Sunday, May 19, 2013
2:32 PM | Posted by Stefanie | | Edit Post
Our latest review opportunity was the Scaredy Cat Reading System, level 2, from Joyce Herzog.
Dr. Joyce Herzog has been an educator for over 25 years and has developed many different learning products that cover grammar, reading, writing, history, and more.
About Scaredy Cat Reading
This is a mastery based phonics program that covers spelling as well as phonics. It incorporates a variety of games, stories, and songs to make learning to read fun. The program includes a teacher's manual, study activity book, audio CD, and a Fun Learning Pack.
The Learning Pack includes letter and word cards, letter and word magnets, games, and stories. There is something to appeal to every type of
The first thing I did after receiving the Scaredy Cat Reading System was prepare. There is quite a bit of prep work to be done before beginning. Mainly cutting out all of the cards and magnet tiles. When I first saw it all I did sigh a bit, but it didn't take me nearly as long to do as I feared. I just dug in and started cutting until I was finished.
Next I began reading the teacher's manual (TM). At first I was a little overwhelmed. There is a lot in the manual and student book (SB). I wasn't exactly sure how to proceed. So when in doubt, jump in with
|Finding All of the Vowels|
I decided to begin by reading the Story of the Letter Master. This mini-book, in a comic format, gives you the thought process behind the story hidden in a cute story. Kayleigh thought this book was hilarious and, while much of it was over her head, we've read it several times. I know that it will make more and more sense to her as we progress through the program.
Next we listened to Lesson 1 on the audio CD. Joyce herself "teaches" the lesson and Kayleigh actually sat and listened to the entire thing. It was easy to follow and the song was super catchy.
From there I just picked and chose activities from the TM and SB that I thought Kayleigh would like. The program is like a buffet where you can pick and choose what appeals to you. Like a buffet, there is a ton to choose from and you don't have to do them all. We spent two weeks on Lesson 1 alone and we still had a ton of activities that we didn't get to. I plan on revisiting some of them as review down the line.
This is pretty much the format that we've been following ever since. Listen to the lesson on the CD and spending a couple of weeks working on different activities in the TM and SB. It is working well for us and Kayleigh looks forward to each lesson.
|Sorting the Words by the Vowels "Scared Sounds"|
|Detective Kayleigh is tracking down the vowels|
All in all, we are really enjoying this program. The "box checker" in me wouldn't mind seeing the TM more organized and there were quite a few typos in both the TM and SB. I liked how versatile the program was. I guess the plus to the less organized format is that I didn't really feel to bad that we didn't do every activity in each lesson.
Age Range: Varies depending on child's prior knowledge. Level 2 is appropriate for any child who has already mastered basic letter sounds.
Pricing: $75 for the complete system
Be sure to click the banner at the bottom of the page to see what other Joyce Herzog products my Crew Mates are reviewing.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
8:37 PM | Posted by Stefanie | | Edit Post
It really did. And guess who was on the other end?
Guess? Come on take a guess?
Oh never mind, you'll never guess in a million years. I'll spill...
It was Karen Brooks. Who on earth is Karen Brooks, you might ask?
Karen Brooks is the wife of Don Brooks. Come on, you remember Don right? They are the owners of Winter Promise. And as you might know, Winter Promise and I did not part on the best of terms. So imagine my surprise to find Mrs. Brooks on the other end of the line.
So what did Mrs. Brooks want??? She wanted said that she wanted to touch base with me on a couple of things. I'll admit I was a little leery of what she might have to say, being that I have not hid my displeasure with my experience, from them or the world. Possibly she had read my blog?? (Yes. )
So here's the lowdown...
First of all, she wanted to let me know that if you order their e-books, you will not be charged shipping. (I told you she read my blog. ) Long story short, whatever web system they use can not differentiate between physical and e-books. So when you load up your cart it will show shipping charges. At the very end of the check out process, this charge will be removed. Score 1 for WP. That might be something that they want to announce all over their web site though. Loud and proud.
(And as long as I'm offering up opinions, maybe Bill Gates could spend his "brains", money and time creating some kind of affordable system for small businesses that will remedy this type of problem. You know, instead of sticking his hand into the business of educating children. Something that he has know knowledge of or business in. Just sayin', in case Bill happens to be reading too. Stick with your area of expertise buddy.)
