Apologia: Flourish Book Review

Posted on

I love reading and I love organizational tips. So you can imagine how glad I was to read and review Flourish, Balance for Homeschool Moms, by Mary Jo Tate, published by Apologia Educational Ministries. This book contains everything a homeschooling mom needs to organize her life AND her way of thinking.

The most important thing in the book are not so much the forms and the organizational principles, as much as the philosophy underlying everything, i.e. that your goal should be balancing your many roles and tasks throughout the day and the years, not juggling them. The image you should have in your mind, as a homeschooling mom trying to do it all, is not that of a juggler, throwing things in the air so you can catch the urgent ones ready to hit the floor. Instead, you should imagine a tight-rope walker, carefully making small adjustments, as she advances to the other side.  Continue reading »

Flourish Cover

This book is for moms and it was written specifically for homeschooling moms. If you have your own business while homeschooling, you will find it even more tailored to your needs. But, if you don’t, think as one of the ladies quoted in the book said, “my business is homeschooling.” You save the family thousands of dollars every year by homeschooling and not enrolling your children in private schools. So the principles given for your own business could also easily be applied to everything you do in homeschooling.

The author’s story is impressive: when her fourth son was only six months old, her husband left her. Life as she knew it came to an end. Can you imagine the heartache and the confusion for her and for her sons? She was determined to homeschool though. So she prayed and struggled and found a way to work from home as an editor, seminar creator, and writer so she could continue on with her calling.

Flourish-Mary-Jo-Tate

You know, that really inspires and encourages me. All these moms out there rolling their eyes at me when they hear I homeschool and whispering, “I could not do that…” Well, here’s proof positive that homeschooling can be done even as a – gasp! – work-at-home single mom of four sons.

When I first read about this book, I expected some “Ra-Ra!” message for homeschooling moms, from the pen of a pampered stay-at-home homeschooling mom, whose husband is a doctor or lawyer. I thought, “Surely, the author will be quoting Scripture and tell us to not get weary in well-doing…” I am glad to tell you I was wrong. Ms. Tate does quote Scripture, but the book is not as predictable as I thought. Plus, I find it quite useful with all the tips and tricks for organizing time and home and homeschooling.

So yes, it’s inspirational because of Ms. Tate’s story, but it’s really a practical book. Most of the principles you may have heard before from Zig Ziglar and other motivational, organizational gurus. She quotes them herself. But Ms. Tate applies them to homeschooling moms and that’s the reason why you should buy the book. It’s a 289-page paperback filled with forms for your to use over and over again. Once you buy it, you will receive a code to access these forms online and print them out as you see fit. The books costs $15.

Apologia Logo

At the end of every chapter, there are assignments for you to do before you  go on, under the heading, “Take Action!” Personally, I found out a lot about myself as I took the time to fill out the forms and think about the questions. The shocker for me was when I answered the question, “What is the one thing you would like to change about yourself?” My answer was so completely not related to the Big Dream I had described in previous questions. It came from the left field and taught me much about myself.

But then, when I stopped and thought about it, it made perfect sense. If I could just change this one thing about me, my self-confidence would grow and then I would be able to accomplish the Big Dream. For me, these exercises were crucial in getting any benefit from this book. It’s not a novel you read and get a few moments of pleasure from. It’s a workshop which requires active participation. The book came out of her workshop called “How Do You Do It All?”.

Throughout the book, there are inspirational quotes from famous people, as well as from homeschooling moms the author has counseled and coached over the years. Here’s one by Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” One of the moms in Ms. Tate’s “How Do You Do It All?” class says, “A big key to success for me is that the more I write down, the less I have in my brain. The less I have swirling around in my brain, the better I can focus on the task at hand without having to worry about what is next or if I’m forgetting anything. And I’m actually less irritable with my children.”

So if you are overwhelmed or just slightly unbalanced in your homeschooling experience, let Ms. Tate take you on this journey. First, she will invite you to flourish, then to change your mind about how you view your life (balancing, not juggling). In the third chapter, you will find the FREEDOM toolbox, an acronym for Focus, Reflect, Educate, Eliminate, Discipline, Organize, Multitask, Use Your Tools Wisely, Take Action!

From Chapter 4, the real fun begins. You are to keep a time log for every 30-minute interval in your day. You know, kind of like people who are keeping track of the calories they ingest, so they can get a better picture of their diet. This exercise is brilliant. You will learn much about where you squander your minutes. Chapter 5 is all about setting goals, the why and the how. Chapter 6 will give you the seven essential planning tools.

This is where Ms. Tate allows you to skip one or two forms if it all seems like overkill in the beginning. I like her flexibility. She explains she experimented with dropping some of these forms but it all became a mess, so she added them back on. In all honesty, that’s where I’m at. It seems like busy work, but I have not tried it yet for my opinion to really matter. I do, however, plan to walk myself through the whole planning process the way she describes it for the next calendar year, and see what results I get.

The rest of the book I will not present here. You will have to get your own copy and enjoy it and let it organize your life and your way of thinking.

