Monday, July 28, 2014

REVIEW: Junior Analytical Grammar and Companion DVDs by Analytical Grammar

My husband and I were really excited to have the opportunity to have Haylee review this wonderful Junior Analytical Grammar and Companion DVDs by Analytical Grammar



Junior Analytical Grammar (Jr. AG) provides a very gentle introduction to grammar concepts for younger students in 4th or 5th grade.  It is designed to be administered over a period of 11 weeks if working 5 days per week.  This level is considered the first step in the Analytical Grammar series and would be followed by Junior Analytical Grammar: Mechanics before moving on to the regular Analytical Grammar program.

Jr. AG covers all the parts of speech, five sentence patterns, the parts of a sentence, and classic sentence diagramming.

The Jr. AG set includes a spiral-bound teacher’s manual and one spiral-bound consumable student workbook for just $39.95

Jr. AG Companion DVD

In addition, there’s an optional Jr. AG Companion DVD set in which both authors alternate explaining the lessons and going over the first couple of sentences from each worksheet.  They speak directly to the student, thereby teaching the lessons for you.  This is a great convenience for just $19.95.



My daughter, Haylee is almost 10 years old and just started 5th grade a few weeks ago.  I should start by saying that she is not a fan of grammar work, and she made it clear she was not interested in doing a grammar-related review.  However, her last CAT test showed me that while she’s doing fine, grammar-related work is truly her weakest subject area, and she definitely has room for improvement.  So after much discussion, her father and I decided that it was in her best interest to give this program a try.  And honestly, *I* was excited about it, even if she was not!  I say all that to let you know that she is a reluctant participant in any grammar program, by no fault of the program itself!

We set out to work on this program 3 days per week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, so it took us about a week and a half per unit.  All of the units followed the same pattern of activities over a total of 5 actual workdays, and here’s a rundown of what each unit looked like:

  • On day 1, Haylee watched the Companion DVD for the lesson instruction for about 10 DSCF1975minutes while following along in the student book.  The speaker went over the first couple of practice sentences with her, pausing to give her a chance to work before explaining the answers.  Then Haylee would complete the rest of the page on her own, asking me for help if she had any questions.  Right off the bat, this helped build her confidence, and she surprisingly wanted to move on and work on the other worksheets, but I told her that spreading it out over a period of days was part of the process of making sure she remembered and had retained what she’d learned.
  • On day 2, Haylee completed worksheet #2 in that unit and we would go over it using the answers in the teacher’s guide. 
  • On day 3, Haylee completed worksheet #3 in that unit, and we would go over it using the answers in the teacher’s guide.

DSCF2007 (2014_07_10 22_53_07 UTC)

  • On day 4, Haylee did a worksheet called “Playing with Words.”  This was a writing assignment to apply what she’d learned in the lesson and looked at it in a real world kind of way.  This exercise might involve rewriting a paragraph or making up her own sentences using the given part of speech.  This really helped demonstrate to me whether or not she understood practical application of what she’d learned.  After coDSCF2008 (2014_07_10 22_53_07 UTC)mpleting the assignment, Haylee had to turn over on the back and complete the “How Did I Do” self-evaluation.  I found that if she was allowed to do this on her own as it was intended, she would over-credit herself for doing it really well, even when she hadn’t satisfied the criteria for such a grade.  So then I’d have to go back and evaluate it myself.  I think the solution for this is that we should look at it together and talk about it as she completes the evaluation so there’s a more accurate assessment of her work.

  • On day 5, Haylee completed the unit test, and I graded it.  The teacher’s manDSCF2009 (2014_07_10 22_53_07 UTC)ual recommended that you only award points for each correctly identified word rather than deducting points for incorrect answers.  I’d never taken that approach to grading before but found it rather refreshing and less stressful for me as the teacher, and it was certainly less stressful for Haylee as the recipient of the grade!  A grading scale was also provided in the teacher’s manual that was broken down into either mastery, superiority, competency, probationary, or repeat.  This, too, made it easy for me to truly evaluate just how I should view her performance.

With the first unit, Haylee did great with retention of the information we’d covered and did a good job of identifying the part of speech in the sentences. But as we progressed through additional units, it became a little more difficult for her to put it all together in her mind and keep doing it right. This is because each unit’s information is added to the knowledge from the previous lessons, making it incremental. Personally, I like this approach, but for Haylee, who struggles with these concepts, I think she may need to slow down a bit and have some extra practice before moving forward and combining it all together. Since there is no Review & Reinforcement book available until we get to the regular Analytical Grammar level, then the remedy may just be that I will have to make up some extra sentences for her to use for extra practice.

