Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review of Flip Flop Spanish

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I want my kids to speak Spanish. My in-laws came to this country from Cuba more than 45 years ago and my husband grew up completely bilingual. Sadly, I did not know enough Spanish to raise my kids the same way, and I'll be forever playing catch up because of it. Because of this, I am always excited to review Spanish products. I have to say that Flip Flop Spanish's See It and Say It Flip Flop Spanish is far and above my kids' favorite Spanish program yet. Because they love it, and because it's a great program, I love it, too.

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There are several key components to the See It and Say It Flip Flop Spanish Program. They include: 

  • 3 sets of flash cards
  • 4 audio CDs
  • white board paddle
  • complete scripted lesson plans
The full-color flash cards are color coded so that you know exactly where to find the words that you will use in any given lesson. Because the lessons are completely scripted, you will always know exactly what to say to your child...but because the audio CDs are included in the program, you won't have to say it if you don't want to! The flexibility either to use the CDs or to narrate the program yourself is one of the program's best features. It is set up perfectly for you to do whichever is best for you!

Each Flip Flop Spanish lesson only takes a few minutes each day to learn the new material, but you can spend as long as you want practicing. As you can see from the sample lesson above, students use the flash cards to make sentences which they also practice saying. They can practice for a few minutes, or they can practice for half an hour. Their sentences can make perfect sense, or they can be silly (as long as they are grammatically correct!).

·         By learning only 160 Spanish words, Flip Flop Spanish teaches students thousands of sentences over the course of a two-year curriculum.

The Delgados and Flip Flop Spanish

As I said, my kids really loved Flip Flop Spanish. All of us found the pace very slow, though. Because the program is recommended for ages 3 and up, it makes sense that the lessons would proceed slowly. Further, Sra. Gose builds a rest week into the program at intervals, further lengthening the duration. We found that we didn't need the rest week and that we preferred to move more quickly, so thanks to the magic of homeschooling, we did!

For the first few weeks, we did Spanish about three times a week and instead of doing one lesson a week, we did one lesson a day. My kids reviewed the day's material over the course of the day, so that by the next morning, they were definitely ready to move on to new material. They loved getting out the flash cards to make the sentences that we had learned (along with different ones). While Sra. Gose recommends having older children write out sentences, I elected not to have Therese (12) or Nicky (10) do so. It has not hindered their learning the material at all. Further, because the kids are using their sentences *constantly*, their retention from day to day is very close to 100%.

Although Sra. Gose provides the scripted lessons orally on CD, I chose to narrate them to my kids myself for the simple reason that I prefer my own accent. Having been around my Cuban in-laws for the last 20 years has given me a strong preference for the way they speak Spanish and I want my children to sound like them. Again, it is a great benefit of the program that parents can either use the CDs or speak the program to the children themselves.

At first glance, it may not seem like learning only 160 words would result in much Spanish, but first glance would be completely and totally wrong. The genius of this program is in how quickly you are up and running speaking real and meaningful Spanish. Other programs begin with grammar (and, I'll be honest, I usually prefer this approach) and can take a long time to get to speaking. That can be discouraging to many kids. This program is completely the opposite. Your kids will be speaking Spanish the very first day and for that reason, they will love to come back to it the next day! Plus, the sentences are fun!

At the rate recommended, the program will take about two years to complete. At the rate we are moving through it, we will be done in about nine months. I fervently wish that Sra. Gose would write a follow-up program exactly like this one!

See It and Say It Flip Flop Spanish is recommended for ages 3-99 and costs $135.97. For a two-year Spanish program for the whole family, that's a really great price. Other Crew families have also been learning Spanish with this terrific program, so be sure to click on the banner below to read all of the reviews.

Review updated 2/4/18 to reflect correct pricing and new links. All of my opinions remained unchanged!

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Review of The Presidential Game

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Most kids love board games and mine are no exception! So when the Crew had the chance to review a board game I jumped at the chance. The fact that the board game just happened to feature presidential politics and the electoral college whetted my appetite even further. After all, what better entertainment could there be for a political scientist and her kids than a board game called The Presidential Game?

