11/14/12

Crew Review: Vocal Coach Singer

What’s a mother to do when her music loving, choir participating daughter wants voice lessons in addition to her piano lessons but there’s no money in the budget for a singing tutor? If the mother in question is like me, then she’s going to be blessed to be introduced to Vocal Coach and the Vocal Coach Singer program. 

Here’s a description from the website:

“Vocal Coach Singer is the most complete instructional singing system available with the equivalent of over $2,000 worth of personal coaching time. Whether you are a beginner or a professional, Vocal Coach Singer teaches and builds upon the fundamentals essential to an accomplished singing voice. From posture to performance our tested and proven techniques will help you deliver your songs with consistency and confidence!”

Boobear, my oldest, is 17.  I begged the Schoolhouse Review for the opportunity to review this product specifically for BooBear.  She is a senior in high school and plans to major in music at college starting in the fall.  She used this product independently so I asked her to please share her experience and opinion. 

BooBear’s thoughts, experience, and opinion:

Music is part of me. If you were to write a definition of me music would be in the description. I play the piano. I teach piano. I also love to sing. Singing is involved in more of our lives than we think. We sing when we are cleaning, when we are in the car, to little children, and as part of worship, Everyone should have at least something from that list that they do. As singing is such a large part of who people are we all want to be better at it. Vocal Coach can help with that.

Vocal Coach is easy to use in your home. It does not take a lot of time, though if you wan to improve you do need to make a time commitment. It provides CDs, or MP3s, that fall under different categories. There are seven training CDs that include: Getting Started, Complete Breathing, Complete Warm-Up, Complete Tone, Complete Expanding Your Range, Complete Diction, and Complete Performance. There are also 4 workout CDs: 2 Daily workout High Voice for Soprano and Tenor, 2 Daily workouts for medium/low voice for Alto and Bass. There are also PDFs with sheet music for the different Exercises. I found this especially helpful as I like to have the sheet music around to follow and know what my voice is doing. Visual aids are important to me.

I have wanted to have voice lessons, however I am already taking piano lessons. Vocal Coach has given me a way to have voice lessons. I can do it on my own time, and move at the pace that I need to. It would also work for a wide variety of ages including adult and younger children. They provide a technical description and a more watered down explanation. There are also a lot of summaries at the end of the tracks. Listening to the tracks it sounds like they are trying to engage a younger audience while still keeping it interesting for an older one. This could get a little annoying for some older kids. Other than that I think it is great to have it so that a family could do it together. The tracks are not very long at all. The longest that I have come across is 8 minutes and the shortest 1 minute. Being short they work well for use with children of shorter attention spans, and for those who want to do more they can do multiples. This also makes them easy to review.

I liked to do 4 or 5 new tracks and then review maybe 2 or three when I did a session with it. You are encourage to do the exercises on your own. I like to do this as well, however it can take a few reviews for me to get the flow of the exercises. I have used the warm-ups in this way on Sunday morning before going to Church. That was one thing I am really happy about. I have been wanting a way to warm-up for singing in choir but I didn’t really know any exercises. Vocal Coach also says that even if you are not a singer, but you do speeches, or any job that involves a lot of talking the warm-ups will help you as well. You can use Vocal Coach Singer not just for singing but for speaking as well. They do not need to be used everyday, which is good as my life can get a little crazy sometime and I don’t have a lot of time.

One thing that I really really wish that they had was a little more of a laid out plan. They told you to start by reading the guide book and listening to the getting started CD but after that there was not much guide as to what to do. They did give an order on the website that they recommended. But it was hard to find. I would like there to be a much easier to find recommendation. I felt a little lost looking at all the tracks and CDs. Also there was no instruction on when to start using the workout CDs. I didn’t know if I should complete the training CDs and then start using the workout ones, or if at a certain point along the way I should start implementing them? I felt like I was trying to find my way in the dark at some points.

