Why do I say hopeful? Because I'm still looking for a sponsorship for our Compassion Christmas Child - Mwende Mumbe from Kenya (click here to read my original post). I have heard what it's like to be waiting for a sponsor. Someone who can love you unconditionally. Someone who cares enough to help financially, but most important, cares enough to have a personal relationship with a child that so desperately needs someone who loves them.
I'm not trying to play on your sympathy, but to try to put a realistic perspective on things. So many of us see pictures of the poverty in the world, and just shake our heads, perhaps say a quick prayer, and then go on, thinking that we can't do much. We then probably forget about it until the next news story is flashed before us. I know that's the way I was. But, when God finally opened our eyes, and we began to sponsor Marcelo, it made a world of difference to our family. We can see how our money is affecting him physically, but more importantly, how our love is affecting him emotionally. And all it takes is a little over a dollar a day, and a little time.
Please take this time to pray about possibly sponsoring Mwende. I have a portfolio that I could send to you if you are interested with no obligation to sponsor, just to pray over. Just let me know through email or by leaving a comment below. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org . Thanks for your prayers!
Maestro Classics - I Have a Secret - Part 3 Mood:
lazy Topic: Homeschool Product Review
What's my third secret? It's something that my high school and college friends know about, but unless you knew me during those times, you probably don't know this. Are you interested yet? All right, I'll tell you! I was once in the band, orchestra and chorus in high school and in college I was in an instrumental ensemble. I play six or seven instruments (none of them very well any more), and I sing! I have always enjoyed music and still do. It's something that I hope that I have passed down to my children. John Allen has taken piano lessons, and is presently learning how to play the guitar. Joshua is also learning how to play piano now.
I think that one of the benefits from teaching your kids about music is their love of different musical types. So many times, kids will only pay attention to the music around them which is usually the music that their parents and friends listen to. When you make a conscience effort to teach music, the student grows to appreciate many different styles. That's why I was so glad that, as a TOS Homeschool Crew member I received from Maestro Classics a free musical CD, "The Tortoise and the Hare", to try out and post a review about on my blog.
This fantastic series of CD's doesn't just set popular stories to music, but it also explains the story and describes how different types of music, and instruments are used to create a feeling for the characters and an understanding of the story. The first thing that you hear when you put on this CD is a story set to music. The narrator on my CD was excellent. He used different voices for different characters and slowed down and sped up when necessary to follow the story line.
Next, the story itself is explained. The historical background and information about the author are very entertainingly taught.
Then comes what I think is the most exciting part. The composer explains why he wrote what he wrote and why he chose the particular instruments that he chose. For example, he explained that a hare has a very unusual gate when it hops around. He explained the reason why the particular music for the hare sounded the way it sounded. He went on to explain why he chose the contra-bassoon, a very low sounding instrument, to be used for the tortoise. Other interesting tid bits about the music and instruments were also shared.
After the explanation of the story and the music, we are invited to listen to the recording once more. This time around, listening is much more fun now that you know what to listen for!
The Tortoise and the Hare had a very cute song in the middle describing a French pretzel salesman. At the end, we are invited to sing along with this fun song while reading the words from the informational booklet that came along with the CD.
The booklet mentioned above ties everything together. It contains over a dozen pages of puzzles and worksheets that reinforce what the CD taught.
I loved everything about the CD. The music, written and conducted by Stephen Simon and played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, was fantastic. The narration done by Yadu was equally impressive. I also loved the booklet that went along to reinforce what was taught.
The only thing that I would impress on folks is to make sure that you have a structured environment in which to listen to this CD and enough time to listen to it. We tried twice to get our boys to listen to it. Once was in the car when we were running errands. The stopping and starting didn't work - hence the having enough time suggestion. The other time was while we were cleaning and getting ready for an event at the mission that we work in. The noise and confusion were not conducive to listening and paying attention - hence the structured environment requirement. I ended up listening to the CD myself for this review, but am going to very soon require the boys to listen to it again. This time, however, I will make sure that we are in a quite, peaceful place with time to sit through the whole thing.
I really enjoyed Maestro Classics the Tortoise and the Hare. The total time was very reasonable - less than an hour, and it opens the door to a new and meaningful understanding of how and why music is written. Everything about the CD was well done and, I think, well worth it. Other titles in this series include "Peter and the Wolf", "Casey at Bat" and "Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel" with many more listed and more to come. The price of each is just $16.98. You can find out more about Maestro Classics by clicking here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above. To find out what the other TOS Homeschool Crew members thought about the different CD's that they received, click here. This is one of those things that isn't just for homeschooling. Unfortunately, with the cuts in budgets and emphasis on academics, many public and private school music programs are not what they used to be. These CD's can be used as a family activity to fill in the gap. So, with that, I won't say "happy homeschooling" but I will say "happy home educating!"