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The Presidential Game operates on a fairly simple premise: playing as either Republicans or Democrats (players can play in teams so the game is not limited only to two players), players can choose on a turn either to campaign in three states (of the fifty) or to fund raise in one of four (the big electoral vote-getters). By proceeding in this manner (obviously there are more rules, but the game is fairly simple and straightforward), teams (political parties) collect electoral votes and make their way toward the White House (an electoral victory).

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The game is incredibly well-designed and explained. It is of the highest quality and is designed for longevity. Even better, though, after playing it just a few times both you *and* your children will understand how our president is elected in a more complete way than probably most other American citizens. That is more than worth the price of admission. If you look at the graphic below, a bunch of other people agree.

The Delgados and The Presidential Game

My kids couldn't wait to dive into this game. There was a momentary hitch when they realized someone had to be on the Democrats' team, but they got over that pretty quickly when a friend of mine suggested that, really, that team could be called anything. So now we have Republicans and Independents ;-) Nothing about the game play changes. Therese (12) read the directions to the other kids (10, 8, and 8) and they were all up and running within minutes. They all had a somewhat working knowledge of the electoral college prior to playing the game, but I don't think that any working knowledge is necessary in order to understand the game and get playing quickly. The directions do all of the explaining.

In the first picture in the graphic, you can see the game's accompanying web app which allows you to track the electoral votes that you gain as a player. It really adds an extra dimension to the game, but it is not essential to game play. If you have a computer or an iPad handy, though, it is a really nice way to see at a glance how things stand.

The Nitty Gritty

The Presidential Game costs $35.00 and is recommended for ages 11 and up. While it is a real asset to your study of American government, it is also a lot of fun just as a board game. My kids really recommend it! Nicky (10) sums it up with "It's a lot of fun!" That's about as good a sales pitch for anything school-related as you're going to get from a 10 year-old boy!

Lots of other Crew members have been playing The Presidential Game, so be sure to click the banner below to read their reviews.


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Monday, September 23, 2013

How Homeschoolers Measure Up

Homeschooled: How American Homeschoolers Measure Up
Source: TopMastersInEducation.com

St. Pio of Pietrelcina

A Prayer for Trust and Confidence in God’s Mercy

by St. Pio of Pietrelcina
O Lord,
we ask for a boundless confidence
and trust in Your divine mercy,
and the courage to accept the crosses and sufferings
which bring immense goodness
to our souls and that of Your Church.
Help us to love You
with a pure and contrite heart,
and to humble ourselves beneath Your cross,
as we climb the mountain of holiness,
carrying our cross that leads to heavenly glory. May we receive You
with great faith and love in Holy Communion, and allow You to act in us as You desire for your greater glory. O Jesus, most adorable Heart and eternal fountain of Divine Love, may our prayer find favor before the Divine Majesty of Your heavenly Father.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Review of PeopleKeys' Student Binder

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Because of Nicky's uniqueness, we have ended up putting a lot of time into figuring out what makes him tick. I know firsthand how frustrating and even hurtful this can feel from the sibling perspective. For this reason, I was initially very excited to have the opportunity to review the StudentKeys Student Binder from PeopleKeys. That initial excitement turned into frank curiosity about Therese when the Binder actually arrived!

PeopleKeys provides behavioral assessment tools that would not be unfamiliar to many people in the business world. In fact, when Henry saw the workbooks Therese was completing, he commented that they closely resembled the kinds of things his team does all the time at work in "Team Building." 

