Monday, January 31, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up - January 30

This was a very snowy week! First we got snow, and then we got SNOW!! And then we got snow and more snow . . .  And of course, we still HAD snow on the ground when the week began. So by now, when I try to walk through our yard the snow comes in over the top of my boots, sigh . . .

Needless to say, the girls have LOVED all the snow. They have an ever-changing fort at the end of our driveway where the plow pushes the snow. They built an AWESOME snowman (see the last post for a picture) with the "snowman kit" that Miss Judy gave them for Christmas. They did some sledding early in the week but by now it's too deep for good sledding.

Little Bit is starting to get over the "mess" factor of snow, but now it's way too deep for her. I took her out a couple days ago, and she couldn't even walk in it. Needless to say, we didn't stay out long.

Sunday we visited some friends who recently moved closer. They have an 8 mo old, so Little Bit had fun exploring his toys.  He has a walker, and Little Bit quickly figured out how to climb in and out of it all on her own. At least she was big enough to not be able to make it go very fast when she was in it, she was kind of scrunched up, hee hee. Pastor Andy let the big girls choose their kinds of tea and help him make it, and pour it out of tea pots, so they had fun with that. They had small (not as small as the girls' play tea set, but still small) tea cups, and Little Bit LOVED that. She claimed mine for herself and drank several (small) cups of tea out of it, soo cute! I think I have a couple smaller tea cups in the china cabinet that were my grandmother's, I need to find one of those for her when we have tea here at home.

We've done a relaxed school week. We've continued with our Bible curriculum most day, Speekee a few days. The Spanish calendar for the week . . . not alot extra though, it's been a primarily "PE" week with all the snow play.

When we were visiting Miss Judy this week her niece Sara came over. When Sara drove up we asked Little Bit "who's here?" so she climbed up on the sofa to look out the window. She looked kind of confused for a minute, until Sara got out of her car, then her face just LIT UP and she jumped down off the sofa and ran to the door, saying her version of Sara which I can't begin to figure out how to spell LOL.

I thought such a "bad" week, weather-wise might mean lots of fun kitchen and sewing projects, but it didn't, the girls were outside all the time. They DID make bread though, and we made butter. I can't begin to figure out why I haven't been making our butter all along! With the price we pay for raw milk, I can make butter for $0.78/lb! And it's fresh, raw, and as good as organic. So, making butter is now going to be a regular part of our schedule too. The girls think it's great fun too! We timed things well and made the butter and bread on the same day, YUMMY!!!

I feel like I'm forgetting something we did during the week, but I can't think of it. And my phone's being annoying uncooperative so I can't get my pictures I took this week, sigh . . .

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

The Homeschool Chick

I recently stumbled upon a new meme, The Homeschool Mother's Journal, that Sue runs each Friday. 

I thought it sounded like a fun way to summarize our week (I'll still do weekly wrap-ups on Sundays, at least most of the time . . . hee hee).

So, without further ado . . . 

In my life this week...

I've started making it a point to have morning Bible time again. While I've done pretty well at getting SOME Bible time all along, having a dedicated few minutes each morning just hasn't been possible since Little Bit was born. Even when she slept great overall, she still tended to nurse frequently in the early morning hours, and wake up if I wasn't in bed with her, so getting up ahead of her has never been an option, and trying to have Bible time first thing with an awake baby, just doesn't work for us. I would grab some time during her nap, or sometime. Thanks to the Bible app on my android (phone), more recently I've been reading a chapter or so in the morning WHILE she's nursing (while she's nursing during the night or early in the morning is also a great time to pray), BUT I still wanted to get back to having a set Bible time, not only for my own benefit, I "learn" better if I can underline things and make notes and such in a REAL Bible with a REAL notebook next to it, rather than just reading on my phone, I love having it as an option, but  . . .but also because I feel the children benefit greatly from seeing that Bible study is a priority for me! That whole "learn by example" thing . . . So,  in the last week (or so . . .but since it's my first time on this meme, we'll call it this week), I've started taking a few minutes to read the Bible when I first get up. Little Bit's older now, AND when we were getting ready to host Christmas I had dh carry a large ottoman up to our room to get it out of the living room while so many people were going to be here, turns out, it makes the perfect "step" that allows her to get on/off of our high bed by herself.  So, she can either sit with me (she often "reads" my prayer journal, while I read my Bible. I did bring a storybook Bible into our room and have it with my Bible study supplies so that she can "read the Bible" too, but so far, she prefers my prayer journal), or go find her sisters, or Daddy (he's generally home, but downstairs, so she'll go cuddle with him, or tell him "eat" "food" until he finds her some fruit or something).

In our homeschool this week...

We've had lots of "snow days". I figure we can "do school" anytime, but they might as well enjoy the snow as much as they can while it's here (and BOY is it here!). So, while we've done a few minutes of quick "school" each day to keep up with our review items, they've spent countless hours out building snow forts and snowmen and sledding and . . . who knows what all else they've found to do out in all that white stuff.

Places we're going and people we're seeing...

Sunday, we went to visit friends who moved nearby (comparatively speaking) recently.  As if visiting with friends, and eating pizza wasn't enough, we got to try yummy tea, and the girls even got to help Pastor Andy make it!! AND they had tiny little tea cups that Little Bit thought were just her size!! Wednesday we went and visited our neighbor/adopted Grandma. Snow can't keep us from that, we can walk.  Little Bit was cute, we were getting ready to go & she told me "back", meaning she wanted to ride on my back in the baby carrier. So I put her on my back. But then, when we got outside, she said "oooooh, snooow . . . walk!" and wiggled to get down and walk in all the whiteness. (I think, since the windows in this house aren't down on her level, she'd forgotten there was snow out there LOL). Since it was Wed. when we only had a few inches (instead of now, when it's almost to her waist), she got to walk.

My favorite thing this week was...

Seeing A begin to do required chores without reminders (they go in spurts, sometimes they're good about this, lately, they haven't been), AND seeing things that need to be done, and doing them without being asked, or asking "what can I do to help?".

What's working/not working for us...

My reluctant writer, A, really took to the idea of notebooking for history. I printed out notebooking pages and asked them to draw a picture and write "at least one sentence" about the topic. She filled the writing part of the page and asked for another page!!

L isn't as excited about the history notebooking, she does it, but no extra, BUT she is keeping a journal, and writes in it every night at bedtime. I don't know what it says, but it's a daily dose of writing practice with no prompting, much less nagging, from me. 

Homeschool questions/thoughts I have...