The Prize Person has Posted the Prize Package Mood:
a-ok Topic: General
Say that five times real fast!
Anyway, I got a really neat email the other day from Heather, a member of the team that hosts the Homeschool Blog Awards. She was in charge of divvying up the awards that weren't specified. You see, some of the award donations were specified to go to a certain category winner but others weren't. Those that weren't were divided evenly between all of the winners. Here is part of her email that explained her creative method of choosing who won what:
Attached is a Graphic that my children and I made when we did the stuffed animal drawing for the Homeschool Blog Awards. Each blogger was assigned an animal to represent them and we wrote out the prizes on slips of paper and drew for the animals. The kids enjoyed taking photos of the animals and watching mom create graphics. We would love it if you would use the graphic in your post when you get your prizes or just telling about what you won. It would make my kids feel special. :)
I wrote back and told Heather that I would be more than happy to post the graphic, so here it is:
A note to Heather's kids:
Thanks for helping out and allowing your mom to use your animals for the drawing. I thought that Mr. Tiger was perfect for my Families Again blog. My kids thought it was kind of neat too!
From the Whole Tinkel Family.
PS. It's ok to laugh, we are used to people thinking our last name is funny !
And now to announce the prizes. At the time of this post, for some reason the Home School Blog Award website was having some difficulty. I wasn't able to access it to get links to all of these great companies. As soon as I'm able, I will post the links so that you can visit their sites. Here they are:
Artistic Photo Canvas
Red River Paper Sample Box
20$ in MindBites Lessons
Heart of the Matter Online Homeschool Conference Tickets for 2010
The Old Schoolhouse - 1 Year Magazine Subscription
Here is some of the information that I know about the companies. Artistic Photo Canvas is one of those great companies that take a photograph, blow it up, and make it look like a painting on canvas. We are really looking forward to that one. Safekids is a company that produces software to keep kids safe on the internet - another one that we are thrilled with. Red River Paper produces good quality printing paper and stuff like that - always useful. I am really looking forward to the kinds of courses that we can get with MindBites Lessons. The Heart of the Matter Homeschool Conference was something I eyed last year but wasn't able to do. AND, although I do reviews for the TOS (The Old Schoolhouse) Homeschool Crew, I have never subscribed to their magazine. To be quite truthful, I didn't know much about it until I was selected for the Crew. I am really pleased to be getting it as well.
Really, I am thrilled with all of the prizes and wanted to thank the companies once again for their prize donations. I also wanted to thank the HSBA people for sponsoring the awards, and I especially wanted to thank all of you for voting for me. Again, I will have the links for the companies up as soon as possible. Please visit them for me. Thanks.
Mathletics - Well Paint Me Green and Call Me Gumby! Mood:
incredulous Topic: Homeschool Product Review
Ok! I know! Another catchy title to try to get you to read my post. Actually, though, it does exemplify how I feel about this product.
I must admit, that when, as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was given a free 45 day membership to Mathletics to try out and review it on my blog, I signed John Allen up and let him have at it. Every once in a while I looked over his shoulder, and I knew he was loving it, but I didn't really explore it or research the site...until today! And what I found did make me feel incredulous! I thought that Mathletics was just another one of those resources where my child would be challenged and race against others and get points, etc. etc. However, what I found was that it is so much more! It is a whole curriculum. Your child could use Mathletics as your one and only math curriculum!
Now, we are on our fourth year of homeschooling, and I have probably spent $100s maybe $1000s of dollars on curriculum and resources. I know how much curriculum costs. Good math curriculum can be one of the most expensive things that you purchase each year. Let me give an example that even a non-homeschooler that doesn't purchase curriculum can understand:
You've all seen those cutsie math supplemental books that you can get at Wal-Mart. They are great to use as a supplement at home when your child is having some difficulty at school, or perhaps to use during the summer to keep information fresh. They can cost anywhere from $2 or $3 a piece on up, and are nice, but each book is usually specialized and doesn't usually cover all the things that you need. If you wanted to buy a book for everything studied in a particular school year, it would cost upwards of $40 or $50.
