Monday, August 21, 2017

Phonics Museum App

Our family loves the Veritas Press Bible programs, so when we had the opportunity to review for the company again, I was excited. They offer materials for much more than Bible classes though, and this time, we we've been learning with their new Phonics Museum App.

Veritas Press was created by Marlin and Laurie Detweiler as a way to give their own children a classical education. After their curricula worked so well for their family, they wanted to make it available to other like-minded parents, as well. Since then, the company has grown to offer full curriculum, a publishing company, an online classical Christian academy, and two classical Christian schools. 

The Phonics Museum App is a multi-sensory program that teaches kids to read in a fun, engaging way. The student joins William and Wendy on an adventure through an art museum. Percival, a walking-talking suit of armor guides and encourages them as they look at the paintings, learn their letters, and discover that art can be exciting. They are then introduced to Miss Biddle, the quirky museum curator, as she leads the lessons. She's animated during some of the games and activities, but "comes to life" as she teaches the lessons to the student. Like the other materials from Veritas Press, this app follows the Classical Approach of learning, and not only teaches letters and sounds, but includes bit of information about artists and their works, inventions, history, nature, and more. 

The app was designed for early-readers in the 3-7 year age range, so it contains over 900 games, videos, interactions, real teaching, and memory songs to keep little ones engaged. A typical lesson has around 11 stages.  It always starts and ends with a video and has other activities throughout. For example, it might follow this format: video, song, video, game, video, game, video, game, video, game, video. A student must complete each stage of the lesson before he can move to the next, and he can see what each lesson contains by looking at the numbered easels with the appropriate icons. Sometimes the videos are simply Miss Biddle announcing the next activity, but mostly they are filled with teaching and silliness.  

The Phonics Museum believes in "edutainment," meaning games and learning collide and children don't even realize it. That's why there are 22 games that not only will the student enjoy, but also will learn to read while playing them. The games reinforce the learning by encouraging the student to recognize the individual letters--both upper and lower case along with both printed and written versions--and their sounds. The games are simple, but cute. There is a chipmunk that eats nuts, a frog that catches flies with his tongue, birds that happily splash in a bird bath, a catapult that launches paintballs that decorate the castle, and many more.  

One thing that I appreciate about the teaching is that for the games that focus on the sounds, there is a slight emphasis on the specific letter that is being reviewed. For example, during an M game, the student is supposed to touch the sarcophagus when Miss Biddle says the words that begin with the M sound. Mmustache. Boy. Penny. Mmoose. There is that slight emphasis on the /m/ to trigger the sound for the student. It is not overly done and the student himself might not even recognize it, but subtly it helps.   

My kindergartner is learning to read, so this app came at the perfect time. He loves watching the videos, playing the games, and reading the simple books. He adores Miss Biddle. Seriously, she must be the cutest teacher ever with her bold dress covered in letters, ribbons in her hair, her quirkiness, and her charming personality. She's a bit like Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus, but not quite as eccentric and without the transforming bus. Many times I catch even my older kids watching the videos and laughing at the silliness. 

The museum contains 10 floors of interactive fun. The paintings come alive, the characters are silly, and the whole experience is fun. Most importantly though, it helps kids learn their letters and sounds--and ultimately how to put those together to make words--with a solid phonics-based program. I'm excited to watch my little one learn and explore with the Phonics Museum.  

The Phonics Museum App is available through iTunes. It is a complete curriculum on its own, but since it is a spin-off of the physical version, it can also be used as a complimentary aid. If you'd like to see the app in action, there is an informational video on the website.

You can connect with Veritas Press on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of this app on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 8/11/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9), Zac (7 1/2), Tyler (5), Nicholas (2 1/2)

Happy Friday! I have a shorter-than-normal list today, because much of the week was filled with sickness. It always breaks my heart when my little ones aren't well, but we still make sure to find reasons to Smile. This week, we celebrated National Sea Serpent Day again,  I read the kiddos a complete chapter book (that we're reviewing) in one sitting, canned 4 batches of jam, and spent a bunch of time loving on my babies. 

1. Zac: "Mom, I love to hug you."

2. Tyler: "I can speak Baby."


4. Zac: "You're the best mother anyone could ever have. The prettiest, too."

5. Tyler: "Do you know what was my favorite thing in my whole entire life? The mirror maze!" (even though he thought he saw the exit, got excited, and ran straight into a mirror.)

6. Alyssa: "Whenever you make jam, a masterpiece is made."

7. Zac, going outside: "I'm going out barefoot."
Nicholas: "I go tippy toes!"

8. Leighton took the 2 healthy boys to the park to run off some energy while the other kids rested. They found a (huge!) painted rock and brought it home to re-hide as a family. 

