Radio for Kids (Smart Kidz review)

Smart Kidz Radio
Kids love music. I’ve never met one who didn’t. But the mainstream stations aren’t always appropriate for them. To respond to this need, Smart Kidz Media has developed an online radio station for kids called Smart Kidz Radio.

smart kidz ssMuch like a traditional radio station, you can listen to whatever is on live. Unlike a regular station, though, there are also prerecorded podcasts with things like fairy tales to listen to. When you go to the website and log in, the radio station starts playing whatever the live feed has going on automatically. If you want one of the other options, it’s easy enough to find using the “menu” button near the bottom of the screen. (It’s a little cut off on my screen shot just because it didn’t all fit in the capture.)

At the time of this post, the live portion of Smart Kidz Radio is available for free, but you do need to sign up for an account. There are absolutely no hidden fees included – you only need an email address and a password, no credit card. The “on demand” service, which costs $3.99 per month, has over 1,000 original songs available covering a variety of topics for kids ages 1 and up. Some of the categories are listed as “all ages.” The on demand includes such topics as life skills, survival skills, bedtime songs, and even baby sign language.

Dubbed “edutainment,” this radio station definitely delivers on that promise. The songs are good for young kids, roughly lower elementary school age, and the station is ad-free. There are times during the live feed that the songs repeat, but it’s not really a problem; regular radio stations do that too. In fact, one might argue that it’s a good thing as repetition can help kids learn the songs. By learning the songs on the Smart Kidz Radio station, they learn lessons.

It does not currently work for mobile devices, even if you’re going through the website. This was quite a problem for us as I don’t have a computer in the house during the day (only iPads accessing wifi), so we didn’t get to listen to it as much as I’d hoped. The little bit we were able to utilize was pretty fun, though. Small Fry and Dragonfly seemed to really enjoy it. I’ll definitely be using it a lot more when they get the apps up and running! (The website has a link to take you to the app store, but when I searched for it on the App Store on my iPad, there was nothing found.)

Blessings,

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Smart Kidz Radio {Smart Kidz Media Reviews}
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Seahawk

I just wanted to share a few more pictures of Seahawk wearing the sweater I made for him. Will took them, so they’re a bit better than those I shared in this post. He’s got a better natural eye for pictures than I do 😉

Fun fact: that building in the background is where I went to elementary school. It’s now the “cultural center” in town, and the older two kids used to take a class there called Club Mud where they did pottery. (They’re so little in those pictures! You should totally click through that link and enjoy a blast from my past, especially if you didn’t follow my blog back then.) They still have a few of the projects they made in that class. Will always says that the building looks like Crunchem Hall from Matilda, and he’s glad he didn’t have to go to school there. It wasn’t a bad place at all, though; much brighter and friendlier than the outside looks.

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Blessings,

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Traditional Logic (Memoria Press review)

Seahawk (age 14) loves to study logic. Together, we’ve gone through several different courses in the subject that we’ve found online over the years, and they’re always one of his very favorite classes. So when the chance to review Traditional Logic I Complete Set from Memoria Press came up, I eagerly asked for the set for him. Several weeks in, and I’m still glad I did. And based on Seahawk’s eagerness to do this class each day – and high performance on all of the exercises and tests – he is too.

What is Traditional Logic?

This course from Memoria Press (leaders in homeschool classical education), written by Martin Cothran, is all about traditional, formal logic – the kind developed by the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. These quotes from the “A Note to the Teacher” at the beginning of the textbook sums it up perfectly:

Traditional logic trains the mind to respect truth, and indeed assumes a Christian view of truth throughout…

And

This book discusses traditional logic rather than modern logic. Traditional logic is the study of the classical syllogism; modern logic is the study, primarily, of the calculus of propositions.

What this means is that if you’re looking to teach your child about the many informal fallacies that many other logic classes focus on (with assignments such as “find an example of this in today’s newspaper), this isn’t the course for you. If you want to teach your child to think about and focus on truth, validity, and soundness, then look no further.

