Saturday, September 29, 2012

Music Together

 Little chairs gathered in a circle ... little hands, five fingers spread wide and held at the top of our heads ... "Doe a deer, a female deer," we sang happily.  These are my earliest memories of music class.  Musical chairs, shaking maracas, playing the recorder ... Simply put, music class was care-free fun.

Unfortunately though, amidst math and language arts, science and history, even bible and art...I somehow lost the idea of carefree fun music lessons.  I mean, don't get me wrong ... we've studied music.  Composers and classical music history ... a little bit of piano, xylophone, and violin lessons.  But the kind of elementary music learning where the kids dance around the room with egg shakers?  We really hadn't done that.

Shame on us.

 Well, thank goodness we've had the opportunity to review Music Together “Family Favorites” CDs and “Family Favorites Songbook for Teachers” Music Together first began offering music classes to the public in 1987.  From their website: "Music Together is an internationally recognized early music and movement program for children from birth through age 7 - and the grownups who love them."   Music Together also offers CD collections and fun music tools such as rhythm instruments, shakers, scarves and more at their online store.

Music Together's philosophy is based on the following three principles. 

1.  All children are musical.
2. Therefore, all children can achieve basic music competence: that is, they can learn to sing in tune, and move with accurate rhythm.
3. The participation and modeling of parents and other primary caregivers is essential to a child's musical growth.

I happen to agree that all children are musical.  Every single one of my children have been dancing fools from nearly birth right up to an age when they suddenly begin to feel self-conscience.  But until that time (usually between ages 1 and 4 or so) they have been recklessly inhibited to dance at the mere sound of any musical note.  Our youngest son, age 1, even loves to sing.  He's not speaking words yet, but he very seriously sings tunes in the car, while playing in the living room, sitting in the high chair at dinner.  It's so ridiculously cute.  Check out this video of him singing...

 He especially likes it when we all clap for him at the end. 

The Music Together Family Favorites CD includes the following 19 songs.

Allee Galloo
Biddy Biddy
Dancing with Teddy
Goin' for Coffee
Goodbye, So Long, Farewell
Hello Song
I've Been Working on the Railroad
John the Rabbit
May All Children
Mississippi Cats
One Little Owl
Palo, Palo
Playin' in the Kitchen
Ridin' in the Car
She Sells Sea Shells
Spin and Stop
Splishing and Splashing
Stick Tune

You can listen to demos of each song on the Music Together website.  This CD has won eleven awards including a Parents’ Choice Silver Honor award.  It also includes a 32-page booklet with activity suggestions for each song.

The Family Favorites Songbook for Teachers is a companion to the CD and divided into three main parts.  

The first section described the fundamentals of the program:  An introduction to the Music Together philosophy, a discussion of types of songs and activities, how to work with instruments and props, and classroom adaptions for children with special needs.  I read through this section entirely before beginning the program with my kids.  I found it full of helpful suggestions.  I also appreciated the section titled "Why is music important?"

From the book:
"Because of its ability to forge unique connections in the brain, integrating mind, body, and emotions, music enhances a child's language, cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development."

The second part of the book contains the 19 songs from the Family Favorites CD including notation pages.  Each song also has several teachers pages with ideas and suggestions to use with All Ages, Infants, Preschoolers and Older Children, and Children with Special Needs.

Every time we have a Music Together lesson, I keep this book close at hand to flip through this middle section, choosing ideas to implement with each song.

The third part of the book is a series of reference pages about the Music Together program, classes, Guitar Reference Chart, and glossary.

After I read through the book, I gathered the little kids (ages 5, 4, 3, and 1) into the living room with the intentions of listening to and dancing to just a few of the songs.  Before I knew it the 7, 9, and 10 year old were dancing as well.  Even my 11 year old joined in as we all did the conga line to I've Been Working in the Railroad!  It was so much fun, we couldn't stop until the last song...and I must say, it was quite the workout as well!

Since then, we actually have managed to keep our music lessons to just a few songs, but we are all still having just as much fun!

Here L4, L3, and J1 are banging on bowls with spoons as they listen to Playin' in the Kitchen...

 As you can see they love to dance...

 Clapping to the rhythm...

Can you see how much fun J1 is having...

