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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Music Together

One thing I learned about music from my oldest son is that just learning how to play the piano & drums does not make you musical. He took piano lessons for years and learned to play pretty good, but for the most part he played by himself and he played like he did a hurry. He had trouble keeping a steady tempo, and he also lacked rhythm. The girls have been using Music Together Family Favorites & I think Michael could have benefited from this years ago.

Music Together was founded by Kenneth Guilmartin, he had a vision where young children develop music skills at an early age, naturally and joyfully. Since people don't gather around the piano and sing together anymore children are growing up with very little live music-making. He wanted to support a child's spontaneous music play in daily life by learning to play with the music. This allows a child to develop musical ability through play, which is their mode of learning.
I received the Music Together Family Favorites CD and the Songbook for Teachers. The products from Music Together are recommended for children up to age 7. There have also been great results using it with special needs children or when used by music therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, special education teachers, and speech pathologists. I used it with all three of my girls ages 7, 10, & 11 and they had a such a good time making music together.

The Music Together Family Favorites CD contains 19 best-loved songs from the 9 Music Together song collections. It contains a 32-page booklet with activity suggestions for every song. The introduction tells us how to make music with our small children from birth to age 6. They suggest starting out with just clapping to the songs and then moving on to the other activities, and instrument play. Some of the activities include using instruments, stuffed animals, child's name, drums, and even items from the kitchen.

The Family Favorites Songbook for Teachers is a 9X12" inch spiral bound book printed on glossy paper and is divided into 3 sections:

  • Opening Section ~ Talks about the Music Together approach for all children including special needs and their philosophy. There is a discussion of types of songs and activities as well as how to work with instruments and props. 
  • Middle Section ~ Is a collection of nineteen songs. Each song has the CD track number at the top of the page and starts with a note from Kenneth Guilmartin. Following each song there is several teacher pages with ideas and suggestions for each age level of students.
  • Final Section ~ Offers information about the Music Together program and how to get involved, a glossary, and a guitar reference chart. 
In the Songbook for Teachers there are 4 pages for each song. They all start with Kenneth Guilmartin telling us a little about the song or the instrument or method used. Kenneth also gives us three lists for each song.

  1. Activities ~ This list shows us what types of movements, and instruments that will be used.
  2. Music ~ Here we can see what key the song is in, the starting pitch, and what type of meter it is.
  3. Recording ~ We are told what instruments are used in the song recording.
There are several activities for each song. There are suggestions for small movements, large movements, infants, preschoolers, older children, special needs, some games, and phrase play. The sheet music is included with guitar chords, and some songs have a full page illustration.

I really like that the kids are introduced to a variety of music from folk songs, lullabies, Latin jam, jazz, Spanish, and more. The tunes are very catchy & the words are very easy to remember. We even learned a song in Spanish! I was very impressed with the activity suggestions for different age groups. I teach Sunday school and feel that what I have learned using this program can very easily be applied to church songs the little kids already know.

Amber (age 11) & Delaney (age 10) have just started playing in a local homeschool band. They both play piano, but this is the first time they have been in a group music class. Amber is very musical and isn't having any trouble keeping time, but Delaney is having a little trouble staying with everyone else. Working through the songs in the Family Favorites has really helped her to keep the beat with the band songs.

Even though this program is primarily for smaller children, Amber & Delaney both wanted to partake in them with Alaina. They liked the activities with the instruments the best. For most of the songs, Amber would play it on the piano along with the CD, while the other girls did the activities. There are several small instruments suggested to go along with this program, but we did not go out and buy any. We already had some little drums, and maracas, and for everything else we found something around the house. They have used chopsticks, bottles, and tissue boxes wrapped with rubber bands. My girls are having so much fun going through the house to find things that they can use to make music. They have most of the songs memorized already and have been singing them without the CD or piano and using whatever instrument they want. Now that we have been using this program for a while they started changing the words to some of them to fit in with whatever they are playing at the moment.

Music Together is a great way to get the whole family involved in making music regardless of prior musical ability.

The Music Together Family Favorites CD can be purchased for $14.95. The Family Favorites Songbook for Teachers is $29.95. You can save $5.00 if you purchase the CD & Songbook together for $39.95. If you purchase the combo and use the promotional code: Schoolhouse you will save another $2.00.

Music Together also offers music classes in the United States and around the world. They have a variety of instruments available as well as a few more CDs.

Previews for each song are available at Music Together and other reviews can be read at the Crew Blog
Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received Music Together free of charge to use with my kids in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Once-a-Week Unit Study ~ Revolutionary Ideas

One reason we love to homeschool is that we can take a break from our regular studies and complete a unit about something else. We usually take a week off our regular work to complete a unit we are interested in, but this time we took one day a week to work on it using a study from Homeschool Legacy.

