Sunday, September 30, 2012

TOS Review - Music Together

I love music and have been trying to instill that same love in my children. Sometimes though the more children you have the less you spend with the littlest ones singing fun little songs. I remember when George was little we would sit on the floor together and go through a Mommy and Me type book with rhymes and cute songs. I thought reviewing Music Together would help me to do that same thing with Seppy and whoever else wanted to sing along.


What Is Music Together?

Music Together: Bringing Harmony Home "is an award-winning music and movement approach to early childhood music development for infant, toddler, preschool, and kindergarten children and their parents, teachers, and other primary caregivers. This approach develops encourages actual experiencing of music rather than learning concepts or information about music. It is being taught nationwide and Music Together CDs, songbooks, and classroom techniques enjoy widespread use."

This curriculum provides children with a rich music experience that includes a variety of tones, meters, and musical styles. It encourages the child to participate and join in in any way they choose with the teacher being flexible. And the teacher doesn't sit and instruct but instead has fun by being playful and easygoing.

The Product I Reviewed

We enjoyed going through the Family Favorites Songbook for Teachers and accompanying CD. It is a very comprehensive spiral-bound book with nineteen songs, a brief background of each song, ideas of how to incorporate it for various age groups, and the music to follow along with. Now, I know sometimes adults do not enjoy listening to children's music (I still enjoy it) but I did find this to be quality music and it reminded me of a Children's Performer in our state we have gone to see with catchy rhythms and words.

Our Experience

I planned on using this more with Seppy (almost 5) and Missy (almost 7) but after putting in the CD found more children gathering around. The first song is called "Hello Song" a catchy tune that has you singing along in no time. It is very interactive and each child likes to put in their own name when it comes time.

They especially enjoyed the song called "Playin' in the Kitchen" as we took instruments from around the kitchen and marched around. Who doesn't enjoy that? Well, maybe the Mama who finds it quite loud! And our little Zippy (age 1) had fun bopping around to the beat. He is our little music man and this is quite enjoyable for him. While it is not geared for older children I don't see a reason they can't participate. To get my oldest (age 13) involved, I gave George the music and asked him to learn the chords for some of the songs. Or you could have your older ones interacting with the littlest ones in teaching the actions.

My Thoughts

I was encouraged to learn that because all children have a natural tendency to be musical that they can all learn to sing in tune and move with the correct rhythm. Once in awhile I feel like a couple of mine can't carry a tune but as they are more immersed in music that begins to change.

I like the layout of each lesson and how it gives ideas for all ages. And while I have a musical background, this is written in such a way that it is easy to follow and having the music on the CD is of great help. In continuing the course I would like to do a bit more with some of the songs. For example on "Playin in the Kitchen" there is a bass line and then the melody in which you can teach the children to sing parts. We attempted that but it will take a few more tries until they get it. But they did keep the beat quite well so I was happy about that.


You can listen to samples of the songs from the Family Favorites CD HERE.  And if you are like me and prefer to have your music in digital format you have the option to purchase digital downloads of the album ($9.99) and songs (.99 ea).

If you order the Songbook and CD combo instead of buying them separately, you can save $5 with a price of $39.95. And as a special for blog readers, if you purchase the combo and enter the coupon code "Schoolhouse" at check-out on the Music Together online store you can save an additional $2.

If you would like to read more reviews click on the Review Crew button below.


**Disclaimer: As a member of TOS Review Crew, I received a complimentary copy of Music Together's Family Favorites Teachers Songbook and CD to review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

TOS Crew - Once-A-Week Unit Studies

I love products that are all planned out for you and there is little that I need to do to prepare for! That is the case with Homeschool Legacy's Once-a-Week Unit Studies. For those of you who have never used a unit study or don't know what it is it  -- a unit study takes one topic, and based on that study literature, history, science, art, music, bible. It captures a child's attention (and this Mama's) and helps to understand how pieces fit together as a whole.