 Here the kids are dancing to our family favorite, the Stick Tune song.  We use pencils as rhythm sticks.  Big brothers and sisters come out of the woodwork to participate in this fun song and we all wind up singing it for the rest of the day...

I'm pretty sure L3 enjoyed dancing with the scarf the most...

Of course, we can't forget that parent participation is an integral part to the the Music Together program.  As I said before, I am getting quite the dancing workout.  But my favorite songs have to be the slow, lullaby type songs.  Each time one comes on, sweet J1 runs to me with his arms raised.  We waltz and spin and sway around the living room together...
The Music Together Family Favorites CD and Songbook Combo can be purchased for $39.95.  You may also use the coupon code “Schoolhouse” at checkout on the Music Together online store to save an additional $2 on your purchase.  Don't forget to check out other reviews of this product at the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.
Disclaimer: I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the last few years. The only compensation that I receive for my review is the free product. I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in review groups and I have enjoyed trying out these products and giving you my honest opinion.
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Friday, September 28, 2012

Young Authors Lesson 3 ~ Roller Coaster Plot

It's a great day for our Young Authors, because if they haven't already it is time to start writing!  At the end of today's lesson, the students will begin their rough drafts.

But first, we will do a quick lesson about plot.  Choose a picture book today that has a good plot ... one that students can easily recognize the introduction, conflict, climax, and resolution/conflict.  Hand your student a copy of the Roller Coaster Plot worksheet below.  Explain each box briefly and tell them to pay attention to the story, as they will fill out their worksheet according to the story you read to them.
We chose to read The Story About Ping.
Roller Coaster Plot WS - Page 003
Once you have read the story, work with your students to fill out the worksheet. It may be easier to identify the Introduction/Conflict, Climax, and Resolution first.  Fill in the Rising and Falling Action last.

Finally, instruct your children that it is now time to write their rough drafts.  Try not to let them get too hung up on writing and spelling perfectly.  Let them know that mistakes will be corrected during the editing/revising phase.  If your children are particularly young, you may consider letting them dictate to you as you type the story for them.  This will allow them to be more creative without being bogged down by the physical aspect of typing and writing.  Let the length of the story be up to your student.  Many students in grades 1 - 4 will only write stories that are no more than 10 paragraphs long.

Just in case you missed it, Young Authors Lesson 1 and Lesson 2 can be found at the link.  Check back next week for another lesson! Pin It Now!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Drawing my Prayers

A few weeks ago, our church hosted a guest speaker who came to teach on the subject of prayer.  His powerful message really impacted our church.  Many, myself included, made commitments to spend more time in prayer.

I've kept prayer journals throughout the years and found them beneficial in keeping me focused and and in keeping a record of my prayers.  I knew I wanted to begin something similar.  After all, with eight children I am often interrupted during my prayer time and lose focus easily with so many distractions.  That's when I had the idea to draw my prayers.

I wanted to be able to do a task that I would keep me focused on my prayer, but that I could stop when I needed to and come back to whenever.  I looked online for resources thinking surely someone had thought of this idea before, but found very little.  So, I just jumped right in...

This picture (above) I drew one day while I was just praising God for His creation.

Eventually, (I don't even think it was the same day), I began praying for husband and began doodling on the same page.  

This went on for a few days.  We were praying through a particular period asking for God's provision and that Chad would have victory at work.

Another day, I was praying that God would fill my cup and praying that I would exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.

And here I was responding to a verse that God had used to speak to me that day.

Once again I'm linking up to "Blogging through the Alphabet".  It's the letter 'D' this week, so check out Marcy's post and link up yourself!

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Homeschool Legacy

 I have always loved using unit studies to teach my children.  I love that when we unit study, we all learn together, that many subjects are geared around one theme, and that they most often include fun, hands-on learning.  But one thing I have always struggled with is how to fit unit studies into our curriculum.  Many times, we have abandoned all other school work for a week at a time to enjoy a unit study or unit studied on a holiday week or summer break.  Surely there was a better way?

