Wednesday, April 30, 2014

ARTistic Pursuits- A TOS Review

Once again we have been blessed to review ARTistic Pursuits.  If you remember from about a year ago, we used  Elementary 4-5, Book One.  This time we were able to review Elementary 4-5, Book Two: Color and Composition, which concentrates on learning art skills while using watercolor pencils.

Let me just start by saying I am not an artist.  Neither are my kids.  As a matter of fact, if I could just skip art instruction I would, but like most kids, mine really do enjoy art.  For that reason I do try to incorporate art and art appreciation into our school year.

So far ARTistic Pursuits is one of the few art programs we have found  that we all like.  Divided into four day lessons, this program is thorough, informative and easy to use.  The first day of each lesson is Building a Visual Vocabulary and focuses on a child's real world experience for drawing. The second day introduces an artist with Art Appreciation and Art History.  This day shows you a picture of that artist and tells you a little about the artist and the picture.  There is another art activity for that day that is in the same theme that you just read about.  The third day is titled Techniques.   Here you will learn how to use various tools and materials while creating another piece of art.  The fourth and final day of the lesson is called Application. Here the project tends to encompass all of the techniques you have learned for the week.

Spelling You See Review

Book 2 consists of  subjects like the color wheel, tinting and shading, direction and movement, front and back point of views, buildings, figures and more.  There are a total of 16 units, with an evaluation sheet at the end to help you in assigning a letter or number grade to your child's projects if you so desire.   

How we used this-  All of my kiddos used this book together- ages 6,12 and 16.  We even got the 20 year old to do one day with us for fun. We are still trying to find our groove with a schedule for this program.  While ARTitistic Pursuits recommends two classes a week, about an hour each class.  This can be modified to fit your students.  We have approached it several different ways.  For the first lesson unit, The Color Wheel,  we did two lessons each week, for a total of two weeks.  While I liked the slow pace, I felt we were dragging things out a lot and the younger kids asked when we were going to do art again frequently.  The third week we tried doing an entire lesson in one week, therefore completing a unit.   This almost was too much for me as a teacher, not necessarily for them though.  I think we have finally decided on a better plan for us.  We have recently been combining two of the unit's lessons and therefore completing one unit in three days.  For us, this has been a middle of the road approach and one we felt most comfortable with. Depending on what the assigned project was for each day, I chose which two days to combine and picked just one of the two projects to complete.

What did we think?  Just like before, we thoroughly enjoy using ARTistic pursuits.  I love how it combines not only art instruction but art history as well in an easy to use format.  The kids like the projects. But let me tell you- watercolor pencils are not as easy as they seem.  Even momma struggled a little.  One thing I did find out was that while the samples they show from other kids are probably suppose to inspire you, two of my kids seemed to be disheartened when their projects did not measure up in their eyes.  We did have to spend some time talking about how everyone had different strengths and weaknesses, and that not everyone's pictures were going to look the same.

Spelling You See Review
While this program has not turned us all into the next Picasso, it has stretched our minds and abilities and has been a fun class to do together.  This is a great program for those of you looking to add a little art into your house.  One thing I want to note- the ARTistic Pursuits' website has great kits you can purchase for each of the books they have.  They also recommend the Blink art website that allows you to type in which program you are using and it will immediately pull up the supply list.   Let me just say- save yourself the trouble of having to locate all the supplies and just let someone else do it for you!  You will be glad that you did.

Elementary 4-5, Book Two:  Color and Composition can be purchased for $47.95, and is recommended for ages 9 and up.

You can find ARTistic Pursuits on their Facebook page:

The TOS Crew had the opportunity to review several different books in this series including the newest on Sculpture which is getting rave reviews.  If art is your thing, I would recommend you check out what others had to say as well about that product and more!

Click to read Crew Reviews

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Monday, April 28, 2014

A is for Am I crazy?

My friend Marcy, over at the amazing blog Ben and Me, is on her fifth round of Blogging Through the Alphabet and I have decided to take the plunge and join her.  Yep, 26 weeks of A-B-C blogging.
Which leads me to...

Let's hope not!  I blog every week anyway, right?  Surely I can tie my Monday post to a letter of the alphabet, right?  And surely I can do it for 26 weeks, RIGHT?

We will see!

