Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Snowy Day

So I'm assuming everyone is enjoying a wonderful start to their Spring. Happy singing birds, softly blowing breezes and bits of green blooming everywhere.

Ha! We've had snow here in the Ozarks. Which is always preferable to Ice. But still.

Anyhoo. I can appreciate any kind of day that I am allowed to lounge. And today...I lounged. It was much needed.

Josiah and I are spending a few weeks with my Mom and Dad on their farm. We are calling it an extended spring break...though there hasn't been much Spring and in our Homeschool World we haven't had much of break. And we are missing The Studly Muffin..Sigh.But we are having a nice time and Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder. And I'm pretty smitten with Mr. Muffin to begin with.

In honor of lounging and Spring everywhere, I am sharing with you a few pics I took today. In no particular order. With limited commentary. Maybe.

My lounging position. My Cousin Crystal treated me to Thai food and a pedicure Friday. It distresses me that I can't show off my cute toes (flip flops are frowned upon in snowy weather). So I spent the day barefooted. Yes. My tootsies are cold, but please. A girl can be vain every now and again.

A snowy day is a perfect day for marathon reading. And nothing is better than a pile of paperbacks by one of my favorite Mystery Writer. And no....The Butler Didn't Do It.

Snow and Daffodils.

 My parent's dog, Solomon. He is the sweetest dog ever. See those puppy dog eyes? Could somebody let me inside? This snow stuff isn't working for me.

Cousin Christopher and Josiah made a giant snowball. It's the little things in life.

What's better on a snowy day than homemade Blackberry Cobbler? I should know. I made it and then ate almost half of it.  Don't judge. It's sugar free and calories don't count on Snowy Days. Don't you know that?

A little coffee with my cobbler. 

Next week (Easter) they are calling for more spring-like weather. We'll see. I'll make another cobbler...just in case.

Review: MusIQ Homeschool

I have a confession. My first piano teacher fired me. Isn’t that awful? I have vague memories of a stern lady with fluffy hair. She gave lessons in a musty room filled with stacks of music and an odd rodent or two.  I was fascinated with the piano. Sadly, I wasn’t an ideal student for Ms. Fluffy Hair. Instead of concentrating on the notes in front of me, I would mimic what I heard her playing. Which is what I now understand to be playing by ear!! I was only 7. Man. Talk about a harsh way to begin my formal music training. Thankfully, I come from a long line of musicians who appreciate being able to play by ear. I did learn to play the piano properly (more or less) and even taught music at an elementary school. Now admittedly vocal music is more my bag, but I do know my way around the 88 keys.
But here is the sad truth. My own son has never benefited from my own formal music training. He has spent hours strumming (at least that what we’re calling it) his guitar, but he wouldn’t know the difference between a quarter note and a full rest. Maybe because of my own personal early piano experiences I have been quite careful not to become piano teacher/psycho mom. This is why I was beyond thrilled to be able to review the MusIQ Homeschool program from Adventus.

What We Received (And How It Works)

The MusIQ Homeschool program (intended for ages 4-18+} is completely computer based. I received downloads of Children’s Music Journey Volume 1-3, Piano Suite Premier and Ear Training 1 & 2, 3 & 4.  A Midi-compatible keyboard is required. You will need to have a system that supports Windows 7/Vista/XP/2000 Macintosh OS X. I recently purchased a laptop with Windows 8 (that’s a whole other story in itself) and had no trouble downloading and installing the programs.
The Children’s Music Journey 1-3 is for ages 4-10 (I used it for Josiah...more on that in a moment).
The Student starts a lesson with a brief snippet of a famous musical composition. I was thrilled beyond reason (and I’m not kidding) that classical music was such a big part of this program. The animated “Teacher” is a famous composer (the first guy out of the gate is Beethoven). The lesson isn’t long (about 5 minutes) and moves along very nicely. For example, the first lesson starts with introducing the student with both sides of the keyboard.

