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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Deficit

It seems in my life I am always falling short of where I keep thinking I ought to be.  I have all of these great plans swirling through my mind - usually around 11pm or so - and by morning they all fall apart and it seems as if I'm doing pretty good to get a shower and maybe convince my girls to comb their hair.  It seems that everytime I do a blog posting about the family it is long and I'm trying to cover what happened in the last month or more.  Always behind!   Sigh.  Either way it looks like I'm going to be doing that again so I may as well get started:

1.   The "getting caught up" syndrome
I have a million things in my life right now that I really want to do.  Somehow I have this mistaken idea that I'll be able to do those things when "I get caught up."  You know?  It occurred to me the other day that it is possible that I will never actually get caught up.  There will always be something.  I think, "I'm going to: blog, clean up that bookcase, play outside, go for a walk, get on the treadmill, blog about the family, paint the upstairs bedroom, refinish the kitchen table, work on food storage, plan a better dinner menu, get a better schedule, do such n' such chores, etc....when I get caught up."   I am really annoyed that I discovered that I'm probably never going to be caught up.  This really ruins my procrastination plans....now I'm stuck figuring out how to move forward, even though I'm in a deficit.  Bummer.

2.  The Co-op.
So, you remember we decided to join a co-op right?  Classical Conversations.   Well, it has been both good and bad. 

The good?  Kayley loves it...Maggie too!  Kayley has made a lot of friends, she is being stretched and challenged and given an opportunity to answer to someone else for a few hours.  Maggie has done well going to "Essentials Play" which is a bit like a nursery only...not. The girls were beyond thrilled to carry a backpack and take their lunch.  Kayley gives a presentation each week in her class and that is pretty interesting.  This week she gave a talk about Penguins and shared her lapbook.

The bad?  It's a trillion degrees in the dinky little classroom.  Anyone who knows me well knows that if I get too warm...I get irritable.  I do NOT like to be hot.  Also, Essentials Play (although Maggie is doing well) is a joke.  There is a small handful of small kids (like Mag) and a very large group of older kids (like age 7+).  Essentials Play is designed for kids aged 4-7 who have to wait for older siblings while they are in Essentials...it is an added bonus that we can drop our 4 and unders there to play while we work with our other children during Foundations.  I know, it's confusing.  Either way the whole set up is a little messy.  The chance that Maggie is going to get beaned in the head with a basketball or run-over by a larger child is inevitable.  There is no point in complaining, because like I mentioned earlier...the fact that Maggie can even go is a "bonus." 

To add to the bad:  There is no playground so the kids have "recess" in a parking lot.  Can you say skinned knees?

More bad:  I totally DON'T even remotely, closely, at all, fit-in.  The ladies, other Mom's in Kayley's class, are all scrawny, trendy, gorgeous, vegan/organic, yoga women*.  I must have missed the memo before joining...  I feel dowdy, sloppy, fat and ghetto compared to these women and I come home every Wednesday feeling like a depressed loser.  Wonderful huh?

*(Where do these women find the time to be perfect?  I can't even figure out what I'm having for dinner today - much less where to find the best prices on goat cheese and organic artichoke hearts or where to pick up my raw milk that day.)

More Good:  On the upside, we are learning a ton.  I created this fabulous tri-fold board to keep us somewhat organized while we learn our weekly stuff.  It has helped a ton.  I got the idea at Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood.

3.   Kayley lost a tooth.  
There was quite a bit of excitement here when Kayley discovered her first wiggly tooth.  The following day she wiggled it so hard it stuck straight out.  She started to panic a bit but I calmly told her that there was nothing left to do but just pull it out.  So, brave girl - she did!  The Tooth-Fairy brought her a 1$ coin. 

4.  Chores:
We've been working hard to try to implement a few changes.  One of them being how we do chores.  We were consistently doing chorepacks for a long time, then moved to the chore board for a bit...then it got to where I needed to be realistic.  We were trying to do too much and because it was overwhelming and frustrating...we gave up and did NOTHING.  Ok, well doing nothing wasn't working either (obviously) so I created a very, very simple daily chore list for us to complete.  I mean VERY simple.  I created 2-3 family/shared chores per day and turned a lot of the old chores into personal jurisdictions.  For example, now not only do the girls have to clean up their rooms, but they are responsible for cleaning their own windows, dusting their own furniture and vacuuming their own rooms.  In order to make this work we made the investment in a dorm vacuum.  Very light weight Kayley can easily manage this tiny vacuum on her own. 

