9/30/12

D is for (Great) Doxology

For the last couple of weeks or so I have had the Great Doxology running through my head.  This is an ancient hymn that is sung/chanted in Eastern Orthodox Matins services.  Our Parish offers Matins services during the school year.  I think the hymn has been on my mind because we’ve just started having Matins again.

According to Orthodox Wiki, the word doxology means a short hymn or verse of praise for the Trinity.  The Western Church has a shortened version and in my [limited] research I discovered that some variations leave our the bit about “Vouchsafe to keep us this day without sin.”  Orthodox Christians are not the only Christians who have doxologies or hymns of praise.  Many liturgical traditions have them.   When I think of NON Orthodox Doxologies I immediately think of the one that begins “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

I found this version of the Great Doxology on YouTube.  It is the closest I could find to the version that my parish uses.

 

The Great Doxology

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace,
good will towards men.
We praise Thee;
we bless Thee;
we worship Thee;
we glorify Thee;
we give thanks to Thee
for Thy great glory:
O Lord, Heavenly King,
God the Father Almighty,
O Lord the Only-begotten Son,
Jesus Christ,
and the Holy Spirit,
O Lord God,
Lamb of God,
Son of the Father,
that takest away the sin of the world:
have mercy on us,
Thou that takest away the sins of the world.
Receive our prayer,
Thou that sittest at the right hand of the Father;
and have mercy on us.
For Thou only art holy;
Thou only art Lord,
Jesus Christ,
to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Every day will I bless Thee,
and I will praise Thy Name for ever,
yea, for ever and ever.
Vouchsafe, O Lord,
to keep us this day without sin.
Blessed art Thou, O Lord, the God of our Fathers,
and praised and glorified is Thy Name unto the ages. Amen.
Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us,
according as we have hoped in Thee.
Blessed art Thou, O Lord, teach me Thy statutes.
Blessed art Thou, O Lord, teach me Thy statutes.
Blessed art Thou, O Lord, teach me Thy statutes.
Lord, Thou hast been our refuge from generation to generation.
I said: O Lord, have mercy on me;
heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee.
Lord, unto Thee have I fled for refuge;
teach me to do Thy will, for Thou art my God.
For in Thee is the fountain of life;
in Thy light shall we see light.
O continue Thy mercy unto them that know Thee.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Translation by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, from The Great Horologion, 101-102.

For me this hymn of praise is as much a prayer as it is a praise.   Outside of Great Lent, I think the Great Doxology ranks as one of my all time favorite Orthodox hymns. 

I close this with my favorite part which is my daily prayer:

Lord, Thou hast been our refuge from generation to generation.
I said: O Lord, have mercy on me;
heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee.
Lord, unto Thee have I fled for refuge;
teach me to do Thy will, for Thou art my God.
For in Thee is the fountain of life;
in Thy light shall we see light.

Blogging Through the Alphabet

This post is linked up to Blogging Through The Alphabet hosted by Marcy at Ben and Me.   This week focuses on the letter D.

9/29/12

September means Back-to-School

The air has turned crisp. Leaves are beginning to change from green to gold, yellow, and red. Yellow school buses visit in the early morning and clog up traffic later in the afternoon. Children have started going back to school.

We don’t necessarily follow a traditional September to June school year but I do usually make some sort of “back to school” type tradition in September that often involves fresh new school supplies and photographs.

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Not this year though.  I mean we did do “senior pictures” for BooBear because <gasp> she is a senior.  But here we are at the END of September and we’ve not really had a “back to school day”  Or a “Not back to school” since we’re home schooling and we don’t “go” away to another place.

It could be that Fall and September just snuck up on me.  But I think it is more than that.  We did take 3 weeks off in July/August for a “summer break” but it didn’t FEEL like a break   Why didn’t it feel like a break?  I can think of a couple of reasons.

We had a very “off” year last year and didn’t finish the work that we had set as a goal.  We set the end of June as the “we want to have the work from the 2011-2012 year completed” goal.   It didn’t happen.  Some of was illness and some of it was Schoolhouse Crew Related.  It’s hard to finish your curriculum when you set it aside to review something else.  That’s a risk you take when you’re part of a review team.  It’s a risk I am more than willing to take, but it does mean an adjustment to goals and a fuzziness to endings and beginnings.

Because we didn’t finish curriculum that we wanted to finish we kept going and did not take a break at the beginning of July.  We slipped, nearly unnoticeably into the next school year but didn’t really start new material (unless of course you count the material we got during the summer from the Review Crew).

In addition to the not finishing material, we also had a new experience with the Review Crew.  In the past the Review Crew would take a break a during the summer.  For 2012 though the Crew transitioned to a calendar year approach.  We’ll get a break from mid-November through December.

So we started some fresh new curriculum thanks to the Crew and we’ve been finishing up some previous work.   We WILL be taking a nice long break during the holidays! 

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It feels weird to not have a special “back to school” day.  Maybe I'll set that up for Columbus Day since daddy will be home from work.  We can make a point of boxing up the finally finished curriculum and maybe pass out fresh new pencils.  Something.  Anything to mark a transition from old to new and of course to have an excuse to take some pictures.  And then I can blog about what we’re actually using for curriculum. 

9/25/12

Crew Review: Homeschool Legacy: Native America

When I think of Unit Studies I think of a study that encompasses multiple subjects while focusing on a single topic.  For example you might have math, history, science, and language arts assignments all focused on frogs.  I’m not a fan of “true unit studies”, but I do like short, focused studies that encompasses one unifying topic that may have multiple disciplines.  Let me introduce you to Homeschool Legacy and the idea of a Once-a-Week Unit Study. 

Sharon Gibson, a veteran homeschool mom, created Homeschool Legacy and the Once-a-Week Unit Studies from her “passion to help families build a strong, Godly, family legacy.”

Homeschool Legacy offered 10 different studies from the crew.  We love history and we love studying other cultures so I requested Native America to review. Because I am only focusing on the product I received, you’ll want to be sure to check out the Schoolhouse Crew Reviews to see reviews of all 10 studies.

The Native America study is a 6 week study for grades 2-12.  With this product you will encounter tribal nations in the following geographical areas: The Northeast Woodland Nations, The Southeast Woodland Nations, The Southwest Nations, The Plains Nations, The Pacific Northwest Coast  Nations and The California/Plateau/Great Basin Nations. 

