Wednesday, November 8, 2017

STEM for Your Homeschool: Thinking Like an Engineer by Innovators Tribe {Review}

We've got Math, English, Geography, and History covered in our homeschool curriculum.  We do Science as well but it has been hard to find good STEM curriculum to challenge my children's "tinkering" natures.  We have been trying out a new program I discovered called Thinking Like an Engineer from Innovators Tribe.  It is a well-designed online course that provides interactive hands-on lessons and activities in science, technology, engineering, and math.  We have used the course for a few weeks but I've also looked ahead at the material to be covered in future lessons.  Nicholas and Rachel are having fun with the course and I'm excited to share this review with you.

Thinking Like an Engineer combines its own videos with videos from outside sources as well as hands-on activities for students to complete on their own.  The course is intended for students in grades 6-12 and it can be completed independently without much teacher prep, except when you might need to help them locate a few household supplies for their challenge activities.

Thinking Like an Engineer

The course begins with an Introduction to Engineering where students learn about different types of engineers, the challenge of engineering clean water, and the grand challenges of the world.  They worked on several challenges including the Tower Challenge.  

The challenge was to build a tower as tall as you possibly could with just four sheets of paper and one foot of masking tape.  My kids each built their own towers but it was fun to see them give each other pointers or brainstorm ideas together on ways to make the towers better.

The next section of the course is an Introduction to 3D Design.  Here is where we got to download a CAD program called Autodesk 123D Design!  It is a really cool program and the tutorials for the software are easy to understand.  Students will learn how to design a car rim in CAD!

The additional challenges in this section of the course include designing a piece of furniture in Autodesk 123D Design as well as designing an improvement on some regular household item like a stapler.  My kids love this kind of challenge!  Sometimes their ideas are crazy but other times they are quite amazing.

Next the course teaches about Mechanical Engineering and how to build rollercoasters.  This section has a really impressive challenge that includes students building their own rollercoaster with downloadable paper roller coaster tracks!

The course also covers engineering bridges and comes with a Bridge Construction software that students can download and use to design their own bridges.

There are just so many cool challenges in this program that innovative kids can't help but have fun with it.  In addition to the videos, software downloads, and hands-on challenges, the course also provides students with lots of book recommendations and additional video links to explore their areas of interest further.

Thinking Like an Engineer does not provide grades for students.  I'm having as much fun as my kids as we work through the course together and since I'm right there I know first-hand how they are each progressing through the material.  I could assign grades for them if I wanted to.  However, the course does include a Course Journal that you can have students complete to give some accountability.  

Innovators Tribe

The company that makes this course is called Innovators Tribe.  Their current products include Thinking Like an Engineer and Thinking Like an Architect.  They are currently working on a new course called Thinking Like a Carpenter which will be available soon.

Thinking Like an Engineer costs $149 for 18 months of online access.  However, you will also have access to several different kinds of software to download during the course and you get to keep these programs even after the course has been completed so your children can continue to use them and learn as they go.  PLUS, go to the Innovators Tribe website right now and snatch up 35% savings on any course.  Thinking Like an Engineer is usually $149 but it is only $96 with this sale price.  But this offer ends on 11/11/17 so hurry!

If you would like to read more reviews on Thinking Like an Engineer or for reviews on Thinking Like an Architect, just click on the banner below:

Thinking Like an Architect or Engineer {Innovators Tribe Reviews}

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Pencil Grip and Ultra Safe Safety Scissors Review

Note: There are affiliate links in this post.  Thank you for supporting my blog!

We were asked by the Home School Review Crew to review some products from The Pencil Grip, Inc.  We received 
The 3-Step Pencil Grip Training Kit (aff. link) and The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors (aff. link).

Rachel struggles with handwriting.  She is left-handed and has always had unusual ways of holding her pencil.  I try to show her different ways to hold it but she keeps going back to her old way.  These pencil grips are a great tool to train children in how to hold a pencil correctly.  They are made of a flexible material but they are latex and phthalate free.  There is a hole down the middle of each of them.  To use, you simply slide the pencil grip on to any pencil or pen.  It helps to direct your fingers into the correct position.  And best of all, they work equally well with use on the right-hand or the left-hand!  There is an "R" and an "L" on each side showing you where to place the thumb for either hand.

