Tuesday, September 29, 2015

REVIEW: Elementary Spanish 1: Grades K-2 Second Semester by Middlebury Interactive Languages

Holden was really, really excited to get to review Elementary Spanish 1: Grades K-2 Second Semester by Middlebury Interactive Languages.



Middlebury Interactive Languages offers a variety of digital language courses for grades K-12.  Languages offered include Spanish, French, Chinese, and German. 

This time, we received the second semester of the Elementary Spanish 1: Grades K-2 language course, as we reviewed the first semester late last year. 

This course is specially designed for younger students and provides a great first exposure to a foreign language.  Each unit is comprised of a series of lessons that are based around an authentic story, myth, or legend from the Spanish-speaking culture.  The main goal of the elementary level course is to build vocabulary.  This is accomplished through a variety of stories, games, songs, and practice activities.

Each semester is available for just $119 without a teacher, or $119 plus an additional $175 with a teacher.  These are online digital courses, so you’ll need internet access in order to use the program.



Holden enjoyed the first semester of this course last year so much that he continued working on it regularly, even after the review period was over, until he’d successfully completed it.  In fact, we replaced the program he was already using with this one!  He was so sad when it was all over, so of course, he jumped at the chance to get to work on the second semester of the course this year.  He’s is 2nd grade this school year, so the timing was perfect for him to wrap up this level.

The first semester covered Units 1-6 of the complete course, with unit 6 being a review.  This second semester continued the course with Units 7-12 and included the topics of body, animals, calendar, food, descriptions, and a review. Units 7-11 were comprised of 6 lessons each, plus 3 review lessons in Unit 12, for a total of 33 lessons.  When you enroll in a semester course, you have 6 months in which to complete your material.  The recommended pace for this level is 2 lessons per week, so there’s plenty of time to complete all of the coursework within the allotted period.

Holden really enjoyed the videos of Spanish stories.  They are narrated by a native speaker who speaks entirely in Spanish with the words shown on the screen, so it gives the student a completely immersive experience.  That may sound difficult, but I was really surprised by how well Holden understood the meaning of the story without already knowing the language.  The animations are really interesting and engaging, and through repetition, the student picks up on a lot of the language.  Words that pertain to the vocabulary for the lesson are highlighted so they stand out and the student can see them used in context.  There are also optional coloring pages and printed activities that students can complete in some of the lessons.

Through the repetition of the stories in Spanish and the English translation available for review near the end of the unit, Holden was able to recall the details of the stories and answer questions about them at the end of the units, applying the vocabulary learned in the lessons.  There’s also a spoken language quiz at the end of each unit, and Holden got to listen to the native speaker pronounce the vocabulary words and then record his own voice repeating the words.  He loved playing back the recordings and hearing himself speaking Spanish!  It works with the microphone built into my laptop, and it’s very easy to use.  He can even do it by himself!

Holden loved the variety of activities, from matching to multiple choice and various other formats.  There were alsDSCF4438o lessons where he could see images, click each one to hear them spoken in Spanish, and then switch back to English and hear it spoken again.  Switching back and forth this way allowed him to verbally say the words that represented each image in both English and Spanish and then check the audio for verification that he recalled them correctly.

When your student completes one of the oral lessons in the course without a teacher, the lesson goes into a cue for you as the parent to review and grade.  This is done in the dashboard.  Also for the parent’s convenience, you can view the student’s quiz and test grades and see when they completed each lesson so you can monitor their progress.  In addition, you can view the table of contents in the dashboard at any time so you can see what lessons have been completed and what the upcoming lessons will be about.  The course is also easy for students to navigate, as the welcome screen after login shows them the next lesson to be completed.  All they do is click it to begin.  That way, they don’t have to remember where they left off the last time they used the program.

I continue to be amazed at how well Holden retains the vocabulary words he has learned with this program, and he is more than willing to do the lessons.  He often asks if he can do more than one lesson at a time!  The bottom line is that this is a fun, engaging, and very interactive course that allows students to build their beginning language skills through a variety of activities and methods of presentation.  There’s plenty of practice built in, and students get to practice verbally, as well. 