In this lesson, the high notes are called bird notes and the low notes are called whale notes. The student practices along with the composer with immediate feedback. When an incorrect “note” is hit, the Composer simply says, “Careful.” If you are musically trained at all you might be tempted to rush your student along. But I caution against that. I found it to be a great speed for all kinds of learners. Often we push too much. The student becomes discouraged.
After the lesson with the Composer the student proceeds to the Practice Room with Miss Melody. Miss Melody reinforces what the student has just learned and builds upon it. Miss Melody teaches theory, hand position, music composition and more.
There are other “rooms” to visit within each lesson. The Game Room reinforces the lesson with fun interactive games. I liked that games only opened up after the student learned a particular lesson. The Library Room allows the student to explore music by famous composers and the Improvisation Room allows the student to record their own music.
One of Josiah's favorite games from the Game Room
Piano Suite Premier is intended for ages 10+. I’ve decided that since I am most certainly 10+ that I am going to use it to give myself some refresher training!
The Piano Suite is more advanced. It begins with some history of the piano and moves on to more music theory. The Piano Player is where the student can play songs. The Theory Thinker is the lesson section and there are 6 different levels to choose from. Lots of visuals with this one! In History Happens the student learns about composers, etc. The Composer Corner is exactly what it sounds like. The student can write their own music. There are also Games to reinforce a variety of Music Theory.
The Ear Training Coach program is pretty awesome. It’s also tough.  It allows the student to practice rhythm, melody, intervals and sight reading. Josiah won’t be ready for this for quite some time, yet. I plain on honing those site reading skills.
I also received PDF lesson plans. They contained review ideas, lesson helps and printable worksheets. In the appendix of each level there are printable alphabet cards and more.  There is so much here. I couldn’t even begin to review it all. But I have loved what we have used so far. (I believe these are only available with the software purchase and not the monthly access).
Considering that any sort of music lessons can be pretty pricey, MusIQ Homeschool is pretty doable. You can go two different ways.

Monthly Access (access to all programs) – 10.95

Software Purchase:
Children’s Music Journey (bundled + MIDI keyboard) – 279.80 or individual levels – 69.95.
Piano Suite – with MIDI – 189.98
Ear Training Coach – 34.95

How We Used It

I started Josiah with the Children’s Music Journey 1. He is 11 and older than the suggested ages (4-10), but considering he has had no formal music training, I decided that he would do better with starting from scratch. He is dyslexic and I didn't want to overwhelm him.
It turned out to be a good move. He really loved it. I initially had some trouble with my MIDI keyboard setup. I am “MIDI Ignorant.” But the MusIQ Homeschool software itself was easy to navigate and after we found our groove it was a snap. I also had technical difficulties with my laptop that had nothing to do with the software. In fact, my laptop lost its mind (after we had started using the program) and I now have a new laptop. Which wasn’t in the budget! But that is neither here or there. I installed the program again on both my new laptop and my husband’s desktop. There weren’t any issues whatsoever. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated a “no issue install!”

Josiah went through approximately 2 lessons a week. He would cover a new lesson and the days in between he would practice and play the games associated with that lesson. I loved he was able to hear classical music throughout his lesson. I also loved that the lesson was so interactive!
A shot of the Improvisation Room
I really feel that MusIQ Homeschool is a perfect solution for bringing music education into the home. I know it’s been the perfect solution for us. I can’t wait to dig into it some more! I
I want to share with you just a brief video of one of his lessons. I wish I would have panned over for you to see what the screen looked like. But I think you can get a good idea about what it’s all about. No rodents and dusty music piles involved! Though I can't promise I haven't gone the route of the "Fuzzy Hair," myself. Happy Playing!

You can read more reviews at the TOS Review Crew Blog.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Art of Poetry: TOS Review

I will be the gladdest thing
  Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
 And not pick one

I will look at cliffs and clouds
 With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass.
 And the grass rise.

And when lights begin to show
Up from the town,
 will mark which must be mine.
 And then start down!
This lovely poem (titled Afternoon On a Hill) was written by Edna St. Vincent Millay. When I read it, I get all giddy. And then reflective.   Though I can’t spend too long in a field of flowers without needing an antihistamine. At least I can appreciate the sentiment.

I’ve always enjoyed the beauty of poetry. But I have a confession. If I read a poem and like the way it sounds I’m a fan. Sounds completely shallow. But that’s the way I roll. Despite my hit and miss approach to poetry analysis, I was thrilled to receive The Art of Poetry to review. I am always impressed with Classical Academic Press and this product was no exception.

