Monday, January 30, 2012

Crew Review: Kinderbach


Kinderbach is piano and music lessons for preschool and early elementary aged students. There are 6 online levels, and each level has 10 weeks of lessons.  In each week are four lessons.  The video lessons are 5-7 minutes in length.

It can be purchased as a computer-based (online) or DVD sets of piano lessons for children ages 2-7 years:

$19.99 per month for online access to 6 levels of online video music lesson (you can print out the worksheet/ activities).
OR
$95.88 annually

$40.45 per level for an activity package
{Each DVD has one Level of the web video. Lessons are packed with activities, games, crafts, funny characters and voices}
OR

{HINT:  Click here for a New Year clearance coupon code!!}


The founder and human star of the videos is Karri Gregor, who has decades of music teaching experience (click on her name to read her bio).  Karri is joined by the Piano Pals:

{each animal's name begins with the letter name of one of the piano keys}

The scope and sequence of the music curriculum is quite impressive.  Music theory (from the basics of high and low, loud and soft to an introduction of chords and harmonizing) is included throughout the 7 levels. Staff and note reading is introduced.  Keyboarding is introduced.  It is really quite thorough.

You can log in here to try Kinderbach free for 2 weeks of lessons!

Our Experience:  Unfortunately, we don't have a piano keyboard right now, and I could not find one to borrow for the five or so weeks of this review.  That didn't really matter too much, because most of the beginning of weeks have been basic rhythm and keyboard introduction.  We've been clapping, tapping, and banging wooden spoons together for the past couple weeks!

I think this program is great -- it probably would have smoothed over the rough spots my oldest and I experienced when I was trying to instruct him in piano when he was but a wee 6-year-old.  At that time, I'm sure my oldest would have been fine with the animals introducing music notes and such.  My now 6-year-old (who so wants to be like is 12-year-old brother) is not so enchanted with the animal pals;  he finds them "babyish."  Regardless, he's been a willing partner to sit and watch the streaming video lessons and clap along.  In spite of his verbal dismissal of the lessons, he's pretty happy to work through them.  If only we had had a keyboard to practice on, I'm sure his enthusiasm would've been greater!

I'd encourage you to give the trial weeks a go as well as read other reviewers thoughts at The Old Schoolhouse Crew Review Blog!  Happy keyboarding!

FCC: I received an online subscription to try in exchange for my honest opinion about this product.  No other compensation was received.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A {not at all funny} Thing Happened on the Way Up the Chairlift ...

I guarantee you do not want to ever hear this from the chairlift attendant:

"Just drop him."

Not "it" nor the impersonal "them."  

HIM, people.

Him = Levi.  My baby boy.

So now that I've got your attention, here's the story:

A few warm up runs into our ski lesson today, our instructor took us to the high-speed quad so the boys (all about 6 years old) could practice on a longer, slightly more challenging green run.  No big deal, really, because all the boys had gone down this run after lessons last week.

Little boys skiing back and forth behind their teacher are so adorable.  Like a mama duck and her ducklings:

After completing this run, we waiting in line to load on a new-to-us lift. Little did I know that the chair was slightly higher than the other 2-person chairlifts we've gotten on!!!!!!!


So, as I've done before, I talk Levi through getting on the lift: reach back, scoot back, are you on?
But with the slight height change, Levi couldn't get his little bottom on the chair!  I tried grabbing onto his coat (front and back) to help scoot him on, but the chair seemed to really gain height fast, and I couldn't get his bum up!!!


AAACCCCKKKKK!

So, I'm holding on to his coat, and he's dangling totally off the chair!!!!! And we are getting higher in the sky!

"Just drop him!"


Yea, just what a mama doesn't want to hear.


But in that second-that-feels-like-an-hour I realize that if I don't drop him now, there is no way on God's green earth that I can help him; let alone, if I lose my grip and drop him when we're higher, he's going to fall farther.


"Levi, I've got to drop you!"


So I did.  


When I re-told the story to Dave, I guessed that he fell about 6 feet.  This seems high, but as I think about it some more, He's about 3 1/2 feet tall, so his legs only fell a couple feet before he landed in the slightly crusty snow.  At that point, the attendants stopped the chair and ran up to help him.


