Friday, January 27, 2012

TOS Crew Review: Kinderbach

Last spring we were excited to have the opportunity to review Kinderbach, and the twins enjoyed it, but Kinderbach's age range is 3-7 and reviewing it right around their 8th birthday, it was clear that Kinderbach's suggested ages are accurate.

So when I was asked to review Kinderbach again this year, I decided to see how accurate the LOWER limit of their age range is, and try it with not-quite-three-year-old, Little Bit! She turns 3 at the end of March, so she's younger than the suggested age range, but she is LOVING it! Kinderbach calls itself a "piano introduction for young beginners". I think it's important to realize that at least in the first several weeks, the emphasis is on rhythm and loud/soft and things like that. This is why it works for an almost 3 year old who could never focus enough for "piano lessons". Kinderbach is available as DVDs or online. You do need a piano or keyboard for this program. We recieved a subscription to the online program. Kinderbach consists of 6 levels. Each level consists of 10 weeks, and each week has 4 Lessons. Each lesson is a short video that encourages the child to do things along with the video. Most days there are also printables that go with the video lesson. I love that they keep the lessons nice and short for these little ones! But I must admit that most days Little Bit wants to "do another one". Other days she doesn't want to "watch Dodie" (the donkey) at all so we are going at our own speed but I'm going to guess that we end up watching Dodie 2-3 times a week, but we usually do 2-3 lessons each time so it all averages out.
I do think the age range stated (3-7) is very accurate. My older girls were too old for it at their 8th birthday and certainly haven't had any interest (except in trying to "help" Little Bit, sigh) this year (at almost 9). Little Bit has been enjoying it, but she would get more out of it in 6 months or so, when she's actually 3.

This is very hands-on and could work with any learning/teaching style. It's designed to be used in a structured way, using it for a few minutes each day, 4 days a week. But we've found it works fine to use it on the days that Little Bit is interested, and skip it the days she's not. And it works fine to do 2 or 3 lessons at a time if she wants to keep going. While the lessons definitely build on themselves, there is plenty of repetition so Little Bit has been able to remember things fine even if we go several days between lessons.

PhotobucketOne thing I've noticed with this program is a definite down-side to video-learning. . . there's no way, in a video format, to move at the child's speed. I had to laugh the other day when the video was moving slower than Little Bit needed. The woman on the video was making loud or soft sounds and had asked the children to color a gumball in the appropriate gumball machine (on a printable) to indicate loud or soft. But she, naturally, gave plenty of time after each sound for the children to think about their answer and color it in. This is certainly a necessary part of things, but Little Bit was pretty quick at this one. So the woman had made a sound, and Little Bit had colored in her answer, then the woman said a second time to "color the right gumball" and Little Bit said in the cutest, exasperated voice "I ALREADY DID!". I don't see a solution to this in a video format. And obviously it is also a factor in classroom settings, but it did remind me of how much I appreciate being able to move things along at each child's speed with most of what we do.

If you're looking for an affordable, hands-on "introduction to music" type program for your preschoolers. This is a great option for you. You can choose an online subscription for $95.88 per year or $19.99 per month. Or, you can purchase the DVDs. There are a variety of packages for the DVDs, you can see them here.

Kinderbach also offers a variety of song books, coloring books etc. We were able to look at some of these. I think these would be great for older preschoolers. Little Bit is generally content with plain paper to color on, so I didn't print off the coloring books, but if your child enjoys coloring books, these are nice, affordable, and a good way to reinforce what they are learning in the videos. I was also able to see a sample song from several of the songbooks. Little Bit isn't ready for the songbooks, it would require going quite a ways through the program to learn all the notes included in the song. But it's a great option to keep in mind. I know one of MiniMe's frustrations last year was she wanted to PLAY SONGS, so having one of these and showing her that if she kept going through the program to learn the notes included, she WOULD be able to play some songs would have been encouraging for her.

I also wanted to mention that Kinderbach is working on a Level 7. I was able to see a preview of it and was impressed. It's different from the early levels. It requires more parent participation as, at least at this time, it's not video-based and definitely geared for an older child. But seems like it would be a good, solid "next step" from the current lessons.

AND Kinderbach is reformatting their videos to be available on iPads and iPhones. I don't have these devices, but did try opening a  video on my android phone. It's a small screen for something like this, but the video does format fine on it. I can see it being a more viable option on an iPad though. I don't think Little Bit would be able to get as much out of it on as small a screen as a phone.

Be sure to check out the free online trial to make sure it's a good fit for your family. Also notice that right now, if you sign up for their newsletter, you can get a coupon code for 40% off, definitely worth looking into!!!

Go visit the TOS Crew blog to see what my fellow crew mates and their children thought of this product!

Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned product in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. For Your Kids - Chapter 2

This week over at The Pelsers, we're talking about Chapter 2 of How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. For Your Kids.

Chapter 2 is the "E" of H.E.A.R.T. and stands for Enrich Your Marriage

Here are some of the quotes that spoke to me in this chapter:

  •  Do you live like you actually love your spouse, or even like him? pg 64
  • Too often we are willing to do the easy thing and hope it's enough. pg 65
  • We need to stop criticizing others and begin looking inward and clean up ourselves. pg 66
  • It is from our marriages that [our kids] learn grace. pg 67
  • What if we started living out God's original intent for marriage - oneness? What if we were willing and excited about sacrificing ourselves for our marriage? What if we sought God first and honored Him in our marriage by seeking to serve? . . . 
My thoughts:
Interestingly, while I certainly needed, and took to heart, the reminders about loving my husband and showing that love. The thing that really jumped out at me was the reminder about doing thing and hoping it's enough. Not only in my marriage, but in other areas too. 