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The above picture shows the physical Vocal Coach Singer which retails for $119.99.   We received the MP3 version which is available for $99.99.  If I could spare the extra $20 I think it would be worth the extra money to receive the physical product.  We’ve made the MP3 version (with PDF version of the guidebook) work but we don’t have an mp3 player and BooBear has been tied to the computer.  With the disks she could bring them to church and complete the vocal warm ups in the van or bring a portable cd player and use them as part of choir practice.

I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve overheard and what I’ve witnessed with BooBear.  She has much more confidence now.  Turtlegirl age 15 and Tailorbear, age 13,  have decided that they also want to give it a try.  Turtlegirl wants to use Vocal Coach Singer to improve her range and her ability to match her voice to the pitch so that she can join the choir at church.  Though a $100-$120 is pretty step for me right now this  is cheap cheap cheap for vocal lessons.

Vocal Coach product doesn't teach a particular style, rather we teach you to master the principles of vocal muscle memory, which cause critical body parts to produce excellent sound, amplification, and control with increased stamina to predictably deliver the results you want! Before you know it, you'll be able to apply what you've learned to any style you want to sing. Just like a well-conditioned athlete often has the ability to play many different sports, a well-trained singer has the potential to sing many different styles.”

Vocal Coach Singer is intended for teens and adults but BooBear tells me that she thinks younger children could do this along with the family.  There is a program specifically for children ages 5-13, Teaching Kids to Sing that some crew members had the opportunity to review.

Check out the home school tab for hints on how to use Teaching Kids to Sing and Vocal Coach Singer in your home school.  You’ll need to scroll through the Teaching Kids to Sing information to reach the Vocal Coach Singer tips.

Read the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog to see what other Crew Members had to say about Vocal Coach Singer or Teaching Kids to Sing

 

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11/6/12

Holiday Cooking

With Thanksgiving just two weeks and 2 days away my family has begun to list suggestions for Thanksgiving Dinner.  Supergirl, my developmentally disabled daughter has a strong opinion of what needs to be served for Thanksgiving: Pickles, carrots (carrots???), cranberries, and stuffing.  “Lots of stuffing,” she tells me, “because it’s my favorite.”

Today is Day 2  of the Preparing for the Holidays Blog Hop hosted by the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  Today’s topic:  Cooking, of course!
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First let’s chat about Thanksgiving.  We have a nearly set menu for Thanksgiving: a combo of traditions from his family, my family, and traditions we’ve started as our family.

We start our Thanksgiving morning with some type of breakfast roll: Cinnamon, Carmel, or some variation.  I’d love to brag about how they are homemade and made from freshly ground wheat but they’re not.  They come from a can.  We only make them once a year so I don’t worry too much about cost or how incredibly unhealthy they are.
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Our Thanksgiving cooking though begins at least the day before.  It has become tradition to eat Chex Mix while we play games before dinner is ready.  So we make a HUGE roasting pan full of our own variation of Chex Mix. We also get the potatoes cooked and mashed for the “really good mashed potatoes that are so good you don’t even need gravy” that will go in the crockpot.  I also steam or bake some yams/sweet potatoes (I am pretty sure they are yams but I call them sweet potatoes).  Those will get mashed up with butter and brown sugar and a bit of maple syrup if I have it and be placed in a casserole dish.   We also make the stuffed mushrooms.  Well we get them prepared and ready to pop in the oven.

Our Thanksgiving Dinner consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, cranberry-orange relish, jellied cranberries and sometimes my mom’s fruit salad which is really fruit cocktail, drained and folded into Cool Whip.  We start the meal off by snacking earlier in the day on a relish tray (pickles, olives etc), Chex Mix, the stuffed mushrooms, and sometimes spinach dip.  (It’s really a wonder that we have any appetite for dinner but I don’t serve lunch.)
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Christmas dinner is a different ball of wax.  Before becoming Orthodox we did a breakfast casserole for brunch and didn’t go to church (our church didn’t have Christmas services) but now we’re Orthodox.  That means NO breakfast because we do go to Divine Liturgy on Christmas Morning.   We flip flop back and forth between prime rib roast and ham for our Christma dinner.  And our traditions for Christmas Eve has changed somewhat as well. 