The girls have to complete their own jurisdictions and then complete 2 or 3 chores off of the daily/weekly list.  They earn an allowance (.25 per chore) for chores they complete that are NOT a personal jurisdiction.   If they do NOT complete their chore...and Mom or Dad has to complete their chore...then they owe us the .25.   Since we are giving an allowance...kids may NOT ask Mom or Dad to buy them something at the store...if they want it, they need to earn the money to buy it for themselves (with a few exceptions like clothing or school supplies and so forth).

So far it is working great and I've only made .25 on doing 1 chore...

5.  Behavior
As we've gotten busier and in more of a deficit it seems our behavior has taken a nose-dive.  I revisited the book 1-2-3 Magic and we held several family meetings to try to get to the root of the problem.  Since then we've implemented the Magic Principles again and it is working pretty well.  I can always write more about this later...  Basically using a system of counting for time outs has proven strangely effective.  We have written down basic rules for most situations as well.

We are also consistently using our We Choose Virtues cards to memorize catch phrases that remind us of appropriate behaviors in addition to Kids of Character from The Learning Parent that share scripture references that encourage this behavior.  They work really well together.  Last month we spent the entire month learning "I Am Attentive" and this month we've been working on "I Am Self-Controlled."  It's been a fun adventure...even Maggie can recite the catch-phrases.

6.  Schoolwork:
Is going great.  We've implemented "school hours."  I have made an effort to NOT answer the phone, do laundry, get on the computer, etc during "school hours."  I promised the girls (mostly Kayley) that I will be at the dining room table from 9am-12pm.  Those are designated as school hours.  We take 2 breaks, one at 10 and one at 11 (with a snack at 10).  Schoolwork needs to be completed during that time...if it does not get done, it is assigned as "independent work" and must be completed alone.  I know that may sound a little harsh but I found that I was getting frustrated how long it was taking us to get simple things done.  I try hard to make school palatable and fun...and I think I do a pretty decent job.  
Like spelling with shaving cream:
 

Or reading in the doorway:


I do not want to be demanding but there are some things that I am going to require - like Scriptures, Prayer, Reading and Math.  Now we have this CC stuff to keep up with too...it gets a bit overwhelming.  Ok, so anyway, schoolwork has only had to be completed independently once...and it stunk!  So we've never had THAT happen again.  Oh, and if schoolwork is completed early, then we are done early! 

This leave plenty of time for you to be creative 
and build an awesome rocket-ship out of boxes...


 Or play Rapunzel:
 Or Puppet Show:

7.  Review Stuff
Argh!  Not much to say about this other than I'm drowning in review stuff!  I love reviewing but it has definitely taken over my blog.  I am constantly running behind and it is so frustrating!  I have, no joke, from Deseret Book:  Scripture Power CD, The Rent Collector, 17 Miracles, Messages from Thomas S. Monson, The 13 Days of Christmas, Journey into the Fringe, and What's on the Other Side.  I can't wait to share them if I could just manage to get them posted!  From the Schoolhouse Crew I have coming up, BeeYoutiful, ZooWhiz, and With the Children on Sundays.  This keeps me busy for sure!  I love it but not when I'm behind!  :o/

8.  Maggie's Health
I'm kind of throwing this on here as an afterthought but Maggie's health has been a little troublesome.  She's fine, nothing to worry about, but she has been having recurring fevers.  Predictable fevers.  Like, literally every 24-26 days she is running a fever, swollen glands, and sheer misery.  She has been in and out of the clinic and urgent care (tested for strep and UTI's and so on) and I finally decided to take her to a pediatrician in town because it was getting a bit ridiculous.  They did some blood work (can you say nightmare?  drawing blood on a toddler is torture) and her Dr. believes that Maggie may have what is known a PFAPA.  Basically frequent, recurring fevers, with an unknown cause.  Lovely huh?  We are getting a referral to see a pediatric rheumetolegist and infectious disease specialist in St. Louis and we will find out more then but from what I understand there isn't much they can do.  They treat it with prednisone and eventually if it is bad enough they take out their tonsils - which cures it in about 80% of cases.  It would be nice to find something that will help because when Maggie has an "episode" we are literally down-for-the-count for 3-5 days.  It is awful but, I'm grateful that it is nothing more serious.

