Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Review of Micro Business for Teens

Micro Business for Teens Review
Some kids are natural entrepreneurs. They are selling their toys to the kids who come over to play from the time they are toddlers. They are selling lemonade at a young age before realizing that they can make a lot more money by getting their younger siblings to sell the lemonade while they collect a royalty simply for providing a little business advice. Then there are the kids with the great ideas. They just know that x or y or z would make a great business if they could only figure out how to bring it to fruition. Micro Business for Teens is the perfect resource for both kinds of kids.

Carol Topp, CPA has crafted a program for teens (ages 10-18) comprised of three parts: Starting a Micro Business, Running a Micro Business, and Micro Business for Teens Workbook

These three books are to be used together in concert in order to create a cohesive program. The books are relatively short. The workbook is used alongside the texts. Starting a Micro Business is 60 pages of text. Running a Micro Business is 80 pages of text. The workbook is 102 pages. The program takes a student through the entire process of a Micro Business from conception of the idea through execution and sale of the final product. Students even learn about necessary legal information and reducing risk. It is very thorough! In the workbook, students are able to put pen to paper about everything from bookkeeping to time management to using money management software.

Micro Businesses at Casa Delgado

By the time Henry printed and bound the pdf books we received, Therese (12) had already read all of Starting a Micro Business and completed the associated workbook pages by printing them out individually. She loved this program and couldn't wait to get started. 

She fairly quickly decided what kind of business she wanted to be in - crafts. She narrowed down her options, emailed her friends about her final product selections and polled them about what they would be willing to pay. There was a lot of consensus both about the product and the price (she is going to make fabric covered journals with initials on them - something she herself would buy in a minute), so her next step is to begin figuring out how much her materials are going to cost her so that she can make sure that she is pricing her product correctly. She is chomping at the bit at this point to get going! She has made extensive use of Chapter 4 in the workbook - "Writing a Business Plan," and feels very confident about her ability to launch her business. Her first opportunity to really showcase her business will come later on this summer when our homeschool group holds its "Kids' Marketplace" during which kids can show and sell things they make or market. Mrs. Topp's trio of products has been of inestimable value in getting her to the point where she feels like she can really make a go of launching a Micro Business. It has given her knowledge which has given her confidence.

...but wait! There's more! Nicholas (10), too, was bitten by the micro business bug! Henry has been making paracord bracelets since Christmas, and he decided to mentor Nicky through the process of setting up a Micro Business of selling paracord bracelets and key chains. Now, admittedly, Nicky is not reading Mrs. Topp's trio of books, but it is because we got these products for review that this idea even occurred to Henry. He has an MBA and is always trying to get the kids interested in investing and/or starting a business. Risk averse me is always saying, "Well, no, they're too young and that sounds like a lot of work," etc. My attitude is not particularly conducive to learning. His is. He was very intrigued by Micro Business for Teens. He read it, liked its approach and decided to implement it with Nicky. 

Nicky is impulsive. He has ADHD. He is compulsive and obsessive. He has OCD. That makes the whole "making and following a plan" thing very challenging. That's why these books are so incredibly helpful. They give Henry a way to be able to point to a set way of doing things and explain that there is a method for making a business work and that the steps need to be followed in order to be successful. Teaching Nicky that lesson has been an unexpected benefit of Micro Business for Teens.

The two Micro Business for Teens ebooks are $4.95 each. The workbook is $9.95. Families have permission to print one pdf copy of the ebooks. Families are granted permission to make multiple copies of the workbook pages for use in their immediate families only. With such generous copyright permissions and such reasonable pricing, this is one program that I can't think of a single reason not to get. That was a lot of negatives: what I mean is - you need this program.

To see what other Crew families did with this program, click the banner below.

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Egg on My Face and A Mess on my Blog

I owe an apology to anyone who visited my blog over the last few days. I had a rogue widget showing up in the wrong place - covering text, in fact. Now I realize that that may have been a blessing to some people (haha), but it annoyed the heck out of me when I realized it. It didn't show up for me when I previewed things and I just saw it by accident. Therese had read my blog and thought it was an anomaly. No - not so anomalous. In any case, I'm chagrined. The last week has been a comedy of errors, migraines, and missed deadlines. Not pretty. The next two weeks are so busy that it makes my hair curl (well, something is making my hair curl...I'll be happy to attribute it to that.). We'll make it through somehow. It's May after all...