What We Received

The Art of Poetry Bundle (124.95)

Included in the Bundle are:

The Art ofPoetry, DVD Set  (89.95)  (I received Chapters 1-2)

Price Alert: Just before I got ready to post this review I received notice that as of April 1st the prices are going down! The New Prices are 99.95 for the complete program, 69.95 for the DVD. 

Written by Christine Perrin, MFA, The Art of Poetry contains a delicious anthology of Classic Poetry. Students are taught the mechanics, devices and general appreciation of poetry.

The course itself is very flexible. The teacher is encouraged to adapt it to the particular needs of the homeschool student. You can study as a month-long in depth course, add it to your weekly schedule or take it just a bit at a time…as a four-year course.  

The curriculum is intended for grades 6-12. There are recommendations for adaption based on the needs/maturity of your students.

The study begins with The Elements of Poetry. It moves onto The Formal History of Poetry. There is an Application section which details how you can keep your own Poetry Notebook, start your own poetry group or Hosting a Reading Series. The Appendixes are filled with Biographies of Poets, a wonderful timeline and some online helps and ideas.

How does it work? Each lesson begins with an introductory poem and discussion. The Student then reads a few selected works that illustrate the concept… reading each poem in detail. There are thoughtful questions and they are encouraged to think beyond just the words written on the page.

 At the end of each chapter there are a variety of activities to reinforce the concept taught. These might be an art project or freewriting activity.

I would suggest you take a look at these sample chapters. They are very well constructed.

The Art of Poetry, the Teacher’s Edition is a wonderful tool. It contains all of the material that is found in the Student Edition, plus suggested answers to the discussion questions. There are quizzes as well, but we haven’t utilized them. Though some might use this course as an independent study The Teacher’s Edition is well worth having.  You can find more samples here!

The DVD was a great model of a classroom setting discussion. For a student who is studying on their own it is a great tool. 

These free MP3 files are wonderful! I have a little story to tell. A few days ago I was volunteering with Josiah at a Nursing Home. One of the employees was talking about a resident who had suffered a stroke. She was a lover of classical literature and poetry. We simply copied the MP3 files from The Art of Poetry website on to a CD. What a nice thing to know that this product is reaching beyond educational purposes. It is providing comfort to those in need. Simply scroll down the page until you see Art of Poetry, Audio Files and download to your computer.

How We Used It 

I am currently teaching a writing course to my nephew Christopher who is High school. He has not had exposure to a formal poetry course. This was a perfect opportunity to review the product.  I have to say that my own formal poetry education in High School was limited, but I took a very enjoyable course in college. I felt like I was visiting all of my old friends all over again.
I worried about Christopher’s interest level. He is more of the video game persuasion, but I was pleasantly surprised. He loved it! In fact, my Mom (Christopher's grandma) spent some time discussing some of the poems with him. It truly was a family activity!
Christopher not only read the poems, but also copied his favorites into a poetry notebook. There was a good bit of discussion. I found the questions that followed to be thought provoking and challenging. Keep in mind that much of poetry is subjective. And it is difficult for some students to provide their own opinion if they aren’t used to being encouraged to.

 We enjoyed some of the suggested activities. Some were a bit more successful than others. This is Christopher's collage activity suggested in the Chapter 1.

Josiah is in 5th grade and I included him in some of our poetry study. And being that the collage project was such a hit, we modified one of the activities in Chapter 2 (Metaphor).

This is Christopher's Collage after we read Hope is a Thing With Feathers.

Here is Josiah's Collage. Very nice.


We also enjoyed the Freewriting activity in Chapter 1. The boys were encouraged to freewrite (for 5 minutes) about images from one of the four seasons. That was a little more challenging for Christopher. His first attempt was interesting.

Summer: hot, swim, play video games, go outside, eat veggies.


This is Josiah's freewriting exercise.

Summer: Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King.

Hmm. It sounds like somebody wasn't paying attention to the assignment.

I then decided that I needed to Model this whole freewriting concept. Here is our combined efforts.

Spring: Easter, Resurrection, Family, Eggs, Easter Dress, bonnet, lettuce, deviled eggs, ham, birds, nest, Robin, Frogs, Pond, New Birth, Green, Squishy Earth (that was my contribution), life, flowers, tulips, yellow, breezes, rain, clouds, umbrella....

Christopher also wrote a very lovely poem.

