Wednesday, April 27, 2016

GREEMU Review: A plant based alternative to emu oil (Say What??)

     For the past several weeks I, and some of my girls too,  have been using a product called GREEMU from Devonian in order to review it.  GREEMU oil is a green (and vegan) alternative to emu oil.  I didn't even know that was a thing, by the way, until this review opportunity came up.  Apparently it's a wondrous hair and skin oil and, I totes got long hair!  Besides, I have teenage girls.  We were all in for trying this one!

Greemu by Devonian Review
SO... What is GREEMU?
  Well, first let's talk about Emu oil.  Emu oil is made from the fat tissues of an Emu.  It boasts wonderful having a characteristic composition of fatty acids that ARE NOT found in other oils.  BUT THE POOR BIRDIES!   Enter on scene, GREEMU!  
      GREEMU oil is a green alternative to Emu oil.   The scientists at Devonian have done all their homework and created an alternative to emu oil that matches that special characteristic.   Devonian uses only plant oils and butters to replicate Emu oil.  The oils in GREEMU are: 
  • madacamia 
  • seed oil
  • sustainably grown organic palm oil
  • shea butter
  • sunflower seed oil
  • rice bran oil
     In short, all these things put together make a fantastical substance that you can use on your skin and hair to make it all happy, happy, happy!  You can read more on the What is GREEMU page on their website if you want to get all the "sciencey" stuff.

How did we use GREEMU and WHAT did WE THINK?

     Since this product is for hair and skin, that is what we used it on.  I and 3 of my daughters used it on our hair and skin for several weeks.
     The oil was packaged nicely and arrived in one piece.  I opened it up and smelled it.  It was a little,,, weird... I'm smelling it again now... it's kinda like unscented playdough.  It is an opaque white color.  When I first opened it and broke the seal it looked like creamy milk water.  I then dropped a little out and the oil had kind of separated and a glob of lotiony stuff with a watery oil behind it came out.  It was a little strnage, but what-ev's.  I shook the bottle up and a more consitant milky oil came out.  (This might be weird but it kinda looks like colostrum- just say'n).   It was easy to spread but does take a while to fully absorb into your skin.  

On the hair:

  Okay, moving on.  The next day, after my hair was washed and air dried with non of my normal oil in it.  I have very healthy, long, normal hair.   I followed the directions and dripped a couple drops into my hand rubbed my hands together, and then applied it at the root, massaging into my scalp.  I ran my hands through my hair a bit too.  The immediate result was a glossy looking main that was very soft but... kinda greasy looking.  It did not feel greAsy.  I thought maybe I used a little too much (3 drops).  As the day went on, it remained soft and manageable but definitively looked greasy.   I am not sure if the pictures really show that.  In some ways I think it makes the hair look better but in person- it just looked greasy.

     I tried it again after another fresh wash and used only 2 drops... same results.  Maybe I have the wrong hair type for this.  I have realllllly long hair so I figured it would disperse and absorb.  The oil def dispersed but remained greasy looking.    Ugh. 

     My oldest daughter, after seeing my hair, had no desire to try it on her hair- which is very thin.  H14g has very course, dry, red hair.  M13g has super thick, normal red hair, and CH11g has thin, slightly curly hair that doesn't grow any longer than you see it in the pictures.  
     I decided just to do ONE DROP on Ch11g's hair and TWO DROPS on the red's.  The result.  Same as mine.  Soft and manageable, but greasy looking.  After a few hours The Red's were beginning me to take showers and CH11 had twister her hair into a bun.

     End result: we DID NOT like it for hair.  Definitely not our choice for our  hair types.  We tried one more time on the hair rubbing into the ends first and then the scalp.  Nope.  Same results.  I do wonder if it would work really great though on African American Hair since the texture is different.  This oil really left your hair very, very soft, but the greasy look was just too much.  I really wanted to love it for my hair... oh well. So a swing and a miss in the hair category.

