Category Archives: Homeschool Resources
I want to love science. It teaches us about God’s world and leaves me in awe of His infinite creativity and remarkably complex design. Yet when it comes to homeschooling, the word “science” starts to fill me with dread. I want to find a way to teach my children about the wonderful world God has created in a way that doesn’t seem dreary and dull (as I remember my science lessons being when I was a child). Science4Us.com is something I probably would never have sought out on my own, but when I was given a Science4Us.com Online Subscription to review I was pleasantly surprised by this wonderful program designed specifically for Kindergarten through second grade.
Ian caught glimpses of the website before I found out I was going to get to review it and was intrigued. So by the time I was able to access the site he was very excited. When the student signs on, they see a screen like this :
Once I showed Ian how to choose a “book” of science (physical science, inquiry, life science, or earth/space science) he had no problem taking off on his own and exploring the site, which contains over 350 lessons! He was immediately drawn to the section on “force and motion” and then chose the module on simple machines and the proceeded to go through the entire lesson in one sitting. I kept telling him he didn’t have to do it all, that he could save some for the next day, but he insisted that he wanted to finish the lesson. I think it took him about an hour. (The next morning he immediately went to the computer and finished two complete modules on motion and space.)
My first impression was very positive, and it only get better over the course of the time we were reviewing it. The activities were full of information but short enough to not be boring. There were several activities where it was helpful to know how to read, but not necessary because they provided an option to have it read aloud with a simple click. He really liked the “Syllables with Silly Bulls” activity, which provides spelling and reading practice for the student as he puts together the words. Ian also got his first experience putting words in alphabetical order, something he probably would have dragged his feet at if I just sat him down to do it, but which was “fun” because it was on the computer.
Science4Us.com is built upon the “5E Inquiry-Based Instruction Module”:
Each lesson has a series of activities that take the student through these five stages of learning. The program is web-based, but there is more to it than just the online activities. If you sign in as a teacher you can find a teacher guide and offline materials to go along with each lesson.
If Ian were older I would have spent more time utilizing those resources, but as a Kindergarten science curriculum I found the online activities alone to be plenty. He really enjoyed working through lessons on all sorts of subjects, and since he was excited about science, I decided to really follow his lead and stick with just the online portion of the program.
Things we loved
- There is lots of teacher support. You can assign certain lessons, view the student’s notebook, and watch training videos to help you get the most out of the program.
- There is SO much integration of literacy and math skills.
- I especially liked how it helped Ian put together on online “notebook” where he created pages about what he was learning.
- I love the connection to everyday life. As Ian was going through a lesson on heat, he came across a picture of a scientist using a thermometer just like one we happen to have at home. He came racing out to find it and was so excited that what he was learning about was “real.”
Things we would have liked a little different:
Science4Us.com is an excellent program, and there’s not really anything I didn’t like about the way it is presented to the students. However, as a homeschool parent there were a couple things I would have changed.
- The cost of the program is $7.95 per child per month. As a homeschooler, a family price would have been more beneficial. My 4-year old saw what Ian was doing and wanted to copy him. I was generously given a subscription for both boys, so he was able to sign on himself to do some lessons. However, some of the work was beyond him, and I wouldn’t have chosen to pay for a subscription for him as he used it a lot less than Ian. While it makes sense for a school to pay a cost per student for all the students in a certain grade, families have a different dynamic since there are students at different levels who might not be able to utilize the full program but would still benefit from being able to use it.
- The way of viewing the records of what has been accomplished seems geared more toward a school setting. As a classroom teacher I can see wanting to view what every student has done on a particular subject. However, as a homeschool teacher, I would have liked a way to see all the things a single student has done in the entire program on one page, but I could only find a way to look at one subject at a time. (I am told they are working on adding this.)
Overall I would say Science4Us.com is a great Kindergarten science curriculum for students who enjoy spending time on the computer. Whether you have your student go through it systematically, assigning specific lessons and working through each book of science one at a time, or just let them explore and follow their own interests, they will learn a lot, have fun, and develop a love for science that will carry them on to more in depth study as they get older.
Our family has chosen to make music an important part of our children’s education from an early age, so I was happy to be given the chance to review The KinderBach Online Piano Lesson Membership with Teacher Corner over the last six weeks. This one-year online membership currently costs $95.88 (regularly $130), which breaks down to $7.99 per month. In other words, KinderBach has made it easy to start teaching piano to young children at home for far less money than it would cost to take private lessons. The lessons are laid out so that even parents with no prior musical knowledge or experience can teach their children (and learn alongside them!) with ease.
