Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Typing Coach

It's been many years since we've reviewed a typing program. Jake, my oldest child, was only 6 years old at the time. He had been excited to learn to type quickly, but when his little hands struggled to reach the keys and stay in the proper positions, he became discouraged. Now that he's 11, I figured it was time to try again. His hands are much larger and his fingers are stronger. He's also using the computer more now and is more familiar with the letter placement on the keyboard. He's realizing how long it takes to research his interests on the internet when he's hunting and pecking for the letters. He was excited to use The Typing Coach Online Typing Course to master his typing skills.

The Typing Coach is different from most of the typing courses that are offered. Instead of focusing on games and other methods that cause the students to depend on looking at the monitor or keyboard, The Typing Coach quickly weans them from that crutch and truly teaches them to type. This self-paced audio course was developed by a veteran typing teacher  The systematic lessons are designed to help the student type faster, more efficiently, and with fewer, if any, errors by using audio, video, and written instructions.

Once you login to The Typing Coach, it's very easy to follow the lessons:
  • Course Introduction
  • Slower Paced Lessons
  • Practice & Testing Center
  • Before and After Snapshot
  • Lesson 1 - Having Good Posture
  • Lesson 2 - Hone Row
  • Lesson 3 - Top Row
  • Lesson 4 - Bottom Row
  • Lesson 5 - Shift Keys
  • Lesson 6 - Typing Practices
  • Lesson 7 - Number Row
  • Serious Practicing
  • The Final Assessment
  • Conclusion
  • Course Evaluation and Feedback
When you click on your current lesson, the required information opens including a brief set of instructions, an audio clip, the accompanying pages of the printed Student Packet, and additional links and documents.Each step is numbered and easy to follow.

David Kimball, The Typing Coach, wrote the instructions in a conversational style with a bit of humor tossed in. He's encouraging and understanding. Though he stresses that he requires no errors, he explains that he doesn't expect perfection. In other words, you're going to make mistakes, but you're not allowed to use the backspace to delete letters. If you make an error, you simply retype that section, no matter how many tries it takes. Typing it correctly without fixing errors helps to truly master the skill, instead of forming bad habits that need to be fixed.

Jake is doing very well with this course. The lessons are designed to be completed at the rate of one a week for ten weeks. He's not quite that far into the program just yet as we spent two weeks away from home for vacation, but he's able to consistently type the home row and top row correctly while keeping proper position and he's working toward mastering the bottom row, as well. He's got that perfectionist trait, just like his mother, so it's been fun to watch him learn to type with the laptop monitor closed down some so he can't see the keyboard as he types from the Student Packet. He keeps at it until there are no errors. I've even caught him typing random thoughts just because after his lessons are over. Now that he's getting better at typing, he's starting to enjoy it more.

By the end of the course, the  student should be typing 10 words a minute and quickly improve to 45 words a minute with practice. I'm already impressed with the precision in which my son is typing the given text and am excited to watch him improve as he finishes the The Typing Coach Online Typing Course.

You can connect with The Typing Coach on Twitter.

You can read more reviews of this program on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Pencil Grip, Inc.

I have a houseful of little artists, so being able to review art supplies is a fun treat. We are no strangers to The Pencil Grip, Inc. and their mess-free Kwik Stix, as we have a set of the classic colors, a set of the neon colors, and a set of the metallic colors. They recently came out with a smaller version, the Thin Stix 6pk of Classic Colors, so my kiddos were excited to try them out, as well.

The Pencil Grip, Inc. was started in 1992 by Dr Lois Provda, an educational therapist. The company has been selling hundreds of unique and innovative products for the school, home, and office ever since. They offer the original ergonomic pencil grips that encourage proper writing skills, textured products that appeal to sensory-seeking kids, basic office supplies, and, of course, the Stix. 

The Thin Stix, just like the original Kwik Stix, are solid tempera paint sticks, but without the mess. That means we don't always have to pull out the paint, brushes, smocks, and cups whenever the kiddos want to create masterpieces. With these paint sticks, they can simply uncap, twist, and paint to their hearts' content. On top of that, the fast-drying formula of the stix though allows the color to dry in only 90 seconds!  Now we don't have paintings drying all over the house. The pages can simply be stacked in one neat pile.