My hope is that not only will this be fun for you, my friends, who bless me by reading my ramblings, but will also be a way to organize my posts a little more.  My goal will be real life writing on Mondays, Alphabet style, reviews on Wednesdays if I can at all help it, and Giveaways, Fun Friday extras, and 52 Weeks of Family Scripture Memorization on Fridays.  Again, we will see how it goes.  I reserve the right to mess up that schedule at any given point in time.  I am like that you know! ;)

Anyway, crazy or not, I am excited about this new adventure and even have B and C already ready to go! Can't wait to share with you!  As always, thanks for joining us, friends!


Ben and Me

A Little R & R

Joy Focused Learning

I Choose Joy!

Hearts for Home Blog Hop

Correct Button 2

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Brinkman Adventures- TOS Crew Review

Brinkman Adventures Review
Ian Bultman and his family have a heart for missionaries.  Lucky for us, they also have a heart for sharing missionary stories.  The result - The Brinkman Adventures.

We recently had the opportunity to review The Brinkman Adventures- Season 2, Episodes 13-24.  Season 2?  Yes!  You see, we had been exposed to The Brinkman Adventures a while back when we bought Season 1.  Loved them then, love them now!

Season 2, consisting of 4 CDs and over 5 hours of audio drama missionary stories, is just as wonderful as the first and my family was thrilled to add this set to our listening collection. The Brinkman Adventures are appropriate for family listening, but do be aware that some of the scenes are pretty intense and serious topics like slave trade are addressed.  If that concerns you, you may want to preview them first.  Our whole family enjoys listening to The Brinkman Adventures together normally, but for this review we have listened to them separately, mostly because my oldest son, age 12, hijacked the set as soon as it arrived and listened to them all in about a day.  Then listened to them again.  And possibly again.  Since then, my youngest and I have been listening to them together during quiet time.  Luckily for my daughters and husband, we have a road trip coming up so they can have their chance.

All of  the stories told, 10 total with two in two parts, are based on true missionary stories.  Some names have been changed to protect those involved, but other than that they are true to life.  Ian's children even play their own parts!  One of my favorite parts of this company is their website!  Under the REAL STORIES tab are video clips and additional information about each story.  These have been just as much fun for us as the CDs!  In addition, under the tab FUN STUFF you will find behind-the-scenes video clips as well as printables that correspond with season one.  We hope season two printables are coming soon! Under the LISTEN tab you can listen to episode 9 The Provider.  Go ahead, have fun!

What do we think?
Love this!  Really, we do!  Books are important in our house, but sometimes we just enjoy sitting back and listening to a story told to us.   When those stories are about God and His people, well, that makes it all the better!  I love that my kids are being exposed to countries and cultures other than their own and being inspired by real people to make a difference in God's world.  It is not only a great way to build listening skills for younger children but also a time of bonding and quiet time for our family.

Our favorite story... that is hard!  I think my favorite by far was the Blue Hat & Shirt Bible.  I loved the story about how the Christians problem-solved to get a Bible into the hands of a Christian in China, but it was even more endearing to me once we watched the video clip of the real missionary telling part of the story in his own words.  The excitement and joy just radiated from him and it warmed my heart to see him talk.  My 12 year old's favorite story was Sapphire Slaves, which is one of the two part stories. When I asked him why it was his favorite he said, "I like Sapphire Slaves because it is one of the most exciting episodes.  It tells of a some kids who have been taken slaves and how they are rescued.  It is intense!"             

You can follow the Brinkman Adventures on their Facebook page

Brinkman Adventures- Season 2, episodes 13-24 can be purchased for a suggested donation price of $25.00 (free shipping) for the CD set or $17.00 for the MP3 version.

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Featured on Lovin' the Weekend blog hop! Come visit!

So excited to be featured on Lovin' the Weekend Blog Hop!  If you have not visited their site before, I encourage you to hop over and take a look!  I love how they break the links into sections- depending in what kind of interaction you want.  Not to mention, it is hosted by some sweet blogging friends of mine whose blogs will bless you.  Tell them I said hi when you visit them!

Welcome to Lovin' The Weekend Blog Hops with your co-hosts:
Karen from Tots and Me, Rena from An Ordinary Housewife, Erin from For Him and My Family and Aurie from Our Good Life

Thank you to every one who has stopped by, whether this is your first visit or you have been a faithful ongoing participant! 

