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SAT ® and ACT® preparation is on anyone’s mind if they plan to go to college. Most of our curriculums will help prepare you for the writing, verbal, and math portions, but one section tends to stump a lot of us, and that is vocabulary. Where do they come up with some of those words? Finding a good resource that is interesting is the key. If you are blind or deafblind, the resources are very limited, as well. VocabAhead may just be the choice for you and your students with its “entertaining and effortless vocabulary building solution”.

VocabAhead’s SAT Vocabulary: Cartoons, Videos, and MP3s is a simple, but handy study aid for any trying to bone up on their vocabulary. The main product of this company is a book. I will describe it first for those blind and deafblind with some residual sight for use with a CCTV. Each page covers one word. The page lists the correct spelling of the word and its part of speech. It then lists the definition along with a humorous cartoon illustrating the word’s meaning. The cartoon has two to three different sentences describing the cartoon using the word or using the word appropriately in additional example sentences. The page concludes with a short list of synonyms and antonyms for the word. There are 30 units which group words in loose categories of similarity. At the end of the unit, a review exercise is provided of matching and fill-in-the blank practice of the words in that unit. Answers are included in the back of the book. This is a great way to build visual connections to easily learn and reinforce that learning.

Visual learning is not the only style supported by this little aid. You can download the narrations of each page on MP3 files to your favorite player and listen and learn on-the-go. This is great for blind and auditory learners and those with reading difficulties and dyslexia. There are also videos to download that will allow you to take the book with you in a digital fashion on your IPod, IPhone, and IPad which for some students with special needs is a great plus. The narrations of the videos are not closed captioned, but the deaf will find it useful as the book is if they prefer apps for learning. Some autistics are learning to use the IDevices to spur their learning and reinforce their memory and attention spans. The audio files and the videos are free for download of their website. I also hope the team will add a feature. That is a pronunciation guide for the word. Some students need that visual key to help them with learning to pronounce words. Regardless, this is a perfectly priced study aid for vocabulary improvement.

I must add a caution to parents and to adults who are wary of the content they put into their minds. There are some cartoon and sentence examples that some may consider inappropriate for some readers.  One sentence for anathema describes a girl using voo-doo to put a curse on her boyfriend. A cartoon for the word carnal shows a busty woman. Each parent or adult needs to decide if the material presented is suitable for their student’s use or even their own. This reviewer would never ask you to present material for use that you feel is inappropriate. I make note of these possible things when I can to help you make an informed decision about the product.

To my great surprise, I found on their website that an IPhone/IPod app is available for this study aid. Being Deaf and Blind, I was happy to see a lite or free version available for testing. That means this review will also go on my DeafBlind Hope blog to help DeafBlind people know what can help them. To add to my excitement, I found they did a great job making the app accessible to braille output for the most part. Everything in the “Study Words” section works fine with braille. The flash cards work well too except for the tap to hint section which can be selected on a braille display, but because the hint is only an image, the braille display goes blank. This would definitely confuse a person needing the braille. They might not know what to do next or think the program closed or locked up. I suggest that they add a text hint here such as a synonym or a sentence using the word or a text description of the image that would help with the word. In the quiz section, the main page is accessible. The buttons work and even the dial a word section which is more of a graphic is accessible. You can scroll through the list to see which words will be on the list and change the list from the “don’t know yet” list and the “mastered” list for continued practice on all the words. Once you click the start quiz button and change to the first word on the test, the app loses it on accessibility. The home and back button work fine. You also can see which word you are being quizzed on next, but the multiple check boxes of possible definition answers only shows on the braille display as “btn” which means button.  You cannot read what the choice is at all. You can check with the select button on the display, but you don’t get any response as to right or wrong as you should. You only get the text “dmd btn” which is demand button. I also couldn’t figure out how to move forward in the quiz by braille display either. You do a one finger flick on the touch screen. That isn’t always easily understood by people who are totally deaf and blind, so a next button should be added. These are easy fixes for the app developers, though. I am hopeful that this will be updated soon because I am sure the developers would like to make their app fully accessible. I am going to email them with my suggestions as their app boldly asks for which is a positive point for the developers. They obviously want to get suggestions for improvement. When it is, I can tell you that the app will be worth buying even at $9.99 if you are blind or deafblind because it covers 1000 words. It is already a great app for other users including some special needs students.

