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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

KinderBach....Simply Discovering Piano

We got the chance to try out a pretty cool on-line resource for teaching beginning music/piano.

I took piano lessons for 8 years, plus one really awesome year in college, where I learned chording and ways to jazz up the usual hymns.

I can play piano.  Back in the olden days, I even used to teach beginning piano lessons.  As the years have passed, I have gotten rustier and rustier....oil can.....oil can...(Wizard of Oz reference - just in case you were wondering).

I sit down occasionally and try to play a piece of music that I used to play.  The ones that I remember playing at my recitals are especially depressing.  I can't play like I used to.

D-man, A-girl, and L-girl took lessons briefly when we lived in Minnesota.  When we moved, we lost our teacher....obviously....and we have not started with anyone new down here.

Like my mother before me though, I want my children to be able to play an instrument.  I have pictures of those "perfect" homeschooling families that all play an instrument and they travel the countryside in their matching denim outfits, putting on concerts together.....Mama plays harp, Daddy plays the gee-tar, kids are playing violins and cellos......sigh.....

All of the kids seem to be able to sing, but I still would like it...for them....if they could play something.  A-girl is taking violin lessons, but we are having the usual issue with practice time.

I would like D-man to learn guitar or something equally useful, but, so far, he hasn't come off of the baseball fields long enough to try!

L-girl just informed me that she would like to "try" playing flute again.  I am in the process of seeing if I can find a teacher we can afford.

For my "littles", I am trying something new.  It is called Kinderbach.

It is a way to take piano lessons at home.  I do know how to play the piano, but even if you don't, you could teach your kids with this program.  They have a whole parent guide that runs through some of the basics and the theory behind the way they teach it that will help you - even if you are musically challenged!

You do need a keyboard or piano eventually, but the lessons all start with basic music and rhythm knowledge.

I have had A-man and S-girl working on this.  These lessons are supposed to be for kids ages 3 to 7.  I would probably say that the initial lessons are a little too "young" for A-man (almost 7) and just about right for S-girl (4...almost 5) .....although they are both doing well and having fun.  I am not sure how well a 3 year old would do with these lessons....but you could try it.

The lessons start with listening for high and low sounds and identifying some of the notes by using characters.  For instance, there is Dodi, the Donkey....Dodi lives in the white space between two black keys. 

For you that have taken musical lessons, you get it, don't you?  Without even knowing it, they have taught the kids that this key is D.

Dodi gets a new neighbor, Carla the Caterpillar.

There is also Sir Edward Eagle, Professor of Music who moves in on the other side of Dodi.

C, D, and E on the keyboard....get it?

The lessons progress onward....teaching (with the help of little guys called "beat bugs") that quarter notes are "walking" notes, eighth notes are "running" notes and half notes are "standing" notes.

There are coloring and activity pages that go along with the lessons.  You can print the whole book, or just what you need, as you go along.

There are currently 6 levels of lessons. Each level has 10 "weeks" of activities, with 4 lessons per week.....that being are not tied to completing them in a week.  Remember, music should be, if your child goes more slowly....or, even more is not a big deal. 

I don't expect my kids to be the next Bach, Jerry Lee Lewis, Yanni....or even Harry Connick, Jr., but they will get the basics of music and will even be able to play a few songs.  I will hope (with this mother's ever-hopeful heart) that it will spark the desire within them to continue pursuing music in some way with some instrument.....and that the spark will include...wait for it....the desire to practice!

Until then, Kinderbach is filling a great need in my house for learning music and piano basics with fun, colorful characters.  The cost for on-line lessons starts at $7.99 a month....yup, per month (with a year long subscription).  Waaaaaay cheaper than driving the kids to lessons, isn't it?  I think this is a great way to start your kids with music lessons....and a lot easier on everyone involved to just schedule time at home to do it.

Go take a look and see what you think. You can get 2 weeks of lessons for free to try out and see if it is something you will all love...or not.  I think you will though. 

They also have their lessons available on DVD, if you don't want to try the on-line version.  This version would be especially helpful if you have a slow internet connection (which probably means you live out in the boonies, so driving to town for lessons is even more of a hassle!) or limited time available on your computer. 

Since this is a review through The Old Schoolhouse (TOS), other crew members are also reviewing this product.  Go take a look and see what they think. 