Since Ian (age 6) already has over two years of lessons behind him (and even the Level 6 sessions were teaching things he already knew), I decided that Elijah (age 4) would be my main student as we went through the program. Arianna (2) also participated in many of the activities, and Ian often chose to join us because he didn’t want to be left out of the fun the other two were having. It was helpful for him to review certain concepts. (Elijah has also started music lessons, but because it’s so new to him and because this material was presented in such a different way, it was a good complement to what he is already learning.) I saw musical growth in all three kids as a result of going through the program, especially in Elijah.
Components of the KinderBach program
The KinderBach website says it is geared toward children ages 3-7, and I think it would work well for any student in that window, though I would probably move through at a rather rapid pace with children on the older end. There are 6 levels altogether, containing a total of 60 weeks of lessons. (You can access the first two weeks of level one lessons for free to try it out.) Each week consists of 4 short video sessions. It’s possible to do all 4 sessions in one sitting, and we often did that many (sometimes even more). I really just tried to gauge how interested the kids were. On the rare occasion that they weren’t really into it, we’d just do one and come back the next day.
The videos are designed to go along with a physical activity, rhythm instruments, time at the piano/keyboard, or a page in the activity books. Through the course of the lesson, students are introduced to fun characters that “live” on the keyboard, helping them to learn the letter names of the notes. For example, “Dodi” lives in the middle of each set of two black notes, which is the note “D”, though the children don’t learn that until later. (His neighbors, Carla Caterpillar and Edward Eagle, along with other friends, are introduced a bit later on.)
The videos are streamed online (or available on DVD for additional purchase), but you can download mp3s of the songs from the Teacher’s Corner (where you can also find lesson plans for using the program in a classroom setting). The activity books are also available to download, either as a whole book, or as individual pages linked under each video. I found this feature especially helpful because it meant there was no preparation needed. Once we opened the page for the video we were on, we just clicked on the link to get the page that went along with that part of the lesson. It made it easy to go at whatever pace we wanted to. I didn’t print out every page (some didn’t work well for our family, as I’ll explain below), but the kids really enjoyed doing these practice book pages.
My Assessment of KinderBach
I think KinderBach would work best for students/families with little to no musical training. I found the pace to be very slow and deliberate, with concepts broken down into tiny pieces that are introduced in a manner that was unnecessarily drawn out for my children who are already familiar with many aspects of music. It wasn’t until Week 19 that they actually played a basic 3-note pattern (C-D-E) on the piano. However, this gradual approach would probably be very helpful for young children or families with parents who are learning alongside their children and want to be sure they don’t miss anything.
The program creates a whole new way of naming and notating music, simplifying the technical terms to more “child-friendly” designations. Instead of letter names, the different keys on the piano are represented by the ”piano pals” I mentioned above. For rhythms they use terms like “walk” for a quarter note and “standing” for a half note. I understand that they’re trying to make it easier for children to remember, but I’m not sure it’s necessary (or helpful) to teach them one way when they’re going to have to end up learning it another way later. I see no reason not to just teach them the proper terms from the start. (In fact, in one of the sessions they started by showing a half note and asked, “What is this called?” Elijah promptly answered, “A half note!” (earlier that had been given as the “grown-up” word for it and he remembered), but then he was disappointed when they said, “That’s right! ‘Standing.’” I assured him that he was correct too. It just seemed a little odd that he would be wrong when he was really right. These nicknames made it rather hard to read the “music” when it was time to play at the piano, at least for Elijah, who is already used to reading quarter notes on a traditional staff (which is what he was taught from his first piano lesson). Here’s an example of a KinderBach “pre-staff” music page:
Maybe if a child didn’t already have a frame of reference for what music is supposed to look like they would be able to follow this with no problem, but our family found it confusing so I chose not to use these pages. Instead, I used the terms he was already familiar with and showed him the notes on a staff so he could follow along with real sheet music. I was a little surprised by how long it took the program to introduce the children to actual written music. From what I could find, it wasn’t until the end of Level 6 that they start to read regular notes on a staff.
The slow pace and the alternative terminology were fairly easy for our family to adjust so that the program could still work well for us. These criticisms probably have more to do with my background than with the KinderBach program itself. I started music lessons at age 4 in a program that taught us how to read music from the first day and put a heavy emphasis on ear training. After going on to earn a Bachelor of Music degree, I chose to put my children through that same program because I saw how much the program helped me develop as a musician. So I’ve seen many children reading traditional sheet music before they turned 4 and prefer going that route. For a parent without my background, however, this simplified “prestaff” system might be very useful in helping their children get started in learning to read and play music.