Review of Trident Case

Trident Case Review

I don't know about you, but one of our most expensive investments is our technology. In fact, when I think about our home insurance policy every year, I think about the fact that we have added thousands of dollars of new technology without adding the commensurate coverage. Protecting that technology from kids, pets, and acts of God is crucial! Enter Trident Case! With cases for just about any device you can think of, it was hard to choose which device of mine to protect, but I eventually chose the Kraken A.M.S. Case for Apple iPad 2/3/4. Since I have 2 of the 3 iPads listed, I decided to put the case on my iPad 3, the one the kids get their grubby little paws (I mean adorable little hands) on the most. When Henry gets his new iPad for his birthday, the case will move to the iPad 2.

This case is some *serious* protection. It is for use by all ages (thank heavens!), and can stand up to some serious abuse. It's also really pretty  :-) 
Trident Case Review

The case comes in eight different colors. I chose purple (which you'll see below), but the best way to see the amazing technology is with the example picture in orange:

Trident Case Review

The Kraken A.M.S. Case has so many features that I want to make sure that I don't miss any:

The case seriously has EVERYTHING. I have never had anything this sturdy on any of my devices before. I felt so secure with my iPad in this case that I had no problem subjecting it to the following tests (seriously, I wasn't even worried -- and this is a 64 gb iPad - I feel like it cost the world and I can't afford another one right now!):

iPad as Coaster:

Oops! I spilled my water!

Water on this thick, plastic screen cover is *so* not a big deal.

Normally, my dog eyeing my iPad (which is about to fall off the couch) would make me nervous. Not anymore!

In the past, this scene would have made me furious...but not anymore :-D

Okay, I'll admit that I don't really use my iPad as a coaster, but I do use it for school all the time, and I do have it around drinks all the time. I used to live in terror that something might happen to it, but I absolutely don't anymore. I also don't worry about throwing it in my bag to go somewhere or about leaving it on the coach where it could get knocked off. The Kraken A.M.S. case is *that* sturdy.

The case is easy to put it on. It comes in three pieces which snap together, providing a cushioned and dust/waterproof environment. It is certainly more complex in construction (but not in application) than any case I have ever seen. You have faith in it from the moment you get it out of the box.

The Kraken A.M.S. case costs $69.95, which is quite comparable to other such cases, and is very reasonable when you think about how much your iPad costs to replace! I would absolutely consider Trident Case for my other devices (there are a total of 7 Kindle Fires in my family, for instance). I have complete faith in the device preservation power of this brand.

To see what other Crew families thought of the cases they tried on their devices, click the banner below.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - ADHD

A poster at my son's psychiatrist's office. It is eye-opening and true and so, so difficult to deal with. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Review of Golden Prairie Press

Golden Prairie Press Review
You might think that you have never heard of Golden Prairie Press. Chances are that you just don't know who the founder of this curriculum is, though, because it is almost impossible to homeschool and not have heard of Amy Puetz! Her living books and so-real-you-feel-like-you're-there stories of the boys and girls of yesterday are the crux of what many people consider a modern Charlotte Mason curriculum. For those people who may have avoided Mrs. Puetz's works in the past because they were afraid that a true Charlotte Mason education may not meet the needs of their family, the time has come to fully embrace all that Golden Prairie Press has to offer! We were very excited to be introduced to Digital Heroes and Heroines of the Past: American History Curriculum

Golden Prairie Press Review

If the above graphic makes it look like there is a lot to this program, let me assure you - there is! There are actually *five* different components to this history program, which is geared toward children in Grades 1-6.
1. The text, in two parts. If you receive the digital download, as we did, you will get an amazing full-color experience that is unlike any textbook you have ever read. What surprised me most about the text is the brevity with which periods in American history are covered without sacrificing key detail! I have a degree in history, and I am very picky about the material we use. I don't like it when important things are glossed over or skipped. In this program, I didn't find instances of that at all (caveat: we started the program in the 1920s, which is where we are in American history). The program actually starts with Native people of North America. 

The text is laid out in a unique (and wonderful) way. Most sections start with a one-page lesson for 1st-2nd grade. In one page, the lesson is covered in full. Then, the next three or so pages are devoted narrating the same lesson for 3rd-6th grade. At the end of the lesson, depending on the day, there might be questions, writing topics, map, and geography questions, picture study, a bible verse to memorize, a topical recipe, and/or crafts to do. The writing exercises are varied and interesting and are easily adaptable to younger or older ages. The crafts are easy to do with things you have on hand at home. It is a good idea to look ahead at the beginning of the week to decide which activities you are going to do and to make sure that you have all the necessary supplies.