The Course Components

Our package from Memoria Press included 5 items: the textbook, a workbook, a test book, an instructional DVD, and the teacher answer key. Through our use of the program, I can easily say that every single component has been absolutely essential. Here’s how we’ve been using it.

logic 2Each chapter in the textbook has corresponding questions in the workbook and a corresponding video lesson on the DVD. The workbook gives clear instructions on what to do when; that is, the series of questions is broken up into 4 days worth of work. Day 5 is the quiz/test each week. The only thing I was unsure about was the DVD; there was nothing to suggest how this fit in with everything else, which seemed very complete. But at the beginning of week 2, we put in the DVD just to see if there was something obvious we were missing by not having used it the first week. Boy, what a difference this tool made for my auditory learner! It’s nothing fancy, just the instructor giving a lecture on each chapter (broken up on the DVD for easy navigation right to where you need to be). But it made such a huge difference for Seahawk to be able to hear the information rather than just read it to himself out of the text that we will definitely not be doing any more lessons without it.

How We Use It

logic 1On Monday, Seahawk watches the DVD lesson and answers the Day 1 questions. On Tuesday he goes back to the textbook and reads a short section for review and answers the Day 2 questions. Same with Wednesday and Thursday (but for Days 3 and 4, respectively). On Friday, he does the chapter quiz. When he finishes each day’s questions (all of this work is done independently, which is great because it frees me up to work with my Kindergartener or to do a complicated lesson with my 6th grader), we go over the answers together. I have him read me his answers while I compare them to the teacher guide.

As of today, he has never missed more than part of answer on any one assignment – yes, over the whole assignment he gets every single question correct. This is how I know he’s enjoying the course – he’s paying attention, learning a lot, and even writing his answers in complete sentences (usually it’s like pulling teeth to get more than one or two words on a written assignment from him).

This class is a definite winner for us!

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New American Cursive & Traditional Logic {Memoria Press Reviews}
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Understanding Pre-Algebra (review)

We’ve used some books from The Critical Thinking Co.™ in the past, and they’ve been big hits with my boys. I like how they teach not only things that you need to know, but also how to “think out” how to get there. For today’s review, I’ll be talking about Munchkin (age 11, coming out of 6th grade) and his use of Understanding Pre-Algebra.

The Critical Thinking Co.™
The timing on our receipt of this book was perfect as he had just finished up his 6th grade (generic) math book. Understanding Pre-Algebra is a combination textbook and workbook – everything is self contained, which has been nice. The lessons are fairly short (a couple of pages of reading) followed by practice exercises. No different from a traditional textbook except that there are lines on which to write the answers so no additional paper is necessary. Because of this format, the book is quite large – 8.5 x 11 and nearly 450 pages.

It opens with a chapter on number families. The book explains the different types of number groups used in higher level mathematics (natural numbers, whole numbers, integers, rational and irrational numbers, etc). This chapter lists 5 sections in the table of contents, but they were all simple enough concepts that we (me teaching and Munchkin working) were able to finish it in just 2 days.

pre alg 1The second chapter, Working with Integers, has been a lot more new information for him, and thus is taking us longer to get through. Because Munchkin hasn’t done a lot of work with negative numbers to date, it’s a lot for him to try to grasp at a time (he’s a literature kid, not a math kid, so it’s especially tricky for him to wrap his mind around), so we’re taking it slow. I want him to understand the concepts, not just be able to fill out the worksheet today and forget it tomorrow – which he is definitely prone to do with math. But this is just one more reason I really like this curriculum for him so far – some of the questions require more than just a mathematical answer, which helps to cement the information (and its how and why) in the child’s brain. One example of such a question is is this one from chapter 1: “Joan said that 27 cannot be divided by 2. Is she right? Explain your thinking.” Munchkin correctly answered, “Yes. 27 does not divide by 2 because 27 is odd.” That “explain your thinking” part is what will help him remember concepts from one day to the next.

