JazzEdge: PianoWithWillie – A Review

I was SO excited to get an opportunity to personally review JazzEdge‘s piano curriculum, which is called PianoWithWillie. As a musician, and someone who has wanted to learn the piano and more in-depth music theory, this program has given me the opportunity for me to do just that. For this review, I was given a Studio Membership for one year, which includes 3500+ lessons, a 30-day start program, sheet music, audio downloads, unlimited support, and more.

JazzEdge was founded by Willie Myette, a Berklee graduate, who wanted to put all of his jazz education and performance ventures in one place. He has lessons available in jazz, funk, latin, rock, gospel and blues for everyone, including homeschool families. The different programs offered by Willie are: PianoWithWillie, DrumsWithWillie, Homeschool Piano, and Easy Piano Basics.img-home-play-slide1_zpsvfgbjtyp

Willie’s teaching theory includes complete integration between Rhythm, Technique, Reading, Song, Style, and Concept. His idea is to make learning fun.. not just learning the foundations, but to make it fun in the process. By the 4th lesson in his 30-day start program, you are playing a fun little song. This will keep students entertained as they learn. By the 8th lesson, students are already learning about improvisation.

This program is extremely comprehensive. The 30-day start program is great for either a refresher course or a cram course for a newer player. After that, there are a TON of lessons that will teach you how to play a variety of songs in many different genres. Willie’s demeanor is great, very relaxed, and makes you see learning the piano as what it should be… fun.img-home-play-slide2_zpsolv6lwdl

It works on all different types of devices… computer, iPhone, iPad, etc. You basically watch the lesson video of the day and work on the musical piece you’ve been given. All of the sheet music and mp3s are downloadable for you, along with instructions, so you don’t have to worry about something not being explained. The interface shows Willie’s instruction at the bottom of the screen, along with a shot of him playing the keyboard with another virtual keyboard above, showing the notes he’s playing. It’s really, really cool.


I actually am going through the curriculum myself, as my kids have never had any real music training so they’re not to the point that this program would work for them. I would recommend that anyone who uses this curriculum is already a musician and has a basic understanding of the piano and reading music. If you are a true beginner, Willie’s Homeschool Piano may be a better fit for you. There is also a program for young beginners called Easy Piano Basics that you may want to check into.

I highly recommend that you check out all of Willie’s programs for your homeschool music lessons. Your kids will get a good foundation of music theory and practice no matter which program you choose. It’s an incredibly rich and comprehensive curriculum that shows he has put a ton of time, effort, and love of music into it.

Social Media: 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PianoWithWillie
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PianoWithWillie
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jazzedge
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/JazzEDge
Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/jazzedge

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FishFlix.com: Privileged Species – A Review

logo_zpswsrc2mmkFishFlix.com offers a huge variety of Christian movies from every genre and for every age group. The company that eventually became FishFlix.com started more than 10 years ago when Dr. Enis Sakirgil, a Turkish Christian, started producing Christian films. When he immigrated to the United States, Dr. Sakirgil started online sales of his movies: Apostle Paul and the Earliest Churches film. This developed into selling other Christian films online, which became FishFlix.com. This Christian-led company is now based in Mora, Minnesota and exists to glorify God in all that they do. They still have ties with Turkey through a partnership with a radio ministry there.

privileged species_zps2bekzkpdI received a DVD of Privileged Species: How the Cosmos Is Designed for Human Life to review. Throughout the film, featuring geneticist and author Michael Denton, we learn about various elements and how they all come together perfectly to support human life.

The film opens with Bill Nye, the Science Guy basically rambling about how he is a “speck” in the universe… a speck on a speck on another speck, etc. It really hit me just how depressing life would be if it really was just us. If there really was no God. It made me sad for the Science Guy, who was making light of the fact that his perspective offers no hope.

After the opening clip, Michael Denton explores carbon compounds, water, oxygen, and just the overall way the universe is aligned in order to create a perfect living environment for humans on earth. He presents the evidence in a way that is simple to understand and incredibly eye-opening. There are so many puzzle pieces that came together to support human life.

As a need-to-see-it kind of person, I love to learn about scientific evidence for creation. This movie points directly to an intelligent design to the universe. The proof presented in Privileged Species strengthened my faith quite a bit. Most of us, whether we admit it or not, have wondered about the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere. It just seems like with all that space, it would be a waste for there not to be life on other planets… in other galaxies. But I’ve never really thought about it the way I do after watching this film. No matter how much space there is in the universe, it literally was all put there to create perfect balance for us. God put all of the elements together… for us. Even the supernovae carry the exact energy needed to help keep everything in balance. This was such a revelation for me.