9.  What else?
We are keeping busy.  We are really excited that fall is finally arriving and we can begin to move around again and get out of the house.  We have some fun things coming up:  Silver Dollar City Homeschool Day, General Conference, Science Sprout Museum Day, Titanic Museum, and the Friends of the Library Book Sale....hey! It won't be much longer and Gramma will be here for a visit too!   It just occured to me a couple weeks ago too that it is time for my annual Fearlessly Feminine challenge!  I nearly forgot!

So, if you've stuck with me this far thanks for reading...  Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Music Together - Schoolhouse Review Crew

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I am not musically inclined.  In fact I’ve always steered clear of things like choir because I cannot carry a tune in a bucket.  Because of this, I haven’t learned much about music – and of course I don’t know how to teach it - not even a little.  This is a shame for my kids because music is so fun… and we had a GREAT time reviewing a product through the Schoolhouse Review crew called Music Together.  Luckily with a product like this I didn't have to know anything about music!
What is Music Together?
Founded by Kenneth Guilmartin and co-authored by Lili Levinowitz, Music Together brings music education to children in a simple, easy-to-incorporate, format.  From the website... 
Music Together is an internationally recognized early childhood music program for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarteners, first and second graders, and the adults who love them.  First offered to the public in 1987, it pioneered the concept of a research-based, developmentally appropriate early childhood music curriculum that strongly emphasizes and facilitates adult involvement.
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The Music Together philosophy is easy to understand and based on 4 main points:
1.  All children are musical
2.  All children can achieve basic music competence
3.  Participation and modeling of parents and other primary caregivers is essential to a child's musical growth
4.  Growth is best achieved in a playful, musically rich, and non performance oriented learning environment

Music Together traditionally offers 2 programs:  family classes and preschool classes.  Both are taught by trained Music Together teachers.  Teacher training, licensing for teaching family classes and/or preschool programs is available on their website.   If you can't make it to classes near you that's ok!  By using the songbook and CD, this amazing program is available to homeschool families as well. 


Music Together Family Favorites:
We received the Music Together Family Favorites Songbook for Teachers and Family Favorites CD.   The Songbook gives you all the tools you need to teach music in your own home.  After reading through the Music Together philosophy, as found in the Songbook, I was really excited to get started.  Not only does Music Together address the need for music education but it really simplifies the HOW of teaching music to children using actions, fingerplays, activities, instruments and other props.  My favorite is the "dyad" or lap songs which Music Together describes as a "rhythmic snuggle."  How delicious is that?  A large section is also devoted on how to use the music together program with special needs children.

The song book contains 19 songs from the Family Favorites song collection.   The page numbers in the songbook correspond with the appropriate track on the CD.  Recommended for ages 0-8 the Family Favorite songs were an instant hit with both my girls.  We played them at home using our homemade musical instruments and we played them in the car, bee-bopping our way around town.   Maggie's favorite song is Stick Tune.  Kayley's favorite is She Sells Sea Shells (mine too).  This is the perfect dyad song and it is so lovely to cuddle my girls while singing this sweet and simple tune.  Although you can purchase the "egg shakers" and rhythm sticks and so on we ended up making our own and it was simple.  I made the old-fashioned paper-plate tambourine, a prescription bottle shaker and our sticks were unsharpened pencils.
My girls are big fan of any music you can dance to so our musical instruments have seen a lot of use!  Check it out, you can hear a snippet of the fun by listening to sample songs here.

How to Use Music Together:
Each lesson starts with background information about the song you are learning.  It includes a list of activities that you will be accomplishing in that lesson and lets you know what materials you will need.  

Next the book gives ideas for things to do for all ages, infants, preschoolers & older children and children with special needs.

So, for example, Maggie's favorite song, "Stick Tune" all ages can practice and explore tapping macrobeat/microbeat and tapping every 2 beats or every 4 beats.   (As a side note this corresponded nicely with learning skip counting a couple weeks ago!)  We also substituted the word sticks with stomping our feet which made for a loud, noisy song!  (Of course the girls loved it!).  Preschoolers and older children can take turns being a leader or practice good stick safety.  Infants can enjoy the beat by having caregivers tap their toes, knees, etc.  Children with special needs may need help clicking their sticks and may be sensitive to the noise level.

In the upper right corner of each page is a small picture of a CD with the corresponding track number...handy for when you don't have the CD case nearby.

We enjoyed working our way through a couple of songs a few times a week...although it was HARD to get my girls to move on to a new song because they always wanted to go back and hear their favorites over and over and over again.  We are hooked on the music!  The songs are so catchy and get stuck in your head! 