pre algebra 2Even though we’re not super far into the book, I can tell that it’s going to be a fantastic fit for my son based on what we’ve done so far. The information is presented well, in an easy to understand way. The chapter titles tell me precisely what he will be learning, and it’s all important as he moves through pre-algebra to prepare for Algebra I. Some of them are things he struggled with in his previous math book (specifically volume and surface area), so I’m glad they will be repeated in this book. Some of the things (inequalities, scientific notation) are in the Algebra I book his big brother (14) is working through right now, which is how I know this book will lead beautifully into that one. All in all, I’m very glad we were chosen to have the opportunity to review this book. It’s definitely a keeper for us!

Blessings,

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Critical Thinking, Understanding Math & Vocabulary {The Critical Thinking Co.™ Reviews}
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The Importance of Missions

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I spent the weekend a couple of weeks ago at our denomination’s annual Missionary Convention. I go most years as an elected delegate (meaning I have the right to vote for the new committee members), and this year was no different. I’d like to take some time today to talk about what the convention is like and some of the things I learned.

The Convention moves host churches each year; this year it was far enough away that we (there were a total of 7 from our church) had to stay overnight. It was about a 4 1/2 hour drive each way – our church “district” consists of the entire state. When we arrived, we were just in time for check in, which included picking up name badges, dinner tickets, and event programs, as well as getting the “lay of the land” since we were in a mostly unfamiliar church. Then we headed into the sanctuary for the opening ceremony.

The opening ceremony was a time of worship music and welcome speeches from the district superintendent and district missions president. Then we headed into workshops, which is where a lot of the “real learning” of the convention takes place.

Because I’m the missions president in our local church (a new position for me, and one I’ll try to remember to talk about in the future), I had to use one of my workshop options (there are about 8-10 options, and each person gets to choose 2 to attend) to go to the Presidents’ Meeting. Here, we were told about all the new changes and focuses of the district’s view on missions. In the past, things have pretty all over the place, with most of that focus on fundraising. Now, there are only 5 things they want us to put most of our attention into:

  • Prayer
  • Actively engaging children and youth in missions
  • Connecting with specific missionaries assigned to our church by the district (called Links missionaries)
  • Giving to the World Evangelism Fund (a portion of the church’s total income, not a special offering)
  • Giving to the Alabaster fund (for building churches and parsonages in areas where they’re needed)

I’m quite excited that the emphasis on money has been lowered a bit. My main frustration with being the trainee missions president over the past year is that we don’t do anything but fundraisers – a different one every month practically. Having new emphases on communicating with active missionaries and figuring out how to get kids and teens involved in missions will be a welcome change.

So that’s my big thing for the moment. 

Blessings,

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Reading Biographies Together (YWAM review)

My older kids have always loved biographies. When they were early readers, that’s what they chose to read for fun most of the time. In fact, the first chapter book that Seahawk read on his own was called Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans. Will found it at an antique store for inexpensive, even though it was a first edition from 1805. Munchkin read it not long after Seahawk finished. Ever since then, both of them have been really fascinated by the lives of influential people. That’s why I always try to request one of the biographies from YWAM Publishing when they come up for review. Up to now, we’ve reviewed two books from their Christian Heroes: Then & Now series (CS Lewis and Jacob de Shazer); this time I requested Milton Hershey: More than Chocolate from the Heroes of History series. In addition to the book (written by Janet and Geoff Benge), we also were fortunate to receive the study guide in digital format.

