Monday, July 30, 2012

Schoolhouse Review Crew Back to Homeschool Blog Hop

The Schoolhouse Review Crew is hosting a special week of homeschooling information.  Many of the members are sharing information about homeschooling methods, curriculum, planning, classrooms and co-ops.  I chose not to participate in the event as I did not think I had much to share on those topics, but I assure you the people who did participate do.  If you want reliable and tested information about homeschooling, check out the blog hop taking place this week.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Making A Fast, Fun, And Easy Healthy Snack

One day while Gess and I were reading a magazine in a doctor's office waiting room (we spend lots of time there) we came across a kid's recipe for making a yogurt parfait.  It made me think, why have I never thought of doing that at home?  The recipe called for either yogurt or cottage cheese.  We love yogurt so we went with that and added to it whatever fruit was sitting in the fridge at the time.  This is a really easy recipe that kids can do themselves and it's not only delicious, it's healthy too!

Layered Yogurt Cups

1.  Choose and cut your fruit  (this time we used grapes, bananas, and strawberries).

2. Place your first fruit on the bottom (Gess chose grapes to go in first).

3. Cover that layer with some yogurt (we used a strawberry yogurt but any or plain yogurt will do).

4. Place your next layer of fruit on the yogurt (now she wanted strawberries).

5. Cover that layer with yogurt.

6. Put in your last layer of fruit (bananas for us).

7. Cover with one last layer of yogurt.

Now you made your own Layered Yogurt Cup!  Yum!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Vacation Bible School 2012

Since we are very active in our church Vacation Bible School is something our entire family is involved in and enjoys. It's our favorite way to not only spend some fun family time together, but to serve others in the process. At VBS there is something for every family member to do, no matter what their age.

This wasn't always the case for us as we usually hold VBS during the day when my husband is at work.  However this year we held our VBS at night, so this allowed my husband to be involved too. Each night we served the kids dinner and set up inflatable bouncy houses for them to play on.  It was my husband's job to help set them up and put them away. (You are welcome for volunteering you for that darling!) It sounds easy enough, but those things are actually pretty hefty and in 105 degree weather it's actually quite the job!  My husband also stuck around to move tables or do whatever else was needed.

My job is usually teaching and helping with registration. This year we were blessed with a mission team from Enon Baptist Church in North Carolina who came to do the actual teaching jobs, so I simply accompanied the 3-4 grade class to all their activities and helped supervise. I loved working with the kids and helping with Gess' class. It was so much fun I felt like a kid myself half the time. I do have to admit though, I was thoroughly exhausted by the end of the week!

VBS has something for every age. We had classes for kids from birth to 8th grade. High school students are old enough to be helpers and of course adults help with teaching, decorating, crafts, recreation, snacks/meals, music, cleaning, registration, and many other unmentioned behind the scenes things that must be done. While those tasks may not all sound "fun," to me there is nothing better than serving others and teaching them about our Awesome God and his Amazing Power. Yep, that was our motto. Our theme was Amazing Wonders Aviation where we encountered God's awesome power.

Our Lord is great, vast in power; His understanding is infinite.
Psalm 147:5 (HCSB)

VBS was one of my favorite childhood memories and now I can see that Gess feels the same.  I made another slide show using the theme song for her.  She generally plays this over and over again for a few weeks but will occasionally revisit it throughout the year.  She still watches the one I made for VBS 2009 too.  Here's some of the memories we made this year during Vacation Bible School.


Does your family get involved in VBS during the summer?  What other fun things has your family been up to this summer?  I am sure my other Schoolhouse Crew mates have been making some memories too. To see what they have been doing for some summer family fun hop on over to the Schoolhouse Blog Cruise.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: HearBuilder Following Directions

Super Duper Publications makes fun educational materials for kids.  These products are perfect for just about any child and are very special needs friendly.  In fact our speech therapist has used and recommended some of their products in the past. Because of that, I was super excited when I chosen to review their new HearBuilder Following Directions computer program for PreK-3rd grade (ages 4-9).