I hated, hated, hated that I could do nothing for him but sit on the chair above him and watch the attendant and his ski instructor help him. And then I could do nothing until we got to the top of the lift.


Fortunately {Thank you Lord Jesus} this event in no way overshadowed the pure bliss and joy Levi feels as he floats down a mountain skis.  


Fortunately {Thank you Lord Jesus} Levi has regained his trust in my ability to help him get on a chairlift.  We skied the rest of the day event-free.


and fortunately {Thank you Lord Jesus} Levi is OK.  

Amen.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Crazy Good

Here we are, Levi and I, ready to hit the slopes!
Life is a bit crazy right now.  Because of homeschool ski lessons, we are gone for a full day, and our school schedule gets squeezed into four instead of 5 days.  But we still have our TOG history group on Fridays, so really we are schooling three days a week instead of four or five.

But at this point in life and my homeschooling journey, I've realized that flexibility is key, and we just need to back off for a few weeks, and we'll be no worse for the wear.  The kids will still learn to read, master subtraction (Levi's upcoming lessons in math), learn multiplication (Luke), and figure out pre-algebra (Ben).  We're still learning to diagram sentences (Luke), and making connections in pre-Civil War America (Ben).  It will all get done.  Eventually.

So here's a quick run-down of what goin' on here:

1.  I cannot forget that the blessing of this ski season is that I get to go with!  Sadly, there are no more Mommy and Levi days, but I *do* get to ski with my sweet Levi and watch him learn.  That is a huge blessing that I am treasuring.  Here's a little vid I shot of one of Levi's runs down a green at the mountain:



And now that I'm back in east-of-the-Mississippi snow, I think I'm going to specialize in cruising down the greens and blues for the rest of my life.  My line will be "see you boys at the bottom" and they will go off to carve some turns, try the bumps, and ski the trees.  I'll take the gradual way down, working on my form, making sure I retain the original, God-given cartilage-bone connections.  Then I'll hop on the high speed quad with my boys and hear about their gnarly skiing, dude.  I can smile, say a few oh-my-goshes  and I'm-so-glad-I-didn't-see-that and you-boys-are-turning-all-my-hair-gray and whisper a few be-careful-just-a-little-for-me (Dave says we mothers say be careful to boys too much).  It'll be the perfect way to spend my mid-to-late forties and beyond.


2. Back to school.  I've made some good additions and changes to our schedule.
  • Writing.  I'm including more narration for Luke, using these great notebooking pages from Westvon Publishing.  They help me to focus on the theme for the week's history.  I'm also including more writing for Ben.  He is taking a fantastic writing class this year, but I'm wanting to have him write more for the practice of it.  I've typed up a mini-poster of IEW dress-ups, banned words and sentence openers for him to reference as he is writing up short (like only a paragraph or two right now) summaries about historical events.  
  • Spelling.  Both Ben and Luke are using BigIQKids.com for spelling during ski lessons.  I typed in their SWR word lists and they are following whatever the program tells them to do.  It is freeing me up to make sure that everything else is getting done in our shortened day.  When skiing is over, I'll give the boys another diagnostic test (they are supposed to be done monthly) to see where they are and then we'll go back to the regulary program.
3. Levi has blown my socks of with reading.  I'd be really curious to know what his reading level is, but it is really not relevant -- he reads, and reads, and reads.  He's at the point where he's totally cracked the reading code and is figuring out mulit-letter phonograms that I have not taught him yet.  I'm really going to have to get in gear when skiing is over and begin to use Spell to Write and Read with him.

4.  And for Christmas, the boys/ we received this puzzle:
They love working jigsaw puzzles, but Dave can be a bit neurotic about them.  It is good he has a job outside the house to go to, otherwise he might just sit here until it is done.  We've all had a fun time finding matching pieces.  And I love that we hare studying in detail this piece of art.

5.  Although it is harder to find time to run with school stuff.  I'm trying.  I'm on week 7 -- running 28 minutes non-stop.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Crew Review: We Choose Virtues



Transparent moment here: One of the main reasons my husband and I chose to home educate my children was to pass on the moral and religious values that are dear to us.  It is important that my children view all of creation from God's perspective, and that they see that God has a plan through history to redeem those who come to Him.

