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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Best Christmas Gift

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December is my favorite month of the year. I'm not the biggest fan of the cold weather, but I love all the excitement of the month. We make gingerbread houses, candy, decorate sugar cookies & sugar cubes. All three of the girls have their own small Christmas tree for their rooms & we have a 9' tree in the living room. We have a lot of parties in December & we are pretty busy. This year I had the local homeschool moms over for a Christmas party. My oldest son & youngest daughter have birthdays this month, so we are very busy.
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This year the surprise was on me. Morgan told me she was coming up from Colorado from December 21-January 4. I was thrilled at the thought of her coming for so long. She didn't get here until about 4:00 am Sunday morning. Mike came to wake me up, so I could say hi to her before she went to bed. I came down the stairs and she was sitting at the dining room table, but as I walked over to her Michael was standing in the kitchen. He has been in Afghanistan and wasn't suppose to be home until January & we were going down to Kentucky to visit him there. I had no idea that he came home early. He had called Mike & had Morgan pick him up at the Denver airport. They actually kept the secret from me for a month.
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I was fortunate enough to be able to chat with him almost daily from the time he left. About the end of November he quit answering me. After several days, I was beginning to worry. I don't know how mom's could stand their kids off fighting in a war without the internet. Mike was a great comforter during those couple of weeks, but he knew all along that Michael was back in KY at the beginning of December.
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Morgan didn't actually stay here the whole time, but she came up & stayed for several days. Having all 5 of my kids together is the greatest gift ever. The decorations, gifts, and food are nothing compared to the fun, games, laughter, and late nights with my kids.





Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dig-It! Games Character Contest ~ Please Vote @digitgames #voteAmber

Amber loves Roman Town & Mayan Mysteries from Dig-It! Games.  She completed Roman Town and she has finished the first part of Mayan Mysteries, her only complaint was that she didn't have the second part to Mayan Mysteries.
“I like how the games bring the ancient culture of the Mayans to life, like I am really there, because it makes it easier to learn that way & I thought it was very interesting.”
~Amber
When when heard that Dig-It! Games was going to hold a contest for a new character for the second part of Mayan Mysteries she was very eager to enter.
She developed her character by writing a character description & drawing a picture of her. She chose to create a girl named Alexandra.
Amber's Mayan Mystery Character
Alexandra Faddei, age 13

Amber described her character with this paragraph:
“My character is smart and adventurous. She is Ukrainian, but she lives in San Diego, CA. She loves to travel and learn new things. I think my character should be on the Mayan Mysteries team because she has a great memory, she is a quick learner, and is very good at puzzles. My character is perfect for this job because she is a hard worker and is willing to go over the top to figure things out.”

Alexandra was one of the three finalists. That means Amber has already won an iPod & free access to the new game. If her character is the winner she will receive an iPad for her prize & she will have her character on the game & her own name included in the credits. Amber was very surprised to have gotten this far, and she would love to win an iPad, but she is excited to be so close to having her character included in the game & her own name listed in the credits.

If you would like to vote in this contest visit the Dig-It! Games facebook page. There are three finalists to choose your from. All you have to do is click like on your favorite character.  Remember, Amber’s character is Alexandra.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ravioli


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Amber decided she wanted to make ravioli by herself. She was doing a wonderful job until she decided it was taking her too long, so I pitched in to help.

She found the 3 Cheese Ravioli she wanted to try at $10 buck dinners. Amber loves pasta, so she decided to triple the recipe to make sure there were plenty of leftovers. We can all of our own spaghetti sauce from our garden, so we did not use the marinara sauce included with the recipe. We just used the noodle & the filling recipes.

She was using the Norpro Ravioli Maker With Press, and when I started helping her I used the square stamp from the Fox Run Brands Ravioli Pasta Stamps, Set of 2.
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I should have taken more pictures of Amber's noodle process. She rolled out a sheet of pasta dough and then she placed it over the ravioli frame & used the press to indent the pasta to hold the filling. She rolled out a second sheet of pasta to place on the top of her frame. Then she used a rolling pin over top of the frame to seal both layers of pasta and cut out each individual ravioli.

The ravioli were a huge hit & we will be making them again. Thank You $10 buck dinners, we will be looking through more of your recipes in the future.