I'm struggling with some things right now, in a holding pattern until I have more information, but still mulling it all over . . . and literally RIGHT before I read this chapter I'd been thinking, "you know, I really hope that this plays out so that I don't have to do anything". And then I read that quote . . . and it kind of hit me over the head and reminded me that sometimes the easy way isn't good enough. I'm STILL in a holding pattern. I STILL don't know how it will play out, but this was a good reminder to accept, without grumbling, however it does play out and trust God to work things out according to His will, even if that's not "the easy way".

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hanukkah Fairies (abit late)

I was talking to a friend and realized I'd never blogged about our Hanukkah Fairies (I planned to right after Hanukkah but it slipped my mind). So I'm going to go ahead and do so now. . . In December, a parenting forum I am was talking about Elf Magic. I thought it was a fun idea but I told myself I was NOT going to take that on this year along with everything else we had going on. But then, someone pointed out that they also had Hanukkah Elves on the site. And that got my wheels turning (see how I justify things to break my own rules . . . LOL). Since it was our first year celebrating Hanukkah, it would be kind of fun to introduce this as a fun, silly, part of Hanukkah. BUT they were sold out of the girl Hanukkah elf, and their elves were abit out of my price range anyway. So I started hunting online for a blue elf of somesort that WAS in my price range (and available). . . I didn't come up with much, but my search on did bring up several blue fairies! I remembered from when we did a waldorf preschool curriculum with the big girls, that fairies are pretty easy to make and so I started modifying things . . . coming up with ideas that would work for Hanukkah, and made 3 blue "Hanukkah Fairies".

My PLAN was, the night before the first day of Hanukkah I'd set them all up, but then I got dates confused and thought Hanukkah started a day later than it did, so all of a sudden it was the first day of Hanukkah and I hadn't set things up the night before. So that day before we left to run errands I told the big girls to take Little Bit out to the car while I got the last things together and then once they were out in the car, I very quickly set up the fairies by our menorah, so they'd be waiting for us when we got home from errands. I got home & realized I'd forgotten to take a picture, so I literally got my phone ready and snapped the picture as I walked by so the girls wouldn't notice. All things considered, the picture didn't come out too bad LOL. I set up the fairies on/around the menorah along with their "introductory note" tied with a blue ribbon, and a little tiny jar of blue glitter (magic fairy dust). The note said they are the Hanukkah Fairies and they love to visit families during Hanukkah and learn more about Hanukkah along with the family. Also that at night the girls were to leave them a snack of fairy cookies and milk, and sprinkle them with the magic fairy dust, so the fairies could "come alive" during the night.

After the girls went to bed each night I set up the fairies to be "caught" doing something the next morning. I didn't get pictures of all of them, but here is some of their fun anyway.  The first night I left some miniature dreidels and the wrappers from some chocolate coins next to the fairies' milk "bowl". And then the fairies were all tangled up in yarn and some knitting needles with a note saying they were trying to knit themselves sleeping bags but hadn't had much luck. So that day the girls made them sleeping bags.

Another night, they were scattered abit. One was reading a library book (Hanukkah at Valley Forge, very cool book!) on the bench.

The second fairy was in the dining room on the table, reading a new book the fairies brought us, Alexandra's Scroll.

And the final fairy (MiniMe's) took them awhile to find. She was climbing on our bookcases, looking for a book to read, hee hee.

Since Hanukkah and Christmas overlapped this year, on Christmas morning the girls found the fairies visiting Baby Jesus in our nativity set.

One of my favorites, was their snowball fight! They used the tree blocks (that live in the lower drawer) to build steps up to the drawer of regular wood blocks and then set up their "forts" out of blocks. The "snowballs" are Gobstoppers, there were "snowball" ones available at Christmas time this year, that were white, green, and red. So I just pulled out the white ones for the snowball fight. Cotton balls or mini marshmallows would also work.

Another "new book day", they were all sitting on Little Bit's rocking chair reading the Hanukkah section (of course) of Walk With Y'Shua Through the Jewish Year, which we continue to enjoy as we move through this new year, learning about the various Jewish Holidays.
 And another favorite, their star-gazing camp-out. The fairies brought their sleeping bags (Sassy knitted the white one, MiniMe made a red felt one for her fairy, and Little Bit used the blanket from a small doll she already had) to a windowsill (that actually looks outside, they "lived" on a windowsill, but that window looks out on the (covered) porch, so no stars to be seen from that window), and had some (new) constellation cards to help identify the stars and were roasting marshmallows (using straight pins) over a tealight candle.

There were a couple other nights that I didn't get pictures of. And then the morning after the last night of Hanukkah the fairies were gone but had left a craft to do, the "magic fairy dust" (to save for when we come back), and a note saying they'd had a lovely time and might be back during the year to celebrate some of the other holidays.

I plan to bring them back every once in awhile, not necessarily every holiday, to keep things fun. 

