Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lightning Literature: British Early - Mid 19th Century - A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

Some time ago I had the opportunity to review Hewitt Homeschooling's 7th Grade Lightning Literature program, so I was delighted to see they were, again, giving us the opportunity to review some of their materials. 

This year I was selected to review Hewitt Homeschooling's Lightning Literature and Composition: British Early-Mid 19th Century Student's Guide, which also came with Lightning Literature and Composition: British Early-Mid Teacher's Guide.

I have to admit that I came into this review with a positive bias, because I have seen their materials before and have liked what I have seen.

The Lightning Literature and Composition: British Early-Mid 19th Century course says on its cover that it is for Grades 9-12, although it might be best to wait to 10th grade to introduce this particular course. The student's guide is a softcover book, about 9" X 12", that is broken down into four units, containing two lessons per unit.

The content of British Mid-Early 19th Century contains the following:
Unit 1
Lesson 1: William Blake (poetry provided)
Literary Lesson: Tone

Lesson 2: Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice) (you provide your own copy of the novel)
Literary Lesson: Characterization
Perspectives: Romanticism

Unit 2
Lesson 3: Sir Walter Scott (Ivanhoe) (you provide your own copy of the novel)
Literary Lesson: Description
Perspectives: Historical Fiction
Lesson 4: Thomas Carlyle "Essay on Scott" (Essay provided)
Literary Lesson: Persuasive Writing

Unit 3
Lesson 5: The Romantic Poets (poetry provided)               
Samuel T. Coleridge, "The Rime of the Ancyent Marienere"
William Wordsworth, "The Tables Turned," "Daffodils"
George Gordon, Lord Byron, "She Walks in Beauty," "So, We'll go no more a-roving"
Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Ozymandias," "Ode to the West Wind"
Literary Lesson: Imagery and Poetic Language
Lesson 6: Mary Shelley (Frankenstein) (You provide your own copy of the novel)
Literary Lesson: Setting

Unit 4
Lesson 7: Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre) (You provide your own copy of the novel)
Literary Lesson: Person
Lesson 8: William Makepeace Thackeray, Rebecca and Rowena (Short story is provided)
Literary Lesson: Humor
The Student's Guide is 233 pages long. In addition to the content listed above, it includes a very important Introduction, which includes a section on Perspectives, and three Appendices followed by a Bibliography. Appendix A contains Discussion Questions and Project Suggestions; Appendix B contains Additional Reading (I think "optional"), and Appendix C contains schedules for using the material over either one or two semesters. Here is a Sample Chapter.

Each lesson contains discussion questions and writing assignments. I was thankful for the Teacher's Guide -- it contains answers to the discussion questions. I could not answer them all, myself, just from the reading assignment. 

I've had other programs that provided the questions but not the answers -- I guess they thought the reader could get the answers from the reading assignment, but some of us can't always. I consider the provided answers to be just as important for learning as the effort to find the answer is! The answers enable you to adjust your thinking if you've come to the wrong answer on your own.

 The Teacher's Guide also contains an important introduction, grading tips, schedules, writing exercises, and discussion questions and projects (different questions than the "comprehension" questions). I always appreciate help with grading tips, especially when it comes to grading writing assignments -- I always feel inadequate to grade writing assignments!

Writing skill is very important for the high school student aspiring to go to college. Writing skill has value in many vocations, actually -- not only occupations that require a college degree. The Lightning Literature program's introduction includes a section called "Writing 101" that provides the student with important teaching on various aspects of writing. Lessons include lists of possible writing assignments, and the student is encouraged to write at least one writing assignment for each shorter selection, and two writing assignments for each novel. Writing exercise suggestions include ideas about writing poems of a certain length; focusing on mood or tone in writing poetry or short story or story about an event; writing a paper analyzing tone of a poem;writing dialogues; experimentation with writing in different "person" perspectives; writing a description of a character, a scene from nature... You get the idea: there are a lot of suggestions for types of writing assignments. Each suggested type of writing also has been covered in the Student's Guide to prepare them for the assignment.

Lightning Literature programs are designed to use over the course of one semester, so you would do two Lightning Literature programs in a year. If this pace is too aggressive for your student, a schedule is also provided for completing the program over the course of a (school) year.

The schedules provided are broken down by week, rather than by day (which is a bit of a struggle to my perfectionist self - I want to know what is due day by day). When the student is assigned a section of reading, the questions for that section should be covered before the student moves on to the next section.

