Powered by Blogger.


Holy Grail Mascara

Let me preface this post by saying that I know my blog has a dual identity, but I think that's okay. I actually think it is a really good thing for homeschooling overall. I am passionate about homeschooling, but I think that it still has kind of a negative image in terms of homeschooling moms. I have to admit that I do know denim jumper wearing homeschooling moms who wear no makeup and who don't seem to care a whit about their appearance...but I would bet anything that those moms exist in the public school system, too. I just think that that stereotype still exists for homeschoolers, even though I know far more homeschooling moms who are far more stylish and fashion forward than I will ever be (because no matter where my kids ended up in school, I would still wear the uniform of jeans and some kind of shirt and Converse - it's what I've worn since high school). Thus, the fact that I gush about makeup on my homeschooling blog can only do good things for the image that non-homeschoolers have about homeschoolers (since my Pinterest pics bring non-homeschoolers to my homeschooling blog). Wanna see how many times I can use some variant of the word "homeschoolers" in this post? Yeah - me neither.

So, did I have a point? Oh yes! Mascara. I was blessed with good lashes. However, good lashes are not enough. I want GREAT lashes. Most mascaras can't deliver them. This is one of those cases where I have found a mascara that I think is worth paying for. When I can get a great price on it. I have that great price for you. Tarte's Lights, Camera, Lashes! is an amazing mascara. I look like I'm wearing false eyelashes when I wear it -- and I wear it every day. It makes me happy. It builds perfectly evenly and never gets stiff or sticky, and it washes off easily with my Cerave cleanser (great for dry skin, by the way). It retails for $19 a tube, though, and *that's* not happening.

pic from Tarte Cosmetics

Henry gave me my first two tubes for Christmas with an awesome Tarte set from QVC, and QVC has the best price I've found since. You can currently get 3 tubes for $32 plus s/h. Basically when all is said and done (tax, etc.), it ends up costing around $40. Expensive for mascara? Yes. Expensive for *this* mascara? No. If you've ever loved Lancome's mascara, you'll be saying Lancome who? after you try Tarte. I've never been a fan of the new plastic bristle drugstore trend that's happening all over the place. I'm old school. Fortunately, so is Tarte. Don't need three tubes (so, wait...not everyone likes for their eyes to enter the room before they do?) - buy with a friend. You might even thank me.

I feel compelled at this point to offer a small apology (in the classical sense - I'm not sorry for anything): it's not shallow to like makeup. It's not shallow to care about your physical appearance. For me, it's the cheapest therapy going. It's an instant lift. I remember all the way back to high school when it was everything I could do to go to bed at night knowing that I would have to get up in the morning and go back to school. So many times, the thing that got me to bed was knowing that I had a new lipstick to wear or a favorite lipstick to put on or a new eye shadow quad. It was the little things. And it just so happens that this mascara is really expensive, but makeup doesn't have to be. Wet-n-Wild has some of the best and some of the cheapest makeup around. Their eye shadow trios cost $1.99, are often on sale, and are some of the butteriest and most blendable shadows going. They also dupe many of Mac's colors, if that's your thing (which, if you're not a habitual makeup wearer, it's probably not!). It doesn't make you less authentic as a woman if you put on some lipstick. I don't do it for anyone else (well, apart from my husband - I actually do do it for him: he deserves to have a nice-looking wife. He married a hottie and two decades shouldn't completely diminish that). I do it for me because I like the way it makes me look and because I think it's fun! Well...that, and any reason to shop and collect...

So if my makeup posts annoy you, please continue to come around for my reviews and discussion of homeschool products because my shopping and collecting (ahem - hoarding) tendencies definitely extend to homeschooling, too...and, as with everything, you know I have an opinion!

  • Digg
  • Del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS

Review of Supercharged Science

Supercharged eScience Review
Supercharged Science is one of those programs that homeschoolers dream about. In fact, they drool over it. Or maybe that's just me...Created and run by Aurora Lipper, a bona fide rocket scientist and my vote for "teacher most likely to make kids who hate science love science," Aurora's e-Science Learning Program renders moot all other homeschool science options. Yeah - it's that good. And Aurora herself tells homeschool parents specifically why Supercharged Science is a great option for homeschoolers in her letter to parents comparing e-Science with other homeschool science programs.