Yes, in fact there is!  Homeschool Legacy has designed Once-A-Week Unit Studies providing the opportunity for homeschoolers to enjoy fun unit studies each and every week without having to forsake other planned core studies.  As their name implies, Once-A-Week Unit Studies are designed to only do one day a week.  They offer 4-6 week studies, each geared towards teaching your 2nd through 12th graders all together.  Once-A-Week Unit Studies are biblically centered.  The idea is that these studies will compliment your current curriculum, but Homeschool Legacy boasts that  "they are comprehensive enough to use as your main source of history and science". 
I received Forest For the Trees from Homeschool Legacy to review with my family.  My nature lovin' family is all about exploring the great outdoors so I figured this four week unit study would be right up our alley.

The actual text of the unit study is laid out nicely.  It includes a welcome letter, suggestions for scheduling, a pick and choose read aloud/book list for non-readers, and a 7 page section titled "Getting the Most Out of Your Once-A-Week Unit Study".

I appreciated the suggestions for how to schedule our unit study time.  It gives a sample week's schedule in which families would simply read aloud their unit study book selections each day of the week in addition to their regular studies.  They suggest setting all regular curriculum aside on Wednesday and completing the remainder of the Unit Study lessons for the week.  Optional field trips and movie nights are suggested for Fridays.  However, it is emphasized that this schedule is flexible.  From the text:

"This is merely a suggested schedule. Juggle it to best suit your family’s needs, keeping the idea the same by setting aside one day each week for unit study day.
If you have younger children with shorter attention spans, or an exceptionally busy week when there’s no time for a unit study day, feel free to break up the unit study into bite-sized pieces by including a unit study activity each afternoon."

Wednesdays are not a good unit study day for us, but we just choose a different day of the week.  Two of the weeks we opted to use a full day for our Unit Study days and the other two weeks we broke up lessons throughout our week.

Our favorite read aloud suggestions were:
 The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
A Tale of Three Trees by Lark Carrier
and A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry

Each lesson included:
Independent Reading
Family Read-Aloud
Family Devotional
Language Lessons (including vocab and writing)
Physical Activities
Science experiments
Field Trip ideas
Stump Your Dad Trivia

The four weeks of the study cover the following themes:
Week 1: Tree Identification
Week 2: Tree Anatomy
Week 3: What Trees Give Me
Week 4: Forests and Forestry

Not surprisingly my kids totally got into to the physical activities and the Stump Your Dad Trivia.  (Does your dad know 'What is the largest living thing on Earth?'  Our dad didn't, but he does now!)
 But they also really loved making a nature journal during week one.  The kids collected leaves and made leaf and bark rubbings for their journal...

Of course the suggestion to walk through the woods was not a problem!  We already had that covered since we had planned to meet up with our new hiking club this month...

We collected leaves to add to our nature journal while on a walk at a local park...
We were told to climb a tree.  Yeah, we do that kind of stuff...
I felt like the included devotionals were well thought out.  They included Scripture reading and memory verses.  My favorite is the discussion of the Fruit of the Spirit during week 3.  It includes a chart to print out and keep track of when your children exhibit those fruits.

Truly, the lessons were jam packed with activities.  Most of them were very easy to just pick and do.  Some required gathering materials around the house or trips out to the backyard.  We did not complete every single activity from Forest in the Trees and quite frankly, one would have to be much more organized (and have less kids!) than I to do so in one day.  But that didn't bother me at all.  

One unique aspect to the Once-A-Week Unit Studies is that they also go along with merit badge requirements for both Boy Scouts of America and American Heritage Girls.  We are not currently participating in these programs, but because I have had children participate in them in the past, I appreciate this aspect of the study.  When completing Forest For the Trees, your Boy Scout will also complete the badge requirements for the BSA Forestry Merit Badge.

You can purchase Forest For the Trees Once-A-Week Unit Study from Homeschool Legacy for $15.95.  You can read more reviews of this product as well as other Homeschool Legacy unit studies (including Birds of a Feather, Horsing Around, Weather on the Move, Knights and Nobles, and more) at the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

Disclaimer: I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the last few years. The only compensation that I receive for my review is the free product. I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in review groups and I have enjoyed trying out these products and giving you my honest opinion.
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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Children In Church

     It seems that often our family is going against the grain.  One of our very first independent decisions we made as newlyweds was to begin attending church.  Then we became Christians, but not just the Sunday kind ... the kind that were living and breathing (not to mention talking about) Jesus day in and day out.  Suddenly (so it seemed to most, though it was actually an issue of much prayer and research), we had decided that God was calling us to be a large family...letting Him choose our number of children.  Finally it was such a natural decision for us to homeschool...but it seemed completely unnatural for many around us.  Each of these decisions have been made with opposition surrounding us, but we forged forward in prayer believing that it was what God was calling us to do.

