Saturday, February 27, 2016

It's Been a LONG Time ...

It seems it's been about 4 years since I've blogged.  A LOT has happened then, but it definitely is time for me to get back to documenting and writing.  I've missed it.  I've missed y'all.

So now my kiddos are 12, 10, and about to be 7! What?! When did that happen? Time flies. But we are still on the homeschooling journey.  We are involved with a local homeschool group that we LOVE and we do all types of events and field trips together.  It truly has been amazing all we've done with them in the last year and a half or so.

  • horseback riding
  • grocery store tour
  • USPS tour
  • science lab classes
  • pool party
  • bird watching
  • STEM fests
  • Medi Vac helicopter tour
  • News Station Tour
  • Book Club
  • Oral Presentations
And that's just a drop in the bucket.  My children have loved all of it.  But we've also, in my hiatus from blogging, moved to a new home (same state, just different location), my husband had a SERIOUS health scare (but THANK GOD it all is better now), and have become even more involved in our church, community, and Homeschool Community.

So I figure it's time to get back to writing.  I plan on doing some 'private' reviews since I no longer am a part of the TOS Crew, but I hope you check out all my reviews then and now.

Have a HAPPY weekend!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sing A Song - A New TOS Review!! (Last one for 2012)

I love to sing.  It was what I was going to do in college as my minor until a myriad of other things happened, but singing has been a part of me and my life for a very long time.  When I was pregnant with my two girls I was a part of the worship team at church and it seems they've been singing since then.

The Product:
With the Crew we've had the opportunity to use and explore many products.  Most are parts of your main curriculum.  But every once in a while we've gotten some real gems.  The Vocal Coach is just one gem.  They have a collection of products to use to teach singing at home.  Both Chris and Carole Beatty have been teaching people to sing for over 40 years offering vocal seminars and private vocal coaching.  The Crew had the pleasure of reviewing two of their products - Teaching Kids To Sing and Vocal Coach Singer. Since my children are all younger I was able to get Teaching Kids To Sing and it has been very impactful in our home.
Teaching Kids To Sing is a 2 DVD/1 CD set to teach children (ages 5 - 13) about the basics in singing.  What are the basics? Posture, breathing, tone, rhythm, diction, dynamics, vocal health, and warm ups are all included in these DVD lessons.  The DVD's teach children using a cast of other kids of varying ages along with Mr. and Mrs. Beatty who are leading the lessons, singing along, and playing the piano.
The CD has 26 tracks, 13 with vocals and 13 with just the accompaniment music. They include the songs from the DVD as well as many warm-up exercises that the children can practice again and again. You also receive a small piece of paper in the case that has the lyrics of the songs as well as the warm-ups.  This bundle set is valued at $44.99.

Our Experience:
My girls have really enjoyed their 'music lessons' since we've received this product.  The songs are based on Christian ideas and concepts which my children thought was pretty awesome - so did I. Each of the DVD's are about 45 minutes in length and split the teaching lessons between the two DVD's.  The first one includes lessons on posture, breathing and tone as well as warm-ups.  The second DVD teaches rhythm, diction, and dynamics, as well as some information on keeping your vocal chords healthy, and warm ups. There aren't specific lessons on how to use this program in the bundle, but you will find ideas on how to  incorporate the lessons in your week on their homeschool page.
As soon as I told them the DVD's had arrived they wanted to stop EVERYTHING and go watch and listen.  I was able to hold them off until they had finished their 'regular' work for the day.  Once we started the DVD's they didn't want to stop so we pretty much listened to the whole DVD.  The rest of that week we focused a lot on what we had learned, particularly posture and keeping ourselves held up by a string, like they had learned.

My eldest daughter has been working on her posture a lot - she has a tendency to slump and lean.  When she heard Mr. Chris tell us we had to sit up straight so we could be able to breathe properly, it was like a light bulb went off.  She really loves to sing and you can find her singing or humming most of the day. ;)

Audrie also participated in the lessons and she enjoyed all the warm-ups.  I think that's because they sound so funny when you just say 'me ah me ah', etc.  The first few times she had trouble keeping a straight face and from laughing. She has enjoyed these lessons just as much and I've seen some improvement in her singing since watching the lessons.

We have been through both the DVD's and we continue to revisit the lessons throughout our weeks.  I know that I have noticed a lot of changes in their singing habits and it is all because of the lessons the Beatty's have put together in this DVD/CD bundle. They regularly ask for it to be music lesson time so I know that they are enjoying the lessons.  We've even made up some of our own 'warm-ups' to help get our voices warm and ready for the day. ;)

My Thoughts:
If you have a child or children who has an interest in singing this product would definitely be one I would recommend.  If your child is older you may also be interested in finding out more about Vocal Coach Singer.  You can learn more about this product as well as read the rest of the Crew reviews by clicking the banner below.