Ready to buy?
Music Together Family Favorites Songbook retails for  $29.95 and the CD with booklet for $14.95.   Music can also be purchased as an MP3 download for $9.99.

If you purchase the Songbook and CD combo kit (instead of purchasing each separately) you save $5.00.   

Bonus!  Enter coupon code “Schoolhouse” at check-out on the music together online store you can save an additional $2.00!  

Music Together is an Award-Winning CD:
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  • A Parents’ Choice Silver Honor Award
  • Earlychildhood News Directors’ Choice
  • Earlychildhood News Judges’ Selection
  • National Parenting Center Seal of Approval
  • NAPPA Gold Award
  • iParenting Media Award
  • Learning®Magazine 2008 Teacher’s Choice
         for the Family
  • Creative Child Magazine Preferred Choice
  • Children's Music Web Award
  • Mom's Choice Gold Award
  • Parent-Tested Parent-Approved Award

We are having a great time using Music Together and several of my fellow crew mates did too, to see their thoughts follow the link below:
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Disclaimer:  We received Music Together free of charch in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Forest for the Trees -Homeschool Legacy -Schoolhouse Crew Review

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As Charlotte Mason fans we love unit studies and we love nature.  What a great combo in this review product we recieved through the Schoolhouse Review Crew that combined both!  Homeschool Legacy Once-A-Week Unit Study: Forest for the Trees by Shannon Gibson!

What are Homeschool Legacy One-A-Week Unit Studies?
PhotobucketHomeschool Legacy offers a simple way to do unit studies.  Broken down step-by-step each unit study is easy to use because all the planning has been done for you!  Designed to fit with any curriculum Once-A-Week unit studies allow your family to continue daily with your regular school day, incorporating your unit study just one day per week (with simple family reading encouraged each day).  It is incredibly simple to add one of these  unit studies to your regular schedule but they are comprehensive enough to be used as a stand-alone science or history curriculum if you choose.  Each unit study is designed to be about 4-7 weeks in length with a LOT of flexibility built in.
Homeschool Legacy is a Christian Curriculum and so each lesson is biblically centered.   In fact, each lesson includes a devotional which recognizes God’s hand in all things.   Memory verses are included!  Each unit study encourages family time offering recommendations for family game night, movie night and field trips. 
Another great feature of Homeschool Legacy’s Once-A-Week Unit Studies is that they are Boy Scout and American Heritage Girls friendly.   Help your child earn their next merit  badge by completing the requirements in the unit study…  Wow!  It is completely laid out for you, no research necessary.
Homeschool Legacy unit studies are recommended for grades 2 - 12.   This is a feature I adore!  It is SO hard to find a curriculum (especially science) that can be used with older as well as elementary children.  I am a fan of combining learning whenever possible.
Forest For The Trees:
We were excited to review a science Homeschool Legacy Once-A-WeekUnit Study called “Forest For The Trees.”  Ours was designed as a 4 week unit study that focused on nature.  We were able to conduct a few simple experiences, learn how to identify trees, and create a lovely nature journal.  Since the Once-a-Week unit studies are supposed happen once a week it was expected to run something like this:
4 Days each week follow your regular studies.  Each day add in your Once-a-Week Unit Study readings and family read aloud.  On one of these days plan your field trip and family movie or game night.
1 Day each week – eliminate your regular studies and complete the Once-a-Week Unit Study.
For our family, eliminating our regular studies once each week won’t always work, but we did the minimum in the morning and then were able to spend the rest of the day focusing on our unit studies.  By the 2nd week we found it easier to pick and choose our tasks and spread a few out through the week so it was a little more bite sized for my girls short attention span.
Each unit study offers a full book list (complete with call numbers) to request from your library and a supply list.  I had to wait for several books to be sent from another branch so you’d want to make sure you request your books a few days before you are ready to begin your unit study.  Supply lists are simple items you typically have around the house…things like, zip-lock baggies, paper, glue, magnifying glass, etc.
Daily Activities give you a recommended book to read plus a family read-aloud to enjoy together.  You will do these 2 activities each day.
On unit study day you are given the following activities:
1.       Family Devotional

2.       Science

3.       Vocabulary/Language

4.       Research ideas

5.       Art

6.       Physical Activities recommendations

7.       Field Trip ideas

8.       Stump Your Dad Trivia

9.       Ideas for giving service to a neighbor or friend

Kayley had fun making a nature journal and was intrigued by the Physical Activity for week 1 which was “climb a tree.”  Any curriculum that involves tree-climbing gets a 2-thumbs up from my Tom-boy.
What we thought about the Once-A-Week Unit study...
1.        No PREP WORK!  Hallelujiah!