Homeschool Legacy offers a variety of Science & History Once-a-Week Unit Studies that incorporate different subjects on one topic. They are biblically centered, flexible, and easy. They are so easy that there is no prep work, everything is laid out for you. The books & DVDs that are used for the week are listed on one sheet of paper and it even includes the Dewey decimal numbers. It can't get much easier than that. Each unit can help a Boy Scout or an American Heritage Girl earn a merit badge while studying with the rest of the family. If you complete 4 science or history Once-a-Week unit studies it can count as a full course credit in those subjects.

We have been using the Revolutionary Ideas Once-a-Week unit study by Sharon Gibson. This study is recommended for grades 2-12, but involves the whole family. It is set up to last 7 weeks and is available as a book for $19.95. A suggested schedule is included and each week is set up the same:

  • Library list ~ Books & DVDs are listed with the Dewey decimal number included. 
  • Focus
  • Supplies 
  • Daily Activities ~ Which are independent reading & the family read-aloud.
  • Once-a-Week Activities ~ This can vary for each week, but includes:
    • Family Devotional ~ This is every week.
    • History~ Includes making a timeline notebook.
    • Research
    • Critical Thinking/Family Discussion
    • Vocabulary
    • Drama
    • Art History/Appreciation
    • Arts & Crafts
    • Music
    • Math
    • Science
    • Just For Fun ~ Includes Trivia Games
    • Geography ~ Maps are included.
    • Fun and Games
    • Family Movie or Game Night
    • !Stump Your Dad Trivia
Trivia questions for the Trivia Game, recipe & party ideas for a Revolutionary party, Historic Sites of Interest (with website) are included in the back of the book along with how to get the most out of the unit.

We received this book as PDF file and I used it with all three of my girls age 7, 10, & 11. This really is an easy unit study with no prep work other than a trip to the library, which we do every week anyway. The supplies are very common things that we already had at home. Risk was the only game of those suggested that we didn't have. The seven weeks topics are:

  • Week 1 ~ Significant Pre-Revolution World Events
  • Week 2 ~ The Life and Times of Colonial Americans and their Taxing King
  • Week 3 ~ The Firebrands
  • Week 4 ~ Early Battles and "The shot hear 'round the world"
  • Week 5 ~ America Declares her Independence
  • Week 6 ~ The Turning Point
  • Week 7 ~ March to Victory

The book list is very extensive, and all of them wouldn't have to be used. I really like that it is on its own page with the Dewey number listed. I just printed out that page and headed for the library. We found about half of them at our local library, and of the ones we couldn't find there were others on the same topic. One of the books that was suggested for a read aloud had some foul language & some graphic war scenes, but a warning was included with the book title. I read it to my girls, but I could easily leave out the parts that I deemed inappropriate. There are suggested movies and if they are found on Netflix it is noted. We couldn't find some of the DVD's, but that is ok, because we would rather read books or play games than watch TV. The games that were recommended were from the Revolutionary time period and some neat history about them is included. The game Risk is also suggested for geography. The supplies needed for art & music we already had at home, so we didn't have to spend any money on our unit study.

We chose the books we wanted to read out loud and the ones for the girls to read throughout the week. I read to my family every night before bed, so this part fit in with our schedule perfectly. We thought this unit was a lot of fun, it didn't seem like school work at all & we learned so much. Learning about George Washington's favorite game, and Ben Franklin's musical invention gave us a more personal glimpse of these famous people.

The girls worked together on all the activities and their favorite was the glass armonica. Do you know who invented this? We didn't. Although my girls couldn't get a good sound with their fingers they decided to use butter knives and played for a long time. They love music and they figured out what made the note higher and lower.

 Writing a Paul Revere version of Yankee Doodle was another activity my girls enjoyed. I don't know how many times they have sung this song in the last couple of weeks. Amber learned to play it on the flute & is learning with her ukulele. We knew nothing about the history of this little tune until now & it is quite interesting.

Paul Revere rode fast he could
Upon a mighty steed
He rode from Boston to Concord
To alert the men and women.

Paul Revere don't get caught
Paul Revere keep goin
Watch for rebels and watch your steps
And be on the alerrrt.

~ Amber

If you have never taken a break from your regular school work to complete a unity study, Once-a-Week Unit Studies would be a great place to start.  It was also a good study for those of us who use unit studies regularly. All the prep work is done for you & it is very easy to implement. What mom wouldn't like that?

Homeschool Legacy sent members of the Review Crew several different Once-a-Week Unit Studies. Sail over to the Crew Blog to read about those. 
Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received Revolutionary Ideas from Homeschool Legacy free of charge to use with my children in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Cry From Egypt

It is so encouraging to see young people who make the most out of their talents. Hope Auer is a recent homeschool graduate, and has already published her first book, A Cry From Egypt. She started writing this book as a school project when she was 13, while she was studying ancient Egypt with her family. The cover designer & illustrated, Mike Slaton, graduated from his homeschool during this project.