Overall, I really like this program.  I really appreciate the grading approach and the way it allows me to builDSCF2105 (2014_07_19 13_41_10 UTC)d Haylee up by emphasizing her correct responses instead of tear her down by focusing on her mistakes.  I love the wonderful companion DVD that takes the instruction portion out of my hands and adds a nice variation for Haylee from the routine.  I also really like the incremental approach that brings each unit’s work together with the next one.  And I love that it eventually brings the student’s knowledge to the point where he or she can begin to accurately diagram sentences, because I personally feel like people who can diagram can really learn to write well-composed sentences.

I do feel that Haylee is benefiting from the instruction and the approach of the program, but she may need me to help her along a bit with the practice worksheets, maybe by promDSCF2011pting her to which words she needs to identify or telling her how many words should be identified in each sentence to help clue her in as to whether or not she is on the right track.  She just needs a little hand-holding, I think, until she starts to grasp the concepts more firmly.  I really do love the approach, and at this point, I do plan to continue the program with Haylee.  I do feel it’s “new and different” and not just like every other grammar program out there.  It has its own unique approach, and it appeals to me.

Any dislike that Haylee expressed was not for the program, but for grammar in general.  But in fact, I felt like she was more cooperative with this than other approaches we’ve tried.  I really appreciated that the daily lessons were simple and to the point and not too time-consuming, because it stood a better chance of keeping her attention and not burning her out.

I really do recommend that you give this program a try!  And if you can afford it, give yourself a break from teaching and treat yourself to the Companion DVD, as well.  I found the whole presentation to be refreshing.

Take a look at what other Crew members had to say about this and other products from Analytical Grammar by clicking the banner below.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up – July 13th-19th

We’re really busy getting ourselves refocused on school again, so we didn’t get out for many activities this week.  How about your family?  Do you school year-round?


One day after school, we did manage to get out to Ocean Breeze Water Park on the hottest day of the week. We had so much fun this day! Anybody who knows me knows my intense fear of water. I never get my hair or face wet, and I never get water in my ears. But on this day, I got brave enough to put on a life jacket and not only float in the Adventure River on my back, but I also “swam” in the wave pool!


I’ve worn a life jacket before and floated on my back, but I’ve never allowed myself to lean forward on my belly, because I feel panicked at getting my face towards the water.  But I did it, and it was fun!  We had a fabulous time, and I conquered a life-long fear.  Yay!  Haylee and I celebrated by standing under the fountain in the wave pool and letting water pour over my head! 


Hayden and Steve started playing in an Ultimate Frisbee league, and they go twice a week…once in the sand at the oceanfront and once on the lawn at Regent University. They’ve been sore, but they are loving it!

Photo: Playing Ultimate @ Virginia Beach oceanfront

I think they’ve decided to keep this going as a regular thing. It’s good physical activity, good conditioning for our upcoming soccer season, and a nice opportunity to spend some father/son time, too.


On Saturday, Haylee and I drove out to pick up the Kids’ Box we ordered from One Harvest.  It’s been at least a couple of months since we last ordered, and we were really pleased with the contents this month!


I figured with Hayden at home for the summer, we could use some more quick-fix meals for breakfast and lunch in the house.  He’ll be turning 15 in August, and he’s somewhat of a vacuum these days when it comes to eating!

So for about $30, we got 8 sausage biscuits (which were delicious, by the way!), 4 Uncrustable sandwiches, 4 spicy chicken sandwiches, several packs of turkey lunchmeat, 2 Schwan’s Panino sandwiches, 4 Sarah Lee carrot cake slices, 4 small Angus cheeseburgers, 4 burritos, 2 bags of chicken nuggets, a box of absolutely delicious 100-calorie oatmeal raisin cookies, a box of crunchy granola bars, and a box of grits (the only thing we won’t use, which I gave to my neighbor).


Nothing to exciting going on this week!  We’ve had so much rain and thunderstorms lately that it’s been hard to make any plans for after school.  Typical summer weather here!

See you next week!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up – July 6th-12th

Welcome to another fun-filled week with the Burgesses!