2.       Easy, easy to add in to our regular school day.

3.       We hung out as a family completing this unit study!  We had a great time going on Nature Walks, gathering leaves, making rubbings, identifying what we found…getting chigger bites… Honestly, it had been months since we did something together as a family.  We had a great time.

4.       This was very easily adaptable to my 2 year old.  She had a great time gathering leaves and creating her own nature journal.  I would be eager to say that I believe there are many activities that can be done by preschoolers so don’t let having preschoolers stop you from buying this curriculum.

5.       Love, love, love the fact that it is Bible-centered!

6.       I was disappointed that I could only find about 1/3 of the recommended books at my local library.  It makes it easier when requesting items from home but it was simple enough to make the several substitutions.  That is the beauty of the unit studies…they are flexible!

7.       It did take us longer than one day to do the once-a-week activities.  In fact, there is so much stuff that we wanted to do that we are still logging leaves and such in the journal.  We ended up getting a poster from the Missouri Dept of Conservation, where we discovered new trees, and we are still enjoying what we started with this unit study. 

8.       A few of the concepts are definitely for older kids and my daughter (age 6) was definitely lost when we began learning about photosynthesis…but, that’s ok, we will revisit it another time!
Homeschool Legacy Unit Studies – Forest For The Trees retails for $15.95.  You can receive free shipping on orders of $50.00 or more.  For more information you can contact them here.  Have fun!  I know we did!!
Many of my crewmates reviewed products from Homeschool Legacy.  To read their reviews, follow the link below:
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Disclaimer:  We received Homeschool Legacy free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day - Bethany House Book Review



I enjoy learning about other cultures and thought the book Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day  by Garry R. Morgan would be an interesting read...but...

From the book:
User-Friendly Beginner's Guide to World Religions
The world is becoming more integrated. What once seemed like the religions of exotic faraway lands are now practiced by families next door. These short, easily digestible readings give an overview of the beliefs, histories, and practices of dozens of religions, including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and many more. Garry Morgan blends the knowledge of a college professor with real-world experience and an accessible style. Broken into forty brief chapters, this book can be used as a reference for those who need quick and clear answers or read straight through by curious readers.


Of course, as a Latter-day Saint and a Type-A personality I couldn't help myself....I thumbed straight through to the chapter on Mormonism to see what his take was on my religion.  After reading that chapter through three or four times I came to this conclusion:  Most of what he said is accurate - albeit - framed in a manner that makes us out to sound like religious fanatics on the fringe.  Some of it left me shaking my head because it was the first time I heard it...some of it left me nodding because it was true.  In the end I was confused because there were no references?  Where did all this info come from?  

I have since thumbed through several other chapters.  This book would be used more as a reference than a sit-down-read-through type but I'm not clear on how accurate all the other chapters are either.  It is not going to be in my top favorite books on comparative religions.  Since my religion was misrepresented I'm not sure how accurate the book is in its entirety. 


Disclaimer:  I received this book from Bethany House free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  I was NOT required to give a positive review and all opinions expressed in here are my very own.






Family Time Fitness - Schoolhouse Crew Review

Back in college I learned that the average adult attention span is only about 20 minutes.  That's pretty short for a grown up!  I'm not sure what the average attention span is for a child but I bet is is significantly less than 20 minutes.  When a child's attention starts to wane a little break or snack can work wonders.  Even better, if that child can get 15-20 minutes of physical activity it can clear up their mind and help them be more effective at studying.  Not to mention with obesity levels on the rise in the US it is recommended that everyone get some form of physical activity every single day.  

I know!  Its not always easy to do!  At my house I am terribly remiss in this area and it has been such a blessing to receive this fun product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew called Family Time Fitness Core1!


What is Family Time Fitness?
Family Time Fitness was created in 2010 by Dr. Peter Minke, Mike Hankik, Jeremiah Knopp and Darren Knopp because they were concerned by the fact that a homeschool physical fitness curriculum did not exist.  They maintain, "Exercise done on a regular basis will help with: battling obesity, prevent the most common form of diabetes which is type 2 diabetes, enhance learning, develop proper motor skills, agility, proprioception and confidence."  With Family Time Fitness they have taken the "guesswork" out of physical fitness.  No prior fitness knowledge is needed to teach from this progam and you do NOT have to be "in shape."  That is what this program is for - to help you get in shape and establish a life-long habit of exercise.