A Cry From Egypt is book one of The Promised Land series. This book shows us what it would be like to be an Israelite enslaved by the Egyptians. It takes place at the end of the 400 years of Israelite captivity. Through the eyes of Jarah, a young Israelite girl, we explore the types of  jobs that she and her friends & family would have been made to do, from making bricks, gathering hay, working in the Egyptian palace, and making linen for the queen. We also experience the fatigue from working so much plus maintaining their own household and how they could have been treated. Jarah's family was divided between the Egyptians gods & the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. During the miraculous 10 plagues we get to experience what it would be like for the Egyptians to suffer and see how God protected his own people.

I wanted to use this book as a read aloud with my kids, but I wanted to finish what we were already reading first. Amber couldn't wait, she started reading it the very first day. When we sat down to read it, she was excited about it. She said this book is good enough to read & listen to. I read it out loud to all three of the girls ages 7, 10, 11, and their dad. They all loved it & begged for another chapter every time I said it was bed time, even dad wanted to stay up later. Hope does an excellent job in describing the people and the events. We could really experience the whole book, it made us feel like we were part of the story.When we finished the book they wanted to know if we could order book 2.

My girls all know the bible account of the 10 plagues, but this book allowed them to see into the lives of the Israelites & Egyptians. It also helped them to see the awe of God's protection of the Israelites during the plagues. We also took the time to discuss how each plague went against an Egyptian god, and did some research on them. In the story Jarah's mom believed in the Egyptian gods & not the God of her people. This opened up some discussions about how some families we know today don't agree with each other on bible teaching. This book is recommended for ages 8 and up, but we all enjoyed reading this together.

A Cry From Egypt is brand new and a limited number of advanced copies are available for $12.50 with free shipping.

Hope Auer has been writing since she was very young, and has a passion for history & telling stories. She is a homeschool graduate and teaches piano, youth theatre, and writes stories. You can visit her blog, A Cry From Egypt, where she shares a series on writing. 

Great Waters Press focuses on Making Biblical Life Practical, Hal & Melanie Young are the chief publishers. Hope Auer asked them to read her manuscript for A Cry From Egypt and they loved it so much they wanted to publish it.

Some members of the Crew received Children in Church: Nurturing Hearts of Worship by Curt & Sandra Lovelace. Sail over to the Crew Blog to read about this book and other reviews of A Cry From Egypt.

Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received A Cry From Egypt from Great Waters Press to use with my children in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, September 21, 2012

C is for Canning...

One thing I love about this time of year is all the goodies that are growing in my yard. Thanks to my husband I have a wonderful garden every year. He turns over the ground, plans, plants, and weeds. The kids and I pick all the produce & cook. Two things we make sure we can plenty of is salsa & spaghetti sauce.
I have been using this salsa recipe for years, and it is the best we have ever made.

10 lbs. tomatoes
1 green bell pepper
7 jalapenos (more or less to taste)
2 medium onions
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons black pepper
4 teaspoons salt

Peel tomatoes by dipping in boiling water for 60 seconds and then dip in cold water. The peel should slide right off. Chop peeled tomatoes & vegetables into bite sized pieces and just heat it until it is hot. Process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes. Makes about 10 pints.

Our favorite spaghetti sauce comes from the Kerr Kitchen Cookbook published in 1990. I don't use the recipe exactly as it is written, it is very similar.

Spaghetti Sauce 
30 lbs. tomatoes
1 cup green bell peppers
1 cup chopped onions
5 cloves of crushed garlic
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup dried parsley
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoon oregano
4 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper

Peel tomatoes by dipping in boiling water for 60 seconds and then dip in cold water. The peel should slide right off. Run peeled tomatoes through a sieve or blender. I use a blender because it is faster & we don't mind the seeds. Saute peppers, onions, & garlic in olive oil until they are tender. Add sauteed veggies & everything else to the tomatoes. Bring to a boil and cook on low until it is thick enough for serving, about 6 hours. Process in pressure canner according to manufacturers directions for 20 minutes for pints & 25 minutes for quarts. Makes 4-5 quarts.

I usually can enough salsa & spaghetti sauce to last all year. If I have more tomatoes then I will make V-8 that we use in chili or tomato soup.

What about you? Do you can? What is your family favorites?

Blogging Through the Alphabet
Thanks Marcy for hosting Blogging through the Alphabet.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Family Time Fitness

When my son was young he didn't have a very long attention span. Wait.....he still doesn't. His pen would become a rocket flying through the sky, or the book he was reading would become a launch pad for an imaginary rocket complete with sound effects. To get him back on the ground I would make him run laps around the house. I thought I was just burning off his energy, come to find out exercise is good for the brain.
There is a lot more brain activity after just a 20 minute walk.

My girls are a lot more calm and it is very rare if I feel the need to send them out to take laps, but I know they need daily exercise. Lately we have been playing exercising using Fitness 4 Homeschool from Family Time Fitness.
Fitness 4 Homeschool is a complete physical education curriculum for the whole family. This program combines flexibility & fun, and was designed by experts in fitness training, nutrition and body movement.  Physical Education (PE) should develop an organized mind and body. Fitness 4 Homeschool was created because there was a need for homeschool fitness programs. It is designed to maximize spatial awareness, body awareness, environmental awareness, enhanced neurological development, mind-body coordination, stress reduction, social engagement, poise and confidence.