I highly recommend this short 33-minute film for everyone to watch, especially for those in your life who may not believe in creationism or intelligent design of our universe.

FishFlix.com is a great Christian-led company that offers Christian and family-friendly movies in all categories, including: Children’s Christian movies, Apologetics, Educational, Christian History, Biblical movies, Dramas, Romance, Action, Biographies, Comedies, Sports films, Christmas movies, and many other types of films. They offer free shipping for all orders over $35.

Social Media: 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fishflix
Twitter: https://twitter.com/christiandvd
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/fishflix/
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+Fishflix/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/familychristianmovie

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Successful Homeschooling Made Easy – A Review

75600856-432e-4555-b3b4-8f4b2a3a0741_zpsb9t1zefmThis is the course I wish I would have found when I FIRST decided to homeschool. The Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Course is a 26-week online course for new homeschoolers, and is full of all of the wonderful information that I pieced together last summer. As a new homeschooler this year, there were so many areas where I didn’t know exactly what to do and felt inadequate. Stephanie Walmsley walks through everything you need to get off to a great start in your homeschooling journey. The information taught is better and more comprehensive material than anything I read through before our year started.

I also love the format. Stephanie emails you the lessons one week at a time, which means you can’t skip ahead. Each week, you have instructions and assignments, and you have time to actually do everything and see how it works with your family before moving on to the next lesson.

Here are some of the areas covered throughout the course:

• Step by step instructions on how to work out your vision and plan your goals.• Step by step instructions on how to make a schedule and develop it as you go along.• How to handle obstacles and keep going when things get tough.

• How to write a lesson plan.

• How to teach subjects like music appreciation and arts and crafts.

• How to fireproof your homeschool and never ever suffer from burnout.

• How to plan curriculum.

• How to get your housework done while homeschooling.

• How to keep your household organized and tidy while homeschooling.

• How to keep records.

• Hear from experienced homeschoolers about what makes them successful.

• How to avoid common pitfalls of homeschooling.

• How to be more efficient in homeschooling.

• How to bring your child out of school and deal with the special challenges that entails.

• What to do instead of school reports.

• How to really ENJOY homeschooling.

So far, I’ve gotten through 9 weeks of the program and have learned so much about myself and about how to set myself up for success in homeschooling. I’ve learned how to piece together courses slowly, how to find our family’s vision for homeschooling, how to balance housework and get the kids involved, how to figure out the right amount of outside activities for our family, and so many other things that I really never thought through.

During the course, Stephanie walks step-by-step through making sure you take care of yourself so that you can be fresh and prepared for homeschooling days. It is also designed to use WHILE you are doing school. You start with only a couple of subjects and add in something new each week, while you’re learning. It’s a very easy-to-follow format and not overwhelming in the least.

If you’re thinking about homeschooling or getting ready to start your first year, I highly recommend that you check into Successful Homeschooling Made Easy. It will be a great investment and you’ll find it easier to get started off on the right foot. Stephanie is so sure you will love it that she offers a 30-day money back guarantee. You can download a free preview here: Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Preview.

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Real Life Press: Firmly Planted, The Gospels Part 2 – A Review

real-life-press-logo_zps1dhdihp5I was immediately drawn to the title of the family Bible studies offered by Real Life Press, written by Heidi St. John. The name Firmly Planted draws quite close to my heart, as this blog was founded on the concept of growing where we are planted. Psalm 1:3 is the key verse for this set of Bible studies: Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord; he is like a tree, firmly planted by streams of water who yields its fruit in due season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Yep, I was immediately hooked. 🙂

For this review, our family was given a complete set of Firmly Planted, The Gospels Part 2: Stories from the Life of Jesus. This includes the Family Study Guide and the Student Workbook. You can get them as a PDF download or as a black-and-white print set, depending on which format works best for your family.