There is one Christmas dish that must be served sometime between December 24th and January 1st.   This is a tradition my husband brought into the family.  Fruit Soup.   And it has to be served with lefsa.   We make the flour kind.  I could live without fruit soup but my children love it and with them I have become rather fond of butter slathered cinnamon/sugar loaded lefsa.

When I hear “Holiday Cooking” my brain translates it to “Christmas Goodies.”  I love making fudge (I use my mom’s “magic fudge” recipe) and a few years ago thanks to Sonlight Forums I was introduced to Buckeyes ( a peanut butter ball dipped in melted chocolate!) and Linda’s Famous Peanut Butter Fudge.  Those items along with various cookies have become part of our traditional family Christmas treats.  We do not start making these though until just before Christmas so that they can be enjoyed as part of 12 days of Christmas.
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I think I have gained 5 pounds just thinking about Christmas Goodies!  What do you cook for Thanksgiving? What are some your family’s food related traditions for Christmas?  Click on the link below to hop from blog to blog to read more about Holiday Cooking or click on the Button near the top to link up your own Preparing for the Holidays post!

11/5/12

Decorating: Not Just for Christmas

Halloween is over, Thanksgiving is  2 1/2  weeks away and Christmas is just around the corner.  Many people are preparing for the holidays or at least thinking about preparing for the holidays.  The Schoolhouse Review Crew is hosting a 5 Day Blog Hop:  Preparing for the Holidays:

PreparingfortheHolidaysDay 1 is Decorating.   I don’t just want to talk about Decorating for Christmas because I don’t just celebrate Christmas.  I celebrate Thanksgiving, St Nicholas Day, Christmas,  New Year’s Day, and Theophany. 

Grab a cup of hot cocoa, or spiced cider, or hot tea, something that puts you in the mood for fall/winter festivities as we take a stroll through my decorating traditions from late October though January 6.

For me the start of the decorating season begins a day or two or three before Halloween.  As I said in a previous post, I don’t really decorate for Halloween.  I do, however, like to decorate for fall.  I love the colors and I love the harvest theme.  But it’s a process.   I start by putting out the more generic harvest/fall items including my pumpkin shaped candle and bowls of pumpkin spice potpourri.   When we’re solidly into November, I’ll bring out the more obvious Thanksgiving items like my Pilgrim Couple that will sit on my mantle.  On Thanksgiving we’ll put out the special table cloth.

My house might appear a have a split personality though because the Nativity Fast (advent) begins on November 15 (revised calendar).   On this day we hang up our advent chain.  It has 40 loops: one for each day and containing scripture readings for each day.   It almost looks out of place with the purple, green, red and white loops hanging on one side of the door while a friendly fall colored scarecrow decorates the other side.

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I like to fully enjoy Thanksgiving.  I stretch it out over the whole weekend.  It’s called Thanksgiving Weekend, right?  Well because for us the Nativity Season begins November 15 and ends Jan 6 and because I like to savor Thanksgiving we do NOT decorate for Christmas, other than the Advent Chain until the weekend AFTER Thanksgiving. 

Sometime during the week after Thanksgiving, I start taking down the fall decorations and start sorting through the Christmas ones.  I have some VERY Christmassy stuff and some that just looks like wintery stuff.

I dislike clutter and though I love Christmas, having the tree up from the end of November/Beginning of December until January 6 is too much for me.  But I like decorating for Christmas.   Decorating throughout advent helps me to focus on preparing my heart for why we celebrate the Nativity.