To connect with the book online, here are the Social Media Links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FlourishAtHome
Twitter: https://twitter.com/maryjotate

Click to read Crew Reviews 
 

Crew Disclaimer

HomeSchoolPiano Review

Posted on

For the past couple of months we have had the privilege of learning piano from HomeSchoolPiano, an online subscription program created by Willie Myette. Besides the lessons, which are 10-minute videos, we also received access to HomeSchoolPiano – Complete Set of Books. These three books (PDFs you must print yourself) will take you from an absolute beginner level all the way to the advanced level of creating different arrangements in various musical styles.

HSPianoLogo

Continue reading »

These online piano lessons are for all ages. Willie is very engaging. He tells jokes and makes intentional mistakes to see if you are paying attention. He repeats concepts several times in the course of the lesson so that new ideas will stick. As long as your child understands English, he should be able to follow along.

HSPianoScreen

Some of the lessons have some practice and others are more theoretical. So, besides piano techniques and posture, you also get music theory, which is very helpful, especially if you yourself have never had musical training.

I took four years of piano as a child growing up in Romania, so I don’t need the basics, but I like to hear these lessons anyway because of specific musical terms and vocabulary in English. I will give you an example. The treble clef in Romanian is called the G clef. Well, in my son’s music theory book, which we got from Amazon at the recommendation of our violin teacher, the treble clef is the treble clef. It’s not called anything else but the treble clef.

HomeSchoolPiano Tablet

In his introduction of the treble clef, Willie explains that there are two names for this symbol: the treble clef OR the G clef. Thank you, Willie! I’m a linguist and words and terminology are important to me. This might not be a big deal for somebody else, but it was for me. I feel more informed about the English musical terms and vocabulary.

HSPianoBinderCDs

All you need to use this curriculum is internet access. As you saw above, the site can be viewed from mobile devices, as well.

You can purchase HomeSchoolPiano in two ways, because they provide two payment packages. The pricing is as follows:

1. Success Package (One payment of $299)
Unlimited life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students. 

2. Payment Plan (Payments of $99.97 per month for three months)
Unlimited life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students. 

There are so many benefits to learning a musical instrument. But time to drive to and from a piano teacher’s studio may be an issue for your already crowded schedule. Money may be an issue as well.

A typical 30-minute instrument lesson can be around $40. If your child takes weekly lessons, you will have spent around $300 in two months. HomeSchoolPiano is a great value when you look at it that way, because you get a lifetime subscription and work at your child’s pace. Not to mention, if your family is smaller than six members, everybody in the family can learn!

To introduce this curriculum to my children, I just logged into my account and started playing the first video lesson. They came running. They heard a new voice and they rushed to see what it was. They watched the first couple of lessons with rapture. The two keyboards on the screen looked very different, I suppose. Plus, Willie can be funny.

When he gave them the assignment to find all the Cs on the piano, they ran to the piano. That’s how I realized that I need to take my laptop with the video lessons into the room with the piano.

The following day, I started the lessons in the same room with the piano. My son proudly demonstrated all the Cs on the piano. My daughter is only four and she did not know what to do. She learned as she watched her older brother.

And so we continued with less and less interest from my youngest – although she hangs around when we do the lessons and practices. She learns by osmosis, like any younger sibling.

My son, on the other hand, has learned a few things directly, not by osmosis. I think the most important thing for him at this point was the grab technique. The tissue trick was great. My son was spreading his pinky all over the piano key and no matter how much I told him to hold his hand together as if he were holding a tennis ball, he would not do it. But we practiced grabbing the key with a tissue and then I only had to remind him twice. His hand position is greatly improved.

Overall, the curriculum is easy to use, but it can get a bit boring in places. My son lost interest after a few lessons and it was rather difficult to get him excited about it again. I liked it for me, but I am an adult. I suppose an older child or a really motivated child would find it easier to use.

HomeSchoolPiano Six Step Technique

Here are the social media links for HomeSchoolPiano:
 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HomeschoolPiano
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jazzedge
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/jazzedge/

 

Click to read Crew Reviews
Crew Disclaimer

Go Science DVDs Review

Posted on

Recently, we received two of the seven Go Science DVDs (Series 2) from Library and Educational Services. What follows is a review of DVD 4 – Motion, Friction, Electricity, Light – and DVD 7 – Engineering, Design, and Flight – , as well as a general overview of this set and the experience my children had while watching.

Ben Roy, a science professor from the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, recorded different science experiments for a children’s program on a Christian satellite TV station. Later on, he put them together in these DVDs. Continue reading »

The result is great because he had a live audience watching and participating and anticipating the result of the experiment (the scientific method at work). Children range from preschool age to tweens in his audience, which is pretty much the age recommended for these DVDs: 4-12.

Go Science DVD Set

The titles are as follows:

DVD 1 – Sound, Gravity and Space

DVD 2 – Life Science, Weather, and Light

DVD 3 – Air

DVD 4 – Motion, Friction, Electricity, Light

DVD 5 – States of Matter and Water

DVD 6 – Chemistry

DVD 7 – Engineering, Design, and Flight

The whole set costs $59.82. Each DVD costs $8.97. One must create an account with Library and Educational Services in order to take advantage of these whole-sale prices.