The Family Time Fitness Core 1 download includes 260 lessons.  Recommended for grades K-8, it is very intuitive and easy to follow.  Each lesson offers warm up exercises, activities & games, a cool down and outdoor activities.  A link to a demonstration video for each set is provided to show you how to do it.  Each lesson also includes a convenient one page summary that provides an overview of each lesson so you can take it on-the-go.  Print off everything and create a large book or print off only the 1 page summaries to save paper leaving your download on the computer or iPad.

You will need a few supplies such as bean bags, hula hoops, jump ropes...you can see a full list HERE.  We found all of the items we needed (except for the hula hoop and bean bags) at our local Dollar Store.

You are also provided additional tools such as a daily food diary, grocery list, meal planner, nutrition log, and tracking calendar. 

Family Time Fitness also offers workbooks on their website for further study.  These workbooks help with understanding not only the proper meaning of Physical Education, Nutrition, Anatomy and General Fitness but will also help with reading, spelling and Kinesiology. There are a total of four workbooks available in each of the following age groups: K-1, 2-3, 4-5.

You can download an assesment and tracking form as well if you want to keep track of your child's progress.  It's recommended to assess your child every quarter to see how much they have improved!

How We Used Family Time Fitness:
First of all, here in Southwest Missouri we have been having a horrible drought.  Because of this, the ticks, chiggers, and mosquitos are so bad that we have been unable to go outside.  So, believe it or not, all the FTF activities we have done have been in our living room!  Thankfully we have a really large front room, we just scooted the couch out of the way and got started!

Starting out we aimed to do Family Time Fitness 3 days per week and were able to accomplish it most weeks.  The first lesson we laughed so hard tears were rolling down our cheeks.  The first lesson included "frog squats."  Three sets of 20.  By the time I did these with Kayley I was exhausted from squatting...and laughing.  It really was fun...but my legs were so fatigued that when it came time for....


...hopping on one foot I could barely do it.  Of course Kayley is a ball of energy and she could hop on one foot to the moon and back but me....not so much.  I tried though...and laughed some more.

Then came skipping....and more laughing....

We also "jumped the river"...with more laughing... 

What did we really think of Family Time Fitness?
-FUN FUN FUN FUN FUN!  Lots of laughter, lots of FUN!  We are so excited for the first bit of frost so we can take our exercises outside! 
-We discovered pretty quickly that neither of us knows how to hula hoop (I used to be able to - not sure what happened there).
-I have already recommended this to so many of my friends and at our co-op.  This would be so much more fun with more kids.
-I have to admit that after the 1st day of FTF I could barely move my legs for 3 days.  I was SO sore!!
-It is exciting to be able to have a fitness journey together!  Try it!  You will have fun too!



Ready to get your family fit?
Family Time Fitness Core 1 download retails for $57.00 or right now you can purchase the Platinum Package for $137.00 (a great value!)

The Platinum Package includes:
Core 1 ( 260 Lessons)

Core 2 ( 260 Lessons)
BasketBall Module

K-1st Workbooks Vol 1-4

2nd-3rd Workbooks Vol 1-4

4th- 5th WorkbooksVol 1-4

Home Educating Family Magazine Subscription

With your purchase, you will also receive an email each weekday to remind you to complete your activity, keep you motivated, and along with a fitness tip!

Still not sure?  Check out the free two-day trial if you'd like a closer look to help you decide.

A lot of my crew mates also reviewed Family Time Fitness, to see their thoughts follow the link below.
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Disclaimer:  We received Family Time Fitness free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Marshall Publishing - Schoolhouse Review + coupon code


We are having so much fun with the variety of review products we receive through the Schoolhouse Review crew!  We had a great time over the last several weeks learning about Penguins complements of Marshall Publishing!   They sent us 3 DVDs all about Penguins in the wild and true to my nature I turned this video series into a full unit study!  It was so easy to do with these extraordinary videos!

Marshall Publishing is known for their popular, educational DVD series called "Lots & Lots."  We received Lots & Lots of Playful Penguins, Lots & Lots of Penguins in the Wild, plus the bonus DVD Party Like a Penguin!

Lots & Lots of Playful Penguins received the 2011 Children's Product Honors Award and gives full descriptions of 17 species of penguins with up close observation caught on camera in their natural habitat.  There is no background music and you can actually hear the penguins quite well!  Learn the types of penguins, charactaristics, habitats and hear their call.

