Friday, December 18, 2009

The Tortoise and the Hare

I always loved “The Tortoise and the Hare” as a child, but had never heard it set to music. Maestro Classics has done just that. They have taken many classical stories and put them with music performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Stephen Simon. I was privileged to receive a sample of “The Tortoise and the Hare” to review.

First, on the CD is the story itself. I popped it into the CD player. I was curious, and my kids love music. I had no idea the results would be so entertaining. My seven year old was fascinated by the story. He started wandering around the couch in a circle. As the story progressed, it got much more interesting. As the hare was racing, little one would race around the couch. As the tortoise was racing, he would tiptoe v e r y s l o w l y and dramatically. He definitely enjoyed the story.

It doesn’t end there. The CD also contains lessons about the story and about the music. There is also a fun sing-along song. In my opinion, this is a fabulous way to develop a love of both classic literature and classical music within your child. The case also contains a little booklet. The booklet has a ton of information in it. It shows the instruments of the orchestra, notes and time signatures, information about the animals in the story, dot-to-dot activity, music for the sing-along, and more.

The CD is very affordable at $16.98, or 3 for $45. I am looking forward to ordering Peter and the Wolf. That is one of my all time favorite musical stories, and I can’t wait to share that with my boys. To see other reviews, click here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fun Math?

Math. It’s one of those topics that you either love or hate. In my house, I have one child that loves it and is very, very good at it. I have another one that does not like it in the least. He fights about every little thing. It’s not that he doesn’t understand it. He is actually quite good at math when he stops fighting and puts his head into his work. So, I get very excited when I am allowed to test a new math program. Maybe, just maybe this will be the one to work. We were given a little over a month to try out from 3P Learning. This is a subscription based math program that has a few different aspects to it.

First, the kids get to make an avatar (little character). They earn credits to be able to buy new clothes, accessories, or backgrounds. My boys love this kind of thing. It can be a little bit of a distraction, though, depending on the child. There is a curriculum section where they do lessons to earn credits. L, the fifth grader, would do a lesson and then spend 20 minutes decorating his avatar. Then, after some prodding and whining, he would do a couple more lessons. After a couple of days, he did get the idea that he had to actually do some work. There was a lot less whining after that. E, my first grader, is a different story. He is working in second grade math, so I signed him up for second grade. He finished it in less than two weeks. For the rest of the time, he was working in third grade. I would actually have to stop him and pry him off if we had something else to do. I would not call it a complete curriculum, but rather a very effective tool for practice and helping cement concepts. The subscription, compared to a lot of subscription sites, is very affordable at $59 per year. However, if you know the human calculator’s favorite number, you can get the subscription at a discounted rate of $49.95.

There is also an area to play “Mathletics Live”. This gives kids an opportunity to drill and compete against kids from around the globe. It is very secure and no communication takes place between the children. It only shows their first name and what country they are from, along with their avatar. My oldest just discovered this, and thought it was cool when someone popped up from the UK or Australia. There are five levels to choose from in competition.

My little one is very disappointed that our trial period is running out. I am sure we will be renewing after Christmas. I would hate to deprive him of his math game. Oh, and just in case you don’t know, the answer is 9.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Spelling Success!! Finally!!

Sometimes, the most difficult things to teach are the things we do really well. Spelling, in school, was never a challenge for me. With a semi-photographic memory, I could look at the list once and remember how to spell the words. I did not have to incessantly drill to get 100’s on my spelling tests. I did care why words were spelled a certain way. I just knew how to spell them. I don’t really ever remember learning the rules. They were just something that everyone knows.

Unfortunately, not everyone has a semi-photographic memory for spelling words. Everyone does not automatically know the spelling rules. I felt like my 11 year old son was way behind in spelling. No matter how many times we practiced spelling words, he still could not spell when it really mattered. I found from talking with my network of homeschool moms, that this is actually a common problem, particularly with boys. When I found received the All About Spelling program in the mail, I was hoping it would not just be the same old routine. They claim to be a multi-sensory approach to learning spelling that will work for students of every learning style. I opened the package, and was a little overwhelmed at first. Once I got everything sorted, it wasn’t so bad.

Here is how the program works. With each level, you get a teacher manual and a student material packet. The teacher manual is pretty self explanatory. The student material packet is quite unique. It contains flash cards, divided into groups. There are phonogram cards, sound cards, cards to learn the key concepts and word cards. The materials also contain a couple of fun extras. The teacher manual/student material combo sells for $29.95 for level 1 and $39.95 for levels 2 through 5. Level 6 is still in production. In addition, you will also need the letter tiles, magnets, and phonogram CD-rom. This is sold in a kit for $26.95, but is used for all levels. You can also order extra student materials if you wish, but that is really only needed if you have more than one student working in the book at the same time.

I started both my kids at level one at the same time. I have a 5th grader and a 1st grader. The books are not labeled for a grade level, so if you have an older child who is struggling, they won’t be offended by doing 1st or 2nd grade work. My boys love using the letter tile magnets (which you have to cut out and stick on the magnets). At first, in level one, my fifth grader was able to get through several lessons a day. Even though he seemed to fly through them, I still made him do all the lessons to make sure we didn’t miss any important concepts. Now he is working through level 2 and I can definitely see the results. Each concept is taught in a very logical order, and then reviewed in following lessons. He is finally remembering the rules and applying them to his other writing work. I cannot believe the progress he has made in two months compared with the last five years. I will definitely be continuing through all levels of this program. My 1st grader is now almost finished with level 1 and just amazes me day by day with what he is accomplishing. We had to spend some extra time on the concept of “th”, because he is only seven and still has a hard time saying that sound. Now he is hearing the sound finally and knows when it is used in spelling, even if he still refuses to say it properly. Yes, I said refuses.
To read more reviews, click here.