The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit

The first pencil grip we tried was the Crossover Grip.  It is considered a training grip.  It has a kind of "super hero" cape over the fingers and provides the most structure and support for proper finger positioning.  It is good for preventing the fingers from crossing over each other which is exactly what I'm trying to work with Rachel on.

The next one we tried was the Pinch Grip.  This pencil grip is more of a transition style.  It has partial "wings' so it gives a little more freedom of movement yet still provides the structure and reinforcement to help the child place their fingers in the correct position.  I like that Rachel can see the correct positioning with this one.  I think it will help her to learn the correct placement of her fingers when she is not using the grip.  This one is Rachel's favorite too.

The third grip we tried was the Original.  It has the least restrictive structure yet still guided her fingers to the correct placement.  However, I did find that she would slowly let her thumb slide forward as if she were trying to cross it over her fingers.  She may still need some work with the Pinch Grip before using this one.  However, I found that the Original was nice to use even as an adult just because it made for a more comfortable grip for me.

I love that the 3-step training kit provides all three pencil grips in one package so you can try each of them to see which is the better fit for your child, or you.  These grips have even been recommended by doctors and physical therapists.  The 3-Step Pencil Grip Training Kit (aff. link) is available on Amazon for around $8.00 for all three. Be sure to also check out the great resources and free downloads on improving pencil grip at

The Pencil Grip, Inc. also offers some really unique safety scissors.  Rachel no longer needs to use safety scissors but we were interested in learning more about them because we sometimes have little ones over to our house.  These scissors are called The Pencil Grip Ultra Safe Safety Scissor and they are the most unique safety scissors for kids that I've ever seen.

The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors

The blades of the scissors are covered by a clear plastic safety shield.  There is enough space to slide a piece of paper in but not enough space for a child to get their finger in it.  Take a look at Rachel's video review on these cool safety scissors:

The Ultra Safe Safety Scissor are available on Amazon for just $4.00.

We have been impressed with products from The Pencil Grip, Inc.  We have previously reviewed their Kwik Stix Thin Stix.  Rachel loved them!

If you would like to read additional reviews on the 3-step Pencil Grip Training Kit or the Ultra Safe Safety Scissors from other members of the Home School Review Crew, just click on the banner below:

Ultra Safe Safety Scissors & Pencil Grip Training Kit {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Painting Rachel's Room

Rachel asked to have her room updated for her birthday.  She still has the baby pink walls that I painted before she was born.  I love the color but she says it is too "babyish" looking.  We worked for several days boxing up everything in her room and finding places to put the boxes in other rooms upstairs.  Oh what a mess our upstairs is!

She wants her new room to be turquoise.  She picked a medium shade but Stuart and I were concerned that the dark walls might make her already small room feel even smaller.  We encouraged her to at least try the lighter shade on the same paint chip card and then decide.  We bought small sample sizes of both paint colors and I painted a swatch of each on each wall.  You have to do this on different walls because the lighting will be different in different parts of the room so you want to be sure you like the color on all four walls.  

I let the paint dry then told her that it was about time to paint the second coat on the sample spots.  When I made it up to her room, I found that she had just finished painting the second coat all on her own.  She was quite proud of herself!  Notice she is wearing her cute little Gymboree t-shirt and skirt (NOT painting clothes!).  Oh that girl!

Of course, it took me a moment but I soon noticed that she made hand prints in the paint too.  She actually didn't make a mess with the paint so all is well and I'm glad she is having fun.

She decided to go with the lighter color turquoise.  It is a really pretty color.  She has been a great helper and she has done a lot of the painting herself.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Printables for Your Homeschool - Super Teacher Worksheets Review

As a homeschool mom, I have found that it helps to add a variety of learning tools to our school day.  Our regular curriculum is wonderful but the kids love it when I change things up a bit and add something new and different.  Rachel especially likes hands-on activities and worksheets.  