Fitness 4 Homeschool is recommended for K-8 grade and is available for $57.00. Read the Scope and Sequence and check out the informational videos and sample videos are available at Family Time Fitness Youtube channel. It includes a startup guide, PDF lesson plans, video demonstrations, assessment tools, reminder emails, lifetime curriculum and video updates, access to online webinars and certificates of completion. This is a one time price for the entire family.

The Startup Guide is an introduction to parents and students and discusses safety, lists equipment needed, tips on teaching PE, how to integrate it into homeschool, and child assessment including charts to keep track of student development. To help with your families overall health, worksheets are included for meal planning, daily food diary, nutrition log, and a tracking calendar.

The Lesson Plans are set up for 260 days of exercise lasting 30-45 minutes each and weather permitting the outside activity will give you another 10-15 minutes. It is recommended that at least 3 days of PE be completed a week, but 5 would be better. Every lesson plan is set up the same way. The skills taught, equipment needed is listed, and suggested recovery time is at the top, then you start with the Warm Up, Activity/Game Play, Cool Down, and lastly an Outdoor Activity. There is a detailed description of every exercise with a link to watch a demonstration video. There is also a one-page lesson plan without the description & video link. This allows you to read about each exercise & watch the video then you can print the one page plan to take outside or a bigger room in your house.

The Demonstration Videos are made using real kids doing the activities. This gives you an idea what your kids will look like during their exercise. The videos are on a private Youtube channel & you must have the link to gain access to them. We haven't watched every video link yet, but one of them took us to a very good jump rope team.

We received the PDF file for Fitness 4 Families and I emailed the lesson plans to our Kindle Fire. We liked having the lesson plans on our Kindle because we could use it easily inside & outside. The only down fall is the video links are not clickable from the Kindle. We used our laptop to read the descriptions & watch the videos. Then we would take our Kindle to the living room or outside & use the one-page plan.

We had so much fun & we have never giggled so much while exercising together. Physically we are all at different levels. Amber (age 11) is my very active child & loves every kind of sport and exercise. Delaney (age 10)  likes physical games & activities, but she doesn't really like exercises. Alaina (age 7) likes any activity or exercise that everyone else is doing, but she lacks the coordination of the older girls. I have problems with my knees & can't do a lot of jumping. I'm sure we didn't look all that good, but we all got a good workout. There were several days our muscles were sore, even Amber who is always active got a good workout.

We had all of the equipment needed for the program, but everything used is very inexpensive. We used jump ropes, balls, hoola hoops, bean bags, cones, exercise mat, & a stopwatch that was on my phone. I like that the program uses every day equipment in ways we have never thought of and it offers variety of activities, some are repeated, but not enough times for the girls to lose interest. Every day they wanted to do Family Time Fitness as soon as breakfast & devotions were over. They liked it so much they would exercise on Saturday or I would catch them working on their favorites other times during the day. They all three loved Jumping the River the best, they would get so excited if they could beat their previous jump. Crossing the River was their next favorite, and Amber worked on lowering her speed over & over......maybe because I actually beat her time. It helps that I have longer legs than she does.

Jumping the River 

Alaina said, "I like Jumping the River & Freeze Tag, and my favorite is Cross the River."

"I really like that they made this program so that it was fun. It wasn't just boring old excercises," said Delaney.

Amber said, "I think this is a great excersice program and it was really fun. It made me tired & sore, so that is good thing."

Family Time Fitness is a wonderful addition to our homeschool, it has gotten us to be more active during the week. 

Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received Family Time Fitness 4 Homeschool free of charge to use with my children in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

B is for Blessings

This week is quickly coming to an end & I haven't written my Blogging Through the Alphabet post. I asked my girls what I should write about & Amber said 'B' is easy.....blessings, so blessings it is.

Blessings can come in a variety of forms & God has truly blessed me in my life. I want to talk about an a very obvious blessing & that would be my kids. Growing up I always wanted 2 kids, 1 boy & 1 girl & that is what I had. Michael was born first & then 22 months later I had Morgan, and I thought our family was complete.

I was 23 & had both the kids I had ever wanted, so Mike & I decided I should have a tubal ligation. Mike was getting ready to separate from the Air Force and we didn't have a job lined up, so we thought it would be for the best especially since we thought our family was complete. After 6 years & several moves across the country we were settled in a new town with a great job for Mike, and I started having baby fever.

I had heard  about a tubal reversal, but I didn't know anyone at the time who had went through this. I did some research at the library & online and found a doctor who specialized in this surgery. In 2000 we traveled to Salt Lake City to have my surgery & everything went great.

