Monday, March 25, 2013

AdVentus MusIQ HomeSchool : A TOS Crew Review

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MusIQ HomeSchool  by Adventus

From their website:

" Recommended by music educators and parents, MusIQ HomeSchool programs are delivered in an innovative and motivational style that is easily integrated into a home-study routine. Year-by-year lesson plans enable parents to regularly monitor progress."

Beginner to Intermediate. - ages 4-18 - Children's Music Journey Volumes 1-2-3

Multi-level Curriculum Software and Lesson Plans for ages 10+ -  Piano Suite Premier

 photo musiqhomeschool-software_zps4cb3ceea.jpg The seven-year curriculum includes 20+ levels for beginner to advanced intermediate piano students. The Lesson Plans include detailed lesson objectives, activity sheets, quizzes and assessments plus hundreds of helpful tips from experienced educators.
You may download the software (Monthly Subscription - $10.95/month ) Great option for families with children in multiple levels (includes all software)


Purchase the software  (see options here).  Either way, you will need a MIDI piano keyboard.  Try a free trial to see for yourself.

Bentz Test Laboratory was SO excited for this!  We have several testers, at different levels, that tried out the MusIQ HomeSchool .

Testers 1 & 2 are fairly new piano students.  They could not wait to get started with Children's Music Journey Volume 1.  Volume one has 25 lessons (Volumes 2 and 3 each have 35 lessons).  The lessons begin with a well-known composer teaching the lesson.  (Check out their blog that covers some info on the composers discussed on the Children’s Music Journey).  They loved the characters, and how interactive this program was.  With the amazing technology of a midi keyboard (we had one already - but, they sell an affordable keyboard too!) & the interactive software - they were able to play along with the program independently.

 It quickly became addictive to them... they beg for piano practice!  We have taken years of traditional piano practice - and I've never had a child so enthralled as to beg to practice!  This is not only fun - but, quickly moves into more challenging music instruction.  "Tell them this is AWESOME", said one of the Testers.

The downloadable Lesson Plans gave us everything we needed to round out an excellent music curriculum. Every step is clearly outlined for you, and the interactive software is very easy to use!  Each session is broken down into about an hour. 
  • Theory - the composer teaches the lesson
  • History - learn more about the life and music of the composter
  • Software - the lesson, time in the Practice Room, and time in the Games Room, a visit to The Library to listen to more music
  • Theory - using Musical Alphabet cards that you can print out
  • Game - reinforce the lesson
  • Improvisation in the Improv Room to experiment and listen
  • Printable Activity sheets to color and complete
Normally, I have to promise, beg, and threaten to get an hour of piano practice from these testers.  Not with Children's Music Journey - they were promising, begging and threatening me for more time!

My next tester is a bit more experienced pianist.  So, he started with the Piano Suite Premier

Once again, the program was very intuitive, and he picked it up independently.

 It  has 5 different skill levels from beginning to intermediate.  There are hundreds of narrated lessons on notation, music theory, sight reading and playing.

The Learn to Play Library contains 500 different songs from a wide variety of music styles ranging from Levels 1-5. There is a detailed section on Music History and also a variety of interactive games.

 Piano Suite gives instant audio and visual feedback plus detailed reporting for you to monitor progress.  Your student will be able to compose, edit, save, and print their own music!

He was quickly drawn into it and was begging for more.  After a short while however, he found it to be frustrating to master the lesson to move forward, and lost interest quickly.  

My third tester is our most accomplished pianist.  He truly has a musical gift, and has taken private lessons for years.  He jumped ahead in the lessons, but found them very frustrating.  He felt it moved far too fast for the average player to keep up with (and he's not an average player).  The games were not well explained, and the music pieces rather complicated to pick up quickly.  He did enjoy music history section, and was impressed by the amount of information available.

All in all - this was a very effective music instruction program for my younger children.  They loved it, and were learning along with it.

My older children (who have had years of piano instruction with a traditional teacher) found it a bit difficult to work with. Maybe it was just too "different" from having a live teacher.

This is a very well done introduction to piano - certainly worth the price  - compare it to the cost private lessons and I'm sure you'll agree!