With a program that my child looks forward to using and a wonderful rate of retention of the material he’s learned, what more could I ask for?  Give it a try and see for yourself!

Check out what other Crew members have to say about various language courses from Middlebury Interactive Languages by clicking the banner below.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Another Upcoming Edible Freebie!!!

Don’t miss it!  On Tuesday, September 29, 2015, Krispy Kreme will be offering a FREE 12 oz. cup of coffee and a FREE glazed doughnut!  This is in celebration of National Coffee Day. 

Offer good for one FREE Original Glazed Doughnut and a 12 oz cup of brewed coffee per person per visit on September 29, 2015 only. Cannot be combined with any other coupons or offers. Valid in the US only. Excludes Puerto Rico and the list of non-participating US locations: Foley and Mobile, AL; Uncasville, CT; Macon, GA; Baton Rouge and Metairie, LA; Oklahoma City and South Tulsa, OK; Pigeon Forge, TN.

I’ll probably have to miss this one because my family will be enjoying a couple of days at the Virginia State Fair this week…unless I remember to stop by on my way home! 

You might recall how much fun we had there last year.  We’re all looking forward to seeing the Kachunga Alligator Show again that Haylee was in last year, and we can’t wait to dive into the giant candy haul again!  That place was amazing.  They really had it all!  Unfortunately, it’s supposed to rain the first day again, so I picked up some rain ponchos for the kids.  I learned my lesson last year when I had to pay about $10 for one at the fair.  $2 at Rose’s is way better!

Have a wonderful week, and enjoy your coffee and doughnut!

Friday, September 25, 2015

REVIEW: Tapple: Fast Word Fun for Everyone and Wonky: The Crazy Cubes Card Game by USAopoly

The kids were excited to get to review two great games, Tapple: Fast Word Fun for Everyone and Wonky: The Crazy Cubes Card Game, by USAopoly.



Tapple is a fun and surprisingly challenging word game by USAopoly that brings a good time to any group or family gathering.  The object is to draw a category, attempt to use an available letter to name something in that category, then tap the letter you used within the 10-second time limit before turning it over to the next player to repeat this process.  Failing to give an appropriate response before the timer goes off means you’re out of the round, and whoever wins the majority of 3 rounds wins the game.  Game play becomes more difficult as the letters are used up.  This game is intended for ages 8 and up.  It’s available for just $19.95 and will accommodate 2-8 players, making it a great option for parties or large families.

Wonky is another challenging game by USAopoly that combines strategically selecting the right card to play and building a wonky tower with the cubes that match your card.  Game play is complicated by 3 sizes of blocks, all of which are imperfect cubes with a combination of rounded corners and slanted sides!  Throw in reverse plays and passes, and you could have a real problem on your hands!  If the tower falls during your turn, even before you’ve placed your cubes, you have to draw 3 cards!  You must either run out of cards or successfully stack all eight blocks in order to win!  This game is intended for ages 8 and up and accommodates 2 or more players.  It’s available for just $19.95.




My kids could hardly wait to try out these two great games.  First off, my 16 year old son, Hayden, and I tried out Tapple while the other kids looked on to get a feel for how to play.  This game offers two levels of categories…one for younger kids, and one for older kids and adults.  This helps you increase or decrease the level of difficulty depending upon who’s playing the game. 

I absolutely *LOVE* word games…they are just my thing…so Hayden had his hands full trying to keep up with my broader vocabulaDSCF4437ry!  I have to say that while you may feel well prepared for the category that has been drawn, you might find yourself with a “brain fart” when the pressure of that 10-second timer is bearing down on you!  Many times, we found our minds drawing a total blank on the most obvious of categories.  Luckily, the least common letters are excluded from the game board, so there’s no need to worry about the letters Q, U, V, X, Y, or Z.  That takes some of the pressure off.  We parlayed pretty well with each other until we started questioning each other’s responses.  When that happens, credit for your answer can be taken away by a majority vote of the other players, and you can lose that round if you’ve already “tapped” the letter of your answer before it was accepted by the group.  Hayden struggled with categories like household cleaners, and I stunk at things like sports.  All in all, we had a ton of laughs, and I even thought it was funny when Hayden would give me the stink-eye for answers like “alabaster” for colors, LOL. 