On December 1st we put up this cloth advent calendar.  It’s not really an advent calendar, though more of a countdown to Christmas.   It begins on the 1st.  Since we’re already putting up the count down we also hang the stockings.  The stockings are, in my opinion, essential for St. Nicholas Day, however, my children would be just as happy to just put a shoe in front of the fire place.  I’m the mom so I win.   The stockings are used twice.  They are used for December 6th and are filled with gold foil wrapped chocolates and other bits of candy.  The stockings are filled again after the children go to bed on Christmas Eve.

In this picture you can see that the stockings are already hung. We’re doing the digging out and planning for the tree and other decorations.

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We have lots of things we use for decorating at Christmas time.  We have stuffed animals that only come out at Christmas.  Here are a few pictures

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One more picture.  This is picture is taken from our front door.  This is what greets visitors to our home.  I love the holidays and I love decorating for them!

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You can click on the links to hop from blog to blog.  Click on the banner above to join the linky with your own post about decorating for the holidays.

11/3/12

Molly Crew Review: You CAN Sew from Modesty Matters

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For years and years ,I have thought that sewing is not my thing.  I’ve wanted to sew; I’ve wanted to teach my daughters how to sew.  My sewing class in 7th grade was a disaster for me, and my costume design class in college for my theater degree?  Well let’s just say they didn’t let me near a machine during practicum.  I have managed to learn a few skills but sewing continued to intimidate me until the Schoolhouse Review introduced me to You Can Sew! published by Modesty Matters.

The text and the DVD instructions work together to create a complete 12 week beginning sewing course.  In addition to the text and instructional dvds, the course includes:

  • Materials List ~ This handy list details out what you materials you need for the course, some items include a basic sewing machine, the manual for the machine, scrap fabric, sewing notions, and more. I found this list very helpful!
  • Syllabus/Outline ~ This overview lists the Topic, Skill, Classwork and Home Work/Follow-up for each class.  There are some classes listed together such as classes 36-37 which is the Skill Assessment: Make a Simple Apron.
  • Activities and Practice ~ This may be my favorite feature. Because my girls are beginner sewers and I am not much of a seamstress myself, this gave us opportunities to learn more or to gain confidence in a skill.
  • Review and Journal Pages ~ This could rival “Activities and Practice” for a tie for favorite feature.  You CAN Sew! encourages students to create your own binder to use as a journal and as a resource.
  • Field Trips ~ Our vehicle [or lack thereof] situation makes it difficult to do a physical field trip.  But that’s ok.  The curriculum gives suggestions for virtual field trips!
  • Exclusive, simple patterns and instructions from Modesty Matters ~ Patterns for both teen/adult and child sizes are included in a PDF File on a CD-ROM.
  • Sewing Glossary Compilation of Terms and Lingo ~ 28 pages long and arranged in alphabetical order. 

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This course, intended for ages 10 and up, teaches sewing in incremental steps. I’ve tried some other “teach yourself” sewing programs and those programs tend to use“make a project to learn the skills” type of programs.  I would get frustrated because I needed to know how to do something first and I often needed more practice with the skill.  You CAN Sew! teaches the skills you need first and then uses the projects as an assessment for those skills.  This approach gives confidence to a beginning sewer. 

Because of the step by step incremental approach, the program may appear to move very slowly and perhaps frustrate students who may have more than just basic or limited sewing knowledge/skill; however, for my family, this was wonderful and we could speed up a few things when needed or slow down and take the time we needed to master a skill.

The step by step approach also makes it possible for students younger than the target range.  I used this with girls ages 13, 15 and 17.  I originally thought we would do 1 class per day 4-5 days per week.  I envisioned us reading the text, watching the video and then completing the assignment.

So what did it look like in reality? We used it more like a co-op or how I imagine it might work in a co-op.  On Day 1 we started by watching the first several classes (4 maybe?) and then we spent the next couple of days reading the text for those classes and reading ahead for the next couple of classes. We also completed any assignments.  We fell into a pattern of watching 2-4 classes and then taking 2-4 days to work through the material.  This method allowed us to be together for the DVD instruction but gave us more flexibility for scheduling sewing time.  Sometimes the girls would work at the same time to keep each other company and offer encouragement and support.  We have averaged completing 5 classes per week working 3-5 days per week.