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Art of Poetry by Classic Academic Press : A TOS Crew Review


Photobucket The Art of Poetry by Classical Academic Press

From their website:

"If you have ever felt mystified by, or unable to enjoy the significance of poetry, this book will lead you step by step to understanding and love of this branch of literature, guided by a gifted poet and teacher. The Art of Poetry is an excellent middle school or high school curriculum; it will teach the practice of reading a poem slowly and carefully, introduce students to the elements of poetry (such as imagery and metaphor) and the many forms that can make a poem, from sonnet to open verse. In the belief that practice is the best way to learn, this book is rich with explications, exercises, and activities."

Take a peek inside:  The Art of Poetry (PDF)   & The Art of Poetry Teacher's Edition (PDF)
Free Resources:Art of Poetry Audio Files (MP3)
(Please note, the zipped file is over 200MB! and may take a long time to download, depending on your connection speed.)
The Art of Poetry Suggested Weekly Schedules (PDF)
The Art of Poetry Blog
 Check out Christine Perrin's The Art of Poetry blog!
Want to know more about author blogs? Click here to see an overview.

Cost -
The Art of Poetry Bundle - $124.95  New Price effective April 1, 2013 - $99.95
The Art of Poetry Student Book - $24.95
Teacher Edition - $29.95
DVD Set - $89.95  New Price effective April 1, 2013 - $69.95
(check out a sample video)

The Bentz Test Laboratory was SO excited to see The Art of Poetry!  I can't believe I just typed that...the transformation is complete - we are homeschoolers!

Seriously,  the Bentz Test Laboratory is filled with avid readers.  Understanding & appreciating poetry is one of the highest forms of reading, but - how on earth does your average mom delve deep into that topic, and make it interesting?  Classic Academic Press to the rescue (again...I love their products!)

The Art of Poetry is designed for your middle to high school student.  I just happened to have one of each! 

This course walks them through each step, carefully explaining the terminology and elements of poetry while teaching them to read carefully and discuss socratically.  Biographies of each poet are included as well.

My testers were open-minded to trying The Art of Poetry.  We jumped right in with Chapter one - Images.  I splurged and purchased the full DVD set (I know it's going to be well worth it from all my past experiences with products from Classic Academic Press)  The DVD sets the tone for the chapter, and models what discussing a poem looks like, plus you get a top-notch, passionate teacher!

It was nice to have both testers working on this together.  We broke it down to one piece of poetry a day, reading, discussing, and answering the questions.  This is much more than a "fill-in-the-blank" type of exercise,  it requires higher level thinking skills!  I already see the benefit to this careful exercise in other areas of study.   

The 16 chapters of the Student book guide them through:  The Elements of Poetry (images, metaphor, symbols, words, sound, rhythm, shape & tone), The Formal History of Poetry (history of form, movements, genres, Emily Dickinson & Walt Whitman case studies, and narrative poems),  & Application (starting a poetry group,  a favorite poem notebook, keeping a writer's journal, poetry slams and more.)  At the end of each chapter is a list of activities to complete to reinforce the lesson and practice what they have learned. 

We had fun with the activities in Chapter One - Images. One activity suggested was to take five minutes and freewrite about images from one of the four seasons.

One tester chose "summer images".  His included: baseball, lemonade, late sunsets, birthdays, board games, ribs & hamburgers cooked on the grill, Bible Bee.

The other tester chose "winter images". Including: sledding, hockey, snow football, winter gear, snow days, playing Christmas music on the piano, choosing Christmas trees, playing On to Bethlehem (check out this game), New Years Eve & our dog playing in the snow.

This was a wonderful peek into their minds and memories - definitely encouraging to this homeschool mom that I haven't "scarred" them too badly! 

The Teacher's Edition is a must-have.  It includes the full text of the Student Edition, plus answer key.  Not being a poetry whiz myself, it was extremely helpful to have the expert answer handy.  Quizzes are included - but, we opted to skip them.  I don't want to dampen their enthusiasm for this form of expression with a quiz...that's just my opinion.

We plan to continue the course - taking a long, scenic route over the next couple of years, savoring a bite at a time...

"There has never been a civilization without poetry. From the beginning of time, people have sought to turn their thoughts, feelings, and stories into memorable speech to share with others. Using language, the poet preserves something precious in the world by allowing us to live next to her, to see what she sees, to enter the experience she has built for us with her words and attention to the moment. Poetry acknowledges something deep within our nature – an urge to name, say, sing, grieve, praise, out of our solitariness, to another person. It makes words into a material thing, hard and solid as a table, dense with significance."
-from the Introduction

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

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Monday, March 18, 2013

American Girl - Kirsten Returns!