A Bit of Background

Sharon Gibson, a homeschool Mom of 16 years, complied the unit studies as a way to bring the family together and instill a love of learning and an excitement about the Lord.

Once-a-Week Unit Studies were designed for your children to take a breather from text books and enjoy, creative, hands-on assignments. The only activity you continue throughout the week is the reading. Your children select books from the unit study’s library lists to read all week long, and you read the suggested family read-aloud.

You can use this as a supplement to your present curriculum but it is also comprehensive enough to use as your main source for history and science.

Our Experience

Out of the many studies offered the boys thought it would be fun to study Knights and Nobles which is a 4 - 6 week unit study.


I wanted to take it slow with this as we will be studying this period in history a bit later this year and this will fit in perfectly for that. For the first week the read-aloud was The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli. I found that the daily activities were just right. I can't count the number of times I have purchased materials and there were loads of activities to do that it was overwhelming. Not so with the Once-a-Week Unit Studies. Sharon's desire was to focus on the quality and not the quantity and I appreciate that immensely!

I really enjoyed the family devotional and to give you an example of how it correlates -- when we discussed castles, the topic was of Jesus being our "cornerstone". There was background information on that and a brief study on 1 Peter 2:4-7 and Psalm 71:3 about Jesus being our rock and refuge.

There are also so many other sources of information included such as videos (from the library or Netflix) to watch and websites to visit such as one that had a lego castle and town which my boys gravitated too and after printing out the pictures started to build (but of course we don't have enough legos -- do we ever?)

Some of the boys also enjoyed having a "library" of books on the subject at home and would read through them at leisure giving me tidbits of information as they went along.

And while I am saving the end until later on we certainly look forward to enjoying a Medieval Feast, which includes recipes and helpful ideas of how to make it authentic being creative with what you have.

My Thoughts

As soon as I read through the material I was excited. First of all, I didn't have to do any planning or thinking through what books to supplement with. I love the lists of books that Sharon compiled for the children to read in addition to the main read-aloud. All I needed to do was take the list to the library with me and she had the Dewey decimal number (give or take) right there for me. I did not find every book but then, you don't need every book on the list. Obviously I could have easily searched the library online catalog to find what I needed/wanted. There were two lists -- one for children who read on their own and one for non-readers and each book related well to the subject. There is a list for each week of the study, which keeps our "at home library" interesting.

I like that the study is not meant to control you but you control it. I also appreciate how instead of just being information, the family time helps to create a legacy. (Which starts me singing a song about leaving a legacy, but that's another subject).

This unit study brought me back to when we started out on this adventure of home educating and used Five In A Row. It reminded me of how much I enjoy this method of learning because it is fun and so this lead me to find another unit study which is a daily/yearly historical/biblical study and Once-a-Week Unit Studies will fit perfectly with it.


The 4 week Knights and Nobles study covers Castles, Kings and Queens, Knights, and Life on a Manor. It concludes with a Royal Medieval Feast and the price is $15.95.

Once-a-Week Unit Studies are also designed to be used for Boy Scouts as a way to be able to fulfill merit badge requirements. American Heritage Girls can earn badges and I also found that it can be incorporated for use in 4H which is perfect for us as we can use it to complete a project record.

The studies are for grades 2 - 12. An upper level student would need additional lab sciences. They can also expand on the information by doing more research or writing assignments based on their ability.

I also think these studies would be of interest to many who are not educated at home. I can see it being used for family time in the evenings. I could even see a retired couple such as my parents enjoying going through a study like this.

Other topics offered are: birds, horses, trees, weather, Early Settlers, Native America, Lewis and Clark, American Revolution, the Constitution, Christmas Coming to America. The amount of weeks covered varies as does the price. You can view the great selection HERE.

Christmas is in the not too distant future and I am hoping to study about the origins of how it came to America while focusing on the real reason for the season. What a wonderful addition that would be to our celebration.