I'm going to start by saying that I was lucky/fortunate/blessed enough to be able to review this program last year. You can read my first review of the e-Science Premium Membership here. Last year, Therese focused on Chemistry when we reviewed e-Science. This year, we thought it only fair to focus on Biology! More on that later, though! First, the all-important question for the uninitiated: what is e-Science?

Supercharged Science's e-Science Online Learning Program

Aurora Lipper has put together a science program that defies explanation. She describes it as a completely hands-on science program for homeschoolers that is completely kid friendly. Even better, Aurora has designed e-Science so that kids can learn a TON about science without ever reading a word in a textbook. If that idea makes you quake, though, because you think kids *need* to read the wheres and whyfors of the science in addition to doing hands-on experiments - fear not! Aurora has you covered there, too. There is plenty of reading to do in conjunction with all of her awesome experiments. It really is up to you how you use her program. Suffice it to say, though, that there is enough in this science curriculum to last your entire family for years. Yep - years.

At first, you might be overwhelmed just diving into e-Science, even though Aurora advocates this approach. For advice on how to get the most out of the program, you can't do better than letting Aurora tell you what to do:

Even better, there is a feature on the site that I'm pretty sure wasn't there last year (a couple of my fellow Crew mates seem to agree with me) - a short, graphic intense user guide. If you can't figure out what to do just by noodling around the site (and trust me - you will eventually figure out what to do - it's pretty intuitive and you really can't go wrong!), or you're one of  those homeschooling families that likes to go into things with a plan in place, be sure to start with the user guide.

Another awesome feature that was not on the site last year is a grade level map! By clicking on the grade level, you will be taken to an appropriate list of topics (many of the topics overlap).

If you prefer the topical approach, rather than the grade level, then this menu is for you:

Each of Aurora's units follows a similar format, as outlined in the aforementioned user guide. There is an introductory video, some background reading and discussion of the topic, and a slew of amazing experiments. How much of which you choose to do is a completely individual decision.

Therese (12) and Supercharged Science

Like last year, I was most interested in the high school offerings of Supercharged Science. In the past, we have spent lots of time on the elementary topics and my kids have had a blast doing tons of the experiments (plasma grape, anyone?). On this go-round with Supercharged Science, that didn't change. We studied Unit 16 - Living Organisms. Some of what the kids did (like classifying objects) was a little repetitive, but that's fine. I reminded them that if they were in public school, they would be doing a chapter on living organisms in science every single year. Plus, they really do love Aurora's enthusiasm, so they didn't mind. Also, I wanted them to work on this unit in order to lead up to the capstone project in our study: the Cow Eye Dissection.

Last year when Therese was focusing on Chemistry (and I need to emphasize that we didn't even scratch the surface of what e-Science has to offer for high school Chemistry!), I found lots of high school specific Chemistry resources. This year, I wasn't as successful in finding high school specific Biology resources, HOWEVER, the beauty of e-Science is that you can make of it what you wish. Further, Aurora emphasizes that she is adding more high school resources all the time. I have no problem recommending this as a high school curriculum.

Because the kids were all studying Biology, and because Therese needed to do a dissection (a high school Biology mainstay, after all), we decided to do Aurora's Cow Eye Dissection:

I am not shy about admitting that I don't like dissections, never have, never will. However, I happen to be blessed enough to be married to this guy:

Henry has a degree in Biology and was a Biology TA in college for a million years (okay not that long). He has led countless students through dissections of more specimens than I want to think about. The point is, he knows his way around a scalpel! So he set up a table outside and gave Therese an eyeball and took one for himself. Everyone else gathered around...

Following Aurora's precise directions, Therese began to dissect her eyeball -- er, the cow's eyeball. We were all amazed to see the various features revealed and to have Henry point out to us the similarities between the cow's eye and our own, especially when we got to the lens and he told us that people can now get new lenses in their own eyes!

