Review: The Cat of Bubastes from Heirloom Audio Productions

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I get to share with you another AMAZING audio adventure!!! This time we had the chance of to review The Cat of Bubastes from Heirloom Audio Productions 
We love these audio dramas so much that we literally stalk all of their social media pages awaiting any tidbit of information about when the next adventure will be released.  The Cat of Bubastes is a G. A. Henty story that takes place in ancient Egypt.  That just so happened to perfectly fit into my 6 year old daughter’s studies this year. That made this even more exciting.

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As you probably know we’ve listened to many audio dramas from Heirloom Audio Productions.  They base all of their work on the book series The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty. If you aren’t familiar with the stories you should make it a priority to learn everything you can about them.  Every story is filled with the ideas and themes we want our children to emulate.  Throughout the stories you meet characters who are brave, loyal, courageous, and honest.  They persevere through particularly tough circumstances.  These company’s mission is “to engage the listerner’s imagination by taking them back in time and immersing them in a great Christian story.”  They do just that in the most (dare I say it) Extraordinary way.

Every Heriloom Audio Adventure features the voices of well known Hollywood actors and actresses and a musical soundtrack that will rival the most elite Hollywood production.  These stories are exciting and engaging.  They are breathtaking and heart stopping.  These audios have become a part of the fabric of our family culture.  They are played again and again and again and again and yes…. again.  I’ll be replacing some of our first CDs before long as my kids are just wearing them out.

 

As I said before, The Cat of Bubastes is set during ancient Egypt.  The main characters include Amuba, who is a young prince and his protector and mentor, Jethro.  They are enslaved by the Egyptians and set to work in the city of Thebes.  Here they must decides if they will become like the Egyptians and follow their gods or turn to the true One True God and follow His will.  I would love to share with you more of the story but I don’t want to spoil even a minute of it for you. Trust me when I say it is excellent!

As I mentioned before.  All of the Heirloom Audio Productions feature a star studded cast.  Take a look at the voices features in The Cat of Bubastes! 

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Along with 2-CD copy of the audio we received some other great bonus features which you can get as well if you purchase the premium buying option:

  • an MP3 copy of the audio drama
  • a copy of the E-Book
  • Official MP3 Soundtrack
  • Printable Cast Poster
  • A Study Guide with discussion points
  • Printable Inspirational Verse Poster
  • Unlimited access to the Live the Adventure Website
  • Behind the Scenes Video

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Can I tell you just how fantastic these bonuses are?  The study guide is such a treasure as it is filled with details, and questions, vocabulary, deeper thinking questions, historical background, and even Bible study information.  As I am studying Ancient Egypt with my daughter this study guide became an instant resource for us.  We used it to learn about Hieroglyphs.  I liked the deep thinking questions for my older boys.  While I am confident they listen and comprehend well it is always nice to check in and see just how deep their understanding is.

Some of our best conversations have revolved around what it was really like to follow the One True God back in the time of story.  We’ve discussed what it meant for the characters to make the decision to believe what others don’t.  I’ve drawn similarities and differences to our world today to the world then which has helped us talk about what faith means today.

 

My boys have already listened to this drama two or three times through.  They love to pop it into their CD player and listen while playing Legos or completing chores.  This has entered their rotation of Heirloom Audio Adventures.  My husband is eager to hear this one himself.  We’ll be popping it in the van’s CD player on our next long drive.   Obviously we are a huge fan of these audio cds and I think every Christian home should own them.  Stay tuned… I hear there are more to be released soon!

 

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes
 

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Book Review: The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles by Mark S. Mirza from CTM Publishing Atlanta

ctm-logo1_zpsyrj4wv1nThe Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles by Mark S. Mirza from CTM Publishing Atlanta is a faith based fiction book that will challenge you in your prayer life.  In the book we are follow the stories of three separate characters who lived in significantly different times.  Epaphras lived during the first century, Alexander Rich’s story was during the 19th century, and finally Dale Riley lives in the present day.  We follow the stories of the challenges these men face during their time and how their faith impacts them.

What makes their stories interesting is that each of them is assigned a heavenly angel as guide in their faith, as well as a demon whose goal is to plant seeds that would result in a destruction of their beliefs in God.  Each character reacted to the trials of their lives in fascinating ways  and of course, as the title of the book would imply, they were all Christian men of prayer.  Their decisions and their walk had ripple effects on those around them and even those who came after them.  How all things tied together was quite surprising.