Here is part of the schedule for completing this guide over one semester:
Week 1 
  • Read Introduction to the Lightning Literature guide.
  • Read all of Unit 1, Lesson 1 ("William Blake"): Introduction, the poems, the Literary Lesson: Tone.
  • Complete the Comprehension Questions.
  • If you have trouble understanding any of the poems, rewrite them in prose form
  • Choose one exercise from "Writing Exercises" for Unit 1, Lesson 1 and write at least a rough draft of your paper.
  • Read the Introduction to Unit 1, Lesson 2 ("Jane Austen").
  • Read Volume I (chapters 1-23) of Pride and Prejudice and answer the Comprehension Questions.
Week 2
  • Review and make any necessary revisions to your paper for Unit 1, Lesson 1.
  • Read Volume II (chapters 1-19) of Pride and Prejudice and answer the Comprehension Questions.
  • Read Volume III, chapters 1-4, of Pride and Prejudice and answer the Comprehension Questions. 
So what I wanted to point out by including this section is:
  1. Revision of the writing assignment is included as part of the assignment. Why do kids always think that what they turn in should be considered the completed assignment? I need to work on helping my son understand that the first turn-in is the rough draft; that I will make changes, and that he WILL have to revise the paper and turn it in again.
  2. The reading assignments go at a very fast pace. I don't know if you have a copy of the book in front of you, but in my book the Week 1 assignment looks like about half the book (even though I think it is actually only about 1/3, based on the fact that the book is spread out over two weeks.
  3. It is pretty easy to figure out how to split any week's assignments out over two weeks,  if the first week you focused on poetry, the 2nd week the novel, the 3rd week the Volume 2 assignment bullet, and Week 4 the last assignment. Looking at the provided 1-year schedule, that is, in fact, almost how they do it, but they also include part of the novel in week 1.
I'm curious about how other young men react to having Pride and Prejudice assigned to them. I won't reveal to you how my son reacted. But I do like the way the novel selections are balanced so that there are two selections that will appear to be those "girly" books, and two selections that seem they would appeal more to the guys.

That Appendix B -- Additional Reading...  If you are spreading the program out over two semesters, it is suggested that you might require additional reading, or if your student just wants more you can steer them to these other titles. I just had to laugh inside myself at that -- my son does NOT ask for MORE reading assignments! ;-) Ever.

I really enjoyed reviewing British Early-Mid 19th Century. Even though I have assigned some of these titles to my older students (when they were participating in a literature co-op), I had never read these materials myself -- only seen ALL of them in movie form. (I had read Jane Eyre, though -- one of my favorites!) I was so delighted with my reading of Pride and Prejudice, and was surprised by Ivanhoe (for some reason I had thought it was about Indians, not about knights). I am still looking forward to rereading Jane Eyre, and to digging into Frankenstein! A lot of these classics are available for free on Kindle, you know -- that's the copy that I have in the photograph above.

I don't think Lightning Literature courses are necessarily for everyone, but I really like them. My son is only 9th grade, and now that the review is completed I plan to put this one on the shelf for a year and use something else with him this year. I think he will do better with it when he is a year older. I am not sure what I will use instead, but I know there are some other Lightning Literature titles available that are looking like possibilities.

Lightning Literature British Early-Mid 19th Century Student's Guide sells for $29.95, and the accompanying Teacher's Guide sells for only $2.95! The Teacher's guide is not bound (it is stapled), but it is 3-hole-punched so that you can put it into your notebook.

Thank you for reading my review. Let me know what you think! If you want to read reviews of other Hewitt Homeschool materials by other members of the TOS Review Crew, click the button below.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Eternal Argument - A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

In June I was offered the opportunity to review a book entitled The Eternal Argument, written by R. Robin Finley and offered by the company of Analytical Grammar
I had been looking at the Analytical Grammar web page, and I was very interested, so I was pleased when I learned that I would be receiving a printed copy of this book.

The Eternal Argument is a paperback book measuring about 8" x 5.5". It contains 286 pages, over which is spread an introduction, 15 chapters, an Afterword and then Acknowledgements. I had the book for approximately six weeks, and the plan was to read a chapter at a time several times each week in the hope that deep literary conversation would later spring from these readings to my child. [I think my student has turned off his brain for the summer... ::sigh::  ...back to my review...]
R. Robin Finley's writing style is amazing! She spent 34 years teaching middle school grades. I can't imagine! In my memory of my life, I was least teachable in 7th and 8th grade. I just didn't care and was biding my time each day until I could get out of school and be free. (This also seems to be where my son lives right now...)

