Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Holiday Preparations Blog Hop: Mark Your Calendar!

The Schoolhouse Review Crew is hosting a "Preparing for the Holidays" Blog Hop. This is FIVE DAY long blog hop event that begins the first week in November. This is a special treat for me because it begins on my birthday. I can't wait to read everyone's blog post topics - I just hope I don't get too distracted because I have an out-of-this-world curriculum review due that week too. Everyone can participate and join in on the fun even if you are NOT a member of the crew. Every single day that week we'll blog about a specific topic and link it up. You can participate in one day, a few days, or every day. Check out the timely topics below! You know you have something to write about that weekWe hope to see you participate in this blog hop! I will be posting on the topics for November 6th and 9th (if not more). You'll want to check my blog on November 6th for an outstanding recipe!


You can find more information about the topics at the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog

Steps to Help You Begin (I am definitely not an expert so add or delete steps if necessary.)
  • Pull out your calendar and jot down the date so you won't forget.
  • Start brainstorming possible ideas for each topic. 
  • Choose a final topic for each day.
  • Write or type your post in draft form.
  • Edit and revise your content until you are happy with it.
  • Link up your post for that specific topic on that particular day.
  • Read and try to comment on other posts during your free time.
Our Rules
Yes, there are a few simple rules (please follow them or your post will be deleted):
  1. There will be a new linky each day. Add your post by clicking the "Add your link" tab at the bottom of the screen.
  2. Link to the URL for the specific post and not to your blog's home page.
  3. You must include the button as seen above within the post and/or on your sidebar. 
Let me know if you will be participating. I will try to stop by and read your post. 
Thank you and God bless,

Monday, October 29, 2012

Friday Fun School: Erudition A Slight Twist

My husband worked a rat the other day. A WHAT??? A rat is when he works an extra overnight shift at the fire station. He gets paid to work 24 more hours after his last shift. He couldn't pass the offer up! Apparently, rats are few and far between for lieutenants in his area. This particular "rat" will help pay off the countertops we just purchased last week for the house we'll hopefully begin building soon.

Well, that has hardly anything to do with today's topic. Alyssa has been a little down lately because he's been so busy and working long hours. I recently posted about his return from a three day work trip here. Unfortunately, bless his heart, Jeff missed game night last week and this past week. Friday's game night revolved around a few language arts games we own that are thankfully not in storage. We also played MANY games from our Reading Games in a Bag and Math Games in a Bag e-books published by Activities in a Bag. Please follow my blog or check back in a couple days for my review of these two fabulous products. You will be able to view photos of a few games in action and read about our experiences with both game e-books. Alyssa and I played Reading Games in a Bag that reviewed sight words, syllables, and letter sounds. We also played several Math Games in a Bag covering addition, number recognition, and place value. I don't want to spoil this week's review so pictures will NOT be posted at this time. I will, however, discuss one of our favorite literacy games.

One of the games we played was Erudition and it will be my main focus for this post. Be sure to check out their website soon because I noticed that the game is actually 40% off right now - that means they are currently selling it for $14.99. I am sure this is for a limited time. So ... if you are looking for a great Christmas gift or just an educational game for your child or family this year - you must check out this game. This is the lowest price I have ever seen for this game. This educational game is an outstanding way for your children to learn letter sounds, letter formation, sight words, syllabication and more. I bought this game for Alyssa as a Christmas gift about two years ago. This game was one of the items we used to improve her literacy skills dramatically helping her to become a better and more fluent reader. You can easily adapt the game versions to suit your needs and your child's abilities. That is exactly what I did the other night! I have done this in the past ... I just never got around to posting it.

As many of you know we use and LOVE the All About Spelling (AAS) curriculum. It has been awhile since Alyssa completed AAS Level 1. I have slacked on starting Level 2 even though I purchased it to begin this fall. We will eventually begin Level 2 but first we will do a very quick review of all lessons presented in the first level. We are constantly reviewing the leveled words in a variety of ways. One way she practices the words is through the use of several online programs which reinforce the concepts and her learning. We are currently using Samson's Classroom and Vocabulary Spelling City. She spent time using both programs today (her request). You can read my reviews for those products by clicking on the linked product names above.

Erudition Adaptations
Note: Adaptations are highlighted in yellow. 
It was a very simple adaptation. I set aside the Erudition letter cards and pulled out the yellow AAS phonogram cards. We played the game as intended except that before Alyssa could move her game piece, she was required to give all the letter sounds for the card drawn. You could also use their letter cards. The letter cards that come with the game show both lowercase and uppercase letters. There are a few extra consonant team cards provided if you use the AAS phonogram cards with this game. This proved to be an effective way to review the letter sounds presented in AAS Level 1 which in turn is being used in conjunction with Excellence in Writing's Primary Arts of Language (PAL) curricula. I will be posting my review for PAL at the beginning of November so PLEASE CHECK BACK soon. You won't regret it! We also used the sight word cards and I required her to spell each word before moving her marker. I have been known to replace the Erudition sight words cards with the green AAS word cards. She has been able to read many if not all sight words for years now so our focus has shifted to spelling the sight words. She can fluently read all of the words provided with the game hence the reason why we stepped it up a notch. This gameboard can be used in many educational and creative ways. I will try to post about ways to use this board in December, but there's no guarantee since we are pretty busy during the holidays.

You can even make your own sight word board game. Click here for directions. You can also read about activities that develop sight word fluency and word recognition here. The website contains some pretty amazing resources. There are a variety of blank gameboard choices online if you google it. I know Donna Young has a small collection of printable gameboards available too.
I love this colorful enticing gameboard!
One of the sounds for "CH"
We spent a few hours together enjoying our mother-daughter Friday game night!

I will link this post at Marcy's Ben and Me blog under her Friday Fun School linky. Come join in on the blogging fun - what you post doesn't have to happen on Friday. This linky will only be open until Monday night.

Friday Fun School

Disclaimer: I purchased this game with my own funds. I paid for it myself and LOVE it so much I wanted to tell you about it and share how we use it in our homeschool day. I am not an affiliate or employee nor do I benefit in any way by posting about this game. These are my opinions and experiences that have NOT been influenced in any way by the company.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Thursday Quick Tips: Toasting Biscuit Leftovers

Thursday Quick Tips

Hi everyone! I am a day late with this post. It is difficult at times to create fancy lunches every single day. In fact, I must admit our lunches aren't that fancy at all most of the time. Alyssa asked me to serve her a breakfast meal for lunch yesterday. My Thursday quick tips are to occasionally substitute regular breakfast meals for lunch or dinner, to use your leftovers, and to try toasting sliced biscuits. 

The other night we made biscuits with our baked chicken dinner. We refrigerated them in a baggie and pulled them out for lunch. I made scrambled egg and cheese biscuits. I sprinkled freshly shredded Colby cheese on top of the scrambled eggs until it melted. The taste changes depending on what type of cheese you use on the sandwich. We have tried many different types of cheese. 

