Friday, February 28, 2014

Lovin' the Weekend Blog Hops: February 28-March 2, 2014

Welcome to Lovin' The Weekend Blog Hops with your co-hosts:
Karen from Tots and Me and Rena from An Ordinary Housewife.

We would like to introduce you to our two new permanent co-hosts. 

Erin from For Him and My Family and Aurie from Our Good Life

We are so happy to have them on board and would love for you to stop by their blogs and welcome them!

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!

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 Andrea from CouponBlessingsNow.

 Here's what she has to say:
"CouponBlessingsNow is me – I was $30,000 in debt for most of my life and was miserable.
But through learning to obey God’s promptings, plus learning a whole bunch of things about couponing, I have been out of debt since 2000. CouponBlessingsNow is a ministry of sharing what I’ve learned over the years with you guys, teaching you guys to use coupons, and inspiring all of you to be a blessing to others. I would like this to be your page as well – contact me if you have any questions or need help, or you can comment below – let’s go!!"
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!!

Early Elementary Science Activities with {A TOS Review}

Science4Us Review

We have always enjoyed our little science observations to explore God's great creation. If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know we love hands-on learning. From fruit fly observations and caterpillar metamorphosis to exploring outside and coming home with tons of nature finds for our science table we have enjoyed science. However, as the girls are now getting older I want to make sure we are learning all we can and should be learning. We still love our hands-on observations, but mommy can't always explain everything satisfactorily and I know the girls love to be able to dig deeper, plus there are just some things we can't do at home. So, I hope you can understand when I say I was thrilled when we were picked to review the Online Subscription from I was intrigued to discover it was from the creators of because we reviewed that last year and the girls really enjoy it.

This wonderful online science curriculum is geared for early elementary students, K-2nd grade, making it perfect for Tabitha and Amelia, though it can be used by 3rd-5th graders as a review. Even Hannah has been enjoying having her own account and she only just turned 4. With, children are given "foundational science knowledge" with a curriculum that is complete and standards-based. This knowledge is gained as they view the videos, answer questions, write and draw in their digital notebooks, and interact with onscreen experiments. In addition, there are detailed lesson plans for the teacher/parent which include additional printable worksheets and activities to dig deeper into the material.

Each module of the curriculum is built using the 5E Inquiry-Based Instructional Model. If you are not sure what that is referring to, you are not alone. I had no idea what that meant when I first researched the program. However, it is very easy to understand. The 5 E's are:

  • Engage
  • Explore
  • Explain
  • Elaborate
  • Evaluate
Every module starts out with a lesson that helps to access what the student already knows about the subject, helping to determine any misconceptions. This is the Engage portion of the module. The next lesson helps the child to develop understanding and generate ideas, this is the Explore part. In the lesson that is based on Explain they are given pertinent vocabulary and descriptions of the new concept. Then there are a variety of different lessons/activities to help them Elaborate or enhance their understanding through in-depth learning experiences. Finally the teacher/parent and student are able to Evaluate what they have learned.

We were given a 6 month membership in which the children and I each get our own accounts. In my teacher account I have access to the lesson plans from which I can decide which lessons I am going to assign in which module and I can view the girls progress and their assignments. It is quite easy to navigate the website. When I log into my account I hover over the Teaching Tools tab and a menu will drop down.

I can choose to go to View Assignments, Student Reports, Lesson Plans, Teaching Strategies or the Notebook.

The same Teaching Tools selections can also be found at the bottom of the page along with some extremely helpful videos to help the parent/teacher come to a better understanding of the program.

What exactly will you find in each section?
  • Lesson Plans will allow you to see details of the lessons.
For each module you will get a description, core concept, essential vocabulary, and professional development resources, which you can find on the left side of the screen. You can then view details for each lesson on the right. The blue bar at the top will show you which of the 5 E's are being addressed in the lesson. they recommend doing the first 3 lessons in order, to make sure they have a good grasp of the subject being taught. Each lesson has an Objective plus Teacher Support materials and printable Offline Materials. You can even choose to assign the lesson to your children directly from this page. Note the "Quick Assign" in the top left orange bar.