If you would like to read about the other unit studies reviewed by the Crew please click on the logo below.


**Disclaimer: As a member of TOS Review Crew, I received a complimentary copy of Knights and Nobles to review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

George Plays Tackle Football

George really enjoys football. When he was little I wondered if he would be as interested in watching a game as his Daddy as he was really oblivious to what was going on. But gradually over time he became more and more interested and now he seems to know everything there is to know about the game of football. What does he want to be when he grows up? A football player of course. :) Now, John and I are realistic about that but a boy can dream can't he? But to do that he needed to actually play the game and not just toss the ball around with his Dad and brothers. He waited patiently until the day that John decided he could give it a shot in a free tackle league for his age.

The season is only 6 weeks long with two practices each week. I am growing a bit weary of it as supper is always rushed and too John goes to kickboxing immediately after with any of the kids that go along to watch practice. But, the season is almost over with two more games left to play and I have really enjoyed watching George grow in many areas.


He did not know anyone on the team he was "drafted" to and in the past that might have bothered him but he has become much more confident and has easily made new friends.

George works hard each week. John told him with this being his first year playing if he didn't want to sit on the sidelines he needed to prove himself. And that he has. His coach has asked where he has played football before but he never has apart from a touch game at home.

He pushes himself giving it his all and is gradually learning how to take constructive criticism because it makes him a better player when he heads that advice, especially when it comes from Daddy.

George is physically stronger too and doesn't give up. The teams are small and so he plays both a defensive end and a center on offense. He is up against some big guys but can hold his own for the most part.

We'll see how this all plays out as I know now that he has the bug to play he will want to continue next year. And of course he has a few brothers who are watching and waiting as well. But for now we'll enjoy cheering for our up and coming football player.

Noah football center 3792
George plays center and has the ball in hand.

Passing the ball to the quarterback

Headed toward the linebacker


Monday, September 24, 2012

TOS Crew - Children In Church

I was able to review an advanced copy of Children In Church a resource that is offered by Hal and Melanie Young from Raising Real Men. I so appreciate their wisdom in raising boys.


And so I thought this would be a book I'd enjoy. Having our children with us through the entire church service is nothing new to us as it is something we have always done. But I thought it would be of interest to see if I could pick up any new tidbits of helpful information and maybe encourage others along the way.


Children In Church: Nurturing Hearts of Worship is written by Curt and Sandra Lovelace, a couple who have raised two girls and have served in many places around the world. They now minister to homeschoolers internationally.

Including children in corporate worship is a topic that can cause conflict. There are people on both sides of the issue. In this book Curt and Sandra biblically and lovingly explain why participation in worship should be multi-generational and encourage you along the way to search God's truth for yourselves to see how families worshiped together. The history of "children's ministry" that we see today is not mentioned in scripture and "is more modern in origin".  And the authors gently exhort those in the church to grow in understanding and obedience to God's Word.

Do you want to include your children in the church worship service but feel it is too much work? They aren't getting anything out of the sermon anyway, are they? And aren't the children distracting? How am I going to get anything out of the sermon if I have to entertain my children?

We are examples to our children in everything and that includes how to worship. I know how hard it can be to keep little ones quiet and from disrupting. We have gone through a few seasons of this and will begin yet again when "Zippy" is closer to two. Right now he is included in worship up until the sermon and then we use the nursery. We have had children screaming as we take them out. We have had the Pastor notice a child making a banging noise from the pulpit only to realize it was one of our children banging their foot against the side of the pew. This is not an overnight process. But the goal is to begin early to engage their mind on God's word.

Throughout the book the Lovelace's share stories of their own experiences in the churches they have ministered to and share insights they have gleaned as they bring you through the elements of worship and how to include your children in each part. A few of their ideas I recognized as we have used them with our own children. One was having the child pick out key words and count how many times the Pastor says it. I used to make charts for the boys and put the key words at the top and they tallied them up as they heard a word. They enjoyed seeing which word would "win". I like how they gave reasonable expectations and gave ideas for each age group so that you can change resources as the child matures.

