Tuesday, July 22, 2014

HomeSchoolPiano (TOS Review)

Homeschool Piano Review

Destini is currently taking piano lessons, but we recently had the opportunity to review HomeSchoolPiano - Complete Set of Books from HomeSchoolPiano, a program that offers instant online access to lessons, to help enhance her lessons.

Homeschool Piano Review

HomeSchoolPiano is a piano course for all ages where you can learn to play piano on your own schedule. These lessons are available to watch online which makes it convenient to watch either on your computer, a tablet, or smartphone. Outside of piano or keyboard you don't need anything else to complete these lessons.
Homeschool Piano Review

HomeSchoolPiano has a 6-step cycle to help a student master the piano and to be successful while learning. The cycle includes:
  • Technique - Developing speed and dexterity
  • Rhythm - Using vocalization to learn rhythm accurately
  • Ear Training - Learning to hear rhythm, harmony, and melody for playing and improvising
  • Reading Music - Learning to read music to help with learning and composing songs
  • Song - Learning a song by applying learned techniques
  • Improvisation - Applying techniques in your own way
Homeschool Piano Review

HomeschoolPiano offers their CorePiano along with 3 books or levels. CorePiano includes 33 lessons that cover the basics of piano. Topics like high and low notes, finger numbers, half and whole steps, time signatures, and many other fundamental music terms. These lessons are always available to the student no matter which book they are working in.

After going through CorePiano a beginning student would start Book 1. Books 1-3 are set up with six lessons. Each lesson includes 6 original songs that the student will learn. Book 1 is considered "perfect for beginners". Topics covered in Book 1 included quarter notes and rests, dynamics, 5 finger pattern in C major, minor, and blues scales, creating licks, bass accompianment and more.

Book 2 is recommended for a student who has some piano experience and is considered the "building the foundation" level. It teaches such topics as left hand independence and exercise, C major and minor triads, full C major scale, creating triads, inversions of triads, and more. If a student or adult has

Book 3 focuses on "unlocking the pianist within" and works with the student on creating piano arrangement. It teaches major and minor 5 finger scales in all 12 keys, chord arpeggios, Latin music introduction, using the pedals of the piano, Rock piano style and more.

The lessons work with signing into HomeschoolPiano and picking the level you are going to begin with. I used this with Destini, who though she is currently taking piano lessons she didn't feel she could start at Book 2 so she started with Book 1. She used the browser on our iPad to access the lessons. After picking Book 1 she then picked Unit 1 and worked her way through each lesson: Technique, Rhythm, Ear Training, Reading Music, Song, and Improvisation. At the end of every lesson there is a bonus lesson which enhances all the techniques she just learned. Also, each level includes a PDF download of all the music and other sheets that will be needed for the lessons. I was able to put them on our iPad, but Destini liked them in a printed format better.

From where Destini started she was able to do all the lessons by herself without much guidance from me. She worked through 3-4 lessons a week and was able to pretty much complete each lesson. I asked her what she thought and she felt that the lessons were useful even though she is already taking lessons. She did feel that if a student was just beginning lessons they may find them challenging and be very faithful in practicing. Her favorite part was doing Improvisation lessons.

Several things that I liked was:
  • The program keeps track of where you left off at. 
  • I loved how rhythm was taught.
  • Piano is taught in a fun way. 
  • You could sit at the piano with the iPad and watch and do the lesson at the same time.
A few things that I wanted to note is that I do feel an adult need to be overlooking these lessons with a student, especially a beginning student. Because of the fun feel to the program I felt it was easy to just let Destini go have fun with it and not treat it as seriously as "real" piano lessons. Many of these lessons were pretty challenging and if a person didn't have any piano background I could see causing frustration. Overall, HomeschoolPiano is a program worth looking into for a beginner or an enhancement for a current piano student.

HomeSchoolPiano has two payment packages and the pricing is as follows:
1. Success Package (One payment of $299) Unlimited life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students.
2. Payment Plan (Payments of $99.97 per month for three months): Unlimited life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

What's On Your Nightstand - July

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What's On Your Nightstand

I had an excellent month this month for reading, but that is because life finally slowed down to a nice pace. Unfortunately, August goes back to being very busy so I have picked a light load for this month. I am secretly hoping to get more read than these, but we will see.