HearBuilder Following Directions is an interactive computer program that helps children improve their auditory processing and following directions skills all while playing a computer game.  In HearBuilder each child is building their own Toy Factory and are working towards becoming Master Toy Makers.  There are 5 stages in making a toy and in each part of the process the children practice a different skill.  Each time you enter the game you choose which door you wish to enter. As you can see, the doors actually tell you which skill you will be working on.

While playing the game your child will improve their auditory attention, auditory memory, and auditory processing of verbal directions. The meter above the door keeps track of the how much they have completed.  There are multiple levels of difficulty and they must master each level before going on to the next.  However, there are 4 settings of game play to help place your child in the appropriate level.

Play All is the default setting and is good for most players.  It starts at level one and plays all the way through.

Beginner also starts at level one but only plays through the basic levels of the program so that younger children can actually be able to complete the game.

Advanced begins at the intermediate levels so older or more advanced students who are ready for the higher levels of play.

Expert starts like the advanced level but offers extra challenges and increased difficulty by adding in background noise.

We started at the default Play All level because while Gess is at the top age bracket for this game, since she has special needs I knew she may have some areas she still struggled with.  This allowed her to build on each skill at her own pace.  As you can see from the photo above, she has already mastered the first Tool Room which covered Basic Directions.  While we opened each door and did an activity or two to see what they are like, Gess likes going in order so she is now on sequential directions, which is probably the one she needs the most work on.  She is doing fairly well and just mastered level 6 yesterday.  Here is what she has to do.

Below is the toy maker machine's panel.  You see all the steps required to make the toy and then you are given audible instructions on not only what you need to do, but in what order you need to do them.  This is the level 6 screen.  Level 1 starts with only one or two actions and you build up more each level.

Now the audio instructions do not follow the order of the panel.  Sometimes you will choose the color first and another time you might have to chose the action first, so it is important that the child listens carefully.  There is also a repeat button if the child needs it.  Gess uses the repeat button almost every time but I am alright with that.  I am just thrilled that she is getting as far as she is. 

Here is Gess making some toys.  She listens to the instructions and then chooses the correct order.

Note the chewing of her fingers in this next photo.  That is an indication that this is taking some major concentration.  That is because this skill is difficult for her.  By the end of the level she is relieved to be done with this particular activity. 

After all that work she is excited when she has success. (She also gets frustrated if she gets it wrong.) Here she is checking out the guitar she just made.

Here's what the actual screen looks like.  This time she had correctly made a rocket.  (If you were not successful you get a product that is not complete and looks like a bunch of jumbled parts.)

The motivation for this level is actually making the toy correctly. Other levels have different ways to reward and motivate like playing a short game.

Gess has Down syndrome and so even though this game is targeted to younger kids, it is good practice for her.  She did seem to enjoy the game when she played it, but it wasn't something she chose to play without me asking her to do so.  I even made a short cut on the desktop to encourage her to play it on her own, but she still never did.  However, that may be because Gess is a little older.  She may have liked this much better when she was younger.  Still, she is getting practice in some skills that are very challenging for her which is great.

I had trouble with the way the game seemed to only function from the CD ROM.  I actually had trouble finding a way to start the game without having to go clicking in My Computer to start the game from there.  The other option was to open and shut the CD ROM drive so it would come up automatically.  Young kids are not likely to want to do all that.  My husband came and made a short cut on the desktop for me though, I just like when games automatically give you an option to do that.Other than that the game ran well for us, it was intuitive and also came with some good tutorial videos you can access from the start screen.  There are also Handouts available online that give you ideas of other ways to work on the various concepts with your student or child.