Secondly, she apologized to me for the miserable experience that I had with their program. She seemed very sincere. She offered up a lot of reasons why their were so many problems with the 2011 Children Around the World program. I do empathize with how difficult it must have been with many of the titles in the program being discontinued and how they had to scramble to come up with some kind of fix for it, I do. I get that they are a small, family owned company and it's hard. It doesn't make me feel any better about my experience or the money I lost but I appreciate that she owned it for the most part.
Lastly, and most importantly, she thanked me for letting them know about my experience so they could look into the problems I mentioned and take action. She said that she went through my email point by point, and that I played a pivotal role in the complete overhaul of the program. I know, right?
How good are the changes? I don't know. I haven't seen it.
Here's what I do know...
From what I've been told...
The maps have been redrawn. I believe they now include the border of Eastern Europe and Iceland. I'm so happy for Iceland. And maybe even some of those seas over in Europe no longer look like land-locked lakes. I'm taking her word on it.
They have gone through the books and removed quite a few that I thought were complete snooze fests filled with useless information. (Feel free to thank me for sparing you from having to butcher the Mandarin language while reading aloud to your child.) It's true. I checked. Those Find Out About books are outta there.
Mrs. Brooks mentioned that she completely redid the World Travel Diary to include more information to beef it up and help the student complete the assignments. I peeked at the sample, it does look vastly improved from what I saw.
Here's What I Don't Know...
I don't know whether the scheduling of the books is more cohesive. I'm not sure if you'll still be reading about Switzerland while studying Russia or Africa. Or the Caribbean while studying Switzerland. I really don't know. I can't imagine why they wouldn't look into that since I had mentioned it. So a hopeful maybe?
I don't whether or not you'll be able to get your money back if you don't like it. They have altered their return policy a little bit. You now get six weeks to use the program. Unfortunately the six weeks now begins at the time you place your order instead of when it ships. And word on the street is that the company still has difficulty getting the orders out in a timely manner. It took over 5 months for me to get my (in)complete order, the IG being one of the last things we received. We were out a grand due to that return policy. By the time our return policy expired, we had only a few items.
I don't know why they were so surprised by what I said. They have both told me that they've never been told these things before. Like I've previously written, a lot of my complaints were the same ones that I'd found on their very own message boards from years prior. I can only assume that running small business on top of caring for and homeschooling a family doesn't allow for making the reading their boards a priority. But still you'd think at least once in all those years they'd have caught something.
So Now What???
I was really pleased that she called and told me that she took what I said to heart. She seemed really sincere and very passionate about making the changes. I really appreciate that she took the time to let me know. It couldn't have been easy for her. I was pretty ticked at the end and, quite frankly, I'd have been a bit nervous about making the call had I been in her shoes.
I'm really glad that they are trying to make their product better for their customers. While the improvements don't help those who bought the program when I did, or help any of us recoup our losses, it was the right thing to do.
Probably not. Part of that is because I'm sticking with what works for my family, so I'll likely never try the new stuff. The other part is more of a once bitten, twice shy kind of thing. But different strokes for different folks, right?
After this conversation, I do believe that Mrs. Brooks sincerely wants to provide a good product. I believe that she's working hard on it. It's probably going to take some time to get it where she wants it. It's a small company and she's had to learn some publishing lessons the hard way. The kinks are still being worked out but she's learning as she goes.
So if a Winter Promise program looks good to you, here are some tips...
You may or may not get an itemized list of what you order. (I didn't.) So make sure that you make a detailed list about what you should be receiving, down to the last item.
I'd order the IG first. In fact, I'd probably call and ask how long it's going to take to ship. That is important because, remember, the six week return policy starts when you place your order. So if you don't receive the product until week seven (or month 5) then you will have lost the option to return it before you ever receive it.
I'd personally order as much as I could from another company, like Amazon, and only order WP exclusives from them. You'll get your stuff faster.
Go through the IG and exclusives as soon as you get them. Remember time is ticking. If you find something wrong/missing/whatever, alert WP immediately.
What I've Learned...
First, research before you buy. Had I looked on their forums I might have made a different decision. Sample are great, word of mouth is better.
Secondly, and most importantly, companies can't fix something if they don't know it's broke. I've posted a lot about my experience with this company and I have received a lot of comments from others who've had a similar experience with some of their other programs. Many of whom admitted that they never said anything to the company about the errors and issues that they had.