By the way, Library and Educational Services offers so many other products, you will probably refer to their site over and over again. I think it’s great that they offer these discounts to homeschoolers.

I have to tell you that once you turn these DVDs on, you cannot stop. I was going to do only 30 minutes at a time initially, but when I saw how much the children enjoyed it and how quickly time seemed to go by, I let them watch one whole DVD in one sitting. The next day, we watched the other one.

Library and Educational Services

My four-year-old daughter enjoyed watching the DVDs right along her big brother, who is six. They made predictions, clapped, and shouted YESSS or NOOO when Ben Roy asked his studio audience a question. In that sense, watching the DVDs can be interactive.

Each experiment is a separate video clip, not longer than five minutes. I like that format because the children do not have time to get bored. Also, because it feels like you cover a lot of material (because you do!) but in less time.

The videos follow the same format, too, which helps with predictability and routine. Children like to know what to expect. By the third video, my children knew that the experiment was over and Mr. Roy was going to draw a spiritual lesson out of it. They started talking over him – they were more excited about things exploding, spilling, or breaking, than about the spiritual application. But that’s OK, they still caught some of what he was saying.

Mr. Roy ends every video bit with “You know, children, when you learn more about science, you learn more about the Creator, GOD!” If your children just get this sentence as a principle for their education, you have accomplished a great deal in your homeschooling efforts by watching these DVDs.

Even though I believe low-tech educational experiences are superior to the ones involving my children staring at a screen, I have to say these DVDs are a great addition to my homeschool. I can think of those low-energy days when I just can’t seem to get it together. I could pop one of these DVDs into the DVD player and cuddle up with my children (or stay away, if need be).

They have just been shown some amazing tricks (I mean, science experiments), I get some rest, and the voice of my conscience has been silenced because they are “doing school” and learning a lot. There is something to be said about delegating my children’s education to somebody else for one hour at a time, now and then.

But, first and foremost, these DVDs can be used as a science curriculum supplement. Also, if your child needs a cool Science Fair Project idea, you have plenty to choose from in these DVDs – for different levels of maturity and courage.

Click to read Crew Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

10 Lessons from Our First Year Homeschooling

Posted on

We finished our 180 days of Kindergarten last week. Whew! What a ride! We learned several lessons and, hopefully, we will not make the same mistakes next year.

Overall, we are very proud to have chosen this educational route with our children. We pray for God’s wisdom and guidance as we continue on this path.

Today, The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog featured our homeschool under their heading, Spotlight on the Crew.

I wrote the post about the 10 lessons we learned exclusively for their site. You can find it here.

In a couple short months, I will teach a first grader and a pre-kindergarten student. I will need this whole summer to adjust to this new identity for my children in my head.


Kinder Cottage Publishing Review

Posted on

In our homeschool, we lean heavily towards a literature-rich approach. We limit screen time to 30 minutes per day. We fill our days with time spent outside and lots of reading. So I was very glad to review How Peter Rabbit Went to Sea and Peter Rabbit Goes A-Visiting from Kinder Cottage Publishing.

These are small, hardback books and cost ony $4 each. They are part of a series of 10.

Kinder Cottage Peter Rabbit Series

Ten little books that will give you hours and hours of reading pleasure with your children

These books were originally written by Duff Graham for the Henry Altemus company over 90 yrs ago and are in the public domain. They contain vintage illustrations and the language has been updated for the modern reader (bicycle instead of velocipede, for instance). However, the sentences are well constructed and the vocabulary is rich. This is the number one reason you should read these books to your children.

They are meant for ages 3-9. The little ones will love looking at the pictures while listening, while an older child could actually read these books out loud or to himself.

They both have 64 pages, with an illustration on every spread. Peter Rabbit Goes A-Visiting is shorter than the other book mentioned above by simply having less words on the page. So on a day when I feel tired, I reach for this less wordy book.

Peter, “as all good little children know,” is a naughty little rabbit who lives with his Mother and his sisters: Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail. Cotton-tail is very fond of Peter and she always takes his side, asking Mother to spare him from discipline whenever he misbehaves.

How Peter Rabbit Went to Sea contains the story of the naughty little rabbit who got into trouble because he disobeyed his mother yet again. She specifically told him not to go to the brook, but, sure enough, he decided playing Pirate was exactly what he wanted to do for the afternoon. His sisters asked him not to look for trouble, but he did.

How Peter Rabbit Went To Sea book cover

He built himself a little boat and then sailed on the brook, which flowed into the sea. Peter thus met a whale, a shark, a seagull and several other creatures who completely scare him. By the time he got back home, he tells his Mother he never wants to play Pirate again. She does not punish him. She was a wise mom, who understood natural consequences will discipline and teach more than parent-imposed punishment.

I took this book with us to the Gatlinburg Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park because I knew we would play by the river. I wanted the kids to experience the story in similar surroundings.