Chickens Laying Eggs, Peaceful
Trees Blowing in the Wind...


This was such a great course. I am excited to use it with Josiah within the next few years. And to be honest I am tempted to go through it as a personal study. There is something beautiful and thought provoking about the study of poetry. If you are not used to the classical model of study I recommend that you not become overwhelmed the details and shear heaviness of it all. Christine Perrin takes us through it all so gently. Take one poem at a time. Memorize it…spend time talking about it as a family. I know your homeschool (and your family) will be enriched.

 You can read more reviews on The Art of Poetry and other products from others on the TOS Review Crew.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

TOS Review: TouchMath

I have talked about our Math Woes before. They are many. Josiah is a bright and creative 11-year-old kid. He is also dyslexic and some of those challenges have carried over into Math. He has had difficulty retaining Math facts. His math education has been a frustrating experience for him.

You can imagine my reaction when I read these words in the TouchMath manual first thing. REACH AND TEACH ALL LEARNERS. Could it be?  Would TouchMath be the answer for Josiah's Math Trials and Tribulations? His success with reading has come through a multi-sensory approach, which is what TouchMath is all about.

We spent the next full month reviewing the TouchMath Second Grade Homeschool primarily as math remediation.

What We Received

4 downloadable units. Each unit consists of 6 modules. ($59.95 each or all 4 for $199.95)

Unit A -  adding and subtracting within 50
Unit B -  adding and subtracting within 100, place value and understanding multiplication.
Unit C -  adding and subtracting within 1000, with a review of multiplication.
Unit D - time, money, measurement, data and geometry.

I also received TouchMath Manipulatives.

TouchMath TutorSecond Grade Software ($99)

Student NumberCards ($24)

TouchNumerals withBase 10 ($99)

Second Grade FlipCards ($19/set, I received 12 sets)

How It Works (and How I Used It)

I invite all of you visual learners to take a look at the number below. Each numeral is assigned a pattern (using) dots that represent the concrete value of that number. I can tell you from personal experience with Josiah is that it is hard for some kids to grasp the abstract nature of numbers.


This is from the Teacher’s Manual.

“Students master each concept as they see it, say it, hear it, touch it, learn it.”


The whole purpose of TouchMath is to give every type of learner the tools to learn.  There is some of the lesson time that is spent learning the point placement of the dots before you get into the nitty gritty. I felt that this was appropriate. It didn’t take Josiah long to grasp the concept. It seemed to make perfect sense to him.

The downloadable units are really long. For example, Unit A is 239 pages. There is quite a bit of information, but the “meat” of the lessons are instructional strategies, student activity pages, etc. You can see how it all works with these sample activity pages. I felt that the activity pages were very suitable for Josiah. They were uncluttered and simple. There wasn’t an absorbent amount of work to be done on each page. Those are very important features for kiddos with math challenges.

Not sure what the "face" is for!

You can count on always finding the following features in each unit: Word Problems. (It is suggested that if your child cannot read the problems themselves, you assist them). Cross-curricular examples and Vocabulary.

The suggested time allotted for a typical lesson is 2-2 ½ times your child’s age. The lessons are scripted. I generally don’t use scripted lessons (I’m a bit impulsive), but I found TouchMath’s Script to be helpful when I needed to explain something just a bit differently. Some of the worksheets are meant to be completed with guidance from the teacher and then there is independent practice.
Looks like he's got it all worked out!

You are not required to purchase the manipulatives to use TouchMath, but I found them to be extremely helpful.

As I have mentioned, Josiah has trouble with the abstract concepts of math. Traditional flashcards have proved to be a waste of money and time. They are simple ineffective. The FlipCards, however, seemed to switch something on his head. They are laminated and he used a dry erase marker to record his answers. I’m telling you…he flipped through these like they were nothing. I was so proud of him. He was able to grasp that something that has eluded him throughout his elementary math learning.


We didn’t really utilize the Student Number Cards. He referred to them when first learning the point placement on the numbers.

The Second Grade Tutor CDs were a lot of fun and very effective. I was able to install them on both of our computers. A particular lesson starts and ends with a test so the teacher is able to track the progress. I was also able to go in and reset each lesson so he could practice over and over again. I could see progress each and every time.