On Sunday, our old friends, Aaron and Pattie Burleson, were in town from California visiting their daughter and her family, and they all came to church together.  Aaron was our former preacher when we attended Harpersville Church of Christ in Newport News many years ago, and he was also the officiant of our wedding ceremony nearly 20 years ago.  We’ve known them a long time!  I think of them as family.


Needless, to say, it was wonderful seeing them again and having a chance to catch up with each other.  We also happened to be having our monthly potluck after church that day, so they had a chance to stick around and chat for a while.  It was a lovely afternoon!


On Tuesday, it was the 56th anniversary of IHOP, and they were offering 56-cent short stacks of pancakes.  So of course, I took the kids out for breakfast. 


Yum!  IHOP never fails to provide the perfect breakfast.  It’s our favorite place to go for our morning meal.


On Friday, we spent the whole day going around getting free food!  It was both 7-11 Day and Cow Appreciation Day at Chick-Fil-A, which meant we’d spend the whole day driving around dressed as cows and eating chicken in various forms and drinking free slurpees!  It’s our favorite day of the year!  It presented quite a challenge, because never before have both special occasions fallen on the same day. 

Cow Appreciation Day, 07-11-14

We managed to pull off our cow garb each time we hit a 7-11 store, LOL.  We ended up starting at breakfast time and hitting 6 Chick-Fil-A stores and three 7-11’s.  That’s 24 meals, which lasted all weekend for 5 of us, and 12 Slurpees.  Shew!  I didn’t have to cook all weekend!  Smile


On Friday night, we went off to Ocean Breeze Water Park for another dive-in movie night.  This time, we got to see Frozen.  I had rented it from Redbox before, but only Haylee watched it then.  I’d only caught bits and pieces of it, but not nearly enough to even capture the story line.  So we were looking forward to seeing it with all of us together this time.


As usual, we had a great time.  And the movie was wonderful!


On Saturday morning, I took the kids to another Build and Grow workshop at Lowe’s.  This time, they got to make wooden Turbo characters that were also pullback racers!


Afterwards, they had tons of fun racing their Turbos against each other on the long aisles of the store!


Then we came home with tons of bags of Quikrete cement mix for the fellas to use to fix the fence.  Remember how it fell down, snapping off 3 posts during the big storm we had a few weeks ago?  Well, it’s been a real pain trying to let the dogs out to go potty when the fence is merely tied off to the playground.  The weekend weather was finally clear enough to get Steve and Hayden out there to fix it right.


With all that manly work going on, I took our last few tubs of blackberries from the fruit share CSA distribution and used them to make this blackberry cobbler.


Man, that was good!  It actually baked 30 minutes longer than it was supposed to, but it turned out great, so I’m kind of glad it baked extra long!  I will definitely be making this again.  Yum!


That’s a wrap.  It was a busy week of activities and schoolwork, too.  I’m glad we’re still able to fit in some fun stuff, even though we continuing schooling full-time right through the summer.  It still makes summer something for the kids to look forward to.

Until next week…

Friday, July 18, 2014

Awesome Deal on NutriBullet @!!!

There is an awesome deal on the NutriBullet right now!

You’re probably familiar with the Magic Bullet and its 250-watt motor.  Although I love my Magic Bullet, the NutriBullet has a 600-watt motor, making it even easier to pulverize fresh fruits and veggies for smoothies. It's on sale at right now for $89.99.

If you have a Kohl's charge card, stack these codes to get it for just $48.22 shipped, including tax! NutriBullet by Magic Bullet

  • HOMESALE10 takes of $10
  • JUST4U takes off $15
  • BEACH30 takes off $19.50
  • JULYMVC takes off the $10.95 shipping charge

But hurry, because some of these codes expire on 07-20-14! And for even more savings, link to Kohl's through Ebates for another 3% cash back!

If you don't have a Kohl's card, use codes HOMESALE10, JUST4U, SUNNY, and SHIP50JULY instead to get it for about $58 or so shipped.

Enjoy, and happy shopping!

REVIEW: HomeSchoolPiano – Complete Set of Books by HomeSchoolPiano

We were excited to get to try out HomeSchoolPiano – Complete Set of Books by HomeSchoolPiano.



HomeSchoolPiano is an online video piano course that allows you to practice in the comfort of your own home.  You can access any of the 4 courses (Core Piano, Book 1, Book 2, or Book 3) in the program by accessing the videos over your internet connection on your mobile device, tablet, or computer at your convenience, available to you 24/7.