Your church may offer children's church and obviously you make the choices necessary for your family and situation. The Lovelace's do not come across as condescending in any way but through every chapter exhort you to pray and seek God's Word for direction. There is much to ponder.

This book is not just for parents of young children but also for those in the church to come alongside and encourage those parents that do choose to have their children worship with them.

Children In Church, published by Great Waters Press, is available for preorder for $12 with free shipping by clicking HERE. You can also connect with them on their Facebook page.
If you would like to know more check out reviews along with reviews of another new book by Raising Real Men, A Cry From Egypt, from the Crew by clicking below.

**Disclaimer: As a member of TOS Review Crew, I received a complimentary copy of this book to review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

TOS Crew - Family Fitness

When I first heard about Family Time Fitness I wasn't sure if it was something I wanted to review. After all, our children are outside all the time running around, riding bikes, playing football with daddy. They certainly seem to be fit.

A few years back we took part in a phy ed co-op class and the kids learned various skills and games. That was fun, but again, I figured we got enough activity at home and it wasn't worth the drive to get there.

But is running around really enough? And if not, what can I do about it?


What Is It and Why Do I Need It?

Family Time Fitness has three programs. One for schools, one for homeschools, and one to use for co-ops. I reviewed the Fitness 4 Homeschools Core 1 K-8th


From the website -- "Our program, designed by experts in fitness training, nutrition and body movement, is designed to suit every age and ability level while affordably fitting into your budget. Our program combines flexibility and fun with a comprehensive curriculum to give your children a foundation for strong bodies and minds. Best of all, you get all this for only $57 dollars for all your children!"

I learned that the difference between Physical Education and Physical Activity is the structure. Activity is good and maybe some of you also have Wii games that you use to keep your children active. The problem is that they do not "comprehensively teach and manage physical fitness".

In Core 1 you get 260 professionally planned lessons which come in pdf files with 20 lessons for each file. "Lesson plans utilize repetition, but they are also progressive and sequential" and they are for all age levels and abilities. Each lesson will be about 30-45 minutes of physical activity.

Each lesson contains:
  • Skills Taught
  • Equipment needed
  • Suggested Recovery Time
  • Warm-Up
  • Activity/Game Play
  • Cool Down
The following is an example of a portion of the first and the last lesson.

In the first lesson the skills taught are:
Mobility, Balance, Coordination, Rhythm, Flexibility, Strength, Agility, Jumping

One activity was -- Shuffle, Skip, Hop: Shuffle across the room and back 5 times. • Skip across the room and back 5 times. • Hop across the room on your right foot. Hop back on your left foot. Hop across the room and back 5 times. Complete the series 3 times.

In the last lesson the skills taught are:
Coordination, Mobility, Rhythm, Balance, Flexibility, Strength, Agility, Reacting, Throwing & Catching

By this time you would now learn to -- Sit to stand and Hop: Sit cross legged. Stand and hop on your right foot 5 times. Then sit down. Repeat 5 times with your right leg. Then switch to your left leg. Complete 3 sets.

Fitness 4 Homeschools Physical Education Curriculum is all available to you for a one-time purchase of $57. What a savings when you consider the cost of a gym membership.

Our Experience

I thought it would be fun for the kids to take on this project and take turns "teaching" a class. The information is organized in such a way that makes it simple to do. George taught the first lesson and simply read through the instructions, watched the video clips via the hyperlinks in the document if he wasn't sure of exactly how the exercise went. Instead of printing out the whole lesson he only needed the summary page that is included for reminders of what order to work in. Here they are doing a "rocking horse".


We began our morning with a physical fitness lesson. The first lesson simply taught activities such as how to hop on one foot from one end to the next and how to skip. But that got us working and I found out just how out of shape I am. Certainly I should be able to hop on one foot without working up a sweat right? Well, there were repetitions of the activities and by the end I was a bit worn out. We also did jump roping which showed me just how much we need structured lessons to get us doing activities like this.