Hershey coverMore than Chocolate tells the story of Milton Hershey, who – you guessed it – founded the Hershey chocolate company. It took him a long time to get to that point though, and the book starts well before the founding of the company. The opening chapter, as with all YWAM biographies (in our limited experience with them, anyway), is more like a prologue than a chapter. It tells a short, exciting story that will take place in more detail later in the book to get kids hooked. Chapter two goes back in time to where they want the biography to actually start. In the case of Hershey, this is to his childhood during the Civil War. The first scene is one wherein his uncles (mother’s brothers) come to where the family of three (his mother was pregnant at the time) back “home” because they thought his father was being irresponsible in his ventures to pan for gold while he had a family to take care of. Henry Hershey was given an ultimatum: he could come or stay, but either way his wife and son were going to be leaving.

In their new city, his parents argued over whether Milton should go to school or not. His mother thought no, because her desires for him were to be a “good Mennonite farmer, husband, and father,” none of which required much formal education. But his father had bigger plans, and he won the argument to send 5-year-old Milton to school.

From this point on, the chapters surrounding his childhood fall quickly, and by the time you get to Chapter 6, Hershey is already making and selling sweets. The book takes you the highs and lows of his career and personal life, including the renaming of his childhood hometown in Pennsylvania (the one the uncles moved them to) from Derry Church to Hershey.

ywam logoBecause YWAM biographies are written in such a personable way, they can often feel like fiction. This is good in that it helps to keep kids’ attention; it’s bad in that adults are left wondering “did things really happen this way?” For that reason, I appreciate that the authors include a bibliography at the end of each of their books. In the Jacob de Shazer book that we read last year, this included personal interviews with his wife and family besides the reference books. In the Hershey book, it’s a list of 5 other books that they used for research. Either way, it’s good to know that things aren’t being created for the sake of writing and selling books.

The digital study guide is really more of a unit study preparation plan for parents and teachers. In its 71 pages, there is so much you could do to make the biography a huge project for your kids! The first section is a list of quotes that relate to the book in one way or another. It’s suggested that these could be used for memorization, to spark conversations as you ask your children to describe how and why they apply to Hershey’s life, or to make a piece of art displaying the quote. I’d like to add that they could also be used for copy work.

ywam unit studyNext is ideas for making a large display that you continually add to as you read through the book. Part 3 is comprehension questions, which is the main part of the study guide that we used. I always have grand ambitions to do a complete unit study surrounding these biographies, but it rarely works out. The questions are good, though, since I read the book aloud to 3 of the boys (Seahawk, 14; Munchkin, 11; and Small Fry, 5) to help make sure they were paying attention. There are six questions for each chapter.

The Student Explorations chapter is the main “meat” of the study guide (if you’re doing more than just reading the book). It gives tons of ideas for turning the different aspects of Hershey’s life into larger learning opportunities, including essay questions/research topics, creative writing prompts, hands-on projects, audio/visual projects, and arts and crafts. There are many options in each of the categories.

The next section is all about planning a field trip or “community event.” It tells you the best ways to go about doing so to make sure your student(s) are prepared to really take in the activities of the event. This leads perfectly into the chapter after it, which is the Social Studies chapter. This covers geography (the places that are significant in the book as well as places Hershey traveled), vocabulary, timeline, and conceptual questions.

Chapter 7 offers more themes to explore, which can easily become huge projects for older kids. The final chapter is the “culminating event,” where students share what they learned, either through speech and recitation or written works, with others. This can be as casual (inviting the homeschooled kids next door over for an hour or two) to formal (a huge dinner with grandparents and friends) as you’d like. The main point is to showcase that your kids did a lot of work and learned a lot of stuff through this study, and everyone wants to share in that accomplishment with them.

Overall, we’ve really enjoyed this biography on Milton Hershey. I highly recommend any of YWAM’s books. Besides getting a great, kid-friendly biography, you’re also supporting a good company with a good mission when you purchase. Books typically cost between $7.50 and $9.99 apiece, depending on where you buy them. I’ve never seen them more than $7.50 directly from YWAM, but they’re often full price somewhere like Amazon.

Blessings,

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Christian Heroes, Heroes of History & Study Guides {YWAM Publishing Reviews}
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