Friday, March 29, 2013

Enjoying The Days Together At Home

As a homeschooling parent, I spend my days at home with my children.  This can be a demanding task but at the same time it's the most rewarding way to spend every day.  My children enjoy their time with me, and at home and I also enjoy that time with them.

We do everything together: read books, watch movies, play games, complete chores, lessons, enjoy nature and on and on.  Of course, we also do many things apart: read alone, build towers, ride bikes, nap, etc.  The lists on both sides goes on and on.

There are definitely days when we get on each other nerves and there are days when we can not enjoy enough time together.  One thing I personally never wish is that my children were enrolled in public school and I can honestly say they tell me they feel the exact same way.  We would miss out on so much of each other's lives if we were not together daily as we are and not one of us wants that.

We greatly enjoy our times together, the memories and the love.  The kids love knowing that I have seen their biggest moments, that I was there for them and not a strange person who leads them in class.  They enjoy seeing those big moments between each other too.  They will never forget the day Laycie learned to roll over, crawl, walk or talk.  They will never forget those moments of Jackson's life either.  They don't take those little things for granted at all.

Even through the ups and downs of life while homeschooling, these are times I would never change.  I'm blessed in my life and my children.  I am happy and in love with these moments we share and I couldn't ask for better days than these right now in our lives.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Inspiration... Really?! More like Imperfection

I'm an inspiration... Really?!  Most days I truly don't feel like it but I know that I am.  Especially to the littles in my home daily.  And they are here, watching and listening to their Momma every single day.

Most days I do NOT lead by the best example.  I'm NOT perfect and I don't even try to be.  I don't want my children to grow up with a vision of perfection leading their paths, but with the image of their imperfect Momma having shown them the way.  I curse too much, I yell, I laugh, I smile, I'm sad, I'm happy.  I am ME and they know that, and they are free to be themselves too.

Lately, I've been having writers block.  Nothing I want to say comes out when it's time to write.  Nothing feels important enough to even talk about.  I look at my babies and I see them growing up way to fast before my eyes and I don't want to miss a moment or waste a moment of the time I could spend with them.  Blogging is not what's important, being a Momma is.

Winston turned 12 in December, Justain 9 in January, Emmalee 10 in February.  Jackson turns 7 months in just a few days and Laycie will be 5 on April 11th.  Time is going way to fast for me.  Some days I feel like I barely have time to breathe.

But I inspire them and I lead them and I try to show them happiness and goodness in their days.  Just as I have been shown by my Mother and God before me.  I want them to remember the times with their Momma, to have those moments to hold onto when I'm gone to wait on them on the other side.  I pray they have good memories of me, good moments to pass on to their own children of their childhood and life, just as I've been able to share and pass on to them.

These four are my world.  They hold and make up my heart.  I'd change nothing in my life, for every moment has lead me to these moments with them.  And nothing is a greater blessing than these days we have and live together in my mind.

Adventus MusIQ Homeschool {Review}

Adventus is the number one, complete learn to play piano system.  This program teaches the child to play piano in a simplistic but fun manner all using the computer.  It is simply amazing to see.

Available on disk or by download, this program is worth the price.  It thoroughly takes the child through music lessons, not just teaching them piano but also the history of music in the process.  Lessons are lead by some of the greatest musical talents of all time: Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Chopin, and so very many more.

For this particular review, we worked through Volume 1 of Children's Music Journey.  Children's Music Journey Volumes 1, 2, and 3 have been created to be used with ages 4-10.  For children over 10, Piano Suite is recommended.  A Midi Keyboard with a USB connection is also required for this product to work, as well as a computer with a USB connection or adapter.

My children have been amazed by the Adventus Children's Music Journey program.  They beg to use this product and have learned so much from it.  Being simple and fun to use, even my four year old has truly enjoyed using this one and since my oldest, age 12, enjoys computer games and animation, he's also enjoyed working through this program.

The program is fully animated.  It includes fun games that allow the child to work at their own pace and level, to thoroughly gain knowledge in their music lessons.  There are extra games for practicing lessons learned that can be repeated at will or as needed while working through the program.  The program is multi-leveled and can be used with multiple children.

The program coloring is vivid, the artists speak clearly and are easily understood.  Not only that, the program is truly captivating and the information provided keeps the child wanting to learn more.  The presentation keeps the child from becoming bored with learning about music.