On the Skin:

     Okay, we used this as a facial moisturizer, sunburn relief, overall body health oil for H14 (who has acne on her back), and as a general hand oil.  We have been more or less pleased with all these applications and results.
     We were happy that the oil left our skin feeling soft.  It did still leave a "shinny" gloss look, even after an hour or two.  You do get a nice silky feeling on your skin, not really oily,  but silky.  
     Sunburn:  It did sting just a little when I put it on a small sunburn I had where M13g didn't spread the sunblock in all the way.  But the sting may have been from me just touching it.  I don't know that it helped at all but it certainly didn't hurt.
     We were very happy,  though, to see that H14 could use it, and not only did it not cause her to break out, but it seemed to clear up the areas where she tried it!  She did say though that she didn't like the smell when using it on her face. But not enough to stop using it.  She said that to her it smelled like the oil container or stale sheets (?).  


     I was really hoping I would love this oil for my hair- but I didn't.  I will stick to my other stuff!  As a skin oil though, I didn't like how it left me looking "shinny" so I probably won't use it again but H14g is liking it as far as her skin goes; she is happy with it.
GREEMU by Devonian Review
     I do think you should still check it out though.  Different people have different results and yours may not be like mine.  

Where to find GREEMU 
DevonianDistributed by Koru Naturals FacebookPinterest

GREEMU Devonian Review

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Dyslexia Therapy with NON-dyslexic kids? YES INDEED! Part 4: Brain Games for the win!

     Part 4 in "Dyslexia Therapy with NON-Dyslexic Kids".  And, YES, you have read that title correctly!  This mini-series is all about using dyslexia therapy with kids who DO NOT have dyslexia!  In this post we will finish A10's story and talk about his brothers too.

A10's library book pics to use with
his homeschool journal
     A10 was cruising along with all the Thinking Tree Journal Love , he finished 3rd Grade Queens book, he was taking more interest in writing, and he was enjoying his reading.  All of this was sooo positive!  But, he still needed more help.

     I ordered Dyslexia Games series A/B/C and they arrived in December.  I bought all thee series as I really didn't know where A10 was going to place until I saw them.  I felt like I needed to see all of them in order to figure it out.  Besides, with so many kids, I knew they would all get used!

     There are 6 therapy books in Series A and 8 each in Series B and C.  The books are numbered and you do them in order.  The student works on them for 15-20 minutes per day.  Series A is roughly for children 5-8 years, B is for 8-12, and C is for 10-adult.  These books work on things such as:

  • Basic reading skills
  • Reading cinfusion

  • Handwriting
  • Letter and number reversals
  • Comprehension
  • Weak concept of direction
  • Concentration problems
  • Spelling
  • Weak concept of Right/Left
  • Memorization problems
  • Slow reading/oral reading
  • And more!

     As it was, A10 was ready for series B!  We started in January with this replacing all language arts stuff (other than his other Thinking Tree Journals).  It was great having the whole set here because I could see how things built upon each other.  They use art in order to teach skills.  By using art and logic, you teach the right side of the brain to process and thus train the left side to kick in.  
     A10 thought it was easy and fun.  He stated that "It's not like school work at all".  He looked forward to working in his "Brain Games" (as we call it) everyday.  He took a lot of pride in the work he did and usually asked to "do one more page".

     What I began to see was A paying closer attention to detail.  Noticing the little things.  Recognizing the patterns.  Working on his hand writing.  I saw all these things and he never realized he was doing it!

     By February, A10 was reading good enough to participate, with general ease, in our family read-out-loud times.  He was devouring books!  His favorites being the Illustrated classic novels, namely, "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and "Moby Dick".  He was able to do all his own reading and writing in his other school areas.  A10 passed put of Reading Eggs and was blowing through Reading Express! If this wasn't progress, real, undeniable progress, then I don;t know what is!
     A10 is now almost done with the second book in series B.  He has slowed down a bit, but that's okay, we are going at his pace.  He is enjoying his schoolwork and he continues to improve every day.
     He's writing more.  He's reading more.  He's desiring to DO in these areas.  He has more confidence and  see's his own achievements.  He is growing.

