Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Review: Abraham's Journey

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As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I recently had the opportunity to receive and read a new children's book called Abraham's Journey: A Celebration of the American Dream. This short time-travel story was written by Kathleen Basmadjian, PhD and Robert K. Basmadjian Jr. They have built a very informational website called Inspiring the American Dream.


Can you judge a book by it's cover? Apparently so! The girls were very intrigued by the cover of this book, and begged to read it immediately!
 
When I received this book, I read it first before handing it over to the girls. This is my typical procedure for materials that I am unfamiliar with. 
 
This book is short, and easily read in one sitting. I must be honest here, and admit that as I first read through the book, my initial reaction was that I didn't care much for the feel of it. It is set in  modern times, and features time travel back through American history to meet great Americans. The plot is centered around a young man, Abraham, and the lessons he learns about American greatness through the people he meets. The purpose is to inspire young Americans with the vision that in this great country of ours, anything is possible, as long as you apply the virtues that are extolled in this book. While it's a great plot - one that I wholeheartedly agree with, I guess I was just taken aback with some of the "modernness" of the story, including a young boy who owns his own smart phone, despite his family's financial hardship. That might seem picky, but it stood out to me right away.
 
On the other hand, it might be a theme that young people today can more easily relate to? Time travel through their smart phone?  hmmm.....
 
So I decided to hand it over to my 6th grader and see what she thought! There is nothing controversial in the book, and there are no questionable themes or elements. I had no qualms about giving it to the 2nd grader either. 
 
I didn't share any of my thoughts, just let them read it for themselves, and then asked what they thought. My 6th grader decided to write a book review for me, so I will just include here what she wrote, in her own words:
 
Abraham's Journey is a fictional book. The main character, Abraham, lives during the Great Recession when many people lost their jobs. His parents said there would be no Christmas presents. He was determined to find a way to save Christmas. Abraham traveled into the cyber world and met Martin Luther King Jr., Amelia Earhart, and others. They showed him his talent, and taught him perseverance and other important lessons.
 
My favorite part of the book was that even though Abraham found he had a natural talent for painting, it took hard work, perseverance, and an innovative idea for him to succeed.
 
I would recommend this book to those who want to know a way to achieve their dreams!
 
 
Ok then! Perhaps I am 'showing my age' just a bit? After one read through, my 11 year old definitely got the message that the authors were trying to promote, without any prompting from me! I was surprised and impressed that she was able to draw those conclusions after reading through the book, and I think it shows the signs of well planned material on the part of the authors.
 
The only comment that was made by the children regarded the time travel and the fact that it had people from different eras meeting up on the same page. In real life, people like Mark Zuckerberg and Amelia Earhart lived in different eras, but in the book, they visited together with young Abraham. For a fictional book, it's fine, because it added to the mystique of the time travel. But it's worth mentioning, only because two of my children independently pointed it out to me. One found it annoying, and the other found it funny.
 
One thing I really appreciated in the book was the emphasis on charitable giving at the end, once Abraham realizes his goal of providing for his family.
 
Abraham's Journey is currently available for purchase through the Inspiring the American Dream website for $14.95. If purchased soon, the website is offering a personalized copy signed by the authors. There also is a Kindle edition that sells for $9.95.
 
Although the age recommendation for this book is 7-12, I will say that I think the book is good for all ages of children. I think the 9-12 year old group will find it most intriguing, but the message it contains is an important one for young children on up through high school students. Reading it through with your children opens up a lot of discussion opportunities, and a chance to teach your economic values to your children.
 
Would you like to read some other book reviews?  Click on the box below to see what the rest of the Crew thinks! 
 

 

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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book "Abraham's Journey" through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own, or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC regulations.

Praying Around the World


Are you looking to learn a little bit more Geography? How about a daily email delivered to your inbox, listing a country of the world, a few facts about it....and an opportunity to pray for the people in that country to be reached with the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Brother Robbie Morrison, one of our all time favorite preachers, is the director of All Points Baptist Mission - He has come up with a plan to "pray around the world" and started near the beginning of this year, going through all the countries of the world in alphabetical order.

What has really intrigued me is learning about the countries I have never heard of before! Also, it is heartbreaking to hear of so many countries with so few missionaries reaching them!

Today's country was a new one for me - Christmas Island.

