Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Practice Monkeys - LIVE Online Violin Classes! ~~ A New TOS Review!!

My husband and I both come from a musical background. He was in band from middle school through high school and into college. I was in music for most of my younger life with piano lessons and singing and in college I was also a part of a musical program. Then in church we were both a part of our worship teams. So music is a big thing for us. I have always wanted to send my children to get lessons, but it was just not ever feasible (time or money). My older girls have had some lessons on piano where a family member taught them for a while, but alas he moved away and lessons stopped. So when we were given the opportunity to receive live violin classes, I talked to all three of my children to see who would be interested. My eldest JUMPED at the chance. And since we had a violin already in hand (an integral part to taking lessons) we were good to go! We have been reviewing the Family Subscription to Live Violin Classes by Practice Monkeys and have loved every minute!!

When we initially started my daughter was very nervous to start off in the LIVE classes. She thought since she didn't know anything about the violin that she would be 'behind'. She is a little bit of a perfectionist, so I had to tell her it would be ok and just to do her best and she'd get better over time.



The LIVE classes meet in the afternoons 4 days a week for 15 minutes. The time of your class is determined by your level. Currently, there are 9 levels of violin classes. Miss Sarah, the teacher and founder of Practice Monkeys, also suggests the student practice extra every day and then an additional 2 days a week which should include some "fun" practice. If you are not a beginner, Miss Van Kleeck will give your student a pre-assessment to place them in the correct level. Arianna, who's had some musical knowledge, was placed in level 3. This could also be due to her age (15) so she'd be able to understand the material at a faster rate.

When you first join your subcription you are connected to your level Treehouse. Inside the Treehouse area is full of all sorts of help and instruction. First there is a welcome video and right afterward is a list of your required and optional materials. Information about violin sizing, should rests, and how to care for your violin are also there with short videos of explanation and links to all the optional resources and listening music. Then as you scroll down there are instuctions on how to prepare for your first class including links to documents that need to be downloaded and printed - like the practice sheet, skills and habits checklist, as well as a parent guidebook.


When we first started the lessons we did not have access to a printer that worked with our computers (silly technology upgrades) so we just opened them up to look at them and kept track of where Arianna was and what she still needed to work on. And lastly before your first lesson there's a section on tuning your violin with links to apps to help get you tuned in case you aren't gifted in that area. But if you need help you could just go to a Help Session with Miss Sarah and she can walk you through tuning. She is exrtremely gifted since she helped get us tuned through listening through the computer ... A.MA.ZING!

If you miss a LIVE lesson there are always 4 recorded lessons from the week before that your student can go in and listen to and play along with. They are great for extra practice as well or if something comes up like another lesson or dentist/doctor appointment that can't be moved, etc.

At the bottom of the Treehouse are the skills and habits your student (or you) will need to accomplish to move on to the next Level. They are described in detail, some with links for documents or videos for the student to be able to hear and play with whenever they want or need. At the very bottom is a checklist that can be downloaded for the Assessment. This is a separate fee (not included in the Family Subscription to Live Violin Classes) per student when they are ready to be 'tested' to go into the next level. The assessment is a one-on-one testing time that lasts about 20-30 minutes and goes over all the items in the checklist.

Arianna was SO NERVOUS for her first assessment. One of the requirements is a "Fun Song" which is the student's choice. Since we were working before the Christmas break and Miss Sarah had introduced some simple Christmas songs into the lessons Arianna picked her favorite Christmas song to be her "Fun Song". It was basically the only thing she was struggling with on her assessment checklist and more because it was the HARDEST song for a beginner to try and accomplish on her own - Carol of the Bells.


What made it hard was she was supposed to figure out the notes by EAR! After some serious listening and struggling and then talking it out she figured out what she thought sounded like the opening to it. She wasn't to know the WHOLE song, but she wanted more then 8 notes. It was the last thing on the Assessment to be done and I had to remind my daighter to take a breath.
She remembers exactly what Miss Sarah told her. "I was the first person in that level to have ever attempted that song. And she said I did well!! Really good. Keep going and you will get it."
She was so happy when she passed up to the new level. Now that we are back from break (there are times when the LIVE classes are not in session and they are listed on the Class Link page.) she is enjoying being back in class and learning how to read music from the theory portion of the classes. This Level's fun song will be a folk song ... can't wait to hear what my daughter picks for this.

