Saturday, April 23, 2011

See The Light - And Draw!


Okay, I may be artistic in many ways, but I cannot draw a stick figure.  I loved coloring when I was little; grandma (a real artist) used to sit me down with tracing paper and carbon paper and I could trace a picture and then transfer it to another paper and color it.  Drawing freehand?  No way.  Mrs. S used to come in and do chalk drawings on the blackboard at school and then take us through, step by step, to draw it ourselves.  Mine were less than impressive and I never caught on to the techniques that she was trying to teach. 

Pat Knepley, of See The Light, is reminiscent of those blackboard days.  With her easel and a clean sketchpad in front of her, she slowly explains each basic drawing technique and then illustrates it on the sketchpad.  The great part is that this is all on DVD, so you can replay it over and over until you and your students are able to do it yourselves.  For our free trial we received the first DVD in the 9 DVD series, "The Basics".  In it Pat shares her infectious enthusiasm for art and shows students how to set up their own tool kit, basic line drawing, contours and using common everyday items for their subjects.  There is also a bonus lesson, chalk drawing, by another artist.  After watching the first lesson, my son was so excited that he immediately began putting together his own tool kit, then had to watch the lesson again to make sure he had everything, making a list of what he still needed for mom.  Luckily most of the supplies we already had on hand for our everyday homeschooling needs.  No charcoal pencils or brushes and paints yet;)  We now have days of marathon drawing sessions and my son is much more careful with his coloring projects.  After watching all four lessons plus the bonus lesson, he started begging for more of the DVDs.  I have to say I agree with him, even I'm inspired!

Designed for grades K-8  I think even high schoolers and adults, such as myself, can truly benefit from this art curriculum.  Simple Bible lessons are woven in throughout.  The first DVD is FREE!  Subsequent DVDs are $14.99 each or all 9 for $99.99.  Each DVD includes 4 lessons plus a bonus lesson.  Year 2 is in the works and the company also offers a number of related products on their website.

See what other Homeschool Crew members are saying about See the Light.

We received the FREE DVD "The Basics" for this review.  No other compensation was received.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Nutrition 101: Choose Life

I love this book.  Ever since I was in high school I have been reading everything I could get my hands on about health and nutrition.  My parents liked to tease me about being "the healthiest corpse in the graveyard", but I didn't care.  I've always thought that what life we do have we should try to enjoy fully.  I've also always had a strong suspicion that what we eat has alot to do with how we feel.  And at Growing Healthy Homes unbelievable as is may seem, are four people who agree with me. 

Based on sound scientific research and flavored with a Biblical perspective, Nutrition 101 is chock full of information on each of the body's systems and each one's specific nutritional needs.  This is a text that can be used year after year for health class in all grade levels.  With young children, you may just want to touch on the basics of each chapter, and do one of the fun activities and make the power recipe.  Older children can study in more detail, delving into such areas as the Nervous System and amino acids, diabetes, heart disease and natural and artificial sweeteners and their effect on the body.

My personal favorites were the alkaline/acid food charts in the Appendices, and the menu ideas.  I printed out copies of the "Food Pyramid Serving Checklist" and found out I wasn't doing nearly as well as I thought I was in trying to include more vegetables in our daily menu.  This has become a favorite reference for my weekly meal planning.

Nutrition 101 will help you to raise healthy eaters as children learn and understand how food is processed, what preservatives do to our bodies, advantages and disadantages of natural vs. artificial sweeteners.  There are lots of fun projects and a power recipe incorporated into each week's lesson (see activity guide starting on page 285).  In the very first chapter, The Brain, children make guacamole and sprout an avocado seed.  High schoolers study the effects of ethylene gas (from and apple) on the ripening process.

The initial investment in this product does seem a bit high, at $79.95 for CD, $99.95 for the book, and $129.95 for the combo, but keeping in mind that it is designed for repeated use, year after year with all grade levels, and that works out to about $10 a year for just one child, less than that for more children!  When you find yourself and your family actually eating better, likely there will also be a substantial savings in health care as well.  An extra bonus the company has offered to Homeschool Crew readers - that's you! Is a special 15% off.  Just go to their website and enter the coupon code at checkout:  TOScrew11.

See what other Homeschool Crew Members are saying about Nutrition 101.