9. Zac, reading my label on the jar: "Strawberry jam. I'll tell you what it's called: deliciousness."

10. Nicholas: "49 love you!"
Me: "49 love you?"
Nicholas: "Yeah!"
Me: "What does that even mean?"
Nicholas: "I don't know! 49 love you!"

What made you Smile this week?

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 7/28/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9), Zac (7 1/2), Tyler (5), Nicholas (2 1/2)

Happy Monday! This week, we went swimming at a friend's house, Zac made a vase specifically for his grandma, we bought some books and played at the park. We also moved Nicholas out of a toddler bed into a full-size bunk bed, hoping that he'll finally start to sleep at night. What made you Smile?

1. Jake: "It's kinda cool waking up and seeing what happened to your hair at night. Sometimes this part is sticking out or this one, or it will be sticking up back here. You just never know."

2. Alyssa: "I love taste testing! It's my favorite part of cooking."

3. Zac lost his top 2 middle teeth in the same day.

4. Zac: "Mom, you were the first one I kissed with no teeth!"

5. Jake: "I have a special performance for you!"
He then, with a huge smile on his face, proceeded with a series of armpit farts.
Me: "And what do you call that?"
Jake: "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain in fart form. I thought it was absolutely hilarious!"

6. Zac: "Nicky is the cutest baby on earth! Jesus may have been cuter, but Nicky's the cutest baby on earth."

7. Jake, because the kids couldn't decide who got the last of a treat: "Hey, let's cast lots!"

9. Me: "Do you want to make this into one loaf or two?"
Jake, making cinnamon bread: "Two, so we can have more!"
Me: {blank stare}
Jake: "What? Isn't two better?"
Me: "Tell me you're joking."
Jake: "No, I love it, so of course I want more. Two loaves."
Me: "Turn this one batch of dough into two loaves instead of one?"
Jake: "Right."
Me: "And that's going to be more?"
Jake: "Yes, two is more than one."
Me: "But it's the same amount of dough!"
Jake: {blank stare}

10. Alyssa, reading a poem: "This is weird. It doesn't make any sense."
Me, after reading it: "It's written by the dog. Read it again like it's the dog talking."
Alyssa: "Well, that explains the improper grammar."

What made you Smile this week?
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Friday, August 4, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 7/14/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9), Zac (7 1/2), Tyler (5), Nicholas (2 1/2)

Happy Friday! The month of July was crazy busy for our family. This week, the oldest two kids went to junior camp for the first time, family from Texas came for a visit, and we went to the Toledo Zoo with friends. So many memories, so much fun.

1. Tyler, because Zac hadn't come to the table yet for his pb&j lunch: "Zachry, your sandwich is getting cold!"

2. Jake: "Next vacation, can we go sky diving?"
Me: "No!"
Jake: "Why, because it's expensive?"
Me: "That's not why."
Jake: "It's not like it's dangerous or anything. I mean, you're wearing a parachute."

3. Jake: "If at first you don't succeed . . . watch another YouTube video."


5. Alyssa: "Why are so many people scared of the dentist? That's like the silliest thing. The dentist is your teeth's best friend."

6. Tyler, in the aquarium at the Toledo Zoo: "Whoa! That's an ugly fish!"
Zac: "No fish are ugly, because God's creation is beautiful."

7. Leighton, to Nicholas: "Hold your pea-pickin' horses."
Jake: "He has horses?!"
Me: "And they pick peas."
Jake: "What! I don't even have a phone, and he has horses! Those are way more expensive."

8. Tyler, watching Leighton fill water balloons: "Dad, I am not the perfect water balloon target."


10. Nicholas, putting a cup upside down on my head, like a crown: "You pincess!"

11. Jake: "Want to hear the song I just made up?"
{singing to the tune of Oh, How I Love Jesus, verse}
"This is how I brush my teeth.
I brush them twice a da-ay.
I brush them 'til they're white as snow,
And brush the plaque away."

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

In the Riegn of Terror

Our family appreciates the privilege of reviewing products as a member of the Homeschool Review Crew. Over the years, we've been introduced to some amazing vendors and have fallen in love with their products. Heirloom Audio Productions is one of our favorites. They have produced some of the best audio dramas we have ever heard and always make our family happy to learn history.

Our schooling is very literature-based. Our family loves read-alouds and will often sit together to read various novels for hours on end. I love reading my kids quality literature and sharing that time with them. Not only does it teach them life lessons, it also introduces them to new vocabulary. Along with that time spent together, we love to incorporate audio books and dramas into our days. Whether we're folding clothes, driving in the van, or just needing some downtime, audio books are perfect. In the Reign of Terror is no exception.