But let me tell you, I often get off track from this primary goal and get sucked into the academics of homeschooling.  A friend of mine who has the same tendency says we are more like Solomon than David sometimes.

I'm so happy to have reviewed this product.  It is amazing.  There is SO much here and having just a few weeks to review it hasn't been enough to really dig down into it.  But I want you to know that I love it!

We Choose Virtues (WCV)provides character development materials for both secular and Christian families and groups.  The creator, Heather MacMillian, developed the materials (with great illustrations from Pete Sutton) based on her own experiences working with children.  I highly recommend reading about Heather at the ABOUT page.  She has a great story.

For this review, Heather sent out these handy cards, called Virtue Clues ($5.99):


The card explains the trait, telling the child what "attentiveness" (for example) means..and what it does not  mean.  There's also a catch-phrase included to help the children memorize the meaning.  As a separate PDF, you can get a downloadable page that includes a Bible verse (using the NIrV) and Bible character that exemplifies each trait.  And best of all, each one of these attractively illustrated cards has a character challenge on the back -- I LOVE that.  This give me as a mom -- and my kids -- a tangible skill to work on during the week/ month of practice.

I was also sent a pdf version of the 50ish-page handbook ($4.99 download; $19.99 printed):



This is primarily meant for school teachers (preschool through early elementary) with classroom ideas for implementing a character-focused curriculum.  The basic message in this guide is to incorporate character into all aspects of teaching and learning.  Now, honestly, I'm pretty good at doing this in our daily life.  We talk about diligence and attentiveness a LOT here.  But there are some creative ideas in the book that I thought were fun.  For example, using some "I Spy" type activities to teach the idea of "Focus."

The third resource that I was sent was the VirtueVille Coloring book ($3.00 download):


Each virtue has a associated child who exemplifies that trait. The six children in this coloring book are adorable and I think the complexity of the coloring pages are appropriate for the targeted ages.  Sadly, I have children who do not like to color anymore.

I also LOVE that this program has plenty of self-evaluative tools so that kids and parents can assess their own character.  You can find some here (Family) and here (Youth).  These tools are free downloads -- a generous way for WCV to allow others to get a feel for their program!

We Choose Virtues has many sets of materials for different audiences.  The two that related most to my audience (homeschooling) is the Homeschooling Package ($99 - there is a faith-based version as well) and the Family Faith-Based Package ($69).  Both of these packages use the preschool-elementary resources, but do say that the resources are appropriate for ages 3-through-18 years.  How did my 12-year-old respond to the younger grade materials?  He didn't hate them but I think he would feel more comfortable with the youth materials.  I so wish there was a way to add  some of the youth materials into a homeschool/family program.


If you do have just 12-year-olds and up, please look at the Youth materials.  I love the layout of these materials!

If you need to see what is included in all the different sets, you can check out this comparison chart.

And now, are you ready for some deals?  {These are all accurate as of the date of the post}"

  1. JANUARY/FEBRUARY-The 100 Days of Virtue Poster and Stickers will be included FREE with any Homeschool Kit purchase during these months
  2. Promo Codes (can only use one at a time):
  • VIRTUE15 for 15 % off the shopping cart
  • FAMILY for $3.00 off the Kids Virtue Poster
  • SHIPFREE for free worldwide shipping

To see what others thought of We Choose Virtues, please visit the TOS Crew Blog!

Now.....I'm off  We Choose Virtues to go make a wishlist!


FCC statement:  In exchange for an honest review, I was sent the above mentioned products for free.  No other compensation was given.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Goals

Last year, I got the "bug" to set a couple personal goals.  It had really been far too long since I set some personal goals that had nothing to do with homeschooling, reading, math, algebra, etc. So last January (I'm talking 2011) I decided to read the Bible in 90 days. Simultaneously, I decided (rather grudgingly) to get my rear off the couch and start moving:  I decided to use Britain's NHS Couch-to5K podcast.

After about 3 weeks, I bagged the C25K.  I hate running.  and I hate the treadmill.

But the Bible goal -- I rocked it, thank you God!

Fast forward to 8 months to November 2011. I started thinking of goals again. What do I want to be when I grow up?  What do I want to learn?  What do I want to do with the Free Time that is becoming slightly more plentiful?

I didn't have concrete answers for all those questions....and honestly, just asking the questions means I need to pray about it (which I've done and am doing).