  • Teaching Strategies contains a slew of resources for the teacher in 3 different categories.
  1. Prior Knowledge Strategies
  2. Literacy Skills Strategies
  3. Lesson Follow-Up Strategies
  • Student Reports allows the parent/teacher to view their children's Overall Progress along with details for each module or lesson.
I can see all of the girls' overall usage, including when they last logged in, how many times they logged in, how many activities they completed and how many they opened, the total time spent and how much work they have saved.

I can then choose to view each individual child's saved work:

From here I can see all the activities that Tabitha saved which include notebook work and activities in the lesson. I can click on each entry to enlarge it, check it and leave comments on it.

Or I can choose to view the assignments that have been completed in a specific module:

From here I can see all that the children did in the Animals module which can be found under the Life category. A star shows that the assignment was completed and a score is shown if applicable. Anything highlighted in blue can be clicked on to see further details.
I could also choose to see the total time spent on each lesson, the date they first attempted the lesson and the date they completed it. In the screen shot above you can see the drop down menu which says "Scores and Completions," this is where you can choose which to view.
  • Assignments allows the parent/teacher to see which assignments have been assigned. You can choose to edit the assignments, changing the beginning and/or ending dates or adding an assignment. 
There are two assignments here because I gave Hannah her own assignment as some of the lessons are above her ability to complete. One assignment could be assigned for all the girls as long as I chose to give them all the same lessons.

  • There is also a Notebook in the parent/teacher account, but I haven't figured out exactly what I would use that for. The children have their own digital notebook that they use in each lesson. That will be found in their student reports.
So, how have we been using Let me tell you a bit about that.

When we first received our membership I was not quite aware of what all was available in the Lesson Plans section. I wanted to get the children started working right away because they had such fun viewing the demo videos when we were researching the program. There are 4 main modules to choose from and each one has sub-modules.

  • Inquiry
  1. Science Skills
  • Physical
  1. Matter
  2. Energy
  3. Force and Motion
  • Life
  1. Living Things
  2. Balance in Nature
  • Earth/Space
  1. Earth
  2. Space

As we had been focusing on so many different animals in our My Father's World curriculum I decided we would start in the Life module in the Animals section under Living Things. I assigned the girls all of the lessons available for Animals. It was quite simple.

You choose which activities you want to assign, then you choose the date they are to start and when they should have it completed, then you choose which students are going to use this assignment.

The girls then log into their account. Here is a screenshot of what they see as soon as they log in.

The part they really focus on is the My Assignments box in the middle of the screen, however, they could also choose their own lesson to complete from the "Choose a Book of Science" section on the right. In the left corner they are able to view their notebook and the assignment details. They can check out their student reports as well to see how they are doing. A parent could also check their child's scores from here instead of logging into their own account. Additionally, there is a glossary of all the vocabulary words for each module.

From the log in screen they can click on which assignment they want to work on. Once they click on an assignment it will start loading.

The children have been known to complete multiple lessons in one sitting. When we first started, they would all gather around the computer and watch the videos at the same time. 

I have since decided that one child can use it at a time while the other works on their workboxes. 

As they complete assignments they get a star on the assignment icon so they know which ones they need to work on. They are able to redo assignments if they so choose. They work their way through the assignments, answering questions and drawing pictures in their digital notebook 

 There are many different kinds of interactive activities.