 Super Teacher Worksheets
As a member of the Home School Review Crew, we were given a one year individual membership to their online subscription to review Super Teacher Worksheets in our homeschool.  The printable worksheets cover a wide variety of subjects including math, reading, writing, phonics, literature, handwriting, grammar, spelling, science, history, geography and MORE!  They also have many worksheets available in Spanish.

Rachel is working on the Insect badge for her American Heritage Girls troop.  For the requirements, she needed to learn details about one particular insect.  She chose to learn about the monarch butterfly.  I was excited to see that Super Teacher Worksheets had several nature science items to help her out.  In their science section, I found an article that was all about monarch butterflies and it had some wonderful colored pictures as well. 

Rachel read aloud the article to me and then completed the corresponding worksheets.  Just having the article to print out for her to read was great because I didn't have to go searching all over the internet or make a trip to the library.  The worksheets helped to get her thinking about what she had read and served as a good review for her.

I also printed off the Butterfly Life Cycle booklet.  Rachel loved this!  She colored the pictures, cut out the pages, and stapled the booklet together.  She wanted me to make a video of her reading aloud her booklet so here she is...

As you can see, Super Teacher Worksheets is more than just fill in the blank kind of worksheets.  They have several cute booklets that kids can make.  They also have worksheets that have pieces that the child can cut out and use in matching games.  We also found this really fun QR code reader worksheet.  Rachel had never seen QR codes before so I explained that she would use the QR code reader on my ipad to scan the code on the worksheet.

The QR code took her to a specific list of three words to choose from to answer the problem on the worksheet.  In this case, the worksheet asked her to write the word that is a synonym for the word "fast".  When she scanned the QR code, the following list popped up.

Rachel absolutely loved this.  She now loves QR codes and she wants all of her work to use them in some way!

Over the summer, we studied US states and capitals.  There are a lot of games and printables on Super Teacher Worksheets that I used as a review for her.  Her favorite one was the "Cootie Catcher".  Do you remember playing with these as a child?

She would pick a color then move the paper puzzle back and forth for the number of letters in the name of the color.  When she stopped, she could pick a state and she had to name the capital.  She picked Idaho and then opened up the pocket to see "Boise".  How fun is that for reviewing states and capitals!

We will be going to see the play Mr. Popper's Penguins next week so we are reading the book now.  I just realized that the Chapter Book section of Super Teacher Worksheets has lots of great printables for this book.  They include bookmarks, vocabulary words, word search, and more all related specifically to Mr. Popper's Penguins.  Resources like this make my job as teacher so much easier!

Finally, there are also some fun things to find at Super Teacher Worksheets.  We played this Halloween Bingo game over and over the other day.  I think the addition of candy for game pieces may have made it even more fun.

I have really enjoyed having Super Teacher Worksheets to turn to for supplements in our school day.  An individual membership costs only $19.95 for a full year.  This gives you complete access to all of their great printables.

If you would like to read other Super Teacher Worksheets reviews from other Home School Review Crew members, please just click on the banner below:

Super Teacher Worksheets

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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Autumn at the Arboretum {Family Fun in Dallas}

It's Pumpkin Time at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden!  Everywhere you look you are surrounding by autumn beauty.  There are pumpkins and beautiful fall plantings throughout the garden.  

However, the highlight of the Arboretum is Dallas' most anticipated fall festival, Autumn at the Arboretum.  For the 12th year, Autumn at the Arboretum includes the nationally acclaimed Pumpkin Village featuring pumpkin houses and creative displays utilizing more than 90,000 pumpkins, gourds and squash, along with hay bales and cornstalks.  The Pumpkin Village theme this year is “Pumpkins, Squashes and Gourds, Oh My!” based on the beloved book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  How fun!

It all begins at Autie Em's house which was picked up by a tornado and plopped down in Munchkinland.  My daughter had us all act out the story as we went along.

The house landed on top of one of those mean wicked witches.  These witch feet are just the cutest touch!

The best part?  We got to travel through Pumpkin Village on an actual yellow-brick road, spiraling through Pecan Grove with stops at each major occurrence in the story of Dorothy and her adventures in the Land of with pumpkins, squashes and gourds!

