Saturday, January 21, 2012

Review of We Choose Virtues

I was excited to receive We Choose Virtues' Virtues Clues cards,downloadable coloring book, the teacher's handbook, an assessment, and verse sheet free in exchange for my review.  As hard as my husband and I try to raise kids of character, we can always use some outside reinforcement! 

While the kids immediately grabbed the cute Clues cards, I was most taken with the handbook, as it provided many ways to reinforce character with your children.  The best tip I read was to reinforce virtues with positive statements, rather than with negative.  I will readily admit that I tend to speak negatively, so this kind of advice is most helpful to me.  In other words, saying "tell the truth" is more effective for children than saying "don't lie."

I have to admit, though, that the real star of this set are the Clues cards.  Peopled by "the Virtue kids," these cards are full-colored, glossy, and adorable.  

Each card features one of thirteen virtues, and includes a catchphrase (ex: I choose to love when others hurt me) with antonyms (so kids know what a particular virtue is *not*, along with what it is) and a challenge.  The cards are adaptable in so many different ways! As a family, you can choose a card from the deck and focus on that virtue for the day.  Alternatively, each of your children can draw a card and really focus on practicing that particular virtue for a day, a week, or any period of time.

Although the cards are intended for elementary age children, older children will likely still find them both cute and useful (at least this older child did!).  All four of my children loved the cards and were enthusiastic about practicing their virtues using them.  The idea of virtue is not new to my kids: we have a new virtue about which we learn and which we practice for a month at a time.  They loved the cuteness of these cards, though, and the way they so clearly elucidate an individual virtue in a concise way.

The Virtues Clues cards are available from We Choose Virtues for $7.95 (although as of this writing, they are on sale for $5.99!).  The cards come in a plastic pouch with a velcro closure and would make a perfect gift!

We Choose Virtues has many other cute and useful virtues products, such as the above poster.  To view all of their products, including the cards I reviewed and loved, see their website.  For others' experiences with the Clues cards, see the Crew blog.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Review of Maestro Classics

When my daughter found out that we were receiving Maestro Classic's Swan Lake free in exchange for our review, she was thrilled.  At ten, she is months away from earning her pointe shoes; she loves ballet.  She also loves going to the symphony with one grandfather and to the ballet with her other grandparents.  Could any product be more suited to her?

The Story of Swan Lake, with music composed by Tchaikovsky and performed by the London Philharmonic, is an all-around delightful listening experience.  The story of Swan Lake should be familiar to many.  A prince loves a princess whom an evil magician has turned into a swan.  The prince's love breaks the spell.  This CD is so much more than just the story and the music, though.  When you buy the CD for $16.95 or the MP3 download for $9.99, you receive the narrated story of the ballet interwoven with the music.  You also receive the following: a 24 page booklet (or PDF download for those who choose the MP3) containing a biography of the composer, sheet music, information on both acoustical and electric guitars, and much more.

Further, we all know that homeschoolers love curriculum guides.  It is so much easier to implement a great product when the company gives you maximum information.  Maestro Classics has done that here.  Find everything you need for the cross-curricular implementation of this great musical curriculum, including historical background, science, language arts, and geography.   

This is one product from which every single homeschooling family can benefit.  Once you go to the website and see all of the products and additional information available, Maestro Classics will find its way into your home.  With so many choices, my only decision about Maestro Classics is which CD to purchase next.  Since my daughter is studying the early 20th century, and since my boys love "Casey at the Bat," I think that's likely the one!

Our family loves Maestro Classics.  To read other opinions, please visit the Crew blog.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Review of REAL Homeschool Spanish

Since my husband is a native Spanish speaker, I was very excited to get this program free in exchange for my review.  Although my plan is to give my children years of Latin before I introduce a Romance language, I am happy for the chance to teach them little bits along the way.  REAL (Relax Enjoy Aspire Learn) Homeschool Spanish is a great way for me to be able to do this.

If you follow the day-by-day schedule provided by REAL Homeschool Spanish, the program covers a 48-week period, even longer than a normal school year for most families.  This makes it a great buy.  Further, the author of the program, herself a homeschooling mom, provides numerous tips to adapt this program.  She offers tips for teaching multiple children, ways to slow the program down if it moves too quickly for your family, and many other ideas for implementing this program successfully in multiple homeschool settings.

For $49.95, you can download the text book, activity book, answer book and audio files.  For an additional $10, you will also get the 50 page curriculum guide (for schedule-challenged parents, this might be the best $10 you will spend this school year).  If you prefer hard copies mailed to you, the program, including all components, is $99.95.  I have to say that if something is available as a download, I always choose that option.  First, it saves space.  Secondly, it saves money (at least I'm told it does.  In my world, it just means that I can buy twice as much curriculum!).

REAL Homeschool Spanish covers ten units:

Fruits and Vegetables

Within each unit, vocabulary is introduced (along with audio pronunciations in your audio download), short phrases or dialogues are taught, and a multiplicity of activity ideas are suggested.  These ideas make this program a good one for even the youngest learners for whom memorization is much easier than it is for older learners.

I really like this program for two reasons: first, it looks just like the way I learned Spanish I in 7th grade.  The vocabulary lists and the short dialogues almost could have *come* from my 7th grade textbook.  I find this to be an effective way to teach Spanish.  Second, whereas my children have not been fans of other Spanish programs we have tried, they really liked this one.  They enjoyed it partially because they were learning short phrases to try out on their Spanish speaking grandparents, but they also liked it because the activities (both in the activity book and the suggestions in the text) made learning feel like anything but learning.  They have been having fun!

My children and I recommend REAL Homeschool Spanish to any family wanting to begin Spanish I with their children.  To read other opinions of the program, visit the Crew blog.