May 31, 2015

Easy Piano Basics~ Beginning Online Piano Lessons {Product Review}

I am a piano teacher. I am asked all the time if there is an online program out there I could recommend for parents desiring to get their children into piano--who don't have access to a LIVE teacher. My answer has always pretty much been--"no, I'm sorry I don't." I had a chance to review Easy Piano Basics from JazzEdge, and as I waited for it, I wondered if this online piano lesson program would be something that I could recommend to friends and family. I also wondered if it might help get Little Britches caught back up to where he was when we stopped his piano lessons two years ago.
Easy Piano Basics Product Review

Product Information

Easy Piano Basics from JazzEdge, is a gentle introduction to piano created by Willie Myette as a way to help students worldwide explore the world of piano--without having to find, or travel to a "real" piano teacher. Willie (a Berkley College of Music graduate)  wanted to create a program where you can listen to your teacher over and over as much as needed in order to review the lessons and have it broken down into simple lessons for the young and old to complete.
Easy Piano Basics is geared for ages 5+, but children younger than 7 will probably need to have their parent learn along with them. The program is available for a one-time fee of $59.95--and you get access to the lessons---unlimited! All the music you need, is available on the same site for downloading--at no extra cost. As long as you have a device with the internet that can play videos, you can use this program!
JazzEdge also offers DrumsWithWillie and PianoWithWillie (an later beginner/intermediate program)
We were given the Easy Piano Basics program to review.

How Did We Use This Product?

The day we got our email sign in, it was a simple log in and go. The page that pulls up after you log in, is the lessons. Each one clearly numbered and labelled. There is also a place on the right where you can download the sheet music--and each page of sheet music is clearly marked with the lesson that goes with it. It was definitely an "open and go" style!
To get started, I had Little Britches go to the piano and I put the laptop on the back of the piano for him to watch. At first he was moaning and groaning, but he got interested quickly by the video and started paying attention. Baby Britches wants to learn too, so they are both sharing a piano bench and listening to the lessons together. 
They took turns playing what was asked of them. They enjoyed doing it together. From this point on, I had Little Britches do one or two lessons every other day at first. He isn't completely new to the piano, though it has definitely been long enough for him to forget things. We soon got to doing one or two lessons a week to allow for practice time. 

How do you know what to practice? It's written on each lesson underneath the video.
You can see here, that on the lesson page (which this is), there is the video to play (with the option to download--and showing how long the video is), as well as easy to find buttons to take you to the lessons before or after. Under each lesson is the recommended practice routine--it is for AFTER the current lesson is completed.

For us, I simply looked over the practice routine, and then had him do it! We worked it in about 4 days a week. I never had to do more then tell him to practice and he went over and did it. 

Here is a video of him practicing his 5 finger scales:

At this point, we are getting ready to start lesson #14 this week and he is getting more confident with the notes and keys--it's starting to come back to him more quickly.

What Are Our Thoughts About This Product?

Little Britches:
"I like it. It's easy to see what I need to do with his piano right there where I can see his fingers and what notes he is playing. I like him teaching me better than mommy--except mommy has better songs to play. But I am almost ready to get my old book back out. I like the short lessons and he knows more than mommy. "


As a piano teacher, I probably analyze it a bit more critically than others would, so remember that as you read these--especially the cons...

*Online Lessons
*Plays on any device that can do videos w/Internet
*Short concise lessons with plenty of review and demonstration
*You can see his fingers play from an overhead camera position AND it lights and names the keys on his demonstration piano.
*It's easy to move to the next lesson
*Lessons are available for downloading if desired
*Practice suggestions are clearly listed under each lesson
*All sheet music is available for easy download to go with the lessons
*Sheet music is clearly labeled with each lesson
*Can review the lesson as many times as needed
*One-time purchase with lifetime access
*Knowledgeable and fun teacher
*Just need a computer/device, and a keyboard/piano

*There is no way to tell whether or not you are truly doing it correctly
As a piano teacher, I need to be able to watch my students as they play. It allows me to offer them reminders, and I can stop them if I see something that needs corrected right away. This includes things like hand positioning, and if they are starting in the wrong place. An online pre-recorded teacher, cannot do this.

*You can't "ask" him a question right away
Sometimes, the students need answers right away...but with this program, you will have to contact them for assistance via phone, email, or forum and wait for an answer. Not necessarily the most convenient, but still it is handy.

*32 great lessons to complete, but...
There are just 32 short lessons in this program. At 3-11 minutes each, that only gives you a chance to scratch the surface of piano. This program is definitely an absolute beginner one. There is no full songs by the end--so you need to go into the next program to get into "real" music so to speak. 

*No Real Theory Lessons
I think an important part of piano lessons is learning the "why" of it. This is made up as theory lessons and some of the best way to apply the information you learn, is to not just play it, but put it onto paper and practice learning to identify whole steps, half steps, intervals, key signatures, etc. With this program you are introduced to it, and shown what it is, but I think the important step of practicing that in worksheet/workbook form is missing. It would be nice to have some little worksheets included with the downloads. I find my own students have greater comprehension when they do them WITH the lesson and music. I'm hoping that I would find this in the next level of lessons where actual books are included.