For August:

I read from June's Nightstand:
Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms by Mary Jo Tate - (Review forthcoming)
Say Goodbye to Survival Mode: 9 Simple Strategies to Stress Less, Sleep More, and Restore Your Passion for Life by Crystal Paine - Encouraging read.
Busman's Honeymoon: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery with Harriet Vane by Dorothy Sayers - Lord Peter and Harriet Vane are finally married and of course discover a corpse on their honeymoon. Interesting to see how they adjust to marriage. This was a fun series to read.
Faro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer - I thought this was going to be a ho-hum read, but it got really interesting when the heroine kidnapped the hero. Fun read.
Fired Up (Trouble in Texas Book #2) by Mary Connealy - I always enjoy Mary Connealy.
Hitty Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Fields - On my Classics list. Hoping to get to the review up soon.

I also read:
Plan Your Year: Homeschool Planning for Purpose and Peace by Pam Barnhill - I probably didn't "need" this book, but I did enjoy it. It has helped me get working on the upcoming homeschool year plans. Ties in nicely with the following book.
Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakeable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie - Very uplifting read. I bought this as the ebook, companion journal, audio companion. The audio's are the cream of the bundle. This is a book that I will be revisiting soon.
Setting the Records Straight: How to Craft Homeschool Transcripts and Course Descriptions for College Admission and Scholarships by Lee Binz - Read it--have yet to implement it. On my Reading Goals for 2014 list. This will stay on my resource shelf.
Too Blessed for This Mess: The Frazzled Female's Guide to Overcoming Stress by Cindi Wood - This was a free Kindle book. Nothing earth shattering.
The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary - Edited this post to add this book. This was a read-aloud with my 6 year old daughter. She pulled it off the shelf and said she wanted to read it so we did!
Stuck Together (Trouble in Texas Book #3) by Mary Connealy - Finished the series.

See what others have read over at 5 Minutes for Books.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

L is for Loose Teeth

Ben and Me 

L is for Loose Teeth

We had a unique situation happen in our house over the past week. My baby lost her first tooth, while the second youngest lost his last tooth.

Delani lost two teeth right in a row, one last Wednesday and the next one on Thursday. There was a lot of weeping and wailing and she walked around with some very floppy teeth before I finally told her they HAD to come out. I forgot how much drama goes with teeth pulling.

On the other hand, Chantry proceeded to pull out his last baby tooth on Tuesday. This kid doesn't go for drama when it comes to teeth pulling. He let his dad pull his first tooth and after that he pulled all the rest.

All this tooth pulling has made my mama's heart a little sad as I watch my kids' growing up waaay too fast for my liking! Childhood milestone's are quickly become things of the past.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Review: Talking to Your Daughter About Understanding Boys by Bob & Dannah Gresh

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I have previously read and journaled about Dannah Gresh's books, Six Ways to Keep the "Little" in Your Girl: Guiding Your Daughter from Her Tweens to Her Teens and Six Ways to Keep the "Good" in Your Boy: Guiding Your Son from His Tweens to His Teens, which I found very beneficial in helping with my children and highly recommend.

I recently had the opportunity to review another book authored by Dannah Gresh along with her husband, Bob, called Talking with Your Daughter About Understanding Boys While the other 8 Great Dates Series focuses on dates with moms and daughters, this book focuses on ... dads and daughters.

The purpose of the book is to help dad's and daughter's connect in a time when our culture is putting the pressure on young girls to have an interest in boys way too soon. In Talking with Your Daughter About Understanding Boys dads and daughters will cover such topics as:
  • Understanding boys as part of God's plan
  • What it means to be a girl
  • The difference between true love and counterfeit love
  • A girl's value comes from God, not a boy
  • Your daughter is a treasure and should be treated as one
  • Growing in God's Word
  • Relying on God for Guidance
  • Viewing marriage as a picture of God's love for His people
Each date contains a different topic and activity, but they follow the same format. The first step is a Prep Talk where the author's walk dads through a little prepping on girls and helping the dads understand the "why" of what they are doing. The second step includes going to the Secret Keeper's Girls audio files and listening to the short conversations provided by Bob and Dannah for the upcoming date. These will definitely catch your daughter's attention.

