Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"Family Meal Time" - Road Trip with Stuff to Scrap

I was running late getting my preview posted this month, but the Stuff to Scrap Road Trip was good enough to tag me onto the end!  As I have been doing of late, I have some fun patterned papers to go with the color scheme.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are absolutely my favorite time of year, and I love this theme and color palette for November!

Click on the image to download from Mediafire.  PU/S4H/S4O.

Here's another link, for 4shared:  I apologize for any problems anyone has had downloading from Mediafire.

Happy November!

Here are the rest of the stops if you missed any along the way:
Shuckclod's Stuff
DinkeeDoo Scraps
Desert Digi Scrap Gal
AK Designs
The Scrappy Kat
Karen Diamond Designs
Scrappin Serenity
Manda Lane Scraps
KapiScrap & Art
Digi-Designs by Nicole
Designs by Snowlady
Saphira's Scraps
Queen Bee Scraps
Callaluna Creations
Mommy Me Time Scrapper
Growing Pains Scrapped
DoubleTrouble Scraps
WinksArt Graphics
Sairi Designs
Digital Scrapbooking Resource Center
Scraps by Missy
Note-able Scraps

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Coupon Code for KinderBach!

In case you missed it in the Review update, KinderBach is offering the Schoolhouse Crew Blog Readers a coupon for 30% off any order!

Coupon Code:  TOS_crew2012 
Expires: 12/31/2012

If you've been wanting to try KinderBach online beginning piano lessons, now may be the time!

If you missed the review, read it here.

Free Patterned Papers for "Mystery Machine"

Last October, we had a fun palette for the Stuff to Scrap Road Trip based on everyone's favorite dog, Scooby-Doo.  These colors are great for scrapping your little monsters!  Here are some free patterned papers based on the same color scheme.  Click on the image to download from Mediafire.  PU/S4H/S4O.

If you missed the Road Trip last October, the papers I made then are still available.  Click the image below.

Happy Scrappin'!

Schoolhouse Review: Samson's Classroom

I've said "just a few" times that my kids love learning with games, and I love using them for teaching!  Samson's Classroom is a fun learning website for early language arts.  While some learning websites have so many games that you wonder if the kids are learning anything, and others are straight learning so that the kids do not perceive them as "fun," in Samson's Classroom, the learning itself is the game.  There is just enough "education" for me, and just enough "fun" for my kids!

Samson the Dog helps kids practice sight words, spelling, and reading.  

In the Sight Words section, your child works through four levels of seven "sight words" lists each.  Each list is learned in five steps.  The first step is simply studying the words on the list.  The student looks at each word, watches it being spelled, listens to the pronunciation and spelling, and listens to a sentence with the word in it.  In any of the study sections on the site, the student may stay on a word as long as he needs, or move forward whenever he is ready, which I really appreciate, because it is difficult to get my son to work on things when they move either too quickly or too slowly for him and he gets frustrated.  In Step 2, the student listens to the word being spelled, then clicks on the proper letters, in order, to spell it himself.  In Step 3, the student identifies the words as they are spoken and used in a sentence.  In Step 4, the student again clicks on letters to spell each word, but this time, the word is used in a sentence but not spelled out loud.  In addition, all the letters in the alphabet are provided as choices, rather than just a few of them.  Step 5 again involves identification of the words, and some choices given are incorrect spellings of that word.  By the time your child finishes all five steps, he or she has mastered that list of sight words and is ready to move onto the next list.  While working through the lists, the student also works through different colors of karate belts, so that when she is done, she will hold a black belt in sight words!

In the Spelling section, the parent/teacher may put in her own lists of spelling words.  If you want to use any spelling words that are not recognized in the program (for instance, I made a list of the books of the New Testament for my daughter to learn to spell, some of which were recognized and some were not), you may request that the words be recognized and submit your list for review.  Again, the first step for the student is to study the words on the list, which may be done on the computer, or there is an option to print the list out.  There are then three games to help the student first fill in missing letters, then collect letters and put them together, and finally spell the whole word on his own.  The games are fun and move fairly quickly to hold interest.  If you are not quick enough, you can be caught in a spider web (that happened to me a lot!) or tackled by a walrus and turned into an ice cube!  Also, you compete against other people in your classroom (or homeschooling family) for the highest scores and Championship Belt.  The parent can also play in order to give some healthy competition!