Homeschool Legacy provides suggestions for scheduling.  The idea behind the Once-a-Week Unit Study is to set aside your regular work for 1 day a week and do the activities in the study.  It’s not quite once a week though because you would do a family read aloud as well as individual reading daily.  Also there are field trip suggestions and Family Night suggestions which should not necessarily be done on the day you do the activities.

How the Study is Laid Out: (Please note, these details refer to the Native America study and may not pertain to other studies. Be sure to read the other reviews for more information about the other studies!) When I first received this product, I noticed how well laid out the book list was.  The library books list wasn’t just one massive list of titles with author names.  There were organized by books for younger children, books to supplement your study and books for each “week”.   In addition the book list didn’t just include a title and author but also included the Dewey Decimal numbers for each book and an asterisk next to each title denoting that book would be necessary to complete an assignment.

But what if my library doesn’t have that book? This was where those Dewey Decimals come in handy.  You can use those to locate a different title containing the same information so that you can complete the assignment!

At the beginning of each week, Mrs. Gibson includes the list of books to choose from for that week.  She also includes a supply list for any supplies that you might need.

The Once a Week Activities begins with a devotional.  For the Native America study these are character traits such as kind or brave.  The Once-a-Week Activities will also state the subject area, such as history, language, art and will also tell you whether it meets a Boy Scout or American Heritage Girl requirement. 

Timeline suggestions are also noted throughout the study with the letters TL.

How We’re Using this Study: After taking the time to read through the whole study, I knew that there was so much meat that I was going to want to take longer than 1 week per geographical area. I have two high school students and I wanted to go deeper and broader with this study so that I could give them high school credit. In order to have enough time to write some of the compositions I required and in order to have enough time to read the books necessary to write those papers we needed at least 2 weeks for each area.

We’re still following the pattern of daily reading and setting aside 1 day per week for activities. We are finding that we do need at least 2 days to do the activities so we do half of them one week and the other half, usually the papers, the next week.

I love that Homeschool Legacy includes the BSA and AHG requirements because those have made it easier to add assignments (activities).  Included in this study is a worksheet for the BSA requirements.  We’ve been filling out that sheet for each nation that we read about, usually 2 or 3 per geographical area. 

Inspired by one of the AHG suggestions my 17 year old created a costume and dressed up her sister.

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Thoughts from BooBear (age 17): “It is very interesting study. I love to study different cultures and this study offers a wide variety of Native Americans to look at. I enjoy the assignments. It is an enjoyable way to better understand Native Americans and their cultures.”

Thoughts from Turtlegirl (age 15):I liked that they had question sheets that you could make copies of for each nation. I liked that I got to spend more time with BooBear when we did the questions. I have always been interested in Native American cultures, so this was really interesting for me. I liked that there was both individual reading, family read-aloud, and compositions.”

Thoughts from Tailorbear (age 13): “I love how this product is teaching about the Indians. It is showing me what each nation is, their culture, and where and when they were moved if moved. I also love the projects and the question pages. Overall I really like it!”

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My Bottom Line: I have found this study to be flexible and easily adaptable  for my family.   I love all the choices of books.  I really appreciate that I am not having to come up with activities to do or having to search for DVD’s or books.  It’s all there.  There are books to read, DVD’s to watch, hands on activities that my girls are enjoying and the ability to go deeper and broader on our own to learn more.  Even the writing assignments that I am requiring are based on the suggested activities given by Mrs. Gibson.  This is easy to use and ALL FOUR of my girls are participating in some way.

The Native America Once-a-Week Unit Study is for grades 2-12.  It retails for $17.95.   Other Unit studies may vary in age range and price but most are listed for grades 2-12.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew to see what other Crew Members had to say about Native America or one of the other 9 Unit Studies from Homeschool Legacy:

 

This Graphic contains the FTC Regulations statement for Reviews.

All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews to find more great products.

9/21/12

Crew Review: Book Review: A Cry from Egypt by Hope Auer

When I first saw the vendor name Raising Real Men, I thought, well that leaves me out since I only have girls.  Little did I know their association with Great Waters Press.  Hal & Melanie Young, authors of the book, Raising Real Men, are the chief publishers at Great Waters Press.  They offered the Schoolhouse Review Crew the opportunity to review one of two books: Children in the Church or A Cry from Egypt.

As a literature loving, history loving home educating family, we jump at the chance to read historical fiction.  After reading a description of the book, and the short bio of author Hope Auer, the girls all said “YES, we want to read this book!”

Thought provoking and moving, A Cry from Egypt brings history to life.  In the this first book from The Promised Land series we meet Jarah and her family.  Though primarily told through the eyes of Jarah, we get glimpses of the thoughts and feelings of other characters including the Queen.

Jarah is a 12 year old girl who struggles with her own fears and doubts as to whether or not the Hebrew God is real and true.  She wants the peace she sees in her father.  As readers, we experience the plagues through the eyes of the Israelites.  We feel their wonder at the destruction of Egypt but the salvation of Goshen.  Jarah is at the river when Moses and Aaron come and turn it to blood.  She is at the Palace working when the frogs emerge from the river. We journey from doubt and fear to love and trust with Jarah. Ms. Hope Auer brings a new perspective to a very old “story” and shows the reader the humanity of both the Hebrew slaves and their Egyptian captors.

A Word of Caution: We were told the recommended age for this book was 8 and up.  With my girls, I can usually lower that age by reading the book aloud. I recommend this book for ages 12 and up as a read alone and perhaps as a read aloud for ages 10 and up.  There are some intense scenes where Egyptians whip or beat a slave.  I did not have a problem with my 3 “big girls” reading it themselves but I’ve decided not to read it aloud to Supergirl.

What did my children think? They enjoyed the book.  I’ve included their thoughts below.

Thoughts from Tailorbear (age 13): “I don’t usually read books like the books from Raising Real Men, but this one is an exception. I loved the story. I LOVE the fact that although she put her own beliefs in there, it was relatively fitting with the storyline! I wouldn’t put this on my read a million times a month list, but I would suggest it to my friends!”

Thoughts from Turtlegirl (age 15): “The story was gripping, and it brought the 7 plagues to life, especially for the Egyptians. It really showed that the Egyptians were real people, with hopes, thoughts, and fears. When I reached the part of the death of the firstborn sons, I cried. The author made the events very real to me. The one thing I did not like about the book was the way some of the characters talked about God. It didn’t feel right. It didn’t match my understanding of Jewish culture. Overall, it was an excellent book. I highly recommend it.”

Thoughts from BooBear (Age 17): “It was a very compelling story, and not a difficult read, though thought provoking. It was also very moving at moments. We have all read the story of Exodus, but this book really made it real. I don’t think it was real for me before. It was hard for me to grasp just how devastating things were back then for Israelites and Egyptians.There were several points that made me want to cry.”