HearBuilder Following Directions is available in both a professional and home edition.  The home edition that we used sells for $69.95 but currently they are offering a 30% off if you use coupon code BLGFD30. (Offer expires 8/31/12)  While I think it is wonderful that this game focuses on important auditory processing skills that many other educational games overlook, the price is simply way too high for me.  Even with the discount I would not pay that much for a child's computer game, no matter how educational or therapeutic it is. (Of course we do not buy the expensive adult games either until they have been on the shelf for awhile and go down in price.)  However, if your budget is not as tight as mine and you are willing to pay that much, these games may be might be perfect for you.  There really are not many games that work specifically on these skills.

Super Duper Publications also has a new HearBuilder Auditory Memory game for kids in grades K-8 that should be really good too.  To learn more about either of these games visit their website or why not see what other members the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about them by clicking on the banner below.


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received a copy of the HearBuilder Following Directions game for giving my honest opinion and assessment of the product in my review.
Note: All pricing is current at the time of posting and is subject to change.  Discount Code expires 8/31/12

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: TimeMaps

History can sometimes be hard to grasp.  Figuring out where and when all these people and places fit together can really get somewhat confusing.  Memorizing facts and dates does not necessarily mean a child understands history.  Knowledge Quest tries to help tie those people, places and dates together by using time lines and historical maps so that history makes more sense to your child.  TimeMaps is one of the ways they do that.

TimeMaps is an interactive combination of timelines, historical maps, and encyclopedic information that help make learning about history more engaging and fun.  These chronological maps follow history as it happened.  With each date cycle you are shown how these places were changed over time and what important events impacted those changes.  With TimeMaps you don't have to look at the map and then turn to a book to read what is happening.  The information is all there with the click of a button or the simple scroll over of a mouse. Let me show you how this works.

They have TimeMaps for several different topics.  You can purchase them individually or as a collection.  The topics available are Ancient China, The Rise of Rome, The Fall of Rome, The Rise of Islam, The Black Death, European Explorers, and The Atlantic Slave Trade.

When you open TimeMaps you are given a menu.  Clicking Start will make your TimeMaps topic begin.  Your map will open up to the beginning time frame of your topic.  In the right hand corner you are given the date of that particular starting point.  Here's the start page for the The Fall of Rome.

On the right of the date you will notice there is an arrow.  Clicking that will take you to your next map. Then you will have arrows on both sides of the date to allow you to explore the map forward and backwards.  Once you get to the end of the timeline you can now only go backward again. Here's the last page of The Rise of Islam.

Under the date are two boxes.  The one of the left has an i on it. When you click on the i it opens hotspots up on the map for you to explore.  Each hotspot has an i beside it where you can read information about that area or event.

The box on the right underneath the date has a Q on it and when you open it your student is given questions to answer from the information they just read.  There is also an area titled worksheets that offers questions to answer and activities to do.  The teacher notes help explain how to teach those activities and even provides some printable maps. Here Gess filled in the time line for the The Atlantic Slave Trade.

Another really cool feature that they offer for free is the Time Map of World History.
"The TimeMap of World History is an all inclusive look at world history. It combines maps, timelines and chron- ological narratives that work together to enhance historical understanding. New content added daily."

Because of our recent visit to Civil War Days where Gess experienced some hands on lesson about slavery we studied the The Atlantic Slave Trade first. Here is Gess exploring some of the maps.

Since I am a history buff and this is interactive I really thought it would work well with Gess who has special needs.  Unfortunately she did not really get into it but I can not assign blame to the product for that.  It was really well done and I personally enjoyed it myself.  (I would love to have some of these geared towards biblical studies. I get so confused about what historical events were happening during some of the prophets and Old Testament books.  It would be interesting to see a TimeMap for those events.)

Gess' only problem was with her ability to grasp history in the first place.  Abstract concepts are really hard for her and while she loves to see maps of places she knows, when it is geared toward an event she can not understand or has not experienced she just really is not interested.  That's not to say she did not study it some as you can see, it just was not something she spent a lot of time on.  However, her interest may change as she gets older.