From today's prayer post: "Christmas Island, named so because it was discovered on Christmas Day, is home to just over 2100 people. It is a territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean. It is home to mostly people seeking asylum from other countries like China. The official language is English but the demographic make up is 70% Chinese, 20% European and 10% Malay. The religions of the island is Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. I could find no Independent Baptist Missionaries on the island."

The girls and I have really enjoyed getting Brother Robbie's daily posts, and we have learned about several new countries in the process. It has definitely touched our hearts more for missions.

If you would like to read some of the past posts, or sign up for the daily prayer mailing list, click here.  Your heart will be stirred as you think of and pray for the many souls represented by each one of these daily prayer posts!

 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review: Time 4 Learning


I recently had the opportunity to review an online curriculum source called "Time 4 Learning" for one month, with Melissa and Kelly.

Time 4 Learning is an integrated online course, designed for Preschool through 8th grade. When you sign your children up, you are given the option to place them at a lower elementary level, or an upper elementary level, which gives them access to several grade levels at once - typically their current grade level, as well as the one above and below it.  This ends up being helpful, as children typically have stronger and weaker subjects, and the varying levels allows them to work to their potential.

To see an overview of the curriculum, and what is offered at each grade level, click here.  While the focus of the curriculum is primarily on math and language arts, there is extra attention given to science and social studies lessons in the elementary grades. While I did not actually review the preschool materials, I did notice that there was a lot of extra lessons that concentrated on reading and phonics for that level.

One thing I saw that I really liked is that the Language Arts skill sheets are aligned with the science and social studies lessons, so that you as a teacher can make sure your student is reinforcing their concepts multiple times throughout their day.

There is also a "playground" with lots of fun games, that the students can play once they have completed a certain amount of time studying actual lessons.

There is no shortage of activities and "stuff to do" on this website. I could see how a student could easily spend hours on it. In fact, the site itself boasts over 1000+ multi-media activities for each grade level!

In the parent information, it says that this website could be used as a complete curriculum. I have to say I would disagree. I think it is more of a supplemental curriculum, or I also think it would be great for an "over the summer" activity for those homeschool families that take time off over the summer. It would even be great for traditionally schooled students to take advantage of over the summer to keep their skills sharp!  I just am not convinced that there is enough material here for our family personally to use it as a complete curriculum in and of itself. Yes, there is a lot of 'activity' but I feel that there is not enough repetition and mastery, and that the lessons give a good surface overview, but do not delve deeply enough into the subject matter.

That being said, since the website claims that all the lessons are aligned with state requirements, I focused on using the science and social studies lessons with Kelly, to prepare her for her upcoming standardized testing. I always feel like the kids need an extra boost in those areas, and I think the lessons we covered did well in keying in on the particular wording that she will find on the standardized tests.

As you use the curriculum, you will find it is very colorful and animated.  Here is a screen shot of an introduction to a science lesson:


My kids thought the animated children on the lessons looked a bit goofy. They didn't care much for that. I think they are used to a little more serious tone to most of their work, so they ended up treating this curriculum more like a game than serious study, which made it difficult to follow through on getting them to complete lessons.

As we went through the lessons, there was quite a lot of interaction for the student, and one thing I really liked was that every question had instant feedback telling the student whether their answer was correct.

Another thing I found really helpful is that each child has their own log in and password. Parents can also log in separately, and be able to see progress reports on each child. The progress reports for parents are very thorough, and cover in great detail what activities and lessons the student completed, as well as how they did on those.

So what does it cost?  A paid membership to the Time 4 Learning website includes a low monthly price for the first student, as well as a discounted price for each additional student from the same family.  You can have multiple students signed up under your one account, and be able to check up on all their work. As a parent/teacher, you can also create assignments for them, and there is even an option that I found where you can print out worksheets.

There is a 100% satisfaction guarantee, as well as a 14 day money back guarantee. There is no contract, and you can sign up for only one month, paying month to month. You do not have to sign up for an entire school year. With the 14 day money back guarantee, you can essentially "try the program out for free", as long as you decide whether you like it and want to continue or cancel within those first two weeks.

Will I continue my membership?  The short answer is that, while I enjoyed trying this out, I will not continue the membership beyond the one month trial for this review. I love that this program has so much to offer, and I think my kids would use it every so often when they feel like sitting around playing games on the computer, but we just don't have a need for it. I would only be using it as a supplement or extra practice, and the price is too steep for an 'extra' when there is so much free material available to use instead.