The activities can be done indoors and then there is an added Outdoor Activity if you would like. We prefer to go outside as long as the weather cooperates. But when we need to be indoors we moved a table around to make more room for all of us.

We all thought it a fun activity to start our day and everyone was excited about taking a turn to "teach" a lesson. I think it will be a nice addition to our routine.

My Thoughts

I can certainly see the benefit of having children learn other skills that we don't always think to teach them. I thought the lesson plans were very well planned out and we had little to do to prepare. The equipment needed is typically something you would have around the house, unless you live at my house were anything left outside is eaten by the dog. But things we needed were various types of balls, bean bags, cones, hula hoops, jump ropes, etc. And this is something we can use again and again as we print out each lesson and place them in a binder.

It is a great way for us to all work together as a family to be physically fit and we have enjoyed it.

Tank says: "I liked it because it was FUN! And I liked the frog squats."


If you would like to read more reviews visit the Crew and see how it worked for other families.


**Disclaimer: As a member of TOS Review Crew, I received a complimentary Core 1 Curriculum to review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Summer Re-Cap -- Up North

Now that we are well into September I wonder where our summer has gone. And since this is supposed to be a journal of sorts I am going to try and document our summer fun even if only for my sake. Thankfully even though I see hints of red on the leaves out my window it still feels like a warm summer day.

I am going to go back to our first excursion this summer which was right after the fourth of July. We took a long weekend and went up north and stayed with John's parents.

Silver Lake

We spent much of the time hanging out on the beach bringing back great memories of exploring the lake and going out in the pontoon when George was little with him towing his toy boat behind on a fishing line. Such a relaxing place.

Being the first weekend after the fourth we took in the festivities at an area bible college for their Freedom Celebration. They have a carnival for kids and bluegrass bands playing and it is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the night was cut short and we missed the guest speaker and fireworks as major storms came through. The sky looked quite ominous causing our boy who is afraid of storms to throw up continually on our walk to shelter despite our best efforts to calm him. We made a run for it and left right as the rain began and watched as they lit the fireworks in a heavy downpour.

But we did enjoy one of the best fireworks shows we have ever seen the following evening and were pleasantly surprised that this small town could have such an amazing display!

We also had a fun time taking a ride on a steam train. Wow, I actually made it into the photo!


The kids enjoyed taking turns sitting up on the top seats of the caboose, a coveted seat for sure.



The train rode out to an old lumber camp and we visited the museum, petting zoo and enjoyed ice cream cones.


On our way home we stopped at a fun amusement park where rides are only .25! Such a deal, especially for our family. My favorite ride is always the Tilt-A-Whirl.


New this year is an old roller coaster that was a favorite of Elvis. It was the boys first time riding one and let me say that they were not prepared for that at all!

I had my zoom lens on the camera and took a picture as they went up smiling...


but on the first drop when I zoomed in on the photo I felt so bad as their faces were all pure terror. (I don't think they want me to share that picture!) They had no idea what to expect. John said riding an old wooden coaster first was not the best idea. They did ride it again however and got used it quickly.


Ah, fun family time. Pure joy!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

TOS Crew -- Reading Kingdom

I am finding there are many online programs available for all areas of learning. Of course the kids love that. The lastest thing for me to review is a tool to help children learn to read and is called Reading Kingdom.


What is Reading Kingdom?

The Reading Kingdom is a fun, easy-to-use online program that teaches children 4-10 years old how to read and write to a third grade level.

The Reading Kingdom is fundamentally different from other reading systems available today in 
both the skills it teaches and in the methods for teaching those skills. Current reading education 
typically teaches a phonics approach, a whole language approach, or a combination of the two. 

Phonics, the main method, teaches the sounding out of words. There is a major problem 
with phonics which is that the majority of English words cannot be sounded out. In order to overcome the problems in sounding out, phonics relies on children memorizing almost 600 rules, which is impossible for a child and even an adult.