 

Between the book, the audio files, the video files, and the IPhone/IPod app, VocabAhead SAT Vocabulary: Cartoons, Videos, and MP3s should have everyone covered. To find out more, go to http://vocabahead.com. This neat study aid can also be purchased easily at Amazon.com for $12.95 in book form. A DVD version is also available for $24.99. This could be a fun way to a higher SAT® or ACT® score or just to get a little smarter.

 

I was provided a free product to write this review. I was not compensated in any other way. The opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

Many students have reading difficulties that are caused in part by tracking issues. The eyes have trouble following the line of words, move from line to line accurately. Good readers learn to read words by “focusing on manageable chunks of information in each line of text”. See-n-Read reading tools provide simple devices designed to help a student track and smoothly move between lines.

See-N-Read provides three reading guides made of polypropylene that are transparent grey with a clear strip about a quarter the way down the guide to clearly show the text of the current line that a student is reading. The rest of the guide is transparent enough to help the student move smoothly from one line to the next. This clears the mind to focus on the more manageable amount of text that is shown through the clear strip aiding comprehension. Another strip is provided that is the same length but one and half times longer to accommodate larger books and textbooks. The third guide is the same length and width as the smaller guide, but has the clear strip cut out to allow for highlighting of text without losing their place on the page.

There is also an electronic version of these reading guides that can be used for reading on a computer. The computer version also allows for modifying size, shape, and color of the guides used for computer sources. It can also be use with a PC-driven projector or interactive whiteboard. I was unable to use that part of the product due to my vision loss and the vision loss of many of my students, so I can’t properly review it, but one should be aware of its availability.

Learning disabled students often do find the use of reading guides beneficial. Our understanding of the needs have come a long way since the days of a folded piece of notebook paper. Many students find the reading guides of such a design as the See-N-Read tools as a great way to learn to control the movements of their eyes and move from line to line. However, studies have shown as well as my personal teaching experiences that certain students need different shades of color to help them see the words clearly and focus. The electronic version may provide these variations. Variations in the physical reading guides may be needed, though, as well. Other products reviewed on this site have addressed these variations. The parent needs to evaluate the products and make the final decisions based on a child’s needs.

The qualities of the See-N-Read products are high and quite durable making them worthy of this evaluation at inexpensive prices of $2.99 each for the book size and $3.49 each for the document size. There are various packages available, as well. The electronic version is available for $29.99. To find out more and view the research on reading guides, visit http://www.see-n-read.com.

 

Though I was provided samples of the product to do this review, I was not compensated in any other way. The opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

When my sons were toddlers, I had this wonderful little board book. I can’t remember the name, but it was basically a little high chair devotional book to help you get your child started on a life-long love of personal Bible study. I later gave that book away to another mom. I really enjoyed that book and using it with my two children. I could never find it again or anything like it until now. Good Morning, God by Davis Carman is a delightful little book that can be used for toddlers to children about 8 years old to help parents instill that love of spending time with God every day.

Good Morning, God is filled with beautiful illustrations that could be taken from any child’s life. Each filled with subtle color that begs to fill you with joy and peace or contrasting black and white sketches to emphasize a personalized and simple prayer. The simple but truthful words that flow almost like music are based on daily activities of a child and filled with the truth that parents are teachers of God’s wisdom and love. The message of salvation is subtle yet bold within these pages. The simple repetition of phrases helps to build a life-long message of for guidance and the need for daily talks with God. God’s own message shared in such beautiful ways to a child as God intended it through the love of parents.