While this book is definitely a work of fiction it does give a person, especially a Christian, a lot to consider about the subject of prayer.  All three main characters are praying men (hence the title Pray-ers) and a lot of attention is given to explaining how and what they prayed.  Usually this centered on scripture from the Bible.  Praying the scriptures isn’t a new concept to me.  Many a Bible teacher has preached or written their own books or devotionals on just this topic.  Each time I come across this concept I find myself reflecting on how much I pray with scripture.  Sincerely it isn’t a habit for me though I’d like it to be.

This book challenged me beyond that though.  It left me questioning every aspect of my prayer life.  When I pray do I pray for others or just myself?  Am I praying with faith in God’s will?  Do I believe god is already working in the situation?  All great questions for reflection no matter who you are or what your prayer life is like.

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While I had intended to share this book with my oldest son who is just about to turn 11 I think I may reconsider.  We are fortunate as homeschoolers to be able to keep the innocence of childhood longer than many of his traditionally schooled friends.  While I certainly don’t keep him shielded from the challenges of this fallen world there are some topics that we just haven’t covered yet.  Toward the end of the book there is some reference to things like abortion and rape.  We’ve only just begun to dabble in conversation about these topics (rape in particular).  I think he may just be more prepared for those things in a book of fiction in a few more years.

Overall I really liked this book.  I suggest that if you find it a bit of a slow start to stick with it.  At first it was a bit of challenge to see how the three characters in three different eras had anything to do with one another.  It’s a great book for young adults and teens! And it certainly had me reflecting on my prayer life.  I really recommend this book.  I hope you enjoy it!

You can read more about The Pray-ers/Book 1 Troubles by clicking here.  You can also find out more about it on Facebook and Twitter.

The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles
 

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Review: Help Teaching Pro Subscription from HelpTeaching.com

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Help Teaching Pro Subscription  from HelpTeaching.comHelp Teaching Pro Subscriptions offers homeschooling families access to thousands of printables, online tests, worksheets, activities, lessons and games.  There is a tremendous amount of material here for Grades: Kindergarten through grade 12.

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As a homeschool mom I’m always on the hunt for the perfect resources for add just the right thing to our homeschool.  HelpTeaching.com.  I could spend hours hunting the web for something useful.  But websites like HelpTeaching.com eliminate that need.  Included in this website is the ability to even create your own tests, quizzes, or worksheets right on the site.  So even if you can’t zero in on the perfect thing then you can just make it yourself!

For this review I worked with material geared primarily for the younger grades as I used it with my 6 year old daughter who is doing mostly 1st grade work.  Signing up for a subscription is easy.  Once that is done you can create a sub account for each of your children.  If they have an email account you can link that too and then send them assignments at will.  How neat is that? But if email isn’t a thing in your family no worries as it is not required.  However, if you do go this route then your child will receive a link that will take them straight to the lesson or test. Later the parent can log onto his/her account to see how the child did.

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HelpTeaching.com offers more than just prinatables.  There are also lessons and videos for a child to watch in and learn from in several subject acreas.  They provide lessons like these in Language Arts, Math, and Science.

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At each level they offer quite the range of lessons and materials.  Preschoolers can learn letters, colors, shapes, and more.  In Physical education you’ll cover nutrition, how to play various games like basketball or soccer.  Of course as I stated they cover the major subjects like math, language arts, history and more.  Older students can enjoy content on drawing, theater, architecture, and life skills link banking and safety.

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HelpTeaching.com has many of lessons aligned to the Common Core standards which is something I typically try to avoid for many reasons that aren’t relevant to this review.  I mention it because this is information I’d like to have up front and I do realize others feel differently and may even be required to use materials that are Common Core friendly.  If so than this could be a very good fit for you.  I have to say though that I didn’t come across any materials that seemed much different from any non-Common Core homeschooling materials.  If the website didn’t tell me so and I could only see the materials I might not have even realized they were aligned.

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How We Used It

With my 1st grader I tended to stick with the predone lessons, especially in math.  We’d watch a video and then complete the practice problems.  We skipped around quite a bit and looked at the kindergarten lessons as well as the 1st and 2nd grade lessons.  This let me hone in on activities that would support the math curriculum we typically use.  The extra practice was very beneficial for her. I liked creating a variety of math sheets that really helped her work her addition problems.  We also did a number of self-paced lessons in reading.  She’d watch a video to learn about some word family (an, at, etc) and then do the practice questions after.  I liked how it reinforced her skills.