The final section is Reading.  I had my 4th-grade daughter work through this one so I would be able to review it, as my 2nd-grade son is still working on his Sight Words black belt and the Spelling.  I think he could do the Reading section as well, as he is actually a pretty good reader, but he is working through the games more slowly.  In the Reading section there are four levels.  In each level, you select each passage, read it, then answer the questions about it.  Some are direct questions and some are based on inference.  As someone has pointed out, the reading comprehension section is a great preparation for standardized testing.  Mastering the reading passages earns the student "Hammer Time swings."  The Hammer Time game then awards "Hammer Points," which may be compared against the "Top 5" scoreboard.

Samson's Classroom offers a number of resources to the parent/teacher.  In addition to being able to produce your own spelling lists for the games in the Spelling section, there are articles about literacy and learning, printable awards and certificates to be given to students, included lesson plans, and printable PDF worksheets.  I love the resources for playing Bingo or Sight Words Baseball.  You can see your students' progress and also how many attempts it took them to master the problems from your dashboard.

Samson's Classroom is recommended for children in the K-5th grade reading level.  Sight Words is geared more to the younger end of the age range, while Reading Comprehension is geared more towards the upper end of the range.  I allowed my 4th-grade daughter to skip the Sight Words section, as it would be quite easy for her, and she completed all 4 levels of the Reading Comprehension section in about 2 days.  I can still use the Spelling Section for her throughout the year as a fun way to practice her new spelling list each week, which is a great tool.  Other than that, though, the program is a bit easy for her. It is a fantastic program for my 2nd-grader, who is still working on his Sight Words black belt and the Spelling section.  I believe it will take him the full year to finish the whole program.  As I was sitting here writing the review today, he tried to kick me out of the computer chair so that he could play the game!

I highly recommend Samson's Classroom for kids in the K-3rd grade reading level, and higher if they enjoy these types of games and would like to use them for spelling words and reading comprehension practice.

Here's the basic info:

Product:  Samson's Classroom subscription website (works with Mac or PC)
Ages:  K-5th grade reading level
Price:  $30/year for one user or $50/year for a family plan (up to 4 students).  There are also school and classroom plans available.

To see what my fellow Crewmates thought of Samson's Classroom, click the banner below.

Disclaimer:  I received a free subscription to Samson's Classroom in exchange for a fair review.  No other compensation was given, and all opinions are my own.

Happy Hallowe'en by Dandelion Dust Designs

The big costume and candy day is coming fast upon us!  We normally do not celebrate Hallowe'en, but some years we have done some things like the "Candy Carnival" for which we were dressed up below:

Whatever your traditions, you can pick up this fun-colored kit exclusively at ScrapTakeout.  I love the fact that it has complementary greens and purples in addition to the orange and black.

Here are some free QPs.  Click on the images to go to Mediafire.  P/U only.

Happy Fall Y'all!

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this kit in exchange for LOs.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: WealthQuest for Teens

I heard a speaker say recently that when people seek counseling for major problems in their lives, the problems almost always revolve around s*x or money.  I've also been told that money problems are at the root of most marital fights and divorces.  So why aren't we teaching our teenagers more about money before they get out on their own?  Matthew 10:16 tells us to "be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves" when dealing with the world.  In the Parable of the Shrewd Manager in Luke 16, Jesus tells us that one of the things in which He wants us to be shrewd, or wise, is in matters of money. Not that He wanted His disciples to be dishonest like the manager in the story was, but that He wanted them to learn to use worldly things for eternal purposes in a wise way.

Too many people learn their money lessons the hard way, once they are deep in debt and have to climb their way out.  I would like to teach my kids to be smart with money from the time they start earning it. One tool I have used, as a part of the Schoolhouse Review Team, is WealthQuest for Teens.  We reviewed a website subscription package that included a video, a workbook for the teen, a parent book, and a link to an online money management program.