I would have loved to have had Ms. Finley for English in 7th or 8th grade. (I can't even remember who I had in English for 8th grade! 8th grade is like a year in my life that I have totally forgotten, except for when we dissected fish in Science class... I digress...)

The full title of The Eternal Argument is "It's... The Eternal Argument". Also on the cover (I don't know whether or not it would be considered part of the title) it says: "A framework for understanding Western Literature and Culture". After reading the book, I thought a good description of what the book is about is literary analysis.

The Eternal Argument contains the following titles:
  1. Why Should We Read All Those Books?
  2. How Do We Stuff Stuff Into Our Heads?
  3. The Little Stinker
  4. What Are The Two Sides Fighting About?
  5. Does Someone Have To Be "In Charge"?
  6. What is the Western Literature Platform?
  7. Should We Quarantine Our Kids?
  8. Really Old Guys: Ancients to the Middle Ages
  9. Just Old Guys: The Renaissance to Neo-Classicism
  10. Somewhat Old Guys: The American & French Revolutions
  11. Newer Old Guys: The Romantics to the Realists
  12. Newest Guys: The Naturalists to the Modernists
  13. Stuff You Need to Know to Teach This Stuff
  14. Now Let's Apply All This to the Books We've Discussed
  15. Because It's All About Me ... What Do I Think
Some of the material contained herein I have encountered previously, but never have I read a book that so skillfully and clearly wove it all together so that I could understand it and pass it on to my students! I wish I this book had come to me when my 27-year-old was starting middle school 16 years ago! I'm so thankful the oldest two were in a co-op where someone else was teaching them some of this stuff, because before reading this book I didn't understand a lot of the issues. Now, having read this book, I guarantee The Eternal Argument will stay in my arsenal of tools to be pulled out and reviewed constantly!

R. Robin Finley skillfully covered literature through the lens of history, explaining how the historical issues of each era completely affected not only the content contained in the literature, but also how the readers (at the time the book was written) would have understood various items in a book. Since our students do not have the same framework to understand the literature, we need to explain it to the to help them understand the context of each piece of literature.

The major theme of "The Eternal Argument" centers on the conflict through the ages between "The Little Stinker" (evil) and our "Better Angel". In our culture the two sides could be thought of as the theists and the humanists. The basic argument is, "There is a God" vs. "There is no God", and various measures of one side or the other in between.

Using this framework, the author walks the reader through evaluating each piece of literature based on whether it is theistic or humanistic, and within that framework she interweaves the eras of history to help you understand the context of the era the author would have been coming from. She has these great titles you see in the Table of Contents above about the really old guys, just old guys, etc., and she charts where each era fell on the scale of humanist vs. theist.

After laying all this out, she covers literary vocabulary, terms I have covered and long since forgotten, so I was so thankful to have all this information so handy in one small volume. This vocabulary section is followed by analyses of 18 selected books that are representative of the different eras of history she discussed (Middle Ages, Renaissance, Neo-classical, Romanticism,  Realism, Naturalism, and Modernism). As I'm reading, I'm thinking, "I have no idea whether that is realism or naturalism," and then I'm reading her saying that it is very difficult to tell the difference between those two. The important point isn't necessarily to be right at this point. The important point is helping your student understand the framework upon which a piece of literature was written, and then discussing the literature with the student, chapter by chapter. You want to make sure the student is understanding what they are reading, and then you want to stimulate their thinking by asking probing questions and letting them mull it over and try to figure out what type of writing it is. It isn't so important what they decide; it is more important that they think about it, come to a decision, and be able to support their decision with reasons.

The content of this book is so valuable to me that I know I will want to keep this with me for the rest of my son's school years. It is suggested that the parent and the student both read this book, a chapter a week, and then, chapter by chapter, discuss the latest content covered. I know this works with some students, but in my situation I will have to use the method that works best with my son, which is more of me reading the chapter, and being a filter to deliver the content to him as best I can, maybe reading excerpts to him, but not making him read it. The Eternal Argument is also available as a recorded book, and I would consider that with my son in a year or two, maybe, but right now I don't think it would work. I am more thinking I have to learn to teach literature to him the way Ms. Finley taught it to her middle school students, having him read the literature, but not having him read this book. He needs the information, but I'll have to teach it to him.