We met the Scarecrow.

We met the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion.

But watch out!  The Flying Monkeys captured us and flew us to the Witch's Castle.

We finally made it to the wonderful land of Oz which greeted us with more pumpkins.

We pretended to ride in a carriage carried by the colorful horses of Oz.

My kids both had fun re-living the magical story of Dorothy and her friends as they were surrounded by pumpkins.  What a delightful fall festival.  You really must check it out but have fun with your kids while you are there and let your imagination take you away to Oz.

Over the bridge that crosses the river of pumpkins and swan-necked gourds, lies more pumpkins galore and a great setting for those obligatory pictures of your kids surrounded in a sea of orange.

There really are pumpkins everywhere you look.

And there are more than a few great spots for posed family pictures.

I love that the displays of squash, gourds, and pumpkins are educational.  There are several of each kind so you can see variants in their appearance and they are nicely labeled.  Spend some time here with your kids.  Ask them what differences they notice between them in color, size, and texture.  Ask them why they think they are named the way they are.

Ask your kids which is their favorite and why.  Let them think about whether any of the squash, gourds, or pumpkins remind them of something else?

I asked my kids to look around the grounds and find the most unique item to show me.  Nicholas found a scary spider looking one and Rachel found one that looks like a tulip.  These kids are so very different from each other...and I love it!

Here are some fun stats on this year's Pumpkin Village.  Challenge your kids to look for some of these during your visit:

150,000: Fall blooming flowers and plants
90,000: number of pumpkins, gourds, and squash that make up the Pumpkin Village
12,000: Bricks along the yellow brick road
2,000: Square Feet of the Yellow Brick Road
3,000: Ears of corn
1,500: Corn stalks in the Pumpkin Village 900: Bales of hay 48: number of workers it takes to decorate the garden for Autumn Festival
22: number of pumpkin types
21: the number of days it takes to build the Pumpkin Village
17: number of types of squash
7: number of gourd types
4: number of pumpkin houses
3: Flying Monkeys
1: number of acres in the Pumpkin Village
Emerald City: Green Hexagon Pumpkin House
Witch’s Castle: Square Pumpkin House accented with dark plants
Munchkin Land: Circle Pumpkin House

Auntie Em’s House: Small Pumpkin House 

This little squirrel found his favorite pumpkin and was chewing heartily away at it!

The Arboretum will even amaze you in the parking lot....look at this giant oak leaf Rachel found!

A myriad of activities take place throughout the garden on weekdays and weekends during Autumn at the Arboretum:

Cool Thursdays Concerts
Thursdays, September 7 - October 26
7-9 p.m.
Dallas' premier outdoor concert series, presented by Wells Fargo, returns this fall with a fabulous band lineup. Gates open at 6 p.m. All concerts include some of Dallas/Fort Worth's favorite food trucks. Concerts are already beginning to sell out. To purchase tickets and view the band lineup, visit the Cool Thursdays Concerts page.

Oktoberfest Garden
11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Café on the Green
The menu at Café on the Green features traditional German cuisine, including various kinds of sausage and beer. Take a break and enjoy a delicious Octoberfest-inspired meal through November 22.

Mommy & Me Mondays and Tiny Tot Tuesdays
Mondays & Tuesdays through November 21
10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Sponsored by: Kimberly-Clark
Enjoy fun, kid-friendly activities in Pecan Grove, adjacent to the pumpkin village. Activities include face painting, a petting zoo, silhouette artist and music by KinderMusic.

Harvest Tea
Monday-Friday (September 25-November 22)
11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Elegant seated tea service served inside the beautiful historic DeGolyer House, includes a seated, three-course high tea experience, while taking in the breathtaking fall displays. Tea prices begin at $49 per person and also include garden admission and parking. Add champagne service for $59 per person.  Reservations required.  Book online at or call at 214-515-6511.

Zumba in the Gardens
Wednesday evenings (September 27-October 11)
6:30-7:30 p.m.
Martin Rutchik Concert Stage & Lawn
Join high-energy Zumba instructor, Martha Palacios, for a one-hour Zumba class.

