Sunday, April 28, 2013

Spanish for You!

I love Spanish. Actually, I love languages in general. I studied both Spanish and French. When my boys were little, I would take them to Spanish story time at our local library. I will often say things to them in Spanish. Not full conversations, just little snippets here and there. I wasn't really sure what to expect when I was asked to review the Spanish for You! program. This actually turned out to be a very difficult program for me to review.

Spanish for You! is a Spanish curriculum for grades 3-8. From their website: "Spanish for You! begins your child on the road to fluency. It is designed from years of experience by a Spanish teacher to effectively build speaking, reading, and writing skills as well as grammar knowledge. Students learn to creatively build sentences, ask and answer questions, and truly communicate in Spanish! And they have fun doing it!!"

I received the "Fiestas" package for grades 3-8. This included a hard copy book (but it is also available in e-format), mp3 audio downloads to help with pronunciation, lesson guides in PDF format, and self-checking worksheets also in PDF format, and PDF flash cards. The lesson guides are split into three different age groups. They are grades 3-4, 5-6, and 7-8. The higher grades are designed to take 24 weeks. Grades 3-4 are slowed down and stretched out to 30 weeks. This makes it a fantastic program for teaching multiple ages at the same time. This whole program sells for $64.95. However, if you only need one of the grade levels, you can choose which one you need and it is only $39.95. Here is a great blog post from the program creator about the flashcards. The "Fiestas" package focuses on words and phrases that have to do with celebrations. There are five lessons: birthday party, el dia de los muertos, Carnaval, Holy week, and April Fair (an event in Seville, Spain). The other full program available is called "Estaciones" (seasons). According to the website, they are working on more programs. One is set to be released in June.

I used the lesson guide for the 3-4 grade level with my 4th grader. My older son is just starting high school, so I decided not to use the program with him. The program is very well laid out. The lesson guides have very detailed step-by-step instructions. The audio files are a great addition. It makes it so that even if you know nothing about Spanish, you can do this program with your kids. Since I am semi-fluent, I did not actually use the audio files.  The main problem I ran into using this program, is that because I have exposed my kids to Spanish since they were very small, they already know much of what is covered. I ran into the problem of my son not wanting to participate because he thought it a waste of time. I would still definitely recommend the program to those who want a simple, well organized way to introduce Spanish to your kids. It is especially great if you have no or limited knowledge of Spanish yourself. I also love how the festivals give some insight into different cultures of Spanish speaking countries.

I received this curriculum free in exchange for an honest review. I received no other compensation. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

To Plan...or Be Flexible?

I am a very organized person, in my own messy, chaotic, piles of paper everywhere kind of way. I have every single day planned out from sunrise to sunset with whatever seems to happen. Truth be told, I want to be organized and have everything planned out without actually having everything organized and planned out. Does that make any sense? I didn't think so. I go through phases of trying to plan and organize everything, but it usually falls by the wayside to a better offer. I really enjoy being spontaneous and going with the flow. How do I find that happy medium?

For starters, how about I review yet another planner? It seems that even if I don't want to be organized, God keeps sending things in my path to get me that way. I was excited to get the Apologia Planners to review. I really was hoping it would finally help me get at least the boys' schoolwork organized and planned out, especially since I have one ready to start high school. Here's what I received: The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens, and The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students. Surprisingly, the boys got really excited about them too. They each had their own planner. That is, until I told them the purpose of them. They did still set out right away filling in the days on the monthly calendar pages and then adding the special days that are important to them.

My 10yo got the Student Planner and loved filling in the calendar and putting his stuff on there. He really loved the stickers that were included, like little birthday cakes and what not for important days. I just discovered that he found the reading list in the back and added his books he's been reading. He also really likes the resources like maps and multiplication tables in the back. He has not really used the daily planner part up to this point.