This meal is also good with fried eggs and a slice of American cheese. We don't usually fry our eggs in a lot of oil or butter. We usually spray a tad bit of Pam in the pan, use a tiny bit of Canola oil, or possibly a sliver of real butter on special occasions. 

I usually place the biscuits in the microwave or oven for a few seconds, but I remembered that I could use my toaster to quickly reheat them. I sliced them in half and plopped them in the toaster. They tasted great! Alyssa definitely did not complain and scarfed her food down which is unusual for my dawdling eater. She enjoyed strawberry vanilla organic yogurt and fresh strawberries as part of her meal. It was way too much food for her little belly so I was able to thankfully eat the leftovers.

Note to Self: Clean toaster better.
I scrambled two eggs for her but she always thinks it is just one. It won't all fit in the biscuit. Hopefully, she won't read this.  
This is so good mommy. (It was quick and easy to make).
I will link this post at Marcy's Ben and Me blog under her Thursday Quick Tips blog post series. Her linky closes in three days. Please feel free to come over and join in on the fun! What quick tip would you like to share with us? 

Thank you for visiting!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: Samson's Classroom


I have been searching for an online supplemental resource that will review previously learned literacy concepts yet also cover reading comprehension skills. I think I have found a solution for our home. Have you heard all the buzz in the blogosphere world about Samson's Classroom? Teachers and homeschooling families alike are chatting about the success their children and students are having with this reading program.

I have been give the opportunity to review a family subscription including up to four users to Samson's Classroom as part of the School Review Crew. Samson's Classroom developed by Knowledge Wand, LLC is an educational web-based reading software program that is suitable for children in grades K-5. Although, I do believe it could be easily used with younger children in the early reading stages. Samson's Classroom targets three literacy areas including sight words, spelling, and reading comprehension. Be sure to click the link above to watch the three minute video describing Samson's Classroom and its features.


The company's primary goal is to create better readers by developing engaging games for children to play while learning literacy concepts. In fact ... the President of Samson's Classroom, Darrin Jahnel, states that "Our entire company is dedicated to making Samson's Classroom the BEST early reader product on the market." I am impressed with the dedication exemplified by this one company." Many skills need to be mastered in order to become a proficient reader. Sight word fluency and reading comprehension strategies are two reading proficiency aspects that I feel are necessary in helping learners become confident, fluent readers. Samson, a cartoon dog character, is the mascot that is present every step of the way encouraging and praising the child's efforts. At times he would hold up an A+ sign. Other times he verbally stated, "Yes, that's correct." I watched him dance for Alyssa cheering and jumping up and down with excitement as she correctly answered questions.

How We Used Samson
Samson was used 3-4 times per week for approximately 20-30 minutes with my daughter, Alyssa, who turns five next month. There were times that she would work independently on Samson for 45 minutes to an hour, but this was not a consistent schedule and occurred mainly when a scheduled day was missed. This program was used as part of her morning routine, along with reading or spelling lessons, during my homeschool plan time, or when I completed my household chores. We alternated the use of this program with another online reading and spelling program to maximize the benefits of both of the online literacy programs we have subscriptions to at this time. Samson's Classroom was also used as supplemental tool for her current spelling program. Samson's Classroom worked on our Mac computer using Safari as our main browser. We were unable to access the new Sight Word with Samson upgrades. I was looking forward to trying the upgrades during this review. She was still able to use the Sight Words with Samson original or classic game for the duration of the review. I had Alyssa complete the word lists and passages in order. I don't think she ever realized that she could complete the sight and spelling word lists out of order. 

The easiest way for me to write this review is to break the body of the review into three main sections based on the reading components taught. I will discuss the possible cons for each component and further explain our experiences with each component. I will also list a few relevant advantages in our pro list for using this program as part of your reading curriculum towards the end of the review. If you are looking for a quick overview simply read the above company introduction, view the video on their website, try the demo games, read my overall opinion and results, and recommendations. If your prefer more details, please take a few minutes to read my review.

Sight Words with Samson
Sight words are also known as high frequency words or Dolch words in the field of education. They can be arranged by grade level or frequency. There is also an organized group containing sight word nouns. Sight words make up approximately 50-75% of the words your child will approach when reading depending on who you ask or what website you research. In my opinion, it is absolutely imperative and essential that these words are taught in the beginning so that readers can focus on the pronunciation and decoding of the more difficult words as they read challenging texts. Click here for a grade level based list of 224 Dolch or Sight Words commonly known in the English language. Teaching sight word recognition increases fluency (speed) and comprehension (meaning). Many educators and theorist believe that knowing sight words speeds up the reading process and I am truly an advocate of this approach in combination with other reading approaches. I feel that children that automatically or rapidly recognize sight words will definitely gain fluency. I integrated a sight word approach to Alyssa's curriculum when she was at the beginning stages of reading. Alyssa learned many sight words at a very young age through printable games. I feel it has built her confidence level and improved her reading skills over the years. Samson's Classroom is one tool that can be used online to aid with sight word recognition ... with consistent and repetitive practice, your child can master the sight words seen often in books. I wholeheartedly believe that it will help your child become an efficient reader in the long run.

Our Experiences
This is definitely her favorite program to play. She likes that she can play the games repeatedly at a later time in order to master the sight words. I appreciate that the words are tracked from left-to-right when sentences are read aloud in the "Learn Words" step. Alyssa really enjoys the motivational belt system - more on our adaptation of this system in the description below. I caught her the other day reading to her Samson dog. She was teaching him sight words from a book. She sets a goal as to how many stars she wants to earn that day on the computer. I will often explain that if she does a few more activities she earns a new belt color and that alone encourages her to go beyond her goals. The sight words program was not challenging enough for Alyssa but she truly enjoyed using it and playing the games as a review activity. Her least favorite aspect of the sight word program was the "Learn Words" area. She felt it was boring and too easy. She wasn't motivated to do it at all and probably would have skipped it if I let her. This may be because she was already very familiar with the sight words, but it didn't seem very entertaining and did not captivate her attention. I believe she zipped through many words as quick as she could without paying much attention to the study method applied. 