*** I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2011-2012 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for a thorough and honest review. Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of money for any of my reviews. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences with the products and services that I receive.***

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wild Missionaries - A New TOS Review!!

Our church has a great love for the world around us, not just locally but abroad.  The church is comprised with a great population of college students and young families.  Many of these have been close friends or teachers of our children and have either gone on mission trips or have felt the call to become full time missionaries.  One family, whom we are very close to, has felt the tug to begin their journey to become missionaries.  So when I had the opportunity to view an up close and personal view into the life of a missionary, I thought this would be a perfect way to delve more into what a missionary does and relate it to what will be going on in our lives with this family and others who will be leaving to become missionaries.

The Product:
We received two of five volumes of Growing Up Wild, a video series which introduces the viewers to life as a missionary in Papua, Indonesia.  This area is very mountainous and they live among the Wano people.  Although the videos were created for ages 5 - 12, I was totally interested in them, so I'd say these are great for all ages.  The title is called such, because the family's last name is Wild.  This family is comprised of 4 brothers, mom and dad, as well as a cat and a dog.
Each DVD has 3 episodes which are about 15 minutes in length.  There is also an activity guide with a short devotional of sorts with Scripture references.  Their goal is to help children draw out a spiritual lesson from each and every episode.  Libby Wild, the mom, wants to be sure that the children think globally with the use of the many different activities they have provided.  Some of the activities include Venn diagrams to compare contrast, making your own Wano hut, a pencil sketch of a tree in your own neighborhood, make a supply list from your own household needs, and others.

Let me give you a description of the two volumes we were given.  On Volume 1 is Home Sweet Hut where you will learn all about the Wano huts and how they are built, Supply Trip where you can see just how important it is to know what you have and what you need and how they get their supplies using a bush plane and a helicopter; and the last episode is called Sun & Water where they explore the power of the sun using solar panels and find out how they get fresh water from a mountainous stream.
Volume 4 contains Amazing World Around Us which shows all types of exciting animals and creations that God has made including pythons, spiders and stick bugs; Adventures in Culture will show how different the Wano people are from our American culture and even shows 2 of the boys getting their nose pierced just like the people they live among and with; the last episode is called Tribal Calling and it describes how they were led to become missionaries to a tribe in the middle of the jungles of Indonesia.
I can imagine that the other three volumes are just as wonderfully created and will be a great addition to our home.  I do plan on purchasing the rest of these since both my children and I are very intrigued by the Wild's.  I also think it will help prepare our children for our friends departure when it comes in the next year or so. I also believe that these would be wonderful DVD's to share at a small group, in a children's class or other gathering and allow for deep discussions on mission work.  Each DVD is $18.99 plus shipping and handling. But you can get the 5 volume set for $80.99 (a 15% savings) plus shipping and handling.  Either type of purchase from their store will be a great enhancement to the lives of all who view the Wild's in action.

Our Experience:
As soon as we received the videos all of my children were ready to watch.  So that night we watched the first volume in it's entirety.  We talked about all that we had seen and I explained that soon our friends would be experiencing a similar change in their lives.  That next week we slowed down and watched each episode individually and then tried to complete a few of the activities that went with the episode.

One of their FAVORITE activities was trying to build a Wano hut.  However, since where we live is currently under construction, they decided to try to make the huts out of Play Dough.  I was not able to get a picture of their huts, but I will tell you that this is a regular asked for activity.  Apparently, the first hut wasn't great so they keep thinking of ideas on how to make it stay and turn into the hut, especially with a hole on top so that the smoke can come out from cooking.

Another one of the activities included drawing a sketch of a beautiful tree in our neighborhood.  I had the girls do this separately so that they wouldn't influence each other on which tree was most beautiful. This was the activity that went with the Home Sweet Hut episode.  Here's a picture of Arianna's choice of tree and then her drawing it and finally one of the finished product.

When we watched the episode where the boys pierced their nose, I prepared them a little.  Afterward we discussed how in our culture girls pierce their ears.  Since we don't normally pierce our noses it seemed a little weird to them to have this done, but as we discussed that this was part of the Wano culture just as much as their language and their homes, they understood.  We then even discussed how our friends, who will be going for a few years as missionaries in Africa, and even as we know one young adult , currently in China for 2 years, also have to adjust their lives to the culture that they will be surrounded by.