Please note, there are 3 linkies, please scroll down to the 3rd one to link up giveaways! Thank you so very much!
(Giveaways linked up to either of the other linkies will be removed. Thank you for your understanding.)

We would love for you to stop by all the co-hosts and follow us, then feel free to add your links to any or all of the following linkies.

 We also randomly choose a Featured host each week. This week we are featuring Michele from Family, Faith and Fridays.

Family, Faith, and Fridays

 Here's what she has to say:
"Michele is a military wife of 21 years and mom to four kids, from 19 to 6 years old.  She can be found at Family, Faith and Fridays blogging about family, homeschooling, modesty and life, with a few reviews thrown in for fun.  When not schooling or writing, you can find her with her nose in a book, studying up on that farm life she longs to live.  With internet, of course!"

Don't forget to link up to the Lovin' the Readers Hop if you would like a chance to be a Featured host next week. Please comment with a way to contact you, especially if there is not an obvious way mentioned on your blog. We would love to include a little write up about you and your blog in the next week's Lovin' The Weekend Blog Hop post, including a link to your blog. And you will get to include the linky codes on your blog. Sound fun? We're looking forward to getting to know our readers better.

Here's how this blog hop works. We would appreciate it if you would follow Tots and Me, An Ordinary Housewife, For Him and My Family and Our Good Life then please head on over to our Featured Host and follow as well. If you no longer have GFC please follow in some other way. After that there are three different linkies you can link to. Whichever one you choose to link to, please grab that button and share it on your blog (the codes are on Tot's and Me's sidebar). We'd love it if you could tweet or in some other way share about this blog hop, the more people who know about it, the more potential visitors and new followers of your blog. We'd love to meet some new friends this weekend.  

Some people are more interested in just increasing their numbers, while others really want people who appreciate their blog and want to keep up with their posts. So, there are two separate blog hop linkies. 

The third linky is for you to link up your giveaways.

If you are interested in increasing the number of followers to your blog via GFC, Linky Followers, email, Twitter, Facebook or Google+ link up here. We will follow you back if you follow us (just note which one you are linking to):

Tots and Me

If you are interested in gaining followers to your blog who will read and comment and truly find an interest in your blog, link up here:

Tots and Me

If you have family friendly giveaways to link up, here's your spot. Please make sure to include an end date for your giveaway.

Tots and Me

We are so glad you stopped by. Please leave a comment if you link up and we will be sure to stop by and follow back.

Don't forget to check out my "Blog Hops" page for other great blog hops!!

Remembering April

The 25th??  How did it get to be the 25th of April already?  Just where did the time go?
I thought that this month would be a quiet month after our crazy move down the street, but alas, it was not to be.  Luckily our days have been filled with lots of fun!

Like a rodeo!  We are wild west fans here, and even have the hats and belt buckles to prove it.  This was a college rodeo hosted by SDSU and so much fun.  One of the advantages to living in a small town is that it is so easy to drive to an event, walk right in, enjoy and leave peacefully. No rows of a bazillion cars (I know, it is a made up word) and lines of cranky people.  A fun Saturday making memories.

We also had a few fellow homeschool friends over to do Easter Art with us.  This is the first time we have used the See the Light art curriculum and I will just tell you I was very impressed.  On this particular one, there was a 16 minute story of Easter and THREE separate video lessons.  We were brave and tried the one involving pastel chalks including fluorescent ones.  Too cool!

Of course, our weeks would not be complete without our trips to the library.  We love the library here and frequent it almost weekly.  See those two bags of books?  Those are for the older girls.  Just a start.  Add two more bags and you will get our usual haul!  I often wonder what the librarian thinks of us.  And as a side note - yes, that is an army hat on CJ and yes, you see it in many pictures.  It has become his signature item and though it drives me CRAZY, I refuse to make an issue out of it.  But it would not hurt my feelings if it got lost.  Just saying!

And a treat! (and that hat again! ugh!) I try to take one child out a week as special mom time, to chat, catch up and just spend time together.  Each date is as different as the child that I take, but I love our time together.  This one week, I surprised them all together with a ice cream treat at this cute little diner downtown called Nick's Hamburgers.  It is very tasty and apparently a legend in this town.  Come visit us and we will treat you!