The kids (especially Therese) started out very hesitant about doing this dissection, but they ended up quite enthusiastic! Therese went from not wanting to touch the eyeball to doing what you see above in the video. I know that part of that is because Henry is a very patient teacher, but part of it is because Aurora is so enthusiastic about science. Unlike most of the experiments on e-Science, there is no video of Aurora doing this one - just step-by-step written directions. However, there are hundreds upon hundreds of other videos featuring Aurora and her enthusiasm is just contagious!

The Bottom Line

So it really all comes down to cost, right? e-Science is not cheap. For the K-8 version (with access to all units, granted 1 or 2 at a time, but with *a lot* of flexibility inherent in that statement), the cost is $37/mo. For the K-12 plan, the cost is $57/mo.

If you have a high schooler, it really is worth it to have the extra levels. Aurora includes links to outside reading, advanced lab worksheets that correlate with the younger students' labs (great if you're trying to streamline science in your house!), and some very sophisticated higher-level work (particle physics, anyone?). I honestly believe that you cannot get a better value overall anywhere. If there is anyway you can fit it into your budget, I don't think you'll regret it.

The key with e-Science is - and I say this with all sincerity - you cannot allow yourself to get overwhelmed. You don't have to do it perfectly. You don't have to do units in order. You don't have to finish a whole unit before moving on to another. Will it yield the best benefit if you do? Probably. Will your kids suffer if you don't? Not at all. They will gain a love of science even if you jump around every day. They will begin to make connections that will surprise the heck out of you. I am (well, I'd like to say peripatetic, but I should call a spade a spade) completely ADHD when it comes to school and curriculum (thanks be to God for the Crew and our amazing vendors!!!), and e-Science works for us for that reason. I am actually so afraid of being without it that I have bought a bunch (six, I think) of Aurora's DVDs. I want my kids to love science; I am just really bad about sticking with a curriculum. With e-Science, I don't have to. That is the ultimate beauty of it. And when Aurora teaches my kids something, they remember it. 

Fortunately, Aurora knows that her program is so good that it has to be tried to be believed (I really hope y'all know me well enough to know that I don't do "reviewer-speak." If I tell you something is awesome - I really think is awesome. If I tell you I have paid for it out of my own pocket, I have paid for it out of my own pocket. I subscribed to e-Science on my own for more than a year before getting it through the Crew.). To that end, she has offered this awesome deal for Crew-blog readers. You can try e-Science (the full program!) for just $1! You have nothing to lose. 

I am not the only Crew member raving about e-Science. To see lots of other reviews and lots of other experiments conducted, click the banner below!

Click to read Crew Reviews
Crew Disclaimer

  • Digg
  • Del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS

Review of Victus Study Skills

Victus Study Skills Review
One thing that public school students get in spades that homeschool students usually don't is lessons in study skills. In fact, when I was a freshman in high school, I had a semester long class in study skills! To be honest, it was more about sharing feelings, it seemed to me, than learning study skills, but that's beside the point. Learning how to study is crucial for homeschool kids because (brace yourself for this shock) -- they won't be homeschooled forever! At some point, most of these munchkins will head off to college and they might need some study skills that they won't have needed while they were studying at home. How much a child needs a formal class in study skills certainly depends on the child and on his/her learning style, but Victus Study Skill System offers an effective product that can benefit many different kinds of children, ages 5th - 12th grades.

The Student Workbook and Teacher Edition, the two integral components of the program, were created by professional educators, and who better to know the most about how students study? We as parents know a lot about how *our* students study - or do we? I actually find myself wondering frequently if my daughter is using her time effectively in the ways that she chooses to read, take notes, and memorize material. I know what works for me. She claims to know what works for her. I remember in school, though (in that 9th grade class!) learning many different ways of note taking. It turns out that I developed my own, but it was a hybrid of ways that I had been taught in school. At 12, my gifted daughter does mostly 10th grade work, but she has that 12 year-old attitude. What does that mean? She doesn't really want to listen to much of what I have to tell her. And that is why a program like this one is ideal for her. It stands in for CATO (the acronym of the name for my 9th grade teacher - yes, we were allowed to call her that!). Add to that the fact that it has a Latin name (Victus - 4th declension, genetive, meaning "way of living"), and I think we may just have a winner!