If this experience taught me nothing else, I've learned that I can make a difference. (Who knew this mouth was good for something?) One person speaking up brought change for others. It didn't recoup my cost, but hopefully it made someone else's experience better.
Most of us homeschoolers are single income families. We need to make those precious dollars count. Most of us cannot afford to lose a thousand dollars.
Knowing this, we should look out for each other. If we find a problem with a curriculum purchase, it's our duty to alert the company. In that way we will be helping our fellow home schoolers from experiencing what we did. We're helping the company provide a better product. We're helping everyone make those hard-earned dollars count.
I urge you to start notifying companies when you have a problem. (And feel free to share what you liked as well.) It can only benefit us all.
Friday, May 3, 2013
9:33 AM | Posted by Stefanie | | Edit Post
Even the little guys can paint like Monet. All you need is some painter's tape, water colors, and a book with some of Monet's art work in it.
I just taped a bridge shape onto paper and let her loose. Kayleigh had a lot of fun and I love the finished product so much I think I might frame it and hang it in our school room. Easy peasy.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
7:55 PM | Posted by Stefanie | | Edit Post
If there's one thing that Kayleigh likes to review, it's an app. So it was a happy day when we got to review Phonics and Reading with McGuffey by Literacy Soft. Kayleigh was happy to be on the iPad and I was happy that she was getting some extra reading practice.
About Phonics and Reading with McGuffey
This app includes 52 easy-to-use lessons that will help your new reader read at a first grade level. With this app you will get: All 52 McGuffey Primer lessons, 44 letter sounds, 400 practice words, 60 letter
sound animations, and a 9000+ word nonsense dictionary.
It's built based on the successful McGuffey Eclectic Primer using synthetic phonics. It uses a multi-sensory approach to appeal to a variety of learning styles.
It is appropriate for learners of any level and age and is also beneficial for students with learning challenges.
The app starts the student off by introducing a handful of letter sounds or blends to work on. At this stage they just click on the letter (or blend) and listen to the sound. Then they are to repeat it. Next they will learn some words made with this sounds. The app will sound out this words as the student clicks on it. Again, the student is expected to repeat this.
Now you move on to a "quiz" section. The app will give the student a list of words or letters and they are to click on the choice that matches what is being "read" aloud to them. Then they get to create their own words using the "Phonics Blender." Kayleigh loved, loved, loved this part. Especially when she could create a nonsense word. It would crack her up.
Following the phonics blender the students would work on reading practice. The app stresses the importance of reading left to right. It also will help the student by sounding out the word for them if they have trouble. It is also self-correcting which is nice. Then student completes another "quiz" and moves on to "Build-a-Word." The student hears a word and then drags the letters needed to build it onto the truck. When the student has the correct spelling, the truck drives away.
Last is the "Train Game." Here the student clicks on the word after they hear it. There is a repeat button for all the games so the if the student needs to refresh themselves on what they heard, it's just a click away.
This app was incredibly easy to use. You can set up accounts for up to ten users and it will track each user's progress separately. The directions throughout the game are so clear and simple that Kayleigh is able to play it on her own without needing me to explain things to her. She found the animation for correct answers to be hysterical and it was encouraging when she needed more help.
It is definitely something that will we continue to use to supplement Kayleigh's reading lessons.
Age Range: preschool+, great for anyone who needs reading help
Cost: $19.99 for the full app or try the first ten lessons for free on the Lite App
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
7:36 PM | Posted by Stefanie | | Edit Post
Homeschooling has done more than afford me to teach my children, it's also taught me a lot about myself. One of the more surprising things that I have learned about myself during this homeschool adventure is that I like the arts. I was really surprised when we did our first artist and composer studies to see how much that I enjoyed them. Sure I took art classes during my public school career but paintings, artists, composer studies were not something covered in my public school life.
I was very excited to find out that Homeschool in the Woods was offering us the chance to review some of their activity packs. Seeing as we were currently in-between a composer study I was very excited to be reviewing the Composer Activity Pack.
About Activity Packs
In a nutshell, an activity pack is a unit study in the form of a lap book. The Composer Activity Pack contains six projects that cover various eras from the Middle Ages to Modern times. It includes an introduction to the orchestra, 42 composers, vocabulary, a timeline, and 29 pieces of music in MP3 format.
You get to work on the following projects: Periods of Music, Keyboard Vocabulary, Composer Collection, Composers Timeline, Pieces with a Purpose, Music Appreciation, The Orchestra File Folder Display, and Composer Cards.