A bigger issue for us had to do with pitch. In the lessons that talked about “music patterns” (referring to three notes that either stayed at the same pitch or moved up or down), there were a couple recurring pitch problems. First there was the background music, playing in one key while the piano played a music pattern unrelated to the music we were hearing. Then the piano would play the pattern and the teacher would sing it back like he was copying it, except he never sang the same notes that the piano had played. Maybe this was intentional to show that the pattern could happen starting on any pitch, but since we are teaching our children that hitting a specific pitch is important, these lessons just came across as being indifferent to which pitch had been played. As I said before, ear training is a major component of the music education program our family follows, so this was a serious issue for me, though I’m sure many music educators would have no problem with it. I simply tried to distract Elijah and anyone else listening when these pitch problems occurred in the videos. Then I repeated the same information using the correct pitches.
We had a similar issue in the few lessons that used solfege. My children have been taught solfege using a “fixed do” (where C is always “do”), but KinderBach used a “movable do” (the first time they used solfege they were singing F and D, calling them sol mi). Obviously for most people this wouldn’t be an issue (and few people would even understand what I’m talking about if they’re not familiar with an ear-training program that uses fixed do), but if you do understand and care about fixed do vs. movable do, it’s something to consider.
On a more positive note, there were several things I really liked about KinderBach. The Piano Pals make it easy to learn the letter names of the notes, and even my 2-year old now knows how to find them on the piano, thanks to the fun little cards the boys colored to place above the keys. I also appreciated the emphasis on playing with the correct finger position, on the tip, to “make them strong.” This is something Ian struggles with and it’s always nice to have him hearing it from someone else.
My favorite thing about the program was the way they used the concept of music patterns. I had never seen this idea taught before, and it was a wonderful way to introduce composition. Both Elijah and Ian were eager to do the activities that had them arranging pitch patterns to create their own songs. They spent a good deal of time figuring out how they wanted to put the patterns together and then proudly sang finished products. I look forward to doing more lessons on composition and helping the boys explore the wonderful possibilities of creating their own music.
Overall, I’d say KinderBach is a excellent, economical introductory program for teaching music to young children if you’re looking for a traditional approach to piano lessons without any special emphasis on ear training. If you’re at all intrigued by what I’ve shared, I would encourage you to find out more. Explore the KinderBach website. Click the banner below to read what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew have to say. (I’ve read several of the reviews, and everyone has something new to say about it, so this really is a great way to learn more.) And don’t forget to check out KinderBach on Facebook, or Twitter (@KinderBach) for special deals!
Last night was the big debate between Ken Ham (the young-earth creationist CEO of Answers in Genesis) and Bill Nye (known to people all over the world as “Bill Nye the Science Guy” thanks to his award winning television show of the same name). I watched the debate with our neighbors as the kids played in their rooms, occasionally wandering out to see what was so important that we were glued to the television and had pizza delivered rather than miss even a minute for such trivialities as cooking dinner. It was like the Super Bowl for creation science geeks (since we hadn’t bothered tuning in to that at all)!
I appreciated the debate for a variety of reasons, but primarily because it caused me to reflect on the intellectual journey I’ve taken over the past few years. While the majority of the debate was focused on the idea of an old earth in which evolution was the driving factor behind the development of the vast array of living organisms we see today and a young earth created by God in six 24-hour days about 6,000 years ago, there was also a part where Ken Ham addressed Christians who tried to reconcile the two views, accepting a time frame of billions of years while still giving God credit for the creation.
My journey to becoming a “young earther”
The reason I appreciated this part of the debate so much is because that’s where I stood just a few years ago. I remember an incident during a class at my Christian university in which a professor asked us if anyone believed in a literal six-day creation. There were probably around eighty students in the class, and only one person raised his hand. I had grown up in public schools, and after coming to faith when I was fourteen I had never heard anyone contradict the ideas I had been taught about the age of the earth. I chuckled at that poor backward young man who didn’t know that science “proved” that the six days discussed in Genesis 1 had to refer to long eras and couldn’t possibly by 24-hour days. After all, even our Christian professor back up my view.
Fast forward a few years to when my church was doing a dinosaur-themed VBS. As I was listening to the songs provided with the curriculum, I started feeling really uncomfortable. “God created the world in six days, six days, six days…” the cheery voices sang. I went to the head of our children’s ministry program and said I wasn’t sure I could be the music leader that year, since I wasn’t sure I even believed the words to the songs I was expected to teach all those impressionable children. I think that was when I really started seeking out evidence that could point me to the truth.