     Looking forward:

     As we continue in our journey with him I know we will continue to see him flourish.  I am sooooooo THANKFUL that we found The Thinking Tree/Dyslexia Games!
     My plan with A10 (and his younger brothers) is to primarily use Dyslexia Games as their primary LA curriculum at least through the completion of Series B.  I then plan to add the grade level QUEENS LA book in addition to continuing through Dyslexia Games (DG) Series C.
     At some point, I will probably add in QUEENS handwriting (cursive) as well.  DG series C does touch on that but I think they may need more and QUEENS is so gentle and includes art study at the same time so why not.  I have debated on doing that with A this next year.... I probably will.
     We continue to use reading eggs as well as some other online programs.  I think the more A10 practices his skills the better.
     Another thing I now do is choose curriculum that I believe will work well with our fun-schooling for all other subjects.  Queens, for sure, fits in and often A10 gets books to read based off of his science studies from QUEENS.
     We used Brimwood Press this past year for History and that was great but it's a one-off.  I am not quite sure how I want to do the history this year.  Go back to Mystery of History and spin it to work with our journals, create something on my own, find something that works better with our journals???  I am not sure.

     And with the kids under A10.  Well this is it!  ALL THINGS THINKING TREE!!!  I see no reason to push beyond that until we hit higher grades.  I really like that 4th/5thish grade level for the formal history (5th on up is really great).  We do QUEENS for science because QUEENS is awesome.  And other than that.... Happy homeschool journal it is!!

In Conclusion:

     Because this is "Brain Training", it is totally applicable to anyone.  Regardless of if you have "a thing" like dyslexia or "brain gaps", or learning delays or whatever.  I think that is partly why they are sprinkled throughout the regular journals as well.
     I also believe that this is such a GREAT program to add to anyone's LA stuff, especially the little/new learners!  What a fun and easy way to get their brains ticking and learning!  Due to the nature of the program, you are learning so much else at the same time.  It's not just about letters and numbers!  You are teaching their brains to pay attention and look for learning everywhere.  I love that!
     I can't wait to see how DG continues to impact A10 and his younger brothers.  So far, it's all been good!  I hope, too, that A10's story will possibly help other Mom's with kids who struggle like A.  I hope his story can help other families not fumble as we did, save you from all the tears, and instead encourage you with tools (DG) that really work!  
~Minda and A10

Missed one?  Click below for the other parts of the series!
LINKS for this series:
Part 1,
Part 2
Part 3

Monday, April 25, 2016

CHRISTIAN HEROES: THEN & NOW C.S. LEWIS: Master Storyteller Book and Study Guide {REVIEW}

Christian Heroes {YWAM Publishing Review}
 ________________ YWAM Publishing______________
     Great Books!  We LOVE great books around here!  This post is a review of a fantastic book, CHRISTIAN HEROES: THEN & NOW C.S.LEWIS: Master Storyteller and the companion Digital Unit Study  by YWAM Publishing
     We love books by C.S.Lewis, so it was exciting to be able to delve further into who he actually was.  CHRISTIAN HEROES: THEN & NOW C.S.LEWIS: Master Storyteller is a great book to get to know the author in an easy to read format (recommended for ages 10+).  The book allows you to get to know things about Lewis’s life such as:
·      What was his upbringing?
·      What was his family like?
·      What were his beliefs?
·      Who he was outside of being an author.
·      The major world events going on at that time.
·      His inspiration for his writings.
·      How Narnia came to fruition.
·      Other writings by Lewis.
     Why is this important?  Knowing who the author is gives you a better understanding of their writings.  More so, it gives you the testimony of a great Christian! 
     Along with the book, we got the Digital Unit Study  to go along with this book. Now, before you get overwhelmed, this is a really easy going study!  It can be worked to fit your own educational needs and is more like …. A study map than a “fill in the blank” guide.
     I opened my digital download.  (Note to the wise:  unzip your download before you try to open it or it won’t work.  Just say’n).  Anyway, I opened it up, it connected to the web and brought me to the unit study page and I clicked on “Classroom & Home”.  I read through the 12 page information packet.  I then went back to the main menu and read the “Unit Study: Part 1” guide that was specific to the book we read.  There is also a "Unit Study: Part 2" but it is just some additional printables.