Victus Study Skills Review
Victus Study Skills Review

Victus Study Skill System is comprised of two parts - a Student Workbook ($20) and a Teacher Workbook ($40). The course is meant to be taught in five one-hour sessions. There are ten total lessons, and the Teacher Workbook prepares the instructor for how to introduce and teach the material to the student. Hence, it has about 15 more pages than the student workbook. Of course, it also contains all of the answers!
The Victus Study Skills System has four objectives: 
  1. To help students understand that there are specific steps and strategies in learning and study.
  2. To build specific skills and provide specific tools students can use throughout life.
  3. To help students develop attitudes that increase their abilities to use this system in their everyday life.
  4. To help students understand more fully their own role in their success.

Further, there are three Foundational Cornerstones:

  1. Where Am I Now?
  2. Where Do I Want to Be?
  3. How Do I Get There?

It is through these foundational cornerstones that the course is taught. In each cornerstone, students are led through a series of exercises asking them to consider their habits, goals, schedules, note and test taking strategies, etc. By the end of the course (which takes less than 6 hours to complete), a student should have a better idea of the study strategies that will work for her. Additionally, she will have learned *a lot* about organization and study skills.

Therese (12) and Victus Study Skills System

Therese is one of those kids who, much like myself, does not like to use school time on subjects that are not purely academic. She does not consider studying study skills to be academic; hence, I told her that this was more of an extracurricular activity, so she completed the course in the afteroons and evenings one week. Prior to her doing the course, I read the Teacher Edition so that I would know what she would be learning and so that I would be able to see when and where she might need help. I didn't think that she would need any guidance, and I was right. I had her bring her book to me each day after she completed two lessons so that I could check her work and we could talk about what she had done. Doing two lessons took Therese about an hour, which is right in line with what Victus suggests.

By the end of the course, Therese was reluctant to admit that she had really learned anything, but *I* beg to differ. By looking at her work in the workbook, I can definitely attest to the fact that she has picked up some new skills, especially in the area of note taking. Further, because the workbook required her to write out her schedule, she was able to see exactly where and how she spends her time, enabling her to see how to better allocate her study time and how to plan for interruptions and disturbances. These were things that she had never considered before, and they were things that I had never really thought to teach her explicitly before. That is the benefit of a course like this for homeschoolers -- or for anyone! There are so many things that we as adults just naturally do - ways that we compensate for the things that we know life will throw at us. Our kids don't necessarily have these skills yet, though. A course like this can begin to teach them this specialized skill set. So, even though Therese doesn't even realize what she has gained from this course, I do, and I know that she will be referring to her workbook in the months and years to come.

The Final Word

Victus Study Skills is a good program. It highlights some areas that most homeschoolers probably don't cover in their standards curricula and that most parents probably don't cover explicitly with their kids. It does have a pretty steep price tag, though, so whether or not you budget for it depends a lot on how much you think your child is in need of study skills help. Knowing it is available as an option, though, is definitely helpful as you head into planning season!

A bunch of Crew families reviewed Victus Study Skills, so click on the banner below to see what they had to say!

Click to read Crew Reviews
Crew Disclaimer

  • Digg
  • Del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS

Obsession Isn't Pretty

Everyone knows that Nicky has OCD. It's no secret in my family that there are other Norrises with OCD. Since I don't tend to advertise much of what goes on in my head, it is probably less well known that I have huge problems with obsessive tendencies. I thought of a perfect example to illustrate that point because I am going through it right now. It is so trivial - so completely and totally pointless, first world problem, fixable, and irrelevant that it's ridiculous. But that's the point. When someone has this problem, none of that matters. My dad tells me that I just have to discipline myself not to think about such things. I know he's right, and that's a major reason I don't want to advertise my weaknesses like this. Obsessing is a self-indulgence and I should just choose not to do it. The funny thing is that when someone else has this issue, I recognize that it is (for the most part - I am kind of unyielding sometimes, I have to be honest) a genuine brain malfunction and I don't judge. I don't tolerate it in myself, though. I don't cut myself any slack. In fact, I tend to obsess over how incredibly weak I am. There's a victim loop in here somewhere.

