Sunday, September 30, 2012

Music Together (Review)

I was first introduced to Music Together as a college student attending the Kentucky Music Educator's Association Conference.  With grand ideas of teaching in a music classroom, I strolled the exhibit hall imagining how each of the vendors could serve my program.  Music Together struck a cord with me because it was a music and movement program not necessarily bound to the confines of a classroom, but instead was actually designed to involve the whole family.  Parents and children from birth to age 7 would be able to enjoy and create music together. 
I remember taking information on the Teaching Music Together Training Program.  To become a teacher, you must complete the training program, demonstrate the ability to sing on pitch and keep accurate rhythm, and be able to lead a group.  Teacher trainings are offered in 50 locations worldwide and continual workshops and support are made available throughout the year.  Music Together could become your new career or provide some supplemental income for your family.  If you may be interested in becoming a Music Together Teacher, you can learn more about the available training here.  Not interested in teaching but want to join a family class?  Visit the class locator to find one in your area.
Most likely, you are simply interested in providing a positive, fun, research-based, innovative music experience for your family, your homeschool co-op, enrichment class, etc.  Well, you are in luck because Music Together is committed to helping families rediscover the pleasure and educational value of informal music experiences.  A few years removed from the music classroom, and I'm finally enjoying the Music Together music and movement program, but I'm at home with my three precious kiddos.  What fun!!!!


My little ones and I were able to review the award-winning Family Favorites Songbook for Teachers and CD.  Not only does the CD features nineteen of the best-loved songs from the nine Music Together song collections, it has won eleven awards including a Parents’ Choice Silver Honor award.  It includes a 32-page booklet with fun music-making activity suggestions for every song for use at home, in the car, or in the preschool classroom.

Especially helpful for the homeschool parent or early childhood teacher is the Family Favorites Songbook for Teachers.  This songbook details how to establish a music-friendly environment where children are free to move rhythmically, experiment with their voice through song, improvise, and hone listening skills.  Following the vocal score for each song, there are teacher pages that specifically outline activities that can be used in various settings.  The activities are engaging and age-appropriate for the developing young musician.  There are many accommodations made and tips for teaching students with special needs as well as notes for how to teach both preschool and older children.

The Wells' kiddos had a few favorite songs.  They enjoyed I've Been Working on the Railroad partially because they were already familiar with it, and because they loved the vocal vamps and being able to do the train associated large movements. Splishing and Splashing was a hit because they latched onto the catchy chant even recognizing the change in meter and had the best time composing their own silly chants. Finally, Spin and Stop was lots of fun because they found the nonsense syllables entertaining as well as the spinning motions using scarves.

I truly believe that instruments are magnets to which children gravitate.  My children don't veer from this norm at all and gratefully embrace any opportunity they have to improvise and create.  They were thrilled that each of the lessons included time for instrument exploration and play.  Whether you have a stash of children's instruments or choose to create your own, I'm confident that your kids will also be ecstatic to truly "play" music.  Actually, I'd venture to guess that you are going to want to join in.  I mean - it's not fair for them to have all the fun :-)

Listen to the songs on the "Family Favorites" CD now.  Hear something you like?  You can buy digital downloads of the album and songs.  If you prefer to have the Songbook and CD, it is most advantageous to purchase the combo kit as you save $5.  Actually, if you purchase the combo from the Music Together online store and enter the coupon code "Schoolhouse" at check-out you will save an additional $2.  This makes the combo $37.95.

While previewing the songs online, why don't you read what other Schoolhouse Review Crew members are saying about their experience with Music Together?  I always recommend getting multiple opinions before making a purchase, and it is easy to do.  Simply click the button below.