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Over all this is a rich resource that is perfect for helping you really customize a child’s education.  I appreciate the amount of material found here.  We particularly like the pre done lessons.

Several members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew were given the opportunity to try out the Pro Plan from HelpTeaching.com  You can see how they used this in their homes by visiting the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

Help Teaching Pro Subscription {HelpTeaching.com}
 

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Review: CHSH Download Club from CHSH-Teach.com

chsh-teach-com-2016-logo-350x350_zpscacxdhnnIs there a homeschooling family out there that isn’t living on a tight budget?  I haven’t met one.  Hunting down just the right materials to meet the needs of each and everyone of our child, on a budget no less, can be quite the challenge.  I was recently given the opportunity to review a website that can help us all meet these challenges.  It is the ChristianHomeschoolHub.com site, also known as CHSH-Teach.com. My familiy received a one year Subscription to their CHSH Download Club .

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CHSH-Teach.com is an amazing subscriber based website brimming over with over 50,000 downloadable pages of educational goodies!  This website was created by a homeschooling mom and former school teacher named Lynda Ackert.  Amazingly she’s created most of the materials the fill the site.  You’ll find so many treasures for your children from the preschool age all the way through high school in a wide variety of subjects.  There really is something for everyone! Truly my description here is going to fall very short of the true value and richness this site can offer your family.  Check this out too, I think this is pretty unique, of course content is regularly added but those who are members of the  Download Club can also upload their own creations to share.

Let me show you few screen shots of just a sample of the subjects they offer.  And let me tell you, even these screen shots do this website an injustice because everything you see is a clickable link that brings you pages and pages of more options and more links to click that bring you to even more content.  I’m not even scratching the surface here.

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They also have the website sorted out by grade, by months of the year, and they have sections of content that will you get organized.

How we used this website!

The uses for this website are pretty limitless and I struggled at first with where to start.  What I decided to do was find something that met my family’s most pressing need first.  My 6 year old Joyanna is in need of some site word practice and I was able to find just the thing.  It only took a few minutes for me to locate some Dolch site word flashcards… here is a little sample.

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We reviewed her site words with the help of these flashcards for several days and her reading fluency was greatly improved.  I loved that I didn’t have to take the time to make them up myself.  I just printed them on some cardstock, cut them down, and away we went.  Some people might have laminated them.

Next I thought of my son who is in constant need of reviewing his multiplication facts.  I found several fantastic games to help us do just that but I settled on one.  It is a fun and quick game that brings about quite a few giggles while the children have to quickly work through the answer.  A definite hit!

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While researching the math fact game I found this great wall poster on fractions.  My other son is studying fractions soon.  I printed that baby out and I WILL be laminating that one!

Next I found these things called Monthly Learning Packets!  My 6 year old does have her own full curriculum but some days she finishes so quickly compared to her older brothers that she just wishes she has more.  I downloaded the first day packet and put it in a binder for her.  Problem solved! Here is a little preview. There are over 200 pages in each of these packets!  Now my daughter pulls out her bind and flips to a page that looks interesting to her.  I might read the directions so she understands what to do.

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One thing my family loves to do is literature studies.  I was delighted to find so many… take a peek at just a few in the elementary age rang.

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We happened to be finishing up rereading Little House in the Big Woods so I downloaded that one.  It is 18 pages of reading comprehension and discussion questions. Some questions are quick multiple choice while others are more long form.  It was a great little companion to our reading.

Each and every time I log into the site I think, “Oh, we should do that and we should do this and I wonder if I can make time for that.”  This website could be ALL you need to homeschool.  It is that good!  This website currently only costs $25 annually or $99 for a lifetime subscription.  This site could save you hundreds if not thousands on homeschool curriculum.  It is an amazing value.

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}
 

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Review: Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition from Apologia Educational Ministries

apologia-logo-jpg_zpswpuj9gxgMy family has had the blessed opportunity to study science with the help of various Apologia Educational Ministries elementary science curriculum over the years.  My two older boys discovered the wonders of God’s creation while they (at least in their minds) zoomed through space, dug in the dirt and observed plant life, swam the seas, and so much more.  The Exploring Creation series has a reputation for being rich, full, and deep with learning.  My daughter has now come to an age where she is ready to begin her own journey through creation.

We couldn’t have times things more perfectly since our beloved Astronomy curriculum was just revamped.  For several weeks now my six year old has been soaring through space with Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition from Apologia Educational Ministries.

