Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Review: Kinderbach

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Last year, we were blessed to receive a trial subscription to Kinderbach so that I could write a review. You can hear how much Lauren loved the program here. I was excited to hear that I was chosen to write one of this year's Crew reviews about Kinderbach.

Kinderbach is a series of online videos and printable lesson materials designed to teach young children musical skills, including how to play piano. I am still very much amazed at the quality of the Kinderbach materials. I am impressed that it teaches so much musical vocabulary and theory as it teaches the basics of piano playing.

Unfortunately, Lauren wasn't nearly as interested in watching the Kinderbach lessons online this year. The videos are appropriate for the intended 3-7 year old audience, and they do not seem babyish. I think in our case, Lauren objects to watching videos on the computer because all of the rest of her computer experiences are interactive. Kinderbach is mostly watching and occasionally working along on a printed page. For instance, in one of the earlier lessons, the child is discriminating between high and low notes. Lauren would prefer to click something on the computer to show high or low than to sit at the computer and color high or low apples on a piece of paper.

Lauren does enjoy taking a printed sheets of music from her Kinderbach lessons and playing them on the piano. Perhaps she would benefit more from Kinderbach if we spent more time doing the printable pages, more time playing the piano, and less time watching the online videos.

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Kinderbach has several free lessons available online, and they offer a 30 day money back guarantee when you purchase a subscription. Online lessons cost $19.99 per month or $95.88 for a year's subscription. The same lessons are also available on DVDs with packages starting at $40.45 (plus shipping/handling).

If you'd like to hear how much the other members of the review crew thought about Kinderbach, please visit The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog here or click on the banner below.

I received a trial subscription to Kinderbach as a member of the 2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.


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Monday, January 30, 2012

Review and Giveaway: "I Love Your Presence" Worship CD

One of the fun things about doing product reviews is when I get to hear new music. I love listening to Christian music -- the radio in my van is usually tuned to our Christian station, the CD changer is usually full of Christian CDs, and my iPod plays Christian music when I run. The new I Love Your Presence album by Vineyard music is a great new addition to my collection.

About the CD:
I Love Your Presence was recorded live at the Burn Bright: Worship and The Kingdom Of God conference, hosted by Vineyard Worship. Several hundred worship leaders and worshippers gathered in the Arizona desert to explore the nature of God’s kingdom through music and teaching with some of the Vineyard’s most gifted communicators and musicians. This inspiring collection of songs recorded live at the The Vineyard Church North Phoenix will immerse listeners in the powerful worship that was the highlight of the event.

What we thought:
I was a bit surprised when I first heard this album because it didn't exactly fit my preconceived notion of a worship album. The majority of the songs were more upbeat and had more of a rock-feel than I what I expected. My husband, one of the music experts in my family, compares their style to that of Casting Crowns.

Earlier today I managed to steal the CD out of my husband's car, and I found myself singing along as I drove home from an appointment. (For those that want to know, it was the line in "One Thing Remains" that goes "Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me.) I have a feeling that this album will earn a permanent spot in the rotation of CDs in my van and some of the songs will end up on the playlist I set up for times when I need an extra boost of encouragement.

More information:
I Love Your Presence was released on iTunes on January 10th and will be released as a physical CD on February 7th. Please visit Vineyard music at their website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Giveaway:
In addition to the review copy that I downloaded, I am also able to offer a download of the album to one of my readers. Please follow the Rafflecopter directions to enter.

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."


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Review: We Choose Virtues


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About this time last year, I learned that Lauren need more specific directions than just, "Be good." For instance, when we go to a doctor's appointment, I need to tell her my specific expectations. "Be good" at a doctor's office means: let Mommy have a turn to talk to the doctor, let the doctor do the exam, and don't talk in silly voices. It's a lot harder to define "be good" on regular days though. What virtues does the simple phrase "be good" include?

We Choose Virtues gave our whole family words a lot more specific than "be good" to use and tangible goals to work towards. Instead of just talking about how we should do good on our schoolwork, I can encourage my kids to work diligently or to be attentive.

PhotobucketI've been using the Virtue Clues cards to teach my kids about virtues. Each of the twelve small cards shows a Virtue Kid, defines the virtue, and then gives a few examples of what that virtue is not. For instance, the content card read, "I am content. I have my 'wanter' under control. I am NOT... bored, greedy, always wanting more, and I don't beg or whine."

I like the way each virtue card includes both what it is and what it is not. All too often I know what I'd like my kids (or myself) not to do, but I don't look hard enough to figure out why it is a problem. Whining means you are not being content, rowdy means you are not being self-controlled, etc. Framing these virtues in a positive way gives a goal to work towards not just a misbehavior to avoid.

I introduced one virtue card per week, posting them on our refrigerator for easy reference.



The clue cards gave my family a nice introduction to the virtues, and my kids learned quite a bit. One day after I had introduced the Diligent card, Lauren's dictated this journal entry: "Yesterday we learned a new word. Diligent means start fast, work hard, and finish strong. This morning we started fast. We were not slow camels in the desert. I am going to work hard and finish strong today." Another day, she wrote, "I am going to be diligent and helpful today."

For Lauren, I reinforced my initial virtue teaching with pages from the Kids of VirtueVille coloring book that I downloaded.


My teenager thought that the illustrations were a bit childish, but agreed that the lessons were equally valuable for both younger and older kids.

I am strongly considering purchasing more of the We Choose Virtues, especially the Parenting Cards. These cards take the basic information I saw on the Clue Card and expand it to include a Bible verse, a users challenge, an inspiring story, and a section that teaches "What to say after 'I'm sorry'".