Disclaimer:  I received a complimentary Family Favorites CD & Songbook Combo in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Guest Posting @ Ben & Me

Homeschooling has allowed me to cross paths and meet some very special people.  I'm honored to call Marcy, who blogs at Ben and Me, a friend.  During the month of September, she has featured a series of guest posts entitled "Blogging in the Bluegrass."  While we have just recently moved, the great state of KY will always be a place we feel at home, so I'm thrilled to be featured today.
I'd love for you to visit and read my article Cultivating Compassion in Your Kids.  I'd also encourage you to follow Marcy's blog.  She has so much wisdom to share and is a wealth of information.  Looking for encouragement, helpful tips, great homeschool deals, Kindle freebies, and fantastic giveaways?  Marcy's got you covered!
If you are visiting today from Ben and Me, I do hope you'll stick around.  At The Wellspring of Life, you can find me blogging about family life, homeschooling, adoption, orphan care, and product reviews.  I've got some catch up work to do after the move, but we'll be back in routine soon.  Don't be a stranger :-)  God Bless!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kentucky Wait No More


Horsing Around (Review)

While at church camp this summer, the kiddos had a special visitor.  It just so happened that this guest had four legs, a mane and tail, and whinnied when happy.  As you can see from the pics below, this fella wasn't the only happy one.  My children LOVED their first experience on a horse.  Therefore, I'm afraid I'd be a lousy Kentuckian if we moved to the Volunteer State without my littles ever getting up to snuff when it comes to horses.  Keeneland, Churchill Downs, The Kentucky Derby... there is a reason Kentucky touts itself as the Horse Capital of the World.  

When given the opportunity to review for Homeschool Legacy, a quick perusal of the 11 studies available and I knew my choice immediately... Horsing Around!  While we have completed many unit studies in the past, this set-up and schedule differed greatly.  Typically, we complete a short unit study in a week culminating with a completed lapbook or notebook.  Using Homeschool Legacy's model, we actually focused on our unit study topic only one day a week, but in this case, the study spanned a four week time frame.  Daily activities included library reading on horses and our family read-aloud centered on horses.  Then, the family devotional and activities were completed in one day with Friday reserved for field trips or movie nights. (View the suggested schedule.) 

For $15.95, you receive every thing you need for your kiddos to be Horsing Around in their studies. 
Aside from a trip to the library, time to peruse your family's personal library, and possibly some phone calls or an Internet search for field trip planning, all of the work is done for you.  Within this no prep unit study, you will find family devotionals, suggested library reading selections, classic read-alouds, poetry, real-life applications, cross-curricular activities, fine arts examples, documentary and movie recommendations, trivia, field trip ideas, and a friends and family fun night plan.

In horsing around, the kids learned so much more than just the history of the horse. Horsing Around included:
Week 1 - Breeds & Characteristics
Week 2 - Horse & Tack Care
Week 3 - Equestrian Events
Week 4 - Cowboy Time!

Some of the highlights of this study for our family included some great reading.  We were able to find a number of the suggested titles at our local library as well as some additional selections.  Prior to this study, I was unaware of the Billy and Blaze series, and my boys especially really enjoyed these books.  I foresee them being checked out repeatedly.  I also went to our own bookshelves for our family read-alouds.  These books were tucked away in anticipation for when the kids were older, but in reading them together, I found they were able to enjoy them now.  We read Marguerite Henry's King of the Wind and Misty of Chincoteague.
Of course, I always love when the Bible can be incorporated in our studies.  The family devotionals in this study had us reading of the horse in Job 39... a passage I doubt we would have come across in other studies at this time.  We also read numerous passages pertaining to respect and obedience.  This tied into our horse study with the comparison of a horse's need to learn to respect and obey to ensure both his safety and that of his handler. 
Our favorite activities included trying our hands at drawing horses, checking out saddles, bridles, and tack at a local store, having stick horse races to the William Tell Overture, and pretending to be cowboys.  Movie and popcorn nights were a hit too.  We watched Black Beauty and Flicka.  I had high hopes that we'd be able to field trip to the Kentucky Horse Park.  However, a vacation and our move prevented that from happening during this review period.  On one of our return trips, I do intend to take the kids to the park.  It will be a great review of all we studied. 
While this tidbit didn't apply to our family, I do want to make all the Boy Scout and American Heritage Girl families aware of the fact that many of the unit studies allow for kids to "earn while they learn."  That's right... at the conclusion of a unit study, students will qualify for a badge.  Be sure and check out Homeschool Legacy's unit study offerings and the corresponding badges. 
In closing, while I like the schedule of the once a week unit study, I did miss the lapbooking/notebooking component.  For future studies, I think I would do a little more legwork on my own to supplement in this way.  I know there are lots of freebies on the web that I could pull together.  We're just a paper crafty bunch and like to have a nice polished end product to show when our study is complete. 
Also, this 4-week unit study is recommended for grades 2-12. Personally, I believe highschool students may find it a bit elementary and would require some significant extensions and outside supplements to make it a challenging study. In my opinion, it would better serve elementary and early middle school students. However, as always, I encourage you to click the button below and see what other Schoolhouse Review Crew Members are saying about their experiences.  