I have mixed feelings about this review.  First of all, I really like the way the components were laid out. The online video itself includes the video teaching and examples (on the left of the screen below), and an interactive notebook (on the right of the screen).  I haven't seen this with any other programs, and I really liked it.  My son watched the videos, paused them when prompted to do so, filled in the information in the interactive notebook, and resumed the video.  This is a great way to study and learn! A few times he got a little lost, and there was no way to rewind, but the video segments were not terribly long so we just started the segment over again.

There is an option to print the interactive notebook:

In addition, there is an eBook:  the Basic Seminar QuickStart Guide, which is used for implementing the program after watching the videos.  The purpose of the WealthQuest for Teens program is to have teens actually change their habits during the course, not to just read about good money habits.  With that purpose in mind, the QuickStart eBook guided us through setting up the money tracking system and setting goals for what my teen wants to accomplish with his money.  It has 30 short daily assignments, so that within a month, the teen is all set up and using the new system.  All of this worked together very well.  The eBook is a great reinforcer and implementation tool for what the student has just learned through the videos.

I also received the Parent Guide in eBook form.  It had great information in it not only on how the program works for teens, but also about common mistakes parents make in teaching about money, better ways to handle the topic, and how to handle allowance and jobs at home, which is a question many homeschooling parents have asked me!

Here is a picture of a girl using the "Silo System" that is laid out in WealthQuest for Teens.  We are using envelopes rather than larger containers like this.  The system is completely adaptable to what works best for you.

Finally, we were given a link to Money Trail, an online tool specifically for managing kids' money.  We set up a child account and a parent account, so that my son can manage his money and I can track what he is doing through my account.  Money Trail does not actually hold any of your money; it is simply a tracking tool.  It is set up to deposit my son's allowance amount each Friday into his virtual account in the "Bank of My Parents," and we have it specifically set up to automatically divide the money he receives each week into "spend," "share," and "save" accounts.  He can then track money he receives and money he spends to see where it is going over time.  Money Trail also has a mobile version, so he can use it on his iPod Touch.

I agree with the author of the WealthQuest program, Jill Suskind, that it is very important to teach our teens about how to manage money.  I like her approach, teaching that your financial success is more dependent upon your beliefs, attitudes, and habits about money than on the actual size of your salary.  The program is not a "health-and-wealth-gospel" program or a "get-rich-quick" idea.  Rather, it teaches the importance of managing the money that you have well, no matter how much it is.  I like the inclusion of the "QuickStart Guide" and the Money Trail site, so that by the time the student completes the program, he is already implementing the system and managing whatever money he has.

The reason I have mixed feelings about this program is that in listening to the videos, even though the goal is to manage whatever money you have rather than to just "get rich," I still feel that the overall message of the program is that financial success is paramount.  The students are told that they need to regularly read books about financial success and spend a great deal of time thinking about money.  This can be taken several ways.  Obviously, the program is about money, so perhaps all this has a place.  People whose goal is service over "getting rich," such as missionaries, perhaps need the most training in managing money.  This program offers excellent tools and habits, including habits of giving to worthwhile causes and "making a difference."  Still, though, the more I listened to it, the more I was concerned that it would influence my children to think that money is the most important priority in our lives - or that the freedom provided by having money is.  It just isn't quite the worldview that I want to be coming from when I teach my children about money.  I am always concerned that my kids may be too easily influenced by things like that.  Then again, I probably don't need to worry too much about my teen being wrongly influenced, because when I asked my son what he thought of the program, he said basically the same thing that I just did!

The bottom line is that the WealthQuest for Teens program teaches great habits about money, and while you may need to make sure you emphasize your own worldview while teaching it, it is nonetheless a unique and valuable tool for teaching teens about how to manage money, which is an absolutely necessary pursuit in today's world.

Here are the basics:

The Product  WealthQuest for Teens
Author  Jill Suskind
Ages  14-19 - can be used with older students, worked fine with my 13-year-old
Price  $39.95

Click the banner below to see what my teammates thought of WealthQuest for Teens.