 You can probably imagine our excitement when I found out I was pregnant & Amber was born in 2001. Any time you have a tubal reversal you run the risk of having an ectopic pregnancy or having your tubes close back up, needless to say we were a little concerned about that happening. Everything was fine with my pregnancy with Amber & Delaney was born only 14 months behind her and Alaina was born in 2004.

When I had my tubal ligation they had actually clamped my tubes. To reverse it they had to cut out the clamp and stretch my fallopian tubes & sew them back together. Due to complications with Amber, I ended up having a C-section with all three of the little girls. When Alaina was born my Dr. said that my tubes were closing back up & he was really surprised that I even got pregnant the third time. Since there was now a higher risk of having an ectopic pregnancy we decided that 5 kids were enough & I had a second tubal ligation.

In the last few years I have met several people who have had a tubal reversal for various reasons and some have been lucky enough to have more children & some have not. We are very thankful to God & modern medicine that we could once again add to our family. My husband & children are my greatest blessing here on this earth.

If you missed last week, A was for Ambition

Blogging Through the Alphabet
Thanks Marcy for hosting Blogging through the Alphabet. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Historic Expedition of Lewis & Clark

Photobucket Photobucket
We are studying United States History this year in our homeschool. We complete notebooks, lapbooks, & add figures to our timeline while using living books on our history topics. I also like to include good quality DVDs to our studies when I can find them. We have been watching The Historic Expedition of Lewis & Clark and it is a great addition to our History study this year.
The Historic Expedition of Lewis & Clark is a DVD offered by Marshall Publishing. It is 35 minutes long and documents the exploration of the West starting at the meeting of Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. In this DVD we travel with the Corps of Discovery on their 8,000 mile journey to the Pacific Ocean. We are told the story of Lewis & Clark as they travel by boat, foot, & horseback while encountering obstacles & Indians. This expedition really comes to life through the photography, rare photos, live re-enactments, and maps.

I watched this DVD with all three of my girls ages 7, 10, & 11. The maps & pictures really bring this expedition to life for all of us. It neat to see actual places that Lewis & Clark traveled & the struggles they encountered. I really like that diary excerpts are included in the dialog. It would make a great addition to every home library. The only complaint I heard was from my 7 year old, she had to point out that they pronounce Sacajawea's name wrong. Who knows, maybe we have been saying it wrong all along.

Marshall Publishing and Promotions, Inc. provides lots & lots of media for everyone since 2007. They offer DVDs, Books, CDs, CD-Roms, and broadcast and internet programming that will entertain & educate. You can watch clips & previews of upcoming programs on Youtube.

The Historic Expedition of Lewis & Clark is the 3rd video we have from Marshall Publishing, and we have really liked them all. We had the pleasure of reviewing George Washington Carver, and Lots & Lots of Firetrucks from Marshall Publishing last year. They offer other DVD's about transportation, historical documentariesanimals, and more. Whenever we need a DVD for our school in the future I know I can count on Marshall Publishing for a good product.

The Historic Expedition of Lewis & Clark is normally $24.95, it is now being sold for $19.95 & you can get FREE FIRST CLASS SHIPPING by using coupon code: TOS27. Order by visiting Marshall Publishing or by calling 1-888-300-3455.

Marshall Publishing sent some members of the Crew The History of The Oregon Trail & The Pony Express, The History of America In The 1880s, and Lots & Lots of Penguins. Sail over to the Crew blog to read about these DVD's.
Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received The Historic Expedition of Lewis & Clark free of charge from Marshall Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Speekee TV

Speekee is the name of this cute purple puppet. She has her very own TV show where she interacts with Spanish speaking children and their friend Jim to immerse your children in the Spanish language. My girls loved it last year when we reviewed it, so when I asked them if they would like to use it again they were very excited.

When we reviewed Speekee in early 2011 all three of my girls enjoyed it, but it really sparked an interest in Delaney. She loved the skits with the kids and she started writing her own little stories where she used Spanish words. She made her sisters act out her skits and she even wrote a puppet show with a part for all of her friends speaking Spanish. When her friends came over they all had fun preforming her puppet show.

Amber, Alaina, & Delaney singing the opening & closing songs from Speekee TV.

Speekee TV is an immersion program that is recommended for kids ages 2-10. There are 10 episodes that last 15-20 minutes each and they are actually filmed in real Spanish places. They speak 100% Spanish in the videos and include subtitles in Spanish & English at the bottom. In each episode Speekee, Jim, & the children take us on a new adventure. We visited the park, a cafe, a house, the zoo, a classroom, the market, a bus station, the beach, a garden, and had a party. A Scheme of Works is included and if you follow this exactly it will offer a young child a 2 year program. You will have access to planning, worksheets, dictionary, and so much more. Each unit follows the same format and will inform you about the unit, what to expect, new words, everyday words, and praise words. If you are logged in you can listen to each word pronunciation, print flashcards, and go to a particular frame of the video.