Our experience with the text:  My kids basically really liked the text. Each day's lesson is considerably shorter than the text we presently use, so they liked that a lot. They also loved all of the historical pictures embedded in the text. Unfortunately, they noticed the same thing that I did (and, perhaps, this was to be expected): it is *anything* but neutral. Therese's jaw fairly dropped along with mine at the statements highlighted in this picture:

Now, as a social scientist, I would say that the first statement is a non-falsifiable hypothesis - it is far from a statement of fact. The second is just pure opinion. I don't think that either one belongs in a textbook. I had to take a lot of time every day to explain statements like this and then explain to my kids why (even though I happened to agree with them), they were not textbook appropriate. Of course, other families may feel completely differently. Some families may want values statements in their history texts. I just don't happen to be one of them. 

2. Historical Skits - This book contains 19 short (2-3 page) skits that correlate with certain episodes you will study in the American history text. Some examples are Gold in California, Digging the Panama Canal, and The Spanish Influenza. The skits are extremely easy to act out and require almost no props - again, what you need you can find in your home. Of course, if you are the crafty and creative type, the sky is the limit.

We tried the skits, but my kids did not like them. They seemed a bit simplistic. My kids watch a lot of documentaries on the History Channel, The Learning Channel, etc. Thus, the skits did not flesh out any of what they had learned for them. I think that they would be much better for kids younger than mine (the ones I used the skits with are 9 year-old twins), or for kids who are  not exposed to as much TV as mine are. If you want or need a way to make history come more alive for your kids, though, the skits could be a nice touch.

3. Sing Some History - This is a grouping of historical songs. Examples are "Yankee Doodle Dandy," "Sweet Betsy from Pike," and "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." At first I was really excited about this part of the program, but I ended up being a bit disappointed. First of all, all of the songs are sung by the same male and/or female singers (as far as I can tell), and, to my kids, they sounded kind of silly. The kids told me that they sounded like one of the kids' CDs they listened to when they were toddlers. Also, on the song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," the words were changed from "...and we'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home" to "...and we'll all feel glad when Johnny comes marching home." Now, I can certainly guess why the word was changed, but there is no need for the change. Gay is a perfectly legitimate adjective. It originated in the 13th century as a word meaning "fast" or "sudden." It came to be used as word meaning lively. Its use as an adjective for homosexuality didn't come into being until the 1930s. I learned this song in school and have never forgotten it. I had already taught it to my children and we were all surprised when the word was different. I didn't even get into why. I was annoyed that I felt that I kind of had to.

4. Listen to Some History - This is another part of the program that I thought was potentially really neat, but, again, I think that we have been spoiled by our exposure to more in-depth history. Again, this is a male and female voice reading historical documents, including "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere," "The Declaration of Independence," and "Sergeant York." The problem I have is that there is nothing about these readings that sets them apart from me reading the documents to my kids...and I have read the majority of them to the kids already. I am *very* big on the kids listening to history, but when we do it, it's a little different. For example, when we were talking about the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, I played for the kids the actual news broadcasts of that day. They heard the radio programs in progress that were then interrupted by the breaking news of the bombing. We also listened to some of Roosevelt's Fireside Chats. We listened to a Yankees game - things like that. When I think "Listen to Some History" I think of something like that, or at least something with some dramatic value (like the Old Time Radio program "Cavalcade of America" or "You are There"). The simple reading of documents was a bit of a surprise to me. I don't think it is much of a value-add to the program.

5. Finally, there are additional materials for download, including coloring pages, timelines, and some games. The timelines are absolutely gorgeous and went straight into the twins' notebooks. They are full-color and nice and complete.  

What Do I Think?