The sight words in this program are broken down into four different levels each containing seven word lists. Each word list consists of eight words. The parent can differentiate learning for each child in the family based on the leveled sight word lists. The Sight Words with Samson program contains five activities or steps that the child can complete for each word list at their own pace. The scoreboard helps the child and parent track and view the last step completed making it easy to continue where you let off. I always have her do the "next step." There is also a button that allows the child to play the game again if they choose.
  • Learn Words - This is where children can learn the new sight words. The child will choose which level they will work on. The level expands revealing several word lists. The child then chooses a word list to master. Once the word list is chosen, a number line is shown at the bottom of the screen indicating the word the child is currently studying for that particular list. The intention is that the child will look at the word, hear it being said, and then study it. The child must view all words within a list and they must click the NEXT button to hear the next word otherwise the same word is repeated over and over again. The word is stated, spelled letter by letter, and then used in a sentence. A blue line tracks each word being read aloud in a sentence. A yellow arrow indicates the sight word within the context of a sentence. 
  • Build Words - The child is given a screen containing random letters. They will hear a word, it will be spelled, and then repeated verbally. The child must click on the letters to spell the given word when he says "Now you spell the word by clicking on the proper letters." There are small orange boxes in the corners of the vowel letter boxes. The program highlights each blank box yellow so that children can track where they are when spelling the sight word. This proved to be helpful as Alyssa clicked the letters to spell the sight word. The child can start clicking letters early and can click the letters as he spells them so it doesn't really assess whether or not they actually know the words. They are building knowledge as they practice spelling each word. 
  • Identify Words - The child will hear a word, hear it spelled letter by letter, hear it in a sentence, and must then choose the correct word on the screen. A green check mark will appear if your child answers correctly. Positive feedback is given when a child answers correctly such as "That's correct," "That's right," Good job," or "Great job." The child does not have to wait until the word is spelled letter by letter to respond. 
  • Quiz - The lowercase letters are given in alphabetical order on the screen. Samson says the word aloud, uses the word in a sentence, and then repeats the word before directing the child to spell the word. He says, "Now you spell that word by clicking on the proper letters." There is a hear again button for children that need the word repeated. Each blank box is highlighted yellow enabling the child to track the next letter needed to spell a sight word. Incorrect answers receive a sound effect with an "X" marking in the box. Again, the child does not have to wait until the word is spelled or used in a sentence to respond. 
  • Challenge - The child hears a sentence including the missing word. Then, the correct missing word must be clicked on to complete the sentence. Gems are earned at the bottom of the screen for every correct answer. The screenshot below shows a Level 1 challenge activity. On several occasions incorrect spellings are included as word choices. A red circle with a diagonal line indicates an incorrect answer and appears over the gem.          

Sight Words with Samson Black Belt Program
The sight word program has experienced recent upgraded features. One of the upgrades explains a reward system that implements the use of a karate belt level system. I actually think the idea is brilliant! As the child completes sight word list level successfully, stars are earned. One star is earned for each list mastered. Once they have four stars they will earn a particular belt color, the more stars earned the higher the belt color received. I told Alyssa about the upgraded features before checking whether or not they would work on my computer.

Unfortunately, we could not access the new sight word features on Safari, so I decided that I would give her colored pipe cleaner "belts" and golden star stickers on a printable chart with Alyssa using the same concept to motivate her efforts. She started with a white belt color and needed to earn 8 stars before obtaining the first yellow belt. From that point on she earned the four stars to progress up and get a new belt color on the belt ladder. She only has two more belt colors to earn, then she'll have her black belt and all sight words in this program will be mastered! In our home, Samson is an old stuffed doll that she was sleeping with at night but now he temporarily resides in the classroom. His name has been change thankfully because we already had several stuffed animals named Dorothy. Here is a picture of Samson in the beginning wearing only three belts that she earned. We decided that instead of exchanging the belt colors, Samson would wear all the belts earned simultaneously (not exactly what happens in real karate classes). The following link shows and describes the belt color program best.

Our Samson Mascot and Chart
Sight Word Scoreboard - She'll have a black belt in not time at all! You can also print the scoreboard for your homeschool records or assessments binder.  
Possible Cons and Improvements
  • I was disappointed that I couldn't access the Sight Word with Samson upgraded features hence the reason why I created a similar reward system. I was only able to access the classic or original game on my Mac computer using Safari as a browser. I did try several other browsers. Adobe Flash Player 11.4 is required in order to use the upgraded features. I may try to download it again at a later time. I hope that the company figures out a way for Safari browsers to use the upgraded features soon.
  • I wish that there was a back button to delete letters accidentally pressed too quickly during the Step 4 Quiz game. Alyssa mistakenly clicked on the wrong letters when spelling words. She knew that she clicked the incorrect letter by accident, however, she had no way to delete it and click the correct one before it was counted against her score.
  • I would suggest creating an EXIT button for the "Learn Words" activity eliminating the need for the words to repeat over and over again as it seemed to annoy us both at times. The child can always redo the activity or press "play again" if necessary.  
Spelling with Samson
The parent has the ability to use pre-loaded spelling lists with access to over 5,000 words which are organized by grade levels, thematic words, sight words, and a handful of word families. Each list varies in the number of words to be learned. I saw several pre-made word lists with as few as eight words and up to 18 words, but there was no time for me to view all of the pre-made lists. This aspect of the program also allows the parent to easily customize and add personal spelling lists for each child. This is a great way to differentiate learning based on the abilities and needs of the child. Each personal word list created can contain up to 30 words. Immediate feedback or encouragement is given as the child works such as "That's Right!" or the computer program politely states, "Sorry that's incorrect." This program doesn't currently teach spelling rules to children so be sure to add them to your curricula if you desire to teach them to your children. I tend to use this program after her spelling rules and words have been taught or reviewed so that she can apply the skills learned when practicing her spelling words. This word recognition program is based more on memorization and repetitive use of words in an interactive and kid-friendly manner. The user profile or scoreboard shows which steps have been completed. There is a legend at the bottom of the screen: a green circle means the child has obtained a perfect score, a red circle indicates more work is needed (not quite), and the gray circle indicates that the child has not yet done that step. The top five scores for each list are seen on the instruction screen for each game. Your child's best and latest scores with dates completed can also be viewed on that screen.  

Our Experiences
I created several personal word lists without complications using previously learned level one words from her spelling program. I thought this educational program would be great way to review level one words in preparation for the next spelling level. I definitely plan to add word lists for the second level as soon as we begin the lessons. Her time spent on this component will increase and be used as a supplemental way to practice the new leveled words. She really liked the "Missing Letters" game the most. She wasn't too fond of being timed for each game. I noticed she watched the clock and it distracted her at times from concentrating on the task at hand. She stood when playing Crunch Time she said it helped her type faster. If only that was true!

Children can participate in four different activities or games to learn their new spelling words.
  • Study Zone - The child studies each word by clicking on it individually. Your child will hear the word, hear it used in a sentence, and then hear it spelled letter by letter. As the sentence is read aloud the child can see the sentence, however, the spelling word is missing and indicated by a blank line. Then your child will need to click on the "Back to List" arrow to go to the next word on the list. The lists are accessible by clicking on the PDF file which takes the learner to a printable list. 
  • Missing Letters - The child is given part of a word with missing letters and three answer choices at the bottom of the screen. They must choose and karate chop the correct missing letter(s) that will spell the correct word.
  • Spelling Scramble - There are boxes on the bottom right side of the screen where the letters are collected. Keep an eye out for Terrence the Tarantula as you collect the letters! Each horizontal row is a scrambled word the child must figure out. After collecting all the necessary letters a new screen will open. The child is given the scrambled letters and must click on the letters in order to spell the word correctly.
  • Chunk Time - Make sure your child remembers to click in the box before trying to type the word and to press enter when they have finishing typing it. Wally the Walrus will chomp on the ice if you don't type your spelling words fast enough. If you spell the word incorrectly or if he chomps before you are finished typing then Samson falls in the freezing cold water. 