Arianna told me that her favorite episode was the one with all the animals. She really loved the Stick Bug.  I tried to snap a few pictures of them watching this, but that's a little difficult in our current home due to layout of the couches and TV. ;)  Audrie's favorite video was the one called Supply Trip.  She thought it was pretty cool to travel to the store via helicopter and plane. ;)  However, when I explained that they only went to the store every 3 months, that to her seemed impossible!

My Thoughts:
I believe that these DVD's have been a blessing to our family.  I plan on sharing them with other families in our church so that other children can get a birds eye view of how it is to live as a missionary and connect more easily with those in our church family who have chosen this same path.  I also hope that this will give my children a more global heart and be open to the call of God to wherever and whatever He calls them too.

Be sure to check out all the other reviews of Growing Up Wild by clicking on the banner below.  Also be sure to head on over to their Jungle Journal where they talk about living in Papau. You can even check out some of the trailers of these DVD's and the others too.


*** I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2011-2012 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for a thorough and honest review. Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of money for any of my reviews. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences with the products and services that I receive.***

Monday, November 12, 2012

Comprehensive Reading and Writing Program - A New TOS Review!!

Some of you may know that we have been struggling here in our house with learning how to read.  Audrie knows all of her alphabet phonetic sounds and which letters are which, but when you put them together it seems that all the information just goes somewhere else.  We have tried a variety of tricks, tips, and helps, but she's still been ... struggling.  This has been hard on her since her sister is such a BIG reader and a lot of her friends (who are also a bit younger then her) are also able to read.  Since the beginning of this year - in fall - she really started putting effort into her reading time.

The Product:
So when I had the opportunity to be on the review team for IEW's Primary Arts of Language (a/k/a PAL), I talked with Audrie and she begged me to get the review.  She really wanted to be able to read on her own. We were chosen and we have been SO blessed that it will be hard to explain it all in this one post, but I will try and give you an overview of the products as well as a glimpse into our progress so far.  I will start off by saying this program just works for her. ;)
You may already know who IEW is, but there acronym stands for the Institute for Excellence in Writing and they are a mainstay in the homeschooling community and know for their many resources for older students.  However, they also have designed a program - Primary Arts of Language or PAL - for K-2nd grade which covers reading, writing, and spelling. This program is broken into two parts -- Primary Arts of Reading ($69) and Primary Arts of Writing ($89) -- and I will be describing them for you below.  You can buy them individually or as a bundle. These programs were created to be done concurrently so that you can work on reading and beginning writing at the same time.  Before I tell you much more I do want to let you know that there is a lot of teacher work  - in the beginning - but it is ALL WORTH IT! IEW has provided great resources including an online webinar which can help answer many of your questions which are frequently asked as well as give you a verbal overview of the PAL program. Below is a video where Andrew Pudewa explains just what the PAL program is.  Take a few minutes to view it for yourself.

Primary Arts of Reading starts at the beginning with teaching the beginning phonetic sounds as well as whole words (or sight words) to help the child be able to start reading almost right away.  The program teaches from the perspective of Anna Ingham's Blended Sight-Sound System of Learning.  This system is multi-sensory and interactive program designed to teach reading, writing, speaking, and listening - the 4 PRIMARY ARTS of Reading.
The reading portion is based in poetry.  As you start the program your child will be introduced to letters through letter stories while discovering both vowel and consonant pairs which help learn how to read. Your child will play games during the 'Activity Time' which help to reinforce the concepts learned through the day's lesson.
The reading package includes ALL of the following:

If you purchased all these items separately it would be $98 but you can get them as a bundle for just $69 which is an incredible savings as well as a program that is designed so you will succeed as your student's teacher!
The writing package is just as impressive and extensive:

Again if you purchased these all separately you would be spending about $113 for the program, but you can get the writing program for just $89!

Our Experience:
Now that you know all the items you get let me tell you how to get started and how we have been doing with the program.  I decided, after watching the instructional videos on the DVD (which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you watch prior to reading and preparing ANYTHING else) that I would be using this program on a MUCH slower pace with Seanan also.  Since he's only 3 3/4 I don't want to overwhelm him, but he has become much more interested in doing his own school work and having his school time.  So first I watched the reading DVD where Jill Pike (who designed this program) explained exactly how to proceed.  Once you have an understanding and an overview of the program you will find it much easier to get started.