Because the 4 levels are available to you and your household members at one time, each student can work at their own level at the same time using their individual login i.d.’s and passwords.

Core Piano is the place to start for anyone who doesn’t have any experience at the piano and needs to learn how to find notes on the keyboard, how to sit properly, how to strike the keys and use proper hand position, etc. 

Book 1: Perfect for Beginners is for the beginner pianist and features 6 original pieces of music to practice.  It teaches students how to read music, improvise, and create their own music.  Each unit includes graded quizzes.

Book 2: Building a Foundation is intended for someone with some piano experience to improve their skills.  It continues with reading music, songs and improvisation, rhythm, and technique.

Book 3: Unlocking the Pianist Within is intended to hone your skills and provide you with more challenging work.  It teaches you how to create rich piano arrangements and incorporates original pieces in a variety of musical styles.

Learn about the program’s 6-step learning cycle and sign up for a free lesson to see what it’s all about. Each book also includes a bonus section so students who are ready can learn more advanced techniques.

The Complete Beginner Piano Program includes:

  • Unlimited lifetime access to
  • Tracking and quizzes for up to 5 students
  • Unlimited lesson streaming to any device
  • Unlimited music downloads
  • Unlimited video lesson downloads
  • Downloadable Jam Track CD

You get all this for one payment of just $299, or three monthly payments of just $99.97.  This program is designed for both children and adults of all ages.



Haylee and I are absolute beginners.  We’ve played around with other kinds of music programs before, but we’ve never really taken any formal piano lessons, so we knew we both needed to start from the beginning.  That meant we would only be working with the Core Piano book during the review period.

We made a plan to work on 3 lessons per week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  Then we had the opportunity to practice in between and/or on the weekends when we had more time.  Fortunately, each lesson focused on a specific skill, so it was super easy to integrate the lessons into our school routine.

As we viewed each video, we were able to see the instructor talking to us in the corner of the screen, a bird’s eye view of the instructor’s hands on the piano keys, as well as a view of a virtual keyboard above that where the keys lit up as the instructor played on the actual piano and indicated what note was being played. 

Once I logged in, there was also a link for a downloadable music book to print to go along with the lessons in the Core Piano book, so I opted to print that in booklet style and made a laminated cover so I could bind it from the top and make a little flip book that would lay flat.

Core Piano Book (2)Core Piano Book Inside (2)

Haylee and I were able to complete 18 lessons during the review period, so I’d like to summarize for you what we learned in each lesson in order to give you a good feel for the pace and the kind of material that was covered in the Core Piano book. 

Lesson 1: Introduction

  • This was merely a 2-minute introduction that summarized the purpose of the Core Piano program.

Lesson 2:  Notes of the Piano

  • This lesson was about 5 minutes in length and mainly covered how to find the note C to the left of each grouping of 2 black keys.  It also discussed how to find middle C on the keyboard. 

Lesson 3:  Low and High Notes

  • This lesson was about 4 minutes long, and the instructor explained how to recognize low vs. high notes.  He equated low notes to an elephant down on the ground and showed how those low notes sound like what would make you think of an elephant stomping around.  Then he equated high notes to birds up high with a fluttery sort of high sound.  He explained how notes up high on a staff are the high notes on the keyboard, and low notes on the staff are the low notes on the keyboard.  He talked about how moving to the left on the keyboard takes you to the lower notes and moving to the right takes you to the higher notes.  This was a cute, kid-friendly lesson that was easy for my daughter to understand.

Lesson 4:  The Musical Alphabet

  • This lesson was about 7 minutes long, and he explained how the notes in the musical alphabet are just like saying the alphabet, but only from A-G, and then it keeps repeating only those letters.  He asked the student to practice the letters for the notes both forwards and backwards quickly so you can think through the notes quickly.  He briefly mentioned how you can play steps and skips, and he recommended that for practice, you have someone randomly press a key and then you try to identify what the note is.

Lesson 5:  Finger Numbers

  • This less was about 3 minutes long, and it was all about learning which finger to use to play each note.  We learned that the first finger is the thumb, the second finger is the index finger, the third finger is the middle finger, the fourth finger is the ring finger, and the fifth finger is the pinkie finger.  This numbering system remains the same for both the left and right hands.