We received a subscription to the on-line lessons from Kinderbach, in exchange for an honest review of the product.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A New Year's Wedding

Back on December 30th, our nephew got married to a wonderful girl.  The wedding was in Indiana and it was beautiful.  But, instead of a white, snow covered wedding, it was a balmy 50 or so degrees.   I felt bad that they didn't get any beautiful snow covered pictures....but it sure made it nice for travel!  It was a wonderful wedding and we had a lot of fun visiting with family.

Here are some pictures of our trip....

Two of my beautiful girls.

Dancing fool...

He caught the garter....

This wonderful teenage boy danced (a bit reluctantly) with his sister (and later in the evening, his mom)!

She danced so much, she broke her shoes...

She danced....ran around in circles.....danced some more....and then crashed with her aunties...

The beautiful bride...

That is Rainman's mom peaking over A-girl's shoulder.

Rainman with all but one of his siblings and his mom...

And last, but not least.....two of my favorite people ...and Minnie....sleeping at the hotel....

Welcome to the family, Rachel!

Monday, January 23, 2012

I Want My Mullet Back

Do you know that Billy Ray Cyrus song?  I want my mullet back....

Unfortunately, one of my children has been sporting a mullet....okay, half a mullet....she is cute, but even she cannot rock the mullet.

Can you see how she has hair in the back on one side....but not the other?

Here is the view from the back:

Long and lovely on one side....and basically bald on the other side.

She has rubbed the back of her head on her bed since she was little.  The side where the hair is broken off was the side that she faced, when I nursed her at night. Apparently, she was rubbing off/breaking off her hair on that side.

I kept hoping that once we stopped nursing, she would stop rubbing her head and her hair would grow in.

It didn't.

Someone has suggested that I get her satin sheets.....which would probably help with the breakage, but somehow just seems wrong for a 2 year old to have satin sheets.

So, I had to take matters into my hands....before various relatives grabbed scissors and did it.  It was threatened numerous times at a recent family wedding. 

Here is a little better view right before I (hairdresser extraordinaire) cut her mullet off:

See?  Empty on the right side!

And after!

Cute, huh?  Although, I do sort of miss her little lopsided mullet!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

We Choose Virtues....Well, We Try To....

Our family got the chance to try out some We Choose Virtues cards and coloring pages. 

These products are intended for use teaching things like gentleness, forgiveness, patience, kindness, obedience, etc.  See anything wrong with teaching those to your kids?  Or yourself?  Nope, me neither.

From the We Choose Virtues Teacher's Manual:

The mediocre teacher tells. The good

teacher explains. The superior teacher

demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.
~William Arthur Ward

It is a daily battle for me to be a great teacher and inspire the kids...not just try to shove things down their cute little throats!  So, these little Virtues cards help inspire me (maybe even more than the kids).

I strive for saying what I mean and meaning what I say....but, hopefully, in a nice way. 

Again, from the Teacher's Manual:

Excellent teachers balance firmness and

kindness for a purpose. There is just something

wonderful about the grown-up that is firm and

kind at the same time. Many students remember

their favorite teacher as being their strictest


Hopefully Rainman and I will be remembered fondly for our strictness!  Ha!

From the Virtues Teacher's Manual:

Every person is born with the ability to

change, because change is necessary! We all need

to grow in our attitudes and actions. We all need to

become more responsible. Children need boundaries

even if they fight against them. They need to know

the truth even if they don’t like it at first.

Did you catch that?  Children need boundaries even if they fight against them.

The South is big on manners, and saying "Sir" and "Ma'am"....but, even though I don't like it when my kids say Sir and Ma'am to Rainman and I....(frankly, to us Northern Folk, it sounds sort of phony/disrespectful to us), I like it when they use those terms with their friend's parents....because to them, it is a sign of respect.  I would hope that as they learn these other virtues, like kindness, patience, etc. that those would be used both at home and when they around their friend's parents....and not just in a Eddie Haskell-ish way.  That it would be a true heart transformation with their actions speaking as loud and clear as their voices.

Okay, just one more direct quote from the Teacher's Manual and I will be done....I promise!