This post contains affiliate links.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Devotions from the Torah Review & Giveaway

I have recently started reading Devotions from the Torah. The first book is Devotions From Genesis and the second book Devotions From Exodus written by Nicole Halbrooks Vaughn.
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Devotions From Genesis is available in softcover for $12.59 or Kindle version for $8.95, it is divided into 3 sections.
  • Section 1: Genesis 1-11 Discovering the Character of God and Man through the Creation, the Fall, and the Flood
  • Section 2: Genesis 12-36 Discovering Faith and Obedience through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
  • Section 3: Genesis 37-50 Discovering the Comings of Christ and Trust in the Midst of Trial through the Life of Joseph
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Devotions From Exodus Part One is available in softcover for $12.95 or Kindle for $8.95, it is divided into 4 sections:
  • Moses Meets the I Am ~ Exodus chapters 1-6
  • The Plagues~ Exodus chapters 7-15:21
  • Entering the Wilderness ~Exodus 15:22-27 to chapter 19
  • The Giving of the Law ~ Exodus chapter 20
I have been going through the book of Exodus with my kids, so I actually started using Devotions From Exodus first. The devotions are written for older teens or adults. I read through the study and then relayed things to my kids during my study with them. It is recommended that you read the bible chapter first and then the devotion from the book that is related to it. During the devotions we learn meanings to names, and things people did that set them apart from others, thought questions, and a sample prayer that quotes scripture and uses topics covered in the devotion.
Nicole choses key things from each chapter and explains them very simply and uses coordinating scripture from throughout the bible for further study on each chapter of Exodus. She also relates topics to our modern way of life and gets you to thinking how you can examine your own heart and apply biblical characteristics to your life.
The devotional study looks at each plague and how they affected the hearts of the people. I have really enjoyed Nicole’s look into the hearts of these people and Pharaoh, she has brought up things that I hadn’t thought of in other studies of Exodus. The NASB is quoted throughout the studies and all the chapters I have completed have been very informative and biblical. I am looking forward to going back and studying Genesis when I am finished with Exodus.
Author Nicole Vaughn is the Children’s Ministry Director at Shiloh Baptist Church in Somerville, AL. She is the co-administrator of  CrossRoads Christian Academy. She is the founder of Proven Path Ministries. She has also lead inductive Precept Upon Precept studies, has served as an advocate for her local crisis pregnancy center and has shared the testimony of Christ throughout her community and abroad. Nicole is a woman who is dedicated in her faith, devoted to her family, and driven to share the truth of God with others. She and her husband, Patrick, currently reside in Decatur, AL with their two youngest children.
~~GIVEAWAY~~
I have some great news. I have 3 sets of PDF books to giveaway. Three people will win both the Devotions From Genesis and Devotions From Exodus.
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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Gingerbread Houses

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One of my favorite things to do during the holiday season is to decorate gingerbread houses with our friends. Last December we made a quick trip to Indiana, so we didn’t get a day set to include everyone. This year we made sure we did.

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I baked 21 gingerbread house and everyone enjoyed putting theirs together.

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving Pies


I cannot believe November is already over. Where has this year gone? We had a great Thanksgiving Day with a little shopping afterwards. It seems like we eat the about the same foods every year, but we are never sure about what kind of pies to make. Most of the time I try to please who is going to be here. This year our guests favorites are cherry, pumpkin, and pecan so we settled on making those three. That gave each of my girls a pie to be in charge of. I make the pie crust and rolled it out for them, but they were in charge of the rest.

Amber wanted to make the pecan pie. That is about the only kind of pie she will eat.

Delaney really wanted apple pie, but Morgan will be coming up in a couple of weeks and she loves apple pie too, so we decided to save that pie for when she comes home. Delaney decided she would take care of the pumpkin pie & she went online to find a different recipe than the one we normally use. It was wonderful!!

My dad's favorite pie is cherry, so Alaina decided she would be in charge of that pie. We cheated a little this year & bought the pie filling, so her pie was pretty easy. She wanted to get a little creative, so she spelled the word cherry in pie dough for the top of her cherries.






The First Christmas Night Review & Giveaway


We all have traditions for the holiday season. Some are past down from generation to generation and others are just beginning. One of our favorite traditions just kinda happened, we read Christmas stories. Most of them are picture books that other wise would never get read after all the kids advance in their reading level. We love the simplicity of the stories and the illustrations are some of the best we have seen. My girls get really excited about this tradition and some years we wrap them up, so we don't know what book is chosen. The First Christmas Night is our newest book that will fit right in with our collection.

The First Christmas Night retells the birth of baby Jesus in a poem Keith Christopher. It is recommended for children ages 4-8, but all of my girls enjoyed reading it & we will read it every year in the month of December. The simple poem on each page will appeal to even the youngest of kids, and they will love the beautiful illustrations of Christine Kornacki. The poem begins with the arrival of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem and we see the angels appear to the shepherds, the visit of the Wise Men, and Jesus' birth.

At the end of the book the Biblical Story of the First Christmas from the books of Luke and Matthew.



