Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Homeschool Spanish Academy (Schoolhouse Review)

Homeschool Sapnish AcademyEveryone knows that the very best way to learn a foreign language is to learn it directly from a native speaker and  that private tutoring is an efficient way to learn any subject. But most of us don’t have the funds or the opportunity to hire a foreign language tutor to teach our children!

I was so excited to learn about the Homeschool Spanish Academy and to have the opportunity to try it out through the TOS Crew! Emily has studied Spanish a little bit—using some videos and workbooks, but not in a very organized fashion. I was eager to see what kind of progress she could make with this program.

Unlike most curricula available to homeschoolers, Homeschool Spanish Academy provides immersive, interactive 1-on-1 interaction with native Spanish language tutors via Skype video. All that is needed is a high-speed internet connection, web cam, and a Skype compatible computer headset with microphone.

All lessons and homework are emailed to students in a PDF format, so no additional books are needed.

Our Experience:

My first interaction with the company was with the tech. services. I was very impressed. A personal phone call walked me through testing my internet speed, checking my equipment, and getting me set up on Skype.

Emily’s first lesson went well. Her teacher, Rosa, called us on Skype right on time for the video chat. She was very encouraging and Emily was able to cover 2 lessons in the 55 minute time slot.

Emily had a little trouble with the second session. I wasn’t available for the first few minutes of the lesson and had forgotten to plug in the web cam and headset. She was frustrated trying to  figure it out herself, but by the time I walked in 10 minutes later, Tech Support was online with her helping her get set up. Fortunately, she didn’t miss too much of her lesson and, once again, I have nothing but praise for the Tech Support.

Each week, Emily has had homework to do and vocabulary to memorize between lessons. At the lessons, the teacher has conversations with her that review the previous vocabulary and teach new phrases. Emily has completed 5 lessons at this point. She has really enjoyed the experience and I think it has been motivating for her to have an outside teacher to work with. She was especially excited to learn that her teacher, Rosa, lives in Antigua, Guatemala, where Emily was born.

I highly recommend Homeschool Spanish Academy. Although we will need to take a break from lessons for now because of an unreliable internet connection/provider, I hope to be able to return for more lessons when we have that resolved.

Homeschool Spanish Academy middle school tuition prices are $104.99 for a half semester and $174.99 for a full semester (one 50 min. class a week.) Classes are also available for elementary and high school students.

5/5 stars StarStarStarStarStar

Please visit the Schoolhouse Review Blog to read more reviews of Homeschool Spanish Academy.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a 7 week subscription free  in order to write this review. All opinions are my own.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Following Directions

Does your child have difficulty following directions? Here are a few ideas for working on this skill.

This is an excerpt from my new book, Language Lessons: From Listening Skills to Conversation. I expect to have  it published and available for sale in early July.

Language lessons-001


Following Directions

Look for opportunities during daily life for your child to follow directions. When expecting your child to complete a complex job, such as cleaning his room, or setting the table, give him one instruction at a time. If he is able to complete each small task accurately, challenge him by giving him two directions at a time, (Hang up your coat and put your shoes in the closet.)

· Play games like "Simon Says" and "Mother May I?"

· Sing and play, "Hokey, Pokey."


Have the following objects available: chair, table, book, ball, block, door, spoon, and bowl. Ask your child to follow these directions:

1-Step Commands:

· Read the book.

· Pick up the block.

· Tap the block with the spoon.

· Walk to the door.

· Close your eyes.

· Clap your hands 3 times.

2-Step Commands:

· Sit down and cross your legs.

· Say your name; blink your eyes.

· Pick up the block. Give it to me.

· Clap your hands. Point to the ball.

· Touch the book. Crawl under the table.

3-Step Commands:

· Touch your ear, stomp your foot, then sit down.

· Touch the book. Touch the spoon. Touch the table.

· Touch the block. Point to the spoon. Tap the table.

· Touch your ear. Touch your nose. Spin around.

· Pick up the ball. Hold it over your head. Put it on the floor.

· Close your eyes. Spin around. Say, "hello."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Your Heart’s Desire (Review)

Your Heart's Desire: 14 Truths That Will Forever Change the Way You Love and Are Loved  -     
        By: Sheri Rose Shepherd

Your Heart’s Desire: 14 TRUTHS that will forever change the way you love and are loved

The title of this book intrigued me. So did the back of the book, where “love coach,” Shari Rose Shepherd, promises to provide insight for the married woman hoping to deepen or restore the love in her marriage, the single woman looking for love, or the divorced woman hoping for a second chance at love. Some of the topics she covers are: fighting the temptation to give up on marriage, purity, combating shame, guilt, and regret, trusting a man’s leadership, and forgiveness.

