Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Happy Kids Songs {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

Lauren is quite the music lover. Frequently I hear music blasting from her room, and it's rare that she gets into the car without grabbing her iPod and headphones. The headphones are a mixed blessing, though, and lead to quite a few annoying rides where Lauren is loudly blabbering along to songs that the rest of us can't hear. (Since she can't hear herself, she can't tell when she's stops singing and starts bellowing incomprehensible syllables.)

Recently I added fifteen new songs (three albums) from Happy Kids Songs to her music playlists -- both for her to listen to with the headphones and for us to all listen to on the car stereo.

Happy Kids Songs uses quality, upbeat music to teach social and emotional skills to children from four to eight years old. They have produced eight albums covering a variety of topics such as talking, listening, bullying, fears, sharing, happiness, attitude, and more. For this review, Lauren has been listening to Friends & Sharing, Happiness & Attitude, and Manners & Character. We also received the Happy Kids Songs Workbook with activities to correspond with all forty of the available songs.

The first thing I noticed about this music is that it's not just preschool sing-along songs that I've heard (and dreaded) for years.  It's quality music that I don't mind hearing while we're driving around town or while she's blasting the CD player in her room. The creators of Happy Kids Songs have produced music that younger elementary kids would like to listen to and then added beneficial life lessons that will stick with the listeners.

Lauren's favorite song is "Shake It Out and Dance" from the Happiness & Attitude album. It starts talking about how you can get "I can't" thoughts stuck in your head and then how you can shake them out to find a more positive attitude. One of the funniest lines is "I can't sing." We often hear her singing along with the song in the car, and one of the older kids always makes a comment about how ironic it is that she's singing about how she can't sing.

Her second favorite song is "Sharing Friends" from Friends & Sharing. It teaches children that they can play in small groups. It gives them words to use so that they can include a third person in the activity if they are already playing with a friend. I've often found that younger girls tend to have difficulty when there's a group of three, and the lyrics help show that its both possible and more fun to play as a group instead of leaving the odd man out.

Some of the songs and lessons are already making their way into our everyday discussions. Today at lunch I said something about how I appreciated the way Lauren had been working independently while we were unpacking the camping gear. It then dawned on us that I had just given her a kudo, as introduced in the song "Who Knows What's a Kudo?" on Happiness & Attitude.

Lauren has definite favorites among the three albums, but I find them all equally enjoyable and applicable in different situations. One of the funniest lines I heard is from "The Golden Rule" on Manners and Character:
Just do to others what you would like them to do
To you, that's what you do.
It's like my momma said with her Southern drawl,
"Y'all say somethin' nice or nothin' at all."
I'm sure I'll be quoting those lines often around here.

After looking at the lyrics from some of the songs on the other Happy Kids Songs albums, I know that I will add even more music to Lauren's iPod -- music that we all enjoy listening to while we hear encouraging words about being better friends, communicating more effectively, having positive attitudes, and more. (For the sake of all of our sanity, maybe I'll play them on the stereo instead of letting her listen to them through headphones.)

The Happy Kids Songs Workbook is a 125 page compilation of song lyrics, activity pages, and teaching suggestions. The lyrics and activity pages are available on the Happy Kids Songs website for free once you subscribe to their mailing list, but I did find it a bit easier to flip through pages in the workbook instead of printing out the separate pdf pages. The teaching suggestions are only available in the printed workbook.

Happy Kids Songs are available to download for $4.95 per album (or $0.99 per song). The Happy Kids Songs workbook has a retail price of $13.95 (currently $12.56).

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pizza Angel

When we lived in Northern Virginia, we had friends who lived all over the area. The first time I drove out to my friend Cheryl's house, I thought I had gone far enough out in the country to be in West Virginia. Over the years our children all became good friends, and Addison and Brennan often stayed with them when Lauren had lengthy doctors appointments.

One day we were out at their house following an appointment, and both of my big kids were hungry. Cheryl remembered that a Papa John's pizza place had recently opened in town.  (I use the term "town" loosely because town was barely a tiny spot on a map and she lived quite a ways from there.) At that time, Papa Johns was the only pizza restaurant that was safe for Brennan's allergies.

I was thrilled to hear of an easy lunch option so that I didn't have to hear the kids whine about being hungry on the hour long drive back to our house.

We called to order a few pizzas, thinking that one of us would have to run to the store to pick it up. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that they'd deliver out as far as we were -- our lucky day.

Truth be told, I didn't think much about our pizza lunch for several months. Then Cheryl stopped me at church one day and asked if I remembered ordering Papa John's out at her house. Apparently, she tried to get pizza delivered and was told that they couldn't drive out that far. When she pressed the issue saying they had delivered before, their computer records showed that our pizzas had been picked up in the store.

We often joke about how God provided a pizza angel on a day when all of us needed a little bit of a break.

Ben and MeI'm sharing a "years ago" story corresponding to each letter of the alphabet for the Blogging through the Alphabet challenge hosted by Marcy at Ben and Me. I often tell my children stories of things that have happened in our past, and now I'm taking the time to write down those treasured stories.

©2009-2014 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

O is for Oklahoma

Once upon a time, years ago, there was a high school student happily living in Dover, Delaware, until my parents broke the news to me that we were moving all the way to Oklahoma.