I’m not going to go into all the facts and figures that support the idea of a young earth, but suffice to say I changed my mind. I think the key factor in that decision was something Ken Ham brought up last night in the debate. If the earth was billions of years old, and animals had been living on it for millennia before the appearance of man, then that meant death was present before sin entered the world as a consequence of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. The idea of Christ’s redemption from sin and death is so foundational to my Christian faith that I simply cannot accept that God’s creatures had been dying for millions of years before man’s decision corrupted His perfect creation. I realized that only a literal interpretation of the Hebrew word “yom” as a 24-hour day made sense, meaning that the earth is indeed young.
How do I reconcile this view with what secular scientists say about the age of the earth? To be blunt, I believe their dating methods are faulty. I believe the conclusions they have drawn about their scientific observations are based more on their worldview than truth. I believe there is plenty of evidence that points to a young age for the earth. I choose to stand on the foundation of God’s Word, and so I view the evidence through that lens. Everyone has faith in something, and if mine were not in the truth of the Bible then there would be nothing to support my trust in Christ’s salvation.
I thought Ken Ham did an admirable job of defending the position of a young earth, but I doubt many non-believers will take his word over that of the secular scientists who tell them otherwise. I think perhaps the most important work he did last night was explaining to believers why the idea of an old earth is contradictory to the fundamental message of the gospel: that Christ came to save us from the sin and death that entered the world as a result of Adam’s Fall.
If you missed the debate, I highly recommend making the time to watch it (two and half hours total). It’s still available for free through debatelive.org (as of this writing) or you can pre-order a DVD of Uncensored Science: Bill Nye Debates Ken Ham from the Answers in Genesis Bookstore. I don’t know how long the free stream will be available, so I’d recommend watching it as soon as you can! If you want to find out more about how science confirms the biblical account of creation, I would encourage you to check out Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research.
Disclosure: The above links are affiliate links. When you shop the Answers In Genesis Store through my blog, I receive a small commission. Thanks for supporting my blog!
I love online resources. They’re convenient, easy to search through, and best of all, they don’t take up any extra space on my bookshelves. So I was excited at the chance to review a Yearly Membership Option with SchoolhouseTeachers.com, a subscription website run by The Old Schoolhouse that provides online resources for multiple aspects of home education. (If you’re not already familiar with The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, I would encourage you to check it out. You can read the current digital issue for free online!)
There is a wide variety of content on the SchoolhouseTeachers.com for everyone from toddlers to parents and every age in between. It’s easy to find what you’re looking for by browsing through using the grade levels headings.
My little ones were fascinated by the animated e-books in the Children’s Story Corner (our computer is hooked up to the television so they could watch as Ian clicked on the interactive features). I started going through the class in Charlotte Mason Homeschooling from the Teacher Lesson Archives in the Library. (I love that there are classes for me!)
Lessons are available in core subjects like reading, math, and history as well as unique electives such as classical archeology and violin. When my boys get a little older, I know they’ll love the “Tinker’s Club” that teaches about things like engines and mechanical gizmos. You could use the site as the source for your entire curriculum if you wanted. I tend to be a bit more eclectic, however, so I like that I can pull bits and pieces to supplement what we’re already doing. I do a lot of planning from scratch, but as I look over all that is on SchoolhouseTeachers.com, I know I’ll be taking advantage of the lessons already put together by others. For example, I went to the “Schoolhouse Preschool” and quickly found some fun holiday activities in include in our Advent celebration. After the holidays, I’m looking forward to using the literature units that go along with some of our favorite books.
I was impressed by how many types of resources the site offers. I expected helpful ideas and lesson plans to use with my kids (and there are those in abundance, especially in the archives), however there is a lot more to the site than just curriculum.
- Downloadable/printable planners that are full of great information specifically geared toward homeschool parents and students at different levels
- Video and audio recordings of past The Schoolhouse EXPO online conference sessions (It’s like having a homeschool conference on demand at home!)
- E-books containing curriculum, encouragement, and informational reading for students (12 new books available after each month of membership over the first year)
- Certificate and awards gallery with templates you can personalize and print out to help celebrate your child’s achievements
- Access to past issues of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
- Members are also eligible for discounts many other homeschool resources through the TOS Family Discounts Program (including a free membership to Apple Core, an online course tracking program to help you keep records of your child’s education from preschool all the way through high school)
Although I was a little overwhelmed at first by how much I found, it only took a few days to begin to feel more at home on the site. The Yearly Membership Option ($139) gives you access to all that I’ve talked about and so much more. To read what other Crew members had to say about SchoolhouseTeachers.com, visit the Crew website or click on the banner below!