TimeMaps can be purchased individually for $9.95 each or you can purchase The Collection of all 7 maps for $44.95 for the download or $49.95 for the CD-ROM.  I love that they let you buy them individually so that you only have the get the maps you would like, but offer a discount if you decide to purchase them all at once.  I think the price is reasonable for all that the map can do.  Your desk, table or wall would be so full showing all those maps, events and information at once. With TimeMaps everything is right at your fingertips up on your screen. This really is a handy tool for studying history.  To learn more about TimeMaps visit their website.  You can also see what members of the Schoolhouse Review thought about TimeMaps and the Knowledge Quest product MapTrek by clicking on the banner below.


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received a copy of TimeMaps:The Collection Download for giving my honest opinion and assessment of the product in my review.
Note: All pricing is current at the time of posting and is subject to change

Friday, July 13, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: Keyboarding for the Christian School

Keyboarding for the Christian School is a printable e-book that helps you teach your student or child to type.  They have two typing courses, one for grades 6 and up and one for elementary school that comes in both regular and large print.  We were given the large print elementary school edition of the Keyboarding for the Christian School for the purpose of my review.

Keyboarding for the Christian School is geared towards teaching your student traditional typing skills that will help them not only to learn how to type on the keyboard but how to do so without looking at the screen.  While computer based typing programs always have the children looking at the screen, this technique teaches children the more off screen approach to typing that will normally be used in a school or professional capacity. 

The book begins by explaining technique, posture, and key placement.  I actually didn't realize that it was best to sit with the J key opposite your belly button, so even I learned a few things from the lessons.  After the basics are covered you get started right away on typing.  Each day you focus on keys that use the same finger on each hand and you practice by typing those keys from the copy.  Eventually you start typing sentences.  I like how it incorporates Scripture by having you type verses as part of your typing drills.

Since my daughter has special needs I was more interested in just getting her to type correctly. While I know they recommend printing the pages and placing them to the side, I began the lesson by letting Gess actually look at the screen.  Teaching her to look at what she was actually typing was difficult enough, especially since she had to follow along a line of nonsensical letters.  I sometimes helped her keep her place and that helped alot.

However, once I got my new tablet I let her try the looking away technique by using it.  Of course I must mention they teach you to lay the copy on the right side, however the way Gess' desk is laid out there was  no room there.

This wasn't a very successful technique for Gess.  It really stressed her out and she would get upset when she looked up and noticed a mistake.

Eventually she just wanted to quit.  She never wanted to quit when we did the lessons on the screen, so we went back to doing that with much more success.

Since Keyboarding for the Christian School is geared toward actually teaching typing skills for use in a more typical workplace and school environment it really is not geared towards students with special needs like my daughter.  However, most typical students will probably do pretty well with it and learn it fairly easily.  If you want a program that teaches the more traditional typing skills this would be a good curriculum for you. 

The Keyboarding for the Christian School elementary school edition is $12.95 no matter which edition you choose.  Keyboarding for the Christian School for grades 6 and up is $15.95.  I personally do not like that they recommend the e-book so you can print it page by page.  While they call that "portable and economical", I don't look at it that way.  As a homeschool teacher I print a lot of stuff and am very aware of how much printer ink costs, so I am usually stingy when it comes to printing.  I only buy ebooks that I don't plan on printing very much.  If were to buy a typing program that required them to look off screen, I would prefer to buy the already printed version.  Of course that's just me.  However, the do have information on their page of how to purchase the book in paperback form, which would be my preferred method. If you want to try Keyboarding for the Christian School now is the perfect time.  They are currently offering a discount.

Use code SUMMER2012 to get 20% off (offer expires 8-29-12)

To learn more about Keyboarding for the Christian School visit their website, or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew though by clicking on the banner below.