Anyway, I have so enjoyed this book and am so thankful to have had the opportunity to read it for review. It will now be an important piece of my arsenal for teaching high school literature. The Eternal Argument sells for $24.95, and the audio book also sells for $24.95. The book is recommended for grades 8 and above.

To read other reviews of The Eternal Argument and other products by Analytical Grammar, click the link below. Thanks for reading, and consider leaving me a comment!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Menu Monday for 7/28/14

Lacking inspiration, borrowing from my intentions this week last summer:

Baked Ziti with roasted vegetables; salad; TX Toast

Rice and Bean Roll-ups; side salad

Seven Layer Tortilla Pie

Photo of 7 Layer Tortilla Pie

Vegetable cheese Casserole
 Photo of Vegetable Cheese Casserole
Sweet Potato-Black Bean Soup, side salad

Carmelized Broccoli stuffed shells; salad, bread
Photo of Vegan Caramelized Broccoli Stuffed Shells

Savory Veggie Pot Pie, salad
 Photo of Pot Pie

Menu Monday - 7/28/14

Here's my Menu Monday plan for this week. Vegan choices are in parentheses:

Sunday (7/26/14):
rotisserie chicken, rice, zucchini squash (faux patty)

Monday (7/27/14): (JDs Bible Study)
Baked Ziti; salad; TX Toast (whole wheat gnocci)

Tuesday (7/28/14): (Cub Scouts)
cheeseburgers, asparagus (Amy's burger)
Wednesday (7/29/14):
chicken pot pie, salad (faux patty on ww roll)

Thursday (7/30/14):
Mom's Chili, corn bread, salad (vegan chili)

Friday/ (7/31/14)

Saturday (8/1/14)
Hambone's bean soup, bread, salad (bean soup/no meat)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Five Minute Friday - Finish

For some time now I have been receiving emails about 5-Minute Friday, a project designed to encourage women and moms to participate in "free writing". Each week is a new word (topic). You set a timer for five minutes, and you just go. I have decided to try to do this when I can. My timer is never handy at my computer, but rather than continue to procrastinate I have decided to keep track of the five minutes using my sweep-second hand clock that sits in front of me.
Five Minute Friday with Lisa-Jo Baker
Here we go.

Today's word: Finish

It started in 1992, this little home school I started. She was just-turned 5, and the state said she was too young for kindergarten because she was born one day late. Bah!

She was home schooled the whole way. Her sister joined the party three years later. Then a ten year gap, and a brother was born. Sister 1 was graduated and Sister 2 in 11th grade when child 3 began home school. And now the Boy is starting 9th grade.

You may have days when you ask yourself, "Why did I start this?" and "Will this ever end?" Will my laundry always be washed in loads and loads at a time? Will my refrigerator always be bursting at the seams? Will I EVER be able to use the bathroom without being interrupted?

I am not yet to the finish line, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am working on my last four-year high school plan, and my last set of Algebra I-Geometry-Algebra II-Pre-Calc and Biology-Chemistry-Physics-whatever, and I'm here to tell you...

The finish line will come. And already I miss those 2-minute bathroom breaks where tiny fingers are reaching under the door begging me to come back to them. I miss being able to gather my chickies on the couch as I read aloud. I miss having my daughters knit and crochet or color while I read from the latest fiction or history.

I even miss the boy building happily with Legos while I read Blueberries for Sal.

Savor the moments. Don't look too longingly for the finish. It will come. Savor today, and strive to do your best moment by moment.

And He will one day say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." But I beg you, don't focus on "finish". Focus on today.

That's my five.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Flourish - A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

I have loved every single product I have ever used that came from Apologia Educational Ministries

so I was happy to learn that I would have the opportunity to read and review for Apologia a newly-published book, Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms,  by Mary Jo Tate. Finally I got to review a homeschool resource that was just for me!
The book arrived, and I marveled at how thick it was. (There was also that joy of the smell of a newly published book, but there was also a certain degree of, "What have I committed myself to?...") I have been home schooling for 22 years, so I do read books like this with a certain degree of skepticism, not intentional, but like, "What could I possibly really get out of one more book?..." I set aside time each morning and began reading.