Okay... the American Girl club has gotten off to bumpy start this year.  This is only our 2nd meeting!  It's been a rough winter of lots of sick kiddos (and we have lots of kiddos between us...) But, spring is returning, and so are we.  But, it's good to be back in the swing of things!

Let me introduce you - we have 7 families total
  • 13 American Girls - ages 8-13
  • 11 MCA (Masculine Club of Awesomeness... really what else could they call themselves) boys age 10-16
  • 7 Half Pints - ages 5-7
  • 7 1/2 (another one is soon to join them...) Littles - ages birth to 4

So, it's a bit of a chaotic, wild, crazy and WONDERFUL household everytime we are together!

This month - the American Girls made Yarn Dolls & Homemade Bread and Butter .

 The yarn dolls were super cute - the head is made with a ping-pong ball.  They used their creativity to personalize them!

Glad we had a bona-fide, home-made bread baker to teach this lesson.  I thought it all came from the bread store...  It was the most delicious thing I've ever tasted - I'm a believer!  Too bad I can't add smell to this post... the pictures just don't do it justice.

The MCA - continued with "Start Here" - and have devised a list of "hard things" to tackle this year, including another fundraising effort for our trip to India.  If you missed last year's post - these amazing boys raised $2,000 with a yard sale and survival bracelets to send another family to Haiti on a mission trip!  They are "professionals" now... I can't wait to see what God does with them.

Our new group - the Half Pints, are doing a book & activity together.  They were ready for more than just free play...but, not quite ready to join the older kids yet. 

Our Littles - well, they just play and have the time of their lives!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Touch Math - Preschool : A TOS Crew Review

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From their website:

" TouchMath  - (Levels PreK - 2nd Grade).  "TouchMath is a multisensory program that uses its signature TouchPoints to engage students of all abilities and learning styles."

Pre-K Level:  "The skills presented in the program incorporate activities in Readiness/Number Sense (basic counting and relating groups of objects, sorting and classifying, and patterning), Spatial Sense (describing shapes, identifying them in the environment, sorting and classifying, and matching), and Number Concepts (representing, counting, and associating quantities with objects and TouchPoints). The skills are developed sequentially from hands-on activities with concrete objects to application of the skills using pencil and paper with guidance."

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Cost: $59.95
Age Range: Pre-K, approximately ages 3-5

New to TouchMath?  Watch this introductory video:

 The Bentz Test Laboratory was very excited to get to try out TouchMath - PreK Homeschool.  Years ago, my sister-in-law, who is a special education teacher, introduced us to this program.
My testers are both preschool age girls (who LOVE doing school so much they follow me around begging to do more of it!).  One tester is 5 years old (but not in K yet) the other is 3.

The backbone of TouchMath Homeschool is the downloadable program.  It is a sizable PDF file containing 6 modules of learning. 
  • Counting & Number Sense
  • Comparing & Classifying
  • Sorting, Classifying, Graphing & Patterning
  • Identifying, Sorting, and Classifying 2-D Shapes
  • Identifying, Sorting, and Classifying 3-D Shapes and Coins
  • Representing Quantities and Numbers
TouchMath is a very comprehensive program.  A bit more than the average homeschool mom needs - but, carefully designed to meet the standards in place in more "institutionalized" settings.

We printed off  the workmats for module one and jumped right in.  I like that I can decide what to print/and what not to print (there's alot of information about how to use the program & the methodology -  just 15 "workmats" to print for the first module).  TouchMath recommends daily lessons in the amount of about 2.5 times their age in years.  Keeping the lessons short is key in keeping attention spans occupied.  I've learned from years of experience - cut off the lesson at the high point, it makes them want to come back for more!

It starts our simple and concrete and moves to more abstract.  The hands-on manipulatives were a huge hit.  They are bright, and a great way to engage your tactile learners.  In fact, I opened the box - and they squealed (no lie...they squealed)  Their favorites were the Texture Cards, hands-down.  The bright colors and themes kept them exploring set after set. (they exceded their daily math lesson time...)  Another tip from teaching math...the best math learning looks like play.

