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Beeyoutiful {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

October 2, 2012

Beeyoutiful Skin Care Logo

Beeyoutiful and Beeyoutiful Skin are one in the same company.  They believe that individuals are responsible for their own health.  They believe that doctors are tools, just as the medications and treatments they supply are tools, however, they are not the end all to health.  Their goal is to supply the public with every natural product that they use personally for their family.  Beeyoutiful recently asked the Schoolhouse Review Crew to review skin care, body care, and makeup for them.  The fabulous products I received for review were in the body care line:

  1. Miracle Skin Salve – $15.00
  2. Berry Well Syrup – $19.75
  3. Ow!-Ease trauma salve – $15.00
  4. Peppermint Lip B.A.L.M. – $3.00
  5. Beeyoutiful Views DVD – $3.00

Berry Well Set

The first product I tried was the 2 oz Miracle skin salve.  When my family received our package it was still warm enough outside at our house that two of the children were covered in bug bites.  Covered.  Our first slathering of this salve occurred almost immediately after I watched the DVD on all the uses of Miracle.  You can use it on bug bites, burns, eczema, pimples, and any other skin irritation you might come across.  My children loved Miracle!  They claim it helped them itch less and heal faster.  One night while my mother was visiting us I was putting it on the kids and she asked if she could use some for her eczema.  No big surprise, the next day wanted to know where she could get some for herself!  She said her skin was soft and didn’t itch through the night.  She was sold on this little tub of goodness just like we are!

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The 8 fluid ounce Berry Well syrup we received was a very new thing for my household.  Available for $19.95, Beeyoutiful’s website says that this organic purple elderberry syrup is a blend of Bee Propolis, Raw Honey, and Organic Echinacea root extract.  It is supposed to be used for colds, flu, and other bacterial or viral infections.   “No pharmaceutical currently available on the market has been able to match the Elderberry’s ability to combat viruses and prevent their recurrence.”   I had begun to think I was going to need to try this out of a group of well kids until…two weeks ago when we all got some sort of sinus head cold.  And I do mean all of us.  Me included.  So guess what we got to try out on our cold?  Berry Well!  It’s hard to say if we recovered faster or not, but the flavor, I thought, was pretty good – not medicinal at all.  My kids all could really taste the vinegar in the mixture and they didn’t care for that, but they did thank me for giving them something to try and make them feel better.

Berry Well Syrup

Ow!-Ease is another amazing product.  It is an arnica trauma salve used for bruises and contusions but not for open wounds. “A smooth, creamy blend of beeswax and olive and coconut oils is the mellow base for a dream team of herbs and essential oils known for their anti-inflammatory, restorative abilities.”  I loved the ease of use as this product works like a glue stick.  You just pop the cap off and twist the bottom to make a stick come out of the end.  Then, no need to get messy, just apply the stick to the boo boo of choice.  Again, like with the Berry Well, it was hard for me to know if this product healed my children any faster, but I do know that they felt better when we would use it.  Children always want some sort of attention when they fall, but our rule is if there is no blood, you get no band-aid.  Now, I have something to “give” them, the gift of Ow!-Ease.  Fortunately we didn’t have any major hurts to try this product on, like heads, but there were several little bumps that got some Ow!-Ease attention.  Additionally, my husband was having muscle pain in his back so we decided to try the Ow!-Ease on him.  So many uses in one product – I will surely continue to carry this 1 ounce package in my purse for future use!

Ow!-Ease

The Beautiful Lip B.A.L.M. was another big hit in our house. This stands for Beeyoutiful All-natural Lip Moisturizer.  The one we received was peppermint in flavor, but it also comes in orange, too.  It worked similar to the Ow!-Ease in that it came out of the tube just like chapstick.  It is made of grapeseed oil, shea butter, beeswax, and essential oils – orange or peppermint.  It was soft and smoothed over rough lips with ease.  My daughter and I enjoyed it’s cooling effects after playing outside in the wind and sun.  Additionally, you can use the lip balm as a base  (click on “lips” to see the demo) to apply your mineral lipstick.  If you put the balm on your brush first, then add the mineral color of your choice and apply as liberally as needed.  This way you can add color to your lips at the same time you’re moisturizing them.

