My Little Pony: Party of One App by PlayDate Digital ~Review

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I have two little kids who absolutely adore My Little Pony, so I was really looking forward to reviewing the My Little Pony: Party of One app for our iPad with them.  

Available for $2.99 at the iTunes store for iOS 4.3 or greater.

From the Website:

"About the App: My Little Pony: Party of One is an interactive storybook app. It is based on a favorite My Little Pony TV episode and adapted for a preschool audience. It teaches kids social emotional values -- friendship, trust and belonging. It was developed in partnership with educational experts."


Description: My Little Pony, Party of One is an interactive adventure centered around Pinkie Pie and her friends. Nobody throws a better party than Pinkie Pie, so she is a bit surprised when all the other ponies are too busy to attend a celebration. She sets out to investigate, and is pleasantly surprised at what she discovers. 

Our thoughts:

This app wasn't as big of a hit as I thought it would be. My son, who is 5, loves MLP so much that he sleeps with a stuffed Rainbow Dash. After his initial use of the app, he was totally bored with it. My 3 year old, seemed to like it very much at first, but her interest also waned as well. While there are 17 pages, there is just one story. I think for $2.99, another story or some type of simple game should be included as well.



The story is well done with bright colors and a lot of animation with bold graphics and the interactive aspect is fun.The character's voices and that of the narrator were pleasant and easy to listen to, unlike some other interactive books we've used. 


I liked the "Read to Me" option for my 3 year old.


This was a great feature, but my daughter had some trouble understanding that she had to tap the pictures with white outlines. She did finally catch on, but didn't have the patience to wait for the animation to finish before she wanted to touch the next one. 


 Both of my children enjoyed bouncing around from one scene to another!


I personally did not find this very useful and would much rather have a game included that incorporated the learning and roundup words. 

.

My children didn't enjoy this app enough for this aspect of it to be beneficial since they learn the best by repetition. 

I did love how their favorite ponies were part of the story: Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Flutter Shy, and Twilight Sparkle.

The story uses thoughtful age appropriate language for pre-K & K school age children to help them understand about their feelings, friendship, and misunderstandings. This is something that we've been talking about often here in our household!

Overall, I think it is a very cute app and I am looking forward to trying out some of the other apps offered by PlayDate Digital. If you have an iPod or an iPad and a child that loves My Little Pony, watch the video below and see what you think!






Find PlayDate Digital here:
 WEBSITE
FACEBOOK
TWITTER
YOUTUBE
LINKEDIN



Coming Home For Christmas~ DVD Review & Giveaway

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Available for purchase at Walmart.com for $9.96.
Dove "Family-Approved" suitable for any age.


It's hard for me to believe, but Christmas is almost just a month away. Christmas songs are already playing on the radio here in Ohio and in a few days, holiday specials will begin airing on tv. On the way home from church tonight, I even saw several houses already decorated and lit up with lights. While I love all of these things, one of the things that excites me most is getting to watch some of the new holiday movies that have come out. Christmas movies are my favorite movies to watch and between the kid movies and family movies, we have quite a few already, but I'm always up for adding another one to the bunch! Like Coming Home For Christmas. The kids and I really enjoyed watching it together and think you will too! Scroll down to see how you can enter for a chance to WIN your very own copy!

About COMING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS
"After their parents separate, two estranged sisters who haven't been on speaking terms reunite in hopes that having a family Christmas all together for the first time in years will bring their Mom and Dad close again. They plan to do this in their old family home... the only problem is someone else lives there now.

The DVD includes a limited edition Norman Rockwell print!

Who is Norman Rockwell? Rockwell was famous for his famous American culture illustrations and artwork. He was born in the late 1800’s and died in the mid 1900’s."
Directed by Vanessa Parise.
Cast includes real life sisters Britt & Carly McKillip, George Canyon, Aaron Pritchett, Ben Hollingsworth and Amy Jo Johnson. 
Soundtrack also available featuring holiday songs performed by George Canyon

Watch the trailer:


Enter for a chance to win on the Rafflecopter form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


1 Girl Nation ~Review & Giveaway

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Music. I cannot imagine life without it. In our family of seven, our tastes in music run the gamut from Classical Rock to Christian. At home, or on the go, we are constantly listening to one thing or another. Having 5 children, 3 of them being teens, I am always on the lookout for inspiring Christian groups for them to listen to. When I was offered the opportunity to review the debut album from 1 Girl Nation, I jumped at the chance. I thought it might be a perfect fit for my 14 and 16 year old daughters. 