Any child can learn from this simple endearing book. Special needs students will also grasp its lessons due to simple and repeated phrases, detailed but clear illustrations, and concepts that are easy to relate to for a young child. Parents can use the many activities and questions provided at the end to further enrich their children’s understanding choosing based on developmental level and abilities. Most are easily modified if needed. The book’s text is short with room on each page to place brailled labels for an alternate method of reading. The text is also easy to translate to ASL or other sign system, if needed. The author also provides some ideas for how to use the book in different ways and at different times as the child grows. This is a book truly for all kinds of students.

Good Morning, God can be purchased at Apologia Press, http://www.apologia.com for $14.00, and there is a coloring book available also for $4.00. This is such a small price for well-made hard-back book that is sure to become a family treasure.

Though I received a free copy of this product in order to review, I have not been compensated in any other way. The opinion expressed in this review is entirely my own.

Measurement is a necessary skill that we use in our daily lives. Many children struggle to learn the concepts length, weight, distance, etc. The ruler is one of the first tools we teach when beginning to develop measurement skills. A student might grasp the idea of a foot and 12 inches as the same because it is something they can see and touch with our standard ruler. Try to break that down to smaller increments, and you quickly lose many of the students. Master Innovations has designed a system of rulers to help better teach that task with their Master Ruler.
The Master Ruler is designed as one rule with several parts that lay over each other, but transparent to see the addition of smaller increments within the large increment at the base. The ruler comes in Standard English and Metric increments available separately. The idea is to show that the smaller increments are still measuring the exact same amount of space, but breaking the space up into different size parts or increments. We have all seen similar techniques used with fractions and fraction pies. The white base ruler simply has 12 red lines dividing the space into 12 equal parts each 1 inch. A second, but transparent ruler is laid over the base ruler that has 24 blue lines dividing it into ½ inch increments. Each line that matches an inch marker below is a little heavier. The red line of the base ruler marking each inch is a little longer than the blue lines to help reinforce the concept that the space is equal regardless of the number of increments. There are three additional transparent rulers that can be place on top of the rulers below to correspond with ¼ inch, 1/8 inch, and 1/16 inch increments each with a different color-coding. The lines of each of the rulers are sized so that all of the increments can be seen clearly even through the last layer of 1/16 inch increments. The white base ruler also has a conversion chart on the back for many of the mostly commonly used facts that every student needs to know as second nature. Having them handy will help them to memorize these facts easily. The metrics ruler is essentially the same, but uses metric increments. With practice using The Master Ruler, the student can begin to visualize the concepts of basic measurements and use them successfully.
Many special needs students will find the system great for helping them understand the concepts. The color-coding is great for may learning disabled and ADD/ADHD students as well as the overlay system to emphasize the fact that the unit space or distance is the same, but the number of sections it is broken down into is what changes. Of course, it fits very well for students are more kinesthetic or hands-on learners. The system of color-coding and overlay also works with low vision students, too, without too much difficulty. There are some tactile paint and bumps that can help some, too, but as is, the totally blind might have too much difficulty. A workbook available separately has activities that will help you introduce the use of the rulers, too. However, though many of the pictures used for measuring are fine, there are some that are blurry and would definitely be difficult for a low vision student to use. The company will probably address this issue in future versions. Overall, though, the system is very beneficial for most special needs issues.
The products are also very durable as well as affordable at $9.95 each. The workbook, full of activities, is $15.95, and a teacher’s ruler that is suitable for demonstrations and overhead use, too. You can also purchase a Starter Set for $41.25 for a $4.55 savings. Master Innovations also has other affordable systems available great for learning other math concepts with their Master Clocks, Master, Angles, and Master Fractions. Go to http://www.themasterruler.com for more information.

Though I received a free product to write this review, I was not compensated in any other way. The opinion expressed is entirely my own.