Lip Balm

The Beeyoutiful Views DVD is an informational DVD by Stephanie Tallent and is available for $3.00.  The video focuses on how she uses some of Beeyoutiful’s most popular products in her home with her family.  It features the following products:  Cranberry Cleanse, Frankincense Oil, Chamomile Oil, Tummy Tuneup, Supermom, Miracle Salve, Ow! Ease, Berry Well, and Hair Shine.    It also contains “How To” videos on the following:  Charcoal Internal, Charcoal Poultice, Charcoal Facial, Toothpaste, Garlic Poultice, Geranium Oil, Steamy Oils, and Diffuser.  The final grouping is for pregnant mamas.  This section contains the following:  Pregnancy Intro, Red Raspberry Leaf Tea, Digestive Enzyme, Tummy Tuneup, Cod Liver Oil, Supermom, and Pregnancy Tea.

I appreciated the insights that were shared in this DVD.  It was filmed in a relaxed atmosphere and if felt like Stephanie was a trusted friend sharing with you her tips and pointers about living well.  Although the information was helpful, I do not think this DVD is necessary to use the products.  There are more videos online here if you are interested.

The most interesting section to me was the garlic poultice section.  I’ve never used a poultice before, but Stephanie explained it in such a simple way that I feel like I could make one now for my family.  It was refreshing to see a tutorial that did not advertise a product.  This was something anyone could do in their home for the well-being of their family with just a quick trip to the grocery store.  I thought including this tutorial was generous and quite helpful.

My opinion?  Beeyoutiful body care.  Wow.  I can hardly begin to tell you how much we have enjoyed these products!  “Miracle” has taken on a whole new meaning in my house.  Lip balm is fought over and I’m convinced injuries occur on purpose in order to use Ow!-Ease.

You may purchase the products I reviewed individually at the prices indicated at the top.  Be sure to check out what my fellow crew mates had to say about these products as well as the skin care and mineral makeup by Beeyoutiful.

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DISCLAIMER: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received complimentary products of Beeyoutiful Skin Care for the purpose of completing this review. All the opinions expressed here are my own and are offered honestly in exchange for the product. The receipt of the product in no way influenced my honest assessment.

D is for Dealing with Chronic Pain

September 28, 2012

I usually don’t share personal stuff on my blog.  Lately I’ve been crazy just trying to keep up with all the reviews – what a blessing!  But I’m joining Marcy over at Ben and Me today as she is blogging through the alphabet.  I missed A, B, & C but better late than never, right?  Hopefully this post will help you understand a friend or maybe relate to me in some way.

There are millions of people in the world that deal with chronic pain.  I am one of them.  Everyone deals in their own way.  From taking medications to seeking out alternatively therapies.  Some go to counseling, some to chiropractors, some meditate, some pray.

Everyone of us hurts.

We all try not to let it take over our lives.  We all try to gain some measure of normalcy.  We all long for the pain to stop.  For many, some days are better than others.  Some of us know why we hurt, what ails us.  While others suffer from mystery pains.

It taxes your brain.  Your well-being.  Your sense of who you are is questioned.  Your confidence on what you can accomplish alone is challenged.  Your ideas of how much of the day you can stand are often wrong.  The life you lead doesn’t seem like your own.  Instead, it belongs to the pain.

You try to psych yourself out to get through it.  You stand it as long as possible before giving into it.  You try not to whine and complain.  You can’t let it win.  Often times fatigue and depression set in.  You wonder if it will last forever.  You can’t imagine it not being partnered with you.

Well-meaning friends quote you scripture.  You feel your prayers are in vain.  Does the Lord even hear you?  Of course, you reason, he suffered so much more than this and he survived – even triumphed!  There are plenty of verses in the Bible that speak to “counting it pure joy my brothers…”.  You question your salvation, your very existence.

Not everyone goes this far, this deep, but many do.  How do you justify your thought process?  Oh yes.  Don’t neglect the pain.  The overwhelming burden.

The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer. – Psalms 6:9

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Blogging Through the Alphabet

Music Together {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

September 27, 2012

Music Together

When my oldest two were toddler and infant respectively, we attended music classes together as a family.  There were rhythm sticks and scarves and activities all planned by a trained teacher.  It was a comprehensive music experience for my little ones that we all enjoyed.  Eventually the teacher moved away and the classes dispersed and we were left with a CD and a host of wonderful ideas of how to incorporate music into the lives of our children.  We had such a splendid time with this program that I was excited to get to review Music Together with all four of my children!