Also, unfortunately, the kids were not overly impressed with the program. Melissa only logged in once, and had quite a few issues finding her way around for some reason, and gave up on it. She could not be convinced to just "try it out again" although she did enjoy sitting with Kelly and watching some of the lessons Kelly completed. Kelly liked the idea of the site more than the actual sitting and doing. Some of the lessons just did not seem to captivate her attention, and I found myself sitting with her and going over the lessons with her, rather than her working independently on it the way it was intended to be. She also got frustrated with what seemed to be a technical quirk every time she logged on. Several times she would click the wrong thing and have to start over at the beginning of the lesson. Also, the program did not seem to run smoothly from lesson to quiz. Kelly only used it about twice a week, and it seems like all but one of those times had some sort of tech issue - either the lesson froze, she lost her work, or the worst insult - she completed a lesson (a prerequisite to playing on the virtual 'playground') and when she went to enter the playground, the program told her that she could not because she hadn't completed a lesson yet. UGH! She was very frustrated!

I have no way of knowing whether those issues were unique to my computer, or are problems with the program itself, but I do know that the girls quickly lost interest in the program, and did not find it as interesting as I thought they would initially.

I think this program would be great for a parent of a struggling learner, or as a supplement to an already existing solid curriculum. I think there is plenty of material there to justify becoming a member, although most families will probably find the cost somewhat prohibitive if they will only be using the program for supplemental purposes.

If you would like to check out Time 4 Learning and see a live demo,  you can click this link.

Thank you, Time 4 Learning, for giving me the opportunity to investigate your program!!
 
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own, and none of this review was written by Time4Learning or any of it's affiliates. I was given a one month free subscription to the Time4Learning website, for the purpose of writing this review. I was also monetarily compensated for my review. I was asked to give a candid opinion and was not required to write a positive review. To find out how to write a review post for Time4Learning, click here.


Easy St. Paddy's Day Gift




Recently I found a really neat little craft/gift that we could put together for St. Patrick's Day. I was pretty excited about actually finding and completing a project well before the actual date, so I decided to share it here in case someone else would be looking for a cute and quick project.

First of all, we gathered a few supplies: A large bag of Skittles, a quart sized canning jar with a lid, and a bag of gold foil covered chocolate coins.


Who doesn't love Skittles?


Then I had my little helper sort all the colors into separate piles, to make our job easier.

Around here, I typically have to bribe the help, so I let her eat the broken ones!
We still ended up with five nice size piles though!


Next, we layered the gold coins in the bottom of the jar, and shook them around so they would settle in nicely.


Lastly, we carefully dropped an equal amount of each color into the jar, in layers, to resemble a rainbow.  And there you have it..... a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow - all contained in a jar!


Now go tie a pretty green ribbon around it and brighten someone's St. Patrick's Day!


(taken from the website of the Bible Baptist Church of Cork)
St Patrick (A.D. 389 - 465) was the son of a church minister and the grandson of a pastor. He was born in Scotland near a village called Bannavem Tabernia, which is now called Dumbarton.
He was carried away from Scotland to Belfast when he was sixteen years old by a band of marauding Picts (or Celts). For six years as a slave he was a shepherd minding sheep on hillsides. It was on these lonely hillsides that he turned to God, it was here that he remembered the Bible words of salvation that he had had previously heard from his youth but had neglected. As a slave he repented of his sinful life and called upon the Lord Jesus Christ to save him. In his Confessions he wrote,
“At 16 ... in a strange land the Lord opened my unbelieving eyes and I was converted.”
It was in Ireland Patrick found God and was saved from the punishment of hell to receive a new eternal life in Christ whom he dearly loved and gave his life to tell others with obedience and zeal that they would be saved also.
He escaped from Ireland and sailed to England where he again was in captivity as slave for a while.
Upon receiving a commission (in a vision) to evangelise Ireland Patrick laboured in Ireland for about fifty three years turning thousands from their pagan religion, which was predominantly druidism, to Christ. Patrick speaks of Baptising thousands of grown men and is credited for starting hundreds of local assemblies.
Patrick's only reason for coming to Ireland was to preach the Gospel to its lost people.
"I testify in truth and in joy of heart before God and His holy angels that I never had any reason except the Gospel and its promises why I should ever return to the people from whom once before I barely escaped."
Patrick, a meek and lowly man with a humble and contrite heart, knew the Lord Jesus and truly believed the Bible. Because of this simple faith in Gods plan of salvation, Patrick is now in heaven, saved for all eternity. The message he once preached is still as new today as it was then in his day.
This message was the gospel of Salvation, which is in Jesus Christ.