My Bottom Line: I think this is an excellent book for enhancing a study of Egypt for children ages 12 and up (to read alone) or as a read aloud for children ages 10 and up.  This is book is an excellent reminder that the the events of Exodus happened to real people with real emotions.  I know I won’t be reading the book of Exodus in the same old detached way I used to. I am looking forward to the next book in the series!

Currently there are a limited number of advanced reader copies available for $12.50.

Click on the banner below to read what other Crew Members had to say about A Cry from Egypt or Children in Church.

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All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received this product free of charge to review. I am required to write a review but I am not required to write a positive review. This review contains my and/or my daughters’ honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I/ we liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no compensation.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews by clicking here.

9/19/12

Book Review: The Orphan King

I used to think that I wasn’t much of a fan of fantasy.  Books such as The Orphan King by Sigmund Brouwer have made me decide that I do like this genre after all. I love the medieval time period.  Knights, quests, monks and mystery.  That’s my kind of book.

Orphan King

About This Book: (From the Website)

The future of the Immortals is in the hands of an orphan
My greatest fear was that they would find us and make of us a sacrifice beneath a full moon. Now you, Thomas, must help us destroy the circle of evil.

The last words of a dying woman would change the life of young Thomas. Raised behind monastery walls, he knows nothing of his mysterious past or imminent destiny. But now, in the heart of medieval England, a darkness threatens to strangle truth. An ancient order tightens their ghostly grip on power, creating fear and exiling those who would oppose them. Thomas is determined fulfill his calling and bring light into the mysterious world of the Druids and leaves the monastery on an important quest.

Thomas quickly finds himself in unfamiliar territory, as he must put his faith in unusual companions—a cryptic knight, a child thief, and the beautiful, silent woman whom may not be all she seems.  From the solitary life of an orphan, Thomas now finds himself tangled in the roots of both comradery and suspicion.

Can he trust those who would join his battle…or will his fears force him to go on alone?

From the very first page this book pulls you into another world. A world of secrets and mystery.  A world of knights and monks.  Of friends and enemies. Of magic and knowledge.  Things may not always be what they seem to be.  Who is a friend?  Who is a foe?

Stephen King defines a successful novel as one that “should interrupt the reader’s life, make him or her miss appointments, skip meals, forget to walk the dog.”  In my opinion The Orphan King is a successful novel.  More than successful.  I refused to sleep.  Ignored my family.  COULD.NOT.PUT.IT.DOWN.  I needed to keep reading so that I could figure out the answers to the questions but no sooner would Mr. Brouwer answer one question then another 2 would come up.  Is the knight on the up and up?  Is the girl a spy?  Is she a double agent?  Is she leading on the boy or does she really care for him?  And the child thief?  Is he all that he appears to be?  Does he have any idea what’s going on? Is it a coincidence that he’s traveling with Thomas?

You can read an except from the book and see for yourself, but I warn you that you might get sucked in and have to read the whole book! (Click on the hyperlink and then click on the excerpt tab)

So what didn’t I like about the book?  It’s the first book in a series and the next book won’t be available until February 2013.  I don’t like having to wait that long!

***I received a copy of this book FREE from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group’s Blogging For Books program in exchange for this review.***

9/18/12

B is for Berries and C is for Close-Ups

I got very busy and just couldn’t squeeze out a blog post for the letter B for Marcy’s “Blogging Through The Alphabet” meme so I’m combining two letters and  two memes.  I have not participated in Debbie’s “Think Back Thursday” Meme since the end of August!  Where did the time go?  This week’s letter is C and this week’s Think Back Theme is Close-Ups.

We have a blackberry bush in our back yard.  Here in the PNW wild growing blackberry bushes are generally frowned upon by civilized people.  Those of us who would like to garden but for whatever reason can’t, are grateful for these wildly growing bushes because then we feel we’ve grown something.  (OK maybe it’s just me LOL)

I’m hoping to get enough blackberries to combine with some other berries to make some Bumble Berry Jam.  Or at least some to eat with cream for a dessert.   Our bush is not in an ideal location and the berries are much later than usual this year so it’s not looking too good but I am stubbornly clinging to hope.

This is the picture I took last week while playing with the close up zoom thingy on my camera. The plant doesn’t look healthy but look there’s a couple of ripe berries!

Berries in the back yard up close

 

About 6 weeks (give or take a few days <grin>) we took a day trip as a planned “staycation” activity.  My daughter and I caught these blooms on close up.

Flower Bloom on the side of a Mountain

 

Just a little closer

This post is linked up to both Ben & Me and Debbie’s Digest for both Blogging Through the Alphabet and Think Back Thursday.

Blogging Through the Alphabet

Crew Review: Family Time Fitness

One area of home education that consistently gets shoved to the background is Fitness or Physical Education.  At least in my home school it was never a high priority. I confess that I really didn’t see or rather didn’t understand the need for a formal fitness program.  Send the kids outside to play and they’ll get plenty of exercise.  At least that was my hope.  Sadly, playing outside didn’t happen as regularly or frequently as it needed to and we, as a family, have developed a sedentary lifestyle.  It is clear that we need to do something to increase our daily & weekly activity levels.  Fortunately Family Time Fitness (FTF) has a program intended for homeschoolers: Fitness 4 Homeschool - Core 1 Physical Education Curriculum.

Just last week I was at the doctor.  He recommends at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week of physical activity to improve overall health.   1 hour a day, 5 times a week would be optimal for maintaining health benefits.  In the introduction to parents and teachers FTF states “the National Association of Sport and Physical Education recommends that most children ages 2 and older need to be getting at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily.”

Squeezing an hour a day into an already crowded day seems impossible but Family Time Fitness makes the program fun.  And there are multiple activities per lesson so the children are not bored doing the same thing for 45-60 minutes. In addition the lesson is divided into sections: “Warm Up,” “Activity/Game,” Play,” “Cool Down,” and the optional “Outdoor Activity” that can be done later in the day.   The main part of the lesson provides approximately 25-45 minutes of vigorous activity and the optional “Outdoor Activity” provides an additional 15-30 minutes.

