Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Keyboarding for the Christian School

My goodness, when I was in school, and in 7th grade, "Keyboarding" (or rather "Typing" back then) wasn't offered until High School. However, with today's "electric culture", and the rampant use of what I will call "Text slang" (ie... gr8, when will i c u, l8r? ) it could be highly beneficial to start your children on "keyboarding" skills earlier rather than later. ;)

To this end, the TOS Crew was provided with with free copies and asked to review either "Keyboarding for the Christian School, Revised Edition" (grades 6 and up $15.95) and/or "Keyboarding for the Christian School, Elementary Edition" (grades k-5 $12.95), by Leanne Beitel.
(*Note: There is a sale currently with a bundle of both titles for $22, and there is a coupon code for $5 off a $12.95 purchase through February 28, 2010 ... I'm not sure how long the Bundle sale is going on, but this would give you both titles for $17.... click on either picture below to go to the website)

Keyboarding for the Christian School e-book
My 7th-grader has been using the older version and now that my 4th grader is mostly recovered from his tonsillectomy, and getting back into the swing of things, I think that I will have him work on the "Elementary Version" of this course as well.
Elementary Version E-Book
So~ What are my thoughts on this program? I generally don't list my "Cons" first, but in this case, since there really is only one, I'll get it out of the way.
Generally speaking, there are more fun ways to learn to use the actual letters on the keyboard, (I'm thinking online/computer programs) but if you prefer to use a "print" program versus a computer program, and would like to have strictly Christian text, etc..., then this is a very good choice

However, what I am finding very useful are the lessons on various formatting skills. Here is a list of those covered (from the table of contents) in the Regular version: (The Elementary Version only covers a portion of these, as can be expected)
  • Enumerated Lists
  • Tab Key
  • MLA Reports
  • APA Reports
  • Cover Page
  • Works Cited
  • Bibliography
  • Personal-Business Letters
  • Business Letters
  • Envelopes
  • Proofreader’s Marks
  • Timed Writings
  • Timing Scale
Each lesson contains directions for formatting and computer screenshots to illustrate and or clarify the desired result and/or process. The samples for typing are all reasonable, wholesome, texts, with an overtly Christian tone. (I think the APA Academic Report Lesson would be a little "heavy" for my Middle-schooler, but your mileage may vary.) I remember typing class in high school, and the samples we had to type often bordered on either the ridiculous, or the irritating, so this is a nice change.

I am very thankful to have been allowed to review this program, because although it doesn't contain "bells and whistles", it seems to me to be a good, solid practical program for learning the keyboarding/typing skills (particularly "formatting skills") that will last a lifetime( and as a bonus, it should presumably be worth at least .5 credits for a high school transcript! GREAT!)

If you would like to check out some samples, they are available at the "Freebie" tab on the main page, and if you would like to see what other TOS Crew members had to say about their cruise with this typing program, please hop on over to the TOS Crew Blog, and check out some other reviews.

As always, I hope that this review was helpful to you as you make choices about what purchases will best suit your family. Blessings~



Thursday, January 7, 2010

GyMathtics DVD by Exploramania

The TOS Crew all received a free copy of the first GyMathtics DVD (retail $24.99) from Exploramania. The concept of this DVD is to "workout" your body as well as your brain by learning various aerobic exercises set to specific math concepts. (kinesthetic learners particularly have the potential to benefit from this sort of supplement, and the visual and auditory aspects shouldn't be overlooked either.

The Exploramania website suggests that the aerobic exercises in the 30 minute DVD are good for all ages, and that the math concepts are geared towards 2nd-5th graders, but based on my children, I would say that the DVD would be most appropriate for 2-6 year olds. While they aren't exploring the math concepts much at those ages, they can become familiar with the terms, and get a little energy out as well.(I recommend this for the cooped-up winter months if you live in the north...and maybe the cooped up in the AC months if you live in the south;) )

From the website~ The complete 30 minute program includes:
  • Shape Stretches Warm Up: Stretch your mind and body with line, circle, and polygon stretches.
  • Counting Calisthenics: Aerobic movements work your heart as fun counting concepts work your brain.
  • Pattern Power: Growing and repeating pattern exercise combinations challenge minds and strengthen muscles.
  • Well-Being Wind Down: Relaxing stretches cool down the body and open the mind to think about healthy lifestyle choices including the Nice Wave Stretch and Big Dream Stretch
In general, I have to say that this was not a favorite... although my two year old seems struck by it, but then... he enjoys most videos, because they aren't the norm in our house. Also, I am not by nature an aerobic exercise/exercise DVD sort of person, so this may color my review somewhat.