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received The Keyboarding for the Christian School Large Print Elementary School E-Book for giving my honest opinion and assessment of the product in my review.
Note: All pricing is current at the time of posting and is subject to change

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: Apologia - Who Is My Neighbor

As Christians we know there is a constant struggle and battle for the minds of our children.  Every day they are bombarded with the world's philosophy of truth, faith, morality, beauty and so on from television, music, movies, games, the internet, and many other influences that surround them.  While as parents we strive to protect our children from those outside influences (as we should) our most important job is to teach them what the proper definition of truth, faith, and morality is.  We do that by teaching them God's Word and then helping them to gain all of their insights and beliefs from within it.  There is no other task as important as this one.  In fact, it is one that God himself gave to us.
Deut 11:18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. (NIV)
 While doing this can seem like a daunting task, it is not really that difficult and Apologia has made it even easier. The What We Believe series is a Bible-based curriculum in which your children will learn how to use the Scripture as the lens through which to see the world around them. You might remember that last year I reviewed the second part of the series, Who Am I?.   This time I had the pleasure of reviewing part three, Who Is My Neighbor?  Let me tell you, I am even more convinced that this is something that every Christian family should study.

For the purpose of my review I received the Who Is My Neighbor? Texbook, Notebooking Journal and Coloring Book.  It also comes with Teacher Helps which offers the themes, objectives, vocabulary words, memory verses, discussion questions and suggested activities for each lesson.  The first lesson in the book provides the foundation for the study which is biblical servanthood.  Lesson 1 stresses that God made people to love and serve one another. 

Now these studies are not made for one specific grade, rather they are family centered and geared for any child ages 6-14 (though depending on the student even that can vary).  This makes it really nice to use with your whole family as part of your homeschool or just during your family devotional time.  Since Gess is 10 and has special needs we are sort of skimming the surface.  We are focusing on the vocabulary words, reading the lessons and stories and then discussing the main point.  We don't delve heavily into the discussion questions or go as deep as you could.  It is my hope that after completing all 4 units we can do them again and maybe go deeper the second time through.

The texbook offers an outline and suggested study guide that has you doing parts of each lesson 2 days a week for three weeks.  We usually do take three weeks to get through it but we do shorter lessons so we study it each school day instead of just two times each week.  Each lesson begins with "The Big Idea" which shares the main point of the lesson.  We begin by reading this together. (While the books are nicely formatted and the font is readable for Gess the lessons and stories are still a bit long so we mostly read together by taking turns.)  We then practice the memory verse and write that down in our journal.  Then we usually have a story that will focus on our theme for the lesson.  I generally read this aloud while Gess colors the corresponding pictures in her coloring book.

Next we focus on the vocabulary words for the lesson.  The Notebooking journal has a page for you to write these down.  Gess is still struggling with her writing skills so after struggling through making the long definition fit in the space, I decided to just add my own lines.  It certainly helped.

Then we really get into the heart of lesson by reading it together and discussing as much as she can comprehend.  While Gess generally understands the basics of Scripture pretty well, there are still many abstract concepts that are hard for her to grasp.  At the end of each unit the Notebooking Journal has a mini book that you can make to help you remember the theme and vocabulary words from the lesson.  Here is Gess' completed book - Two are Better Than One.

I really love how this unit emphasizes servanthood.  We live in such a me, me, me society that serving others is something we really have to be diligent to teach and emphasize.  Gess really has a hard time with it. Between being the only young child left at home and having special needs, she really has this thing about always wanting to be first.  She wants to be the first one to open the gate when we get out of the car and the first in line wherever we go, and don't even get me started about how much she likes winning. I am hoping that these lessons will help her see the importance of placing our selfish interests aside and instead strive to put others first.

I really love how the What We Believe series teaches children to look at everything through the lens of Scripture.  While the the material is written for kids, it is not presented in a childish manner.  Each chapter has a story to emphasize the focal point of the lesson.  In chapter 1 of Who Is My Neighbor? the story is about a family that escapes communist China during the Mao Tse-tung revolution and how they are aided by Christians during their escape.  Each chapter also ends with "Encounters with Jesus" which are adapted from Scripture but told through the eyes of a person who actually encountered Him.  These stories focus on how Jesus showed love and served others and should be an example for us to follow and do the same.