Boy and girl sitting on rocks and reading by the river

My children reading How Peter Rabbit Went to Sea on the river bank in the National Park

In Peter Rabbit Goes A-Visiting, Peter gets to experience some serious adventures as he veers off his mission to hang out with Jack the Jumper instead. When Peter had to fetch medicine for Flopsy, who had a toothache, he ran into Jack, who invited Peter to go to a party with him.

Peter Rabbit Goes A-Visiting book cover

Peter took a moment to consider what to do. I told my children that’s called the valley of decision. Many times in life they will find themselves in a situation where they know they must do something, but they feel like doing something else. That’s when they will come up with an excuse to avoid the call of duty – or somebody else will provide that excuse, as was the case of Peter and Jack.

The number two reason to read them is because they contain lessons about obedience and the consequences of disobedience. I have read these books to my children several times already and every time I feel inspired to stop in a different spot and point something out.

There is an illustration where Mother Rabbit is spanking Peter Rabbit with a rather thick stick. There is also a night when Peter goes to bed without supper, as a form of discipline. Modern day parents might not choose to discipline their children in these ways and I want to let my readers know about it in advance.

Even if you do not use such drastic measures to get your children’s attention, you can still use these illustrations as a means to inform them of what other children go through or used to go through.

Click to read Crew Reviews
Crew Disclaimer


Learning Breakthrough Program Review

Posted on

This spring I read A Life in Balance, a most intriguing book produced by a company called Learning Breakthrough Program. This is a book for parents, whether they homeschool their children or not.

This paperback book was written by Frank Belgau as told to his son, Eric Belgau. It is the story of how Frank Belgau, an Air Force Flyboy and mechanic turned special education teacher and researcher, created the Learning Breakthrough Program, which helps children overcome their learning differences. It is a pleasant and easy reading – 200 pages long. It costs $16.95.

A Life In Balance book cover, by Frank Belgau

 

It is also an interesting account of what Houston and the space-program was like in the 1960s. Finally, it is a riveting account of how the brain works and, in particular, how the vestibular system affects our physical mental processes.

If you are looking for an ADHD alternative treatment or for a dyslexia treatment, you need to read this book. If you simply want to improve your child’s (or your own) reading, you need to read this book. If you are a professional trying to keep up with an increasingly demanding workplace, you need to read this book. The suggestions will help your brain stay focused and sharp.

Last but not least, if you have Baby Boomers in your life who want to continue to stay sharp, you need to tell them about this book. Brain training and brain fitness suggestions abound in A Life In Balance.

Have you ever noticed how your toddler toddles? Have you ever noticed children walk differently? Some walk smoothly, freely swinging the arms, with an erect posture, and in a rhythmic fashion. Others suppress their arms and their feet do not move smoothly. They seem to lose their balance after a few steps. Many are somewhere between these two extreme points.

Frank Belgau discovered the connection between the physical ability to walk straight and the cognitive ability to read in a very personal way.

Learning Breakthrough Program

You see, Frank Belgau could not learn to read himself until he was in fifth grade. As such, he developed a strong empathy for “unteachable children.” He felt the shame of being the only child in his family who could not read.

He also lost his lunch to a bully. But the bully did not want his lunch or his lunch money. The bully simply wanted to find somebody weaker than he, to beat up on and make himself feel better.

Frank tripped over his own feet after a few yards – consistently. Physically, he was a mess. The bully only made it worse.

As a fourth grader, Frank accepted the fact that he could never be as smart and accomplished in school as his siblings. But to not be an athlete and to receive daily beatings from a bully pushed him to come up with a plan. He spent the summer between his fourth and fifth grade running on the beach, aiming his feet at fiddler crab holes, like a football player doing a tire run at training camp.

At first, he tripped often and tumbled face down. As the summer wore on, he got better. His speed picked up. He could aim and not miss these holes.

When he went back to school, he put the bully in his place. They even became best friends. But he discovered his summer set of exercises brought about another benefit: he could read. Just like that.

By running and organizing his physical balance, Frank organized his brain.

Once he was honorably discharged from the Air Force, he became a teacher and, then, a special education teacher. From one school system to another, from one university research lab to another, he perfected the Balance Board and a set of exercises which help children organize their brain so they can learn.

The largest industry in the United States is the prison system. All the inmates in our prison system have some sort of learning disability or difference. These people are not stupid. Many of them are quite intelligent. But they are frustrated. They could never learn as easily as their peers. Sitting at a school desk feeling stupid and useless and inferior lead them to frustration. So they act out. And the downward spiral commences.

The book contains a preface written by Dr. Edward Hallowell, MD – a Harvard professor – who strongly believes in and supports the Learning Breakthrough principles. However, there have been many in Academia who gave Frank Belgau a hard time through the forty years of his research and experiments. You can hear the sadness and frustration in Frank’s “voice” about that as you read the book.

Personally, I think the book could use some editing to eliminate repetition and numerous typos. But, overall, this book will give you an alternative way to deal with learning differences.

I have always believed that physical exercise impacts the brain tremendously and modern research supports that premise. I saw ADHD being reversed through an education which involved similar principles when I worked for a special education residential treatment program. This book lines up even more arguments in support of such alternative programs and stepping away from medication.