I digress. The issue is foundation. Mac foundation. I was in Macy's yesterday. I was originally going to buy Kat Von D's Lock-It Tattoo Foundation at Sephora with my 15% off coupon.

I mean, this stuff covered the freckles on my hand! It's awesome and you use only a tiny bit. However, Sephora was out of all of the lighter colors. Of course. Hence, my trek to Macy's. Now, I love Mac lipstick. I'm all over Mac dupes for colors. I love drugstore makeup. There is something about Mac's formula, though. You can dupe some of the colors, but you can't (as far as I can tell) dupe the formula of the Satin or the Amplified. The Cremesheens aren't that unique for me. And you *can't* dupe that lovely smell! In any case, I have never been officially "colored" by a Mac MUA. Since I did want a new foundation (another part of that obsession - I came for foundation, I was leaving with foundation), I decided today was a good day. Plus, Henry had put some money in his wallet from our Christmas stash for just this purpose. 

I was assisted by a very lovely woman who made me take off my makeup (of course I knew I'd have to, but to have my very bad rosacea breakout exposed in public - sigh. Besides, my makeup looked awesome yesterday. Seriously.) and then proceeded to start me at an NW20 in Studio Sculpt. Ah, no. I looked like Data from Star Trek. I kid you not. She switched to Pro Longwear (with yellow Prep and Prime CC first - did a great job covering the red, so I bought it. It takes far less of that than it does of my regular concealer.) in NW20. It made me look kind of...dead. Then she blew my mind when she told me that I am not NW. She told me I am NC - NC15, to be exact. She got the opinion of another MUA (side note: I really hate having to explain to my kids that yes, that man doing that woman's makeup *is* a man, despite his gorgeous makeup and super-long lashes and beautiful figure. Sigh.) who confirmed that it was a great match. Now I have read a ton on the whole NC and NW thing (like it's better to think of NC as *not cool* and NW as *not warm* rather than thinking of NW as for pink undertones and NC as for golden undertones, because, child, I am telling you that I am pink, pink, pink). As I think about it, it makes sense that I would use a more golden foundation to neutralize my pink ol' face...still. I am not convinced. I compared my new NC15 Pro Longwear to all of my other foundations and it is soooo much darker. I'll have to do my makeup today and see what I think.

So, my mini-Mac haul looks like this (pics from Mac's website):

That lovely lipstick would be Brick-O-La, the prettiest Amplified Berry shade. Soooo springy...

So what does this very shallow makeup post have to do with anything? Simply this: wondering if that silly foundation shade is the right one for me kept me awake last night. How stupid is that? Do you know how easy that is to fix? If I don't like it, I can drive my little self on back to Macy's, hand it to the ladies (er, ladies and...man?) at Mac and say, "Wrong color for me, I'd like my money back." My money would be back in my hot little hands before I could say Boo. That's how they roll at Mac. The thing is, when you have this...thing (obsessive personality whatever-it-is), IT DOESN'T MATTER! Reason flies out the door. It doesn't matter that it is STUPID and it is JUST MAKEUP and IT CAN BE FIXED! (please forgive me - I'm yelling at myself, not you). 

So, a rare glimpse into my shallow mind. Know what I'm thinking now? I have just spent an hour on this blog post when I have *real* work to do. Not only is my house a mess, but I have two reviews to write and edHelper work to do (have I told you about my boss? The way I describe him is that he's awesome: he's all winky smileys in his emails...until he's not.), and now I have wasted a good hour. Plus I'm on a Treximet hangover (but thank the good God my headache is gone). So, I'll be castigating myself over the lost hour for the rest of the day. That might take my mind off the foundation, but the thing is - I'm really good at thinking about many things at one time...