About the Author
Keith Christopher is a composer, arranger, orchestrator, and educator, and he has served as editor and producer for several major music publishers. In addition to writing and studio producing, Keith served on the faculty at the Blair School of Music of Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He lives in Hendersonville, Tennessee, with his wife and two children.

About the Illustrator 
At a very early age, Christine Kornacki developed a love for painting and bringing stories to life. After receiving a BFA in illustration from the University of Hartford, her dreams of illustrating children's books began to take shape, including illustrating the best-selling The Sparkle Box for Ideal's Children's Books. Christine's recent work also includes illustrating the six-book series for the American Girl historical doll characters Marie-Grace and Cecile.  She spends her days painting in her studio, which adjoins a charming cafe in New Haven, Connecticut.




~~Giveaway~~

I have another copy of The First Christmas Night to giveaway!! Enter the Rafflecopter below.
Disclosure of Material Connection: i received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog.Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFG, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Soft Gingerbread Cookies




Every year our local newspaper holds a recipe contest. My girls always want to participate and I have entered a few years. This year we all four entered a recipe. Alaina entered Jello Popcicles, Delaney entered Ooey Gooey Pretzels, Amber entered Soft Gingerbread Cookies, and I entered Stromboli.

Amber and I were both chosen for the final round. We made our recipe and we took it to be judged among other contestants. We were thrilled with our results. Amber received second place in the kids division and I received first place in the adult main dish category.

The recipe for my Stromboli is already on my blog, so I'll share Amber's recipe for Soft Gingerbread Cookies here.

Soft Gingerbread Cookies
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
1 Tablespoon vinegar
2 1/2 cups flour

Icing:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons milk

Beat shortening with electric mixer. Add sugar, baking powder, soda & spices until combined. Beat in molasses, egg and vinegar until combined. Add in as much flour as you can with your mixer combing the rest with your hands.

Chill dough until easy to handle (a couple of hours).

On lightly floured surface roll dough about 1/8" thick. Cut using your favorite gingerbread man cookie cutter. Bake on greased cookie sheet or baking stone for 5-6 minutes.

Cool cookies completely before decorating.

Combine powdered sugar and vanilla and enough milk to reach desired consistency & decorate.

Friday, November 22, 2013

1 Girl Nation CD Review & Giveaway



My girls are always singing! I can usually tell when they start working on their math, because they will break out in a song. Last week Delaney was beat boxing and Amber was rapping. I guess this is good for their creativity and they are usually refreshed when they finally get back to the books. Their newest song they have been singing is Count Your Rainbows by 1 Girl Nation.


The last couple of weeks all we have been listening to 1 Girl Nation. Their music is very upbeat pop style with a good message to girls about living for God. The five girls in 1GN (1 Girl Nation) are very passionate about telling others of Christ through their music.

  1. While We're Young
  2. Vertical
  3. Live For You
  4. In The Eyes
  5. Count Your Rainbows
  6. Love Like Crazy
  7. Turn Around
  8. Invade
  9. Daddy's Girl
  10. 1 Girl Nation


My girls have been listening to this CD in the car, and in the house. We all like the upbeat style and Amber thinks there should be more songs like Count Your Rainbows on the CD. Delaney said her favorite song is Live For You.

~~Giveaway~~

I have another copy of The First Christmas Night to giveaway!! Enter the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway Disclosure of Material Connection: i received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog.Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFG, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Sparkle Box Review & Giveaway



Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year. I love the traditions that I have made with my kids over the years. After reading The Sparkle Box I think we will start a new tradition that doesn't have to be only this time of year.

The Sparkle Box is a beautifully illustrated children's picture book that teaches a big lesson. When Sam and his mom are getting gifts ready for Christmas he notices a little silver box and is very curious to know what is inside. As the family goes through the weeks before Christmas both his mother & father keep telling him that it isn't ready yet. Sam didn't realize that his kind actions were what was being placed in the silver sparkle box. An excited Sam gets to open the sparkle box on Christmas morning to discover the gift inside was actually the kind things he had done to help others out and was like giving a gift to Jesus. Your very own sparkle box is included with the book.

Taking time out of our busy schedules to help others is very important. I like the idea of writing down the things that we do show children that even little things add up and make a difference for any time of the year. My youngest daughter was very excited that the book even came with its very own sparkle box.

The Sparkle Box was written by Jill Hardie and illustrated by Christine Kornacki. Jill is hoping her book will spark a new tradition in more families that read her book. Commercialism isn't as important in her family after they open Jesus' gift.