Whole language is no better. It has very little structure for learning and as a result, children are often overwhelmed with unfamiliar words and sentence structures that make learning difficult. Without any formalized structure, children find themselves in a sea of unrecognized words – often resulting in reading failure.

So what is the answer?

The answer is the Reading Kingdom, a new reading and writing system developed by Dr. Marion Blank, a world renowned expert on literacy and the Director of the Light on Learning Institute at Columbia University. It uses a 6 skill model of reading instruction.


The only part of the 6 skills Missy worked with was Sequencing so I will mention that a bit.

When we are children and see items grouped together their sequence, or order, doesn't matter. There could be three dogs in a row. A large dog and two smaller dogs. Experience teaches us that these are all dogs. The order they appear in doesn't make any difference. However, when we learn how to read, suddenly, the sequence of the objects becomes essential.

To complete the entire set of components takes about 12-15 months, assuming a child starts at the first level and completes four to five sessions a week. Many children, who already have some reading skills, can often complete the program in as few as 3-6 months. Children can also move through the program more quickly by doing more than 4 sessions per week.

Every child is different!  The Reading Kingdom has been designed to take advantage of a child’s strengths and to help him or her overcome any weaknesses. As a child moves through the program, the path he takes is customized to his particular needs. Because of this, each child’s experience in the Reading Kingdom is unique.

Our Experience

This program sounded very promising to me. I definitely agree with their philosophy and have experienced the difficulty with both phonics and whole language.

I choose to use this with Missy who is 6 1/2. She has struggled to learn to read the same as a few of her brothers before her. And I don't push it until they are really ready. Well, I know she is ready and wanting to read and I thought this the perfect opportunity. She was very excited to get started with Reading Kingdom!

Initially Missy went through a Skills Survey to determine at what point in the program she should begin. Obviously she needed to start at the beginning with Sequencing.

Before the reading portion began Missy went through two exercises. One called Seeing Sequences, which was learning visual sequencing and the other called Letter Land which was learning where the letters on the keyboard are. Every lesson then is basically the same until this level is complete.

At this level a word would come on screen in a fun and colorful setting with a row of mixed up letters beneath it. It asked her to select the letters in order that she saw them. And after she improved on this the word would disappear and she needed to remember and select the correct letters in order.


In the beginning this was quite fun but as time went on and the only thing that changed was the picture on the screen and the word she was sequencing Missy began to grow tired of it. And being that the program reevaluates the child it kept her at the same skill level.  She is now 84% complete with sequencing. I should have looked into it further as I found later that if you feel your child is ready for the next level all you need to do is contact Reading Kingdom and they will adjust that for you.

I also found that it seemed to move quite slow from one finished sequence to beginning the next. And maybe that is a good thing in our fast-paced world. But it was more frustrating to Missy.

What I Like

  • I found that a child can learn to work with the program on their own very easily. 
  • I like that it begins teaching them where the letters on the keyboard are. 
  • They do not need to use the actual keyboard but can use an onscreen keyboard with the click of the mouse.
  • It is very encouraging to the child and cheers them on.
  • It will get into writing skills as well and may work better for the older child.
What Missy says about Reading Kingdom. -- "Not good".

But we will give it another chance as I contact Reading Kingdom to move her ahead. I'd like her to have a chance at the reading portion of the program.

You can try Reading Kingdom and see if it works for your child by signing up for a free 30-day trial. Just click on the "Sign-Up Now" logo. After that, subscriptions to Reading Kingdom are $19.99/month (with no monthly minimum), or $199.99 per year (20% off). Additional children in your account get 50% off ($9.99/month or $99.99/year). You can cancel your subscriptions at any time.

If you would like to read more reviews visit the Crew and see how it worked for other families.


**Disclaimer: As a member of TOS Review Crew, I received a complimentary subscription to review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...