About 1 Girl Nation:
"Landing in the space where One Direction meets TobyMac, 1 Girl Nation is an exciting blend of upbeat pop music, with lyrics that are totally focused on living life for God, even while you’re young. 1GN, as they’ve already been dubbed, stars Carmen, Kayli, Kelsey, Lauryn Taylor and Lindsey, five girls with a passion for telling their fans about Christ through their music. Their first single, “While We’re Young,” can be heard on radio stations across the country and their self-titled debut album is available now!

Primary Audience: preteens, teens, and young adults (as well as parents, too!)"

Want to know more about 1 Girl Nation? Find them here:

What we thought:

After listening to the CD, my 14 year old added the album to her iPod. Her favorite is track 3, "Live For You" with the exception of the rapping. She's not a big fan of rap (neither am I). We loved the upbeat, pop-style songs with the Christian messages. 

My 16 year old didn't care for the CD at all as she didn't like how mainstream they look and sound. 

All in all, I think this is a fun CD, perfect for tweens and early teens. The songs messages paired with upbeat music provide positive affirmations that are sure to help young woman make it through the tough times and to remind them that they are made in HIS image and are meant to let their light shine bright! 

Want to win a copy of your own? Enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to U.S. and Canada ONLY. 

 a Rafflecopter giveaway




Marvel's "Thor- The Dark World Premieres TODAY 11/8/2013!

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Rated PG-13.



Marvel's "Thor: The Dark World" hits theaters today! 

From Marvel: 


"Marvel’s "Thor: The Dark World" continues the big-screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself. In the aftermath of Marvel’s "Thor" and "Marvel’s The Avengers," Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos...but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. To defeat an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor sets upon his most dangerous and personal journey yet, forced into an alliance with the treacherous Loki to save not only his people and those he loves…but our universe itself."



It has become sort of a tradition for my son and I to go see the Marvel movies when they come out at the theater and I have to admit that we both have been anxiously awaiting this release for MONTHS! I've been blessed to be able to pre-screen a couple of the Avenger movies because of blogging, and this was one of those times. This past Tuesday, my son and I headed out for some pre-movie pizza and then straight to the theater for some Marvel action.

Thor: The Dark World definitely did not disappoint, and went above and beyond our expectations. Not wanting to give any spoilers, I will say that there were some very unexpected twists and turns that took us by surprise and left us both impatiently waiting for a Thor 3. Amid the action was a good amount of humor that had the entire audience laughing out loud at times. It. Was. AWESOME!!! Check out the clip below then head out to your local theater to see it for yourself. If you love Marvel's Avengers, you will not be disappointed! Just a note, make sure to sit through the credits to the END!







The star-studded cast includes Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano and Jaimie Alexander with Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins as Odin. 

"Marvel’s “Thor: The Dark World” is directed by Alan Taylor, produced by Kevin Feige, p.g.a., from a story by Don Payne and Robert Rodat and screenplay by Christopher L. Yost and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, and is based on Marvel’s classic Super Hero Thor, who first appeared in the comic book “Journey into Mystery “ #83 in August, 1962."



“Thor: The Dark World” is presented by Marvel Studios. The executive producers are Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Craig Kyle, Alan Fine, Nigel Gostelow and Stan Lee. The film releases November 8, 2013, and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures."

#ThorDarkWorld

Homeschool Programming, Inc. Review

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Homeschool Programming, Inc, a company founded by homeschooling parents with over 17 combined years of software experience, offers Award Winning computer programming courses designed specifically for kids in grades 4-12. 

After being introduced to this course, I was curious. Were there any other self-learning programs available, comparable to the KidCoder and TeenCoder series? The answer? No, there wasn't. As far as I can tell, this program is one-of-a-kind.  It is geared towards children and very hands-on. The homeschooling parent with little to no programming background can use this program with confidence, knowing that their children will learn the skills needed to be on their way to a career in computer science or just to fuel their programming passion. From instructional videos, to activities, to free software emulator- they offer it all! 

What I received for review:



Teen Coder Java Series
Course Material for both Java Programming and Android Programming

Instructional videos (optional and sent on separate disc when ordering.) Very helpful, especially for audio/visual learners.

This TeenCoder Java curriculum consists of 2 semester courses. Java Programming is the first semester course in the series and introduces the student to the Java programming language. This course can also be used to study for the AP Computer Science A exam and is a pre-requisite for the Android Programming course.