Heirloom Audio Productions has converted multiple historical adventure novels by G.A. Henty into theater-quality audio dramas. Our main curriculum lists many Henty books in the reading list, because they are known for their deep history, rich literature, and exciting plots. So far, my kiddos aren't drawn to the novels themselves, but they are truly captivated by these adaptations. If you close your eyes, you feel as if you're there in the story. Think of it as watching a movie, but with no picture. In fact, each time we turned on the CD, my two-year-old would point to the television, "Turn on, Mama? I watch movie?" The music, the actors, the sound effects--they all make the story come to life. You hear a horse walking on cobblestone streets, the birds chirping, an angry mob shouting, swords clinking, crickets humming, and the glass from a window shattering, and you feel as if you are there in France as one of the characters of the story. It is that realistic. The narrator, Brian Blessed, has a rich, powerful voice that makes the drama exciting to listen to. We were immediately pulled into the story.

The story takes place in the late 1700s during one of the darkest times in history--The French Revolution. It follows the life of Harry Sandwith, a 16-year-old English boy who leaves his homeland to tutor the sons of the Marquis de St. Caux in France. Harry is befriended by the family and becomes like one of their own. Throughout the story, he protected the marquis' daughters from a rabid dog, stabbed a "demon" wolf to death, and escaped an angry mob. He experienced firsthand the terrors and injustices of the times as he watched the people he grew to love imprisoned and put to death, simply because of their heritage. He risked his own life as he tried to reason with the commoners and show them their unlawfulness. In all of this, he trusted in God to guide him. Along with the non-stop action and exciting adventures, there are plenty of morals and Biblical truths taught along the way.

There is a downloadable Study Guide & Discussion Starter that accompanies the story. This complete guide is used to enhance your learning and complement your study. Each section, which correlates to the tracks on the CDs, is  filled with review questions (Listening Well), ideas to get you thinking deeper (Thinking Further), and vocabulary words (Defining Words). There is more information about G.A. Henty, Maximilien Robespierre, and Marie Antoinette; multiple Bible studies that coordinate with the story, many pictures from the times, and much more historical information. There are Expand Your Learning boxes throughout the study that are filled with snippets of information that relate to the period.

There are many more extras that are included as part of the Live the Adventure Club, too. There is the original In the Reign of Terror ebook, the official soundtrack composed by John Campbell, a printable cast poster, an inspirational verse poster, and a downloadable desktop wallpaper. A new thing that I don't remember seeing with other dramas is the inclusion of the official script download. This was extremely helpful during portions of the story that were hard to understand and helped give appropriate information. Also as part of the Live the Adventure Club, you gain access to many more features, such as the community forum, daily motivational quotes and stories, hundred of articles about parenting, collection of rare textbooks from the 1700-1800s, and hundreds of fun activities.  

The 2+ hour audio production is ideal for ages 6-adult, but our entire family enjoyed listening to it. We had a harder time understanding this story than we have with the others. It was a combination of the heavy French accents and the softness of the voices, I think. Normally we can enjoy these while driving, but we realized it took more concentration to follow along because the road noise was a distraction. Even my oldest commented that all the voices sounded similar, so he had a difficult time deciphering which character was speaking.They did, however, enjoy the French words sprinkled throughout the story and laughed at the Frenchman who made funny mistakes when trying to speak English.
We used the study guide questions to review the story and tackle difficult topics. The kids and I especially enjoyed the sections teaching about architecture in Paris in the 18th century, fashions of the day, medical practices, and the guillotine. Of course, the little ones didn't quite understand everything, but it's never too early to introduce quality literature. 
This will be a story that we reference throughout the years. In the Reign of Terror is a wonderful resource to have.

You can connect with Heirloom Audio Productions on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of this productions on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.
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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

English on a Roll

I am always happy to review new products that might excited my little ones. I'm a huge believer in making learning fun, especially in the younger years, so we incorporate hands-on learning all the time. I know many people don't enjoy learning the nitpicky rules of the English language, but I've always loved it and chose Secondary English as my college major. Though I ended up teaching only one year of high school English classes before coming home full-time, I now have the privilege of passing on the love of the  language to my own kids. But how can learning (or even teaching) grammar be fun for those who don't naturally enjoy it? The English Grammar Teaching Method from English on a Roll is designed to meet that need.

English on a Roll was created by Linda Hopkins Koran in 2001, when she was teaching an ESL (English as a Second Language) class. None of the 25 students spoke English, and most of them were illiterate. After searching for something to help her communicate with the students and finding nothing that worked, she began to develop a program that quickly helped them build sentences in English. English on a Roll has been helping students ever since.   