One activity that has been just nagging at me was exercise.   Ugh. I hate getting started, but love how I feel afterwards (usually).  My kids are growing, getting faster and harder to keep up with and I have vowed to myself that I will not be left behind.  And, I'm not getting any younger and would really love to be fit for the rest of my life.

Over our extended Christmas vacation, I decided to jump back in to the Couch to 5K plan that I had started at the beginning of the year.  No sense putting it off to Jan. 1, ya know?

I'm so glad I did!  I'm now finished with week 7 of the 9 week program.  I can run for 25 minutes  without stopping now.  I'm over the mental monotony of running at this point.  I now set little mental goals for myself as I'm running.  I am (gasp!) enjoying running.

Next week (starting on Monday, Jan. 16) I'm going to run for 28 minutes.  The following week, I'll be going for 30 minutes.  The goal for myself was to be ready for a 5K at the beginning of May.  I don't think I can wait that long!  I'm going to have to find a February (brrrr) 5K.  And now (shhhhhhhhhhhhh -- do NOT tell anyone) I'm thinking 10K!!

I guess the reason I'm writing this post is because I want to remind myself that GOALS FOR ME ARE GOOD.  I need to have them (again).  I need to have goals that are not just IN MY HEAD -- that's how I described it to Dave.  I'm good at setting mental goals like "read X number of books this year"  "research foreign language learning programs for the kids" "learn how to do X" -- brain-y-ish goals.  I need to challenge other parts of my life -- physical, spiritual, relational.

I'm thinking this year is going to be a GREAT year.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Crew Review: Learn Our History DVDs

Learn our History is a new company that is making animated videos to teach kids about American history in a 21st Century, fun way.  It's mission (from their website) is: 

We're dedicated to celebrating America's contributions to the world and making it fun for kids to learn our history.

The premise of the series is fairly common these days:  a group of kids travels through time {on a bicycle} to experience historical events as they happen.  In the video on September 11 and the War on Terror, for example, the TimeCycle {see the theme?} Academy kids watch as the Twin Towers fall, travel further back in time to Afghanistan to see the Al Qaeda operatives prepare for the attack , and then watch as Americans begin the healing process just days after the tragedy.

You can see a number of two-minute previews at the website here {Columbus}, here {Revolutionary War} and here {War on Terror}.

The company has five videos available right now, with plans for the release of nine more this year.

I really like the topics that have been selected for the videos.  It is often hard to find materials for 20th Century events that do not slant towards a left-leaning political interpretation.  {I'm not left-leaning in my politics or worldview, by the way.}
  • Columbus and The Great Discovery
  • The Birth of a Revolution
  • 9/11 and the War on Terror
  • Origins of World War II
  • The Reagan Revolution
Coming soon {beginning in March}:
  • The Declaration of Independence
  • The Battle for Our Future
  • The Mayflower and the First Thanksgiving
  • The Adventures of Lewis and Clark
  • The Race to Space
  • A History of Women in America
  • The Cold War
  • World War I
You have the ability to stream the content on any of your favorite devices by logging into your account. Along with each video are online word puzzles  and discussion questions to help students think deeper, recall information learned on the video, and {perhaps} even do a little more research to extend learning.   Ben and I really liked the timelines, which provide a nice combination of graphics, labels and pictures/photos to track events.

Purchasing the videos reminds me of a Book-A-Month club system.  When you sign up, you will get the first DVD with a free second DVD and four free gifts, (including a Learn Our History DVD storage case, a shoulder sack, a pair of binoculars and a Learn Our History sticker set) for $9.95 plus $3.95 shipping.  After that, you'll get another DVD about once a month.  Subsequent DVDs are $11.95 with $3.95 shipping. There is no obligation to purchase any other DVDs, and you can cancel at anytime. You can skip a shipment or cancel at anytime with 24/7 customer service. {Please check the website for current specials and promotions.  This information is accurate as of the original posting of this review.}

You can order online at the website (you'll need to log in with your personal information first) or by phone at (877) US HISTORY (that's 877-874-4786). Oh!  The company also offers a 30-day satisfaction money-back guarantee with each and every video. 