FTF intends for this program to be used every school day but in the “Parental Encouragement” section of the Introduction FTF states: “there may be times when life gets really busy and a lesson or two gets missed.  A family may only be able to schedule 3 lessons per week.  That is Ok.  Completing one or two lessons per week is a good start.”  In the next paragraph it says “Family Time Fitness was created to help families achieve their fitness goals.”   On the website FTF states: “The Fitness 4 Homeschool program is structured to be integrated into your teaching a minimum of three days per week, but we strongly recommend five. … We’re certain that it is so fun and engaging for the whole family that it will be the highlight of your student’s day.” It is my goal for my family to work out 5 days per week.  Though we’re not there yet. We’re averaging 2-3 lessons per week.  The program is fun and engaging so I know that this program has the potential to get us to my five day goal.

So what’s included for $57? From the website:

    • Startup/Training Guide - The Startup Guide is a guide for parents and includes an introduction to physical education, information on what to expect from the program, safety information, how to integrate physical education into your curriculum, teaching tips and equipment information.
    • Lesson Plans – Each of the 260 professionally planned lessons arrives in PDF format and includes a List of Supplies, Warm-Up, Activity, Cool Down and Suggested Outdoor Activity. Each exercise is described in a detailed, user-friendly format for easy access. Each lesson provides 30-45 Minutes of physical activity. If you do all the activities that is over 7800 Minutes of activity a year! If you do the suggested outdoor activity you get an additional 10-15 of physical activity.
    • 1-Page Summaries– Each lesson has a One-Page Summary to facilitate easy printing and portability. The summaries keep you from printing all 900+ Pages of Lesson Plans.
    • Video Demonstrations – Each exercise includes a demonstration video with real kids doing the exercises. There are over 200 instructional video demonstrations available to you with this curriculum, and you are guaranteed lifetime access to these videos as we update them.
    • Assessment Tools – We provide tools to help track progress of the basic fundamental movements. Other downloadable tools include nutritional logs and meal planners for a comprehensive fitness approach.
    • Encouragement Emails – During the first year of your course, we send you reminder emails each week day to keep you and your children motivated on your fitness journey. We also always include nutritional and fitness tips in the emails.
    • Online Webinars – You have access to our regular online webinars and our webinar archive for further in-depth instruction and tips on the curriculum.

This program is listed for grade K-8th, however, this has been great for my teenagers. Because the girls are older, this program became more of a self-teaching program. I  really appreciate the video demonstrations.  Though the material describes the activity/movement, I need to SEE it.  My girls are the same way.  I loved the flexibility of this program.  Short on time?  Pick a few activities from each of the three main sections instead of all of them.  Due to my health issues I can’t do the workouts with the girls so I am thankful that with the detailed lessons and the video demonstrations they can do it without me.

Another flexible aspect that I appreciate is the ease of substitution of equipment.  Some things can’t be substituted such as a jump ropes and hula hoops, but other things such as playground balls, bean bags and cones can easily be swapped for things you already have.  We only have two balls, and they’re not really playground balls but for most of the activities they have worked, but we only have 2 and there are 3 girls working.  What to do?  Substitute a stuffed animal.  In the picture below you can see the girls doing a tossing and catching activity.  They really like doing the activity at the same time so they grabbed a stuffed lion so that all three could “play” together.

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We found that it worked best for us to try to do this program first thing in the morning.  Then in the afternoon they could do the optional activity after school as a fun break.  Here’s what they had to say about the program:

Thoughts from Tailorbear (8th Grade): To be honest I don’t exercise as much as I would like to. This program gives me an relatively short “easy” way to exercise. I LOVED how my sisters and I could exercise together, and it doesn't interfere too much with our other school. Sometimes I couldn’t do the Crab Walk because I didn’t have the stamina. Now that I have used it, I can do them all. I think this is the way I like to exercise!’

 Thoughts from Turtlegirl (10th Grade): “I didn’t care for some of the exercises since a lot of them didn’t make sense to me as to what they were supposed to do (I am referring to some of the ‘poses’ they have for the cool down). I did like the extra time I got to spend with my sisters, however, I prefer exercising alone so I can move on without having to wait for my sisters to finish. I did like some of the exercises and stretches they had. Overall, it was an OK program. I think I would’ve liked it better if I understood more about the program.”

Thoughts from BooBear (12th Grade): “I really want to exercise more and this program provides an easy way to get that. It has a lesson planned out for you to do it so that you don’t have to come up with something on your own. It is nice to have someone else tell us how to get more exercise and not have to figure in out on your own. I am glad that we have this as it gives us so a physical education program that does not require a lot of thinking.”

My Bottom Line: This is a fabulous way to get kids of all ages moving.  This is the program I will recommend to my home school friends.  Be sure and check out the articles on the Family Time Fitness website. I especially recommend the article about why you need a physical education program.  There is also a High School Physical Education Program that focuses on Foundational Strength as well as other physical fitness programs.

Click on the banner below to read what other Crew Members had to say about Fitness 4 Homeschool - Core 1 Physical Education Curriculum

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All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received this product free of charge to review. I am required to write a review but I am not required to write a positive review. This review contains my and/or my daughters’ honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I/ we liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no compensation.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews by clicking here.

9/15/12

Crew Review: Lots and Lots of Penguins

Supergirl has an obsession with penguins.  She has toy stuffed penguins.  She has a penguin game.  She even has a set of singing penguins.  When we go to the zoo the first exhibit she wants to visit is the, you guessed it, penguin exhibit. I should have taken a video of her reaction to receiving the Lots and Lots of Playful Penguins and Their Toe-Tappin’ Feet 2 DVD set from Marshall Publishing & Promotions.   This 2 DVD set also includes a bonus video ,“Party Like a Penguin,” on a separate DVD.

The first DVD, Lots and Lots of Playful Penguins and Their Toe-Tappin’ Feet, is 75 minutes long.  The main video is roughly 42 minutes  long containing ‘penguin videos” which are songs set to penguin footage, interspersed  with narrated sequences giving penguin facts.  The animated penguin, Pj Penguin introduces different segments and his cousin Artie teaches viewers facts such as there are 17 different kinds of penguins and all penguins live in the southern hemisphere.  This DVD includes bonus footage of marine mammals, wild birds and more including a penguin cartoon called Peeping Penguins.  One of the “bonus features” is “All About Penguins”.  This 20 minute long clip is all the segments narrated by Artie.  I appreciated that this DVD was divided into chapters so we could pick and choose and different songs or choose to watch the educational part without the songs.

This is what Supergirl had to say about Lots and Lots of Playful Penguins, “I like how he [cousin Artie, the narrator] talks about the king penguins, and macaroni penguins. I like how he sings ‘calls it macaroni.’ The tallest penguin is the emperor penguin. I like how he [cousin Artie again]talks about the penguin parade.”