Disclaimer:  I received WealthQuest for Teens at no charge for the purpose of a fair review.  No other compensation was given, and all opinions are my own.
When I participated in the September Wordart Challenge at STO (see post here) I used the "Pumpkin Spice" Kit, which had not yet been publicly released by Dandelion Dust Designs.

"Pumpkin Spice" is now available exclusively at ScrapTakeout.

If you like the kit, download your free QP from Mediafire, for PU only.  If you'd like some other quickpages from this kit, click here.

Happy Fall, Y'all!  :-)

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of the "Pumpkin Spice" Kit in exchange for layouts.

"Thankful Mini" by Dandelion Dust Designs

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and I have so much in my life for which to be thankful!

For this page, I used the "Thankful Mini" Kit by Dandelion Dust Designs, available exclusively at Scraptakeout.

Looking for a mask or frame to match your theme?  Try cutting out one of the element shapes from the kit you are using.  This makes a very fun frame that coordinates perfectly!  Grab your free QP at Mediafire by clicking on the image below.  PU only.

Happy Fall Y'all!  :-)

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of the "Thankful Mini" kit in exchange for a layout.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: KinderBach Online

KinderBach Online is an interactive online program to be used along with a keyboard and rhythm instruments to teach the basics of piano and music theory to children ages 2-7.  Since the ideal age to start actual piano lessons is around age 7 or 8, this program is an excellent introduction for younger children.  If you would like to expose your early elementary or preschool-age children to basic music theory or see how they will like piano before starting lessons, this program would be great for you, whether you homeschool or not.  You do not even need to purchase a piano, as an inexpensive keyboard, even a toy keyboard, will work fine.

I reviewed KinderBach last school year, and I was recently given the opportunity to review it for a few more months.  At this point, I am only using it with my youngest, who is 7.  It really is too juvenile for my older children, who are all now singing in choirs and playing instruments.  KinderBach is a great way for my 7-year-old to have his very own music lessons at a level that he enjoys, and it is giving him a foundation in rhythm and note-reading that I wish my other children had at that age.  He is ecstatic to be playing with his online video-friends - Frisco, Dodi the Donkey, and all their keyboard pals - again!  Really, anything that makes noise makes him happy, and homemade rhythm instruments are second only to Legos as his favorite toys!
Dodi the Donkey
In each KinderBach Online lesson, there is a video where children will learn basics like notes, rhythm, and composition while playing games with the fun characters.  Simple songs help them to remember what they have learned.  I think the "Dodi the Donkey" song was introduced in our very first lesson last year, and my 7-year-old still walks around singing it until the other kids beg him to stop!  There is a printable PDF workbook with coloring and activity pages to go with each of the six levels.  I really like how the video and book work together.  For instance, sometimes the student will be instructed to color a page while listening to a song on the video.  This kind of learning that stimulates several senses and keeps my son's hands and mind busy is the most productive!

Other activities include action games, using our hands and feet to work out rhythms and learn notes and intervals.  I like the way patterns in music are explored and practiced in the videos so that children will learn to sing, play, and read music very quickly.

If you have a child aged 7 or younger who is not quite ready for formal piano lessons, but whom you would like to give a foundation in basic piano and music-reading, I highly recommend KinderBach lessons.  Here is the low-down:

The Product:  KinderBach Online
Ages:  2-7
Price:  See KinderBach Shop for prices, starting as low as $7.99/month!

Update:  KinderBach is offering our blog readers a 30% discount off any order!
Coupon Code:  TOS_crew2012 
Expires: 12/31/2012

There is also a brand new KinderBach App for iPhone or iPad, which some of my fellow Crew Members have been reviewing.  To see what the Crew thought of both products, click the banner below.

Disclaimer:  I received a free subscription to KinderBach Online in exchange for a fair review.  No other compensation was given, and all opinions are my own.

Friday, October 12, 2012

"Pumpkin Spice" by Dandelion Dust Designs

Well, you already know that I love kits by Dandelion Dust Designs, and this is one of my favorites!  I love fall and pumpkins and leaves, and the Pumpkin Spice kit has all the essential elements in just the right shades:

The kit is available exclusively at ScrapTakeout:

Download your free QPs from Mediafire!  PU only.

Happy Autumn!