In summary, if you are looking for a high quality program to teach your child, or yourself piano lessons and you don't know ANYTHING, this is an excellent program to start with. It will teach you the absolute basics in 32 lessons. From these lessons, you will be able to jump into any other program--even if you want a LIVE teacher. The cons are more minor in the grand scheme of things and as I said--I'm more picky since I AM a piano teacher.

Would I Recommend This Program?

Yes! I get asked all the time from friends who DON'T live near me, "what can I use for piano lessons? No one teaches it here!". I can recommend this program. The cost is what I would charge for 4 lessons--so it's very reasonable AND unlike me or any other real teacher, this program allows you to watch it over and over--with unlimited usage! It is definitely BEGINNING--as in EARLY beginner. I would make say more geared for 1st grade and up. If your child is less than 7, you will probably need to take it WITH your child. An adult could easily work through this on their own.

Will we continue to use this program?
Yes! It gives me a chance to catch up Little Britches without me having to stay on top of it. I can hear his progress and as a teacher, pick out things I need to help him on or things he needs to re-watch and re-practice. I plan on letting Baby Britches continue watching it with him because he's almost ready to start for "real" too.

Want to Know More?

We reviewed Easy Piano Basics ($59.95) from JazzEdge and you've seen how we enjoyed it. But what about the next level PianoWithWillie or DrumsWithWillie? Why don't you head on over to see what my fellow crew members had to say!
JazzEdge Review
You can stay in touch with DrumsWithWillie or PianoWithWillie on these social media outlets:



I admit. I am happy to have found something to fill in the gap for Little Britches to be caught back up for piano. I love having someone else doing the review and to be able to just listen and be a PARENT instead of the primary teacher. I like the tutoring role. I plan on using these with Baby Britches for "official" lessons in a few months, but for now he's just enjoying the time with Little Britches.
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May 26, 2015

5 {Favorite} Caldecott Medal Winning Storybooks and Activities too!

It's time for another month of books for the Poppins Book Club. This month we had the pleasure of diving into the world of Caldecott Medal Winners! It was a lot of fun to research all the books that have won the award (named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott and given to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children) and to see what titles received the highest honor since its creation in 1938. I picked a collection of winners to read with the boys and to share with you--books that are rapidly becoming favorites, if they weren't already!
Favorite Caldecott Medal Winning Storybooks and Activities

The links on this blog and in the posts may be affiliate links
Please see my disclosure policy for full details and thank you for your support!

I'm going to share the 5 books that we found and read this month in order (backwards) of the year they won. I've linked up various crafts, activities, and/or lapbooks to go with each selection, so you can turn these books into larger exciting studies!

What Did We Read?

by Dan Santat

The story begins on an island where imaginary friends are born. One day a special friend is born and he patiently waits his turn to be chosen by a real child...but time after time he is overlooked. So he decides to set out on an adventure to find his real child and to finally get his name, Beekle!

What a lovely book! We had the pleasure of reading it during storytime at the library the very day I went to collect the books I needed for this month. The boys LOVED it and the illustrations were so vibrant and intensely gorgeous! The story was so sweet too. Definitely one to snag from the library and well deserving of it's win.

Activity Ideas: 
*I would also give my boys a collection of craft items and let them cut, paint, glue and paste an imaginary friend into existence.

And if you needed another reason to check out this is the trailer:

Locomotive (2014)
By Brian Floca

The book traces the advent of cross-country train travel, focusing on an early trip from Omaha to Sacramento. It is RICH with history as it traces the beginning of the transcontinental railroad and it's migration to the west. You will follow the track west and it will point out many important milestones and landmarks along the way.

We love this book. We actually first discovered it back when we were studying Planes, Trains, and Automobiles for the May 2014 Poppins Book Nook. You can see photos from the book on my post from last year to give you a sense of the fun this book has to offer. It's the perfect tie-in for any transcontinental railroad unit study.

Activity Ideas:
*Train Fingerprint Craft by Frogs, Snails and Puppy Dog Tails
*Toilet Paper Roll Train Craft from Kids Activities Blog
* Could work in a geography unit where you trace on a map the journey of this train

The Biggest Bear (1953)
by Lynd Ward

Johnny Orchard was out one day in the woods, when he stumbled upon a playful bear cub. He decided he was going to raise it as a pet. See the melee that occurs as this "tiny" pet grows up and visits the neighbors!

What a darling little book! It is much more basic...back in the time of hand drawn pen and ink drawings and that is the style. The characters' facial expressions are brilliantly executed and they tell the story so well, words weren't even really needed. My boys especially loved this one and read it over and over again. If I had a printer that was working at the time, we were going to do the lapbook (see below) that goes with this book.

Activity Ideas:
*Kids Bear Craft Using a Fork from Crafty Morning
*Biggest Bear Unit Lapbook
*I would also suggest considering lessons on gun safety with this book.

The Little House (1943)
by Virginia Lee Burton

This is a darling little story about a little family cottage that gradually finds itself surrounded by the big city. The house has a very expressive face in windows, and it is a treat to see time go by, by simply observing the people and "technology" in each scene.

We own this book. We own almost all her books because they are so worthwhile. This book is just darling and the boys read it over and over again. They enjoy hunting for little things in the illustrations (like the little boys skinny dipping!) and they enjoy saying the words along with me.