Our experience with the product:  I really love the idea behind this series.  The boys LOVE anything that is DVD for school, and were eager to watch.  I even had our history group watch the The Birth of a Revolution DVD during one of our recent meetings {we studied this topic last school year}.

The general consensus was that the content of the DVD was good, but the animation wasn't what the kids were expecting.  It really bugged my Ben (12 yo) that the lips were not synced to the words being spoken.  Most of the background extra characters do not move and are stationary.  This made for a bit of distraction {because modern animation has spoiled us all to expect Pixar-type visual experiences} from what the main characters were learning.

Despite the graphics, Ben cannot wait to watch the World War I and World War II movies. 

The targeted age ranges for these videos is 6 years and up.  Levi loved watching them and will watch them whenever I put them in, but the content isn't quite "clicking" with him right now.  That's OK though;  I subscribe to a "trickle down" theory of multi-level education:  I know he's getting something and when the subject materials comes up again, he'll absorb a bit more as he's able.

To see what other Crew members thought, please check out the TOS Crew Blog.



FCC:  In exchange for my honest opinion about this product, I was given one free DVD from the company and online access to one additional product.  No other compensation was received.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Crew Review: Maestro Classics's "Swan Lake"

I'm pleased {thrilled, full-o-joy} to be able to review Maestro Classics for the second year in a row.  This product is such a treat -- and while my contemporary Christian, Skillet-loving kids might grumble a bit when I bring out classical music such as this, they end up with big smiles on their faces by the end..and are curious to hear more.

No, really, I'm not kidding.  These are Luke's EXACT words:  "Mom, I'd like to  see the Swan Lake Ballet."

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Maestro Classics is a great company that puts together incredible music appreciation products.  In 55 minutes, you child will learn some music ihistory, theory, learn the story behind a piece of music, learn about the composer and even about the instruments that bring life to a  piece.

Additionally, there are homeschool curriculum guides available to extend your learning into all subject areas {and they are free, people!}.

Each physical CD purchase (which comes with an activity guide the size of a CD case) is $16.98.  Mp3 downloads are also available for $9.98 (the activity guide is a .pdf download).  You can also buy sets as well!  Click here to link to their store website.

Here's a list of all the CDs available:

  1. The Tortoise and The Hare; 
  2. The Story of Swan Lake, 
  3. Juanita the Spanish Lobster in English
  4. Casey at Bat;
  5. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel; 
  6. The Sorcerer's Apprentice; 
  7. Peter and the Wolf;
  8. A Soldier's Tale;
  9. My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music;

Music Theory, history and teaching about the acoustic vs. electric guitar are included in the activity guide.  Levi loves the dot-to-dot (of a swan of course) and I like the crossword puzzle to help reinforce the story of the ballet.


The CD is more than just a recording of the piece.  Here are the chapters on the CD:
  1. The Story of Swan Lake (narrated)
  2. Tchaikovsky's Life
  3. Speed Metal Swan (!!) {Warning:  clear the room, you'll have a house full of air guitars!!}
  4. About the Music
  5. "Tchaikovsky Wrote a Great Ballet"
  6. Prepare to Perform
  7. "Tchaikovsky Wrote a Great Ballet" sing-a-long.
I hope you can tell that we love this product!  Please read other Crew members' thoughts at the TOS Review Crew blog.

FCC:  In exchange for my honest opinion, I received a free copy of this product.  No other compensation was received.

    Sunday, January 8, 2012

    Crew Review: Z-Guides to the Movies


    Over Christmas break, we were given the opportunity to review a "Z-Guide" from Zeezok Publishing.  Z-Guides ($12.99) are promoted as ways that families can integrate movies into their curriculum with the benefit of more than just passively watching an movie and then turning it off.

    The PDF downloaded guide includes 10 activities for each movie.  Guides are produced with two different audiences:  elementary/middle school and high school.  Zeezok also sells copies of each of the movies that have guides for.


    What is in a Z-Guide:
    ...All of the guides contain ten educational activities that build upon the movie. The guides are movie specific. We tell you exactly which movie we used, and almost all are available thru Netflix. Most you can probably get through your local library. So you don’t even need to buy the movie to use our guides!
    Each guide starts out with a topic overview. This overview provides the student with more information regarding the specific time period in which the movie is based. Next is a movie synopsis. The synopsis will assist the student in understanding what is going on in the movie and how relationships, situations, and events all relate together.

