Saturday, January 30, 2010

All About Reading Beehive Reader 1

If you have ever taught your child to read, you probably have discovered that there are very few good books available to those just beginning their reading journey. This is especially true if you want actual stories for your child to read.

All About Learning Press has stepped up to fill that void. The beautifully illustrated, hardback Beehive Reader 1 contains 10 stories covering 155 pages that will bring your beginning student much satisfaction in reading.

The old saying that a picture speaks a thousand words is true in this case. So instead of trying to describe the quality that has gone into this book, I am going to give you a glimpse from a few of the stories and illustrations.


If this looks like something that would fit into your reading program or just be good reading material for your children, visit the All About Learning website. The Beehive Reader 1 can be purchased for $19.95.

You can also read what other Crew families experienced.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling

Considering homeschooling?

Beginning homeschooler?

Veteran homeschooler?

What do we all have in common?

The need for direction, information, and encouragement.

No matter where we are in this journey of homeschooling, from time to time we need a reality check. We need to take a step back and evaluate where we are and where we are headed. The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling by Debra Bell helps us do just that from a practical and Christian perspective.

From helping us make sure we know our family vision to sorting through all aspects of homeschooling, this book, published by Apologia Press, fills in the cracks that we have been dodging. The information presented is relevant for those considering homeschooling all the way to the veteran homeschooler.

Take a look at what all you get

Part One - Homeschooling: Is it for You?

There are trade offs no matter what form of education you choose for your children. This section does a really good job of presenting the good, the bad, and the ugly of homeschooling. It also allows you to take a clear look if your family has the ingredients to homeschool successfully.

Part Two - Choosing a Curriculum

Providing a quick overview, this section gives some things to consider before choosing curriculum. More research and reading will be required to further understand the topics covered.

Part Three - Organization and Planning

Examples and resources make up with section all meant for helping you keep your homeschool on track.

Part Four - Preventing Burnout

Helping homeschooling parents get and stay out of the slumps that seem inevitable is what this section is about. If you implement some of the suggestions beforehand, you can save yourself a lot of headache throughout your homeschooling journey.

One of the chapters in this part is about sharing the load and includes important advice on operating a co-op.

Part Five - What to Teach - When and How

This section gives suggestions for what to make sure and cover for each core subject. It also gives the author's suggestions for particular material.

Part Six - Homeschooling Teens

Opening this section is a discussion about areas that might determine if you will or will not homeschool through high school. It then continues with helping you plan a course of study, navigating college admissions, and even doing college at home.

Part Seven - Computers in the Homeschool

We are living in a technological age and to not make sure our students have a strong foundation in this area is like not giving them the tools they need for the future. Mrs. Bell talks about necessary hardware and software and tips for navigating the worldwide web.

Part Eight - Creative Solutions

Homeschooling can present different types of challenges and in this section, Mrs. Bell gives suggestions for teaching with toddlers underfoot, transitioning from school to home, and motivating the reluctant learner.

Part Nine - Measuring Your Success

One thing that many homeschool moms deal with is wondering if she is doing enough for her students. Are they learning what they need to? Am I preparing them adequately for their future? This section addresses some ways to combat these feelings and to provide the assessments that you need.

Part Ten - Homeschool Resource Guide

Wrapping up this information-packed book is a definite time-saver section. It includes contact information for homeschooling organizations in various states for those needing to connect with others. Recommended suppliers and products are given to provide a starting point for your journey of choosing the right material for your students. Academic and athletic contests and competitions available to homeschoolers are provided so that your students can have an outlet for their giftings.

In each section you will find additional reading and research sources.

Homeschooling is hard work and Mrs. Bell pulls no punches in laying out the true picture. But she also gives you advice on how to chart the waters once you make the commitment to educate your children at home. Definitely a book you want to pull out each year and reread.

Visit here to see what other Crew members felt about this book. And you can visit the Apologia website where you can buy The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling for $20.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.


My 6 year old daughter and I have been having fun watching the online music lessons from KinderBach. These non-traditional piano lessons are very engaging yet teach musical concepts to young children in a way that is useful. I surely didn't learn piano theory in quite this fun of fashion.