Activity Ideas:
*The Little House Unit Study Lesson and Lapbook
*The Little House Craft by Creative Family Fun
*I would also suggest letting them watch this Disney short based on the story!

Make Way for Ducklings (1942)
by Robert McCloskey

Mrs. Mallard was sure that the pond in the Boston Public Gardens would be a perfect place for her and her eight ducklings to live.  The problem was how to get them there through the busy streets of Boston.  But with a little help from the Boston police, Mrs. Mallard and Jack, Kack, Lack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack arrive safely at their new home.

Oh, what is not to love about this classic book?? We've read it countless times, but we needed to read it again! We love ducks and especially ducklings--and since we are actually considering OWNING ducks here shortly, we enjoyed reading the story that much more. It's a pleasure to read and the rhyming names of the little ducklings is a tongue twister to be sure!

Activity Ideas:
(There are so MANY activities for this book! Simply do a search of the title on Pinterest and you are set--but here are some of my favorites!)
*Make Way for Ducklings Unit Study and Lapbook
*Ducks Lapbook
*Sensory Bin for Make Way for Ducklings by Wildflower Ramblings
*Paper Plate Duck Craft from Crafty Morning

If you want to see more....

Here is a complete list of all the Caldecott Medal Winners by year from 1938 to Present. You can also see the silver medal winners (the runners up) listed. They are equally worthwhile to check out! I liked finding the older books because the illustrations are SO different from the contemporary winners. Our library has most of the winners, and we will be continuing to check them out to enjoy!

Another place to learn more about them, are from my fellow collaborators! I'm sure that they covered even MORE of the books that I didn't even mention (which is a LOT), so make sure you visit them too!

Bring a Caldecott Honor Book to Life Giveaway!

Why not have some fun crafting your way through some pretty yarn fun crafts while bringing a Caldecott Honor Book to life this month in the Poppins Book Nook?! Every month this group will be offering readers a chance to win a brand new storybook or product that ties in with our theme for the month.

This month one lucky entrant will win the Bring a Caldecott Honor Book to Life Giveaway. The winner will enjoy two fun Caldecott Honor Book themed learning items. The two items that they will win is the Extra Yarn storybook by author Mac Barnett and a fun Yarn Craft Kit by Alex Toys. So let’s all get to reading to Bring a Caldecott Honor Book to Life this month with the Poppins Book Nook!

Entrants must be 18 years or older and reside in a country that receives U.S. Postal mail. This giveaway is brought to you by the company Enchanted Homeschooling Mom who is owner and founder of the Poppins Book Nook. By entering this giveaway you are also acknowledging that you have read and agree to all of the PromoSimple and conditions as well as Enchanted Homeschooling Mom's disclosures found here {}.

Just enter the PromoSimple below to win:

Before you leave, I'd love to ask for you to share YOUR posts about any of the books on the Caldecott Medal Winners list--share them so we can come check them out!

I find it intriguing to look at the books that are selected each year for the Caldecott Medal and ponder how the style has changed over the years. There really isn't just one style that is chosen repeatedly, but a true collection of mediums and design! Every book is a joy to read again and again and it will be a pleasure to continue to seek the rest of the books on the list out!
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May 21, 2015

Fresh from the Kitchen: 5 Tasty Marinade and Rub Recipes

I'm tickled to share with you a guest post from Jessica who blogs at Jebbica's World! She is going to help kick off a great BBQ season with a collection of her favorite homemade rubs and marinades!

Summer is fast-approaching, and that means that it’s...grilling season! Here are some great rubs and marinades that are perfect for your grilled meats and vegetables!

1. Bakers’ House Seasoning

This is super simple to throw together and tastes great on everything! This is my sister’s recipe and is named after her family.

• 1 cup salt
• ¼ cup ground black pepper
• 1/8 cup garlic powder
• 1/8 cup onion powder

2. JJ’s Steak Marinade

We’ve tried a lot of fancy steak marinades over the years, but we always end up going back to this one, because it really adds to a medium-cooked steak without overpowering it. Let’s face it—we want the steak to be the star!

• 1 cup red wine
  (we use whatever we have, which is usually a Cabernet or Malbec…and it’s totally okay to use one that’s maybe been open and sitting in the fridge a few days that might not taste so great by itself!)
• ¼ cup lemon juice
• ¼ balsamic vinegar
• ¼ cup olive oil
• ¼ cup spicy mustard
• 1 tbsp minced garlic (or 1 clove minced)
• 1 tsp horseradish
• 1/2 tsp sea salt
• 1 tsp cracked black pepper

Mix ingredients together and pour into a heavy-duty plastic food bag (gallon freezer bags work well). Place steak in bag and seal. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, flipping bag a time or two in between. Keep the marinade to baste the steak when you’re grilling!

3. JJ’s Grilled Veggie Skewer Marinade

Try this with meat, or without!

• ½ cup olive oil
• 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
• ¼ cup lemon juice
• 2 tbsp spicy mustard
• 1 tsp paprika
• 1 tsp minced garlic
• ½ tsp salt
• ½ tsp cracked black pepper

4. “Jude’s Butt Rub”

Great for just about any kind of meat or BBQ! This is my sister’s recipe and is named after my little nephew, Jude.

