Monday, February 28, 2011

Learning Spanish with Speekee


At one point in my life I actually knew a bit of Spanish. I even taught in a bilingual classroom for a year. But after not using it for years, I’ve lost my confidence in speaking Spanish. I’ve always wanted my children to learn Spanish when they were young, as it is easier to pick up, but I’ve not gotten around to it and my now older kids are  12, 11, and 9. So when I was asked to review Speekee Spanish, I was very optimistic that this would be a good fit for our family.

What it Is:


Speeke Spanish is a total-immersion Spanish program for children ages 3-elementary. Through a series of 10 video episodes, children are introduced to Spanish language through songs, puppets, and skits with native Spanish-speaking children. Each episode also contains downloadable worksheets to go along with the lesson.

What We Thought:

When I first showed the video, my 4yr. old thought Speekee (the puppet) was a little scary. That quickly changed though after watching the whole episode.  In fact, my 4yr. old became Speekee’s biggest fan!

practicingwspeekee We made Speekee and Lupi stick-puppets to practice some of our Spanish words.

I had all my children use Speekee Spanish. That is one of the biggest pluses of this program! My children ages 2-12 could be learning Spanish using the same product!  Another plus is that the teacher does not need to know Spanish in order to implement this program. There are 10 videos which make can make a full-year’s curriculum. You can see the curriculum overview here . Now the scheme of work is created for schools, but Jim, the developer of this program is currently working on creating a curriculum plan just for homeschoolers. 

“The 40-wk curriculum is to be made up of 4-wk chunks, each with 16 activities. These include watching the pertinent Speekee episode 3 times in all. One of the activity days is left open for 'free practice'. Almost all the activities involve no more than 10 minutes of teacher preparation time.” – Jim from FB

I can’t wait to see that!

speekeeworksheet We would watch a video each week (because I wanted to be able to see all of them for this review) and then the older kids would work on a worksheet on days we did not view the video. My younger girls begged to watch Speekee all.the.time.  My 4yr. old even figured out how to accesss it on my computer! What really sold me on this program were two events:

1. One day I walked into the homeschool room and my 2yr. old had two stuffed animals and she was repeating one of the Spanish conversations on the videos with her toys. She was saying the words correctly!

2. While driving, I overheard a conversation between my 11yr. old son and 9yr. old daughter:

son: Soy Luke Skywalker.
daughter: Soy Princess Leia
son: Soy sauce!
(He’s such the comedian!)


In a nutshell---I am so pleased with this program! You can check it out for yourself by signing up for the free 2 week trial.  We used the online videos, but you can also purchase a DVD set which also comes with a parent guide (The DVD’s are in PAL format).

Online for one month: $7.50
Speekee main website
Follow Speekee on Facebook
Follow Speekee on Twitter

Disclosure: I was given a two-month free online-trial for review purposes only. I was not required to give a positive review. The opinions stated in this post are mine.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Red Light, Green Light

This week in our toddler/preschool co-op class, we talked about cars and traffic lights. Homeschool Creations Transportation Preschool Pack was the inspiration for this week’s theme.


We read Toot! Toot! Beep! Beep! by Emma Garcia. This is a simple book that has various colors cars moving around town with its own sound. The kids love to repeat the various sounds.

After we read the book, we talked about traffic lights. I pointed to the light in the book and showed the three colors. We discussed what they meant and then sang a traffic light song.

Of course, the next thing we just had to do was play Red Light! Green Light! One student was the traffic light and said either red light or green light. The students moved when it was green but had to stop when it was red. Oh boy did the preschoolers love this game!

Next we made a simple traffic light craft. The students glued three circles, each the colors of the traffic light, onto a piece of cardstock. ( I forgot to take pictures)

finemotorcolorsI usually have the students work on individual activities. After awhile, we switch. By the end of the class each student has had the opportunity to do each of the activities. This fine motor activity had students placing the traffic light color pipe cleaners in a parmesan cheese container and then placing the right color buttons on the pipe cleaner.

trafficlightcolors  The kids have really shown an interest in pom pom activities. I brought various trays and the students picked which one they would use. Some students just had fun practicing using the tongs to pick up the pom poms and place them into the tray.

trafficlightcolors2Other students were able to do some simple patterns.

numbercars We used the number clothespin clip game from Homeschool Creations' Transportation Preschool Pack.

transpmagnetsThe students did a transportation magnet play/easy patterns activity.


And we played the Parking Lot Game by Sara from Happy Brown House. Could you believe that I could not find any match-box cars at my house? They are probably all buried in our sandbox. We used transportation erasers instead.  Technically, I needed two die, but I couldn’t find the other one, so I improvised. Be sure to see Sara’s post on how she plays this game.

Another busy, yet fun day in tot school/preschool co-op class!

Tot School preschool corner Best toys for toddlers

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Learning Math facts with Math Rider


My kids love horses, so when asked to review Math Rider, I was hopeful that this program would help motivate my three older kids to master their math facts.