Tapple was a game that I think the kids enjoyed playing with each other more than with me, just because of our differences in vocabulary, but we all loved the concept of the game.  And it was great that there were color-coded categories for older or younger players so the kids can play on their own level.  My kids continued to get it out and play it together in the days to come, and they all liked it a lot.  In fact, the idea of it caught on, and we found ourselves playing a verbal form of Tapple in the van on the way home from church and online with friends!  From a teaching standpoint, I can see where you could really use this game as practice for school-related topics, as well, just be making up your own categories.  For instance, if your kids are studying the periodic table, you could have them play Tapple naming the elements.  If they are learning parts of speech, you could have them play naming nouns or verbs or adjectives.  We did some of that, too, and it made learning more fun and a great way to exercise our brains.  I can really see us using this game for years to come in plenty of different ways. 

Next up was a challenging game of Wonky between Hayden and me while the others again watched to learn the rules.  We both loved the strategy involved in this game.  We were each dealt 7 cars to start off, and if we couldn’t play, we had to draw a card.  Playing a card meant passing, placing a matching cube on the tower, or placing a cube and reversing play.  This game is definitely harder than it looks!  Choosing the wrong card to play may mean you’ve not only made game play difficult for your opponent, but also more difficult for your own future moves, so you have to take that into consideration as you go.  My personal strategy was to try to stack the blocks from largest to smallest and aim for not knocking over the tower.  I did that because if you can successfully place all eight blocks, then you automatically win. 

DSCF4431Amazingly, we managed to do it on our very first game!  It was definitely a challenge, because those cubes truly are wonkier than they look.  They have rounded edges and corners in some places, as well as slanted sides.  They do tip easily, and you cannot adjust any block other than the one you are placing on top.  This was really fun!  The other kids couldn’t wait to play it, and my 7 and 11 year old kids took over and played a few rounds on their own.  Everybody had great fun with this one.  And conveniently, all of the cards and cubes, and even the instructions themselves, fit right inside the included drawstring bag, which makes it a handy game to pack for a weekend trip or annual vacation.  I also love that neither game requires too much of a time commitment.  Tapple takes approximately 10-20 minutes to play,

I’m pretty sure both of these games will be packed for our spring vacation and probably even for our short trip to the state fair for two days in just a couple of weeks.  I love that Tapple offers so many possibilities for adaptations to cross into multi-subject studies, as well as being just plain fun and a brain challenge for standard play.  Wonky takes a completely different type of thought, so both games are a great addition to your family’s game closet.

Take a look at what other Crew members have to say about these two exciting games from USAopoly by clicking the banner below.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Earlier this week, we swung by Moe’s Southwest Grill for Quesopalooza…a free cup of queso and chips, no purchase required.  ADSCF4433s if that wasn’t yummy enough, yesterday was Talk Like a Pirate Day!  That’s one of my favorite freebie days of the year.  Since it fell on Saturday, we had plenty of time to get ready after a long morning soccer practice.  Normally, all of the kids go with me, but this year, the boys didn’t feel like going out, so it was just me and Haylee. 

We had Hayden go up into the attic and toss down their old Pirate Halloween costumes.  Haylee’s was too small since she wore it like 5 years ago, so she got creative and wore her pirate dress as a pirate tunic and added leggings!  Love that girl.  She looked adorable.  Then I pulled out Hayden’s old costume, a size 10/12, and was so thankful that it was baggy enough to pull off being a costume for me!  I remembered I had some old giant gold hoops from the late 80’s and threw those on at the last minute. 

Steve took a little photo session of us out on the front lawn, and then we headed off to Long John Silver’s for lunch.  For wearingDSCF4435 a complete costume, we got a free 2-piece fish basket with hushpuppies and one side (she got fries, and I got coleslaw).  Yum!  We were the only ones besides the employees behind the counter who were decked out, but everyone seemed to enjoy our costumes.  The 70 year old lady behind us in line was fascinated and wanted to know why we were dressed up.  We told her she could get a free piece of fish or chicken for just talking like a pirate.  She was there to meet a friend for lunch, so she asked us how to talk like a pirate, and we told her just to say “ARGH!”  She laughed and gave it a try and was so proud of herself for scoring some free food!  I heard her telling her friend about it who was jealous that she didn’t know and had already ordered.  LOL.

