Friday, November 29, 2013

Review: My Little Pony Reading App

Over the last three years since I began homeschooling, I have always been on the look out for accompaniments to keep learning fun. So any time I get an opportunity to review a new app that could add some extra excitement to our schedule, I jump at the chance. This time we got the to review a new reading iPad app called, My Little Pony: Party of One  It was created by PlayDate Digital, a developing company in the realm of interactive, mobile educational software for both iOS and Android devices. You can read more about them here.

The app is a short interactive story that allows students to follow along and helps enhance vocabulary skills. My daughter's favorite part was tapping each character after the story was read on that page. Familiar characters from My Little Pony, such as Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash, came to life and interacted with one another making it so much more than just a story to read. Students are given the chance to read the story on their own or have it read to them. A key feature for parents is the parent page, where you are able to see how many pages your child has read and the amount of vocabulary words they have clicked on in the adventure. 

While the app is simple it creates an added tool for emergent readers and it's just plain for  those slightly more experienced. You can download the app for $2.99 in the iTunes story by searching for PlayDate Digital or My Little Pone. My only critique is that there aren't more stories inside of the app for that price. I'd rather get a few stories as opposed to just one, but overall it's a fun interactive story that will excite readers as they move through the story.








Sunday, October 20, 2013

Review: A Light for my Path (An ABC Book Based on Psalm 119)

When I signed up to do this review, I admit that I fully expected a simple little child's book of the ABC's using Psalm 119. I have a 4 year old and we are working on our ABC's and thought it would be a great companion to the other things we use. However, A Light for my Path (An ABC Book Based on Psalm 119) that I got was so much more!


When I sat down to  read the Apologia book with my little man, we jumped right in expecting it to be quick and easy, and while it was a quick and easy read...it was so much more of a teaching tool than I'd ever expected. Originally, I had no plans of using it with my 7 year old daughter. I was sure it would be too elementary for her, however the end of the book was a perfect way to help her understand the way Psalm 119 was written. That particular Psalm is an acrostic of the Hebrew alphabet, and the book included each letter with the section of Psalm 119 that fit under it. This was definitely a plus! Not only could I use it to teach my little man his ABC's and attributes of God that came from it, but she could learn from it as well.



  The book is beautifully illustrated with an animal or plant matching whatever letter you are covering. It demonstrates both upper and lower case letters. Another fun tidbit of the illustration is that you can find each previous animal or plant on the following page. My kids were rushing to beat each other to find it as they looked at the book. My only criticism is that it is redundant in they way it presents each letter, which made it a bit tedious as the reader. I highly recommend this book for anyone to use as a companion in their homeschool, or just in the general discipling of their child.











Sunday, September 15, 2013

Rewards

****DISCLAIMER: THIS POST IS MEANT TO BE THOUGHT PROVOKING, NOT FINGER POINTING!!!!! SO DON'T THINK I MEANT YOU, BUT IF YOU DO THINK THAT THEN AT LEAST THINK ABOUT WHY YOU THOUGHT I MEANT YOU!!!****

While this is an older post, with the current election cycle, I felt the need to share once again. We now have six children and despite the ruckus pro-life supporters make, I can't help but wonder why we still get such rude comments and stares. Are we done at six? Maybe. Maybe not. However, I can tell you that I, or I should say we are 100% pro-life. Hope this helps you to truly examine your stance.



Recently my husband and I found out we were expecting our fourth child. It came as a bit of shock, since our youngest wasn't a year yet. We hadn't planned it; discussed it yes, but planned it no. Since becoming pregnant this last time, I've found the reaction a little perplexing. We've heard everything...

"Don't you know what causes that?"

"Are you crazy?"

"How can you afford that?"

While I'm sure many say that in jest, some really think we are crazy and some are perhaps worried we are mooching off their tax dollars; both of these assumptions are false. The reason these reactions have been so bothersome to me is because so many of those we are sharing the news with are Christians that would undoubtedly say they are pro-life. So that got me to thinking...are you really pro-life when good godly couples continue to have children and you question their sanity or their means to support their family? Or are you just anti-abortion?

My husband and I began discussing this and thought about the reactions you hear with pregnancy:

The first undoubtedly brings joy and everyone says, "Oh you two will make such wonderful parents!"