• ¼ cup kosher salt
• ¼ cup brown sugar
• 1/8 cup paprika
• 2 tbsp chili powder
• 2 tbsp onion powder
• 2 tbsp garlic powder
• 1 tbsp ground black pepper
• 1 tbsp ground cumin
• 1 tsp ground ginger

5. JJ’s Wasabi Rub

This is somewhere in between a marinade and a dry rub. It creates a kind of paste that you can baste onto burgers, chops, seafood, and more! It seems like it would be spicy, but in the end it creates this kind of tangy crust that really lends itself well to grilled meats.

• ½ cup brown sugar
• ¼ cup wasabi paste
• ½ cup balsamic vinegar
• ¼ cup horseradish
• ¼ cup spicy mustard
• 1/8 cup Old Bay seasoning
• 2 tsp Lawry’s Seasoning Salt
• 1 tsp cracked black pepper

Mix everything together and rub into the outside of the meat of your choice. 
Will turn black-ish when grilled!

Want to print these off for later? 

What are your favorite go-to rubs and marinades for the grilling season? 
Which of these sounds the most tasty to you?

Meet my guest blogger:

Jessica Bowman is a grilling fanatic…at least when it comes to the eating part! She makes grilling a regular part of her healthy weight loss journey in the warmer months and integrates many grilled foods into her healthy lifestyle. So far, she has lost over 50 of 75 lbs! 

Follow her journey and check out other helpful healthy tips at Jebbica’s World and make sure you come find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Google+ to keep up with her adventures!

May 20, 2015

Flight and Metamorphosis DVDs~ Design of Life Vol. 1 and 2 from {Product Review}

We have a tradition of watching nature documentaries on either Friday night or Saturday morning as part of our Sabbath worship. We love learning more about the world God created and being able to glory in His magnificence--but most of the shows are heavily push the evolutionary theory. When I learned about the chance to review two intelligent design focused films from called Flight and Metamorphosis, I was eager for a chance to share them with my family and hoped they would be more along the lines of what we believe.
Product Review: Flight and Metamorphosis by

Product Information is a comprehensive website for Christian movies. Their goal is to bring you family oriented movies for great prices and carry a full line of products from documentaries to apologetic materials to faith based drama, and inspirational children's films. They offer thousands of movies for the young and old and always offer free shipping for orders $35 or more.

Some of the selections they carry include (but are definitely not limited to):
*Exploring Ephesus
*Torchlighters: The John Wesley Story
*Privileged Species
*Unbroken: Legacy of Faith Edition
*Flight AND Metamorphosis~ Design of Life Vol 1 and 2

Our review team was allowed to pick from the list above--I chose to review Flight and Metamorphosis with my family.

How Did we Use This Product?

We chose to watch these DVDs on one Saturday morning (our Sabbath). We have a family tradition of watching a nature documentary of some sort and these fit the bill.

Metamorphosis ($11.18) is a stunning documentary focused on the butterfly and the complexity of its life cycle. The 64 minute film shares rarely seen magnetic resonance imaging to show the changes that happen during metamorphosis in a chrysalis which was very awesome to see. The biologists on the film are very well spoken and interesting as they share their passion of the magic of the butterfly and how it brings them awe and wonder. They openly present the flaws of evolution using the case study of the butterfly's life cycle and share their opinions regarding evidence of supernatural intelligence and mind. My whole family was captivated by this film and we kept pausing it to talk about what we were seeing and learning.

Flight: The Genius of Birds DVD ($11.18) is a wildlife documentary celebrating the life of birds and their incredible unique ability to live life in the skies. The movie is 63 minutes long and films birds all over the world, paying special attention to the inspiring life and migration of the Arctic Tern. Little Britches was excited when this came on, as we studied about this particular bird earlier in our year and so he knew much of what was covered, but enjoyed seeing the bird in "real life" and learning more about how truly remarkable it is.

What Are Our Thoughts?

Little Britches: 
"It was so cool to see all the butterflies. That one was my favorite. I loved the story about the Monarchs. I would love to see them on the trees. Oh and I really liked the car and jet part. It makes the idea of a caterpillar learning to evolve into a butterfly really stupid. I just really like butterflies. I think God made them pretty awesome. The big orange ones are my favorite."

Baby Britches:
"I wike the butterflies! They fly around a lot and they have blue ones. I wike the blue ones with their big wings."

"I thought it was an excellent set of movies. I personally enjoyed the Metamorphosis the most because of how clear it talks about the case for intelligent design in regards to the origin of life. I loved the way they presented the idea of evolution in relationship to the metamorphosis of a butterfly. The computer animation of the plain old car suddenly stopping in the middle of the road, building itself its own shed and turning itself into a jet, was brilliantly done! I would definitely recommend this movie to any family wanting to give their children ammunition to be able to hold their own in the evolution debates. I will be remembering the information myself for future use."