During our review of this program, we allowed all three of our children to work through the program on their own with minimal input from outside sources.  My older children were able to work through on their own with no issues.  My younger daughter was able to work through with minimal help from myself or a sibling, and her siblings were able to help her as she worked through with no problems leading her.

We used this several times a week and it became more of a fun reward, than a lesson in music.  The kids really love the program and ask to use it again and again.  I, too, am amazed with the ease of use and quality of this product and I personally found it fun to use myself for piano lessons at home.

Adventus MusIQ Homschool programs can be purchased online through the Adventus website.  Pricing for the program varies and can be purchased as a monthly program subscription, as a product download per book or per set or as a full bundled set of all products.

Year one quick start bundle is priced at $199.95 and includes: 
 -Children’s Music Journey Volume 1
- Beginner Level 1 Lesson Plans
- M-Audio KeyRig 49 MIDI piano keyboard

Children's Music Journey Volumes 1,2 and 3 lesson plans can be bought separately for $89.95 each or you can bundle all three with the year one lesson plans and a Midi keyboard for $309.95.

Piano Suite is also available through Adventus for various pricing per unit or bundle.

For more reviews of Adventus, please visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog!


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Monday, March 18, 2013

TouchMath {Review}

Laycie is turning 5 next month and with her impending birth date, comes the realization that it's also time to start a more structured version of homeschooling with her.  As I was researching curriculum ideas, the opportunity to review TouchMath came.  Needless to say, I was estatic to be offered the TouchMath Pre-K Homeschool program for product review.

TouchMath is a multisensory mathematics program developed to be used with children in grades Pre-K through 3rd.  The TouchMath program uses TouchPoints to teach children important counting skills, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and more.  This innovative math program allows children to touch, count and repeat which reinforces the math problem with audio repetition to better establish fact mastery.

Since this program puts all of Laycie's senses to work, I immediately knew it would be the perfect curriculum to use with her!  We began with the TouchMath Pre-K Homeschool program which covers counting, number sense, comparing, classifying, sorting, graphing, patterning, identifying and so very much more.  Since we were given this product as a review, we were gifted several of the basic manipulatives to use along with our TouchMath Pre-K lessons.  Laycie absolutely LOVED the manipulatives and I must admit that I do too!

Our absolute favorite of the manipulatives has been the 3-D Numerals.  These solid plastic pieces are vibrant in color and sturdy for even the most active child to handle.  They have the signature touch points on them to be used specifically with the TouchMath program.  But even better, they are in the shapes of the actual numerals which allows the child to see and feel the number shape, better allowing them to absorb and learn each specific numeral.  

Another favorite manipulative for us was the Texture cards.  Being able to touch the numbers and touch points with various textures helps Laycie to learn the numbers through sensory.  She loved the cute character drawings on many of the cards.  This manipulative really brought learning to life for her and coincided so well with the actual printed lessons from the Homeschool program.

The bulk and best part of the TouchMath Pre-K Homeschooling program is the actual curriculum itself though.  As great as the extra manipulatives are, they work best with the program itself, allowing the student to get the maximum sensory learning experience.  For purpose of this review, we received the full Pre-K unit download of the TouchMath program.

As I mentioned above, the TouchMath program is designed to teach counting numerals through touch.  Numerals one through five have single TouchPoints meaning each point is touched once while counting, and numerals six through nine have double TouchPoints meaning each point is touched twice while counting.  As students learn the numbers they also learn the number value by counting the TouchPoints.

The TouchMath Pre-K lessons are broken into 6 lesson modules containing around 15 workmats to be completed in while using each module.  Each lesson module focuses on a different aspect of Math.  Module one teaches counting and number sense, module two covers comparing and classifying, and so on as the modules are broken down to teach important concepts.

The workmats are blackline masters which is really nice since they don't take a lot of ink to print out.  The programs PDF download itself is in color and black and white but does not need to be completely printed out.  It can simply be viewed on a computer and only the blackline master workmats need to be printed out for use off the computer.

The workmats are fairly simple, yet challenging enough for the Pre-K child.  Coloring skills are implemented throughout helping the child develop better writing skills and also occupational skills.  Simple activities like color one pig pink and color the group with four milk cartons.