Lesson 6:  How to Sit at the Piano

  • This lesson is about 10 minutes long and explains the proper positioning for being seated at the piano.  Basically, the shoulders should be relaxed, the elbows should be parallel to the keyboard, and sitting back at the distance from your fists against the keyboard to your elDSCF1940bows at your sides.  The distance is necessary so you can pivot from your hips, sitting up tall, with room to move your hands up and down the keyboard.  It’s also important not to tilt your head down, but to instead glance down with your eyes.  He talks about how there are famous pianists who use poor posture and positioning, but he explains how they most likely deal with pain and discomfort from not sitting properly at the keyboard.  He also explains how young children may need a small bench to plant their feet on so that their legs are at a 90-degree angle.  He also mentions that nice, regular breathing is important so you don’t create tension in your body.  He also talks about using common sense and altering the rules where it makes sense, like sliding down the bench if you’re playing on one end of the piano for a while.

Lesson 7:  The Grab Technique

  • This lesson is about 10 minutes long, and he talks about hand positioning.  He explains how the natural position of your hand is rather curled, and you should try to maintain that shape when you’re playing whenever possible so your hands are relaxed in a natural position.  He talks about how you don’t need to slam down your fingers on the keys in order to play the notes.  Instead, you set your fingers on the keys and make a grabbing motion in order to play the keys.  He suggests that you put a tissue on the keyboard and practice grabbing at the notes, pulling the tissue off as you do so.  This helps reinforce the technique of grabbing at the keys with your fingers.  He also talks about how there is a tendency to use the side of your pinky when you play finger 5.  But he explains how you should only play with the pads of your fingers.  When you get to the thumb, finger 1, you play the note by pulling in, the way your thumb is naturally designed to move.  He suggests playing a rhythm on each note, practicing doing it with each finger so you can repetitively use the motion that each finger needs to use.  He also suggests that you do this exercise slowly, perhaps even playing several notes at once like a chord, and do this exercise with both hands.

Lesson 8:  Five Finger Scale

  • This lesson is about 6-7 minutes long, and he talks about how the natural position of your hand when you lay it on the keyboard has your 5 fingers on five successive notes.  So if you thumb is on the middle C, your other fingers are on D, E, F, and G.  This is the five finger scale.  He has us practice this scale by playing C, D, E, F, G, F, E, D, C, D, E, F, G, etc. up and down the scale like that.  We repeated the exercise with the left hand starting with the pinky on F and the thumb on C.  He reminded us to sit, grab, and breathe properly as we practiced this exercise.  He said to be sure not to hold our breath as we were playing or else it would create a lot of tension, especially in the arms.  He had us practice this repeatedly, playing both hands simultaneously, playing identical notes with each hand.  He stressed the importance of practicing these little things, however unexciting they might be, so we would really master the technique for when we played more advanced pieces down the road.

Lesson 9:  G Clef Guideposts

  • This lesson was about 5-6 minutes.  He talks about learning to read music and how it will take time to learn it.  He shows us a treble clef and a couple of notes on the staff and explains how treble clef notes are usually (but not always) played with the right hand.  He shows how notes can be on a line or in a space on the staff, and he explains that the treble clef G note is the G beside middle C on the keyboard.  He also reminds us that as notes go up on the staff, they go to the right on the keyboard.

Lesson 10:  Steps and Skips

  • This lesson was about 8 minutes.  He talks about the pattern of lines and spaces on the G clef.  He explains how when you go from a line to the next space or vice versa, that is called a step.  But if you go from a line to the next line or from a space to the next space, that is called a skip.  When I was a kid in school, I remember learning to name the lines by saying “Every Good Boy Does Fine,” and the spaces by saying “FACE.” But the instructor says it’s not a good idea to learn it that way, because when you get to the F clef, it doesn’t follow the same pattern.  He says it’s best to learn the notes based on their intervals (distance from each other).  He also says you should be sure to memorize where the G note is on the G clef, and then you can start to see the relationship to the other notes from there.

Lesson 11:  Half and Whole Steps

  • This lesson was about 8 minutes.  He talks about the chromatic scale and how that means playing all the keys from one note to the very next note on the keyboard, which includes the black keys in between the white ones.  When you go from one key to the very next key, that’s called a half step.  Then he plays some notes together and quizzes us on whether or not he’s playing a half step.  A whole step is when you play 2 notes over from where you are (including the black keys).  He asks us just to practice playing the half steps and whole steps to get familiar with them.