Music Together is a preschool/early elementary music program that supports all learning:  language, cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development.  Written by Kenneth K. Guilmartin, Lili M. Levinowitz, Ph.D, and Lyn Ransom, D.M.A., Music Together is based on sound research. Brought to the public scene in 1987, Music Together is an internationally recognized, award-winning music program.  The program encourages parental involvement and wishes to instill the pleasure of informal music into the daily lives of children.   It works off the idea that every individual is musical and children need “a stimulating, supportive music environment to achieve basic competence in the wonderful human capacity for music-making.”  

Affectionately known in my house as “silly songs”, Music Together Family Favorites is a delightful set of 19 of the most-loved songs from the 9 Music Together song collections. This CD comes with a 32-page booklet with fun ideas for activities that make every song special and enjoyable.  The only things missing are your kids and a few instruments (rhythm sticks, egg shakers, etc.) – available from Music Together or easily made at home using miscellaneous supplies.

Additionally, to complete my review I was also sent the Music Together Family Favorites Songbook for Teachers.  The Songbook was 112 spiral-bound pages.  At the beginning of the songbook was detailed information on how to use the book.  The book included an introduction to the philosophy, types of songs and activities, instruments and props, and classroom adaptations for special needs children.  The four-point philosophy that follows was discussed in detail:

  1. All children are musical.
  2. Therefore, all children can achieve basic music competence; that is they can learn to sing and move with accurate rhythm.
  3. The participation and modeling of parents and other primary caregivers is essential to a child’s musical growth.
  4. This growth is best achieved in a playful, musically rich, and non-performance-oriented learning environment.

Music Together

The middle of the songbook had every song on the CD written out along with activities to enhance the song.  There was background information on each song, what skill would be covered in that song, how to introduce the song, what to do with preschoolers and older children, what to do with infants, extra extension activities, special items to note, and how to incorporate children with special needs.  It was a truly amazing book – full of photographs of children enjoying musical activities and artwork to accompany each song.

The end of the songbook included more information about the Music Together program, a glossary, and a guitar reference chart.

We used this program with all four of my children ages 4, 7, 9 and 11.  From the 5th grader down to the preschooler, they all loved it!  I wasn’t sure at first what my eldest would say because the music was designed for a younger crowd (birth to age 7), but she wound up being the one shushing the others when she wanted to hear a certain song!  We listened at home and in the car – it has become the favored car listening music.  There is one song that sings about riding in the car and has beeps and screeches and zooms (not distracting for the driver, I promise) but it also says “sleepin’ in the car”.  My kids thought it was funny to joke with me about this one because mommy had better not sleep while driving in the car!

When the program arrived at our home, it was so nice to open the package only to find that there was really no prep work needed to explore this music system.  We did need a few instruments, as I mentioned earlier, but those were easy to round up.  (A pair – or four – of wooden spoons for rhythm sticks and a few plastic eggs with uncooked rice in them taped shut got us started.)  I thoroughly read all the information provided in the songbook and felt more than adequately prepared to start teaching my children.  I do have a little music background but I don’t think it would be necessary to be successful using Music Together.  Everything was laid out so easy to understand.

Due to timing, we first listened to the CD in the car.  We had lots of errands to run and I was anxious to get started with the program.  It was amazing how my kids perked up to the new sounds.  I didn’t tell them we got a new CD, but the songs were captivating and they listened and laughed to the entire CD.  My daughter said she didn’t like one song but couldn’t explain to me why.   Then she smiled and said that it made her want to dance, so I consider that a musical success whether she likes it or not!

As time went on, we would choose a few songs for the time allotted and work with those few songs in depth with rhythm, movement, and discussion.  My 7 year old was the most energetic about our Music Together experience.  He would dance around and ham it up the entire time.  The 11 year old tolerated her younger brothers’ antics and enjoyed her own involvement.  She had no problem finding the beats and finding creative ways to keep the time.  She also really enjoyed singing along with the songs and learned a lot of the words.  She did well when I would sing a harmony; she could keep the melody for the most part.  The 4 year old was mostly giggles.  He is still in the learning stages of rhythm and movement but he could play with the instruments with no problems.  The 9 year old was the quirky one.  Every now and then I’d catch a smile from him, but he was harder to get motivated during our instruction time.  I couldn’t figure out if he thought the movement was too immature for him or if it was just his bashful personality shining through.  The funniest thing was that he totally enjoyed the CD when we weren’t focusing on the activities.

Some of our favorite songs were:

  • “Mississippi Cats” – they loved the fast beat and trying to spell with the singers.   The song is jazzy and full of scats.
  • “She Sells Sea Shells” – the older three liked the tongue twisting challenge.
  • “Allee Galloo” – I think because we have a little friend named Allie the kids thought these nonsense sounds were fun surrounding her name.