Lots and Lots of Penguins in the Wild is the second DVD.  This is exactly what it says it is.  Lots of penguins in the wild.  When you first load the DVD, before the menu appears, a message or disclaimer states that this DVD contains no narration or music. “It is intended to bring you as close to the penguins in as natural a way as possible.”   They also ask you to excuse “any jittery camera work or noisy audio.”  There are places where you can hear the boat or the wind and even occasionally camera crew speaking to each other.

This is what Supergirl had to say about the Penguins in the Wild DVD “I like when the penguin looks like he saying ‘I can fly. No, I can’t while he flaps his wings. I like pretending I am a penguin and I talk to the other penguins. I say ‘get moving, we’re having a meeting. Ok, we’re done here, get moving.”

So after watching the DVDs multiple times over several weeks this is what I am greeted with this morning: Supergirl walks into my bedroom with an exaggerated waddle and says, “Look, Mom I’m a Penguin!”  She stops waddling, looks me straight in the eye, and says “I want to be a penguin when I grow up!”  I’d say the DVDs have been a huge hit with my penguin obsessed daughter.  When I asked her which kind were her favorite she didn’t hesitate or miss a beat and simply responded “the king.” I asked her if she had another favorite. Again without pausing to think, “the macaroni.” I was impressed that she knew the name of the species.

Party like a Penguin

Here Supergirl imitates the penguins while watching the Bonus DVD containing the song/video “Party Like a Penguin

They were well also enjoyed by the entire family especially the Penguins in the Wild DVD because my husband has a crazy, funny and entertaining sense of humor.  The girls begged for daddy to watch Lots and Lots of Penguins in the Wild because they knew he would provide running commentary such as “I found a rock!  I found it.  I knew I left it here somewhere," while a chinstrap penguin picks up a rock.  Daddy kept us entertained as he added commentary, often with help from his daughters, while we enjoyed the beautiful scenery and the adorable penguins.  More than one of us said “I want one.  Can I have a pet penguin.”   Since we can’t have a pet penguin, we’ve all kind of picked a favorite that we like to watch on the DVD (ok we’re weird)

All joking aside, the penguin DVD set is an entertaining but highly educational way to learn about penguins.  Though we used this casually and not as part of a formal study, I could see these being easily incorporated into a unit study on penguins.  These videos would have been a wonderful addition to our penguin lapbook study we did several years ago.  If you are interested in penguins or have a child like Supergirl who adores penguins, you’ll want to check out this DVD set.

The retail price for this 2 DVD set with Bonus DVD is $39.90.  Currently the website sale lists the price at just $19.95 and if you are a homeschooler reading my blog you can enter the code TOS27 at checkout and get FREE First Class shipping.  

The Review Crew reviewed other Marshall Publishing & Promotion products in October 2011.  This year in addition to Lots and Lots of Penguins, Marshall Publishing & Promotions offered 3 more DVDs.  Be sure an click on the banner below to read those reviews.

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All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received this product free of charge to review. I am required to write a review but I am not required to write a positive review. This review contains my and/or my daughters’ honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I/ we liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no compensation.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews by clicking here.

9/12/12

Tyndale Blog Tour: The Judge by Randy Singer

Secretly, I love the law.  When I first enrolled in community college <mumble mumble> years ago, I was officially a Pre-Law student.  I loved my sociology and criminology classes and I started to research law schools.   My life has gone in a completely different direction but my love for the law, particularly criminal law, is fed through books by authors such as Randy Singer.   I just finished reading The Judge which was previously published under the title The Cross Examination of Oliver Finney.  Like the other Randy Singer books I’ve read, this one is compelling, gripping and full of twists and turns.

The Judge

About the Book: (From the Website:) “When a brilliant billionaire is diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, he realizes that all his considerable wealth cannot prepare him to meet his Maker. But he has an idea that might: he will stage the ultimate reality show. With his true agenda hidden, he auditions followers from all the world’s major religions, inviting them to the trial of their lives on a remote island, where they must defend their beliefs against spiritual challenges.

Oliver Finney, a feisty old judge with his own secrets, is chosen to defend Christianity. As the program takes a strange twist, he quickly realizes he is trapped in a game of deadly agendas that may cost him his life. With Internet access monitored, Finney sends coded messages to his law clerk, Nikki Moreno. Aided by a teen crypto-geek, Nikki soon discovers the key to understanding Finney’s clues in an apologetics book Finney wrote and must race against time to decipher the mysteries contained in the ancient words of Christ before her boss dies defending them.”

Mr. Singer creates characters that are real.  These are not character sketches or stereotypes.  I formed a real attachment to most of the contestants on the island. I appreciated that each defendant was dedicated and sincere in his faith. Mr. Singer could have used this plot device as method to ridiculing non-Christian religions.  I appreciate that he did not. The point is well taken that behind every stereotype are real human beings.

Mr. Singer crafts the story so that you think it’s going in one direction but suddenly it’s done a 180 degree turn, no wait, 90 degree, no a full 360.  At one point I found myself wondering if I has missed something because Judge Finney had put 2 and 2 together.  Did I accidently skip a chapter?  Did I get interrupted while reading the page when he solves the puzzle and I missed it?  Nope.  I just needed to be patient and trust that Mr. Singer will explain it all.

As part of this blog tour I’ve been asked to answer this question: “How would you defend your faith?”   My first off the cuff answer is “not very well.”  When I step back to examine the question with seriousness,  this verse comes to mind:

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” (1 Peter 3:15)

So I should have a ready answer but I don’t.  I don’t have a defense for the reason that is the hope that is in me.  On the heels of the above verse though comes this one:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

My life should reflect a faith that gives evidence of the hope that is in me (Christ in me.) As such my life should give testimony of God’s love.  I think I fail but I want to be like Judge Oliver Finney whose life is a sermon.  Do I live a sermon of loving others as Christ loves me? If I do (which is my goal) than that is my defense.

My favorite line in the book is delivered by the Hindu: “I decided this show wasn’t worth dying for. My faith-now, that’s an entirely different matter.” 

If you’ve read any of Randy Singer’s other books such as The Last Plea Bargain, which I reviewed, then you’ll want to read this one as well.  If you like courtroom drama you’ll enjoy this.  If you like to examine faith, be prepared to come away pondering your own.