What Is Math Rider?:

Math Rider is a downloadable computer game that allows elementary students to practice (and hopefully master) their basic math facts in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The players ride on a horse named Shadow, and must complete various quests through a fantasy kingdom. Each quest contains 30 math problems and students gain various points depending on how well they did. (You can find even more details regarding how to play this game on the Math Rider website)


What We Thought:

I thought that Math Rider is a creative way to practice math-facts. This is not just a one-size-fits-all computer game, but the program adjusts to each child’s skill level. If a child gets a problem wrong, that particular problem will show up multiple times in the game. Also, if they start having difficulty answering or typing the problem, the program will slow down. Another bonus is that you can have multiple riders each do their own quests. This was a big plus in our household since I have 3 children at various levels and each was able to use this game on their own level.

I had my 12yr. old daughter, 9yr. old daughter and my 11 yr. old son use this program. My older two didn’t mind using the program, but weren’t especially motivated by the program.  My 9yr. old daughter enjoyed the program the most and preferred to practice her math facts via this game. I’ve seen some improvement with my 9yr. old and am hoping that with continued use, she will gain more confidence in math.

PhotobucketMath Rider: Downloadable program $37


For More Math Rider Reviews See: Disclosure: I am a member of TOS and I was given this product free for review purposes only. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Get Your Pretzels!

I enjoy a good, hot pretzel every-now-and-then. Usually I have to go to church to get one (don't all churches sell pretzels? ;) ) or a baseball game. Well the other day my mom had a day off of work and came over to my house. This is a big treat for us -- especially me. I enjoy another set of hands around the house during the day to help with the kids. She came in carrying a bowl of sour-dough starter and the ingredients to make homemade pretzels.

mixingpretzelsYes, we were still in our pajamas when Grandma came over. The three girls (well it looks like the 2yr. old was feeling a little left out) mixed the dough.

mixingpretzels2 It’s harder than it looks to mix that dough. My 9yr. old did a good job. After all the mixing, the dough was left to rise.

pretzels2 After several hours, the dough was ready to be made into pretzels!  (See, we are out of our pj’s!)

rollingpretzelsThis particular child liked to bury her pretzel dough in flour. Not sure how well this one turned out—lol.

pretzels  This pretzel is ready to take a dip in hot water and baking soda.

pretzelbath This is an important step in the pretzel-making process. Who knew? I learned some new things right along with my kids.

finishedpretzelOne of our finished pretzels! Yes, it looks like a donut. There is an art to pretzel-dough-folding and we haven’t mastered it yet. It doesn’t matter----we loved the end result not matter what it looked like :)

This was a treat for me. I appreciate my mom planning this whole activity and doing it with my children. I was able to sit back and tend to other things while my kids were busy making memories and learning a new skill.  Since I did not make this myself, I have no idea what recipe she used, but it does seem like this buttery soft pretzel recipe is very similar.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

4mo. old : Wordless Wed.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Keepers of the Faith: Home Decorating Badge

It was my turn last month to teach the badge at our Keepers of the Faith group. We chose the Home Decorating Badge. I find this a bit funny since my home is far from my idea of a well-decorated home. I mean I have well-decorated walls---decorated with crayon drawings,  fingerprints and scratches. Not exactly what you see on HGTV. :) But I knew I was qualified to speak to the girls about caring for their space and giving some general design principles.

The first thing I had to decide was what our project would be. I needed it to be budget-friendly, easy, flexible, useful, and something girls ages 6-12 could do . That was quite a tall order for a project! The Keepers Book recommended wall art. Well the easiest wall art I could think of was to alter something! I used to love altering things: altered composition books, altered letters, altered clothespins, altered clipboards, ---you name it and I've probably altered it. I finally decided on foam core board. It was on sale, easy to customize, and budget-friendly.

foam core board pieces
pattern paper
Mod Podge
foam brushes
paper cutter
Exacto-knife and glass mat
foam stamps
white and black paint.

Use in Mod Podge in light coats. Start on one side of the foam core board and then place one edge of the paper down, Lightly add more coats across the foam core board until all the paper is down. Don't worry if your paper hangs off the edge---you can trim that up. If there are bubbles, you can carefully rub it out---but most likely the bubbles will disappear some after drying.


You can stamp some pieces, add extra embellishments, Mod Podge a photo on top, etc. For this class we kept it simple and the girls were told they could add more once they were home. I actually wanted the girls to see that sometimes something pretty simple when put in a collection can have a big effect.

The ironic thing is after all this planning, I ended up being sick and was not able to teach the class. Another mom volunteered to do this project with our group. She told me the girls loved doing the project and had lots of fun coming up with their own designs. Since I had to type up my notes for my sub., I thought that maybe someone else might find it useful too. My samples did however, end up looking very nice on our homeschool room wall. :)

Click to download instructions

Tip Junkie handmade projects

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Monday, February 21, 2011

The Beginning Reader's bible


I was surprised when I opened my mailbox one day and found a beautiful, hard-back Bible. I mean, I knew it was coming, but it wasn’t what I expected. It was actually larger than I thought. The cover artwork alone made me want to drop everything I was doing and flip through this book.