Monday, February 25, 2013

Review: College Common Sense

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With two high schoolers in my homeschool, this review was very timely!! 
 
 
I would like to tell you about the "Going To College and Paying For It Online Video and Workbook" which is a program published by College Common Sense. Through the Schoolhouse Review Crew I had the privilege to receive access to the online version of the program, and be able to go through it with my family.

 
Denise Ames is a Financial Aid Consultant who has 10 years in the industry, helping students get through the college financial aid process. I have never met her, but after reading through all the materials on her website, she seems very passionate about helping families, especially homeschoolers, to navigate the college process and be able to get into college with the least amount of expense possible. You definitely get the sense that she cares.
 
The website has several different options available. Not only does Denise conduct free parent workshops near her home in Texas, but she also has free videos on Youtube, free weekly email lesson plans and a newsletter that you can sign up for, as well as a ton of good, helpful information on her website. While her program has assignments and information geared for all school ages (K-12), I feel that high school students would most benefit from it. I think parents of younger children should definitely be familiar with the topics and information presented, though.
 
The product I was given to review is available for purchase on the website. I received the online version, which normally sells for $25 for one year's worth of access. There is also an option of buying the DVD version with a workbook, which is $55, including shipping.
 
The online version comes with the workbook pages included as pdf files, so you can download and print it yourself.
 
 
 
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The approach of this program is that the earlier that parents start preparing for and navigating the college process, the easier it will be. In the program, she advocates starting with your elementary aged children and includes some simple activities that they can complete. Of course, the main focus is geared towards high schoolers generally though, particularly juniors and seniors. There is a lot of activities for them, including setting up a scholarship binder, and filling out FAFSA paperwork.

I have been receiving at least a month's worth of free lessons in addition to the paid version of the videos and worksheets. I think they are very informative. They tend to be a bit wordy, and if you have a high schooler who wants to read through something quickly and get to the 'meat' of the assignment, they probably will find it a bit boring.

I also think it's a stretch to use for younger children. I have two high schoolers to review this with, and I'm glad to have the opportunity to go through it with them, but I really didn't even involve my middle school/elementary school age children, because it really was just too much information for them at this time.

That being said, I think it's wise to homeschool with the big picture in view, even though probably college prep is not on most elementary/middle school homeschool agendas. As a parent it's wise to start familiarizing yourself with the process, so you can see what direction you want to go in, as you plan out your curriculums with your younger children.
 
Also, as Denise pointed out, many scholarships are based on activities, service, and recognition of the child's 'growing up years' and not just what they did in their Senior Year. She even told about one scholarship that children as young as age 6 can apply for, to start saving up for their college expenses. So in that sense, I think it is good for the parent to be familiar and aware of this information.
 
Personally, in our family, we started this college application and scholarship process early, because of the timeline of the course of study that Heather was applying for. Since the Physician Assistant programs all have early deadlines for applying, we actually began looking into visiting the colleges and filling out paperwork during her Junior year - last year. I was pretty much in the dark and didn't have a navigator to get us through the process, but I do like 'investigating' so I spent a lot of time perusing college websites, asking questions, and reading everything I could get my hands on about the college application process and scholarships, so I could best guide Heather through it.
 
I found that most of the information on the College Common Sense videos was not new to me, because it is things that I learned 'on my own' as I spent time reading over the past year. I wish I would have had it a year ago! It probably would have cut my time in half. That being said, there is enough information on here, between the videos, worksheets, and free materials, that I think it is a good value and worthy investment for a parent who feels very overwhelmed by the process, or is navigating it with their firstborn, for the very first time.
 
The six video/worksheets sets on the paid subscription side of the website cover the following topics:
  1. The Big Picture (A great overview with suggested timelines)
  2. How Financial Aid Works (A very good explanation of different types of aid available, the difference between grants and loans, etc.)
  3. All About the Free Money (scholarship info)
  4. The System That Works (practical organization)
  5. You In the Process (emphasizes 'ownership' on the part of the student)
  6. Pulling It All Together (motivational!)
 
I had my two high schoolers watch the videos, and one point they brought up is that the videos are too low key. The screen switches back and forth between printed screen shots, and the instructor giving a monologue lesson. For a generation that is used to quick graphics and modern media, they found it difficult to watch.
 