     For the past year we have been praying about another controversial decision.  You see, our oldest son was about to enter sixth grade.  In our large church this is a pretty big transition time for the youth.  They move from the elementary wing to a completely different area on our church campus.  It's a whole new world of middle school youth groups and events.  And to be honest with you, I was concerned.

     It's not that I don't trust that my church youth group leaders are fully committed to the Lord and to serving our youth.  It's just that, I remember middle school.  I remember that kids were catty.  They were obsessed with boy-girl relationships.  They were mean.  Let's face it, I was one of those kids in middle school.  I realized that a large portion of my child's Sunday morning church experience was going to be "socializing" among this peer group.  And I'm not trying to sound judgemental...please hear my heart...but let's face it, we all know that a large portion of youth group is also geared towards fun and games.  They're kids.  They like to have fun.  I get it, really I do.  It's an outreach tool.  But what I couldn't seem to reconcile with myself, was if it was all worth it.  I knew that there was nothing that even loving, caring youth workers could do about eliminating the negative influences that would undoubtedly be presented to my kids by their peers.

     I'm sure that many of you are already beginning to develop arguments with me as you read.  I know them, because I've argued them with myself.  But what it boiled down to, was that my soul was just not at rest with the decision to send my child to the middle school youth group.  I was not questioning our church's youth group, or even youth group in general...I was merely questioning whether it was the right place for my child.

     These thoughts spilled over to other thoughts and finally emerged into many ... and I do mean many ... conversations with my husband and other trusted Christian friends.  Through much prayer, we have felt God prompting us to consider fully His call to us to disciple our children and what that means for our Sunday morning worship experience.  We are still in prayer over this, but I can tell you that we have made the decision that our children will enter the sanctuary and worship with us (not participating in Sunday morning youth activities) by the time they are in 6th grade.  We feel that by that age, our children should be fully engaged in worship and the study of God's word on Sunday morning and that is best modeled by us, not their peers.  But if I'm honest with myself there is a large part of me that is longing for my entire family to be together as a family, worshiping as a whole unit...

     ...that is precisely why I jumped at the chance to review Children In Church: Nurturing Hearts of Worship by Curt and Sandra Lovelace being published by Raising Real Men
      I was sent an advanced copy of Children In Church and right away I knew that this was the book I was looking for.  Here in my hands I held an encouraging book offering guidance and help for families considering family worship within the church.

     Not only does Curt and Sandra Lovelace speak their convictions using the truth of God's words, and by that I mean that they offer many scriptures that support the idea of including children in worship, they do so with respect to others' ideas.  Here is a quote from their book:

"Now let us quickly say that we are not condemning all church ministries that offer childcare.  What we are saying is that what is meant as a sacrificial provision by the church can often cause parents to allow their primary responsibility for spiritual nurturing of their children to take a back seat.  No program or service can supplant the heart-reaching power of consistent, loving training and instruction given by godly parents."

     The Lovelace's admit whole-heartedly that one should not just take their word for it!  Time and time again, readers are encouraged to seek God's will for themselves...

"Perhaps you aren't sure if God is calling you to come as a family into the corporate worship setting. That would be the very place to begin.  Thoughts and ideas, opinion and feelings are all lovely, but God's call needs to be heard and heeded.  James reminds us that, 'If anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given him.'"

      They encourage parents to set aside time together to seek the Lord about this decision, giving helpful advice such as taking notes and discussing expectations of the church experience and possible scenarios of what could happen to be prepared for any situation.  They suggest to spend time praying and determining a decision before moving on to the fourth chapter of the book.