With the second, "Now you're family is complete! Just a perfect little family is what you are!"

If you dare to go beyond the norm, you'll hear, "Really? Ok, well, that's nice. You're finished right?"

And for the fourth...well, you already know that answer at this point. So why does this bother me so much, well, because truly none of these reactions are biblical. If you look at what God has to say about children, how could even think that way?

Psalm 127:3-5 "Lo, children are an heritage of the the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are the children of thy youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate." (KJV)

God says this is my inheritance! I'm only here once and I'm going to take everything He gives me and soak it up. I'm not crazy, I'm just blessed. We each have rewards and blessings and none of them are the same. I'm not going to grumble and complain and wonder how I'll feed these children, because my God shall supply ALL my needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19)! So thank you Jesus for this blessing and thank you for the provision you will make sure my family attains because of your blessings.

While we may not be perfect parents, we are trying our best to make sure these four arrows that You've placed in our quiver (which in the past held 7 or 8) this far will land on target. And I'm not ashamed that we didn't stop at two because we weren't the perfectly complete little family everyone said we were. I'm so grateful we listened to You and not everyone around us. Our children are a declaration of Your blessings on us!
Can't wait to be blessed with you #4!

My 3 amigos!
Are we finished? Most likely, but whether we are or aren't...I've learned the difference between pro-life and anti-abortion...what about you?

Rewards

****DISCLAIMER: THIS POST IS MEANT TO BE THOUGHT PROVOKING, NOT FINGER POINTING!!!!! SO DON'T THINK I MEANT YOU, BUT IF YOU DO THINK THAT THEN AT LEAST THINK ABOUT WHY YOU THOUGHT I MEANT YOU!!!****

While this is an older post, with the current election cycle, I felt the need to share once again. We now have six children and despite the ruckus pro-life supporters make, I can't help but wonder why we still get such rude comments and stares. Are we done at six? Maybe. Maybe not. However, I can tell you that I, or I should say we are 100% pro-life. Hope this helps you to truly examine your stance.



Recently my husband and I found out we were expecting our fourth child. It came as a bit of shock, since our youngest wasn't a year yet. We hadn't planned it; discussed it yes, but planned it no. Since becoming pregnant this last time, I've found the reaction a little perplexing. We've heard everything...

"Don't you know what causes that?"

"Are you crazy?"

"How can you afford that?"

While I'm sure many say that in jest, some really think we are crazy and some are perhaps worried we are mooching off their tax dollars; both of these assumptions are false. The reason these reactions have been so bothersome to me is because so many of those we are sharing the news with are Christians that would undoubtedly say they are pro-life. So that got me to thinking...are you really pro-life when good godly couples continue to have children and you question their sanity or their means to support their family? Or are you just anti-abortion?

My husband and I began discussing this and thought about the reactions you hear with pregnancy:

The first undoubtedly brings joy and everyone says, "Oh you two will make such wonderful parents!"

With the second, "Now you're family is complete! Just a perfect little family is what you are!"

If you dare to go beyond the norm, you'll hear, "Really? Ok, well, that's nice. You're finished right?"

And for the fourth...well, you already know that answer at this point. So why does this bother me so much, well, because truly none of these reactions are biblical. If you look at what God has to say about children, how could even think that way?

Psalm 127:3-5 "Lo, children are an heritage of the the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are the children of thy youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate." (KJV)

God says this is my inheritance! I'm only here once and I'm going to take everything He gives me and soak it up. I'm not crazy, I'm just blessed. We each have rewards and blessings and none of them are the same. I'm not going to grumble and complain and wonder how I'll feed these children, because my God shall supply ALL my needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19)! So thank you Jesus for this blessing and thank you for the provision you will make sure my family attains because of your blessings.

While we may not be perfect parents, we are trying our best to make sure these four arrows that You've placed in our quiver (which in the past held 7 or 8) this far will land on target. And I'm not ashamed that we didn't stop at two because we weren't the perfectly complete little family everyone said we were. I'm so grateful we listened to You and not everyone around us. Our children are a declaration of Your blessings on us!
Can't wait to be blessed with you #4!