That's about all from here.  We STILL have about 6 weeks left in our official school year, but we do have a special trip coming up in May I cannot wait to tell you about.  Until then, enjoy the warmer temperatures and be blessed!

Win an iPad Mini!

Adoption is near and dear to my heart!  I am sure you know that by now.  I am continually amazed at the stories of the families that have gone before and after us in that adventure.  They inspire me and often remind me that we are not alone.

When I heard about the book, More Than a Memory- The Candace Kate Story, I was slightly hesitant to read it.  You see, not only did the Fileccia family tell a story of adoption, they adopted a special needs little girl who only blessed their home for 5 short years before she died.  I just wasn't sure I could get through the book.  I did- twice now and can't wait to share my review of this book with you on May 7th!  It touched my heart, to say the least!

Until then, I want to give you a chance to win not only this very special book, but an iPad mini and even more!!

candace kate giveaway

 To help Nancy celebrate the upcoming release of her book, I'm joining with other bloggers from the Candace Kate Launch Team to bring you this amazing giveaway! There will be 2 winners and one winner will win an iPad Mini! Here's the list of all the incredible prizes offered in this giveaway:

Giveaway # 1 ($560+ value)

iPad Mini 16 GB WiFi More Than a Memory: The Candace Kate Story paperback $75 A Journey Through Learning Gift Certificate American History Through Music bundle by Diana Waring (releasing May, 2014) Lifetime Membership  Ultimate Well-Planned Day Expo from Media Angels Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine  

Giveaway #2 ($160+ value)

More Than a Memory: The Candace Kate Story paperback $25 A Journey Through Learning Gift Certificate Lifetime Membership Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine   To enter, use the Rafflecopter below. U.S. residents, age 18 and older please.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway num2

More Good News- 52 weeks of Family Scripture Memorizaton

As we come to a close with April (where has the month gone?) I want to offer one final verse for your family with the Good News theme.  

Two things to think about:

Though scripture is clear that we will not know when God is returning, I do want to teach my kids that we should always be ready for Him.  There is no time like the present to tell people we love them, to treat others kindly, and to do our best.  These "good works" will not get us to Heaven, but will bless others, which in return will bless God. 

Repent may be a big word for some of your younger kids, but it is one worth teaching.  We do not allow for a quickly spoken "I am sorry" around here.  We teach that one must ask for forgiveness from the one offended.  How much more important is it that we should ask for forgiveness from the One who commands us to forgive?

I pray you have had a blessed April!  I look forward to a new month of Family Scripture Memorization next week.


Missional Women

I Choose Joy!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

CTCMath- TOS Crew Review

I am not a natural at math.  Neither are several of my kids.  That is why I was so excited to be able to review CTCMath, 12  Month Family Plan, an online math tutorial program for grades Kindergarten up, featuring over 1400 video lessons.  Yes, kindergarten and up! Algebra 1 and 2 ,Geometry, Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus and Calculus are included as well.  And with your family subscription, you are given access to all levels for up to 5 children automatically.  Need more slots? Just contact CTC customer service and they will work to expand that!

The first thing you will notice when you start CTCMath is that the teacher has a beautiful Australian accent.  My kids loved that! Although it originated in Australia, you can get this program in several versions to fit the currency and measurements in your country, so most of you will want to ask for the US version. Cool, huh?

On the student page you will find each grade listed, broad subjects, and then subsets of those subjects.  Just click on where you want to start and you are off.  We have currently worked with three different levels on a regular basis (and one additional level as a life saver for our college student) so let me break it down a little for you.

My youngest has recently finished 1st grade math so we started there for him, mostly to see how he much he has retained for the year.  We decided to use the program 4-5 times a week.  Each lesson begins with a quick video explaining the concept.  Videos last about 1-4 minutes each.  My 6 year old started with pretty simple concepts like counting by ones and then moved on to things like skip counting, addition, subtraction, and multiplication and division.  "Multiplication and division?!" you may say?  At least I did!  But I loved how they taught it.  Instead of just 2x3 or 12/3, they used pictures to show groups of things and dividing groups of things.  So while at this age a child might not be learning his or her multiplications tables yet, they are learning the concepts behind those tables.  Love it!