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From the moment the box of goodies arrived I was taken.  The new books are so colorful and full of life.  Everything about them has been updated with our young learners in mind.  But I might be getting ahead of myself here.  Let me tell you all about it, step by step.

About Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition

The Exploring Creation series of science curriculum from Apologia Educational Ministries is  a must have, in my opinion, for every Christian homeschool.  This series is geared toward the elementary student and it engrosses children deep into the science of God’s creation.  This latest edition of Exploring Creation with Astronomy takes an already fantastic curriculum up a notch.  It has been expanded with even more beautiful photographs, illustrations, infographics, a wonderful layout, and a fantastic schedule.

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All of the Apologia Science curriculums, including this Astronomy series, use a combination of reading aloud with a student notebooking journal.  As a six year old I had my daughter use the Jr. Notebooking Journal which includes lapbook like projects such as minibooks, word search puzzles, scripture copywork, and other hands-on activities.  One of the beautiful things about this curriculum is that you can combine children of many ages into one study since older elementary children can use the Notebooking Journal meant for their age.  It is a delight in our home to study together whenever possible.

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The Audio CD is a beautiful edition to this program.  It is a clear and enjoyable reading of the text aloud.  We do a tremendous amount of reading aloud in our family and it is something I treasure. However, the opportunity to let someone else take that over from time to time is a blessing for this poor momma and my tired voice.  It can also help children be more independent with their studying since they can listen and read along in the book at the same time. The brand new  Astronomy 2nd Edition Science Kit looks really exciting with a wide variety of activities to take your family’s study of Astronomy even further.

How We Used Exploring Creation with Astronomy

My daughter Joyanna who is six was just so excited to be given the opportunity to review this curriculum.  She’s aware that her brothers have used other science studies from Apologia before and this made her feel like such a big girl.  I decided right off the bat that we’d be using the Mp3 Audiobook most days.  As I said, we already read aloud in this family for hours every day, I am grateful for break.  However I did sit right along side her so I could listen to every word with her.

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This program is certainly open and go.  There is a brand new Daily Lesson schedule near the beginning of the Notebooking Journals complete with little check boxes for you to check off as you complete an activity. I’m enjoying this schedule.  It’s pretty easy going.  I remember the schedule in the previous edition was a bit intense and I found myself breaking up the reading and assignments into smaller chunks over more days.  This schedule is more relaxed and easier for my family to keep up with.

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At first I was a bit confused by this schedule because it does include all of the activities in the new science kit.  I didn’t realize the directions for those activities are mostly in the kit.  I assumed the kit was just the supplies for those activities.  I was hunting around trying to figure out how to do these activities and the information isn’t there.  HOWEVER, there are directions for plenty of other activities and we found the curriculum to be plenty rich without the extra kit. There are links and information for downloading all kinds of interesting activities to expand your studies. In fact, as a busy mom of four I’m not 100% sure I want to do all of the extra activitieswith the activity kit.  This curriculum is incredibly in dept on its own.  So no pressure to buy that kit.  I simply didn’t understand how it all worked at first.

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We work on this curriculum just about 3 days per week.  We listen to the audio CD and then complete the assignment notebook activities. I often pause the audio just to put emphasis on some point or thought or to ask my own question.  Sometimes I just like to bring awe and wonder to what we just heard.  “Can you believe God thought to….!!”  My daughter so enjoys this time in her science curriculum.

The Jr. Notebooking Journal is a good fit for her in general.  It is meant for children who are early writers. There isn’t a tremendous amount of writing involved but this is still an emerging skill for her.  So I help her.  I will sometimes fill in the blanks with her answers or maybe write a bit down on another piece of paper for her to copy.  In this instance my goal isn’t to develop her writing but for her to learn science.  So we learn science and I make it easy.

The Notebooking Journal for the older elementary student is designed to make the children think more about what they’ve learned.  The responses are longer and children draw conclusions about their reading.  There are fewer puzzles and minibooks and more longish answer type activities. If my 10 year old wasn’t already deep into Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy it’d be perfect for him.

Overall

Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition from Apologia Educational Ministries is fantastic!  The science is so rich.  The biblical world view is refreshing.  The text is engaging.  The notebooking activities are fun.  The learning is fantastic.  If you are looking for a rich science curriculum, one that dives deep and immerses your children in learning and God’s worldview than you really can’t go wrong with this study.

Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition Review
 

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Review: Spirtual Circle Journal for Kids and Teens

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Spending personal time reflecting on God’s Word is something I would like to impress upon my children as important.  However, helping them understand HOW they might do so is a challenge.  Despite the fact that we study the Bible and pray together daily I have never quite been able to help my children translate this into their own personal time with God.  Helping them understand what that time might look like hasn’t been easy.  Quite frankly it isn’t always easy for me to define what my own time with Lord should look like.  I was recently offered the opportunity to review a great tool that is helping my family develop this important skill.  It is called the Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens  and my son Noah has been using it as a part of his Bible time.  Included in this journal, from Spiritual Circle Journal, are three 3 pages of Parent/Teacher/Leader guide instructions to help families effectively use this tool.

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The Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens is a spiral bound book complete with a sturdy plastic cover.  It is the perfect thing for any child who doesn’t mind writing a few sentences day, typically ages 8 and older.

This journal is a completely different than anything you’ve ever seen before.  First there is the Parent/Leader Guide pages. What a blessing this section is.  It is designed to help the parent or any other adult show exactly how to use this journal with children. The concepts behind this journal are clearly explained.  This book is designed to help children and teens have a great 10-15 minute quiet time in the word per day, through nine key elements.  I’ll describe in a minute.

Included are some tips for helping children of various ages.  They suggest that parents and children complete the first few days together so that the parent has a chance to model effective use of the journal. They let us know it can be helpful for parents to share stories with their children of how God has worked in their own lives.  They also talk about how sitting down and putting pen to paper can really help a child focus and make more connections with God.  This point was particularly important to me as I’ve found my most meaningful prayer times are always those times when I choose to write down my prayers.

There is a customizable page that can be used a the cover.  The journal does of course have a cover but it can be removed so that a child can be creative and use decorate their own page.

How it works….

Each day the child is given a passage of scripture to read.  In order to reflect on and think through that scripture passage the child fills out nine bubbles or shapes.  Each bubble is actually an area of prayer that will help the child apply the scripture to his or her life.

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There is a key that explains each shape”

  • Journal entry- here the children can describe what is happening in their day or what they have on their mind.
  • Lyric/verse- here a child can jot down the the lyrics to a song or even a Bible verse that has stood out to them recently.
  • Message- here the child can describe the most important thing they learned from their Bible reading
  • Confession- this is the place to write down anything they need to confess to God
  • God moving- this is to reflect on a places God is doing something in the their life
  • Lesson learned/lightbulb moment- a place to record any lessons learned
  • Prayer- a place for requests for God
  • Thank you/adoration- a place for praises to God
  • Actions- a place to think on things God wants them to do

There is also a Personal Page where the child can jot down anything meaningful or important to them.

There are Summary Pages included as well.  These are 16 pages the child will use after the journal pages are done.  There are 9 empty circles and suggestions for how to use them such as a place to write down lessons learned over the course of filling in the journal or a place for favorite verses that can be memorized.

 Do We Like It?

Yes we most certainly do.  Noah is 10 and this is just the amount of structure he needs to really reflect on his Bible time.  It has forced him to slow down and actually think through the scripture verses and reflect on his own life.  I did take about two weeks working with him, side by side, training him to really give good thorough thought to each of the bubbles on the journal pages.

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Sometimes applying the questions to the scripture we were given was a bit of a stretch.  The questions are quite general and not all scriptures neatly fit the prompts.  It took some time for me to convince my son there was no right answer, that this was about him really taking the time to think about how God is working and how he can apply God’s word to his life.  Once I was able to get Noah to relax about things he become more confident using the journal.

He of course was inclined to just whip through and write down simple one or two word answers without much thought.  The most exciting times for us was when we discussed how God is moving in his life.  Just like any other person it is easy for him to miss those things if he isn’t watching for them.  Now he is.  How powerful is that? This alone makes this journal so worth owning.

Spiritual Circle Journal
 

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Review: Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids

Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
I’m a typical American.  I speak only one language… English.  That’s it!  I was miserably failed my high school French classes and developed a nasty taste for learning a foreign language… ANY foreign language.  (True story… every time an opportunity to review a French program pops up I all but refuse to do it.  I’m sorry but no! NO FRENCH EVER AGAIN!) However, I certainly see the value in it and would truly love to have a real grasp of a second language myself.  How does one teach a child another language when the teacher does not speak the language herself at all?