Music Together Awards

My opinion?  My kids (and I) adored the vast array of music, sounds and rhythms they heard on this CD.  A music class of this caliber would cost me a mere fortune for all of my children to participate and the oldest two would already be too old for the classes.  The option of having this CD and accompanying songbook for teachers is phenomenal!  Definitely worth the money!  Just one word of warning – you will be singing these songs around the house so be prepared to be hassled by loved ones.  🙂

You may sample the songs available for $0.99 each, buy the CD alone for $14.95 or download the music in an MP3 version for $9.95.  The Music Together Family Favorites Songbook and CD are available as a set for $39.95 ($5 cheaper than buying them separately).  Enter the code SCHOOLHOUSE at checkout and receive an additional $2 off your purchase of this set.

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DISCLAIMER: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a complimentary copy of Music Together Family Favorites Songbook and CD for the purpose of completing this review. All the opinions expressed here are my own and are offered honestly in exchange for the product. The receipt of the product in no way influenced my honest assessment.

Raising Real Men – Children in Church {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

September 23, 2012

Cover Children in Church
I don’t usually post on Sundays, but I thought this topic was perfect for a Sunday post.  Recently I received an advanced copy of Children in Church:  Nurturing Hearts of Worship by Curt and Sandra Lovelace from Hal and Melanie Young, publishers of Raising Real Men.  This book focuses on how to bring children into and make them a part of corporate worship with their families.  It discusses the debate of whether or not children should be included with the masses for the entirety of the service or whether they should enjoy a time away with their peers learning on an age appropriate level.

Fortunately, I am blessed to attend an assembly where children are welcomed and provided for at the same time.  There is an announcement made every Sunday morning addressing our stance on family-centered worship while at the same time taking into account needs of families with children.  We have glass training rooms at the back of the congregation that have pews in them for training children to sit while allowing fidgeting and occasional verbal outbursts.  We also have an attended nursery for children aged 2 and under as well as a nursing mothers room complete with a baby changing station and rocking chairs.  All these rooms have audio piped in of the service, but honestly the only place you can really hear it is in the training rooms.  The other two rooms do not truly lend themselves well to paying attention to the service.  Even while all these convenient facilities are in place, we still encourage parents to stay in the auditorium for the worship services.  These options are only there for “if your child is bothering you, because they don’t bother us!”  What a blessing to have church leaders and a church family willing to work with young families to keep their little ones together with them while at the same time offering different avenues of education if you want to take advantage of it.

Lovelaces
This was such a timely book for me as my congregation starts children’s church each year after Labor Day. Our children’s church convenes right after the Lord’s Supper and covers the time of the sermon, the remaining songs, closing prayer, and announcements.  Children are not required to attend, but most parents take advantage of this opportunity to hear God’s Word preached without the interruptions of their children, so most all parents in the congregation send their children to children’s church.  It is only for ages 3 through 2nd grade.

Each year my husband and I discuss whether or not to send our eligible children to class during this time.  There have been times that we haven’t for various reasons, but we do wonder and seek clarity over whether or not to keep our children with us in the assembly for the lesson, remaining prayers, and songs.  I found that I identified with the authors on most all the points they made in this book and their gentle suggestions caused me to discuss the topic again with my husband.

Children In Church consists of 10 chapters written to parents with a final chapter being written specifically to church leaders.  The chapter headings are as follows:  1-Bringing Them In, 2-Understanding the Elements, 3-Counting the Cost, 4-Laying the Foundation, 5-Getting Ready, 6-Packing the Bag, 7-Drawing the Word, 8-Preparing a Plan, 9-Facing the Challenges, 10-Growing as Disciples, 11-Note to Church Leaders

Throughout the book, Curt and Sandra share from their thirty years of experience in ministry with the reader.  They speak of how they managed to keep their children in the sanctuary with them through the “hard years” while the children were still very little and they give manageable examples of how the reader can do that, too.  It wasn’t that they had perfect children, it was that they felt a calling from God to keep their children with them so they made it work.  This was even while Curt was a pulpit minister so Sandra was handling their children solo!  What a testimony to us all that it can be done.

While reading this book  it shocked me to find how many instances of insistence that children be removed from the assembly!  They spoke of times where it was written in the bulletin that the children would be dismissed.  Now.  Without any other options.  They spoke of well meaning people greeting them at the door and asking them to take their children to the nursery before services even started.  Amazing!  In my 11 years of parenting and attending worship services with my children, I have only heard mention of one time when a woman offered to take a crying baby to the nursery in a mother’s stead.  That was offensive to me as a mother though I’m sure the woman was just trying to help.