I have to agree with my men. These were fabulous films and the very kind our family adores. The cinematography was very high quality and the presentation of the information superb. Like my men, I too enjoyed the Metamorphosis DVD the best, though Flight was excellent as well. I just love learning about butterflies and the addition of the excellent argument for an "intelligent designer", by exclusively using the life cycle of a butterfly, was brilliantly done. I don't think I've ever heard a case against evolution so succinctly presented, using facts based on scientific evidence BY top scientists. My husband and I both commented that if more evolutionary theory supporting people watched this film, it would be hard for them to not, at the very least, have to pause and think about what they believe.

Would I Recommend This Product?

I think that anyone who supports the belief in the theory of an intelligent designer will find these documentaries exceptional. They are the high caliber presentations along the lines of the big name companies out there in the nature documentary world. These would be excellent videos to use for Science resources or to add to a church media library. I am going to encourage our local congregation to show the DVD Metamorphosis as part of one of our movie nights, because I know it will be high enjoyed.

If you are a supporter of the evolutionary theory in regards to the origin of life, I do not think these movies are for you---although still I think they would still be worth your time to watch, because even just the information and cinematography about the butterflies and birds is excellent.

Want to know more?

Our family reviewed two DVDs from the Design of Life series Flight and Metamorphosis. You know we loved them--but what about the other DVDs available from this company? Make sure you check out the other reviews by my fellow crewmates! Review
You can stay in touch with all the latest news from by connecting with them on these social media outlets:
These videos were so stunning and beautiful, that I know we will enjoy sharing them with friends and family---and keeping them in our collection for future reference (and maybe even Science reports!). I look forward to learning more about the movies that carries.

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May 18, 2015

Revolutionary Ideas~ A Once-A-Week Unit Study from Homeschool Legacy {Curriculum Review}

History. Oh how we love it. What could we like even more? Unit Study History...where we get to study a portion of history and apply it to many different subject areas...THAT is one of my favorites! You can imagine I was eager to review Homeschool Legacy's unit study Revolutionary Ideas: The Story of the American Revolution to see if it was the kind of unit study I liked the best!
Homeschool Legacy: Revolutionary Ideas Unit Study

Product Information

Homeschool Legacy is the creator of Once-a-Week Unit studies. These studies revolved around a particular subject and the bulk of the study is done one day a week--leaving the rest of the week for all your core subjects and related reading. Homeschool Legacy has unit studies for a plethora of topics focused in science and history.
The Unit studies are geared for ages 2-12 and are perfect for use in a family with more than one student. They are encouraged for use in a co-op and are one of the only programs compatible with Boy Scouts and Heritage Girls! The Once-a-Week Unit Studies also include resources for American Heritage Girls and Boy Scouts to assist in meeting merit badge requirements.

They incorporate a wide variety of subjects while focusing on one particular topic:
Bible, Quality literature, Language, History, Science, Geography, Research, Arts and Crafts, Art Appreciation, Music Appreciation, Life Skills, and Field Trip Suggestions.

The Once-A-Week unit studies are available in printed ($21.95) and digital ($17.00) format.

We were given the Revolutionary Ideas: The Story of the American Revolution in digital format to review with Little Britches.

How Did We Use This Product?

The first step in using this product, was to download the eBook and print off the first 3 weeks. I wanted to know what was going to be involved AND more importantly, what books we were going to need.

The supplies and books are clearly noted and that makes it easy for me to plan. I simply took our booklist with us to the library and worked my way through finding some of the books on the list for us to use. Our library in town was great and actually PURCHASED one of the read aloud books I needed.
List provided with call numbers for library. Asterix denotes the "required" reading
Once I was armed with the books I found, looked through the first week to see how it went and then at our schedule to see how I was going to incorporate it. We have a pretty full school schedule with all the different things we are reviewing and the history program we are currently working on finishing, so I realized really quick I wouldn't be able do a true "once a week" lesson. But in that same time I determined that I would easily be able to spread it out over the course of the week. At this point it was simply a matter of planning what was going to be done each day and then doing it!
Weekly supplies clearly listed as well as the daily reading
Every week has each subjects work clearly separated with easy to read instructions.
The unit study begins with the study of colonial life and the French and Indian war. These are things we haven't yet covered in our "normal" history, so we spent quite a while going over this. Every day I read the suggested read aloud and we looked through books from the list. We learned more about the causes of the French and Indian War and the time after the war, before the Revolution. We did some map study to learn about who owned what during this time period.

I was very very grateful for my full size maps I have on our whiteboard. We had them out a LOT in this unit study.
I checked at two librarys for the suggested read aloud for the week, but neither had it. So I had to pick something else. Fortunately, I did find a chapter book from the list that I decided to use for our read aloud. We paired it with a history book about the French and Indian War (since I couldn't get the recommended one).
The program has us reading aloud every single day while Little Britches ALSO reads a book from the library list every day. We don't really have a daily schedule to go by for the program, though there is one suggested in the eBook. It's designed so that you do the bulk of everything in one day in place of your normal lessons, but as I mentioned that schedule didn't work for us, so we just looked at it as a week's worth of activities in all the different subjects.