Lots & Lots of Penguins in the Wild is similar to Playful Penguins in that you view the penguins in their habitats and enjoy watching them take care of their babies, swimming, nesting and more.

Party Like a Penguin is a fun animated video that is a blast for the little ones!  The catchy songs were great fun for Maggie and both girls were up dancing like a penguin!


With the success of Happy Feet, March of the Penguins and other recent penguin movies, now is the time to teach your kids all about Penguins!  Using Marshall Publishing DVDs it is SO easy to build an entire unit study that is great for ALL ages. 

How we used Lots & Lots of Penguins:
I am a bit of an over achiever - by no means do you need to do it the way I did but we sure had FUN!  When I discovered that we would be learning about Penguins I knew I would have to build a unit study around these great products.   First of all, Marshall Publishing has some great curriculum unit study information on their website.  Starting with that resource I then requested several library books and scoured the internet for free lapbooking materials.  Using all of those items together we read a few books and then watched the videos then added to our lapbook.  We actually worked on penguins for a little more than 3 weeks!  There is so much to learn and the more we learned the more we wanted to know.   I was shocked at how quickly my daughter (age 6) could remember the types of penguins and many of their characteristics!  Honestly the videos are informative enough that you could completely skip the lapbook & library books and learn a ton about penguins! 




We really enjoyed Lots & Lots of Penguins and I will be shopping Marshall Publishing for other Lots & Lots videos!  I think you will enjoy them too!

Schoolhouse Review Crew readers can purchase Lots & Lots of Penguins and Their Happy Feet 2 DVD set (ret. price $39.90) for only $19.95 with FREE first class shipping!  Use coupon code: TOS27 at checkout to enjoy your savings!

You can also purchase by calling their toll free number at 888-300-3455.
A bonus!  Want to take your penguin party on the go?
You can download the songs and print off the song lyrics too!


Many of my crew mates reviewed Penguins and several others reviewed other products from Marshall Publishing, to read their reviews click the link below. 
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Disclaimer:  We received Marshall Publishing Lots & Lots of Penguins free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Speekee TV - Schoolhouse Review

Kayley has asked to learn Spanish several times and I love the idea of learning another language but I wasn't really sure how to go about it.  I figured I was either at the mercy of a cheap workbook and trying to figure it out myself or forced to shell out the big bucks for a fancy computer software program.  It was really exciting through the Schoolhouse Review Crew to get an opportunity to review a fun Spanish program called Speekee TV.


From the website:
Speekee TV is designed so that children can learn Spanish in their own time and at their own pace.
Available only via the web, Speekee TV is loved by children and their parents around the world.

  • 10 episodes of Spanish
  • Over 150 minutes of pure Spanish learning
  • Learn Spanish from real Spanish children in real Spanish locations
  • Features songs, animation and puppets
  • Optional subtitles in Spanish and English
  • Free activity sheet downloads
  • Great fun and extremely effective
  • Created by specialist language teachers
  • Free optional curriculum
  • Songs you can't stop singing

Speekee is recommended for kids ages 2 to 10, but I had a great time watching the videos with my girls and I am much, much older than 10!

Speekee offers a great program for homeschoolers called FastTrack. Delivered into your email or easily accessed from their website, FastTrack gives you a weekly 4 day schedule of recommended activities complete with quick links to the video segment, downloads and other ideas to enhance learning of that topic. We used FastTrack religiously and found it to be a great addition to the program!  With the FastTrack program kids watch the same video for 4 weeks but each time they watch the video clips they are gleaning different information each time.  FastTrack is included free in your Speekee TV subscription!




Speekee videos are run completely online, no downloading is necessary to watch the videos.  I had no problems streaming and didn't have any issues with slow, sluggish videos or "buffering."  Sound quality was great and the videos are well made.  The videos feature a mix of puppets, children and a grown up named Jim.  The kids go to the park where they teach you phrases such as "My name is..." and "How are you?"  In the second video the children visit a cafe where you begin to learn menu items and how to share what you like (Mi Gusta).  Colors are introduced  in the 2nd video as well.


What did we think of Speekee?
First of all, Speekee (the purple guy) is SO cute!  My 2 year old, Maggie adores Speekee and asks for Speekee (no kidding) every day.  The videos are less than 20 minutes and there are days (still not kidding) where we watched the video 3 or 4 times in a row.  I anticipated that Kayley would like it, but I never would've guessed that it would be such a hit with Maggie too!  I've even heard her singing the songs while playing!