Laycie really loved completing her workmats.  She enjoys coloring and caught on really easily with the materials, allowing her to work through fairly quickly.  I found as she worked that she knew quite a bit of the material in the lessons.  Had I begun using this product a year ago when she was 3 turning 4, we would have benefited from it greatly.  The lessons were great for me to use with her to ensure that she has learned these important early math skills though and we will continue to use this program for her math for this year and possibly into the future.

The TouchMath Homeschool program is available online.  TouchMath Pre-K Homeschool Program cost $59.95 for the program unit download.  This includes the implementation guide, workmat activity sheets, module guides, answer sheets and more.  It does not include the math manipulatives to use with the program.  The manipulatives are a wonderful addition but they are not necessary for completion of this program.  If you are interested in using the manipulatives, you can find the links to each specific one at the bottom of each product download page.  Many of the manipulatives can be used with each subsequent product download.

For more reviews of the TouchMath Homeschool program and to see other reviews of different Math grade levels with this program, please visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog!


Thursday, March 14, 2013

EMG Educational Systems, LLC (READS) {Review}

READS Parent/Child Reading Comprehension System was developed by Elaine Meyers and is available from EMG Education Systems, LLC.  Ms. Meyers is a certified reading specialist in suburban Philadelphia.  She's spent over 25 years educating and guiding young readers reading at all reading levels.

Through her extensive research, Ms. Meyers developed the READS system to help parents develop strength in their children's reading comprehension skills.  The program was designed to be used with Elementary grades 1-4 and can be used with any chosen book or other reading material.  It is effective to be used with readers above, below and on grade level.  

The READS Parent's Manual
30 Question Cards and Ring
Rewards Chart and Stickers
Magic Finger and Reading Guide Strip
Speedy Speller
Reusable Storage Pouch

The READS Parent's Manual explains to the parent how to implement the READS system with their readers at home.  An explanation of how to use each specific component is included within this guide.  A thorough explanation of how to use the question cards is also included within the guide.

The 30 Question cards are hole-punched so that they can be added onto the provided ring for easy use.  Every question is different and allows the child to think about the book they are reading.  Questions like, "was this book easy to understand?" and "describe your favorite character" help to encourage the child's comprehension of their reading material and also help to make sure that the parent knows the kind of questions to ask to help develop the child's comprehension.

The rewards chart and stickers encourage reading and comprehensive development by providing a goal for the child to reach.  Each day the child completes their reading instruction they receive a sticker.  After they complete the chosen amount of tasks - a week, two weeks, a month - the child then receives the chosen reward for completing the program.

The Magic Finger and the Reading Guide Strip help the child to follow along with their chosen reading materials.  The reading strip is clear in the middle and gray on the outsides to block out the words above and below the sentence the child is attempting to read, therefore keeping the child focused on the reading at hand.  The Magic Finger is green with a red nail like a witches finger.  It's color is created to encourage better following along in reading, to be used as a pointer as the child follows through word by word.

The READS Speedy Speller is a handbook for Readers and Writers.  Inside the child will find a list of over 1400 words with plenty of room to add more words as the child learns them.  In the back of the Speedy Speller the child can also find a list of Punctuation and Other Symbols that are used throughout writing, Capitalization Rules, and abbreviations for states, time, measurements and more.  The Speedy Speller encourages the child in both writing and reading.

The READS system was immediately well-loved in our house.  All three of my school-age children were able to use this program.  They are still using it today.

The youngest enjoys the rewards portion of the program to help encourage her early reading.  She also likes using the Magic Finger to point to words that she knows and understands, as well as the pictures throughout what she is reading.  The sentence strip has helped her to stay on track with sentences in her reading.

My middle child really enjoyed the READS Speedy Speller.  She struggles with spelling words even though she loves writing.  The Speedy Speller stays with her at all times, allowing her to look up common words she may forget while writing.  She's added a great many words since we began using this program.

My oldest child, who is also my struggling reader, benefited the most from this program.  He was able to use all the elements of the READS system to learn how to be a better reading and have better reading comprehension.  We have tried many programs to help him in reading and have struggled to find something he truly could  use at home.  The READS system has helped that tremendously.

My son is able to use the reading strip to help keep himself on track.  He uses the finger to keep himself on track word for word along with the strip.  The rewards stickers are used with him too so that he remembers to do his daily reading of 20 minutes a day.  The questions come in handy for me to ask what he's read and he likes to pick them out for me every day we use the program.  We have seen a great deal of improvement in his reading focus and comprehension since beginning this review.