Since it is a Family Subscription to Live Violin Classes and now that we have 2 full size violins (Arianna received one for Christmas!) I have decided to learn how to play as well. I've been waiting for years to learn. The violin Arianna started with was mine. I have been placed in Level 3. I will begin my lessons this week (forgot the time the first 2 days of this week.) And the full subscription (so that Arianna would not miss any classes) was a Christmas gift as well - so now the whole FAMILY can take lessons if they want. My son will be joining us as well as soon as I can upgrade is 1/4 size violin to a 1/2 or 3/4 - we aren't sure which size will work best for him. We will be getting that done in the next week or so.


And Practice Monkeys has just launched their LIVE Piano lessons! My other daughter was so excited about this and she was gifted a subscription to these classes for Christmas as well.

Seems as if we will ALL be taking lessons for our indefinite future. If you would like to try out Practice Monkeys for yourself you can subscribe here for just $1 for one month and then $49 per month thereafter. BUT for my readers, she has an even better deal if you purchase a subscription with this link. It's a great deal!

I can not say more about how great the lessons have been and the joy it has brought my children to finally be learning an instrument. My son can't wait for her to add on drums (not sure that Miss Sarah has that in the works or not, but can't hurt to put it out there.) And my middle child wants to learn the flute (hint, hint 😊) so maybe someday. But for now we will enjoy the violin and piano lessons that we will be taking through Practice Monkeys. I hope to share more videos of my kids as they progress in their learning. You can find them also on Facebook and YouTube. And please be sure to read the other reviews of my fellow Crew members by clicking the link below.

Online Music Education for the Violin {Practice Monkeys Reviews}

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Horsing Around

One of the things my middle child has wanted to do for years and years has been go horesback riding. When she was younger on year 4 of us went on a trail ride ... I think that was the first time she was on a horse and she loved it. Over the next few years we went a few times here and there and had enjoyed a few field trips to a local horse farm. But that was all we could do.

Then in the summer for an early birthday gift she was given the opportunity to go riding at a local stable. Local in South Carolina. She went 2 times and had 2 different teachers, but she was ecstatic. However, it was VERY expensive and we did not know how often she'd be able to go. Then we heard that we would be definitely be moving to Indiana so we sort of put this new interest again onto a back burner.

Once we got settled in Indiana I had joined a myriad of homeschool groups on Facebook so that I could keep in touch with our new homeschooling life here and not miss any fun events and such to help get us aclimated. We've been on a ton, but one day there was a post and I jumped at the chance!

The post said that there was a new horseback riding instructor, a former homeschooler, on her family farm (that has cows, horses, chickens, and vegetables), was looking to renew and start lessons. And that she was interested in taking students who also would work to pay for their lessons. I thought this would be a perfect fit for us. Audrie could learn ALL about farm life from the fun parts to the messy and hard parts and then she could work to pay for her lessons. Whatever wasn't worked off we'd pay. So I set up her first hour lesson.

It's now been 2.5 months and she goes for an hour lesson a week. She then stays to help work by mucking out the stalls, cleaning off the cobwebs, watering down the insisde arena, sorting items to help clean up, and feed, brush, and ready the horses. She's even learning how to round pin the horses so that they can get exercise if they haven't been ridden in a few days.  Her teacher is amazing and really has worked with her a lot in such a short time.

She has ridden 4 different horses -  2 that are 1/2 quarter horse and 1/2 Arabian, one Palamino, and one Percheron that is a breed of draft horse. They all have their own unique personalities and riding styles.   Audrie is having to be able to distinguish how best to communicate with each of the horses to make them do what she's wanting them to do.

Today was the last day to ride for our Christmas break. She's a little sad that she'll be missing "her" horses for the next 2 weeks. She brought them an early Christmas gift -- apples and was able to give them to each of the 8 horses and 1 minitaure horse. Then she also helped feed all the horses, clean stalls, and clean up the cow area.

I'm so glad that we have this opportunity to allow her to explore another new area that interests her.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women ~~ A New TOS Review!

You know, I love when a gift idea can also be an idea that will build the faith of my children or niece or nephew or any child striving to know more about God and how HE can play a role in their lives in the here and now. That is why I was excited to be on the review team for the newest offering from Zondervan that will help build the faith of my young ladies through this new Bible devotion. Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women is exactly that, a way to build the faith of young women by showing them how the women of the Bible dealt with all they will face in life.