I know there are many homeschool families that hold off on any kind of formal math until the children are around 2nd or 3rd grade, instead using various math games and activities to lay a foundation. At first I considered going this route, but over the last few months something “clicked” in Ian’s brain and he started becoming fascinated by numbers and counting. It felt like a waste not to take advantage of his interest, so I’ve been slowly starting to spend more time on math concepts.
As I started this new venture, there were two things I wanted to keep in mind:
- There are many facets of math, so I decided to use a curriculum to make sure I was hitting them all in a logical order.
- I want to be sure to lay a strong foundation of “number sense,” so that Ian is really grasping the concepts behind the symbols we use in math. One of my favorite tools for this is a set of Cuisenaire rods.
My mom was a teacher, and growing up I used to spend every afternoon in her classroom waiting for her to finish getting things ready for the next day. One of my favorite ways to entertain myself was playing with Cuisenaire rods. There was something so satisfying to me about the way they were designed. When I first became a teacher myself I was blessed with 2 sets of rods, and though I never used them with a large class, I knew they would be a valuable tool in homeschooling. Over the last year I’ve gotten them out several times for the boys to play with, just to build familiarity. As I started looking for a curriculum, I wanted to find one that would incorporate the rods in the early stages.
Okay, I have to make a confession. Ian is only 4, but I think I’ve been looking at curricula for at least 2 years. I just like to know what’s out there, to read reviews, talk to other people about what they use, and have a decent idea of what’s available before I need to make a decision. Early on in my search I came across the Miquon Math Lab series. Because I didn’t need them right away, I put them all on my PaperBack Swap wishlist, and within a few months I had collected all 6 workbooks (in order: Orange, Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, and Purple) and the “Lab Sheet Annotations,” which is basically the teacher’s manual. They’ve been sitting on my shelf waiting to get put to use, but I was a little hesitant to start an actual curriculum when Ian is still a few months shy of turning 5. (Most of the books are available very inexpensively at Amazon. You can also get the whole set from Rainbow Resource.)
I decided to look online for activities I could do that were more structured than just playing with the blocks, but not quite as formal as a curriculum. My favorite resource was the “Cuisenaire Activity and Exploration Book for Pre-Miqon Kids ” by Miranda Hughes, full of activities and games designed for her daughter to use before beginning the Miquon series and generously shared as a free pdf file. I also liked Marcia Miller’s ideas at Unschooling Conversations. There are a number of books available with more ideas, but these free resources will take you a long way (and get you started thinking of your ideas about how to use the rods).
I love the “lab” nature of Miquon and these Cuisenaire rod activities, but to me they feel more like a supplement than a core math program (though I know some people have gone that route). So even though I had been hesitant to start a curriculum, I changed my mind and decided to ease into one VERY slowly. There are a number of good math curricula out there, and I think we’d be fine going with pretty much any of them. However, I am all about cheap and convenient, and it’s hard to get cheaper than free or more convenient than having everything you need available online to print whenever you want. That’s why I was drawn to the Mathematics Enhancement Programme (MEP) from the Center for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching in the UK. It’s designed for classroom use but has been used by many homeschool families as well. (There’s even a Yahoo group where you can connect with others using MEP at home.) Incidentally, I know of many families who would chose MEP over other programs even if it weren’t free, so I’m not worried at all about compromising quality just to save some money.
From what I understand, the ”Reception” year is geared toward preschool-age children, and “Year 1″ would be for Kindergarteners. I kept considering starting Reception with Ian, but I was turned off by the format, which is different from the rest of the years. It’s very conversational, which would be okay except that I found so much of the material to be too easy for Ian. I didn’t want to bore him with things he already knew; nor did I want to spend the time picking through everything to find the things he really did need to learn. So I decided to skip Reception and just dive into Year 1. It’s a spiral curriculum so I figure any gaps will be filled in eventually as we move through the program. So far Ian is doing fine with the material. We use “Little People” when activities call for using children in the class (they also make great “counters”), and a set of “Thomas & Friends” number cards I found at the 99-Cent Store a while back (though you could easily make your own cards). If you’re interested in using MEP, I highly recommend reading through this post by a mom who’s been using it for a while. Reading this really simplified everything floating around in my mind and encouraged me to give it a shot.