The book begins with pages and pages of brief testimony paragraphs, which I skipped for now since what I really want to get to is the content of the book. The Table of Contents is divided into 16 chapters, followed by Appendices A and B, followed by information on how to contact the author. ("What? A book that gives you information on how to contact the author? Really?!") The author has her own business out of her home, and if you wish to use her services you can contact her.

Each chapter is subdivided into smaller focus sections and ends with a "Take Action!" section. I had a brief six weeks or less to work on this book. My soul longed to read one chapter per week (two at the most), and spend the rest of the week applying the content. So, since I did not have time to do it that way I am afraid this review will come through as a "data dump", which is not my intention, so I will do my best to also convey the thoughts of my heart.

After 22 years of homeschooling, while always chasing my tail and trying to get it all done, I constantly feel like I am a performer on stage spinning plates on sticks, running to the next plate to renew its spin so it won't fall. (This is a reference to a performance I once saw on the Ed Sullivan show -- and I know I am definitely showing my age...) Basically, the only way to keep any plates from falling and breaking is to constantly run from plate to plate to spin, to renew its spin to keep it balanced on the stick.
Doesn't serving our families feel this way sometimes?

Well, Mary Jo Tate would know this even better than I do. Not by her own plan, she became the single mom of four boys when her youngest was only six months old. Committed to home schooling them, she had to develop her own business and run her home while home schooling. She not only accomplished this, but she also enables other moms to do what they need to do better through her ability to articulate how she did what she did. She has broken an organized life down into steps one can accomplish without becoming overwhelmed. This is not information that is unavailable elsewhere, however it is, in this book, put together in a way that is uniquely suited to the audience of the home schooling mom.

Now, before reading this book I really thought I was starting to be organized. People outside of my home marvel at my "organization". I hear comments like, "You are far more organized than I am." Nevertheless, I constantly feel like the camel that if one more straw is added to the load it will break my back. I really needed this book. For me it has been life changing. I haven't been able to quite finish it yet, and I want to go back and read it again in a way that I can savor it more, but it has already been life changing.

Things that I have taken from the book so far, on a fast read (that felt like trying to get a sip of water by closing my lips around the open nozzle of a fire hydrant) include the following:
  • Despite what other people think, I AM a work-at-home mom. I not only run the home, but I home school AND review products and keep up an active blog.
  • Be a life-long learner.
  • Accept your limitations, but then work to reach your goals anyway instead of giving up.
  • Time gets wasted and things don't get done when you don't plan.
  • You need to have a Big Dream. You can accomplish your big dream by taking small steps that all add up.
  • Take a week each year (right after Christmas is good) to plan out your year's plan.
  • Each week needs to be plotted out as to the big things that need to happen each day.
  • Each day needs to be written out as to what it includes, in greater detail than the week's list.
  • Keep a running "To Do" list that you refer to regularly (to cross off what has gotten done, and to add new things to).
  • Keep a notebook to keep all these lists together.
Don't get overwhelmed, please! I know -- I just did a data dump -- in my mind I see your eyes glazing over. Wake up! Stay with me, please!

Like I said, the book is full of information -- too much at one time is impossible to digest. I recommend that you put your pennies together, sell something, whatever it takes, and put together the money you need and order this book. It sells for $15.00, and it is just for you, mom! Make a plan to sit with it over a cup of coffee each morning to read slowly, savor, contemplate, take notes about, and take incremental action on. This book will "do you good"!

I am very thankful to Apologia and Mary Jo Tate. I have already printed out my monthly calendars for 2015. I have blocked out my planning week in December. I have my notebook, and I have written out my answers to questions like, "What would I do if nothing stood in my way?" I already have my "Monthly Calendar", and have imperfectly been working on my weekly plan and my running "To Do" list. More than anything else right now, I am looking forward to slowing down my reading now and going back to reread and better absorb some of the content I covered so quickly the first time. (And I desperately need to get my 2014-2015 school planning started...)

Read, enjoy, and may you derive much benefit from Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms, And may you flourish!

To read more reviews by other members of the TOS Homeschool Crew, click the button below.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

HomeSchoolPiano - A TOS Crew Review

This summer I was delighted to learn that we would have the opportunity to review HomeSchoolPiano, an on-line video programed designed to help you learn piano in the comfort of your own home. We received a lifetime subscription to HomeSchoolPiano - Complete Set of Books: Core Piano (for complete beginners), Book 1 (beginner, maybe brushing the dust off and coming back to piano), Book 2 (beginner to intermediate) and Book 3 (intermediate). HomeSchoolPiano is a series of on-line piano tutorial videos to take you from absolute beginner to an intermediate player that can improvise and play some jazz. Each level comes with not only the series of videos, but also a complete book to accompany the materials presented in the videos.