The second semester deals with Android programming in Java. The series is recommended for 9th - 12th grades and is compatible with both Windows and Mac. No Android hardware or service is required. Instructions are provided to install a free software emulator.


Topics Covered in this Course
  • Introduction to the Java programming language
  • Creating graphical applications
  • Using dialog controls
  • Java data types and variables
  • User input and flow control
  • Math functions and string operations
  • Java debugging and exception handling
  • Object-oriented programming concepts
  • Classes, inheritance, and polymorphism
  • Collections, sorting, and recursion
The courses do not involve any type of online subscriptions or time limits. The course is completed at the students own pace, on his own computer once materials are received. Each course in the series should take around one semester to complete, though as any homeschooler knows, it's not 
unusual for some students to progress faster or slower.

Pricing information:

  • TeenCoder: Java Programming (Course Only) $75.00
  • TeenCoder: Java Programming (Course & Videos) $90.00
  • TeenCoder: Java Programming (Video Only) $20.00
  • TeenCoder: Android Programming (Course Only) $75.00
  • TeenCoder: Android Programming (Course & Video) $90.00
  • TeenCoder: Android Programming (Video Only) $20.00


Want to save money with a package deal? 
  • TeenCoder: Java Year Pack (Courses Only) $130.00
  • TeenCoder: Java Year Pack (Courses & Videos) $155.00
  • TeenCoder: Java Year Pack (Videos Only) $30.00


My thoughts:


My son seems to be naturally talented in the programming arena so I was pretty excited to be chosen for this review. We hit a snag of sorts right from the start though, as his computer lacked the space needed for the required downloads. I download the program on my laptop, but having him use the product on my computer hasn't really worked out well. We plan to pick up on the lessons after he gets a new computer.


From what I have experienced, even though there aren't a lot of bells and whistles, I think this is a great program! There were many things that I liked about it, and I honestly can't think of one thing that I disliked about it. I appreciated the "My Projects" directory created to store the student's work. I can't even tell you how many times I have saved a file only later to spend what feels like an eternity looking for it. Many times to no avail! So, having a dedicated directory is most helpful! Several bonus lessons are included (Preparing for the AP exam and Testing Your Code, are two examples.) The Student Menu includes student tests which consists of 10 multiple choice questions (with the exception of the last test, which does not) and I find this format very beneficial. The installation instructions are very easy to understand and the optional videos are simple and geared towards kids, but at the same time are not childish. In my opinion, any adult wishing to learn Java and Android programming could use this program as well. No additional software is required for the Android programming, because an emulator is provided and that is definitely a plus for me. The fact that is series can be counted as a high school credit and can be used to study the AP exam drew me in as well. Literally, everything needed for proper course study is included in this series and I can't wait to pick back up where we left off!

Read  the Products Overview page for more information on other series offered.

Homeschool Programming, Inc. strongly suggests viewing the sample course pages and watching the demo videos prior to choosing curriculum to ensure the correct choice. Refunds are not available on any electronically delivered or downloaded product. Refer to the "Pre-Requisites" listed on each page to determine if the course is compatible with your current OS.

Have questions? Visit the FAQ page for answers or find them online at:
Website
Facebook
Twitter


*Homeschooling families teaching multiple siblings within immediate family may use same curriculum. For co-ops or other teaching situations, please read the Conditions of Use for more information.




LeapFrog Paper-Based Learning Products by MEGA Brands- Review

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LeapFrog has long been a familiar name here at our house, and a brand frequently purchased. I did not know, however, that Mega Brands (maker of another of our favorites- Mega Bloks) partnered with LeapFrog and has made available an entire line of PAPER-BASED learning products! As a homeschooling mother of 5 children, this excited me! A lot! 

Before I go any further, I would like to point out that LeapFrog products by MEGA Brands are not found in the toy aisle where the electronic products are located. In most cases, they are in the STATIONERY or CRAFT aisles at major retailers such as Target and Walmart and the craft stores Michael's and Joann's. At Target, some LeapFrog educational products may occasionally be found in the $1 section of the store and I've also heard that some stores have included the products in their back to school displays. Prices range from $0.99 to $24.99 with most costing under $5. 

The products that we received to review were a huge hit! 

Currently available on Amazon for $5.79.
Mr. B, studying the flash cards.