Dallas County Master Gardners in the Garden (NEW)
Thursdays (September 29-November 16)
11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Members of the Dallas County Master Gardeners are on-site to answer any questions guests may have regarding what's growing in the garden.

Every weekend:
Beer Tastings (NEW)
Saturday, September 23 and 30: 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Sunday, September 24 and October 1: 12-3 p.m.
Café on the Green
Enjoy a beer tasting at Café on the Green, located centrally in the garden.  It is the perfect spot to take in the beauty of the garden while enjoying a beer. $10 per tasting, which allows each guest to try four 2 oz. pours of each beer.

Live Music
Saturdays: 12-3 p.m.
Sundays: 1-4 p.m.
Musicians specializing in a variety of music, such as Spanish guitar and folk guitar, play throughout the garden every weekend during autumn. Bring a picnic and relish in the music. Check the website for specific locations, line-ups and artists' bios.

Garden Sized Games (NEW)
Saturdays & Sundays
9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Pecan Grove
Enjoy giant-sized games like Connect Four, Yardzee, Corn-Hole and Jenga in Pecan Grove. Games are available to play on a first come, first served basis.

Special Weekends:
Urban Wildlife Photography Workshop
September 23 & 24
11:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m.
Pecan Grove
Back by popular demand, Urban Wildlife photographer Chris Jackson will be conducting two workshops per day. No reservation is necessary and this activity is free with paid garden admission.

NEW Chula Hoop Performance and Class
September 30 & October 1
11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. & 3:00 p.m. each day
Chula Hoop USA Performance & Hoop Jam
Hoop Jam: Terrace at the Camp House
Join internationally renowned hula hoop group, Chula Hoop USA, for an Oktoberfest themed hula hoop performance, followed by a hand's on class on the Terrace at the Camp House.  While most hulahoops are one size fits all, Chula Hoop gives garden guests the unique opportunity to find the perfect fit, along with instruction from a seasoned professional.  This activity is free with paid garden admission.

Columbus Day Weekend
Eddie Coker Children's Concert
Monday, October 9, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Eddie Coker, sponsored by Dallas Child, performs children-friendly music on the Martin Rutchik Concert Stage.  Family fun activities, Friday-Monday, 10 a.m. - 2p.m, face painting and petting zoo in the Pecan Grove.

Live Music:
Randy Vradenburg, Saturday, October 7, 12-3 p.m.
The sounds of pop, country, rock, jazz, blues, adult contemporary, and classical. 

Tomás Sclar, Sunday, October 8, 1-4 p.m.
Named "Best Flamenco Guitarist in DFW" by The Dallas Observer 2012.
Pumpkin Carver Weekend (NEW)
Saturday, October 21 & Sunday, October 22
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Martin Rutchik Concert Stage & Lawn
Master Piece Pumpkins' Gene Granata carves pumpkins for all ages through live demonstrations. Purchase pumpkin carving kits in the Hoffman Family Gift Store and pumpkins at the Tom Thumb Pumpkin Patch.

Family Fun Weekend
Saturday, October 28 & Sunday, October 29
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Celebrate Halloween with trick-or-treating throughout the garden, face painting, a petting zoo, and a magician in Pecan Grove. Guests are encouraged to bring their own trick or treat bag.

Ghoul's Night Out (NEW)
Wednesday, October 18
6-8 p.m.
Crape Myrtle Allee
Join the Dallas Arboretum "Ghoul's Night Out," featuring fun activities such as palm readings, handwriting analysis and a caricature artist drawing guests in a "ghoul-y" fashion. No "Ghoul's Night Out" would be complete without wine, live music and food trucks. Wine will be available for purchase, and three food trucks will be on-site. Guests are also welcome to bring a picnic.

North Texas Gourd Association Demonstrations
Every Thursday in October, and November 2
10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Crape Myrtle Allee
The North Texas Gourd Association creates items, such as jewelry and decorative accessories, with gourds.