Music is an important part of my life despite being deaf and blind. I was born with some hearing and learned to talk and sing before losing the ability to understand speech by age 8. I became profoundly deaf a few years later. Through it all, music sustained me. I practiced singing, playing piano and guitar over the years. I learned everything I could about music and musicians of every genre. When I no longer could hear it, I felt it. Music is still such a joy as I feel the vibrations of life. Next to experiencing music, I love sharing this love with my students. I encourage them to listen to music and to learn all about its properties, and those who have influenced this audible river of life and culture.
Though I play and sing, I know that I am no great talent which has never been dependent upon my hearing loss. In my teaching of music, I try to share my love of music and steer parents to actual teachers for instrumental, voice, and theory training. I concentrate on the exploration of sound through listening and the exploration of people who have influenced the development of music since the beginning of recorded time. Recently, I was sent a product to review that helps me a good deal. It is a guide to composers, A Young Scholar’s Guide to Composers from Bright Ideas Press to be exact.
The authors have done the task of research on composers of classical music and share details about the various periods of history with the influences on classical music of each period. I think they made some excellent choices of which of the many composers to use in this guide along and agree with their reasoning to not use any number of other talented composers. Each period’s lesson is followed by a student reading guide as well as each composer covered in that period with a reading guide. An appendix is provided with a good glossary of terms, answer keys, and resource list for further investigation. You will also so find additional pages filled with various activities to help your students remember this good information. There are coloring pages, flash cards for each composer, a timeline, a geography activity for finding where in the world the composers lived, and resources to make a folder book. A folder book is similar to a lap book that shows all that a student has learned about a subject. Folder books are simpler and quicker, but they seem to be just as interesting.
The authors suggest a weekly schedule of listening to music at least three times a week, and how to schedule the activities and how to experience the music. You are free to choose your own method, but the guideline provided is very helpful to busy teachers.
For our special needs students, it is easy to adapt these lessons and activities to the individual needs. The clear line drawings can easily be tactiled to allow a blind student to enjoy the activity. Autistics often like music, so let them experience it and give them the information on the composers as their level allows. Deaf and DeafBlind can benefit from the feel as well as the information, so make sure you have good speakers to allow them to touch or have some played on an instrument allowing them to feel the instrument as it is played. Share with them the picture of Beethoven playing his piano on the floor without legs in order to better feel the vibrations.
Music and this guide will provide good experiences for your students no matter how far they take their learning. A Young Scholars Guide to Composers http://www.brightideaspress.com is a great tool no matter how you choose to use it in your studies. It is worth its price of $29.95 just in the research they have provided. Take your children for a ride on the river of music.

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

Finding good reader series and reading programs can be difficult. Often times, the series vocabulary doesn’t match the students’ learning set. Many times, a student will be learning a set of vocabulary for reading and a totally different set in spelling even if the curriculum is designed with reading and spelling combined. For some students, this can be frustrating if not a fatal blow to their learning process. Last year for The Old SchoolHouse Crew, I reviewed a program called All About Spelling which I found to be a good method to use for many students. You are welcome to check out my All About Spelling review from last year. The authors are creating a series of readers, The Beehive Readers published by Takeaway Press, which follows the levels of their spelling levels which gives excellent support for both reading a spelling in this coordinated style.

For review, I was given level one of the new series. My first impression was more aesthetic, since I am DeafBlind. I approach new things from the angle of touch and smell. The sturdy binding and glossy cover got my attention reminding me of those expensive, but much desired reading books teachers wanted when I was teaching in public school. The durabinding as it was often called lasted much longer and was well worth the cost in the minds of teachers. The Beehive Readers seem to be constructed basically the same way which is a definite plus in my mind. Opening the book, the thick, textured pages were reminiscent of old textbooks from the 1950’s and earlier which had such excellent quality that many are in good condition today. That textured feeling along with the aroma like that of many a good book from that era had me pleasantly remembering stories I read as a child. Many an hour I sat reading books and living adventures much like this one loving that feel and smell all of which kept me longing to be in the pages of a good book. Beehive Reader is made just that way. I can see more students developing that love of books with this quality in their hands. The illustrations are fabulous with the contrast of line drawings similar to a pencil sketching with just the right amount of detail that is focused on the specifics of the words on the page. This format supports the reading process without distracting the student from the reading of the words. Many think color is always necessary to motivate, but that isn’t necessarily true. Autistic Spectrum Disorder students actually do better with simpler line drawing art to help them stay focused.  Other readers also find the line drawings and pencil type sketching fascinating and inviting. Beehive Readers have the quality to entice your student to reading.