As with "Santa", we've never tried to make our children think any of it is "real" but, with the knowledge that it's all in fun, they still think it's great fun to get into the fun of it all. And this definitely fell into that category. They were well aware that the fairies don't "really" come to life (and incidentally, one of my reasons for doing the "magic fairy dust" was to give myself a way to make sure the GIRLS found all the fairies each evening and had them in one place where it woudl be quick and easy for me to grab them and set up the "adventure" after the girls were in bed. As it was, they didn't carry the fairies around much, but from reading about people doing the elves, I knew that some children, like to play with their elf during the day and I could see Little Bit, especially wanting to do that, so this took care of that possibility :) 

We had alot of fun with it, and the girls LOVED it! I was usually still upstairs (having my Bible time, or getting dressed) when they would come down as soon as they got up each morning to find their fairies. It was so fun to hear them giggling about it :) 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up - January 22

Our main fun this week was on Thursday, when we went to Independence Hall, and surrounding area. Sassy and MiniMe earned their Junior Ranger and we visited the Liberty bell, Independence Hall, The Congress Building, Second Bank Art Gallery, including the really cool (I thought) solid brick vaults in the basement (didn't get pictures of those though, now that I think about it), and the building that houses the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and a 3rd document that escapes me at the moment.  We discovered that this is pretty much the PERFECT time to visit that area as long as your schedule is flexible enough to be able to choose a day that isn't too terribly cold (or snowy or windy or otherwise weather you don't want to be out in). Thursday was cold, but little or no wind, so in the sun it was pretty nice and even in the shade it was fine as long as we didn't sit in one place for too long.

The crowds were non-existent! We only saw one tour group (adults), and they tended to move quickly through areas so even if they came into an area while we were there, they usually kept on moving. No school groups. The rangers seemed thrilled to answer the girls' questions and have someone to interact with. It was lovely!

I was thankful that my parents were able to come with us, Little Bit did well, but understandably was restless with how long we spent at each place, talking to the rangers. Mom spent a good part of her day following Little Bit around. She made several trips up and down the steps in the congress building. Took several laps through all the galleries of the Second Bank Art Gallery, and found a stick that the wind had blown in and marched around the "Documents building" over-and-over holding her "sword" (much to the amusement of the ranger in that building LOL).

Little Bit did do a good job of being quietly not too active during the main floor part of the tour of Independence Hall (and would probably have had a blast on the second floor, dancing to the harpsichord music, but their security regulations didn't allow us to leave the stroller parked outside the building, and I didn't feel like carrying it up the million and one stairs, so mom took the stroller and Little Bit back outside while I took the big girls upstairs.

The National Park at Independence Hall also has a "trading card" program, where children can earn "trading cards" about various Revolutionary War people, places, and things, by talking to the rangers, answering and asking questions. So the girls each got a set of those while we were there.

We were disappointed that the Benjamin Franklin underground museum is currently closed for renovations, so we'll plan to go back down once it's open again. There's also another site, Thaddeus Kosciuszko Monument in that area that we didn't have time to go to either, so we'll probably try to combine it with the Benjamin Franklin stuff.

Other fun we had this week includes a play date with our friends, E and J, and their mommy.  Everyone had fun playing together. Little Bit was very excited that "my friends" were coming over to play with her.

The other days we had our normal school. We are wrapping up our Revolutionary War stuff for history, we watched a LOT of "Liberty's Kids" and finally finished listening to the Johnny Tremain audiobook in the car.

Our week ended with a very snowy Sabbath! The snow started during the night Friday night, so we woke up Sabbath morning to a world of  white. And the snow was still coming down. Needless to say, we declared it a snow day and didn't even attempt to go to church. We enjoyed time together and watching some Veggie Tales videos (as if I didn't have a sufficient collection of my own, we discovered that netflix online has most of them available, so now we have lots of variety, woo-hoo!) All 3 girls went out to play in the snow for awhile. Little Bit wasn't so sure about the whole sledding thing, but she seemed to enjoy just throwing snow in the air and such while her sisters sledded. Once she was sufficiently frozen, I brought her inside and the big girls stayed out awhile longer. Then they went out AGAIN during Little Bit's nap and stayed out until dark.

And one final picture from this week. We needed new toner cartridges for the printer (that's what most of the boxes cluttering the background are), Little Bit claimed the box they came in as her own personal toy. She LOVES to sit in the box and close 2 of the flaps, then put a book on them to hold them down. So silly!

So, we had a good week all around!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. For Your Kids Chapter 1

This week we are blogging about Chapter 1 of How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. For Your Kids at The Pelsers.

Chapter 1 focuses on the H - Have a Heart for the Things of God
Some quotes I liked from Chapter 1 include:

  • In order to reach the hearts of your kids, you must first have a heart for the things of God.
  • As intentional parents, we do not panic, we pray. We do not give sermons; we give scripture.
  • . . . Then someone is rude to someone or grabs or yells or something, and I pray because I'm in danger of slipping back into my old habit of sermonizing. At a time like this, God wants me to seek Him, ask Him for insight, and wait for Him to touch my child's heart.
  • Our praise should be complete, total, unashamed, and enthusiastic. 
  • Have a heart for God and don't be afraid to show it! Praise Him out loud. Pray and lift him up!
This chapter is a combination of showing how ME having a heart for God is SOO important in having a heart for my children! That they are going to learn about God, not from what I say, but what they see in me. That is something that is somehow so easy to forget, at least for me. 