How do we balance "keeping the momentum going" on what we're studying &/or using review products to their full potential within the review period, with being relaxed enough to take snow days and visiting days and . . . all those "we're not tied to the books" things that are one of the reasons we homeschool?

A photo to share...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Book Review: Sabbath, The Ancient Practices by Dan Allender

Dan Allender presents the Ancient Practice of keeping the Sabbath, not simply as ceasing all activity ,but a day of delight and celebration with God of His creation. The main message of this book is that the Sabbath was instituted, not as a burden but as a joyous feast day and celebration. He looks at history and the Bible to determine what this special Day can be, when celebrated and delighted in, the way God intended.

I was interested to get a new perspective on this special day. I've "kept the Sabbath" all my life, and struggled with the balance of rules, and delight. This book, helped me to see better just how this can be a day of delight & celebration. How our entire week should revolve around this special weekly feast day that we are privileged to share with the King of the Universe. I want to absorb the ideas in this book more fully, and discuss them with Rodney, and my hope is that we will decide together how we will delight in and celebrate the Sabbath, not just "keep the Sabbath", going forward. I love the idea that, we cannot celebrate God's creation without spending time in some way, in, or with, God's creation. Our children love being outside, and this book has challenged me anew to make it a priority to go for walks or otherwise celebrate the beauties of God's second book, nature, on this special day. It also challenge me anew to make it a priority to welcome the Sabbath each week. I want to talk to the girls about this, and come up with a plan, with them, on how we can use music, candlelight, special foods, special dishes, and special traditions to welcome God, in a special way, into our home each week.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Homeschool Review: Illustrated Bible Dictionary

Today I'm going to tell you about an AWESOME resource for ALL Christian families! Whether you homeschool or not, if you have kids, and they ask questions about Bible stuff, you NEED this book!! Ok, I'll stop sounding like a commercial now (maybe) but seriously, this is such a great resource!

As part of the TOS Crew, Lifeway Christian Stores sent us the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids ($14.99) to review. What a FUN book! It is SO bright and colorful! With a great mix of photographs and artwork, and BIG! It is over 200 pages long, and these are not small pages! School or no school, we have this book laying out & we just plain enjoy looking through it! It has TONS of pictures of every imaginable thing from the Bible.

We use this book ALL the time! We use it when we read their Sabbath school lesson. . . "Mommy, what would King David's palace have looked like?" "Hey, lets go find out . . . palace starts with P" . . . "cooool, that looks really old!" We use it during Bible time for school. We use it during history too (we're studying ancient history right now, it works well). And we flip through it just for the fun of it.  You can see a sample of the inside of the book here.

The stated age range for this book is ages 5-10 but it seems like younger children would enjoy looking at the pictures, and I KNOW older . . .er . . .children . . . would love it. At least *I* do, and I'm quite a few years past 10, hee hee. Maybe the forgot a zero, 5-100 might be a better age range, I'm pretty sure my 95 yr old grandfather would enjoy it too!

When I asked L to bring me the book because I was writing the review, she said "we DO get to keep it, right?" When I assured her we did, she said, "oh good!" I asked her what she thought of it, and she said "it's great, you can look up about all kinds of things from the Bible!" A was very busy with something else when I asked her, so her response was simply "it's nice" but as you can see by the picture, both girls get quite engrossed in it at times.

In addition to this great resource, Lifeway Christian Stores offers a wide range of Christian books and other products.

Disclaimer:  Lifeway Christan Stores sent us a copy of the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review & GIVEAWAY!!! - Homestead Blessings The Art of Quilting

Giveaway is now closed! Thanks to all who entered!! Congratulations to Jess and Beverly!!

This month the Homestead Blessings DVD that Franklin Springs Family Media sent us to review was the Art of Quilting!

As with all the Homestead Blessing DVDs, this one was excellent! The West Ladies are so personable and do a great job of explaining things, giving options, and making it all look so easy!

I figured these cold, snowy days were a great time to learn quilting. But I'm also realistic enough to know that a full size quilt would be abit ambitious for us (though I'd LOVE to get to that point eventually), but conveniently, one of the projects on the video is a quilted pot holder, THAT we can do!!

L had another project she wanted to work on first, but A was ready to jump right in. I pulled out my box of fabric, and she chose the fabrics she wanted. I'm sure all who know her will be shocked to hear that she chose purple, hee hee.

I helped her trace the pattern onto the fabric, and then set her to work cutting out the pieces and pinning them together.

At first she wanted to hand sew the whole thing, but in the end she decided she wanted to learn to use my sewing machine (what she'd REALLY like is to be able to use a treadle machine like the West Ladies use on the video, but alas, I don't have one . . .A is definitely my daughter in her love of all things old fashioned! So she settled for using my very basic electric sewing machine.

She took to it quite quickly. Quilting is a perfect first project for learning to use the sewing machine because it's nice straight rows. We're still working on the potholder, but she got her quilt block done, now we need to sew the border around it and then sew the backing (and batting) to it, then actually quilt it. I'll be sure to update, with pictures, once it's completely done (and L's ready to start her potholder now too, so I should at least have progress shots of hers by then).  They're calling for a nasty wintery mix tomorrow, so we should be able to get some sewing done since it won't be fit to go out.

In addition to the potholder, the DVD shows how to make an actual quilt, and shows a few different quilt blocks and talks about how to design your quilt. And they showed some other techniques like whole cloth quilts. It also shows (in the "bonus material") how to make a really easy cobbler carrier using 2 quilted place mats, I'm filing that idea away for wedding gifts and such.

And now for the GIVEAWAY!!! As with the other Homestead Blessing DVDs I've reviewed, Franklin Springs Family Media has generously offered 2 Homestead Blessings: The Art of Quilting DVDs for my readers!! To enter, go to Franklin Springs Family Media and look around, then come back and leave a comment telling me one product you'd love to own! (mandatory entry)

For additional entries do any (or all) of the following, and leave a separate comment for each:

  • Follow my blog with Google Friend Connect (if you already do, just leave a comment letting me know)
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  • Post about this giveaway on Facebook
  • Post about this giveaway on your blog (including a direct link to your blog post)
  • "Tweet" about this giveaway
And now for the rules:
  • This giveaway will close on February 1, 2011
  • Winners will be chosen on February 2, 2011
  • Please make sure I have an easy way to contact you. If I can't easily find your e-mail address or post to your blog, I will have to choose a different winner.
  • You will have 2 days to reply to me with your address or another winner will be chosen.
  • This giveaway is open to US residents only.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Homestead Blessings The Art of Quilting in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own. Giveaway items are provided by Franklin Springs Family Media.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Weekly Wrap- Up - Jan 23

We had a week of snow and ice and book clubs and dates!!