  Here are my thoughts:
  • 1.    The initial packet covers how to use these books and study guides for everything from small groups, homeschooling, to individual learning for ALL THE CHRISTIAN HERO BOOKS.  It was easy to read and understand. (There is a separate little packet that is specific to your study).
  • 2.    I liked that it gave sample schedules, ideas on how to use it, and even talked about how to do it for different skill level learners at one time.

  • Snippet of their advice on working with varying ability students at one time.

  • 3.    It had a break-down of all the books and their time periods and geographical location.  They had another break-down that listed the books by geographical region first and then the time periods as well.  This would make it VERY EASY to know which books you needed to read to study different things.  Well done YWAM!
  • Snippet of The Biographies
    Snippet of them organized by location
  • 4.    Within the study guide, it spoke of different learning styles and the different things you can do to be able to make the study meaningful for each student and how they learned.  That was refreshing to read!
  • 5.    They encouraged flexibility in order for you to get what you need our of the guide.  I LOVED THIS!  I could make this a major thing or I could pare down and use it as it fit.  This is why I called it a “map” early.  It gives all the fine points but in an easy going way so that it’s flexible.
  • 6.    It has a wonderful variety of learning ideas!
Many of the learning idea’s found in this Unit Study Guide fell into these categories:
H14 Working on a poetry assignment.  She was asked to write a
 poem as though she were a soldier in either WW1 or WW2.
·      Writing activities
·      Hands on activities
·      Bible Study 
·      Scripture Memorization
·      Media studies
After reviewing all the info and talking with my kids, it was decided that my daughter H14g was going to read the book and do the study.  We will probably do it as a family next year but for this year and this time period, it was H14 or bust.
H14g's snippet of some of the study questions
H14 is an avid reader and history buff.  She was excited to do the study even though she was older than it’s intended age group.  The book was an easy read for her but still very interesting.  H14 is an audio learner and a writer so we focused her study time into those areas.        
     Instead of starting a new folder for her C.S. Lewis studies, she used her 12 subject Portfolio book instead.  Everything she did within the study guide had a section it could go into in her 12 subject Portfolio.  This worked well for us!
Book review done in her 12 subject portfolio
She did:
·      ~Creative writing assignments
·     ~ Essay’s
·      ~Chapter study questions
·      ~Geographical work
·      ~Media (online documentaries and movies)
·      ~Book reviews
·      ~Oral presentation/performance
·      ~Bible verse memorization
·      ~“Inkling” project (poetry group)

Here is what H14 had to say about it all:
     “I really liked the book.  I enjoyed all of the interesting facts and information that I never knew about C.S Lewis.  I wouldn't consider this book “school”,  instead it would be a pleasure book for me. 

     The curriculum was cool too, and I liked a lot of the creative writing activities that went with it.  I thought the study guide questions were good ones and made me reflect a lot, both on C.S. Lewis and myself.  There were a lot of different type of activities to choose from.  I think if you wanted to do all of them you should give yourself a good amount of time to do them.  At first, I had planned to do more but then I felt like I was rushing through things in order to try and cram it all in. (I read the whole book but only did about half of the total chapter activities).   I think I would have liked doing 1 chapter a week with additional learning activities if I was going to do all of the suggested learning applications. 
One of the poems H14g wrote, plus a pic of her doing an
oral presentation and reading
     One of my favorite things that I did within this study was starting an “Inkling group”.  This is a group of friends who are writers who influence each other in their writings by meeting together to write, share, critique, and encourage.  One of the additional activities was to start your own.  I did this but just called it “Poetry Club”.  Several of my friends and I each write something in a spiral bound notebook for one week, then, on Fridays, we rotate the notebooks.  We then have a week to read what others have written, write them notes, critique and encourage, and then add to the book with our own writings.  Once a month we get together to discuss everything and drink tea. “