I’ve reviewed a number of Spanish programs over the years and each have all had their pluses.  I actually really liked pretty much all of them for various reasons.  Each time we attempt a new program my children seem to retain just a bit more of the language.  That is awesome!  This time I was given the opportunity to review  the Starter Set 1 from Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids .

The name itself struck me… Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids.  So you mean to say in this program there will be children teaching my children how to speak Spanish? The answer is pretty much.. YES! This program is a lot of fun and it uses a more immersive style to teach Spanish in every day life situations.  It is best compared to how we all learn language as infants and toddlers.  We watch and listen to the world around us and then we try it!

How fantastic! Instead of beginning with colors or a list of objects or places you begin with words that you can wake up the next morning and begin to use as you move about your day.  And that is exactly what I encouraged my children to do.  The videos bring about an immersion experience paired with the visual element and the children and I really seem to retain what we’ve learned. (Yes I’m including myself in this too) Let me back up and explain to you exactly how all of this works.

Starter Set 1 includes:

    • A 20 Week Curriculum Guide
    • DVD 1 with 3 different videos
    • 3 Workbooks that go along with each video
    • Sticker Set for Basketballs Aren’t for Breakfast
    • Flashcard Set
    • The Game “Go Squish”

Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
I began this programming by reading through the curriculum guide so that I could get a good handle on what we were diving into. Then we all sat down together and watched the very first video called… “Basketballs Aren’t for Breakfast”.  Just the title alone grabbed my children’s attention.  They felt at ease since surly this was going to be fun!

The first video introduces us to trio of boys (that we assume are brothers), all speaking in Spanish. You can view a sample of the video RIGHT HERE.   It is morning and they are entering the kitchen and down to breakfast.  They talk about what they are eating.  We get a sense of what they like.  (One child loves to eat a lot, another child loves books, and a 3rd child loves basketball).  Through their interactions we learn the names of some common foods and objects.  The whole thing is funny and very entertaining.  The video goes by quickly and the kids would always beg to watch it again.  The end of the video features a review section for all of the Spanish words that were covered.

We watched that Basketballs aren’t for breakfast video more times than I can count.  My children found it hilarious to use every word they learned as often as possible.  Every food they ate for about two weeks was labeled as either me gusta or no me gusta. (I like it or I don’t like it).

We worked through the lessons as they are laid out in the curriculum guide.  I used that guide to help us review the vocabulary frequently since it is all listed in there.  We worked through some of the activities listed in there as well.  It is all so well planned out and easy to follow.  I loved how my boys (ages 10 and 8) could work through the activities at their level but my six year old, who isn’t quite ready for any sort of Spanish writing could still fully participate with the videos and learn just as much as her brothers.  Did I mention the 2 year old seems to have picked up a word or two along the way as well?

Included is a sticker set of word labels to be placed around the house on appropriate objects.  Call me mean mom but I limited where those could go.  Perhaps it reminded me of my days as public school teacher where we used to do that sort of thing all of the time.  I had a classroom with labels on just about every darn thing!  I’m not a fan of doing that to my home.  However we did use them in our school room and on some toys.  Its a great idea and well executed but like my horrible French experience which scarred me for life I might still be suffering from the after affects of teaching in a traditional setting. HA!

We did finally move on to video two which is called The Little Magic House Part I.  We’ve watched that one many times as well. The difficulty of this video is kicked up a notch and we’ll be paying close attention to it.  Here we get fully engaged in the whole male or female forms of words and the differences between formal and informal words.  But its just as much fun and my kiddos are just as excited for it as they were for video two.

This is such a fun program.  Certainly the most entertaining foreign language program we’ve ever tried.  Every member of my family is learning so much with it.  We are really excited to move forward with it and I anticipate buying the other levels as we complete Starter Set 1.

 

Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
 

Crew Disclaimer

Review: Travel Series Folding Magnetic Chess Set in Sheesham & Box wood

cblogo2015My family has recently had the opportunity to review a Travel Series Folding Magnetic Chess Set in Sheesham & Box wood from Chess Bazaar.  Chess Bazaar is a one stop online shop for just about anything you can imagine when you think of chess.  This store is loaded with a plethora of Chess boards, sets, and pieces.  You’ll find they carry everything from the economical to the luxurious.  If you have a chess lover in your family than this is a store you should know all about.  My husband and my boys both enjoy the game.  If I let them loose on this website it’d be like letting children loose in a candy store.