Monday we came home from Mama & Papa's, a day or two earlier than planned, to beat the snow. We also made the trip home longer than normal to make sure to get milk & groceries before the snow came. The girls had received Vol 7 of the Jonathan Park Adventures as a late Christmas gift from my grandparents, so we enjoyed listening to those while we drove home.

Tuesday we had snow & ice, ugh! The big girls went out a little bit, but it really wasn't at all a "fun" snow.

Wednesday night ended up being the book club that I normally go to on the 2nd Tues of the month. Snow had postponed it TWICE, but we finally got together Wed. night.  Little Bit comes with me, and she found a great partnership in Miss Sara, who's not a fan of peas. Lina sat on her lap during supper and happily ate the peas out of her salad, hee hee. Miss Sara also helped entertain her during the book discussion. Meanwhile Daddy took the big girls on a "date" to Friendly's.

Thursday night was our other book club. All the kids come with me to that one. It was a week late also. The big girls were thrilled that Pastor Mike was home most of the time, for them to torture. While he wasn't available, they read their books. Little Bit and the other toddler who comes, J, played and traded snacks and water cups, and generally did what they do . . . us moms enjoyed visiting and catching up.

Friday was *finally* A's date! She chose to go out with Mommy to Chipotles (because L's not a fan of Chipotles). She's been telling me for the past 2 weeks (at least) that she had "lots of questions" for me on our date, but when we actually got in the car and started driving, she forgot them all, hee hee. She managed to come up with other things to talk about & I suggested that next month she should write down the questions as she think about them. We had a nice time. Daddy lucked out, Little Bit napped the whole time we were gone, and L was busy playing Spider Solitaire on her computer, so he had it pretty easy LOL. A & I went to Chipotles for lunch, then to Dairy Queen for dessert (then I dragged her with me to the Dollar Store to get a couple things I needed for craft at church yesterday).  We had a nice time talking and just hanging out.  As we were coming home I asked her if, some months, I told her we weren't going out to eat, but we just went and sat on a park bench or something, if she'd still like our "dates" and first she said . . . "but I might be hungry", but once I pointed out that if we were doing that we'd eat BEFORE we left, she decided that would be ok "but eating out IS fun" LOL.

Also on Friday (in the morning) we went up to visit Miss Judy.  Judy had recently gotten some new patterns for clothes for their American Girl dolls (yes, she spoils them!), so we had fun looking at the patterns and the girls told her which dresses they'd like her to make them for their birthday.

Sabbath was a normal Sabbath. Little Bit seems to be teething (I hope, otherwise she's getting sick, so I'm hoping for teething . .. she's got a runny nose, but it's clear, not yellow, and she had really pink cheeks, but no fever, and she keeps sticking her hand down her throat, so seems like molars coming in is the likely culprit) so she was more "touchy" than usual. Melting down whenever she was told no (for example, when L wasn't willing to give Little Bit her (L's) ENTIRE granola bar), so it was a challenging church service. Afterward, one of the women who was sitting near us, made a point of telling me how much joy our children bring to her, and what a blessing they are to those around them. It was  nice to get encouragement when I needed it most :) God is good, and our church family is the best!!

Other odds & ends from this week . . . Little Bit learned the word "Mine!" from Sesame Street. I am not amused . . . actually, I am, but it's getting old FAST!!! She sometimes uses it in context, other times, she  will pick up something belonging to someone else in or family, and get an absolute mischief look on her face, complete with twinkles in her eyes, and say  "Mine!" just daring us to argue with her.

For awhile now, Little Bit has thought it's great fun, if she sees someone about to sit in a certain chair (or spot on the sofa) to run and jump into that spot before they do. Yesterday she combined this game with the above "mine" game, and a new twist.  I came back into the family room to sit down and found her sitting in my chair. She looked up at me with complete mischief in her eyes and said "sit . . .MINE!" and THEN she pointed to another chair, clearly telling me I could sit over there LOL.

Little Bit's way of saying L's name sounds JUST like "Sassy", I think part of it is because I also often refer to one or both of the big girls as "Sissy" when talking to her, so she kind of combined L's name and "Sissy" and came up with Sassy. Those who know my children, know that Sassy is a PERFECT nickname for L, so I've started calling her that too, much to her feigned annoyance, hee hee.  Interestingly, Little Bit says A's name quite clearly, and here I would have guessed that would be the harder name to say, go figure . . .

School this week included:
Bible: continuing to use Enjoying God's Gifts
Bible/History: continuing to read through On This Day In Christian History it's not intended for children, so I often have to explain words/concepts to them, but when I suggested one day, that since we didn't have alot of time, we skip reading this, they both said "no, we LIKE those stories!"
Science/History:  We're listening through the Jonathan Park Adventures for the 3rd or 4th time, *I* learn new things each time through, so I'm sure the girls are too LOL.
Spanish:  We're continuing to enjoy the calendar that teaches us a word or two each day, and Little Bit is continuing to enjoy Speekee. The big girls enjoy the Speekee worksheets, and watch one Speekee video per day without complaining.
Science/Math/Writing . . . : We're reviewing a unit study on blue-footed boobies, so we've been working on that this week, it's been fun, and ties in nicely after just listening to the Jonathan Park Galapagos CDs.
Reading/Writing/History . . . : Another current review item, Kid Scoop is printable kids newspapers with lots of fun activities, the girls have been enjoying them.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Homeschool Review: Speekee

Since we've been learning Spanish this year, I was thrilled to get the chance to review Speekee. Since it's from the UK, and apparently European DVDs don't always play on American DVD players (who knew?), they let us review their new, online subscription. For a low monthly fee (seriously, $7.50/month, what a bargain!!!) , you can watch the videos on your computer and download and print several great worksheets to go with each video. There are also additional "teaching suggestions" under each video with fun activities like making sock puppets, to make learning fun.

Speekee is an immersion program. The videos are 100% Spanish, and the children learn, much as babies learn their native tongue, but figuring out the words based on context.  There is the option to turn on closed captioning however, which gives the dialog in both Spanish and English.

Speekee, is the purple puppet you see pictured above, and she (he? *I* think it's a girl, others of the TOS Crew reviewers, and their children, are convinced it's a boy) is in all the videos, along with the same group of children (and one adult, Jim), and the 2 sock puppets (Dino and Lupi). Speekee and the children visit various places (a house, school, the market, the park . . .) in the videos, and learn words associated with these places. Each video builds on the one before, reinforcing words already learned, and adding new words.