The third step is the Dad-Daughter Challenge. These are the heart of this book and includes ideas such as treasure hunts, wilderness hikes, watching a movie, cooking, and stargazing. These ideas can be modified and also include "budget-crunching" ideas. These activities build up to step four which is Talking with Dad. This is where dads and daughters can have special heart to heart talks about understanding boys. Have no fears that you will be left alone on this because there is also included completed texts for these conversations for dad along with a pull-out section for daughters. When the conversation is finished then the dates is concluded with a simple prayer. Before jumping into any of the date ideas the book does a great job of explaining how the book works and how to use it. Also included is a section for single mom's to help them implement the ideas.

This is is the first book I've read from the 8 Great Dates Series I found a fun and delightful read. I appreciate Bob and Dannah Gresh's passion for giving parent's resources to help guide and help our children navigate their way through today's culture. Talking with Your Daughter About Understanding Boys is a unique, yet a fun way for dad's and daughter's to connect. Even if a dad doesn't use it exactly as the dates are written I think it gives a lot of material that could be used as a jumping off point to cover these important topics.  This is a great resource for for dads (and moms) to build a special bond and connection with their daughters.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product from Sidedoor Communications in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All my opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Friday, July 11, 2014

K is for Kitchen Appliance (The New One)

Ben and Me

Kitchen Appliance 
When we bought out house one thing we knew we were going to have to do was to replace the cheap stove and dishwasher that came in the house. Our previous house had a really nice stove in it so I thought that I would look into replacing the stove first and live with the dishwasher for a while. Well, that has not happened at all!

The dishwasher that had been installed was a very cheap model that contractor's put into houses. What surprised me is that it actually had a handle that you had to flip to lock the dishwasher. I don't think I had seen a dishwasher like that in years. But I was okay with that. I should of know though that it was doomed the first time I went to load it. It wouldn't even fit all our of supper dishes into it neither would it fit some of our tall glasses. With a family of six that isn't a good thing!

So I reconciled myself to the fact that I would have to do a few more loads during the week and I would also have to do some hand washing for the items that wouldn't fit in the dishwasher. But then that  dishwasher decided that it didn't know how to clean the dishes either. Pretty soon we started having several loads throughout the week that had weird food particles on it (which didn't make sense since we were rinsing the dishes), or a weird powdery substance on the dishes, or nasty water left in the bottom that hadn't drained correctly in the wash cycle.

By this time a new dishwasher was looking more like a necessity than just an upgrade. Many times I was having to rewash the loads by hand which doesn't make sense when I already ran water to wash it. For my birthday I received some money to go toward a dishwasher so off I went to look at them. After recovering from the prices, my husband and I settled on that little beauty pictured above with the shiny inside.

We are now having to relearn how to load our new dishwasher (which fits all of our dinner dishes, plus the tall cups) plus getting used to just scrapping our dishes and not giving them a full rinse. It has been pretty exciting to open the newly washed and dried load and find clean dishes! (Another plus is that is hopefully going to save money on the water bill by not having to rinse everything--an answer to prayer since the kids were doing a lot of the rinsing and using a ton of water.)

Side note: Do you know how hard it was to come up with a "K" word? Let me tell you I really had to rack the brain.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

WriteShop Junior: Book D (TOS Review)

WriteShop Review
Writing (sigh), it is a subject that can really stress me out. When I teach it to my kids I feel like I need a lot of hand holding. Over the past month Chantry and I have been working through the writing curriculum WriteShop Junior Book D published by WriteShop which we had received for review.

WriteShop Review
WriteShop offers different levels of Writing--Primary, Junior, and WriteShop I & II. WriteShop Primary is for K-3rd grades and focuses on teaching early writing skills. WriteShop Junior is for 4th-6th grades and introduces the the teaches about different genres, fiction and non-fiction writing, and journaling. WriteShop I & II is for middle and high schoolers and teaches writing through incremental steps.