***Disclosure in accordance with FTC Regulations I received a complimentary copy of The Judge from Tyndale House Publishers***

9/11/12

Crew Review: Speekee TV

I have to start this with a confession.  Spanish is not my thing.  In junior high, when we had the opportunity to try several different foreign languages, I fell in love with German but had absolutely no desire to learn Spanish.  Supergirl on the other hand has begun to beg to learn Spanish.  If she is watching a DVD that gives language choices she would choose to watch it in Spanish! Knowing that she has a strong interest in Spanish how could I not give Speekee TV a try?

What is Speekee TV?:  Speekee TV  is a subscription to 10 Episodes containing over 150 minutes of Spanish immersion for ages 2-10.   You can subscribe to Speekee TV for as little as $7.50 per month.  An Annual Subscription is also available.   From the Website:

    • 10 EPISODES OF SPANISH
    • OVER 150 MINUTES OF PURE SPANISH LEARNING
    • LEARN SPANISH FROM REAL SPANISH CHILDREN IN REAL SPANISH LOCATIONS
    • FEATURES SONGS, ANIMATION AND PUPPETS
    • OPTIONAL SUBTITLES IN SPANISH AND ENGLISH
    • FREE ACTIVITY SHEET DOWNLOADS
    • GREAT FUN AND EXTREMELY EFFECTIVE
    • CREATED BY SPECIALIST LANGUAGE TEACHERS
    • FREE OPTIONAL CURRICULUM
    • SONGS YOU CAN'T STOP SINGING

Ok so the above is a general description but what exactly is this?  To me, Speekee TV is a fun, engaging, catchy way to expose children to Spanish.  Each Episode is roughly 15-20 minutes long, is completely in Spanish and teaches vocabulary and grammar.  With a Speekee TV subscription you also get access to the Fast Track curriculum.   It is not necessary to use the curriculum but it is a great tool to expand and intentionally teach/review the concepts in the Episodes.

About Fast Track Curriculum:  This is included free with a subscription!  It is available on the website but you can also have each week emailed to you.  Fast Track contains 40 weeks.  Many also include downloadable “worksheets”.  Each episode of Speekee TV has four weeks of corresponding activities. 

How I planned to use the product:  Fast track lists “Four Activities” for each week.  I intended for us to watch the Episode in its entirety as our Day 1 activity and then she could re-watch that episode on days we did no activities, if she wanted.   I planned on doing one or two activities per fast track week but only doing them once or twice a week.  I wanted to keep it low-key and fun.

What really happened at my house:  “Mama, can I watch Speekee?”   That was a daily request.  DAILY.  After watching the same episode every single day for a week she decided to move on.   I wasn’t ready to move on.   So we changed up plans.  I encouraged her to watch the video we were “officially” working on at least twice per week and allowed her to watch an episode of her choice on other days.  We still only spent 1 to 2 days a week intentionally working an activity and usually I “wimped out” and chose the downloaded activity sheet.  But, inspired by the activity lists, we began, as a family, to include some Spanish.  At dinner one night, Supergirl began to count the people around the table.  We focused that week on counting.   I began to incorporate the praise words that Speekee uses when doing math lessons or when she would show me her worksheets for Speekee TV.   We kept it much more relaxed than I intended but because of Fast Track I’m still able to be intentional about incorporating concepts outside of video time.

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I had to go at the Fast Track pace which can feel very very very slow because I needed to be able to absorb enough to feel comfortable with encouraging her to use Spanish words. 

The Unintentional Consequence: Supergirl usually watched Speekee TV in the family room on the TV using our wii internet channel.  Usually at least two of her sisters would be working on other school in the same room.  Turtlegirl usually worked on her math but just sitting there working out algebraic equations she was exposed to lots and lots of Spanish.  The consequence?  She knows more Spanish than I do and she did more to encourage Supergirl than I could.  I often had to ask Turtlegirl to help me with pronunciation.  

Thoughts from Turtlegirl (age 15 which is outside the recommended age span!): “You can’t tune it out. Even if you are completely focused, you will still hear things and see things. Eventually, you will start learning things. You will sing the songs (and drive yourself crazy because you did NOT WANT to learn Spanish). You end up learning anyway, and, horror of horrors, you enjoy it. I especially liked Dino and Lupi (who teach you ‘I love you’). Sometimes it would get annoying, but it was fun to talk back, and laugh because no matter what you said (or if you didn’t say anything) they would still say ‘perfecto!”

Supergirl Talks about Speekee TV: “I like it. It’s fun. I learn El Parque and la Classe and they have birthday in Spanish. I like Speekee but he gets annoying because he always says Fantastico! and Perfecto!  I like Jim.  Jim is my favorite.  I like at the CafĂ© when they drink and then they say me gusta.  It’s funny. And the boy Antonio he says “no me  gusta” when he drinks the coffee. [mom note: the drink is not identified but Supergirl decided it must be coffee] The girl says me gusta when she drinks milk.”

My Thoughts:  I love this program. I love how I can choose to be more hands on by using Fast Track Activities or more laid back and just let her absorb the vocabulary by watching the episodes again and again.  I really like that we could access Speekee TV through our wii.  This made it so that Supergirl really felt like she was watching a tv episode in Spanish and freed up the computer for someone else (note: on our wii we did not have the optional captions.  If you watch from a computer there are captions in both English and Spanish that you can turn on or off.  When I watched on the computer, I found it helpful to use them, but Supergirl isn’t reading that well yet so not having them on the wii was not an issue.)  I think the Fast Track pace would be too slow for those on the older end of the age range and perhaps still too fast for those on the lowest end but for my developmentally delayed daughter who functions around age 6 taking 4 weeks to work through each episode seems like a perfect pace.

You can watch this You Tube Video to get an idea of how Speekee TV works:

http://www.youtube.com/user/speekeespanish

You can try Speekee TV for yourself!  Speekee TV offers the first two weeks FREE!  From the website:

“The first two weeks are free and there's no minimum period - you can cancel any time. After the first two weeks it's £4.95 or $7.50 per month.”

Click on the banner below to read what other Crew Members had to say about Speekee TV

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All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received this product free of charge to review. I am required to write a review but I am not required to write a positive review. This review contains my and/or my daughters’ honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I/ we liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no compensation.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews by clicking here.

9/10/12

Crew Review: Math911

Upper level math can be a challenge to teach.  I know that I feel more comfortable teaching high school subjects when I am more of a mentor and provide accountability. I appreciate having someone else do the hard work of teaching and explaining topics such as “simplify a rational function” or “graphing linear Inequalities in two variables.” I can use all the help I can get.  Math911 is a complete Introductory Algebra Course.   The Premier versions also include some Intermediate Algebra, College Algebra, Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus and Statistics topics.