The Stix remind me of a big tube of lipstick. The paint is waxy and slightly tacky. They silkily glide across the paper as you swipe. Using them is more like coloring than painting though since you draw instead of brush the color around. The finish on the page is paint-like with a shimmery sheen, so the completed project looks like it was painted.

The Thin Stix are much slimmer than their original counterpart. Their size and length are similar to markers. They have slightly less paint inside (0.35 oz for the original, 0.21 oz for the thin). You can be more precise and accurate with the thin version.

We've used these to paint on all types of paper, coffee filters, popsicle sticks, and styrofoam plates. The paint easily colors them all. My kids have been having so much fun creating crafts and pictures with these. They love being able to pull them out whenever they want. I love the versatility and lack of mess. These stix are convenient, easy-to-use, easy-to-store, and mess-free. We keep all of ours in a plastic pencil box, so we can grab them whenever the kids feel the creative bug biting. We can take them outside, in the car, on vacation, or at the kitchen table. All the kids, from the toddler all the way through the 11-year-old, enjoy using these.

We recently took these on vacation with us. They're easy to use in the car and are great for keeping little ones busy while Dad and Mom try to relax in the room. I grabbed a bag of coffee filters from the dollar store and a few clothes pins and had the kiddos make a version of the butterflies we made years ago (directions here, but without the water). They're easy to make with the Thin Stix. I love seeing how each of the kids' creative minds work.

The Thin Stix 6pk of Classic Colors have been a huge hit in our house--with kids and mom alike! If you're looking for a mess-free, fun, and easy form of art, these Kwix Stix may be just what you need.

You can connect with The Pencil Grip, Inc. on the following social media sites:

If you'd like to see more pictures of kids' art made with Thin Stix, please read the reviews on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 4/28/17

Jake (11), Alyssa (9), Zac (7), Tyler (5), Nicholas (2)

Happy Monday! This week, we took the kids to Greenfield Village and took advantage of our rides pass by going on the Model Ts, the train, an old bus, a horse-drawn carriage, and the carousel multiple times. We also enjoyed the playground and had a picnic. There were many Smiles!

1. Me: "Jacob, don't be gross."
Jake: "It's what boys do. We can't help it."

2. Jake: "You can call money dough which is a female deer, but you can also call it buck which is a male deer." 

3. At Greenfield Village --
Lady driving the horse-drawn carriage: "I want the kids to close their eyes and make a wish as we go over the covered bridge."
Tyler, opening his eyes: "Hey, it didn't happen!"
Me: "What did you wish for?"
Tyler: "I wished for the whole world to be covered in ice cream!"


5. Tyler, about the arm a bands to show that we had tickets for the rides at the Village : "Do we get to keep these?"
Me: "Yes."
Tyler: "Yay! I want to keep this on my whole entire life!"
{2 minutes later}
Tyler: "Can I take this off now?"

6. Jake, before going someplace new for the first time: "I chose khakis and a red polo because I'm going to walk in and introduce myself, 'Hi, I'm Jake from State Farm.'" (And then he did.)

7. Alyssa, while eating breakfast I cooked: "My mouth is full of goodness!"


9. Tyler: "What is RV?"
Zac: "Rolling vehicle."
Me: "Recreational vehicle."
Zac: "Oohhhhh."

10. Tyler, looking at a forest: "I love seeing all the trees together. It's like a family!"

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Captain Absolutely

It's another book review! We've received many books already this year, and since literature is the foundation of our schooling, we are always pleased to read new material. The kids are required to spend a large portion of our school day reading, and while they do have some say in what they read, there are some things that I do not allow. For instance, they can read comic books, but it would be considered extra reading and not count toward the quota for the day. So, imagine their surprise when I handed them a typical super hero comic book and told them it was school reading!   