READS Parent/Child Reading Comprehension System is available from EGM Educational Systems, LLC for $19.95.  The package includes all of the items mentioned through my review above for this amazing price.


*Disclaimer - The full product package of READS was provided to me by EGM Educational Systems, LLC and the TOS Schoolhouse Review Crew.  This product was free in exchange for my honest opinion shared in a post on my blog.  I am including this disclaimer in accordance with FTC regulation guidelines.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

ARTistic Pursuits {Review}

ARTistic Pursuits is our absolute FAVORITE curriculum for ART.  We were introduced to this program last year through our participation on The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew and we completely fell in love with it.  This year when we were offered the chance to review ARTistic Pursuits again, we jumped at the offer.

ARTistic Pursuits was created and written by Brenda Ellis to provide a way to learn the Arts, even when parents are not sure how to teach them at home. The individualized study ARTistic Pursuits provides allows students to create art in relation to their personal interests.  The entirety of this program is family friendly, helping to build family relationships.

For this review, we were given ARTistic Pursuits Early Elementary K-3, Book Two.  The K-3 books provide children with an introduction to the visual arts program.  It teaches the student to view art through history with colorful illustrations and simple, easy to complete projects.  This series provides a complete art history, examining the works of the great Masters through 36 projects which include drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture and more.

The book itself is bound with a simple comb binding, allowing the book to be laid flat for lessons, with a clear plastic protective cover on the front and back.  Provided first in the book, behind the Table of Contents, is a Materials list which tells the educator and student was is needed to complete all the lessons in the book.  This list is not broken down into each lesson but is an overall list of what's needed throughout the entirety of the book.  An art kit is available on the ARTistic Pursuits website for each book available.

There are 36 lessons provided in ARTistic Pursuits Early Elementary K-3, Book Two.  Each lesson provides a story, a synopsis of an Artist or an explanation of a piece of specific piece of Art.  Artists like Cimabue, Van Eyck, Da Vinci, Durer and many more are introduced in this book.  Each artist is expanded upon sharing the story of how they came to this type of career and the type of art they developed.  The artwork is then broken down so that the student can create their own personal project after learning how the original artist did it.

Projects themselves begin by providing the type of art being done such as Watercolor Painting or Ink Printing.  As the student works through the projects specifics like how to hold the paint brush, pressure, paper types, gluing, and more are discussed and put to use.  Each lesson provides a new project to complete.  Most projects are fairly simple and easily done by the average student.  

During our review period, we were able to work through several of the activities in the book.  We limited our lessons to 1 or 2 per week, allowing expansion on learning about the artist themselves through research on the internet.  We took time to read about the artist with the lessons provided in the book and the art they created.  Then we expanded on this by looking up both the artist and the art before completing the project suggested.  It was extremely easy to build upon the provided lessons without distracting from them.  They could very well be completed alone but since I have a budding artist, she insisted on learning more.

Most of the projects we completed were watercolors.  She really enjoys this type of art because it allows her to express her self through one of her favorite mediums: paint.  She was easily able to read and discuss lessons with me, then take those lessons and implement what she had learned on her own.  Her brother and sister were also easily able to follow along and create their own projects.

I personally enjoyed learning along with her through the interesting stories provided in the lesson book.  The book is extensive, but not overly drawn out so that the student gets a full ideal of the artist and the artwork itself but isn't bored or exhausted by the end of the lesson.  It worked well for us to do these lessons a few times a week.

ARTistic Pursuits is available online.  The Early Elementary K-3 in 3rd edition series contains three separate books.  Each book cost $47.95 per book.  Book two is 85 pages long, with 36 lessons included and 175 illustrations throughout.  It is also a non-consumable curriculum, allowing the owner to use it again and again with more than one child at a time.

For more reviews of ARTistic Pursuits, please visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog!


*Disclaimer - This product was provided to me free in exchange for my honest opinion shared in a blog post review.  It was provided to me by ARTistic Pursuits and the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  No money was exchanged during the process of this review.  I am included this disclaimer in accordance of FTC regulations.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Our Journey With Homeschooling: Beginning to Now

When I was growing up, I wanted to be two things: a Mom and a Teacher.  I would role play as both for hours every day I was able.  I'd get lost in my world of teaching and childcare and I remember having so much fun.