Lesson 12:  Higher and Lower on Staff

  • This lesson is about 6 minutes.  He shows a G clef with 5 notes on it that ends with G.  He directs us to name the musical alphabet backwards to determine what the previous notes are on the staff.  The notes went from middle C to G, and the music showed numbers underneath the notes to tell us which finger to use to play each note.  We start with the thumb and play the notes shown.  Then he showed a G clef with the notes playing the other direction, going downward.  Then he shows some notes where there are downward steps and then an upward skip.  This was a neat opportunity to practice steps, skips, playing both upward and downward, using the musical alphabet, and using the finger numbers.  I think this was the point where Haylee and I both started to see all those simpler little lessons coming together and showing us their purpose.  I got kind of excited myself!

Lesson 13:  The F Clef

  • This lesson was about 2 and a half minutes.  Here, he shows us the F clef, or bass clef as I learned to call it in school.  He points out that the big dotted end of the F clef shows us where the F note is, which is played just below the middle C.  He also shows that the highest C on the F clef is the same middle C note that is shown at the bottom of the G clef, which shows us that C is the one line that falls between the G and F clefs.  These guidepost notes on the F and G clefs are shown in the printable booklet that goes with the Core Piano book I mentioned earlier in the review.

Lesson 14:  The Grand Staff

  • This lesson is about 6 minutes long.  He talks about how when the G clef and F clef are joined together by a bracket on the left-hand side, it is called a grand staff.  He shows how although the middle C note appears on both clefs, the grand staff shows a gap between the two clefs so that the notes don’t get all jammed together on the printed music.  This makes it easier for us to read the notes.  Then he shows us a grand clef with some notes on both staffs and shows us how to play those notes at the same time using both hands.  That was neat!  Haylee and I couldn’t wait to start playing some songs!  We were starting to see that we were working our way in that direction slowly but surely.

Lesson 15:  Barlines and Measures

  • This lesson is about 2 and a half minutes.  He shows us barlines and how those separate measures which show the beats indicated in the time signature.  He explains that the barlines and measures are just a way of organizing the music for us.

Lesson 16:  Time Signatures

  • This lesson is 6 and a half minutes long.  He talks about time signature and how it helps us play with a steady beat, much like a heartbeat.  He explains how the top number in the time signature shows how many beats will be in each measure.  The bottom number shows us what kind of note will get one beat.  So in a 4/4 time signature, the top number shows us that there are 4 beats per measure, and the bottom number shows us that the quarter note will get one beat.  He goes on to show us other examples like 3/4 time…meaning 3 beats per measure with the quarter note getting one beat.  He also shows us different combinations of notes that can total the number of beats per measure.  I already knew how many beats each note receives, but Haylee didn’t.  He told us he’d be teaching us those values later in the rhythm section.

Lesson 17:  Ties

  • This lesson was about 3 minutes.  He shows a series of half notes on a staff with a 4/4 time signature.  But he shows a curved line between the last half note of the first measure and the first half note of the second measure, which is called a tie.  It “ties” the notes together.  So instead of playing two separate half notes, you’d play all 4 beats as one note, as if it were a whole note with 4 beats.

Lesson 18:  Slurs

  • This lesson was about 2 and a half minutes.  He shows a staff with a tie as we learned in the last lesson, with the tie joining two of the same note.  Then he shows another staff with the same curved line but which joined together different notes.  This is called a slur.  A slur joins different notes together and means that you should play the notes “legato” without lifting the hand.  He says he’ll explain what legato is in a future lesson.

Haylee and I have both reaDSCF1941lly enjoyed the lessons.  Haylee was a bit bored at first, but I reminded her of how you have to learn to walk before you learn to run.  She started out learning the same kinds of technique-related lessons when she took guitar lessons last year.  The difference was that we couldn’t afford to continue the lessons, so she never got to the fun of actually playing music.  So what we really love about this program is that once you’ve purchased it, you can continue the lessons at your own pace, whenever it’s convenient for you, and you never have anything else to buy…it’s just a one-time expense!  And what’s more, since up to 5 students can use it at the same time in your household, it really adds to the overall value in my book.  Even my 6-year old son gave some of the lessons a try, and he had lots of fun, too!  In the end, we found that whenever someone was working on a lesson, it was hard to resist having a turn, too!