Along with quality in the book’s making and illustrations, you need a story that is fun and readable for your student at that level. The authors of Beehive Readers specifically build their stories around the vocabulary in their spelling series by level. They build the stories with as little additional words as possible including avoiding sight words that must be memorized and trip young readers who are still learning the concepts of phonetics and sounding out words. The student can easily learn to read at each level based on what I saw with level one and the description from the web site on how the rest of the series will work because almost every word can be sounded out using the principles of phonetics. The student does not have to be using the All About Spelling program to learn and enjoy this series. The stories can be easily decoded, and the stories are simple to follow and interesting to the students at that level. My students asked to read the book again after we tried it with each the first time. An older student smiled when he was able to read the book’s first chapter on his own by sounding out the words. He said, “There weren’t any words that break the rules.The Beehive Reader level one helps many students learn to read. With or without using their All About Spelling program, students will find the ability to read and enjoy the stories while improving their phonetic skills as an accomplishment they can achieve. At $19.95, parents will find the book excellent quality at an affordable price. Go to http://www.beehivereaders.com/ to find out more.

Piano instruction can be very beneficial to any child. It can also be fun and rewarding for all. One of the best times to begin instruction is the Pre-school years. Students are naturally curious and love to move their bodies to music. Capture those moments to begin teaching skills that are fun, but transferrable to many other things in life. One of the best of the few programs available at this age is Kinderbach. I received a free three month subscription both last year and this year to review this product. You can find my post from January 6, 2009 here at https://wynfield.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/piano-instruction-for-preschoolers/  to get a full review of what I thought then. As I was requested to take another look at the program, I decided to do two things: first, check with my parents who had chosen to use the product after reading my blog last year to get their first hand experiences, and secondly, try to program with another DeafBlind student who loves the feel of music. You may be wondering why I would want to bother working with music with a child who can’t see and hear. Well, this child can see a little, and with special systems can hear a little, but regardless of the degree of vision and hearing loss, this child is able to feel music. With fun activities, I wanted to see if he could get any benefit with the program.

 First, I checked with the several families that I know who are using Kinderbach with their families. The students range from two to eight with various ability levels. One has an older child of nine who is autistic. The mother found that her daughter enjoyed joining in with the preschooler in the family. The mother was delighted because it was the only time the autistic child would interact with other members of the family except mother and occasionally, father. Another parent noted that an older child of twelve who took formal piano lessons outside of the home who was often nearby when she worked with the six year old in the family with Kinderbach would be tapping his foot or pencil in time with the beat bugs. The mother asked if he like the Kinderbach DVD to which he responded, “Nah, that’s baby stuff.” However, the piano teacher asked a few weeks later about the beat bugs and what did it mean because the son’s understanding of notes and rhythm seemed to have improved and was showing in his performances of music he had previously struggled with. The mother chuckled, and said, “Why, Kinderbach!” All of the parents seemed to enjoy the program. A few were pleasantly surprised that their young children were actually playing music on their own. One parent stated that it was the easiest part of her day. “We began with doing music just one day a week, but it is now done every day. We have so much fun.”