     The remainder of the book is spent by giving examples of their own experiences of bringing their two daughters into church each Sunday as well as others' experiences from their churches and missions in the U.S., Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean where they have served.  They give practical advice on how to handle disruptive behavior and an entire chapter is devoted to what to include in a "church bag".  A church bag includes items to help children to sit quietly during the service, but also to engage them in actively listening.  As a child grows, a fabric book is replaced with a notepad and pencil and the child is instructed to illustrate lessons from the sermon and eventually take notes.  Another chapter, walks the reader step by step through a typical church service with children in tow.  Finally, the book ends with a note to church leaders.

     I highly recommend reading Children In Church by Curt and Sandra Lovelace.  Admittedly, the message spoke to my heart, but the book was also very well written with the perfect blend of encouragement and inspiration, entertaining stories, and practical advice.  I want you to know that this conviction of mine to bring my children into church worship with me is no longer so much about being concerned about the negative influence that they may receive from peers.  It is much more about a call from the Omniscient God directed to my husband and me to bring up our children "in the training and instruction of the Lord"(Eph. 6:4).   Consider this quote from the book:

"We knew we could probably do an adequate job of teaching our children about the faith if we kept them at arm's length.  However, to pursue the divine mission of nurturing and training the next generation, we needed to be willing to live out before them, moment by moment, our prayerfully faithful though oft imperfect desire to love and serve the living God."


     Currently, we generally have three of our children in worship service with us.  Our 6th grader (per our decision), 2nd grader (she has asked to come to 'big church' with us), and one-year old (who is going through a separation anxiety phase and I see no point in him being heart-broken over us leaving him when I am content to tend to him myself, even though it means a bit of sacrifice on my part).  In case you are wondering, we did sit down with our oldest and have a long discussion with him about why we wanted him to attend worship services with us instead of participating in Sunday morning youth group.  He admitted some disappointment, but was very understanding and even agreed with our decision.

     A couple of weeks ago, we noticed our one-year-old's quiet reverence and imitation of us during prayer.  My husband snapped this picture of us praying in our church's sanctuary...
     It is a moment and a picture that I will cherish forever.

     You can purchase an advanced review copy of Children In Church: Nurturing Hearts of Worship right now for just $12 with free shipping.  You can read more reviews of this book and A Cry From Egypt by Hope Auer, also published by Raising Real Men, at the Schoolhouse Review blog.

Disclaimer: I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the last few years. The only compensation that I receive for my review is the free product. I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in review groups and I have enjoyed trying out these products and giving you my honest opinion.
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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Young Authors Lesson 2 - Character Development

Last week I introduced you to the idea of creating Young Authors books.  I mentioned to you that our local homeschool group hosts a Young Authors Writing contest each year.  Well, I've had some questions about the contest, so at the bottom of this post I am posting the 'Official Rules'.  Also, I wanted to include some pictures of a couple of the books our kids have completed.  As you can see from the pics below, this does not have to be very professionally done!  The idea is just to have fun with your kids, learning about the Writing Process and creating something that looks like a "real book" that they will be proud of.