I really like these flash cards. As you can see in the photo, the top right corner is a cut corner which makes for easy sorting and handling. The deck has 55 cards and is divided into two sets. The uppercase has a dark green border and the lowercase has a light green border. The illustrations and colors used are another of my favorite features! My son and daughter (5 and 3 y.o.) LOVED these flash cards and the illustrations that corresponded with each letter of the alphabet were not only fun to look at, but helped them with the letters when they were stuck on one. They also seem to be pretty sturdy, which is a great thing when there is a 3 year old around!

$8.42 on Amazon

Mr. B coloring a path of squares to help
Tad get to the yellow star.

This was definitely a huge hit! While we have several dry erase boards, we didn't have anything like this.  Activities like matching sets, what's different, and what's the same were "just right"- not too difficult but challenging at the same time. The washable dry erase marker was the perfect size for little hands. My only "complaints" are that we kept misplacing the cap (which also has a small eraser on the end) because it wouldn't fit on the end of the marker and that the lettering on the marker has already worn off. 

Miss C coloring the squares too.
Currently $7.20 on Amazon.


The Colors, Shapes & Numbers dry erase practice includes 16 reuseable dry erase pages with a built in lap board. Activities help children to practice concepts like counting, grouping, letter formation, patterns and identifying shapes. Perfect for Pre-K and K! My son has some difficulty with writing, especially with a pencil, but using the marker on the dry erase board and having the guide lines was very beneficial to him and frustration free. I can see this getting A LOT of use! 

$3.88 on Amazon.
The Kindergarten Skills workbook includes 60 pages with 60 cute reward stickers (featuring whales, sun, clouds and more) with encouraging words such as "Bravo", "Terrific", "Awesome" and "Good Job", as well as others. Miss C didn't want to put this book down. She really enjoyed the coloring and line tracing while Mr. B liked practicing tracing and writing his letters and working on patterns (something he is really into right now). 

 $8.42 on Amazon.
This Creative Journal, with spiral binding, is for grades 2-3 and includes 80 pages of story writing and drawing space as well as story prompt ideas and 88 stickers. The primary rule is really too small for my younger ones who are just learning to write so we are using this journal together with me doing most of the writing and the two of them doing the drawings. I do think this would be better suited to an older child and provide a fun way to practice language skills.

The journal pictured below is not one that I received to review, but is on my Back To School list. It also has 80 pages and includes stickers but contains large ruled sheets which would be more appropriate for my younger learners. I'm hoping to find one at my local Target, but if not, I know I can purchase it from Amazon. 



Every teacher needs some charts, reward stickers, and certificates, right? I confess, I have a hoard of them. Some are just too cute to pass up. 
$11.14 on Amazon.
These would fall into that category. The Weekly Performance Charts are perfect for setting goals and tracking weekly progress at a glance, the generic "You Did It!" certificates can be used for acknowledging any achievement, and the stickers are perfect for rewarding anything from good behavior to a job well done. 

The last item that I reviewed was one that nobody in my family really liked - the pencil grips.


$9.19 on Amazon
The price on Amazon seems a bit steep for me for 7 pencil grips, but perhaps they are cheaper at major retailers. While the grips are bright, colorful and sturdy, my youngest to my oldest (as well as myself) had trouble fitting our fingers comfortably into the grooves of the grip no matter how we turned it. 

Overall, I am extremely pleased with the content and quality of the MEGA Brands LeapFrog paper-based educational material and plan to purchase additional items for our upcoming school year. I am particularly interested in the Dry Erase Crayons as well as some of the other workbooks and dry erase boards for pre-K. 

You can find them at:


FACEBOOK as MEGA Bloks

TWITTER as MEGA Brands

If any of you have tried them, I'd love to hear your opinion of the products! 


***Any links posted are NOT affiliate links. 





The Classical Historian- Review

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My latest product review comes from The Classical Historian and in all honesty, this has been a very difficult post to write. I am currently homeschooling my five children, who range  in age from 3 to 15 years old. We tend to gravitate towards unschooling and eclectic teaching methods, which is probably why I found this product a bit too structured and overwhelming for us. It just wasn't a good fit for our family. Having said that, I do think that it could be an excellent resource for other homeschooling families! 

One of the products I received for review was the Ancient History Go Fish card game pictured below. I was very surprised to find that this game was intended for ages THREE and up as it seemed to be geared more for older kids than pre-k students.