The Student Binder is comprised of six workbooks:

The workbooks help students find out more about their personality style, learning style, and goals and interests, all in an effort to help them hone their learning and interaction skills. The workbooks, in the order Therese (12) completed them, are:

1.  The Personality Style Workbook: this 16 page workbook with 15 questions only took Therese about 10 minutes to complete. At first she wasn't sure how to answer the questions (each had to be ranked 1-4), but once she got into a rhythm it got easier. At the end, she totaled her points to find out that her personality type is shared with almost 3/4 of all people. After reading through the personality type characteristics, I was at first a little surprised, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that she is, in fact, Steady, Supportive, and Stable. Her secondary personality revealing her to be Compliant, Cautious, and Correct is the one that I thought would dominate. Color me surprised! It was a fun revelation. After quickly skimming the personality types, I could very easily tell that I was a "D" (a Dominant, Determined, Driver, a type I share with 3% of the population; no need to take a profile - my whole family agreed that the description was me to a "T."). This amazing workbook contained close to 15 pages of analysis and discussion of the personality types in all of their strengths, weaknesses, and interactions. I loved it! Therese enjoyed reading about them, too, but I was fascinated.

2. The Perceptual Learning Style Workbook: This 12 page workbook was even quicker to complete, as it required no rank ordering. Instead, in 20 questions, Therese just circled one of three choices that described her. Then, by totaling them up, she found out whether she was an auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learner. I was very curious about this. I have been strongly auditory my whole life, but I just wasn't all that sure about her. I knew she wasn't kinesthetic (and that was confirmed), but I was anxious to find out "the rest of the story." It turns out that she is pretty evenly split between auditory and visual, but slightly more visual. It was very good for me to read that her constant doodling while I am reading during school is normal for her learning! Again, the workbook is packed with learning and study tips for all learning types. There is a ton of great stuff here.

3. The Cognitive Thinking Style Workbook: Like the preceding workbooks, this one has a short questionnaire followed by about 15 pages of interpretive material. In this workbook, Therese found out whether she was a Literal, Intuitive, Theoretical, or Experiential Thinker. It turns out she is Intuitive. I kind of guessed this based on the descriptions, which I read as she was completing the questions. Again, though, the great value of the workbook is the insight you get into your child in the succeeding pages. You find "Where Your Thinking Excels", "Where Your Thinking is Limited", "How You Work in a Group", "How You Work Alone." I found this insight about Therese invaluable.

4. The Values Style Workbook: Another short-ish questionnaire is followed by pages of insight. This time, Therese found out whether she had a Loyalty, Equality, Personal Freedom, or Justice Values style. She is high on both Loyalty and Justice. Delgados are all rather consumed by the notion of Justice, so I wasn't surprised by this. This workbook was not as interesting or beneficial to me as the others, as it really didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. We have raised our children to value Loyalty above all else, and, as I said, we all seem to be consumed by the notion of Justice.

5. The Career Choice Workbook: This workbook is 24 pages long. It begins with a discussion of workforce trends, hot careers, and things to ponder. In this workbook, the DISC personalities from the first workbook come back into play, but this time in the context of occupational styles. Based on your dominant style, about 50 careers are suggested. I can see Therese in several of her suggested fields (Ironically, what I do is not suggested for my style). Then, careers are broken down by industry with jobs cross-referenced by occupational style. Although there is a lot to this workbook, I don't actually find it all that helpful. It just isn't very specific. I would think that if one were to buy only one workbook, you get far more bang for your buck with Workbook #1.

6. The Goal Setting Workbook: This 17 page workbook is slightly different from the others. It begins with a discussion of the importance of goals before asking students to number a list from 1-14 in terms of priorities. Then, specific goals are set and obstacles are considered. Therese didn't really like this workbook and I understood why. It sounded just like her daddy talking to her! He is always asking questions like, "Is that goal measurable? Is it specific?" In some ways, the workbook felt kind of like a lecture. I think in this book, more than in any other, it was clear that the target audience for this binder is high school. This is the only workbook for which I felt Therese was a little young, but that was more about her attitude than anything else, because everyone should set goals.