Because I spend a lot of time in Charlotte Mason circles, I have to say I feel almost guilty beginning any sort of curriculum with a child so young. However, I am not a slave to any particular method, and Ian seems ready to begin some more structured learning, so here we are. I’m not pushing him to keep up a quick pace. My goal is to get through 2 MEP lessons a week. In the month we’ve been doing this, we’ve sometimes done more, sometimes less, and I’m fine with that. If a concept seems a little challenging for Ian, we spend a little extra time on it before moving on. We’re also taking at least 1 day a week to do some “Math Lab” work. Right now I’m using the pre-Miquon book I mentioned above, but after that we’ll start slowly working our way through The Miquon “Orange Book.” (I’ve torn out the perforated pages and put them in page protectors. Ian can work on them with dry-erase markers and then we can save them to use with the other kids. Yes, the books are cheap, but I just can’t stand the waste of having him write in the book!)
There’s one last thing I want to make note of, and that is Elijah’s reaction to all this. He has watched Ian and I doing “Math,” and is eager to have his turn. I try to adapt the lab activities and take a few minutes each session to have some one-on-one time with Elijah. His brain is much more naturally geared toward order and numbers, so his eyes just sparkle with excitement as he does “work.” I have a feeling we’ll be diving into those Cuisenaire activities with him before too long!
One of the subjects I’d like to be a part of our children’s education is music appreciation. Ian’s already learning to play piano and enjoy making music through a Yamaha course, but I also want to help them all become familiar with some of the beautiful music that has been enjoyed for centuries through a little composer study à la Charlotte Mason. Our children are still so young, but my plan for the next few years until we are “officially” homeschooling is to gradually add in the subjects that I want to be a part of our curriculum. Otherwise it would be pretty overwhelming when Ian turns six if I suddenly try to jump into everything at once. So since I have a fairly extensive background in music (not to mention an absurdly large collection of classical music CDs), I’ve decided now is a good time to start being a little more intentional in this area. (I tend to think in terms of the schoolyear starting in August, even though I intend to homeschool year round, taking breaks as we need them rather than a big summer holiday)
Last year I shared about some of the music we started listening to when they were quite little in the post “Music My Preschoolers Love.” They still enjoy all those pieces, but now they’re also ready for a few more mature findings. Yes, they’re SO mature now that the oldest is 4 1/2. Seriously though, having been exposed to it early has made them more open to hearing things not necessarily meant for children so young. I especially like finding CDs or other audio files that explain a bit about the music and give the kids something specific to be listening for. For example, after hearing the composer tell about using tubas to portray the big boats in Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel, Elijah started asking, “Mommy, is that the big tubas?” every time they played.
That CD is the first one we bought from the Maestro Classics series. It was such a hit, both with the boys and with me, that I also decided to get Peter and the Wolf, even though we already have another recording of this piece. I just really like all the extras that come on their albums–(plus the Peter and the Wolf (MP3) was just $5 thanks to a coupon from HomeschoolShare–they’re also sponsoring a giveaway until the end of July so check it out!) And we just got The Soldier’s Tale to include in the last week of our July composer study on Stravinsky (post coming soon). I’ve put the rest on the kids’ wishlists for gift ideas and I hope we can eventually collect the whole set. Here are all the titles available:
- Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel
- Peter and the Wolf
- The Soldier’s Tale
- The Tale of Swan Lake
- My Name is Handel
- The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
- Casey at the Bat
- The Tortoise and the Hare (which I’m definitely getting when we study fables!)
- Juanita the Spanish Lobster (available in English or Spanish)
- Carnival of the Animals is set to be released September 1
The Maestro Classics website also has homeschool curriculum guides with lots of great suggestions for integrating different subjects with the music from each CD.
Another great resource for exposing your children to the works of the great composers is the Classical Kids series. A fellow homeschooler shared these with us, and while I haven’t yet listened to all of them yet, they get great reviews. They tell a story about the composers’ lives, using various pieces of their music throughout the CD. What a great way to help your kids become familiar with the unique musical “voice” of different composers! Over the next school year I’ll be using these as the framework for our composer study, choosing one CD a month and supplementing with podcasts from Classics for Kids (lots of great resources there!), music from my own collection and kid-friendly biographies from the library.
- Beethoven Lives Upstairs(DVD also available)
- Mozart’s Magic Fantasy
- Mr. Bach Comes to Call (DVD also available)
- Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery
- Tchaikovsky Discovers America
- Hallelujah Handel
- Mozart’s Magnificent Voyage
- Song of the Unicorn (Medieval music)
There are two additional Classical Kids CDs that are thematic rather than being about a particular composer.