I was horrified. I was certain that only cowboys lived in Oklahoma.

They assured me that I was wrong.

Summer came and we drove across the country. Late one night we finally crossed the border into Oklahoma. We weren't all the way to our new hometown, but we were in Oklahoma. We checked into a hotel and set off in search of dinner.

None of us knew that there was a rodeo in town that weekend. We walked into a steak place to eat and every single person was wearing cowboy hats, boots, and the biggest belt buckles I had ever seen.

Thankfully, my Oklahoma story has a happy ending. I joined the band, met a boy who didn't wear cowboy boots, graduated from high school, and ended up staying in Oklahoma to go to college.

I'm still moving around the country wherever the Air Force sends us, but I'm no longer quite so afraid of moving someplace where everyone wears hats and boots.

Ben and MeI'm sharing a "years ago" story corresponding to each letter of the alphabet for the Blogging through the Alphabet challenge hosted by Marcy at Ben and Me. I often tell my children stories of things that have happened in our past, and now I'm taking the time to write down those stories.

©2009-2014 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

First Day Photos {August 2014}

Every month when I post first day photos, my husband makes a joke about the line in "One Hour Photo" where Robin Williams talks about taking a picture of a used bandaid in the bottom of a trash can. There aren't any used bandaid pictures, but I did take a picture of the bandaid wrappers left after trying to bandage myself up after falling off my bike.

If you want to join the first day fun, you can visit Nicole's Journey to Josie blog or click the cute paper airplane button below. Nicole is moving across the country this weekend so I included extra pictures this month to give her something to look at while she's stuck riding in a truck all day today.

©2009-2013 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lightning Literature and Composition {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

Although Hewitt Homeschooling offers homeschool materials for many subject areas, they are perhaps best known for their Lightning Literature and Composition products.

For the past few weeks, Brennan has been using Lightning Lit & Comp: Seventh Grade which consists of a Student's Guide, a Workbook, and a Teacher's Guide.

In this level of Lightning Lit & Comp, students read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Helen Keller, All Creatures Great and Small, and various short stories and poems. The comprehensive program then introduces literary analysis concepts, such as plot line, subplots, character sketches, or dialogue, in light of those works. Each lesson also teaches composition skills such as writing a good opening, outlining, forms of poetry, and more.

I really love the way this program integrates multiple language arts skills into one package. The first chapter was scheduled to take two weeks. During that time, Brennan read "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi," a short story in Stories and Poems for Exceptionally Intelligent Children of All Ages. The primary literary analysis topic was parts of a plot line (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution). The Student's Guide contains three pages of lesson materials explaining the concept and applying it to "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi." Later, in the Workbook, the student identifies the parts of a plot using a short version of "Little Red Riding Hood." A secondary lesson in this chapter deals with creating interesting opening sentences for writing assignments. The student picks the best opening sentence for one activity and writes good opening sentences for a second activity. The workbook also includes practice pages about rewriting information in your own words, writing from note cards, using capital letters and apostrophes correctly, and identifying nouns and adjectives. I like that I can use one program with Brennan and cover so many key language arts areas.

I also like the way that Lightning Lit & Comp emphasizes writing. The seventh grade level is subtitled: "Preparing for High School Composition Skills by Responding to Great Literature." In addition to the shorter writing assignments in the workbook, each chapter has longer written exercises that are several paragraphs long.

Unfortunately, I find it confusing to flip amongst the the Student Guide, the Workbook, and the Teacher's Guide. The Teacher's Guide contains a week-by-week schedule of assignments, and I wish it was also included in the student books so that Brennan could follow it independently. I also think it would work better for him if the Student's Guide and the Workbook were combined so that he didn't have to read the lesson materials in one book and complete the workbook pages separately. (I realize that it would be more economical to purchase only a workbook for other students using the program, but convenience might outweigh cost for me.)

I'm also not sure that the pacing of the some of the later chapters will work for us. For the first two weeks, there was a nice balance between reading the story and completing the written assignments. Brennan has since moved on to reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The reading assignments last for seven weeks before he will move on to the next section of written work. There are comprehension questions for each chapter of the book, but those are primarily fact-based questions to make sure he read the assignment, not questions designed to bring about literary discussions. I'm not sure that Brennan is going to cope well with two intense weeks of thinking and writing after spending seven weeks simply reading. I also fear that we are missing a lot of good opportunities to discuss the book because all the literary analysis is saved until he finishes the entire book. A similar situation exists in the second semester of the materials when the student spends eight weeks reading All Creatures Great and Small.

Hewitt Homeschooling offers Lightning Literature & Composition materials for first, seventh, and eighth graders (more elementary titles will be released in future years).  They also offer twelve different high school options, including American Literature, British Literature, Shakespeare, World War I, and World War II). We used the Seventh Grade materials which are obviously suitable for seventh grade students, and in my opinion, can be used for any junior high student. In fact, I chose this level because I thought he'd enjoy reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

The Lightning Literature & Composition pack for seventh grade (Student's Guide, Workbook, Teacher's Guide, and five books) costs $92.63. If purchased separately, the Student's Guide costs $20, the Workbook costs $20, and the Teacher's Guide costs $20. All of the required literature books were available from my public library.

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