My 14yo, of course, got the Teen Planner. He also enjoyed filling in his special days on the calendar. For him, I am attempting to use the daily planning portion to write out his assignments for the week. We had the added joy of a conference call with planner creator Debra Bell. She talked to us about how she assigned her kids work. She suggested a meeting at the beginning of the week to discuss plans and one at the end of the week to go over the assignments. I really like the concept of that, and am trying hard to implement it for him. He is becoming more and more independent, but still requires a lot of constant supervision at this point. I am really trying to lead him to be more independent, though. I know we will get there, and I really think this planner is helping with that.

The student and teen planners are very similar in their layouts, but there are some minor differences. There is no reason the student planner couldn't be used by teens, but there are some added features in the teen planner that are great for high schoolers. The monthly calendar pages contain some inspiration and Bible verses. The daily planner pages contain SAT words for useful study. The resources in the back include a credit tracker, grades, reading list, activities log, grammar guides, periodic table of elements, algebra review, physics review, and more. The teen planner still contains the fun stickers to use on the calendar too, so they won't miss any of the fun. I would highly recommend the teen planner for the high school crew. Even if your students attend public, private, or other school setting, it could be a very useful tool for them.

I haven't even told you about my planner yet. The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is what it's called. While the kids' planners are about 5x8", this one is a full 8.5x11". The monthly calendars are all in the front. Then, each week contains two full two page spreads for writing to do lists, jotting down memorable moments, and making plans. There isn't space specifically designated for meal planning, but there is plenty of space available to use it for that. This one also has plenty of resources in the back. There are spaces for grades, and reading lists for up to six students. It also has spaces to keep track of field trips or activities, a checklist for raising an independent learner (I need to go over that some more), tips for motivating the reluctant learner, and a place to map out high school, year end review notes. There is enough space that I can keep track of homeschooling stuff, meals, business items, and my blog reviews all in one place. Oh, and I even added some fitness things on there this month.

What I love best about all the planners, is that they are 12 month planners, but the months are blank. That means that if I start my school year in September, I can start my calendar in September. What if I start in August? That's ok too. These planners happened to start in February, because that's when I got them. It also happens to be around the same time that I promoted my son to 9th grade. Back up to the beginning of my wanting to have a plan, but not problem. This really is the perfect solution. I can have a plan, but have plenty of room for flexibility. All the reasons I love homeschooling.

I received these planners in exchange for my honest review. I received no other compensation.

Monday, April 1, 2013

We Choose Virtues

I truly believe that the most important thing that homeschool parents can teach their children is to have Godly character. Everything else we teach them is just icing on the cake. When I was asked to review a program called We Choose Virtues, I was very excited.

 You can see on the left the virtues that are covered. The items I received to review are following. First, I received in the mail, the Virtue Flash Cards. These are 13 full color double sided flash cards. One for each virtue. You can get them with or without Bible verses. If you choose to have the Bible verse, you can even choose NIV or KJV. I chose NIV. I received the rest of the items in e-format. Step one is the Family Character Assessment. I also received a Teacher's Handbook, Kids of VirtueVille Coloring Pages, Youth List of Memory Verses and Bible Heroes, and a printable award certificate to use when the program is completed. This handy product comparison chart can tell you how much everything costs individually vs. packages to help you decide what you want.

These products are recommended for preschool through elementary. I used this program with my 10 yo. The 56 page teacher handbook is very well laid out and explains everything step by step. I think ages 4 to 8 are really ideal for using this program. Some older kids may do very well with it. My 10yo is a very independent learner. He would rather hide in a corner and read a book or work on a worksheet. He happily colored the coloring pages (you can see a sample of his work below). He also took the flash cards and went and hid with those for a while. Bottom line is, I would recommend this program for the younger crowd, but not the older ones. It is fantastic that you can choose from 3 different versions. In addition to the homeschool program, they also have options for church classes or school classrooms.

I was given this product in exchange for an honest review. I received no other compensation. I can, however pass along some coupon codes to you. Coupon code HOME20 is good through the month of April and can be applied  to the Homeschool Kit giving you a 20% discount on the purchase of it. If you would prefer to order just a few products or any of the other kits, you can use coupon code VIRTUE15, to take 15% off your total purchase of any or all of their great products.