And just in case you needed any more ideas, I’ve recently added to our music library a couple other albums combining classical music (or classical style) with engaging stories. We’ll be listening to Ferdinand the Bull and Friends when we “row” The Story of Ferdinand. And although our listening schedule looks pretty packed this year, I’m really looking forward to queezing in some time for the award-winning Baroque Adventure: The Quest for Arundo Donax.
Wow! That’s a lot of music! I hope you’ll try out some of our suggestions and share some of your family’s favorites in the comments.
(If you’re interested in implementing Charlotte Mason-style composer study in your home, check out Ultimate Guide to Composer Study over at Homegrown Learners for lots of great information and ideas!)
As we head towards 4th of July, I went searching for some kid-friendly versions of the patriotic songs that every American child should know. I wasn’t thrilled with what I had in my own music collection (either they were on old worn out cassettes, or the versions just weren’t great for younger kids to sing along with), so I went to Amazon, as I do pretty much every day when I need something, whether it be a book, baby product, shampoo… I’m kind of addicted to having the exact item I want delivered to my door without dragging the kids around to various stores. But I digress.
I had a vague recollection of a Wee Sing album along those lines, and sure enough, there was Wee Sing America. I looked at some other options, but nothing seemed to compare. Since I didn’t want to wait for a CD, I just bought the mp3s, downloaded it, and we were listening on my iPod within minutes.
I’ve always liked the Wee Sing series, and this one was no exception. The songs are mostly sung by kids, so it appeals to my children, who readily join in to sing along. Two things about this collection stood out for me to make it stand out:
1. The quotes. Interspersed throughout the album are short quotes from various Presidents as well as important things like the Pledge of Allegiance, the preamble to the Constitution, etc. I LOVE this. I know some homeschools say the Pledge every day, but that’s just not our style (the formality, I mean; we’re all for patriotism). Still, I do think it’s important to know, and I want my children to be able to say it when the opportunity arises. So thumbs up! If I had been assembling a “Listening Lesson” the way I usually do each week, it would have looked a lot like this album. Only this time all the work was done for me!
2. The verses. So often we only hear the first verses of songs like “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” “Yankee Doodle,” or “God Bless America.” I was surprised (and very pleased) to discover that this album included multiple verses of most of the songs that have them. The lyrics of these later verses are often so rich in language and content, and even though it will be years before my kids can understand them all, I’m so glad they can learn the whole songs!
This is a great collection of patriotic songs, and if you’re looking for an easy way to teach your kids these American standards, I highly recommend Wee Sing America!
So earlier this week I was skimming through my email, and I happened to notice an article about a website called ReadingEggs.com. Normally, I probably would have just skipped it (I get tons of mail about homeschooling), but the subject line read, “Teach your child to read in 5 weeks.” Ian had expressed some interest in reading a while back, and we’d tried the first few books from Progessive Phonics. It wasn’t a good match for Ian (too easy in that he already knew the letters, too hard in that he wasn’t ready to blend sounds or write). So I dropped it and never brought it up again. Lately, however, he’s been showing lots of signs of reading readiness (trying to read his books himself, asking what signs say everywhere we go), so the email caught my eye and I thought we’d give it a try.
I was AMAZED by Reading Eggs! I signed up for their free trial period (14 days), and Ian got started right away. I think he did 3 “lessons” that first day, and by the end of it he was recognizing his first couple sight words (“I,” “am,” and “Sam”). The second day he was back at it and finished the day being able to read, ” at,” “cat,” “bat,” “rat,” and “fat”. I was blown away, and he was SO proud of himself!
I am so impressed with this program. It teaches both phonics and sight words. It shows children how to form letters properly while not requiring them to write. (Ian’s fine motor skills aren’t quite ready for that.) Ian knew all his letters going in, but it wouldn’t have been a problem if he didn’t. The only skill required is being able to use a mouse. Recognizing numerals is also helpful. There is enough repetition that Ian feels confident and is able to play on his own, yet enough variety in the many different activities that it keeps his interest. Elijah’s not ready for the program, but he’s learning a lot too just by hanging over Ian’s shoulder as he plays. (We’ve gone WAY beyond our normal “screentime” allowance for the last couple days, but I find this a worthy exception!)
There are also rewards for all the hard work in the “lessons.” Ian loves the activities in the “playroom,” and he’s enjoyed spending the golden eggs he earns during the lessons on fun games in the arcade. (Users can also “buy” things for their “houses” with the eggs.)
I cannot speak highly enough about the website. We used some promo codes to extend our trial period, but if Ian’s still enjoying it and learning when that’s over, I won’t hesitate to pay for a subscription.
Want to try it? Head on over to ReadingEggs.com and sign up for your FREE 14-day trial.