Sometimes I wear myself out. Okay, I wear myself out all the time. I would say please don't judge me - but, actually, feel free. I judge me. If, however, you have an obsessive person in your life, try not to judge them too harshly. I promise you - they hate the way they are. They want to change, and odds are decent that they try VERY hard to do so, especially when other people are watching. They are wearing themselves out. Be kind to your obsessive.

  • Digg
  • Del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS

I'm Actually Ahead of the Game In Terms of Dinner!

So I hesitated a little about posting my unedited kitchen photo, but I am *all* about keeping it real. I don't whitewash my life because I don't think that helps anyone. Just like my favorite YouTube beauty bloggers who don't mind baring their naked faces to show me how to cover my rosacea, I don't mind baring my real kitchen to dispel the notion that I have it all together (where do people get that idea?) Thus, the flaws are definitely visible in this picture!

What I choose to focus on, though, are the bags of food in the foreground! What you are looking at is a week and a half's worth of dinners ready to be thrown in the freezer. Come the morning in question, all I need to do is throw the contents of one of those bags in the crock pot, along with a bag of frozen chicken breasts, and (8 or so hours later) dinner will be served! I am so happy about that. It was a win-win-win. I went to the grocery store and came home and didn't have to put many things away. I used them all immediately! How ingenious an idea is that?

I'm not one to hog the good ideas myself, so here are the wonderful bloggers (with the pretty pictures!) from whom I took the ideas and recipes:



There are a ton more freezer-to-crockpot ideas out there. Pinterest is our friend, people!

Now if only I could catch up on my work...is there any help for that on Pinterest? Well, actually, considering my job is to create materials for elementary school teachers - yes!

  • Digg
  • Del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS

One of Those Days

Some days I just feel that I am lacking the mother gene. I am being brutally honest here. I hope I won't be judged, but I realize that's probably hoping for too much. My nearly 11 year-old son is overly emotional. He always has been. He cried excessively as a toddler and he hasn't stopped since. I'm sure it has something to do with ADHD/OCD/Tourettes/twice-exceptionalism. Right now I don't really care. It wears me out. It's the most amazing thing: dealing with him has a physiological effect on me. I can feel myself getting completely exhausted. I can feel myself getting drained. All of a sudden there's nothing left.

After he's crazy-made me for the hundredth time. After he's been disrespectful toward me. After he's done whatever he needs to do to make his brain happy. Then he comes weeping over to me telling me he's sorry. Today he told me, "When I act like that toward you, I feel like we're two positives or two negatives and I hate that." He's talking about batteries, of course, and how they repel each other. When he's dripping tears and snot all over me, I want to feel sorry for him, but I only feel sorry for myself. This happened yesterday. It happened today. It will happen tomorrow. He's always sorry. I know he can't help some of it. I hate myself for not feeling more compassion for him. Tonight when I'm in bed suffering from insomnia one of the things keeping me up will be my guilt that I don't love him enough (or, more accurately, that I don't show him enough love - I do love him enough. I don't doubt that.).

Still, he's rebounded. I'm writing this on the verge of tears and he's throwing clean laundry around the living room with the other kids. How and when will I know how much of this nonsense really affects him?

  • Digg
  • Del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS

Review of Mango Languages

Mango Languages Review
Sometimes online learning programs come along that are so amazing that you can't imagine doing school with out them ever again. I have had the extreme pleasure of using such a program for the last six weeks or so. Mango Languages has been around for the last six or so years, but the Mango Homeschool Edition is new - and it is AMAZING! 
I'll admit - I have gushed about some review products before (and believe me - I'll do it again), but you know that if I gush, it's because I really do love a program. I never gush if my kids don't love something. More than once, I have had to confess that while I really like a program, I just couldn't compel my kids to like it. That is *not* the case with Mango. My kids love this program as much as I do. Seriously. When we do multiple lessons a day, it is with their full blessing (or at least 3/4 of their full blessing - we have to make the usual excuses for the ADHD kid, don't we?). I get full oral participation and, best of all, native Spanish speaker dad is constantly saying, "Wow, guys! That's awesome!" With every Spanish program we've ever used (and there have been tons, many of which I've really liked), he has never once made a comment anything like that.
But I'm getting ahead of myself ;-)

What is Mango Languages for Homeschool?