Plus, I have the flexibility to adapt it in a way that fits each student.  So if we get to a lesson we’ve covered before in a previous music program or experience, we have the ability to just move on to the next lesson, and each student can start in the book that suits their experience level best.  And if I really want to, I can also jump to another book just to try out playing a song so I don’t get too bored while I’m covering the basics.  Also, I like that the website remembers the last lesson each person worked on so you can log in and pick up right where you left off without having to personally note where you stopped the last time you practiced.

I also like that it’s so easy to pause or rewind a lesson if I need to hear part of it again or I want to stop and practice for a few minutes before moving on.  It’s also great that you can use a stand-alone keyboard and aren’t forced to have one that connects to the computer, which makes it possible to use a tablet or other portable device to watch the lessons.  I can even connect my laptop to the tv and watch the lessons on the big screen if we both want to practice and watch at the same time!

Overall, I’m very impressed with this program.  It moves at a slow enough pace for even a child or true beginner to be able to follow easily, and every once in a while, the instructor will play something fancy to give you a taste of what’s to come.  It’s kind of exciting to know that at some point, we’ll hopefully be able to play like that, as well!

I know from my research on this program that it puts a lot of emphasis on improvisation, which is something that sets it apart from other programs out there.  Since we’re both such basic beginners, I can’t say much about that at this point…I’d just be happy to be able to play a piece of sheet music as is!  Smile  But I know that’s something that is important to a more advanced student.

My daughter really likes how easy it is to pull up the lessons and do them any time she’s in the mood without a lot of fuss or the need to ask for help from me.  We’re both looking forward to continuing the lessons, and hopefully by this time next year, we’ll be playing away with actual sheet music! 

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up – June 29th-July 5th

Happy Independence Day!


Early in the week, we managed to slip out to Ocean Breeze Water Park for another fun-filled afternoon.  It’s always a hit for all of us!



Our family has always had a tradition to go see a Tides game at Harbor Park on the eve of the 4th of July.  Afterwards, Harbor Park does a fireworks show launched from a boat in the harbor.  There was not only a chance of rain, but Hurricane Arthur was headed through in the overnight!  We weren’t quite sure what to expect, so we got seats under the awning, just in case.  Miraculously, the rain managed to hold off, and the fireworks went off as scheduled.

I brought some snacks in my purse, including extra-long Slim Jims.  Hayden had the Flamin’ Hot variety.  He tried it first and then passed it to Haylee to try.  As you can see, they both required lots of beverage consumption afterwards!  LOL


There was also a visit from the Tides’ mascot, Rip Tide.  I took Haylee and Holden down to meet him.  Rip Tide took Haylee’s had off, smelled it, and then pretended to be sick!  LOL  She was laughing so hard.  He’s a trip!


The Tides game was AWESOME, and we had a fabulous time…made even more so because the Tides won in the last inning!


The fireworks were rather boring this year, so we were looking forward to the Virginia Beach fireworks, which were postponed to Saturday, July 5th due to the imminence of Hurricane Arthur. 


July 4th passed with absolutely nothing going on in town because of the postponements from the storm, even though it turned out not to be much of anything for us here.  But it was a bit breezier than usual, so it was probably safer to do the fireworks on Saturday anyway.  In any case, we started off Saturday morning with a kids’ building workshop at Home Depot.  Haylee and Holden got to make a bug house.  They love painting stuff, so they had a really good time.  Fun!



Then on Saturday night, we headed out to our special spot in a local parking lot that gives us a perfect view of the Mount Trashmore fireworks without all the chaos of actually going to Mount Trashmore.  We popped up some popcorn, took along some snaps for the kids’ to play with, and lots of portable chairs.  Steve and I hung out in the van with our iPads while the kids played with the snaps, and then about an hour later, the fireworks show began!  We have to go early to get a good spot in the lot.  Our special spot has caught on over the years!  And because of the hurricane passing through the day before, the weather was unseasonably cool and pleasant, very much unlike past years.  I dare say it was even a little chilly out!


The show was absolutely incredible this year!  It totally made up for the wimpy fireworks we saw at Harbor Park.  They did some really neat stuff with special shapes (even a smiley face in the sky) and explosions inside of explosions!  The colors were absolutely beautiful.  Happy 4th!


I hope you all had an extra special celebration with your own families.  Share what you did!

Until next week…