The format of the videos is a monologue, and each one lasts about 20 minutes. There are six video lessons. Also, the worksheets are very plain Word documents. They give the information, and list an assignment for the student to do concerning it. There are really no graphics, illustrations, or attention grabbers. If you have a motivated student who doesn't care about those things, then they should be fine with it, but if you have a reluctant student you might find it difficult to get them interested in this program.
 
I think we will definitely use a variation of her scholarship binder with Laura. It's a great idea, and I could see how being that organized would have really helped Heather with her scholarship applications. That is probably the best idea we walked away from this program with. Other than that, while this program wasn't a huge help here in our family, I'm sure it would be a help to first time college seekers, or those who find the process very overwhelming, especially for the relatively low cost of the program.
 
Here is a sample of one of Denise's Youtube videos:
 
 
If you would like to read what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of College Common Sense, please click the banner below:
 
 
 
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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the College Common Sense online videos and worksheets through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own, or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC regulations.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Review: A+ Interactive Math

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This past month, Kelly has been helping me review A+ Interactive Math from A+ TutorSoft, Inc. as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Even though Kelly is currently in 2nd grade, she is flying through her math book and seems almost bored with it, so I took the opportunity to give her a little extra challenge by taking on this review at the third grade level. I didn't know how she would do, but I assumed there would be enough review and overlap at the beginning of the program that she could at least get started on it, and then continue through the summer to keep her skills sharp for when she actually does enter third grade!



I was very pleased with the simple foundation that this program gave. There was plenty of review and explanation in Lesson One - Basic Number Sense, that I had no worries that it would be over Kelly's head. In fact, since it was rather boring for her, we ended up skipping to the next lesson, which was addition.

Much of the material that was covered in the 12 worksheets of the Addition unit was not new to Kelly, but it was challenging because some of the concepts were presented a little differently than how her current curriculum presents it. There were some different terms used that she was unfamiliar with, so it gave me a good chance to really test out this program to see how well she would grasp a new concept with it. Though it did take a little help and coaching, she was easily able to learn the new concept, and ended up doing very well on her review quiz at the end of the lesson.

For this review, I chose to receive the CD edition of the program, so that we could install it on the computer. The company also offers an online interactive edition. While I am the type of person who enjoys holding the hard copy in my hand, I found out that the online edition had one advantage over the CD edition that we used, in that the interactive online edition automatically tracks the student's progress and grades. On the CD edition that is installed on our computer, if I want to be able to access or print out the student progress reports, I must manually enter the grades or scores.

Typically, I don't mind manually recording grades, because I like to have that level of involvement in the girls' work, but in this case, because Kelly ended up really enjoying this and taking off with it, it would have been nice to be able to track her a little easier, by having it done for me automatically. I solved the dilemma by showing her how to print off the worksheets, the certificates of completion, or anything that she completed, and showing it to me.

When I say that she took off with it, I mean she literally would jump on the computer and complete a lesson as soon as she was done with her regularly assigned worksheets. She enjoys it that much!

One thing that really stands out about this software is that it is very kid friendly and easy to navigate. While there are a lot of buttons, tabs, and options that make it appear intimidating at first, once you start using it, it really is rather simple. Like I mentioned, after only one or two lessons, Kelly was able to completely navigate the program on her own, and she is only 7!

Another big plus to this program is the capability to have multiple children signed in to use it. Each can log in under their own name, and pick up where they left off at their last lesson. Then the parent can log in under the admin panel, and see everyone's progress. I think that would be very helpful if you were schooling multiple children that were close in age or ability, and could allow them to share the program.

The lessons themselves are not long. In fact, Kelly was able to complete a lesson and interactive worksheet typically in 15 minutes or less. She would then print out the worksheet and complete that. The corresponding worksheets are about 10-12 questions long, and actually are pretty much a repeat of the questions the student already completed on the computer. I think having the extra worksheets/extra practice would be helpful if the student needed some extra practice or needed to really nail down the concept.

I most appreciate not only how easy the software is to navigate, but how enjoyable it is for the student. I knew when Kelly started asking everyday if she could do her "A+ Math" that it was a winner. Although we already are working through an established math curriculum, I thought this was a great supplement for extra practice.

Although I have only reviewed the third grade level, I do not think the software is enough for a complete curriculum. I would use it as a supplement, for "fun" practice, or for extra help with a student that is struggling in math. While the scope of material covered is definitely very thorough, I just don't think there is enough repetition or practice problems to make this a sole source of math for an entire school year.