Based on the descriptions of the levels on the website (in parentheses above), I planned to start our lessons on Book 1. My son and I have some previous experience. I myself can struggle through reading music in beginner-level piano books, etc. As I pre-watched the very first video in the Book 1 series, though, I very clearly knew we would be in over our heads if we tried to start there.  I jumped back to "Core Piano", knowing it would be better to establish, for us both, a firm foundation in piano--which I had never developed piano playing as a child. My grandmother, who died in 2003 at the age of 98,  tried to give me lessons when I was a kid, but I lived in a house with 5 kids, and a family that didn't want me to practice piano in the kitchen when they had to hear. It's hard to find a time when others won't hear when there are seven people living in an open-style house.

So as I said, I bumped us back to Core Piano, and I was glad I did. For both of us, much of every lesson seemed like (or was) review, but it seemed like every lesson had at least one nugget that we needed, or answered one question we needed answered to help us build that solid foundation.

The lessons in Core Piano run from three to ten minutes in length. The video screen is divided into three parts. The top half of the view shows Willie Myette's hands playing the actual keyboard, but above the keyboard view there is a virtual keyboard that highlights which keys he is actually playing and which notes he is playing. Bottom right of the view shows a normal view (what would normally fill the full screen of a video), and the bottom right of the screen has a view of virtual floor pedals.
As you work your way through the Core Piano "chapters" (there are 33 chapters in Core Piano) introduce you and your student to everything from the notes on the piano and the musical alphabet to reading music, steps and skips, and sharps, flats, and naturals. The course is designed for all age levels, and is designed to be completed at whatever pace is comfortable for the individual students. Initially the lessons go quickly, if what you are covering is review, and then the student has to slow down as it becomes necessary to practice the previous lesson's concepts before starting a new lesson.

HomeSchoolPiano follows a six-step cycle to teach piano at home that focuses on technique, rhythm, ear training, impovisation, song and reading music. (Click link above to learn more about each aspect.)

We did most of our lessons from my laptop, but I was also able to access lessons from my iPad. My plan initially was to cover lessons three times per week during the review time. There was a week when the program crashed and was down for a while, and there were two weeks of Boy Scout camp that interfered with the schedule. So the lessons ended up stacked more toward the end of the review period than at the beginning. It was okay that way. The program is very flexible to alter as your schedule varies.

I also found that the program can be accessed from any mobile device, not just laptop and iPad (although cell phone would make it hard to read the notations--they'd be so small).  
 A purchase of HomeSchoolPiano - Complete Set of Books will give all this:
  • Unlimited lifetime access to
  • Tracking and quizzes for up to 5 students
  • Unlimited lesson streaming to any device
  • Unlimited music downloads
  • Unlimited video lesson downloads
  • Downloadable Jam Track CD
If I have caused you to be slightly curious, but not yet quite willing to commit money to the idea -- you can get your first taste of working with HomeSchoolPiano by signing up for some free lessons.  After that, if you liked what you saw, you can purchase HomeSchoolPiano - Complete Set of Books in one of the following ways:

1. Success Package (One payment of $299)
Unlimited life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students.

2. Payment Plan (Payments of $99.97 per month for three months):
Unlimited life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students.

The good and the bad:

Mostly good. This program appears to be well developed, well thought out, and easy to follow. It does not absolutely require any specific type of keyboard or piano, which makes it very flexible. It can be followed fairly easily by a child, with a little assistance or instruction if required (but it is fairly intuitive).

So anything bad? Well... When the Review Crew first started with the program (all 90 reviewers, with who knows how many individual students trying to access the program), we overwhelmed and crashed the program. The owners apologized and switched servers. Nevertheless, since that switch we still regularly encountered various amounts of buffering. It doesn't take much buffering to cause my son to give up and walk away from the computer.  At times the buffering was so bad I quit for the day, too. On some occasions there was absolutely no responsiveness to pushing the "Play" button at all!