Those are just for those little books at the discount stores. Good homeschool math curriculum can cost two or three times that much. How would you like a good curriculum that only cost $40 or $50 that has all the books you need for prek-12th grade! Well, I don't usually publish the cost for something until the end of my review, but Mathletics is such a great deal, that I am going to tell you now. The price used to be $99, but now it is $59 for a years membership. But, let me give you secret. If you will read the rest of my review, I'll tell you how to get it for even cheaper than that! That would be over 12 years of math books! And they are great. Let me give you an example from the Fractions and Percentages book that I downloaded for John Allen:
Now, let me tell you about the main part of the Mathletics program! Yes, I said main. No, the above was not the main! The main part of the program is all on the computer and is based on points. The first thing that you do after registering your child is to pick a grade level for that child. Don't worry, because if you find that a grade level is too easy or difficult for that child, you can change it. You have six chances to change it throughout the year, so after you have gotten the correct level, if the child aces that level in less than a year, you can move him up a level. When you are settled on that, you choose a concept for your child to learn. If he thinks that he knows that concept, he can go straight to the questions or have them explained it to him. When he get to the questions, Mathletics will give him a series of 10 problems. For every problem he gets correct, he will get 10 points. His goal is to get 1000 points in one week. If he can achieve that, he earns a bronze medal. After so many bronze medals he earns a silver medal and after so many silvers he gets a gold - you get the picture.
Another way your child can earn points is through the Mathletics race section (see the above picture). He can challenge an opponent from anywhere around the world. John Allen has gone against kids from Australia, Britain, the US - all over! During the races, you earn 2 points per problem, but you answer them quickly and can do as many problems as you can within a certain time limit. But, watch out, if you miss so many in row, your part of the race automatically stops. John Allen loves this, because it's a quick way to earn points, and it also helps him with speed.
But, earning medals isn't really the big thing! You can actually be ranked in the top 100 students in the world or the US depending on how many points you have earned in one day. Your name, school and country are displayed on the Mathletics website for all to see! One of the TOS Homeschool Crew members had a child that was ranked first in the world for a little while one day, and ended up in the top 10 for that day! What a thrill!
The $59 per year is worth it just for that part, let alone all of the books that you can download. And, I haven't talked about the parent section, and the video walkthroughs and the...! I mentioned that you can only change your grade level 6 times in one year, but you can download books from any grade level at any time during that year! But wait! I said that if you read my whole review, I would tell you how to get it for even cheaper than that. Well, on the registration page, there is a special box that says "What is a calculater's favorite number?" if you answer correctly then you get a years membership for $49.00! $10 less!. I won't tell you the answer, but if you think of the number that comes after 8 you will be close. You know...that number that comes before 10 and if you turn it upside down it looks like a 6? That's the one! Such a deal. To get to the Mathletics website just press here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above. To find out what the other TOS crew members think about Mathletics, click here. I think that Mathletics is fantastic. So fantastic that I have signed John Allen up for a whole year since his 45 days have expired. They have a free 10 day trial on their website. Try it out and you might be saying "Well paint me green and call me Gumby"! Happy homeschooling.
Tuesday's Toolbox - WOOD Mood:
a-ok Topic: Blog Carnivals!
A fellow blogging friend of mine from over at Homeschooling Hearts and Minds has begun a new meme this week as well...AND, she even thought of me and designed a blog button that wasn't too feminine! It's called Tuesday's Toolbox and it invites bloggers to blog about a common household object that can also be a teaching tool. You can click on the above picture to find out more about it and read what some of the items are for this week. I thought it was a great idea, so I wanted to be involved. And my first toolbox item is...
Any item made of wood will do. Even a wooden pencil will work. I have used this as a teaching tool to explain why it is important to study. I've also used it as an object lesson to talk about how God has to reform us in order for us to be a useful tool for His use.
Let's use the pencil for an example. You see, this pencil didn't begin as a useful object...it began as a tree. If you would have asked the tree if it wanted to be cut down it would have said "NO!" right away. It didn't realize that although God can use anything in it's natural form if He wants, He often has to refine us and shape us in order to make us into something beautiful and useful for His work. The tree would have to be cut down, sawed into pieces, shaped, sanded, and painted in order to be turned into a pencil. If the wood could speak, I'm sure it would tell us that it was a very painful experience. It's not easy to be refined into something that we don't want to be shaped into. But, the Master Potter knows what we need to go through in order for us to be valuable to Him.
The athletic saying "No pain, no gain" is very true. In order to be the best that we can be, we usually have to go through much pain. It's not easy to be an A Honor Roll scholar or a star athlete. You have to sacrifice to reach your goals. Sometimes you have to go through many failures before you gain the success. It's not easy being a child of God either. But, if we want to be the best that we can be for Jesus, then we have to realize there is going to be some pain along the way. Just as the wood became beautiful and useful in the end, so we will become beautiful and useful to God...and the rewards are out of this world!