Firmly Planted Gospels 2_zpsxl13k57xThis is such a great study! Each week of the 10-week study sets up with the scripture passage that will be studied throughout the entire week, plus a specific verse/passage for students to memorize, the main idea for the week, and extra explanation and activities to enhance the lessons. After the weekly overview, there are daily studies for each day through the week, which help to direct the topic of conversation to a different learning moment each day. The Student Workbook is INCREDIBLE! There are so many activity options, including nature studies, crosswords and word searches (with choices for younger or older students), coloring pages, mazes (with choices for younger or older students), copywork, journal & drawing pages, vocabulary lessons, fill-in-the-blanks, plus special digging deeper sections for your oldest student(s).

Here’s one lesson from Week 3: Jesus and Zaccheus as an example of how we are using Firmly Planted, The Gospels Part 2:

First, we learned the Zaccheus song. You remember… “Zaccheus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he.” 🙂 Music really helps kids remember concepts. After the song, Josh and Katherine climbed up in our tree to understand more about what Zaccheus may have felt like, wanting to see Jesus over all of those tall people!


Next, we read through the scripture passage and talked about the meaning, the main idea of how Jesus has compassion on all of us… The kids then got to do some “fun” work, reinforcing what we learned. Here is Katherine working on the Maze for Younger Ones.


And Joshua doing his coloring page…


I helped him do the Crossword Puzzle for Younger Ones because he’s not writing yet, but he got most of the answers right when I asked him!


Here is Katherine working on the copywork that goes with the lesson…


These few activities are really just a sampling of what’s included in the 259-page Student Workbook. It is so comprehensive and I think using a variety of activities helps kids retain so well!

Here are a few of the other products offered by Real Life Press, including more Bible studies plus homeschooling help books, that you may want to check out:

Guide to Romance_zpshbbmjaqq Guide to Daylight_zpswevzieff Firmly Planted Moses_zpsv2iyjloj Firmly Planted Gospels_zpsmub6mib9

Lapbooking Made Simple_zpsbnftrjri


So what do we think of Firmly Planted, The Gospels Part 2?

We love it! I highly recommend this study for homeschooling AND non-homeschooling families. It is a great, short, comprehensive daily study that can be used by families with kids of all ages. There are so many different pieces. You can choose to use what you want, and not use others. Everything is broken down for you in a very easy-to-understand and easy-to-teach fashion. This is definitely one to check out for your next family Bible study!

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ARTistic Pursuits: The Way They See It – A Review

artisticpursuitslogo_zps6ce0e764This is the first time I’ve found an art curriculum that is made specifically for preschoolers. Of course, you can find tons of arts & crafts books, coloring books, activity books, etc.; however, ARTistic Pursuits has created a beautiful fundamental art course for kids who are 3 to 5 years old. We received a copy of the course book The Way They See It for our homeschool use.

covPreschool002_zps28e3788fThe Way They See It is a 26-lesson book that combines art appreciation and projects… at a preschool level! The lessons are so unique in presentation! Each lesson begins with a Grown-Up Talk section to help us as parents to understand what we need to be looking for in our kids’ art development. Then the children are shown a famous work-of-art and learn how to describe what they see based on the discussion questions. Finally, each lesson provides a project for the students to complete based on the methods they have just learned about. The Way They See It involves a variety of media, including painting, drawing, and sculpting.

You will need to do some prep work for this course. Obviously, you’ll need to collect the art supplies (you will probably already have most of them on hand). 🙂 In addition to collecting materials, you’ll need to read the Grown-Up Talk section ahead of time to prepare your mind (and eyes) to teach by doing.

The first lessons I worked through with Joshua were the ones in the back of the book that are specifically designed to teach your kids FIRST SKILLS of art… holding your scissors, cutting, holding crayons and pencils, etc. I did this WITH him, so he could see the correct way. The only thing I “fixed” while he worked was how he was holding his scissors.



As he got better with his basic skills, we moved on to the main lessons in the book. Big sister even did one of them with us! 🙂 Josh’s favorite project was the “How Big I Am” drawing. He is not exactly the stay-still-and-do-work type of child (to say the least), so this allowed him to physically get out of his chair and lay down on the floor for Mommy to trace him.


While he was coloring, I talked him through the painting The Cradle by Berthe Morisot, which was the basis for this project. The discussion basically compares being a baby with being “how big you are” now. Although kids this age don’t necessarily have the longest attention spans, I know he was listening and at least soaking in some of it.


Here you can see his finished drawing… As I said before, he’s not the type of kid who sits still for long, and he’s not my artsy one, so here is Joshua’s interpretation of what he looks like…


He had fun with it anyway. 🙂

So what do we think of The Way They See It by ARTistic Pursuits?