Young Authors Lesson 2 - Character Development
     Today, you should begin your Young Authors lesson with introducing the stages of the Writing Process.  Young children, especially, will not need to have a very firm grasp on this information but it is a good idea to introduce them to it so they have an idea of what they will be doing during the next few lessons.
(You may want to write these steps on the board.  Explain that the Writing Process is a tool to help students write well-written stories.)
1. Pre-Write
(Explain that the students have already been pre-writing!  Pre-writing is just the process of thinking about your story, what it is going to be about, who the characters are, etc. before you actually write the story.  When the students completed their Story Stew worksheet, they were pre-writing!  Today, we will do one more pre-writing activity.)
2. Rough Draft
(Once your student has developed many ideas about their story it will be time for them to write the Rough Draft!  They don't have to worry too much about getting their story 'perfect', because this is just the Rough Draft.  They will be fixing mistakes during the next step of the Writing Process...)
3. Revising/Editing
(This is the time for the student to check the Rough Draft of their story for any spelling or grammatical mistakes.  Also, it is a good idea for students to have their parents, teachers, and/or peers read their story and get ideas to help them improve their story.  Perhaps a reader finds a part of their story confusing, and they need to re-write it to make it more clear.  Perhaps a reader suggests that more dialogue might make the story more interesting.)
4. Final Draft/Publishing
(Once the mistakes are fixed and their story has been improved, it is time to write the final draft and have the story 'published' our case that means illustrating the book and binding it together.)
     Today, we are still in the Pre-Write stage of creating our Young Authors books and we will do another exercise to help the students create concrete ideas about their story before they write it.  
     Tell your student that you will be talking about 'Character Development'.  Ask them to think of their favorite character from a book that they have read.  Ask them to describe the character and what they liked about that character.  You may give more examples of characters that you have enjoyed.  I have told my children about times when I really related to a character and enjoyed them so much that I felt like that character was my friend.  When I finished reading the book, I even felt a little sad because I wouldn't be able to hear about that character's story anymore. The reasons I have enjoyed those characters so much was because the author did a good job in developing them.  The author didn't just tell me a story, but he/she gave me many details about the characters that made them more interesting and made them even seem "real".
     Next, you will want to read a picture book to them.  Choose a book that does a good job with really developing their main character.  If you're not sure how to do this, a good idea would be to stick to a story that has the main character's name as the title.  (Some good ideas would be Corduroy, Curious George, and Horton Hears A Who.) 
     I chose A Baby Sister for Frances by Russell Hoban.
     Explain to your student that you will be asking them questions about the main character of the book once you are finished reading it to them, so they should pay attention as you read.  Once you have read to them, ask them to describe the main character's personality.  What were some interesting things about that character?  What was his/her likes and dislikes?  Describe the character's family.
     Point out some things that your student mentioned about their character that really didn't have anything to do with the storyline.  For example, in A Baby Sister for Frances, we find out that Frances likes raisins in her oatmeal and that she makes up funny rhymes and sings them.  This information is not critical to the story, but it makes Frances more interesting.
     Now, it's time for your student to develop their main character!  Have them fill out the 'My Main Character' worksheet below.  They may not use all of the information on the worksheet in their story, but it will be helpful for them to really spend some time thinking about their main character.
Young Authors WS - Character Development
      If your student is getting anxious to start writing their story, go ahead and let them begin their rough draft after completing the worksheet.  Officially, though we won't start the rough draft until our next lesson.  Look for that next week!
*  *  *
HFHG Young Authors Writing Contest
Deadline to turn in books: Friday, October 26
Young Authors Banquet: Friday, November 9

Our 4th Annual Writing Contest is open to all homeschool students in grades
1-12. Student books are divided into 5 different grade divisions. A winner and
two honorary mentions are awarded for each grade division. All participants are
given a Certificate of Participation and are invited (with their families) to
the Young Authors Banquet.

Rules for Writing Contest

The purpose of the Young Authors Writing Contest is for each student to write
their own work of fiction using the writing process and "publish" their own work
by illustrating and binding their final draft (get creative! - This is the fun

-Each work should be the sole work of one student (including illustrations).
Parents are allowed to help with typing the final draft, but please included
"Typed by: Parent's Name" on the front of the book.

-All writings should be an original work of fiction.

-Be sure to include the student's name and grade on the front cover. (Very
important for dividing into appropriate grade division!)

-Students should follow the Writing Process by first brainstorming their ideas,
creating a rough draft, revising their rough draft with the help of their peers
and/or teacher, and creating a final draft in book form. Only the final draft
will be submitted.

-All students must illustrate their stories (this is not required for grades
9-12). Illustrations can be drawn, painted, computer illustrated, or even made
using magazine cutouts (collage style). Creativity is encouraged and considered
during judging!

-All students must bind their final draft into book form. (This can be done as
simple as with a hole punch and ribbon or as technical as having it printed
into book form from a place like Walgreens or WalMart.)

-The length of the story is up to the discretion of the author. We have had
stories as short as a few sentences as well as novellas close to 100 pages

The Young Authors Banquet is a potluck banquet. All books will be on display
and awards will be given. It's a fun night to celebrate all of the students for
their hard work in creating their books! If you cannot attend, please plan for
someone else to pick up your student's certificate and book that evening.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday Weigh In- Family Time Fitness Review