Possible Cons and Improvements
  • The spelling scramble game frustrated my daughter in the beginning bringing her to tears. At first, neither of us understood how to move Samson to catch the letters before being captured. This was after reading the instructions carefully many times - we realized and knew that it was based on Samson's perspective, but we still had difficulties moving him around the screen. Alyssa informed me that it was her least favorite game. She disliked it so much that she wouldn't play it at all for the longest time. I asked her to play and insisted that she practiced using it for awhile before giving up on the activity. She did so with little moaning and groaning. Now, it is one of her favorite games even though she still can't move him correctly using the arrow keys. I think it would be very beneficial to change this aspect of the program - it is NEVER a good thing to frustrate a child when learning. I suggest making the directions and game easier for the younger learners to independently play by having the arrows move Samson in the direction intended and to not have his legs in constant motion. 
  • The child must be very familiar with the keyboard and have pretty good typing skills when playing the Walrus game otherwise he will freeze when Wally chomps the ice away. This may lead to frustration for some children or it may be a fun challenge for others. The timer can possibly discourage children making them feel rushed which often leads to unnecessary mistakes.
  • The Study Zone can be easily skipped by any child disinterested or unwilling to do that step. If skipped it still counts as being completed even though a child can simply open and close the activity screen. Alyssa was able to listen to one word in the study zone, however it was not necessary to hear all words before receiving credit. I assumed she was learning about each word in the study zone and found out that she was skipping many of them. She said, "The words were too easy and it was boring." This can be a great feature for children that know all the words or it an be a disadvantage for parents expecting children to study the words first before playing the games. The study zone is simply a study area and the activity isn't very entertaining for children. The company could create a feature that doesn't allow the learner to move on until after all words have been studied at least once.
  • Chunk Time - Before you begin typing the child is required to click in the box, it may help younger learners if they could start typing immediately without having to click the box. There were several times that Alyssa forgot to click the box in time. Wally the Walrus chomped the ice and she was frozen even though she could actually spell the word.
  • I did not have any problems adding new word lists to the program, but I know that several crew members were not able to immediately add words to their lists without approval. I am not sure how long it takes for the words to be approved as this hasn't been a problem for us yet. I hope that they allow parents to add words to their new lists without approval in the future which will save time for both the staff and parents.
  • Another suggestion would be to create a separate program like the sight word component based on the most common word families or rimes. If that idea does not correspond with company yearly goals, please consider adding more common word family lists to the Spelling with Samson program.
Reading with Samson
I love that reading comprehension is addressed and targeted. This section is definitely more appropriate for children that can already read at least at an advanced first or second grade level with a strong background in phonics. You can easily adapt the activity for younger children by reading aloud the passages and questions verbally to your child if needed. There are four reading comprehension levels consisting of passages varying in length and difficulty. Children will read a passage and answer 2-10 comprehension questions about each passage. The types of questions asked cover skills that relate to the main idea, sequencing, drawing conclusions, cause and effect, context, and other comprehension skills. Each passage can be attempted once. As the questions are answered, if a child gets stuck they can scroll up or down the passage for help and reread that particular part before responding. The results are shown question by question. If the child responds incorrectly, then the part of the passage that contains the answer is underlined or highlighted red enabling and encouraging the child to reread that particular part of the passage to locate the answer to the question. This was one of my favorite features! I always encourage my daughter to reread the question and the highlighted part before answering the second time. The child is given a second chance to respond correctly. If they are incorrect, then the answer will be provided. I often witnessed several children guessing the answers to questions without putting forth an effort to reread passages or questions when I taught second grade. They were only disappointed and discouraged to find out the answer was still incorrect in most cases. This program provides the child the guidance needed to be successful readers. As the child answers the questions, it tells the user how they are doing based on the legend. At the bottom of each passage there are gray circles containing dashed lines. This indicates the number of questions to be answered for that particular passage. A dash in a gray circle can also indicate that the question was skipped or not answered after beginning the questioning process. The red "X" means that the question was answered incorrectly. The circle marked half green and half red indicates that a hint was given before a correct response was recorded. A green check mark means that she answered correctly.


Our Experiences
I introduced this program to Alyssa at a much slower pace than I had anticipated. She is currently working through the Level 1 passages independently and is doing well. I think she was a little intimidated at first with the format since she hasn't been exposed to any other online reading programs developed in a similar manner. At first, she completed only one passage during each visit. Recently, she completed up three passages in one sitting and got all the questions correct. I don't want her to do too many passages in one sitting so if she asks to continue using Samson's Reading after completing three or four passages, then I tell her she need to first review sight words or work on a spelling list. I do allow her to return later in the day if she desires to do so. I asked her what she likes about this program and she said, "That you get to read a passage and you have to pay attention while listening closely to answer questions." I asked that she reads each longer passage twice before attempting to answer the questions. She was concerned with the timing aspect until I told her that the timing helps me see how fluent she reads (how fast) when comprehending the meaning of a passage and not to worry about the timer. Some children can read really fast having great fluency but may not comprehend the meaning of a passage. I am using this part of the program to work on reading strategies and to note whether or not she is comprehending the passage. I will focus on fluency activities during other reading activities in the day.

My daughter's reading efforts are rewarded with "Hammer Time" swings. Here's a little detour or side note about this feature. I have to say every single time I saw the words hammer time, I started singing "Stop ... Hammer Time ... " and wished I had my old puffed baggy pants to dance in ... I still did a little dance. I bet this tells you how old I am ... who was that MC Hammer??? Alyssa thought I was a nut case. She watches the red strength bar and tries to swing before it approaches the end of the bar. Hammer points are earned based on how she performs this task and the highest player scores are posted. The number of hammer points given vary.