Here are some quotes that I particularly liked that give a flavor of the book…

“I believe when a man walks down the aisle and says, “I do,” his every hope and intention is that his marriage will be for life…He was determined to be her hero and lovingly lead her safely through life.”

“How we face and finish our battles will define who we are in Christ. There are a lot of reasons to give up, but there are greater reasons to finish strong.”

“Women are the heartbeat in their relationships, so we truly do affect our sons, our fathers, and our husbands.”

Some things you may gain from reading this book are:

  • enhanced understanding of your husband
  • hope for reconciliation
  • the assurance that, whatever your marital situation, God loves you unconditionally and always will
  • ideas for helping your son grow into a godly man

I enjoyed reading this book and gained new insights into how men think I appreciated that the author was open about the family she grew up in, her dating stories, and about her marriage. I found her personal stories and insights helpful. This is a book I will keep and reread.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale House  for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

R is for Relaxed

A typical day finds Emily working in a variety of places and positions. She definitely doesn’t sit at a desk for 4 hours a day! Here are a few shots of homeschooling at the Lott home...


Notice the parakeet on Emily’s shoulder!


Studying flash cards….


Hands on learning…




I’m Blogging Through the Alphabet with “Ben and Me.”

Friday, June 15, 2012

IXL (Schoolhouse Review)


Are you looking for a way for your child to practice math concepts? IXL may be just what you need. This site covers hundreds of math concepts from pre-K through algebra. It is not quite a complete curriculum because its emphasis is on practice, not teaching concepts. However, when a child needs help on a concept or misses a problem, he or she can view an explanation of the concept. The scope of this program is huge! The child is able to choose which topics to practice at any time, making IXL a perfect supplement for a child who needs additional practice in a specific area.

The topic categories for seventh grade (the level  Emily was using) included:

  • number theory
  • decimal numbers
  • operations with decimals
  • integers
  • operations with integers
  • fractions and mixed numbers
  • operations with fractions
  • rational numbers
  • ratios and proportions
  • percents
  • consumer math
  • problem solving and estimating
  • measurement
  • charts and graphs
  • geometry
  • Pythagorean theorem
  • coordinate graphs
  • number sequences
  • variable expressions
  • single-variable equations
  • inequalities
  • linear functions
  • properties
  • probability
  • statistics

Each of these categories has 5 to 30 activities within it. The activities are bright and colorful. Kids can win “prizes” by completing activities.

Each activity is mastered when the child’s score reaches 100. As the child correctly answers questions, the score rises. If the child misses a question, the scores drops, requiring that the child do extra practice to reach a mastery level. I loved this for Emily. She tends to be careless with her work, missing problems simply from sloppiness. With IXL, she received immediate feedback of her score dropping, which motivated her to work more carefully. I’ve been struggling with finding a way to motivate her toward excellence for years and am finding IXL a great tool for this!


Home Page (7th grade)


As a parent, I received email notification of the time spent on the program and of activities mastered. At the site, I am able to view a parent report that details every skill that Emily has practiced and her level of mastery of that skill as well as the amount of time that she practiced each week.

Parent Report


Each of these categories has 5 to 30 activities within it. The activities are bright and colorful. Kids can win “prizes” by completing activities.

Each activity is mastered when the child’s score reaches 100. As the child correctly answers questions, the score rises. If the child misses a question, the scores drops, requiring that the child do extra practice to reach a mastery level. I loved this for Emily. She tends to be careless with her work, missing problems simply from sloppiness. With IXL, she received immediate feedback of her score dropping, which motivated her to work more carefully. I’ve been struggling with finding a way to motivate her toward excellence for years and am finding IXL a great tool for this!

Emily has enjoyed using IXL and I think it provides valuable math practice. We will definitely continue using this program.

5/5 stars StarStarStarStarStar

A subscription to IXL is $9.95 a month or $79 a year.


Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a free membership to IXL in order to write this review. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra 1 With Biology (Review)

Over the past year, I’ve been hearing references to  the “Life of Fred” math program.  I heard glowing reviews and finally had to investigate this program with the strange name for myself!

Life of Fred Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology

Life of Fred, by Stanley F. Schmidt, Ph.D, is a math program in story form.  The books revolve around 5 1/2 year old Fred, who is a professor of mathematics at Kittens University. This child prodigy sleeps under his desk in his office and has all sorts of strange adventures happen to him that require him (and the reader) to use his mathematical skills along the way. Each short chapter is followed by several problems for the student to work. The solutions immediately follow the problem sets, so Emily covers them with an index card while she works. The book is intended to be self-teaching. After every 7 chapters, the student has to cross a  quiz called “bridge” to progress to the next chapter. There are several bridge quizzes and once the student passes one with a 90% grade, he or she can skip to the next chapter. The bridges are graded by the teacher/parent, so this is the opportunity to assess what the child is learning.