Then we headed off to Krispy Kreme for our free dozen glazed doughnuts.  Absolutely everyone there was decked out in pirate gear…it’s the most popular spot in town for pirate-friendly patrons on Talk Like a Pirate Day.  The line wasn’t nearly as bad as it usually is.  I somehow expected it to be busier on the weekend than on weeDSCF4436kdays, but I guess folks were probably more spread out throughout the day on the weekend, whereas lots of people go in droves at certain times of day on weekdays for the event.

Of course, everyone at home appreciated our walking through the door with 2 dozen fresh doughnuts, which the boys practically demolished before the day was out.  Only one box was left when I went to bed.

It was a fun day with my little pirate. 

Until next year!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Medieval History Studies with my 2nd Grader

Holden and I have finished up our study of the Vikings, and now we’re studying medieval history with Sonlight Core C.  We recently finished reading Tales of Robin Hood, and just this last week, we finished up Minstrel in the Tower.  We’re continuing our studies with The Usborne Time Traveler.  So I thought that while we’re on the topic, it might be fun to do some sort of hands-on project that Holden could use and play with while we’re doing our reading…something to peak his interest and feed his need to be doing something while I’m reading aloud.

I looked around on Amazon and Pinterest and decided I wanted to get some kind of castle-building kit.  I was hunting for a Medieval Castle, but they seemed pretty expensive.  I found myself passing by the local homeschool bookstore, Moore Expressions, and decided to pop in and see if I could get lucky and find something of that nature in the store.  As luck would have it, they had the Usborne Make This Crusader Castle…that was close enough!  I really wanted a building kit with blocks of some kind so it would be sturdier, but the ones on Amazon were about $35-$75 each.  I didn’t want to spend that much on it since we’ll be moving on in our studies soon enough.  So I figured with the right glue, this Crusader Castle kit should work well enough, and as luck would have it, it was only $4 at Moore’s!  Perfect.

Now the kit says to use a fast-drying glue, and from reading reviews online, I understand that using the right glue is the key to success with these.  The materials are a slick cardstock, so it’s easy to see how a traditional glue might not work so well.  If you’ve used this type of kit before, what glue would you recommend?

I have to get the right materials really soon, because Holden is so excited about this project that he has asked me every single day, at least twice a day, if we can finally start building it!  I’ll keep you posted on our progress as we get this project underway.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

More FREE Resources for Homeschooling!

For most families, whether or public schooled or home schooled, it’s time for back to school this week!  That got me thinking that this would be an ideal time to search out more FREE resources my readers could use for homeschooling this season.  I’ll soon add these to my master list in the Homeschooling on a Dime post.  But here’s what I found today:

********************Image result for glencoe chemistry

Glencoe Chemistry (and Honors Chemistry) 


Access code: D5C4E5E8B4



Glencoe Marketing Essentials


Access code:  C6919EC037  



Image result for mcgraw hill my mathMcGraw-Hill My Math       

Link: http://connected.mcgraw-hill.com

Username: mymathla    

Password: mymathla2012



Image result for glencoe geometryGlencoe Geometry

Visit: http://connected.mcgraw-hill.com

Student Center:  

Username: mymathstudent 

Password:  mhe2015math



Image result for pearson envision mathPearson EnVision Math


username:  SCenVisionCC

password:  pearsonmath1

There are so many resources at this particular link!  All different grade levels, teacher’s manuals, student resources, printable worksheets, digital video lessons, etc.  Amazing resource!


I really hope many of you can use these wonderful FREE resources in your homeschool.  Keep in mind that oftentimes, online access that requires a password is set for a particular school year.  In addition, when a school changes curriculum, ongoing access may come to an end.  So if at any time in the future you find any of these links and passwords to be invalid, please leave a comment and let me know so I can keep this list up-to-date!  Thank you. 

Here’s to a wonderful 2015-2016 school year for all of us!