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Music is the melody of life some say. For me, it is that and more. I was born with normal hearing or possibly a mild hearing loss, but it was progressive. I was wearing aids by school age and unable to understand speech by my teen years. Until I became totally deaf a few years later, music became increasingly the only thing that I could easily make sense of and enjoy sound-wise. I was singing before I talked I was told. I mostly wanted to sing what I called at two as “Jesus music”. I loved the way music made me feel even if I couldn’t understand the words or even hear the all of the intricate chords. I wanted to play an instrument to create that music myself. I tried piano and did ok, but my hands were small while I still had enough hearing to learn easily. Guitar was another attempt, but hearing was deteriorating and difficult to pick up on my own. Teachers were unsure of how to teach me. As a young mother, totally deaf, I found Jean Welles’ Worship Guitar Class, Vol. 1. Though I am sure she never thought of her program as a way to teach a deaf girl to play,  it worked. I could play and feel the music to express my love for my Savior.

Her program now available on DVD is as much visual as it is auditory. Jean uses close-up camera angles and large diagrams to show guitar strings, tabs, finger placement, and picking and strumming patterns. Verbally, she gives full explanation of these aspects in clear and precise manner. I used her diagrams and close-ups of finger placement to learn chords. Then I watched carefully and repeated her actions in the close-ups of the different strumming patterns. Jean then follows up the chord instructions with a song that uses the chords just taught. Jean plays the song through using the techniques she has just gone over with a camera angle that lets you see easily as she puts it all together for you. Each song builds on the chords and strumming techniques used before and more chords are added throughout the first volume giving you a good background of guitar chords and strumming patterns when completed. The next section includes a practice section that gives you exercises for improving technique and exercises for improving chord changes and picking skills. The last part Jean plays the songs taught on the DVD allowing you to play along. Jean Welles’ method of instruction is clear, and her easy-going spirit and love for the Lord shine through it all motivating you to learn this method of worship.

I can’t promise anyone that this is the best program for them, but I know that the method allowed me to learn when I could hear almost no sound. Now that I am blind and deaf, vibrations are felt more intensely. Having learned how to make my own music, I can still enjoy worshipping my Savior through music which gives me such joy. With a tactual interpreter helping me to know the flow of the music and my sense of feeling vibrations, I often sing praises along with my hearing/sighted friends. I continue to play guitar in my worship time and with my family. My only true audience though is my Lord, Jesus Christ. Will every deaf person want to learn music? No, but music instruction for children has been shown to raise intelligence scores and musical experience in general gives acquisition to many skills and concepts that are applicable to the world of math and real life concepts. Music instruction for anyone can provide benefits even if the continued love of playing is never developed. I introduce my deafblind students to music as a way to explore the world around them. To me, it is worth the effort.

Jean Welles’ Guitar Worship Class DVDs are available at http://www.worshipguitarclass.com/. Each volume is available for $29.95 for each volume or $99.80 for the four volumes. Each set comes with a lesson book with much of the music information and the songs for additional practice.

I received Jean Welles’ Worship Guitar Class Volume 1 DVD and lesson book to test for this review. The opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

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Two things I hate more than anything are math and exercise. No, I am not 500 lbs. I just don’t like exercise that is boring. I prefer to backpack and rock climb. Yes, I am a teacher, and I teach math and do a very good job at it. I have always struggled with math because I am dyslexic and learning disabled. I taught myself how to do math, and now God uses me to help children who need it. I don’t have to like math or exercise to know it is good for me. Being honest with my students helps them to learn that, too. I am also honest when I say that I groaned when I found out that the product I received free to review for the TOS Crew was an exercise DVD that incorporated math. And no, the vendor doesn’t control what I say about their product. However, I am fair, as well as, honest. This isn’t about me, but about helping my parents find products suitable for their students. If you read my blog regularly, you will know that once again I was pleasantly surprised at what I found.