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What we received is a wooden box with two hinges and two clasps.  When you lift the clasps and open the box you are met with a storage compartment for all of the chess pieces.  Each pieces has a snug home shaped out of nice felt like material.  Personally I love the fact that we can tell at a glance which pieces, if any, are missing.  As this is a chess set met for travel I see that as rather essential since pieces can be unwittingly dropped almost anywhere while out and about.

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The chess pieces themselves have magnets attached to the bases.  The box, which when full open, serves as your chess board.  It is also magnetic of course.  This feature makes this set fantastic for use on perhaps slightly uneven surfaces (as you’ll often find if you are traveling).  My boys were recently able to get a few games while they road in the van as we traveled to our favorite camping destination.

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The box is made from a great quality wood and the hinges seem sturdy and rugged.  The clasps are made from some sort of metal.  While the function nicely and hold the set together perfectly I do wonder how they will hold up over time as they are a bit on the thin side.  The just don’t feel as rugged as the hinges.  They do offer a limited lifetime warranty.  I couldn’t find the details for that but perhaps they’d replace the board if ever the clasp broke off.

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As I mentioned, we took this set along on a recent camping trip.  It was a treasure to have with us.  My boys were able to keep themselves occupied at all times of day.  The set worked well on their bunks, on a blanket, balanced on some rocks, and yes… on the table.

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One of the best things about camping with a chess set is that it is the perfect tool for getting to know the neighbors.  Each time my boys sat down to play they drew a crowd.  People from all over wanted to check out this set (and give two cents about their strategies for playing the game). We enjoyed getting to know a lot of people this way.

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If you are looking for a handy little travel chess set, perhaps as a gift… due check out Chess Bazaar.  I know I’ll be shopping there again before the holidays.  I’ve got some great gift ideas for a few friends and family. Also.. make sure to check out their blog.  I found a great bit of information there about how chess pieces are made… some of the great people in the chess world… and SO much more.

Dislaimer: I received a free copy of this product from the vendor in exchange for my honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.  All opinions expressed are my own or those of my family.  I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

 

Review: CTC Math Homeschool Membership

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Math is such a funky thing in our homeschool.  I have one son who struggles with it.  He’s the free spirited one. He’d rather be drawing or day dreaming tha figuring out sums so has convinced himself he isn’t any good at math.  That isn’t exactly true however when he watches his brother who has a real knack for math he can’t help but feel that way.  My other son I call my mathy kid.  It just comes naturally to him without much effort.  We were given the opportunity to review the  CTCMath Homeschool Membership from  CTCMath.  We reviewed it a year or two ago.  We got a lot out of it then and I was anxious to see how my 8 year old son who loved it last time would respond to it this time.

What Did We Use It

Once our membership was reactivated I was all set to go.  It remembered my son’s accounts from the last time.

Each person is given access to the complete program from Kindergarten to Calculus.  Hopping around between levels to reinforce older concepts or just for extra practice is a snap.  I’m a big fan of review and practice so I appreciate that there is plenty to be found just by poking around through the levels a bit.

Generally speaking we used this program several times a week and my 8 year old was able to choose his own topics to work on and move at his own pace as he progressed.

How Does It Work?

This is program is web based and lives on the internet.  There is no software to install on your computer.  Therefore every child can use it from any internet computer. A strong connection will ensure smooth running videos.  Our general internet browser of preference is Chrome and the program runs perfectly with it.  I also tested it in Firefox and Internet Explorer and found no issues.

Every level operates pretty much the exact same way.  When you enter a subject you have the opportunity take a “Standard” or “Comprehensive” Test if you so choose.  When we restarted the program I had my son take several Standard Tests in search of the correct level for him to begin work.  As the names imply, the Comprehensive test has more problems and dives deeper in the topic testing for knowledge.

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Each lesson begins with a video followed by practice problems.  The videos are pretty short, usually under 4 minutes.  They work through several problems just like the ones that the child will get try in just a few moments.  The problem sets are often just 10 questions long, sometimes as few as 5.

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Once all of the lessons are completed in one topic, the child is awarded a certificate.  Perfect scores on all problem sets earns you a Platinum Certificate.  90% or above equals Gold Level.  There is also Silver and Bronze.  Children can redo the questions in the problem sets in order to achieve 100% and earn that Platinum.  It may take several rounds to get that perfect score though as the program averages all of the attempts together.

 My Thoughts… Do We Like It?

