Sunday, March 31, 2013

On this special day

As we celebrate the day that Jesus rose from the dead I wanted to share these thoughts with you.  Upon a cross at Golgotha, Christ gave His life for you.

 However, one can not fathom the impact of the cross without first examining and understanding the depths of their own sinfulness. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and yet while we were still sinners, even in the midst of our sin and rejection of Him, Christ died for us. 

 "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." 

And that is the reason that we celebrate his death. But his death alone would be pointless without his resurrection, for in it we have life.

God offers that life to all who believe in His name, but only those who believe.

"For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God." 

It is for my forgiveness and newness of life that I celebrate this day, remembering Christ's death and celebrating His resurrection. Thank you dear Jesus for forgiving me of all of my sins and transgressions, putting within me a new Spirit, giving me life eternal and teaching me your ways. May I be a servant that truly reflects your love, glory, mercy, grace, holiness and truth. Amen 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

High Value Spelling Word Idea

I have to tell you about a trick that I have used to help Gess learn important and relevant, or high value, spelling words.  These are words that are important to her every day life and use.  Since Gess loves using the computer I started making her personal password words that I wanted her to learn to spell.

We had to make Gess her own user once she got so good at typing on the internet that she ended up buying something on Ebay!  At first when I made her user I didn't require her to have a password but later we started using a password to limit her use.  I then decided to make the password educational.  If she could spell Jump Start and Mario it was time she learned to spell her last and middle name!  (Remember that this was several years ago, she certainly knows how to spell them now.)  It really is a great way to teach hard to learn or important words because kids will do just about anything to get their time on the computer!

I do want to point out that is important that you NEVER use things like their name for their password online.  This might make it too easy for people to figure out, but it's a fun thing to do for your offline passwords that only family has access too.  Now you can use other spelling words for online passwords.  Is your kid struggling to learn a spelling word?  Is there a word they never seem to spell correctly?  Try making it their password to their favorite game and see how long it takes them to master it then!  It certainly works for Gess.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A+ Tutorsoft FREE WorkText and Other Discounts

I have to say that A+ Tutorsoft is becoming my favorite math product.  Gess does extremely well with it and that has me excited because math has been our biggest struggle.  Check out my review in case you missed it.

Remember that their 50% discount ends on March 31 so if you want to try it out, now is the time!
To receive the 50% discount the code SPOFFER50 (expires 3/31/2013)

I have also found out that A+ Tutorsoft has some text books too.  For a limited time you can get their Early Elementary Fractions WorkText PDF for FREE from Currclick.  This also expires 3/31/2013. 

Their other WorkText Books are also discounted for the rest of the week priced at $2.49 each although they usually sell for $8.00.  This is a really great deal.  You can find those available at the A+ Tutorsoft Page on Currclick as well.

I know it's not Friday but if I didn't tell you about the FREE book now you would have less time to actually get it FREE!  Thanks A+ Tutorsoft and Currclick for these great products!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring Snow Storm

I told you about the wonderful time we had on Spring Break but how about that finish?  I think we got about 5 inches of snow over the weekend, but Gess didn't mind.  Her and daddy got to play in the snow some more.  This time instead of making a snow man, they made a fort.  What an odd but fun way to end spring break!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Schoolhouse Review: Adventus

Gess has been learning piano through private lessons but because of her special needs I felt that she could use some assistance, especially with practice at home.  When I had the opportunity to review Adventus I thought it would be helpful for Gess.  What I did not realize is just how in depth this material would be. I had to so much to choose from to start with.  I was given a one year subscription to the MusIQ Homeschool curriclum which consists of the following products.

We chose to begin with Children's Music Journey Volume 2 which is geared towards students 4-8.  While Gess is older  than that I did not feel she was quite ready for the Piano Suite Premier software due to her special needs.

Children's Music Journey is an interactive computer program that not only teaches your child how play the piano but also teaches music history and exposes the children to great classical music during each lesson. They even learn to read and write their own music. Let me tell you how it works.

First you will need a midi keyboard that hooks up directly to the computer.  Most electronic keyboards these days have a midi port. I had no idea until I needed it for this program that mine even had that capability, so if you have a keyboard it will probably work but be sure to check first. All I had to do was purchase a very inexpensive midi cable. If you find out that yours does not have the midi capability or you do not have one at all, Adventus does sell them.

Once we got our keyboard hooked up we were ready to try it out.  Gess was tickled when she discovered that the computer could play notes on her keyboard and that it could also recognize what she played.  It is pretty cool!  After you log into your user you get to the main menu screen which offers access to the five areas of the program: Lesson Room, Practice Room, Game Room, Library, and Improv Room.


