Hi, my name is Melissa. Pour yourself a cup of tea and stay a while. I'm completely devoted to my Savior, madly in love with my husband, and joyously raising my daughters. I'm so glad you stopped by and I hope you enjoy your time here!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Bytes of Learning - UltraKey Online Family Subscription: A TOS Crew Review

UltraKey Bytes of Learning
 In our digital age many kids are using technology, but are not required to learn proper keyboarding technique. My daughters started typing instruction beginning in 1st grade. We were excited to try the one year subscription of UltraKey Online Family Subscription from Bytes of Learning. This is our first experience with an online based program and I really liked it!
UltraKey Online Family Edition 
One aspect I appreciated was the initial instruction for how to actually sit at the the computer with proper posture and hand positioning. My daughters hear me talk about this a lot as the posture for keyboarding is similar for playing the piano. I'm their piano teacher so I try to make certain they have proper positioning. It was excellent to have this same information given in the video and the little animation was very helpful. 

 Grace was very anxious to get started! She watched the video eagerly and was ready to jump right in. She has not been typing as long as her sisters (less than a year) so I had her start at the very beginning without doing any assessment. The teaching is clear and she worked happily until I told her it was time to move on to something else. Each day this has been one of the first thing she works to complete from her list of daily tasks. For her first lessons she worked on my laptop, then she moved on to using her tablet which you will see my other daughters using.
Rose completed our previous typing instruction program and was excited to have something to continue her instruction. You see this is a much smaller keyboard which attaches to a tablet. These are new for our girls. They all enjoy typing this way and while the smaller keyboard is not to my liking, it is actually a benefit to their smaller hands. I gave Rose the option to use the bigger computer and keyboard, but she said she wanted to get used to this because she knew she would be using it for school assignments. This is the beauty of using an online typing program. They can easily switch between computer keyboards if needed and had the option to improve their typing skills on the keyboard they are currently using most often. 

Beth asked if she had to use a table as the video instructed because her favorite place to work is in the living room. I told her she still had to use good posture, so she quickly found a box to use lift her feet and rested the tablet on her lap for typing. She was really excited to see how well she did on the assessment. Both Rose and Beth completed a sort of "pre-test" in order to set their goals. This is excellent if your students have some typing experience. You also have the option to change the goals at anytime. 
One of the things I like about the program is the ease of checking everyone's progress. There is a wonderful family management section where pdf reports can be downloaded. They are very user friendly and you can quickly assess how your students are doing. 

The cool thing about a program like this is the application in other areas. Rose has been completing her writing assignments on her tablet using a cloud document system. I'm noticing marked improvement in her speed as she completes these assignments. 

If you are looking for an online typing program this is an excellent option. It is easy to use and check. You may even want to give it a try to improve your typing! 
Don't forget to check out what my Crewmates have to say!
UltraKey {Bytes of Learning Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, February 19, 2018

Wulf the Saxon from Heirloom Audio Productions: A TOS Crew Review

Heirloom Audio Productions
 I'm super excited to share this review with you! We were introduced to Heirloom Audio Productions last year and my daughters were jumping up and down when Wulf the Saxon arrived in the mail! More than once I was asked if we could listen during our meal-time. How can I not agree when I know we will all love it so much!
Wulf the Saxon 
 Isn't this cover art gorgeous?!? One of my piano students saw our CD set laying on the kitchen table and immediately wanted to know what this was and if he could listen to it. The old saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover," is not applicable! I assure you the story is just as intriguing as the cover indicates.

The dramatized retelling of this classic G.A. Henty tale takes place in the mid-way through the 11th century. It's a period of history I have not studied much until my oldest daughter spent extensive time learning about last year. This tale focuses on England and the beginnings of the fight for the throne. My oldest daughter really enjoyed it. My younger two not as much. I think the extent of the battles and wars didn't interest them as much and some of it was a little too intense for my youngest especially. This would lead me to say while there is nothing in any way objectionable with regard to content, it is intense. I think it wise to listen alongside a more sensitive child.

Rose is 12 and while she is not really thinking about relationships we have been having more and more conversations about marriage and seeking God in this matter. I absolutely adored the love story in this title and the way in which it was presented. At a time when arranged marriages were the normal, especially for the wealthy families, to marry for love was unimaginable. We take this for granted in our society and in all honesty take love for granted. I appreciated how this story showed what real love should be and the struggle it must have been for those in this society to actually marry for these reasons. The marriage which has been arranged for Wulf is not one he wishes. Instead he wishes to marry another girl for love.

Don't worry if you have boys though, it's not all  about love! There are battles, shipwrecks, lords, dukes, and more action and adventure than you could imagine. Rose told me she likes that it is a true story, but not a history book. She loves audio dramas because they are a more interesting way to learn about history. Boys and girls alike will love this tale!
 Heirloom Audio Adventure Club
 Life the Adventure Club is an excellent way to build your library of Heirloom Audio stories! In addition to the CDs you will have access to digital copies of the stories, soundtracks (my favorite!), and a study-guide resource to use alongside the tales as you listen. As I said before this is a fabulous way to learn history and the study guides will provide even more resources and historical context for your learning including discussion questions, vocabulary, word puzzles, and more. Not only is all of this available for the new tales you purchase, you also have access to an active community of like-minded parents in the forum, videos, movie reviews, old-time radio recordings, and more. 
Don't forget to take a look at what my Crewmates have to say! 
Wulf the Saxon {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Answers for Homeschooling: A NLPG Book Review

Homeschool moms face a barrage of questions. When you are just beginning, this can lead to an enormous amount of self-examination and questioning the decision you felt was best for your family when you made it. It can be tempting to respond with snarky answers to those who ask things like, "How can you be qualified to teach?" or, "What about socialization?" There are some hilarious blogs and vlogs geared in this manner, but my experience has been most of the time these questions are genuine curiosity. Even if you get tired of answering the same thing over and over, remember many people asking you may never have encountered a homeschool family. Wouldn't it be nice to leave them with a pleasant memory? Israel Wayne's book, Answers for Homeschooling: Top 25 Questions Critics Ask, will not only help answer some of your questions, but give you a good resource so you can articulate accurate and kind answers to those who question or critique your choice! 

Israel Wayne is a well-known author and speaker in the homeschool community. His mother was one of the pioneers of the homeschooling movement before it was legal in every state. He and his wife, Brooke, have homeschooled their own children and his personal experience as both a homeschooler and homeschool parent provides a wealth of information for those of us newer to the scene. His writing is clear, factual, and compelling. It is evident he is not only knowledgeable about the homeschooling community, but also passionate to support families in their endeavor to home educate their children. The most important part about the Wayne's writing is his biblical world-view. When confronted on-the-spot with uncomfortable questions it can be hard to remember God called us to this season. With this book you can have a few Scriptures tucked in the back of your mind to help you navigate some of your answers, even to those who don't know or follow the Lord.

I live in a more diverse community in which homeschooling does not appear as quirky as other locations around the country. Most of our encounters with non-homeschoolers is positive and many tell me their children have asked them to homeschool at one point or another. Still, I believe all 25 questions have been addressed to me at one point or another by friends, family, and strangers! Sometimes people aren't questioning me, but their own ability to teach their children. I love encouraging parents that they do have the ability if they want it! 

One of my favorite chapters was entitled, Do You Know What Causes That? Believe it or not, our little family of 5 has been asked this very thing. I never have felt like we had a so-called large family until I encountered questions like these or other unknowingly rude comments. Again, I don't believe this kind of question is necessarily intended maliciously, but it can be very uncomfortable especially when asked in front of your own children. I appreciated the biblical reminders of just how precious children are to the Lord and therefore ought to be to me. It's not a common view. Based on many blogs and articles I've read online many in my generation don't exactly seem to appreciate or even like their children. I don't doubt they love them, but they are more interested in pursuing their own interests and desires. I often see this when I'm out shopping with my kids as well. We don't have a perfect little family where we all get along every minute of the day, but generally speaking we really enjoy each other's company!

Whether you are a newbie to the homeschooling community or have been at this a while, this title will be a great encouragement to you. You may even find a grounded answer to these questions which never occurred to you before!