    We were given a downloadable Z-Guide for the movie "Flyboys."  When I signed up for it, I checked to make sure Netflix had it {they did} and happily awaited its delivery in my inbox.  I guess I had a major brain-drain because I didn't  check the ratings for the movie, nor did I check other sites I use to determine if a movie is appropriate for our family.  I should have! Please, before you purchase a guide like this -- check out why a movie is given its rating.

    That said, I contacted Zeezok and they told me that this guide I have is rather new and should have a warning label on it that provides a parental warning.  It didn't when I wrote this review -- but hopefully it will be there in the future.  Let me be clear to say that I'm not faulting Zeezok for putting out a guide for this movie.  It is my responsibility to check what comes into my house. But I do want to warn my readers that this movie has some adult content that you will want to check out before you slide it into the DVD player!
    click cover to go to website
     
    The guide is set up so that you complete two activities a day for one week.  The guide recommends you watch the movie more than once.  For Flyboys this is what we had:

    Day 1:  Review questions and some history learning about the French Escadrille.

    Day 2: Arts and crafts activities.

    Day 3: Creative writing activity with a number of  four possible writing prompts.  A crossword puzzle is also included.  The answers for the puzzle are a mix of character names as well as vocabulary words that you were exposed to in the course of the movie.

    Day 4: Write a letter to a veteran as well as two reading comprehension passages about a real World War I personalities.  The questions are free-response and encourage critical thinking and reading skills.
    Day 5: Worldview activity.  A parallel is drawn between two characters in the movie who experience conflict and two fictional children who experience conflict.

    We didn't do as much with this product as I'd hoped, because of our 3-week Christmas vacation.  That said, I was mostly impressed with the activities in the guide.  Since I have both elementary and middle school in my house, there are different activities to use with each set of kids:  Ben {middle schooler} and paper airplanes are a think of the past; Luke and Levi make them often.  But I was pleased to see the worldview component -- which I think is a really important component of middle school home education.  I actually wish there was more worldview suggestions for middle school (I might have to check out the high school version for that)!

    I think this is a great supplement to our classical history rotation or to a unit study approach to history. Zeezok has a number of guides that span topics and history and it would be great to incorporate some additional ones into our studies, since we like movies so much.

    Check out the Z-Guide Timeline on the left side of the page here.

    To see what other Crew members thought of the guides (for lots of other movies), head over to the Crew Blog.

    FCC:  In exchange for an honest opinion about this product and how it worked in our homeschool, I was given a free e-book of this product.

    Wednesday, January 4, 2012

    Sweet Memories

    When my parents visited recently, they brought me a box that I've been waiting a while for:  a box of my grandmother's dishes.

    These dishes give me sweet memories of holiday dinners and such at my grandparents' home.  Often there were enough aunts, uncles and cousins that we little cousins would get stuck at the end of the room and have to crawl under the table when we were excused!

    I have memories of my grandmother using a --ahem!-- bra for an impromptu Santa's beard one year.  I will die an old woman with that image burned into my head!  Lest you think she was a total nut, I have the utmost respect for her:  when in her 50s she went back to school and became a LPN and complete more trainig (probably when she was in her 60s) to become an LPN who could administer medication.  She worked until she died at age 71.

    Until a week before my parents arrived I was thinking:  I cannot wait to have them....but what am I going to do with them? I don't have a China cabinet {don't want one either} and my cupboards are already full of kitchen gadgets and foodstuffs. {not complaining at all -- I know I am blessed}.


    Then an idea popped into my head.  Why not just use them as daily dishes?  My own dishes have dwindled down to 8 plates, zero soup bowls, and some bread-and-butter plates.  I love the pattern but --alas!-- they've been discontinued from Pfaltzgraff for about a decade now.  I've looked online to see if I could buy plates of ebay, but it isn't worth the cost for me.

    Instead, I know God put it on my heart to just use the plates on a daily basis.  In just the week since I started using them, I'll be reminded of some memory and share it with the boys.  I smile as I wash the dishes. Now that she's been gone for 20 years, it just brings me joy to know that I can connect with her at this stage in my life:  boys on the cusp of teenager-hood, stretching their wings, wanting to see more, do more, and be more.  My grandmother was always an encouraging soul -- the kind to give unconditional love. 