The DVD, Gymathtics, created by Carrie Scheiner and her family through Suncheine World, LLC. Is well-produced and developed. Ms. Scheiner uses the premise that learning is enhanced by making as many connections in the brain as possible. Information from even seemingly different topics can be joined together and taught through activities to increase the connections leading to even stronger learning connections. In this case, math concepts are connected with physical exercise movements. Many students will find this odd, but this odd difference lends to its interest and fun. The program provides a warm-up section that has your body making lines, circles, and polygons that stretch your muscles preparing them for the more strenuous exercises to come. Your student will practice various ways to count as they do aerobic exercises, and then the intensity increases with pattern power as your student will do various pattern movement activities that strengthen the muscles and heart. On the screen there are diagrams with math information about polygons, circles, different kinds of visual patterns, and skip counting methods. Most are self-explanatory. During her exercise instruction, Ms. Scheiner also gives more math information verbally. The DVD finishes with the “Well-being Wind Down” section where she leads in relaxing stretches cooling down the body from the aerobic activity while explaining healthy lifestyle choices. These choices are placed on the screen as text at the end of the exercise program. The multisensory concept of math and exercise together is unique, but many students will find it delightful.

Being multisensory, many special needs students will be able to access it and benefit from its information such as those with autism, learning disabilities, dyslexia, attention deficit and attention deficit with hyperactivity, especially. Deaf students will be able to get a lot of detail from the math concepts as well as being able to follow the exercise steps pretty well visually. Ms. Scheiner often demonstrates the moves before the exercise begins. She could do this every time to be more beneficial. A Deaf student might benefit more from the math concepts if more of what Ms. Scheiner relates verbally is added to the diagrams on the screen or more diagrams were used during the exercise segments. Blind students will be able to access the music and dialogue of the DVD. Ms. Scheiner, trying not to overdo the verbal content for probably time purposes and interest of the student, may at times not give enough instruction of the movement of the exercise for a totally blind or mostly blind student to easily do the exercise. A little more specific instruction could probably be done to allow for more accessibility by a blind student. Math concepts could really use more verbal information added to allow for more benefit of the blind student, as well. Ms. Scheiner does a good job without probably even trying to provide accessibility. I am pretty certain that she could do an excellent job when aware that her DVD’s could be used by an even wider audience with just a little more thought and planning of verbal script and diagramming. You may think that there is no hope for the DeafBlind student. Well, I participated right along with my student helpers for this review. I, of course, could not get any information directly being DeafBlind. My students tactually explained to me the moves and the math concepts. I didn’t always do them perfectly, but it allowed us to giggle a lot. My readers know that I like lots of giggling during my lessons. Giggling equals fun, and fun equals better learning and longer remembering.

Gymathtics is a unique, but great way to get your students moving and possibly learning some math. They may not even realize they are” doing math”. This is their first DVD, $24.99,  but more are available and others being developed. Their website at http://www.exploramania.com has these DVD’s and other products like exercise mats and balls using math.  Check them out, and you may soon be giggling over doing polygons and parallelograms.

Regardless of your style of teaching, you often need just the right worksheet or activity. Often, your brain just can be taxed anymore. That is when you need a really good place to go for fresh ideas, or ready-made worksheet to save you some time. The site, http://www.abcteach.com, may be just what you need.

 

For $40.00 a year or $70.00 for two years, you can have access to over 35,000 printable worksheets on various subjects and grade levels. You have access to clip art for any type of classroom project or decoration. You also can find activities and templates for projects like book report forms, research note card forms, etc. You won’t find any annoying advertising either. There is also customer service available to answer your questions and give tips. Whether you need a learning center, or research project, or just a practice worksheet, you can find it on this site, and it is growing every day with more and more resources being added.