The Beginning Reader’s Bible is illustrated by Marijke ten Cate and published by Tommy Nelson.  It is geared for children ages 4-8 and uses actual text from the International Children’s Bible®.

biblereadingThis book  has 13 stories from the Old Testament and 13 stories from the New Testament.  I appreciated that with the New Testament selections, they included Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection. In addition to the passages, there are little action points included along with the stories such as Do God’s Word, Pray God’s Word and Remember God’s Word. Included in the back are some reference charts such as all the books of the Bible, the names of the 12 apostles, the twelve tribes of Israel, and a memory verse check-off chart.

What We Thought:

I thought this was a great Bible resource. The pictures were engaging and I do like how the text had verse numbers just like the Bible. I would still consider this a story Bible though, and not a Beginning Reader’s Bible. First the large format made it more appropriate for reading at home than for carrying to church---so in that sense it seemed to function more like a story Bible. I do appreciate the large format and hardback cover though! The pages are very sturdy too and I know this will hold up to lots of kids flipping through the pages. Secondly, there is still just a small portion of stories picked from both the Old and New Testament. I do like the passages picked—though some could have used more text. I think I would call this book more of a transitional story Bible. This Bible seemed like the perfect reading age for a 7-8 yr. old, while younger children would enjoy being read to from this book. I know that we will use this Bible often and am glad to have it on our shelf.

I review for BookSneeze®

Disclosure: I was given this book for review purposes only. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

TOS Blog Walk

As you might have noticed (I hope you have!) I've been a part of the 2010-2011 TOS Crew. Besides having the opportunity to review various educational materials and curriculum, I've met so many wonderful homeschool bloggers via the crew. We’ve been spotlighting various crew member blogs over the past couple of months. You’ll find this week’s featured blogs below. If you'd like some more homeschool inspiration, be sure to check my crewmates' blogs out:

1. Our Best Daze
2. The Joy of School
3. Spell Outloud –hey! That’s me! :)
4. to the sea with me
5. Half Dozen Mama
6. Creative Learning
7. Homeschooling My Miracles
8. Beyond The Silver and The Gold - A Filipino Family's Homeschool Journey
9. My Own Sense and Sensibility
10. Happily Homeschooling

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Space Theme in Preschool Co-op

My family is involved in a weekly homeschool co-op and I love that I get to be the toddler/preschool teacher. I have 6 students ages 2-4. This week I decided to revisit the space/astronaut theme that I did with my girls at home.

I always start out with a book. Our first book that we read was


 On the Moon by Anna Milbourne

Then we did a a couple songs and rhymes. First we sang “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

5astronautsThen we sang “Five Astronauts Went out to Play.” You can find this printable  in my ABC section  under Aa is for astronaut.

matchinggame After singing time, I had the students break out into small groups and work on individual activities. Some did a vocabulary match. These are words found in the book. I printed and laminated one page to be the control card, and then printed the second page and cut it up. You can download this from Homeschool Creation’s Astronaut Preschool Pack.

spacematchingSome students worked on a shadow matching game, also found in the Astronaut Preschool Pack from Homeschool Creations. We  played with blue Playdoh, but I forgot to take pictures of that activity.

About half-way through the class (after snack etc.) We sat down for another book.

constellationsConstellations: A Glow-in-the-Dark Guide to the Night Sky

I didn’t read this book, but rather showed them some of the glow-in –the-dark constellations. They loved it! I talked about how sometimes groups of stars remind us of pictures. Then we looked at the picture and noted where the stars were on the picture. Next we turned off the lights --I thought they’d be a little afraid, but they loved seeing the stars glow!

planetsorderAfter showing the constellations, we talked about other things we see in the sky. Then I laid out photos of the 8 planets (something I got when I was a 1st grade teacher) and planet sequence cards from 1+1+1=1’s Solar System Preschool Pack. We counted the planets. We talked about which planet we live on. We pointed out which was the 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc. planets. Then we sang a planets song:

There are eight planets in our solar system
There are eight planets in our solar system
Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars
Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune
There are eight planets in our solar system.
(sung to “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain”)

Click the photo to download a printable version.


After that, we went back to the tables to do a pin-push activity. I saw this idea at Counting Coconuts (btw, she has a lot more space ideas on her site)  and knew the kids would love it. I cut some pieces of foam-core board  and then printed individual constellations.  The students used jumbo push-pins to mark a hole on the stars in the constellation. This was a hit!

Whew!  After all of that, some kids colored and others had time for some free-play. There are still so many cool space ideas that I have bookmarked that I might just stretch this theme out for another week! :)

More space-themed resources:

Aa is for Astronaut from Totally Tots
Living Montessori Now space-theme post part 1
Living Montessori Now space-theme post part 2
M&M constellations & Oreo cookie moon phases

Tot School

preschool corner

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