There are new activities that have been added since we last used this program. There are Cool Clips that are basically the episode divided into scene selections. You can now become friends with Speekee, Jim, & the kids in the episodes. After watching each video you will receive a new friend. You cannot actually talk to them but they will ask you a question in Spanish and you will get 2-3 Spanish answers to choose from. There is also your very own sock puppet to dress & accessorize. You can earn points by watching videos and you can purchase new backgrounds in el mercado (the market).

Subscribers of Speekee can sign up for FastTrack. You will receive an email each week that will give you 4 ways to maximize your Speekee learning for the week. Using the program this way you will use the same Speekee episode for several weeks with the whole program lasting 40 weeks. You will be told when to watch the episode, offer suggested Spanish dialog using words from that episode to use with your students, a sketch to use with your own puppets, songs, games, and suggested questions about each episode.

Acting out scenes from Speekee TV.

We received a 6 month subscription to Speekee and Amber (age 11), Delaney (age 10), and Alaina (age 7) have been using it. I signed up for the FastTrack to see how that worked, but since my girls are bigger that was too slow for them. They decided to just log in & work at their own pace. They remembered a lot of the words from last year, and Delaney had even kept all of her worksheets from before. Alaina didn't like it as much as I wanted her to. She likes the videos, but she doesn't like using Spanish words in her everyday conversations like Amber & Delaney do. They love the catchy songs & sing them often (even Alaina). Amber & Delaney liked reenacting the skits last year & they started doing it again this year.

I really like Speekee TV and think it is a wonderful addition to any home with young kids, the videos are very fun & engaging. It is very easy to pick up the Spanish words just by watching the episodes over & over again. I knew we could watch Speekee on the computer & the Wii, but we also tried it on our iPods & Kindle Fire. The videos play really well on both devices, but the subtitles do not show up. I kinda liked this since Amber & Delaney are older, I had them watch the episodes & tell me what they were saying in English.

Speekee is available for $7.50 a week or $60 per year, you can also try it free for 2 weeks.

Disclaimer: As a member of the Review Crew I received a 6 month subscription to Speekee TV, free of charge, to use with my children. I received no other compensation and all opinions are my own.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


Math is not a favorite subject at our house. We seem to do better with story problems than with just repetition, because my girls can understand what it going on in the problem. It will be very interesting when we get to Algebra and higher! We may need to call 911.....Math911 that is.

Math911 is a computer program that comes on a flash drive, so you can use it anywhere even without internet. There are practice exercises that include step-by-step solutions and answers for Introductory Algebra, Intermediate Algebra, College Algebra, Statistics, Trigonometry, and Pre-Calculus. The student is never graded for a wrong answer, only correct ones, and students work on the problems until they master them.


As Math911's Disclaimer states this program is not a game, it is all math.

Here is a screen shot of Math911. This is for Statistics under Pre-Calculus. Algebra is the highest math I have completed or taught my older kids (with the help of DVD's), just for fun I wanted to try something harder. I started the Statistics and I actually mastered level 1, I was excited!! I had to miss several and look at the solutions, but I figured it out. I spent most of my time using Introductory Algebra. In the top left of the report is where you register your program & you can see which version of the software you are using. The lessons are listed at the bottom and you can see your score for each level. You can click on any lesson to start at level 1 or you can click on a lesson level to work on more specific problems. You may change your course in the top right corner.

This screen is where you work the problems. The problem is at the top and your instructions are in the bottom white box. Your answer will appear in the white box with the gray border. If certain symbols need to be used in an answer that you cannot type on the keyboard a box will appear under the answer box, so you can click on the correct symbol. The very top tells you the section and type of problems you are working on. The pink box in the bottom right shows you the number of problems, and they are generated randomly. If you get it correct it will turn green. The grade for this level is in the top right, and the number of levels for this topic is underneath it. You may change your level at anytime. The bright green box on the right is where you can see the solution to the problem. You can also use the calculator, print the screen, get a new problem, or change sections.

When you first start the program and pick your course you will be started at level 1, or you can choose where you would like to start. Once you master the level you are working on you will automatically advance to the next level. You can always go back and practice the problems from any previous level.

Professor Weissman has the PDF files for his Algebra Classroom as a free download at Math911. It is divided into small units and you will learn by reading questions and answers. He will also show you how you will use Algebra in everyday life with humor and jokes to make it fun.

The Standard Version of Algebra One is free at Math911. There is an option to upgrade to the Premier Version which includes all the other courses for $49.95. If you use the Promo homeschool you can get the entire program for $9.95. The Premier Version also comes with free lifetime updates, technical support, and separate grade reports for all family members (including Mom & Dad).

Professor Weissman, creator of Math911, has been a Mathematics teacher for 50 years. He felt the most important part of the textbook were the 'illustrative' examples. His students have agreed with him that there isn't enough of these types of problems included in textbooks, so he decided to create Math911.