 

As part of the TOS Crew, I received free access to the site for about a month. For myself, I was unable to access most of the site, since I am almost totally DeafBlind. I was disappointed because I was looking forward to browsing the site. I had to get sighted help to get any help at all from the site. Accessibility is great for sighted users, but those who need screen readers will be unable to make sense of the page for the most part. I know the main page has 104 links that are recognizable to the screen reader, but I can’t seem to get to them or know what they are. It reads “Your online resource for children’s Education and thousands of free printable worksheets and activities plus over 35,000 pages of worksheets… Then it skips to a series of links in the highlighted Directories under “Sandy’s Picks.” Many of the links are icon links made of graphics, and there is a table with a graphic that contains the links. A screen reader just can’t access that at all. I hope the owners will work on the accessibility of their site. I have many parents of hearing/sighted children who are blind and deafblind themselves. They like to work with their children just like other parents do. These parents need resources, too. If you can access the resources with sighted help, you will find the .pdf format files are open to the accessibility options allowed by Adobe. Of course, that is only suitable for hearing blind because Adobe forces you to use their text to speech program. This program doesn’t allow access to a screen reader that allows braille access. Therefore, I can’t recommend this site for my blind and deafblind parents. Sighted parents will find it quite user-friendly, though.

 

If you need worksheets or activity ideas, this site will certainly give you a lot of help. Check out the ABCTeach site at http://www.abcteach.com for more information.

You can feel like a genius no matter how smart you are if you know the right stuff. Where can you get the right stuff? College Prep Genius: Master the SAT Success from Maven of Memory Publishing.

College Prep Genius makes bold claims for their college entrance test preparation program. “Cut your reading time in half.” “Answer math problems without ever touching your calculator.” “Write a high scoring essay in fifteen minutes.” It probably sounds impossible, but the program complete with a four DVD presentation, guide book, and workbook is right on target. The author, Jean Burke, explains that the PSAT/SAT/ACT are not knowledge checking tests. They are actually logic tests. Using logic, you can find the answer to those tough questions. This isn’t about learning little tricks to guess at the answers. It is about understanding the true nature of these tests and the purpose behind them. Once a student has a basic understanding of math and grammar, they should be learning the methods, patterns, and logic of these college entrance tests including the PSAT. The premise taught with College Prep Genius is that the tests are Standardized, and therefore, the question and answer patterns stay the same.

The program is divided into four main parts: overview of the tests, critical reading, math, and essay with additional sections on scholarship search and comparison of the SAT and ACT. The DVD’s follow the same basic organization with a DVD devoted to the four main parts above. The guide book is thorough and very clear. It provides numerous examples that walk you through each of the kinds of problem types depicting the ways to work them through correctly and how to work them through using the logic and hidden patterns and strategies of the test. These methods help you to answer the questions faster and being more accurate than falling for irrelevant information, not understanding important vocabulary, working math problems completely or using a calculator. The DVD’s highlight and further emphasize the key points of the guide book using the workbook to give sample questions to practice the guide book materials. The DVD’s go over each of the questions in the workbook detailing the method used to quickly answer the questions.

Using the methods in College Prep Genius: Master the SAT Class, your students can really improve their thinking skills as well as their achievement test scores. The cost is $79.00 for the entire package, and my readers can get free shipping and handling from now until November 15, 2009 just use the special code, HSBlog09. If you need help improving your child’s chances for college, check out http://www.collegeprepgenius.com.

Lapbooking? Doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, as they say in Britain. I am married to and have raised self-proclaiming”geeks”. Truth be known, I am probably a little on the geek side, too. I have just never cared for things that seemed like art. I was about to dismiss this review as “not very useful” if I am being honest. I wouldn’t give a bad review for that reason, of course, but I don’t know if I would have put a good effort into it, though. My conscience wouldn’t let me do that really, so I asked around and got other opinions about lapbooking in general and this particular set from A Journey through Learning. Boy, did I get a surprise!

Almost every parent in my school for homeschoolers had heard of lapbooking and loved it. The parents find it so useful for their children in learning and more importantly, retaining the information they learn. These parents felt that the process of building presentation booklets on specific topics increased their students’ interest level in the subjects, too. The ability to make lapbooks almost 3D with the use of various paper folds adds additional interest and skill to the unit studies. This method is very similar to scrapbooking and just as versatile, it seems. A Journey through Learning unit studies take a great method and make it easy to learn with the detailed instructions and tip guides. The well-designed templates and colorful photos and clip art helps make it easy to create advanced and spectacular booklets. The study guide provided with each one gives your student a great start at learning. Lapbooking and A Journey through Learning cover all the modalities needed to make learning a success with the ability to teach the skills of following instructions and working together (when a family tackles each project). You can then tie it all together with the ability to express themselves creatively.

Accessibility for these projects is there for the .pdf since Adobe has the text-to-speech ability. Of course, there is no braille output for this, but the authors do have the ability to copy text for accessibility turned on which will allow it to be pulled into other screenreading programs for large print, better voices for the blind, and braille for the deafblind. The great colors available in the templates are good for low vision, and the templates can be printed out at larger scales for those with low vision. These can definitely be modified for many special needs students.

These great lapbook units on all kinds of subjects from amphibians to reptiles, to the Civil War to the Bible can be found at the web site, http://www.ajourneythroughlearning.com. The prices are very affordable and are available in three formats: downloadable .pdf at $13.00, CD_ROM at $14.00, and print at $21.00. Created by two homeschooling moms for homeschoolers who understand what you do and what you need to teach your students, these lapbook sets are just the ticket to success.

The Quarter Mile Math Logo
And they’re off! You can soon hear that in your household when students fall in love with The Quarter Mile Math software program where they can challenge themselves and their family members to a good race. Parents will be happy because they will be improving their math skills.
Math is a subject that needs a lot of practice, and motivating students to practice is difficult. This software helps to make that practice fun. Students can compete against their own progress record because the software saves the top five performances and uses those to create virtual competitors. Or, they can race against other students, siblings, or even Mom and Dad which is way more fun, of course. Either way your students are improving their math skills at any grade level from Kindergarten to ninth grade. The concepts are covered from numbers to fractions to percents, to equations covering almost every topic within each concept you can find.
Enjoyable practice is what they will get with this program. The graphics are simple and in a lower resolution making them large and bold for even my low vision students. The problems pop up below the racers which can be chosen as race cars or horses. The problems are bold and large making them easily legible for many low vision users. Parents have two options to purchase this grade program. If you have internet access, the Deluxe version comes with student progress tracking and includes all levels from K-9th. They have three payment options for this subscription based program of $2.95 per family per month, $19.95 per family for one year, and $34.95 per family for two years. There is also a Standard CD version that is $39.95 per level. The internet is not necessary here, but it does not track progress automatically for your student. You can, however, save progress manually for each day worked. However, it can be loaded on multiple computers, so that your students can play at different times. They can’t race together, but they can compare their progress to fuel the enthusiasm. For tips and helps, they have a website with a special homeschoolers section with Getting Started information, printable progress chart, and a user’s forum. They also send out an email newsletter loaded with additional tips and information.

Now they have gone and made it an even sweeter deal to for you, my readers!

Use the Referral Code below and you will get $5 off any product–Standard or Deluxe.

7M7M7
There is a place to input this code on the order forms. This Referral Code will be good until September 30. Now is a great time to try out The Quarter Mile Math.

Check out their website for more information or try out a demo:www.thequartermile.com.

There are two important things that I want students to learn when I teach them. First, I want them to learn to love reading and learning. Second, I want them to learn how to learn, so they will continue it for their entire lives. From those two things, everything else from the alphabet and numbers to concepts of gravity and democracy will fall into place. Curriculums should be written from that stand point. The Five in a Row curriculum series by Jane Claire Lambert does that.
Using good books to weave a plan of learning and fun is the design of the Five in a Row series. The books are carefully chosen to present, as the Lamberts explain, “close family relationships, personal triumphs, and persevering in times of trial”. Activities and discussions are laid out to present how to read and critique books which blends into learning about many subjects through the adventures of the characters.
The method is the most important factor of this curriculum. It is imperative that a parent read each book to the students each day of the week. I love this time of closeness. The students do, too. The modeling I do while reading is important for the children. They get to hear how to glean meaning from the words by the inflection in my voice and the pauses for commas and the stops for periods. They hear my enthusiasm in my voice. They feel the love for the words and the life within those words. Also, hearing the story each day and then doing activities and discussing different aspects of the story or how it relates to another subject like math or science reviews those aspects as many as four times.
The layout is simplified to allow even beginning homeschoolers the ability to succeed in the unit study format of Five in a Row. There are five main subjects used in the units to allow activities to be used in a five-day format. Teachers can choose from many different activities in each subject or even do them all and choose when during the week to do the lessons. Sample lesson plans are provided to help the teacher organize, but it isn’t necessary. Many teachers just check off in the book the activities they wish to do with their students. All of the books used in the series can be found free at the public library making this an easily affordable curriculum to use at any age level. I need braille to read to my students, but I have plenty of time to get the National Library to send me via download the braille text for each book. I often purchase the book and print the braille on overlay plastic to glue with clear glue to the page. I can read the story in braille as my students read the print and look at pictures. This keeps me actively involved with my students’ learning.
There are many levels to the Five in a Row curriculum covering ages 4-8. Each level can still be used for a family of multiple students in that age level easily. The authors even suggest hints for using activities with younger and/or older children. The appendix has the copy sheets for the activities in the book as well as that sample lesson plan. Story disks which are round circles with story pictures on them which can be cut out, colored, and laminated are used in many activities such as geography where they place the story disk on areas of the map such as the water areas found around the island of Nantucket where a story you read takes place. That is a wonderful way to remember about lakes and oceans and other geographical features. You can purchase a set of these on their website if you prefer things pre-done, too.
A teacher will find the series quite complete for ages 4-5 or 6. When you feel your students are ready to introduce phonics or formal math lessons, the authors help you integrate the subjects easily into your day while still seeing the benefits of the unit study series.
The authors have other series for ages 2 thru high school. I have personally used most of them and found them to be very fulfilling and intriguing. There are also additional unit studies for all levels that can be purchased inexpensively on their web site. Check them out at http://www.fiveinarow.com. Unit studies are a great way to teach a lifelong love for learning. Five in a Row and all the other age levels from this author are an easy and wonderful way to accomplish this important goal.

Are you struggling with teaching math like Algebra II, or does your struggling teen need a basic math quick review? Most of you have probably seen the ones that are curriculum specific such as Saxon Dive CD’s, or Bob Jones’s DVD’s. They are just fine, but if you aren’t using those curriculums, they won’t help much. Well, the MathTutor DVD’s are great for just these kinds of times.
The instructor for the entire product line is Jason Gibson. He isn’t a teacher, but he is a mathematician in all ways with a Master’s in Electrical Engineering and a Master’s in Physics. Jason knows how to bring real-life application into the classroom. His no-nonsense, straight to the point style is refreshing for most students, especially those who are math weary and really want to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Jason gives step-by-step instructions working through easy problems to fully explain the concepts. He then works through numerous problems progressively getting to the hard-core problems. He is very capable of teaching complex topics in a short amount of time. He doesn’t use any textbook, so the student can view the material regardless of the curriculum to gain a better perspective of the concepts. These are the reasons that make these products so good for many students of all ages. They can be used for first time teacher-approached lecture for curriculums that do not have a video component. They can be used by struggling students, and students who need a quick review for any reason.
The subjects covered in these series include basic math and basic math word problems. There are fractions and Algebra I and II. You will find geometry, trig, calculus and even Advanced Calculus. There is also statistics and Physics. The best thing about these series is that they are affordable. Prices range from $26.99 for most topics to $49.99 for Calculus 3: Volume 2. This makes great help easy to come by.
Now anyone can hire that math tutor and feel confident that success is only a few hours away.
Check them out at www.mathtutordvd.com.

If you are looking for a math curriculum or supplement for next school year, I might have something good for you. Math Mammoth is a worktext series for different grade levels. The program was developed by a Finnish mathematician, Taina Maria Miller, who has taught school, tutored homeschoolers, and homeschooled herself. During that experience her heart was touched by the fact that many homeschoolers struggle teaching math because they didn’t have a good background. I understand this completely since I am learning disabled with math being my biggest weakness.
Although many parents think teaching elementary math is easy, Mrs. Miller states that math often becomes rule memorizing without the whys. Children do not learn to think. They only use the rule to solve the problems for the day. I can relate to that. My own education was based on that rule memorization, and my struggles only became worse along with my self-esteem as I got into higher math. Mrs. Miller’s worktexts teach math thoroughly explaining the whys and allows children to discover the principles themselves creating mathematical thinkers along the way.
The worktexts are self-teaching, so they are perfect for homeschoolers. With the explanations in the text, a separate teacher manual is not needed. This simplifies the entire process for the family. The series include quizzes and tests with the answer keys for each. In addition, the author provides internet resources which include some really great math interactive activities for the concepts covered. All of the packages are affordable for grades 1-8 covering all concepts.
Affordability is something the author has striven for with her products. Some are even electronic downloads with prices for each worktext as little as $2.00-$5.50. Several packages are available. The Blue Series which is 28 self-teaching worktexts covering everything from addition to decimals to geometry in a downloadable package for $70.00 or $75.00 for a cd. A math and language software package, Soft-Pak for Windows XP and Vista, is also included with that package for free. Mrs. Miller’s website also has a separate worksheets collections available for grades 3 through 7 and additionally, Algebra I. These are great for regular school teachers to use for homework, and homeschoolers will find them useful as supplements to any math curriculum they are using. These sheets are far better than mechanical worksheets created by a script with problems emphasizing understanding of concepts and practicing computation. You can also sign up for teaching emails on her site where you will receive 280 free worksheets, 7 math teaching articles, emails discussing her books, and the Homeschool Math Newsletter for free.
From all of this information, I think you can see that Mrs. Miller seems to genuinely care about the teaching of math and not just making money. Her program really works with so many children. Two of mine are using her products now and are excelling for the first time despite their learning challenges. The students say they can now think about the ways to do a problem without just trying to remember a rule that fits. These two now beam when they see its math time instead of groaning. That alone makes me feel better as their teacher, too.
Check out Math Mammoth at www.mathmammoth.com for more information.

Have you ever felt like your student needed a new thinking cap? I know I have with mine. Things that seem so simple to me, and I thought should have been even to them, just wasn’t getting through. Did they outgrow their caps? Well, I wish it were that simple. The Critical Thinking Co. might have some help, though. They have work texts designed to get your student thinking in the right directions.
The series called Building Thinking Skills has levels beginning, primary, levels 1 and 2, and level 3 in two books of figural and verbal taking the student from beginning levels to analogies in a spiral methodology. The texts build from level to level on shapes to food to animals to occupations to vehicles to buildings to analogies. Beginning and primary is completely based on figural analysis with level one beginning with figural and building to verbal analysis and response writing. The initial two levels use rich colors and color photography to show objects for the exercises. Levels 1 and above use crisp gray scale drawings, charts, and line art. Students find these tools easy to transition through as their thinking skills strengthen. Each level uses numerous types of exercises to focus on each skill and category. Even analogies are introduced and built upon in easy formats for each level making it simple for students to understand what an analogy is and how to complete them properly.
As supplements to your curriculums or as a stand-alone unit set during your day, this series should guide your students well in building their critical thinking skills. I guess we found a way to stretch those thinking caps after all.
Check them out at www.criticalthinking.com where you will find numerous other fine resources to round out your curriculum.

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