It is jam-packed!!!!!
We received the download version of the activity pack. Each page was a separate PDF file that had to be opened. That was a bit of a pain at first. However once I got to print mode, I found that to be a bonus when I had to print things on different types of paper.
This activity pack can be used in a variety of ways. You could use it as is for an overview. You could add music and reading to it and use it as a long term composer study. I was looking for a long term study so that is how I chose to use it.
The activities contain a very limited amount of information about the topics and composers so you will need to take time to find additional resources, mainly books and additional music. While there are 29 MP3s included, there are 42 composers. We are fortunate to have a lot of resources already, particularly music, so it wasn't that much of a hassle for us. But you should know upfront that you will need to do some sort of research whether from books or on the internet.
Since I planned to use this long term, I decided to start off with the activities that were more of an overview of the history of music. We read books about the orchestra and worked on the interactive orchestra portion.
Next we did the Periods of Music activities. We talked about the differences between the periods and listened to some samples of music from each period. Then we worked on the timeline so we could see where the different composers fit into history.
The authors recommend doing all of the activities first and then adding them to the lap book all at once. I decided to add them as we went since we will be using it over the next few months. We are an impatient sort and don't like to wait. ;)
Next on our agenda will be to study each of the composers more in depth. We plan on going more in depth than the information provided in the activity pack. We will be adding in more reading and doing a lot of listening to each composer's music. Mackenzie will be choosing her favorite piece from each composer and filling out the Music Appreciation sheets to keep in her lap book.
We have used Homeschool in the Woods map sets and timeline figures in the past and really enjoyed them. This activity pack was no exception. The graphics were fabulous, the activities fun, and we are learning. We found the instructions for assembly to be clear and easy to follow.
The only thing I think I would change would be the lack of teaching information. We aren't new to composer studies so we had some available but this might hinder others. I would like see at the very least a list of suggested resources or websites included.
If you are looking for a fun way to include a composer study into your homeschool, and don't mind a trip to the library, then I would definitely consider the Composer Activity Pack. You will have a lovely keepsake when you are finished.
Age Range: third through eighth grade
Pricing: $18.95 for the download version and $19.95 for the CD
Thursday, April 18, 2013
7:42 PM | Posted by Stefanie | | Edit Post
As you might know, 100% of our offspring have type 1 diabetes. (Excessive, right?) It involves a lot of math, a lot of needles, a lot of tears, a lot of unpredictability, a lot of doctors visits, and a lot trips to the pharmacy.
Recently Mackenzie, our older daughter, got an insulin pump. A rocking green Animas Ping to be specific. A pump is just a another method of insulin delivery. As opposed to multiple daily injections.
So yesterday was her first day using insulin in the pump. Finding the right settings for the pump is a lot of trial and error and requires a lot monitoring. It's a little stressful as you deal with highs and lows while you figure it all out. All the same, she enjoyed her day with no shots and we got her set for bed. The 2 a.m. check rolls around. She was 71.
Not a terrible number for you or I, but a bit on the low side for a diabetic. Especially at night. And she is never that low at night. So we carb her up a bit with some peanut butter crackers and head back to bed.
About 20 minutes later, just when we're back to sleep, we hear this loud beeping over one of the monitors. (We have monitors in both the girls rooms incase they need us.) We jump up and I say, "What is that?" Kevin shouts, "It's her pump!" And we rush to her room.
You Know You're a T1P When...
You hear a loud beeping noise in your house at night and your first thought is that it pertains to your child's medical devices. We rush in to her room and find her cowering and shaking in her bed. But not because her blood sugar was low. Because the smoke detector scared the ever lovin' out of her.
Yes it was the smoke detector. We checked for fire, none, Kevin messes with the detector. It's seems to be fine. We do another quick sugar check (96) and go back to bed. The instant, I mean the instant, our head hit the pillow. It goes off again. Twice.
Actually it was 2 smoke detectors. One in Mackenzie's room and one right outside Kayleigh's door. Low battery. We haven't even lived here long enough to warrant a change. Cheap, builder's grade batteries. I have several new gray hairs.
P.S. Mike and Young Joe (builders) you might want to make sure that you drive by my house with your windows rolled up or you might find yourself pelted with your cheap batteries. Seriously, spring for Energizer next time.
P.P.S. Take a minute to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of type 1 diabetes.
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