The Life of Fred Pre-Algebra program actually includes 4 books, which can be used in the 4th-9th grades:

  • Life of Fred: Fractions
  • Life of Fred: Decimals and Percents
  • Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology
  • Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra 2 with Economics

    Topics covered in Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology are:

    • volume of cubes, cones, and cylinders
    • percentages
    • pi
    • circumference and diameter of circles
    • operations with fractions
    • operations with decimals
    • squares  and cubes of numbers
    • solving algebraic equations
    • divisibility rules

    Although this is not a complete biology course, it covers quite a bit of information, including:

    • scientific classification
    • photosynthesis
    • digestion
    • nutrition
    • hypertension
    • genetics
    • respiratory system
    • bones
    • and more

    This is truly an innovative way to teach math! Every problem given is tied into the storyline, illustrating the practical use of mathematics in everyday life. Different types of problems are given in each lesson, so the student never faces a page of nearly identical problems, but continues to review previous concepts while learning new ones.  The “bridges” are like end-of-chapter tests. Emily has been very motivated to do well on the bridges so that she can skip straight to the next lesson. Since she tends to be careless about her work,  this is a good technique to motivate her toward excellence.

    I’m undecided about whether the books provide enough practice opportunities for students who don’t grasp concepts quickly. The lessons are very short! At this point, nearly everything Emily has encountered has been a review for her, so I can’t say whether the book would provide enough practice for new topics. I can say that she has enjoyed the book very much, is doing 2-3 lessons a day, and that the varied review is helpful to her.

    The biology is presented in a fun way, allowing students to learn about a variety of interesting topics. Like the math topics, the biology is also relevant to the story line.

    If you have a reluctant math student OR a student who loves to read OR a self-initiated student who prefer to teach himself, Life of Fred is definitely worth a look. You can see samples of each book on their website.

    5/5 stars StarStarStarStarStar

    Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology sells for $29.00 with free U.S. shipping through the publisher, PolkaDotPublishing, --a very reasonable price, especially considering there isn’t an additional teacher’s book to purchase.

  • Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher in  order to write this post. All opinions are my own.

  • Friday, June 8, 2012

    The Fiddler, by Beverly Lewis (Review)

    The Fiddler, Home to Hickory Hollow Series #1   -     
        By: Beverly Lewis

    Beverly Lewis, known for her many novels about Amish life, is one of my favorite authors. I always look forward to another book book of hers coming out. The Fiddler tells the stories of two young people- Michael Hostetler, a young Amish man who is considering leaving the Amish church and community, and Amelia Devries, an “Englisher” who is a world-class violinist. Both struggle with the expectations put upon them by their families when their hearts are leading them in a different direction. When they serendipitously meet each other, they discover a likeness of mind and attraction that is unexpected, given their very different lives and backgrounds.

    This novel pulled me in from the first chapter. I loved the story and found it hard to put down. Although this book appears to be the first of a series, I was  glad to discover that the storyline was fully resolved by the close of the book. Many of Beverly Lewis’s books  leave part of the story hanging until the next book in the series. Because of this fact, The Fiddler is one of my favorites.

    Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House  for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

    Thursday, June 7, 2012

    P is for Puppy

    Our cocker puppy, Macy, is 6 months old now, and full of energy. She’s coming along pretty well with her training and LOVES everyone she meets.

    Here she is at 2 months old…



    And now….


    She is NOT allowed on the couch, but seems to have claimed it anyway. We throw her off 8 or 10 times a day. This is how we find her if she’s left alone in the family room. She puts all of her toys on the couch, then hops up to take a nap!


    I’m Blogging Through the Alphabet with “Ben and Me.”

    A Great Quick Snack

    This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Quaker Oats for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

    QSBB 3D Carton Banana.jpg (2 documents, 2 total pages)

    Granola or breakfast bars are a staple at our house. We actually seldom eat them at home, but I always try to keep a few in the car for when we're running around doing errands or going from one activity to another. Since we are on a very tight budget, I like to have some wholesome food  on hand as a way to avoid having to stop to buy unhealthy fast food when we are starving!

    We're heading to Walt Disney World next week (hurray!), taking granola or breakfast bars both in the car and into the parks as snacks. Carrying our own healthy snacks can save a LOT of money while in the parks!