With all the glowing reports from the other parents, you wonder just what would happen with a DeafBlind child. You can’t help, but be realistically pessimistic. There are obvious problems with the program in regards to a deaf or deafblind child. The child has to be able to access the program in some way to get any benefit, of course. In this case, we plug the child’s FM system (a device that sends the sound source directly to the child’s hearing aids through radio transmission) which allows him to get some amount of speech, music, and/or noise from the monitor. The parent also sits the child very close to the monitor allowing the child to see better with his telescope glasses. The parent also has to sign in the child’s hands the dialogue for the program and the songs. I provided a stuffed donkey to represent Dodi who is the primary character for representing the keyboard in the program. We make the Dodi’s house cutout for him too and sign “Dodi’s House” to the child. It is important for us to introduce the props and basic idea of “we are going to find out where Dodi, the donkey, lives today.” As we present the program, we allow the child to indicate if and when we continue. Of course, it is the actual music that gets this child interested. He bounces whenever music is played, and often touches the speakers to see if he can feel even more of the vibrations. In time with lots of patient signing, we were able to get the child to understand that he could play the white key outside of Dodi’s home and make music that sounded like the DVD. We played the DVD initial lessons just a few times over a few days. After a weekend, the child continued his daily routine without coming to see me. We weren’t sure if there had been any impact until the child the next week began signing “Dodi Music” over and over. The parent had to come borrow my DVD and small keyboard. He asks for “Dodi Music” every day now. The two haven’t gotten very far in the lessons, but the child is fascinated with making his own music. Fortunately, we can plug the keyboard into his FM system, too, but he still likes to touch the keyboard to feel even more vibrations from the keyboard itself. Kinderbach is not designed for the deaf or deafblind, nor should they be expected to be. It was just nice to have this type of program available that we could work with, since neither I nor the parent are necessarily music inclined. Using Kinderbach, we have been able to expose this child to something not necessarily within his realm of possibilities. For a deafblind child, the mere exposure is the ability to mark a milestone for understanding of the world around him.

 The vendor may be surprised with this review using such a unique tactic, but I feel it shows that Kinderbach is a good quality program for delivering music foundations in a delightful way to the young child at a time when learning those skills can also be beneficial in other aspects of the child’s developmental growth. There are now six levels to the program at a maximum cost of $40.95 per DVD level with combination packages of DVD and CD of activity pages increasing savings, and an online version for as low as $7.99 per month with annual prepaid subscription of $95.88 or $19.99 per month. You can try the online version for $5.95 for one day to see if it is a good fit for your family. Check out http://www.kinderbach.com to bring a little music into your family’s life.

 The vendor did provide a free product subscription for a specified time in return for a review, but the opinion expressed in this view is entirely my own.

Recently, I received from The Old SchoolHouse Magazine as part of the Crew a request to do a review for MathScore. As with other products, I received the chance to use it for free, but I will review it based on my own opinion. MathScore is an online math assessment and practice program. It provides thousands of randomly chosen problems to assess your student’s math level and practice their weak concepts. Math levels covered include first through Algebra I. This site could provide a much needed assessment tool for schools and homeschoolers.

 The program, developed by graduates of MIT, is designed to accurately assess and prescribe practice regardless of math curriculum or method taught to the student. Students have access to a basic Core assessment test which then lists the results and any necessary topics that need to be further taught. The system has worksheets and mini lessons for each topic covered. The student can access as many worksheets as needed to practice the skills taught in the mini lessons. The student can then be reassessed for the topic after practice. Student gets detailed results of their assessments and practice answers. Parents have a separate log in that allows them to get detailed results and teaching suggestions including details of their students’ use of the program. Each time the student logs in, the program keeps detailed records of total log in time, time spent actually working, number of problems done, percentage correct, and percentage of attention span. I had several students at different levels try out the program. I even tested each student with the television on nearby, too. Of course, I never allow TV watching in school, but I wanted to test this attention span percentage. The program very simply, but accurately gave me a report to let me know just how distracted my students were while doing the lesson and worksheets. I also received emails letting me know when my students worked and how much was accomplished. This could be a useful tool for a busy parent to monitor their children’s working time without having to actually sit by them the entire time. If they don’t work you know it. When they do work, you can tell just how much effort was put into the work and how successful they were doing it. I particularly liked the Copy sections of the program which helps the student learn to type their answers more accurately and more quickly. This is a much needed skill for most students. The program wasn’t designed originally to be a teaching program in the sense of a full curriculum, but the site information states that many homeschoolers do use it that way because of the presence of the mini-lessons. I personally don’t recommend that blindly, but it could be used as a tool to decide when the student needs additional and more teacher-focused instruction.