Music and piano concepts are taught from the concrete to the abstract starting with names and characters for different parts of the piano and music. Once the student has had plenty of time to learn a concept, the actual musical terminology is used.

Each week of lessons includes an intro that tells what supplies you need that week. Following that are 4 short lessons which a 6 or 7 year old can easily do in one sitting. Younger children would probably do better with one lesson at a time.

It is important to have access to a piano where you can view the DVD or online lessons.

Activity Books utilizing coloring, cutting and pasting are made to be used alongside the video lessons. They are in PDF format and are available for all levels. Some children may do fine without the activity pages but my daughter sure likes them and was upset when I only printed a portion of them. I think the program would not be as multi-faceted without them.

There are several items that complement the video lesson storyline. Coloring books are available to buy. Crafts and Game books are being written for each level. And Song books and audio CDs are also available.

We just finished Level 2 and my daughter has learned 3 notes on the piano, 3 music patterns, and 2 types of beats. And it has all been done in a very non-technical manner. The lessons are a bit difficult to watch online as it is not full screen. But it did work better when I hooked our laptop to our TV.

You can purchase the the levels in DVD format or you can subscribe to the Online Learning Center which has all 6 levels (240 sessions). An annual payment for the online subscription is $95.88 ($7.99/month) or you can pay $19.99/monthly for a year. As both the DVDs and online subscription are a bit of an investment, you can try the two week free trial to see if this fits your child. KinderBach also offers a 30-day money back guarantee.

DVD Activity Packages are $40.45 for each level and include DVD lessons, the PDF Activity Book and an Audio CD. There are also Value packages available if you want to purchase multiple levels.

So if your little one wants to learn the piano, the KinderBach lessons might be just what you need to get him started on the journey before you start investing time and money into a piano teacher.

Read here for other Crew Member reviews. I liked the program enough that I purchased the 6-level DVD package during their Christmas sale.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Christian Keyboarding

Christian Keyboarding for the Christian School by Leanne Beitel is a straight-forward typing program created for Christian schools. It can easily be used by individual students as well.

The lessons first cover the basic keys. Then the program moves on to teaching basic word processing skills along with MLA and ALA report formatting, personal and business letters and tables. There are 43 lessons in all.

It does not have all the bells and whistles that other typing programs have but it also includes word processing skills. With this program, the student can get down to business, learn the material well, and move onto other things possessing a skill that will last him a lifetime.

The e-book we reviewed is for 6th grade and up which can be purchased for $15.95. Also available is an elementary program as well as other topic-specific instruction and package deals.

Please visit the Christian Boarding website to see samples and other products available. And you can read what other Crew families experienced with this product. My 13 year old daughter is finding it be very straight-forward and easy to use.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

We were extremely blessed shortly after Christmas when someone gave us this furniture set.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Young Brahms / Franz Schubert and His Merry Friends

The Great Musicians Series from Zeezok Publishing is a neat way to learn about composers of the past. We were privileged to review the following set.

The Young Brahms / Franz Schubert and His Merry Friends

1)The Young Brahms by Sybil Deucher

2)The Young Brahms Study Guide by Judy Wilcox

3)Franz Schubert and his Merry Friends by Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher

4)Franz Schubert and his Merry Friends Study Guide by Judy Wilcox

5)Companion CD
    Audio files of all the music
    Nice coloring pages for each chapter
    Fun sheets 
    Printable sheet music of all the music

These books are designed for Kindergarten to sixth grade but still can be valuable for higher grades. The study guides include Comprehension Questions, Character Qualities, and Tidbits of Interest. I think the optimal age for the study guide would be upper elementary although there is plenty of material that could be adapted for both younger and older students.

We have not learned as much about musicians as I would like so reviewing this set from Zeezok Publishing was a neat opportunity. At first I thought the books might be too young for my 7th and 9th graders, but even I am enjoying reading the stories. The questions and information presented in the study guides help make the stories even more meaningful. You can listen to the songs from the Companion CD while you are reading the story to get the full effect of the composer's life. Or If you have a pianist in the house, he can play the songs from the book. (However, it would probably be easier to print the sheet music from the CD.) Your younger students may also enjoy coloring the neat pictures while listening to you read.