My 3 amigos!
Are we finished? Most likely, but whether we are or aren't...I've learned the difference between pro-life and anti-abortion...what about you?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Review: One Minute Reader

When I first began homeschooling, I never thought teaching my child to read would be nearly as hard as it turned out to be. We really struggled as we jumped in to one curriculum after another before finally finding what worked for us. Once we did my daughter took off, however, that battle created a great deal of reluctance from her when it came to reading. That's why when given the opportunity to review One Minute Reader I was more than happy to jump on board.


One Minute Reader is a free app developed for the iPad. It uses engaging content to help reluctant readers develop fluency in a fun, entertaining program. It was created by the husband and wife team behind Read Naturally. They combined three research methods to develop their strategy.

After downloading the app, your student will read a short passage for placement. Then you will need to purchase the various levels necessary. Prices range from $2.99-$4.99.

I cannot say how much fun my daughter found this to be!! She absolutely loved reading when working on this app! The format gave her the encouragement she needed to begin to overcome her reluctance.

Here's how it works:

Your student selects a story to begin with and does a cold reading. They get a score based on how many words they read before the time goes off. The next strategy used in the app is having the student read along with a fluent reader. It helped prepare her for words she struggled with on the cold read. They are then challenged to try to beat that score. Her score always improved which excited and encouraged her to keep trying and get further than the last time before the one minute was up. She was given five practice reads

The app also gave her the opportunity to explore some of the words that she didn't know the meaning of. Words that were slightly difficult were highlighted in blue and when tapped they were defined and used in a sentence to help her gain understanding.

She was then tested on understanding with a quick quiz afterwards that ensured her comprehension of the reading material. After answering questions, the quiz gives letters to solve a riddle at the bottom. The riddle is carried throughout several stories before the reader learns the answer, keeping them excited to keep trying to solve it. There's even a crossword puzzle for her to work using the vocabulary words she's learned.

I really loved watching my daughter grab my iPad and WANT to read! I would recommend this app to anyone that has a struggling reader. It is hands down an amazing program. My only criticism is that there were only five practice reads and my daughter wanted to be able do more! And don't worry if you don't own an iPad, there's a print version available for One Minute Reader too!!






Thursday, June 27, 2013

Review: Classical Historian

History has never been my forté. To be honest, when I was in school, I hated it. That is until a professor in college made it fun! For the first time ever, I couldn't wait to get to history class. His presentation brought history to life. So of course when teaching my children about history I want to make sure not only are they not bored out their mind, but that I'm not either! That's why I was so excited to get the chance to review a product from the Classical Historian.

The company offers aides to help teach history through games and other creative curriculum ideas. It was founded by a couple, one that was a former public school teacher, looking to make history fun for their own children. They offer a variety of games, curriculum and hands on activities varying in price from $9.95 to $79.99.


I received the the Medieval History Memory Game ($14.95) to use with my kids. It was easy enough for my 3 year old to play and yet introduced my 7 year old to some parts of history we hadn't started learning about. I decided with her that the only way she could get her match was if she could also find a fact about the card she matched.

The game cam with 64 cards and instructions on a couple of different ways to play. The topics are divided into four categories (Europe, The Americas, Far East, Arabia), which could allow you to focus solely on a particular area you were teaching about. My kids love playing matching games so this was a perfect match (no pun intended) for our family to add to our curriculum.





Thursday, June 20, 2013

Review: How Do We Know God is Really There?

Faith is funny thing...it's simple enough for a child to easily accept, yet difficult enough for an adult to question. However, just because you believe doesn't mean you or your children don't have questions. Helping your children understand the great universe God has created can sometimes be difficult. That's where Apologia comes in. They offer a variety of products to help navigate those sometimes hard to answer questions. One of those is How Do We Know God is Really There? It's the first in a series of adorable picture books to help introduce your child to ?? concepts of the Christian faith.

How Do We Know God is Really There? follows a little boy named Thomas, as he and his dad spend special time together exploring our solar system. They duo use a telescope to look at the moon, planets and stars, which opens the floor for the question "Dad, how do we we know God is out there?" The dad begins to explain creation in terms of science, while still backing up the Bible.