I will admit that when I received the box with ALL the stuff I was a little overwhelmed.  I did not know how I'd be able to put this all together.  I was also concerned that all the components might be frustrating to Audrie, but I was wrong on both parts.  Once I had looked through the teacher manuals along with watching both of the Instruction Videos on the DVD's I felt confident that this would be a program Audrie would totally enjoy.  Having many things to do and going from one item to another item is right up her ally.  She loves being busy and all the components of this program helps her stay focused by moving from one activity or part to the next.

The reading and writing works together.  We started our day with the letter stories.  Something that is different from many other programs is that instead of learning just one letter at a time, this program introduces several letters through mini letter stories each day.  Audrie was able to do each lesson at a faster pace since she had prior knowledge.  Seanan on the other hand has been working at a much slower pace, but I have seen great results where he has been putting together the pieces that we've learned together with what he sees in real life.

Here's what one of our beginning lesson days looked like.  We would read the poem of the day.  The first poem we used over several lessons and each day we would add something that we had learned in the previous day's lesson and apply it to the poem.  The poem was printed out and hung on our cork board.  The first day we learned the blend ow says /o/  like at the end of words like yellow. Son on the second day in the poem your student has to recognize and point out the ow's they find.  This specific lesson was a great one for Seanan.  He put together the concept and was able to point out other ow words that he found and was able to sound out the word.  In the pictures below you can see he found the word snow.  What he told me was "Look Mommy! I found the ow that says /o/! This is an s, like in my name!" I then helped him sound out the first two letters and put it together with the ending sound and he said "SNOW! That says SNOW!!"

Back to our day through the lesson.  After you go over the poem then you will do your class journal time, your printing lesson, and the story time.  The journal is just a few sentences (or less, depending on the age of your child and their ability) of what they have done that day or the day before.  Here is Audrie working on her journal. I wrote what she told me on her small white board and she's copying it into her notebook.

Then we will go over the letters of the day, review letters we have already learned, and then have a short story time.  During story time I read a small short story like an Aesop's fable or something similar and at the end we will discuss the characters, settings, the climax/problem, and the solution.  This is great because it builds reading comprehension.  Once that has been complete Audrie has worksheets where she practices writing the letters we have learned on paper in small boxes. You can see that in the pictures below.  There are also some of her practicing the letters we had discussed in the writing lesson.

Once that is complete we go on to the games.  Along the way you will be making File Folder Games which correspond with lessons.  As you continue through the program you will add more of these to the student's box.  We use a milk crate of sorts to hold all of the games.  They are numbered so you can just pick out the ones you will be using or have your student get them.  These games reinforce concepts that they have learned.  For instance one game is called Color Palette.  The game pieces are cards that have words of colors that they are learning. As the student learns a new color they get to color that on one of the circle's of the palette.  They then can match the color word to the colored circle.

I don't have a picture of this so I hope my word description helps.  I chose to create a few of the games at a time.  You will need a few items to be able to make these games, but they will be used again and again. Because I have a 3-4 year old who also will be playing the games I am laminating my game pieces.  You will also need manilla file folders, cardstock, crayons or colored pencils (so that the students can color the game boards and pieces), and 3x5 index cards.  The list of materials is provided for you, but I wanted to give you a heads up.  Most of these items I had on hand.

One of the favorite parts of this program has to be the Phonetic Farm.  This is a review of the day.  You get to put stickers on a fold out farm that goes over the concepts learned.  So the ow sound that says /o/ was a cow sticker that got placed on the farm by other cows.  Here's a picture of the Phonetic Farm Sticker Folder.  If you are doing this program with multiple children, then you will want to have one of these for each child.
There is also an Agenda or Work Period time included where the child works on an assignment that you give them whether it be a student worksheet, a game, and 'testing'.

My Thoughts:
All in all I have been very impressed with this program.  I have heard a lot of IEW over the years of our own homeschooling, but hadn't done much research into them since Arianna learned how to read so easily.  I knew from early on that Audrie would have to have things done much differently for her to grasp or catch on.  Thankfully, I think the PAL system is working for her.  She is now able to read many small books on her own.  She is so excited and proud of herself, as I am of her.  One of the first days that she was able to read a book she could not wait until her daddy came home so she could read him a book.  And that is exactly what she did.  Here's a picture of her reading one of her worksheets.
If you have a struggling reader or just getting started, please take the time to read through the other Crew members who have implemented the PAL system.  This may be your answer, as it seems it was ours.  All you have to do is just click the banner below and you can check them out.


*** I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2011-2012 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for a thorough and honest review. Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of money for any of my reviews. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences with the products and services that I receive.***
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