I am very glad that we were able to review A+ Interactive Math, and I know Kelly will enjoy going through the rest of the lessons on her way to third grade!

Interested in purchasing?? The 3rd grade complete CD lists for $124.99 on the A+ Tutorsoft, Inc website.  The interactive online edition is a little bit cheaper, at $99.99. The product catalog lists curriculums for grades 1-6, and also a pre-algebra course, and an Algebra course, which could be used in the junior high level.

Currently, A+ Tutorsoft, Inc is running a special of 50% off if the purchase is made between now and the end of March. This is really an incredible deal, and the program is MOST DEFINITELY worth that price! To get that discount, use the code SPOFFER50 when ordering.


To read the reviews of other Schoolhouse Review Crew members and investigate some of the other grade levels, click on the banner below:


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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the A+ Interactive Math 3rd grade CD through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own, or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC regulations.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A President's Day Trip Down Memory Lane - Ronald Reagan

Looking back on my childhood, I first remember becoming aware of the "bigger picture" of our nation and it's president during the presidential election of 1980. I was in 2nd grade - the age that Kelly is now. The presidential election was discussed at school and they had a "mock election". I had no idea what the difference was between a Republican and a Democrat at that time, but remember a statement that was made by a teacher that made me think that Jimmy Carter must be the ideal choice to vote for.

As we all know, Reagan won that election, and as I "grew up" with Ronald Reagan as my president, from about age 7 to age 15, I became much more aware of the issues and formed some very deep opinions on most of them, as a teenager will. I clearly remember the day when an assassination attempt was made and Reagan was shot at, and I remember being so worried when he was in the hospital.

Of course, hindsight is always 20/20 and we can now look back and see what a smart man, great leader, and eloquent president Ronald Reagan really was. At the time, he was very much underappreciated, I think. But especially now, looking at the depths that the leadership of this country has stooped to, it makes me long for those days of President Reagan, when Christian and American values were held in high esteem in our society.

Recently my husband sent me this video collage, and really...just hearing Reagan's soothing voice took me back to a place in my youth. Young people of today find it hard to believe that not that long ago, Christian values and virtues were extolled at the highest level in this land. I think this video should be shared and citizens should be reminded of what made this beloved nation great.

As far as I'm concerned, Ronald Reagan stands out as one of the most eloquent speakers and strongest leaders in my lifetime. By far, I think he was one of the best presidents our nation has had.

Enjoy!

A Bookworm

 
 
 
Melissa is studying poetry and creative writing.  She is also a bookworm. So she combined the two....and came up with this poem....which is very fitting because often when she has her nose buried in a book, she doesn't even hear us talking to her!
 
 
 
If you talk to a bookworm
He will not even squirm.
And if he has his nose in a book
He will not even look!
 


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Review: Classical Academic Press Song School Spanish

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My very first review with The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew was the Song School Spanish textbook, CD, and teacher's edition book, from Classical Academic Press.

I waited with great anticipation for my first set of books to review. I was not disappointed!

Since we already have a high schooler in the house studying Spanish, I thought it would be a neat idea to bring in some elementary Spanish instruction for my younger kids. Not only would they be able to communicate a little bit with their older sister, but we would also have some in-house 'tutoring' if we needed it, for pronunciation or anything else we might get stuck on.

This was the first elementary level foreign language program I have ever used, or even looked at in depth. 

For this review we received the following items:

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The Teacher Edition

 

A softcover book teacher's edition that reproduces the student workbook pages but has the answers filled in, as well as teacher notes and teaching tips. It also has a sample weekly schedule, and a number of reproducible extra worksheets in the back, that coincide with each lesson.





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A softcover student workbook. It has 173 pages, that includes 30 lessons plus a review lesson. Each lesson is about 5 pages long and includes vocabulary words, activities, and writing.





There is a CD included with the student workbook. It came in a small clear holder attached to the inside back cover of the book. The CD has about 40 songs and chants, that coincide with the weekly lessons.

These can be purchased on the Classical Academic Press Website: The student book sells for $24.95 and the teacher's edition also sells for $24.95.  The CD is included with the student book, but can also be purchased separately for  $12.95.  Also available is a card matching game called Spanish Amigo Match for $26.95.  The company sells a nice bundle for $66.95 that includes both the teacher and student book, as well as the Matching Cards game.

