind, it might seem strange that a modern marker for each new Christmas is season has become the lavishly produced and expensive advertising campaigns which most major retailers put in place.

Each year there seems to be one particular effort that finds a place in people’s hearts and really reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas.

This year there is no doubt that it is Sainsbury’s Christmas in a Day – a full film which sums up the true meaning of Christmas.

Values

Sainsbury’s has spared no expense with a full 45-minute film which will even be getting a cinema release in selected locations around the UK. Directed by Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald, known for his ground breaking film Life In A Day, the project was also produced by Hollywood legend Ridley Scott.

The film is based on 360 hours of crowd-sourced footage which was supplied by members of the public, each of them willing to share those magic moments of how they prepare for and enjoy Christmas. This means that there are fun moments, emotional scenes and thought-provoking vignettes.

‘I was overwhelmed by the creativity and enthusiasm of the people up and down the country, from every walk of life, who filmed their Christmas and shared it with us,’ Macdonald commented.

‘I feel that the finished film stands out for many reasons – it is funny, moving, often beautifully shot and above all truthful. I am immensely thankful to everyone who took part and to Sainsbury’s for making the film possible.’

It isn’t just the source material that works, it is the expert way that it is put together to provide a narrative. For instance, an amateur rendition of the classic Christmas tune ‘Deck The Halls’ shows the light hearted side of how we can get into the festive spirit, whilst footage of an old man eating alone brings into focus the fact that not everyone has the same experience.

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By Tri Nguyen via Flickr

Meaning

It is exactly in this way that the film helps remind us of the true meaning of Christmas – that although it is about sharing it with those closest to us, it is also about a sense of community in a wider sense, which is exactly why Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol‘ hits a nerve with anyone who knows the story.

Ending with a scene that will move anyone, where a family can be seen recording a Christmas message to send to their father who is serving in Afghanistan, and then he unexpectedly arrives home on a surprise return visit, the film manages to capture the spirit of the connection we all have at Christmas.

“The moments that make Christmas special” is the tag for the film and the general summary of the ad campaign, all of which are sure to become stuck in the public imagination when they think back to Christmas 2013. Take a look at the video now and see what everyone’s talking about.

In association with Sainsbury’s


World War D – When date night goes oh so wrong

It sounded spontaneous, romantic, an opportunity to do something we don’t usually do. Laurence booked a babysitter and we were going to get out of the house. Then the comedy of errors began.

First, being as stingy as I am, I insisted we went out on Wednesday, not Tuesday as he’d proposed as we never take advantage of Orange Wednesdays. And now I think we never will.

We got to the cinema and it was ridiculously packed – with people I’m sure were not paying a babysitter in a desperate attempt to get out once in a while. We’d not been able to book online and get the two for one deal for some reason so we laid our fate before the entertainment gods. They were not with us.

It could have been OK if we’d got there earlier but of course, if you ever depend on your child going to bed at a certain time, they won’t. I spent 45 minutes of the sitter’s time at our house, feeding, rocking, willing Talitha to sleep. We eventually left her wide awake with the sitter whom she didn’t know (another error as it meant I left worried – though she was fine) and hoped for the best.

Well. The film we’d wanted to see was This is the End. It was sold out for the next few viewings. I didn’t want to see Despicable Me 2 as I’ve not seen the first one. It came down to a choice between sitting on bean bags scrunched up at the very front of the theatre watching the unpromising The Internship or going to see World War Z in 3D.

If only one of us had taken a moment to think about what the Z stood for. If I ever watch another zombie film it will be too soon. I spent the whole time jumping or on edge. Laurence kept asking if I was OK and suggesting that we could leave. But we’d paid so I felt committed to the course.

I’ve come out of that with two things. 1. When paying for childcare, make sure you get all the other details right. It’s worth paying a bit extra to do so. 2. All these zombie films are the same.

I mean, how, how, how do they keep getting made? Does someone go to investors and say: “Man, I want to make another zombie film but this one is totally different because the cure is X” and do they say: “That is TOTALLY original! Let’s book Brad Pitt”?

I want to say at least it was a bit of escapism but it’s not a world I would’ve wanted to escape to. On the way back I tried to console Laurence: “We’re not always going to get it right. These things happen.” He replied: “Zombies happen.” I think that’ll be our new turn of phrase for really rubbish dates.


Taking a toddler to the theatre

After a day of grizzling, punctuated by all-out tantrums (see last post for breaking news that Talitha is now a toddler) I dreaded heading to Bristol Old Vic theatre. Was this going to be some awful disaster?

The house was a mess and I’d run out of clean nappies. The latter nearly never happens to me, so frazzled was I. My unhappy toddler had spent a day red-cheeked and telling me that she felt wrong. I didn’t even bother to apologise about the domestic state when my mother-in-law came to pick us up.

But to the theatre we went. It was to be a girls’ day out: Grandmum, the toddler and mummy. We’d been invited by Bristol Old Vic to go see Hey Diddle Diddle. Excitement had been building for weeks.
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