    I think a daily reminder of that is good for me.
    {The Friendly Village}

    It's a great pattern for a New Englander, don't you think?  It sort of goes with my country kitchen decor, too. 

    What treasures have you been given from your family members?  How do you use them?

    Monday, January 2, 2012

    What I Did On My Christmas Vacation

    1.  Best decision ever {well, except for submitting to Jesus, saying "yes" to Dave's proposal, and having children}: Taking an extra week off for Christmas vacation.  It has been enjoyable and stress free.  All the shopping is done, the baking, and we took lots of time for fun stuff: games, movies, bowling, lunch with daddy, naps, The Muppet Show reruns.

    2.  I bought my hubby a Kindle Fire.  He needed a toy.  Daddies don't get toys enough!  The only bad part about it:  I couldn't tell him for almost 2 weeks.!  I hate keeping secrets from him.

    3.  Lesson learned:  only make Christmas cookies I do not like.  Otherwise, I'll be baking a replacement batch after having eaten the first batch.

    4.  I decided to use this three week vacation to {re}begin running.  I just do not have the same metabolism that I used to.  I'm back to using the British NHS Couch-to-5K podcasts and began at week three.  I've been consistently running three times a week each week on vacation!  Go Me! 

    5.  I've also taken the opportunity to use the 30 minutes of running as a training exercise for the boys.  They are to imagine that I'm not here and Ben is left "in charge" of the younger two.  I'm trying to discuss servant leadership with Ben  as he "babysits" his brothers.   Ben will be working on First Aid merit badge this winter, and I told Ben that when he accomplishes this, I'll be able to pay him {a little} to watch his brothers.

    Sunday, January 1, 2012

    Crew Review: REAL Homeschool Spanish



    I loved learning Spanish in high school.  I loved it when I got to the point that I was thinking in Spanish and not just trying to make literal translations from English into Spanish.

    Ben has decided that Spanish is the language he wants to learn, so I was very happy to take a few weeks to work through this product.

    For my review, I received the downloadable product.  WOW, was I overwhelmed a bit when I saw all that is in the file:

    1. Book
    2. Activity Book
    3. Daily Curriculum Guide
    4. Audio files
    5. and The Answer Guide 
    ...and then there is the free links for cultural information on their website! Phew!



    There are several price options.  For digital downloads, prices range $49.95 and $59.95.  I received the $59.95 package.  Hard copy packages are $89.95 and $99.95, both offering free shipping. Please visit the E-Store for all the pricing options.

    The idea behind REAL Spanish to incorporate the language into your daily routine.  Instead of looking at a textbook and focusing on reading, writing, and comprehending Spanish, this program is founded upon speaking the language.  It is meant for parents who are learning the language along side their children.  And it is specifically written for homeschooling families.  {A high school supplement is forthcoming.}

    You can view a sample here or a PDF sample here.



    Pros:
    • Lots of resources.  I think the author of this program has nearly all learning styles incorporated into the basics of this program. Do you have a more active learner?  Use puppets! (or stuffed animals in our case).  The audio, the activity book (with lots of worksheets), or just the social aspect of using the language between family members.  This isn't just a workbook program. 
    • I love emphasis on speaking the language between family members. This program reinforces the values of family and relationship that we're working on passing along to our kids.  It works really well with a variety of ages!

     Cons:
    • The amount of information might be a bit overwhelming if you are accustomed to sequential lessons.  I wished the daily curriculum guide (which is included in the more expensive of the download and print sets) was more integrated into the rest of the resources.  BUT for those who don't need a curriculum guide, and just need the meat of the program, it is great that you don't have to purchase it!  Obviously, this is an area of personal preference.
    • The cultural links are great...I just wish there were more (some of the subjects have no entries yet).
    As you can see, I don't think there are too many "cons."  And like I said above, if you are a linear, sequential thinker who likes lessons that are step-wise and laid out for you, this program will challenge you to think beyond your comfort zone which isn't a bad thing!


    To see what others thought of the program, I'd encourage you to hop over to The Old Schoolhouse Crew page.

    adios!

    FCC Statement: In exchange for my honest opinion on this program, I was given an e-book copy of the materials for my own use.  No other compensation was received.