The Space Walk – a series of exercises that will give you observable results in improving reading – is outlined in the back of the book.

Here are the Space Walk Activities which develop a smooth walking pattern:

  • toe on spot
  • walk heel to toe
  • sidestep, lead right
  • sidestep, lead left
  • march
  • march backwards
  • walk and turn clockwise
  • walk and turn counterclockwise
  • pick target, close eyes, and walk to target
  • close eyes, walk heel to toe on line
  • zigzag walk

All these activities are described in length in the Appendix of the book, which would give you a clear way of experiencing the benefits of the Learning Breakthrough Program before deciding about purchasing the Balance Board.

Connect with the Learning Breakthrough Program on social media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LearningBreakthrough
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LearningBreak
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/LearningBreakthrough

Click to read Crew Reviews
Crew Disclaimer


Apologia “What On Earth Can I Do?” Review

Posted on

For almost two months, we have had the privilege of using a worldview curriculum called “What on Earth Can I Do?” from Apologia Educational Ministries. This post is a review of the set which contains a hardback book ($39), a notebooking journal ($24), junior notebooking journal ($24) and coloring book ($8). This set is volume 4 of the What We Believe series.

Apologia What In The World Can I Do

The thick hardback book, with full color illustrations and glossy paper, like anything else coming out of the Apologia Educational Ministries store, is impressive in both content and presentation. The junior notebooking journal contains coloring pages, word puzzles, word searches, mini books, craftivities and room to write or draw. It is a younger version of the regular notebooking journal. The coloring book contains only pages for little ones to color.

Apologia Junior Notebooking Journal

I read to my children from the book. Then, my son, who is in kindergarten, worked his way through the Junior Notebooking Journal, while my daughter, a preschooler, colored the corresponding pages in the Coloring Book.

Apologia Coloring Book

One lesson, about 50 pages long, divided into some 17 sections, looks at the same concept from a different lens. There are references to Hollywood movies (The Sound of Music), actors (Charlie Chaplin), Christian authors (Corrie ten Boom), Jesus’ parables and character development.

This worldview curriculum contains enormous amounts of information on different topics while following the main thread of stewardship. As Christians, we view the world through the lens of biblical concepts. Our children must be taught how to look at everything in life and ask, “What does the Bible say I should do in this situation?” The characters presented in the book modify their thoughts and behavior after answer that question, thus setting an example for all of us.

You may want to use it to supplement your history learning or, better yet, as a family devotional. Through all the lessons, the authors answer spiritual questions and draw real life applications. It’s really closer to a Bible curriculum if you don’t mind all the references to pop culture in the context of Bible class.

The Apologia “What In The World Can I Do?” worldview curriculum is intended for students in grades 1-6. They mention, on the Apologia website, that it is  “adaptable” to younger ages. In my experience, this curriculum takes a lot of adapting for younger children (PreK and K ages). So, if you have the energy, creativity and motivation, you can venture. If not, I suggest you wait a few years.

Apologia suggests a sample lesson plan which covers one lesson in the book in six sessions – two classes per week, over three weeks, for instance. I can tell you that the hardback book contains a lot of material and you will not find it difficult to keep your children busy.

In some cases, I had to adapt the writing quite a bit. They say the writing is on a fifth grade level, but it seems almost high-school level to me. My local newspaper is on a fifth grade level. This curriculum is higher than that.

We had a lot of new vocabulary to explain, but that was not all. I found some of the concepts quite mature – definitely not for children under 10. So we skipped over some things.

Apologia Educational Ministries

We worked through the first four lessons, which deal with World War II issues (Hitler, Churchill, the von Trapp Family, the blitz of London, the moving of children from London to the country side, the final victory) from the perspective of an English family.

I did not know how scared my children were of this story until we got to chapter four. Before I started reading, my son said, “You are reading this to us because if the war comes to Tennessee, my sister and I will have to be separated from you and daddy. We will have to go to the countryside to escape the fire bombs.”

Of course, I had to do some damage control right then and there.

In spite of all that, my children really connected with Colin and Jenny, a brother and sister, who were part of this English family. Another connection was the scene where Colin helps firefighters protect St. Paul’s Cathedral. My son loves anything that has to do with fighting fires.

St. Paul's Cathedral protected by firefighters during the Blitz

My son enjoyed coloring this page about how firefighters kept St. Paul’s safe.

When we started the fifth lesson, they just could not forget about Colin and Jenny. A new set of siblings is introduced, this time from North Africa, and my children could not move on. So we made chapati to get them into the new story, following the recipe from the book. It was quite good when fresh and hot.

Boy rolls chapati dough

My son loved rolling out the dough for chapati

In conclusion, I would highly recommend this worldview curriculum from Apologia to older elementary or even high school students.

Click to read Crew Reviews
Here are the social media links for Apologia:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/apologiaworld
Twitter – https://twitter.com/apologiaworld 
Google+ – https://plus.google.com/105053356034237782125/posts
Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/apologia/

Crew Disclaimer


Maestro Classics Review

Posted on

An integral part of our homeschool, car schooling includes listening to music, stories, audio books or audio drama in the car, on the way to appointments and classes outside the home. Recent additions to our car school curriculum, My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel are produced by Maestro Classics.