My girls have not started Algebra yet, so I have been using Math911. For the most part I stuck with Introductory Algebra, but as you saw above I did venture out a little. It had been a few years since I completed any Algebra problems, and I was surprised at what I remembered. There was also a lot I had forgotten, but after looking at the solutions I remembered how to work them.

This is a no frills math program and it can be used with any curriculum. I didn't have any problems with the download or the upgrade to the Premiere Version. The program is very simple to use, and I really like that there are no games, videos, or time wasters between problems. This would have been nice to have a few years ago when my older 2 kids were home doing Algebra for our homeschool & my son could have benefited from this for his college classes as well. I will definitely be including this in Amber's math class next year.

At only $9.95 every child or adult who is working on or reviewing upper level math could benefit from this program.

Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received the Premiere Version download free of charge in exchange for my honest review. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Reading Kingdom

Teaching our children to read is the most important thing we can teach them. If a child can read with understanding it opens up the world to them.

Reading Kingdom is an online reading program for ages 4-10 that teaches reading, writing, and comprehension to a third grade level. This program is customized to the child's needs & helps them overcome their weaknesses by using the 6 skills required for reading and writing success. Dr. Marion Blank creator of Reading Kingdom, is a world-renowned expert on literacy. She incorporates elements of phonics, whole language, and additional skills to teach reading and writing

6 skills used for reading and writing success.

Key Benefits of Reading Kingdom:

  • It provides adaptive instruction customized to each student.
  • It can be used by most students on their own.
  • Students enjoy doing it.
  • It works with other curriculum.
  • It works with students who are not native English speakers (ELL & ESL).
  • It provides a groundbreaking, research-based, common-core aligned and highly successful method of reading instruction.
Reading Kingdom is divided into 5 levels covering 30 books. At the beginning of the program your child will take the Skills Survey. The program will then place the child where they need to be in the program. Very young or beginning students will probably be placed in the Seeing Sequences & Letter Land. This will help them with the sequencing of letters and using the keyboard. Any time the child has difficulties on the work they will be given more exercises to master the material. Alaina completed the Skills Survey and was placed in Reading/Writing Level 2. The chart below gives you an idea of where your child is in the program. If you click on the section it will show you the details of each level. This program does not teach typing or require you to know how to type. Alaina uses the pecking method or you can switch to an on screen keyboard.
At the beginning of each lesson the child will work with words that are included in a book, so they will be able to read the entire book when they complete all the activities. The words are taught using activities that  teach the word's spelling, pronunciation, meaning and usage. Children are rewarded with a passport when they reach a certain number of points. They receive characters in their passport that pop-up & down.

Alaina is 7 and she has been using Reading Kingdom. After completing the Skills Survey she was placed in Reading/Writing Level 2. The program is very user friendly, and Alaina has no problems using it on her own. She really enjoys using this program, and she is usually asking to do a lesson early in the day. She really likes the passport & enjoys working her way to the reward. If she does not answer in a timely manner the program will show her what she is suppose to be doing. Sometimes Alaina would get distracted and not get her answer typed in time, then I found out that you can change the amount of time the child has to answer. Alaina has a higher reading level than she does typing and spelling, so she gets a little frustrated when she gets to her books because she reads them so fast, and then has to wait for the arrow to pop up to move on. Her punctuation, spelling, and keyboard skills have improved using this program, but her reading level is already above the work she is completing. 

The customer service is very easy to work with. One of Alaina's surveys only gave her 2 questions & then it kicked her out. It could have been a computer error on our part I don't know, but I email Reading Kingdom and they reset the survey. This time she finished it with no problems.

Here are some of the activities the children will complete.

The sentence is read and then the child will click on the correct answer. If it takes them to long to answer the word will blink yellow to give them a chance to click on it.


This one works on sequencing. The child will click on each letter of the word "dog" in the order it appears in the word. 

This is Alaina's favorite activity, and it is working with the word "like". The child is suppose to click on every "like" in the paragraph, but it must be done in order as they appear in the paragraph.

I think Reading Kingdom would work for beginning readers, struggling readers, or English as a second language. If you would like to try it with your child a 30 day free trial is available. After the 30 days the first child is $19.99 a month or 199.99 a year. Each additional child is $9.99 a month or $99.99 a year. The books that your child reads on Reading Kingdom can also be purchased for $14.99 per level.

Sample lessons are available from each level & surveys. Reading Kingdom also share with us some fun activities and worksheets for our children.

Sail over to the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog to read what other members thought about Reading Kingdom. 

Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received 1 year membership to Reading Kingdom free of charge, to use with my children in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Everyday Homemaking


I remember staying the night with my grandmother when I was a little girl. She didn't really fit the grandma mold in a lot of ways. I don't remember her sleeping very much, she would stay up really late with us & still get up early. We would sit on the couch and look at photo albums & if we wanted a snack at 2 in the morning, she would fix it no matter what it was.  One of my favorites snacks in the middle of the night was chocolate pudding! Yum! She didn't make pudding from the box it was always homemade. I had tried a few different recipes for homemade chocolate pudding in the past & they were good, but they weren't what grandma made. I hadn't thought about her chocolate pudding until we made the Cornstarch Pudding in the Everyday Cooking cookbook.