In the introduction it says:
"We think you will find this to be an important course of study.  Many external truths are presented that can change the way students look at the world every day.  Minor points of doctrinal difference have been avoided in order to focus on the larger issues that make up our faith. As Christians we are asked to be ready to give an account of the hope that is in us.  We hope this book brings your faith into clearer focus and your family ever closer to the Lord."
I believe that is exactly what this unit does and therefore it is an extremely important course of study.  While each part of the series can be taught alone, they are meant to be tied together.  As you study each unit you begin to build what they call "The House of Truth."  The foundation of that house is the The Rock (God and His Word).  Each unit of the What We Believe series builds a wall upon that foundation.  This Who Is My Neighbor? series focuses on the servanthood wall. 

The Who Is My Neighbor? Texbook is $39.00 the Notebooking Journal is $24.00 and the Coloring Book is $8.00.  While I wish there was some sort of discount for buying the entire set I think each component of this study is beneficial and well worth the cost.  I have to admit I usually look for curriculum that is a little less expensive, but believe me when I say this is absolutely worth the cost. The materials are of a high quality, the teaching is Scripturally sound and it is presented in a very clear, but engaging way.  Whenever I tell Gess we are going to do our Apologia lesson, she gets excited.  She loves it as much as I do and that makes it all worthwhile.

To learn more about Who Is My Neighbor? visit their website or why not see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of it by clicking on the banner below.


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received The Who Is My Neighbor? Textbook, Notebooking Journal, and Coloring Book for giving my honest opinion and assessment of the product in my review.
Note: All pricing is current at the time of posting and is subject to change

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Beating This Heat

Is it hot enough for you?  Here in Kansas we are experiencing a serious drought and currently have a burn ban going on.  With temperatures over 100 degrees and very little respite of cool temps in between we are trying to figure out how to enjoy the summer in midst of all this heat.

Of course the best thing to do if you are going to be outside is to go swimming.  By this, I mean actually staying in the water.  This isn't the time to get a tan or spend hours on the shore reading a good book.  Just yesterday someone was leaving the pool from heat exhaustion and my theory is they weren't actually in the pool much.  Swimming can keep you hydrated, cool and be lots of fun, but whatever you do, don't forget the sunscreen!

Our city put in a new water park a couple of years ago.  It has a swimming area, diving boards, sprinkler play area for little kids and a lazy river.

This used to be great for Gess because when she got bored with one area we would move on to something different.  However now we can't seem to get her to leave the "big pool."  I am not sure if that's because she is getting better at swimming or is just getting older.  Maybe it's a little of both. Oh well, it really doesn't matter.  What matters is that neither of us are feeling the heat while we are there.

If we aren't up for swimming we look for things to do indoors.  The library is a great place to find fun things to do during the summer.  Remember that summer reading program I mentioned in an earlier blog?  Well, besides getting the kids to read books they also come up with other activities for the kids to do.  Our library has a weekly story time, craft time and then some other random activity.  Last week Gess decorated cookies.  She will soon have an American Girl Tea Party and even get to learn fingerprinting at a CSI event.  Here she is at the paint party they started the year off with.

Horseback riding is another fun way to cool off.  During the really hot months Gess usually rides in the evening.  This way it isn't too hot and it is sure is relaxing.  She loves riding!

Of course you can always find a museum or check your local paper for area events that are happening.  Last Sunday there was a Christian Kids Night we attended at an area youth center.  I am sure you can find plenty of "cool" things to do this summer, you just might have to look around.

What are you doing to beat the heat?  If you want some more ideas you should head over to the Schoolhouse Review Blog Cruise and see how my crew mates are Beating the Summer Heat. I bet they have some great tips on staying cool!



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