There are many great things about this program.  The ability to move around between levels is just wonderful.  Every child can move at his/her own pace with ease.  As questions are answered immediate feedback is given.  All scores are recorded and easily accessible in the parent log-in area.

The award certificates are a fantastic motivator.  We have something to print off and show off to Daddy at the end of the day.  My son loves that so much I often had to take cell phone photos and text them to Daddy because he just couldn’t wait for him to get home.

Ezra loves that he can move at his own pace.  I am even generally ok with him picking and choosing what topics to study.  He is mostly working at the 6th grade level though  he is only 8 years old. If he were in public school he would likely just finishing up 3rd grade. It is exciting to be able to cater his ability without having to purchase a whole bunch of different levels to figure out just where he is. To have a whole wide world of math to explore at his fingertips is an absolute Gold mine for this child.  The only hic-up if you will is that he actually has to stop and TRY a bit harder at this level.  It isn’t the automatic cake-walk that he was used to.  So he got a little frustrated… until I calmed him down and showed him he really CAN work at that level.  Then he was off to the races again.

I do wish this program had a hands in element. I do appreciate that children can move through lessons and practice problems repeatedly until they are solid in the skill.

Overall, I really do appreciate this program.  It is really well done and easy to use.  I love that kids can plug in and work at their own pace.  I love that it doesn’t take any preplanning from me.  I love that I can have a family account for all of my children.  Even my non-math loving kid can do very well with this program if I required it of him.  If this format appeals to you I encourage you to give it a try.

CTCmath Review
Crew Disclaimer

Review: Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree from Star Toaster

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High quality and educational apps can be a bit of a chore to discover in the sea of apps that make up the app stores on our mobile devices.  There are gems out there and I’m excited to share one of them with you.  Our family has been enjoying a fantastic app called Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree from Star Toaster. This app comes from the same people who created Orphs of the Woodlands which I reviewed last year. Everything that Star Toaster creates is designed to develop a love of reading in our children.   Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree exceeds all of the expectations I had after our fantastic experience with them last year. This time the program comes as an iOS app and is compatible with all apple devices.

Orphs Map_zpsvytirgyqThis app contains a 122 page fully illustrated chapter book for your children to enjoy complete with 75 lessons on a variety of subjects.  The story follows the adventures of Abba, flying squirrel who has found himself in the position of carrying for orphaned animals (known as orphs) in his tree house.  As your children read the book the help him take care of the orphs trhough over 130 “jobs” where the children are tested on their skills.  This game incorporates lots of learning and reading in a way that makes it so enjoyable for your children that they aren’t even aware of it.

The first part of the program is the reading adventure.  The text is presented in such a way that important words are highlighted.  When a student touches them they learn new definitions for the words as well as their synonyms.  Hundreds of words throughout the text are presented in this way.  What a goldmine for our kiddos.

Work list Orph_zpsd6qojfnuAs the reading progresses the reader (your child) is required to help the orphs.  They complete jobs and visit the orph settlement.  As the story progresses it is up to the reader to rescue as many of the orphs as they can.  Added to the reading adventure is all of the academic learning that is impeded throughout. There are hundreds of lessons here on everything from math, to science, to vocabulary, thinking skills, life skills, art and more.  Positive character traits and leadership skills are also instilled as the character moves through the story line and makes important decisions.
I wish you could see how excited my boys were to be able to play this game.  They remembered it well from last year and were waiting all year for the release of another game/book.  Both of my boys have excellent well above average reading skills and therefore they were able to move through the app very quickly.  I would say that the average 8-10 year old would find the reading to be just about at the right level and they should be challenged but not to the point of struggling.

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What my boys had to say!

  • Ezra(8) has to say… “I loved it because you are basically the main character of the story and you actually get to interact with the game and story.  The story is really awesome! It is really exciting to save the orphs!”
  • Noah(10) I really like the story line and how it takes words and turns them into links into educational videos. The game is really fun because its exciting to save orphs and its fun to see how quickly you can earn items for the game. “

Orphs goals_zpsr28nclouThe app is quite user friendly.  You can create different user names for each of your children so they can all play and progress through the program separately yet still use the same devices.  There is a parent area when you can view your children’s progress and reports on what they have accomplished.

Overall

This is one of those products that I just want to shout about.  It’s just that great!  The story, the character learning, the academic learning, the reading, how well it all integrates together.  It is just super high quality.  And so worth it at only $1.99.

You can’t go wrong with this program!

Orphs of the Woodlands at Tanglegate Review
Crew Disclaimer

 

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