They explore their vocabulary words with Silly Bulls, putting them together from mixed up syllables. They can also expand their vocabulary through fun animated songs. They loved creating their own pet in the Explore Animals activity. And in the Explain section of the module they learned quite a bit about animals, including needs, parts, responses, reproduction, and life cycles.
Each module has different games and activities making the learning experience new and interesting. 
Once I discovered the Lesson Plans section I began having the children slow down a bit on the online assignments so we could explore the lessons in more detail. I was able to choose from the Offline Materials for the lessons that I thought the girls would enjoy. We didn't do every lesson that was available. If I saw that one of the girls were struggling with the material I figured the extra material would be great to work on together or for additional material for their workboxes if I thought they could do it independently. 
After finishing up the Animal unit we moved onto Plants (also under the Living Things sub-module).

From there we moved to Living and Nonliving Things. We then changed modules completely and went into the Earth's Materials lessons of the Earth/Space Module. Which helped us segue into our new units of Rocks and then Jewels with My Father's World. 

I then thought it would be fun to move onto the Physical Module. The Physical Module is broken down into three units: Matter, Energy, Force & Motion.  Conveniently, they were learning about matter in their science class at co-op. 

Here Tabitha is introducing the lesson from what she already remembered before we started working on the printable worksheet from the lesson

They then went on to answer the questions comparing solids and liquids.
I love how flexible Science4Us.come is. We were able to use it to expand on the lessons from both our main curriculum and co-op. The online lessons capture the children's interest and they are always asking to do their science. It is possible to use with younger students, but they will need more parental guidance, especially when trying to use the notebook. Tabitha loves being able to draw pictures in her notebook and enjoyed creating her own living thing. Amelia loves learning about the facts, especially when the worm in the lab was teaching them. She loved learning about what was solid and what was liquid, and about different plants, like the cacti and fly traps.  Mommy really enjoys that they can do virtual science experiments, watching things happen on the screen and recording the results. Yes we love hands-on experiments, but some things are just easier to watch. is $7.95 per month per child. Though this is a wonderful price for all the information and lessons that are here (over 350 lessons) I am not sure whether we will be able to justify that amount per month for 3 children. I can definitely see that this would be quite affordable with only one child though.
You can check out on their website and you can also find them on:
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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Beginning Piano with KinderBach Online Piano Lessons {A TOS Review}

Kinderbach Review
One of the concerns my husband had when I discussed homeschooling years ago was that the children wouldn't get a chance to learn to play a musical instrument if they didn't go to public school. Both he and I had been able to take band in school, though I didn't get very advanced in either the trumpet or guitar because the music gene seems to have skipped me. He, on the other hand, can play trombone plus piano and guitar. Of course, since then he has become accepting supportive of homeschooling our children, but we both want to make sure they have a chance to have some musical instruction as we know it is important in our children's development. I just wasn't sure how to go about getting them said instruction. I was thrilled when we were given the opportunity through the Schoolhouse Review Crew to try out KinderBach's Online Piano Lesson Membership with Teacher Corner.

KinderBach is presented by Karri Gregor and is recommended for children ages 3-7. The teaching method in this curriculum is proven and will lead to a solid foundation in music. We were given 6 months in the Online Membership which includes Levels 1-6 (over 240 lessons) which can be watched right on the computer. They can also be viewed on other devices such as an iPad, Android tablet, Kindle Fire or Nook. In addition to access to the videos we also are able to download the PDF student materials, plus we have access to the Teacher Corner which includes lesson  plans, teacher aid books, Audio MP3s, student books, a Goal/Achievement book, and a Level 1 Certificate. We can also download the available Story Books, Song Books and Coloring Pages.

Yes, we have a piano, but we decided to borrow a keyboard from my oldest son so we could have it in the same room as the computer. Any keyboard will do as long as it has 3-4 octaves (which would be 36-48 full-size keys). Speaking of needed materials, you will also need a computer with internet access (high-speed internet is definitely needed), a printer to print out the activity pages, song books, etc, plus craft supplies such as crayons, scissors, paper, glue. You will also need items to use for rhythm instruments. We have used pots/pans and wooden spoons, empty oatmeal or coffee canisters, plastic bowl or cookie sheet with wooden or metal spoon, rice shakers, etc, just use your imagination. You don't need anything fancy for this program. It is easily used with the simplest of materials. 