For each section that you do you have one of two choices.  You can take a comprehensive test that will test you on all the sub-categories taught or you can work through each section.  If you take the test, you can choose between two versions, one which is slightly longer.  If you have children that really only need review, this is a good option.  Have them take the test and if they do well, move on.  Your second choice is to go through each lesson individually.  This option allows you to watch the video, again usually only one to four minutes long, that teaches the concept.  Afterwards, your child answers a series of questions to practice and receives a score for that section.  The sections are averaged together and award certificates are given.  As you can see below, those certificates became a HUGE motivator for my son.  Huge!  I had no idea that would be what spurred him on to do more sections, but hey, it works! I had intended to just allow him to test straight through the sections to see where we found information he did not know and then start there, but as soon as he realized he would not get the certificate if he did it that way he insisted on doing every section.

Each time your child is awarded a certificate you are emailed that info and weekly progress reports are sent to you so you can keep track of your child's progress.  These are especially helpful for those who have older students that you are not monitoring daily.

My 12 year old son is just finishing up 6th grade and is actually pretty strong in math, but when pursuing the topics in the 5th grade level we ran into a few I did not think he was familiar with.  For that reason we have started in the 5th grade level and preceded forward.  Three to four times a week I had him complete many of the individual levels, one or two at a time, but we are going to start just doing the comprehensive tests so he can get to a level,  probably in the 6th grade area, that he is more correctly placed.  As with any math program, some concepts are taught in a slightly different manner than what he is used to, but I think that has been a good practice in being flexible.  Unlike his brother, while the same certificates are offered, it has not been something that interested him.

My 16 year old is just now finishing up Algebra 2, so we have been using this program as a supplemental study in preparation for taking the CLEP.  What we have found in studying for that test is that she has gotten rusty in some of the Algebra 1 and Geometry concepts she has not practiced in a year or more.  CTCMath has been a great review and one that she is now using three times a week until test time, just jumping to subjects that she needs a refresher on.  The format for these higher levels is slightly different we found.  Instead of a problems tab, it says view worksheet on it.  Your child must work the problems on their own and then click the enter results tab to enter their answers separately, matching a letter assigned to an answer with each problem.  Switching back and forth became a hassle to my teen and caused her to get a few problems wrong by a careless transfer of numbers.  We both wish those two pages were in a one page format.

And then there is my college girl!  We had no intention on her using this at all but I just have to share a HUGE success story.  Due to transferring as a second semester junior to a new college, she suddenly found herself taking a basic math class online. Math has never been her strong suit, and remember, she has now been out of a math class for over several years.   After struggling with a concept that she had just completely forgotten (logarithms) and with no teacher close by to explain, I encouraged her to jump on CTCMath and see if she could find a video (she is a visual learner).  She did, watched it, did the practice problems, and then made a 100 on her college math quiz!  Success!!  Be aware that at these higher levels the video clips do tend to be a bit longer.

CTC Math Review

So would we recommend CTCMath?  You bet!  While they advertise being a math tutorial program, I have no doubt that you could teach math from this program alone at the younger levels. At high school levels, I think it is an excellent review program as well as one to turn to for practice or when your child is just struggling to grasp a new concept.  The problems are clearly taught and easy to follow.  At the younger grade levels, bright, fun illustrations are used that are engaging and eye catching for visual learners.  The audio is clear for auditory learners and pleasing to the ear.  For those who are more kinesthetic, for many of the problems there are graphics that you can manipulate just like you would ones at your own home. There are blocks to count out, make groups with and otherwise use to help compute the answer.  My youngest loved that part!

If I was going to change anything I would like to see a function that would take a child directly to where they left off.  When jumping around and reviewing, it is not a big deal to get to any place you want, but for the younger kiddos especially, it would be nice if you could go directly to where you left off from in your previous session.

CTC Math is currently on sale (at the time of this review) can be purchase for $78.80 for a year for a single student, or $118.80 for a family plan.  I would encourage you to check it out!

You can find CTC Math here-
Facebook CTC Math -
Facebook Aus (Maths Online) - 

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Wise Woman with Literary Analysis Journal Questions- TOS Crew Review

Call me behind the times, but I was not familiar with the story of The Wise Woman written by George MacDonald.  Maybe because it also goes by the names The Lost Princess, A Double Story and Princess Rosemond.  Both of my girls said they read it at some point, but could not remember many details.  So when the Home School Adventure Co. offered us a chance to review their The Wise Woman with Literary Analysis Journal Questions I jumped at the chance.