Enter promo code USC27LAU to extend that another 21 days. That’s 5 WEEKS of free reading lessons! I hope you love them as much as we do! [I've been told that this code has expired.]
Yesterday as I was driving Ian home from his music lesson, he requested the same music we’d listened to on the way over. It made me smile that he enjoyed it so much, and it got me thinking about some of the classical music that has really “clicked” with him over the last year or two. So I thought I’d share some of our favorites.
When Ian was two, I decided to start being intentional about providing him with classical music to listen to and enjoy. The first thing I thought of was Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. There are many different recordings available, but I chose the one from the CD Bernstein’s Favorites: Children’s Classics because it also contained some other pieces I liked. To introduce the story I read it to him from a couple different books. I bought the first one because it was a nice stand-alone story even without referencing the music. Then I ran across another version at the library bookstore and figured it was worth 50 cents for another one that talked a little about the instruments that play the themes for each character. (It’s an older copy and I couldn’t find it on Amazon, but it’s similar in idea to this one, which comes with a CD.) Ian also loved the old Disney video of the story. (I saw a number of VHS copies on Amazon, but as far as DVD, I could only find it on Make Mine Music, a collection of different musical vignettes). Ian was enchanted by this story right from the start, and it continues to be one of his favorite things to listen to in the car. (His enthusiasm is contagious, because now Elijah is really getting into it as well.)
The second piece I thought Ian would like was the Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens. This one took a little longer to grow on him, but we’ve listened to it a lot, and there are certain parts he really likes (the “Royal March of the Lion” and the “Fossils” are his favorites). We have two recordings of this. It is also on the Bernstein’s Favorites: Children’s Classics I mentioned above. In this recording, Bernstein provides some explanation for the music that goes with each animal, which can be helpful at first, but I find it a little tiresome after a while. I prefer listening to the straight music on the CD that came with a book that helps kids know what they’re listening to with each piece. The book is better for older children, but I just summarize the information for Ian, and he loves looking at the pictures.
The latest addition to our children’s classical library was Hansel and Gretel. I wanted to introduce Ian to the music from Humperdinck’s opera without overwhelming him with the entire thing. I was hoping to find a CD version of the Disney vinyl record I listened to growing up, but it doesn’t seem to exist. So then I searched for something with just highlights in English, preferrably with some narration. The only album I found that met those criteria was this one that also included a telling of Alice in Wonderland set to music. (However, Ian’s been so thrilled with Hansel and Gretel, we keep going back to listen to it again and haven’t made it to the second half of the CD, so I can’t comment on that yet!)
If your preschooler has become attached to a particular piece of classical music, please add a comment–we’d love suggestions!
Update: For more ideas, check out “More Classical Music My Kids Love“!
If you’ve read any of my posts about our Bible lessons, you know how much I value music for helping us memorize Scripture. When possible I love to find a CD with our verse on it so I can include it in our iPod playlist. If I can’t find one, I’ll try to set the verse to a familiar tune. Here are the CDs we have in our personal library right now:
- Hide ‘em in Your Heart Vols. 1 and 2 by Steve Green
- Sing the Word: A New Commandment and Sing the Word from A to Z by the Harrow Family
- Scripture Rock (Vol. 1), Vol. 2 and Vol. 3
- Hidden In My Heart: a Lullaby Journey Through Scripture CD (These songs are beautiful, but they’re not really for memorization. I’m not sure what translation they’re based on, but they don’t seem to be word for word, and it seems like they sometimes combine several separate verses for a song. I still love it for background music and getting Scripture into my little ones’ hearts, if not necessarily their heads. It’s very soothing for Elijah, and I plan on playing it a lot once Arianna arrives.)
And I’m always looking for new ones. I’ve had my eye on the “Seeds Family Worship” CDs for a while, and today I found out about a giveaway of a couple other CDs that sound wonderful! So I thought I’d write about it, both so I can enter the giveaway and to share with you! Here’s a quick glimpse at what’s being offered:
“God’s Word From A to Z”
“Ascending”, “Pure Words” and “Songs From the 40′s, 50′s and 60′s”
Jamie Soles has produced three albums of Psalms set to music. Nearly all of the Psalms on these albums are word for word taken from the English Standard Version and each song is a full Psalm (Psalm 46 is divided into two songs).
Ascending - Psalms 120-134, The Psalms of Ascent
Pure Words – Psalms 1-16
Songs From the 40′s, 50′s and 60′s - A collection of Psalms from Psalm 42-69
For more details on the CDs and how to enter the giveaway, check out Raising Olives (one of my favorite blogs!)