The other thing that stood out to me in this chapter was that we need to be "loud" for God. I'm not sure how I feel about that. . . the examples given were how we loudly and unashamedly cheer for our favorite sports team but keep quiet about God. The thing is, I don't cheer loudly for favorite teams and such either, it's just not me.  . . so that has me pondering . . . I get what she's saying, if we're willing to speak up about other things but not our God then what's that say about who's most important to us? But on the other hand, I would feel awkward yelling and screaming and jumping up and down about a sporting team too, so if it's just not something that's part of my personality, does God really ask me to be loud and enthusiastic about Him? Because I just don't think there's any way around the fact that it would seem (and feel, and be) fake and forced and put-on, and that's not a good witness for God either.

That said, I do think the underlying point is valid. We need to truly love God and not be ashamed of Him, in front of our children and the world! I just think How we are "unashamed" will look different in different people depending on our personalities.

Go over to The Pelsers to see what others thought of this chapter.

Monday, January 16, 2012

TOS Crew Review: We Choose Virtues


While for the most part I try to follow my children's interests in our schooling, the one area where I tend to be more "dictatorial" is character training. In this area, while I still try to make it fun and interesting and such, I tend to focus on areas that need reinforcement and more work. Sometimes my children don't appreciate that, but generally once we move beyond the "heat of the moment", they are on-board along with me. So, when I saw my name on the list to get to review a product from We Choose Virtues, I was excited! What better way to sneak some extra character training into our days then to "have" to use the product because we're reviewing it :) 

PhotobucketWe Choose Virtues was created to provide a fun, simple way to teach virtues to children, ages 3-18 in either a home, church or school setting.  For review purposes we were sent a set of the Virtue Clues Cards ($5.99) as well as links to download the Teacher's Handbook ($4.99), Coloring book ($3.00), Family Character Assessment (free), and Kids Memory Verses, Bible Heroes and Truths (free). I have to admit, I struggled abit trying to figure out how to utilize the virtue clue cards and coloring pages on their own. Finally, after reading through the Teacher's Handbook, and going back and re-reading it some, while I'm still not completely clear on how the cards would be used with the full curriculum, I was able to come up with a plan that is working well for us. Here's what we're doing.

The program as a whole is designed around 3 simple family (or classroom) "rules":  Be Obedient, Be Kind, and Be Helpful. The twelve virtues listed in this program are designed to further expound on, and define these 3 rules (4 under each rule). I decided we would spend a week on each rule, and then probably cycle back around through them. Since I don't have the Parenting Cards that give detailed suggestions for each virtue, or the Posters, that help present each virtue to the children, I improvised.

I began by introducing the 3 rules and talking about how all the family rules we've had in the past can fall under those 3 rules. I listed the 3 rules (with space in between) down one side of our white board.

Next I introduced that week's virtue. I wrote the saying from the front of the Virtue Clue Card on the white board and passed out the coloring page for that virtue. Then while we colored our pictures (I colored one too, to have one to put on the board (w/o fighting over whose was on the board), plus I LIKE to color, and these are fun coloring pages!!) we read the saying together and discussed it. Next I wrote that virtue's Memory Verse (from the free download) on the board under the saying. Again we read it together and discussed it. Next I read the Bible story (also listed on the free download) and we discussed this as it relates to the virtue we're discussing. I also had the older girls each choose one aspect of the "Virtue Card" saying that they specifically needed to focus on that week. For example, for the week we focused on "I am Obedient", MiniMe agreed that she needs to work on the "I am not slow" piece of it, so she put extra effort that week into doing what she was asked promptly.

The rest of the week we continued with our regular Bible and just repeated the saying and memory verse at the beginning of our Bible time and took a few seconds to discuss how they were doing on their chosen areas of focus. At the end of the week, I list that virtue under the relevant rule, so that by the end we'll have all 12 virtues listed under their respective rules on the side of our board.

So far it has been going well. We've had some rough discussions in areas where the girls don't like to admit how poorly they are following the particular virtue being discussed, but that isn't all bad. I definitely plan to continue through all 12, and probably cycle back through at least once more. Then may let it rest before revisiting it again.

Photobucket Would I recommend the product? Hmmm . . . the cards I received, I don't really see as a stand alone product. Looking at the company as a whole, yes, I think this is a fun, colorful way of reinforcing positive virtues in your family. Homeschoolers can incorporate it into their school day, non-homeschoolers could use it as a quick morning devotional at breakfast or a part of evening devotions at night. This could also be incorporated into a church children's class, perhaps focusing on one virtue each month. Additionally, note that products are available in both faith-based and non-faith-based versions so this could be used during a morning family time for non-religious families as well. As far as WHAT to buy, spend some time browsing the site, then my recommendation would be to spend the $4.99 for the Teacher's Guide, reading through it will show how all the products are intended to be used and give you a pretty good feel for which products will work best for your family. Alternately, if you're pretty sure you'll want "the whole package" you can save some money by purchasing a kit like this one. Personally, for our family, the kit includes several items that I wouldn't utilize enough to be worth spending the money, so I'd prefer to just get what I need. If it were me, I'd probably choose the parents cards, coloring book, and teacher's guide. If money is extremely tight, you can put together a nice program with the items I received for the review: Teacher's Guide, Virtue Clues, and free download  Kids Memory Verses, Bible Heroes and Truth. For just over $10 plus shipping, you'll have the basics you need.