In my opinion, the strenth of this program is in the additional manipulatives.  Some children are more ready for paper/pencil work than others at this age (even within the same family).  Using both approaches made the lessons more memorable.
 3D Numerals- $79.00 - 3-D Numerals are made of brightly-colored, durable plastic — a perfect multisensory manipulative for young children or children with learning differences. Students can touch and count the raised TouchPoints as they learn the correct Touching/Counting Patterns and begin to understand numeral/quantity association. Activity Booklet with reproducible masters and lots of ideas included.
Touch Shapes - $30.00 -  There are 108 transparent geometric shapes in the set. They include circles, triangles, squares, rectangles, rhombuses, and hexagons, for a total of six shapes. Each shape comes in three sizes of small, medium, and large and six colors of red, blue, yellow, green, orange, and purple.

Texture Cards - $99.00 Free samples can be downloaded here.  "Five sets of cards (45 cards), each with its own texture and theme — Shapes, Fruit, Forest Animals, Sea Life and TouchPoints. Each set has cards for the numerals 1–9 and is designed to help you teach number recognition, numeral/quantity association, counting and vocabulary. The back of the cards show the numeral with TouchPoints and Touching/Counting Patterns."
I really liked this program. The manipulatives are a bit expensive, but - they are well constructed and worth the investment.   My testers adored the program as well.  One of the best organized introductions to math I've ever seen.
Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew
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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

READS Parent/Child Reading Comprehension System : A TOS Crew Review

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READS Parent/Child Reading
Comprehension System
by EGM Educational Systems, LLC
From their website:
"The READS system helps you work with your child to improve reading comprehension skills efficiently and painlessly."
Watch a short video to see how it works!
  • Designed for elementary grades 1-4.
  • Works with any reading material.
  • Effective for readers below, at or above grade level.
  • Provides an easy method to verify comprehension.
  • Conforms to Common Core States Standards
  • Helps develop critical thinking skills.
  • Improve children’s ability to express themselves verbally by promoting conversations between parent and child.
  • Makes reading homework fun and rewarding for both parent and child.

COST - $19.95

What is included:
Question Cards and ring (30 questions designed to help you ask the right questions!), READS Parent’s Manual Describes how to use READS with your child.  Rewards Chart & Stickers, the Magic Finger – the "fun part!", Reading Guide Strip - a place marker that highlights the line to be read, Speedy Speller –  contains 1,400 words along with commonly used abbreviations, numbers, symbols, punctuation and more.  All stored in a resealable plastic pouch.

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Sometimes, the most effective teaching tools come in the simplest packages!   EGM Educational Systems, LLC has created a powerful teaching tool in a very simple package. it's called the READS Parent/Child Reading Comprehension System.

The Bentz Test Laboratory is filled with avid readers, making it difficult for mom to keep up with them!  The handy question cards were an effortless way for me to quickly check to see if they were comprehending what they were reading.  "What surprised you when you were reading?" (easy) to "Give a specific example of when you heard the author using his or her voice. Be able to explain what message the author was trying to convey to the reader." (robust)  The questions are varied in complexity and are all designed to make your child think about what they read.  Best of all - you can use them with any books!

The Magic Finger - a tool to help train those little eyes to stay on the line they are reading was a BIG hit.  I thought it looked a bit "creepy" to me, but - of course, that was what made it appeal to my young tester...

 Along with the Reading Guide Strip - these simple little tools effectively corrected his eyes from jumping around the page and improved his focus, but he thought he was playing!

My next tester is a horrible speller (it's true!) So I handed her the Speedy Speller and told her it was her very OWN spelling handbook she could use whenever she was writing to help look up the spelling of words she wasn't sure of.  If she couldn't find it in the 1,400 words listed - we added it.  She loved knowing it was HERS, and since it's short and not "dictionary-like" - she actually used it.  (dictionaries intimidate her...anyone relate?) Bingo - an instant improvement in her writing!

Stickers and a Reward chart are also included...  what young kid doesn't love stickers?!  My only request - we need several more of those included in each pouch!!

The Parent's Manual offered great suggestions (especially if you are new to this teaching reading skill) for using the tools, as well as an explanation of the reasoning behind the questions from your cards.  A list of reward suggestions is included to help you get started.

All in all - this is quite a valubable reading tool, for a great price!

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Our Trip Around the Russia: Final Stop - Let's EAT!

I promised - you do not want to miss this!  What fun is taking a virtual trip to Russia, without stopping to eat?

Our menu:

The Main Course: Chebureki (meat piroshki)  This link takes you to my Pinterest board, so you can see some of the other great Russia ideas/activities I found - but, that we didn't have time for.

I modified the recipe a bit.  First, I completely cheated by using frozen bread dough.  You have my permission to do the same, it worked perfectly!