My thoughts:
     The more I read for myself and saw H14 reading and doing, the more I wished all my kids were participating! She and I had some GREAT discussions on C.S. Lewis and enjoyed getting to know him together.  The other children really enjoyed everything that H14g shared with them as well.
    The questions and activities in the study guide really made her think deeply, plus many of the activities connected her as a young writer to C.S. Lewis.  We both enjoyed a lot of the fun, random information in the book too, like, learning about the friendship between Lewis and Tolkien. 
Writing again!  
     I also loved seeing H14 enjoying the creative writing projects.  She often did more than she needed too.  If they said to write one poem, she wrote 5.  If they ask for a creative short story, she wrote 2.  H14 loves to write.  Anything from essay’s to short stories and poems.  She also loves history so being told to write about history was a major plus for her.  She combine a lot of things with art too.  Many of the memory verses were written in her portfolio and/or creatively made into posters for our walls.  It was great seeing her enjoying the activities and being inspired by them.
     I was also impressed with how well rounded the Study Guide is.  In the beginning I thought it was just going to be more like chapter review stuff (boring).  I was greatly surprised when I read the guide and saw all the different ideas and options!  I was even more impressed when I saw them begin to take shape while H14 was doing the study!
     I am now seriously looking at how I might use these books and companion guides next year. YWAM Publishing has many other books and unit study curriculum guides available and I know they would be a great addition to our homeschooling!

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Christian Heroes {YWAM Publishing Review}
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Monday, April 18, 2016

Do you need to UN-PLUG your "Digital Girl"?

   More and more these days we see/hear/experience the effects of the digital world becoming the world that everyone seems to live in.  Recently I stumbled across this article from nprED  about kids having too much screen time and how they are effected by that.  This put me on a rabbit trail that eventually landed at teens and technology and specifically our daughters.  Some of the more noteworthy articles include this one by The Huffington Post, A Teen's confession also on The Huffington Post, and this one by The NY Times.  What do that all of in common?  They all say that over-using technology leades to un-happiness, loss of social understanding/cues, and general addictive/anti or digitial-only social behaviors.  But what does it mean?  It means todays kids don't understand normal social behavior and are more comfortable living their false digital lives.

     Both lads and ladies alike are affected but in much different ways.  Girls often fall more into an "over-sexed", self conscious, self-depreciating area.  Even if you have a daughter who is not really "doing the internet media thing", secluding themselves to function mainly in their own little online world is still separating them from the living, breathing, REAL LIFE world around them.

  In the article "Does Technology effect Happiness" from The NY Times they state:

"But the researchers hypothesize that heavy use of media is a contributing factor to the social challenges of girls. 
The reason, say the researchers, is that on a basic, even primitive level, girls need to experience the full pantheon of communication that comes from face-to-face contact, such as learning to read body language, and subtle facial and verbal cues..."
     As a Cotillion teacher, a mother of teenagers, a leader within our local Homeschool Community, and all around social person, I have seen more and more middle schoolers/teens/and young adults struggle with basic social adeptness.  This is NOT JUST ABOUT ANTI SOCIAL BEHAVIOR either!  In fact, many are very social, talkative and friendly but they have no idea how disconnected they are from those around them.
     I have been in many different situation with teens one on one or with their parents; I have watched and observed strangers; I have seen things within my own community where it is clear and evident that our young people value their technology more than the living, breathing, blood-pumping people around them.
     The introverts are just quiet and stay to themselves in their little digital world.  The extroverts walk around with their phones "extroverting" as fast as their teenage thumbs can type.  Regardless or personality, if you try to break into their digital bubble things can get ugly!  The eye rolling.  The Short answers.  The clear annoyance.  The way they don't break away to engage with you because they are still engaging with their technological life- they are only humoring you.

     I have talked with other mothers about this too.  I have heard their frustrations about their daughters.  Many distraught moms are siting that their daughters:

  •  "act like they just don't care"
  • "don't seem to understand that what they are saying/doing is mean spirited"
  •  "put more value on on-line things/people than their family and friends"
  •  "She thinks she is ugly because of what she saw online- I tell her she is beautiful but she doesn't believe me"
  •  "I found THIS on her phone- why would she participate in doing that!"
  • "Her only interest is what's happening digitally"
  • "She get's together with her friends but all they do is play with their phones or play video games.... They don't actually "do" anything"

     What is happening?!?!  Why are we loosing our daughters to the digitally fake world?  How can we reclaim them?


  I don't really know the answers.  What's happening is that the digital life is getting out of control.  I know that much.  I can share with you what we have done in our home and I can encourage you to go after the hearts of your daughters.