What I Thought

This is an awesome product. I loved having the opportunity to watch Therese work through these workbooks. All told, each one took about 45 minutes. The actual question answering went quickly, but reading through the material takes time, and it should. I think Therese learned a lot about what kind of person she is at her core (she is probably not as anti-social as she postures herself to be), how she studies, and how she thinks. She enjoyed being able to review something that was not purely academic; it made her feel important. I would love the opportunity to go through all of these assessments with each of my children when they are older. Therese really was on the lower end of the age limit for this product, as it is recommended for 13+. I know that I will be continuing to read through Therese's results many more times.

PeopleKeys has many other products you can administer to your children (or to yourself!), and Crew members got to review a bunch of them, so click the banner below. The Student Binder is available for $49.00, or the individual workbooks can be purchased for $13.00 each.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

St. Monica

It is very hard to explain to non-Catholics why we ask saints for their intercession. Just as I ask my friends on Earth to pray for me, I ask the same of my friends in Heaven. St. Monica had a son who gave her much heartache. She is the patron saint of patience. She knows what I am going through. She experienced it. Yes, I can pray to Jesus - of course I do! But do you ever just feel the need to pick up the phone and call a friend? Does that mean that you don't have faith in Jesus or feel that he doesn't hear your prayers? Of course not. Sometimes I just need to talk to someone who has been where I am. No, my son is not dissolute and immoral, but he does try my patience in ways that would sanctify me if I would let them. Talking to St. Monica helps me. That she takes my prayers to Jesus in the same way that my parents take them to Jesus is the icing on the cake.

Last night a woman at dance, a former Catholic who now UNDERSTANDS the Bible for the first time, accused me of praying to Mary. I very kindly informed her that I do no such thing. She insisted that I do. "I still remember the prayer!" she informed me. "Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at..." I smiled and said, "See? I ask my mother in Heaven to pray for me, just ask I ask my mother on Earth to pray for me." But what about the other part? I remember the other part! "Hail, Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb." Oh, that part? I asked her. That part that is 100% scriptural? I am failing to see the problem. I need to emphasize that the discussion that we had was perfectly polite and that she was actually quite pleased that I knew why I do what I do as a Catholic, as she had had no clue as a child why she did what she did (and she has concluded that this is due to some fundamental flaw in the Catholic Church). I was treading very carefully, although I had some serious questions to ask when she was telling me how she had to leave the Baptist Church because some of its teachings were questionable to her. She is now sure that she believes the true teachings of Christ. I *really* wanted to ask her how she could be so sure, but, like I said, I had no desire to be confrontational. Sigh.

I am way off track. Back to St. Monica. It's a St. Monica kind of day. My Catholic friends will understand.

Dear St. Monica, 
troubled wife and mother, 
many sorrows pierced your heart during your lifetime. 
Yet, you never despaired or lost faith. 
With confidence, persistence, and profound faith, 
you prayed daily for the conversion 
of your beloved husband, Patricius,
and your beloved son, Augustine; 
your prayers were answered. 
Grant me that same fortitude, patience, 
and trust in the Lord. 
Intercede for me, dear St. Monica, 
that God may favorably hear my plea for 

(Mention your intention here.)

and grant me the grace to accept His Will in all things, 
through Jesus Christ, our Lord, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, forever and ever.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Review of Logic of English's Rhythm of Handwriting

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Michael (8) has always been the child whose handwriting has concerned me the most. Nicholas (10) has messy handwriting, but he can be neat when he chooses, and his cursive is surprisingly neat. Somehow, my right handed Michael (how two lefties produced four righties I'll never know) ended up writing with both a hook and a tripod grip. The combination has meant both that his hand fatigues easily and that his handwriting is, well, bad. Needless to say, anytime a handwriting product comes down the pike, I'm interested! Enter Logic of English's Rhythm of Handwriting!