You might be tempted to think that I don't like this program. That's actually not true at all! I think this program is thorough, offers great variety (especially in the completeness of the text with the lesson questions, writing assignments, crafts - the kids really enjoyed translating Hobo Signs: I had actually just been telling them about them a couple of days prior to our doing this lesson, and then - there they were! It is the first time I have ever actually seen them!), and is, more than anything, gentle! I think it is the gentleness of it which does not appeal to me (as I said, I have a degree in history, and I LOVE teaching it to my kids), but which makes it so IDEAL for so many other families. I am fortunate enough to know many places to get a lot of additional resources (such as my extensive collection of almost 100,000 Old Time Radio shows), but not all families have that. Amy Puetz's program is perfect for such families. She has done the work for you. Also, if you are the kind of homeschool family that wants to do the entire immersive experience of skits, cooking, etc., this program is what you've been looking for. Finally, if you want to teach American history to all of your elementary school students at one time, you absolutely can do so with this program.

How much will this program cost you? Not much for all you get! The program costs $98.99 to download all of the components digitially.

Golden Prairie Press Review
Many other Crew families have been using this history program, so click the banner below to read their reviews. You can find Golden Prairie Press on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GoldenPrairiePress
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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Review of Maestro Classics

Maestro Classics Review
Maestro Classics is a company that everyone should know about. Whether you know a lot about classical music or are just discovering its joys, Maestro Classics can enhance your journey. Why is classical music important? Not only does studying music aid in the study of math and increase both concentration and relaxation, but (and even more importantly), knowing classical music is crucial to being able participate in Mortimer Adler's "Great Conversation." After all, just as you can trace the evolution of Western Civilization through its literature, so can you trace it through its art and music. Maestro Classics actually blends those elements together in its innovative products!

We were fortunate enough to receive for review the following: My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music and Casey at the Bat

Maestro Classics Review
Maestro Classics Review
Both of these CDs contain the same components: between 35-46 minutes of music and a 24 page activity book containing facts, sheet music, lyrics, and games and activities. The experience of listening to classical music becomes a complete experience encompassing history, literature, and biography.

Casey at the Bat

Beginning with Casey and the Bat (because it was my children's hands-down favorite), the CD is 35 minutes long, and it goes by way too fast! It begins with a full-sensory reading of the classic poem by Ernest Lawrence Thayer. By full-sensory, I mean that you hear the cheering and booing crowds, the vendors, and all the sounds of the game. You are *there* with Casey at the Bat. My kids have heard this poem many times before since I have read it to them previously. I grew up hearing my dad read it to me, and I have carried on that tradition with them. They had never heard it like this, though.

After hearing the poem, listeners are treated to the "inside story" of Casey at the Bat - a tale of a poem that almost wasn't the widely known tale it is today. As I mentioned, I have known this poem my whole life, and I didn't know anything of its history! What a treat to learn, as Paul Harvey would say, "The Rest of the Story." It's hard to imagine a world in which the iconic phrase "There is no joy in Mudville" would have no meaning!

The rest of the CD is a lesson in how to listen to music! My children were treated to "The Casey March" - that unique piece of music that was dedicated to Casey himself during the reading of the poem. They learned a little about the Suzuki method and about *how* to listen to a story in music (a great lesson in a short time period) before being treated to the full rendition of "Casey at the Bat" once again, which ended up being a richer experience for having learned what they were listening for! What an awesome way to enhance an already awesome poem.

Complementing the CD is a 24-page activity booklet. It includes a dot-to-dot of the baseball field, the poem's text, baseball facts, a biography of the composer, a crossword, sheet music of "The Casey Tango" and, my favorite, an explication of "The Casey March" as a recipe requiring a careful blend of ingredients to complete the song. It was this activity/explanation more than any other than really brought home the idea of composition to my kids (12, 10, 9, and 9). The two eldest have had piano lessons, so they can read music and understand the basics of music theory, but for my twins, this form of explanation was very effective!

Because there was only one activity book and four kids, my two eldest decided to let the twins have the fun. Michael got to complete the activities in "Casey at the Bat" and Mary-Catherine completed the activities in "My Name is Handel." Really, though, the dot-to-dot and crossword puzzle were secondary to the awesome information in the booklet.

My Name is Handel: The Story of Handel's Water Music

Oh, Baroque music! Sublime. My kids didn't realize they knew Handel until they heard this piece of music. That's what I mean about being able to participate in The Great Conversation. Classical music permeates our everyday lives. It has been co-opted by marketing machines because it resonates in our souls. How sad that most people can't put a composer's name to a piece and can't place a composer in his time period with his proper instruments, patrons, or motivations. Maestro Classics makes that effortless for homeschooling parents - really for all parents. 