With over 60 languages to choose from, Mango Homeschool Edition is almost anything you want it to be. It can supplement your existing language program or, as we have found out, it can absolutely stand on its own as amazingly complete language program. As with everything homeschool-related, of course, what you use it for will depend on what you want from your language program. 
Unlike many traditional language programs, Mango does not focus heavily on grammar. Instead, it focuses on getting you to speak the language right away.
That learning is accomplished in this manner: 
  • Languages are divided into "Journeys" or units.

  • Each Unit is then further divided into chapters. For example, my children are currently working on "Shopping and Payment" in Journey 1 of Latin American Spanish. That chapter is subdivided into 8 lessons.

  • Each Chapter begins with a conversation which, at first reading/hearing, seems kind of intimidating!

As the readers go through the conversation, it changes from English to Spanish on  the screen (they are, of course) speaking Spanish! What you find as you go through the lessons in the chapter, though, is that as the conversation is broken down piece by piece, it is not hard at all!

For example, this slide shows how the various phrases are taught little by little. As new words and phrases are taught, previous ones are re-introduced every so often so that you don't forget what you have already learned. It is remarkable how quickly you learn and how well you retain complete conversations! This semi-immersion method of learning is so easy and effective. 

  • Grammar and Culture are also part of this program. I mentioned that this program is not grammar-focused, and it's not, but it does teach grammar. It is simply that it teaches it organically in the course of speaking the language. In the above slide, for instance, my kids were taught that they were asking a person in a formal manner if he/she had maps. Previously they had learned that verbs take different forms depending on who is being addressed. When it is necessary to explicitly address a grammar note, it is done so in the context of the lesson. 

Culture, too, is interspersed throughout the lessons (more on that later). For reasons that should be obvious based on my blog, I loved that this particular note was included:

  • Each Chapter concludes with a quiz. Students listen to a conversation and then answer questions based on what they heard.

Mango Features that We Did Not Use But That Are (or will be) Included

I have learned that in some ways I am a much more relaxed homeschooler than others. Because I am not looking for transcript credit or anything like that, and because my kids didn't need review, discussion, or anything else, I didn't take advantage of many of Mango's available features. Further, because Mango is still developing this facet of its offerings, it has many really neat things that are still in development (but that are coming soon!). 

  • Here are a few things you can do with Mango right now: 
    • Progress Assessments
    • Built-in journals, discussions, and wikis
    • Collaborative learning spaces
    • eNote messaging/chat rooms
    • Access to embedded/downloadable content
    • Support from other community members
    • Calendars to schedule meetings or study sessions
Obviously, one of the neatest things about Mango is that it can be a very group-oriented learning experience - something many homeschooling families are looking for in their curriculum!

  • Here are some things that will be introduced over the next few months:
    • Enhanced tracking and progress monitoring - including seat time (for students and parents)
    • Goals and personal lesson plans (both stand-alone and tied into Mango courses)
    • Resume and Portfolio Builder

How We Used Mango (for ages 6 - Adult)

We have been using the stuffing out of Mango! Originally, I registered to study the following languages (did I mention that with a homeschool subscription, you can study AS MANY LANGUAGES AS YOU WANT?): French, German, Koine Greek, Latin, Spanish, Korean, and Pirate (yes, Pirate). My plan was this:
  • Therese (12) - French, Greek, and Latin
  • Boys (9 and 10) - Korean
  • All  (9, 9, 10, 12, Mom and Dad) - Spanish, German, Pirate
To some extent, this is what we have done, although the language we have definitely spent the most time with is Spanish (hence, the example slides above!). Therese has worked on French independently (cool - yes, that's "cool" in French, but you have to say it with the accent!) and has spent a little time with Greek and Latin, mainly to see what they're like. They are awesome. 

Following is a succession of screenshots to show you how Mango teaches Greek and Latin. Remember, this is not a grammar-intensive language program. I have reviewed several of those on this blog (and I love a grammar-intensive Latin program!), but Mango's Greek and Latin programs pay attention to a goal that *many* homeschoolers have for learning these languages in the first place: reading works in their original languages! To that end, I think Mango makes a superb supplement to any Latin or Greek program. I can't recommend it enough for that purpose. As you look at these screenshots, pay attention to how beautiful this program is!