Written by George MacDonald, The Wise Woman is a 14 chapter tale about two very different little girls and their interaction with a wise woman. One child is a princess whom is spoiled by her parents and has turned into a modern day brat.  The second child is raised by a poor family, but has come to think of herself as the center of the world. Once introduced to the wise woman, their lives take a drastic change and true transformation begins. Written for both girls and boys, The Wise Woman is a tale of the condition of one's heart and adreeses issues of pride, selfishness and conceit.  Like many Christian fables of its time, it does often contain very flowery language that my children found  hard to understand at times.

The Home School Adventure Co. has found a solution for that in their Literary Guide!  At the end of each chapter of this reprinted book, they offer a 16- 24 questions to help guide you as a parent in the teaching of this classic.  By using not only basic "give me  the details" questions like "what happened when..".or "what did she do..."  but also deep, open ended questions like "why do you think.." and "what does it mean...", the Homeschool Adventure Co. helps you delve past the obvious things in the story to the more intended meanings.  By opening the door to the book with many open ended and though provoking questions, this guide is a very through literary investigation for high schoolers especially.

How did we use this?
Because we gather together as a family nightly for devotions we started reading The Wise Woman one chapter a night as a read aloud.  After each chapter I would ask the questions given and we would discuss the answers.  There is a wonderful section of vocabulary at the end of the guide that I wished we had known of before completing the book.  (Yes, I was taught not to peek at the end of the book and yes, Vocabulary is listed in the table of contents which I obviously did not see) Each word is identified by chapter and page, and if doing it again, I would have my older children split up the words and write out their definitions and then teach them to our family prior to reading that particular chapter.  There were more than several times that our youngest two stopped me in the middle of reading to asked what something meant, and I think going over the vocabulary prior would have helped us.

What did we think?
Home School Adventure Co.Thank goodness for The Home School Adventure Co.  Quite frankly, I think this is a hard book to get through and without the guidance of the literary guide, I would have floundered with not only what questions I should ask, but how to understand half of what was said.  I remember in high school wondering how my literature teacher got all those "things" out of reading the same book she had assigned to me and yet I could not even understand one paragraph.  I felt  the same way a few times while reading this book and was thankful for someone who had better insight than I do.  I would love to see an answer key included for some of the harder questions, if not just for the obvious answers but some ideas to use as a spring board for discussion.

When we first started the book my immediate thought was there is no way we are going to get through this.  I was confused after the first two long paragraphs so you can imagine how my 6 year old felt.  I also noticed the 12 year olds eyes glazing over from confusion!  Luckily, the story does pick up the pace and the language become more understandable as you move on, so we managed to finish up that first night without completely losing my audience and had a pretty good discussion while answering the questions.

Funny thing was- it was the 6 year olds that asked VERY SINGLE NIGHT- are we reading The Wise Woman tonight?  We got into a habit of allowing him to answer the basic questions and allowed his older siblings, ages 12, 16 and 20 to discuss the more involved ones.  It worked for us, but  there were a few pretty lofty questions that I skipped completely on order to hold everyone together.

I cannot say that I would tackle such a hefty fable as a family again, especially one with younger kids,  anytime soon, but I can tell you that if I did I would certainly not do so without a guide such as this one!  The Homeschool Adventure Co. has done an outstanding job of covering all sides of the story- from the obvious to the not so obvious details and themes. I cannot imagine doing that any justice without them.

You can buy The Wise Woman with Literary Analysis Journal Questions from The Home School Adventure Co. for $28.95 for the spiral book or $14.95 for the ebook download.  It is recommended as a read aloud for ages 9-11, as well as an independent study for 12 years olds through high school.

AS a special treat to our readers, Stacy is offering a 10% discount code for any downlaod purchases.

Home School Adventure Co.

You can find The Homeschool Adventure Company here-

The TOS Crew had the opportunity to review three additional title from The Home School Adventure Co.  You can click on the banner below to see them!

Click to read Crew Reviews

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Excelerate Spanish- Review

Ok, you all know by now that I love Spanish, right?  I mean, I only mention it a lot.  That has not always been the case.  For the record, I did take three years of Spanish in High School and two semesters in college.  Off the record, I did not pay a lot of attention.  My excuse, there was this really cute blond boy in my high school classes.  (I married him, for the record!)