When that happened, it gave me the opportunity to notice the "Live Chat" function the program also offers. There is not someone available 24/7, but during reasonable hours I got a response back very quickly. At that time I learned that the Books 1, 2 and 3 lessons apparently have downloadable video available, so that if I had been using those I could have downloaded to watch instead of trying to watch via streaming. I also learned that the videos are also available for the Core Piano, but are just not accessible without assistance. The Chat person emailed to me the lesson I was on when I could not get the video to respond so that I could watch it that way.

For buffering (or for video without buffering), I found 6:00 to 8:00 a.m. EST to be the best time to be viewing videos. How many of us have kids that want to take their piano class at that time of day? My son is certainly not interested in doing piano lessons then, especially during the summer. Who has a family that want piano being played at that time of day, anyway?

Another option I found to avoid the buffering is to click on the video to play, and then hit "Pause" and leave it until the entire video loads. Do something else - oral reading, short story, chores, whatever, and then come back and hit play after the whole thing has loaded.

A better option? Maybe HomeSchoolPiano can find yet another server or platform or whatever that can better handle a higher volume of use. That would be my suggestion anyway.

So HomeSchoolPiano, with Willie Myette, gets two thumbs up in my household. I am grateful to have it and am looking forward to continuing my way through the rest of the lessons. I even hope to entice my son into doing more video instruction and learn a bit more formal piano. We are more than halfway through Core Piano and look forward to finishing it and getting to Book 1, which will actually have us start playing from some sheet music.

If you would like to learn more about HomeSchoolPiano, you can read more reviews of other Crew members by clicking the link below. I think this program is a great value for music for a family with many kids. I might not have purchased it myself, with only one child, unless he expressed an interest. The program is more economical the more people you have using it, but then again there is more money to spend on less students when you have only one student, so maybe I would have purchased it, even if was going to be the student! It is that good!

Monday, July 21, 2014

It's HERE! Build your Bundle Sale Days!

Charlotte Mason Style Homeschooling Curriculum Bundle - 85% Off + 3 Bonuses!

Save 80% on K-3 Homeschooling Curriculum at the Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale!

Elementary Homeschooling Curriculum Bundle - 82% Off!

Save 84% on High School Homeschooling Curriculum at the Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale!


The first ever "Build Your Bundle" - Homeschool Edition sale is here!

      For one week only (July 21-28) save up to 92% on bestselling
      homeschooling products, including MANY on Cathy Duffy's Top 100 list!


      The bundles are AMAZING, including products such as Learning Language
      Arts Through Literature
, A Child's Geography, Character Concepts,
      Picture Smart Bible, Math Mammoth, and more! There are SO
      many incredible products to choose from, all bundled up in grades/themes
      OR you can "Build Your Own!"



        Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

      Our "Build Your Own" bundles offer you the opportunity to select
      a certain number of products with a retail price of $19.99 or less for up
      to 80% off! We have MANY items to choose from, including Cathy Duffy Top
      100 Picks! When you purchase a combination of any 2 "Build Your Own"
      bundles, you will get the 3rd one at 50% off!

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!


Buy more & save more! Purchase 2 "build your
      own" bundles and get the 3rd one 50% off! See
      site for details.

      You will also find the following pre-assembled bundles with saving up
      to 92% off retail:
Tot/Pre-K Bundle, K-3 Bundle, 4-6 Elementary Bundle,
      Middle School Bundle, High School Bundle, Charlotte Mason Bundle, & the
      Homeschooling/Homemaking Mom Bundle!



Charlotte Mason Style Homeschooling Curriculum - Normally $377.35 - On Sale for ONLY $49.00 - One Week Only!Elementary Homeschooling Curriculum - Normally $220.35 - On Sale for ONLY $39.00 - One Week Only!Middle School Homeschooling Curriculum - Normally $361.77 - On Sale for ONLY $59.00 - One Week Only!
High School Homeschooling Curriculum - Normally $381.68 - On Sale for ONLY $69.00 - One Week Only!K-3 Homeschooling Curriculum - Normally $187.13 - On Sale for ONLY $39.00 - One Week Only!K-3 Homeschooling Curriculum - Normally $171.37 - On Sale for ONLY $29.00 - One Week Only!
K-3 Homeschooling Curriculum - Normally $118.19 - On Sale for ONLY $10.00 - One Week Only! Homeschooling Curriculum - You Choose What to Buy - Save up to 80% - One Week Only! Homeschooling Resources, Curriculum & More - Save up to 60% - One Week Only!