Friday, May 31, 2013

Review: See the Light Art Projects

 photo logo_zpsd9b498e2.gifArt can be an intimidating homeschool subject, especially if you ARE NOT artistic. Like me. ;)

Enter See the Light, a company who offers a variety of DVD art lessons. This non-artistic mom was super excited to be able to review Art Projects - Poppy Collage.

About See the Light

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Their motto, See the Light: Drawing Children to Him.  This ministry seeks to show children the love of Christ while teaching them skills along the way.  The have a variety of products. The DVD art classes teach children a wide range of skills and techniques, beginner to advanced. The Art Projects provide a years worth of projects drawn from famous artists. Finally, the Bible Stories DVD's allow your child to explore the Bible through Art.

Your student will learn tons of skills, history, and vocabulary with scripture and biblical principles woven throughout the lessons.

Our Experience

We received the Poppy Collage Art Project. Mackenzie would be working on an abstract poppy in the style of famed artist Georgia O'Keeffe.

The DVD is made up of an introduction and four lessons. Designed to for the student to complete one lesson a week, each DVD provides a month's worth of material. The lessons included: The Abstracted Flower Drawing, Tissue Paper Collage Technique, Layering Translucent Hues, and Fine Details to Create Interest.

We started off with the introduction, where we met our instructor, Master Artist Pat Knepley.  We were given an overview of the project, a list of supplies, and shown how to prepare for the first lesson. So we gathered our (easy to find) supplies, cut out a lot of tissue paper squares and were ready for Lesson 1.

In each lesson Pat Knepley demonstrates that week's lesson all while weaving a fascinating tale of the artists life. She included a lot of art terminology and wove biblical truths throughout the lesson. After watching each lesson we would start creating. Pat Knepley's step-by-step demonstrations made this a truly painless process.

These projects are a super easy way for a non-artsy parent to include art, artist study, and art history in their homeschool. The lessons were short, interesting, and easy to duplicate. There was nothing about them that we didn't love. Mackenzie liked it so much she wants to do another one in cool colors to match her bedroom.  The worst part? Deciding which project to tackle next...

Be sure to see the other great See the Light products that my Crew Mates reviewed by clicking the link at the bottom of the post..



Age Range: 10+

Pricing: $14.99


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Hiking We Will Go...

I've been rather quiet lately. Dealing with diabetes, planning for next year, trying to end this year. So I thought I'd share one of our recent outings.

It was our buddy Alex's birthday and he wanted to come over, share some yummy cupcakes, and take us on an adventure in the woods. Not the woods behind our house. Woods down the road from our house. He said he wanted to catch snakes. 

Okay, now that I look at this picture I recall that it wasn't cupcakes at all. It was brownies. Delicious, chocolatey, gooey, carb counted brownies. Don't you love a friend who'll take the time to carb count the ingredients in their yummy treats so all the T1Ds can enjoy? It is really tedious work. Take my word for it. 

Once we were properly carbed up, we headed out for our adventure. And it really was an adventure because it was Kayleigh's very first day on her new insulin pump. Don't worry, I brought lots of stuff for low blood sugars. (Good thing too because I needed them. lol)

Here's our before shot. Please ignore the sign that says don't climb on the otters.

A beautiful stream. 

Going up??

And up...

What's around the bend? Not a snake I hope. 

No fear, Connor will save us from any snakes!

The little ones got tired of going up so they decided not to go off the beaten path with the big kids. 

 The big kids found a log bridge.

Kayleigh found a mushroom and actually listened when I told her NOT to pick it.

Observing a caterpillar

Apparently the big kids didn't hear that request about not picking...

So we examined the other side and learned that Mackenzie needs a nail brush.

Here's the closest thing we found to a snake. A hideous worm with too many legs. No we didn't look up it's specific name. None of the three mommas there are "that mom." lol We were too busy screaming "Don't touch it!!"

We made it out alive!! Oh wait!!!  We're missing the small one....

I guess we'll have to go back to get him next time. 

Just kidding....


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Review: Scaredy Cat Reading

 photo joyceherzog_zps3c5942dd.jpgOur 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

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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


Our Experience

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
both feet. And once we did, everything clicked.

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

And the Telephone Rang...

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, From Millan.Net 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.From Millan.Net ) 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 there 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?


All joking about my awesomeness aside, (I'm not joking), I was beyond thrilled to hear that actually listened and made changes. And totally shocked.

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.

Am I ready to write a glowing endorsement??

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.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

My Little Mozart

It's that time again, time for Mackenzie's annual piano recital. Enjoy The Spanish Guitarist.


Friday, May 3, 2013

Virtual Refrigerator: Monet for Little Kids

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.


Virtual Refridgerator

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Review: Literacy Soft

 photo literacysoftlogo_zpse50d3f3c.jpgIf 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.

Our Experience

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.

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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.

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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



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