There are a few things that made the aerobic exercises difficult to watch...
  • The colors of the studio and the colors of the pants/shorts worn by the folks doing the exercises blended in, which didn't help when they were pointing out "right angles" being made by the legs...they couldn't be seen!
  • The repetition of the phrases "If you can do ____ that's Great! If you can ___ that's even better! If you can ___ that's amazing!" and some form of "We are Getting healthy and Getting Flexible and Challenging our minds!... Isn't Exercise fun?"(major reason why I felt this wouldn't appeal to older kids... my 9 and 12 year-olds were rolling their eyes the first time we played the DVD...)
  • While I appreciate what Ms. Carrie is trying to do, it doesn't work very well when she is saying "Isn't exercise fun?", but as she gets further into the exercises she sometimes looks more like it's drudgery than fun...
  • The cool-down portion with the ethereal synth-vox "music" seemed a little odd and out of place.....
I am sure that there are those that enjoy exercise videos and I think that group, as well as the age group that enjoys Barney would be the best audience for the GyMathtics DVD. Other products that Exploramania carries are GyMathitics 2.0 (targets grades 4-7 math concepts), Exploracise Yoga math Mat, and Exploracise Thumballs (practice math facts).

As always, please check out the TOS Crew for other opinions, and I hope that this review was helpful to you as you make choices about what purchases will best suit your family. Blessings~

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Maestro Classics~ Classical Music CD's for Children

After years of much research and study, I think that most educators are aware that there is much to be said for introducing children at a young age to classical music. Brain synapses and mathematics can only benefit.

From time immemorial it seems, music has also been paired with stories, to help to make them more memorable, and elevate the listener to a higher plane. In that vein, and with the belief that there is always room for something new, enter Maestro Classics.

The TOS Crew members each received a new CD of the story "The Tortoise and the Hare" by Maestro Classics, one of eight current titles in a series masterminded by Steven and Bonnie Ward Simon. The Simons are highly qualified to delight, entertain, and educate children and parents alike, with their expertise in Classical Music and education.

The CD comes complete with a musical selection (Either a traditional classical piece, or an original composition by Steven Simon) that accompanies a classic tale. There follows an discussion about the story and another brief treatise about the composition. This is reminiscent of Leonard Bernstein's "Young People's Concerts" at Carnegie Hall. They are actually outworkings of the "Concerts for Young People" at the Kennedy Center, which were founded by Bonnie Ward Simon.

The discussion of the music may help your children to listen more "discriminatingly" to the music that they hear, particularly music in the classical vein. They may also begin to wonder, ask questions, and even experiment with their own compositions, armed with the information that Mr. Simon gives them. His discourse is down to earth and interesting to listen to.

Included with the cd is a 24-page "program book", which effectively turns this package into a mini-unit lesson for all 3 types of learners. The booklet for "The Tortoise and the Hare" includes information on the instruments of the orchestra, notes and fractions, time signatures, a double page spread on Turtles & Tortoises, and Rabbits & Hares, a short but in-depth look at a featured instrument in the piece, the contrabasson. For the "hands-on" learners that like to do something while they listen, there is a dot-to-dot, a word jumble, and a crossword. The melody to a fun piece of music, "Pretzel Vendor of Paris" is also included.

I would say that Maestro Classics neatly fills the void between Baby Mozart and Classical Kids, and is best for children ages 4-10 or so. My children fall outside these ages, but can see my 2 year-old enjoying this in a couple of years. My 9 year old enjoyed the discussion on the music, and particularly the thought that a composer could include bits of other well-known pieces to help his musical picture, or landscape be more clear to the listener, but I really feel that he is on the upper end of "interest" for this particular series.

I recommend turning "The music is playing" button at the top of the page OFF, as it is annoyingly short and repetative, and instead, clicking on the individual titles to hear very nice samples of each portion of the CD's. The other titles currently available are:
The cost:
$16.98 for each individual title
There is currently a special rate of $45 for any three titles, using the coupon code MAESTRO45

Final analysis: This gets a thumbs up from mom, particularly if used as the springboard for a mini "Break-week" unit. Please, do listen to the samples yourself, and as always, check out my fellow TOS Crewmates reviews, to help you make the most sound decisions on where to spend your homeschool budget.

Blessings~

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