The bulk of this CD is occupied by the piece itself (and other of Handel's compositions), interspersed by biographical narration by Yadu, Humanities professor. You hear "Water Music" itself, while also hearing how the piece came into being. It's simply wonderful. It makes learning about classical music *and* composers completely effortless. The rest of the CD contains shorter pieces. For instance, Track 2 features a "story behind the story" suggesting that the traditional thinking about Handel may be slightly wrong (I won't issue spoilers!). Kids then learn the "My Name is Handel" song. The conductor then addresses the audience explaining the piece (Water Music - obviously!). It is just like sitting down with the conductor of any symphony orchestra and having him tell you the inside story of the music. It's one of those things that I sit back and can't believe that you get for the price of this CD. Finally, listeners are able to sing "My Name is Handel" with the chorus.

The activity book that comes with this CD contains a wonderful biography of Handel, an explanation of the orchestra in his time, an overview of important London churches, a discussion of the harpsichord and the organ, the sheet music for "My Name is Handel" and a discussion of travel in Handel's day. There is also room to play a game of "Squares" or "Boxes."

Like "Casey at the Bat," this CD is amazing. It is so much more than just a recording by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. It is a story, a lesson, and an aural treat. It is not school. It does not feel educational. Classical music was never meant to be educational or elitist. It was meant to be heard and enjoyed by everyone. Maestro Classics makes that ideal a reality.

How We Used The CDs

It is almost disingenuous to say that we "used" these CDs. We listen to them. We enjoy them. We love them. We have not listened to them only once. We listen to them all the time. We don't consider them school - we just consider them another in our listening options on any given day (as in - "Do y'all want to listen to Old Time Radio, Casey at the Bat, Handel, Swan Lake (another awesome Maestro Classics CD we own), the radio, or what?"). Casey at the Bat usually wins. One of the great things about these CDs is that they are not one-listen purchases. You absolutely can listen to them over and over again. The narration never gets stale. The music, of course, never gets old. The more you listen, the more you can appreciate both the genius of what Maestro Classics has done *and* the genius of the composition. My recommendation is, of course, that you buy them, but also that you don't make them formal schooling. Just put them on and let your kids listen. Don't explain anything. Let Yadu and Stephen and Bonnie Ward Simon do that. Your kids will be captivated. They will take from it what they can based on their age and ability - and that will be fine! It will be perfect.

Each of these CDs is $16.98. Casey at the Bat is recommended for all ages, while Handel is suggested for families and children 5+. 

You can find Maestro Classics on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MaestroClassics and on Pinterest:

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Couple of Great Mother's Day Deals

There are a couple of really great deals going on right now for Mother's Day (if you or your mom is in to makeup or perfume).

First, Stila has everything on their site 40% off with the code STILAMOMS40. I would have said that maybe Stila wasn't really a Mom kind of brand...until I found out that my own mother (who is over 65) was using their eyeliner. Color me wrong! If you only get one thing from Stila, definitely consider the Kitten eye shadow. It's completely iconic and multitasks as a highlight.

If your mom loves perfume (and whose doesn't?), make sure to shop at Sephora before 5/11/14. They are doing 3X points on fragrances until then. If you are a Beauty Insider who really wants to get VIB status, one perfume purchase can get you there with this offer (if, like me, you are more than halfway there already). If, like me, your signature scent is not cheap:

Those points will add up *fast*. 

One other quick Sephora mention that has nothing to do with Mother's Day, but it is Limited Edition, so it does bear a shout-out for summer: 

This "Sol de Rio" Sephora bronzer is HUGE. I can't find the exact weight (and mine is still in the mail - I dithered at the store but ordered it as soon as I got home), but it is at least 30% larger than a standard compact. It will last forever. I swatched it next to Too Faced's Chocolate Soleil and Milk Chocolate Soleil, and color-wise, it is right between the two of them. It is super-soft and very blendable. I won't go so far as to get a back-up, but value-wise, I would seriously say that you can't do better than this. 

As for my mom, if I have to be honest, she will probably get a Hobby Lobby GC for Mother's Day because you should get your mom what she really wants and not what you want her want. However, she is going to a 50th reunion next month, and I am going to make her let me do her makeup before that. Maybe for her birthday she'll be open to Kat Von D's Lock-It Powder Foundation! Now that, my friends, is a miracle of a face powder! Happy Mother's Day :-)

I'm going back to homeschooling now!