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Logic of English suggests beginning with cursive before manuscript. Prior to Michael, I would have scoffed at this idea. Now, I'm a convert. At 8, Michael has been writing for 3 or so years and has been hating every minute of it. He reads at a junior high level. He loves to write stories on the computer. However, his spelling is not great and he hates to hand write anything. According to Logic of English's website, it is not a coincidence that his spelling and his handwriting are both bad, since they are inherently linked. I can say, though, that since beginning cursive with Rhythm of Handwriting, Michael has actually enjoyed handwriting! Since cursive requires less picking up of the pencil and is so much more fluid than manuscript, his hand doesn't become as fatigued. Since he is now doing cursive like his twin sister, his ego has gotten a much needed boost. All in all, it's a huge win-win for him.

Rhythm of Handwriting is 174 pages long. It uses a very simple, modern cursive font and teaches cursive using all four learning modes: seeing, hearing, doing, and speaking. In the picture below, the very large space for writing is actually for finger tracing the letter prior to writing it with a pencil, thereby using large-motor movements before engaging the fine-motor muscles. This is so helpful for kids who have trouble writing, and it is only one of the helpful tips in the introduction to the book. The introduction also contains suggested handwriting schedules for kids based on age. Again, that is very helpful. Handwriting is one of those subjects that I am never quite sure how much is enough and how much is too much. My girls (12 and 8) have always regulated their own handwriting quite well and they both have great handwriting. My boys...ah, boys!

Each letter is taught as can be seen in the picture above. First, the student traces according to the directions provided (the second small picture). Then, he turns the page and practices on the lines on which he is comfortable. The choice of lines on which to write is a great feature of the this program. Because kids of all ages may be using it, some may need the really large lines, but some may be ready for much smaller lines. Michael chose the lines right in the middle and they were just right for him.

The book proceeds through the alphabet, first lowercase letters (swing, curve, letters that connect at the baseline, loop, letters that connect with a dip connector, and bump) and then uppercase (curve, uppercase letters that connect at the baseline, uppercase letters that do not connect, roll, loop, circle, slash, and miscellaneous). By the end of the book, students are writing three and four letter words.

The Cursive Quick Reference Chart summarizes the directions for all of the letters in the order that they are taught, which means that I don't have to sit right on top of Michael to make sure that I can dictate a letter to him. It is a great tool to add to the book!

Michael and Rhythm of Handwriting

Michael really likes his handwriting book! It is the first thing he does in the morning while we wait for all the kids to assemble for group subjects. He does handwriting for about 15 minutes each day. I go over any new letters with him, reading the "rhythm" of the letter and making sure that he is forming it correctly. So far, his cursive is so pretty! It is so, so much nicer than his print. In fact, after he finishes this book, I don't see him ever printing again. Cursive is just so much easier for him. He doesn't complain about writing when he is working in this workbook. This is the best cursive program I have seen. Here's a secret: I am a big fan of very formal cursive. It is what I taught Therese. I just think it looks nice. It is *not* for every kid, though. For a kid like Michael, it would mean never learning cursive. For him, a simple and modern font is PERFECT. Rhythm of Handwriting is perfect. I am so grateful to have been given the chance to review it.

Rhythm of Handwriting Cursive is available for $15.00 and is recommended for students of all ages who want to master cursive.
The Cursive Quick Reference Chart is $10.00

Crew members got to review other Logic of English products, some of which I am considering buying myself, so be sure to click the banner to read the reviews!


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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Review of Time4Learning


Time4Learning is one of those ubiquitous products that, if you know about homeschooling, you're aware of it! Then, once you delve into its wonderfulness, you wonder how you got along without it. More than just a supplement or a learning aid, Time4Learning is fun and games for your kids that is teaching them almost without their being aware of it.

What It Is

Time4Learning is something for everyone. It is for after schooling, homeschooling, and summer schooling. I don't think that it can stand alone as a homeschool curriculum, but it is definitely an amazing supplement for grades PreK-12 (the high school portion was just added a few weeks ago, and nothing else in this review pertains to grades 9-12). While you sign up for a certain grade level, you have access to the grade levels immediately on either side of that one level, meaning that there is a nice range available to your child. If you find that you have chosen the wrong grade level, T4L will allow you to change (through an email to customer service) to the more appropriate grade level. N.B.: I did this. I had originally registered Mary-Catherine for 4th grade, but quickly saw that it was too easy for her in Language Arts. It was very easy to switch her to 5th grade in this subject, giving her access to 4th-6th grades. My review will focus primarily on 4th grade.