I was so excited to begin that I just hooked it up and tried to get started.  We got through the first lesson OK but I didn't really know what to do from there.  I also couldn't figure out how to get it to go on to the next lesson.  To do that you have to go into settings and move it ahead.  The program has 3 modes that you can use.  The default setting is Normal which restricts the child from moving ahead until after they have completed the lesson.  Then they can go to the practice room and game room when that is complete. There is a Free setting which allows you to go anywhere in the program, but from what I can tell you still can not move on from the lesson unless you manually go into the settings and move it forward when you are ready.  I am not sure how restrictive the Restricted setting is.  I keep it on the free mode since Gess does have more piano background than where we started.

I found it really helpful to use the MusIQ Lesson Plans I was also given to review.  It comes with great instructional material which also teaches the music history and information about some of the great composers.  The manual offers detailed instructions for the teacher as well as some great visuals, coloring pages and activity sheets. 

A lesson takes about 30 to 40 minutes and is divided into segments. You start with about 5 minutes of review and game time and another 5 minutes of history. Then you spend about 20 minutes on the lessons portions of the program in the lesson, practice and game room.  After that you there is about 5 to 7 minutes in the improv room and library.  Here is Gess during one of her lessons.  I love how she gave herself a thumbs up when she did it successfully.

One of her favorite games is Cliff Hanger where she has to help a jungle boy jump across vines by playing the appropriate pitches on the keyboard.

The Library is really cool because they get to listen to all of the composers they are introduced to in each lesson.  Each lesson actually has the child listen to a bit of music by the composer to expose them to the music. Then during their free time they can go listen to that music anytime they want.

The Improv Room is really fun.  There is a section on the manual about getting the most of out of the improvisation room.  I recommend you read that.  This is where the child gets to go and be creative and make their own music.  They can even record their music and then later go back and listen to it. At first I thought I was not doing it right because I could not really hear her play on the recording.  I finally figured out you just had to really decrease the background music volume. While she played in the improv room quite a bit she just recorded her first song today. I wish it let you title them.  She wanted to call it Ocean Wave.

Here is a nice little video that helps you see what it actually looks like in practice.

I do really like the Adventus program.  I particularly like how it includes history and develops an enjoyment for classical music as well as encouraging creativity in the improv room.  It certainly is much more than I thought it would be.  While I love the teacher manual because it really helps me know how to teach the program I feel it could also use an instruction manual for how to actually use it.  It just does not seem to be intuitive and I feel that more help is needed. A tutorial would be great.  Now that I am becoming more familiar with it I think I will enjoy using it more.  I just had to invest quite a bit of time to get started.  I did like that Gess could do most of the lessons on her own.  All of the "musical" instruction is done in the program. I basically get it ready, introduce it and let her go play.

Gess really loves the animation and follows the instructions well. She seems to enjoy each aspect of the program and never complains about having to do it.  Most of her struggle is with keeping rhythm and she will sometimes want to quit that part because "it's too hard" but that is due to her special needs, not the program.  It is actually helping her in that area probably because it has games for it which is a pretty fun way to learn.

Children's Music Journey is only part of what you get as part of the MusIQ Homeschool curriculum.  It  comes with Children's Music Journey Volumes 1, 2 and 3 for ages 4-10, Piano Suite Premier for ages 10+, and the Ear Training Coach 1, 2, 3 and 4.  You get access to all of this and can use it for more than one student for $10.95 a month.  The Lesson Plans are sold separately and cost $29.95 for each volume.  You can also purchase the actual program on CD as a package or individually with or without a keyboard.  Visit their website for full pricing options and to learn more.  You can also see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about it by clicking on the banner below.  I am sure they will have more to say about the other volumes of Children's Music Journey as well as other parts of MusIQ Homeschool that I haven't gotten to explore yet.


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Friday, March 22, 2013

Free Friday - Easter Cookbook

Is your Easter menu planned?  If not check out this FREE Everything Easter ECookbook from the Mr. Food Test Kitchen.

Be sure to check out their other FREE eCookbooks too.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spring Break

It's spring break here in our neck of the woods so we decided to break this week too.  I actually do not always follow the local school calendar because we sometimes have different trip schedules, but this year we had something special for Gess to do.  She went to spend a couple of days with her brother off at college!  It was her first real trip away from home and Tim and his girlfriend Chelsie took really great care of her.  We dropped her off on Tuesday and she made it safely back home today.  Here we were showing her daddy around the Fort Hays State University campus before we left her behind.

Here she is with Tim and Chelsie and her daddy outside of the building that houses all of Chelsie's classes.

We enjoyed some of the art around campus as well.