Giving more choices works for the moment, but

it is only bartering for a right response in order to

delay a confrontation. These situations are perfect

opportunities for demonstrating virtue. If you miss

these teachable moments, virtue will only be a topic

of discussion but never a reality.

Other similar ways to defuse a conflict is

redirecting or distracting, but these are really just

manipulation. The real drawback to these methods

is that it only postpones the character building

opportunity with a temporary fix. We as teachers need

to be careful not to put too many band-aids on, when

the source of the problem has a genuine solution!

I liked being able to pull these out if someone was having a hard day and needed some encouragement to make....ahem... better "choices".

Sometimes that "someone" was me too.  Convicting...but, in a good way. 

The creator of this product, Heather McMillan, thinks that the virtues can be boiled down to the most important....or, Three Simple Rules:

1.  Obey
2.  Be Kind
3.  Be Helpful

Yup....again....those are basic rules at our house.  There is even a poster with those rules here

I liked having a way to gently correct behavior....that wasn't just lecturing. Sometimes, if no one had gotten a card for a while, they would ask when I was going to give out cards again. 

This Virtue Clue Card got a lot of use in our house:

And, on the back....

I think this one had been in someone's pocket for a looks well used, doesn't it?

We also had fun with the coloring pages and liked coloring the characters, like: 

Penny Jenny

 Kettle Gretel

Most of their products are meant for kids ages 3 to 11, but my older kids used them too....and I am pretty sure they learned from them too.  If I can learn can they.  :)

They have product for homeschoolers, schools, and churches.  They even have non-faith based kits that can be used in classroom settings. 

The Virtue Clue Cards are normally $7.99, but they are on sale right now for just $5.99. 

Click here to take a look at all of their products and then look at these special deals available from their site...

For the months of January and Februrary, The 100 Days of Virtue Poster and Stickers will be included FREE with any Homeschool Kit purchase during these months.

They are also have a Clearance Section will especially good deals on their posters.  Check out the Clearance section here.

Oh, and here are other special promotion codes that can be used with your order too....but just ONE at a time.  Just type in your code at check out time.
VIRTUE15 for 15 % off the shopping cart

SHIPFREE for free worldwide shipping

Trouble choosing which We Choose Virtue product is best for you, your family, your school? Click here to see all the products compared in one easy spot.

There is also a Facebook page where the creators share tips on parenting, leadership and inspiring lasting Virtue.

In case you couldn't tell, I agreed with just about everything that We Choose Virtues is trying to help you teach children.  Maybe all the quoting from the Teacher's Manual gave me away, huh?  Honestly, I didn't do everything the way they suggested, but sort of morphed it into what we are already doing....but I still feel like we are building character and becoming better people.

Check out what other TOS reviewers thought of their We Choose Virtues cards here

We received a set of We Choose Virtues cards for free in exchange for an honest review of their product.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mischief Afoot

Here is how I know there was mischief afoot and that there was a recent "fight" in the basement.

They were found in that order on my camera...and, apparently....this was the photographer/evidence gatherer......

I still do not know what actually happened in the basement....but those involved keep laughing about I guess it wasn't that serious, just messy, huh?

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Random One

Not feeling very capable of pulling together a cohesive blog this morning, so thought I would share a few random moments from recently.

We love our new (to us) little pink vacuum.  There have even been incidents of fisticuffs over who would actually get to use it. Not really....but is is a very popular item in our household.

By the way, our Christmas stuff has been taken down and put away now.

Modeling their new dresses from Grandma.

Having lunch in their restaurant.  The unusual part of this is that this time, it was A-man idea, and he served everyone.

And, just so you know, I  try to keep V-girl in clothing....I really do....she just wants nothing to do with pesky things like shirts, pants, socks, etc.

My mom sent me this beautiful cup and saucer for was my Grandma's.

Speaking of Christmas gifts....I just realized that I never did a Christmas post and there are things that should be shared.....I got something that I have wanted/coveted for 20 or so years.  There was screaming and me....I acted like.....well, a kid, on Christmas morning!

My friend, Sherri, came over and helped me organize/declutter/rearrange my kitchen and garage.  Look!

We have a larger recycling bin since we always overflow ours....and we repurposed these shelves to hold some of the more seldom used kitchen-y things that I don't want to get rid of...but were taking up valuable cupboard space in the kitchen.  I am loving it.