During school time, we watch one Speekee video, sometimes a new one, sometimes going back to re-watch one we've seen before. The big girls found it extremely frustrating to try to figure out the words w/o English, so we leave the close-captioning on for them. Depending on the day, we sometimes will do some worksheets as well.

This program is designed for ages 2-10.  Little Bit (22 mo) LOVES it!! It's hard to tell how much she's learning, since she's not talking much yet, but she loves watching the videos. And will often ask for "Peekee" (accompanied by the sign for "wolf", I'm not sure WHY she thinks Speekee is a wolf, but whatever . . . ).  The big girls (7 1/2) aren't big fans, they think Speekee is "for little kids", and as I mentioned, they got extremely frustrated when we tried to watch it without the captions.  So, at least in our house, this would be more of a "preschool" option. For that age, I think it's great. The songs are catchy, and you do learn basic Spanish, almost without trying.

Personally, I'd rather have a DVD than online videos. BUT since it's a European company it's great that they've set up the online option for their American customers. And if you're using it alot, the monthly price is a great deal! If Little Bit were a year older, I think we'd be keeping the subscription until she'd fully "digested" all the videos. And we may re-visit it for her in a year or two.

Interestingly, while the big girls haven't been fans of the videos (they *have* learned from them though, whether they'll admit it or not, hee hee), they do like the worksheets. I found many of the worksheets included more writing than I wanted to get into with them at this age. Spelling and writing is still a new skill for them in English, so being able to write in Spanish isn't something I care about for them right now, it seemed to me that alot of the worksheets were geared quite abit older than what I would consider the target age of the videos. But, obviously, each parent can pick and choose which worksheets will be a good fit for their child(ren).

You can check out other reviews for this product on the TOS Crew Blog.

Disclaimer: I received a 2 month subscription to Speekee online, in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Homeschool Review: Maestro Classics

I was so excited when Brenda from the TOS Crew, posted the list for Maestro Classics and I was on it, woo-hoo!! Music isn't something I have any personal talents (or much knowledge) in, so anything to help me "teach" music is a good thing. Even more exciting, the product we got to review was Peter and the Wolf.  We read a book (and listened to a CD) of Peter and the Wolf as part of the Waldorf preschool program I use with the girls when they were 3-5 (it was a year & a half long, we started the winter they were 3 1/2, finished up the spring they turned 5), they'd enjoyed it then (and so had I), so I was excited to have a "refresher" and see what they thought of it now that they're older.

We received the CD soon after Christmas. We talked about it one day during school, then listened to it in the car on our way to get milk (we get milk from a farm about 1/2 hour away, so it's abit of a trip each week). It was as fun as I remembered it to be! I enjoyed the narration, that tells the "story" that the music echoes (I admit, I wouldn't be able to follow the story without the narration, I don't know my instruments THAT well).

For those not familiar with it, Peter and the Wolf is a children's piece, written by Russian composer, Sergei Prokofiev. The instruments represent the people and animals in the story. It helps a child learn about instruments and the orchestra in a fun way.

We kept the CD in the car and listened to it a few more times when driving places far enough away to listen to the complete story (just under 1/2 hr).  In addition to the narrated version of the music, and information about the composer, narrator, etc. There's also a playing of the music without any narration. I had them listen to it, and asked if they could "hear" the story, but they just looked at me like I was nuts, hee hee. I love having that option on the CD though!

The CD comes with a cute little full-color booklet with information about the composer, conductor, narrator, and various instruments. There are also fun little activities in the booklet. A dot-to-dot, crossword puzzle, matching, etc. You can see the answer key for the activities here, to get an idea what the activities are like. I wish there was a way to order extras, so we could have had one for each kid, but I couldn't find a way to do that.

Obviously, this product is ideal for an auditory learner, but with the activities and such a fun, "active" musical piece, it really works well for any learning style. I'm an extremely visual learner, and in general having to "just listen" to something is difficult for me, but I enjoyed this story (granted, I was driving, while listening to it, if I'd been at home I likely would have colored a picture or knitted or something while listening). A sort picture book to accompany the story (either in addition to the booklet or incorporated into it) would also help to keep young visual learners' attention, IMO. I think this would also incorporate well into any teaching style, it could be presented as part of "class" for the structured homeschoolers (school-at-home, etc). But also worked well the way we used it in the car, for more laid-back homeschoolers. Even a die-hard unschooler could leave it laying around (called strewing, by some) and the bright colors would likely attract the attention of a child, so that they asked to listen to it! The company lists the age range as 5+, but I really think even younger children can enjoy it. They might not understand it at the same level, then again an 8 yr old isn't going to understand it the same as a 15 yr old, but I know my girls enjoyed Peter and the Wolf at age 3 or 4. This is certainly a CD the whole family can enjoy together. Even if you don't homeschool, this is a fun music piece and can give your kids a little extra music education that they'll think is just a fun CD to listen to! So I'd recommend this to anyone with kids!

I really liked this product. It's a fun, but educational piece of music, and the narration and additional tracks of information on the CD are awesome! As already mentioned, I like that the CD includes the narrated and un-narrated versions of the music. I think my kids would have liked it more if we hadn't taken time out in the midst of Jonathan Park to listen to it. They don't like listening to music in the car AT ALL right now, preferring stories. So, when I asked what they thought, their response was "it's music, boring!". BUT they enjoyed it as preschoolers, and I like this version as well or better than what I remember of the version we got from the library at that time (no, I don't remember what version it was, except that it had a book & CD), so I think it's just the stage they're in right now, not anything against the music or this arrangement of it.

Really the only things I would change at all would be to make additional activity books/sheets available. It would be great if they were available on the website so each family could print off as many as they needed (if the company preferred to only offer this to customers who'd purchased the CD, a password could be included with the CD to a restricted part of the site).  

You can see all the products offered by Maestro Classics, here. In addition to Peter and the Wolf, they offer such classics as Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, and The Tortoise and the Hare, and others for $16.98 each.

Disclaimer: I was sent a free copy of Maestro Classics' Peter and the Wolf in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gratituesday - A nice warm home!