Spanish Amigo Match

I read that this program was geared towards K-3rd grade. Since I have a very willing 2nd grader who is interested in learning Spanish, I thought this would be a perfect fit for her! I was right. She really enjoyed the activities, the worksheets, the songs....pretty much everything about this program!

I tried to include some of the older children in the lessons, but they didn't care for it as much. It seemed too young for them, which was fine, because it is a very good fit for the age it was intended to be used for!

We worked at a pace of one lesson per week, and will continue working through the rest of the student book through the end of the year. By the time we are done, Kelly will have a beginner's vocabulary of about 100 words, and be able to say small phrases in Spanish, as well as be able to ask and answer simple questions or commands.

When we first put the song CD in, we all laughed because the songs and singers are....shall we say, very exuberant! The funny thing was....that as we played it over and over, all of us became completely hooked on the songs, and I even find myself continuing to sing them at random times! So even though I was a skeptic at first about the songs/chants, I found that they really are quite effective, and it is always good to hear pronunciation for new words in another language from a native speaker.

Another perk of this curriculum that we enjoy is the website that the company has, with games for the kids to play for extra vocabulary practice.  Headventure Land has a game for this particular Spanish program called "Flash Dash". Both girls really enjoyed playing this game, reviewing their vocabulary words. In fact, they really pushed to get through the first four lessons so they would get a better score on the games. (The first level covers lessons 1-4).


The Headventure Land website also includes some extra coloring page printables that we can use to make the lesson stretch the entire week, and review the concepts on the days when we can't do as much together with the workbook.

There was so much to like about this program. So much is done right! If I could change one thing, it would be to make the tracing exercises writing (or copying) exercises instead. Kelly doesn't care much for tracing printed letters anymore. I would imagine that would be very helpful for a younger student using this workbook though.

I learned something new when reading over the teacher notes for this workbook, before starting it with the girls. This program is based on a language learning system called "Code Switching". What this means is that the student learns the language by switching words in mid-sentence, and substituting the foreign words for the English word they already know. They may say most of their sentence in English, and then substitute a few choice vocabulary words into the sentence at the appropriate places. I found this very interesting. I think it is a very gentle way to ease into learning a language, and I also think the vocabulary words "stick" better in our mind, because we are actually using them the way they were intended, as opposed to just memorizing lists of vocabulary words and confusing them when trying to remember them. 

As you can probably surmise, I am very pleased that we had the opportunity to start Song School Spanish, and I am looking forward to finishing the rest of the program, and giving Kelly a little head start in learning Spanish. I am pleased that she is enjoying learning Spanish! I think the methods in this program will help what she is learning stay with her over the years, until she is ready for a more in-depth study of the language!

If you would like to read some other reviews of this program put out by the Schoolhouse Review Crew please click the banner below!


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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Song School Spanish through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own, or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC regulations.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Favorites




"Beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God, and everyone that
loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God,
for God is love." I John 4:7-8





We picked a few fun things to do for Valentine's Day. I love that there is a day set aside to purposely take time to show those in your life how much you care. My goal is to set time aside every day to show my love, but it's fun to have a special day to do so!



My youngest asked if people had today off from work and school because it was a holiday! I found that amusing.

We found some really neat ideas on Pinterest, and I have tried to link up to them here, to give credit where credit is due!

For breakfast, we made some heart shaped eggs in a piece of toast!


I also tried my hand at some heart shaped cinnamon rolls. On the link, you will see the blog where I got this idea from. She made dough and rolled it out, etc. Like she said on her blog, it turned into quite the production. Trying to get school going in the mornings here doesn't leave me a lot of time for fancy breakfasts, so I decided to "cheat" and buy a roll of pre-made cinnamon rolls. I know the taste is inferior to homemade, but I was going after the "look" this time around, so I compromised.

I ended up unrolling the pre-made rolls and then re-rolling them into the heart shapes that are seen on this blog. They came out pretty cute, and I was pleased that the workload really didn't add any stress at all to the morning!


For the girls, I printed out some fun Valentine's Princess Printables that I found....



We found this super cute cut out Valentine that the girls made for their grandparents:


The girls made giant Hershey Kisses rice Krispy treats and even tucked a small unwrapped Hershey kiss surprise into the middle of them, using the paper wrapper to make them look more authentic when they wrapped them up in foil.