If you have been reading my Tuesday Weigh In posts since the beginning, you may remember that I had mentioned that having an accountability partner was one of the keys to my weight loss success.  Well, I recall one particular day towards the beginning of our journey when I received a text message from my accountability partner that said something like the following, "Remind me why we are torturing ourselves like this again?"  And this is why it is so great to have an accountability partner...  someone who is going through the muck just like you are, but willing to drag you along when you get too weak.
So, after I laughed at her text ...because she was saying exactly what I had thought several times that day already ...I replied.  I told her we doing this because God calls us to take care of our temple and glorify Him with our bodies (1 Cor. 6:19-20).  I told her we were doing this to feel better about ourselves, and to simply feel better.  I told her that by doing this, we would be better equipped to fill our God-given roles as wives and mothers.  And I told her that we were taking care of our bodies, so that we could teach our kids to do the same.
And I meant it.  Family fitness is now very important to our family.  We take the time to go on family walks and workout at home together throughout our week.  Our kids often join me when I run.  We've started a family hiking club that meets monthly.  We've joined the YMCA and have been going about three times a week for over a year now.  And it's why I am so excited to tell you about a new product I have been reviewing for the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  
Family Time Fitness is a physical education program designed for schools, homeschools, and homeschool co-ops.  I love this diagram offered on the front page of their website:
As a homeschool mom, I have to say, that picture is a great motivating tool to me to get my kids moving!

Family Time Fitness offers many curricula for homeschools including workbooks, basketball modules, and a highschool level strength training program.  I received the Fitness 4 Homeschool Core 1 Physical Education Program.  This program is intended to use with students ages 4-13 and includes 260 lessons in ebook format.
Each lesson is approximately 30-45 minutes.  And there is no book work.  This is 30-45 minutes of physical activity.  Something we all need!
Each lesson includes the following:
Warm up (Usually about 3 activities, think Standing Leg Circles, Angel Arms, and Toe Raises)
Activity (3-4 more activities that usually require a little more cardio/strength, like Crab Walk and Who Can Hula Hoop the Longest?)
Cool Down (Again, a few slower paced activities to cool the kids down)
Outdoor Activity (One idea is always suggested for outdoor play.  These ideas sometimes require multiple students and might require simple P.E. equipment like jump ropes, cones, or hula hoops. 
Are you concerned that you don't know what some of those activities are?  No worries!  Not only does Family Time Fitness include detailed instructions for each activity, it also includes a link to a video they created showing kids doing that activity.  Seriously, every...single...activity has an accompanying video.
What I love most about this program is how completely flexible it is.  Activities can be adapted to fit the age and ability of your child.  Most of the activities do not require equipment.  Family Time Fitness does suggest a few items to make the lessons "more enjoyable", but you can often use something else in a pinch or skip that activity if you need to.  Suggested equipment is: bean bags, jump rope, hula hoops, playground balls, foam balls, cones, measuring tape, stop watch, and exercise mat.
You could easily just randomly pick out a lesson and go with it without having to build a lesson on one another.  I think this truly makes Family Time Fitness an incredible value.  It's basically a treasure trove of physical education ideas and games.  Once you've gone through all the lessons, just do them again and again!
The Fitness 4 Homeschool Core 1 program also offers an assessment test to chart your child's progress as he/she works through the program.  A Daily Food Diary, Grocery List, Meal Planner, Nutrition Log, and Tracking Calendar is also offered.
Because we are already incorporating physical activity through a variety of activities, we generally use Family Time Fitness on the homeschool days that we are not going to the YMCA, which works out to about 2-3 times a week.
Here are my kids doing the warm up exercise for Lesson 6 ... good ole jumping jacks.
Confession:  Why are jumping jacks always considered a warm up activity??  In my opinion, they are much more considered a make-me-wanna-die activity, which should be placed somewhere in the middle of my cardio workout rather than in the beginning.
 Can you tell that they are having fun?!
Our kids love Family Time Fitness.  They ask to do this program again and again.  I love having a structured P.E. program that I can fall back on.  I don't have to plan the lessons.  I just open my laptop, click open my ebook, and click on the video links.
Fitness 4 Homeschool Core 1 sells for $57 and can be purchased online.  The Schoolhouse Review team had several homeschool families review this product, so free to check out their reviews as well!

Disclaimer: I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the last few years. The only compensation that I receive for my review is the free product. I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in review groups and I have enjoyed trying out these products and giving you my honest opinion.
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