The other languages proceed according to the method shown for Spanish above. The boys have taken a short look at Korean (mainly because they are about to test for the Black Belts in Tae Kwon Do and want to be able to speak to their instructors in Korean more often). What's wonderful about a language like that is having the pronunciation written out for you when you mouse over a word. We are definitely going to devote more time to Korean after we finish Spanish.

For the most part (with the exception of Therese's working on her languages alone, although she did join us for our group languages), we did Mango together at the conclusion of our group subjects every day. I would hook the laptop up to the TV so that everyone could see everything well. You can see the boys in front of the TV here. Typically the girls would be sitting farther back by the laptop (which is why they are out of sight!). A Mango lesson seems to take us about 15-20 minutes, so we would do 2 or 3 a day. The kids didn't complain. In fact, they were often the ones insisting that we keep going! I found that doing multiple lessons a day was a great way to make sure that they really internalized the day's lesson. I knew that we had found success when a couple of weeks ago at church, they approached their Cuban grandparents and said, "Que tenga un buen dia!" My in-laws were very proud of how naturally it rolled off their tongues!

In terms of German, we only do that subject with my husband. He works for a German company and has actually had a private German tutor in the past (he typically has to go to Germany at least once a year). I knew that he would be able to add something extra to our lessons. I was really glad he was there, because one of our first German cultural notes informed us that you don't ask a German "How are you?" the way we do all the time in English. It's just not really the done thing. You ask about the weather. That's why learning to comment on the weather was the first thing we learned. Henry thought that was great. He said how true it was. He commented that when on a phone conference with German colleagues you always talk about the weather. You never ask a casual, "How are you," or "What's up?" If you do, you will be there for a long time hearing the answer. It's just different there! I valued that insight. He told me that the Spanish cultural notes were right on (but I had some advantage there having had Spanish in school and having been married to a Cuban family for almost two decades), but for him to confirm that they were dead on about the German cultural notes too gives me such wonderful confidence in Mango Languages! I would study any language with this great program!

We don't do any writing with this program. We do everything orally but there is so much repetition that I don't feel the need to add written material. Maybe when my kids are older we'll take advantage of the things that Mango is adding all the time.

My Final Thoughts

I love Mango Languages. At this point, I can't imagine being without it. It is a visually gorgeous program, which is great, but even more than that, it works. My husband has never commented on how well the kids are learning Spanish with any other program, but he has commented many times on the effectiveness of this one. What I have noticed is that every single time but one, when I have told the kids something grammar-related based on a slide they are viewing (like a verb that they were just taught is irregular and that that will affect the conjugation), the very next slide says the exact same thing! Mango is reading my mind! Seriously, this program is a home run! So how much will this home run set you back? You won't believe how inexpensively you can learn over 60 foreign languages at one time. A one-year subscription to Mango Languages is $125 for 1 subscription, $175/2, $225/3, $275/4, or $325/5. Alternatively, you can pay by the month. 1 subscription is $18, 2/$28, 3/$38, 4/$48, 5/$58. 

Individual subscriptions allow students to have their own logins and allow you to track each of their progress, but please note that each individual subscription does have access to ALL 60+ languages! It is not $125 per year per language. In other words, pricing like this = a phenomenal deal. I have already decided that we will be using Mango Languages for the foreseeable future (probably for the duration of our homeschooling years). For one thing, I feel pretty strongly about my kids learning both Arabic and Chinese (we have to be realistic about where the world is headed), and I think that Mango is probably the best way for them to be introduced to these languages. For another, they *really* like it! Also, in the future Mango is planning on helping with figuring out high school transcript credits. Yay!

This was one review where a bunch of Crew members reviewed a bunch of different languages and undoubtedly used several parts of Mango Languages that I didn't, so please be sure to read their reviews, too. From my perspective, though, you can't go wrong with this wonderful program!

Click to read Crew Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

  • Digg
  • Del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS