Monday, October 29, 2012

Beloved Books-Sugar Creek Gang

 Sometimes I have the opportunity to review a product that surprises me.  I might do a little research on the product prior to receiving it and think, "Oh, I think we will like this."  And then we get it.  We use it, and I not only like it...I love it.  We're excited to use it each day and I'm excited to share it with my friends.  This is one of those products.
 A few weeks ago our family opened our mailbox and pulled out a package from Beloved Books.  My oldest son, G11, is always relieved to open a review package that isn't math, but he was especially interested to find the Sugar Creek Gang Volume 1 CDs.  G11 loves to read and loves a good story. "That's cool."  He nonchalantly mumbled at the sight of the audio dramas.  But this Mama could see past his pre-teen too-cool-for-school facade...he was definitely intrigued.

After lunch, we decided to give the CDs a whirl.  The little ones were napping and I had some things to get done around the house.  The big kids settled down in the living room and we turned on the Sugar Creek Gang.  About thirty minutes later I was winding down my activities of flurrying from one room to the next and to be honest...not paying attention to the radio at all.  Instead, I had been mentally running through my to-do lists, checking things off, planning for next week, next year, curing all mysterious know, thinking about all those things we moms think about when children aren't constantly interrupting our thoughts...and I began to realize that this probably wasn't the most effective time to listen to an audio book.  After all, I was busy working and the kids were all busy with activities as well.  The girls were working on a craft project.  The boys were chatting and flipping through books.  I figured we would give the Sugar Creek Gang another try while we were in the car.  So I walked into the living room and announced it was time to turn the radio off.

"Why?!" Four pair of incredulous eyes stared back at me. They actually looked as if I had betrayed them.

I stopped to listen for a second and it did seem that they were listening to a particularly dramatic part of the story.

"Um, well..." I said. "I didn't think anyone was listening to it."

"Yes, I am!" they practically said in unison.   

"Well, okay...  I guess we can finish this part of the story."

A few days later, I sat in the car listening to the Sugar Creek Gang with the kids and realized why they didn't want me to turn the CDs off. 
 The Sugar Creek Gang book series was written by Paul Hutchens.  He began the books in 1939 aiming to create a "series of wholesome Christian adventure books".  A couple of decades later this series was recorded into an audio drama by Paul Ramseyer and can now be purchased through Beloved Books.  There are six volumes of CDs, each coming with several CDs and stories and each priced at $54.95 each.  The entire set can be purchased for $279.70 and includes over 100 hours on 72 CDs.

From the Beloved Books website...

These Sugar Creek Gang "Audio Adventures" are dramatically read straight from the original books.  Christian families LOVE this series because the gospel message is presented in such a simple, easy-to-understand style.  The whole series is, in fact, a discipleship journey... even parents who listen along witness the Holy Spirit working changes in their own hearts!

Families also enjoy the delightfully interspersed segments of nature study, poetry, hymns, and even science lessons... all skillfully woven into the fabric of the stories.

I found this description to be spot-on!  In the Sugar Creek Gang Volume 1, our family was introduced to a set of adorable characters encountering all sorts of fun and wild adventures.  The "gang" consists of Bill (who narrates the stories), Poetry, Dragonfly, Big Jim, Little Jim, and Circus.  The stories included in Volume 1 are:

The Swamp Robber
The Killer Bear
The Winter Rescue
The Lost Campers
Chicago Adventure
The Secret Hideout

I want to be clear that these stories are not about a bunch of rowdy boys getting into trouble.  The boys in these stories are noble characters that your children can look up to.  They honor their parents, strive to do what is right and good, and are learning what it means to live a Christian life.  Scripture is often quoted throughout the stories and biblical principles are at the foundation of each of these adventures.

When I asked G11 what he thought about the Sugar Creek Gang series he smiled and replied, "Oh, I like them.  I think they're funny."  Our kids ask to listen to these often, and I don't have a problem with it...I like them too!

A bit of exciting news...right now you can use the code HSING3-20 to receive 20% off of a Beloved Books order and you can also listen to The Swamp Robber- the full first episode FREE at this special link!! 

Read more reviews of the Sugar Creek Gang 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.
Pin It Now!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

H is for I just can't Help it, it makes me laugh...

...or Ha Ha ....or Hilarious.

So who can deny that having children is prime opportunity for some serious laughs?  Ocassionally I catch these funny moments on camera and then I get to laugh at them again and again.

First up, this funny pic will definitely take me out of the running for Mother of the Year.  But in my defense she wasn't hanging there that long, her Daddy was very close by, and she was actually enjoying herself at first...until it took me too long to turn the camera on and suddenly her proud moment turned into a nightmare...

No worries.  She made it back safely on the ground to make me laugh again in a potato sack race...

I'm so GQ staring off into the distance while I pretend not to notice my mom taking a picture of me...

Okay, I'll acknowledge her presence and flash her a smile so maybe she'll leave me alone...

Really, Mom?!  Are we done now...

Another laugh out loud trio...

There was a blue moon about a month ago but I couldn't get a shot of it.  They were standing around, unimpressed, until I insisted that they at least acted interested...

Just hangin' out watchin' tv...

What is it with boys and swords?  Look at that face.  Don't even try to take it from me, Mom.

Aw...they love each other!  Sort of...

My boys love to dance.  They unfortunately got their dancing skills from me...

A day at the water park made for a boat load of funny pictures...

And a few super cheesy grins...

I wonder where they get it from?...

Finally, if I had a quarter for every time I said, "Will you please take your finger out of your nose so I can take this picture?"...

Linking up to Blogging through the Alphabet.  Check out the H posts or post one of your own!

Blogging Through the Alphabet Pin It Now!

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Toddler Diaries ~ Fall Craft

 Last week, the toddlers and I decided to try a simple fall craft while the big kids were working in other room.

      First, I traced each of their hands with a brown crayon and encouraged them to color it brown like the branches of a tree and add green grass and a yellow sun.  While they colored, we talked about seasons and I cut a ton of fall colored leaves.
     Equipped with a glue stick and a pile of paper leaves, each child decorated their fall trees.  The 3, 4, and 5 year old could all do this part independently leaving me some time to slip away and check on the big ones.
     E5 was very serious about his picture.  I love how his melancholy nature shines through in his art...he likes straight lines and patterns and order.  A boy after his mama's heart!

Rating: This was a great, simple fall craft!
Time Commitment for Me:  Hardly any.  I just had to get them started by tracing their hands and spent about 5 minutes cutting out leaves.  But we were talking about the seasons and describing Fall while I was cutting, so I just considered that the "teaching time".  Also, I'm sure the 4 and 5 year old could have easily cut their own leaves.
Toddler Time: 20-30 minutes.  E5 and L4 spent more time decorating than L3 did, but he still enjoyed the freedom of using the gluestick by himself.
Additional Comments: Don't forget to check out my other Toddler Diaries posts for more fun ideas for your little ones! Pin It Now!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Blogging through the Alphabet ~ Catching Up

E is for ...Eye Infection
     A couple weeks ago L3 laid down for a nap and awoke with a swollen eye.  As the day progressed it only got worse.  Chad took him to the ER at the pediatrician's suggestion.  IV antibiotics, a CT Scan, and hours later they returned home (at about 2 am).  Unfortunately the next day it was even worse.  You can see from the pic on the left that his eye was completely swollen shut.  Pediatrician's visit and more antibiotics and the swelling finally went down the next day (pic on the right).  L4 has spent more time in the hospital than the rest of our children combined...*sigh*.  You can also see from the pics that he doesn't seem to actually look sick at all...and I can assure you, he never slowed down. 

F is for ...Friends and Field Trip
     Field trips are always so much more fun with friends!  Last week we spent the day at the zoo with another family that we love.  It was a little cool, but we didn't mind.  We prefer field trip learning over book learning most days!

G is for ... Godly Heritage
     This past weekend we had the pleasure of once again standing before our congregation and dedicating a sweet baby to the Lord.   It's truly amazing to see this large brood that God has given us.  I'm praying that somehow amidst the chaos and noise and mess that we can model enough humility and grace to pass on a Godly heritage to these children.  Oh LORD, please let them see our sincerity and forgive us of our hypocrisy.