Disclaimer:  I was provided a complimentary copy of Horsing Around in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Celebrations Combined

With our out of state move, I'm assuming the combined birthday celebrations will probably become the norm.  Rachel turned 6 on September 13th, cousin Allison turned 7 on September 19th, and Caleb will be 7 on October 10th.  So...  we decided to really beef up the birthday parties and celebrate all 3 in 1.  They didn't seem to mind a bit, and Grandma made sure Jeremiah and Josh weren't left out either.  As with all good parties, we enjoyed delicious cake, yummy ice cream, and presents.  Happy Birthday to all the littles... even though they aren't so little anymore :(


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Family Time Fitness (Review)

Physical Education?  In a homeschool?  Now, how exactly is that accomplished?  For us, it would depend on when you asked.  One year, we were involved in a P.E. program at our local YMCA designed for homeschool children.  They gathered with same age peers for 40 minutes of swimming, 40 minutes of sports instruction, and 40 minutes of fitness.  The following year the kids attended a co-op that included a 30 minute gym time.

While there were many positives to these programs, there were some drawbacks as well.
  1. Only met once a week
  2. Involved travel
  3. Involved cost (YMCA monthly/co-op yearly)
  4. Kids only interacted with same age peers
  5. The quality of the instruction varied
  6. Often a lack of consistency
Due to our current situation, the opportunity to participate in a physical education program outside our home was not an option this year.  So... I was asking the same question as above.  How exactly does P.E. work at home?  I mean with 3 kids a game of dodge ball won't last long, "Duck, Thankfully, the answer to my questions came in the form of a review product from a wonderful company.

Family Time Fitness is dedicated to the physical education of children, family fun, exercise, and the eradication of childhood obesity.  Possibly, you don't think it is important to include physical education in your homeschool day.  However, I beg to differ.  Check out the image below of a brain after only 20 minutes of walking.  Now, imagine the brain activity after 30-45 minutes of a professionally planned physical education lesson.


With Fitness 4 Home School Core 1 Curriculum K-8, you are given 260 fully planned, detailed physical education lessons.  Each lesson clearly defines the equipment needed, warm-up exercises, an activity/game play, and a cool down.  Additionally, an outdoor activity is offered.  This is a great extension to keep the blood pumping and to enjoy the outdoors weather permitting.  My kids found these to be their favorite element of the program.  Soccer Red Light/Green Light, Hula Hoop contests, and Monkey in the Middle were all big hits.  In fact, I would often look outside and find them playing these games in their free time. 

From a teacher standpoint, I have two big praises of this program.  The lessons require very little prep time.  Within the lesson, you will find everything you need including embedded videos that illustrate the activities being performed by the creators own children.  These videos often reiterate that the goal is not perfection but the important part of bonding as a family through physical activity.  Also available is a one page summary of the lesson.  While it doesn't take the place of the parent reading through the detailed plan, it serves as a great outline to print off for the day of the lesson.  I used it as my "cheat sheet"  and reminder of the order of activities.