The videos feature Miss Karri and her Piano Pal friends who live on the keyboard. The first two characters we meet are Dodi the Donkey and Frisco. We have yet to meet the other characters, but here are their names, Carla the Caterpillar, Edward the Eagle, Felicity the Frog, Gracie the Gorilla, Alan the Alligator and Bob the Bear. These characters help the children to become familiar with the piano landscape, starting with Dodi who lives where the 2 black keys are found.

The curriculum begins with a song to help learn about high and low sounds and then moves into an introduction to the piano landscape and becoming familiar with the black and white keys. We also learned about finger numbers. These lessons are taught by songs and activities in the video which then is expanded on in the worksheet that is to be printed out. 
Kinderbach Review
While you could print out the entire student book, I chose to print out each page during the lesson. If there is an activity page for the lesson (which there is for the majority) you will see a little printer icon under the video screen, just click on it to print the related activity. There are coloring sheets, and activities to help become familiar with the piano and musical terms. Some times the activities need to be completed as Miss Karri is teaching, other times they can be finished after viewing the video. 

Here is a little more detail about how to go about using the program.
When I first logged into my account I was directed to the Learning Center page where I could choose which level to use. We started right at the beginning (because its always a good place to start).

After clicking on Level 1, this is the page I saw. There are 10 weeks in Level 1 and each week has 4 lessons. 

When the Week is clicked on, a new tab pops up with the video for the lesson/session. 

Yes, the video is small, you can maximize the screen by clicking on the full screen icon. I have added a red arrow to show where it is. This will enlarge your screen. The only downside to doing so is that the large picture tends to be blurry.

We will watch and interact with the video and then go to work on the worksheet. 

Here we are working on high and low sounds. I played them on the keyboard and they had to fill in an apple either on the tree (high sound) or on the ground (low sound).

Here we are working on our rhythm.

Here we are finding the 2 black keys where Dodi's house is and playing the Dodi's House song. The children are to play the 2 black keys along with Miss Karri as the music plays. They are learning to play walk notes, or what they later learn are called quarter notes. I love that she uses terms that are easy for the children to understand and then after they are used to them explains what the correct musical term is. Though I was a little confused as to why the first thing they actually play on the piano uses two keys at a time (and then the next song has them playing the 3 black keys). It was a little frustrating for all of them (and the three girls are in the correct age range), but especially for Hannah, to have to learn to keep the rhythm and hit both (all) the keys at the same time for the entire song. 

Harold has a blast clapping along with the songs.

Here they are matching the finger numbers with the correct star.

Even daddy has enjoyed getting involved (no surprise there). Here he is helping the children stay on rhythm. He is clapping the rhythm by watching the video while they focus on him. I am not sure if it is our internet connection or the video itself, but as the song plays the animation doesn't seem to stay on beat at times

Sometimes they use their new clipboards so they can be in the living room with the computer to listen to the music/lesson while they work. On this day they were coloring Dodi's House and Train Station Cards.

When they were done coloring they decided they wanted to play the game on the piano, matching Dodi's House to the two black keys and the Train Station to the three black keys.

I think Hannah's face shows very well how she feels about this program. 

They all love music time and gathering at the computer to watch the videos. Tabitha's favorite part of the program is, "Dodi the Donkey," because she likes donkeys. She also likes, "doing the coloring pages." Amelia enjoys, "listening to the songs, especially Hot Cross Buns and playing the piano."  Hannah says she likes "singing."  

Mommy loves that they are gently being introduced to musical terms and are learning to play the piano. Miss Karri is so energetic and I enjoy the way she interacts with the children. The children are also working on other skills, in addition to music, such as numbers, counting, opposites, and fine motor skills with coloring and cutting. In fact, you can check out their information on The Three R's to get a good look at all of the learning and development that is going on.