I received the ebooks for WriteShop Junior Book D Teacher's Guide, Student Worksheet Pack which is a 2 pack that includes Student Worksheet Pack along with Level 1 Fold and Go Grammar Pack. Book D covers such writing topics as a letter of invitation, haiku, expository writing, and stories of different genres including humor, adventure, science fiction, and more. Skills that are learned are grammar and punctuation, how to brainstorm, how to write a paragraph, self-editing skills, and more.

WriteShop ReviewWriteShop Review

The Teacher's Manual is a necessary component to this writing program. It includes lesson plans, materials and supplies needed, tips and tricks for each lesson including tips from parents, and guided teaching for each lesson. 

The Activity Pack comes with the Student Worksheet Pack which includes all of the worksheets that are needed for each lesson along with Reading Logs and extra journaling pages. The second component is the Grammar Fold and Go Grammar Pack which all the printables for the Fold and Go Folders and instructions for how to put the folder together and ideas for storage of the folders that you make.

Even though Chantry just finished 5th grade, after reading the placement guide,  I decided to put Chantry in Book D since it worked on paragraph skills and how to plan and organize a story.  The Teacher's Manual comes with a recommended three week schedule or two week schedule. I followed the three week schedule and found it very doable and not overwhelming in the least.

The three week lesson plan is broken down into these activities spread over a three week period:
  • Fold and Go Grammar Folder Book/Reading Log
  • Pre-writing Activity
  • Model and Teach
  • Review and Skill Builder/Journal Writing Practice
  • Brain-storming
  • Writing Project
  • Editing and Review
  • Publishing the Writing Project
  • Evaluating the Work/Want to do More? (optional)
The Teacher's Manual walks you through each different activity that you will do with your child throughout each lesson. It also includes the hows and whys for each activity. It also includes a material list for each section and suggestions for creating a writing center.

Each lesson starts with doing a Fold and Go Grammar Folder Book. I found these were easy to put together and very doable to work through. One of the Fold and Go books we did was about proof-reading marks which for the recommended age was a very intense lesson, especially if a child is only being introduced to proof-reading marks.

The worksheets for these activities are included in the Activity Pack. Included are other additional activities for the Pre-writing Activity and Skill Builder Activity that have to be prepared by the parent or teacher. Many of these activities seemed to be written to be used with several children and I found the activities too time consuming to make for just one student and usually improvised and did something similar that didn't take as much work. They also offer a Time-Saver Packet for purchase, which would be a big help.

After the student has written their story you then sit down together a go through it and start to edit it. There are several ideas for making editing fun which includes a "Said It, Read It, Edit It Bag", tips for reluctant writers, and of course, the Fold and Go Editing Folder. The student then re-writes their story and "publishes" it by doing different things such as writing it on fancy paper or illustrating their story. There is a different idea included for every lesson. At the end of each lesson is optional activities which encourages the student to use their creative writing skills with the computer.

I will admit that I didn't use every activity the way it was written since Chantry really struggles with the physical part of writing. Many times when it seemed we started the  brainstorming part of the lesson that we ended coming up with the whole story at that time. Instead of writing many of his ideas down we spent a lot of time talking about it and if he picked a word or idea that was dull I would encourage him to find a more descriptive word or I would have him stop and think out his character a little better. Other times he had would come up with a great sentence that I would scribble down to use a later point. Since I was his scribe we didn't spend as much time editing because I woul edit as we wrote. I had him write out the story at the end which was his final copy. He was happy for his stories to go in his binder and "publishing" them wasn't that appealing to him.

One of my biggest struggles with using this was having it in the e-book format, especially the teacher's manual. I really needed to hold the teacher's book in my hands. I also had a hard time following the different sections since they listed them by the type of activity followed by the Activity Set number in parentheses which was backwards to my brain. The number first would have been helpful. Many times I went into the next activity and didn't even realize that it was for the next day.