Our weeks usually went like this:

Monday: Read Aloud, Family Devotional, Introduce Theme
Tuesday: Read Aloud, Pick 1 large activity or 2 smaller activities
Wednesday: Read Aloud, Pick 1 large activity or 2 smaller activities
Thursday: Read aloud, Finish remaining activities according to desire
Friday: Read Aloud and review

Every day during his normal reading time, Little Britches worked on reading a book from the library book list included for each week. At first he wasn't happy about this, but after the first book, he got very interested and I didn't hear any more remarks.

Here are few pictures of things he worked on:
Identifying areas that sent colonists

This was something extra (not included in the curriculum) we did that talked about the different taxes/acts imposed on the colonists from week 2
I highly recommend using the old Schoolhouse Rock videos to go with this unit--they have some great ones about the American Revolution that fit in perfectly! You can find them on YouTube.
Identifying the 13 Colonies
The latest activity we worked on was painting the first American flag. The activity was to do it on cloth/pillowcase, but I didn't have that. So we just painted it on paper and we spoke about what each of the elements of the flag were and how it compares to our flag today.
Painting the first official Flag
Some weeks, we wanted to read more than do any activities, so there was at least one week where we did a LOT of reading aloud through the non-fiction books to learn more about our topic. We are currently getting ready to start week #7 (the final week) this week.

What Are Our Thoughts on This Product?

Little Britches
"I loved it and I want to do lots of it. It's fun learning about the Revolutionary War. It's fun to have Mommy do reading instead of me."

I think this curriculum is very well done. I never had to "twist his arm" to get him to do what we had planned and it was easy to plug into our current schedule.

1. It's a Unit Study
Unit studies are one of my top teaching methods. I love the concept of them and I honestly don't do them enough. This reminded me why I like them. The program was clearly separated each week into the different subject areas, incorporating everything from Bible to History to Geography to Art! You can use the curriculum to cover nearly every major subject over the week! Math is the only subject that never showed up in the unit.

2. Flexible
This curriculum was designed to be easy to add in and adapt to your personal schedule. Though there is a "suggested use", it is easy to tweak and make work however you want it to! We did a little bit every day--some days more than others and it worked perfectly. You can also adjust the activities. I chose not to do the big timeline binder, though we still looked up the events we were told to.

It's also flexible in that you can add in material that fit with what you are studying. I discovered a great resource on Pinterest to help analyze three men during the Revolutionary War and decide what "side" they would have been on. This fit easily into the curriculum when we talked about the benefits to the different types of people involved in the war. I also found some lapbook materials that we used as they fit (like the one on the taxes I shared above).

3. Age Friendly
The program is suggested for grades 2-12, but this one is more geared towards 4th grade and up. The work was sometimes more advanced than what Little Britches has done thus far, and he's at about third grade work right now. But he was able to do most of the requirements easily. The best thing was that it was easy to adapt anything to match the skill level he is currently at. I can see how this would be a program you could do with several children at different ages.

4. Extra Resources Included
Throughout the curriculum, there are links to click on for further learning and research. Some of them are to see artwork, others to check out a historical document. There is also a very exhaustive list of websites at the end of the e-book for you to go on longer and larger rabbit trails.

5. Co-Op Friendly
I think that this curriculum would be very co-op friendly. It is excellent quality material and would be so easy to adapt for a large group. I also think that art and games included would be a great activity for a co-op to work on--whereas, we didn't do the games.

6. Non-Consumable and Consumable
The best thing about an eBook is that it's both consumable AND non-consumable. You get to keep at your fingertips the teaching material, but have easy access to the worksheets to print. You will be able to use the eBook over and over again because it's all there on your computer!

7. In Depth History
This program really gave an in depth look at this volatile time period. It was great to spend 8 weeks over it because it allows for a deeper unrushed look at the time just prior, and just after the war--as well as the war itself. I feel like the material was well researched and the program provided a very thorough examination of the time period. I also liked that we looked at old documents--and we even had to read the full Declaration of Independence!

8. Seven Weeks of Lessons
Being given a series of lessons over the course of seven weeks allows for a very thorough examination of the topic. I like that if I chose to do more of these, I could cycle them through--even working in some of the smaller 4 week ones too. If you have a child that likes fluidity in what they are learning, this works very well.

9. Biblical
Lesson from the Bible are in every week's lesson. You will also find a lot of reference to godly behaviors and morals. I liked having this included and it was a great opener for each week's discussion.

10. Quality Literature
I saved this pro for last because honestly this was the BIGGEST pro of our family doing the program.I was very happy with the selection of books on the reading lists! As part of the library book selections, Little Britches was introduced to junior biographies. He absolutely loved them. He read one of Patrick Henry, Sam Adams, and Paul Revere. I read the one on King George. When we were done, he ASKED for more. He didn't want to go back to reading his normal stuff---he wanted more biographies! (Yes, my history loving heart went pitter-patter!). So it lead to us going to the library and with the librarians help, pulling a stack of junior biographies for him to work through.
His first stack of biographies---including George Washington, John Hancock and Ben Franklin
1. Teacher Prep
I would not consider this an open and go curriculum, although the program is promoted as "no prep work." The teacher will have to be fairly involved in the curriculum from helping collect all the books, to doing the daily read-aloud, to helping on the projects. Some days this didn't work well for me, and I had to make extra time to prep the lesson. On the other side, everything is clearly listed in the lesson--you just have to take the time to prepare and to teach it! I am admittedly not super organized...

2. Read Aloud Issues
We started off by not having the recommended read aloud--our library didn't have it. So we chose one of the other chapter books from the list--though we weren't sure if it was an alternate choice, or one of the student reads, but it worked all the same. The second book had to be ordered by the library, but it was a shorter book and we easily got it down in the time allotted for it. The third book brought up a few issues. My Brother Sam Is Dead is a long book. The chapters are long. I would have had to read TONS every day to finish it in the time allotted for it. BUT we didn't end up reading more than a partial chapter, because I quickly discovered that with the few swear words in it--and the maturity of the plot--it wasn't going to be a good fit for our family. I needed to find an alternative, and though the list included for that week did have some alternatives, we didn't have access to any of them. Fortunately I found one in the book The Spy and General Washington which ended up teaching about the same kind of thing (both sides of the war).

I think that there needs to be more than just one or two choices for a read-aloud.  you just can't get access to the book you need or the book recommended doesn't end up working for you. I think though, that the beauty of this curriculum is that it is pretty easy to figure out a book you could use as the themes for each week are clearly listed. I also think that the length of book needs to be considered. If it is going to be read every day, than make sure it's only 1-2 chapters per day to be read and then adjust the length of time allotted to finish the book.

3. Clearer Separation of the Book Lists
I would have really liked to have a better organization on the book lists. I think that it would be nice to group the read aloud books (and their substitutes) separate from the library picks for the weeks AND to mark a bit more clearly which books are suggested as alternatives to the suggested assigned books. I wasn't sure which books would work for alternatives to My Brother Sam is Dead, so I ended up just picking one on my own. The lesson currently states that the ones marked with an asterix are the ones needed for the work in the assignments...but that doesn't help if NONE of those selections can be found.

4. 7 Weeks of Lessons
I also put this as a con because for some, studying the same subject for seven weeks is not a good fit. There were weeks I wished we were almost done, but then he would say how much he enjoyed it and I would be glad we were continuing to work with it.

5. Extra Activities Too Advanced/Mature
I know that this is geared for grades 2-12, so there is a mix of materials to use. However, there were a few times when the recommended movie for the week was a movie not appropriate for a nine year old (like Last of the Mohicans). I think the games were somewhat advanced as well (like the game RISK). The GOOD thing is that these would be perfect for your older child doing the curriculum. But it would have been nice to have more than one or two options to pick from for each week so that we COULD do a movie/game if desired for a younger aged student.

In summary, the pros far outweigh the cons, and honestly, I will be forever grateful to this curriculum for simply sparking in my son, the love of biographical books. He is continuing to faithfully work through his stack--picking any related to the Founding Fathers as his first choices. He still says that Patrick Henry is his favorite...LOL. He is now eager for his daddy to finish reading Rush Revere and the First Patriots, since he has now learned much more about the time period. He also likes hearing references to the Founding Fathers since he now has "met" the men being discussed.

Will we continue to use this program?
Yes. We still have a week or two left to go and we will finish it out. I will save it to pull out at another time when we get back into history from this time period and I will use the suggested books for library choices.

Would I Recommend This Program?

Yes. I would recommend this program for anyone who loves the idea of taking one theme and applying it to all the different subject areas. If you love unit studies or lapbooking, this will be a perfect fit for you! If you want something you can incorporate into a co-op, consider this curriculum. If you are trying to teach history to more than one child, consider this program! If you want to really spend time on in depth teaching of the American Revolution, go with this program!

Want to Know More?

We reviewed Revolutionary Ideas: The Story of the American Revolution from Homeschool Legacy. You have read our thoughts on the delightful unit study, but what did others think? And what about the other twelve unit studies our team reviewed? I hope you will take a moment to check them out too.
Homeschool Legacy Review
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This was a very high quality in depth history unit study that we have enjoyed immensely, but even better, it sparked a passion in my son for biographies--something he might not have found for awhile if this program hadn't of come into our lives!
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May 13, 2015

Fresh from the Bookshelf: S is for Smiling Sunrise~A New Take on ABC's {Book Review}

We are book loving family. We love to fill our bookshelves with meaningful worthwhile books, so we are picky about what ones get to earn their spot. One of the areas we are the most particular is when it comes to ABC books. Not just any book makes its way on our shelves! When I learned about S is for Smiling Sunrise from WordsBright, a book described to be a new take on ABCs, I was interested in reviewing it and seeing if it would be something we would enjoy.
S is for Smiling Sunrise~ a new ABC book

S is for Smiling Sunrise is a new book from WordsBright that takes the ABC's to a new level. The book introduces new vocabulary to match each letter to get the child thinking beyond the normal A is for Apple, B is for Ball. The book was created to guide the child toward recognizing goodness, beauty and wonder in the world around them. The book is geared towards ages 3 and up.

The book can be purchased at many online sites like and Barnes & Noble. The publisher provides a free MP3 song version of the text and free teaching guides at WordsBright

The book is a laminated hardcover, made in the USA and typically retails for $16.95.