The Lovelaces express their desire that children remain in the assembly with their families by siting several scriptures.  For example, Joshua 8:35, “There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the aliens who lived among them.”  And another in Deuteronomy 29:10-11, “All of you are standing today in the presence of the LORD your God-your leaders and chief men, your elders and officials, and all the other men of Israel together with your children and your wives, and the aliens living in your camps that chop your wood and carry your water.”

They also pointed out that on the occasions when you must leave the sanctuary to discipline your child that you bring them right back to the sanctuary as quickly as possible.  The child needs to learn that acting up does not get them a free ride to a room full of toys and other children with which to play.  

The confusion for most people, they say, when deciding what to do with their children during the worship service is how difficult will it be to keep my child with me and will I be a distraction to those around me if my child is present.  However, with just the two scriptures sited above, it is easy to see that the Lord expected children to be in the worship assembly with their parents, and that is just the point Curt and Sandra are trying to make.  They don’t condemn church ministries that offer childcare, but rather they state,

…what is meant as a sacrificial provision by the church can often cause parents to allow their primary responsibility for spiritual nurturing of their children to take a back seat. – page 22

The key is to have everyone on board – to offer children ways to understand the goings on of the assembly while at the same time have other worshipers supporting the parents in their endeavors to keep the children with the family.  How exactly do you offer kids a way to understand the worship service?  You involve them in it.  And, you don’t expect your children to act like miniature adults.  It is okay to have quiet discussions with your children about what is happening during the service.  You can of course go into more detail in the privacy and convenience of your own home, but there is nothing wrong with explaining things as they are happening.  I know my children are required to “pray” when the congregation is praying and sing when the congregation is singing and to sit and stand at appropriate times.  I can’t force them to take part with their hearts, but I can encourage their outward actions that will (hopefully) in turn become inward actions.  Even the tiniest children can fold their hands for prayer or put a quarter in the collection plate.  These seem like small steps but the authors say they are crucial ones.  On page 33 they state, “We can not conjure up nor replace the intimacy of humble hearts opened in unity before the throne of grace.  We cannot articulate or imitate the mystery of God’s relationship revealed within the corporate expression of His body.”  In other words, there is no replacing the experience children will get from participating in corporate worship.

Great Waters Press LogoMy opinion?  It is important for every family to examine their stance on how to worship.  This book offers a critical look at the options and presents crucial points that families should discuss and decide upon.  I think it is a good read for anyone who has ever considered whether or not children should be included in worship.  It answers many questions and poses a great challenge to church members with or without children of their own.  It was especially meaningful to me in my current state of raising young children in the Lord.

The publisher, Great Waters Press, has several other resources including A Cry From Egypt which some of my fellow crew members reviewed.  Children In Church is aimed at parents of children ages 8 and younger, while A Cry From Egypt is recommended for children older than 8.  Be sure to check out what my crew mates had to say about both books!  To purchase your advanced copy for only $12.00 or to find out more information, check out their website and find them on Facebook.

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DISCLAIMER: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a complimentary copy of Children in Church for the purpose of completing this review. All the opinions expressed here are my own and are offered honestly in exchange for the product. The receipt of the product in no way influenced my honest assessment.

Speekee TV {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

September 13, 2012

Speekee TV

Speekee Spanish is an immersion online Spanish program which features actors Jim and several children, as well as puppets Speekee, Dino, and Lupi.  Speekee TV Immersion Connect allows children “a multi-sensory Spanish experience”.  Once logged into Speekee TV,  Immersion Connect lets children earn points and level up, cash in points to buy items in the mercado (store), create their own virtual sock puppet, engage virtually with the Speekee characters, and listen, speak, read, and respond in Spanish.

Speekee Spanish TV consists of 40 weeks worth of Spanish instruction.  It has 10 movies ranging in length from 13 to about 20 minutes – totaling over 150 minutes of viewing time.  In each episode the children visit a new place.  Throughout the 10 shows, they go to the park, the cafe, the home, the zoo, a classroom, the market, the station, the beach, the garden and a party.  You can look at the “Fastrack” at the bottom of the screen to see lesson plans on how to use one episode’s content on four different days covering four different weeks.  This means that each movie will teach your child for 16 days.  For example, the third episode is “La Casa”.  With Fastrack, “La Casa” lasts weeks 9 through 12 with lesson plans for four days out of each of those weeks.  You don’t watch the entire movie every day.  Some days you don’t watch the movie at all and others you watch snipets of the show.  Also, when you sign up you can elect to have these Fastrack lessons sent right to your email inbox each week!