National Pumpkin Day
Thursday, October 26
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
There is no better place to celebrate National Pumpkin Day during the fall festival. Celebrate this holiday by indulging in pumpkin flavored foods at select dining areas; visit the website for more specific items.

Dia de los Muertos (NEW)
Wednesday, November 1
6-8 p.m.
Celebrate the "Day of the Dead" with activities located throughout the garden including, a face painting competition, a henna tattoo artist, a DJ and mask-making. Wine and beer are available for purchase, along with three food trucks. Guests are welcome to bring picnics.
Día de Los Muertos Face Painting Competition
Guests are encouraged to paint their faces in the style of the holiday at home and then celebrate the Day of the Dead by entering a face painting competition. Judges assess all competitors present by 6:30 p.m. and the winner is announced at 7:30 p.m. First place gets a great, Mexican-themed gift basket. See website for full competition rules and details.

Hoffman Family Gift Store Book Signings/Events:
Book Signing-Saturday, September 23
11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Join the creator of The Round Top Collection, Jeff Krause, to purchase a signed piece of art from this popular line of gifts and home décor.  Additional book signings and highlights include gourd craft demonstrations, Imported Gourmet Foods and Eating Well Seriesbook signings.  Visit website for full list of Gift Store events.

Book Signing--Saturday, September 30
11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Join author Diane Box for a book signing of Fred's Texas Stampede.

Rory Meyers Children's Adventure Garden:
Children's Adventure Garden Fourth Birthday Celebration
Friday, September 22
6-8 p.m.
$10 General Admission
Celebrate the Children's Adventure Garden's Fourth Birthday with a special guest, an OmniGlobe presentation, lively music and a Birthday Lab.

Evening Trick-or-Treating in the Children's Adventure Garden
Friday, October 28-Sunday, October 30
6-9 p.m.
$10 General Admission
Come in dressed in a Halloween costume for a spooky maze tour, glowing programs and a Halloween-themed Lab.

Johnny Appleseed Weekend
September 23 & 24
Throughout the Children's Adventure Garden
8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Celebrate Johnny Appleseed Day with a Johnny Appleseed puppet show, apple-themed programs, and a special apple tasting.

TECH Truck
September 30 & November 11
The Moody Oasis
1-3 p.m.
Tinker, Engineer, Create, Hack! Join the TECH Truck staff from the Perot Museum for a hands-on experience where there is no limit to creativity.

Dinosaurs Rock
October 22
The Glade
11 a.m., 12 p.m., 1 p.m. & 2 p.m.
Explore the prehistoric world with DINOSAURS ROCK®! Get up close with life-size dinosaur fossils, eggs, skulls and skeletons. Learn amazing facts about the history behind these fascinating creatures.

National Chemistry Week
October 22-28
Throughout the Children's Adventure Garden
12 p.m. & 3:30 p.m.
Enjoy an entire week of chemistry magic in the Children's Adventure Garden. Explore the Plant Lab for Milk Macromolecules and a different chemistry program every afternoon.

BOGO Wednesday and Arboretum After Hours
Wednesdays (September 27-October 18)
9 a.m.-8 p.m.
Buy one, get one free admission every Wednesday; offer is valid for Arboretum After Hours.

C.C. Young Senior Thursdays
Thursdays (September 28-November 16)
9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Seniors can enjoy $11 admission and a 20 percent discount at the Hoffman Family Gift Store. Discount is only available at the ticket booth.

$2 State Fair Discount (September 29-October 22)
Present ticket stub for $2 off general admission.

Tom Thumb $1 off General Garden Admission (September 23-November 22)

Tom Thumb offers $1 off general garden admission tickets, available at area Tom Thumb and Albertson's locations. 

About the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden:  
The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens is located on the southeastern shore of White Rock Lake at 8525 Garland Road, Dallas, Texas 75218. The Dallas Arboretum is also the home of the internationally acclaimed Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden. The Arboretum is open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. General admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors 65 and older, $10 for children 3-12 and free for Arboretum members and children two and under. There is an additional cost of $3 per person for entrance into the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden. On-site parking is $15; pre-purchased online parking is $8.