Today is cold and icy and just plain ICKY out there!! And so, today I am extra thankful that we have a nice warm home (though some would disagree, we keep it colder than many people do (the heat is set at 67 downstairs, 64 upstairs), but we like it that way thankyouverymuch, and it saves on the heat bill. Though we make up for it in the summer when we also prefer it cooler than most LOL). BUT not only am I thankful for the physical warmth of our home, but also for the warmth of family! I love the activity and fun of a house full of talkative little girls! From listening to the big girls pretend they're grown-ups (at last count, A has . . . 13 children, I think. She told me she plans to have 20 LOL).  To the chatter of Little Bit commentating on life . . . she likes to point out "messes" (that's easy to do around here), and remind us of our various body parts (eye, nose, head, mouth, teeth, and, of course elmo (otherwise known as an elbow)), and generally tell us every little thing that she sees, or does, or sees anyone else do. She's also quite the mimic, repeating everything her sisters say . . . that's not always so good, but *is* cute as can be! This afternoon L complained that puzzles were "bor-ring!" and Little Bit, while continuing to happily work on her puzzle (L was complaining because Little Bit wanted L to help her with her puzzle), repeated "bo-ing" hee hee.

I love the warmth of kiddos climbing up on my lap for a cuddle, or snuggling up with me. Last night Little Bit slept better than usual (certainly better than she had the last few nights, the worst of which, she was awake every 1/2 hour, yawn!), but she was cuddled right up against me, using my arm as her pillow, so cozy!

So, today, as it's a cold & icky day outside, I'm thankful for my wonderful family! Especially my 3 wonderful girls, all snug at home with me!

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up - January 16

I seem to be running "late" on things again, sigh . .. oh well, such is life!

We had a busy week.  Daddy was essentially gone all week, so it was "just us girls". Snow we predicted on Tuesday/Wednesday so we made sure to get errands run on Monday in preparation for that (went to get milk from the farm and groceries from the store).

Tuesday was a kitchenish day.  The girls made bread in the morning (part of our health/nutrition curriculum) and then, when we ate the whole loaf for lunch, they made more (ALL BY THEMSELVES) to take to our neighbor, Judy's house for supper. We also made Spinach Spaghetti in the afternoon to take to  Judy's.

Tuesday evening was supposed to be my monthly book club at Judy's house. But because of the predicted snow, we postponed it (to tomorrow, but now we're supposed to get MORE snow (and ice) tonight & tomorrow, so we shall see . . .), so Judy & another neighbor (Denise), & I decided to have our own party. We got together at Judy's house for supper, and games afterward. It was a lovely evening. And then the girls & I walked home through a magical winter wonderland! It had been snowing the whole time we were there so the ground was covered, but it wasn't deep enough to be hard to walk. There wasn't a mark on it!! (have I ever mentioned how much I love where we live?) And the snow made it light enough out that we could see perfectly fine without a flashlight. So pretty!! Little Bit even walked home in it, she's getting so big :)

Wednesday of course, the big girls spent playing in the snow. I was kicking myself that I hadn't gotten the shed key from Rodney, so I couldn't get the toddler sled out for Little Bit to try. The big girls love their saucer sleds but I didn't figure Little Bit was quite ready for that at this age. So she and I snuggled inside and read books and watched "Emmo"  and "Bue" and Signing Times (which she asks for by doing the sign for "sign language").

Thursday Little Bit did get a little snow time while I hung the laundry (it was a pretty sunny day, but COLD) and such.

Friday, the girls & I packed up and headed to my parents' for the weekend.

We enjoyed celebrating Christmas with my grandparents, and visiting with friends.

And the big news, at least as far as the girls were concerned is  . . .

. . . they both mastered bikes without training wheels!!! They don't get much chance to ride bikes, since we don't have a good place for it here. And they've never been willing to even try. But this weekend at my parents, L decided she wanted to try. So Dad took the training wheels off one bike (yes, those bikes  are way too small for them, we keep their old bikes at Mom & Dad's), and of course, A wasn't about to be outdone, so she had to try too. But both of them were too nervous to "let" Mama or Papa let go of them (Little Bit was napping on my lap during all of this). Once Little Bit woke up & I took her outside to play, Mama and Papa were worn out trying to run along behind them helping hold up the bike. So the girls asked me to "help" them. And I did, BUT, as soon as I saw that they WERE balancing, I let go and ta-da, they COULD do it! We spent awhile working on being able to start and for some  reason, removing the training wheels also removed L's ability to steer, so she had to find that skill again, but all in all, it was a pretty quick, easy process. But by the time we left my parents' house this morning they were zooming up & down the driveway as if they'd been riding a bike for years!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Book Review: On This Day in Christian History by Robert Morgan sent me the book On This Day in Christian History by Robert Morgan to review. This book is a daily devotional that tells a brief story about a famous person in Christian History for every day of the year. The person was generally born on, or had something momentous happen to them on, that date in history.

I was excited to get this book to use with my children to help them (and me) learn about famous Christians from the past. I realized, as I read through it, that I would need to preview the stories. Most are wonderful, but a few deal with infidelity and such that are more "adult" topics than I want to get into with my children at this point. Overall, they are enjoying the stories about famous Christians though.

The daily readings are short and filled with good information and a nice devotional thought. The accompanying Bible verse generally seems to be a paraphrase of the actual verse, which isn't my preference, but overall, this is a great book for daily reading.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, January 10, 2011

Homeschool Review: Easy Classical

As part of the TOS Crew, I was asked to review the Early Modern History Schedule from Easy Classical.

This is one year of their history schedules for the Primary grades. It's abit different from most of our reviews in that it's just the schedule. There was no expectation that we purchase all the resources to actually USE this schedule, just review it and give our thoughts on it. So I'm going to do this in abit more of an "outline" format than I typically use for reviews. I'd also like to point out that many other people will also be reviewing this product today. Their reviews, along with mine, will be linked to the TOS Crew blog. Some of these people have used some of the suggested resources in this schedule and will be able to give a different perspective on it than I can.