The TouchNumerals with Base 10 were also effective. There are 3 sets of brightly colored 6-inch foam numerals 0-9, 205 TouchPoints and operation signs (also brightly colored and made of foam) and 10 Base Ten Trays. These made of plastic. The touch points are used as the 10 blocks and the base 10 trays can be closed. Very handy.

At first, I had to remind him that the numbers themselves were not a part of his current Starship building project. But he soon got the hang of it. He enjoyed creating his own math problems. I worried that he might find them too “babyish” but I was proven wrong. I think the kinesthetic nature of the TouchNumerals appealed to him. Keep in mind that these tools are not just for learning simple counting, addition and subtraction facts. They are also intended to be used for multiplication and division. I feel like we are now up to the challenge.

I can’t tell you enough how grateful I am to have this product in my home. I recognize that every child is a unique learner. For us, Touch Math has proved to be the right combination of methods to help Josiah. Simply putting a worksheet in front of him is not enough.  

TouchMath can be used as a stand-alone curriculum or as a supplement. For those of us who have kiddos that need a variety of learning experiences (other than the traditional lecture and worksheet route) I feel that TouchMath is well worth the investment. Josiah’s new found confidence in his Mathmatical abilities does this Mama’s heart good.

My fellow TOSreviewers also reviewed TouchMath’s Pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st &2nd Grade Homeschool programs. I suggest you go take a look.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew 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 I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hands On Learning = Creative Kid

Nobody likes Hands On Projects more than I do. For Reals.

In fact, when Josiah gets to High School, I will still be assigning Salt Dough Maps.

Once a kindergarten teacher...always a kindergarten teacher.

For one I think that Hands On Projects make learning so much fun. They make it real. They give learning life and help what Josiah learns stick in his cute little brain.

I need to share with you one of our Favorite Hands On Projects Ever! It is so good it calls for the use of Unnecessary Capitalization and a big ole Exclamation point!

It is no secret that Mr. Josiah has just a little obsession with the Big Screen. And I"m not talking about the fact that our TV is too big for the living room. He loves movies. He loves trivia about movies.

And since he was just a little bitty guy he has done elaborate productions of his favorite movies. Costumes. Scenery. The whole bit. I would share some pictures with you, but my laptop has lost it's mind and I'm pounding away on The Muffin's Desktop. Thank goodness I had the bulk of this post done before my laptop went crazy!

Anyhoo. Back to the subject at hand.

What better way for Josiah to learn history than casting his motley crew of action figures and random Happy Meal toys in a rousing movie reenactment of Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World.

Here's how it all went down. I'll reveal the Big Show at the end of this post.

For his script he used one of the books we've used for History.

He wrote down all the major characters, the various settings and what kind of props he would need to find.

He then went on a search for props and his perfect cast.

My fabric bins were raided.

He set up his first scene carefully. I'm not quite sure how the Star Wars Love fit into all of this.As far as I know, George Lucas wasn't around in the 1400's.

Here is Mr. Spock... playing King Ferdinand. Queen Isabella is played by a very uncomfortable looking Avatar. I think Dr. Spock is a breath of fresh air in our history drama. "It is curious how often you humans manage to obtain that which you do not want." Exactly, Mr. Spock.

Han Solo is our persistent Christopher Columbus.

According to his script, Josiah took pictures of each scene carefully. Then he moved on to the next setting. The Ocean Voyage!

I'm not so sure that sending this group out would be my first choice.

I mean really. Darth Vader isn't known for his people skills. And this isn't exactly the Millennium Falcon.

But look who they find once they make land! Wow! Notice everyone in the New World is green. Except for that Warthog Bank from The Lion King. I'm not even sure warthogs live in the Bahamas. Details! Details!

It was great fun for Josiah. I'm not sure I will ever think of the story of Columbus in quite the same way again.

After Josiah chose the pictures he wanted to use, we edited to them and downloaded them to Windows Live Movie Maker. He picked some free music from a free music site (all his choices, I assure you!) and then made his movie.

This is supposed to be his publicity shot. He took it himself, but failed to put it in his film.

So without further ado....Josiah's finished movie!

Isn't it great? You might enjoy some of my other posts for 5 Days of Creative Teaching.

The Case of the Missing Textbook

Cooking School

Game On!

Homeschooling in the Hard Times

I'm linking to 5 Days of Creative Teaching.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...