     So, confession.  I know that if anyone in my house has a "digital issue", it's me.  HA!  True story.  I do so much online between the blog and the running of the programs I do... besides the homeschooling.  So, as I have been reading these articles and talking with others I have had to do a lot of self reflection.  I need to make sure that I AM NOT setting a bad example to my children.  Okay, confession over- moving on.

     We talk all the time to our kids about "practicing when you are younger what is appropriate when you are older".  When we view technology through those terms is really changes things.  So here are some of the boundaries we have set for our home.

  • We don't do video games.  We don't have a video game consoles, or games downloaded on our computers.  Any tablet "games" we have are education and even then they are limited and mostly only used sporadically by younger kids.  My husband and I don't really have games on our phones either.  I have a bubble pop game and I think he has some disc golf game.           BUT WHY????  We don't want our kids growing up "practicing" that playing video games is a)the best use of your time and b)what you should be spending your time doing as an adult.  Want to play a game?  Go outside or play a board game.
  • As you grow older, the way you use technology does and should change.  So the most non education type game we have on our tablet is a minecraft game.  The only kids in my house who play it are my 3 youngest boys (5/7/9) and they maybe play it once or twice a week- if that.  But my older kids do not play it.  BUT WHY???  Because, it's still a game and as you get older you use technology for reasons.  How do/should adults use technology?  For education, jobs, learning, communication.  So our older kids use technology for those reasons.  
  • Cell phones.  My kids don't have them.  My oldest really needs one at this point as she has a job and is starting college but we just haven't gotten around to it because it hasn't been a need.  When she does get one, it will not be a smart phone.  Too much "freedom" too soon can through you into a mess.  I'd rather her practice good phone/texting habits without being able to turn her phone into a toy so that when she does get a smart phone, she knows how to view it and use it maturely.  
  • Social Media.  We let our kids get an email at 12 and FB at 15.  We have rules and boundaries with each.  We want to teach them how to use social media safely.  What "friends" really are and how to navigate all that with a "seat belt on".  
  • Computer time/screen time.  This has gotten so much harder as they have gotten older,  We do watch some family shows or movies one or two nights a week as a family.  The kids sometimes have movies for school that they watch. TV is not an issue.  But time on the computer can be.  Our kids use the computers for math and research.  We do a lot of research stuff.  I would say that they use technology for school work for 2-3 hours of the day.  That can include straight up research, math, tutorials, creative writing, etc.  But then in their free time, they would like to email friends, check FB, do more art, more creative writing, etc.  That's where it gets tricky to regulate.  I usually say 30-60 minutes depending on what else we did that day and what they are wanting it for.  AND WE TALK ABOUT WHY!  I am teaching them how to regulate so we need to talk about the why of it.  Also, for the most part, we don't do technology after 4 in the afternoon.  Sometimes and older kid or two needs will in the evening for 30 minutes but it is uncommon.  If they do- we try and keep it social.  Want to do an art tutorial- find another kid to do it with, that way you are not checked out.  Want to listen to a radio show and color- great but do it in the open so that your siblings can join in so that you are not being exclusive.
    H14g listening to Celctic music and doing some creative
    writing/coloring in her journal.
  • We set boundaries and we talk to them about why and we allow them some input as well.  If H14 ask to type up a poem on the computer I might say yes but then ask "for how long?  I am concerned because you wereon the computer a lot today."  this allows her to come up with her own boundary; "I think 25 minutes, then I want to print it out and do a drawing for it."  PERFECT.
  • Lead by example.  When they come to talk to me.  I set down my electronics and make eye contact.  If we are hanging out with others I put my phone away.  If I do need to use it I excuse myself and make sure that the company I am with does not feel slighted.  I only answer calls and text that are needed- everything else I ignore.  I do not sit in a public setting and check e-mail or FB, you know, "play with my phone".
      But What if the BAD HABBITS are already there???
     FIRST, re-define the boundaries and expectation for digital use... and then stick with them.  The start of breaking bad habits is always the hardest.  Find things to fill the gaps and build better habits.
    SECOND, find ways to encourage your daughter to break her bad habits and to re-train her brain to consider life.  I LOVE the book ""How to escape the digital world & enjoy reality"by Sarah Janisse Brown.  It weaves new habits into the process of breaking the bad ones in a whimsical and fun way  (pssst!!!! Mom's like this book too!).
Sample pages from "How to Escape the Digital World &
Enjoy reality" by Sarah Janisse Brown.