Ever since I pinned the Borax Crystal Hearts on my Pinterest board, Melissa has been asking to try making these.  I finally went to the one store in the area that still sells Borax to buy it for this project.



 We made some red and white hearts, and they are very pretty! The girls were pretty fascinated by the crystals. I think I see more Borax crystal growing projects in our future. These looked good enough to eat, and we had to warn grandpa that they were not edible! (although that might have been both funny and interesting.....never mind)



 

Growing the crystals overnight!






 All in all, a pretty fun time.... There were so many projects to choose from but I think these ones were fun and meaningful and not too much work! The perfect combination!










Valentine's Day Resources

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The View From Our Place

Winter Wonderland

Recently we had a snowy day that was coupled with a very unique foggy mist that was rising from the ground, due to the variance in temperatures.

Laura had been outside doing something, and came running in for the camera. She has a good eye for interesting pictures, and here's what she saw.....



Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Subject I Enjoy Teaching Most Is......

....LIFE!

When I decided to participate in this blog cruise, I thought long and hard about what I could write about. My favorite subject to teach.....hmmmm.

Would I write about teaching my children how to read? I have had the privilege to teach all 4 girls how to read, and they are all voracious readers now. It pleases me so much that they enjoy reading. I love the thrill in their young eyes when the letters and words start coming together and making sense to them. Surely that has to be my favorite subject!!

But no, wait....there is also history! History is my favorite subject to learn, personally, so it must be my favorite to teach also, right? I love learning from history and absorbing the lessons from the lives of others. Even now, when meeting new people, it fascinates me to hear their 'stories'. When I have an opportunity to read for leisure, my first choice is always a historical book, either biographies, historical fiction, or war stories. I love soaking in military history. There are so many interesting ways to teach and learn history - through books, movies, talking to people who lived through it, and visiting places where historical events took place! One of my favorite family trips was to Gettysburg where we toured the battlefield.

Gettysburg battlefield


I finally came to the conclusion that my favorite subject to teach just had to be life. What I mean by that is those odd times that randomly come up when you are least expecting it, and you have a deep conversation that makes you shake your head and wonder "where did that come from?"  Those moments when your child has a deep question about life, and loves you and trusts you enough to come to you and share their thoughts. Those have to be the moments that I treasure most as a mom.

Over the years, I have learned to stop and take the time to listen to those heartfelt moments of questions or sharing from my children. When they were younger, often I was so caught up in life - making sure the food was ready, the clothes were clean, the chores were done, etc. that I confess that I missed out on some of these moments. God has slowed me down quite a bit, and helped to focus my attention on what is really important.... He has helped me, as a mom, to find that "one thing that is needful" and be more of a Mary, not so much a Martha, in my service. I have been able to learn a little, and see those precious moments for what they really are....molding and teaching a life and bestowing my values into the hearts of my children.

As my children grow up, I am enjoying more and more the times when we just sit and talk, allowing me to get a glimpse into their heart and mind. I enjoy watching my husband share ministry with the girls, and pouring his heart for others into our children. I have watched the children embrace those values and that servant attitude and really develop some of their own personal convictions because of it. Some of my favorite recent memories are the times when the two teenagers in the family want to stay up late just to chat with mom and dad on the couch. In the uninterrupted quiet at night, we have had the privilege to share some pretty deep and heartfelt conversations about life, and about how God has worked, and what our perspective is on many things - anything from current events to a verse they memorized to what the future may hold.

I truly believe God has put a great responsibility on parents to reach their child's heart. Most parents can be a good provider. They can work hard and make sure there is food on the table, clothes, a warm house, and even some of the latest toys and hobbies. But it takes  a special parent to reach the heart, and see that the emotional needs are met as well. I want to be that parent. One way to do that is to look for those little moments and take the opportunities to have meaningful conversations with the children. Ask them what they think about things, and most importantly, really listen with your whole heart to their answers. Look for ways you can give advice, share your heart, and ask God to give you wisdom to reach their heart.

When you have special moments with the Lord in your devotions, or God speaks to you through a message, or God answers a prayer, be sure to share those experiences with your children. Rehearse in their ears all the good things God has done for you, to whet the appetite of your children and have them desire a walk with God that is even better than yours! Your children will be excited about the things that you are excited about. Take advantage of that by pouring your heart into them and preparing them for life!

Deuteronomy 4:9 "Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons;"

Deuteronomy 6:7 "And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."
 
 
 
This post is linked to the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog Cruise