This program takes the Spiral Learning approach.  It adds new language while in the same presentation it reviews previously learned content to remind the learner.  This was a nice feature because I felt my children didn’t have to catch everything the first time around – there was a second, third, and possibly even fourth or fifth time for them to get it.

Speekee TV is designed to teach children ages 2 through 10 European Spanish.  It is filmed in Spain, mostly in Arcos de la Frontera.  (They have a picture of the town on their blog.)  This means the pronunciations for some of the words are different from the way I learned in school.  The “v’s” are pronounced as “b’s”, the soft “c’s” are said with a “th” sound as well as a few other sounds that took a little getting used to.  It really didn’t play a part in the kids learning Spanish though.  These differences are easy to adjust to and since the children didn’t know one way or the other, they of course didn’t even notice.

Speekee

How we used the program:

I decided to let all four of my children (ages 4 – 11) try out Speekee TV at the same time.  We usually sat through the video all together the first time.  This helped me to learn the songs and know exactly what the kids were seeing should they have questions.  As the days followed, I let them do what they were capable of for the extension activities.  There were many professionally done worksheets that the older three could do that my youngest, who can’t hold a pencil yet, was incapable of doing.  (I think given about six more months and he would be the right developmental level for the worksheets.)  Some of the activities included crafts and games – all an extension of the episode that was just watched.  These activities were a wonderful asset to the shows.  They helped reinforce all that had just been introduced as well as add an element of fun to the program.

What we thought:

My four year old son was mesmerized with Speekee TV.  I’m not sure how much Spanish he got out of it, but let’s face it, he still has a hard time speaking English!  He would dance with the music and loved watching the child actors on the screen.  His favorite parts were probably the Lupi and Dino scenes.

The seven year old really enjoyed watching Speekee TV the most out of all of my kids.  He wanted me to translate everything for him though instead of enjoying the immersion method.  He liked the catchy songs and I would hear him randomly singing them around the house.  He would mostly just hum the tunes, but if I helped him with the words a little he could belt those out as well.  ¡Muy bien!

My oldest two (9 & 11) liked the program but felt Speekee, the character, was a little young for them since he is a puppet.  That sure did NOT stop them from learning Spanish though!   My daughter did get frustrated with the closed captioning because she tried to read the English as it flashed on the screen.  It was just too fast for her.  She even wanted to know how Spanish was spoken so much faster than English since she couldn’t read the English as fast as they spoke the Spanish!  I found this comical and proceeded to figure out how to turn off the closed captioning.   (Which was super easy- just hover over the movie like you were going to fast forward or rewind and the closed captioning is a box in the upper right hand corner.  It toggles on and off with a click of your mouse and it tells you in the box what mode it’s set to.  Very nice feature.)

Likes:

  • The closed captioning can be turned on or off based on your child’s needs.  (See above for directions.)  Also, the closed captioning is written in Spanish and English simultaneously.
  • The Spanish verbs are all in the present tense.  This makes understanding and learning a new language so much easier. No conjugations needed!
  • The catchy tunes didn’t annoy me like some children’s programs can.  I was pleased to find that the songs were easy to remember even for my littlest guy.
  • Completely in Spanish.  This is a complete immersion program unlike other programs that teach foreign languages.  You will not hear any English and will only see it if you choose to turn on the closed captioned subtitles.

My opinion?  Speekee Spanish TV is a wonderful program filled with, well, Spanish!  Having Spanish in my background already was not necessary to teach this program.  It was filled with action perfect for children and contained delightful music.  My kids liked it and I was impressed.  And with two weeks free, how can you go wrong?

The first two weeks of Speekee TV are free.    Then it is available for $7.50/month or $60 for the year.  There are no minimums, so you can cancel at any time.  See a clip, learn more, and sign up for the free trial here.

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DISCLAIMER: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a complimentary subscription to Speekee TV for the purpose of completing this review. All the opinions expressed here are my own and are offered honestly in exchange for the product. The receipt of the product in no way influenced my honest assessment.