From the title itself you can tell that these devotions for young women is designed to be read once a day. Unfortunately, I knew that at the time we were getting this we would not be able to commit to that, so I had hoped we'd read it 4 to 5 days of the week. Between us moving and then travelling for Thanksgiving I wasn't sure we'd hit every day and I was right, we didn't. But my girls have been enjoying reading the devotional either on their own, together or one on one with me.

My eldest daughter decided to start where we were in the year ... around day 320, I think, which goes along beautifully with the season we are in. The devotions here start talking about Elizabeth and Mary and then followed by Anna the prohpet who blessed and prophisied over Jesus as a baby. After these important ladies it goes own to talk about the interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman for a few days, then on to the woman with the chronic illness and then even to Sapphira.

If you bought this as a Christmas gift (which is a GREAT idea for the young woman in YOUR life) then they might just decide to start at the beginning. Here they would read about the quintesential woman of the Bible - the Proverbs 31 woman, as well as Eve, Noah's wife, and Sarah. Later the devotions will focus on the lives of Miriam, Zelophehad's daughters (do you even remember who they are?), Aksah (another unknown woman in the Bible who had impact), as well as others like Delilah, Deoborah, Samuel's mother Hannah and many others - sixty in total - as they go through triumphs and trials and apply the truths they learn in the lives of the young women reading the devotional.
 Each devotional page is just that, one page. It includes a Scripture in the NIV, a short commentary with some truths we can learn fromt he passage, and then a few lines at the bottom where your daughter can write down her thoughts of what she's dealing with or learning from this devotion.

The beautifully crafted, hard-cover, pink embossed accented book will stand the test of time with firm binding. It even includes a dark pink ribbon to keep their spot easily accessed. And every page is accented with a flower motif in pinks and greens to give a bit of flourish to the pages. And as I mentioned above each day focuses on one of 60 women in the Bible and many for multiple days which shows that their lives impacted others just like the lives of our daughters can and will as well.

For the last few weeks we've been reading through the end portion of the devotional as I mentioned above. My middle daughter likes to do her reading with me, so we've tried to find a time each day when it can just be the two of us and we can cuddle on the couch, read the short deovotion, and then spend a few minutes seeing how we can apply it to our own lives. I've really enjoyed this time with her.
I inteded to do the same with my eldest daughter, but more times then not she had already stolen away with the devotion to spend some alone time with her Father. This encourages my heart that she wants to know her Lord in an intimate way and has tried to allot some time to get closer to Him through these readings.

We've also been able to do a few altogether and the group discussions are eye-opening to where they are on their own individual walk with the Lord. I pray that we can continue to focus daily on Him and use the Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women to help guide us. I encourage you to read the other Crew reviews by clicking the link below and go order one for your daughter. This would be a perfect Christmas present or even birthday or just an I love you present! You can find Zondervan on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest!

Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women {Zondervan Review}

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Guitar 360 Method - A New TOS Review!!!

Many years ago my husband wanted to learn how to play guitar. We found a good price on a smaller guitar that would be used as he learned and then save up for a better guitar. That year for his birthday I bought him 2 guitars. But with church, work, and other responsibilities, he didn't have a lot of down time for many years. He'd play on them sporadically, but not enough to get by playing an entire song or anything like that.

Fastfoward life until now, a few kids later and more responsibilities, but as we were moving and we came across ALL of the instruments we realized he (and some of the children wanted to as well) get back into learning how to play the guitar. Then we received notification that there was a course to help learn how to play guitar online from Guitar 360 Method. It is an online course that he could start right now called Semester 1 Bundle, which includes the Absolute Beginner Course and Bonus Songs. I asked my husband if he'd like to take part of this review and get back to playing regularly and he said sure. My son and eldest daughter also showed interest in learning and since we have a plethora of guitars I figured we could give them a shot too!
So what do you get in the Semester 1 Bundle? Well you get a 3 week beginner course for anyone who has NEVER touched a guitar. This was where my son and daughter would start. They know what one is and that the strings have letter names, but that's about the extent of their knowledge. There are also two bonus song mini courses that you learn after your first 3 weeks. Impressive, right?!  Then the Semester 1 course is 13 weeks long and cover a multitude of topics from chord vocabulary and chord shapes; strumming with confidence; understanding scales and the difference between major and minor scales; as well as learning how chords fit together in a key; barre technicque; and many other functional lessons to help you become a well-rounded guitar player.  This is just a sampling of what the course offers and how indepth it is really.
A sample of the breakdown of what is taught in a week.
The regular price for this course is $149, but Krisz is offering homeschool families a 20% discount which makes this course just $119.20! (That's less than $10 a week BEFORE the discount) I love a good deal and this is certainly one of them. Just use the coupon code HOMESCHOOL20 when you go to checkout.