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of the Pumpkin Spice kit in exchange for layouts. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"Be Creative" by Dandelion Dust Designs

Oh, dear, I've been out of town and out of the loop!  Dandelion Dust Designs put up a fabulous new mini in the shoppe last Thursday.  Perfect for all those little works of art floating around your house!  Here's "Be Creative":

You can get the kit exclusively at ScrapTakeout.

Here's your QP, posted over at Mediafire:

Happy Scrapping!

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of the "Be Creative" kit in exchange for a layout.  No other compensation was given, and all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: Zoo Whiz!

For the past several weeks, my younger two children have had the great privilege of reviewing a Premium Zoologist account from ZooWhiz, a really fun and motivational learning website.  They each were able to pick a "zookeeper," the character they would use on the site, and then they could play games and take quizzes in math, words, and reading in order to collect points and coins with which they could buy animals for their zoo.

Homescreen with a map of the Zoo
This is pretty much the perfect learning website for both of my younger children, ages 7 and 9, because they absolutely love real animals, stuffed animals, computer-animated animals - basically any kind of animals and zoos!

Zookeepers from which the students may choose
After choosing a Zookeeper, the students may go to the "Arcade" to play educational games, the "Learn and Earn" to take quizzes, "Milestones" to see their progress, or the "Biodome" to purchase new animals for their zoo with the coins they have earned.  The bar across the bottom of the home screen shows the number of coins earned, the number of animals in the student's zoo, the zoo level the student has achieved, and the number of educational points earned.  The educational levels are broken down by age rather than grade, which I think is more helpful to me as a homeschooler, since we don't always work by grade levels.  The child may work in an age range, and the "bottom level," or the easiest questions that should be given to that child, is set by the parent.  If the quizzes and games prove to be too easy or too difficult for the child, the parent or teacher can easily change the level from the parent account.

The "Biodome" - Zoo shop
In addition to practice in math, words, and reading, the student will learn facts and conservation information about the animals in his or her personal zoo.  I will admit that I had to push my daughter to take the quizzes so that I would know a little bit about them for the review.  She and my son were much more interested in the games and in learning about the animals.  They asked to play almost every day, and were absolutely thrilled that I was including such a fun activity as computer work that they were allowed to do during school hours!

Progress Report
Zoo Whiz is already used in schools and homes in several different countries.  They are currently in "Early Release Stage 2," and they are adding new content continually.  All of the content loaded and worked just fine for us.  In the future, I should be able to view my kids' progress and assign specific work to them from my parent account, which is linked to their child accounts.   I look forward to being able to do that.  I would love to be able to occasionally assign quizzes on various concepts in Zoo Whiz in lieu of our regular paper-and-pencil quizzes, as a break from the normal routine.  For the time being, I just log directly into the kids' accounts to review their progress.

Here are some sample activities in Math, Words, and Reading, respectively.  These are some of the easier activities.  The actual levels cover ages 5-15.  

I originally thought I would just be reviewing one account for my 9-year-old daughter, but Zoo Whiz was very gracious to offer premium accounts for all four of my children.  The customer service was outstanding.  I did set up accounts for all of my kids, but my older ones were not as interested.  My 13-year-old was not interested at all, and I did not assign him any activities, since I had really planned to review this for my younger daughter.  My 11-year-old daughter loves zoos and animals and was mildly interested, but has not used Zoo Whiz on a regular basis.  My 9-year-old daughter and my 7-year-old son fell in love with the program and beg to play it.  I highly recommend the website for children ages 5-10. 

You can try a free account from Zoo Whiz, which my daughter was already enjoying before she got the Premium account, but I'm sure you'll want to upgrade and enjoy all the features of a Premium Zoologist account.  Now is the time, while a one-year subscription is on sale for $14.95, which is a savings of 50%!

Here is the information you will need:

The Product:  Zoo Whiz educational website
Ages:  5-15
Price:  $14.95 for annual subscription (current sale)
  For information on a Premium membership, click here.

Click the banner below to see what my Schoolhouse Crewbies thought of the program:


Disclaimer:  I received a free one-year Premium Membership subscription to Zoo Whiz for the purpose of a fair review.  No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.