In regards to special needs and/or accessibility, most parents and students will find the program easy enough to use. Children with reading difficulties will find there isn’t a lot of difficult text to read, but if there is a problem reading a text to speech reader such as Text Aloud or any free program should help there. Hearing blind using a screen reader will find it useless as will braille readers because the site uses frames, and the main text frame isn’t provided for the sc reenreader to use. This is a major reason why accessibility rules of the ADA and FCC require web sites to maintain a text only or accessible version for alternate use. Flash, Java, JavaScript, frames, etc. are not seen by screenreaders and braille displays; thus, it makes these types of pages inaccessible to the hearing blind and deafblind user. On MathScore, some of the links are available and can be followed, but the main part of the program or details on the page sent to by a link is in the main frame inaccessible to the reader because it is not actually on that webpage, but accessed from a separate file. Therefore, I can’t recommend this program to many of my readers at all. Although useful to some, a web site needs to be accessible by all, or it is discriminatory. A reorganization of the interface could easily eliminate these issues and broaden the market of the program.

The MathScore program, though not a good solution for all students, is affordable. The cost for one student is $14.95 per month, but can be as low as $9.95 per month with a time commitment. Additional students can be added for increasing discounts to as low as $3.95. Check it out for yourself at http://www.mathscore.com.

Looking for a Keyboarding class that isn’t a game? Even more importantly, are you wanting a Christian Keyboarding class? Well, you aren’t going to find many of either. The game programs are fine for some students as a complete curriculum, and fine for even more as a supplemental course, but many times the student concentrates too much on the game aspects. There have been many teachers who have used the game programs and discovered their student loved the program, but wasn’t really learning how to properly keyboard. Hence the search for a more traditional program begins. You can find them, but you won’t find any that are Christian-based. That was the dilemma for one Keyboarding teacher at a Christian school. Like many teachers before her, Leanne Beitel set about writing her own. The result was Keyboarding for the Christian School, a great blend of tradition and scripture.

Using many of the traditional methods of teaching typing, but with scripture as practice exercises, Leanne Beitel created a course that most teachers can be happy with using every day. There are two separate programs depending on the age student: Keyboarding for the Christian School, grades 6-12 and Keyboarding for the Christian School, Elementary Version. Both versions have simple, but thorough lessons covering the important topics of keyboarding such as the touch typing technique, alphabetic keys, numerals and symbols, number keypad, centering, and enumerated lists. The Elementary version then provides timed writing practicing. The older version continues with topics such as the tab key, the footnotes styles of MLA and APA, cover pages, works cited and bibliography pages, letters, envelopes, and proofreader’s marks before it begins also with timed writing practice exercises. Most of the scriptures used are good life affirming ones from the Psalms. Typing these scriptures for practice will write them on the minds and hearts of your students to be used by the Holy Spirit throughout their lives to guide them and help them to praise the Lord. The other writings used in the older versions will teach your students as they type Biblical truths and better discipleship. The programs are easy to follow regardless of age group. The elementary version is very similar to the older version, but written with a little simpler language and uses colorful charts to guide the student for finger placement and correct key finding. If you start your student in elementary grades with this program, you can use the older version to review the basic skills if needed or skip straight to the additional topics that an older and more advanced student needs. I personally love the way the author included coverage of the number keypad and introduction to the formatting and reference citing styles of MLA and APA. The keypad skills I learned in school are seldom taught now, but those skills have aided me in my personal life from quickly using calculators and adding machines for bills and taxes and even in the grocery store to some degree with ATM and cash register use. As a blind person, it has been as invaluable as the touch typing skills I have acquired. I was able to even apply this skill to some degree in reverse to use a telephone .With report writing, many students might learn a little about giving credit in later years of high school, but never hear the acronyms for the two most accepted formats in the literary and psychological fields. Their knowledge of how to give credit and type it correctly is weak. Then, in college, depending on their class, they are expected to know which format to use having heard of neither. These courses are very well-designed and will prove beneficial to many homeschool and private school settings.