Possible Cons and Improvements
  • I have always taught children the strategy of reading the comprehension questions before attending to the passage. This program does not allow the child to read the questions ahead of time. Once you begin the passage you must answer all the questions before exiting or else the questions will be counted wrong. This could be a good thing depending on your purpose for using reading comprehension passages. Many parents expect the child to be attentive the first time while reading the passage. I feel that is necessary when doing narrations or a retelling of a story, however, I want Alyssa to learn how to answer comprehension questions based on passages using successful strategies that will assist her in the future. I prefer that she has the ability to preview the questions beforehand. 
  • I do feel that there should be a minimum of ten comprehension questions for every passage. This will set children up for success. Children that understand what percentages mean may be disappointed and feel as if they are a failure when incorrectly answering questions especially when there are few in the first place. For example, if there are only four questions and a child misses only one question they receive a 75% even though they did quite well. Alyssa is one of those children that understands that the closer a number is to 100% the better she did on that passage. We don't expect her to make 100's on everything, but I will say that she was disappointed with herself when she saw the score was low even though I told her she did extremely well. There was a short passage with only two questions. I do understand that with more questions, the student must also be able to attend for longer periods. This component of the program seems more appropriate for older children and usually (not always) their attention spans are longer than a younger child's attention span. My daughter has an unusually long attention span for her age. You could even give the parent the option of choosing the number of questions per child when setting up the user's profile. On the other hand, limiting the number of questions to be answered can be a modification for some children so it really depends on the child's abilities and age. 
  • Please consider adding passages without percentage scores for children in grades K-1. I know several children, with the ability to read before kindergarten, that could benefit from age appropriate reading passages and comprehension passages. The current passages seemed appropriate for second grade and above. The passages will work for advanced children. I know many parents that would utilize this resource (the entire subscription) with their children if they could use it to the fullest potential including all components.
  • The children earn hammer points as they swing - is it possible to create an additional reward system based on the number of hammer points earned? 
  • Is there a way to make the reading passages available as printables? This enables the parent to give the child a second chance later in the year or they can use the passages to teach reading comprehension strategies offline. As a former classroom teacher, I used to count the number of paragraphs in a passage with the children. We also labeled the answers found within a passage with the question number and the children highlighted the answers. This is just a few ways that I used reading comprehension printables. There are many creative things you can do with the printable passages to help develop good literacy and grammar skills.
Teacher Resources
This was an unexpected and impressive helpful addition to the homeschool day requiring very few materials and supplies. This section contains lesson plans, certificates, worksheets, entertaining literacy games, literacy articles, gradebook pages, and more. They even have printables in the Toolbox that allow users to print the sight words or the sight words with sentences. I printed out the list that contained all the sight words for each level and placed it in Alyssa's reading binder. The printable with the words and sentences could be used for verbal spelling test or games. I also found this insightful article on Sight Words to be encouraging and informative. It may even be mind-boggling to those of you new to the sight word approach. They also have amazing professional development tutorials that help you learn how to utilize the program to its greatest advantage.

The worksheets were used at times when Alyssa wanted something to do while I completed chores. I had her choose a few worksheets to complete while I cooked dinner, did laundry, worked on reviews, blogged, planned or prepped school activities, or when I did other chores. I tried to use worksheets that complemented her studies and other review products we were using at the time. I also added in a worksheet or two during her Agenda and Activity Time (independent work). There were several pages that I placed in sheet protector pages or glued in file folders to create simple independent activities. I hope to see even more creative worksheets added to their collection possibly including graphing activities, word searches, sight word readers, or cut and paste sentence worksheets. Many parents could also benefit from a resource that allows them to create their own worksheets for a particular spelling lists. Could the company create a worksheet maker that customizes activities for parents and teachers?
  • Capital Clues - The child can practice writing lowercase, capital letters, or both formations. 
  • Letter Lasso - Child circles either all of the vowels or consonants shown based on the instructions.
  • Trace Them All - Child traces the letters within the context of sight words learned within each leveled list. 
  • Word Builder - The child must figure out what the missing letter is for each word using a letter bank.
  • Safari Scramble - Children match scrambled words to the unscrambled words.
  • Fill In - Children choose a word from a word bank and write the correct word missing in each sentence. 
Fill In Worksheet (Level 3)
Letter Lasso (Circle all lowercase vowels)
Safari Scramble (Level 3)
Printable Sight Word Games
We loved adding the games to our language arts curricula. We used the provided printables to create several file folder and Ziplock bagged games. We placed them all in a storage tub in addition to other reading games to be played during Alyssa's Agenda or Activity Time. I would love to see more sight word games added to this section possibly a sight word battleship game or a sight word connect four game. You can never have too many games that reinforce learning and literacy concepts. Alyssa's favorite games were Sight Word Bingo, Sight Word Baseball, and Sight Word Kaboom. Games can be easily adapted to use with fewer children. We adapted the Kaboom game and played it in a similar fashion to a couple games we played in the past called "Bang," "Pop," or "Pig." The game called "Pig" is played by laying all the sight word flash cards face down. A child guesses or predicts how many words he or she will read correctly before flipping over a "Pig" or "Kaboom" card in this case. You can even pull them out of a special container. The players turn ends when they incorrectly read a word, they reach their prediction, or they flip over a Kaboom card. We extended the game by keeping score and adding the number of cards we read aloud each time. The game ends after a certain number of rounds or when a player reaches a determined winning amount.
  • Printable Sight Word Flash Cards (4, 6, or 8 cards per page)
  • Sight Word Bingo
  • Sight Words Memory Match
  • Sight Word Knockout
  • Sight Word Kaboom
  • Sight Word Baseball
  • Sight Word Recall
  • Sight Word Countdown
Sight Word Bingo with Halloween Eraser Markers
Overall Opinion and Results
We really like this program! It was a pleasure reviewing it. I can happily say that Alyssa was working on meaningful activities while practicing an assortment of literacy and computer skills. We have seen huge jumps in her progress and have seen how beneficial this program is to her education. Alyssa is learning how to be more attentive when reading passages. She is learning effective reading comprehension strategies such as learning how to reread passages for content and to correct her mistakes while improving her fluency. My daughter already knew how to read many sight words before implementing the use of this program, but now she has the ability to practice spelling them in a game format. I absolutely love the fact that I can add my own spelling words to the program which makes the program even more useful throughout our homeschool day. I know for sure that if I were teaching at a school today, then I would have the children use this program in my classroom even if I personally funded the cost for my classroom which was usually the case where I worked. I do intend on using the program this year with my daughter. I will consider using the program next year depending on how far Alyssa gets with it. It will also depend on any future upgraded features. At this point, only the reading passages and possibly the spelling program would be used after she masters their sight word program. I look forward to seeing this program grow and can't wait to see future upgrades. I hope the upgrades will also work with the Safari browser. 