Time4Learning's Fourth Grade Learning Objectives can be seen here. Fourth graders learn math, science, social studies, and language arts. By entering in a couple of pieces of information including your child's name and grade, you can demo some lessons here. Most questions you can think of are answered by the FAQ. There is also a Parent Forum. Time4Learning costs $19.95 per month, with each additional student costing $14.95. For that amount, students have unlimited access to three grade levels, as indicated, and, after one month, they also have access to art (as shown in the large picture in the second collage below). Now, on to the fun stuff!

How Mary-Catherine Used Time4Learning and What She Thought

When M-C (8) found out that I was working on this review, her comment was, "Say it's really fun!" Well, that's about as good a recommendation as one can get, right? The fact is that there is so much to Time4Learning that it becomes very hard to review, so I will try to do "Review by Screenshot."

The math screenshot below shows the math tools to which your child has access, but it only shows some of them. You truly do have a virtual math toolkit at your fingertips. In the second collage you can see the base ten blocks at work. Using T4L for math does not mean that you also have to drag out a bin of math manipulatives. They are included for you!

The screenshot of the planets is part of the 4th grade science. Although Mary-Catherine was initially a little scornful of the cartoony presentation of the material on the Solar System, she got over it very quickly when she realized the depth of the material she was learning. She was completely drawn in and the level was just right for her. Much of the material was review, but there was enough that was new that her interest was held. When the material turned to rocks, soil, and natural resources, just about everything was new to her, and I *really* appreciated T4L filling in my gaps!

The final screenshot is of the screen writer, which is a word processor. My daughter *loves* to write stories on the computer, and I love that she can do so without needing to use the word processing program on the computer. She stays in the safe confines of Time4Learning. So far, she has not had to use it for any of her Time4Learning activities, but she has had a lot of fun playing with it!

The only screenshot I haven't talked about here is the large one on the bottom. This shows one of T4L's neatest features: its parent reporting (My Portfolio). Parents can see at a glance, any time and anywhere, where a child is at any point in the program. You can see on what date your child did something and how much she did. You can see how much of an element she got correct. You can see how much she has left to complete in that section. It really is a complete snapshot of the entire program, and it makes checking up on your child's progress so easy! There is so much on Time4Learning that it is easy to become overwhelmed. Children have a way of being able to navigate through a program like this very easily; they tend to discover all of the nooks and crannies quickly. For parents who have a little more trouble, this report can simplify the process tremendously.

Mary-Catherine's favorite part of Time4Learning was definitely Language Arts. It was the first place she checked out, and it is where she spends most of her time. She loved doing synonyms and antonyms and had a lot of fun with idioms (with which she was familiar, although the term was new to her). She has also been enjoying science, although she has really only "done" the Solar System. She looked over some of the other sections with me so that I could do justice to this review, and she is anxious to move on especially to Sounds of Music!

Social Studies is another section that M-C really liked. This is where having access to the multiple grade levels is such a great bargain. For example, in terms of ancient civilizations, Mary-Catherine can learn about cultures from the Vikings and the Inuit, to Mesopotamia and Egypt, to Ancient Greece. She can also learn about the Inca, the Maya, and the Olmec. She knows, of course, that this is school, but she loves history so much that we don't use this part of Time4Learning as school; we use it as computer time. 

In Sum

Essentially, there is so much to Time4Learning that it is one of those products that you absolutely have to investigate for yourself. Fortunately, Time4Learning lets you do that. By following the procedure outlined at the beginning of this review, you can try demo lessons to see if it is right for you. The price may seem steep at first, but there is so much to this program that it is actually very fair. Because every family will undoubtedly focus on different features of Time4Learning, be sure to read all of the Crew reviews by clicking the banner below.