We also left out all vegetables (on request of  participants).  And, we used ground beef and ground sausage (instead of ground turkey) because that is what was on hand.

We subsituted again with the spices - I was out of dill, so we used Italian Seasoning instead.  It was very yummy...maybe not very "Russian"...  Welcome to the way I cook :-)
 After our meat mixture was done, we took small handfuls of the meat, and wrapped the bread dough around it - pinching it together. 

When the little meat pockets were complete, we heated cooking oil and fried them until they were golden brown.  Our batch of bread dough made a ton of these, and it was a good thing too.  The older, teenage boys devoured them.  They were a home-run hit!  I already have requests for these to be added to the regular menu plan.

And, for dessert:

Ukraianian Honey Cake

This was wonderful!  I didn't make this one, sorry - no "in process" pictures.  It was spongy and slightly sweet.  Plus, it gave the cooks a chance to use a double-boiler (Christmas present).  If I had made it - it would have been microwaved :-)

2 Desserts - for lunch?!  We are really, really loving this type of school! 
Shokoladnaya Kalbasa (chocolate sausage) -  All I can say - it didn't last long, so I'm glad I snapped a picture for you.  This was AMAZING!  I think I knocked a couple of kids down to get more before it disappeared!

Truly, one of most memorable meals...ever. If you want learning that is fun, and makes memories that last - take your kiddos into the kitchen - and be sure to leave American food behind!

So,  where does "Our Trip Around the World" go next...   stay tuned!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Our Trip Around the World: Part 3 - The Wild Side!

Okay...I know I promised our next stop was the food.  But, we almost forgot to take a peek at the wildlife! 

We couldn't visit the land of Tundra, Plain, Swamp & Pennisula (our geography vocabulary words - we are making flashcards) without stopping to meet some animals that call Russia home.

One of my favorite Usborne books - The World of Animals - a great reference, full color and filled with internet links too!

Love how you can use the iPad (not ours, but our friend's) to find information at a touch of a finger, and display it on the TV screen so we can all see it.  This is a "Musk Deer" - it has tusks - wild!

We completed our lapbooking pages that came with Expedition Earth.  We plan to keep them all together in our "Travel Scrapbooks" ,what we've nicknamed their 3 ring binders, and put our lapbook together near the end.

What an amazing collection of animals God created - Lemmings, musk deer, seals...oh MY!

Promise - our next stop is the food...  Trust me, you don't want to miss it!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Get the Picture Vocabulary Cards - Greek & Latin Roots: A TOS Crew Review


From their website:
"Get the Picture Vocabulary Cards - Greek and Latin Roots  help students remember the common roots because the cards look like their meaning! These full color 5.5″ x 8.5″ cards can be posted on your word wall to help your students build their vocabulary quickly and easily. Set 1 includes 60 full color cards, 30 Latin roots and 30 Greek roots, printed on heavy weight card stock with pride in the USA." By  Lone Star Learning
The Bentz Test Laboratory LOVED these cards!  We played with them non-stop - high school down to pre-school they were a hit across the board!
This set of cards features 60 cards - 30 Latin roots, and 30 Greek roots (see a list here).  They are printed on high quality, sturdy cardstock,  they can stand up to some serious use.
We had so much fun just going through them and trying to figure out the word meanings.  The visual cues make them so memorable!   We thought it would be fun to share our personal favorites:

Can you guess the meanings?  My first born, and the one that just advanced to the state level of the National Geography Bee!

If you knew my testers... you'd guess these right away too!  My maniac, and my semstress!

A zebra-lover and the biggest Star Wars fan - ever!

What's not to love... and of course,  the littlest of the bunch!

Our personal favorite!
Trust me, this was an unforgettable vocabulary lesson at the Bentz Test Laboratory!  Just the kind of hands-on learning that sticks with them...for keeps.
Check out some of the other products from Lone Star Learning that the TOS Review Crew got a chance to see - Target the Question, Target Vocabulary Pictures, Set 1, Science Vocabulary Pictures, Set 1.
 I know I will be ordering more Get the Picture Vocabulary cards.  These card made learning vocabulary effortless and fun!  I'm usually a little, shall we say... tight with our money -  But, these cards are worth the .   We put a new card up each day and tried to make a list of words that come from that particular root.  The one with the most wins a treat.  It's become the most asked for part of the day!

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew
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