WriteShop 2

I felt that WriteShop Junior Book D helped Chantry to produce some very good writing, but it was not a favorite with either of us. I think some of this is due to what my writing goals are for Chantry and right now my focus isn't on the creative writing aspect. That being said I will probably go through the rest of the lessons and just pick and choose the lessons that I think will be most beneficial for him that will help him build the writing skills I am looking for before focusing on the creative writing aspect. Looking back over what he did I also realized he was further in his writing abilities than what I thought and if he would have been more independent in his physical writing abilities he probably could have done Book E.

I do feel that WriteShop Junior Book D is a good solid program. I can see it appealing to a child who loves to write more than a reluctant writer. That being said I did like how the lessons are broken down into small, very doable lessons which shouldn't overwhelm a reluctant writer too much, plus it offers hand holding for the mom who finds the subject of writing terrifying. If you have been searching for a writing program this is definitely worth looking into.

WriteShop Junior Book D along with Primary and WriteShop I & II are available from WriteShop:
Teacher's Guide - $45.95 (print) - Recommended/ $35.50 (e-book)
Activity Pack w/Fold and Go Grammar - $45.95 (print)/ $35.50 (e-book)
Junior Time Saver Pack - $14.95 (print)/ $11.50 (e-book)

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

J is for June Madness (ABC Blogging)

Ben and Me

March Madness 2

June has always been one of my favorite months, but the last few years we have had extremely busy Junes and this year was no exception! Here is a look our crazy June madness:

1. Since Caleb was graduation this year my parents decided to drive out to Oregon from Wisconsin. They arrived right at the beginning of June and we were blessed to have them for 2 1/2 weeks. Since we still had baseball going on and other events happening I felt that I couldn't spend as much time with them, but thankfully they took it all in stride. 
2. & 3.  My dad loves to do things around the house and now that we finally own a house he was jumped in finding little things he could do. He put bigger shelves in my upstairs linen closet (putting Caleb to work to) and then also put more shelves in there where I stack my dirty clothes baskets. It was nice to finally not have 6 baskets all over the floor in there with clothes landing in all the wrong baskets!
4. Caleb's graduation.
5. My mom and dad took Chantry and Delani to Silver Falls where they tromped around and took a lot of pictures.
6. Caleb's baseball team was a little low on players this year and for part of a game Chantry was able to play with Caleb. A friend caught this picture of Caleb instructing Chantry.
7. & 8. We have a big homeschool used curriculum sale here in town every year. This year I ended up being able to help and brought Caleb and Destini along, too. Caleb carried books in and out and Destini was put organizing the fiction section where there were about a gazillion (her words) books. I asked her if there was any books that she might want to purchase and she told me she didn't even want to look at book, period! 
I was also to attend the Oregon's homeschool convention in Portland. I enjoyed it, and got a few things that I needed and then some things that I probably didn't really need, but the price was right!
June Madness 1

9.We also hosted a graduation party a week after Caleb's graduation. 
10. Chantry celebrated his 12th birthday. My mom and dad left a couple of days before his birthday but we celebrated early by going to Famous Dave's.
11. Destini got baptized on Father's Day.
12. Shade's Father's Day gift was a Trident phone case for his phone. Even though he had a case it didn't protect the jacks from the elements and there is a lot of dirt and dust when he drives his truck. Now it is all protected.
13. The last baseball game of the year was cancelled due to rain. Delani was very upset. So after dinner we headed to Winco and got ice cream cones for everyone. Life definitely got better.
14. & 15. After baseball season they have a big potluck and an awards ceremony where the kids receive a scrapbook page with their team name, their picture, and a team picture on it. Also, a Spirit Award is given out for each team. This year, Caleb and Chantry, both one the Spirit Award for their teams. 
16. Raspberries from our Razzle Dazzle Raspberry bush that we planted this year.
17. June always ends with my birthday. This year I received an early birthday present when I came home to find a rose bush, candy, and a cake all ready for me, plus the house was all picked up! Yep, life is good, crazy at times, but good!
So that was our crazy month of June. I'm hoping July will slow down, though this first week so far has started off with a bang so we will see.


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