Everyday Cooking, written by Vicki Bentley, is 100 page cookbook from Everyday Homemaking. Not only is it full of yummy recipes using whole foods there are also plenty of helpful tips throughout. It can be purchased as coil-bound glossy cover book for $17.99 or as an e-Book for $14.99. There are a few sample recipes from the book at the Everyday Homemaking website. You can also learn about mixers, grain mills, and how to make bread while you are there.

Everyday Homemaking offers way more than just a cookbook. They also have a chore system, planners, and Home Education 101 e-Book to encourage new homeschool families. They give you practical ideas, money & time saving tips, & family resources that God has used to help them live their lives more abundantly.

Vicki Bentley& her husband Jim have been a foster/adoptive family since 1986 to almost 50 children. Their ministry has been largely to pregnant teens/babies. They have home educated the girls and trained them in "mommy" skills. In 2011 they moved to Virginia so Jim can work to pass the Parental Rights amendment to the U.S Constitution. Vicki has started working for Home School Legal Defense Association as the Early Years consultant and as director of HSLDA Group Services for support groups/organizations.

Everyday Homemaking is the very first review for The Molly Crew. Some Crew members reviewed Everyday Cooking and other reviewed the Family Chore System. This was a great vendor to start the Crew & I am looking forward to reviewing other household related items. 

I received the Everyday Cooking in the e-book format. I didn't have any trouble downloading my book and sending it to my Kindle Fire. I made a few recipes out of it using my fire & I really like how it shows up on there. After trying & liking a few recipes I decided to print out the book and put it in a 3-ring binder. This makes it easier for the girls to browse through the recipes & I like to make notes in my cookbooks. I usually write any tips or changes I made or who in the family liked/disliked the recipe & why. Most of my family liked everything we tried from the cookbook, there has only been a few things that my picky eater didn't like.  I really liked the tips and ideas that are scattered throughout the pages, and the substitutions suggested. In the back of the book there is help with measurements, meal planning, shopping hints, and kitchen equipment. I have never been a menu planner partly because my husband is always on call for his job, but there are suggested menus for a whole month along with blank forms to copy & fill in yourself. I did print some out to have my girls plan a well balance menu. I also printed out the Basic Cooking Skills sheet so they can add it to their planner and fill out as they accomplish these tasks.

I used this cookbook myself & so did all three of my girls ages 7, 10, & 11. They all flipped through the pages to find something that looked good to them. We tried recipes from each section and Alaina's favorite is the Cornstarch Pudding, Delaney's favorite is Turkey Divan, and Amber's favorite is Kritsy's Lemon-Herb Chicken. I'm not sure I could choose a favorite, but I did like the Italian Chicken & Rice and the Red Beans & Rice. The only thing Mike did for the review was enjoy all the food. Of course the Peanut Butter Fudge was loved by all!! (I'm wondering if we all gained weight this month!)

Alaina (age 7) went through the cookbook & she decided she wanted to make pudding. She did most of the work, but of course she needs more help in the kitchen than the other girls. When we had finished the pudding and poured it into our individual bowls Alaina & I decided to lick the spatula & pan. As soon as I tasted this it was very familiar, so I scooped a spoonful out the bowl and ate it while it was still hot. As soon as I had a spoonful I knew it was what my grandma used to make. It was sooo good that I ate my bowl while it was still hot. I immediately texted my sister, that is 1000 miles away, to tell her what I was eating. It brought back so many memories & I ate way too much! I miss my grandma, but I will remember her every time we make this pudding.
Alaina adding sugar to the pudding.

 Amber picked out Kritsy's Lemon-Herb Chicken to make for dinner. She decided she wanted green beans & rice to go with it, and for dessert she made the Peanut Butter Fudge. Amber is 11 and has some experience in the kitchen, so she completed her meal with very little help from me. Some kids may need help frying the chicken.
Peanut Butter Fudge

Hamburger Stroganoff

One afternoon Mike got called for work earlier than what we thought he would so I made the Hamburger Stroganoff. It was very quick to make and it was finished before he went to work. The best part....everyone liked it. 

Delaney (age 10)  made the Italian Chicken & Rice. I thought I took a picture of it, but I can't find it! This turned out really good. In this recipe you just mix all your ingredients together, put the chicken & cheese on the top and bake. Delaney was capable of preparing this recipe on her own, I just helped her make sure her chicken & rice were done when the time was up.

Thank you Mrs. Bentley, this cookbook has been a wonderful addition to our collection and we look forward to trying the rest of the recipes.

Sail over to the Molly Review Crew Blog to read other reviews for Everyday Cooking and The Everyday Family Chore System.

Disclaimer: As a member of the Homeschool Review Crew I received Everyday Cooking free of charge in exchange for my honest review.
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