Author Bio
Author Jill Hardie and her family began placing a gift for Jesus under their Christmas tree as a way of bringing more meaning to the holiday.  The first time they opened His gift, the commercialism of the season melted away and they felt a profound joy and peace.  Jill hopes that The Sparkle Box will spark a new Christmas tradition, bringing light into thousands of lives.  

Illustrator Bio
At a very early age, Christine Kornacki developed a love for painting and bringing stories to life.  After receiving a BFA in illustration from the University of Hartford, her dreams of illustrating children's books began to take shape.  She spends her days painting in her studio, which adjoins a charming cafe in New Haven, Connecticut.

~~Giveaway~~

I have another copy of The Sparkle Box to giveaway!! Enter the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure of Material Connection: i received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog.Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFG, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Friday, November 15, 2013

Christmas Comes To America Review


Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love the traditions we have made as a family, and this year we added a Once-A-Week Unit Study from A Homeschool Legacy titled Christmas Comes to America to our school.

Homeschool Legacy offers a variety of 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.

Christmas Comes To America is a 44 page study available for $17.95. Children of all ages can participate, but it actually became a family study at our house. This study should last 4 weeks, so you still have plenty of time to finish it before Christmas gets here. The recommended schedule has you taking one day a week to work on the unit study devotionals, activities, and read alouds. The rest of the week you still use your regular curriculum but adding in extra unit study reading recommendations, field trips, or family movie/game recommendations.

The four week topics:

  • Week 1 The Dutch~ This week focuses on the legend of Santa Claus and the history of the real St. Nicholas. We learned of the Dutch tradition of First Christmas and Second Christmas Day, and that they patented the cocoa process. Cocoa mix and homemade mashmallow recipes are included to make as gifts. Vrolijk Kerstfeest!
  • Week 2 The English ~ We learned of Christmas caroling & Christmas card traditions while planning a caroling party & making cards for friends.  Merry Christmas!
  • Week 3 The Germans ~ We learned about Kris Kringle and where the Christmas Tree came from, and the origin of gingerbread houses. Froeliche Weihnachten!
  • Week 4 An American Christmas~  We learned of Americas only true Christmas tradition. Do you know what it is? Merry Christmas!
Each chapter starts out with a list of library and video choices that you can use for the week. Homeschool Legacy has thought of everything here, they included the book title, author, and call number for each selection. Next we have a list of supplies that we will need for the week. The daily activities include Family Devotionals, History, Geography, Science, Language, Traditions, Cultures, Life Skills, Gift Giving, Arts & Crafts, Music, Research & Field Trip ideas, and a suggested Movie. Some of the activities include trivia games, recipes, crafts, and more. There are so many suggested books & activities that you won't be able to use them all.
Delaney's Gingerbread House

I love the way the Once-A-Week studies are arranged. The complete book and video list at the front of the study make it easy to make a trip to the library. My girls really love the variety of activities that are included especially this time of the year. It's nice to have that break from their regular studies and gave us extra time to focus on others. 
Last year we got some kids together to decorate sugar cookies to deliver while we were caroling. This year we are already planning on using some suggestions from Christmas Comes To America for our before Caroling party.

This is our second Once-A-Week Unit Study from Homeschool Legacy and they have been the easiest unit study to use. Other than a trip to the library we had everything else we needed for the recipes & crafts. 



Disclaimer: I received Christmas Comes to America Unit Study free of charge to use with my children. I received no other compensation and all opinions are my own. 

Apple Cinnamon Muffins


Last week when Morgan was here I wanted to make sure she ate something before she left, but she wanted to get out of here pretty early. She thought apple muffins sounded good, so we looked for a new recipe to try. We thought we would try these Easy Apple Cinnamon Muffins from All Recipes.

I followed the recipe exactly the way it was written even though there were some negative comments, and they were perfect!! It was a good thing I doubled the recipe because everyone LOVED them.  





Thursday, November 14, 2013

At Home In Dogwood Mudhole Schoolhouse Review #hsreviews

The final review for the 2013 Schoolhouse Review Crew is a book titled Nothing That Eats from the series At Home In Dogwood Mudhole. This book appealed to me because we have often thought about having a hobby farm, but it just never seemed to be the right time.
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At Home In Dogwood Mudhole is a series of 3 books, from author Franklin Sanders, it is about his family going from city life to farm life when they move to Dogwood Mudhole, TN. The books are actually stories that first appeared in Sander's Moneychanger newsletter starting in June 1995 and continuing for 17 years.