It challenges you to:

  • Look at who your real friends are.
  • Look for ways to bless others.
  • Discover things you like to do.
  • Find role models.
  • Being encouraging to others.
  • Doing things with others
  • Identifying your hopes/dreams/passions.

     Let us not grow accustomed to these bad habits but instead let's teach our daughters, nay, all of our children, how to have balance.  Also, I'd like to note that what works for one family may not work for another.  I'd also like to note that I realize that "MineCraft" is viewed as a highly educational program by most everyone.  For us though, it still falls into that category of "digital games".  If they want to build something, I've got sticks in the yard and legos in the house ;)
     I am now done with this post and ready to be "un-plugged" for a while.  The digital life can be a real "life sucker"!  The sun is shining and I can hear a raucous game of "For Narnia" out my windows.  Time to play ;)


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

{REVIEW} Read, Write & Type from Talking Fingers Inc.

Talking Fingers Inc. Review
     I am ALWAYS interested in programs that are made to help with teaching reading.  It’s like this little niche’ space I am in =)  
     For this reason, I was fully on board to try out the One Year Subscription for the Read,Write & Type program from TalkingFingers Inc.  (The One Year Subscription is good for multiple users and is an online program.)

     For our review purposes we were given a One Year online subscription to 
Read,Write & Type, meant for K-3rd graders or 6-9year olds.  This is a multi-sensory reading, writing, typing and phonics program.  The program uses many different methods in order to teach including:  narration and dictation, letter sound connected to letters on the keyboard, reading comprehension, fun graphics, writing prompts and promotions.  Interested yet?  Here some more key things about them!

  • Reading software that combines all the different types of learning (audio/visual/kinesthetic) 
  • Combines Phonics, spelling, keyboarding and word processing all at once!  
  • Program made with special features that aide in learning for children with learning disabilities (LD), reading difficulties, or learning English as a second language (ESL)
  • Built in reading software, assessment and record keeping

     Some of the things that really drew me to the program was the fact that it teaches so many different things at once:  phonics, reading, typing, comprehension.  I also liked that it keeps track of everything so you can view each childs progress

     First I logged in and read their user manual.  I was pretty overhwlemed and underwhelmed (is that a word?) at the same time.  The interface is not very user friendly in the parental control part and although I did figure it out, it, I think it could have been better.  It wasn't hard, it was just so "black and white" with small lettering and no clear direction.  Once I looked around for a while, I was able to figure it out.  The initial webiste is kind of.... dated looking.  I would not have given this program a second look by the feeling of the main website and seemingly "not current" presentation.
       The program and its interfacing were designed to be used, originally, in a class room setting.  I feel like I just kind of stumbled through the set up and then was like “okayyyy…..?” .  Even with going in to look at my boys' progress reports, it was very evident that it was made for larger classrooms and the reports feel very... "teachery" (is that even a word?)  Anyway, it's not a deal breaker, it's more of a preference.

     So, I got each boy set up with a username and password.  I did like how you can set what “passing percentage” you want.  I think their default was like 75% and I changed it to 90% on my older boys and 80% on my youngers.
Here is a snippet from J9's progress report.

     They were very generous and allowed me to register more than one child, so I registered my 5th, 3rd, 1st  and Kindergartener in the program.  My 5th and 3rd graders are super right brain kids and a bit later in reading than some of my others have been. They are both still using an online based phonics program so I figured this one would be good for them to try too.   My first grader is right on target and my kindergartener is just a beginning reader and at grade level too.

     My boys all started out using the program 3+ days a week.  My kindy boy quickly showed that he was not ready for it.  The typing was more than he could do and the lessons are a little more…. Schooly than his other program.  So I pulled him off.  It was definitely more of a maturity/readiness matter than anything else. My first grader also had some similar bumps.  Especially with the typing portion.  It just frustrated him.   The other/older boys continued on with the program with no problems at all.