The conductor, his wife and one of their sons all worked on producing this story CD, alongside famous musicians and narrators. When it comes to CDs for children, I am rather picky. So many of them feature rhythms that make the kids want to shake their behinds.

If you, like me, would like to train your children’s musical taste buds to appreciate classical music, you will want to check out this series. The stories keep their attention while the classical music is woven throughout the CD. The CDs expose their minds to vocabulary, concepts and stories beyond just classical music.

Maestro Classics Review
I read Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel to my children about a year ago. When I brought out the CD out, they did not know what to think. Was it a movie? No. Where can they see pictures? No pictures. We just listen to the story. But why is there music? The music threw them off.

I persevered.

After a few paragraphs, they got into it. So much so, that they asked to hear it over and over again. They like to dig like Mary Ann, faster and faster, as the story progresses and the music picks up.

Children watching a documentary about steam shovels

My children watching a short documentary about steam shovels

After listening to it four times, over a few days, my son started saying things like, “I really like the music, mama.” Bull’s-eye!

The CD booklet has several activities which enhance the learning process: a puzzle, a maze, a mirror word game, etc. My son loved finding out the words. It’s the first time he solved a cross-word puzzle, so this is one for the books.

My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music was a bit harder to introduce to my children. I was surprised, because they like listening to Handel’s Messiah. I was expecting them to perk up at the mention of Handel’s name. But, again, I worked with their reluctance and gently asked them to listen to it.

Maestro Classics Review
My daughter is four and loves princesses, so when she heard them mention a king, she started paying attention. Isn’t that always the case? We must link new information to their existing database of knowledge. Then, when they see a connection, they are more willing to work with the new concept.

I think the story is really cute, how Handel, ever the showman, managed to weasel himself back into the king’s heart with Water Music. The more modern story about Handel’s living in England (I won’t give it away, you will have to get the CD and enjoy it firsthand) is even more intriguing. I never knew about that other theory.

Children watching animated explanations about the Panama Canal operations

Watching animated explanations about the Panama Canal operations

All this to say I, too, learned a lot from listening to it, besides enjoying the music.

Their website also produces free curriculum guides as companions for their CD series. Definitely worth looking into. You might have to adapt some of the activities based on your children’s ages and philosophy of education, of course. But you have a whole FREE unit study for each CD, with history, art, music, geography, science, language arts, and math.

The CDs cost $16.98 for the CD (plus shipping) and $9.98 for the MP3 download. Considering their quality and how much learning you get out of them, I think they are reasonably priced. I have always said that our children’s education is worth every penny.

The ideal age range for Mike Mulligan is 4+, while the ideal range for Handel is 5+. I can see how my four-year-old lags behind in appreciating them. My six-year-old got into Mike Mulligan after some coaxing, but now he loves it.

In order to stir more interest into My Name is Handel and Water Music, I did some of the activities suggested and the kids enjoyed playing with water and boats, guessing what will sink and what will float, and looking at pictures of royalty. We learned about the Panama Canal, the Industrial Revolution and the steam engine. My son, a budding engineer, loved every moment of it. We colored pictures of a steam shovel.

If you are looking for classical music for children, look no further. This CD series will help your kids appreciate classical music and learn so much more besides.

Click to read Crew Reviews
Connect with Maestro Classics on Facebook and Pinterest.

Crew Disclaimer


Media Talk 101 Review

Posted on

As a member of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, I recently had the opportunity to watch Captivated, a documentary about the plugged-in world we are living in, produced by Media Talk 101, a small company dedicated to informing the public about the dangers of a lifestyle that takes a bit too much advantage of the digital age.

From the very beginning, I was impressed with how professionally the documentary was put together. The script is well written, too. The producers brought in a series of leaders in modern Christianity, as well as medical doctors and family therapists, to analyze the proliferation of screens in our lives and its effect on relationships.

This DVD costs $16.95.  The shipping is free. If you wanted to order a second one for sharing, it’s only $5. If you have teens, they should definitely watch it with you. I have small children and I did not show it to them. If you have middle school age children, it’s your decision. The movie has been approved for all ages.

I liked the images of the film’s creator in Times Square – the epitome of our fast lifestyle – in the beginning and at the end of the documentary and how they tie the message together.

Another telling image is that of a man on his cell phone in the middle of a corn field. “Where can I go to flee from your presence?” exclaimed David toward God. That might as well be our cry towards screens, which surround us no matter where we go.

The documentary begins with a bit of history and it zooms in on the advent of the telegraph. It was a significant moment in human history because, for the first time, the message could travel faster than the messenger. For the first time, people could be connected remotely without needing to walk, ride a horse, a car, or a train.

I met my husband online, so I was delighted to hear that people met vicariously as early as 1890. “Wired Love,” a love novel from that era, was inspired by a true story. Two people who met via Morse code finally met in person. Since they could not really communicate with each other and it all seemed awkward, they walked in two separate rooms and he proposed via the telegraph. How romantic, right?