Blogging Through the Alphabet Once again, I am linking up to Blogging Through the Alphabet at Ben and Me. Pin It Now!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kinderbach App

     KinderBach has been offering dvd and online beginner piano lessons for young students for over a decade.  As a matter of fact, we had the opportunity to review their online lessons a couple of years ago and loved it!  However, I have to tell you, I'm even more excited to tell you about the new KinderBach app for iPad and iPhone.

     The Kinderbach app offers 30 lessons ( a full year curriculum) geared toward 3 to 7 year olds.  These are the same colorful, fun lessons offered on the KinderBach dvd and online curriculum taught by Miss Karri and her animated friends.  But the app makes the lessons portable and even more interactive! 
     Each time the student plays a lesson of the KinderBach app a keyboard pops up at the bottom for the student to play along!  I loved this feature and so did L4 who has been faithfully "doing her school on the iPad" as she calls it with KinderBach.

     The 30 lessons are divided up over 3 Levels (with 10 lessons per level).  As you can see from the screenshot above, when we click on a lesson our keyboard pops up and we can choose to watch the intro and 4 available videos for that lesson.  Each video is anywhere from 2-5 minutes long.  Therefore we can complete an entire lesson in less than 20 minutes.


     I decided to use KinderBach with L4 because she is at the perfect age for it.  She feels so special that she gets to "play" on the iPad like her big siblings!  Most days, I will sit next to L4 and we will work through the entire lesson watching each video together.  Then she will play the accompanying KinderBach game.  However, many times I have let her simply play with the app watching the videos herself.  This app is user friendly enough that once I showed her how to use it, she can easily operate it alone even though she is pre-reading.
     Dodi is a donkey and one of the fun characters that Miss Karri uses to teach the students about rhythm notes, finger placement, and to play simple songs.  These characters really make the lessons interesting for young students.  You will not find a boring teacher lecturing on camera in any of these videos...instead you will see Miss Karri dancing and singing about Dodi and his house (which happens to be the two black keys next to each other on the keyboard)! 
     Printable worksheets are also offered through the app.  When a worksheet is available for a particular lesson, a "print" icon will appear on the screen.  Your printer must be compatible with Airprint to use this function.  If you don't have that, the PDFs are available for an additional purchase.  However, we found that the worksheet material was thoroughly covered in the videos and we really didn't need to print them.

     A great motivational factor for L4 are the six games (one shown above) that are unlocked as she progresses through the lessons.  

Additional Thoughts

     L4 has definitely enjoyed the KinderBach app and we will continue to use it.  Because she is still only four, I have felt like it is beneficial to our move through the lessons slowly.  I usually repeat a lesson with her a couple of times before moving on to the next one.  Because of that, we have not yet completed Level 1.  I also plan to start this with H7 soon.  She is an advanced reader but hasn't had much introduction to music.  I know that she would really enjoy these lessons and could easily do them independently on the iPad.

     The first 2 lessons  and 1 game of the KinderBach app is offered free.  Lessons can be purchased individually through the app after that or you can purchase the "Classroom KinderBach: School Version" for just $26.99.  I received the Classroom version to review and it is just like the free version, except that the in-app purchases are removed and you have all 30 of your lessons available to you with one up-front fee.

     Please click on over to the Schoolhouse Review Crew to read more reviews of KinderBach! 

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.
Pin It Now!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Young Authors Lesson 4 ~ Editing

     In our last Young Authors lesson, students were instructed to write the rough draft of their story.  Remember that the length of the story is up to your young author.  But most 1st - 4th grade students will write short stories at around 10 paragraphs in length.

    In this lesson, you will want to help your student to revise and edit the rough draft of their story.  If at all possible set up a time for peer reviews.  So gather one or more of your students friends or siblings to read through your child's story and give suggestions.  Dads, grandparents, and other adults can participate in this process as well!  You can encourage everyone involved to make this a positive experience by doing two things.

     ~First, explain to your young author that their friends will be giving them suggestions.  A good author will take into consideration the suggestions and critique of their peers, but ultimately the story is up to the author!  However, there is no need for hurt feelings.  Don't forget to explain to the "reviewers" that it is best to be sensitive and encouraging when giving a critique.  You can ask questions like, "Is there any part of the story you didn't understand?" or "Was there a part of the story that you think needed more detail?"