$11.95
Click on picture to enlarge.

I tried playing Go Fish with my 3 and 5 year old children, but they quickly lost interest. They did enjoy looking at some of the pictures on the cards,  like the "Pyramids of Giza", "Tipi", and "Stonehenge" but other cards like "Attila the Hun"and "Emperor Qin" actually scared them. The "hints" written on the cards meant nothing to them (and I even had a hard time with a lot of them). They have asked several times to look at the cards, so perhaps in time they will come to be more interested in the game and enjoy learning more about ancient history.



I do love how the Go Fish Game is actually 4 games in 1 and includes instructions for:

1. Go Fish


2. Collect the Cards

3. Chronology

4. Continents 


I was very pleased with the quality of this deck of 50 jumbo cards and in my opinion, they will hold up well. If your child is a visual learner and loves ancient history, I think you might have found a match! 

The Classical Historian carries another ancient history product that I think my younger children might enjoy very much, and that is the Memory Game, available for $14.95.


Right now, the Go Fish and Memory games can be purchased together for $19.99! Great deal!

I also received part of the Classical Historian Ancient Civilizations Curriculum, which is one complete year of study for grades 6-8.

It includes:
    The entire curriculum is available for the purchase price of $168.99.
    To view a curriculum sample, please click here.
    Like I mentioned earlier, I found this curriculum to be too structured for us and not a good fit for the learning style of my children. I do love how the lessons ask questions that involve some in-depth thinking on the part of the student, but a lot of writing is involved as well. 
    Having to go from lesson guide, to DVD, to one book then another was very overwhelming for me. The lessons are very well thought out and I can tell that a lot of time and effort were put into each and every one. The discussion questions and research subjects are excellent and thought provoking. If you like structure, this might just be the curriculum for you!
    The Classical Historian has available reading guides, primary sources, textbooks, and discussion questions for the five specific periods of ancient, medieval, early American, modern world, and modern American history for students in grades 3 and up, including year-long courses for students in grades 6-12.

To learn more about the Socratic teaching method, visit the Mission Statement page. 

Interested in Online Classes for your Junior High student for the 2013-2014 school year? Click here for more information.

Just in time for Independence Day, The Classical Historian is offering a free summer lesson from American Democracy and Economics. 


Find them on Facebook or visit them at www.classicalhistorian.com to sign up for their monthly newsletter to receive coupons and teaching tips.

To view a video sample of the dvds included in the curriculum, click here.






Apologia: "How Do We Know God is Really There?" Book Review

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Written by: Melissa Cain Travis
Illustrated by: Christopher Voss
ISBN: 978-1-935495-96-3
$16.00

After taking some time off from my blog and from reviewing products, I was a bit excited (and relieved) that my come-back review would be something from Apologia! They have NEVER disappointed me and I have quite a few of their products on my bookshelf already. 

This time, I had the honor of reviewing "How Do We Know God is Really There?", a wonderful book that is the first of a new series of picture books designed for children as early as pre-readers. If the other books are anything like this one, I think they will do a wonderful job teaching children about the Christian faith with an understanding that can easily be grasped. 
Mr. B looking through the book by himself.
I read "How Do We Know God is Really There?" to my 3 and 5 year old children. I have to say, I was very surprised when they actually let me read the book to them and didn't interrupt every 5 seconds (which, being the inquisitive little souls that they are, is what they normally do). They were an enraptured audience, for sure, as they sat listening to the story of Thomas and his father and how they shared time alone in a tree house that they built together, just talking and watching the skies through a telescope. The relationship between father and son is touching.

Mr. B had many questions at the end of the story, some of which made me laugh. My favorite was, "Momma, can you really drive a race car on the rings of Saturn?" 



The illustrations by Christopher Voss are literally out of this world and pair perfectly with the story written by Melissa Cain Travis. My son's favorite question is "why?", and sometimes, I just don't have the answer. Usually, he will ask me to look it up on my computer because, the answers "Just Because" or even "Because the Bible says so," just doesn't cut it anymore. Travis and Voss do a WONDERFUL job in helping to explain "why" to my curious one and honestly, it is the best explanation I've seen yet. 

The one and only "con" for me is that scripture quotations are from the NIV. While not a huge deal, we do prefer the KJV 1611.

If you are interested in learning more about this book, visit the Apologia website and view sample pages here. This will open a pdf file containing 11 pages.

Find Apologia on FACEBOOK and TWITTER too!