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Sunday, September 8, 2013


Okay. We're not Cajun. Now, Henry did spend his freshman year at Loyola, and some poor ignorant souls have thought that our last name was "Delgadeaux", but Cajun we're not. HOWEVER, my man can make some gumbo!

I know you'll want some after seeing this, so I"ll be nice and share. It's Paula Deen's recipe from the Food Network :-) Henry made a double batch so that I wouldn't have to really worry about dinner this week. He also made a big patch of Portuguese white beans. I am ridiculously blessed by this man!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Review of Greene Bark Press' Look Left, Look Right, Look Left Again

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Author Ginger Pate experienced a life changing event that prompted her to write this charming book. When she was a child, she was hit by a car. While she survived, she once tutored a child who was hit by a bus and did not. Knowing this gives reading Look Left, Look Right, Look Left Again from Greene Bark Press a lot more meaning. The author *really* cares about your child's safety. She doesn't want you to go through what she has been through!

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This board book, recommended for ages 3-8 is 28 pages long, costs $8.50 and is delightfully illustrated. The main character, pictured on the cover, is Wally Waddlewater (I know - it is quite possibly the best name ever!). In order to mail a letter to his grandmother, Wally must cross many streets and, in order to cross those streets, Wally must learn the rules of crossing streets.

Ginger Pate has managed to do something that is a bit challenging for authors of children's board books: she has written one that truly is enjoyable for all ages! In Look Left, Look Right, Look Left Again, Wally learns to listen as well as to look in order to make sure the street is safe to cross. He learns about the dangers of railroad crossings after first thinking that blinking railroad crossing lights are red flashing eyes! He even learns to wait to cross the street until no elephants are blocking his line of sight!

Now, although this book is recommended for ages 3-8, my kids are, I think, too old to really be the target audience. At 12, 10, 8, and 8, they have been crossing the street for awhile. We don't appear to live in as big a city as Wally (or, rather, we live in the suburbs), so our kids' main challenges were definitely learning to be safe in parking lots! Wally's lessons are as applicable in parking lots as in busy streets, so just because one does not live in a busy city does not mean that there is not much to be gleaned from this book. Further, just because one knows how to cross the street does not mean that this book is not an enjoyable read. My eldest daughter had this to say:

"Wally Waddlewater is adorable. Watching him learn to cross the street is entertaining and endearing." - Therese, 12.

My other three kids just loved having a new book for me to read to them. Since we are past the stage where I buy board books, getting to review one was an unexpected treat. Something I don't really consider is that, while we love going to the book store or library and coming home with armloads of meaty books, there is a simple joy in opening up a glossy, well-written and well-illustrated picture book. How much better if that picture book is one that can teach a message in a non-preachy way!

Look Left, Look Right, Look Left again gets high marks from everyone in my family! See what other Crew families thought by clicking the banner below.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

My beautiful nephew, Thorin. He was born with a birth defect and had surgery at 24 hours old. Today, he is a healthy six-week old. God is good.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Review of Homeschool Spanish Academy

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For the second time since joining the Crew, Therese was privileged to try out seven lessons from Homeschool Spanish Academy. Although she is only 12, she is in 9th grade this year, so we asked to review the High School Program.

How it Works

Homeschool Spanish Academy uses Skype to provide one-on-one Spanish lessons to students everywhere. Although they don't cater only to homeschoolers, they are a natural choice for us. With HSA, you have a native Spanish speaker coming into your home via Skype once a week (or as often as you schedule lessons) teaching your child Spanish. Because it is just the teacher and your child, the classes move at your child's pace. Because the teacher is a native speaker, you can be sure that the accent is perfect (which, as the wife of a native speaker, is very important to me).

Getting set up to take the lessons is very easy. You can sign up for a trial lesson at HSA's website. After that, the tech department calls you on the phone to make sure that you meet the technical requirements to take the classes (basically, if you can Skype, you'll be fine - if you don't know if you can Skype, they are just the people to help you figure it out!). After that, you take your free class. If you decide to move forward, you choose the right level for you or your child (yes - they have adult programs, too!). Finally, you decide whether to sign up for a half-semester (7 classes for either $99) or a full semester (15 classes for $169.99). Pricing information for the high school classes we took is as follows. Notice that the classes get cheaper when you take a full semester and when you take two per week, rather than one.