We Choose Virtues offers a Complete Homeschool Kit in either regular or faith-based options for $99.99, the Parenting Cards (faith based) for $34.99, a Kids Virtue Poster for $11.99, the Virtue Clues cards for $5.99, and many other products. If you'd like to make a purchase, you can use either the promotional code VIRTUE15 for 15% off your order OR the code SHIPFREE for free worldwide shipping. They recently added a few clearance items that may be worth checking out.

Although I used We Choose Virtues with my homeschooled children, it is also appropriate for use by a family, in a classroom setting or for Bible classes.

If you'd like to hear how much the other members of the review crew thought about We Choose Virtues, please visit The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog here.

I received multiple We Choose Virtues products (Virtue Clues cards, VirtueVille Coloring book, and the Teacher's Handbook) as a member of the 2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.


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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Review: Zeezok's Z-Guides to the Movies

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My family loves watching movies, but I rarely think to show a movie that will correlate or enhance our school studies. If I do show a relevant movie, we might discuss the film a bit, but I don't take the time to dwell on the lessons that a good movie can teach.

Zeezok publishing has developed their Z-Guides to the Movies so that teachers (and parents) can more easily incorporate good movies into their curriculum.

Each Z-Guide contains a topic overview for the corresponding period in history and a movie synopsis. It also includes ten activities to build on the educational content of the movie. Zeezok suggests completing two activities per day so that you spend an entire week working with the movie.

I chose to review the Z-Guide to the movies that corresponds to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. I remember watching the movie when I was in school, and I was eager to show my children a bit more about the inner workings of Congress. It's been a while since we discussed American government, and I knew we could use the review. This particular guide is available in both an Elementary/Junior High level and a High School level.

I have mixed feelings about how this product worked for our family. My older daughter (8th grade) enjoyed the movie and did well with the activities that I chose to assign. My son (5th grade) struggled with the movie. When I picked this movie, I did not anticipate that he would have a hard time following along with a movie that relied more on dialogue than it did on action. He required quite a bit of help to complete the activities.

From a teacher standpoint, I found that the Z-Guide activities included more composition activities than our family could handle. Out of ten activities, five of them were writing assignments -- two one paragraph assignments, a newspaper article, a letter to our Senator, and a page with four questions that each required several sentences to answer. We chose to complete some of the assignments orally and eliminated a few of the others. Typically, I only assign one or two writing assignments per week.

Zeezok's Z-Guides to the movies would be a good fit for families that enjoy movies and that would appreciate learning activities to correspond with them. My oldest daughter thinks that several of the writing assignments would have been good to assign as extra credit for a High Schooler.

Zeezok Publishing has an information sheet about the Z-Guides to the Movies on their website here, if you'd like to read more about them. There are about 36 different titles, some appropriate for elementary or junior-high students and others more appropriate for high schoolers. Each Z-Guide costs $12.99 (for either an ebook or the digital file on CD), and Zeezok also sells many of the corresponding movies.

If you'd like to hear how much the other members of the review crew thought about the Z-Guides to the Movies, please visit The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog here.

I received a Z-Guide to the Movies for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington as a member of the 2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Review: Real Homeschool Spanish

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My family seems to have a love-hate relationship with learning languages. We love the idea of learning languages. We don't necessarily mind doing the work. My kids are fairly good at picking up new words and phrases. On the other hand, none of us like flash cards and vocabulary drill. 

As I though about how we have learned some foreign phrases and how we struggle with others, I realized that the phrases we know are all ones that we've slowly incorporated into our daily lives. For instance, all three of the kids say "Bless you" in Russian after learning it a few years ago. Occasionally, my husband will ask me something in German, and they'll understand. It's just a few phrases here and there, but they've stuck. Perhaps it's because the phrases are common (and therefore repeated often) that they've stuck. They're just part of our family now.

Recently we've been exploring REAL Homeschool Spanish, a Spanish program that focuses on teaching common phrases and words first. All of the vocabulary is easy to incorporate into our lives for easy and frequent practice.

I printed out the first week's vocabulary and posted it on the refrigerator for easy reference. I glance at the sheet in the mornings and we use a few phrases at breakfast time. I sometimes also grab the sheet and discuss a few more words at lunchtime. My hope is that short bursts of Spanish will stick with us longer than the words I've written on stacks of index cards in the past.


REAL Homeschool Spanish is intended for the whole family to learn and practice together, but it could be used by a single (motivated) student. In addition to the weekly list of vocaulary, there are three to four activity sheets that correspond with each set of vocabulary.

The materials start off with basic vocabulary and simple sentences, but by the end of the materials it has covered most of what I can remember covering in 3 years of high school Spanish. By starting with easy phrases, it should be easy to build Spanish practice into your everyday activities instead of having to find a time that you can dedicate to study and memorization.

There are 10 units in the materials, divided into 33 groups of vocabulary words. Older students might be able to master all of it in a school year, but it would easily last over a year if you're using it with younger students. I suspect that my students will be able to catch on to the grammar concepts in the book fairly quickly but it takes us at least a week to really master each set of vocabulary words.

The REAL Homeschool Spanish materials include the book (105 pages), the activity book (179 pages), an answer book, and corresponding audio files. It costs $49.95 for an electronic version to download or $89.97 for a hardcopy. For an additional $10, they also offer a daily curriculum guide that breaks the materials up into daily assignments so that you can cover the materials in 48 weeks.

You can find sample pages of the materials on their website here. If you'd like to hear how much the other members of the review crew thought about Real Homeschool Spanish, please visit The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog here.

I received an electronic version of R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish as a member of the 2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.

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