What We Liked  
  • The interface is user-friendly for both the child and the parent. I appreciate that the games are educational, safe, and effective. My daughter has fun while learning or playing interactive games. 
  • The program really is cost effective as a supplemental tool considering the comprehensive reading approach implemented.
  • I love that I can view instant reports and monitor progress for all users including the results of the most recent sittings through my parent account.
  • The child receives immediate feedback as they work through the games - they automatically know which answers are correct and incorrect. Efforts are praised consistently throughout the program. The program also provides and scaffolds support as the child works. 
  • Parents have the opportunity to individualize spelling and reading for each child in the family with customizable spelling lists and leveled passages. This would be a wonderful online reading resource for families with multiple children working within the K-5 age range. 
  • This is an online software that doesn't require you to install upgrades constantly. Updates are automatic since this is an online program and not a CD-ROM installed on your computer.
  • The teacher resource section is an added bonus and I hope to see even more high quality resources available in the near future. 
  • A "hear again" button was included in every game except for the reading passages since they are independently read by the child. This helps when children are distracted when playing a game and miss hearing a word for some reason. 
  • Certificates are available to print in black-and-white or in color for sight word achievements. This helps save on ink costs yet allows the parent to reward the child's accomplishments in a simple way.
Certificate in Color

What We Didn't Like
There was just one item that didn't fit under the above categories that I feel must be mentioned.
  • The password can be changed in the child's account by simply clicking on "change password." Granted this may only change the child's password, but I feel it is necessary to have all profile and password information accessible only through the parent log in account. There is always a possibility that a child will know the password and may change it without the parent's consent. This may not be an issue to other users.
I know you are thinking this program must cost a small fortune. On the contrary, a family subscription for four users only costs $50 per year. If you only have one child then you can purchase the exact same program and features with a yearly subscription for only $30. I consider those prices reasonable for the comprehensiveness of this supplemental online tool. You can find more information about other subscription plans and pricing here. Does this sound exactly like what you need? Click on the following link today to play several demo games and find out if this online resource will work for your family.

I definitely recommend this reading online program to any homeschool families, preschool teachers, Title teachers or  reading specialists, ESL or ELL instructors, and elementary grade teachers. This resource can be a great tool for teachers to utilize if they assign reading and spelling homework. This would also be a good option for individuals that run an after school care programs. Computer-based learners within the age range may find this program of interest. Sight Words and Spelling with Samson tend to be more age appropriate for children in second grade or below. However, there are grade level and sight words meant for older children to explore. The reading passages are geared more for second to third grade children.

If you have any questions about Samson's Classroom, please contact the company here. They can also be reached at 518-356-0039. If interested, you can follow Samson's Classroom on Facebook or Twitter. If you would like to subscribe to their e-newsletter to find out more about upgrades and features click here

Thank you Samson's Classroom and Schoolhouse Crew Leaders for the opportunity to try this magnificent program!

Please visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog here to read other reviews for Samson's Classroom.


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received an annual family subscription to Samson's Classroom for four users, at no cost to me, in exchange for an honest and professional review on my blog.  All opinions expressed are my mine and were not influenced in any way by the product or company.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

H is for Welcome Home Scavenger Hunt

Alyssa's father left for a three day out-of-town job last week. He works a second job to pay for bills, curriculum, and entertainment. He came home LATE Saturday night. The first day he left Alyssa was very sad and missed him dearly. She said she wanted to write him a letter for when he comes back home. She wrote the letter quickly with very little help.

I suggested that she create a scavenger hunt and make him hunt for the letter. She wrote riddles for him to answer as he searched for the hidden "love" letter (at least that's what she called it). As soon as he walked in the door she told him he needed a shower because he was "stinkafied" - that's their word for REALLY stinky and in dire need of a bath. After his shower she handed him an index card before he could even brush his hair. This was the beginning of an adventurous hunt.

The riddles or clues she wrote sent him up and down the stairs of the apartment. She told him it was good exercise and would get his blood pumping after such a long drive. Apparently, the trip took him 9+ hours to drive there and 9+ hours back not including pit stops and two vehicle breakdowns. I LOVED watching her giggle and crack up as he gathered clues. She got a real kick out of making him work for his letter!

She disappeared towards the end of the hunt because she wanted to hide at the last location with the letter. She gave him a huge hug and kiss when he opened the door to her "special" reading place. The closet in her bedroom became her "special" reading area. She calls it her reading room and she'll spend an hour or so reading in the morning. You see ... when we moved we gave her the master bedroom with the walk-in closet so that we could use the downstairs bedroom for the classroom. It comforted us knowing that she was upstairs close to us and that we could close the door to her room at night. Believe it or not ... we currently sleep in the living room. Our couch backs up to our bed. She has two bookshelves inside the closet with a mini Elmo sofa couch. It is one of those that opens up and has a sleeping bag attached to it. She plans to hang her favorite Orca whale poster by the couch so that it provides a sense of serenity or calmness. She explained this to me in her own words of course which was hilarious. One bookshelf holds classic books, a few poetry books, dictionary (she reads for fun), and Bible books. The other bookshelf contains a variety of her easy picture books for independent reading.

Sorry about that little detour. Daddy was thrilled to receive a handwritten letter from his daughter upon his arrival. I am sure that he will cherish it forever! It revealed how she truly felt when he left ... poor Jeff felt bad after he read it. Please feel free to read what she wrote to him in the photo below at the bottom. I also posted a few of the clues that she wrote for him. Some were in question format and others were simply commands. She also gave him some money (change) in the envelope. He always gives her some of his change when he comes home from work (if she can tell him how much it is) so I guess she decided it was the right thing to do when he got back from his work trip. Yes, she did ask him how much money she gave him. I don't think he expected a math lesson too.

This is what she wrote in case it is hard to read:

Dear Jeff,
I love you so much but I can't handle you gone for three days. I miss you so much and I wish you were here for three days and left one day. I feel so so so so bad when you are gone for three days. When you come back can we play games with you and mommy and play puzzles. I can't wait unil you come home. Why did you leave for three days insted of one day. Love Alyssa

I will post this link up at Blogging Through the Alphabet. This week we are covering the letter "H." Please come join in on the fun!

Blogging Through the Alphabet

Friday, October 19, 2012

G is for Candy Corn Graphing and Fractions

Graphing visually represents data and can be a fun, engaging activity for all especially when candy is involved. Alyssa and I have done many, many graphing activities over the years. We started graphing at a very young age. Candy graphs have always been an activity that sparked her curiosity. In the beginning, she never realized any of the items graphed were candy ... now she obviously KNOWS. I never let her taste the candy at a young age and I limit the amount of candy she eats now. I also have a rule that she can't ask to eat any of the candy as we work. If she does, then she won't be allowed to have any at all. This usually eliminates the constant begging throughout the activity. In most cases, she is allowed to eat a few after we are finished with all candy math activities for the day.

Supplies Needed
  • Small Ziplock Baggies
  • Autumn or Harvest Mix Candy Corn (pumpkins, regular, and indian or chocolate)
  • Crayons (orange-pumpkins, yellow-regular, and brown-chocolate) and Pencil
  • Awesome Candy Corn Graph found at Tattling to the Teacher (Thank you!)
Candy Corn Graphing
  1. Give each child in your family or class a small bag of mixed candy corn pieces.
  2. Have the child sort the candy into three vertical groups. The child will place the actual candy corn pieces on their graphs.
  3. They will count the candy in each column and mark each box with a dot using the correct crayon color.
  4. The next step is to color in the graph to represent the data.
  5. Compare the results by asking questions as seen on the graph paper.
  6. Extend the activity by asking several more comparison or addition questions such as: Which do you have the least amount of? How many more _____ do you have than _____? How many candy corn pieces do I have in all if I add together the pumpkins and chocolate candy corns?
  7. Discuss and write fractional parts. You can even add fractional parts together if you have a child ready for the next level. I did briefly show her how to add fractions. 
The graph boxes aren't big enough and won't fit the candy pieces but it helped her sort them vertically.
She used a colored dot to represent each piece of candy corn.
I also asked her to write the fractions for each type.
Candy Corn Fractions
We decided to extend the activity and discuss fractions since we have been working on this concept again this week.