Therese and Homeschool Spanish Academy

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For all seven of her lessons, Therese had Marleny as her instructor. Keeping the same instructor is not required by HSA; in fact, they encourage you to try out multiple instructors. The instructor keeps detailed notes of what is covered during the lesson so that any teacher can pick up right where your child left off. My reason for not changing instructors was simple: Therese is kind of shy. Once she establishes a rapport with a teacher, I want her to keep it, especially since this is (obviously) a class that requires a lot of speaking (and in another language!). Last time we reviewed Homeschool Spanish Academy, we tried out multiple instructors, and it is absolutely true that they pick up right where the previous one left off. I felt that Therese lost ground because of her shyness, though. Since she liked Marleny right off the bat, I wanted to keep her with her.

Lessons precede as described in this video. I realized too late that I don't have any pictures of Therese doing her lessons, but that because she wouldn't let me in the room with her (she didn't want to speak Spanish with me there).

Again, last time she had lessons, I was in the room with her, and I think that hampered her progress. She was afraid of making a mistake in front of me (I have high school and college Spanish and have known her native-speaking father for 20 years). Massive kudos to Marleny, though, because after these seven lessons, Therese's confidence has increased so much! She is speaking without fear. She will turn to me and say, "Is that right?" So even though I wasn't there for her lessons, I know she was speaking and learning. I know she was getting lots of positive reinforcement, too, because that's the only way you gain that kind of confidence.

That confidence, in turn, led Therese to show Marleny what she already knew about Spanish. She has taken Spanish in various forms over the past few years, usually of her own initiative. She has also had Latin for several years. In their last lesson, Marleny brought up the conjugation of "ser." Therese immediately conjugated it for her. Therese told me that Marleny was so impressed that she knew how to do that.

This example highlights my only frustration with Homeschool Spanish Academy: I don't feel that there is any real assessment to find out how much a student knows prior to beginning lessons. I tried to tell Therese to tell Marleny at the start that she had had some Spanish and a lot of Latin - that she could conjugate, understood Spanish sentence structure, and had Cuban grandparents (and so was exposed to spoken Spanish all the time). Because she wouldn't do that (I think it was a combination of being too shy and not wanting to sound like she was speaking too highly of herself - anyone who reads my blog knows that I have cornered the market on that!), I feel that she didn't get as much out of these classes as she could have. If there had been some kind of assessment at the outset, perhaps some of her prior knowledge would have been exposed. Still, the majority of the responsibility for that probably lies with Therese. She definitely did better speaking up for herself this time around and she did learn a lot.

Homeschool Spanish Academy, ¿si o no?

Si! I really love HSA! I love the wide variety of instructors available, and I love that they are available at all times of the day. The instructors (and I am speaking of my experience last time as well, since the three instructors we used then are still with HSA) are all *so* nice and encouraging. Although they are fluent in English, the classes are conducted as much in Spanish as you can handle. They are as immersion as you can get. When you consider how much Spanish you are getting in a 50 minute period, the price for these classes is tremendous. For example, in the full semester option (15 weeks and 2 classes a week), it's only $10 per class! For one-on-one teaching, that's incredible. 

I have a huge advantage in that my husband was raised bilingual. Because I consider speaking Spanish non-negotiable (at least living in Southeast Texas), though, if he hadn't been, I would place a high priority on fitting Homeschool Spanish Academy classes into our homeschool budget. You just can't substitute textbook lessons for interactive spoken lessons. Textbook lessons can't come close to Homeschool Spanish Academy. Try the free lesson and you'll see what I mean. 

Nearly 50 Crew families got to try Homeschool Spanish Academy. Click the banner below to read about their experiences. 

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