Math 911 {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

September 11, 2012

Math 911

My children are all below the age of 11, so guess who got to do this review?  ME!  I always write the reviews but rarely do I get the chance to be the one giving all the opinions, but this all changed with Math 911.  I was able to brush up on my Algebra skills all by myself!  It was almost as fun as reading a good book!  I decided to do this because, other than multiplication and long division, I don’t get much of a math challenge these days.  And let’s face it, it won’t be much longer before my oldest kids are ready to take the plunge into Pre-Algebra so I’d better get ready.

Math 911 was designed for students who are convinced that Algebra is too difficult for them.  As you’ll see below, Math 911 has been offering an economical solution to this reaction to Algebra since 1989.  Professor Martin Weissman, a teacher with nearly 50 years teaching experience, developed this program to help these children.

From the website:

Topics are arranged by chapter, section and levels. Within each level are all the types of problems that identify the concepts that your students must know in order to be successful in Algebra including Graphs and Word Problems.   All problems are algorithmically generated.

In order to test out this program, Professor Weissman offered a downloadable version of the math programs he offers.  Yes, program*s*.  It’s not just an Algebra course.  He included Intermediate Algebra, Statistics, Trigonometry, College Algebra, and Pre-Calculus.  I started with College Algebra.  I have taken College Algebra before and expected it not to be too difficult.  Well, let’s just say I needed the review.

I initially had to right click on the icon and “Run as Administrator” – just a helpful note.  After choosing the level with which to begin, the program then gave me an equation at the top of the screen.  Further instructions were given toward the bottom of the screen.  It was a little awkward at first, but I caught on quickly.  I had to type my answers in using the keyboard.  (I found that for some problems later, I had to use my mouse to choose symbols on the screen.)  When I was done, I pressed “Enter” and the board told me if I was right.  When I got the answer correct, I got a big “¡¡¡RIGHT!!!” in the display.  If I wasn’t on top of my game, the program proceeded to show me the correct answer.  If I didn’t understand at that point, I could choose “See Solution” and then “See All Steps” from buttons on the right.  That was it.  Simple.  Straightforward.  Math.

Another helpful hint, I found the “Control + N” buttons to be very helpful while using this program.  That combination brought up a new problem.  If I had wanted, I could have clicked “New Problem” on the right but it was nicer not having to move back and forth from the mouse and just work from the keyboard.

Math 911 Disclaimer

Likes:

  • Simplicity.  This was a very basic, no frills, no cartoons sort of program.  If you want your child entertained, look to video games.  This program will teach math.  Here are some sample screen shots to give you an idea of what I mean.
  • Adaptability.  Math 911 could effortlessly be used in conjunction with any other math program.
  • Math 911 reinforces the positive and eliminates the negative.  Since this program follows the mastery learning approach, the student only gets graded on the problems he gets right.  The problems that are responded to incorrectly are corrected simply through the step-by-step answer supplied by the program.
  • Networking the program is an option.  So wonderful for a large family with multiple users!
  • Other than the original download and upgrades, no internet connection is required.  If you choose to get the flash drive, you never need an internet connection.

Professor Weissman

Dislikes:

  • When using the calculator, you have to close the calculator to type in the answer on the page.  So you have to keep the answer from the calculator in your head long enough to close the calculator with the mouse and then type in the answer on the page.  I wish the calculator could have just stayed open.
  • This is a DOS-like program.  Very simple – which is good…and bad.  I like to multi-task and if I ever left Math 911 to go, say, check e-mail or add something to this review, I couldn’t get back into the program without reopening it.  I would have to go to my desktop and double click the Math 911 icon again like I was starting the program for the first time.  Then, I would be taken to the “home page” to choose a level again.  Any work I had completed appeared to be there, however, I did have to choose my level again as if starting over.  Moral?  Don’t multi-task whilst performing math problems!

My opinion?  I remember being frustrated in the 8th grade with Algebra.  I think if I’d had a positive program like Math 911 available to me then I would have been more successful.  I, personally, plan to be successful with Statistics and maybe even a little Calculus with this program!  With all the information and practice jam packed into one program I think you’d be missing out on a wonderful opportunity if you didn’t purchase Math 911 for your youngster or even yourself.

The Standard Version of Math911 – a complete Algebra One course – can be downloaded from the website for free!  There is also an option to upgrade to the Premier Version for a limited time for only $49.95.  With the Premier Version you have free lifetime updates, free technical support as well as access to additional Mathematics Courses with separate grade reports for all family members (including Mom and Dad!)  For a limited time, use the code:  homeschool to receive the product for $9.95.