  • What it is:  A schedule for one year of history.
  • What's included:  A weekly schedule for 36 weeks, including recommended books to read, quiz questions, writing assignments, projects, etc. Also included are "drawing lessons" of sorts that are used throughout the schedule.
  • The schedule is available either as a download ($29.95) for a notebook ($35.95). We received the download version to review.
  • What else you need: This is just the schedule, all teaching supplies (textbooks, etc.) must be purchased (or perhaps borrowed from the library?) separately. A list of recommended supplies is on the website, here. Note that they suggest choosing the resources that work best for your family, so you may not need ALL of these.
  • How to use it: This is a schedule to take all the guesswork out of lesson planning. For each week it lists specifically what reading, writing, projects, etc. to do which day, Monday through Friday.
  • Age range: This is for K-6, my understanding is, with this approach, world history would be re-visited again in grades 7-12. I would assume younger children would enjoy some of the read alouds and perhaps easier versions of the projects. For older children, I assume there is a similar resource (if not from this vendor, somewhere out there) for the second time through world history, but if not, they could participate in this, with additional, more in-depth information added.
  • Learning/Teaching Style:  This is specifically designed for the classical style, as indicated by the name of the company, hee hee. I think other styles could adapt it. For example, since I have it, next time we're studying this period in history (explorers through 1815) I will likely refer to it for ideas. My kids would enjoy the drawing, we would pick and choose from the read alouds, etc. 
  • Teacher preparation required: This is just the schedule, the teacher/parent is still going to need to purchase or borrow the books, etc. However, having it laid out WHEN you need each thing and WHAT you need is going to cut down on the time needed in planning/prep. Also each week includes a "shopping list" for the next week, so you know ahead of time what you need to get together.
  • What do I think about this product?  Obviously, it's not designed for our learning/teaching style. We're about as far from classical homeschoolers as you can get LOL. That said, we actually used a similar schedule a couple years ago for history. It was a US History schedule designed for around 3rd grade, so required alot of tweaking, but it was nice to have the basic timeline laid out for me and have suggested books and activities for each week. I can see this schedule working well for us the same way, as a rough guide. I haven't looked at the books, etc. but just reading over the schedule, I can say that people who use this schedule as it stands spend a LOT more time each day doing "school" than we do. I'd venture to guess that following this schedule, as it stands, we'd spend significantly longer doing history than we currently doing all of our school. Is that good or bad? I don't know, it's just a different style, it wouldn't work well for us, I'm sure it works beautifully for those who follow the classical model for homeschooling. For ME, it seems expensive for what it is. Yes, it's a lovely convenience to have everything laid out for you, but for the price, I can do my own planning/scheduling. For a new homeschooler feeling overwhelmed, the cost is probably completely worth it! 
  • Other products from this vendor: Other schedules (history, science, main, and complete), writing guides, geography curriculum, and copybooks.   

Disclaimer: I received a download of this schedule in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Traditional, Shmaditional!

The Blog Cruise is Cruisin' again, after taking a break over the holidays. This week's topic asks, "Do you follow a traditional school schedule?".  I bet my regular readers can answer that question without me saying a word! But . . . you know me, give me something to babble about and of COURSE I'm going to babble!

I thought about trying to compare and contrast traditional school schedules to what we do, but I think instead I'll just share what works for us, and leave it at that:

Our yearly schedule is very . . . variable. Our travel is mostly dependent on Daddy's work. He travels around the state of Pennsylvania as part of his job and sometimes, depending on where he's going and when, we tag along (he's going to Erie next week but driving 5+ hours in snow isn't my idea of fun so we're not going along on this one). Because of that variability, we school year-round. That way when we DO travel, there's no worries about "missing school", though really, the vast majority of our traveling is also "educational" so it's not a big deal.  Perhaps a bigger issue is that learning is a way of life for us, we are always learning, just as we try to eat every day and sleep every night and . . . you get the idea.

Our weekly schedule is also designed to work around Daddy's unpredictable work schedule. He usually works Sundays and then theoretically has at least one day off during the week to make up for it (technically he should have 2 days off during the week since his office works Mon-Thurs, but realistically, we're lucky if he's home one day besides Sabbath). So, rather than "doing school" Mon-Fri and having to "do school" when Daddy IS home, and not doing school on Sunday when he typically is NOT home. We typically school Sun-Fri, but most weeks there's at least one day when something comes up and we don't "do school" if not, then Fri ends up being a free day, though some weeks, if we've had lots of non-school-time in the previous few weeks, I might go ahead & have all 6 days include school time. It all evens out. . . 

And finally, our daily schedule. Our scheduled "school time" is generally an hour or two in the morning, right after breakfast. This is when we do read-alouds, copywork, things like that. If we want to do things that are easier without Little Bit's "help" we do them during her nap. Car time generally means books on tape or other audio resources (lately we've been enjoying learning about creation science and the history of evolution/creationism by listening to Jonathan Park CDs). Bedtime means Sabbath School lessons and a "fun" read aloud (that often teaches some history or something, shhh . . . don't tell them they're learning LOL).

It works for us, and can bend as needed to meet the demands of our schedule. 

Weekly Wrap-Up: January 9

We've had an eventful week.

We started our nutrition study this week. We're using Vintage Remedies for Girls, so this week, we read the first chapter, learned about "real foods" (vs. prepared foods and such). Then we took a field trip to the grocery store (somehow calling it a field trip made them much more excited about going grocery shopping LOL), and looked at labels and things, as well as purchasing the ingredients we needed to make Pasta Primavera (the recipe they chose from the choices listed for Chapter 1).  Then of course, we made the Pasta Primavera for supper. Despite including vegetables like zucchini that they CLAIM they don't like, hee hee.

So that was a hit!

On a less great note, A managed to get her finger smashed in the electronic sliding door of our minivan. She & L were fighting over who got which seat and I was still in the house gathering up Little Bit and all the "stuff" that we seem to drag with us everywhere. So I'm not completely sure of what happened. The door is SUPPOSED to have sensors that automatically reverse to avoid such things. I think she was holding onto the door jam, so it was JUST her finger in the door & it was too small for the door to "register" until it had pinched her pretty good. I'm pretty sure it did NOT completely latch, or it would have broken her finger. She came back inside and we put ice on it & gave her homeopathic arnica (I SWEAR by this for bumps & bruises!!!!) and her finger never even swelled up or turned black and blue. It DID bother her for a day or two, and still feels bruised if she pushes on the finger nail, but it could have been MUCH worse.

Thursday night was our first "date night" under our new schedule of dates. Our friend, Starla, came over to watch the girls while Rodney & I went out ALL BY OURSELVES!! When we got home, Starla was sitting in the same chair she'd been in when we left, with all 3 girls on her lap. She said she'd been sitting there the whole time, hee hee. Said Little Bit didn't even seem to notice we were gone, so that was good (I wasn't sure if it would be problem because she doesn't know Starla very well, but guess it wasn't an issue).

And as you might have guessed would be a part of our week, from the picture at the top, we woke up Friday morning to SNOW!!! I think I had mentioned it briefly to the girls but they hadn't really picked up on it. Little Bit noticed it first. She woke up, chattering, as usual, then suddenly glanced out the window and her eyes got big and she said "nooooo" (not to be confused with "no" (no) or "no" (nose), the 3 are all distinctive but I can't figure out how to differentiate them in writing). A few minutes later I heard the big girls wake up & realize it had snowed LOL.

