Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Maestro Classics

"Through wondrous new recordings, innovative educational and performance materials, and uplifting live performances, Maestro Classics guides audiences as they expand their listening horizons and discover the magic that can only be called music."

My family had an awesome review opportunity when Maestro Classics sent us a copy of The Tortoise and the Hare. We love listening to stories, and especially those that have exciting sound effects, and terrific narrators.

With music performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and story narrated by Yadu, Bonnie Ward Simon's adaptation of The Tortoise and the Hare was stunning! I popped the CD into the CD player at nap time. The children laid on their mats listening raptly to The Tortoise and the Hare. Later, we enjoyed listening and singing along with the Pretzel Vendor of Paris song. Babybug (11 months), Babyman (2) and Little A (2 1/2) loved dancing to the music! The lyrics and sheet music are included with the CD!
The accompanying booklet also contains photos of the orchestra instruments (which are described in detail by the composer on the CD), a mini music notes & time signatures lesson, interesting info about turtles, tortoises, rabbits and hares and a couple of paper/pencil games.

Maestro Classics has done an amazing job combining my three loves: music, education and storybooks! They have turned classic stories into exciting musical works of art. I am sure we will be enjoying Maestro Classics for years to come!

Please take a glance at Maestro Classics' website, where you can buy products, listen to samples, and even find coordinating lesson plans! You can purchase The Tortoise and the Hare for $16.98. There are several other story choices, as well; and you can purchase a gift set!
Enjoy reading other reviews by clicking the banner below.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mathletics


It's pretty important to review your math skills, lest you forget how to multiply! So it was fun (for me... and I suppose for the children!) to receive free access for a little while to Mathletics.

Mathletics is a "curriculum- based resource for students at school and home." Its website states the benefits as

*students love it, becoming highly motivated to improve
*phenomenal improvement rates
*weekly report emailed to parents
*used and trusted by millions of students and schools worldwide
*kindergarten to grade 8 available now
*less than $2 a week

Mathletics contains over 750 learning activities for children!

I could continue to quote from the website, but instead I'll tell you that our family loves Mathletics! The main user in our family has been our eight year old, but Mommy and Middleman (4) have used it as well.

Each time we visited Mathletics, we signed in with a user name and password. (The first time there, you'll create your own persona with a Face Maker.) You'll choose either Live Mathletics (Mommy thought it was great to be able to compete against children in other countries!), or an activity from a variety of math topics. After you've worked through all the activities, you can choose to take a test on what you've learned.
I cannot tell you if your child will love Mathletics, or if his math skills will certainly improve, but Butterbean's basic facts knowledge has improved. I enjoyed visiting the Parent center where I could check in on the boys' progress and print out practice workbooks if I chose.

Overall, we really enjoyed our free trial of Mathletics. Unfortunately, the cost of $59 per child per year is not in our budget right now! Don't take my word for it. Visit Mathletics yourself!

Read what my reviewer buddies have to say.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tektoma Review

Tektoma is a company that provides "engaging video tutorials that teach children game programming." Their website states

Tektoma offers you this:
Engaging video tutorials for ages 7-17
Tutorials of varying skill levels and topics
Learn at your own pace in the comfort of your home
Natural progression helps develop technical skills
Customize your learning experience
Low monthly membership fee gives access to all our resources
New curriculums available monthly

I received a free three month subscription to review.

The first thing I had to do in order to access all the materials needed was download Gamemaker software and a Gamemaker Resource folder. As we continually have some kind of computer difficulty, my first thought was a deep sigh and "oh, no, I don't want to download something else!" Luckily, Hero said it should be all right, and to go ahead, so on I went!

After downloading Gamemaker and the resources, I went right away to the first tutorial "How to make a racing game." I was intrigued with this one, as it is described as "appropriate for beginners and has no guns or shooting."

The gentleman talking in my tutorial does a really nice job explaining the how-tos. I love how the tutorial shows you onscreen exactly what you should see, and click on! I got pretty confused when so many windows kept popping up over the tutorial. I had to keep clicking in and out of windows; going back and forth between the tutorial and my game-making process! I had to keep stopping and starting, rewinding and fast-forwarding to make sure I had done everything correctly. During this whole process, my computer froze up on several occasions and I finally gave up!

Butterbean (8) tried out the first tutorial once. He sat through about five minutes worth, said "I'm bored," and went off to play energetically! My boys love computer games, but right now, game making doesn't hold their attention.