The only problems I have encountered would be the concerns I mentioned above regarding the blurry picture plus my confusion on having young children start out by having to play 2 or 3 keys at a time while learning to stay on beat. Additionally, there are times the sound quality makes it really hard to hear Miss Karri. In parts of the video she is loud, but later on in the same lesson we can barely hear her. I am thankful that we have words to the songs because there were times I couldn't understand what she was singing as the music is louder than the singing. 

All in all this is a wonderful beginning music program for children, which is especially wonderful for this mom with no musical talent. Even Harold enjoys joining in and he is only 2. 

The Online Piano Lessons Membership is their most popular and economic product. Right now you can get this program for only $95.88 per year (which breaks down to $7.99 per month) and this can be used with more than one child at a time making for some very affordable piano lessons.

Kinderbach Review

If you prefer to not use the internet, KinderBach is also available on DVD and you would get a CD of PDF student materials. You can see all your purchasing options on their shopping page.

You can also check out KinderBach on their Facebook page, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube.

To see what other members of the Crew have to say click here.
Schoolhouse Review Crew

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Toddler Ideas Tuesday: February 25th, 2014


Welcome back to Toddler Idea Tuesdays! Have you been busy with your young children?

This week I wanted to share some of the projects we have done in the past to help learn colors. I thought this would be an appropriate week to share this because of St. Patrick's Day coming up very soon. Yes, St. Patrick's Day is all about the Green, but it is also about rainbows, so each year we take the opportunity to learn about each color for 2-3 days until by St. Patrick's Day we are ready to put them all together into a rainbow. 

Here are some of the ways we have focused on one color at a time. 

We have made collages of each color. I will search for objects on Google Images that are usually a specific color, like red strawberries, hearts, roses, or yellow bananas, lemons, canaries, etc. I print them out and have the children color them the appropriate color. They are cut out and glued onto paper with other objects of the same color. We have been known to color or paint the paper too. 

Then I will take the same pictures and print them onto matching construction paper. Sometimes we have used these for collages, especially when we spent a lot of time coloring/painting the paper. I also use them for a color scavenger hunt.

We used to store them on envelopes on the play room door.

Also related, I will have the children go and find objects of the color we are learning about and have them bring them into the living room or dining room to see what they have found.

And while we are focusing on the color I will make color muffin tin meals.

Here is an example of each color.

And here are some of our color combining and rainbow projects:

Ice Cube Color Mixing

String Painting

Coloring Mixing Hand Prints

Ripped paper Rainbow

Rainbow Salad

Rainbow Muffin Tin

Now onto:

Toddler Idea Tuesday Features

Once again I enjoyed the different posts that were shared last week. Here is a bit of a highlight. 

Rena from An Ordinary Housewife shared her DIY Sandbox. It looks so simple to make and I know the kids will have a blast with it.

Jen from Chestnut Grove Academy shared a fun science experiment to demonstrate how salt melts ice.

Hayley from Minne Mama shared her fun Color Toss Activity.

Lisa from Our Country Road shared a whole bunch of fun looking Valentine's tray activities. 

The Most Popular Post

Lisa from A Rup Life shared Preschool Homeschool- Tot School. In this post you will find her list of goals for her son's preschool learning, what she is using to accomplish these goals and her daily schedule. If you are looking for some ideas I hope you will stop by and see what she posted. 

What sort of activities do you do with your toddler? Do you have some favorite activities you would like to share? Do you have any fun St. Patrick's Day activities you would like to share?  I invite you to link up below. I will be pinning posts on my Toddler Ideas board and I would love to feature some of the activities each week from what is linked up. Please know I may share a picture from your post and link back to it, along with sharing how we used your idea in our toddler time. By linking up you are giving me permission to use a picture from your post. I will ALWAYS give credit and link back. Additionally, if you choose to try out any of the ideas with your toddler, please make sure you give credit where credit is due.

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