But since God saw fit to bring this other really cute dark haired boy into our lives 5 years ago, I have been on a mission to learn as much Spanish as possible.  I promise I am paying more attention this time.  CJ came home at 21 months old.  He had heard mostly Spanish and probably knew more than we were actually aware of.  You know, toddlers sound like toddlers in any language.   And he picked up English fast!  Like in days!  But, I was determined to do my best to keep him bi-lingual.  Hence, my obsession with Spanish.

And now, I have found another great Spanish program!  Great!  And it has videos and lots of action, which is a perfect fit for my almost 7 year old, always-moving Guatemalan prince.

Let me tell you about it!

Excelerate Spanish is the brain child of Caryn Powell Hommel.  By using the TPR method (Total Physical Response), which is essentially actions paired with fun stories, Caryn introduces vocabulary in a way that kids will learn and REMEMBER.  Each video lesson is a new mini stand-alone session with a new theme.  When Caryn graciously offered to let us try out this program, we might have done a happy dance.  OK, we DID do a happy dance! ;)

First vocabulary is introduced and the actions for that vocabulary are shown.  Then the student practices by putting different series of those words together.  Several groups of words are introduced that way, and your children will see the kids in Caryn's class acting out the words as well.  Then a short story is told while Caryn acts it out.  Afterwards several of her students take turns acting out the same story.   Next, Caryn leads the students in answering questions and identifying words in the student workbook and encourages them to practice after class.  Each lesson averages about 45 minutes and is action packed.  You can watch it all at once, or break it down into smaller chunks if needed.  Included in the teacher's guide is a suggested schedule for a five days a week program.

In addition to the videos, you can also purchase the lesson book and the student workbook.  While you could get by with just the videos, I would not recommend it.  We did the first few lessons without them, and I was so relieved to have them once they came for a little more guidance.  The program does not require the teacher to be fluent in Spanish - Caryn has you covered!

What we thought -
Well, are there many Spanish programs out there we do not like?  Not many!  But this one, well, this one far exceeded my expectations!  The workbook, vocabulary and organization are good.  It covers a lot of territory and could fill your days and weeks with a lot of information.  But what make Excelerate SPANISH stand out are the videos.  While the quality is pretty basic, the information is not!  There is so much in each lesson, that I admit, a few times my head felt like it was going to spin off.  Caryn goes fast sometimes but what I found was that she also repeats herself often.  And with every time she repeated herself, I found the boys and I understood a little more.

From my personal experience, anyone can learn vocabulary.  Understanding a native speaker - now that takes time and practice.  The more you get used to hearing the language, the faster you pick it up.  It is like you stop trying to translate every word and start understanding phrases and concepts.  I saw that happening more and more with each new lesson we did.  In my opinion, that is just not something you are going to get from just a book.  In five weeks, my boys already know more phrases than they have learned in the past year.

In addition, the actions being taught kept my sons' attention, especially our youngest.  He is an in-motion kid. You know, the one that learns by movement.  Most call it kinesthetic.  I call it exhausting.  But, it is how he learns.  So when Mrs. Caryn had kids come to the front of the room to act out the stories, CJ was right there with them.  My oldest was a little more hesitant, chalk that up to being a 12 year old boy, but both learned and retained much more when they actively participated in the stories.  So while the kids on the videos acted things out, we did so too.

Five weeks into the program and all is well.  We watch a video lesson at the beginning of the week, spend one or two days going over the workbook pages and several days just reviewing the vocabulary.  Lesson learned, writing the vocabulary on a whiteboard to have in view all week will help you and keep you from having to go back and look constantly when you cannot remember a word or phrase. Having those in full view also allows you to try to incorporate them into your daily conversations as well.

I highly recommend Excelerate SPANISH if you have a child elementary age and up learning Spanish.  For the price, $139.00 for the complete package, it is a steal; not only in the hours of instruction it provides, but the level of learning as well.  Four videos with 6 lessons each are included, as well as the workbook, answer key and lesson book.

As for us, we will continue to use this program to completion - one step closer to CJ becoming bi-lingual and a visit trip to Guatemala!