Even though our family does not really fit in the target range for this series, I would still purchase more of the books as they really are a fun way to learn.

You can purchase The Young Brahms set for $35.80. Zeezok Publishing has a variety of products in addition to their Musicians Series.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.


MathScore was developed by MIT graduates to help raise math scores through adaptive math practice. Their goal was to combine critical thinking and basic computations skills.


Topics: Although MathScore was not created to be a full math curriculum, there are mini-lessons included for each topic. Also included are sample problems and multiple level online worksheets with instant grading. The topics range from addition to algebra 1. A list of sample topics can be found on the right hand side of the home page.

Statistics: The student can view his Activity Summary. He can also see how he is progressing through the topics for his grade level.

Awards: Awards are given as different groups of topics are mastered. There appears to be no purpose to the awards other than they show up on your award page. But even so I found myself pushed to work through the topics required to get each award. Crazy sounding but true.

Assessment: This optional test takes you through the primary skills required for algebra readiness. At the end, it lists the topics the student is proficient in, the topics that need to be studied immediately, and the topics that need to be studied this year. This test does not flow well between topics and you have to click "continue assessment" after every two or three problems.

Student Guide: This guide gives the student information to help him navigate the website better.

Demos: Video demonstrations on how each part of MathScore works.


  • View Assessments
  • Student Activity Summary
  • Log in Summary
  • Billing
  • Topics:Browse, View sample problems, View math tips
  • High scores
  • Demos


Topics covered
Rating for topics
Points earned
Overall accuracy
Number of worksheets completed
Time at computer
Time spent on relevant work
Good worksheet time
Low quality worksheet time


1st student $14.95 per month
2nd student $5.00 per month
Each additional student $3.95 per month

A two-week free trial is also available.


Originally I was not impressed with this program. I like the overall concept and I like that it moves from the concrete to the abstract. But It has a clunky feel to it that is hard to get past. However, the problems presented really do strain your brain and are worth pushing past the lack of smooth presentation. The worksheets also reinforce mental math techniques that are beneficial in all areas of math. If your child is needing a challenge or just extra practice, MathScore will definitely provide it.

You can read here what other Crew families experienced.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Worship Guitar Class

Learning to play an instrument can be a lifelong blessing. This is especially true of something like piano or guitar which can be used in so many settings. Teenagers and adults alike can do just that with the Worship Guitar Class series. They also have a Worship Guitar Class for Kids made for ages 5 to 9 which starts with one finger chord songs.

I was blessed to be able to review Level One of the Worship Guitar Class. I received an instructional DVD and book with the lesson instructions and songs. Here's a look at what is included on the DVD.

* Introduction

* Parts of the guitar

* Tuning the guitar

* Lessons 1-7

1: How to hold guitar, A, E7, Song

2: D Chord, Thumb strum, Song

3: G Chord, Song

4: Up/Down Strum, Song

5: C, D suspended, E minor, A minor, Song

6: A7, Thumb Pluck strum pattern, Song

7: D9/F#, New strum pattern, Song

*Practice segments for each lesson

Each of the 4 volumes of the Worship Guitar Class costs $29.95 and includes a DVD and Instruction Booklet. A One Year 100% Money-Back Guarantee is offered. I just saw an advertisement in my area for guitar lessons listed at $25 per half hour. This one volume definitely includes more material than would be covered in one lesson.

There are also programs available for improving your vocal quality, playing the piano, drums, and other instruments.

When I first glanced at the program, I was disappointed that there were only 7 lessons, and I didn't hold much hope that it was going to be worth the cost. But once I started watching the lessons, it was clear that there is plenty of material to learn and practice. There are even practice sessions included on the DVD to help you with your practice. The instruction on the DVD is clear. And with a song to play after each lesson, there is motivation to perfect the new chords and strum patterns. I think level one is a good introduction to playing the guitar. You can then proceed through the other 3 levels if and when you are ready to advance your skills.

You can read here what other Crew members thought of the Worship Guitar Class.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

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