This book is titled Nothing That Eats because Franklin's wife Susan made it very clear that she would move to the middle of nowhere, but she wanted nothing that eats. She was talking about animals, but the Sanders and their 7 children start out with dogs and move on from there. The farm continues to grow when the kids get married and move their own families back home. This 379 page book is chocked full of everyday happenings. We get a glimpse of dog training and how they decide how much money to spend on vet bills for their dog to pigs jumping rope, and what happens when you have 7 kids, you might just leave one behind at the gas station. The Sanders are a big part of Civil War Reenactments and have a deep passion for history.

Franklin truly enjoys spending time with his family. He says, "Time robs us too quickly of those tender years when wife and children need our presence and love."

I read this book outloud to my family including my husband. We started out reading it straight through, but we decided we enjoyed it better if we read one chapter a day. Since it was originally written for a newsletter the chapters don't really flow as a whole book, but they are wonderful when read one at a time. We don't live in a big city, and we visit our friends ranch from time to time, but it was great to see some of the happenings on a self sufficient homestead that you would normally not see or hear about.

I think their Money Back Guarantee is a good description of the book:
If you don't laugh, cry, gasp, hug your spouse or jump up and down, we'll refund your money and you can keep the book to use as a door stop.

We received the paperback edition of Nothing That Eats and it is available for $22.95 or the Kindle/ePub/PDF is available for $16.95. Volume Two: Best Thing We Ever Did is also available for the same price. The chapter Pig Persuader from Nothing That Eats and the chapter Home Alone Milking from Best Thing We Ever Did can be read free.



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Sail over to the Crew Blog to read what the rest of the Crew thought about At Home In Dogwood Mudhole. 
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Monday, November 11, 2013

French Essential Schoolhouse Review #hsreviews

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This fall we went on vacation to the Grand Canyon. We were there when most America children are normally in school, so the majority of the people we came in contact with were foreigners. Amber was very intrigued with all the different languages we heard and we had fun guessing where each one was from. Amber decided then that she would like to learn at least some words of as many different languages as she can, so when we were offered French Essentials to review she was very excited. 

French Essentials is a complete French curriculum designed especially for home learners. It was designed by French teachers and does not require any previous knowledge of French. Individual Modules may be purchased for $69.95 and will give you 90 days of online access. The French Essentials Full Access Program may be purchased for $149.95 with a full year access. 

The French Essentials program includes:
  • Downloadable lessons & printable workbook pages plus all parent documents. 
  • Online exercises & activities
  • Online lesson tests
  • Savais-tu? (topics on French culture)

French Essentials Full Access Program is recommended for students in grades 3-12. Anyone wanting to learn French could benefit from using this program, but the worksheets probably wouldn't work with anyone younger than 3rd grade.  The program contains 10 modules (6-10 are not available yet) that would equal 2 years of High School French classes. Younger children will work at a much slower pace and could use one module a year or a high school student could finish in a much shorter time. French Essentials uses reading, writing, listening with comprehension, and speaking in their curriculum. An outline for each module is available, and a free trial lesson. In order to use the program correctly you will need Acrobat Reader, Flash Player, and Quicktime. 

After we received access to French Essentials I visited the Download area to obtain our lessons & workbook pages. I printed the worksheets out and made copies for each kid. The lessons are in a different file that is also downloaded and uses Adobe Reader. Throughout the lessons there are video & audio files to be used. The link for these files are included on the lesson page. If you see a box with an owl inside you will listen to the each word and then repeat it, if there is a microphone in the box you will hear a question in French and you are to answer it in French, and the box with the TV you will just listen. When the audio/video box is clicked it will appear in the top right hand corner of the Adobe Reader page that is open. A clipboard with a pencil indicates that you should complete a worksheet.  

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The student has access to their own area that make it easy to use.

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It is easy to access the online exercises and tests by Module. It was easier for us to download one Module at a time. Actually I downloaded all the worksheets and Amber went in and dowloaded the Modules. 
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We had to log into French Essentials to access the Culture section. Here we found maps, videos, historical information, and more.

Amber (age 12) and Delaney (age 11) used this curriculum. I originally wanted to learn some French right along with them, but on the second lesson they didn't want to wait for me to finish making lunch, so they went on without me. From then on they used the program entirely on their own. They could find their lesson and follow it very easily. The pictures that indicate when to use the audio and when to complete the worksheet made using this program so easy. The first three lessons are pretty simple and contain no online lesson. My girls went through these pretty fast and they are almost finished with Module 1. There is a placement test that you can have your student use if they already know some French. 

Module 1 is divided into 5 units with 18 lessons and my girls just finished lesson 14. They started out learning the alphabet with audio files spelling words to them in French and they had to write the correct letter to see what the word was. They also worked on some silent letters, greetings, common phrases, activities, numbers, and more. My girls are already using their new words around the house and they have been counting in French during PE.


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