Okay, I think that is enough random things for you this morning.  I will be back with a belated Christmas post, a New Year's wedding post,  and what photo evidence suggests....

some sort of scuffle in the basement....documented, apparently, by this person...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I Whip My Hair Back and Forth

Have you heard that (super annoying) song by Willow Smith (Jada and Will's daughter)?  I am sure she is a perfectly lovely little girl/mogul....but that song drives me nuts!

Guess who got great ideas from it???

She doesn't have much to whip around....but she didn't care!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Swan Lake....The Story

A long, long time ago when magic was a respected art and even evil sorcerer's dwelled in quite respectable kingdoms, there was a Prince, named Ziegfried.....

That is how the CD from Maestro Classics:  The Story of Swan Lake begins.

This is one in a series of fun, educational CDs for explaining classical music to kids (or parents who don't really know what is going on either).

I have always liked classical music.  I find it soothing and sort of heart filling-ly emotional at the same time.  That said, I am not always in the mood for it.  I do not always know who I am listening to or what time period they lived in.  So, even though this CD was targeted at kids ages 5 to 12....this "kid" aged 40-something learned quite a bit.

We got a chance to listen to and review the Tchaikovksy's Story of Swan Lake, as played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.  The storytelling part was done by someone named Nadu.  That is it.  Just Nadu.

The music was beautiful....some pieces I had heard before.....some were new to me.   I liked the sound of Nadu's voice, who explained what was happening in the story, which I have never understood.

My kids liked dancing around to it.  Even the boys were "persuaded" to perform a few moves mostly to assist the girls.

The Maestro Classics website has a lot of educational material available to incorporate with this sort of music appreciation curriculum.

Like, of all things, math....

If there were 500 people at the ball and 30% of them were single women hoping to be chosen, 40% of them were older noblemen and women, 15% of them were servants, and the rest were young men of the kingdom, how many of each group were there?

If each guest had 19 appetizers and at the end of the ball there were 125 left, how many did the chef make overall?

If the ball began at 3:30 p.m. and the last guest left at 1:20 a.m. the next morning, how long did the party last?

Answers at the bottom of the post....just in case you take this sort of challenge seriously.  Yes,  I am talking to you, Rainman!

It also has the more obvious topics, like ballet, history, medieval times, and castles. Russia and its culture.  Science - starting with swans and moving onto the Bernoulli Principle (the reason birds can fly - has something to do with air pressure and air movement).

We did not delve too deeply into these other areas, but it did give me good ideas for these kinds of curriculum boosters in the future.

It was fun.  I liked learning all the background information.  My girls liked the traditional music that they could dance too. D-man found the Speed Metal Swan funny/entertaining.  What is Speed Metal Swan you say? this....and then choose Speed Metal Swan.

I liked learning about Tchaikovsky and learning all of the different music of his I had heard...but didn't know it was his.  I liked learning how an insecure, overly sensitive, extremely messy boy became a famous composer!

This series is available in either CD form for $16.98 or via MP3 for just $9.98.

The other titles available are:

Peter and the Wolf
Casey at Bat
The Tortoise and the Hare
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Juanita the Spanish Lobster
My Name is Handel

Go take a look around their site and see if anything catches your ear.  You can listen to samples of all of the CDs.

This CD was about 60 minutes from start to finish.  There is also a little booklet that comes with each CD that gives more information about the composer, the music, music in general, and even some puzzles and fun stuff for the kids to try.

We really enjoyed listening to the story of Swan Lake, the music, and learning more about Tchaikovsky himself.  Gives me a bit of comfort that he was a messy person.  I may just be harboring some sort of musical geniuses at my house!

I think if you enjoy classical music already.... just sort of wish you could enjoy it....or even if you want to make your kids be more cultured....this would be a great series of CDs for your family.  I am planning to keep this one in our van for road trips.

You can see what other TOS reviewers thought of this CD by clicking here

Any math people want the answers to the questions above?  Just in case you they are....

150 single women, 200 older men and women, 75 servants, 75 young men

9,625 appetizers made overall

The ball was 9 hours and 50 minutes long.

We received a copy of Maestro Classics: The Story of Swan Lake for free in exchange for an honest review of their product.