As far as accessibility, the .pdf format is a drawback for blind and deafblind students, but the author left the security open. With additional software, you can convert this to a more usable format for screenreaders or braille displays. Of course, this is never a perfect conversion which makes .pdf formats less than desirable for accessibility purposes. Hearing blind would benefit from an audio version of the programs, but keyboard shortcuts are needed in the step implementation first. However, keyboard shortcuts would be beneficial for all students since it makes many steps quicker and simpler. Many of the keyboard shortcuts are standard for basic word processing steps so this wouldn’t be too difficult to provide. DeafBlind students would need a .txt or rtf version of the program once keyboard shortcuts are added. An audio version would also help students who are LD or auditory learners for use in conjunction with the text. With just a few simple modifications, the programs could have a much broader audience and be even more useful for the students to use.
Keyboarding for Christian Schools is an excellent program for homeschool and private Christian school use. The programs are also quite affordable for homeschool and Christian school use. The homeschool price for e-books of both versions is just $22.00. A Christian School can get an unlimited license version for $159.95. You can find more options and additional products at https://www.christiankeyboarding.com/Home_Page.php. The lifelong benefits of good keyboarding skills and scripture knowledge gained from this program can be so rewarding.

We recently talked about World History, so now let’s jump right into American History with the American Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty CD. As publishing companies and secular historians try to rewrite our country’s history to fit their own agenda, it is a breath of fresh air to see this curriculum hit the field.

The American Heritage Education Foundation, Inc. makes the social studies/civic K-12 lesson plan resource CD available to free to educators. The foundation’s mission is dedicated to the understanding and teaching of our nation’s factual and philosophical heritage to promote constructive citizenship and freedom, unity, progress, and responsibility among our students and citizens. This resource planner implements that mission in a wonderful and beneficial way. The lessons are well written and hold a child’s attention. The activities provided stimulate continued interest and encourage interesting discussions. The program has three levels on elementary, middle school, and high school level. The elementary level is also provided in Spanish. The file format is Adobe Reader .pdf, and they provide a version of Acrobat Reader for installation if you do not have it on your computer. The Acrobat Reader is free and current versions can be downloaded from the Adobe Acrobat Reader web site for future use as updates become available. The material, itself, is written clearly and simple enough that the same basic lesson information is the same across the levels with the activities being a little more involved and covering more in-depth analysis in the higher levels. This makes it ideal for a classroom setting with students having various ability levels and learning needs and for a homeschool setting where there may be several students, but in different grade levels. Instruction can be simultaneous in either setting with modifications made when necessary and activities tailored for ability and grade levels. More importantly, the information is historically accurate and places the emphasis on the key facts that this country was founded by Christian men who planned the government to allow for freedom of religion, but acknowledging that there is a sovereign God who must be our guide in government matters. All of these factors make this a great choice for your lesson plan resource.

As far as accessibility which is very important to most of my readers, the .pdf format is as discussed here before not very accessible for some of my readers who are DeafBlind as I am. Adobe has removed their features that allowed braille access and locked their program down to use only their built-in text-to-speech program which doesn’t allow for braille access. The authors do have all security measures allowed including copying for accessibility which allows you to copy the text to Word which allows for some braille text access. The majority of the document is text in this case, so that is a great help for DeafBlind users. You will be able to get use of the product with a little bit of manipulation of the text. I appreciate the authors allowing that copy ability. The lack of alternate text tags for the images will present a small problem for all blind and deafblind users. The authors didn’t set up the file for accessibility at all within the Adobe format, so this can present problems even for the built-in reader. It is a simple problem to correct by labeling alternate text tags for the images and specifying language for all the text along with a few other simple corrections. I certainly hope they will do so to make it easier for text-to-speech reading to be correct and ease the transition to Word for braille use. Overall, the authors are commended for making the effort toward some accessibility.

The American Heritage Education Foundation also provides additional resources to further enhance their An Adventure in Liberty program on their website at http://www.americanheritage.org . Check them out for information on how to order the CD resource, as well. Wynfield Christian Academy will definitely be adding it to their curriculum resources for American History and Civics instruction. I don’t think anyone can go wrong with trying this program for instilling a God-based and historically accurate foundation for our American Heritage into our children. Our next generation really needs this kind of background to help keep America on a straight path as a God-fearing nation.

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