When I asked the girls what they thought, the initial reaction was speaking to the strong feelings that our current week's virtue (accountability) has raised. Let's just say this is an area that needs quite abit of work and they aren't real happy about having that . . . emphasized this week. Once we moved beyond that and I asked specifically what they think of the coloring book and sayings on the cards, they agreed that they like that, so I'm going to interpret this as a thumbs up from them.

Be sure to check out what my fellow crew mates thought of this product, and how they chose to use it, on the TOS Crew Blog.


Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned product in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up - January 15

Another week of nothing out of the ordinary (I was going to say normality but ummm . . . there's never been anything normal about me). I could get used to this. I'd rather NOT get used to the fact that dh has been having to work a ton extra lately, sigh . . . he tells me it should let up soon. I hope so! One night this week we dropped supper by the office for him since he was working late. The girls were excited to find, when we got there, that one of his co-workers had her dog at work with her. All 3 girls had a great time loving on Queenie, and Queenie gobbled up the attention. But then when it was time for us to go home, as we walked out the door and dh said "goodbye", Little Bit was HEARTBROKEN that Daddy wasn't coming home with us, poor baby :( The rest of that evening, any little bump she heard (and with umpteen cats residing on our porch there are lots of little bumps) she said "I think Daddy is home!" She was VERY excited when he finally DID come home!

I've been taking advantage of our time at home to do some decluttering of closets and such around here. It feels good to get some "junk" out of here. MiniMe (my pack rat extraordinaire)  is eyeing my Goodwill bags warily, fearing they have "treasures" in them, but it's not her stuff, regardless of her fears, and I think we'll all enjoy our snug little house better if we pare things down abit :)

We've had cold, but nice weather quite abit of the time. Little Bit loves to play outside with her big sisters, though some days it has to be short periods because it's cold!

In my decluttering I found a beanbag toss game that I'd gotten at a yardsale several years ago. So one of the too-cold-to-stay-outside-long days, I got it out. Had to laugh, I let Little Bit walk right up and drop her beanbags in but obviously the older girls stood back a ways. When Sassy missed the first time, Little Bit said "Here, let me help you. See you come closer, like this" as she picked up Sassy's beanbag and dropped it in a hole. It was SOOOO funny, she cracks me up! We threw in some math lessons with the beanbags and that lead to a discussion of division, in which we discovered that LockRobots work quite nicely as math manipulatives.

In history we've continued to focus on the American Revolution. We're thoroughly enjoying the Liberty's Kids DVDs. We're also enjoying listening to an audiobook of Johnny Tremain when we're in the car.   The girls are also enjoying reading a variety of books on the topic. We're hoping to spend a day visiting the historic sites in Philadelphia this week, we shall see . . .

MiniMe and Sassy are continuing to progress through a cursive handwriting ebook at their own paces. And Little Bit is enjoying learning about music through with Kinderbach.

We've had some challenges as we work through the We Choose Virtues curriculum for Bible (watch for my review of it coming later this week), some of the definitions of the virtues are hitting abit close to home, and both girls have areas where they don't like to admit they need to work on things, so we've had some frustrations, but we're working through them, and growing as a result. We're also thoroughly enjoying a Hebrew Roots Family Devotional for Proverbs that Evonne from Read Hebrew Today is working on, and letting me have a sneak peak and offer some suggestions.

So that's been some of our school this week.

Friday, January 13, 2012

TOS Crew Review: Learn Our History


Since we are learning about American History this year, I was excited to have a chance to review a DVD from Learn Our History.  Providentially, the video we were sent to review is The Birth of a Revolution, which fit in PERFECTLY with our current studies on the American Revolution. We were also given online access to watch 9/11 & the War on Terror.

PhotobucketLearn Our History is a new company, started last year, with the mission of making American history fun through their animated videos. The videos we received were between 20 and 30 min long. When you purchase the videos from their website, or by phone, you will also receive access to streaming online video and other educational resources.

Since The Birth of a Revolution fit nicely into our current history curriculum the girls and I watched it together. Since 9/11 is a topic that I still struggle to explain to my children while they're so young, and we only had online access to that video(which meant clustering around a computer screen), I opted to watch it on my own. While I didn't have any big problems with it, I didn't feel it would provide enough additional information (beyond what we've already talked about as a family) to be worth clustering around the computer screen to watch it.

The videos follow a group of school students as they "time travel" to the various historic events and experience them for themselves.

Things I liked: the videos present as unbiased as possible a view of what happened during the historic events. The children travel to various locations to see what was happening from different points of view and in different locations. My girls enjoyed the video and wished it was longer, or that we had more. That's always a good endorsement LOL.

Things I, personally, wasn't fond of.  As is true of many modern books and movies, there is an assumption that sibling rivalry is normal and acceptable. I prefer not to present this as acceptable in our family, so that is generally a "deal breaker" for me unless something has some extremely strong positives to make me overlook it (in which case, I will talk to the girls about the sibling rivalry presented, and how I feel about it). I also found the children in the video to be abit too "stereotyped" for my liking . . . "the brain", "the hick" (complete with overalls), the "valley girl", etc. I haven't seen how having these strong stereotypes add to the storyline in any appreciable way and I don't like encouraging stereotypical thinking.