Captain Absolutely was originally written and illustrated for the  Focus On The Family Clubhouse Magazine. The strip, a spin-off from Adventures in Odyssey and written by Wooten Bassett, was written to explain how values, priorities, and perspective can alter one's worldview. As Christians, our worldview is based on the Absolute Truth found in God's Word. Captain Absolutely helps kids to recognize the things that might take our focus off of Christ and what they can do to combat the lies.

My 11-year-old was the first to snatch the book when we received it. He immediately sat down to read it. An hour an a half later after completing the whole thing, he said, "Are there more of these? That was awesome!" He wrote the following description of the story for me:
A man named Josiah King works for a library. One day, his friend Darren Gray drops a sunflower seed on a computer, causing it to explodes. The blast throws Josiah into a room full of Bibles, so he starts reading and discovers Truth. A leek in the city's radioactive core started filling the room with toxic fumes, giving Josiah super powers. He decides to use his powers for good and becomes Captain Absolutely.
The first villain he meets becomes his arch-nemesis, Dr. Relative. Captain Absolutely catches him stealing computers. Spraying his Neutralizer that makes you forget absolute truth by reminding you of all the wrong things you've done, Dr. Relative is able to trap him in the Shackles of Selfishness. He explains his plan to release Lirus (lies) that will spread through Tvs, phones, and computers. Captain Absolutely realizes that his arch-nemesis was his old friend Darren Gray (who was thrown from the explosion into the philosophy section of the library and discovered Relative Truth). After a bit of a struggle, Captain Absolutely is able to disable Lirus, return the stolen computers, and lock his former friend in jail.
Captain Absolutely started cleaning up the garbage in Metropolitanville and learned about the robotic Vile Ants (violence) that have mind-altering rays that were making everyone angry. Farmer Vile's plan was to fill everyone with rage so he could steal the best farmland for himself. He and his formidable Formicidae were no match for Captain Absolutely, and he too ended up in jail.

As a super hero, he continued fighting other bad guys like Cap'n Crastin (procrastination), Fear Chemist (fear), Baron Von Confuser (confusion), the Unifier, Sloppy Joe, the Pajama Bandits, and Mrs. Grudge. He saves children, gains a sidekick, build his Fortress of Solid Truth, and defeats the evil in the city.

My 9-year-old daughter was the next one to read it. She, too, read it start-to-finish in the same amount of time. Then, she read it a second time by the next morning. My 7-year-old was finally able to claim it by the next day. He read it 3 times in a row before he let his older brother have it back again. In other words, my kids absolutely (see what I did there?) love this book. Sure, they love super heroes and appreciate a good comic, but more than that, they are drawn to the truths that are in the story.

The book is definitely more appealing to the younger crowd and is a bit cheesy in a cute sort of way. It has jokes and comments from Wooten throughout it along with some Scripture references (not KJV like we use, but various other versions). Of course, it also has the typical Splat! Pow! Crash! Thud! Fwing! Squish! Glop! Kaboom! and various other sound words all over, like every good super hero comic strip should have. 

Here's what my kids had to say about it:

"I loved it. I like that it has super heroes and that it's a comic book and not just words." 

"It was an awesome book! I like that Captain Absolutely fights bad guys for the 
sake of God. I like that he quotes Bible all the time." 

"It was awesome! I like that he loves the Bible."

Captain Absolutely is a hit with my super-hero-loving, comic-book-reading, Bible-truth-seeking kiddos. And any book that teaches the Truth, draws my little ones to God's Word, and makes them want to read extra is a hit with me, too.  

My favorite quote from my daughter, as she was starting the book for the third time, really is the best review I can give it. "The last time I read this, it made me want to read my Bible more."

You can connect with Focus On The Family and Adventures In Odyssey on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of this book on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 4/21/17

Jake (11), Alyssa (9), Zac (7), Tyler (5), Nicholas (2)

This week we celebrated Alyssa's and Tyler's birthdays with a party, spent a beautiful day out geocaching, and enjoyed a wonderful Easter holiday. I hope you've had many reasons to Smile.

1. Me, leaving the house: "Oh, good, it's not raining."
Alyssa: "I prayed. Twice."

2. Jake, after eating an ice cream sundae and commenting on the sweetness of it: "You know what I noticed? The older you get the less sugar you can handle."  