Talking Fingers Inc. Review     They both seemed to like it and looked forward to using it.  There is an opening song. And then the lesson starts.  The student moves up through different levels as they complete and master lower ones.          
     The program has a “video game” feeling to it (…. Well like a 1990’s feeling video game).  As your child learns the letters on the keyboard, little pictures show up on those keys and the city in the back ground builds up, effectively “unlocking” other things they can do. They are all educational and reinforce the things your child is learning. 

A10 sending a creative writing "e-mail"

     One of my boys’ favorites is the “email” thing.  They type up a story/letter/poem/whatever and then they click “send”.  This sends it to an “email vault” of sorts.  Then you can “receive and read an email”.  They send you a random email from another child from the vault.  Reading what other kids are writing has really inspired my boys and they like writing things that they know another child will read.  I like that it’s SAFE and that there is no identifying information being passed out.  They are interacting with other kids but indirectly and not in real time.  It IS NOT a “kid chat room” or anything like that.

     The video lessons have different characters and presents a story line for the kids to follow.  As you learn all the letters, you start to move into phonics, words and spelling all using typing skills.  

Talking Fingers Inc. Review
     This program and method definitely challenged my older son A10 especially.  The program would show him and read him a sentence and then remove it for him to then type on his own.  If the student types in something wrong, then the program will have you redo it and remind you of what you need to do to fix it.  The “you got it wrong” is very down played and the user just sees it like a reminder of stuff- nothing devastating.  But all that info goes in to a report that you can look at to see how they are doing and the program will just keep having the student practice those skills until they reach the set “passing percentage”. 

     There is a lot of repetition and visual/audio aids.  Some of it’s kinda cheezy and, like I said earlier, 90’s video game-ish, but my kids like it!  When they pass a lesson they get a certificate that they can print out.  Everything is done in a very positive and encouraging way; very non-stressfull.

A10 working on typing and spelling
J9 reading over a poem about a cat he was writing

What my 5th grader thinks:  "I like it.  It really helped me with memorizing letters and finding them on the keyboard.  Read,Write & Type is more about the typing and connecting that with words then other programs I've used.  My other online program is more about teaching you to read but  Read,Write & Type helps more with spelling.  I really liked the “email tower” and being able to write your own stories and to read what other kids submitted.  I would give this program an 8 out of 10 for being a good learning program."

What my 3rd grader thinks:  "I like it.  I like it more than my other program because I like the typing.  When I get stuff wrong, it’s just wrong and I fix it but that’s it.  It’s helping me to read because I have to make sure the words are right.  It’s pretty easy to do.  I like this a lot."

What I think:  This has been a fun supplement to our other phonics program!  There are elements in it that I like a lot better for the older group of kids than our other program, like the typing and the easy going repetition.  I did think it was too hard for my little guys to use without me being there and helping them and for that reason I would prefer using something else for them. 
     For my 3rd-5th grade boys though, I thought it was great!  I liked that it used letter sounds, instead of names: example “please type /a/” instead of “type A”, as I think that helps with the spelling.  The kids learn the sounds, dictate the word, type the word while saying it, and then read those words in reading comprehension games and activities.  It seems to be a very systematic program, not very flashy but has fun elements, like the e-mail thing- that incorporates the skills in different ways.  It’s also great that they tie in the typing and I do not have to get a separate program for that. 
Talking Fingers Inc. Review
Certificate of merit.  You can print these out!

      Another thing I liked was that everything is so positive.  In the other program we use, the kids are very aware of when they “don’t pass” something.  With Read,Write & Type the kids are oblivious to the pass/fail aspect but the information is processed in the parents progress panel and the kids just keep working on the skills until they level up.  So there’s not really a “not-pass” option.  They just work on it and then they pass.   My older boys were excited everytime they got to use the program and we will continue!  We have all been very happy with Read, Write & Type and plan to continue using it!

You can check out more from TalkingFingers Inc. online from these sites:

Talking Fingers Inc. Review
Crew Disclaimer