The company says the videos are good for all ages, and I think, for the most part, that is accurate. Obviously my 2 year old wasn't too thrilled (it wasn't Dora, afterall), but I think we can safely assume that most people would interpret "all ages" to be those in school and on up.  My 8 yr olds liked the videos. I can't speak to how older children would react to them.

Whether homeschoolers or not, if you are looking for videos to present some basic American History in short, easy-to-understand, fun, videos, this is a great product (and I believe that's the target, so they're doing well). If, on the other hand, you are a family of history lovers which has instilled that love in your children from a young age, and have children who beg to read "just one more chapter" of biographies, and love visiting national parks and doing junior ranger programs there, these videos probably won't provide a whole lot of new information. But regardless, check out the clips on the website to decide for yourself :)

As I understand it, at this time the videos are available as a "video a month" type subscription. Each video is available for $9.95 + $3.95 shipping. Then each month they make another video available (at the same price) and you have the option to have them send it, or say not. Be sure to check the website for their current offers, there are typically some freebies included with the first order. Currently there are 5 videos available with another 9 ,listed as coming over the next several months. You can see all of the videos listed here.


Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned product(s) in return for writing an unbiased review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. for Your Kids - Introduction

How To Have a HEART for Your Kids

As I mentioned last week, I decided to join an online "book club" reading How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. for Your Kids by Rachael Carman. This week on Monday we were supposed to post our blog post about the Introduction, but Amazon was slower than usual in shipping my book to me, so I didn't receive it until a couple days ago. So I'm running a few days late :) 

The introduction is, for the most part, Rachael's "history" of how she and her husband decided to homeschool. Or perhaps more accurately, how God dragged them into homeschooling, kicking and screaming :) While I can't relate to her original aversion to homeschooling, I did relate to many things in her introduction. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

  • homeschool is more than an educational choice -- it's a lifestyle.
  • Relax and read to your kids.
  • I had a plan for [my children] to make me look good, but I had not considered what God's plan might be for their lives.
I have to admit that I often (almost always) skip the introduction when I read books, or at best, skim it. I'm glad I took the time to read this one, it has me chomping at the bit to jump into the first chapter (which I plan to do during Little Bit's nap this afternoon, or perhaps before I go to bed tonight, we shall see how things pan out. . . fitting reading time in can be challenging, since I suspect it is very much NOT having a H.E.A.R.T. for my children if I were to tell them, go fend for yourselves, Mommy wants to read!!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book Review: Close Enough to Hear God Breathe by Greg Paul

In Close Enough to Hear God Breathe, Greg Paul encourages us to rest our head on God's chest, to move close enough to God to hear Him breathe. Mr. Paul uses every day anecdotes from his life and others to show how God can be our constant companion if we move close to Him.

I have to admit, I struggled to get into this book. I don't really know why, I agree with, and like, the ideas presented, and it was well-written, but it just didn't keep my attention like I had hoped it would. So I'm not sure whether to recommend it, because in theory, I do think it's a great book. Or not, because I couldn't get into it. I guess I'll leave it up to you to decide for yourself :)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://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.”

Monday, January 9, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up: January 9

The One of the downsides of being as busy as we are so much of the time is that when we have a "normal" week, I sit down and think . . .now what do I write about? Sigh . . .

So some mundane-ness that is our normal life.

Bedtime stories:  We have been reading the Chronicles of Narnia for bedtime stories. I read them as a teenager, and then took a literature class on C.S. Lewis in college (one of my favorite classes, weird as it is for an accounting major to take a 400 level lit class for gen ed credit. See, I've always been weird, it's not a new thing!) We are all enjoying them (well, not Little Bit . . . Mommy are you DONE reading YET?!?! I want Wonder Pets). It's been interesting for me to see the symbolisms that children see, and don't see, in the books. We finished The Last Battle yesterday, so now we're on to other things, but it's been quite enjoyable! Now I've added unit studies on The Chronicles of Narnia to my "do sometime for school" list LOL.

Sabbath School Lessons: Over all I've been happy with the lessons that our church uses for the older girls. In fact, when I wasn't happy with the . . . lack of lessons . . . being used for Little Bit's class, I recommended, and finally kind of took over and implemented, using the same company's program for the littles. However, this is the girls' second time through the same rotation since our church combines Kindergarten (ages 4-6) and Primary (ages 7-9), and they were becoming abit too . . . rote. 2011 had an "extra Sabbath" and the way this particular curriculum dealt with that "53rd week" was with a lesson that I wasn't happy with (not enough Bible-basis). So we took the stated topic (angels) but did our own study on it, using's topical index. The girls loved it, and it triggered in my mind that we might be ready to move beyond reading "stories" for our lesson study and go straight to the Bible. So that's what we did last week. At the end of each week's lesson it lists the Bible texts, and other resources, that that week's story is based on. So instead of reading the daily readings, we've been reading the listed Bible texts from a variety of  Bible versions and discussing it. It's helping us all remember to go straight to the Bible.