Disclaimer: I received this title as a part of the New Book Review Crew at NLPG. I did not receive any compensation for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Week in Review: February 12-16

Another week is in the books! Uneventful and that is just how I like it! 

Beth (5th Grade): Creation to Christ Unit 23

Beth has been memorizing Philippians chapter 2 this year. She has memorized verses 1-20 and I'm so pleased with her diligence. She did not like the idea at the beginning of the year. It felt overwhelming and she resisted learning the one verse a week I assigned. The way she works on this is to memorize the next verse in the passage on Monday and Tuesday while reviewing the previous verses. So this week she memorized verse 20 and reviewed verses 1-19. Wednesday is a day off from memorizing, then Thursday and Friday she recites the entire passage. She gets stuck every once in a while, but overall has done excellent work! 

She surprised me by getting up almost an hour before I did, completed most of her chores, and was finished with her Friday schoolwork by 8:00 am. Fridays are our "light" days so they can have some free time to pursue their own interests, but this is still a huge change for her. In the past she has been the last one to finish every day. She beamed with joy as she told me all she had accomplished so early! There are some really good lessons in this, not only for her, but for me as well! 
Grace (2nd Grade): Bigger Hearts for His Glory Unit 16

Grace has one unit left in her 2nd grade mathematics and then we will move on to 3rd grade. She, like her oldest sister, fully understands the mathematical concepts she is learning, but sometimes just rushes through and isn't careful. Thankfully this has not yet developed a frustration in this subject. 

Today she will be completing her standardized testing for the year. It is a little early, but we have a friend who is now administering the Woodcock-Johnson Test of Cognitive Abilities. Her sisters have already completed it and I've been very happy with not only how the assessment has been administered but the extent of the information I get in return. She can't wait! My kids really don't mind standardized testing at all. It also helps that they know and greatly love our friend who has given it to them this year!  

Rose (7th Grade): Revival to Revolution Unit 9

One of Rose's favorite parts of our day is writing. Writing Strands is our curriculum of choice and it is such a great curriculum! The daily bite-sized teaching has helped her learn how to craft beautifully written pieces both fiction and non-fiction. We have found a fun new way to go about the editing process using Google Docs! Since we gave the girls new, larger tablets with attachable keyboards she is using this to create her writing assignments. I now go through and make suggestions, then sit down and we go through each edit one-by-one. The great thing is we can see the changes as they are being typed even on different devices! I'm using an iPad and she has an Android based device. Technology can be really cool sometimes! 

In addition math has moved along smooth as silk. Oh what a wonderful thing to be able to write! 

Free Learning Friday: Olympics 

Don't be shocked, but you will probably see the same thing next week! The girls are learning about how the events are judged, the rules, and all sorts of other things!

What have you been up to this week? Take a look at what my Crewmates are blogging about this week!

Homeschool Review Crew Weekly Link Up

Preserving Memories: Week of February 11

I only have a couple of layouts to share this week. I haven't spent much time scrapping this week. In the extra time I've had I'm trying to build some new habits in regards to taking care of our home and organizing. I'm also working on a writing project. These things coupled with choosing to go to bed a little early each night this week meant less time to scrap. Still, I squeezed in a couple of layouts I love!

1. This first layout is from a fun weekend getaway my husband and I enjoyed a few years ago. When he saw this layout he said, "Why am I chopping your foot?" That made me laugh because I remember taking this photo as he wiped the sand off my feet. We were on our way back home and didn't have a towel or anything, so he told me to sit down so he could help me clean off my feet. He's such a servant and these are the memories I cherish! 

Template: Freebie from The Fishbowl! (A Facebook fan group for Miss Fish Templates)
Head over and join the group to grab this template for yourself!

2. You saw the first page of our 2009 trip to Mt. Airy last week. This is the complimenting second page where I posted more pictures. I love using a more artistic layout paired with a pocket-style layout page for my books when I have a lot of pictures. They compliment each other well when paired side-by-side and it is fun for me to scrap both styles!

Credits: This is a mish-mash of 5-6 different kits! Most are retired. 
Magical Scraps Galore: Destinations: Road Trip
Chelle's Creations: Heroes (Police)
Wimpy Chompers: Fast Food
Template: 365 Templates from Traci Reed