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Thoughts from BooBear age 17: “I have always wanted to sews but I could not find a sewing book that would give me the instruction that I needed. I need a lot of visual aid to show me how. I like Modesty Matters because it has the video that shows you how to sew. They are very good at explaining what you need and how to do it. I also enjoy having a binder to show what I have learned.”

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Thoughts from Turtlegirl age 15: “I liked that they gave instructions in the text and they showed you what to do in the videos. Sometimes, I was unable to remember the lesson and reading the text would help but it was good to review the video as well. I’m glad they have you take the time to learn the basics, and then move on to more difficult things.Overall, I like learning to sew with this product.”

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The first finished project: Pin Cushion

Thoughts from Tailorbear age 13: “It is amazing. I love sewing more than I did before. The instructions were clear. No one minute “take thread through loop like this” next minute, “do not take thread through loop”. I appreciate that she knows how to teach. I like the project(s). I like the videos. I am thrilled that I can go, watch a video, then go do my assignment. I also like how everything you learn in a video is critical for your project. Overall, I TOTALLY recommend this product!”

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 Looking forward to the next project: Simple Apron

 I want to make sure I give special mention to the customer service! When I flipped though the text and saw the journal pages, I hunted for a copyright notice and didn’t find permission.  I emailed Dee and she responded very quickly, not just with permission for my family to make what copies we needed but she included an attached file with all the “consumable” pages.  She says she sends this file to everyone who has asked for photocopy permission.  This file makes it so easy to just print out the pages I need instead of having to pull it out of the binder and make copies.  I also had an issue with an attached file for a corrected pattern.  Dan graciously re-sent the file.   I recommend reading more about the families who own Modesty Matters.  Be sure to read about the company as well.

Everything you see in the picture above is included for $159.  Well everything except the monitor. <grin> To read more about this product click on the curriculum page and scroll down past the brand new quilting curriculum recently released.  You’ll even find a video to watch.  And while you’re visiting the site check out the Free Stuff page and the current promotions page, where you’ll find information about free shipping and a sneak peak at the sewing curriculum.

I and my daughters highly recommend this program to any family wanting an easy to follow, complete basic sewing course to use at home or with a co-op.

Click on the banner below to read what other Crew Members had to say about You CAN Sew! From Modesty Matters.

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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.

11/1/12

Thankful Thursday ~ November 1st

I am thankful for the rain.   I loved having so much sun in September and most of October (we had something like 82 days of sunshine.  I’m sure that is some kind of record for us here in the rainy part of the Pacific Northwest.)  The grass that was all brown and dead looking is now starting to become green again. 

I am thankful that my husband has been off work for most of this week.  I wasn’t thrilled at first when he announced “oh I forgot to tell you. I have some use or lose leave so I’m taking off next week.”   But it has been a blessing.  We were able to get some errands done and he’s been around to help me through a difficult personal crisis.  And he makes the bestest scrambled eggs in the whole world and he made scrambled eggs for me this week.

I am thankful for the creativity of my daughters.  I’m thankful for the relationship that they have with each other.  Yes, they fight.  Yes, the fighting drives me crazy but when it matters they willingly step up and work together.  The three “big girls” worked together to create costumes for all four of them and they all went out trick or treating together last night.   The three big girls did not want to be greedy for candy (it was really about getting to go walk through the neighborhood than about the candy) so they had one bag for candy.  Supergirl had her own bucket.

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And finally this week I am thankful for Costco and frozen lasagnas that can be cooked from frozen!  Made our monthly shopping trip to Costco and came home with dinner:  Lasagna, a salad, and some specialty bread.

What are you thankful for this week?