  1. Create a flip book to represent fractional parts by folding a large piece of manilla paper or white cardstock in half "hot dog" style as seen below.
  2. Open it and cut three slits or flaps on the top part toward the fold. The children can then write fractions for each type of candy corn

____ out of ____ are pumpkins
____ out of ____ are regular candy corn
____ out of ____ are chocolate flavored

Note: Alyssa decided she wanted to illustrate the fraction on the front with circles. She scribbled them in because daddy was tempting her to go outside with him. She also labeled it brown instead of chocolate because the chocolate ones were colored brown on the graph.

The child can write the fraction inside the flip book.

Other Candy Corn Graphing
123 Learning Curriculum - This can easily be used as a graphing activity using candy (cut top part off) or use it to create a large floor graph.

Extended Family Graphing Project
You can create a favorite candy corn flavor poll on Facebook or on your family blog - there are different flavors available in stores. Have the children graph and compare the data results. Make the graph a hands-on project where they are required to work together. You can use painter's tape, yarn, post-its, index cards, poster board, physical objects, and so forth to create floor graphs. Use a candy corn template or actual candies to create the graph. There is a candy corn template located in my candy corn math post here.

Do you have a candy corn graph printable to share with us? Please tell us where to find it in the comments below. I would love to visit your blog - leave a comment with a direct link to your blog. Thank You!

I will link this post up at Blogging Through the Alphabet. This week we are blogging about the letter G. Please join in on the fun! I will also link up at Montessori MondayMath Monday Blog Hop, Preschool and Kindergarten Corner, Homeschooling on the Cheap, and ABC 123's Noted Show and Tell Blog Hop. Click on the links or buttons below to read other posts.
Montessori Monday Ben and Me abc button3Boys&aDog DEALS!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: Kinderbach


Do you have a child interested in learning how to play the piano or keyboard? Are private teacher lessons or driving to classes NOT an option for you? I am going to tell you about my new secret weapon. Kinderbach - It's that simple!

One of our goals this year was to offer Alyssa piano lessons, but we couldn't find anyone in the past that would teach her because she was considered "too young." They insisted that she needed to be able to read. They didn't believe us when we told them that she could read and was in fact ready for lessons. We started searching for an instructor over a year ago and it was very discouraging. I came across Kinderbach on the internet and immediately signed up for the free sample lessons. I have been drooling over this curriculum for the longest time and it has been on my wish list for years. I had the privilege and honor of reviewing the systematic Kinderbach Online piano program as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Karri Gregor, the founder and creator of Kinderbach, has a great personality that appeals to children. Her enthusiasm and passion for teaching piano shines through the lessons. She even motivated and encouraged me to learn along with my daughter. She made learning the keyboard a joyful experience. I am not musically inclined nor do I have any kind of musical background ... that was obviously evident when I tried playing the tenor saxophone in middle school. Alyssa is musically inclined and intrigued by the piano so I want to encourage this endeavor as much as possible. Not to mention, we all know that music is relevant to every child's development and academic achievements. I was also impressed with recent research on music development especially with regards to preschoolers who have taken piano lessons. You can read about the research and its impact on the 3 R's herehere, and here. Kinderbach and the Schoolhouse leaders blessed us with the opportunity to give Alyssa the piano lessons that she always wanted.

We were given a 6-month subscription or membership to Kinderbach's online interactive piano curriculum geared towards children ages 3-7 years old. The creative introductory curriculum is thorough and step-by-step containing lively music, engaging videos, and instrumental play. It is very unique and different from other traditional programs I have seen or read about in the past. Kinderbach is divided into six curriculum levels (level 7 is in the works) each with a detailed scope and sequenceI was able to preview Level 7 and the lessons look outstanding! Each of the six levels are organized into ten weeks worth of lessons. There are four lessons per week. The weekly lessons are short and it is definitely possible to do all four sessions in one sitting or even one lesson four times a week depending on the pace of your child. The lessons are extremely short which is imperative at Alyssa's age and her attention span. Kinderbach is compatible with her learning style and it would be easy to implement breaks in between sessions if needed. Each instructional video lasted 1-7 minutes. This program addresses several learning modalities. The concepts are introduced by Kinderbach's Piano Pals who are cartoon characters including Dodi the Donkey, Edward the Eagle, Frisco the Boy, Carla the Caterpillar, and so forth. The concepts taught include note reading, rhythm, pitch, beat value, ear training, fingering, time signature, singing, and composition. The video instruction is well-organized with well-planned exercises. There is a printer icon on the screen indicating that a correlating printable is necessary for the lesson. The corresponding activity books are available as PDF files. The introductory video lesson for each week verbally lists the supplies necessary for the lesson. This feature was convenient and very helpful to us. In the photo below, you can see how the curriculum is organized into four lessons represented by the numbers 1-4 for week 19. You can also see the printer icon telling you to print out the accompanying worksheet, color page, game, puzzle, or activity. There are green arrows allowing the user to go a lesson forward or backwards. You can also see the six levels at the bottom of the screenshot. Karri, the energetic instructor, is presenting the lessons in the screenshot below.

Doesn't it sound superb? Click here to watch a video about Kinderbach.

Required Items
  • Computer with High Speed Internet Connection or DVD Player
  • Inexpensive Keyboard or Piano (Keyboard details can be found under FAQ)
  • Rhythm Instruments
  • Printer and Ink
  • Craft Supplies such as scissors, crayons, markers, stickers, etc.
  • Rhythm Instruments
  • CD Player (if purchased CD-ROM's)
Features Included
  • Access to 240 lessons and 22 hours of video instruction lead by instructor Karri Gregor.
  • Accompanying PDF Activity Books

How We Used It
Alyssa, my almost five year old daughter, completed Kinderbach's online lessons 2-3 times per week during music class. In most cases, she worked through a complete week's worth of lessons at a time which is equivalent to 4 sessions per class. This enabled us to dig deeper and further into the curriculum levels. I have to admit ... I was learning right along with Alyssa. During the review period, Alyssa was able to work through many Level 2 lessons. We didn't get as far as we would have liked since we were reviewing this product in the middle of our move. We printed out every single worksheet, game, puzzle, or coloring sheet that complemented the lessons. The sheets were stored in a report cover binder for her to review frequently especially when lessons were repeated. We used this basic piano program in conjunction with other music resources, instruments, and curriculum. On several occasions, I had Alyssa repeat lessons on the third day as a way to reinforce her learning and review. We used a Casio keyboard CTK-2100 that we earned using reward points and it worked well with the curriculum. I did ask Alyssa not to use the other keyboard features until after she completed the lessons. You do not need an expensive keyboard to use this program. I always printed out the corresponding activity pages before the lesson. I have Alyssa listen to the introductory lesson in order to gather the necessary supplies.