I personally love this program so much! For the longest time, I was trying to cut FOR Joshua, or color FOR Joshua because he was struggling so much with how to hold the scissors, how to actually make an accurate cut, and how to draw accurately. But the Grown-Up Talk sections in The Way They See It really helped me to slow down and let him do things for himself, and to encourage him in how well he was doing. It made me realize that it would ultimately be better in the long run for me to SHOW him, to actually do the art WITH him, modeling the correct way. I definitely recommend this program. It is a thorough course that helps artsy and non-artsy moms to understand how preschoolers learn, see, and do.

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Memoria Press: First Start Reading – A Review

First-Start-Reading_zpsqd605krrKatherine has been struggling with learning to read, so we were excited to get the opportunity to review Memoria Press’ First Start Reading Program! This is a great classical curriculum that teaches phonics and writing skills for young learners. We received a Teacher Book and Workbooks A-D to use for our study. For each lesson in the Teacher Book, there is a small copy of the student workbook page and a detailed description (with word-for-word what to say to the student) of how to teach the lesson. This is literally an open-and-go program. No planning ahead is necessary. It is simple, direct, and you know the basic format of what you will do each day. I’m going to walk you through one lesson so that you can see how it works.

This is a lesson in the Teacher Book, completely planned out for you!


First, K colored the pictures that start with /t/….


Next, I read a list of words to her and asked which words BEGIN with /t/. Then I read another list of words and asked which words END with /t/. On to the next page, K drew a picture of something that starts with /t/ (I helped a little) :), then she worked on correct letter formation. The workbook page shows the correct way to form each letter.


How this program really becomes cool is that after you’ve learned a few letters, the next lesson will combine the letters so the student feels confident about reading simple words. Here is an example of a combo lesson, after she had already learned the letters a, n, f, m, and r. She felt really confident because she was able to read a simple sentence. There were high fives involved. 🙂


At the end of each workbook (A-D), there are review lessons and assessments to ensure that your students are ready to move on to the next book. It’s a perfect combination of mastery and spiral learning in my opinion. As you progress further in the program, your students will begin to read longer sentences, short stories, and longer stories in Workbook D. It is a slow progression (but not too slow) and methodical. It’s also good for students who may be reading a little already, and you can skip quickly through the first lessons until you get to where you need to really dig in and focus. You can find samples of the Teacher Book and each of the Workbooks at the Memoria Press site: First Start Reading.

So what did we think of Memoria Press’ First Start Reading?

  1. It is extremely easy to use. All instructions are well written, consistent, and easy to follow.
  2. There is a great variety of activities… coloring, drawing, listening, reading, and writing. This keeps students focused.
  3. It probably is best for ages 4-7 (and struggling readers who are a little older). The format is easy to use, but does not feel “childish” so as to push away older students who are struggling.
  4. The combination of reading and printing in this program set it apart. I love that instead of having to switch books to change from reading to writing, everything is combined in one. It just makes sense that students learn to write the same letters/words/sentences they are learning to read.
  5. Overall, it is a great learning-to-read program that is structured in a way that we haven’t seen before! I definitely recommend this program!

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GPA Learn_zpsyds4cdstI am excited to share my review of GPALOVEMATH, a product of GPA LEARN! This is a really cool web-based math program, which is great for visual learners. It is the most unique format of teaching math I’ve ever seen. Specifically for grades K-5, animated characters serve as learning coaches, walking children through fun adventures that actually teach them to understand math. Here you can see the characters that are presented throughout elementary learning…

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Because our 3rd grader is back in traditional school, I decided to use this specifically with our Kindergartener (and to let our Preschooler watch along with her). The Kindergarten program is led by Detective Digits and he walks kids through very basic number operations. While this is a really cool format, it didn’t work very well for Katherine. She quickly became bored, as the lessons (in my opinion) were quite long and drawn out for children that young. However, she is very good at math already. If you have a younger child who is just starting to learn, this will be a great program! Here are a couple of examples of what your Kindergartener would see on the screen:

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I decided to also let Jeffrey (3rd grader) work through a lesson to get his opinion. He is also very good at math, but loves this kind of interactive program. He loved it and thought it was a very fun format. The only thing I would say about the 3rd grade theme is that it is probably more geared for boys. I’m not sure how much the girls would enjoy Abacus the robot (but that may just be me). 🙂 The good news is that I can use this program to help him with certain math topics that are struggles for him. Here are some examples of what Jeffrey worked through:

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 11.10.56 AM

You can see on the left side of the screen the progression of how the students work through the program. First, they go through many screens of instruction, then they do practice, and then they take a quiz. This format is great, and they can move at their own pace.