In A NutShell: 

Installing: I had no problems setting up Math911.  I downloaded the program via the link on the left hand side of the website.  I initially installed the software on my laptop running Windows 7. I did have to “run as admin” when installing upgrades, (this is mentioned on the website) but otherwise it ran fine.  I experienced a hard drive failure during the review period.  Professor Weissman quickly responded with the best course of action for me to get a new setup.  This time I used our family room desktop computer which uses Windows XP.  I had no problems installing and setting up the program the second time either. 

Once the program is installed, you must register the product.  The registration codes and instructions are available through the main menu.  Math911 will send you activation codes which upgrades the free product to the Premier Version.

If you will be using the program with multiple users you’ll want to use the Password Premier version.  The passwords are generated from the date you select.  In his email, Professor Weissman suggested we use birthdays (month/day) to make it easier to remember. Also grading files are created based on the name/date entered.

You will see the following screen when you open the program.  If you are using standard regular version (FREE), you will only see this screen once.  If you are using the Premier Version for one user, you will only see this screen once, but if you are using it with Password Premier then you will see it each time you open the program.


I expressed interest in this product because my oldest daughter wants to study Trig and Pre-Calc.  I had hoped that those topics would be as complete and full as the Intro to Algebra course.  Unfortunately, they are not.  They are selected topics.  The Statistics module has been expanded since the review period began.

I found these things frustrating:

  • To change “courses” required the program to close and be manually reopened.   For most people this would not be an issue but if you were working through Trig topics and also wanted to work on Stat topics it could get tedious.
  • while in the program, there is no way to minimize the window.  To get to the computer desktop you must exit the program. This means that I could not easily use other resources such as videos to help me understand the concepts.
  • no instruction or explanation provided other than the step by step solutions.  Yes there are step by step solutions for every problem but those did not always explain what I needed to know.
  • can not use the keyboard with the calculator.  When you open the calculator you must use the mouse, not the keyboard and you must click the OFF button before entering your answer.
  • This is minor but it still annoyed me:  I could not click enter to get a new problem.  After typing in my answer and hitting enter, I needed to switch to the mouse to click on new problem.

 Some features I love:

  • This is a mastery approach program.  The student will be presented with the same type of problems until they are mastered.
  • Step by Step solutions.  Though I don’t feel these are *enough* of an instruction, I do love that each and every problem has step by step solutions available..
  • Helpful Tips.  A little “talk bubble” will sometimes pop up with a tip such as “use the up arrow key to indicate an exponent” or “use the up and down arrows to move between the denominator and numerator”
  • The customer service and tech support is outstanding.  I had a technical issue (a section of topics would not allow me to input my answers).  Professor Weismann responded with a link to an update to the program that resolved the issue.  Every time I emailed Professor Weissman from the first “here are my registration codes” through the “ what should do I do to set up the program since my hard drive failed” he was prompt, courteous and helpful.

Thoughts from HoneyBear (Dad):  Because we were given the Premier Password version of the program I was able to ask multiple family members to try this out.  I asked my husband to try a few sections.   This is what he had to say:

“I would need an additional resource to help me understand the whys of the steps or why I would use a specific formula for the problem.  The step by step solutions didn’t help me to understand how I was to arrive at the answer.”

Thoughts from BooBear (age 17): “It’s good for practice but I really need something that can explain what I am doing.  I can’t just look at the step by step solutions.  I need someone to explain it.”

Thoughts from Turtlegirl (age 15): “I really liked it. I like the step-by-step solutions, because they made it easier for me to understand what they were doing and how to get the answer. I like the little tips it will sometimes give you, to explain how to do something in the answer box, like type an exponent. I liked that I could go from section 1 to other sections without having to complete the entire section. I liked that it would automatically move you to the next level after you had mastered the first. I really enjoyed it. It works very well for me and my learning style.”  [Mom note: Turtlegirl is nearly finished with Algebra 1 program and asked to use Math911.  I think the program works so well for her because she has the Algebra instruction from the other program and the step by step solutions jog her memory. Although it should also be noted that she doesn’t require or need as much instruction as my husband, BooBear or myself.]

My Bottom Line:  I tried this program out for myself using the College Algebra topics.  I found that I could figure out how to solve most of the problems using the step by step solutions but that I still didn’t understand what I was doing or why I was doing it.  I think this program would a great choice for students like Turtlegirl who don’t seem to need as much of the “why”.  I think this would also be good for students who have access to additional instruction if needed.  You can try the program for free to see if it would be a good fit for your family.

You can view additional screen shots of Math911 on the website.  These screen shots are from previous versions of Math911 but should help give an idea of what the program looks like.  The Menu screen shot is very different on the website so I’ll include my own:

 Math911 Main Menu

Click on the banner below to read what other Crew Members had to say about  Math911 Photobucket

All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received the download of Math911 free of charge to review. I am required to write a review but I am not required to write a positive review. This review contains my and/or my daughters’ honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I/ we liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no compensation.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews by clicking here.

9/8/12

A is for Acceptance

I never made it all the way through the alphabet last time.  Maybe this time I’ll do better.  Marcy over at Ben & Me finished up the alphabet, took a break and has re-started her Blogging through the Alphabet meme. 

When thinking about what topics I do with the letter A, I kept coming back to acceptance.  I keep thinking of the Serenity Prayer.  For some reason I thought that St. Francis of Assisi wrote that one (along with the famous “make me an instrument of thy peace" which is beautiful and a favorite from my childhood.)

Anyway, when I was growing up I had this little plaque that read:

“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”

This has been a lifelong prayer for me and until I started this post I had no idea that a) it has a second stanza or b) it is so closely associated with AA and other 12 step programs.  See, I really do live under a rock or in a cavern.

But  neither the origin nor extra stanzas ,not even the shortened version, is really my topic today.  My topic is Acceptance.  And yes that shortened version has continued to be my prayer.

Acceptance of things that I do not like and that I cannot change has always been a struggle for me.  I am very slow to accept things and usually I go through anger and depression before I finally accept them.  (yes, it sounds like grief doesn’t it?  Maybe I mourn the loss of control?  Or the loss of something I wanted?  I don’t know but I know it takes much time and prayer.)

So what exactly am I struggling to accept right now?  Money.  Or rather the lack thereof.   We failed to accept that a cut in pay means a change in lifestyle or habits and continued to try to live as if our budget didn’t matter.   It has caught up to us.  (I knew it would sooner or later.)   But now we are facing the consequences.  I can’t change the past and I find it hard to resign myself to just accepting the past and moving on.  Though I admit that now that we’re a month into our new budget, I find it easier to accept that we have to make changes. It’s just we’re having to make choices. 