The documentary is divided in five parts: Media Consumption, Content, Captivity, Battleground, and Freedom.

Want some startling stats? Today, we have more TVs than children in our homes. In some homes, there are more TVs than people in the home. American children spend over 53 hours per week in front of a screen.

Captivated Movie Review

We wonder why our youth seems so passive and unmotivated. All that screen time tricks the brain into thinking you have done something, when, in fact, you have just wasted your time and accomplished nothing.

The youth seem to think they can multi-task. That they can study while watching TV and monitoring their cell phones which, besides text messages, alerts them instantly of any social media updates. Experts agree that nobody can multi-task.

This life spent plugged into some sort of virtual reality is slowly but surely changing the definition of what it means to be a human.

The documentary recommends a series of books for further study: “Distracted” by Maggie Jackson, “The Dumbest Generation” by Mark Bauerlein, “Amusing Ourselves to Death” by Neil Postman – among others. I thought the word “amuse” spoke volumes: amuse = a + muse, where a = not and muse = think. So next time you go to an amusement park, think again. I have never liked amusement parks and now I know why.

The documentary introduces the idea of a media fast. You know how Jesus mentioned there are some type of demons that can only leave us alone with praying and fasting? I believe that is true for the mind, as well. You try to go on a day media fast and you will see how hard it is not to reach for the cell phone or the iPad. Try a week or a month. Are you already coming up with excuses describing how legitimate your need is to log into your Facebook or email account? There’s your answer.

“Captivated” lists the physical downsides of technology: obesity, sleep interruption, hearing problems, eye strain, carpal-tunnel syndrome, just to name a few. What is alarming though is the reality that media addiction is worse than a drug addiction.

The documentary also shows a case study from a school where the parents complained their children had ADD. The principal said, “It is your decision as parents to put your children on medication. But, before you do, please take a month and do the following:

  • give your children three nutritious meals a day
  • put them in bed by 9pm
  • limit their screen time to 30 minutes per week
  • have them play outside one hour per day
  • have them play outside three hours on weekends

Then come back and tell me what you have found out.”

The parents agreed and, at the end of the experiment, came back to the principal to report that their children did not have ADD symptoms anymore.

Captivated Movie Review

The documentary also shows Shepherd’s Hill Academy, a residential facility where teens go to overcome their media addiction, which has made them out of control. Their testimonies were touching. I used to work in a similar place and it brought back memories.

Parents need help discerning what kind of content to put in front of their children, if they decide on allowing screen time at all. We are so bent these days on not censoring anything, that we have forgotten the Bible teaches we are to take every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ.

Let me paraphrase another great quote from the documentary. They said television was a vast wasteland in 1961. Well, if that is true, television now is a toxic dump. These are words from television executives and people involved in the Parents Television Council.

Ever wondered who is behind the uber-useful website PluggedIn.com (run by Focus on the Family), where you can read reviews on pop culture products from a biblical perspective? I did. Well, his name is Bob Waliszewski and he appears on “Captivated.” He encourages parents to remember that it is OK to deny ourselves and our children. We are called to take up our crosses and follow Him.

The documentary manages to present our challenge as Christians and parents today without being too preachy. I thoroughly agree with the message of this documentary. We limit our children’s screen time to 30 minutes per day. But here are some things they could do better:

  • the documentary should be heavily edited for length; do we really need to spend 107 minutes in front of a screen which tells us about the evils of sitting in front of screens? That’s an irony which will not escape those who oppose the message. My husband gave up on it after about 45 minutes. We did not show it to our young children.
  • the families portrayed in the documentary have six or more children; that’s unusual to those of us who are not of the “quiverful” persuasion; it can be a turn-off to the mainstream American family.
  • the ladies on the documentary wear very long skirts; I understand conservative circles will watch this DVD and may have paid for the making of this DVD, but mainstream Americans do not dress that way. They might feel as if they have stepped into some kind of back country compound bordering a cult sub-culture.
  • if you propose we turn off the screens, please give us more ideas about what to do with ourselves, besides reading the Bible, foraging, playing an instrument and learning new skills. Not everybody is excited about foraging and the documentary spends a good ten minutes presenting this family’s new found passion. Not everybody is musically inclined. Not everybody can read the Bible for an hour at a time. As for new skills, when one has small children, online courses are the golden ticket but oops, that’s more screen time.

For sure, as parents, we need discernment in every aspect of our parenting ministry to our children. Media is a huge one and “Captivated” will help you focus and find some solutions for your particular situation.

For all their bashing of social media, the producers have accounts there:

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/CaptivatedTheMovie
Twitter @CaptivatedMovie

Click to read Crew Reviews
Crew Disclaimer


Mango Languages Review

Posted on

When it comes to learning foreign languages in our homeschool, I feel right at home. No pun intended. As a polyglot, I naturally want my children to pick up as many languages as possible. You know how some people want their children to learn piano AND violin? I want my children to speak several languages.