We were given a copy of the book, the teachers guide, and MP3 song to review and I chose to limit our review to my 4 year old, since he is the prime age the book is geared for. I began by flipping through the book with him and read him the text. It was interesting because he's so used to other ABC books, that I would say "A is for..." and he wouldn't wait--he'd jump in with "APPLE!" And then pause and look puzzled when I would not say that. Once he tried that a few times with other letters, he stopped and started listening more carefully.

He really liked the colorful illustrations and the whimsical characters.  One of his favorite rhymes was for "H is for Heart" because it has the line "H is for your Heart, Lub-a-dub-a-dub Touch your chest, feel it chug And give your heart a hug!" He thought it was funny. 

There were a lot of new to him vocabulary words--specifically Kaleidoscope, Virtues and Yacht. So we had to go over those pages a few times--but using the teachers guide on these ones helped explain it to him.

The K-3 teachers guide is a collection of ideas for each page/letter of the book. There are four areas covered in each section: Concepts, Questions, Vocabulary, and Activities.

For M is for Moon for example, the Concepts to be taught is the relationship between moon and night versus sun and day. They suggest teaching the relationship between daytime activities and nighttime sleep. The final concept is the different shapes of the moon.

For Questions, they are all guided directing the child to look at the moon. Asking things like if they like looking at it, if they think it's beautiful--and asking why. 

Vocabulary reinforces the words from the books rhyme (moon, merry, glowing, love, night, bedtime, "Sweet Dreams," and "Sleep tight"

Finally, the Activities are ways to take the subject of the rhyme--in this case the moon--and do things related to it. Locating the moon in the day and night. Looking at it in binoculars. Creating artwork featuring the moon.

You can see that the teachers guide turns each letter of the ABC book into a mini unit study!

The preschool guide suggests playing the MP3 and letting them listen to it regularly. To start showing them the headline words (B is for Butterflies) and showing the related images. The key to this guide is to let them experience the books words over and over and to incorporate the mini lessons (like for S is for Smiling Sunrise it encourages to get up and out of bed quickly) in their daily routine.

I used a mix of both teachers guides with Baby Britches and it worked well. He greatly preferred listening to the music while following along to me reading it to him. As we listened to it more and more he started humming, but never really sang along except on a few things he liked--like the H is for Heart like I mentioned above.

What Are My Thoughts On This Product?

*Beautiful color illustrations
This book is so bright and colorful and just fun to look at!

*High quality pages and cover
The cover is thicker than most children's books--nearly a board book. And the pages are thicker than most children's books as well. They are shiny and "pretty". I also like that the books are made in the USA!

The font of the book is very easy to read and a great size for reading aloud and following along.

*Written in Lyrical Form
The text of the book is written like poetry, making it more fun to read.

*Not your Normal ABC 
I like that this book chooses things other than the standard "A is for Apple, B is for Ball, C is for Cat". I like that it explores OTHER words that being with those letters which bring a more vibrant vocabulary.

*Recognizable tune
I liked that the tune for the coordinating song was the ABC melody, so that Baby Britches could recognize it. 

*Teaching Suggestions
I think it's pretty cool that they provide teaching suggestions for K-3 AND a pre-K guide! It's very helpful and would be a great way to incorporate unit studies with the reading of the book. I think having access to these free downloads makes it even more worthwhile.

*Promotes Character Development
The text encourages manners, family, care, concern, beauty, kindness and much more. Does your regular ABC book do that?

*Audio and Teaching Guides Free of Cost
With every purchase of the book, they get a free download of the music and the teaching guide! This is very cool and a great bonus.

*Song is a Mouthful
In all honesty, the song is a mouthful to sing. Trying to work the lyrics into the same melody was a major challenge and it didn't flow well. Baby Britches, even after many times of listening, could only ever get in a few words here and there. 

*Not all the
This is supposed to be a rhyming text, but many of the rhymes don't gel. Because of this, it makes it harder to flow during reading aloud AND then also ties in to the con I mentioned above about singing it.

*Words Are Very Advanced
Because this is an ABC book, it really is geared for more of the preK/Kindergarten age group. But there are words that they probably just won't have any concept virtues, yacht, excellence...these are great vocabulary words but Baby Britches didn't understand the concept of virtues and excellence for example. While this is something a 1st-3rd grader might be able to get, my 4 year old doesn't have the comprehension of the abstract yet. But it's a very good introduction to the ideas! And as for yacht, I'd like to see you try to convince a 4 year old that the photo of the Y page is a yacht, not a boat! Not happening. LOL. 

In summary, this is a beautiful book and one that would be a good addition to any bookshelf! The song is a fun addition, and if you wanted to incorporate the book a little bit beyond just reading it, you have the teachers guide to help you. I will continue to let Baby Britches listen and follow along in his book because it is good practice at word identification and reminds him that there are many other words that make up the ABC's.

We very much enjoyed the book, but Baby Britches wasn't in love with it. He really got lost on the wordiness of it.

Want to Know More?

We reviewed S is for Smiling Sunrise by WordsBright. You have read my review, but what did the other families who received the book think about it?
Wordsbright Review
For more information, you can stay in touch with WordsBright via Facebook!

While he didn't love it, Baby Britches does enjoy looking at it while I play the song, so I will pull it out now and then for him. We decided to keep this book and continue to use it, though I suspect we will be listening to the MP3 more than reading it!
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