Some are easier than others.  I just don’t want to accept the fact that I have to choose between buying a new hard drive for my laptop or fixing the van.  I don’t like that I can’t have both and have them NOW. We’ll be ok though and I know it’s just a season.  But I don’t have to like it right?

It’s a life lesson and one that I’d rather not have to accept but in the end I know it will all work out.  God has always met every need we’ve had.  I just have a hard time accepting that what I want isn’t always what I need.

Even in this past month I have been blessed by seeing God’s hand working in our lives.  I know that at some point I will stop fighting and accept that this is just the way things are for now.  

Blogging Through the Alphabet

Blogging through the alphabet is hosted by Marcy over at Ben & Me.  Come join in on the fun!  This week is the letter A.  (This is a Monday Meme so the letter B will start on 9/10)

9/5/12

Crew Review: Reading Kingdom

Reading Kingdom BannerDuring my first year on the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I had the opportunity to review Reading Kingdom, an online learning to read program.  Supergirl really enjoyed the program so I am thrilled that we have the opportunity to use it and review it again. 

 Reading Kingdom is not a phonics program.  It is not a sight word program (whole word).  I would call it ‘whole language’ but the whole word/sight word method is sometimes called whole language so let me explain what I mean by ‘whole language’

Language Arts is the art of learning how to communicate.  Reading and writing are two forms of communication that require different skills.  When you are learning to read you are learning to decode those symbols into meaningful language.  When you are learning to write words, you are learning how to take meaningful language and encode it for others to read or decode.  When I say that Reading Kingdom is more ‘whole language’ I mean that it teaches both decoding and encoding.  Children learn to read and spell.  Dr. Marion Blank developed the Reading Kingdom program.

“It uses a 6 skill model of reading instruction that incorporates elements of phonics and whole language while teaching additional skills required for reading and writing success without requiring kids to learn any complicated rules.”

As you can see from the graphic, the program also teaches grammar and comprehension which are more elements of Language Arts.  Right from the beginning children learn that every sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with punctuation.  Now that we’re in level 2, Supergirl is also learning about quotation marks in addition to commas, periods and question marks.

I need to note that this is not a learn to type program. Reading Kingdom doesn’t teach a student to type nor does it require a child to use touch typing.  It doesn’t require typing at all.  You have the option of using an on-screen keyboard or the physical keyboard. Supergirl has been successful using her one finger hunt and peck method on the physical keyboard. The program does not a expect the children to touch type.  Even when the shift key is necessary (for a capital letter or punctuation mark) the student simply presses the shift key and then presses the letter or symbol.  She does NOT have to hold the shift key down while at the same time find the right key.

To be ready for the program the student must have some keyboarding and mouse skills.  If the student does not possess these, there are keyboarding and mouse use lessons.  The lessons are not intended to teach the letters or the sounds of the letters nor are they intended as typing or touch typing lessons but rather teach the the child *where* to find the letters on the keyboard.  Let me reiterate again though that this not a typing or touch-typing course but rather Reading Kingdom teaches familiarity with the layout of the keyboard.  Supergirl still has to do some hunting and pecking but generally she has learned what letters can be found in what areas.  With Reading Kingdom you can increase the response time giving the child more time to hunt for the letters.

When she was working through some of the beginning skills and skills survey when we first reviewed the program it seemed very slow and tedious.  Now that she is past that into the learning words I can see the difference it makes.  And if she forgets where to find a letter, Reading Kingdom will show her a keyboard and flash the letter so that she can find it.  I love that aspect.  I love that if she just can’t remember where the w is or she takes too long in hunting for it, she will get assistance so that she can find it.

The website states that you can use the Reading Kingdom program along side your regular curriculum, however, I found it worked best for Supergirl if I set aside her other learn to read programs and her other spelling program and focused on Reading Kingdom.  The website also says that to make progress children just beginning Kindergarten should work at least 4 days per week.  Children in grades 1 and up should work for at least 5 days per week.  I scheduled Reading Kingdom for 5 days per week but our average was 4 times per week.  This was a good pace for her.

The last time we used Reading Kingdom, I found the parental reports to be lacking.  They just didn’t have enough detail for me to really grasp what Supergirl was supposed to be learning and how well she was doing.  Reading Kingdom has upgraded the reporting process and I love it!  I can view a very general progress report showing how she’s done overall in each level:

To a very detailed report of how she has done with different “games” for a specific word:

And even in between!  This screen shot shows how she’s done with each word for a particular book:

My Bottom Line: I regret that we did not do more with our subscription the last time we were generously blessed with a 12 month subscription.  I’m not sure that Supergirl was truly mature enough but she certainly seems to be ready now.  She liked the program before.  Now?  She loves the program.  “I’m reading!”  She always chooses 1 to 3 activities for review after she has finished her lesson for the day.  I was skeptical though.  Was she really reading?  Was she really making progress?  Would what she “read” on the computer screen translate to reading on paper?  Well I tested her.  Using words introduced through Reading Kingdom, I created several sentences for her to read.  Sentences such as “The girls are not here.” “I like to talk.”  “I like to eat but she does not.” and “Who likes to swim?”  The look on her face was priceless.  She was so excited.  “I can read!  I can read!  Can I show Daddy?”  Yes, she tried sounding out a few words and one word was a guess, but it was clear that yes, this program is working.  She is retaining the knowledge and transferring it from the program to paper.

I think this program is well worth taking the time to investigate.  Recommended for children ages 4-10, it is also suitable for slightly older struggling readers.  It can seem pricey at $199.99 per year for one student (a monthly rate and discount for 2nd student is available) but Reading Kingdom is so dedicated to bringing literacy to children that they have a scholarship program available.  Details are available on the Pricing Info page.

Be sure to visit the Reading Kingdom website where you can view sample lessons, get some learning tips, view testimonials, read the FAQs and find other resources. I also suggest reading this article which explains the different levels and the goals for each level.  You can also try Reading Kingdom for free for 30 days!

In my first review of Reading Kingdom I went into more detail about Supergirl and more detail about the program.  You can read my old review or check out the other reviews from that year.

Click on the banner below to read what other 2012 Year Crew Members had to say about Reading Kingdom:Photobucket

All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received a one year subscription free of charge to review. I am required to write a review but I am not required to write a positive review. This review contains my and/or my daughters’ honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I/ we liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no compensation.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews by clicking here.