Our Experiences
Alyssa found this program to be a joyful experience. Her favorite character was obviously Dodi! She loved that she had the chance to explore rhythm and integrate instrumental play throughout the lessons. I am thrilled that we have several more months to take advantage of this program. We will definitely work at completing the lessons at a reasonable pace for Alyssa as long as her interest is maintained. Alyssa's father and I enjoyed observing her progress during this review. We noticed that she was retaining the information and piano skills taught. Her father was especially happy that we were able to review a product that matched her interests. We were both impressed with the concepts taught at such an early age. In the beginning, she learned how to read half and quarter notes and that the symbol P means quiet or quietly. The concepts only advanced from that point. She performed the songs on the keyboard on many, many occasions. We also heard her constantly singing the songs in the tub, car, while independently working, etc. This is a delightful program!

The next section of this review will contain pictures of my daughter using Kinderbach. Click on the photos to enlarge. The first pair of photos shows her learning about high and low sounds. I love how movement and active participation is incorporated into the lessons. Can you tell that she REALLY likes it?

She is now learning about finger numbers and completed a corresponding color page.

Alyssa learned where Dodi, the donkey, lived on the keyboard (two black keys) and completed the worksheet relating to the lesson. She also placed Dodi's house cards in front of each pair of black keys on the keyboard. Additionally, she also placed Frisco's train station cards behind the three black keys during a lesson later in the curriculum.

Alyssa quickly colored the game pieces so that she could play the matching finger number game as seen below.

Kinderbach Online costs $95.88 (60% savings) for a yearly online subscription. It is also available for $19.99 billed separately each month. What's great is that along with the affordable price you get a No Hassle 30-Day Money Back Guarantee with a Life Replacement Warranty. You also have the option of paying $5.95 for a Single Day Pass if you just want to see if your child likes the program and to explore all of the features.
PLEASE NOTE: I received an e-mail from Karri offering a promo code for ANY of her products. Please be sure to use the promo code TOS_crew2012 at checkout to receive 30% off ANY Kinderbach order. This promo code expires 12/31/2012. The Kinderbach App will also go ON SALE Friday, October 19th, 2012 (50% off). It will be available for only $12.99. Be sure to visit iTunes for this offer on that particular day - it is a one day sale event! 

Other Products
Kinderbach is available in many other different formats with optional materials available for purchase:
Note: "A House for Dodi" helped Alyssa understand how best friends, Dodi and Frisco, met and how the two black keys became Dodi's house on the keyboard. The "Train Stations" coloring story book explains why the three black keys were called train stations. It was a pleasure reading and coloring these books with my daughter. 

What I Like
  • I didn't have to leave home for private lessons which saved money, gas, and time by not having to pay for private teacher piano lessons. We didn't have to run out of the house to travel to yet another extracurricular class. As parents, we always want what is best for our children, I was able to figure out whether or not Alyssa is truly interested in piano lessons or if she was just going through a phase. This program will meet her needs until she is ready for serious piano lessons. However, after this review, I can already tell that she is definitely interested and wants to further this endeavor. 
  • The pace was not too fast or slow - it was "Just right" as Goldilocks would say. I love that my daughter can work at her own pace. She can go through the lessons quicker or slow down if she wants. She can repeat lessons to obtain mastery level learning or to reiterate objectives from lessons.
  • The program contained age appropriate activities that required active participation and movement. 
  • If I had multiple children within the same age range, then this would be the ideal curriculum for me because it would meet the needs of all the children in one sitting. 
  • Furthermore, no musical background is required to use this curriculum. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with regards to music education because I can't play instruments and music terminology often confuses me. I knew Alyssa had a strong desire to learn how to play the piano hence the reason why this was such a blessing to our family. 
Possible Cons and Improvements
  • My biggest issue with the program was that when the screen was enlarged, it became blurry and fuzzy no mater which browser I used. This didn't seem to cause any problems or bother Alyssa during lessons. 
  • The child must be able to play the keyboard while watching the online videos. I noticed that my daughter watched Karri during video lessons to learn the beats and the notes first. Then, she read and practiced playing the notes during independent play. 
  • This is not a formal, traditional piano program so if that's what you are looking for you need to look elsewhere. Kinderbach is more than the basic piano lessons for young children. If you are looking for a unique and effective approach to piano instruction check this curriculum out before venturing off and considering other options. It will be well worth your time and investment! 
  • I would love to see more lessons added progressing in difficulty for children working at a faster rate and lessons that would also interest older children.
Kinderbach is a wonderful tool for preschool directors, music teachers, early childhood educators, co-op leaders of small groups, and homeschooling families with children between the ages of 3-7 years old. It may be more appropriate for toddlers, preschool, and kindergarten aged children. I highly recommend this foundational program for anyone wanting to teach basic piano concepts and skills to their children or students.

This was the perfect fit for us this year and it was an absolute blessing to review this product. Kinderbach is a complete and gentle piano introduction for beginners wanting to learn how to play the piano or keyboard. More experienced musical children may need more of a challenge. I personally would use this program in preschool or kindergarten. I am not sure how a first grade or second grade child will react to this program, but it will most likely depend greatly on their interests at that age. Alyssa enjoyed this program immensely and it captivated her attention every time we participated in the lessons. She would ask me on a daily basis, "Is it time for music class? Can I play you a song on the keyboard?" I hope we'll be able to complete all the lessons before our subscription ends. Alyssa repeatedly watched lessons and her interest increased over time. Alyssa has a ball using this marvelous educational program and it is effectively teaching her piano skills! Every year, I pray and hope that we will have the finances to purchase the complete Bonus Level 1-6 DVD package when Karri offers promotional codes at the beginning of the school year. The chance for Alyssa to learn how to play piano or keyboard without having to pay a fortune for lessons is of priority to us. I can't wait until Level 7 is available!

Are you interested? I know I was intrigued by the unique multi-sensory approach. Sign up for a free two week trial here.
If you have any questions about Kinderbach, please contact the company here. They can also be reached at 1-563-332-0587. Be sure to read through Kinderbach FAQ's on the website to familiarize yourself with the program. You can follow Kinderbach on Facebook. Subscribe to their KB News Feed (far right) to receive a free coloring book. They also have sample pages and songs on their website ... so head on over to take a peek and check out the buzz.

Thank you Kinderbach and Schoolhouse Crew Leaders for the opportunity to review this fabulous keyboard program! I REALLY DO appreciate it. 

Please visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog here to read other reviews about Kinderbach.


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a six-month subscription to Kinderbach Online and two optional coloring story books, at no cost to me, in exchange for an honest, professional review on my blog. All opinions expressed are my mine and were not influenced in any way by the product or company.