Tim is majoring in theatre and got the lead in the next play.  Here we are outside of the theatre. Inside you will see the display for the production and the cast list.  Her brother got the lead!

There were a couple of cool displays in the science building (Tomanek Hall).  The first is the pendulum that appears to be moving but it is actually still, it's the rotation of the earth that makes the motion.

The second was the dinosaur display which consists of "a life-sized cast of the predatory Allosaurus eating the neck and head of the herbivorous Camarasaurus."

In the picture below Gess was trying to pose like the dinosaur.

The next day Chelsie and Tim took her to the actual Fort Hays State Sternberg Museum of Natural History.  She really seemed to love it.

It was actually a nice break for us as well as Gess.  It was really her first outing away from home without mom or dad around.  They came home today and this weekend I get to enjoy having all my kids around.  That's all I need to enjoy my break which is good thing since this spring break is bringing in some snow!


Monday, March 18, 2013

Homeschool Homework?

Homework sounds so silly in a homeschool setting.  Many parents argue that it isn't even necessary.  I used to be of that mindset myself, but I have realized there is an important concept behind it that children need to learn.  It is important for children to be given a task to do later and then to remember to do it without being reminded.  Unfortunately many children never get the hang of it, even if they go to a traditional school.  Kids continue to forget or simply not do their assignments.  This is something every adult must do in their life whether married or single, employed or a volunteer.  There will be always be tasks you must remember to do.  With Gess having special needs I think it is important to begin teaching her these skills.

After the initial chuckle of whether or not we should even call it homework since all of our work is done at home, I started making assignments for Gess.  My board usually looks something like this.

My husband has recently added putting check marks beside them so she can cross them off when she is done.  Gess apparently liked that because if I fail to add the check boxes she will do it herself.  I have also started to include some chores in the list.  My main concern is not what work must be done but that Gess remember to do it on her own, without any reminder from us.  To help encourage that I started giving her gems to place in her earning gems reward jar that I mentioned in another post.  Once she becomes real consistent about doing it I will stop the gems, but for now it's a great incentive to help her remember on her own since so far that has not happened very often.

Right now we are currently focusing on teaching her to remember she has "homework."  I actually list the work for her.  Eventually I will make it her responsibility to write the list herself.  She will then be responsible for where that is kept and remembering to check it later.  How well she does on the work is a secondary goal for me right now, but it is encouraging her to work more independently and so far she has been good about coming to me when she is "stuck" on on a problem.

One thing I love about Gess is how well she remembers what you teach her.  She may have some things she struggles with but once she is taught something she will do it exactly that way from now on.  Her gymnastics coach said that is really great and keeps her safe because she never does a trick the wrong way, at least intentionally.  Her horseback riding instructor has commented on it as well, noting that Gess has been known to correct her a time or two!  While Gess remembers  well once you teach her the skill, she is not as likely to learn the skill on her own, without being taught.  I want her to learn this skill now so when she is older if she has an appointment, an assignment, a task or needs to take a medication she will not forget.  After all, that is what I do.  I do not have a great memory. What I do have are some tricks, like list making and noting important dates on a calendar to help me remember things. 

Lists help us all in some way.  Being organized is an essential part to being a productive adult and we do not always do that well, whether we have special needs or not.  I think the concept of giving "assignments" is important for teaching a person how to be organized and remember things.  I am hoping that our new homework assignments will help teach Gess more than just math and reading.  I am hoping it will teach her skills that will enable her independence when she grows up. So far it is working great.  In fact she started adding things to the list that she wants to do.  Can you tell she is enjoying her new Sonic book?  I think she has read it at least 10 times now and as you can see, she wants to read it again.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Getting Our Hands On Learning

Most parents who have special needs kids know well the value of a Hands-On Project for school. My Gess can learn just about anything if you can find a way to literally get her hands on it. We all know that is easy to do with things like science. Who doesn't love experiments?

The challenge is finding ways to get our hands on subjects that are not quite so tangible.  Math is is tricky but there are really lots of ways if you try.  Here are just a couple examples we have used.

Patterns and Sequencing

Counting On - Basic Addition Concept

We have focused on other concepts too, such as:

Sorting Activity - Why Is It Different?

Exploring Our Senses

Reading can also be more hands on than just picking up the book.  Gess learned how to read using her hands playing Lotto.

Introducing Reading With Sight Words

Hands-On Projects not only make learning fun, they really help the student retain the information while having a lot more fun.  You can see my Hands On Activities page to see other things we have done.  Or hop on over to the Schoolhouse Review 5 Days of Teaching Creatively Blog Hop to see what Hands-On Projects they have to share.


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