4. Jake, listing off everything in his backpack for geocaching: ". . two Bibles--"
Me: "Two Bibles?"
Jake: "I need to be prepared."
5. Tyler, after I finished assembling my Creator Expert Lego set: "I am impressed with this set ... what does impressed mean?

6. Alyssa: "I can't wait until Dad gets home so he can see me in real life and not just a picture of me wearing this dress."

7. Alyssa: "Knowing how to make a pbj is a survival skill."
8. Three of the kids were fussing over Nicholas who (barely) got hurt.Jake  piped up, "Is he breathing? Is there blood? He's fine."


What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Secret Bridge

I've mentioned countless times how important quality literature is to our family and how much we love reviewing books. There is always some sort of read-aloud that the kids and I are sharing together. And while I absolutely love reading and can easily get lost in a book, I don't read literature silently to myself very often. Oh, I used to; I used to read multiple novels a week. Then life got busier and I allowed my personal reading to be pushed aside. Every now and then though, a book comes along that begs to be enjoyed, to be read, to be made to come to life in the mind of the reader. The Secret Bridge was one such book.

I was excited when I learned that I was receiving a book from Lamplighter Publishing. The company is known for its wholesome books (both printed and audio) that are filled with characters that encourage faith in God. While the particular books they sell can be found elsewhere, their versions are "edited within a Biblical theological framework to ensure that each story reflects the character of God." Key Scripture references, footnotes with definitions, and biblical truths make these titles unique and highly valued over other books with the same titles. 

The Secret Bridge was written in 1899 by Amy Le Feuvre. The foundation of our home school is literature, and we often pull books from the late 1800s and early 1900s for our learning. The majority of the time, the vocabulary is richer, the godly character traits more pronounced, and the plots more beneficial. Amy Le Feuvre was an accomplished author in England. Being a granddaughter of a reverend, she used her religious upbringing to write many stories that are filled with biblical principles.

The Secret Bridge begins as Bridget Channing is sailing to England. Her widower father had recently died, leaving her to be cared for by an uncle oversees. On the journey, she met Godfrey Bullingham, a naval man from a very well-to-do family. There was a instant mutual attraction, so when Bridget discovered that her uncle had passed away weeks before her arrival and she was subsequently on her own, she agreed to marry Godfrey. The day of the wedding, he left for a year-long voyage at sea, leaving Bridget to keep the marriage a secret from everyone except the elderly couple caring for her in a farm house on Bullingham property. During this time, she was introduced to the Fitzroys, the Bullingham's greatest rivals. As she draws closer to both of these influential families, Bridget discovers another secret--one that could either potentially bring to two families together, or tear her husband's family apart. She must use her new-found faith in God to help her make the proper choices and trust in Him to work out the details.

The story is filled with biblical truths and sprinkled with quotes from Scripture. The reader witnesses Bridget's faith unfold and she learns about God and what it means to climb the ladder of faith. Hardships, struggles, dependence on God, grace, delight. Her relationship with Godfrey is a picture of the Christian life. When she met him, he meant nothing to her. Once they became acquainted, she longed to know him better. He came and saved her in her hour of need, and she became his. Even though he wasn't there in person, she had his letters to get to know him better. He cared for her, provided for her, loved her. It's the same way with Christ. We start off not knowing Him. Then we're introduced to Him, and He saves and we become His child. We know Him better through the Bible. He cares for us, provides for us, loves us. We are His.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Secret Bridge. It was an easy read that reinforced many godly qualities. The book itself has a beautiful, turquoise hardcover with a soft, velvety finish. It would look impressive on any bookshelf as a collector's item. While my children do read literature from this time period, I don't think they would be too interested in this one quite yet. Ultimately, it is a love story (one that pictures our relationship with God), and though there is nothing inappropriate in it, I think it would be more appealing to the teen and older crowd.

Lamplighter Publishing aims to develop "Christlike character one story at a time," and I think that they accomplished that with this book.

You can connect with Lamplighter Publishing on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of this book on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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