"Languages are like intricate puzzles, each with unique rules and structure. Once the basic fundamentals of a language are understood, communicating becomes much simpler and more successful.” ~ Linda Hopkins Koran

The English Grammar Teaching Method is a multisensory program that uses color-coded cubes to teach English grammar. By combining visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles, the program becomes a full approach that reduces errors and aids in the understanding of the language. Students learn syntax by manipulating the 40 cubes to create sentences and phrases. Because each cube contains only one type of word, students are able to find the correct choice more easily and learn parts of speech by association. The cubes (along with two blank ones) are divided into the following types and coordinating colors:

  • Pronouns: blue
  • Question Words: green
  • Nouns: dark blue
  • Articles: dark blue
  • Prepositions: dark blue
  • Verbs: red
  • Adverbs: orange
  • Adjectives: purple
  • Conjunctions: black
  • Punctuation: black    

Each cube has one word on a side and contains a "cluster" of similar words. For example, The subject pronouns cube has I, you, he/she, it, we, and they. The common preposition cube has at, for, to, from, with, and of. The cube for all forms of have lists have, has, had, having, and to have. Familiarizing yourself with the cubes and colors will make both teaching and learning easier.

A detailed teaching textbook is included with the cubes. Very little preparation is needed on the part of the teacher, because everything is laid out in the text. Each lesson follows the same format:
  • Prep: shows the needed cubes, pages to copy, and materials
  • Notes & Vocabulary: teaching tips and new vocab
  • Teach the Concepts: detailed teaching instruction using the cubes and handouts
  • Games/Conversations: games to review the new concepts
  • Written Exercises: reproducible exercises for more practice
English on a Roll was written with the classroom setting in mind, but it can easily be adapted to be used one-on-one. I had gotten this set to work with my kindergartner. Since I read that this could be used as young as 5-years-old and those learning to read, I assumed there were letter cubes along with the words cubes. The website clearly states that the curriculum is for grammar, so the misunderstanding is solely my own. The lessons start simply by teaching the pronouns and singular/plural. There is a reproducible with stick figure examples that can be copied if using with multiple students, but we just used it directly in the book. Lesson two has the addition of the Be verbs. The student learns which combinations can be made, such as I am, you are, he is, they are, ect.. The 37 lessons continue in this fashion. Each cube that is added opens up multiple new combinations and teaches new concepts.

Since my boy is a learning reader, we've been taking it slow. I think it's important to have a solid foundation of phonics before introducing too many sight words. I work through the lessons with him, giving him as much help and direction as he needs. He loves playing with the cubes and finding the words he wants to make the appropriate combinations. Even though I personally think this curriculum would be better suited to an English-speaking student who can already read, this truly is written in a way that can gently be used even with non-readers. Of course, it also works well with those who are learning English as a second language.

English on a Roll is a great hands-on product that teaches English grammar in a fun game-like way. If you'd like more detailed information of the curriculum, you can request free sample chapters and watch a demo of an actual lesson.

You can connect with English on a Roll on their Facebook page and website

You can read more reviews of this product on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 7/7/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9), Zac (7 1/2), Tyler (5), Nicholas (2 1/2)

Happy Weekend! This week Alyssa made french bread for the first time for Kids Cook Monday, Leighton and I spent a date day at Go Ape zip line and ropes course, and we all enjoyed the holiday together.

1. Zac, the day he learned to ride his bike without training wheels: "Whoa! I was riding fast! I was going at least 2 miles per hour--maybe 3!"

2. Tyler, watching fireworks: "Whoa! I saw the steam!"

3. Jake: "What kind of corn is the nicest? . . . Sweet corn."

4. Jake: "Am I your favorite oldest child?"
Me: "You sure are."
Zac: "But who's your favorite child?"
Me: "I don't have one. I have 5 favorite children. But you know what I have only 1 of? I have only 1 favorite husband."
Tyler: "Who? Daddy?"

5. The typical cooperation I get from these two.

6. Tyler: "My hair is sweating!"
Jake: "Your hair is sweating?"
Tyler: "Yes, it's literally sweating!"

7. Alyssa, at the store: "That dress has macaroni straps." (spaghetti straps)

8. Me: "Being quiet is not one of Ty's strong suits."
Zac: "Tyler and quiet have never met."

9. Tyler, watching me apply make up: "Why do you put that on?"
Me: "Because I like it."
Tyler: "But why? It doesn't seem like there's anything special about it."

10. Me: "Tyler, please be careful."
Tyler, scaling the door frame: "I got all the way to the top, and I didn't even break a single leg."

What made you Smile this week?

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