The videos are completely in Spanish so it really offers the immersion feel.  There are optional subtitles but the videos are so self-explanatory that you can follow along quite easily...  Note that the videos are made in Spain and you are learning European Spanish (versus Latin Americna Spanish) so some words are different that whan you would hear and see daily in the US.  For instance in our Spanish workbook from earlier in the year we learned the word for juice as "jugar" and in Speekee the word is "zumo."  A few words are pronouced a bit differently as well.

As you work through the program you earn "Puntos" to spend in the Mercado.  In the Market you can buy items to change your Avatar...this is my daughters Avatar afer giving him a crazy make-over!

The first two weeks of Speekee are free and there's no minimum period - you can cancel any time.   Speekee is $7.50 per month or $60.00 for the whole year.  You can purchase here.

Speekee does offer a DVD componnet BUT be aware that they are in the European PAL format and may not be compatible with your player...you'd want to check first before buying.

We really enjoyed Speekee and I bet you will too! 

Many of my crewmates also enjoye several weeks of Speekee TV, to read their reviews, click below...
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Disclaimer:  I received Speekee free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Reading Kingdom - Schoolhouse Crew Review


We love online programs!  I know that so many families (not just homeschoolers) are looking for a way to supplement their child's learning and a fun, computer-based, game is a great way to sneak in learning while having fun!  We had a great time testing out the Reading Kingdom thanks to an opportunity through the Schoolhouse Review Crew!

What is Reading Kingdom?
Created by Dr. Marion Blank, Director of the Light on Learning Program at Columbia University, Reading Kingdom offers customized online reading instruction for children ages 4-10 that increases their learning up to a third grade level.  Reading Kingdom works well with any other curriculum that you may be using and teaches skills that children need to be successful readers.

Using a game-like approach, Reading Kingdom first takes the children through an extensive Reading Skills survey to place the child at the appropriate level in the Reading Kingdom.  This keeps the child from repeating information that he/she already knows and gets them started on the right path toward building up their skills.

The Reading Kingdom is set up so that as your child moves through the program they no longer need to complete work that they have already mastered.  The program intuitively moves them up to the next level of learning gradually increasing in difficulty until your child masters reading.

At the end of each level of learning, Reading Kingdom offers a progress check for parents.  You can also log in at any time to see where your child sits in completing the program and how well they are performing.  Progress reports are also sent to your email.


As your child completes each level of learning they are awarded a Passport to "open" the next level of the Reading Kingdom.

What did we think of Reading Kingdom?

It's a mixed bag.  The reports and email updates make accountability and tracking a breeze.  I love anything that is easy for me to keep track of!  Plus so many of the games were really fun but in the end, unfortunately, it was not a good fit for us and here is why:

First, the Reading Kingdom tells you up front, with the exception of hand-holding support we are not to help our child in any way...  which is fine but immediately caused my daughter (age 6) to panic knowing that she couldn't ask for help.  From the very first she balked at this program based solely on the "no assistance" warnings....

Secondly, the assessment process/lessons were pretty long.  My daughter was tired before the lesson ended but didn't want to stop and start again in the middle of a lesson.  I can't blame her.  I also prefer to work to completion before stopping.

Third, the assessments got HARD and my daughter very nearly lost it when she saw this screen:
Granted, the narrator is telling her what word to type (and she is a great speller) but Kayley doesn't know how to type...and I am not supposed to help her.  She really got super frustrated with the hunt & peck method on the keyboard.  The program is great but comes across almost as a typing program and less of a reading program.


I feel confident that completion of the Reading Kingdom program will create great readers out of your children if they know how to type or are unafraid of the keyboard.  

Purchase Information:
Would you like to learn more about Reading Kingdom?

You can try out several sample lessons if you like, or if you are ready to purchase you can create a Reading Kingdom account and enjoy a risk-free 30 day trial.

After 30 days pay only $19.99 for your first student (or $199.00 for the year).  Each additional student is only $9.99 per month (or $99.99).  Purchase HERE.



If you are interested, you can also purchase storybooks to go along with your Reading Kingdom adventures, they are available in the Reading Kingdom Store.



Many of my crewmates also enjoyed a tour of Reading Kingdom, to read their reviews click the link below...

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Disclaimer:  We received Reading Kingdom free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.
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