I think this website is very well organized, as were the tutorials. If I were a techie, or had a techie-kid (which one day in the future, the boys may well be!), I think Tektoma would be well worth the subscription!

To judge for yourself, or to subscribe to Tektoma for $14.95 per month please go here. To read what other reviewers have to say, go here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Homemade Play dough

There's something special about homemade play dough. Maybe my feeling stems from my childhood when Grandma would throw together some flour and water and we'd have an afternoon of fun.
When my four year old asked if he could play with play dough, I invited him to his kitchen step stool so we could make some. He loved stirring the mixture as I added the necessary ingredients to the big pot. To make it even more fun, I added aroma... pumpkin pie spice and a dash of nutmeg... mmmmm!
Together we watched and stirred, our arms getting tired, as the clumpy "mess" turned into a soft smooth dough. We turned it out of the pot onto the counter to knead it while it was still warm. I don't know which part was more fun, creating the dough with my "big boy," or helping him roll out and cut the dough with cookie cutters.
Yes, there's a bit of educational value (I look for it in everything!) to him using his small motor skills to measure, stir, roll and cut. But I think the bigger picture here was the time I spent with my little man making memories that will last a lifetime!
And for the practical side... here's my recipe!

Homemade Play dough
2 Cups flour
2 Cups water
1 Cup salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon cream of tartar
Food coloring (optional)
Spices (optional... I usually add this to my flour first)
Mix in a pot on the stove over low heat until it forms a ball and pulls away from the sides. Knead. Have fun!

Friday, December 4, 2009

All About Spelling


Yay, yay, yay! I received All About Spelling from Take Away Press to review. I was very excited to receive actual printed curriculum, as it's been a while! I received Levels 1 and 2. Upon looking through the books, it looked like Level 1 would work for Middleman (4) and Level 2 for Butterbean (7).

All About Spelling is "the multisensory program for spelling success." Through the step by step scripted lessons, and the use of magnetic letter tiles, the oft dreaded spelling can be learned or relearned with relative ease. The built in daily review and constant repetition found in this curriculum are very helpful to both teacher and student.

Using the Phonogram Cards, Sound Cards, Key Cards and Word Cards, spelling can be taught visually, verbally, aurally and kinesthetically. Children will watch spelling concepts being demonstrated and written down. They will review spelling rules and segment words out loud, and say phonograms as they are written. They will write down dictated sounds, words and sentences. They will practice spelling using letter tiles.

I do think that before choosing All About Spelling, it would be helpful to read some of the sample lessons found on the website. It would be important to make sure your reading program works well with this spelling choice. As Middleman (4) is just learning how to read, I found the phonograms in All About Spelling to be introduced differently than he is learning them, causing some confusion. I'm not sure if this program would be appropriate for beginning readers. Although it does use phonics, it's a bit advanced for my early reader!

As I suspected, Butterbean flew right through level 1. We probably could have gone straight to level 2 as the first lesson is a quick review of level 1. In fact, looking at the examples on the website, he could probably spell all the words in all the lessons! [His Mommy is well known as a fantastic speller! Whenever spelling comes up in a conversation with friends or complete strangers (more often than you would think!), Daddy often says "Go ahead, Babe, spell antidisestablishmentarianism."] My children read widely and are read to A LOT. Combine copywork with reading above grade level, and they rarely see words spelled incorrectly. I have also never really allowed "invented spelling." Misspellings are generally not accepted when Mama is the teacher! Needless to say, even though Butterbean is already a good speller, it never hurts to learn those spelling rules!
Overall, we have really enjoyed using All About Spelling. We probably will not continue through all of the lessons with Butterbean, but we will more than likely use the Key (spelling rules) Cards for review as needed. After Middleman is fully reading, we probably will try out All About Spelling with him!

To purchase All About Spelling, check out their website here! You can get the Starter Kit for $26.95, Level 1 for $29.95 and Level 2 for $39.95. You can view a video recommending purchases to get started as well. If you'd like to read what other reviewers had to say, you can do so here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Happy Birthday Firstborn!















Sometimes I cannot believe I am a mommy! Let alone a mommy to an eight year old! We celebrated our first born's birth a few weeks ago with lots of excitement. We went roller skating (whew- blast from the past!), played laser tag (a first for me, but I must admit it was lots of fun!), and had ice cream cone cupcakes, at Butterbean's request. I thought I'd share some photos with you. Enjoy!