But why pay for an online course to learn how to play guitar when you can get lessons in real life? Well for one the cost is a fraction of the price. Secondly, who doesn't want to be taught in a manner that intuitively makes sense with the instrument you are using? Watch this little intro video that shows you a little bit more of why this course is different.

Confidence, Freedom and Creativity on the guitar.

So my husband decided he would beging at the Absolute Beginner part of the course with my son who was most interested in learning with his dad.  At first they watched the videos and then they watched a second time while playing with their teacher. I remember hearing my husband say that his fingers were sore after doing the fingering exercises Mr. Simonfalvi showed in the very first video lesson. Later on my daughter also watched and she has been slowly working on practicing her fingering as well.


The 4 finger warm-up in this part of the course has been the one to slow my children down. They are working on having faster finger dexterity and being able to move down the neck as they practice. My daughter has moved on and started working on her first two chords and practicing how to strum properly and is already working on her first song! It has been slower then the initial 3 weeks that the course is stated to take, but we have been packing and moving from one location in our new city to another one and so that has taken up some of our time. Plus I think taking it slowly will be best for them to build a strong foundation for hand and finger placement.
This absolute beginner part of the course breaks things down in bite sized chuncks that would help anyone learn.
My son is still working on the 4 finger warm-up exercises as well. He is using a smaller guitar that fits him better, but his finger dexterity needs work. He also has deemed it a little harder than he anticipated so he has not been practicing daily like I would like him too. He has a tendency to give up easier than my daughter and husband.
clear videos and simple to understand instructions
Showing the fret.

Here are some thoughts of how my husband felt the program went:
"In the beginning he focuses a lot more on hand position and skills to help you with hand positioning. This was something I was weak in even though I've been playing guitar for a while. He uses a spiral curriculum, which is where you go back over things as you continue moving forward, always reviewing what has been learned. At first it is skill-based. But as you get to the second level of the spiral he starts teaching you music theory based on the skills from the first spiral while also introducing new skills. This process continues throughout all the spirals as you go from week to week in the course."

I knew my husband would appreciate the Semester 1 Bundle especially since it seemed to have a strong connection to music theory. Both of us have musical backgrounds and theory is rarely highlighted as the necessity it is. Guitar 360 Method does that and much more. I also have enjoyed watching my children learn to play the guitar alongside my husband. It's been a very fun experience to watch and enjoy.

Here are some other tidbits I can share about the course even though my 'students' of guitar haven't progressed far into the course (my husband really feels he needs much nimbler fingers before charging ahead.) The online teachings are done with professionally done videos that are clear and concise. Mr. Simonfalvi goes at just the right pace. The lessons are clearly laid out which makes navigation easy AND they can be viewed multiple times. So my son can watch the absolute beginner first week lesson multiple times even after my husband and daughter had already 'completed' that part of their lessons.

You will also have some ear training, printables including chord diagrams, and even some quizzes. The other great thing is that the video lessons are rather short, so they can be fit in to small chunks throughout the day. Our family is certainly enjoying using this program and I'll be updating in a few months when we "hopefully" get much further into the course. That way when we need someone to lead some worship songs for home church or at outreaches we'd have a few to choose from!
I love that all of them can each work at their own pace and not mess the others up. My husband has been playing music for years (he played saxophone in high school band and also as a part of The Million Dollar Band in his first year of college). We both were on the worship teams for our church. I have been singing and playing piano for years. We always knew that music would be an integral part of our family life and I'm so blessed to be a part of the Review Crew to have access to programs like Guitar 360 Method with their Semester 1 Bundle including the Aboslute Beginner Course and Bonus Songs!  Don't forget about the coupon I mentoned earlier - 20% off!! You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And as always go read some of the other Crew member reviews by clicking the link below!!

Guitar Lessons with Krisz Simonfalvi {Guitar 360 Method Reviews}



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