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With each lesson, the students are given the Prime Directive for the day, which helps them know beforehand what they need to learn along the way. Abacus walks through each individual step in a very colorful, visual way. Super for the visual learner!

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There is a reward system in place so that kids can receive special bonuses as they reach their goals. Here are a few examples of rewards that can be offered:

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 11.12.26 AMAs you can see, GPALOVEMATH is a very unique program. It definitely has its benefits! We were a little annoyed by the robotic voices of the characters, which disappointed me a little after the introduction video we watched had a very animated voice. Some words (sometimes important words) dropped off with the wrong inflection and were a little difficult to understand. I could see this potentially causing issues particularly with younger children. However, that being said, it’s a great program that can help your kids have fun while learning math!

We used an iMac when accessing this online program. The site is very easy to maneuver and the setup is super easy, as well. Sections and topics are very clearly labeled and easy to follow. The kids can each have a screen name so they can log in whenever they need to. The only platform that is apparently having issues is the Kindle Fire, but GPA LEARN is currently working on fixing that.

Cost for GPALOVEMATH is $149 per year or $12.99 per month (per student). Want to try it? You can do a 30-day trial for FREE! You can also check them out on social media outlets: Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


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Visual Learning Systems – Review of Digital Science Online

VLS_LOGO_PRINT_LARGE_zpscizfrv4yI am excited to share my review of Digital Science Online, a product of Visual Learning Systems! This is an incredible science program, offered in two levels: Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) and Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12). Within each edition, there are videos (with written scripts), animations, still images, student activities, and teaching materials. The best thing about this particular curriculum is that it is VERY flexible! It can be used as a standalone program, for developing unit studies, in delight-directed homeschools, as enhancement to your existing science program, etc. There are endless possibilities for how you can use this!

DSO HomePage_zpszruzfv1l

Because the kiddos I’m teaching at home are ages 4 and 7, I’m going to tell you about our usage of the one-year subscription for the online Elementary Edition. It includes a primary section (for grades K-2) and an elementary section (for grades 3-5). We actually used both sections interchangeably, dependent on the subject matter. There are over 136 units available to use! These units include topics in earth science, life science, physical science, and even health. They go from very basic overviews of science concepts to more in-depth looks at specific topics. Here are some examples of topics covered in the K-5 edition:

  • Energy and Heat
  • Gravity
  • Electricity
  • Matter
  • Measuring
  • Weather
  • Seasons
  • Day and Night
  • Plants & Animals
  • Biomes

We started out using certain videos to supplement another Science program that we were using. However, the videos were so comprehensive that we ended up stopping the other program and switching to just Digital Science Online for the duration of the review period. My kids are so young (and not reading yet), so our lessons mostly consisted of watching the videos and talking about them. For your older kids, the printable activities are awesome!

At the beginning, we learned about basic Science concepts, then we moved on to animals (my kiddos love animals). 🙂 While we were waiting for our caterpillars to turn into butterflies, we watched videos about animal life cycles and discussed what was happening. During severe weather week, we used the weather units to talk about tornadoes and hurricanes. There is so much great stuff packed into this curriculum that we only scratched the surface!

We used an iMac when accessing this online program. As the kids’ iMac is an older one, this program was not compatible with the older version of Safari that was loaded onto that Mac. It worked great on Google Chrome, however! The site itself is very easy to maneuver. Sections and topics are very clearly labeled and it’s easy to move from one video to another. You can print a complete teacher’s manual along with any of the student worksheets that you would like to use.

My kiddos love this program! One day, they sat and enjoyed several animal videos one after the other. Even with a short attention span, younger kids are fascinated by shows that come up on a big screen! 🙂 I like it, as well. The only note I want to add is that it is a secular program. If you are Christian, just be ready and willing to navigate the difficult conversations with the kids.

We are planning to continue to use the program throughout the year and definitely recommend this for any style of homeschool environment! Homeschool subscription pricing is significantly lower than classroom cost (only $99 per year). If you prefer DVDs to an online subscription, those are available as well at 50% off list price!

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