Once we'd done boring things like eating breakfast and doing chores, of course the big girls wanted to go out in the snow. And when they started talking about going outside Little Bit got excited too. So I decided to take her out for a little while. I hunted down her snowpants and boots and we got her all bundled up and I took her out. She was SOO funny, she's abit of a neat freak (poor child, lives in OUR house, how WILL she survive?) and found it very disturbing that the snow sticks to her boots, hee hee. And then she touched the snow and was equally disturbed that it sticks to her GLOVES. So all in all, the Little Bit snow experience wasn't a huge success. It was getting close to naptime and I *think* the toddler sleds are still in the shed (though it occurs to me as I type this that they might be in the basement), and Rodney has the key to the shed (I hope, because I haven't seen it since he had it last . . .) so we didn't try sledding, that will have to wait for another day . . .

I think I mentioned last week that we've been talking about rearranging the girls' room so that they can sleep on the floor instead of the loft, and eventually Little Bit can join them. Yesterday, we finally did some rearranging. I was just going to do the "first phase" and move the toy shelf against the wall so that there was a larger expanse of floor space under the loft, and then let them continue just sleeping on folded blankets until we got new (smaller, more futon-like) mattresses to use on the floor (and then move the regular mattresses that were on the loft out of there completely). But Rodney was home, and willing to help move the mattresses, so we went ahead & moved them down onto the floor. Probably a good thing, they took up more space than I would have thought. Unless the futon mattresses I was planning to get are narrower, I don't think we can fit 3 across in the space I was planning to use. So now we're thinking about treating it more like one king-size bed, and just have the 3 of them all sleep on it, we shall see . . . for now they're thrilled to have their beds down.
Once we finished with that, the big girls set to work up on the loft, which suddenly seems to have SO MUCH room with the mattresses gone. They decided to make one side "American Girls" and the other side "Schleich Town".  They haven't set up the Schleich stuff yet, but have at least a good start on the American Girls. I was too lazy to climb back up onto the loft to get a good shot of it, so you'll have to settle for A's dolls that are set up in the back corner. The pink princess boxes came with disposable diapers in them, when I saw them at Walmart right before a bunch of our travelling (when I knew we'd be using disposables for Little Bit anyway), I grabbed 2 of them, thinking they'd work well for the big girls to use to store things in. With the rearranging, the girls decided they would make good "sofas" for the American Girls.  Not especially in keeping with the "era" of the dolls  (Colonial, 1800s New Mexico, and Depression era) BUT it works . . .

And finally, some cute Little Bit notes:

The picture is terribly blurry (she just moves TOO FAST for my phone camera LOL), but I had to capture her "fashion sense". She was running around nakey (as is her norm), and suddenly decided she wanted to "get dressed" when I didn't immediately go find her some clothes, she went upstairs and got the lavender sweater out of her drawer and brought it down for me to help her put on. Then she found her (too big) periwinkle fleece pants (I've been putting them on her if we go outside here at home. Her boots keep the extra length from being an issue and them being fleece means they're warm AND water-resistant in case she pees, though that's not really an issue any more) and put them on. And finally found a lavender straw hat that's been in the girls' dress-up stuff forever, but at some point moved down to Little Bit's toy drawer. And there you have, our little fashionista!

She pronounces "sock" with an f sound instead of an s . . . I do a double take every time she says it, but she IS saying sock, I promise!

On morning this week, she woke up and sat up, and I didn't open my eyes right away, so she patted my arm, and when I did open my eyes, she put her hand up by her cheek and did a little wave and said "hi" with the cutest little grin. THEN she asked to nurse LOL.

She loves songs with motions, we sing songs like "This Little Light of Mine" and, one of her favorites . . . "The lightning flashes and the thunder goes BOOM!!" in the car. She also likes "With Jesus in the Family" and is quite opinionated on who we sing about when, hee hee. I wish we sang more of the fun cradle roll songs in Sabbath school here, I think she'd really enjoy them.

When I ordered this year's My Bible First lessons for the big girls, I decided to order the MBF Cradle Roll lessons for Little Bit too. The big girls use MBF in Sabbath School but for some reason (perhaps my biggest complaint against MBF, LOL) they don't make a quarterly for Kindergarten & Primary, just the weekly papers. So, if we're gone a week and don't remember to get the paper in advance, we don't have the paper. After the first couple months that we were here I decided it was worth the money to just order our own set of the lessons (they're only like $9/quarter) and then we'd have them all. Now that I have my handy-dandy binding machine, I bind each quarter's papers into their own "quarterly" and it works wonderfully!  ANYWAY . . . our church doesn't use MBF for Cradle Roll, but I haven't been overly impressed with the lessons they DO use, and we don't always get them, and generally don't get them until at least a week or two into the month and there are no pictures and it's not chronological . . . so . . . I decided rather than trying to struggle along with those lessons now that Little Bit's old enough to have a lesson, to just get the Cradle Roll MBF and use that here at home. It's not ideal, since it doesn't get reinforced at church, but I think it's still a better option for us.

So, starting with this new year (we were a few days late, I was late getting the order in and it took longer to get here than usual because of the holidays), we're reading Little Bit's lesson each night at bedtime too. She's SOO cute! I need to get a video of her saying her "memory verse". She still doesn't talk much, but will try to repeat most anything if you ask her to. So we go one word at a time and she "says it" after me. But in most cases not so that anyone would remember it. BUT last week, her memory verse was Gen 1:1 and then partway through the lesson, it has you read that verse again. So we'd said her mv at the beginning, and then I was reading her lesson. When I read the verse, she said "Genesis" (not clearly, but the same way she said it when repeating her mv)., so she's getting it . . . one thing I like about MBF is that the cradle roll is a 1 year cycle, so at this age where she changes SO QUICKLY, it will be reinforced each year as they are developmentally ready to understand so much more (also helped in my decision to buy it, since I only have to buy 4 quarterlies and they'll last us until she moves into Kindergarten LOL).

And that was our week.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Homeschool Review: Homeschool Day Book

The state we live in doesn't require that children be in school until age 8. So, we haven't had to start reporting our homeschooling yet. But in a few short months, we'll have two 8 yr olds in the house and a few short months after that, we'll begin our first year of "real homeschool". And I have to admit, having to actually KEEP RECORDS has kinda got me nervous.I've looked at a TON of different ways to keep track of what we do, both paper versions and computer versions. And while there are alot of good programs out there, I haven't found anything that works for US! Many of the programs assume you actually know which days each week you'll be doing what, and if you don't do things as planned it messes everything up. . . The paper versions either don't have enough room for my tendency to "babble" (you're shocked to hear I babble aren't you? Ha!), or it asks for too much detail and I can't keep up. NONE of the options I've looked at handled the fact that we do MOST of our schooling together - so keeping a log book for EACH child = double writing/typing. But there are some things that they do at different paces or one opts out of or whatever. Plus, as Little Bit gets older, we'll do some things as a family, "tweaking" it as needed for the age difference, but obviously she'll do some things separately. And then there's the fact that we "do school" for an hour or so, but they are LEARNING all the time. We often go long periods without doing any math during "school time", but they're learning fractions when we cook together, and doing math when they want to figure out how old Little Bit will be when they're 18 or 25 or 50 (their imaginary play is quite fun to listen to LOL). So we needed a way to keep track of at least SOME of that too.