    QSBB Yum Image high res.jpg

    I am eager to try out the NEW Quaker Soft Baked Bar, which is loaded with real fruit and nuts and can be either eaten cold or heated in the microwave. It comes in two flavors--Cinnamon Pecan Bread and Banana Nut Bread, both of which sound scrumptious! I'm also happy to see that each 140 calorie bar contains 5g of fiber and 6g of protein, as well as 5 B-vitamins. I always look for a breakfast snack  with plenty of fiber and protein, so this sounds like a good option.

    Which flavor sounds best to you?

    Visit Sponsor's Site

    Wednesday, June 6, 2012

    Story Builder App. (Schoolhouse Review)

    The Story Builder App, by Mobile Education Store, is designed to help children accomplish the following goals: 1) Improve  paragraph formation; 2) Improve integration of ideas; and 3) Improve higher level abstractions by inference.  This app is designed for younger elementary and special needs children and helps children learn to narrate stories.

    Features include:

    • Record feature allows students to record narrative in their own voice
    • 3 levels of play
    • Simple and intuitive interface to record narrative
    • Recorded answers are stitched together to create complete narrative
    • 50 distinct story lines to create narratives from
    • Over 500 audio clips of questions to guide narrative
    • Optional question text and answer introduction reinforcement

    I downloaded the app onto Emily’s iPod Touch. She found it simple to use.  In level one, a colorful cartoon is shown with a question asked, both audible and in print. The child presses the record button and records a full sentence answer to the question. In level one, 4 questions are asked and the answers are easily answered by looking at the picture. When all the questions are answered, the child presses the “play story” button to hear the entire story read back.

    Level 2 includes 7 questions. The answers require some inference or creative skills to answer.

    Level 3 merely shows a picture and allows the child to make up and record a story without cuing questions.

    Emily had a lot of fun with this app. Although it is geared for younger children, she enjoyed making up creative (silly, crazy!)stories. I encouraged her to use good vocal expression while recording and to use descriptive, complex sentences instead of simple ones—the same things I encourage in her creative writing, so I think this was beneficial even for a 12 year old. Emily did have trouble at first remembering that every answer needed to be a complete sentence or her story wouldn’t make sense (although there was a prompt to start the sentence). This would likely be a bigger issue for younger children.

    As a speech pathologist, I think this would be a helpful app for me to use in therapy and I would recommend it to parents of language-delayed children. I like the methodical way it helps children tell a complete story, building it sentence by sentence. Level 1 is beneficial for building comprehension and question-answering skills, while levels 2 and 3 are good for developing more complex inference and language expression skills.

    The ability for children to record and immediately play back their stories makes it especially reinforcing. Actually, I could see myself using this app with children with articulation or fluency issues as well. When doing therapy, I use a lot of games to make practice fun, but find it a bit harder to find “fun” conversational activities.

    The iPod/iPhone version of  Story Builder is $5.99 at the iTunes Store. An iPad version is also available.

    Please visit the Schoolhouse Review Blog to read more reviews of Mobile Education Store apps.

    Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this app free in order to write this review. All opinions are my own.


    Monday, June 4, 2012

    Cleaning House (Review)

    Cleaning House: A Mom's Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement  -     
        By: Kay Wills Wyma

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12-month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement, by Kay Wills Wyma.  I even loved the title! I am surrounded by kids, including my own, that seem to think that adults exist merely to make their lives easier. The author, realizing that her own children were unable to clean a bathroom, do laundry, cook, or even keep their rooms clean, embarked on a year-long project to train her children in the skills they would need to grow into responsible adults who could both take care of themselves and would be appreciative and thoughtful of others.

    Each month, the family added a new habit or skill to their routine. The first month was making beds and maintaining clean rooms; the second was meal preparation and kitchen clean-up. Further months included home maintenance, outside chores, and hospitality. Despite her children’s grumbling at the new expectations, she found that they learned new skills, developed pride in their abilities, and began to show more consideration for other as the months passed.

    I found this book to be inspiring. Although my child does chores and is probably more competent than many her age, there are some tasks that she has never done and I love the idea of using a methodical method to ensure that she learns all the skills she needs before she leaves home. Additionally, while she is pretty good about doing what she’s asked, she fails in the area of self-initiative. I think she’d be perfectly happy to live in total chaos! I will definitely be drawing from some of the the ideas in Cleaning House in the next months!

    Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook-Multnomah  for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

    O is for Oops!

    Emily ran into a door last week and gave herself this “lovely” black eye.


    I’m Blogging Through the Alphabet with “Ben and Me.”