The book was a fun and imaginative story with wonderful illustrations. My 3-year old son, who is a Cars fanatic, was quickly captivated by the race car running around on Saturn's rings. We enjoyed some special time by reading about Thomas and his dad's special time. You can pick up a copy here for $16. And while your there check out some of the other great products Apologia offers like The Ultimate Homeschool Planner.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Review: Waterproof Bible

This may have been the hardest review I had to do!! Hard...but fun!!! I was given the chance to put the Waterproof Bible produced by Bardin&Marsee Publishing to the test!! Putting the Word of GOD through the ringer...a little tough considering the reverence I have for the Holy Book. However, there wasn't any other way to find out if the company's claims were accurate. So, I took that challenge and was beyond amazed at the unfathomable limits that the Waterproof Bible!!

Some of the claims for the Waterproof Bible are that it's waterproof (obviously), stain resistant, tear resistant (which I did try, but my husband was adamant that I not test too far), and even floats. I found that everyone of these claims were 100% true.

I first sent my daughter diving into a hotel pool with the Bible and she gladly shared the Gospel with some of the other kids swarming around her to see why she had a book in swimming pool. It easily floated as she let it bob around in the water.

Next, being the avid coffee drinker that I am, I "accidentally" spilled coffee on Waterproof Bible. It wiped away with no visible sign of ever having the dark brown liquid on it. (My study Bible, not so lucky for my morning java with Jesus).

Finally, I decided to really see how much water this Bible could really take (as if the pool wasn't enough) and left it outside. It's been unusually rainy in East Tennessee the last couple of weeks and so I left the Waterproof Bible outside where it was rained on for three straight days. Obviously, after all of that it was extremely wet, and it took a couple of days, but it did dried to just as good as new.

The Bible special pages are easy for taking notes and marking in using a dry highlighter or a ball point pen or pencil It also comes in five different translations...ESV, KJV, NIV, NKJV and NLT with a price tag of $44.95 for the entire Bible and $24.95 for a Psalms/Proverbs/New Testament. You can even have the Waterproof Bible customized!!

Their motto is "Be Inspired. Anywhere." and it's a perfect fit, because as far as I can see the Waterproof Bible has absolutely NO LIMITS!!!



Sunday, May 12, 2013

Review: Ooka Island

When we started homeschooling my daughter was just going in to Kindergarten and had some skills to begin to read, but wasn't really reading. So our adventure began! It took us four curriculum and the summer just before second grade before we actually found what clicked with her (she's my first and unfortunately the guinea pig for all that we try). When the opportunity to review Ooka Island came up, I was a little hesitant to try it, especially since we'd made so much progress in the last year. So I decided I'd use it with my 3 year old instead, but however, his enthusiasm for the program was obviously contagious and before long they were arguing over who's turn it was to play.

Ooka Island is a computer based reading program designed for children 3-7. The company states, "Our goal is to teach children to read fluently and well through reading instruction that is fun and compelling." Now, my kids were absolutely thrilled with the program and loved playing it, so it did accomplish the fun and compelling goal. That for a mom is always a huge plus because you want them to love learning and they did...so I can say from that stand point I loved this program.

That's what makes this review so hard to write. While there are some great things I liked and even loved about the program, there are several that I did not like at all. For that reason I wouldn't recommend it as a curriculum, rather as a supplement to what you are already use. Here are my list of likes and dislikes, starting with the dislikes.

Dislikes

1. I noticed mistakes within some of the games as my daughter played. She was trying to put sentences from the story "Trey's Tree House" in order after reading it. The sentences she was given were very confusing. They could have easily went two different ways. So when she put it in order wrong even I didn't understand why. 

2. The level my daughter stared at was a bit below her level really. Despite taking the compass test (which you can use for older readers to place them where they need to be on the path) she had to go through her ABC's as if she didn't even know them because it's just part of the game. 

3. Once she started playing the word ? she had to decide if something was part of a word or a word. The problem with that was some of the parts of words were not parts of words. And they most certain were not phonograms. Since we have been using a phonics based program this was confusing and contrary to what she had been learning.

4. When my 3 year old began his journey on Ooka Island, it started at the beginning and by teaching him the sound of the letter M...not the letter itself, but the sound. It seems odd to start in the middle of the alphabet and not to reinforce the actually letter names for recognition at that early in the game.

5. For my 7 year old who is reading, they had her identify the sound in E sound in me, but they used ee...she then proceeded to ask why. Then they had her identify the sound at the end of the word shoe and used oo...again she asked why. It seems odd to use the wrong phonograms to teach the sound. I know it's not a spelling curriculum, however, if my 7 year old is pointing it out then that makes me wonder what I would have to fix with my 3 year old if I left him use this program.