Character Building and Virtues:  We are reviewing a "virtue" curriculum right now. We received it before Christmas but I didn't introduce it until last week (we were already busy with Christmas and Hanukkah and I didn't want to bog us all down with adding more things, so now we're scrambling abit to get reviewing done by deadlines after taking some "time off" from reviewing). It's a good reminder for all of us to focus on our hearts and let that show in our actions.

Little Bit School: Another current review product we're using is Kinderbach. The older girls reviewed it last year so when we were asked to review it again,  I decided it was Little Bit's turn (she's a tad young, the older girls are a tad old). The first day she balked at the idea of it, but since then she has gotten into it. I have no illusions that she will "learn to play piano" but she's having fun and run to get "her piano" (the keyboard) and happily shows me "Dodie's House" (D on the piano keyboard). So it's all good. The girls struggle with the fact that Kinderbach is LITTLE BIT's school time and they need to continue with their independent school work and not distract her by asking her what she's doing every 30 seconds.

Independent Schoolwork: Which leads us to independent schoolwork for the big girls.  Bible notebooking has been independent work for awhile now. They listen to the days' chapters on the audio Bible on my phone and then choose a verse to illustrate and/or write as copywork. We've also been working on handwriting recently. We are using the Joy of Handwriting Cursive program and it is working well for the girls. I simply printed it out and added it to their school notebooks. They do one page each day. It builds nicely on itself so is giving them practice so they don't forget the earlier letters and is quick enough to not be tedious. Last week they finished learning the last of the lower case letters and are now starting on the upper case. I've been very pleased with how much neater their cursive handwriting looks already compared to their printing and have been encouraging them to use cursive for more of their writing. While I reserve the right to change my mind (multiple times), at this point I'm leaning toward going with the "old fashioned" approach and teaching cursive first when Little Bit is old enough to write.  That said, Sassy was teaching Little Bit to write (manuscript) Ls last week, so I might already be too late LOL.

History: This is another area where we're moving into more independent work - reading, in this case. We're kind of stalled on the American Revolution, partially because it's an era that I personally enjoy and the girls seem to as well, so breezing through it in a couple weeks just didn't seem to do it justice. We kicked things off with our visit to Mount Vernon last month and I'm hoping to schedule a trip to Philadelphia in the next couple of weeks as a kind of wrap-up. I've had the girls read several books on their own, both those recommended in the curriculum but also some Christmas presents: Sassy's currently reading the Childhood of Famous Americans book on Martha Washington and MiniMe is reading the Sisters in Time book on the Revolution (Lizzie and the Redcoats is the title, I think). Thanks to our county library's decent selection of audiobooks we've also been able to listen to several audiobooks on the topic and, in fact, there's one waiting at the library for me to pick it up today.

Chores:  December brought with it a need to do some MAJOR cleaning in preparation for a house full of people on Christmas. I am bound and determined to keep things moving FORWARD in this regard now that we made some progress. Murphy's Law is, as always, doing it's best to thwart me, the last several days I've woken up with a very stiff neck, not sure why, have decided to just deal with it, it seems to work itself out as the day goes on. ANYWAY . . . as a part of getting us all back in the "doing chores" mode, and to get the house ready for Christmas, I set up an account at and in addition to using it for MY to do list, calendar, and shopping lists (all of which I can access on my phone as well as my computer), i also set it up so Sassy and MiniMe can access THEIR chore charts on Cozi, both on their computers and on their iPods. So far it's working relatively well, I still have to remind them every few minutes that they need to be doing their chores, but we're making progress. Rodney was also able to sync his work calendar into Cozi so now I don't ask him every day where he's going to be the next day :)

So those are some highlights from our "normal" week.

Friday, January 6, 2012

TOS Crew Review: Maestro Classics Swan Lake


Last year we had the opportunity to review Maestro Classics Peter and the Wolf and enjoyed it. I have to admit, music is an area that I'm not very good at incorporating into our homeschool and it's not something the girls generally seek out so I was excited to get another chance to learn about music in a fun way.
This year we got to review Swan Lake. What better musical piece for our house full of girls than a ballet about a fairytale-esque prince?!?! 

One thing I realized as we listened to this, is that, at least for my girls (and myself, for that matter), ballet is visual. Knowing that it was a ballet didn't help when we couldn't SEE it.  We did go on You Tube and find some videos of various ballets doing parts of it, which was pretty cool, but ideally I'd love to combine the excellent narration from Maestro Classics with the visual of the actual performance. I know, I ask alot LOL.

Still, we had fun with it. The CD starts with the complete ballet, but with narration added, so that we HEAR the whole story that's built into the music, interspersed through the music itself, followed by several shorter tracks that include history and other fun things (see this page for the contents of the CD *and* previews of each track)

After we'd listened to the CD, I headed on over to the Maestro Classics site and checked out their educational resources how fun!! The homeschool section is an amazing resource! If we weren't currently rather immersed in a very different era of history (American Revolution) I would love to use this as a bouncing off point for a fun unit on medieval history! And who knows, perhaps next year we just might do that!!   We did use our math time to check out some of the castle math games linked there, and found some of them pretty addictive, hee hee. 

I also noticed that in addition to the CDs, the website now also offers instant download of mp3s! That's a great option for someone like me who is often planning things last minute . . . suddenly find out you're going to the ballet and your children (and you?) need to understand the story abit before you go, you can download it and be listening to it asap! It also means no keeping track of the CD and is, of course, less expensive as well ($16.98 for the CDs, $9.98 for the download).  That said, the CD comes with a booklet that includes information about the composer, etc, and also some fun activities (maze, crossword puzzle, etc) so that is an advantage of purchasing the physical CD as well as being able to grab it and take it along in the car. 