They are bilingual to start with, so why not add a few more languages to their repertoire? Enter Mango Languages, an online language learning program. Featuring 60+ languages, the Mango Homeschool Edition can help your homeschoolers pick up a language by immersion. I like the fact that they employ native speakers. You can really tell the difference.

Mango Languages recording feature used by children

My son and daughter loved the recording feature of Mango Languages. They got really silly with it, but I allowed it because I remember acting silly when I first took language lessons, too.

Once you decide which package will work for your family and purchase it, they will provide you with login information for every student. Of course, parents can learn, too. My children are taking French, Spanish, Latin, and Romanian. I am studying Italian and brushing up on my Latin.

Here are the price packages available:

1 subscription is $18/month or $125/year total
2 subscriptions is $28/month or $175 /year total
3 subscriptions is $38/month or $225/year total
4 subscriptions is $48/month or $275/year total
5 subscriptions is $58/month or $325/year total

Anything over 6 subscriptions is a special group rate that will depend on the number in the group. As far as homeschool curriculum goes, I think these prices are more than reasonable. The question is, once you have it, will you use it? That’s always the question, whether it’s a backyard pool or a book you bought at a seminar or a subscription to language learning online. But I digress.

Personally, I am already trying to immerse my children in other languages. As we live our lives, I speak to them in Romanian. When daddy is around and he has to understand what I am saying to the kids, I switch to English. However, I read to the children in English, Romanian, French and Spanish, depending on the books they pick. I also mention to them several things in French and Spanish as we go through the day.

Mango Languages Review

It’s really random, as these idioms strike my fancy. So I used Mango to organize our language instruction. The kids loved it in the beginning. It was a new experience. It was computer time. They don’t get much screen time (TV or computer) because I don’t believe it is good for their brains. Besides, they will spend their adult lives in front of screens, so I want their early school years to be as low-tech as possible.

Over time, they started getting bored with it. Mango Languages is pretty much a set of virtual flash cards that get repeated so you can get drilled. By repetition, you can store up vocabulary in your long-term memory. You know what they say, “Repetition is the mother of learning.”

This is the screen you should see once you are logged in. The directory of languages looks impressive, doesn’t it?

Mango Languages Review

I love Mango Languages because I am motivated to learn languages. But, if the why is not strong enough, the how will not follow.

That’s where the going gets tough. Do you have the mental fortitude to continue, once the newness wears off? With my kids being so small, I did not enforce instruction if they did not want to do Mango Languages on a particular day.

Even so, I dare say they learned quite a bit. And so did I. If nothing else, all this language immersion, whether by me, at random, or systematically, through Mango Languages, has trained them to wonder how we say something in another language. Now and then, throughout the day, they ask me, “How do we say this in French (or Spanish, or Romanian)?” You know they want to learn when they ask questions.

I first thought we should study only French and Spanish. Then, I thought I should look into Latin, as well. Just to show them how close it is to Romanian and some of the things they already know in French and Spanish.The children asked for Romanian, too, taking me by surprise. It was fun to sit there and listen to my mother tongue being drilled into my children. As if they don’t get enough of it daily. But it was neat for them, I think, to get Romanian from somebody other than mommy.

Personally, I appreciated the grammar notes. I love grammar, so any bit of grammar I get helps me with my database of knowledge about what is or isn’t acceptable in a language. The other thing that I took great pleasure in was the explanations of the literal translation in different idioms.

We say, “What’s up?” in English, but nobody looks up when you ask them that before they answer you, for instance. The same goes for other languages. Knowing the literal translation helps with creating the sentence – at least, for me. It also fascinates me to see how different cultures view the world. Where the English ask how you are, the French would ask how it is going, while the Romanians ask, “What are you doing?”

I did notice that some translation was a bit random. For instance, we do not say “What is your name?” in Romanian. We ask, literally, “What do they call you?” However, the answer can be, literally, “My name is…” or, “They call me…” So when the English version was “My name is…” and I wanted to translate, I used “They call me…” and it was wrong. They supplied the literal translation of “My name is…”

I suspect the same is true about other languages. I noticed it in French. Regardless, there is a lot of learning that goes on and, should you learn one way of saying things, you should count yourself blessed. At least, you know one way of expressing yourself in a different idiom.

There are tests and there is tracking coming up as they continue to develop this software. Personally, I am in awe of this whole experience, even in its beta version. One thing I have not done is get in touch with other people who study the same languages. There is a community with chat rooms one can take advantage of in the software, if you should feel so inclined.

Since my children are only four and six, I need to be there for technical support, for guidance, to help them navigate the different screens and to help with any questions. Older students would not need their hands held through the process though. The software is intuitive. The product is intended for ages six through adult.

By far, the best aspect of using Mango Languages for my children was the recording feature. The student listens to a native speaker pronounce a phrase. Then, the student can record her own voice pronouncing the same phrase. One can play both recordings simultaneously to really listen for differences in syllables, accent and pronunciation. My kids loved that feature.


Here are the social media links for Mango Languages:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MangoLanguages
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/mangolanguages/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MangoLanguages

Crew Disclaimer
 

Click to read Crew Reviews