 And then, a few days ago, I heard about the Homeschool Day Book. THIS is just what I need! It's a simple program that lets you record what you DID. And you can set up whatever subjects YOU teach (and/or your state requires that you keep records of) and YOUR children. And then for each entry, you check off all the children who participated and all the subjects that were covered.  And then you can print reports (or view them on the computer, or save them as a .pdf or excel file).  The program is set up that you record how long was spent on each item as well, and if you do that, then you can get reports for time spent. I will be intentionally NOT filling in the time since my state requires that we track days OR hours and I don't want there to be any question which I'm tracking (days), plus it saves me having to keep track of how long we spend on things, hee hee. But I *can* print off an attendance report that will show that we've met our day requirement. I can also print reports by subject to include information in our portfolio showing that we've studied the required subjects during the year. And of course, have the information on all subjects for my own records. This is a great little program, that does just what I need it to do!

One thing I wish it did is to let me choose multiple, but not all, children and/or subjects. So that I could print out a report for my two older children without including Little Bit. Right now I can either print out a report including all 3 children, or separate reports for each child. Especially useful would be to be able to print a report showing activity for the subjects required by the state, but not our "electives". Again, I can print a report for all subjects or individual subjects. Not a huge deal to have a separate report for each subject, or to print a report for all subjects and just use the information for those I need in our portfolio, but it would be a nice feature.

A more complex change would be to somehow have it on my Android (smartphone). I'm not sure how that would work since it's not a web based program, but it sure would be nice to be able to input entries on my phone on days when we're gone all day doing alot of things. Until then, I'll probably still make notes on my phone (probably in Evernote), and then transfer those to my Day Book when I'm back to my computer. But again, it would be nice . . .

This is such a great concept, it works equally well for unschoolers or classical homeschoolers (and everyone in between)! I'm so excited that someone thought to do this, and the timing is perfect for me, gives me time to play with it the rest of this year and be all ready to go next year!

Disclaimer: I wrote this review in response to Homeschool Day Book's offer to provide a permanent license, free of charge, to any bloggers willing to write a review of the trial version. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Homeschool Review: Math Facts Now

One of the products we were asked to review for the TOS Crew was a computer program called Math Facts Now. In a nutshell, this is computerized "flash cards". And, if you generally utilize flash cards for math, this would be an awesome option for you!

You can either download the program ($15.95) or purchase it on CD ($15.95 + $3.95 S/H). It's a small, easy-to-use computer program. It can be used for addition, subtraction, multiplication or division.  The parent spends a few minutes setting up a lesson. You choose the math facts your child(ren) needs to work on, how many problems are in the lesson, how much time to allow per problem, how to handle missed problems, etc. Then turn your child lose with it. That's really all there is to it. It gives the child math problems, they type in the answer, it tells them if they're right or wrong. If they're wrong, they type out the whole problem 2 or more times (depending on the criteria you set up), and are given the same problem again (sometimes several times) during the lesson to reinforce it.

This can be used for any age that's learning math facts, from the earliest addition (younger children might need you to sit with them and do the typing for them, since inaccurate, or too slow, typing is going to mess them up), until the child has learned all their math facts through the 12s.

As I mentioned earlier, if you use flashcards for math, you're going to love this option! It's going to be a good fit for anyone who teaches "math facts" using flashcards, workbooks, or "school" of any sort.  Unschoolers, or other relaxed schoolers who "teach" math through lifeskills, probably aren't going to use this much. That said, even though we fall into that last category, the girls enjoy occasionally "doing math" with this program, so it can work for anyone, but we probably wouldn't "get our money's worth" out of it if we had purchased it.

Teacher prep is minimal, it only takes 30 seconds or so to set up a new lesson. But since this isn't web-based, if you have multiple computers you're going to have to set it up separately on any computer you use. When we first got the program, I just put it on my computer, figuring that way I'd only have to set up each lesson once, but after a day or two of having to surrender my computer during "math time", I changed strategy and installed the program on each of their computers. Now I have to set up each lesson "twice" so that's more teacher prep, but then my computer isn't tied up while they're doing the lesson.

This program wasn't an ideal fit for our family, but it also isn't something that's targeted at our "style". I honestly don't understand why someone would want to make something "just educational, not entertaining". If you want your kids to memorize math facts (I've stated before, that I think math, certainly basic elementary level math, is better learned through life, so that children recognize, from the beginning WHY 1+1=2 AND why they need to know that), why not at least make it fun? So, I don't really understand the premise behind this program. BUT, that's just me, hee hee. Moving beyond that, does it do what it claims to do? Yes. Does it do it well? Yes. Even though there are many options the parents can set, I would like even more options. I'd like to be able to skip the "type it out 2 times' or at least be able to decrease it to only once when they miss a problem.  I'd like to be able to completely opt out of the timed aspect of this, I suspect if we used this regularly, that would trip them up sometimes if they got distracted by baby sister, etc. in the middle of a lesson.  And, I'd like to be able to choose "both sides" of the equation. The program is set up so that you can choose which number(s) to test, but, whatever number(s) you choose, it's going to give problems adding (or subtracting, etc) that number to all numbers from 0-12 . So, if we chose, to start by learning addition facts through 10+10, this would be a problem, because there's no way, that I found, to avoid having the program also test for 10+12 if you choose the 10s.  All that said, when we first began reviewing this program, the minimum number of problems per lesson was 50. Several of us asked about changing this & the company was quick to change this, reducing the minimum to 5. So I think in most cases, any changes like this, would be something the company would work with you if you asked.

My kids actually seemed to enjoy this more than I anticipated. Probably because "flash cards" is a novelty to them, hee hee. We got this program right at the end of our "season of travel", and we plan to stay closer to home over the winter. But since this isn't web based, it's something I think will work well in the car. I'll pre-set a few lessons on each of their computers and they can quietly work through them during Little Bit's nap or anytime they need a change of pace as we drive. There's also an option to set a reward if they get 100% correct. If we're going to use this in the car, I'll probably set those rewards to be some type of treat (candy, etc) to surprise them when they get to the end.

Disclaimer: We received a free download version of this program free in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.