Secondly, I love that this program doesn't require a large curriculum or equipment investment.  The program is only $57.00.  As far as equipment, most of the items needed were kids play staples already taking residence in my garage:  jump ropes, playground balls, hula hoops, etc.  If there was an item we didn't have, it was easy to adapt to something readily available.  For example, we were lacking cones, so we improvised and used our beach buckets.  The program is great about recommending possible substitutions. 

Fitness 4 Home School Core 1 Curriculum K-8 really makes it possible for parents to teach physical education and fitness to their children without possessing any prior knowledge in physical education, kinesiology, and athletic development.  You didn't have to grow up the jock in class to pull this off.  Even those of you who refused to "dress out" for gym class will appear to be a pro all because of the experts in the field who have contributed to this program.  Having the combined expertise of fitness trainers, nutritionists, and those keenly aware of body movement and development a stellar program was designed that suits multiple ages and ability levels. 

Will we continue using Family Time Fitness?  Absolutely!!!  My kids really enjoy the activities... ok, there is some complaining about some of the calisthenics warm-ups, but they are getting used to it.  Although, my growing prego-belly is finding that I'm the one doing most of the struggling.  Ha!!!  It is recommended to use this program 5 days a week.  Admittedly, we have only been able to do so 2-3 days a week, so possibly in the future we may look to restructure some of our days to be able to add these lessons.  The beauty of homeschool though... just because you can't use the product as intended does not mean that you lose out on all the value. 

Even though I recommend this program, I do encourage you to click the button below and read other Schoolhouse Review Crew members reviews.  I would also suggest that you spend some time on the Family Time Fitness site and read up on this great product.  Also, follow them on FACEBOOK and TWITTER as well as sign up for the newsletter.

Disclaimer:  I was provided the F4HS Core 1 program in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sand Play & Burial

While the kiddos love the ocean, they are equally happy playing in the sand.  They dug, built, drew, even some short-lived throwing, and had an all around good time with the sand.  Then, in keeping with tradition, someone had to be buried.  Jeremiah volunteered :-)

Ha!  This pic cracks me up!!!

The sand creature emerges :-)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Vacay Birthday

Miss Rachel's actual birthday fell on vacation again this year, so of course we had to PAR-TAY!  When asked what she wanted to do to celebrate being 6 years old, she chose miniature golf.  I must say her skills have greatly improved since our last attempt.  Well, atleast on the first 18 holes.  On the second course, everyone was getting hot and tired.  Luckily, we all kept it together and there was no mutiny at Mutiny Bay.

 The golf pros???
 Love these cuties!!!
No birthday celebration is complete without a sweet treat.  After lunch, we had birthday cupcakes and ice cream.  Then, presents too!   
Finally, to cap off the birthday celebration, my big girl got her ears pierced.  She did a great job.  No tears at all.  She is proudly rocking the 6 year old birthday bling!  Sooo pretty!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Walk on the Pier

We took the kiddos for a walk on the pier at the neighboring beach in hopes that they may see a fisherman make a big catch.  Unfortunately, we only saw one guy nab a baby fish, and a crab floating in the ocean.  Even still, we enjoyed our leisurely stroll, the cool breeze, and some great photo ops. 

I must say these three are quite a catch!!!

Such sweet smiles :)

This is a fave of my precious boy!
She's a beauty!

Love him... wonder when those front teeth are going to make a comeback?
 Shocking... a pic of Mommy??? That never happens.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Lazy River

The kids did a little pool hopping at the condo.  However, since they tended to be in the shade, they were a bit chilly.  For this reason, I believe, the hot tubs were actually the kiddos favorite, but the heated lazy river was fun too.  Yeah... I could totally spend my day floating around the circle.  However, despite my very ungraceful efforts, the inner tubes weren't exactly prego-friendly.