As a teenager, I met my ex-husband, then my boyfriend and threw away my dreams of teaching, but not my dreams of having children.  Before long, I was married and had two beautiful babies to love and raise.  As they grew, I began to realize that one day they'd have to go off to public school.  I wasn't ready but then are we ever really?

One day my then-hubbie came home talking about homeschooling.  His boss homeschooled his kids.  So I immediately began researching.  I asked others about this newfound idea of homeschooling which I thought was totally impossible and crazily outrageous at the time.  I discovered that even my sister had considered it though she was enrolling her daughter into public school because she didn't think she could commit to teaching her daily.

As days passed, I prayed about homeschooling and I researched everything I could to learn more.  I found Vine and Branches Home Educators, a local association and contacted them for more information.  They offered a class which I gladly took, helping prepare those interested and new to homeschooling for the journey ahead.

Every where I went I found homeschooling materials from the dump to normal stores I shopped at.  For me, that was it.  God was telling me to homeschool my children.

Over time, I've been told that I must be Super Mom to have my kids around all the time.  I've heard others say that they could never do that or that they weren't smart enough to teach their children.  Yes, my background interest in Public School Education helped my homeschooling decision but even without that interest I could still manage.

I have had a truancy officer knocking on my door and DSS.  Showing proof of my state's laws and being prepared for them helped to end those situations quickly.  Sometimes other's perceptions of how things are supposed to be do more good than bad, especially when it comes to homeschooling.

I have even done the brief sending my children to public school and my children and I both agree it was the worst experience of this whole journey with homeschooling.  They didn't like it.  I didn't like it.  Needless to say, it ended quickly, though with a lot of emotional scaring that's had to be dealt with since.

When I met Josh, he was completely against homeschooling.  His family is rooted in the public school.  He knew nothing about homeschooling and he didn't want to learn.  He didn't want my children to be different or appear different to everyone around.  He just wanted me to follow the rules and send them off to school.  Now he's making the assignments and helping out with lessons too.

I like to say I've been homeschooling for 12 years - the age of my oldest child - but I didn't actually start homeschooling until he was 3-4 when the public school decision was breathing down my neck.  So we've actually been doing this for 9 years now.  It's not been an adjustment because it was simply a continuation of having my children home from birth - simply continuing to do what we already were.

Once I took the got-to-get-the-kids-ready-to-go-to-school ideal out of my head, things went pretty smoothly.  It has taken me a while to get the school-must-be-just-like-public-school ideal broken and I still find myself comparing my children or panicking when it doesn't seem enough compared to their public school friends.  I'm working on that though.

This has been a crazy ride, but a well-loved one and it's a decision I wouldn't change for anything.  I would make it again in a heartbeat without a second thought.  Will my children ever go to public school?  Not if I have my way.  Their home education is so much better, so much more fulfilling then anything they could get in that classroom.  And the moments we have together are just icing upon the cake.

This has been my experience with homeschooling.  Not every experience turns out this way.  Not everyone can homeschool.  It takes a lot of patience.  It takes a lot of love.  But overall, if you can do it, it will be an experience you'll never forget.

March Update

It's always busy in our life.  One thing leads to another and it seems there is never enough time to get everything done.  Life is full and filled with ups and downs right now.

Our new porch is in the process of being built.  We're using our front door because we aren't able to get out the back.  I've got boxes stacked in front of it, to keep my littles from mistakenly going out.

We've been doing a lot with school.  Daddy is giving the kids specific assignments to complete every day.  I think he's enjoying it as much as the kids are.  I am too.

We've got a lot of reviews going on right now, too.  A lot of great stuff that I'm looking forward to sharing about in the future.  Needless, to say the kids are having a lot of fun right now.

We've had doctor's appointments galore recently.  Emma had her nerve conduction test a few weeks ago and the results came back perfect.  No issues with her muscles.  She's being set up for botox injections and casting to correct her toe-walking.

Jax also had his 6 month checkup.  He's 27 1/2 inches and weighs 15.4 lbs.  She advised us to hold off longer on his veggies and try making our own to see if he outgrows his reflux issues.  She said he is gaining weight and doing amazingly otherwise.

I'm currently working on a reorganization project, house-wide.  Living in Chaos is for the birds.  It's slow going but it's getting there and I'm excited to see things in their place.

I feel like my mind is going a 1000 miles a minute, trying to keep up so this is just going to be a brief synopsis of our life at the moment.  Hopefully, in the future these posts will be come more organized.  Until next time...


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