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DISCLAIMER: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a complimentary copy of Math 911 for the purpose of completing this review. All the opinions expressed here are my own and are offered honestly in exchange for the product. The receipt of the product in no way influenced my honest assessment.

Reading Kingdom {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

September 6, 2012

I taught my eleven year old how to read years ago and my nine year old basically taught himself – yay!  So it’s been six years (at least) since I’ve taught anyone how to read!  Imagine my surprise when my nearly seven year old hasn’t quite caught on yet.  That’s why I was so excited to have been selected for this review of Reading Kingdom!

Reading Kingdom was created by Dr. Marion Blank.  It is an online reading program designed to teach children ages 4 through 10 reading up to a third grade level.  It is versatile enough to be used with your current reading program.  How exactly is the Reading Kingdom different from other programs?  It uniquely provides customized reading instruction for each child using skills including sequencing, motor skills, phonics (phonemic awareness), meaning, grammar and reading comprehension.
Skills List

I obviously chose my “overdue non-reader” to try out this program.  At seven I expect him to be much further along than basic phonetics and a few site words.  He recognizes most all the letters and knows the sounds they make, but he does still have trouble mixing up b’s and d’s and he can’t apply his knowledge of the sounds all the way through the words.  For example, he may get the first two letters sounded out correctly and then totally drop the end of the word or just guess at it – usually incorrectly.  :/

How we used the program:

I sat with my son while he used the program.  This is not necessary, in fact it was hard on me to keep my mouth shut, because if he messed up the computer corrected him.  He could have done Reading Kingdom on his own without me observing, but I wanted to see what the program was about so I could write more intelligently about it for the review.  To get started, he was given a test to assess where to start him out.  After the testing part was over was when the real fun began.

Initially, he was asked to find letters in a string that matched letters in a cloud.  For example, “go”.  He had to select the letters “g & o” out of a group like this “t g k l o”.  Each time he progressed, the words got a little more challenging and he earned points.  This exercise helped his with letter recognition as well as tracking left to right.  Once he was making real words it also helped with spelling and word recognition.

Reading Kingdom Screenshot

The next section had him use the keyboard.  He was told which rows on the keyboard would be used and then given a string of two to three letters to find.  Then he was asked to type one of those letters again to help form a word on the screen.  The woman’s voice would then read the word and a cartoon would dance across the screen to reinforce the meaning of the word.

My boy loved the Reading Kingdom!  He drew a crowd every time he played because he was so animated right along with the characters on the screen.  He would play but his brothers would watch intently.  He adored the owl mascot and would repeatedly say, “I love that birdie!”   Sometimes he was asked to use the mouse to click letters while other times he had to find certain letters on the keyboard.  If there was a word created by his efforts, a voice would pronounce the word followed by applause.  After each correct answer there is a little cartoon display which he enjoyed immensely.

Likes:

  • This was like a game to my son – which was wonderful!  He is such a reluctant reader that he squirms and tries to beg off of reading books.  Although he couldn’t read all the words presented in this program, he was still anxious to work at it.  Since the voice always read the words to him, I feel confident that he was learning while playing.
  • Ease of use.  There were tons of options from using an on-screen keyboard or an attached keyboard to increasing the response time for the child.  The ability to tell where your child was in the program as well as to see how well they were progressing was achieved with little icons and tickers-easy to use at a glance.  You can even use it on an iPad!

Dislikes:

  • Because this is an online program, it took a while to download the next screen each time.  This wait, though not terribly long, was long enough for him to lose a little bit of momentum.

My opinion?  We loved Reading Kingdom!  We feel so blessed to have been able to use it for free in exchange for this review.  It is, however, not something that we will be able to continue financially after the review period has passed.  If you have it in your budget, I say go for it – it truly is a wonderful program!  If you would love to use it but simply can’t afford it, check out their scholarship program.  I hope that it will get my Liam on the track to reading fluently before the subscription runs out and we go back to his dreaded books.

Working on Reading Kingdom

You may try Reading Kingdom for free for 30 days.  Once you love it like we have, you’ll want to purchase it for $19.99/month or $199.99 for the year.  If you have more than one reader you can add them for only $9.99/month or $99.99 for the year.  You may cancel your subscription at any time.  Additionally, further resources are available for purchase at the Reading Kingdom store.

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DISCLAIMER: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a complimentary subscription to the Reading Kingdom for the purpose of completing this review. All the opinions expressed here are my own and are offered honestly in exchange for the product. The receipt of the product in no way influenced my honest assessment.