We received a special download edition of Nutrition 101:  Choose Life for review purposes.  No other compensation was received for this review.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tomato Tales

I think our local Wal-Mart was being overly optimistic when they put out a rack of tomato plants.  As they became frost damaged, the price became 50 cents apiece and my friend and I were lucky enough to happen upon them on one of our infrequent trips to town.  (We are over 50 miles away from the nearest big town with a Wal-Mart.)  I took them home and set them up in my south-facing kitchen window, finally repotting them.  We still have a few more weeks of possible frost here, but after Mother's Day, it's usually fairly safe to harden off the seedlings and transplant them in the outdoor garden.

The bad luck I've had with tomatoes here in our volcanic clay soil aggravates me to no end.  Sometimes I lose the transplants to frost, but more often, they are lost to the withering dry heat and parching wind we experience in waiting for the monsoon rains to come and set everything growing again.  I refuse to give in and continue to try.  One year I got about a dozen green tomatoes that I brought in on the vine and let ripen.  We had those around Thanksgiving that year.  This year the plan is to put half the transplants in the more protected shadehouse/greenhouse I'm working on, and the other half in the front garden.  Maybe I can rig up some little shade houses over them with drip waterers until the rains come...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Kinderbach - Music Lessons Made Easy


I have to confess, my son has been playing the piano since he could crawl up on the bench and reach the keys.  He has learned in a very natural, organic way.  As he has gotten older and his hands have grown into the keyboard, I have taught him the names of the keys, and a bit of how to read music.  We have been playing simple duets together, and I have taught them to some of his friends, too.  None of them are prodigies, but they have fun, and I don't have a hard time listening to them.  My son has also been composing short pieces for quite some time now.  I'm impressed, but then I'm his mom...

That said, for the average parent who doesn't have *&^% years of music lessons and performance behind them, Kinderbach can be a real answer to "how do I teach my child music?"  A keyboard is not even necessary for the first few lessons, and an inexpensive, toy model will do for the rest.  As long as it plays somewhat in tune, and has the keys in the right places.  Children ages 2-7 will enjoy learning about high and low sounds, loud and soft sounds, rhythm, beats, patterns and intervals, along with Frisco, Dodi, Carla and all the Piano Pals.  In six levels, with a seventh on the way, 22 hours of video lessons and printable activity books to complement each level, children will soon be playing simple songs.

Along with great instruction and fun characters, I feel like there is a bit too much music theory thrown into the program for beginners.  For young children, the video lessons are engaging and keep them moving.  There are coloring pages to reinforce the lessons and cut and paste activities.  Other advantages to the program are that it can be done at home, at the child's own pace.  No expensive instruments are needed.  Try the first 2 lessons for free, then decide whether to purchase an online subscription for $19.99 a month or $95.88 a year (that's $7.99 a month!).  You can also try it out for a day at $5.95.  Several DVD packages are available starting at $55.95.  Kinderbach stands by their program with a 30 day money back guarantee.

See what other Homeschool Crew Members are saying about Kinderbach.

We were given a free online subscription to Kinderbach in exchange for reviewing and commenting on our experience with this product.  No other compensation was received.

Monday, April 4, 2011

GoGo Kabongo!!


Start the school day with computer games?  No way!  But as reading is our first subject of the day, usually, GoGo Kabongo quickly became a favorite warm-up.  Designed to foster skills such as attention and focus, working memory, processing, successive and simultaneous processing, visualization, planning and comprehension, Kabongo captivates children with colorful alien guides, fast action roller coasters and frequent interactive rewards.


Three "habitats", Laughter Lake, Galaxy Garden and Twister Top feature three games each, with 6 skill levels each.  As children master skills they earn rewards such as a sticker for their comic book, ramps for their skate park, and cool collectibles to put in their treehouse.  Coloring and activity pages can also be printed out.  Ages 4-7 will benefit most from this program, as it teaches and reinforces pre-reading skills. 

My seven year old son is already an enthusiastic reader, but he still enjoys the games.  His favorite habitat is Twister Top and he has mastered level 6 of Crazy Maze!  I receive weekly progress reports, so I know what games he has been playing and what level he is on.  Also included in the emailed progress reports are helpful tips for reinforcing the skills he is learning.

Kabongo map

Right now, Kabongo is still in Beta format, some of the games load slowly, but Laughter Lake and Galaxy Garden are FREE for a limited time, and Twister Top is only $4.95!

See what other Homeschool Crew members have to say about GoGoKabongo.

We received all three Kabongo habitats FREE in return for reviewing this product.  No other compensation was received.