Maestro Classics offers 9 different CDs/downloads as well as a few different bundle options. You can see all their products listed here.  You can also "like" their facebook page.

Be sure to check out what my fellow Crewmates think of Maestro Classics here.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Book Review and GIVEAWAY!!!! Cooper & Me and the Winter Adventure

We love reading books together all year long, but somehow for me, part of Christmas is the fun of snuggling together reading stories, it helps us to slow down and reconnect in the midst of the busyness of it all.

This year Little Bit and I enjoyed reading Cooper and Me and the Winter Adventure by Monique and Alexa Peters.

This is a cute rhyming story about 2 dogs, Cooper and Bella who get lost in the snow and their friend helps them find their way home. Little Bit enjoyed the pictures and the story kept her attention as well as most stories do, she's more of a "look at pictures" kind of reader right now.

The back of the book includes some learning questions  that are abit too much like the many reading comprehension quizzes I took in school for me to be a fan, but if someone is looking for a way to open discussion about the book they might be a helpful resource. Little Bit had more fun counting the pawprints that were used instead of bullet points on that page LOL.

I also like knowing that 
$1 of every Winter Adventure book sold will go to advance research & treatment of pancreatic cancer, via the Lustgarten Foundation. It's always nice to know that we can help others while purchasing quality items for our family.

For Little Bit, this was a fun book with pictures she liked. As she gets older, we'll be able to discuss the plot abit more and then it will also be a useful, non-scary way to talk about getting lost and how to be safe if you do.

And now the fun part, I get to give away a copy of this book to one of my readers!!!

To enter (mandatory) just leave a comment here telling me if you have a dog, or want a dog, or something about a dog :)

For additional entries:
Visit the Cooper & Me website and tell me something you liked.
Like Cooper & Me on facebook
Follow Cooper & Me on Twitter
Follow my blog on Google Friend Connect or Networked Blogs (or both, for 2 entries)
Like my page on facebook

The rules:  Giveaway will end on January 10, 2012. Giveaway open to those with a US address. Please make sure you have included a way to contact you (e-mail or blog), if I can't easily contact you, I will choose a different winner. Winners have 2 days to respond to my e-mail, or a new winner will be chosen.

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

Monday, January 2, 2012

Book Club

How To Have a HEART for Your Kids

A couple of months ago some members of the TOS Crew got to review the book How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. for Your Kids.  I wasn't one of the lucky ones who was chosen for the review, but when I read some of their reviews I immediately added it to my Amazon wish list.

Today I noticed on facebook that there's an online bookclub discussing this book starting this month so I used an amazon giftcard I'd gotten with my swagbucks credit to order the book. As soon as it gets here I'll be joining in and, unless I get too busy and forget, blogging about it. I'd love to have my friends and readers join me!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up: Happy 2012!!!!

I suppose this is the time of year when I'm supposed to write some lovely insightful, philosophical post about a fresh new start and all that, but I'm not so into New Years so . . . I'll just say "Happy New Years!!" and leave it at that LOL. When we were at Mt Vernon last month one of the "interpreters" there was talking about how New Years as a holiday didn't really exist yet in George Washington's time because America had just recently switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. On the Julian calendar the new year started in the spring, with the new growth and all that and it really hit me how much more LOGICAL that would be than to start a new year in the dead of winter, so maybe that's why I don't like New Years, but anyway . . .

We had a good week last week. Of course we began the week with Christmas. Then we had our last couple of days of Hanukkah. It was nice to be able to focus on Hanukkah those last couple of days instead of it kind of getting lost in the preparations for and then celebration of, Christmas.  Next year Hanukkah falls earlier in December and I think I'll like that better.

But anyway, Hanukkah was fun. We made latkes one night, they weren't as hard as I thought they might be, and the girls LOVED them, so I think we'll have them more often.

We've been enjoying learning about the Revolutionary War this week, I have to admit, there are SOO many great books, that we'll be spending a few weeks on it, just so we can read all the books I want us to read. Plus, some of the books the girls got for Christmas are longer chapter books from this period in history so we are taking time to let them read those too.

Little Bit started her very own Kinderbach lessons this week too. The big girls and I reviewed it last year, but this year it's Little Bit's turn, so far she is LOVING it. I have no illusions that she'll "learn piano" from it, but she's having fun.

The weather has been amazingly sporatic, in the 20's one day and near 50 the next, but thankfully the precipitation has coincided with the warmer days so we've avoided snow. Yesterday was one of the warmer days AND rain free so we grabbed the chance and went to ZooAmerica. It was soo fun! Little Bit was really into it this time, and the big girls still enjoy learning more about animals.

I have to admit I was a bad mommy and didn't even tell the girls that last night was New Years Eve, I really had no interest in staying up till midnight, much less dealing with hyper children who thought they should get to stay up but were much too tired to really stay up, and then grouchy, overtired children today. So we didn't do anything to "celebrate" new years. The girls did complain this morning when they realized they'd missed "seeing the ball drop" but they got over it pretty quickly.

And now, on to 2012 . . .