Likes

1. FUN! FUN! FUN! for the kids. Especially in free time, when they could change their character or feed the Ooka Elves. They were asking to play so much I had to limit their time. 

2. As the parent you can track what they are learning on the Lighthouse. You can print progress reports and send them CheerReader messages, which my daughter loved getting. 

3. There are off line elements to the game as well. You can buy the actual books they rescue. There are worksheets and e-workbooks you can print for extra practice.

My overall conclusion in using this curriculum was I think it's tool to utilized for learning, however, I wouldn't use it as a complete curriculum to reading. Many of the other team members found it to be a delightful addition to their homeschooling library. You can read their reviews here. If you're interested in adding some fun to your reading lessons, then by all means purchase Ooka Island, the company is offering a 30% discount to my readers. We will most likely keep it for the fun aspects, but still use our other curriculum. You can get a individual membership for $12.95/mo or $124.95/yr. If your looking to use it for more students, then you can price increases slightly at $19.95/mo or $149.95/year. But remember, right now you can get it for 30% off!!



Thursday, May 2, 2013

Review: Saving Memories Forever


When I first found out I was going to be reviewing the Saving Memories Forever app, I really wasn't that excited. I know most of the other reviewers kept expressing how thrilled they were, but I was rather mundane. Remember my background is in television, so my first thought was, "Why wouldn't you just use your video camera?" Having said this, let me just say...I am absolutely a convert! As I began to use it, I could see so many possibilities for it and I LOVE THIS APP (which is available for iPhone and Android systems)!!!!

Over the past few years, several older ladies have encouraged me to write down those little sayings from kids that you don't want to forget. I keep hearing, "You think you'll remember them but you won't." I try to always take what these lovely ladies tell me to heart, because they have been where I am and they know what they would change if they could go back. And I've been trying. I bought notebooks and I write them down from time to time, but I'm so busy with all three that honestly, I just forget (like they said I would)! So when I got this app, I knew it would be the perfect way to chronicle my favorite sayings they use...Asher, my 3 year old won't say "wellwow" for yellow much longer...and the baby cackle Canaan has when you begin tickling him will soon change to that of a toddler and am I going to grab my video camera just to ask what color bananas are or record Canaan laughing for 10 seconds? No. However, I will tap an app on my phone!!

Here's another way I decided to use this awesome app. I'm sure you've seen the 21 questions to ask you kids on Pinterest. So I had this amazing idea...instead of chronicling my children's answers on paper I could do it with this app. It's perfect too, because I always have my phone with me, so I can just grab it and start asking at anytime instead of trying to remember when and what board I pinned it to or in the midst of planning a birthday party trying to remember to stop to ask these questions and chronicle the answers.

When I used some of the questions on the app, I loved hearing my sweet Genesis's heart. (I also made some of my own up.) Now, I'll always be able to remember that at 7 she wanted to be a supermodel, a doctor, on the Olympic swim team, a jewelry maker, and woodcarver and all at the same time! Those are definitely memories I want to save! I also used Saving Memories Forever to let my husband goof off and share his crazy jokes that we may not be able to remember when we are old and gray!

This app was so much fun and has so many uses. You could use it to have your grandmother tell you a story about her childhood...what I wouldn't give to have my Mamaw's voice sharing some of the stories I remember her telling me before she went home to be with Jesus. Or even have my Papaw singing one of his jigs for my children to hear. This app is truly a precious and wonderful gift to quickly and efficiently save all those memories for years to come. After you record your stories they are uploaded to the Saving Memories Forever website and then can in turn be downloaded to your computer.

I have to mention, one of my favorite things the company is doing is offering this app to active military families that are deployed!! Now soldiers can record stories for their children or loved ones. Although I don't have loved ones across the way I know plenty who do and I will definitely be sharing this app with them!

There are so many ways you can actually use Saving Memories Forever that you really MUST check it out for yourself. The one thing I can promise you is this is an app that every family can use. So go to your smartphones app store and download it NOW!! It's free and you can play around before deciding to upgrade (premium service is just $3.99), but I'm pretty sure you'll want to once you decide how it best suits your family!

Need a second opinion...then check out reviews by other Mosaic Reviews team members here.