     ~Second, give each reviewer an index card.  On one side write, "What I liked..." on the other side write, "Suggestions".  Be sure that each reviewer writes at least one thing on each side.  I would also encourage that they write one encouraging note for each suggestion they make.

     Once they have received the suggestions from their peers, you will act as your student's "editor".  Help them to decide which suggestions they should take seriously.  Also, read through their stories with them, helping them to correct any spelling and grammatical errors.

     Using the revisions, it is now time for your student to write their final draft.  Remember this is the draft that will go into their "published book".  Your student will want to use their best handwriting or type it.  (You can also type it for them, if they are not comfortable with that yet. )  In our next lesson, your students will decide how they will divide up the text of their story.  They will actually cut and paste parts of their final draft to pages of their "published book" that they will illustrate.

     I hope your students are enjoying writing their short stories!  If you missed them, feel free to check out Lesson 1, Lesson 2, and Lesson 3 of our Young Authors Lessons series. 

Pin It Now!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Zoo Whiz

For the past few weeks, G11 has been enjoying a premium subscription to an online learning site called Zoo Whiz.  Because this site is geared towards kids ages 5-15, I also set up free accounts for a couple of my other children.  Setting up their accounts were simple and each child has been asking me if they can play on Zoo Whiz more and more.  I'm sure you'll see why...

 When the students first log in they are shown the very colorful, animated map.  They can choose which area they want to go to.  More on that in a minute...

The first thing they will undoubtedly want to do though is choose their avatar.  These avatars are not customizable, but several fun characters are available to choose.

Next, your students will inevitably want to earn some money!  They can do this by clicking on the 'Learn and Earn' house on the map.  This is where Zoo Whiz's amazing educational content can be found.  There are 17,000 educational activities divided into three distinct subjects: Math, Word Skills, and Reading.

Each subject is further divided into learning stages.  When you create child's account you will also create an Age Floor...or age level that your child cannot work below.  For example, I set G11's age floor at 11, so he could not work any of the activities designed for ages 5-10.  However, Zoo Whiz will profile your child's work and allow him to progress through older stages.  Also, you (the parent) have control over the Age Floor and can lower it whenever you want.
 Photobucket Above you can see an example of a Math activity that your student may work.  If they click on a subject, they will be prompted to work about 20 problems earning coins along the way.

Following are examples of both Reading and Word Skills activities...

Photobucket  Photobucket

Once they have earned coins by working through the educational activities, your student can then spend their money.  They have two options.  They can enter the Arcade and purchase time to play fun games like TetRow, Paint and Play, Bubbles.  G11 liked playing the arcade games but was a little disappointed that he didn't earn coins when he did well on these games like he did on the learning games.Photobucket The second way the student can spend their money is by entering the Biodome Shop and becoming a Zoo Keeper.  There they can purchase animals for their own zoo!  Several categories of animals are offered including Ocean, Desert, Mountain, Domestic...even Dinosaurs and Mythical animals.  Once purchased, Zoo Keepers can view their purchased animals as something akin to animal training cards.  (The animals they purchase are not animated.)  Your students can view information about each of their purchased animals like interesting facts, diet, and habitat.

G11 enjoyed collecting his animals and especially loved the inclusion of the mythical creatures.  His favorite animal is his Phoenix. :)
Photobucket The last place to visit on the map is 'Milestones'.  Students and parents alike can check up on their child's progress to see what activities have been completed and how the student is doing with that subject.

It's easy to sign your student up for a Zoo Whiz account.  Just go to the Zoo Whiz website click 'Create FREE Account'.  Let your student play and learn as much as they want and consider purchasing an upgrade to the premium account.  Currently, the premium subscription is on sale for just $14.95 for a 1-year subscription.  As you can see from below, a premium upgrade comes with several perks...

Our opinion is that Zoo Whiz is pure learning fun.  My kids ask to play Zoo Whiz and when they are playing I feel confident that they are actually learning new material and reinforcing skills that I want them to know.

Check out the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more reviews of Zoo Whiz!

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.

Pin It Now!


Related Posts with Thumbnails